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CNN Student News Transcript: December 16, 2009

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CNN Student News - 12/16/2009

(CNN Student News) -- December 16, 2009

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Thomson, Illinois



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Economy, eruptions, and animals: all of these things you'll find in today's edition of CNN Student News. What you will not find are commercials. Reporting from the CNN Center, I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Thomson Prison

AZUZ: A transfer to Thomson, Illinois. That is what's in store for some suspected terrorists who are currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The U.S. government says these men are heading to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. The city of Thompson, about 150 miles away from Chicago. Authorities say fewer than 100 of the detainees who are currently being held in Cuba will be moved to the Illinois prison. As part of the deal, the federal government will buy the Thomson facility and upgrade one part of it to make it more secure than any current U.S. prison.

Some Illinois lawmakers have praised this decision. The state's governor estimates it could provide thousands of jobs and bring up to a billion dollars of government money to the area. But other people are strongly against the idea. One Thomson resident said that the people who take those jobs might not even live in the town. And some officials argue that moving suspected terrorists to the U.S. could make the area a target for terrorist attacks, potentially putting Americans in danger.

Cash for Caulkers

AZUZ: President Obama wants Congress to create a program designed to help the economy and the environment. You might remember Cash for Clunkers. This new program's being called "cash for caulkers." The president talked about the plan at a Home Depot store yesterday. The idea of it would be to offer people cash rebates to improve their homes' energy efficiency. They could do that by replacing windows, caulking up leaks or upgrading their heaters. But some experts say this program may fall flat if consumers have to spend a lot of money up front in order to get the rebates. Plus, there are concerns about fraud -- that some people might try to abuse the program. Here's what some folks are saying.

MAN ON THE STREET #1: I think it's a great incentive to save energy. I think it makes our homes smarter. I think it helps the consumer save money, and I think it's a great use of government funds.

MAN ON THE STREET #2: I think our debt level's high enough now in the country that we don't need to take on any additional debt.

WOMAN ON THE STREET #1: If they would have given me the money for it, then sure. But I can't afford it right now.

WOMAN ON THE STREET #2: As always, those who can will take advantage of the programs that are out there. Those who can't won't be able to.


STAN CASE, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mr. Johnson's senior civics classes at Pendleton High School in Pendleton, Oregon! Where would you find the area of volcanic activity called the "Ring of Fire"? Is it: A) Sahara Desert, B) Black Sea, C) Death Valley or D) Pacific Ocean? You've got three seconds -- GO! The Pacific Ocean is where you'll find the Ring of Fire, home to more than half of the world's 500 active volcanoes.

Philippines Volcano

AZUZ: That's also where you'll find the Philippines, an island nation whose most active volcano seems ready to erupt. Tuesday morning, authorities started evacuating about 50,000 people who live near the volcano. As of Monday, scientists said they had recorded 83 volcanic quakes and had raised the alert level to a level 3. That means that a full-scale eruption is expected to take place within weeks, maybe days. This volcano's erupted 49 times since its first documented one in 1616. The most recent major eruption came in 1993.

Secure, Hold and Build

AZUZ: The U.S. military's top officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, says that the most important goal for the U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan is making sure that the nation does not provide a safe haven to extremists. With 30,000 additional U.S. forces on the way to the Asian country, Atia Abawi looks at the situation they may find when they arrive.


ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Recess, something that didn't happen here for more than 30 years. This school was built in the 1970s, but for three decades, it wasn't used for education. Up until six months ago, it stored opium, poppies and drugs for the drug barons. Today, children in Khanshin -- well, at least the boys -- are getting an education.

"I told the kids how long do you want to be farmers," Habibullah says. "You need to pick up a pen. A Kalashnikov will not take the place of a pen. It's pen and paper that will make you rise."

But it was weapons and rockets that these villagers witnessed in the summer, when another battle began and they were caught in the middle.

In July 2009, the Marines took Khanshin district and this bazaar back from the Taliban. On that day, all of these stores were closed and the Afghans were skeptical. Six months later, at least 50 percent of the stores are open. And although the Afghans are more receptive, there still is skepticism.

The mistrust lies in the fact that the coalition troops were here years before but had to leave because of the lack of forces to hold the area. The Taliban flooded back and took control for the next three years, punishing those who had sided with the foreign forces.

"Now the people believe the coalition will not leave them and they are here to stay," Governor Massoud said. "If they think that the Americans will leave, they will stop supporting them because they know the Taliban will come back and harass them."

And although President Barack Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan focuses on winning over the people, these Marines and soldiers have already been hard at work doing just that, leaving the relative comfort and safety of their bases to experience the sometimes unforgiving land. And engaging the villagers who say winning their support is very simple.

"We hear from the U.S. all the time that they don't want to kill the civilians," Rahmatullah says. "If they put that into action, everyone will be happy with them."

Last summer's mission was to secure, hold and build, and Khanshin is an example of change. In six months, the Marines have been able to secure and hold, but now the Afghans wait to see the building efforts promised. And what they fear is abandonment again. Atia Abawi, CNN, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.


Money Word

TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Here's the deal: Today's Money Word is capital. It describes a company's available resources. For example, financial capital is money. Put that in your word bank!

Bank Failures

AZUZ: Not having financial capital is a big reason why more than 130 U.S. banks have failed this year. Many of them ended up in that position because they didn't diversify. That's when a person or a business makes different kinds of investments in order to reduce risk; it's like having backup. David Mattingly talks with the president of one of these failed banks to find out how it happened.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As president and CEO of the Community Bank of West Georgia, Richard Hayden thought he had all the bases covered.

And as long as they are building houses and as long as people were building houses and people were buying them, you were OK?


MATTINGLY: He says making loans to developers in metro Atlanta's booming real estate market was a way to double your money in five to 10 years. But when the subprime crisis hit, the real estate-heavy formula for success turned into a recipe for disaster.

What percentage of the bank's money was tied up in real estate development?

HAYDEN: In the neighborhood of 65 percent to 70 percent?

MATTINGLY: Isn't that a lot, for one bank to invest in real estate that heavily? Weren't you leaving yourself open for a fall?

HAYDEN: Well obviously, in hindsight, with the collapse in the real estate market, it wasn't the right thing to do.

MATTINGLY: Georgia leads the nation in stories just like this. 24 banks have failed this year, many of them small startups. The popular idea was to build up the bottom line quick, then sell out at a profit to a bigger bank. Construction and commercial real estate was a proven way to go until the bottom suddenly fell out.

Were they just too busy making money to see the problem that was looming there?

BYRON RICHARDSON, BANKING CONSULTANT: Absolutely. They were all chasing this and drinking the same Kool-Aid, if you will.

MATTINGLY: Banking consultant Byron Richardson says many banks he works with ignored conventional wisdom to diversify and counted heavily on real estate developers moving their new properties quickly to pay them back.

And when they stop, the money stops coming back to the bank.

RICHARDSON: Stops coming back to the bank, the suppliers don't get paid, and there's a ripple effect.

MATTINGLY: How could they not see this coming?

RICHARDSON: Because it absolutely stopped.

MATTINGLY: It just took just a matter of months for that ripple effect to wipe out Hayden's bank. There was no government bailout and no time for a small startup bank to recover.

HAYDEN: It was like somebody turned the light switch off. I mean, it just happened almost immediately. So, it would have taken years for us to restructure and to do something different.


Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go today, we want to point out some spineless activity. This octopus is stealing a giant coconut shell, running away, and then hiding like it never happened. It's unbelievable! Some scientists are so shocked at the octopus's actions, they argue it makes him one of the smartest animals on earth. They say the octopus is using the coconuts to protect itself from predators, making it the only animal without a backbone to use tools.


AZUZ: And when it comes to bragging rights, that must give him a leg up... or eight. We'll sea you again tomorrow. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.