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NEWSROOM for July 6, 2000Aired July 6, 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: Your Thursday NEWSROOM covering a lot of ground today. Welcome. I'm Tom Haynes.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: And I'm Rudi Bakhtiar. We have news from the Middle East, Cuba and the grass courts of Wimbledon, so let's get started.
HAYNES: Our top story finds us talking peace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Clinton concluded a summit was the best way, and the only way, to move the peace process forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAKHTIAR: NASA wants you to picture this in today's "Science Desk."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN GOLDIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We are going to have the very best in multimedia. We are going to bring space into everyone's soul and heart and home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYNES: Tall, taller, tallest -- "Worldview" touches the sky in Malaysia.
BAKHTIAR: And we end up in England doing Wimbledon the Williams way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody thought that they would be where they're at right now. You know, it's a blessing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HAYNES: Today's top story ponders a peace agreement for a 52- year-old conflict. Many of the players have changed over time, but the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has continued. Now, U.S. President Bill Clinton wants to light a fire under stalled peace negotiations at a summit next week. He's chosen Camp David in the U.S. state of Maryland as the venue. The presidential retreat is where U.S. President Jimmy Carter helped strike a peace deal between Egypt and Israel in 1978. This time around, Israelis and Palestinians face a number of odds and an approaching deadline.
When the Jewish state of Israel was created in 1948, many Palestinian Muslims were dislocated, with no land to call home. At the 1993 Oslo peace accords, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to a framework for Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. But when Rabin was assassinated in 1995, the peace process stalled.
Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Barak, has pushed the process forward. With more violence and stalemates slowing the process down, both sides have been under pressure to reach a final agreement by this September. Palestinians have vowed to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza with or without a peace deal. Israel captured the land in the 1967 Middle East war, but has handed over about 40 percent of it since 1993.
As Middle East peace negotiators have come and gone over the years, one player has remained constant: 70-year-old Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Chairman Arafat, like Mr. Barak, is coming to the United States hoping to seize the moment.
We have two reports, beginning with Kelly Wallace at the White House.
WALLACE (voice-over): President Clinton concluded a summit was the best way and the only way to move the peace process forward.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The negotiators have reached an impasse. Movement now depends on historic decisions that only the two leaders can make.
WALLACE: Mr. Clinton conceded there are risks in bringing together Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for a summit at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, but said there are risks of inaction, too.
CLINTON: If they cannot make progress now, there will be more hostility and more bitterness, perhaps even more violence.
WALLACE: With the parties' self-imposed deadline for a comprehensive deadline fast approaching, Chairman Arafat is claiming he will unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood if there is no agreement. The Israelis threaten to respond by taking their own unspecified actions. For now, though, both sides agree to the need to meet at Camp David. EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And we have to be able to seize the opportunity, exploit it and try to put an end to the conflict.
WALLACE: And Mr. Clinton hopes to seize the opportunity, well aware he has just seven months left in office to secure a final peace deal, seven years after he brokered the initial breakthrough agreement between Chairman Arafat and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
GEOFFREY KEMP, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Clinton is going to be put on the line. He's going to have to weigh in and be a very, very active participant. And there's no guarantee of success. This is not a prewired deal.
WALLACE (on camera): The president's aids recognize the summit is a bit of a gamble. Said one: It is going to be a tough go. But senior administration officials say, if they didn't see a potential, they wouldn't be making the effort.
Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.
JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak was on a lightning visit to Paris and London to explain to the French and British leaders why he believes so strongly a summit is vital, even if it were to threaten his fragile government.
BARAK: We are determined to push it forward if there is a possibility of having an agreement. Even if I stay with nine ministers and one quarter of the Knesset behind me, we will do it.
KESSEL: Already, that domestic opposition is crowding in. Natan Sharansky, an important minister in Mr. Barak's Cabinet, announced his Russian immigrants party would quit the government because of the summit. Thousands of Sharansky's supporters, who could be a key factor in public endorsement of any peace deal, rallied to oppose Mr. Barak's peace strategy.
And there were more problems for Mr. Barak's shaky government when the small right-wing National Religious Party announced it, too, would quit before Mr. Barak goes to Washington.
There's also enormous pressure on Yasser Arafat. The Palestinian leader argued hard for the gaps between him and Mr. Barak on Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and borders to be narrowed before an invitation to a summit.
Palestinians blame Israel for the failure to do that.
NABIL SHAATH, PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: They just abandoned all negotiations and President Clinton found himself in a position to accept stalling all of these negotiations or to try to go through. We had already given Mrs. Albright our readiness to accept an invitation once issued by President Clinton. And now that he did issue it, we accepted it.
KESSEL: Many Palestinians worry that at the summit Mr. Arafat will be cornered into unwarranted concessions.
HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN COUNCIL MEMBER: The summit will be used again as an instrument of power, will be used to try to put pressure on Arafat to accept the short-term domestic needs of Clinton, the short-term coalition needs of Barak, rather than the historical expansive view.
KESSEL (on camera): Only this week, before the summit was announced, Palestinians said that if peace isn't reached by the designated mid-September deadline, they would still then declare their own independent state. Israel warned that a unilateral declaration would jeopardize any future hopes of concluding a peace deal. Both sides very much aware of the price of a failed summit.
Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Jerusalem.
BAKHTIAR: Our next story is for those of you who dare to dream of experiencing the vast frontiers of space. Several years ago, Congress passed a law encouraging NASA to find ways to bring in private business to help the space program. The first such deal was finally announced. It includes taking Internet Web servers into space through use of high-definition cameras on board space crafts.
Greg Lefevre has the details.
GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Space may not be for sale, but the pictures soon will be. NASA teams up with a Silicon Valley multimedia company to market the agency's images, and in the process its image.
GOLDIN: We are going to have the very best in multimedia. We are going to bring space into everyone's soul and heart and home.
LEFEVRE: High-tech startup Dreamtime will spend $100 million to put high-definition video cameras on future space flights and on board the International Space Station. High-def video on high-speed Internet computer lines will create a virtual ride-along experience for astronaut wannabes.
MICHAEL FOALE, ASTRONAUT: How wonderful and special it is to fly in space. But there's always a sad tang behind it, and that is that we can't bring other people with us.
LEFEVRE: The high-definition cameras are so sharp they'll track experiments and conduct maintenance inspections in space, eliminating some spacewalks, reducing risk. NASA gets no money from the deal but will likely save in photography and video production costs. BILL FOSTER, DREAMTIME: The taxpayers are in a sense here getting a return on their investment, OK? But it's a return that is through cost avoidance.
LEFEVRE: Dreamtime will post millions of NASA video frames on the Internet and create a NASA-focused Internet site. It will copy and catalog the millions of air and space archives dating back to the biplane era.
PEGGY WILHIDE, NASA PUBLIC AFFAIRS: We currently have 40,000 hours of video, 10 million feet of film, 10 million still photos.
LEFEVRE: All the NASA files will be posted free on the Internet in standard form. The high-definition stuff will cost. That's where Dreamtime hopes to make its money.
(on camera): If this venture succeeds, one of NASA's benefits will be something that money cannot buy: good will. With more images and faster access, the backers say they want to make space "cool" again.
Greg Lefevre, CNN, Mountain View, California.
HAYNES: We set our sights on science in "Worldview" as we head to North America. Find out if nuclear power is a catastrophe waiting to happen. That story takes us to Mexico. We also touch down in Malaysia, a nation which holds a big record. Can you guess what it is? And come along to Cuba where a housing shortage is becoming a crisis.
ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: Cuba remains the only communist country in the Americas. For more than 40 years now, the island nation in the Caribbean has been under the control of dictator Fidel Castro. For much of that time, Cuba received huge subsidies from the Soviet Union, but Castro has managed to survive even the demise of communism there. Under Castro's regime, Cubans are entitled to housing and health care, among other things. At least that's how it's supposed to work, in theory.
As Lucia Newman reports, in practice, many Cubans are finding themselves living on the streets.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Under the moonlight in a small park in Marianao, Havana, a couple and their toddler prepare to spend their fifth night sitting on the park bench.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm desperate, with a 2-year-old daughter and with no place to sleep, spending the whole night out on the street.
NEWMAN: Dianeya Ninterian (ph), from Colon, Matanzas (ph), who lost her home in a hurricane two years ago, tells a similar story. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I've slept in the bus terminals with my two daughters, at the home of my friends, one day here, one day there. Last week, I spent 24 hours sitting with my children at the entrance of the local Communist Party office waiting for them to give me some kind of solution to my problem.
NEWMAN: Homeless people are still relatively rare in Cuba, where these cases are the exception rather than the rule. But they illustrate the growing crack in a system which, under the constitution, is supposed to guarantee decent housing for all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is a socialist country where we should receive help, where the state must give us a hand, even if it is to give us the means to build with our own hands.
NEWMAN: But the state has been unable to cope with a housing shortage that's been building for decades and which has now reached a crisis point, especially in Havana. Until two years ago, more buildings were collapsing from lack of repair and decay than those being built.
The government is planning to build 30,000 new homes, but twice that many, 60,000, will eventually have to be demolished because they're beyond salvation. Housing authorities confess it's an uphill battle.
MARIO CABELLO, PRES., CUBAN HOUSING INST. (through translator): There are many accumulated problems. Take into account that, in Havana, only 53 percent of homes are in good condition. Before, it was 47 percent, but it's such a discreet improvement that the population doesn't notice it.
NEWMAN: The shortage of homes is so daunting authorities aren't even counting. And no matter what the constitution says, the Cuban government admits the country doesn't have nearly enough building materials or manpower to give everyone the home they've been promised.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
HAYNES: Walk down the streets of New York and you're likely to get a crick in your neck from looking up at all the tall buildings. While the Big Apple boasts one of the world's most beautiful skylines, it's not home to the world's tallest building. Do you know which city takes that honor, and what is the tallest building in the world? We'll tell you in just a second.
First, some runners-up: Chicago, and the world-famous Sears Tower, which stands at over 1,450 feet. That's 442 meters. The Jin Mao building in Shanghai, which comes in at a whopping 1,380 feet, or 421 meters. How's that for tall? But our winner really takes the cake. And for that we head to Malaysia and the country's capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia is renowned for being the meeting place of peoples from all around the Asian continent. It's also renowned for Petronas Towers -- the answer to our earlier question. The twin towers in downtown Kuala Lumpur stand at over 1,476 feet tall. That's 450 meters.
Kasra Naji reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are sorry for that, but you can try again tomorrow.
KASRA NAJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You have to arrive early, even though 800 people a day are allowed inside the latest claimant to the title of the world's tallest building. Its doors are now open to visitors for the first time since its inauguration last year. Visitors are allowed to go only as high as the sky bridge halfway up the 450-meter, 88-story stainless steel structure.
But for many, the attraction is not just the views. They want to be where Sean Connery played the daring thief in the film "Entrapment."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ENTRAPMENT")
CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, ACTRESS: I give you the world's tallest building and...
SEAN CONNERY, ACTOR: And we're going to steal it?
ZETA-JONES: ... and home of the International Clearance Bank.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fantastic to be here on the actual site where they shot it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time that we actually saw this place was in the movie "Entrapment," yes, and they were wondering that, you know, how is it that they get to go up there and we don't get to go up there and see?
NAJI: Many Malaysians are proud of the towers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the pride of the nation, the nation people.
NAJI: Last August, during the official opening of the Petronas Twin Towers, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad answered his critics by saying every nation needed something to look up to.
MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: When one is short, one should stand on a box to get a better view. The twin towers is to our ego what the box is to the shorty.
NAJI (on camera): Here on the bridge that joins the two towers at 170 meters above ground, it is evident that this is a worthy addition to the world's most impressive landmarks, and it will probably continue to hold to the title of the world's tallest building for a few more years.
Kasra Naji, CNN, at the Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Mexico is a North American country that lies just south of the United States. Mexico City is the country's capital and largest city. It is also one of the world's largest metropolitan areas in population. These days, Mexico has been dealing with the issue of nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy, also called atomic energy, is the powerful energy released by changes in the structure of atoms. Scientists and engineers have found uses for this energy, such as the production of electric energy and the explosion of nuclear weapons. Some environmental activists say there are major maintenance problems at Mexico's only nuclear power plant.
Harris Whitbeck reports.
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alarms sound in the control room of Mexico's Laguna Verde nuclear power plant, indicating the beginning of a meltdown. Technicians rush into action, doing everything they can to prevent a major catastrophe.
The scene is played out in a training simulator to show off the high level of safety training plant workers receive. Greenpeace and other environmental groups are not convinced. Citing a leaked copy of field notes taken by technicians from the World Association of Nuclear Operators, Greenpeace says the Laguna Verde plant should be closed for major repairs. Activists say there are major maintenance problems that compromise safety at Mexico's only nuclear power plant.
(on camera): Problems that go beyond simple nuts and bolts. The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, says that maintenance problems are identified, but they're tolerated rather than corrected.
(voice-over): Mexican energy authorities agreed to a request by Greenpeace for an independent audit of safety procedures at the plant, located on the Gulf of Mexico across from Florida and Texas.
"The Energy Commission is confident of plant safety standing up to any study by independent consultants, and that is why we agreed to Greenpeace's request," this commission member says.
Administrators at the 10-year-old plant say the field notes cited by Greenpeace were taken out of context.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't know the environment or the purpose of the inspection or the evaluation, then you might get a wrong idea of what it means. WHITBECK: The wrong idea because inspectors were looking to see if the plant meets standards of excellence, not minimum safety standards. While they recognize they could be tidier housekeepers, plant operators say they are more than confident of its safety. The independent audit is still months away.
Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Laguna Verde, Mexico.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news.
BAKHTIAR: At issue today, how should people get paid: Based on their seniority or their level of education? Well, the debate is heating up right in your own backyard. It involves teachers and whether or not their pay should be linked to how well they teach.
Maria Hinojosa checks out the merit of this proposal.
MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Special education teacher Denise Mazza is mindful about every project she does for her students, no matter how small; mindful because she teaches the severely disabled.
But when it comes to the issue of bonuses for teachers, she is adamant and against it.
DENISE MAZZA, SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER: A lot of what I do every day is life skills. Now, how are you going to walk into my classroom and take a standardized test and measure that?
HINOJOSA: In fact, there are no standardized tests for severely disabled students, which raises a central question about teacher bonuses for performance. Who will decide who gets one, and based on what? And will it force other teachers to focus excessively on testing?
Some education veterans already envision a competitive nightmare.
LIA GELB, FORMER DEAN, BANK STREET COLLEGE: Just imagine if there are teachers who get better pay, therefore, the parents will see those teachers as the better teachers. Then they're going to try to get their kids into those classrooms. I mean, the kind of competition and backbiting that can potentially happen in a school is really destructive.
HINOJOSA: Not so, say supporters of merit pay for teachers.
JEANNE ALLEN, CENTER FOR EDUCATION REFORM: The bottom line is paying a teacher for how much she adds to the value of a child, how much she or he is able to teach a child, is precisely the kind of thing that does work in every other business in private industry. HINOJOSA: Teacher bonuses are now at the center of educational debate and the focus of a contentious meeting over the issue by the nation's largest teacher's union, the National Education Association.
And even the presidential candidates have weighed in. Republican Governor George Bush proposes $400 million in new funds for merit pay to be given out to states. Vice President Al Gore doesn't support merit pay, but is researching his own plan for financial rewards for teachers.
With merit pay a hot-button issue across the nation, teachers are under scrutiny as never before.
(on camera): America's teachers may already face an uphill battle to get recognized for the work they do every day. Some teachers worry that competition for bonuses may end up dividing teachers at a time when they need to be most unified.
Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York.
ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the 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.
HAYNES: The Fourth of July is over, but Americans are gearing up for fireworks once again. Today, the display will be in England at the women's semifinals at the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Sisters Venus and Serena Williams will be slugging it out against each other for a trip to the finals. And right now, the winner's anyone's guess.
Tom Mintier has a preview.
TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Venus and Serena Williams are not the first sister act to face off at center court. The Watson sisters did it 116 years ago in the very first ladies' final at Wimbledon. But this match will have a much larger audience.
SERENA WILLIAM, WIMBLEDON SEMI-FINALIST: I just have to make sure I play very well, because Venus gets a lot of balls back. She gets everything back, so I have to make sure, you know, I'm just trying to stick in there.
VENUS WILLIAMS, WIMBLEDON SEMI-FINALIST: Most exciting is that we both are here. And the biggest challenge is that Serena is extremely powerful, extremely dangerous, and, you know, she knows everything I know.
MINTIER: Sisters often know each other's secrets on and off the court. They have played each other four times before. The elder Venus has the advantage, winning three of the matches.
V. WILLIAMS: One of us will be bitter, but not to the degree -- I guess of usually you'd be bitter if you lost the semifinals, but naturally one of us will be in the final. So that will be great.
MINTIER: The Williams sisters practice together, even before their big match. They also compete together as a doubles duo.
Venus made it to the semifinals by beating world No. 1 Martina Hingis in a match that lasted just over two hours. Venus is seeded fifth at Wimbledon. Serena entered the tournament eighth.
S. WILLIAMS: Venus has to have a lot of confidence now, beating the No. 1 player in the world, obviously. She must be feeling great.
V. WILLIAMS: I just hope that I'll be able to play better than her. She's really been blazing her past opponents, no mercy, and I want to go in with the same attitude.
MINTIER (on camera): Tennis is seen by some as a white-dominated sport, much the same as golf once was. The country clubs in America, just like Wimbledon, were some of the last places blacks were allowed in.
(voice-over): Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975 at the age of 31. He was the first and, up till now, the only African-American to be ranked No. 1 in the world of tennis -- a feat one of the Williams sisters may be about to repeat.
Tom Mintier, CNN, London.
BAKHTIAR: And your pick?
HAYNES: Oh, yes.
BAKHTIAR: Well, Serena's the better player, evidently, but I'm going to go with Venus because I saw her against Martina the other day and she was on fire, so...
HAYNES: She was hot. But I could never play against my brother or sister.
HAYNES: Like if they were losing, I would feel sorry for them and give them a point. BAKHTIAR: Would you?
HAYNES: Yes, it's a family thing.
BAKHTIAR: I wouldn't. I'm extremely competitive.
HAYNES: I know you are.
BAKHTIAR: Take care everyone.
HAYNES: Listen, we got to go. We'll see you tomorrow.
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