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Plans for Cutting U.S. Military; Virtual School Day instead of Snow Day in New Jersey School; Young Generation of Designers on Milan Fashion Week; Metrodome Taken Down; After 66 Rounds Administrators out of Words for Spelling Bee Contestants

Aired February 25, 2014 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: CNN STUDENT NEWS is back in session. I`m Carl Azuz, hope your Tuesday is going well so far. First up, with U.S. combat troops out of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. government wants to shrink its military. This could affect some of you who are planning to go into the U.S. Armed Forces. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says there are difficult decisions ahead, as the plan is to reduce the military to the size it was before World War II.

The government wants to cut costs and take advantage of modern military technology, but Congress has to approve the reduced budget, and some lawmakers may not be on board.


KARIN CAIFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Since 9/11 the U.S. military has bulked up its resources, enabling it to wage wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and a global war on terror. Now, in a carefully crafted plan announced Monday at the Pentagon, the military says it will scale back to force levels not seen since before World War II.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We must now adopt, innovate and make difficult decisions to ensure that our military remains ready and capable.

CAIFA: The details: the Army will reduce its forces from a high of 570,000 to around 450,000 troops. The Marine Corps will cut its forces by 8,000. Or about four percent. And the elimination of the A-10 "Warthog" attack jet, which would save $3.5 billion over five years.

HAGEL: Our recommendations favor a smaller and more capable force. Putting a premium on rapidly deployable self-sustained platforms that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries.

CAIFA: The cuts not only reflect a changing political climate, but also an evolution in how the military engages its enemies. Case in point, cyber warfare and special operations will not be impacted.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If you`re going to conduct counter terrorism operations, it relies more heavily on great intelligence and great technology.

CAIFA: Critics argue fewer resources will leave the U.S. more vulnerable to attacks at home and abroad. Hagel recognized these cuts do not come without uncertainty.

HAGEL: Our future force will assume additional risk in certain areas.

CAIFA: The Pentagon will present its plan to Congress next week. In Washington, I`m Karin Caifa.


AZUZ: We don`t get many snow days here in the South, we don`t get much snow. I remember Saturday school once to make up for a winter storm we did get. But after a particularly brutal snow stormy winter, this is an issue that a lot of schools from the Midwest to the East Coast are dealing with. How do you fulfill a typical 180 day school year with so many days off from school? Here`s our colleague from Jamie Gumbrecht.

JAMIE GUMBRECHT, PRODUCER, CNN DIGITAL: Well, hey, Carl. Many schools around the country are dealing with snow days in the double digits, and as much as you love them, your teachers hate them. Instead of adding days to the end of the school year or cutting spring break, some schools are trying something new: virtual school days. About 2,000 students from Pascack Valley regional high school district in New Jersey, tried this month after snow days piled on. By 8 a.m., students were required to crack up in their school provided laptops, so they could participate in English class discussions, finish up their algebra problems or ask teachers questions. Don`t think it was just a little extra homework. Although students took breaks to shovel snow or make lunch, most said it took them until 3 p.m. to finish up all their assignments and yes, this counted toward their grades. No word yet on whether the New Jersey Department of Education will count Pascack Valley Regional`s virtual day as a full day of school, but don`t think you are off the hook, if you don`t have a computer provided by the school. With so many snow days, teachers around the country said they are looking for ways to keep students on track while they are stuck at home. Some are asking students who have Internet access to check class Web sites and complete their assignments, even if you think you should be sleeping in and drinking hot chocolate. Thanks, Carl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See if you can I.D. me. I hosted the Summer Olympics back in 2008. I`m the second largest city in the world`s most populated country. I was named China`s capital in 1949. I`m Beijing! Home to 15.5 million people and lots of smog.

AZUZ: Partially surrounded by mountains, home to heavy industrial factories, rife with heavy traffic: this is what Beijing looks like under a smog alert. It`s a code orange, the second highest level of smog pollution, according to a new measuring system. Beijing has never hit code orange before. Some factories have closed. People use air filters in their homes and wear face masks when they are out and about. Thankfully, a cold front is in the forecast later this week, and the wind is expected to blow away some pollution.

China`s government says fireworks are partly to blame for this: the Lunar New Year, a major holiday in China was celebrated this month. Smog from fireworks is apparently still hanging around.

If car shows allow manufacturers to show off their latest vehicles and their coolest concepts, fashion week is the same thing for clothing designers. There are major fashion week events throughout the year in New York, London, Milan and Paris. The one in Milan, Italy just wrapped up. And while you can expect big showings from Armani, Gucci, Prada, what about smaller houses?


MYLEENE KLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Think of Milan and you think of fashion. And some of couture`s most powerful global brands.

As world top design, technology is taking center stage. Sunday, (INAUDIBLE) drones promote that autumn winter collection on the catwalk. This, biannual fashion extravaganza boasts more than 150 shows. The Italian masters still rule with insiders agreeing that (INAUDIBLE) coming designers have struggled to earn a place alongside them.

ANNA WINTOUR: For several years, we`ve all felt that it`s been very much dominated by the big houses. So, when somebody relatively new comes along, it`s just a pleasure to see a new face, a new concept, new esthetic in Milan.

KLASS: Fausto Puglisi is one of those new faces. Hailed as the next Gianni Versace, he presented his first collection at fashion week last October. Now his focus is all on this week`s show.

FAUSTO PUGLISI: Much more nervous than the first. How do you guys, you know, you have expectation from people, and then all the time you have to do more, and better, and better.

KLASS: Nurturing emerging talent is crucial towards a huge business. Italian National Chamber of Fashion estimates that the industry will be worth nearly $90 billion this year.

JANE REEVE, CEO CAMERA DELLA MODA: They young people are the future of any business. I believe in that the young people are going to make the difference. That we need to nurture them. I say we can do lots of mentoring to help them - to get help them way through the various problems that can be not only being creators (ph), but running businesses.

KLASS: Milan has always (INAUDIBLE) with Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, but new ideas, technology and the next generation, as we`ve seen here at Milan Fashion week, are certainly shaking up the industry. (END VIDEOTAPE)

AZUZ: Some call them coyotes, some call them coyotes, we are calling them on today`s roll. In San Tan Valley, Arizona, shoutout to the students of Combs High School. Up north now, the Highline Hawks of Chester-Joplin- Inverness High School are watching. We find them in Chester, Montana. And in Greenville, South Carolina, glad to see the patriots - the students of J-L Mann High School. Thanks for watching, yo.

I was once home to the Minnesota Vikings, once home to the Minnesota Twins, once named the worst stadium in the U.S. It stands no more. Well, most of it, anyway. The Metrodome was partially brought down on Sunday by 84 charges of dynamite. This isn`t the first collapse at the stadium. Heavy snow and high wind brought its Teflon roof down in 2010. This time, though, it won`t be repaired. A new stadium is being built nearby for the Vikings. In the meantime, the NFL team is playing at the University of Minnesota.

A spelling bee that never ends. Fifth graders Sophia Hoffman and seventh grader Kush Sharma are great spellers. After they went 66 rounds in their county spelling bee, administrators ran out of words. It was a T, I, E. And I don`t think the words were too easy. Scherzo, Fantocchini, Intaglio, Schadenfreude, they got all of those right. They`ll compete again next month, the winter represents Jackson County Missouri at the Scripts National Spelling Bee. Will their skills spell out success? They`ll decide whether they`ll get to bee or not to bee there, at least you know what the buzz is all about. CNN STUDENT NEWS will be back after a spell. We`ll see you W, E, D, N, E, S, D, A, Y. Because you`re going to love it. I`m Carl Azuz.