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CNN Student News Transcript: August 21, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Consider Scotland's controversial decision to release a convicted terrorist
  • Learn why scientists say that earthquakes pose a potential threat to Seattle
  • Hear how a writer is hoping for inspiration during a week-long layover
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(CNN Student News) -- August 21, 2009

Quick Guide

Lockerbie Release - Consider Scotland's controversial decision to release a convicted terrorist.

Shaky Ground? - Learn why scientists say that earthquakes pose a potential threat to Seattle.

Heathrow Writer - Hear how a writer is hoping for inspiration during a week-long layover.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Fridays are awesome! You viewers from last year knew that was coming. Thank you for spending part of this Friday with CNN Student News. From the CNN Center, I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Afghanistan Votes

AZUZ: First up, officials in Afghanistan are declaring success in yesterday's presidential election. Now this doesn't have anything to do with the results; those won't be official for a day or so. The officials are referring to the success of having held the election, the first one that the country has run on its own in more than 30 years. The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the voting with violence, and 26 people were killed during attacks yesterday. But officials said nearly 95 percent of the country's polling stations opened, and some stayed open longer than planned so that everyone in line had a chance to cast their ballots.

Radio Town Hall

AZUZ: President Obama weighed in on the Afghan election yesterday when he took part in a town hall meeting on a radio talk show. He mostly responded to viewers' questions about health care reform, but he also talked about the progress he sees taking place in Aghanistan.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are continuing to ramp up the pressure in Afghanistan. And, we had what appears to be a successful election in Afghanistan despite the Taliban's effort to disrupt it. You've got Gen. McChrystal now over there and more troops who are putting pressure on the eastern and southern portions of Afghanistan.

Lockerbie Release

AZUZ: Moving from Asia to Europe, the White House says it "deeply regrets" Scotland's decision to release a convicted terrorist from prison. Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi , who you see here in white, was convicted of murdering 270 people by blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. That happened in 1988. Last September, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Authorities say he only has three months to live, and that is why they have released him on "compassionate grounds."


AZUZ: We want to know what you think. Do you agree with Scotland's decision to release al Megrahi based on his health condition, or do you think he should have been required to complete his life sentence? You can share your opinions on our blog at


ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mrs. Harmon's current events classes at Southport Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana! What city's skyline is this? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Chicago, B) Saint Louis, C) San Francisco or D) Seattle? You've got three seconds -- GO! You're looking at the skyline of the Emerald City: Seattle, Washington. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Shaky Ground?

AZUZ: Scientists say that skyline could be in danger. Seattle lies near a major fault zone. That's where areas of the earth's crust slide against each other, and that is where earthquakes can start. And when it comes to quakes, Seattle probably isn't the first place that comes to mind. But as Dan Simon explains, the Emerald City may be more at risk than people think.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At Seattle's famous Pike's Place Fish Market, workers approach earthquakes the same way as their jobs: with humor.

CHRIS BELL, SEATTLE RESIDENT: I guess we're due for it. Myself living downtown, I'm in a high rise, so if it goes, it's like, at least I'm gonna go quick.

SIMON: But tremblers in Seattle are no joke. In 2001, the city got hit with a 6.8-magnitude quake. Significant, but scientists at the University of Washington fear the next one will be worse.

PROF. JOHN VIDALE, SEISMOLOGIST: We know it's just a matter of time. The question is how much the city will shake when it comes.

SIMON: Professor John Vidale is the state seismologist. He says research over the last few years shows that earthquake fault zones in the Pacific northwest may lie closer to the city than previously thought.

VIDALE: The new evidence suggests that the edge of the breakage closest to us is now halfway in from the coastline instead of near the coastline.

SIMON: Closer to Seattle?

VIDALE: Closer to Seattle.

SIMON: What that means is a quake impact would be felt much more. How much? Researchers say it could produce a magnitude of 9.0 or greater. That's equal to the 2004 quake off the coast of Indonesia which spawned the killer tsunami. Scientists say that does not mean a 9.0 would necessarily cause widespread devastation here, but vital structures, including some traffic arteries, would likely collapse. People would most certainly die.

Right above me is the Alaskan Way viaduct; it carries more than 100,000 cars a day. One expert told us he'd be more surprised if it stayed up following a big earthquake than if it came down. The 1989 earthquake in the San Francisco bay area destroyed a similarly designed viaduct; 42 people died. And county officials say at least 200,000 homes across Seattle and its suburbs are considered vulnerable. Some have heeded the warning. Peter Lynch is having his two-story house retrofitted to withstand a powerful shake.

PETER LYNCH, SEATTLE HOMEOWNER: I'd much rather be prepared than wait for the big one to come and have to pick up the pieces.

SIMON: But many don't have or aren't willing to shell out the $5,000 to have the work done. Residents of San Francisco and Los Angeles already live in constant fear that the big one could strike at any time. Now, it seems you can add another city to the list. Dan Simon, CNN, Seattle.


Heathrow Writer

AZUZ: Many of you airlplane travelers know the frustration. Your flight gets delayed or cancelled and you're sitting there. an airport. Well, one writer volunteered to take a layover in London's Heathrow Airport, a layover that lasts seven days! As Ayesha Durgahee tells us, he's hoping the experience offers him enough inspiration to fill a book.


AYESHA DURGAHEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As passengers check in and prepare to begin their journeys in the middle of departures of terminal five, Alain de Botton is starting a journey of his own: to write a book about the people he meets during his week-long stay as Heathrow's writer-in-residence.

Alain, for most people, the airport is the worst part of the journey. where they want to get through as quickly as possible. Why do you want to stay here for a whole week?

ALAIN de BOTTON, WRITER: Seven days and nights, I think for me the airport is the place that captures all the most important themes about what the modern world is. If you were trying to take a Martian, to try and show them what we are, what we've become, you'd take them to an airport. It's got everything. It's got globalization, it's got high technology, it's got consumerism, and it's got human passion. If you're looking for emotion, it's the departures area, the moment when you've got to say goodbye. I think in all of us is the thinking maybe the plane is going to go down. A tiny percentage of possibility, and so you say things to one another at an airport that maybe you don't say during the rest of your life. And that's what makes airports so intense and such moving places to be at. It's a gift for a writer because there are so many stories. So, I've had people, you know, check-in staff saying to me like, "I've got some secrets I'm going to come and tell you later on," or people confessing things. And I'm hoping that when I write this little book, that people will go, "Oh, that's the sort of thing that I sometimes thought about." You know, moments of recognition.

DURGAHEE: It's a novel way of gathering materials for a book, spending a week at one of the terminals of the world's busiest international airport. Only when the book is published in September, we'll know whether a week was enough to capture the inner workings and emotions of London Heathrow. Ayesha Durgahee, CNN, Heathrow Airport, London.



AZUZ: Stuck in an airport or hanging out at home, if you can get to the Internet, you can always spend some time on our Facebook page! Check out our videos, write on our wall. You can do it all at!

Off the Beaten Path

AZUZ: It's our first week of the new school year, but we figured we'd wrap it up with a little field trip. You won't need a permission slip. Just bring along a sense of adventure for this trip Off the Beaten Path.


AZUZ: If you get cash for your clunker, the clunker hits the junker. But if you'd rather see it go out in a blaze of glory, take it to Wisconsin.

MAN ON STREET #1: Everybody likes crashin' metal and crunchin' steel!

AZUZ: The man's right, and this proves it: "crash for clunkers," when cars are given remote controls and then sent on stunts, their last ones. Hate riding the Twinkie to school? See what happens when buses fly! It's all fun and sorta safe, but why not just have a dealer send it to the junkyard?

MAN ON STREET #2: I think it's cool to legally destroy something!

AZUZ: Same idea here, except help is brought in to crunch these clunkers, "help" being a five-ton monster truck. And though it leaves the cars looking pretty rough, few things are rougher looking than a wet cat. Believe it or not, this is supposed to soothe the savage beasts: It's a cat spa! And the owner says she uses no drugs, no restraints, just a relaxing cat wash and dry to clean up kitty. You don't see them clawing the walls, but on the other hand, this one's sixteen years old, so you might expect him to be a little more cat-atonic.




AZZ: Whether you think a kitty spa is an awesome idea or a total washout, it makes for a purr-fect ending to today's show. You guys have a punderful weekend. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.

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