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NEWSROOM for September 13, 2000Aired September 13, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWROOM.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to your Wednesday edition of NEWSROOM. I am Shelley Walcott. Glad you are with us.
You know the drill. Here's what's ahead.
In today's top story, a finger-pointing frenzy on Capitol Hill, as Ford and Firestone executives face more questions about a string of deadly accidents.
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SEN. MAX CLELAND (D), GEORGIA: It distresses me that two great companies that together helped to build the American automobile and safe travel over millions of miles now won't even sit at the same table.
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WALCOTT: Then, in our "Business Desk," the source of headaches for some top executives.
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ARI WEINZWEIG, FOUNDER, ZINGERMAN'S: The top one of getting people into your organization has probably always been there and it is always going to be there.
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WALCOTT: From nine-to-five worries, to an after-hour pleasure. "Worldview" checks out one man's fascination with hot air balloons.
And in "Chronicle," newly revealed information about African- American slaves.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me feel like (inaudible).
(END VIDEO CLIP) WALCOTT: In today's top story, the latest round of a Capitol Hill investigation into dozens of deadly accidents that may be linked to the Bridgestone/Firestone tires. There were plenty of questions and even more blame to go around as Ford and Firestone executives faced a Senate panel yesterday.
Last month, Firestone recalled six-and-a-half million tires still on the road, many of them had been installed as original equipment on Ford vehicles, including the popular explorer SUV.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received more than 1400 complaints about the tires. That includes reports of as many as 88 deaths and at least 250 injuries allegedly caused by the tires suddenly losing tread and blowing out on the road.
Ford and Firestone executives say, the other is to blame. U.S. lawmakers say, they just want to put an end to accidents.
Carl Rochelle has more from Washington.
CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some admissions from Firestone and another round of finger-pointing on Capitol Hill.
JOHN LAMPE, EXECUTIVE V.P., BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: We made some bad tires, and we take full responsibility.
ROCHELLE: But, for the accidents that took nearly 90 lives...
LAMPE: We firmly believe, however, that the tire is only part of the overall safety problem shown by these tragic accidents.
ROCHELLE: Lampe told the committee Firestone tires have been involved in only a small percentage of the deaths from rollovers of Ford Explorers. Ford officials, who testified later, minced no words in telling lawmakers who they thought was at fault.
JACQUES NASSER, PRES. & CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Firestone failed to share critical claims data with Ford that might have prompted the recall of these bad tires sooner.
ROCHELLE: The Senate Commerce Committee tried to focus on what needs to be done to make sure there aren't more accidents.
SEN. RICHARD BRYAN (D), NEVADA: Would it not be the appropriate, responsible thing to do to simply issue a recall of all of these tires, both the 15-inch as well as the 16-inch?
LAMPE: Sir, I would not think that -- I do not believe that would be responsible. And sir, I think it would be counterproductive to be replacing good tires with good tires.
ROCHELLE: Ford echoed that sentiment. It was one of the few areas in which the two companies, who have had a close relationship for nearly 100 years, agreed. SEN. MAX CLELAND (D), GEORGIA: It distresses me that two great companies that together helped to build the American automobile and its safe travel over millions of miles now won't even sit at the same table.
ROCHELLE: Transportation officials are directing more money toward the Ford/Firestone investigation, and say right now, the focus is on Firestone.
SUE BAILEY, NHTSA ADMINISTRATOR: At this time, I think we are dealing with a tire problem. But as part of our investigation, we will also explore the possibility of the combination.
ROCHELLE (on camera): Both Ford and Firestone are under continuing pressure from Capitol Hill. The chairman of the House committee that held hearings last week, warned both companies they have until Friday to produce testing data on tires and vehicles or face a congressional subpoena.
Carl Rochelle, CNN, Capitol Hill.
WALCOTT: Ford's chief executive officer has been at the helm less than two years, and the crisis over the Firestone tire recall is putting his leadership to the test.
Ed Garsten has more now on Jacques Nasser, who he is, and how he's handling the challenge.
ED GARSTEN, CNN DETROIT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Feisty, frugal, diminutive, and dynamic; all adjectives used to describe 52- year-old Jacques Nasser, president and CEO of Ford for the past 20 months.
KEITH CRAIN, PUBLISHER, "AUTOMOTIVE NEWS": He is very product oriented. If you want to be successful in the car business, you really have to concentrate and understand that product is king.
GARSTEN: Whether it's touting Ford's new electric two-wheelers or more traditional four-wheelers, Nasser has long been known as a passionate salesman and stalwart foot soldier for the company he has been a part of since 1968.
JACQUES NASSER, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Once we found out which tires were bad and which tires were good, we took action. We didn't wait.
GARSTEN: In the face of the Firestone tire scandal, Nasser believes his company is blameless. But then again, he has always believed that the Ford Motor Company could do no wrong and will survive no matter what.
NASSER: There's a lot of energy in this company. This is a company that is in great shape.
GARSTEN: That was last January. Now, with Ford's stock price tumbling and reputation taking a beating, Jacques Nasser's leadership and optimism are both undergoing the greatest tests of his short time at the top of the Blue Oval.
Ed Garsten, CNN, Detroit.
WALCOTT: In the headlines, a bold move for higher education. As the governor of California puts his stamp of approval on the most generous state scholarship in the country, the price tag isn't cheap.
But, as Anne McDermott shows us, high school students like you are welcoming the help.
ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Miesha Carodine is a senior at Garfield High in Los Angeles. She has an A-minus average, and she has a goal: to become a lawyer. Problem is, she doesn't have a lot of cash for college.
(on camera): You can't pay for it yourself?
MIESHA CARODINE, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: Oh, no absolutely not.
MCDERMOTT (voice-over): But maybe the state will. California's Governor Gray Davis signed a bill into law that promises to spend more than $1 billion a year to create the nation's biggest state scholarship program.
One example of how the program will work: a student with a B average, coming from a family of four with an income of about $64,000 or less will receive full tuition for any four-year state school or receive close to $10,000 a year for private school. California currently has a budget surplus of more than $12 billion, and the financial aid package received widespread legislative backing.
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: We're putting our money where our mouth is. You do your job well and get the grades, college will be a reality.
MCDERMOTT: Also available, aid packages for low-income C students and merit scholarships that have no bearing on a family's income.
DAVIS: They are a fair reward for extraordinary achievement, and I believe in rewarding excellence.
MCDERMOTT: The only problem may be where to put all the students. Some state schools are already crowded, but the governor says schools will be encourages to offer special rates to students willing to study in the summer.
As for those new financial assistance packages, they'll become available next year. And Miesha Carodine says she'll be applying.
Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.
WALCOTT: In today's "Business Desk," news about employment trends. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the United States was 4.1 percent in August and average hourly earnings have been rising since spring. For workers, that means lots of steady, better paying jobs. But, for business owners, low unemployment and higher wages mean it is hard to find qualified workers.
Earlier we looked at the headaches faced by a top executive at Ford. Now, Ed Garsten tells us about another executive headache.
GARSTEN (voice-over): Since opening in 1982, founder Ari Weinzweig and his partner have turned Zingerman's into a deli empire. Besides the popular lunch spot, there's a robust mail order, Internet and catering business; 250 employees; $12 million in annual sales.
So, what's Weinzwieg's biggest worry?
ARI WEINZWEIG, FOUNDER, ZINGERMAN'S: The top one of getting great people into the organization has always been there, and it is always going to be there.
GARSTEN: Funny thing, this purveyor of cheese and cold cuts shares the same worry with this telecommunications firm executive.
JIM FERGUSON, GLOBAL CROSSING: We're paying our people, our employees, lots of money to not only bring people into the organization, but we also pay them based on how long they stay with the organization.
GARSTEN: And this officer of a well known stock brokerage business.
LINNET DEILY, SCHWAB AND COMPANY: We're placing a lot of emphasis this year, on what we can do in terms of developing our staff, cause we've added people, and as we have continued to add products, that's a constant redevelopment process.
GARSTEN: In fact, a study by the University of Michigan business school rates finding good employees the number one executive headache, followed by strategic planning, maintaining a high performance climate, improving customer satisfaction, and reducing stress.
ROBERT QUINN, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN BUSINESS SCHOOL: We keep increasing the pressure, shorter and shorter timelines, the stress keeps going up.
GARSTEN (on camera): Managers say not only is it hard to find good employees but almost as difficult to hang on to them. So they're doing the little things, like a pat on the back in the staff newsletter, and in some cases literally catering to them.
(voice-over): That`s what happened at Schwab.
DEILY: Well, this last spring for about six weeks, we had free food in all of our cafeterias around the world.
GARSTEN: Ari Weinzweig says what really works is effective training and treating the staff as if they were volunteers.
WEINZWEIG: Their opportunity that they may have to make a difference in the workplace, that they can have some fun, that they're learning something and that they're contributing to something I think greater than themselves.
GARSTEN: By next December, the University of Michigan Business School will begin publishing books on solutions to these executive headaches. Once cured, says study author Robert Quinn, can lead to a bigger slice of profits.
Ed Garsten, CNN, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
WALCOTT: Did you ever read Jules Verne's book "Around the World in 80 Days"? Well, like the characters in that book, we'll be traveling all over in all kinds of ways, but it will only take minutes in "Worldview." We'll take a hot air balloon over Great Britain, head underwater to find out how Australia is protecting Olympic athletes from sharks, go back in time to learn about the early Olympics, and find out about some athletes whose homeland is competing in the games for the very first time.
We begin with a report on a man waging an Olympic battle of his own.
JOHN RAEDLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bruce Maguire was born totally blind. That didn't stop him from winning prizes for playing the piano, and he doesn't want it to stop him from enjoying the Sydney Olympics.
BRUCE MAGUIRE: I want very much to be able to participate with my children in the experience of the Olympic games.
RAEDLER: But the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, SOCOG, had no ticket information in braille. Maguire took the issue to Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
MAGUIRE: As a result, SOCOG were found to have discriminated against me, but they still refused to produce any information in braille.
RAEDLER: Since then, Maguire has taken similar action against SOCOG for not making its Web site fully accessible to him as a blind person. He says this is one of several problems with the Web site. UNIDENTIFIED COMPUTER VOICE: Select@sales.olympics.com...
RAEDLER: That's how his computer reads pictures and graphics on the site. Maguire says if SOCOG added a feature known as "ALT text," his computer would tell him what the pictures and graphics show.
(on camera): On the Web site issue, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission again found SOCOG discriminated against Maguire, but the commission's findings carry no penalty.
(voice-over): The games' organizers declined CNN's request for an interview, instead issuing this statement, quote: "We presented independent evidence that it would take $2 million and 368 working days to reformat the Web site to the requirements of the commission," end quote.
But Maguire produced expert witnesses at the hearing who told a different story.
MAGUIRE: And they said that it would cost between $30,000 and $40,000 to make the site fully accessible and it would take two to four weeks.
RAEDLER: For now, the dispute remains a standoff. Maguire makes no apologies for his stance. Indeed, the only apologies he makes this day are for his rustiness on the piano and to the composer Beethoven.
John Raedler, CNN, Sydney.
ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: With the Olympics just days away, athletes from around the world are converging on Australia. For the first time, there are competitors representing East Timor, a former territory of Indonesia. Many of those athletes endured incredible hardship and danger before making it to the summer games. Just one year ago, East Timor was ravaged by mass violence after it voted to secede from Indonesia. Hundreds of people were reportedly killed, and thousands more fled their homes amid the violence led by pro- Indonesian militia. Peacekeepers were deployed and the U.N. hopes to prepare East Timor for self rule within three years.
Still, for many of the athletes from there, memories of the bloodshed remain vivid. Fresh from a terrible struggle, they now turn to a competition that promotes sportsmanship among athletes from around the globe. Barely able to field a team, scarcely able to equip it, the athletes show their fighting spirit in a new arena.
Donna Liu (ph) has their story.
DONNA LIU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ucthoc Flaminggo is a martial arts practitioner specializing in Tae Kwon Do. Flaminggo knows making the grade won't be easy, but he's used to challenges. Before he arrived in Australia, he had nowhere to work out. Pro- Indonesian militiamen had left his homeland of East Timor in shambles.
UCTHOC FLAMINGGO, EAST TIMORESE OLYMPIC ATHLETE (through translator): We tried to train, but he had no equipment at all. We have nothing, but we have invested our hearts to Timor to show the world that in East Timor there is more than just death and destruction; we still have the spirit to compete.
LIU: Until Australian-led peacekeepers arrived in East Timor late last year, Flaminggo was living in the hills as a fugitive from the Indonesian military. He's been on the run since, as a teenager, he joined the underground independence movement. Today, he believes facing East Timor's former master will be the biggest challenge for him and his teammates at the Olympic games.
FLAMINGGO (through translator): We have to face the Indonesians. We have to be brave and we have to face it. When we face the Indonesians on the sports field, we have to play. They are one nation, and we are now our own nation. If we have to face it, we have to face it, and we will.
LIU: Flaminggo's story echoes that of the eight other athletes who are joining the games for the first time as representatives of East Timor. One of them is Victor Ramos. The boxer is no stranger to international competition. He won a silver medal for Indonesia in the 1997 Southeast Asian games, and he's competed in Italy, India, Uzbekistan and Japan.
Like Flaminggo, Ramos is familiar with the hazards of being a wanted man.
VICTOR RAMOS, EAST TIMORESE OLYMPIC ATHLETE (through translator): I was scared to death because the militia were looking for me. My name was on a list of people to be killed. We had no choice but to flee into the mountains. They came looking for me. And when they couldn't find me, they killed my friend instead.
LIU: In Darwin, Australia, these athletes have something they once could only dream about: the equipment with which to practice their sport. Back in East Timor, marathon runners trained without shoes, and weight-lifters hoisted tree branches to keep fit.
These athletes may have a slim chance of winning any medals this year, but they say being able to represent East Timor is a victory in itself.
Donna Liu, CNN.
WALCOTT: The 2000 Olympic summer games will be held in Sydney, Australia beginning Friday. It's being billed as the "Green Games," but Greenpeace says environmental measures haven't gone far enough. Yet the upcoming games will be the greenest games so far, the organization admits.
Greenpeace says Sydney has set a new standard with its extensive use of solar power. The games also utilize sewage and recycling systems. But Greenpeace says Sydney could do more, criticizing organizers for not cleaning up an industrial area which was an unofficial toxic dumping ground until the 1970s.
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BLAIR PALESE, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COORDINATOR, GREENPEACE: Greenpeace has been keeping an eye on this site for many, many years. In 1997, we found 69 barrels of toxic waste, mostly dioxin and dioxin- contaminated soil, and it's been contained in the black containers you see behind me. That was estimated to be there no more than six or eight months pending a government promise that the cleanup would happen in time for the games, but unfortunately that won't happen.
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WALCOTT: Meantime, Sydney has also been working to make the sporting environment safer in other ways. A new device aimed at keeping sharks away has been tested in preparation for the upcoming triathlon competition. The device emits a sound that will scare away sharks. It will be attached to divers riding underwater scooters during the swim leg of the triathlon.
As the eyes of the world turn toward Australia, Kathy Nellis gives us some background on the Olympic movement.
KATHY NELLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Olympics began in ancient Greece. The first recorded contest was in 776 B.C. Competitions were held every four years and events were added over time. Early Olympics featured chariot racing, running, wrestling, boxing, and the discus and javelin throw.
In the beginning, the games had religious meaning. Today, they promote sports competition and encourage world peace. You've probably seen the Olympic symbol, five interlocking rings of blue, yellow, black, red and green. They represent the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas.
An idea that had its origins in ancient times has become a global phenomenon, governed by the International Olympic Committee, which approves the events and selects the host cities.
(on camera): This is Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. It was created as a gathering place for visitors to the 1996 summer games. That year marked a milestone in Olympic history as the 100-year anniversary of the modern day games.
(voice-over): The games experienced a revival in Athens, Greece in 1896, with athletes from 13 countries gathering to compete in nine sports. It wasn't until 1912 that women were allowed to compete.
Today, thousands of the world's best athletes representing over 190 nations participate. And while it's a popular sporting event, fans believe there are many other reasons to hold the Olympics. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It brings a lot of people together internationally. It brings a lot of money into the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's important to have people from all over the world come into one place.
NELLIS: The Olympic motto is "citius, altius, fortius," a Latin phrase meaning "swifter, higher, stronger." And that goal comes through in competition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives people a chance to find out what they really have inside and not settle for just living a simple life, but really giving all they've got for something, finding out who they are while they're doing that.
NELLIS: So let the games begin.
Kathy Nellis, CNN, Atlanta, Georgia.
TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: We turn from the Land Down Under to an event way over Great Britain and a story of man's fascination with hot air balloons.
Hot air ballooning dates back centuries. In fact, balloons were used in the first successful human attempts at flying. Hot air balloons have also been extremely useful to weather science. And sport ballooning is taking off in popularity.
Recently, a group of balloon enthusiasts on England's West Countryside embarked on a mission to see how many hot air balloons could they launch in one shot.
But as Walter Rodgers reports, there are ups and there are downs to any great challenge.
WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not Harry Potter with a fire-belching dragon breathing down his neck, nor is it Quidditch. It is, instead, a British attempt to break a world record for mass hot air balloon launches. The record is 127 balloons up in one hour.
Hopes were higher than some of the balloons.
BRIAN JONES, BALLOONIST: There will be a lot of frontiers crossed this morning, you know, with 80-odd pilots going up. And everybody's -- the adrenaline's pumping. It's very exciting.
RODGERS: The balloonists did well, launching more than 90 balloons in the first half hour, and the pristine skies over England's West Country were abloom in color. But with all the commercial sponsors, there were moments of naked hot-air capitalism, sponsors afloat. And there are things capitalism cannot buy, like world records. This first attempt only put 117 balloons up in an hour, 10 short of the record.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just come straight in here.
RODGERS: Still, spectators did not appear to share the disappointment of the record seekers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, you hardly noticed it.
RODGERS: A soft landing was the much sought after consolation prize on what was otherwise a flawless summer day o'er the land of Counterpane.
Walter Rodgers, CNN, London.
WALCOTT: In today's "Chronicle," a lost heritage as an aspect of slavery. Slavery in the Americas ripped generations apart as families were sold as chattel or property. Of who they were and of whose they were became lost until now.
After spending years pouring over dusty courthouse records in the United States and Europe, a 71-year-old history professor has pulled together a database that promises to answer many questions: who? what? and why?
And as Charles Zewe reports, historians of slavery and genealogists are calling the compilation groundbreaking.
CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weathered cypress cabins at Laura Plantation near New Orleans are among the few relics of slavery here. Not much is known about the slaves who lived on the plantation, now a tourist attraction.
NORMAN MARMILLION, DIRECTOR, LAURA PLANTATION: People who are living today are reluctant to talk about slavery, whether they're white or black. There's not a lot of information out there.
ZEWE: Africans were sold into bondage by the thousands in Louisiana, most to Mississippi River plantation owners.
(on camera): Historians say slaves formed the backbone of Louisiana's pre-Civil War economy, harvesting sugarcane and cotton. In many cases, they were known only by their first names.
(voice-over): Cyrus, 1789; Nelly, 1834; Cyprien, born in 1835. Not much was recorded of their lives.
GWENDOLYN MIDLO HALL, HISTORIAN: This region B is the Bides (ph) of Benin and Biafra. ZEWE: After 15 years of digging through dusty courthouse records in Louisiana, Texas, Spain and France, former Rutgers history professor Gwendolyn Midlo Hall has published a searchable CD-ROM documenting 100,000 slave sales and 27,000 transatlantic slave ship voyages, their points of origin and destinations.
HALL: It's absolutely fascinating to me. And second, this has never been done before. It's making slaves come alive.
ZEWE: The 71-year-old historian spent so much time pouring over manuscripts and records, she must wear special glasses because her eyesight has been damaged. She was motivated, she says, by years of disgust with racism.
Librarian Greg Osborn helped Hall compile the data and found an ancestor, a Bamana tribesman from West Africa. Inspired, Osborn later learned he's a mixed-race descendant of Haitians and a white plantation owner.
GREG OSBORN, SLAVE DESCENDANT: People used to ask me what I was, and I used to become confused or embarrassed or didn't know what to tell them. And now, I can tell them exactly.
ZEWE: The $45 CD has been embarrassing for some white families, who claim they didn't know their ancestors were slaveholders. Louisiana Governor Mike Foster learned his great-great-grandfather Levi owned slaves. Foster won't talk about it.
Historian Don Devore says Hall, who uses her research to paint a picture of slaves not as brutes but as talented and skillful, has done work as ground-breaking as Alex Haley's "Roots."
DON DEVORE, AMISTAD RESEARCH CENTER: She has put a face, if you will, on parts of the African-American experience that has been -- you know, had been lost.
ZEWE: And allowed scores of black Americans to trace their African forebears for the first time.
Charles Zewe, CNN, New Orleans.
WALCOTT: That wraps up today's show. We'll see you right back here tomorrow.
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