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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for February 7, 2001

Aired February 7, 2001 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Shelley Walcott.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: And I'm Rudi Bakhtiar. First up, a look at the rundown.

WALCOTT: We begin in Israel, a nation with a new leader.

BAKHTIAR: Then we head to the United States to check out the North American Auto Show.

WALCOTT: Next, "Worldview" examines issues of health in the U.S. military.

BAKHTIAR: And finally, we'll end with a letter whose star is on the rise.

WALCOTT: Israelis choose a new prime minister. Hardline Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon easily defeated incumbent Ehud Barak of the Labor Party in Tuesday's election. Now everyone's wondering what the outcome will mean for the Middle East peace process.

Ehud Barak concedes defeat and congratulates Ariel Sharon. In his victory speech, the 72-year-old Sharon said he'll take a hard line with Palestinians and restore security to Israel.


ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER-ELECT (through translator): I am aware of the fact that peace requires painful compromises by both sides. Any and every political arrangement will be based on security for all peoples of the region. I call upon our Palestinian neighbors to cast off the path of violence and to return to the path of dialogue and solving the conflict between us by peaceful means.


WALCOTT: Palestinians say they hope peace talks will continue with Israel's new prime minister. However, they're worried about Sharon's hardline stance. Sharon has said he doesn't want to give Palestinians any more land and doesn't want to give up Jerusalem. BAKHTIAR: The White House has said it's prepared to work with Sharon on the Mideast peace process. However, the administration is carefully weighing its next diplomatic moves.

John King has more on the U.S. reaction to the election outcome in Israel.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president called Prime Minister-elect Sharon to offer congratulations and his support in advancing peace and stability in the Middle East. Continuity was the theme of the five-minute call.

Quote, "The United States has worked with every leader of Israel since its creation in 1948," the White House said in a statement. "Our bilateral relationship is rock solid, as is the U.S. commitment to Israel's security."

But uncertainty is the reality facing the new administration as it urges restraint and waits to see how Sharon forms a government and how the Palestinians react.

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Jaw-boning is not a bad term. And as a practical matter, that's pretty much all we can do right now, and hope that the leaders in the region recognize the absolute importance in controlling the passions and controlling the emotions.

KING: The Bush team and many Republican allies believe President Clinton pushed too hard for a peace deal in his final months. And, in any event, the new president prefers a more hands-off approach.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Where we make mistakes is we interfere; is that we get ourselves in the middle of something we shouldn't get ourselves in the middle of. The Israelis and the Palestinians are going to have to sort some of this out. We can't force them into that. So we must push back, let the Israelis form their government with the new prime minister and then see how that plays out.

KING: But crisis is the region's one constant. And a veteran of the last administration says Mr. Bush might be tested sooner rather than later.

SAMUEL BERGER, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think that it will be important after this election for the administration to do its best to assure that things do not escalate into a situation of increasing turmoil that will be very much against America's interest. I don't think it will be possible to stand aside in the face of that.

KING: Secretary Powell plans to visit the region later this month to assess the long-term outlook.

(on camera): In the meantime, the new administration says its primary goal is to help bring an end to the violence. And it is urging all parties in the region to refrain from saying or doing anything that might exacerbate tensions.

John King, CNN, the White House.


WALCOTT: Europe also will be keeping a close eye on the Middle East peace process during the next several months. The European Union and the United States are trying to coordinate efforts to push the Mideast peace process forward and end the latest violence.

Rula Amin has more on that.


RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the start of the peace process, Europe has been present: here in Madrid in 1991, and at almost every signing ceremony since then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever happens in the Middle East affects the daily life of European citizens. It's not a question that we are interested only for, of course, the benefits and the well-being of the Palestinians and Israel, but also for the well-being and the security concerns of the European constituency. So that is a national, vital interest of Europe. Europe is part of the region.

HASSAN ASFOUR, PALESTINIAN PEACE NEGOTIATOR: This is a presence. It's not political. This is a presence. It's good for the camera, for the media, for the people. But for me, it's not at all.

LESLIE SUSSER, ISRAELI ANALYST: I think the Israelis have felt that what they like best is to negotiate directly with the Palestinians. And obviously because they feel they're the stronger partner and they don't want to have anybody else, they're putting pressure on them to make moves towards the Palestinians. So far, the role vis-a-vis the peace process has been marginal because the Americans have taken center stage.

AMIN: Palestinians say they wish the Europeans would be more involved.

ASFOUR: Sometimes they like, but they can't. Maybe the American administration, the ex-administration, they prevent the Europeans to have political capital.

AMIN: Europeans do try to influence the course of events, especially when the right-wing Likud Party is power in Israel.

SUSSER: Up to now, it hasn't counted too much because the Israelis have tended to ignore this king of pressure. Europeans have only resorted to diplomatic pressure, even on Netanyahu, even on the most -- what they believed was the most inflexible Israeli government. They never took economic steps. Israel's trade with Europe is much larger than its trade even with the United States. Yet Europeans don't do anything to upset this imbalance.

AMIN: Especially when the Labor Party is in power in Israel, with its close ties to the socialist European governments. Yet throughout the last 10 years, Europe has contributed more than $2.3 billion to help the Palestinians build their economy. Gaza Sea Port is completely financed by the Europeans. A major chunk of the cost to build Gaza's international airport came from Europe. And Europe's donations to the Palestinian Authority ensure that Palestinian police and civil servants get their pay check at the end of the month.

The need for Europe's economic contributions will only grow greater whether Palestinians and Israelis move towards peace or confrontation.

(on camera): But even if the new U.S. administration chooses to play a less active mediating role, observers here say it's unlikely that the Europeans will be able to fill Washington's shoes.

Rula Amin, CNN, Jerusalem.



ANNOUNCER: CNN viewer Arnold Rodriques from the United Arab Emirates asks CNN, "Why, exactly, are Israel and Palestine in conflict?

LARRY REGISTER, VICE PRESIDENT, CNN SPECIAL PROJECTS: Arnold, that's a good question. And the answer depends on which side you ask.

The Israelis say the Palestinians started this latest outbreak of violence as a way to pressure Israel into more concessions in the ongoing peace process. The Palestinians say they are fighting to end the Israeli occupation and for the right of self-determination in their future homeland.

One thing is certain: This fighting took many people by surprise.

Just six months ago, the two sides seemed very close to a peace agreement. It could be that closeness which led to the fighting. They had gotten down to the core issues for a final peace. Those issues are the makeup of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees, security arrangements, and, of course, the most hotly contested issue of all, the future of Jerusalem, specifically who controls what in this holy city. Discussions on these issues and other past differences opened deep-seeded passions among the Israeli and Palestinian people.

However, it could be argued, as opposed to fighting over the past, they are really fighting for the future. Whatever compromises they make today to reach a peace agreement will have a big impact on the Israelis and Palestinians as they live together in the future, side by side as neighbors.

The Israelis and Palestinians are likely to continue fighting one way or another until they reach what they think is the best deal possible for the future of their people. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: In "Business Desk," we're talking big-ticket items. You know, things like houses cars, boats, items very sensitive to consumer demand. Demand is defined as "the desire and ability by individuals to purchase economic goods or services at the market price.

Automakers know all too well the ups and downs of consumer demand. And because of that, the industry has come up with ways to weather possible tough times ahead.

Ed Garsten reports.


ED GARSTEN, CNN DETROIT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Big coups like the Dodge Super 8 Hemi (ph), tailor-made for the malt shop, swell pals and fast times; luxurious sedans like the Infinity Q45.

(on camera): Well, the usually raucous party known as the North American International Auto Show is decidedly downbeat this year. Even though the industry is coming off a record sales year, most of those sales were in the first half. The last six months of 2000 were simply dreadful.

(voice-over): So now the top dogs of the world's three largest car companies are cutting production, laying off thousands of workers, trying to put their companies back on the winning road.

RICK WAGONER, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: Inventories were too high at the end of the year because we missed, frankly, the forecast of the market. So we're trying to take a number of units out of schedule in the first quarter.

JAC NASSER, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY.: Certainly softer than last year, but last year was a record year. And this year we're going to take it quarter by quarter and see how it goes a long.

GARSTEN: The industry is buoyed by the Fed's rate cut, hoping less expensive money will spark renewed sales. But even so, any hope is tempered.

WAGONER: Great first step by itself; probably not enough to get things reversed.

GARSTEN: Most forecasts by the companies and industry analysts are that about a million fewer cars and trucks will be sold this year. With that in mind, the automakers are hoping their new products will make some noise in the marketplace.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Detroit.


BAKHTIAR: Next week on NEWSROOM, a pioneer in the automotive industry. Our special coverage of black history month continues with drag car racer turned entrepreneur Harold Martin.


HAROLD MARTIN, DRAG CAR RACER: The design of my life is living out your dream. I'm in a very grateful position and I have the opportunity now to truly live the dream that I always wished for. And, you know, it's just a wonderful feeling. I -- many times, you know, I wake up at 5:00 in the morning and wish for daylight because I just can't wait to get to work.


BAKHTIAR: He's broken barriers in his own field and put his name on performance auto engines. He's Harold Martin and you'll meet him Feb. 15 on CNN NEWSROOM.

WALCOTT: Maybe you're considering a career in the military. There are many ways to serve your country. And in the United States, there are a number of branches, such as the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Last month, NEWSROOM brought you an up- close look at the United States military. We took flight in a Navy fighter jet and landed on an aircraft carrier, saw the transformation process one goes through to become a United States Marine and learned the origins of America's fighting force.

Well, in our next report, we take an even closer look at the personal story of some Americans who came face-to-face with adversity in service to their country. To them, the battle of the bulge isn't a page out of world history, it's a confrontation with a personal enemy.

Elizabeth Cohen reports.


UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: And it won't be long till I get on back home.

PAUL CRANE, DISCHARGED SERVICEMAN: The top award is usually the highest reward, the Meritorious Service Medal. The next award is the Army Commendation Medal. It was my most rewarding and most challenging job.

Oh, I lost everything: 15 years of service. There is no -- there is a no vested rights in the military. There is no pension plan. There's no personal savings plan. Fifteen years, you're just out on the street.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was Paul Crane at about the time he was kicked out of the Army; kicked out, he says, for being 8 pounds overweight.

(on camera): You have letter after letter from commanders: "Thanks, Paul"; "Terrific job, Paul." Here's a letter from a two-star general. (voice-over): Crane was a major, received awards and decorations.

CRANE: They go in descending order. The furthest away from your heart is a lesser reward.

COHEN: Every year, between 3,000 and 5,000 service members like Paul Crane are forced to leave the military for being too fat, and this at a time when manpower is low...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're offering up to about $6,000 cash bonus to join on.

COHEN: ... and the military is begging for new recruits.

(on camera): Expelled service members interviewed by CNN charge that the military sometimes uses weight as an excuse to get rid of people they don't want anymore, and that they use an outdated, inaccurate method of measuring people.

(voice-over): The military says their rules are fair and necessary.

CAPT. AMIE FURLONG, U.S AIR FORCE: When you go overseas or on a deployment, you're not going to be doing just that desk job. You could be working on the flight line, you could be fixing jets, you could be moving heavy equipment. So you've got to be fit at all times.

COHEN: And they say people are given several chances to lose weight before they're discharged. But Paul Crane says what happened to him wasn't fair, that the Army made him weigh in even when he was disabled and couldn't exercise at all.

CRANE: I was suffering from a knee injury. They had done arthroscopic surgery on my right knee in 1993. I was actually on crutches for eight to nine weeks with bandages. Then I couldn't -- I couldn't work out. And during that time, I was actually being weighed in with my crutches and bandages and being expected to maintain a weight without the exercise.

COHEN: And then the Army measured his body fat percentage using a tape measure...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Angle across your collar, down across the neck, below the larynx.

COHEN: ... a technique many experts say is prone to error because size isn't necessarily a good indication of body fat. The American College of Sports Medicine says tape measuring "does not provide accurate estimates of fatness."

Using the tape measure, Crane was over the body fat percentage by 1 1/2 points. He's gained 60 pounds since leaving the Army, but while in the service he says he was muscular. At 5 foot 8, he weighed 187 pounds. (on camera): What's the reason why they kicked you out, do you think?

CRANE: At the time, the Army had just completed the Gulf War. We were at strengths of over 850,000 people. The administration, current administration, decided that manning strengths were not necessary; we could use the Reserves, and we could pare our military down to just under 500,000.

COHEN (voice-over): Crane took his case to court and won. The judge ordered him reinstated back in the Army.

In a statement to CNN, Army lawyers said: "Paul Crane's discharge was not a downsizing action. The Army respectfully disagrees with the court's decision. However, the United States ultimately elected not to appeal and will abide by the court's decision."

So in general, does the Army use weight as an excuse to get rid of people they don't want? Army Lt. Col. Francine Le Doux.

LT. COL. FRANCINE LE DOUX, U.S. ARMY: I think that, in any given situation, you may find that a small number of people that may actually happen to and that may be reality. But Army-wide, I do not perceive that as being a problem and being an issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day I was, you know, a valued sailor, next thing I'm just some homeless guy. Basically, that's what I was, you know.

COHEN: Bill Torrance (ph) says he's a victim of downsizing just like Paul Crane. He joined the Navy in 1987, was honored, promoted, and then ordered to leave in 1997, around the same time Paul Crane was kicked out and just when the military was trying to downsize. Torrance was 10 pounds overweight and 1 percentage point over the body fat requirements. He's 6 foot 2 and at the time weighed 221 pounds, about what he weighs today. He says people are shocked to hear he's too fat for the Navy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I had my job interview, I brought my discharge papers, you know, my DD-214, and it says right there "weight control failure." And people I interviewed just kind of looked at me and looked at that and looked at me and kind of shook their head.

COHEN: Not only was he kicked out, but the Navy demanded that he pay back his re-enlistment bonus. Now he plans a lawsuit against the Navy to get that money back. But he says, more than the money, what he really wants is to be back in the Navy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even at work we end up talking about my Navy service. And I'm sure those guys are tired of hearing about it, but I talk about it a lot: In the Navy we did this, in the Navy we did that.

COHEN: Since Torrance's discharge, the Navy has changed its policy. Now, sailors are given more time to lose weight and they're allowed to have more body fat if they're over age 40. Bill Torrance thinks they've relaxed their rules because there's a shortage of new recruits, while when he was discharged the Navy was downsizing.

Captain Timothy Cepak:

CAPT. TIMOTHY CEPAK, U.S. NAVY: What you need to understand is, yes, we were downsizing. But never -- no corporation in the world and no organization in the world would just throw away great people that you've invested so much time in. Retaining those people have always been important.

COHEN: So what does the military do to help people lose weight so they can stay? Paul Crane says almost nothing.

CRANE: You go to a nutritionist for -- I believe it's a one- or two-hour training block where they basically tell you how -- what to eat, what not to eat. And after that, it's just you better make your weigh-ins every month.

COHEN: Lt. Col, Karl Freidl, an Army expert on weight issues, says there are good programs, but they're the exception rather than the rule, and the military's trying to change that.

LT. COL. KARL FREIDL, U.S. ARMY: Right now, we have kind of an inconsistent policy in terms of the assistance that we provide people when they go on the weight-control programs. And so we were looking at some level of standardization for a minimum set of services that would be provided to these individuals that would be helpful to retaining them in the military.

COHEN: So what happens if you weigh over the standards not because you're fat, but because you're muscular? The military does take body type into account. That's where the tape measure comes in. If you're under a certain body fat percentage, you can stay in.

JOYCE BAILEY, BODY MEASUREMENT EXPERT, CENTRAL MISSOURI STATE: Now straighten your arm. OK, now tighten up the muscle for me. OK, relax.

COHEN: But body measurement experts like Joyce Bailey at Central Missouri State University have urged the military to use calipers instead.

BAILEY: I would think that a military base could afford a couple of $35 calipers and come closer to getting a truer body composition assessment.

COHEN: Army and Navy spokespeople say tape-measuring is accurate, and the simplest and most efficient way of measuring everyone in the military. Paul Crane wonders if a different way of measuring might have given different results, might have saved him and the military from the lawsuit, the years in court, the pain of being separated from a career he loved.

CRANE: You never -- it never leaves you. The military bearing and deportment, the mindset is always still there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go again! UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: Here we go again!

COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN "NEWSSTAND."

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: Same old stuff again!


BAKHTIAR: So where do you go when the sun sets on your eight- year career as vice president of the United States? Well, for former Vice President Al Gore, it's back to school. He's just begun a new career as a visiting professor at New York's Columbia University.

Now Brian Palmer looks at Professor Gore's first day of school.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel great about it. I'm very excited about it. I'm looking forward to it.

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Vice President Al Gore breezed past cameras and barking journalists and into the hushed halls of Columbia University, throwing even this worldly campus into a frenzy: Professor Gore's topics covering national affairs and politics and the press in America, familiar subjects for the former vice president, congressman and senator.

GORE: I mean, the students are terrific. And the questions were fantastic.

MICHAEL ARNONE, STUDENT: He's an intelligent man who knows -- who tries to cover his material in as accessible a way as he can.

PALMER: Gore doesn't have formal teaching experience. But he did work as a reporter in the 1970s. While pundits watch for signs of his political ambition, Gore watchers insist he's serious about his new endeavor.

ANTHONY LEWIS, "NEW YORK TIMES": Teaching: What could be purer? What could be nobler? I think that's maybe the idea.

REP. BART GORDON (D), TENNESSEE: He has a unique opportunity to combine a true journalist with a candidate-celebrity that has been written and covered. And so it will be interesting to see how those two things might mesh.

PALMER: Columbia is just the beginning. Gore will teach and UCLA and in his home state: Fisk University and Middle Tennessee State. Gore also plans to lecture at historically black colleges around the country.

(on camera): The former vice president's focus: teaching students about building family-centered communities by curbing access to guns, providing after-school care to kids with working parents, and by cracking down on portrayals of violence in the media. (voice-over): An agenda he has promoted at annual conferences in Tennessee since 1992. Gore's class is about the press, but it is closed to the press. Students were required to agree not to talk publicly about it. But university officials say the policy is necessary to keep the focus on learning, not on Gore's celebrity.

Brian Palmer, CNN, New York.


WALCOTT: You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but I'm on the cutting edge of the latest trend. That's because my last name is Walcott. It starts with the letter "w," the letter of the moment.

From President George W. Bush to the WWW and addresses on the Internet, Jeanne Moos looks at how the 23rd letter is sitting on top of the alphabet heap.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It used to be the lowliest of letters, bringing up the rear of the alphabet. But thanks to this guy...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's what George W.'s talking about.

MOOS: ... it seems like everyone's talking about...


MOOS: Move over, you overused vowels. Give this letter some credit.

NAOMI BARON, PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTICS: Big, wide, broad. Takes too long to say, "W."

MOOS: George W. doesn't just say it, he signs it. From "W" magazine to "W" hotels, "W"'s are suddenly chic. The hotel's CEO chose the name because many of the words that conjure up the hotel's desired image begin with "W."

MARTIN: Warm, welcoming, wonderful, wired, whimsical.

MOOS: Wretched -- just kidding. Nothing wretched about this place with its "W" matches, "W" business cards, "W" bathrobes. "W's" nothing new, it's been guiding women to restrooms for ages.

Celebrated by "Sesame Street"...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Welcome to the weekly meeting of the National Association of "W" lovers.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: Among true "W" lovers is Warren Davis, who had to go to court to keep a vanity license plate like this on his Rolls. When he went to renew the plate recently, motor vehicles refused, apparently because some politician wanted it.

ROBERT WOLF, ATTORNEY FOR WARREN DAVIS: They certainly shouldn't take his plate away for some political favor of the governor just because "W" is the letter of the moment.

MOOS: A judge agreed. Warren Davis got to keep his "W" plate. Linguistics professor and author Naomi Baron also appreciates the "W."

BARON: It's the 500-pound gorilla in the alphabet.

MOOS: The rest of the letters are a meager one syllable.

BARON: W, it wears its name on its sleeve, it's 3.

MOOS: Unless you pronounce it "Dubya," who invoked the initial to poke fun at Al Gore and the Internet.

BUSH: But if he was so smart, how come all the Internet addresses start with "w"? Not only one "w," but three w's.

MOOS: And then there was the "w" computer key caper. Departing Democrats removed some w keys when they handed the old Executive Office Building over to the Republicans.

A letter that once scrabbled for respect...

(on camera): Whatever.

(voice-over): ... ended up welcoming George Bush to "The Late Show."


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: We altered the marquee when we heard the governor. Look at that, see, we added a "W."


MOOS: From Wonderbra to water, the "W" casts a big shadow. So leave it alone. The "W" now has friends in high places.


SESAME STREET CHARACTERS (singing): It's not any trouble, you know it's a "w" when you hear woo, woo, woo, woo.


MOOS: Jeanne V. Moos, CNN, New York.


BAKHTIAR: And that does it for us here on NEWSROOM.

WALCOTT: We'll see you tomorrow. Bye bye.




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