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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for April 2, 2001

Aired April 2, 2001 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And another week of news begins. Hi, I'm Shelley Walcott.

We start off today's show in the Balkans.

The arrest of Slobodan Milosevic tops our news agenda. From the former Yugoslavia to the southern U.S., our "Daily Desk" uncovers some environmental litigation. Then "Worldview" travels take us to a Brazilian park to participate in a scientific study. We end up in a region in turmoil, where we talk to young people on both sides of the conflict.

And today's top story, the arrest of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He was taken into custody early Sunday after a 26 hour armed standoff with police. The former strongman faces serious charges both in Yugoslavia and abroad. Yugoslav officials have charged him with corruption and abuse of power and the United Nations War Tribunal wants to bring Milosevic to trial in the Hague before the end of the year. The charge? Crimes against humanity.

Five gunshots rang out in the Milosevic home early Sunday, shortly after a convoy of cars sped out of the villa, one with the former president on board. The destination? Belgrade's central prison, the place Milosevic will call home for the next 30 days.

The former Yugoslav strongman had vowed he would never be taken into custody alive. He apparently changed his mind after a round of intense negotiations with government officials. Milosevic's arrest was hailed by world leaders. He is widely blamed for leading Yugoslavia into three civil wars, wars that left hundreds of thousands of people dead, first in Croatia, then in Bosnia and finally in Kosovo.

Yugoslav investigators allege Slobodan Milosevic abused his office to amass personal fortune and ruin the nation. Western leaders would like to see Milosevic stand trial at the world's court known as the Hague. They allege Milosevic is responsible for acts of aggression against civilians not seen since WWII.

Christiane Amanpour has more and we warn teachers the following report contains mature content. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just as allegations of corruption, election fraud, political killings and money laundering have brought Slobodan Milosevic to the attention of prosecutors at home evidence of an array of wartimes crime has earned him indictments by international prosecutors.

In May 1999, Louise Arbour, who was then chief prosecutor at the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, indicted Milosevic and four his lieutenants for crimes committed during the war in Kosovo that year.

LOUISE ARBOUR, WAR CRIME TRIBUNAL PROSECUTOR: I present an indictment for confirmation against Slobodan Milosevic and four others, charging them with crimes against humanity, specifically, murder, deportation and persecution, and with violations of the laws and customs of war.

AMANPOUR: Milosevic made history that day, becoming the first ever sitting head of state to be indicted by an international court. The charge of crimes against humanity being the second most serious crime, after genocide, under international law.

But by the end of this year, he could face the genocide charge, too. The current chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, is working on bringing more indictments against Milosevic for crimes committed during the Bosnia and Croatia wars from 1991 to 1995.

Throughout the '90s, in the name of preserving Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic instead presided over its destruction. He led Yugoslavia into three wars that left hundreds of thousands dead, first in Croatia, then in Bosnia and finally in Kosovo. Civilians were primary targets, a violation of the laws of war handed in the Geneva conventions after World War II.

The term ethnic cleansing became synonymous with Bosnia, as Serb forces there loyal to Milosevic tried to carve out a separate state by forcibly moving the non-Serb civilian population. They unleashed heavy artillery against multi-ethnic cities like Sarajevo, and laid siege to towns and villages throughout the state.

Snipers targeted men, women and children. Markets full of people shopping were shelling, and in scenes unknown in Europe since World War II, there were concentration camps, mass rape, and the forced prostitution of women and very young girls. And almost every day, deportations, which added to the millions of refugees.

The climax came with the Bosnian Serb assault on the tiny Muslim village of Srebernica. To this day, the International Red Cross says that about 8,000 Muslim men and boys remain unaccounted for there.

The top Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, Radko Mladic, were twice indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity. But after NATO conducted bombing raids to stop the Bosnian Serb rampage, Slobodan Milosevic became the West's partner in the peace that was forged at Dayton in November 1995. Four years later, Milosevic launched what was to be his final military campaign in Kosovo. NATO again went to war to stop him, and just as the West was considering a negotiated cease-fire, Milosevic was indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal.

The chief prosecutor was scathing.

ARBOUR: The indictment has not rendered Mr. Milosevic less suitable to be a partner in any kind of conversation than he was before. It has just exposed how unsuitable he was in the first place.

AMANPOUR: Two years on, Slobodan Milosevic is no longer president of Serbia or Yugoslavia. He is no one's peace partner, and the tribunal says it's ready to present what it calls a solid case against him.

The tribunal has always said that it will go after the architects of the Balkan wars, not merely the foot soldiers. With top figures such as Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic still at large, skeptics doubted the tribunal would succeed.

But recently, it has brought in key figures, such as former Bosnian Serb senior officials Momcilo Krajisnik and Bilijana Plavsic. And it's handed down heavy sentences to three Bosnian Serb soldiers accused of mass rape as well as a senior Bosnian Croat wartime leader.

(on camera): The Yugoslav government insists that it would be unconstitutional to extradite Milosevic to the Hague, but the tribunal points out that it is an international court, not a foreign state. Therefore, Milosevic would not extradited, just transferred to the Hague, and the tribunal points to a precedent. Milosevic himself authorized the transfer of a Yugoslav citizen to the Hague back in 1996.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, London.


WALCOTT: In our "Environment Desk" today, a clamor over creosote. What's the problem and what is creosote anyway? Well, creosote is a brownish oily liquid that comes from distilling coal tar. It's used primarily as a wood preservative and it's a known carcinogen. Still, there's a huge demand for wood treated with creosote because not only is it a preservative, but it's a bug killer. And it could be causing health problems for hundreds of people.

Brian Cabell examines the issue.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the story of how some residents of a hardscrabble neighborhood in Columbus, Mississippi have come to distrust and condemn one of their longtime neighbors, the Kerr-McGee forest products plant. They've lived together, the factory and the residents, for more than 70 years, but now they're arguing over something called creosote. Over the years, Kerr-McGee has used millions of gallons of creosote as a wood preservative for the railroad ties it produces.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when you breathe the stuff, you can smell it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It causes my kids getting headaches, I get headaches, we get sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have itches all over.

CABELL: The residents have filed a class-action suit against Kerr-McGee. Lawyers say the total number of plaintiffs could reach as high as 10,000.

(on camera): Creosote is in fact a known carcinogen. And plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that for years, Kerr-McGee has handled and disposed of creosote improperly, thereby endangering the health of residents here.

(voice-over): Kerr-McGee, which bought the plant from another company in 1964, disputes the claim. It denied CNN's request for an interview, citing the pending litigation, but did issue this statement: "We are confident that our operations have not harmed anyone, and we believe the facts will speak for themselves as we vigorously defend the lawsuit."

The Environmental Protection Agency says the plant has been a good corporate citizen in recent years. It's dug recovery wells to filter out some of the creosote in ground water, for example. But the EPA points out the company could be responsible for cleanup of contamination caused by the plant 20, 30, or 40 years ago, when environmental standards were much more lax.

Attorneys for the residents insist they now have proof that the exposure to creosote has been devastating. They just completed a study of 1,200 Columbus residents.

HUNTER LUNDY, ATTORNEY: The respiratory, neurological, and reproductive problems of the people living in close proximity of this Kerr-McGee plant here in Columbus, Mississippi are 10 times greater than any control group.

CABELL: Among them: Phillip White, with sinus cancer; Wade White with rapid bone deterioration and liver and gall bladder failure; Marquita Brooks with chronic headaches, dizziness, and breathing problems; and Judy White with seven miscarriages.

JUDY WHITE, COLUMBUS RESIDENT: Three of my of my miscarriages, I was anywhere from four to six months, and they would just self-abort.

CABELL: Attorneys, citing their own study, claim the residents contracted the diseases through drinking water contaminated with creosote, through contaminated water in ditches, storm runoff, where the victims used to play, and through heavy toxic emissions in the air.

Black specks, just out of the air? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just out of the air. They just come down like snow.

CABELL: Much of the evidence so far is anecdotal and the study is certainly incomplete, but the EPA welcomes it because the effect of creosote on humans is still uncertain.

The plaintiffs will learn whether they'll be granted class-action status in the next six to 12 months. Some residents are talking about leaving town. The others, in the meantime, will have to learn to live with their industrial neighbor.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Columbus, Mississippi.


WALCOTT: In "Worldview" today, we head to the rain forest and jump from the skies. Some skydiving weather forecasters take the plunge in the United States. And, we're off to Brazil to check out its exotic wildlife.

It has the fifth largest population in the world and the largest population in South America. But as Brazil's human population grows, its animal population is faltering. Some common creatures in this country, wild foul such as the heron, the ibis and migratory geese, which abound in an area of swamps and marshes known as the Pantanal. In higher elevations, you'll find South American ostriches and surimas (ph), a type of road runner. Brazil is also home to armadillos, anteaters and several species of snakes.

Many of Brazil's animals are in danger because the land they need for survival has depleted. But one group is trying to reverse that trend. Gary Strieker tells us how.


GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this Brazilian forest, the beginning of a scientific survey.

SERGIO BRANT, BRAZILIAN ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION INSTITUTE: The trail will end and, you know, the best piece of forest, as we saw in the satellite image, will be to our left.

STRIEKER: On this expedition, experts on mammals and insects, reptiles, fish and plants, collecting information on the wild species living here.

LAURENZ PINDER, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY: This area is important for the species in this region because it's the only patch of forest, this type of forest here that remains green during the dry season.

STRIEKER: This forest is part of a new private nature reserve adjacent to the Pantanal National Park, regarded as the only significant protected area in the world's largest fresh water wetland, a rich wildlife habitat divided among hundreds of private cattle ranches, covering less than one percent of the Pantanal, about 500 square miles. The park was created 25 years ago when the Brazilian government purchased a single ranch.

But there are problems with its boundaries. The park contains grassland, marsh and lake habitats, but only small fragments of forests that are typical of the Pantanal. And there's another problem with the park. Every year during the rainy season, more than 90 percent of the park is flooded for months, causing most of the wild mammals to migrate to dry land outside the park in unprotected areas.

That's why the Virginia-based Nature Conservancy financed the purchase of three adjacent ranches by a Brazilian conservation group. These areas will be managed as private reserves, as part of an integrated system that includes the national park, effectively increasing the park's protected area by 44 percent and now including extensive forests as well as the Amolar mountain range.

Private acquisitions like these are encouraged by the Brazilian government.

BRANT: Some very, very important piece of land are being bought by these organizations and now are part of the conservation system of the country.

STRIEKER: This rapid assessment mission is just the beginning of a program of research and planning that will guide the management of the park and connected reserves. But in this small corner of the Pantanal, the pieces are now in place to ensure the long-term survival of its wildlife.

Gary Strieker, CNN, in the Pantanal National Park, Brazil.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: You probably check out the weather report before you head out the door. That way you know whether to grab a sweater or umbrella. But have you ever considered what goes into forecasting the weather?

Data comes from many sources, including weather balloons, land- based observation stations, airplanes, ships and satellites. Sky diving equipment today is so refined that it's possible to take weather observations during the descent, possible, but a little tricky while falling to the ground at great speeds.

Femi Oke from the CNN International Weather Center has more on that.


FEMI OKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When some of the world weather team decided to go skydiving to get a close-up view of Georgia's weather, most people just wanted to know why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good plane. CNN forecaster and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and me, Femi Oke, took off in a plane and then jumped out of it. The weather was perfect for hurtling through the sky at almost 200 kilometers an hour, mostly clear with a nice view and just some high wispy cirrus cloud above us. The plane reached four kilometers and then securely attached to an instructor, fingers crossed, we rolled out of the door.

When you fall at this altitude, the wind whips past you. It's difficult to take a breath and all the time you're trying to remember to keep your feet at a 45 degree angle, stretch out your arms and arch your back, your ears are popping at the same time.

The higher up you travel, the cooler the weather becomes. But I don't think any of us really noticed. We were a little preoccupied at the time. After a minute of free falling, you open the parachute and then you can admire the scenery at a more leisurely pace. Finally, five minutes after you've jumped out of a perfectly good plane, you arrive back on terra firma.

(on camera): Thank you so much.


UNIDENTIFIED SKYDIVER: I was shaking all the way.

UNIDENTIFIED INSTRUCTOR: You want to do it again?


OKE (voice-over): Having all made it back to earth in one piece, will we dare to go skydiving again? Of course. We've already booked a date, weather permitting.

Femi Oke, CNN.


WALCOTT: In Chronicle, we focus on the Middle East and the ongoing struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians. With the peace process on hold and as violence in Israel continues, young people from both sides try to carry on with their everyday lives.

For two weeks, NEWSROOM's Jason Bellini traveled the country to look at the hopes of the young people caught in the middle. Today, he introduces us to an Israeli soldier and a young Palestinian boy both engrossed in a war that began decades before either of them was born.


JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I think when people watch on TV, they see kids throwing stones and they think, ah, you know, how dangerous is that, kids with stones, you know?

AVIV DERTELEH, AGE 20, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCE: I knew you were getting to that. And you know what? I'm glad you got to this kind of question.

BELLINI (voice-over): This was the kind of question Aviv Derteleh wanted to answer for me the day I spent with him. At the heart of the answer, the image of the Israeli soldier.

DERTELEH: You expect to feel like someone, you know, like a giant, I don't know what person, you know, with muscles and like, you know, with a killer look in his eyes and stuff. And like, first of all, we are people like everyone else.

BELLINI: He's well aware that people around the world see battles like the one he's sometimes in and they often think Israeli soldiers are excessive in their use of force. He himself has seen the images of young Palestinians dead and injured, of children with stones facing his army's tanks and machine guns.

DERTELEH: Before people would, like, start to judge us, you know -- it's not that we are killers in, you know, green uniforms and we're going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that I'm not a killer and none of my friends are killers. Like, in a big demonstration that has people throwing stones, we have like two people that has a weapon and they started shooting. So the soldier, especially IDF soldiers, doesn't give, you know, weapons for no reason.

BELLINI: These days, it's not uncommon for Aviv's base to come under fire. Random attacks lead to wild goose chases. It's nearly routine.

DERTELEH: I fire a couple of bullets going around whistling, you know, around during today, so that's OK. You know, I feel quiet. But if like you or like someone that don't know the area and they would come here and say, oh my God, like, looks what's going on here. It's like the wild, wild West or something, you know.

BELLINI: Aviv is a machine gunner. When specific flare-ups of violence aren't threatening the West Bank settlements he protects, he patrols the area around his base.

DERTELEH: My mission, in one sentence is to keep all the people that live and go around this area safe, and no matter what.

BELLINI: But Aviv wanted me to see that his work as a soldier is not the only thing he does, that his life centers on his friends, not his gun.

DERTELEH: Look, I have posters on my wall. We have like a stereo here. We have a PlayStation. We have a VCR. We have TV. We have everything to have a normal life. BELLINI: All those things he wants us to see because he wants more people to understand that the pictures on television, pictures he himself could be in, don't tell the whole story.

DERTELEH: You get in the middle of everything. You know, the person in the middle of everything is always, you know, the poorest person, you know. In this case, it's us.

BELLINI: September 28, the day Israel's Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon visited the Muslim holy shrine the Al-Aqsa mosque, the day the Palestinian uprising began in response, and the day Mohammad al-Wahidy got shot.

MOHAMMAD AL-WAHIDY, AGE 22, PALESTINIAN (through translator): I was holding a stone like that and carrying it like that so I was hit right there. I only went to see what was going on. I never thought it would escalate into this.

BELLINI: That first episode landed him in intensive care for three months, he says. So Mohammad, who's 22 years old, knew better than the other, younger kids that throwing stones is no joke, making him a perfect person to ask the question, why do it?

But it was actually another Mohammad I was planning to ask that question. Plan A was to follow up with a 16-year-old whom CNN reporter Fionnuala Sweeney profiled back in October.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He dares the Israelis to shoot him as he races across the road to place his flag on the compound fencing. Four of his friends are injured in the clashes before he, too, is shot in the left leg.


BELLINI: Road blocks place by the Israeli military throughout the Gaza Strip foiled my plans to meet him. They were in response to a bombing on an Israeli bus in Tel Aviv the night before, an attack that wounded 14 people.

So on to Plan B: find a young stone thrower at a location where, over the last several months, violent demonstrations erupted frequently. Many young people were there, but it was a little too noisy to do an interview, definitely time for Plan C.

But I had no Plan C, so we asked around Gaza City for someone who'd been injured during the conflict. In no time, we met Mohammad, who lives near the sea.

BELLINI (on camera): What do you do better, swim or throw stones?

AL-WAHIDY (through translator): We really do not want to throw any rocks, but we have to. Of course, swimming is much better and we like it more.

BELLINI: Better swimming?

Back to my original question: why?

AL-WAHIDY (through translator): I throw stones because that's the only way I can express myself to get my rights back.

BELLINI (voice-over): Mohammad wants the Israelis to leave Gaza and the West Bank entirely, creating a Palestinian state.

AL-WAHIDY (through translator): Fighting is the only solution we have now. We have tried everything and all have failed.

BELLINI: But he recognized throwing stones thus far has cost many Palestinian lives and yielded few positive results for his cause. AL-WAHIDY (through translator): If you think about it, the Israeli soldier is walking with all the protection he needs. What will I do? He probably has only a 1 percent chance to die. But with me, if I keep doing this, I have probably 99 percent.

BELLINI: Mohammad says he's never seen Palestinians shooting at Israeli soldiers during a demonstration. But eyewitnesses, including CNN reporters, have seen such shootings during this intifada. Even so, Mohammad says he won't avoid the fire to throw stones.

AL-WAHIDY (through translator): This is what jihad in war is all about, that we do not fear death.

BELLINI: For now, Mohammad is taking a break from facing off against Israeli soldiers, unsure about his next move.

AL-WAHIDY (through translator): I want to finish my university studies. I'm thinking that I'll not get married. I would not have children. If I did, I would really be worried about them all the time.

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: A lot of focus placed on what the politicians say and what the politicians believe, but it is about the ordinary people. They are the people who ultimately have most at stake in this process because they are the people who are most directly affected by the ongoing, swirling diplomatic debate that is going on, and of course by the ongoing, swirling violence that is going on.


WALCOTT: Tomorrow, we'll hear more from Jason's journal when he travels to a disputed territory where Israelis live in fear, and, a Palestinian refugee camp where Palestinians dream of returning to a land that was once theirs. Jason tells the story from both sides of the divide. Be sure to tune in for that tomorrow right here on NEWSROOM.

But before we go, we leave you with these beautiful pictures of cherry blossoms in Japan. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Bye-bye.

ANNOUNCER: CNN NEWSROOM, here for you 12 months a year. And it's free. Educators need to enroll once a year And it's easy. In the U.S., call 1-800-344-6219; outside the U.S., 44207-637-6912; or on the Internet at

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