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Quick Guide & Transcript: Senator hospitalized, Push for change in currency, Week in Review

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(CNN Student News) -- December 15, 2006

Quick Guide

In the Balance - Consider how a lawmaker's illness could ultimately impact the Senate's balance of power.

Changing Bills? - Examine both sides of an issue involving a proposed redesign of U.S. currency.

Week in Review - Find out why President Bush is waiting until next year to announce a new strategy for Iraq.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: You've made it to Friday and our week's last edition of CNN Student News. Hello everyone. From Atlanta, I'm Carl Azuz. A medical condition, a congressman in the hospital... And a lot of questions raised about the balance of the Senate. Consider a turn of events that could tip one scale toward Republicans. It's something we all like to see, but for those who can't see it, our currency creates complications. Should the government change the shape of money? And they're pretty far out. Climb aboard the International Space Station to see what some astronauts are up to.

First Up: In the Balance

AZUZ: First up today, a critical situation for a South Dakota congressman. Democratic Senator Tim Johnson suffered a brain hemorrhage Wednesday. He came through a successful surgery yesterday morning, and doctors say he's responsive to word and touch. Here are some file pictures of the senator. Doctors say the hemorrhage was caused by the pressure of blood vessels that are too close together, a condition Johnson was born with. The 59-year-old lawmaker is now resting at George Washington University Hospital, and no further surgery is required. CNN's Doctor Sanjay Gupta explains why Johnson's illness is so serious.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This part of the brain where this seems to have occurred is a really important area of the brain. Obviously, there are many important areas in the brain, but this area controls speech, controls movement, so I think people are worried that it's going to take some time for some of those functions to return.

AZUZ: One thing you may not be thinking about: How Johnson's illness could affect Washington's balance of power. His Democratic party is firmly in control of the House, but as for the Senate, Bob Franken explores one possibility that could once again, alter part of the political landscape.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN REPORTER: The speculation began almost immediately after word got out Johnson had been stricken at the end of a political conference call with South Dakota reporters. If Senator Johnson can no longer serve, and that's a big if, the balance of power in the Senate would turn upside down. It's as simple as that.

FRANKEN: Republicans would almost certainly take back the Senate the Democrats had just wrenched from their control in last month's election

JOHN MERCURIO, POLITICAL ANALYST: Democrats are expecting to come back to Capitol Hill in January in control of a legislative agenda and this would put a huge wrench in what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are expecting to try and accomplish over the next two years.

FRANKEN: Tim Johnson's South Dakota is one of the states where the sitting governor chooses a replacement without regard to party. Republican Governor Mike Rounds could be expected to appoint someone from his own party to fill the vacancy till the next election in two years. Instead of the 51-49 majority Democrats fought so hard to achieve, it would become 50-50, and the tie would be broken by the President of the Senate, the Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney.

FRANKEN: Of course, Democrats would still control the House, but the opposition party's newly gained power in Congress would suddenly be ripped in half, by fate, and GOP senators would be able to protect their party's president from a full scale assault.

FRANKEN: Obviously, everyone is concerned for Senator Johnson's health and wishes him a speedy recovery, but no one more so than his fellow democrats. Bob Franken, CNN, New York.


Spoken Word

KOFI ANNAN, FORMER U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I depart convinced that today's United Nations does more than ever before. It does it better than ever before. Yet our work is far from complete. Indeed it will never be.

New U.N. Secretary General

AZUZ: With those words, outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan bid farewell to the United Nations General Assembly and he was hailed with showers of applause. His successor says it's an honor to follow in Annan's footsteps. Former South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, sworn in yesterday, officially takes over on January first. He is the first Asian to lead the U.S. in 35 years.


GEORGE RAMSEY: This Friday Shoutout is dedicated to the staff and students of Whitewater Middle School in Fayette County, Georgia! Who invented the writing system known as Braille? If you think you know it, shout it out! Was it: A) Benjamin Franklin, B) Helen Keller, C) Albert Einstein or D) Louis Braille? You've got three seconds--GO! Louis Braille, who lost his sight at age three, invented the Braille writing system in 1829. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Changing Bills?

AZUZ: Regardless of how much money you've got in your pocket or purse, I guarantee you, all the bills are exactly this size. That's something the American Council of the Blind wants to change. But the government says doing that'll cost some serious cash, and it's afraid any big changes could lead to big counterfeiting. Deborah Feyerick looks at the other side of the coin.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN REPORTER: Imagine handing over a 20 dollar bill and having no idea if you're getting back the right change.

MARC: This is the five.


MARC: And this is the ten?


FEYERICK: This is what Marc Grossman goes through every time he pays in cash. Like more than a million Americans, Grossman is legally blind and every cash transaction is a risk. Grossman says he's heard stories of visually impaired people being ripped off by dishonest salespeople.

FEYERICK: Remember this scene from the movie Ray.

MOVIE CLIP: $20. $40. $60. Um, Excuse me, you may want to count that again.

FEYERICK: Grossman doesn't think its happened to him, but he says he doesn't know for sure.

MARC: We need to be able to identify money so that we can live independent lives without having to rely on sighted assistance.

FEYERICK: It certainly made sense to one federal judge, who recently ordered the U.S. Treasury to show blind people the money, possibly by changing the size of each bill or adding texture to reflect the dollar amount, the same way blind people identify coins.

MARC: If I hand you this coin? D: Its smooth, so I know its a nickel.

FEYERICK: But this week, Treasury officials appealed the ruling, arguing it would cost upwards of three-hundred million dollars to make the changes and, that it would force the revamping of things like ATMs and vending machines.

FEYERICK: This travel exchange in Times Square handles currencies from all different countries and there are about 180 that print their own paper money. Take a look, this is the pound, this is the peso and this is the Euro, all different sizes to reflect the different denominations. Only U.S. currency is the same size for each dollar amount.

FEYERICK: John Lovitky is with the American Council of the Blind, an organization that has been trying for more than three decades to change U.S. currency sizes.

JOHN LOVITKY, AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND: People with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations, I think that is all that is being asked for in this case.

FEYERICK: Lovitky says it's incomprehensible that the Treasury Department won't help blind people especially since it plans to make bill changes anyway every seven to nine years to stop counterfeiters. As for Marc Grossman:

MARC: These two, these are the singles? Yes. This is ten?

FEYERICK: He's figured out a system of folding his bills to know what he spends. But when it comes to the change, he relies on blind faith. Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


Week in Review

AZUZ: Two NASA employees stepped out for a walk yesterday. They did a bit of maintenance work around the office, and eventually made their way back inside. Why is that on the news? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that they're in space! As part of our week in review, Harry Beadle details what they're doing up there.


HARRY BEADLE, CNN STUDENT NEWS: All systems were go Saturday, making for a smooth launch for Discovery. It was the first night launch of a space shuttle since the Columbia disaster in 2003. And this time, NASA used special radar systems to help detect any falling debris.

MORAWSKI: Monday, Discovery docked with the International Space Station. Crew members are doing construction work on the station before the shuttle returns later this month.

Here on Earth, the investigation into the death of a former Russian spy intensified. Alexander Litvinenko died recently in London, after being poisoned with a radioactive substance called polonium-210. This week, four more people tested positive for polonium exposure. The four had been visited by another former Russian spy, Dmitry Kovtun, just before he met with Litvinenko last month. Kovtun is also being treated for radiation exposure in Russia. Police are trying to figure out if he's a perpetrator or a victim in Litvinenko's death.

The Iraq Study Group report may be finished, but President Bush is waiting until next month to announce his new strategy for the war-torn nation. The White House says he's using that time to get as much advice as possible. But he doesn't plan to follow all of it.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I've heard some ideas that would lead to defeat, and I reject those ideas - ideas such as leaving before the job is done.

MORAWSKI: Another reason the president's holding off on the announcement: to give incoming defense secretary Robert Gates time to get up to speed on his new responsibilities. And that's your Week in Review. For CNN Student News, I'm Deanna Morawski.



AZUZ: Imagine a world where oil gets scarce, gas hits record highs, and our way of life is endangered. Teachers, you can teach the future today! A re-broadcast of "We Were Warned: Tomorrow's Oil Crisis" airs this Monday, December 18th. For showtimes, head to our web site!

Before We Go

LLOYD: Before we go today, we know you guys are always excited to check out CNN Student News. But not all audiences are created equal, or expected to be! If the mere thought of classical music makes you feel like taking a nap, this concert hall in Tel Aviv is the place to be! About 150 Israelis were actually encouraged to doze off in an event made up by, you guessed it, a mattress company.


AZUZ: Make sure you don't sleep through your weekend! It starts in just a little while, and of course, we'll see you next week online or on Headline News!



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