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Today, we consider the state of Syria's civil war, we explore a decision to remove headgear in amateur boxing, and we review some St. Patrick's Day statistics.


Pentagon Beefs Up Missile Defense; Should Boxers Use Head Gear?

Aired March 18, 2013 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I`m Carl Azuz. Thank you for joining us for new week of CNN STUDENT NEWS. Today, we`re going to start with something that actually started just more than two years ago. Unrest in the Middle Eastern nation of Syria began with protests, turned into a civil war. In 2011, some Syrians were protesting their president Bashar al Assad. They wanted him out of power. Assad and his government responded with force. The Syrian military started fighting the protesters. Eventually, the opposition got armed and began fighting back. Syrian officials called the rebels terrorists. Two years later, Bashar al- Assad is still president, the fighting hasn`t stopped. International aid groups accused both sides, the Syrian military and the rebels of abusing human rights. More than 70,000 Syrians are reported to have been killed. Now, we say reported because it`s not possible to confirm that number, or to confirm some of the accounts of violence. That`s because Syria hasn`t given CNN or any other international news organizations free access inside the country.

The violence in Syria involves one country. What about tension between two nations? Diplomacy, trying to work things out peacefully is usually the preferred strategy. But governments have to prepare for the possibility of conflict, and Chris Lawrence has more on that when it comes to the U.S and North Korea.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If a nuclear missile is ever fired at the United States, this is the best hope to stop it. 30 interceptor missiles, which commit launch from ground silos in Alaska and California. Now, the Pentagon is deploying up to 14 more.

CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The reason it was doing what it was doing, and the reason we are advancing our program here for Homeland Security, is to not take any chances, is to stay ahead of the threat.

LAWRENCE: North Korea tested a long range missile in December, it conducted its nuclear test in February. And just this month, threatened a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. That caught the Pentagon`s attention. But as far back as the State of the Union speech, President Obama said the U.S would ...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: ... strengthen our missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

LAWRENCE: But Republican congressional sources say the president`s actions have been anything but firm. In 2011, the administration moth- balled one Alaskan missile field, arguing intelligence show there wasn`t enough of a threat. A short-sighted move, say the congressional sources, quote, "The intel didn`t change, this is right where we expected North Korea to be." And that is in possession of a missile that could travel nearly 5,000 miles in theory, since North Korea has never successfully launched a long-range ICBM. 

STEVEN PIFER, DIR. BROOKINGS ARMS CONTROL INITIATIVE: I think what you see here is mainly a political signal to North Korea that no one is going to be intimidated by their December launch and then the subsequent nuclear test.

LAWRENCE: The existing interceptors have had technological problems and haven`t performed as planned. The Pentagon is testing a new missile and won`t buy the additional 14 until officials are sure they can fly.

JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: We spend $10 billion a year on missile defense, we spend about 250 billion over the last few decades. We still don`t - aren`t anywhere close to a system that can actually protect the United States from a determined adversary. Yes, I`m saying, we`re wasting our money.


AZUZ: And what we`re covering next today is also about defense and protection. But this time, we are talking about head injuries and sports, concussions. There are new laws and regulations in place about treating players who might have a concussion. Scientists and doctors have developed new equipment to help prevent these injuries. Susan Candiotti looks at one league that`s considering a more controversial decision.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These two boxers are only sparring, but in a real match, a shot to the head can flatten an opponent. Since the mid 80s, amateur boxers have been required to use head gear for protection. It seems to make sense. But the IABI, which governs amateur boxing worldwide, is throwing a knockout punch to headgear for elite boxers age 19 and older.

DR. CHARLES BUTLER, PRESIDENT USA BOXING: The head becomes a larger target with the head gear. The boxer, because of the size of the head gear cannot see the punches that are coming from the side. So, he is more likely to get hit with them.

CANDIOTTI: Making concussions twice as likely. According to two independent studies, cited by the AIBA, New York boxing trainer Colin Morgan sees no need for headgear.

COLIN MORGAN, TRAINER, GOTHAM GYM: Well over the years I haven`t seen it made a difference.

CANDIOTTI: Neither is boxer Rob Piela (ph). He owns New York`s Gotham Gym.

ROB PIELA, GOTHAM GYM: I think it`s given too much credit as far as the protection that it really does offer.

CANDIOTTI: But boxer Curtis Jones sees it differently. He suffered concussions in the past.

CURTIS JONES, BOXER: All I remember is like them raising my hand at the end of the fight, and I was like, what happened? And like I heard seashells.

CANDIOTTI: Jones says while headgear may not prevent concussions, he worries about the long term effects of cuts and head trauma.

JONES: And every fight you`re cut, you`re cut, you`re cut. So like your skin actually deteriorates. So I think they should keep headgear in amateur boxing.

CANDIOTTI: Sports medicine Doctor Kevin Curley wants to see the latest and still unpublished study before reaching any conclusions.

DR. KEVIN CURLEY, WINTHROP UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I would have preferred that it goes through the peer review process. And have a little more discussion before, you know, going forward - such a novel idea and pretty dramatic idea.

CANDIOTTI: The AIBA acknowledges headgear prevents cuts, but thinks curbing concussions is a more important goal.

BUTLER: Too many concussions are bad, and if can cut our concussion rate down, we ought to take every step aggressively to do it.


AZUZ: Each side in that story are used that its ideas are designed to make the sport safer. We`d like to hear your idea. If you`re already on Facebook, talk to us at Tell us how you`d make boxing or any sport safer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See if you can I.D. me. I was born in Britain near the end of the 4th Century. I was kidnapped and enslaved when I was a teenager. After my escape, I became a priest and I`m credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

I`m St. Patrick. The patron saint of Ireland.


AZUZ: Ireland is not much bigger than West Virginia, and fewer than 5 million people live there, and yet on the day that honors Ireland`s patron St. Patrick, about 133 million people in the U.S. Celebrate. Somewhere green, somewhere silly hats, some make special trips to one of the seven U.S. Places named Shamrock, or one of the 13 named Dublin. But millions see this: the St. Patrick`s Day Parade in New York City, which has been going on since 1762. Or this, the annual greening of the Chicago River, which takes 40 pounds of dye to do. Roughly one out of every ten Americans has an Irish ancestor, which shows you how influential the Ireland has been on the nation across the Atlantic. For those celebrating in the Emerald Isle one thing they don`t have to worry about is snakes. Legend has it that St. Patrick himself drove them out. Some believe it, some don`t. But consider this: there are 2900 species of snakes in the world, none of them are indigenous to Ireland. Is that proof? I rish we knew for sure.

OK, on March 9th, students at the University of Missouri started dancing at noon. They stopped at 1.06 in the morning. 13 hours and more than $150,000 later. The dance marathon like others around the country has been going on for years. It`s based in a simple mission, "We dance for those who can`t."


ANNIE BASTIDA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MIZZOU DANCE MARATHON: Dance marathon is a part of the Children`s Miracle Network Hospitals umbrella. And so, we are one of 150 dance marathons across the nations and group of young people, mostly high school and then the college age students, who give up a time of time, energy and money in order to change lives and to make miracles happen.

JUSTIN RANDOLPH, PARTICIPANT: You`re really on your feet for 13.1 hours, really, just dancing, it`s a lot of fun. You just - you don`t - you feel good about it at the end of the day, because it`s just - it`s a blast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We asked our dancers not to sit down for the entirety of the event. Lots of things for them to do. If they don`t want to dance, then it`s on them, but if other people want to dance, music is still going, and they keep on jamming.

CAITLIN SWEENY, PARTICIPANT: Now that I`m here, I know that like I`m doing this for these great kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really means that all these students are doing all of this work, I think they are also a little blown away by the fact, that, you know, we are college students.


AZUZ: All right, we know our "Before We Go" segment and yes, our puns can get kind of cheesy. Today, definitely, one of those times at the U.S. Cheese championship. This thing is a monster event. It started with 1700 entries. Some of these samples really know how to brie-ing it. I mean, this context is dairy close. 16 cheeses made the cut for the finals. In the end, the entry that bleu away the competition was an aged Gouda cheese from a farm in Wisconsin. So, I guess this contest was one way to separate the Gouda from the great. You might find all our cheese puns grating. Maybe you`re feta up with them, but hey, we did the best we curd. 

Teachers, we want you to tell us how we did. Show your feedback on all of today`s show on our homepage. We`ll see everyone back here tomorrow for more CNN STUDENT NEWS.


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