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NEWSROOM for June 2, 2000Aired June 2, 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: See in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: It's Friday and this is CNN NEWSROOM. Welcome. I'm Shelley Walcott. There's lots ahead and we'll start with a look at the rundown.
In today's top story, a U.S. federal appeals court hands down a much waited for decision in the Elian Gonzalez case. We'll look back at how this saga began.
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JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: On Thanksgiving Day, it was simply a heart-wrenching tale: a little Cuban boy found by fishermen, alive and floating on an innertube.
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WALCOTT: Then, in our "Editor's Desk," how the U.S. government hopes to make life a little easier for the disabled.
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MARK WILNER, U.S. DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE: The biggest challenge still is not the laws, but more an attitude about disability and what people can and cannot do.
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WALCOTT: From clearing barriers to ignoring inhibitions, "Worldview" profiles business men in Thailand who take on a new role at night.
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SOMPAN CHARUMILINDA, COCONUT ROCK BAND: All my friends say, don't quit your day job. Not good enough.
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WALCOTT: And in "Chronicle," the changing face of historically black colleges in the United States. In today's top story, a U.S. federal appeals court in Atlanta, Georgia has ruled Elian Gonzalez is not entitled to an asylum hearing. Such a hearing would determine whether the 6-year-old stays in the United States or returns to Cuba. The ruling is a setback for his Miami, Florida relatives who want him to stay in the U.S. But it was a victory for the U.S. government and Elian's father who insist Elian return to Cuba. It's the latest twist in a saga that's made headlines across the Florida Strait.
John Zarrella looks at how it began.
ZARRELLA (voice-over): On Thanksgiving Day, it was simply a heart-wrenching tale: a little Cuban boy found by fishermen alive and floating on an inner tube. Within days, Elian had become a heroic figure in Miami's Cuban community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's definitely a miracle.
ZARRELLA: A symbol of the 40-year plight of Cubans seeking freedom from Castro. And within days, the bottom lines were being drawn across the Florida Straits.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: I asked him if, do you want to go back, you know, or you want to stay here? And he said, I don't want to go back.
JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S FATHER (through translator): Even if I have to go over there to get him myself, I'll go get him. If the question is, will he be with me again, the answer is, yes, he belongs with his family.
ZARRELLA: While the INS tried to decide how to handle the situation, temporary custody was given to the boy's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, who lives in Miami. In early January, the federal government ruled.
DORIS MEISSNER, INS COMMISSIONER: We have determined that Elian should be reunited with his father, Mr. Juan Gonzalez.
ZARRELLA: That determination set a series of events in motion. Civil disobedience broke out on the streets of Miami as Cuban- Americans protested the decision. Through it all, the attorney general stood her ground.
JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it's important that we recognize that what is at stake here is a bond between a parent and his child.
ZARRELLA: Elian's Miami relatives moved quickly, asking the federal court to require INS grant the boy a political asylum hearing. As the legal maneuvering began, Elian's two grandmothers flew in from Havana. But the visit did nothing to pry Elian loose from his Miami relatives. That didn't change until federal Judge Michael Moore ruled that granting asylum is within the discretion of the attorney general.
Within a week, the attorneys for the Miami relatives filed a motion with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a swift hearing. But the family refused to give the INS written guarantee that the boy would be turned over if the appeals failed.
SPENCER EIG, MIAMI RELATIVES' ATTORNEY: INS has asked Lazaro Gonzalez to sign a piece of paper guaranteeing that he'll do whatever they tell him to do.
ZARRELLA: It was now the end of March. By the end of the first week in April, pressure on the Miami relatives increased immensely. Elian's father, Juan Miguel, arrived in Washington expecting and insisting to be reunited with his boy. But negotiations for a voluntary transfer of the boy to his father went nowhere. Attorney General Reno came to Miami to personally try to work out an acceptable arrangement. It didn't happen and the family was ordered to turn Elian over the next day. They refused.
On April 19th, the Miami relatives and their supporters won a short-lived victory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American people, thank you.
ZARRELLA: In Little Havana, there was jubilation. The appeals court ordered Elian Gonzalez must remain in the United States while the appeals process is underway. But the court would take no side over Elian's custody. Three days later, armed federal officers took Elian before the sun came up.
John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a major defeat for Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives. A three-judge appellate panel in Atlanta upheld the decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service not to give the 6-year-old an asylum hearing.
"The INS did not abuse its discretion or act arbitrarily in applying the policy," read the ruling. The judges did not say they agreed with all the INS' actions in this case. On the contrary, the ruling said the INS' actions were "within the outside border of reasonable decisions."
But all that's left now for the Miami relatives is a long-shot appeal that might end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. For at least the next 21 days, the boy is ordered to stay in the United States.
DALE SCHWARTZ, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: If you just look at the statistics, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses a very small percentage of court of appeals decisions. This is, however, a high-profile case. If the Supreme Court chooses to take the case, they may well come out with a different ruling.
TUCHMAN: The court ruling took a slap at the government of Fidel Castro, saying: "We admit that re-education, communist indoctrination, and political manipulation of (Elian) for propaganda purposes, upon a return to Cuba, are not beyond the realm of possibility." But the court added that under law, the INS was entitled to make this policy decision without interference from a court of law.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.
WALCOTT: In Miami, relatives of Elian hope the boy will be allowed to stay in the U.S. As we mentioned, their attorneys plan an appeal. Meantime, outside the home where Elian lived for five months, protesters expressed their disappointment with the appeals court ruling.
Mark Potter has reaction from Miami's Little Havana neighborhood.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Gonzalez home in Little Havana, the mood of the crowd alternated between anger and sadness. At a news conference, the attorneys indicated they would appeal but offered no specifics. It could be to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Attorney Kendall Coffey argued while the judges sided with the government, they weren't endorsing the INS decision to deny Elian an asylum hearing.
KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY FOR MIAMI RELATIVES: They point out very specifically that this is a matter of deferring to political will and that the decision the INS made was within the "outside border of reasonable choices."
POTTER: Marisleysis Gonzalez, Elian's Miami cousin, demanded to see the child, and the lawyers threatened court action if it isn't allowed.
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ: I don't see why we are not allowed to see him. We took care of him for five months.
POTTER: In Washington, Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, said he hoped the court case would end soon so he and his son could return to Cuba. And he had another message, in English.
JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: I want to thank the American people. Thank you.
POTTER: His attorney, Gregory Craig, said it's no longer a question of whether they return to Cuba, just when. GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: We appeal to Lazaro Gonzalez and to the members of his family to accept this result with grace and with dignity. The time has come to let this family go without further interference or delay.
POTTER: At the Justice Department, Attorney General Janet Reno applauded the court ruling.
RENO: This is a very important step in achieving the goal we have sought from the very beginning: to give Juan Miguel and his family the opportunity to return to a life together.
POTTER (on camera): Meanwhile, the Miami relatives appealed for calm, asking the community to allow the legal process to play out. And, indeed, according to police, the streets were quiet.
Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.
WALCOTT: In today's "Editor's Desk," we focus on access. Specifically, access for those with disabilities. In 1990, the United States enacted a law extending certain rights to people who are physically challenged. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Places of employment, government offices, and commercial facilities must all provide access for the disabled.
Still, many buildings don't provide that access and are shutting out people with physical challenges. Even some technology is proving inaccessible to many who are disabled.
Marsha Walton looks at how the right technology can really level the playing field.
SHELLY POPSON, TECHNOLOGY SPECIALIST, VCOM3D INC.: This is Pete. He's our lizard. The kids love him.
MARSHA WALTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pete the Literate Lizard has grabbed the attention of the U.S. Government.
POPSON: They all do have their own names, their own personalities, their own likes and dislikes.
WALTON: These 3-D characters, known as avatars, communicate to deaf users in sign language, helping deaf children increase vocabulary. But they have far greater potential.
POPSON: The end product is a tool to allow Web masters, people producing educational content on the Internet, to be accessible.
WALTON: Starting in August, accessibility takes on new importance. Disabled federal workers and people who use government information must be able to access everything from Web sites to printers.
WILNER: The biggest challenge still is not the laws, but more an attitude about disability and what people can and cannot do. And we find that the technology is a great leveler.
WALTON: This mouse-cam, for example, is a tiny closed-circuit TV system. A visually impaired person can take it just about anywhere and perform the same tasks as a sighted colleague.
This voting kiosk could make unassisted voting a reality for people with hearing, vision or mobility limitations.
GREGG VANDERHEIDEN, UNIV. OF WISCONSIN: All of this was done not with 10 different techniques, one for each disability, but actually with just one hybrid technique which works across disabilities.
WALTON: Aziza Baccouche (ph), a PhD student in physics and part- time producer for CNN, is blind. She helped us evaluate products like JAWS, a program that converts text to speech.
UNIDENTIFIED COMPUTER-GENERATED VOICE: And there, people browse the Web.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this is pretty cool. I guess I want to talk to -- to get a demonstration of how to use the Internet a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You can read a Web page, the entire document, from top to bottom. You can read a line at a time, a word at a time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this applies to any Web site you're on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WALTON: Perhaps innovations like these could help us all be more productive and give our traditional helpers a well-deserved break.
Marsha Walton, CNN, Washington.
WALCOTT: "Worldview" today encompasses the world of music, dance and education. In Russia, we'll trace the steps of future ballet stars. Put yourself in their shoes as you discover the discipline and training involved. In Thailand, meet an unusual band named after a nut. Maybe there's a good reason for that. And we'll head to the United States, where immigrants are chalking up jobs in the classroom. Find out why teachers from around the world are in demand.
ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: We begin "Worldview" today by examining a severe shortage -- not of food or clean drinking water, but of teachers. In the United States, many schools are facing the test of finding qualified applicants. In fact, the teacher shortage is the worst this country has seen since the baby boom after World War II. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 2 million new teachers will be needed by 2002. Under pressure, schools have expanded their search. One school system in Chicago, Illinois went as far as Romania, France and Nigeria to find its teachers.
Jeff Flock tells us more.
YOUSEF HANNOON, MATH TEACHER: The question says three times the difference of...
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CHICAGO BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Yousef Hannoon is helping solve a problem the Chicago public school system couldn't: finding enough qualified teachers in subjects like math, science, languages.
KATHERINE SMITH, PRINCIPAL, GAGE PARK H.S., CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: And that has been a nightmare. The class that Mr. Hannoon has has been without a qualified math instructor for at least three months.
FLOCK: With a booming economy draining off so many candidates, Chicago was so desperate for good teachers it went to Romania for this math teacher, to Nigeria for this chemistry teacher, to France for this language teacher.
GERY CHICO, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION: We don't have a choice. We must look beyond our traditional suppliers of teachers if we want to keep up with the demand.
FLOCK: Chicago got the U.S. government to give its approval to special visas to bring top-notch teachers from around the world to Chicago.
HANNOON: One of the problems here is my language. After all, I'm not American.
FLOCK: Students don't seem to mind the accents.
KATIJA MOHAMMED-ALI, STUDENT: His accent has nothing to do with it, because once you pay attention, if you listen, you'll hear, you'll understand.
FLOCK: They like having good teachers. Of the 1,600 applicants from 87 different countries, 500 have masters degrees, 99 of them PhDs.
FLORENCE ONUBOGO, NIGERIAN CHEMISTRY TEACHER: I would like to help in raising their standards and making education their priority.
FLOCK: The visas are similar to those granted high-tech companies to bring in scientists and engineers. The recruits must teach for six years. In exchange, the school system will sponsor them for permanent resident status.
Mr. Hannoon, a Palestinian from the West Bank, is the first to hit the classroom. He's as grateful for the opportunity as Chicago is for his talents. HANNOON: I love math, I love physics, I love science. I'm teaching it.
FLOCK: Now teaching Chicago high schoolers to love it too.
I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, in Chicago.
TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: And now we travel to Southeast Asia to the tropical country of Thailand. This unusually shaped country shares borders with Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. And its long, skinny tail extends down into the Malay Peninsula. Thailand has the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia that's never been ruled by a Western power. It's also home to one of the world's fastest growing economies. Rice, clothing and electronic goods are among Thailand's chief exports.
But as Karuna Shinsho reports, coconuts are gaining in popularity as well.
KARUNA SHINSHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Sompan Charumilinda. By day, he's a successful chief executive of one of Thailand's major television networks. But by night, he's a guitarist and singer in a band that plays at Cafe Brown Sugar in Bangkok at least once a month.
He and his friends, who are also prominent business executives, formed the band 6 years ago. And at the suggestion of one member, the group was named the Coconut Rock Band.
CHARUMILINDA: We were thinking about the name quite a bit, and then one guy said, how about we call ourselves Coconut Rock? And so I said, what's coconut, you know? Why coconut? He said, you know, coconut in Thailand, right, the older it gets, it tastes better. And we are not getting any younger, so...
SHINSHO: Most of the members are in their 40s, which may account for their musical tastes, playing tunes by the Beatles, Peter Frampton, The Hollies, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. They can play some 80 songs now, but are they thinking of making it a full-time job?
CHARUMILINDA: No. All my friends say, don't quit your day job. Not good enough.
SHINSHO: Whether they're good enough or not, the band refuses to take any money for their performances. And any money it gets from special concerts go to charity. The players insist they're in it for the fun. And the audience is on the same wavelength.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice to be able to find a group like this in Bangkok. You know, they -- the guitarist is very excellent. I enjoy them a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're different, and they play good music.
SHINSHO: Music that's as sweet as coconuts in Thailand.
Karuna Shinsho, CNN.
WALCOTT: We turn now to Russia, the largest country in the world when it comes to land. We'll be landing on stage and behind the scenes of one of the country's most famous artistic endeavors: ballet. For centuries, Russia has been known for its great dancers' graceful choreography. A ballet dancer needs flexibility, strength and discipline. Training begins during childhood, usually at about age 8.
It's a rigorous regime, as Steve Harrigan explains.
STEVE HARRIGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In western Siberia, children travel by sled. Park benches disappear into the snow and humans disappear into fur.
In Soviet days, the city of Perm formed part of the Gulag, a place where political prisoners were sent into exile. Now, for children who want to master the art of ballet, it's become a place of self-imposed exile.
Not the ordinary face of a 10-year-old. Ordinary 10-year-olds don't stare at the wall five hours a day lifting a leg over and over. For most, the decision to leave their families and live in the Perm Ballet School came years ago.
ANTON ZIBNITSKY, STUDENT (through translator): I wanted this since I was 3. They tried to keep me out because of bad vision, but finally they took me on probation.
HARRIGAN: The competition for one of 300 spots in the school is intense, especially since it's all paid for by the Russian government.
LUDMILA SAKHAROVA, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR (through translator): Short legs, no. Short neck, no. The face is not so important.
HARRIGAN: There is no gum chewing, no mischief, no talking, just the swoosh of slippers across a wooden floor.
LUDMILA PANKRATEVA, TEACHER (through translator): Most boys want to play soccer or wrestle. Here it's different. Ask any of these boys if they want to dance. They'll say, yes. From childhood, all they want is ballet.
HARRIGAN: Ballet means the heel, the toe, the ankle, the thigh, the back, the neck, the shoulder, the arm, the finger, the head, all must be perfect. After eight years of practice, sometimes it is.
DENIS VEGINY, STUDENT (through translator): It's an unexplainable feeling. Something happens in your soul when you dance. HARRIGAN: Denis Veginy graduates in three months. What to do next was never a question for an earlier generation. Ballet dancers used to be assigned to a city by the government. Denis' mother was sent to dance in Siberia.
HARRIGAN (on camera): A ballet ticket in Siberia costs about 70 cents -- affordable for the people who live here, but not enough to pay the salaries of world class dancers.
(voice-over): A soloist in the Perm Ballet earns about $100 a month. Top dancers, students and teachers are all looking abroad. At stake is a part of Russian culture.
SAKHAROVA: What will ballet be in 10 years? That is why we are here. Whether we get paid or don't get paid, we don't think about that. Culture is the indicator of a country. Without culture, there is no country.
HARRIGAN: Perhaps it's that pursuit of an ideal more than any training regime that's kept the art alive in Siberia.
Steve Harrigan, CNN, Perm, Russia.
WALCOTT: Howard, Spelman, Tuskegee, Morehouse: Do you know what these names have in common? Give up? Well, they're all historically black colleges in the United States. Black colleges represent just 3 percent of colleges and universities in the U.S., but they award 27 percent of the bachelor's degrees earned by African-American students around the country. In recent years, the demographics of historically black colleges has been changing.
Wolf Blitzer explains.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bluefield State College, nestled in the mountains of West Virginia: 2,400 students attend this historically black college. What's striking, though, is this: Black students are a small minority here.
BARBARA LEWIS, STUDENT: It's kind of weird to me. It is, for lack of a better word, because you would think there would tend to be more blacks.
BLITZER: Of the nation's 105 historically black colleges and universities, Bluefield State is the whitest. Whites make up 91 percent of the students here and 96 percent of the faculty.
The school's last black president was Leroy Allen in 1965. Robert Moore is the current president.
ROBERT MOORE, PRESIDENT, BLUEFIELD STATE COLLEGE: The problem that we find ourselves in now -- and we've been in this situation for some 35 years -- is that the black population, student population, has declined to the point that it's quite difficult to attract others to come to this institution.
BLITZER: Bluefield State is not alone. Two other historically black schools are now majority white: West Virginia State College is 87 percent white, and Lincoln University in Missouri is 67 percent white. And others are creeping up. Kentucky State University is 42 percent white.
(on camera): Most of the nation's historically black colleges have maintained a large black enrollment. Here at Howard University in Washington, 86 percent of the students are black. But nationally, white enrollment at black colleges has increased by about 30 percent over the past two decades.
(voice-over): One reason: White students are realizing black colleges can cost half as much as most other schools, and declining black student enrollment has forced many black colleges to recruit people of all races.
In the case of Bluefield State, regional demographics have played a large role in changing its complexion. The black population in the two surrounding counties has plunged more than 50 percent in the past half century, and blacks make up just 3 percent of West Virginia's population of 1.8 million.
Even with so few blacks on campus, Bluefield's president says the school's mission is the same as it was 100 years ago.
MOORE: It was founded to afford people opportunities to get an education. That philosophy still exists.
BLITZER: Keeping the past alive is important to Robin Davis, president of the only black sorority at Bluefield State. Once a popular group on campus, it now has only four members.
ROBIN DAVIS, STUDENT: Maybe if we could, you know, enhance our numbers by having more black people here -- I think it's important that, you know, we continue that tradition, don't let that die down.
WALCOTT: And next week in "Chronicle," a look at why some college students say they still feel more comfortable hanging out with people of their own race.
And before we go, do you consider yourself a good speller? Well, 12 year-old George Thampy does. He's the winner of this year's Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. He won top honors by spelling the word "demarche." It means a course of action or maneuver. The grand prize: $10,000, plus other gifts. And congratulations to George.
And that wraps it up for today's show. Have a great weekend, everyone. Bye-bye.
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