(CNN Student News) -- September 4, 2009
Fighting the Fire - Take flight with a firefighter who battles blazes from the sky.
New Kind of View - Check out a new video that shows the global impact of weather.
Payouts to Parents? - Consider a proposal that could pay Japanese citizens to have kids.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: A view of Antarctica from space? Pretty awesome. But not as awesome as Fridays! I'm Carl Azuz. Today's edition of CNN Student News takes off right now!
AZUZ: First up, California firefighters get a little help from humidity in their efforts to contain the Station Fire. This thing's been burning for more than a week. But yesterday, it was about 38 percent under control. Officials expect to have it completely contained by September 15th. Rob Marciano shows us how part of the battle against the blaze is being waged in the sky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB MARCIANO, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Fighting the fire from the air: choppers, turboprops, even jets. But this is the big kahuna.
CAPTAIN CLIFF HALE, EVERGREEN SUPERTANKER: We have more excess horsepower than any tanker out there.
MARCIANO: Captain Cliff Hale hit the California fires hard this week, flying this modified 747 supertanker right into the fire zone.
HALE: He arms it and that gives me control up here, or the other pilot as well. We got a drop button right here on the switch.
MARCIANO: Flying low at 300 feet, Captain Hale has to focus on his target. You've got to be a pilot and a bit of a marksman. How good of a shot are you?
HALE: Yeah, I'm pretty good at this point.
MARCIANO: A touch of pilot bravado. But at his core, he's a firefighter.
HALE: To me, it's all the pilots that are doing this, are just like regular firefighters that you see anywhere, and it's just we do it in the air.
MARCIANO: But nothing compares to this jumbo jet. If you were a passenger on a 747, this is where you would be sitting. Instead, on this plane, they've got 10 tanks carrying 20,000 gallons of fire retardant and/or foam. 90 tons of firefighting artillery. And these cannons also have control.
MIKE HARKNESS, EVERGREEN SUPERTANKER: They can meter it to any distance and any thickness that the firefighters on the ground want.
MARCIANO: Adjustable power and precision, which reduces wasted ammunition. Stuff's not cheap?
HARKNESS: It's not. It'll run anywhere from two to three dollars a gallon.
MARCIANO: All of this is unleashed in the back of the plane. Fancy-looking bombay doors.
HARKNESS: Well, these are the exhaust ports for the retardant. And the flight engineer is going to choose the proper air pressure and the number of exhaust ports to vary the concentration, depending on what the firefighters on the ground need.
MARCIANO: On the ground or in the air, it's one big team.
HALE: All the guys that do this, to me, are the best, and it's an honor to be a part of that group.
MARCIANO: No doubt this massive supertanker is a welcome weapon in war against wildfires. Rob Marciano, CNN, Sacramento.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Fires Seen from Space
AZUZ: So, just how big is the Station Fire? Well, you can see it from space! A NASA satellite took these shots of the blaze on Sunday. What you're looking at is the smoke from the flames, along with some clouds created by the fire. The satellite image shows it drifting for more than a hundred miles across the state.
ISS Space Walk
AZUZ: Staying in the sky, but shifting over to the international space station, where a pair of astronauts took a walk outside yesterday. It was the second of three scheduled spacewalks during the shuttle Discovery's mission to the ISS. The plan for yesterday was to swap out the station's ammonia tanks, installing a full one and stowing the empty one for the trip back home to Earth.
AZUZ: It's pretty standard stuff, at least for NASA. But the space agency is getting really excited about a new video that it calls the "coolest" of its kind. That may be kind of a clever pun because this video is a look at some of the coldest spots on the planet and how they've changed over time. Josh Levs talks with NASA's Tom Wagner about the technology behind all this.
TOM WAGNER, NASA: This is an image of Antarctica. And what you're going to see right away is a LandSat data compilation that takes all the LandSat imagery and makes a neat map of Antarctica. And we're zooming in on the Ross ice shelf, where iceberg B-15, which is the size of Long Island, broke off a couple years ago. This iceberg was so big it actually blocked off McMurdo, the main U.S. base.
LEVS: Now, talk to me about how this was taken. I know that you have satellite images, but there is also some animation in here, right? How was this done?
WAGNER: What this was done, was taking satellite imagery from a whole bunch of different satellites. And a lot of scientists and graphics artists at Goddard spent some time putting it together to make this kind of seamless video. You are looking at like five or 10 different satellite images here that are put all streamed together.
And also what you're coming up to now is the Larson ice shelf, which is an area the size of Rhode Island that collapsed catastrophically a few years ago; it literally tumbled away like dominos. And this ice shelf had been stable for about 10,000 years before this.
LEVS: What you are also telling me is that you can tell from this the way the weather in one little corner of the world impacts the rest of the world. How do we see that?
WAGNER: Right. And that's one of the neat things about this video, is showing how things are connected up. What you see here is the sea ice cover around Antarctica. But if you talk about the sea ice on the northern ice cap of the world, and what we do is we use images like this to connect how the icy regions of the world are changing with regards to changes happening in our climate overall.
LEVS: In fact, let's skip to the third section of video I have here as you talk about this. Look at what you guys show about Denver right there. Tell me what we're seeing with the Denver change.
WAGNER: Yes. What you're seeing is this: One of the things, with snow falling in the winter, becomes a reservoir of water for the summer. What happens is in a year where you have a lot of snowfall, you have a really green summer. A year where you don't have too much snow is when you end up with a dry summer.
So, what you are seeing here are the effects of that. You can see two different years. And this is important for us because as our planet changes, and particularly as the Arctic sea ice retreats, we may wind up with more drought in North America. That's why a lot of scientists are studying images like this and trying to develop better predictive models.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! Which of these countries has the lowest birth rate? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Kenya, B) Cuba, C) Turkey or D) Japan? You've got three seconds - GO! Japan actually has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: Officials estimate that for every thousand people in Japan, there are only around seven-and-a-half births each year. The political party that claimed victory in the country's recent election wants to increase that number, and it's willing to pay. You've kinda heard of cash for clunkers? You can think of this as like cash for kids! The idea is that more kids would mean more spending, which would then help out Japan's economy down the road. But some experts argue that the payouts won't help solve the country's financial problems. Kyung Lah explores the issue.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, TOKYO: At this Tokyo park, politics is pushing these parents to ponder procreation. Jin is an only child, but now his mom is thinking about giving him a brother or sister.
YOSHIKO SATO, MOTHER [TRANSLATED]: "It would help us with a second child," says Yoshiko Sato.
LAH: She's talking about being paid for having kids. It's a campaign pledge by the new political party that stormed into power this week in Japan. The DPJ promises to pay parents the equivalent of $3,400 every year per child, until high school.
The goal of these payouts to parents: boost Japan's birth rate, among the lowest in the world. The declining birth rate is a major drag on Japan's economy, compounded by a rapidly aging population. Japan's government says about a quarter of the country's population is over the age of 65. By 2050, that's expected to be 40%, far more crippling than the recession. But the cash for kids idea isn't being cheered on by some economists. Economist Yuri Okina wonders where the money will come from, and she says it's not an instant fix.
YURI OKINA, ECONOMIST, JAPAN RESEARCH INSTITUTE [TRANSLATED]: "We have to make it normal in Japan for a woman to raise a child and have a career," she says.
LAH: Something that even today is still not seen as the norm. Critics say the payouts, while attractive as a campaign pledge, doesn't fix a significant problem for working families: the lack of day care. Japan's government says 40,000 children are on waiting lists just to get into day care centers like this one. That means mothers like Hiromi Espineli have to quit their jobs to take care of their children.
HIROMI ESPINELI, MOTHER [TRANSLATED]: "Going back to work would be tough," she says, "since there are so few day care centers. While some money would be nice," she says, "it doesn't make that problem disappear.
LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.
AZUZ: Here at CNN Student News, we get a lot of Shoutout requests. But teachers, the best way to get a Shoutout is to send us a picture of you or your school! Two ways to do it: either by iReport -- there's a link to that in the Spotlight section on our home page today -- or you can e-mail the image to us. The address is CNNStudentnews@cnn.com.
Before We Go
AZUZ: So get on it. Before we go, it's been said you should never work with kids or animals. This might be why. This news anchor was trying to host a segment on pet adoptions, but it didn't get very far. Apparently, when Ginger the dog agrees to a face-to-face interview, she doesn't play around! As you can imagine, the three-minute lick-a-thon eventually showed up online.
AZUZ: And it became an Internet sensation lickety split. Speaking of the Internet, please be sure to check out our Facebook page over the weekend: Facebook.com/cnnstudentnews. We'll be off on Monday for Labor Day. Enjoy the long weekend. We'll see you next week. I'm Carl Azuz.