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U.S. Conducts Naval Exercise Near Strait of Hormuz; CNN Heroes

Aired September 21, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Fridays are awesome. I`m Carl Azuz, here in Atlanta, Georgia, welcoming our viewers from around the world to CNN STUDENT NEWS.

U.S. is leading a military exercise that involved dozens of countries. Now, some officials say, that`s all this is, it`s just an exercise. But some analysts say, it could be seen as a warning.

Let`s go to the map and see where this is happening. It`s in the Middle East, and as we`re moving a little closer, you could see the Persian Gulf on the left and the Arabian Sea on the right. What connects them, is the Strait of Hormuz, and right above that, Iran. Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close off the strait. And that would really matter, because one fifth of the world`s traded oil passes through there. The military exercise is happening around the Strait. Countries are practicing how to find and remove mines. Chris Lawrence was there on a U.S. Navy ship, reporting on these exercises before they got started.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I`m standing on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, here in the north Arabian Sea. And we are just days away from one of the largest anti-mining exercises ever conducted. The U.S. and two dozen of its allies will be putting ships (inaudible) as well as divers (inaudible).

In fact, earlier this yeah, the head of Iran`s navy said that mining the Strait of Hormuz would be as easy as drinking a glass of water. Iran has also disputed U.S. claims that it could stop Iran from mining the Strait or could prevent such a mining operation.

That is what the U.S. and many of its allies will learn over the next few days. How well they can work together to possibly prevent the mining, and if the Strait and some of the waterways were mined, how quickly they could de-mine it.

The Pentagon has been steadily beefing up its Naval presence in the Gulf in response to some of the Iranian threats to mine and close the Strait of Hormuz. The Pentagon has moved four more minesweepers to this area. And it also plans to bring another aircraft carrier in earlier. It`s all part of the military`s new plan to keep two carriers in the area at all times. Now, the Navy tells us this training is not meant to be provocative, but Iranian officials who earlier this year boasted about having thousands of mines, say they are watching these exercises very closely and call the situation in the region "sensitive."

Chris Lawrence, CNN in the Arabian Sea.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the Facts. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been going on since Israel was established in 1948. One major disagreement has been over control of two regions, the West Bank and Gaza. Countries from around the world have been involved in trying to resolve the conflict, but right now, there is no peace agreement.


AZUZ: The United States has been involved in trying to come up with the peace plan for decades . Frederik Pleitgen recently spoke with some people who want the U.S. to keep working on it. There are students who are very familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because they are right in the middle of it.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Like most teenaged girls in Gaza, 15-yar old Ummsiyat Awaja likes hanging with her friends in school and chatting. And here, in Beit Lahiya, the Israeli Palestinian conflict and America`s role in trying to solve it, is often on Ummsiyat`s mind.

"When the American people elect their new president, I hope they vote in favor of the Palestinian people, she says, because we Palestinians have suffered a lot during the war.

Ummsiyat says her family`s home was destroyed during operation Cast Lead more than three years ago, when the Israeli military pounded targets in Gaza trying to prevent rocket attacks on Israel. Her brother Ibrahim was killed.

Many of Ummsiyat`s fellow pupils had similar experiences, and bitterness and hatred are evident among teachers and students.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She has a brother who was died in -- during the war, and their house was devastated or destroyed. You know the world "destroyed"?

PLEITGEN: "Israel killed my brother," she says, and destroyed the house I was living in. I honestly would like to avenge them in any way possible."

Feelings that won`t make it easier for the U.S. to mediate in the conflict that has seen years of mistrust on both sides and now, a stall peace process.

Just a few miles away from Beit Lahiya near the town of Sderot, Israeli students are also enjoying their break. 16-year old Bar Bzezinski (ph), too, wants America to do more after the election.

BAR BZEZINSKI, ISRAELI STUDENT: I think America need to do something. I don`t know exactly what the thing is, but they have to do something. Maybe to raise awareness, you know, to make people know about the situation.

PLEITGEN: Students here have suffered as well: their school was built of reinforced concrete with bomb shelters every couple of feet in the school yard.

Sderot was hit by hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza in 2009 and is still frequently targeted. Virtually all of the students here have witnessed such attacks. That`s why discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are heated in classrooms here. Should Israel be tougher or more conciliatory?

The opinions differ considerably, but they all agree, they`ve had enough of the violence.

BZEZINSKI: Because I feel it, that it`s worse. I have more alarm than ever, and I just feel that the situation is just getting worse.

PLEITGEN: On this day, the children here celebrate the weekend with a party, the theme - America. And many children on both sides of the fence in Gaza and Israel hope the U.S. will play a larger role in trying to bridge the divide between them. Fred Pleitgen CNN, Sderot, Israel.


AZUZ: We are one week in the Hispanic Heritage Month. Black History month is in February, women`s history month is in March. Why is Hispanic Heritage Month in September? Well, it all goes back to how it got started.

Hispanic Heritage Week was always the week that included September 15th and 16th. The 15th is an Independence Day of five Central American countries. The 16th is Mexican Independence Day. Officials wanted to keep that September 15th start date when the week-long even was expanded in the Hispanic Heritage Month. The goal of the event is to celebrate the culture and tradition of Hispanic Americans, the big group. The most recent data show the U.S. Hispanic population is 52 million. That means the U.S. has a larger Hispanic population than almost any other country in the world.

On December Second, CNN will announce its hero of the year. This started with thousands of nominees, people who are making the positive difference in the lives of others. You`ve seen several of them on our show. Now, we`d like to give you a look at this year`s top ten CNN heroes and the incredible work that they are doing.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I`m Anderson Cooper. All year, we`ve been introducing you to every day people who are changing the world. We call them, CNN Heroes. Well, now we announce the top ten CNN heroes for 2012. The honorees are in random order. Connie Siskowski is helping children who are caring for ill or aging loved ones to stay in school and hold on to their childhood.

Pushpa Basnet saves innocent children from growing up behind bars with their incarcerated parents.

Thulani Madondo organizes his Kliptown community to educate hundreds of their next generation.

Mary Cortani enlists men`s best friend to give fellow veterans a way to move beyond PTSD and into life again.

Malya Villard-Appolon has turned personal trauma into a fight for justice for thousands or rape survivors in Haiti.

After using sports to fight his own addiction, Scott Strode now helps former addicts to stay fit and sober.

Wanda Butts brings water safety and swimming lessons to those most vulnerable, black and Latino children.

Catalina Excobar ensures healthy deliveries and solid futures for Colombian teens already facing motherhood.

Leo McCarthy`s tragic loss of his daughter sparked his mission to end the culture of under-aged drinking.

And where terrorists stop at nothing to keep girls from being educated, Razia Jan fearlessly opens her school each and every day.

Congratulations, the top ten CNN Heroes of 2012. Tell us who inspires you the most. Go to online, or on your mobile device to vote for the CNN Hero of the year.


AZUZ: So you may think of mowing the lawn as a chore. For these guys, it`s lunch. The airport here in Atlanta, Georgia is swapping up mechanical mowers for mammalian ones. At least the sheep and goats are getting a tryout. They are clearing, eating, brush weeds and grass from around one of the runways.

Might seem like a lot of work, but I`m willing to bet the animals are excited about it. I mean who wouldn`t be?

After all, the attraction of free food is universal. As for chowing down in front of the others, hey, they don`t look too sheepish about it. And if an animal tries to steal some of the food, it definitely will be on the lam. Some puns are brilliant, others are just bad. But we will be back with more next week. Have a good weekend.