(CNN Student News) -- December 11, 2009
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Fridays are awesome! I'm Carl Azuz. This is CNN Student News.
AZUZ: "Let us reach for the world that ought to be." Those, the words of President Obama as he accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the fourth U.S. president to win the award. He accepted it at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. It was Obama's first trip to the country. He and first lady Michelle arrived yesterday.
There's been some controversy surrounding President Obama winning this award. Some people asked what he had done to deserve it; he was nominated after only being in office for days. But another criticism is that he's been given a peace prize while leading a country that's involved in two wars. That point was a major part of Mr. Obama's acceptance speech, when he talked about the history of war and the concept of a "just war."
He said, "War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man." "Over time... the concept of a 'just war' emerged... when [war] is waged as a last resort or in self-defense... and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence." He pointed out that while "there will be times when nations will find the use of force necessary... no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy." Mr. Obama believes that the world "can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace."
AZUZ: The FBI says five men from the Washington, D.C. area are in custody in Pakistan, being accused of plotting terrorist attacks. Pakistani officials allege that the men made contact with militants in Pakistan over the Internet, and that they then traveled to Pakistan to carry out some sort of attack.
AZUZ: The Troubled Asset Relief Program may be sticking around. It was started last fall to help banks and automakers stay in business. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner plans to keep the program going through next October, but in a smaller way, focused on things like helping small businesses and stopping foreclosures, when homeowners can't pay their loans and the bank takes over. The U.S. foreclosure rate is slowing down, but it's still 18 percent higher than it was a year ago.
U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER: For housing, we are going to continue to work to mitigate foreclosures for responsible American home owners as we take the steps necessary to continue to help stabilize the housing market.
AZUZ: Republicans want the TARP program shut down. They're afraid Democrats won't use the remaining TARP money in the way it was originally intended. And Tim Geithner admits that some of the TARP loans may not be paid back, which is bad for taxpayers.
AZUZ: NASA. Probably makes you think of space. The agency also studies the Earth, though. Some NASA scientists are in Denmark right now taking part in a global climate conference. Jim Acosta tells us NASA's forecast for the planet and why some people think the agency isn't saying enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: NASA, the same agency that put the shuttle in space, also has roughly a dozen satellites in orbit, all on a mission to show how the Earth is warming.
THORSTEN MARKUS, NASA SCIENTIST: The arctic is not a frozen lake. It's very dynamic.
ACOSTA: Thorsten Markus, the head of NASA's cryospheric sciences branch, uses those satellites to keep a close eye on the stunning loss of ice in the Arctic. He's traveled to Greenland to confirm his findings on the ground. This animation demonstrates why it's happening so fast. As the ice melts, all that's left to soak up the sun's rays is the ocean.
MARKUS: The solar radiation is mostly reflective from the ice where it's absorbed by the ocean.
ACOSTA: And this accelerates the melting of the ice.
ACOSTA: Markus, like many scientists at NASA, blames the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
MARKUS: There's no doubt that there is global warming.
ACOSTA: But that doesn't convince skeptics who have seized on the global warming e-mail controversy known as "climate-gate" and have now taken aim at NASA. An attorney with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which receives funding from Exxon Mobil, is threatening to sue NASA if it doesn't turn over its e-mails on global temperature readings.
CHRIS HORNER, AUTHOR, "RED HOT LIES": What I'm asking for is what the taxpayer owns. And frankly, the law doesn't require me to have a reason for it. We want transparency. We want to see how they did what. We want to see why.
ACOSTA: NASA is no stranger to climate controversy. James Hansen, one of NASA's top scientists and a fixture at global warming protests, accused the Bush administration of suppressing climate data. That accusation led to this inspector general report, which found NASA PR officials had marginalized and mischaracterized climate change information.
JAMES HANSEN, NASA SCIENTIST: If we push the climate system hard enough, it can obtain a momentum. It can pass tipping points such that climate change continues out of our control.
ACOSTA: NASA has never had as many satellites measuring the Earth's climate data as it does now. But some of these eyes on the Earth are reaching their life span. Without new funding, NASA scientists worry those satellites won't be replaced. Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.
RICK VINCENT, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I'm a government position that was established in 1980. I'm part of the presidential Cabinet. My responsibilities include helping America's students and focusing attention on educational issues. I'm the U.S. education secretary, a job that's currently held by Arne Duncan.
AZUZ: CNN's Ed Henry sat down with Secretary Duncan to talk about some of these educational issues and answer some of the questions that you posted on our blog. Here's part of their conversation.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: CNN Student News put the fact that we were going to do this interview on their blog and on Facebook, and we got a lot of questions from students and teachers. So, I wanted to jump right in, because a lot of people wanted to ask about year-round education as an initiative. And in fact, there was one student named Fern who wanted to know if students have to go to school for more days per year under your vision, under the President's vision, would this mean you would compensate by having them go to school for less hours each day?
U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION ARNE DUNCAN: When I talk to students, this isn't the line that gets the most applause. Actually, I get booed occasionally. Let me explain, Ed, what I think. I've said repeatedly our current academic calendar is based upon the agrarian economy. The vast majority of students in our country aren't working the fields anymore. So, it's really an outdated, outmoded model. The biggest thing though is I'm worried that our students are at a competitive disadvantage with their peers in India and China. Students in those other countries are going to school 210, 220, 230 days a year. Our students are going to school 180 days a year, generally. And I think our students are absolutely smart, absolutely committed, can do extraordinary things. But we have to level the playing field. And if in a sports contest, one team is practicing three days a week and one team is practicing five days a week, the team that is practicing more is going to do better.
HENRY: Most of the people who wrote into our blog for CNN Student News, teachers and students, said that they were against this proposal, at least as they've currently heard it, and that's why I want to give you a chance to talk about it and address their concerns. Another student named Elizabeth wrote in, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to go to school in a longer day? It's hard enough to muster up enough motivation to go to school now." You can't deal with every student's motivation, but obviously it's part of what you want. How do you address that, when there are going to be some students out there saying, "I can't do it."
DUNCAN: Again, it's a different concept of what going to school means. If you talk about an extended day, I've been arguing, Ed, that I think schools should be open 12, 13, 14 hours a day. And not just more of the same, but in the after school hours: drama and art, some sports and music and chess, and debate, and academic decathalon. So, it's about a very different conception of what our schools can offer to our children and to the broader community.
HENRY: Something that we don't hear a lot about is special education. And Todd wrote in on CNN Student News something that I wanted to raise with you, because you're obviously very powerful and it's an issue that not a lot of people get your ear on. He said, "I see a lack of funding in special education. Our school is well-funded but the special ed" -- and he said he's a special ed student himself -- "department lacks funding. We're given second-hand items. I believe we deserve an equal opportunity to have equal standards as if it were like the rest of the students. How are you going to help us?"
DUNCAN: First of all, I just appreciate his passion and what he is asking for he shouldn't have to ask for. For him to be getting second-hand anything is unacceptable. These are our students. It doesn't matter; race, class, doesn't matter; special ed, non special ed, doesn't matter. English language learner or not. Every child deserves a world-class education. While it's never enough, thanks to the president's leadership and the bipartisan support of Congress, we have put more than $10 billion this year into increases specifically for special education students. Obviously, long way to go, historic levels of new revenue, new funding going into special education to try and address some of those unmet needs.
AZUZ: That's just part of the interview. The whole thing is on Ed Henry's podcast, "44." There's a link to that in the Spotlight section at CNNStudentNews.com. Go check it out.
Before We Go
AZUZ: And before we go, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison campus, snow days, pretty unusual. But students know how to enjoy the ones they get. It's an old-fashioned snowball fight! Although there are some folks who just don't look like they're dressed for the occasion. Thousands of students showed up to throw down. But check out the girl in dark blue here. She gets smacked on the nose. That's just bad sportsmanship. I mean, aiming at somebody's face?
AZUZ: That is snow way to treat a lady. Maybe everyone there should just cool off. We hope y'all have a great weekend. See you next Monday. I'm Carl Azuz for CNN Student News.