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CNN Student News Transcript: February 7, 2008

  • Story Highlights
  • View some of the damage caused by deadly tornadoes in the southern U.S.
  • Discover the results of an investigation into the death of Heath Ledger
  • Find out why some eBay users are upset about changes to the Web site
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(CNN Student News) -- February 7, 2008

Quick Guide

Deadly Twisters - View some of the damage caused by deadly tornadoes in the southern U.S.

Heath Ledger's Death - Discover the results of an investigation into the death of Heath Ledger.

Once, Twice, Gone! - Find out why some eBay users are upset about changes to the Web site.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: It's Thursday, and you've found your way to CNN Student News. Whether you're watching us on Headline News, online or on iTunes, we're glad to have you with us. I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Deadly Twisters

AZUZ: First up, the destruction caused by severe weather is worse than we first thought, a lot worse. We mentioned in yesterday's show that tornadoes forced some polls to close early on Super Tuesday. That was the least of concerns in the areas these storms struck. More than 50 people were killed in what turned out to be the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak in more than 20 years. Brian Todd tours some of the areas that were hit hardest.


BRIAN TODD, CNN REPORTER: From the air, you can see where a tornado came right down on these dormitories then twisted out, blasting the buildings wide open. On the ground, vehicles are tossed upside down like discarded toys, a pickup truck almost knocked right into the dorm.

ANDREW NORMAN, UNION UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Then the windows exploded and all this dirt came flying in. I've never been through anything like it, for sure.

TODD: This is what's left of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, where at one point, more than a dozen students were trapped, some were injured. But it could have been so much worse.

TIM ELSWORTH, UNION UNIVERSITY SPOKESMAN: It's just utter astonishment that not only nobody was killed, but that there weren't dozens or hundreds of people killed.

TODD: Luck didn't prevail in many other places in Tennessee, which recorded the most fatalities from a series of storms that ripped through five southern states.

GOV. PHIL BREDESEN, TENNESSEE: You're always supposed to love your neighbors. Love them a little extra over the next few days, especially those who have been impacted by this, and just pray that it never happens to you and your family.

TODD: Near Southhaven, Mississippi, this video from an eyewitness captures one menacing twister gathering strength. This aftermath in Atkins, Arkansas, repeated all over the mid-South. Residents start to pick through debris of houses where there's so little to find. A state official there tells us one storm system wiped through six counties. Of more than a dozen people killed in Arkansas, three were from one family. Other families, like one in Lafayette, Tennessee, barely escaped.

JEFF STEVENS, TORNADO VICTIM: I just started hearing a rumbling, trying to get my daughter off the couch. She was asleep. Got my wife out of bed, and within seconds the house was just destroyed. We just sprinted into the hallway, laid down on top of them and our ears started popping like you was in an airplane. Just debris started flying everywhere.

TODD: Listen to this man in Jackson, Tennessee, describe driving down the street when a twister hit with almost no warning.

JAMES BASKIN, TORNADO VICTIM: And it just hit us. It just blew all the glass out, swooped us into the air. And the next thing you know, we were flipping and flying and we landed over here, across from the intersection. And we're alive. We're alive.

TODD: A sheriff tells us in the town of Castilian Springs, Tennessee, a woman was found dead in a creek bed not far from where her house once stood. About 250 yards away, rescuers found her infant baby alive, no one else around. We are told the child is not seriously injured. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


Impact Your World

AZUZ: Given the sheer magnitude of the damage, the victims of these storms are still coming to grips with what happened. But gradually, they'll take the first steps on the long road to recovery. If you want to find out how you can take part in the relief efforts, go to

Heath Ledger's Death

AZUZ: Shifting gears a bit now, many of you probably know about the death of Heath Ledger last month. The Oscar-nominated actor was just 28 years old. Now, when someone so young passes away, especially someone in the public eye, people often have questions about what took place. Two weeks after Ledger's death, officials are offering some answers.


AZUZ: His was a remarkably successful life cut short unintentionally, according to an autopsy report. The New York City medical examiner's office said Wednesday actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Six different drugs: Two anti-anxiety drugs, two narcotic painkillers and two sleep medications.

AZUZ: Individually, the drugs that Ledger took, which included Oxycodone, Xanax and Valium, are commonly prescribed. But Cohen noted that no single, responsible doctor would prescribe all six at once. It's unclear how Ledger had all of them. But the mistake he apparently made is actually quite common: A lot of folks think because these drugs are legal, because they're given out by doctors, they're all safe, however you choose to take them. Combined, it's a very different story.

COHEN: Basically, they make your brain stop working, so your heart forgets to beat, your lungs forget to breathe.

AZUZ: And that's what officials believe happened to the 28-year-old movie star. Ledger died on January 22nd in an apartment in Lower Manhattan.

COHEN: There was speculation he may have committed suicide. I asked a pathologist who was not involved with this case, how do they know that it was accidental, that it wasn't an intentional suicide? And he said, you know, in some ways you never know, because you weren't right there in his brain when he took the drugs. You don't know what he was intending. But in the absence of a suicide note, in the absence of him telling someone "I'm about to kill myself," they rule it accidental. Because if you don't have proof of a suicide, then you say that it's accidental.

AZUZ: In a statement released on Wednesday, Ledger's father, Kim, wrote, "Today's results put an end to speculation, but our son's beautiful spirit and enduring memory will forever remain in our hearts... Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."


Word to the Wise


pugilist (noun) a fighter, especially a professional boxer


Black History Month

AZUZ: To celebrate Black History Month, we're bringing you profiles of prominent African-Americans throughout all of February. Today, we're paying tribute to a pugilist, an activist and one of the most well-known athletes of the 20th century. Here's a look at some of the accomplishments of Muhammad Ali.


MONICA LLOYD, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Cassius Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942. After Clay converted to Islam, he took the name Muhammad Ali. His boxing style relied on his quickness, helping him dodge punches and quickly attack. His style took him to great heights, winning an Olympic championship, as well as heavyweight champion of the world three times. He became a symbol of resistance when he refused to serve in the Vietnam War. Ali ended his boxing career with a lifetime record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts. In 1996, he lit the torch at the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Celebrating "The Greatest," Muhammad Ali, this Black History Month.



AZUZ: If you want to learn more about Black History Month, head to our Web page. We've got a One-Sheet on the origin of the month-long event and Learning Activities that help students research the history and culture of African-Americans. You'll find it all at!

Once, Twice, Gone!

AZUZ: Moving from the boxing ring to the auction block now. When you guys are looking to buy something rare, you probably don't head to Sotheby's. You log on to eBay! For a long time, the online auction house has let buyers and sellers rate each other. But as Linzie Janis tells us, part of that feature is going once, going twice, gone!


LINZIE JANIS, CNN REPORTER: EBay, the world's biggest online auctioneer, has a problem. The number of people using the site has leveled off. So, the company is throwing out one of the bedrocks of its business model: the ability of both buyers and sellers to rate each other.

RICHARD AMBROSE, EBAY UK: The feedback system has been around for more than 10 years, and it remains right at the heart of what makes eBay work. But it needs to evolve a little bit.

JANIS: EBay will now strip sellers of their ability to criticize buyers, eliminating the tit-for-tat some eBay buyers say sellers are using to retaliate against them for giving negative feedback.

ALLYSON STEWART-ALLEN, INTERNATIONAL MARKETING PARTNERS: Overall, they're changing the policies because they do realize the customer is king. And if you really want to grow your customer base and you want more visitors to actually buy on eBay, then you're going to have to do something to encourage them.

JANIS: But eBay's sellers are up in arms.

FERGUS MUMFORD, EBAY SELLER: This means we have no voice, we have no way to defend ourselves and whatever the seller says is rule.

JANIS: Fergus Mumford works for a company that helps people sell things on eBay.

MUMFORD: This Snow White is a Capodimonte figurine.

JANIS: Selling weird and wonderful items on the site is the company's business, and it depends on its reputation. But eBay says sellers shouldn't worry.

AMBROSE: As buyers are more honest about their feedback, good sellers are going to stand out more and more. We're also going to increase the help that we give to sellers when they occasionally encounter a buyer who doesn't pay. And we're going to make it much easier for them to report that and to get their money back.

JANIS: The idea is to improve relations between eBay's millions of buyers and sellers, starting by getting rid of the sometimes ugly arguments between them. Linzie Janis, CNN, London.


Before We Go

AZUZ: And finally, most people like to take their time when they visit the Empire State Building. But not these folks! They're dashing up all 86 floors of the famous landmark, and if you can believe it, they're doing it for fun! It's not sightseeing on a strict schedule. It's the Empire State Run-Up. This year's male champ has won three years in a row. And he finished the feat, nearly 1,600 steps from lobby to roof, in just 10 minutes and eight seconds.



AZUZ: Just to compare, that's about exactly how much time you spend watching our show every day. That's where we run out of time for now. Hope you have a great day, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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