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CNN Student News Transcript: September 9, 2008

  • Story Highlights
  • Learn about an experiment to study theories of the universe's origin
  • Examine the potential impact of a federal takeover of two U.S. corporations
  • Journey beneath Berlin, Germany to see Hitler's failed vision of the city
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(CNN Student News) -- September 9, 2008

Quick Guide

World's Biggest Science Project - Learn about an experiment to study theories of the universe's origin.

Fixing Fannie & Freddie - Examine the potential impact of a federal takeover of two U.S. corporations.

Myth Germania - Journey beneath Berlin, Germany to see Hitler's failed vision of the city.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: From our newsroom to your classroom, this is CNN Student News! Thanks for spending part of your day with us. I'm your host, Carl Azuz.

First Up: World's Biggest Science Project

AZUZ: First up, the universe. A group of researchers is exploring theories about how it got started, and it's just like the projects you do in school. Except it involves 10,000 scientists and will cool the testing area down to 271 degrees below zero Celsius. OK, it's a little bigger than your science experiments. But as Atika Shubert explains, the goal of this massive effort taking place in Europe is to learn about something very small: the atom.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN REPORTER: This is the biggest scientific experiment ever: 14 years and $10 billion in the making. The goal: trying to understand the secrets of the universe by recreating the moments just after the Big Bang.

SIR MARTIN REES, PROF. COSMOLOGY AND ASTROPHYSICS, UNIV. OF CAMBRIDGE: We've got to clearly understand the atoms we are made of, but we've got to understand the stars too, because every atom we are made of was fused from primordial hydrogen in a star which exploded before the sun formed. We are literally the ashes of long dead stars.

SHUBERT: This is the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, affectionately called the Big Bang machine at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva. The plan: beam particles around 27 kilometers, or 17 miles, of underground track at nearly the speed of light to smash them together and recreate conditions less than a microsecond after the Big Bang. Massive detectors will try and track down subatomic particles released from the collision. The most highly anticipated: the Higgs Boson, also known as "The God particle," theorized, but not yet proven to exist. Scientists believe it gives matter its mass, allowing for the formation of stars, planets and whole galaxies. Researches also hope to find evidence of new particles, new dimensions and possibly the elusive "dark energy" and "dark matter" that scientists believe make up most of the universe.

There are detractors. Go on YouTube and you get this: Some fear the experiment will create a black hole that will swallow the earth. But CERN says this will not happen. Scientists say a microscopic black hole is possible and this is what it might look like. But it would be too small and too unstable, winking out of existence in a matter of seconds. Critics also question what they see as astronomical billions of dollars in cost. But for many physicists, there is no question.

REES: I think you are culturally deprived if you can't appreciate the amazing chain of events that led from some mysterious beginning 13 or 14 billion years ago through atoms, stars, galaxies, planets and biospheres.

SHUBERT: Understanding how the universe works, these scientists believe, is worth the cost and the risk. Atika Shubert, CNN, Geneva.



MICHELLE WRIGHT, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! The experiment you just heard about is taking place at -271 degrees Celsius. What is -273 degrees Celsius better known as? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Absolute zero, B) Critical mass, C) Sub zero or D) Sublimation point? You've got three seconds -- GO! When the mercury drops to -273 Celsius, you've hit absolute zero, when molecular motion is at its most minimal. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Word to the Wise

WRIGHT: A Word to the Wise...

mortgage (noun) a loan that's used to pay for the purchase of a piece of property or real estate


Fixing Fannie & Freddie

AZUZ: The way it works is that the borrower, the person who's buying the property, gets the mortgage from business. It can be a bank or online lender. But a lot of times, loans come from a mortgage company like Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac. In fact, those two are the biggest lenders in the U.S. But thanks in part to struggles in the housing market, they ain't doing so well. That's why the government is getting involved.


AZUZ: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are two corporations that were in control of many American mortgages. Now, the government's in control of them. Here's why: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were losing money. So what? Don't other corporations lose money and not get government help? Yes. But consider this: These two controlled more than half the mortgages in the U.S. We're talking trillions of dollars in home loans. As many of you know, the U.S. housing market is not in good shape, and if one of these corporations went out of business, the entire economy could've taken a hit.

HENRY PAULSON, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in the financial markets, here at home and around the globe.

AZUZ: What kind of turmoil? For starters, it could get harder for Americans to get home loans, car loans, credit cards and loans to build new businesses. All of these things make the economy tick, so the government is stepping in to try to help out.

Pros of the takeover: It gives investors a feeling of security. With government support, there's less of a threat that Fannie and Freddie would go out of business. It could lead to lower mortgage rates, which could encourage many people to buy homes. And if demand for homes goes up, so do home prices, and that's also good for the economy.

Now the cons: This could cost the government some serious dough: two hundred billion dollars, if things don't go well. And you and I would pick up the bill as it comes out of U.S. tax revenue. It also could be only a temporary solution if the housing market doesn't bounce back as hoped.

PAULSON: We examined all options available and determined that this comprehensive and complimentary set of actions best meets our three objectives of market stability, mortgage availability and taxpayer protection.


Fannie & Freddie 101

AZUZ: Everyone knows these companies as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but those aren't their actual names. Fannie is the Federal National Mortgage Association, or FNMA. Run the letters together, pronounce the acronym: Fannie Mae, sort of. Similar deal with Freddie. Full name: the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or FHLMC. Freddie is a take on the word federal, and Mac comes from MC.

Myth Germania

AZUZ: Switching gears now, a new exhibit in Germany is offering visitors a vision of a remade Berlin. Adolf Hitler, who helped plunge the planet into World War II, wanted to drastically change his country's capital after the war ended. It turns out his plans began taking shape underground! Frederik Pleitgen journeys beneath the streets of Berlin to give us a glimpse.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN REPORTER: From the outside, it looks like just another manhole. But there's more here than meets the eye. We're going into Hitler's secret underground world, about 20 feet under the surface. We wade through blood red water, colored by rust. These are the remnants of one of the most awesome building projects of all time.

DIETMAR ARNOLD, BERLINER UNTERWELTEN: This was going to be a highway tunnel. Three lanes. This tunnel was built in 1938.

PLEITGEN: Dietmar Arnold has studied Berlin's underworld extensively. Like this; here's some wood from this time. And he says Hitler was planning to totally reshape Berlin, both below and above ground. With crowds cheering him on at the height of his power, Hitler wanted to turn the German capital into a monument to himself; the center of what would be his global Third Reich.

Here's a model of what it would have looked like, currently on display: long wide avenues lined with massive representative buildings. The project's name: Germania! You know a model can never really depict how gigantic, how impressive all of this was going to be, but have a look at this building right here. And this is that same building in real life: Germany's very large house of parliament, the Reichstag. "The architect had total freedom to redo the entire city. There were no limits," says the head of the exhibition. And he says that meant total access to slave labor.

ARNOLD: We are sure there were slave workers here.

PLEITGEN: Because the stairs are in such bad shape, so dented?

ARNOLD: Normally this looks really old, you know. You need a lot of people that you could find such traces.

PLEITGEN: So they used a lot of slave labor for this?

ARNOLD: I am sure.

PLEITGEN: Germania's construction was halted in 1943 without much work being done, as the war took its toll on Berlin. In the end, Hitler was defeated and Germany's capital lay in ruins. Now, what's left of Hitler's vision is buried deep under the city. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, a family trip gets swept away. Walter Marino, whom you see here, and his autistic son Chris are back on dry land after treading water for more than 12 hours in the Atlantic ocean. The strong current pulled Chris out to sea on Saturday. When Walter jumped in to save him, the current got him too. The pair floated separately for more than half a day. Thankfully, they were both found and are now in good shape.



AZUZ: That's where today's show washes up. Have a great day.

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