(CNN Student News) -- March 31, 2009
Auto Industry Woes - Consider what's connected to additional federal aid for struggling automakers.
Cyber Spying? - Investigate what's being described as an international cyber-espionage network.
Candy Sales Soar - Sink your teeth into a report on candy's apparent immunity from the recession.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: A story about candy? You know that's going to be sweet! It's coming up in today's edition of CNN Student News. I'm Carl Azuz. Hope your Tuesday's going well so far.
AZUZ: First up, the top executive at General Motors, one of the biggest American car companies, has resigned. The former CEO, Rick Wagoner, says he stepped down because the Obama administration asked him to. It's part of a major restructuring that the automaker is undergoing in hopes of staying in business. The industry has lost 400,000 jobs during the past year, and you might remember that GM and Chrysler asked for and got government bailouts. But they're still struggling. And while President Obama says the automakers can't depend on federal assistance forever, he is offering help to the companies. But it comes with some pretty strict guidelines.
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U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our auto industry is not moving in the right direction fast enough to succeed in a very tough environment.
AZUZ: Tough is right. It's been decades since the U.S. auto market was this bad. The president gave GM and Chrysler failing grades for their efforts to turn things around so far and said they're gonna have to make some major changes if they want any more government bailout money. GM and Chrysler have already gotten a combined total of $17.4 billion.
Here's the deal for Chrysler: It gets 30 days of stimulus money to prove it can turn around its business. Officials believe the only way this can happen is through a partnership between Chrysler and Fiat, an Italian car company. If that goes through, Chrysler will get an additional $6 billion to drive on. If not, then no more taxpayer money.
GM will get 60 days to prove it can succeed, but the government did not say how much more money it will get, if it does.
Another option: what the president calls "structured bankruptcy," which could give the automakers a break by canceling old debts so they could push forward. What's complicating things for GM and Chrysler is that some folks are afraid to buy their cars if the companies that make them could go out of business. Understandable, and to deal with that, the president announced a plan that promises to honor warranties for GM and Chrysler cars, even if the makers go under. That means that taxpayer and carmaker money would pay for any repairs you needed under warranty. To be clear though, the government does want the automakers to survive:
OBAMA: We cannot and must not and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish. It's an emblem of the American spirit.
AZUZ: But not all of the American people support another government bailout. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in February, 61% said they were against government help for auto companies. And earlier in March, Americans were split on how the president was handling the problems facing auto companies.
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Word to the Wise
ERIK NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: A Word to the Wise...
espionage (noun) the act of spying or using spies to gain information
AZUZ: Cyber-security experts have uncovered what appears to be a massive online espionage network that's based in China. They haven't come to any conclusions that indicate the Chinese government is behind this, and Chinese analysts say claims about the network are untrue. But the researchers who discovered it say nearly 1,300 computers have been attacked. John Vause explores the alleged spy network.
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JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What began as an investigation into possible hacking of computers at the office of the Dalai Lama, may have uncovered a vast network of cyber espionage, possibly originating from China and infiltrating so-called high value targets: a computer at NATO, foreign ministries and embassies in more than a hundred countries. His Holiness says he doesn't know if the Chinese government is responsible, and while he called for an investigation, told CNN there was no need for anyone to spy on his office.
THE DALAI LAMA, EXILED TIBETAN LEADER: If you are open, transparent, then no need to be spying these things. If you want to know, ask directly. That's much better.
VAUSE: Researchers at two universities, Toronto and Cambridge, discovered the global spy web and called it GhostNet, and say for almost two years it's been "devastatingly effective."
RONALD DEIBERT, AUTHOR, "TRACKING GHOSTNET": They could extract any document they wanted. They could run web cameras, turn on audio devices so that they could, in effect, use the computers as a listening device in the offices.
VAUSE: GhostNet spread intially via email, and its control servers were traced to three provinces in China: Hainan Island, Guangdong and Sichuan, a fourth in Southern California. Researchers in Canada have stopped short of blaming the Chinese government of outright involvement: "...it is not inconceivable that this network of infected computers could have been targeted by a state other than China, but operated physically within China." Another possibility they raise: Chinese hackers freelancing their skills. Recently, one of the country's most infamous alleged hackers, known as Top Fox, was arrested in Beijing. Police say his trojan program was made freely available on the Internet, and at one point was used to hack more than 30,000 computers a day, emptying bank accounts, accessing stock details and e-mails.
As for the Chinese government and GhostNet, there's been no offical comment from Beijing. Diplomats in Chinese embassies in London and Washington have played down the investigation, while the Foreign Ministry here tells CNN there will be a formal response "when the time comes." John Vause, CNN, Beijing.
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NIVISON: Time for the Shoutout! In what part of the world was chocolate first developed? If you think you know it, shout it out! Was it: A) The Fertile Crescent, B) Sub-Saharan Africa, C) Mesoamerica or D) The Swiss Alps? You've got three seconds -- GO! This sweet treat was first developed in Central and South America. That's your answer and that's your Shoutout!
AZUZ: Of course today, chocolate is available everywhere, and everyone wants some. That's why chocolate makers are living the sweet life, even in the middle of a seriously slumping economy. Candy companies stayed in business during the Great Depression, and the current economy doesn't seem to be putting a damper on sales, either. Alina Cho has the delicious details behind the booming business.
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BRIDGET LAWRENCE, CUSTOMER: It's very comforting. I feel warm and fuzzy just standing here.
ALINA CHO, CNN REPORTER: Who wouldn't!? Candy is comforting, especially in hard times. Just ask Dylan Lauren of Dylan's Candy Bar.
DYLAN LAUREN, CEO AND FOUNDER, DYLAN'S CANDY BAR: We've seen sales pick up. I don't know what it is, but I think people are happy here.
CHO: A guilty pleasure without the guilt of breaking the bank.
LAWRENCE: It just makes you feel, makes you feel good. Gives you that comfort that we're all really searching for at this point.
CHO: It's happened before.
ED ROESCH, FOOD ANALYST, SOLEIL SECURITIES: Historically, if you look back in the 1930s, candy companies grew pretty well, and you actually saw the introduction of brands like Three Musketeers, Snickers and Tootsie Roll Pops that we enjoy today.
CHO: Those brands are still thriving in this current climate. While premium candy is suffering, Hershey, Nestle and Cadbury stocks have outperformed the rest of the market. Hershey is even forecasting growth in 2009; a sweet escape.
CHO: Have you noticed a change since the economy took a downturn that certain things are doing a little better, like say, chocolate?
LAUREN: You know, I think chocolate will always be chocolate, but I noticed in nostalgia, that's picked up.
CHO: Mary Janes, Good and Plenty, Gummy Bears and Swedish Fish: what people are, well, craving these days.
LAUREN: They're really addictive, so be careful.
CHO: And for the calorie conscious, there's always this t-shirt.
LAUREN: That's a popular shirt at this time, actually, 'cause it's kind of true.
CHO: No need to be stressed; all's well in Candy Land.
LAWRENCE: Easier times, simpler times. Nostalgia. Nostalgia, right. And that's comforting. We're all reaching for that right now.
CHO: We need that right now.
LAWRENCE: That's right, exactly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AZUZ: Whether it's a need for nostalgia or just succumbing to a sweet tooth, you just saw it: candy seems to be providing comfort to people during this tough economic time. But can desserts really help you feel less stressed? And if not, what can? Head to our blog at CNNStudentNews.com and share your thoughts with us.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, ever wonder what news anchors do during commercials? Apparently, this! At least if you're these guys. When their broadcast goes to break, they bust out the routine. They've built it up over the years and have the whole thing timed out perfectly to fill a two-and-a-half minute commercial break. Of course, CNN Student News doesn't have commercials. But if we did, you can just imagine the awesome moves that might get caught on camera.
AZUZ: Don't even think about it. For CNN Student News, I'm a very stationary Carl Azuz.