(CNN Student News) -- May 20, 2011
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SOUTH KOREAN CNN STUDENT NEWS VIEWERS: Annyeonghaseyo! We love CNN Student News. We are watching CNN Student News from South Korea. Yay!
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Someone introducing our show from half a world away? Might have found something that's more awesome than Fridays. I'm Carl Azuz. Let's get started.
AZUZ: First up, President Obama announces a "new chapter" in the U.S. policy toward the Middle East. In yesterday's speech, the president talked about all of the upheaval that's been sweeping across that part of the world. He called the revolutions and political protests a wave of change that cannot be denied. President Obama said the U.S. does and will support reforms in the Middle East and North Africa that help ordinary people in the nations there. And he spoke out harshly against governments that have used force on protesters. He also pushed to re-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying that the demand for change in the region might help kick-start negotiations. In terms of changes across the entire Middle East, the president said "it will be years before this story reaches its end." But he explained why the U.S. supports change.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There's no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. The United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. And now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable and more just.
AZUZ: The Mississippi River is setting a record in the city of Vicksburg. But not the kind anyone wants to celebrate. The river crested -- reached its highest point -- at just over 57 feet. That's more than a foot higher than the old record, set in 1927. What you should be seeing here is a runway. This is a small airport. These hangars are the only sign of that now. Mississippi also suffered its first flood-related death yesterday. We've reported on some of the people affected by the Mississippi's rising waters. There are also concerns about wildlife, like this coyote you saw a moment ago, who's searching for higher ground.
This Day in History
AZUZ: It's May 20th, and on this day in history in 1902, Cuba gained its independence after being ruled by Spain.
In 1927, American aviator Charles Lindbergh took off for his famous flight across the Atlantic Ocean. It was the world's first solo, non-stop, transatlantic flight.
And five years later, in 1932, Amelia Earhart made her solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic. It was the first time that goal was accomplished by a female pilot.
AZUZ: Next up, we have a report from Kyung Lah that's related to Japan's gross domestic product, or GDP. That's the total value of all the goods and services that a country produces in a given amount of time. Japan's GDP is down. And to find out one of the big reasons why, you just need to look back at what happened a couple months ago.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The tsunami that leveled Japan's northern coastline on March 11th is now, two months later, destroying a new terrain: the country's economy. Japan's government announced the nation's gross domestic product fell at a surprising 3.7% annualized rate in the first quarter of 2011. It's the second quarter in a row the GDP has fallen, meaning Japan is now in a recession.
Look deeper into the GDP fall, and the numbers are even more grim. Industrial output, which includes all the consumer products Japan sends around the world, plunged 15.3% in March, the worst ever recorded in Japan's history. The auto industry hurt the most. Car production fell almost 60 percent in March. Nissan's President and CEO Carlos Ghosn re-opened a hard-hit factory in the tsunami zone just this week, leading workers in a rah-rah session, but acknowledging full recovery for the company is still months away.
In the hard-hit region of Miyagi Prefecture, half of the companies and factories -- 10,000 of them -- are affected by the earthquake and tsunami; 600 expected to close. Japan's government says a quarter of a million foreigners left Japan in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. As far as tourism coming in, it's fallen off a cliff. Airports are reporting a 35 to 60 percent drop in travelers. The nuclear crisis at Fukushima is also fueling concerns of an energy shortage, impacting Japan's ability to produce cars, electronics and parts for months to come. Experts say Japan's economy was already struggling before the disaster. HSBC Senior Economist Frederic Neumann believes there is a chance the disaster could have an unintended positive outcome.
FREDERIC NEUMANN, HSBC SENIOR ECONOMIST: The silver lining of this earthquake was that perhaps this will accelerate the reform pressures, and that Japan, then, in a year or two years from now, emerges stronger than it actually had been in the run-up to the earthquake.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mrs. Griffin's social studies classes at Faith Middle School in Fort Benning, Georgia! What does an odometer measure? You know what to do! Is it: A) Speed, B) Distance, C) Rotation or D) Temperature? You've got three seconds -- GO! An odometer measures distance, like how far your car has traveled. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
Tax on Driving?
AZUZ: Some lawmakers are looking into the idea of charging drivers based on their odometers. Right now, part of what you pay to fill up your car is a federal gas tax. That money gets used to build and maintain highways and to help pay for mass transit systems. But with more fuel-efficient cars on the road, people are driving more miles using less gas. So this "driving tax" would charge people by the mile, either instead of or in addition to the gas they buy. The more you drive, the more you pay. It might help bring in money to the government, but some critics say collecting mileage information raises concerns about privacy. Should the government know how much you drive? Also, they're worried that this could be unfair to drivers in more rural areas who have to drive farther.
AZUZ: Now, this isn't an official proposal; it's just an idea at this point that some people are talking about. We want you to talk about it! Do you think it's better to tax drivers by the mile or the gallon? Zoom on over to our blog at CNNStudentNews.com and share your opinions.
AZUZ: All right, we're going to stay in the driving lane here and look at something called a roundabout. It's a kind of intersection, but not one with a traditional crossing. A roundabout -- as the name suggests -- is a circle. Officials say they don't make sense in every situation. But Tom Foreman steers us toward one mayor who's all about the circular logic.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: North of Indianapolis, in the suburb of Carmel, Mayor James Brainard has been going around in circles for years over traffic jams.
MAYOR JAMES BRAINARD, (R) CARMEL, INDIANA: Roundabouts work everywhere
FOREMAN: He has done away with traffic lights at 80% of his town's major intersections, replacing them with roundabouts. Whirlpools of traffic that keep people moving.
BRAINARD: It's made a huge difference in the way our city looks and feels, and the way people get around.
FOREMAN: Roundabouts, not to be confused with bigger, more intimidating rotaries on the East Coast, are designed to smoothly sweep drivers in from any direction, slowly guide them around, and just as easily let them out and on their way. Since cars don't stop, commuters save time and, officials say, use 30% less gas at intersections.
BRAINARD: A roundabout can handle about 4 to 5 times the amount of traffic in the same amount of time as a stop light intersection can have.
FOREMAN: The mayor says intersection accidents are also way down, improving insurance rates. And the city saves money, too.
BRAINARD: We don't have to buy a $150,000 signal. We don't have to buy electricity every year. And we don't have to replace it after 15 years when all that mechanical equipment wears out.
FOREMAN: Some drivers and pedestrians don't like roundabouts, but local officials insist this simple idea is building up the quality of life here, and that's building up the business climate all around. Tom Foreman, CNN.
AZUZ: The CNN documentary "Don't Fail Me" looks at the state of education in America. If you didn't catch the premiere, the program is re-airing this Saturday, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Our educator guide for "Don't Fail Me" is in the Spotlight section at CNNStudentNews.com.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, you might be planning a trip to the beach for this summer. These dogs get to take one every day. And it's all thanks to the Doggie Beach Bus. The driver picks up her passengers in the morning. Some of them even wait for her out on the street. Once the beach bus rounds up all of its canine companions, it heads out to the water for an hour of fun. Then it's back on the bus to head home. Daily delivery service to and from the beach?
AZUZ: Those are some lucky dogs, fur-real. They even have a designated place to leave the bus: a barking lot. Aack! We just hope they behave during the ride, 'cause a dog who's acting up can be a real pet peeve. All right! For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz. Have a great weekend!