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NEWSROOM for August 9, 2000Aired August 9, 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: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Back on track for a Wednesday. I'm Tom Haynes.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. Here's a look at what's ahead.
HAYNES: The way is paved for former Chilean military ruler Augusto Pinochet to stand trial on human rights charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The road towards real democracy has began. The powerful are no longer above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALCOTT: Then, in "Business Desk," we check out the checkout lines at grocery stores and a new way to avoid those long waits. And here's some food for thought: How much money does the average American spend at the supermarket each week? The answer in "Business Desk."
HAYNES: Then "Worldview" puts the microscope to the medical profession: the plight and flight of doctors in Cuba.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSALBA GONZALEZ DE CORDOVA, DOCTOR'S WIFE (through translator): With his salary, he can't buy his own house, he can't buy anything expect the bare necessities to eat. That's no secret to anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALCOTT: We race to the finish line in "Chronicle" with the story of a young woman who's not afraid to put her foot on the gas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH FISHER, AGE 19: I think if I have the talent and the ability, the desire and the dedication to race, then by all means put me in the race car. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WALCOTT: In today's top story, former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet is closer to facing trial in his own country for alleged human rights abuses. Chile's Supreme Court has voted to lift the 84- year-old's immunity from prosecution. The decision by Chile's high court is the latest step in a two-year battle between human rights advocates and Pinochet.
On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet led a bloody military coup that toppled Chile's elected socialist government. Pinochet was named president, determined to transform Chile into a free market economy. While his regime is credited with keeping the Chilean economy in check, his military imprisoned many of its opponents, dissolved Congress, restricted freedom of the press, and banned political parties.
More than 3,000 people died or disappeared during Pinochet's regime. Tens of thousands of others fled the country rather than live under military rule. A new constitution was approved in 1980. In 1988, elections were held. The voters rejected Pinochet's quest for another eight-year term as president. Pinochet remained in office until 1990 when a new president was installed. In 1998, while recuperating from back surgery in a London hospital, Pinochet was arrested and charged with crimes against humanity.
Pinochet's opponents were jubilant at yesterday's ruling stripping him of immunity from prosecution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN PABLO LETELIER, PINOCHET OPPONENT: Chile today will be more unified than it was in the past because its through legal processes that criminals will be tried, and Pinochet from today on will be treated as any criminal should be treated. As a citizen, he will be obliged to declare in the courts of justice, and I think that will allow us to consolidate our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALCOTT: With more on the decision, here's Amanda Kibel.
AMANDA KIBEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four months ago, Britain's home office sent General Augusto Pinochet home to Chile saying he was not well enough to be extradited to Spain and stand trial there.
JACK STRAW, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: I am all too well aware that the practical consequences of refusing to extradite Senator Pinochet to Spain is that he will probably not be tried anywhere.
KIBEL: This is exactly what Pinochet's supporters hoped for, that Pinochet would be left alone to live out the rest of his life, immune, under laws he created himself while still in power, from prosecution for alleged human rights abuses during his 17-year rule.
But now, Chile's Supreme Court has opened the way for Pinochet to be brought to trial. Human rights campaigners say Pinochet's 17-month sojourn in Britain played a crucial part in the Supreme Court's decision.
WILDER TYLER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH INTL.: That weakened the political support he had in Chile, that allowed time for reflection and for introspection, I think, in Chilean society in order to find ways to deal with the burden.
KIBEL: Last year, Britain's Supreme Court ruled that Pinochet was not immune from arrest and could therefore be sent to Spain to stand trial there. That was later set aside by the home secretary. It would have opened the way for Pinochet's extradition to Spain, but anti-Pinochet campaigners say it was still a landmark decision.
JEREMY CORBYRI, MEMBER OF BRITISH PARLIAMENT: The campaign to have Pinochet extradited to Spain was a very important one, and we won the very important ruling in the British House of Lords, that former heads of state didn't enjoy immunity. And I think that helped to change the international legal climate.
KIBEL: But even as the anti-Pinochet lobby celebrates what they say could be a turning point in Chile's tainted history, they acknowledge that a quick trial is unlikely.
(on camera): Pinochet's age -- he is 84 now -- his medical condition -- he has a pacemaker, diabetes, and has had three mild strokes -- and the fact that, as a retired general, he maintains the right to be tried in writing rather than in person, could all delay the process of bringing him to trial.
Amanda Kibel, CNN, London.
ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: Today's news shifts focus and looks at two U.S. companies in the midst of serious labor disputes. First to New England and the situation facing Verizon Communications. Almost 90,000 workers are on strike over issues concerning job security and forced overtime.
Verizon was formed in June by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE. It provides phone and communication services to millions of customers. One of the motivating factors for companies to resolve labor disputes is outrage by consumers over loss of service. But it seems Verizon may be dodging that issue.
PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If Wall Street could talk, that's what it would have said to Verizon. Investors all but walked the picket lines in a buyer's strike against the company after it issued disappointing earnings. The culprit: unexpectedly high costs of the merger of GTE with Bell Atlantic, for everything from renaming the company Verizon to relocating workers.
MEL MARTEN, EDWARD JONES: I think it may have been a little bit optimistic to expect that these companies can generate the revenue synergies and cost savings expected from the merger from day one when its completed.
VILES: But one analyst suggested it may save the company a few bucks.
JAMES HENRY, BEAR STEARNS: The fact is, you know, if pick up the telephone, it still works. Meanwhile, they don't have to pay 87,000 people to come to work every day.
JORDAN: Labor disputes and bad weather are causing problems at United Airlines where pilots are calling in sick and refusing to work overtime because their contracts have already expired. In United's case, outraged passengers could force management and labor to expedite a resolution.
CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Passengers who find their United Airlines flight canceled may experience even more frustration if they try to find a seat on another airline.
Industry officials say airline travel is at record highs and there are few empty seats, sometimes none at all.
HAYNES: In our "Business Desk" today, we take you to the grocery store. But forget the potato chips. We're talking economics here. Remember our pop quiz? We asked, What does the average American spend on groceries each week? Well, 34 bucks a week is what they spend, and that's per person not per family.
In 1998, there were about 3 1/2 million food store employees in the United States. The non-supervisory workers earn about $9 an hour, so salaries are a big chunk of a store's operating expense. How can they trim costs?
Louise Schiavone provides one solution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me start it.
UNIDENTIFIED COMPUTER: Please scan your first item and place it in the bag.
LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This customer is trying out a new self-serve check-out machine in her local supermarket. So is this customer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The machine is telling us to -- just a minute. Let's wait for her. Don't do that.
SCHIAVONE: With $450 billion in annual food sales, the largest retail business in the United States, supermarkets are eager to try new technologies that attract and retain new customers.
MICHAEL SANSOLO, FOOD MARKETING INSTITUTE: What the self- scanners give us, we believe, is a chance for the customer to, first of all, take more control of what they do at the front end. It gives them a way, possibly, to be on a speedier line.
SCHIAVONE: In fact, 61 percent of shoppers rate waiting in line the worst part of food shopping, according to the Food Marketing Institute: 93 percent select their primary store based on how quickly they can check out; 14 percent of U.S. supermarkets have installed or soon plan to install self-serve check-out.
But while self-scanning may save you time on express lines, it won't necessarily save you frustration, especially when you have a big purchase.
ED COMEAU, DONALDSON LUFKIN & JENRETTE: A lot of consumers going around the store with, you know, spending $100 to $150, full grocery cart, last thing they want to have to do is check themselves out of a store.
SCHIAVONE: Self-scanning won't save you money, either. But if consumer testing goes well, today's new technology may be just the beginning.
SANSOLO: We look to a day where maybe the entire cart could be scanned in a matter of seconds so that the shopper -- kind of the way easy pass works on toll booths -- the shopper could literally, simply walk through an arch, have their entire order scanned, have some payment system set up that's like the speed pass, and go right out to their car.
SCHIAVONE: That's "Your Money."
Louise Schiavone, for CNN Financial News, Saverna Park, Maryland.
WALCOTT: We span the globe in "Worldview." We'll take you to a floating hotel, but don't expect smooth sailing. Times are tough in Bangladesh. And we'll visit Cuba where home repair is cool, but human repair is cheap. And drivers beware: Gas prices are pumped up all over the place. We'll take you to Italy and beyond.
HAYNES: If you're logging frequent viewer points on NEWSROOM, you know we've spent a lot of time talking about the high price of gasoline in recent months. Drivers in the United States have been paying much more than they're used to: upwards of $2 a gallon in some parts of the country.
But our story today finds us in Italy, where drivers would be all too happy to pay two bucks a gallon for gas. You see, many American tourists visiting Italy can't believe their eyes when they see gas prices almost double that of the U.S. And Italy isn't the only place where gas is more expensive than in the U.S. Some countries have had to deal with expensive fuel for years.
Gayle Young gives us some perspective from Rome.
GAYLE YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Europcar Rental, the agency's international clientele have mixed reactions when the bill is added up and gasoline comes to 2,000 lira a liter, or over $4 a gallon. Most nationalities are used to it, while Americans now facing high gas prices in the United States try to be philosophical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a major resource, it's a depletable resource, and it should be used primarily to make plastic rather than to drive cars.
YOUNG: A noble sentiment, yet he drives off in the biggest gas guzzler on the lot.
Many Americans are appalled by rising gas prices while Italians seem resigned. But both nationalities are committed to their cars. In the home of Fiat and Ferrari, there are an average of 1.3 registered vehicles for every licensed driver in the country.
JOHN GIAN MARIA FARA, SOCIOLOGIST (through translator): Italians have a special relationship with the automobile. I joke that the second thing in order of importance after the mamma is the car.
YOUNG: Despite the high price of gasoline, most Italians still depend on private cars to get around. Public transportation is available but not very popular. Less than a third of Romans take the bus. Instead, they opt for economical, not to mention sporty, motor bikes, while cars tend to be far smaller and more efficient than generally found in the United States.
This man's Cittadini (ph) is the size of a golf cart and he fills it up only once a month.
"We looked for something small," he says, "and found it."
The Pauley (ph) family, on vacation from the United States, say they see the point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a Suburban at home and that uses a huge amount of gas. You know, it's not fuel efficient. And I think we're going to have to get used to having vehicles that are smaller and much more efficient.
YOUNG: But with a mound of luggage, these American consumers may find higher gas prices and smaller vehicles tough going, while Italians seem content to just scoot by.
Gayle Young, CNN, Rome.
WALCOTT: Next stop, Cuba, an island nation just south of Key West, Florida. Cuba is the largest and one of the most beautiful islands in the West Indies. It's graced with towering mountains, broad grasslands and magnificent beaches. Cuba is the only communist state in the Americas. Since 1959, the country has been ruled by President Fidel Castro. The Castro government developed close ties with the Soviet Union. This led to tense relations with the United States. And in 1961, the U.S. cut off diplomatic ties to Cuba.
Today, the Cuban government remains highly centralized. Political and economic freedom is severely limited. The government provides many benefits for its people, including free education and medical care.
But as Lucia Newman reports, times have been tough for Cuba's doctors.
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Cuba never tires of boasting it has more doctors per capita than almost any country in the world: one for every 172 people. But while the number of doctors may be large, their salaries are small -- so small, in fact, that an average porter in a tourist hotel, who earns tips in dollars, makes four or five times more than a medical professional, who's paid in Cuban pesos.
It's a distortion in Cuba's economic system that is enticing many medical professionals to seek better opportunities abroad. Doctors like Lionel Cordova-Rodriguez, whose wife says she believes her husband sought political asylum while on a Cuban medical mission in Zimbabwe because he wanted to live better and help his family.
CORDOVA (through translator): With his salary, he can't buy his own house, he can't buy anything except the bare necessities to eat. That's no secret to anybody.
NEWMAN: Dr. Cordova and another colleague caught world attention when Zimbabwean authorities first attempted to return them to Cuba, and then detained them rather than immediately allowing them to seek asylum elsewhere. They were among the 2,000 Cuban doctors currently on international assignment, doctors whose services Cuba loans, or sometimes rents, to poor countries in Central America and Africa where lack of medical care is critical.
Cuban authorities say the two doctors who sought asylum in Zimbabwe have shown, quote, "shameful moral conduct by abandoning their commitment to their patients." But they insist they've committed no crime and would not be punished if they returned to Cuba.
Most Cuban doctors who seek their fortunes elsewhere don't ask for asylum. Rather, they seek invitations to travel abroad and then simply don't return home. It's a growing phenomena that has the government concerned; so much so that most medical professionals are being made to wait months, and even years, before getting authorization to leave the country.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
WALCOTT: More business news from Cuba. While some doctors are turning a cold shoulder on the country, other folks are working to keep the chill in Cuba. It's "ice, ice, baby" in the kitchens of Havana.
Lucia Newman returns to tell us whose handy at home.
NEWMAN (voice-over): Cubans are famous for their vintage cars and their extraordinary ingenuity in keeping these pre-revolutionary relics running.
This talent though, is not confined to cars. Just look in this kitchen. Eulalia Lazo`s refrigerator, one of the first General Electrics to arrive in Cuba, is almost 80 years old, thanks to decades of tinkering.
"I`ve had this refrigerator for 40 years," she says. "I bought it secondhand when it was already almost 40 years old, and its never broken down."
This 48-year-old Frigidaire was bought at Sears in Havana, almost a decade before the revolution did away with the capitalist department store. And then there's this pre-revolution model: an American-made Leonard.
"This refrigerator has turned out to be great," says the owner. "We bought it in 1951."
Cuban authorities calculate there are at least a half a million old fridges still in circulation: the pre-revolution models and the post-revolution models, like this Soviet Minsk and the Cuban-made Antiyano (ph) like this one.
The problem with all of them is that they consume four times more energy than modern refrigerators and use freon gas, which is damaging to the Earth`s ozone layer when it leaks. That`s why authorities here have announced a plan to retire the fossil fridges" and replace them with these: new modern models, the 21st century version of Cuba`s old Antiyano.
The factory in Santa Clara, which was originally opened by Che Guevara in the early '60s, had been closed for almost a decade because of Cuba`s acute economic crisis, brought on by the collapse of the Soviet Union. But now, it`s back up and running, able to produce 70,000 energy-saving, environmentally safe fridges a year, at prices ranging from $440 to $530. The one hitch: Most Cuban`s don`t earn that much in even two years.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana. (END VIDEOTAPE)
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Now we head to the South Asian nation of Bangladesh. Once part of Pakistan, it gained independence in 1971 after a nine-month civil war between East and West Pakistan ended. At that point, East Pakistan became the region that is now known as Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries and ranks as one of the poorest nations of the world. Having few natural resources, the country's economy relies heavily on agriculture. About two-thirds of its people are farmers and many city laborers work for about a dollar a day. Often, daily wage and migrant laborers seek refuge in floating hotels. But because of the economy, the future of these hotels are looking bleak.
CNN's Satinder Bindra explains.
SATINDER BINDRA, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIER (voice-over): These ramshackle hotels are not much to look at. Years of heat and humidity have slowly chipped away at their exteriors. But each year, hundreds of those on the move seek them out as an affordable stopping place. They're especially popular with daily wage and migrant laborers. For very little money, they can get the basics of life: a roof, a hot meal, and a friendly smile.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The food served in the hotel is good, the atmosphere is good. It is very convenient for us to come here and eat as we travel by boats for reaching here.
BINDRA: Hotel owners say they're struggling to keep their businesses afloat. Although their hotels are popular, they say it's difficult to turn a profit.
MOHAMMAD NUR ISLAM, HOTEL OWNER (through translator): We have been running this hotel for a long time now. We rent out the place for a mere 30 rupees per day. It's affordable for them and a lot of people come here.
BINDRA: Owners say their clientele can't afford to pay more for lodging. They're urging the government to step in and subsidize the hotels. Without such help, they say, Dhaka's floating hotels may soon disappear.
HAYNES: Well, as you all know, it's convention time in the U.S. presidential election process. Next up: the Reform Party. The Reform Party grew out of Texas billionaire Ross Perot's presidential aspirations in 1992. He has since distanced himself from the party. Unlike the other two big parties, the Reform Party does not accept special interest contributions and is usually silent on social issues.
One of the party's most visible members has been Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. He's backed away from the Reform Party, calling it "hopelessly dysfunctional." Former Republican Party member and former Independent presidential candidate Pat Buchanan is angling for the party's nomination in what's shaping up to be the only contested party nomination in the 2000 election.
Gary Tuchman has this preview of the Reform Party convention, which begins Thursday in Long Beach, California.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is the only man to run for president under the banner of the party he founded, but Ross Perot does not want to be the Reform Party presidential candidate in 2000.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jack, you're not helping me!
You're not helping anyone!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither are they.
PROTESTER: You're going to have to throw me off the stage!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: So the fight is on for the nomination and it's a fight that's not for the squeamish, as evidenced during a Reform Party meeting in February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people don't want a solution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we do want a solution! What do you think we came here for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we have Mr. Gargan be included?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We flew here to get a solution!
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUCHMAN: The battle for the party's presidential nomination has created a battle for its soul and fights over everything from party rules to who should run the party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for Jack Gargan! For six months he has been unduly harassed and I am ashamed of this party! You are unethical, corrupt people!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: After that accusation, Jack Gargan, an ally of Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, was voted out, and that was a day after Ventura, who had earlier said he did not want to be the Reform Party presidential candidate, said he also no longer wanted to be part of the Reform Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 11, 2000)
GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: I can't stay within a national party that, you know, that could well have Pat Buchanan as its presidential nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: In addition to Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura, former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker considered going for the nomination, and so did New York developer Donald Trump.
HAYNES: Hey, ever imagine yourself behind the wheel of a race car taking the track at 100 miles an hour? Easy to imagine, right? Maybe not if you're a girl. There aren't too many women in auto racing. Matter of fact, can you name the first woman to compete in the Indy 500? Well, the answer is Janet Guthrie, the year 1977.
Almost a quarter century later, another young woman is breaking barriers on the fast track.
CNN Student Bureau has her story.
JAMIE CUROTT, CNN STUDENT BUREAU (voice-over): Nineteen-year-old Sarah Fisher is on a mission. And the fact that she's a woman isn't getting in her way.
FISHER: I'm not all about women in racing. That's not my attitude at all.
CUROTT: She began racing at 5 years old. Racing for 15 years has made her at home on the track, and Fisher says she doesn't want to be treated any differently among her competitors. FISHER: I mean, I think if I have the talent and the ability, the desire and the dedication to race, then by all means put me in the race car. But if I can't do any of those four, then throw me out because I don't belong there, at least for the sake of the competitors.
SCOTT SHARP, RACE CAR DRIVER: But if a guy is in front of you, it's the next car you need to pass. That's how I look at it. And it doesn't matter if it's a gorilla driving it, it's the next car you have to pass.
CUROTT: In August of 1999, Fisher became the youngest person to ever pass the Indy Racing League rookie test. Her competitors say she's earned the right to be on the track.
SHARP: It's not a male-only sport, it's a talent sport. That's the important issue. And what I'm excited about with Sarah is she's the real deal. Sarah stands on the gas as good as any guy does.
JIMMY KITE, RACE CARE DRIVER: She's one of the drivers you trust, and there's not a lot of them out there you actually do. So I enjoy having her out there.
CUROTT: Fisher is one of only three women in the Indy Racing League. She says she doesn't want to just qualify, she wants to win.
FISHER: If I don't win, I'm going to be really upset.
CUROTT: This summer, she broke a record at the Midas 500 Classic, starting fifth, better than any woman ever in the circuit. Even though she has not yet won an Indy title, what she has won is a legion of fans.
FISHER: I've always had a pretty big fan following. I think it's just because I'm different and a lot of people see that and they like that and they try to cheer for the underdog.
CUROTT (on camera): Fans often root for the underdog, but Fisher doesn't want to be the longshot anymore. Her sights are on the checkered flag at the Indianapolis 500.
Jamie Curott (ph), CNN Student Bureau, Atlanta.
WALCOTT: Looks like fun.
And that wraps up tonight's show.
HAYNES: We'll see you tomorrow. Take care.
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