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European Economy in Crisis; Are Russian Elections Free and Fair?

Aired December 8, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET



GROUP: . Joplin High School.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you`re watching.

GROUP: . CNN Student News. Take it away, Carl.

CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: You bet I will. Thanks to our friends out in Joplin, Missouri, for getting things started today. During the next 10 minutes, we`re going to talk about parliamentary politics and a technology challenge. But we`re starting with Europe`s economy.

It`s in the middle of a crisis because several countries in the European Union have massive debts. This problem affects a lot more nations than just the ones that are struggling with money. Seventeen countries all use the same currency, the euro. And if any of them take a big hit economically, all of them could be affected.


AZUZ (voice-over): That`s why European leaders are meeting in Belgium today and tomorrow. They`re working on new financial rules that would force countries to manage their budgets better. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is there, too.

He said the U.S. trusts Europe`s ability to resolve the debt crisis. But some analysts say the fact that Secretary Geithner is there shows how concerned the U.S. is about what`s happening in Europe, because if the crisis doesn`t get resolved, it could cause more problems for America`s economy as well.


AZUZ: Next up, some people are asking for new parliamentary elections in Russia. That`s because they`re worried that the ones that were held this past Sunday were unfair.


AZUZ (voice-over): Protesters have hit the streets to speak about this. Several hundred people have been arrested. The protesters are angry about the election results, and a lot of their anger is directed at the man at the right of your screen here.

That`s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He was president of Russia for eight years, and he`s the head of the political party that has the majority in Russia`s parliament. In Sunday`s vote, that party won fewer seats than it used to have, but it still won enough to control parliament. Putin has promised to make changes in the government.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See if you can ID me. I`m an island nation that`s home to around 11 million people. I`m one of the only communist countries in the world. I`m located about 100 miles away from the United States, and my capital is Havana.

I`m Cuba. The U.S. has had an embargo in place against this country for decades.


AZUZ: That embargo restricts Americans or U.S. companies from doing business with Cuba or traveling to the island nation. The goal of the embargo is to force the communist government to move toward democracy. Earlier this year, President Obama loosened some of those travel restrictions to try to help the Cuban people.


AZUZ (voice-over): Yesterday the first charter flight took off from Atlanta to Havana. The new policies allow purposeful travel to Cuba. That includes people who have close relatives in Cuba. The rules also apply to anyone who works in the medical or agricultural industries, or who is traveling for educational or religious activities.


AZUZ: Well, switching from people who are traveling out of the United States to people who are returning -- and this is a significant journey home.


AZUZ (voice-over): One hundred seventy members of the U.S. military landed in Washington State yesterday. They`re coming back from serving in Iraq. And the reason why this is a big deal is because it was the last large group of soldiers who are coming home from that country.


AZUZ: And we`ve reported on how the U.S. is on schedule to pull nearly all of its troops out of Iraq by the end of this year, but not all those troops are going. Michael Holmes walks us through some of the details as America`s military involvement in Iraq winds down.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN REPORTER: Of course, it all began -- the firing, anyway, began in 2003. That`s when the first troops went across the border. It`s nearly nine years later that these guys are finally coming home and that Iraq gets its country back.

The Americans will hand over the keys, so to speak, to the Iraqis. December 15 is going to be the big one for the United States. There`s going to be a ceremony at the massive U.S. embassy there. Now, from December 18, 19, that`s when you are going to see the last convoy, when the last U.S. soldier symbolically crosses the border into Kuwait.

There are going to be a lot of U.S. troops staying in Kuwait. There`s 23,000 based there, and have been based there for years now. Some U.S. forces are going to stay as trainers. That`s not going to be a lot of people. You`re talking maybe about a couple of hundred people.

And you`ve also -- let`s remember -- got U.S. forces in other -- in other parts of the region: Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates. There is talk of U.S. having increased warship presence in the region, too. So, they want to keep that footprint there in the Middle East.

Well, of course, when the U.S. troops go, the bases become Iraqi property, and there they`ll either run them as bases or they`ll just dismantle them entirely. You know, you`re talking about a huge number of bases during this war.

At the height of the war, there was more than 500 U.S. bases around the country. By around -- towards the end of 2010, I think, that number dropped to less than 100. Right now, there is about a dozen.

At the end of the day, I think there`s going to be a lot of relieved people that it`s over, in both the United States and in Iraq, and in all the other countries who`ve taken part in this war. And I think there will also be a lot of damage that`s going to endure forever.



AZUZ (voice-over): On this day in history, in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II when Congress declared war on Japan one day after the attack at Pearl Harbor.

In 1980, singer and peace activist John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City. Lennon helped transform popular music as a member of The Beatles.

And in 1991, the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine signed documents to break up the Soviet Union. The USSR had been together for 74 years.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to the students and teachers at William C. March Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland. What was the first text message ever sent to a cell phone? You know what to do. Was it "Happy birthday," "Watson, come here," "Merry Christmas," or "First"? You`ve got three seconds, go.

The first text was a festive one -- "Merry Christmas." That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: That first text -- and we`re talking about the very early `90s here -- was sent before just about all of you were born. So it`s understandable if you just can`t imagine the world without texting. But back in the 18th century, as you know, totally different story. That`s the inspiration for one Tennessee teacher`s challenge to his students.

Ditch electronics, just for a few days, and you can earn some extra credit if you do it. Jamey Tucker of affiliate WKRN checks in with the results.


STEPHEN WOMACK, ENGLISH TEACHER: No cell phones, no computers, no iPods, no radios in your car.

JAMEY TUCKER, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): English teacher Stephen Womack may be a popular teacher at Franklin High School, just maybe not last week.

KELSEY CHERRY, CHALLENGE PARTICIPANT: I got about halfway through, you know, the challenge and I was like, man, this isn`t worth it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He made it three days. I didn`t make it a day.

TUCKER (voice-over): Thirty-six or 72 hours, even a week without things they had at their disposal every second.

JULIE HARRISON, CHALLENGE PARTICIPANT: Because I like sleep with my iPod and I stay up late, like doing stuff with electronics and everything. So I actually got like a lot of sleep.

TUCKER: Why do this to the kids?

WOMACK: Why not?

TUCKER: It is interesting that every student I talked to said some of the toughest things to give up weren`t smartphones or computers, but old- school technology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hardest was definitely the radio in my truck. I don`t like riding around in silence, so.

HARRISON: You can like hear my car, like barking. Or like you can hear like the noises and stuff. And I hate that.

CHERRY: My family watches a show called "The Middle," and we watch it every Wednesday. It`s like we`ll eat dinner and watch it. Now I know we can`t watch TV because Kelsey can`t watch TV. So I was like, you know, it`s -- let`s just watch it.

WOMACK: Years I`ve done it, I`ve had three students do a whole week. Lots have tried.



AZUZ (voice-over): We`re not going to ask if you could do this. For one thing, you`d have to go without CNN Student News. But, look, I use technology every single day at work. You use it every day at school, at home, on the way to and fro. The question is, can you see any benefits to going without technology? Tell us -- and guess where? On our blog at Yes, we get the irony.


AZUZ: All right. Before we go, a science project you can really sink your teeth into.

AZUZ (voice-over): There are three stages of this project. Build a car, race it then eat it. Luckily, the model cars have to be 100 percent edible. It`s all part of the fun for some University of Nebraska students, though that one definitely looks a lot better -- ooh, that one looks good, too. They definitely look a lot better than that hamburger one.

The challenge can be a pickle to figure out, especially since the five-second rule is enforced if a car runs off the ramp and hits the floor.


AZUZ: So how does the winning car celebrate? We assume the victory lap includes some doughnuts. Plus, if you tell the competition to eat your dust, they can, although it would still be in bad taste, just like today`s puns. I`m Carl Azuz and we will see you tomorrow.