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Visiting the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center; Taking a Look at the APEC Conference; Brazil Prepares to Host the Olympics; Studying the Dead Sea

Aired November 14, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today you are headed to Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. I`m Carl Azuz. This is CNN Student News, your passport to headlines from around the globe.

Our first stop is in Hawaii, where an economic conference brings world leaders together. This is the APEC meeting. It stands for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. There are 21 members, and that includes the United States, who hosted the weekend meeting in Hawaii.


AZUZ (voice-over): President Obama had individual meetings with other leaders from China, Russia and Japan. He talked about business flowing back and forth between the U.S. and other APEC nations. And President Obama said he thinks the U.S. could do more to sell more American products overseas, and to encourage other countries to invest in the United States.

These APEC meetings focus on economic issues in the Asia Pacific region, but Europe`s debt crisis also came up over the weekend, especially some of the efforts to come up with solutions to help resolve it.


AZUZ: Some European countries are turning to new leaders to try to turn things around during this economic crisis. One of those nations is Italy, where former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi resigned on Saturday.


AZUZ (voice-over): Italian political leaders got together over the weekend to talk about choices for the country`s next prime minister. Yesterday, Mario Monti was nominated for the job. He`s a economist. One Italian official described him as experienced and well respected. But he is not prime minister yet. The Italian parliament has to decide whether or not to approve Monti for the position.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s first Shoutout goes out to the students of Team Columbia at Michael E. Fossum Middle School in McAllen, Texas, and to Michael Fossum himself on the International Space Station.

Which country is hosting soccer`s 2014 World Cup? Is it A, B, C or D? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: There`s a lot to do to get ready to host these kind of major sporting events, and we`re not just talking about building stadiums and training workers. The Brazilian government is trying to crack down on violence and illegal drugs, especially in some of the nation`s shanty towns.


AZUZ (voice-over): These are slums, and in larger cities like Rio de Janeiro, a lot of people live in them. They can be incredibly dangerous. This weekend, thousands of Brazilian police and security forces raided shanty towns in Rio. Late Sunday officials said they`d taken control of the slums, away from drug dealers. Next, they promised to search for the criminals who escaped.



AZUZ (voice-over): What you are looking at now are up-close, ground- level pictures of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. This is the plant that had that massive meltdown after an earthquake and tsunami hit back in March.

Journalists got their first tour of the plant on Saturday. As they got near it, the radiation readings increased, although they never hit a level that`s believed to mean an immediate health risk. Technicians are working to control the damage caused by the meltdown. The power plant`s owners say they`re making progress, but it could take decades to completely clean up this facility.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time for a Shoutout Extra Credit. Where would you find the lowest body of water on Earth? You know what to do. Is it in South America, Oceana, Africa or the Middle East? Another three seconds on the clock -- go.

The Middle East is home to the Dead Sea, the lowest body of water on the planet. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout Extra Credit.


AZUZ: That`s not the Dead Sea`s only claim to fame. It`s also one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth. And the salt and other minerals make it hard for anything to live there. And we said hard, but not impossible, and the scientists that Kevin Flower is reporting on hope that what they`ve found beneath the waves of the Dead Sea could have a big impact up on land.


KEVIN FLOWER, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): On the rocky shores of this large body of water, biologists prepare themselves for a dive in an ongoing research expedition. They tread into the still waters, and carefully make the plunge into the world below.

At first glance, it looks your standard underwater dive, but look closer, and you`ll see what`s missing. There are no fish and there are no plants here, and nor will there ever be any, for this is the Dead Sea, the saltiest body of water on the planet.

So, you ask, what are these marine biologists doing here? They are here making what they say is the first of its kind scientific diving expedition to study fresh and salt water springs at the bottom of the Dead Sea, where new forms of life have recently been discovered, a find that may have significant implications for medical research.

DR. DANNY IONESCU, MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE: We`ve found a large diversity of bacteria, of microorganisms, several types of algae and none of these organisms have been described previously from the Dead Sea. And that`s fascinating, and most of them, to the best of our knowledge, at the moment that we did preliminary data at hand are not known to science in general.

FLOWER (voice-over): Thirty meters below the surface, the researchers collect samples of sediment, which they measure back on land. They hope to learn more about the chemical composition of the spring that allows for the microorganisms to live in such extreme environments.

From the depths of the Dead Sea springs life that one day may help save lives back on land -- Kevin Flower, CNN, Jerusalem.


AZUZ: Our next stop is a big building in Florida. Big is an understatement. It`s taller than the Statue of Liberty, takes up more volume than the entire Pentagon. You could fit more than three Empire State Buildings inside it. And for the first time in more than 30 years, you can actually go in the door. John Zarrella takes us inside.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The folks are some of the first inside. For more than 30 years, it had been closed to visitors.

ZARRELLA: Took lots of pictures?

DAVID SCHWAEGER, TOUR VISITOR: I did. And some of them I only understand, because how do you take a picture of this? How do you take a picture of the ceiling? It`s unbelievable.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): If you think that`s unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shuttle Orbiter Endeavor.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): For current and future space geeks, this is heaven, a pinch-me moment. Endeavor is being housed here until its California museum home is ready. This is the Vehicle Assembly Building, VAB, at the Kennedy Space Center, rich in history, and now reopened for public tours. From here, the massive Saturn V moon rockets were assembled before rolling out to the launch pad.

CONRAD NAGEL, FORMER SHUTTLE FLOW DIRECTOR: It was just so busy in here, you -- we had thousands of people living in this building at the time. There were probably 6,000 people in this building.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Conrad Nagel worked on both the Apollo and space shuttle programs.

NAGEL: We`re probably not going to see anything like this in our lifetime.

ZARRELLA: All 135 shuttles started out from this building, too, mated (ph) to the fuel tanks and booster rockets. Because of the volatile fuels and chemicals used during the shuttle era, NASA closed the VAB`s doors to outsiders in 1978. With the shuttle program over, NASA is again allowing tours from the visitor complex to stop here.

DAVE MESSETT, TOUR VISITOR: We just sort of said, well, we absolutely have to do that part of the tour. That`s just not optional.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): To this day, the VAB remains one of the biggest buildings in the world, 525 feet high. By volume it`s the fourth largest in the world.

ZARRELLA: So here`s one of those interesting NASA factoids. That, of course, is the Vehicle Assembly Building behind me. And that American flag you see there? Well, it is so large that you can fit a city bus inside each of the stripes.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Within a few years, NASA hopes to start assembling its next-generation rocket in here, one that will take astronauts perhaps to Mars. The space agency has not decided yet whether the welcome mat will remain out, once that new rocket gets here -- John Zarrella, CNN, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


AZUZ: All right, before we go, an Iowa man got dressed up for his world record attempt.


AZUZ (voice-over): You know that old saying about someone giving you the shirt off his back? This guy is going the opposite way. He`s putting on 247 T-shirts to set a new world record. Looks like he needed some help with those last 100 or so. It wasn`t hard to gather up the materials, since he owns a T-shirt store. He`s put in time training for the big day.


AZUZ: . but we are sure that setting this record still wore him out, even if he thought the victory was a sure thing.

We were going to put together a string of puns for you. They`d all follow the same thread. But we thought that might be stretching it a bit, so we`ll "clothes" things out here before they unravel and try to come up with better "material" tomorrow. All right. Eight puns, one show, CNN Student News.