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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for December 11, 2000

Aired December 11, 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: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Shelley Walcott.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: And I'm Rudi Bakhtiar. Here's a look at what's coming up.

WALCOTT: We begin at the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears arguments regarding the U.S. race for president.

BAKHTIAR: Moving away from politics, we get fired up about the environment in today's "Daily Desk."

WALCOTT: Hold on. Things are getting shaky in "Worldview" as we learn about earthquakes.

BAKHTIAR: And we're back in the U.S. for "Chronicle." We'll travel to the state of California where a power shortage is causing problems.

WALCOTT: America's month-long presidential dispute returns to the U.S. Supreme Court today for what could be the last legal battle of election 2000. At issue is whether to hand count some 43,000 disputed ballots in Florida.

The weekend began with the Florida Supreme Court ruling in favor of new ballot hand counts. The tallying began Saturday but didn't last long. The U.S. Supreme Court stepped in and ordered the counting to stop. Now the nation's highest court will hear arguments on whether the "undervote" -- ballots that show no clear vote for president -- should be counted.

Lawyers for George W. Bush want the justices to reverse Friday's Florida Supreme Court decision and end the ballot hand counts. Al Gore's attorneys say voters have the right to have their votes counted.

The justices' 5-4 order granting Bush's request for a stay and agreeing to hear arguments stated, quote: "It suffices to say that the issuance of the stay suggests that a majority of the court, while not deciding the issues present, believes that the petitioner has a substantial probability of success." BAKHTIAR: With the ballot counting temporarily halted, the Florida recount legal marathon returns to the U.S. Supreme Court for what could be the final act in this presidential...

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): State police delivered records from the Florida Supreme Court as the U.S. Supreme Court prepared for a second look at the Florida recount.

The justices must decide if Florida's recount should be permanently halted or allowed to resume. Gov. Bush's attorneys say the Florida Supreme Court's vote counting regime "... would be conducted according to varying -- and unspecified -- standards, by officials unspecified in Florida's election law, and according to an ambiguous and apparently unknowable timetable."

JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: You don't do it in effect by changing the rules after the game has been played.

BIERBAUER: Not so, Gore's attorneys contend: "The Florida court did not 'make law' or establish any new legal standards that conflict with legislative enactments."

WARREN CHRISTOPHER, OBSERVER FOR GORE CAMPAIGN: There's a long tradition in the Supreme Court of giving deference to the supreme court of the various states in interpreting state law.

BIERBAUER: Bush contends the Florida ruling violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution: "Voters who cast identical ballots in different counties will likely have their ballots counted differently." Gore counters: "The Florida Supreme Court expressly granted petitioners, (meaning Bush), the relief they sought with respect to a statewide recount."

MARTIN FLAHERTY, FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL: The court well may send the case back to the Florida Supreme Court with the direction that a recount can continue but only if there are uniform, state-wide standards.

BIERBAUER: The court was unanimous when it first told the Florida court to better explain its rulings. Saturday's 5-4 order to halt the recount showed the court divided, perhaps on ideological lines.

AKHIL AMAR, YALE LAW SCHOOL: It's very important, if they're 5- 4, that the five have very good reasons.

BIERBAUER: The justices worked through the weekend. And dozens camped out on the court's sidewalk hoping for the few public seats in the courtroom Monday. The Supreme Court is rarely thrust into a spotlight this intense.

RICHARD SEMIATIN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think that, you know, they're caught in this cauldron of political events, this tempest that we're seeing today in our political system. BIERBAUER (on camera): The justice are expected to rule quickly. Electors are supposed to be chosen by Dec. 12 in order to vote Dec. 18. But no court has ever said those dates absolutely have to be met.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: The United States presidential election has divided much of America. Many people just can't agree on when the election should end or who should win it. What effect will this have on the legitimacy of the next president?

Kelly Wallace takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. Supreme Court may decide election 2000, a decision that may not be unanimous. The high court, in a 5-4 split, temporarily halted the manual recount Saturday, quite a different story from the unanimity in politically potent needle cases of the past, such as 1974 when the court ordered President Nixon to turn over secret Watergate tape recordings.

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: I think what the court really has to ask itself is that, does it want to go down in history as the most activist, interventionist court in a political matter?

WALLACE: But Republicans charge the high court is simply looking at this constitutional question.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: ... of whether you can have an equal vote for every person in Florida if the individual canvassing boards are making different decisions...

WALLACE: Just days earlier, the Florida Supreme Court ordered the recounts of undervotes in a 4-3 decision, yet another example of a divided nation, split down the middle on Election Day and almost equally split about when the contest should end. A new "Newsweek" poll shows 51 percent of Americans favor removing all doubt, while 45 percent want the matter resolved. Both Democrats and Republicans argue the legitimacy of the election and the next president is at stake.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: The way to get to a legitimate president that's accepted by everyone is to count the votes and find out who actually won.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I don't believe ever before have we had this type of court process to try to reverse a certified winner's result.

WALLACE (on-camera): And so what was already going to be a difficult task for the next president, facing a sharply divided Congress and nation, may become an even bigger challenge if a divided U.S. Supreme Court has the final say. Kelly Wallace, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: In today's "Environment Desk," we tackle a controversial issue that's literally on fire. The U.S. Coast Guard responded to 4,900 oil spills in 1999 -- many of them in wetlands. That number is expected to rise in coming years, owing to aging pipelines.

Now Mary Pflum has the scoop on a new alternative to a red hot problem: "friendly fire".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Intentionally setting fire to precious marsh grasses may appear destructive, but researchers at Louisiana State University's test burn facility say this is friendly fire. It's burning off something that could prove fatal to plants and animals inhabiting wetlands: spilled oil.

Traditionally when oil spills, equipment like skimmers and vacuums are used to clean up the mess. But in marshes, more so than in open bodies of water, equipment can do more harm than good.

LT. ROB CAMPBELL, U.S. COAST GUARD: By walking in or bringing heavy equipment in, you may be doing far more damage to the health and well-being of the long-term of that wetland. Burning is a means of going in and getting rid of the product without doing long-term damage. It's one of the new alternatives for the U.S. that is gaining acceptance and is a viable option.

PFLUM: A key to plant survival: water level at the time of the burn.

(on camera): Waiting for high tide makes a big difference in wetland recovery. At its peak, an oil burn-off like the one behind me generates flames as hot as 2,000 degrees Celsius. But soil submerged in four inches of water gets no hotter than 60 degrees Celsius, or about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

(voice-over): The proof is in the greenhouse. Take a look at grasses burned just two days before in high-tide conditions: green phoenix-like plants rising from the ashes. Plants burned at low tide don't fare so well.

Wetland burn-offs, experts say, are not without some environmental costs.

BRYNER: You're putting a lot of smoke particulates, soot, up into the atmosphere. But you're also removing quite a bit of the oil from the marshland environment. So it's a balancing act.

PFLUM: One red-hot alternative to wetland recovery.

Mary Pflum, CNN, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: In "Worldview" today: heroes, disasters and more. We'll talk about the science behind earthquakes. We'll also head to China to get a behind-the-scenes look at dumplings. Find out what's cooking in Beijing. Plus a journey back in history to explore an American sports legend with a twist.

But first we turn to Israel, a country that appears on the verge of a political shakeup. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has resigned, clearing the way for a new election in two months. Barak's popularity has plummeted, partly because he has been unable to end two months of violence in which more than 300 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he'd like to run in a rematch against Barak, but he may not be able to.

Jerrold Kessel has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A polite reception for Ehud Barak but in no way a triumphant entrance with the Labor Party's central committee convening an emergency session. The embattled Israeli prime minister seems to have headed off an incipient challenge from moderates within his own political camp. He duly won backing again, unopposed, as Labor's candidate for the new election.

Mr. Barak said the problem of the opposition, Likud, was not who would head the party, but the fact that the Likud did not have a policy which could change Israel's reality. Despite Mr. Barak's protestations, who heads the rival right-wing party is widely perceived to have been a key motive behind his shock resignation, which he handed in to Israel's president. The resignation takes effect Tuesday afternoon and means an election within 60 days.

A colossal gamble, say even his supporters, an attempt to exclude from the election the man absent from the current Likud leadership, Benjamin Netanyahu. Barak trounced Netanyahu in the general election only 18 months ago, but now trails him dramatically in opinion polls. But as the law stands, only a member of the Knesset can compete in an election that is exclusively for the post of prime minister.

Mr. Netanyahu is not now a member of parliament and therefore would not be eligible to run in the election as it's shaping up.

LIMOR LIVNAT, LIKUD MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: We see it as a trick of Ehud Barak; I would even say dirty trick.

KESSEL: Convening a news conference, Mr. Netanyahu said Mr. Barak's policies had failed completely and he was putting forward his candidacy for the leadership of the Likud and for the premiership. But Mr. Netanyahu will only be able to run if the Knesset opposition is able to double trump Mr. Barak's gambit and swiftly pass legislation for early parliamentary elections as well, to be held in conjunction with the leadership race.

Mr. Barak told his cabinet he considers the upcoming election a popular referendum for his peace and security policies. Israel's political turmoil comes as more than 10 weeks of violent confrontation with the Palestinians rages on.

YULI TAMIR, ISRAEL CABINET MINISTER: The prime minister is going to present the agreement or the proposal he made at Camp David as the agenda for peace and we hope that we will get wide support for that agenda.

KESSEL: But if Mr. Barak is counting on a swift peace deal to take to the Israeli electorate, Yasser Arafat's initial response was distinctly reserved.

YASSER ARAFAT, LEADER OF PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: We hope that it will not be -- the peace settlement will not be affected by it. But we have to wait and see to give the accurate answer.

KESSEL (on camera): Whatever form the Israeli election takes, whatever the campaign is fought over, Ehud Barak remains the caretaker prime minister with full powers until the next prime minister is installed, unless in between there is another surprise up his sleeve.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Baseball is often called America's national pastime, and for a good reason. Over the years, some of its brightest stars have taken on almost heroic status. The list includes some of the most famous names in America during the 20th century: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, and of course Babe Ruth.

Another name famous because of baseball is Abner Doubleday, often credited with inventing the game in Cooperstown, New York back in 1839.

But as Garrick Utley reports, Doubleday is getting credit where credit isn't due.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Baseball. It's a game of runs, hits, errors and a myth: the myth of Abner Doubleday. We know the story, how in 1839 young Doubleday led some men into a field in Cooperstown, New York, laid down four bases and invented baseball; how 100 years later, the Hall of Fame was opened in Cooperstown, a shrine to the national pastime visited by more than 300,000 fans a year. And perhaps we know that this story was all concocted by Al Spalding, a former National League pitcher, to help promote his sporting goods company.

At the turn of the 20th century, baseball was popular and Spalding wanted to prove that it was purely American in its origin, rather than evolving from earlier European games which also used a ball and a bat.

(on camera): So he appointed a committee that determined, on the basis of no solid evidence, that Abner Doubleday had invented the game, which has grown from small village fields to major league ballparks. The problem is that Abner Doubleday never set foot in Cooperstown in 1839.

(voice-over): Because all that year he was a cadet at West Point military academy, where he showed no interest in the game. Doubleday served 31 years in uniform, rising to major general. And that might have been the end of the Abner Doubleday story, except Doubleday would find his place in history -- or history would find him.

Early on an April morning in 1861 in a place called Fort Sumter, when Confederate forces opened fire on the fort to ignite the war between the states, inside was Captain Abner Doubleday, the commander of artillery who aimed a cannon and fired the first union shot in the Civil War. Doubleday fought in several battles, including Gettysburg, where his statue today stands on the field of battle.

He retired from the Army in 1873, but there is even more to his story. When Doubleday moved to San Francisco, he helped to build the first cable car system in the city. He wrote two books about his life, but never mentioned anything about baseball. Abner Doubleday was a man of many accomplishments, but he remains famous for one thing he never did.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: Time now to shake, rattle and roll in "Worldview" as we focus on one of the most terrifying of nature's hazards: earthquakes. An earthquake is a shaking of the ground caused by the sudden breaking and shifting of large sections of the Earth's rocky outer shell. A severe earthquake can release an energy 100,000 times as great as that of the first atomic bomb. To explain where and why earthquakes occur, scientist have come up with a theory called "plate tectonics."

According to the theory, the Earth's outer shell is comprised of about 30 large, rigid plates. Each plate is made up of a section of the Earth's crust and part of the mantle, which is a thick layer of hot rock below the crust. The plates move slowly and continuously over a layer of hot, soft rock in the mantle. The plates are constantly colliding, moving apart or sliding past one another.

Sometimes along parts of the fault, the rock becomes locked in place and can't slide as the plates move. Then stress builds up in the rock on both sides of the fault and causes the rock to break and shift in an earthquake.

Now Greg Lefevre looks at the risk of earthquakes right here in the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While California gets most of the nation's earthquakes and suffers most of the damage, a study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency says there's plenty of earthquake risk to go around.

BRIAN COWAN, FEMA: We have an earthquake hazard from coast to coast in the U.S.

LEFEVRE: California and its storied quake faults get 74 percent of the risk. But FEMA says when it projects where damage would come, most major U.S. cities face some degree of earthquake hazard.

THOMAS HOLZER, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: About 10 percent of the national loss in this study comes from the Pacific Northwest, from places like Seattle and Portland. We think there's a large fault here. There's actually a boundary between two of the plates that can generate a very large earthquake up here.

LEFEVRE: FEMA and the U.S. Geological Survey say the highest risk areas are California, the Pacific Northwest, the New Madrid region of the Mississippi River, coastal South Carolina and New England.

HOLZER: We're looking at the geologic history and we can see evidence of prior earthquakes. So there's every reason to think these are repeating events.

LEFEVRE: Major quakes have happened in 39 states this century. FEMA compared the earthquake likelihood with the amount of buildings in the area and calculated, for example, that the Pacific Northwest would suffer an annual average about $400 million damage, less in the Midwest. In New England quakes are rare, but because the population is so dense would incur about $200 million in annual damage.

CANDYSSE MILLER, INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTION: Wherever you are in this country, you're at risk of some natural disaster, whether it's earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms, you name it.

COWAN: I think the earthquake risk, the earthquake hazard is here to stay.

LEFEVRE: FEMA hopes the study will cause cities outside California to toughen up seismic rules and building codes, create earthquake-disaster plans in cities that don't have them, and remind Californians there will be another.

Greg Lefevre, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: On to eastern Asia for a stop in China, the world's largest country in population. The Chinese culture has influenced people around the globe for thousands of years. Over the centuries, several nations have borrowed from Chinese art, literature and technology. And then there's Chinese food. Anyone who's ever made the rounds on the dining circuit has probably heard of egg rolls, chow mein or fried rice. A typical Chinese meal usually includes lots of vegetables or grains with bits of meat or seafood. Dumplings are also very popular in China. A dumpling is a piece of steamed or boiled dough served with meat or soup. It's a staple that one Chinese chef has turned into a multimillion dollar industry.

Andrew Stevens provided a look behind the scenes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call her the empress of dumplings. Chong Kin Wo is famous for her tasty Wanchai Ferry Peking dumplings in Hong Kong and in China. Twenty years ago, she was a street vendor in down-at-heel Wanchai. Today, she employs more than 1,000 people. Annual sales of her dumplings last year hit $6 1/2 million.

Passionate, driven and focused, Madam Chong has made her dumplings a household name in Hong Kong.

CHONG KIN WO, WANCHAI FERRY PEKING DUMPLING (through translator): My personal belief is that no matter what the circumstances are, I have to make the best dumplings for my customers so that my customer will be happy knowing that the product is of the best quality.

STEVENS: In 1997, against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis, came the opportunity of a lifetime. U.S. food company Pillsbury expressed interest in a joint venture. With Pillsbury's management and marketing expertise, Wanchai Ferry Peking Dumplings made its first foray into the China market. And there's been no turning back.

STANLEY CHEUNG, PILLSBURY GREATER CHINA: We believe China has, you know, a lot of potential, enormous potential. Give you an example: for the last 12 months, China dumpling has grown 50 percent in just one year.

STEVENS: Three years on, there are plans to develop the overseas markets and expand the brand name.

WO (through translator): Dumplings are our first major product and then wantons, sweet glutinous rice balls and noodles. We are still in the innovating stage, trying to make the best product better than anybody else. We will continue to develop new products and bring them into the market.

STEVENS: But this business is strictly old economy; no Internet strategies here. And you can't get much more old economy than this: The Chinese have been eating dumplings for the past 6,000 years.

Andrew Stevens, CNN Financial News, Hong Kong.

(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 plans. 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.

On Sunday, a Stage 1 electrical emergency was declared in California. It was the seventh straight day an electrical emergency was called in the Western U.S. state. A blackout was narrowly avoided on Thursday when power reserves dropped below 1 1/2 percent. Customers are being called upon to conserve energy by waiting until after 7:00 p.m. to turn on Christmas lights.

So what's behind this California power crunch? Here's Greg LaMotte with details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California is facing an energy crisis the likes of which it has never seen. And it appears it's going to get worse -- much worse.

DAVID FREEMAN, L.A. DEPT. OF WATER AND POWER: Hard working American people that are just barely making a living are going to have to choose between clothing and food and paying their heat bill this winter.

LAMOTTE: The state, over the past three weeks, has been in a perpetual state of emergency because the demand on electricity is close to exceeding the current supply. There is a very real threat of rolling blackouts. Some plants were shut down because they already exceeded government imposed pollution limits. Others are down for maintenance. And no new plants have been built since the early '90s.

ED BLACKFORD, PLANT MANAGER: It is very difficult to build a plant in today's environment. Environmental laws are strict and the public wants their lights to go on, but they don't want to live next to a power plant.

LAMOTTE: Another culprit? The state's great economy.

JACK KYSER, ECONOMIST: The state's economy grew by 4 million people since 1990; employment grew by 2 million jobs; it's technology, which is an energy hog; and we haven't added any new power plants.

LAMOTTE: Power from neighboring states is in short supply because their economies require more juice. The cost of energy is doubling, even tripling in some parts of California. There is suspicion some plants may be holding back power in order to drive up prices. Now, state inspectors are on the move. LORETTA LYNCH, CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION: We sent out teams of people to all the plants that were not operating that might have been able to operate during this period of short supply. We want to know why the plants are down and why they're not operating to capacity.

LAMOTTE: State officials say there's no evidence thus far any plants are intentionally holding back electricity. Many experts say the "power grinch" is the direct result of California's bold move two years ago, allowing municipalities to deregulate their utilities, a move the current governor opposed.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I generally believe the market is a good way to solve problems, but not in this case. Deregulation is not going to work in California. We're not ready to accept full deregulation.

LAMOTTE: The city of Los Angeles opted to keep its public utility, and today there are no energy shortages in the city of L.A. and prices are stable. The president of the city's electric company says the government must impose price controls.

FREEMAN: This is a very serious problem that's going to cause revolutionary changes in people's attitude. You're not a Democrat or a Republican anymore when you got a $900 light bill.

LAMOTTE: New sources of power won't be available until late next summer at the earliest. So, for now, in this season of giving, maybe a stocking full of coal isn't such a bad thing after all.

Greg LaMotte, CNN, Huntington Beach, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: And that does it for us here on NEWSROOM.

WALCOTT: We'll see you back here tomorrow.

BAKHTIAR: Bye.

WALCOTT: Bye-bye.

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