(CNN Student News) -- April 7, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Carl Azuz. You're tuned in to CNN Student News. Afghanistan, Iraq, D.C.: lot of ground to cover today. We start things off in West Virginia.
AZUZ: Officials there are trying to figure out what caused the worst U.S. mining disaster in 25 years. It happened Monday afternoon at the Upper Big Branch South Mine: a massive blast inside the coal mine that killed at least 25 people, left four others trapped. Rescue workers are trying to drill their way into the mine, but they need to get 1,200 feet down inside of it, and that could take a while. Not only is the process slow, it's dangerous. Crews are having to deal with potentially harmful gases.
President Obama and other officials, including both of West Virginia's U.S. senators, have offered their thoughts and prayers to the families of the miners. They've also said they're determined to find out what happened and how it can be prevented in the future. One government official said, "Miners should never have to sacrifice their lives for their livelihood." This all happened inside a facility that does what's called longwall mining. Tom Foreman explains how that works and its potential dangers.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a type of mining that was actually pioneered in England several hundred years ago, but has really caught on in the past 30 years here because of new technology, primarily because mine owners have believed that this new technology might allow them to automate further, which would reduce the risk to miners and produce more coal.
So, let's check a little section of the land here. If we were to cut part of this out just like that, and we were able to move this aside, and say this is what it looks like underneath. This is from YouTube; a fellow put together a demonstration with what happens with longwall mining.
You may notice here -- this is a seam of coal -- and you'll see other little rooms cut in on the sides over here. This is the beginning of longwall mining. You cut off an area like this. You create a field, and this may be enormous. It's like 800 feet across here. It can be as much as a mile or more, along this way. And then, this is what happens: They start cutting away at the face of that. It's about eight feet tall. They cut, cut, cut, cut, cut. You can see a tremendous amount of coal would come out of it cutting it this way.
But I do want to point out that this video is a little bit deceptive, because what you don't see here is as they're cutting all that coal out, you're not creating a big giant room here. What you're doing is you're allowing it to all collapse in behind you as you cut. So, you're actually filling in all of this area with the mountainside collapsing behind you. And the actual working area is actually only about 15 feet or so from the face right up in here. So, this is the area we're looking at when we're focusing on this idea of longwall mining.
You have all of this space here. That grinding on the surface up front produces an enormous amount of coal dust. That's what you're seeing right there and that's the issue of ventilation here. What are the dangers if you have this kind of operation going on on the face of coal? You have this issue of coal dust building up. That's a potential threat because it is enormously explosive. You also have the threat of methane building up if it's not vented enough. Also enormously explosive. And because of all the weight here and the width of this, you always have the danger of some kind of structural collapse.
Again, many people believe this is less likely to produce a structural collapse than the other method of cutting out little rooms and leaving pillars, but nonetheless, when you put all these together, this is the danger.
AZUZ: The U.S. government says it will stop making new, nuclear weapons, and it's reconsidering what to do with the weapons that already exist. The announcement came yesterday, two days before President Obama is scheduled to sign a treaty with Russia that would reduce how many nuclear weapons both countries have. It also comes one week before he hosts a global meeting on nuclear security. More than 40 countries are expected to attend that.
But back to yesterday's announcement. This new policy would stop production of nuclear weapons. It would also invest about $5 billion in extending the life of weapons that already exist. Seven countries are officially recognized as nuclear powers, meaning they have nuclear weapons. But there are other countries that are suspected of trying to make them. U.S. officials hope this change from America will encourage other countries -- all countries -- to help control the spread of nuclear weapons. The U.S. has promised not to use its own nukes against anyone who does that. But as Defense Secretary Robert Gates pointed out, that doesn't mean retaliation is out of the question in every situation.
U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: The U.S. pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against it. If any state eligible for this assurance were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners, it would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response.
Toyota Fined Millions
AZUZ: $16.4 million is the most that a car company can be fined for a single violation of safety regulations in the U.S. That is exactly what NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is looking for from Toyota. This is related to that "sticky pedal" problem that caused Toyota to recall millions of vehicles. NHTSA claims Toyota didn't tell the agency about the problem for at least four months. Toyota says it's already started to address the government's concerns. As of yesterday, it hadn't replied directly to that $16 million fine. The company could challenge the penalty, maybe get it reduced. But one expert said $16 million is a "drop in the bucket" for Toyota. She added that the company might think it's easier just to pay it.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I'm an international group that was formed in 1949. My 28 member nations are from North America and Europe. My goals include keeping international peace and security. I'm NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
AZUZ: As part of that goal to maintain international security, NATO forces are currently fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan. NATO commanders had been planning to launch an operation in the region around Kandahar -- Afghanistan's second-largest city -- in June. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he won't let NATO move in until local leaders approve.
AFGHAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: The operation in Kandahar will not begin, will not go on, unless and until we have the full trust of the people of Kandahar for it and we have the full approval of the people of Kandahar for it, and where we have made sure after they've given us their approval that this operation will bring them more security, better livelihood and improved governance.
AZUZ: The White House isn't too happy with President Karzai's statement. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said, "On behalf of the American people, we're frustrated by the remarks." President Karzai is scheduled to visit the White House in May, but Gibbs says that meeting could be canceled.
AZUZ: Moving back over to the Middle East now. Some parts of Baghdad are recovering from a series of attacks. Authorities say seven separate explosions happened in the Iraqi capital city Tuesday morning. At least 34 people were killed in the violence; more than 100 others were wounded. You can see some of the damage in this video. Nearly all of the attacks happened in residential neighborhoods. Several buildings, including some apartments, were destroyed. This isn't the first time we've talked about violence in Baghdad this week, though. On Sunday, three bombs went off within five minutes of each other. All of those were near embassy buildings. Officials say at least 30 people were killed in those attacks.
AZUZ: The Spotlight section! You see it right there, just below the main video on CNNStudentNews.com. It's where you will find more information about some of the stories in the headlines. Plus, links to free resources like our Financial Glossary and ways to send us your iReports. Log on, find out what's In the Spotlight today!
AZUZ: Now, we're spotlighting you. It's the season for spring break; we're trying to find out whether the recession that has hit some of your schools is also affecting some of your vacation plans. Clint writes that many people he knows are "short on money and trying to cut back. But despite the economy and lack of cash," he reminds you you can still enjoy a great week off. That's what we call a "stay-cation," and while about half of you say you have an actual vacation planned, the other half is planning to stay close to home. Haylee told us that usually, she'd be visiting her grandparents, "but times are tough and we are squeezing the dollar. Unfortunately," she says, "we're running out of dollars to squeeze." Same story for Phillip. He talked about how he's having to stay home because his mom lost her job, and his family is going through some tough times. He hopes it gets better soon. You're welcome to comment at our Web site. After the show, head over to CNNStudentNews.com!
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, nothing brings people together like sports. This YouTube video starts off friendly enough: a deer meeting a dog for a little backyard game of soccer. But before they can even put the ball in play, it's on! Where is the ref? That should be an automatic red card. The dog tries to get in a few good licks, too. But eventually, he just takes his ball and goes home.
AZUZ: It left everyone else to just simply fawn over the victorious deer. CNN Student News hops back in the ring tomorrow. Have a great day; we'll see you then. I'm Carl Azuz.