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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for March 28, 2000

Aired March 28, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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


Welcome, I'm Shelley Walcott.


Here's a look at what's coming up.

WALCOTT: To Austria in today's news, where a decision is expected that will influence the price of gas.

JORDAN: NEWSROOM wants to keep you healthy, so we made Tuesday our "Health Desk." Today, that burning, yearning sensation for a big piece of chocolate. Is it all that bad for you?


HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Can't resist? Scientists say you may be helping your heart.


WALCOTT: Get set for a role reversal in "Worldview," as we visit an innovative restaurant in Switzerland, where the blind are ordering for those who can see.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I had a sort of square-shaped meal. I think it's lasagna.


JORDAN: In "Chronicle," our weekly dose of U.S. politics. Today, history tells us what we can expect from a close race for the White House.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Five times in American history a presidential election has been decided by less than one percent of the vote. And those campaigns tell us something about what we can expect this time.


WALCOTT: In today's top story, prices are still high at the gas pump, and so far there's no relief in sight. The problem is the cost of crude oil, which has jumped to near-record highs. In the United States, gas is averaging about a dollar and a half a gallon. Last year, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, set a quota on oil exports. A quota is a limit on the quantity of a good that may be sold. OPEC members wanted to boost oil prices that had fallen to less than $10 a barrel. And they've been successful. Oil went for as much as $32 a barrel this month. Now, OPEC says it's ready to boost the supply of oil.

Wolf Blitzer has more on talks in Vienna, Austria.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The oil ministers wrapped up day one of their meeting without an agreement.

QUESTION: Are you looking for an increase of no more than...

BLITZER: Several OPEC sources tell CNN Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are pushing for an oil production increase of 1.7 million barrels a day. But Iran and Libya want it to be closer to 1.2 million extra barrels. A compromise somewhere in between is widely expected to emerge Tuesday.

There is a consensus among all 11 OPEC members their own long- term interest is best served by stability in the price of oil. Too high a price could encourage consumers to find alternate energy sources and cause economic dislocations, further depressing demand.

But even if the production increase is on the higher side, as most analysts expect will be the case, don't expect the price of a gallon of gasoline to come down significantly any time soon.

MEDHI VARZI, OIL ANALYST: I'm not sure gasoline prices have peaked as yet, because after all, it's -- the refiners have got to get the crude, produce it and then put it into inventory at the very time that gasoline demand in the U.S. is beginning to rise. This is the motor driving season just almost, you know, upon us.

BLITZER: There is one outcome that could see a significant drop in the price of gasoline. If the OPEC meeting ends in an agreement but one that leaves bitterness all around, there could be widespread cheating on oil production limits among the cartel's politically disparate members. That's something OPEC has generally avoided over the past year, a year that has seen the price of a barrel triple from $10 to more than $30.

VARZI: They all acknowledge that $30 oil is not a sustainable scenario. I think they all agree that for sustainability the oil price must really be lower and probably somewhere in the $20 to $25 area. BLITZER (on camera): As the price of gasoline has jumped in recent months, the Clinton administration has embarked on a dual- pronged approach in trying to convince OPEC members to increase oil production. There's been one approach for friends, another for foes.

(voice-over): For friends, like Gulf War partners Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, there has been a full-court press, with Energy Secretary Bill Richardson not so subtly reminding them of their military reliance on the United States.

For foes, like Iran and Libya, there have been signals of a possible improvement in relations with the United States, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently announcing an easing of trade sanctions against Iran and the State Department dispatching a team of U.S. diplomats to Libya to explore a potential opening for American tourism.

But at this OPEC meeting, the Clinton administration's friends and foes alike privately say they have been deeply irritated by what they charge has been heavy handed election-year interference from the United States, something they say they just don't appreciate.


WALCOTT: And a little background on OPEC now. The international organization was founded about 40 years ago to stabilize oil prices. And as we mentioned, the OPEC cartel sets production quotas to raise or lower oil prices. A cartel is a group of firms that agree to work together to set prices in a particular market. The OPEC cartel has 11 members, including countries from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Richard Blystone has a closer look.


RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It takes all kinds to make a cartel. Some can hardly keep their oil in the desert ground. Some wrestle it from swamp and jungle: solid citizens and international pariahs.

FADHIL CHALABI, CENTER FOR GLOBAL ENERGY STUDIES: Now the one thing that makes their interests meet in spite of the huge divergence is immediate oil money, because each government sees in the money the means of survival.

BLYSTONE: Fadhil Chalabi knows it was not always so. He was deputy OPEC secretary-general for a dozen years, in times when members could shake world powers with price shocks.

Which way to play the laws of supply and demand used to pit big members against small. The big, like Saudi Arabia, wanted to keep or boost their share of the world market, and would pump more and drive down prices to do it.

CHALABI: They are different from small capacity producers, who do not care about market share because they don't have the production capacity.

BLYSTONE: Small producers go for the cash. Hence, that old OPEC tradition: cheating on your quota while the price is right.

CHALABI: A country like Qatar or Indonesia or Libya, they always cheat.

BLYSTONE: The accusations may cause clashes at the conference table, but OPEC has no way to stop it. Then came 1998 when prices fell to $10 a barrel: OPEC lost a third of its income. It had to cut production to drive up the price, and do it all together. Big spending, learned in the days of big prices, has OPEC countries hooked on oil. Rich Saudi Arabia has the same problem as the poor, only on a grander scale.

Already 15 years in budget deficit, the Saudis have interest to pay, expensive development to fund and high-living citizens to mollify.

CHALABI: They are desperate, and therefore they don't care about long term.

BLYSTONE: Going for money up front, a year ago OPEC cut production and succeeded beyond its dreams. But now, as it reckons what to do next, it sees a Western economy driven by high-tech, low- oil industries that doesn't stagger from oil shocks as it did 20 years ago. High prices have brought on new producers who get their oil only with big risk and expense. OPEC now pumps only around a third of the world's supply.

(on camera): This year some non-OPEC producers may have more say than small OPEC members over just how far the tap is turned. But the club can't drop the price too far. It's got those bills to pay.

Richard Blystone, CNN, London.


JORDAN: Chocolate: You've got to love it -- but it's not so good for you, right? Well, there's new evidence that chocolate could help prevent heart disease, the leading cause of death for Americans. Now when treating heart disease, might a bon-bon a day keep the doctor away?

We'll have a bite and listen as Holly Firfer explains.


FIRFER (voice-over): Can't resist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my lunch today. I kind of survive off of them, actually, just about everyday.

FIRFER: If you're like the average American, by the end of this year you will have eaten more that 12 pounds of chocolate. But don't let that number scare you. Scientists say you may be helping your heart.

DR. TISSA KAPPAGODA, UNIV. OF CALIF., DAVIS: Extracts of cocoa. We're looking at a particular group of compounds called flavonoids, and the special effect that we're looking at is the effect on blood vessels.

FIRFER (on camera): The elements in cocoa called flavonoids can actually relax the blood vessels and help prevent coronary arterial sclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

(voice-over): Excess cholesterol, fats and calcium can collect on the walls of the arteries, forming plaque, and that buildup prevents blood from getting to the heart and can cause clots and hemorrhages, which can lead to a heart attack. By dilating the blood vessels, flavonoids help keep the flood following to the heart.

While this is certainly music to chocolate lovers' ears, dietitians warn this research is bittersweet. While you help your heart, you may hurt your waistline.

CHRIS ROSENBLOOM, AMERICAN DIETIC ASSN.: Flavonoids are certainly a healthful part of food, but just a small chocolate bar, one-and-a-half ounces, has over 225 calories, and 50 percent of those calories come from fat, so I wouldn't put quite in the health food category.

KAPPAGODA: In the future there may be a point when you would be able to buy these extracts in health food stores.

FIRFER: Recent studies have also shown flavonoids found in red wine, dark beer, tea and grape juice have the same effect, but when it comes down to it:

ROSENBLOOM: The best way to get those mix of vital (ph) chemicals and things like flavonoids is to eat a wide variety of foods everyday and concentrate on fruits and vegetables.

FIRFER: So for those who can indulge, don't overdue it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate sprinkles and chocolate fudge.

FIRFER: Maybe that's why call this Death by Chocolate.

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: In "Worldview" today, we head to Europe and Africa, where we examine health issues, wealth issues and more.

Spring is here and so are flowers. We'll tell you how tulips were the target of some entrepreneurs, who hope to see their money flourish along with their blossoms. That story takes us to the Netherlands.

And we'll also head to Switzerland to visit a visionary restaurant. But first we begin in Africa.

Africa is the second-largest continent in the world in land area and is home to more than 705 million people. The continent is divided into 57 independent countries. There are over 800 ethnic groups in Africa, each with its own language, religion, and way of life. But Africa's people are united by a major health crisis that has overwhelmed the continent. A recent United Nations survey found that out of the 30 million people in the world infected with the AIDS virus, 21 million of them were in Africa. and about 90 percent of all AIDS deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of victims had no access to the life-prolonging drugs available in the West.

Eileen O'Connor has more on a program to help African children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two-point-two million people died from AIDS in Africa in 1999, leaving behind 10.4 million children under 15, many now orphaned, with both parents victims of this pandemic.

ZAINABU SALEH MSOMOKA (through translator): The young generation are leaving behind their kids, and it is a big burden for the old people like us.

O'CONNOR: Zainabu Saleh Msomoka's eldest son and daughter-in-law died, leaving her with four children to care for. Selling off her government food allotment gave her $1 to start a roadside stand selling roasted sweet potatoes. She, like so many other women in Africa, says her savior from starvation came in the form of a $65 micro-credit loan she used to expand her business to a restaurant, enabling her to feed her grandchildren.

ZAINABU SALEH MSOMOKA (through translator): I wouldn't have been able to educate them, I wouldn't be able to feed them.

O'CONNOR: The Foundation for International Community Assistance, or FINCA, has provided over $40 million and says these loans are now proving crucial in the battle against the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

LAWRENCE YANOVITCH, FINCA INT'L.: As long as these women are really desperately poor, they don't have time to come and listen to the education messages.

O'CONNOR: Critics say these programs only work if well administered, and only if partnered with access to better health care and AIDS education. Still, the United States Congress may fund an additional $50 million for such programs. Administrators say a repayment rate of 98 percent and the benefits to African economies make this an investment that pays off.

DOMINIC MAGWADA, OPPORTUNITY INT'L.: If there's anybody with any money anywhere, let's put it into this. If you aren't affected, it's going to affect you. The world is too small and the problem is big.

O'CONNOR: Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.


JORDAN: There are many things we take for granted. Sight might be one of those things. Blind people use braille to read. Braille is an encoded alphabet for the blind. It's actually a series of raised dots, which can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or visually impaired. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be blind? Well, now there's a restaurant in Switzerland which is bringing the experience to the dinner table.

Michael Morris has the story.


MICHAEL MORRIS, SWISS TVR (voice-over): Don't adjust your TV set. There's nothing wrong with it. Believe it or not, this is a restaurant in the dark. People are actually eating here.

This restaurant in the Swiss city of Zurich is designed to break down barriers between the sighted and the blind. Nina Muller and Egon Fassler are about to have a meal in the Blindekuh, eating out at blind-man's-buff.

From now on, Nina and Egon are in the hands of the blind. Blindekuh's Urs Kaiser will be showing them around. You can just follow me. If you like, there's a railing on your left side. I'd like to lead you to the bar now. There are a few people here already. It's a standing bar, but I'm sure we'll find a place.

The founder of the restaurant and heading the Blindekuh project is Reverend Jurg Spielmann.

REVEREND JURG SPIELMANN. BLINDEKUH FOUNDER (through translator): For us, it was a dream to have a place where the visually handicapped could exchange roles with the sighted. And with this it's now possible to do that, where in fact the blind lead the sighted and take care of them. It was also a dream to create a platform for the two worlds to meet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For a second, I didn't know if anyone was there. Whoever's silent just disappears. In most bars, people don't talk, they look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): So you want me to sit down here?

MORRIS: Guests remain in the dark for the entire meal. As restaurant manager Hilda Kieni-Stutz explains, they use sound to serve.

HILDA KIENI-STUTZ, BLINDEKUH MANAGER (through translator): We have so-called "photoelectric barriers," which means we push the food through a sort of corridor and on the other side there's a sliding door which then opens. That's basically how the system works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ah, the food's arrived. Actually, we don't even know what the starters are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I have a sort of square-shaped meal. I think it's lasagna.

SPIELMANN (through translator): What's nice about the Blindekuh is that it makes us all equal. No one knows quite who's opposite them at the beginning, whether that person's really blind or only blind for the time being. But that changes the encounter completely. People are able to meet each other without the usual inhibitions that most people have when coming into contact with the blind or handicapped.

MORRIS: And when Nina and Egon have their next meal, they'll see it in a different way.

This is Michael Morris of Swiss Television and Swiss Radio International for CNN WORLD REPORT.


JORDAN: Next stop: Holland, a country renowned for its tulips. Actually, tulips are not native to Holland. They originally came from Asia. Their very name, tulip, comes from a word meaning turban. That's the headgear worn by many people in the Middle East. But since the 1600s, tulip growing has been a major business for Holland, which is also called the Netherlands. And each year about 3 billion tulip bulbs are grown there. Nearly two-thirds of those are exported from Holland.

In the early growing years, tulips were a rarity. Only the wealthy could afford them. They were a status symbol of sorts, and they became a fad not only with collectors, but with investors as well, as Brooks Jackson explains.

BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What a market. It just roars on, defying skeptics, making new millionaires, new billionaires.

Have laws of economic gravity been repealed? A lot of traders thought so in Holland in 1637, when Dutch taverns saw frenzied speculation in an unlikely commodity: tulip bulbs, the Internet stocks of their day.

MIKE DASH, AUTHOR, "TULIPOMANIA": At its peak, the very valuable bulbs could be sold at anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 gilders a bulb. And you have to remember this was at a time when the average income of a carpenter, for example, would be 250 builders a year. And you could buy the biggest house in the center of Amsterdam for 10,000 builders.

JACKSON: A flower the price of a mansion. Prices levitated because buyers figured they could sell for even more.

Weavers sold their looms, hoping to get rich in tulips -- a mania. Sensible Dutchmen ridiculed the traders, calling them followers of Flora, goddess of flowers and prostitution, saying she'd make fools of them all. And she did.

DASH: The market ran so far out of control that it became a bubble. Prices reached the point where there was no rationale to them.

JACKSON: The speculators ended up looking like monkeys. The bubble popped so suddenly that tulip bulbs, when buyers could be found at all, sold for only 5 percent or less of what they had a few days earlier.

DASH: It was a remarkably rapid and complete collapse, and it completely devastated the whole tulip economy, and left a very large number of people, 5,000 to 10,000, facing absolute bankruptcy.

JACKSON: Could it happen again? It did. London, 1720. Wild speculation in stock of the South Seas company, which had a monopoly on trade with Spain. South Seas stock rose nearly 1,000 percent, but then collapsed.

Investors were ruined, but not before the mania encouraged many other dubious deals and outright swindles. Some even bought stock in a perpetual motion machine.

This man supposedly sold his house to buy stock. England's folly, it was called. Women caught up in the craze became more interested in stock than sex, or so claimed the author of a song called "Stock-Jobbing Ladies." "Brokers, all the hours divide, which lovers used to share."

(on camera): And history keeps repeating. Disasters like tulip mania and the south seas bubble crop up over and over. And the scary part is, history shows most often the end comes suddenly with little warning.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


JORDAN: It's a Tuesday, and our attention turns to democracy in America. Today we examine the rumblings in the Reform Party. A federal judge has named Pat Choate the party chair. A factional rift recently led to dueling Web sites and competing conventions. The infighting contrasts with the party's beginning, which grew out of Texas billionaire Ross Perot's presidential aspirations in 1992.

One of the party's most visible characters has been Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who recently dropped out of the party, calling it "hopelessly dysfunctional." And Pat Buchanan is angling to be the Reform presidential nominee this fall.

Unlike the Democrats and Republicans, the Reform Party has one national primary this summer. A strong Reform candidate could tip the scales in what could be a close presidential election.

Bill Schneider examines some tight races of the past.

(voice-over): Five times in American history, a presidential election has been decided by less than 1 percent of the vote: three times in the 1880s and twice in the 1960s.

It's hard to call the 1880 election a close shave when you look at the two candidates. The issues were irrelevant. The campaign turned on the behavior and private lives of the candidates.

Republican James Garfield was attacked for receiving a $329 bribe from a railroad. Democrats retaliated by forging Garfield's name on a letter advocating the admission of Chinese laborers to California. Thousands of copies were reproduced and distributed on the West Coast.

Garfield won by the closest margin in American history: fewer than 2,000 votes out of over 9 million cast. But that doesn't come close to the raucousness surrounding the 1884 race.

The Republicans nominated James G. Blaine, a candidate immersed in so many scandals that Democrats called him, "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine."

When the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, acknowledged that he may have fathered a child out of wedlock, Republicans marched through the streets chanting: "Ma, ma, where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha."

Blaine's fate was sealed in the days leading up to the election when he failed to disavow a supporter who called Democrats the party of "rum, Romanism, and rebellion," effectively ceding the Catholic vote to his rival.

It didn't help when the next evening Blaine attended a sumptuous banquet at Delmonico's restaurant hosted by the wealthiest men in the country. Cleveland became the first Democrat to win the White House in 24 years.

When he ran for re-election in 1888, Cleveland ended up with almost 100,000 more votes than his Republican opponent, Benjamin Harrison. But Harrison carried the electoral vote and won the election. It was one of only two elections in American history when a presidential candidate lost the popular vote and still won.

Fast forward to 1960, and you find another campaign where the issues were elusive. Richard Nixon ran on the Eisenhower record.


RICHARD NIXON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have developed more hydroelectric power in these 7 1/2 years than was developed in any previous administration in history.


SCHNEIDER: John F. Kennedy promised to get the country moving again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are now entering age of the missile gap.


SCHNEIDER: Unbelievably, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. had to write a book explaining to liberals why it made a difference whether Kennedy or Nixon got elected. The campaign was dominated by the first televised debates, not especially by what was said...


KENNEDY: The question really is which candidate and which party can meet the problems that the United States is going to face in the '60s.


SCHNEIDER: ... more by how the candidates looked. In the end, Lyndon Johnson's influence in Texas and mayor Richard J. Daley's influence in Illinois decided the outcome by the second-smallest margin in American history, less than one-quarter of 1 percent.

Then there's the 1968 election, when there were plenty of dramatic issues: racial violence, student protests, tragic assassinations, convention riots, and the war in Vietnam. But the major party candidates spent most of the campaign avoiding those issues.


HUBERT H. HUMPHREY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One nation, under God, not under dictatorship.



NIXON: I believe I've found some solutions to those problems. They're new solutions for the new world. They aren't the old solutions of 30 years ago, most of which Mr. Humphrey now is advocating.


SCHNEIDER: In fact, the 1968 election was a massive repudiation of President Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party. It was close only because the anti-LBJ vote was split between Nixon and George Wallace. Wallace carried five Southern states and almost threw the election into the House of Representatives.

In a close election, everything matters, and it's likely to get very nasty. (on camera): The rule is, if there are no big issues to talk about, then little things become very big. So don't expect a high- minded, philosophical campaign this year. More likely, as we've already seen with the John McCain phenomenon, the biggest issue in this campaign is likely to be the campaign.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


JORDAN: And, of course, NEWSROOM will continue to cover this presidential campaign all the way until November.

WALCOTT: Tuesdays are the day, democracy in America is the theme. Mark it on your calendar, and we'll see you back here tomorrow.

JORDAN: We'll see you then -- bye.



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