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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for February 17, 2000

Aired February 17, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: We're ready to kick off another edition of CNN NEWSROOM. Glad you're with us. I'm Tom Haynes.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: And I'm Rudi Bakhtiar. We have a lot to get to today. Here's a look at what's ahead.

In "Today's News," the rising cost of gasoline. Before your next road trip, check the prices at the pump. You may change your mind. We'll check out why it's getting more expensive to drive.

BAKHTIAR: NEWSROOM's "Daily Desk" deals with science: Finding a friend in your personal computer. We'll explain the theory behind the bot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eventually, we'll grow up with bots that will know our behaviors, our likes and dislikes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYNES: In "Worldview," man's vulnerability to natural disaster. We'll tell you how Japan is preparing for the next big one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAZUO IGAWA, KOBE CITIZEN'S BUREAU (through translator): We are constructing the city in a very different way, suitable for protecting ourselves from natural disasters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKHTIAR: Then from "Chronicle": She abused drugs most of her life but turned it around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLISON ZITO, AGE 19: I thought to myself, hey, I'm 15 years old and normal 15-year-olds aren't having to worry about the things that I do. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKHTIAR: Allison Zito tells us her story and what she's doing to make a difference.

On our top story, today, the rising cost of fuel. Oil prices have risen above $30 a barrel for the first time since the eve of the Persian Gulf War nine years ago. The rise has hurt consumers dependent on home heating oil and boosted gasoline prices in the United States. The average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. has risen to $1.41, and many are pointing the finger at OPEC's latest maneuver to boost oil prices.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is a voluntary inter-governmental organization that coordinates and unifies the petroleum policies of its member countries. It was founded in 1960 by five members: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and has since grown to 11 countries.

Yesterday, U.S. President Clinton said he'd release $120 million to help poor families struggling to pay their heating bills, and U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said an extra 15 million barrels of home heating oil from international suppliers will arrive in the U.S. by the end of the month.

We have two reports, beginning with Mike Boettcher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After years of cheap gas and a booming economy, suddenly the soaring price of a gallon is back at the top of presidential concerns. At a White House news conference,, President Clinton said publicly what administration officials will tell oil-producing nations in private.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we need are stable prices that are not too high, but that are also stable. I also think that's in the interest of the producing countries.

BOETTCHER: The president did not exclude tapping into the United States' 569 million-barrel strategic oil reserve to boost supplies and lower prices.

CLINTON: I have not ruled out any action which I think is in the interest of the American people.

BOETTCHER: In the United States, the average price of a gallon of gas is $1.41. There are predictions it could rise as high as $1.70 by the peak summer traveling period.

DAVID HORNER, MERRILL LYNCH: For the average consumer, the rise in oil prices means both an increase in prices -- that is inflation -- and also a bit of a tax. It takes income that they could otherwise spend on other things away from them.

BOETTCHER: Already consumers are grumbling. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you hate it, but what are you going to do? You've got to drive.

BOETTCHER: The increase in crude prices began last March when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, known as OPEC, cut production in a strategy to boost oil prices, which had fallen to 12- year lows. The strategy worked.

Since last February, the average price of a gallon of gas has risen more than 50 cents in many states. But the trend could reverse after OPEC meets next month. Experts speculate the group might raise production once more to cash in on high prices.

MARTIN SILVER, AAA: So if the production increases and the price of oil stabilizes or decreases, then wholesalers are likely to price their fuel more aggressively.

BOETTCHER: In the meantime, don't look for relief at the pump.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For truck driver Peter Salvo (ph), the oil shortage hit like a one-two punch: at work and at home.

PETER SALVO, TRUCK DRIVER: While I'm paying higher prices at the pump, I'm actually paying higher prices at the house. So it's affecting me both ways.

FEYERICK: Salvo pays $1,000 for diesel fuel to fill his rig twice a week, double what he paid a year ago. Feeling frustrated and ignored, Salvo joined a convoy of two-dozen truckers to circle Boston's Faneuil Hall. The truckers then brought the protest inside to a summit on home-heating oil, sponsored by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: You tell me not just your frustrations but what steps we can take to be make things better.

FEYERICK: There were plenty of people willing to share. Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci complained the home-heating-oil shortage had caught the government by surprise.

GOV. PAUL CELLUCCI (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Less than two weeks' supply is unacceptable and dangerous for the people of this region.

FEYERICK: Cellucci and other lawmakers from across the Northeast proposed creating a regional oil reserve and easing regulations on refineries. Richardson says what's needed is a change of mindset.

RICHARDSON: What is important is we have to start thinking of renewable energy, alternative fuel sources -- solar, wind, geothermal. We can't just think of petroleum.

FEYERICK: Many Northeast lawmakers want the president to release part of the nation's strategic petroleum reserve. Analysts say that could do more harm than good.

JOHN FELMY, AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE: When you start intervening in a market, it starts you down a slippery slope of price controls, market manipulation, and ultimately the bad energy policy that we suffered through in the 1970s.

FEYERICK (on camera): Whatever measures to put more oil on the market, it's unlikely they'll curb fuel prices before summer. That's because refineries won't be able to process the crude oil in time to make a difference.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: Time for the "Science Desk" now. You know, finding information on the World Wide Web is getting more and more difficult, considering the Internet is 400 million Web sites strong and still growing. But help is out there. Take virtual robots, for example.

As Ann Kellan tells us in today's "Science Desk," these bots will be reporting directly to you in the future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLAN (voice-over): Whether you know it or not, there are thousands of robots available at your fingertips, waiting to search the Web for you and more. They don't look like Robby (ph) the Robot in the movie, "Forbidden Planet." These robots are software programs designed to scour Web sites all over the world. Bots are found in search engines. Certain Web sites are bots. Just do a search on bots, and you'll see how many there are.

For example, chatter bots converse with humans, even translate text. Search bots collect specific information. Looking for a pet? A bot will help narrow your search. Shopping bots find Internet bargains. Today's bots perform specific functions but know very little about you or your tastes. That is changing. Researchers at MIT are designing bots that could someday know more about you than you know about yourself.

(on camera): Let's say I want to take a vacation. With today's bots, I fill in where I want to go, when, even how I want to get there, and the bot will give some choices, even prices. Now what if instead of me telling my bot where I want to go, in the future, my bot reminds me I need vacation and, based on my past behaviors, has already booked a reservation at my favorite beach?

(voice-over): Getting to know you is not as easy as it sounds. Once a bot gets the hang of your buying patterns and tastes, you change. DAN ARIELY, MIT SLOAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: Especially if you talk about having a bot escort you through your lifetime. You don't want to listen to the same music that you listened to when you were five years old when you're 25. So that's something that we're -- we're currently facing, is trying to figure out how to learn over time and how to kind of keep track of the changing -- changing tastes.

KELLAN: According to researchers, intelligent bots may one day keep many of us glued to the Internet and away from the shopping malls.

ARIELY: I think it will take some away from the shopping malls because you could have a fun, interesting, shopping experience within the computer.

KELLAN: The computer will provide more information about products than stores provide, and bots will make the information easy to retrieve. Eventually, researchers predict, we'll grow up with bots that will know our behaviors, our likes and dislikes.

ARIELY: So a good bot -- a good, futuristic bot -- would be one that would basically be able to learn about you and learn over time and improve its performance.

KELLAN: And even though we can't see them, they'll be at our beck and call.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Boston, Massachusetts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops and neither does the news.

BAKHTIAR: Two earthquakes, including one that measured 5.6 on the Richter scale, jolted Taiwan, yesterday, hitting an already-shaky population. Minor tremors have been a frequent occurrence since a quake struck Taiwan last September. Two-thousand-four-hundred people died in that disaster. It can take time for people and places to recover from such a calamity. In "Worldview" today, we examine the technology that could help save lives and cut damage during nature's upheavals. We head to Japan, site of one of the world's most devastating quakes.

HAYNES: For all of humanity's technological accomplishments, nature remains a very powerful force to be reckoned with. Earthquakes are a vivid reminder.

But as Marina Kamimura reports, Japan is trying to learn from the past to build for the future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARINA KAMIMURA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kobe learned the hard way the price of not being prepared for a major earthquake. When a 7.2 magnitude quake struck the port city just before dawn January 17, 1995, within seconds, more than a quarter-million buildings were badly damaged or left in ruins. Fires spread across the city, even as roadways deemed impassable by fallen debris prevented rescuers from reaching victims.

Months later, some were living without running water or gas. Five years later, some residents still living in temporary shelters. All this in a nation so obsessed about earthquake safety that it holds nationwide drills every year. So what went wrong? And what kind of lesson can Kobe and the rest of the world draw from this?

(on camera): Perhaps no other structure better illustrates Kobe's vulnerability that day than the Hunchin (ph) Expressway, one of the highways that cuts through the heart of the city. Despite its massive concrete pillars, long stretches of the elevated highway were virtually destroyed all in a matter of seconds.

(voice-over): Engineers had built its columns to be twice as strong as those in California, another of the world's seismic hot spots. The only problem was, while the enormous pillars were strong, they were no match for the inevitable twisting and turning motions that comes with a large tremor. But as this engineer explains, the fix was fairly simple.

STEPHEN ADER, EQE INTERNATIONAL: To alleviate that, these have all been retrofitted by wrapping the columns with steel, so now that during lateral earthquake motion, they have ductility; they can stress and strain without having the phenomenal collapses.

KAMIMURA: Steel ties have also been added to keep adjacent spans from coming apart. Finally, the concrete at the top of the pillars that the road actually rests upon was also extended, so that even if the quake causes a roadway to slide, it won't fall off its perch.

Most of that was common knowledge in the engineering world, as far back as 1989. That, after San Francisco's Loma Creata quake shattered Californians faith in their sprawling freeway system, and again after Los Angeles, exactly one year to the day before the great Hunchin quake struck Kobe.

But planers in around Kobe chose to ignore those warnings. The Japanese are no strangers to quakes. The great Kanto quake of 1923 killed 140,000 and destroyed much of Tokyo. But many believed the risk in this particular area was extremely low.

"People in Tokyo are used to quakes," says this man, "because they happen all the time there. But for us, we're not used to them at all."

So while other bridges and highways were being reinforced elsewhere in Japan, Kobe's were not. Buildings were no exception. Older wood-frame houses collapsed by the thousands, crushed by the weight of their heavy tile roofs and relatively weak first stories.

But despite the colossal destruction, experts say where Japan's quake-resistant technologies were used they largely worked. Prefabricated houses and other buildings put up after 1981 did particularly well. 1981 is when construction codes were greatly tightened, making it possible for buildings to survive much larger quakes than ever before.

ADER: There's a steel bar that runs straight through from this point in the column to that point on the beam.

KAMIMURA: Today's leading-edge technology here revolves around dampers, devices that were originally developed in the United States but popularized in Japan after Kobe. Their named for their ability to dampen a quake's impact, much like a shock absorber does in a car.

In this case, the damper is a metal rod embedded in concrete and steel casing.

ADER: During the earthquake, the pushing and pulling of that bar actually absorbs the energy.

KAMIMURA: It, in effect, takes the shock of the quake instead of the beams and columns it's attached to.

ADER: The dampers will absorb the damage and the main building frame will remain undamaged. So after the earthquake, instead of having to reweld the joints and restraighten the frame, all we have to do unbolt this device and replace it with a new device.

KAMIMURA: Like dampers, base isolators also bear the brunt of a tremor, therefore keeping a structure from shaking as severely as many did during the Kobe quake.

These isolators are installed in the basement of the building. When a quake strikes, layers of rubber and steel inside the isolator move back and forth in response to the ground movement below. But the violent motion is confined to the isolator, meaning the building above only rocks very gently. But as with most cutting-edge technology, the bottleneck is cost. Even in Japan, Kobe's lessons are being pushed aside as a country's recession takes its toll on public and private budgets.

In some cases, the need to save money has made retrofitting a popular alternative. Often modifications can be made without imposing costly disruptions to a company's business.

FUMIO YAMAYA, TOKYO DISTRICT OFFICIAL (through translator): We chose retrofitting since it allows us to restrengthen our building without forcing us to move somewhere else while it's being done.

KAMIMURA: For it's part, the government is trying to encourage structural improvements in post-Kobe Japan with what's known as the Anti-Seismic Remodeling Law. It's non-binding, but offers low- interest loans and tax breaks to those who install quake-resistant technology in their homes or offices.

Five years later, many sections of Kobe look brand new; others, like pieces of a giant construction site.

But for Japan, Kobe's hardest lesson did not come from the world of technology. Instead, what was made painfully obvious in neighborhood's such as Kobe's Nadata (ph) Ward was the government's inability to deal with a large-scale crisis.

(on camera): This is Nadata Ward today, the residential and shopping area that was completely devastated by the quake and the raging fires that followed it. Here, even five years later, the task of rebuilding goes on.

(voice-over): Even the government admits the reason the overall damage in places like this was so horrendous was not just the earthquake's doing, but rather Tokyo's bungling of the rescue and relief operations that followed.

KATSUMA SEKI, CABINET OFFICE FOR CRISIS MANAGEMENT (through translator): We had made extensive preparations for a disaster, but we were not ready to apply them.

KAMIMURA: Japan has since created a crisis management office, headquartered in the prime minister's residence. There, information from all government departments is fed in and monitored so that Tokyo can now direct a national rescue and relief effort when the need arises. On the ground, there have been similar changes. Kobe city officials charged with running disaster relief programs now have to live within walking distance of city hall.

Back in 1995, firefighters were frustrated with their limited rescue abilities. They've now invested in equipment that's better suited for jobs such as searching through rubble. Take the SWAT cam, equipped with a tiny video camera. It's easily portable and can be used to probe into spaces normally out of reach to human eyes. Diamond-edged saws are another addition, valued for their ability to cut through concrete at any angle. And even if you can't afford state of the art equipment, officials here urge rescuers in other countries to think hard about compatibility issues.

In Kobe, valuable time was lost over something as basic as fire hoses. For example, Kobe's hoses are connected with couplers; Tokyo uses a screw-on version. As a crowded city is slowly rebuilt, urban planners have their hands filled trying to make it less congested.

IGAWA (through translator): We are constructing the city in a very different way, suitable for protecting ourselves from natural disasters.

KAMIMURA: They are using more land as parks to serve both as a fire break and evacuation area. Roads are being widened to ensure emergency vehicles can get through even if buildings are badly damaged. The city is also storing supplies such as blankets and food in warehouses and 350 schools across the city. More emergency shut- off valves are also being installed in water mains to try and prevent quake damage in one area from threatening the entire system.

But rescue and government officials say all the hardware in the world does little good if the public isn't properly prepared as well. They're working with community groups to train as many people as possible in skills as basic as how to use a fire extinguisher. TOSHIO SETO, KOBE FIRE DEPT. (through translator): If all the right people have equipment and some know-how, they can make a big difference in a crisis like this.

KAMIMURA: Some residences don't need prompting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We now where sweatshirts when we sleep at night so we can easily escape if there is another quake. You never know when we will have another one.

KAMIMURA: Kumino Olgashi (ph) says she's learned her lessons. She keeps emergency supplies close at hand and has even reactivated a well in her home, remembering how long it took before water service was restored in the city. But as time passes, the memories of those painful and tragic days begin to fade.

"It just seems something like that can't happen for another hundred years or so," she says.

While earthquake specialists agree moving on is part of the healing process, their greatest fear is that as memories begin to fade, Kobe's lessons, too, will also be forgotten.

Marina Kamimura, CNN, Kobe, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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 segments that fit your lesson plan. Plus, there are discussion questions and activities, and the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day, find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming desk segments. It's all at this Web address. Where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy, it's free, it's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops, and neither does learning.

HAYNES: We continue our series, "Drugs: Perceptions, Realities" now, this time with a report from the CNN NEWSROOM Student Bureau. Today, the story of a dramatic turnaround, from a life overcome by drug addiction to beating the odds and making a difference.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLISON ZITO, AGE 19: There's the angel and the devil, and then there's this big, huge monster. And the big huge monster is my addiction.

CHRIS STONE, CNN STUDENT BUREAU (voice-over): In classrooms, Allison Zito is able to help others understand what she once couldn't understand herself about drugs.

ZITO: Because everybody, you know, chooses their own way. It's up to you. It's your choice.

STONE: She has two years of sobriety under her belt now, but it has been a long hard journey.

ZITO: Anything between marijuana, speed, crystal meth, coke, crank, crack, heroine, pills, whatever color, shape. I mean, if it was a drug, I'd use it. It truly is a miracle that I'm alive. I mean, I should be dead.

STONE (on camera): Allison's troubles may be extreme, but a government study shows that too many students are still experimenting with drugs. The problem is the same for everyone: Once you start, it's hard to stop.

(voice-over): The first use of alcohol typically begins at age 13. Allison was only in fifth grade when she discovered it.

ZITO: I started drinking when I was 8 and I started using drugs when I was 9, and that was basically because I came from a very dysfunctional family. It was basically like my food. I would choose -- eventually at the end, I would choose drugs over eating a four- course meal.

STONE: Cravings can make an addict do incredible things.

ZITO: I had this insane plan to kill my mom, get her car and run off to some island and get high all day long.

STONE: Six months after treatment, Allison was on drugs again. She says she was just not ready to stop.

ZITO: I would wake up on the side of the street, somebody's house, in a closet, cardboard box. I'd wake up numerous places not knowing where I was, what town I was in, what city I was in, what state.

STONE: We went to the park where she spent part of her winter.

ZITO: Being back here, it just brings back everything, like all the pain, and it reminds me of just like how low I was and how different I am now compared to then. One night, I passed out on the ground, and I woke up because I had vomit and stuff on my face. I had no friends, no money, no clothes. I thought to myself, hey, I'm 15 years old and normal 15-year-olds aren't having to worry about the things that I do.

STONE: Counseling and 14 months in a long-term treatment center saved Allison's life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Allison Zito.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STONE: Today, she has many honors for her fight against drugs. Her hope now is to help others make better choices. ZITO: I mean, I'm 19 now and I wasted -- I mean, I wasted four years, five years of my life on drugs. Go and call. I mean, there's so many different hotlines, like 12-step hotlines, you can call, and like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, drug treatment centers, and to get some sort of counseling.

This is an addiction and it's not something that I left behind. It's something that I still have to deal with every day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: Now, next week, our series continues. Again, we'll hear from the CNN Student Bureau on where to look for help if you're hooked on drugs. It's an issue a number of teens face.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't want to be here in this specific place. I wanted to be clean, but I didn't -- but at the same time, I didn't want to be clean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYNES: We'll look at long-term programs helping drug-addicted kids get a new lease on life.

By the way, if you're interested in becoming part of the CNN Student Bureau, find out more by heading to turnerlearning.com or, in the United States, call 1-800-344-6219.

That's it from here. Rudi, back to you in the newsroom.

BAKHTIAR: Thanks, Tom.

Well, that does it for us here on NEWSROOM. We'll see you back here tomorrow, same time, same place. Have a good one.

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