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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for February 28, 2000

Aired February 28, 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.

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: NEWSROOM plunges into another week, glad you could come along. I'm Andy Jordan.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. Here's a look at our lineup.

JORDAN: In today's top story, why the rising cost of oil is fueling concern at the gas pumps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDRIA HALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the last two weeks, gas prices nationwide increased by six cents a gallon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALCOTT: From soaring gas prices to high-flying eagles, our "Environment Desk" looks at how the national symbol is turning a profit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eagle-viewing days draw 43,000 tourists to Sauk Prairie annually, and generate three quarters of a million dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN: Next, in "Worldview," a closer look at a brave, new and crowded world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the time the 22nd century arrives, the global population is expected to be ten and a quarter billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALCOTT: Then, in "Chronicle," music that's called "the soul of America." We'll look at the history of the blues. JORDAN: In today's top story we head from point A to point B. And believe it or not, doing so these days in a car leaves less money for C and D Or CDs to be exact. That may be where higher gas prices are hitting you and your wallet.

Andria Hall looks at how the high fuel costs are affecting others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDRIA HALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Motorists already know the sobering news at the pumps. In the last two weeks, gas prices nationwide increased by 6 cents a gallon. A Lundberg survey finds the average price of regular, self serve gas at $1.42 a gallon. Last year, comparable gasoline prices were almost 50 cents lower, at 93 cents a gallon. The cause? Oil-producing nations have cutback on exports, sending prices soaring to $30 a barrel, the highest price since 1991.

But not everyone is paying the price.

MITCHELL MOSS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: The real winners are the homeowners who signed oil contracts for 95 cents a gallon last May. Those are the people who are thriving.

HALL: Long Island homeowner Roy Barnard says his decision to join a cooperative has saved him a lot of money since the going rate is about $2 a gallon.

ROY BARNARD, HOMEOWNER: I paid 99 cents a gallon. So there's a savings of almost 70 cents per gallon by belonging to that organization.

HALL: But some homeowners are finding themselves in double jeopardy, especially in the Northeast, which claims the largest number of homes heated by oil.

MOSS: The real losers are on Long Island, which is a highly dispersed suburban area, which relies on very high-cost energy and has the unusual situation where there's no mass transit system.

HALL: Higher oil prices also mean steeper costs for petroleum- based products.

EDWARD MAFOUD, DAMASCUS BAKERIES INC.: We've basically seen in the last couple of months at least a 10 percent hike in the cost of plastic bags.

HALL: The transportation industry is also feeling the effects. Truck drivers protested the skyrocketing costs of diesel fuel by converging on the nation's capital last week.

Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell has since introduced a bill to help truckers. The measure calls for suspending the federal diesel tax of 24 cents a gallon. The bill is getting support from both Democratic and Republican Senate leaders. But until prices per barrel drop, fuel prices may continue to hit consumers in the wallet with their upward trend.

Andria Hall, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Once a rare sight in the United States, the American bald eagle is making a comeback. One of the factors in its recovery is something called biotic potential, which is the maximum rate of increase per individual under ideal conditions.

Well, some eagles in Wisconsin have found a habitat that is almost perfect for achieving their biotic potential. Their population is booming, and in turn, so is the local economy.

Mary Pflum has our story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty years ago, about the only bald eagles folks saw in Sauk Prairie, or elsewhere in the U.S., were those featured on signs.

In 1967, a rapidly diminishing eagle population was placed on the endangered species list. With the help of federal legislation it scored a comeback so dramatic that last summer the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department put forth a proposal to de-list the bird.

Today, Wisconsin boasts one of the nation's highest eagle populations, 720 nesting pairs, a whopping 180 of those now winter in Sauk Prairie, thanks in no small part to community efforts.

JULIANA CLAUSEN, EAGLE SUPPORTER: The eagles need the bluffs, they need the dam with the open waters for food, but most of all and most important of all is space for the eagles to be.

PFLUM: Gene Unger is among those who recognizes the need to preserve the national emblem in his own backyard. When it came time to sell the family farm, he said no to high bids from real estate developers and yes to eagles.

GENE UNGER, SAUK PRAIRIE RESIDENT: The land that I did have we sold then to the DNR, through some of the efforts of the Prairie Bluff Eagle Council, and it is a lifelong preserve for eagles.

PFLUM: Helping Unger's efforts are local businessmen like Craig Kulver, who have donated money to purchase more preserves, as well as eagle-watching stations aimed at educating visitors. The contributions are giving back to the community. Eagle-viewing days draw 43,000 tourists to Sauk Prairie annually and generate three quarters of a million dollars, not bad for a community of 5,000.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JORDAN: Topping today's "Worldview" agenda: the growing pains of the planet Earth. The world's population is soaring. We're adding 78 million people a year. Despite plagues and wars and famines and a declining birthrate, the number of people just keeps on growing.

Here's a statistic that's mind-boggling: one tenth of all the people who have ever lived on planet Earth are alive today!

What does that mean for our planet and our future? Richard Roth explores the population problem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A special delivery, baby number six billion emerges just months before the dawn of century 21. The infant is welcomed to a brave new crowded world. The planet is teeming. In just the 20th century alone, the population of the world quadrupled.

JOSEPH CHAMIE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. POPULATION DIVISION: What we've seen most recently is we've gone through the most remarkable century demographically ever and we're continuing that process.

ROTH: In 1900, the world population was 1.65 billion. In the year 2000, it will be just over six billion. Another 100 years from now, nearly nine and a half billion. But then look what happens. According to projections, the dramatic rate of growth starts leveling off.

In the United Nations' furthest estimate, by the year 2150 the population will edge upwards to only 9.75 billion. There are indications the long feared population bomb may not go off.

CHAMIE: We've had also a decline in fertility, people deciding to have smaller families and having the means to do so now. So not only can you choose your number but you can space them when you want them.

ROTH: Women are having fewer babies, especially in developed or industrialized countries. Birth rates in Europe have either gone flat or declined. A major factor in the drop off, the changing roles for women. The ladies of Spain may be waving political flags but they've also waved good-bye to large families. Experts now say Spain has the world's lowest birth rate.

NAFIS SADIK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. POPULATION FUND: More and more women choose not to have children because they feel that, this is very much the case in Japan, for example, they say that all child bearing and responsibility for the child solely rests on the mother and that it's too great a responsibility so they really cannot afford or they do not wish to be burdened with more than one child.

ROTH: In poorer countries, baby booms once raged. Birth rates have been cut in half since 1969. But it's in these developing nations where the fastest growth rates still occur. Sub-Saharan Africa, where the average woman has 5.5 children; India, which may soon surpass China as the world's most populous country.

Some of the reasons for larger families, according to population experts, women without political and social rights, poor education and access to jobs and, of course, limited access to family planning advice.

It's a vicious circle. High population keeps the poverty cycle going. And with more people there are fewer resources to invest in work, education and health care.

SADIK: Surveys all around the world show that women, in fact, want to have fewer children than they actually have. And when you ask them why they don't have the number they actually want, especially if they're generally very poor, their husbands won't allow them to because they think that their, the wife's role is to have children.

ROTH: It's easy to think the century's soaring population is due to family decisions or social influences. But it's not just that more babies are being born, it's that people aren't dying as fast.

NICHOLAS EBERSTADT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: There was a huge population explosion. It occurred because people finally stopped dying like flies. The world's life span, human life span more than doubled over the course of the 20th century.

ROTH: Some call it a health explosion and it's hard to resist kicking up one's heels at the increasing longevity of the world. In 1900, 7.5 percent of the population was over 60 years old. Today, it's 10 percent. But in another 100 years, senior citizens will make up more than a quarter of the people of the world.

CHAMIE: You're going to have very soon, 50 to 60 years, a change in the world structure where the number of people above 60 will, for the first time in human history, be greater than the number of children below 15.

ROTH: There will be considerable social impact from this disparity. We'll have to rethink retirement.

EBERSTADT: Current workers pay for current retirees. That's a great way of financing things when you've got a lot of workers and few retirees. It's not such a great way of doing it when you've got a lot of older people and not so many workers.

ROTH: In developing nations, aging populations will present other challenges.

EBERSTADT: There are going to be some countries in the Third World, maybe more than a few, that are going to become old before they become rich.

ROTH: But not everyone will see old age. One reason, a plague of the 20th century, AIDS, already the leading cause of death in sub- Saharan Africa and leaving millions of orphans in its wake.

ANDREW JACKSON OKURUT, AIDS ORPHAN/UGANDA: I live without that love of my father which most children are fond of. I feel very lonely most of the time as I miss my mother and father. I am uncertain about continuation in school and my future.

PETER PIOT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNAIDS: Yes, the impact of AIDS is really through a ripple effect on every walk of society, from orphans, the economy, skilled labor is dying off and that is going to undermine the very fabric of society.

ROTH: And while coping with the devastation of AIDS, societies in hardest-hit Africa will also have to support growing numbers. The population in Africa is expected to quadruple in the next 150 years and this will be a factor in the major redistribution of populations around the globe. Asia and North America will be relatively stable, but other continents will see swings.

In the year 1900, nearly a quarter of the world's population lived in Europe and about eight percent in Africa. One hundred years later, that number in Europe has roughly halved to 12 percent with Africa increasing to nearly 13 percent. In another hundred years, Europe is expected to shrink to just under 5 1/2 percent while Africa may double again to nearly 24 percent of the world population.

But it is people not percentages that inhabit the planet. It is birth and death and the dynamics of how we live that reshape where we live. War moves people to escape danger and find a better place to live. Economics moves people.

(on camera): Over time, millions have been drawn to cities or mega-cities such as New York. There were just two mega-cities in the year 1960. Today, 17. By the year 2015, the projections call for more than 26.

CHAMIE: The balance between the urbanites and the rural dwellers will change, and that has enormous impact politically and also environmentally and socially. People will be living in cities, and the mentality of urban dwellers is very different than people living in rural areas and on the farms.

ROTH (voice-over): And that migration shift means potential trouble for the way we live. The expanding cities mean more pollution and a lack of clean drinking water, a problem for many now and predicted to become more severe. The mega-cities will demand more resources. Already, the wealthiest fifth of the world's population now consumes more than 66 times the materials and resources of the poorest fifth.

PAUL EHRLICH, AUTHOR/POPULATION ANALYST: Consumption is a huge factor in the population problem. It isn't just the numbers of people you have, it's what they do.

ROTH: What Stanford University Professor Paul Ehrlich did in 1968 was ring the first alarm of population growth with his book, "The Population Bomb." So far, his worst fears have not come true. Now, Ehrlich and others favor a new policy approach, focusing less on population controls and more on reproductive choices.

EHRLICH: Certainly our drive is not just to stop population growth, but to start a slow decline towards a sustainable number.

SADIK: I don't think they will go back to wherever the situation where there'll be an unlimited number of children because, you know, you've got unlimited number of children when that was the only role for the woman.

CHAMIE: It's not like a football game where you have the game and it's over, one won and one lost and you go home and do something else. This is an ongoing process that you have to be concerned about and you have to be preparing policies and programs that can address the issues that emerge.

ROTH: By the time the 22nd century arrives, the global population is expected to be 10 1/4 billion. So the world will continue to grow, just not as fast as during the fertile 20th century.

Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: In today's "Chronicle," the latest installment of our series for Black History Month. Today, a look at the history of the blues. The blues is much more than a style of music. Throughout its history, the blues has provided a unique view into the African- American experience. It has communicated truth about daily hardships like poverty, racism, or the loss of a loved one, while providing a little escapism for people in desperate need of some fun. For those of you who aren't familiar with the blues, here's a primer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFUL NEAL, BLUES ARTIST: It's the feeling you get, because if I had stayed in the blues for the money, I would have quit a long time ago. But it's a special feeling, and it just makes you feel good to sing the blues.

MIKE REEVES, BLUES PROMOTER: It's called blues, but it talks about the good times, too. It talks about having fun and it talks about good food and it talks about good friends and it talks about lost love, and it talks about everything. It's just a style of music that talks about every part of your life.

SHEMEKIA COPELAND, BLUES ARTIST: Nobody wants to hear anybody out there singing for an extra buck. They want to hear you sing because you need to sing, because if you weren't singing you'd be sick.

JOHN SINCLAIR, BLUES HISTORIAN: The blues are about things that happened to people and to specific people, black people in conditions of extreme duress. So the emotion that's contained in these works of personal expressionists is very powerful.

WALCOTT (voice-over): The blues originated in a rural part of the American South called the Mississippi Delta, a vast, flat world famous for its cotton fields. Mile for mile, acre for acre, the delta has produced more blues musicians than any other part of the world, the vast majority of them African Americans, descendants of slaves.

After emancipation, many blacks were still tied to the cotton fields as sharecroppers working from sunup to sundown for little or no pay, a life that inspired them to sing spirituals and compose gritty anthems about the hopelessness of their lives.

JOHNNIE BILLINGTON, BLUES TEACHER: And everybody's trying to figure, well, what was it that kept those people alive? What kept them from doing this? What kept them from jumping in the river and killing themselves? It was the music.

WALCOTT: The blues is a birthright of the Mississippi Delta, but music historians say it's a fragmented legacy.

SINCLAIR: The history of the blues is shrouded in obscurity. There's no recordings or other physical evidence of what the music sounded like when it was developing in the last days of the 19th century. They didn't start recording blues until 1920. Blues, they say, is the form of personal expression that really began to develop after emancipation because, really, it was only then that people of African descent in the South were allowed to have an individual life.

WALCOTT: Amateur and professional musicians helped spread the blues from the juke joints of the South to nightclubs in Northern cities like Chicago, to stages throughout the world. Along the way, the music evolved from an acoustic, foot-stomping country style to a sleek, electrified city sound. Key blues artists started to emerge. Names like Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Etta James, and B.B. King became synonymous with the genre. And the blues spawned other forms of music, influencing everything from rock and roll to jazz to rhythm and blues.

SINCLAIR: And coming out of that reaction, you had the beginnings of hip-hop, rap music, which, like the blues, is deeply rooted in these communities, highly oppressed communities of African American people. It uplifts and helps the people who are also trapped in that existence deal with their lives. It's popular -- people listen to it to feel better.

BRYAN BARRY, FAT POSSUM RECORDS: All music comes from the blues. Every rock beat wouldn't be there, you know, if that original blues stomp hadn't started. It's the root of all music. You know, jazz and blues is the only art form that America can call its own.

WALCOTT: Some people call the blues the soul of America, and the music is experiencing a resurgence in popularity around the world. Modern artists have added to the variation of the sounds. But purists know that, at its core, the blues has maintained one central theme: It's about people wanting to be somewhere else but making the best of where they are.

SINCLAIR: From the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis where the delta begins, down Highway 61 through Tunica and into Clarksdale, Mississippi, this is where the music was born and bred, in miles and miles of cotton fields, one room shacks, dirt roads stretching across the countryside, standing at the crossroads where 49 meets 61, or waiting in the dark for the train to make it down the track and jump on board because anywhere else is better than this place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: As I mentioned, the blues is experiencing a resurgence in popularity around the world. It's also alive and kicking in the small town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, thanks to one man working to keep the soul of America alive in the delta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The Mississippi Delta has produced some of the greatest blues musicians of our time: artists like the late, great Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, and living legends like John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. The delta is also home to another great blues man who is as authentic and unspoiled as his surroundings. His name is Johnnie Billington.

Known as Mr. Johnnie to his friends and neighbors in Lambert, Mississippi, Mr. Johnnie is a delta original. The 64-year-old musician and singer was born in nearby Clarksdale. He taught himself how to play the guitar and sing the blues while still in his teens. While still a young man, Mr. Johnnie moved to Chicago. He ran an auto repair shop by day, and at night performed with blues greats like Muddy Waters and Earl Hooker.

Mr. Johnnie returned to his Mississippi roots in 1977. Since then, he has taken on something perhaps even more challenging than the professional music scene. Every day after school, Mr. Johnnie gathers local kids to teach them the basics of the blues through his Delta Blues education program. The goal is to encourage kids raised on hip- hop to reclaim their delta heritage.

BILLINGTON: The reason that kids, I think, should learn about it, because it's inherited. Their ancestors started the blues. It's kind of like planting a tree, and the tree grows up with just one branch. But if the tree grows and gets grown, it grows out on many branches, grows off of that root. So my idea has been to teach the kids the blues is try to keep that root alive. And if you don't keep the root alive, the whole tree dies.

WALCOTT: Besides a lesson on roots, the music classes also keep kids in this economically depressed area of the South out of trouble by keeping them off the streets and, as Mr. Johnnie would say, keeping guitars in their hands instead of guns. The music lessons are free of charge, funded by private and public grants. The students play on donated instruments, some almost as big as the kids themselves. They gather every weekday afternoon at Mr. Johnnie's school, a small club located on an all-but-abandoned street in downtown Lambert.

(on camera): Looks like some children have been here.

BILLINGTON: Yes, well, that was some of my idea when I came over here, is to try at least make it look a little better by convincing the city and the mayor's office to let's at least buy some plyboard and board up the windows and let some kids come in and do some painting. WALCOTT (voice-over): Mr. Johnnie travels all over the Southeast to teach kids about the blues. He often brings along his band of teenage blues men to perform. His work is earning him rave reviews across the Southeast.

SINCLAIR: I think they should have people like that all over the place, taking the blues to the kids and explaining it to them; not only how to play, but what it's about and where it came from and what it meant historically, and the whole thing, you know. To transmit this to a generation of youths that's particularly of today's world is quite a remarkable achievement.

BILLINGTON: Get those big old scarf over your head, boy, you ain't going to freeze to death.

WALCOTT: Mr. Johnnie has raised seven children of his own, but he says his family is much bigger than that because he often acts as a surrogate father to the kids he teaches.

BILLINGTON: What we talk about is when you -- we go to a store, you all are supposed to do what? Wait until what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)

BILLINGTON: Yes, but what about we're out of town? See, remember I tried to teach you all that? We out of town, you all walk to the store and somebody grab you, and then what am I going to tell your momma when I get back to Lambert?

WALCOTT: Mr. Johnnie's work hasn't gone unrecognized. He was awarded Master Folk Artist status by the Mississippi Arts Commission in 1993. And in 1995, he received the W.C. Handy Keeping the Blues Alive in Education Award for excellence in the blues industry.

Mr. Johnnie knows his work is uncommon since most blues preservationists are white. In fact, for every Johnnie Billington, there are probably 100 more white blues promoters, authors and DJs.

BILLINGTON: The only thing blacks owned, actually originally owned in America, he owns the blues, and yet they let that kind of slip through their fingers.

WALCOTT: For his part, Johnnie Billington has managed to keep the blues torch lit in Mississippi. Many of his former students have gone on to become professional musicians, and all have received a precious legacy: the gift of music from their ancestors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: And Mr. Johnnie has one more award to add to his list of accolades: Bravo gives them a National Arts and Education Award next month.

JORDAN: Wow, I'm telling you, I feel the spirit. That looked like a lot of fun.

WALCOTT: It was great.

That's all for us.

JORDAN: We'll see you tomorrow.

WALCOTT: Bye-bye.

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