Natural disaster dominated the day's news. After Cyclone Nargis last week in Myanmar and a weekend's devastation in Tornado Alley, the Richter 7.9 earthquake in China's Sichuan Province was the Story of the Day. All three newscasts led off from Beijing, where early estimates had the death toll at 10,000. By coincidence, National Public Radio had decided to assign All Things Considered to a week of reporting from China's heartland. The city that happened to be chosen was Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Anchors Melissa Block and Robert Siegel were there when the mid-afternoon earthquake happened. Block described the scene for ABC, Siegel for NBC.    
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video thumbnailABCSichuan Province earthquake in China: Richter 7.9Epicenter north of Chengdu, death toll 10,000Neal KarlinskyBeijing
video thumbnailCBSCyclone Nargis hits coastal MyanmarJunta accepts only limited US military aidAllen PizzeyThailand
video thumbnailCBSTornado seasonPicher Okla hard hit, will never be rebuiltKelly CobiellaOklahoma
video thumbnailNBCTornado seasonMile-wide twister tore through Seneca MoDon TeagueMissouri
video thumbnailNBC2008 West Virginia primaryRodham Clinton favored, Obama looks aheadAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesExurban supercommuters especially hard hitNancy CordesPittsburgh
video thumbnailNBCMormon fundamentalist sect practices polygamyTravel burden to visit children in foster carePete WilliamsWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSAutism coverageSome patients may have case at vaccine tribunalSharyl AttkissonWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCLupus auto-immune disease coverageAfflicts women, hard to diagnose, no treatmentRobert BazellSan Francisco
video thumbnailABCPersonal health maintenance tips and trendsKnow family history; work on crossword puzzlesDavid MuirNew York
THE EARTH MOVES IN SICHUAN PROVINCE Natural disaster dominated the day's news. After Cyclone Nargis last week in Myanmar and a weekend's devastation in Tornado Alley, the Richter 7.9 earthquake in China's Sichuan Province was the Story of the Day. All three newscasts led off from Beijing, where early estimates had the death toll at 10,000. By coincidence, National Public Radio had decided to assign All Things Considered to a week of reporting from China's heartland. The city that happened to be chosen was Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Anchors Melissa Block and Robert Siegel were there when the mid-afternoon earthquake happened. Block described the scene for ABC, Siegel for NBC.

NPR's Siegel was understated about being rocked on the 27th floor of his hotel. He called it "very unsettling," leaving "very jangled nerves." His colleague Block (no link) traveled to the town of Dujiangyan where a three-story school had collapsed on top of as many as 1,000 teenage students: "I just walked by the bodies of at least a dozen children that were wrapped in shrouds laid out on the ground," she recounted, "victim upon victim, laid out on the ground, with their families, who have found their children, in unstoppable grief."

From Beijing, NBC's Mark Mullen listed damage including cut off telephones and electricity and blocked roads and rails. He called the response of the news media "very open…quickly televising pictures." Prime Minister Wen Jiabao "responded unusually fast," judged ABC's Neal Karlinsky, with 20,000 soldiers dispatched to the province by nightfall "setting up portable aid centers in tents." CBS had Celia Hatton on the job, who only last week was in Bangkok trying to get access to Myanmar to report on the cyclone. She relayed reports that a chemical plant making ammonia had ruptured, requiring 60,000 people to escape toxic fumes.

ABC's New York based Ned Potter (no link) pointed out that most modern urban construction in China adheres to building codes that allow them to sway instead of collapsing during an earthquake. He expected most of the damage to be in the older brick and stone structures in rural areas. On NBC, NPR's Siegel supported that supposition: "In Chengdu, rather a large city, the losses, I gather, are rather slight. Most of the city is undamaged." As ABC's Karlinsky put it: "The hardest hit areas remain out of reach, cut off by roads blocked by tons of debris."

NATURAL DISASTER TURNS MANMADE ABC and CBS had reporters follow up on the efforts at disaster relief in the Irrawaddy Delta. ABC broke Myanmar's visa rules to insert its correspondent so it decided not to identify her or to show her face (embargoed link) as she boated past corpses "bloated and burned by the sun, lying in the same water from which villagers drink." She visited a town where survivors were gathering: most "walked for days to get to higher ground to find help. Now that they are here there is not enough food." CBS' Allen Pizzey reported from Bangkok on the permission from Myanmar's military junta to allow a single USAF C-130 transport to deliver 14 tons of relief supplies "a drop in the ocean of misery" as he put it. The government "has been accused of turning a natural disaster into a humanitarian crisis by blocking foreign aid workers."

TWISTER DOES EPA'S JOB A series of tornadoes--52 twisters in all-- touched down on the great plains and in the southeast over the weekend, killing more than 20 people. CBS' Kelly Cobiella and ABC's Eric Horng (embargoed link) traveled to the Oklahoma lead mining town of Picher, already designated for demolition by the Environmental Protection Agency as a toxic Superfund site, where the funnel clouds accelerated the bureaucrats' business. NBC's Don Teague selected Seneca Mo, hit by a mile-wide twister. He told us of a sink, hanging in a tree, 100 feet away from the kitchen where it belonged and showed us the "miracle llama" who was in the front yard of a house before the storm arrived and remained there after the house was blown away "without a scratch."

Al Roker, the weathercaster on NBC's Today, told his colleague Teague that it is normally not until mid-August that a year sees its 910th tornado, a total reached this weekend. NBC Weather Plus meteorologist Bill Karins went In Depth for anchor Brian Williams. He charted the year-to-year increase in deaths from tornado through early May for the last four years--from 38 to 67 to 81 to 96. Karins blamed cooler waters in the Pacific Ocean caused by La Nina current. ABC's Horng described the cause as an unusually snake-shaped jetstream, keeping violent storms from the Gulf of Mexico locked in place by cold Canadian air. Dave Price, weathercaster for CBS' The Early Show, traveled to NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman Okla to check on tornado forecasting technology. He called it "still a tricky science."

WEST VIRGINIA WALKOVER Tuesday is another primary day in Campaign 2008. Only CBS sent a reporter to West Virginia. Jim Axelrod consulted the polls and predicted "a huge win" for Hillary Rodham Clinton. She "is not even hinting at dropping out any time soon," Axelrod observed, "but on the stump her tone has shifted, sticking to bland and safe parts of her stump speech and going nowhere near attacks on Barack Obama." NBC's Andrea Mitchell was in Washington DC, where Rodham Clinton's aides assured her that, despite $20m in debt, her campaign will continue "until at least June 3rd." Mitchell consulted with unidentified Democratic Party strategists and they were unfazed by that schedule: "As long as she aims her fire at John McCain and not Obama this long goodbye could help them prepare her supporters for her inevitable withdrawal." So ABC News turned to the expected General Election match-up between McCain and Obama. Its latest opinion poll has Obama "pulling ahead now outside the margin of error" (51% v 44%), according to George Stephanopoulos. The poll found more voters "uncomfortable" with the idea of a seventysomething President than with either an African-American President or a female one. The 82% who saw the country going in the wrong direction was the highest proportion since 1973: "No incumbent party has ever held the White House in the face of numbers like that."

DRIVING US CRAZY The rising price of gasoline inspired a feature on ABC, a poignant human interest story on NBC and entire weeklong, two correspondent, morning-and-evening series on CBS.

NBC's Pete Williams followed up on a sitdown on his network's Today by two pairs of fundamentalist Mormon parents from the Yearning for Zion ranch about their problems visiting their children in foster care. Despite the order of the child welfare judge in the case to make "every effort to place siblings together," Nancy and James Dockstader have one child in care in Amarillo in the Panhandle, one child on the Gulf Coast in Corpus Christi and three other children at places in between. With the high price of gasoline "it is costing us thousands of dollars to traipse from one end of the state to the next," complained mother Dockstader.

CBS' series is called Eye on the Road and it involves a pair of cross country coast-to-heartland road trips, Nancy Cordes east to west westwards to Missouri driving a Ford Fusion, and The Early Show's Jeff Glor west to east eastwards in a hybrid Toyota Prius. Glor ended his first day at Lake Tahoe where he noticed changing vacation habits because of the high cost of fuel. Parked in a local camp ground is a Recreational Vehicle whose fuel efficiency is 7mpg. To save money this year the RV's journey away from home is the grand total of three miles.

CBS' Cordes ended the day in Pittsburgh, having filed on the tribulations of so-called supercommuters, those exurban residents whose journey to work exceeds 90 minutes. Cordes told us that there are now 95% more of them than in 1990. Despite the high price of gasoline, "we are a nation of drivers," Cordes insisted. "Only 5% of the country's commuters take public transportation." Now listen to Barbara Pinto (embargoed link) on ABC. She announced "a new breed of commuter" that is "flooding mass transit systems." She listed increased transit ridership from Seattle to Philadelphia, from Buffalo to Miami to Los Angeles. Pinto and Cordes should get their heads together to get the story straight. Cordes claims that it costs just $300 each month for a supercommute. Pinto quoted that statistic that an average commuter--not even a super one--saves $6200 annually by switching from car to mass transit. Fact check please.

AUTISM, LUPUS AND OPRAH’S OZ Rounding out the day all three networks ran health-related features.

CBS claimed an Exclusive for Sharyl Attkisson's update on the controversy over the possible risk of autism from the mercury in Thimerosal preservatives that were once used in immunization for toddlers. Attkisson aired the decision by Bernardine Healy, the former Director of the National Institutes of Health, to disagree with the medical establishment, "a powerful medical voice breaking ranks with her colleagues," as Attkisson put it. Healy used to be an in-house medical consultant for CBS News, although Attkisson did not mention that onetime link. Healy did not assert that Thimerasol caused autism, merely that public health officials "have been too quick to dismiss the hypothesis" that there might be a tiny group of children who are "susceptible" to an adverse reaction and that public health officials have been "deliberately avoiding research" into that possibility.

NBC launched a gender-targeted three-part series called Medical Mysteries into illnesses that are hard to diagnose and that afflict women disproportionately. As many as 90% of the nation's million lupus patients are female, Robert Bazell told us, "a common story for several conditions called autoimmune diseases" in which the body's "natural defenses against disease go haywire and instead of defending against germs they attack the body itself."

ABC's weeklong self-help series is dubbed The Power of 2. Each day the network proposes to suggest two simple things anybody can do to make things better. David Muir kicked off by consulting Mehmet Oz, styled the "health advocate" on dayime TV's Oprah, about a pair of powerful ideas to improve our personal health. Oz suggested we do a crossword puzzle to ward off dementia and we find out what diseases killed the members of our family tree to get early warning of genetic maladies.

As inspiration Bazell and Muir each ended his feature with a young woman jogging: Jennifer Pearce on the street to fight lupus, Lisa Przygoda on a treadmill to prevent the heart attack that killed her father.

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: beside tornadoes, wild weather is hitting the eats coast too: floods in Maryland and brush fire in Florida…a first class stamp now costs 42c…the White House published some wedding pictures of First Daughter Jenna Bush at her weekend nuptials.