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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz. Today, we're going from West Virginia to Washington before we take off for Japan. It's Wednesday. CNN Student News starts right now.

First Up: Budget Battle

AZUZ: First up, the U.S. federal budget. Actually, we're talking about two budgets today. The first one: the government's budget for 2011. There isn't one. At least, not the kind of formal budget you'd normally have. What's been happening is that Congress has passed short-term measures that keep government programs and offices running. But they keep coming up against the deadlines for those short-term measures. There's another one set to happen this Friday. That's why congressional leaders from both parties, along with President Obama, are trying to come up with some sort of compromise. They're looking at ways to make cuts to government spending and come up with a deal that would last until the next budget starts. So far, no deal. If they don't meet that Friday deadline, we could be looking at a government shutdown. Ali Velshi explains what would and wouldn't change if that happens.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We are hearing a lot about a possible government shutdown if Congress cannot get a compromised deal on a budget by Friday. This has not happened in 15 years.

Let's take a look at what happens if there is a shutdown. Last time they did it, the Feds closed 368 national parks, all national monuments and museums. Passport applications were stalled. That's an important one. And cleanup work stopped at 609 toxic waste sites.

Now, U.S. troops, including those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, could see their paychecks interrupted. We're hoping that's not going to be the case.

What else happens? Well, these things stay; these things continue running. Essential services. For instance, air traffic control, we can't shut that down. The National Security System would stay online. Also, who else stays? Well, federal workers who provide medical care, handle hazardous waste, inspect food, deal with border patrol, prison guards who guard inmates, and those who work in power distribution, all of them stay on the job, as do federal employees who protect our financial system.

Now, during the two government shutdowns in the 1990s, more than a million workers, million federal workers, were sent home. However, the government has legal authority to continue mailing social security checks, so they kept coming out there. They would have the legal authority to do so again, but your tax returns may be in jeopardy if you have not already filed. So, those are the kind of things that are going to affect you if a deal is not reached.

Remember, two things can happen. They can reach a deal, or they can not reach a deal but they can extend the time that they give themselves for another week, two weeks or three weeks. We are going to stay on top of that for you.

(END VIDEO)

GOP 2012 Proposal

AZUZ: All right, the second budget we're looking at today is the one for next year: 2012. President Obama sent out his 2012 proposal in February. The new Republican proposal looks to dramatically reduce the money that the government spends. How? By taking aim at the government's entitlement programs. Yesterday, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan released the Republican plan. The goal would be to significantly reduce the government's Medicare and Medicaid expenses, among other things.

Medicare is a government program that gives health care and insurance to people who are 65 years old and older. Representative Ryan's proposal would change the way the government pays for Medicare, with the intention of saving money. Democrats say the plan would take away some senior citizens' medical benefits.

Medicaid is another government program that gives health care to lower-income Americans. Around 50 million people -- 16 percent of the country -- get Medicaid benefits. This number increased in the recession, as more people signed up for this help. Medicaid is paid for mostly by the federal government, but states contribute too. And the Republican plan would change the way the government pays for Medicaid, kind of like it would with Medicare.

Explaining Entitlement

AZUZ: Medicare, Medicaid: These are two examples of what some people call "government entitlement programs." To help you understand better what those are, and this story in general, we've posted an explainer I did the other day on CNN. You can find it in the Spotlight section at CNNStudentNews.com.

Southeast Storms

AZUZ: Parts of the southeastern United States spent yesterday cleaning up from severe storms that hammered the region on Monday night. The National Weather Service said it got nearly 600 reports of strong winds. Here, you can see some of the damage in Nashville, Tennessee. Trees knocked down, blocking some streets. There were reports of possible tornadoes. And Georgia, I can tell you, got hit pretty badly, too. The storms knocked out power to more than 140,000 people around the state. Trees slammed into cars, slammed into homes. Officials said at least eight people were killed by the storms across the Southeast.

Memorial Ceremony

AZUZ: The state of West Virginia is paying tribute to the 29 men who were killed in a mining accident one year ago. The explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine last April was the worst mining disaster in the U.S. since 1972. Yesterday, the families of those 29 men, along with the state's acting governor and other officials, got together for a memorial ceremony. The Massey Energy Company, the group that owns the Upper Big Branch mine, stopped production at all of its facilities on Tuesday and held a company-wide moment of silence at 3:02 p.m. That's exactly when the explosion happened.

This Day in History

AZUZ: On this day in history, April 6th, in 1896, the first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece. The ancient games had been banned more than a thousand years earlier.

In 1917, the United States entered World War I when Congress voted to declare war on Germany.

And in 1994, genocide -- the intentional destruction of a group of people -- began in the African nation of Rwanda. Roughly 800,000 people were killed in 100 days.

Coping with Disaster

AZUZ: A devastating earthquake and tsunami. More than 12,000 people killed. Some towns completely wiped off the map. It would be hard for anyone to deal with what happened in Japan. Paula Hancocks shows us how some aid workers are helping young people cope with the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't matter if it's a good game of dodgeball, an improvised version of cops and robbers, or just running away with the ball. It's all playing and it all helps. Children's charity World Vision calls this the child-friendly space, a program replicated around the world. It is a place where kids learn to look after each other and deal with what they've seen.

All of these children have lost homes, possessions and sometimes family members in the earthquake and tsunami. So, to encourage them to laugh and play and actually be children is an invaluable way of helping them cope.

Misato Oyama is 11 years old and lost her grandfather in the tsunami. She tells me, "I am scared that another big tsunami will come and destroy other parts of my city." Her mother says she believes going back to school and seeing her friends will make all the difference.

MAKIBA YAMANO, WORLD VISION: For them to regain their routine and their normal life, it's so important for them to become stabilized and then recover from their stress and grief.

HANCOCKS: Graduation days have been held across northeast Japan recently. Grief is still raw as parents weep for those who should still be here to witness this. An aftershock stops proceedings, but only for a second. The principal tells the students they are the next generation that will rebuild the heart of this city.

One mother tells me she's overwhelmed she can see her son graduate 6th grade, despite every day being a nightmare after friends and relatives have died. Her son, Shu, says he will never forget what happened, but is trying to think about the future. Living in cramped conditions in emergency shelters with nothing to do makes it harder for older children to cope. But for the younger ones, even the most simple game gives them a reason to laugh. Paula Hancocks, CNN, northeast Japan.

(END VIDEO)

Impact Your World

AZUZ: Those "child-friendly" spaces are one way the world community is helping victims in Japan. Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, the American Humane Association: All of them are taking part in the relief efforts. You can too. Go to the Spotlight Section at CNNStudentNews.com. Click on the "Impact Your World" link, and find out how you can make a difference.

Before We Go

AZUZ: That's what the students in Ms. Kingsbury's class are doing. The third graders were raising money for a class field trip. But when they saw pictures of the devastation in Japan, they decided to ditch the field trip and donate all the money they were raising to help the quake victims. They ended up with more than $200. But then their teacher matched that amount, and so did a local bank. So in the end, they donated more than $700.

Goodbye

AZUZ: Using that money to help others instead of for a field trip? I guess they thought it made a lot of cents. We're gonna stop right here. But CNN Student News returns tomorrow! We'll look forward to seeing you then.

 

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