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NEWSROOM for July 27, 2001

Aired July 27, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: From the CNN Center in Atlanta, hello and welcome. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

Your end of the week NEWSROOM is jam-packed with, guess what, news. So let's get the ball rolling with a look at the rundown.

In today's "Top Story," we're tracking the potentially deadly West Nile virus. We'll bring you the latest. Then hang around for "Editor's Desk" as we meet a rising young star. And up next in "Worldview," we check in on another young person who's no stranger to the spotlight. Finally, we "Chronicle" the accomplishments of some American heroes.

Federal officials say it's time to step up the battle against the West Nile virus. The disease, first isolated in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937, surfaced in the United States two years ago. Algeria, Romania, Israel, Russia and the Czech Republic also have recently detected the virus in humans. So far, more than 80 cases of the disease have been reported in the U.S., a number that is likely to rise according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as the CDC.

Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the West Nile virus first arrived in the Western Hemisphere through the New York City area in 1999, seven people ended up dying, a total of 59 people suffer from meningitis and encephalitis. But researchers have now learned more.

DR. NEAL COHEN, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSION: The total number of infections for every one case of encephalitis there were 140 infections.

TUCHMAN: Most of those infections resulted in no symptoms, but about one in five of those people suffered influenza-like illnesses. They may have thought they had colds. What they had was an illness from the West Nile virus. FARZAD MOSTASHARI, STUDY AUTHOR: We were pleased that there are relatively few individuals who have severe neurological illness as a result and these are mainly senior citizens, but the message must go out to all citizens that they should take measures of self protection to minimize their possible exposure to this virus.

TUCHMAN: This new study used a representative sample of households in the epicenter of the 1999 outbreak, a section of Queens, New York. Investigators concluded that 1,200 people in a densely populated 3.3 square mile area had been infected. Most never knew it.

COHEN: More for the policymakers, it helps them recognize what the true risk is of the virus to their communities. For an individual person, the mild illness is just that, it's a mild illness like any other viral syndrome that'll - they'll get over it. They'll feel better in a few days.

TUCHMAN: Federal officials are now warning health agencies to step up mosquito control efforts to stop the spread of West Nile which has now turned up in the southeastern United States.

COHEN: The most interesting findings were that people who spent a lot of times outdoors after dusk or before dawn and did not use mosquito repellent were at highest risk of infection.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Even after West Nile was identified in the New York area, researchers say 70 percent of the people they dealt with still never used mosquito repellent. A major hope is that this news results in fewer people being repelled by repellent.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.


BAKHTIAR: Besides using a repellent containing DEET, people can curb their risk of mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and pants and by avoiding the outdoors at dawn and dusk.

The West Nile virus, which first showed up in the northeastern United States, has moved south. Florida and Georgia have both recently detected the disease. The CDC says the virus will likely show up in other states as well.

Why and how do viruses like West Nile spread so rapidly?

Well, Holly Firfer takes us on a mission to figure out that seemingly impossible question.


HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Holly Firfer from CNN's medical unit, and I need your help. About 30 local high school students got sick after eating lunch yesterday. I need to figure out what happened. Can you help me get to the bottom of this? This is your mission, if you should choose to accept it. (voice-over): To solve our mystery, let me give you the facts. About 6:00 p.m. yesterday, 20 students complained of stomach cramps, diarrhea and some were vomiting. About 10 more said they felt like they had a fever and an upset stomach. All 30 of them ate lunch in the cafeteria that day. By this morning, many of them were taken to the hospital. Doctors say it's an infectious disease. What happened?

Now to start our mission, there are some things you need to know. Infectious diseases can be spread through the air, by direct skin contact, sexually, through insects, food or water. Let me give you an example. You're playing hacky sack. The hacky sack is a germ. You pass it over to your friend and now he plays and passes it over to another friend. All three of you have touched the germ, really the hacky sack, but now all of you have been exposed and infected. It can be that easy.

DR. BRETT FINLAY, HOWARD HUGHES MEDICAL INST: In North America, the United States and Canada, infectious diseases are the third leading cause of death.

FIRFER: It's the number one killer throughout the rest of the world. This year, it's estimated that 17 million people will die from an infectious disease. According to the World Health Organization, every three seconds a child dies.

(on camera): So as you can see, infectious diseases can be deadly and easily transmitted. So I've enlisted the help of experts, folks who track disease outbreaks, like the one we see with our students, to see if we can crack this case.

(voice-over): First off, we need to do some laboratory testing to figure out what we're dealing with.

DR. SUE BINDER, CDC: Make sure that the appropriate specimens were being collected as people were coming to the hospital because a lot of times we can make a diagnosis on a - on a sample of blood or a sample of stool.

FIRFER: There are two main types of germs that cause most infections, viruses and bacteria. Viruses cause colds and flu, most coughs and sore throats. They are also responsible for causing chicken pox, herpes, hepatitis, measles and AIDS.

Bacteria can cause ear infections, some sinus infections and strep throat, as well as salmonella, E.coli, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and typhoid fever.

(on camera): Well, our lab tests are back and the scientists tell us that our students were exposed to a bacteria called E.coli 0157:H7. Now this is important to know.

DR. DAVID BELL, CDC: When we have illnesses like the cold - like colds and the flu, viral illnesses, antibiotics offer no benefit for these illnesses.

FIRFER (voice-over): For bacterial illnesses, antibiotics can work, so at least our students can get treatment.

Our case is going to be tough because, believe it or not, our bodies are covered with bacteria or microbes and they are literally everywhere. Scientists say we're actually more microbial than human. Microbes outnumber human cells on our body 10 to 1 and they can multiply very quickly.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: They, unlike humans which have generations measured in 15 to 20 to 25 years, microbes do that hundreds of times over a period of days to weeks and thousands of times over weeks to months. So they can really adapt themselves very, very, very easily.

FIRFER: Not all of these microbes are dangerous. In fact, many of them help us to stay healthy. Some aid in digestion, some produce vitamins to assist our growth and some actually protect against pathogens or the bad bacteria trying to invade our bodies.

BINDER: To paraphrase Madonna, we might say that we're living in a bacterial world and a fungal world and a viral world and a parasitic world. We have organisms living around us, on us and in us.

FIRFER: Get this, in our mouths alone, there can be up to 300 pathogens so these bacteria we carry can actually help prevent those pathogens from causing cavities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some bacteria cause disease but sometimes, not always. They pick on people that are sick, if they have weaker immune systems, for example, if they're young, if they're old, if they're starved. Those are the people that are more susceptible to bacterial diseases.

FIRFER: The most common infectious diseases worldwide are pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, malaria and HIV.

But since we know our case involves bacteria, we can narrow it down. Now comes deductive reasoning.

BINDER: We would be taking the information about the foods that might have been served that day and putting it into a questionnaire format and then asking everybody who was sick what foods they ate.

FIRFER (on camera): The experts say after talking to all of our students, they found out they all had hamburger for lunch.

(voice-over): Oftentimes, food or water can become contaminated with dangerous bacteria like E.coli 0157:H7 or salmonella. If food is not cooked or water not chlorinated properly, these bacteria will survive and end up making you sick.

There are other reasons infectious diseases reach so many.

DR. DAVID HEYMAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We're going deeper into jungles where diseases like yellow fever are present which then enter into human populations. We're changing our habits in food preparation and in so doing, we let infectious agents pass through, such as happened in mad cow disease.

FIRFER: You can hop on a plane and within 24 hours be on the other side of the world. With global travel, diseases are being spread to every corner of the earth.

BINDER: For example, we are used now to walking into a grocery store and we expect to see mangos and papayas and kiwis no matter what time of year it is. These aren't coming from the United States. We no longer have our local farmer providing us with produce. And if these are contaminated with organisms that are endemic or very, very common in these other countries, we're eating them.

FIRFER: I think we're getting close to solving our case. Let's revisit our facts. Thirty people are sick. Symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. They all were sick after eating the same meal at the same place at the same time. After lab tests, our scientists tell us it is a food-born bacteria called E.coli 0157:H7, which we know can multiple thousands of times, and if it's not killed, can spread quickly.

Can you figure out what's happened?

BINDER: That really implies there was a problem at the school and how the hamburger meat was handled, how the food was prepared or something related to service.

FIRFER (on camera): Did you solve the mystery and complete the mission? If so, we might be coming to you, future scientists, to track all our infectious disease outbreaks. Well done and thanks.


BAKHTIAR: Well, teenagers are definitely making their mark on the music world, in case you hadn't noticed. From LeAnn Rimes and Aaron Carter to Britney Spears, it seems the younger, the better. Well, look out Mandy Moore, there's a new teen talent who's dreaming of making it big in the music biz.

And as our entertainment reporter Lauren Hunter reports, this 13- year-old has all the right stuff.


LAUREN HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen-year-old singer Kaci is on a quick stop to Southern California to promote her debut single, but first, she has to get ready for a photo shoot.

KACI: I love makeup.

HUNTER: Kaci says despite the attention she's now getting, she's a typical girl from Florida.

KACI: Yes, when I go home, I'm just Kaci. I'm just a normal, 13-year-old girl who just goes home and hangs out with friends and calls guys.

HUNTER: And she has typical girl concerns.

KACI: Honestly, I don't think I'll be dating until I'm 30.

HUNTER: Kaci says she's very lucky to be able to sing and calls music a gift from God.

HUNTER: It just comes naturally to me. It's almost in my blood, you know, music. It's my life. So I've always had just a passion for singing and performing.

HUNTER: This only child started singing at home when she was three, began voice lessons at eight, and recorded a Christmas album for family and friends when she was nine.

KACI: I would just go out and perform any time I could, even when I was like three. I would always ask my Dad, can I please go up to this restaurant where they had karaoke, and I would go up there and I would sing.

HUNTER: Her single was released in May with her album to follow this fall, on which she contributes as songwriter and producer. Kaci says she's following in the footsteps of a couple of her favorite performers.

KACI: The people that really inspired me since I was really young are people like Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan and Judy Garland. Celine Dion, obviously, because she has the most amazing voice on the face of the Earth. And Gloria Estefan, I've always loved that whole Latin flavor to it. And Judy Garland because I'm just in awe of her. She's amazing. She sings and she acts and she dances, you know? She does movies, the whole shebang, and I've always been like: She did it; so can I.

HUNTER: Lauren Hunter, CNN Entertainment News, Hollywood.


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.

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BAKHTIAR: In "Worldview" today, we've got everything from soaps to souvenirs. We'll also check on a famous youngster from Cuba. You might have heard of him: What's up with Elian Gonzalez? Stay tuned for that story. Plus, collectibles -- we'll explore the hobby from the eyes of an enthusiast and we'll get an earful about a new TV trend. Habla Espanol, anyone?

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: The 2000 United States census shows a dramatic increase in the number of Hispanics living in this country. In fact, Hispanics now outnumber blacks as the nation's largest minority. California, Texas and New York are the three most populous Hispanic states. Census officials attribute the rapid growth to an increase in immigration from places like Mexico and Central America to the United States.

Although it remains unclear how the increased numbers will affect things like Hispanic's political clout, the Latin invasion is making an incursion into daytime television. Characters on the popular daytime soap the "Bold and the Beautiful" are a good example. They're speaking a new language these days. Can you guess which one?

Hena Cuevas tells us.


DARLENE CONLEY, ACTRESS: What is wrong with my television set?

HENA CUEVAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sally Spectra, the prime dame of the daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful," will soon be speaking Spanish. The 15-year-old soap is the first daytime drama to provide Spanish-language translation using the secondary audio program, SAP, a feature on newer TV sets which lets viewers listen to the show in another language.

(on camera): Once the show is shot and edited, it comes to this dubbing studio, where voice actors chosen to match the real characters on the show bring their Spanish counterparts to life.

(voice-over): It's a move designed to attract the growing number of Spanish-speaking viewers in the U.S.

LUCY JOHNSON, CBS DAYTIME PROGRAMMING: We are entering a new place, and maybe there's -- well, I believe there is room for all of us, and somebody will just maybe have to move over little bit.

CUEVAS: That somebody are the Spanish-language soaps, or telenovelas, broadcast by the two largest Spanish language television networks in the U.S., Univision and Telemundo.

Novelas, which usually last less than a year, are Latin America's TV equivalent to romance novels, with a definite beginning and end. They're a critical part of the Spanish language networks' prime time line-up, bringing in more than 50 percent of their total revenue. So, how do they feel about soaps en Espanol?

JAMES MCNAMARA, CEO, TELEMUNDO: It's a noble effort, and at the end of the day, I don't believe the mainstream Hispanic audience is going to tune in in large numbers.

CUEVAS: McNamara says it's more than just language. For their loyal followers, novelas are a part of life itself. MCNAMARA: We like to think of it as novelas being part of the genetic DNA of the Latino.

CUEVAS: CBS is aware of this, so they've added a new Hispanic storyline and characters. Hot, just like the battle to being waged in America's living rooming.

Hena Cuevas, CNN, Los Angeles.


HAYNES: When you think of famous buildings, which one comes to mind? Well, for some it's the Empire State Building, the skyscraper built back in 1930. It stretched up 102 stories and for years, it was the tallest building in the world. At 1,250 feet or 381 meters, it's still one of the highest. One of New York's most popular tourist attractions, not only for visiting, but for collecting, as Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most folks just visit the Empire State building, but Ronnette Riley has made the building part of her empire. Ditto for this famous St. Louis landmark. "Honey, I shrunk the Gateway Arch." And when in Rome, do as the Romans do, only smaller.

Everywhere she goes, Ronnette picks up souvenir buildings.

(on camera): Are you ever embarrassed of your habit?

RONNETTE RILEY, ARCHITECT/COLLECTOR: I'm not, because I think it's kitsch, it's fun.

MOOS (voice-over): And now, in the lobby of the Empire State building, dozens of its miniature offspring are on display: erasers, thimbles, thermometers, pencil sharpeners. Nothing king size, but plenty of "King Kong." Ronnette's 1,200-piece collection spans the world, from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Great Wall of China, to the Seattle Space Needle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More Space Needles than you can shake a stick at.

MOOS: Ronnette is head of her own architectural firm. From her office on the 80th floor of the Empire State building...

RILEY: This is a pepper mill.

MOOS: ... she has a view of the same buildings that grace her collection. Maybe you remember the Alamo, but how about Lucy the Elephant, a whimsical landmark outside Atlantic City?

(on camera): What are you week on? What do you need?

RILEY: Is there a building in Kentucky? I don't have one. MOOS (voice-over): She also doesn't have any of the buildings of disaster. Boym Design created notorious replicas ranging from Chernobyl to the Watergate to the Unabomber's shack. Some would argue that the most bizarre re-creation, the O.J. Simpson car chase, shouldn't qualify, since it's not a structure.

The Souvenir Building Collectors Organization debates all kinds of things.

RILEY: Do salt and pepper shakers count as one building or two?

MOOS: For instance, these Morman Tabernacle shakers. When Ronnette's friends travel, they're always on the lookout.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I gave her one of the Sydney Opera House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the Kremlin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I brought her the totem pole back from Alaska.

MOOS: Ronnette asked some clients from Kansas to bring her a building.

RILEY: They showed up, and they said, "We couldn't find a building in Kansas, " but they brought me Dorothy.

MOOS: If only they'd discovered the Emerald City of Oz.


JUDY GARLAND, ACTRESS: Oh, we're almost there, at last, at last.


MOOS: We asked these kids from Syracuse what building there deserves to be memorialized.


GROUP: Wal-Mart.

MOOS: Wal-Mart? Kmart? Not quite the same cachet as the Eiffel Tower kicking a soccer ball.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: The Elian Gonzalez saga ended more than a year ago, but the world remains intrigued with the young boy. Elian, who is living with his father in Cuba, was at the center of a seven-month custody battle last year between his father and relatives in Miami. As you probably remember, Elian was rescued off the coast of Florida in November of 1999 after the ship he and his mother were trying to reach the U.S. in sank. Lucia Newman has more on the young boy and the politics behind his return to Cuba.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Elian Gonzalez stepped off this plane onto Cuban territory one year ago, many wondered what would happen to the little boy who had become a familiar face around the world.

For seven months, the Cuban government mobilized millions of citizens in an unprecedented political and emotional campaign for his return from the United States. Many predicted he would be paraded as a trophy if he ever went back to Cuba.

(on camera): Today, the face of Elian is gone from the huge protest plaza in front of the U.S. Diplomatic Mission here in Havana, built during the height of what Cubans call "The Battle for Elian." In fact, these days the boy's name is hardly mentioned.

(voice-over): Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, makes occasional appearances at public rallies. President Fidel Castro is speaking. But since his return, the boy himself has been kept out of the media limelight, with the exception of his first day back at school and his birthday.

In his hometown of Cardenas, police discreetly stand guard to ward off journalists from his house. One person who is always welcome by the family is the American fisherman who jumped into the water and rescued him just off the coast of Miami on Thanksgiving Day.

Sam Ciancio, who was just in Cuba, says he found Elian well.

SAM CIANCIO, RESCUER: It was a mistake on the United States not to return the child sooner. But you know, he is here now. And I think, you know, he is doing great.

NEWMAN: In an earlier interview, Elian's father told CNN the boy is totally adjusted to his life back in Cuba and doesn't seem to be traumatized, despite his ordeal. In these pictures provided by Cuban state television, he doesn't even appear to be afraid of water.

JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S FATHER (through translator): At all times, his expressions, his gestures, his way of acting has gone back to the way it was before. I have seen no change that would warrant a psychologist.

NEWMAN: Many ordinary Cubans remember Elian as a political symbol.

"We fought a great battle against the Americans, against imperialism. And we won," says this man.

Still, while Elian the symbol may still be remembered, many Cubans agree with his family: that Elian the boy is just an ordinary child who lived through extraordinary times and should now be left in peace.

Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.


BAKHTIAR: U.S. President George Bush honored a special group of native Americans Thursday. The Code Talkers were given the Congressional Gold Medal for their role in World War II. The Native Americans helped relay orders to Marines in battle by developing a military code from the Navajo language. Only 5 of the original 29 are still with us.

Eileen O'Connor has their story.




EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even if they were, the Japanese couldn't break the code 29 Navajo Marines created during World War II to relay orders from the front lines. Now honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony some say was too long in coming to people who the president says were often left in the background of American history, Native Americans.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of history, they came forward to serve America, the Navajo code itself provides part of the reason. The code word for America was "our mother." Our mother stood for freedom, our religion, our ways of life, and that's why we went in.

O'CONNOR: Chester Nez is one of the four of the five left alive able to receive the medal in person. He added a salute and talked of how the code was created.

CHESTER NEZ, WWII CODE TALKER: We memorized them and everything was up here, packed, and it was secured that way. And nobody knew. The Japanese pulled all their hair out trying to decipher the code.

O'CONNOR: Navajo words for everyday things became military terms.

CHUCK MELSON, USMC CHIEF HISTORIAN: They did things like tank, you know, an armored track vehicle came out as, you know, turtle. The frontline units and in the units that were charged with talking to aircraft and Naval gunfire at sea, and they weren't in a position to be relieved. They couldn't rest. They couldn't take cover.

O'CONNOR: Though their existence was classified until 1968, the code talkers were recognized by Hollywood, first in the 1954 classic "Battle Cry." A new film, "Wind Talkers," centers on what the Marine Corps says is a myth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "WIND TALKERS") UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your mission is to protect the code at all costs.


O'CONNOR: Star Nicolas Cage dismisses criticism that even in this latest film, the biggest hero is the white man.

NICOLAS CAGE, ACTOR: The Navajo radio man is very heroic in the movie. And I think when people see the film, they'll catch that.

O'CONNOR: The Marine Corps says the code talkers were key in battles like Iwo Jima. The Marine Corps is happy, they say, for the standing ovation these men are receiving, but say they are just one part of a proud corps of honorable men.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.


BAKHTIAR: For more on this story, log on to There you'll find loads of information, including a code talker dictionary. That should be exciting.

As for us, that's it for the week. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you again on Monday.



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