(CNN Student News) -- April 2, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Carl Azuz. Fridays are awesome on CNN Student News! Especially this Friday. We've got pirates, snakes and...flower blossoms. It'll all make sense in the next 10 minutes. Let's go ahead and get started.
First Up: Pirates
AZUZ: First up, a group of suspected pirates is in custody after attacking a ship in the Indian Ocean. This happened off the coast of the African nation of Somalia, in an area that's seen a lot of pirate attacks in the past several years. This one, though, might not have been the best plan. You see, the ship they attacked was the USS Nicholas, an American Navy vessel. As you might expect, after being fired on by the pirates, the Nicholas returned fire. And then it chased down the pirates, captured them, sank their boat, and then captured two more suspects from a kind of pirate "mother ship." The Pentagon says it's figuring out what to do with the suspects.
Word to the Wise
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: A Word to the Wise...
efficiency (noun) the ability to produce results with minimal or no waste
AZUZ: The U.S. government is finalizing a plan that would improve efficiency in vehicles, when it comes to gas mileage. This goes back to a proposal from last May. Yesterday, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency teamed up to release the final details. The new standards will increase fuel efficiency, starting in the year 2012. The goal is that by 2016, new cars will be expected to average about 39 miles per gallon of gas. The current standard is 27.5. Also, by 2016, new trucks will be expected to get 30 miles per gallon. Right now, that standard 23.5. So, we're talking about some big, significant jumps.
Again, this would just be for new vehicles. So if you already have a car and it doesn't get those mileage rates, it's all right; it won't be affected. There are a couple goals with the government plan. One: reduce how much oil America uses. Two: cut down on greenhouse gases, which are thought to play a role in climate change. Different car companies will have different standards based on the kinds of cars they make. The new standards will make vehicles more expensive; we're talking about a hike of around $900 per each car. But officials say the amount of money that drivers will save on gas should help balance that out.
AZUZ: An important number expected to be released today: the country's unemployment rate. Currently, it stands at 9.7 percent, and some experts think it's probably going to stay right around that level. They are predicting some good news, though: a gain of about 180,000 jobs. Still, that number might be a little tricky because it could include people hired to help out with the U.S. Census. That sort of work is just temporary. According to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the unemployment situation we are in right now could last for a while. In an interview that aired yesterday on NBC, Secretary Geithner said "...the economy's going to start creating jobs again... but the unemployment rate is still terribly high, and it is going to stay unacceptably high for a long period of time."
AZUZ: Well, what is definitely good news, at least for you folks who are tired of winter, is that spring is in full bloom. And with it come some annual traditions, especially of the arboreal variety. Over in Japan, Kyung Lah has more details on one sure sign of spring.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, TOKYO: It's the start of a new year here in Japan. Well, not really. Calendar says April. But that's really what these blossoms signify. It is the height of the cherry blossoms blooming here in Japan. It is simply a breathtaking sight. People are pausing, taking pictures, taking time to celebrate new life and to celebrate spring. They always bloom right around April 1st, which is the start of the fiscal year, when people start new jobs, new employees are hired at companies, children start a new school year. It's also a time that this country remembers that it has a connection to the United States. in 1912, Japan sent 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, D.C., honoring the friendship between the two countries.
AZUZ: Nearly a century later, that friendship is still being celebrated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Hundreds of thousands of people -- it is a tourist crush -- they're all heading to Washington, D.C. for this event; they do it every year. It's two weeks of parades and street festivals, including one that celebrates Japanese culture. But the star of the show, you see right here: thousands upon thousands of cherry blossoms.
AZUZ: The space shuttle Discovery's crew is getting ready to launch on Monday. Here, you see them arriving at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. These seven astronauts are taking off on a thirteen-day mission to the international space station. They'll deliver eight tons of equipment and supplies, and are scheduled to do three spacewalks while they're there. A lot of that cargo will be used for science experiments. The shuttle program is winding down. There are only four missions left, including this one. The last launch is scheduled for September.
MATT CHERRY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! Which of these snakes is a constrictor? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it a: A) Cobra, B) Python, C) Mamba or D) Adder? You've got three seconds -- GO! Pythons are the only constrictors on this list; that means they squeeze their prey. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: Despite that constriction concern, some people buy baby pythons as pets! Thing is, the snakes grow up and grow to 15 feet or more, and some owners let 'em go. It's been a problem in the Florida Everglades. But the region's python population seems to be dwindling. John Zarrella goes on the hunt to tell us what's changed.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF AND CORRESPONDENT: They seemed to be everywhere. Nearly every day, a Burmese python sighted somewhere. At a nursery...
LT. LISA WOOD, VENOM RESPONSE TEAM: We managed to pull it out of the weeds and take it into custody.
ZARRELLA: We found one on the side of a heavily traveled road while tagging along with wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski. A good one, too!
JOE WASILEWSKI, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: Yes, baby. Hey!
ZARRELLA: Right over here, right over here!
WASILEWSKI: Right here.
ZARRELLA: Look at the size of this one, huh? The Nature Conservancy taught park rangers, police and utility workers how to catch them. Not easy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not fun.
ZARRELLA: The fear was these evasive species were overrunning the Everglades. They numbered perhaps 100,000 and spreading out. That was last summer. Now, suddenly, the snakes have disappeared. Something changed. A state-sanctioned, one-time python hunting season is underway, but no one is catching much of anything.
JOSH ZARMATI, PYTHON HUNTER: I got to always tell everybody, it's like trying to find a needle in the haystack when you're looking for these snakes.
ZARRELLA: And the Everglades is one big haystack. Josh Zarmati hunts pythons. We've been out with him twice slogging through the glades. Look at this mud we're going through now. Climbing up rock piles, looking under disregarded metal. Nothing?
ZARRELLA: Nothing. So you think, though, this is a pretty good day to find snakes, right?
ZARMATI: This should be, you know, a textbook day. It's nice and sunny.
ZARRELLA: Apparently, the pythons didn't read the book. We even tried at night.
ZARMATI: A nice, beautiful little snake.
ZARRELLA: A native species; not a threat. We also went out twice with Joe Wasilewski, the wildlife biologist. Walked miles of prime snake country; not a single snake in the grass. Just...
WASILEWSKI: Oh, my God! Look at this. Slow, it's a gator.
ZARRELLA: A big gator over here. How long is he?
WASILEWSKI: Oh, he's a good 10 foot.
ZARRELLA: He's a good size. So, what happened to all the pythons?
GABRIELLA FERRARO, FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION: We are thrilled that the weather was so cold in south Florida this year that it may have killed 40 to 50 percent of those reptiles of concern.
ZARRELLA: That may be conservative. The pythons simply couldn't handle the persistent record-cold temperatures. Scientists say the lid nature put on the pythons won't last. A few warm winters, they say, and the snakes will be back. But for now, nature has taken care of the problem humans couldn't get a handle on. John Zarrella, CNN, in the Florida Everglades.
Google Name Change
AZUZ: Toto, I don't think we're on Google anymore. Did the Kansas capital cannibalize the search engine site? No, it's just an April Fools Day joke. Google was Topeka! You might remember that the mayor of Topeka, Kansas renamed his city "Google" for the month of March. Looks like revenge is a dish best served cold, online! Google's name game is the latest addition to the site's tradition of April Fools Day pranks.
Before We Go
AZUZ: And finally, we've got a story that'll really get your goat. Say hello to the newest members of the Kern County Fire Department! The animal assistants are at work! They're chowing down on brush to help prevent fires. The fire department saves money on manpower. The goats get a free meal. It's a win, win! Besides, these guys look like they're eager to help out.
AZUZ: We're guessing it must be their goat-get-'em attitude! Told you, whenever there's a pun on a Friday, it always has potential to be very baaaad! All right, if you're back from Spring Break or you're going on it, you don't have to miss us. Remember, we're on iTunes; we're at CNNStudentNews.com. Watch us there. Have a great Easter weekend!