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STUDENT NEWS

Iran`s Nuclear Program; China`s VP Visits Iowa

Aired February 16, 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: Hey, happy Thursday. I`m Carl Azuz. This is CNN Student News. It`s your passport to 10 minutes of global headlines. Today we`re spending time in North, Central and South America, but we start in the Middle East.

The nation of Iran has a controversial nuclear program. Iran says the program is designed for peaceful uses, but other countries, including the U.S., believe Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. One thing we know for sure is that this program is moving forward.

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AZUZ (voice-over): This is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the middle of your screen. He was part of a presentation yesterday where fuel rods were loaded into the core of a nuclear reactor. These are the first nuclear fuel rods made inside Iran, so this is a big advancement for the country`s nuclear program.

The United Nations and European Union have put sanctions -- penalties -- on Iran in part because of its nuclear program. Those sanctions have been affecting Iran`s economy and its citizens. President Ahmadinejad responded to the latest sanctions yesterday. He said Iran will cut oil exports to six European countries.

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AZUZ: Moving to the Central American nation of Honduras, where officials are investigating a deadly fire at one of the country`s prisons. It happened overnight on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday afternoon, at least 272 inmates had died. The fate of more than 100 others was unknown.

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AZUZ (voice-over): This was a minimum security prison that can hold around 850 prisoners. More than half of the facility was affected by the fire. One survivor said he and other prisoners were asleep when they heard screams.

He said everyone ran for their lives. Authorities don`t know how the fire started. They`re looking into whether a short circuit might have sparked it, or whether a prisoner might have set a mattress on fire.

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AZUZ: All right. Let`s say you`re China`s vice president and you`re visiting the United States. Where do you want to go? Muscatine, Iowa, is where. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping insisted on a stop in the town yesterday. It`s because he spent two weeks in Muscatine back in 1985, and he wanted to visit with his old friends.

Ted Rowlands has more on Vice President Xi and what his leadership could mean for the relationship between U.S. and China.

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TED ROWLANDS, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was serving his first stint as governor when Xi came in `85. The two met again last fall in Beijing, and Branstad says the next Chinese leader said he wanted to come back.

GOVERNOR TERRY BRANDSTAD (R) IOWA: He was so pleased with the warm and friendly welcome he received, and he really considers Iowans his old friend.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Experts say for years, Xi was known mostly for his famous wife, a Chinese singer, while his lineage runs deeps in the Communist Party, he represents a new generation of leaders. Former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman believes Xi could be good for American business.

JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: He`s gone out of his way in recent years to bone up on economics and trade, knowing full well that these are the issues that are going to determine whether or not the United States and China are able to get through the years to come.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): China has been blamed for the loss of thousands of American jobs, some of them here. But China buys soybeans, pork, farm machinery and other products from Iowa. In fact, from 2000 to 2010, the state enjoyed a 1,200 percent increase in exports to China.

Governor Branstad wants to expand that relationship and thinks Xi will help.

BRANSTAD: Personal relationships are really important to the Chinese people. Having this kind of relationship with the next leader of China, I think, is very helpful to the state of Iowa.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): People here are exciting, including the Maeglins, who say they are honored that the man standing in their kitchen 27 years ago wants to come back.

DICK MAEGLIN, MUSCATINE, IOWA, HOST: Just for a little time, time spend an hour, hour and a half, in the room with, as he says, his old friends. That`s significant. That`s significant if he weren`t the president.

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AZUZ (voice-over): On this day in history, back in 1923, British archeologist Howard Carter opened the tomb of ancient Egypt`s Kind Tut- ankh-amen.

In 1959, Fidel Castro was sworn in as the new leader of Cuba. The former revolutionary established Cuba`s communist government, which he ran for nearly 50 years.

And in 1968, an official in Alabama made the first 9-1-1 call. He was testing the new nationwide emergency number.

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AZUZ: All right. You know that phrase, "I smell a rat," definitely applies to our next story. But the real question is, what does the rat smell? Police officials in the nation of Colombia hope the answer is explosive. You`ve heard of bomb-sniffing dogs. We had a report recently about dolphins that help identify mines. Rafael Romo reports on their rodent counterparts.

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RAFAEL ROMO, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): At a base at the Colombian National Police, a new recruit is being trained. Today`s mission for this four-legged trainee is to find the scent of an explosive device hidden underground, which it does in less than a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

ROMO (voice-over): The white rat is showered with praise and a reward.

Though safer than a decade ago, Colombia is a country where land mines and car bombs are still a threat.

EDGAR RAMIREZ, LIEUTENTANT, COLOMBIAN NATIONAL POLICE (through translator): Colombia still faces conflicts, such as guerillas and criminal and paramilitary groups. There are many disputed territories because of the drug trade, or simply to take control. And many groups set up land mines in these territories.

ROMO (voice-over): In the past, the Colombian police used bomb- sniffing dogs, but their weight would often trigger the explosives. That`s not a problem for these rats, which weigh slightly less than a pound. And according to the trainers, their sense of smell is just as good as a dog`s. Rats have already been used in Mozambique to detect land mines. One disadvantage is their short lifespan.

RAMIREZ (through translator): These animals live only three to four years, which is a relatively short period of time from a human perspective. On the other hand, they`re very prolific. They reproduce themselves exponentially in a very short time.

ROMO (voice-over): So far, the rats have been trained to detect seven different kinds of explosives. In the process, they`ve become relaxed around humans, and even get on with the cat that protects them from other predators.

ROMO: Officials with the Colombian National Police say they expect to take the bomb-sniffing rats into the field in the second half of this year. They also say they`ve been able to successfully train about 70 rats in the last four years since the project began, and have been able to learn a lot about how the rodents can help them clear fields full of land mines in the Colombia countryside. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Ms. Roberts and Ms. Briel`s American government class at Reservoir High School in Fulton, Maryland.

Which of these words specifically describes a student who skips school? Here we go. Is it delinquent, tardy, didactic or truant? You`ve got three seconds, go.

A student who`s out of school without permission is truant. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.

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AZUZ: There`s a charter school in Cincinnati, Ohio, that`s tried different ways to fight truancy. They`ve tried pizza parties. They`ve given students occasional Fridays off. But nothing really seemed to work.

So the principal`s trying out a new idea: money.

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AZUZ (voice-over): Show up for school and behave well, and you`ll get paid. Seniors can get $25 per week. Underclassmen can get 10 bucks. Private donors are helping put up the money, and the school`s principal says the program also helps students save for the future.

RAMONE DAVENPORT, PRINCIPAL: Each time a student gets paid, we take $5 and put into a savings account. So when that student graduates, they will at least graduate with some type of funds.

BETHANIE NICHOLSON, STUDENT: (Inaudible) like this is a job. Why am I not getting paid? And I`m getting paid now, so getting paid to come to school, like that`s every kid`s dream.

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AZUZ: All right. So some students think this is a great idea -- not all of them agree. Principal Davenport says he`s gotten some complaints about paying students for something they should be doing anyway.

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AZUZ (voice-over): Well, we`re taking this to our blog at cnnstudentnews.com. Want to know what your opinion is on this. Would paying students help them in terms of their attendance? Would it help them get a better education? You can talk to us on our blog, cnnstudentnews.com. Remember, we`ve got one big rule we want you to follow there. It is first names only. Look forward to hearing what you have to say.

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AZUZ: Well, before we go, an instrumental invention that is out of this world.

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AZUZ (voice-over): It`s a Millennium Falcon electric guitar. It might sound like other six-strings, but something tells us the force is strong with this one. The head is shaped like a famous droid, so you can R2-D-tune up the instrument. And the body is built from a Millennium Falcon toy. What`s amazing is the guy who made this had no previous experience building guitars. He was a total Wookiee.

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AZUZ: But he had no reason to fret. The awesome creation is bound to make him a Star -- Wars. "Ikess (ph)" he`ll be able to use it in a band, but a Millennium Falcon guitar seems built for a Solo career. We hope you "guit-ar" sense of humor. If not, maybe tomorrow offers a new hope. For CNN Student News, I`m Carl Azuz.

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