(CNN Student News) -- January 8, 2010
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MARIA ABARCA, COLLEGE STUDENT: Education. I think college should be made cheaper for students. Not everyone has loads of money in their pockets. Some people that love to study and are smart just can't go to school because they can't afford it. So, I would hope that something, just prices got lower, or more scholarships available to more people.
ANSE RIGBY, COLLEGE STUDENT: Employment, people having jobs, the economy. Making sure that you're going to school for a purpose, not just to get out of school and then be faced with not having a job or not being able to use your education.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Okay, a couple students there, talking about some of the issues that they think are going to get a lot of attention in the new year. We're going to have more on the economy for you in just a bit. I'm Carl Azuz, and you're dialed in to CNN Student News!
AZUZ: First up today, President Obama outlines what he calls the failures that led to an attempted terror attack on a U.S. airplane. This is the Christmas Day plot we've been telling you about this week. According to the president, three problems led to the government not being able to prevent the attack ahead of time. First, intelligence officials knew that someone connected to al Qaeda was planning to strike the U.S., but they didn't follow up on that information well enough. Second, there was a failure to analyze intelligence information, what the president called "a failure to connect the dots." And third, those intelligence failures meant that the suspect wasn't added to a no-fly list, which would have prevented him from getting on the plane. The president also made it clear who he thinks is responsible.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Moreover, I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer. For ultimately, the buck stops with me. As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when the system fails, it is my responsibility.
AZUZ: Getting back to the economy, some major retailers had very happy holidays. That's because their sales numbers went up nearly three percent in December. That matters because the last two months of the year can make up half of the retail industry's sales numbers for the entire year. On the job front, the news is not as good. About 434,000 Americans filed for unemployment for the first time last week. That number's higher than the week before, but it is lower than some experts had predicted. Several economists think the overall unemployment rate will stay around 10 percent.
AZUZ: Meantime, any of you who have had to fill up recently probably noticed a jump in gas prices. I noticed them. Those things have gone up 7 cents in just the past week. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of unleaded is higher than at any point during 2009. One of the big reasons why: the cold weather slamming a lot of the country. As the temperature's dropped, gas prices have gone up. But it's not the only industry feeling the effects of the cold. Jim Boulden looks at how winter weather impacts business in Europe.
JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From orange juice futures to Chinese aluminum to European natural gas, soaring commodity prices are just one of the headaches facing businesses as the year kicks off with a deep freeze in the Northern Hemisphere. And it's not just the temperature causing a fuel price spike. In places like France, Germany and the U.K., it's forecast that the big freeze won't lift for a while. That could put a strain on supplies, or more important, delivery of fuel. France is bracing itself for a possible record electricity demand next week. In Britain, the National Grid told power generators to use more coal and less gas to help avoid power cuts.
GORDON BROWN, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: There are always difficulties when you have a long spell of bad weather. But all these problems can be dealt with and are being dealt with satisfactorily by the Department of Energy.
BOULDEN: Most of Britain is, again, covered with a blanket of snow. Many airports are shut, up and down the country. Trains and roads are in chaos and schools are closed. One of the reasons up to 10 percent of workers couldn't go to the office in Britain on Wednesday, according to the Federation of Small Business. But the FSB says small firms are adapting quickly.
STEPHEN ALAMBRITIS, U.K. FED. OF SMALL BUSINESS: Yes, there is a bit of a hit with people not being in work. However, what tends to happen is employers are pleasantly surprised that the work is actually being done, even though the staff aren't in place at work.
BOULDEN: Done at home?
ALAMBRITIS: Done at home, using technology.
ALAMBRITIS: And what you get is a surge in applications from staff after days like this, to the boss, saying, "Look, I proved to you that I can do the work at home. Can I actually work from home?"
BOULDEN: That is one benefit perhaps from this weather, but that doesn't help the shops looking for foot traffic during the January sales. Or restaurants counting on workers and tourists on London's usually crowded streets. And by way of anecdotal evidence, this is where I usually get my sandwich at lunchtime, and as you can see, it is practically empty. At least there are no empty shelves yet.
RICHARD DODD, BRITISH RETAIL CONSORTIUM: There is no evidence of panic buying and I think, actually, people are pretty sensible.
BOULDEN: Britain is not known for its smooth handling of snow. The big freeze of January will test the country's fragile economy. Jim Boulden, CNN, London.
Word to the Wise
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: A Word to the Wise...
skid row (noun) a place that's populated by people who are impoverished or down on their luck
AZUZ: As you might imagine, life on skid row, not an easy thing. Trying to solve the struggles faced by those who live there can be an uphill battle. That's what one man is trying to do for the residents of skid row in Los Angeles. And as Jason Carroll tells us, this public official has personal experience with the area he's trying to help.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a haven for crime and the homeless, attracting thousands from all walks of life when their luck runs out. This is skid row, Los Angeles.
JEFF PAGE, SKID ROW ACTIVIST: Not only are the people homeless, they're hopeless.
CARROLL: Jeff Page landed here three years ago after his career as a rap promoter fizzled. A mission for the homeless became his new home.
PAGE: To actually be in the community for a long extended period of time and actually see day after day after day the living conditions of the people here and how deplorable the conditions were, and it really started to sink home of how close on that fine line I was to actually, to becoming one of them.
CARROLL: So, he launched a one-man campaign to turn not only his life but his new world around. He started small, organizing street cleanups, mural paintings, connecting with the community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you. I've seen you in the newspaper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General!
CARROLL: That's general, just in case you missed it, a nickname the homeless gave him that's followed him to the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood council. Elected two years ago, he's L.A.'s only homeless public official.
PAGE: I'm determined to succeed. I'm a finisher. So, I will see this through no matter what the odds.
CARROLL: But the odds are stacked against the general. In 2009, there were almost 1,000 violent crimes and more than 13,000 arrests in skid row and its surrounding area. And while crime overall is down, it's still dangerous.
I want people to realize that even as we're walking through here, we're not alone. I mean, behind the photographer right here -- let's turn around -- we've got security here. So that's...
PAGE: And you hear sirens.
CARROLL: Right. You hear the sirens. But I think people need to understand that even though skid row, you say, is better, it's still far from where it needs to be.
PAGE: Oh, no, of course. And it's in, we look at it, we're in the early stages, the beginning stages of the transition period.
CARROLL: Page has lobbied for shelters that can accommodate families and better relations with police. His proudest accomplishment: the renovation of this park. Page used his old sales skills as a promoter and got sponsorship from Nike to return the park to the people.
PAGE: They brought a whole lot of life to our positive movement.
CARROLL: Something as simple as a basketball court.
PAGE: Something as simple as a basketball court.
CARROLL: Now, even L.A.'s mayor is paying attention.
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, (D) LOS ANGELES: People like General Jeff are saying we need more, and he's right. We need to provide for a safety net to address the hunger and homelessness.
CARROLL: But much like his own life, skid row still has a long road ahead to become the place General Jeff envisions.
AZUZ: Get access to our show any time you want it! You can have it by downloading the CNN Student News podcast! You'll find it right there on our home page. And just like our show, the download is completely free. If you don't want to go through the download process each day, you can subscribe to the podcast and get every show automatically. It's great stuff.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Well before we go, anybody up for a round of golf? You're going to need to bring your own snow shoes. But that's no problem for these adventurous athletes. After all, it's the Eskimo Open! It was apparently perfect conditions for the annual event last weekend, assuming you consider temperatures in the teens "perfect conditions." Nearly 80 people played the course, and you've got to hand it to them. Showing up for golf in this kind of weather?
AZUZ: They must have a lot of drive. Either that or they just like to spend the weekend puttering around the golf course. Well, we don't want you to putter around this weekend. We want you to go straight to our blog, CNNStudentNews.com, click on "From A to Z," and talk to us about what you think are some of the biggest issues facing the country in 2010. You heard some students at the beginning of the show say it; we want you to shout it out. Meanwhile, have a great weekend. We'll see you on Monday.