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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for October 20, 2000

Aired October 20, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tom Haynes. We have a lot of news for your Friday. Here's a quick preview.

Topping today's news, change is afloat in the relationship between the United States and Cuba.

Making its way to the stage, NEWSROOM's Broadway brain teaser: What's the longest running show in Broadway history? Tune into "Editor's Desk" for the answer.

Moving on, "Worldview" hits a high note in Havana, where kids are making a cultural connection.

We round out things with a "Chronicle" trip to Texas, and a quick stop in Hollywood where young people are finding hope behind the camera.

The United States prepares to ease four decades of trade sanctions against Cuba despite mounting criticism. The measure, which would allow food and medical exports to Cuba, is part of an agricultural bill that passed through the U.S. Congress this week. More on that in just a minute. First, let's look at why those sanctions were imposed in the first place.

From the early 1500s to the late 1800s, Spain controlled Cuba, an island nation in the West Indies. In 1898, U.S. troops helped Cuba win its quest for independence in the Spanish-American War. While granting Cuba its sovereignty, the United States wrote a clause into Cuba's constitution giving the U.S. government permission to intervene in Cuban affairs.

For the next six decades, the two countries traded freely. In 1959, Fidel Castro took over the Cuban government. His communist stance became evident and the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. deteriorated. Diplomatic ties were broken in 1961, resulting in a trade embargo. Since that time, Cuba has had to find other economic partners.

U.S. President Clinton plans to sign legislation allowing for the sale of food and medicine to Cuba. The bill, however, is not without its critics in the United States and Cuba. John Zarrella explains.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American tourists on the streets of Havana, spending lots of dollars. That's what Cuba's Fidel Castro wanted. What the U.S. Congress did was to borrow a verse from the Rolling Stones: "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

The so-called Trade Sanctions Reform and Enhancement Acts lifts the restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba.

REP. GEORGE NETHERCUTT (R), WASHINGTON: I think this is a great first step. Without this step on food and medicine, nothing gets developed in the way of a new policy toward Cuba.

ZARRELLA: But in order to get the legislation through after several failed attempts, proponents had to make concessions. The legislation makes a point of restricting travel to the communist island. And while allowing the sale of food and medicine, those sales can't be financed by U.S. banks or individuals. Cuba will have to come up with the money itself.

PAMELA FALK, CUBA EXPERT: It's the cake without the icing. It's sales but without U.S. financing on the Cuba front. That means everybody is a little unhappy, but there is no question that this will allow for U.S. ag sales to Cuba that have not happened in 40 years.

ZARRELLA: But the bill's opponents don't believe Castro can come up with the cash to buy American.

JOE GARCIA, CUBAN-AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION: Do I expect them to purchase in the United States? No. The reason that they purchase in other markets is because they're extended foreign credits, and they run up their credit card until they can purchase no longer, and then they stop buying and they're looking for other markets.

ZARRELLA: The bill also allows agriculture and medicine sales to Libya, the Sudan and Iran. Those markets could generate a billion dollars export revenue a year. Sales to Cuba, a fraction of that: only about 40 million.

(on camera): Supporters and opponents of the legislation agree on one thing: Both sides say that from now on it will be more difficult for Fidel Castro to use the embargo as an excuse for the hardships faced by the Cuban people.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


HAYNES: In today's "Editor's Desk," we take you to Broadway, New York City's most famous theater district. Before we do, we have the answer to that quiz we gave you in the open. What is the longest running show in Broadway history? Well, here's a clue. It closed this year after a record-breaking 7,397 performances. The answer -- yes, you guessed it -- "Cats." That musical opened at the Winter Garden Theater in October 1982. Many of you weren't even born then. The show ran almost 18 years. And by the end of its run, it was seen in New York by about 10 million people, 50 million around the world. In fact, it was London's longest-running musical too.

Now we spotlight some of the success of the mega-musical as an art form.

Cynthia Tornquist takes us center stage.


CYNTHIA TORNQUIST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "The Phantom of the Opera" has been on Broadway for 13 years, but for how much longer?

CAMERON MACKINTOSH, PRODUCER: And I can remember, you know, when I first came here in the mid-'70s, people were saying it's not what it was, to quote Gus, the theater cat. And I'm sure now we're going through another time of change.

TORNQUIST: British producer Cameron Mackintosh brought the mega- hits "Cats," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," and "Miss Saigon" to Broadway in the 1980s and early '90s, and with them brought spectacle to the stage. It was just what Broadway needed.

PHIL SMITH, PRESIDENT, SHUBER ORGANIZATION: It was not the thriving economy that we have now. Tourism was not as plentiful as it is today.

MARC THIBODEAU, PUBLICIST: All four of those shows opened with advance sales that were unheard of in, you know, Broadway history.

FRANK RICH, "NEW YORK TIMES": The British musicals cut both ways for Broadway. On one hand, they filled a vacuum at a time when there were very few new American musicals. But at the same time, they created kind of an addiction, both on the part of Broadway and the audience.

TORNQUIST: "New York Times" columnist Frank Rich says it was inevitable that big companies would move in, like Disney, Pace/SFX and the defunct Livent.

RICH: Costs have become so astronomical, and it's really essentially impossible to produce a musical for less than around $10 million.

TORNQUIST: The results are shows such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." Meanwhile, it's been 10 years since British producers had a successful mega-musical. And American independent producers have resorted to the less expensive tried-and-true revivals.

Who will write the next original mega-musicals?

MACKINTOSH: Some maverick will come with a balmy idea, and it will take the public by storm.

TORNQUIST: Maybe. If not, Broadway might just need another "Cats."

Cynthia Tornquist, CNN Entertainment News, New York.


HAYNES: In "Worldview," our own version of "Jaws." You remember that movie. We take you to the United States, to Florida, to watch some Indians wrestle alligators. And we'll return to Cuba, a country you heard a lot about at the top of the show. This time we focus on travel and culture.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: You know Cuba as an island nation in the West Indies and the only communist country in the Americas. Earlier, we explained the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba and changes in the works.

Despite years of tension, the United States and Cuba have been involved in cultural exchange. Earlier this month, we told you about young U.S. dancers who performed in Cuba, the first American dance group to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution. For more on that story, check your NEWSROOM archives for October 7.

Now, we return to Cuba for more culture. Kysa Daniels (ph) has our story.


KYSA DANIELS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The high energy and unity of these Cuban and American children drew applause at Havana's National Theater. They spent several weeks rehearsing for Sol Project, or Proyecto Sol, a bilingual theatrical production directed by Michael Skolnik of Los Angeles.

Skolnik and the Cuban Ministry of Culture developed the program as a bridge between two countries that have been longtime political enemies. Skolnik soon learned politics don't matter much to children.

MICHAEL SKOLNIK, SOL PROJECT DIRECTOR: Eight out of our 12 kids don't even know there's an embargo, you know, from the United States to Cuba. So, for them, they just think this is a cool place. And we've talked about, you know, some of the politics with the kids and explained to them what's going on, and they've asked questions openly, and they've grown to understand each other and each others' culture.

DANIELS: And build friendships.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I get along well with him. He is very nice to me. When I buy something, I share it with him when I can.

DANIELS: The play, featuring children from Havana and Los Angeles, centered around the lost ball and the teamwork it took to find it. The message registered. Still, the children realize building upon their new relationships won't be easy.

GRIFFIN REMME, AMERICAN PARTICIPANT: Letters take a long time to get back and forth to each place, and they don't have e-mail here, I don't think. And it's just probably hard.

DANIELS: As for Skolnik, he hopes to get the Cuban children to the United States for a repeat performance.

Kysa Daniels, CNN, reporting.


HAYNES: More from Cuba now as we turn from the world of art to business. Cultural exchange between the United States and Cuba is just one reason for travel between the two countries. But trouble getting a visa to travel can make visiting iffy.

Lucia Newman checks out the challenges.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Every day they line up in front of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, the lucky 200 to 400 Cubans allowed to go inside to apply for a visa. For those wanting to go to the United States to visit relatives, these are good times.

"Before, a hundred people would apply for a visa and 97 of them would be turned down," says this man. "Now a hundred people come to apply and 90 percent are accepted and given a visa."

NEWMAN: That may be over-optimistic, but U.S. consular officials are processing four to five times more applications than at this time last year, as part of an effort to give more opportunity to Cubans, especially those over 60 who simply want to visit the United States and return home.

(on camera): The bad news, though, is that the increased enthusiasm and demand for visitors' visas has given way to a flourishing black market business, a business out of the control of U.S. consular officials.

(voice-over): People arrive before dawn outside to sign up on endless lists for an eventual place in the line into the U.S. Interests Section; people like this woman, who comes from western Cuba.

"I've been waiting at my sister's house for four months," she says, "waiting for my turn to come up."

If you're willing to pay, though, no wait at all.

"They're selling tickets in line for $100, $120, and you can travel in a week, even three days from now," says this man.

The list and ticket system, originally set up by the people themselves to prevent large crowds from getting out of hand, is being exploited by unscrupulous sharks who fill up the lists then sell places in line, as the police look on from a distance.

On this day, the impatient crowd hurled insults at the ticket distributor when he failed to give out the full quota of 200 numbers. The suspicion is that the remainder had been pre-sold.

"All I can find are tickets to buy, but I don't have the money," says this woman from far eastern Cuba, who says she'll have to return home empty-handed.

The solution, suggest U.S. officials, is for Cuban authorities to allow and enforce a system of first come, first served, so that the business of visiting the United States stops being a business.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: As we leave Cuba, it's time for a geo quiz. How far is it from Cuba to the United States? Ninety miles or 145 kilometers.

Let's focus now on the last of the living reptiles closely related to dinosaurs: alligators and their relatives. People have long been wary of alligators. Back as far as the 13th century, Marco Polo reported spotting alligators in China with snouts large enough to swallow an entire human being.

While that may have been a bit of an exaggeration, it's true alligators can be dangerous. Wildlife experts advise that if you do encounter one in the wild, keep your distance. Although they look slow and awkward, they can move with a startling burst of speed. A safe distance from an adult alligator, experts say, is about 60 feet.

Of course, that information is not printed on certain job applications for Florida's Seminole Indian tribe. They're looking for men or women willing to ignore such safety advice and wrestle alligators for a living.

Historically, the Indians wrestled alligators in the Florida swamps for survival, for food and for their skins, which were traded for other goods. But it's hard to understand how the tradition got so long in the tooth, an expression meaning "old," when alligators have a jawful of teeth -- 80 sharp ones, actually.

John Zarrella has the story of this risky business.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Treat it just like the jaws are open. Cover his eyes. Nope, nope, nope, you were bit right there.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): You're looking at a job training program, and Lance Holmquist is one of the few takers. He's training for the day that Scratch the alligator won't have his jaws taped shut. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soon as you mess up, he's going to come right to life on you and let you know that you messed up.

ZARRELLA: So who in his right mind wants to wrestle alligators? Well, not too many people. And that's a problem for the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida. The art of gator grappling was handed down -- as long as you didn't lose your hands -- from generation to generation. Gator wrestling shows are a mainstay at Seminole tourist attractions. But the new generation of Seminoles wants more out of life.

ALEXANDRA FRANK, SEMINOLE SPOKESWOMAN: A lot of us want to be news reporters, a lot of us want to be auto mechanics, truck drivers. And you can't find that on the reservation.

ZARRELLA: To keep the shows going, the Seminoles are looking off the reservation, taking out a want ad for gator wrestlers. Holmquist was one of the few to apply for the $8-an-hour job.

LANCE HOLMQUIST, JOB APPLICANT: The pay's not that good, but the benefits are pretty good. I'd like to find out what those benefits are. Maybe I get a caddy or something.

ZARRELLA: Maybe a hearse if you're not careful. Last winter, Seminole Chief James Billie lost a finger while performing a gator show.

JAMES BILLIE, SEMINOLE CHIEF: This one here actually lifting me up, opened his jaws and grabbed half of my finger right in here. And that's when I knew I was in trouble.

ZARRELLA: The chief hasn't gotten up close and personal with a gator since. But the Seminoles say they will find and train people to carry on their tradition because the show must go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you later, alligator.

ZARRELLA: John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


BAKHTIAR: Well, we can't talk about alligators without mentioning the crocodile. It can be hard to tell the difference between these two related animals. Alligators have rounded snouts; most crocodiles have longer, pointed snouts. Crocs are also more aggressive, and they have a long, lower fourth tooth which protrudes even when the mouth is closed. But don't get close enough to check it out. Both alligators and crocodiles are carnivorous.

HAYNES: This week, we're looking at immigration in the United States. For some, it's a reason to celebrate. For others, a cause for concern. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, there remains a simple fact: America is a country made up of different cultures trying to live together.

Here's NEWSROOM's Joel Hochmuth. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOEL HOCHMUTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy-two-year- old Vernon Bates has been shrimping the waters off Palacios, Texas for more than half a century.

VERNON BATES, SHRIMPER: Started as soon as I got out of high school in '47 and just -- my dad was a fisherman and, I don't know, I just -- it's what I wanted to do.

HOCHMUTH: Matagorda Bay is his fishing hole. Bates has been on this water so many times, he's seen it all. Still, he'll never forget that day back in 1975, the day he saw a stranger out here.

BATES: He had a little old bitty boat, little small boat, and he was just dragging everywhere, dragging his net all across the bow of our boat. So -- and we'd just give away to him. You know, we'd kind of move off because we figured he didn't know, really, what he was doing.

HOCHMUTH: As it turns out, he did know what he was doing. That stranger was just one of thousands of Vietnamese refugees who would settle along the Texas Gulf Coast following the end of the Vietnam War. They were drawn by the shrimping industry, a livelihood many had back in their homeland.

Bates admits he and other longtime shrimpers in the area didn't exactly roll out the welcome mats.

BATES: Well, in three years, I guess, they built I don't know how many boats. They just flooded the place. And then that's when we got started getting concerned about, my gosh, they're going to, you know, taking everything away from us. And we're trying -- you know, we was hostile at first. But after you get to know the people, they're good people.

HOCHMUTH: Tu Vu was one of the first Vietnamese refugees to settle here. Although he doesn't fish as often as he used to, he still gets out on the water occasionally, this time with his two sons. He says he simply brought his family here for the same reasons millions of other immigrants do.

TU VIET VU, SHRIMPER: We come to the United States because, you know, the United States is the freedom country, the freedom working, freedom build up everything.

HOCHMUTH: Still, 20 years ago, many Anglo shrimpers despised men like Vu. They thought the Vietnamese were given an unfair advantage.

VU: I see a few people, they say, Vietnamese -- all the Vietnamese come to the United States, now they build the boats, they buying a new car and the government give them money. That's wrong. Vietnamese go to work and not fair to attack. That's wrong.

BATES: We heard through the grapevine that the government was giving them money. You know, they're refugees from Vietnam and the government's giving them money, setting them up in the business and everything. And here we've been paying taxes all our lives, you know, and struggling to make a living, and then they jump right into it, you know, building these nice boats and everything. We kind of were resentful of that.

HOCHMUTH: For several years, Bates and other longtime shrimpers tried to run the Vietnamese out of town. The family seafood wholesale house refused to do business with them.

BATES: We wouldn't -- when they first started, we wouldn't buy from them. We didn't want to have anything to do with them.

VERNON BATES JR., SEAFOOD WHOLESALER: You're in it to make money and, you know, if you turn them away you're just turning down money. So we finally just decided if we were going to make any money we needed to unload them.

HOCHMUTH (on camera): While Vietnamese immigrants may not have been welcome here at first, in Palacios, at least things never turned violent. Twenty years ago in the town of Seadrift to the south, racial tension exploded when a white man was killed by two Vietnamese brothers. Although that killing was ruled self-defense, several Vietnamese boats were burned and a vacant home firebombed in retaliation.

(voice-over): Today, that level of hatred is all but gone. In Palacios, the Vietnamese community that was once derided is now seen as a savior.

BATES: If they wasn't here, we'd be out of business.

HOCHMUTH: The Vietnamese shrimpers have led the fight against the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. This year, officials proposed new restrictions on shrimpers they say are necessary to preserve shrimp populations.

THUY VU, SEAFOOD WHOLESALER: We have no choice but to oppose all changes at this time.

HOCHMUTH: The shrimpers say those restrictions could put them out of business, and now both Anglos and Asians are united in a group called the Vietnamese American Shrimpers Association. Thuy Vu, vice president and daughter of the Vietnamese shrimper we met earlier, spoke out against the proposals at this public hearing.

THUY VU, SEAFOOD WHOLESALER: The future of many shrimping families and associate business need to be considered.

Even if this proposal hadn't come out, we'd still be united. But it pulled a lot of other areas together for, you know, to fight this proposal because we all on the same, you know, track.

LENNY KUNEFKE, SHRIMPER: More unity. They really stepped forward and they showed American fisherman what unity can do. They really did. It's amazing.

HOCHMUTH (on camera): What did it take to have your attitudes change?

JANIE BLEVINS, SHRIMPER: Time. Working with them as people. It was just time.

HOCHMUTH (voice-over): Even if the Anglo and Asian shrimpers lose the fight to stop the restrictions, they've won something two decades ago no one would have thought possible. They've won respect and admiration for each other.

BATES: You're either going to stay together or you're going to fall apart. You have to know somebody before you can make an opinion of them, really. And after being around them, talking to them, working with them, and they -- every one of them wave at you out in the bay, you know.

THUY VU: Now people, seeing how we live, you know, I think first they didn't understand what kind of person the Vietnamese are. And now they're seeing, well, you know, we just like them, we just here to make a living, you know, getting the opportunity of the freedom.


HAYNES: It should be noted, by the way, that in August, after the filing of this report, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department decided to impose new restrictions on shrimpers. We also learned the restrictions aren't nearly as tough as originally proposed. It appears collective pressure has its dividends, at least in this case.

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.

HAYNES: All right, you probably have your sights set on the future, perhaps where you'll go to college and eventually what you'll do for a living. But what if you've gotten into trouble in the past and haven't really had the chance to focus on your future?

Eric Horng tells us about a place where kids facing that dilemma and have their sights on the entertainment industry are finding some answers.


ERIC HORNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every morning, two dozen 11th and 12th graders file into the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, walking down a replica of the Yellow Brick Road, near the original sets of "Cheers" and "Star Trek" to four classrooms.

There is nothing ordinary about this high school, including the students. Some are thieves, others vandals or other youth offenders. But here, they're also budding musicians, directors and screen writers.

The Entertainment Academy, as its called, teaches the usual core classes and offers a number of entertainment electives, from video production to costume design, each elective taught by an industry professional, each student a kid on probation.

JULIAN REA, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: It feels really good inside that, you know, people want me to be here and they like what I'm doing, they like to teach me the things that I want to learn.

HORNG: Julian Rea didn't always want to learn. Julian's father is himself a probation officer, but still struggled to keep his son out of trouble.

KEVIN REA, FATHER OF STUDENT: He was just an inch away from going to Youth Authority. So I was looking at losing my son.

HORNG (on camera): And now?

K. REA: I got him back.

HORNG: The school, which opened its doors a year ago, is publicly-funded and accredited. The county pays for the textbooks and the teachers, the museum provides the classrooms, and the entertainment community serves as the mentors.

PHYLLIS CASKEY, HOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINMENT MUSEUM: We have companies that have agreed for the kids who successfully complete our program, that they will open doors for them in the industry so that they can work and experience what it's like.

HORNG (voice-over): As for Julian Rea, his plans include college and eventually a job in the entertainment industry; Hollywood dreams inspired by a school working to steer kids onto the path of success.

Eric Horng, CNN, Los Angeles.


HAYNES: It takes a lot to get into this business. It appears these kids are getting a head start.

That's the show for this Friday. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you back here Monday. Take care.



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