(CNN Student News) -- January 29, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: It is the most awesome day of the week; we're glad you're spending part of it with CNN Student News. Talking you through today's commercial-free headlines, I'm Carl Azuz.
AZUZ: 70 minutes, more than 7,000 words: It all adds up to President Obama's first, official State of the Union address, which we brought you yesterday along with the Republican response. Front and center -- no surprise -- the economy. The issue took up about two-thirds of the president's speech. He talked about the need to create jobs and called for a freeze on some government spending. He also said Democrats and Republicans need to work together on the problems facing the country. Health care, which has been a big push since the president took office, got some attention in the speech. But the issue seems to be on the back burner, at least for now.
Analysts are always curious about how people will react to a speech. In a CNN poll taken after the State of the Union on Wednesday night, about half of the people who watched it had a very positive reaction; around 20 percent had a negative response. Here's some more feedback on President Obama's address.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON STREET #1: It's kind of a lot more defensive than what I would have liked. I think the issues are still the same. I think there was some coalescence to making nice to both parties, but I don't know. Tough fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON STREET #2: He was saying what the people wanted to hear. Is he going to do it? That's up to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON STREET #3. I think the problems are problems he inherited from the Republicans, frankly, and he's working his best to solve those problems. But they are problems that are not going to be solvable in one soundbite. They are problems that are going to take years to work through.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON STREET #4. It's too much government. Doesn't work.
High Speed Rail
AZUZ: After the State of the Union, presidents will often travel around the country promoting some of the ideas and programs that they announced during the speech. President Obama hit the road by train. He's pushing for a nationwide, high-speed rail system, kind of like the one you see in this animation. The government would spend $8 billion on this. That money would come from the stimulus program. But some critics say it's not enough money to really do much. President Obama, who was talking about the program in Florida yesterday, called it an investment in the long-term growth of the country's economy. Basically, spending money now to get benefits in the future. But investments can take a while to pay off. When Spain built a high-speed rail line, it cost $35 billion and took 20 years.
AZUZ: So, we asked for your ideas on how to fix the economy. Got more than 200 comments from you so far. Lucas writes that "the solution is not for the government to tax the wealthy and distribute the money; the solution's to cut taxes and let the people stimulate the economy." Jose believes taxes should be raised slightly. "Although that might be bad at first," he writes, "it would have an overall positive effect on the economy." Calvin argues, "If only we kids ran the nation. We know more about the economy than everyone thinks." This is a Quick Poll we put up, asking your opinion about the State of the Union. Nine percent of you think things are going well. 56 percent say things could be better. 35 percent say they stink. Bryant asked, "If America's a land of opportunity, then why can't so many Americans find jobs? We need to bring jobs back." Luke compared the union to a battleground for squabbling children, saying, "President Obama seemed to take on the role of a teacher who needed to straighten out the quarreling in Washington." And an anonymous viewer wrote in: "Put on your big-boy pants, America, and fix your own problems because the government is not 'mommy.'" Very interesting comments, y'all!
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mr. Sommer and Ms. Foust's students at Nichols Middle School in Evanston, Illinois! Which term describes the amount of money that a country owes? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) National budget, B) Gross domestic product, C) Capital gain or D) National debt? You've got three seconds -- GO! The national debt is the amount of money owed by a country. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: So, the debt limit is how much money a country can borrow. Yesterday, the Senate voted to increase it. This doesn't mean the debt limit is definitely going up, though; it still has to get through the House of Representatives. But let's look at the numbers here. The Senate vote would raise the country's debt limit by $1.9 trillion. Right now, the limit is around $12.4 trillion, and we're about there. So, the increase would move it up to about $14.3 trillion. The reason we have this limit in the first place is because if the country ever borrows more than it's allowed to, it means the U.S. would be in what's called default. And that could have serious consequences for investors and for the economy.
Bernanke Gets 2nd Term
AZUZ: Ben Bernanke, whom you see right here, is the chairman of the Federal Reserve, the country's central bank. And thanks to another vote by the Senate, he will keep that title for a while longer. Yesterday, he was confirmed for a second term. The final tally was 70 to 30, which may not sound close, but it's actually one of the smallest margins of all time for a Fed chairman. The reason why: the recession. Some lawmakers say Bernanke deserves the blame for it. Others believe his decisions kept it from getting even worse.
AZUZ: The U.S. auto industry was hit hard by the recession. But one carmaker has good news: Ford reported that it earned a profit last year for the first time since 2005. The company lost more than $7 billion in 2008, but last year, it earned $2.7 billion. And, Ford executives expect to make a profit again in 2010.
Meantime, Toyota is expanding its recall of vehicles whose gas pedals may be malfunctioning. The announcement affects more than 5 million cars in the U.S. and Europe. Toyota says it's working on a solution and could have a new pedal design ready soon. CNN's Ali Velshi talked with the chairman of Ford about his take on Toyota's situation. Take a listen.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: What does Toyota need to do to stem the bleeding on this recall situation that it's got?
ALAN MULALLY, CEO & PRESIDENT, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Well, I think that they are doing exactly the right thing, and that is absolutely get to the root cause, find out everything that you need to know about it, and then move decisively to fix the design and move forward.
AZUZ: Foreclosure is when a bank takes over a homeowner's property because the homeowner is not making his mortgage payments. The list of U.S. cities with the highest foreclosure rates is out, and number one: Las Vegas, Nevada. 12 percent of homes there got at least one foreclosure notice in 2009. A close second on the list: Cape Coral, Florida. Merced, California is third. There is a silver lining, though: The 20 cities with the highest foreclosure rates all saw those rates go down in the last three months of the year.
Is this Legit?
STAN CASE, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? Aftershocks can occur for weeks after an earthquake. This one's true. In fact, aftershocks can continue for months or even years after the initial quake.
AZUZ: Take, for example, Haiti. Aftershocks are causing problems there more than two weeks after that 7.0-magnitude quake struck the Caribbean nation. Wednesday, a new tremor damaged a pier that was being used to unload supplies for earthquake victims. It's just adding to the challenges facing the relief efforts. Another issue: figuring out where help is needed. This quake left anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million people homeless. And one official says that because those people are moving around, it's hard to know how much aid is needed in different parts of the country. Still, the same official says the international response to the crisis has been tremendous, and the relief efforts are improving every day.
AZUZ: Snow has buried some parts of Arizona, and it's not just an issue for drivers. Though some folks are finding their way through it, and though these kids look like they're having a good time in it, there have been instances of Native Americans living on reservations who've been using mirrors and banners as signals that they need air drops of supplies. Arizona is under a state of emergency, meaning government money is helping with rescues and supplies.
Farther east, parts of Texas and Oklahoma are getting a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain. Some powerlines are down; roads are icy; roads are dangerous. Officials in parts of Oklahoma are telling people to stay off the roads.
TERRI ANGIER, OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Normally, we give people an option. But today, I think Mother Nature is in charge, and we're asking people to stay home and allow the emergency crews and the road crews to be able to do what we need to do.
Before We Go
AZUZ: And before we go, a backyard brawl you are not going to believe. A bear snooping around on the porch: It's always a good idea to stay inside. Watch what happens when the bear tries to snag some garbage. The cat busts outside and takes off after the thief. And now, it's on! They're circling around, kind of sizing each other up. And then the cat -- the cat! -- took the first swing! The bear probably doesn't even know what to do. The folks inside the house apparently think it's hilarious. You can hear them laughing in the background. The bear does eventually get the trash before he turns tail and takes off into the woods.
AZUZ: But after backing down from that ferocious feline, we'd say he barely made it out of there with his pride intact. Hope you guys have an awesome weekend. We'll see you on Monday! For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.