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Greece is Forming a New Government; Explaining the Muslim Pilgrimage; Mars Simulation Test

Aired November 7, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Might have changed our clocks over the weekend. No changes here. Ten minutes, no commercials, headlines from around the world. I`m Carl Azuz. Welcome to a new week of CNN Student News.

First up, Greece is forming a new government. Its current leader is not expected to be a part of it. Greece has a political system made up of a lot of different political parties. And members of several of those parties are putting together a coalition, a kind of political team.

It`s only going to last for a few months before next year`s elections. And during that time, the coalition will try to keep Greece from going bankrupt.


AZUZ (voice-over): We`ve reported on Greece`s massive debt problem, also on concerns about how Greece`s struggling economy could send shock waves around Europe. Greece is likely to get financial help from other European nations. But that help comes with conditions. Greece will have to raise taxes and make even deeper cuts in government spending. Greek citizens have been protecting against doing that.



AZUZ (voice-over): Late last week, Prime Minister George Papandreou barely survived a vote of confidence by members of the Greek parliament. Now he`s helping put together this coalition, and officials say he has agreed to step down after that`s done. So there are still questions about who might lead this coalition.


AZUZ: The U.S. unemployment rate: 9 percent. It dropped one-tenth of a percent in October. It`s been at or above 9 percent since April.


AZUZ (voice-over): But this is why we talk about this so often. The rate is one measure of how the U.S. economy is doing. A lower rate generally signals better times, because more Americans who want jobs have them.

Now take a look at this. Before the great recession started in December of 2007, the U.S. unemployment rate had been hovering around 4 to 5 percent. Anything above that was considered a relatively high unemployment rate. So the fact that it`s been around 9 percent since 2009 gives you an idea of how different the U.S. economy is now than it was before the recession hit.



AZUZ (voice-over): If you`re in California, news of a 5.6 magnitude earthquake might not rattle you. It`s a different story in Oklahoma. This was the strongest earthquake on record in Oklahoma. It happened late Saturday night. No major injuries reported, but there was some structural damage like you see right here.

Some parts of this road just buckled during the quake, and this was actually the second earthquake that hit Oklahoma on Saturday. One with a magnitude of 4.7 struck early in the morning.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this legit? Islam is the world`s second largest religion.

This is true. Muslims make up more than 22 percent of the world`s total population.


AZUZ: More than a million Muslims are in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, right now. They`ve made a pilgrimage there for their religious ritual called Hajj.


AZUZ (voice-over): It`s one of the five pillars of Islam, and the religion requires every Muslim who is physically and financially able to make the trip to do so at least once in his or her life. Nima Elbagir explains what happens once those pilgrims arrive.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN REPORTER: Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it is a coming together every year of Muslims around the world to walk literally in the footsteps of the Prophet.

I think Hajj for Muslims, it`s a combination of feeling like this is the closest place on Earth that you are to God, but also that sense of standing in the footsteps of the Prophet, and not just the Prophet Muhammad, but also the Prophet Abraham.

Last year, it was something like 5 million people. People are so desperate to go that they find ways to either overstay their visa or they sneak themselves in. So often people estimate that there are usually a million or 2 million on top of the official numbers.

You spend every moment in contemplation, prayer, reading from the Quran and on each individual day there are specific steps. So you have the standing at Arafat, which is, again, following in the footsteps of the Prophet, and that`s the main rite in Hajj, where everybody stands between the Asr prayer, which is the afternoon prayer, and the Maghrib prayer, the dusk prayer.

And they are reciting prayers and they`re reciting verses and they`re standing in contemplation because Muslims believe that after you emerge from Hajj, if you have done it with a pure heart and a pure intent, then you emerge as the day you were born. You emerge cleansed of all your sins.

It`s actually really amazingly well organized. People line up, and they`re actually -- there are -- there are escalators taking you up to those different floors. So as those floors fill up, then you keep going up and up until all those floors are filled up. And then they operate on a one in, one out basis. There are -- also there are showers.

There are people -- people actually travel to Mecca and Mina and the holy cities to trade and to sell food, but also a lot of people believe that there is a good deed to be gained from feeding and giving water and juices and milk to the pilgrims.

So a lot of people actually just set up stores on the roadside and hand things out. And that adds to just this sense of almost a carnival atmosphere. It`s a really -- it`s a really festive atmosphere when you are there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Mr. Myatt`s social studies class at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Middle School in Verona, New York.

In astronomy, what is Ceres? You know what to do. Is it a moon, asteroid, quasar or black hole? Three seconds on the clock, go.

In 1801 an Italian astronomer made the first discovery of an asteroid, which is now known as Ceres. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: In addition to being the first asteroid discovered, Ceres is also one of the largest. It`s about as big across as Texas. Right now, astronomers are keeping their eyes on another asteroid. It`s about the size of an aircraft carrier, not as big as Ceres, but still pretty big.


AZUZ (voice-over): It`s under watch, because it`s expected to fly by the Earth tomorrow, and pretty nearby, too, closer than the moon. You can see the path on this animation here. The asteroid`s been classified as a potentially hazardous object. But NASA says it isn`t really any kind of threat. It will give scientists the chance to study these objects up close, though.


AZUZ: The European space agency is wrapping up a study that`s been going on for more than a year, and the results could move people one step closer to a trip to another planet. Jonathan Mann launches into the details.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): A warm welcome home for six "marsonauts" after a 520-day trip to Mars, sort of. The international crew actually never left Earth. They were locked away in steel tubes at a facility in Russia. The fake mission to Mars was sponsored by the European Space Agency experiment into testing the psychological effects of long-term space travel.

SERGEY KRIKALYOD, COSMONAUT (through translator): A very beautiful experiment comes to an end.

It is called Mars500, but the data which was gathered during the experience could be used not only during space flights, but on the Earth as well, because situations when a group of people are situated in a confined space and are doing complicated jobs are common on the Earth. So the results will be applicable in a wide range of human activities.

MANN (voice-over): This is where the group relaxed. The blue lights set up in the Mars500 helped the group prepare their eyes for seeing real daylight. In all, the space where they lived was the size of six buses in a row.

The crew, from China, Russia and Europe, had limited contact with the outside world, the only communication being email, text message or video. The simulated trip replicated many aspects of a real space flight to Mars, including orbiting, landing, even visiting the surface of the Red Planet.

Their stress and hormone levels were monitored, as well as their sleeping patterns and their moods. There was a lot of downtime, though. They spent some of it watching a movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- Jonathan Mann reporting.


AZUZ: And finally, in basketball, the free throw line is sometimes called the charity stripe.


AZUZ (voice-over): This guy is helping it live up to that nickname. On Veterans` Day two years ago, Dave Cummings started his quest to make a million free throws. He`s doing it to raise money and awareness for the sacrifices made by men and women in the U.S. military. Dave averages more than 1,300 made free throws every day. He has to. He`s on target to hit a million this Veterans` Day.


AZUZ: In order to hit that milestone in just two years, you know he had to give it his best shot. Hmm, OK. Well, don`t forget, we`re looking for your thoughts on honoring America`s veterans. You can write in our blog, or if you`re at least 13 years old, you can send us an iReport. All of that you`ll find at Enjoy the rest of your Monday. I`m Carl Azuz.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.




GROUP: (Inaudible).