If it were not for the search for life on Mars and severe weather on Earth, Memorial Day would have been a news holiday as well as a national holiday. All three networks had substitute anchors introduce their newscasts, whose content was otherwise loaded with a mixture of holiday fare and military tributes. NBC used Lester Holt; ABC had George Stephanopoulos; Russ Mitchell was on CBS. They were unanimous about the Story of the Day. All three led with the tornadoes that continue to batter the great plains.    
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video thumbnailNBCTornado seasonWeekend twisters hit Colo-Okla-Kans-Iowa-MinnSonya HeitsusenIowa
video thumbnailABC2008 issues: veterans' benefitsObama and McCain exchange barbs over GI BillJohn BermanNew York
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignTries to get past RFK assassination commentsLee CowanNew Mexico
video thumbnailNBCMars astronomy: NASA Phoenix probe lands safelyWill dig up, analyze ice in frigid polar zoneChris JansingCalifornia
video thumbnailCBSSichuan Province earthquake in China: Richter 7.9Homeless survivors camp in massive tent citiesCelia HattonChina
video thumbnailCBSAlgeria terrorism: Islamist Maghreb training basesRecruit descendents of Europe's Arab immigrantsBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCOil, natural gas, gasoline pricesSpiraling costs crimp holiday fun, summer plansMike TaibbiNew York
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesBaghdad's Furat neighborhood pacified, patroledNick SchifrinBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSWWII: Battle of Tarawa rememberedKiribati beach head now littered with trashBill WhitakerCalifornia
video thumbnailABCMilitary combat dead honored by portrait projectRender likeness from photographs, mailed to kinBob WoodruffWashington State
MEMORABLE TORNADO ON MEMORIAL DAY If it were not for the search for life on Mars and severe weather on Earth, Memorial Day would have been a news holiday as well as a national holiday. All three networks had substitute anchors introduce their newscasts, whose content was otherwise loaded with a mixture of holiday fare and military tributes. NBC used Lester Holt; ABC had George Stephanopoulos; Russ Mitchell was on CBS. They were unanimous about the Story of the Day. All three led with the tornadoes that continue to batter the great plains.

A storm system that started on Thursday with twisters in Colorado stalled over the plains all weekend, causing havoc in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Monday's headlines were created by killer twisters in Parkersburg Iowa and Hugo Minn, a suburb of St Paul. Jeff Ranieri of NBC Weather Plus explained that a front had been stationary for five days, causing turbulence as warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico confronted an "enhanced jetstream." ABC led off with Eric Horng (embargoed link) in Iowa: "Parkersburg, in every sense, was a small town. There was one high school, one grocery store and two banks. Today they are all gone." NBC handed the chores to Sonya Heitsusen of WHO-TV, its Des Moines affiliate. CBS had Priya David narrate the videotape from New York. She noted that the 110 killed by 800 twisters so far this tornado season represents the biggest death toll since 1998, even as "meteorologists point out the most active part of tornado season is still to come."

THE NEXT EL PRESIDENTE Memorial Day saw the campaign trail dominated by military themes. ABC's John Berman covered the continuing dispute between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama over the GI Bill introduced by Sen James Webb (D-VA). Webb wants to increase college scholarships upon leaving the service: Obama supports the plan; McCain is opposed. "Military and veterans issues would seem to play to the strengths of McCain, a navy veteran and former PoW. Yet Obama is not shying away," Berman noted. "McCain seemed to bristle at the criticism." NBC's Kelly O'Donnell heard McCain claim it as a mark of his own principled courage that he opposed these veterans' benefits: "It would have been much, much easier for me politically to have joined Sen Webb."

Both CBS and NBC showed pictures of Hillary Rodham Clinton on the campaign trail in Puerto Rico. Thalia Assuras on CBS saw her "drinking in the atmosphere and admiration and some El Presidente beer" while NBC's Lee Cowan observed that her "three day swing made her look pretty carefree" after the criticism she endured for Friday's reference to Robert Kennedy's June assassination. Cowan quoted Rodham Clinton's explanation for her remarks in a letter to Sunday's Daily News in New York City: "She insisted the media had taken them entirely out of context. She never intended to bring up something completely unthinkable." CBS' Assuras visualized everything going perfectly for Rodham Clinton--a big win in the Puerto Rico primary; prevailing in the credentials dispute over Florida and Michigan; persuading superdelegates to back her at the Denver Convention--and assessed her odds as "practically zip." Concluded Assuras: "In no circumstances do the numbers add up in her favor."

IS THERE ICE ON MARS? A holiday from earthly news allowed NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to attract attention to its probe on Mars. All three networks assigned a correspondent to tell us about the safe landing of Phoenix after a 420m mile, ten month voyage, using braking rockets and a parachute to settle on the red planet's icy polar region. The cracks in the surface there resemble those created by the freezing and thawing of water in the Earth's arctic. On ABC, New York based Ned Potter (embargoed link) showed us pictures of the landing taken from a second Mars probe that is orbiting the planet. "Scientists are looking for what lies beneath the permafrost," CBS' Ben Tracy explained from Pasadena. NBC's Chris Jansing was there too. She told us about the probe's "eight foot long robotic arm" which ill dig up the martial dirt "like a backhoe, scoop up icy samples and analyze them in on-board laboratories."

BLUE TENTS AND CAR BOMBS CBS filed a couple of overseas updates. Celia Hatton showed us row upon row of blue tents in Dujiangyan, where a few of the millions of homeless from the Sichuan earthquake find shelter. China needs 3.3m tents in total and has "diverted all construction funding" from new skyscrapers to relief efforts. Bob Orr obtained videotape from the NEFA Foundation showing training drills at a base run by al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb. Orr blamed the group for carbomb attacks on a military barracks and a United Nations diplomatic mission in Algeria. The propaganda videotape claims that citizens of France, Belgium and Spain are among its trainees.

KICK OFF YOUR SHOES Domestically, the holiday aspect of Memorial Day was covered by Mike Taibbi on NBC. He was assigned to illustrate how high fuel prices are crimping our style. He showed power boats standing idle at the dock and RV owners saving on diesel and stay-at-home barbecues and a fake beach on the banks of the East River where New Yorkers can pretend they are at the shore without having to travel. "People make adjustments," a bare-footed Taibbi shrugged. as he rolled up his pants legs to dig his toes into the sand. On the respectful side, observances for the nation's fallen were narrated by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos (embargoed link) as he showed us vignettes of the single-minute National Moment of Remembrance at 3pm in the afternoon.

NOW PACIFIED, STILL UNSANITARY Globally, Memorial Day was observed by GIs in Baghdad. ABC's Nick Schifrin followed a platoon through the now-pacified Sunni neighborhood of Furat where residents are "still afraid of Shiite militias, still worried about basic services. They say they need jobs and they need reliable electricity." Schifrin then followed the soldiers back to their combat outpost for a meal of corn dogs and memories of fallen comrades. CBS brought us Leon Cooper, a veteran of World War II, who traveled to Kiribati last year to remember his fallen comrades at the Battle of Tarawa in 1943. He found a beach head that had become the town dump, "an unsanitary desecration of hallowed ground," he called it. Bill Whitaker showed us footage from Vanilla Fire Productions to illustrate Cooper's campaign to have the United States foot the bill for a clean-up. "I got nothing except a few routine acknowledgements," Cooper complained about his letter writing. "We thank you for your interest in this subject."

TRIBUTES TO THE FALLEN All three networks filed appropriately solemn features to honor the nation's military dead. CBS' Chip Reid covered the dispute between preservationists and maintenance efforts at Arlington Cemetery. The 48 ton block of marble covering the Tomb of the Unknowns has a large and growing crack: should the slab be replaced or allowed to fall apart? ABC's Bob Woodruff profiled the Fallen Hero Project: artist Michael Reagan and his assistant Joe Colgan have undertaken to draw the likeness of each of the military dead from Iraq and Afghanistan and send the picture to their bereaved kin. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski brought us the 195 Arlington Ladies, a group of military wives and widows officially designated to attend each funeral at the cemetery, complete with a handwritten letter of condolence. "In the end all the pomp and ceremony of formal military honors quickly give way to the crush of personal grief. It is at that very moment the kindness and compassion extended by a total stranger is what may be needed most."

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: Sen Edward Kennedy successfully competed in the Figawi Regatta, despite his brain cancer…Iran is accused of hiding data on its nuclear program from the International Atomic Energy Agency…a group of six teenagers was arrested in Iraq on suspicion of a bomb plot…a cargo plane operated by Kalitta Air split apart on a Brussels runway…Yale University awarded a doctorate in music to Paul McCartney…the latest sequel in the Indiana Jones series turns out to be a box office hit.