(CNN Student News) -- March 11, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: A new campaign is using text messages to make a serious point. You're going to see how in just a bit. I'm Carl Azuz. CNN Student News starts right now!
First Up: Record Deficit
AZUZ: First up, the U.S. economy sets a new record, but not one it wants to brag about. The deficit, how much money the country owes, went up by more than $220 billion in February. That is a new, one-month record. It's also the 17th month in a row that the deficit has increased. No surprise to economic experts. They had predicted the increase. One analyst said it was probably due to -- surprise, surprise -- the recession and tax refunds. February is usually a bad month for the deficit because it's when the government starts sending people their tax refund checks.
The amount of money that the government makes went up in February, so that's some good news. But its spending was on the rise, too. And that really helped lead to the increase in the deficit as well. For the 2010 fiscal, or financial year, which started last October, the total deficit is now more than $651 billion. President Obama's administration predicts that number will hit $1.5 trillion some time this year.
AZUZ: Recovery and reconstruction leading the agenda when President Obama met with Haitian President Rene Preval yesterday. Haiti, of course, still recovering from that massive earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, devastating the Caribbean nation. President Preval thanked Americans for the help that has been sent to Haiti and also for what he called the "psychological response," which he said made Haitians realize they weren't alone. Earthquake victims are still in need of food, medicine and shelter. President Obama said those needs will be made worse when Haiti's rainy season starts in the spring. But he promised that America's aid efforts are not over.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As you declared during last month's national day of mourning, it's time to wipe away the tears. It is time for Haiti to rebuild. And to you and to the Haitian people, I say today, as you embark on the heavy work ahead, you will continue to have a steady and reliable partner in the United States of America.
AZUZ: A group of educators is making a proposal that could have a direct impact on how you learn. We're talking about academic standards. Right now, each state can write its own academic standards. But there's a push for national standards, meaning students all around the country, K-12, would be learning the same concepts at the same time. That's what this proposal is about. It's just focused on math and English, and it's not set in stone. Individual states have to decide whether or not to adopt the new standards. Some are moving in that direction, others aren't getting involved. Texas, for example, didn't take part in the proposal because its governor argues that states should decide what students learn. If these national standards do go into effect, it could mean big changes for textbooks and standardized tests.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I'm a European country that has both a king and a president. I'm located on the Iberian Peninsula. My capital city is Madrid. I'm Spain, and I'm home to more than 40 million people.
AZUZ: Today, the nation of Spain is marking a tragic anniversary, a day that's been called Europe's 9/11. Six years ago, a series of bombs went off on four trains in the capital city of Madrid. The attacks happened when commuters were riding in to work or school. The bombs killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,700 others. Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that's responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., said it was responsible for the Madrid bombings. Authorities actually discovered one bomb that didn't go off, and that helped provide clues in the case. Eventually, more than a dozen people were convicted for their involvement with the attacks. As Spain marks the 6th anniversary of the Madrid bombings, some of that city's residents reflected on the impact of the event.
JUAN CARLOS GARCIA, ENGINEER [TRANSLATED]: It was very tough, especially knowing it could have been you. Now, you remember it, but not the same as when it just happened.
VINCENTE JIMENEZ, DEPUTY EDITOR, EL PAIS [TRANSLATED]: People remember the March 11th attacks, and while conscious that the threat continues, you have to continue with your life.
AZUZ: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says American forces serving in Afghanistan could come home earlier than planned, but it will depend on conditions in the country. Troops are scheduled to start leaving Afghanistan by July of 2011. Gates is there, in part, to check on a military operation in and around the city of Marjah. Ben Wedeman has more on the town's high school.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, JERUSALEM: This is a classroom in a school that was the biggest, in fact the only, high school in Marjah. The town of Marjah in Helmand province. This was a school that was built by the United States in the late 1950s. A lot's changed since then. And it's now, at least for the time being, a base for the American Marines in the center of the city.
However, the Afghan Ministry of Education wants to get this school running again. So, they've been given about three days to clear all of this stuff out of here so that the ministry can start reconstructing this school. Because obviously, it's very important for the Afghan government to show that life in Marjah is going to get back to normal. I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Marjah, in Helmand province, Southern Afghanistan.
Is this Legit?
MATT CHERRY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? Your chances of wrecking are 23 times higher if you text while driving. This is true, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
AZUZ: The danger of texting while driving is not a new subject. We've talked about this on our blog several times throughout the school year, and we've gotten hundreds of comments from you. There is a new campaign, though, that's trying to raise awareness about the issue with one question: Think about the last text you got, and then ask yourself: Is it worth dying for? The campaign is called "Texting and driving... It can wait." It features the final text messages that young drivers got before they died.
When it comes to this issue, you've heard a lot of the statistics. In 2008, nearly 6,000 people were killed in car crashes that involved a distracted driver. More than half a million people were injured. And people under the age of 20 have the highest number of distracted drivers who were involved in fatal crashes. This new campaign is aimed at that same age group. The head of the company recently spoke about how they came up with the idea.
STEVE HODGES, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, AT&T: We asked customers at a focus group to take a look at their last text message -- and I encourage everybody to go do this -- and really pull it up and take a look at it and, you know, ask yourself the question: Is this message so important that I would be willing to get in an accident over or potentially harm myself or others? And so, that was really the foundation of our program. And what people said to us pretty much was no, it's not. It's just not worth it. It can wait.
AZUZ: If you haven't seen the stepping story we covered on Tuesday's show, CNNStudentNews.com has it in our archive. Here's how some of you reacted to the report: Kaydee says stepping is for everyone. "The Arkansas team proved they have the talent and potential to win. The so-called cultural theft was just modern growth." From Justin: "Anyone who was allowed to enter the contest should also be allowed to win the contest." And Dustin writes, "I am an African-American and yes, stepping is a "black" thing. But seeing another ethnic group doing what we did makes me feel as if African-Americans are inspiring other groups in our society." Raquel says, "I think that since stepping is a part of African-American culture, then they should be able to keep stepping to themselves." And Sheryl agrees, saying that "stepping is for African-Americans only. It was originated by them and it should stay for them." But Joshua argues, "Cooking Mexican food isn't exclusive for Mexico. Speaking Spanish isn't exclusive for Spanish people. Nothing cultural is exclusive." Our newest blog subject is about what you would cut if you were in charge of a school system and you had less money this year than last year. Tell us about it at CNNStudentNews.com, using only your first name.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Well, before we go, you might have noticed that we didn't have a Shoutout in today's show. We do have a dedication... to me!
JEWELL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT #1: Hello from Jewell, Oregon.
JEWELL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT #2: You can find us here!
JEWELL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT #3: Google us after CNN Student News.
JEWELL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT #4: Last week I went for a haircut; they just couldn't cut it!
AZUZ: That pun sure cut it. In fact, we thought the whole iReport was a real Jewell. Want to thank Amber, Thomas, Jared, Alex and Alex for that. IReports are a great way to get in touch with us, as you just saw, and they're a way that you can get your face on this show! You can find out about them at CNNStudentNews.com. Meanwhile, we will be back tomorrow. Have a great day.