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CNN Student News Transcript: May 15, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Hear why Chrysler is looking to close a quarter of its dealerships
  • Find out how record foreclosure rates might offer a silver lining
  • Consider the role of free speech in a commencement controversy
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(CNN Student News) -- May 15, 2009

Quick Guide

Chrysler Closings - Hear why Chrysler is looking to close a quarter of its dealerships.

Foreclosure Report - Find out how record foreclosure rates might offer a silver lining.

Graduation Controversy - Consider the role of free speech in a commencement controversy.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Fridays are awesome! We're glad you're spending part of yours with CNN Student News. From the CNN Center, I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Walk in Space

AZUZ: We begin in orbit, where astronauts onboard the shuttle Atlantis have completed the first spacewalk during their mission to upgrade the Hubble Telescope. This is the first time in 7 years anyone's been up to work on the Hubble, and this is also the last time. That is why NASA is calling this one of the most ambitious space repair missions ever attempted. The crew, which spent two years training for this, is scheduled to make five spacewalks over the course of 11 days. Yesterday's took more than seven hours.

Chrysler Closings

AZUZ: Shifting gears now, Chrysler, one of the country's biggest automakers, is planning to close around 25 percent of its current dealerships. In letters sent to the dealers yesterday, the company called the decision a necessary step, but one that it's taking with "a sense of profound sadness." Nicole Collins considers the potential impact of the move on the company and the economy.


NICOLE COLLINS, CNN REPORTER: Chrysler says it wants to shutter 789 underperforming dealerships -- roughly a quarter of its U.S. outlets -- by next month. It's left targeted dealers and their employees stunned.

JEFFREY TAMAROFF, OWNER OF CLOSING DEALERSHIP: I gathered all the employees together this morning around 9:30. I told them as much as I know.

RICK ENGEL, OWNER OF CLOSING DEALERSHIP: We're pretty devastated, and maybe tomorrow when we wake up it'll start to sink in a little more than it is right now.

COLLINS: The move comes after General Motors said it plans to slash its dealer network by 42 percent by the end of next year. Both automakers are under pressure from the Obama administration's auto task force to slim down their operations. Chrysler filed for bankruptcy on April 30. GM faces a June 1 deadline to restructure debt or also face bankruptcy.

FRITZ HENDERSON, GENERAL MOTORS CEO: It is probable today that we would need to revert to a Chapter Eleven process.

COLLINS: Members of the National Automobile Dealers Association lobbied in Washington this week to slow mass closures of dealerships.

DAVID HYATT, NATIONAL AUTOMOBILE DEALERS ASSOCIATION: It will lead to more than 200,000 Americans out of work across the country in every community, at a time when it's almost impossible to find other employment.

COLLINS: But for those in the industry, even those with dealerships that made the cut, another sad day.

CHUCK EDDY, YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO CHRYSLER DEALER: That's all I've ever known is Chrysler. I've known a lot of these dealers, I've known alot of their families, for generations.

COLLINS: The next step in the Chrysler process is a June 3 court hearing, where a bankruptcy judge has to sign off on the closures, and where dealers have vowed to fight the cuts. In Washington, Nicole Collins for CNN Student News.


Foreclosure Report

AZUZ: In other economic news, the country's foreclosure rate is reaching record highs. Foreclosure is when a borrower, for example, someone who owns a house, loses that property to a lender, often a bank, because the borrower can't afford to pay for the loan. Last month, lenders foreclosed on 342,000 homes! Mary Snow examines where and why these foreclosures are taking place.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The numbers are so bleak, the company tracking foreclosures called April's report a "shocker." But behind it, could there be a potential silver lining?

RICK SHARGA, REALTYTRAC: I'm hopeful that we're seeing a peak right now in foreclosure activity, and that things won't get significantly worse.

SNOW: Last month, one in 374 homes received foreclosure filings. Of all of those foreclosures, the bulk, 75 percent, was centered in ten states. The states hit hardest by the housing crisis remain at the top of the list: Nevada, Florida, California and Arizona. Nevada having the highest foreclosure activity, one in 68 homes receiving foreclosure filings. Rounding out the list, number ten, Ohio: one in 411 homes being affected. RealtyTrac blames lenders getting more aggressive on delinquent loans after a moratorium on foreclosures. And then there's the 8.9 percent nationwide unemployment rate that's growing. Some housing experts say that is a big challenge to the administration's efforts to keep people in their homes.

NICOLAS RETSINAS, HARVARD JOINT CENTER FOR HOUSING STUDIES: In some ways, it's a race between these government programs and the job losses. And right now, job losses are winning that race.

SNOW: Still, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development says there are early signs the housing market is stabilizing.

SEAN DONOVAN, HUD SECRETARY: I do expect, based on everything that we've seen, that we should be out of the housing slump certainly by the end of the year, if not sooner.

SNOW: Falling housing prices and lower interest rates are attractive to first time home buyers, but the threat of job loss threatens to hamper a full recovery. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.



GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mr. Huff's classes at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton, Oregon! When was the First Amendment ratified? If you think you know it, shout it out! Was it in: A) 1787, B) 1789, C) 1791 or D) 1793? You've got three seconds -- GO! The First Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, was ratified in 1791. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Graduation Controversy

AZUZ: One of the rights guaranteed in that First Amendment: the freedom of speech. Many people have been exercising it to protest this weekend's graduation speaker at Notre Dame University, A guy you've probably heard of: President Obama. Specifically, the protesters are speaking out against Obama's position on the issue of abortion. Candy Crowley explores the role of free speech on both sides of this controversy.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: By the time they graduate, American students are well schooled in free speech.

WOMAN: We do not believe that it's right to celebrate a man that's gone so against Catholic principles.

CROWLEY: The man is President Barack Obama, supporter of abortion rights, who will give the commencement address to and get an honorary degree from Notre Dame, a premier Catholic school, a religion that considers abortion a mortal sin. Let the free speech begin.

MAN: We can't afford to be sending a message to people that we value power and fame over our Catholic identity.

CROWLEY: The debate is not confined to campus. It made it to the pulpit of Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski.

BISHOP THOMAS WENSKI, ORLANDO, FLORIDA: It implies almost an approbation or an approval of the president's position, at least a winking at it, as if it was not that important.

CROWLEY: And it made it into a Washington Post column by Father Thomas Reese.

REV. THOMAS REESE, S.J., GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think when we start banning speakers, we look afraid, we look like we feel we can't come up with convincing arguments. And I think that's a self defeating strategy.

CROWLEY: Beyond the church sanctuary, anti-abortion activists, Catholic and non, have gathered in South Bend to make their case. Among them, former presidential candidate Alan Keyes, arrested for trespassing, and conservative anti-abortion activist Randall Terry. Countering the protest, critics accuse Republicans of trying to drive a wedge between Catholics and Democrats, and they note that both President Bush and Ronald Reagan spoke at Notre Dame, and they were pro-death penalty, also against Catholic teaching. Having won the Catholic vote last year, the president is on firm territory when he takes to that podium. And while at least one Notre Dame honoree is boycotting along with some students, the vast majority of graduates and parents are expected to show up.

Beginning in the Vietnam Era, protest has been a time-honored graduation exercise. At Furman, some faculty members boycotted then President Bush's address. Others silently made their case.


CROWLEY: John McCain was interrupted constantly by protesters during his commencement address at New York's New School. No one was disinvited; everyone spoke. They all survived. The tradition goes on.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president intends to go to Notre Dame, speak, accept the degree, and come back to the White House.

CROWLEY: Democracy 101: Everyone gets free speech. Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


Phelps' Return

AZUZ: From free speech to free swim. Michael Phelps is back in the pool, competing for the first time since his three-month suspension from organized, competitive swimming. You may remember the Olympic champion was suspended after pictures surfaced that appeared to show him smoking out of a marijuana pipe. Phelps has apologized for what he called a "very stupid mistake," one that he hopes he can persuade other people not to make.

MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIAN: Like I said before, it was a bad judgment and a very stupid mistake that I made, and something I've already learned from and something I'll continue to learn from. And like I said before, hopefully I can help people never make the same mistake.

Facebook Promo

AZUZ: Now, some of you have asked if I can rap. If you want the answer, you'll have to check out our new video on the official CNN Student News Facebook page. While you're there, you can write something on our wall. If you don't know where to find us, just log on to Facebook and search for "CNN Student News, official."

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it ain't always a duck. Say hello to Shelby Free, whose impressive mallard mimicry made her the world's best female duck caller last year when she was just 16 years old! She actually took home the title two years earlier, as well. But Shelby is calling out the competition and setting her sights on this year's championship.



AZUZ: Seems like she wants to take another quack at the title. While we duck from your boos, we want to remind you to check out Extra Credit, our special segment on CNN. If you didn't get a shoutout this week, you might get one on Sunday morning around 8:40 a.m. Have a great weekend.

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