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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for July 18, 2000

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


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to Tuesday's NEWSROOM. Glad you're with us. I'm Shelley Walcott. We have a great line up for you. Here's what's coming up.

In today's top story, the smoke has yet to clear from Friday's unprecedented verdict. Now attorneys from both sides of the Florida tobacco lawsuit are back in court.

In "Health Desk":


MELANIE METCALF, PHOBIA PATIENT: Every time I get on a plane, I think I'm going to die. It's like meeting your own mortality every time you fly.


WALCOTT: Are you afraid to fly? Virtual reality comes to the rescue.

In "Worldview," we head to Romania for a unique circus act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the red nose, there is a man. Beyond the entertainment, there is a man, a man who suffers, who doesn't have a mother.


WALCOTT: Then, in "Chronicle," they've seen their share of U.S. presidents come and go.


NEIL NEWHOUSE, GOP POLLSTER: The bottom line is, Al Gore I don't think can win without senior citizens. They always vote. They will be 25 percent, if not higher, of the electorate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALCOTT: So who will they be supporting in November?

In today's news, the Florida tobacco case and the many implications of this multibillion-dollar verdict. Friday, a Florida jury awarded $145 billion in punitive damages to the state's sick smokers. But yesterday, attorneys were back in court. The stakes in this case are high, not only for the plaintiffs, but for tobacco companies as well. Those companies say the trial isn't over until hundreds of thousands of individual claims are decided. And that's delayed the judge from signing off on the jury's verdict.

Our coverage begins with Susan Candiotti.


JUDGE ROBERT KAYE, DADE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FLORIDA: All right, what do we got this morning?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a two- year-long trial, no rest for the weary as tobacco attorneys and lawyers for Florida smokers headed back to court for a scheduling hearing. Tobacco will file its post-verdict appeals by July 24. A central appeal argument: smokers should never have been certified as a class.

DAN WEBB, PHILIP MORRIS ATTORNEY: We believe that you can't determine the rights of 700,000 people without hearing any evidence whatsoever about their claims and the validity of those claims.

CANDIOTTI: Jury foreman Leighton Finegan dismissed tobacco's argument.

LEIGHTON FINEGAN, JURY FOREMAN: Though we don't know their individual case, we certainly can group them together because they are victims of a particular product.

CANDIOTTI: Meantime, Philip Morris has begun running ads making the case the company has changed.


ANNOUNCER: Because things are changing, and at Philip Morris we wanted you to know.


CANDIOTTI: Smokers' lawyers say they're amused.

STANLEY ROSENBLATT, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: We expect a public relations offensive on their part that somehow they were the victims in all this. And I think that the public will see through that because these jurors had no axe to grind.

JOHN MESTRE, JUROR: They were going to appeal no matter what. We said a dollar, they would have appealed, I'm telling you. CANDIOTTI: John Mestre, the only smoker on the jury. He says his habit did not influence him. His verdict was swayed by evidence that tobacco attorneys hid the dangers of cigarettes and lied to the American public.

MESTRE: There was one document that started off by saying "nicotine, an addictive drug." And then I seen them telling Congress it's not addictive. You know, it was unreal.

CANDIOTTI: Jurors tabulated their record-setting verdict by averaging each juror's suggested award and then dividing it by that company's market share. Now that the two-year trial is over, telephone technician John Mestre plans on renting one film in particular.

MESTRE: And now I get a chance to see the movie "The Insider."

CANDIOTTI: During the trial, the story of a tobacco industry whistle-blower was ordered off limits to jurors. Mestre wants to see what the fuss was all about.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.


WALCOTT: If this multibillion-dollar verdict against the tobacco industry is actually awarded, it would be a devastating blow to companies that manufacture cigarettes. It would also impact the lives of thousands of people who work for those companies.

Winston-Salem, North Carolina is home to the R.J. Reynolds company, one of the largest cigarette makers in the world.

Brian Cabell reports on how this city, which was built on tobacco money, is reacting to the news.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The city's very name says it all: Winston-Salem, with 175,000 residents, is a tobacco town and proud of it.

Over a century ago, Richard Joshua Reynolds arrived and started his company. Now RJR dominates the downtown, employs 6,000 workers in the surrounding community. RJR is the engine that's driven the city with jobs and charity.

MAURA ELLIS, RJR SPOKESWOMAN: The company has provided that to the community for decades and decades, and the community in return has been very supportive and loyal to RJR.

CABELL: They're supportive at Simo's, a Winston-Salem institution for 61 years. No such thing as a no-smoking section here. Barbecue is their specialty, but they know tobacco as well. Restaurant owner Perry Simo says the Miami verdict, if it's upheld, could be devastating to the town. PERRY SIMO, RESTAURANT OWNER: All the businesses, the doctors, the car dealers, everybody -- it will trickle down because everybody depends on Reynolds.

CABELL: Most of the customers here agree, and they say the $145 billion judgment levied against Big Tobacco doesn't make sense.

ROBBY SOYARS, TRUCK DRIVER: I don't think it's right. Nobody twist nobody's arm to make them start smoking in the first place.

JAMIE BOWMAN, WAITRESS: I have a lot of friends that smoke and they say the same thing, you know: If they die tomorrow, they die happy because they enjoy smoking and that's what they ought to be able to do.

CABELL: It is a common sentiment here. RJR is a good neighbor, a good employer, though perhaps not quite as indispensable to the community as it once was.

BILL STUART, WINSTON-SALEM CITY MANAGER: There was a time just 20 years ago when I first started here that Reynolds, for example, made up 20 percent of the city's tax base. Today, it's more like 5 or 6 percent.

CABELL: Still, that's 5 or 6 percent the city would not like to lose. And given the turn in public opinion and government regulation, they're worried.

(on camera): Slowly but surely, Winston-Salem and the rest of North Carolina are adjusting to the new business climate. Tobacco revenues in the state have declined by 50 percent in the last four years. That trend is likely to continue.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Hot on the heels of the jury verdict against the tobacco industry comes major news from the makers of cell phones. Industry executives say they'll soon be disclosing information on just how much radiation enters people's heads when they use cell phones. The move comes in response to questions about the health risks of mobile phones.

In May, British researchers issued a report saying there's no evidence cell phones cause cancer or other health problems, but it said future research could prove otherwise, discouraging news for a society that's grown increasingly dependent on phones away from home.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The number of cell phones in the U.S. is approaching 90 million and growing by 30,000 new customers every single day. So it's no wonder if there are concerns about cell phone safety. Microwave radiation isn't the only thing going through the minds of users. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time it comes up, you can't help but think about it. But right now, you know, there's nothing I can do.

SAVIDGE: The phones in question are the hand-held variety with a built-in antenna that is positioned close to the user's head. Studies on whether such phones are a health risk are plentiful and contradicting.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, which could take action if a health threat were found, the jury is still out, leaving cell-phone users seeking answers on hold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really do not try to live with this stuck in my ear for all of those reasons.

PROF. PAUL STEFFES, GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: While there is no documented risk at the levels of exposure for current cell phones, that, you know, there is some uncertainty, as there are with many things in life, including exposure to the sun, and you have to, you know, maybe manage risk.

SAVIDGE: In the absence of conclusive information, the FDA has these recommendations: Since time on the phone is a key factor, the government suggests using a cell phone for short conversations and a conventional phone for longer ones; using a mobile phone where the antenna is mounted on the outside of a vehicle; or using a headset attached to a cell phone that is carried at the waist.

(on camera): Earlier this year, two new studies did catch the attention of the FDA. One found an association between cell phones and a rare type of brain tumor. Another found that DNA in human blood cells breaks down when exposed to large doses of cell-phone radiation. After reviewing the information, the FDA came up with at least one conclusion: more studies are needed.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.


WALCOTT: In our "Health Desk," we examine anxiety disorders. There are all kinds of things that might make you anxious. For example, taking a test, meeting new people, or starting class at a new school. But some people get so anxious, they actually have problems doing things. They suffer from phobia, an exaggerated, usually inexplicable or illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects or a situation.

You've probably heard the names of different kinds of phobias. There's acrophobia, the fear of heights, and claustrophobia, the fear of closed spaces. And here's a pop quiz for you: What do you call the fear of blood? That's another phobia. It's called hemophobia. And there are plenty of other kinds of phobias. Experts say they can be treated through medication or behavior therapy.

Holly Firfer examines one type of treatment which is helping some people overcome their fears. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What scares you?

METCALF: Every time I get on a plane, I think I'm going to die. It's like meeting your mortality every time you fly, and it's a frustrating experience.

FIRFER: Imagine just the sound of a bell or whir of an engine making your heart race, your palms sweat, your breathing shallow. Your fear is irrational: It's a phobia.

METCALF: I know it's safe to fly. I've always known it was safe. I also knew that every time I got on a plane, that the plane I was on was going to crash.

FIRFER: Today's high-tech world holds hope for the millions of Americans like Melanie Metcalf who suffer from phobias through a new venue, virtual reality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell me how you're feeling?

METCALF: Slightly anxious.

FIRFER: Sitting home alone New Years Eve 2000 while her husband jetted off to vacation with their friends, once again, Melanie was convinced she needed help. She turned to this new form of exposure therapy.

ELANA ZIMAND, AUTHOR, "VIRTUALLY BETTER": People have this fear structure in their brain that needs to be activated by putting yourself into the fearful environment. You can actually get used to a situation that used to be a frightening situation for you.

FIRFER: Using a mask that plays three-dimensional video images while stereo sounds help create a scene that is lifelike, the patient is immersed in a stressful situation without, for instance, having to actually walk on a bridge, climb a mountain or speak to an audience.

BARBARA ROTHBAUM, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I think that the virtual reality exposure works because we're tapping enough of their fear cues and it's bringing up that fear memory.

FIRFER: Working with a psychologist, patients incorporate relaxation and breathing techniques as well. It takes a minimum of eight sessions at $150 each before most people are ready to face their fears in the real world. Psychologists say this form of exposure is an easier means of controlling the situation and keeping confidentiality.

For Melanie Metcalf, her virtual experience means not having to spend another vacation home alone.

Holly Firfer, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: Health highlights "Worldview" today. We'll take you to the big top to find out how a circus performer is helping keep kids off the street. We'll visit Romania for that report. And we'll check out gender issues in Hong Kong, which is in China. Plus, a health report card for the world. We'll travel to Sierra Leone, the United States and other countries, too.

HAYNES: We begin by taking a look at health around the globe. New data has been released by the World Health Organization, or WHO, a United Nations agency dedicated to promoting high health standards around the world. Overall, WHO says global life expectancy averaged 64.5 years in 1999, six years more than two decades ago.

But just how long can people expect to remain healthy? Not long in some places. Take Sierra Leone, for example. According to the report, people in that African nation can expect less than 26 years of good health. But in other places, it's better.

We have a pop quiz for you: Which country has the best overall health care system in the world?

Margaret Lowrie has our answer and our report.


MARGARET LOWRIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Good news for la bonne vie. France really does offer "the good life." The World Health Organization says France has the best overall health care system in the world.

In a new report, WHO analyzed health care systems in 191 countries. Sierra Leone ranks last. Other countries in sub-Saharan Africa also fared badly, partly because they are some of the world's poorest nations, often plagued by disease, conflict, poverty. Surprising is how the world's wealthiest nation ranked: 37. While the United States actually spends the most, $3,700 per person a year, WHO says it gets less bang for its health care buck than countries such as Oman, which spends $300 a person and ranked 8.

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Even if you are treated well by the system, which is a good thing, we have to ask why. Why is it that the U.S. is not -- spends so much, just doesn't get as much health as other countries do?

LOWRIE: In evaluating overall performances, WHO used healthy life expectancies, inequalities in health, responsiveness of the system, including diagnosis and treatment, inequalities in responsiveness, and how fairly systems are financed. Many of the higher ranked countries have sophisticated public health care systems, such as Britain, ranked at 18. The report says it's better to make prepayments in the form of insurance, taxes or Social Security, and recommends countries extend health insurance to as many people as possible.

But WHO says, whether privately or publicly funded, a government's role is crucial. MURRAY: Effective governments around the world tend to be effective stewards. And we find that there is actually seems to be some relationship between health system performance and how governments do in general in terms of their overall effectiveness.

LOWRIE: WHO says a health care system is more than doctors, nurses, hospitals and clinics, it is all the efforts society makes to improve health. And how well it performs is a matter of life and death to the people who depend on it.

Margaret Lowrie, CNN, London.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: When it comes to the gender race, men and women are running neck and neck. U.N. statistics show that among the world's 6 billion people, males just barely outnumber females by less than a percentage point. In some places, though, that gap is wider. Among Hong Kong's 7 million residents, for example, males outnumber females 53 percent to 47 percent. Part of the reason: more males are born there in the first place.

In many parts of Asia, parents want baby boys rather than girls. But in Hong Kong, at least, the government is trying to change that.

Karuna Shinsho reports.


KARUNA SHINSHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our story begins with an ancient Chinese poem:

"When a son is born, he is cradled in the bed. He is clothed in robes, given a jade scepter as a toy. His lusty cries portend his vigor. He shall wear bright red kneecaps, Shall be lord of a hereditary house.

When a daughter is born, she is cradled on the floor. She is clothed in swaddling bands, given a loom-whorf as toy. She shall wear no badges of honor, Shall only take care of food and drink, And not cause trouble to her parents."

Those words were written over a thousand years ago, but the preference for boys is still deeply ingrained in contemporary Chinese society.

In 1999, male babies born in Hong Kong outnumbered baby girls by more than 2,000. Under pressure to have sons, couples turn to places like the gender choice center, seeking help in determining the sex of their baby.

But the imbalance of numbers between the sexes is something that worries the government. So a bill is in the works that would regulate the uses of reproductive technology. CYD HO, BILLS COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: If the young couples were allowed to make a choice on the gender, first, the natural balance between male and female would be upset. Second, it would reinforce the discrimination for women gender.

SHINSHO: Some fear couples who want male children will turn to less reliable sources for help.

ANTHONY WONG, GENDER CHOICE CENTER (through translator): Stopping the use of sperm separation for gender choice, people will try other kinds of ways, such as Chinese medicine.

SHINSHO: But traditional medicine in Hong Kong is not regulated. Moreover, Chinese doctors, aware of the prejudice against baby girls, still sell medication to people wanting boys.

TSE PANG-CHIN, CHINESE MEDICINE DOCTOR (though translator): Since 1993, there have been only two requests for girls. There have been so many people asking for boys, and it's better not to tell how many. For those who ask for girls, I successfully helped them to get girls. The success rate is 100 percent. On the other hand, there are so many more asking for boys, all were a success.

SHINSHO: The government's reproductive bill may help statistically, but it will take more than just legislation to change the tide of tradition.

Karuna Shinsho, CNN, Hong Kong.


BAKHTIAR: We'll have more on gender issues tomorrow in "Worldview."


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: These women say they have been around a long time. But until now, they were on the sidelines of an all-male game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are Middle Eastern and so it is a little hard for some of us to see a woman playing football.


BAKHTIAR: We'll take you to Iraq to meet a special team. That story tomorrow right here on CNN NEWSROOM.

Next stop, Romania, a country in Eastern Europe. Romania is located west of the Black Sea and north of the Balkan Peninsula, on Europe's southeastern tip. During ancient times, Romania was part of the great Roman empire. In fact, Romania means "land of the Romans," and the Romanian people are the only Eastern Europeans who can trace their ancestry and language back to the ancient Romans. But those former glory days have long past. Today, Romania has one of the lowest living standards in Europe. Most of Romania's workers only earn enough to pay for basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. But help with the hard times has come in a most unusual way to some of Romania's children.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A world famous circus show made of Romanian homeless children will perform at Expo 2000 starting mid-August. Headed by a French conjurer, the Parade Foundation uses circus acts to re-socialize homeless kids. Helped by magic, the clown's red nose lends a whole new identity to those who wear it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I use the shows to thrill the public. You who applauded them now applaud them on the street tomorrow, too, in order to encourage the children, to show them that they're not alone and that their society cares about them. You like the show? Now look: Behind the red nose there is a man. Beyond the entertainment, there is a man, a man who suffers, who doesn't have a mother.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: At night, the parade vans tour the dwellings of homeless children offering hot meals, emergency medical assistance, and a ray of hope. The youngsters talk about their problems and learn magic tricks. They are then invited to the circus rehearsals at the day center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Milod (ph) is a good man. He brings us food and teaches us to behave, to stop sniffing glue, these kinds of things. He is very kind to us. We should be as good on our word as he is, otherwise it's no use.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: The door of the day center stays open full time. Here, the dialogue replaces street violence. The children who wish to become members of the parade show have to go to school and move to private housing; 170 of them have done it already.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm about to finish high school. And for better or for worse, I am halfway into society -- not fully, but I'm there. Thanks to the foundation, I am off the street, I am off drugs. Now I truly feel like a human being. I am treated differently than when I was in the street.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: A famous French fashion designer, John Guishered (ph), helps the homeless children in Bucharest make 35 outfits from scrap. The kids model them in a street fashion show. Their circus acts or art exhibitions ensures the parade offers homeless kids means of expression and also ways to earn a living with dignity.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news. WALCOTT: Much has been said in the past about the apathy of young people in the United States. But presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore are stepping up their efforts to attract generations X and Y. They're bringing out their young guns, with daughter Karenna Gore Schiff and nephew George P. Bush hitting the campaign trail.

But as John King reports, there's another demographic that could make or break this year's presidential election.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They play for pennies here because, for most, money is fairly scarce. So it's a relief that checking the vitals at this clinic costs nothing but time and a little friendly banter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're ticking right along.

KING: But not everyone is so lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife takes a lot of prescription drugs and those are out of sight, the prices they charge for those things.

KING: Most in this group trust Democrats more when it comes to dealing with prescription costs.

The president's proposal to add a new prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program gets better reviews than a competing plan congressional Republicans are bringing to a vote this week. The GOP plan offers incentives to insurers to offer the prescription coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm kind of leery about insurance companies.

KING: The prescription drug debate is a subplot as these older voters weigh their election-year choices.

(on camera): Voters over the age of 65 backed President Clinton by comfortable margins in both 1992 and 1996, but they broke for the Republicans in the 1998 congressional elections and are viewed as a critical swing block in the race for the White House this year.

(voice-over): The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows George W. Bush running ahead of Al Gore, 47 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters age 65 and over.

NEWHOUSE: The bottom line is Al Gore I don't think can win without senior citizens. They always vote. They will be 25 percent, if not higher, of the electorate.

KING: Pete Peterson (ph) voted for President Clinton twice, but shakes at the mention of the vice president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gore doesn't get anything automatically. I haven't heard Gore say a thing yet. KING: It's not that support for Bush is wildly enthusiastic. Ask about the Texas governor and even loyal Republicans like George Klenk (ph) have to stop and think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I voted for Bush in this election, the biggest reason I would vote for him is because I admire his father.

KING: These folks have been around longer than most, watched a lot of presidents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I voted for Eisenhower, yes.

KING: It's experience that makes them look at more than policy positions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see Vice President Gore as a president. I could see Bush before I see Gore as president. I don't think he's got the stature for it.

KING: And experience that makes them remind a visitor the economy can go down as well as up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we have good times, we don't have a war, and it's going to be tough on the next president to keep that going.

KING: As they mull their choices, these folks worry the country and the candidates are too caught up in this period of prosperity and blind to the notion that they might not always be dealt a hand this good.

John King, CNN, Erie, Pennsylvania.


WALCOTT: Some important voices to consider.

Well, that wraps up today's show. We'll see you right back here tomorrow. Bye-bye.



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