(CNN Student News) -- January 13, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: This is CNN Student News. Give us ten minutes, and we'll give you the news of the day, commercial-free. Presenting our end of the deal, I'm Carl Azuz.
First Up: Major Earthquake
AZUZ: First up, a major earthquake strikes the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, causing what one official described as "a catastrophe of major proportions." This happened yesterday afternoon. The quake had a magnitude of 7.0, and it caused a tsunami watch, which was later canceled. The earthquake hit about 10 miles away from Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. Officials say it triggered two quick aftershocks, each with a magnitude of at least 5.5. This is a developing story; you can get the latest details on it at CNNStudentNews.com.
AZUZ: One year into Barack Obama's presidency, the poll results are in. The big question asked by the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation: Do you consider the first year of the Obama Administration a success or a failure? 48 percent said failure; 47 percent said success. When asked about how Obama's handling his job as president, 51 percent approved; 48 percent disapproved. But the most important issue on the minds of Americans remains the economy, and as you see here, most of them don't agree with the way the president's handling that.
AZUZ: Forecasters expect winter to loosen its icy grip on the South this week. But there's no question about it, it has been an unusually cold season all over the Northern Hemisphere. That includes the U.S., Europe and Asia! Jacqui Jeras explains why.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This time around, we're not blaming El Nino and we're not blaming global warming either. The culprit? The Arctic oscillation. It's a natural cycle. We see strong periods of it and weak periods of it, and right now we happen to be in a really strong phase.
If we think back to our general science classes that we took in elementary school, we know that this time of the year up at the Arctic Circle, up at the North Pole, it's dark out 24 hours a day. And when it's dark it gets really, really cold. And that cold air can build up. And sometimes, it becomes so strong that it weakens our polar jet. Normally, the polar jet will keep that cold air up here and at bay, but when it weakens, it allows that Arctic air to intrude down towards the middle latitudes, especially across the eastern part of the United States.
AZUZ: Drop down to the Southern Hemisphere, and it is a completely different story. While parts of Florida saw record low temperatures, Melbourne, Australia had its hottest night since 1902! This 37 degrees is in Celsius. That's over 98 degrees Fahrenheit. That was after the sun went down! Homes lost power; some train operations had to be canceled after rails buckled from the heat!
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! What is the chemical compound NaCl better known as? You know what to do! Is it: A) Baking soda, B) Bleach, C) Table salt or D) Vinegar? You've got three seconds -- GO! NaCl, or sodium chloride, is better known as table salt! That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: New York City wants restaurants to hold the salt. It's already banned their trans fats and encouraged residents to avoid sugary drinks. Here's the deal with salt, though: Some sodium is actually healthy for us. U.S. dietary guidelines suggest we consume less than 2,300 milligrams a day. But the average American gets 3,400 milligrams! That's 15 times as much as our bodies actually need, and too much salt can raise blood pressure and cause heart problems. New York wants it off the table, but Mary Snow tells us who's not in flavor of the idea.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK: Pastrami is the main draw at New York's Katz's Deli. Salt is a key ingredient in that specialty, and the city's plans for restaurants and food makers to cut down on salt is leaving a bad taste with owner Alan Dell.
ALAN DELL, OWNER, KATZ'S DELI: Maybe it's good for the health of people, but I think we should decide how to eat and cook ourselves.
SNOW: That's because New York City's health department says it's encouraging restaurants to voluntarily cut salt content in their foods. It set targets aimed at cutting sodium by 25% over five years, and the department will monitor top chain restaurants and packaged foods to see if they meet the new guidelines. The city's health commissioner says Americans already consume twice the daily recommended limit of salt. He stresses these initiatives are all voluntary.
DR. THOMAS FARLEY, NYC HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We will put out the targets. If the food companies agree to meet those targets and follow through, we'll have a great health impact. We could be saving tens of thousands of lives from heart disease and stroke.
SNOW: And if they don't?
FARLEY: We don't want to speculate on that at this point. We're very optimistic. We've come a long way in working with the food companies and setting out those targets.
SNOW: New York is borrowing a page from the United Kingdom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This pizza, full of it.
SNOW: Ads like this ran in the UK, where some companies now put traffic light labels on packages indicating food low in salt. Some companies in the U.S. have already taken steps to cut salt on their own. A food industry group says it's working with public health officials, but points out there is no substitute for salt.
ROBERT EARL, GROCERY MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION: Our preferred approach is to approach this gradually and incrementally, and not to move too fast, where we lose the consumer.
AZUZ: Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel: the message from a new organization aimed at stopping distracted driving. It's called FocusDriven, and it was officially kicked off at a ceremony yesterday by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Distracted driving refers to anything that takes your mind off what you're doing, snd Secretary LaHood says it's serious.
RAY LAHOOD, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We've learned that nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. That is a horrifying statistic, particularly when you consider that accidents caused by drivers using cell phones, texting or taking their eyes off the road are entirely preventable.
AZUZ: Shifting gears to the vehicles we drive. The annual Detroit Auto Show is usually a huge event for car companies to show off new models. But with the industry taking a hard hit from the recession, this year's show is focused on economics as much as automobiles. Poppy Harlow checks in from Detroit.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in Detroit, it is a new year and hopefully a new beginning for the U.S. auto industry. Right behind me you see where they are holding the Detroit Auto Show. A really big focus this year on new technology, on greener vehicles, on hybrids, on electric vehicles. One of the leaders in that sector here in the U.S is Ford. Ford CEO Alan Mulally talked to me just a few minutes ago about the importance of small vehicles to his company moving forward and to the American auto industry. Take a listen.
ALAN MULALLY, CEO, FORD: We want to be part of the solution for energy independence, energy security and sustainability. So, we have adopted a point of view that you're going to be able to get any size vehicle you want, small, medium or large. But even more importantly, every vehicle size, no matter what works for you, whether its an F-150 or this fabulous Fusion, you're going to know that you're going to get the very best fuel efficiency. Then, let the consumer decide what works for them.
HARLOW: And of course, one of the companies getting the most attention here right now is General Motors. The struggling automaker, which has now emerged from bankruptcy, but it's still $50 billion in debt to the U.S. government. Will they pay U.S. taxpayers back? I had a chance to ask the CEO of General Motors, Ed Whitacre, that question.
ED WHITACRE, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: We will pay the government loan back. I think the government's investment is well placed and I think they'll make a lot of money. I don't know the time, yet. Won't be too long.
HARLOW: Looking at plants, are you planning any more plant closures? Any more layoffs?
WHITACRE: Nope, nope.
HARLOW: So, some good news there on the staffing front?
WHITACRE: Yeah, we're out to sell cars. That's our business; that's what we're going to do. Closings not in the picture.
HARLOW: And that is welcome news from GM that they are not planning any more plant closings or major layoffs. Very welcome news in a city like Detroit, where unemployment is staggeringly high. But you know, another very interesting thing about the auto show this year is that there are a number of high-ranking U.S. lawmakers here, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I just got a chance to catch up with her, and I asked her how important Detroit and the auto industry is to lawmakers in this country at this point. Here's what she said.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA, HOUSE SPEAKER: This is very important for us. It gets as fundamental as our manufacturing and technological base, which is essential to our economy and our national security. It's about job creation, it's about fuel efficiency, and very hopeful and pleased to see the evidence of improved technology because of our legislation.
HARLOW: Are you hopeful the U.S. taxpayer will be paid back?
PELOSI: Oh, I'm sure. We have to have that.
AZUZ: With the Martin Luther King holiday ahead, go to the Spotlight section of our Web site for free discussion questions and activities about the civil rights leader. Also, our blog asks whether you think Dr. King's dream has come true. It's all at CNNStudentNews.com.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, the dairy delivery you're about to see was supposed to go to the store but ended up all over the road! Oh, we're gonna milk this for everything it's worth. When the delivery truck tipped over in New Hampshire recently, it spilled 2,000 gallons of milk across the pavement. And of course, the stuff immediately froze. But no one needs to be upset about the accident, because -- come on, all together now...
AZUZ: ... There's just no use crying over spilled milk. You saw it coming. There's no need to cry about today's show being over, though, because we will be back tomorrow. See you then.