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CNN Student News Transcript: February 17, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Discover how much of the stimulus plan is slated for K-12 public education
  • Find out how Venezuela's controversial leader could stay in power indefinitely
  • Hear what Olympian Michael Phelps says he hopes to do from now on
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(CNN Student News) -- February 17, 2009

Quick Guide

Stimulus for Schools - Discover how much of the stimulus plan is slated for K-12 public education.

Venezuelan Vote - Find out how Venezuela's controversial leader could stay in power indefinitely.

No Charges Against Phelps - Hear what Olympian Michael Phelps says he hopes to do from now on.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: CNN Student News is back from a three-day weekend! Hope everything is going well for you. I'm Carl Azuz, and our first story today concerns a certain stimulus plan!

First Up: Congress Passes Stimulus

AZUZ: It's America's most expensive stimulus bill ever, and President Obama is scheduled to sign it today. The U.S. House and Senate have passed a $787 billion measure, intended to give a serious booster shot to the U.S. economy. Some say it'll work, some say it won't; everyone will find out in the months and years ahead. The government's planning to spend about 65% of this money on everything from bridges, roads and buildings to unemployment benefits and food stamps. The other 35% will come in the form of tax cuts adding up to about $13 extra a week in a person's paycheck.

Stimulus for Schools

AZUZ: Remember field trips? For some of you, they're a thing of the past with school budget cuts. AP classes, art and music programs, summer school. All of this could disappear as education suffers in the recession. There is hope, though, that the stimulus could help out. Kate Bolduan explains how, as she takes us to one of many schools that could use some cash.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN REPORTER: The new secretary of education, Arne Duncan, toured an Arlington, Virginia high school to make the pitch for why education dollars matter in the stimulus package.

ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: There's nothing more important we can do, than create facilities that our students need to learn and reach their full potential.

BOLDUAN: About $80 billion of the total $787 billion package goes toward K-12 public education. We went to Arlington Schools Superintendent Rob Smith, to find out what that money means to his district.

BOLDUAN: What in this school, for example, could you do with stimulus dollars?

ROBERT SMITH, SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT, ARLINGTON CO. VIRGINIA: We know we need to do some work with the roof system. We know we need to put in a sprinkler system and we know we need to rework the entire heating air conditioning ventilation system. And that's the work that needs to be done. We know what we need to do so we're ready to spend the money.

BOLDUAN: Smith says, even without considering construction costs, Arlington schools are facing an $11 to $18 million budget shortfall this year. And they're looking at cutting everything from school books to buses to staff to make ends meet. Education leaders say school districts across the country are making the same painful decisions.

ANNE BRYANT, EXECUTIVE DIR., NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARD ASSOCATION: Our school boards tell us that they are facing shortages in terms of teacher layoffs, cutting programs. It's not just, you know, nice-to-do programs. It's the very core of teaching. It's the very core of raising student achievement.

BOLDUAN: And the very core of the argument for education stimulus dollars. But some experts, like Frederick Hess of the conservative thinktank American Enterprise Institute, say without reform any additional funding is throwing good money at a broken system.

FREDERICK HESS, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Unfortunately what we see in this package is what we've done for 40 years in education, which is more of everything. More technology. No guarantees that we're even going to think about how to use it to increase productivity.

BOLDUAN: Superintendent Smith disagrees. He says long-term change can't begin if they don't survive the short-term. Arlington public schools, like districts across the country, is still waiting to hear how much money it might get from the stimulus. This is one of the district's 34 schools you can be sure is fighting for its own piece of the pie. Kate Bolduan, CNN, Arlington, Virginia.


I.D. Me

AZUZ: See if you can ID Me! I'm a government organization whose mission is to provide the world's best aerospace system. I was formally created in 1958 to make airline flying less hazardous. When you fly in a plane, you fly by my rules! The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, does everything from improving flight safety to issuing pilots licenses.

Flight 3407

AZUZ: An FAA spokeswoman says the agency has given more than 100 directives since 1994 on the subject of icing, and flying in icy conditions. Investigators believe that ice build-up could have been the reason why Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed Thursday night killing all 49 passengers, and one person on the ground. Ines Ferre describes where and how the tragedy occurred.


INES FERRE, CNN REPORTER: It was a frightening fall from the sky for everyone on board Flight 3407. Investigators now say the plane dropped 800 feet in five seconds, just before it slammed into a house in a Buffalo suburb. Just 26 seconds before the crash, the plane went into violent jerking motions, pitching and rolling, before banking a sharp 105 degrees to the right. Investigators also revealed that the plane had been running on autopilot just before it crashed.

STEVEN CHEALANDER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: In icing conditions it might be best to disengage the autopilot and fly the plane manually so you have the manual feel for what might be changing in your flight regime because of the ice.

FERRE: The National Transportation Safety Board says that in the past it's advised against running on autopilot in severe icing conditions, but the conditions that night were not specified as 'severe,' And NTSB officials say it's the FAA that calls the shots when it comes to autopilot regulations.

CHEALANDER: In this one situation the FAA sees things a little differently than we do because they see that for some reasons, you may need to be flying with the autopilot, workload is one of those.

FERRE: Freezing temperatures and piles of wreckage have slowed attempts to find the remains of all 50 of the crash victims.

CLETUS KRAFT, RESIDENT: I can't help but think of the pain and suffering that all the families are going through.

FERRE: While investigators do their work, a local resident made room for flowers at this make shift memorial site outside a church, just blocks away from where the plane went down.



AZUZ: Time for the Shoutout! Who's the president of Venezuela? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Evo Morales, B) Michelle Bachelet, C) Felipe Calderon or D) Hugo Chavez? You've got three seconds -- GO! Hugo Chavez has been Venezuela's leader since 1999. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Venezuelan Vote

AZUZ: Could Hugo Chavez, who's 54-years-old, stay in power for the rest of his life? Some Venezuelans just had to consider that. Like the United States, the South American country had term limits for its presidents. Chavez, who in the past has spoken out against the U.S. and the United Nations, would've been done with his second and last term in 2012. But Morgan Neill reports from the Venezuelan capital that Chavez may be in charge years after that.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: After a hard-fought campaign, Venezuela waking Monday to the new reality that the principal political figure in the country, Hugo Chavez, may maintain that position beyond 2012. The results came in late Sunday night on a referendum to do away with term limits allowing president Hugo Chavez and other elected officials to run for re-election as long as they can keep winning. President Hugo Chavez didn't wait long to celebrate.

VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ (TRANSLATED): Victory, victory, popular victory! This is a clear victory for the people, a clear victory for the revolution.

NEILL: Also in that victory speech, President Chavez responded to accusations that he was trying to maintain his grip on power indefinitely, saying that "Nothing is forever, only God and Venezuela", in his words. Now, what will this vote mean moving forward? Well, for President Chavez it will mean a great deal of confidence, as he moves ahead with what he calls his "Bolivarian revolution." For the opposition, it means they now have four years until the next presidential election to try and define themselves as something other than those who are opposed to the policies of President Hugo Chavez. Morgan Neill, CNN, Caracas.


No Charges Against Phelps

AZUZ: No criminal charges for Michael Phelps. Though a recently published photo appeared to show the Olympian smoking marijuana at a party in November, a South Carolina sheriff says the photo's not enough; that there's simply not enough evidence to prosecute him or anyone who was at the party.

Phelps' reaction:

MICHAEL PHELPS, U.S. OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: I realize that I have made a mistake and bad judgment, and this is something that I need to learn from, I will learn from, and have learned from. I think from now on, it's for me to try to get a message across to kids. You know, I know that a lot of people make mistakes and the best way to learn from them is changing things.

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, even the guy who recorded this doesn't know what it is: Eddie Garcia was just trying to cover a race on Sunday morning when he caught fire in the sky! What looks like a rare, daylight meteor was accompanied by sonic booms; that's what happens when something exceeds the speed of sound. Some thought it could've been what was left of two satellites that collided last week, but officials nixed that theory.



AZUZ: So you'll have to decide for yourself whether it's something meatier than a meteor. We hope you'll decide to drop in on us again on Wednesday. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.

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