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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for June 19, 2000

Aired June 19, 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.

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: Welcome to another week. I'm Andy Jordan.

NEWSROOM has big travel plans for your Monday. Our Shelley Walcott is taking a field trip to the zoo. And Rudi Bakhtiar reports in from Iceland where she's hot on the tracks of some Icelandic trailblazers.

But we begin in the Horn of Africa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROL PINEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the signing ceremony for a peace agreement to end the Horn of Africa war came to a close, a ceasefire went into effect between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN: We leave the African continent headed for the Australian outback for our "Environment Desk."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENISE DILLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're cute, they're cuddly, and they are in danger of extinction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN: "Worldview" stays in the "land down under" to find out why Aussies are all choked up over a problem with pollution.

Finally, we "Chronicle" a tale that takes you back in time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: It's been almost 1,000 years since a Viking vessel such as this has graced Reykjavik Harbor, but never did one have a send-off like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN: Last week, we talked about the prospects for peace along the heavily armed border of North and South Korea. We begin this week talking about peace possibilities along another heavily guarded frontier: the 15-mile or 25-kilometer stretch separating Eritrea and Ethiopia. The two African nations have been fighting a brutal border war for two years. Over the weekend, the signing of a peace agreement and pledges to abide by its terms to end the war.

Tens of thousands of soldiers have died against the backdrop of a humanitarian crisis in two of the world's poorest countries. A sustained drought threatens an estimated 15 million people across the Horn of Africa, the majority of them in Ethiopia. Eritrea was Ethiopia's northernmost province until it won its independence in 1993 after a nearly 30 year war. While both nations were friendly at first, border and economic disputes erupted into full-scale war in 1998. Just a month after Ethiopia marched deep into Eritrean territory, both sides are war-weary. Now they say they are ready to end the hostilities.

We get details from Carol Pineau.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PINEAU (voice-over): The speeches, signatures of the foreign ministers, the handshake -- as the signing ceremony for a peace agreement to end the Horn of Africa war came to a close, a ceasefire went into affect between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Western officials say the agreement is solid.

ANTHONY LAKE, U.S. ENVOY: I am very confident that they will maintain this agreement. This would be a -- will be a mission in which the United Nations and all the participants are helping two highly disciplined armies separate and then maintain that separation.

PINEAU: But some officials say enforcement measures must be put in place as quickly as possible if the agreement is to be more than a peace plan on paper. The agreement calls for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force along a temporary security zone, an area well inside Eritrean land now occupied by Ethiopian troops.

Ethiopia has refused to redeploy its troops from the area until that peacekeeping force is in place. Military experts say that could take two to three months, or even longer, during which time there would be no independent verification of facts on the ground.

In the meantime, two of Africa's largest armies face each other across the front lines; once close allies, now bitter enemies. While the agreement calls for sanctions and other punitive measures against either country breaking the ceasefire, those steps cannot be put into effect without independent verification.

Until peacekeepers arrive and secure the area, Eritrea's estimated 750,000 war displaced will be unable to return home. The humanitarian situation is expected to continue throughout the coming year as the displaced will not be back on their land in time to plant grain for this year's harvest.

There is also concern that Ethiopian troops occupying Eritrean towns may loot or destroy Eritrean property. Barantu, a major town in southwestern Eritrea, was completely looted after Ethiopia's brief two-week occupation. Further west, houses, factories and grain reserves were burned to the ground.

Eritrean officials say the road to a lasting peace lies with final demarcation of the border. The agreement calls for an independent commission to decide the border according to Italian colonial maps. But for now, that final step is a long way off.

In the Eritrean capital, the mood is cautiously optimistic as people begin to think of the possibility of a future without war. But many say that despite military gains or losses, the tens of thousands of lives lost in battle and hundreds of millions of dollars squandered on weapons make both sides the losers in this war.

Carol Pineau for CNN, Asmara, Eritrea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: In the headlines today, the transfer of power in Syria. The ruling Baath Party unanimously elected Bashar al- Assad as its secretary-general yesterday. He is the son of the late President Hafez al-Assad, who died earlier this month after 30 years in office. Bashar Assad is considered his father's heir-apparent and is expected to be formally nominated as the next president of Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As party delegates assembled at the conference palace in Damascus amid tight army and police security, 34-year-old Bashar al-Assad casually walked inside and was treated like the president he plans to become. Even though he still has no official political power, Dr. Bashar, as everyone calls him here, is being propelled to the top.

This congress, the first in 15 years, was called by his late father and began with a minute's silence. In unison, Dr. Bashar among them, they recited, rather than sang, the Baath Party anthem, another mark of respect to their late leader.

This congress is being used as a platform to launch plans for a better Syria and pave the way for the Assad succession.

(on camera): Syria's ruling Baath Party is anointing the next expected leader and raising the curtain on a new era of supposed economic change and modernization.

(voice-over): Bashar al-Assad seems to be taking the rush of responsibility in his stride, but don't expect any change, say officials here, when it comes to their demand for a complete return of the Israeli-captured Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

"We're committed to this principle," says Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass. "Bashar al-Assad will preserve his father's policies."

The political hierarchy swarms around the country's one and only presidential candidate, whose vision for a future Syria was forged between father and son.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Check out these elephants. They're just a few of the many animals that makes their home here at Zoo Atlanta. Back in 1985, the zoo began its habitat redevelopment. The goal: to provide natural environments for the animals similar to those that they'd find in their native lands. Today, the zoo's collection includes nearly 1,000 specimens representing 250 species of animals from all over the world.

Today we focus on an animal you won't find at this zoo: the Koala. Like the kangaroo and the possum, the koala is a marsupial, a group of mammals with a common characteristic -- they carry their young in a pouch. Long ago, there were many species of koala, but now only one is left.

Koalas look cuddly, but they have sharp teeth and claws. When they're born, koalas are less than one centimeter long. They can run very fast, but get this: They sleep about 19 hours a day.

Koalas are not bears, but they are bearing up to some obstacles, as Denise Dillon explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DILLON (voice-over): They're cute, they're cuddly, and they are in danger of extinction. Koala bears were recently put on the endangered species list by the United States.

This isn't the first time koalas have been in trouble. Before the 1930s, they were hunted almost to extinction for their pelts. The marsupials were declared a protected species.

Since then, they have climbed their way back. Today, there are an estimated 100,000 koalas. Now hunters are no longer their biggest threat, it's urbanization.

DR. WILLIAM FOLEY, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The roads, because they're very slow crossing roads. And where roads go through their habitat, that causes significant problems.

DILLON: And that's not all. There's the matter of their diet. They live on eucalyptus leaves, and about 80 percent of Australia's eucalyptus forests have been cleared for human use. Of the 20 percent left, not all trees are the same.

FOLEY: Taking leaves from two trees here. Here's one that the animals have really not touched at all. Here's one from another tree. It's actually the same species, another yellow box that was growing right next to this one that the animals have clearly stripped.

DILLON: Some trees have a higher levels of a particular chemical that can make a koala sick, so researchers are trying to determine the chemical composition of eucalyptus trees that koalas prefer. FOLEY: So if we know more about why they're making those choices, we can really choose the trees to replant areas. We can choose trees that might be more favorable in particular environments for koalas.

DILLON: By pinpointing which trees are suitable to koalas, it will make it easier to save the habitat, helping the world's fussiest eaters survive.

Denise Dillon, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JORDAN: Well, the heat is on in much of the United States. It's hot enough in some parts -- namely the South -- that you can't even wash your car, and only water your lawn at the wee hours of the morning and very late at night. But those become petty concerns when looking at the big picture of rising global temperatures.

Natalie Pawelski looks at the history of droughts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From March to May, this has been the hottest spring in United States history.

JAY LAWRIMORE, NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA CENTER: Previous seasons, you might see a portion of the U.S. this much above normal. Well, now we're seeing the majority of the U.S. that was much above normal.

PAWELSKI: So far, the U.S. is having its warmest year ever. And worldwide temperatures are up, too. Year to date, global temperatures are the second hottest on record, thanks, in part, to a band of colder-than-normal water in the tropical Pacific.

TOM ROSS, NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA CENTER: The La Nina pattern, basically, has been showing we've been having warm temperatures across the United States and the globe for about the last three years.

LAWRIMORE: And superimposed over that, you have what may be climate warming -- global warming, climate change.

PAWELSKI: Tracking climate trends depends on gathering data -- a lot of data.

(on camera): One-hundred thousand manuscript boxes filled with weather information, just one small part of the largest archive of weather data in the world. Some of the records here at the National Climatic Data Center date back to the 1720s.

(voice-over): Those records include Thomas Jefferson's handwritten notes from the summer of 1776. Consistent, reliable weather record-keeping started around 1895 in the U.S. And now, worldwide temperatures are tallied by satellite. Through those changes, researchers here say one thing has remained constant: Earth is heating up. LAWRIMORE: Over the past 100 years, the global temperature has risen at a rate of almost 1 degree Fahrenheit. There's been no period during the past 1,000 years when we've seen temperatures rise at such a dramatic rate.

PAWELSKI: Climatologists say the rate of warming is speeding up. If that trend continues, they predict many more hot years to come.

Natalie Pawelski, Asheville, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

We focus on the environment in "Worldview" today. We'll travel to the bottom of the ocean to explore coral reefs and some fish that are quickly disappearing. We'll head to Australia, site of the upcoming Olympics. Will pollution problems cause a health threat? And we'll check out the population boom in India.

WALCOTT: The Asian nation of India has reached a milestone surpassed by only one other nation on Earth. India has now joined China as the only members of the 1 billion club: nations with more than 1 billion in population.

No one knows for sure exactly when it happened, although the occasion was marked last month. For many, the 1 billion mark is not cause for celebration but concern as this already crowded country struggles to make room for more and more people. Just how many new babies are born in India each day?

James Martone answers our quiz in our next story as he examines why India's birthrate is so high.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES MARTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): India welcomed its billionth child: a girl named Astha (ph). She's one of approximately 42,000 babies born every day in this country. The fact that the one billionth is a girl is a good sign, say government officials.

SUMITRA MAHAJAN, MINISTER OF STATE FOR WOMEN: If her health is protected, if she's protected, definitely the whole world will be a healthy world.

MARTONE: Population experts say an emphasis on empowering women is key to curbing exploding birthrates, as women are the ones ultimately able to control the country's growing population.

DR. K. SRINIVASAN, POPULATION FOUNDATION OF INDIA: The status of women is very low, so even if the woman doesn't want the pregnancy she cannot do much because of the pressures from her family, from her husband, from the patriarchal system of society. MARTONE: Population experts say India actually reached a billion more than eight months ago. According to studies, at least half of the population is disadvantaged.

(on camera): An estimated half of India's adults are illiterate, a third live under the poverty line, and 15 percent of India's children suffer from malnutrition.

(voice-over): India's official announcement that it had become a nation of 1 billion is not necessarily being celebrated by the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this rate goes on, there is going to be a population explosion. I mean, it will be very hard to manage.

MARTONE: Others said the only way to curb population is to further educate. The more people know about overpopulation, they said, the more they will understand about its negative effects.

James Martone, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: And the answer to our quiz, if you didn't catch it in the story: How many babies are born in India every day? About 42,000.

HAYNES: And now we travel halfway between the Indian and Pacific oceans to Australia. The "land down under" is the only country that does double duty as a continent. Although Australia is one of the world's largest countries, it's the smallest of all the continents.

In 1788, British settlers came to Australia to use the land as a penal colony. As a result, an overwhelming majority of the country's population has British ancestry. The first Australians, however, were dark-skinned people known as Aborigines. Aborigines are believed to have lived on the island for 50,000 years before white colonists arrived. These days, Australians are gearing up to host the 2000 summer Olympic games in September.

And while many Aussies are excited by the construction and all the hoopla, Denise Dillon reports others wish the cranes would just stay away.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DILLON (voice-over): This is the world-famous Bondi Beach in Australia. A swimming stadium is being built here for the summer Olympics. But the construction has caused some problems: a polluted pool of water about the size of a football field. Initial tests show the water, previously hidden under sand, contains low levels of sewage. People who live here are outraged.

KEVIN ADLER, RESIDENT: We've got a huge bad smell coming off the beach here and a huge big puddle of pollution on world-famous Bondi Beach. Shame, Sydney, shame. It's such an embarrassment. JOHN DENGATE, RESIDENT: Yes, we want to know what's in the water there, whether it poses a threat; and if it does, how they propose to get rid of it in a way that protects both the environment and public health.

DILLON: And the troubles don't end there. Local historians are attempting to stall this project. They say before Bondi Beach was famous for surfing, it may have been sacred to the Aborigines.

RAY NEESON, LOCAL HISTORIAN: They're saying -- the University of Sydney is still indicating there is a possibility that there could still be Aboriginal remains in the area.

JACKIE HUGGINS, CO. FOR ABORIGINES RECONCILIATION: If they find Aboriginal remains there, they are sacred sites, they are our burial grounds, they are our cemeteries. It would be like white Australians going in, desecrating beautiful cathedrals here in Sydney.

DILLON: If it's determined this is an Aboriginal site, it would be off-limits to construction, including projects for the Olympics.

Denise Dillon, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: If you've ever gotten a firsthand look at a coral reef, you'll know it's one of the most incredible sights on Earth. Home to hundreds of species of colorful corals and fish, coral reefs are often referred to as the rainforests of the sea. In fact, the number of species that call coral reefs home may even surpass that of most rainforests.

For our next story, we head for Hong Kong. Conservationists there fear the demand in Asia for a certain type of reef fish may be jeopardizing the balance of these delicate ecosystems.

Gary Strieker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the oceans' coral reefs, among all the diversity of life, some kinds of fish prized on Chinese menus are in such high demand they could soon disappear from the reefs.

FRAZER MCGILVRAY, INTERNATIONAL MARINELIFE ALLIANCE: There are still a lot of fish out there, but with the demand increasing, with China's population increasing at the rate it does, they can't sustain that.

STRIEKER: Cantonese cuisine has created a billion-dollar live- reef fish industry. At least 15,000 tons of these fish are imported each year by Chinese fishermen and merchants.

(on camera): In the Indo-Pacific region, more than 90 percent of the live-reef fish trade for the food markets passes through Hong Kong, and most of that comes through here to the Kwan Tong (ph) wholesale fish market.

(voice-over): Importers here say financial problems in Asia have caused fish prices to drop, but the outlook for the future is good.

PATRICK CHAN, HONG KONG CHAMBER OF SEAFOOD MERCHANTS: This market trend will continue to expand because the economy's going to pick up in mainland China. The people will, actually, will consume more live seafood.

STRIEKER: But there is a limit to the supply of reef fish. The most favored types, like spotted coral trout and other grouper species, are slow-growing and easily caught, extremely vulnerable to overfishing.

In the Philippines, fishermen using cyanide have depleted fisheries there. And in Indonesia, political instability and violence against ethnic Chinese make it a dangerous source of supply.

Unable to rely on the Philippines or Indonesia, Chinese dealers are now sending ships far and wide for reef fish: east to the South Pacific, and west to the Indian Ocean, as far as Madagascar. That could encourage local fishermen in those regions to ransack their reefs to meet Chinese demand.

That's why a private conservation group, the International Marinelife Alliance, monitors the trade here in Hong Kong and tries to stay one step ahead of the dealers.

MCGILVRAY: Basically, to make sure that the fish are being caught properly, sustainably, and there's no use of chemicals.

STRIEKER: Some say the only way to save wild reef fish is to raise domestic stocks on farms like these: underwater cages containing fish worth thousands of dollars, hence the guard dogs.

But this kind of fish farming needs more research and government support to be able to meet the growing demand for reef fish, and to protect the rich wildlife of the world's coral reefs.

Gary Strieker, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JORDAN: History, pomp and ceremony all converged in Reykjavik, Iceland over the weekend. The occasion marked the 1,000th anniversary of Leif Eriksson's discovery of North America.

Eriksson, a native Icelander, was the first explorer to land on the shores of Newfoundland, Canada. His discovery actually came 500 years before Christopher Columbus' arrival on the shores of Florida. Now, on this 1,000th year of his voyage, a descendant of Leif's is recreating that journey.

NEWSROOM's Rudi Bakhtiar is in Rekjavik to see that journey begin -- Rudi.

BAKHTIAR: Thanks, Andy.

Well, Saturday was National Day here in Iceland, and the people were out full force celebrating. But by far, the most memorable moment was the launching of the Viking ship, the Icelander.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): It's been almost 1,000 years since a Viking vessel such as this has graced Reykjavik Harbor, but never did one have a sendoff like this. Bands, spectators and dignitaries from Iceland and Canada turned out on Iceland's National Day to celebrate the beginning of the Icelander Viking ship's five-month journey to North America.

The journey is a matter of national pride for Icelanders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very proud of it, and I think it's very nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's about time that we show Americans who actually discovered America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they show a lot of courage to do it in our time.

BAKHTIAR: The Icelander is a hand-built replica of a vessel excavated in the late 1800s in Norway. Gunnar Eggertson is its builder, its captain, and a direct descendent of Leif Eriksson himself.

Born into a family of shipbuilders, his passion for Vikings began when he was just a child.

GUNNAR EGGERTSON, SHIP CAPTAIN: I heard my father and grandfather talking about those Viking ships, how fast they were sailing and how seaworthy they were. Ever since then, I never forgot.

BAKHTIAR: Ancient vessels carried 70 crew members to help man the oars. Equipped with a small motor, the Icelander has only eight in its crew, almost all childhood friends of Gunnar's.

EGGERTSON: We know each other very well, and I can tell them whatever I want out on the ocean and without any problems. I know them.

BAKHTIAR: The ship is just 70 feet long and quarters will be tight. Realizing that was part of the preparation for Ellen Ingvadottir, the loan woman aboard.

ELLEN INGVADOTTIR, CREWMEMBER: I don't want any special treatment. I will be shouldering my duties just like the men do.

BAKHTIAR: Amid the celebration and farewells was the knowledge that the crew faces long months away from home, navigating the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic in only a small wooden ship. But as the ship set sail, the crew seemed more focused on making a statement for their small country than any dangers which may lie before them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: By now, the ship is well on its way to Greenland. If all goes according to plan, it will arrive in L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland on July 28 for the big celebration. But it won't end there. The voyage continues down the East Coast of North America, making several stops before the adventure draws to a close in New York City on October 5.

For now, good-bye from Reykjavik, Iceland.

Back to you, Andy.

JORDAN: Thanks, Rudi. Good luck to the crew.

That'll do it for us today for your Monday show. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Bye.

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