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CNN Student News Transcript: August 31, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Explore the reasons behind a shift in political power in Japan
  • Consider what could be next for Ted Kennedy's seat in the U.S. Senate
  • Find out how many shuttle missions remain on NASA's schedule
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(CNN Student News) -- August 31, 2009

Quick Guide

Japan Election Day - Explore the reasons behind a shift in political power in Japan.

Replacing Kennedy - Consider what could be next for Ted Kennedy's seat in the U.S. Senate.

Shuttle Liftoff - Find out how many shuttle missions remain on NASA's schedule.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: It's the last day of the month, the first day of the week, and for some of you, the start of a new school year. So, welcome to CNN Student News. With your commercial-free source for classroom news, I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Japan Election Day

AZUZ: First up, a big shift in political power as Japanese voters weigh in at the ballot box. The Liberal Democratic Party has run Japan's government for decades. Not anymore. Early results from yesterday's parliamentary elections show that the Democratic Party of Japan won in a landslide. The country's current prime minister announced his resignation based on this outcome. That's because the position, which is similar to the U.S. president, is filled by someone from the majority party. Kyung Lah explores some of the reasons behind the transition in Japan's ruling party.



KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the sound of a political earthquake in Japan. A landslide victory for the opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan, booting out the prime minister and his ruling party. Supporters wept as candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party lost seat after seat in the parliament. A crushing defeat for a party that had run Japan's government almost continuously since 1955.

Here at the opposition party headquarters, they're watching the final vote tally to come in. At the end of it, the opposition expects to win Japan's parliament by 3 to 1, a mandate by the voters. A change that's long overdue, says longtime Japan watcher Richard Jerram.

RICHARD JERRAM, MACQUARIE CAPITAL SECURITIES: It's tremendously exciting. You've got a change of government, probably on a lasting basis, for the first time in 50 years. You've got the prospect of changing how they run the government by reducing the bureaucracy and trying to increase the political influence on policymaking. So politically, it's very exciting.

LAH: What led voters to line up at polling places was a sense of frustration over domestic scandals, but more importantly, the economy. Voting for an untested party like the opposition is a sign of how much anger there is about the slowdown in the world's second largest economy.

YOSHIKO SHIRAISHI, VOTER [TRANSLATED]: "I want them to change something," says this voter, punching her card for the opposition.

MASAYUKI NAKAMURA, VOTER [TRANSLATED]: "The money's been going the wrong way," says this man. "I hope the money will now go towards jobs and creating a safety net."

LAH: Voters are now counting on sweeping change to match the sweeping political victory of Japan's new ruling party. Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


Fast Facts

ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for some Fast Facts! When a U.S. Senate seat opens up, how is it filled? It depends on the state. In 37 states, the governor picks the senator's replacement. The remaining 13 states can schedule a special election to replace the senator, but when and how those special elections are held can vary by state. Massachusetts, the state that Senator Ted Kennedy represented, has a special election. It's held 145 to 160 days after the Senate seat becomes vacant.

Replacing Kennedy

AZUZ: It's a situation that's taking place right now after Senator Kennedy's death last week at the age of 77. Funeral services were held in Boston on Saturday. President Obama and the first lady attended, along with past presidents and many of Kennedy's colleagues in the U.S. Senate. People gathered to honor the late senator, both in the streets of Boston and on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Senator Kennedy was laid to rest Saturday evening in Arlington National Cemetery.

We just mentioned how Massachusetts selects a Senate replacement. But recently, someone asked that the state's law be changed: Ted Kennedy. He wanted his seat to be filled quickly. Jessica Yellin looks at why.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Before he died, Sen. Kennedy sent a letter to his state's top officials writing, "I believe it is vital for this commonwealth to have two votes in the Senate." He asked that state law be changed to allow the governor to appoint someone to Kennedy's seat as soon as it became vacant. Massachusetts' new senior senator echoed that request.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: He's asking simply for a temporary ability to appoint someone who will not run, who will not get in the way of other people who want to run, who will be there for a moment only.

YELLIN: Currently, the state is required to hold a special election, which would happen January 19th at the earliest. That's probably too late for a vote on health care reform, the issue Kennedy called "the cause of my life." In this climate, Democrats need every vote they can get. The math is not good. With Kennedy's death, Democrats are one vote shy of a 60 vote super majority. They could try to pass reform using a special tactic called "reconciliation," that requires only 51 votes. But Senator Robert Byrd is ill and top Democrats worry at least six of their own Senators plus independent Joe Lieberman could vote no, depending on the contents of the bill. If they pick up no Republicans and lose all fence sitters, Democrats have barely enough votes to pass health care reform. Massachusetts' governor is pressing lawmakers to change the law and give Democrats that vote.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I'm hoping that the legislature will turn to it and turn to it soon, and if they send me a bill, I will sign it.

YELLIN: State leaders have not made clear whether they favor a temporary appointment, but top national Democrats tell CNN they believe lawmakers will ultimately support it.



TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Today's Shoutout goes out to Mr. Snidman's current events classes at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in Ladue, Missouri. How many more space shuttle missions has NASA scheduled? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A) Three, B) Six, C) Twelve or D) Fifteen? You've got three seconds -- GO! NASA is planning six more shuttle missions, with the last one launching in September 2010. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!

Shuttle Liftoff

AZUZ: Those six planned trips we mentioned don't include the current mission of the space shuttle Discovery, because it already took off. The shuttle launched just before midnight Friday night, and was scheduled to meet up with the international space station last night. Discovery will be connected to the ISS for eight days, transferring supplies and equipment to the orbiting station. This marks just the second time that thirteen people -- the full crews of Discovery and the ISS -- will be on one spacecraft at the same time.

California Wildfires

AZUZ: Coming back down to Earth, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency because of a raging wildfire in Los Angeles country. This move will help free up resources to help fight the blaze. As of yesterday afternoon, no deaths had been reported, although several people had been injured. The flames are threatening more than 12,000 buildings in the area, forcing thousands of people to evacuate. More than 1,800 firefighters were battling the blaze, which Gov. Schwarzenegger says is one of more than half a dozen wildfires burning across the state.

Jimena Path

AZUZ: Experts say residents in southern California also need to keep an eye on Hurricane Jimena. Yesterday afternoon, the storm was a Category 4, with winds of 135 miles per hour. It was approaching Baja, California, which is actually part of Mexico, and moving through the Pacific Ocean heading north. Jimena is the 10th named storm of the Pacific hurricane season. That's a totally separate list from the Atlantic season, which so far has seen storms like Bill and Danny.

Blog Report

AZUZ: Following up on last Friday's story about schools reducing bus service to save money, here's what some of you guys had to say about it. Katie says "schools have to do whatever it takes to survive in our economy. If it takes budget cuts and fewer school bus stops, then that's what they have to do." But Syera disagrees, writing that "some students might not have rides to school; they should not have to walk. And some students don't own a bike." Janai felt the same way, noting that "not all parents had other options -- besides the bus -- on getting their child to and from school." Thomas wrote this on Facebook: "Cutting busses... Encouraging students to walk to school... It's helping both the environment and improving your health." But back on the blog, Austin said, "You hear about all kinds of money being spent on other somewhat useless things. Can't they give just a little more to the school systems?" Tell us what you think about all this on our blog at And for the blog, please remember, it is first names only.

Before We Go

AZUZ: Before we go, trying to set world records can be a slippery slope, especially when it involves an attempt at the world's biggest slip 'n slide. Or slip 'n scoot. Maybe slip 'n crawl. Are you sure you guys know how this is supposed to work? Looks like organizers pulled out all the stops to break the record. They laid out a 575 foot slide, they turned on the water, then they sent 235 people down the hill.



AZUZ: It's just too bad that wasn't enough to break the record. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz. You guys have a great day.

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