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Congressional Super Committee Faces Deadline; Complaints about Egyptian Reform Pace; Gadhafi`s Son Captured in Libya; Collecting Solar Energy

Aired November 21, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


GROUP: Hey, Carl, this is Grace Christian Academy (ph), and this is CNN Student News.

CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: And, of course, we thank the students at Chicago`s Grace Christian Academy for getting our week going. I`m Carl Azuz, bringing you 10 minutes of headlines from around the globe. We`re going to get into our first story today with this report.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN REPORTER: The reason it`s been given the nickname of "super committee," if you will, is many believe that this committee has super powers. They basically can bypass a lot of the procedural hurdles that legislation often runs up against as it tries to make its way through the House and Senate.

The super committee was created during the debt ceiling debacle over the summer. It was created to basically do what Congress could not do during the debt ceiling negotiations, which was find bigger deficit savings in order to help the country stabilize its debt.

There are 12 members on this committee, 12 lawmakers, evenly split between the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican. They were all appointed by the leaders of each chamber. They bring a range of experience, a range of backgrounds and a range of political motivations, if you will.

The deadline is tight. The committee has until November 23rd, right before Thanksgiving, to reach agreement. It does not have to be unanimous within the committee. It has to be a majority of the members on the committee that has to reach agreement, and then it is sent to Congress to both chambers, the House and the Senate. And Congress has to vote on it by December 23rd.


AZUZ: OK, so we`re talking about Congress` super committee and you heard Kate Bolduan say that it has until this Wednesday to recommend a plan to cut more than a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.


AZUZ (voice-over): But the committee members need at least 48 hours to look over any plan before they vote on it. So really the deadline is more like today. And as of Sunday, no deal. Assistants to super committee members were saying that the only announcement the committee would be likely to make was that they failed to reach an agreement.

So what happens if they don`t reach the deadline? Automatic government budget cuts across the board starting in 2013, including cuts to the U.S. military that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said could cause serious problems for America`s military.


AZUZ: Something to keep in mind: Congress created these deadlines so Congress can change them, too, or decide to get rid of them altogether. Right now, that`s what some lawmakers are suggesting that Congress should do.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s first Shoutout goes out to Mr. Prososki and Mr. Waters` homeroom class at Lexington Middle School in Lexington, Nebraska.

Where would you find Tahrir Square? You know what to do. Is it in Libya, Egypt, Syria or Yemen? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Tahrir Square is in Egypt`s capital city of Cairo. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Tahrir Square was a rallying point for protesters during Egypt`s political revolution earlier this year. Same thing`s going on there now: more protests. There was an uprising you might remember that happened in the spring, and that drove Egypt`s president from office. There are plans for a new constitution and elections.


AZUZ (voice-over): But some Egyptians are angry about how long all this is taking since the initial uprising. They`re worried that Egypt`s military, which is running the government right now, already might have claimed too much power in Egypt`s new government.

Protesters were back in Tahrir Square over the weekend, fighting with army and police forces. Some people died in the violence. More than a thousand were wounded. Military officials say they want to transfer the government over to civilians. Elections for parliament are scheduled to start next week.



AZUZ (voice-over): In the neighboring country of Libya, many people are celebrating the arrest of this man. His name is Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. He`s the son of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Saif Gadhafi had been hiding for months. He was captured over the weekend after a gun battle in the Libyan desert.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi didn`t have a high-level job in his father`s government, but experts say he had the most influence in Moammar Gadhafi`s inner circle, and they thought Saif was the most likely person to take over control after his father. The Gadhafi government has been accused of brutally attacking citizens during Libya`s civil war.

The International Criminal Court wants to put Saif Gadhafi on trial for crimes against humanity, including murder. But Libyan officials also want to put him on trial in Libya. They want it happen in their court system. So they`re -- we don`t know yet how this is all going to play out.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time for a Shoutout Extra Credit. About how long does it take for light from the sun to reach the Earth? Here we go. Is it eight seconds, eight minutes, eight hours or eight days? Rewind that clock to three seconds and go.

It takes a little more than eight minutes for light to travel from the sun to the Earth. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout Extra Credit.


AZUZ: The idea of collecting that light after it makes the 8-minute journey isn`t new. You`ve probably heard of sonar panels. But Aidan Dwyer came up with a unique idea for how to collect sunlight, and his design was inspired by nature. What started out as a science fair project is now getting international attention. Check this out.


AIDAN DWYER, INVENTOR: Our yard isn`t that big, and we -- my parents always wanted solar panels. So one day I was just walking through the woods on a winter hiking trip, and I noticed that the tree branches, how they collect sunlight, they like go up into the air. And I thought, like, maybe if we put solar panels on the ends of the branches, it would collect a lot of sunlight.

My project is about how I`d build a solar panel tree design, and based on the Fibonacci sequence. And it collected more sunlight than a common flat panel array. And it doesn`t collect dirt, rain, snow as much as the flat panels. And I think it looks a lot nicer.

My project generated a lot of reaction from people around the world. Many people were excited about the idea. Others had great suggestions to make my research better. The Internet allows people to share ideas. But people will -- people will be people and the media will be the media, and the lesson I learned is that sometimes the Internet is not a substitute for scientific peer review.

Well, some of the comments were encouraging me and some of them were just -- they were giving me ideas to expand my research. But some, I felt like, didn`t understand my project, because I was trying to measure how -- see if the tree design could collect more sunlight, not more open current voltage.

I`m using suggestions from different sources to improve the design. My current project is a large-scale Fibonacci array, which has been adopted by a family of chipmunks as a hangout.


DWYER: But most importantly, I`m sharing my ideas on solar panels with others to build a better tomorrow.


AZUZ: Good stuff. And before we go, over the past 12 years, Peter Larson has spent almost 300 nights camping out, but not in a tent.

Peter (ph) sleeps

AZUZ (voice-over): Peter sleeps outside in a cardboard box, braving frigid Minnesota evenings. And it`s not some kind of endurance challenge. Peter`s sleepouts raise money for those who are less fortunate and who might be sleeping in boxes themselves without a choice.

So far, the high school senior has raised nearly $400,000. This year, Peter is planning his longest sleepout yet -- seven weeks.


AZUZ: Spending nearly two months out in the cold is a fundraising idea that`s really thinking outside the box. We wish Peter (ph) the best of luck with his efforts, and we hope to see you back here tomorrow for our last show of the week. This is CNN Student News.