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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for January 8, 2001

Aired January 8, 2001 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: It is Monday and this is CNN NEWSROOM. Welcome, everyone. I'm Tom Haynes.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. Glad you're kicking off the week with us. Here's what's coming up.

HAYNES: In today's news, two Bush Cabinet nominees under political fire. We'll find out why Democrats are taking aim at the choice for labor secretary and attorney general.

WALCOTT: Then, in "Environment Desk," a new dawn in solar energy. Why scientists say the sun could help dim the cost of your power bill.

HAYNES: Next, in "Worldview," a clear sign of technological times. An oil company uses virtual reality to help dig for "black gold".

WALCOTT: And finally, in "Chronicle," it's out with the old and in with the new in Washington. So what's an ex-president to do? We'll check out the possibilities.

The United States Congress certifies the Electoral College vote, making George W. Bush's presidential win official. All that's left now is the swearing-in.

The U.S. Congress confirmed this weekend that President-elect George W. Bush received 271 electoral votes from the states. That's one more than needed to win the presidency. Vice President Al Gore, who lost the bitterly contested election, presided over Saturday's joint session of Congress. He declared Bush the next U.S. president despite objections by some House Democrats. Each state sent the certificates of electors to Vice President Al Gore in his role as the Senate president last month. The certificates were carried from the Senate to the House Saturday for the official count. Next, they'll go to the National Archives.

While President-elect Bush sealed his victory this weekend, he also came under fire for two of his Cabinet picks. Some Democrats say the views of his choice for attorney general, Sen. John Ashcroft, are too conservative. Also, several Senate Democrats say they are concerned about information that Labor Secretary hopeful Linda Chavez allowed an illegal immigrant to stay at her home 10 years ago.

HAYNES: And picking up on that last item we mentioned, some Democrats believe the disclosure that Labor Secretary hopeful Linda Chavez sheltered and gave money to an illegal immigrant, that could sink her nomination. Bush officials say Chavez was helping a woman in need and didn't know she was an illegal immigrant.

Major Garrett has the story.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment Mr. Bush tabbed Linda Chavez, Big Labor has been mobilizing against her. Sunday, some Democrats seized on Chavez's decision to allow an illegal immigrant to live with her in the early 1990s.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it would present very serious problems. This is the labor secretary. The labor secretary ought to set the example, ought to be able to enforce all of the laws.

GARRETT: Bush officials say Chavez allowed the woman, from Guatemala, to stay because she was, quote, "down on her luck."

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: From what I know, it sounded like someone who was really living in her home, doing work around the house. It is not a good image for me.

GARRETT: Bush officials also say the woman never worked for Chavez, but did receive money for living expenses. They say Chavez disclosed to them all taxes paid for domestic help, but that she did not disclose this episode in the vetting process.

Failure to pay taxes for domestic help sank Zoe Baird's nomination as attorney general. It scuttled Kimba Wood, too, who was suggested but never nominated as attorney general.

For their part, Republicans did not appear alarmed.

SEN. DON NICKLES (R), OKLAHOMA: We'll have to find out. That's part of the confirmation process. But my guess is that she'll be confirmed.

GARRETT: Chavez has helped other hard-luck cases. Benson Bui, pictured here eight years ago, lived with her after fleeing Vietnam in the late '70s.

BENSON BUI, LIVED WITH CHAVEZ: If she not teach me, show me something whatever, then right now I don't have nothing. So that means my life right now, all my family, we have today, so that mean we are belong to her before.

GARRETT (on camera): If Chavez broke no labor law, as senior Senate Democratic aide say, the issue may evaporate. Democrats have long sympathized with illegal immigrants seeking a toe-hold in the U.S. labor market, and may find it awkward to oppose Chavez on this episode alone. But they still question her opposition to raising the minimum wage and her commitment to enforcing U.S. labor laws.

Major Garrett, CNN, Austin, Texas.


HAYNES: So what are the plans of the outgoing commander-in- chief? Stay tuned to "Chronicle" to find out.

WALCOTT: In today's "Environment Desk," scientists on the edge of a new dawn in solar energy. For the past several years, NASA has been working with two California companies to develop fuel cells, cells that can convert the suns rays into energy. It's technology that could be especially helpful for a state in the midst of an energy crunch.

Jim Hill explains.


JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A series of big, flying wings appeared quite simple as they soared in test flights over Edwards Air Force Base, California. But in solar technology, these aircraft may represent a new dawn, an advance that could one day heat, cool and light our homes, even fuel our cars.

One of the wings, the Helios, is being fitted with solar panels that can channel the sun's power to a unique storage system able to power the aircraft's electric motors day and night.

TIM CONVER, PRESIDENT & CEO, AEROVIRONMENT: It's a new energy system that takes solar energy, sunlight, turns it into electric energy, stores it in this system and then can release the electric energy anytime it wants to be used.

HILL: High-efficiency solar panels made by sun power generate electricity by day. Fuel cells developed by Aerovironment use some of the power to break water into hydrogen and oxygen. And electrochemical process can then reconvert them into electricity on demand and do so in a closed system one-third the weight of the most advanced battery.

DICK SWANSON, PRESIDENT, SUN POWER, INC.: This is where the fuel cell, married with the solar cell, will make, really, a quantum breakthrough, allowing solar to produce its own fuel.

HILL: NASA hopes this ability to store solar-generated electricity can keep the unmanned, remotely controlled flying wings in continuous high-altitude flight for up to six months, essentially acting like inexpensive satellites.

(on camera): Each day, the flying wing's two energy-storage units should be able to soak up and retain about 100 kilowatt hours of electricity. In Earth terms, that's enough to power four average family homes for a day.

(voice-over): Part of a $12-million-a year project, the prototype is still too experience for common use. But for NASA, it may be the future of electricity in space.

JOHN DEL FRATE, NASA: The space station needs a system like that. Currently they're using batteries. A system like this would also work, for example, on a lunar or a Mars base.

HILL: As uses increase and prices go down, such a power system might generate and store electricity for business and eventually in homes. That would be an improvement on solar roof tiles like these, which can generate electricity but cannot store it on site for later use -- another step in harnessing the power of the sun for earthly use.

Jim Hill, CNN, Monrovia, California.


HAYNES: Well, solar power might be one option for millions of people in California who are facing high energy costs. Regulators voted unanimously last week to allow California's two major power companies to raise rates temporarily. The companies say skyrocketing energy costs in a deregulated market has forced them to ask for the hike.

We have two reports for you. First, we'll find out how one family is handling the energy crunch. Then, why residents in Redding, California don't have to deal with the problem at all.

Here's Greg Lefevre.


GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Curtis household, practicing conservation is just a part of living. But the huge jump in energy prices has taken the pleasant satisfaction out of what was a voluntary practice and makes it necessary.

CAROL CURTIS, HOMEOWNER: And we've been conserving all along, so it's not like we're doing anything terribly different.

LEFEVRE: So she works on the small things: washing with full loads.

CURTIS: We try to make sure every load is a full load so we're not wasting water.

LEFEVRE: Or the electricity that heats it. The Curtis home is already insulated, has a new, efficient furnace and low-wattage appliances.

PROTESTERS: Hell, no, we won't pay!

LEFEVRE: There is, too, in California, the widespread belief that the electricity crisis is not a real shortage, but a manipulated one.

HARRY SNYDER, CONSUMERS UNION: It doesn't feel like a crisis, that's right. You still have gas in your car and you can go home and the lights are turned on and you can turn on your electric tea kettle. I believe the power is always going to stay on.

LEFEVRE: For a fee. And Pacific Gas & Electric says those prices reinforce the lesson of conservation.

ROBERT GLYNN, PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC: Frankly, one of the advantages, if you can believe there are advantages of higher prices, is it will make clearer to customers what the costs really are. And when many customers see what the costs of energy really are, they simply won't buy as much, and that's a very good solution.

That threat of monster electric bills caused Renato Perez to douse the Christmas lights.

RENATO PEREZ, HOMEOWNER: I tell my wife and kids, you know, now that we have these power outages and everything we have to save energy. If we don't contribute, these will actually be more increases in the future.

LEFEVRE: For many Californians, conservation is already built into the psyche, into the lifestyle of being "cool with the planet."

KIM CRAWFORD, RESIDENT: My momma taught me. Yes, always turn things off if you're not using them.

CURTIS: We're already doing our part. I don't know how much more we can do at the moment.

LEFEVRE: It's taken the fun out of being cool.

Greg Lefevre, CNN, San Francisco.



DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Edward and Nina Goehring use electricity to heat their home, their water, their spa and, in summer, to run their air conditioning. Now in the midst of California's electric energy crisis, they're glad they're all electric and that they live in Redding.

EDWARD GOEHRING, REDDING, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: It's given us ease of mind in that we know that we're not going to be hit with these horrendous rate increases that the rest of California is having.

KNAPP: This city of 80,000 generates most of its own power, with three gas turbines, a steam plant and a small generator at a dam.

Redding also buys electricity at below-market prices under long- term contracts from other power generators. That totals more electricity than Redding needs. It sells the rest on the wholesale market.

JIM FEIDER, REDDING ELECTRIC UTILITY: The revenues that we get from that kind of sale out on the open market we bring home to pay off the infrastructure of this power facility here as well as a other investments that we've made, and also provide a rate relief for our rate payers here at home.

KNAPP: Giant utilities Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric say they're facing bankruptcy because of the high prices they've had to pay for new electrical energy to meet increasing demand. Redding has turned a tidy $18 million profit supplying energy to the big utilities.

(on camera): While most Californians are looking at electric- rate increases, most Redding residents are looking forward to rate cuts. That's because a new power plant soon to be built could drop rates here 20 percent within a year and a half.

(voice-over): Fate and foresight combined with Redding's decision to put the city into the electric business almost 80 years ago.

FEIDER: I think the city is feeling very good right now about the decisions that they made long before I got here, and we want to keep them on that path.

KNAPP: A path that tries to keep Redding free from the dominance of the big power utilities.

Don Knapp, CNN, Redding, California.


WALCOTT: In "Worldview" today, we focus on the environment. Find out how high-tech tools are helping in the worldwide search for oil. That story takes us to the United States and Norway. We'll also journey to Nigeria to learn about a new invention to keep food fresh. And we'll spotlight humanitarian efforts in Kenya, site of a devastating drought.

But first to Argentina, a country that recently faced a major heatwave. Temperatures soared into the upper 30s Celsius. That's the upper 90s on the Fahrenheit scale. People searching for relief from the heat went so far as to take a dip in one of the dirtiest rivers in South America.

Glenn Van Zutphen (ph) reports on one city drowning in its own pollution.


GLENN VAN ZUTPHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The weather was fine in the capital Buenos Aires, but not much could be said for the heavily polluted Rio de la Plata that runs through the city of 10 million residents. Despite government health warnings against it, there's no other way for some to cool down than a swim, though they recognize the risks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is so dirty and there is so much garbage. Especially when the water is low, you can see how much garbage there is.

ZUTPHEN: Centuries ago, an adventurer called the then clean waterway the "Silver River." But today, sewage, chemicals, trash and other pollutants are dumped raw into the River Plate. Merely getting in and out of the river can be hazardous. Debris ranging from rocks and cement blocks to broken glass, plastic and dead fish clog the way. Some say the government has been too slow in dealing with pollution in the River Plate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For many years now, it has been like this. This could be a beach where you could go do so many things. This could be a beach where you could swim and relax and do many things.

ZUTPHEN: The government promised for years to clean up the Riachuelo, a tributary feeding into the main river, but little has changed even though the area's an international tourist destination for tango dancing and other sights. Last November, the environmental group Greenpeace put foam fish heads into the Riachuelo to highlight the filthy water.

VICTORIA ODRIOZOLA, GREENPEACE (through translator): Types of waste that make their way into the Rio Plate, they are local wastes that have not been treated; and on the other hand, toxic chemicals and industrial waste. All of these can adversely affect ones health and, especially the skin, when people are swimming. Or when they drink it, it can cause gastrointestinal problems.

ZUTPHEN: No formal studies have documented the extent of pollution or its impact on the people. While a city planning official says there are plans to clean up the waterways and create greenbelt parks, no part of the ambitious design has been implemented. Until it is, the people of Buenos Aires wait and continue to swim in the polluted waters.

Glenn Van Zutphen, CNN.


HAYNES: Nigeria is a nation on the West Coast of Africa. It has the highest population of any African country and embodies more than 250 ethnic or cultural groups. Many Nigerians live in modern, crowded cities, but most live in rural areas working as farmers, fishermen or herders. Though each ethnic group has its own language, English is Nigeria's official language and is taught in schools.

About half of Nigeria's adults can read and write. There are not enough schools or teachers to educate everyone, and laws do not require school attendance. But the government provides free elementary schooling in an effort to increase access to education.

And as Natalie Pawelski explains, others are paving a creative path toward the same goal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Market day in Dutse (ph), Nigeria. For sale: fruit, vegetables, and a fresh new idea, a product helping to preserve perishable foods and the local economy as well. This simple "Pot-In-Pot" refrigerator has begun to change the way people here do business.

Subsistence farming is a way of life in northern Nigeria. Surplus crops are sold at market to supplement family income. Teacher Mohammed Bah Abba saw that most of the food was spoiling before it could be sold.

MOHAMMED BAH ABBA, INVENTOR, POT-IN-POT COOLING SYSTEM: This is an example of one farmer who picked this spinach this morning. As you can already see, it is wilting away and falling apart.

PAWELSKI: Bah Abba set out to develop an affordable, low-tech refrigerator. He used area craftsmen to make sets of earthenware pots. The smaller inner pot sits on a bed of moist sand and as the water evaporates in the desert heat, food stays several degrees cooler than the outside temperature.

BAH ABBA: Something like this spinach can last for days as against the only one or two days it will last under normal circumstances. Something like tomatoes last for 21 days.

PAWELSKI: Each Pot-in-Pot costs about 30 cents to make. The profits, 10 cents per pot, go to making more pots and distributing them to rural villages. Bah Abba says his ultimate aim is to move young women from the marketplace into the classroom. Rural farm girls spend each day selling delicate produce before it spoils. The pots could allow them extra time to sell their goods, freeing them to attend classes a few days a week.

BAH ABBA: All of these items can now be preserved at home in the pots, sold only on demand. And they will be free to go back to schools.

PAWELSKI: Bah Abba's next move is to bring Pot-In-Pots to neighboring states, and Someday, perhaps, to other countries.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Now to the East Coast of Africa, to the country of Kenya. Kenya's lush scenery and fantastic wildlife attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. In fact, with the exception of the production and sale of coffee and tea, tourism contributes more income to Kenya's economy than any other economic activity. More than 500,000 tourists visit Kenya annually to enjoy the scenery and to experience its wildlife up close and personal. Tourist activities provide employment for about 40,000 Kenyans and tourists contribute over $200 million a year to Kenya's economy.

But Kenya was not always independent. From 1895 until 1963, Kenya was a British colony. Although the country has made significant economic progress since its independence, it still faces major problems. Even Kenya's inherent natural beauty has not been able to mask the tragedy that exists within it's borders.

Catherine Bond has the story.


CATHERINE BOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a bamboo shelter, sick and malnourished infants looked after by their mothers. A recent nutrition survey in this Somali-speaking area of Kenya found 20 percent of children under 5 suffering from malnutrition. This woman, Hawa (ph), cradles Miski (ph), her youngest child.

"She does not drink properly," she says. "She has no appetite. I have to force her to drink something."

From this same feeding center in Wajir, a photo taken earlier this year helped launch a domestic appeal. Tapping local sympathy, it raised a quarter of a million U.S. dollars from Kenyans.

UHURU KENYATTA, KENYANS FOR KENYANS CAMPAIGN: This time around, because the response went out early, or the appeal went out early enough, I don't think we lost as many lives as we would have had we not reacted.

BOND: But in food aid terms, a quarter of a million dollars isn't much. And it's taken another $80 million U.S. donated by wealthier governments to save many thousands of Kenyans who otherwise would have died. Outside governments and aid agencies helping distribute food aid say they think most aid has been shared out fairly.

PHILIP GREEN, AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR: What we have seen in this emergency, which is different from others, is the cooperative action of government and NGOs working together quite effectively. And I've seen that both in Turkana, in western Kenya, and here in Wajir in the East of -- east of Kenya.

BOND: But, health workers say, until now there hasn't been enough. So adults in these outlying villages have been digging into cereal meant for infants.

IBTASIM ELAMASS, NUTRITIONIST: This is what I usually suspect, but we keep on telling them, please give the child, consider this malnourished child as a sick person, just give priority for that kid.

BOND (on camera): This is some of what health workers say is needed most: deliveries of cereal fortified with vitamins to communities where children are most at risk of malnutrition.

(voice-over): Rain or no rain, many here have already lost the livestock that's their livelihood. What's left looks scrawny. On top of this, this remote area is unsafe. Police travel well-armed. The result, despite Kenya's appeals for emergency aid, infants are still being brought in for treatment. And relief agencies say it could be some time before the face of hunger here is banished. Catherine Bond, CNN, Wajir, Kenya.


WALCOTT: Next stop, the Gulf of Mexico in search of oil. Oil is one of the most valuable natural resources in the world. To some, it's known as petroleum. To others, it's simply called "black gold".

Oil is the lifeblood of industrialized nations. It's used in the production of fuel, which provides power for automobiles, airplanes, factories and much more. Oil is also used to generate heat and electricity for homes and businesses.

Now, in their quest to find more "black gold," the Shell Oil Company is taking its search deep under water, and it's using virtual reality to help steer their course.

Ann Kellan has the story.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the old days, finding oil was relatively easy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed...


KELLAN: In the 1960s TV show "Beverly Hillbillies," Jed Clampet found it with a shotgun.

Those days are over. Researchers at the Shell Oil Company are going high tech, using virtual reality technology to find more hidden, underground reserves. Before any drilling, scientists log onto their computers, they input existing geological data about the site...


KELLAN: ... including the type of rock layers and faults.

SHIPP: OK, so now we've just gone underneath the sea floor.

KELLAN: Combine this information with special 3-D software and display the findings in this theater on a giant screen in 3-D.

SHIPP: Because we're really looking for data...

KELLAN (on camera): I wish people at home could see this.


KELLAN: You can't understand, but you can travel through the layers with it...

SHIPP: Exactly.

KELLAN: ... and you can actually see what depth the oil is.

SHIPP: Right.

KELLAN (voice-over): Red and yellow areas are the pockets of gas and oil. Once scientists find oil, 3-D technology is again used to help figure out where to dig the wells to get the oil out. They see faults and other obstacles to avoid. The thin, red lines are potential well sites.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, we're just missing. There are a lot of hazards that will create problems in drilling these wells.

KELLAN: One danger: accidentally hitting pockets of natural gas in layers of rock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to hit these.

KELLAN: This is one of the high-tech breakthroughs expected to save oil companies millions, even billions of dollars.

SHIPP: If costs are higher, I know they'll get passed on to consumers. So my goal is to keep costs low so that doesn't happen.

KELLAN: Already the technology has paid off. Shell used virtual reality to pinpoint an oil reserve off the coast of Norway, called the Draugen Field. That oil field produces 70,000 barrels a day. That's enough to fill up the gas tanks of more than 100,000 cars.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Houston, Texas.


HAYNES: He has been one of the most controversial U.S. presidents since Richard Nixon. Now, in less than two weeks, President Bill Clinton will be officially between jobs.

Bruce Morton has the final word on what may be next for Mr. Clinton.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inauguration Day is coming. People are writing speeches, planning parties, analyzing the new Congress, the new Cabinet, wondering what kind of legislation might pass. And yet, somehow, it's hard not to feel that the most interest political figure around is the one who's stepping down, leaving: William Jefferson Clinton, arguably the most complex and interesting president since Richard Nixon.

What will he do? What will be done to him?

Almost certainly he will, once out of office, be indicted. That's likely because Kenneth Starr's successor as independent counsel, Robert Ray, has called Monica Lewinsky to appear before his grand jury. The guessing is he wouldn't bother unless he were planning to indict. Last time, it looked like a Roman circus. This time, who knows?

Mr. Clinton may also be disbarred in his home state of Arkansas, though that won't change his life any. He can make a lot of money without ever practicing law. Richard Nixon did through books and speeches.

Mr. Clinton has said he'll write a book. He can make speeches for many thousands of dollars a pop. He can serve on corporate boards. He could host a talk show.


BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.


MORTON: Well, one of those, or course. But he could also host the kind of talk show that makes really big money. Jerry Springer was in politics before he turned to show business, after all.

As for the book, well, his wife got an $8 million advance, but she's a U.S. senator. He'll be just an ex-pres.

(on camera): He can work on his presidential library, but it may not fascinate him. He leaves office relatively young, still probably the man who always wanted to be president, but always wanted to be Elvis, too. it's hard to imagine him finding much contentment in the Senate Spouses' Club -- lunch, bridge and all that. Hey, here we go. How about the Senate itself?

(voice-over): Arkansas Republican Tim Hutchinson is up for re- election in 2002. That's less than two years away. And there's never been a husband-and-wife team in the Senate. And would Arkansas give him one more chance? Don't bet against it.

I'm Bruce Morton.


WALCOTT: And that wraps up today's show.

HAYNES: We'll see you tomorrow.

WALCOTT: Bye-bye.



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