ATLANTA–CNN officials announced Tuesday that the cable network is "making good progress" in its ongoing effort to release the vast backlog of news accumulated during Elián González's headline-dominating seven-month odyssey in the U.S.

CNN anchor Natalie Allen breaks the news of the Dalai Lama's death, which occurred four months ago.

"Ever since little Elián went back to Cuba on June 28, we've been working overtime to get through all the news we bumped during that gripping, emotional saga," CNN vice-president Susan Bunda said. "There are all sorts of stockpiled stories to report, and we feel the American public will find much of it interesting, informative, and even a bit surprising, considering all of it happened three months ago or more."

Among the backlogged stories to air during recent CNN "News You Didn't Hear" coverage: the formation of the new Eastern European nation of Molbania last December, the French government's Feb. 9 decision to sell the Mona Lisa in private auction and the painting's subsequent purchase by Ted Turner, the discovery of mysterious carnivorous plant spores in southern Missouri in early April, and the June 4 congressional vote to grant federal legislators a 400 percent pay hike.

Last Thursday, the network reported the annexation of South Carolina by North Carolina, which acquired its bankrupt neighbor in March in accordance with the terms of an obscure, centuries-old clause in the South Carolina tax code.

"This news is significant, in that it reduces the number of U.S. states to 49," Bunda said, "and we feel it is something the American people deserve to hear about. But it lacks the compelling, personality-driven storyline and heartrending video footage of the Elián crisis, so we had no choice but to temporarily shelve it at the time it occurred. We did get a few complaints from South Carolina viewers who were disappointed in the lack of coverage, but what can we say? Unfortunately, these things happen in television. That's just the name of the game."

Added Bunda, "Boy, that Elián sure was an adorable little fella, wasn't he? I wonder what he's up to nowadays, that little rascal."

Videotapes of backlogged, Elián-era news stories pile up in a CNN production room.

Other months-old developments which may come as a surprise to CNN viewers include January's Russian rickets epidemic, which left half the nation with the disease; the surprise April 22 eruption of a volcano in a remote section of South Dakota; and the sudden disappearance of the star Alpha Centauri, the sun's closest stellar neighbor, which collapsed into a black hole in late May.

"The South Dakota volcano thing, maybe we could have run that if there'd been some sort of huge disaster associated with it," CNN Headline News president Bob Furnad said. "But, unfortunately, there were no casualties. Also, there were no big jets of flame either, because it was one of those boring, magma-flow type of eruptions. So the best visuals we could come up with were some dull computer graphics of the new fault line, detailing the splitting tectonic plates."

"Likewise," Furnad continued, "if Alpha Centauri had gone supernova, well, then we would've had something. But, somehow, it just collapsed into a black hole, with no big, exciting explosion footage to give the story some 'oomph.' Scientists can't even explain why: They say it defies all known laws of physics. So that makes it hard to find a good hook, you see."

Reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon, who came out of hiding on May 17 to speak out on some sort of impending crisis, breaking more than 20 years of media silence, expressed hope that his segment will eventually reach the airwaves.

"Hello? It's me, Thomas Pynchon," Pynchon said. "I have J.D. Salinger here with me, too. We're here trying to raise awareness of this profoundly serious crisis. Is anybody listening?"

Those interested, Lang said, can learn what Pynchon had to say during CNN coverage of the May 17 announcement, slated to air sometime around Christmas.

"With any luck, that is," Furnad said. "After all, you never know when another doe-eyed waif will wash up on shore and set everything else back another couple months."