(CNN Student News) -- August 31, 2010
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Love our new graphics. I'm Carl Azuz and you're watching CNN Student News! As we wrap up the month of August, we are going to be talking about schools, and we want you to be part of the conversation.
AZUZ: First, though, we're heading to Iraq for a major milestone in the U.S. military mission there. Today is the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tomorrow begins Operation New Dawn, and it will no longer be a combat mission. Vice President Joe Biden visited Iraq to attend a ceremony marking the transition. The end of the U.S. combat mission does not mean the end of violence in Iraq, though. The nation's leaders are worried about terrorist attacks, so they put Iraqi security forces on high alert late last week. There are still around 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. They'll be training and advising Iraqi forces until the end of 2011. That is when all American military personnel are scheduled to leave. Chris Lawrence looks at some of the challenges troops could face before then.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Now, the clock is really ticking on American troops in Iraq. Eighteen months to beef up Iraq's border patrol before all U.S. forces plan to leave. Then what?
How big of an influence does Iran have in what goes on here?
LT. COL. JOHN HOWERTON, DAKAR PROVINCE: Well, I think it's huge. Iran didn't sign a security agreement like we did, you know? Iran doesn't have a responsible drawdown of forces like we do. Iran didn't have a timetable to be out, when we do.
LAWRENCE: Out to the tarmac and then on board the Black Hawk, we fly all the way out to Iraq's border with Iran. Together, a small group of Iraqi and American troops man the remote, rugged outpost at Umm Sa'ah.
STAFF SGT. ADAM STEFFENS, 3RD BRIGADE, 4TH INFANTRY: We have to pay attention to the fact that, yes, we have a mildly aggressive nation right next door, a nation that has interest here.
1ST LT. WILL SWEARINGEN, 4-10 CAVALRY: Difficult situation, because you have villages who have family ties, as well as tribal ties in both countries.
LAWRENCE: The thing is, everything is connected. Iran's influence may start at the border, but it spreads deep into the provinces and cities, like here in Nasiriyah. And that's where Iran is buying even more influence. Iran is giving water and electricity to Iraqi families whose own government can't keep the power on.
LT. COL. JOHN HOWERTON, DAKAR PROVINCE: As soon as they continue to accept that they're not producing it themselves, so it becomes an economic battle as well as a military battle.
LAWRENCE: Neither of which is one where American troops can engage their rival.
AZUZ: A quick note for you. President Obama is scheduled to make a speech tonight about the war in Iraq. That's supposed to happen right around 8 p.m. Eastern time. It's expected to last about 15 minutes. You can tune in to CNN to watch that speech.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I'm a North American country that's home to more than 100 million people. I got my independence from Spain in the early 19th century. My longest border is with the United States. I'm Mexico, and the head of my government is President Felipe Calderon.
AZUZ: Thousands of Mexican police officers are out of a job because President Calderon's government fired them. Around 3,200 officers have been fired since May. That is nearly 10 percent of the country's federal police force. They've been accused of failing to do their jobs and, in some cases, they've been connected to corruption. Some of the men who were fired were accused of corruption by their fellow officers. What you're seeing here is a fight that broke out at one police headquarters after those accusations were made. More than 450 of the fired officers have been charged with crimes. Officials say none of them, the entire 3,200, will be rehired by local, state or federal police forces.
Plan to Seal Well
AZUZ: Out in the Gulf of Mexico, plans are on hold to permanently seal up an underwater well that leaked so much oil into the Gulf. Strong winds and high seas are making things a little rough out there, and officials don't want to try the procedure until the conditions are better. The plan is to remove a cap that's on top of the well. It's been holding the oil in. Once that's off, the blowout preventer -- the part that failed in the first place, causing oil to leak -- can then be removed and replaced. All that has to happen before engineers can use a relief well to permanently close the original well.
AZUZ: Moving farther east to the Atlantic Ocean, where Hurricane Earl is getting stronger. Monday afternoon, it became a category 4 hurricane. That's big. This video was taken on an island in the Caribbean. The wind and surf give you an idea of how stong Earl is. A lot of the Caribbean was under a hurricane warning yesterday. As Earl heads north, experts think it could affect the U.S. east coast, from the Carolinas all the way up to Cape Cod.
STAN CASE, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! The first U.S. public school was founded in what city? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Jamestown, Virginia, B) Boston, Massachusetts, C) New York, New York or D) Washington, D.C.? You've got three seconds -- GO! Boston Latin, the oldest public school in America, was founded in 1635. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: 375 years later, many American schools are facing a budget crisis. A lot of you probably see this in your school every day. Fix Our Schools is a CNN project that looks at solutions, how schools are succeeding. I had the chance to speak with 11 high school juniors and seniors recently, and I asked them what works in their schools and what makes 'em tick even as they budget crises.
AZUZ: What makes a school good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: The teachers. The ones that push you harder; the ones that make you stronger; and the ones that, frankly, make you study until 10:00 p.m. the minute you get home.
AZUZ: Do all of you appreciate a teacher who drives you hard? Do all of you thrive in that sort of environment?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1: But I would also include a caring administrative staff, because I think good schools start at the top and then they work themselves down, I think.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Also, a school that pushes school spirit a lot. You know, with pep rallies and stuff. Usually, if you are performing in that pep rally, or you kind of get to learn about people and how they act and how they kind of interact with each other.
AZUZ: How they party?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: Yes, party hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #3: I would have to say the family aspect. I feel closer to my school because we have a small school setup.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #4: I think the classes that are offered, because I know some schools don't offer some of the classes we offer, and we don't have some of the classes other schools offer.
AZUZ: You know, what's interesting to me is that none of you guys are mentioning the facility itself. What's more important to you, the school or the people in it?
GROUP: The people in it.
AZUZ: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2: It's definitely the people in it, like everyone was saying. Without good teachers, without that education, what is a school? We can have the technology, but if we don't have someone to work behind it, how are we going to learn?
AZUZ: What are your schools doing right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: At my school, the teachers are very hands on. They always interact with the students.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1: I think our school is using their resources wisely, because they are very limited. We share a school with actually another school, so we don't have the luxury of kind of having like a bigger school with all the latest high-tech things and things like that.
AZUZ: So, you are good at making the most of what you have?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1: Yes.
AZUZ: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #3: First thing, I attend a double magnet school, so we have offerings in the math and science magnet, as well as in the arts magnet. So, my school offers opportunities for students whether you're interested more in academics in the math and science or whether you're interesting in drawing, painting, performing arts, music.
AZUZ: What's your school doing right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #5: I like the schedule my school's in. It's in a block schedule, and I like having an hour-and-a-half class versus having a 45-minute class, because you really get to get into the subject.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: Our county actually shrank the budget to the point where we're working on a skeleton budget and a skeleton staff. But what we're doing right, I think, is actually we are making the most of what we have, as well.
AZUZ: making the most of it. What a lot of students had to say. We heard from them; now we want to hear from you. CNNStudentNews.com. Our blog, From A to Z. The question we're asking there: How would you fix your school? If you could make one change, what would make the most difference at your school? Log on, share your ideas. We can't wait to hear from you. And remember though. The big rule: first names only.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, you wanna start a fight? 'Cause these guys do, and their weapons of choice are water balloons. Students at Bakersfield High School in California organized the event to try and break the world record for the world's biggest water balloon fight. There's only one problem: They didn't have enough people. Of course, the fight was also a fundraiser for the marching band, and they did raise a lot of money.
AZUZ: So hopefully, they didn't let the lack of a record dampen their spirits. Raised a lot of money, didn't break the record; they should just call it a wash. Back with more puns tomorrow, wet-ter you like it or not. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz. We'll see ya later.