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CNN Student News Transcript: December 15, 2008

  • Story Highlights
  • Hear what issues President Bush addressed during a surprise trip to Iraq
  • Consider whether the title of U.S. first lady should come with a salary
  • Learn how the struggling U.S. economy is impacting school lunch programs
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(CNN Student News) -- December 15, 2008

Quick Guide

Farewell Visit - Hear what issues President Bush addressed during a surprise trip to Iraq.

Pay or Nay? - Consider whether the title of U.S. first lady should come with a salary.

Lunch Crunch - Learn how the struggling U.S. economy is impacting school lunch programs.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Hi! Thanks for checking in as we kick off our last week of shows before the holiday break. I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Farewell Visit

AZUZ: First up, an unannounced visit to Iraq, as President Bush makes his last trip to the Middle Eastern nation while he's in office. At a ceremony yesterday, Mister Bush spoke about the sacrifices made by Americans and Iraqis, and he predicted Iraq will become a force for freedom and peace in the region. But as John Lorinc explains, during his surprise visit Sunday, the president received a surprise of his own.


JOHN LORINC, CNN REPORTER: An unbelievable scene in Baghdad, as President Bush holds a media availability with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a surprise visit to Baghdad Sunday. The scene transpired inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone; the man seen throwing the shoes was identified as an Iraqi journalist. President Bush was unharmed in the incident, and joked about it afterwards.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If you want the facts, it's a size ten shoe that he threw.

LORINC: The outgoing commander in chief made a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday, 37 days before he officially leaves office. The Iraqi president thanked Bush for what he described as his courageous leadership on Iraq. After one of the most divisive conflicts in American history, President Bush continued to stick with his message that the decision to invade Iraq was the right one. The U.S. and Iraqi government recently signed a security agreement which calls for most American troops to withdraw from that country by 2011. President Bush called that agreement a step forward for Iraqis. I'm John Lorinc, reporting from Atlanta.



GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! What is the United States first lady's annual salary? Is it: A) $175,000, B) $97,000, C) $35,000 or D) Unpaid? You've got three seconds -- GO! There is no government pay for the U.S. first lady. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Pay or Nay?

AZUZ: Before she was first lady, Laura Bush worked as a teacher and librarian. Former first lady Hillary Clinton was a lawyer. Betty Ford even a theatrical dancer! When they moved into the White House thought, they all left the professional world to take on a new role. Some folks question whether that position should be paid. Alina Cho examines the issue.


ALINA CHO, CNN REPORTER: She'll make history as the nation's first black first lady. But even before her husband's historic win, Michelle Obama was a powerhouse in her own right: an Ivy League-educated lawyer with a six-figure salary. In a month, she'll be moving into a new home and a new full time job, working for free.

ROBERT THOMPSON, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY NEWHOUSE SCHOOL: I think most Americans, when they hear the phrase "first lady," still think china patterns, tours through the White House.

CHO: Jacqueline Kennedy won an Emmy for her TV tour of the White House. William Howard Taft's wife, Helen, attended Cabinet meetings, but she said only to keep her husband awake. Nancy Reagan had her "Just Say No" campaign. Then, came Hillary.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.

CHO: Hillary Clinton redefined the role of first lady, taking on health care, traveling the world. Yet she was never paid a cent.

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. PRESS SECRETARY TO HILLARY CLINTON: We used to joke that we were a moving public works project. Wherever we would go, there would be new roads paved, literally. She defined that role for herself, and I think in many ways helped pave the ground for future first ladies.

CHO: Like Michelle Obama.

THOMPSON: More and more, presidents are going to, I think, have spouses who actually come to the job with a life, with a career. And the kind of things that they do might, in fact, be useful things to employ.

CHO: But a salaried first lady? some say the pay is in the perks: big fancy house, first-class travel, elegant dinners. So, what does the current office holder think?

FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: No, I don't think it should be a paid post. The spouse of the president is not an office holder; we weren't elected.



AZUZ: So, the role of first lady does have responsibilities, but as Mrs. Bush says, it's not an elected position. So what do you say? Should first ladies be paid? Head to our blog at, see what I think, and tell us what you think.

Fast Facts

RAMSAY: Time for some Fast Facts! After a presidential election, members of the Electoral College meet to cast their votes for president and vice president. These meetings take place in the electors' states, and they're happening today! On Election Night, Barack Obama won 365 electoral votes to John McCain's 173. However, many states don't require their electors to vote for the candidate who won their state. We'll know exactly how the Electoral College voted on January 8th, when the votes are counted during a joint session of Congress.

In the Headlines

AZUZ: Catching up on a couple other headlines now, starting with a severe ice storm in the northeastern U.S. The winter weather slammed the region over the weekend. It knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of residents. Authorities say it could take a couple days to get that power fully restored. President Bush responded by declaring a state of emergency for parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. That allows federal aid to be used in the recovery effort.

And several Illinois lawmakers are trying to round up support to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich. Of course, he's accused of trying to "sell" President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, and he's facing federal corruption charges. Yesterday, the Illinois state attorney general said Blagojevich might announce today that he's stepping aside. No word, though, from the governor's office on Sunday.

Is this Legit?

RAMSAY: Is this Legit? Under Illinois law, the state's governor is the only person with the power to appoint someone to temporarily fill a vacant Senate seat, like President-elect Obama's. This one's true! That's why Illinois lawmakers are working to find an alternative solution, given the current situation involving Gov. Blagojevich.

Lunch Crunch

AZUZ: Ok, next up today, we're focusing on something that is part of everyone's school day: lunch! According to a new report, about 425,000 more students are taking part in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, as compared to last year. Where does the money come from for those meals, and what happens if funding runs out? Ted Rowlands serves up the details.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN REPORTER: From Salisbury steak to chicken a la king and sloppy Joes, school lunch holds a special place in the hearts of American public school students. For some, like Los Angeles high school senior Lisa Le, free school lunch is something she and her brother and sister rely on to thrive at school.

LISA LE, STUDENT: Personally, I really depend on the school lunches a lot. Because knowing how busy my parents are with work, and knowing that they make so little, it would just really push us financially.

ROWLANDS: The federal government pays the majority of school meal expenses; states and districts make up the difference if the money runs out. According to a School Nutrition Association study released this week, running out of money is a real concern for many states, because more students are qualifying for free or reduced price lunches due to the worsening economy. This is the Los Angeles Unified School District's food assembly line, where 550,000 meals a day are prepared and served at 840 different schools. For the last two years, California has run out of money before the end of the school year. This year, the superintendent of schools is predicting it'll happen earlier, and is asking the state for a $31 million budget increase.

JACK O'CONNELL, CALIFORNIA SUP. OF SCHOOLS: We know that even if you have a computer on every desk and the school is made of gold, that if that student comes to school hungry, that student will not be able to learn.

ROWLANDS: At the Bravo Magnet School in Los Angeles, 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced price meals.

MARIA TORRES-FLORES, PRINCIPAL, BRAVO MEDICAL MAGNET SCHOOL: For many of our families, many of our students, this may be the only full, healthy meal that they eat within a day.

ROWLANDS: Advocates are encouraging states, many of which are making budget cuts, to do what it takes to keep food on the table at school. Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.


Before We Go

AZUZ: And before we go, brace yourselves, because I'm gonna sing. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so it is natural to see snow covering the ground as the temperature drops down. But then why aren't these guys wearing coats? Probably because this is southern California, and that ain't snow! It's foam, of the firefighting variety. These fake flurries filled a massive hangar at Long Beach Airport when something accidentally set off the fire system. Luckily, no one was hurt by all that foam.



AZUZ: Still, you gotta admit, it was a pretty close shave. That will burst the bubble on today's show. We will see you again tomorrow when CNN Student News returns.

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