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The Crisis in Syria

Aired March 16, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: It is Friday. That is always awesome. I`m Carl Azuz. This is CNN Student News. We`re ready to take flight with 10 minutes of commercial-free headlines starting in three, two, one --


AZUZ: One full year -- that is how long the crisis in Syria has been going on. Opposition groups blame the violence on Syria`s government. Syrian officials say armed terrorists are responsible for the fighting.


AZUZ (voice-over): What we know is that all of this started with protests, like the ones you see in these YouTube videos. The Syrians were speaking out against their government, calling for the change. The conflict has had a significant impact on how Syria is viewed by some other countries.


AZUZ: And that has had an impact on Syria`s economy. John Defterios looks at the shift that some investors have made over the past 12 months.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): A little over a year ago, investing in Syria seemed like a good idea. The country had avoided the worst of the global economic crisis. The private sector was opening up. A virtually untapped domestic consumer market offered real opportunities and foreign direct investment was on the rise.

But a year on, and street protests against the rule of Bashar al-Assad have led to a bloody military crackdown with thousands losing their lives. International sanctions have left the Syrian economy in tatters. Trade and investment flows are all but frozen, especially from within the region.

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been two of the largest investors in Syria. Before the turmoil, both countries viewed Syria as a hot market for property and construction. But now those countries appear to be limiting or, in some cases, completely stopping their projects. The state-owned Qatari Diar Real Estate Company has halted work on the $350 million resort in the poor city of Latakia.

Drake and Scull, a firm based in the UAE, recently stopped its $28 million project in the Syrian city of Homs, where troops were deployed to stamp out protests. The cash surplus countries of the Gulf used to see Syria as an investment safe haven away from the economic struggles of the West. But that notion has fundamentally changed and the future of all investments in Syria have been thrown into grave uncertainty.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s first Shoutout goes out to Mr. Platner`s social studies class at the Morse School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Johannes Gutenberg is famous for doing what? Is it creating binary code, inventing the radio, discovering a polio vaccine or inventing the printing press? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Gutenberg is credited with inventing the printing press back in the 1400s. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Britannica has printed sets of its famous encyclopedias for 244 years, but there won`t be a 245th. The company says the 32-volume set from 2010 will be its last one in book form. The reason: at least part of it is you.


AZUZ (voice-over): When you have to do research for a paper or a report, chances are you`re not running to grab a book off the shelf. You`re doing what we do. We go online, and that`s where Britannica says it`ll focus now, its digital encyclopedia. It`s been publishing an online version since 1994.

The company`s president says a lot of people might call the decision to stop printing encyclopedias the end of an era. But he says it`s no big deal for Britannica. Printed encyclopedias were less than 1 percent of Britannica`s total sales.


AZUZ: We`ve reported on schools that are trying the same sort of thing as Britannica, replacing textbooks with e-readers. But our next story is about a school in Silicon Valley, a region that`s home to major technology companies. But this school is heading in the opposite direction, not just low-tech, no-tech. Dan Simon explains what this is all about.


DAN SIMON, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The Waldorf School of the Peninsula, a school with old-fashioned chalkboards and a curriculum centered around physical activity and hands-on tasks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the way over.

SIMON (voice-over): Third graders using balls to help coordinate both sides of the brain, high school students drawing on a chalkboard as a way of interpreting a book. This school has zero technology, nada, no computers, no Internet. Matthew`s daughter used to attend a school where every child had a laptop.

SABRINE MENGERINK, STUDENT: I think I prefer it much better without them, because it`s a distraction. I didn`t really feel connected to the other students as much as I do in Waldorf.

SIMON (voice-over): At a time where some schools are now embedding social media into their teaching, like this school in Los Angeles --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember, Damian, make sure you have a # in front of the wwi.

SIMON (voice-over): -- the Waldorf School looks like something from another era. Yet 75 percent of the school`s families have at least one parent working in high-tech.

SIMON: Why do you feel people who work in high technology choose to send their children to a school that preaches no technology?

LUCY WURTZ, WALDORF SCHOOL OF THE PENINSULA: Well, it`s amazing, when parents go on tour and they come on our campus, a lot of people feel like it`s just a really natural way to raise children.

SIMON (voice-over): Lucy Wurtz is the school`s development director and helped establish a Waldorf High School in 2007. Her husband is a prominent Silicon Valley executive.

WURTZ: Sometimes people feel like life is going way too fast, and they want their children to have a more natural, slow-paced developmental childhood. So I think that`s what we provide at the Waldorf School.

SIMON (voice-over): One hundred sixty Waldorf Schools are spread across the country. Students don`t take standardized tests, so its success in comparison to other schools is difficult to measure, but its leaders boast that 94 percent of its graduates go on to college.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time for a Shoutout Extra Credit. Which of these countries is observing a national holiday on Saturday? You know what to do. Is it Ecuador, Ireland, Morocco or Georgia? Another three seconds on that clock and go.

Saturday is St. Patrick`s Day and the national holiday of Ireland. That`s your answer and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: As you well know, the celebration isn`t limited to Ireland. St. Patrick`s Day festivities happen all over the place. They`ve been going on in the United States for 275 years.


AZUZ (voice-over): The first St. Patrick`s Day celebration in the U.S. happened in Boston back in 1737. New York held its first St. Patrick`s Day parade 250 years ago. And these days that one is the largest St. Patrick`s Day parade in the world. More than 150,000 people march in it every year.

According to the U.S. Census information from 2010, more than 34 million Americans say they have Irish ancestors. That`s more than seven times the population of Ireland.


AZUZ: Well, the economy is something constantly in the news. You hear the president and members of Congress talk about it, experts and analysts look at different economic indicators. But you don`t always get opinions from everyday people, and that`s exactly who you`re going to hear from in`s new "Across the Board" segment. Watch this.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son-in-law`s been underemployed for the past two years. This really put a hardship on my daughter and my grandchildren. I really want to see something good happen to them this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are forgetting about the middle class in the U.S. We`re so focused on the poor and the rich that we forget about actual (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In general, a lot of people nowadays are spending way above and beyond their means. Basically try to, you know, live a little more frugally.


AZUZ: All right. Before we go, get ready for some mechanized mayhem.


AZUZ (voice-over): It is Europe`s biggest robot competition. You know, they`re supposed to be fighting here, right? OK. One of them just falls over backwards. And this year offered a new category: flying robots. All in all, nearly 300 self-built bots faced off in different competitions. Might want to test that guy. Looks like he`s on the juice.

And this mechanical monster is hoping to get a leg up on the competition. That`s the kind of event that`ll really test your "metal." We`re not too worried about the nuts and bolts of the competition. We just hope everyone was geared up to have a good time. That`s all the time we`re going to "steel" from you, though.

Quick shoutout to the Thunderbirds at Harmony Middle School, who got our social media question right for the second time. So for the rest of you, for next week, the challenge is on. Have a great weekend. We`ll look forward to seeing y`all on Monday. Bye-bye.