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Payroll Tax Cut Fight; NASA Discovers Earth-Like Planet

Aired December 7, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: From the CNN Newsroom here in Atlanta, Georgia, straight to your classrooms, I`m Carl Azuz and this is CNN Student News. Today we`re starting with something called a payroll tax.

Here`s the deal on the payroll tax, from A to Z. Americans have been getting a break on their federal payroll tax.


AZUZ (voice-over): What this means is that they`re taking home a bit more of what they earn. For example, someone making around $50,000 this year took home an extra $1,500, thanks to the payroll tax break. But the government has to take action to extend the payroll tax cuts into next year, otherwise the payroll tax goes back up and Americans see less money in their paychecks.


AZUZ: What Democrats and Republicans don`t agree on is how to pay for this. Extending the payroll tax break would cost the government about $200 billion.


AZUZ (voice-over): Democrats, including the president, want to pay for this by raising taxes on millionaires, whom, they believe, can afford to pay more. Republicans don`t want taxes to go up for anyone during a lousy economy. They want to pay for the extension by cutting government spending. Will the two sides find common ground?


AZUZ: Maybe, maybe not. But no matter how much you or your parents make, you`ll probably notice.

There are only a few weeks left for Congress to vote on whether or not to extend the payroll tax cut. During a speech yesterday, President Obama urged Congress to act immediately. Democrats and Republicans have both been offering plans on this, but the proposals have been criticized, sometimes from members of the same parties who offer them.

Well, yesterday, we brought you headlines from near and far, far away. Today, we`re going a little bit farther, like 600 light years. A light year is the distance that light travels in a year, and 600 light years away is where NASA scientists say they`ve discovered the first confirmed planet in what they call the habitable zone. That means, in theory, this planet could have liquid water on its surface.


AZUZ (voice-over): It was found during the Kepler mission, which cost around $600 million. Back in 2009, NASA launched this giant telescope out into space. It`s exploring the Milky Way galaxy for stars and their nearby planets.

Scientists are looking for planets that could be like Earth. This one, which is called Kepler-22b, is the first one that NASA says it`s found that could be similar to ours. Chad Myers looks at the comparisons.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Here`s what we know. We have our sun and we have this blue line -- that`s our Earth`s rotation, our orbit around our sun. The sun that they found up here, Kepler -- between the Kepler-22 system, slightly smaller than our sun, slightly cooler than our sun, but the same type of class, the same type of sun.

And then they found this planet, rotating around it, almost the exact same distance away. In fact, we take 365 days to go around, or at least approximately. This planet takes 290 days to go around. So it`s almost in the exact perfect spot.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Dr. Ewy`s social studies class at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Manhattan, Kansas.

Which U.S. president made this famous statement?

PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: December 7th, 1941, a date which live in infamy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was it William Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman or Richard Nixon? You`ve got three seconds, go.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said those famous words on December 8th, 1941. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: President Roosevelt was talking about the Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Thousands of Americans were killed. Military ships and planes were damaged or destroyed. This devastating attack led to the U.S. getting involved in World War II. It happened 70 years ago today.

As America remembers that attack and the lives that were lost, Jim Mendoza of affiliate KGMB reports on a reunion of people who were there on that day.


JIM MENDOZA, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Mal Middlesworth was a young Marine stationed aboard the USS San Francisco.

MAL MIDDLESWORTH, PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR: It was just a tremendous amount of explosions. Then the smoke. Then a little later on, the fire on top of the water.

MENDOZA (voice-over): Jack Hammett was a 19-year-old Navy pharmacist. He accounted for the dead and comforted the dying.

JACK HAMMETT, PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR: To see so much death and destruction in such a short period of time, we always got what was leftover after a battle, you know, no glory there.

MENDOZA (voice-over): The Japanese sneak attack killed more than 2,400 U.S. service men and women. It came in two waves, the first at 7:53 in the morning. Pat Thompson was 10 years old and living in Navy housing near Pearl Harbor.

PAT THOMPSON, PEARL HARBOR ATTACK EYEWITNESS: Because I was so used to the planes coming over from Hickam Field, and I was outside waving at them any time a plane came over, such as it was that morning. I was outside, waving at the Japanese planes, not knowing they weren`t ours.

MENDOZA (voice-over): Thompson, Middlesworth and Hammett were among a handful of survivors and eyewitnesses, who returned to the harbor to particular in discussions organized by the National Parks Service.

HAMMETT: Everybody thinks about -- in terms of macro when they`re thinking about Pearl Harbor. But we think in terms of micro. My job was those bodies. Everybody said, "You`re a hero." I -- we`re not heroes.

MIDDLESWORTH: There`s only about a half-page in a history book about Pearl Harbor. And half of that half-page is a picture of the Arizona. So our youngsters don`t understand what really happened.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the word? It`s the act of spying or using spies to get information.

Espionage --that`s the word.


AZUZ: The British government is looking to expand its espionage roster. Anyone who`s a citizen can apply, but the entrance exam is a bit of a brain buster. It`s a code, and you`ve got to crack it if you want the chance to be Britain`s next cyber-spy. Brian Todd looks at the reaction to this unique recruiting idea, and examines why the espionage industry is moving online.


BRIAN TODD, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Here`s your challenge, 160 combinations of numbers and letters and a countdown clock. You`ve got just a few days to your deadline. If you`re a British citizen and you solve this cryptographic puzzle, you could be recruited for Britain`s next generation of high-tech spies.

Posted online, publicized on Facebook and Twitter, it`s put out by the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain`s version of America`s National Security Agency, a kind band of whiz-bang eavesdropping post, whose mission is to help catch terrorists.

This agency once posted job ads inside videogames. An official there tells us this puzzle`s gotten thousands of hits, and at least 50 people have solved it. If do you that, you`re congratulated, offered a chance to apply.

TODD: What do you think of this as a recruiting tool?

MARK STOUT, INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM: I think it`s a great idea. And one of the things that it does is it brings sort of awareness of the need for cryptanalysts, cryptographers.

TODD (voice-over): Former CIA analyst Mark Stout is an expert on code cracking at the International Spy Museum in Washington. He says for people with reasonable training in math and computer science, this code probably isn`t too hard.

TODD: What kind of crucial intelligence can you gather by code breaking?

STOUT: Well, code breaking -- signals intelligence, as we call it -- can be tremendously valuable, because it`s one of the rare forms of intelligence that, if done properly, if you get access to the right things, will give you the enemy`s intention. What are they really thinking?

TODD (voice-over): Stout and other experts say governments like Britain`s needs cyber-warriors more than ever. Officials at the Government Communications Headquarters say they want people with an interest in so- called ethical hacking. Illegal hackers need not apply. Cyber-experts say the code`s too easy.

TODD: An official at the British Government Communications Headquarters says it`s not designed to be overly difficult, more to promote awareness of what that agency does. Maiffret and others say if that`s the goal, then it`s worth it to get teenagers and other young people excited about potential careers in legitimate cyber-espionage -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


AZUZ: Before we go, taking pictures with Santa is a Christmas tradition.


AZUZ (voice-over): But for some Canadians, that tradition`s gone to the dogs. This Santa is posing for pix with pooches. The trick is getting them to sit still for the camera. At least their requests to the jolly guy in red aren`t too complicated. What does a dog want for Christmas this year? Either a toy or a treat. Whether they`ve been naughty or nice, it still makes for a cute postcard.


AZUZ: . which is the perfect way for the dogs to wish you a "Happy Howl-idays." Of course, the naughty ones better not expect anything from Santa on December 25th. They`d just be barking up the wrong Christmas tree.

Remember, the deadline is tomorrow for sending us an iReport about what you`re looking forward to in 2012. If you`ve already sent one in, we need you to look for our email reply about what to do next. Back tomorrow with more headlines, I`m Carl Azuz.