(CNN Student News) -- December 9, 2009
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Carl Azuz. You've landed on CNN Student News.
AZUZ: During a speech yesterday, President Obama offered some ideas on how to create new jobs and help out the country's economy: offering tax breaks to small businesses, expanding some of the government's stimulus programs, and spending more funds on infrastructure projects -- things like roads, bridges and water systems. The thing is, all of that costs money. And that's where the TARP comes in. That's the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the financial industry bailout passed last year. The bailout ended up not costing as much as expected, and President Obama thinks the extra could be used to help out in other ways.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The TARP program was flawed and we have worked hard to correct those flaws and manage it properly. And today, TARP has served its original purpose and at much lower cost than we expected. In fact, because of our stewardship of this program and the transparency and accountability that we put in place, TARP is expected to cost taxpayers at least $200 billion less than it was anticipated just this past summer.
AZUZ: Couple of things to keep in mind here, though. First, White House officials say that they can't just use TARP money to pay for infrastructure projects; the program just doesn't work like that. And second, some Republicans are outraged by the idea of spending any unused TARP funds because they say that money was supposed to help pay off the country's debt.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) MINORITY LEADER: This makes me so angry. I was there. I know all about TARP. First, it was never intended that all this money would ever have to be spent. But any money that wasn't spent was to go to the deficit. And the idea of taking this money and spending it is repulsive.
Health Care Debate
AZUZ: Senators are considering alternatives to part of their health care legislation. Specifically, the so-called public option: That's a government-run health insurance program. Senate Republicans, and some Democrats and Independents, are against that plan. A group of Democratic senators was working to come up with some other ideas that could replace the public option. Late last night, they said they had reached an agreement. If the Senate passes its health care bill, that doesn't make it law. It would still need to be combined with the House bill, and then that final version would need to pass both the House and the Senate.
AZUZ: The head of Iraq's government says that a series of suicide bombings is designed to create chaos in that country and prevent progress toward elections that are scheduled for next year. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called yesterday's terrorist attacks "cowardly." The five explosions killed more than 125 people and injured more than 440 others. The bombings all took place within minutes of each other Tuesday morning. They targeted several government buildings around the capital city of Baghdad, as well as a neighborhood and a business district.
Is this Legit?
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? Hillary Clinton is the U.S. secretary of defense. Not legit! Robert Gates is the defense secretary. He was appointed by President George W. Bush, and President Obama asked him to stay on the job.
AZUZ: It's Mr. Gates' job to advise the president on military issues like the war in Afghanistan. And that is where the defense secretary is right now, meeting with military officials and Afghan leaders following President Obama's announcement that he plans to send 30,000 additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan. Barbara Starr has more on Mr. Gates' trip there and some of the challenges that U.S. troops face there.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Defense Secretary Roberts Gates arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced trip. He is here, of course, for the first time since President Obama made the announcement that 30,000 additional U.S. troops will be headed to this war zone.
The defense secretary plans to meet with troops, commanders, and he has already met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to talk about the way ahead, Secretary Gates assuring Karzai that the U.S. has a continuing commitment to this country.
But where we are right now, at FOB, Forward Operating Base, Shank, south of Kabul, really illustrates the continuing security challenge in this country. The U.S. Army task force that operates here has already had the plus-up from 300 troops to 3,000 troops operating in this region to try and get a handle on security against the Taliban and the insurgents.
One of their major jobs here is to continue every day to secure Highway 1, the main road to Kabul. The road is secure right now, they tell us, because the troops, U.S. and Afghan troops, are out patrolling every day.
If the troops weren't out there, the feeling is that the Taliban and the insurgents would again rear their head and control the road and really hinder commerce and development in this region.
So, that's the bottom line here. It's a continuing, spotty security picture. Where the troops are, security improves. But where the troops are not located, security still very troublesome in many areas of this country.
AZUZ: Another member of President Obama's Cabinet, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, can have an impact on your education. Ed Henry, CNN Senior White House correspondent, is going to interview Secretary Duncan, and Mr. Henry wants to know what you would ask Duncan if you had the chance. So, teachers and students, share your questions on our blog. We'll share them with Henry, and you might hear your question answered on our show.
MATT CHERRY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! When does winter officially start? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) October 31, B) November 15, C) December 21 or D) January 1? You've got three seconds -- GO! Winter begins around December 21, which is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: Don't tell that to the folks who are already getting hammered by the first major storm of the season. States out west got slammed by two to three feet of snow, winds whipping around at up to 90 miles per hour. Even some desert states felt the freeze. Check out this video from Arizona! The storm is making its way east, and as of yesterday, parts of Iowa and Minnesota were both under a blizzard warning.
AZUZ: Some homes are protected against winter cold by weatherizing, which keeps heat in and costs down. Installing it is an example of a green-collar job, work that's focused on the environment. Christine Romans shows us how some folks are learning to be part of a green-collar world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hot air is coming into your house. You know that you're losing, what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Energy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Energy.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The skills taught here are green.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is recycled newspaper.
ROMANS: And so are the students.
SUZY MASON, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, LOUISIANA GREEN CORPS: We do work with 17- to 24-year-olds who lack work history, are often low income, court involved. Our corps members don't want to hang out on the street. They want to be productive. They want to work.
ROMANS: That's where Louisiana Green Corps comes in. Based in New Orleans and funded through a grant from the U.S. Labor Department, the program teaches young adults how to weatherize and rehabilitate homes.
MASON: We're giving a general base of construction knowledge, carpentry skills. We also emphasize academic improvement, work readiness, and really encourage our corps members to make positive life decisions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of work to be done in New Orleans.
ROMANS: One of the people doing that work is LA Green Corps graduate Chris Williams. After completing the program, he landed a job with local contractor Brotherhood Way, weatherizing homes and building new ones.
CHRIS WILLIAMS, LOUISIANA GREEN CORPS GRADUATE: I believe that this program helps kids by, you know, letting them see that there is another way, you know, besides, you know, maybe they aren't, you know, high... maybe they don't have their high school diploma, or maybe they aren't the ones who go to college. So this program, you know, it invites them in and it gives them the opportunity to learn a trade, you know, to learn a skill.
On average, their energy bill will be $20-$30 on a month.
ROMANS: Despite Chris's success, jobs are still hard to come by. So far, out of 177 LA Green Corps graduates, 37 percent have found jobs and a third have gone back to school. Even those who didn't immediately find work have achieved something.
DAVID WEATHERSBY, BROTHERHOOD WAY: For Chris and so many other young adults, when they finish the program, they are ready to be thrown into the work force.
ROMANS: So, when the job market does turn around, they're ready. Christine Romans, CNN, New York.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, we have some really cool pictures for you today, but as neat as they look, it doesn't seem like a good idea. Up to 20-foot waves -- swells so powerful that people staying in a hotel near the shore could feel them crash -- they thundered in to the Hawaiian island of Oahu on Tuesday. They kept tourists from sleeping, ate up tons of beach, and despite the power and the danger, yep, surf's up! Hope these guys know what they're doing.
AZUZ: Because for amateurs like me, it would've been a total washout. CNN Student News is rolling in again tomorrow, keeping you current on more headlines. We'll see you then.