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NEWSROOM for May 25, 2001

Aired May 25, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: It's Friday, May 25. And this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Welcome. I'm Shelley Walcott.

Here's what's coming up.

Today's top story: Political party-hopping. Then, from Capitol Hill to the Great White Way, "Editor's Desk" has a ticket to one of the biggest hits on Broadway. Up next, in "Worldview" we're after the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then, we end with a lesson on Memorial Day.

A new political landscape in Washington as Democrats prepare to take control of the United States Senate. Republican Senator Jim Jeffords from Vermont announced Thursday he would leave his party and become Independent. That's as soon as President Bush receives the compromised tax bill.


SEN. JIM JEFFORDS (R), VERMONT: Increasingly, I find myself in disagreement with my party. I understand that many people are more conservative than I am and they form the Republican Party. Given the changing nature of the national party, it has become a struggle for our leaders to deal with me and for me to deal with them.


WALCOTT: Jeffords' announcement presents the Bush administration with yet another test.

John King now on whether Mr. Bush will be able to fulfill his campaign pledge to unite America and put an end to partisan warfare in Washington.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Jeffords event was piped over the speakers on Air Force One. Aides say the president didn't listen, but he landed in Cleveland with a simple message.

BUSH: I respect Senator Jeffords, but I respectfully -- but respectfully -- I couldn't disagree more.

KING: The Jeffords defection poses two big challenges for the president: selling his agenda in a Senate soon to be run by Democrats, and making sure that out here, where the voters are, he isn't blamed for driving a moderate out of the Republican Party.

BUSH: I was elected to get things done on behalf of the American people and to work with both Republicans and Democrats, and we're doing just that.

KING: The president and his senior staff bristled at Jeffords' explanation, his comments that he felt more and more at odds with his party and the president on issues from abortion and the environment, to taxes and education.

Perception matters in politics. And while nearly six in 10 Americans approve of how Mr. Bush is handling his job as president, there are some early image issues: six in 10 Americans, for example, say energy companies and big business have too much influence over Mr. Bush; 75 percent say his tax cut will benefit the rich. A priority now is making sure the Jeffords defection doesn't hurt the president outside of Washington.

SCOTT REED, GOP STRATEGIST: Bush needs to very quickly change the channel, change the terms of the debate, get back on the offense with some of his policy initiatives and get back to the bully pulpit which he occupied so well for the first 125-30 days.

KING: Back at the office, Mr. Bush huddled with top aides to assess the new landscape. More outreach to Democrats is a must now, but there are risks.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Obviously, if he does that, he makes the right wing mad, and the right wing, if you have anything -- you know, can say anything about the right wing, they are vocal.

KING: But top Bush advisers say changing the sales pitch doesn't mean changing the agenda, a line that cheers conservatives.

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": I think he is actually in a stronger position in the long run politically if he sticks by the principles he championed as a candidate. So I think, no, I think Bush is going to push forward. I think there is going to be more of a fight.

(on camera): More of a fight and more of a test for a president for whose party is roiled by internal squabbling. And this agenda suddenly faces a far less certain fate in the Congress.

John King, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: As we mentioned earlier, Jeffords plans to wait until the president's tax cut bill reaches the White House before officially switching from Republican to Independent. That will happen soon. And when it does, Democrats will gain more than just control of the Senate, they'll gain an upper hand on the legislative agenda and judicial nominations as well.

Kate Snow reports on some issues likely to be affected by the switch.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: The historic 50-50 Senate now becomes history itself.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And Democrats hope to shape the future with their own agenda.

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: It's going to be an opportunity for things like patients' bill of rights, like Medicare reform, I think, to come to the floor of the Senate, perhaps faster than it would have.

SNOW: The patient's bill of rights won't be the bill the White House supports. Instead, Democrats will push legislation sponsored by Senators Ted Kennedy, John Edwards, and Republican John McCain. It would give millions of Americans the ability to sue their HMOs for up to $5 million dollars.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The votes are very much, probably, the same today as they were yesterday -- or on a prescription drug issue, or perhaps on a minimum wage. But the fact is, you can bring these issues up.

SNOW: And they can bring up President Bush's nominees for key judicial posts, or not. Democrats pledge to scrutinize Mr. Bush's choices, and hope their newfound power on the Senate Judiciary Committee will force a change in the course.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We will not have nominations of right-wing after right-wing after right-wing judges. Judges will have to be moderate. The president will get some he wants, we will get some we want, and there will be a compromise that, overall, the bench will be a moderate bench.

SNOW: Compromise is likely on energy issues, too. The outgoing energy chairman says he'll work with his Democratic colleague to rewrite President Bush's plan.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I don't think the priorities are any different. Obviously, we've got a job to do. There's an energy crisis in this country, and Senator Bingaman and I are going to work together to address it.

SNOW: Democrats say the proposal to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge won't survive. And, unlike the administration, they'll push for federal involvement to help with California's power problems.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: California is a problem. And we need to help. We can't ignore them.

SNOW: But keeping all those promises won't be easy. Republicans warn the change in leadership isn't a magic wand.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: Some people say, well, it'll change what is considered on the floor of the Senate. Not actually. Under Senate rules, as we've learned from the Democrats when they are in the minority, you can offer amendments and issues that are important to you as an individual senator or as a party.

SNOW (on camera): And nothing the Democrats do from now on can change one fact: The president's top priority is set to pass Congress. Every taxpayer will get tax relief this year, despite the switch in the Senate.

Kate Snow, CNN, Capitol Hill.


WALCOTT: In our "Editor's Desk," today, we head to Broadway to check out a hit play: "The Producers." But before we do, ask yourself some questions. What makes a play or even a movie great? Is it the quality of the material, the cast, the director or marketing? Many factors go into a theatrical production. An old-fashioned musical comedy, a show that really beckons to the Broadway of the 1950s has become the biggest hit on Broadway in years.

Peter Viles takes us behind the curtain.



NATHAN LANE, ACTOR: Two cardinal rules of being a Broadway producer are one: never put your own money in the show.


LANE: Never put your own money in the show!


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Old Broadway advice, but you can bet most theater producers wish they had put some of their money in this show. "The Producers" is the hottest ticker on Broadway in years, even at the highest prices Broadway has ever seen, $100 for the best seats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mel Brooks is terrific, so I'm making the sacrifice for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has to be worth it, and I think this is worth it, but it is still very expensive. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE PRODUCERS" MOVIE)

GENE WILDER, ACTOR: Mr. Bialystock, I cannot function in these conditions!


VILES: Based on a 1967 Mel Brooks movie that became a cult classic, it's the story of two hapless producers who try to stage a flop, a musical about Hitler's Germany, but end up instead with a giant hit. And on 44th street, life is imitating art.

Even in previews, "The Producers" was challenging "The Lion King" for the Broadway box office title. Both take in roughly $1 million a week. When the show opened last Thursday to rave reviews, Mel Brooks and the eight other real producers of the show took a gamble: they raised top ticket prices to $100.

GEORGE WACHTEL, AUDIENCE RESEARCH & ANALYSIS: This is not unprecedented. "42nd Street" opened in 1980 at $35, jumped to 40. "Cats" opened at $40 in 1982, and immediately jumped to 45 after opening.

VILES: Despite the sticker shock, advance sales are running at $1 million a day. Scalpers are getting up to $400 for choice seats to weekend shows.

(on camera): The critical reviews have been so overwhelmingly positive, and the box office sales have been so strong that there is talk on Broadway that this production will be running at this theater 10 years from now.

Peter Viles, CNN Financial News, New York.



LISA BUSSARD, NATRONA HEIGHTS, PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, my name is Lisa Bussard from Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, and I'm curious to know more about the guy that says, "You've got mail."

ELWOOD EDWARDS (voice-over): My name is Elwood Edwards, people know me as El, and I'm the voice of "You've got mail."

KATHERINE BORSCENIK, DIRECTOR OF AOL PROGRAMMING: Elwood, in the late 1980's, was a self-described computer junkie, and his wife Karen was a customer service representative that worked at AOL.

EDWARDS: I recorded phrases on a cassette tape and it was digitized into the software, initially as a test, and it caught on. The "You've got mail" phrase is heard in excess of 40 million times per day.

BORSCENIK: There's a bit of a mystique behind Elwood. I think it's a little bit less important about who Elwood is, but what that phrase has come to represent for so many people. Really, it's synonymous with getting e-mail, and it's a personal voice on top of what is a technical experience, getting mail delivered.

Elwood's voice will remain as part of AOL. It's pretty much associated in our customer's mind with the happy experience of receiving e-mail.

EDWARDS: It has become something that is a normal part of so many people's daily lives.


WALCOTT: Culture, controversy and business are themes in "Worldview" today. We'll examine the polygraph test. Does it offer too much wiggle room or not enough? Plus, why Irish eyes are smiling when it comes to jobs these days and a look at an Africa dance, which has its roots in apartheid.

South Africa is the most highly industrialized nation on the continent of Africa. The country has great natural beauty and a wealth of natural resources. Despite this, South Africa has been troubled by violence and isolated from other countries because of its racial policy. It was the last nation in Africa ruled by a white minority. From the late 1940s until the early 1990s, the white controlled government enforced the policy of racial segregation called apartheid. Apartheid denied voting and other rights to the black majority. By 1991, apartheid had been abolished, and in 1993, voting rights were extended to all races.

Memories of South Africa's troubled times are still vivid as is evident in one stage production called "Gumboots.

Nadia Bilchip reports.


NADIA BILCHIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Gumboots" is a high-energy musical production, which tells a story, a story of human triumph in the face of oppression. Some historians suggest "Gumboots" art has been inspired by Russian and German folk dancing, brought to the continent by sailors documented in South African ports. But the most common belief is that it began in the late 1800s as a way for black South African miners to communicate.

Water in the mines made for unsanitary conditions. Giving the workers knee-high rubber boots, known as gumboots, proved a cheap alternative for the white mine owners than draining the water. It's believed that some miners were chained to their positions and forbidden to speak.

Miners tapped their boots to a kind of Morse code. The sound on the bottom taps on the boots signifies the miner's chains.

VINCENT NCABASHE, PERFORMER: Well, I can say, oh, man I'm here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come here you know, by slavery. BILCHIP: Each song has a message that portrays some aspect of the miner's lives. Fox example, the song "Train" brings to life the image of miners tapping thousands of miles from their homes, far away from their families to earn a living in the mines of Johannesburg.

With harsh living and working conditions, gumboot dancing is often an escape to miners. While these cast members aren't miners, they also turned to gumboot dancing as an escape.

During the Soweto riots of 1976, the black students rose up against the oppressive Apartheid regime. Women set up youth clubs as a safe haven for students caught up in township violence. Women like Maggie Makhuda, taught young people the way of their ancestors, including gumboot dancing.

MAGGIE MAKHUDA, YOUTH CLUB FOUNDER: Once they came into the club, we told them that they should be committed, they will be able to reach whatever limits they want to reach in their lives.

BILCHIP: Some of the children took a dance that they learned to the streets, becoming street performers, or buskers, a grueling profession with uncertain pay.

NICHOLAS NENE, PERFORMER: So in the street, you stay there for the whole day just in the hot sun of South Africa, dancing throughout the whole day, from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00 the afternoon.

BILCHIP: It was on the street that this cast was discovered. A producer invited them to perform for festivals but they were so well received, talked into taking the show on the road.

ZENZI MBULI, DIRECTOR, "GUMBOOTS": We had to take people who are just askers on the street and then we could do (UNINTELLIGIBLE) But we have to work with them a lot because they didn't have any experience working with theater.

BILCHIP: "Gumboots" was created in 1998 and premiered a year later to a sell-out crowd in Grahamstown, South Africa. Now the dancers have embarked on an international tour.

The cast members draw the crowd into their performance with lighthearted numbers. But there are also more somber moments, times when the dancers remind us of darker days of apartheid South Africa and the sometimes deadly conditions in the mines.

Another gripping moment is a tribute to Nelson Mandela, the man who broke the chains of apartheid.

SIPHO NDLELA, PERFORMER: It's all so good because like we were so oppressed, you know, for quite a long time. And now we show that the world that how South Africans can do, you know.

BRIAN MUZI NKOSI, PERFORMER: The audience just love it. The audience just go with the flow. You know, you should see the show when it comes to the end. People just can't help themselves. They stand up and they clap along to the music. It's just great. BILCHIP: You might call it a 19-minute miracle: men who have triumphed despite adversity.

For CNN, I'm Nadia Bilchip.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Next, we travel to Ireland. Often called the Emerald Isle, Ireland is famous for the beauty of its lush green countryside. The small, independent country located in northwestern Europe, however, also has a history of economic hardship. In the 1840s, a potato blight led to starvation and disease. More than one million people died, thousands of others left the country. More than one century later, the Irish are regaining economic strength and population growth is growing strong.

Brian Palmer brings us a closer look at what Ireland is doing to lure people back to the country.


BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Less than a decade ago, 50,000 people were leaving Ireland every year for England, the United States, Australia -- any place with jobs to offer. Now, with unemployment and inflation down dramatically and the fastest economic growth among developed countries, the so-called Celtic Tiger is wooing back many who left with a travelling road show called "Jobs Ireland."

RODY MOLLOY, IRELAND TRAINING AND EMPLOYMENT AUTHORITY: We're here to explain to people what we have to offer in Ireland: good career prospects and a good quality of life.

GREGORY CRAIG, DIRECTOR, "JOBS IRELAND": We've two categories of people: Irish emigrants returning home, we hope, and then non-Irish people that want to work and share in the booming economy that's going on in Ireland at the moment.

PALMER (on camera): The Irish government also acknowledges that going home isn't as simple as getting on a plane to Dublin or Shannon. It puts out a handbook with information for returnees about finding a home, putting kids in school and paying taxes. It also contains some cautionary notes.

(voice-over): Housing prices are high, the handbook notes, and gas isn't cheap.

Father Colm Campbell advises Irish emigrants returning home.

FATHER COLM CAMPBELL: What I am doing is a necessary compliment to what the Irish government is doing. And I'm hoping to go to that fair and be able to recruit people for my seminar when I'm there so that people will go home fully prepared.

PALMER: Such preparation is crucial, particularly for those who haven't visited their homeland in years. ANNE-MARIE SCANLON, EMERALD ISLE IMMIGRATION CENTER: I would say to somebody to just get the facts. You know, to find out exactly how much housing is going to cost before you go back. If you have children, think very seriously about their education.

PALMER: James Pendergast (ph) has lived in the U.S. for 17 years.

JAMES PENDERGAST: We've always had this idea that we were going to go home -- go home to Ireland. It just happens that Ireland is doing well economically now so maybe we'll take a -- take a chance.

PALMER: Jackie Freeman (ph) has spent almost 16 years in the States.

JACKIE FREEMAN: Well, I've taken computer course after computer course here. And somehow, I feel like the qualifications do go back, you know, so I can have a good go at it. I always wanted to be home with family.

PALMER: And freeman will be going back to a home she bought last year with her brother outside of Dublin.

Brian Palmer, CNN, New York.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Recent concerns over spies and top secret U.S. security agencies like the CIA have raised new questions over whether the federal government should implement the use of polygraph tests.

Now, a polygraph machine is used to help determine if someone is lying. It measures things like pulse rate, blood pressure and breathing as someone answers questions asked by a polygraph operator. The impulses are recorded by pens on a moving graph of paper. The data is then used as the basis for determining whether someone is lying. The polygraph test has been around since 1924 and has been controversial ever since.

Kathleen Koch takes a look at whether the polygraph would help in bolstering U.S. security concerns.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid I'm going to ask you a very personal, embarrassing question?


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The polygraph: imperfect technology or a valuable spy catcher? Intelligence agencies who rely on it say it is both.

JIM WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: They are, in the hands of an experienced polygrapher, a useful interrogation tool. But unfortunately, they have a rather large number of cases of both false positives and false negatives.

KOCH: Polygraphs are widely used by the CIA and the National Security Agency. The case of accused spy Robert Hanssen has advocates pushing for more polygraphs at the FBI. But at the nation's weapons lab, some scientists with access to nuclear secrets are balking at being forced to take the test.

AL ZELICOFF, SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES: It's an excuse to conduct an inquisition under psychologically and physically very uncomfortable circumstances.

KOCH: Polygraphs measure breathing, blood pressure, and other physical changes, but experts say the machines and their operators have an error rate of 15 percent. So spies like Aldrich Ames have passed, while innocent employees and job applicants have failed.

That's what 12-year Atlanta police veteran Darryn Moore says happened to him when he applied for a job at the Secret Service. Married to a Secret Service agent and cited for good work on the Atlanta Olympic bombing case, Moore was told he lied about whether he used or sold drugs.

DARRYN MOORE, FORMER SECRET SERVICE APPLICANT: I just felt really hurt by an agency telling me that I failed the polygraph without doing any background investigation, without going out and talking to some family, friends, or anything, like most agencies do.

KOCH: One alternative is a technology that flashes words or images about a crime on a computer screen and detects whether a person's brain recognizes them.

LARRY FA, "BRAIN FINGERPRINTING" EXPERT: If a person has committed a particular crime, there will be unique features about that crime that only the perpetrator will know, and we can detect those.

KOCH (on camera): The brain-test technology was admitted in court for the first time in March. Polygraphs are not, and critics predict that wider government use of the polygraph could end up hurting more than it helps.

Kathleen Koch, for CNN, Washington.


WALCOTT: This Memorial Day weekend, towns and cities across the United States will pay tribute to the country's war heroes. From the American Revolution to the Persian Gulf War, countless men and women have lost their lives fighting for their country. Memorial Day is a time to remember their sacrifice.


(voice-over): It was originally called Decoration Day and started during the U.S. Civil War, a day to remember soldiers killed in battle. How did it all get started? Well, during the Civil War, which left more than 500,000 soldiers dead, women placed flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers, even as the fighting continued. These local tributes evolved into a national observance beginning in 1868, three years after the war ended when Major General John A. Logan established May 30 as the date.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., where tens of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers were already buried. Following speeches in honor of the dead, those gathered sang hymns and offered prayers. Not until after World War I, however, were such commemorations expanded to honor those who died in any American war.

While many cities claim to have originated Memorial Day, in 1966 Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, as the holiday's birthplace. Waterloo's first Memorial Day was May 5, 1866 when businesses closed and flags flew at half-mast.

Today, Memorial Day is a legal holiday observed by most states on the last Monday in may. Though many southern states also have days for honoring the Confederate dead, families place flags on graves, parades march through towns and guns fire salutes all for the same purpose: to honor generations of patriots.


WALCOTT: After years of delay and legal wrangling, the United States Senate unanimously approved a bill to expedite construction of the National World War II Memorial. The memorial would be the first to honor all of the nation's veterans who served during World War II.

Bruce Morton reports on the legislation passed this week and why some people are opposed to it.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They had a bald eagle at the groundbreaking last fall. They had the president of the United States.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This memorial is built not only for the children whose grandparents served in the war.


MORTON: Trouble is, it wasn't built. They never actually broke any ground. Congress approved a World War II memorial back in 1993. Everyone is for the idea. Critics say the one planned is too big, and will mar the sweep of the Mall between the Washington and Lincoln monuments. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), D.C. DELEGATE: Anyone who loves the city and admires the uniqueness of Washington and the Mall could not possibly want the particular memorial that will go up.

MORTON: Maybe. But Monday night, the Senate unanimously approved construction, waiving more hearings and nullifying a lawsuit critics have brought.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: It indeed is a symbol of the sacrifices of the entire generation, not only those who went abroad to the battlefields, but those here at home and their families.

MORTON: And Tuesday, the House, noting that the controversy over the memorial has lasted longer than the war, agreed.

REP. IKE SKELTON (D), MISSOURI: This bill puts an end to the discussion, the disagreements, and after 22 public hearings on its site and design, something needs to be done.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: The only reason it is not being constructed is, in fact, a technicality.

MORTON: And the veterans, of course, are getting older.

REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D), OHIO: Let us remember the significance of what these greatest Americans, greatest generation of Americans did for the freedom of humankind. Let us build this memorial in a timely way.

MORTON: Approval came quickly.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: So many as are in favor, say "aye."


RYAN: Those opposed "no." In the opinion of the chair, two- thirds of those present having voted in the affirmative, the rules are suspended. The Senate amendment is agreed to.

MORTON: Critics, including some veterans, still object.

GEORGE IDELSON, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: Personally, I don't think that America owes me a memorial. What I do think that Congress owes me is respect for the democracy for which I fought. And I am deeply offended by this riding roughshod over due process.

MORTON: Critics say they'll fight on.

JUDY SCOTT FELDMAN, NATIONAL COALITION TO SAVE OUR MALL: We go back to the courts. We don't believe that in our American system of government, where we have a legislative, executive and a judiciary, that the Congress can simply usurp the authority of the judiciary.

MORTON: Still, the legislation has now passed both House and Senate, and President Bush says he supports it. Construction could begin within two months.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WALCOTT: That's it for today's show. But there's still more history for you to learn. Just click on to There you'll find archival photos from the war, a detailed map of Pearl Harbor and a pretty cool interview with Ben Affleck, star of the new movie about the attack that pulled America into World War II.

Until then, we're off Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday. Be sure to catch us again starting next Tuesday. So have a great weekend.




4:30pm ET, 4/16

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