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NEWSROOM for May 10, 2001

Aired May 10, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Welcome to NEWSROOM Thursday, everyone. I'm Tom Haynes.

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: And I'm Mike McManus. It's a busy news day so let's get started.

HAYNES: Our top news today, Washington talking tough on terrorism. A new office of national preparedness is created by U.S. President Bush.

MCMANUS: We're launching "The Desk" today right into outer space. We look at the very real possibility of space tourism. Well, sort of.

HAYNES: Then, back to Earth and on to Africa and "Worldview" and attempts by Angolans to navigate two very real dangers.

MCMANUS: Finally, we visit Mount Solomon, where the history is, let's just say, magical.

HAYNES: But first today, United States President Bush is stepping up efforts to combat and respond to terrorism. During the second day of a three day Senate hearing, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced plans for a new counter-terrorism office created by Mr. Bush.

Much of the United States border is surrounded by ocean. But the Bush administration believes that is no longer enough to protect Americans from terrorism. A new office of national preparedness created by Mr. Bush will be designed to coordinate existing agencies' response to terrorism. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft pointed out to senators Tuesday that only about five percent of the world's population is American. However, State Department statistics show that during the last decade, more than one third of all worldwide terrorist acts were directed against U.S. interests.

The government is particularly concerned about nuclear, biological, chemical and cyberterrorism threats. Anti-terrorism activities will be coordinated under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agency that normally deals with natural disasters like tornadoes and floods. Vice President Dick Cheney is putting together a task force to clarify how the multi-agency effort should proceed.

New technology and growing economic connections between nations has made it more difficult to combat terrorism. As the U.S. Senate meets to discuss ways to respond to terrorism, some government agencies are moving ahead with plans and protection of their own. Patty Davis has that.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fire shot number six, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This was a 50 pound shot.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a bazaar like no other. For sale, the latest high tech products to protect against terrorist attacks.

NICK ROUTH, MSC SPECIALTY FILMS: Every day we've got some crazy lunatic from somewhere trying to attack some government agency.

DAVIS: Nick Routh's window films, designed to stop deadly flying glass, are already used by the Energy Department. To drum up business, his company and others are lining up to take a beating from the Marine Corps at its base in Quantico, Virginia, to prove their windows, their barriers, their body armor can stand up to terrorists.

After a bomb killed 19 Americans at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia five years ago, the Pentagon started looking for new ways it could immediately protect its troops, purchased off the shelf without the red tape.

MICHAEL TOSCANO, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: If someone has a checkbook in hand, they can buy it virtually right now and take it with them.

DAVIS (on camera): Four years ago, 184 companies came to this event. Now it's grown to more than 400 showing off their sophisticated anti-terrorism wares.

(voice-over): This year, after last October's deadly attack on the USS Cole, a new emphasis, this unmanned harbor security vehicle, or the high resolution stabilized gyro cam to keep an eye out for intruders day or night. It's not just the military. Cities like Seattle are worried about biochemical and other types of attacks.

LT. STEVEN BEAUMONT, SEATTLE FIRE DEPARTMENT: The World Trade Center kind of kicked it off that it might happen and then when the Oklahoma thing and they had so many fatalities, that's what really did it.

DAVIS: Terrorist strikes may be few and far between. The mission here, to keep it that way.

Patty Davis, CNN, Quantico, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCMANUS: United States Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that the threat of terrorism has changed and evolved. It is not what it used to be. Different forms and methods of terrorism have entered the picture and it comes from different places than in the past.

And, as Bruce Morton reports, many changes have taken place in a short period of time.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Hey," a young CNN employee asked a couple of years ago, "When was the Cold War?" If you were 40 or older, you were shocked. It lasted for almost half a century, from the end of World War II to the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. A couple of generations of U.S. schoolchildren learned a song about what to do when an atomic bomb hit the neighborhood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Duck and cover, that's the first thing to do, duck and cover.


MORTON: Two alliances: the free world, as the West called itself, and the communist bloc, each with enough nuclear bombs to destroy the planet, literally blow it away. The acronym was MAD for mutual assured destruction, and maybe because the planet really was at stake, the two sides kept the peace.

Now, in a way, life seems more dangerous, because there is no deterrent which will guarantee the peace. The enemy is not an alliance as big as our own. The enemy might be one country with a grudge against the United States: an Iraq, maybe, an Iran, or even one individual: an Osama bin Laden, a Timothy McVeigh.

The United States has been lucky so far, comparatively speaking. Terror, yes: the bomb at the World Trade Center, the bomb in Oklahoma City. But bad as those were, they were attacks with conventional explosives.

Experts worry now about more lethal weapons: biological, chemical, nuclear and so on: a nuclear missile from a freighter, perhaps, hard to track all of those. Or the terrorist slouching into a bus station with a small nuclear bomb in his suitcase.

(on camera): How to deal with these new enemies? Should the United States, one question goes, be allowed to recruit informers with records of human rights abuse? A generation ago, in Vietnam, the United States itself ran an assassination program, Operation Phoenix. What rules now for dealing with terrorists whose aim is to kill the innocent? Should there be a new agency, a kind of anti-terrorism czar?

(voice-over): The United States has had several anti-drug czars and none of them has won that war. Clearly, the Bush administration wants to go in new directions, away from the ABM Treaty, which was fashioned to fit the Cold War, work on an anti-missile defense, though one does not now exist, a new look at the role of the military. Government spending on supposedly anti-terrorist programs has gone up and will surely go up more. And in the meantime, try to come to terms with this new world: not one big enemy alliance, but a world full of shadows -- maybe friendly, maybe not.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


MCMANUS: The Bush administration sent a warning to Congress today that a vote to withhold back dues from the United Nations would be extremely damaging. But some lawmakers are moving ahead to do just that, unless the United States regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

For more on the dispute, here's CNN's Richard Roth at the U.N.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were climbing up the walls of the United Nations. No, not commandos from a furious U.S. Congress, just the window washers. But the windows on the world may be fogging up again in a replay of the years of deadlock between the U.S. and the United Nations.

There are renewed threats by U.S. legislators to withhold millions of dollars in back dues after member states failed to reelect the U.S. to the Human Rights Commission. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he viewed last week's U.S. loss with shock and dismay, but says the U.S. should not retaliate.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think to extend the frustration beyond that, and punish the entire membership will be wrong, and I think IT would be counterproductive.

ROTH: But in Washington, some leading congressmen want revenge since U.S. foes such as Sudan were voted on the human rights panel.

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: When they expelled the champion of human rights and leave on the most villainous nation in the world, how is anybody supposed to take the U.N. seriously?

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We don't think that linking our obligations and payments to the United Nations, to the outcome of that particular vote, is a good idea.

ROTH: The U.S. does intend to pay $582 overdue million. But the next round of late payments may be held up.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The United Kingdom has made its position quite clear that everyone should be paying on time and up front as we do. I think the point could be made in other ways by the United States and I hope that is the decision that will come out on this.

ROTH: U.N. officials call this latest flap with the U.S. a temporary setback, but remain concerned.

(on camera): Any financial freeze by Washington to the United Nations is symbolic. Barring any more political surprises, the late- stage money would be withheld until the U.S. is reinstated on the human rights commission, which seems highly likely next year.

Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.


HAYNES: Just a few years ago, the U.S. military cut funding to NASA. There was even some discussion of putting an end to space exploration altogether. In the year 2001, things are a bit different at NASA, and now at the Pentagon as well. Allan Dodds Frank tells us about the reorganization plan that points the Pentagon's focus towards space.


ALLAN DODDS FRANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The space business could get a big boost from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's reorganization of the Pentagon. The defense secretary allowed Senator Bob Smith, a fellow member of a commission on space with Rumsfeld, to set a tone of urgency.

SEN. BOB SMITH (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: There are nations out there who are hostile to us, and they are in space. They have such weapons as lasers, anti-satellite weapons, and electromagnetic pulse weapons, and we have to be ready to recognize that threat.

FRANK: The defense secretary is putting the Air Force in charge of new and existing programs to develop capabilities in space. Rumsfeld gave no specifics but said as many as a dozen development programs could be geared up to find the right answer.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: What we have is a whole network of things that are civilian and commercial and military that are dependent on space assets. The question is, how do you deter and dissuade people from taking action against those assets in a time of tension or conflict.

FRANK: Rumsfeld's emphasis on more might in space dovetails with the president's push for a national missile defense. So which companies could benefit most?

PIERRE CHAO, CREDIT SUISSE FIRST BOSTON: Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the two largest military-satellite and space-launcher manufacturers; TRW that does military satellites -- and Alliant Techsystems that does all the rocket launchers that go on board those space boosters.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: There will be enough money to go around pretty widely in the community of people who are still involved in the aerospace industry. There will, however, be, I think, a special premium if this is done right, on smaller technology houses.

FRANK (on camera): Extra money for space is a long way from being appropriated by Congress. But investors should note that Rumsfeld is following an old military maxim: always take the high ground, even if it is in space.

Allan Dodds Frank, CNN Financial News, New York.


MCMANUS: Humans have always been interested in travel and exploration, pushing out beyond the limits of their environment. For example, just last week, U.S. millionaire Dennis Tito made history when he became the first paying customer to travel in space. Now, another businessman is offering a somewhat less expensive but still out of this world opportunity to space lovers everywhere.

Allison Tom has the story.


ALLISON TOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" came out in 1968, space travel was still mostly science fiction. But now in the 21st century, the classic space movie is going digital and some entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the hype by offering an opportunity that's out of this world.

Encounter 2001 is reaching out to extraterrestrial fans who want to get one step closer to outer space.

CHARLES M. CHAFER, ENCOUNTER 2001: In 2003, we'll launch a giant solar sail craft and that solar sail will carry the photos, the messages and even a little bit of themselves in the form of a hair sample on a journey beyond the solar system.

TOM: Sending that hair sample will cost you about $60 U.S. So far, the company says, thousands of people have signed up, and they hope that number will grow to millions over the next couple of years. Most kits are sold over the Internet. For space enthusiasts, the opportunity is exciting.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I can't imagine what space is like. I don't know anything about what is out there in the universe, so I would like to go.

TOM: Others are not so interested.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I would rather not know anything.

TOM: Once the spacecraft goes into outer space, the company says there's no guarantee as to what happens next.


HAYNES: In "Worldview" today, we focus on one African nation, that's Angola. It's a land entrenched in conflict and battered by years of fighting. Today we look at other perils facing the population. Hunger is rampant and the terrain is laced with land mines.

The Republic of Angola has navigated a history of colonial rule, slavery and civil war. Portugal ruled the country for years, until 1975, when intense fighting led to its withdrawal. Angola has struggled with inter-party conflict and sporadic fighting ever since.

Located on the southwest coast of Africa, Angola houses a population of more than 13 million people. The country's death rate is among the highest in Africa, a factor made worse by severe food shortages. Tens of thousands of starving Angolans recently converged on the city of Kuito in Angola's central highlands and relief agencies have struggled to get enough food through.

As Paul Tilsley reports from Kuito, the task is dangerous.


PAUL TILSLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The only relatively safe way into Kuito is by air. UNITA rebels ring the town. They've shot down three aircraft in Angola since November, so every plane coming in exercises anti-missile evasion techniques. Aircraft drop down at 7,000 feet a minute, spiraling to try to keep over the friendly air strip and out of the field of fire.

Kuito has arguably the most potholed runway in the world, pockmarked by UNITA shell hits. Instead of trucks moving the aircraft's cargo, the aircraft itself moves forward to drop a palate onto the apron. Once a month, each person gets just 12 kilos of maize meal and less of other essentials. Already, there's not enough to feed everyone.

These refugees at a camp on Kuito's eastern city limits are angrily demanding food. The mood is ugly.

(on camera): Donor fatigue has led to the situation behind me now. The relief agencies say there have not been enough donations to feed many in Angola. Relief agency Medicines Sans Frontieres specializes in providing care for newly arriving refugees. Up to 3,000 are coming into Kuito's camps every day.

EDWIN VAN DER BORGHT, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES: And I'm not very hopeful personally that something will change very quickly. We still have no access to a large part of the country. We have absolutely no clue what is happening to a large proportion of the population.

TILSLEY (voice-over): Some of the larger agencies appear desensitized by yet another famine in Africa. Even individuals, therefore, are having large impact. American missionary Eddie Ray has overcome logistical nightmares to bring in 17 tons of food and clothing.

MINISTER EDDIE RAY, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: There's still more and more refugees coming in every day, is my understanding. We've talked to the vice governor, talked to the administrator of Kuito and he says they still have a tremendous challenge on their hands because each day more and more dislocated persons are moving into the area and they have to take care of them.

TILSLEY: Then there's the governor of Kuito Province, Luis Paulino dos Santos. He wants to help his people so much that he came in his private plane to ferry CNN to Kuito and exposed his city's plight. It has to be said it was bizarre flying over rebel territory in a Russian plane with pop group Abba coming over the sound system declaring mama mia.

The hero of Kuito, though, comes from perhaps the most unlikely of backgrounds. Paul Erskine is a hard-nosed South African businessman who prides himself that he can buy and sell anything. This no nonsense entrepreneur now gives millions of U.S. dollars to Kuito's poor, owns a home for war orphans, has started his own aid organization, the Angolan Refugee Crisis Agency, and is trying to build up the city's infrastructure with maize treatment plants.

Erskine explains what made him suddenly decide to help.

PAUL ERSKINE, SOUTH AFRICAN BUSINESSMAN: It was here at this exact spot that I had a Damascus experience. I realized that I could not cross the pearly gates if I walked away and turned my back on this incredible plight of the Kuito refuge problem.

TILSLEY: Erskine now spends approximately half his time here helping and most of the rest back in South Africa, trying to raise more funds. Erskine represents hope for 94 souls here. But the U.N. says more than three million are at risk.

Paul Tilsley, CNN, Kuito.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: We continue our focus on Angola, where three million people are said to be starving. And while they make their way toward feeding centers, they have to negotiate another killer, land mines. As Paul Tilsley reports, land mines appear to be posing a greater risk to Angolans than ever before. A warning to teachers, this story contains disturbing images.


TILSLEY (voice-over): There's a nasty new twist to the 37 year long war here in Angola, resulting in more land mine victims. According to relief agency Medicines Sans Frontieres, the MFS, rebel group UNITA has stepped up its attacks on civilians, its own people, with bullets and mines.

VAN DER BORGHT: It is also each time very difficult, for example, for the MFS surgeon who is working in a hospital when he again gets a civilian with bullet wounds or mine wounds on his operating table. You basically never get used to it and it still happens on a regular basis that maybe two, three times a week civilians are brought to the hospital with minor wounds, with big bullet wounds.

TILSLEY: It's a normal day in Kuito. Nobody gives a second glance to a man making his way across the main street without legs, to another peddling a tricycle uphill. The country has perhaps more land mines than anywhere else on the planet. One figure suggests there are 67 million here, six land mines for every Angolan. That's why the lush green land surrounding Kuito's refuge camps housing starving people goes unfarmed. This beautiful countryside is littered with mines. Now and again, one is found before it goes off. More often than not, it is not.

This farmer was maimed in a field just five kilometers from Kuito.

UNIDENTIFIED FARMER: He was working. He was doing, you know, farming, and he stepped on the mine.

TILSLEY: The roads are mined, too. A truck belonging to U.S. relief agency CARE was recently ambushed in this way, its occupants killed. UNITA troops have effectively ringed Kuito. They in general and their leader, Jonas Savimbi, who was born in Kuito, in particular, are reported to be not more than 20 kilometers from here.

Georgay Naguere Eleta (ph) is nonchalant about his job as location manager with the HALO Trust, an organization which clears mines in Kuito. He knows better than most the most likely place for a mine to have been laid, as planting them used to be his job in the Angolan army. Like almost every specialist in his team, he has family members who've lost either limbs or lives to mines.

These brave men take enormous risks clearing mine fields by hand. There are no big warning signs, no blocked off areas to show where a mine is located, just a simple red tipped stick. The HALO Trust, financed by the U.S., the United Kingdom and Holland, have found more than 8,000 mines around Kuito in the past six years. The countryside is also littered a unexploded ordinance. The team have located over 20,000 unexploded objects in the same period.

When a sapper believes a mine has been detected, the earth is prodded from the side, as going in from the top could cause an explosion. The team is extremely safety conscious, but it is unlikely that the protective clothing insisted upon would help at this short range.

This is just an ordinary field on the outskirts of Kuito, and yet the smudged red marks show the team of 14 mine sweepers have found a staggering 21 mines in it. But progress is slow. The team have been working this one field for 13 months. Kuito Hospital has the dubious distinction of having a special ward for land mine victims. In Angola, 60 to 70 adults and children step on mines every month. Anti- personnel mines have put an end to farming in Angola. Anti-personnel mines have therefore caused famine in Angola. If not a single new mine was laid, it would take 100 years to make Angola safe for its citizens. But there's plenty of evidence to suggest that as old mines are cleared, new, more devastating devices are being laid in their place.

Paul Tilsley, CNN, Kuito.


MCMANUS: For "Chronicle" today, we go to the Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty, Kyrgyzstan. It is a small, poor country, but the people there hold steadfast to some remarkable beliefs. When times get tough, many people in the City of Osh head for the same place. They bring their hearts and their hopes to Mount Solomon.

Aliya Karabayeva with our CNN student bureau has more on the mountain that's believed to be magical.


ALIYA KARABAYEVA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mt. Solomon is rich in history. It is one of the most important places in the Islamic religion. Mount Solomon sits in the middle of the city of Osh in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. Three thousand years ago, the first people moved here, creating this city. The first residents left behind mysterious drawings of the mountain. Legend says the Islamic prophet Solomon visited here for a time and so the mount was named after him.

(on camera): This is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) house. The mullah who sits here told me that this is the place where Solomon prayed. And these are the prints of where his knees and head rested.

(voice-over): People of Osh believe the mountain has magic power. They tie pieces of their clothing to trees on the mountain while they make a wish. They believe their wishes will come true.

AIDA KASIMOLIEVA, AGE 16: Many people not from only Osh and from other countries came to the Solomon Mountains and they climbed to the top of these mountains and prays for the god because they believe that all problems of their lives is coming good if they prays on the top of Solomon Mountains.

AIDA NARKOZIEVA, AGE 18: Some people believe this is a magic road. When they have a problem with their back or legs, if they slide on the road, they are getting better.

GULNURA NAZAROVA, AGE 15: If a woman can't have a child, she comes here, prays for a baby. And if you want your family to be happy and healthy, you come here and put your heart three times here.

ALIYA KARABAYEVA: Even if the mountain's magic cannot hear the sea, it does serve as a good place to relax and to exercise. And to make sure those who visit will know its long history, a museum was recently opened at the base of Mount Solomon. Aliya Karabayeva, CNN student bureau, Osh, Kyrgyzstan.


HAYNES: Another amazing story from our CNN student bureau.

MCMANUS: Yeah, it really was. Incidentally, next week our own Jason Bellini will bring us more on life in Kyrgyzstan. So watch for Jason's journal May 16th.

HAYNES: That's right.

That's CNN NEWSROOM for Thursday. Thanks for joining us.

MCMANUS: We'll see you tomorrow.

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