NEWSROOM for January 6, 2000Aired January 6, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: It's Thursday, January 6. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.
ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: And I'm Andy Jordan. We begin with the story of a 6-year-old Cuban refugee who's captured hearts in the past few months.
BAKHTIAR: In our top story, his mother died in their attempt to live the American dream. Now the fate of Elian Gonzalez has been decided.
JORDAN: Coming up in "Science Desk," geneticists are one step closer to deciphering the chemical make-up of human chromosomes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL HUMAN GENOME RESEARCH INSTITUTE: The instruction book for human biology, it's a very big book. Well, this is the first complete volume.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAKHTIAR: We head to Yugoslavia in "Worldview," a nation plagued by war and international sanctions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZIVKO SOKLOVACKI, CHAIRMAN, SERBIAN OIL INDUSTRY (through translator): Our biggest problem is that the international community, ruled by NATO and the United States, is preventing us in every way to import crude oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: And in "Chronicle," the U.S. presidential primaries are right around the corner. So why is the average voter so apathetic?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM PATTERSON, SHORENSTEIN CENTER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Eighty percent of Americans are really kind of not into the campaign at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAKHTIAR: Today's top story puts a 6-year-old Cuban boy at the center of an international tug-of-war. It appears the United States will let Elian Gonzalez go back to his homeland. If he does go back, it seems he will not go without protest.
Elian Gonzalez was found on Thanksgiving Day at sea off the Florida coast. He had been clinging to an inner tube after his mother, stepfather and nine others died trying to reach the United States. He's been living ever since with relatives in Miami, Florida, who insist they can offer him a better life than his father back in Cuba. The father has demanded his son return to Cuba.
While it's unclear what the boy wants. The U.S. Immigration service has chimed in.
Susan Candiotti has the story.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he was driven to his second day at a private Miami school, Elian Gonzalez was told a decision about his future had been reached. The family, described as shaken, arrived at Immigration headquarters in Miami to hear the news privately before the public announcement in Washington.
After two meetings with the boy's father in Cuba, the INS ruled he has sole legal authority to speak for his son in immigration matters.
DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: Based on these meetings, INS believes that the father is expressing his true wishes, and therefore, we have determined that Elian should be reunited with his father, Mr. Juan Gonzalez.
CANDIOTTI: Following a call for civil disobedience, a group of anti-Castro demonstrators waved Cuban flags outside Immigration headquarters. Occasional passersby who disagreed with the protesters got an earful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have a clue about what being in a free society is. You have no respect for other people's opinions. You have no respect for other people's opinions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir -- sir, you are talking about a cause...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your side is no better than Castro.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa. You don't know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're no better than Castro.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know what happened to him. CANDIOTTI: Meantime, young Elian was spirited away from school early, at times, adults keeping him out of sight in underground garages. He remains hidden at an undisclosed relative's home.
Late in the day, attorneys for the family postponed filing a legal challenge. They've asked U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to override the INS commissioner's decision.
SPENCER EIG, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: It undermines public confidence for a decision to be made by a single official in Washington without holding any hearings, without hearing any witnesses, on the basis of a few secret interviews.
CANDIOTTI: At the boy's house, the family's supporters are staging a vigil where Elian had been living with his great uncle. A family spokesman vows the boy will not be turned over willingly.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.
BAKHTIAR: The dispute has put a new strain on already tenuous U.S.-Cuban relations. they've been sour since Fidel Castro led a socialist revolution in 1959. Several years later, the United States ended diplomatic relations with Cuba, criticizing the communist system President Castro imposed.
The U.S. continues to enforce an economic embargo against Cuba preventing trade and tourism. Lucia Newman looks at how Cubans are reacting to this latest move in strained U.S.-Cuban relations.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Far from reacting with jubilation, the Cuban government was cautious to the extreme about the INS decision. President Fidel Castro attended the latest of the daily nationally televised protest meetings, which the government says will not cease until Elian Gonzalez is returned to Cuba.
"An important step has been taken by the INS in the legal and moral order," said student leader Hassan Perez, "but the step does not exclude the very real possibility that the Cuban-American Mafia and the extreme right wing in the American Congress proceed to use all their resources, their influence, before none-too-partial judges in Florida."
The student leader said he was speaking on behalf of the Cuban state and its president.
Out on the street, however, the news was received with more optimism.
"It's the best decision and it should have been made long ago," said this woman.
"I think it's a victory for the United States and Cuba," said another. "It's a victory for justice."
Although the child's father was advised of the decision at about the same time as the boy's relatives in Miami, Juan Miguel Gonzalez was not available for public comment.
(on camera): Until now, the father has been adamant he won't go to the United States to fetch his son, as the INS has requested, arguing that he has no legal obligation to do so, and that he fears that he would be in danger because of the adverse political climate in Miami.
If he's changed his mind following the INS decision, he's not saying so.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
JORDAN: Just days after his resignation from office former Russian President Boris Yeltsin departed Moscow to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas holiday in Israel. Acting President Vladimir Putin escorted Mr. Yeltsin to the airport. Mr. Putin is considered a shoe- in to become Russia's next president when elections are held in March.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thanks to his tough stance on Chechnya and his promise to swiftly deal with widespread corruption, Mr. Putin has enjoyed a degree of popularity unseen since the early days of Boris Yeltsin as Russian president.
In his first interview with Russian television since becoming acting president, Mr. Putin admitted that Yeltsin's resignation gave him a head start in the presidential race.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, ACTING RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is linked to the fact that he wanted the presidential election campaign to proceed as he wanted. Let's be honest. He is providing me with a forum for the presidential campaign, and doing so deliberately.
VINCI: Mr. Putin's popularity is also backed by most Russian media who give the acting president favorable coverage of everything he does, including the Russian military campaign in Chechnya.
But the military operation in Chechnya is expensive, and analysts here say the Russian government may be forced to print money to pay for it.
VIKTOR KREMENYUK, POLITICAL ANALYST: We may have another severe turn in inflation, and that may change all the public mood here. The people would forget about Chechnya immediately, they will think about their purses, about their salaries. This is the area where Mr. Putin is extremely weak.
VINCI: For now, though, it is the military operation in Chechnya that will likely dominate the early part of the presidential campaign.
JORDAN: Well, today in our "Science Desk," the ABCs of DNA. At the center of DNA are four nitrogen bases: Adenine, Thymine, Guinine and Cytosine. The order of these strands of DNA -- called chromosomes -- determines the types of amino acids cells create. And those amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and enzymes.
Those proteins and enzymes determine you. To break it down, a gene is a strand of DNA for a specific trait, the color of your hair or eyes, for example. And a chromosome is a group of genes.
Scientists are trying to understand more about these building blocks with some success, as Ann Kellan explains.
ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The way we talk, or walk, our athletic ability, and whether we have an ear for music, or not, is determined in part by our chromosomes. Each of us has 23 pairs of chromosomes in every one of our cells, and for the first time scientists know the sequence of chemicals that makes up one of them: chromosome 22.
DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL HUMAN GENOME RESEARCH INSTITUTE: If you think of the human genome as the book of life, the instruction book for human biology, it's a very big book. In fact, it's many, many encyclopedias. Well, this is the first complete volume.
KELLAN: To understand the monumental undertaking, consider that within this one chromosome are 600 to 600 genes, out of an estimated 61,000 on all the chromosomes combined.
Genes are made of DNA. DNA is the chemical that determines heredity -- everything from the color of our eyes, how tall we are, to whether we're susceptible to certain diseases.
(on camera): To know all the chemical combinations that make up the DNA genetic code, scientists have identified each and every chemical from one end of the chromosome to the other -- 33.4 million chemicals in all, the blueprint of chromosome 22.
(voice-over): And even though there are subtle differences, this blueprint gives geneticists a template of what to expect on this chromosome.
DR. JAMES SLIGH, GENETICIST, EMORY UNIVERSITY: There's very little difference in the coding structure between the information contained on your chromosome 22 as opposed to my chromosome 22.
KELLAN: And this is only a drop in the genetic bucket, considering chromosome 22 is one of the smallest chromosomes and makes up only 1.1 percent of the entire human genetic structure, or genome.
A year ago, scientists broke ground sequencing the DNA of an entire multi-celled animal, a tiny worm called C. elegans. It took eight years for scientists to identify more than one hundred million chemical sequences in the worm. Now, humans: one chromosome done, 22 more to go before the entire human body is sequenced, which will ultimately make it easier for scientists to pinpoint which genes are responsible for virtually every human trait.
Ann Kellan, CNN, Atlanta.
BAKHTIAR: "Worldview" heads to Europe to check out a power play over oil and fuel. Politics is at the forefront in a frigid winter in Yugoslavia. It's a battle that's heating up. We turn from a hot topic back to the Cold War as we begin in Germany with a tale of two cities; not the Charles Dickens twist, but twin towns once divided by the Iron Curtain.
JORDAN: When great powers wrestle for dominance, the small beware, and the division of Europe between the victors after World War II was no exception. The Western allies consolidated their control in Western Europe. The Soviet Union and its partners built their fortress in the East, both sides heedless to what was happening to two little villages astride a creek in Germany, to Zicherie and Boeckwitz.
We continue our look "Beyond the Iron Curtain" with Richard Blystone.
RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten years after it vacated the end of his pasture, Walter Hartmann still lives with the Iron Curtain every day.
Here in Boeckwitz, the steel that once corralled East German people has moved down the food chain, and the Hartmann geese inhabit a veritable museum of Iron Curtain artifacts. He didn't have to drag them far: the line was where the trees are, 100 yards away.
"At first," he says, "there are ways, if you used your head." A bottle of Schnapps for the border guards and you could nip through the fence to Zicherie in the West. And then the cold war, embodied in steel and cement, Zicherie in the foreground, Boeckwitz in the back. To hear Walter Hartmann tell it, before the wall, Zicherie was just a suburb of Boeckwitz.
"Dairy, carpenter, blacksmith, everything was over here," he says.
But after the wall, Boeckwitz became part of East Germany's expendable buffer zone, the wrong side of the tracks. Zicherie made the best of it, ex-mayor Adolf Matthies told us.
"We couldn't allow ourselves to see the wall. If we'd gone there every day we'd have gone crazy."
But as Boeckwitz gathered dust, Zicherie absorbed prosperity and fame, in a small way, as a landmark of Cold War cruelty.
When we visited in 1990, heavy machinery was moving both towns from the ends of the Earth to the middle of Germany simply by taking down the wall. The new border crossing was busy, and so was the new Boeckwitz tavern.
Heidrun Lobach and her husband came home and bought the place to host a new era.
"Now," she says, "the young people are coming back. We have a whole bunch of new friends. It's nice here again."
Today, the tavern's been bypassed and boarded up.
(on camera): They thought at first the good old days would come back again, but they didn't. The Cold War crippled Boeckwitz, reunification killed it.
(voice-over): Freedom has made it easy to get to more exciting places. Boeckwitz is coming to look like just a corner of Zicherie. But Zicherie, too, has seen its vital center drift away.
"There's no pub anymore," says ex-mayor Matthies. "No guesthouse, no post office, no place to shop. All the action's up the road."
But the ex-mayor says he's content for the twin towns to fade into each other and into obscurity now that what made them so poignantly different is gone.
Walter Hartmann has that Western look himself now, his house rebuilt; he's got central heating, and satellite TV, and of course his Cold War dowry.
"No need to buy fencing; and it lasts."
Walter Hartmann, himself fenced in for 40 years, is reaping his reward.
Richard Blystone, CNN, Boeckwitz, Germany.
BAKHTIAR: The war in Kosovo is over, but the problems are not. Yugoslavia is experiencing poverty and ethnic violence. The armed conflict between the Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo this past year led to NATO intervention and NATO-imposed sanctions. Furthermore, the inability of international negotiators to end ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Serbs culminated in NATO air strikes. The bombings and sanctions have hit the Yugoslavians hard. With the bitter cold of winter upon them, they're finding themselves desperately in need of international aid.
Alessio Vinci with the story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) VINCI (voice-over): On a cold winter morning in Yugoslavia's third largest city, Nis, people are lining up to buy milk and cooking oil. It's a scene repeated every day in several towns across the country. For many people here, after more than seven years of economic sanctions and four lost wars, this could be another long and cold winter.
NATO's bombing campaign sent up in flames most of Yugoslavia's oil reserves, destroying large parts of its refining capabilities. Officials here now estimate that Yugoslavia is able to produce only one third of its daily need of oil and fuel for heating and transportation purposes.
ZIVKO SOKLOVACKI, CHAIRMAN, SERBIAN OIL INDUSTRY (through translator): Our biggest problem is that the international community, ruled by NATO and the United States, is preventing us in every way to import crude oil like we did in the past, since our national production cannot satisfy our needs.
VINCI: The result is that, to heat their homes, people in several towns across the country have to rely on alternative means, such as electricity, firewood or even brown coal.
MICHAEL GRAHAM, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, EUROPEAN COMMISSION IN BELGRADE: I don't think we're at the level of a major humanitarian crisis, probably. But I don't think all is well either. It's clear that the energy grid is in a difficult situation, that the power generating systems are degraded. And, by the way, they're degraded not just because of NATO bombings -- NATO bombings have played part as far as the transmission systems are concerned, but for power generation, there's simply a lack of investment, a lack of maintenance over the years, which has built up, and everything has come together this year.
VINCI: A situation Yugoslav officials blame on sanctions imposed by the international community aimed at punishing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his regime, sanctions that inevitably affect the lives of all citizens of Serbia, many of whom blame Mr. Milosevic for their current hardship.
Isolated from the world, and with domestic popularity shrinking, the Yugoslav president is trying to preserve his power by rebuilding the country and by giving people the illusion the worst is behind them.
Less than four months after the end of the war, Mr. Milosevic was touring the partially rebuilt oil refinery in Pancevo, just outside of Belgrade, destroyed by NATO bombs. It was September 28 and President Milosevic was preparing citizens for the coming winter.
PRES. SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC, YUGOSLAVIA (through translator): We are aware there are many other difficulties, and many people are still living in hard conditions, but our priorities are to solve the questions of our energy supplies and transportation infrastructure. We have to be prepared for this winter, the same way we have prepared ourselves in the past, even if we went through a war. VINCI: Concerned that across-the-board sanctions could further set the Serbian population against the West and hurt the opposition attempts to end President Milosevic's rule, the European Union launched a humanitarian assistance program called Energy for Democracy, a plan to deliver, free of charge, heating fuel directly to the towns of Serbia, bypassing the central government.
GRAHAM: That's the whole point of Energy for Democracy. So, maintain the pressure on the authorities, try to bring about political change in the country, and I think almost everybody here recognizes that that change is desperately needed. But at the same time, do it in such a way that we alleviate the pressure on the bulk of the population.
VINCI: Yugoslav custom authorities prevented 14 tanker trucks loaded with 350 tons of heating fuel from reaching the towns of Nis and Pirot in southern Serbia, towns controlled by parties in opposition to President Milosevic.
GRAHAM: My impression is that they would like to kill this project -- that's the only real conclusion I can draw from what's happened to date -- in order to say that the EU Is not able to help the citizens of the country and that they can only look for help and succor to the central authorities.
VINCI: Yugoslav officials admit they have reduced the level of heating fuel deliveries because of oil shortages. Help from the European Union, they say, is simply aimed at mustering public support against the ruling government. The chairman of the Serbian oil industry claims no city will remain without heat, also because, for now, they can still rely on natural gas imports from Russia.
SOKLOVACKI (through translator): You can clearly see that the whole question is about political manipulation. This kind of help, Energy for Democracy, is an ironic attempt and an offense to the majority of the people, especially if you consider that this government never made the difference between cities ruled by the opposition or by the socialists.
VINCI: The losers in this latest rift between Yugoslavia and the international community are the citizens themselves. In Nis and Pirot, people cannot rely on Russian gas for heating because the gas pipeline does not reach this far. The manager of one of Pirot's power plants says, of the three heating systems in town, only one is now functioning. He expects a fuel delivery from the government soon, but he admits even that will last only for a few days.
NIKOLA KOSTIC, MAYOR OF PIROT (through translator): We cannot provide heat to about 1,900 apartments. If you multiply that by four, you have an idea about how many people have no heat. Our reserves will last only five days.
VINCI: And if you ask Slobodan Bosovic, whose apartment in downtown Pirot did not receive any heat for two weeks, what he intends to do, his answer is simple. SLOBODAN BOSOVIC, PIROT RESIDENT (through translator): We need all together to go out to the streets; put on our coats and go to the streets and tell the government that we are cold, and they will have to answer who is guilty because people are cold. And once and for all, we will know who is responsible in this country for the wellbeing of the citizens.
VINCI (on camera): The international community has vowed not to give up on its attempt to deliver heating fuel to the citizens of Serbia. And as the coming months are sure to be colder, Yugoslav officials may have no choice but to allow the humanitarian oil shipment to reach those in need.
Alessio Vinci, CNN, Belgrade.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news.
JORDAN: Well, it may be 10 months before Americans vote on a new president, but for many voters it might as well be 10 years.
As Bill Delaney tells us, this year's campaign trail appears to be paved with apathy.
BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before the presidential primary season, one thing's not much on the minds of the average, eligible voter: the presidential primary season.
TOM PATTERSON, SHORENSTEIN CENTER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: But I think what's a bit unexpected is, overall, just how low attention is. Eighty percent of Americans are really kind of not into the campaign at this point.
DELANEY: Among the young, the uninterested are unprecedented, according to Harvard University's Shorenstein Center, which tracks voter interest weekly.
PATTERSON: They tell us "no attention" when we ask them: How much attention are you paying to the campaign? You know, nearly 80 percent are saying either no or so little that it doesn't count for much.
DELANEY: Why? Fundamentally, researchers say, in good economic times, the younger generation, especially, sees most good things flowing from the private sector, not from government.
TAMI BUHR, SHORENSTEIN CENTER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Why pay attention when the people speaking don't say anything of interest to you, or anything that relates to you?
DELANEY: Even when the subject's an issue, though, studies indicate the young do care about, like political corruption, something's not connecting. Senator John McCain of Arizona's made big money in politics, his prime focus for much of the past year.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The $100,000 checks, the $200,000 checks that have basically taken the government away from the people and put it into the hands of the special interests, and it's made all these young people so cynical and even alienated.
DELANEY: Trouble is, the vast majority of voters, young and old, aren't hearing McCain. Eighty-five percent surveyed by Harvard said they had no idea what McCain stood for. Blame declining audiences for television news, blame too many scandals in Washington. Whatever the reason, voters are getting harder to find than ever before.
(on camera): The fact that this year's campaign began earlier than ever, researchers say, hasn't helped, turning the campaign to elect the next most powerful man in the world into a kind of background muzak few feel any real urgency to tune into.
(voice-over): And once the primaries do begin, they'll come faster than in years past, 35 squashed into just one six-week period before March 15.
PATTERSON: You know, if most people are sitting on the sidelines until they hear the opening bell in Iowa and New Hampshire, you know, their state contest is going to come along, and even if they participate, they're not going to have a really good handle on the candidates.
DELANEY: Feeding the cycle, researchers predict, of voter disengagement. In the end, only about one in five of eligible voters are expected to take part.
Bill Delaney, CNN, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: It's about the electoral process.
JORDAN: Image making to exit polls.
BAKHTIAR: It's about the political process.
TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: From how you can get involved to the presidential debates.
WALCOTT: It's about the political parties.
JORDAN: It's about public opinion and the polls.
BAKHTIAR: It's about the power of voting.
HAYNES: It's about "Democracy in America."
(END VIDEO CLIP) JORDAN: Wow, I look really good there, don't I?
BAKHTIAR: You know, you would think that.
JORDAN: Well, you do too.
BAKHTIAR: You know what they say: Attitude almost always determines your altitude in life.
JORDAN: OK, we'll see back here...
BAKHTIAR: And with that, good-bye.
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