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NEWSROOM for July 12, 2001

Aired July 12, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM for Thursday. I'm Tom Haynes.

The world of science is dominating today's program. Here's a quick look at what's ahead.

Topping the news agenda today, the political and ethical debate over stem cell research. More science is in store for you in today's desk as we examine the latest advances in voting technology. And don't lose your lab coats just yet because "Worldview" ventures to Russia where the battle over chemical weapons is heating up. Then "Chronicle," we tackle the very tough issue of substance abuse and discover how it's affecting a popular music group.

A scientific first in stem cell research ignites controversy. Researchers for the first time have created human embryos in a lab for the sole purpose of harvesting stem cells. The scientists from Eastern Virginia Medical School developed the embryos from donated eggs and sperm. Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into any cell in the body. Those cells could one day repair or replace damaged tissues or organs, possibly leading to cures for various conditions and diseases.

Now while many scientists believe the research holds enormous promise for medical breakthroughs, most cultural conservatives forcefully oppose it.

Elizabeth Cohen takes a closer look at the political and ethical issues behind stem cell research.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scientists often do research on embryos and fetuses, and where do they get them? From either abortions or from in vitro fertilization clinics. Usually couples have leftover embryos after they've conceived a child.

So what's really controversial about today's revelation is that researchers say they created an embryo purely for research purposes? Scientists at the University of Eastern Virginia Medical School have come under such fire that after inviting CNN to do an interview they turned us away when we arrived.

They've come under attack from all sides. Conservatives say research on embryos is always wrong, no matter what. And even bioethicists who do support embryo research say it was unnecessary.

GEORGE ANNAS, BIOETHICIST, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: There's a consensus that if you're going to do stem cell research with embryos, you should use the leftover embryos that have been legitimately created in vitro fertilization clinics with the consent of the couples. And you should not create embryos just to destroy them.

COHEN (on camera): Research on embryos is legal, and President Bush is expected to make a decision soon about whether taxpayer dollars can be spent on embryonic stem cell research. Scientists say federal funds would help advance cures for all sorts of diseases.

(voice-over): Now many worry that the news from Virginia will further polarize the two sides.

ART CAPLAN, BIOETHICIST, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: This is lousy timing, because the administration, Congress, disease groups are kind of working toward a compromise.

COHEN: Scientists say embryonic stem cells are so useful because they're essentially blank cells that can be turned into any type of tissue. So, for example, if someone's spinal cord is damaged, doctors could take stem cells, convert them into nerve cells, and give an injection of healthy cells to repair the damage. The same principle applies to the heart.

After a heart attack, some of the cardiac muscle dies. Stem cells could be made into cardiac cells and then injected, healing the heart tissue.

Scientists say stem cells hold great promise, but the question has always been, how do you create them? Now the revelation that an embryo has been created just for research makes the debate even more intense.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.


HAYNES: The Bush administration is looking for middle ground, weighing the pros and cons of stem cell research. Celebrities, including Michael J. Fox who has Parkinson's Disease, Mary Tyler Moore who has diabetes and Christopher Reeve a quadriplegic, have testified before Congress in support of stem cell research. But opposition is strong, not just on Capitol Hill, but across the nation.

Candy Crowley reports.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are talking about science that cannot be seen with the naked eye and ethics that require a search of the soul. We are talking about science that boggles the mind and politics that touch the heart.

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: Well, as a little boy, I watched my Grandmother Udall die of Parkinson's. I watched my cousin, Maurice Udall, die of Parkinson's. Last couple of months ago, my Uncle Addison Udall died of Parkinson's. And last weekend, my brother-in- law told me he had Parkinson's.

CROWLEY: We are talking about taking stem cells from embryos for research that scientists believe might lead to progress against some of life's cruelest diseases: Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes. But we are also talking about the destruction of the embryo.

RICHARD DOERFLINGER, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Take a look at any embryology textbook, it'll tell you that the life of each human being begins at fertilization. What we're debating now is whether the government should divide human life into different classes, some of which have value and should receive treatment, some of which are disposable and should be killed for treatment.

CROWLEY: The Catholic Church leadership and many abortion opponents are as opposed to the destruction of embryos for research as they are to abortion. Gordon Smith, a practicing Mormon, an abortion opponent, looked to his religion, his Bible and his life as he struggled with the issue.

SMITH: For me, it has forced the ultimate question: When does life begin? And I believe life begins in a mother's womb not in a petri dish of a scientist.

CROWLEY: Others departing from the fold on this one: the conservatives' conservative. Strom Thurmond also favors the use of federal funds. He has a daughter with juvenile diabetes. And Utah senator Orrin Hatch, who believes there may be enough senators who favor the idea to force the issue even if the president is opposed.

Smith recognizes that people he ordinarily stands with will find his position on stem cell research inconsistent with his anti-abortion views.

SMITH: But I ask them to go with me to a hospital and visit some of my relatives who are dying of Parkinson's and withhold that care and that hope.

CROWLEY: For Gordon Smith and some of his colleagues, this one is personal.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


HAYNES: In the aftermath of the November 2000 United States presidential election, researchers and politicians across the nation have been taking a very close look at voting technology. The butterfly ballot used in Florida last year reportedly led to much confusion among voters. In fact, many of them said the ballot's design led them to vote for the wrong candidate, causing weeks of controversy in the wake of that.

David George looks at the effectiveness of several types of voting systems.


DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida counties will switch to either optical scanners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can put the ballot in at any orientation.

GEORGE: Or touch-screen technology.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they select the person of their choice.

GEORGE: In time for elections in 2002. Researchers from MIT and CAL Tech, shown here before a dinner at MIT, have been studying voting methods nationwide since the Florida vote count debacle in November.

In a preliminary report, these researchers say optical scanning offers the best blend of the past and the future. Modern technology, counting paper ballots, marked the old-fashioned way, by hand.

PROF. STEPHEN ANSOLABEHERE, MIT: One of the optically-scanned ballot is it connects the arrow, there's a front end of an arrow and the back end of the arrow and a blank space in between, and you draw a line connecting the arrow.

Another version is more like a -- if you remember a standardized test, where there are bubbles that you fill in. And you have to mark the bubble properly.

GEORGE: Paper jams can slow the optical counting process if it's done all at once at a central location. But MIT's Ansolabehere says putting optical vote scanners in each precinct, at a cost of about $5,000, gives voters one last look at their ballots just before they're tallied.

ANSOLABEHERE: It gives the voter the ability to check what he did and get some feedback, and that's a very, very important part of preventing people from making mistakes.

GEORGE: Florida counties have the option of opting for touch- screen voting stations resembling ATM machines, once they're certified by the state. But touch-screen voting does seem to have its shortcomings. The MIT-Cal Tech researchers say that in the last four presidential elections, state-of-the-art touch-screen systems were right up there with outdated punch cards in producing spoiled and unmarked ballots, at a rate 50 percent higher than optical scanners, lever machines and paper ballots. In other words, touch screens still need work.

PROF. THOMAS PALFREY, CALIF. INST. OF TECHNOLOGY: Some electronic technologies have done well, but there's a lot of variance in that, partly because it's a newer technology. GEORGE: Florida begins its switch to new voting technology almost immediately. The MIT and Cal Tech researchers have until next month to finish their report.

David George, CNN.



ANNOUNCER: A CNN viewer wants to know: Why do drive-up ATMs have Braille?

FRANCES MARY D'ANDREA, DIRECTOR, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR THE BLIND: There are two reasons. One is: From a practical standpoint, it would be cost prohibitive for banks to come up with two different sets of ATM machines -- the ones that would have Braille and ones that don't. So from a practical standpoint, having one design is probably best for the bank.

But from the standpoint of someone who is blind, using an ATM that has Braille on it allows that person to enter their personal identification number independently.

SCOTT MCCALL, V.P. AMERICAN FOUNDATIONS FOR THE BLIND: Braille allows me to use any ATM, and it would not be unusual for me to be a passenger in a car. I might be in a taxi or I might be with someone, and it's more convenient to use the drive-through.

D'ANDREA: Some new exciting technology that's taking place that are talking ATMs...

COMPUTER VOICE: To activate voice assistance, tap twice at top right-hand corner of the screen.

D'ANDREA: ... whereas a blind person inserts a headphone jack and is able to scroll through the menus using a combination of the speech and the Braille to complete the transaction independently.


HAYNES: We're all over the globe in "Worldview" today. Find out about power problems in Brazil, a South American nation which relies heavily on hydroelectricity. And come along as we check out the dangers of chemical weapons and the illegal trade of endangered animals in a country which was once part of the Soviet Union.

But, our first stop is the Great White North. Toronto is hoping to join the ranks of other Canadian cities that have hosted the Olympic Games. The centerpiece of Toronto's campaign for the 2008 Games, it's a city that's ready, waiting and trouble free.

Here's Bill Delaney with the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toronto, on Lake Ontario, sophisticated, first world. While in the Olympic spirit of things, also as multiethnic as any place on Earth, more than half the 2.4 million population immigrants speaking more than 100 languages. A mostly mild-mannered metropolis, Canadian Olympic officials repeat like a mantra is 2008's risk-free choice.

JEFF EVENSON, TORONTO 2008 OLYMPIC BID: We're the bid of certainty. All of the transportation capacity is here. Certainly the broadcast transmission, the air is good, the water is clean. None of these things are - will be there in eight years. It's all here in Toronto now.

DELANEY: Even 70 percent of Olympic venues already built along a compact six-kilometers, three and a half miles of waterfront where the city had been renovating anyway.

Good enough credentials for it to bother many Canadians that much more controversial Beijing still apparent front-runner for the bid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it'll be a shame that the Olympic Committee would find that city the proper place to put the Olympics because of all the - all the ridiculous human rights, you know, atrocities that's going on there.

DELANEY: Canadian officials, though, wary of using as leverage human rights allegations, like more than 1,700 executions in China in just the last three months.

EVENSON: It's not the Canadian way to do things. We don't execute people in Canada and - but we're in the business of sport.

DELANEY: And Canada does have problems of its own, like Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman who apologized for saying, before a trip to Africa, he worried about dancing natives boiling him in a pot. And some Canadians do criticize spending an estimated $2 billion to stage an Olympics.

JAN BUROWY, BREAD NOT CIRCUSES COALITION: What's going to happen to low income earners? We know that tenants would be evicted, that boardinghouses here in this neighborhood will be shut down and probably turned into bed and breakfasts.

DELANEY: Olympic officials say tourism, jobs, prestige only benefit everyone.

(on camera): In fact, officials predict an eventual surplus of about $80 million, should they get the bid. After all, they say, one more risk-free certainty around here: lucrative television revenues from broadcasting so many events live from North America's Eastern Time Zone.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Toronto.

(END VIDEOTAPE) RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: We head to Russia, a giant country that lies in both Europe and Asia. Russia has some of the world's most pristine wilderness, including wild rivers teaming with salmon and might brown bears. But economic development and poaching could create serious threats to the wildlife. Other creatures are also at risk these days. Russian authorities say they're struggling to curb the illegal trade in endangered species. Customs officials are said to be seizing large numbers of rare animals being smuggled in and out of the country to be sold at home and abroad as exotic pets.

Matthew Chance reports from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest seizure of endangered species: These rare birds of prey were bound for the Middle East, part of a lucrative and illegal trade that's stripping Russia of its natural wealth. Whole species face extinction.

At this holding zoo outside Moscow, officials say they're struggling to cope, not just with animals smuggled out of Russia, but with the growing number of endangered species flooding in. These protected Asian tortoises are a common catch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We get lots of different kind of animals through here. We've had leopards, king cobras, crocodiles, a lot of very expensive parrots and some very rare species of fish. It's a big problem.

CHANCE: And it's Russia's virtually unchecked trade in exotic pets that's a major cause.

We posed as buyers to videotape this Moscow pet market. Hundreds of protected species here were on open sale. Most vendors were reluctant to show their animals on camera, but some didn't care.

We were offered this Asian lory for $800. Its owner told us he could provide as many of these rare creatures as we wanted or of any other kind of protected animal for a price. He said monkeys, even chimpanzees, were no problem. There's big money at stake here and threatened species are paying the highest price.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reason to have a lot of exotic pets here is just because it became a fashion among new Russians. And you may find even the small private zoos. Or in the offices of wealthy people, you will find different snakes and other animals just to please an owner or just to please the guests.

CHANCE: Back at the custom's zoo, officials say they can do very little. Moscow has signed international agreements to curb the trade in endangered species but lack of funds mean even these seized animals may eventually be sold on.

(on camera): The cages of this holding facility are hardly swollen with rare animals. Smugglers have become much more careful, but the trade in endangered species is burgeoning across Russia as demand grows for these exotic, but endangered, pets.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: More on Russia's environment as we focus on issues of health and safety. When it comes to weapons of mass destruction, what comes to mind is usually nuclear weapons, but chemical weapons are another major threat. One hundred seventy-four nations have signed an international agreement outlawing the development and use of these weapons.

But in Russia, efforts to destroy these weapons have bogged down, as Jill Dougherty explains.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A terrifying legacy of the Cold War: chemical weapons, nerve agents like sarin and VX; just one drop can kill you. Russia has 40,000 tons of chemical weapons, the largest stockpile in the world. Moscow, along with the U.S., signed a treaty to destroy these weapons, but fights between Russian federal agencies, along with the cost, an estimated $6 to $10 billion, have stalled that destruction.

So as this rare military film shows, the weapons sit at seven storage sites, packed into shells and missile warheads, ready for action; vulnerable, experts say, to theft by terrorists or by underpaid, disgruntled Russian soldiers.

(on camera): This is the danger: a small artillery shell that looks like this, filled with lethal doses of sarin nerve agent, something you could fit in a backpack, could potentially kill thousands of people.

(voice-over): U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, an expert in defense issues, is one of the few outside Moscow who has seen Russia's chemical weapons up close.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: The buildings within which these weapons are located are, in some cases, 60 years old. They are wooden buildings. They have glass windows.

DOUGHERTY: The United States, along with nine European nations, is helping Russia to build a chemical weapons destruction complex hear the town of Sochi, 1,000 miles east of Moscow. The U.S. has pledged $888 million, but has paid only $260 million. The U.S. Congress claims Russia hasn't done enough on its own. The head of Russia's chemical weapons destruction commission says that's no longer the case.

SERGEY KIRIENKO, CHEM. WEAPONS DESTRUCTION COMMISSION (through translator): This year, the Russian government increased financing to six times what it was last year, and it's done something the U.S. hasn't done: take it out of the hands of the military and put it under civilian control. DOUGHERTY: As the U.S. Congress decides, people like factory worker Georgy Filipov, who lives with his daughter Angella two hours from the site, says he wants to get rid of the weapons, whatever it takes.

"I know it will cost a lot of money," he says, "but there's no doubt it's a threat to people who live here and to our children."

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Sochi, Russia.


HAYNES: Brazil is one big country. It's the biggest in South America and for that matter, one of the biggest in the world in terms of its size. Brazil is big on natural resources, too. It's known to have some of the most fertile farmland in South America and boasts extensive regions of tropical rain forests. But it seems Brazil is now staring a big problem right in the face, as one of the worst droughts in years grips the nation. And since a whopping 90 percent of Brazil's electricity comes from harnessing power from water, the country's national power grid faces collapse. So now Brazil must find alternatives to hydroelectricity and fast. Some say with Brazil's proximity to the coast, it should invest in wind farms, even solar power, but is that the answer?

Kitty Pilgrim has more on the crisis facing Brazil.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The beaches of Rio are dark. In the hills above, few windows are lit. Street lights are sparse, and outdoor cafe makes do with the light of a single bulb. Patrons also sit in the darkened restaurants. Police patrol the dark streets, on alert for heightened crime; 93 percent of Brazil's power comes from hydroelectric sources, and because of lack of rain, power has literally dried up. The government has asked businesses and individuals to cut consumption by 20 percent.

DOUG SMITH, IDEAGLOBAL.COM: The government's plan is that the rationing in place will go on through November or December, but people in the markets are beginning to think it may go on at least through the first quarter of 2002.

PILGRIM: Appliances are unplugged. Hair is towel-dried. And in the evening, televisions glow in the dark. Shops sell energy-saving lamps, but other appliance don't sell at all. Energy efficiency tags are taken into consideration along with the price.

Growth estimates for Brazil had been cut to half of the 5 percent that was expected. Production is slowing. And many expect foreign direct investment to slow to a trickle as production lines are idled and work hours are cut back in factories.

The situation has generated bitterness, much of it aimed at the Cardoso government. Investors may pay the price. The Bovespa has fallen sharply in recent months, 4.5 percent last month alone. JIM BARRINEAU, ALLIANCE CAPITAL: President Cardoso's popularity has plunged as a result of this. It leaves the field open for some more leftist candidates than the market would prefer. So if the energy crisis lasts for more than six to nine months, it's going to be worse for the markets.

PILGRIM (on camera): Poor planning and lack of investment cannot be turned around quickly. It will take until 2002 to come up with alternate sources of energy for Brazil.

Kitty Pilgrim, CNN Financial News, New York.


HAYNES: The Backstreet Boys know what it's like to be at the top of the charts and on top of the world for that matter. But like anyone else, they encounter challenges. The group announced this week that it'll postpone an upcoming tour while member A.J. McLean undergoes treatment for alcohol abuse and clinical depression.

Jason Carroll talked with a few fans in New York about how they are affected by a star's troubles.



JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're one of the world's most popular bands. The Backstreet Boys are highly produced and highly marketed as squeaky-clean pop stars. Now the band is coming clean for their fans with word one of their members, A.J. McLean, is battling alcohol and depression.

BACKSTREET BOYS MEMBER: Hopefully, instead of them looking upon us as, wow, you know, they're not all as perfect as we thought they would be. Maybe they'll look at it as like, you know, I really respect them for taking that stance.

CARROLL: Teenagers like Ali, 14, and Brittany, 13, are the backbone of the Backstreet Boys fan base. They're girls, they're young and they're impressionable.

BRITTANY SCHEIKER, BACKSTREET BOYS FAN: I think that stars have to like know they're popular and how much power they have over kids our age and be smart with what they do.

ALI LARAIA, BACKSTREET BOYS FAN: I just think that he's kind of stupid. He had such a great, like, life going for him and then he just ruined it.

CARROLL: Both girls joined hundreds of others to see the latest boy band hitting the charts: DreamStreet. Ali's mother says her daughter is focused on the newest band, but it's important to talk about the problems facing the older band.

MARIAN LARAIA, ALI'S MOTHER: You have to in this day and age. It's important to, you know, discuss openly the drugs, the alcohol, the violence, everything that is, I guess, apparent in our life.

CARROLL: Dr. Joyce Brothers says parents should talk to their kids about alcohol and drugs before they're teenagers.

Here's why:

Statistics show about half of the eighth graders polled say they've already had a drink and a quarter admitted to having been drunk.

DR. JOYCE BROTHERS, PSYCHOLOGIST: Anytime there's a problem of this sort, it's up to the parents to say, look, let's talk about it.


CARROLL: A.J. has gone into a month of treatment, and MTV news correspondent John Norris says many of his fans admire him for it.

JOHN NORRIS, MTV NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And I was having kids just spontaneously telling me in the studio yesterday, this is so great that he's actually dealing with this.


CARROLL (on camera): The Backstreet Boys have postponed their tour, but they and their fans hope all five members will be back on stage by early August.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


HAYNES: And finally, today, if all goes well, space shuttle Atlantis will rocket into space this morning. The shuttle has some precious cargo on board, too, a $165 million front door or crew lock to the International Space Station. Those living on board the space station will be able to come and go right through this front door.


JAMES REILLY, MISSION SPECIALIST: You're basically stepping out into space, looking straight down at the earth and that's going to be quite a different sensation, I think, and so you're liable to hear one or two of us say something about the view as we come out of the - out of the crew lock.


HAYNES: And you can follow the mission on our Web site,, of course. There you'll be able to find a mission timetable, astronaut profiles and even NASA animation.

And that'll about do it for us. Thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

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