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NEWSROOM for May 9, 2001

Aired May 9, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Thanks for making us part of your Wednesday. I'm Tom Haynes.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: And I'm Michael McManus. Here's a look ahead.

HAYNES: First to California, ground zero in the growing debate over U.S. energy policy.

MCMANUS: Then, will a slowing U.S. economy mean fewer jobs for college grads? The answer in "Business Desk."

HAYNES: Strategic military allies and the battle over bananas, what that's all about in "Worldview."

MCMANUS: And from "Chronicle," high school kids and the battle to become the top teen chef.


JONATHAN LYANCHERRY, TEEN CHEF: Well, I enjoy cooking and it's something that I always wanted to do.


HAYNES: But first today, an early dose of summer turns up the heat in California and hits the state with a second straight day of rolling blackouts. Electricity supplies are tight, demand is high and Governor Gray Davis is calling on Californians to conserve.

California has already been hit with rolling blackouts five times this year and it looks like more dark days are ahead. The state's power grid is strained and electricity supplies from neighboring states are hard to come by. Tuesday, California was in a stage two emergency in which customers who agree to voluntary blackouts lose power. The next step, stage three, requires rolling mandatory blackouts.

Despite calls for conservation, Californians Tuesday used about 1,000 more megawatts of power than they did the day before. That's enough to power about 750,000 homes. Utility companies blame the energy crisis on 1996 deregulation legislation designed to open up California's electricity markets to competition. The law temporarily caps the rate the state's largest utilities could charge customers. The problem was the utilities still had to pay soaring prices for wholesale electricity. In addition, over the last few days, several generating plants have been off line for maintenance.

Vice President Cheney says a national energy policy should not only focus on conservation, it should also consider building more power plants and drilling for oil.

Senior White House correspondent John King has more now on the Bush administration's energy policy.


JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another day of rolling blackouts in California: another reminder short-term energy problems, and prices, will shape the debate over the administration's long-term strategy.

In an interview with CNN, the vice president held out California as exhibit A, in the case for more domestic oil and gas exploration and for building 1,300 or more new power plants from coast to coast, including new coal and nuclear facilities.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today they've got rolling blackouts because they don't have enough electricity. They've got rising prices. They've got a whole complex of problems that are caused by relying only on conservation and not doing anything about the supply side of the equation.

KING: The White House line is no quick fixes. California's governor says the administration could do more.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: We need help from Washington today to reduce the extraordinary prices of power that we're currently paying. I'm taking care of the rest of it.

KING: But the administration opposes electricity price caps, and power supplies is just one element of the debate. Rising prices at the pump is another, and some in Congress want an investigation.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Something's awry, something's going wrong. Something has to be asked here. We have to find out what is behind all of this. I'm not satisfied, at all, with what the administration is doing with regard to gas prices.

KING: The Bush White House says there's no evidence of price gouging, and the vice president's message to angry motorists is, don't blame the OPEC cartel and don't expect immediate relief.

CHENEY: We have not built new refineries in this country for over 25 years. And the net result of that is that no matter what happens to the international oil price, it's the lack of refining capacity that drives those gasoline prices higher. KING: The upcoming administration report urges a second look at environmental standards the coal industry says are excessive and withholds judgment on another controversial issue: whether the government should force the automobile industry to improve fuel efficiency standards.

(on camera): Senior administration officials view the short-term focus on the California power crisis and on rising gasoline prices as both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps helpful, they say, as the president makes the case the nation has a serious energy problem. But potentially troubling from a political standpoint if consumers start demanding immediate solutions.

John King, CNN, the White House.


MCMANUS: California residents and business owners are not the only ones being affected by the energy crisis. The state's gasoline refineries are also under the threat of rolling blackouts.

As Rusty Dornin reports, that could mean higher prices at the pump, a frightening thought for many who are already paying more than $2 a gallon to drive their cars.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The product from here goes here, but if California's rolling blackouts hit the state's oil refineries, drivers already digging deep for fuel will see the impact here.

DAN KAMEN, UNIV. OF CALIF., BERKELEY: Skyrocketing gas prices -- $3 a gallon is the number we have to think about if we have a lot of blackouts, and those refineries are going to go on- and off-line all the time.

DORNIN: The state's gasoline producers were told in April, expect to be part of the rolling blackout list. Here at the Valero plant in Benicia, near San Francisco, there are no back-up generators. The same is true of about one-third of the state's power plants.

SCOTT FOLWARKOW, VALERO ENERGY CORPORATION: Normally, it takes us a couple of days to shut down a plant. We can shut it down relatively fast, however, the faster we go, the more questions we have about the damage you do to the process equipment during that rapid shutdown.

DORNIN: Damaged equipment means plants might not be able to turn the power back on when a temporary blackout is over.

FOLWARKOW: You could ultimately be down for many days to many weeks as you try to get the system back up.

DORNIN: Ten percent of California's clean burning fuel comes from this plant. A shutdown for days or weeks could mean short fuel supplies, sure to drive prices even higher. Health and safety reasons keep the lights on at hospitals and emergency agencies, which are exempt from blackouts. Economic arguments about skyrocketing fuel prices fall on deaf ears when it comes to the state's Public Utility Commission.

CARL WOOD, CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION: If we exempt everybody from rolling blackouts, the electrical system would collapse, and that's a much worse catastrophe than anything else we're facing at the present time.

DORNIN: California legislators are considering a bill to exempt refineries from power cutoffs.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.


MCMANUS: No doubt you've heard the message stay in school. Those words are always good advice, but especially so in an economic slowdown. Employers are more likely to choose candidates with high school diplomas or college degrees over those who have neither. Consider these U.S. Bureau of Labor figures. In March of this year, the unemployment rate for workers with less than a high school diploma was 6.9 percent. For those with a high school diploma, it was 3.9 percent. And for college graduates it was two percent.

Although tough economic times mean fewer jobs, you can be sure that the candidates who have the education are the ones who will get hired. But even among college grads, the competition is getting a little tougher.

That's the focus on today's "Business Desk" and our first report from Peter Viles


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The economic slowdown is taking some of the sizzle out of one of the hottest corners of the job market - the rush to hire college graduates. A survey by colleges and employers found that 45 percent of employers have decided to cut back hiring plans, 47 percent are sticking with their plans from last August, 6 percent actually intend to hire more.

But the bottom line, those companies intend to hire 18 percent more college graduates this year than they did a year ago. So if there is a recession building, it has not hit college campuses.

MARVA GUMBS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No, not at all. I've been through the recessions. This certainly does not feel like a recession.

VILES: That said, at George Washington University some big recruiters are cutting back.

GUMBS: But you have to understand, people who recruit actively on colleges sometimes come for 50 or 100 folks. So perhaps they are coming for 40.

VILES: Even in a cooling economy, counselors say some job categories are still hot: biotechnology, health care, teaching, government jobs and almost anything in technology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's just plenty of jobs. There's still tons of demand, as far as I can tell, for quality technical workers.

VILES: Still, some students outside of technology sense the job market may have peaked a year ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn't really in the job hunt back then, although a lot of people told me that I should have been.

VILES: So the class of 2001 may go down as the class that had to put some hunting skills back into the annual job hunt.

Peter Viles, CNN Financial News, College Park, Maryland.


MCMANUS: Overall, the once hot technology job market might be cooling a bit. But there's another sector that's scrambling to get your attention. A national shortage of nurses is beginning to affect health care nationwide, but in California in particular.

In part two of his nursing series, Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at some interesting ways the Golden State is luring new hires.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Andino has had an unusual path to the nursing profession.

AL ANDINO, NURSING ASSISTANT, KAISER: This June will be my 23rd year. And I have been working in different departments, linen room, material services, and most of my years as an environmental service department.

GUPTA: Most recently, Al enrolled in a program dubbed "The Career Ladder." Public and private organizations joined hands to help solve the critical shortage of nurses in California.

ELIZABETH BRASHERS, KAISER FOUNDATION HOSPITALS: What it is, is a program that's funded by the U.S. Department of Labor through Contra Costa County, to provide training to the Kaiser work force to help them, essentially, move up on a career ladder.

GUPTA: Elizabeth Brashers is with Kaiser and helped start the program.

BRASHERS: So what this program is trying to do is to find a creative way of developing our work force from within, because the people aren't out there for us. We can't just go and find them out on the street and say: Here, come be a nurse for us.

GUPTA: Kaiser, along with a local union, partnered with several organizations, even a welfare to work program.

BRASHERS: And the purpose of this program was to first, you know, deal with the staffing crisis; secondly, to offer our members career opportunities and also to help diversify the work force.

GUPTA: The majority of nurses today are white, middle-aged and women. Only 12 percent of the nurses are minority. The average age is about 45. And less than 5 percent are men. Al Andino doesn't concern himself with demographics. He's in nursing for the rewards.

ANDINO: I enjoy working with the patients. I'm helping the patient to get well.

GUPTA: As a Hispanic male, Al may be a minority, but not for long.

(on camera) Hispanics already make up nearly a third of California's population, and government figures project over the next few years, that group will account for more than half the state's growth. It's a potential source of nurses The Career Ladder has its eye on.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN.


MCMANUS: While we're on the subject of careers, wait till you see what's in the works here on NEWSROOM, a special report about your job prospects for a high tech world. Coming up May 16th, we look at careers of the future. Technology is growing at a rapid rate. Just look at how many e-mail accounts there are these days, over 570 million. And by 2005, 67 percent of U.S. households will have access to the Internet.

So, how do you start preparing for a job in the high tech work force?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you want to do is start developing a work history for yourself. Prove to potential employers that you can take responsibility, you know what it means to have to be on time for a job, to be responsible for your own actions.


HAYNES: In "Worldview" today, we touch on trade, trading cards and immigration, issues that take us around the globe. We'll learn about baseball cards as collectibles and we'll find out why some immigrants are concerned about their jobs. But first, a look at the top banana producing countries. They are Uganda, India, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.

Bananas are a good source of energy. They're loaded with phosphorus, potassium and Vitamins A and C and guess what? Bananas don't grow on trees. I didn't know that. They grow on plants which can grow from eight to 30 feet tall. People in the U.S. eat about 11 billion bananas a year. You could say the fruit is widely appealing. But did you know they were the center of an international controversy?

The United States and the European Union have called a cease-fire in their long running food fight. No, there wasn't any fruit flying across the Atlantic, even though the dispute was over bananas. But there were plenty of words exchanged over the last nine years or so. During that time, big American producers like Chiquita and Dole were at a competitive disadvantage when trying to sell bananas in Europe.

A new agreement will slowly open more of that European market to their Latin American grown fruit, as Peter Viles tells us.


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The banana war, the first trade dispute between the United States and the European Union, festered for nine years, even though neither side is a major grower of bananas.

PETER MORICI, ECONOMIC STRATEGY INSTITUTE: I know we've been severely criticized for the fact that we don't grow bananas, so why are we getting so upset, but the Europeans don't grow bananas ether.

VILES: It goes back to 1992. The newly-created European Union draws up a banana policy, favoring imports from former European colonies from the Caribbean and Africa, putting Latin American imports grown by Dole and Chiquita at a disadvantage. Chiquita loses half of its 40 percent market share in Europe, and an estimated $200 million a year. Its stock begins a long slide; 1997: U.S. trade rep Mickey Kantor, who began the fight, gives way to Charlene Barshefsky.

The U.S. and five Latin Americans challenged the system, and the World Trade Organization rules in their favor. But the E.U. doesn't budge, so Washington puts sanctions on $200 million worth of European imports, including luxury handbags and bed linen.

January: a new administration and a new trade rep, Robert Zoellick. Chiquita announces a restructuring intended to set the stage for a bankruptcy filing. It also sues the European Commission for $525 million.

Finally a peace accord: Zoellick brokers an compromise that protects African and Caribbean growers for five years, but allows Chiquita better access to European markets, and fazes out quotas by the year 2006.

WILLY HELIN, E.U. SPOKESMAN: To keep it simply, everybody, from high up in the American administration and high up in the European administration, everyone was literally fed up with bananas, and they thought it was not worth our while keeping squabbling across the Atlantic on such an issue.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: The United States has long been a magnet for immigrants from around the world. Millions have come to America seeking a better life. But it's not just the immigrants who benefit. High tech companies in California's Silicon Valley have come to rely on thousands of highly skilled immigrants to stay competitive. But what happens when there's a downturn in the economy?

As James Hattori reports, some immigrants fear more than their jobs are at stake, but a way of life as well.


JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-three- year-old Semsa Kantoroglu arrived in San Francisco after graduating with a master's in engineering from Ankara University in Turkey. She's now among the estimated one half million people granted special H1B visas because of the demand for skilled workers in the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How are you? How was your trip?

KANTOROGLU: Thank you. Fine. And you?

HATTORI: Kantoroglu was hired by Ubicom, a Silicon Valley company now bringing in about one half dozen new H1B workers. Her visa is good for three years initially. Beyond that...

KANTOROGLU: I haven't thought of this because I'm very new here and I want to be familiarized with everything.

HATTORI: Even in the ongoing downturn, demand for skilled workers, especially engineers, remains high. Yet there is growing anxiety because being out of work puts their immigrant status in jeopardy. This displaced H1B worker from the Philippines is so worried, she doesn't want her face shown.

UNIDENTIFIED FILIPINA WORKER: Very worried. Like it really, it's a very difficult situation if you're not a U.S. citizen or if you're not a green card holder.

BILL YATES, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE: Theoretically, when an H1B visa holder is, has his or her employment terminated, they have a requirement to immediately depart and the employer has a requirement to pay for their return trip to their home country.

HATTORI: Activists say Immigration and Naturalization Service rules are out of date in today's fast moving economy.

MURALI KRISHNA DEVARAKONDA, TEMPORARY VISA HOLDER: I should not be concerned out of status or illegal for no fault of mine, just because my employer went bust? Just because they laid me off?

HATTORI: In fact, the INS is so backlogged, laid off H1B workers are unlikely to be deported before they find another job.

BULENT GELEBI, CEO, UBICOM: There's so much demand for these folks, I mean if they can't find another sponsor, you'd have to question, you know, how good are they.

HATTORI: The INS says it will review visas on a case by case basis. But even if displaced H1B workers find another job, there's a catch. They can't start working until their new employer files the proper paperwork, and that could take up to 90 days.

James Hattori, CNN, Mountain View, California.


HAYNES: If you're a sports fan, no doubt you like collecting stuff. You know, things like autographs, pennants, maybe a baseball you caught at a game. When we talk about collectibles, we're referring to an item which has value due to its rarity and desirability. Take baseball cards, for example. For serious baseball fans, the name Topps is synonymous with America's pastime. And this year, the nation's oldest continuous maker of baseball cards turns 50.

Brian Palmer covers the bases with some card collectors and a few of the folks responsible for making them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love them. I buy them because I like a lot of players and to collect them. You know, they're worth some money, some of them.

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When New York's Topps company transformed itself from a chewing gum maker to a printer of baseball cards 50 years ago, kids were main customer. Sy Berger is Topps original card designer.

SY BERGER, ORIGINAL TOPPS CARD DESIGNER: This is my favorite card. This is the '54 card. Kids put them in spokes of their bicycles and, you know, it was just great. Kids couldn't wait for the piece of gum and the card.

PALMER: A lot has changed since then. For one, Topps took the gum out of baseball card packs 10 years.

MARTY APPEL, TOPPS COMPANY: Actually, there's probably more adult collectors than children collectors today, but we still have a huge kid's audience for the product.

WAYNE GROVE, BECKETT BASEBALL CARD MONTHLY: You're seeing more of an investor mode right from the beginning rather than people buying them to put sets together, which is the way when we were kids, that's the way we collected.

PALMER: And Topps isn't the only card company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are classics. This is when Topps was the only game in town. There was no Donruss; there was no Fleer SkyBox, like there is now.

PALMER: There is even a firm that trades baseball cards like stocks.

VINIT BHARAR, THEPIT.COM: Prices were fluctuating according to player performance on the field, and we thought that what better way that trade, if people are treating them like stock, than in a stock market- type atmosphere.

PALMER: Even kids have the entrepreneurial spirit.

RICKY TRUPPNER: I keep them like in a box and I collect other cards, also. So, I -- the more I keep them in something, I think the more they'll be worth.

PALMER: For its anniversary, Topps has something for the mature collector as well as the young card enthusiast. One line of cards is modeled after its 1952 series.

APPEL: We went back and bought up every -- one of every card that we every made, and randomly inserted them in the packs. So it's possible that you could open a pack and get a 1997 Luis Sojo, or you could open a pack and get an original Mickey Mantle card.

PALMER: For Topps Heritage Series, it put the gum back in.

Brian Palmer, CNN, New York.


MCMANUS: Runners compete in marathons, swimmers in meets, and if you like the links, there's a good chance you'll try your five iron out in a golf tournament. You might be surprised to learn that the people responsible for cooking you dinner stay competitive, as well.

Continuing with our in depth look at careers, Student Bureau reporter Alison Walker shows us what the slicing and dicing is all about.


ALISON WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They sliced, chopped and squeezed their way through a grinding contest, the Art Institute National Cook-Off. Twenty-four students from around the country met in Atlanta to prove themselves before a panel of professional chefs.

JESSICA GREEN, TEEN CHEF: I'm here for the experience, to have fun, to meet people, to get my name out a little bit and also hopefully go home with something so that I can attend college and one of the art institutes.

WALKER: The contestants were competing for a full two year scholarship at any art institute culinary school.

LYANCHERRY: Well, I enjoy cooking and it's something that I always wanted to do.

WALKER: Art institute officials say the culinary profession is competitive, making a formal education all the more important.

JEFF DUROSKO, THE ART INSTITUTE: We have statistical information that tells us that there is opportunity from now through the year 2006 for basically as many graduates as we can crank out of our schools in the culinary industry.

WALKER: The youngest of the competitors is Joseph Messina from Los Angeles, who says culinary turned his life around.

JOSEPH MESSINA, TEEN CHEF: I was in eighth and ninth grade and I was doing drugs. I didn't care about my parents and like the vision of being a chef was still in the back of my head, but I didn't make any efforts to do it.

WALKER: Joseph Messina says he spent two years fighting a drug addiction before attending a culinary program in a drug rehab center. It gave him focus and purpose.

MESSINA: I changed my whole life around, made this all available. I never thought I'd be going to Georgia to do something I love doing.

WALKER: To be a winner in this cook-off, one has to be prepared. Judges are looking for many things, including sanitation, texture, taste and preparation.

CHEF JOSEPH SHILLING, THE ART INSTITUTE OF PHILADELPHIA: We're looking for certain cooking techniques and ultimately we're looking for presentation. People eat with their eyes. It should smell good, taste good and feel good, and trust me, we've eaten enough food here today to feel really good.

WALKER: But finding the best Art Institute high school chef in the nation is no easy task. The menu included crab cakes, roast tenderloin, potatoes, a carrot medley and Caesar salad.

KLAUS FRIEDENREICH, MASTER CHEF, ART INSTITUTE OF FORT LAUDERDALE: Yeah, there's a lot of pressure on them and some of the pressure is created by themselves, maybe by the people that are with them. And then, of course, being in a venue like that, you know, with three master chefs and a lot of people around, yeah, there's a lot of pressure.

SHILLING: They're just not trying to win an award, they're trying to win a piece of their life to succeed. So there's some pressure here.

WALKER: Final scores are tabulated here in the judges' tasting room.

CHEF GARY PRELL, THE ART INSTITUTES: And in the tasting room, the judges are looking for various, very obvious issues, taste, balance, flavor, harmony, color contrast, a contrast of textures and, of course, overall presentation.

WALKER: Second best went to Joseph Messina with a full scholarship. And the title of top national Art Institute teen chef goes to Anthony Tapp of Chicago, not bad for a guy who first wanted to be a mechanic.

ANTHONY TAPP, ART INSTITUTE TOP TEEN CHEF: At the beginning of high school when it came time to think about career choice and things like that, it was either, it was a mix between auto mechanic and the chef business.

WALKER: It looks like Anthony made the right choice.

(on camera): Not one of these contestants walks away empty- handed. After all, over 97 percent of graduates from the culinary program find employment within six months. The industry is rapidly growing and these young star chefs certainly have a head start.

Alison Walker, CNN Student Bureau, Atlanta.


HAYNES: All right, that's CNN NEWSROOM for Wednesday. Thanks for joining us.

MCMANUS: We'll see you tomorrow.

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