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NEWSROOM for June 18, 2001

Aired June 18, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome to the Monday show, everyone. I'm Tom Haynes.

And here's a quick look at the rundown.

Topping "Today's News," Russian President Vladimir Putin visits post-communist Yugoslavia -- what he had to say about instability in the Balkans. Next up, "Environment Desk." Smog season in the United States, a closer look at the searing problem. Then "Worldview," a nation divided -- why thousands in a Native American tribe are separated by the U.S.-Mexico border. We stay in the American Southwest for today's "Chronicle" and a closer look at the pollution problems facing the Rio Grande.

But first today, Russian President Vladimir Putin wraps up a two- day visit to Yugoslavia. He told international officials there he'd promote a comprehensive settlement of ethnic conflicts in the region, one that reaffirms current borders in the Balkans. Disputes between rival ethnic groups of Serbs, Croats and Muslims were sparked about a decade ago during the breakup of the Yugoslav Federation. Six Republics once made up the Federal State. But in 1991, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Bosnia Herzegovina followed in 1992. Only Serbia and Montenegro remained.

Mr. Putin also spoke this weekend with the President of Yugoslavia about the situation in the Balkans.

Alessio Vinci has details on that.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Moscow's commitment in the Balkans with his visit to Belgrade. One day after meeting U.S. President George W. Bush, he told the Yugoslav president, Vojislav Kostunica, Russia and the United States will do all they can to solve the crisis in the region.

After their meeting, Putin said Kosovo was the source of instability in Macedonia and in the Balkans as a whole and said Yugoslavia needed the support of the entire international community, Russia included.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): The stability in the region is seriously threatened above ultra-national religious extremism and intolerance, the main source of which today is in Kosovo.

VINCI: Kostunica blamed part of the instability in the region on the international community which failed, he said, to implement the return of Serb civilians to Kosovo and guarantee the security of all ethnic groups there.

VOJISLAV KOSTUNICA, PRESIDENT OF YUGOSLAVIA (through translator): The crisis in Kosovo and many wrong moves by the international community in Kosovo have caused instability in the entire region, in southern Serbia, Macedonia and lately even in northern Greece where ethnic Albanian terrorists have also threatened peace and stability.

VINCI: Putin also met with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to discuss economic relations between the two countries. But the two leaders did not discuss the possible extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic to face the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Moscow backed Milosevic until the very last day he was in power.

ZORAN DJINDJIC, PRIME MINISTER OF SERBIA (through translator): It is our internal problem, and I do not think we should put it on the level of international relations.

VINCI: Djindjic said there was a 50 percent chance a law permitting extradition of Yugoslav citizens, like Slobodan Milosevic, would be adopted this week by the Federal Parliament, a condition set by the international community and the United States, in particular, for the additional economic assistance to Yugoslavia.

(on camera): Most Yugoslav officials agree the country needs the money to achieve social and economic stability. Moscow can certainly help. But the cash that would make the big difference would come from the West and the West wants to see Milosevic in The Hague sooner rather than later.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Belgrade.


HAYNES: Ethnic fighting in the Balkans also has extended to Macedonia. Negotiators held talks this weekend in Macedonia aimed at staving off conflict between ethnic Albanian militants and government forces. Those discussions are expected to continue this week. The negotiators are seeking a compromise on a peace plan that will convince the rebels to put down their guns.

But as Nic Robertson reports, expectations among the nervous Macedonian population are divided.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the old quarter of Macedonia's capital Skopje, normally bustling cafes are a little emptier than usual. Current tensions and uncertainty surrounding peace talks are blamed.

UNIDENTIFIED STOREKEEPER (through translator): There's no need to panic, this storekeeper says, we have lived together for centuries and will continue to.

ROBERTSON: In the tiny bare-walled room that's now home to Atso (ph), his three children and wife, the view is different. Their village fell to rebels last week.

ATSO (through translator): The solution, he says, I would say everything should be destroyed there, including my house.

ROBERTSON: His cousin, Vlagoy (ph), like Atso, part of the village's Macedonian minority, disagrees.

VLAGOY, ATSO's COUSIN (through translator): But ads, we heard the villages were involved so how can we go back.

ROBERTSON: In the Orthodox Church nearby, prayers are offered privately. The cost of compromise to meet ethnic Albanian demands for equality reaches into the soul of this community. Proposed changes in the constitution could remove direct reference to the Orthodox Church, moves that touch on fears that ethnic Albanians want more than equality.

REV. GEORGI KACORSKI, MACEDONIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH: Their purpose is a great Albania, not a constitution, not human rights.

ROBERTSON: Other constitutional changes suggested include giving the Albanian language equal status with Macedonian, and in the preamble to the constitution, removing references to ethnic groups in favor of words like citizen of Macedonia.

The fear for many is that tensions are so high compromise may be hard, particularly if rebels continue to be excluded from talks.

FERID MUHIC, INDEPENDENT POLITICIAN: The general climate is completely wrongly obsessed, more than concentrated, obsessed, by not letting them force us to talk, but they are the real threat. They are the issue.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Despite these concerns, the cease-fire, albeit shaky, and a recent agreement between the government and rebels for a rebel-held area to be resupplied by a humanitarian convey in return for water being restored to a neighboring city do indicate, some international observers say, a growing sense of realism here between all sides.

(voice-over): And if the large number of refugees fleeing Macedonia in the past week have been a barometer of tensions, then the decrease in numbers arriving in neighboring Kosovo will also hold out hope. For now, at least, a chance is being given to find peace.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Skopje, Macedonia. (END VIDEOTAPE)


ANNOUNCER: A CNN viewer wants to know: What president founded the Peace Corps?

CHARLES R. BAQUET, III, PEACE CORPS ACTING DIRECTOR: Well, the Peace Corps was born out of the 1960 presidential campaign. Advisers to John F. Kennedy had suggested to him that he may want to put into a speech or some sort of public presentation the idea of young Americans serving overseas as volunteers.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to put particular emphasis on those men and women who have skills in teaching, agriculture and in health.

BAQUET: One night at the University of Michigan, in front of the Union Building, he offered the invitation to America that Americans on -- off of campuses should think about serving abroad.

KENNEDY: I have today signed an executive order providing for the establishment of a Peace Corps.

BAQUET (voice-over): This was an attempt to kind of gauge whether or not the idea would fly or not. The response was tremendous, and 40 years later, we're continuing to get young people off of college campuses who have great enthusiasms and much dedication and concern for humanity, willing to serve in far away places to improve the quality of life for people in the developing world.


HAYNES: Do you live in a highly populated area, one where traffic is a big problem? Well, if so, then you're probably breathing smoggy air. Smog is the haze that often occurs when the sun reacts with hydrocarbons and nitrogen dioxide that usually comes from car exhaust.

Well, a new report says air pollution in the United States is getting worse. In cities where it's a problem, the number of ozone alert days is up sharply and more Americans are living in the most severely polluted areas.

Our environment correspondent Natalie Pawelski has more.


NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most Americans live in places where smog is a serious problem. That's according to a new report from the American Lung Association.

JOHN GARRISON, AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION: The problem with smog is that it gets into our lungs, it sears our lungs. It's like having sunburn inside our lungs; a very, very dangerous health problem. PAWELSKI: The report, "The State of the Air 2001," says Los Angeles has the worst problem with ozone pollution or smog. Joining L.A. at the bottom of the barrel, three other California cities: Bakersfield, Fresno and the Visalia area. The Houston, Texas area is the fifth worst, followed by Atlanta; Washington-Baltimore; the Charlotte, North Carolina area; Knoxville, Tennessee and the Philadelphia area, including Wilmington, Delaware and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

(on camera): Smog season for much of the country officially starts today, and if you or anyone in your family has asthma or other respiratory problems, that person should stay inside on high ozone days. Children and the elderly are at a particular risk, and the lung association says people who exercise outdoors also need to be careful.

GARRISON: If you get an ozone alert, first of all, stay inside to the degree that you can. You certainly don't exercise. You certainly don't run. You stay inside and keep that smog from being inhaled into your lungs.

PAWELSKI (voice-over): Smog starts with pollution, mainly from tailpipes and smokestacks. Nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons in those emissions react to sunlight and form ozone, the main component of smog. The lung association estimates 141 million Americans live in counties that get an "F" for ozone pollution, places where a hot summer's day can be hazardous to your health.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN.


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: Today is an important anniversary for Native Americans, on June 18, 1934, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act. The legislation not only allowed Indians to return to their reservations, it also provided for local self-government.

But that didn't stop all the problems facing the Indians, as you'll learn in today's "Worldview."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We head to the Southwestern United States and the state of Arizona, nicknamed the Grand Canyon State. A canyon is often a natural divide, but today, we focus on a divide that is anything but natural. Our story takes us to the U.S.-Mexican border where an Indian tribe is facing a problem from both sides of a fence.

John Vause explains.


HENRY RAMOS, VICE CHAIRMAN, TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION: This is our land and my people were one. The whole, you know, is we're interconnected with the plants, the Mother Earth, the sky and everything in it.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Tohono O'odham Nation, 8,000 square kilometers of mostly desert and rugged mountains thick with cacti and scrub. But this hard, arid land home to 25,000 Native Americans, is a nation divided. Stretching across the reservation, a barbed wire fence separates not only the United States and Mexico, but also the O'odham people. Henry Ramos is the nation's vice chairman.

RAMOS: We're just one big family and when we're restricted from having that freedom, it is very, it's sad, you know?

VAUSE: Every day workers from the tribal hospital like Betty Antone break the law by crossing into Mexico, driving the same dirt roads used by drug traffickers and illegal workers.

(on camera): Are you afraid you'll be stopped?


VAUSE: And what would happen if you are stopped?

ATONE: I'd probably get taken in for taking illegals. They'd probably say they're illegals.

VAUSE (voice-over): While Betty has never been arrested, by legal definition she is smuggling people across the border, the sick and elderly.

ATONE: Patients that need to go to the hospital and that are members of the nation, they're diabetics or heart problems.

VAUSE: This time they're not stopped by the Border Patrol, but they say it's not uncommon for her and her patients to be turned back and there is always the fear of being caught.

MARGO COWAN, TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION LEGAL COUNSEL: Their issues are they're unable to cross freely. They can't participate in ceremonies. They can't visit family. They can't come up and conduct business here on the nation's lands. O'odham have always traveled north and worked. They're unable to come and work. They're unable to receive the same benefits of their government, the O'odham government, that members receive who are on this side of the boundary.

VAUSE: Margo Cowan is the legal counsel for the tribe. She's preparing a submission to Congress to grant U.S. citizenship for all Tohono O'odham people. Similar laws are already in place for other Native Americans on the Canadian border, like the Mohawks.

COWAN: And so it's incumbent on the United States to fix it. It's their problem and they must fix it.

VAUSE: The Tohono O'odham reservation is a legally sovereign nation about the same size as the state of Connecticut. The government is based on the U.S. side in the capital Sells, where there's a tribal police force, hospitals, schools, services available to the tribe. But to the members on the Mexican side, they have to get here first.

(on camera): Tribal leaders trace the problem back 148 years to the Gadsden Purchase, when the United States bought about 50,000 square kilometers of land from Mexico, including Tucson and parts of southern Arizona. But it seems at the time the needs of the Tohono O'odham people were overlooked when that new international border was drawn up that effectively divided their traditional lands.

(voice-over): For most of that time, the border seemed non- existent. There were no patrols, no checkpoints, the law wasn't enforced and especially for the estimated 1,500 tribe members on the Mexican side, there were no problems.

MARY NARCHO, UNDOCUMENTED TRIBE MEMBER: You know, when I was a little girl, you know, that fence, I thought that was the fence so the cows wouldn't go through because we had fences around our house, you know? We used to come and go as we pleased and there was never any fear. You can't do that now. There's no way. You'd be afraid to do that now. And people don't do that now for that very reason.

VAUSE: Over the last few years, as the United States increased its efforts to stop the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants from Mexico, there's been a dramatic increase in security, security the tribe knows is needed. Mary Narcho was born 63 years ago in Mexico. She has no birth certificate, no passport and now lives in Tucson, but says she's been stopped crossing the border, questioned by U.S. authorities and if it wasn't for her Arizona driver's license, she fears she may have been arrested.

NARCHO: It's degrading and it makes you angry. It's frustrating because, you know, this is our land. I mean it's our land and why do we have to be questioned like this? Why do we have to be stopped? Why are the Border Patrol all over the place?

VAUSE: As a stopgap measure, the U.S. Immigration Service recently issued a few hundred tourist visas to tribal members on the Mexican side like Hector Antone, who can now receive treatment for a heart condition.

HECTOR ANTONE, MEMBER OF TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION (through translator): Now that I have a visa, I don't have no problems at Border Patrol. Before I didn't have a visa, they wouldn't let me come across. They always stopped me and turned me back.

COWAN: The visas are an insult because they force members of the nation to obtain a travel document from two different governments, the Republic of Mexico and the United States of America, to travel in their own lands.

VAUSE: The Tohono O'odham Nation issues all members an identification card.

BARBARA ATONE, MEMBER OF TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION: I have my tribal I.D. card and this is one of the first ones that they made.

VAUSE: As part of her proposal, Margot Cowan will ask Congress to recognize those cards as the legal equivalent of a state-issued birth certificate.

COWAN: Part of the benefits of being a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation is full, all of the benefits enjoyed by American citizens. And the reason that is is that the United States, you know, occupied O'odham land.

VAUSE: That could solve problems for the 7,000 undocumented O'odham living in the United States, like Henry Ramos, a veteran of the Korean War who can't claim benefits, or Barbara Antone's undocumented mother Clementia (ph), a widow who's not entitled to government assistance and lives in fear of being caught.

BARBARA ATONE: We're always afraid that she'll, they'll get stopped and they'll ask her for her green card or whatever and she doesn't have it and then she gets deported or jailed on that side and we really have no way to get her back.

VAUSE: For many members of the tribe, especially the elderly, who once traveled freely, it is difficult to understand why so much has changed, even harder to accept.

RUTH ATONE, MEMBER OF TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION: And I'm going for my people. I'm going for the both sides people and I'm praying for them to you as a Congress, please help us.

VAUSE: But the issue is complicated by drug smuggling and illegal workers leaving the Tohono O'odham people accidental victims of a battle being waged not only on their land, but all along the U.S.-Mexico border.

John Vause, CNN, Sells, Arizona.


HAYNES: Economic boom is challenging the natural resources of many areas. A city like El Paso has seen explosive growth, but the water supply, namely the Rio Grande, has had trouble keeping up. So is there a solution?

CNN, in conjunction with "Time" magazine, takes you to the border -- "The New Frontier."

Gary Strieker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After flowing hundreds of miles south from its headwaters in the Colorado Rockies, most of the Rio Grande is swallowed by Texas for farm irrigation and the city of El Paso.

DEBRA LITTLE, INT. BOUNDARY & WATER COMM.: And right here what you're observing is water coming from the river into the American canal, which are, which would be all U.S. waters at this point.

STRIEKER: Below this diversion dam, what remains of the river becomes the border between the United States and Mexico.

LITTLE: The boundary does go right through the center of the low flow channel. So half the river is in Mexico, half is in the United States.

STRIEKER: Along the border, the river actually has two names. On the southern bank, Mexicans know the Rio Grande as the Rio Bravo del Norte. And for the next 1,200 miles, this river with two names will face perilous demands and abuses from both nations, starting immediately in Ciudad Juarez, where raw sewage still contaminates the river despite the city's new wastewater treatment plant and where most of its water is diverted for irrigation on Mexican farms, sucking it virtually dry.

KEVIN BIXBY, SOUTHWEST ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER: Every drop of water in this river has somebody's name on it and the river, the river's name does not appear on any of those drops. As a result, the river often does not have enough water, sometimes it doesn't have any water.

STRIEKER: This parched riverbed continues for more than 200 miles downstream.

BIXBY: From here on down it's called the forgotten river.

STRIEKER: But then the river gets recharged by water from a Mexican tributary, the Rio Conchos, and flows almost like in the past, wild and free, through the canyons of Big Ben National Park.

RAYMOND SKILES, U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: The Big Ben region has affected and changed. As it is, it is still the best of the Rio Grande. The contaminants and changed flows of the river have made it a river that really is not like it historically was, but it is still the best of what we've got.

STRIEKER: Even here, in this last few decades in this best part of the river, at least seven species of fish have gone extinct. The river takes another hit when it passes through urban areas like Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, with industrial pollution from the American side and tons of raw sewage every day from the other.

SALVADOR CONTRERAS, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: What we see here is the former level of the water in the reservoir.

STRIEKER: Because of drought and decreasing inflows from Mexican rivers, the Amistad and Falcon dams are now at less than 30 percent of capacity, so the dams are releasing less water and downstream farmers like Charlie Loop have no choice but to conserve what little they can get.

CHARLES LOOP, FARMER: Oh, gosh, yes, because this water is going to, especially in this area, the scarcity is going to run the price up and that's simple economics. There's no question about that.

STRIEKER: On the final stretch of the river, users on both sides of the border pump out everything it has. This year, the river runs dry against sand dunes on the beach between Brownsville and Matamoras without even reaching the Gulf of Mexico. It's no wonder environmentalists on both sides of the border say this river is dying.

CONTRERAS: I think definitely we are killing the river and we are doing that both together.

BIXBY: It's given so much to the people of this area, it's made possible their survival. And I think it's time that we gave something back to the river instead of just take, take, take.

STRIEKER: The border boom triggered by NAFTA is causing even greater impact on the river. But some say a closer economic partnership between the United States and Mexico creates a new opportunity to save the river by working together to reserve its own share of clean water and restore its natural habitats.

CONTRERAS: It is a joint task, see? The river is a single unit, ecologically speaking, and it cannot be solved by only one side.

STRIEKER (on camera): This is certainly a geographic boundary, but the Rio Grande is also a strong connection that unites the two nations, a troubled symbol of the new frontier facing all the challenges and possibilities of the new century. (voice-over): Many would agree losing the river would be a high price to pay for all the new trade and investment on the border.

Gary Strieker, CNN, on the Rio Grande, Rio Bravo in Texas and Mexico.


HAYNES: Tomorrow we continue our series on the U.S.-Mexico border, this time, the dangerous and sometimes deadly crusade to get across. For many Mexicans in search of a better life in the U.S., death has become a risk many are willing to take. A federal crackdown called "Operation Gatekeeper" is making it much more difficult to make the trek. We'll tell you about it tomorrow.

You can also keep up with story on our Web site. Go to

And that's it for CNN NEWSROOM for Monday. We'll see you tomorrow.

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