A pair of stories vied for top spot on the networks' news agenda. In Baghdad, carbombs killed scores of students while in Presidential politics, Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, launched his candidacy for the Democratic nomination by announcing an exploratory committee. All three networks led with the carnage at Mustansiriya University--yet their Story of the Day was Obama's hat being thrown into the ring.    
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video thumbnailABC
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2008 Barack Obama announces candidacyWebcast speech opens exploratory committeeJake TapperCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBS2008 Barack Obama announces candidacyWebcast speech opens exploratory committeeGloria BorgerWashington DC
video thumbnailABCIraq: education system survives amid violenceCarbombs kill 65 female university studentsDan HarrisBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIraq: education system survives amid violenceCarbombs kill 65 female university studentsLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesSunni states in region support troop build-upAndrea MitchellKuwait
video thumbnailCBSIraq: political coalition government under firePresident Bush admits skepticism over PM al-MalikiJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailNBCMarriage is no longer majority status for womenSingle-widowed-cohabiting outnumber wivesDawn FratangeloNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Infertility treatments for womenBaby born from rescued New Orleans frozen embryoKate SnowNew York
video thumbnailNBCCoastal property at risk from extreme weatherFlorida may regulate insurance premium hikesMark PotterMiami
BARACK FOR PRESIDENT A pair of stories vied for top spot on the networks' news agenda. In Baghdad, carbombs killed scores of students while in Presidential politics, Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, launched his candidacy for the Democratic nomination by announcing an exploratory committee. All three networks led with the carnage at Mustansiriya University--yet their Story of the Day was Obama's hat being thrown into the ring.

CBS' Gloria Borger focused on Obama's "younger generation" media strategy. Eschewing a traditional press conference or public announcement before arrayed cameras, he Webcast his speech on directly to his supporters. Borger paraphrased the 45-year-old's message that "babyboomers, who have been fighting the same old fights for years, need to move over." Technically speaking, 45 still falls inside the babyboomer cohort.

ABC took two angles. Jake Tapper (subscription required) outlined the likely themes of an Obama campaign as "presenting fairly traditional liberal views as fresh and inspiring…aggressively trying to turn his inexperience into an asset." Tapper quoted an Obama soundbite from a rally in Chicago in 2002--"What I do oppose is a dumb war"--and observed that no other major Presidential candidate was against the invasion of Iraq before it happened. George Stephanopoulos handicapped his strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis his likely major rival Hillary Rodham Clinton: she is ahead in the polls; he is the face of change, against the war, popular among African-Americans.

SCHOOL’S OUT The ancient university in Baghdad, founded in 1233, CBS' Lara Logan told us, had been under continuous threat for months. Her colleague Elizabeth Palmer visited the campus in December to profile students defying death threats and intimidation despite the assassination of 171 professors. The campus gates were guarded then by militiamen from the Mahdi Army. "Today Sunni terrorists taught them and the students a new lesson in terror," as a pair of bombs killed upwards of 60 students heading home after classes.

ABC's Dan Harris gave us the highlights of a United Nations report on the violence against civilians during 2006, when almost 34,500 civilians were killed in Iraq: women denied education and healthcare, children abducted and trafficked as sex slaves, professional such as journalists, lawyers and teachers targeted for assassination. "Some schools are shutting down with students simply too afraid to attend."

DIPLOMACY NBC's Andrea Mitchell continued her reports on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's regional diplomacy. Her latest stop is Kuwait, where the leaders of nine of the region's Sunni Arab majority states agreed to support the US military build-up in Baghdad. Rice also wanted the summit to confront Teheran, "but the Arab leaders refused to condemn Iran by name for its support of Iraqi insurgents."

Back at the White House, CBS' Jim Axelrod quoted a soundbite from the President in his interview with the PBS NewsHour: "There is skepticism about whether or not there is enough troops, or whether we should be putting in any troops and there is skepticism about whether the al-Maliki government will make the tough decisions necessary to succeed," George Bush told Jim Lehrer. "The jury is out on whether Nouri al-Maliki has the capacity to stop the bloodshed," Axelrod concluded, citing speculation that the Prime Minister may be making contingency plans not for ending the violence but for a Shiite military victory in a civil war.

DESPERATE WIVES The third story covered by all three networks was a demographic feature rather than news. Quite properly, all three reports credited The New York Times with doing the legwork. By crunching the numbers in 2005 census data, the Times had found that, for the first time in US history, wives living with husbands represented a minority (49%) of women, down from 65% fifty years ago.

Non-wives, obviously, come in all shapes and sizes. NBC's Dawn Fratangelo used the movie Something's Gotta Give to illustrate one type: middle-aged divorcees. CBS' Kelly Wallace used the sitcom Sex and the City to illustrate another: twentysomething bachelorettes. ABC's Nancy Cordes (subscription required) showed us a clip from Ozzie and Harriet to illustrate the way things were. Lonely widows and cohabiting lesbians got short shrift.

DISTAFF SIDE ABC, anchored by substitute Kate Snow, leaned heavily on female and family focused stories. In a cross-promotion with Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer's profile of the female members of the US Senate--16 of them, together, like a focus group--was previewed. And Betsy Stark showcased Family 360 software that allows the wife and children of high-powered corporate executives to conduct a formal review of his domestic performance as husband and father. Stark did not explain why firms use this technique only to give feedback to executive dads and not to their wage-earning workforce.

Snow (subscription required) also contributed a follow-up to Steve Osunsami's (subscription required) story last week about the fertility clinic whose frozen embryos were saved from thawing in the floods of New Orleans. The first IVF baby from that batch has been born, appropriately named Noah. Customarily, the network news is scrupulous in choosing terminology about embryos and fetuses that is politically neutral. So when Snow departed from custom by attaching the name Noah not only to the baby himself, but to the still-frozen zygote as well, it marked a rare triumph for pro-life rhetoric.

INCOVENIENT BUT TRUE Last week, NBC's In Depth report by Robert Bazell elaborated on an earlier NBC story about El Nino that failed to put it in the context of global warming. Now Mark Potter has filed an In Depth report on the crisis in Florida caused by skyrocketing real estate premiums for coastal property. The state legislature is in special session debating rate regulation. "The insurance industry says the real villain is bad weather, eight Florida hurricanes in just two years," Potter pointed out, yet he too failed to address the extent to which global warming makes coastal housing more vulnerable to extreme weather and therefore more costly to insure. Expect Bazell to file a follow-up soon.

HALF FULL The warm winter is driving down global costs of crude oil so far that motorists in a dozen-or-so cities can now buy gasoline at less than $2 per gallon. CBS' Anthony Mason told us that Tulsa and Toledo have the best deal. NBC is looking at the automobile business itself in a series called Car Wars. Yesterday Ron Mott demonstrated kaizen, the Japanese production technique of continuous improvement that is helping Toyota to outsell Ford and Chrysler. Next Anne Thompson looked at the impact on a Main Street family-run dealership in heartland Indiana: the Moser-Eicher firm can no longer make money simply by selling new Ford autos; it has to branch out to heavy trucks and used cars as well.

MENTIONED IN PASSING The network newscasts do not assign correspondents to all of the news of the day. If Tyndall Report readers come across videostreamed reports online of stories that were mentioned only in passing, post the link in comments for us to check out

Today's examples: Fidel Castro may be at death's door in Cuba…not only did Obama announce his Presidential candidacy, but Tom Tancredo, the immigration hardliner Republican Congressman did too…jury selection began in the perjury trial of Lewis Libby, former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney…on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at yet another record high.