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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for January 11, 2000

Aired January 11, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Hello, everyone, welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Rudi.

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: And I'm Andy, or I should say my screen name is Andy. Rudi here is on my buddy list.

Yes, this is still your TV.

BAKHTIAR: But that could be changing, if a proposed merger goes through.

JORDAN: In today's show, more alphabet soup in the world of media mergers.

BAKHTIAR: In our top story, a blockbuster mega-merger brings together two industry leaders.


STEVE CASE, CHAIRMAN & CEO, AMERICA ONLINE: This really is a historic moment, a time when we transform the landscape of media and communications.


JORDAN: In "Health Desk," new research is out on cell phones. Don't hang up just yet.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there is a risk from these products, and at this point we do not know that there is, it is probably very small.


BAKHTIAR: We head to one of Europe's main trade passages in "Worldview," the Danube River. Now a chilling reflection of years of war.

JORDAN: And in "Chronicle," meet U.S. Vice President Al Gore's staunchest supporter.


TIPPER GORE: Politics is personal, which is part of my message to everyone about getting involved in the campaign supporting Al Gore for the Democratic nomination.


In today's top story: Could it be? Another company with more letters to add before the inc.? This mega-media merger would pair the world's largest Internet company, America Online, or AOL, with the world's largest media conglomerate, Time Warner, the company that owns CNN and this show.

Now, that does not mean all the anchors here will start coming with user profiles. But deal brokers hope it will revolutionize the way we get information, in perhaps the same way the Pony Express or the telephone transformed communication. The companies put the value of the merger at an estimated $164 billion. And if approved by U.S. regulators, would be the largest corporate merger ever.

It seems we've been saying that a lot lately. This deal comes ahead of previously announced or sealed deals involving AT&T and TCI, Viacom and CBS, Walt Disney and Capital Cities-ABC, and Time and Warner back in 1990.

What makes this merger unique is that it would take the worlds of the Internet and traditional media like TV and motion pictures and cause an intersection previously unseen on this scale. For instance, you might be able to start watching TV on your computer.

But not so fast, all billion-dollar deals pose $6 million questions. We have two reports, beginning with Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a marriage made in cyberspace, one the new partners say will be the defining merger of what they've already dubbed the "Internet Century."

STEVE CASE, CHAIRMAN & CEO, AMERICA ONLINE: This merger will launch the next Internet revolution.

SAVIDGE: If approved, it will bring together Time Warner, the world's largest information and entertainment company...




SAVIDGE: ... with America Online, the world's largest provider of Internet access.

COMPUTER VOICE: You've got mail.

SAVIDGE: The new company would offer a vast array of brand names and services as diverse as CNN, "Sports Illustrated," HBO, Netscape...


MEL BLANCH, BUGS BUNNY: Eh, what's up, doc?


SAVIDGE: ... even Looney Toons.

RICHARD PARSONS, PRESIDENT, TIME WARNER: ... and through the vehicle of this phenomenal new medium called the Internet, put it in the hands, before the eyes and the ears of consumers all around the world anytime, anyplace, anywhere and however they want to receive it.

SAVIDGE: Both companies would have access to millions of new customers. Time Warner gains a huge and powerful means of reaching AOL's 20 million on-line subscribers, while AOL could begin distributing its services via Time Warner's large cable network system, second-biggest in the nation, with 13 million subscribers.

CASE: It will mean new kinds of opportunities for entertainment. It will mean new opportunities for shopping for a variety of products and services that will improve their lives and add convenience to their lives.

SAVIDGE: It's not just access, but speed. Using computers linked via cable rather than telephone lines, Web surfers can browse and download almost instantly from sources with nearly unlimited capacity. As one company official put it, it will blow the lid off of e-industry.

BOB PITTMAN, PRESIDENT & COO, AMERICA ONLINE: This is the perfect one-plus-one-equal-three opportunity. We are the missing piece of each other's puzzle.

SAVIDGE (on camera): The high-tech puzzle may also be finally coming together for consumers. For years, experts have talked of a day when the computer and the television would become one: a technical merger now made more likely thanks to a financial one.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.




AUTOMATED VOICE: Welcome, you've got mail.

BIERBAUER: Those federal regulators, the trade commission, communications commission and Justice Department, must first decide which will oversee the AOL-Time Warner merger.

AOL Chairman Steve Case is confident it will pass muster.

STEVE CASE, CHMN. & CEO, AMERICA ONLINE: There really is a wonderful company with a diverse set of assets. But no single line of business really dominates its category, so that we don't expect there to be any antitrust issues.

BIERBAUER: AOL is the Internet carrier. Time Warner has the content -- its cable, television and publishing empire. That's called vertical integration.

But what if other media-Internet mergers follow?

WILLIAM BAER, FMR. FTC OFFICIAL: If the result were there would be just one or two or three vertically integrated firms that are service providers, as well as cable companies, potentially there would be less competition, less consumer choice and higher consumer prices.

BIERBAUER: Horizontal mergers of like companies such as Exxon and Mobil raise more cautions. The FTC last year ordered the oil companies to sell more than 2,000 service stations to improve competition after their merger.

Access to Time Warner's broadband technology, which will send so much more programming down at cable, is a potential regulatory problem. AOL wants it, but so do AOL's competitor.

Time Warner's chairman has a solution.

GERALD LEVIN, CHMN., TIME WARNER: We're going to take the open access issue out of Washington, out of city hall and put it into the marketplace.

BIERBAUER: It will take more than federal approval for the merger to proceed.

TODD ZYWICKI, GEORGE MASON UNIV. LAW SCHOOL: There will be various different local governments that it will have to pass, for instance, on a change of ownership of cable franchises.

BIERBAUER: And Congress will get into the act. Both Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee say the mega- merger may make business sense, but perhaps not public policy sense.

On the other hand, the global public may be stimulated.

BENN KONSYNSKI, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Imagine your historic broadcast content being much more interactive. And you are being able to interact in those media. And imagine also that your computing technologies becoming much more personal and much more media-rich.

BIERBAUER (on camera): This is uncharted territory. While cable and television are highly regulated in the U.S., the Internet is global and largely unregulated. And it may defy being roped and tied into a neat package. Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Washington.


BAKHTIAR: Today's headlines take us to Tel Aviv, where more than 100,000 Israelis gathered in the rain for a massive demonstration. They're upset over what they say is their prime minister's willingness to give up the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace deal with Syria. After a week of negotiations, Middle East peace talks in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in the United States, recessed yesterday without any official agreement on new borders for the Golan Heights.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa have left Shepherdstown. They'll return to the United States January 19 for more negotiations.

Israel took the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. In exchange for peace, Syria is demanding Israel reestablish the border that existed before the start of the war. Negotiators from Israel and Syria say they have not finalized a deal.

For more on this story, refer to the January 5 program and classroom guide.

A judge in Miami, Florida has issued a temporary protective order to keep 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez in the United States at least until March. His relatives in the United States are fighting for his custody. The judge says she has jurisdiction in the case and will listen to arguments filed by attorneys on the boy's behalf.

Last week, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ruled Elian's father in Havana has the right to decide where he lives. The Immigration officials had said he should be returned to his father in Cuba by Friday.

More on this story can be found in yesterday's program and classroom guide.

In today's "Health Desk," calling all cell phone users. In the United States, about 80 million people use mobile phones. They emit low levels of radio frequency energy. Is it harmful?

Ann Kellan takes a look.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How safe are cell phones? Some studies have claimed the microwave radiation emitted by these are safe, while other studies have linked cell phones to causing everything from brain tumors to headaches. Sorting out the truth is difficult.

Now another study: Researcher Henry Lai at the University of Washington says when he exposed rats to microwave transmissions similar to those by cell phones, they suffered long-term memory loss. There are those skeptical about the findings. The study was released to the media before leading scientists had a chance to read it. Even a retired colleague at the university who worked with Lai claims the study on rats cannot be applied to people who use cell phones.

BILL GUY, BIOENGINEER (RET), UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: I think it's a real misinformation there. And it's a same it would scare a lot of people using cellular phones.

KELLAN: The FDA monitors the safety of cell phones, stands by the advisory posted on its Web site. "If there is a risk from these products -- and at this point, we do not know that there is -- it is probably very small. But if people are concerned about avoiding even potential risks, there are simple steps they can take: Avoid lengthy conversations on mobile phones. In your car, use a mobile phone with the antenna mounted outside. Use a headset with your mobile phone."

The FDA notes that more time and more studies are needed to know for sure whether cell phones are safe.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Atlanta.


BAKHTIAR: Next week, our "Health Desk" looks at ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder -- that's a mouthful. We'll look at some techniques to help students stay focused. Tune in for those tips next Tuesday right here on CNN NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news.

JORDAN: Well, in "Worldview," we travel around the globe, and back and forth in time. Enter our time machine for a trip back in history in the United States. We'll explore milestones of the past century. We'll also check out NATO, an organization with 19 members and more than one opinion on some key issues. Is the alliance still united? Onto one of the world's most famous rivers, we'll journey to Slovakia and down the Danube, but don't expect smooth sailing.

BAKHTIAR: Think of the Iron Curtain as an East-West fault line. It's faded further and further into irrelevance over the past 10 years, but other lines have moved into prominence. We head to Slovakia to visit the Danube River and the surrounding region, where the legacy of the Cold War, and the wars that preceded and followed it, is being felt today.

The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe; 35 major ports lie along it and it's a major source of commercial transportation. This winding waterway also serves as a border between many countries.

Richard Blystone continues our look beyond the Iron Curtain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If we'd come to the Slovak Shipbuilding Company a year ago, they said we would've had a great story of free market success on the Danube River border with Hungary. With the fall of communism, the shipyard went private, pared down the work force, and signed up Western customers in Germany, the Netherlands. Production was up 30 percent: 14 ships last year, orders for 29 more.

Now this company and many others are on the edge of bankruptcy through no fault of their own. Casualties of NATO bombings 500 kilometers downstream from here. They're not on any bomb damage assessment. As night after night NATO hammered Serbia, dropping seven bridges into the navigation lanes of the Danube, scant attention was paid to side effects, except by those up and down stream who suddenly found themselves sunk, too, in the thrashing out of the Balkan countries' post-communist destiny.

Throughout history, the Danube's been one of Europe's main trade thoroughfares, flowing out of Germany, through Austria, for a while tracing the Iron Curtain past Bratislava, the Slovak capital, then through Eastern Europe to the Black Sea; 2,900 kilometers, washing 11 countries. This year, there's a roadblock on the Danube and the people who caused it don't want to know.

Slovak Shipbuilding needs to get past the debris of the fallen bridges for shakedown runs and deliveries in the Black Sea. Company engineers have been down to see what could be sailed over or hauled out of the way, and have met a jumble of bureaucracy. Danube countries offered to pay for the clearance, but the Milosevic regime held out for more, Hungary's foreign minister told us.

JANOS MARTONY, HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: But they say, OK, you can come and you can do the job provided you also do the other one. That is, you reconstruct our bridges which you destroyed. Now, this is something which we cannot accept because we think this is blackmail.

BLYSTONE: So Slovak Shipbuilding has slowed production, laid off hundreds, and watched its profits, orders and reputation drift away with no light at the end of the tunnel.

"It's a no-exit situation, literally," said commercial director Yurai Yurhas (ph). The company reckoned it had lost $10 million so far, but the ripples go far beyond that.

(on camera): Workers, families, merchants, shippers, factories: Just around here, 10,000 people depend on the Danube traffic for their livelihood.

(voice-over): Then try to figure in all the victims in all the countries. West Danube cruise ships have to turn around now at Budapest. Traffic up river is a third of normal, and it's no better for the ex-communist countries downstream from the blockage. The sum of the lingering collateral damage from the air strikes is beyond calculation. As the Danube nears the Balkans, an empty river, a bombardment of leaves: a reminder that history doesn't move just one way, and how the huge colliding forces behind a century of upheavals in Europe have not yet come to rest.

Richard Blystone, CNN, on the River Danube.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: In "Worldview" today, a closer look at NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was established in 1949 by a group of Western nations allied under the North Atlantic Treaty. The treaty provides that an armed attack against one or more member nations would be considered an attack against all members. Despite the show of unity, NATO has experienced its share of inner turmoil. Some member countries resent the fact that NATO has no control over U.S. foreign policy. Some political analysts have even started to wonder if the United States and its NATO allies could be growing apart.

Jamie McIntyre has this report from a meeting of defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Belgium.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The war in Yugoslavia made embarrassingly clear the wide military gap that separates the United States and its 18 NATO allies. Aside from the U.S., only Great Britain has all-weather precision-guided weapons, and not very many. Short on planes, the Europeans allies were forced to take a back seat during the 78-day war while the U.S. flew half the combat missions and two-thirds of the support missions. The European military is a "paper tiger," in the words of NATO's top political leader.

GEORGE ROBERTSON, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: We need troops who are trained, equipped and ready for actual use and not just forces which exist on paper alone.

MCINTYRE: All NATO countries are being urged to follow the United States' example of spending more on the military and acquiring higher-tech weapons. But only two -- Italy and Hungary -- have actually increased defense spending. Germany, for example, spends only 1.5 percent of its gross national product on defense, below the two percent minimum required of new NATO members.

But Europe is showing new interest in weaning itself from reliance on the United States. A proposal to put the French-German Eurocorps in charge of peacekeeping in Kosovo picked up backing from Great Britain. An even more ambitious plan being discussed at the European Union would create a crisis response force of 60,000 European troops that could handle future Bosnias and Kosovos. The U.S. welcomes that move but wants to make sure it doesn't weaken NATO.

WILLIAM COHEN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: As long as it's understood that this is done within the context of having a European capability that will strengthen NATO itself, there is no ground for this speculation that somehow this is leading to a division within Europe and -- between Europe and the United States.

MCINTYRE: But the U.S. and its European allies are split on another key issue: the U.S. plan to build a national missile defense. Cohen told his fellow defense ministers the U.S. needs the system of 100 interceptor missiles to guard against possible attacks from rogue states like North Korea, which tested a new long-range missile capable of reaching the U.S. and Europe.

(on camera): But the European allies are more concerned a U.S. anti-missile system could spark another arms race and undermine nuclear weapons agreements with the Russians. It's another case where, for now at least, it appears the United States and Europe are going their separate ways.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, NATO headquarters, Brussels.


JORDAN: For the past several months, much has been made about the start of the new millennium. A lot has happened to the world over the past 1,000 years, and some of the most dramatic events in history took place during the 20th century, the last 100 years spanning 1900 to 1999. Take the United States, for example, which had many significant changes over that course of time. Whether it was the struggle for civil rights, the nuclear arms race or the rise of cultural icons, the U.S. is a very different country today compared to 100 years ago.

With more, here's Eric Horng.


ERIC HORNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America, then and now: a striking portrait painted by the U.S. Census Bureau's 1999 statistical abstract of the United States, 1,000 pages detailing 100 years of growth and change; a century that saw the nation's population nearly quadruple from 76 million to 270 million; a population explosion fueled, in part, by immigration. The number of U.S. residents born in other countries more than doubled from 10 million in 1900 to nearly 26 million in 1997.

Another big change: where Americans live. At the turn of the century, 60 percent lived in rural areas. Today, that number has shrunk to 25 percent, with three in four people settling in or near cities. Americans are also living longer. Average life expectancy has grown dramatically, increasing 30 years since 1900.

In 1903, the Wright brothers flew the first powered airplane, a 12-second, 120-foot flight that ushered in a new era in transportation. Today, commercial airplanes criss-cross the globe, carrying more than 600 million passengers a year.

The 20th century has also been the age of the automobile, from the novelty of 8,000 cars in 1900 to 208 million tools of daily living today. But with added mobility comes trade-offs. The air Americans breath has become 10 times more polluted; traffic fatalities have jumped from 36 in 1900 to nearly 42,000 in 1997.

Formal schooling, once reserved for the affluent, became mainstream during the 20th century. Only one in 10 high school age kids attended class in 1900. Now, 93 percent are enrolled.

Twentieth century Americans live longer and better than any other time, but these milestones signal not only how far we have come, but how much more needs to be done.

Eric Horng, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: It's Tuesday, and that means today's "Chronicle" takes a closer look at democracy in America. We start in Grand Rapids, Michigan where the six Republican presidential candidates faced off last night for the third time in less than a week. The 90-minute debate featured discussions on such issues as tax cuts and funding for AIDS.

Meantime, a CNN/"Time" magazine poll has the latest figures on the Democratic Party's race. The poll reveals the registered Democrats interviewed are almost evenly split in some of their opinions about Vice President Al Gore and Bill Bradley. An almost equal number of Democrats believe both men have fresh ideas, show strong leadership qualities and are inspiring. But when it comes to experience and knowledge about world affairs, Gore gets the edge. And most Democratic voters believe Gore can win November's presidential election.

If that happens, it will be, in large part, thanks to his wife Tipper. She's a highly visible and active member of the vice president's run for the White House. She's urging Americans to get involved in the political process, something Mrs. Gore has never shied away from.

Patty Davis reports.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tipper Gore is hitting the campaign trail on behalf of her husband, Vice President Al Gore.

TIPPER GORE: He's the candidate that really deserves your support for the caucuses because he has served with integrity, with character; he's compassionate.

DAVIS: Married to Al Gore for almost 30 years, Tipper is one of his most popular campaign surrogates, drawing large crowds at most of her stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think maybe the biggest thing she brings to it is energy in the campaign. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe a little bit better with the people than he is, a little more open and approachable.

DAVIS: She's widely credited with having helped soften the vice president's famously stiff image.

GORE: I think that the stiff part is a stereotype that has lingered probably past it's life -- shelf-life, so to speak, and so, you know, he's not really like that; he's really very energetic.

DAVIS: Vice President Gore has channeled some of that energy into sharp criticism of his Democratic opponent Bill Bradley's plans for health care and Social Security, criticisms Bradley called attack politics. Mrs. Gore refuses to join that chorus, but she supports her husband's strategy.

GORE: My husband has one way of looking at things, one plan for the future. If his opponent has another one and he's asked about it, he's going to talk about the difference. And I think that is healthy because it informs the voters.

DAVIS: The key she stresses at every stop:

GORE: I think that politics is personal, which is part of my message to everyone about getting involved in the campaign: supporting Al Gore for the Democratic nomination.

DAVIS: A mother of four and a new grandmother, Tipper Gore has been involved in many issues, from pushing for labels on records warning of sexually explicit or violent lyrics in the mid 1980s...

GORE: We think that the need is real, the problem is serious.

DAVIS: ... to her advocacy for the homeless and the mentally ill, to her admission that she once suffered from depression.

(on camera): Mrs. Gore says if she becomes first lady, she'll continue to champion the issues she cares about. For now, however, her efforts are focused solely on helping her husband win key states and the nomination.

Patty Davis, CNN, Dubuque, Iowa.


BAKHTIAR: Well, I think since the first ladies' roles are becoming so prominent, we should be allowed to vote for them.

JORDAN: The first lady? OK, well, I -- in that case, I vote for Cindy Crawford -- or you, of course.

BAKHTIAR: Yes, me.

JORDAN: But that's just one aspect of the 2000 election. We'll have more every Tuesday here on NEWSROOM.

BAKHTIAR: And that does it for us here. We'll see you right here tomorrow.



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