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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for September 11, 2000

Aired September 11, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Welcome to the week, everybody. This is your CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tom Haynes.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. We're taking you from the gas station to the International Space Station. Here's the rundown.

HAYNES: Topping the news: OPEC is pumping up the volume at the pump.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even an increase of 800,000 barrels per day, that's for the world, for all buyers from OPEC countries, would not translate to any big decrease at the pump, certainly not anytime soon here in the U.S.


WALCOTT: Then, there's a fight going on in today's "Environment Desk." It's flies versus fireants.


LARRY GILBERT, ECOLOGIST, UNIV. OF TEXAS: We can't find many negatives about the fly, except that it might not work.


HAYNES: And talk of peace in the Middle East dominates our "Worldview."


EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It still is opportunity or chance for peace. I will leave no stone unturned.

YASSER ARAFAT, CHAIRMAN, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: I am not asking for the moon. I'm asking what has been signed, what has been agreed upon, to be implemented.


WALCOTT: Finally, we "Chronicle" a few good women.


CADET ERIN CLAUNCH, VMI BATTALION COMMANDER: I'd say, you know, a lot of women have a hard time here, but they have pushed through it and they have been able to survive.


HAYNES: Will a boost in the world's oil production lower the cost of gasoline? That's the big question following the decision by OPEC member nations to increase the oil supply.

High fuel costs have sparked outrage among consumers in many countries around the world. In fact, last week in France, truckers and taxi drivers blocked streets to protest gasoline prices, while in Britain, farmers mounted a similar effort.

OPEC is an organization of eleven oil producing and exporting countries. These nations supply more than 40 percent of the world's oil supply.

OPEC is an abbreviation for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Its mission is to govern oil production policies of member nations and provide them with economic and technical aid.

We begin our coverage with Chris Burns in Vienna.


CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a message to the world's markets, that OPEC is serious about cutting oil prices. Analysts say the production increase will put downward pressure on prices, which have hit 10-year highs of up to $35 a barrel.

The decision was not easy. Most of the 11 OPEC nations are already producing at or near capacity, meaning oil giant Saudi Arabia would benefit, while other members would see their revenues fall, if prices fall.

ROGER DIWAN, OIL EXPERT: OPEC, in a way, faces a big dilemma. If they increase production by too much, oil prices will go down very fast, and they will settle way below what they want them to be. If they don't do enough, prices will remain very high.

BURNS: Still, some experts argue, prices and demand could fall after the winter months, or even earlier, if a mild cold season eases demand on heating oil.

But OPEC is under pressure from the United States, European Union, and Asia's APEC nations to boost production. They argue that persistently lofty prices could trigger a world recession, a fall in oil demand and a slide in oil prices, thus hurting OPEC.

More immediately, there are worries about winter demand for heating oil.

SAUD NASSER-SABAH, KUWAITI OIL MINISTER: We have always asked to have a stable market for the benefit of all of us, us consumers and their producers. Therefore, I believe that this, especially now, coming to the winter season, it will help tremendously the market.

BURNS: High oil prices have already wreaked havoc. They have caused protests across Europe, where taxes make up 80 percent of fuel prices in some countries.

(on camera): How soon could the production boost impact on fuel prices? Experts say it could take months. And for many that is not soon enough.

Chris Burns, CNN, Vienna, Austria.


WALCOTT: OPEC's decision to pump more oil into international markets is welcome here in the United States. In just two weeks, the price of gasoline has gone up by almost seven cents a gallon.

Prices are highest in San Francisco, California, where a gallon of self-serve regular averages $1.96. The cheapest gas is right here in Atlanta, Georgia at $1.39 a gallon.

Now, the question on a lot of people's minds, as summer draws to a close: Will OPEC's increased output be enough to make a difference to Americans facing higher fuel oil prices this winter?

John King has the answer.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president nodded approvingly at word OPEC will boost oil production, but it could be months before consumers feel any relief from high prices at the pump, and the White House is already saying OPEC might need to do even more.

BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: What is clear is that the world needs more oil. The world needs, because of increasing demand, a lot more energy.

KING: Gas prices hovered between $1.50 and $1.60 over the summer months, up 30 cents from a year ago. And the government predicts home heating oil will cost 30 percent more this year than it did last year and that natural gas costs will be significantly higher as well.

RICHARDSON: We expect a tough winter and we're very low on some of these stocks. So more energy, more oil helps with that. Whether it's going to be sufficient to avoid some shortages sometime this winter remains to be seen.

KING: OPEC ministers agreed to boost crude oil output by 800,000 barrels a day. The goal is to stabilize prices at between $22 and $28 a barrel, down from the recent average of more than $30, but up from a brief 1998 slump to $10 a barrel.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't think that 800,000 barrels is going to make much of a difference, and we are at the mercy of these Middle East, African and South American countries, and I think that is hugely dangerous.

KING: Americans hit the roads in record numbers over the Labor Day holiday, proof the strong economy is, at least for now, tempering any political uproar over higher gas prices. But an administration caught off guard when prices first shot up this summer isn't taking any chances as the winter, and Election Day, approach.

(on camera): So even as it praised OPEC's decision, the administration made clear it is likely to push for another commitment to increase supply and lower prices when the oil cartel meets again in November.

John King, CNN, the White House.


HAYNES: Our top story continues now, as we catch up with the space shuttle Atlantis, which was off and running on Friday. A virtually flawless launch from Florida set the shuttle off in the beginning of a critical stage of the construction of the International Space Station.

This mission will outfit the space station with two tons of supplies, including food, clothing, office supplies, and even the toilette, if you can believe it.

The first inhabitants of the station are set to arrive in November. Atlantis linked up with the station on Sunday, after a two day chase.

Miles O'Brien spent some time with the astronauts as they trained for the difficult docking.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you want to climb the ladder of success in the astronaut corps, you need to spend a lot of time here. This space shuttle flight deck is inside one of the multi-million dollar simulators at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED NASA EMPLOYEE: Space station, everything is looking fine down here as far as details go.

O'BRIEN: With their feet planted firmly on the floor, the crew of Atlantis recently showed us how they've trained for the weightless reality of a shuttle docking at the International Space Station.

Terry Wilcutt, the soft-spoken Marine colonel, is the man in charge. TERRY WILCUTT, ATLANTIS COMMANDER: It's not a difficult thing but it is very delicate when you've got space vehicles that weigh 200,000 pounds apiece and you're going to bump them together. Then you have to do that very carefully.

UNIDENTIFIED NASA EMPLOYEE: That failed contact odds so that whenever they push it in, it works, but then when they're not pushing it, they have a dilemma.

O'BRIEN: Down the hall, in a room with more computer monitors than people, a team of young engineers throws the crew simulated curve balls to ensure they don't get a free ride.

TIMOTHY HAGIN, NASA ENGINEER: You're a kind of devil's advocate here, you know? You're, you have to think about things that maybe, you know, the crew wouldn't think about.

O'BRIEN: On this run, these gremlins disable the orbiter's radar and its more precise steering jets.

HAGIN: All that does is make things a little bit sloppier for him so the control is not as crisp, you know, when he's trying to fly. Things are shaking around a little bit more, bouncing around a little bit more, which may cause him to use a little bit more fuel just to get there because things are bouncing around a little bit more, but well manageable.

O'BRIEN: With the orbiter clumsy and partially blind, Wilcutt must rely more heavily on a visual sighting device and on mission specialist Rick Mastrachio (ph), operating a laser range finding system.

WILCUTT: Rick is really the prime. He's got just like a police radar gun and all the other sensors are really compared to what he tells us is really going on. That's that human being looking out the window and telling you if the sensors make sense or not.

O'BRIEN: Pilot Scott Altman and mission specialists Ed Lu and Dan Burbank round out the team on the cramped flight deck. Each performs a specific critical role as the orbiter approaches the station from below, loops up and over and then gently flies down at about an inch a second. Careful coordination is a must.


WILCUTT: Well, you probably saw Rick and I exchanging glances. I knew what he wanted me to do. It has to be that way because as you can see there's a lot of activity up here.

O'BRIEN (on camera): How does it compare to the real thing?

WILCUTT: Oh, it's very similar. Of course we hope we don't have the failures. But if we do, then I expect it to run just like you saw today, which, a docking pretty much on time.

O'BRIEN: Because of all the delays building the International Space Station, this shuttle mission was only put on the schedule six months ago. Nevertheless, the crew has spent more than 120 hours inside this box practicing rendezvous and docking procedures dealing with all kinds of fiendish failures.

(voice-over): But there are no hard feelings when astronauts and gremlins hold their debriefing.

UNIDENTIFIED NASA EMPLOYEE: We had some THC problems in there just to kind of, I guess, annoy you.

WILCUTT: They are really close friends, but if they're true friends then they'll keep throwing those malfunctions at us to make sure we're ready.

HAGIN: When I see them actually dock with the station and know that everything, you know, went smoothly and didn't have any problems, hiccups or even if they did, you know, still, everything, they were able to handle everything and without any problems, it's quite a thrill.

O'BRIEN: Miles O'Brien, CNN, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.


WALCOTT: In today's "Environment Desk," we're reminded of just how delicate the balance of nature really is. For example, when an animal is brought into an environment it normally wouldn't exist in, that has the potential for disastrous effects. We've seen it before: A species comes to the U.S. without a predator and wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. The solution is to bring in its predator from its original location. And this is called biological control.

Biological control is defined as using living organisms or naturally produced chemicals to control pests. Well, now, look out. There's a new predator in town.

Mary Pflum has the story.


MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a mystery. What was killing the endangered black-capped vireos living on the Fort Hood Army Base near Killeen, Texas? With the permission of the U.S. military, the nature conservancy aimed a series of cameras at nests on the base. The cameras captured time and again a surprising culprit: fire ants.

Watch this army of ants attack a nest five feet, or a meter and a half, off the ground. They are killing and eating the young inhabitants.

(on camera): Last year, southern U.S. states spent hundreds of millions of dollars on fire ants. The state of Texas alone spent over $300 million. The fire ants have been deemed responsible for killing pets and livestock, diminishing crops, and even for causing serious fires, owing to their infiltration of electric circuit boxes.

(voice-over): Another gruesome example of the wrath of fire ants came this spring when a woman in a nursing home in Florida died when fire ants attacked her in her bed.

Larry Gilbert, an ecologist at the University of Texas, is out to bring imported fire ants in the U.S. under control.

In their native South America, the venomous ants are kept in check by anteaters and by tiny insects called phorid flies. Thanks to funding from the state of Texas, Gilbert has established an imported phorid fly breeding farm in Austin. The South American flies actually invade the bodies of fire ants in something akin to a horror movie.

LARRY GILBERT, ECOLOGIST, UNIV. OF TEXAS: They lay their eggs in fire ants. They harass fire ants. The larval stages develop inside the body of the fire ant. They pupate in the head. And the head of the ant falls off, they pupate. Their entire life cycle is based on fire ants.

PFLUM: So far, Gilbert and his team have released 100,000 flies in the state of Texas. While the bugs have yet to make a substantial dent in the imported fire ant population, researchers are cautiously optimistic.

GILBERT: We can't find many negatives about the fly, except that it might not work.

PFLUM: Researchers hope a solution will come before the march of this army spreads any further.

Mary Pflum, CNN, Austin, Texas.


HAYNES: In "Worldview" today, we spotlight the peace process in the Middle East. A sticking point has been the city of Jerusalem. Both Israel and the Palestinians want sovereignty over the city which is holy to both Muslims and Jews. It was a key concern for both parties in New York last week for the United Nations Millennium Summit. U.S. President Bill Clinton failed to break the stalemate over Jerusalem in separate talks with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

We'll hear more from them in a special interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. But first, on Sunday, the Palestinian Central Council postponed the planned declaration of an independent Palestinian state.


NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, CHIEF ARAFAT AIDE: Negotiations are going to resume for the coming four or five weeks, and this is an agreement between President Arafat and President Clinton.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In that interim period, the lawmakers say they'll be pressing ahead, creating the infrastructure for the state to be.

ZIAD ABU AMR, PALESTINIAN COUNCIL MEMBER: The council is going to meet again on the 15th of November to study the issue again. And in the mean time, we will be doing the stuff on the ground in order to continue with our process of state building and sovereignty.

KESSEL: Israelis watching closely say what worries them now is whether the Palestinian's are really committed to peace.

SCHLOMO BEN AMI, ISRAELI CHIEF NEGOTIATOR: Sometimes one gets the impression that time is of no concern to the Palestinians. I hope I am wrong.

KESSEL: Though the Palestinian Central Council will have the final vote, weighing the options depends on Yasser Arafat.

MAHKI ABDEL HADI, PALESTINIAN ACADEMIC SOCIETY: He had a mini state in Jordan and he lost that. Then he had another mini state in Lebanon and he lost that. Then he went to exile in Tunis and he lost that. He has already a mini state within the state of Israel. Israel has to recognize this. Israel cannot continue containing Arafat forever.

KESSEL (on camera): For now, the Palestinians are prepared to contain themselves, putting statehood on hold, seven years after the start of the peace process, but pointing out that on that anniversary next Wednesday, September 13, the interim phase of peacemaking with Israel will have run its course.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Gaza City.



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that Mr. Barak, as we've just discussed, has gone further than any other Israeli prime minister, has almost seen his government collapse and has seen his popularity...

YASSER ARAFAT, PRESIDENT, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: No, I told you that still Meretz is voting for him 10 votes, the Arab votes -- the votes of the Arabs 10 votes, 20 votes still in his pocket.

AMANPOUR: So you think he's in a secure position?

ARAFAT: I don't know. You have to ask him, not to ask me. It is his policy.

AMANPOUR: The general consensus is that he has made steps than no other Israeli prime minister has and he's suffered for it politically. My question to you is, do you think that you can get even more out of him? that you can outmaneuver him, outlast him politically? Is that why you're waiting, to get more out of an Israeli prime minister? ARAFAT: First of all, I'm not asking for the moon. I'm asking what has been signed, what has been agreed upon to be implemented accurately and honestly, not more, not less.


ARAFAT: Are you against this?

AMANPOUR: When Prime Minister...

ARAFAT: Are you against this?

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this, though: When Prime Minister Netanyahu was prime minister, you used to say the same thing: "I'm not asking for the moon."


AMANPOUR: And everybody agreed with you then.


AMANPOUR: But now, Prime Minister Barak is the head of the Israeli government and he has gone further than any other Israeli leader.

ARAFAT: Not yet.

AMANPOUR: So he has given you more, right?

ARAFAT: For your information, to speak frankly, for your information, you remember that we both, us, me and him, signed Sharm al-Sheik agreement in Egypt under the supervision of President Mubarak. And also he signed the agreement, King Abdullah had signed that agreement, Mrs. Albright had signed that agreement, and we have two letters of guarantees: one American letter, one European Union letter.

And despite of this, nothing of what had been signed in this agreement had been implemented. And you can ask him to give me one item who had been implemented from what he had signed in the Sharm al- Sheik agreement.

AMANPOUR: There are those who have suggested shared sovereignty over Jerusalem -- shared sovereignty.

ARAFAT: Over Jerusalem?


ARAFAT: Would you accept to share the sovereignty of Washington?

AMANPOUR: So, for you, that's a non...

ARAFAT: You accept?

AMANPOUR: I'm not an American citizen.

ARAFAT: From where you are?

AMANPOUR: I'm from England.

ARAFAT: You accept London to be shared?

AMANPOUR: But London is not in dispute like Jerusalem is. Today is today. What is...

ARAFAT: Today is today. Rights are rights.

AMANPOUR: So, no, in other words.

ARAFAT: No doubt. I can't betray my people. I can't betray the Arabs. I can't betray the Christians. I can't betray the Muslims. And he has to respect all these items concerning the Christianity and the Islam.



AMANPOUR: When I asked Chairman Arafat whether he felt you, as an Israeli prime minister, had gone further than any other Israeli prime minister on the issues of importance, he basically said no. He didn't believe that.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I believe that he will know and I believe -- I know that the Americans know that we were ready to contemplate ideas far reaching beyond anything that every previous -- any previous Israeli prime minister was ready to contemplate. And I believe that they have heard it even from Chairman Arafat. But it doesn't mean that we are going to make peace at any price or until certain day. We have our own vital interests and we have to take them into account.

AMANPOUR: You say and your ministers say that Chairman Arafat should seize the moment, there has never been a more opportune moment for him to make a deal. But...

ARAFAT: For Arafat.

AMANPOUR: ... if I was Yasser Arafat, why should I accept what you've put on the table? Why should I not hang out and hold out for more since the more he waits the more he seems to get from an Israeli prime minister?

BARAK: It's true when you look at the recent few weeks, he might develop a kind of illusion that the more he waits the more he gets. But it's -- basically it's an expression of our and I believe also the American determination to make ourselves sure that if there is a possibility we will use it, and if there is no opportunity we will know it.

And so it gives him certain room for tactical maneuver, but ultimately, within five or six weeks, the Congress adjourns until after the election. And in a few weeks later, the Israeli Knesset goes to its winter session when the budget should be decided. And we're just running out of time. And in a way, it's now or never -- not this weekend or never, but the next few weekends or not at this stage.

AMANPOUR: And there are, it seems, more and more of the key players who are beginning to privately think that it is never in the short term. Have you made that conclusion?

BARAK: I did not. I hope it is not the conclusion. We should be prepared for both alternatives as responsible leaders. But we should pursue the right way, which is to achieve an agreement.

You know, Chairman Arafat tends to complain with other world leaders that his people might kill him if he goes beyond certain points. And let me make a point here that I remember that President Sadat was assassinated as the result of his pursuit of peace; Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated as a result of his pursuit of peace. But I don't remember a single attempt on the life of Chairman Arafat, or any other Palestinian leader for that matter, as a result of their moving toward peace.

And I believe that their own people will support him and will back him if they move to peace, and that the Arab world will not set a standard for him, but rather will provide him with a safety net if he will dare to take the courageous and painful -- it's painful for me as well -- decisions that will lead us to peace rather than to a tragedy.


WALCOTT: Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that because it was state-supported, Virginia Military Institute had to open its barrack's doors and its all-male cadet corps to women.

Well, now, the first female cadets are seniors. And as Charles Bierbauer reports, some of them are taking command.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When VMI's Second Battalion hits the parade ground, Cadet Claunch is in command -- that's Erin Claunch.

CADET ERIN CLAUNCH, VMI BATTALION COMMANDER: The men, they know that it's a position of authority, and whether they like it or not, they have to obey the commands.

BIERBAUER: VMI's first women cadets are now seniors, but they started at the bottom of the chain of command.

CLAUNCH: A rat is a rat, except when it comes to showers and bathrooms and things like that, of course.

BIERBAUER: A "rat" is a first-year cadet. For more than 150 years, rats were all male, living, to an outsider at least, at the mercy of upperclassmen.

In the 1996 Supreme Court case, VMI officials argued the unique atmosphere was not meant for women.

MAJ. GEN. JOSEPH BUNTING III, VMI SUPERINTENDENT: I can remember, for example, Justice O'Connor in the hearing said: Supposing women came to VMI, couldn't they be in one of the other dormitories, and you could come together for classes? Well, there is no other dormitory.

BIERBAUER: The court found no reason admitting women capable of all activities required of VMI cadets would destroy the institute.

(on camera): VMI took a long hard look at turning private to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling, but concluded it could not bear the cost. It would have to change, but change as little as possible.

BUNTING: I think there's a great sense of loss, a sense of pain, a sense of heartbreak.

BIERBAUER (voice-over): Yet General Bunting calls the admission of women, now about 5 percent of the corps, an underqualified success.

Cadet Claunch, who wants to join the Air Force and become an astronaut, calls it an opportunity.

CLAUNCH: I'd say, you know, a lot of women have had a hard time here, but they have pushed through it and they have been able to survive.

BIERBAUER: That's all the Supreme Court required.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Lexington, Virginia.


HAYNES: And speaking of the military, I just got back from a week in Norfolk, Virginia on assignment with some of the young crew members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. On board, I caught up with kids fresh in the U.S. Navy. And coming up early next year, they'll tell us why they chose a life in the armed services and what they expect to get out of their experience. It's all ahead in our series, "To Serve a Nation."

WALCOTT: And we certainly look forward to that series.


WALCOTT: But for now, that wraps up today's show.

HAYNES: We'll see you tomorrow. Take care.

WALCOTT: Bye-bye.



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