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CNN Student News Transcript: February 3, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Learn about an expanding peanut butter recall in our review of the headlines
  • Explore the U.S. unemployment rate and the next steps for some laid-off workers
  • Consider how a unique product has enjoyed the benefits of viral marketing
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(CNN Student News) -- February 3, 2009

Quick Guide

Today's Headlines - Learn about an expanding peanut butter recall in our review of the headlines.

Jobless Numbers - Explore the U.S. unemployment rate and the next steps for some laid-off workers.

Bad Economy Bestseller - Consider how a unique product has enjoyed the benefits of viral marketing.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: It's Tuesday and this is CNN Student News! Kicking off ten commercial-free minutes, I'm Carl Azuz. First up, some headlines.

First Up: Today's Headlines

AZUZ: The peanut butter recall expands. Kroger, one of the biggest U.S. supermarket chains, is recalling foods made with peanut products that could be tainted by salmonella. You might remember that a peanut processing plant is being investigated in connection with an outbreak of this disease. You can find an updated list of all of the recalled products on the FDA's Web site.

Heavy snow socks London. The worst storm in 18 years blanketed the British capital on Monday. Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest hubs in the world, canceled more than 650 flights, and millions of people missed work as the city's bus network shut down entirely. I guess Punxsutawney Phil was right about those six additional weeks of winter.

And the stimulus moves to the Senate. The legislative body is scheduled to take up the bill this week. Of course, the House passed its version of the economic stimulus package last week. There are some differences between the two versions, starting with the price tag. The House version was $819 billion. The Senate's is closer to $900 billion.

Is This Legit?

ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? During the Great Depression, the U.S. unemployment rate climbed higher than 20 percent. True. The unemployment rate reached nearly 25 percent in 1933.

Jobless Numbers

AZUZ: The current unemployment rate is a little over 7%. It seems as if new layoffs are being announced every day, and yesterday was no exception. Macy's: We told you recently that they were letting go about 1,000 employees. The company raised that number to 7,000 on Monday. Josh Levs adds up the numbers on America's unemployed.


JOSH LEVS, CNN REPORTER: So, this is one of the latest statistics we've been seeing for unemployment in America, this 4.8 million figure. Now, that's the number of people collecting unemployment benefits. But that does not include people without jobs who are not collecting those benefits. And for some of them, benefits have run out. This here, this is how many Americans the government says are unemployed: it's a little more than 11 million.

Huge figure; we're putting it in context this way. Check this out. New York City, population: 8.3 million. Let's go to Chicago. Population there: 2.8 million. Put those two major U.S. cities together, you get just over 11 million people, the same number that the United States government says are unemployed in America. Let's go to another example here. Ohio, the population of the state 11.5 million, about the same number of Americans that are unemployed. Let's zoom past a few more examples here. I want to show you some more. Let's go to the state of Georgia. More unemployed Americans than there are people in Georgia. There are also more unemployed Americans than there are residents of Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska all combined. And out west, one more example here, we're going to show you the city of Los Angeles. You could multiply the population of Los Angeles by three in order to match the number of unemployed Americans that there are.

Now, of course all this is just one way to look at that big a number and get a sense of how huge it is. And that does not include those considered underemployed, who just can't get as much work as they'd like. Back to you.


Unemployment Impact

AZUZ: It can be hard to put a face on a figure that large. But that unemployment number, 11 million, represents real people who are out of work and who now face a tough question: what do we do next? Peoria, Illinois was hit hard by layoffs recently. John King looks at how some of the town's citizens are responding.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Caterpillar, the bedrock of the local economy, stunned workers last week by slashing 20,000 jobs worldwide, many here in the Peoria area. Then on Friday, more shock: 2,100 more jobs cut just here in central Illinois.

MARIBETH FEAGIN, PEORIA, ILLINOIS: I dont want to be on unemployment. I've never been on unemployment before.

KING: For John and MariB Feagin, a double whammy: Both work at Caterpillar. Both out of work effective Friday. Three children, two cars and a mortgage. John is going back to school using benefits from a tour in Iraq with the Illinois National Guard. But if MariBeth can't find work within a few months, the options turn drastic.

JOHN FEAGIN, PEORIA, ILLINOIS: If things really got that bad, I would probably volunteer to go.

KING: You would volunteer to go to Iraq or Afghanistan?

JOHN FEAGIN: For my family, I would, yes.

KING: Confronting such stark choices is harder because these jobs were the gold standard. As auto makers and other U.S. manufacturers suffered in recent years, Caterpillar thrived because of overseas exports. In a union shop, Jim Lierle's 39 years' seniority protects his job. But he worries a way of life is fading.

JIM LIERLE, PEORIA, ILLINOIS: I've made a good living here. The kids that are coming now, I'm not so sure they're going to make the same good living I made. It's bad. My heart goes out to the people, I tell you.

KING: It was that dream of a good, middle-class living that convinced Chris Guynn to move his family here from Las Vegas.

CHRIS GUYNN, PEORIA, ILLINOIS: Wanted to work with a company that's been around 83 years, Fortune 500 company. How could you lose on something like that?

KING: Guynn was among more than 800 workers abruptly told Friday was their last day.

GUYNN: It's hard. Now, I have to look at my wife to be the breadwinner, and look at my kids.

KING: Because his wife works, Guynn is enrolling full time at Central Illinois College. Back to school isnt an option for Christy Williams.

CHRISTY WILLIAMS, PEORIA, ILLINOIS: It's just me and my kids.

KING: There is no other breadwinner. A single mother, five young children. Williams left a job at a law firm for long-term stability and better benefits at Caterpillar. Her two-week notice came last month.

WILLIAMS: At first, I wasnt worried. I've never been laid off in my life.

KING: She is worried now. Williams says she'd love help from Washington, but isnt counting on it. Her unemployment benefits run ten more weeks. Juggling the bills is hard; hiding the toll at home, hardest.


A Word To The Wise...

NIVISON: A Word to the Wise...

viral marketing (noun) a sales campaign designed to be so compelling that potential customers discuss it across various social networks

Bad Economy Bestseller

AZUZ: One product that is certainly getting some momentum from viral marketing is the Snuggie. You may have seen commercials for this thing on TV; we even run ads for it on CNN. But wherever you stumbled across the Snuggie, chances are you've told your friends about it. Jason Carroll examines the appeal of this unique product.


JASON CARROLL, CNN REPORTER: YouTube has been flooded with people imitating it. Ellen Degeneres is making jokes about it.

ELLEN DEGENERES: They give you a free light when you order it. What they should throw in is a pointy hat so you can look like a wizard or something like that!

CARROLL: Call it Obi Wan wear or monk chic. Many aren't sure what it is.

WOMAN ON STREET #1: How do you put it on?

CARROLL: Or why anyone would want it.

WOMAN ON STREET #2: I think it's funny. But hey, someone invented it.

CARROLL: It's a Snuggie. It's an oversized fleece blanket with sleeves, and it's an economic goldmine.

SCOTT BOILEN, CEO, ALLSTAR MARKETING GROUP: No one knows why things take off, but the Snuggie just took off. And people are talking about it and they're making fun of it, but they're certainly buying it!

CARROLL: The company says four million Snuggies have sold since they started airing those quirky national commercials last October.

SNUGGIE COMMERCIAL: Enjoy a snack while staying snuggly warm.

CARROLL: Why is it so popular now? Snuggie says consumers have cozied up to the idea of staying home and saving money by turning down their heat during a troubled economy.

AILI MCCONNON, REPORTER, BUSINESSWEEK: It really does appeal to that sort of hunker down mentality you see that so many Americans have now. The Snuggie is almost the comfort food of the clothing line.

CARROLL: Consumer experts also say the Snuggie came at the right time: just when conventional advertisers were pulling TV spots to cut costs, leaving cheaper TV time for Snuggie's creators to buy.

SNUGGIE COMMERCIAL: Call now and you'll get the ultra soft, ultra warm Snuggie for only $19.95!

CARROLL: That cheesy commericial: It's so bad, yet so good. Call it the Snuggie cult, now a pop culture hit with fans, who dedicated a Facebook page to it.

SAMUEL CRAIG, PROFESSOR NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: You start to get a viral marketing buzz, and word of mouth takes over and people just say, "I want to get that because why? Well, someone I know has it."

CARROLL: Out on the street, it's definitely an eyecatcher.

MAN ON STREET #1: It feels snuggly.

CARROLL: But consumer experts wonder if the fad will last. When it gets warm, who's really going to want a Snuggie when beach blankets go on sale?


Blog Promo

AZUZ: You might have heard about the controversy surrounding Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. A British newspaper published a picture of the swimmer using what appears to be an illegal drug. Phelps has apologized for the incident and says it won't happen again. But we want to hear what you think. Does this change your opinion of Phelps? Should it? Sound off on our blog.

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, moving houses is never easy, especially when you're doing it across a frozen lake! But the only way to get this century-old home off the island where it stood was to go straight across the ice. Of course, when you're transporting a house that weighs 60 tons, it can get a little tricky. The mover should know. His father tried something similar 40 years ago and failed. Luckily, this move turned out a bit better.



AZUZ: Although it has to make for some icy stares at family get-togethers. That puts today's show in the deep freeze. I'm Carl Azuz.

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