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CNN Student News Transcript: January 29, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Discover how the House voted on President Obama's economic stimulus plan
  • Hear why America's infrastructure earned low grades from civil engineers
  • Explore new research on the consequences of concussions for athletes
  • Next Article in Living »
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(CNN Student News) -- January 29, 2009

Quick Guide

Stimulus Vote - Discover how the House voted on President Obama's economic stimulus plan.

Infrastructure Report - Hear why America's infrastructure earned low grades from civil engineers.

The Athlete's Brain - Explore new research on the consequences of concussions for athletes.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Today's edition of CNN Student News is dedicated to Mrs. Murray's classes: Thank you for watching and for your e-mail! I'm Carl Azuz reporting from the CNN Center.

First Up: Stimulus Vote

AZUZ: First up, passage in the U.S. House of Representatives for President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package. When we talked about this yesterday, the price tag on this thing was $825 billion. But when the House voted on the bill, it was actually $819 billion. That's based on the latest estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

You might remember that Republican lawmakers had expressed some concerns about the proposal. They disagreed with the president and Democrats on the best ways to help the economy. President Obama was hoping for support from both parties on the legislation. He didn't get it, but with Democrats holding a majority in the House, he didn't need it. The plan isn't law just yet. Samantha Hayes tallies up last night's vote and maps out the next steps.


SAMANTHA HAYS, CNN REPORTER: President Barack Obama, faced with job losses and growing economic worries, pushed hard for his massive stimulus plan ahead of its approval in the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 244 to 188.

US. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat, they can't afford inaction or delay. They are looking to Washington for action, bold and swift.

HAYES: The president had hoped for support from Republicans, but not one voted for the $819 billion bill. Earlier in the day the GOP leadership said the plan needed more tax cuts and less spending.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The proposal that we have that reduces taxes on American families and small businesses and allows them to keep more of what they earn, actually produces more jobs in our country than the proposal that they have on the floor that costs twice as much.

HAYES: Mr. Obama's stimulus plan focuses on energy: modernizing the electric grid. And health care: computerizing more medical records and upgrading hospitals. But it will take months before the money will be put to work, and most of the funding is spent next year and the year after. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls it a necessary provision.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: It is about the future. With this vote today, we are taking America in a new direction.

HAYES: In a statement, President Obama acknowledged partisan differences and said that can't be allowed to get in the way as the bill moves to the Senate. In Washington, I'm Samantha Hayes.


Word to the Wise


infrastructure (noun) basic facilities and services needed for a community or city, such as transportation, power and water


Infrastructure Report

AZUZ: Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, examines some of the services that help our country run and assigns a grade to America's infrastructure. This latest report card is not one you'd want to take home to your parents. For example, the group estimates that Americans spend more than 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic and that costs the economy more than $78 billion. That earned roads a D-. Jeanne Meserve breaks down more of the results.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Drinking water: D-. Leaking pipes waste seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day, and many aging facilities are near the end of their useful life, according to the civil engineers. Wastewater: another D-. Billions of gallons of untreated wastewater are discharged into the nation's waterways each year. Levees: D- again. More than 85 percent are locally owned, and the reliability of many is unknown, though increased development near levees has increased the number of lives at risk. Inland waterways: D-. Of the 275 locks in use, 30 of them were built in the 1800s; another 92 are more than 60 years old. Getting the only slightly higher grade of D: aviation, dams, hazardous waste, schools and mass transit.

Energy infrastructure was the only sector to show improvement since the last ASCE report card in 2005. It now has a D+. The highest grade from the civil engineers goes to solid waste with a C+, due to recycling efforts. The group says the decay of our infrastructure is sapping our economy and our way of life, but the price to fix it is high. ASCE estimates government and the private sector need to invest $2.2 trillion over the next five years. Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


Is This Legit?

RAMSAY: Is this legit? Any time someone gets a concussion, he or she loses consciousness. Not legit! Most concussions don't involve blacking out, though the more serious ones can.

The Athlete's Brain

AZUZ: All concussions have one thing in common: they temporarily interfere with how your brain works. Any bump to the head can cause a concussion. But some people are at higher risk than others, for example athletes who participate in contact sports. And once you've had a concussion, doctors say you're more likely to have others. Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the possible consequences.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Punishing blows have become an inextricable part of many sports. Ted Johnson took his share as a linebacker for the New England Patriots.

TED JOHNSON, FORMER NEW ENGLAND PATRIOT: I had maybe four or five, six documented concussions.

GUPTA: Those were just the dizzying knockouts. By his count, Johnson suffered more than 100 mild concussions. Impossible to test for, a concussion is a vague injury, invisible until now.

GUPTA: This is the brain of an athlete.


GUPTA: How many brains have you looked at so far?

MCKEE: I think this makes eight.

GUPTA: What have you found in the first seven?

MCKEE: They've all had changes of traumatic encephalopathy.

GUPTA: A new study confirms what some scientists have long suspected: concussions start an injury cascade that looks like this.

MCKEE: I think what's been surprising is that it's so extensive. It's throughout the brain, not just on the superficial aspects of the brain, but it's also deep inside.

GUPTA: This is a healthy brain, and this is the brain of a former NFL player in his 40s. Those brown tangles, those indicate brain damage that can eventually kill cells. The trauma in this NFL player's brain looks a lot like damage in this brain, a 70 year old who suffered from dementia.

GUPTA: Did it surprise you to see some of these things?

MCKEE: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. To see the kind of changes we're seeing in 45 year olds is basically unheard of.

GUPTA: Years removed from the football field, Ted Johnson is still tackling side effects of all those concussions: depression, headaches, anger issues.

JOHNSON: I almost forgot what I was like before, before the hits. I couldn't remember. I just lost myself for the last three years.

GUPTA: Johnson and former pro wrestler Chris Nowinski are part of the Sports Legacy Institute, which asks athletes to donate their brains to continue this study into the impact of concussion.

GUPTA: Is there a message for football players, is there a message for the NFL in here?

MCKEE: I think the message is that we need to identify what constitutes a significant head injury and we need to treat it sufficiently, and I think that probably means resting an injury a lot more than we rest it.


AZUZ: We want to follow up on that report with a response from the NFL. The league released a statement saying, "Hundreds of thousands of people have played football and other sports without experiencing any problem of this type, and there continues to be considerable debate within the medical community on the precise, long-term effects of concussions." The statement continued, "We are currently funding an independent medical study of retired NFL players on the long-term effects of concussions which we hope will contribute to the overall understanding of the issue."


AZUZ: Looking for a heads up about what stories will be on CNN Student News? Then sign up for our daily e-mail! You'll get advance notice of what we're covering on the show and special programming, like February's Black History Month features. Plus, links to our show-specific maps and our blog. Sign up today at!

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, a leisurely cruise down the Saint Lawrence River. OK, this is a little more leisurely than the passengers were probably expecting. But that's what happens when your ship gets stuck in ice. It didn't turn into a titanic mishap, thankfully. Coast Guard ships showed up to help crack the case open. And everyone on board had 24 hours to sit around and get to know one another.



AZUZ: Hope they had some good ice breakers. Okay. Well that goes out to all of you who were saying last week that we were lacking the puns - we brought em back for you. We'll see you again tomorrow. I'm Carl Azuz.

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