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NEWSROOM for April 10, 2001

Aired April 10, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to NEWSROOM. Thanks for joining us. I'm Shelley Walcott.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: And I'm Rudi Bakhtiar. There's a lot on the agenda today. Let's get started with a preview.

WALCOTT: Our top story today, Peru's presidential election comes up empty-handed. So what now? We'll tell you where Peru goes from here.

BAKHTIAR: Next in "Health Desk," New York restaurants could soon be slamming their doors on diners who smoke.

WALCOTT: Then we're in South Africa for "Worldview" for the African rendition of "Carmen."

BAKHTIAR: And finally in "Chronicle," we head to the finals of the National Robotics Competition.

WALCOTT: Voters in Peru head to the polls to choose their next president. Sunday's election presented them with eight candidates and preliminary results show Alejandro Toledo won but fell short of a majority. Toledo will likely face former President Alan Garcia in a runoff next month.

Peru is the third largest nation in South America after Brazil and Argentina. It lies along the Pacific Ocean with the Andes Mountains running north and south through the entire length of the country. Peru has 25 electoral districts and voting is mandatory. This year's presidential election gave voters a range of candidates to choose from. Among them, a woman, a former president and a native Andean Indian.

That Indian, former economist Alejandro Toledo, will now face his second runoff. Last year, he finished second to then President Alberto Fujimori. However, in protests of election irregularities, he boycotted that runoff. Fujimori won that election but later resigned and went into exile in November amid mounting corruption scandals.

BAKHTIAR: The winner of the Peruvian election will take office July 28th. The presidency likely rests either in the hands of Alejandro Toledo or Alan Garcia.

Lucia Newman has more on these two men and their very different backgrounds.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They call him Pachacutec, the 15th century emperor who brought glory to the Inca empire -- a nickname presidential front-runner Alejandro Toledo relishes as he vows to do the same for modern-day Peru.

Despite recent allegations of cocaine use and fathering a child out of wedlock, the once-poor shoeshine boy-turned-economist, educated at Harvard and Stanford, is sure victory is only a run-off election away.

"Nothing in my life has been easy," says Toledo. "We have come a long way. We have been at this for two years, and now there is only a short way to go, which will be decided in 40 days."

The populist who hopes to become the first Peruvian of Indian descent to govern a country traditionally ruled by a white European minority has the support of many of Peru's disenfranchised. "He is the best," says this man, "a Peruvian of our race who will give us jobs."

But it is far from a won race. Against all predictions, former disgraced president Alan Garcia has risen from the ashes like the Phoenix, making an astonishing political comeback after returning to Peru from self-imposed exile two months ago.

Supporters discount allegations of corruption and forgive his handling of the economy, which suffered 7,500 percent inflation under his populist rule.

"Everybody has the right to make mistakes," says this supporter. "I think Alan Garcia has learned from his in his long years of exile, and he is back to give us hope."

Critics have another explanation.

GUSTAVO GORRITI, POLITICAL ANALYST: I always thought that political memories in Latin America and in my country were short. I could then think that we are beginning to suffer from political Alzheimer's.

NEWMAN: Garcia is trying hard to show he has changed.


BAKHTIAR: Although Garcia says he's made mistakes that will not be repeated, many Peruvians worry his candidacy could scare off investors and plunge the nation more deeply into recession.

WALCOTT: U.S. diplomats met for a fourth time Monday with all 24 crew members from the Navy surveillance plane grounded in China. There's still no word on when they'll be allowed to the return to the United States.

As John King reports, the Bush administration is under increasing pressure to take a tougher stance against China once the crew returns.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "What next?" is a question already being debated at the White House, and there are few easy choices as the president assesses the future of U.S.-China relations.

The standoff invigorated China's critics in the Congress, and in the upper ranks of the administration. There will be quick pressure for the president to turn tough once the 24 U.S. crew members are free.

LEE HAMILTON, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: It will ratchet up the tensions between the two countries. It will make progress on a lot of other issues much more difficult. So this is really a defining incident for the Bush administration.

KING: The conservative "Weekly Standard" called it "A National Humiliation," and articulated a sentiment heard more and more as the standoff dragged on. Quote -- "It is essential that the Chinese be made to pay a price for their actions." The editorial goes on to say, "Angry words and Congressional resolutions of disapproval are now worse than useless. Unless backed by deeds, they will only confirm Beijing's perception of American weakness."

Mr. Bush, later this month, must decide what new weapons to sell Taiwan, and even before the standoff, several top aides were advocating the sale of destroyers with the state-of-the-art Aegis radar system. Beijing opposes such a sale, but some analysts say the Chinese government would have only itself to blame.

JAMES STEINBERG, FMR. DEP. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Over the past several years, China hasn't engaged in a buildup of its military forces, and particularly in a buildup of its short and medium-range missile forces that could threaten or intimidate Taiwan.

KING: Other potential sanctions include: revoking China's favorable trade status with the United States; canceling a planned Bush visit to Beijing in the fall; and opposing China's bid to host the 2008 Olympics. Any sanctions likely would cause a backlash in Beijing.

BATES GILL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: The situation now, the Chinese view of the United States, is quite suspicious. They are not certain of what our strategic intention towards them might be. And any act that appears to be bullying -- in their terms, hegemonic, unilateralist -- is bound to stir up passions on their nationalist part of the public.

KING: So even after the standoff, Mr. Bush will be walking a fine line. Aides say he firmly believes isolating China would do more harm than good in the long run. (on camera): But top advisers say the president has made clear in recent days that Beijing must pay a price for its actions, and that he has also acknowledged that no matter what he thinks, there will be considerable domestic political pressure to get tough.

John King, CNN, the White House.


BAKHTIAR: In this era of clean air initiatives, New York City is considering a new step -- banning smoking in all restaurants. Proponents of the plan cite health risks as the reason behind the legislation. Their fear? Non-smokers exposed to the smoke will suffer consequences. Second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing 53,000 non-smokers each year.

Studies show second-hand smoke is linked to lung and nasal sinus cancer, heart disease and sudden infant death syndrome. In children it can cause asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia, among other conditions.

Opponents of the legislation say despite health risks, smokers' right to choose should prevail. In a recent New York City Council hearing, both sides vented their opinions. Brian Palmer listened in.


BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Voices are often raised in the chambers of the New York City Council, but not usually in song. Opera singer Susan Groeschel chose to testify in this way in support of proposed legislation that would ban smoking in all New York City restaurants, but still allow it in bars. City Council speaker, and mayoral hopeful Peter Vallone, backs the legislation.

PETER VALLONE, SPEAKER, N.Y. CITY COUNCIL: Smoking kills. That is a very simple and true statement. Not only the smoker but those who are forced to breathe the smoke.

PALMER: The proposal defines a restaurant as an establishment that earns more than 40 percent of its revenue from selling food and a bar as a place that earns less than that amount from meal service. Four states: Vermont, Utah, California and Maine, and hundreds of cities, prohibit smoking in restaurants. Activists against smoking support the New York City bill.

JOSEPH CHERNER, SMOKE FREE ED. SERVICES: If we listened to tobacco interests, we would never have progress because they always say the same thing: the current law is working, we don't need to change it.

PALMER: Opponents say they don't support smoking, just diners' right to chose.

E. CHARLES HUNT, N.Y. STATE RESTAURANT ASSN.: I am very opposed to this bill and feel it should be left to the discretion to the owner of a business. If customers do not want to go to a restaurant where smoking is allowed, they can chose not to.

PALMER: Nikki Perry owns two restaurants separated by a store. One allows smoking, the other doesn't.

NICOLA PERRY, OWNER, TEA & SYMPATHY: It should be about freedom of choice, just the same as the abortion issue and many other civil rights issues.

PALMER: A national non smoking group opposes the bill because of a provision in the legislation that would set up a task force to study ventilation systems to filter out smoke.

TIM FILLER, ANTI-SMOKING ADVOCATE: Ventilation cannot address or alleviate health risks due to secondhand smoke, so the science is in and the facts are back, and there's no reason for a ventilation task force to be created.

PALMER: Tobacco giant Philip Morris is lobbying for the ventilation technology, but the company declined to be interviewed, directing CNN to its Web site. The proposed law won't be voted on until later this year, but the fighting, and singing, have already begun.

Brian Palmer, CNN, New York.


WALCOTT: In "Worldview" today, we're all about Africa. We'll travel to Senegal to study a long-term plan to help transform the African continent and build natural trade routes. And the curtain goes up on culture in South Africa. We'll get a behind-the-scenes look at a young opera singer who accepted a formidable challenge.

On the southern tip of the African continent lies the Republic of South Africa. Bordered by five countries and two oceans, it also entirely surrounds the independent state of Lesotho. South Africa's history has been marked by power struggles and political unrest. British colonization in 1902 led to gradual domination by the white population over the mostly black country.

The apartheid system of enforced segregation was dismantled during the 1990s and the country's first black president, Nelson Mandela, took office. This history is manifest in the country's diverse cultural life. South Africans speak numerous languages. They also mix European customs with African music, dance and visual arts. National literature embodies many backgrounds, as well, comprised of English, Afrikaans and many other African languages.

The diversity remains in the spotlight with a new version of the Spanish opera "Carmen." Written by Georges Bizet in the late 19th century, "Carmen" is a tragic opera in four acts that's one of the world's best known operas and tells the story of a beautiful Spanish gypsy. Now gracing the stages of South Africa, "Carmen" is covering new ground.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault takes us behind-the-scenes. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the beginning, there was no doubt that this new production of Bizet's opera "Carmen" would be different.

There was the lusty mixed race cast and Italian, English, Zulu language transformed.


HUNTER-GAULT: And then there was Carmen.


HUNTER-GAULT: Three weeks before her debut here at the South African Airways Summer Festival theater in the Cape wine land, Carmen, a.k.a. Pauline Malefane, was just another voice in the chorus, chosen from more than 1,000 auditions held all over the country. But when music director Charles Hazelwood rejected the imported Swedish mezzo- soprano's voice, as too refined and light for the lusty South African voices already selected, they then had what they described as a brain wave, one that sent them to 24-year old Malefane.

CHARLES HAZELWOOD, MUSIC DIRECTOR: She is the most extraordinary talent, something which you're born with, you can't learn. So suddenly, we felt, my God we've got our to do it. So we hauled her in and we said, "Pauline, why don't you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

PAULINE MALEFANE, "CARMEN": And I just laughed. I smiled. I just smiled. I felt nervousness. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to think. I didn't know what to say.

HUNTER-GAULT: Especially since she would have only three weeks to learn the entire opera.

MALEFANE:: It was so far impossible. But the strangest thing was I said yes.

HUNTER-GAULT: For a young girl who grew up in this all black township of Kialeecha (ph), it was strange indeed. Not that she had never sung before. She remembers singing in high school, but her ambitions were dictated by her parents and the limited roles apartheid imposed on blacks, like teaching or social work.

But something -- she can't say what -- propelled her to audition for opera school. She knew nothing about opera.

MALEFANE: To my surprise I was just looking at those people on stage talking to each other by singing, howling and making a lot of noise and it was just so fascinating.

HUNTER-GAULT: After that she met a teacher who made it more fascinating and also changed her life.

VIRGINIA DAVIDS, OPERA SINGER/TEACHER: It was slow to develop because she was a very shy person and coming from where she comes from and into this world, was a little bit strange.

MALEFANE: I lacked confidence in myself. So she used to sort of boost me all the time. And she used to tell me that "You should be -- you should be proud, even if you don't know what you're proud of."

HUNTER-GAULT: Now Malefane has found her voice and her pride and is helping others to appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like that voice. Maybe I next time I hear it and I like opera.

HUNER-GAULT: And he and a busload of others from nearby townships have been able to see the performance thanks to a project of the Spier Festival sponsors called Pay What You Can. Organizers hope it will encourage new patrons along with the traditional ones, as it develops new talent along with the traditional ones.

It's called transformation.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, near Stellenbosch, South Africa.


BAKHTIAR: Now we head to the sandy beaches and rolling hills of Senegal, a small country on the northwest coast of Africa. About 95 percent of Senegal's people are black Africans which belong to many different ethnic groups, the largest one being Wolof. And even though the official language of Senegal is French, Wolof is the most widely spoken language in the country. Children are required by law to attend six years of schooling. In spite of that, most of Senegal's adult population cannot read or write because the law is not enforced.

Senegal, which was ruled by France from the late 1800s, gained its independence in 1960. Though economic conditions have improved since its independence, Senegal is still a developing nation and poverty is widespread. Now, a new program by the name of the Omega Plan aims to work toward changing that.

Jim Clancy reports.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While voices are being raised to transform Africa through a style of Marshall Plan put in operation in Europe after World War II, Senegal's president is not in that court. He sees a fundamental difference.

Post-war Europe was devastated but it had a core infrastructure of roads, railways, ports and communications. That core infrastructure, he says, is what Africa needs.

ABDOULWAYE WADE, PRESIDENT OF SENEGAL: I call for finances to build the infrastructure of Africa. I mean roads, I mean highways. I mean toll-ways. I mean ports, airports, with long resources over 50 years. CLANCY: In the past, President Wade says Africa has always been viewed as a continent divided by borders and states. Wipe that away he urges, and you can begin to solve the problems that are not national, but regional and continental. What the Omega Plan really aims to do is create natural trade routes by air, road and rail that will create a basic infrastructure for a continent, not just a country.

The Omega Plan is still under study and analysis but aims to come up with a 50-year long-term solution. President Wade insists Africa shouldn't expect someone else to come and build it.

WADE: My doctrine is we must raise -- as Africans we must try to solve our problems by our own means before going outside to call for aid and resources.

CLANCY: The Omega Plan and others being developed will ultimately seek outside assistance. Presidents Bouteflika of Algeria, Mbeki of South Africa and Obasanjo of Nigeria are working on a plan of their own. All of those see new emphasis on infrastructure and a broader pan-African approach. Some say it is a matter of survival.

WADE: If we don't work a plan like this, I am afraid that Africa will be left out of the march of the community.

CLANCY: If the Omega Plan or another like it is to work, there are numerous challenges. Even the problem of finding money pales in comparison to the problem of finding peace and an end to African conflicts. But a major roadblock has been removed. Africans are seeing a future working together, and working together to build it.

Jim Clancy, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: More on Africa tomorrow as we follow in the footsteps of explorer Michael Fay. We'll encounter animals and journey through the jungles on an expedition to study the continent's wildlife. Come along on the odyssey right here on CNN NEWSROOM tomorrow.

Think you have a creative spirit? If so, our next story should interest you. It's about teenage inventors competing at a national robotics competition for high school kids. It's called FIRST. It's one of the largest contests of its kind in the United States and our Ann Kellan attended competition finals over the weekend at Epcot in Florida and filed this report.


ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's like the Super Bowl of robotic competitions: 14,000 students in 350 high school teams vying to be national champions of a competition called FIRST -- For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here we go... KELLAN: But unlike most contenders, these kids are techies going for the gold. At a four-ring competition at Epcot Center, these kids forego the rides and attractions to work on 'bots. What a way to spend spring break.

The game changes every year, developed in secrecy by inventor Dean Kamen.

DEAN KAMEN, FIRST FOUNDER: We're good at keeping some things secret. We're not so good at keeping other things secret, but we have never, never had a leak on one of our games.

This is a New Hampshire. These are the local New Hampshire boys.

KELLAN: Kamen's a hero here, showing kids what engineers face in real life: unrealistic deadlines -- they have six weeks to build their 'bots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every little bolt that was not needed we took out.


KELLAN: Some had big sponsor backing. Others scrimp and save to get here. Engineers are mentors.

KATIE ATIYEH, ENRICO FERMI TEAM: They taught me so much and I never thought I could do any of this, so.

MEI-EN HSIEN, ENRICO FERMI TEAM: Yeah, you thought that you needed a lot of science, you needed to know chemistry, you needed to, you need like physics. Actually, you don't. You really don't. You just pay attention to what the engineers teach you and you do the work, you spend time on it and then you learn and you gain a lot.

KELLAN: Another category in the competition is creating Web sites and using sophisticated software to design the 'bots.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: You can see the 3-D model of a robot. You can even control it, how it picks up balls and how it scores goals.

KELLAN: Kids also create movie quality 3-D animations to show off their 'bots. High schoolers did these.

KATHI FOX, AUTODESK SOFTWARE: In the piece that won, there's just a wonderful comic element to it. It had three dimensions. It had surface. It had shadows. It had, it came to life. You smile every time you watch them. I smile every time I watch them.

KELLAN: And no two 'bots are alike: some have arms, some are lowriders, and some become ramps for other 'bots.

(on camera): And to add to the confusion, they have to cooperate to compete. Two minutes before each round, each team learns that they're going to be working with three other teams -- teams they may never know -- and they have to work together to score points. (voice-over): Everything from putting balls on goals to balancing on a teeter-totter bridge.

KEVIN KOLODZIEJ, BEATTY HAMMOND TEAM: I had been planning on being an architect, and when I got involved, just seeing the design process and the brainstorming and the problem solving skills turned me onto engineering like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The team to beat out here today is team 71, Beatty Hammond -- they're the best.

KELLAN: Going into the final round, team 71, from Hammond, Indiana, is the high scorer.

Working with four other teams, they falter.

Next try.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to balance two goals -- Beatty -- it's there, and they head for the in zone.

KELLAN: It's a winner.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Standing here, it just doesn't feel real right now.


KELLAN: But if you think about it, Kamen says, we all win.

KAMEN: If you look around here, there's 10,000 kids here. I would almost guarantee you just based on the laws of large numbers, one of these kids -- I don't know which one -- will win a Nobel Prize. One of these kids is going to cure some disease or invent some new technology or make the world a better place because of something that we started here.

KELLAN (on camera): So here we are at the first robotic competition and it's winding down now, but here are some students from Quincy High School, right?


KELLAN: How are you doing this year?


KELLAN: Pretty good?


KELLAN: Are you enjoying this? Do you have fun doing this?


UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Absolutely. KELLAN: Now, what is your role? What is your specific role?


KELLAN: What does a driver do?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: A driver moves the robot, actually controls it.

KELLAN: Ah, so you stand behind that Plexiglas during the competition?


KELLAN: That's a key role. What do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I do some of the construction on the robot.

KELLAN: You've constructed the robot?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I make pieces and do odd things that we need to get done for the team.

KELLAN: Did you know anything about this before you started?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: No, I didn't. This is my first year.

KELLAN: First year?


KELLAN: Would you tell other students out there that this is a good idea?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Yeah, this is a great idea. It helps you a lot. You can get into a field of engineering.

KELLAN: Does this robot have a name?


KELLAN: Sharpy the robot?


KELLAN: We have Sharpy to thank. Are you going to be here next year?


KELLAN: OK, well, good luck to you guys.

This is Ann Kellan reporting from Epcot Center in Florida.


BAKHTIAR: And that wraps it up for us here on NEWSROOM.

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


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