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CNN 10

Newtown Shootings; The Mayan Calendar

Aired December 19, 2012 - 04:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: I`m Carl Azuz. Today, on CNN STUDENT NEWS we begin by continuing our coverage of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. And we are looking at the way to help those affected by this tragedy begin to heal.

A healing process will be a long one for many people in Newtown. But slowly, some of the first signs of normalcy are returning. Students started going back to school yesterday. Teacher groups said the classes would discuss the shooting in age-appropriate ways trying to help students make sense of it. Class was not back in session of the students and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary. They won`t go back until January, and when they do, they`ll be at a different building about eight miles away. On Monday, we covered the shooting in depth. You can find that show on our home page or at the CNN schools of thought blog. Teachers, that`s also where you`ll find the post that shares some tools to help discuss the story with your students. Gary Tuchman now looks at how some specially trained animals are taking part of the healing process.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nine golden retrievers on the march making their way into a recreation center in Newtown, Connecticut for an emotional rescue to help comfort the children who survived the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary and other children in town. Therapeutic canines were sponsored and trained by Lutheran Church Charities transported in a van for a 900 mile ride from Illinois.

(on camera): And what is a comfort dog?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A comfort dog is one who brings comfort to other people when they are suffering or hurting or bring happiness to people, it helps people process the grief they ...

TUCHMAN: So they are specially trained?

TIM HETZNER, LUTHERAN CHURCH CHARITIES: They are specially trained. These are all trained service dogs. So we don`t use them with disabled, but we use that training, and then we train them additionally to work with all different age groups and people.

To some people, and we`ve seen this with children, it brings a sense of calmness in the time of confusion for them during this period. To some, it helps them process their grief, so they are crying, and they hug the dog and to some children now come up, and they walk away happy.

Do you know that Luther is incapable of being mean? Luther is a friendly dog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Katon loves dogs.

TUCHMAN: When does training begin to be a comfort dog?

HETZNER: Five and a half weeks, we buy puppies at five and a half weeks and turn them upside down in how their temperament is and from that point on, we ...

TUCHMAN: But you turn them upside down, so if they are turned upside down and they flail, they can`t be a comfort dog.

HETZNER: Right. Our initial screening is if they can be relaxed in that position, then we start the next process, which is a trainer that works with them one on one for the next eight months to a year.


AZUZ: We`ve been asking on our blog, what you think can be done to keep kids safer at school. Amira says, "Schools should have more security guards with better training and more available defense resources for the trained security personnel." Ian suggests, "Limiting access points for perpetrators and educating students on what needs to be done in case the worst happens." From Kal, campuses could be surrounded by fences that can be climbed as easily as chain-linked fences.

Jack thinks the best course of action is to have at least to or more staff in a school with guns to protect themselves and the kids.

John writes, "The only reasonable solution is to have stricter gun control: not a single American needs an automatic weapon unless it`s government issued." Macey says, "Too many people have guns and use them for the wrong reason." In Nick`s opinion, a change in gun laws wouldn`t solve the problem: "We need to focus on mental instabilities in children." Heather also says, "We need more attention brought to mental health care to prevent things like this from happening. CNN is looking for your "I- Reports." If your class or school is taking action to honor Newtown, Connecticut, head to and upload your photos in our Newtown assignment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this legit? There are mountains on the Moon. Yes, the Moon has mountains, craters, even seas, although scientists don`t think there`s water in them.


AZUZ: One of these mountains is named for Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and on Monday, that spot was the final stop for a pair of probes, a pair of spacecraft that have been checking out the Moon. Ebb and Flow were about the size of a washer and dryer, before they crashed landing into that mountain, their mission was to orbit the Moon and map it out. Scientists were hoping to learn more about its surface and how it might have formed. Researchers say they got a lot of great information from Ebb and Flow. They think it could take years to analyze all of it. NASA officials say the twin probes were intentionally sent into that mountain on Monday because they didn`t have enough fuel or altitude to keep going with the mission.

The group of men you are seeing here are part of a TV crew for NBC. One of them is Richard Engel, the network`s chief foreign correspondent. The crew was kidnapped by masked armed men when it crossed the border into Syria to report on that country`s civil war. During the five days they were held, Engel said the crew was blindfolded and repeatedly threatened. They were eventually freed and taken out of Syria on Tuesday. And it`s been difficult for journalists to report on Syria`s civil war, because the Syrian government has severely limited their access inside the country. When journalists do choose to report from inside Syria, they are potentially putting themselves in harm`s way.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s "Shoutout" goes out to Mr. Linser`s classes at Bellevue High School in Bellevue Washington. Which of these ancient civilizations leave in what`s now North and Central America? Here we go, was it the Sumarians, Phoenicians, Maya or Vikings? You`ve got three seconds, go!

They Maya lives in parts of what are now Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. That`s your answer and that`s your "Shoutout."


AZUZ: You might have studies the Maya in your history classes, you might have even discussed them outside of school, there is this rumor that`s been going around about the end of the world. Now, the theory says that could happen later on this week, because that is when the Mayan calendar ends, but Nick Parker caught up with some modern day Maya about the reality.


NICK PARKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lario Kancha (ph) is a priest, his people`s calendar ends in a matter of days.

"It`s considered the closure of the great cycle of Mayan time," he says. But, of course, the next cycle begins the following day. For the Mayans, it`s not the end of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can`t get to the airport.

PARKER: Doomsday scenes from movies like "2012" have helped create a different myth. So, where does it come from? The Mayan civilization began in several countries from around 2,000 B.C. The story behind the infamous date begins in ancient sites like Chichen Itza where Mayans created calendars.

ALFREDO BARRERA, MEXIAN GOVERNMENT ARCHEOLOGIST: The Mayas were astronomers, when they go into the tower in the upper part, they can make observations, they relate the astronomic records with the agriculture, with the economy.

PARKER: Temples are designed to channel sunlight, and the number of panels correspond to years.

When academics translated inscriptions in the 19th century, they discovered that Mayans counted 394 years cycles, known as baktuns and many say the significant 14th baktun expires this Winter Solstice, December, the 21st. Others say, it actually ends on the 23rd.

This carving made in 700 A.D. Ignited furious debate. Monument Six, as it`s known, was discovered at the site of Tortuguero and predicts a major event at the end of this 13th baktun.

BARRERA: We don`t have prophecy or inscriptions related with the finish of the world or prophecies, it`s only a mention of a data, but it doesn`t mention more about, because description is not complete.

PARKER: He blames online speculation and ignorant writing for the Doomsday belief. But the data is certainly open to interpretation. Santiago Pando lives outside Mexico City and is a filmmaker.

"There is a big sun, which is going to align with the other suns in others galaxies," he says. "This means, there will be an enormous quantity of light, and this will give us a wider view of reality."

Many in Mayan countries will mark the day as a celebration, as others around the word fear something more sinister. Nick Parker, CNN, Yucatan, Mexico.


AZUZ: Some superstitious folks might think it`s bad luck to let a black cat cross their path, but the students at this crosswalk probably disagree with that, because this black cat seems to be all about safety. It`s name is Sable, he is 15 years old, his owner says he makes it part of his daily routine to heat the street right before the bell rings. The crossing guards think of him as part of a team, he even has his own safety vest, and he doesn`t charge for his services.

And maybe one day he`ll call the tab he`s been running. For now, he just seems to have a vested interest in keeping the street safe for the kitties. That`s all the time we have for today. We will hope to cross paths again tomorrow when CNN STUDENT NEWS returns. Bye now.