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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for September 12, 2000

Aired September 12, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to another NEWSROOM world tour. I am Shelley Walcott. Glad you are with us. Here is your itinerary.

Violence in the media takes the spotlight in out top story. How much is too much?


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is, in some ways, the newest of issues, and in some ways the oldest of issues. Plato said, thousands of years ago, "Those who tell the stories rule society."


WALCOTT: Then, "Health Desk" hits the tracks with some special kids.

Up next, we get you talking in "Worldview," the question: How safe is your cell phone?

Then, politics is the focus of "Chronicle," the topic: democracy in small town America.


ASHLEY SIDES, CENTRE COLLEGE DEBATE INTERN: This will be the first time ever that a nationally televised presidential -- vice- presidential debate will be held in a town this size.


WALCOTT: In today's top story, the entertainment industry at the center of a real-life drama with the U.S. federal government. In a report released yesterday, the Federal Trade commission accused Hollywood of aggressively marketing violent and sexually explicit movies, music and video games to children, even though many of these products are meant for adults.

Major Garrett has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The report by the Federal Trade Commission did not specifically cite the series of "Scream" horror movies as a part of the problem, but critics have. Why? Because they say it fits a pattern: teen heroes, teen villains, teen settings, and enough violence to warrant an adult rating.

Hollywood's own guidelines say teens should not see movies like "Scream," but the FTC report found that the movie, music, and video game industry target that very audience.

CLINTON: This FTC report says that some entertainment companies are engaged in marketing practices, that if not illegal are clearly wrong.

GARRETT: Polls show that voters, especially suburban women, feel the entertainment industry bombards their children with violence and sexually explicit material. And almost on cue, outrage echoed along the campaign trail.

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call on these industries for an immediate ceasefire.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no question we need to reduce the amount of violence that our children see on the screen.

GARRETT: The criticism is hardly new; Bob Dole tried it in 1995.


SEN. ROBERT DOLE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The mainstreaming of deviancy must come to an end.


GARRETT: Now the outrage is bipartisan, but that doesn't make solutions easier to find. If elected, the vice president says he will give the industry six months to change its ways. But First Amendment obstacles could make laws tough to write.

ROBERT PITOFSKY, FTC CHAIRMAN: I don't want the Federal Trade Commission to be the thought police. I don't want a bureaucrat like me influencing the content of these materials.

GARRETT (on camera): Mr. Clinton and Congress requested the FTC report after the Columbine shooting. Then, as now, the entertainment industry defended its practices, but avoided an open brawl with the White House and other politicians. But with the threat of new laws coming next year, the entertainment industry may have to try another tact.

Major Garrett, CNN, Danbury, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: Entertainment executives, of course, are challenging the accusations. They say, instead of the government's criticism, the industry should receive praise for its efforts to cleanup the content of its product. All of this raises an important question: Just how much of an influence do the media have on kids?

Greg LaMotte looks for an answer.


GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fact is many people, especially teenage boys, seem to like violent themes.

(on camera): If there was an advertisement for a movie that said this will be the most violent movie you will ever see in your entire life, would that make you want to go see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just because, just because it's extremely violent, and everybody would probably want to see it. So I would want to see it too.

LAMOTTE: Ratings tell parents about movie content, the same with music. Now K-Mart and Wal-Mart have announced plans to stop selling violent video games to children. Question: Are violent images responsible for violent behavior?

RAY ARCENEAUX, PRIORITY RECORDS: It starts in the home with the parents, you know, having a relationship with your kid, being aware of what they are involving themselves with, what kind of music they are listening to, talking to them about the music, if necessary, the movies, you know, the gangs, you know, it all starts there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are brought up a nice home, where they taught you well, it's not going to influence you at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think with warning labels that it's way more the parent's responsibility to make sure that their children aren't seeing those movies.

SISQO, SINGER: I would listened to like a old Biggy Small's record or a Tupac record, afterwards that would feel like, you know, I wanted to go out and hit somebody in the mouth or something. But because I was brought up well by my parents, I didn't do it.

LAMOTTE: Many psychologists say, we may never know whether there is a direct correlation between violence in the media and more violent youngsters.

JOANNE FARVER, DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Just because they watch a violent TV show or play a violent video game doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to choose that as a problem- solving strategy. It really depends on how parents teach their kids to think about how they should behave.

LAMOTTE: Opinions certainly vary, but it seems parental involvement is a key factor in how children learn to deal with their emotions.

Greg LaMotte, CNN, Los Angeles.


WALCOTT: In the United Kingdom yesterday, drivers bore the brunt of a nationwide protest against high gas prices. The campaign's slow driving protesters caused traffic jams on the highways, and hundreds of gas stations closed, while other began rationing fuel in efforts to stretch reserves.

This campaign is underway despite a weekend announcement that oil-exploring countries will increase their oil output by 800,000 barrels a day.

Meanwhile, on the U.S. stock market, oil prices were at a 10-year high. Some traders believe pumping extra oil could be too little, too late. But the question remains: How high will the prices go?

Greg Clarkin has more.


GREG CLARKIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was over before it began in New York. An anticipated sell-off in oil of news of the OPEC production hike never happened. Instead, oil rallied. Traders say raising OPEC production by 800,000 barrels a day doesn't come close to making a dent in demand.

Oil opened higher in New York. By the end of the day, it was up sharply, back above $35 a barrel. And some expect it to keep rising.

BRIAN HAND, INDEPENDENT OIL TRADER: I think we're going to be volatile, because we're in an election year coupled with short supply. So I think we're going to see a lot of volatility, and I think we're going over $40 a barrel.

CLARKIN: OPEC has increased production three times this year, adding 1.7 million barrels a day in April, 700,000 in June and now 800,000. That's more than 3 million new barrels of oil a day, but it's hardly enough to soothe fears with winter just around the corner.

PETER BEUTEL, OIL ANALYST, CAMERON HANOVER: If the weather becomes bitterly cold at any point, we're going to see prices of heating oil, I would expect, over $2 in some locations. We will see spot outages, we'll see terminals in various states just run out of oil for a day or two if it gets very, very cold.

CLARKIN: Another reason traders shrugged off the OPEC increase was the question of just how much of it is really new oil.

(on camera): Many traders say OPEC was already exceeding its official quota by upwards 400,000 barrels a day, and that could make this latest increase only half as good as it appears.

Greg Clarkin, CNN Financial News, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Have you ever dreamed of competing in the Olympics and going for the gold? For some of your peers, the dream is simply to run the race. They are young people with disabilities, kids for whom the simplest of human activities can prove challenging. A program called Achilles' Kids encourages challenged youngsters to enjoy running, walking and other activities at whatever level they can.

Deborah Feyerick explains.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jerrell Lucas (ph) has a wall full of sports medals -- basketball, track, the long jump.


JERRELL LUCAS: I ran track.


FEYERICK: The 12 year old was born with down syndrome. He has special needs. But as his sister, Jelisa (ph), knows, when it comes to athletics, get out of his way.

DORIS LUCAS, MOTHER: My son is very competitive when he gets into sport, and it's really his time to shine, and he really strives for it, he really achieves, he want to win.

FEYERICK: Striving is what it's all about for Achilles Kids, a New York-city based track club for children with disabilities. Some run, some walk, some roll, and some outpace their parents.

What makes the Achilles program special is that moms, dads, and uncles, grandparent, and especially brothers and sisters join in -- an important development tool, say disability specialists.

MARILYN MOFFAT, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: We segregated out those with handicapping or disabling conditions in our society for too, too long, and the earlier we integrate these youngsters into every facet of our society, the easier it is for them to compete.

FEYERICK: Achilles Kids set goals, run laps and go a little farther each time, cheered on by volunteers who show kids everybody needs to go the distance, disability or not.

Bringing kids into the mainstream is critical, says program director Karen Lewis, who, because of multiple sclerosis, affecting her vocal cords, speaks in a whisper.

KAREN LEWIS (through translator): It's just been wonderful being able to see the kids grow and get stronger as the years go by.

FEYERICK: There are more than 75 chapters in the New York City- area, financially supported largely by private companies. There are trophies, and medals and cheers.

Says Jerrell Lucas' dad:

CEDRIS LUCAS, FATHER: One thing I like about Achilles Kids that I can always say is that every one is a winner.

FEYERICK: Proving it's not how you run the race that's important.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


WALCOTT: "Worldview" takes us around the world to look at home. We'll focus on calling home, home-grown animals, and young people taken from their homes. We head to Great Britain for a report on cell phone safety, and we go to Australia, site of the upcoming summer Olympics. We'll spotlight this country all week long. Today we look Australia's unusual wildlife and a troubled part of its past.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: We head to Australia, the smallest continent on the globe. It was originally inhabited for about 40,000 years by aborigines who probably came from Asia. An aborigine is any of the first known inhabitants of a particular region.

Between 1910 and 1970, an estimated 100,000 part aboriginal children were removed from their families in an Australian government policy of forced assimilation. The government portrayed its plan at the time as an effort to save these children by giving them a white upbringing. The survivors of that policy are known as the "stolen generation." It's an era that still calls up strong emotions in the nation.

Now the story is center stage, as Hope Goh (ph) explains.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS (singing): It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: It rain the day they took my son, and I just stood there in the rain getting soaked to the skin.

HOPE GOH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This play may be a work of fiction, but it could be fact. Therein lies the power of "Stolen." It's the story of Australian aboriginal children who were taken away from their parents as part of a government policy. They became known as the "stolen generation." The play is made up of anecdotes about five characters and how they tried to cope with the trauma caused by the separation.

It took aboriginal theater group Abigery (ph) nearly a decade to bring "Stolen" to the stage.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: The play "Stolen" had its origins about seven or eight years ago in Melbourne when our theater company, our theater group Abigery decided to put on this little production. We had to start from the very beginning and we went to our communities and we said, basically -- asked what are the poignant issues of the time and what would we possibly write a play about that was going to help and be relevant to our communities back at home.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What do you do when you meet your mother for the first time in 26 years? Shake her hand, give her a hug.

GOH: Writer Jane Harrison was awarded the job because of her background. She was the only aborigine who had applied for the job. She had no experience as a script writer. In spite of this, she finished the play after a series of readings and workshops.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: We're telling the truth of the lives of many indigenous people. I think that the play "Stolen" -- or the five characters in the play "Stolen" is a cross section of five people who had different outcomes. And they represent like many thousands of people whose lives were affected by it, and the mothers who were left behind yearning to find their children, and then the children themselves yearning to go home.

GOH: The play made its debut in Melbourne in 1998. The production company says "Stolen" was well-received both at home and abroad.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It is a very controversial subject in Australia, in the political aspects of Australia between the black society and white society. But it's also a play that comes from the human being aspect, the human spirit.

GOH: Company members say bringing the production on the road does more than spread awareness of a controversial subject, they also believe "Stolen" could be instrumental in reuniting families that were forced apart decades before.

Hope Goh, CNN.


ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: More from Australia as we explore its unique wildlife. You know Australia for its exotic animals, from kangaroos to koalas, but did you know there's a war under way in this wild kingdom? A couple of centuries ago, cats were brought to Australia as pets and foxes were brought for hunting. Since then, the two carnivores have decimated Australia's animal population. They've even driven some species extinct.

But as Jennifer Skiff reports, the Aussies are fighting back.


JUNE BUTCHER, WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR: Won't you sit up a bit and show them how beautiful you are? Come on, right up.

JENNIFER SKIFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): June Butcher is a wildlife rehabilitator who has joined a state program called "Western Shield" to protect native species from predators. Her job is to breed endangered animals like these bilbees, while conservation officials lead what they say is the biggest campaign ever to eliminate nonnative predators from a country.

BUTCHER: Well, if we don't do it, we're going to lose all our endangered animals. I think time's running out very quickly.

SKIFF: The battle against the predators is being fought with poison. Meat baits are laced with a substance that occurs naturally in a native plant called the poison pea.

JOHN CARTER, CONSERVATION LEADER, "WESTERN SHIELD": It's a natural poison. The native animals around this environment have a tolerance to this which they've built up over thousands of years. But those animals that were introduced, like foxes and cats, haven't built up that tolerance and that's why it's such a useful tool.

SKIFF (on camera): Since the program started in 1996, it has become the biggest native wildlife recovery project in the world. Its goal is to get 30 species off the endangered list. To do that, officials bait nearly 10 million acres of land a year.

(voice-over): Most of the baits are dropped from the air; five over every square kilometer. A global positioning system directs the bombardier. The goal is for all bait to land on posted, government property. But that doesn't always happen, and the result is that domestic cats and dogs are dying, some estimate by the hundreds.

CARTER: It's a big quenda.


SKIFF: Despite its controversial method of attack, the "Western Shield" program is working. Three species have come off the endangered list in three years.

ARMSTRONG: Nowhere else in the world has anybody ever been able to achieve that sort of result in such a short period of time, and with a relatively small amount of resources thrown at the problem. To save one species in Africa, it costs you millions and millions of dollars and you've got to have people with shotguns walking around with them, you know. We've been able to do the same thing in western Australia for three species in two or three years with a couple of million bucks and the help of some very kind people.

SKIFF: Within the next three years, conservation officials hope to take 13 additional species off the endangered list. It would be a result never before achieved in such a short period of time anywhere in the world.

Jennifer Skiff for CNN, in western Australia.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Great Britain is among many countries with a lot of people who use cell phones. But the phones have been a cause of concern recently as people speculate on their health impact. Some reports have linked cell phones to brain tumors and headaches. Others say microwave radiation emitted by cell phones is safe.

The British government chimed in with its assessment, giving the thumbs-up to hands-free cellular phones. In fact, the report says they reduce exposure to radiation.

Consumers are getting mixed signals, as Sonia Sequera (ph) tells us.


SONIA SEQUERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mobile phones may be keeping people talking, but it's the listening that's causing serious safety concerns. Although an estimated 90 percent of Europeans are expected to own a mobile phone within the next five years, fears of handset radiation are one dark cloud hanging over the booming mobile market.

A British Government report out Tuesday says if you feel mobile is a health hazard, hands-free is the way to go.

PATRICIA HEWITT, U.K. TELECOMS MINISTER: This report from independent experts concludes that if you're using a mobile phone, then you're going to get much less exposure to electromagnetic fields if you're using a hands-free kit than if you've got the phone clamped to your ear.

SEQUERA: But research from the U.K.'s Consumer Association is on a different wavelength. The watchdog gave the stark warning earlier this year that an ear piece attached to a mobile phone acts like an aerial, channeling three times more radiation into the brain. The association stands by its finding and has called into question the British government's research.

ANTONIA CHITTY, U.K. CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION: The tests used by the government, the saw (ph) tests, were actually designed for mobile phones rather than for testing hands-free kits, whereas we actually designed our tests for the hands-free kits specifically. And we think there are some crucial factors, such as the position of the phone and the wire that maybe, you know, the government actually needs to put a little more time into investigating.

SEQUERA: The government has described its advice as, quote, "clear and unambiguous." But that's little comfort to consumers left with a set of contradictory studies. With the Consumers Association publishing fresh research in October, the debate about how mobile phones affect our health will expect to get ever more heated.

Sonia Sequera, CNN Financial News, London.


ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show so you choose just the program segments that fit your lesson plan. Plus, there are discussion questions and activities, and the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day, find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming desk segments. It's all at this Web address, where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy, it's free, it's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops, and neither does learning.

WALCOTT: "Chronicle" looks at "Democracy in America." The age-old debate over campaign debates, just when and how many to engage in, rages on. This weekend, the executive director of the Presidential Commission on Debates said the Gore and Bush camps would meet soon to iron out differences.

Caught in the middle are several host cities, one of which is Danville, Kentucky, where an October 5 vice presidential debate is scheduled under the commission's proposal.

Our Bruce Morton sampled the effects of the political wrangling and the effect that it's having on this small town community.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Danville, Kentucky: about 17,000 people south of Lexington on the edge of bluegrass country. History? Well, they had the convention that wrote Kentucky's constitution here. Elizabeth Taylor made a movie here once.


ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ACTRESS: Some people thought he could have been president.


MORTON: And this year, Danville, Kentucky has made a wish. The kids in Betsy Tipton Grise's (ph) music class at Mary Hogsett Elementary School can explain.

CHILDREN (singing): We wish you would come to Danville, we wish you would come to Danville, we wish you would come to Danville and bring candidates.

MORTON: Just about every man, woman and child in Danville asked the National Commission on Debates to bring one here. And the commission said, OK: vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman, as it turned out, October 5.

ASHLEY SIDES, CENTRE COLLEGE DEBATE INTERN: This will be the first time ever that a nationally televised presidential/vice presidential debate will be held in a town this size.

MORTON: She's a senior at Centre College -- about 1,100 students. They're just starting school this week. These are freshman working to clear the area around a nearby Civil War battleground. And the debate is on everyone's mind, even ahead of football and soccer.

LES FUGATE, CENTRE COLLEGE REPUBLICANS: This year, that's all they want to talk about is the debate -- Will we have it? What can we do to help? -- and the excitement of being a part of the process.

JOHN ROUSH, PRESIDENT, CENTRE COLLEGE: Depending on where we are with this -- all this debate stuff, we're going to have a big rally right down there.

MORTON: Centre's president, John Roush, was a leader in pressing for the debate.

ROUSH: Number one, because we know that it will be good for the college. It will be good for the small city of Danville, Kentucky -- in fact, for all of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We want to make a difference with this.

MORTON: They've got a state-of-the-art theater, which can seat 1,500, a media room, telephone wires already in, an athletic field where the satellite trucks can park. They're ready. And not just the college. School kids and grownups wrote letters asking for the debate -- lots and lots of letters. The Kentucky School for the Deaf chipped in.

CHADWICK NOEL, KENTUCKY SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF (through translator): We want them to come to show that they can -- that politicians are real people, that we can meet them and they can understand maybe what our culture looks like, and that we can make -- deaf people can become politicians, maybe even president of the United States.

VIRGINIA SILVESTRI, KENTUCKY SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF (through translator): I think it's the best town to live in the U.S.A., so that's why the debate should be here.

MORTON: Business leaders, too.

LOUIS PRICHARD, PRES., FARMERS NATIONAL BANK: Obviously, they'd come here and hopefully find that there would be some amenities that they would enjoy, enjoy our history, enjoy our heritage, enjoy our environment. Maybe they might even want to come back after the debates.

MORTON: The commission said, yes, of course. How could they not? But now everything's up in the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in the corner.

MORTON: Even in the pool hall -- oldest business on main street, one player said -- somebody asked, is it on? Do you know? The town is worried.

MAYOR ALEX STEVENS, DANVILLE, KENTUCKY: It'd be hard to elaborate on the effort that's gone into this by the college and the citizens. And for that to go for naught would be a real jolt to everyone. MORTON: At the Main Street Restaurant, the pancakes are 99 cents, but they're enormous. Just look. We found one skeptic about the value of the debate, but only one.

DON JANZEN, DANVILLE RESIDENT: I don't know whether we've ever had protesters come in. I don't know if they even know the number of people that they can expect. There's a lot of unknowns, I believe, in doing this,

MORTON: Mostly, Danville is optimistic.

ROUSH: I believe that everyone is going to come to their senses and recognize this the right thing to do and do it.

SIDES: We will have this debate. It's going to happen.

MORTON: So much hope. So much work.

CHILDREN (singing): Please bring presidential hopefuls for debates of the year.

MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, Danville, Kentucky.


WALCOTT: So cute.

Well, next week, our "Democracy in America" segment goes inside the U.S. government. NEWSROOM's Andy Jordan looks at the balance of power between both houses of Congress. He talks with a Capitol Hill lobbyist to get an inside perspective.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you read the Constitution, you would think that the Senate has the sole power to ratify treaties. That's not necessarily the case, because the Congress controls -- the House controls the purse strings, and so that way the House has an effect on the what the Senate does because the senators are mindful that anything they do can be checked by the House.


WALCOTT: Checks and balances in the U.S. Congress. That's next week as we count down to the 2000 presidential election right here on NEWSROOM.

And that wraps up today's show. We'll see you right back here tomorrow.



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