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Banks Settle with Federal Government, 49 States for $26 Billion

Aired February 10, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Our social media question this week was about sociology, and a student at Cape Henry Collegiate School was the first one to get it right. Nice work. I`m Carl Azuz. Let`s get to today`s headlines.

First up, we`re looking at a huge deal that involves states, banks and the U.S. housing market. A lot of experts say the meltdown in the housing market was one of the main causes of the 2008 financial crisis --


AZUZ (voice-over): -- part of the recession we`re still feeling the effects of. Yesterday`s deal is about foreclosures. That`s when a lender takes back a home because the person who`s living there can`t afford their monthly mortgage payments.

The states had accused lenders of making some foreclosures without following the proper procedures. This deal is a settlement for $26 billion. Who is involved? Five of the country`s biggest lenders. They made this deal with the federal government and with 49 states. Oklahoma made a separate deal with the banks.

How does it work? Well, if you`re behind in your mortgage payments and you owe more money than your house is actually worth, this could lower those monthly payments, maybe make it easier for you to keep up.

If your house was foreclosed on, you could be eligible for some money. Some critics say this deal doesn`t go far enough, though.


AZUZ: And while it could help some people, most struggling homeowners won`t qualify for any of the money in the settlement.

Well, next up, the U.S. military is planning to let female troops serve closer to the front lines. It`s a change in a policy that dates back to 1994, and originally said women can`t serve in units that are directly involved in combat.


AZUZ (voice-over): But Pentagon officials say reality doesn`t match that policy now. Women have served in support positions, like military police or medics that are regularly in harm`s way. More than 140 female troops lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What the military plans to do now is open up around 14,000 jobs to female troops, things like tank mechanics or crew members on missile launchers. They still won`t be allowed in certain combat jobs, but they will be able to serve closer to the front lines.


AZUZ: Nuclear power provides around 18 percent of electricity used in the United States. That number could get bigger. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off on licenses for two new reactors in the state of Georgia.


AZUZ (voice-over): They`re expected to cost around $14 billion, and to generate enough electricity to power a million homes. These are the first nuclear reactor licenses approved since 1978. That was a year before a nuclear accident in Pennsylvania.

Critics say the design for the new reactors isn`t safe enough . The company that built them says they`ve made improvements to make the new reactors much safer than older ones.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this legit? A country that has sovereignty is free from any outside control.

Absolutely true. Sovereign countries make all of their own decisions.


AZUZ: Argentina and the United Kingdom both claim they have sovereignty over a group of islands off the coast of South America. This is actually a debate that`s been going on for 30 years now. It centers around the Falkland Islands, which are smaller than the U.S. state of Connecticut.

Jim Clancy looks at the tension in the past and present.


JIM CLANCY, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The Falkland Islands are located about 250 nautical miles east of the coast of Latin America, so they`re about 500 kilometers due east of what is the country of Argentina.

CLANCY: Britain calls them the Falklands. Argentina calls them the Malvinas Islands, and there has been a longstanding dispute over sovereignty. In 1982, there was another set of islands, the South Georgia Islands. And a group of Argentinians went to those islands and planted a flag. It became a media cause celebre.

Well, the military junta that was in charge of Argentina, they invaded, they took over those islands. Britain went to war and all, almost 900 people lost their lives, 250 or more on the British side, some 650 on the Argentine side.

Why are these two islands back in the news? First of all, it`s the 30th anniversary of the war, and Britain plans to commemorate it. Argentina is pressing its claims of sovereignty over the islands at the same time as rallying its neighbors to apply economic pressure on Britain.

Third, we have the issue of oil. That is increasing everyone`s interest. It is not proven how many reserves are there, but some say that the resources are viable. Others say they are substantial.

Prince William is there as part of what we are told is a routine deployment by his Royal Air Force search and rescue squadron. The Duke of Cambridge`s presence, though, is seen as provocative by many in Latin America who view this as a resurrection, if you will, of colonialism.

They see the clear presence of the Crown. Britain says it`s not provocative at all. What they really mean to do is commemorate those more than 250 people who lost their lives defending the Falkland Islands.

This isn`t going to come to a conflict, but it could very well end up in international courts and before the United Nations once again. We have competing claims of sovereignty. It`s a hugely popular and populace issue, and all across Latin America, Argentina is seeking its allies, bringing together the region to put economic pressure on Britain.

The overwhelming majority of the island`s few thousands residents are British, and they want to remain British. And it is that right to self- determination that really fuels a lot of the sentiments in London and beyond about the future of the Falkland islands.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Mr. Arcella`s global studies classes at the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology in Hammond, Indiana. Ophthalmologists specialize in the study of what? Here we go. Is it lungs, feet, eyes or skin? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Ophthalmologists specialize in disorders and diseases of the eye. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Some ophthalmologists are working with NASA to try to solve a mystery. It starts with astronauts who spent time on the International Space Station and the answer could take humans to Mars or not. John Zarrella offers a closer look at the details.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the way, can`t do this in space.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Astronaut Mike Barratt undergoes an eye exam. No big deal, right?


ZARRELLA (voice-over): But unlike your eyes or mine, the future of human deep space could be riding literally on astronaut eyesight.

TERRY TADDEO, ACTING CHIEF OF SPACE MEDICINE: I would say this is our top priority at the moment. In terms of establishing countermeasures for long duration space flight, this has all of our attention.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Why? You see, Barratt is one of 10 astronauts who have return from long space station missions with changes to their eyesight, sometimes permanent and not at all good.

The cause? A mystery.

DR. ROBERT GIBSON, SENIOR VISION CONSULTANT: What we`re seeing is structural changes to the retina. We`re seeing wrinkles or folds on a microscopic level to these areas.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): And as this image shows, the back of Mike`s eye has flattened out.

GIBSON: See the farsighted shift, again the cause for the farsighted shift appears to be globe flattening.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): In some cases, back on Earth, the eyes correct themselves, but not Barratt`s.

BARRATT: I`m kind of eagle-eyed at long distance. But I depended up on close up specs.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Doctors say the problem has only occurred in male astronauts. It`s possibly from an increase in pressure inside the cranium caused by microgravity. Doctors don`t know if the problem might worsen or even lead to blindness on longer flights, say to Mars.

ZARRELLA: Over the next five years NASA is spending about $18 billion to develop a new big rocket and this Orion spacecraft to send astronauts on those deep space missions.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): If the problem isn`t solved, human Mars missions could be in trouble. The alternative? Get them there a lot faster.

BARRATT: I`m still hopeful that in 20 years will have advanced propulsion capabilities that can get us there on a matter of weeks to maybe a very few months. And then a lot of these problems go away.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Doctors are intensely working the problem with space station crews, undergoing on-orbit exams and using special glasses called superfocus. But so far, there haven`t been eye-opening breakthroughs.


AZUZ: Well, finally, today, watching ping-pong might not sound very entertaining.


AZUZ (voice-over): Watching a dog watch ping-pong sure is. Instead of following the bouncing ball, just follow the bouncing dog who`s following the bouncing ball. His owners posted the ping-pong perusing pooch on YouTube. You`ve got to be impressed with his ability to keep up with the match. But we`re pretty sure that the little guy just wants a chance to get in the game.


AZUZ: All he needs for that is a doggie paddle, then he can show up his voluble skills. We`re going to serve more headlines for you on Monday. Till then, have an awesome weekend.