Economic woes continue to dominate the news agenda. This time the high price of food was Story of the Day. ABC led from inside-the-Beltway as Congress held hearings on domestic prices and President George Bush requested $770m for global food aid. CBS and NBC looked at the problem from the consumer's point of view, as more households are trying to save money by buying in bulk. Of the four days so far this week, NBC has led with an economic story each time--first fiscal stimulus, then oil prices, then GDP data, now food; ABC chose money matters three times; CBS twice.    
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video thumbnailNBCSupermarket, grocery, food prices escalateConsumers buy in bulk, stockpile to save moneyTrish ReganNew York
video thumbnailCBSSupermarket, grocery, food prices escalateDesperate lines for subsidized bread in EgyptMark PhillipsCairo
video thumbnailABCAgribusiness subsidized by federal farm billPaid $5bn annually despite boom in businessChris BuryIllinois
video thumbnailCBSCuba politics: Raul Castro replaces his brotherMay Day parade is smaller, less revolutionaryElizabeth PalmerHavana
video thumbnailCBSIllegal immigration increases, sparks backlashMay Day marches for reform lack enthusiasmSandra HughesLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingUSMC spring offensive in Helmand ProvinceJim MacedaAfghanistan
video thumbnailNBCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingSilver star heroine broke rules to join combatJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailCBSPentagon Africa Command seeks alliesUS troops mix training, development outreachAllen PizzeyUganda
video thumbnailABC2008 Barack Obama campaignFormer DNC chairman Joe Andrew switches supportJake TapperIndiana
video thumbnailNBC2008 Barack Obama campaignUnderstands voters' reticence, unfamiliarityMeredith VieiraNo Dateline
THE RISING PRICE OF BREAD Economic woes continue to dominate the news agenda. This time the high price of food was Story of the Day. ABC led from inside-the-Beltway as Congress held hearings on domestic prices and President George Bush requested $770m for global food aid. CBS and NBC looked at the problem from the consumer's point of view, as more households are trying to save money by buying in bulk. Of the four days so far this week, NBC has led with an economic story each time--first fiscal stimulus, then oil prices, then GDP data, now food; ABC chose money matters three times; CBS twice.

ABC's David Wright (embargoed link) described the argument before Congress as between the baker and the farmer. The farmer is accused of driving up the cost of flour by switching his crop from wheat to corn to produce ethanol. Sen Charles Grassley, the Republican from Iowa, responded by defending his home state's agribusiness: "Take one of these kernels here. It is not something that you would sit down to your kitchen table and eat." Wright's colleague Chris Bury followed up from rural Illinois where corn farmers "reap record prices, nearly double last year's, thanks to surging world demand" yet even in such a prosperous year, federal farm subsidies to agribusiness total $5bn. On NBC, Trish Regan of CNBC, listed three other factors driving up the cost of food besides biofuels and worldwide demand: high energy prices, a weak US dollar and a global drought.

CBS sent Mark Strassmann to Costco in Atlanta. He told us that the warehouse retailer's food sales nationwide have increased almost 20% thanks to stockpiling. Buying in bulk also saves money because it requires fewer gasoline miles to the grocery store. CNBC's Regan noted the downside: stockpiling food now, when prices are high, increases demand at precisely the wrong time, driving prices up yet higher. ABC's Wright added that "coupon use is now at an all time high" with 100m more redeemed this year than last.

As for the rest of the world, ABC's Wright called the food shortage a "genuine crisis." CBS cited United Nations statistics that 37 countries face serious social unrest as a result. Mark Phillips was dispatched to Cairo for one example. He found "desperate bread lines" at the government-subsidized bakeries, whose loaves "can be the difference between eating and starving for the country's poor." Phillips explained the "unwritten deal in Egypt that the poor, while they may stay poor, will always be fed. If that deal breaks down one of the pillars of stability in the Middle East, one of the bulwarks against extremism, starts to look a lot less stable."

NOTHING TO LOSE It is May Day so the workers of the world are celebrating--but in subdued numbers. CBS' Elizabeth Palmer went to Havana to check out its post-Fidel parade: "The party atmosphere has not changed much nor have the slogans," she observed, "but Cuba has" under its new president, Fidel's kid brother, Raul Castro. Raul's May Day has "less revolutionary hoopla and only half as many marchers" along with some reforms, including raised pensions, improved mass transit and legalized cell phones. Palmer found the "most profound changes" down on the farm where "rising world food prices have forced Raul to expand private enterprise on the land to boost production." In this country, for the last three years, May Day has meant marches in cities from Detroit to Chicago to Los Angeles calling for legal status for visaless immigrant residents. CBS' Sandra Hughes found a smaller turnout at the Los Angeles rally: "One reason, say many, is fear. The Feds have stepped up raids and deportations."

HELICOPTER GUNSHIPS NBC's Richard Engel covered the Battle of Sadr City in Iraq on Wednesday. Now ABC has Ryan Owens (embargoed link) update us on the month-long struggle with the militia known as the Mahdi Army. Owens told us that US forces are fighting "largely from the air," using helicopter gunships "to avoid a ground offensive in the sprawling slum that is full of snipers and boobytraps." The military insists "it does everything possible to avoid civilian casualties but in a cramped urban environment that is not easy," Owens understated. "All of that air power may have backfired."

Air power was also on display in Garmser, "a dusty town controled by the Taliban" in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, where NBC's Jim Maceda was embedded with a Marine Corps company. Maceda found himself in the middle of a firefight at a chicken farm in the middle of opium poppy fields. The Marines were pinned down all day and defended themselves by calling in "helicopter gunships, Hellfire missiles and a 500lb laser guided bomb." Check out the battlefield footage that resulted in no Marine casualties after five hours of fighting. Declared Maceda: "The spring offensive is under way"--although he did not explain whether that was the USMC offensive on Taliban guerrillas or vice versa.

NBC's other story from Afghanistan came complete with Washington Post videotape, narrated by Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon. It was the tale of the Silver Star awarded to Monica Brown, an 18-year-old medic with the 82nd Airborne, who protected two severely wounded comrades from mortar fire by lying on top of them. She became only the second woman to receive the medal since the end of World War II. Now it turns out she was deployed illegally. Her platoon leader told the Washington Post: "We were not supposed to take her out but we had to. There were no other medics." Pentagon regulations forbid female soldiers from "intentionally" engaging in combat, Miklaszewski explained. Women should get involved in battle only if the fight comes to them.

NO NEW MILITARY BASES Egypt and Cuba and Iraq and Afghanistan: what an unusual day of international news! Now Allen Pizzey of CBS files from Uganda, offering a profile of the head of the Pentagon's new Africa Command. Gen William Ward's mission involved training Ugandan soldiers to intervene in the civil war in Somalia "so the United States does not have to," as Pizzey put it. Pizzey explained that "al-Qaeda and other militants have expanded their operations to Africa. Across the top of the entire continent rebel groups, and discontented youth, make ideal recruits, a situation made all the more dangerous by growing American dependence on African oil." Gen Ward's job is to crisscross the continent "trying to convince skeptical Africans that Washington wants partners not new military bases." Deadpanned Pizzey: "It has been a tough sell."

STRONGER, DEEPER PARTY All three networks filed from the campaign trail. CBS' Jim Axelrod and ABC's Jake Tapper were both in Indiana, where the Democratic primary is held on Tuesday. Superdelegate Joe Andrew, who had served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee under President Bill Clinton, announced his switch of support from Hillary Rodham Clinton to Barack Obama. Andrew urged undecided superdelegates to make up their minds forthwith, arguing that any delay helps Republican John McCain. ABC's Tapper quoted Rodham Clinton's riposte to his colleague Cynthia McFadden on Nightline: "Anyone who believes this is bad for the party, I just think is not paying attention, because the level of enthusiasm to be part of this process is, from my perspective, helping us build a stronger and deeper Democratic base." Anyway, CBS' Axelrod pointed out, there is a distinction been "undecided" superdelegates and "publicly uncommitted." He explained that both candidates have endorsements in reserve, the timing of whose announcements they can orchestrate "to create a sense of momentum."

NBC aired excerpts Meredith Vieira's human interest sitdown with both Obamas on Today. Michelle insisted sarcastically: "Never, I never get upset," when Barack gets criticized for being different or odd or unfamiliar or failing to wear a flag in his lapel. "I am cool and calm," she claimed, tongue in cheek. Her husband came to her support, teasingly: "She has handled it better than I expected."

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: to mark the fifth anniversary of President George Bush's victor landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln protestors unfurled a Mission Accomplished? banner outside the White House…Aden Hashi Ayro, a radical Islamist guerrilla leader in Somalia, was assassinated by a US air raid…Italy published universal tax information online in an attempt to expose cheats and then had to shut down almost immediately as a privacy violation…ExxonMobil posted its profits for the first three months of 2008: almost $11bn…automobile sales are declining at Ford and General Motors and coffee sales are declining at Starbucks…the House of Representatives passed a bill to ban discrimination based on DNA tests that show a genetic predisposition for disease…an outbreak of measles among the unvaccinated is the most serious in seven years…FEMA is closing the last of its post-Katrina housing trailers in New Orleans…Arizona has so many cars that it has added a digit to its license plates.