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EDUCATION with Student News

Quick Guide & Transcript: Florida teen returns from Iraq, Wildfires strike U.S. heartland


(CNN Student News) -- January 3, 2006

Quick Guide

Iraqi Adventure - Follow a Florida teenager on his unauthorized journey from Miami to Baghdad and back.

Fire and Rain - Keep tabs on the rains inundating California and the fires consuming parts of the U.S. heartland.

Web History - Get a quick history lesson on an invention that first went live at around the time your students were born!



SHANON COOK, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to the first CNN Student News program of 2006! I'm Shanon Cook. One long journey: after weeks away, a teenage traveler returns home from an unauthorized trip to the Middle East. Two extremes: some heartland residents with rain would stop scenes like this, while some Californians with the rain would simply stop. And three good reasons to do this may not exist, but that hasn't stopped those who brave the waves in winter!

First Up: Iraqi Adventure

COOK: It was a three-week vacation that took a teenage student to a European capital and a middle-eastern war zone. What's so special about that? Well, the 16-year-old traveler had headed for a dangerous part of the world without getting permission from his parents. And his mother says he will face consequences. We'll give you some ideas for discussing that in just a few moments. But first, Christopher King tells us what happened.


CHRISTOPHER KING, CNN REPORTER: Farris Hassan..the 16-year-old..with a yen for back in Florida after traveling to Iraq unbeknownst to his parents. He flew into perhaps the world's most dangerous city, unaware of the perils that could await an uninitiated American teen like himself. His family says they're planning a happy reunion after a long, tiring, and bizarre odyssey.

SHATHA ATIYA, FARRIS HASSAN'S MOTHER: He's just tired, he wants to rest. I just want to make sure he's ok. We are happy he's fine, he's home, he's safe, and that's it.

HAYDER, FERRIS HASSAN'S BROTHER: He's been through a lot. This whole family's been through a lot.

KING: The prep school junior is fascinated by the war and sympathizes with the plight of Iraqis. He studies journalism and decided he had to go to the war-torn country to see first-hand. So, on December 11th, he embarks on a trip, winding his way through Miami, Amsterdam and Kuwait. From Kuwait City -- Hassan takes a taxi to the Iraqi border -- on December 13th. But it's closed..ahead of elections, so he goes back to Kuwait City -- where he finally tells his parents of his plan. His father encourages his son to fly to Beirut instead -- where the boy stays more than a week with family friends. And on Christmas Day he flies to Baghdad. The friends in Beirut arranged for a driver to pick him up -- and together, he and the driver safely navigate the notoriously dangerous highway from the airport into town. Hassan checks into the Palestine Hotel -- largely populated by Westerners.

His parents were born in Iraq, but left for the U.S. decades ago. On first glance he looks like he could blend in, but then, the teen doesn't speak Arabic and with his sneakers and jeans, he's better suited for the mall than the streets of of the war-ravaged Iraqi capital.

On his second day there, Hassan walks into the offices of the Associated Press, stunning the journalists who work there. The AP calls the U.S. Embassy, which makes arrangements to get the boy out of Baghdad, much to to relief of his very worried family.

SHATHA ATIYA, FARRIS HASSAN'S MOTHER: It's just the whole thing is very overwhelming. It's just we want to go home and relax.

KING: Christopher King, CNN, Atlanta.


Do the Math

CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS REPORTER: It's time to Do the Math! Just how far did Farris Hassan go? Well, the distance from Miami to Amsterdam to Kuwait City to Beirut to Baghdad is about 8,670 miles. And on the way back, from Baghdad to Beirut to Kuwait City to Amsterdam to Miami is about the same distance. So he covered more than 17,300 miles: enough to fly the distance between New York to Los Angeles more than seven times! Add that to your knowledge!


COOK: Now that you know Hassan's story, head to our web site for today's free Learning Activity. It challenges your students to consider the possible consequences of Hassan's actions, and discuss whether he should be punished. You'll find it at

California Rain

COOK: Residents of northern California are struggling with some of their region's worst flooding in decades. While authorities warned of rain-induced mudslides in the southern part of the state. These pictures are from a town called San Anselmo, where four feet of water rushed through over the weekend. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency for seven counties, which will speed help to those who need it.

Fire and Rain

COOK: Meanwhile, a little rain could improve conditions in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, but none's in the forecast. Wild grass fires have been burning in the area for days. And firefighters have been hard at work battling the flames, with help from other states. But it's too late for some of the homes you'll see in this report, by Tom Foreman.


MAN ON THE STREET: The worst may yet be to come. There's no rain in the forecast.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN REPORTER: Dry conditions and gusting winds -- a recipe for disaster in Oklahoma, Texas -- and now New Mexico. The tiny Texas town of Ringgold -- northwest of Dallas and near the Oklahoma border --was virtually consumed by flames. More than 20 homes --- almost the entire town --- were destroyed. Residents fled as walls of fire closed in.

MAN ON THE STREET: They were tall and fast and they were just twirling -- they'd just carry them and then they'd start up again.

FOREMAN: There were similar scenes in Oklahoma, where dozens of fires were fanned by winds up to 50 miles an hour. At least a dozen homes were destroyed. Destruction wasn't confined to rural areas. Two Oklahoma City neighborhoods were evacuated as the fires moved through.

HOWARD LUSK, LOST HOME TO FIRE: By the time I made it to the front of my house there were embers, flaming embers coming at us and we turned around and she wanted to get a water hose to put out some grass, but the embers had burned and started a fire around the house. So we actually jumped in the truck and we took off. We drove through the fire.

FOREMAN: The fires have become a daily ordeal in this parched region. Although crews planned a house-to-house search for bodies in the town of Cross Plains, Texas, where more than 90 homes burned to the ground last week. Officials say given the scope of the disaster -- things could have been much worse.

DAVID BARNES, OKLAHOMA COUNTY EMERGENCY MGTM.: We've been very fortunate. We've had minimal injuries, a couple of things certainly have occurred. Strains and stretches, those type things. Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


Word to the Wise

AZUZ: A Word to the Wise...

blue chip (noun) an extremely valuable property or asset

source: www.dictionary.comexternal link

Web History

COOK: Now maybe you've heard that term applied to stocks. But it can also be used to describe successful sites of the internet. You may find it hard to believe that the world's first web site went live, within a few years of when most of you students were born! Kristie Lu Stout logs on with some more history about an invention that changed the world.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN REPORTER: Back in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web, a multimedia branch of the Internet.

With his "http protocol," computer jockeys the world over began making the net easier to use with point-and-click programs. Browsers like Mosaic and, later, Netscape Navigator would help popularize the Web and let a billion Web pages bloom.

Anyone could access the network. And anyone could decide what goes online. The Web became a powerful liberating force that brought people closer together, and shaped new businesses. Take Yahoo. A quirky list of favorite links that turned into the go-to site of the 1990s. Or Hotmail, one of the first Web services to give away e-mail for free. How about eBay? The site matched buyers and sellers of nearly anything to become the world's biggest trading post. And of course Amazon. The online behemoth of books. These were the great companies of the so-called "new economy," fueled by VC sugar daddies and excitable NASDAQ punters. But with every dot-com blue chip, there were the dogs as well. Pets.Com. Globe.Com. Boo. It all looked a bit too bubbly -- long on vision and way short on fundamentals. But today, the blue chips are still standing. Taller than ever, in fact.

But it's this home page that's getting the most attention. Google is the goliath of the Web -- with search, email, ecommerce, instant messaging, classified ads, and even a virtual planet. All adding up to one mega-market cap. The Web is a thrill ride yet again. It's bigger. It's faster. And the original spirit of community-building is still there.

Myspace -- a virtual hangout for wired teens -- has seen its membership rise to 40 million in the last year, prompting News Corp. to pick up its parent for over half a billion dollars.

Skype is the new hotmail -- linking millions of callers, turning the telecom market upside down, and attracting a $2.6 billion buy-out from eBay. Yahoo, meanwhile, swooped in on flickr -- the service that's transformed photography into a popular social pursuit. The second boom is well underway. So watch this space. This may be a cyber-sequel built to last.


Before We Go

COOK: Before we go... At first glance, it may look like any band of enthusiastic bathers, frolicking at the beach. But here's the kicker: This is the Coney Island Polar Bear Club-- A group that takes "chillin" to a whole new level, by splashing into the frigid Atlantic waves off New York's coast! This dip was done for their annual new year's day celebration. No doubt, they're much cooler than the rest of us!


COOK: We hope you enjoyed today's show. We'll see you again tomorrow, on CNN Headline News. I'm Shanon Cook.

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