(CNN Student News) -- March 11, 2008
Terror Plots Foiled - Get the details about alleged terrorist activity that China says it prevented.
Hamas & Iran - Find out why Egypt is focusing so much attention on its border with Gaza.
Women's History Month - Meet a woman who's achieved many firsts on the road to German chancellor.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MONICA LLOYD, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: You've found your way to CNN Student News, your commercial-free source for news for the classroom. Thanks for spending part of your Tuesday with us. I'm Monica Lloyd.
LLOYD: First up, Chinese officials say they've broken up plans for two separate terrorist attacks. According to authorities in the Asian country, both of the alleged plots started in the same region. In August, China is hosting the summer Olympics, so security there is certainly an important issue. But some analysts are raising questions about just how serious these alleged threats were. John Vause fills us in on the details of the situation.
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JOHN VAUSE, CNN REPORTER: Little is known about the specifics of an alleged terrorist plan targeting this year's Olympics. Chinese officials are not saying how the attack would be carried out, when or where, and they haven't provided any evidence to prove their claim that Muslims known as Uighurs from the country's northwest were behind the plot. But a Communist party official says the conspiracy was uncovered during a raid in January in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, home to the Uighurs. Two men were killed, 15 others detained. Human rights groups are asking just how serious was the threat, concerned it could be a pretext for a crackdown in Xinjiang, where several separatist groups are active.
CARINNA-BARBARA FRANCIS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The Chinese government is extremely concerned about any sentiment expressing any sort of Uigher cultural identity, any sort of ethnic identity. And any expression of that sort is taken by the Chinese government to be indication of a separatist tendency, and that then becomes equated with terrorist activity.
VAUSE: Chinese officials have also claimed hijackers attempted to take control of a domestic flight last Friday, shortly after it left Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, bound for Beijing. Security at Urumqi airport has been stepped up, as the head of China's civil aviation authority, hounded by local journalists, insisted there's no longer a threat to air travelers. But there are questions about how this news broke in the first place: with little fanfare on the sidelines of the National People's Congress, China's annual session of parliament, during a news conference by two communist party officials from Xinjiang.
RUSS MOSES, CHINA ANALYST: If this was a real attack, I think we would have much more media coverage of it. I think that what we are seeing are two party cadres who want attention during a major party conclave.
VAUSE: Olympic organizers insist the Games will be safe and secure. One police unit called the "Snow Leopards Commandoes" is being trained to deal with terrorist threats. Whether the threat from the Uighur Muslim separatists was real, or just an excuse by Chinese authorities for a pre-emptive strike, isn't clear. But as the Olympics draw near, it cold be just a small indication of what is still to come. John Vause, CNN, Beijing.
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for some Fast Facts! You can find Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea, in between the countries of Egypt and Israel. The territory covers a little less than 150 square miles, which is about twice the size of Washington, D.C., but it's home to nearly 1.5 million people! Along with the West Bank, Gaza is one of the areas that historically have been at the center of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
LLOYD: The conflict isn't just historical. Last week, Israeli forces took part in a five-day operation in Gaza that left more than 100 people dead. At the same time, Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. Both sides have scaled back their activities, but neither is calling it a cease-fire. Atika Shubert has more on the situation in this disputed territory.
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ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN REPORTER: The video is eerily reminiscent of IED attacks in Iraq, but this is an Israeli army jeep on the border with Gaza. This video was provided by a Palestinian militant group that claimed responsibility. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack. Last week, rockets rained down on the Israeli city of Ashkelon, normally out of range of Palestinian rockets. Israeli officials say this damage was caused by Soviet style "grad" rockets supplied by Iran, able to fly longer distances and much more powerful than the homemade rockets the Palestinians usually fire. These images and recent attacks are evidence, Israel says, that Iran is supplying weapons and know-how to Palestinian militants in Gaza. The Islamic militant group in control of Gaza, Hamas, insists its weapons are homemade, but acknowledges hundreds of its fighters are now training in Iran.
EPHRAIM SNEH, FORMER ISRAEL DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER: They train them. They give them operational directives, money. They smuggle in long-range rockets, everything. Today, the terrorist organization in Gaza and even in the West Bank, they are acting as proxies of Iran.
SHUBERT: Israel has already imposed a punishing blockade on Gaza, allowing only limited amounts fuel, food and medical supplies, pushing Gaza to the brink of a humanitarian crisis. That came to a head when Hamas cut through the border to Egypt, opening it for anyone and anything to cross. This is what's left of the border wall between Gaza and Egypt. Israel says that when Hamas militants broke through the border, it provided a window of opportunity for militants to bring in upgraded weapons and explosives provided by Iran. Re-sealing the border is not so easy. Egypt is now trying to broker an agreement to keep the border open for humanitarian supplies only. Israel fears opening the border will also open the door to more weapons, unless it is monitored by a third party, something Hamas rejects.
FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESPERSON: It must be opened with Egyptian and Palestinians, and without American and Israeli interference, to guarantee that the terminal will be have to be open.
SHUBERT: In the last few days, there has been a lull in the violence as Egypt attempts to broker a deal on the border. But Israel says it cannot accept a period of relative calm for long if militants use this time to rearm. Atika Shubert, CNN, Gaza.
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Oil Price Hits High
LLOYD: Looking at a couple other stories making headlines, get ready to dig even deeper into those pockets when you're pumping gas. The per-gallon price is less than one cent away from its record high, and experts think it'll keep going up. What's the reason for the climbing costs? Oil prices, and they're on the rise too; almost $108 a barrel yesterday. In fact, the cost of crude has gone up 25 percent in just a month.
Drugs in the Water
LLOYD: And a new investigation has found traces of prescription medications in the drinking supplies of millions of Americans. The amount is tiny, and utility companies insist the water's safe. But some scientists are concerned about long-term health consequences. How did the substances get there? People take pills, and the part that their bodies don't absorb turns into waste. Wastewater gets treated before it becomes drinking water, but those treatments don't get rid of all the drug residue.
LLOYD: And across the Atlantic Ocean, parts of Britain are suffering through severe weather. Heavy rain and high winds slammed into the country's southern region yesterday, causing floods and leaving thousands of people without power. The UK weather service measured winds as high as 80 miles per hour in some coastal locations, and told residents to stay away from the beach. The conditions were expected to continue today, as the weather system moved farther north.
LLOYD: We're right in the middle of Women's History Month. Now, your textbooks probably include information on famous historical female groundbreakers. But here on CNN Student News, we're celebrating the event by taking a look at some of the women who are blazing a new path right now. And today, Carl Azuz turns his attention to the world of politics.
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS: When you think world leaders, you probably don't think physics and quantum chemistry. But Angela Merkel had both of these subjects nailed down when she got into politics, and it only took her 15 years to find the formula for the title of German chancellor. Someone by the name of "Truth" suggested on our blog that we profile Chancellor Merkel. And the truth about the German leader is, she's familiar with firsts: The first female head of Germany's Christian Democratic Union. The first East German to become chancellor. The first woman to lead the country, and first on the 2007 Forbes list of the world's most powerful women. How did Merkel secure success? Well, she once told her biographer she tries not to jump to quick conclusions, preferring to comb through things carefully to see "where the traps could be lurking." No traps here, just a German leader making history this Women's History Month.
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LLOYD: We're not just celebrating Women's History Month on our show. We've got you covered online as well! Profiles of prominent females in business, science, politics and sports, Learning Activities, even a One-Sheet on the month-long event itself! It's all at CNNStudentNews.com!
LLOYD: So head to our page, check it out and then check back here tomorrow for more CNN Student News. Thanks so much for watching. Have a great day. I'm Monica Lloyd. E-mail to a friend