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CNN Student News Transcript: May 18, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Hear why battle lines are being drawn ahead of a Supreme Court nomination
  • Discover where thousands of U.S. brands are trademarked but not advertised
  • Get acquainted with a record-setter who's only been competing since age 80
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(CNN Student News) -- May 18, 2009

Quick Guide

Supreme Court Vacancy - Hear why battle lines are being drawn ahead of a Supreme Court nomination.

Cuba Trademarks - Discover where thousands of U.S. brands are trademarked but not advertised.

100 Meters at 100 Years - Get acquainted with a record-setter who's only been competing since age 80.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: One swimmer's secret to setting world records? We're gonna dive into the details in this edition of CNN Student News. I'm Carl Azuz, welcome to the show.

First Up: Commencement Controversy

AZUZ: We begin in South Bend, where President Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame's graduation ceremony yesterday. As we reported last week, this has raised some controversy. You see, Notre Dame is a Catholic university, and some people are upset that the school invited President Obama to speak and gave him an honorary degree, because of the president's pro-choice position on abortion; that position goes against traditional Catholic teachings.

Police officials say 27 people were arrested during protests before yesterday's ceremony. Some graduates chose to boycott the event to demonstrate their anger over the situation. Others expressed disapproval by painting protest symbols on their graduation caps. A few hecklers even interrupted the beginning of the president's speech, although they were booed by others in the audience. For his part, President Obama acknowledged the controversy, but urged people on both sides of the abortion issue to search for common ground.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe, that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.

Is This Legit?

GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? The U.S. Constitution sets the number of Supreme Court justices. Nope. The Constitution established the Supreme Court, but Congress sets the number of justices.

Supreme Court Vacancy

AZUZ: Right now, that number is nine: one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. But one of them, Justice David Souter, is retiring, which means President Obama needs to pick a replacement who will then have to be confirmed by the Senate. Kate Bolduan tells us who's on the final list of candidates and explains why the search process is raising some controversy.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Obama calls it among his most serious responsibilities.

OBAMA: I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity.

BOLDUAN: Sources close to the selection process tell CNN the list of top candidates for Mr. Obama's Supreme Court nominee is down to about half a dozen, a majority of which are woman. They include Federal Appeals Court Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and at least two candidates with political experience: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. On his search, the president says he's looking beyond judicial record.

OBAMA: I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes

BOLDUAN: That worries many conservatives, who translate what Mr. Obama calls "empathy" to mean "judicial activism." Conservative groups are gearing up for a fight.

GARY MARX, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION NETWORK: We want to see the law equally applied. And the empathy talk, really, personal feelings getting in the mix, that is very troublesome.

BOLDUAN: The president is likely to announce his nominee by month's end, a life-time appointment viewed as a key element of any presidential legacy.

THOMAS GOLDSTEIN, SUPREME COURT LEGAL ANALYST: It's impossible to overstate the importance of a Supreme Court appointment because of the justices' power. They decided things like abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, the meaning of all the laws involving the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and presidential powers, wire tapping, the list goes on and on and on.


Is This Legit - Extra Credit!

RAMSAY: Is this legit Extra Credit! Fidel Castro is the current president of Cuba. Not legit! His brother Raul Castro became president more than a year ago.

Cuba Trademarks

AZUZ: With that shift in power, the island nation is undergoing some changes in terms of its relationship with the U.S. Under Fidel Castro's control, which lasted nearly 50 years, Cuba clashed with the U.S., and America established an embargo, or restriction, on trade with the communist country. But as Shasta Darlington reports, U.S. companies are preparing for the possibility of a change in Cuba.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, HAVANA: Fidel Castro's revolution tore down capitalism and all of its symbols, leaving an ad-free oasis in Cuba. Instead of commercials, state-run TV urges Cubans to attend political rallies and fight disease-ridden mosquitoes. This iconic face looms from billboards, peddling revolution instead of retail. And visitors notice.

PERSON ON STREET #1: It's really quiet. It makes your mind very clear.

DARLINGTON: More than 90% of business is state-owned in Cuba, and the U.S. embargo keeps most American companies out anyway. But that hasn't kept them from preparing, in case one day they can break into this market just ninety miles off U.S. shores. Experts say thousands of American brands are trademarked here for just that reason.

JAKE COLVIN, NATIONAL FOREIGN TRADE COUNCIL: Kraft foods, Starbucks coffee, Batman.

DARLINGTON: Rusty Fords and Chevrolets still ply Havana's highways, but Detroit hasn't unveiled any new models here since 1959. Some big names like Coca Cola are still sold in Cuba today, thanks to exceptions in the embargo for food products. Other names, like this one, can only be found in antique shops. Still, pressure for change is growing in Washington. U.S. President Barack Obama has lifted some restrictions on travel to Cuba. Now, many lawmakers want trade restrictions eased, and companies are taking note.

COLVIN: Cuba's been forbidden for so long that it hasn't been worthwhile for U.S. companies to pay much attention to it. Now that it looks like policy is changing and may change further, it's certainly in a U.S. company's interest to go ahead and look towards registering their trademark

DARLINGTON: While change may not happen overnight, even companies ousted by Fidel Castro are getting positioned for any opening on Havana's horizon. Shasta Darlington, CNN, Havana.


100 Meters at 100 Years

AZUZ: Out next story today: an athlete who's been making some waves in competitive swimming. This guy holds three world records, and this past weekend, he went gunning for his fourth at an event in Canada. So, what's the big deal? He happens to be 100 years old! CBC reporter Marisa Dragani caught up with the swimming centenarian before this weekend's race.


MARISA DRAGANI, CBC REPORTER: He's not your average senior citizen who swims a few laps to stay in shape. Jaring Timmerman is a world class athlete. He has won countless titles, hundreds of medals, and shattered world records. You would think at 100 years old he'd slow down, but he's hungry for more.

JARING TIMMERMAN, WORLD RECORD HOLDER: I got three world records there, and now I still have one to get.

DRAGANI: Which one is that?

TIMMERMAN: That's the 100 [meter] backstroke.

DRAGANI: That's what you're after now?

TIMMERMAN: That's what I'm after now.

DRAGANI: Timmerman is going to go for it at the Canadian National Masters Competition in Toronto. He's the only one in his age category,100-104, so he'll be swimming against the clock, trying to beat the last record. Timmerman didn't start competing until he was 80, at the urging of his wife. Here at home, this centenarian has become a local celebrity. He's agile, lucid, strong. No health problems, he says. Everyone wants to know his secret.

TIMMERMAN: I formed an acronym. And that acronym is G.E.D.S. G-E-D-S: Genes, Exercise, Diet, Spirit.

DRAGANI: Timmerman says it's quite simple. He says you can't do much about what you inherit, but he believes you can change through diet and exercise and having a good spirit. He lifts weights every day and does calistenics, something he began doing training in the Air Force back before the second World War.

DRAGANI: So, you want to know how you did for 100 meters? The current world record is 4 minutes and 42 seconds. You swam a time of 3:54.

TIMMERMAN: Well, I think I'm going to beat it then!


AZUZ: And he did! When Mr. Timmerman hit the water this weekend, his 100 meter backstroke clocked in at 3 minutes and just under 52 seconds, two seconds faster than that practice time. It's also the exact time he predicted for himself before the race. He got his fourth world record and our congratulations.

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go today, speaking of unique world records, this actually qualifies as one: the biggest gathering of people doing the dance from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. No, it doesn't look like much of a dance, but we swear, like 25 years ago I'm told, everyone thought these moves were awesome! Anyway, last month, a senior at William and Mary University got 242 people together to break the record, which was one of his lifelong goals.



AZUZ: So, we're sure that the official announcement from Guinness really gave him a Well, I hope your day's better than that pun. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.

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