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NEWSROOM for May 17, 2001

Aired May 17, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Michael McManus. Glad you're with us on this Thursday. Let's get things going with a look at the rundown.

We begin today's show with a geography lesson. Get ready to visit Kyrgyzstan. Up next, we're riding the waves in "Science Desk." Stay tuned for that. Then, we'll learn all about press freedom as "Worldview" brings us reports from around the globe. Finally, NEWSROOM is headed to the prom.

And now our top story. Ten years after the cold war ended, a real battle has emerged in the tatters of the former Soviet Union. Across a vast area in central Asia, several former Soviet republics are emerging from winter only to anticipate another season of violence. For the past two summers, radical Islamic insurgents have mounted deadly raids into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

The rebels, known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, are hoping to carve an Islamic state in the Ferghana Valley, which covers territory in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Last year, fighting was contained in sparsely populated areas of the remote but picturesque and mineral rich cluster of countries. But many observers fear that this year the conflict will spread, bringing war to more populated cities and towns.

Uzbekistan, the region's most populous country, is taking on the rebels by building a better equipped army. But small Kyrgyzstan, mountainous, with about four and a half million people in an area about the size of South Dakota, is already spending 13 percent, more than an eighth of its national budget, on defense, about $30 million U.S. And the battles threaten to make a poor, isolated existence only worse. But some are trying to bring hope to Kyrgyzstan. In a minute, we'll bring you to a symbol of the country's attempts to restart its economic engines.

But first, a look at one of the U.N.'s attempts to confront Kyrgyzstan's social problems in a country where unemployment climbs to 80 percent in some areas. It's called Radio Salam. And while it's an important tool for information, it also seems to be lifting spirits.

Our Jason Bellini paid a visit to Radio Salon and found one reason why it's such a hit.


JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Alex Gaphurov is probably the coolest guy in Batken, Kyrgyzstan. Radio Salam, where he's a D.J., opened in January. From the moment he arrived to start his new job, this town of 11,000, mostly farmers, noticed him.

ALEXANDER GAPHUROV, AGE 17 (through translator): When I first came here, my appearance was shocking. People were pointing at me with their fingers and saying hey, look, look, he has an earring.

BELLINI: Batken is a sleepy, isolated place resting in a valley in the south of Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. But the last two summers have brought it international attention, the unwanted excitement of fighting very close by between Islamic extremists and the Kyrgyz military. This summer, rapidly approaching, people in Batken are expecting the skirmishes to intensify.

Alex moved to Batken in January, one of seven D.J.s hired by UNICEF and several international organizations to get the station off the ground. It's the first independent broadcast outlet in the area, offering modern music to young people who feel far away from the rest of the world. The station broadcasts in both Kyrgyz and Russian, the two languages most commonly spoken in Kyrgyzstan.

Marianne Ohlers is with UNICEF, which paid for the station's modern equipment and provides the station's operating budget. She found Alex, who's 17, in Kyrgyzstan's second largest city after a tryout.

MARIANNE OHLERS, UNICEF: He's kind of an interesting role model for young people here.

BELLINI: An interesting role model, she says, because this hip city kid can help young people in the Batken region feel more closely connected with the whole of Kyrgyzstan, a little less isolated by geography and by their problems.

OHLERS: Batken is a region where unemployment is very, very high, around 80 percent. Young people, they don't have anything to do.

GAPHUROV (through translator): People listen to you and hear what you say and that lifts them up and you're a king. You create the rhythm.

BELLINI: A rhythm international relief organizations and the Kyrgyz government hope that will change the social climate in this area. The aid groups and the government fear that various guerrilla groups are recruiting the young, unemployed men of this area for their armies. Radio Salam doesn't address these issues head on. But it is trying to attack, in its own way, the ethnic tensions among the Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks who live side by side here. GAPHUROV (through translator): We try to suggest friendship because friendship is better. Our programming serves two purposes. It entertains and it also gives information.

BELLINI: Alex isn't always spinning CDs. He gives frequent news updates on everything relevant to his listeners. So far the signs are good. In Batken's market, radios are selling well. This merchant thanks Radio Salam for that. But in the coming months, the music could very well be playing over the sound of nearby gunfire and Alex may have to report the news in a more serious sounding voice than he does now.

Jason Bellini, CNN NEWSROOM, Batken, Kyrgyzstan.


MCMANUS: A long and arduous drive back and forth across borders through a valley took Jason to Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second largest city. There, a bazaar steeped in tradition offers employment and opportunity for interaction between people of different cultures. It also provides an affordable source of goods and economic hope.

Here's Jason Bellini again with more on the vast social and financial potential of the bazaar.


BELLINI (voice-over): Osh, Kyrgyzstan is a city that finds hope in what it once was, a bustling way station along the glorious silk road. Today that hope is projected onto Osh's bazaar. It has been centuries since Osh has seen anything like the flow of ethnic groups and different cultures now passing through its streets. But even they represent a trickle of what once was.

Before the silk road's slow demise around 700 years ago, Osh was a major intersection of the northern and central passages of the ancient trade route between China and the West. Traders passing by horse and camelback with their commercial goods and ideas stopped her. It's a proud legacy for the Kyrgyz people and visions of a modern day silk road are emerging as one possible way out of their current economic situation.

With wads of bills changing hands, with fine cloth, fresh foods and exotic spices all plentiful, it's easy to forget momentarily that Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries of central Asia.

ALISHER ANMADJANOVICH, OSH MEDIA RESOURCE CENTER: You can find pretty much everything here.

BELLINI: Alisher Anmadjanovich grew up in Osh. At 25 years old, he runs Osh's Media Resource Center, where he tries to help visitors understand his country and the different ethnic groups living here.

ANMADJANOVICH: The bazaar is the only place where you can see different cultures here.

BELLINI: He's watched over the past 10 years as the bazaar has come to life out of necessity.

ANMADJANOVICH: During the years of independence, lots of industries closed down. So the bazaar became the only place where people are making actually some living.

BELLINI: During the Soviet era, the central Asian republics contributed much of the heavy industry to Mother Russia, receiving consumer goods in return.

ANMADJANOVICH: You can see now lots of engineers and teachers selling different products. They're not working, the teachers or engineers, anymore.

BELLINI: Alisher says that the generation born in the years since the fall of the USSR sees its prospects in trade alone.

ANMADJANOVICH: These children, they are from, they are out of school and they come to bazaar to see how life is. Many young people come here to see opportunities for making money. There's no other way.

BELLINI: For the past 10 years, Kyrgyzstan and all of its "stan" neighbors have been on their own both economically and politically. With each passing year, the lines of trade are being redrawn and rediscovered along the dusty remnants of the fabled silk road. But the bazaar, with its free for all commerce, teaches the coming generation harsh and sometimes cynical life lessons.

ANMADJANOVICH: And many times they tell their children that life is the survival. I've heard it so many times. They say that you must survive. You must fight to life.

BELLINI: And while the short-term outlook in Kyrgyzstan is bleak, the legend of the silk road offers some hope for renewal amid dreams of its resurrection. Jason Bellini, CNN NEWSROOM, Osh, Kyrgyzstan.


MCMANUS: To read Jason's stories and find out more about the country, go to

OK, who says science can't be fun? I promise you're going to like this story. But before you see it, quiz time. What is a small ridge or swell moving across the interface of two fluids dependent on surface tension? Give up. I didn't know it either, but according to the "American Heritage Dictionary," it's an ocean wave.

There are many types of waves all over the world slowly making their way toward the nearest shore line, some with the help of the wind, others with the help of earth's gravity, at least until now. A California company has come up with a machine that mimics the size and force of a surfer's dream.

Denise Dillon hangs 10 and takes us to Australia, where the local surfers are giving it a whirl. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DENISE DILLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a surfer's dream: catching that perfect wave. But this wave isn't in the ocean, it's man-made. This mobile surf tank pumps 100,000 gallons of water a minute over a curved wall. The water spills back toward the pumps to form the wave. The wave simulator isn't exactly like surfing -- it's more of a combination of surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding.

ALBERT LIU, SURFER: It looks most like surfing, but we use a board that actually doesn't have any fins, so you really have to be very foot-sensitive and ride rail to rail. It feels kind of more like snowboarding in that regard.

DILLON: It took a few times for even the most accomplished surfers to get the hang of it; of course, there were plenty of classic wipe-outs.

The wave simulator was invented by a California company. This model is currently set up in Sydney, giving some of the Aussie surfers a chance to perfect their style. And for beginners; a chance to learn the technique.

The wave can be adjusted or even stopped in seconds. Just one of the advantages to the fake waves.

LIU: The tube is very similar to a real ocean tube. The difference is that you can actually look around you. You know, it's not three seconds, you can be in there for three minutes. And it takes this transitory experience and kind of makes it, you know, analyzable.

DILLON: Another advantage? This is safer than ocean surfing. The water is only ankle deep, so there's no danger of drowning -- just plenty of time to focus on that perfect wave.

Denise Dillon, CNN.



TODD FERAN, ORLANDO, FLORIDA: Hi. My name is Todd Feran from Orlando. And my question is: Why do we close our eyes when we sneeze?

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you have ever tried to keep your eyes open while you sneeze, you might find it is very difficult, if not impossible to do. Some scientists speculate the reason could be related to sneezing itself. A sneeze is an involuntary reflex to clear your nose of foreign substances, like certain allergens and other particles.

It is a fast and strong release of air to help push out what's there. When you blink your eyes, another involuntary reflex, you are doing, in essence, the same thing: clearing your eyes, as coughing clears your lungs and swallowing clears your mouth and throat. Perhaps your body perceives there is something in the area that shouldn't be there. And by closing your eyes, you are also protecting them from what you are releasing through your nose during a sneeze.


ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show, so you choose just the program segments that fit your lesson plan.

Plus, there are discussion questions and activities. And the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day, find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming "Desk" segments. It's all at this Web address, where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy. It's free. It's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops, and neither does learning.

MCMANUS: Today is World Telecommunications Day, a good time to think about the way news gets around the globe. That's on our minds a lot here at CNN. We have bureaus in 42 cities around the world. Another thing we're concerned with, freedom of the press. Just two weeks ago on May 3rd, countries around the world marked World Press Freedom Day. We focus both on telecommunications and a free press in "Worldview" today. Our stories take us to China, Ukraine and Russia.

Freedom of the press is not a new idea. It's been debated since the 1400s and the invention of the printing press. The idea that newspapers and the electronic media have the right to publish facts and ideas without government interference. Many democratic countries grant this right. In the United States, for example, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Western European nations and Japan are among others that uphold freedom of speech.

We turn now to a country struggling with the issue. Russia lacks a history of free speech and some say recent events point to a continuing problem and pressure on the media. Elina Fuhrman has more.


ELINA FUHRMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some say it all started with Kukly and its stars, a cast of puppets that portrayed Russia's President Vladimir Putin as a man struggling with the weight of office, an unflattering image for Russia's leader.


FUHRMAN: It has now evolved into a full blown confrontation case where some worry about Russia's commitment to freedom of speech and democracy. The Kremlin says it is committed.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA: Our stand is crystal clear. Only a strong state or an efficient and democratic state can protect civil, political and economic freedoms of the people.

FUHRMAN: But do these freedoms mean no criticism of the government? One man who tried to exercise his freedoms, media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, after his television network NTV, criticized Mr. Putin, Gusinsky landed in Moscow's Tsarist-era Butyrka prison for three days. NTV, the only independent television in Russia, was raided several times by masked gunmen. And Gusinsky himself has been linked to financial scandals.

The Putin government insists the investigation into Gusinsky's financial dealings has nothing to do with a free media and everything to do with a simple case of embezzlement. But at least one former president who is on the board of NTV thinks otherwise.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER SOVIET PRESIDENT: It is directly linked to a threat of freedom of the press in Russia.

FUHRMAN: Both the Chechen war and the Kursk submarine sinking showed that the new Russia is still struggling with how to report information quickly and accurately. Journalists covering the war in Chechnya say they face travel restrictions and constant harassment. Some Russian correspondents say they haven't been under such pressure since the 1980s, before glasnost and perestroika.

YEVGENY KISELYOV, HEAD OF NTV: This is the beginning of a new, well planned government attack on independent media and the remain, last remains of democratic freedoms in this country.

FUHRMAN: But with no history of free speech, not many Russians expect it from their media. They view satire like the puppets as a more credible voice of the truth, which may explain why Kukly has started such a fuss.

Elina Fuhrman, CNN.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: We turn now to Russia's neighbor, Ukraine, a large nation once under Russian control. For years, a policy of Russification forced Ukrainians to use the Russian language and emphasized Russian culture. Ukraine became independent in 1991. These days it's dealing with the idea of an independent media.

Jill Dougherty has this report.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Janina Sokolovskaya isn't sure who attacked her January 30th. She just entered her apartment building, she says, when a man held a knife to her throat. She escaped up the stairs. Just a few days before, Janina had published an interview with a former government official who was later jailed on corruption charges, an opponent of President Leonid Kuchma.

Of course I'm afraid, she says, because all you need now to set up the president is one more journalist to be killed, like Georgy Gongadze. Gongadze was an opposition journalist whose corpse was found in the woods outside Kiev last November. Soon after, secret audio tapes were made public, allegedly linking the president to the journalist's disappearance. Mr. Kuchma denies any role in the murder.

Many Ukrainian journalists say they're caught in the crossfire between competing economic and political clans in Ukraine, oligarchs who own most media outlets and use them as weapons. The government, too, controls segments of the media. Journalists like Sergei Rakhmanin say, but without using overt censorship.

SERGEI RAKHMANIN, "ZERKALO NEDELI WEEKLY": The first method is an audit by tax authorities. Virtually every paper has been through this. You're paralyzed and you can't publish. Or the fire department closes you down for having flammable rugs.

DOUGHERTY: The United States ambassador announced a $750,000 Ukraine Media Development Fund that, among other things, will help media respond to legal harassment.

CARLOS PASCUAL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: The Gongadze case and all of the issues that have arisen around it obviously have only heighten the questions in Ukrainian society about whether an independent media exists.

DOUGHERTY: The lack of a truly independent media, many journalists say, is preventing their fellow Ukrainians from making crucial political decisions. Outside the capital city Kiev, the situation is even worse.

We travel to places where there aren't any papers, she says, where lights and telephones don't work. People have nothing but state television. They have no idea what's happening in the country.

(on camera): Several reporters told us they're aware of the dangers they're facing, but as one of them put it, it's frightening to report on what's going on here, but it's even more frightening not to report it.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Kiev, Ukraine.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: More on press freedom as we turn to China. The communist government of China owns and operates the press itself. That often causes problems with the dissemination of information as Allison Tom, explains.


ALLISON TOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In China, freedom of speech on the Internet increasingly faces modern day challenges. How a deadly explosion destroyed a school in China's . Online media reports say the school was being used as a fireworks factory, employing young children to stuff fuses into firecrackers without pay. But Chinese authorities reported a different story, saying a lone suspect was responsible.

ZHU BANGZAO, FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: Currently, some foreign media are using this opportunity to make attacks on China. I have myself been clear on this point. I believe that some people are believing baseless rumors coming from the street and they refuse to believe our evidence and conclusions derived from our on-site investigations.

TOM: Internet experts say there's a gap between official and unofficial reports on the blast and in this day and age keeping up with information on Web sites is proving to be a difficult task for a government trying to control the Internet.

LAURENCE J. BRAHM, NAGA GROUP INTERNET CONSULTANT: On the one hand, the Internet is an enormous source of information. It allows new ideas to come into China and it is really revolutionizing the way people think. On the other hand, it also is a conduit to a lot of negative influences or what the government sees as negative influences and they're trying to now balance those two between each other.

TOM: Experts say conflicting reports about the explosion show the growing influence and power of the Internet. And even for a country like China that has strict rules for use of the Net, there's still the possibility for information to leak through.

Allison Tom, CNN.


MCMANUS: Saturday is Armed Forces Day in the United States, a day created in 1949 to commemorate all branches of the U.S. military. In conjunction with Armed Forces Day, we're gearing up for an encore presentation of "To Serve A Nation," an up-close look inside the U.S. military.

Hang onto your seats, we're flying to an aircraft carrier on an F-18 Hornet. It's duty, honor, country personified at the West Point Military Academy. How is an air force recruit as young as this guy able to monitor the space shuttle and live through a grueling 12 weeks of marine boot camp at Paris Island?

It's all Friday, May 18th, when NEWSROOM presents "To Serve A Nation."

Well, it's the beginning of the yearly ritual, tuxedos, dresses, flowers and, of course, limousines. Many teenagers are busy preparing for that wonderful night we call the prom.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, a similar celebration was held right here in Atlanta. It had all the trimmings of prom night, but this party included more than just music, decorations and dancing. This get together was a special celebration of life.


JANETTA DILLARD (ph), CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few months ago, Keysha Sanderson couldn't imagine being well enough to go to a high school prom.

KEYSHA SANDERSON, AGE 17: I was in the hospital for about three months. I had a lot of complications.

DILLARD: Keysha is alive today because of a liver transplant. But for now, the only thing on her mind is looking her best. She's going to the Starlight Children Foundation's fifth annual prom. The organization sponsors events like this and grants wishes for seriously ill students. The guests are all survivors. They have either been too sick to attend their own high school proms or have special physical or mental challenges that makes it difficult to enjoy events like this.

BRANDON HARRIS, AGE 17: I'm a diabetic/hypertension patient and I have an artificial hip. It's called capital femoral epiphysis.

JACLYN DAMATO, AGE 17: I just think it's special because it gives you a chance to forget about your illness and come out and have a good time for one night. And there's other kids and their situations, so you can have a good time with them together.

BILL IVEY, AGE 16: It's good. It's good. I mean it has good music. A lot of nice girls.

DILLARD: Billy carries oxygen and has a breathing tube in his throat.

IVEY: It's called hyperventilation syndrome and part of my lungs don't work real good so I have to be on oxygen or whatever. I have a treat.

DILLARD: He says he came to the prom in spite of his illness because, like anyone else, he's just a regular kid.

IVEY: I want them to think I'm a cool guy. I don't want them to think that oh, there goes that handicapped kid, you know, whatever.

JANIS ABERNATHY, STARLIGHT CHILDREN'S FOUNDATION: I think the fact that all of these kids are challenged with some physical ailment or disability, it brings them all together in the same room to have them feel very normal and very much like any other teenager.

DILLARD: But who says kids with special needs won't bend over backwards to have a good time?

TERESA GRISSOM, KEYSHA'S MOTHER: Just you need to watch them enjoy themselves because a lot of them have so much going on they didn't know if they were going to be here or not.

ABERNATHY: We find that the parents need it just as much, whether they're taking pictures of their kids, whether they're standing on the sidelines seeing their kids smile. There are a couple of kids out there that were so sick this morning, the only reason they're here is because they had the sheer desire to know that they could be having a good time.

DILLARD: Keysha says it has worked like a charm.

SANDERSON: I feel like a regular kid.

DILLARD: Janetta Dillard (ph), CNN, Atlanta.


MCMANUS: What and uplifting story. Don't forget about tomorrow. That's TO SERVE A NATION. And I will see you right back here on Monday.

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