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CNN Student News Transcript: February 24, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Find out why the Dow keeps plunging despite the stimulus plan
  • Attend a party whose cheer isn't soured by the surly economy
  • Relive the role of African-American espionage in the Civil War
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(CNN Student News) -- February 24, 2009

Quick Guide

U.S. Headlines - Find out why the Dow keeps plunging despite the stimulus plan.

A Mardi Gras Economy - Attend a party whose cheer isn't soured by the surly economy.

Civil War Spies - Relive the role of African-American espionage in the Civil War.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Can a massive, annual celebration help one U.S. city weather the struggling economy? That is one issue we're exploring in today's edition of CNN Student News. First up, the headlines.

First Up: U.S. Headlines

AZUZ: "Fear-based selling." That is how one analyst described the current conditions on Wall Street, where stocks are taking a beating. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is used to show the overall trends in the market. It lost 250 points yesterday, closing at its lowest level in nearly 12 years. Experts are blaming the downward trend on investor concerns that the government won't be able to turn around the recession, even though that's what President Barack Obama is hoping the stimulus package will do. In a meeting with the country's governors yesterday, Obama announced that the first funds from the measure, more than $15 billion, will be distributed directly to state governments to address medical issues. But he added that the money needs to be used in the way it's intended.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Children with asthma will be able to breathe easier, seniors won't need to fear losing their doctors, and pregnant women with limited means won't have to worry about the health of their babies. So let me be clear though: This is not a blank check. I know you've heard this repeatedly over the last few days, but I want to reiterate it: These funds are intended to go directly towards helping struggling Americans keep their health care coverage.

AZUZ: A handful of governors, though, are planning to refuse some of the money offered by the federal government. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, and several of his Republican colleagues say they support federal help as their states recover from the recession, but they don't agree with some parts of the stimulus package, so they won't be accepting those funds.

Presidential Address

AZUZ: Yesterday, he met with the nation's governors. Tonight, President Obama speaks to a much larger audience in his first address to Congress since being sworn into office. And just like they did for the inauguration, Live and Facebook are teaming up for the event! Special Coverage starts at 8 a.m. ET and continues throughout the day, leading up to the president's address at 9 p.m. tonight. Make sure to tune in and log on to share the experience with your friends at!

I.D. Me!

ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I'm an annual tradition celebrated on the day before Lent begins. My official colors are purple, green and gold. In many countries, I'm known as Carnival. I'm Mardi Gras, and in French, my name means "Fat Tuesday."

A Mardi Gras Economy

AZUZ: Mardi Gras is massive! It's marked by parades, parties, and the city of New Orleans has been celebrating it for more than 170 years! About 1.4 million people usually attend Mardi Gras, and that means a lot of money for the Crescent City. Susan Edwards of affiliate WWL looks at how this year's celebration could give a boost to New Orleans' economy.


SUSAN EDWARDS, WWL-TV REPORTER: These ladies are first-time visitors from South Dakota. They saved up their money for two years to make it to the Crescent City and experience Mardis Gras in all its glory.

DONNA PASSICK, SOUTH DAKOTA RESIDENT: Well, we just got done walking down Bourbon Street, which was kind of a culture shock for us conservatives in South Dakota.

EDWARDS: I see you have some beads.

PASSICK: Well, we got them illegally, you know, like, buy them or pick them up.

EDWARDS: They are among the thousands of visitors who, despite the struggling economy, are helping New Orleans buck the trend as a destination city during one of its busiest and most exciting times of the year, on a trip that doesn't break the bank.

MARY BETH ROMIG, NEW ORLEANS CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU: You have to pay to spend the night in a hotel, obviously, pay for your food. But in essence, the show is right here in front of you and all free.

EDWARDS: Many hotels here are overbooked through the weekend, and on average, all of them are more than 90% filled.

ROMIG: I think we're going to top the numbers and have the strongest Mardi Gras we've had since Katrina this year.

EDWARDS: It's news that leaves Gregory Wilson beaming. Originally from the West Bank, Wilson lives in Grambling, Louisiana and tries to come back for parades and weekend celebrations every year.

GREGORY WILSON, GRAMBLING, LOUISIANA RESIDENT: It's surprising, but New Orleans is almost like one of the biggest free parties in the world to me. We do the red beans and rice, the hot dogs. Basically, just show up. If you get to New Orleans, you'll have a good time.

EDWARDS: The "Krewe of South Dakota" vows to make generous contributions.

SHAWN SANDNESS, SOUTH DAKOTA RESIDENT: I haven't spent a lot of money, but we have some to spend, so that's good for the economy.

EDWARDS: While others hope this year's turnout will be a sign of even better news ahead.

ROMIG: It's going to be a while before we get to those pre-Katrina numbers, those big numbers when the predictions were that a million people turned out for the whole carnival season. But if we can get above where we were last year, we will be thrilled.



NIVISON: Time for the Shoutout! Which of these famous African-Americans served as a spy during the Civil War? Was it: A) Frederick Douglass, B) George Washington Carver, C) Dred Scott or D) Harriet Tubman? You've got three seconds -- GO! Harriet Tubman served as a spy, scout and nurse for Union military forces in South Carolina. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Civil War Spies

AZUZ: Tubman wasn't alone. Hundreds of African-Americans served as spies during that time, many of whom were slaves. Some even escaped to the North only to go back to the South and risk being hanged in order to spy on the Confederacy. Barbara Starr examines how they carried out this espionage, which some say helped the North win the war.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Manassas, Virginia: Nearly 150 years ago, the Civil War battle of Bull Run raged here, the North's Union Army almost shattered. But Abraham Lincoln's war effort was getting secret help from some remarkable spies: African-American slaves and freed men spying on the Confederacy, then telling the North what they knew. William Jackson was a slave hired out to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

KEN DAGLER, AUTHOR, "BLACK DISPATCHES": He simply was ignored.

STARR: Retired CIA officer Ken Dagler authored "The Black Dispatches," a look at the little-known espionage African-Americans conducted during the Civil War. Dagler says Jackson, like most slaves, was treated as little more than a piece of furniture, a critical mistake for his master.

DAGLER: So, Jefferson Davis would hold conversations with military and Confederate civilian officials in his presence.

STARR: In 1861, Jackson fled north and told Union commanders about their enemy. Slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write, so they often relied on the African storytelling tradition to memorize crucial details; it made them perfect spies. No one was better at it than Robert Smalls, a slave who guided vital supply ships in and out of Charleston harbor. He finally escaped.

DAGLER: A debriefing of him gave basically the Union forces there the entire fortification scheme for the interior of the harbor.

STARR: And the iconic Harriet Tubman. She ran the Underground Railroad, bringing slaves north. But she went south many times just to spy.

DAGLER: Probably the height of her intelligence involvement occurred late in 1863, when she actually led a raid into South Carolina. In addition to the destruction of millions of dollars of property, she brought out over 800 slaves back into freedom in the North.

STARR: This was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Slaves were hidden inside here until their passage further north could be arranged. It was the espionage conducted by African-American spies that helped the North win the war and helped so many slaves make it to freedom. Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.



AZUZ: What a story, and what a way to wrap up our coverage of Black History Month. But just because February is coming to a close doesn't mean this subject is doing the same. You can head to the Spotlight section on, use our Learning Activities to see how you can celebrate black history all year long. And while you're there, check out our viewing guide for "Black In America." This documentary explores the experiences of today's black Americans. An encore presentation of the two-part series airs this Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN. Check it out.

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, we've got the newest look in letter carriers: automation! Snow and rain may not hold up your mail delivery, but bad weather can make it a lot harder to get it, especially when the walk to your mailbox takes a while. That's why one Iowa man invented this thing, this moving mechanism to help out his aging mother. It took him more than a year to develop and build the thing.



AZUZ: As you can see, he certainly didn't mail in the effort. That will put a stamp on today's show. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.

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