(CNN Student News) -- April 9, 2009
Pirates Hijack Ship - Journey into dangerous waters to hear about modern-day pirate tactics.
Afghanistan New Threats - Explore some of the threats facing U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.
$4000 Phone Bill - Find out how one teen's parents reacted to her $4,800 cell phone bill.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Think you send a lot of text messages? We'll tell you how one teen's texting led to a broken phone! I'm Carl Azuz and this is CNN Student News.
AZUZ: First up, a tense standoff at sea, following a pirate attack against a cargo ship. This sounds like something out of a movie, but the situation and the danger are very real. This most recent incident happened early yesterday morning near the Gulf of Aden. It's an area off the coast of the African nation of Somalia, a region that's seen a huge increase in piracy in recent years.
Yesterday, four hijackers boarded the Maersk Alabama, a freighter that was flying a U.S. flag and had 21 American crew members onboard. There were reports that the crew had captured one of the pirates and regained control of the ship. However, the pirates had taken the freighter's captain hostage and were holding him in the Maersk's lifeboat. They sank their own boat when they boarded the cargo ship. A U.S. Navy vessel headed to the scene yesterday evening, but there was no resolution to the incident when we recorded this show. So, how do pirates find and hijack these ships? Here's Nic Robertson with some of the details.
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NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They've certainly become more complex, and they've certainly become more sophisticated. Some of the NATO warships that patrol the area, some of the U.S. warships that patrol that area, too, believe that the way the pirates are able to operate now is that they use global positioning systems, that they will have spotters who will see a large vessel that they may want to hijack passing down the Gulf of Aden, heading towards the area off the coast of Somalia, and then go out and meet that vessel and target it and hijack it.
And they are sophisticated in their demands. They're sophisticated in the way that they are holding these vessels close to shore for many months until those demands are met or partially met, and sophisticated in the way they're having the money delivered to them, sometimes by parachute and picked up from the sea in very small, in the small fishing vessels that they're using. So, they are sophisticated, or becoming more sophisticated in their techniques, but their tools are very rudimentary. They are using small fishing vessels, they're using AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades to intimidate the ship's captains to stop those ships. And perhaps the biggest indication of this sort of lack of sophistication of the actual equipment they use is the fact that these hijackings have picked up in the past week or so, six in this week, according to some sources. And there's certainly a lot of speculation that while the seas have been rough over the past few months, the hijackers have had to lie low. So sophisticated techniques, maybe, but also rudimentary equipment. But now, they seem to be back in this sort of spring season.
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AZUZ: Moving to Italy, where officials say it will takes years to rebuild the city of L'Aquila following this week's deadly earthquake. But the government intends to start the reconstruction process immediately. Now, we want you to take a look at something here. That shaking isn't the earthquake; it's the aftershock we reported on yesterday. Some incredible news out of this story though: About 42 hours after the initial quake hit, rescuers pulled a woman out of the rubble alive.
GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS : Time for the Shoutout! Where would you find the cities of Herat, Kandahar and Mazar-e Sharif? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Iran, B) Pakistan, C) Afghanistan or D) Iraq? You've got three seconds -- GO! You'll find all of these cities in Afghanistan. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: One of those cities, Kandahar, is where al Qaeda took shelter just before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. Of course, the U.S. launched a military invasion into Afghanistan after the attacks, aimed at al Qaeda and the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan at the time. Nearly eight years later, Barbara Starr explores some of the new threats facing U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
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BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: As Marines step up combat operations across southern Afghanistan, U.S. commanders are reviewing significant new intelligence about the insurgent threat.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The insurgency has grown dramatically over the last year. The weather is starting to get a lot warmer, so we expect the fighting to pick up considerably.
STARR: Mullen spoke exclusively to CNN on his way to Pakistan. The Pakistanis are telling the U.S. they're worried the thousands of additional U.S. troops headed to southern Afghanistan will push insurgents into southern Pakistan and create a new safe haven in the region that the Pakistanis cannot control.
One man in particular U.S. troops are looking for goes by the battlefield name Zakir. He was released from Guantanamo Bay. U.S. troops think he is now operating in southern Afghanistan. CNN has also learned the U.S. has new intelligence that Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, has ordered insurgent factions to coordinate and step up attacks against U.S. troops. There is particular concern about this man, Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of a Pakistani Taliban faction. U.S. intelligence believes he controls thousands of fighters. One U.S. official bluntly says Mehsud specializes in suicide bombers. U.S. commanders are now up against a shadowy Taliban force that is increasingly targeting Afghan civilians.
BRIG. GEN. JOHN NICHOLSON, REGIONAL COMMAND SOUTH, STABILIZATION: Their form of justice is replacing elders with mullahs or other Taliban representatives and then enforcing justice at the barrel of a gun.
STARR: The U.S. believes the Taliban goal remains unchanged: attacks and intimidation against the people, and to kill as many U.S. troops as they can. Still, the Marines say they are ready and equipped to deal with whatever threat comes their way. Barbara Starr, CNN, Forward Operating Base Deleram.
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RAMSAY: Here's the deal: Today's Money Word is debt. It means the amount of goods, services or money that one owes to another. Put that in your word bank!
AZUZ: A Wyoming family owes thousands of dollars in debt to a cell phone company. You see, the family's teenage daughter, the one we mentioned at the beginning of today's show, discovered that you can send text messages even if your plan doesn't include them. Then mom and dad discovered the bill. Uh-oh. Adam Chodak of affiliate KUSA reports on the repercussions.
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ADAM CHODAK, KUSA REPORTER: They did it in the name of communication.
GREGG CHRISTOFFERSEN, DENA CHRISTOFFERSEN'S DAD: If she needs to reach us, anything.
CHODAK: Dad and mom got their 13-year-old daughter a cell phone. That's where this story begins.
GREGG CHRISTOFFERSEN: We didn't know about nothing.
CHODAK: Gregg Christoffersen knew he signed up for a plan that did not include texting, but he didn't know Dena could still send a message, and Verizon would charge him each time.
DENA CHRISTOFFERSEN, AVID CELL PHONE USER: So, I texted a whole bunch of people at the same time.
CHODAK: None of this was communicated to mom and dad until Verizon called.
JAYLENE CHRISTOFFERSEN, DENA CHRISTOFFERSEN'S MOM: I'm like, "What's going on?"
CHODAK: Dena had racked up a bill in one month of almost $4,800.
JAYLENE CHRISTOFFERSEN: So, I get off the phone and I called Dena and I said, "Don't send another text."
GREGG CHRISTOFFERSEN: Just hit us like a rock, like you're stepping into a bus.
CHODAK: Turns out Dena had sent 10,000 text messages and received about the same. That's more than 700 text messages a day.
GREGG CHRISTOFFERSEN: And that was in school alone she was doing.
CHODAK: So, mom and dad weren't all that surprised when the next big call was from the principal.
JAYLENE CHRISTOFFERSEN: She said, "Well, I'm a little concerned about Dena. She's got five Fs."
DENA CHRISTOFFERSEN: My dad took it with a hammer and, yeah, this is what happened to it. I felt really bad and I have learned my lesson.
CHODAK: What lesson is that?
DENA CHRISTOFFERSEN: When your parents tell you not to do something, don't do it.
CHODAK: Since dad disabled the phone, grades have gone up and texting has gone down. The only messages left are coming from mom and dad. One is for their daughter:
GREGG CHRISTOFFERSEN: She's grounded until school's out.
CHODAK: The other is for school administrators: more learning, a little less communicating.
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AZUZ: If you wanna share your opinion on this story, check out today's blog! And if you wanna avoid debt, you can make and follow a budget! We've got a Learning Activity that helps you do that. And for more Money Words, check out our Financial Glossary. You can find all of this is at CNNStudentNews.com!
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, check out one of the rarest gems in the world. Now, when you see a precious stone that's red, you might automatically think it's a ruby. Wrong! You're actually gazing at a red diamond, one of only three in the entire world. The stone was bought for just $40 when it was discovered in 1926. Today, it'll cost you a quarter of that just to look at it while it's on display.
AZUZ: Or you can just see it for free on our show. One story that truly rocks! CNN Student News returns tomorrow, I'm Carl Azuz.