(CNN Student News) -- March 5, 2009
Foreclosure Fix? - Explore the details of a government plan to fight the foreclosure crisis.
Warrant Issued - Hear why an arrest warrant has been issued for the president of Sudan.
Dow Obsession - Consider whether America is overly obsessed with the Dow Jones Average.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Is America obsessed with an economic indicator? Should it be? We'll explore the issue in today's edition of CNN Student News. Hi, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz.
AZUZ: First up, the federal government launches a program aimed at fixing the country's foreclosure crisis. This process, foreclosure, happens when an owner loses his or her rights to a property, like a house, usually because he or she can't afford to pay the mortgage. So, how will this new plan confront the issue? Let's break down the details.
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AZUZ: The idea: stop, or at least slow down, the record rate of U.S. home foreclosures. The hope: that by helping as many as nine million Americans stay in their homes, the government will plug up a hole in the leaky economic boat. The cost: $75 billion dollars, which will come from the stimulus package that's now in effect.
Who could this help? People who either need to refinance or are facing foreclosure. Let's say you bought a house a while back, got a mortgage, made your payments, and everything was going fine until you lost your job or your interest rate reset, sending your payments skyrocketing. Now, you can't afford your mortgage, and the government's aiming to adjust your interest rate to lower what you have to pay each month to help you out. Of course, that means the bank that loaned you the money would get less from you in interest. But the government would help make up the difference by paying the bank with stimulus funds. Not everyone who's in trouble, or who owes more on his mortgage than his house is worth, will get help; there are certain criteria that must be met. But the president says:
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values, Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped to bring about.
AZUZ: What's not clear is if adjusting people's loans really helps out in the long term. One recent study found that about half of those who had their loans adjusted still fell behind in payments within six months. And not everyone likes the idea, because the government is essentially picking up the ball for people who made bad decisions and banks that made bad loans. In fact, 64% of those questioned in a recent poll said the president's plan is unfair to people who pay their mortgages on time. But for many others, these are desperate times. And the Obama administration says that bold action, whether or not everyone agrees with it, is needed.
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GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for some Fast Facts! Darfur is a region in the African nation of Sudan. Violence erupted there in 2003 when rebel groups launched attacks against the Sudanese government. The fighting that followed led to what the United Nations calls "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world." The U.N. estimates that 300,000 people have been killed in the violence, and 2.5 million others have been forced to flee their homes.
AZUZ: The International Criminal Court is charging the president of Sudan with multiple crimes in connection with that conflict. The court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, the first time it's ever taken that action against a sitting head of state. The Sudanese government called the accusations an insult and said it does not plan to cooperate. Robyn Curnow has more on yesterday's announcement.
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ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victims' justice for the 300,000 killed and more than 2.5 million people displaced in Darfur. Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir, still smiling and defiant, named in an arrest warrant issued by the world's highest criminal court.
LAURENCE BLAIRON, ICC SPOKESWOMAN: Five counts of crimes against humanity: murder, Article 7, Paragraph 1a; extermination, Article 7,1b; forcible transfer, Article 7,1d; torture, Article 7,1f and rape, Article 7,1g.
CURNOW: A ghastly litany of alleged misdeed for a sitting president to face, accused of masterminding war crimes and crimes against humanity against the citizens of Darfur. For now, he's been let off a genocide charge, but that might change, says the world court.
BLARION: Omar al-Bashir's official capacity as a sitting head of state does not exclude his criminal responsibility, nor does it grant him immunity against prosecution.
CURNOW: The court's action touched off sympathetic demonstrations in Brussels, London and Rome, while pro-Bashir rallies were held in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. The Sudanese government says it considers the arrest warrant unlawful.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM, SUDANESE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO U.N.: It is like pouring oil on fire. In the Sudan today, it is a day of national outrage, a day of national anger. And we repeat with Shakespearean Macbeth that all perfumes of Arabia will not clear this dirt created by the ICC against our leadership.
CURNOW: No one expects to see al-Bashir in the dock at the Hague anytime soon. The International Criminal Court has no police force. It said it expects United Nations member states to arrest the Sudanese president when and if he leaves his country's borders, or for Sudan to give up its leader to face international justice, something the Sudanese say they have no intention of doing. Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.
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RAMSAY: Time for the Shoutout! What animal indicates that things are going poorly on Wall Street? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it a: A) Bear, B) Bull, C) Lion or D) Shark? You've got three seconds -- GO! A bear market describes a prolonged period of bad news, and a bull market is just the opposite. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: Right now, we are definitely in a bear market. And if you want proof, just take a look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It went up about 150 points yesterday, but that's after a five-day slump left the Dow at its lowest level in nearly 12 years! We talk about the Dow a lot on our show. That's because it gives an idea of how the market is doing overall. But is America obsessed with this one economic indicator? Carol Costello explores the answer.
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CAROL COSTELLO, CNN REPORTER: The Dow has taken on a life of its own. It's up! It's down! It's tanked! And America can't take its eyes off of its little wiggly line.
AVOR WILLIAMS, SCHOOL TEACHER: It bothers me because that shows me how the economy is doing.
MIKE LEONETTI: It concerns me more because of how everybody reacts to it.
RANDOLPH CONDS: I'm concerned, definitely I'm alarmed.
COSTELLO: And why wouldn't they feel that way? The falling Dow is all they hear about. It's the kind of analysis that has talk radio buzzing.
DR. JOY BROWNE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, WOR RADIO HOST: The Dow Jones will make you feel like a victim.
COSTELLO: Psychologist Dr. Joy Browne says her listeners have become obsessed with the Dow.
BROWNE: We've become Henny Penny: "The Dow is falling, the Dow is falling!" And as far as I'm concerned, the Dow is straight id. It's just uncivilized, that's what the Dow is. It doesn't mean anything.
COSTELLO: Dr. Browne says you should ask yourself this: Did you become a multi-millionaire when the Dow soared to 14,000 in 2007? Browne says if you have a job now and you pay your mortgage, it's not likely the falling Dow will drive you to the poorhouse. But make no mistake, market analysts like Art Hogan of Jefferies and Company say the Dow is an important economic indicator. When it loses 23% of its value, we ought to pay attention, but not obsess.
ART HOGAN, CHIEF MARKET ANALYST, JEFFERIES & COMPANY: Watching the Dow every day is not going to predict the fact that you may become the 8% that's not working or that you may lose your house. Watching the Dow is more of a reflection of what investors think of about the earnings power of those 30 company that make up the Dow.
COSTELLO: Hogan and other analysts say the erratically diving Dow is more an indication of how Wall Street feels about the president's plans to fix the economy. And traditionally, it has been an indication of how the economy will play out in the short term, and history tells us the Dow has always recovered.
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Before We Go
AZUZ: Well, we've cooked up one more story before we go today. Things are really popping in one Iowa town. That's because Sac City wants to reclaim its crown as the home of the world's biggest popcorn ball! It's held the title twice previously. They could have tried buttering up the judges, but instead, about 100 people got to work cooking up this 5,000 pound pile of popcorn. That's more than two pounds for every person who lives in Sac City.
AZUZ: We tried to come up with some corny puns here, but none of them really popped. We'll be back tomorrow to close out the week. Hope to see you then.