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NEWSROOM for May 16, 2001

Aired May 16, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome to the Wednesday show. I'm NEWSROOM Washington correspondent Michael McManus filling in. Here's a look at what's ahead.

Today's news is first. Our focus is energy in the U.S. and two competing proposals to curb a looming energy crisis. In "Business Desk," is the U.S. government doing enough to ensure your safety on the job. An economic headache in Serbia. After 10 years of economic sanctions, is relief on the way? That, in "Worldview." Then, back to your job prospects in "Chronicle." What skills will you need to enter the high-tech work force?

California may experience more summer blackouts than originally predicted. A report and forecast from the North American Reliability Council predicts the average California home will have to do without power for 15 hours each week this summer. The group also warns that New England, New York and Texas should be on guard for possible power shortages.

Rolling blackouts in California and rising gas prices nearly everywhere are making energy a top political issue. The Bush administration is trying to build support for its national energy policy, which is expected to be released Thursday. The White House says the plan will combine incentives for conservation and developing other energy sources, such as nuclear power. The plan also will encourage domestic drilling and it will include tax credits to encourage consumers to purchase more fuel efficient cars.

Mr. Bush will also encourage schools, homes and health care facilities to become more energy efficient. California's energy crunch has financially strapped the state's two largest utility companies. The utilities blame the energy crisis on 1996 deregulation legislation designed to open up California's electricity market to competition, but which only partially deregulated the industry.

Critics of President Bush's plan say he is too focused on increasing the supply of energy and not enough on conserving it. Environmentalists say the plan relies too much on building new power plants and drilling for oil and gas on federal lands. Other critics say the Bush administration has a conflict of interest because of certain contributions and connections to the energy industry. John King has that story.


JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oil man was on George W. Bush's resume long before governor or president. And energy ties are a common bond at this table, the task force behind the administration's sweeping new long-term energy proposal. Vice President Dick Cheney, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Interior Secretary Gale Norton are among the senior officials with energy ties.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is a former senator who was a favorite of energy and transportation interests. And his experience the industry says is proving its worth, that the White House calls for new exploration and natural gas, and new power plants fueled by coal and nuclear energy.

JACK GERARD, NATIONAL MINING ASSOCIATION: I think this White House clearly recognizes the challenge we face with a national energy policy. The previous administration unfortunately felt that it perhaps could be addressed by moving to one sector or another.

KING: Critics say the administration is exaggerating the scope of the problem to justify drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, and see the new strategy as a little more than political payback.

Energy industry groups gave nearly $50 million to the Republicans in the last campaign cycle, three times the amount contributed to Democrats. Bush presidential campaign received nearly $3 million, and Secretary Abraham's unsuccessful Senate re-election campaign received more than $400,000 from the industry he now regulates.

Transportation interest with high stakes in the energy debate also favored the G.O.P. in the last cycle, contributing $39 million to Republicans, compared to $15 million to Democrats.

DANIEL BECKER, SIERRA CLUB: It is very disturbing that the president of the United States raised millions of dollars from a group of polluting industries in the coal, oil, nuclear, utility and auto industries, and is now paying them back with very lucrative deals that will benefit them, but will hurt the rest of us.

KING: The White House rejects any suggestion of payback or favoritism.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The old stereotypes kind of need to be set aside, and we need to calm down a little bit, get everybody down off the ceiling, and sit down and have an informed, intelligent debate of where we ought to go with the energy policy.

KING (on camera): But critics promised to make the energy connections of the president, the vice president and other top administration officials a major factor in the political debate, as Mr. Bush tries to sell the country on a new long-term energy policy.

John King, CNN, the White House.


MCMANUS: With President Bush preparing to unveil his energy policy Thursday, Democrats have come up with an alternative plan. Many of them are hoping Republicans from western states will feel pressured to support the plan on some short-term measures such as price caps on electricity costs for California.

Kate Snow brings us a closer look at the Democrats' energy plan.


KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The backdrop was no accident: a gas station on Capitol Hill, where regular is selling for $1.76. House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt went on the attack, calling Republican energy policies "stupid."

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Their energy policy apparently is to let everybody fend for themselves. The government has no role. And everything will be just fine, because according to them, we live in a perfect world, in which if you just get out of the way, everything will be great.

SNOW: While the White House is expected to focus on long-term solutions for energy, House Democrats are seeking to draw a contrast, highlighting several short-term provisions. They endorse price controls on Western electricity costs. And in an effort to lower gasoline prices, Democrats call on OPEC to increase production of crude oil and ask the Department of Justice to investigate charges of price gouging.

REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: Before President Bush was in office, he was saying, oh, if he were president he would pick up the phone and he'd call OPEC and get some more production. Well, pick up the phone, Mr. President, and call OPEC and get us some more production.

SNOW: For the long term, Democrats would provide tax credits for energy efficiency, credits for businesses that reduce emissions and exceed clean air standards, incentives meant to increase domestic oil production.

But it's the short-term suggestions that Democrats hope will attract Republican votes.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Congress is a stimulus/response institution, and there is nothing more stimulating than thousands of your constituents complaining to you about high electricity and gasoline prices, which is why I'm confident that many Republicans are ultimately going to vote for the short-term solutions.

SNOW: In Duke Cunningham's Southern California district, the pressure is on. He says his constituents are suffering, and he's open to temporary price caps.

DUKE CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: This is an extreme situation which sometimes requires for extreme solutions.

SNOW: But aides say most Republicans will support the administrations' long-term strategy.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Long-term our economic prosperity depends upon having adequate supplies of affordable energy and that's been one of the cornerstones of our economy for a long time and we need to address that.

SNOW (on camera): Still, Vice President Cheney is hearing complaints from some Republicans, like Susan Collins from Maine, up for reelection next year. She told the vice president she's concerned about high gasoline prices and wants the administration to do something in the short-term.

Kate Snow, CNN, Capitol Hill.


MCMANUS: In 1911, there weren't many laws protecting workers in the U.S. For example, there was no age or wage requirement and factory owners had complete say over employee conditions and the hours they worked. This, in part, led to one of the worst workplace disasters in U.S. history. In 1911, nearly 150 women and young girls died in a fire because the factory's doors were either locked or blocked.

Following this tragedy, the U.S. government passed laws giving workers more rights. This culminated in 1971 with the signing of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This bill established an agency solely responsible for the safety of workers. OSHA, as it's more commonly referred to, stands for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Since the agency opened for businessman, workplace injury has fallen 40 percent and as we see here, workplace fatalities today are 60 percent lower than in 1971. OSHA says that though the rates have dropped significantly, there is still much more work to be done.

Steve Young reports on two such cases.


STEVE YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the nation 17 people die in workplace accidents each day. Five million are injured each year. The cost is estimated between $120 and $175 billion. And there is the emotional cost.

SHERRY FITCH, VICTIM'S MOTHER: This will be with me the rest of my life and anyone else who loses a love one in the workplace will stay with them the rest of their life.

YOUNG: Sherry Fitch's 22-year-old son was electrocuted while working for an electrical subcontractor. The Fitch's and several hundred others today gathered for the first workplace accident summit. It was held at Georgetown University. In the mid to late 1990s, the statistics improved but not dramatically. Injuries dropped 16 percent, fatalities fell just 3 percent.

PEG SEMINARIO, AFL-CIO: Companies aren't taking it seriously enough and the country is not taking it seriously enough. I think the focus has got to be the entire picture of workplace safety and health because there are very wide problems and the problems are getting more difficult, they're getting more diverse, as the economy becomes more diverse.

YOUNG: Chemicals can be hazardous but Dupont has a good record and told the summit what it's learned and what it's shared with other companies.

CHARLES HOLLIDAY, CHMN. & CEO, DUPONT: It generally takes two to three years to have 50 to 70 percent improvement in safety.

YOUNG: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, is the government's full-time watch dog. But OSHA didn't protect 19- year-old Patrick Hayes. According to his family, he was ordered into a feed silo at a poultry farm in the Florida panhandle and told to dislodge corn stuck on the wall.

RON HAYES, THE FIGHT PROJECT: This day, Pat was sent in, and there was a 35 foot flume of corn stuck on the side of the wall. And he started chopping. The flume broke away and suffocated him.

YOUNG: Hayes, who runs an organization for relatives of workplace accident victims, says companies seldom take responsibility for training problems or lack safety standards and seldom show compassion.

(on camera): The unions are worried that the Bush administration will take the teeth out of OSHA to take the heat off of business. They say the trend is to push so-called behavioral solutions; in other words, to blame the employee, not the employer.

Steve Young, CNN Financial News, Washington.


MCMANUS: Early in our show, you heard about the workplace. In "Worldview" that theme continues as we take an up close look at various jobs. Have you ever thought about becoming an astronaut, maybe traveling to the moon? Well, we'll head to France for more on that, plus a look at the automobile industry in Yugoslavia and around the world, and a peek at pottery makers in Vietnam. It's a job that combines business and art.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: We head to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Southeast Asia. You may have studied the country's devastating civil war in history class. The conflict between North Vietnam and South Vietnam lasted 20 years, from 1955 to 1975. Soon after the southern Vietnamese government collapsed and North Vietnam replaced it with a communist led regime. The two sides were then united.

Since the war, Vietnam has struggled to reconstruct its economy. The government has implemented many programs in order to boost development, even allowing private enterprise. Yet, despite the progressive nature of Vietnam's modern day market, a traditional livelihood is proving strong.

Kelly Cullihan (ph) shows us a family style business that's developed from the ground up.


KELLY CULLIHAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scene is bustling in Bau Truc (ph) village. Here, the Cham people have been making pottery for generations. The artistic lineage is passed on by the women.

PHU THI NGU, POTTER (through translator): I have been teaching three of my daughters to make pottery. I make the bigger pots, and they make the smaller ones. We make many different kinds of pots because this is our livelihood. I have to teach my children to make pottery to earn a living and overcome hardships.

CULLIHAN: The women may create the unique objects. It's the men who dig out the clay and haul it back to the village. But ultimately, it's a family affair.

PHU THI NGU (through translator): From the time of our ancestors, generation after generation has been making pottery. In every family, all family members take part. The husbands and sons get firewood and soil. The mothers and daughters make the pottery.

CULLIHAN: The clay is dried in the sun and then mixed with sand. The entire batch is then soaked in water for about a day before the shaping begins. It's a way of life, as solid as the earth: unchanging and filled with a sense of balance.

The Cham are one of Vietnam's 54 ethnic minorities and are considered an ancient civilization. Temples built by their ancestors are dotted throughout central Vietnam, providing testimony to a glorious past. The Cham say they learned to make pottery from Chinese in the 11th century.

After a firing is done, women often gather in a circle and dance around the objects. Still, the crops and livestock need tending to between pottery-making sessions. And while selling pottery is not a big money-maker, it is a way of life that has worked for centuries, providing each member of the community with a definite place in the order of things.

Kelly Cullihan, for INSIDE ASIA.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: What type of career interests you? With so many different and fascinating jobs available in the world today, it's sometimes easier to decide first on a general industry, like farming, medicine, aviation, manufacturing or banking. Then, you can focus on finding the specific job in that industry which interests you the most. Take, for example, the auto industry. Did you know that the auto industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the United States? According to the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, 14 million U.S. jobs, or one out of every seven, is in auto manufacturing or a related industry.

Motor vehicles are a central part of society in the U.S. and around the world. Global sales last year totaled nearly 55 million vehicles. Some of the biggest auto makers are found in the U.S., Germany and Japan.

But autos are even manufactured in countries like Yugoslavia, which today is comprised of the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro. The swift collapse of the larger Yugoslav Federation in 1991 was followed by warfare, the destabilization of Republic boundaries and finally the ouster of former President Slobodan Milosevic. Throughout the Yugoslav auto industry survived, but just barely.

CNN's Alessio Vinci takes a look.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The harsh reality of Yugoslavia's economic situation, evident here at the Zastava car factory in Kragujevac, 100 miles south of Belgrade. It barely survived 10 years of economic sanctions and two NATO air raids, which destroyed most of its assembly line. The old regime of Slobodan Milosevic rebuilt most of it at a cost of $80 million. But the plant is now working at 40 percent capacity, producing a car you can take home for less than $3,500.

(on camera): In 1990, the Zastava car factory employed 18,000 people, producing 190,000 cars per year. Today, production is down to 13,000 cars per year and half of the 11,000 workers who remain here are on paid leave, earning $7 a month.

(voice-over): Active employees earn around $50 per month. They work in freezing conditions, the plant's heating system crippled.

SVETOMIRKA SIMIC, CAR FACTORY WORKER: The working conditions are very hard. They have been like this for the last 10 years. We have no heating, no equipment, no protective gloves, no uniforms, no soap to wash our hands, nothing. But we have no way out because we have to work. We have no other job.

VINCI: Among other problems, management says the lack of raw materials, which have to be imported at high costs. The car produced here, while affordable to many here in Serbia, remains non-competitive on the regional market. The factory manager knows that and that is why he is looking for international investors to modernize production and improve the quality of the car.

MILOSAV DJORDJEVIC, ZASTAVA CAR FACTORY DIRECTOR: The interest for a foreign investor is in the market. They help the living standards to rise. In a region with 60 million people, there will be a desire and need for new cars.

VINCI: The director says with a mere $10 million initial investment, production could be five times higher. But he says first the new government should reform the banking system and laws regulating international investments.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Kragujevac, Yugoslavia.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Have you ever considered becoming an astronaut? Make that a cosmonaut in Russia or a taikonaut in China. Whatever you call it, it involves traveling in space, maybe even walking on the moon. For centuries, the moon has been the object of mystery, mysticism and even fear. Even now, despite Neil Armstrong's famous steps in 1969 and an apparent focus on space exploration to Mars and beyond, the moon retains its fascination.

And for some the desire to live in what seems a barren, inhospitable atmosphere is as strong as ever, as Peter Humi found out in Paris.


PETER HUMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Space may be the final frontier but why would anyone want to live on the moon?

CARL E. KOPPESCHAAR, AUTHOR, "A MOON HANDBOOK": In fact, the moon is a celestial wall plug. You can put up a solar cell from the moon. We have all the materials. We do not have to bring water. We have water ice on the moon nowadays. We have metals and all the things we need in the soil.

HUMI: Koppeschaar's handbook, subtitled, "A 21st century Travel Guide," hasn't exactly topped the best seller's list. But it's compulsory reading among the few dozen participants who took part in a convention on colonizing the earth's nearest neighbor. Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," was a landmark film made more than 30 years ago. But scenes in the film of human settlements on the moon remain science fiction.

Recent space exploration has focused on Mars and orbiting space stations. But now, the European Space Agency is thinking seriously about the moon.

GIUSEPPE RACCA, EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY: The smart one, it's a satellite which will go to the moon. It's actually the first spacecraft launched by Europe, Western Europe to the moon. It's a technology driven mission.

HUMI: The aim of the $80 million program is to "perform lunar sciences." Smart One is due to be launched within two years. More down to earth is how to finance any long-term moon project.

DR. BERNARD FOING, CHAIRMAN, LUNAR EXPLORERS SOCIETY: There are some companies which are very interested in funding some missions that will go, for instance, near the South Pole of the moon. Others would want, in a 30- to 40-years time frame to exploit the helium-3 . This is a very special isotope of helium that you can use for nuclear fusion.

HUMI: Space tourism is another possibility.

KOPPESCHAAR: If you have a lunar swimming pool, you can have high towers of 30 or 60 meters and before you get down, at one sixth of earth's gravity, you've lost nine seconds. So imagine all the somersaults and twists you can make before you reach the water.

HUMI: And besides, say the lunar enthusiasts, it takes seven to nine months to reach Mars. The moon is only 48 hours away. Beam us up, Scottie.

Peter Humi, CNN, Paris.


MCMANUS: As the yearly graduation rituals continue, many new grads are hesitant about entering the work force. The economy is in a slump and people are being laid off from their jobs. So, what's the best asset you can take to a job interview? Knowledge, right? Well, look no further, because here's NEWSROOM financial reporter Mara Wilcox with some great information for you job seekers.


MARA WILCOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Screaming Media, a company that distributes digital content over the Internet, says they're going strong. They employ over 300 people globally and are still hiring.


WILCOX: Ben Stickney, a 22-year-old fresh out of college, was drawn to the non-traditional atmosphere of a high-tech startup.

STICKNEY: Just the layout of the office, I think, is very different. For instance, there's no physical hierarchy. There are no cubicles and no corner offices. I sit at a desk just like the CEO of our company.

WILCOX: Technology has changed the face of the workplace. Good- bye coat and tie, hello fun and games, and with this shift has come more responsibility for young people.

STICKNEY: From the minute I started working at Screaming Media, I was thrown into the mix and I wasn't doing clerical work, I was on the phones and doing deals right away.

WILCOX: College counselors say kids are more wary of high-tech start-ups and dot-coms this year than last. They've seen friends get laid off and stock options amount to nothing.

DEBBIE ROTHSTEIN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: We do have some students who are still going into the dot-coms, but that's based on their interest in the field more so than the opportunity to just make a ton of money right from the start.

WILCOX: But there is no denying the dot-coms' impact. They have set a new standard, causing today's college graduates to be choosier than in the past.

KAREN KUREK, ARTHUR ANDERSON: They want to know not only the very experience that they're going to be entering into, but also the environment and the culture of the organization.

WILCOX: Some studies show that young people today will average about eight different employers by their early '30s. Many of those jobs will be in technology, the fastest growing occupation.

KUREK: Today there are approximately 2.5 million jobs that are out there related to the Internet. These could be positions related to knowledge managers, to information architects, all people that are focusing on either creating Web pages or connecting companies with customers and people and employees through technology.

WILCOX: Between 1998 and 2008, the government estimates new jobs for database administrators will grow by 77 percent; for systems analysts, by 94 percent; computer support specialists by 102 percent; computer engineers by 108 percent; and all other computer scientists by a whopping 118 percent. Nineteen-year-old college student and Internet entrepreneur Kevin Collern has had a career in technology since he was 12. He says that youth is now an advantage in today's job market.

KEVIN COLLERN, INTERNET ENTREPRENEUR: We know this industry and we know this technology and we're better able to work with it than people who have been existing, you know, in tech fields. And as technology grows and continues to get, you know, more in depth, we are better prepared to work with it than someone who has to relearn it, because it's been part of our life and part of our culture and it's basically a second nature.

WILCOX: And they want to learn even more in college. Counselors say interest in a computer related major has grown tremendously. According to one study, 20 percent of male high school students plan to study computer science in college. For women, the top pick is medicine and health services.

(on camera): So now that you know what's out there, what skills do you need to find a job? Well, no matter what you want to do or what you study, you'll need to be tech savvy. Roughly 60 percent of Americans use the Internet in their jobs today.

(voice-over): And take your typical auto mechanic. One study shows that there is more on board computerization in the average new automobile than was involved in the Apollo 13 space mission.

COLLERN: Some people have the idea that, you know, they go into a tech job or they don't. But really every job you go into is going to be a tech job in some way. You know, e-mail, the Web, these things, companies can't afford to have employees that aren't comfortable with these things.

WILCOX: But even before tech skills, the number one thing that employers in any field are looking for is the ability to communicate. You need to be able to write and talk to others clearly and effectively. Number two, technical skills, meaning the basics like e- mail. Three, be a team player.

Fifteen-year-old Yolanda Mendoza is already developing all three of those skills by writing for an online magazine she created with some friends and mentors.

YOLANDA MENDOZA, WEB MAGAZINE WRITER: My brother actually told me no, it's really confusing. You cannot get into it. So I went OK, I want to know. Like I want to know why it's so confusing. I want to know for the future. So I just got into it no matter what people said and I know a little bit more about it than I did before.

WILCOX: But even more traditional high school jobs are a great way to try out new things and develop important career skills.

ROTHSTEIN: 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 and employers value all work experience. Lifeguarding is great work experience. Working in McDonald's or Burger King is great experience. Babysitting, any time where you are demonstrating what you can do and developing a work history is what you can start doing in high school.

WILCOX: Career advisers say that experience is becoming more and more important because kids are now getting jobs and internships at a younger age than before. But the most important thing you can do is follow your interests.

ROTHSTEIN: We always talk about what are the hot careers, but if it's not what you're most interested in, it's probably not what you should pursue. You're going to be working for a very long time and you probably will change careers. You should always be going after something that you find interesting because if it's interesting to you, that's really the first step towards succeeding in it.

WILCOX: And even though Yolanda Mendoza is not sure what her career will be, she is certain of one thing.

MENDOZA: In the future, that's what I want to do. It's fun. It's something I enjoy. And if I enjoy doing it, well, I feel like I won't ever have to work a day in my life because it's something that I love to do.

WILCOX (on camera): What if you don't know what you want to do? Experts say start exploring now. Ask older people you know about their jobs. Visit different workplaces and research companies on the Web. Remember, it's never too early to start thinking about the career of your future.


MCMANUS: And speaking of jobs, mine's done for the day. This is NEWSROOM. We'll see you tomorrow.



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