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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for January 21, 2000

Aired January 21, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: From CNN Center, this is NEWSROOM. Thanks for checking in with us. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: And I'm Tom Haynes.

A busy Friday is ahead. We'll begin with some happenings in Washington, D.C.

BAKHTIAR: Peace in the Middle East is the topic in today's news. Yasser Arafat's in the United States to talk about a final settlement with Israel.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am convinced it's possible for them to reach a comprehensive peace in a reasonably short period of time.


HAYNES: We'll ask, how'd they do that, in today's "Editor's Desk" -- making the movie-going experience possible for the blind and deaf.


KEN ELK, DEAF MOVIEGOER (through translator): I can go to any theater any time and have the opportunity to see what I want to see.


BAKHTIAR: In "Worldview," we'll relive a terrifying experience: trying to cross the Berlin Wall.


RUDI THUROW, FORMER E. GERMAN BORDER GUARD (through translator): I fled with a group of people, and one of the escapees got stuck in the barbed wire. We got him out, but the East German Police were shooting at us.


HAYNES: Then, in "Chronicle," our "Millennium Voyage" continues. Today's port of call: Dubrovnik, once part of Yugoslavia, now part of Croatia.


CHRISTOPHER KEENER, PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Before the war, tourism in Dubrovnik was really good, and for obvious reasons. I mean, we got there and it was just -- it was some place that I would go for my honeymoon. I mean, it was beautiful.


HAYNES: Our topic for today's top story: that elusive Middle East peace. Today we talk of Israelis, Syrians and Palestinians. On all fronts, progress is very slow. Direct talks between Israeli and Syrian negotiators were set to resume Wednesday in the United States, but have been suspended indefinitely. Experts from both countries are expected to arrive in the U.S. next week to try to haggle out their differences.

For U.S negotiators, it's been a balancing act mediating both the talks between Syria and Israel, and negotiations with Israelis and Palestinians, who are at odds over the West Bank. Both sides are looking at the calendar as they look for ways to find common ground.

Andrea Koppel reports on what the U.S. is doing to make sure that happens.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With only weeks remaining before a February deadline, President Clinton shifted his focus from Syria to the Palestinians, saying peace with Israel is within reach.

CLINTON: And I'm convinced it's possible for them to reach a comprehensive peace in a reasonably short period of time.

KOPPEL: Conscious of criticism, the United States and Israel have been preoccupied with the Syrians. President Clinton repeated his commitment to achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

CLINTON: The resolution of the issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis is at the core of the comprehensive effort that we all want to make for peace throughout the Middle East, and we have to work through them.

KOPPEL: Shortly before President Arafat's early morning arrival in Washington, Palestinian officials indicated Mr. Arafat would present the Clinton administration with substantive ideas to help speed up negotiations to meet a deadline on a framework for dealing with some of the most contentious issues in the peace process. Those issues include all of the core concerns of the Israelis and the Palestinians: borders, refugees, water, and the status of Jerusalem. U.S. officials said they also expected Mr. Arafat to raise the possibility of using the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis as a "compromise capital" if a final peace deal is achieved, something Mr. Arafat indicated he hopes to accomplish before President Clinton leaves office next year.

YASSER ARAFAT, PRES., PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): I'm sure and we are determined to complete our endeavor of achieving the goals and comprehensive peace during the tenure of President Clinton.

KOPPEL (on camera): Back in the presidential spotlight at the White House, Mr. Arafat's message to President Clinton: Achieving a final peace agreement with Israel in September is possible, but only with continued and sustained U.S. support.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, the State Department.


BAKHTIAR: Since the invention of the kinescope in the late 1800s, people have enjoyed going to the movies, an activity that's traditionally been somewhat limited for the blind and hearing- impaired. Today's "Editor's Desk" focuses on a new technology called rear-window captioning, which enables hearing- and vision-impaired people to enjoy first-run movies. It's similar to closed captioning on television, which was introduced in 1976. We use closed captioning here on CNN NEWSROOM. A captioner types in the words from the stories and they appear on the TV screen when the shows run.

Rear-window captioning helps eliminate the discriminatory barriers between mainstream society and people who are hearing- impaired or blind.

Jim Hill explains.


JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A movie theater used to be one of the last places you'd expect to find Ken Elk. He is deaf. But he and other hearing-impaired or blind people can now enjoy first-run blockbusters like "Star Wars," "Titanic" and "Big Daddy," thanks to some high-tech captioning and descriptive audio.

ELK (through translator): I can go to any theater any time and have the opportunity to see what I want to see when I want to see it. I can go with my hearing friends, invite them to come along.

HILL: The technical wizardry that allows this is called rear- window captioning. A light-emitting diode at the back of the theater sends out written text. It's picked up by transparent panels which make the text appear to be superimposed on the movie screen. But only the person with the panel can see it.

For the blind, a narration describing the movie scenes is synchronized with the film and broadcast to cordless headphones. UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: The hangar's glass doors slide open, revealing an ominous cloaked figure.

CARLTON CRAYTON, BLIND MOVIEGOER: Gives you a feeling of more independence, you know. Any time you can do something by yourself and you're handicapped, it just makes you feel that much more better.

HILL: The system was developed by public broadcasting station WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts as part of its Motion Picture Access Project.

MICHELLE MADDALENA, WGBH: There are 24 million deaf and hard-of- hearing people in the United States who would benefit from rear-window captioning, and another 12 million who are blind or have low vision who would benefit from the descriptive video services.

HILL: It's hoped the economic force of so many disabled moviegoers will convince more theaters and film studios to use captioning and narration.

MICHAEL ARCHER, DIGITAL THEATER SYSTEMS: Once we can prove that it is a valuable asset for the cinema, and to the community, more theater chains will become involved.

HILL: It costs about $12,000 to create the captions and descriptions for a two-hour movie. So far, it is clearly a hit.

Jim Hill, CNN, Los Angeles.


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

HAYNES: Well, guess what? Time to take a trip around the world "In Worldview." We'll head to Sudan, a country embroiled in a long and bitter civil war. Peace talks have recessed for a month to let both sides review their positions, so we'll take a time-out to delve into ancient history and some legendary landmarks.

Another landmark gone but not forgotten in Germany. We travel back in time to a time of terror.

In 1949, four years after the Nazi regime was defeated in World War II, Germany was divided into East and West. West Germany became democratic and held close ties with Western Europe and the United States. East Germany separated and became a communist dictatorship that allied itself with the Soviet Union. Berlin, the former capital of Germany, was also separated along political lines, with each side having its own government, police and public utilities. The communist East German government in 1961 prevented people from fleeing to the West by constructing a wall around East Berlin, the capital of East Germany.

Hundreds of people died trying to cross the wall to freedom, as Chris Burns reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 155 kilometer ring around West Berlin: part wall, part fence, part underwater barrier.

In central Berlin, the wall was made of concrete slabs topped with tubular cladding to stop anyone trying to climb over.

Three hundred observation towers lined the so-called "death strip," along with tank traps, electric fences and guard dogs.

Several thousand people managed to get through. Checkpoint Charlie museum has relics of successful getaways. They hid in hollowed-out compartments of cars, even a pair of surf boards connected together. One man slid down a high tension line. Others fled in flying machines. Some swam to freedom by propulsion or on their own power.

Harman Richter (ph) got past East German search lights; he wasn't sure he was in West Berlin until he swam up to a sign that read from behind:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are leaving the American sector.

BURNS: Some East German border guards made the jump westward, evading the death strip they were supposed to enforce.

THUROW (through translator): I fled with a group of people, and one of the escapees got stuck in the barbed wire. We got him out, but the East German police were shooting at us.

BURNS: Thurow later helped others out by helping dig several tunnels, underground railroads that brought hundreds to the West.

Other attempts ended tragically. German prosecutors say East German border guards killed 270 people trying to escape. In all, an estimated 940 died trying to flee.

Some jumped to freedom, or their deaths, from buildings split by the wall.

MAYOR EBERHARD DIEPGEN, BERLIN, GERMANY: First the doors were closed, then the windows were closed. But, in the meantime, there were young --some people, elderly people, who jumped out of the windows.

BURNS: The rules of engagement prevented Allied troops like J.W. Smith, a U.S. military policeman, from assisting escapees.

J.W. SMITH, FMR. U.S. MILITARY POLICEMAN: Well, there was these German refugees that was shot crossing the border right at Checkpoint Charlie. The Americans got blamed for his death, but we were under orders not do anything as long as somebody had not made it into our section. We had cobblestones thrown at our vehicles by the West Berliners, who we were supposedly defending at the time. BURNS (on camera): Prosecution remains a bitter legacy of the wall. There have been trials for both East German border guards, and escapees who killed in self-defense.

But the guards often face stiffer sentences: judges aren't buying the argument they were just following orders.

Chris Burns, CNN, Berlin.


ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: We head for the Sudan next, the largest country in Africa. The Sudan is a crossroads between the cultural traditions of Africa and the Mediterranean world. Islam and the Arabic language have become dominant in much of northern Sudan. Older African customs and dialects predominate in the southern part of the continent. Since its independence in 1956, the Sudan has struggled through civil war, largely over how to govern the country. Some have wanted traditional Islamic laws, others a more secular government. The inability to reach agreement on how to run the Sudan has left the country debt-ridden and under-developed.

In today's report we look back to the Sudan's centuries-old past. Thomas Nybo has that.


THOMAS NYBO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're not in Egypt. You won't find bus loads of tourists or locals hawking camel rides because there aren't any. Anyone venturing to these pyramids must brave not only the searing heat of the Sahara, but the cloud of political instability that hangs over Sudan.

Not surprisingly, no more than 20,000 tourists make it here each year, and for this reason, the site is not a big money maker. Yet the Sudanese believe the tombs are no less important than the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, which were built about the same time, but attract tourists by the thousands.

The Sudanese say part of their problem is simple logistics. The Sudanese site is off the beaten path, about 120 miles from the capital, and reliable transportation is not easy to come by. The wind here is nearly constant and erases the footprints of visitors nearly as quickly as they appear, adding to its remote aura. For those intrepid enough to make the trek, the unspoiled grandeur of the site seems to dwarf the pyramids of Egypt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Giza, you can't walk around without somebody after you. And, of course, there's literally hundreds if not thousands of people around. And here it's -- we're the only ones -- our group is the only ones who are around here. So it's a very unique experience, I think, to see this, and it's well worth the trip.

NYBO: Sudanese authorities say they want to make it easy to visit the pyramids, in part because tourism money can help restore the site. But the country's troubled history and current volatility means few people, even archaeologists, are willing to accept the dangers of travel in Sudan.

So until its government can find a way to make travel safe and easy, the pyramids will likely remain mysterious.

Thomas Nybo, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: Last fall, Charles Tsai set sale with a group of students for a "Semester at Sea," on what they call a "Millennium Voyage." They began their journey in Canada and have since trekked through Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India and Egypt. Today, we join them on their latest adventure to Croatia, in a region plagued with ethnic conflicts.

For more than 40 years, Croatia was part of a multi-ethnic nation called Yugoslavia, one of the most diverse countries in Europe. In 1991, Croatia broke away, paving the way for an independent state for Croats. What ensued was a civil war that pitted Serbs, Croats and Muslims against one another. Despite a peace accord signed in 1995 by Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian leaders, ethnic hostilities still exist.

On their visit to the Balkans, three "Semester at Sea" students talked to people in Croatia and Bosnia about the ethnic hatred that tore their country apart.


NATALIE MILLER, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: After arriving in Dubrovnik, we immediately embarked on a tour of the city walls. The city walls encircle Old Town, which was the target of the Serb shelling that began in 1991.

CHARLES TSAI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Where were the Serb gunboats when they attacked?

MARO JELAVIC, TOUR GUIDE: They were just here. You could spit at them. They had tanks over there, and they had the mortar shells, you know, all up behind the hills.

That's a hell of a thing to see that shelling, you know. It's really -- you wouldn't believe your eyes.

DIANA LIAO, WELLESLEY COLLEGE: When we talked to the tour guide, he told us that about 2,000 shells had rained upon the city in a period of nine months, and that about 70 percent of the buildings had been shelled, doing at least $10 million of damage to the city.

KEENER: We got to see maps of what the place used to look like after it got hit in '91, and there was little marks where all the direct hits were, and just the whole map was covered with them.

JELAVIC: I was there on the roof and was never in the shelter because I was feared that when my family was gone, you know, that a shell would burn the house. KEENER: It was just interesting to hear personal accounts of the war because, before this, all I had seen was pictures on TV of, you know, thousands of people die, but that can't mean as much as when you go and meet one person, you know, whose brother has died, and talk to them. And that's when it really hits. And it really put a face to the war for me.

JELAVIC: I was sitting on a stone bench below when the shell came just here, you know. This is all new; this is still old. See the shrapnel holes in the wall?

LIAO: We could see the extent of the damage in the roof tiles, the different colors. Before the war, most of the roof tiles were old and dark colored. But after the war, the bright colored red tiles had been used to replace them, and we could see that they were all over, red, old, red, old, and we could see the contrast between the new and the old.

JELAVIC: See how heavy they are? See?

TSAI: They're 300 years old?


KEENER: Before the war, tourism in Dubrovnik was really good, and for obvious reasons. I mean, we got there and it was just someplace that I would go for my honeymoon. I mean, it was beautiful. And after the war, it got a reputation of being a place that might possibly be dangerous to go so their tourism industry was just decimated.

We ran into the mayor on the street one day -- the mayor of Dubrovnik.

So the people seem very hopeful for the future?

LIAO: He told us that, before the war, tourism accounted for about 70 percent of the city's income, but after the war it had fallen to 10 to 15 percent. And from this you could see that the city was still struggling to regain its former numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dubrovnik economy is hardly surviving. So that's the reason to pull more visitors here; it would help us even to stabilize political questions.

MILLER: One student that took us around the city, Marko (ph), he described to us the siege.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our army was on the island of Rokru (ph) and on this mountain over here.

MILLER: And he explained how the Serbs surrounded the town, and how there were gunboats in the water and snipers in the hills. They even put up speakers and played Serb songs. So it was also psychological warfare against the Croats. LIAO: At first when he was talking to us, he just seemed pretty matter of fact. But then when you got down to it, he got pretty emotional about all the damage that they had done to him. He was really thankful that no one in his family had died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wartime only brings back bad memories. I had good friends who have died in the war -- neighbors, neighbors.

I became tougher, you know. In the start, we're all scared of shells. But later, it was -- I don't know -- we all stick together in Dubrovnik.

KEENER: He talked about his house which was on the front line of the Serbian attack, and then he took us to his house to see it, which was really an experience for us, I think, because he showed us pictures of his house before and it was just devastated.

LIAO: Even with all the repairs that had been done to his house, you could still see, like, traces of shelling. Like, he pointed out a spot on the wall where a bullet had hit his house, so there were still traces of the war.

MILLER: One thing that was interesting was that while he showed us the pictures of his house, he kept saying to himself, basically, it's OK now, it's OK now. And it seems that most of the younger people kind of want to move on and look into the future instead of looking behind them.

When we asked him if he had friends in school that were Serbs, he said that he did, and he said that most of them left during the war. He said that he believed that some of them were actually involved in the shelling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't hate anyone. I don't hate anyone, but people who put us through all this, I'm not sure what to say about them. The war is behind us, surely. I think, no war anymore.

MILLER: You think everyone learned a lesson from it?


MILLER: For a different perspective, we drove across the border into Bosnia, which is the most ethnically diverse region of the former Yugoslavia. Croats, Serbs and Muslims all live there together and none of them have a clear majority. This is probably why most of the fighting took place there.

LIAO: In Bosnia, we visited a town called Mostar, which had seen some of the heaviest fighting during the war. During the war, the Croats and the Muslims had joined forces against the Serbs. But when it become apparent that the Serbs were losing, the Croats and the Muslims turned against each other and started fighting out the war between themselves.

MILLER: Driving down the streets of Mostar, all we could see in some areas were completely destroyed buildings. Everything was in shambles.

We expected to see some sort of destruction, but this is overwhelming.

KEENER: It's just rampant. It seems like every square inch of these buildings was shelled by something.

MILLER: It was hard to believe that the war had taken place several years ago. It seemed as if it was destroyed within the last week.

LIAO: We met a Muslim kid named Deni (ph) and he told us that, as it was today, Mostar was a divided city, that the Muslims live on one side of the river while the Croats, who are mostly Roman Catholics, live on the other side.

MILLER: Do you have any friends that are Croats?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I had a couple of friends because I had to go to school there four years.

MILLER: Do you stay in touch with them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because they didn't want me. I don't know.

KEENER: They didn't want you there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They treated me like some animal when I was there. So I don't want to speak with them.

KEENER: After the war, Deni's family -- they moved over to the Muslim side: one, because it was safer, and two, because he said that he was forced to learn about Christianity in school. And him being a Muslim, and this obviously displeased him, he said he was much happier on the Muslim side.

MILLER: Deni says he doesn't like to think about the war much, but he does have constant reminders, such as the buildings that are still in ruins, the cemetery, and the church behind his house which was completely destroyed during the war.

LIAO: From the hillside, we could see the entire town of Mostar. We could see where the river divided the Muslim area from the Croat area. And we asked Deni, you know, if they had always hated each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, it doesn't matter, before, who is, you know, Croatian, who is Serbs. We were all together going to school, playing basketball and football. We were together everyday.

KEENER: What do you think went wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Politics?

KEENER: When we asked Deni what he thought his generation had learned about the war, he told us that they learned that people are different. First he said this was because of religion, but then he said it was because -- he said we didn't kill innocent people during the war, and he implied that Croats had.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They killed many people in war: innocent, child, old men. We didn't do that. I couldn't live, now, with them. Maybe I could live with people which didn't do me anything, you know, but with Croatians, it's different. Because you didn't be here, you can't feel what we feel here.

KEENER: With what we saw, it seems like the former Yugoslavia is just being divided, if anything, more and more, as opposed to -- I don't foresee them coming back together anytime in the near future. This whole experience, it was pretty weighty for me. For one thing, it put a face to the war, you know. This was my friend Deni, now, and my friend -- you know, my friend Marko. And if it should reignite there in that area, I mean, I'll be thinking of these people, and I'll be thinking of the great people I met, and them in war.

MILLER: Some will say that war would never happen again because they've all learned their lesson, and others aren't so sure. I think that they all went through a difficult time that none of them want to go through again, and hopefully that will be enough for them to just move on to a peaceful future.

It was a relief for us to see not only in Dubrovnik but also in Mostar, the kids playing just like they do in the United States or in any other peaceful country. I think that's a sign that both countries want to move on from the war and create a peaceful environment once again.


BAKHTIAR: You know, you hear about the death and destruction, you tend to forget what a beautiful country it is over there.

HAYNES: Yes, what an education those kids are getting.

BAKHTIAR: That's right.

HAYNES: The journey home for the group begins next week as the "Millennium Voyage" comes full circle.

BAKHTIAR: That's next Friday right here on NEWSROOM. For now, we'll leave you with pictures of a full lunar eclipse...


BAKHTIAR: ... seen in parts of the Western Hemisphere last night.

HAYNES: Have a great weekend, everybody.

BAKHTIAR: Bye, guys.


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