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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for May 11, 2000

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


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: It's Thursday here on NEWSROOM. Thanks for joining us. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

We have lots lined up for you. We start with the look ahead.

In today's top story, the Elian Gonzalez saga returns to court. We'll preview the next round in the battle over the 6-year-old Cuban boy.


DAVID COLE, GEORGETOWN LAW CENTER: The Justice Department concedes that any alien can apply for asylum. They simply say where the alien is a minor, then you have to look to who can speak for the minor.


BAKHTIAR: Next, in our "Science Desk," the need for speed on the information superhighway. We'll tell you about a chip that could jump-start the Web.


BILL STEIER, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Everyone wants on the Internet faster, wants to get their downloads faster, and lots of information in a short length of time.


BAKHTIAR: From technological wonders to a wonder of the world, today's "Worldview" zeros in on the pyramids of Egypt.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: A French expedition team has uncovered a pyramid that was built for a queen.


BAKHTIAR: Then, in "Chronicle," we profile a teenager taking the country music scene by storm.

In today's top story, can a 6-year-old decide for himself if he wants political asylum? A Cuban boy's odyssey takes another turn as a federal appeals court judges take up that question today. The case of Elian Gonzalez has galvanized protesters in the U.S., most of them yesterday supporting efforts by Elian's Miami relatives to win him political asylum. So far, Elian's odyssey has taken him from Havana, to Miami, to the Washington, D.C. area.

The next stop in the Elian battle is Atlanta, Georgia where the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals is based, the latest locale in the saga that began in the waters separating the U.S. and Cuba.

It was last Thanksgiving that Elian was found clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Florida. His mother died in an attempt to bring her son to the U.S. At this point, Elian became a legal alien, taking up residence in the U.S. even though he's a citizen of Cuba. Relatives living in Miami took custody. They want him to stay and have filed for him to receive asylum, protection given especially to political refugees by a nation.

His father and the Cuban government want him back in Cuba. The U.S. Justice Department says only the boy's father can speak for him. They enforced that notion by sending federal agents to the home of his relatives to seize him nearly three weeks ago. Son was reunited with father, and both have been sequestered off the coast of Maryland awaiting the outcome of the appeal.

Charles Bierbauer looks at the legal questions.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Juan Miguel Gonzalez wants the court to say he may take his son Elian back to Cuba. It's Elian's Miami relatives who seek political asylum for him in the U.S. So far, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has denied their asylum claim. One federal court agreed with the INS, but the appeals court in Atlanta gave the Miami relatives a moment of hope in an interim ruling last month, noting INS regulations say, "any alien may apply for asylum."

COLE: The Justice Department concedes that any Alien can apply for asylum. They simply say where the alien is a minor, then you have to look to who can speak for the minor.

BIERBAUER: The U.S. enforced its decision on custody when federal agents removed Elian from his relatives' Miami home.

DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: Well, the father speaks for the child.

BIERBAUER: But the asylum question is still open. Again, the 11th Circuit might have encouraged the Miami relatives by citing INS guidelines that caution: "Asylum officers should not assume that a child cannot have an asylum claim independent of the parents." The court chided the INS for not interviewing Elian. INS has since assigned a psychiatrist and social worker to meet regularly with him.

The 11th Circuit could rule immigration officials must reconsider an asylum hearing. INS Would still have to assess a 6-year-old's understanding of what political asylum means. And it would have to determine whether Elian faces persecution back in Cuba. Immigration experts doubt it.

COLE: How likely is it that Cuba, which has been fighting to have this kid come back to Cuba, which will make him a national hero when he comes back, is going to persecute him?

BIERBAUER (on camera): If Elian's Miami relatives lose, they could appeal to the Supreme Court. But there would be no division over the immigration law in lower courts and, therefore, the justices might find, nothing left for them to resolve.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Washington.


BAKHTIAR: These days, the fastest way to move information is by fiberoptic thread because it uses light. According to Albert Einstein, light is as fast as we get. So what's the speed of light? That's our science quiz today. Think about it and we'll give you the answer later.

We can't speed up light, so scientists are trying to see if there are other ways to save time. A new high speed chip just may be the answer.

Ann Kellan tells us all about it.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tired of waiting for a file to download? This new plastic chip could help speed up traffic on the information highway, so much so we may one day be able to send 3D holograms like those on "Star Trek"'s holodeck.

STEIER: Everyone wants on the Internet faster, wants to get their downloads faster, and lots of information in a short length of time.

KELLAN: The designers call it the opto-chip. Here's how it could help unclog telecommunication networks: Information on the Internet or from a phone conversation starts as an electronic signal. Once it leaves your home, it gets switched into a light beam to travel across speedy fiberoptic networks. But switching from electric to light can slow things up. The new chip does it five to 10 times faster than existing technologies.

How it does it is still a secret. Before you get too excited, you'll need a high-speed connection to the Internet like DSL or a cable modem for the opto-chip to help. But developers hope to find commercial uses for the chip from companies that move vast amounts of data across the globe to the aerospace industry and the military to help satellites talk to one another.

The opto-chip isn't the only switching technology in town.

GORDON THOMAS, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: There is an exciting race going on between these people making these optical switches out of plastic and the people making the optical switches out of crystal. And what these guys are reporting is that the plastic guys have made a very significant advance.

KELLAN: Unlike "Star Trek," centuries into the future of science fiction, we're still a long way from the absolutely lifelike images of a holodeck. But the opto-chip brings us one step closer to the day we can "make it so."

Ann Kellan, CNN, Atlanta.


BAKHTIAR: OK, it's time now to answer the pop quiz. What is the speed of light? Think it over for a second. Are you ready for the answer? Here it goes: The speed of light is more than 186,000 miles or more than 299 kilometers per second.

Yesterday, we talked about how fast cell phones have caught on with folks your age. Today we talk about the controversy over cell phone safety. The British government says while there's no firm evidence, cell phones may be putting your developing bodies at risk.

Doctor Steve Salvatore looks at the controversy.


DR. STEVE SALVATORE, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many cell phone users claim the devices cause a variety of conditions, including headaches, memory loss, Alzheimer's, even brain tumors. But experts say there's just not enough scientific proof.

DR. LISA DEANGELIS, MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER: The usage of the phones in this country and the incidence of brain tumors, there is not a tight link between the two.

SALVATORE: Even the FDA says they will not declare cell phones safe or unsafe.

Cell phones work by using microwave radiation to send your voice over the airwaves. That same technology is also used to cook food in microwave ovens. The difference is power. The average microwave oven uses 100 watts of power to send its signal. A cell phone uses only about 0.6 watts. That's less than 1/100 the power. But you don't hold a microwave oven an inch from your brain. A cell phone's radiation field is concentrated to about 3 to 4 inches around the antenna. But is that enough to cause brain injury, even brain cancer? Nobody knows.

LOUIS SLESIN, "MICROWAVE NEWS": The further away the antenna is, the less exposure you get. Every millimeter counts.

SALVATORE: According to a spokesperson from the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, quote, "The overall science continues to show that there is not a link between mobile phones and adverse health effects."

Experts say more research is under way to determine if cell phones are completely safe. It may take years before doctors will know for sure if cell phones cause long-term effects, such as cancer.

(on camera): If you're concerned about cell phone safety, there are a few options. You can limit your talk time, use a hands-free device like this to keep the antenna a safe distance from your head, or you can just hang up.

Dr. Steve Salvatore, CNN, New York.


BAKHTIAR: Pyramids and pixies pop up in "Worldview" today. We take you on adventures to Europe and Africa. In France, we meet tiny folk who are the stuff of folklore, and now part of folk art. And we'll travel to a tomb in Egypt, a new discovery that's the resting place of an ancient queen. And from Kenya, artisans are busy turning out crafts and hoping for buyers.

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: We begin in Kenya, an African nation located on the equator. It became a British protectorate in 1895 and gained its independence from Great Britain in 1963. In 1977, Kenya issued a ban on big game hunting followed by a ban on ivory trade in 1989. In 1997, all trade in ivory was banned by CITES, the Convention in Trade and Endangered Species, an international agreement administered by the United Nations.

But in 1997, CITES members agreed to allow a few African nations to begin limited exports of ivory to Japan. Kenya is not among these nations. Instead, Kenya is pushing other products and handicrafts as it attempts to build world markets.

Alphonso Van Marsh has more.


ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Nairobi, artists at a United Nations development program produce African home furnishings. Many Western importers say they want the handicrafts but are afraid to come and buy in Africa because they think it's too dangerous. VICTOR LAMONT, PRODUCT DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER: If the picture of Africa is always one of conflict, of war, of potbellied children, then people are not so optimistic about the trading possibilities they have here.

VAN MARSH: If the U.N. name can boost confidence in international buyers, Center Management says shops like these in East and Central Africa could earn up to $250 million per year and provide a million more jobs per country.

(on camera): Some believe Africa is unfairly portrayed as a continental war zone. But it is the perception, often the reality of war, which some argue keeps Africa from being a powerful global player.

(voice-over): If African conflicts could be resolved, economists argue, investment and development would soon follow. Countries emerging from conflict, like Botswana, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique and Nigeria, are trying to set up a business environment others hope to model.

Nigerian Johnson Ekpere, a consultant to the Organization of African Unity, is optimistic about Africa's future.

JOHNSON A. EKPERE, CONSULTANT, ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY: This continent in this century is very much poised to play a lead role as a major partner, as an equal partner, as a recognizable partner in development.

VAN MARSH: Typecast by conflict, many Africans may feel swept under the table of global development. Ekpere says it's about time the flow of trade shifts towards Africa, if only by one job, one handicraft at a time.

Alphonso Van Marsh, CNN, Nairobi.


WALCOTT: Next stop, Egypt, a Middle Eastern country located in the northeast corner of Africa. Egypt is considered by many as the birthplace of civilization. The ancient Egyptians developed a great culture about 5,000 years ago. They created the world's first national government, basic forms of arithmetic, and a 365-day calendar. But perhaps their best known achievements are the pyramids they built as tombs for their rulers. The gigantic stone structures have been preserved by the dry climate for about 4,500 years. They are marvels of architecture and engineering and serve as a reminder to the glory of ancient culture.


(voice-over): It's the site that draws thousands of visitors to Egypt every year: the ancient pyramids, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Now tourists will have another pyramid to marvel at. A French expedition team has uncovered a pyramid that was built for a queen. DR. ZAHI HAWASS, DIRECTOR OF THE GIZA PLATEAU: By the discovery of this new pyramid, the number of pyramids became now 108 pyramids.

WALCOTT: The pyramid is believed to be about 4,000 years old and was discovered in an ancient royal cemetery south of Cairo. Researchers say it is the tomb of Queen Ankhes-Pepy. She acquired power when her son, Pepy II, became pharaoh at the tender age of 6.

Her newly-discovered pyramid is significant because it is the first time a queen's burial chamber has been found to carry a pyramid text. The texts are special prayers inscribed on walls to protect the dead and ensure sustenance in the afterlife. Until this discovery, such texts had only been found in the pyramids of kings.

AUDRAN LABROUSSE, DIRECTOR OF THE FRENCH EXPEDITION: When we found this extraordinary discovery, of course it was a very great moment because we searched for this tomb for 10 years.

WALCOTT: The French team plans to restore the pyramid using its original stones and fragments found around the area. They hope to have it restored within three years.


BAKHTIAR: France is our next stop, a European nation known for its fine food, fashion and art. But today we focus on some tiny creatures which are part of European folklore: gnomes. A Swiss doctor helped popularize gnomes during the 1500s. He wrote that gnomes could move through solid earth as easily as fish swam through water. Gnomes are associated with treasures and with mining. Take the Seven Dwarves, for example, those famous little men from the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. And that's our pop quiz today: Can you name the Seven Dwarves?

The answer coming up after this report on gnomes by Jim Bittermann.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ah, Paris, a world capital of culture and art. Here's the new wing at the Louvre Museum, featuring examples of great primitive sculptures from four continents. No one could possibly question the artistic merit of such a tasteful collection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the beginning I was very afraid because I think, here, that people will hate me.

BITTERMANN: Yet here on the other side of Paris, questions are everywhere, even in the mind of the curator of the new exhibit that brings together great garden gnomes of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No answers, only some questions about bad taste, about good taste.

BITTERMANN: You could almost read those questions on the faces of the visitors to the French gnome show. After all, one of the more elegant 18th-century properties in the nation has suddenly been overrun with more than 2,000 plastic and ceramic dwarfs of uncertain beauty -- well, uncertain to anyone taller than they. Gnomes are clearly more beautiful when eye to eye with their beholders.

For the serious, adult art connoisseur, the dwarf display is a rich learning experience with explanations of how the little creatures pair off and marry and reproduce. and somehow seem to spring from the ground in some people's front yards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you see first the hat, and then the head, and then the body, they come out from the earth.

BITTERMANN: On the historical side, there are displays of the earliest gnomes dating back to ones horrified Romans might have discovered sprouting from their neighbors' lawns, as well as famous little guys from across the centuries, the sleepy, dopey, and lazy ones, the dangerous ones, the valuable ones. And while the gnome show has won some converts...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, yes, it's real art.

BITTERMANN: ... other art lovers reject such a dubious display of garden affection.


BITTERMANN (on camera): No?


BITTERMANN (voice-over): The exhibition's curator, on loan from the Louvre Museum, thinks people may be taking the whole thing a bit too seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My career is finished, but that doesn't matter. There is sun, there are dwarfs, I am happy. Everything is OK.

BITTERMANN (on camera): Still, despite the forced smiles, not all is OK here. Barely three weeks into the exhibition, raiders from the GGLF, the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, have struck, kidnapping 20 of the gnomes, saying they will only to be released in the seclusion of their natural forest habitat.

(voice-over): Some people clearly believe that, no matter what it takes, gnomes which appear in public must be stopped.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


BAKHTIAR: OK, time for the answer to our pop quiz: Can you name the Seven Dwarves? Here goes: They're Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, Bashful, Happy and Sleepy.

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

BAKHTIAR: OK, guys, when you got up and got dressed this morning, how much thought did you put into what you're wearing? Does it reflect your mood, individuality, personality? Well, like it or not, more and more schools are adopting the uniform policy. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the board of education is requiring students to wear uniforms.

And as Bob Franken reports, some students are finding it very hard to accept.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Philadelphia's Central High School is the second oldest public school in the United States, but there's nothing traditional about the students' clothes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing wrong with being an individual and showing who you are, and now they're just trying to make us all the same.

FRANKEN: The Philadelphia Board of Education has become the first major city school district to require uniforms in all city public schools. Individual public schools in several U.S. cities have initiated their own policies.

Still, many of the students here complain they're being dragged into conformity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, he's taller than me. We all know that. He's wearing blue, he's wearing red, he's wearing red, I'm wearing black. That's who we are.

FRANKEN: If there was ever a disconnect between kids and parents, this would be it.

GWEN ERBY, PARENT: I applaud it. I am very, very happy about that -- very happy.

FRANKEN: Local polls show thunderous applause from most parents for the board's decision, particularly parents whose children go to schools which already require uniforms.

LINDA ABROMPAB, PARENT: It seems his whole attitude is different when he has designer clothes on -- his walk, his mannerisms. When he has his uniform on, he's a gentleman.

FRANKEN: A nationwide study in 1998 found that more than half of the elementary school principals requiring uniforms reported academic improvement.

EILEEN SPAGNOLA, KEARNEY ELEMENTARY PRINCIPAL: When they're dressed in their uniform, they know they're here to learn, they're not here to play. FRANKEN (on camera): Individual schools in Philadelphia can design their own look, so parents, administrators and reluctant students will have the opportunity to create their uniforms.

SHELDON PAVEL, PRESIDENT, CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL: We'll put their minds to work on trying to help create something that they can live with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have to wear uniforms, I guess I'm going to be sent home every day because I don't think I'm going to do it.


FRANKEN: The school board doesn't plan to punish anyone for a year after the new rule goes into effect. The time will be used to sell the policy to students. It will be a hard sell.

Bob Franken, CNN, Philadelphia.


BAKHTIAR: You may be familiar with singers like Shania Twain and Wynona Judd. The roster of female country singers is growing larger every day, and so are the ranks of country music listeners. Around 77 million Americans listen to country music each week. The latest rising voice is that of a teenager singing her way from a small town just outside of Washington, D.C. to Nashville, Tennessee.

NEWSROOM's Michael McManus has her story.


MICHAEL MCMANUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By day, she's the typical American girl, attending high school, hanging out with friends, and playing sports. But at night, that's an entirely different story.

Her name is Katy Benko. She's a 17-year-old that's taken the country music scene by storm.

KATY BENKO, AGE 17: I came into country when I first heard Patsy Cline. And she is what -- I fell in love with country music from that moment on.

MCMANUS: Katy grew up in the town of Herndon, Virginia just outside Washington, D.C. She started performing at the age of 2. Both she and her father, John, enjoy recalling the younger days.

K.BENKO: I ruined my mom and dad's coffee table.

JOHN BENKO, KATY'S FATHER: She got up on the coffee table.

K. BENKO: I used to take a wooden spoon...

J. BENKO: ... or a hairbrush, and that was her microphone. K. BENKO: And I put on a show for my parents, and I made them clap.

MCMANUS: The practice paid off. She's won singing world championships, started a Web site selling her albums, and has just signed a contract with a recording label.

K. BENKO: My first concert ever was probably the most exciting thing I've done up to date because, first of all, it was a sell out, which was a huge thrill. And second of all, it made me feel like, you know, I can do this, I can go out there and sing and I can sell tickets and I can put on a show that people want to see and that they'll enjoy.

MCMANUS (on camera): Katy Benko has gone from singing in front of a few people in her living room to crooning before hundreds of fans in concert halls and theaters. But according to Katy, it's not the number of people, but her singing that help energize her performances.

K. BENKO: To me, it doesn't matter whether it's five people or whether it's 5,000 because I love to sing. And anybody who wants to listen, I will give them the best show I possibly can.

SUSAN FOOSE, FAN: I started shaking at the concert, actually, and I started to cry, which surprised me because I've never been to a concert where that's happened.

DIANE D'AMICO, FAN: She is enjoyable. When you come, you feel like you're partying.

K. BENKO: Are you one of those Leonardo DiCaprio fans?


K. BENKO (singing): Near, far, wherever you are...

You like that movie?

MCMANUS: Katie's band recognizes her talent and is embracing it.

HAL SINGER, BAND MEMBER: It's really inspiring and it's amazing to have an opportunity to back up as a musician someone with her caliber, of that type of vocalist. It's -- you know, I feel like we're on the beginning of something really amazing.

TOM SMALLWOOD, BAND MEMBER: You're excited, you're happy, you just, you know -- it's just an incredible feeling to play with her.

JULIE CROSSON, BAND MEMBER: She just has so much power.

MCMANUS: Julie Crosson should know. She's known Katie since they were 11 years old and now sings in her band. When the pressure is on the rising star, Julie's there to relieve it and to remind Katy she's still a teenager.

CROSSON: When I'm in the band, it kind of keeps her more on a kid level, you know. It kind of helps her have somebody with her to sort of hang out with, and we can talk about boys and all that fun stuff.

MCMANUS: The band practices around Katy's school and softball schedule, but she graduates from high school next month, leaving much more time to perform in front of an ever-growing number of fans.


BAKHTIAR: Katy says she plans to put off college for awhile so she can pursue her career in music. Head to for more information about Katy, including her Web address.

As for me, I'll see you tomorrow.



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