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Syrian Forces Take Qusayr; Germany, Czech Republic Struggle With Severe Weather; Chrysler Refuses to Recall SUVs

Aired June 6, 2013 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for watching our penultimate program of the school year. I`m Carl Azuz. Our first story today on CNN STUDENT NEWS actually started more than two years ago. That`s when the violence began in the Middle Eastern nation of Syria. In March of 2011, some people started protesting against Syria`s government. The government reacted with force. Eventually, rebels armed themselves and started fighting back. The United Nations estimates that nearly 70,000 Syrians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the country`s civil war. Both sides have claimed victories in it. The latest victory is by the government. On Wednesday, Syrian forces took control of the city of Qusayr. That`s after nearly seven weeks of fighting. Qusayr is in a strategic location which is why it`s important to both the government and the rebels. Syrian officials are celebrating their victory. Rebel groups are promising to continue their fight despite losing this battle, and the thousands of civilians living in Qusayr don`t know what their future holds.

Next we`re moving over to Europe, where a couple of countries - Germany and the Czech Republic - are struggling through severe weather.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Large areas of Central and Eastern Europe are being hit by these floods right now, and in the Czech Republic, several people have died. A lot of the water that you`re seeing here in Meissen actually is coming from the Czech Republic.


AZUZ: CNN reporter Frederik Pleitgen was in the German city of Meissen, where river levels are more than four times higher than average. Here is what it looks like in other parts of Germany. What`s happening is that heavy rain has caused the waters in several major rivers, like the Danube and the Elba, to rise. These images are from the Czech Republic. A huge part of that country is under a state of emergency. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated because of these floods. Forecasters are predicting more heavy rain for this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s first Shoutout goes out to Mr. Douglas` current world problems class at Columbia River High School in Vancouver, Washington. What car company makes the jeep line of vehicles? Here we go. Is it Honda, Ford, Chrysler of Cadillac? You got three seconds, go.

Chrysler makes jeep vehicles, like the Grand Cherokee model. That`s your answer and that`s your shoutout.

AZUZ: Some of those models are at the center of a standoff between Chrysler and the U.S. government. It`s not about all jeeps, it`s not about all Grand Cherokees. Just vehicles made during certain years. The issue is the gas tank`s location, and how it might be impacted during a collision. The government wants a recall. Athena Jones tells us how Chrysler responded.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a rare act of defiance, car company giant Chrysler refuses to recall almost 2.7 million vehicles, as requested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For nearly two decades, some Jeep SUV models have had a tendency to burst into flames after a rear-end collision. The NHTSA is requesting that upgrades to the older models be installed to keep fires from starting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The definition of a safety defect is if it`s a bad design, if it`s harmful to people, and if it occurs repeatedly. And that`s all been the fact here.

JONES: The models in question are 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberties. The company says it`s been working with the government on the fuel tank fire issue since 2010. Chrysler says their SUVs met the minimum standards for rear-end collisions, but in a June 3 letter from NHTSA to Chrysler, the agency said bluntly quote, "the existence of a minimum standard does not require NHTSA to ignore deadly problems." Chrysler responded in a statement, saying "we believe that the NHTSA`s initial conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data, and we are committed to continue working with the agency to resolve this disagreement." But it`s the data that is scaring some consumer advocates. The Center for Auto Safety says its data shows the risk of fire for a Grand Cherokee in the model years in question is more than 20,000 times greater than the risk in a comparable Ford Explorer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chrysler defends that their gas tanks on these vehicles were built according to the government safety standard available at this time, and basically that there is no problem, that the number of people who have died in rear-end collisions is far lower than safety organizations are alleging, and that at any rate, it`s less than the industry average for that type of vehicle built at that time.

JONES: Recalls are not unusual, but this is the first time since 1996 that an auto maker has challenged a recall demand from the NHTSA. That case also involved Chrysler, and the company prevailed in a two-year, federal court battle.

Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout Extra Credit goes out to Mr. Kurzanowski`s (ph) social studies classes at St. Joseph`s School in Botavia, New York. Bud Selig is the commissioner of what pro sports league? You know what to do. Is it the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB? Put another 3 seconds on the clock, and go.

Selig has been the commissioner of Major League Baseball for nearly 15 years. That`s your answer and that`s your shoutout extra credit.

AZUZ: Some major names in the major leagues could be called out for the rest of the season. ESPN is reporting that 20 players could be suspended over an issue baseball has dealt with before, the illegal use of performance enhancing drugs like steroids. ESPN says this could become the worst drug abuse case in baseball`s history. Major League Baseball hasn`t come until yet, but says there is an investigation going on.

According to the sports network, this centers on an anti-aging clinic in Miami, Florida. It was called biogenesis. And it`s accused of supplying Major League players from around the country with performance enhancing drugs and teaching them how to avoid testing positive for taking the drugs. In fact, Major League Baseball filed suit against biogenesis early this year for doing exactly that. The clinic is now closed, but the ESPN says the man who ran it has agreed to cooperate in the investigation and the Major League Baseball might drop its lawsuit against him for doing that. Officials are hoping he`ll able to identify players who were doping, anyone caught could be suspended for 100 games.

Early we talked about flooding in parts of Europe, we`ve covered a similar story yesterday here in the U.S. There has been all kinds of severe weather, all over the country in the past few weeks. Everything from floods to fires to funnel clouds. Chad Myers has a wrap up for us.


CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In May, a devastating tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma. Leaving 24 dead including seven children from a leveled elementary school, raising questions about why Moore storm shelters weren`t available.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a tornado on the ground.

MYERS: Just two weeks later, this monster storm, an EF-5 touched down in El Reno, Oklahoma, less than 30 miles from Moore.

When the unthinkable happened here in Moore, it was a mile wide, EF-4 and EF-5 damage as far as you can see. The storm in El Reno was 2.6 miles wide, twice as far as here.

That`s wider than the island of Manhattan. And the widest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. On the West Coast wildfires are raging, firefighters have battled more than 2,000 wild fires this year, nearly twice the five-year average. The powerhouse fire burning near Los Angeles has charred more than 32,000 acres and destroyed six homes so far.

Hundreds of homes are also threatened in New Mexico and Colorado fires. And now, dangerous flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Several levies have been breached and officials have urged the evacuation of more than 300 residents in the St. Louis area. More rain is forecast for that area this week. A week that also marks the official start of hurricane season.

Chad Myers, CNN, El Reno, Oklahoma.


AZUZ: How much do you remember about some of the news stories from this school year? Take our end of the year news quiz and find out. Ten questions covering events from August through May, see if you can score a perfect ten. The quiz is up in the resources box at

As we`ve said, tomorrow`s show is our last one of the school year. We`re going to be looking back at some of those major stories. For example, remember this? It caught our curiosity. And had some people seeing red.

Come back tomorrow for a longer look back and maybe a surprise or two as we close out the year. It`s going to be a gag.

If you get a hankering for house hunting, this last video is for you.

Impressive? No, maybe not at first, but don`t be put up by surface appearances. With this home, you`ve got to look a little deeper. The property used to be the property of the U.S. government. It`s an old missile silo. It`s been decommissioned and redecorated, one bedroom one bathroom, properly insulated against a potential nuclear war, asking price $750,000. But if multiple interested buyers launched into a bidding war, that price could skyrocket. Anyone else would miss aloud. It isn`t a ton of room, so you should pick space saving furniture like bunker beds. It`s time for us to turn in, but we`ll be back tomorrow with our last show of the school year. Hope to see you then.