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Violence in Syria; New Hampshire Primary Preview

Aired January 10, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Hi, I`m Carl Azuz and this is CNN Student News. In a little while, we`re going to talk about a milestone for the U.S. debt. But first up today, we`re heading to the Middle East.

Violence is a daily part of life in some regions of Syria. Protesters have been fighting with government forces there for months. The protesters want Syrian president Bashar al-Assad out of power. The government has cracked down on the protesters. There are reports that thousands of people have been killed.


AZUZ (voice-over): It`s been hard for CNN to confirm those reports because Syria wasn`t letting international journalists into the country. That changed yesterday. A CNN crew was allowed into Syria. It saw protests and rallies like these. Some of the rallies were against President al-Assad, but others were supporting him.

Nic Robertson said what he witnessed was a country that is deeply divided.



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Passions were very high. People were very angry. They were very afraid. A lot of people were coming and showing what they said were bullet wounds, birdshot wounds as well as some people showed us where they said they had been shot by forces loyal to the government.

Yet, at the same time in the center of Damascus today, we`ve seen large pro-government rallies, people telling us that they love President Bashar al-Assad. What is happening here is this country is dividing. It`s polarizing. People are believing -- are believing opposite things.

Some believe that the president is the right man for the country. There are others that don`t. They`re not talking to each other. And this is really leading to a much more divided country than it was even a few months ago.


AZUZ: Iran says it is enriching uranium as part of its controversial nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes, like its medical needs. But other countries, including the United States, believe Iran could be making nuclear weapons. And the tension has isolated Iran from some other countries.

And the


AZUZ (voice-over): But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is getting some international support during a trip to Latin America, starting in Venezuela. Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez come from different cultures, but both are at odds with the United States.

President Chavez welcomed President Ahmadinejad in a ceremony yesterday. But one Venezuelan politician called the Iranian leader`s visit an embarrassment for Venezuela.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s the word? It`s the total value of all goods and services that a country produces in a year. Gross domestic product or GDP -- that`s the word.


AZUZ: And that doesn`t just mean what the government produces. The gross domestic product includes all of the goods and services that private companies sell, too. Right now, the U.S. GDP is around $15.3 trillion. And that is about where the country`s debt is.

AZUZ (voice-over): This is the milestone we mentioned at the start of today`s show. America`s debt, the money that the federal government owes, is right around that $15.3 trillion mark.

Some experts say the fact that debt and GDP are at the same level shows how important it is for the American government to deal with its financial problems.



AZUZ: Next up, we`re heading back out on the presidential campaign trail. Last week, Iowa held caucuses, these public meetings where Republican voters announced their presidential preferences. The state in the spotlight today is New Hampshire. It`s holding a primary, where voters each cast a single private ballot.


AZUZ (voice-over):

The Republican candidates -- you`re seeing many of them here -- they`ve been out trying to rally support. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has had a big lead in the polls in New Hampshire.

He has kind of a home field advantage since he was governor of the state right next door. But other candidates can use a strong showing in New Hampshire to get some momentum going into the next primary contest.


AZUZ: Many Americans are walking in a winter-less wonderland. Snowplows in Iowa don`t have enough snow to plow. Lake Erie hasn`t frozen yet. Chicago is seeing one of its least snowy winters ever. Many meteorologists blame something called La Nina. That`s a weather pattern that starts in the Pacific Ocean, and they`re saying that`s the reason why it`s been sort of a warm, snowless winter in many places.

There are some exceptions to the rule, as you`re going to see in today`s "Before We Go" segment, but over in Vermont, Keith McGilvery of affiliate WCAX shows us how some snow-starved ski slopes are struggling.


KEITH MCGILVERY, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Skiers across Vermont are sharing a similar story about less-than-ideal conditions out on the slopes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s some grass poking through and some sticks and logs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s really icy and there`s not many trails that are open right now.

MCGILVERY (voice-over): A mild start to winter has meant bad news for skiers and boarders taking to their favorite mountains.

JOSH ARNESON, BOLTON VALLEY REPORT: Ah, yes, it`s been a little bit of a slow start as far as natural snowfall goes. So for us, visitation`s been down a little bit over the past few weeks, a little bit of a softer Christmas than we like to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a summer person, so it wasn`t that big of a deal to me really, but I like to ski, so I`ll -- I`m wishing for more snow.

MCGILVERY (voice-over): At SugarBush, the slopes that were open weren`t packed, and there were plenty of seats in the dining room for folks grabbing lunch. President and owner Win Smith says the lack of natural snow has meant a 5 percent to 8 percent drop in business from this time last season.

His team is using social media to get the word out that trails are open.

WIN SMITH, SUGARBUSH RESORT: Well, we get third-party endorsements. People come here; they have a good time; they post on Facebook; they post on YouTube, and that makes it very believable that there`s snow here, even if it`s sod in the back yard.

MCGILVERY (voice-over): Families sticking to their vacation plans in the Green Mountain State are making the best of the weak start to winter.



AZUZ (voice-over): It`s January 10th, and on this day in 1776, Thomas Paine published "Common Sense." The essay called for a war of independence that became the American Revolution.

In 1920, the League of Nations was established in Switzerland. The organization`s goal was to encourage international cooperation. It was later replaced by the United Nations.

And in 1946, the United Nations General Assembly met for the first time. Fifty-one countries were represented at that meeting in London.


AZUZ: Now the United Nations headquarters is located in New York, and there are almost four times as many countries in its general assembly. A bunch of them could see some changes this year in their governments. And we`ve got the campaigns in the U.S. covered, but Fareed Zakaria is going to fill us in on some of the other spots around the world holding elections this year.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GPS: You can predict that in 2012 a lot of leaders will say goodbye. No, I`m not gazing into a magic crystal ball. You see, 2012 is the year of elections. Fifty-nine countries will be tallying up votes, local, state or national. There are 193 countries in the world, so that`s about a third of the world`s nations. Twenty-six of these may see a change in national leadership.

Together, these changes could affect 53 percent of the world`s population, representing half of the world`s GDP, and a lot of the change is concentrated in the world`s most powerful countries. Four of the five U.N. Security Council members could see changes at the top. That`s Russia, China, France and, of course, the United States.

These four countries alone represent 40 percent of the world`s GDP. Of all of them, China will not have democratic elections, of course. But it will see the biggest wholesale change at the top. Seventy percent of the country`s leadership will be new.

We`re not expecting any surprises. It`s widely believe that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao will be replaced by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. Russia`s election will be the most predictable. We already know that Prime Minister Putin is going to become President Putin once again.

But even that change isn`t as clear-cut as you`d imagine. For the first time in years, it seems like it`s becoming acceptable in Russia to criticize the Kremlin. There will be changes, too, in Mexico, Egypt, Taiwan and Kenya, just to name a few.

Some of these elections and leadership changes involve nothing more than personnel shifts. Others will be occasions for fundamental debates about the future course of the country. They could mean shifts, so that we see a different Europe, a different China or a different America in the next few years.

So for those of you who have been struck by the volatility of recent years, the roller coaster ride we`ve all been on, from boom to bust, crisis to crisis, I would say keep that seat belt strapped on, because you`re going to see a lot of churn over the next year as well. It may not be bad, but there will be no shortage of political twists and turns around the world. And those are just the ones we know about.


AZUZ: Well, before we go, we mentioned some exceptions to that lack of snow story.


AZUZ (voice-over): This is one of them. Aspen, Colorado, got some fresh powder over the weekend. It made this video possible and awesome. This iReporter said he`s been seeing reports about the lack of snow. He wanted to get the word out that the conditions were better, at least in some places. You think snowboarding`s easy? Try making it down a slope while you`re holding up a camera on a stick.


AZUZ: One thing is for sure, there`s "snow" way he`ll get "board." We`re going to freeze the puns there early today instead of launching into a run of them, because sometimes these things can just be a slippery slope. Back with more commercial-free headlines tomorrow. We`ll see you then.