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Update on Crisis in Syria; Supreme Court Hears Health Care Reform Arguments

Aired March 28, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: We`re kicking off today`s show with a riddle: how does a ship travel from Japan to Canada without anybody sailing it? That answer`s coming up. I`m Carl Azuz. This is CNN Student News.


AZUZ: First up today, we`re updating you on the crisis in Syria. You`ve heard us talk about this this year. It`s been going on for more than a year now. The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in the violence.

Now we might be seeing the first steps toward peace in Syria.


AZUZ (voice-over): Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whom you see right here, says Syria`s government has agreed to his plan to stop the violence. That would include an end to the fighting and allowing humanitarian aid in for the victims.

The U.N. Security Council endorsed Annan`s plan last week. He is urging Syria to put it into effect immediately. But as of yesterday, the fighting had not stopped. Some areas, like you see in this YouTube video, were being hit by artillery fire. Reports said at least 57 people were killed in Syria on Tuesday.


AZUZ: Well, if you`ve been watching our show this week, you already know that the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case about President Obama`s 2010 health care reform law. One of the main reasons this ended up in front of the Supreme Court is a controversial part of the law called the individual mandate.

It says that by 2014 most Americans either have to buy health insurance or to face a financial penalty. Renee Marsh looks at the controversy surrounding this mandate.


RENE MARSH, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Protesters for and against the Affordable Care Act gathered outside the Supreme Court building as a historic hearing is underway.

President Obama signed the massive 2,700-page Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010. Parts of it are already in effect, like people with preexisting conditions are guaranteed coverage, and most under the age of 26 can remain under their parents` medical plan. But the main focus of the lawsuit is the requirement that almost every American purchase medical coverage by 2014 or face a financial penalty.

SEN. MITCH DANIELS (R), MINORITY LEADER: If the court upholds that, could the federal government then order you to eat carrots?

MARSH (voice-over): Opponents argue that forcing Americans to buy a commercial product is unconstitutional and what they call ObamaCare gives too much power to the government.

But the federal government argues everyone will need health care at some point, and currently tens of millions of the uninsured are costing taxpayers and hospitals more, to the tune of $43 billion in uncompensated costs just in 2008.

DAVID PLOUFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: And we`re going to be very glad they called it ObamaCare. You`re going to see more people covered. You`re going to see savings in the health care system.

MARSH (voice-over): It`s perhaps the most important Supreme Court challenge in more than a decade, with health care likely a big issue during this fall`s presidential election, all eyes are locked on the nation`s high court.



AZUZ (voice-over): It`s March 28th, and on this day back in 1854, Britain and France declared war on Russia as part of the Crimean War. The conflict lasted nearly 21/2 years.

In 1881, P.T. Barnum and James Bailey merged their circuses to form the "Greatest Show on Earth."

And in 1979, a pressure valve failed to close at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. That caused the worst accident in the history of the United States nuclear power industry.


AZUZ: Checking out some other headlines happening today, starting with a wildfire that authorities say has killed at least two people.


AZUZ (voice-over): This thing is burning in Colorado in an area of mountains near the capital city of Denver. Imagine an area that covers around 4,500 football fields, if you can wrap your mind around that. That is about how much this fire had already burned by yesterday afternoon. It already destroyed more than a dozen buildings.

Hundreds of firefighters were trying to get the thing under control. And it actually started out as a controlled burn. That`s a fire that`s started on purpose to clear dead wood and brush. This one jumped outside of the controlled area. Then high winds and dry conditions helped it spread quickly.

From Colorado, we`re heading down to the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers are exploring the impact of the massive oil spill that happened in the Gulf in 2010. A new report this week focused on a colony of coral that`s about 4,300 feet below the ocean`s surface.

Scientists said this coral was covered in oil that had the same chemical makeup as oil from the well where the spill happened. This coral wasn`t near the well, though; it was about seven miles away. One of the researchers said it`ll probably be a while before the long-term impact of this oil spill is understood. But discoveries like this will help that process.

This was the scene along the Japanese coastline when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the country last year. Cars, houses, all sorts of debris washed out into the ocean. It didn`t stay near Japan, though. That debris traveled out into the Pacific and a year after the quake and tsunami, part of it showed up all the way over in Canada.

For example, this fishing ship. It was spotted near British Columbia recently. Officials say other than some rust, it looks to be in pretty good condition. No one was steering or even on board. The tsunami had knocked it loose from its mooring and sent it drifting all the way across the Pacific.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Mr. Fagan`s social studies classes at Legacy Charter High School in Greenville, South Carolina.

What is Ray LaHood`s job in the U.S. government? Here we go. Is he the Secretary of Transportation, secretary of state, CIA director or Federal Reserve chairman? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Secretary LaHood runs the Transportation Department. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Secretary LaHood and the Transportation Department are working on ways to cut down on distracted driving. You`ve heard a lot about this, how dangerous it can be. You`ve talked about distracted driving on our blog.

But if you`ve ever wondered how quickly that something you might do behind the wheel can distract you from what`s happening on the road, Lizzie O`Leary had the chance to find out, and she shows us right here.


LIZZIE O`LEARY, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): We all know distracted driving is risky, but we do it anyway.

To understand just how a crash like that can happen, we went to the University of Iowa`s driving simulator. It`s like a giant metal spider perched on hydraulic legs.

O`LEARY: How big is that thing?

DAN MCGEHEE, NATIONAL ADVANCED DRIVING SIMULATOR: Big. A full-sized vehicle fits inside of that, so a real car surrounded by a 360-degree field of view motion base. It has six degree of freedom legs that come up. And so we can spin and rock back and forth.

O`LEARY (voice-over): It`s the closest thing to driving without actually being on the road. That lets researchers safely test what it takes for you to be distracted. With cameras recording even the smallest eye movement --

MCGEHEE: We can look away about 1 to 3 -- 13/4 seconds to about 2 seconds before things begin to shift in our lane and we have to have a steering wheel correction. So it doesn`t take much time to have to have a substantial correction in your -- in your driving.

O`LEARY: It only takes two seconds?

MCGEHEE: Only about two seconds before we see things breaking down.

O`LEARY (voice-over): A typical text takes four seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the first thing that I`m going to ask you to do is to adjust your seat.


O`LEARY (voice-over): You knew we were going to test it, right? Complete with a series of screens that simulate distraction, like a bee or a text message.

O`LEARY: So it feels like you`re actually driving on a landscape. You can see the --

O`LEARY (voice-over): Driving the car feels real, with motion and a changing landscape. And, yes, this is my real reaction on the researcher`s camera when they surprised me.


O`LEARY: Five, nine, seven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s good. Keep your seat belt.

O`LEARY (voice-over): Good for research purposes, but not reality. In 2009, more than 5,000 people were killed by distracted driving. More than 400,000 were injured. Even talking on a hands-free phone takes your mind off the road, but the riskiest thing is texting. More than 35 states now ban texting behind the wheel. Deborah Hersman, whose agency investigates crashes, says that`s just a start.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The federal government could push the states further by providing incentive grants, giving them money to help them do this.

O`LEARY (voice-over): And, ultimately, help drivers on the road.


AZUZ: All right. Before we go today, I don`t know if a duck would want to eat dog food --


AZUZ (voice-over): -- but this guy`s not taking any chances. While Fido flees with his dinner, the duck decides to have a drink of his water. A duck to water -- how cliche.

Later on, the duck comes over, seems like he wants to apologize -- or antagonize. Oh, well, don`t get your feathers ruffled. The dog isn`t spoiling for a fight. He just grabs his dish and high-tails it on out of there.


AZUZ: We`re just curious why the duck would approach the dog dish in the first place. I guess that`s food for thought. Either way, the video "quacked" us up. But it`s going to eat up all the time we have for today. We will "beak" back tomorrow for more CNN Student News. See you then.