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NEWSROOM for May 30, 2001

Aired May 30, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Welcome to the Wednesday edition of CNN NEWSROOM. It's good to see you again. I'm Tom Haynes.

And here's a look at what's ahead.

The U.S. Supreme Court gives pro golfer Casey Martin a ticket to ride. The details are coming up in "Top Story." Then, coming up in "Business Desk," we'll tell you where to find all the hot jobs. So stay tuned for that. Forging ahead to "Worldview," we turn the spotlight on the verdict in the U.S. Embassy bombing case. Finally, the sounds of pomp and circumstance.

A busy day, Tuesday, for the United States Supreme Court, as the justices hand down several significant rulings. One of which entitles disabled professional golfer Casey Martin to use a golf cart in tournaments where others must walk.

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires equal opportunity to be given to disabled people in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations and telecommunications. The ADA also prohibits threats against disabled people who seek these rights.

The Supreme Court justices said the legislation applies to professional sports events held in public venues as well.

Charles Bierbauer has more on the ruling.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Supreme Court ruled that the golf cart Casey Martin needs to get around a course is a relatively minor accommodation for the rare circulatory disease that limits his walking, since Martin can meet all the other tests of the game.

Writing for majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said, "the use of carts is not itself inconsistent with the fundamental character of the game of golf. The essence of the game has been shot making."

CASEY MARTIN, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It has been a long time, and just kind of waiting and wondering about my future, and I'm just grateful to know that the cart's there and can't be taken away.

BIERBAUER: Martin is playing this year on the Tour, golf's minor league, governed by the major PGA Tour. The Americans With Disabilities Act clearly required access for those with handicaps to the tournament's public galleries. But Martin's lawsuit ducked under the ropes and challenged the tour's requirement that players must walk the course because fatigue is a factor.

Justice Stevens: "Martin easily endures greater fatigue even with a cart than his able-bodied competitors do by walking."

The PGA Tour sees this as a narrow ruling.

TIM FINCHEM, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: This could be the only player in the world that it ever applies to. So, you know, I think that -- I think that while we are happy for Casey Martin today, and we are also happy that we got this straightened out, and it appears to be in a way that will allow us to maintain walking as part of golf at the professional championship level.

BIERBAUER: Justice Antonin Scalia, one of two dissenters, said the ruling was "benevolent," but outside the court's power to expand the 1990 disabilities act.

Scalia: "It is quite impossible to say that any of a game's arbitrary rules such as walking is essential."

MARTIN: The goal behind it obviously for me, I just wanted to play golf, and I needed some help to do that. So, that was my motivation. But if a greater good can come out of that, if this can open doors for people in golf, or just for life, then I think that's great, and would welcome that. And hopefully, that will happen.

BIERBAUER: The court's ruling will encourage those with disabilities. But the Americans with Disabilities Act still requires an individual assessment of when an accommodation is required on the golf course or anywhere else.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, The Supreme Court.


HAYNES: The Supreme Court's decision to let Casey Martin use a cart is receiving mixed reactions. Martin has a circulatory disorder in his right leg that makes it painful for him to walk long distances. He's received support from many people wanting to see him fulfill his dreams despite his disability.

Still, as Brian Cabell reports, some golfers say the PGA had grounds for its opposition.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amateur Bill Ruffing, here on the left, lugs his clubs around the golf course, but sees no reason to demand that Casey Martin, the professional, do the same.

BILL RUFFING, AMATEUR GOLFER: I really don't think that with so many wonderful golfers out there that, particularly Tiger Woods, that it's going to give him an unfair advantage.

CABELL: A common belief among the golfers on this sunny day at Bobby Jones golf course in Atlanta. Most of them approved of the Supreme Court ruling allowing Martin, who suffers from a painful circulatory disorder in his right leg, to use a golf cart during professional competition.

ONEDA CASTILLO, LPGA PROFESSIONAL: In the case of a disabled golfer, if he can't walk, it doesn't mean he can't make good shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a good golfer, and he deserves a right to play.

CABELL: The Professional Golfers Association and many prominent golfers had fought allowing Martin or any other pro to use a cart during a PGA tournament.

JACK NICKLAUS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: Golf is, you know, the idea of having a level playing field. That's all -- that's all the tour wanted to have, is everybody play under the same rules.

CABELL: That argument made sense to this sports talk show host.

NICK CELLINI, 790 "THE ZONE": I find it hard to believe that playing the back nine when it's 90 degrees out, as you're walking the course, absolutely is not going to potentially affect your performance on the course, and you can argue that.

CABELL: But the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken, saying walking is not an essential feature of the game. So Casey Martin, who's not yet a regular member of the PGA tour -- he plays on a secondary pro tour -- will be able to ride, while the other pros walk.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Atlanta.


HAYNES: In the headlines today, the President of the United States and the governor of California in a showdown over soaring energy prices. President Bush has rejected Governor Gray Davis' plea for federal caps on soaring electricity bills. But the governor is insisting the state should get some relief and says he may file a lawsuit to try and force the federal government to impose price controls on wholesale electricity in California.

Frank Buckley reports.


FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's first visit to California comes four months into his presidency, a sharp contrast to the previous president, who came to California less than a month after being elected, visiting time and again after that.

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he could have registered to vote in the state of California, Clinton was here so many times.

BUCKLEY: But Clinton needed California to win in '92 and '96. Bush didn't. He lost the state to Al Gore by more than a million votes.


BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear...


BUCKLEY: But Bush won the prize that counts. Still, this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see in the dark.

BUCKLEY: ... California's rolling blackouts, its energy crisis, made visiting California a more urgent matter, say some analysts, especially given Governor Gray Davis' recent criticisms of the president, saying only Bush could ease the energy burden by imposing price caps on wholesale electricity.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Look, I think the president has done some good things for California and I appreciate that. But on the big enchilada, he's been AWOL, and the big enchilada is to give us some temporary price relief while the 14 plants that my administration has approved come online, and give California the supply it needs to allow electricity deregulation to work.

BUCKLEY: Implied in the message, according to some analysts, this president does not feel your pain.

JEFFE: So he's coming out to defuse some of Governor Davis' arguments, some of Governor Davis' shifting of blame from California and the Democrats to the federal government, and by extension, the Republicans.

BUCKLEY: Polling suggests both Bush and Davis are suffering in California. A new Field Poll of California residents showing only 42 percent of Californians approve of the president's performance. Among 11 individuals and groups associated with the energy crisis, Bush was ranked among the bottom three.

MARK DICAMILLO, CALIFORNIA FIELD POLL: He's right up there with the state's electric utilities and the out-of-state energy providers in terms of the public's negative impression of the job they're doing on this issue.

BUCKLEY: The numbers show Governor Davis with his lowest job approval rating since taking office in 1999: 42 percent approve of his performance, 49 percent disapprove. The rating is a nearly 20 percent drop in job approval numbers since last June, an 18 percent drop since January. And at least one GOP strategist warns that if Davis hopes the president's visit will help to shift the political heat, it could backfire.

ARNOLD STEINBERG, GOP STRATEGIST: People don't understand all the intricacies of the energy crisis, but they do understand politics, and they don't want to see anybody blaming anybody else. And so I think Gray Davis is making a miscalculation if he's simply going to play the blame game.

BUCKLEY (on camera): Davis aides say the governor is not blaming the president, simply asking for relief from the effects of the deregulation that both men inherited, an issue that now threatens to mar both of their terms in office.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Los Angeles.


HAYNES: The recent economic slowdown has sent U.S. markets tumbling. Nevertheless, the country's unemployment rates remain historically low and in many cases, there's a high demand for workers.

In today's "Business Desk," Kitty Pilgrim looks beyond the firing and shows us who's doing all the hiring.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 2001 May graduates and workers recently laid off, job prospects in this shaky economy are still surprisingly strong.

KEN GOLDSTEIN, LABOR ECONOMIST: To the people recently laid off, a 4.2 percent unemployment rate is the average. For people graduating from college or people who do technical skills, the unemployment rate is close maybe to 2 percent. So for all the talk, there's still a lot of demand out there.

PILGRIM: From executive recruiters to those who run Internet job sites, there is much optimism for job searchers with skills, with demand for workers outpacing supply in many areas.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projections for occupations with the largest job growth include system analysts, retail sales, general managers and top executives. Also on the list are truck drivers, office clerks, registered nurses, computer support people, home health aides, and teaching assistants.

Author and publisher Peter Weddle believes the demand for skilled workers will continue for years to come, as employers cope with chronic shortages.

PETER WEDDLE, AUTHOR AND PUBLISHER: We have a significant shortfall. And if you look at demographic trends, those shortfalls, which we are feeling most significantly in IT right now, by 2010, are going to be felt in all professions, crafts and trades.

PILGRIM: That optimism, however, does not hold true for manufacturing. That sector has lost 371,000 jobs since last June. In February of this year alone, factory jobs fell by 94,000.

But despite those layoffs making headlines, there is a bright message in the gloomy economic climate: The labor outlook is good.

That's "Your Money," Kitty Pilgrim, CNN Financial News, New York.


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 segment that fits 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.

HAYNES: In "Worldview" today, we'll head to the Middle East where roadblocks add up to traffic jams you have never even imagined. Then, we'll talk about toothaches as we travel to Russia to visit some under-the-weather walruses and learn all about Aramaic. In Syria, it's considered a rare language.

But we begin in the United States and the trial of four men now convicted of a global conspiracy to murder Americans. Almost three years after the fatal blast that ripped apart two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the four followers of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden were convicted of all charges against them.

Deborah Feyerick has more for us now from New York where the trial took place.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a federal courtroom in lower Manhattan, a continent away from the U.S. Embassy bombings, four men have been standing trial, charged with plotting to attack Americans and American facilities.

Prosecutors say Mohammed Al-'Owhali, Khalfan Mohamed, Mohammed Odeh, and Wadih El-Hage were part of an international terrorist conspiracy led by millionaire Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. That conspiracy, prosecutors say, led to the bombing of U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Two hundred and twenty- four people, including a dozen Americans, were killed in the coordinated explosions nearly three years ago.

During the trial, which began in January, prosecutors called over 90 witnesses and presented hundreds of pieces of evidence, including clothing laced with bomb residue. The jury also saw pieces of the mangled trucks used to carry the bombs, and box loads of documents, with plane tickets and passports, which prosecutors say link the four men to the conspiracy.

Perhaps most powerful in the prosecution's arsenal: incriminating statements made to FBI agents by the three men charged in the bombing: Khalfan Mohamed saying he helped grind TNT used in Tanzania; Mohammed Al-'Owhali saying he threw stun grenades at the embassy guards in Kenya, and Mohamed Odeh saying the truck would have caused more damage to the Kenya Embassy if it had been turned backwards.

After defense attorneys failed to get the statements tossed out by the judge, they tried to persuade the jury to ignore them, calling them coerced, unreliable, biased.

FREDERICK COHN, AL-'OWHALI'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If they discard the statement, there is no evidence of anything.

FEYERICK: Only Wadih El-Hage is not charged in the bombings, but in the larger conspiracy. Prosecutors say he ran companies that helped bin Laden finance his alleged terrorist enterprise. His lawyer has repeatedly argued El-Hage was an honest businessman with a poor choice in acquaintances.

SAM SCHMIDT, EL-HAGE'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Association does not mean joining a conspiracy. If it did, many people in the United States would have a great deal of problems.

FEYERICK: In reaching its decision, the jury had to make its way through more than 300 counts for the alleged anti-American conspiracy, for the bombings, and for each victim killed in the blasts.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Syria is an Arab country located at the eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea. The country lies along major trading routes linking Africa, Asia and Europe. Thousands of years ago, camel caravans followed these routes, carrying goods between Asia and Mediterranean ports.

Syria, an ancient land, boasts a rich cultural heritage. Some of the world's oldest civilizations were located there and one of the first alphabets known to man was developed in Syria. Syria is also home to one of the world's most ancient languages. It's called Aramaic and is believed to be the language used by Jesus Christ and his disciples. The language is still spoken today in isolated areas of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

Rym Brahimi reports on why some Syrians who speak Aramaic have been feeling more isolated than ever lately.


RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a valley an hour's drive from Damascus lies a village that has an unusual attraction -- its language. That's because Maaloula is one of the very few places in the world where the language of Jesus is spoken to this day. That language is Aramaic, and it's spoken by a few thousand people here and in other nearby villages just as it was when this was part of the Roman Empire.

Aramaic was the language of the Lord's Prayer and the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Today, it's no longer taught in school. But the villagers of Maaloula keep it alive.

YOUSSEF HABIB, SYRIAN (through translator): The Aramaic language is Maaloula's original heritage. We have preserved it by passing it on from father to son so it remains our heritage.

BRAHIMI: Thousands of tourists and Christian pilgrims from around the world visit the village every year to visit the church where Saint Takla is buried and the convent of St. Sergius. Most of the villagers are farmers and builders. They welcome the tourists but would cherish a visit from one man in particular -- Pope John Paul II.

And they're a little disappointed that Maaloula isn't on his itinerary.

MOTHER SUPERIOR BALAGIA, GREEK ORTHODOX CONVENT (through translator): Not visiting Maaloula is like not drinking water after lunch -- approaching the fountain but never drinking. It would have been very good for the Pope to visit Maaloula.

BRAHIMI: There is no evidence that Jesus visited Maaloula, but its people say it's an important part of the Christian heritage and should have been blessed by the pope. For now, though, they'll have to be content with less-celebrated visitors.

Rym Brahimi, CNN.


JASON BELLINI, CO-HOST: Have you been to the dentist lately? Well, some dentists from Great Britain made a house call all the way to Russia to work on some walruses. A walrus is a large marine mammal. It has long tusks and a thick wrinkled hide. Walruses live in herds. They are slow on land but they are speedy swimmers. Large males may weigh up to 3,000 pounds.

Because they were over hunted for their ivory and their blubber, walruses are now protected, and some of them are getting some extra protection for their teeth, as Robert Moore explains.


ROBERT MOORE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moscow's walruses have been enduring extreme pain for many months. Despite appearing to enjoy themselves in their pool in the city zoo, their tusks have become badly infected, and the zoo authorities had neither the money, nor the expertise, to help the distressed walruses.

A top British dental team is poolside in Russia to help the animals. Dr. Peter Kertesz specializes in animal dentistry, although he's never worked on extracting walrus tusks before. There are 10 of the sea mammals to operate on. The first ones are receiving the best dental care that Britain has to offer. Their tusks are being carefully removed, and it's hoped these extractions will allow their sores to heal and return the walruses to full health.

DR. PETER KERTESZ, DENTAL SURGEON: Infections are life- threatening problems because the abscesses are very close to the brain. And there've been a number of cases recorded around the world where walruses have died from tusk infections.

MOORE (on camera): It's certainly expected that with this dental care the walruses will fully recover. The problem has been here in the walrus pool where the animals have been hitting their tusks repeatedly against both the rocks and the concrete sides to the pool. The dentists are now hard at work, but the walruses have severe abscesses and infections and are proving extremely difficult to anesthetize.

(voice-over): The dental work will last four days for these much loved Russian patients.

Robert Moore, ITN, Moscow Zoo.


BELLINI: A quick update on those walruses: One died, but the others are doing just fine.

HAYNES: Violent clashes in the Middle East have become a sadly familiar site. Despite sporadic peace initiatives throughout the years, the fighting continues between Israelis and Palestinians.

Sandwiched into the area of conflict is a territory called the Gaza Strip. It's one of the few densely settled areas in the world not recognized as a rightful part of any existing country. The Gaza Strip's rapidly growing population suffers from poor living conditions. Inadequate water, sewage and electrical services plague the area and unemployment is high. Nearly one-tenth of the Palestinian population travels daily to Israel where they're not allowed to stay overnight. Their destination: menial jobs.

And, as Ben Wedeman reports, the commute, even within Gaza, is only getting more difficult.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you want to travel the 28 miles from Gaza City to Rafah, you'd better be prepared to wait. The journey is a daunting test of patience. In normal times, it was a half-hour commute. The drive now takes at least two hours, sometimes much longer.

But that's better than last week, after attacks in Israel, when Palestinians couldn't pass here at all. That's because this road passes by the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif.

The Israeli army says its first obligation is to protect Israelis traveling to and from and living in the settlement from potential attack.

While this checkpoint has existed for years, the level of security has greatly increased since the start of the Palestinian uprising. Jobs, goods, school -- the commerce of daily life must wait.

For these university students, it means four or five hours sitting in a cramped taxi every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not normal life. You are an American, OK? You take this life? Can you take this life in bits? No way.

WEDEMAN: Sometimes, it's faster to walk.

Palestinian officials are helpless. All they can do is watch.

(on camera): For the Palestinians who travel this road, this is more than just an inconvenience. It reinforces their determination to do whatever it takes to drive the Israelis out.

(voice-over): "I'm 80 years old," says this man, "and I'm ready to go over there and blow myself up."

After a hot morning harvesting crops, these farmers face the prospect of a long journey to market.

"When you sit for six or seven hours, you get fed up," says this man. "You feel like becoming a terrorist. You'll do anything just to break out of this miserable life."

The heat, the frustration, and the boredom take a toll on everyone here and shows no sign of letting up.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Gaza.


HAYNES: Well, it is that time of year again: a time when high school and college seniors don caps and gowns for graduation. But these days, commencement ceremonies aren't limited to school auditoriums or athletic fields.

Kathy Slobogin reports on one taking place in cyberspace.


KATHY SLOBOGIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's graduation day, and for Bonny Webber, a dream come true, only the aisle she's walking down is in cyberspace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is my pleasure to recognize the graduates...

SLOBOGIN: Her degree is from Jones International University, the first fully accredited university that exists entirely online. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bonny Ann Webber, Courtney...


SLOBOGIN: For Webber, getting her masters online was the only way. Her husband, Ron, has lymphoma cancer, and a virtual university allowed her to be with him and in class at the same time.

BONNY ANN WEBBER, CYBERGRADUATE: The flexibility of being online, if he did need me, I could be at home with him. And if I want to be online at 2:00 in the morning in my bathrobe with my little dog on my lap and that's how I'm studying, to me that's much more relaxing and much more comfortable.

SLOBOGIN (on camera): By next year, more than 2 million students are expected to enroll in college courses online, according to a report from Merrill Lynch. And right now, over 6,000 accredited courses are offered on the Web.

(voice-over): Jones University offers not only the convenience of a self-designed class schedule, but a bargain price. An MBA here costs about $12,000. A top-of-the-line Harvard MBA runs about $100,000 for tuition, room and board.

JONES: It's pretty reasonably priced because you have no real estate and all the things that go with real estate. There are no football teams or anything like that.

SLOBOGIN: Most Jones students are working adults trying to move up the ladder. Webber, who works at the University of Michigan, hopes her new degree will help her get a promotion.

For those who think tapping away on a PC is a lonely way to get an education, Webber says cyberclasses foster online intimacy with classmates.

WEBBER: They tell you things, very open, very honest about themselves, their family: Help, I need help.

SLOBOGIN: Webber says now she wants to get a Ph.D., but only if she can do it online, just one of the growing number of students for whom education is now a telephone line and a modem away.

Kathy Slobogin, CNN, Washington.


HAYNES: And that's CNN NEWSROOM for Wednesday. Thanks for joining us. Come on back tomorrow.

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