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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for August 28, 2000

Aired August 28, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Welcome to the new week here on NEWSROOM. I am Rudi Bakhtiar. Monday's program brings us news of fire, water and waste. Here is the rundown.

Topping our agenda, U.S. President Clinton travels to Africa, where he pledges American assistance to a fledging democracy.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to help you build your economy, educate your children and build a better life.


BAKHTIAR: Our focus turns to the environment in today's daily desk. What becomes of nuclear waste.


DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each nuclear power plant generate an average of 20 metric tons of highly radioactive waste each year. It is waste that will continue to emit deadly radiations for tens of thousands of years.


BAKHTIAR: Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. "Worldview" goes in search of one of the planet's most valuable natural resources.

We end up Chronicling the travels of the other Clinton travelling in Africa.

In today's top story, U.S. President Clinton's tour of Africa. The president started his three-day trip Saturday in the West African nation of Nigeria. His first stop was Nigeria's capital city of Abuja for officials meetings. Then, it was on the small village of Ushafa, where Mr. Clinton toured a women's center.

Today, the president heads to Tanzania for a meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela, and tomorrow he visits Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

President Clinton last visited Africa in 1998. He didn't visit Nigeria then because the country was in turmoil, and the military government of Gen. Sani Abacha was in power. Nigeria began a slow return to democracy after Abacha's death in October of '98. A new president, Olusegun Obasanjo, was democratically elected in 1999.

President Clinton's visit to Nigeria is meant to show support for the country's new president and the democratic process. Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, and the U.S. considers last year's election as the most momentous event in Africa since the fall of Apartheid.

The president also used his African tour as a platform to announce a new initiative in the fight against AIDS.

John King has more from Nigeria.


JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The children of Ushafa greeted the president with flags and song. The robe was a gift from Chief Mohammed Ubaba (ph), and the villagers roared with delight as Mr. Clinton showed his appreciation.

It was a day away from official meetings, a chance to get a glimpse at everyday life in Nigeria and meet with people sometimes impatient that embracing democracy hasn't meant new roads or schools.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to help you build your economy, educate your children, and build a better life.

KING: This predominantly Muslim village hasn't seen much of the country's oil riches. Pottery is the big business here; the president's tour a snapshot of local craftsmanship and culture.

For all the color, it was also a glimpse at poverty and unsanitary living -- children with little access to modern health care. Mr. Clinton later toured a women's development center, and at this health forum promised $20 million in new U.S. aid, most of it to fight the spread of HIV-AIDS and polio. But he said money was not enough, especially when it comes to combating AIDS.

CLINTON: We have to break the silence about how this disease spreads and how to prevent it. And we need to fight AIDS, not people with AIDS; they are our friends and allies.

KING: Mr. Clinton is savoring every moment of his last trip to Africa as president, taking time after a state dinner to dance with Nigeria's first lady, as daughter Chelsea swayed nearby with its president.

(on camera): But the president's good mood will be sorely tested at his next two stops, as he pushes for an end to the civil war in Burundi, and then tries to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track.

John King, CNN, Abuja, Nigeria.


BAKHTIAR: Nigeria is not only the most populous African country, but it is also rich in oil. In fact, the United States is Nigeria's main trading partner, with Nigeria exporting roughly 800,000 barrels of oil per day to the U.S.

On his trip, President Clinton carried a message of economic growth for the African nation, as Jim Clancy reports.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mr. Clinton seemed to savor what may be his last trip to an African village as U.S. president, but he didn't stop driving home the message to all who would listen about building up Nigeria's democracy and economy. He told a session of businessmen and investors, Nigeria needs to plow proceeds from its oil resources into agriculture, infrastructure and industry.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have got to not only make sure that the money coming from the oil benefits the people, you have to invest some of that money in a way that broadens the nature of the Nigerian economy, if you really want people to get richer.

CLANCY: If Nigerian and U.S. businessmen have heard this message before, getting it in person from President Clinton renewed their enthusiasm for it.

CHIEF I. EXEMBI, NIGERIAN BUSINESSMAN: What is the message? We are in a global village, as he is saying. Do your bit, America will do our bit, and Nigeria will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RAY WILCOX, MANAGING DIR., CHEVRON/NIGERIA: He talked about investment, he talked about technology, but most of all, he talked about people and making sure that people and the future generations of people are thought of. I thought it was a great speech.

CLANCY: President Clinton came on a mission to support democracy, but that support rests largely with Nigeria's 120 million people, people who are measuring what difference democracy will make in their own lives.

(on camera): There is a real enthusiasm here that Mr. Clinton departs having raised Nigeria's profile all around the world. The businessmen stress it is but a starting point. The future of Nigeria's economy and its democracy now rest with the government, investors, the business community, and most of all, with Nigerians themselves.

Jim Clancy, CNN, Abuja.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Fire continues to plague states in the Western U.S. A windy weekend fanned the flames of some 23 major wildfires in Montana alone; 79 large wildfires are burning across 1.6 million acres in 13 Western states and Florida.


DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an exceptionally dry year like this year, nature conspires to create a vicious cycle. Fires sparked by lightning generate their own weather, spawning more lightning, starting more fires.

Here's what happens. A big fire sends heat and smoke as high as six miles into the sky. The heat encounters cooler air, producing a cloud. The cloud generates only a little localized rain but lots of what's commonly called "dry lightning."

BAY JOHNSON, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: In other words, it may be raining here, and the bolt would shoot out five miles from where the rain is and hit the ground where there is no rain. And we see a lot of that this year in the West.

GEORGE: A bolt of lightning is about as wide as a human finger. Negatively charged lightning, the most common kind in thunderstorms, lasts about 41 microseconds, 41 millionths of a second. But almost every positively-charged bolt, the kind most often associated with dry lightning, lasts longer, up to a full half a second, zapping the ground with a 30,000 degree burst of what scientists call "continuing current."

DON LANHAM, FIRE SCIENCES LABORATORY: So the positives are more effective at starting fires, but not because they're positive necessarily, but rather because they have a continuing current, whereas not all negatives do.

GEORGE: By studying pictures from the space shuttle, scientists have learned that lightning can occur up to 50 times a minute in a big storm. Infrared cameras aboard huge flying laboratories help create computer animations that enable firefighters to plot the likely course of fires caused by lightning.

But in this, the worst year for wildfires in nearly a century, they still don't have a way to break nature's vicious cycle of fires started by lightning generating more lightning starting more fires.


BAKHTIAR: What you can't see can hurt you. That is one lesson in our "Environment Desk" today. We look at the problem of nuclear waste and radioactivity. That is the spontaneous disintegration of the nucleus of an atom by the emission of particles.

Here's how it works. Over time, certain atoms decay or fall apart into two or more smaller atoms. In that process, they give off particles. These tiny particles can go through most substances. And when they go through people, they can destroy whatever is in their path or cause mutation. Needless to say, nuclear waste is a concern and scientists are looking for ways to contain it.

David George looks at one possibility.


GEORGE (voice-over): You could call it the stuff that will not die: spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants. How to dispose of them is the problem the nuclear industry has never solved to its critics' satisfaction.

Each nuclear power plant generates an average of 20 metric tons of highly radioactive waste each year. It's waste that will continue to emit deadly radiation for tens of thousands of years.

The long-range plan is to entomb high-level nuclear waste inside Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But even if nuclear waste is buried forever, there's fear that eventually the containers in which it's stored will deteriorate, allowing radiation into contact with the environment.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory think they may have found a solution to the problem.

KURT SICKAFUS, NUCLEAR SCIENTIST: We have proposed a set of materials, a set of crystalline ceramic oxides, which appear to have very high radiation tolerance.

GEORGE: In a series of experiments, some involving computer simulations, some conducted in the laboratory at nearly 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, Sickafus and his colleagues found that a class of ceramic crystals called fluorites could actually contain radiation, keep it from escaping. They think that combining nuclear waste with the ceramic oxide crystals would result in an entirely new material, one that, while highly radioactive, would never contaminate the Earth.

SICKAFUS: So you're essentially, in the end, relying on the high stability of these rock-like oxides to hold your radioactive constituents and keep them out of situations where they would come back to interact with the living environment.

GEORGE: The Los Alamos researchers say more work is needed to come up with just the right chemical combination to produce the most durable ceramic crystal for long-term storage of nuclear waste.

David George, CNN.


ANNOUNCER: Teachers, make the most of CNN NEWSROOM with our free daily classroom guide to the program. There you'll find a rundown of each day's show so you choose just the program segments that fit your lesson plan. Plus, there are discussion questions and activities, and the guide highlights key people, places and news terms. Each day, find hot links to other online resources and previews of upcoming "Desk" segments. It's all at this Web address, where you can also sign up to have the guide automatically e-mailed directly to you each day. It's easy, it's free, it's your curriculum connection to the news. After all, the news never stops, and neither does learning.

BAKHTIAR: In "Worldview" today, we look at a life force: water. And while you may know that it's necessary for all living things, today you'll learn about its political and religious implications. We take you around the world on a quest for water.

ANDY JORDAN, CO-HOST: You already know that water is a critical resource to human survival. But did you know that water consumption is rising twice as fast as the world's population? Humanity now uses more than half of the available surface freshwater on Earth, and at least 300 million people live in regions that already have severe water shortages. As our global population increases, the challenge of finding pure drinking water will continue to grow.

Siobhan Darrow takes us around the world for an in-depth look at water.


SIOBHAN DARROW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Water. It's the very essence of life, as basic as the air we breathe. It falls freely from the skies, laps against our shores. It is the most common substance on Earth, covering more than 70 percent of the planet's surface. It makes up most of what living things are. Our own bodies are two-thirds water.

In Las Vegas, a city in the desert, water fountains dance to lure in potential gamblers. But the abundance of water is an illusion. Only a tiny fraction of the planet's water is drinkable; 97 percent is sea water, which is expensive and difficult to desalinate; 2 percent is caught in polar ice caps; that leaves 1 percent to sustain life in the next millennium. Already, 26 countries are classified as water- stressed, meaning they don't have enough water to support agriculture and economic development.

SANDRA POSTEL, AUTHOR/WATER ANALYST: Looking out to 2025, the number of people living in water-stressed countries will increase six- and-a-half times.

DARROW: Much of the world relies on natural, underground storage tanks called aquifers. We're rapidly using up those reserves, digging ever deeper wells like these in Northern Syria, lowering water tables at an alarming rate in every continent.

Chinese leaders are even considering moving the capital from Beijing because of chronic shortages.

WILLIAM COSGROVE, WORLD WATER COUNCIL: Up until a couple of hundred years ago, we were hardly using but a small fraction of the Earth's water. Today, we are using more than half of it, and polluting more than that even. And the result is that we're reaching a dangerous point that's not sustainable. DARROW: More than half of the major rivers are going dry or are polluted, endangering the health and livelihood of those who depend on them.

In 1998, 25 million people fled their homes because of water crises in river basins, a higher number than refugees of war. By 2025, environmental refugees could quadruple.

RICHARD JOLLY, U.N. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM: In developing countries, about a quarter of the population don't have access to clean water. That's 1.3 billion people.

DARROW: More than twice that number, almost 3 billion people, don't have decent sanitation, causing millions of deaths each year. A child dies every eight seconds from drinking contaminated water.

This is the Ganges in India. Hindus consider the river sacred. People use the Ganges to bathe themselves, to launder their clothes, even to bury their dead, sure that the river's holiness will protect them from typhoid, cholera and diarrhea. But it doesn't.

In China, the Yellow River was once the cradle of their civilization, nurturing China's northern plains; 3,600 miles long, it was known throughout history as China's sorrow for it's tendency to flood. Now it's causing distress for the opposite reason: It's running dry.

ELIZABETH ECONOMY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Industry has expanded, agriculture has expanded and the population has boomed, but there has been no thought given to how to manage the resources of the Yellow River.

DARROW: And grandiose plans are in the works to rearrange another river: the Yangtze. China is in the process of building the world's largest dam, a controversial project expected to displace more than a million people and radically change the ecosystem for the entire region.

One needs only to look next door to the former Soviet Union to see the potential damage such solutions can cause. The Aral Sea in the former Soviet Central Asia may provide a nightmarish glimpse of ecological disaster of the future.

When Soviet central planners decided to grow cotton in the desert, they diverted water from the rivers flowing into the Aral Sea to irrigate the fields. The sea has since shrunk to two-thirds of it's size. Ships lie in the sandy graveyard that once was water.

The old port town of Muynak is now 30 miles from the coast of the dying sea. Children suffer respiratory diseases, the cows are sick, the native fish are all gone. Salt and toxic dust choke everything in their wake.

POSTEL: It's one of the examples that really shows the close connection between the health of an aquatic ecosystem and the health of the whole economy and the community and the people that depend on that ecosystem.

DARROW: It's not only communist central planners, but capitalists as well who meddle with the flow of rivers. In the United States, the Colorado River is ranked as one of the world's most stressed and over-committed rivers. Dams harness its mighty waters, and in dry years not a single drop of the Colorado reaches the sea.

(on camera): It took nearly 5,000 workers four-and-a-half years working 24-hour-a-day shifts to build the Hoover Dam in the 1930s; 96 died during the construction of what was, in its day, the world's largest dam.

(voice-over): It helps control the Colorado, whose waters are divvied up between seven states and Mexico.

(on camera): Hoover Dam was built to bring electricity to a vast area and water to the arid western United States. Like the world's other enormous dams, it is an engineering wonder of our age, some say rivaling the pyramids. But in the future, as the disruption to the environment becomes more fully understood, experts studying water supply say it could stand as a testament to the folly of man's quest to tame nature.

(voice-over): Water from the Colorado transformed the desert into productive farmland.

JESSE SILVA, IMPERIAL IRRIGATION DISTRICT: You fly over the mountains and you see this half-a-million acres of different shades of green.

The annual value of the crops and the beef production, sheep production is about a billion dollars annually.

DARROW: The Colorado is the lifeblood of the burgeoning American Southwest, filling swimming pools and keeping Los Vegas's 48 golf courses lush. Ever-thirsty Southern California uses 14 percent more water than its allotment. Little water is left to flow downstream and nourish the Colorado delta in Mexico, turning a once-vibrant ecosystem into a parched and salty marsh.

BILL SNAPE, DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE: Our dollars would be better spent rejuvenating the delta as opposed to growing more lettuce in the hot desert.

DARROW: Not only delta wildlife is at risk, but an Indian tribe that has depended on the river for centuries is on the brink of extinction.

"For us, this river is life," says a Cocopah chief, "because the life, the soul is what we call the river."

Perhaps nowhere in the world is the strain of sharing water more acute than in the Middle East, where the shortage adds to tensions between nations. Some political leaders have warned disputes over water could eventually lead to war. But it's been a long time since that's happened. AARON WOLFE, WATER RIGHTS EXPERT: If you look in history for the last water war, you have to go back 4,500 years. The only water war in history was between the city states of Lagash and Umma over irrigation rights on the Tigris River.

DARROW: Today, the Tigris and Euphrates are again a source of potential conflict. Turkey's $32 billion dam and irrigation project will mean less water to downstream neighbors, such as Syria and Iraq, who claim the project will rob them of water they need.

But there are hopeful signs between once-bitter enemies in the region. Jordan and Israel included a water agreement in their peace treaty.

MARY MORRIS, MIDDLE EAST CONSULTANT: It's the first real treaty in the region that deals with water. Instead of treating each other as adversaries, they have begun to come together.

DARROW: Instead of stirring conflict...

MORRIS: The scarcity can be a catalyst for a miracle in the Middle East.

DARROW: ... perhaps ushering in an era of cooperation.

Siobhan Darrow, CNN, reporting.


JORDAN: More on water next week on NEWSROOM "Worldview." We'll visit farmers around the world to find out how they turn trickles into triumph. Find out how irrigation is part invention, part inspiration in a water-challenged world.

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

BAKHTIAR: Well, we end up where we began: in Africa. As we told you in our top story, American President Bill Clinton is touring the continent. But instead of the first lady being by his side, first daughter Chelsea is on hand. This fall, she's putting her studies on hold to spend more time around the White House and on the road with her parents, which translates into more time in the public eye.

CNN's White House correspondent Kelly Wallace has more on Chelsea's increased profile.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chelsea Clinton is stepping into the spotlight.

With the first lady in New York, the first daughter has filled in at White House ceremonies and on overseas trips, escorting her father to state dinners in India and Japan, going with him to Camp David for the Middle East peace talks, and providing moral support when they failed. Quite a change from the shy 12-year-old with braces eight years ago. Her parents tried to protect her.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FIRST LADY: We want to thank the American people for giving her the space to grow.

WALLACE: But in recent years they have let her become more noticeable. She helped show a family sticking together just after her father admitted the Lewinsky affair. And on the campaign trail, some observers say she could help soften her mother's image.

GAIL COLLINS, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: She certainly humanizes her mother, if the downside of Hillary Clinton, generally, as a campaigner is that, especially in her speeches, she's a little bit bloodless. You don't get that kind of warm rush of feeling when you see her, and Chelsea brings that out in people.

WALLACE: She appeals to the elderly and the MTV generation, seen but so far rarely heard, except while in Africa with her mother.

CHELSEA CLINTON: Well, I think that there are more opportunities for young women in America than there are in Tanzania. But I also think there are many of the same problems.

WALLACE (on camera): White House aides say little as well, except that Chelsea Clinton views the next few months as a chance to witness history firsthand. After all, how many other 20-year-olds get to visit Nigeria and Tanzania, and then possibly represent the president at the summer Olympics in Australia.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.


BAKHTIAR: Lucky Chelsea.

Well, think of an auction and paintings, sculptures or jewels come to mind. Now, we're going to take you to a different kind of auction. In California, some prehistoric items went on the block at the Butterfield & Butterfield auction house: a T. rex, dinosaur eggs, a sabertooth tiger skull, and a slew of other prehistoric treasures. Not what you find at your usual estate auction, but definitely treasures.

And with that, we'll call it a show. But before we go, we leave you with some sights and sounds from Nigeria. See you tomorrow.



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