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CNN Student News Transcript: April 10, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Hear why the Detroit public school system is considering serious changes
  • Explore the concerns associated with vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid
  • Consider some methods that have been used to predict earthquake activity
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(CNN Student News) -- April 10, 2009

Quick Guide

School Closings - Hear why the Detroit public school system is considering serious changes.

Cyber Vulnerability - Explore the concerns associated with vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid.

Predicting Earthquakes? - Consider some methods that have been used to predict earthquake activity.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: One person's passion for Peeps? It's almost as awesome as Fridays, and it's coming up in today's edition of CNN Student News. Hi, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Hijacking Update

AZUZ: We begin though with an update on a situation near Somalia, where pirates attacked a cargo ship earlier this week. As we told you about yesterday, the crew of the Maersk Alabama regained control of their freighter, but the four hijackers took the ship's captain hostage and they were holding him in one of the Maersk's lifeboats. Yesterday evening, negotiators onboard a Navy warship at the scene were in contact with the pirates, working to get the captain released. Reports indicated that he had not been hurt. The Maersk and the rest of its crew were returning to shore. This situation though is pretty fluid, but you can always get the latest details at

School Closings

AZUZ: On to Detroit, Michigan. The city is facing some serious changes to its public school system. There are about 45,000 fewer students enrolled today than there were ten years ago. And with the state's governor having declared a financial emergency, officials are looking at closing dozens of schools. Jim Kiertzner of affiliate WDIV reports on the situation.

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JIM KIERTZNER, WDIV REPORTER: The Detroit Public Schools are under a state takeover by the state of Michigan. They've put into effect an emergency financial manager. Only a few weeks into the job and he's cutting, and he's cutting deep. Right now 23 schools, K-12, on the chopping block this year, another 26 next year; 600 teachers being pink slipped before next fall; 7,500 students being relocated to new school buildings. This is a city facing possible bankruptcy by two automotive giants, General Motors and Chrysler. But the emergency financial manager says he has one objective: that's to keep Detroit Public Schools open.

ROBERT BOBB, DPS EMERGENCY FINANCIAL MANAGER: The bottom line is that we have too many buildings for too few students. The reality is that schoolhouse buildings will have to be closed and consolidated. Following a series of input from the community, I will make my final decision on these rounds of closings by May 8.

KIERTZNER: Detroit's $300 million deficit did not happen ovenight. There's evidence of mismanagement and possible fraud. They're looking into possible criminal charges. They're projecting the deficit will not be erased until the year 2011. In Detroit, Jim Kiertzner for CNN.


Word to the Wise


vulnerable (adjective) being open to an attack or harm


Cyber Vulnerability

AZUZ: Former government officials are warning about the vulnerability of the power grid that provides electricity across America. They're not talking about an attack from a missle or a bomb; they fear one from cyberspace. In fact, the government says the power grid has already been hacked! Jeanne Meserve examines why someone might want to break into this system.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Could a foreign entity turn off our power from afar with a computer mouse? Two former federal officials tell CNN hackers have embedded software in the electric grid that could potentially disrupt the system or even destroy equipment.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: You know, I don't think it's appropriate for me to confirm that one way or the other. But what I can say is that the vulnerability has been something that the Department of Homeland Security and the energy sector have known about for years.

MESERVE: It is hard to trace the origin of covert cyber activities, but there is heavy suspicion that China and Russia are involved.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: It's deterrence in the event of war. They will have another weapon at their disposal, which will be to turn off our power.

MESERVE: But the power grid is not the only vulnerable sector. According to the former officials, malicious code has also been apparently found in the computer systems of the oil and gas, telecommications and financial services industries. What is discovered can be destroyed, but experts doubt everything has been found.

SCOTT BORG, U.S. CYBER CONSEQUENCES UNIT: If you have somebody who knows what they're doing writing that code and embedding it in a clever way, you can look right at it and not recognize it.

MESERVE: The implications are extraordinarily serious.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: When I think of terrorism, I think of high-end WMD terrorism: nuclear, biological weapons. I put cyber right in the same category, not because of the likely loss of life; I put it up there because of the likely economic impact.

MESERVE: In 2007, a government experiment demonstrated that a cyber attack could destroy electrical equipment. But critics say the electric industry has not done enough to ferret out cyber vulnerabilities or close them. The industry says it is making progress. Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.



RAMSAY: Today's Shoutout goes out to Ms. Bell's classes at Kittitas Secondary School in Kittitas, Washington! Which of these agencies monitors earthquake activity? You know what to do! Is it the: A) USGS, B) NOAA, C) SPR or D) NORAD? You've got three seconds -- GO! The U.S. Geological Survey studies earthquakes as part of its mission to understand the Earth. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Predicting Earthquakes?

AZUZ: The organization has developed theories on what causes earthquakes to happen and where these tremors are most likely to take place. But can we predict when one of these natural disasters will strike? The USGS says no, and we might never be able to. But that hasn't stopped people from trying. Dan Simon reports on some of the efforts.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, SAN FRANCISCO: Any time there's a major earthquake like the one this week in Italy, there is renewed speculation about whether these kinds of catastrophes can be predicted. The U.S. Geological Survey says there's a 99% chance a significant earthquake will again strike California within the next 30 years, 6.7 magnitude or greater. The quake in Italy was a 6.3.

Thirty years: not much help in helping communities prepare for a disaster. Seismologist Kate Hutton says the best hope may be a warning system that would alert communities the moment an earthquake has struck.

KATE HUTTON, CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: And we'd have plenty of time to, say, stop elevators or slow down high-speed trains, that kind of thing that could save lives.

SIMON: Still, researchers have looked at several ideas over the years to predict quakes, including the activity of cockroaches along fault lines, the movement of air masses and ground warping, but most have been discredited. Some experts say satellite imagery could be one area of promise. Although earthquakes seem to strike randomly, the energy released from a quake builds up for months or years. The theory behind advanced imaging would be to sense that buildup and provide data on the likelihood of a quake.

The academic community has also been trying to come up with better building materials to withstand earthquakes, including stronger shock absorbers that could be retrofitted on aging buildings or used in new construction. Bottom line: While technology is continually evolving, a powerful earthquake is bound to cause significant damage no matter where it happens.


Before We Go

AZUZ: Finally today, a lot of people like to feast on the gooey goodness of little chickens, but only those made out of marshmallow. We're talking about Peeps! One woman has turned the sugary seasonal selection into cause for a collection. Joscelyn Moes of affiliate WFMZ dishes out the details.


JOSCELYN MOES, WFMZ REPORTER: One peek and you might think it took a lifetime to put this confectionery collection together. But it only took this proud Peeps parent a few short years.

JOHANNA BILLINGS, PEEP COLLECTOR: They're just cool. They're just cute.

MOES: The idea was hatched when Johanna Billings bought some Peeps plush packs in 2005. She hasn't stopped collecting the cute creatures.

BILLINGS: I have been a long-time collector of unusual plush or stuffed objects.

MOES: In the '80s, she started buying stuffed soccer balls; she has more than 900. From there, her passion moved to Peeps.

BILLINGS: My husband collects tractors, so I always say, "Well, these, there may be more of them, but they take up considerably less room and they're considerably less expensive."

MOES: She has more than 600 plush and nearly 200 non-plush products. Just to show the power of Peeps, you name a product, Johanna's probably got it. She has a Peeps hat, lights, tic-tac-toe game, pens and a house full of stuffed chicks and bunnies. She buys many of her products from eBay. Her friends and family also pitch in. Johanna clearly loves everything Peeps, but eating the squishy sweet is low on her list.

BILLINGS: They're ok. They're not my favorite. I really prefer chocolate.

MOES: Although her family makes fun...


MOES: ...Johanna says she'll continue springing for her Peeps pals for a long time to come.

BILLINGS: I think you either have the collecting gene or you don't. And we definitely do.




AZUZ: Some people might make fun of a candy-based collection, but you won't hear a Peep out of us. Okay, it might not be in your class, but somewhere, someone is laughing at that. This weekend, check out the new video on our Facebook page. I'd call that pretty funny if the joke hadn't been on me! Hope you enjoy it, we'll see you guys back here on Monday. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.

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