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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for November 27, 2000

Aired November 27, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Hey, welcome to your Monday NEWSROOM, everybody. I'm Tom Haynes. Politics and the environment both on today's bill. Here's a preview.

Election 2000 and the highest court in the U.S. What lies ahead?

Then we'll take a turn into "Environment Desk" to check out a new energy source.

We've got more about the environment coming up when "Worldview" travels to the Big Easy.

And we end up where we started out as we "Chronicle" the U.S. presidential election.

Nearly three weeks after voters cast their ballots in the United States presidential election, Florida certifies George W. Bush as the winner of its 25 electoral votes. But that doesn't guarantee him the presidency -- at least not yet. Several legal challenges remain. Secretary of State Katherine Harris announced Florida's new certified total Sunday, showing Bush leading Al gore by just 537 votes.


KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: The certified result in the presidential race in Florida is as follows: Gov. George W. Bush, 2,912790; Vice President Al Gore, 2,912753. Accordingly, on behalf of the state elections canvassing commission and in accordance with the laws of the state of Florida, I hereby declare Gov. George W. Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes for the president of the United States.


HAYNES: Al Gore and running mate Joe Lieberman vow to contest Florida's election results with legal action that could last days and even weeks. The Bush camp also is going to court to try to force several Florida counties to count overseas military ballots which were tossed out because of technicalities such as missing postmarks. And Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear arguments over the validity of the hand recounts. Charles Bierbauer has more about that.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. Supreme Court surprised most legal experts by involving itself in the election. But both Republicans and Democrats see good reason.

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRES.: I'm sure a sitting Supreme Court justice believes that providing some final closure on all the swirl of legal arguments might be a good thing to do here.

DICK THORNBURGH, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's dignity, but it's also credibility and continuity. Our Supreme Court has always been recognized as an anchor of stability in a somewhat volatile political process.

BIERBAUER: The justices have narrowed their role to assessing whether the Florida Supreme Court acted properly by allowing extra time to recount ballots.

THORNBURGH: And the question that they're going to consider is whether the Florida Supreme Court changed the law enacted by the Florida legislature by arbitrarily extending the deadline for hand recounts by six days over what the legislature had provided. And that's a pretty meaty constitutional and legal question.

BIERBAUER: In addition to the Bush appeal, the justices also asked both sides to consider the consequences of overruling the Florida Court.

DAVIS: Will any decision by the U.S. Supreme court endanger a December 18 date under the Constitution for voting the Electoral College? Will it endanger the actual seating of a president? And those are the practical consequences that I would expect the Supreme Court would be very concerned about before it got involved here.

BIERBAUER: The current court is considered sympathetic to state sovereignty, often narrowly ruling in favor of states over the federal government. It will not likely overturn a unanimous decision of the Florida Supreme Court.

(on camera): The high court's word is final. But when it rules sometime after Friday's arguments, it still won't be the last word on the election. Ballot challenges remain in Florida, and there is still a Bush charge in a lower federal court that Florida has not treated all its votes and voters equally.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.


HAYNES: When all is said and done and a winner is finally determined, will the battle then be over? Well, if you're the country's next president, the answer is probably no. This is one of the closest presidential elections in American history. And winning with such a narrow margin has the potential to cause problems for the next administration.

Kelly Wallace explains why.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When either Al Gore or George W. Bush is eventually declared the winner, he will have overcome one extraordinary challenge in Florida only to face another one once inside the White House.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: When the vote is so indecisive, then the man entering the office loses a certain credibility, a certain legitimacy, and it makes it difficult to govern.

WALLACE: Difficult, but not impossible, political experts say. Take the case of President Clinton. Elected with just 43 percent of the vote in 1992, he watched his party lose control of Congress in 1994 and face the embarrassment of impeachment four years later.

DALLEK: Clinton's service as president demonstrates that you can survive an awful lot of problems.

WALLACE: Some Republicans, though, say the only lesson to be gleaned from Mr. Clinton is that some of his major accomplishments, such as trade deals and welfare reform, would not have happened without Republican support.

VIN WEBER, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: The next president ought to learn from President Clinton that he needs to govern in, as much as possible, a bipartisan way to accomplish things.

WALLACE: That's even more essential now with Congress sharply divided and neither party likely to hold a working majority. But each man could restore some goodwill by appointing members of the opposing party to his cabinet. One democratic pollster says the longer this goes on, the less public trust the next president will have on Day 1.

GEOFF GARIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There is a growing view that these guys are only playing politics here and not trying to come up with a result that's best for the country.

WALLACE (on camera): Add to that growing distrust of one side for the other, and you have what will be the biggest test of either Gore or Bush's political life. However, the next president also faces a slew of unfinished business and any legislative victories could turn a weak president into a man who gets things done.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.


HAYNES: So you want to help ward off the next energy crisis. You know those high gas prices? Well, you might consider eating more French fries. Environmentalists say powering engines on waste cooking oil could help clear up polluted air.

Here in a nutshell is how it works: Fats like waste oil are meant to be burned. In our bodies, burned fat is converted into energy. But in this case, instead of burning fat in an aerobics class, it'd be burned in an engine to make trucks go.

Don Knapp has more on a fuel alternative some might say is too good to be true.


DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Garbage in, fresh air out, or at least fresher air out of the exhaust pipes of San Jose, California's Green Team, the city's 94-truck garbage and recycling fleet, now that it's the first in the country running entirely on biodiesel fuel.

KERYNN GIANOTTI, GREEN TEAM OF SAN JOSE: Biodiesel is a fuel that's made out of recycled vegetable oil, sewage pond grease skimmings, and it can also be made out of soybean oil.

KNAPP: There seems to be plenty of it. Waste cooking oil is what's left over in the fat fryer. The food industry produces an estimated 300 million gallons of it a year. According to the National Biodiesel board, only about 5 million gallons are recycled and processed to become environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel.

(on camera): The biodiesel-fuelled trucks do have one unique emission: a distinct odor of burned French fry cooking oil.

(voice-over): Advocates claim biodiesel is nontoxic, burns cleaner, lubricates better, and delivers more horsepower than regular diesel.

JEFF COOK, GREEN TEAM RECYCLING: We actually gained 35 more horsepower, and we gained 1.1 miles per gallon on Theroid Gino (ph) testing.

KNAPP (on camera): What did you have to do to the engines to make it work?

COOK: Nothing at all. Just put it in the tank.

KNAPP (voice-over): But it sounds too good to be true to Dan Sperling, director of the University of California-Davis' Institute of Transportation Studies.

DAN SPERLING, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF TRANSPORTATION STUDIES: The problem is it's very expensive. Just the amount of raw material you need when you convert an oil, a plant oil like soybean oil into it, amounts to about $2 per gallon. That's before you even start any processing or transport or anything.

KNAPP: Still, three U.S. postal facilities in Florida and some 40 diesel fleets around the country are using a combination of biodiesel and regular fuels, spurred by government incentives for alternative fuels and rising oil prices.

STANLEY STREICHER, BIODIESEL DISTRIBUTOR: Now that the prices of diesel fuel and the price of a barrel of oil is up in the $25 to $30 a barrel range, this becomes a very attractive product to our customers.

KNAPP: Customers like San Jose's Green Team. To them, 50 cents a gallon extra seems a fair price to pay to be, well, green.

Don Knapp, CNN, San Jose, California.


HAYNES: "Worldview" takes us to Asia and North America today. We'll travel to the United States and the southern state of Louisiana, where one city is preparing for a hurricane while hoping against it. We'll also learn about a health risk plaguing Bangladesh. And we'll meet some Asian women who are blending art and history in their films.

But first a stop in Tokyo, Japan, where ex-Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori says he's innocent of corruption charges. He denied allegations that he used his office to acquire elicit money. Fujimori resigned his post as Peru's president last week. He is living in self-imposed exile in Japan. Peru's congress has rejected Fujimori's resignation and dismissed him on grounds of moral unfitness. A new Peruvian government took office on Saturday under new Prime Minister Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Marina Kamimura has more.


MARINA KAMIMURA, CNN TOKYO BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Albert Fujimori says he's innocent. He welcomed the investigations into allegations about him ranging from corruption to money laundering, saying he has done no wrong.

ALBERTO FUJIMORI, FORMER PERUVIAN PRESIDENT: There are denunciation about 18 million moment in bank account in Singapore during my trip. This is completely false; and that I have 18 million in three Japanese bank, completely false; and that I have two factory in Panama. It's also false. This is part of the countercampaign for some people.

And feel sorry because of the confusion.

KAMIMURA: So why did Fujimori offer his resignation from Japan rather than Peru? The second-generation Japanese-Peruvian says it is not an admission of guilt. He says Japan is simply the place where he decided that he had to leave the post he had occupied for a decade.

Fujimori was also keen to distance himself from his former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. A scandal surrounding his close aide triggered Fujimori's downfall.

Last week, Peru's congress refused to accept the resignation he tendered from a Tokyo hotel room. Instead, they fired him, calling Fujimori unfit to rule.

Although he said the time is not right yet, Fujimori said he wanted to go back to Peru at some point, perhaps even run for congress in next year's general elections, already sending an olive branch to the opposition that ousted him.

FUJIMORI: My best wishes to the new government, success for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Peruvian people.

KAMIMURA (on camera): Fujimori says it's still too early to say what happens next, but that he plans to bide his time here in Japan until he can make that decision.

Marina Kamimura, CNN, Kanagawa, Japan.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: On to Southeast Asia and the country of Indonesia. Indonesia is made up almost entirely of Islands, about 13,500 of them. And it has lots of people, too. So many, it's the fourth-largest country in population. Indonesia's population is very diverse. There are more than 300 different ethnic groups and more than 250 languages.

Like many other places in the world, Indonesian society is evolving. A group of Indonesian women have created a film they hope will make people reflect on the role of women and the changes in Indonesian society in the past three decades.

Maria Ressa has more from Jakarta.


MARIA RESSA, CNN JAKARTA BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): "Pasir Berbisik," "Whispering Sand," an Indonesia film made by women, focussing on a young girl's search for identity in the midst of tumultuous change. Set in 1960s Indonesia, it was a time of violence, paving the way for the rise to power of a little-known general named Suharto. He would lead his country for more than three decades, maintaining his authoritarian rule until he was forced to resign in 1998.

NAN ACHNAS, DIRECTOR: How people tried to block the voice of reason in the '60s, what's similar to the years of experience in the '90s, in the decades of the Suharto period. So to block that voice of reason was why all these problems and all this violence came about. It's just -- nobody's really listening and questioning what was going on.

RESSA: Produced and crafted by a core group of women, this film was the brainchild of Nan Achnas, one of a handful of female directors in Indonesia today. Part of Indonesia's Minangkabau tribe, she grew up in a matriarchal society.

ACHNAS: So my perspective of women, of Indonesian women, are -- have very strong women; very strong women that learn to adapt to the situation around them. They've learned to get their way but with the conforming to things, not really going against the flow, which actually -- which is fine.

RESSA: But conforming to societal demands often take away their voice, and that is something the movie urges women to reclaim.

ACHNAS: This is a patriarchal society. It's not been very conducive for a woman to grow.

RESSA: Other topics they touch on: women's rights. It took eight years to conceptualize the film, four years to find funding. They say it's not just about women's issues, but about issues of change relevant to all.

(on camera): The fact that they've made the film is a sign of how much things have already changed in this country. Under Suharto, they say they would have been censored. Now they hope to release the film in April, not just for festivals but commercially. And that, say these women, is a triumph.

Maria Ressa, CNN, Jakarta.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Our next story takes us to Bangladesh, a country bordered on three sides by India. Formerly part of Pakistan, Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 after a nine-month civil war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan.

Today, Bangladesh is facing a new battle against arsenic, a contaminant in its water. Arsenic is a poisonous metallic element occurring throughout the Earth's crust. It's often used as an insecticide or weed killer. Accidental ingestion of arsenic can prove hazardous, and even fatal, as many in Bangladesh are finding out.

But before Riz Khan gives us the full story, a warning to our viewers: Some of the information contained in this story may be disturbing.


RIZ KHAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tranquil surface of this waterway in a village near the city of Daka reveals no sign of the danger hidden below. The water is contaminated with arsenic and presents a serious health threat to local people.

Arsenic poisoning causes hardening of the skin into nodules, often on the palms and soles of the feet. And that can lead to cancer and death.

ABUL KASHEM, ARSENIC POISONING VICTIM (through translator): My hands got affected by arsenic and I went to a general hospital. From there, I was sent to a cancer hospital. There, they operated and amputated five of my fingers. The disease affected all members of my family. KHAN: Kashem is living as a laborer, but the disease has left him unable to work for the past four years. He says his family survives on handouts from relatives.

Those who have become aware of the danger have learned to filter water before using it. Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and sediments and normally poses little threat. But in Bangladesh, for complex geological reasons. concentrations appear to be on the rise.

It is from contaminated wells that most people become sick. Nearly a quarter of Bangladesh's population is considered to be at risk. UNICEF has launched a concerted effort to combat the problem. It's spending $8 million in five subdistricts.

SHAFIQUL ISLAM, UNICEF (through translator): We are trying to determine the arsenic content, number one; and number two, to educate the people, provide information from which tube well drinking water is safe. Is the drinking water is safe, they can drink and use water for cooking purposes. And if it is not safe, then they can use it for toilet and other washing purposes.

KHAN: Among the measures people are instructed to take is to identify wells that are arsenic-free, using that water for bathing and cooking. And they collect rainwater. That, too, is free from the poison.

UNICEF says it has already found more than 8,000 cases of arsenicosis. And those, they believe, represent only a small fraction of the number afflicted with the disease. The agency will launch an appeal for another $17 million, hoping to expand its work to more arsenic-contaminated areas.

Riz Khan, CNN.


WALCOTT: New Orleans is one of the most charming cities in the United States. Once called the Paris of America, the city is probably best known for its Mardi Gras celebration and world famous French quarter. But many tourists don't realize that New Orleans is also an engineering marvel. Since the city sits below sea level, it relies on one of the world's greatest system of drainage pumps to stay dry. More than 112 pumps can draw off more than 25 billion gallons of water a day.

But there are fears that those pumps and the 130 miles of levee that surround the city would be no match for an especially powerful hurricane.

As Mary Pflum reports, city planners are preparing for the worst.


MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the city of New Orleans, there are hurricanes, and then there are hurricanes. JOE SUHAYDA, LOUISIANA WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH INSTITUTE: At the extreme, if a Category 5 hit, there's concern that the city would not be recoverable.

PFLUM: And that's because New Orleans, plagued by a history of substantial floods and cited by the World Bank as one of the planet's most vulnerable cities, is essentially a big bowl, surrounded by levees which separate it from the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchatrain.

Most of the city is eight feet below sea level and sinking at a rate of three feet a century. Walls around the city were built to protect it from a Category 3 hurricane, but if a Category 4 or 5 system hits...

MARK LEVITAN, DIR., LSU HURRICANE CENTER: That's our worst-case scenario. We would expect that most of the entire city would be flooded, in some areas to 10 to 20 or more feet of water.

IVOR VON HERRDEN, LSU HURRICANE CENTER: We're looking at a situation where an excess of 250,000 people will be trapped in the rising flood waters that will be held now within the levee system.

PFLUM: That's why city planners are preparing the Big Easy for a potentially big problem.

Joe Suhayda is among those who have been tapped to protect the city's 1 million residents. His idea: a community haven.

SUHAYDA: And the community haven concept is to protect a segment of the city to a Category 5 protection. So that in the last 24 hours, those that are in the city and can no longer evacuate could then evacuate within the city to this community haven.

PFLUM: The concept was conceived in the wake of Hurricane Georges, slated to hit New Orleans in the fall of 1998 before unexpectedly changing course.

During Georges, the Superdome stadium was opened up to the public as a refuge, but it was later deemed too small and there were complaints of looting. The community haven project seeks to build a "Great Wall of New Orleans."

SUHAYDA: And it would be essentially a vertical wall with floodgates at key intersections. And in New Orleans, it would encompass about 20 percent of the area of the city.

PFLUM: City planners are also looking at the construction of a mag lev train to help residents get out of the city quickly. And they're looking at doubling the number of highway lanes exiting the city. That would reduce the traffic delays residents experienced during Hurricane Georges. Yet another possible solution: make the existing levees taller.

SUHAYDA: And that would be really one of the best solutions, if we could raise all of the levees around the city such that even a Category 5 would not overtop the levees. Unfortunately, that appears to be too expensive at the present time.

PFLUM: For the time being, New Orleans planners will continue to work to keep the city afloat via its system of underground canals that manage to keep the mighty Mississippi at bay.

(on camera): Local officials do agree on the irony of the situation: The very river that served as the foundation of the Big Easy and of its prominent role in U.S. history may ultimately serve to destroy it.

For CNN "EARTH MATTERS," I'm Mary Pflum in New Orleans.


HAYNES: There is a proverb that says, "there is nothing new under the sun." Perhaps it's a fitting verse to gauge and grasp the twists in this year's U.S. presidential race. See, it's not the first time a presidential contest has resulted in a fight over precious few electoral votes.

Garrick Utley takes us back in time.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine it is 1876 and Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, is headed for the presidency.

SAMUEL ISACHAROFF, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Hayes became president in 1877 with a cloud of scandal and compromise about him.

UTLEY: The Democratic candidate, Samuel Tilden, has won the popular vote. But the electoral vote is thrown into the House of Representatives when four states, including Florida, each sends two sets of electoral ballots to Washington. Members of Congress battle into January, unable to determine the winner.

What is happening in Washington shocks the nation. A special commission is created with five senators, five House representatives, and five Supreme Court justices to decide which disputed electoral ballots to accept.

(on camera): There are eight Republicans and seven Democrats on the special commission. And in each case of the disputed electoral ballots, they vote 8-7 to accept the Republican ones. The Democrats are not happy.

(voice-over): There are threats of violence in the streets. Armed gangs of Democrats chant, "Tilden or blood," and threaten to put their man in the White House by force.

And then something happens. Representatives of Hayes and Tilden meet in Washington, and it is believed they make a deal.

ISACHAROFF: It's interesting that Hayes in 1876, which is the closest analogy to here, pledged to the Democrats, in exchange for not further challenging the presidency, that he would be a one-term president and that he would have a bipartisan administration. And he honored that pledge.

UTLEY: And so two days before the inauguration on March 4, 1877, Hayes is declared the winner, with 185 electoral votes to 184 for Tilden. And the United States has a president.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.


HAYNES: All right, tomorrow, NEWSROOM will "Chronicle" another topic: that of heroism. Tomorrow through Thursday, we'll bring you "Faces of a Hero," stories of people who have faced the odds and found the strength to overcome.

And that's all for today. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Take care.



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