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Putin`s Annexation of Crimea and its Consequences for Russia; Medal of Honor Awarded to Minority Soldiers; General Motors` Massive Recall Challenges New Company`s CEO; Pro and Cons for Big Bang Theory; March Madness Explained

Aired March 19, 2014 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Happy to have you watching on this worldwide Wednesday, March 19. I`m Carl Azuz for CNN STUDENT NEWS.

First up, the maps on your classroom wall and in your geography book may be changing. Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty that makes Crimea part of Russia. His actions followed Sunday`s voting Crimea when Crimean residents overwhelmingly chose to split off from Ukraine and join Russia. The Russian leader said he wouldn`t push for any further division of Ukraine.

But the move was unacceptable to the European Union and the United States. Vice President Joe Biden called Russia`s actions "a land grab." The U.S. and E.U. have imposed sanctions, limiting the rights of certain Russian officials and they are threatening more sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

12 years ago, the U.S. Congress set up a military review. It was trying to find out if American troops who`d served in combat decades ago might have been passed over for the Medal of Honor because they were Hispanic or Jewish. The investigation found several people, including some African Americans who likely would have received the country`s highest military decoration, if not for their skin color. So, yesterday, at the White House, President Obama awarded 24 Medals of Honor, most of them for people who`d been discriminated against and had served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. The president said their courage almost defies imagination. 21 of the medals were awarded posthumously, for the three recipients who were still alive, it`s an honor decades in the making.

Tough times for General Motors. The maker of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC is recalling more than 1.5 million vehicles. It believes a flaw in an ignition switch has let to dozens of crashes, and the deaths of at least 12 people. Because this problem may date back years, and the recall was just issued last month, the company has been accused of dragging its feet in addressing the issue. And a lot of the heat is on GM`s first female leader.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s the CEO at the center of a huge auto safety nightmare. Just two months on the job, Mary Barra is heading up GM`s massive ignition switch recall. And the stakes couldn`t be higher.

JEREMY ROBINSON-LEON, CRISIS-MANAGEMENT EXPERT: It`s probably the last thing she wanted to have to deal with in her first few weeks, or her first couple of months on the job.

MARY BARRA, GM CEO: Automotive it`s kind of in my blood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barra is the first woman to head up a U.S. car company, but she`s been climbing the GM corporate ladder for over 30 years.

Barra says she became aware of the safety issues, "a few weeks ago." And says, GM ordered the recall without hesitation.

But GM`s own records show its engineers were aware of the problem as early as 2004. The company says, "The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon, was not as robust as it should have been. And for this reason, Barra`s longtime insider status could put her in the tough spot.

PAUL LAMONICA, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, CNN MONEY: It`s going to be difficult for her to maybe distance herself from this crisis, because she can`t just come out and say, well, this was under someone else`s watch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Adding to Barra`s problems, a Justice Department criminal probe into whether GM hid evidence about defects, upcoming hearings on Capitol Hill as well as law suits from victims` families and shareholders.

As Toyota found out four years ago during its massive recall for unintended vehicle acceleration, Congress likes to go for the jugular.

JAY ROCKFELLER, U.S. SENATOR: It set with me deeply, that it seems somewhere along the way public safety decreased in value, as profit margins saw it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Toyota`s market share tumbledoring (ph) its crisis as did their reputation. GM investors are clearly worried, shares have fallen more than 15 percent this year.

Crisis management experts say the quicker Barra speaks out, the better.

ROBINSON-LEON: There`s a trickle of information that keeps coming. It keeps GM in the headlines. The company will be better off getting all - as many of the facts out as it possibly can to look transparent. She has to get out there and talk to the public.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But some believe GM lawyers might hold their cards closed.

LAMONICA: The fact that the company has announced that it needs to do its own internal investigation means that there are a lot of things that they are trying to figure out. It`s premature, I think. You`re kind of just throwing Barra out to the sharks that the media can be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But if this crisis deepens, GM`s mark of excellence could be tainted for years.


AZUZ: Time for the "Shoutout." Andromeda, Sombrero and Whirlpool, are all examples of what? If you think you know it, shout it out! Are they all supercomputers, noble gases, straits or galaxies? You`ve got three seconds, go!

These are all examples of galaxies, though the one we are most familiar with is the Milky Way. That`s your answer and that`s your "Shoutout."

In intergalactic news, a Big Bang theory is making big waves among some scientists, but spoiler alert: they don`t really know what happened around, say, 14 billion years ago.

Here`s what some researchers said they found. Evidence of how the Universe rapidly expanded after the theoretical Big Bang. They say less than a trillionth of a second after the bang, the Universe suddenly inflated, doubling in size one hundred times over. The elements of it separating from each other like raisins in a raisin bun as dough bakes and expands in the oven. What led to this announcement - there`s a telescope at the South Pole that analyses what scientists believe is anction (ph) light in the Universe. The kind that might have been around billions of years ago. Scientists say this telescope found aftershocks of the Big Bang. But there`s plenty of doubt. Another astrophysicist interviews by CNN says the telescope`s measurements are very hard to make. That there could easily be problems with them. Additional experiments and the years ahead could either back up or completely refute this latest theory.

It`s worldwide Wednesday on the CNN STUDENT NEWS. Roll call. We are going around the globe, starting in Cartagena, Colombia. We are happy to be online and part of your day at Jorge, Washington School. Next, to Quy Nhon, Vietnam. Thank you for watching CNN STUDENT NEWS at (INAUDIBLE) specialized high school. And our third stop is in Kazakhstan. In the city of Petropavlovsk, great to see our viewers at school number seven.

In Shakespeare`s "Julius Caesar," the title character has warned, "Beware the Ides of March." The play and history tell us he had something to be worried about.

While most of us got through the Ides OK, they were last Saturday, the Madness of March is upon us. In the U.S. the annual NCAA basketball tournament has so many fans and so many people feeling out brackets, that it actually impacts workers` productivity. A poll estimates the month-long tournament will cost American companies billions. It`s because workers are watching rather than working.

Why all this madness?


MATT WINER: March Madness is really a nickname for the NCAA men`s division one basketball tournament. But it`s also a description of phenomenon, which happens every March, which is why people are interested in the first place. Because it really is sort of insanity in the world of college basketball.

To me, the NCAA tournament is the best three weeks in sports. And it`s because of its unpredictability. You just don`t know what`s going to happen. There are well over 300 division one basketball programs, within the NCAA. Only 68 of those, make the NCAA tournament, which is why it`s kind of a special thing.

There`s 68 teams that get in each year. 31 by what it`s called automatic qualification, automatic qualifiers by virtue of winning their conference, either in the regular season or through a conference tournament. The other team, the other 37 are so called at large bids. It gets a little more tricky there in terms of who gets in and who doesn`t. There`s a selection committee that looks over the resumes at each and every one of the teams available to play in the NCAA tournament. And deems 37 of them worthy of the tournament.

The bracket itself for most people is the physical piece of paper you hold when you tried to determine who the winners are of the tournament. As you look at a bracket, you see 32 teams on either side of it, which then - (INAUDIBLE) themselves down to 32 teams, then 16, then eight, et cetera. All the way to a final four. And then, of course, the final two teams who play for the national championship.


AZUZ: Some of our "Before We Go" segments bring more questions than answers. For example, why San Francisco 49`ers is coach Jim Harbaugh doing pushups at Six Flags. Why is there a walrus? What motivates the walrus to imitate the coach? And who`d be able to do more pushups? I guess you could just as easily ask why the heck not? This YouTube clip shows that something you just don`t see every day. The coach looks fit, the walrus looks happy. It might be working to improve its walrushing yards. It certainly seems up to the task. It`s focused and quiet, you couldn`t call it a blubbermouth, and as long as it goes light on the shellfish - unshellfishly, of course, it will certainly be in the swim with Marine teams, like the Seahawks, the Buccaneers, and of course, the Dolphins. I`m Carl Azuz. And we are dolphinished. See you Thursday.