(CNN Student News) -- January 27, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Can a snowman help make sense of the global economy? At least one reporter thinks so. Check it out: It's on this Wednesday edition of CNN Student News. I'm Carl Azuz.
AZUZ: First up, that group we mentioned to you on Monday that was supposed to look at ways to reduce the country's debt? Not gonna happen. Yesterday, the Senate voted down President Obama's proposal to create it. Some Republicans were against the commission because they thought it might want to increase taxes. Some Democrats were against the commission because they believed the group would cut spending. The president could still create his own commission by executive order, but Congress wouldn't have to follow its recommendations or even vote on them.
The country's debt, going to be affected by last year's stimulus bill more than first expected. The Congressional Budget Office says the price tag for the bill is $862 billion. That's $75 billion more than it originally estimated. One of the biggest reasons for the change: unemployment. It was expected to stay around 9 percent; it ended up reaching 10 percent. And that means more spending on government programs that help the unemployed.
President Obama wants to put a freeze on some forms of government spending. It's called "discretionary spending," and it's money that's used for programs like the FBI, education and space exploration. White House officials say this freeze would last for three years and would save the country about $250 billion. But critics argue that the move, which would have to be approved by Congress, doesn't cut enough spending. The president is expected to announce that spending freeze during his State of the Union address. That is happening tonight. You can watch it live at 9 p.m. ET on CNN. We will have coverage of the speech in tomorrow's show.
MATT CHERRY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! In which European country would you find the city of Davos? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Finland, B) Germany, C) Switzerland or D) Austria? You've got three seconds -- GO! You'll find Davos in the eastern part of Switzerland. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: And Davos is where you'll find the yearly meeting of the World Economic Forum. The goal of the group is to improve the world, and the theme of this year's conference in Davos -- it starts today -- is rethink, redesign, rebuild. Richard Quest, along with a frosty friend, explains how that theme could apply to the global economy.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a sorry sight. Meet GEF, the snowman. Global economic fortune turned global economic failure. But how can we turn GEF back upright again? Make him proud once again to be master of all he surveys?
Back to basics. Getting things started should be as easy as rolling a new snowball. Like the global economic system, this snow is not fit for the purpose of building a snowman. It won't roll. Which is why here in Davos, the week's going to be spent rethinking how we make a new financial system. We know there's plenty of snow. It's just a question of rethinking how to use it. And that's where rethinking the project comes into play. Use a bucket. This should do it. Bigger is not always better. These days you need to do it differently; add a bit of water. I'm making progress. It's slow-going. Thankfully, I'm not alone. Expert help is appropriately named.
[In German] What is your name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
QUEST: Ya! More Hans the merrier to get this snowman right. We need to salvage what we can from that which remains. Davos is different this time: paradigm shifts, out-of- the-box thinking. GEF, the global economic fortune, is neither as big nor as beautiful as perhaps we'd like. But it's taken a lot of effort to get us this far. We have had to rebuild, redesign and crucially rethink. And if it's not all it might be, well, hey, it's good enough for this year.
AZUZ: Richard Quest is one of our more creative reporters; he rethought, redesigned and rebuilt the idea of how to give that report. Now, we're talking about the economy. We have been all school year. We want to know your ideas on how to fix it. They don't need to be around the world; they don't need to be just local, whatever you want. But we want to know how you would fix the economy. You can head to our blog and share your suggestions; we look forward to them. The address: CNNStudentNews.com.
Trucks and Texting
AZUZ: Those of you who've gotten traffic tickets know they are not cheap, but $2,700?! Commercial truck and bus drivers could now get that if they're caught texting while driving. The order came down yesterday from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. No state or federal law is necessary here, because truck and bus drivers have to follow certain government rules to operate, and this is now one of them. A group that represents these drivers likes the idea of cracking down on distracted driving. It doesn't like the government order that made the new rule immediate.
Word to the Wise
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: A Word to the Wise...
burqa (noun) a loose robe worn by many Muslim women that covers the entire body
AZUZ: In France, some lawmakers are pushing for a ban on burqas. This wouldn't make it illegal to wear one of the robes on the street, but it would apply in some public places, like hospitals and schools. There's already a law against wearing headscarves at state schools. Jim Bitterman brings us some different opinions on this debate.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT, PARIS: Critics say it is like using a cannon to swat a fly. Still, nearly three out of five French agree, according to opinion polls, that it should be illegal to appear in public wearing face-covering clothes like the burqa. Despite government estimates that less than 2,000 women in the country actually wear the full Islamic veil, lawmakers believe it is a growing phenomenon, beneath which lies a not-so-subtle message of fundamentalism.
What's more, those who advocate the ban say women are often forced to wear full veils by the men around them -- husbands, fathers or brothers -- and that it is a sign of subjugation. But when you ask women who actually wear them, they deny it. Mabrouka Boujnah, of Tunisian origin, and her friend Oumkheyr, from Algeria, say they prefer to cover their faces out of piety. Oumkheyr, in her 40s and not married, says she even has friends who wear full veils against the wishes of their husbands. The pair, both French citizens, insist they're only following their religious beliefs and France should respect that. Mabrouka, who at 28 is about to have her first child, says she came to wearing a full veil gradually, after wearing headscarves as a teenager. She believes a law like the one being discussed will take away fundamental rights of Muslim women.
MARBROUKA BOUJNAH, LANGUAGE INSTRUCTOR [TRANSLATED]: You are going to isolate these women, and then you can't say that it is Islam that has denied them freedom, but that the law has.
BITTERMANN: Still, even some Muslims here think the full veil goes too far. An Imam at a suburban Paris mosque says there is nothing in Q'uran that directs women to cover their faces and says it is ridiculous to do so in France. Other religious leaders are angry about the public debate, which they say once again casts Islam in a negative light.
Nonetheless, French parliamentarians from both right and left wing parties seem ready to pass at least a resolution discouraging the full veil in public places. That could make it impossible for women who don't show their faces to receive any public service, from buying a bus ticket to picking up a child at school. And some want to go even further with a law which could be introduced as early as next month that might make wearing a full veil subject to a $1,000 fine. But it's a choice Mabrouka and Oumkheyh insists they will continue to make. The pair say they will willingly show their faces for identification purposes but, if it comes to it, they will break any law that runs contrary to their religious beliefs.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, it was supposed to be a prank, but it didn't quite work out. These students are trying to punk the girls' basketball coach. They promised him tickets to the NCAA Championship if he could make a half-court shot blind-folded. The prank was to cheer after he missed and make him think he made the shot. There was only one problem: He hit it! Probably shouldn't have left that one to chance. And here's the big kicker: The students never even had the tickets.
AZUZ: Which made the whole thing a major foul. But we are guessing the coach won't take anyone to court. I mean, after all, the shot did net him some fame. That was like a triple play on the pun! Hope you enjoyed it; hope you have a great day. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.