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NEWSROOM for April 24, 2000Aired April 24, 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: You've got NEWSROOM for a Monday. I'm Andy Jordan. Plenty to tell you about today. We begin with a quick preview.
First, a bittersweet reunion for Elian Gonzalez and his father. Should the relatives who cared for the boy in Miami get to see him again?
In our "Environment Desk," the U.S. government out to save a national treasure.
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SUPT. DAVID MIHALIC, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: Future generations are going to have that special Yosemite all of us know today.
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JORDAN: "Worldview" brings you environmental news from South America. We'll find out why scientists are so excited over the abundance of life in the Amazon River.
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WILLIAM CRAMPTON, MAMIRAUA PROJECT: This region, so far, I've found 400 or so species of fish, and that could represent one of the most diverse fish faunas on Earth.
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JORDAN: Then, in "Chronicle," teenagers driving in the U.S. Rudi Bakhtiar reports on whether this rite of passage is too easy to attain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we should have a little more time on the road, and not so much in the classroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JORDAN: Today, an international saga punctuated by American and religious holidays. It was last Thanksgiving that a 5-year-old Cuban named Elian Gonzalez was found in seas separating cold war adversaries Cuba and the United States. It would be Easter weekend before son would be reunited with father.
The latest chapter in Elian's odyssey has him at an air force base outside of Washington D.C., leaving Miami and Havana keenly aware of his absence. The case involves Elian's Cuban father, who wants to take him back to Cuba and has come to the U.S. to do so, his Miami relatives who want to see him stay in the United States, and the U.S. government which believes only the father can legally speak for the child.
While an appeal to keep him stateside is pending, the U.S. government took surprise action over the weekend. We have two reports beginning with Brian Cabell.
BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Federal agents arrived, 130 strong, under the cover of darkness shortly after 5:00 a.m. They pushed down a fence in front of the home where Elian had been living for the past five months. The Justice Department says the agents knocked, then used a battering ram to break down the door.
The 6-year-old was found in a bedroom closet with one of the fishermen who had rescued the boy off the coast of Florida last November.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: When they came in, I stood in front of everybody and all my family was behind me, and I begged them, "I beg you, please don't let the boy see the guns. Please, I'll give him to you." I told the lady that came in with a bag, this bag to stick him in the bag. I looked in her eyes. "Please, he saw his mother's death" because she's a mother, and she should know how that feels. "Don't let him see this. I'll give you the boy."
CABELL: Elian was whisked out of the house by a female agent into a waiting van, which then quickly backed away from the house.
The raid came after negotiations to turn Elian over to his Cuban father broke down hours before.
JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Unfortunately, the Miami relatives rejected our efforts, leaving us no other option but the enforcement action.
Elian Gonzalez is a child who needs to be cherished, who needs to have quiet time, private time, and to be with his father. And that is what this case is still all about, the bond between father and son. Juan Miguel Gonzalez wants to be with his son.
CABELL: Attorney General Janet Reno had warned agents would seize the child if an amicable settlement could not be reached. As federal agents withdrew from the neighborhood, they were pelted with debris from demonstrators who, until then, had conducted a peaceful vigil outside the home.
Agents retaliated by firing pepper gas into the crowd. Afterwards, when Elian was well outside the neighborhood, the crowd grew to several hundred, and some Cuban-Americans turned their anger toward the media. Cameramen, sound technicians, and reporters were jostled, but none were seriously hurt.
An hour after he was seized from his Miami home, Elian Gonzalez was aboard an aircraft, on his way to a long-delayed reunion with his father.
Brian Cabell, CNN, Miami.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elian Gonzalez's family released new photos Sunday showing the boy with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, smiling on his father's lap, a content looking Elian walking hand in hand with his father in the park. The photos were taken by Juan Miguel Gonzalez's legal team and taken to the Associated Press to be developed. This, after Elian's cousin, Mariselysis, charged pictures released Saturday of the boy were fake.
MARISELYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S SECOND COUSIN: Look how short his hair is here. Look how short the hair looked when he was taken out of the house. And look how long the hair is in the picture that they showed today.
GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: That's absurd. And for anybody to be paying any serious attention and consideration to that allegations is absurd.
DAVIS: And for a second day, the Miami relatives were turned away from Andrews Air Force Base where they tried to present Elian with Easter candy, his father refusing to meet with them.
CRAIG: Over time, of course, it will be possible for members of the family to talk to Juan Miguel and to see Elian. But to come up to Washington to make demands without arranging in advance, I think that's not the way to go about it.
DAVIS: The Miami relatives emotionally describe the federal government's raid on their home, guns drawn to take Elian.
M. GONZALEZ: They didn't even tell us who they are. All they said is, "Give me the damn boy. Give me the damn boy."
DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: When our agents went to the door, they announced what they were there for. They announced repeatedly. They said they would bring no harm. They asked for cooperation. They did not receive cooperation. When you're in a situation like that, you then have to take charge.
DAVIS: As Elian's Miami relatives attended mass, Elian and his father stayed behind the heavily guarded gates at Andrews Air Force Base where a 100 percent I.D. check was enforced. Elian and his father are expected to stay at the base for a couple of days and then possibly transferred to the equally private Wye River Plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
(on-camera): In the meantime, a spokesman for Andrews Air Force Base says Elian spent Easter Sunday with his family playing. Members of the father's legal defense team say even the Easter bunny stopped by for a visit.
Patty Davis, CNN at Andrews Air Force Base.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: "Today's News" continues with headlines out of Kennedy Space Center, Florida. NASA hopes weather will cooperate for Monday's scheduled launch of space shuttle Atlantis.
If all goes well, Atlantis will climb to space with a brand-new cockpit configuration. Gone are the days of monochromatic screens. Now, shuttle pilots will look at eleven color screens and attention- grabbing images.
Once in space, the seven-member shuttle crew, including one Russian cosmonaut, will spend the majority of time working on the International Space Station.
CNN plans live coverage of the shuttle launch today beginning at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific.
JORDAN: In our "Environment Desk" today, we take you to a national U.S. park, known for its groves of giant sequoias, beautiful waterfalls and unusual rock formations. It's Yosemite National Park, in California, 1200 miles of scenic wild lands set aside in 1890 to preserve a portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And it may be about to get a little more natural, new look. That is fewer cars, fewer buildings, and fewer places to stay.
It's part of the Yosemite restoration plan unveiled by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. But before the changes begin, the public has a couple of months left to comment.
Don Knapp has more.
DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yosemite valley, with its spectacular sheer granite walls, waterfalls, and lush meadows, draws almost all of the four million people who visit the national park each year, even though the tiny valley is only a mile wide and seven miles long.
Most arrive in cars, trucks, campers, and on motorcycles, the sounds of traffic overwhelming the valley's stillness. Now a new federal plan would cut traffic and begin to diminish the human imprint on the heart of the valley. BRUCE BABBITT, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR: I think the day's going to come when there will be no cars, but it's 25 or 30 years away. We've taken the first step. We've cut the cars in half and put the transit plan in place. People will like it.
KNAPP: The new federal plan for Yosemite would also cut day use parking spaces by two-thirds, knock out three bridges and a dam, and eliminate about 200 rooms.
In January of '97, the Merced River roared through the valley, tearing up campgrounds, cabins, and roads. Some of what was lost was not replaced as the flood helped boost a movement to restore the valley to a natural state.
SUPT. DAVID MIHALIC, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: We think that some people are going to be inconvenienced, in a few ways, but future generations are going to have that special Yosemite all of us know today.
KNAPP: But the Sierra Club says the plan may not go far enough to protect Yosemite.
CARL POPE, SIERRA CLUB: Well, we have some reluctance because we believe the details are terribly important. We believe this plan is quite clearly not the final solution because it still does rely very heavily on people driving their cars, and there still are going to be too many industrial facilities in the park.
KNAPP: The public has 90 days to offer comments before the federal government begins making the most significant changes in a hundred years in the way people visit Yosemite National Park.
For CNN "EARTH MATTERS," I'm Don Knapp.
JORDAN: In "Worldview" today, an animal extravaganza. We head for wild kingdoms around the globe to learn about assorted species. We hop to it in Australia. Where a tiny island is home to amazing marsupials. All aboard for Kangaroo Island. And there's plenty of monkey business in Turkey, but officials want that to stop. We'll tell you why. First, take a trip down one of the world's most fascinating waterways from Brazil and points beyond.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: We begin in South America, home to the amazing Amazon River. It's the second largest river in the world. Only the Nile in Africa is longer. This important waterway is 4,000 miles long -- that's 6,437 kilometers. And get this: It carries more water than any other river; more than America's mighty Mississippi, China's Yangtze, and Egypt's Nile put together.
The Amazon River basin includes the world's largest tropical rain forest. It contains an incredible array of wildlife from alligators and anacondas to parrots and flesh-eating piranha. In fact, it contains a wider variety of plant and animal life than any other spot in the world. Gary Strieker takes us on a journey to the Amazon River.
GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Amazon basin, people have always counted on the abundance of life in these waters. Compared to just a few dozen species of fish in European rivers and lakes, the Amazon has more than 3,000, an incredible diversity that scientists are just beginning to explore.
WILLIAM CRAMPTON, MAMIRAUA PROJECT: Jaw is opening up. It looks like a prehistoric monster. In this region so far, I've found 400 or so species of fish. And that could represent one of the most diverse fish faunas on Earth.
STRIEKER: In the western Brazilian Amazon, the Mamiraua Reserve embraces a vast rain forest, a unique area transformed every year by flood waters rising up to 12 meters, some 40 feet. In Mamiraua, everything depends on the ebb and flow of the river system.
(on camera): Most conservation work in the Amazon seems focused on the rain forest and its wildlife. But here, scientists are taking much of their research underwater, studying life in these rivers and lakes.
(voice-over): One study has found that as much as 90 percent of biomass underwater here consists of electric fish.
CRAMPTON: I've got two electrodes at the bottom. These are electric fish. They're passing by the electrode at the bottom. It's a medium-frequency species.
STRIEKER: This kind of research produces new information about the food chain that supports major commercial fisheries in the Amazon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One pink, very pink animal.
STRIEKER: In another project, researchers study pink river dolphins, capturing and marking nearly 200 of them and tracking some with radio transmitters.
GERMAN SOLER, MAMIRAUA PROJECT: River dolphins are in great danger...
GALIA ELY, MAMIRAUA PROJECT: All over the world.
SOLER: ... all over the world. And this is one of the few populations that are doing fairly OK in the Amazon's basin and Mamiraua basin.
STRIEKER: What they learn here about these animals is essential data for conservation plans to guarantee their survival and could help to save endangered populations of river dolphins in Asia.
Other studies in Mamiraua focus on turtles and caimans, animals that were nearly wiped out by poachers and are now making dramatic recoveries under protection in the reserve.
And researchers are trying to find ways to save endangered river manatees. After their mothers were killed by poachers, these orphans were raised in captivity and will soon be released back to a river system that is very fragile against human exploitation, but still teeming with life like no other.
Gary Strieker, CNN, in the Mamiraua Reserve, Brazil.
TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Today's "Wild Kingdom" examines the plight of the chimpanzee. Chimpanzees live in areas ranging from the dry grasslands to humid rain forests. In their normal habitats, they can live between 30 and 40 years. Chimps' natural enemies include leopards and large eagles, but man is the biggest threat to the mammal. In some areas of the world, chimps are hunted for food or even captured for use as pets. In the 1970s, a shrinking chimp population led to restrictions on the international trade of the animals. Despite those restrictions, the illegal trade continues. In Turkey, conservationists are less worried about poaching within their nation's borders. That's because their fight is with smugglers bringing the endangered animals into the country.
Mary Pflum explains.
MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Shansler (ph) and Kinali (ph). They're the latest additions to Turkey's recently established chimpanzee habitat at Istanbul's Bosphorous Zoo. They're also symbols, officials say, of Turkey's ongoing primate problems. Both were smuggled into Turkey from Africa and put up for sale on the black market.
ALLISON CRONIN, SCIENCE DIRECTOR, MONKEY WORLD: It's horrific. What happens in the wild is that to get one of these babies away from their mothers they actually have to shoot and kill the family group to take the baby away. It's a nationwide problem. We're actually finding baby chimpanzees and monkeys all across Turkey.
PFLUM: Allison Cronin is the science director of Monkey World, a primate rescue center based in Britain. For the past two years, she and her husband, Jim, have been lobbying to stop the monkey business in Turkey. But sales of the animals continue. At fault, says Bosphorous Zoo owner Faruk Yalain, are African sailors who reportedly bring primates to Istanbul's central harbor in suitcases aboard small ships.
FARUK YALAIN, OWNER, BOSPHOROUS ZOO: The guilty are the African people. They bring them without showing the customs, et cetera.
PFLUM: Turkish officials they try to follow the CITES agreement, an international treaty which prohibits the sale of endangered animals, chimpanzees included. But no national law in Turkey forbids the sale or ownership of primates. (on camera): It doesn't take the average observer long to figure out why people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a baby chimp. They are adorable. But in a matter of five years, this chimp will be six times as strong as me and capable of throwing me across a room.
PFLUM (voice-over): Even if Turkey succeeds in cracking down on the number of primates imported, what's to become of the animals already there? The Turkish government wants to establish an endangered animal refuge in 2001. In the meantime, they're turning to private zoo owners like Yalain for help. But Yalain says his primate quarters are full. Shansler and Kinali got in when the going was good. It seems other primates in Turkey are out of luck.
Mary Pflum for CNN, Istanbul, Turkey.
JORDAN: Next stop, the "land down under" -- Australia. You probably know it as the site of the year 2000 summer Olympics. But there's more afoot than sports. Australia is known for its exotic animals. Today we visit an island off the coast of South Australia, Kangaroo Island. Its name gives away one of its most intriguing inhabitants. The kangaroo is a type of furry mammal known as a marsupial. The female has a pouch for carrying its young. The kangaroo is also a macropod, a word that means "large foot." There are 55 species of macropods, all of them native to Australia, New Guinea or nearby islands.
Today we head to Kangaroo Island to meet a menagerie of mammals. Our tour guide is Carolyn O'Neil.
CAROLYN O'NEIL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The landscape is a patchwork of tiny towns, wilderness and farmland forming Australia's third largest island. It lies off the coast of South Australia, about a half-hour flight from the city of Adelaide. Kangaroo Island has one remarkable feature after another.
CRAIG WICKHAM, ADVENTURE CHARTERS OF KANGAROO ISLAND: Yes, a lot of people say that it's everything they expected all of Australia to be. You know, there's lots of open space, all the wildlife they're expecting.
O'NEIL: While 4,000 people live on Kangaroo Island, animals dominate: 800,000 sheep are raised here and there are 251 recorded species of birds.
Look high into the trees and you may spot one of the island's 5,000 koalas. This famous marsupial sleeps 20 hours a day and eats exclusively from the gum or eucalyptus tree.
(on camera): And, of course, there are kangaroos on Kangaroo Island, an exciting site for first-time visitors. In fact, there are so many here, the drivers have to watch out for them. Oh my God. I'm sorry. They've got my notes.
(voice-over): And obviously not afraid to approach humans. The temptation to touch is hard to resist. It's an ongoing struggle balancing the enthusiasm of visitors without disrupting the animals and their natural behaviors.
A drive to see one kind of animal often leads to sightings of others.
WICKHAM: A wallaby is simply just a small species of kangaroo.
O'NEIL: We also spotted this prickly creature, the echidna, or spiny anteater. It's an egg-laying mammal. Then on to Seal Bay Conservation Park.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was shocked. They're just everywhere. And they're big. But it's quite impressive. I didn't realize you could get that close.
O'NEIL: Carolyn O'Neil, CNN, Kangaroo Island, Australia.
JORDAN: Well, for many of us, video games are a way to pass the time, or sometimes avoid doing school work or chores or errands. OK, 'fess up: You sometimes feel a little guilty when you rack up the points on "Donkey Kong."
Well, Greg Lefevre introduces us to a lucky group of professional game players who take their loaf-time seriously.
GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ever wish you could do this all day and get paid for it? Clayton Wolfe does.
CLAYTON WOLFE, INFOGRAMES: It's just nothing but fun for me.
LEFEVRE: It's also critical to a $7 billion industry. Game testers work up to 14-hour shifts pushing racers, pilots and cyborgs to their limits, making sure the game is not crashing or, worse, boring.
DAVID MCCORMICK, ELECTRONIC ARTS: All the testers here have to have patience. They have to have endurance.
LEFEVRE: Testers are usually in their 20s. Nearly all are men.
SHAWN SHINN, INFOGRAMES: I think I have a knack for picking out flaws and noticing things that just don't seem right.
LEFEVRE: Like this early version of "Wacky Races."
SHINN: I like the way it looks -- the cartoon feel of the game.
LEFEVRE: But this version's too hard: The tester always loses.
THOMAS MACDEVITT, INFOGRAMES: People who can score about a hundred million points on Donkey Kong are usually the kind of people we look for.
They even check the simple stuff. Do the cars stay on the track and not fly above the pavement? Do the characters obey the laws of physics?
WOLFE: What do I like to play the most? I think racing games or strategy games.
SHINN: My favorite is role-playing games.
MCCORMICK: Check in the manual, see if they have anything listed for "scenic tour."
LEFEVRE: Problems are written down, taken to the programming team, which tries to work out the bug. Then they're tested again and again.
MACDEVITT: Twenty, 30, a lot.
LEFEVRE: Shawn Shinn will thrash through "Wacky Races" a dozen times a day for a month or more, thinking: How will customers like this?
DARYL HUMDY, ELECTRONIC ARTS: We have to get the frustrating part to make sure that they don't get the frustrating part.
MCCORMICK: All my friends think it's cool.
LEFEVRE: But draining. Turnover is high. Eighty percent leave every year, most to produce their own games for someone else to test.
Greg Lefevre, CNN, San Francisco.
JORDAN: Well from play-driving to the real deal, some of you have either gotten or are on your way to getting that ever-so-coveted driver's license. Depending on where you live, the rules and regulations for that tortuous process may vary. For example, until recently across the U.S., it was legal for five or six teens to pile into a car and go joy-riding at 2:00 a.m. It wasn't the best time or the safest circumstances, but it was perfectly legal. But in most states, not anymore.
Rudi Bakhtiar explains.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST (voice-over): This tragic scene has been played out far too often. In 1998 in the U.S., over 5,000 teens died in accidents which a teenager was behind the wheel -- the highest highway fatality in any age group. Many are saying the problem is that it's too easy for teenagers to get a license. Officials are hoping one approach might ease the problem: graduated licensing.
JULIE ROCHMAN, VICE PRES., INSURANCE INST. FOR HWY. SAFETY: Graduated licensing is a system which keeps new, young drivers in the licensing system for a pretty long time. It allows them to accumulate significant driving experience under relatively low-risk circumstances.
BAKHTIAR: Since 1994, 35 states have adopted some form of the graduated licensing program. Four others are expected to implement their own plans by January 1.
So how does it work? It's essentially an apprentice system that involves three stages. The first stage is a supervised learner's period where the driver must be accompanied by an adult at all times. It's followed by an intermediate licensing phase that allows for unsupervised driving. During the first two stages, which last at least six months each, late-night driving and driving with passengers, especially teens, is restricted. And finally, a full-privilege license becomes available when conditions of the first two stages have been met.
ROCHMAN: Graduated licensing has been, at least according to the preliminary evidence, very, very successful, not just in this country, but in Canada, in New Zealand. The systems in the United States are still fairly young, but evidence from Florida, preliminary evidence from Michigan and California, demonstrate tremendous potential for saving lives.
BAKHTIAR: Some states are even contemplating raising the driving age.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the adequate age should be between 17 and 18 years of age.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that, particularly in very crowded metropolitan areas, that 16 is probably too young.
BAKHTIAR: Not surprisingly, many teenagers disagree.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it will make a bit of difference in the amount of wrecks that happen, but -- because then it's just going to be 17-year-olds that are getting into wrecks and not the 16-year-olds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you raise it to 17, you're just going to have 17-year-olds dying instead of 16-year-olds.
JORDAN: Well, easing teenagers into driving may be one of the most difficult transitions parents have to make, sometimes with tragic outcomes. Tomorrow, the story of a mother who lost her daughter in a teen-related accident. Now she's teaming up with an unlikely partner to help teenagers in her community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a facility that kids can go and find themselves and find a skill and a talent, whether it be camera work, whether it be computer work, or just playing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JORDAN: That's tomorrow on NEWSROOM. We'll see you back here then. Have a great Monday.
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