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NEWSROOM for April 9, 2001

Aired April 9, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. Let's take a look at today's rundown.

BAKHTIAR: Continued tensions between the U.S. and China top today's show.

WALCOTT: Moving on to our "Environment Desk," we investigate Florida's turtle troubles.

BAKHTIAR: There's more environmental news in "Worldview" as we take a trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

WALCOTT: And finally, Ann Kellan comes aboard to take us behind the scenes at the FIRST robotic competition.

BAKHTIAR: As the standoff between the United States and China enters its second week, a U.S. Navy spy plane and its 24 member crew remain grounded on China's Hainan Island. China says it's holding the crew members while it investigates last week's collision between the Navy plane a Chinese fighter jet.

And as Major Garrett reports, they're demanding an apology that the U.S. refuses to give.


MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the president, personal condolences; from his national security team, signs of impatience. First, the president wrote a letter to the wife of the Chinese fighter pilot, who recently called the president's conduct in the spy plane conduct in the spy plane stand off cowardly.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: She had some tougher things to say in the earlier part of the letter, but I think in a very humanitarian way in recognizing that she has lost her husband and her son, a father, that it was appropriate for him in the traditional American spirit to respond to that with an expression of compassion for her loss. GARRETT: But this gesture could not hide increasing U.S. frustration that 24 Americans are entering their second week in Chinese custody.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The longer that this goes on however, the more damage that will be done to the U.S.- China relationship, whether we want it to or not.

GARRETT: Senior administration officials made it clear the U.S. will not apologize, leaving a path to a breakthrough unclear.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The notion that we would apologize for being in international airspace, for example, isn't something that we can accept.

GARRETT: Small scale protests outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington suggested public patience may also be wearing thin. The White House still refuses to describe the crew as hostages. But officials were irked the Chinese limited access to eight of the 24 crew members in the recent visit.

A leading Senate Democrat described the crew as pawns.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CMTE: I must tell you, the determination here of the Chinese to try to extract an admission of responsibility in the form of an apology just reinforces their human rights reputation as people who are willing to extract confessions, who detain people improperly.

GARRETT (on camera): The White House says the president's letter is unrelated to the ongoing negotiations to win the release of the U.S. crew, but the gesture could carry great weight in China. Administration officials certainly hope that it will, because it now appears to be as close as the Chinese will ever get to an official U.S. apology.

Major Garrett, CNN, the White House.


WALCOTT: Hundreds of experts, policy-makers and government officials from around the Middle East are focusing their attention this week on a practice many people would find shocking. It's turning children into soldiers. A three day conference started Sunday in the Jordanian capital of Amman in an effort to protect children who are forced to fight on the front lines.

Elena Kosintino (ph) has more on this controversial issue.


ELENA KOSINTINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over 300,000 children, some as young as 10, are said to be fighting in armed conflicts around the world. That is according to a report presented in Amman by a coalition of human rights organizations. Many of those child soldiers are serving in conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and in some cases governments are said to be directly involved in their recruitment.

RORY MUNGOVEN, COALITION COORDINATOR: Children are actively fighting in several countries, in alga, in Egypt, in Sudan, in Yemen, in the Kurdish areas of Iran and Iraq, often with armed groups, but sometimes with government aligned paramilitaries and militias. There is now growing international consensus that this is wrong, that the use of children as weapons of war is unacceptable in any circumstances.

KOSINTINO: The ongoing conflict across the Jordan River was also on the conference agenda. Many young people have been caught in the crossfire of months of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. The high number of Palestinian teens and children among the casualties has led some Israelis to accuse Palestinian officials of deliberately putting children in harm's way.

But organizers say no such evidence could be found.

IBRAHIM AL-MARASHI, COALITION TO STOP THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS: We haven't discovered any direct evidence that the Palestinian Authority has been using children in a systematic way to fight in the recent conflict. In fact, what we discovered through the report was that maybe one percent of the Palestinian adolescent population has taken part in the recent conflict and that the majority of kids that were actually killed in the conflict were bystanders. They were either killed in their homes or walking on their way from school.

KOSINTINO: Experts say Sudan has one of the worst child soldier problems in the world. Thousands of children have been forcibly recruited into the armed forces or in the rebel groups. In the largest operation of its kind just over a month ago, UNICEF managed to obtain the release of nearly 3,000 child soldiers in Sudan. They had been serving for years with the rebels of the Sudan's People Liberation Army. UNICEF reports indicate that it's in areas of protracted conflict, like Sierra Leone, Colombia, Angola or Afghanistan, where recruitment of adults becomes difficult that children are more likely to be drafted into combat.

Elena Kosintino, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: Time now for "Environment Desk." It's been a pretty cold winter here in the U.S. In fact, spring is officially here and I'm still keeping a sweater close by. It's also been a rough winter for the south and Florida, especially for some sea creatures. Record cold temps have meant no less than death for manatees and sea turtles. And now a mysterious illness is attacking Florida's loggerheads and has researchers baffled.

CNN environment correspondent Natalie Pawelski reports.


NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A healthy sea turtle looks like this. But in Florida over the past few months, hundreds of loggerhead turtles are turning up like this: severely ill, too weak to move or even blink.

DR. DOUGLAS MADER, SEA TURTLE HOSPITAL: The disease is actually paralyzing the animals. And what we are trying to find out right is now what's causing the paralysis.

PAWELSKI: At Hidden Harbor Turtle Hospital, loggerheads are kept in dry tanks instead of water-filled ones, because they can't lift their heads to breathe. They can't eat, so they're force-fed Gatorade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get some movement.

PAWELSKI: They get physical therapy and medicine. But so far, nothing's working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got one turtle that we've been working with now for four weeks. And this one's actually shown some improvement. But this is one turtle that's out of about 35.

PAWELSKI (on camera): Scientists are trying to figure out why loggerheads are dying when other species of sea turtle in these waters don't seem to be affected. They think it might be a bacteria, a virus, or toxic algae.

(voice-over): The loggerheads' food supply may play a part since they have a different diet from other sea turtles.

ELLIOTT JACOBSON, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: For instance, the green turtle, which is found in the same waters, is a herbivore. It eats plants. And the loggerhead is a carnivore. And it eats primarily shellfish and snails and crabs.

PAWELSKI: Loggerheads are a threatened species. And it's unclear how many the unknown illness is killing.

JACOBSON: We're probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Many more, for every one coming into captivity, there are dozens that are probably dead in the water.

PAWELSKI: On this day, turtle hospital volunteers release animals that have recovered from injuries, or exposure in time for nesting season. But so far, not one loggerhead suffering from the mysterious illness has recovered enough to return to the wild.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN.


WALCOTT: More on the environment as we head into "Worldview." Our focus today, a wilderness that's home to an amazing array of animals. We'll take you now to the largest of all the U.S. states. But even though it's big, it doesn't have many people. In fact, only Wyoming has fewer. Can you guess which state we're talking about? Here's a hint. Our destination is represented by the 49th star on the U.S. flag. That state is Alaska. TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: A battle is brewing in Alaska over a pristine wilderness that some have called a national treasure. It's the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a remote area in northeast Alaska. The Refuge is among the most complete and undisturbed ecosystems on earth and has a wide variety of Arctic wildlife, wandering porcupine, caribou and wolves live there. Oil companies have long wanted to drill in the Arctic Refuge. Conservationists are determined to keep them out.

Mark Potter visited the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and filed this report.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fenton Rexford and an Inupiat Eskimo prepares for the autumn whale hunt in the Arctic Ocean. Like many villagers in Kaktovik, Alaska, he still clings to the age-old tradition of hunting for food. But in other ways, Kaktovik is very different now than it was a few decades ago when it was a collection of unheated shacks with no electricity or running water.

There are new homes, a police department, a modern school, health care and other services. The reason: oil.

QUESTION: So how do you look at oil?

FENTON REXFORD, CHAIRMAN, KAKTOVIK INUPIAT CORPORATION: Keeps me running. Keeping my warm and keeps my outboard motor running to go after food from the sea, from the ocean.

POTTER: In fact, Fenton Rexford is not only a whale hunter, he's chairman of Kaktovik's Village Corporation, an Eskimo company that owns 92,000 acres of coastal tundra, which Rexford wants to develop.

REXFORD: I want the oil; I want the gas, the natural gas, if I had to borrow to do that, go out and drill right now.

POTTER: And that has but he and his fellow Eskimos at odds with another native Alaskan culture. The Gwich'in Indians, who live 100 miles away on the south edge of the refuge. They, too, are hunters and fear oil development will threaten their way of life. And ruin the land they hold say sacred.

FAITH GIMMELL: In our language we call it (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) That translates to the sacred place where life begins.

POTTER: The Inupiat Eskimos and Gwich'in Indians find themselves in the heart of the country's biggest land battle over pristine wilderness environmentalists call America's Serengetti.

With braided rivers, rugged mountains, and coastal plain, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as ANWR is one of America's most spectacular places still barely touched by man.

It is the size of South Carolina: 19 million acres in the remote northeast corner of Alaska. ANWR is home to polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and flocks of migratory birds. Its neuro-coastal plain is also the calving ground for 130,000 strong migratory caribou heard.

JAMIE CLARK, FMR. DIR., U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is just an incredible jewel. It is the wildest place left in America. It is an incredible natural area.

POTTER: The battlelines are clearly drawn.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes strongly that we need to develop our own national energy resources. He will push ahead to develop 8 percent of the national wildlife refuge in Alaska.

RODGER SCHLICKEISEN, PRESIDENT, DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE: We will be out there massively responding to this, and defenders of wildlife, among others, will be announcing a campaign for the arctic refuge -- to save the arctic refuge very shortly.

KEN BOYD, DIRECTOR, ALASKA OIL AND GAS DIVISION: It's the last great place to look in North America, and I think the country needs the oil.

FAITH GIMMELL: There is no compromise for our people. We don't want to lose anything.

POTTER: Congress created the refuge 20 years ago. At the time, it set aside one and a half million acres of coastal plain within ANWR to study its oil and gas potential. Seismic tests suggest ANWR's coastal plain may hold billions of barrels of oil. Estimates range between a 6 and 30-month supply for the country, but nobody really knows for sure, and only Congress can approve further testing and development in the refuge.

Republican Senator Frank Murkowski of Alaska says, it's time to find out how much oil actually exists there, as domestic supplies decline and imports rise.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I think the American people have to know and be prepared for the train wreck that's coming, because the American people are going to get that gas bill, they are going to get that electric bill, and they are going to blame government.

We have always been concerned about increasing dependence of oil.

POTTER: Murkowski chairs the Senate Energy Committee. He's leading the drive on Capitol Hill to open the coastal plain.

MURKOWSKI: We do it domestically, or overseas? Or are we better off to come to my state, to open up our coastal plain to oil and gas exploration, where we have already got an 800-mile pipeline that is only operating at half capacity. Keep the jobs, keep the dollars at home.

POTTER: For the past two decades, nearly a quarter of America's oil production comes from Alaska's north slope, most of it from Prudhoe Bay, 60 miles from the refuge.

Industry supporters say it would be easy to revive production by pumping oil from the wildlife refuge. That outrages environmentalists and government officials like Jamie Clark, the former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

CLARK: It's a place where wildlife comes first.

POTTER (on camera): So when you hear someone say first, let's go in there and drill for oil, what's your gut reaction?

CLARK: It would be irreparable damage for little to no gain.

MURKOWSKI: They don't accept the responsibility of where our oil is going to come from. Well, is it going to come from Colombia, or is it going to come from Saddam Hussein? That's not in their ballpark. It happens to be in mine.

POTTER (voice-over): Polls show most Alaskans favor drilling in the refuge.

BOYD: Oil remains the most important thing for us, our natural resource.

POTTER: Ken Boyd is the director of the state's oil and gas division. He says oil drives Alaska's economy.

BOYD: Oil has been the lifeblood of Alaska, if you like. It's, you know -- 70 percent to 80 percent of our income comes from royalties in taxes and rents and bonuses and what have you.

POTTER: The Alaskan oil industry has generated $45 billion for the state since 1978. Each year, every Alaskan gets an oil dividend check from the state.

OLIVER LEAVITT, CHMN., ARCTIC SLOPE REGIONAL CORP.: Before the oil, the north slope was like a big ghetto. It was worse than third- world countries.

POTTER: Oliver Leavitt is chairman of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, a company owned by all 7,000 Eskimos on Alaska's north slope. The company provides support services to the Alaskan oil industry. It reported revenues of nearly $900 million in 1998 alone. LEAVITT: Our big fear is that one day the oil runs out and we don't have another industry. There's nothing to maintain our schools, our hospitals, our fire protection, our police protection. There will be no more jobs.

POTTER: The Eskimos stand to reap a potential windfall if drilling is allowed to proceed within ANWR, but as it stands now, their land in the refuge can't be developed.

REXFORD: We're locked out of our own resources. We're refugees. We're refugees of our own resources. We can't -- we can't even touch our own land.

POTTER: But ANWR is federal land, not state land.

CLARK: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of America's finest national wildlife refuges. It doesn't belong to Alaska alone. It belongs to all of us.

POTTER: Including the Gwich'in Indians, who have joined environmentalists to oppose drilling in ANWR. The word Gwich'in means "people of the caribou." They are subsistence hunters who rely on caribou meat to survive the harsh winter.

The Gwich'in fear oil development in the refuge will shrink the herd and cause it to shift its migration routes away from native settlements.

The caribou play a central role in the Gwich'in's spiritual beliefs. Faith Gimmell says without caribou, the Gwich'in culture would wither away.

GIMMELL: It's the same as with the Plains Indian tribes. When they lost the buffalo, they lost many aspects of their culture that were vital to their survival as a people. That's what we feel will happen to our people. Our social problems would rise and we would be a broken people.

POTTER: Supporters of oil drilling say environmental concerns are overstated. They say the animals have learned to adapt to oil development.

BOYD: I don't buy the caribou argument, because I've been up here when there's just caribou running all through Deadhorse and through the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

POTTER: The oil industry says exploration would be done in winter, when few animals are around.

MURKOWSKI: We know an awful lot about the Arctic, and we know how to drill and build ice roads that we didn't know 30 years ago. And we can take the necessary precautions. We have enough science and technology to know in advance that we can manage this resource.

BOYD: Over 20 years, development on the slope, I think the companies have learned to do things right. They've shrunk the footprint of development.

POTTER: But critics believe that so-called footprint will inevitably lead to industrial sprawl, spoiling the land forever.

CLARK: Developing the coastal plain drives a stake right to the heart of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

POTTER: The argument boils down to values: the value of wilderness, the value of oil. In a refuge where geologists aren't even sure how much may lies beneath the coastal plain.

BOYD: Everybody knows the arguments. It's now, "I don't like it and I'm never going to like it" vs. "I think we need to develop it." Mark Potter, CNN, Kaktovik, Alaska.


HAYNES: On April 23rd, the debate over whether to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge continues as NEWSROOM presents a special report, Powering the Planet. You'll hear two very different opinions on whether or not we should explore the frozen tundra plus an in depth look at global warming and the impact use of fossil fuels like oil has on the environmental phenomenon. We'll also talk to some teenagers who say they want a cleaner environment, but would they consider driving one of these things? Finally, California and the ongoing power struggle over power. We'll find out how many Californians are beating the system.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Ann Kellan at Epcot Center at a national robotics competition. It's called FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

You guys built a robot.


KELLAN: Let's see that bot.


KELLAN: Look at that bot. And that's going to compete against, what, 300 or 400 other robots here?


KELLAN: Now, you have to know a little bit about math and science, don't you?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Yeah, a lot of physics and electronics.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: And some modified engineering and calculus and algebra. And it's been a tremendous amount of fun.

KELLAN: It's fun and you're learning all this stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Oh, yeah. I've been taking calculus and physics and all that through all my high school years and yet it's fun and interesting to learn that stuff, but when you come to, when you apply it you learn more and you also want to learn more.

KELLAN: OK. So we watched two teams build their robots. Let's take a look at that report.


KELLAN (voice-over): These robots were built in six weeks, in part by high school students. Kids building bots from scratch? MICHAEL DEJESUS, 10TH GRADER: And you get to know a little bit of everything. You get a little, you learn a little about computers, building, how to put mortars in mortar reel slots and electricity and stuff like that.

KELLAN: Vocational students at Alfred E. Smith High School in the Bronx are one of 500 teams across the U.S. building robots. It's part of a program called FIRST to get kids psyched about math and science.

NICOLE BLAKE, 12TH GRADER: And I get to try out new things, to work with the machinery and stuff.

DEJESUS: Well, it was about two weeks ago, we just, we were stressed out, pieces missing, we didn't know what to do, we didn't have no time, we didn't have no options. Then we just got together and made it possible.

UNIDENTIFIED INSTRUCTOR: Get the hacksaw, hold it with two hands. You go it?

KELLAN: The kids are supposed to have engineers as mentors.

PAUL WITTMER, FIRST INSTRUCTOR: And the fact is is that we're in a neighborhood where our so-called engineering volunteers don't like to come, so we haven't had an engineer show up yet.

KELLAN: So teachers do the mentoring here.

WITTMER: It's been a very, very good growing process for almost all of the students, working with tools, working with each other, problem solving, dealing with people on an interpersonal basis.

KELLAN: Smith High School knows the drill. They competed last year. But 900 miles away in Georgia, it's a rookie team, same parts, different robot.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: More, come on. You can do it. You can do it.

KELLAN: Students at Carver High, a vocational school, get lots of help from engineering majors at nearby Georgia Tech.

UNIDENTIFIED MENTOR: The important thing really is to twist that picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MENTOR: Stop and then don't touch anything until you see it stop spinning, all right?

KELLAN: Mentors passing the baton, since many of them competed in FIRST bot competitions when they were in high school.

OTTO CHIANG, FIRST MENTOR: The real great thing about the program is if you have good mentorship, then you go in really knowing nothing, like I did, and then you just kind of, you know, sit and watch and you pick up on things. RICKEY TAYLOR, 9TH GRADER: A great, the best (unintelligible) in the world. So this is probably going to help me get that, get an exposure to robotics and competition. You never know what's going to happen.


KELLAN: And now it's shipping day. Game rules say bots have to be boxed in just a few hours. Will it be ready?


UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: We're driving the arm. Yes.



KELLAN: Carver's prowling Panthers are taking their bot to Florida for FIRST's national competition. Stay tuned.

KELLAN (on camera): If you know nothing about math and science and you want to build a robot like this and you're watching this and you're in school right now, what advice would you give to the kids about getting to the point where they can build this kind of robot?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Do it anyway because you...


KELLAN: Wait, wait. What are you saying here? What?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: You should do it anyway because you learn more stuff doing this than I think I would in the classroom, because it's more hands on.

KELLAN: So hands on helps? You learn...


KELLAN: But how did you learn?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Well, you really should...

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: ... you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions.


UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: The engineers teach us a lot.

KELLAN: Say that again.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: The engineers teach us a lot. Like if you want to start a team at the school, go to your teachers. They'll be more than willing to help you. KELLAN: We're going to come back tomorrow and we're going to see how this team does and other teams at this FIRST robotic competition, so we'll see you then.


WALCOTT: Well, last Friday, we told you about Paul Huettson (ph), who's among the 600 men and women running across the Sahara Desert. Well, we're happy to tell you that Paul achieved his goal of being in the top 50. In fact, he finished 46th in the race. The money he raised will go towards an AIDS hospice in Puerto Rico.

BAKHTIAR: Well, speaking of competitions, we'd like to doff our hats to Tiger Woods, who over the weekend accomplished something that no one has ever done in the history of golf. He won his fourth professional major in a row, what has come to be known as the Tiger slam, his place in history now cemented forever. Congratulations, Tiger.

WALCOTT: Congratulations to Tiger. And this show is now history. We'll see you tomorrow.


WALCOTT: Bye-bye.

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