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NEWSROOM for August 7, 2000Aired August 7, 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.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Here to kick off your Monday NEWSROOM, I'm Shelley Walcott.
TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: And I'm Tom Haynes. We have a lot of news today, from wildfires to the wild kingdom and the wily world of politics.
WALCOTT: Topping today's news, fires in the western United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something that poses challenges not only once the fire is out, but then for the years to come.
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HAYNES: More environmental news in our "Daily Desk," in a case of fish vs. fowl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT WERNER, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, NATL. WILDLIFE RESEARCH CTR.: Our primary problem here in the southern United States is double- crested cormorant impacts to catfish.
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WALCOTT: Then, more animal challenges in "Worldview."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SATINDER BINDRA, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Meet India's tiniest, youngest and probably most photographed white tiger. After the death of 12 tigers at a zoo in eastern India, zoo keepers are treating this 20-day-old like royalty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYNES: Scouting brings smiles to some hardworking young people in "Chronicle." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIDEL GOMEZ, CUB SCOUT: We have to learn things, and then we get the badges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALCOTT: In today's top story, firefighters in the U.S. are battling dozens of wildfires in 11 western states. So far this year, more than 62,000 wildfires have scorched nearly 4 million acres. The smoke and flames have driven hundreds of residents from their homes. Many of the fires were sparked by lightning strikes. Federal officials say this is one of the worst fire seasons in decades. About 20,000 firefighters are battling the fires. The Army and Marines have deployed hundreds of troops to help out.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released satellite images showing large blankets of smoke covering parts of northeastern Idaho and western Montana. President Clinton plans to visit fire-ravaged areas in those states tomorrow.
Charles Zewe has more now on the ongoing battle against nature.
CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six hundred soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas completed two days of training and hiked into already burned areas of the Burgdorf Junction fire, one of seven major blazes and numerous smaller ones in Idaho alone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just trees, you know. It's the forest, oxygen, you know. Take away trees, you lose your oxygen.
ZEWE: The troops are mopping up behind exhausted veteran "Hot Shots," experienced firefighters who've carved fire breaks to protect the gold-mining hamlet of Warren, where only 40 people live.
(on camera): Is this town worth saving?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course it's worth saving. Any of these old historic towns is worth saving.
ZEWE (voice-over): The fire, which is being fought largely with water drops by choppers, made a major run on its northern flank and is threatening a nearby historic mining district where a handful of residents were evacuated as a precaution.
Fire bosses say the blaze, which is sending a huge plume of smoke into the air, is burning so fiercely it's creating its own weather.
Nearly 62,000 wildfires such as this one have been reported across the nation this year, scorching 3.8 million acres so far, the worst fire season in 50 years. U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, who toured the fire zone, calls it a national crisis.
MIKE DOMBECK, CHIEF, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: With the moisture levels as low as they are, with the drought conditions and the dry lightning, we've got a real challenge in front of us.
ZEWE (on camera): The blazes, however, are so fierce, fire experts say, that they'll likely rage on until the first snows of October.
Charles Zewe, CNN, Idaho County, Idaho.
WALCOTT: Heavy smoke from the wildfires is posing a health risk for some residents. Officials in Hamilton, Montana have issued a health alert advising residents to stay indoors.
Medical correspondent Holly Firfer reports on how wildfire smoke can hurt you.
HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A wildfire raging in the distance may not seem an immediate threat, but doctors say it's not the distance but the intensity of the smoke that can be dangerous to your health.
DR. HOWARD FRUMPKIN, ENVIRONMENTAL PHYSICIAN: If you're a couple of miles away and the wind is blowing the smoke away from you, you may be just fine. But if you're five miles away and the smoke is coming toward you in a concentrated way and you can't escape it, you may have quite a high exposure.
FIRFER: Wood and grass smoke contain irritants that can make your eyes and throat scratchy.
FRUMPKIN: As you inhale it and it moves down, it effects the lining of the airways, the tubes that bring air down to the lungs, causing more coughing, wheezing, secretion of fluids that then can come up as you cough. Once that inflammation sets in in the airway, the difficulty breathing can become more pronounced.
FIRFER: Doctors say if you feel irritated or are coughing, leave the area immediately. High exposure to wildfire smoke can cause bronchitis and even chronic asthma. They recommend the very young, very old, those already with asthma, emphysema, or any chronic respiratory ailment, also evacuate.
If exposure is minimal and you say at home, firefighters recommend taking extra precautions: shut all the doors and windows of your home and use damp cloths to block any cracks, and do not run the air conditioner.
JIM WRIGHT, CALIF. DEPT. OF FIRE PREVENTION: That's pulling in air from the outside into your home. And with that system being on, you're going to fill the house with smoke.
FIRFER: If the worst should happen once the fire is out, be careful: Danger still exists. FRUMPKIN: When you go to a fire afterwards and you smell the residual odors, those are chemicals you're smelling. Usually they're on particles that are floating in the air.
FIRFER: Chemicals from household products, pesticides, and other potentially hazardous materials that can cause respiratory illness as well. Firefighters add, most physical injuries occur during cleanup.
WRIGHT: You have to remember that those building components are still there, there's nails, there could be broken glass, there could be sharp metal.
FIRFER: They say be sure to wear gloves, long pants and closed shoes when you return.
Holly Firfer, CNN.
HAYNES: We also have our eye on U.S. politics in today's news. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore is working on his choice for vice president for the Democratic ticket. Over the weekend, Gore met with his advisers, including the head of his search team, former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher. He's expected to make his V.P. announcement on Tuesday.
Meantime, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, are hoping to capitalize on the momentum they gained after the Republican National Convention. They are campaigning through key battleground states crucial to their success in November.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crowds are a good size, the poll numbers impressive, the Republican nominee is feeling good.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we're going to get in there, I think, if everything goes well. And we're going to take that office.
CROWLEY: As Bush barrelled through the last day of his post- convention swing, the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows he has a 17-point lead over Al Gore. The survey was taken after the Republican convention.
Given Bush's lead going into it, the new numbers represent only a modest bounce, but it's hard to find much fault in a 17-point spread. But for the Bush camp, it is one thing to enjoy the ride and another to think it will last forever.
KARL ROVE, CHIEF STRATEGIST, BUSH-CHENEY: I think there's a core lead of 4 or 5 points. It may not be there by Labor Day. It may be down into, you know, 1 or 2.
CROWLEY: So even as the campaign begins to look toward the fall, for now they are enjoying the summer high.
BUSH: Let's go straight to Washington, D.C. What do you think? Faith in this country is going to do it.
CROWLEY: Traveling south through Illinois, Bush greets the curious, the committed and the cranky as he rumbles through the small towns that don't even make it on the state maps. Along the way, he deboards for what are basically mini-conventions. He offers the Cliff Note version of his acceptance speech to largely Republican crowds, calling for a stronger military, a more secure Social Security, better education and tax cuts.
BUSH: Our opponents believe the surplus is the government's money.
BUSH: We know the surplus is the people's money, and we want to send some of it back.
CROWLEY: Dick Cheney is largely a silent partner, but he, too, manages to get the point across.
RICHARD CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But it's absolutely essential for us to do whatever has to be done in order to restore honor and integrity and decency to the Oval Office.
CROWLEY: Wrapping up in Springfield, Bush and Cheney head home to Texas to wait out the Democratic convention.
HAYNES: Well, it seems fish farms are going to the birds. The number of aquaculture operations is on the upswing. But so are the numbers of fish-loving cormorants, and that means trouble for a lot of fish farmers.
David George has the story.
DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You might think great flocks of birds that were once on the brink of extinction would be cause for celebration. But to some catfish farmers, these double- crested cormorants are taking a huge bite out of their once thriving businesses.
ALBERT "RUSTY" GAUDE, CATFISH AND CRAWFISH FARMER: The farm has literally been brought to its knees by the birds.
GEORGE: In the eastern United States, from Mississippi to Maine, even as far north as Canada and other areas around the globe, many fish-eating birds are becoming economic and environmental pests. Cormorants, egrets, white pelicans and herons, once decimated by agricultural chemicals such as DDT, have exploded to record numbers. And although all have taken a chunk out of farm-raised and wild fish stocks...
WERNER: Our primary problem here in the southern United States is double-crested cormorant impacts to catfish. We also work with American white pelicans, herons and egrets, which impact catfish production, bait-fish production and crawfish production.
GEORGE: Cormorants were given protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1972. That same year, DDT was banned.
With the booming fish farming industry in the South and ample wild fish stocks in the North, cormorants in North America now increase at a rate of 29 percent every year. Other bird populations are also on the increase, a fact frustrated fish farmers find hard to face.
GAUDE: If you have 200 or 300 pelicans in one particular pond and they herd them up into a corner, then two or three nights of that and you will easily lose $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 worth of fish.
GEORGE: Now, biologists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are using technology to learn more about these birds. This battery- operated backpack transmits information to orbiting satellites. The data is then downloaded onto a computer and analyzed by scientists.
Farmers and researchers are eagerly awaiting the results of this USDA study. With more than 1 million cormorants born each year, scientists are in a race against time.
David George, CNN.
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.
WALCOTT: "Worldview" also focuses on the environment today. Get set for an animal odyssey. Check out exotic wildlife in Chile at risk in ways you might not anticipate. And meet some feathered and furry creatures in India. But first, we take you on an Arctic adventure in the U.S.
HAYNES: We begin in the United States and the state of Alaska. Russia ceded Alaska to the U.S. in 1867, but it did not become a state until 1959, the 49th state to be admitted to the union.
Alaska is bounded on the east by Canada and otherwise surrounded by water. It's the largest U.S. state. Mount McKinley is its highest peak. Alaska's nickname is "The Last Frontier," and its motto is "north to the future."
But that future is under debate, particularly the future of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a huge, 19-million-acre site, home to a spectacular assortment of animals. Oil extraction is one of Alaska's chief industries and it's also the source of controversy in an area devoted to conservation.
Gary Strieker takes us into the Arctic.
GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this time each year, this wildlife spectacle returns to what is called "America's Serengeti," the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
JOHN WEAVER, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: They travel about 400 miles to this specific area of the coastal plain to give birth to their calves.
STRIEKER: This birthing ground for tens of thousands of caribou is also a nesting area for millions of migratory birds, an undisturbed wilderness sheltering the greatest diversity of wildlife in the Arctic.
But like Prudhoe Bay to the west, geologists believe the refuge covers a massive deposit of oil and gas, possibly the biggest unexploited reserve in the United States.
Oil companies say they could drill in the refuge with minimal impact on the environment, causing no major disturbance to wildlife. But conservationists argue it's impossible to do that.
(on camera): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has carried out its own scientific studies to assess the impact oil and gas development would have on this refuge. It concludes there would be a major impact. Any measures to reduce the impact would be uncertain and the refuge would be irreparably altered by development.
FRAN MAUER, U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE: It's impossible to have an industrial field in a wilderness landscape. It's as simple as that. There's no way to get around that impact.
(voice-over): Opening the refuge to oil drilling has substantial backing in the U.S. Congress. Five years ago, President Clinton vetoed a budget rider that would have allowed it. This year, a similar Senate bill was blocked in committee. Alaska's two Republican senators claim their constituents support oil drilling, but Native Americans in the refuge are divided. Gwich'in Indians oppose drilling as a threat to the caribou calving ground.
SARA JAMES, GWICH'IN STEERING COMMITTEE: Caribou is who we are. And without caribou, my people would have never survived.
STRIEKER: But Inupiat Eskimos support oil development here as a new source of tax money and jobs. Opponents of drilling argue that 95 percent of Alaska's North Slope is already open to oil exploration or development; that any oil from the refuge would make little difference to U.S. oil security, and that the cost would be too great.
WEAVER: The loss of the pristine nature of this area to oil and gas development, that would be a lasting impact. That would be lost forever.
STRIEKER: Rising oil prices have renewed the debate. Presidential candidate George W. Bush favors opening the refuge to the oil companies. Candidate Al Gore pledges to oppose it. And oil interests say President Clinton may try to close the issue by declaring the refuge a national monument before he leaves office.
Gary Strieker, CNN, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: We turn now to a different part of the globe, to Chile in South America. It's a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains. Chile's chief exports are copper, iodine, coal, iron ore, sugar beets, fish and livestock. But some kinds of animal trade are not welcome. In fact, they're illegal.
Marina Kolbe has details.
MARINA KOLBE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine peering into an overhead luggage bin at mid-flight and finding this python poking its head out of a bag. This snake was discovered aboard a flight from Miami to Santiago, Chile. Police say it is one deal in an estimated half-billion-dollars in the worldwide illegal trade in exotic animals.
This python, which spent at least nine hours on the plane before a shocked passenger found it, is a breed native to India. Chilean police estimate the illegal exotic trade there runs about $11 million a year.
Among recent police finds, this Argentine parrot, this poisonous snake from Brazil, which they recovered in a parking lot, and some 20 turtles smuggled in and put up for sale in a shop.
JUAN SUFAN, SAG AGENT (through translator): If you are caught carrying drugs, the penalty is pretty heavy. However, if you are caught with animals, probably nothing might happen to you. So the risk for the trafficker is minimal and the gains are high.
KOLBE: Not all these smuggled exotics are brought in alive. Some are brought in stuffed, like these alligators, or just their skins, like these snakes. Despite the very real possibility of a smuggled animal dying in transit, there is a serious economic incentive for smugglers.
SUFAN (through translator): According to what those who traffic animals have told us, if just 5 percent of the animals they bring survive, they recuperate all the money invested. Over 5 percent, everything is considered gains. Were talking about 2,000- to 2,500- percent gains.
KOLBE: For those lucky animals that survive the trip to Chile, like the python from Miami, and are found by customs police, they will likely stay as residents of the zoo.
WALCOTT: On to India, one of the world's most populated countries. This Asian nation is home to the Ganges River, a sacred waterway for many of its people. The mighty Himalayas are another important natural feature. But today we look instead at its wildlife, particularly the tiger.
Tigers are large carnivores found in the forests of Asia. But they've been hunted heavily for their striped pelts, and now the majestic creatures are becoming scarce. In fact, they are one of the world's most endangered species.
At the start of the 20th century, more than 100,000 wild tigers roamed the Earth. In the past 100 years, their numbers have dwindled. Now with poaching and entire forests being hacked away, the numbers are small -- less than 7,500.
And tigers in the wild aren't the only ones at risk, as Satinder Bindra explains.
BINDRA (voice-over): Meet India's tiniest, youngest and probably most photographed white tiger. After the death of 12 tigers at a zoo in eastern India, zoo keepers are treating this 20-day old like royalty. In fact, zoo keepers call him Shahenshah, or "king emperor."
Shahenshah's two siblings died soon after birth. One of them was trampled by his mother, prompting zoo keepers to separate Shahenshah from the tigress' care.
DR. BRIJ LAI SHARMA, DIR., NEW DELHI ZOO (through translator): He's obviously missing his mother. And instead of tiger's milk, he's drinking goat's milk.
BINDRA: Lots of it. Shahenshah's attendants feed him five times a day, conscious that public interest in white tigers has increased after nine were killed in India's worst ever zoo tragedy.
(on camera): Indian officials say all the tigers died of a parasitical illness that quickly affects the blood supply and damages tissues. But a report now accuses zoo officials of, quote "making an error in judgment." The report says zoo keepers should have noticed the symptoms of the disease faster and started treatment earlier.
(voice-over): The tiger deaths are a serious embarrassment for India, which prides itself on tiger conservation and has the world's largest tiger population.
A very small number of all tigers are born white because of a genetic abnormality. In 1951, the world's first white tiger was captured in India. Then, an aggressive inbreeding program increased the number of white tigers. Care givers now say this program's goals must be reevaluated.
SHARMA (through translator): If the number of animals keep increasing, its not possible for the keeper to give attention to every animal.
BINDRA: What animal lovers across India are now demanding is better care and attention for zoo animals. And its Shahenshah who's become a powerful symbol of their affection.
Satinder Bindra, CNN, New Delhi.
HAYNES: Furry animals aren't the only creatures getting care in India. Feathered ones are also in the spotlight. In fact, when they're too sick to nest, they have a special place to rest.
In the heart of New Delhi is a bird hospital. It's well known throughout the city and most of its patients are brought in by passersby who find sick and injured birds. The Charitable Bird Hospital was founded back in 1929. Today, it can accommodate about 3,000 sick birds. Doctors say about 40 of the fragile creatures are admitted each day for treatment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LATA GHANGHORIA, VETERINARIAN (through translator): Most of the birds are brought in with injuries sustained from fans. Sometimes they also get hit by motorists, and sometimes they fracture their legs by falling. All such cases are brought to the hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYNES: Doctors wing their way through a variety of problems, from parrots with broken legs to partially paralyzed peacocks.
Say that three times.
Once the birds are better, they're set free. The charity recently celebrated more than 70 years of service.
We want to tell you about a program in California providing a pretty exciting opportunity for kids. They are children of migrant workers, among the first to try a new activity; one you might be familiar with.
Don Knapp reports.
DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Riding bikes, playing on a dumpster, or just hanging out in the parking lot -- it's how many of the children of migrant farm workers pass time in labor camps. But there's a whole bunch of new activities for some of the young boys in the Harney Lane Camp. They're called Cub Scouting.
GROUP: I pledge allegiance to the flag...
KNAPP: Gerardo Gomez leads a Cub Scout pack made up entirely of migrant farm worker boys.
GERARDO GOMEZ, CUB SCOUT LEADER: Achievement five is working -- is tools for fixing and building.
KNAPP: It's the first Cub pack for children of migrant families who work the fields of California's San Joaquin Valley.
G. GOMEZ: Well, actually, just seeing smiles on their faces just makes me happy. We took them swimming. Some of the kids don't know how to swim, and so it gave us opportunity to teach them and to help them learn to develop those skills.
KNAPP: And Cub Scouting gives Gerardo, who studies year round in California, a chance to spend time with his little brother when the family returns from Mexico each summer to work the fields.
F. GOMEZ: We have to learn things, and then we get the badges.
KNAPP: Ordinary activities can be a special opportunity for struggling farm laborer families.
RODOLFO ACEVODO, FARM WORKER (through translator): I am happy, and I'm also glad that he has the opportunity to do that. As myself, who never had anything like that when we were growing up, we always had to work in the field.
KNAPP: Diane Jarvis' husband came up with the idea of Cub Scouting for children of migrant farm workers. There were already Spanish language versions of Scouting literature and video tapes.
DIANE JARVIS, DEN MASTER: The nice thing about Scouting is that Scouting is a worldwide program. But in Mexico, its primarily for the elite. When the boys come here and they get to participate in Scouting, they're becoming citizens of a greater community than just the migrant camp.
KNAPP: And besides, they get to have some summertime fun.
Don Knapp, CNN.
WALCOTT: And it sounds like scouting is a great way to help those kids feel a part of the larger community.
HAYNES: Yes, it sure does.
Well, the concept of assimilation that is bridging gaps between cultures is one idea we'll tackle this fall in our series "Still Coming to America".
WALCOTT: Our Joel Hochmuth will look at a myriad of challenges and issues facing immigrants in America. That's coming up this fall right here on NEWSROOM.
HAYNES: That's right. But now it's time to say goodbye.
WALCOTT: And we'll see you back here tomorrow.
HAYNES: Take care.
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