(CNN Student News) -- November 30, 2009
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: You are in the homestretch -- just a few weeks left to go before the holiday break. And we'll help get you there. I'm Carl Azuz; this is CNN Student News.
First Up: Troops in Afghanistan
AZUZ: Big announcement scheduled for tomorrow night: what President Obama plans to do about Afghanistan. There are 68,000 U.S. troops there right now. And you know the president's been meeting with advisors for weeks, trying to figure out how the U.S. should approach the war there. He says he wants to get the decision right, but he's been criticized for taking too much time to make it. There is one thing that some critics and supporters of the president seem to agree on, though: that he needs to talk about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, (R), INDIANA: The president needs to start by outlining the war we are in. Now by that, I mean, the war not against the Taliban, Al Qaida, but what is, at least, the objective of continuing in Afghanistan or in any place? That is basic.
SEN. JACK REED, (D), RHODE ISLAND: The president has to speak to the American people, remind them why we're there, and also lay out a strategy, not just the reflexive response to a recommendation, but a strategy that involves protecting the homeland from Al Qaida.
AZUZ: Good news and bad news about Black Friday, that super shop-off right after Thanksgiving. More Americans showed up in stores than last year -- good for business. But they were spending less money on average -- not good for business. Still, online sales were on the up and up this year, and that could be a good sign heading into Cyber Monday, explained now by Errol Barnett.
ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA: Over the past decade Cyber Monday has become one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. We typically see this on the Monday following Thanksgiving or in the days leading up to Christmas. Huge spikes in online retail sales. People want to avoid those long lines in-store so they head online to snap up some of the bargains.
So exactly how much are people spending? Well take a look at the numbers here. After last year's financial collapse, $536 million was spent online in the U.S. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. On the following Monday, you see it there, online sales swelled to $846 million and this year's numbers, they're still coming in, but you can expect them to go higher. You see, even though a 1% drop in overall retail sales are predicted this year, comScore expects a 3% rise in online retail revenue for the months of November and December. That's over last year, which should amount to almost $29 billion of retail sales. Now that's good news, but it's not great news. Typically we see at least a 20% jump for holiday retail sales. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Errol Barnett.
Time for the Shoutout! You're looking at a map of Central America. Which of these countries is Honduras? Is it A, B, C or D? You've got three seconds--GO! Honduras is between Guatemala and Nicaragua, and it touches both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: Sunday's vote was no ordinary election in Honduras. Things there, still at a political standstill, months after President Manuel Zelaya was forced out of office in June. He was accused of trying to illegally change Honduras' constitution. The country's Supreme Court says Zelaya can't get power back until he stands trial. But Honduras' current leader, Roberto Micheletti, is hoping Sunday's vote will settle everything. The U.S. also hopes it does; Argentina and Brazil say it won't.
AZUZ: Iran is doing exactly what other countries don't want it to. The Middle Eastern nation is moving forward on building ten, new, nuclear facilities. And the international community is afraid these things are gonna be used to make illegal, nuclear weapons. Iran argues they're only for nuclear power -- the Iranian Cabinet voting to approve construction just two days after the International Atomic Energy Agency demanded that Iran stop working on another nuclear facility that it had kept secret.
AZUZ: Dubai: Part of the United Arab Emirates: known for some of the most extravagant communities on the planet, could be in trouble. A major developer there is in deep debt and wants more time to pay it off. And some are wondering if some lavish property could become a white elephant, something that's more trouble than it's worth for Dubai. Morgan Neill describes how all this could affect places far from the Middle East.
MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT, DUBAI: The party to open Dubai's Atlantis Hotel just over a year ago now seems like a mirage. At an estimated cost of $20 million it boasted a guest list of the world's rich and famous. Just two months after the Lehman shock, the dazzling extravagance seemed to say Dubai is immune, but it never was.
Dubai World, which owns Nakheel, the developer of the man-made tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah Island, has now requested a suspension of debt payments. The move threatens to undermine confidence in a recent property recovery, and celebrities who bought homes there may find their property is suddenly worth a lot less. Author Jim Krane says that while established developments should be fine, Dubai's other artificial island projects, The World and Palm Deira, could be in trouble.
JIM KRANE, AUTHOR, "DUBAI CITY OF GOLD": It will take a special kind of investor and probably, you know, more robust economy for anybody to really build on one of those places. I mean there is a lot more practical places to build than on one of these little islands in the world, so that could be a white elephant for a long time.
NEILL: One of the firms, which has bought into the World, has confidence in Dubai's long-term story.
GILES BESWICK, SELECT PROPERTY: I would disagree that it would be a white elephant. I think it will be part of the continuing development of Dubai as a city, and a tourism center, and an investment center for many years to come.
NEILL: But in the short term, Dubai World's announcement has brought uncertainty and the prospect of a fire sale of assets to raise cash. Whatever the fate of investments abroad, hopes that Dubai's inflated portfolio of luxury property was beginning to recover have been dashed. Morgan Neill, CNN, London.
Shoutout Extra Credit
Time for a Shoutout Extra Credit! What does the German word "Tannenbaum" mean? Is it: A) St. Nick, B) Wreath, C) Garland or D) Christmas tree Another three seconds -- GO! Tannenbaum means Christmas tree -- and the tradition of the modern Christmas tree comes from Germany too! That's your answer and that's your Shoutout Extra Credit!
AZUZ: A band was reportedly playing "O Tannenbaum," or "Oh, Christmas Tree" when the first family had their own tree delivered over the weekend. It measures more than 18 feet tall and Dan Lothian shows us how it's not grown just like any ol' tree.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the baby here now. We have to figure out how we're going to get this loaded.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Eric and Gloria Sundback, this is a holiday tradition. Growing a Christmas tree fit for a president.
ERIC SUNDBACK, CHRISTMAS TREE GROWER: You're helping make a Christmas for the whole country.
LOTHIAN: The West Virginia couple, both in their 80s, have grown four presidential Christmas trees - one for Jimmy Carter, two for Ronald Reagan and now this 18 1/2 foot Douglas fir destined for the Obama White House.
E. SUNDBACK: What we really like this year is that it's going to a family. The children are there. The family is well knit.
LOTHIAN: To provide the White House tree, a farmer has to be crowned by the National Christmas Tree Association. Then White House officials make a visit.
GLORIA SUNDBACK: They're looking for trees that have good form and for trees that have stronger branches because they use a lot of decorations.
LOTHIAN: And it takes a lot of hard work to grow that perfect presidential tree. Careful pruning, experimenting to get the right mix of characteristics, and a little tough love.
E. SUNDBACK: She had a word when she would get up in the morning and say, well, fellas, you want to be a Christmas tree now or are you going to wait until later and be toilet paper? That gets the tree growing.
LOTHIAN: These college sweethearts who have been growing trees for 50 years are hoping to shake the Obama's hands when they drop off this holiday gift but then it's back to work.
E. SUNDBACK: You don't want to let it go to your head because you have to come back out and work again.
G. SUNDBACK: That's right.
LOTHIAN: But they say they're happy knowing their gift will bring joy to the first family.
E. SUNDBACK: We hope they enjoy it as much as we've enjoyed Christmas as kids so if the tree is good and they enjoy it, that's what it's about.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Well, for many of us, 'tis the season of feasting, and for students at Moline High School in Illinois, it didn't start with Thanksgiving dinner. It started with Thanksgiving breakfast. More than 120 students teamed up to devour over 600 donuts, roughly five donuts per student, all to help raise money for those less fortunate. The girl who ate the most said the cause made it worth it, even if she felt like barfing.
AZUZ: Plus, they had Thanksgiving dinner later on, something we urge students with weak stomachs: do-nut try this at home. But do join us tomorrow, when we cook up a new edition of CNN Student News! And if you haven't seen our 'office crib' on Facebook, you oughta go here: Facebook.com/CNNStudentNews. I'm Carl Azuz-- looking forward to seeing y'all tomorrow.