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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for August 14, 2000

Aired August 14, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: Monday is upon us. That means a whole new week of NEWSROOM. I'm Andy Jordan.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. We have news of politics, the environment, and more politics. Here's the agenda.

JORDAN: As the Democrats get primed for their convention, so does their host city.

And just down the road, members of the Reform Party make their presidential picks.

WALCOTT: Issues of the environment fill our "daily desk." While fires in the Western U.S. continue to burn, icecaps in Greenland continue to melt.

JORDAN: More environmental news in "Worldview," as we sink into the mysterious underworld of Belize.

WALCOTT: Then, we make our way back to "Democracy in America" as we chronicle the politics of young people.


RACHEL METSON, CALIFORNIA DNC DELEGATE: Rather than out there protesting, I feel like I'm taking a more effective route, in my opinion, of making an impact on politics.


JORDAN: In today's top story, Democrats hope their mandate for America takes flight in the City of Angels. The party is gearing up for its national convention, which kicks off later today in Los Angeles. The candidates spent the weekend campaigning. Yesterday, Vice President Al Gore visited with sick children at a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, as he made a pitch for universal health care coverage.

Meantime, Gore's running mate, Senator Joseph Leiberman, vowed not to stop criticizing the entertainment industry for its use of sex and violence. But, he said, it's unnecessary for Gore to return campaign donations from controversial donors, such as "Playboy" magazine.

And the first in a series of planned protests against Democrats has taken place. Hundreds of people rallied near the convention site yesterday to denounce everything from world trade, to the death penalty. Convention security is a huge issue this week in L.A.

With more on that, here's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took Los Angeles police 18 months working at a secret location to come up with this security plan for the Democratic National Convention. The immediate area around Staples Center has been made a high-security zone, a perimeter of cement barriers and chain-link fencing stretches for eight blocks. Roads have been closed and traffic rerouted.

On any given convention day, 2,000 police officers will be on guard. More personnel and equipment are staged at half a dozen sites around the city. They have access to a wide arsenal of non-lethal weaponry, including CS gas, pepper spray, projectiles, and rubber bullets. If need be, the LAPD can mobilize its entire force of 9,300 officers.

But the responsibility of protecting the convention won't just fall on the LAPD, a complex mix of local, county, state and federal forces will also be used. Even the usually reserved Secret Service admits concern when it comes to possible problems. L.A., agents say, is no Philadelphia.

FRANK O'DONNELL, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: And we're sure that there will be many, many more demonstrators here than in Philadelphia, and a lot of that has to do just with geography, a lot of the demonstrators live on the West Coast.

SAVIDGE: The Secret Service is in charge of security in the convention center itself. A chief concern: the convention center's 187 doors. Remote sensors and 45 cameras monitor the labyrinth of hallways and approaches. Agents will be prepared to cover and evacuate the president, while a specially trained and heavy-armed five-man counter-assault team will stay and fight. As a last resort, the California National Guard can also be called up and be in place in 24 hours, their weapons fitted with special lock guards set on semiautomatic.

Publicly, authorities say they're ready; privately, they worry. As one police official said, with 80 delegate hotels, 300 delegate buses, a freeway system and a convention center right downtown, L.A. is a target-rich environment.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Los Angeles.


ANNOUNCER: The first ever Democratic National Convention began May 21, 1832 in Baltimore. President Andrew Jackson already had his renomination from state legislatures, but he engineered the meeting, to get the new vice-president he wanted.

The man he didn't want anymore had cast the deciding vote against making Martin Van Buren minister to England. Jackson wanted to make Van Buren his political heir, by first making him vice-president in 1832.

But he worried that the states or the party congressional caucus would come up with so many possible running mates that Van Buren might not win. The Democrat's first national convention gave Jackson the running mate he wanted and also set up party voting procedures that would last more than a century.

And Van Buren, would, indeed, move up to the top job, in 1836.

JORDAN: As Democratic delegates were gathering in Los Angeles over the weekend, the Reform Party was holding its convention in Long Beach, California. The party actually split in two, in a fight over who to nominate and that led to two competing conventions right next door to each other.

Former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan says he won the party's legitimate nomination. He selected former teacher and conservative activist Ezola Foster as his running mate. In his 45- minute acceptance speech, Buchanan vowed to save the U.S. from am, quote, "Godless new world order."

Nuclear physicist John Hagelin is also claiming the Reform Party nomination. He says the Buchanan supporters committed election fraud. Hagelin says, those faithful to party founder Ross Perot support him. He chose Silicon Valley entrepreneur Nat Goldhaber to complete his ticket.

The Federal Election Committee still must decide which nominee gets more than $12 million in federal money for the campaign.

WALCOTT: In today's "Environment Desk," wildfires in the U.S. Thanks to improved weather conditions, progress is being reported in the continuing battle against fires raging in the Western United States. Still, on Sunday, the National Fire Information Center reported 76 major blazes in 13 states. And some 869,000 acres are reported to be on fire.

Rusty Dornin has more now from the front lines in Nevada and Washington.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hanford, Washington, 160,000 acres in less than 48 hours. Last summer, northern Nevada, 1.7 million acres blackened. In a summer of flash fires, many of them are fueled by a common invader: cheet grass, a Eurasian grass that likely came to the Western U.S. a hundred years ago and contaminated shipments of grain.

DUANE NELSON, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT: And it dries out early, it doesn't take much of an ignition source to get it started and once it gets going it will go as fast as the wind will blow it.

DORNIN: No one plants it, it just grows by itself. Rangeland covered with sagebrush burns once every 50 to 75 years; now that same land infested with cheet grass burns every two to five years.

(on camera): More and more of Nevada looks like this: urban sprawl across the high desert. If a cheet grass-fueled fire blows up in an area like this, it is a question of whether firefighters can get here fast enough.

(voice-over): It costs $40 million fighting Nevada fires last year. This year, the federal government spent another $43 million there trying to cheat cheet grass. Five million pounds of seeds for perennial grass is planted in burned-out areas.

NELSON: We've tried to rehab about half a million acres to put perennials back into these range sites before the cheet grass could get established.

DORNIN: Biologists hope this crusted wheat grass, also from Eurasia, will take off.

NELSON: When the fire hits this, a lot of times, if it doesn't go out it at least slows it down and it gives the fire crews a chance to catch up with us.

DORNIN: An unprecedented effort with an uncertain outcome, no one knows how much of the new grasses will grow, let alone outgrow the seeds of cheet grass.

JIM YOUNG, AGRICULTURE RESEARCH CENTER: We are in a desert. There is the number one problem.

DORNIN: Scientists say it will be at least three years before they know if the new seeds have taken root. Meantime, an estimated 100 million acres of cheet grass across the Western U.S. remain caught in a deadly dance of fire.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Reno, Nevada.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: It is one of the world's largest reservoirs of ice. And according to a new study, it's melting. The Greenland ice sheet covers most of the country that bears its name. NASA scientists say if it continues to melt at the current rate, the consequences could be dire.

Turns out the edges of the ice sheet may be thinning at a rate of nearly one meter per year. What could this trend mean for the rest of the world? Some environmentalists say the more the ice cap melts, the more the world's sea levels will rise. And, at the rate the Greenland ice cap is melting, sea levels could rise almost a quarter of an inch in a human lifetime.

David George has more in our "Environment Desk." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Greenland's ice cap is shrinking. That's the conclusion of a report compiled by NASA and published in the journal "Science." NASA scientists flew over Greenland in 1993 and 1994, and again five years later, measuring the thickness of Greenland's ice cap with airborne lasers.

Their research showed that the ice, which covers nearly 85 percent of Greenland, is thinning around the edges at the rate of about three feet a year. At the same time, ice in the center of Greenland is getting a little thicker. But the overall result is the loss of enough ice, 50 billion gallons annually, to cause sea levels to rise a quarter inch in a human lifetime.

A sea level rise of a full inch could prove disastrous.

WALEED ABDALAI, NASA RESEARCH SCIENTIST: When you consider a flat beach, an inch in sea level rise covers a large horizontal distance. There are implications when there are storm events because the water is closer to the land. So it's something to be studied. It's something to be considered.

GEORGE: While the Nasa report doesn't mention global warming, scientists point out that the huge patches of ice near the North and South Poles reflect sunlight back into space, helping to regulate the earth's temperature.


JORDAN: In "Worldview" today, we take a trip to a Caribbean nation. It was first inhabited by Mayans and later was settled by English logwood cutters from Jamaica. It's low and marshy along its coast and hilly inland.

Where is it? Belize is a small country in Central America and the region's most thinly populated nation. Most of its people live along its Caribbean coast. The second longest barrier reef in the world is along its shore. It's the only Central American country where English is the official language.

Belize became an independent nation back in 1981. About half its forests have been cut down for lumber or cleared for farming. Today we visit some of the remaining forests and a vast underworld.

Janelle Chanona takes us there.


JANELLE CHANONA, CHANNEL 5 (voice-over): It's an image that seemed to jump from the vivid imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his "Lost World," but the mysterious jungle encrusted sinkholes of Belize are no works of fiction. Over a hundred of these amazing geological formations punctuate virtually every part of the country, with probably scores more still hidden from view. And as scientists unlock the secrets of these twilight environments and the elaborate cave systems they contain, the tourists are not far behind.

It's a classical developmental dilemma. The world's tourists are hungry for adventure. The woman I'm about to embark on is about as real as it gets. But how much traffic can a resource like this withstand without being destroyed.

(on camera): Getting to the mouth of the cave is no easy proposition. The journey begins about 300 feet above the floor of this incredible sinkhole. But believe me, I am not looking down.

This is the position here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's your position there. Most people, they panic right over the edge. The edge is the hardest part.

CHANONA (voice-over): Recreational caving in Belize was mostly unheard of until a couple of years ago. However, with the recent launching of a media campaign to promote Belize as an adventure destination, the interest in cave exploration has grown significantly.

IAN ANDERSON, CAVES BRANCH ADVENTURE COMPANY: But those people who are becoming involved in caving have got very little, if any, cave etiquette training.

CHANONA: Ian Anderson, proprietor of the Caves Branch Adventure Company, regularly bring tourists to visit this majestic cave system, which includes over 15 miles of mapped passage ways. Anderson admits the traffic inside a cave can be destructive in more ways than one.

(on camera): Now what kind of adverse effects are we talking bout here? Touching everything, going everywhere, picking up stuff?

ANDERSON: Just exactly that, going everywhere with no concern on the damage that you do to it. Certain caves, as you saw last night, chambers have got spectacular crystalline formations that have taken 20, 30 million years in the formation in total darkness. Now with the invention of headlamps and the interest in caving, we go into those chambers. And people who do not what they're doing as guides or have proper cave etiquette will allow people to walk all over those entire chambers carrying heavy loads of dirt and mud on their boots over all that pristine crystal.

CHANONA: There are literally thousands of caves scattered all over Belize, many of them still waiting to be discovered. But as more visitors begin to explore this amazing underworld, our responsibility to care for Belize's caves is even greater.

For "CNN WORLD REPORT," I am Janelle Chanona.


WALCOTT: In "Chronicle" today, we spotlight two teens and their passion for politics: one working inside the political system, the other working on the outside.

In our first report, we head back to Philadelphia, site of the Republican National Convention. Our CNN Student Bureau exposes us to political activism on the outside.


JASON FRIEDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her friends call her "Cheez." At 19, student activist, Kisha Hope, has spent 16 years marching, shouting and chalking, protesting for causes she believes in.

Just a couple of days earlier, Cheez was back home, in Atlanta, making props and costumes for the Philadelphia protests.

KISHA HOPE: I am so excited about this, because I haven't been to such a big, big, big rally or protest in a long time.

FRIEDMAN: Cheez and her friends drove through the night, arriving at the tent city in Philadelphia.

HOPE: I haven't experienced a tent city. I've heard some good stories. I've heard some bad stories.

FRIEDMAN: The morning of the protest. Cheez grabs a quick breakfast before heading out.

HOPE: I have to run to Unity 2000. And this is the legal number in case we get arrested.

FRIEDMAN: Cheez is at home in this sea of protesters. She is so excited she doesn't know where to start.

HOPE: I think I am trying to do too much. Like I run to one organization, I grab a sign, pick up some flyers, grab a banner. I can't do everything, but I am trying.

FRIEDMAN: Cheez champions many causes, and doesn't forget about the people behind them.

HOPE: In the back of my mind I am thinking about the people I'm representing. I'm like the voice of those who can't be represented.

FRIEDMAN (on camera): While others marched on in Philadelphia, Cheez was back in Atlanta, here at Emory University.

(voice-over): During a study break, she reflected on her experience at the march.

HOPE: I think everything went pretty well. I learned a lot. If they tell you "no," go and do it again. If they tell you "no," keep on going.

FRIEDMAN: Jason Friedman, CNN Student Bureau, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JORDAN: Well, young people are involved on both sides of the picket lines. Our next story takes us inside convention hall.

Jennifer Auther introduces us to 22-year-old Rachel Metson, one of the youngest Democratic delegates from California.


JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At age 22, Rachel Metson is one of a just a handful of California's 433 delegates under the age of 30.

PHILIP METSON, CALIFORNIA DELEGATE'S FATHER: Isn't the state party going to have a lot of meetings?

RACHEL METSON, CALIFORNIA DNC DELEGATE: That's at 8:30 every morning. Here's the governor's one.

AUTHER: Just before the convention kicks off, Rachel and her parents, Philip and Adria Metson, are going through a stack of invitations.

R. METSON: I am a bit nervous, because I don't know very many people; I know a few of the younger delegates that I met at the April meeting.

My love of politics began, um, actually after a 9th grade class trip to Washington, D.C.

ADRIA METSON, CALIFORNIA DELEGATE'S MOTHER: I remember Rachel in junior high decided to run for president of the school at that time, and up until the point of Rachel trying, there were only boys that were presidents of the school.

AUTHER: Rachel lost that election, but her interest in politics remained strong. Now, she's earned her degree in political science at UCLA, and she's burnishing her resume with a host of internships.

Right now, for example, she's working with Los Angeles City Council pro-tem president, Ruth Galanter.

R. METSON: I began interning in Senator Feinstein's office; then the California Democratic Party, the Clinton-Gore campaign; and for Governor Davis, when he was lieutenant governor; also for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is AIPAC; and then, um, in the House of Commons in England.

P. METSON: Even though we'd like to say we're Rachel's parents and we want to take credit for this, this is Rachel's doing. Rachel has a special spirit and drive.

R. METSON: Rather than out there protesting. I feel like I am taking a more effective route, in my opinion, of making an impact on politics.

AUTHER: And when she casts her vote for the Gore-Lieberman ticket on the convention floor, it will hold special meaning.

R. METSON: I admired Senator Lieberman before he became the vice presidential nominee; and I had read his book called, "In Praise of Public Life," And I also happen to be Jewish, so this is one reason why I really admire him. But he's a very moral person and with strong convictions.

AUTHER: Apparently Rachel Metson has strong convictions of her own; and if she has anything to do with it, you'll be reading her name in political news of the future.

Jennifer Auther, CNN, Los Angeles.


JORDAN: That will do it for Monday, we'll see you back here tomorrow.

WALCOTT: Bye-bye.



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