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NEWSROOM for June 12, 2000Aired June 12, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.
TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Thanks for making us part of your Monday. I'm Tom Haynes.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. We begin today's show in the Middle East.
HAYNES: In today's news, Syrians mourn the death of their president. How will new leadership impact the Middle East peace process?
WALCOTT: Monday's look at the environment has us in the U.S. for the battle of the beaches. What do you think takes the prize for the most beautiful place for sun and fun?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE LEATHERMAN, SURFRIDER FOUNDATION: Sort of has that European feel to it, the sidewalk cafes, lots of night life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYNES: In "Worldview," the battle to protect one of the most complex living things on Earth. What's so lucrative about the shark that has it in such high demand?
WALCOTT: Then the adventure continues in "Chronicle." Find out why a group of Arctic explorers wants the attention of students around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about how special the Arctic environment is and we're trying to encourage students in schools to start looking at that environment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALCOTT Today, we mark the passing of a leader and the end of an era in the big picture of Middle East peace. The legacy of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad looms large as his people remember their leader, who died Saturday at age 69. The country appears poised to usher in a new face with familiar features as Assad's successor -- the president's son.
The streets of Damascus were mostly deserted Sunday, except for some groups of mourners. Shops were closed and mourners filed to the presidential palace and to the hospital, where the late president's body lay.
Mark Leff has a look now at the man known as the "great lion" who led Syria for 30 years.
MARK LEFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To Syrian state broadcasters, Hafez al-Assad was a hero. To some Syrian dissidents, Assad was a butcher who ordered thousands of their countrymen killed. To friends and foes in governments around the world, he was a key player in the complex world of Middle Eastern politics.
In one sense, he was an unlikely national leader. Hafez al-Assad -- the name means "protector of lions" -- was a member of the minority Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, in a country where most people are Sunni Muslim, but where Alawites traditionally dominate the military. He was running the Syrian Air Force when Israel pounded it to dust during the Six-Day War of 1967, and took personal responsibility for Syria's loss.
Three years later, Assad was running the country after a bloodless coup by military moderates. For more than a quarter century, through several elections, he dominated Syrian life and politics as president, and cast a heavy shadow over Middle Eastern politics as a power broker.
Though Syria went through a series of federations with Egypt and Libya, Hafez al-Assad was always his own man. While he and Egypt's Anwar Sadat jointly planned and jointly lost the 1973 war against Israel, Assad broke with Sadat over the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and kept Egypt at arm's length for more than a decade until a reconciliation with Hosni Mubarak in 1990.
Assad supported his fellow Shiite Muslims in Iran during its eight-year war with Iraq, whose leader, Suddam Hussein, represented the rival wing of the Arab socialist movement both had joined as youngsters.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Assad sent Syrian troops to join the coalition of countries which would punish Iraq the next year. To some extent, that cooperation ended a long estrangement between Syria and the United States. It brought his country both political and monetary rewards at a time when his longtime allies in Moscow had less and less time and money for him as their own country crumbled.
When the Syrian president went to Jordan last year for King Hussein's funeral and to meet the newly named heir, Abdullah, Assad's own successor was not yet clear. Even as voters elected him to yet another seven-year term, there were no other choices on the ballot.
Syria's president, Hafez Al-Assad, dead at 69. Mark Leff, CNN.
WALCOTT: Before the late President Assad is even laid to rest, speculation has already started as to how his death will affect efforts for peace between Israel and Syria. The president's son, Bashar, is expected to succeed him. He completed a necessary step in assuming the presidency Sunday when he was appointed commander of Syria's armed forces. The country's parliament met in a special session Saturday to amend the Constitution, reducing the minimum age for president from 40 to 34, Bashar's age.
He inherits a Middle East that has been in upheaval since the United Nations divided Palestine into a Jewish state, which later became modern-day Israel, and an Arab sector which includes Syria and Palestinian territory. In 1967, Israel defeated Syrian forces in a six-day war and began occupying Syria's Golan Heights. By 1981, Israel was claiming legal and political authority in the Golan.
While Syrians and Palestinians have historically been on the same side, they haven't always agreed on the best way to make peace with Israel. A major snag to peace between Syria and Israel has been Syria's demand that the Golan Heights be returned.
As negotiators for both sides return to Washington this week, Kelly Wallace looks at how a new leader could play into the prospects for peace.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The death of Hafez al-Assad clouds the outlook for peace between Syria and Israel and could affect the mindset of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat is in his 70s, older than Assad before he died.
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Arafat must know that time is running out for him.
WALLACE: One senior U.S. official said Assad's death is, quote, "a reminder to everyone that their biological clocks are ticking."
AMB. DENNIS ROSS, U.S. MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY: When you take a look at a region and see that it's changing and you see that there are moments and if the moments aren't seized they get lost, I suspect that that will add to a sense of urgency on everybody's part.
WALLACE: Arafat will attend Assad's funeral Tuesday and then shuttle to the U.S. to see President Clinton. The White House hopes in the near future for Mr. Clinton to host a Camp David-style summit with Chairman Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
JOHN PODESTA, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think that the time is critical. We're trying to narrow the differences.
WALLACE: Differences to be settled before a September deadline include such thorny issues as the fate of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem and the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
HISHAM MELHEM, AS-SAFIR: The gaps are so deep and so wide that I'm not sure in the next few months, not withstanding the Herculean efforts, probably, on all these people -- on the part of all these people, Arafat, Barak and Clinton -- I'm not sure whether they can reach an agreement.
WALLACE: The Clinton administration is leaving the door open to future talks between Syria and Israel. President Clinton called Assad's likely successor, his son Bashar, Sunday to offer his condolences.
(on camera): U.S. officials admit it will take time for Assad's successor to secure power and to win the trust of Israel. But time is not on the side of this White House. That means Mr. Clinton's hopes for a Middle East peace before leaving office now appear to rest with the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.
HAYNES: Well, summer's all but here, so why not head for the beach? Our "Daily Desk" today could spark an environmental debate: enjoyment versus exploitation. How do you fill a beach with tourists and simultaneously benefit an ecosystem? It's a dilemma that pits leisure advocates against environmentalists. But the two sides don't need to draw a line in the sand because some beaches blend environmental protection with good, clean fun.
As many as 150 million Americans are expected to hit the beach this summer. And as Brian Nelson tells us, he has a top-10 list for sun and fun.
BRIAN NELSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an annual rite of summer: the migration to the beach. And as a guide, a group called the Surfrider Foundation has released its list of the top-10 U.S. beaches. And top honors go to Miami's South Beach, the hottest beach in the country where it says cleanliness and creature comforts go hand in hand.
STEVE LEATHERMAN, SURFRIDER FOUNDATION: Beautiful area, sort of has that European feel to it, the sidewalk cafes, lots of night life. But the water is very beautiful, too.
NELSON: Number two is Hawaii's Waikiki Beach, praised for its surf.
Number three: Florida's Panama City Beach for some of the finest, whitest sand in the world.
California took the next two spots, with Santa Barbara's East Beach and Newport Beach coming in at four and five respectively.
The remaining five were Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; South Padre Island, Texas; Cape May, New Jersey; Maine Beach in Santa Cruz, California; and Oregon's Seaside Beach.
LEATHERMAN: Fortunately, we do have good quality beaches here, but they can be better.
NELSON: Nightmares linger from the medical syringes that washed up on New Jersey shores in 1988, and the city sewage which emptied into the waters around Key West last fall.
A 2-year-old group called the Clean Beaches Council is promoting blue flags, like this one seen flying over Dania Beach, Florida, and 28 other coastal beaches. It signifies the beach has passed a 14-to- 22-point test for clean sand and water, has life guards, toilets and parking facilities, and protection for the beach environment.
WALTER MCLEOD, PRESIDENT, CLEAN BEACHES COUNCIL: We believe that the public has a right to know the environmental, health and safety management that's going on at public beaches.
NELSON: For that right, the community paid a $2,000 annual fee.
MCLEOD: We think that's fine. And if people view that as a way of marketing their beach, we think that that's appropriate.
NELSON: Two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency found that a third of U.S. coastal beaches it surveyed experienced water quality problems, forcing some to close. It's a record everyone wants to see improve.
Brian Nelson, CNN, Atlanta.
HAYNES: We'll have more on the environment later in "Chronicle," when we tag along with some modern-day explorers blazing a trail through the Arctic Circle. But first, today's quiz: Name two food staples of the Arctic diet. The answer later in "Chronicle."
ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make e most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show so you choose just the program segments that fit your lesson plan. Plus, there are discussion questions and activities, and the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day, find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming desk segments. It's all at this Web address, where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy, it's free, it's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops, and neither does learning.
WALCOTT: We took you to the beach earlier in the show, and our sojourn into sand and sun continues in "Worldview." We touch down in the Bahamas for a drama that pits development against history. We'll also head to Japan for a heads-up on rhinos. And we'll check out another creature feature as we turn to Africa for some conservation conversation.
Our first stop, Kenya, where conservationists are calling for the international protection of sharks. Sharks are huge meat-eating fish and are one of the most feared of all sea animals. Scientists say about 360 species of fish are sharks. They live in oceans throughout the world, but are most common in warm seas.
Sharks were in the spotlight at a recent meeting of delegates at the CITES convention. CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. It's a branch of the United Nations that oversees agreements to protect animals considered at risk. But some delegates say sharks don't need any extra protection.
Gary Strieker reports.
GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Experts say they're endangered, but the world is not yet ready to give international protection to sharks; not like it does for sea turtles. At the CITES conference in Nairobi, delegates voted down proposals for trade restrictions on three shark species: whale sharks, basking sharks, and the fearsome great white.
NICOLA BEYNON, HUMANE SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL: The shark proposals, they suffered from the prejudice there is from many parties at CITES against marine fish.
STRIEKER: Conservationists had lobbied hard for sharks. They say growing demand for shark fins in Asia is threatening survival of many species. A single fin from a giant basking shark can sell for as much as $15,000.
The shark lobby succeeded in getting a majority vote, but not the two-thirds needed to approve restrictions on trade.
PETER PEUSCHEL, GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL: At the moment, too many countries are bowing down on the pressure from some countries in the fishing industry.
STRIEKER: Meanwhile, delegates refused to allow Cuba to sell a stockpile of hawksbill turtle shells to Japan. All marine turtles are protected by CITES restrictions. Hawksbill turtles are the only source of commercial tortoise shell, and conservationists argue allowing any legal sale would open the doors to illegal trade, encouraging fishermen in many areas to hunt turtles for their shells.
ANNE MEYLAN, CARIBBEAN CONSERVATION CORP.: It's such incentive that they will go after the very last hawksbill to get that shell trade, and that's what they've done, and that's why populations are at a very, very low level worldwide.
STRIEKER: Cuba had argued that turtles in its waters are not endangered.
GRAHAME WEBB, WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT INTERNATIONAL: So their claim is basically: This is totally sustainable; the turtles are used mainly for meat; that's what they're harvested for. The shell is a byproduct, and they want to be able to export it for foreign exchange.
STRIEKER: But delegates here said, no, and all international trade in hawksbill turtle products remains illegal.
Gary Strieker, CNN, Nairobi.
ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: Next up in "Worldview," a favorite vacation destination: the Bahamas. The archipelago is made up of about 700 islands just southeast of the United States. The Bahamas used to be a British colony, but in 1973 it became an independent nation within the commonwealth, much like Australia or Canada.
The Bahamas offer a unique mix of European and African heritages and lie at the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and Central America. Christopher Columbus made his original landfall in the Americas in what would later be known as the Bahamas.
Preserving that history and native access to the charms of the Bahamas is clashing with efforts to capitalize on the tourism industry.
Natalie Pawelski explains.
NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you watch movies, you've probably seen this place. From "Flipper" to "Jaws" to "James Bond" flicks, those films and others were shot here on these azure waters and fine sandy beaches in the area known as Clifton on the Bahamas' New Providence Island. It's on the tranquil left side of the island, far from the bustling tourist mecca of Nassau and Paradise Island.
And it features one of a dwindling number of beaches open to ordinary Bahamians. Now the government wants to allow developers to build hundreds of million-dollar-plus homes on this land. Parts of this beach would be dredged for a canal leading to private marinas.
The development would create hundreds of jobs, but there's a catch.
REVEREND C.B. MOSS, COALITION TO SAVE CLIFTON: The developers have indicated that this project would be encompassed by very high walls, and it will be a gated community with limited -- very limited access by the Bahamian residents.
PAWELSKI: In a series of rallies and town meetings, civic, religious and environmental leaders are fighting the project, and they've enlisted a big name from the United States: Bobby Kennedy Jr., attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
BOBBY KENNEDY JR., NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: The finger canal system that is being used by the developer, which is a canal system that is this serpentine canal system that is going to be dug and then wend its way through the development, is illegal in the United States. And the reason it's illegal is because many of these were built in the '60s and '70s, and we know now what they do to the coastal environment.
PAWELSKI: American beach expert Stephen Leatherman says the Clifton canal will inevitably damage the nearby shoreline, including a beach that would be left open for public access.
STEPHEN LEATHERMAN, LABORATORY FOR COASTAL RESEARCH: The sand here is moving in the direction past me, behind me. And so if you build an inlet and then try to stabilize it with a jetty, have the stones to keep the channel open, which will have to be done -- I've seen this over and over again; this is not rocket science -- basically, you're going to sand-rob this beach.
PAWELSKI: History is etched into Clifton. A channel carved into this rocky beach was used to bathe slaves newly arrived from Africa. And ruins from a slave plantation dot the area.
Archaeologists have just begun to explore Clifton. So far, they've discovered remnants of 1,000-year-old Lucayan Indian settlements.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when we see these, we know that we've got a Lucayan site somewhere nearby.
PAWELSKI: The government says the developers have pledged to restore historic sites and keep them open to the public.
SEN. LYNN HOLOWESKO, FMR. BAHAMIAN ENVIRONMENT AMBASSADOR: The country is rich in remnants of its past. The regrettable part of it is that we have not had the resources to preserve them. And, unfortunately, many of them are not accessible to many Bahamians. The beauty of this site is that they will be accessible to Bahamians.
PAWELSKI: Vivian Whylly is not convinced. He lives in the crowded ghetto section of Nassau, and he's traced his heritage back to a slave woman on the Clifton plantation.
VIVIAN WHYLLY: It is almost as though they're saying, your history isn't worth anything. The people who lived and toiled and died on this plantation will have lived and toiled only to be overcome again by some kind of economic slavery.
PAWELSKI: Clifton would be developed by Chaffin/Light Associates of South Carolina, which says it has a sound track record as an environmentally responsible firm. The company alleges that wealthy residents of a nearby community are funding the opposition to the development and that these residents are only interested in preserving their scenic view across Clifton Bay.
More environmental studies will be done on Clifton, and Chaffin/Light says it will not build anything that will harm the ecosystem, and will pull out altogether if a majority of Bahamians want it to.
For now, critics say many other Bahamian beaches have already disappeared behind gates and walls, and they say Clifton should not join them.
Natalie Pawelski, CNN.
HAYNES: Next, "Worldview" takes us into the world of rhinos. "Rhinoceros" comes from two Greek words meaning "nose-horned." The horn is one of the most prominent features of the rhino and continues to grow throughout the animal's life. It's made of a fiber-like material similar to a mixture of hair and fingernails.
Many Asians believe the powered horn of the rhinoceros has healing qualities and can be used to cure diseases pertaining to the lung and chest. They also use rhino skin, blood and urine to cure other illnesses. Because of this, thousands of rhinos have been hunted. There are five species of rhinoceros. Three live in Asia and two live in Africa, and all are nearly extinct.
Now we head to Japan where a zoo in Tokyo is training its keepers how to handle runaway rhinos.
Donna Lui (ph) explains.
DONNA LUI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's the scenario: An earthquake rocks Tokyo. Walls collapse at a local zoo. A young male rhinoceros is on the loose. Animals squawk in terror, visitors run for cover. The frantic animal runs amok as zoo personnel struggle to contain it with nets. Two workers are injured as the beast pushes past. Several more people are knocked down, or so it seems.
But this is just a drill.
YOSHITAKA ABE, HEAD OF UENO ZOO (through translator): We're concerned that we won't know what to do when such things really happen, but we won't know unless we practice these drills on a regular basis.
LUI: The zoo made a special effort this year to add a touch of realism to a biannual drill. Flexible ears, blinking eyes and flaring nostrils bring this papier-mache animal to life. Local medics, the fire department, and even the riot police join in the exercise. The performance ends when a veterinary sharp-shooter silences the rhino with an anesthetic dart.
While the participants take this exercise seriously, visitors to the zoo watch in amusement.
YOSHIHARU MASHIKO, VISITOR (through translator): There's actually been reports of tigers running away, so I suppose it's better they do it than not. But, frankly, we've never experienced this, so it's hard to say they'll know how to react in this situation.
LUI: In the meantime, the real rhino can rest assured the zoo won't be using it as part of the training.
ABE (through translator): Using a real one would be impossible. No zoo anywhere in the world releases a real wild animal just for practice. It's too dangerous and not really practical.
LUI: Although the animal isn't real, the exercise is a reminder of one of the real dangers of an earthquake striking Tokyo.
For "Inside Asia," I'm Donna Lui.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news.
HAYNES: Today's "Chronicle" takes us on an Arctic adventure in the Arctic Circle. Now, earlier on the show, we asked if you could name two food staples of the Arctic diet. Did you get them? The answer is raw Arctic fish and caribou.
Caribou is a type of larger deer found in North America and Siberia, and it's what a crew of trailblazers have been feasting on these days as they cross a remote edge of North America.
Mark Stevenson has more on this Arctic adventure with a practical purpose.
MARK STEVENSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High above the Arctic Circle, five men and their native guides are on a mission to cross the isolated end of a continent that killed countless explorers looking for a passage between Europe and Asia. Even today, Arctic travel isn't easy. Snow machines get stuck and break from endless pounding, experienced guides get lost, and everyone is on watch for an animal known to hunt humans: the polar bear.
PETER HARDY, GLOBE COORDINATOR: She's a good dog. She's been exposed to them before. She always barks.
STEVENSON: But the Arctic expedition has a more pressing purpose: to link isolated towns along the way with a global effort to monitor climate change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're talking about how special the Arctic environment is, and we're trying to encourage students in schools to start looking at that environment.
STEVENSON: Students record changes in weather and temperature to help scientists understand how the world is getting warmer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we've got here is an electronic thermometer. STEVENSON: In the Arctic, which is warming far faster than the rest of the planet, every degree change in temperature is dramatic.
HARDY: It will be impacted very, very heavily over the next decade. And there's no doubt that the Arctic is under severe threat. It's a very delicate ecosystem and it's being pushed, really, to its limits.
STEVENSON (on camera): For centuries, the Arctic ice has prevented ships from using this shortcut between Europe and Asia, but the ice is getting thinner, and scientists say the Northwest Passage could become a Panama Canal of the North in as little as a decade.
(voice-over): On the trail, much remains the same for a culture built on coping with the extreme climate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to cut through the grain, not against the grain.
STEVENSON: Raw Arctic fish and caribou are dietary staples that haven't changed for centuries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smoked salmon eaters, eat your heart out.
STEVENSON: And even though more modern methods are available, the Inuit continue to hunt and fish for food and clothing. But beneath their feet something is changing. Natives here say the ice is almost 40 percent thinner than it was a decade ago, and the sea ice is retreating, dangerous developments that threaten wildlife and an ancient culture that continues to live off the land.
DON KOMANGIPIK, CANADIAN RANGER (through translator): The ice is thinner this year. It takes longer to form and it breaks up earlier.
STEVENSON: For the non-natives on the expedition, the trip is a chance to view a virgin land and its people before they change any further. And by linking Inuit students with a network monitoring climate change, they hope to help the people here, as well as the planet.
HARDY: I think this is a -- probably one of the most sensitive ecozones in the world, and it is undergoing change as we speak.
STEVENSON: Mark Stevenson for CNN, Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada.
WALCOTT: Looks pretty cold.
HAYNES: An Arctic adventure indeed.
WALCOTT: Well, that wraps up today's show. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
HAYNES: Thanks for joining us.
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