(CNN Student News) -- August 24, 2009
Headlines - Catch up on some global headlines, from Athens to Afghanistan.
Cash for Clunkers - Consider the results of the federal Cash for Clunkers program.
Largest Bat Colony - Find out why some Texas farmers are big fans of a bat colony.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Bats are awesome. Welcome to CNN Student News, where we cover everything from international headlines to, yes, bats. I'm Carl Azuz. Let's go.
AZUZ: First up: Wildfires are scorching a path across Greece. Firefighters, soldiers, and residents, have spent days trying to get the flames under control. But they're working against strong winds, which are actually helping to spread the fires. Those flames have been moving closer to the capital city of Athens, and at least a thousand people have evacuated nearby suburbs. Authorities reported more than 80 blazes across Greece. You can see one of them in this iReport video. Officials are investigating the cause of the original fire, although brush and forest fires are pretty common during the country's dry, hot summers.
AZUZ: Moving from Athens to Afghanistan, where officials are reviewing hundreds of complaints related to last week's election. On Thursday, Afghans took to the polls to vote in their country's second presidential election since 2001. Since then, more than 200 allegations have been filed of irregularities in the election process. They include stuffing ballot boxes and intimidating voters at polling stations. An Electoral Complaints Commission was set up to handle exactly these kinds of situations. If the commission finds that the accusations are true, it has the authority to impose sanctions, or punishment. Starting this week, officials expect to gradually release results from the presidential election that'll continue through September 5th. The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan says he believes the full results will be available around September 17th.
AZUZ: And closer to home, Hurricane Bill made its way up the eastern coast of the U.S. and Canada over the weekend. Earlier, the storm passed by Bermuda, dumping rain on the island nation and causing some waves, which you can see in this iReport video from Saturday. Yesterday morning, Bill was a Category 1 hurricane with winds of around 80 miles per hour. It was moving along the coast of New England and heading towards Nova Scotia, Canada, where officials had issued a hurricane warning.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! According to the U.S. government, I'm a vehicle in drivable condition, but I get 18 miles per gallon or less, and I was made within the past 25 years. I'm what's known as a "clunker" in the government's Cash for Clunkers program.
AZUZ: According to the U.S. Transportation Department, that program ends tonight! It started about a month ago, and here's the way it worked: People could go to participating car dealerships and trade in their "clunkers." In exchange, they'd get either a $3,500 or $4,500 off from the dealer to use toward the purchase of a new car. The money would be provided to the dealers by the government. The goal was to boost the U.S. economy by increasing auto sales and to put cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars on the street. With Cash for Clunkers reaching the end of the road, Poppy Harlow looks at how it went.
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POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM ANCHOR: David Pisciotta, along with most car dealership managers in the country, saw the Cash for Clunkers federal program as a godsend in a year when his dealership's sales were down 30 percent.
DAVID PISCIOTTA, GENERAL SALES MANAGER, BAY RIDGE TOYOTA: It worked. It has been a shot in the arm; business has increased significantly.
HARLOW: But 105 clunkers later, his dealership has still not seen a penny back from the money he says they've fronted the government.
PISCIOTTA: As of right now, August 20th, we have not been funded yet on one deal. About a half a million dollars; kind of scary.
HARLOW: David's Bay Ridge Toyota dealership saw its sales numbers come back to normal, thanks to the Cash for Clunkers program, and is trusting the program will pay its debt. But hundreds of other dealerships, including half of the 425 members of the greater New York Automobile Association, pulled out before the program was officially closed, fearing they would not be reimbursed. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood maintains that although there have been delays processing the paperwork, all car dealers will get their cash back.
RAY LAHOOD, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: They are going to get their money. We have the money to provide to them.
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AZUZ: Sticking with economic news, the government says the country's budget deficit will be trillions higher than originally estimated. The government budget is kind of like one you might make, just with a lot more zeroes. It estimates how much you save versus how much you spend, and a deficit means you're spending more than you're saving. In the beginning of the year, the Obama administration predicted a budget deficit of $7 trillion over the next decade. In a new forecast, that deficit number is now $9 trillion. The government blames the increase on lower tax revenue caused by the recession.
ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mr. Scott's social studies classes at Bowling Green Junior High in Bowling Green, Kentucky! What is the scientific term for the study of bats? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: a) Chiropterology,) b) Ichthyology, c) Ornithology or d) Batology? You've got three seconds -- GO! Chiropterology comes from the Greek words chiro, meaning hand, and ptero, meaning wing. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: When you think of bats, you might have visions of a certain blood-sucking creature of the night. And while some bats do drink blood, chiropterologists will tell you that most bats eat bugs. Nothing to be afraid of there. In fact, as Reynolds Wolf tells us, farmers in Austin, Texas are big fans of bats.
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REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Austin, Texas: known for music legends, Tex-Mex and bats. And that is Austin's Congress Street Bridge, where on summer nights, thousands of people gather along the riverside to watch a swarm of Mexican freetail bats fly from underneath the bridge and up the riverside. But just south of the city is something even more amazing: Bracken bat cave, home of the largest colony of bats on the planet.
FRAN HUTCHINS, BAT CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL: We have 20 million Mexican freetail bats right now in the cave.
WOLF: Bat expert Fran Hutchins says the bats fly out every summer night. At times, they travel as far as 50 miles away on the hunt for insects. Nearly 250 tons of bugs eaten every night.
WOLF: That has to be a huge help to farmers.
HUTCHINS: Yes, it is. Just the cotton crops, farmers alone in this area, it's probably about a million to million and a half dollars that they save on pesticides they don't have to buy to spray on their crops because of all the bugs they eat every night when they go out.
WOLF: In their quest to feed, they can reach altitudes as high as 10,000 feet and fly as fast as 60 miles per hour. They never stop, from the moment they leave the cave until they return at dawn. These prolific hunters utilize sound waves to sense their prey in what's called echo locating.
HUTCHINS: Just the fact that they can go out and echo locate and find an insect in the dark, be able to track it, home in on it, catch it, while they are flying, they're the number one insect predator when the sun goes down.
WOLF: But their journey is not without danger. Often, snakes and raccoons will wait at the mouth of the cave. High above, hawks circle and pounce. Just a few of the obstacles they'll face during their nightly flight and return trip home.
WOLF: Why are they at Bracken Cave, of all places?
HUTCHINS: Well, this is a maternity colony here at Bracken bat cave, so the environment in the cave is good for the mothers to raise their young. It's over 100 degrees in the cave, and we have 20 million Mexican freetail bats right now in the cave. .
WOLF: Perfect conditions for raising young bats, which, with luck, will live up to seven years in the wild. That's seven possible summers in Bracken bat cave.
HUTCHINS: The mothers come in, they'll have their young here and, in the fall, migrate back to Mexico when it starts cooling off in central Texas. We have a tornado of bats here. It's one of the more awesome things in the world.
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AZUZ: On our blog, I asked whether you agreed with Scotland's decision to release the Lockerbie bomber from prison because doctors say he's dying. Here's what you say: From Ray: "A life sentence is a life sentence. No matter what, the law should be upheld." Irvin echoed that on our Facebook page, saying a life sentence is not "life until you get cancer." Luana writes: "Al Megrahi had no compassion whatsoever when he killed all those people; why should we have compassion for him?" A lot of you asked that. From Cody: "He should not get special privileges just because he has terminal cancer." And Mooncharm says, "Other criminals die in prison; why should al Megrahi go home free?" Now, most of you felt this way, but back on our Facebook page, Jake wrote, "I think the Scottish government did the right thing. I don't think they showed compassion; I just think they didn't want to foot the bill for al Megrahi's continued treatment." And Justin said, "It is silly, not to mention inhumane, to keep someone in prison who's been diagnosed with cancer." We welcome all of your comments on Facebook and at CNNStudentNews.com!
Before We Go
AZUZ: Entertaining entrances can make a big splash, especially when your stomach is leading the way. But that's how they do it in Denver's annual firefighter belly flop contest. This guy gets great rotation, awful landing, at least to have to look at. Painting a bulls-eye on your belly is just asking for pain, but that's the name of the game. Some of the contestants may not understand the rules. I mean, this guy you're about to see doesn't even land on his belly!
AZUZ: Which made that attempt a total flop. Today's show is all washed up. We will see you tomorrow with more CNN Student News.