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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for August 24, 2000

Aired August 24, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: Welcome to Thursday's NEWSROOM. I'm Andy Jordan.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: And I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

Today's show is more like science class.

JORDAN: So get your notebooks ready.

BAKHTIAR: First, will new guidelines governing stem cell research in the United States stem the debate over the controversial practice?

JORDAN: In "Science Desk," we huff and puff and don't blow your house down.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Three fortified homes are under construction in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. The most significant feature is the safe room engineered to withstand winds of 250 miles per hour.


BAKHTIAR: Class isn't over yet. "Worldview" is taking us to a research lab in London to check in on scientists working to stamp out Malaria.

JORDAN: In final period, we'll meet young folks with very sensitive palates.


SALLY DEES, MOTHER: You're looking out for others, you're looking out for manufacturers. You just have to be really careful.


JORDAN: We enter the controversial world of bioethics. Today's story has the U.S. government weighing in on how federal money can be used in funding research involving human embryos. New guidelines address a specific part of embryos called stem cells, the predecessors of all tissues in the body.

A stem cell, technically, is an unspecified cell that eventually becomes a specific specialized cell, such as a blood cell. Scientists say research on stem cells can be used to treat disease. But since it involves embryos, it falls into the arena of bioethics, which addresses ethical and moral implications of new biological discovers and biomedical advances.

Genetic engineering, including work in cloning, and drug research are examples.

Jeanne Meserve has more on the guidelines the U.S. government is implementing and the reception they're receiving.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Illegal, immoral, unnecessary: That is how opponents describe research using stem cells from human embryos. Crucial, potentially lifesaving, respond some scientists, pointing out that the material is derived from unformed week-old balls of cells.

By publishing new guidelines, the National Institutes of Health, NIH, hoped to quell the controversy, but has not succeeded.

JUDIE BROWN, AMERICAN LIFE LEAGUE: We don't believe that the average American wants to see tiny embryonic boys and girls, little children, used as experimental material.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot walk away from the potential to save lives and improve lives, to help people literally get up and walk, to do all kinds of things we could never have imagined, as long as we meet rigorous ethical standards.

MESERVE: The new NIH guidelines published Wednesday govern federally funded research. Among the provisions: research only on stem cells derived from frozen embryos created for fertility treatment and no longer needed; no creation of embryos solely for research purposes; no federal money used to destroy the embryos to get the cells -- private researchers would have to do that -- no payment can be made to donors and they cannot know what researcher will get their embryos.

Donors must sign a consent form acknowledging that the derived cells may be kept for many years and could be used in human transplantation research. And all requests for federal research money will be vetted by a special advisory panel.

Advocates, who believe stem cell research will open new vistas in the treatment of diseases and injuries, say they can live happily with the restrictions. But opponents of stem cell research are livid. The congressman who has led the fight on Capitol Hill against research involving the destruction of embryos argues the guidelines violate existing law. REP. JAY DICKEY (R), ARKANSAS: Well, we have two choices. One is just to wait for the grants to come down, and when they do, take legal action with injunctive relief. Or we can add to an appropriations bill that might apply to NIH and say we'll just restrict your funding until you agree to abide by the law.

MESERVE (on camera): While the furor rages over federally funded research, private research using embryonic stem cells continues unregulated.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


BAKHTIAR: The bottom line is, the new federal guidelines open up the potential for a revolution in medical science, leading to dramatic new ways to treat almost every human disorder.

The embryos used will be from the surpluses of fertility clinics. In other words, they would have already been destroyed as waste, if not used for the research.

Scientists working under the framework of old guidelines have already made breakthroughs in medical science. Don Knapp reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're going to use this for a transplant experiment...

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Researcher Irving Weissman says his Stanford University lab was one of the first to isolate blood stem cells from mice. That helped them be among the first to isolate adult stem cells that form human blood. And that's led to experimental cancer treatments using a patient's own stem cells.

IRVING WEISSMAN, STEM CELL BIOLOGIST: Well, the most important thing about stem cells is that they are the only cells in the body that can both make more of themselves and differentiate to give rise to the important functional cells in, say, a liver or the blood.

KNAPP: In another lab, Theo Palmer is working with stem cells derived from adult human brains to learn how to use them to repair nerves or grow new brain tissue.

THEO PALMER, NEURO STEM SCIENTIST: The question that remains is whether the cell from the adult can actually make the repairs that we need them to.

KNAPP: Palmer and other scientists believe they might be able to do more with embryonic stem cells, like these grown by private Geron Corporation, but they haven't been able to find out because their research is funded by the National Institutes of Health. That's prevented them from comparing the benefits of adult-derived stem cells to those of embryonic stem cells. The new federal research guidelines, he says, will greatly expand the possibilities for organ repair.

PALMER: So if we derive cells out of the adults, those cells have a limited potential to divide and make more of themselves. The embryonic cells have a much expanded potential, so you can make a tremendous number of cells from embryonic tissue.

KNAPP: Researcher Weissman says the new guidelines will release a flood of new research.

WEISSMAN: The most important thing that will come out of these guidelines is to open to the scientific public and not just the commercial public as before the ability to use these stem cells to understand how organs form.

KNAPP: Weissman says experiments with mouse stem cells already show they can be made to grow new organ tissue. He says scientists are optimistic they'll eventually be able to do the same with humans.

Don Knapp, CNN, Stanford, California.


JORDAN: In "Science Desk," we're keeping watch on that storm system called "Debby." Emergency preparations are under way in South Florida, where the storm could make landfall. Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico or eastern Pacific ocean. Their winds are at least 74 miles an hour or a little over 118 kilometers per hour. Hurricane season runs from June 1st, through November 30th, but hurricanes can happen any time of year.

Tony Clark reports on how residents of Florida are preparing for this latest storm.


TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blue skies and warm temperatures kept South Florida's beaches busy Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's beautiful. It's really nice.

CLARK: With summer vacation coming to an end this week, high school students are out getting a few final days of sun and sand. Here, among residents and tourists alike, there is little immediate concern about the potential for a hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly nothing I can do about it. Business as usual.

CLARK: Yet, away from the lure of the beaches, residents are stocking up on flashlights, batteries and other supplies that will be needed if Debby hits South Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plywood and everything, board up all the windows, get everything locked down, everything secured, never to be too sure.

CLARK: Emergency operations centers are being setup and are coordinating efforts. Rows of computer terminals have been readied for those who may need them.

JUDY SARVER, BROWARD COUNTY SPOKESWOMAN: We can have 200 people staffed here within a three hour period.

CLARK: As a precaution, tourists have been ordered to leave the Florida Keys.

BILLY WAGNER, MONROE COUNTY EMERGENCY MGR.: We've also issued a mandatory evacuation for all RV residents and those living in travel trailers and we've closed all the state parks in the Keys and also the county parks.

CLARK: The Florida Keys are particularly vulnerable. Only two roads that link them to the mainland. On Tuesday, an overturned tanker truck closed down one of those roads.

Last year, after Hurricane Floyd forced the largest evacuation in state history, officials began studying new evacuation routes and created Internet Web sites to help residents find the quickest route to get out of harm's way.

(on camera): At this point, Debby is not expected to get to South Florida until sometime Friday.

(voice-over): Giving some people a little more time at the beach and officials time to prepare.

Tony Clark, CNN, Ft. Lauderdale.


BAKHTIAR: People who live in South Florida are all too aware of the destruction a hurricane can do. Whether it's the damage to trees and shrubbery caused by a category one storm or small buildings that can be overturned or blown away by the strongest of all hurricanes: a category 5.

Here's something people who live in hurricane zones such as South Florida might want to consider: living in a house they don't have to worry could be blown down in bad weather. Now, this soon could become a reality in the near future thanks to an experimental program in Florida.

John Zarrella reports.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): From the outside, this house under construction looks just like any other. But engineers and builders say you'd probably be much better off here during a hurricane than in your own home.

DO KIM, ENGINEER: This is concrete block. It's reinforced. It's -- the cores are filled with concrete.

ZARRELLA: A pilot program sponsored by several organizations, including the construction and insurance industries, is trying to see if it's cost effective to build a home that goes beyond code requirements, a home that's fortified to withstand hurricane conditions.

MARK MACONI, BUILDER: You're just taking it to a different level. Your nailing patterns, instead of 12 inches, goes to 8 inches. The plywood, instead of being half-inch, is five-eighth-inch.

ZARRELLA: Three fortified homes are under construction in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. The most significant feature is the safe room, engineered to withstand winds of 250 miles per hour. The home is also designed with impact-resistant glass. No shudders are necessary. To prevent roof leaks, the seams in the plywood are pre- sealed before the tile or shingles are added.

KIM: So what we've done is we've used a tape -- basically a black, self-adhesive tape. And between all the joints in the roof sheathing, we've taped the joints so that water can't get in.

ZARRELLA: Builders say construction of these fortified homes isn't adding more than a week or two to completion time. The issue is cost. The upgrades add about 7 percent to the final price tag. In this house, that's $40,000.

MACONI: Every $1,000 of additional cost that you have forces X number of people out of the housing market where -- because they can't afford it.

ZARRELLA: But if the fortifications prove to significantly reduce hurricane damage, insurers say they could pay for themselves in reduced premiums. The problem is, it will take a hurricane to prove the upgrades work.

John Zarrella, CNN, Tampa, Florida.


JORDAN: We span the globe to spotlight science in "Worldview." And we take a spin through France as well. You'll meet a cyclist who has an unusual way to "levart" -- that's travel spelled backwards -- and you'll find out why. We touch down in Great Britain and the United States to check out mice and mosquitoes. We'll talk about the threat of malaria around the world. We'll also focus on Finland and a wide world of computers.

BAKHTIAR: Our first stop, Finland, a country in northern Europe famous for its scenic beauty. The northernmost part of the country lies inside the Arctic Circle in a region called "the land of the midnight sun." In this region, the sun shines 24 hours a day for long periods in the summer. But most of Finnish people live in the southern part of the country where the climate is mildest.

Finland's location between Sweden on the west and Russia on the east has played an important part in the country's history. In the 1000s, Sweden and Russia battle for possession of Finland. Even though eventually Sweden gained control of Finland in the 1100s, the conflict between Russia and Sweden continued for hundreds of years. Finally, Russia gained control of Finland in 1809, until 1917 when Finland declared its independence.

And even though Finland's wealth comes from its forest industry, when it comes to technology, they've got the goods.

Allison Tom reports.


ALLISON TOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new wave of technology gadgets could change the way consumers communicate and get information. One place it has already taken hold is in Finland where almost two-thirds of the population uses mobile phones, and many of them tap into the Internet using wireless services.

KEVIN HAUSE, INTERNATIONAL DATA CORPORATION: We're going to see a variety of these other non-PC devices start to penetrate the home in far greater numbers than PCs.

TOM: By 2002, analysts predict, many of these non-PC devices will be more commonly used than desktop PCs. They will be less costly and offer quick and easy access to the Web.

A system called Wireless Application Protocol, also known as WAP, makes it all possible. For instance, it'll send you the text and graphics on a Web page so you can read it on your cell phone. And eventually the technology could create an innovative way for people to think and work outside of the box.

STEVEN LUBAR, SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY: In the future, computers will simply be everywhere. You won't think of a computer as a box on your desk, but they'll be built into all sorts of things.

TOM: Things like your car or your home. These intelligent devices will talk to each other with complete mobility. But a global standard is needed to make this happen. One of the largest technology companies is developing just that.

PETER HORTENSIUS, IBM: What we'll be seeing very shortly is that these different computers inside our stoves, refrigerators, automobiles, everything, will start to be able to communicate with each other.

TOM: In theory, different devices will work together seamlessly, making computers practically invisible.

JOHN GAGE, SUN MICROSYSTEMS: Everything in technology changes rapidly. As things become smaller and cheaper, they become ubiquitous. That's what's happening with computers today.

TOM (on camera): And in the not-too-distant future, computers may become a lot like electric motors and appliances like these, which were once big and noisy.

(voice-over): But many say, despite these new technologies, the future of the personal computer is still bright. Just as television did not completely replace radio, new technologies are not likely to fully replace PCs, even as more cutting-edge types of computers integrate into almost every aspect of our lives.

Allison Tom, CNN, Atlanta.


JORDAN: "Worldview" next looks at a malaria, a disease which affects over 100 countries and territories. The countries highlighted here are considered malaria-risk areas. More than 40 percent of the world's population is at risk of the disease, which is a serious, sometimes fatal illness caused by a parasite. Humans get malaria from the bite of an infected mosquito. While the illness can be cured with prescription drugs, efforts are focused on prevention. That can include vaccinations, using insect repellent, and wearing long pants while in damp areas outdoors.

But scientists in London are looking at a slightly more complicated method of prevention.

Margaret Lowrie explains.


MARGARET LOWRIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not just a backyard nuisance, mosquitoes can be killers if they carry the parasite that causes malaria. But the mosquito may have met its match at the Imperial College in London. Researchers there have created the first transgenic mosquito by successfully inserting a harmless new gene into the female mosquito.

The next step, scientists say, will be injecting other genes in an attempt to destroy the mosquito's ability to spread malaria.

PROF. ANDREA CRISANTI, IMPERIAL COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: You can manipulate the gene that allow mosquito to discriminate targets. For example, genes that are involved in odor recognition that allow mosquito to prefer a human being rather than animals or the opposite.

LOWRIE: In other words, the mosquito could be genetically programmed to sting animals instead of people. Animals cannot contract malaria, but every year some 2.7 million people die from it, at least a million of them children. Most cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Central and South America, and in South and Southeast Asia.

While the female mosquitoes spread malaria, the disease is carried by a parasite in the mosquito's stinger. Scientists say gene manipulation could also be used to create sterile males to lower the mosquito population, or to alter mosquitoes to prevent the parasite from living in them. Some fear that, in turn, could create a resistant parasite.

CHRISTOPHER CURTIS, LONDON SCHOOL OF TROPICAL DISEASES: If you put those genes for blocking the malaria parasite into a mosquito, there will be a strong selection pressure on the population of malaria parasites to evolve to evade that blockage that you've put in.

LOWRIE: Until now, efforts to combat the disease have relied largely on preventive drugs, insecticides and the elimination of swampy breeding grounds. Researchers say transgenic mosquitoes could be released into the wild in the next six years.

Margaret Lowrie, CNN, London.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: More on genes now as we turn to the United States. Scientists there have found the gene that could be the answer to a weighty problem. Researchers have produced a mouse that can eat anything without getting fat.

According to government reports, more than 50 percent of Americans are overweight, and that number is growing. Fast food and lack of exercise are the main cause, but in some cases there is a medical reason.

Scientists at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey have identified a gene that plays a major role in weight gain. The gene normally lays dormant and is only activated once mice eat high-fat foods. By removing this gene, known as HMGIC, they have created mice that remain a normal weight no matter what they eat. The scientists say the gene is 98 percent identical in humans.

It's too soon to say if the discovery will be able to help solve the problem of obesity in people, but as for the mice, bring on the cheese.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Next stop, France, a country in western Europe. France's capital and largest city is Paris, one of the world's great cities. For hundreds of years, Paris has been a center of art and learning. Many great artists have produced their finest masterpieces there.

Every year, millions of tourists visit such famous Paris landmarks as the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Another big attraction is the Louvre, one of the largest art museums in the world. One man is taking in the sights of France from a most unusual vantage point.

Peter Humi reports.


PETER HUMI, PARIS BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): "Most people would get on a bike like this, but I get on this way," says Robert Poggio (ph). Balanced on a padded seat on his crossbar, Poggio is off and cycling. "It's like back to the future. I have the past in front of me," Poggio says.

Leaving Geneva, Switzerland in early June, Poggio cycled his way for 2,000 kilometers, about 1,200 miles, on all surfaces and through all weathers -- all of it backwards.

"It's tough on your backside, your shoulders and kidneys," says Poggio, describing the physical challenges. "You get to know your body well," he adds.

Poggio, a former top-class amateur cyclist, first thought of the idea as he was recovering from a near fatal car crash 10 years ago. He suffered double and triple fractures of his legs and a crushed pelvis. It took 380 sessions of physical therapy over two and a half years before he could even walk again, let alone get on a bicycle.

"The most important doctor is the one within us all," Poggio says.

When Poggio completed his marathon personal tour in Brittany at the end of 20 days of back-pedaling, he achieved something more than setting an endurance record.

"Most people can achieve far more than they think, even in the most difficult circumstances," he says. "When you really want something strongly enough," Poggio states, "you can achieve it. It's all in the mind."

Peter Humi, CNN, Paris.


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.

BAKHTIAR: Well, if you've ever had a sneezing fit or broken out in a rash, you know how irritating allergies can be. And for some people, there can be more to avoid than pepper or cat hair. For example, a glass of milk and a peanut butter sandwich can be much more than a snack, it can be deadly.

Today, CNN Student Bureau looks at food allergies.


ELIZABETH FULK, CNN STUDENT BUREAU (voice-over): Sixteen-year- old Tim Dees has been severely allergic to milk for as long as he can remember.

TIM DEES, AGE 16: It's not fun. It's just like, I mean, you just really have no control of your breathing and you're just frantic and really not -- I mean, you just feel awful.

FULK: Tim is not alone. The Food Allergy Network, a national nonprofit research group, reports an increase in food allergies among children. Allergist Dr. Morton Galina says the increase could be caused by greater exposure to certain foods children consume, like milk and peanuts, before their immune systems fully develop.

DR. MORTON GALINA, ATLANTA ALLERGY AND ASTHMA CLINIC: One factor is that when the child is born, their intestinal tract is immature so it permits transport of these allergies readily, you know into the system.

FULK: Medical reports show that approximately 90 percent of all food allergies are caused by only eight foods. These include: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, tree nuts, and peanuts.

Allergy medications help many youngsters cope. Doctors recommend the Epipen, a shot of epinephrine that patients can carry with them at all times. The shot is easy to administer and allows more time to get to the hospital during a reaction.

(on camera): A recent study in the "Journal of Pediatrics" found that many young people with food allergies do not know how to administer an Epipen shot. Some of them aren't even aware the medicine itself has expired.

(voice-over): However, more and more institutions are recognizing and responding to the seriousness of food allergies. For example, many airlines now designate seating areas on flights where no peanuts are served, called buffer zones. And many preschools, such as Creme De La Creme in Atlanta, have banned peanuts from their cafeterias altogether.

DEBBIE DERMER, CREME DE LA CREME: There was one child that had a reaction at Creme, and it was frightening enough that we realized as a collective group we really needed to become peanut-free.

FULK: That's good news for Creme De La Creme student Anna Kampfe (ph). The 3-year-old also has severe reactions to peanuts, so the school policy against peanuts is a relief to her parents.

JILL KAMPFE, MOTHER: It's just so scary, you know, to just wonder what if by chance she eats some other kid's cheese crackers or Ritz crackers with peanut butter or whatever. And here we have a little bit of peace of mind because they are peanut-free.

FULK: Doctors offer these recommendations: Always carry an up- to-date Epipen, carefully read labels on packaging, and when dining out, always inquire about a dish's ingredients.

Tim's mom, Sally Dees, says you can never be too careful when it comes to food allergies. SALLY DEES, MOTHER: You're looking out for yourself, you're looking out for others, you're looking out for manufacturers. You just have to be really careful.

FULK: Doctors say studies are under way in hopes of discovering a cure for food allergies, but a breakthrough could be far off. Until then, students like Tim simply must exercise extra caution at every meal.

Elizabeth Fulk, CNN Student Bureau, Atlanta.


JORDAN: Man, I cannot imagine a world without milk. I go through a gallon every two days.

BAKHTIAR: I couldn't imagine a world without peanut butter.

JORDAN: And the two of them together, peanut butter and milk.


BAKHTIAR: On that note, we'll say goodbye.

JORDAN: We'll see you. Bye.

BAKHTIAR: Good bye.



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