Spectacular weather made the decision easy about the weekending Story of the Day. All three newscasts led with the line of storms that stretched from Texas to Tennessee, spawning two dozen tornadoes, leaving seven people dead. ABC and CBS had reporters on the scene in Texas; NBC's was in Missouri. All three newscasts ran plenty of videotape of fierce funnel clouds. The northern end of the front was in South Dakota, where temperatures dropped 40F in 24 hours, ending with a May blizzard and 24 inches of snow.    
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video thumbnailCBSTornado seasonLine of twisters from Texas to Tenn kills sevenHari SreenivasanTexas
video thumbnailCBSUnemployment: April jobless rate falls to 5.0%Workforce loses 20,000 jobs, fewer than fearedAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailABCBank credit, debit card rates, fees, chargesFederal Reserve issues consumer regulationsDavid KerleyWashington DC
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignMakes gasoline tax holiday key theme on stumpRon AllenNorth Carolina
video thumbnailNBCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingUSMC fights amid Helmand's opium poppy fieldsJim MacedaAfghanistan
video thumbnailABCMilitary detains terrorist suspects in Cuban campRelease al-Jazeera cameraman inmate to SudanJonathan KarlWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCBeijing Summer Olympic Games previewedHong Kong greets torch with patriotic fervorMark MullenHong Kong
video thumbnailABCAIDS: epidemic devastates sub-Saharan AfricaCancer teenager fundraises for Zambian orphanageCharles GibsonNew York
video thumbnailNBCHorse racing Triple Crown: Kentucky Derby previewedChampion stallions are pampered at studRoger O'NeilKentucky
video thumbnailCBSCBS News' first TV newscast 60th anniversaryDouglas Edwards newscaster, Don Hewitt producerKatie CouricNew York
TOP PICK IS WEATHER PIX Spectacular weather made the decision easy about the weekending Story of the Day. All three newscasts led with the line of storms that stretched from Texas to Tennessee, spawning two dozen tornadoes, leaving seven people dead. ABC and CBS had reporters on the scene in Texas; NBC's was in Missouri. All three newscasts ran plenty of videotape of fierce funnel clouds. The northern end of the front was in South Dakota, where temperatures dropped 40F in 24 hours, ending with a May blizzard and 24 inches of snow.

"This massive storm powered its way right up Tornado Alley," narrated NBC's Janet Shamlian, with hurricane-force winds and giant hailstones. ABC's Mike von Fremd (embargoed link) showed us freight cars pushed off the railroad track in Missouri. He called 2008 "an incredibly violent year for tornadoes" and warned that typically May is the most violent month of all. CBS' Hari Sreenivasan offered the statistics: 2007 saw 517 twisters in its first four months; 2008 has seen 708.

ECONOMY EXPECTATIONS GAME Just as the Gross Domestic Product statistics Wednesday failed to reflect the feared formal start of a recession, so the April unemployment data failed to produce the 75,000 lost jobs that CNBC's Trish Regan expected on Thursday on NBC. The unemployment rate actually improved marginally, from 5.1% to 5.0% with just 20,000 fewer jobs that the month before. Only CBS assigned a correspondent to cover the statistics: "If we are in a recession these numbers suggest it may not be as deep as some feared," stated Anthony Mason, looking for the silver lining. Nevertheless, "the economy lost jobs for the fourth straight month" with construction, manufacturing and retailing taking "the hardest hits."

BANKING BALONEY The day's other economic news came from the Federal Reserve Board. It announced consumer protection regulations for credit cardholders, including a ban on retroactive increases in interest rates on unpaid balances and on immediate due dates for payment of current bills. CBS' Nancy Cordes and ABC's David Kerley both covered the proposal. Cordes called it "the toughest crackdown ever" on practices the Fed called "deceptive and unfair." She warned that the banks will "bring out their big lobby guns to try to shoot as many holes in this proposal as possible." ABC's Kerley cited the banks' warning that if implemented "consumers may actually pay more." He quoted Sen Christopher Dodd's response: "A lot of baloney."

The credit card story came on the second day of Elisabeth Leamy's two-part series Stealing You on identity theft for ABC. Thursday Leamy demonstrated how a stranger's personal data can be bought online, brokered by organized crime gangs based in eastern Europe and Russia. She shocked a California man with her purchase of his Social Security number, mother's maiden name, credit card account number and PIN for his ATM card. In part two, Leamy bought a $500 scanner online that allows credit and debit cards to be cloned by copying their magnetic stripes. "More than 65 other countries now use smart chip technology that makes card cloning almost impossible." Domestic cardholders are vulnerable because banks here still use the clonable magnetic stripes instead "to avoid the cost of converting ATMs."

LOOKING FOR A GAME CHANGER Only NBC filed from the campaign trail before the final weekend on the stump in North Carolina and Indiana. ABC and CBS contented themselves with updates from their Sunday morning interview anchors. Bob Schieffer of CBS' Face the Nation told anchor Katie Couric that he had just returned from North Carolina, where he found that Hillary Rodham Clinton "is closing the gap on Barack Obama…It is down to single digits." George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week agreed that Rodham Clinton "is on a roll…but to really drive that home she needs a game-changing victory." A win in Indiana would not be enough to "shake superdelegates loose," he told anchor Charles Gibson, but North Carolina would, or, failing that, Oregon.

As for the candidates themselves, NBC's Ron Allen saw Rodham Clinton "still pushing hard" for a summer holiday from the 18c-per-gallon federal gasoline tax, a proposal that "has become one of her biggest issues." Allen saw her husband "working overtime" in North Carolina's small towns, speaking at as many as seven events in a single day: "I am basically the ambassador of Hillary's campaign to rural America," declared Bill. As for the frontrunner Obama, NBC's Lee Cowan called it a "pretty astonishing admission" when he conceded that he "did not recognize or really appreciate just how he or his campaign had been painted over the last several weeks" by the coverage of Jeremiah Wright, his longtime pastor, and his bitter-&-clinging comments about those same small town voters that the former President is now courting so energetically.

TIPTOE THROUGH THE POPPIES A trio of overseas stories was filed--on Afghanistan, Sudan and China.

NBC's Mark Mullen was waiting in Hong Kong for the parade of the torch en route to the Beijing Olympic Games. It was greeted by "tens of thousands of cheering spectators in a sea of patriotic red." It amounted to "a massive pep rally" to counteract the protests against the People's Republic's policies on Tibet and human rights that torch had encountered outside China. "Many Chinese, who mobilized counterprotests, took it personally."

Sami al-Hajj, a TV news cameraman for al-Jazeera, was flown home to Sudan by the US military after six years of incarceration at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. ABC's Jonathan Karl recounted that al-Hajj, who was taken prisoner while covering the war in Afghanistan in 2001, had been suspected by the Pentagon variously of supporting guerrillas in Chechnya, of being a cash courier for "an associate" of Osama bin Laden and of having "distributed terrorist propaganda" online--suspected "but never charged." After his last year on hunger strike, al-Hajj is being allowed to go home on condition that the Khartoum regime "keep an eye on him to make sure he does not commit any terrorism." Karl noted that this was an "odd" condition, since Sudan has been branded by the United States as "a state sponsor of terrorism."

For the second straight day, NBC's Jim Maceda filed from Afghanistan's Helmand Province, where he is embedded with a Marine Corps unit as it fights the Taliban. Thursday Maceda narrated scenes from a five hour firefight. Now he follows patrols as it tiptoed through "fields rich with poppy." The USMC is under orders not to harm the $4bn-a-year opium crop since destroying it "would only play into the Taliban's propaganda and further anger Afghans."

IT IS FRIDAY, SO IT IS FEATURE TIME ABC's Person of the Week was Kristin Elliott, an 18-year-old cancer patient who was offered a dying treat by the Make a Wish Foundation. "Been there. Not really," she exclaimed to anchor Charles Gibson as she recounted turning down a treat at ABC's corporate sibling, DisneyWorld. Instead she took $2,600 as a downpayment for her $60,000 online fundraising for Kristin's Miracle House, the AIDS orphanage she decided to build after a church trip to Zambia.

Want to fly to Lewistown Mont or Macon Ga or Shenandoah Valley Va or Beckley WV or Oil City Pa? Sharyl Attkisson reassured us that there are plenty of seats available and no crowds at the terminals for any of those routes. In her Follow the Money feature on CBS, Attkisson told us they are all destinations from a Carter Administration program called Essential Air Service to subsidize travel to rural towns. It costs the federal government $127m annually and each year there are empty seats for another 2.4m passengers.

Steve Hartman had plain old fun on a ranch outside Albuquerque for his Assignment America feature on the Single Action Shooting Society. It is a gun club where city slickers reenact the wild west each weekend, dressing up and adopting Hopalong Cassidy nicknames, in a throwback firearms competition.

Tom Costello seemed to have yet more fun in Fredericksburg Tex. His Making a Difference feature on NBC profiled the high school science classes of teacher Brett Williams. Since 1996, he has set each class the project of designing and building a rocket. In the first year, the rocket sent a one pound weight one mile high. Each year the students progressed. For 2008, it is a 500lb payload hoping to reach the edge of space, 100K feet high, with a launchpad at White Sands Missile Range.

STANDING AT STUD NBC News offered a cross promotion to NBC Sports for its coverage of Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Roger O'Neil traveled to the Darley stud near Lexington to show us the life of a champion thoroughbred after his racing career is over. This corner of the Sport of Kings, O'Neil told us, is owned by the royal family of Dubai: "It is a very good life." Each year a total of 13,000 thoroughbred colts are born each year, with a top-priced stallion impregnating 150 different mares each season. Yet in the 133-year history of the Kentucky Derby a winner has sired a winner only once. Congratulations Seattle Slew.

BLIND LEADING THE BLIND For TV news junkies, CBS anchor Katie Couric tipped her hat to her pioneering predecessor, Douglas Edwards. Edwards' first CBS-TV News, a 15-minute black-and-white newscast, premiered exactly 60 years ago. Back in 1948 "only one in ten Americans had even seen a television set" and the network extended to just three stations: New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Edwards' producer was "the legendary" Don Hewitt, warming up for 60 Minutes. Couric pointed out that the teleprompter had not yet been invented: "Hewitt once tried to get Edwards to learn Braille so he could read while looking directly at the camera. Doug said: 'No thanks.'"

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: diplomacy is under way between representatives of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, and the People's Republic of China…a USMC sergeant, so badly burned in Iraq in 2005 that he was given a 3% chance of survival, has finally died of his wounds after more than a hundred separate surgeries…so many workers cannot afford to leave home during their annual time off work that a new word has been coined: staycations…a baby monkey born at the London Zoo has been abandoned by its mother, but it looks sooooo cute.