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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for March 1, 2001

Aired March 1, 2001 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to your Thursday NEWSROOM. I'm Shelley Walcott. Today's show features the relationship between humans and nature, from a powerful earthquake to a woman reaching for the stars. Here's what's ahead.

In today's news, a state of emergency in and around Seattle after a powerful earthquake rocks the Pacific Northwest.

Then, in "Science Desk," a scientific breakthrough. Why researchers say they're seeing the light when it comes to the physical laws of nature.

From a unique discovery to a remarkable recovery, "Worldview" catches up with the caiman.

And finally, in "Chronicle," a profile of NASA engineer Jacqueline Mims.

The state of Washington is still in shock after a strong earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest Wednesday. It rocked the Seattle area and shook buildings as far away as Portland, Oregon 175 miles away. It could also be felt in Vancouver, Canada. As of Wednesday, the quake was blamed for at least one death. Twenty-eight people were injured. And the tremor has many more still rattled.

The earth shook for more than 30 seconds. But it'll be much longer before Seattle forgets the terror caused by the powerful earthquake. It shattered windows, swayed skyscrapers and sent people rushing into the streets trying to avoid falling bricks and other debris. Others found themselves trapped in buildings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we just walked into the building and got into an elevator. And as the door closed, things began to shudder and I thought it was the elevator. The person who was in the elevator with me, we looked at each other and it kept shuddering as it was moving up, so we tried pushing buttons to stop to a floor earlier. And as soon as it opened at the floor, we jumped out immediately and realized that it wasn't the elevator, that the entire building was swaying. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WALCOTT: The earthquake packed a magnitude of 6.8, indicating a strong tremor capable of widespread damage. And it was felt across the Northwest, even into Canada. But Seattle bore the brunt of the structural damage. The city will learn later just how hard a hit it took when building inspectors finish their survey.

Gov. Gary Locke quickly declared a state of emergency for western Washington, and President Bush pledged federal help. Mr. Bush says his proposed budget calls for emergency spending for things like this quake, the second strongest in Seattle's history.

The region where Wednesday's quake struck is prone to earthquakes. The Northwest sits on a fault line, which is a fracture in the earth's shell. There are two tectonic or structural plates that run along the western U.S. coast. When those plates overlap and grind together, pressure builds up and an earthquake occurs, as was the case in Seattle yesterday.

Seismologists say the Seattle quake started 30 miles underneath the earth's surface and traveled high enough to trigger mudslides on Mount St. Helen. That volcano is roughly 9,600 feet high, so that means the quake traveled 95 times higher than the World Trade Center, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

CNN's Ann Kellan now with a look at the kind of earthquake Washington experienced yesterday.


ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tremor that shook the Seattle and Olympia areas in Washington is the same kind of earthquake that killed dozens in Mexico in 1999 and claimed 1,000 lives in El Salvador this past January. These poorly understood tremors, called intraslab quakes, pose a special threat to the Seattle area.

STEVE KIRBY, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: The thing that's of interest here is that the larger of these intraslab earthquakes occur right beneath the urban corridor. So they're right beneath the feet of where people live.

KELLAN: Intraslab quakes begin deep in the earth in undersea areas called subduction zones. In a subduction zone, one slab of the earth's surface is slowly sliding under another plate. As it sinks, it's under enormous pressure, and it's heated by the intense temperatures deep inside the earth. That causes chemical and physical changes in the slab, which release trapped water. The water lets the rock crack along ancient fault lines, setting off an earthquake inside the slab 30 to 180 miles below earth's surface.

The quakes do less damage at that depth than they do at the surface, but even so they can be powerful and deadly. Quakes of this type in Washington State in 1965 and 1949 each killed eight people. Because they begin so deep below the surface, intraslab quakes are harder to study. Scientists believe this latest one in Seattle occurred about 30 miles underground.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Atlanta.


WALCOTT: Well, all that shaking has our folks over at churning out volumes of information about earthquakes. So be sure to point your mouse to

In today's look at "Democracy in America," President Bush hits the road to promote his budget proposal. During a stop in Iowa yesterday, Mr. Bush pointed to the Seattle earthquake to highlight the need for the $1 trillion contingency fund in the plan. The president says the fund would help in such emergencies.

Jonathan Karl has more on reaction to the Bush budget.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert says Democrats may have a hidden agenda in opposing the Bush tax cut. He says they may actually want a recession.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are some people who would have it politically convenient to have a recession, because that means that they will have a political advantage. We're not going to let that happen.

KARL: A Hastert aide explained the speaker believes Democrats may want a recession because it could cost Republicans control of the House in next year's elections. Democrats say that's ridiculous.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: I don't know what Dennis said and I hope he didn't mean that, because how could anyone want to visit on the American people, especially poor people, what a recession and what a slowdown really means.

KARL: Democrats insist the true cost of Bush's $1.6 trillion tax plan is actually more than $2.5 trillion.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: I will just say this: If the vote were taken today, George Bush would not pass his $2.5 trillion tax cut.

KARL: The Senate math is fairly simple. At least two Republicans oppose the Bush plan, making it impossible to pass without the support of at least some Democrats. Majority Leader Trent Lott predicted Tuesday that support would come from senators who's states voted for George W. Bush, like Georgia's Max Cleland.

SEN. MAX CLELAND (D), GEORGIA: Trent Lott does not speak for me.

KARL: Cleland says he has major concerns about the affordability of the Bush tax cut.

CLELAND: I've been in the tax cut mode for a while. The key question is, is the $1.6 trillion tax cut too much over the next 10 years with a dwindling economy that we now see going south fast.

KARL (on camera): Democrats will unveil the details of their own tax cut on Thursday. Their alternative calls for about $750 billion worth of cuts, about half the amount proposed by President Bush.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WALCOTT: President Bush's address to Congress Tuesday night was closely watched by politicos, pundits and the media at large. But what did young people think about the speech?

Our Jason Bellini is here to try to answer that question for us -- Jason.


That's right, students were watching, too.

I watched the speech Tuesday night with some students from Oxford High School in Oxford, Alabama. It was a class assignment for them to tune in and hear what the new president had to say. So here's what their first impressions were.


BELLINI (voice-over): Through the rain dripping down the windows of Matt Consett's (ph) Jeep Cherokee, it's hard to get a good look at Oxford, Alabama, but a few things stand out: the waffle houses -- all three of them -- the church steeples...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where we have our prayer breakfasts in the morning during football season.

BELLINI: ... and the football field, all defining of a small, blue-collar community located in the giant red area of the electoral map, the section of the country that voted George W. Bush into office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's pizza in there and drinks, you know, OK?


BELLINI: Matt, a high school senior, is joined by a few of his friends from his government class to watch and take notes on Bush's speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long does this last?

BELLINI: They're getting extra credit for tuning in.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My plan returns it to the people who earned it.

BELLINI: On taxes, they're in agreement with Bush that everyone deserves a tax break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would really like to have taxes cut before I start making money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before you get out of McDonald's?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's saying how he's going to, you know, cut back on taxes and everything, but he's going to still try to fight our national debt and ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand. If we're in debt, then how can there be a surplus...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're still going to have lots and lots of money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and cut back on taxes and give more funding to these things?

BELLINI: On the issue of education, they agree it should be Bush's top priority but aren't clear how his proposals will work and how their schools would be affected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he was going to improve them, but he didn't say how.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he doesn't say when.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids in Maine need to know the same things the kids in Alabama know, which is the same thing that the kids in California know.


WALCOTT: Today's "Science Desk" deals with something we take for granted. But without it, the world would be a very different place. It's light. And what is light exactly? Well, light is an electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength range that includes infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays. Specifically, it's the part of this range that is visible to the naked eye.

Got all that? Well, light travels with a speed of about 186,000 miles or 300,000 kilometers per second in units or packages called photons. It has mass and is considered both a particle and a wave. Light does a lot more than just brighten our day, and that's why for years it's been captivated -- it's captivated the intrigue of scientists.

Here's Bill Delaney with the latest.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When light alights upon a glass of water, it slows down a little and makes the spoon look bent -- science fair stuff.

When light alights, though, in a glob of super-cooled sodium atoms like this one, it can now be made to stop, which is landmark in the history of science stuff.

Harvard University's Lene Hau first stopped light last fall in her Cambridge, Massachusetts lab. In results published this week, stalling photons in that sodium blob with a carefully timed sucker punch from a coupling laser.

LENE HAU, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Of course it's physics, so I hesitate to call it magic because I'm a physicist, I'm a scientist. But it's almost magic. We simply stop the light pulse in the atom cloud, park it there for a while and then, when we feel like it, we simply regenerate, revive that light pulse and send it back out.

DELANEY: Smoke and mirrors that could lead to lightning fast quantum computers, making storing information on CD-ROMs, on hard disks horse and buggy stuff, using instead optical fiber to speed and store information in light.

(on camera): Another team at Harvard's also now managed to stop light, though it happened here first. And the other experimenters only managed to stop half a pulse of light for much less storage time.

(voice-over): Lene Hau first made history a year and a half ago when she merely slowed light down to about 38 miles an hour.

HAU: There we go. Isn't that cute?

DELANEY: Kids' stuff compared to actually stopping energy traveling at 186,000 miles a second.

Chien Liu, part of Hau's team, actually first saw on the lab's oscilloscope when light stops.

CHIEN LIU, ROWLAND INSTITUTE: We are playing with physical laws, but nothing here escapes physical laws. I think I feel humble. You have to sort of respect the law of nature.

DELANEY: While tinkering around the edges, bending the rules a bit, as never before.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


WALCOTT: In "Worldview," we travel around the world. We'll discover an ancient Chinese art and check out Chinese horoscopes. Plus, some reptiles make a comeback. Stay tuned for caimans as we journey to Brazil. And from Greece, music from an unusual source.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: In "Worldview," we head to the small country of Greece, where Western civilization began about 2,500 years ago. In many different parts of Greece, magnificent ruins remain to give us a glimpse of the country's glorious past. Back in those days, Greece controlled most of the land that bordered the Mediterranean and Black Sea. But invaders took control of Greece in 338 B.C., and it wasn't until 2,000 years later that the Greeks regained their independence.

About 98 percent of the people belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. So it's no wonder that some Greek Orthodox monks are using rock 'n' roll to pass on God's message to the younger generations.

Tim Lister has the story.


TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the mountains of central Greece, the monastery of St. Augustine and Seraphim is a place of quiet contemplation, a refuge for the soul, a haven for prayer, and the home of a monastical rock band.

The monks of St. Augustine -- all of them under 30 -- have chosen rock 'n' roll to pass on God's message. Lead singer is Father Pandeleimon.

FATHER PANDELEIMON (through translator): Life goes forward. And according to the needs and demands of the times, we as clerics of the church have to do things to adjust to those demands of society, and to transform the language of God into the language of modern society.

LISTER: Not that the monks neglect their traditional singing duties, but Byzantine chants don't quite reach their intended market or convey their message.

The monks' new CD is called "The Little Microchip," about a man implanted with a microchip whose every movement is monitored. In their music, the monks rail against man's enslavement to modern technology and the power of money. Their first CD, "I Learned to Live Free," went platinum in Greece, selling 60,000 copies.

They write the lyrics and design the albums in their serene hilltop monastery near Naupakto (ph) and record in a studio in southern Greece. But their success has struck a note of discord with church elders, who plan a mission to the monastery to investigate. By then, the brothers, who perform as The Free People may just be on tour.

Tim Lister, CNN.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: On to Brazil, the largest country in South America. Its official language is Portuguese, the only Latin American country with this distinction. The Amazon River runs through Brazil, and this important waterway nourishes the world's most extensive tropical rain forests.

Our focus today: reptiles that inhabit the Amazon and much of South America. They're called caimans, reptiles related to alligators. They're lizard-like creatures which are carnivorous, or meat-eaters. And they're also amphibious, which means they can live on land or in water.

Caimans were once endangered but have made a remarkable recovery.

Gary Strieker takes us on a wildlife adventure.


GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When they're called, they waste no time climbing out. Dozens of big males in this pond, hungry for any scrap or bone thrown their way.

These are jacare caimans. And on this cattle ranch in southwestern Brazil, in all the rivers and lakes, in virtually every ditch and mud hole, jacares are everywhere. And across these vast Pantanal wetlands, reaching into Bolivia and Paraguay, there are millions of them.

(on camera): Jacare caimans are probably the most abundant large carnivore in South America, and scientists say there might be more of these animals than any other crocodilian species on the planet.

(voice-over): In the past, like other crocodilians, jacares were hunted for their skins, so threatened by poachers that the U.S. government listed the jacare as an endangered species. But about 10 years ago, world market prices for skins collapsed, illegal hunting stopped, and jacare populations rebounded big time. And Many experts argued it was wrong to classify this animal as endangered.

JOHN THORBJARNARSON, WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: If you call the jacare caiman an endangered species, you'd have to call the gray squirrel in the Eastern United States an endangered species, and that's just not the case.

STRIEKER: Last year, U.S. authorities agreed and removed jacares from the endangered species list, legalizing U.S. imports of jacare skins for the first time in 30 years.

But critics say fashionable demands for skins might start a new wave of illegal hunting that authorities here would be unable to control, and jacares would once again face a massacre.

But others point to new international regulations on the skin trade, and say high production from crocodile farms will keep market prices from rising, allowing little incentive, they say, to poach jacare caimans for their bony, lower-quality skins.

Some conservationists want to take advantage of the abundance of jacare caimans and their economic value, using them to convince ranchers here to protect these wetland ecosystems -- not only for jacares, but also for other species.

THORBJARNARSON: If a rancher has a swamp and it's full of caimans -- jacares -- and he's thinking about filling it and planting soya or something, he'll think twice about it if he makes a lot of money off of the jacares in that swamp.

STRIEKER: Jacares can be attractions for tourists, as well as sources of skins and meat that can be sold. Because they've now recovered so successfully, they can play a major part in saving the habitat where they live.

Gary Strieker, CNN, in the southern Pantanal, Brazil.


WALCOTT: We head to China and Hong Kong for our next story as we take a look at an ancient Chinese art known as feng shui. It's the practice of arranging the environment to create positive energy or chi. Colors, the points of the compass, water and so forth are arranged to promote health and harmony in family life, for example.

While there are feng shui consultants, the ancient tradition is going high tech these days on the Internet.

Lisa Barron explains.


LISA BARRON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Feng shui and destiny master Raymond Lo has been practicing his craft in Hong Kong for more than 10 years. He says he forecast the outbreak of the Gulf War, the fall of former Russian President Gorbachev, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher`s resignation. Now he wants to bring the ancient Chinese art of wind and water into the 21st century.

RAYMOND LO, FENG SHUI EXPERT: It`s basically my objective to reach out to foreign people. So the Internet helps a lot. So if I`m not born in this Internet age, actually it`s very hard to contact, to teach the foreign people, to introduce the subject overseas. So why feng shui becomes popular everywhere? I think the Internet is very good tool to support this.

BARRON: Feng shui, the time honored art of placing things in a way that creates a harmonious and prosperous environment, has attracted a global following in recent years, and spawned a great demand for experts. Help has arrived on Web sites across Asia, offering everything from feng shui paraphernalia to online magazines.

Lo, who likes to be known as "Feng Shui" Lo, provides a range of online services, including not only feng shui design, but also destiny analysis based on birth dates. LO: Take out and put in your name in the yellow pages. The Web gives more information. If you advertise in the newspaper, it`s a tiny space, it costs you a fortune. But the Web, it can give several pages of information and costs much less.

BARRON: Lo says the Web helps him reach 10,000 people a month. He also has training centers in Miami, London, Zurich, Singapore, and Melbourne. He won`t offer in-depth analysis online, but does accept questions such as what color to paint a bedroom and why the kids aren`t doing well at school.

There are also excerpts from his books. The latest, "How To Use Feng Shui To Get Ahead In Business." As for how to choose the right feng shui master...

LO: For the layman, you have to use your logic. You have to be skeptical. You have to read through it and then see, are you convinced? Is this supported by logic or just bluffing? So being skeptical is a very good way of handling, choosing a good feng shui master.

BARRON (on-camera): Buyer beware warnings aside, for anyone racing to see what lies ahead in the Year of the Snake, this Chinese new year may be just the time to log on.

Lisa Barron, CNN Financial News, Hong Kong.


WALCOTT: The Chinese new year always falls in January or February. This year, it began on January 24 and celebrations lasted for days. It's the year of the snake. And one astrologer calls it a year with prosperity on the surface but hidden tension and danger underneath.

The Chinese Zodiac includes twelve animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar. Those who come under the sign of the snake include people born in 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 and 2001. If you fall under the sign of the snake, the Zodiac says you are wise and intense with a tendency towards physical beauty.

She's a woman with a mission to reach for the stars. No wonder Jacqueline Mims has been such a success at NASA. Mims started out as an assistant at the Goddard Space Flight Center, but rocketed fast to become overseer of flight operations for the WIRE spacecraft.

In January, Mims was honored at the 2001 Trumpet Awards as a strong African-American role model who can truly inspire others to aim high.


NARRATOR: Jacqueline Mims began her career at NASA as a secretary. But this dynamic young mother and wife decided she wanted more. JACQUELINE MIMS, NASA: As a secretary, I networked with the engineers in the mission operations control center. I did their timecards and I also attended their presentations. And out of being curious, it sparked an interest in me going into spacecraft operations. And from there, they guided me and told me that I needed a degree. And I went back, got my degree and came back.

NARRATOR: Returning to NASA as a software engineer, Mims decided to reach for the stars.

MIMS: To become certified as a small explorer, spacecraft command controller, one must put themselves on a six- to eight-month self-study program. By that I mean you have to go online and get documentation on the spacecraft subsystems. We had to sit down with the actual designers of the spacecraft hardware, the scientists that designed the instruments that go on the spacecraft. We had to basically pick their brain.

NARRATOR: Mims completed the program in five months, passing the exam with flying colors. The next step, a panel inquiry.

MIMS: And a lot of times, the panel members would find questions to ask me whereas they knew I would not have that information. And one particular question was presented to me, I knew the answer like that. And the gentleman's response was, how did you know that? I said, well, how did you know that?

What helped me pull through all of it was my strength in God, my knowing my purpose in life, my being secure in who I am as a person, not listening to the stereotypes of, oh, quote-unquote, "she doesn't look like one of us."

NARRATOR: It wasn't her looks but her brains that helped save a $4.6 billion spacecraft. Under her leadership, the spacecraft was successfully converted into a NASA test satellite, proving she has the right stuff.

MIMS: Right now I am spearheading a team to try to introduce this discipline to a lot of young African Americans, because we can do this. We need our presence to be made known in this arena.

Once I achieve one level, I'll strive for the next level. So I don't quite know where that level is. Some may say, you've reached the stars, baby. And I feel like I've tapped them, but there's more. I can go beyond that.


WALCOTT: Quite an inspiration.

And that wraps up today's NEWSROOM. Join us again tomorrow. Have a great day.



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