(CNN Student News) -- February 5, 2009
A Trillion Buck$ - Gain perspective on the stimulus bill's nearly trillion-dollar price tag.
Pakistan Buses - Explore the Taliban's spreading influence on daily life in Pakistan.
Handy Invention - Hear how some students invented a device to aid their disabled teacher.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Seen from Mr. Scholzen's classes in Hurricane, Utah, to Mrs. Elder's class in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Mr. Casorio's classes in Canton, Connecticut, this is CNN Student News!
AZUZ: First up, debate on the economic stimulus bill, as the U.S. Senate weighs in on the legislation. The goal of this plan is to help the struggling U.S. economy. But Republicans and Democrats are at odds on the best ways to do that, specifically, how should government money be spent and how much of it should be spent? Right now, the cost of the bill is approaching a trillion dollars. Christine Romans puts this number into perspective.
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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN REPORTER: A little gut check on just how big a trillion dollars is. It's got 12 zeroes; that's easy to understand. Or think of it this way: one trillion one-dollar bills stacked high would reach nearly 68,000 miles into space, one third of the way to the moon. Republicans are hardly over the moon.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: If you started spending the day that Jesus was born, and you spent a million dollars every single day, you still wouldn't have spent a trillion dollars.
ROMANS: We checked the senator's numbers with noted mathematician John Allen Paulos.
PROFESSOR JOHN ALLEN PAULOS, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: A million dollars a day for 2,000 years is only three quarters of a trillion dollars. It's a big number, no matter how you slice it.
ROMANS: So, let's slice it another way.
PAULOS: A million seconds is about 11 and a half days. A billion seconds is about 32 years. And a trillion seconds is 32, 000 years. People tend to lump them together, perhaps because they rhyme.
ROMANS: Million, billion, the national debt tops $10 trillion. After a $700 billion bank rescue and proposed $800 billion dollar stimulus, are we numb?
PAULOS: Number itself can be parsed, number or numb-er. And uh, maybe in this case the latter is a better pronunciation.
DR. EVIL, FROM NEW LINE CINEMA'S "AUSTIN POWERS": One million dollars.
ROMANS: Just like Dr. Evil discovered in the movie Austin Powers, times have changed. Back in 1993:
U.S. PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: An immediate package of jobs investments of over $30 billion.
ROMANS: He didn't get it. Just last year:
U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The whole purpose of a stimulus package is to have something robust enough to make a difference.
ROMANS: President Bush signed an emergency economic stimulus of a now paltry $168 billion. And now?
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, (R) TENNESSEE: A trillion....
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: A trillion...
SEN. JIM DEMINT, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: A trillion...
SEN. ROGER WICKER, (R) MISSISSIPPI: A trillion dollars.
ROMANS:Can we afford it?
PAULOS: The gross national product is $12 trillion. Whatever it is, we do have a big economy that may not be as vibrant as it was, but it is still a powerful economic engine. So, knock on wood, we'll see what happens.
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ERIC NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for some Fast Facts! The Taliban are a Muslim fundamentalist group that controlled a large part of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. They were criticized for the harsh way in which they ruled, and they were punished by the United Nations for creating thousands of refugees. The Taliban allowed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden to stay in Afghanistan as a guest. After refusing to hand him over to the U.S. after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Taliban were attacked and ousted from Afghan rule.
AZUZ: They were thrown out of power, but the Taliban are still around in Afghanistan and causing problems for the country's government. It's a similar situation in neighboring Pakistan. Taliban forces are clashing with the government there, too. And the group's influence, especially that harsh rule, is spreading through parts of Pakistan. Reza Sayah explores the effect on daily life.
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REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pakistani music: It used to blare from inside Badar Ustad's bus. But today, all you hear in Badar's bus is passenger chatter. The music, silenced by this letter he says was signed by the Taliban.
BADAR USTAD, BUS DRIVER (TRANSLATED): All these things have been done away with. Since the letter came, we've finished off the tapes.
SAYAH: The letter is a Taliban warning to bus drivers in Mardan, a city in northwestern Pakistan: "Remove all radios, TVs and VCRs from your buses." Within days and without protest, Mardan's bus drivers followed the Taliban's orders.
WALID MIR, BUS DRIVERS' UNION OFFICIAL (TRANSLATED): Our union met, and we told all the car drivers to put an end to all the TV and VCRs. We told them all these TVs and VCRs, put an end to it right away.
HAMID GHOURI, PROFESSOR, ANALYST: They think music is unIslamic.
SAYAH: Political analyst Hamid Ghouri says the swift silencing of music on Mardan's buses shows the Taliban's sway is slowly spreading east from Pakistan's ungoverned tribal region to settled areas like Mardan.
GHOURI: The consequences are very serious if they expand their operations and cause big problems. It's very obvious.
SAYAH: Perhaps nowhere are the problems more obvious than in Swat Valley. Once a popular tourist destination, now in the clutches of a ruthless Taliban regime that's targeted girls' schools, banned teenage girls from getting an education, and imposed what they call a strict version of Islamic law. Tens of thousands of residents have fled the Taliban's brutal regime. Authorities say police have run away too. Pakistanis are calling on the government to do more.
YOUSEF RAZA GILLANI, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: We are finding a way out, and we don't want to disclose the strategy prior to what we have planned.
SAYAH: For now, in the Swat Valley and inside the buses of Mardan, it's the Taliban's law that reigns supreme, and Badar Ustad knows the danger of ignoring it. For him, silencing the music was an easy choice.
USTAD: Now that we've completely removed them, we're happy.
SAYAH: Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.
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NIVISON: Time for the Shoutout! According to a famous saying, necessity is the mother of _______? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Innovation, B) Justification, C) Invention or D) Dissection? You've got three seconds -- GO! Necessity is the mother of invention, according to the famous philosopher Plato. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: A group of Michigan students is in the running for a national engineering award thanks to its recent invention. And just as Plato predicted, it was inspired by need. You see, this group identified a challenge facing one of its teachers and created a solution as part of a class project. Valerie Lego of affiliate WZZM in Grand Rapids constructs the details.
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VALERIE LEGO, WZZM REPORTER: Mike Martin is a religion teacher at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, and he types every day, from creating assignments to grading papers. And until recently, he did it all with just one hand.
MIKE MARTIN, GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL RELIGION TEACHER: I've always felt that it's not what you lose, but what you've got left that counts.
LEGO: Mike Martin lost his left hand in a punch press accident 40 years ago. He adapted, but admits typing is a chore.
KEVIN GREENE, CATHOLIC CENTRAL SENIOR: We all had him, so we know what issues he struggled with most, and the biggest thing was typing.
LEGO: So, when these ten senior engineering students at C.C. were given the assignment to design a device for people with disabilities, they immediately thought of Mr. Martin.
JEANINE GASPER, GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL PRE-ENGINEERING INSTRUCTOR: And they decided that they wanted to help someone they knew.
LEGO: Jeanine Gasper is the pre-engineering instructor who guided the students through the design process, until they eventually came up with this: the "Handy Typer"...
GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL STUDENT: You have a rubber cup that the hand comfortably fits into. It also has padding on the inside, and there are these two bars for stability.
LEGO: ...Custom fit for Mr. Martin.
MARTIN: It would save me at least an hour a day.
LEGO: But that's not all it does. You see, Mike Martin was left handed before his accident.
MARTIN: But I can imagine that it will be like my old left hand again.
LEGO: And it seems in the process of completing a school project, something else happened.
MARTIN: Education, teaching, schools are more than just teaching of lessons. It's a relationship.
LEGO: They all learned that one of life's greatest lessons can be taught in a classroom.
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AZUZ: Turning to our blog, where a lot of you are talking about Michael Phelps. Gus writes, "I think this presents an interesting question about the true, underlying nature of people we hail as national heroes and slap onto boxes of Wheaties. Because someone excels at sports, that does not make him a morally good person." A lot of you, like Marcel, are saying everyone makes mistakes. "Phelps is a really good athlete, and as long as he won't do it again, everything is okay."
From Emmy: "Over the summer, Michael Phelps did everything with determination and skill, an example to us all. Hearing this, now I'm not so sure." Olivia thinks they should punish him like they do everybody else. "Just because he's famous doesn't mean he should get special treatment." To see the story and comment yourself, check the blog at CNNStudentNews.com!
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, manatee insanity in parts of southern Florida! About a hundred of these suckers showed up recently at a power plant in the Sunshine State. The sea cows need warm water to survive, so they migrate to spots like this in the winter. That's because when the plant is finished with the water it uses for its cooling system, it kicks it out slightly warmer than before. So basically, this is like a manatee hot tub.
AZUZ: Having to share a hot tub with a hundred other people? Oh, the humanity! This show is all washed up. We'll see you again tomorrow.