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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for December 7, 2000

Aired December 7, 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: Hi. I am Shelley Walcott. Hope you are ready for your Thursday NEWSROOM. From science to politics, we have it all covered. Here is a preview.

First up, candidates, courtrooms and counting, the latest on the legal wrangling over the U.S. presidential election.

We are blasting off in our "Daily Desk" to bring you science news from outer space.

Then, get ready to get wet. "Worldview" swimming upstream to check out what is happening with salmon.

Finally, we will travel between the United States and China to "Chronicle" how some adopted families are bridging cultural gaps.

On November 7, voters took to the polls to elect a 43rd United States president. Well, one month later, they are still waiting as the presidential dispute moves from one court to another.

The spotlight turns back to the Florida Supreme Court today, as attorneys for Al Gore and George W. Bush present arguments on Gore's appeal of a lower court ruling against additional hand counts.

Gore wants the court to set aside Bush's certified Florida victory and order an immediate court of 14,0000 disputed ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Bush attorneys say that would lead to massive uncertainty and discord.

Wednesday, a federal appeals court in Atlanta rejected a Bush appeal challenging the validity of manual recounts.

Another courtroom drama in Florida centers around a Democratic request to throw out thousands of absentee ballots that went largely for Bush. The lawsuit brought by voters alleges those ballot applications were tampered with by Republicans.

Despite uncertainty over who will take the White House January 20th, preparations are under way in Washington. Congressional leaders held a ceremony to kick off construction of a wooden platform on which the next president will be sworn in. The Florida courts have had lawsuits over absentee ballots before. One in particular, though, has set a legal precedent, which is likely to guide how the cases now involving Seminole and Martin Counties will be decided.

Charles Bierbauer has more on the Boardman case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUDGE NIKKI CLARK, LEON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Based on the language in the Boardman case, I am going to allow evidence to be presented.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boardman is the court's guiding principle, a 1975 Florida Supreme Court ruling that says: "We hold that the primary consideration in an election contest is whether the will of the people has been effected, carried out."

Absentee ballots were an issue in the 1972 election of a Florida judge.

TERENCE ANDERSON, UNIV. OF MIAMI LAW SCHOOL: Boardman stood for a murky proposition. Some of the ballots were clearly defective, but the court ruled that there were not enough clearly defective ballots to effect the outcome, and then ruled it was going to ignore insubstantial errors.

BIERBAUER: The state Supreme Court said: "Substantial compliance with the requirement of the absentee voting statute is all that is required to give legality to the absentee ballots."

Seminole County officials argue that standard ought to govern this case.

GREG MCNEIL, SEMINOLE CANVASSING BOARD ATTY.: What the Boardman case specifically says is that absent fraud, the judgments of a canvassing board and the county election boards judgments are considered to be presumptively correct.

BIERBAUER: To resolve the 1997 election of the Volusia County sheriff, the Florida Supreme Court cited the Boardman precedent, but added courts could void an election without fraud. "We are not holding that a court lacks authority to void an election if the court has found substantial unintentional failure to comply with statutory election procedures."

Absentee ballots were thrown out when Miami's 1997 mayoral election was reversed. Then a court found massive fraud.

GERALD KOGAN, FMR. FLORIDA SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: The judge threw out all the absentee ballots, not just those that were suspect, and that was looked upon as being the proper remedy in that situation.

BIERBAUER: And, as a consequence, Florida's legislature in 1998 tightened absentee ballot rules.

ANDERSON: And again seemingly reduced the standard to misconduct sufficient to place in doubt the result.

BIERBAUER (on camera): In the Seminole County case, the question before Judge Clark is less fraud than fairness, all framed by Boardman's will of the people test.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Inauguration day in the United States is just seven weeks away and it is still not clear who will be taking the oath of office. It is a frustrating situation for many Americans and nothing short of a nightmare for some of Washington's caterers, event planners and hotels.

Bob Beard looks at the impact the election deadlock is having on them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB BEARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Normally, a month after the presidential election, all 900 rooms at Washington's Grand Hyatt Hotel would have been snapped up with big money deposits from the party that won the White House in November, but these are not normal times.

MARC ELLIN, GRAND HYATT WASHINGTON: From a financial perspective, we are waiting for millions of dollars to come into our coffers.

BEARD: Also waiting, downtown Washington's Ritz-Carlton, run by the Marriott chain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome.

BEARD: It's pitching a four-night inaugural package for the well-heeled: luxury suite, private butler, pick-up by private learjet, VIP parade seating. Cost? A mere $150,000. So far, though, nobody has anted up.

JAMES MCBRIDE, RITZ-CARLTON WASHINGTON: The time is getting short for us to indeed sell this package, that is working against us a little bit, yes.

BEARD: Uncertainty for caterers, too. Will the theme be Democratic donkeys or GOP elephants; Texas or Tennessee barbeque?

(on camera): Washington's oldest and largest catering company does about a half a million dollars in business just on Inauguration Day alone.

SUSAN LACZ, RIDGEWELLS CATERERS: Our window of opportunity for making big money is getting slimmer and slimmer, so as -- the longer we wait, the more parties are getting canceled.

BEARD (voice-over): Event planners say the longer the election battle goes on, the tougher and more expensive it will be to organize on short notice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's -- it is going to be a push, obviously.

BEARD: Inaugurals can bring in over $100 million to the Washington area. The question now: Will the winner go all out to celebrate, or will January 20 be a low-key affair, with Americans exhausted and divided over the result?

Bob Beard, CNN Financial News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: We focus on the planets in our "Science Desk." You have probably learned the names of the planets, but do you know what a planet actually is? Well, according to one dictionary, a planet is any of the large bodies that revolve around the sun in the solar system, or a similar body associated with another star.

But that definition may need an update, as Jim Hill explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a starry night, the constellation Orion can be seen easily with the naked eye. But deep within this star formation, researchers have found something unusual. What appears to be the only photographic evidence of rogue planets, floating freely outside our solar system.

MARIA ROSA ZAPATERO-OSORIO, CALIF. INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: It is telling us that this objects are very close to planets, much closer to planets than to a star.

HILL: Planets are thought to form as clouds of matter surrounding a star collapsed from their own gravity, creating spheres that continue orbiting the mother star. This would explain the Earth and the eight other planets in our solar system orbiting the sun.

But the reddish, planet-like spheres reported in the journal, "Science," by a team of Spanish, German and American researchers appear to be floating without such an orbit. Essentially, planets without a sun.

ZAPATERO-OSORIO: This is one property of these objects that breaks the definition of a traditional planet.

HILL: Researchers used telescopes in Hawaii, Spain and the Canary Islands to analyze the 18 objects and measure the range of light emitted from them. This is the first time images of such bodies have been captured.

CHARLES BEICHMAN, JET PROPULSION LABORATORY: We'll have the knowledge base from which to assess the importance of these and be along the path to finding out how planets like our own Earth actually formed and what their long-term evolution will be.

HILL: If the research is accurate, the objects have planet-like temperatures, right around freezing.

(on camera): Because the objects meet some definitions of a planet, but not others, the researchers say their discovery could also be a first step in redefining what a planet is.

Jim Hill, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: In "Worldview," food and fish top our agenda, and we'll pack in some paciderms too. We'll head to North Korea and Afghanistan, two countries struggling to feed their hungry populations. We'll also visit Cambodia to learn about an animal with a big impact. And we'll turn to the United States, where certain fish face a threat.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: We're off to the western part of the United States now to follow the migration of the Pacific salmon, a fish that spends its entire life with one goal: to reproduce and then die. Salmons can migrate more than 1,000 miles or 1,600 kilometers up river to spawn their eggs in lakes or streams. Pacific salmon live much of their life in the ocean. Then, as adults, they return to the stream where they were hatched to spawn the next generation of salmon.

Our next story focuses on the plight of salmon in the Columbia Basin and Snake River, and classic case of man versus nature.

Natalie Pawelski reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An ancient migration, hundreds of miles long, upstream all the way. Back in the 1800s, up to 16 million salmon made their way up the Columbia River each year. Now only a few hundred thousand wild fish make the trip.

DOUG ARNDT, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: If we don't do something, it's guaranteed the fish are going to go extinct. So we've got to make that effort. We are legally bound to do it and we're morally bound to do it.

PAWELSKI: The big question is how to do it. The fiercest controversy swirls around four of the dams blocking a Columbia River tributary, the Snake River, in desert-dry eastern Washington. Conservationists and some fishermen and native tribes want the dams removed to save four runs of threatened fish.

JIM MARTIN, PURE FISHING: Seventy percent of the best remaining habitat in this whole basin is dealing with those four dams. Those four dams are choking these runs apart.

PAWELSKI (on camera): The Army Corps of Engineers says breaching Ice Harbor Dam and the three other dams on the lower Snake River would be a nine-year project. The Corps, which runs the dams, estimates the cost at $1 billion.

(voice-over): Punching holes in the dams would also cost the Northwest 4 percent of its electricity. The region would also lose water for irrigation and navigation. The dams and their locks let Idaho run a deep-water port 400 miles inland. Farmers and others say you can save salmon and keep the dams.

BRUCE LOVELIN, COLUMBIA RIVER ALLIANCE: We know that we need to look broader than the dams. We need to look at habitat, freshwater habitat. We need to change the way we harvest the fish.

ARNDT: Just this idea of breach the dams and everything is fixed? That's myopic and misleading to the people.

PAWELSKI: The Clinton administration's new salmon plan would leave the dams in place while boosting river flow to help the fish on their journey, improving habitat, and changing fishing regulations and hatchery rules.

BRIAN BROWN, NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE: We are trying to take on an aggressive set of measures that we think will tell us once and for all if we can have salmon survive and recover with the dams in place.

PAWELSKI: Critics say that question has already been answered.

NICOLE CORDAN, SAVE OUR WILD SALMON: We're planning on spending more money, more billions of dollars in order to do the same things that we've been doing for the last 25 years that we've shown, that science has shown just isn't working for these fish.

MARTIN: It's tinkering around the politically acceptable edge of the problem. We'll end up wasting a lot of money doing good stuff, but not doing the critical stuff that will allow these fish to survive.

PAWELSKI: Salmon-saving efforts already include tracking with computerized tags and radio transmitters. Ladders help big fish upstream; barges carry young fish downstream.

But the Columbia Basin's salmon runs continue to dwindle, their migration, an irresistible force of nature, meeting what may prove to be some immovable objects.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN, Cascade Locks, Oregon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Next stop: Korea, a land in Eastern Asia consisting of two states. One is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly called North Korea; the other if the Republic of Korea, known also as South Korea. Ruled as a unified Japanese colony until the end of World War II. The Korean formed separate governments in 1948. Communist North Korean forces invaded non-communist South Korea in 1950, launching the Korean War. The war ended three years later without a clear victor, and a without a permanent peace treaty. It was one of History's bloodiest wars, killing or injuring nearly 2.2 million troops, about a million civilians also lost their lives.

Today, North Korea faces another battle, one less violent but with widespread damage.

Rebecca MacKinnon explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has been five years since natural disasters, food shortages and hunger first hit North Korea. But thanks to an influx of international aid, the World Food Program says many of North Korea's most innocent and vulnerable citizens, its children, have been saved.

JEN-JACQUES GRAISSE, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: When you visit a kindergarten today, you will find an active, alive group of kids, who basically look in good shape. When you look at the kindergarten, you are in front of kids who basically look their age, which I can tell you was not the case three years ago, and certainly not four years ago.

MACKINNON: But, aid officials say, their work is not finished. Due to bad weather, this year's harvest will be worse than last year's. They say the problem is exacerbated because North Korea's industry is in a shambles. There are no factories working to make fertilizer or farm equipment needed to boost harvests and to break the country's dependency on international aid. More aid is expected as North Korea's relations with South Korea, the United States, and other countries continue to improve. But it will take business investment from those counties to get North Korea's factories working again.

GRAISSE: The economy is bound to improve in this warming up of relations, particularly with the south. I don't know if anyone else is going to rush in there and try to best it.

MACKINNON: Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: More on hunger, as we turn to Afghanistan, a country in southwestern Asia, and one of the least developed nations in the world. Most of the people are farmers and many use old fashioned methods of farming and old tools. Agricultural efforts are hampered by a shortage of modern machinery and high-quality seeds.

And, as Nic Robertson explains, years of drought have worsened the situation, threatening the livelihoods of millions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With patience that belies their desperation, tens of thousands of drought-stricken Afghans wait for food. Each 50 kilogram sack of wheat hurried off as soon as it is given. five bags per family to last until spring, in this, the biggest free food distribution this year. However, the harsh drought and the race to feed the worst off before winter isolates them is leaving aid agencies with little food for next year.

GERARD VAN DIJK, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM AFGHAN DIRECTOR: We have underestimated the severity of the drought and we have accelerated our delivery programs, normally what is meant to finish later in the year is now finishing in February.

ROBERTSON: A shortfall that will coincide with the most needy period for farmers, already our of reserves.

GHULAM HAZARAT, ENGLISH TEACHER: The people get to their crop in fall, so it is between spring and fall they won't have anything to eat. So it is very important to deliver food, especially wheat.

ROBERTSON: Without donor commitments to meet their 150,000 ton deficit in spring, aid workers fear as many as a million people could face starvation. Already in outlying villages the situation is bleak. In harder to reach areas, aid officials say, people are already eating roots to survive. And experts fear donor fatigue for Afghanistan's many years in crisis may undermine the importance of their calls for help now.

ANNE WOOD, DROUGHT PROGRAM COORDINATOR: It is terrible is a situation where you felt you had to wait until you see people dying, until you see the cadavers, until you can say: Please send money.

ROBERTSON (on camera): For now, at least, the latest aid delivery should ensure that most here have enough food to see them through the winter. Many Afghans are now hoping that their beneficiaries in the United States and Europe recognize the severity of their plight in time to help them.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Chockchuran (ph), Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Now to a country in the southeast of Asia, Cambodia, a country still reeling from the repercussions of the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. IN 1975, Khmer Rouge communists, led by Pol Pot, took control of Cambodia. At least one million Cambodians are believed to have died under the Pol Pot regime, as a result of execution, starvation and disease. Though the Khmer Rouge government was overthrown in 1979, it left a legacy of brutality and impoverishment that still plaques the country today.

A quick look around the capital, Phnom Penh, or the ancient Ingor (ph) Temples and it is easy to see that elephants once played a prominent role in Cambodian society. There are scores of carvings, sculptures and monuments that pay homage to these mammals.

In Cambodian mythology, elephants represent rain and are believed to have healing powers. But now, as a result of decades of civil war and poaching, they have become a rarity in this impoverished nation. The government is working in a law to protect Cambodia's indigenous wildlife, but the laws have not been put in place, and there are few consequences for those who kill animals, like elephants, for medicinal purposes. Last year, the ministry of agriculture confiscated these two young elephants from the wildlife trade industry. They are now living at Phnom Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Rescue Center, and are being trained to cooperate with humans to perform traditional tasks, like moving logs or carrying people.

The government is hoping elephants will eventually play a central role in the country's burgeoning tourism industry, and emerge once again as an important part of Cambodian society.

WALCOTT: Today's "Chronicle" starts out in the Asian nation of China, home to about one-fifth of the world's population. To help curb population growth, the Chinese government has imposed family planning restrictions. It also allows for the international adoption of Chinese orphans. Since 1993, there have been more than 10,000 children adopted and brought to the United States. These adoptees live thousands of miles from their birthplace, far removed from their native culture. But some adoptive parents are making great strides to help their children hold on to their heritage.

Student Bureau reporter Violet Feng has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUI YUE, AGE 6: My Chinese name is Qui Yue. My American name is Katirri (ph).

VIOLET FENG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Qui Yue was adopted from the orphanage in central China, when she was only nine months old. There are 21,000 adopted Chinese children in America, like Qui Yue, and most of them are girls. Each has a unique story.

JANE GOODWIN, ADOPTIVE PARENT: Well, we got there and, you know, the night before, when we got into the hotel -- open the hotel room door, where they had us to stay, and then we saw the crib, and that's when I started -- that when I cried, I was like, we're going to have a baby. And the next morning, there she was with all the children there together. It was great. I was just holding her, looking at her, and letting her hold my finger.

FENG: Now she is six.

DAVID GOODWIN, ADOPTIVE PARENT: What does it mean?

YUE: Good morning, boys and girls.

D. GOODWIN: Good morning, that's it.

YUE: Jane and David were in their 40s when they adopted Qui Yue, began to study Chinese even before the adoption. They said even the baby needs a cultural identity.

Qui Yue attends a Chinese language class and dance class every weekend. She has made a lot of Chinese friends she says. She says Chinese dance is her favorite, especially after giving the Panda dance performance.

J. GOODWIN: But it's mostly that she does learn about her culture, her land, more about -- not just the language and the dance, but the people.

FENG: Many families who have adopted a Chinese children have formed a support group around the country. They help each other with Chinese culture, through newsletters, play groups, and celebrations of Chinese festivals.

ROXANNE LAU, FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN FROM CHINA: All of us share an interest in making sure that are children grow up to be well adjusted, accept their adoptions as something that is just perfectly natural to them, that they maintain their Chinese heritage, which we promised China that we would do, and they keep in touch with each other.

FENG (on camera): Most of the Chinese children were adopted when they were less than 18 months old, and sometimes adoptive parents find it difficult to give their Chinese children an education in Chinese culture.

D. GOODWIN: When you're four years old, sitting in a chair for an hour or for two hours, it's just not fun.

GAIL FENG, CHINESE LANGUAGE SCHOOL, EMORY UNIVERSITY: It is very challenging because kids at this age, their attention span is very limited, it's hard to get them to learn Chinese.

FENG (voice-over): Gail Feng uses a lot of Chinese games and songs in class to get the children at least a sense of the language. Later in their life, they will have a way to celebrate and honor their heritage.

LAU: The Chinese community we have found -- Chinese American community we have found here in Atlanta is very, very open to working with our groups. They are thrilled that we're contacting them. We're thrilled that they're wanting to work with us, as far as teaching our children and things like that.

FENG: And more children are coming every year. Some families have adopted a second or even a third child.

David, Jane, and Qui Yue are going to China to adopt another daughter who is 14 months old.

Qui Yue says she will help her little sister dress up and take good care of her. She will share her favorite Chinese song with her new sibling.

As Katirri Goodwin, she will grow up as a Chinese-American, but as Qui Yue, which means Autumn Moon, she will know that wherever she is, she always has a home in China.

J. GOODWIN: You know, an autumn moon time, we talk about you know the full moon and any time you can look up at the moon and your mom and dad in China, and your family in China are looking at the same moon.

FENG: Violet Feng, CNN Student Bureau. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: That's a great story.

For now, I am out of here. Bye-Bye.

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