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President Obama Visits Ft. Bragg

Aired December 15, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


GROUP: We`re the senior class of 2012, and you`re watching CNN Student News. Whoo!

CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: A big thanks to Mr. Erskine`s (ph) students for introducing our penultimate program of 2011. I`m Carl Azuz, and you`re in store for 10 minutes of commercial-free headlines, starting right now.

First up, President Obama has two words for American troops who`ve been serving in Iraq: welcome home. That was his message during a visit to North Carolina`s Ft. Bragg yesterday. As we`ve reported, the war in Iraq is officially over. Almost all U.S. military personnel will be out of that country by the end of this year, though about 16,000 U.S. officials and contractors will remain in Iraq.


AZUZ (voice-over): The president and first lady ,Michelle Obama, praised the efforts and sacrifices of the men and women who served in Iraq, and their families. President Obama said the fact that U.S. forces sacrificed so much for people they`d never met is an example of what makes Americans special.


AZUZ: He also said Iraq will continue to deal with challenges. Some of these are being faced by Iraqi Christians right now. Around 97 percent of Iraqis are Muslim, but there`s a small Christian community there. And Michael Holmes explains why that community could face more threats now than it did before.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Christmas approaches, and Iraqi Christians pray for peace, goodwill, and that they`ll make it to next Christmas alive. Outside, police and church security on high alert ; being a Christian in Iraq is enough to cost you your life.

SAAD SIROP HANNA, IRAQI PRIEST: It is a time, actually, for celebrations and for being very happy because Christ is coming, actually, to our life, to our churches, to our country. But we are afraid. We are afraid of attacks.

HOLMES: The war here has done the Christian community no favors at all. Saddam Hussein, of course, often brutally, kept the lid on extremists and Christians here benefited from that. Those who would have wanted to do them harm could not. Well, that, of course, has now all changed.

HANNA: I was kidnapped in 2006 from my church. I was.

HOLMES (voice-over): Father Saad Sirop Hanna was held by Muslim extremists for 28 days.

HOLMES: Did you think you would die?

HANNA: Yes. Yes, and sometimes actually (ph). Yes, sure (ph).

HOLMES (voice-over): Hundreds of other Christians have died throughout the war. Dozens of churches have been bombed, priests and parishioners abducted, the homes of the faithful attacked. Last year in October, the worst attack so far, gunmen stormed a Baghdad church, taking the congregation hostage and detonating bombs. More than 50 worshipers died.

Back at St. Joseph`s, Father Sirop Hanna says there will be a Christmas tree inside this year, no decorations outside. He says that would be inviting trouble to a church that`s already received its most recent threat just this month.

Today, the faithful came regardless, defiantly celebrating their religion, while acknowledging it could come with a heavy price -- Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this legit? The U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights were ratified at the same time. Not true. The Constitution was ratified in 1788. The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.


AZUZ: In fact, the Bill of Rights was ratified on this very day back in 1791. There are 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights includes the first 10.


AZUZ (voice-over): You know some of the big ones: freedom of religion and speech, protection from having to testify against yourself, protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The Bill of Rights also includes freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to a trial by jury, the right to a speedy trial and the right to bear arms.

The Bill of Rights was created because some folks worried the Constitution outlined the rights of the federal government, but not the rights of the people.


AZUZ: NBA had to cancel part of its season because of a lockout, but when the league does start back up later this month, it`s going to have something new: a program on player concussions.


AZUZ (voice-over): The NBA announced the new plan on Monday. Its goal is to protect players from the long-term impact of these head injuries. The other major U.S. pro sports leagues have their own concussion policies. The NBA`s went into effect last Friday when training camps opened. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks a little bit about how it works.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They`re now going to have standardized testing for players before they start the season, and that testing is going to be done every year.

And this seems to be a common theme. Because of sometimes the vagueness of concussion symptoms, what they`re talking about here is testing all the players at the beginning of the season, and then if there is some suspicion of a concussion, doing another exam and comparing the two.

That`s something we keep hearing about in the NFL as well, and that seems to be the best way to try and take out some of the vagueness of concussion testing.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Mr. Hutton and Ms. Shaler`s humanities classes at McKinley Middle School in Racine, Wisconsin. What do crude oil, wheat and silver all have in common? Are they all commodities, dividends, renewable resources or nonrenewable resources? You`ve got three seconds, go.

They`re all commodities, goods that can be bought and sold. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Commodities play a big part in our next two stories. In the first one, Poppy Harlow looks at the land that some of these commodities are grown on. Some investors think their money is better spent out in the fields than on the floor of the stock market right now. But critics warn those purchases come with their own risks.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): After decades of trading stocks and fighting the wild swings of the markets, Dave Erickson saw something he liked a whole lot better..

DAVID ERICKSON, FARMLAND INVESTOR: We are in Plainfield, Illinois, southwest of Chicago.

HARLOW (voice-over): . farmland.

ERICKSON: It`s something that you can hold onto, and it`s real.

HARLOW (voice-over): This year, he and his partners spent $11 million buying 735 acres of farmland, right outside Chicago.

ERICKSON: We`re looking it as a investment with the future growth and the builders returning. This is one is slated for single family homes and townhomes.

HARLOW (voice-over): Brokers like Keith Warpinski sold land like this to developers at steep prices during the housing boom.

KEITH WARPINSKI, LAND BROKER, FIRM PROPERTIES: I sold land in the $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 per acre range four, five, six years ago.

HARLOW (voice-over): But then came the bust.

WARPINSKI: Now those prices are so depressed, you`re buying land for $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 per acre.

ERICKSON: This property was close to $100,000 an acre.

HARLOW: $100,000 an acre?

ERICKSON: $100,000.


ERICKSON: Just five years ago.

HARLOW: And what did you buy it for?

ERICKSON: We bought this one for $17,100.

HARLOW: $17,000?

ERICKSON: $17,000.

HARLOW (voice-over): Developers may have been hurt in the financial meltdown, but land for farming is in real demand.

HARLOW: According to the Chicago Fed, farmland prices here in Illinois are up 23 percent in just the last year.

HARLOW (voice-over): High commodity prices and low interest rates are feeding demand, but so is fear.

DAVID KLEIN, FARM BROKER: There`s not a lot of other things out there that people really trust. They know if they buy a farm, it`s going to be there.

HARLOW (voice-over): But buyer beware.

WILLIAM ISAAC, FORMER CHAIRMAN, FDIC: You have to plan for these worst-case scenarios. You have to.

HARLOW (voice-over): Bill Isaac was chair of the FDIC when the farmland bubble burst in the `80s.

HARLOW: Does this feel like we`re on the cusp of something similar?

ISAAC: I think we could be. We`re not there yet. We`ve got to get interest rates up higher at some point, significantly higher. And people who are buying land, which is illiquid, need to take that into account. And agricultural prices may come down. And they have to count -- and factor that into their equation.

HARLOW (voice-over): But whether to grow or to build, land is back in fashion.


AZUZ: Our next story takes us across the Atlantic Ocean to Norway. The commodity we`re considering here is butter. It`s important for baking, especially if you`re making any Christmas cookies. But first you need to get it, and that`s the problem.


AZUZ (voice-over): Norway is facing a butter shortage. Couple reasons for that: people have been using more butter for low-carb diets and making natural home-cooked meals, and Norway had lower milk production this year.

Any of you taking economics know this is affecting price as well. Higher demand and lower supply means the price of butter has shot way up, in some places more than 30 times the normal price.


AZUZ: Well, for years greeters in Maine have welcomed U.S. troops returning home.


AZUZ (voice-over): A pair of pups have been at the end of that line of greeters for the past year and a half.

Opie and Skylar are therapy dogs. Some troops say that playing with the four-legged friends provides comfort. The dog`s owner says the little guys know it`s time to work when those harnesses go on. They don`t bark, eat or jump on anyone. Opie and Skylar have met more than 500 flights.


AZUZ: . which means they have quite the "tail" to tell. That`s all the time we have "fur" now. Check out our blog at We`re asking about what you`re looking forward to in 2012. You`ll see some students` answers in tomorrow`s show. I`m Carl Azuz.