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CNN Student News Transcript: September 11, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Explore the next steps as the debate over health care reform rages on
  • Check out some global headlines, from California to Iraq to Pakistan
  • Hear how 50 U.S. students rose to a challenge from their city's mayor
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(CNN Student News) -- September 11, 2009

Quick Guide

Health Care Push - Explore the next steps as the debate over health care reform rages on.

Wildfire Investigation - Check out some global headlines, from California to Iraq to Pakistan.

Graduation Pledge - Hear how 50 U.S. students rose to a challenge from their city's mayor.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Can't live without Fridays; can live without commercials. And that is why CNN Student News is your commercial-free source for classroom news! Hi, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz broadcasting from Atlanta.

First Up: Health Care Push

AZUZ: Forecast for Washington, D.C.: partly cloudy, with a 100-percent chance of crossfire. Disagreements, discussions and debate: in a word, democracy is hard at work. Part of the reason we've seen President Obama push health care reform so hard is because it was a major promise of his campaign and one major reason why he got elected. He believes that every American should have health insurance. In fact, he has a proposal that requires it. And yesterday, he explained why:

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The Census Bureau released new data showing not only that the poverty rate increased last year at the highest rate since the early 1990s, but also that the number of uninsured rose in 2008. And we know from more up-to-date surveys that since the recession intensified last September, the situation's grown worse.

AZUZ: The thing is, not everyone agrees with the president that it's the government's job to provide health coverage. And though there are some things that Democrats and Republicans do agree on -- that insurance costs are going up, that some rules about insurance coverage ought to be changed -- some don't agree with the president's proposed solutions. Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele:

MICHAEL STEELE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: In my view, the president, I think, missed an opportunity to clearly define in a common sense, straightforward way, exactly how we should go about the business of reforming those aspects of our health care system that we have particular problems with.

AZUZ: Now, Mr. Obama isn't the first president to try to reform the nation's health care system. President Harry Truman tried and failed right after World War II. President Bill Clinton tried and failed in the early 1990s. How will this attempt turn out? That is what we will find out in the weeks ahead.

Word to the Wise


backfires (noun) fires that are started on purpose to help keep another fire from spreading

Wildfire Investigation

AZUZ: They do that by using up fuel before larger fires can get to it. It's one strategy being used to try and control the Station Fire. We've told you about this thing. It's been burning in California for more than two weeks now. Investigators say it was caused by arson; someone started it intentionally. About 3,600 firefighters are battling this blaze. Two firefighters died while trying to escape the fast-moving flames. A week ago, the fire was about 38 percent contained. Yesterday, that number was 71 percent. That gives you an idea of how tough it can be to get this large of a wildfire under control.

Iraq Troop Levels

AZUZ: Moving to the Middle East, where a top U.S. military commander says it's too early to tell whether some American troops scheduled to leave Iraq this year will be able to. The plan is for all U.S. forces to be out of the country entirely by the end of next year. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq says that goal is still on track. Government officials had announced that several thousand troops might be able to leave by the end of this year, but a top general says that will depend on the country's security situation, which he says is better, but still dangerous. That point was made clear yesterday, when four bombing attacks killed at least 26 people and wounded more than 80 others.

Pakistani Militias

AZUZ: And over in Pakistan, the country is giving credit to militias for helping to drive out the Taliban from the Swat Valley. Militias, they're fighters; they're not part of the military. They're members of private groups, some of which include up to 500 armed men. They're not paid, and often, they have to leave their families for extended periods of time. So, why would you volunteer to take on the Taliban? Many of the militia members say they're taking part to help protect their villages and to help establish peace in their country.

NASA Rocket Test

AZUZ: Back in this country, NASA is exploring the next generation of space travel, and yesterday's testfire of a replacement rocket really brought the heat. About 4,500 degrees of heat! That is the Ares I rocket, the largest and most powerful motor on the planet. And that sand that was behind it? Not sand now. The testfire turned it into glass! The rocket might take the place of the space shuttle when those vehicles are retired next year.


NIVISON: Today's Shoutout goes out to Coach Hammett and Mrs. Beckworth's current issues class at Appling County High School in Baxley, Georgia! What is the name of this song? Is it: A) The 1812 Overture, B) Ode To Joy, C) Pomp and Circumstance or D) Umbrella? You've got three seconds -- GO! Pomp and Circumstance has been played at graduations for around a century. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Graduation Pledge

AZUZ: Getting your diploma while Pomp and Circumstance is playing is something pretty much everyone looks forward to. Unfortunately, statistics show it might not happen. In fact, only 70 percent of U.S. high school students graduate in four years. The mayor of Houston, Texas challenged a group of young people to beat that statistic. Katie McCall of affiliate KTRK reports on the results.


KATIE MCCALL, KTRK, HOUSTON REPORTER: For Brittany Datson, graduating from high school wasn't always an expectation.

BRITTANY DATSON, HISD GRADUATE: I can't tell you how many funerals for people my age I've been to.

MCCALL: Her years at Jack Yates High School were filled with obstacles most adults would struggle to overcome. Her parents lost their jobs, and her father passed away.

DATSON: My mother was the type of parent, whatever we needed we had. But you can tell in a house when you're really trying to stretch a dollar to make sure that your lights stay on and your water stays on.

MCCALL: Along with the support of her family, there was something else that kept Datson going: a promise she made to Mayor Bill White. In 2004, she was one of 50 HISD students who were at risk and signed a pledge to the mayor promising to graduate. The mayor's office expected a large percentage to do so, and all fifty of them did.

HOUSTON MAYOR BILL WHITE: Every time you change one life, then that should be counted as a success.

MCCALL: Datson is now a freshman at Lamar University.

DATSON: You know, they just invested in us. They didn't treat us like we were some kids. They looked at us as like positive, like we're valuable.

MCCALL: To reward the students for fulfilling their pledge, several charities partnered with the mayor's office to give them a graduation present. It includes a computer, dresser, desk and a bed. Datsun says the new dorm room will help keep her on a path to success.

DATSON: To me, it was like I was a little piece of coal and they seen the diamond.

MCCALL: Datson is working toward a career in human resources, and she knows her father would be proud.

DATSON: I'm in college. That's what he wanted me to do. I'm gonna make it.


Student Views

AZUZ: Bet she will. While those students are making it though, you might be surprised at the number who don't: more than a million. According to America's Promise Alliance, that is how many drop out of high school every year. Can anything be done to reverse that trend? Recently, we asked some students to weigh in with their ideas. Here's what they had to say.


TYLER JACOBS, 12TH GRADE: I would definitely do a bigger tutoring program.

DOWLING PAYNE, 12TH GRADE: Maybe if there's an organization at school that specifically helped students not to drop out, that could help tutor them.

CHELSEA WOODY, 12TH GRADE: Create a program that would show them the results of staying in high school and what they can accomplish with having a greater education.

EMIRAMI PEPE, 11TH GRADE: Maybe we could go to the parents and talk about after-school mentoring at the house if they're having trouble with anything.

BRAD HIGGINS, 11TH GRADE: I'd probably tell them to get themselves in a club or in a sport, and find a group of friends to stay with and stay active.

DEVEN JOHNSON, 12TH GRADE: Well, I think the best way to prevent it is just to go one on one with them.

ERICA BERG, 12TH GRADE: I would try to make the classes a lot more engaging. There are a lot of things that they're doing now with new technologies that they're trying to bring into the schools to try to make the learning more hands on.

MARCUS BENNING, 12TH GRADE: Get them more engaged in understanding that if they do well now, it could set them up for an excellent future 50 years from now.


Blog and Facebook

AZUZ: If there was one thing you could do to keep someone from dropping out of school, what would it be? This week we've heard from the president, the mayor of Houston, just now from some students, all talking about education. It's your turn! Head to our blog at, tell us how you would stop a dropout. Also, our Facebook page is poppin'! We'll be putting up a new video today. You oughta check it out. It's at

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, some foods you're supposed to eat with your hands. Spaghetti, not one of them, but don't tell these guys. Really hungry or in a hurry. Either way, this can't be good for digestion. Of course, this is an equal opportunity eating competition. Women can pig out too. You can see right here. It's much more polite when you use a fork, folks. Some of the younger onlookers seemed less than impressed with the grueling gorging.



AZUZ: Or maybe they were just past-a point of caring anymore. That's all for today! You guys have a great weekend. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.

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