(CNN Student News) -- April 21, 2009
Fighting the Taliban - Hear about some of the challenges facing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Electric Bikes - Take a ride on a bike that shifts power from pedals to electricity.
Cleopatra's Tomb? - Find out why one archaeologist wants to dig up dirt on Cleopatra.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: From a walkout in Switzerland to some powered pedalers in Washington, today's edition of CNN Student News is ready to hit the road.
First Up: U.N. Conference
AZUZ: We begin in the Swiss city of Geneva, where the United Nations is holding an anti-racism conference. But a handful of countries, including the U.S., Canada, Germany and Italy, aren't there. They boycotted the event. The U.S. said its decision was partly based on the conference singling out one country for criticism: Israel, who also didn't attend the meeting. But the boycott isn't the only controversy surrounding this summit. When Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the podium, representatives from several countries took off! British, French and Spanish delegates, along with others, walked out of the meeting to protest Ahmadinejad's speech. He accused Israel of having a "racist government" and of committing genocide against the Palestinian people. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the Iranian president for using the conference "to accuse and divide."
AZUZ: Turning to Afghanistan, President Obama says that U.S. troops are taking the fight to the Taliban. Violence is on the rise in Afghanistan. Last week, an improvised explosive device, or IED, claimed the life of a member of the NATO-led forces serving there. As additional U.S. military personnel deploy to Afghanistan, Barbara Starr reports on the situation they'll encounter when they arrive.
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BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: 39,000 U.S. forces are now here in Afghanistan. We asked four key senior U.S. officers on the ground to tell us how tough the fight is for those on the front line.
Are there places where the Taliban are now in control?
BRIG. GEN. JAMES NICHOLSON, REGIONAL COMMAND SOUTH: There are some areas, because we haven't had, to date, sufficient forces on the ground.
GEN. DAVID MCKEIRNAN, ISAF COMMANDER: We remain stalemated in the south.
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The insurgency has grown dramatically over the last year.
GEN. JAMES CONWAY, COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS: We are likely to see our casualties rise over what they had been.
STARR: CNN exclusively joined General Conway in southern Afghanistan for a firsthand look. In the weeks ahead, 8,000 more Marines alone will come here. The Taliban are setting up their welcome party. 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. We asked the top U.S. commander if Zakir, released from the military prison camp two years ago, is now a serious threat.
MCKEIRNAN: Absolutely, and we are seriously after him.
STARR: Here's what the U.S. troops are up against in the south: Insurgents are launching increasingly sophisticated ambush attacks. Roadside bombs are the number one killer. Mine detectors haven't been working as well as expected. Conway is concerned whether there will be enough helicopters to evacuate wounded Marines quickly off the battlefield.
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Is this Legit?
MICHELLE WRIGHT, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? Fewer than one percent of Americans bike to work. Legit! According to the U.S. Census Bureau, very few people bike to work, while more than 85 percent commute in a car.
AZUZ: One company is hoping that its new line of bikes might shift those statistics, offering riders a break from supplying their own power to propel themselves forward. These guys are peddling electric bicycles, and the idea that the product offers some environmental benefits. Elaine Quijano takes one out for a test ride.
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ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Take a look at these bicycles. They might look like ordinary bikes, but these are actually bicycles with an eco-twist, I guess you could say. They're made by a company based in northern Virginia called Electric Motion Systems, and joining me now is Tim Folk. He's with the company. And Tim, basically what you've got here are bikes with an electric twist. Tell me about that.
TIM FOLK, ELECTRIC MOTION SYSTEMS: That's correct. On the front of the bike, you can see the big hub in the front. That's a battery pack. And in the back, we have a 1,000 watt brushless motor. The bicycle goes 20 miles an hour, top speed. It has a practical range of 20-40 miles.
QUIJANO: So, I can get up to a pretty good clip on this thing. Let me try it.
QUIJANO: Let me give it a whirl. And while I'm doing that and getting ready here, tell me about your clientele. You were saying that there is a good deal of demand, that even folks from 30 miles out of the District of Columbia are coming to you, wanting these bikes. Is that right?
FOLK: Absolutely. We found that when gas prices went up, commuters were purchasing the bikes and using them instead of their cars.
QUIJANO: Huh. All right. Well, here I go. And I'm going to start to do this without pedaling first, so this is all thumb power. Here we go.
This is fun. Going along at a pretty good clip here. No horn. Excuse me, excuse me. And, we're gonna brake and turn around. That was fun. Didn't mean to go quite that far, but as you can see, you're also, obviously, able to do it the old-fashioned way, pedal power. But I've got to say, this is a lot funner, a lot more fun, a lot faster. And again, just one of the examples of the exhibits that are out here on the National Mall on Earth Day.
Again, this is a bike that is made by a company called Electric Motion Systems. A lot of demand for these kind of bikes. People are looking at them as alternatives to cars; a way to be green and still get to work on time. Maybe not be quite so sweaty when they get there, too.
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Earth Day Promo
AZUZ: Earth Day, you heard it mentioned in that report, was created about 40 years ago to increase awareness about environmental issues, and it officially takes place tomorrow and we've got a Learning Activity that challenges students to research the history and impact of major environmental laws. Find it on CNNStudentNews.com!
WRIGHT: See if you can I.D. Me! I was born in about 70 BC. I became the queen of Egypt when I was 18 years old. My name is famous in drama as well as history. I'm Cleopatra, and I was romantically connected to Roman ruler Mark Antony.
AZUZ: Cleopatra has a bit of a reputation thanks in large part to how she's been portrayed over the last couple millennia. But one archaeologist says history has it wrong, that the Egyptian queen was a warrior, poet and politician who spoke nine languages. So, why is she digging up dirt on the famous lady? Ben Wedeman sifts through the details.
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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, JERUSALEM: Skulls and bones: the latest discoveries in a land blessed with an embarrassment of archaeological riches.
ZAHI HAWASS, DIRECTOR, EGYPTIAN SUPREME COUNCIL OF ANTIQUITIES: There is hundreds of tombs near the temple, and also there are tombs in the west side of the temple.
WEDEMAN: These recently uncovered tombs west of Alexandria date back more than 2,000 years. And at this site around an ancient Egyptian temple, or rather underneath it, archaeologists believe could be the bodies of star-crossed lovers Mark Antony and Cleopatra, most memorably portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Antony and Cleopatra took their lives in 30 BC after a power struggle with Antony's main rival, Octavian. According to the Roman historian Plutarch, Octavian, who later became the first emperor of Rome, gave orders that Cleopatra be buried in a splendid and regal fashion along with Mark Antony. The question is, where?
It was thought they were buried in Cleopatra's palace in Alexandria, now underwater. But Dominican archaeologist Kathleen Martinez says the old theory doesn't make sense.
KATHLEEN MARTINEZ, ARCHAEOLOGIST: I believe it was not possible for her to be buried there. Because of her political situation, it was the end of the Ptolemeys, it was the end of Egypt as a free country. She could not use the same cemetery. She needed a special place.
WEDEMAN: And this could be that special place. So far, they've uncovered a variety of likenesses of Cleopatra and possibly Antony. They've also found these two as yet unidentified mummies. Underneath the crumbling cloth, the mummies are covered in gold, or so we're told.
What we have inside this tomb does appear to be the mummies of a man and a woman. Now, is it Marc Antony and Cleopatra? It is very difficult to say, but it certainly does make one think and wonder. Using ground-penetrating radar, archaeologists detected three underground cavities within the temple compound that could be tombs or burial shafts, one of which might contain the remains of Antony and Cleopatra, or might just contain more anonymous skulls and bones. Ben Wedeman, CNN, west of Alexandria, Egypt.
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Before We Go
AZUZ: Another story we refuse to keep under wraps. Mum's the word about this medical procedure, where researchers checked in a 2,000 year old patient! They're actually running it through a CT scan, which is kind of like an x-ray, to see what they can learn about the ancient mummy. Yup, still dead. Scientists are hoping that the present technology will unlock keys to these past lives. Let's hope it works.
AZUZ: Because we wouldn't want them to run crying home to their mummies. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.