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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for October 24, 2000

Aired October 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.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Shelley Walcott. International relations, health and politics are the topics of the day. Here's your agenda.

Relations between the United States and North Korea headline today's program.

Moving on to "Health Desk," we examine the plan to eradicate polio.

Then "Worldview" peeks into the mailroom at the United Nations.

And we round things out with a taste of "Democracy in America."

United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is on a historic visit to North Korea. She arrived in Pyongyang Monday for a two-day visit, becoming the highest level U.S. official ever to visit the communist nation.

After half a century in Cold War isolation, North Korea is reaching out to other nations. Why Now? Well, North Korea stands to gain considerable Western aide by building international relations. Washington wants North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to abandon his missile programs and take steps to get off the list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

Signs of thawing relations between North Korea and South Korea came this summer when Mr. Kim hosted a summit in Pyongyang with South Korean leader Kim Dae Jung. A few weeks later, South Korean and North Korean families were briefly reunited.

There's been tension between the two Koreas since 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. In 1953, an armistice was reached with the help of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. That pact separated troops with a demilitarized zone but still hasn't been replaced with a formal peace agreement.

Among other things, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il helps lay the groundwork for improved relations between the two countries.

Andrea Koppel has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Western guest house in Pyongyang, they toasted to a new future, their two countries still technically at war: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, a man who had never met let alone spoken with a U.S. official, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has spent a pleasant time.

KOPPEL: This extraordinary day included an exceptional showcase of North Korean national pride, an estimated 100,000 men and women performing lock-step for their honored guest, not far from where North Korean soldiers still face off against U.S. and South Korean troops.

Even before Secretary Albright set foot in North Korea, her aides had downplayed expectations there'd be any agreement signed during this visit, including the most sensitive issue of all for the United States: convincing the North to sign onto a permanent moratorium on flight testing and exporting ballistic missiles.

During her meeting with Chairman Kim, U.S. officials say, Secretary Albright planned to explore his reported offer to Russian President Putin this summer to end the North's missile program in exchange for help in launching its satellites.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm very pleased to be here as the fist American secretary of state to visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

KOPPEL: Until now, the only real U.S. contact with North Korea had come in the form of emergency food aid. Since 1995 when a combination of successive droughts and floods ruined the North's annual harvest, the U.S. has fed millions, including these 5- and 6- year-olds at this local kindergarten in Pyongyang, where Secretary Albright paid a visit.

DILAWAR ALI KHAN, UNICEF: It is happening, as I said, at a very important time, you know. And it is like you have gotten to a vehicle and you have pulled the first gear. I think you have taken from the first to the fourth gear.

KOPPEL: And after close to five decades of economic as well as diplomatic isolation, North Korea's leadership finally appears ready to help pave the way towards rapproachment with the United States.

(on camera): Just how quickly that happens will in no small measure depend on the outcome of Secretary Albright's trip here to Pyongyang, one expected to lay the groundwork for yet another historic visit by President Clinton, perhaps as soon as next month.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: In our "Health Desk" today, we pinpoint the efforts to wipe out polio. Polio, or poliomyelitis, affects the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in hours. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck and pain in the arms and legs. It used to be much more prevalent around the world, but back in 1988 a number of organizations spearheaded a global initiative to eradicate polio by the end of 2000, a lofty goal.

So far in world history, only one disease has been eradicated, small pox, about 30 years ago. Polio seems likely to be the second, although the deadline will be missed. Last month, the United Nations held a global summit on polio eradication, and experts predict they'll see the last case soon.

Rhonda Rowland has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day, thousands of children around the world get vaccinated against polio. The crippling disease is a remote threat in the Americas, where it's been eradicated since 1991. In other parts of the world, however, the threat of polio is still very real.

DR. JEFFREY KOPLAN, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Well, until we eradicate the disease worldwide, there remains a threat to anyone else in the world who isn't immunized against it. And so we continue to provide vaccinations for young children.

ROWLAND: But health officials believe the polio vaccine will soon be a part of medical history.

DR. CIRO DE QUADROS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The disease is eradicable. We have good vaccine to eradicate the disease. Two, all the countries are committed.

ROWLAND: There's been tremendous progress. Three years ago, polio was present in more than 60 countries. Now just 30 countries remain. Most are in Subsaharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent and they're the most challenging to vaccinate.

KOPLAN: We have to provide vaccinations in places where people are being killed daily in armed conflict. In some of the countries we're working in, there are the worst natural disasters going on -- cyclones, floods, typhoons -- and yet the eradication effort is continuing on a daily basis.

ROWLAND: Twelve years ago, more 350,000 children were paralyzed from polio. In 1999, there were just over 7,000 new cases.

(on camera): The financial cost of wiping out polio worldwide is tremendous. There are a number of donors, including the World Health Organization and Rotary International, as well as individuals, such as Bill Gates and Ted Turner. But the biggest contributor is the CDC, supported by American taxpayers. (voice-over): And now the World Health Organization says they need to raise at least another $450 million in emergency funds to complete the job.

DE QUADROS: But this is really very, very, very little money. Remember that when polio is finally eradicated, there will be savings to the world.

ROWLAND: An estimated savings of $1 1/2 billion a year. Health experts believe they'll see the last case of polio in the next year or two.

Rhonda Rowland, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Earlier, you heard about U.N. efforts to wipe out polio. Well, coming up in "Worldview," attempts to get rid of another threat: landmines. We'll also focus on a freedom fighter of sorts when we go to China. And we'll meet the man who heads the United Nations. Today is United Nations Day. October 24 is the anniversary of the date the U.N. charter went into effect in 1945.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: E-mail is changing the way we communicate. Today you can send an instant message to people all the way around the world. But traditional letters are still an important form of communication, too. One man who gets plenty of all kinds of mail is Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations. He's the seventh secretary-general of the organization and began his term on January 1, 1997.

Mr. Annan is from Ghana and he's fluent in English, French and several African languages. And that's fortunate, since he hears from thousands of people from all over the globe.

Richard Roth has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kofi Annan, you've got United Nations mail. Up to 7,500 letters and e-mail arrive at the U.N. every month, many addressed to Secretary- General Annan.

HASAN FERDOUS, CHIEF, U.N. PUBLIC INQUIRIES: Whenever there is a conflict, we see a whole new tide of letters or queries coming from the public.

ROTH: The East Timor crisis prompted a Queens, New York butler to write to Annan.

JOAO CRISOSTOMO, LETTER WRITER: When you speak to the right people at the right time, you can make a difference.

ROTH: The butler asked the diplomat for help.

CRISOSTOMO: "Mr. Kofi Annan, you and the U.N. really are now the only and last hope for East Timor.

GILLIAN SORENSON, DIR., U.N. EXTERNAL RELATIONS: It's a reflection of Kofi Annan, of his personality, of his popularity, of his stature, even of his moral authority.

ROTH: Annan draws the largest amount of letters from children. The U.N. flag flies outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help school on Long Island. Students, such as Margaret Ayers, wrote the U.N.

MARGARET AYERS, STUDENT: Because I know they stand for peace and I want peace in the world.

ROTH: A third of the letter writers want jobs or internships; some are desperate for money or asylum.

HELEN SHASKAN, U.N. PUBLIC INQUIRIES: And the problem is, what can we do? You know, there's nothing the U.N. can do.

FERDOUS: There are crazier letters, people who write to us about being attacked by UFOs and would like the U.N. to intervene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Not allowed to publish for seven years." Oh, God.

ROTH: Another writer proclaims the time has come for him to address the General Assembly. A few draw in an attempt to draw the attention of the secretary-general.

SORENSON: He's been invited to be a witness at a wedding or to send a letter congratulating for a bar mitzvah.

ROTH: Annan even sent a note of thanks to a couple that named their first-born child after him.

SORENSON: And he was invited to judge a beauty pageant, and on it goes.

ROTH: Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: You can do more than write letters to the United Nations, you can actually participate in activities to help UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. One of the most popular, Trick or Treat for UNICEF, a chance for kids to help other kids.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Trick or Treat for UNICEF!

CHARLES LYONS, PRESIDENT, U.S. FUND FOR UNICEF: Two of the most practical kinds of things, actually, that UNICEF uses to raise money were started by children. Trick or Treat for UNICEF started 50 years ago, and the first year raised $17. Kids started that because they heard what UNICEF did and they wanted to help. Fifty years later, that's raised over $100 million. UNICEF greeting cards over 53 years, I think, have raised close to $1 billion in revenue. The first UNICEF card was a thank you note from a little girl in Czechoslovakia who had been assisted by UNICEF after World War II.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKHTIAR: Halloween is just around the corner. If you'd like to learn more about Trick or Treat for UNICEF or other UNICEF activities, head to the Web at www.unicefusa.org.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: E-mail and Web sites are only two of the ways we can keep in touch with our world and reach out to others. We head to China where, believe it or not, pagers play a crucial role in freedom of speech. Hong Kong is part of China, but it has more freedom than most of the country, as Mike Chinoy explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE CHINOY, CNN HONG KONG BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): When police crack down on demonstrators in China or workers go on strike, more often than not it's Frank Lu who spreads the news. From a tiny office in Hong Kong, Lu, a former student activist who fled here from China in 1989, runs a one-man operation to monitor human rights abuses in the mainland.

FRANK LU, INFORMATION CENTER OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA (through translator): These days, much of the news on human rights in China comes through me because it's easy to do this in Hong Kong. In almost 300 Chinese cities, people can reach my pager by making a local call. It's very secure.

CHINOY: Lu puts the information he receives on his Web site, taking special care to inform Western news agencies. In the process, he's acquired a reputation for speedy and accurate reporting.

As the Chinese government has sought to tighten its political control in recent months, Lu has been especially busy.

LU (through translator): You can see they're trying to crack down on the Internet and on intellectuals. With unemployment at 15 percent, they want to exercise more control to maintain stability. So that's why they're cracking down.

CHINOY: Among his recent revelations, plans by Beijing to intensify moves against the Falun Gong and Zhong Gong meditation sects, and a new police crackdown on gays in China. Lu has been able to operate because he's in Hong Kong, which, though technically part of China, has guarantees of political freedom. Still, he says he's faced harassment from Beijing.

LU (through translator): I've had hundreds of fake calls to my pager and cell phone. Of course I am concerned. Accidents can happen so I don't go out much at night and I'm very careful.

CHINOY: Now, though, Lu has had a new boost. In a decision that surprised some observers, the Hong Kong government agreed recently to give him permanent residency.

(on camera): Lu thinks it's because the alternative, forcing him to leave, would give Hong Kong too much bad publicity. Whatever the reason, though, it means that Frank Lu is likely to remain a thorn in the side of the Chinese government for some time to come.

Mike Chinoy, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: We'll talk more about human rights issues in China tomorrow. Find out how problems there could affect its bid for the 2008 Olympic games, despite a strong push from China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TU MINDGE, BEIJING 2008 BID COMMITTEE: If Beijing holds the Olympic games, they will be very good, I think, for the combination of emerging or exchanging of different cultures from East and West.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China has drawbacks for Olympic consideration; namely its poor human rights record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALCOTT: There is progress to report in the fight to eliminate some of the deadliest weapons of war: landmines. An international treaty banning the use of such weapons came into being in 1997 and its already making a significant difference. The treaty has been signed by 138 countries. All countries signing on agreed to eventually destroy their stockpiles of all landmines and destroy all mines buried within their territory.

A new report indicates that about 10 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines have been destroyed. Of course there's still a long way to go. That same report indicates countries around the world still have about 250 million mines in storage. And by some estimates, as many as 60 to 70 million landmines are still buried across the countryside of some 60 countries. They kill or maim an estimated 2,000 people each month.

As Gary Tuchman reports, the fight to reduce those casualties of war goes on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They have killed tens of thousands of people and maimed even more, mostly innocent civilians. But the sands are apparently shifting regarding the use of landmines.

STEPHEN GOOSE, INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO BAN LANDMINES: You will continue to have some rebel groups, you will continue to have some renegade governments, if you will, who will cling to the weapon, but those will be a few and sorry few. TUCHMAN: The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has released an 1,100-page report which documents what nations are doing following the implementation of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The report does say 11 nations and many rebel groups have used landmines within the last 18 months.

GOOSE: The heaviest use of mines during that period came in Chechnya, primarily by Russian forces, but also by Chechen rebels; and in Kosovo.

TUCHMAN: The organization is also troubled by ongoing mine use in Africa, in places like the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, and in Angola.

But the report also shows a dramatic drop in mine production, increased funding for humanitarian action, including roughly $100 million annually from the United States for mine removal and victim assistance. And 138 nations, nearly three-quarters of the world's countries, have signed the Mine Ban Treaty. But one of the nation's that hasn't is the United States.

KEN BACON, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We believe that the treaty would prevent us from defending our forces, and therefore I don't believe we're any closer to signing the treaty than we were before.

TUCHMAN: The international campaign says Princess Diana's interest in the issue certainly helped the cause, as did the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize the organization received.

JODY WILLIAMS, INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO BAN LANDMINES: Before the peace prize, we used to go meet with embassies and we'd meet with the second cousin of the third secretary twice removed. And now we meet with the prime minister. So, yes, it does have a bit of an impact.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The organization believes its cause has momentum, and expects that in the not so distant future every nation will sign the Mine Ban Treaty.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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.

WALCOTT: In today's look at "Democracy in America," the U.S. presidential race isn't the only one too close to call. On November 7, voters here in the United States will also have to decide on some key Senate contests.

Chris Black has an overview of the choices on the ballot and the issues that could tip the balance of power in the U.S. Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... Sen. Spence Abraham!

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Senator Spence Abraham of Michigan is fighting for survival, one of six incumbent senators in tight races. All but one is a Republican.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: It's very, very close. There are about 10 Senate races that could go either way, from coast to coast.

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D-NJ), CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: There are fully five or six Senate contests across the country in the polling margin of error. It's anybody's game.

BLACK: The accidental death of Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, has taken one key race off the table. Carnahan's challenge had put Republican John Ashcroft in the endangered category.

But polls show races still too close to call against Republican incumbents in three states: Delaware, where Finance Committee Chairman Bill Roth faces a tough challenge from Democratic Governor Tom Carper; Washington, where Slade Gorton is fighting Democratic multimillionaire Maria Cantwell; and Montana, where Conrad Burns is in a tight battle against rancher Brian Schweitzer.

One other race isn't as close. In Minnesota, polls show incumbent Rod Grams trailing his Democratic challenger, Mark Dayton.

MCCONNELL: A lot of exposure, we're mostly on defense, so there are Maalox moments every day.

BLACK: Democrats are having their own Maalox moments in Virginia, where incumbent Chuck Robb is locked in a tight race against former Gov. George Allen, with most polls showing Robb trailing.

Democrats are feeling better about three states where Democratic incumbents are retiring: New York, where first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is running a strong race against Republican Rick Lazio; New Jersey, where businessman Jon Corzine has spent a record amount of his personal wealth to pull well ahead of GOP Congressman Bob Franks; and Nebraska, where former Governor Ben Nelson is favored to beat Attorney General Don Stenberg.

Two other open seats are likely to cancel each other out. Republican John Ensign is poised to pick up the seat of retiring Democrat Richard Bryan in Nevada, but Democrat Bill Nelson will likely pick up the seat of retiring Republican Connie Mack in Florida. The dominant issues in virtually all the campaigns are health care, Social Security, Medicare and education. Each traditionally favors Democrats. That is causing many Republicans to embrace those issues while reframing them in GOP terms. President Clinton said Democrats should not let them do it.

CLINTON: Their presidential strategy and now their congressional strategy is cloud the issues, things are doing well, they will get by. Our strategy should be, clarify the issues and we'll win big.

BLACK: Michigan's Spence Abraham is one who has effectively turned a Democratic issue his way. He opened up a lead earlier this year in part by proposing his own version of a prescription drug benefit, robbing his challenger, Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow, of her signature issue. Will it work? Opinions differ.

MCCONNELL: I think the Republican version of each of those issues is much more attractive to voters.

TORRICELLI: The chances are, in the end, you vote for the real thing; that is, the party that has always had credibility on those issues.

BLACK (on camera): Democratic hopes of reclaiming the Senate have declined since the death of Mel Carnahan, but observers are predicting whichever party controls the U.S. Senate next year will be operating with one of the narrowest margins in history.

Chris Black, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Some races to watch.

Well, we've heard a lot about the undecided voters this presidential election, so now the story of voters who've more than made up their minds. In fact, they've already cast their ballots.

Jennifer Auther tells us about new technology helping keep the decided electorate ahead of the curve.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Could this eventually spell the end of voting by punch card? Touch-screen computers similar to ATM machines at your bank are competing with the traditional ballot method in several counties in California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT)

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't miss this historic opportunity to cast an electronic vote for the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) AUTHER: Riverside County, with 700 polling sites, is the largest municipality in the United States to toss paper ballots in the general election and with mostly positive reviews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't find it that much different than the way I had voted in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm old fashioned. I don't trust computers.

AUTHER: Here's how it works: When you sign in at a polling place, precinct workers verify you're a registered voter and they activate a card.

CONNY MCCORMACK, LOS ANGELES COUNTY REGISTRAR-RECORDER: You do have to surrender your absentee ballot. We have to know that no one has an opportunity to vote twice.

AUTHER: Just like a bank ATM, you insert the card and up comes the ballot with your precinct. You then touch a box next to the candidate you like or touch a yes or no box on the initiatives, as demonstrated here.

MISCHELLE TOWNSEND, RIVERSIDE COUNTY REGISTRAR OF VOTERS: It's more accurate, it's quicker to tally the election results.

AUTHER: About 50 miles west, Los Angeles County is offering the touch-screen voting, but not on Election Day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's great. It's wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I liked the big letters because I think it will be great for visually impaired people.

AUTHER: It also helps L.A. County meet federal mandate offering voting in seven different languages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to know if, you know, it's working in Tagalog or any other language. It's good.

AUTHER (on camera): Votes stored on hard drives in these touch- screen ballot boxes will be tallied November 7 along with traditional absentee ballots.

(voice-over): After using touch-screen, voters get a sticker reading "I've touched the future."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully I voted for the right person and it'll pay off.

AUTHER: Jennifer Auther, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: What will they think of next?

That wraps it up for us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Bye-bye.

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