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Today's program journeys from the U.S. campaign trail to a courtroom in Italy. We also report on the U.N.'s birthday and a whale that mimics humans.


Obama, Romney Crisscrossing the Country

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


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: I`m Carl Azuz. And this is CNN STUDENT NEWS. World Series starts tonight, so good luck to you, Tigers and Giants fans. We are going to have some serious history coming up. But first, we are hitting the campaign trail.

For the top two presidential candidates, the debates are over, the conventions are far behind us, the election is less than two weeks away. So now what? What are they doing between right this second and election day? In a nutshell, it`s an all-out sprint. President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney are crisscrossing the country. They are meeting with potential voters, going on TV shows, posing for pictures and campaigning in front of crowds. There will a lot of that, especially in swing states, where it`s uncertain which candidate is likely to win. The campaigns are buying up ad space, so you`ll see more commercials on more channels, and their running mates, wives and families are doing all they can to get supporters to vote on November Sixth. At this point, it`s anyone`s guess who will win the election. A CNN political reporter says Americans will wake up on election day not knowing who their next president will be. It makes the campaigning and the candidates due between now and election day even more significant.

Our next story takes us to Italy, some people in the scientific world are stunned about a court case that just wrapped up there.

Six scientists and a government official have been convicted on manslaughter charges, and sentenced to six years in prison. This goes back to an earthquake that hit the city of L in 2009. The court ruled that these scientists didn`t do enough to warn people that there was an earthquake risk. The trial focused on a meeting that happened one week before the quake. City residents had raised concerns about recent seismic activity. At this meeting, the scientists determined it was unlikely that a major quake would hit. Unlikely, but not impossible. When that major quake did hit, more than 300 people were killed. Earthquake experts around the world say it`s impossible to predict earthquakes with any kind of accuracy, they say this court ruling could stop scientists from making predictions in the future. But another expert says, the case wasn`t about predictions, it was about communication and the failure to get information out.

Back in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA says it`s looking into reports of a possible connection between energy drinks and five deaths. The parents of 14-year old are suing Monster Beverage, which makes Monster energy drinks. The parents say their daughter died from heart problems after drinking Monster Energy on two consecutive days. Law suit says the drinks had 480 milligrams of caffeine, that`s equal to about 15 cans of soda or three cups of coffee. And it`s nearly five times more caffeine than medical experts say teenagers should have in a day. The FDA says it hasn`t found any direct link so far between this teen`s death and the energy drink. Monster Beverage says it`s saddened by the death, but "doesn`t believe that its beverages are in any way responsible."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s "Shoutout" goes out to Mr. Tolen`s American Government & Civics Class at Niles Community High School in Troy, Michigan.

What is this: You know what to do, is it a mammal, reptile, a fish or amphibian? You`ve got three seconds, go!

What you are looking at is a mammal, specifically it`s a beluga whale, which is sometimes called, a white whale. That`s your answer and that`s your "Shoutout."


AZUZ: Well, here is a fun fact for you. Belugas are sometimes called canaries of the sea, because they make this high-pitch chirping sounds, scientists are saying, though, that`s not the only sounds that these whales can make.


AZUZ: It sounded kind of like a person`s voice, but muffled, right? That was a beluga. Researchers think it figured out how to mimic the human voice after spending a lot of time around people. What clued researchers in was when a diver thought someone was giving him underwater directions, telling him to get out of the tank. It turns out, he was hearing the whale.

It`s fascinating stuff. The next story today is about pirates. Not the movies, those are kind of fun, we are talking about the pirates involved in some of the very dangerous attacks we`ve reported on in recent years. Now, according to new information, there are actually fewer of those attacks this year. The International Maritime Bureau says piracy is at its lowest level since 2008. During the first nine months of this year, the organization says there have been 233 actual and attempted pirate attacks around the world. During the same timeframe last year, there were 352. The leader of the group says it`s good news, but he added that the voters where these attacks happen are still dangerous, and that there still needs to be a Naval presence there.

On this day in history, in 1861, the first transcontinental telegram was sent from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. It was the first instant communication from one side of the U.S. to the other. In 1940, part of the Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect. It set the standard work week for American workers at 40 hours, and in 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves in a six game to win the World Series. It was the first time that a Canadian team won the baseball championship.

Something else happened on this day in history, and it makes October 24th an annual event. It`s United Nations Day, because on this day in 1945, the international organization was born. The idea for the U.N. came out of World War II. Representatives from 50 countries got together to create a charter for the group. It says the U.N.`s goals are to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations and work together to solve global problems. On October 24th, 1945, a majority of the countries ratified that charter and the United Nations officially came into existence.

This is Alexandria Horstman, she`s using that laptop to attend school with little help from her friends. Here is what this about: Alexandria is a freshman in Highland, Illinois. At the start of this school year, doctors told her she`d have to miss up to three months because of some medical problem she was dealing with. Her school uses laptops and iPads, so one of her friends came up with this idea to carry Alexandria, using her laptop from class to class. So she`s not skipping school, she is skyping school. She is getting better, faster than doctors predicted. In fact, Alexandria could be back in class in person this week. And here is the word to the wise for you: telekinesis, it`s the ability to make things move without touching them, so you are using just your mind. It might sound like a superpower, and it is for some comic book characters, but researchers are using telekinesis to help people who have everyday physical struggles, like for example, people who are paralyzed. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have someone that can`t communicate, you can completely change their quality of life by allowing them to communicate. But the next thing that you want to restore is mobility. So, the next project that we took upon ourselves was to try to be able to drive a wheelchair with mind signals.

I`m the creator and the director of the Georgia Tech brain lab, which is a research group that`s devoted to researching and understanding what kind of control we can have from brain signals alone.

We were one of the very first labs to control a wheelchair with brain signals. And we`ve used a variety of different mechanisms, so that we might have boxes flashing at different speeds, and we can tell by brain signal processing that if you are watching this box that`s flashing at ten times a second, or this one that`s flashing at 15 times a second, all you have to do is pay attention to the one you want. If you want to turn right, you pay attention to the one on the right, and we can see, which one you are looking at by the oscillations in the brain, how many times a second your brain is processing it. We can say, you are looking at the one that`s flashing ten times a second, and we can turn a wheelchair. Out most recent wheelchair, one of my master students, Michael Boys (ph), who is a wheelchair user himself, reverse-engineered his own wheelchair to be driven by this - the visual interface, and he actually drove it around the building quite a bit. So, that was exciting, and it gives people control without having to move a joystick, without having to press a button, but to be able to move around your own home without assistance was very important. We are very focused on providing independence to people with physical disabilities.


AZUZ: Some football coaches might not seem like natural pranksters, but the head coach at Umass had a good one. He was running a team meeting last week that was interrupted by state police officers. They said they had paperwork for two walk on players, guys might have thought they were in trouble, but when they read the fine print, it turns out they were being awarded full athletic scholarships. The Youtube video makes one thing clear: the team might not have the best record on the field, but that coach is number one in the college football prankings. Oh yeah, football puns. We can`t pass them up. We are going to take a hike and pass them back to your teachers. I`m Carl Azuz.


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