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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for May 18, 2000

Aired May 18, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And we're cruising into Thursday here on NEWSROOM. Thanks for coming along for the ride. I'm Shelley Walcott. Here's what's coming up.

In today's top story, terrorized civilians celebrate in Sierra Leone as the leader of a rebel group is found and captured.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as Foday Sankoh is not dead, the problem in this nation will not solve.


WALCOTT: We delve into the anatomy of dinosaurs in "Science Desk" and get to the heart of the matter.


DALE RUSSELL, PALEONTOLOGIST, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIV.: We didn't believe we'd find a heart. No one in his right mind could find a dinosaur heart from 66 million years ago.


WALCOTT: We head to Asia for "Worldview," where China's human rights record fuels more controversy.


SUN YUXI, CHINESE FOREIGN MIN. SPOKESMAN (through translator): The U.N. Human Rights Commission should be a forum for equal exchanges and dialogue between all countries in the world, not a venue for political confrontation.


WALCOTT: Then in "Chronicle," redefining the battle of the broadsword. The face behind the mask will surprise you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AMELIA GAILLARD, FENCER: It's really different. I mean, you come up to people and they're like, so you do any sports? And I say, yes, I fence. And they're like, fencing? What's fencing?


WALCOTT: Today's top story takes us to the West African nation of Sierra Leone. A rebel leader whose followers launched a campaign of terror in that country has been captured. Government forces picked up Foday Sankoh yesterday. News of that capture prompted celebrations in the streets of the capital, Freetown.

Thousands of people died in Freetown during Sierra Leone's civil war throughout much of the 1990s. And it was Sankoh's rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, that did most of the killing, along with looting and maiming.

Some background information on the conflict: This civil war has lasted nine years. Rebel forces have been trying to seize power in the country. In July, the rebels signed a peace deal with the government. That gave rebel leaders, including Sankoh, government posts and amnesty for war crimes. But that accord was damaged after rebels took United Nations peacekeepers hostage this month. Now, there's hope Sankoh's capture could bring a speedy end to Sierra Leone's reignited civil war.

Ben Wedeman has more from Freetown.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the news everyone in Freetown was waiting for: rebel leader Foday Sankoh found and taken into government custody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I jumped with joy. I'm glad because the traitor has been got hold of.

WEDEMAN: Sankoh, who leads the rebel Revolutionary United Front, went missing 10 days ago after thousands of demonstrators marched on his villa, demanding an end to violence in Sierra Leone. Sankoh's guard opened fire on the crowd, killing 19.

Sankoh was captured after he was seen trying to get back inside his house, presumably, according to diplomats, to retrieve either drugs, diamonds or money. Neighbors alerted the police, who apprehended him after a brief exchange of gunfire with Sankoh's guards.

Neighbors said Sankoh was accompanied by a man they described as a sorcerer.

British military sources confirm eyewitness accounts that police shot Sankoh in the leg. They also say Sankoh was transported on a British helicopter to what they called a "secure location" near Freetown's airport where he's being held by Sierra Leonean police. Sankoh's being kept well away from the people of Freetown who blame Sankoh's rebels for some of the worst atrocities in Sierra Leone's brutal nine-year civil war.

JULIUS SPENCER, INFORMATION MINISTER: There is so much anger against him now. It seems the demonstration on the 8th of May when 19 people were killed, that there's a lot of anger by the public, and people are determined to get at him and kill him, and we do not want that to happen.

WEDEMAN: Some want to dispense with legal niceties all together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let the government leave Foday Sankoh to us and we will take care of him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll kill him because if he's alive, the problem will continue. We'll kill him. As long as Foday Sankoh is not dead, the problem in this nation will not solve.

WEDEMAN: Just hours before Sankoh's capture, 95 U.N. peacekeepers released by the rebels returned to Freetown.

(on camera): U.N. officials hope that now Foday Sankoh has been found, he can be persuaded to help win the release of 350 other U.N. peacekeepers still in rebel hands.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Freetown.


WALCOTT: We venture into the land of the lost. Dinosaurs are one of the great secrets of Earth. Why did these roaming reptiles disappear? To engage the imagination, Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History has unveiled a 67-million-year-old dinosaur named "Sue." It's the largest, most complete, best-preserved T. rex ever discovered.

Dinosaurs are technically reptiles that died off about 66.4 million years ago. Because discovered dinosaur remains probably represent only about 0.0001 percent of all the dinosaurs that once lived, scientists don't have a lot to work with when uncovering the mysteries of the dinosaur. Every once in awhile, they stumble on scientific pay dirt, and seven years ago it appears paleontologists did just that with another dinosaur.

Ann Kellan looks at what they found.


ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside this clump of dirt in the chest cavity of this dinosaur is what's believed to be the world's first fossilized remains of a dinosaur's heart. Even the researchers had trouble believing their find.

RUSSELL: This came as a shock, and also because we didn't believe we'd find a heart. No one in his right mind could find a dinosaur heart from 66 million years ago.

KELLAN: And there's more: Cat scan images suggest the heart had four highly developed chambers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the heart, and right ventricle, left ventricle.

KELLAN: Which means the dinosaur may have been warm blooded, more like a bird than a reptile.

The dinosaur nicknamed "Willow" was discovered in 1993 in South Dakota, embedded in sandstone. It's a Thescelosaurus, a hog-like plant eater the size of a pony.

(on camera): The two researchers from Oregon who first discovered Willow brought the entire fossil to a local hospital, put it on a CAT scan machine like this to have it imaged. Those images were sent to North Carolina State University where special computer software converted the images into 3-D.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A heart here, as it rotates around, you'll be able to see the aorta coming up.

MICHAEL STOSKOPF, CLINICAL ECOLOGIST, N.C. STATE UNIV.: We see the two chambers and we assume the other two chambers were there and collapsed.

RUSSELL: Most people feel that birds evolved from one kind of dinosaur. But our bad luck was to find the other kind of dinosaur, and unfortunately it has a birdlike heart, too. So this means that birdlike hearts may be typical of highly evolved, late-in-the-era dinosaurs. They were going somewhere. They were evolving. They were changing.

KELLAN (voice-over): So researchers theorize that not all dinosaur hearts would be the same.

STOSKOPF: I think all the dinosaurs were different, that there's a lot of diversity, we're going to find different systems and different dinosaurs as we look for them.

KELLAN: Now researchers who are skeptical of the link between dinosaurs and birds will have a chance to study this heart, further fueling the debate over the origins and evolution of the dinosaurs.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Raleigh, North Carolina.


WALCOTT: Today's "Desk Extra" continues our focus on things large and looming. Our topic: volcanoes. Did you know Indonesia and Japan have the world's highest number of historically active volcanoes? The United States ranks number three on that list. And about 10 percent of the volcanoes that erupted during the last 10,000 years were located in the U.S. One of the most famous happened two decades ago in Washington State.

Greg Lefevre looks at Mt. Saint Helens then and now.


GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty years ago, a massive blast sideways from Mt. St. Helens vaporized forests in 5,000-degree heat, flattened hundreds of miles of timberland, and killed 57 people, many of whom vanished beneath tons of ash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We first thought it was a forest fire or something, then all of a sudden we realized it was the mountain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you could see it churning and churning and boiling, and you could actually hear it, just kind of rumble. So we were actually right under it.

LEFEVRE: Scientists who watched it blow now say the eruption began with a modest earthquake, enough to loosen the already unstable mountainside.

PETER LIPMAN, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: And that released the pressure that was holding the molten rock inside the volcano. And then a number of seconds after they observed the beginning of the landslide, they saw the first ash cloud come out and the big explosions begin.

LEFEVRE: Mt. St. Helens stunned scientists with its ferocity, so much so it is now the most studied volcano in the world.

LIPMAN: The events on May 18 involved an earthquake, a landslide, a horizontally directed explosion, a vertically directed explosion, and the resulting deposits are immensely complicated.

LEFEVRE: Scientists rushed to Mt. St. Helens in spring 1980 to study what was then just a rumbling mountain. Lipman's fellow scientist and friend David Johnston died in the blast. Johnston is memorialized outside his old office with a chunk of the volcano he died studying.

Now tourists' helicopters fly over the volcano's edge. About 3 million per year visit the 100,000-acre national preserve. Much of the land will look this way for centuries. But amid the dust, life returns, sometimes flourishes.

BOB ANDREW, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: It is beautiful, wildflowers all over. We have lots and lots of wild elk and deer. In fact, we have more deer than we had before.

LEFEVRE: The fury of Mt. St. Helens has turned scientists' attention to Oregon's Mt. Hood to the south and to Washington's Mt. Rainier. Both are geologic cousins. Both are capable of the same thing.

Greg Lefevre, CNN, San Francisco.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news. WALCOTT: Today in "Worldview," a trio of topics. We'll look at Lebanon, where refugees are reflecting on their past and their future. We'll also check out China and its human rights position.

But first, several countries try to put their best face forward. Think of it as positive PR, or public relations. It's all about manipulating the media.

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: "Worldview" gets started with a look back at the Kosovo conflict and adds the perspective of hindsight. We all saw the role the media played in the conflict as ethnic Albanians in the Yugoslav province were driven from their homes into neighboring countries. Now, nearly a year after NATO strikes ended, truth is easier to separate from fiction.

Kosovo was granted autonomous status from the Yugoslav republic of Serbia in 1974. But in 1989, then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic took that autonomy, claiming the land as sacred to Serbia. By 1990, Yugoslavia sends in troops and dissolves Kosovo's government. That began the armed standoff between Yugoslavs and Kosovars, who were mainly ethnic Albanian. It took a NATO campaign of air strikes to bring an end to the fighting. But the smoke from the war is still clearing.

As recently as Wednesday, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic shut down four private media outlets in Belgrade, all of which have been critical of the Milosevic administration.

Chris Burns looks at how both sides have tried to use the media to their advantage.


CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The hardship and destruction during the Kosovo conflict were very real. But both NATO and Belgrade engaged in spin control, or propaganda, in presenting those images.

After a peace plan broke down amid violations by both Serb forces and Kosovo Liberation Army fighters, and after peace talks at Rambouillet collapsed, NATO launched its air strikes March 24. Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his own offensive, driving hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians out of the Serbian province.

(on camera): As the mounting suffering filled TV screens around the world, both sides tried to win over international public opinion by emphasis, omission, or with dubious information.

(voice-over): Belgrade stressed NATO hits on nonmilitary sites, whether intended or not.

STEFAN RUSS-MOLL, FREE UNIVERSITY BERLIN: Of course they showed a lot of the civilian damages which were done by NATO, and they just did not show what their own police and their own military had done to the Albanians in Kosovo. BURNS: Meanwhile, critics say daily NATO briefings appeared like sanitized video games hyping NATO accomplishments.

"We all experienced wartime propaganda that did not conform to the truth," he said. "In many cases, false things were announced or suggested with TV images. We were told of NATO successes that later were proven false. The destruction of the Serb tank force that later proved false was pure NATO propaganda."

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea admits fewer tanks were destroyed and that he gave out conflicting information about a bloody NATO strike on a refugee convoy.

JAMIE SHEA, NATO SPOKESMAN: We knew that, of course, we should not say anything to the media until we had the facts because the worst thing that we could do is to mislead. So I'm not saying this was perfect, but, Chris, what I am saying, that there was no manipulation, no disinformation.

BURNS: NATO reported Serb atrocities such as mass graves. Some of the information later proved false or exaggerated.

SHEA: We have been extremely careful to source our information. If we heard of an atrocity, we sourced it to refugee reports or other reports to make it clear that we were still in the process of verifying the accuracy.

BURNS: Experts say the fog of war puts reporters in a bind.

RUSS-MOLL: Sometimes you'll find later on that you have been manipulated, but it's very hard to find it out right away.

BURNS: A caveat for every journalist and every viewer in every crisis.

Chris Burns, CNN, Berlin.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: The United Nations Human Rights Commission failed to censure China over its human rights abuses once again, despite a U.S. resolution to do so. To censure a country is to issue an official rebuke. It's the ninth failure to reproach Beijing in the past decade, although the world's most populous nation has come under criticism repeatedly for its human rights record.

Rebecca MacKinnon has more.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Widespread denials of political, cultural, labor and religious freedom in China. The United States strongly believes that favorable action on this resolution is needed.

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): When it comes to criticism of China's human rights record at this year's U.N. forum, the Chinese government says, buzz off.

YUXI (through translator): The U.N. Human Rights Commission should be a forum for equal exchanges and dialogue between all countries in the world, not a venue for political confrontation.

MACKINNON: Democracy activist He Depu disagrees.

HE DEPU, CHINA DEMOCRACY PARTY (through translator): The Chinese government should think about why people keep criticizing its poor rights record and think about whether they have made mistakes. They shouldn't turn critics into enemies.

MACKINNON: The Chinese government dismisses criticism of its crackdown on the Falun Gong meditation group as interference in China's internal affairs. But these Falun Gong followers risked arrest to tell the world how police detained them in a mental hospital, demanding the equivalent of several months salary in so- called "hospital fees" for their release.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They said if we didn't pay they'd send us to a labor camp. Then they threatened our daughters and said they wouldn't get into high school. And then they cut off the electricity at home.

MACKINNON: Human rights groups have also condemned an ongoing crackdown in China's northwestern Xinjiang province. Muslim businesswoman and activist Rebiya Kadeer was recently sentenced to eight years in prison. And now, a former government official who supported the 1989 student democracy movement is speaking out.

Under strict house arrest since his release from prison in 1996, Bao Tong recently wrote to Chinese leaders and the U.N. high commissioner on human rights.

(on camera): In his letter, Bao Tong challenged the Chinese courts to prove that he has ever violated the Chinese Constitution so the world can see how the Chinese government is upholding its commitments to the U.N. Covenant on Human Rights.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Beijing.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Lebanon is home to some of the world's oldest human settlements. Its location, bordering Israel and Syria, has made it a popular respite for diverse religious and ethnic groups, and those seeking political asylum. Since gaining independence almost six decades ago, Lebanon has struggled with its governance, a weakness which has left the republic vulnerable to outside forces. History tells us how.

In 1978, Israel invaded Southern Lebanon to try to drive out Palestinian terrorists who had been attacking Israel. In 1982, Israel launched another assault which resulted in the withdrawal of most Palestinian forces from Lebanon. In 1985, Israel withdrew from Lebanon, except from the so-called security zone along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Ever since then, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas have been fighting to end Israeli occupation from that buffer zone. They cite a United Nations resolution passed in 1978 calling for Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

Today, we focus on the plight of some of Lebanon's Palestinian refugees. And for that, we turn to Brent Sadler.


BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunset over Lebanon, home to around 400,000 Palestinian refugees.

Ein el-Hilweh (ph) camp in South Lebanon: Chaker Yassin (ph) has lived here ever since his parents fled Palestine in 1948. His mother Mariam has regretted it ever since.

"It would have been better to die in Palestine," she says, "than to have come here."

Her son examines his father's legacy: a plastic bag filled with aging scraps of paper and Palestinian identities.

"Nothings lost," says Chaker. "We have these papers to our land. Everyone knows where their boundaries are."

He shares that desperate claim with countless other refugees. Ahmed el-Haj (ph) shows similar documents. They refer to once Palestinian-owned land at Smaryeh, now subject to Israeli law.

(on camera): Palestinian refugee dreams of a return to what they still call home pays scant regard to reality here on the other side of the border, and what's taken place over more than half a century of Israeli settlement and expansion.

(voice-over): An Israeli kibbutz battle-scared from the 1948 conflict, now well-established, peaceful and prosperous. The kibbutz is developing adjacent land -- Smaryeh's once Palestinian land. Its being turned into a $5 million shopping complex. Palestinians who never left Israel remain bitter about Smaryeh.

ABED BASHIR, FORMER SMARYEH RESIDENT (through translator): What is there to say? It makes my blood boil, but there's nothing we can do.

SADLER: Back in Ein el-Hilweh, another refugee, 73-year-old Hussein Salah (ph), pores over mementos to what he says was family land at Akbara in Israel's northern Galilee. He treasures this 50- year-old door key and the photograph of abandoned land at Akbara, the same view of Akbara today.

But there's no door for Hussein's key to open in what remains of his old community: piles of stones and fading memories.

Brent Sadler, CNN, on the Lebanese-Israeli border.


WALCOTT: You've heard of the Three Musketeers, and chances are you're also familiar with Zorro. But have you ever heard of the Nellya Fencers? They're a group of young Americans slicing through the stereotypes in the world of fencing. I recently spent some time with them. Here's a profile.


(voice-over): When most Americans think of fencing, scenes like this one from "The Mask of Zorro" is what usually comes to mind. But the image of fencing in the United States is changing.

Fayetteville, Georgia, home to a group of young fencers, redefining the battle of the broadswords. Sixteen-year-old Amelia Gaillard is a student at the Nellya Fencing School. She says it's a sport she loves.

A. GAILLARD: It's really different. I mean, you come up to people and they're like, so do you do any sports? And I say, yes, I fence. And they're like, fencing? What's fencing? Or the one I hate the most is when they say, oh, girls do that? Like, yes.

WALCOTT: Amelia has been fencing for over a decade. She learned the sport at the Counterpane School. The private Montessori facility teaches kids from preschool through high school. Counterpane emphasizes the arts and sports, and fencing is an important part of the curriculum.

BRENDA ERICKSSON, COUNTERPANE SCHOOL DIRECTOR: We consider the days they are actually in competition as part of school. That's not a day missed. These children have traveled to Europe for competition, so they get a worldly picture. I believe their exposure through fencing will contribute to their whole picture, and their whole -- their level of tolerance.

WALCOTT (on camera): Fencers refer to their sport as chess with muscles. It requires a lot of thinking, a lot of strategy. It also requires a lot of dedication.

(voice-over): Amelia and her teammates practice, on average, three hours a day, six days a week. It's all under the stern tutelage of Russian-born coach Archotti Berdan. The kids call him "Maestro."

ARCHOTTI BERDAN, FENCING COACH: Actually, when they no work hard, I try to do everything what I can to push them. When I cannot, they're going. Big talents -- I used to have big talents, and they go because they no follow me.

WALCOTT: It's a tough approach, one that has at least one parent concerned.

ELAINE GAILLARD, AMELIA'S MOTHER: I worry all the time. I think the coach thinks I'm far too easy on her, and I think he's much too hard on her.

WALCOTT: But under Maestro's stern guidance, the Nellya Fencers have picked up several medals at international competitions, making Team U.S.A. a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. This year, Amelia picked up gold and silver medals at the Junior Pan Am games. Teammate say that Jacobson picked up a bronze medal at the World Cup. And Cristina Crane (ph) is this year's U.S. national champion. And all of the girls have their eye on the 2004 Olympics.

A good portion of the battle in fencing appears to be just suiting up. Players wear layers of protective clothing.

A. GAILLARD: What we put on first is a breast protector -- very important.

WALCOTT (on camera): I'll bet.

(voice-over): An underarm protector goes over that, then a thin jacket. On top of that, a metallic jacket, followed by gloves, and, of course, the all-important mask.

The fencing weapon, a sword with an electronic tip, is called a saber.

(on camera): But, Amelia, this looks pretty sharp. I mean when this hits you, doesn't that hurt?

A. GAILLARD: It can once in a while if you get hit hard enough or if the blade whips over, sometimes.

WALCOTT (voice-over): The fencer also wears a body cord, which plugs into a wire inside the saber. The other end of the cord is attached to a real wire, connecting the fencer to a scoring machine. The cord acts as a conductor, setting off a green light when the fencer touches her opponent, or a red one if she is hit. The winner is the first fencer to score 15 points.

But supporters of the Nellya Fencers say all their athletes are winners already.

ERICKSSON: They are actually doing something that they care so much about, and being respected enough to be given the time to do it well.

WALCOTT: A unique learning experience, they say, that will last far past the days these athletes hold a saber in their hands.


WALCOTT: And that was a lot of fun.

Well, after back-to-back launch delays, the space shuttle Atlantis is getting ready for its scheduled takeoff tomorrow morning, weather permitting. It will be the 98th mission in the 19-year history of the U.S. shuttle program. During the 10-day mission, the seven-member crew will replace four batteries on board the international space station. Join CNN for live coverage of the shuttle launch at the times show on your screen.


Shuttle Atlantis Launch, Friday, 6:12 a.m. ET; 3:12 a.m. PT.


And that wraps it up for us here at NEWSROOM. We'll see you back here tomorrow.



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