Does PETA Do Animals Good?; Interview With Ilan Ramon; Expert Advice on Digital Cameras
Aired January 19, 2003 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SHARON COLLINS, HOST: Coming up on NEXT@CNN, confrontational animal rights groups get a lot of attention. But does that do the animals any good?
Also, a history-making astronaut tells us about his mission.
And some expert advice on how to get the digital camera that's right for you. All of that, and more, on NEXT.
Hello, and welcome to NEXT@CNN. We're coming to you live from the CNN Center. I'm Sharon Collins. We've got a great show for you today. Now, let's start with this.
If this weekend is any indication, we're going to be hearing a lot about the issue of interrogation of Iraqi scientists in the near future. Earlier today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the big question right now isn't what the inspectors find, but how well the Iraqis cooperate.
The two men in charge of U.N. arms inspections in Iraq, Hans Blix and Mohamed El-Baradei, arrived in Baghdad today for talks with the Iraqi government. However, Blix says he thinks the problems with these interviews will work themselves out.
Now, here to talk with us about Iraqi scientists and more, is David Albright with the Institute for Science and International Security.
And David, welcome. You are, of course, a former weapons inspector, so you definitely have a feel for what's going on right now.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Some, and welcome. I'm glad to be here.
COLLINS: Let's start with this. We hear so much about Iraqi scientists. How many of them are there? And are any of them really independent of Saddam Hussein? Can they act independently?
ALBRIGHT: Iraq had thousands of scientists in its weapons of mass destruction programs. I mean, the nuclear program involved over $1 billion. And it involved a wide range of both scientists, technical people, administrators, service people. It was a very large program. And the -- and so one of the reasons you want to interview the Iraqi scientists is that it's pretty likely that many of them would know about clandestine weapons of mass destruction programs. And so the idea of this new resolution was to try to take advantage of that weakness, in essence, in the program. But it is a totalitarian state. And you have to do this very carefully, because finally, it's people's lives at stake.
COLLINS: David, having said that, is it possible for any of these people to speak honestly, knowing that they're in that kind of environment?
ALBRIGHT: Yes, it is. I mean, this is all based on the fact that there have been defectors that have been important. There have been Iraqis inside Iraq who have provided information inadvertently. It's also the case that if you can bring a lot of them out, you can actually make it harder for Iraq to work on nuclear weapons. I mean, while there are a lot of people in the program, it didn't have a lot of depth. And so if you start taking off the top leadership and remove them from Iraq, it's hard for Iraq to continue working on nuclear weapons.
COLLINS: Let's talk about that. Can you realistically get the scientists outside of the country for interviews? I mean, is that -- can that happen without giving them asylum, giving their family members asylum?
ALBRIGHT: You have to give asylum. And how many family members you give asylum to will depend on the individual case. For many defectors, they just went out with their immediate family and their extended family was okay. But certainly there's been concern that extended family members could be hurt. So another thing you have to do is make sure that for those family members that remain behind, that there's inspectors visiting those people to ensure that Iraq hasn't done something to them. You also want to take out more than one or two. I mean, one of the flaws in what's happened so far is that the United States and the inspectors, in essence, been fighting over this right of the inspectors. And what really needs to happen is for good procedures to be developed so that many can be taken out and interviewed, so that it's harder to single out one who may happen to talk.
COLLINS: Well, then, I have to ask the obvious question, is the United States prepared to give asylum to, let's say, 150 scientists and all their family members?
ALBRIGHT: Well, it remains to be seen. I mean, that's what they've been saying. But that has been one of the sticking points. Now under our law we couldn't do that. But Congress has introduced legislation that would allow many more people from Iraq to come here. And I think that law could pass very quickly if this program became concrete. But it is important that the asylum will have to be offered. And it -- it's tough to know if that particular person is going to provide the important smoking gun. We're going to end up offering asylum more than just to those providing important information. But that's going to be the costs of this program.
COLLINS: David, let's kind of switch gears now and go to North Korea, which is obviously another thorn in the side of the Bush administration right now. We're going to go to some satellite video, and I know that you're well aware of what we are seeing. Some of this has to do with weapons or what we suspect. Now, what are we looking at right now? Is this a processing plant?
ALBRIGHT: Yes, it's a plant at Yongbyong site in North Korea that takes irradiated fuel from a nuclear reactor, chemically processes it and separates out plutonium, which is a nuclear explosive material. So in a sense, we're most worried about this facility. That this is where North Korea could be separating plutonium for up to five nuclear weapons over the next several months. And so it's very important to start knowing, is this plant is operating.
COLLINS: Let's go to other video that I know you have, I believe, on your web site. Tell us what that is.
ALBRIGHT: Well, there's many other sites that are shown of Yongbyon, because it's a large facility that specializes in both producing plutonium, and here an image is coming up of a reactor that's also been at the heart of this crisis. And next to the reactor building in the center of the yellow box, is a -- on the right side is a spent fuel storage building, and where the...
COLLINS: David, let me interrupt you just a moment. How can we then, without any monitors there, without any monitoring equipment, ever tell whether they're starting up weapons production or not? I know you've talked about something called Krypton 85, which sounds like something from a superman movie. Tell me what that is and how it can help us.
ALBRIGHT: Well, you can look at these buildings and see some evidence of operation. I mean, I'll get to the krypton in a second. I mean, it's reactors operating. There's a cooling tower that emits steam. At this plutonium separation plant, there may be brown clouds coming off the stacks. But a better method is to use a material that is produced during the -- produced in the reactor, when the fuel is being irradiated. It's called krypton 85. And it's an inert gas, therefore, it's not going to mix with anything. It has a -- it exists in the environment for quite a while. It has what's called a half- life of about 10 years.
COLLINS: So essentially...
ALBRIGHT: And you can actually monitor it from a distance, and get an indication that the plant is operating.
COLLINS: Essentially, then, this would be then, an environmental monitoring system?
ALBRIGHT: That's right. And it's been used extensively for 50 years. We used to use this kind of technique to understand how much plutonium Russia made. And if you can get the sensors near enough, which you can do in North Korea, you can actually see sort of an elevated level of krypton, 85, and therefore know that the reprocessing plant has started.
COLLINS: All right, David Albright, thank you so much for taking a chunk of your Sunday to spend with us, and hopefully we'll have you back again.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
COLLINS: Thank you very much.
Well, demonstrators turned out in heavy numbers yesterday to protest a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq. How many showed up to the protest? Good question. Apparently it depends on whom you ask. In Washington, D.C., U.S. capitol, police estimate between 30,000 and 50,000 people showed up for the rally, while protest organizers claim 500,000 waved anti-war banners. So, how do they make these crowd estimates? Well, turns out it's as much guesswork as science.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAROUK EL-BAZ, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: All of these are not real counts. And they are not even estimates. They are guesstimates. Because no one can really look at the crowds and figure a possible number.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Sounds like TV ratings. Just kidding.
When we come back, the world's deep-sea sharks are disappearing at alarming rates. We are going to ask an expert why. And later, what do technology and the Golden Globes have in common? We're going to go to Los Angeles and let you know.
COLLINS: One of the ocean's most elegant creatures could be in mortal danger. A new study in "Science" magazine shows shark populations are down dramatically over the past 15 years. Now over- fishing is the main culprit, and the disappearance of once the king of the ocean food chain could be a sign of even bigger problems. Joining us now from Halifax, Nova Scotia, is coauthor of the study, Ransom Myers. Ransom, thank you so much for joining us today.
RANSOM MYERS, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
COLLINS: Tell me what you found out in this study. I mean, how serious is this problem?
MYERS: The problem is serious, and probably occurs throughout the world. The shark -- most shark species are declining about 10 percent a year for over the period that we looked at them. Some like hammerhead sharks are declining at a greater rate, some of them a little bit less of a rate.
COLLINS: Hammerhead sharks, I am understanding, it's like a 90 percent decline? Is that correct?
MYERS: Ninety percent over the 15-year period we have data. But that's typical of most of the species.
COLLINS: So why should we care?
MYERS: Well, my 5-year-old son really likes the hammerhead sharks, and that's a good reason for me to care.
COLLINS: And, of course, they have a big role in the ecosystem as well, do they not?
MYERS: Whenever in the past we've eliminated a key component, the ecosystems have changed in unpredictable ways. For example, in eastern Canada where we over-fished the cod stocks, it's caused a fundamental change in our ecosystem. The cod simply are not coming back. So when we eliminate a key component, things will change in a way we may not like.
COLLINS: But you know, Ransom, I was just out with some commercial fishermen off the coast of the outer banks last month, and they say, you know, how -- you're taking away all the fish, pretty soon we're not going to be able to fish for anything. Are the fish stocks that seriously declined?
MYERS: Worldwide, over-fishing is an enormous problem, where if we simply reduced effort and allowed many of the fish stocks to increase, we would have a lot more fish. The reason why that fishermen aren't allowed to fish particular groups, the fish is simply because they're very much over-fished and there's few left.
COLLINS: You know, one of the problems I see is that when you talk to these guys they say, we've got such heavy restrictions in the United States. But you have fleets from other countries come in with these almost factory trawlers that suck up fish like a vacuum cleaner. So what good does it do to put restrictions on U.S. fishermen if you don't put them on the entire world?
MYERS: Well, I mean, in the case of many of the species like hammerheads, we can save the hammerheads around U.S. and Canada simply by restricting Canadian and U.S. effort in fishing. And that's not a problem. Many of the other sharks are wide ranging. For that we need international effort. In terms of world citizens in the U.S. -- U.S. and Canada, there's very strict regulations. And we have reasonably good data. For like Europe, there's no European data at all. And they're some of the greatest fishermen of the tunas and billfish. They're behaving completely irresponsibly.
COLLINS: What makes sharks so vulnerable to the fishing equipment that is used in the oceans today?
MYERS: Basically, they're like us. They take a long time to reproduce and they have very few offspring. So these combination of slow-growth long-age maturity and few pups, pups are what you call baby sharks, lead to -- they are very sensitive to overexploitation.
COLLINS: If we lose, perhaps, just one or two species of sharks, would it really be that significant in the ocean? I mean, just say the hammerhead or maybe one or two other species. Isn't this the normal flow of the way it operates? MYERS: Well, I mean we're faced with a worldwide decline of all the large pelagic and post coastal sharks. Other studies that we're undertaking sponsored by a few charitable trusts in the U.S. is looking at the pacific, and we see the same thing. We see these massive declines of all of the large shark species. Even in the central pacific, silky sharks, white-tipped sharks, they're all declining in a similar way. So we're looking at a world without sharks, without the whole magnificent group of species unless some action is taken.
COLLINS: And Ransom, am I correct in assuming, the sharks get a bad rap with all the movies and such as that. Are there fishermen who just chop off the fins and throw them back because they don't want them in the oceans?
MYERS: Well, most fishermen on an individual level would never intentionally destroy a species, or an individual. Now, there is a very large market for shark fins, to make shark-fin soup in China, which is causing enormous problems. For the non-U.S. and Canadian fleets, what you almost always do is chop off the fins and throw the animal back in the water to die. So this Chinese appetite for shark fins -- shark-fin soup is causing enormous mortality.
COLLINS: Ransom Myers, thank you so much for joining us today. I hope your study has some impact and maybe we can see more sharks in the future. Hug a shark today, how is that?
MYERS: Thank you.
COLLINS: Just ahead, we have details on a historic mission. What the first Israeli astronaut has to say about his time spent in space.
COLLINS: Technology news this week, a big sigh of relief for Boston's big dig. A crucial section of the new highway opened to traffic about 4:30 Saturday afternoon. The 1.3-mile tunnel links Logan Airport to the Massachusetts turnpike, and the first car through got a hero's welcome. Drivers can now make it from Logan to Seattle without ever getting off Interstate 90, except for gas and rest stops of course. Now the big dig began in the 1980s and has become one of the most expensive highway construction projects in history.
The souped up pagers called Blackberries, got some support from friends in high places this week. The company that makes Blackberry is involved in a patent infringement dispute. On Thursday, an official with U.S. Congress sent a letter asking attorneys to try to settle things without disrupting Blackberry operations. The letter says if Blackberry service were stopped it would, quote: "significantly impact the ability of the House to conduct business." Now we know.
The self-balancing upright scooter called the Segway is supposed to change civilization. But not in San Francisco. Starting tomorrow the City by the Bay becomes the first large city to outlaw Segway's on its sidewalks. Some called the Segway a safety hazard. It weighs almost 70 pounds and reaches speeds of 12 1/2 miles an hour. And you can drive one without a license.
Well, on Thursday, 48-year-old Ilan Ramon became the first Israeli astronaut catching a ride aboard the shuttle Columbia. And yesterday, our resident space correspondent Miles O'Brien got a chance to chat with Ramon circling the earth 150 miles above.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, we will take just a few moments to say hello to the crew of the space shuttle Columbia now traveling above the pacific at 17,300 miles an hour, 150 miles above us, waving to us. Let's give you an idea of who's who. This is Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli ever to fly in space, Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist on her second mission. Rick Husband, the commander, second mission. Laurel Clark, another space rookie. Book ended by space rookies here. Colonel Ramon, I'm curious what it was like when you had that opportunity on one of those early passes to look down at your home country, and the Middle East in general. What were your thoughts at that time?
ILAN RAMON, ISRAELI ASTRONAUT: I would say that first, it was pretty fast. It was actually today. And it went too fast. It was cloudy, mostly cloudy. So I couldn't see much of Israel. Just the north of Israel. And of course, I was excited.
O'BRIEN: Was the launch what you expected?
RAMON: The launch was pretty exciting, yes. A lot of noise, shaking. But after about a minute or so, you got used to it, and it went pretty smoothly.
O'BRIEN: Security was very tight. A lot of concern before you ever fired off those solid rocket boosters. Did you ever -- how aware of that were you? How much of added concern was that for you?
RAMON: Well, since national security and the country security were unbelievable and helpful, I didn't have any doubt that everything will go pretty good. So did it. So it did.
O'BRIEN: Let's close with Colonel Ramon. I have an e-mail question for you, Colonel. This comes from Great Britain. Don't you think it would have been a powerful evocation and image of humanity if you had flown with the Palestinian, or an Arab crew member? And he wishes good fortune to you. Had you thought much about that?
RAMON: Well, as you probably know, an Arab man already flew in the '80s. So I'm not the first one from there. And I feel like I represent first of all, of course, the state Israel and the Jews, but I represent also all our neighbors. And I hope it will contribute to the whole world, and especially to our Middle East neighbors.
O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, and have a great mission. We appreciate it.
COLLINS: All right. Coming up in our next half hour, it won't be long until we find out who won Hollywood's Golden Globe awards.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And just in case you are wondering what technology has to do with the Golden Globe Awards, I will tell you, coming up next.
COLLINS: Where do technology and the Golden Globes meet? Well, online, of course. And you knew it wouldn't take long for someone to set up a site that handicaps the award show's winners. Daryn Kagan is covering the festivities that begin in just a few hours. She joins us now with some details on Goldderby.com. Daryn, you're looking good.
KAGAN: Well, Sharon, thank you so much. I wanted to give you a little bit of taste of excitement of the red carpet. Take our viewers down the red carpet. It's about a half hour or an hour until some of the biggest stars in movies and television will be arriving and walking right where I am right here. Viewers hopefully watching us at home on CNN. We'll be bringing you all the arrivals. Also then watching the Golden Globes later.
But in case you're into the Internet and want to get a little bit more information on the Golden Globes, we wanted to tell you about Goldderby.com. And what they've done is they've talked to a lot of the experts and a lot of the critics to try to figure out what the odds are of who's going to win tonight here in Beverly Hills.
Look at them real quickly. The favorite to win best drama in a movie is "The Hours," seven to five odds there. Best comedy, the musical film "Chicago," one to seven odds. Best director, they believe Martin Scorsese is going to win for "Gangs of New York," two to one odds that he's going to win. And best drama actor, Daniel Day- Lewis. They also believe he's going to win "Gangs," two to one odds.
Now, of course, this is just the experts and the movie reviewers looking ahead and saying who they think is going to win. This is interesting, Golden Globes put together by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It's only 91 people voting. So a lot of different types of awards can go out tonight. We'll be bringing you arrivals from the red carpet throughout the afternoon and evening here on CNN, and also of course on cnn.com, you can see all the winners.
For now, Sharon, back to you.
COLLINS: All right, Daryn, thank you so much. And we'll be watching later on, and of course, not expecting people to put any money down on that Web site, but if they do, Daniel Day-Lewis, I'm betting.
All right, coming up: Animal rights activists. Some people love them, some people hate them, but are they making things better for animals or just worse for humans? We're going to hear some really conflicting opinions. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COLLINS: Welcome back to NEXT@CNN. I'm Sharon Collins.
There are few causes out there that inspire more emotion on both sides than animal rights, and fewer organizations that have made more friends and more enemies than PETA.
COLLINS (voice-over): A woman confined in a cage, her half-naked body painted like an exotic cat. An activist dressed as Satan is chained to a railing atop a research hospital in Omaha. Political pressure in the form of political theater. All in the name of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA.
PETA rode the wave of a growing animal rights movement in the 1980s, blowing the whistle on using animals for cosmetics testing, trophy hunting and other things that animal rights supporters consider outrageous and cruel.
Even the big three in fast food, McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's bowed to PETA pressure, upgrading their standards for human slaughter. With millions of supporters, including a host of celebrities, PETA became a household name.
But to its critics, PETA's tactics show more contempt for humans than support for animals. They say animal use in medical research is worth the tradeoffs. Animals may suffer, but human lives may be saved.
Neither side is shy about the hype. PETA's images of tortured animals versus the critic's tales of dying children. The point of agreement, PETA does a lot. The argument is, what do they do more of, help animals or alienate humans?
COLLINS: Joining us now with more on the hot button issue of animal rights is Bruce Friedrich, one of PETA's campaign directors, and Robert Tracinski, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute and publisher of "The Intellectual Activist" magazine. Both join us from our Washington bureau. Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.
Mr. Friedrich, let's start with you. Is it fair to say that, granted, you have a lot of supporters, but you also have a lot of people that just can't stand your organization. Could you possibly be turning off more people than you could be bringing into the tent?
BRUCE FRIEDRICH, PETA: Well, we have the American public on our side. The vast majority of the American public in polls is very sympathetic to animal issues, and wants to see stronger legal protections for animals on factory farms and in slaughter houses. That's why the entire state of Florida voted 55 to 45 percent to outlaw gestation crates, and this is where more than 99 percent of mother pigs spend their entire lives, in tiny little crates, where they can't even turn around. They're cooped for their entire lives in their own feces and in their own urine.
This is the reason McDonald's and Burger King and Wendy's have stopped doing certain things, like starving laying hens for two weeks to shock the animals' bodies into another laying cycle. Certainly, PETA, standing outside their restaurants, passing out leaflets, letting people know what's going on, but at the end of the day, it's because the American public doesn't want animals to suffer so gratuitously.
The people who oppose us are people like, you know, the pork producers and the Chicken Council. Now, KFC, because we're coming after them for gratuitously abusing animals, and it unsettles them. But by and large, we have the American people on our side, wanting stronger protections for animals.
COLLINS: Now, Robert Tracinski, I don't think you're with the pork industry or the beef industry, and I know you don't support PETA. So tell me, do you agree that they have been effective, and perhaps have a place in society?
ROBERT TRACINSKI, AYN RAND INSTITUTE: Well, this isn't really about popularity, and it's not about their PR techniques. This is about the principles involved. I think the basic problem is that in upholding the alleged rights of animals, what they're really doing is restricting the rights of human beings.
And the issue isn't really McDonald's or KFC, or anything like that. These are somewhat side issues. What the real issue and the real heart of this is issues like medical research, the use of animal testing in medical research. This is research that saves human lives. And in upholding the rights of animals is saying, we have to not do testing on animals, what they're saying is that we have to abandon the medical research that leads to cures to things like cancer, or diabetes, you know, the insulin treatment used for diabetes was discovered through testing on dogs.
So the issue here is either the animals have rights or the humans have rights. And, you know, we're taking, I am taking the side that the humans have rights, and that that's what we have to put first.
FRIEDRICH: This is real -- I'm sorry, this is really about human rights and about animal rights, and this is about concern for all beings. The reality is that continuing to addict animals to tobacco or cocaine or heroin isn't going to save any people, and we've pumped tens of billions of dollars into trying to find a cancer cure on mice or rats or dogs, and hey, we can cure cancer in mice and rats and dogs, but none of that stuff extrapolates to human beings.
TRACINSKI: You know, PETA has a long history of trying to sort of rewrite the medical history on this. You know, the fact is that medical research does lead to life-saving cures.
FRIEDRICH: More people every year, Robert, more people are dying from heart disease, more people are dying from cancer, every single year as we pump more and more money into addicting animals and tormenting animals in research laboratories. It's not helping. TRACINSKI: The fact is, also, the whole argument about whether research is effective is also somewhat of a side issue. The issue is not whether the research is not -- just not whether the research is saving lives, but if medical research saves lives, do we have the right to do it? And the answer of PETA, is, unequivocally that, no, we don't have the right to do it.
FRIEDRICH: Robert, Robert, that's like saying if we could drive to the moon...
TRACINSKI: The founder of PETA was asked if animal research could lead to a cure for AIDS, would you be against it? She said, yes, we would. And the fact is that medical research is leading to cures for diseases.
FRIEDRICH: No, no, no, Robert. That's just such nonsense.
TRACINSKI: You can go back to again, insulin...
COLLINS: Gentlemen, gentlemen, gentlemen, let me step in here just a second. Let me step in here. Robert Tracinski, this is a fair question. Can't you have medical research and be humane to animals at the same time? Have they not been effective there?
TRACINSKI: Well, I mean, I'm certainly not in favor of torturing animals for fun. I think they should do only what's necessary. And I know people who are in the medical research field. You know, they don't do it because they're somehow demonic, cackling people. They do it because they know that it will teach them certain things about the basic biology, and things, certain things about genetics and certain things that will give them knowledge that will allow them to develop treatments and cures for various diseases.
So, you know, the issue of whether they're humanely treated, again, it's like with the fast-food issues, with KFC or McDonald's. PETA likes to make a big deal how we're for humane slaughtering. Well, they're not really for slaughtering animals at all. They believe we should not be allowed to eat meat. So...
COLLINS: Let me go back to Bruce just a minute, too, and say, is it not fair to say that we do -- we can't test everything on people? I mean, you have to test some things on animals first, fair enough?
FRIEDRICH: See, but if you look at the polio vaccine, it was set back, according to Albert Sabin, the guy who discovered it, it was set back 10 years based on faulty animal experimentation. You look at protease inhibitors for AIDS. They were set back more than six years, allowing many people to die, many people to suffer horribly, because it wasn't, because it was tested on animals and they got false results. More than half of the drugs that are tested every single year, they pass the animal tests, they cause complications and cause problems, including killing people.
This is like saying if you could get into a car and drive to the moon, would you do it? It can't happen. But in terms of humane slaughter, the reality is that right now, there are about nine billion chickens who are going to be slaughtered this year. Every single one of them is going to go through extreme trauma, many of them are going to have their throats slit open while they're still conscious, they're going to be boiled alive. Most people would prefer to see chickens not boiled alive. Most people would prefer to see chickens not bred to grow seven times as quickly, their upper bodies, as they naturally would. These animals are suffering from astronomical rates from crippling leg deformities, heart failure, lung collapse, this sort of thing, and that's why we just launched the campaign against KFC.
COLLINS: All right, Bruce, we're running out of time now. I'd like to thank both of you, Robert Tracinski, I'm going to get your name right before it's all over, thank you so much. And also, Bruce Friedrich, both of you passionate, and we appreciate you sharing your insights with us.
FRIEDRICH: Hope people will check out PETA.org for more information.
COLLINS: And we have to say, the Ayn Rand Institute as well. Don't think those two will ever agree.
But one thing we can agree on, coming up, it's been two months since that huge oil spill off the coast of Spain. We're going to get an update on that situation. So stay with us.
COLLINS: Many of you remember 1989's Exxon Valdez oil spill, a monumental environmental disaster. Well, another one may be developing in Europe. Two months ago today, a giant oil tanker cracked in half and sank in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Spain. Oil from that ship is reaching other countries, and some say the worst damage is yet to come. Gary Strieker has an update on that spill.
GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two miles under the sea, a mini submarine has failed to plug all the fractures in the huge hull, and the sunken tanker Prestige is still leaking oil. Experts say more than 100 tons a day. And after following Spanish fisheries and coast lines, throwing thousands of fishermen and others out of work, large oil slicks from the wreck are now washing up on the beaches of southwestern France.
The French government has sent military units to reinforce thousands of emergency workers trying to contain the slicks and clean up the beaches. But more oil comes in with every tide. A major threat to the tourism industry and fisheries in the region, south of Bordeaux.
Meanwhile, Spanish and French prosecutors are investigating the causes of the oil spill, and French President Jacques Chirac warns that his government will pursue what he describes as "gangsters of the sea" who are responsible for disasters like this.
The Prestige was an aging, single-hulled tanker carrying some 77,000 tons of oil when it sprung a leak. In Spain, authorities there have been criticized for towing the crippled tanker out to sea, condemning it to break apart and sink, and then afterwards minimizing the scale of the threat and delaying measures to respond to it. Experts now say the environmental damage from this oil spill could be greater than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, and they warn the tanker could continue to leak large amounts of oil for another three years.
COLLINS: While actual cleanup costs are now about $200 million, the Spanish government says losses to fishermen and other businesses now top $1 billion.
In environment news this week, a horrific scene in suburban Canberra, Australia Saturday. Devastating wildfires killed four people, destroyed nearly 400 homes and sent 250 people to the hospital. Australia's prime minister called the bush fires the worst he's ever seen. Fire crews were overwhelmed, forcing many people to defend their homes with garden hoses and water from swimming pools. The fires are under control now, but conditions are expected to worsen tomorrow.
A Canadian company says it's found a way to fill up your tank with grass and straw and corn cobs. Ioh Jen (ph) makes ethanol, a cleaner gasoline substitute, by taking farm waste from corn, wheat and other plants and then turning it into a usable fuel. Now, it's one of the first successful efforts to make fuel from farm garbage. Right now, Ioh Jen (ph) says it can only make about a million gallons a year, but big expansion plans could push that number up to 50 million. That's enough to power about 600,000 cars.
Well, finally, penguins and the power of suggestion. The penguins at the San Francisco zoo have started swimming lapse around their island in the past few weeks after being couch potatoes for years. Well, the change came just hours after zoo keepers introduced six new birds to the flock on Christmas Eve. Apparently the six newcomers quickly convinced the 46 old-timers that swimming was a good thing. Zoo officials think some migratory instincts may have kicked in. The penguin keeper is hoping this little marathon swimming will slow down next month when breeding season starts and penguins normally take to their burrows.
Well, when we come back, we'll have some expert advice on what to look for in a digital camera.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Digital gadgetry can confuse even the most savvy consumer. But some things digital are getting a little easier to download. Roger Sizemore of Showcase Photographic joined our Daniel Sieberg to explain why buyers of popular digital cameras can worry less about what to buy and focus on taking some great pictures.
DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Megapixels, resolution, digital zoom, LCD, USB, VGA, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the terms when we talk about digital cameras, but buying one can actually be fairly simple. And we're joined today by Roger Sizemore. He's a photographer and educator. And he's going to help us try and simplify this process when you're looking at a digital camera.
Roger, what's the most important thing when you're buying a digital camera?
ROGER SIZEMORE, SHOWCASE PHOTOGRAPHIC: Well, the most important factor to determine is what is the fit for you. And I've brought a full range of possibilities. These two little cameras that I have in front of me, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), are both cameras in the medium price range, between $400 and $600, which produce results that are perfectly acceptable, even for professional use.
SIEBERG: OK, so these are like the consumer end models that we're talking about, sort of entry level camera?
SIZEMORE: Right. These are the little guys. These things here will actually produce good quality 8 by 10 photographs for your family album or for the wall.
SIEBERG: It's important when you're looking at all of these cameras, really just how it feels. Right? Whether you like the features on it -- you don't have to get wrapped up in all of the terms?
SIZEMORE: That's right. Because for example, if a person likes this sort of camera, it's a conventional ...
SIEBERG: Fairly compact. Handheld.
SIZEMORE: Right. This one is a little bit different.
SIEBERG: I see. A unique design here, if you twist it, right?
SIZEMORE: Right. This one allows people to get into very unusual positions for photography, because on the back, you have a view screen, which is always tracking what the lens is looking at. And so for extreme low angle photography, or for extreme close-up photography, this one is preferable to most people.
SIEBERG: Just quickly, when we talk about people often hear the term megapixels. Now, if you want to print out your pictures, the higher the number, the better, is that right? SIZEMORE: Oh, that's absolutely correct. But, I mean, we've reached a point where I think at four to six megapixels, everything else would be gravy. There's a lot of things coming down the pike, but right now you can buy a camera that will produce an unbelievably good print.
SIEBERG: OK. Let's move into the higher-end ones here, because these are certainly the expensive models here, but they can even do a little bit more. Tell me the difference between, say, the consumer ones and these ones you got here.
SIZEMORE: Right. This is the camera that I work with most of the time myself. I'm very fond of its shape. I'm very fond of the way it works, and it produces excellent results. It is a camera in the medium price range.
SIEBERG: What price range are we talking about?
SIZEMORE: We're talking about here between $1,000 and $1,500. And the thing about this camera is that although it's an SOR, you're viewing through the lens, just as you would with any SOR camera...
SIEBERG: It looks more like a traditional camera, too.
SIZEMORE: Right. But it doesn't change lenses. And so if you wanted access to a full system camera, you'd have to move over to one of our professionals.
SIEBERG: Now, that means you can use lenses from some of your old cameras, let's say you're a professional photographer who's making the leap to digital, you can use some of your old lenses on this thing?
SIZEMORE: That's absolutely correct.
SIEBERG: All right, well, Roger, that's where I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it. Of course, even with the best digital camera in the world, it helps to have a good eye as a photographer, right?
SIZEMORE: There is no replacement. I would recommend a class for anybody who wants to improve their photography.
COLLINS: That's all the time we have for now. Next weekend, watch for NEXT at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, and 4:00 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday. Now, in honor of Super Bowl weekend, we'll try out a new video game that lets you call the plays, throw the passes and run for the touchdowns. It's so realistic, some NFL stars play it too.
Hope you can join us then. Now, coming up, "AMERICAN STORIES" with Anderson Cooper.
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Expert Advice on Digital Cameras>