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NEWSROOM for December 8, 2000Aired December 8, 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.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: It's Friday. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, this is NEWSROOM. Welcome. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.
We have a lot to tell you about today. So let's get started.
The U.S. presidential elections makes today's headlines. Find out the latest in our top story.
Then hold on, coming up in "Editor's Desk," we'll check out some ballet hunks.
Can't get enough of "Swan Lake"? Then hang on for "Worldview." We're still ballet dancing in Cuba.
And if dancing's not your thing, then we have a ticket to ride in "Chronicle," but only if you proceed with caution.
The United States presidential dispute takes center stage in Florida's highest court. The justices' ruling could be the final curtain call for election 2000.
The Florida Supreme Court is considering what could be Vice President Al Gore's last election appeal. The Gore campaign asked the justices Thursday to overturn a lower court ruling, which said there's no reason to hand count thousands of disputed ballots.
Attorneys for George W. Bush said the court doesn't have the authority to order the hand count.
On another front, rulings are expected soon in two absentee ballot cases in front of two circuit court judges. Democrats say thousands of absentee votes in Seminole and Martin counties should be discarded because Republicans tampered with ballot applications. A ruling in favor of the Democrats could catapult Gore into the lead in Florida.
Meanwhile, Florida's GOP-controlled legislature is gearing up for a special session to choose the state's 25 presidential electors should Gore's legal challenges still be going on.
The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature says it wants to make sure the state's voters are represented when the Electoral College meets December 18th to pick the next U.S. president.
Now Mike Boettcher looks at controversy surrounding the legislature's special session.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's historic and it's very emotional.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fort Apache, Tallahassee. Outnumbered almost two-to-one by Republicans, Florida's House Democrats meet to plan their defense in the upcoming special session.
LOIS FRANKEL (D), FLORIDA HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Don't anyone get, like, overanxious and feel like you have to save the world, OK?
BOETTCHER: Words of advice from Democratic House leader, Lois Frankel, who is determined not to surrender, but who knows her party is about to be overrun by Republicans legislators. Her fellow Democrats vow not to go down quietly.
KENNETH GOTTLIEB (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: The most important thing for us to do is to speak out and let the world know what's really happening instead of all the rhetoric and spin that people hear because this is definitely not what the Constitution says that we're supposed to do. It's illegal.
RON GREENSTEIN (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: We're taking the will of the people and changing the will of the people by just a political decision and shame on us for doing that. Shame on us.
BOETTCHER: But across the Capitol, Republican Senator Dan Webster says politics didn't drive him to be the first to warn fellow Republicans that a special session would be needed. It was the U.S. Constitution. He told that to a group of senators on November 10th.
DANIEL WEBSTER (R), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: There, I just said I just want to let everyone know, based on what the U.S. Constitution said, we may be right in the middle of this whole matter.
BOETTCHER: His fellow senators laughed then, but three weeks later, there was Webster, sitting on the Republican-dominated legislative committee that recommended that Florida lawmakers name its own slate of presidential electors.
He rejects the notion that Republicans are trying to steal the election. He believes if action isn't taken, Democrats could steal it.
WEBSTER: Our inaction on tainted electors will elect Al Gore by default as president of the United States if that situation arises because our electors won't be counted. He'll win by less than a majority, less than 270 votes, but he will win the presidency.
So, if they are able to paint a picture that we don't need to act, don't believe it on principle. It's on the election of another person other than George W. Bush.
BOETTCHER (on camera): The special session is expected to move quickly with the resolution naming the legislature 25 electors passed by Wednesday. But both sides know the impact of what they do and how they do it could be felt for years after their anticipated historic vote.
Mike Boettcher, CNN, Tallahassee.
BAKHTIAR: OK, ready for a pop quiz? Here goes. What do Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev and Arthur Mitchell have in common? The answer is: ballet. These three guys gained their fame and fortune as ballet dancers.
OK stop looking so surprised. Didn't think guys and ballet added up to cool? Well, think again.
Cynthia Tornquist explains.
CYNTHIA TORNQUIST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The premise of "Billy Elliot" is that real men don't do ballet, or do they?
PETER MARTINS, NEW YORK CITY BALLET: Hey, sissy. Teasing and all that stuff. But, that will always be there.
TORNQUIST: The ballet master of the New York City Ballet, Peter Martins, says the "Billy Elliot" scenario is a familiar one to him.
MARTINS: Well, I began to sort of like it when I began to realize that I was pretty good at it. And I would say around ten, eleven, maybe twelve I looked at everybody next to me, and I thought I was better. And that's when the competitive spirit in me took over.
VINCENT PARADISO, BALLET STUDENT: I saw the movie "White Knights" with Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, and I saw Baryshnikov pull off 8 or 9 pirouettes. And I was like I want to do that.
TORNQUIST: Baryshnikov re-enforced the masculine role in the ballet world. His strength and charm made him a sex symbol to many women. And there were others. When Alexander Godunov retired he turned to film acting. That's him in the first "Die Hard" movie.
So, who says real men don't do ballet?
MARTINS: You better be sure you like it.
TORNQUIST: Because it's not a job for just any man and it requires heavy lifting.
Cynthia Tornquist, CNN Entertainment News, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BAKHTIAR: On Friday, our theme is the way humans communicate with each other, through the arts, literature and technology. Those are some of the areas we explore in "Worldview" today. Our stories take us to China to help find out how people count. We'll also visit North and South Korea, where a new film tries to splice a divided peninsula. And more on bridging borders as we turn to the United States and Cuba.
But, first, we're in Europe, where European Union leaders are meeting in Nice, France. One major hot topic is the Mad Cow Disease, which has recently resurfaced in different parts of Europe. On the table before E.U. members is the question: Who pays for the Mad Cow crisis?
Meantime, those leaders want to extend a new six-month ban on meat-based animal feeds permanently to help curb the spread of the disease.
With more on the disease, here's Tom Bogdanowicz.
TOM BOGDANOWICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The parallels between Mad Cow Disease, BSE, and the fatal human disease, Variant CJD, are striking. Both destroy brain tissue and both are caused, not by a bacterium or a virus, but by infectious proteins called prions.
Yet compelling scientific evidence linking the two was not available until four years ago after 10 people died from Variant CJD.
TIM LANG, THAMES VALLEY UNIVERSITY: What the scientists discovered, after these 10 cases were dead, by comparing the brain tissue of the dead victims, the human victims, with slides of brain tissues of dead cows was that this was the same disease. In other words, the nightmare had happened. It had jumped from cows to humans.
BOGDANOWICZ: Further work on mice and hamsters provided more evidence of similarities between BSE and Variant CJD. It also showed that the disease could be transmitted from species to species in the laboratory.
The missing piece of the puzzle is a direct connection between an infected animal and a human victim of Variant CJD. It's something that may never come.
PETER RUDMAN, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: I think that the ethical considerations surrounding experimentation on human beings is such that, I think quite rightly so, that one cannot conduct experiments on human beings that one can conduct on animals in a laboratory or animals in the field.
So I think the 100 percent proof is almost impossible to achieve.
BOGDANOWICZ: Until more evidence emerges, our understanding of Variant CJD and BSE will remain limited. A recent 4,000-page British report raises as many questions as it provides answers. For example, the original cause of BSE in cattle is still unknown. It could have been a single mutation in one animal, then spread through meat and bone meal. It's not certain which animals are free of the disease. Healthy creatures may carry harmful prions, even though they show no symptoms. And the method of transmission from cows to humans is not fully established.
LANG: There are a number of possible other interpretations beside food. It could be by taking, ingesting an infected dose, a minute amount of contaminated infected material, through coating of a pill, a medical pill. It could be through a vaccine. It could be through blood samples. It could be through all sorts of possibilities.
BOGDANOWICZ: For the population at large, one of the most significant unknowns is how quickly and how widely Variant CJD may spread. A key issue is the incubation period for Variant CJD, the time from first infection until symptoms appear. It could be 10 years. It may be 20 or 30.
PETER SMITH, BSE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: If we knew the incubation period, we'd know how far into the epidemic we were. If it was 10 years, we'd know that we were substantially into the epidemic because we think the exposure was around 10 years ago. if the average incubation period is 30 or 40 years, then of course we're only a short way into this epidemic.
BOGDANOWICZ (on camera): Conservative forecasts from a study by British scientists at Oxford University expect Variant CJD numbers to rise into the hundreds. In the scientists; worst case scenario, however, there could be more than 130,000 cases in Britain alone.
Until a cure found for Variant CJD, the best hope is that the measures taken to stem BSE will minimize the spread of its human form.
Tom Bogdanowicz, CNN Financial News, London.
BAKHTIAR: There is another sign the historically icy relations between the United States and Cuba are slowly beginning to thaw. The two countries have been at odds ever since communist leader Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. It's still illegal for U.S. companies and citizens to do much business in Cuba, but this past October the U.S. Congress finally voted to allow sales of food and medicine to its southern neighbor.
For the most part, American tourists still aren't allowed to travel there. But there are an increasing number of cultural changes. Among them is an American ballet with some Cuban roots that is taking its act to Havana.
Lucia Newman has the story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: If the music sounds familiar here, it's because the Washington Ballet has brought part of Cuba back to Cuba. This ballet, choreographed by the company's artistic director, Septime Webre, was inspired by the memories of his Cuban-born mother and two aunts, Mercedes and Betty, whose faces from an old photograph serve as the backdrop.
SEPTIME WEBRE, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON BALLET: I've used music that my parents danced to when they were young and I grew up hearing in my household, so it's been a very personal work.
And five, six, seven eight...
NEWMAN: But what started as a personal search for his Cuban roots has turned into a much broader project called "Dialogues in Dance." The participation, for the first time since the revolution, of an American dance company in Cuba's International Ballet Festival has helped draw record crowds in this country where ballet is already extremely popular.
But the Washington Ballet, which is accompanied by a large entourage of community leaders, arts critics and entrepreneurs hopes its visit will do more than just acquaint Cubans with its more modern, unique style of dance.
WEBRE: This cultural exchange can be one of the catalysts for a warmer relationship between the people's of both countries and, certainly I hope -- I think governments' policies have to follow people's desires.
NEWMAN: But at least the next step, says Webre, will be to repeat this experience -- but in Washington, with Cuba's National Ballet, which he's sure will also be a sensation.
Lucia Newman, CNN, Havana.
SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: On to China, the world's largest country in population. China is located in Eastern Asia. A whopping one-fifth of the world's people live there. China has more than 3,000 years of recorded history. It's one of the few existing countries that has flourished economically and culturally since early civilization.
The Chinese have made very significant contributions to the world. They were the first to develop, among other things, the compass, paper, and silk. China's contributions to art, literature and technology has also prompted the rest of the world to stand up and take notice.
But these days, it's the Chinese people who are standing up to be counted. The country recently undertook a major census, as Lisa Weaver reports.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the streets, villages and cities of China some 5 million census takers launch the largest ever count of human beings. There are 350 million households to visit in a coordinated effort spread out over 10 days.
The questions go beyond asking where people live. Zhao Jin Rong (ph), 36 years old, married for 13 years, security guard at the village brick factory. Deaths in the family and new additions. It's all recorded here.
China's census will attempt to paint a detailed picture of how people live, what they earn and what they consume. Information, census takers say, that national planners will use to predict how China develops.
(on camera): This is China's 5th census in modern times. The first count of its people since 1990. In the decade since then, more people than ever before are on the move. By most estimates, roughly 100 million migrant laborers are floating to where the work brings them.
(voice-over): To a vegetable market in the Chinese capital, for these people. The floating population is established enough now that some are officially registered. A contrast with years past when China's mobile society operated largely underground.
These men from nearby Henan Province say they've been living legally in Beijing for 10 years. The census will try to find out how many of China's estimated 1.3 billion citizens are living in the economic margins.
Demographers will also look to the census for clues about unregistered children. Those on the move are more easily able to evade China's national policy of one child per family. But how many more people there are, compared with current expectations, won't be known for another year when the final census figures come out.
Lisa Weaver, CNN, Beijing.
BAKHTIAR: Now on to the divided country of Korea, located in eastern Asia. Korea consists of two states. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, which has a communist government. And the Republic of Korea, a non-communist state, usually called South Korea.
Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 until the end of World War II in 1945. After Japan's defeat in the war, Korea was divided and separate governments were formed in 1948.
In 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea, signaling the beginning of the Korean War. Though the war ended in 1953, neither side won a complete victory and a permanent peace treaty has never been signed. A buffer zone, called the demilitarized zone, was created to divide the two sides. It was about 2 1/2 miles or 4 kilometers wide along the battle line.
Now a new Korean movie is shedding light on the precarious nature of the security zone. Sohn Jie-ae reports on Korea's box office hit.
SOHN JIE-AE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The film, a mystery, surrounds a gunfight in the northern section of the JSA, or joint security area, also the movie's title. As the mystery is unraveled, viewers learn about a secret friendship that develops between South and North Korean soldiers who are supposed to be guarding against each other at the world's most heavily-fortified border. A relationship crushed by the ideological differences between the two Koreas.
This young woman says she was moved by the human drama of the film.
"Our generation really doesn't really have much hostility against the north," says this university student. "I liked seeing a movie that reflected that."
Just the message that movie makers wanted to send.
PARK CHAN-WOOK, DIRECTOR, "JOINT SECURITY AREA": I want people to question whether we should be treating North Korea as our greatest enemy.
JIE-AE: And ever since the first-ever summit between the two Koreas in June, the idea of North Korea becoming friend rather than foe has surfaced time and again in the South's media.
This TV ad for an Internet portal says the Internet can break down the barriers of the mind, and promises a better future for the soldiers guarding the tense border.
(on camera): While this new euphoria surrounding North Korea is spreading rapidly across the country, it is certainly not without its critics.
(voice-over): "It's a lie, just a lie," says this group of veterans who served in the Joint Security Area. They broke into the production offices of the film and demanded the filmmakers apologize for the wrong they were doing to the soldiers who actually served on the border.
But Director Park says the film is not meant to show what actually goes on between the two Koreas. He says it's just a small attempt to try to overcome the tragic division.
Sohn Jie-ae, CNN, Seoul.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BAKHTIAR: A repair on the International Space Station went off without a hitch Thursday as the crew of space shuttle Endeavour has completed its third and final spacewalk.
Miles O'Brien has more on the high-flying mission.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the kind of moment astronauts live for, a $600 million piece of space gear, broken and vulnerable, and they, only they, can save the day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, Endeavour, we are now tensioning the right blanket box.
O'BRIEN: And, in half the time allotted by their ground controllers, that is precisely what Endeavour crewmen Joe Tanner and Carlos Noriega did, during the third and final spacewalk of this construction run to Space Station Alpha.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were very skilled. They have to feel really good about how it went.
O'BRIEN: The story began Sunday. The newly attached 110-foot paper-thin solar wing bunched up as it unfurled. The resulting ripple effect derailed some cables designed to keep the array taut and stout. Almost the instant NASA engineers saw the problem, they unleashed their reservoir of can-do karma. Literally immersing a team to find a fix.
Astronaut Dave Wolf jetted off to the California clean room where the arrays were built to refine a technique for putting the cables back on their spring loaded spools. Before turning in on Wednesday, the spacewalkers got their floating orders.
JERRY ROSS, ASTRONAUT: That's correct. The video that we sent you was Dave Wolf's probably fifteenth attempt or so, and, he had a fairly steep learning curve.
O'BRIEN: But the astronauts got it right the first time, and then pawed their way to the top of the space station to attach a device that will measure the electrical field around the solar arrays. On it, a picture of an evergreen, an old ironworker's tradition when a new structure reaches its zenith.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We topped out this structure with this evergreen tree. No bad luck can fall on this building now.
O'BRIEN: And while most ironworkers avoid looking down, helmet- camera equipped Carlos Noriega couldn't resist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives us a great idea of just how high up you guys are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives me a great idea of how high I am.
O'BRIEN: In this case, that first step truly is a doozy.
Miles O'Brien, CNN.
BAKHTIAR: Any physical activity carries some risk of personal injury. And as kids around the United States and the world are enjoying scooters, the bumps, bruises and breaks are adding up. More than 9400 scooter-related injuries in the U.S. were reported between January and August of this year. Kids under 14 account for 90 percent of those injuries.
Now, two manufacturers, in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, are recalling almost 100,000 mini-scooters for safety reasons.
Here's Don Knapp.
DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For most parents, allowing kids to ride scooters may be risk enough, but ride scooters that come apart? It's happened four times on scooters built by Kent Manufacturing. Handles fell off, causing injuries, including broken arms, to children riding them. Kent has declined comment.
Now the firm is recalling 90,000 of its Kickin' Mini Scooters. The Consumer Products Safety Commission says kids should immediately stop riding the Kent Kickin' scooters. And parents should call Kent International for a free replacement handlebar and securing pins.
The government has similar advice for owners of 7,500 Kash 'n' Gold Racer X20 scooters. Two children were injured when a plastic "T" joint between the handlebars broke. Consumers can call Kash 'n' Gold for a refund, or a new scooter.
In a prepared statement, Kash 'n' Gold said, "Virtually every racer X20 scooter available at retail today has the safe required metal 'T' joint between handlebars. We have already removed from the retail shelves all the unsold scooters that are part of this voluntary recall."
The recall affects a relatively small percentage of the estimated two to five million mini-scooters sold this past year. But all raise safety questions.
ANN BROWN, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION: These are not your grandmother's scooters from the '50s. These are lightweight, aluminum, collapsible, and they have roller blade wheels that make them go really fast.
KNAPP: Since January, 30,000 scooter-related injuries have been treated in U.S. emergency rooms; 8,600 in the month of September alone; 85 percent of the injured are children under 15.
The American Medical Association says scooters are generally OK, as long as kids wear helmets, knee and elbow pads. Two scooter- related deaths have been reported: a 6-year-old who rode in traffic and was struck by a car and an adult man who fell off a scooter and hit his head while trying to teach his daughter how to ride.
Don Knapp, CNN, San Francisco.
BAKHTIAR: For more information on the recalled scooters call the following toll-free numbers in the United States.
In the meantime here are some safety tips. As always, be sure to wear properly-fitted protective gear; check out your scooter before hopping on; be sure there are no broken or loose parts; always ride on smooth, paved surfaces; avoid riding on sand, gravel, dirt or wet surfaces; and never hitch a ride on a car, bus or bike.
Be safe, have fun and have a great weekend.
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