(CNN Student News) -- August 25, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: What does it take to be the most expensive school in America? You're going to find out in the next 10 minutes. I'm Carl Azuz. CNN Student News is now in session!
AZUZ: First up today: the economy. We have a new report about sales in the housing market. They're not good. Sales of existing homes -- homes that have already been built -- dropped more than 27 percent in July. They haven't been this low in more than 10 years. Some experts think a big reason for the drop is the fact that the government's homebuyer tax credit ended. Basically, that offered people money to help them buy a house. Without that incentive, the sales went down. And the stock market noticed too. When the home sales report came out yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average took a hit. A lot of people use the Dow to figure out how the entire stock market is doing.
Obviously, a drop in home sales is a bad thing. But why is this such a big deal? Why did it affect the stock market? Some analysts think the drop in home sales is a warning that housing prices might go down. They're concerned that that might make it harder for the U.S. economy to recover from the recession it's been in.
AZUZ: Turning our attention to the war in Iraq. For the first time since that conflict started in 2003, there are fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops in the Middle Eastern country. One White House official explained why it's the right time for a change.
JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNTER-TERRORISM ADVISOR: We can anticipate that al Qaeda in Iraq will try to argue that they have been successful. But they are wrong. We are reducing our footprint in Iraq under our terms, and through a transition to over 600,000 Iraqi security forces who have proven up to the task.
AZUZ: Okay, there is still violence in Iraq. Yesterday, attacks killed at least five people. How will that affect the U.S. troops who are still there? Arwa Damon has more on the transition.
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and the beginning, on September 1, of Operation New Dawn. Now, this is officially being called a non-combat mission that is going to see the U.S. military in an advise-and-assist capacity. This does not, however, mean that the war has somehow miraculously come to an end, or that a switch was flicked that would allow peace and prosperity to flourish in Iraq. Those troops remaining here will still be wearing their full battle kit when they leave their bases. They'll still be carrying their weapons and they will still be on high alert as this does remain an active and dangerous war zone.
Race to the Top
AZUZ: It's a race with 10 winners. It's the government's "Race to the Top," an education program that offers money to states who put together plans for school reform. 35 states and the District of Columbia applied for the current round. D.C. was one of the winners, along with Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, as well as New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island. They'll split $3.4 billion, although how much they get will be based on the number of students in each state. So you can expect New York to get a lot more money than Hawaii. Now some critics of "Race to the Top" argue that it could end up actually hurting some school districts. And others have raised questions about the criteria that led to these states winning out over other states.
Is This Legit?
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this legit? Wind speed determines the difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane. It's true! A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour.
AZUZ: And that's why Tropical Storm Danielle became Hurricane Danielle Monday evening. Though yesterday, it did drop back down to a tropical storm. Danielle is the fourth named storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season, but it's only the second storm to become a hurricane. It's out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and the National Hurricane Center says that it probably won't hit land.
AZUZ: Most expensive American school ever. This place opens next month in Los Angeles, California. And take a look at it: It's not only big, it's luxurious. An auditorium modeled after a famous nightclub. Seating like an upscale restaurant. A basketball court floored in maple wood. Your school doesn't have this stuff! Then again, your school didn't cost $578 million.
The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools is a complex for kindergarten through 12th grade. It'll fit 4,200 students. It is a public school! The area's superintendent says now the poorest children in his school system will have one of the most beautiful learning environments. But in a district that's cut academic programs and laid off almost 3,000 teachers in the past two years, some say this just goes way too far. Los Angeles officials say it was planned before the recession, and that the money didn't come out of California's indebted education budget, but from bonds that voters approved.
AZUZ: But as they say, the proof is in the puddin'. Will a school like this improve students' education? We want you to comment on this on our blog. What makes a good school, good? Is it in the facility itself? Or is it in the students or teachers or... What do you think? Talk to us at CNNStudentNews.com!
JOHN LISK, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! What is the official currency of Japan? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it the: A) Yuan, B) Ruble, C) Yen or D) Dinar? You've got three seconds -- GO! Japan's official currency is the yen. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: Different currencies get compared against each other to figure out how strong they are. Right now, the yen is doing great! Against the U.S. dollar, the yen is higher than it has been in 15 years. But that can be bad news for expatriates in Japan, people who live there but who weren't born there. Kyung Lah helps makes cents out of all this.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT, TOKYO: Americans Andrew Wright and Ai Kawano are getting a crash course in the currency market.
ANDREW WRIGHT, AMERICAN EXPATRIATE: I'm kinda surprised, actually. The yen is so high now.
AI KAWANO, WRIGHT'S WIFE: I feel like my income is really decreased from that time.
LAH: Your income didn't change, it's just currency.
AI: Yeah, it's not changed, I know. It's only the currency.
PAULA SHIOI, AMERICAN EXPATRIATE: Going down, down, down.
LAH: That's the paycheck pain shared by expatriates who get paid in dollars or euros and have to pay for food in yen. But it's the opposite side of the coin across town at the Shinjuku bus station. The Komatsus are heading off to an overseas vacation.
TOMOKO KOMATSU, TOKYO RESIDENT [TRANSLATED]: "I upgraded the room and reserved a more expensive restaurant," says Tomoko Komatsu.
LAH: They're planning their next getaway before they've even taken off on this one. That's the power of their yen overseas. What it boils down to is the value of the U.S. dollar. Let's say these sushi erasers cost 100 yen. Three years ago, given the value of the U.S. dollar, I would have spent 79 cents in the exchange. Fast forward to today. For the exact same sushi erasers, I now have to spend $1.18. Analysts say this reflects the overall global downward trend of the U.S. dollar.
EISUKE SAKAKIBARA, AOYAMA GAKUIN UNIVERSITY: Currency does reflect such a trend in the world economy.
LAH: Professor Eisuke Sakakibara says that trend is the move away from the U.S. and Europe to developing superpowers of India and China. Currency is just the symptom of a world's economy shifting its center of gravity.
SAKAKIBARA: They indicate the further weakness of the U.S. economy. This trend we have experienced in the last month or so will probably accelerate.
LAH: That spells trouble for big exporters like Toyota, who at this recent earnings announcement based its sheets on a 90 yen. Analysts say Toyota loses an estimated $250 million when the dollar dips one yen on the currency market.
WRIGHT: Checking out the food, we're just moving in.
LAH: And it means tough times for the Wrights, who are new Tokyo transplants. Learning to live without, while their Japanese counterparts live it up. Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.
Before We Go
AZUZ: We've been doing a lot of animal stories for our "Before We Go" segment lately, and some are cute. This, you might could go either way on. It's about... well let's just say I smell a rat. And it smells great! Or at least it's going to after its bath. An iReporter sent in this video of his rat Tinkerbell -- he named it Tinkerbell -- Tinkerbell apparently loves taking baths and does all the washing herself. You can see right here: She's got her whiskers, her face...she might've missed a spot. Nope, she got it. There is another possibility here, that Tinkerbell doesn't like getting wet, doesn't like taking baths, but her owner dunked her in the sink anyway.
AZUZ: And now she's trapped like a...heh, heh. All right. Well, maybe the owner just wanted to show off his pet's good hygeine. Either way, we totally had to rat him out. We're going to scurry away for now. CNN Student News returns tomorrow. In the meantime, don't forget to head to our blog at CNNStudentNews.com. Talk to us about what makes a great school great. We will look forward to seeing you on Thursday. Thanks for joining us.