(CNN Student News) -- January 22, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Fridays are still awesome! Thank you for taking 10 minutes out of your Friday to check out CNN Student News. I'm Carl Azuz, bringing you today's headlines, commercial-free.
AZUZ: First up, a Supreme Court ruling could change the types of political ads you see on TV. This has to do with the laws around how money is spent on election campaigns. You're familiar with freedom of speech; you've talked about that. Some people argue that when you spend money on a campaign, it's a form of free speech. And in yesterday's ruling, the majority of the Supreme Court justices decided that the First Amendment protects that right.
So, whom does this affect? Businesses, unions -- those are groups of workers -- and non-profits; organizations that sometimes focus on specific issues. In the past, there have been restrictions on how these groups could spend money on campaigns. For example, any ads that they paid for had to be about a specific issue like health care, like taxes. The ads could not say that a group was supporting or against a specific candidate. But with yesterday's Supreme Court decision, for the most part, those rules are out the window.
Why were the restrictions made in the first place? The same reason why some people, including President Obama, are opposed to this Supreme Court ruling: They think it could give these big groups too much power over American politics. The argument is that groups that spend more have more influence, so certain companies or organizations could push to elect candidates who agree with their views. The results of the ruling could show up on your TV screens, and soon: There's a round of elections coming up this fall. And with the new rules, you might see a lot more ads aimed at influencing the outcome of those votes.
AZUZ: Okay, next headline: the economy. President Obama is suggesting an idea to some of the country's biggest banks: get smaller. He's supporting a proposal that would limit the banks' investment activities, specifically, how much money they invest and how they invest it. The president says that the companies' main focus should be serving their customers. One analyst says that banks are in a horrible political position right now. That's partly because some people believe that bad bank investments helped cause this recession. But representatives from the banking industry disagree. They say investments did not lead to the recession, and that limiting bank investments could limit their ability to help create jobs.
Is this Legit?
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? You must be a member of a political party to vote in U.S. general elections. Not legit! Most states require you to be registered to vote, but not necessarily with a political party.
AZUZ: People who aren't members of a specific party are sometimes called independents. And just like Democrats and Republicans, their votes count the same as everyone else's. Independents have played a key role in several elections over the past few months, including this week's special election in Massachusetts. Tom Foreman explores their political power.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you are searching for the secret to Republican Scott Brown's long-shot win in Massachusetts, look no farther than Illinois, where not so long ago, a long-shot Democrat, Barack Obama, also celebrated victory. In each case the decisive factor was voters, many of them independents, angry about the economy and politics as usual. More than half of Massachusetts voters are independent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want a change in Washington.
FOREMAN: Independent voters have been trending off for more than 30 years. In Richard Nixon's day, they were just 19 percent of the electorate nationwide, compared with 46 percent Democrat and 35 percent Republican. But now, it appears they have reached the tipping point. Independents are now casting a third of all votes, some say even more. And this militant middle seems ready and willing to rip into either party if they feel ignored or taken for granted. A case in point: While some Democrats tried to rally around the Massachusetts race as a contest for the late Ted Kennedy's seat, analysts believe candidate Brown scored big when he said this.
SENATOR-ELECT SCOTT BROWN, (R) MASSACHUSETTS: Well, with all due respect, it's not the Kennedy seat and it's not the Democrats' seat. It's the people's seat.
FOREMAN: In his upcoming book, John Avlon argues that independents by their nature are not all the same, but many want limited spending, generous social policies and, most of all, government that listens to them; simple yet bedeviling ideas for both parties which constantly play to their conservative and liberal bases.
JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "WINGNUTS": What's different now is that independents are stepping up and saying stop. Stop with the extremism. Stop with the hyper-partisanship. Stop with the ideology. Let's focus on solutions and not this "build my party up, tear your party down" approach to politics.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that is a wakeup call for everybody in this town.
FOREMAN: In Massachusetts, they've already heard the alarm loud and clear. Senator-elect Brown says he'll work with Democrats and Republicans, but who did he thank?
BROWN: Tonight, the independent majority has delivered a great victory.
FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
AZUZ: Up to four more inches of rain: what some California residents were facing last night. We say "more" rain because heavy storms have already dumped more than 12 inches of rain on parts of the state this week. But water isn't the only concern. Mud: another danger, especially in areas that were scorched by a wildfire last year. When the blaze ate up the plant-life, it left behind bare hills. And when rushing water picks up that dirt and those rocks, it can turn into devastating mudslides.
AZUZ: A major port has re-opened in Haiti. That means ships -- which can carry more cargo than airplanes -- are now able to dock and help get aid to victims of last week's massive earthquake. It's slow going, because the road that leads to the port is only wide enough for one truck. But as Jason Carroll explains, the rebuilding process is slowly getting under way.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Port-au-Prince is about to face many questions about its future. How does the city rebuild when there's still so much destruction? Should damaged structures still standing be torn down? Ava Michelle isn't waiting for answers. Her house, destroyed. She salvaged what she could and watched as workers started demolishing it. It's being torn down the same way it was built: by unlicensed workers. No codes to follow on tearing down or, Michelle says, to build.
AVA MICHELLE, EARTHQUAKE VICTIM: No.
MICHELLE: None. No.
CARROLL: No code?
CARROLL: No regulations?
CARROLL: Haitians say that's the way it's done. Licenses, not required. Codes, where they even exist, not enforced. It's part of the reason so much was destroyed in the earthquake, and why structural engineers like Kit Miyamoto from California are here now.
KIT MIYAMOTO, EARTHQUAKE AND STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Remove those things out, remove that, and they can go right into it.
CARROLL: This is Miyamoto's first full day on the ground with the non-profit called the Pan American Development Foundation. The goal? Rapid assessments, meaning quickly investigate the structural integrity of ten buildings a day. This was the Ministry of Finance. It's symbolic of what went wrong with many buildings, including the presidential palace.
MIYAMOTO: I reinforced the ministry wall because that's brick, and without no rebar, that's dangerous.
CARROLL: Miyamoto says rebar can make a building more flexible when it shakes. But much of the city's businesses and homes use brick without the reinforced steel bar.
What do you do? Do you just demolish these buildings and then cart out all the debris and then start fresh?
MIYAMOTO: Depends on, for example, this one. Probably not as solid, but there are many buildings that can be repaired.
CARROLL: Engineers tell us when Port-au-Prince does rebuild, they have to use new building codes and make sure those code are enforced. And engineers like Keith Martin with the Los Angeles County Fire Department say rebuilding or retrofitting is not something that can or should be rushed.
KEITH MARTIN, ENGINEER, L.A. COUNTY FIRE SEARCH AND RESCUE: You're talking, to be done correctly, something that's going to take years to do.
AZUZ: The process will take awhile, but it might get some help from "Hope for Haiti Now." That is the name of a global telethon to raise money for earthquake relief efforts. It airs tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on CNN. You won't want to miss it; check it out.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Finally today, we are galloping toward the finish line. And so is this guy! Although he doesn't seem to be getting anywhere, because he's a horse on a treadmill! He's not being saddled with a cardio workout. Researchers trotted out this idea as a way for vets to give the horses a check-up. Why waste exercise equipment on an equine exam? Turns out, it's a great way to keep the animals in one place.
AZUZ: So that should silence all those neigh-sayers. Darn right. We should probably hoof it on out of here. But you guys have a great weekend. We look forward to seeing you Monday, when CNN Student News returns. Thanks for watching.