All week long there has been a contest for top spot in the headlines between the catastrophe caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The cyclone was Story of the Day Monday and Thursday; Campaign 2008 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday saw ABC choose Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigning in Oregon to lead its newscast. Both NBC and CBS had substitute anchors from their morning shows, Ann Curry and Harry Smith, and both led with the Burmese military junta's continued refusal to grant visas to aid workers. Myanmar broke the weeklong tie as Friday's Story of the Day.    
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video thumbnailCBSCyclone Nargis hits coastal MyanmarJunta confiscates World Food Program deliveryCelia HattonThailand
video thumbnailNBC2008 Barack Obama campaignStill has to work to attract white supportAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailABC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignRetains women's support, loses party leadersJake TapperOregon
video thumbnailNBCBritain elections: London votes for new mayorBoris Johnson is eccentric, TV news satiristDawna FriesenLondon
video thumbnailNBCAgribusiness subsidized by federal farm billDo farms need safety net amid record prices?Tom CostelloGeorgia
video thumbnailABCFirst Daughter Jenna Bush engaged to be marriedWeekend wedding preparations at Texas ranchClaire ShipmanTexas
video thumbnailCBSFormer Sen Trent Lott (R-MS) sets up lobbying firmUses $1.3m unspent campaign funds for start-upSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSAutomobile dealership sales trendsCompacts, subcompacts popular; SUVs in disfavorSandra HughesLos Angeles
video thumbnailABCAuto safety: tire tread separation dangersEven unused tires can dry out after six yearsBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSCross-species oddities in the animal kingdomLabrador bitch wet-nurses litter of kittensSteve HartmanIowa
MYANMAR KEEPS ITS BORDERS CLOSED All week long there has been a contest for top spot in the headlines between the catastrophe caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The cyclone was Story of the Day Monday and Thursday; Campaign 2008 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday saw ABC choose Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigning in Oregon to lead its newscast. Both NBC and CBS had substitute anchors from their morning shows, Ann Curry and Harry Smith, and both led with the Burmese military junta's continued refusal to grant visas to aid workers. Myanmar broke the weeklong tie as Friday's Story of the Day.

NBC got the jump on Nargis coverage for the second straight day, courtesy of ITN its British newsgathering partner. ITN's Neil Connery (no link) has managed to get inside Myanmar's borders and took a boat trip through the devastated Irrawaddy Delta. He saw "horror compounded by a regime indifferent to its people's suffering" as the shoreline was littered with the corpses of those killed by the storm. "It feels like they will never stop," Connery lamented. At one village he was stopped by a government official. "Amid the human crisis he is more concerned with what we are doing. They take our details. It is a nerve wracking few minutes. We soon make a quick escape."

On ABC, Elizabeth Vargas helicoptered from Bangkok to a main Myanmar-Thailand border crossing: "It should be crowded with trucks going in with first aid supplies to the disaster zone. As you can see there are no trucks." CBS' Celia Hatton checked on visa applicants at the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok and found it "closed for a holiday." When the World Food Program shipped in a planeload of high-protein biscuits, military authorities confiscated the shipment "arguing that they will decide how it is doled out," Hatton explained. "The aid being provided by Myanmar's regime is inept at best, criminal at worst. Prime Minister Thein Sein's idea of relief was to donate 20 televisions and ten DVD players to victims of the disaster, the majority of whom have not had electricity since the storm struck."

From Bangkok, NBC's Ian Williams monitored the coverage of the cyclone on Burmese television. He found "a bizarre glimpse of the government's priorities" as it campaigned for a referendum on a new constitution "that would entrench military rule." Williams repeated reports of an outbreak of cholera yet noted that Myanmar's military "has only a few aging helicopters and transport planes and little expertise in relief operations."

On ABC, Jim Sciutto reported on the debate at the United Nations over "the radical option of delivering aid by force" with foreign military air drops, helicopter flights and beach landings. France is in favor; Russia and China are opposed. The UN resolution on protecting civilian populations is ambiguous, Sciutto explained: "Some nations argue that it only applies if governments are actively killing their people rather than failing to save them." The paranoia of the military junta in Myanmar that external delivery of disaster relief could threaten its hold on power may be justified, Sciutto implied: he cited a "potential benefit" of UN intervention that a "so-called relief invasion could help end the repressive dictatorship."

THE UNEXAMINED RACE CARD On the campaign trail, NBC's Andrea Mitchell touched on Hillary Rodham Clinton's slippery formulation that ABC's Jake Tapper and CBS' Jim Axelrod cited Thursday, namely the claim to USA Today that her rival Barack Obama's support among "hardworking Americans, white Americans is weakening again." Mitchell wondered whether Rodham Clinton was "playing the race card" but shied away from explicitly spelling out her suspicions.

Here is what Mitchell did not ask:

--Of all the demographic groups amongst whom Rodham Clinton has an advantage over Obama--women, the elderly, Hispanics, Catholics, for example--why would she single out white working class voters as being crucial?

--What was she implying about the identity between "white" people and "hard-working" people? What insinuation was she leaving unsaid about non-whites and the shiftless?

--If it is true that Obama will have a problem attracting white working class voters in the General Election, does she attribute that to their racism? If so, why does she not condemn such attitudes rather than adduce them in her favor? Should she not actively campaign against such thinking instead of treating it as a fact of life?

--Alternately, if the reason for her superior appeal is not the voters' racial prejudices but her class-based policies--she is the better candidate for the proletarian base of the Democratic Party--why would she insert the modifier "white"? Surely any candidacy that helps the working class would benefit its members of all races: what was that word "white" doing there if her appeal is purely an economic one?

Obama supporter, Sen Edward Kennedy, for one, was in no doubt that Rodham Clinton's use of this particular electability argument was disreputable. Both NBC's Mitchell and ABC's Tapper ran Kennedy's soundbite on Bloomberg News that Rodham Clinton is not "in tune" with Obama's appeal to "the nobler aspirations of the American people." NBC's Mitchell countered with Rodham Clinton supporter Rep Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), who happens to be African-American: she is "not race-baiting; she is not trying to divide this country."

As Rodham Clinton pledged to continue campaigning until the end of the primary season on June 3rd, ABC's Tapper noted one flaw in her plan: "Money--her campaign is in serious debt." CBS' Jeff Greenfield pointed to another, superdelegates--"that steady stream towards Obama is beginning to look a little more like a flood." Is there any road to victory for her? "Win about 90% of the vote in every primary and hope for really bad news about Obama," was Greenfield's strategic advice. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos saw Obama giving Rodham Clinton "space to make her own decision" to concede defeat. Sooner rather than later would be better for Obama's General Election chances against John McCain, Stephanopoulos argued. Obama wants to use some of his huge fundraising edge to start running ads against McCain in battleground states but it is "awkward to do that" before Rodham Clinton's concession.

HIS MOTHER’S SON CBS anchor Katie Couric took the day off but not until she had completed a Mother's Day interview with Republican Presidential nominee-to-be John McCain and his mother Roberta Wright McCain. Couric covered the young Miss Wright's elopement to Tijuana to marry McCain's sailor father--"I was just young and stupid"--and his prayerful anguish, when an admiral, at his son's captivity in Hanoi as prisoner of war. Couric did not talk issues with either mother or son: "We are pretty well in tune," said he, after conceding that "we do not always agree." The main role the 96-year-old plays in her seventysomething son's candidacy is to undercut worries about his advancing age: "That is why I have to take her with me wherever I go." Asked Couric: "What are you going to do for your mom for Mother's Day?" "Tell her how beautiful she is."

THE INVERTED PYRAMID NBC offered a profile of Boris Johnson, the newly elected Mayor of London, a "fearsome intellect and quick with…and a popular guest host of a satirical BBC News show," according to Dawna Friesen. When the journalist Johnson was caught lying about a love affair, Friesen recalled, the formulation he used was that the allegation was "an inverted pyramid of piffle." The mayor's motto: "There are no disasters, only opportunities--and opportunities for fresh disasters."

DOWN ON THE FARM Gradually, amid the rising global price of food, the networks are turning their attention to continued federal subsidies for farms. Last week ABC's Chris Bury visited a corn farm in Illinois to check out whether agribusiness still needs government support. Now NBC's Tom Costello takes us to a cotton and peanuts family farm in Georgia. President George Bush is threatening to veto its $35-per-acre federal handout unless it is capped for farms that gross less than $500,000 annually. Costello recited the farm lobby's explanation for high food prices: a combination of inflated costs for fuel, seed and fertilizer plus commodity speculation, global demand, ethanol biofuels and the weak US dollar. Still the average farm owning household has seen a 6% pay raise over last year, now making an $89,000 net income.

PRE-NUPTIAL Thursday, Kelly Cobiella filed from Texas for CBS to show us the Jenna-&-Henry memorabilia that is being sold in Crawford to capitalize on the First Daughter's wedding. Now NBC's Savannah Guthrie and ABC's Claire Shipman file their marriage previews. "Far from the Rose Garden among the wildflowers on her father's beloved ranch," Guthrie countered Cobiella's coffee mug with her In Depth offering of a Henry-&-Jenna mouse pad. Jenna's dress is an "Oscar de la Renta embroidered confection with, we are told, a hint of a train, but it is locked away so husband-to-be Henry Hager does not get a peek," ABC's Shipman told us. The young Ms Bush, after all "has always been her father's daughter, a Texas-style traditionalist."

SEED MONEY For CBS' Follow the Money feature, Sharyl Attkisson introduced us to one of the newest lobbying firms inside-the-Beltway. Members of Congress, when they retire, are not allowed to spend leftover campaign funds on personal expenses, Attkisson explained, but they can use them for their personal business. When retired senators Trent Lott and John Breaux--the former a Mississippi Republican, the latter a Louisiana Democrat--hung up their lobbying shingle, Lott used $1.3m in unspent contributions as seed money. He "dipped into his campaign chest to donate money to former colleagues," two of them members of the Armed Services Committee, Sen Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Sen Roger Wicker (R-MS). At the same time Lott snared the business of Northrop Grumman, the aerospace firm, to lobby the committee to keep a $35bn USAF contract. "Lott would not agree to an interview but has said he is merely donating to Republicans he believes in, not trying to win favors."

CAR TALK With the cost of a barrel of crude oil closing above $125 and the average cost of a gallon of gasoline rising above $3.65, we can expect more obituaries for the Sports Utility Vehicle. Last week ABC had Betsy Stark (embargoed link) introduce us to the Smart Car as an alternative. Now CBS's Sandra Hughes has found a used car dealership in Miami that will not even accept an SUV as a trade-in, with prices falling too fast for the Blue Book to keep up. Hughes touted the Toyota Yaris, the Honda Fit and Ford Focus as hot sellers: "Forget bigger is better. It is now Honey, I Shrunk the Car."

Meanwhile, Brian Ross filed an Investigates preview of his 20/20 expose for ABC on lax regulation of tires for automobiles. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford Motors have called for sell-by dates. Even if they have never been used, tires dry out over time and after six years the risk grows that the tread can peel off. "Tire industry lobbyists have successfully fought any effort to put expiration dates" on their product. Ross showed us that every tire does have a stamp code that records its date of manufacture so consumers can decipher tire freshness if they know the formula.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY Steve Hartman filed an Assignment America feature on a Labrador mutt bitch at an Iowa animal shelter who has become wet nurse to a litter of motherless kittens. Hartman offered other examples of cross-species nursing--a fawn and a cat, a foal and a goat, a baby baboon and a leopard--before wondering "why would an animal show such grace?" His answer: "For most mothers it is just what they do…feel free to appreciate it this weekend."

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: the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square marked the anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany's Third Reich in WWII amid displays of heavy weaponry…fighting in Beirut has left 14 dead and the Hezbollah militia in a stronger position…the plume of ash over Patagonia from Chile's Mount Chaiten eruption is now seven miles high…auto racing's Danica Patrick crashed into a rival's mechanic on pit row at the Indianapolis Speedway…when a family of marine fowl became disoriented at the White House, they were not lame ducks.