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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for January 24, 2001

Aired January 24, 2001 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: It's Wednesday, Jan. 24 and this is CNN NEWSROOM. Welcome. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar. Glad to have you with us here today. Here's what's ahead.

In today's news, U.S. President Bush brings his vision for education into focus. We'll tell you how he plans to deal with failing schools.

Next, in our "Business Desk," tips on tipping. More on the raging debate for people who dine out.

And from questions about customs to convictions about heritage, "Worldview" checks out a little known area of China.

Then, in "Chronicle," your brain. We'll tell you why the substances you use today could have lasting effects on your mind.

United States President Bush zeros in on an issue he stressed during his campaign: education reform. He sent his plan to Congress Tuesday hoping for bipartisan support. Also Tuesday, several more members of President Bush's Cabinet got Senate confirmation.

By a vote of 100 to zero, the United States Senate unanimously approved three of President Bush's Cabinet nominees. Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, and Office of Management and Budget head Mitch Daniels got approval without controversy. Seven other Cabinet members were approved Saturday shortly after Mr. Bush was inaugurated.

One of President Bush's top priorities, his education plan, now is in the hands of Congress. His proposal is drawing much bipartisan attention and interest, but it's not quite making the grade with some Democrats who are opposed to school vouchers. The Bush plan would require schools to bring student performance up to par within three years or start losing federal funds. Parents with children in schools that don't improve would be given federal aid to help pay for private tuition.

In the past, conservatives have argued education is a state and local issue here in the United States. Now President Bush wants to expand the federal government's role in education. He's not the first president to have such an agenda.

Bill Schneider has more on that, and on the economy's role in the current push for education reform.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): When the federal government has gotten involved in education, it's been for one of two reasons. One is social change. During the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, which included a massive expansion of federal aid to education, aimed to eliminate poverty and promote equality.


LYNDON JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every child must have the best education that this nation can provide.


SCHNEIDER: But the first great intervention of the federal government in education came in the 1950s, and for a different reason: competitiveness. Americans were in a panic after the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first space satellite. The U.S. invested heavily in education in order to become more competitive in science and technology. Ever hear of the National Defense Education Act?

Sometimes when he talks about education, President Bush sounds like LBJ.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Together, we will reclaim America's schools before ignorance and apathy claim more young lives.

SCHNEIDER: At other times, the language of compassion gives way to the language of competitiveness.

BUSH: If we can get the education right, then we can free up capital and do other things for you.

SCHNEIDER: The current movement for education reform is closer to the 1950s than the 1960s. It's about competitiveness, not social change. Only now, the concern is over economic not military competitiveness.

BUSH: The gateway to success in this country, as I hope some of your are learning, is to become educated.

SCHNEIDER: Education reform has often been driven by business in this country. During the campaign, Bush touted the educational progress in Texas.

BUSH: With reforms in Texas, reading scores have gone up. Under this administration, national reading scores have gone down.

SCHNEIDER: But the real force behind the Texas reforms was a business leader named Ross Perot. Business is very much behind the movement for education reform today. The U.S. has a labor shortage. Unemployment is at record lows. Business needs technically literate workers to compete in the new information economy. The global economy has become the new Cold War, which is why the core of Bush's education program is standards and accountability.

BUSH: Accountability is the foundation of true education reform.

SCHNEIDER: The Great Society divided America, but competitiveness is a unifying force. The rich want to compete in the new economy and the poor want their children to get into it.


ROD PAIGE, EDUCATION SECRETARY-DESIGNATE: Mr. President-elect, you made education a cornerstone of your campaign. Those of us in education know you meant it when you said, no child is to be left behind.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): President Bush says the federal government will set national education standards and leave it to the states to implement them. The irony is, when President Clinton talked about national standards, conservatives went nuts. They thought Democrats were trying to impose a curriculum of political correctness on the country. Presumably, President Bush's standards will be different.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BAKHTIAR: Now to California, a state gripped by a power crisis. Tuesday, President Bush agreed to extend a federal directive forcing out-of-state power suppliers to continue supplying California's cash- strapped utilities. The power crunch has pushed utility companies to the brink of bankruptcy and cost some companies millions of dollars as a result of power interruptions.

But there are companies looking for solutions.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California's Department of Water Resources launched an Internet auction Tuesday, seeking offers from electricity producers to sell the state power at fixed rates for up to 10 years. Gov. Gray Davis hopes for bids of around $55 per megawatt hour, or less than a tenth of what the state and its beleaguered utilities have had to pay on the spot market.

At first, power producers were skeptical, but now believe the auction, which closes Wednesday, may be the beginning of a solution.

GARY ACKERMAN, WESTERN POWER TRADING FORUM: This just isn't a bottom-fishing exercise looking for what prices may be, I think the state is very serious about buying power and the offerers are very serious about selling.

WIAN: Other proposed remedies involve state control of power plants and transmission lines and selling bonds to pay off utility debts. Whatever plan emerges, time is running out.

A group of CEOs, including Walt Disney's Michael Eisner and Boeing's Phil Condit, placed an ad in "The Los Angeles Times" warning California's economy faces a serious reversal and urging the state to help save its investor-owned utilities from bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Department extended an order requiring out-of-state producers to continue supplying California with electricity and natural gas. But a former energy secretary says California shouldn't expect much more help from Washington.

JOHN HERRINGTON, FORMER ENERGY SECRETARY, REAGAN ADMINISTRATION: They have no obligation to bail out the state of California. California has 34 million or 35 million people. It's a very wealthy state with huge, and I emphasize huge, tax surpluses. There's plenty of electricity out there. It's just too expensive. Nobody wants to pay the bill.

WIAN: For Pacific Gas & Electric, supplies are growing tighter. It's been saving electricity under a program that allows it to interrupt service to big customers who pay lower rates in exchange for being the first to be cut off when supplies are tight. But PG&E says it's already used up its legal limit of voluntary interruptions for the year, three weeks into January.

Casey Wian, CNN Financial News, Los Angeles.


BAKHTIAR: Ten years ago in the United States, the minimum wage was $3.80 an hour. Today, it's $5.15 an hour for most employees. Many who are paid minimum wage will tell you it's tough to get by on such little income. A lot of people who are waiters at restaurants don't even make minimum wage. They rely on tips that their customers leave, which may make you wonder, how much should I tip?

Lauren Thierry helps us out.


LAUREN THIERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You've just finished a good meal at a restaurant and here comes the bill. How much of a tip should you give?

The latest Zagat restaurant survey shows Americans are tipping an average of 18 percent. But in New York City, half of those surveyed say they're tipping 20 percent or more.

TIM ZAGAT, CO-FOUNDER, ZAGAT SURVEY: Frankly, I was surprised at that because I had been tipping 16 percent, or doubling the tax, which in New York is 8 1/4 percent. And I thought I was being pretty generous. And it appears that people are just feeling more generous. You have more money in your pocket, you're more willing to give a little bit more.

THIERRY: But that's not always the case. Waiters and waitresses often get stiffed on the tip. One etiquette consultant says part of the reason is the patrons don't realize how important that tip is.

HILKA KLINKENBERG, FOUNDER, ETIQUETTE INTERNATIONAL: When people tip, they forget that the waitperson usually gives a percentage of the tip to the bus staff and to the bar staff and the fact that that's usually their sole source of income. They get very small base hourly pay that's usually way below the minimum wage.

THIERRY: Klinkenberg also says patrons need to consider that the longer you stay at a table, the more you deprive the wait staff of other income from that table. But if you get bad service, Zagat's Diner Bill of Rights says you can withhold the tip. So there's a lot to factor in before you sign that check.

KLINKENBERG: If you want good service, you have to pay for it.

THIERRY: One more tip: You don't have to tip on the entire bill, just the cost of the meal. But generosity has its rewards.

That's "Your Money," Lauren Thierry, CNN Financial News, New York.


BAKHTIAR: In "Worldview," we head to the most populous country in the world: China. The Asian nation is ruled by a communist government, and sometimes that causes political and religious tensions in various regions. We'll also visit Russia, the world's largest country. It's also facing very large problems. Once a communist nation, Russia is now dealing with a struggling economy.

Steve Harrigan gives us the cold, hard facts.


STEVE HARRIGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forty degrees below zero, ice inside apartment walls, the dog's water dish frozen solid. Power blackouts combined with one of the coldest winters on record have left some residents of Russia's Far East near the breaking point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I've got a young child to feed and I can't prepare any of his food.

HARRIGAN: Protesters have tried to block highways to draw attention to their plight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I can't have a cup of tea, no hot water, nothing.

HARRIGAN: No heat, no light for hundreds of thousands of Russians for 15 hours a day or more. Pipes that are supposed to provide hot water for central heating have frozen and burst. The repair process is decidedly low tech: thaw the pipes by setting truck tires on fire.

The cold is only partly to blame, according to energy officials, who say Russia's power grid has been neglected for decades. Inside this power generating station, workers need a blow torch to read the water pressure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The cold is normal. We're supposed to work when its freezing, but 70 to 80 percent of our equipment is broken.

HARRIGAN: That means school rooms, where the temperature hovers near freezing, are closed. And, as they did in the time of the czar, Far Easterners burn coal in metal stoves to cook food and keep warm. Even in the shadow of giant power stations, the people here have been left to fend for themselves.

Steve Harrigan, CNN, Moscow.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: There are parts of China that tourists rarely visit. While many Westerners are familiar with the sights of Beijing and the Great Wall of China, there vast areas, especially in the West, that are well off the beaten track. Among them is the region of Xinjiang, a desolate, thinly populated land of deserts and mountains. While it covers about 17 percent of China, its 15 million people make up only about 1 percent of the country's population. Most are non-Chinese in origin. In fact, about half are of Turkish ancestry.

While the Chinese government considers Xinjiang a self-governing region, it still has plenty of say and influence over religious life there.

Rebecca MacKinnon has the story.


REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Take a guess. What country do you think this is? The majority of people in the Central Asian city of Kashgar belong to a Turkic-speaking, traditionally Muslim ethnic group called Uighurs. Coexisting with other Muslim groups like Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, and a growing number of ethnic Chinese.

Yes, this is the People's Republic of China. And in case anyone forgets, there are plenty of reminders all over the cities of China's far-western Xinjiang Province.

These prodigies at the Kashgar Number One Minority Kindergarten perform regularly for visitors, a showcase to prove their Central Asian culture thrives under Chinese rule.

MEHRIBAN, HEADMISTRESS (through translator): We hope to keep all our heritage and customs alive, like ethnic cuisine and style of dress. MACKINNON: But one part of their heritage is actively discouraged in school: Islam. In Xinjiang, the devout are free to worship in government-sanctioned mosques. Friday prayers are always packed, but Religion here is kept tightly contained behind the walls of mosques and homes.

DRU GLADNEY, EAST-WEST CENTER: Many of the locals say the real substructure of the culture has disappeared. There's no, for example, Islamic system of society such as the courts and things like that that they had before. And the feeling is that they're not really in control.

MACKINNON: To Xinjiang's educated elites, the message is clear: Drop your religion to advance your career.

ABSURAHMAN AMAD, KASHGAR TEACHERS COLLEGE (through translator): School is a place for knowledge and science, not for reading religion and superstition. We don't allow it.

MACKINNON: At the Kashgar Teachers College, future schoolteachers learn Marxist economics, taught in their native Uighur language. After they start working, they'll need to join the Communist Party to get promoted. But when they join, they must pledge loyalty to Mao and Marx, not Allah.

AMAD (through translator): If they get involved in separatism or illegal religious gatherings, we will deal with them according to the law.

MACKINNON: Outside Xinjiang's government-sanctioned mosques, more fundamentalist religious gatherings are believed to be on the rise, despite the fact that they're illegal. Locals say some underground groups even have contacts with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The trend puts religious leaders like Sadik Kari Aji in a delicate position.

SADIK KARI AJI, ID KAH MOSQUE (through translator): I tell my followers not to oppose the government's policies and to do things which are good for social stability. We discourage fighting or opposing the government.

MACKINNON (on camera): Activists linked to what the government called a reactionary Muslim organization were executed this summer. But the question is, what do ordinary people here in Xinjiang really want?

(voice-over): As a Western journalist, that's hard to find out because we're required by law to travel with a government escort. People caught supporting independence face arrest. But when I broke away from our government escort and asked one man off camera about his hopes for the future, he said, "I hope we can have an Islamic country."

In the city of Hotian two years ago, an underground organization called the Party of Allah was broken up, its members arrested. In 1997, anti-Chinese riots in another city called Yning (ph) left dozens of people dead.

According to Amnesty International, this organizer of the 1997 protests, Abduhelil Rabdulmejit (ph), recently died from torture in prison. Xinjiang's governor, himself an ethnic Uighur, insists such claims are untrue, but admits Islamic separatism is a problem.

ABULAIT ABDUREXIT, GOVERNOR OF XINJIANG (through translator): There are terrorists who are trying to use religion to split Xinjiang and confuse people. If we allow separatism to exist, we will have instability, which means no economic development. So we have to fight against separatism.

ISABELLE KELLY, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: "Separatist" is a Chinese government coverall term, really, to cover anybody who has committed what they think is an act of dissent. So this can range from people who want more political or religious freedom, but also people who are looking for more access to trade to start businesses, and also access to fairer education and to use their own language.

MACKINNON: Human rights groups point to the fate of Rebiya Kadeer, a popular and charismatic local businesswoman known for using her influence to speak out against government policies which hurt the interests of her people. With profits from a bustling Central Asian trading center, she set up a school for poor Uighur children. Some officials suspected her school was also teaching religion. Kadeer is now serving an eight-year jail sentence.

The government says she sent state secrets abroad along with newspaper clippings to her husband, a Uighur dissident now living in the United States. He and their daughter say that when she was arrested last year, she was planning to meet some visiting U.S. congressional staffers.

SADIK ROUZI, HUSBAND OF REBIYA KADEER (through translator): Last year, Uighurs thought the American government would help them like they helped the Muslims in Kosovo. So to silence the Uighur people, the Chinese government arrested her, because she is somebody the Uighurs look up to.

MACKINNON: The governor puts it somewhat differently.

ABDUREXIT: We used to support her. But when she violated the law and endangered national security, we had to punish her.

GLADNEY: The real case to consider is what does this tell us about China's control of the region? If these kinds of international business persons from the region can no longer function, is China making progress in the region, or has it been moving backwards in terms of winning the sentiments of the local population?

MACKINNON: Authorities insist they are doing what's best for the local population by spending money to raise their living standards.

KONG FUXI, KASHGAR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OFFICE (through translator): After Uighur people visit some of the former Soviet republics, they realize we're much better off here. Our country is united and has a strong economy. They can't even fix their roads. People in Kyrgyzstan have to buy food from us.

MACKINNON: In the countryside of southern Xinjiang, where many people hover just above the poverty line, Miriban Ousimamait is a local government official focusing on poverty alleviation. She is proud of her culture, but believes Islamic separatism won't do much for Xinjiang's poor women.

MIRIBAN ROUSIMAMAIT, HOTIAN WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION (through translator): The key issue for most of our people is to shake off poverty, make a living, and send their kids to a good school. Only a small number of people are making trouble.

MACKINNON: Locals say a real test of the government's intentions will be whether the latest economic development drive enriches and empowers Xinjiang's original inhabitants or just the government elites, and the ethnic Chinese who have settled here over the past 50 years.

GLADNEY: The question is, how can they convince the locals that they really do want to benefit them? They don't want to turn that Uighur culture into a museum, but a lot of people fear that's exactly what's happening. Singing and dancing's OK, but real participation and governance is not OK.

MACKINNON: Meanwhile, locals say growing numbers of young people in Xinjiang, especially men, are growing increasingly religious, which, under the current rules, disqualifies them from participating in government. But as one man said off camera, "we don't fear the Communist Party, we only fear Allah."

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Xinjiang, China.


BAKHTIAR: Today in "Chronicle," part two of our special series on your brain. According to some neuroscientists, teen behavior is often a symptom of the human brain under construction, which begs the question, how is a grown-up brain supposed to work? And what are the things that pose a potential danger to its development?

Here's Shelley Walcott with a primer.


WALCOTT (voice-over): Your brain. It's what helps you out for a walk on a sunny morning; the thing that alerts you when you're feeling too hot or too cold. It's what makes the scent of flowers pleasant and the memory of receiving them pure joy.

The brain has been called the "master control center" of the body. Executive decisions from a very delicate organ.

DR. JAY GIEDD, NEUROSCIENTIST, NATL. INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Nature's gone through a great deal of trouble to protect the brain. It's wrapped in a tough leathery membrane surrounded by a protective moat of fluid and completely encased in bone. WALCOTT (on camera): The brain is a grayish, pink, jelly-like ball with lots of ridges and grooves on its surface. But no one brain looks exactly alike. In fact, it's as individual as your face or your fingerprints.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What keeps the moon is orbit with the Earth?

WALCOTT (voice-over): A healthy brain stores information from past experiences, making learning and remembering possible. The brain is mostly made up of gray and white matter. Gray matter are the actual nerve cells that process information. White matter are the long nerve fibers that move information long distances.

For example, it's your brain's gray matter that recognizes a tennis ball on its way over the net, while the white matter orders the swing sending the ball back to the other side of the court.

In a fully developed adult brain, white matter is fully wrapped in myelin, a fatty substance that lets nerves transmit signals faster and more efficiently.

Some nerves, including those that regulate emotion, judgment and impulse control, are not fully covered in myelin until a person is in their early 20s. As a result, circuits that make sense of incoming information to the brain are still under construction until about the age of 16. All the more reason, scientists say, to protect the growing brain from harmful substances.

GIEDD: It's a real unfortunate irony that at this time when the brain is most vulnerable during this adolescent pruning period is also the time when teens are most likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol.

WALCOTT: Scientists are still trying to pinpoint exactly how different types of drugs affect the brain. But Dr. Giedd says one form of inhalant abuse, called huffing, is definitely harmful.

GIEDD: What that does is, as the inhalants go up through the nose, they go directly to the front part of the brain and damage it. That's what gives you this sort of altered feeling. But it's hard to imagine as a brain scientist a worse way, you know, to alter your feelings, by directly damaging the brain cells in this critical front part of the brain. This is the part of the brain that sort of separates man from beast.

WALCOTT: Aside from addiction, scientists are looking into how brain development during the teen years could be linked to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, as well as learning and developmental problems such as autism and attention deficit disorder.

The research goes on, but neuroscientists say they know one thing for sure: This three-pound mass made up of billions of cells plays one of the most crucial roles in human life.

Shelley Walcott, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: Stay tuned for the third and final part of our brain series tomorrow. We'll take a closer look at a piece of equipment that's thrown open the window to the adolescent mind.

But for now we're done. We'll see you tomorrow, same place, same time. Bye.



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