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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for November 30, 2000

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


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Hello, I'm Rudi Bakhtiar and this is CNN NEWSROOM. Here's a look at what's coming up.

First on our agenda, the latest legal wrangling surrounding the U.S. race for president.

Then we're skyward bound in "Science Desk." Find out how one man's gift is impacting the search for life on other planets.

And "Worldview" puts us back on terra firma, where we'll journey to the land of fire and ice.

Finally, in "Chronicle" we'll talk with a man facing life's challenges head-on.

More than a million United States presidential ballots from two Florida counties will be shipped to Tallahassee. It's part of a court case brought by Vice President Al Gore. Saturday, a circuit court judge will hear arguments on whether some or all of those ballots should be recounted.

In a key ruling Wednesday, the judge sided with Gov. George W. Bush's legal team, ordering Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties to send all their ballots to Tallahassee for a possible recount rather than just disputed ballots where the voters' choice for president wasn't clear.

Gore's attorneys have filed an appeal to Florida's Supreme Court asking for an immediate recount of 14,000 disputed votes. December 12 is the deadline for the state to certify its electors. That's six days before the Electoral College members meet to cast their votes for president.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bush is moving full-speed ahead with plans for a new administration. His transition team is setting up offices outside Washington, D.C. to accelerate his search for cabinet picks.

The post-election fight may be centered in Florida, but Americans from coast to coast are feeling its effects. The election volatility is reaching all the way to Wall Street.

And Allan Dodds Frank has that story.


ALLAN DODDS FRANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is the suspense over the presidential race killing Wall Street or just slowing it down?

ANDREW SCHWARZ, AGS SPECIALIST PARTNERS: One thing the election has definitely done is it's certainly added a lot of speculation and a lot of volatility into the marketplace.

SAL SODANO, CHAIRMAN & CEO, AMERICAN STOCK EXCHANGE: Generally, you have seen a little bit of a slowdown in volume across the markets, whether it's at the Amex or Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange.

FRANK: Since the election, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped nearly 3 percent; the Amex Composite Index 6 percent; the Standard & Poor's 500 also down 6 percent; and the Nasdaq a stunning 20-percent-plus.

At Credit Suisse First Boston, traders believe the election aftermath has slowed investors.

MICHAEL DRISCOLL, CREDIT SUISSE FIRST BOSTON: It just allows people to either do nothing, raise cash, stay on the sidelines and, unfortunately, sell off sectors that had been performing well.

JOHN TWOMEY, CREDIT SUISSE FIRST BOSTON: Once we get this behind us, that'll provide a lot more confidence to investors and we'll start to see a lot of the money that's been raised in the last two months, particularly in the Nasdaq selloff, start to come back into the market.

FRANK: At Prudential Securities, the view is that the election is less important than possible slowing of the economy and other factors.

CLARK YINGST, PRUDENTIAL SECURITIES: By far and away, the more important factors influencing the action in the market are earnings and interest rates.

FRANK (on camera): While many Wall Streeters believe George Bush might help the stock market more than Al Gore would, the real sentiment is for certainty.

ROBERT GORDON, PORTIA PARTNERS: Markets hate uncertainty. I don't think that they care that much which candidate wins, but they just want to know who it is and what our policies of the country are like going forward.

FRANK (voice-over): So has the election pall dampened the legendary humor of Wall Street too?

DRISCOLL: I haven't got any chad jokes yet, but any of the other ones I've heard I really can't repeat.

FRANK: So for now, Wall Street, like the rest of the country, must sit and wait.

Allan Dodds Frank, CNN Financial News, New York.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: As Americans try to sort out who will be the next commander-in-chief, this week Mexicans are preparing for a changing of the guard. Tomorrow, that country's new president, Vicente Fox, will be inaugurated. Mexicans hope Fox will help usher in a new era of diplomatic relations with the United States.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN MEXICO CITY BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The relationship between Mexico and the United States is defined, in large part, by the 3,000-kilometer-long border that separates the two countries. But while that often brings up images like this, it is an important diplomatic relationship that, in the past, has been marked by cooperation, but also by mutual distrust, something Mexico's new foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda, hopes to change.

JORGE CASTANEDA, MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER-DESIGNATE: We would like to establish a more full, stable and equal relationship where the two countries not only deal with the bilateral issues with which they have always dealt, but also go to issues or talk about issues, consult about issues that are not strictly bilateral.

WHITBECK: Analysts agree that the democratic change that is taking place is Castaneda's most powerful weapon to convince the United States that Mexico could be a powerful and reliable ally that deserves equal footing.

JORGE CHABAT, POLITICAL ANALYST: The fact that Vicente Fox not only won by a wide margin in a clean election, but also that represents another party different from the PRI, well, makes him a more reliable partner in terms of fighting corruption.

WHITBECK: And Mexico wants to get closer to equal footing economically as well. Already, 80 percent of Mexico's exports are sent to the United States. The new government is counting on that to boost development at home.

But the two hottest issues in the relationship, migration policies and the fight against drug trafficking, generate the most tension between the two countries. Mexico wants the United States to replace its one-way-only process of certifying drug-fighting countries with a more multilateral approach. And it wants more cooperation on migration policies to allow more seasonal workers into the U.S. and to make the transit for illegal migrants safer.

(on camera): More broadly, Mexico also wants to be considered a full and equal partner with the United States when dealing with multilateral issues. In short, as the new foreign secretary put it, "it is time to be taken more seriously."

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Mexico City. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: Scientists at the SETI Institute -- the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- have long dreamed of owning their own radio telescope instead of borrowing observation time on others'. But on a $6-million annual budget, there was no way they could afford the instrument they wanted; that is, until a reclusive billionaire stepped forward.

Rick Lockridge has more.


RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the movie "Contact," the radio astronomer played by Jodie Foster fights an uphill battle for funds and respectability.


JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: And what about breaking the sound barrier?


LOCKRIDGE: She struggles to convince her skeptical peers that valuable radio telescope time should be used for SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. Ultimately, she makes that historic contact.

But in real life, astronomers like Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute still have to put up with certain indignities, like occasionally working out of an old barn in Marin County, California. However, things are about to get a lot better for SETI.

SETH SHOSTAK, ASTRONOMER, SETI INSTITUTE: This is the first time in human history that you have some hope of answering the question that, you know, people have always asked. I mean, you know, who is up there? Is anybody up there? Or is the only intelligence in this vast universe confined to Earth?

LOCKRIDGE: Thanks in large part to a $10 million gift from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, an array of several hundred satellite dishes similar to these will be constructed high in the Cascade Mountains of northern California. With about 500 dishes to start and as many as 1,000 later on, radio astronomers will be able to scan thousands of nearby stars instead of just a few, and listen to 100 million frequencies at the same time.

SHOSTAK: Well, that turns out to be powerful enough receiving system that it could pick up a signal that's maybe no stronger in power than your typical TV station at the distance of, say, 100 light years.

LOCKRIDGE: But when the Allen Array tilts heavenward in 2005, it will immediately be 100 times more powerful than any instrument SETI has ever used. And Dr. Jill Tartar says we should all be a little bit excited about that.

JILL TARTAR, SETI INSTITUTE: Well, it's the oldest unanswered question that humans have around. I mean, I didn't wake up last week and start asking, are we alone?

LOCKRIDGE (on camera): Radio astronomers are nothing if not ambitious. They're already saying they would like to eventually build an international array of small dishes that would be 100 times larger than the Allen Array.

Rick Lockridge, CNN, Atlanta.


BAKHTIAR: For the past 50 years, the eastern half of the United States has been hit by an average of just over two hurricanes a year. The storms caused more than 1,400 deaths and more than $179 billion in property damage.

As David George tells us, bad as things have been lately, hurricanes were a much bigger problem centuries ago.


DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least 113 major hurricanes hit the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts during the last half of the last century. That sounds like a lot, but the 20th century was actually the tail end of a 10-century-long quiet period, as far as hurricanes are concerned.

New research shows that hurricane activity runs in cycles, spanning thousands of years.

PROF. KAM-BIU LIU, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY: In the last 1,000 years, the hurricane activities have died down again. There were relatively few intense or catastrophic hurricane strikes along the Gulf Coast.

GEORGE: How do they know? By taking core samples from the sediment at the bottom of coastal lakes and marshes.

LIU: When there is no hurricane, when the water is quiet, the sediment is very fine-grained, very dark, very organic. But when we have a high energy event like a catastrophic hurricane strike, then a lot of sand would be washed into the bottom of the lake, forming a sand layer like this.

GEORGE: Carbon dating tell these researchers the age of each sand layer.

LIU: So by counting the number of sand layers in a core, and by dating the sand layers, we can establish a time line or a chronology of catastrophic hurricane strikes in the past.

GEORGE: The science is called paleotempestology -- "paleo" for ancient, "tempest" for storm. It's an example of how scientists can sometimes predict the future by studying the past.

David George, CNN.


WALCOTT: This is an actual brain. And coming up next week on NEWSROOM, we'll explain how its development affects your behavior.

BAKHTIAR: In "Worldview," we focus on sun and snow. We'll learn about one of the solar system's hot spots, the star that keeps us warm and gives us light. And we'll visit a winter wonderland as we head to Iceland. It's an anniversary for the nation. On November 30, 1918, Denmark granted autonomy to Iceland.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Lying just below the arctic Circle is an island nation with a frigid name: Iceland. The country lies between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans about 200 miles or 320 kilometers east of Greenland, it's nickname "the Land of Fire and Ice," because while it's home to numerous glaciers, there are also about 200 volcanoes, many still active.

In fact, Iceland is not as cold as most other places located so far north. Still, only about one-fourth of the island is habitable. Most people live along its coast.

Jane Dutton takes us inside Iceland to marvel at its majesty and frolic in its frozen playgrounds.


JANE DUTTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Icelanders often comment that their homeland was unfairly named since it's strikingly green for much of the year. But take a trip the southeast of the country at any time of the year and it's impossible to think of anything else.

(on camera): I can't quite believe this is happening. I'm doing something I've wanted to do ever since I can remember. And it's such a tease looking out of the window as we go down the entire length of the island, because the small plane is taking us so close to this dramatic scenery, and I know at the end of it is a place that I've always wanted to go to.

(voice-over): The Vatnajokull Glacier dominates this corner of the country, covering more than 10 percent of Iceland's entire land surface.

Looking down on these wide and wild expanses of ice, which run from the mountains down to the sea, you simply run out of superlatives to describe just how raw and beautiful the landscape really is.

At any time of year, Iceland's unpolluted Arctic light is almost improbably clear. But at the Jokulsarlon Lagoon, where Vatnajokull meets the sea, the affect it has is almost supernatural.

(voice-over): In Iceland, you're likely to experience four seasons in one hour. Just five minutes ago it was sunny and warm. But what you probably can't pick up watching this is how the misty weather has changed the atmosphere. It's really rather eerie going past some of these icebergs, some of them 2,000 years old; some of them the size of apartment blocks, tinged with blue, and the only sounds you can hear are dripping water and the cracking ice. It feels like it's another planet.

(voice-over): The ever-changing climate in this volatile, almost inhospitable terrain is a poignant reminder that the glacier's haunting beauty can turn terrifyingly harsh and potentially deadly. But to go up onto the glacier itself intensifies your experience of Vatnajokull even further. And the dramatic icescape of plunging crevasses and towering peaks provide a unique backdrop to a wealth of high-adrenaline activities.

(on camera): I thought this was supposed to be fun. OK, I don't want to play anymore!

(voice-over): In a place as vast as Vatnajokull, however, it's easy to escape the crowds and find the path less traveled by for a moment of quiet contemplation.

(on camera): Being here makes me feel incredibly small and insignificant, knowing that I'm sitting on this tiny patch which is part of the biggest glacier in Europe; bigger than all the other glaciers in Europe put together; bigger, even, than the entire island of Corsica. And knowing that, at least a thousand feet beneath me, several volcanoes are bubbling away makes me feel at the mercy of nature.

A couple of years ago, in fact, a volcano erupted here, breaking ice and sending floods of water into the ocean -- more water than in the entire Amazon Basin.


HAYNES: Got your shades handy? We're going to take a look at the sun next. It's that star which the Earth and other planets in our solar system revolve around. The sun consists of an enormous amount of energy. Its surface is so hot that no solid or liquid can exist there, just gaseous atoms and molecules.

On Earth, we rely on the sun's light and heat to sustain life. We also bank on the fact that the sun will rise and set every day and every night.

Jeanne Moos gives us her view of the sun.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Name your favorite sunset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Mexico was absolutely the greatest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over Cape Cod Bay. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Out of my window in Brooklyn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my car commuting from work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On top of the Andes.

MOOS: But if you really want to worship the sun, check out the latest photos taken from a satellite called TRACE.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's actually kind of scary.

MIKE SHARA, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: What we're now seeing is these little tongues of flame, incredibly hot regions, a million degrees poking their fingers out.

MOOS: It sure looks a lot more comfortable from 93 million miles away, though, once seen, the new images tend to make you see sunset in a whole new light; in this case, ultraviolet light.

The photos were taken through a telescope aboard the satellite. The orange color was added. But don't expect the new images to prompt your local weather forecaster to update those little sun symbols.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sunshine mixed with clouds.


MOOS: You get sunshine mixed with science here at the American Museum of Natural History, where even an astrophysicist knows how to appreciate a sunset.

SHARA: I'm just enjoying the aesthetics like anyone else.

MOOS: For instance, the aesthetics of a sunset that lasts for several hours when seen from an airplane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just -- you kept on flying with the sunset.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely fantastic if you're walking west on 57th Street.

MOOS: Sunsets looking west from Manhattan towards New Jersey are extra special, made more vivid by pollution.

SHARA: It's unfortunately true: the more junk there is in the atmosphere, the more scattering there is of sunlight.

MOOS: Someday you may get really lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hoping to see this green flash you see when the air is really pure, but we just didn't see it.

MOOS: Neither have we. It happens only rarely when the sun dips below the horizon and the Earth's atmosphere acts as a lens, bending the light.

SHARA: The sun appears flattened into a greenish bar, a bright greenish bar along the horizon, and it's very, very distinct. You can't miss it if you've seen it.

MOOS: Compared to other stars, the sun is just an unremarkable star of intermediate mass. So what happens when it dies some 4 1/2 billion years from now?

SHARA: Oh, I think we'll be looking for another home planet. We'll be on the move.

MOOS (on camera): Really?

SHARA: Mass migration. Well, there's no alternative.

MOOS (voice-over): So enjoy those sunsets now. If nothing else, the new images should make you cover your eyes and reach for the sunscreen. This star was ready for its closeup.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BAKHTIAR: In "Chronicle," we continue our in-depth look at heroes. Some heroes, like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, are born with certain traits that help them excel at their sport. But some, like our next hero, are dealt a different hand, and in the face of adversity they're able to rise above and find the hero in themselves.

Here's Andy Jordan with one such hero.


ANDY JORDAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Vincent Martin, finding out at age 23 that you're going to go blind is not the end of the world.

VINCENT MARTIN: I think life began at 23 because, at that point, there was this cloud over life, and now everything is so much more clear. It was all about a choice.

JORDAN: His choice: to make the best of his disability. Now a computer teacher at a center for the visually impaired in Atlanta, he's also the current U.S. champion and record holder in the pentathlon.

PENNY ZUBULA, CENTER OF VISUALLY IMPAIRED, ATLANTA, GEORGIA: If you experience vision loss or any kind of loss or trauma in your life, you're going to be who you are, only more so. And he was always intelligent, determined. He certainly was athletic, and he continued that. And I think that's what it all boils down to, is not giving up what's very much a part of you. And that's, I believe, how he's lived his life.

JORDAN: Having lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track in high school, five years later he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degeneration of the retina that affects about 100,000 people in the U.S. It was a realization that initially landed him at a crossroads in his life.

MARTIN: On the side of the road in 1988, 1989, shaking, contemplating suicide. And it just finally dawned on me that, my sister's pregnant. If I don't make it, I'm going to be the uncle that they don't talk about. I'm the one that didn't make it. And so I got up.

JORDAN: Not only did he get up, he sprung. Before becoming completely blind in 1996, he completed degrees in industrial systems and textile engineering.

ZIBULA: He lost his vision, but he didn't lose who he was. He just took that vision loss and found a way to work with it and to make life work for him.

MARTIN: I woke up one day and it didn't come back that day. So I went eight, nine years slowly losing my vision, getting worse and not even contemplating what's going to happen when I go blind.

JORDAN: Now he's going where few blind people before him have gone: surfing the Web.

MARTIN: Now I can use a similar reading command to read what's on the screen. I'm reading one word at a time here.

COMPUTER GENERATED VOICE: Skip to the content.

MARTIN: Skip to the main content.

JORDAN: He teaches visually impaired and blind students not only how to negotiate cyberspace, but compose letters and pay the bills on their own. He's learned to take what life gives him and make the most of it. That applies, he says, even to his skinny arms.

MARTIN: Because of those now long, skinny arms of mine, I'm now a discus thrower and one of the top five in the world. So I like to say, though, you never know what your disadvantage is and what you can do with it.

JORDAN: He spent the last few months preparing for the discus and several relay events in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney. It's a rigorous training regimen to prepare for what he calls "the big dance."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most important thing is get through the steps.

MARTIN: If I got all my vision back tomorrow, I would be a much better sighted athlete than I used to be, because now I found out there's one thing that I didn't have before, which is I'm a whole lot more fearless than I used to be. I'm not afraid of getting hurt.

JORDAN: His goal in every pursuit, to help blind and visually impaired people function as sighted people do.

MARTIN: I have the best problem you can have as a blind person. My wife forgets that I'm blind because she's seen me running on the track by myself. It makes it so easy for her to just get up and walk off and go, oh crap, he doesn't know where he is. I left my husband walking at the other end of the store.

JORDAN: His mission, to win, but not merely for the glory of one, but for what his successes will do for the image of blind people.

MARTIN: We're all here for other people. This world doesn't exist just for one person, it's all one big planet and we're all part of it. Why should I rest when there's still worlds to conquer, because nothing comes to sleepers but a dream.

I guess a hero is someone that is willing to sacrifice their needs for the better good of someone else.

ZIBULA: I think what makes him a hero is that he shows people what is possible.


BAKHTIAR: He certainly does show people what is possible.

And that does it for us here on NEWSROOM. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Have a great day.



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