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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for February 29, 2000

Aired February 29, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Pump up the volume, NEWSROOM is on the tube. I'm Shelley Walcott.

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: That would make me Andy Jordan.

Today, we jog, dance and commune. We get started, though, with an unfolding drama in Africa.

WALCOTT: In "Today's News," the floods came and the people suffer. Three weeks of water take their toll in Mozambique. We'll count the cost.

JORDAN: Tuesday means "Health Desk." Today: exercising 21st- century style.


JOE WEIDER, WEIDER PUBLICATIONS: The gyms of today and the future could be like an Olympic village.


WALCOTT: In "Worldview," we visit Walnut. Find out why residents of this California community think they have cracked the code to racial harmony.


MAYOR JOAQUIN LIM, WALNUT, CALIF., U.S.: People, regardless of their race, religion, background, all get along.


JORDAN: In "Chronicle," we'll dance to the beat of different drummers who have found their own common rhythm.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mix of African and African-American and bringing it all together was great. I enjoyed it.


WALCOTT: In today's top story, the race to rescue thousands of people stranded in the flood-ravaged African country of Mozambique.

No one is sure of the death toll, but officials say thousands of people may have died since flooding, triggered by torrential rains, hit the country three weeks ago. More than 200,000 people are homeless. Many have been forced to hang onto trees and rooftops to escape the muddy waters. Thousands of people have been saved so far, but many more are still awaiting rescue, some after up to four days without food or rest.

Aid workers say the international community was slow to respond. The United Nations has made an urgent appeal for more helicopters, aircraft and supplies to help stranded villagers.

Cynde Strand has more on the rescue and relief efforts.


CYNDE STRAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): South African military helicopters continued their mission of salvation Monday morning with 3.000 people still stranded. Imprisoned by the flood waters, these people had no car top or roof top to shelter on. They had no food or water.

They've been standing in the water since Saturday night when the Ingoma River again engulfed their homes. The pilot stopped only to refuel between the dangerous rescue flights. So urgent the mission they sometimes carry more than capacity. One pilot said, he just closes his eyes, hits the power, and hopes they lift off.

Too many passengers could cause the helicopters to crash into the water. Children weak from hunger and days of exposure are now the priority. This soldier stood waist deep in water the entire day, his mission: to keep the panic at bay.

Exhausted, they arrive on solid ground with only what they are wearing.

(on camera): There is the relief of safety here but little sanctuary. The people have no shelter, no food, no water, and no idea when they will be going home.

(voice-over): With no idea where to go or what to do, many just stop along the roadside.

"We are so hungry," said this women, "but at least we are alive. In the water, we would surely have died."

After three weeks of flooding, aid organizations are unprepared for a new surge of displaced people. They could barely cope with the river of people heading to two hastily-constructed camps.

The flood areas are cut off from the capital Maputo, and there is little fuel and few plains to transport food. The next rescue operation here will be to keep the people from starving.

Cynde Strand, CNN, Mappapa (ph), Mozambique.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Also in "Today's News," the presidential primary marathon continues in the United States.

Voters in three states will head to the polls today. In the state of Washington, delegate votes are at stake in the Republican contest only. For Democrats. Washington's primary is purely symbolic, though a win for Bill Bradley would be extremely important. Bradley is trailing Vice President Al Gore in the race.

Delegates are those important votes needed for presidential candidates to win their party's nomination.

Republican delegates are also up for grabs today in North Dakota and Virginia. Stay with NEWSROOM. Later in "Chronicle" we'll find out how image plays such an important role in presidential politics. How is the image factor playing itself out in this race?

JORDAN: Oh, hey, Shelley, you caught me working out down here at the CNN gym. Shhh, don't tell anybody.

Well, you know, many companies have corporate gyms now. And you're in school, you have P.E. Schools recognize the importance of physical conditioning. Well, exercise can not only be healthy, it can be trendy, as Holly Firfer explains.


HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember when exercising looked like this? Now it looks like this.

WEIDER: The gyms of today and the future could be like an Olympic village. They have weights, there's a lot of personal trainers, coaches. They have all forms of equipment, they have track, they have swimming. There's always enterprising people, and the smart people, and they will create bigger and better gyms.

FIRFER: One of the first to emphasize the importance of fitness and physique, Joe Weider, built a multimillion-dollar empire on the introduction of the barbell in 1940. Since that time, he's continued to shape the world of fitness, moving from barbells to workout guides, supplements, and information. Today, he's one of many who keeps a finger on the pulse of exercise in America.

There are now specialists, physiologists, and councils monitoring what we want and need from exercise.

LEIGH CREWS, AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE: Programs such as martial arts-based fitness programs, we'll see a flattening out of those rather than a continual rise in those programs, and an increase in personal training. FIRFER: Less-popular aerobics will give way to adventure workouts, especially those that help connect the mind, body, and spirit, already reaching new heights. Exercise programs will be geared more toward older adults, and programs will be customized to individual users. Many fusion workout centers will be found at airports, grocery stores, even laundromats. This new machine is hooked up directly to the Internet so you can take care of business while taking care of your health.

Home gyms will be a standard feature of new houses, as common as the bedroom or kitchen, say the experts. And exercise will become a regular part of treating diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, even depression.

GREENE: We were made to exercise.

FIRFER: Experts add, our lives continue to become filled with modern conveniences, and it will be even more critical to follow an exercise routine in the decades to come.

WEIDER: Life is movement. And without movement, there's no life.

FIRFER: Holly Firfer, CNN, Atlanta.


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

WALCOTT: Hey, Andy, you were looking for a new buff (ph) down there. Now we leap from the gym to a new year in "Worldview," and that seems appropriate since today is Leap Day. Leap Day, or February 29th, only comes around every four years. But before we leap, a look at what's coming up.

We'll head to Slovenia to visit some brown bears; they're in the crossfire of a controversy. And we'll check out a real melting pot in a city suburb in the United States. But first stop, China, where dragons are a welcome sight.


According to the Chinese calendar, you are a dragon if you were born in 1928, 1940, 1952, 1962, 1976, 1988 or 2000.


WALCOTT: Earlier this month, Chinese people all around the world celebrated a new year, the Year of the Dragon. This year, the occasion fell on February 5th, but the date varies from year to year because the Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar. That means it's based on the cycles of the moon. The Chinese lunar new year is the longest chronological record in history. It goes all the way back to the year 2600 B.C. There are 12 years in each cycle, and each year is named after an animal, this time around the dragon. The Chinese calendar has all kinds of interesting traditions. For example, in old China, the seventh day of the new year was called Human's Day, or Everybody's Birthday. Everyone was considered one year older on that date, instead of adding a year on his or her individual birthday. The Chinese new year is filled with all kinds of festive traditions.

Rebecca MacKinnon takes us back to the celebration of this year's historical event.


REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many Chinese are ringing in the lunar new year in much the same way their ancestors did, lighting incense, praying for good fortune, bowing to the laughing Buddha, hoping he will bring them happiness in this very special year.

(on camera): This year is doubly special for the Chinese, because not only is it the start of the new millennium according to the Western calendar, now it's also the Year of the Dragon, the most powerful animal in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.

(voice-over): Dragons are everywhere, and expectations are high.

"The Chinese are the dragon's offspring," says this railway clerk. "It's a very lucky year for us."

Lest the people get too superstitious about this allegedly auspicious year, authorities recently cracked down on books and organizations deemed to be spreading superstition. Fearing trouble, this fortuneteller would only talk to us about the dragon year and the Chinese zodiac if we agreed not to show his face. He says there are five different kinds of dragon: gold, wood, fire and earth. This year is a gold dragon. The gold dragon comes just once every 60 years, and the last gold dragon to fall on a millennium was 3,000 years ago.

The fortuneteller says not all dragon years are lucky. The dragon year of 1976 saw an earthquake, killing tens of thousands, and the death of communist China's founder, Mao Zedong, but he says that was a turbulent fire dragon. The gold dragon, he predicts, should be peaceful and prosperous.

In this festival season, hopes of peace and prosperity are lifting the spirits of all Chinese, whether they believe in fortune telling, lucky coin tossing, or just hard work and common sense.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Beijing.


JORDAN: "Worldview" next sets up shop in the United States, which bills itself as the land of opportunity and equality.

When you break down the racial makeup of the U.S., whites outnumber blacks by nearly six to one, but the scale is tipping and the U.S. is becoming an increasingly-diverse country. American Indian, Asian and Hispanic ethnic groups are showing bigger and bigger numbers in census reports.

Jim Moret has the story of one American city that's proving to be a prototype for racial harmony.


JIM MORET, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Population experts say this bedroom community may serve as a wake-up call for the nation. Walnut, California, a Los Angeles suburb nestled in the San Gabriel Valley, is being heralded as a city for the new millennium.

LIM: People, regardless of their race, religion, background, all get along. I know it sounds kind of is at -- from the movies, but it's not. It really is true. It happens in Walnut.

MORET: These are some of Walnut's more-than-32,000 residents, a far cry from what was once a predominantly-white enclave. U.S. census figures predict whites are expected to make up less than half of the U.S. population in the next century. But Walnut is already there, a model of diversity. Whites account for a third of the community, Asians make up another third, Latinos are a quarter of the population, African-Americans and others round out the rest. People of different races and religions play together and pray together.

FATHER CENNIS VELLUCCI, ST. LORENZAO RUIZ CHURCH: There's always a fear sometimes of change, and I think Walnut's gone through that as part of its growing pains, and I see growth as an opportunity for change and an opportunity to accept.

MORET: And it's this acceptance that caught the attention of population geographers, like Cal. State Northridge Professor James Allen.

JAMES ALLEN, POPULATION GEOGRAPHER: Whites are not fleeing it. We have other typically-older cities or older suburbs where ethnic diversity has increased, but it's done so partly because whites have decreased. That's the traditional situation in America.

MORET: Allen says one reason for the rosy picture in Walnut: economics. It's an affluent community, with one of the highest median household incomes in Southern California: $74,000. And for people looking to live in Walnut:

JULIE LEE, PROSPECTIVE HOME BUYER: I don't care, really, what ethnic group they come from as long as they're friendly and nice.

JOVI RANDALL, REALTOR: I'm not going to sit here and be Pollyanna-ish and say that we're colorblind and that we don't recognize there are differences in people. We recognize there are differences, but we all belong to this community.

MORET: Longtime resident Bert Ashley is the record keeper of the town's history.

BERT ASHLEY, WALNUT COUNCILWOMAN: This is the old-fashioned bed with the rope.

MORET: She's been on the city council for two decades, serving as mayor four times. She points to her family as her proudest achievement.

ASHLEY: Don't I have the greatest grandchildren? They're all colors. That's fine.

MORET: Surgeon and attorney William Choctaw was the first and only African-American mayor.

WILLIAM CHOCTAW, FORMER WALNUT MAYOR: My position was, our city shouldn't be like it was 10 or 15 years ago, and that indeed diversity was a strength, not a weakness. It was not something to be feared but something to be embraced.

MORET: Choctaw's Latino wife says they've been embraced by the community.

LORENA CHOCTAW, WALNUT RESIDENT: And compared to what I hear the past was, is that couples like us felt threatened or were afraid to be in public and to be seen. The complete opposite is with us.

W. CHOCTAW: Once one's ethnicity becomes less relevant, there's more unity.

MORET: A lesson the kids at Walnut High School seem to have already learned.

KEN GUNN, WALNUT HIGH PRINCIPAL: If you go to a prom or winter formal or dance, no heads turn with interracial dating; I mean, that's an accepted fact.

MORET: Rashad Brown (ph) is an officer in the Asian club.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's two different ethnicities hanging out together, nobody turns their head twice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here, I mean, everyone's so different and we just click so well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All my neighbors are different races, and it's cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all grew up together in a way, so, you know, we're just -- we're all friends. We just hang out, you know. We don't see each other as a race.

MORET: And that's why, as these students prepare for the future, they're caught off guard being in the spotlight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were, like, so surprised when people were like, your city is so diverse, because you really don't think about it until someone brings it up, and you're just like, wow, it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: The brown bear is native to Eurasia and parts of North America, where it's usually called a grizzly bear. There are many races of the species. The Eurasian brown bear is a solitary animal, able to run and swim well. It feeds on mammals, fish, vegetables and honey. This type of brown bear is commonly seen in zoos, or you might have seen such bears performing in the circus. They are easily trained and showed up frequently as the dancing bears of European carnivals and festivals. Today, we check out brown bears in the wild in Slovenia, where hunting is posing a threat to this large and furry mammal, as Viktor Luskovec reports.


VIKTOR LUSKOVEC, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Slovenia, the brown bear is a rare and endangered species. According to official estimates, there are around 300 bears living in Slovene forests. The bear is completely protected; hunting bears is strictly forbidden. However, if a bear represents a threat to people of their property, the minister of agriculture can give special permission for hunting. Since the minister of agriculture recently allowed the killing of 71 bears by March 31st, 2000, this sparked severe criticism by the public. If other losses of bears are considered, like, for example, by being hit by trains or cars, more than 90 bears, which is a third of the total population, would be killed in only one year.

BORIS KRYSTUFEK, PH.D., BIOLOGIST (through translator): This is about a kill which exceeds the reproduction. The mortality shall be considerably greater than the growth of the bear population. If such a number shall really be approved, then this can be the first step to exterminate the bear.

LUSKOVEC: Even hunters, who actually carry out the kill, are against such a radical measure. The civil society organized the first demonstrations in support of the brown bear.

SABINA ZNIDARSIC, CIVILIAN INITIATIVE (through translator): This gathering should demonstrate our disapproval of hunting down bears, of such decision taking in this country and finally of the conduct of the minister.

LUSKOVEC: A swift response followed also from members of parliament. The minister of agriculture was called upon to withdraw the disputed decision and leave the matter to experts.

ALEXANDER MERLO, PH.D., MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT (through translator): We strongly believe that the minister violated his authority by not taking into account or even asking specialists in the field.

LUSKOVEC: By the described measure, the minister of agriculture, who was unwilling to make a statement, wants to ensure undisturbed development of sheep keeping, an activity which has steadily extended into the traditional living environment of the bear, thus inevitably leading to conflict. Apart from that, the Slovene environment recently suffered significantly by the construction of a highway network, which has cut traditional paths of wild animals and degraded their living environment. Due to the large funds involved, no one has tackled this problem yet, despite warnings by some ecologists.

This report was prepared by Viktor Luskovec, TV Slovenia, for CNN "WORLD REPORT."


JORDAN: Well, Republican presidential candidate John McCain spent yesterday honing his campaign message. He did so by trying to separate his vision from what he called the evangelical agents of intolerance. With primaries in three states today, he's not the only candidate polishing his ideas and his image.

Garrick Utley looks at the role of image in presidential campaigns throughout history.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When did it all begin, the idea that a candidate has to have the right image to reach the White House and, once elected, needs to send a constant steam of visual images into our minds? What did presidents do before there were photo ops, before there was television, before there were moving images of presidents? Not before James Polk, for this was the first photograph taken of a sitting U.S. president, in 1849.

(on camera): Perhaps this is where image politics began. Today we like to think that we're not overly influenced by the surface style of candidates and their campaigns and accept it as part of our modern media age. But if we look more closely, we see that the power of image has always been there.

(voice-over): Abraham Lincoln grew a beard when it was suggested it would win him votes. And he used his log cabin origins to campaign as a common man.

HANK SHEINKOPF, POLITICAL AD CONSULTANT: I would have run Abe Lincoln as a man who understood America, who understood its roots, who worked hard, who knows what it means to be poor. Americans have a very romantic image of what they want their leaders to be. They want them to be honest like George Washington and the cherry tree, they want them to be honorable as Thomas Jefferson may or may not have been.

UTLEY: Image, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, the voter. Was it John F. Kennedy's good looks and smoothness on camera that helped him in the first television debate between presidential candidates, or was it what he said that attracted voters' attention? Or was it the suit?

WATERMAN: The Kennedy people had switched suits at the last minute. They put, I believe, Kennedy into a blue suit, whereas Nixon was wearing a gray suit. So he sort of blended into the background.

UTLEY: In the eyes of many, Ronald Reagan was the towering example of the power of appearance. He also had something else working for him: timing. SHEINKOPF: He was the populist antidote to the elites in the Republican Party at that time. So he was the perfect figure at that point in history. And image has got to fit the historical moment.

UTLEY: Like Reagan, John McCain hopes his image and message fit these times. But for today's candidates there is a lesson in the vulnerability of image from Bill Clinton. "The Man from Hope" in 1992 and the image he fostered is not the image many people see today.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.


UTLEY: Time, events, familiarity, alter our perceptions and erode carefully honed images. It is true in life, it is true in the presidency. For those who would be president, it goes with the job.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.


WALCOTT: Today, of course, is the last day of February and the end of Black History Month. Over the last several weeks, we've examined issues concerning African Americans in particular, but of interest to all. Today we wrap up our series with a look at a unique performance featuring the best of two worlds.

Joel Hochmuth has the story.


JOEL HOCHMUTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American audiences have never seen anything quite like this before. This show in Washington, D.C. marked the first time the American dance group Step Afrika and the South African Soweto Dance Theatre appeared together on stage in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fantastic. I'm just always amazed at the Diaspora, and how African people all over the world just move the same and move so rhythmically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was exciting. It was a thrilling thing. I want to bring people back to it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was poetry in motion. It was fantastic.

HOCHMUTH: The performance combines the best of stepping, an American art form that started among black college fraternities and sororities, and gumboot, a dance popular among miners in South Africa.

American Brian Williams got the idea for the collaboration on a trip there six years ago. BRIAN WILLIAMS, STEP AFRIKA: It was amazing to me at first. When I first saw the gumboot dance, I was living in a sutu (ph) and I saw a young boy doing the dance on the side of the road. And I was surprised because I was like, OK, this guy's stepping. How does he know the movements that I do in the states on the college campus? What it shows me is that African Americans do have a very strong link with the continent of Africa that has been retained through the rhythm, basically.

HOCHMUTH: While many of the routines are a combination of dance styles, the performance also spotlights the art of stepping itself. Once relegated to college campuses, it's spreading into elementary schools and high schools, even churches.

WILLIAMS: Stepping is a celebration of a brotherhood or a sisterhood. What I'm thinking about initially is my brothers and us out there representing our organization to a wide community. I'm thinking about the rhythms. When I look at the guys who are with me, these are the guys I studied with, who I've worked with, who I've hung out with, and this is one other thing that we do together.

KIRSTEN SMITH, STEP AFRIKA: What goes through my mind? Breathe -- remember to breathe, basically.

The stepping is especially tiring because it's what I call explosive dance, and it just requires every single stitch of energy that you might have in your body to use it all at one time. There's no way to pace that.

HOCHMUTH: The dancers, of course, make it all look so easy. But looks can be deceiving. The show has been years in the making.

(on camera): How do you feel when you see it all come together like this?

JACKIE M. SEMELA, SOWETO DANCE THEATRE: For us it's an achievement because we know that it has never been done, it is a first, where you bring a group of South Africans and Americans and try and say, let's do something together, let's deal with the cultures, let's look beautiful. And that achievement of saying, OK, this is a culture, let's look beautiful in it, it's like, wow, great feeling, you know?

HOCHMUTH (voice-over): Promoters call the first series of performances a success and hope for even bigger things down the road.

SEMELA: It's bigger than dance. It's people, because we use dance as a medium to reach people, to talk to people, to heal people, to relax people, to entertain people, and to let them really get inside themselves and appreciate the art. So it's bigger than dance.

WILLIAMS: And what they will see from the future of Step Afrika is not just African and African-American dance traditions, we hope that they will see Aboriginal dance, flamenco dance, more Irish step dancing -- all those things -- so that people can really see that Step Afrika is not just about the African Diaspora uniting, but about all people coming together through dance.


WALCOTT: Wow, that makes me feel like doing a little dance.

JORDAN: I know, that's great.

Well, that wraps up our Black History Month here on NEWSROOM. Happy Leap Day.

WALCOTT: And that wraps it up for us here today.

JORDAN: We'll see you tomorrow.

WALCOTT: Bye-bye.


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