Skip to main content /transcript


NEWSROOM for April 5, 2001

Aired April 5, 2001 - 04:30   ET


SHELLEY WALCOTT, HOST: And welcome to your Thursday (AUDIO GAP) show. I'm Shelley Walcott. Here's a look at what's coming up.

China demands an apology after the weekend collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese military jet. Then, in our Science Desk, how scientists are listening to the sun and why. We have more from China in World View as we look at a man whose work is for the birds. And in Chronicle, how the United States is trying to protect its cattle from mad cow disease.

A diplomatic stand-off drags on as 24 United States servicemen and women remain held at a Chinese air base. U.S. President Bush is demanding a safe and fast release of the crew members. However, China says it will continue to hold them while it investigates the collision between the U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter.

The crew members of the U.S. Navy EP spy plane are said to be in good condition despite a shaky landing following the Sunday collision that killed a Chinese pilot. Damage to the American plane was extensive. Officials say the plane dropped 8,000 feet before it righted itself for the hurried landing.

The surveillance plane appears to have lost much of its nose cone. Two of its four engines also were heavily damaged. A senior Pentagon official says the Navy surveillance plane crew successfully carried out a mission to destroy the intelligence gathering equipment on board before the plane landed. China is demanding an apology for the surveillance mission and for the collision.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has expressed regret over the loss of the Chinese pilot in Sunday's plane collision, but the United States has stopped short of apologizing to China, insisting the American spy plane did nothing wrong.

Beijing disagrees. China's ambassador to Washington, Yang Jiechi, says the U.S. is to blame.


YANG JIECHI, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Our position, which has been expounded by our president, our foreign minister and assistant minister, that this is an incident caused totally by the American side. The American side should share full responsibility and should explain the situation to the Chinese people and should make an apology.

I can give you one example. For instance, here in the United States, you have a family, there's a house, there's a front yard, and some people -- a group of people -- always drive a car up and down the street. They don't come to your front yard, but they drive very close to the front yard, day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out. And then some people from the family came out to have a look, and the latter's car was destroyed and the person disappeared. And then, you know, this car, which was on the road all the time, then stormed the house.

And I think the family has every right to ask, "Why? Why have you done that?" And we have to do some examination; we have to do some investigation.

If this was the case in the United States, I think the American public will have a very fair judgment in who should be blamed. And at least you should say, "Sorry." The car has been destroyed and the person has disappeared, and the other side said, "Oh, this has happened."

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Would it be sufficient and acceptable for the United States to say that this was a regrettable incident and it regretted the loss of the pilot and the Chinese plane? Does that constitute an apology?

YANG: I think, first of all, the American side should face the facts squarely and should obey international law. And we say that the U.S. side should make an apology. And I think people here in your government know how to say it.


WALCOTT: For the first time, scientists are listening to the sun. But first, it's important to understand that the sun doesn't really make any sounds, mainly because sound needs a medium to travel through. Here on earth, the mediums are things such as air, water, buildings and walls. Because the sun is in space and space is a vacuum, no sound waves can be created. So, how are scientists listening to the sun and why?

Ann Kellan has the answers.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what scientists say the sun sounds like: the equivalent of a solar heartbeat. Solar scientists used listening devices to unravel some of the mysteries of earth's nearest star. It's not the actual sound -- sound can't travel through the vacuum of space -- but a re-creation based on the waves recorded by the devices.

Each pitch corresponds with the movement and vibrations of various hot gases as they flow like rivers beneath the sun's surface, similar to how trade winds blow on Earth. Scientists translate the sounds they make into images. This allows a unique glimpse inside the sun's complex architecture to answer questions about its temperature, chemical makeup and how gases inside ebb and flow.

CRAIG DEFOREST, NASA SOLAR PHYSICIST: What we're finding is that there are very interesting structures inside. There is an equatorial belt of faster-moving material. And then farther up near the poles, we believe that there's a jet stream of material moving about 60 miles an hour up at a very north latitude.

KELLAN: The Michelson Doppler Imager aboard a sun-orbiting satellite captures movements on the surface, seen here. Each of these granules, by the way, is the size of Texas. To hear the sounds, scientists had to speed up the vibrations 42,000 times and compress 40 days of solar activity into just a few seconds.

As for what we can do with this information, NASA scientists hope that listening to the sun will give us earlier warnings of dangerous solar activity, the kind that can disrupt power lines, satellites and navigational systems here on Earth.

DEFOREST: Right, now we can image when an eruption happens on the surface of the sun and determine when the disturbance is propagating across the solar system. But by imaging the far side of the sun with sound waves, we can determine what's over the horizon.

KELLAN: Ann Kellan, CNN, Washington.


ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show, so you choose just the program segments that fit your lesson plan.

Plus, there are discussion questions and activities. And the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day, find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming "Desk" segments. It's all at this Web address, where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy. It's free. It's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops, and neither does learning.

WALCOTT: Come along to Asia and Europe in "Worldview." We'll travel to Germany to find out how technology is helping sick kids keep up with their classmates. And check out what's going on in China. Earlier in our show, you heard about the U.S.-China stand-off. Now we focus on a variety of topics, from a luxurious loo to a musical cultural exchange. You'll also meet an ornithologist. That's somebody who studies birds. But first, a look at China's national pride and its impact on international politics, an insight not to be overlooked.

Mike Chinoy has our report.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was October 1999, the 50th anniversary of China's communist revolution. President Jiang Zemin and other leaders presided over a lavish celebration. Its central theme: Chinese national pride.

Indeed, as China has faced the wrenching dislocations of its transition to a market-style economy, the government has consciously stoked nationalistic fervor to bolster its own authority as fewer and fewer Chinese believe in communism, and to deflect public opinion from problems like unemployment, corruption and the lack of political freedom.

Now, nationalistic sentiment appears to be the driving force behind Beijing's uncompromising stand on the spy plane standoff with the United States. For a government whose main claim to legitimacy is its patriotic credentials, showing weakness towards Washington is simply not an option.

JOSEPH CHENG, CITY UNIVERSITY, HONG KONG: The Chinese leaders must not be seen as kowtowing to the strongest power in the world, namely, the United States.

CHINOY: That's especially true in view of the Bush administration's moves to adopt a tougher posture towards China, and it's made even those leaders most associated with better Sino-American ties, President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, and Vice Premier Qian Qichen, vulnerable to pressure from hard-liners in the military and security apparatus suspicious of greater engagement with the U.S.

But all Chinese leaders recognize the dangers of appearing too soft. They remember history, how the May 4 movement in 1919, which helped lead to the creation of the Chinese Communist Party, was the result of public anger over government weakness towards other nations; how chairman Mao Tse-tung's 1949 revolution was as much the product of nationalistic sentiment as popular support for communism; and how humiliated and angry China felt after the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade two years ago.

(on camera): All of this helps to explain why China is acting so tough on the spy plane issue. What it doesn't do is provide any idea of how Washington and Beijing can resolve the standoff.

Mike Chinoy, CNN, Hong Kong.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: We head to Asia and to the world's most populous country, the People's Republic of China. China has one of the world's oldest civilizations, dating back 3,500 years. In spite of wars, natural disasters and turmoil, it has remained politically intact through the centuries, often enjoying levels of civilization unparalleled in the world.

China was ruled by one dynasty after another, starting with the Yin dynasty in 1500 B.C. until 1949 when it gained its independence.

China is also home to many different exotic birds and mammals. For years now, one Chinese ornithologist has single-handedly been trying to raise awareness and ignite the movement to protect rare birds. He has spent the last 15 years investigating and researching bird life off the coast of China. Here is more on his personal crusade.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yin Dun (ph), 65 this year, is a middle school biology teacher. His teaching career has always been accompanied by his devotion to the studies of avifauna. In 1984, he started to investigate the rare birds in Tianjin. Tianjin, the largest port city in North China, covers an area of 18,786 square kilometers.

In its northeast corner is the national everglade nature reservation zone and in its south there is a vast water area. The varied land forms provide an ideal home for many rare birds. During the past 15 years, Yin has accumulated many authentic records and photos providing firsthand valuable information for avifauna study.

According to the official record, before 1990, there were 240 kinds of birds in Tianjin. But Yin's investigation in the last 15 years shows there are as many as 420 kinds of birds in this seaside metropolis.

YIN DUN, TEACHER: I have been keen on investigating and observing birds since my childhood. In the 1960s, a movement was even launched across China to wipe out the sparrows. I say birds should be protected to keep the ecological balance. Otherwise there would be few birds as there are.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Reliable ornithological studies takes depends on long-term field observation. Those who work with their brains, in the traditional ideas of the Chinese, are superior to those who work with their muscles. That's why there has been a lack of professionals in China's environmental protection.

YIN DUN: Ornithologists are few in China because ornithology means tough work. The related governmental departments do not provide any funds for ornithological research. I've spent a lot of my money for my research, a personal hobby, simply. Studying from last year, the minister of forests and the minister of (unintelligible) began to provide me with some funding, a great encouragement to my research. I will write a better work in the future, I believe.


WALCOTT: China is home to over one billion people and is one of the few countries in the world that flourished economically and culturally in the earliest stages of world civilization. The Chinese people take pride in their history and culture. And one man is on a mission to teach the rest of the world about China's imperial culture.

Karuna Shinsho reports.


KARUNA SHINSHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifty-three- year-old Li Daixun is one of the few musicians in the world who can play the so-called imperial bells of China. Thousands of years ago, these kinds of bells were used at royal courts of Chinese emperors.

LI DAIXUN (through translator): These ancient bells were the most important instrument in the emperor's rituals. This instrument was only played by the best musicians in the land. It represented the power and authority of the emperor, the highest ruler in the country.

SHINSHO: The instrument is believed to have been used by various rulers to keep heaven and Earth in balance. It took Li six years to master the art of playing the bells, and now he's on a mission to teach people outside of China about the history and sounds of the imperial bells.

Li, who had never set foot outside of China, performed in Australia with students from the Chinese dancing school of Sydney. The bronze bells he uses are a replica of those uncovered in a royal tomb in China dating back some 2,400 years.

The bells have a five octave range and are played using wooden hammers and posts. Li hopes the younger generation will also learn to appreciate the sounds of an ancient art.

Karuna Shinsho, CNN.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: More from China as we take a peek at an unusual toilet. But before we do, did you know that China claims to have invented the water closet? It made the claim last fall following the discovery of a 2,000-year-old toilet complete with running water, a stone seat and even an arm rest.

But our story today focuses on a much more elegant version, as Jenny Harrison explains.


JENNY HARRISON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It gives a whole new meaning to the term "throne room." Visitors at a Hong Kong jeweler are getting a peak at a new attraction - a bathroom made up of 380 kilos of gold. No boring plastic or porcelain here, everything from wash basins and faucets to toilet brushes and toilet paper holders. Even the mirror frames are made of solid gold.

This luxurious loo is meant to be more than a tourist attraction, though. The jewelry store says it hopes to increase awareness about often-ignored rules of bathroom etiquette.

LAM SAI-WING, HANG FUNG GOLD TECHNOLOGY (through translator): The reason that we invested U.S. $4.8 million to build the golden jewelry environment-friendly washroom is to encourage people to pay more attention to the environment of the toilet. Toilets around the world are usually not so clean, especially those in Hong Kong.

We built this extra-clean toilet to make it a more comfortable and more luxurious palace. HARRISON: Even the floor of this outrageous opulent restroom is embedded with solid gold bars. But the bathroom's number-one attraction, of course, is its two 24-karat toilet bowls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have traveled to many countries and have seen many beautiful things. I saw a very nice toilet in Monaco, and I thought it was high class. But after seeing this toilet, I think this is more high class.

HARRISON: But all that glitters is not gold. The ceiling is awash in jewels, including rubies, sapphires and emeralds. It took 100 people to complete the year-long renovation of this treasure trove toilet, and so far, no one seems disappointed with results.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is really good. It is beyond my imagination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Seeing this myself has broadened my horizon.

HARRISON: But visitors take note, not just anyone can take a seat here. That privilege is reserved for those who spend at least U.S. $128 in the jewelry store.

Jenny Harrison, CNN.


HAYNES: We focus now on a communication transformation underway in Germany. You can locate Germany on the map in the western part of central Europe. The story today focuses on overcoming adversity through the use of technology. For one youngster wishing to attend school in Germany, it seems being hospitalized with leukemia isn't getting in the way. Leukemia is a very serious form of cancer that occurs in the blood. In many cases the disease, if caught in its early stages, can be treated and managed.

Allison Tom reports on a boy who's managing his bout with leukemia in a very techno savvy way.


ALLISON TOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twelve-year-old Florian is a leukemia patient at Bonn's University Hospital in Germany. He lives here while he receives chemotherapy. And since he can't physically attend school, school is being brought to him virtually, by way of a Web cam.

FLORIAN (through translator): It's good for children who can't attend school that often, because they are able to participate and see their classmates once in a while. It's great to watch your friends and to find out who the new clown of the class is, and whether the teacher has learned anything new. Yes, I actually like the idea.

TOM: Doctors at the hospital say participating in an academic setting and being among friends is essential for the children. Lessons are shown through a Web cam that's installed inside the classroom.

HELMUT RADLANSKI, TEACHER (through translator): At first, the pupils were a little excited because of this new situation, but after a short while they got used to it, and now they barely realize the camera is filming behind them.

TOM: Students are able to keep up with their math, reading and other subjects so they won't lag behind.

PROFESSOR UDO BODE, BONN UNIVERSITY: We want to cure not only the disease, but we want to have a healthy child after the treatment, hopefully cured, and therefore social integration during treatment will augment this integration afterwards and probably result in healthy children.

TOM: Students at the hospital use their laptop computers to interact and answer questions raised in class. And whether they're right or wrong, teachers will respond back via the Web cam.

Allison Tom, CNN.



LAWRENCE BUELL, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: My name is Lawrence Buell, from Las Vegas, Nevada, and I want to ask CNN "What is mad cow disease, and what is its effects on humans?"

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mad cow disease is properly known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy and it was first identified in Great Britain in the 1990s. There's also a human form of mad cow disease, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Now the disease manifests itself very similarly in both cows and humans. It's called a brain-wasting disease. It is gruesome. People lose control of their actions, they lose control of their ability to speak, and mad cow disease always ends in death.

There are several things that make mad cow disease particularly difficult. One of them is that, in humans, there's a five to 20-year incubation period, so that means that, once you're infected, you won't feel symptoms probably for the next five to 20 years, and so that makes it very difficult to fight. What if that infected person then gives blood, what if that infected person dies and donates tissue? Those are all very big unknowns as to whether or not that would transmit the disease, and that's currently what federal health authorities are studying.


WALCOTT: Now to a subject that's topped our news for some time, mad cow disease. There's never been a case of mad cow disease reported in the United States, but that isn't stopping people in the U.S. from getting a little nervous when it comes to their beef. Wednesday, a Congressional hearing was held in Washington to discuss the disease.

Alexa Lee has the story.


ALEXA LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans wondering if the beef they eat is safe are hearing several reassurances.

SEN. PETER FITZGERALD (R), ILLINOIS: Not a single mad cow has been reported in this country.

DR. DAVID JOHNSON, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: The danger of leafy green vegetables is greater. I mean you can name a whole list of other foods, even potato salad, in which you might be more concerned than you would be about eating beef at this time.

LEE: For those traveling abroad, more positive news also. Researchers say mad cow disease in Britain has gone down dramatically due to the killing of herds.

JOHNSON: The danger of driving to the airport is probably greater than the danger of eating meat in Europe.

LEE: The comments, delivered at a hearing in Washington, were well received, but taken only as a progress report. Experts say the risk for mad cow disease or BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is still a concern and this is no time for complacency.

WILL HUESTON, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: The likelihood of BSE in the United States is very low. It is not zero.

LEE: And because of that, proposals to step up prevention efforts are intensifying. They include improved coordination with the 12 federal agencies all working to prevent the disease, a national task force, intensified inspections and changes to meat processing methods. Restrictions on livestock and meat imports, some in [place for more than a decade, are credited for protecting the U.S. meat supply.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: We take the right steps, aggressive steps. It's not going to come to America. We're going to keep it out of this country.

LEE: Alexa Lee, CNN.


WALCOTT: So, is the United States government doing enough to make sure mad cow disease stays out of the country? Well, several experts say the risk of mad cow disease spreading to the U.S. is small. But, they say, Congress still needs to increase spending on research to protect Americans.

Elizabeth Cohen has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COHEN (voice-over): There's never been a case of mad cow disease reported in the United States, but if and when there is, this is how it could happen. A healthy cow eats feed containing parts from dead animals that had mad cow disease. Then the healthy cow becomes infected, is slaughtered and the meat sold in stores. This scenario is unlikely, food safety experts say, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned giving cows feed containing body parts from cows, sheep or any animal that carries any form of mad cow disease.

DR. LINDA DETWILER, U.S. AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT: It would be highly unlikely for BSE or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, i.e. mad cow, to occur in the United States.

COHEN: But some say you can't rule out a mad cow scenario in the United States because the ban hasn't been fully enforced.

CAROLINE SMITH DEWAAL, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: We think it's time now for the U.S. government to put serious firewalls in place to make sure that mad cow disease can't get into the human food supply.

COHEN: Caroline Smith DeWaal cites a government study done late last year that found that 20 percent of feed processing plants weren't even aware of the FDA regulation. Then in January, some 1,200 cows in Texas ate feed containing animal parts. Their meat was not allowed on the market.

SMITH DEWAAL: FDA has some strong rules in place banning certain material from going into cattle food, but they don't have the inspectors to actually enforce it.

COHEN: Another worry has to do with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects the processing plants. Some food safety experts say manufacturing plants, in an effort to get every last bit of beef off the bones, puts the spinal cord into a machine that scrapes away at it.

The infectious agent that causes mad cow disease, called prions, is found in the central nervous system. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has told processors not to scrape the spinal cord because it could spread infection. But again, some fear rules aren't enough without serious enforcement behind them.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.


WALCOTT: That's all from here for today. We'll see you 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



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top