(CNN Student News) -- December 6, 2010
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UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: Welcome to CNN Student News with Carl Azuz!
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Now that is how you get a show poppin'! Thank you gentlemen very much. Welcome, all of you, to a new week of CNN Student News! I'm Carl Azuz, and we thank all our viewers from all over the world for tuning in.
First Up: Unemployment Report
AZUZ: The first Friday of every month, the U.S. government usually announces the current unemployment rate. Bad news: This past Friday's announcement came as a surprise; the rate went up to 9.8 percent. It had been 9.6 percent for several months. Some experts were predicting it would stay the same. More than 15 million Americans looking for work, not good news. But there are some people who are actually encouraged by the increase. The unemployment rate only counts people who are actively looking for jobs. So if the rate goes up, it could mean that Americans who'd stopped looking think they have a better chance of finding work, so they're back on the job hunt. Still, analysts say it is disappointing the overall job market hasn't gotten better.
AZUZ: President Obama is back in Washington after a trip to Afghanistan. He made a surprise visit there on Friday, meeting with thousands of U.S. troops. This is his second trip to Afghanistan since he became president. Dan Lothian has more on the president's time in Afghanistan and why it didn't go exactly as planned.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was a secret trip the White House says was in the works for more than a month; flying into Bagram Air Base for a little more than four hours to salute the men and women who are carrying out the administration's stepped-up strategy in Afghanistan.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This part of the world is the center of a global effort where we are going to disrupt and dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and that's why you're here.
LOTHIAN: But ahead of a mid-December review, what is being called a comprehensive assessment to possibly tweak the president's policy there, challenges remain. There's rampant corruption in the Afghan government, highlighted by leaked state department cables in which Ambassador Carl Eikenberry is said to be concerned about "how to fight corruption when key government officials are themselves corrupt." And then there is the continued Taliban threat.
OBAMA: You're going on the offense. I'm tired of playing defense. Targeting their leaders. Pushing them out of their strongholds.
LOTHIAN: Mr. Obama had planned on flying to Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai and visit U.S. embassy employees. But a storm rolled in with high winds, dust and low cloud cover, so his helicopter trip was canceled, and the Karzai meeting became a 15-minute phone call. The president did visit wounded troops at a base hospital, awarding five Purple Hearts, and met with members of the 101st Airborne Division who lost six members in a deadly attack earlier this week.
OBAMA: There are going to be difficult days ahead. Progress comes at a high price.
LOTHIAN: Thirteen hundred U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the war began. This year was especially deadly. The Obama administration plans to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, and a stable, reliable government there is key to meeting that deadline. As for whether or not those WikiLeaks documents could cause more problems for the Obama administration, one top aide says that they've weathered these kinds of revelations in the past and that there's no secret about the challenges they're facing in Afghanistan, especially when it comes to corruption in the government there. Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.
Tax Vote in Senate
AZUZ: Moving to the legislative branch of U.S. government and the debate over some tax cuts we've been talking about recently. These are cuts that were made under President George W. Bush. They are set to expire. If they do, it means Americans' taxes will go up. Everyone seems to be in favor of extending the cuts for families who make less than $250,000 a year. The debate is over extending those tax cuts for families that make more money than that. Saturday, the U.S. Senate voted not to extend the cuts for anyone, but Democratic and Republican leaders are hopeful they they can still work out a compromise.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mr. Study's social studies classes at Shallotte Middle School in Shallotte, North Carolina! Which of these words means a fee that countries have to pay when they import something? Is it: A) Default, B) Inflation, C) Subsidy or D) Tariff? You've got three seconds -- GO! The fee or tax on products that are imported is called a tariff. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: A new deal between the U.S. and South Korea would get rid of a lot of tariffs. President Obama announced the plan on Saturday. Over the next five years, it would eliminate 95 percent of the tariffs on industrial and consumer products that South Korea imports from the United States. The president says this agreement will mean billions of dollars in American exports and support 70,000 American jobs. Other folks don't see it that way. In fact, they argue that this trade agreement will actually cost U.S. jobs. The president had hoped to finalize the deal with South Korea when he was in that country last month. There were some disagreements about specific details that caused the delay.
AZUZ: Albania is a country in southeastern Europe. It's a little smaller than the U.S. state of Maryland, and it's home to about 3 million people. 12,000 of them have had to leave their homes because of this: massive flooding caused by severe rain. You can see some of the damage in these photos sent in by an iReporter. Huge areas of land are underwater. Thousands of homes have flooded. Officials have declared a state of emergency, and troops and police are helping out in the rescue efforts.
AZUZ: Israel's cabinet has promised speedy relief to victims of a deadly wildfire in that country. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, says he wants the people who were affected to be able to go back to their homes or to alternative housing within days. The fire broke out on Thursday. It's killed at least 40 people and injured at least 17 others. As of Sunday, it was still burning in a few places, but authorities said the major sources had been extinguished. Israel is getting help from other countries, including the U.S., Egypt and Jordan. And Palestinians -- a group that's often at odds with Israel -- are helping out here too.
TRENT MITCHELL, SHORECREST HIGH SCHOOL VIDEO TEACHER: You will see the kids walking, you know, kind of looking down and texting away, when there's 50 kids around them they could be talking to.
NICHOLI WYTOVICZ, SHORECREST HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I Facebook after I get home from school, and then I do my homework, and then I Facebook some more.
MARA HARRIS, SHORECREST HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I'm not on it 24/7, but I could cut back. I know my mom would love it.
AZUZ: All right, if that sounds familiar, we're all guilty of this at some point or other. As you can see from our stack of smartphones and cell phones right here, technology and social networking are everywhere. But for one week, there's a school district in Washington state that's going unplugged as part of a social experiment. And this is what we mean by unplugged: More than 400 students, teachers and staff have promised to give up texting, Twitter, Facebook and cell phones! The teacher who came up with the idea says people are losing the ability to have face-to-face communication. Students have been promoting the experiment on Facebook. Go figure. All of it starts today. The students who are taking part are on the honor system, but they've given their cell numbers to teachers who will use "spies" to try and test them.
AZUZ: We're covering this on our blog today; you probably guessed that already. But about Friday's blog on a high school football player who got flagged after praying in the end zone, Rebecca says she would not stop pointing to the sky after scoring. She would let go of the ball first, though, since that's supposedly what triggered the flag. Laurie's class agreed with dropping the ball first, writing that "people of faith should be able to show it, but they still have to follow rules." Salicia, like several of you, talked about the First Amendment and said "the player had every right to say a prayer." Look at this: 93 percent of you thought Ronnie Hastie should not have been penalized for what he did. Jackson says it's offensive on the ref's part because it's like he's saying "no following religion on a football field." Ryan says "the player wasn't celebrating; he was thanking God. As a football player myself, they should get rid of that rule altogether." Quick reminder for you: We only publish comments with first names; we only read first names on the show.
Before We Go
AZUZ: All right, today's Before We Go segment is about someone who's just a giant baby. A giant panda baby. Well, he's kinda cute now. He only weighs about 2 pounds. Just wait 'til he's full-grown and weighs 200 pounds! This little guy is just a month old. We'd like to tell you his name, but he won't get that until he's 100 days old. That's a tradition in China, where pandas are from. This check-up was to make sure he's healthy, in good shape, and eating well.
AZUZ: You know, all the bear essentials. That about cub-bers it for today's program. We hope you have a great day. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.