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Two Journalists Killed in Syria; Violent Demonstrations Leave at Least 5 Dead in Afghanistan

Aired February 23, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


NATISHA LANCE, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Some plans take longer to grow than others, but 30,000 years, don`t worry. We`ll explain, coming up on CNN Student News.

Hi, everyone, I`m Natisha Lance, in for Carl Azuz today.

Dozens of people are reportedly killed every day by violence in Syria, and yesterday that included two journalists. They lost their lives trying to raise awareness about the crisis over there. French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to them, saying if reporters were not over there, we would not know what is going on.


LANCE (voice-over): Now these two were killed in the city of Homs by artillery fire. One of the journalists was Remi Ochlik, a prizewinning photographer, and the other, Marie Colvin. Now she was interviewed on Anderson Cooper`s CNN program the night before she died. She compared the violence in Syria to some of the other conflicts she`d reported on.

MARIE COLVIN, JOURNALIST, "LONDON SUNDAY TIMES": This is the worst, Anderson, for many reasons. I think the last one -- I mean, I think it`s the last time we talked, when I was in Misrata. It`s partly personal safety, I guess.

There`s nowhere to run. There`s just a lot of snipers on the high buildings surrounding the (inaudible) neighborhood. You can sort of figure out where snipers, but you can`t figure out where -- you know, where a shell is going to land. And just the terror of the people, and, you know, the helplessness.


LANCE: In Afghanistan, violent demonstrations have left at least five people dead. These protesters are angry about coalition troops burning Qurans or Islam`s holy book. Military officials say the Qurans were burned by mistake, and not because of any decision about Islam. Brian Todd has more on the protests and explains how experts say Qurans should be handled.


BRIAN TODD, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Fires, angry chants, fist waving, a response to what military officials say was the inadvertent burning of Qurans at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

One official says some of the material was removed from a detainee center at the American base because of inscriptions, indicating, the official says, that the documents may have used to facilitate extremist messages.

U.S. military officials apologize for what they call an error, but experts say even an accidental mishandling of the Quran is dangerous.

PROF. AKBAR AHMED, ISLAMIC STUDIES CHAIR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: We don`t want this to happen, this sequence of events, because this is going to start affecting our own troop withdrawal over the next couple of months.

TODD (voice-over): Akbar Ahmed is chair of Islamic Studies at American University. He says an understanding of these protests and other violence associated with reports of the Quran being desecrated has to involve an understanding of how the book is viewed in the Muslim world.

TODD: Akbar Ahmed says the Quran is so revered, that the only time Muslims really pick it up is around the time of prayer, and before that, hands should be washed from hands to elbow, face three times, and the feet.

And when it`s time to place the Quran down, it should always be placed, he says, at the highest point in the room. And when you`re in the same room with the Quran, you should not even point your feet toward the book.

TODD (voice-over): That`s to keep physical purity, Ahmed says, on par with the spiritual purity of the Quran. He says Qurans are passed between generations in families. One Muslim scholar says if a Quran is damaged, burning, burying or shredding it is acceptable, otherwise --

TODD: You`re never supposed to dispose of them in any way. Is that right?

AHMED: Not Muslims. Not Muslims. Muslims, technically can`t tear it up throw it away or throw it into the dustbin.

TODD: What about non-Muslims?

AHMED: Non-Muslims, again, it`s entirely in the United States, it`s a free country, free speech, free actions. And no one can stop anyone doing anything.

I would say that if we have -- if an American who is not a Muslim, has copies of the Quran, he wants to dispose of them, ring up a Muslim friend or ring up an Islamic center or a mosque and say, look, I`ve got a couple of these copies, you know, I don`t know what to do with them. I don`t want to insult your faith by throwing them into the dustbin. Would you come and collect them?

TODD (voice-over): But Ahmed emphasized he doesn`t excuse the violent reactions to incidents involving the Quran, like what happened last year after a Florida pastor ceremoniously burned a copy of the book and crowds attacked a U.N. facility in Afghanistan, killing 12 people.

Ahmed says Muslim scholars have to talk to their followers about appropriate responses that don`t involve violence -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this legit? Isotopes are different versions of the same chemical element.

Totally true. Changes in an element`s atoms, specifically the number of neutrons, are what make different isotopes of that element.


LANCE (voice-over): Some isotopes can be radioactive, and that includes the ones that were released during the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan last year. A lot of that material ended up in the Pacific Ocean, and scientists have been studying its impact on fish and plant life.

The results that were reported on Tuesday are kind of a good news-bad news situation. Bad news: the levels of radioactive materials are higher than they were before the meltdown.

The good news: they`re not high enough to pose a threat to the public.


LANCE: So there`s at least some positive news there.

The same can`t be said for Japan`s economy right now. Kyung Lah reports on how bad things are for the island nation.


KYUNG LAH, CNN REPORTER: The economic news out of Japan is not just bad; it is historic.

LAH (voice-over): The government of Japan is saying for the month of January this country logged a record trade deficit of $18.6 billion U.S. dollars. That is the highest since this country started keeping track in 1979. It is higher than in the aftermath of a 2008 financial crisis. It is certainly setting off some alarm bells and concerns about the health of this economy.

There was also other bad news. That`s showing that foreign investment out of Japan was going overseas, both among foreign companies, international companies choosing not to do business here in Japan, and also Japanese corporations pushing production outside of Japan.

For the second straight year, that exodus was continuing. It is the second highest on record.

LAH: So again, alarm bells being set off that there is something wrong with the state of the world`s third largest economy -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Ms. Fernandez`s social studies class at Oliveira Middle School in Brownsville, Texas.

What is the name for soil that is frozen for more than two years? You know what to do here. Is it mantle, taiga, permafrost or savanna? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Permafrost is the name for ground that`s been constantly frozen for at least two years. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


LANCE: It may be frozen, but that doesn`t mean there isn`t anything underneath. For example, Russian scientists found some seeds a few years ago in Siberia. Now these things were chilling out under the permafrost for 300 centuries, and now they`ve helped regrow an ancient plant.

Chad Myers talked with CNN`s Brooke Baldwin about how it all happened.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Scientists digging down in the permafrost --


MYERS: -- find burrows from squirrels from 30,000 years ago. These seeds, fur, fruit still in the burrows that the squirrel didn`t eat.

They take it -- they take it to their scientific lab, kind of a little bit of magic, kind of cloning, kind of stuff. They find the placenta part, the tissue of the middle. You couldn`t just plant the seeds.

BALDWIN: Wouldn`t be viable.

MYERS: Because they wouldn`t be viable. They would have rotted.

BALDWIN: Placenta part of the seed?

MYERS: And they took it -- almost like science fiction. This is like, you know, I`m thinking you know, OK, here come the dinosaurs, if we do this right. They tried to do this years ago. They tried to do it with the woolly mammoth years ago. It didn`t work.

The DNA of the woolly mammoth had broken down. But they found the DNA of this plant. They cloned the plant. They made it. They planted the seed that they made. It grew a real plant.

They took those seeds from that plant, planted it again and now --

BALDWIN: See my jaws like --

MYERS: -- again.


LANCE: Americans have been commemorating Black History Month throughout February, and a new museum dedicated to that topic broke ground yesterday.


LANCE (voice-over): It`s the Smithsonian`s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and this is a virtual tour of what it`ll look like. The idea for a national black history museum first came up nearly 100 years ago. President Obama talked about that long road during yesterday`s ceremony.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This museum should inspire us as well. It should stand as proof that the most important things in life rarely come quickly or easily. It should remind us that, although we have yet to reach the mountaintop, we cannot stop climbing.


LANCE: And, finally, I hope you guys can stomach another eating competition --


LANCE (voice-over): -- because that`s what we have in store for today`s "Before We Go" segment.

Now, this time around the chosen delicacy is one of my favorites: donuts. And the time limit is five minutes. The winner downed an even dozen, which is a little short of his personal record. Before you consider entering, keep in mind that these aren`t your average pastry treats. They`re made extra large and they have filling, too.


LANCE: So winning won`t be a cakewalk. This is one serious competition, no holds barred. That rounds out today`s show. For CNN Student News, I`m Natisha Lance.