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CNN Student News Transcript: December 18, 2008

  • Story Highlights
  • Learn about the details of the nation's first, near-total face transplant
  • Check out some of the species recently discovered in the Mekong Delta
  • Hear how one holiday tradition is thriving despite the struggling economy
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(CNN Student News) -- December 18, 2008

Quick Guide

A New Face - Learn about the details of the nation's first, near-total face transplant.

Discovery in the Delta - Check out some of the species recently discovered in the Mekong Delta.

Thriving Tradition - Hear how one holiday tradition is thriving despite the struggling economy.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: From reconstructed features to rediscovered species, we're covering it all in this Thursday edition of CNN Student News. Hello everyone, I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: A New Face

AZUZ: First up, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic declare success following the nation's first, near-total face transplant. The procedure, which took place a couple weeks ago, lasted nearly a full day. Doctors say the patient is doing well. Now, some critics have said these kinds of operations pose unnecessary risks. But the surgeons who performed the procedure argue that it offers hope to patients who have been severely disfigured. Elizabeth Cohen explores the details.



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Her doctors call it the first surgery of its kind: a near-total face transplant was performed less than two weeks ago at the Cleveland Clinic.

SIEMIONOW: I must tell you how happy she was when, with both her hands, she could go over her face and feel that she has a nose, that she has a jaw and she has a full face in front of her.

COHEN: In a breakthrough, 22-hour surgery, surgeons transplanted 80% of her face. From a cadaver came skin, facial muscles and nerves, lower eyelids, cheekbones, upper jaw, blood vessels, arteries.

SIEMIONOW: The patient will never look like him or herself, and the patient will never look like a donor or recipient.

COHEN: The identity of the patient is being kept a secret, but we do know she suffered from severe trauma several years ago, and as a result, is blind in her right eye. She could not smell nor taste, and had trouble speaking. Her sibling says in a statement:

STATEMENT FROM FACE TRANSPLANT PATIENT'S SIBLING: We never thought for a moment that our sister would ever have a chance at a normal life again, after the trauma she endured.

COHEN: In the coming weeks, she'll have intense physical therapy. Doctors estimate it will take three to six months before her nerve endings regenerate, and her face will begin to feel and work like her own. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.



GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! On what continent would you find the Mekong Delta? Is it: A) Australia, B) South America, C) Africa or D) Asia? You've got three seconds -- GO! The Mekong Delta is part of Asia. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Discovery in the Delta

AZUZ: The Delta region includes parts of Vietnam and five other countries, and it's largely unexplored. But according to a new report, more than a thousand new species have been discovered there in just the past decade. Fish, frogs, spiders, snakes -- everything you want to cuddle up with -- even a rodent that was thought to be extinct for centuries! Chris Rogers has more on this scientific treasure trove.


CHRIS ROGERS, ITV NEWS: The rare: striped rabbits that blend into their surroundings. The terrifying: giant blood-sucking bats. The hair-raising: of 88 new species, one spider the size of a dinner plate; another that ambushes prey, leaping four meters into the air. The most bizarre: the cyanide covered millipede, a deadly meal for any predator. More than 1,000 incredible secrets of nature have been slowly given up by a lost world known as the Greater Mekong, 232,000 square miles of rain forest stretching across China, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

VIETNAM WAR CORRESPONDENT: Patrols like these in the Mekong Delta are convinced that they are winning their war.

ROGERS: Wars, internal problems and the remoteness of the region kept scientists away until 1997. Over the last decade, unknown animals and plants have been discovered at up to two a week. But no sooner are they found, their existence is at risk.

DR. MARK WRIGHT, WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: What we do know is the habitat in which they live is under threat, because that part of the world is seeing increasing economic development. And we would, of course, encourage that. But what we would be looking for is to have some sort of marriage, some compromise between economic development and environmental protection. Because the environment is the basis for the economic growth. One can't live without the other.

ROGERS: Already, there is evidence humans are creeping in on the world's newly found species. Among the 15 mammals recorded, the rock rat. A researcher spotted the corpse of one for sale in a food market in Laos. The good news is that it was widely believed the rock rat had been wiped out 11 million years ago. And a new snake, the Siamese Peninsula pit viper, was discovered slithering through a Thai restaurant. Chris Rogers, ITV News.


Deepest Cut

AZUZ: Okay, now we have some economic news for you. OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, is planning to cut oil production by two million barrels a day! That's a new record. The group is hoping that the move will help raise oil prices. Yesterday, those dropped to around $40 a barrel, the lowest level since 2004. Compare that to this past summer, when the cost of crude hit a record high at more than $147 per barrel. Alright, so what. How does this affect you? Well, as the cost of oil has gone down, you've probably noticed prices at the gas pump doing the same thing. Back in mid-July, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded was around $4.11; yesterday, about $1.66, nearly $2.50 cheaper.

Is this legit?

GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? The nickname "Twin Cities" refers to Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. Not legit! This nickname refers to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Twin Cities is also a place in Oklahoma!

Thriving Tradition

AZUZ: Some seasonal businesses in the Twin Cities, and all across Minnesota, are breathing a little easier as they tally up their sales totals. You see, with the economy struggling, companies were a little concerned about people cutting back for Christmas. But as Boyd Huppert of affiliate KARE in Minneapolis explains, one tradition is staying strong, even in tough times.


BOYD HUPPERT, KARE REPORTER: When meeting up with costumed tree saleman Lorenzo Garcia in his costume, the analogy is almost too easy.

LORENZO GARCIA, TREE SELLER: I'm stealing the trees!

HUPPERT: Just a month ago, some feared the economy would steal Christmas from Minnesota's tree sellers.

RYAN BARTZ, RUM RIVER TREE FARM: A lot of customers, when they placed their original wholesale orders, they seemed to be a little bit more conservative.

HUPPERT: Ryan Bartz is a manager at Rum River Tree Farm, the Anoka County grower that operates 22 Christmas tree lots in the Twin Cities, and supplies trees for more than 100 garden centers, Boy Scout troops and church lots.

GARCIA: They're nice and soft, and you can hug 'em.

HUPPERT: Turns out the Grinch didn't steal Rum River's Christmas at all.

GARCIA: It's just like hugging a goat.

HUPPERT: Sales up 30% the first weekend after Thanksgiving, and steady the rest of the way.

BARTZ: It brings the spirit back and makes everybody happy, I guess.

GARCIA: We're helping this lady secure her tree so she don't lose it.

HUPPERT: A similar sigh of relief statewide, according to the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association. Its executive director compares Christmas trees to Thanksgiving turkeys: some traditions families will not do without. This is actually the first real tree in years for Darwin Long's family.

DARWIN LONG, TREE BUYER: I just decided I'm going to go get a real one this year. I had the day off and stuff, that's why.

HUPPERT: If only automakers and electonics retailers could be so merry.

GARCIA: Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock.


Blog report

AZUZ: That Grinch was hilarious. He sings almost as badly as I do. But what wasn't funny, to some of you, was the SNL skit that made fun of New York Governor David Paterson. Kendall likes most of the political skits, but says "when people make fun of the disabled, the humor disappears." Matthew says, "There's a fine line between funny and inappropriate, and SNL crossed that line." Mrs. Rettich's class agrees, saying, "The show should stick to making fun of what people do or how they act."

Laura writes, "It did go a little far, but SNL has been imitating politicians and other people for a long time. They did it to Sarah Palin, and no one said it was going too far." Courtney asks, "If Governor Paterson was able to go out and make fun of himself, why can't comedians do the same thing?" Mister Brandel's group says, "The only people that should care are the ones being made fun of. Just chill, my friends." And Wyatt writes that "everyone is fair game for comedy. Even you, Carl, are fair game." The man's right! We had way too many good comments to cover. To see them all, head to our blog!

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go today, how do you get on TV when you can only play two chords on a harmonica? It helps if you're an elephant who can only play two chords on a harmonica. An iReporter came across this performing pachyderm in Thailand. Now granted, it's not the catchiest tune. But any time a musical mammoth gets captured on camera, you can bet it'll show up right here.



AZUZ: And if that noteworthy performance doesn't go platinum, we bet it'll go ivory. There's just one show left and hopefully one pun left, in 2008. Join us tomorrow as we wrap up the year.

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