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STUDENT NEWS

Aid Workers Freed; President Obama Goes on the Road to Promote SOTU Proposals

Aired January 26, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Two aid workers who were kidnapped last October are free. Today you`re going to find out how the rescue operation happened. I`m Carl Azuz. This is CNN Student News.

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AZUZ: First up, President Obama is on the road, talking about some of the ideas from his State of the Union address, energy, education, the economy, all big parts of Tuesday night`s speech.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President of the United States.

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AZUZ (voice-over): As these speeches usually do, the event began with some political pageantry, as the president entered the House chamber to address members of Congress and other officials and guests. The president talked about issues he wants the government to address, like immigration reform. He also offered some proposals on how to create more jobs for Americans and to improve the country`s economy.

President Obama said the state of the union is getting stronger, but he believes the nation`s biggest challenge is preserving the American dream.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important.

We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

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AZUZ: Traditionally, someone from the political party the president doesn`t belong to delivers an official response to the State of the Union address. Last night`s Republican response came from Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. He said the president`s economic policies haven`t made things better.

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GOV. MITCH DANIELS, (R) IND.: The president did not cause the economic and fiscal crises that continue in America tonight, but he elected on a promise to fix them, and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse.

The percentage of Americans with a job is at the lowest in decades. One in five men of prime working age and nearly half of all persons under 30 did not go to work today.

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AZUZ: In their speeches, President Obama and Governor Daniels talked about the disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over some issues, but members of both parties came together to support one person --

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AZUZ (voice-over): -- Representative Gabrielle Giffords. That`s who the president is hugging here before his speech. Giffords has been recovering from a severe injury after she was shot in the head during an attack last year.

Yesterday she formally resigned from Congress to focus more on her recovery. The ceremony was an emotional one, as Giffords` colleagues praised the Arizona representative, several of them calling her an inspiration.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Mr. Haston`s world history classes at Big Bear Middle School, in Big Bear Lake, California.

What country, part of the Horn of Africa is highlighted on this map? You know what to do. Is it Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia or Sudan? You`ve got three seconds, go.

This is Somalia, which is located between the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.

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AZUZ: The two aid workers we mentioned at the start of today`s show were being held inside a compound in Somalia. During an overnight raid on Tuesday, U.S. Special Operations forces fought their way into the compound and rescued the aid workers. Jessica Buchanan, an American, and Poul Thisted from Denmark were kidnapped back in October.

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AZUZ (voice-over): They were checked out by U.S. military doctors. Officials say both are unharmed. The nine gunmen who were holding them hostage were killed in the raid. None of the U.S. Special Forces team was injured. Part of the team was from the same Navy SEAL unit that killed Osama bin Laden last year, although officials didn`t say if individuals were involved in both assaults

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AZUZ: Moving a little north from Somalia to Egypt now, there`s a spot in the capital city of Cairo called Tahrir Square. Last January, most of you had probably never heard of it. But then it became a rallying point for protesters who were speaking out against Egypt`s government.

Those protests started one year ago Wednesday. They launched a revolution that forced long-time leader Hosni Mubarak out of power. People gather in Tahrir Square again this week. Some of them were celebrating

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AZUZ (voice-over): But then it became a rallying point for protesters who were speaking out against Egypt`s government. Those protests started one year ago Wednesday. They launched a revolution that forced long-time leader Hosni Mubarak out of power. People gather in Tahrir Square again this week.

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AZUZ: Some of them were celebrating the anniversary of the uprising. Others were calling for more change. Ben Wedeman reports on what could lie ahead for the North African nation.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): For now, the future of Egypt`s democracy lies not in the hands of politicians, but with the generals. A presidential election is set for June, but will the military, as it promises, cede power and its special perks to a civilian government?

Mohamed ElBaradei recently pulled out of the presidential race, accusing the military of being little more than an extension of the old regime. Nonetheless, he`s optimistic that Egypt is ultimately on the right course.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE: But there is no going back, for sure, you know, for one single important reason, the culture of fear is gone, and gone forever. You will tell me, you look at any of these guys and the -- anywhere in Egypt, and tell them, you will be -- you will not be able to protest if you are angry. You will not be able to call for your rights.

And you will see the answer you get. So that is -- and I think everybody, whoever is going to govern Egypt, you know, any regime, they will know that it -- there is people power. And people power is here to stay.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): In the last year a generation has undergone a crash course in the power of protest, power they`re not about to relinquish.

GIGI IBRAHIM, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Being a revolutionary myself and being in the streets and taking part in these clashes, you know that these -- all these people are fighting for a better Egypt, you know. They don`t have hidden agendas. They are -- don`t get finance from abroad.

They are simply fighting for their rights, they`re fighting for a better living, and they`re not going to stop, because we sacrificed so much. We sacrificed so much to reach to what -- where we are now that there is no way of going back.

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AZUZ: The exclusion zone: that is an area of Japan that is off limits because of the high levels of radiation from last year`s meltdown at a nuclear power plant.

CNN learned that conditions in the zone around Japan`s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were serious, especially for the animals that were abandoned there. We wanted to see the situation first-hand, so Kyung Lah joined a group that`s allowed to work in the exclusion zone.

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KYUNG LAH, CNN REPORTER: We`re a couple of miles now into the exclusion zone and I`m carrying a couple of radiation meters with me. This actually reads radiation on surfaces. And this one will keep track of how much radiation our bodies have been exposed to. This you keep right next to your body. And the radiation did spike once we passed the exclusion zone.

So we`re in the center of town here. And just to give you an idea of how evacuated this area is, how people had to leave everything behind, take a look inside this convenience store, and you can see everything is as it was almost a year ago. This is all earthquake damage. But no one`s been able to come in to clean any of this up. It`s as if time stopped and has stood still ever since the March 11th earthquake.

So this is a neighborhood in Tomioka. And if you look over my shoulder, you can see there are all these houses, but there are no people. You can`t even really hear any dogs. There`s no neighborhood sounds. It`s very eerie. It`s very quiet.

LAH (voice-over): We checked the radiation on the ground -- much higher than in the air, at a level that`s not harmful in the short amount of time we`re here, but the challenge for the government is a cumulative effect of the radiation on the people in this community. Around the corner, the first signs of cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

LAH: What you`re seeing here is the decontamination process that`s begun in the no-go zone. This, what you`re seeing under these blue tarps, is contaminated soil. The government`s trying to basically push it aside, try to contain it, in order to make this place livable again.

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AZUZ (voice-over): There`s a new chance for you to appear on CNN Student News. Next month is Black History Month. We want you to be part of it. Record yourself on camera for a minute or less, talking about an important person in black history. We just want to see you, so no pictures, no music. Send it to us in an iReport at cnnstudentnews.com and look for our response in your email inbox.

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AZUZ: Before we go, we have a little spelling test for you.

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AZUZ (voice-over): This is a school, S-C-H-O-O-L.

This is a shcool, S-H-C-O-O-L.. Someone looks like they failed that spelling test, or maybe the world`s most ironic typo. No teachers or students to blame here. The sign was painted by a utility company. Apparently people walked by the shcool crossing sign for months before someone reported it.

Since then, officials have erased the error.

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AZUZ: It`s possible they were waiting for a while to fix it. They just need someone to give them a sign. That spells the end for today`s show. For CNN Student News, I`m Carl Azuz. We will see you again soon. And, again, that`s C-A-R-L A-Z-U-Z.

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