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School District Eliminates Sports; Tornado Rips Through Alabama

Aired January 24, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: One school district is eliminating athletics to aid academics. You`re going to get into the details of that in a few minutes, and then we`re going to ask for your thoughts. I`m Carl Azuz. Welcome to CNN Student News.

First up, a state of emergency in Alabama after severe weather ripped cross the state. These storms hit early on Monday morning. At least seven counties reported damage, but the governor declared that state of emergency for the entire state. And what that will do is help free up resources and money that will help out with relief efforts.


AZUZ (voice-over): Some of the most severe damage was around the Birmingham area, where several homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed. At least two people were killed, and at least 100 injuries were reported.

Rescue crews were searching for anyone who might have been trapped or hurt. They`re also clearing out roads, like you see them doing right here. Trees knocked down by the storms made some small roads impassable. Some of the trees went straight into people`s homes, as you see in these pictures. There were reports of possible tornadoes in nearby states as well.

If you`re looking for a way to help the victims of these storms, head to Scroll down to the "Spotlight" section and click the "Impact Your World" link. That`s where you can learn about relief efforts from groups like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and you can find out how you can help make a difference.


AZUZ: He shall, from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union -- those words straight out of the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3 -- and the time is tonight.


AZUZ (voice-over): President Obama is scheduled to give his State of the Union speech to both houses of Congress. You can watch the event at 9:00 pm Eastern on CNN. We`ll have more coverage on the State of the Union address throughout the week here on CNN Student News.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s time for the Shoutout. On the Chinese calendar, the new year that begins this week is the year of what? If you think you know it, then shout it out. Is it the dragon, tiger, monkey or ox? You`ve got three seconds, go.

On the Chinese calendar, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: The Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 15 days. It is the longest and most important celebration on the Chinese calendar. According to legend, the animal that represents each year comes with its own unique personality traits.

So what might the Dragon have in store for the year ahead? Stan Grant looks at some of the possibilities.


STAN GRANT, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): A new year, but old worries -- money, mostly. Millions of Chinese flocking to traditional temples to pray for good fortune.

"Our family hopes to buy a car this year, but we still need to look at the costs of registration, if we can afford it," this woman says.

Dongyue is the god of life, death and everything in between. He`s also known as the guardian of 18 levels of Hell. People pray that Dongyue will prevail over the might of the Dragon. It is the most powerful symbol in the Chinese zodiac and can bring trouble.

1976 was a Dragon year. An earthquake in Tangshan killed hundreds of thousands of people. China`s Supreme Leader Chairman Mao died. 2012 will bring its own challenges. China`s juggernaut economy is slowing. President Hu Jintao begins handing over power to a new generation of Communist leaders.

GRANT: This is actually a Water Dragon year. It`s very rare, only happens once every 60 years. The difference? Well, a Water Dragon is meant to bring calm after chaos.

GRANT (voice-over): Du Longzhi is a Taoist priest. People come to him to glimpse the future. He likes what he sees.

"The Dragon year is a year of luck, growth and prosperity," he says. "The dragon represents the sky and moving up, just like this flame."

If the Chinese are looking for lucky omens, look no further than the Oracle of Omaha. Billionaire Warren Buffett helped China sing in the new year with a song, broadcast to an audience of hundreds of millions, on China state TV

Shishei (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

GRANT (voice-over): Chinese people hope that in the Year of the Dragon, they ,too, have something to sing about -- Stan Grant, CNN, Beijing.


AZUZ: Starting in about six months, London`s going to have something to sing about. It`s going to dominate sports news for two weeks. The city is hosting this year`s Summer Olympics.

Organizers and officials want to make sure that the athletes are the main event when the games start. So they`re focusing on security right now. Dan Rivers reports on the efforts leading up to this year`s Olympics. Dan Rivers reports on the events leading up to this year`s Olympics.


DAN RIVERS, CNN REPORTER: London has always taken its security seriously. The Royal Navy College has been in Greenwich since 1873, and used to train some of the finest military minds back in the days when Britain was a super power of the seas. And it`s that tradition that organizers are keen to uphold during the Olympic Games --

RIVERS (voice-over): -- so much so that in December the security budget for the event was raised by $450 million to $850 million by the British government. The new plans include 131/2 thousand troops providing support as well as the Royal Navy`s H.M.S. Ocean being moored in Greenwich, which is where I met Col. Richard Kemp, a former member of the Cobra Crisis Committee, for a boat trip along the Thames.

RIVERS: So we`re here on the Thames right where H.M.S. Ocean is going to be moored during the Olympics. What will she bring to the operation?

COL. RICHARD KEMP, FORMER MEMBER, COBRA CRISIS COMMITTEE: It`s a very, very sophisticated communications platform. The military will be basically enhancing the capability of the overall Olympics security operation in a range of tasks, from the waterborne security that we`ve spoken about through to anti-aircraft security.

RIVERS (voice-over): The security operation will be a joint effort between the military, the government and the police. Time for a stop to find out what the police priorities will be.

RIVERS: Hello, Brian. Is this going to be the biggest security operation this country`s ever seen?

BRIAN PADDICK, FMR. DEP. ASST. POLICE COMMISSIONER: I think it is. I mean, we`ve had, you know, very high profile events. We had the royal wedding, for example, last year.

But this is multiple events, happening in multiple locations. It`s not just the Olympics sites themselves, it`s the infrastructure. It`s the underground system. It`s the electricity system. All could potentially be targeted.

RIVERS: The authorities in London are used to organizing thousands of events each year, but the Olympics is the biggest, most complex for a generation. And as the clock ticks down to the opening ceremony, everybody is hoping they`ve got the security dimension just right.


AZUZ: The Premont (ph) school district in South Texas is not doing well academically. It`s gotten a rating of unacceptable twice in the last three years. The superintendent says it`s an urgent situation that requires drastic action. The plan: Cancel student sports -- all of them.

AZUZ (voice-over): The ban will start after the end of the current basketball season. It`s means no baseball, no tennis or track this spring, and no football or volleyball in the fall.

The superintendent says it could save the school district around $100,000. That money would be used to help boost academics by paying for new science labs or increasing teacher salaries.

Now we know that many of you think sports are an important part of your educational experience. What we don`t know is whether you think grades would go up without sports. What we`re talking about on our blog today, "From A to Z," at, stop by, tell us what you think, and then look for your comment on an upcoming edition of CNN Student News.


AZUZ: Before we go, snow, wind, temperatures in the low 20s.


AZUZ (voice-over): Sounds like the perfect conditions for a swim -- or a polar plunge, which is what these brave and cold souls are doing. Come on in, the water`s freezing. It`s actually a fundraiser, and a very quick one, by the looks of it. People are not sticking around.

But dozens of them did make the mad dash into and out of the water. The oldest person to take this plunge was 83; the youngest was seven.


AZUZ: Those sounds like polar opposites to us. Everyone in the video looked happy which is kind of surprising because if you`d asked me to go swimming in the middle of winter, you`d probably get a frosty reception. It`s time for us to put this show on ice. Enjoy the rest of your day. See you.