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Crisis in Syria

Aired February 7, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Hi, I`m Carl Azuz. Thank you for spending part of your Tuesday with CNN Student News. You know how we do things here, 10 minutes, no commercials, global headlines delivered right to your class.

First up today, the U.S. embassy closed. The British ambassador called home. The U.N. Security Council, tense. All of this is over the crisis happening in the nation of Syria. It`s been going on for 11 months now. It started with people speaking out against Syria`s president and calling for change there.

The government responded with violence, and United Nations officials say thousands of people have died.


AZUZ (voice-over): That includes more than 50 people who were reportedly killed in Syria on Monday. Intense blasts rattled some cities as the fighting went on. The U.S. closed its embassy in Syria, pulled all of its staff out. The British ambassador to Syria was called back to England for consultations.

As we told you about yesterday, the U.N. Security Council did not pass the resolution that would have demanded an end to the violence in Syria. Some members of the council are furious with Russia and China. Those are the two countries that voted against the resolution.

Russia and China say they want the fighting to stop, but they didn`t agree with the language in the resolution. One Syrian protector said Syria`s government stepped up its crackdown after the resolution failed to pass in the U.N. The protesters said, quote, "The U.N. gave them the green light to inflict more violence."


AZUZ: Next up, we`re looking at some extreme winter weather that`s pounding countries all over Europe. Some spots are getting more snow than they have in decades.


AZUZ (voice-over): Spain, Italy, Belgium and other parts of Western Europe are dealing with the winter storms, but Eastern Europe seems to be getting hit especially hard. We`re talking about countries like Rumania, Russia and Poland.

Sarajevo in Bosnia is suffering through the biggest snowfall since 1999. Some of the snowdrifts got up to 43 inches high. That`s almost four feet of snow. Schools there have shut down for the entire week. Ukraine may be getting the worst of it. In that nation, the highest temperatures of the day are still below freezing. Hundreds of people have died across Europe, and Matthew Chance looks at one way in which Ukrainian officials are trying to help their citizens survive these frigid conditions.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Europe really is in a deep freeze. And no country has suffered more than Ukraine. It`s experienced some of the lowest temperatures in recent days. It`s also had the highest death tolls.

Health officials say 135 people have lost their lives because of these icy, frigid conditions. Most of them are homeless, and so what the authorities are doing is setting up tents like these.

Look, this one`s called Mabil Nicht Punt Obrivu (ph), which means a mobile heating point where people can just come in for a few days when they`ve got nowhere else to go, a few hours, and warm themselves and escape this ice and snow.

All right, so here we are, and you can see there are a number of people who are -- have gathered here to try and escape from the cold. They`re warming their hands around this room heating stove fueled by wood.

And it`s a very basic situation inside, but the smell`s not great. They`re offering some basic foods over here, some -- (speaking foreign language). Kasha? It`s porridge, and (inaudible). It`s porridge and bread, so basically -- and some hot tea as well.

There`s also a computer over the back there, where you can watch movies and I think even get on the Internet. But generally people are coming here, as you can see, this guy warming up his feet, to just try and escape from the icy, frigid conditions outside. And everybody here we`ve spoken to knows that if it weren`t for places like this, they`d be in real trouble.

Well, there you have it. These oases of warmth in the center of this freezing continent. The bad news is that the icy temperatures we`ve been experiencing here aren`t expected to get any warmer any time soon -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Kiev.



AZUZ (voice-over): If you go to the "Spotlight" section on our home page, you`ll find a link to CNN`s Election Center. It`s where you can get tons of information about the U.S. presidential election process. You can read up on the candidates, learn more about some of the top political issues and check out the calendar to see when the next primaries and caucuses are happening.


AZUZ: We can tell you that right now. They`re today. And we`ll do better than tell you where they`re happening, we`ll show you.


AZUZ (voice-over): Colorado and Minnesota are holding caucuses today, and there`s a primary taking place in Missouri. So that`s where the Republican candidates are focusing their attention. They`re out on the trail, working to rally support as they try to win these individual contest.

They`ll get a little breather after today. The next votes won`t be cast until the end of the month when Arizona and Michigan hold their Republican primaries.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout is dedicated to all of our home school viewers. What is the study of family histories and ancestors called? You know what to do. Is it histology, genealogy, sociology or paleontology? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Sociology looks at the origins of society, but genealogy is specific to ancestries. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: A historical society in Virginia is running a unique genealogy project. It`s using information from millions of old letters, books and diaries to identify more than a thousand slaves whose names have been lost.

The historians running the project hope it`ll help Americans, both black and white, learn about their ancestors. Athena Jones has the details.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): African slaves first arrived in Virginia in 1619. Now in fading ink and yellowed paper, more of their stories are being told.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is just the beginning.

JONES (voice-over): A new online database allows users to track down information about their ancestors in this state, whether they were slaves, free blacks or slave owners, says Dr. Lauranett Lee.

DR. LAURANETT LEE, VIRGINIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY: You can see all of the enslaved people that were listed in this broadside.

JONES (voice-over): More than 80 people came to the Virginia Historical Society`s first workshop to learn how to navigate their site, including a history teacher, who flew in from Indiana --

GALE CARTER, HISTORY TEACHER: I think it is just innately human to want to know our origins.

JONES (voice-over): -- an amateur genealogist, Robert Payne --

ROBERT PAYNE, AMATEUR GENEALOGIST: Researching black folk is difficult. So, anytime you can find a new resource, it is always good to investigate.

JONES (voice-over): The Unknown No Longer project and workshops, made possible with $125,000 in grants from the energy company, Dominion, is aimed at helping people fill in the gaps in their own family history, and, in the process, the nations.

LEE: We`re not only looking at African-American history, we`re looking at American history, from a Virginia perspective.

JONES (voice-over): The society has amassed more than 8 million documents, donated mostly by well-to-do Virginia families.

JONES: More slaves lived in Virginia than in any other state. And this city, Richmond, was at the heart of the U.S. slave trade. Many black men, women and children were brought here to be sold to other states.

JONES (voice-over): Some 3,200 names of slaves, free blacks and slaveholders have been entered into the database so far, and the site is updated weekly.

LEE: For so long people did not know who their ancestors were, did not know where to even go to look for it. And it`s important for people to know who they are, because having that sense of identity enables people to have a sense of dignity, a sense of knowing who they are within this American landscape.

JONES (voice-over): The documents, deeds and wills, papers granting slaves their freedom, and even passes that allowed slaves from one plantation to visit another, are now searchable for free with the click of a button. Assistant archivist Paige Newman walked me through a search of a slave inventory list.

JONES: So, you`ve got the names, the ages, their occupation.


JONES (voice-over): The Virginia Historical Society is helping to fill in the details of America`s slave history, uncovering pieces of the past, name by name -- Athena Jones, CNN, Richmond, Virginia.


AZUZ: Well, finally today, we`re going to check out a fundraiser for a North Carolina children`s hospital.


AZUZ (voice-over): More than 7,000 people hit the streets to take part in this five-mile run. And just in case you need to carb up in the middle, you`re in luck, because this race requires you to down a dozen donuts as well.

It is the Krispy Kreme Challenge. You run half the race, devour a dozen donuts or attempt to, and then run back. The participants helped raise more than $100,000, so they really put their money where their mouths are.


AZUZ: Sure, some might have suffered some horrific heartburn, but if you`re raising money for charity, it makes it all worthwhile, "donut?" Hopefully that "hole" story didn`t make you glaze over. But one thing you should know, donut puns, piece of cake. Enjoy the rest of your day. For CNN Student News, I`m Carl Azuz.