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CNN Student News Transcript: November 21, 2008

  • Story Highlights
  • Find out who's lining up for a piece of the $700 billion financial bailout
  • Discover how small pirate ships are hijacking massive shipping vessels
  • Compare your knowledge of American civics to elected officials' scores
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(CNN Student News) -- November 21, 2008

Quick Guide

A Piece of the Pie - Find out who's lining up for a piece of the $700 billion financial bailout.

The Ocean's Outlaws - Discover how small pirate ships are hijacking massive shipping vessels.

Epidemic of Ignorance? - Compare your knowledge of American civics to elected officials' scores.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: It is Friday -- awesome -- and we're glad you're rounding out your week with CNN Student News! From the CNN Center, I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Big Three Bailout?

AZUZ: First up, Congress wants to see a plan from U.S. automakers explaining how they would use the money from a government bailout. "The key is accountability," and "until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money." Those were the words of leading Democratic lawmakers yesterday. As you know, the struggling auto industry is asking the government for financial help. They're looking for about $25 billion that could come from the $700 billion bailout Congress approved earlier this year. But some lawmakers are opposed to the idea. They say that money was meant to help the financial industry, and they believe that automakers are struggling because of problems they made for themselves.

A Piece of the Pie

Downloadable Maps

AZUZ: With all this talk about help from the government, you might be wondering: "Hey! Where's my bailout?" After all, the financial crisis is making things tight for a lot of people. So, can anyone get in on that money from Congress? Carol Costello examines how the dollars are distributed.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN REPORTER: Want a piece of that $700 billion pie? Lots of Americans do, and we're not talking about just the big three. But boat manufacturers and Hispanic plumbers? Really? The Treasury Department told me you'd be amazed. Members of Congress are too, and they're worried.

REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R) TEXAS: I read press reports recently that a group of plumbing contractors were applying for portions of the TARP funds in order to refurbish some foreclosed properties, making their case that that qualifies them as financial institutions. Can you give me a clearer black-and-white definition of what a financial institution is?

HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: Congressman, I can't. We have a broad definition. We got very broad authorities and powers, but we certainly are not going to give money to plumbing contractors.

COSTELLO: Did you catch that? If he wanted to, Paulson could dole out cash to whomever he chooses. That, and a simple two-page application for bailout funds, has sparked bailout fever. Treasury officials told me a bait and tackle shop asked for a line of credit. Even a time share company filled out an application. Oh, and states across America are interested too, like California.

KAREN BASS, (D) CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: I think a couple of months ago, none of us would have envisioned even making a request like this of the federal government. But who would have envisioned a $700 billion rescue package?

MAN OFF CAMERA: So, if they can give $150 billion to AIG?

BASS: Can we have 5 or 10?

COSTELLO: Philadelphia, Atlanta and Phoenix have directly asked for bailout cash, too. Of course, just because you ask for bailout money does not mean you'll get it, unless maybe you're a bank or financial institution. Some 21 institutions across the country received anywhere from $17 million to nearly $7 billion dollars. Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


Word to the Wise


nautical (adjective) related to ships, sailors or navigation


The Ocean's Outlaws

AZUZ: Russia is sending ships to the Horn of Africa to help crack down on some nautical nastiness: pirate attacks that have been plaguing that part of the world. These oceanic outlaws are a lot more dangerous than the ones you might think of from the movies, and they're severely hampering the world's shipping industry. David McKenzie looks at how it all happens.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN REPORTER: Pirates posing on a captured vessel, their weapons proudly displayed. These are the ragged buccaneers bringing in millions of loot. It's so compelling because it's so unlikely. Let's put it into perspective: Pirates nabbed the gigantic supertanker the Sirius Star -- it's longer than three football fields -- and captured it with a skiff as big as this; it's about as long as your car. So, how did they do it?

WILL GEDDES, CEO, INTERNATIONAL CORPORATE PROTECTION: The problems that many tankers have when they are actually approached by pirates is that they will present a threat on a number of levels. They can either pretend to be officials that are seeking to board the actual ship for inspections. They can masquerade as a Coast Guard.

MCKENZIE: And they can always rely on scare tactics. They use fast skiffs with RPGs and assault rifles. A well-placed shot with one of these could puncture the hull of boats that can carry dangerous cargo. So, the crew is usually happy to sit it out under hijack waiting for ransom, rather than risk blowing themselves up. And the crew can now be taken in a much wider area.

GEDDES: What we're seeing with these Somalian pirates is their ability to use some of the ships they've captured already to enable them to reach further afield, into deeper nautical miles.

MCKENZIE: They are called mother ships, and maritime agencies warn that their use is expanding the pirate reach and the pirate threat. So, until they can be reigned in, these unlikely ocean hijackers will still have the tactics and the territorial reach to take on as many goliaths as they can get their hands on. David McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi.



AZUZ: Now, if you were paying attention to what we said right before that report, you already know the answer to one of the questions on this week's Newsquiz! What about the others? Head to and put your news knowledge to the test!


RAMSAY: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mr. Veliz's 7th grade U.S. History classes at Swift Creek Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida. Which of the following is not one of the unalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence? Is it: A) Life, B) Justice, C) Liberty or D) The pursuit of happiness? You've got three seconds -- GO! The famous document discusses the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Epidemic of Ignorance?

AZUZ: Did you know the answer? In a recent survey on American civics, 83 percent of people got that question right; not bad. But the overall results of the survey: not good. More than 70 percent failed! And it wasn't just civilians lacking civic knowledge. Elected officials who took the test did even worse! Alina Cho breaks down the report card.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: It was a random sample of 2,500 people; 33 questions in all, many of them taken from basic citizenship exams. And guess what? Those who have held elective office scored an average of five points lower than those who have never held public office. Just incredible. And overall, the numbers aren't good. Seventy-one percent of people who took the test failed. Now the survey, by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, included questions about political history, foreign relations, even the economy. And at a time when the country is facing such serious economic problems, one of the report's authors told us, it's the worst time to be experiencing what he calls "an epidemic of civic ignorance."

DR. ROBERT BRAKE, INTERCOLLEGIATE STUDIES INSTITUTE: American citizens are not going to be able to exercise informed judgment at the ballot box, and then through public opinion polls, tell their elected representatives what to do about this problem.

CHO: So, let's take a look at the questions that people had a hard time with. One of the questions: What are the three branches of government? The answer: Executive, Legislative and Judicial, of course. But get this: Fewer than half, 49 percent, got that question right. Let's take a look at this one now: What was the source of the phrase: "Government of the people, by the people, for the people"? Was it: A. the "I have a dream" speech, B. the Declaration of Independence, C. the U.S. Constitution or D. the Gettysburg Address? The answer is D, the Gettysburg Address. So, how did the respondents do? Not well. Twenty-one percent of citizens and just 23 percent of elected officials answered that question correctly. And by the way, 56 percent of Americans knew that Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol. And the last question: What part of the government has the power to declare war? Is it: A. Congress, B. the President, C. the Supreme Court or D. the Joint Chiefs of Staff? The answer of course is A. Congress. Fifty-four percent of citizens answered that correctly, but only 46 percent of elected officials knew that Congress was the right answer. Now, one other note: Those with a college education only scored slightly higher than those who hadn't gone to college. But the most interesting finding perhaps: The elected officials who took this survey knew less than average citizens. One of the study's authors said, "Of course, the general population isn't doing well. But don't we expect more from those who are holding public office?" He went on to say, "If you don't know your country's history, you're doomed to repeat it. And on the flip side, if you do, you're more likely to vote."


Before We Go

AZUZ: And finally today, a canine contest for drenched doggies. And they're off! To put things on. But before they can do that, owners have to dunk the canine clothing in a bucket of water. And suddenly, it doesn't seem like the dogs are too thrilled about taking part in this race. So, some just stood around, while others looked like they'd rather drink the water. And one guy's obviously struggling with the idea of wearing wet clothing.



AZUZ: But eventually, he threw in the towel. This show's all washed up. You guys have a great weekend. We will see you on Monday. We'll be back on Monday and Tuesday, so we'll see you then.

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