(CNN Student News) -- April 13, 2009
Oklahoma Wildfires - Explore the damage caused by severe wildfires in the southwestern U.S.
Fixing Broken Levees - Consider how flexible tubes might be used to prevent flooding during levee breaks.
Filing Taxes - Pay attention as we explain the importance of filing your income taxes.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CRESHON SAUNDERS, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Back from the weekend or back from spring break, thanks for spending part of your day with CNN Student News. Sitting in for Carl Azuz, I'm Creshon Saunders.
First Up: Headlines
SAUNDERS: Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, is free. We have some good news for you. Phillips, on the right in this photo, had been held hostage by a group of four pirates since last Wednesday, when they attempted to hijack the cargo ship. U.S. forces moved to rescue Phillips yesterday, after seeing that his life was in imminent danger on the lifeboat where he was being held. Three of the pirates were shot and killed. The fourth, who was involved in negotiations onboard a Navy ship at the time, is in custody.
Christians around the world celebrated the Easter holiday yesterday. Pope Benedict XVI led a ceremony in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, home of the Catholic church. Tens of thousands of people gathered to hear the Pope's annual Easter greeting, which he delivered in 63 languages. During the service, Pope Benedict called for renewed peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians.
And back here in the U.S., parts of Tennessee and Arkansas are recovering right now after deadly tornadoes ripped through the states late last week. Five people were killed by the storms and dozens of others were injured. Officials say the severe weather damaged more than a hundred homes in Arkansas, more than 250 homes in Tennessee.
SAUNDERS: Severe weather wreaking havoc on the southwestern U.S. as well, where wildfires blazed a destructive path across parts of Oklahoma and Texas recently. Oklahoma's governor declared a state of emergency for 31 counties. That will help free up government resources for the recovery process. Strong winds fanned these flames, which engulfed hundreds of structures. Ed Lavandera reports on the damage.
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ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT, DALLAS: Valerie Waxenfelter and her two children were home alone when smoke started filling up her backyard. Her husband Matt, a Navy officer, was deployed to Iraq less than two weeks ago.
VALERIE WAXENFELTER, WILDFIRE VICTIM: I kept watching out my back window, watching the smoke get heavier and heavier. And the next thing you know, there's a fireman, volunteer fireman, in my backyard.
LAVANDERA: After violent winds sparked massive wildfires across Oklahoma and Texas, firefighters battled flames in only a few isolated parts of Oklahoma on Friday. But winds have eased, helping calm the fires. Firefighters raced to save what they could. As you can see, many homes came dangerously close to going up in flames. But firefighters describe an eerie scene, describing fireballs flying across the sky, landing in neighborhoods like this and, as you can see, not everyone was so lucky. Chester Lyles returned to his home after evacuating and discovered the two houses next door to his burned to the ground.
CHESTER LYLES, RESIDENT: I'm amazed how it jumped from house to house and took my neighbors' and left mine. I have no idea, no idea.
LAVANDERA: In Oklahoma, more than 100 homes and business were scorched by the fires. But in Texas, the fires proved deadly. Matt Quinn, a former television reporter, and his wife were killed when flames swept across their property in Montague County. Residents here say the fires moved at blazing speeds.
LANE POSEY, WILDFIRE VICTIM: We could see it coming. You could see it coming from over there. Looks like it was going to go around us, but the winds changed direction out of the west and it came right to us.
LAVANDERA: Valerie Waxenfelter seems unfazed by the loss.
WAXENFELTER: It's stuff, though; it's stuff. My kids are having a harder time with it than I am, which is understandable. But it's stuff. The kids, I've got them, so I'm good.
LAVANDERA: A navy wife who survived quite a battle of her own. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Midwest City, Oklahoma.
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GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I was formally established in 1802. I'm a branch of the U.S. Army whose members work on military and civilian projects. I'm the leading federal agency when it comes to flood control. I'm the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and one of my responsibilities is running a safety program for the country's levees.
SAUNDERS: And we want to let you know that program gives the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to inspect levees and see if they need maintenance. You see, levees prevent floods. But when they're breached, or broken, they can lead to severe flooding, like in New Orleans, you may remember, following Hurricane Katrina. As Jeanne Meserve explains, officials are working on a new way to avoid a similar disaster.
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JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: After Katrina, helicopters dropped huge sandbags, trying to plug gaping holes in the levees. It took weeks, while lives and communities were destroyed. Now, the Army Corps of Engineers believes it has come up with a system that could stem the flow of water in just a few hours.
DR. DON RESIO, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: By our calculation, it would have saved at least a foot-and-a-half of flooding. In direct costs, about one and a half billion dollars. In indirect costs, an awful lot more.
MESERVE: In a demonstration one-quarter life size, a narrow channel is dug in a levee. Within 15 minutes, the water is rushing through. An ultra-strong tube partially filled with water and air is guided into position. The floodwaters help roll the tube up the slope of the levee. The flexible tube conforms to the shape of the breach and stops most of the water. Scientists say a life-sized version could plug a hole 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep. Could be choppered anywhere and deployed within hours. The cost? Unknown, but this prototype ran about $20,000 dollars. The Department of Homeland Security funded the research.
WILL LASKA, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: If we can put this to full scale and it stops breaches in levees, the lives, the money saved from the destruction caused by that is tremendous.
MESERVE: No one knows that better than Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. It saw levee breaches in Katrina and again during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. The parish's superintendent of flood control says this new approach to levee repair could be "a game changer" in flood fighting, and would love to see a real, life-sized test in his community.
CARROLL PONS, PLAQUEMINES PARISH: I would rather see money spent on this as opposed to recovery.
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RAMSAY: Here's the deal: Today's Money Word is tax. It's money that is paid to a government. Taxes paid by individuals may include income tax, property tax and sales tax. Put that in your word bank!
SAUNDERS: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society." Those are the words of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. But when you talk to people about preparing their taxes, they might be anything but civil, especially around this time of year. It can be a complicated process, but it's also one that is absolutely required. Carl Azuz explores how it all got started.
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Form 1040a. Business profit or loss. Self-employment tax. Itemized deductions. If the forms sound complicated, just wait for the math. Filing taxes is one way we do use the stuff we learned in school. There are write-offs, receipts, investments, donations and complicated computations surrounding them all. If all this makes you mad at the IRS, you could blame Abe Lincoln! The historically popular president created the less-than-popular agency to collect taxes to help the Union pay for the Civil War. But the real blame should be on the 16th Amendment and the states that ratified it, because that's what authorized Congress to collect income tax.
Back in 1913, when the amendment was ratified, federal income taxes were only 1% unless you were super rich. Now, they average 28%! And those taxes are due every April 15th, a date determined in 1954. So, don't ask someone for a loan on April 14th. In fact, don't call him at all if he's stressed and grumbling about anything taxable. As recently as a couple years ago, this was the norm: lines wrapped around the post office, last-minute tax filers cramming like students for a term paper. Now, there's electronic filing, which makes things more convenient, if not more fun. But you gotta do it: paying taxes is the law.
And if you're wondering where all the money's going: national defense, Social Security and health and medical care generally get the biggest pieces of the pie. Each president can adjust what goes here and there as he sees fit, as long as Congress agrees with him. But as far as the rest of us are concerned, most folks will tell you all this is just plain taxing. Carl Azuz, CNN Student News.
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Financial Glossary Promo
SAUNDERS: So, how can you figure out your taxable income? And what's the difference between a progressive tax and a proportional one? You'll find the answers, along with dozens of other Money Word$, in our online financial glossary! This free, yes free, resource is in the Spotlight section on CNNStudentNews.com. Check it out and expand your economic IQ!
Before We Go
SAUNDERS: Okay, you've gotta check this out. Before we go, if you think burglars can't be beasts, you don't know Jack. Don't let the friendly face fool you. Jack here has a secret, and now his owner is airing out all of the felonious feline's dirty laundry. You see, Jack has been leading a double life: by day, mild-mannered pet; by night, nefarious cat burglar! The criminal kitty's been breaking into neighbors' houses and stealing their stuff for months.
SAUNDERS: Until his owner discovered the truth, it was the purr-fect crime. That steals the last of our time for today. For CNN Student News, I'm Creshon Saunders.