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CNN Newsroom

Aired October 25, 2001 - 04:30   ET


MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everybody. I'm Michael McManus.

The Republican controlled House narrowly passes a controversial economic stimulus package. Among other things, the $100 billion package calls for tax cuts for businesses and individuals. The vote of 216 to 214 came just hours after President Bush urged its approval.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to accelerate the tax relief that is always -- that is already going to happen. In other words, instead of waiting for next year's tax relief to happen, let's put it into this year to bolster consumer spending. We want you to have more money to spend, particularly as we head into the Christmas season. We want our consumers feeling confident.


MCMANUS: President Bush has received high marks from Democrats for his support of government spending to get the economy rolling; however, the size of the stimulus package has come under fire. Some Democrats say the money is earmarked for the wrong people, namely wealthy business owners.

Tim O'Brien reports from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority having voted in the affirmative, the bill is passed.

TIM O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Republican bill the House approved today is unabashedly pro-business.

REP. SAM JOHNSON (R), TEXAS: If we're going to help our economy, we must help our businesses, from Wall Street to Main Street.

O'BRIEN: The bill includes a modest cut in long-term capital gains taxes, from 20 to 18 percent; relaxed depreciation rules; but most controversial, retroactive elimination of the alternative minimum tax for business. That alone cost some $25 billion. A handful of the country's largest corporations would get more than a billion dollars each. Democrats weren't buying it. REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: We need to take care of unemployed workers. We recognize that. They say, "Let's take care of the biggest corporations in America!" What hogwash!

Not to the bill's sponsor, who sees big business as a machine for creating jobs.

REP. BILL THOMAS (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE: What else would these job creating machines do with the money besides reinvest it so that they can continue to be in business? They actually might take some of that money to keep some of their employees on the payroll.

O'BRIEN: Bipartisanship evaporated.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: ... 86 percent of this benefit goes to the wealthiest Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time has expired.

PELOSI: Vote no on this shameless Republican package.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman from California.

REP. PETE STARK (D), CALIFORNIA: Would you rather help the unemployed while you sit with your fat-free health benefits that you're getting? Or would you rather give the 25 billion to your friends in the big corporations?

O'BRIEN: And as the debate became more rancorous, one Republican lawmaker felt his patriotism had been impugned.

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: There is no place for that dialogue on this floor. Shame on you for those comments. Shame on you for those actions. Join us together to at least disagree in civil fashion.

O'BRIEN: A spokesman for Representative Hayworth said later the comments were directed more at the tone of the debate than at any individual speaker.

O'BRIEN (on camera): President Bush urged the Senate to act swiftly on the measure, but Senate Democrats who control have developed their own plan with greater emphasis on extending unemployment benefits, health benefits and job training.

So there is movement in both houses of Congress on an economic stimulus package. Right now, though, it seems to be in opposite directions.

Tim O'Brien, CNN Financial News, Washington.


MCMANUS: The economic affects of the September 11 terrorist attacks are being felt around the world. As trade evaporates and investment flows dry up, Asia is headed down a longer and more painful path to recovery than expected before the attacks. And like the U.S., Asian governments are fast and furiously announcing fiscal stimulus packages in an attempt to minimize the damage.

Lisa Barron reports.


LISA BARRON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before the attacks on the U.S., Asian governments were trying to navigate their economies through a global slowdown. September 11 has left them scrambling.

DONG TAO, CREDIT SUISSE FIRST BOSTON: Before the events, people were debating whether the U.S. economy is in recession. After that, nobody have any thought on that. It's just a matter of how deep the U.S. economy is going to fall. Given the massive for dependence on the U.S. debit, all the Asian countries are just trying very, very hard to stimulate their own mass demand.

BARRON: In the last few weeks, Japan has drafted plans for a $25 billion supplementary budget aimed at boosting jobs and improving education. South Korea added another $1.5 billion to a $3.8 billion budget supplement announced just a month before for a total of $5.3 billion. Hong Kong unveiled a $2 billion package that includes a temporary reduction in tax rates and the creation of 30,000 temporary jobs. Singapore announced an extra budget providing for a $6.2 billion giveaway, including a handout of government issued securities. And both Thailand and Malaysia have announced emergency public spending packages worth more than $1 billion.

Economists say in the current circumstances, Asia's leaders can't afford to do nothing. The question is how much can they literally afford to pump into their economies and for how long.

SIMON OGUS, DSG ASIA: Clearly places like Indonesia and the Philippines are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a bust already due to previous profligacy (ph) so there are limits to how much they can spend. Ditto Japan. Japan would be bust except the fact that bond yields are less than 2 percent so they can afford to fund this.

BARRON (on camera): Whatever measures are being taken will at least cushion a downturn in Asia, but economists maintain even the soundest policy response won't offset the hit the region is taking from outside.

Lisa Barron, CNN, Hong Kong.


MCMANUS: A second case of skin anthrax has been confirmed at the "New York Post." Officials say the case involves a mail room worker.

While many people are taking Cipro as a precaution against possible exposure to anthrax, Germany's Bayer, the maker of that drug, agreed Tuesday to sell the drug at a lower price. The U.S. government will buy 100 million tablets of Cipro for 95 cents a pill.

With all the talk about anthrax one question lingers, how safe is the mail?

Natalie Pawelski looks at some of the latest technologies that could be used to reduce the threat of anthrax at postal facilities.


NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This may be the best way to make sure mail is anthrax free -- irradiate it. Some companies already use radiation to kill bacteria in food and on medical equipment and scientists say that after some research into the exact dosages and durations needed, radiation could be used to kill anthrax bacteria, too.

MELVIN FIRST, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: It would certainly work on anthrax and it has the advantage of great penetrating power so that it could penetrate envelopes and packages.

PAWELSKI: Machines like this convert electricity into a form of radiation that can penetrate cardboard boxes or paper envelopes, pretty much anything except some metals. One company claims it could render mail anthrax free for about a penny apiece.

The down side, the beam ruins electronics and as of now it's not approved for use with some types of food. It's important that the room where the work is done is properly shielded so workers are not exposed to radiation. For those receiving the mail, there would be no radioactive residue.

MICHAEL DOYLE, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Just like you have when you go through the airport and put your luggage through the X-ray machine, these x-rays go right through the food or the mail or your suitcase and when you take it off the belt, it doesn't glow in the dark and it's not radioactive.

PAWELSKI: Another kind of irradiation, gamma rays from a radioactive source like cobalt, now used to kill bacteria on food, could also kill anthrax. One complication, this process could demagnetize credit cards sent through the mail. Another thing researchers say can kill anthrax, very high heat and steam for sustained periods of time. The anthrax spores might not survive, but then neither might your mail.

FIRST: You'd end up with a big blob of pulp. That doesn't sound like a very practical method to me.

PAWELSKI (on camera): Experts say one future option might be to focus on detection rather than destruction. But researchers say right now there are no machines that can reliably alert people in the post office or anywhere else to the presence of anthrax.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCMANUS: It was another day of U.S.-led military strikes over Afghanistan Wednesday. Heavy bombing rocked the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar as well as the capital city of Kabul. Secretary of State Colin Powell says he hopes the war can come to a quick end, but he says the administration is prepared to keep up the fight during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan if necessary.

Powell also spent some time testifying before the House International Relations Committee yesterday. He outlined how the U.S. has been coalition building, striking up alliances with some not so traditional allies, including Russia, Syria and Iran.


COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Sometimes out of great tragedy, great opportunities arise. And when you look at what happened on the 9-11, as we call it, the 11th of September, and the pain we went through, but as we -- as we -- as we deal with this pain, we can't ignore the opportunities.

Russia came forward rather quickly. Mr. Putin was the first one to call the president. Imagine that, first one to call the president. And the president also likes to tell the story that even before he said anything to Mr. Putin, Mr. Putin said, "I was having a military exercise, but I'm going to stop it because I don't want to give any false signals, while you're trying to figure out what happened." This is -- I mean I used to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We used to watch their submarines 12 minutes off the coast.

He then said, here are the things I will do for the war on terrorism. Now I've got my own little problem in Chechnya and so I've got to go after terrorists there. And we have a little debate about what's a terrorist and what's not a terrorist, not unlike any other conversation we've had.

So there are new opportunities been created. Nobody's called us unilateralists in the last few weeks. We are showing that we know how to pull a coalition together. So we suddenly have relations with the Central Asian republics that are new and exciting and have potential for the future as well. And Russia is not bent out of shape because suddenly we're doing things with the Central Asian republics, because we're talking to the Russians about it.

I have no illusions about the nature of the regime in Syria and Iran. Yet Iran is willing to provide search and air rescue if any of our pilots should be downed over there. It's not likely to be the case with them not flying over there. And I have, you know, no illusions about Syria, but Syria has indicated that it wants to at least talk to us about some things. We'll talk, but you get nothing for talk. You know they'll be an improvement in our relationship only if there is a change in their behavior. The president's made that clear.

The Sudan -- he had no illusions about the nature of that regime, but they have been very cooperative.


MCMANUS: Seems like everyone everywhere has some sort of opinion on what's happened. Whether it's the attacks on America or the response to it, people are expressing themselves. A few days ago, we invited nine students, some with relatives still in Afghanistan, to talk with us. The opinions varied, but the overall message was the same, they are concerned.

Here's our conversation.


MCMANUS: I'm Michael McManus with CNN NEWSROOM, and we have gathered students from two area high schools. These students have various backgrounds that I think is going to help us in understanding what went on. We have students with various ages as well as religions. We have Muslim represented, we have Jewish represented. We also have students with roots in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Japan and, of course, the United States, so this is really going to give us a broad spectrum of thoughts and feelings as this discussion develops.

And, Lauren, let's start with you. You have a story to tell. Where were you September 11 and what did you do?

LAUREN: I was in first period at school. It was about 8:45 when we found out and we turned the TV on immediately and we were glued to the television the entire day. The entire school was in the first period for first and second period, and we had discussions in class. No lessons were really taught. The teachers were very understanding. We had class discussions. It just -- it was -- it was a very -- it was a somber day, but it was very helpful for us to be able to talk about it right when we knew what it found out.

MCMANUS: Now did anyone else have some problems or issues? I mean this was just a story on monumental terms as -- in terms of tragedy. Did anyone have any problems dealing with it or did anyone really enjoy talking with someone about it?

KENNETH: I remember I had several friends who had family members who they believed to be in the area of the disaster and that was an ordeal going through that. They couldn't get in touch with family members. They were in the middle of school. Other members of their family were at work so they couldn't get in contact with them, and it was -- it was a really emotional experience not knowing -- someone was going through something so bad and you couldn't do anything to help them.

MCMANUS: What happens in your head when that goes on? I mean just the not knowing part...

KENNETH: I don't know what...

MCMANUS: You try to call them. I'm sure your relatives tried to call. The phone lines were obviously all jammed. KENNETH: It's a sense of helplessness more than anything. You just want to hop a plane and fly right up there to see -- make sure everyone's OK. And I didn't have anyone directly who lived in New York who was affected by it but all my friends were. I had several friends who were just crying in the office and trying to call their parents and sitting in the rooms watching television because the whole school just shut down. And I wanted to help them, not -- there was just nothing we could do, just sit there and talk to them.

MCMANUS: Well let's move over to this side of the room. Rabbia, could we maybe get your thoughts on what your class did on September 11?

RABBIA: I remember when we found out I was in second period. And we were supposed to be doing projects and the other group was supposed to be evaluating teachers. But one of my friends came and said they couldn't do it because they were watching a movie on New York, and I guess she thought it was a movie. And then so my teacher turned it on and we started watching it and then just the whole day we just watched TV. We didn't really go through anything and our teachers explained what was going on and that's about it.

MCMANUS: Rabbia, you're Pakistani, you're Muslim, and since this has happened there has been some racial profiling or even racial incidents that have happened. Have you or any of your friends or family experienced this?

RABBIA: No, we haven't experienced anything because where we live it's very diverse and then everyone's very understanding so.

MCMANUS: Has -- have any of you experienced that? I know we have -- you all have roots in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan and Sudan. Being Muslim, I'm sure there has been some challenges that you've had to face.

HALIMA: I haven't had any problems directly, but I had some friends who said that people were saying things to them and trying to offend them. And people are blaming them for what happened, you know saying that they were involved or you know their ancestors or you know -- you know the people that did this were their families or whatever but nothing directly at me.

MCMANUS: Halima, being Muslim, having maybe a different -- some different background as some other -- as the other students represented here, what are some of the solutions then to this racial profiling and these racial incidents going on around the country?

HALIMA: I think it's just a misunderstanding. People just need to understand each other. And if we all just took the time to -- People most of the time they just start throwing blames and start accusing people. Most of us here, especially, we had nothing to do with this. We just -- you know people are, you know, getting offended because, you know, the people that did this are Muslims or you know or whatever. But it's that -- to me it's not fair that people are doing that. And I think if people just took the time to understand that then we wouldn't have as many problems, people would realize that, okay, you know they were here when we were here, you know. And so that we're not the ones to blame for this and everything will be okay. It's just a misunderstanding.

MCMANUS: Majir, have you and your family discussed what has happened and have your parents basically discussed this with you or your teachers?

MAJIR: Well, after the September 11 thing it's like really affected me because like after the bombings and stuff, I have relatives in Afghanistan and we don't really have -- we're not in contact with them so we don't know if they're okay or not, you know. So it's affected me in many ways. And because I'm Muslim, they don't really look -- they don't think that I'm Muslim because I don't wear a scarf, you know. But they ask my why don't you wear a scarf and I'm like, well, if Taliban they were forcing people to wear scarves, I don't believe I should wear a scarf because it's a way of like me getting back at them, you know.

MCMANUS: Majir, I'm sure you hear students in school when they talk about this we should just bomb them all. I've heard some comments like that. And obviously your feeling is a lot different, you actually have flesh and blood over there, you have a family, you have friends. I'm sure you take this -- that a little bit differently.

MAJIR: I think the reason why they say that is because they don't have an understanding of what happened, who did it and stuff. So people say like we should bomb the whole country, but I don't think they shouldn't do that you know. And I think America's done a good decision to like bomb the Taliban and stuff, you know, but -- because like they're the reason why it happened, you know, and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization. So I don't think there's -- at first when they were like they were going to bomb the whole country, before everything started I was like kind of -- kind of like hurt me because like I have family over there and stuff, you know, so.

MCMANUS: We've all been talking about this -- these racial profiling. It was -- it was actually talked about before all these events happened. Have any of you in discussions with your friends and family talked about that or been involved personally with that?


Well, I mean let's move into another topic. Let's talk about bioterrorism. Seems to be the second wave of what has gone on here since September 11. I want to get your feelings on the science of it. I mean are you nervous? Are you scared? Are you -- are you upset when you open letters? I mean are you really nervous about what's been going on post-bombings and post-hijackings?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not really nervous about it, and I don't worry about opening mail because the thing -- where it's been happening has been mostly like the large like TV stations and the large organizations. Like doing it -- I know that before it gets to me it's going to go through someone else's hands, which is kind of selfish sounding, but I know that by the time it probably gets to me it's either going to be caught by then or it won't -- or like it'll be -- it'll be cleaned. So I'm not really that worried about it. But I think -- I think where we live I don't think it's going to be that big of a problem for us. I know that if it starts to go like nationwide, I think then I'll start getting to worry about it. But right now in the first stages of it, I'm pretty confident that we're going to catch who's ever trying to hurt us and I think we'll get -- I think we'll get through with it.

MCMANUS: Let's get some other reaction, I mean are you guys scared? These letters could go to anyone, anywhere. They seem to be targeting media organizations right now, but you know this is the type of thing that hits home directly because it's affecting people at their own offices, at their own desks.

HALEY: Actually coming here today to the CNN headquarters was the first time that I had thought about it because somebody as I was walking out the door they said don't open any mail, you know. And you kind of think it's funny but you think about this has really been happening in places, not necessarily here but in other cities in America, and so this was really the first time that it had even come close to affecting me personally, so it was interesting.

MCMANUS: Let's move on to some military reaction. As you know, there have been retaliatory attacks in Afghanistan since this has happened. The United States is, along with several other countries, are attacking al Qaeda and its network of terrorism cells, which many happen to be in Afghanistan. What's your reactions, all of you, to the attacks that have been going on?

HALEY: I think for me personally I'm -- I have no family there, I don't know anybody in that area of the world and so for me it's something that I watch on TV. You know you see the newscasts of bombings and images like that but to me it's something going on, you know, at the other end of the world so.

MCMANUS: Robert, what about you, what do you think of these attacks? Do you think it's solving the problem?

ROBERT: I think it's pretty necessary. I mean personally I can't really voice my opinion because it's not affecting me. I mean I'm not 18, I haven't had to sign up for a draft or anything. But I mean I think that that's the only way that we'll be able to put a stop to terrorism is getting rid of the terrorists camps and bombing the terrorist cells, stuff like that.

MCMANUS: Does anyone disagree with Robert?

HALIMA: I don't so much disagree, I just think that I've been reading all these e-mails from these newsletters that I get saying that -- you know talking about how these people had their families -- lost their families because you know a bomb hit their, you know, villages or whatever. Particularly this one guy, he lost four -- his four daughters, his son and his wife in a bomb. And I just think that, okay, yes, it's a good idea to fight terrorism but at the same time it's -- you know it's affecting people's lives, you know. Once again no civilians are, you know, dying and having to suffer because of, you know, something they have no control over or something they had nothing to do with and I don't know the whole -- the whole thing is just pretty sad. I was just -- you know I was shocked about I keep reading all these things from people that -- who have lost families or who are in danger or who have lost their, you know, only way of providing for their families, their farms, so whatnot. And I think that's pretty sad that these people have to pay a price for something they didn't do.

MCMANUS: Kenneth, how do you feel about that? I mean there are other families there, there are mothers, fathers, children, and in going in, no doubt some civilians will die. The Pentagon has said that. So what do you do?

KENNETH: The bombing is a necessary risk and I don't -- I support that. There's no way to get around it, but I feel confident that we aren't hurting civilians. I'm very happy that there is an effort to not hurt the civilians and that it -- the bombing is localized around Taliban training facilities and things like that. And so in that sense it's a relief to know that more innocent people aren't being killed and that we are actually going after the enemy and not randomly bombing just everything, so I support.

MCMANUS: And, Marium, do you support, and if you do or don't, why?

MARIUM: In some ways I do because the Afghan people have been struggling for many years, and if you see their lifestyle right now, they're really poor. I mean they even -- they -- enough food that they find is to survive. I mean they have the clothing on their backs and this is a shock to them. I mean it makes their life harder. If it makes their life harder or they go ahead and their life just ends.

MCMANUS: Marium, the United States people are watching this on television, they're being informed every night by their newspapers, is it different over there? Do these people even know what's going on? Do they know the whole picture?

MARIUM: No, they don't. People over there -- well most people, they don't have televisions or even if they have radios you know it's against the law over there, you can't have them, the televisions, or radios or cassettes, so I'm not sure how people can get information and find out what's going on. So it's really a shock to them.

MCMANUS: Let's discuss religion for a second here. Have you or your friends been to religious services since this has happened and if so, has it helped?

HALIMA: Yes, we normally every Sunday we go to the mosque and that hasn't changed. We didn't go that first week when that happened because people were all, you know, jumpy so we thought it would be -- it would be a good idea to cancel it that week. But after that, we've been going normally just, you know, every weekend or whatever. And yes, that helps. You know it helps to talk about it. It helps to see, you know, how people feel about everything that's been going on and, you know, that helps, you know.

MCMANUS: Let's finally discuss some positive lessons. Has there been something that you've been able to take with you, though how horrible this has all been that actually is going to help you -- Kenneth?

KENNETH: It opens up a discussion on a lot of things, racial profiling, for instance. There are people out -- I have friends who have learned that it is not a good thing jumping to conclusions on stereotypes is not something you want to do. It hurts people. Going to Riverwood with such a diverse community, there's always a learning process going on and so this has contributed to that, you know. We've learned not to make snap judgments on people. Communication has been opened up. It's helped a lot.

MCMANUS: And, Haley.

HALEY: OK, along with they're accepting diversity and knowing that you know other people in the world have feelings and they have family members that are directly affected as opposed to us, I think the patriotism that has been shown, the flags lining the streets. I have a flag outside my house which I can only remember putting up 4th of July. And so seeing that, seeing people driving around with, you know, little flags flying out of their cars and stuff, it makes me feel happy and that after such a terrible incident people can come together and really unite and so it makes me feel proud to be American.

MCMANUS: Marium, have you seen some positive things go on since this has happened?

MARIUM: Yes, as many of the students at our school they come up to me, they go, Marium, say where are you from? You're from Afghanistan, right? I say, yes, I'm from Afghanistan. They will be like I know how you feel because of what happened down here, but really they have said nothing negative. They've talked. I mean it's good to ask questions. Like when they ask questions and I tell them what I feel and the things that are going on in Afghanistan, you know they feel -- they feel it from their side too and they really -- when you ask questions and then they understand what you feel so.

MCMANUS: So there are positive lessons out there I think that we can all take with us. And those are just some thoughts and concerns from students at Clarkston High School and Riverwood High School in the Atlanta, Georgia area. And this discussion, no doubt, continues all over the world.


MCMANUS: I want to reiterate two things we discussed. First, there are no suspects in the anthrax mailings, and second, the Pentagon is disputing claims from the Taliban on the civilian death toll from military action in Afghanistan.

Now for a streamed version of the story, plus a Web write-up, check out And that's it for me. I'm Michael McManus. This is CNN NEWSROOM. We will see you tomorrow.




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