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Elections in Syria amid the Civil War Is Opposed by U.S. Government; Remembering Tiananmen; Raising Minimum Wage; Loneliness Effect on Human Health

Aired June 4, 2014 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to all of our viewers worldwide to Wednesday`s edition of CNN STUDENT NEWS. I`m Carl Azuz.

First up, voting booths opened yesterday in Syria, a Middle Eastern country torn apart by civil war. Its current president Bashar al-Assad is expected to win easily. The Syrian government says the vote shows the nation is moving forward despite three years of fighting. But the U.S., which opposes al-Assad`s government, says it`s difficult, if not impossible for Syria to have free and fair elections.

Voting is taking place only in areas controlled by the Syrian government. Some parts of northern and eastern Syria are controlled by the rebels fighting it.

An expert in international relations says the purpose of this election is to further solidify al-Assad`s position as president. To make it clear he is not going anywhere.

The United Nations says the election will make it harder for Syria to find the political solution it needs.

Around 150,000 people have died in Syria`s civil war, 6.5 million have had to leave their homes.

Well, officially it`s called People`s Republic of China, but its government type is a communist state. This means the government has broad control over China`s economy. The media and the communist party makes China`s laws.

That`s why the Tiananmen Square incident isn`t publically talked about in China today. But when it happened 25 years ago, it involved around a million protesters and with widely broadcast in other countries.

After ten years of economic growth and growing knowledge of other nations` ways of life, a massive group of Chinese students protested demanding more democracy in China. Some risked their lives to do it. The government`s ultimate response became an infamous chapter in the country`s history.



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In 1989 thousands of students acted with belief they would change China. And during euphoric summer in Tiananmen Square many thought they could.

Then the Communist Party ordered the crackdown.


MCKENZIE: And the soldiers mobilized crashing the democracy movement.

"I was there," says this woman. It was chaotic. They had guns and shooting, bang, bang, bang, all night it went. There was fighting everywhere."

"There were bullet holes right in this wall," says this witness. It was a night of fear and for many of shame. "Everyone thought they shouldn`t have opened fire," he says. Why did they open fire?

Back then, the party defended its crackdown, but now those questions are left unanswered and no one is allowed to speak of the massacre.

So before long, the police tracked us and shut us down.

"We both know why you can`t come here right now," he tells me.

The democracy movement started long before June 4 and this place, Beijing University was where the discussion started and the idea started forming for the students to protest.

"Does a day June 4 mean anything to you?" we asked. "What is it, a national holiday," she says.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): No. I haven`t he says.

MCKENZIE: Many young people in China have never heard of June 4, but fresh from graduation, these students says some do talk about the massacre and private.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s little dissensitive.

MCKENZIE: Because you never know who could be listening, she says.

(on camera): Have people forgotten history here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. People don`t - just forgotten in history, but I just say in China, people are really tyrant, people know that this happened and we need to focus on the future.

MCKENZIE: In a way the future looks like this: throngs of tourists streaming everyday onto Tiananmen Square.

It seems like the blackout of history is almost complete because the party wants to make sure that this never happens again. David McKenzie, CNN, Beijing.


AZUZ: From China we are taking you to Poland. President Obama arrived in that country`s capital yesterday. It`s part of a four-day trip to Europe that will take the president to three countries. He met with Poland`s president and promised to increase support for America`s allies in Europe. That includes Poland. President Obama asked Congress for a billion dollars. That money would go to increase military training exercises for U.S. allies near Russia`s borders. The U.S. and Russia have been at odds over the crisis in Ukraine. Critics have accused the Obama administration of having weak international leadership. The president`s hoping this trip will help cement his position on the world stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time for the "Shoutout." What is the federal minimum wage in the U.S.? If you think you know it, shout it out. Is it 5.15, 6.55, 7.25, or 10.10 per hour? You`ve got three seconds, go!

Since 2009, the U.S. federal minimum wage has been 7.25 per hour. That`s your answer and that`s your shoutout.

AZUZ: President Obama has been pushing for a minimum wage increase. He wants it to be $10.10 an hour. But Congress has to pass the law that would do that, and Democrats and Republicans are divided on the issue. The Congressional Budget Office, which gives non-partisan analysis of economic issues says raising the minimum wage to 10.10 would mean higher wages for 16.5 million Americans. But it also says that bad effects would balance up the good. Prices on many goods and services would go up. Businesses would lose money, and an estimated 500,000 Americans would lose their jobs.

States and cities can set their own minimum wages as long as they are equal to or higher than the federal minimum. Seattle, Washington just became the city with the highest minimum wage in America. $15 an hour. Economists aren`t sure yet of the long term effects this will have, but some business leaders caution that the law was passed during a booming economy for Seattle. If that doesn`t last they say their ability to pay higher wages may not either.

From Northern Europe to Southern Africa, it`s worldwide Wednesday on the CNN STUDENT NEWS "Roll Call." In Brunssum, Netherlands, it`s great to see our viewers at the Outnorth (ph) International School. Thank you for watching. In Mons, Belgium, hello to the students of Shape (ph) High School, a Department of Defense education facility. And in Kazembe, Zambia, shoutout to everyone at St. John Basco (ph) School. We are happy to be part of your school day.

A psychologist at the University of Chicago estimates that about 40 percent of Americans are lonely. That rate has doubled since the 1980s, even though tens of millions more people live here now. Ways to fight loneliness include volunteering, a new hobby, getting active in church, reaching out to another lonely person. But if loneliness is coming, why address it at all?


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This will shock you, just how much of an impact being lonely can have on your health. What they found out in the few different studies is that it`s on par with being a smoker. It increases your risk of real diseases like heart disease, like diabetes. So we thing about loneliness in this abstract sense, but the health effects are very objective and very real.

As a neuroscientist, I was so interested in this idea that we know where pain resides in the brain and what we now know is that people who are chronically lonely, they have higher activity in that pain part of the brain. So even though it`s loneliness, it can register as physical pain.

Having friends really does seem to keep people healthy. The simple act of being social defines people`s immune systems and actually it performs better. Simply saying hello can make the person who gets that greeting live longer. The evidence is pretty clear on this, and we are starting to get more and more evidence that you yourself by saying hello, it`s so empowering that could actually do wonders for your health as well.


AZUZ: Getting married has often been characterized as taking the plunge. At a recent event in Minnesota it was literally a plunge. A few bridesmaids made it off the dock OK, the rest of the party will never forget this wedding. In defense of the dock, the party was huge. 22 people in dresses and tuxes, and even though most of them had to dry off afterward, the ceremony only started ten minutes late, despite the fact that they all missed the boat while they say marriage is a sink or a swim undertaking, and there`s a good sign this one will hold water. I`m Carl Azuz, and if you ask me if I want to do this again tomorrow, I do. And I propose you join us on CNN STUDENT NEWS.