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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for February 12, 2001

Aired February 12, 2001 - 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.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Welcome to a brand new week of NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Tom Haynes. Glad you're with us today. Here's a look at the rundown.

In today's news, a closer look at the human blueprint: How scientists are figuring out the ABCs of DNA.

Then, in "Environment Desk," preservationists who talk the talk are now walking the walk. We'll tell you about their latest efforts to stay green.

More on the environment as we turn to "Worldview" and a proposed plan to restore the Everglades to its former glory.

Then, in "Chronicle," a leading high school football player becomes a leading example of bad college recruiting. We'll tell you why.

First today, a pair of landmark studies offers a detailed look at the human genetic code. It's a scientific breakthrough that could lead to prevention of disease and illness.

A new era for genetic medicine as the public gets its first look at the human genome. Two separate groups announced in June that they had completed rough drafts of the human code.

The 3 billion-letter code, also known as the genome, is a chemical sequence that contains the basic information for building and running a human body. A sequence generally means the chemical letters are in order. It provides a much more detailed look at human genes than a genetic map does.

Many people worry that genetic information could be misused in the workplace or by health insurance companies. Many scientists and doctors, however, say cracking the human code could help them find disease-promoting genes, develop better drugs, and tailor therapies to patients, among other things.

The Human Genome Project formally began in 1990. It was coordinated by the United States Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. The two have spent more than $360 million on the project.

Mutations in the human genome can indicate a higher risk for thousands of diseases, from diabetes and asthma to even cancer. The Human Genome Project could have a profound impact on how medical specialists diagnose and treat many diseases.

Ann Kellan has more on the significance of this latest genetic research.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a detailed map of our genome. The lines represent billions of chemical letters, or DNA, contained in every one of our cells. About 1 percent of these letters are genes that dictate how our bodies grow and function while the rest, scientists suspect, are mostly leftovers from our past.

ERIC LANDER, WHITEHEAD CENTER FOR GENOME RESEARCH: We clean out the attic so rarely in our DNA, and it's great because it means the DNA is a history book. We can find out about differences with other primates. But also can see, for example, that large portions of our genome were formed back when we were fish. And the records are still there.

KELLAN: Two separate groups have been in a race to crack the human code. Last June, both announced they had completed rough drafts. Now both versions are getting the endorsement of the scientific community. A private company, Celera Genomics, is publishing its genome in "Science." A public international effort led by the United States government is publishing in the British journal "Nature." Both sequences are still incomplete and differ slightly from each other, but overall the findings are similar.

Now scientists will start to figure out what this massive map means. Already they find we don't have as many genes as we once thought. Genes determine everything from the color of our eyes, our skin color, to how well we fight disease. We have about 30,000, approximately the same as a dog.

CRAIG VENTER, CELERA GENOMICS: We have essentially the same components as all other mammals. My dog or, you know, cats, mice, rats, people all share basically the same building set.

KELLAN: And the differences between one person and another, genetically speaking, is tiny.

(on camera): Looking at the entire human genome, it turns out we're a lot more alike than we are different. Of the billions of letters that make up the genetic code, the difference between you and me is about 10,000 letters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this giant region here.

KELLAN (voice-over): Knowing the genetic landscape will make it easier for scientists to study what each gene does and how they instruct cells to make key proteins. Those proteins perform basic human functions that keep us alive.

A slight variation in the genetic code could predispose a person to disease.

LANDER: I think it means that we'll now be able to try to track down the actual causes of disease. What most folks don't realize is that we don't really know the cause of asthma, of heart disease, of diabetes, of hypertension.

KELLAN: It's unclear how long that process will take. Most experts agree we won't see the true payoff for at least 20 and maybe 100 years.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: Genetic research has been going on for decades. The origins of the science date back to the 1860s, when Gregor Mendel pioneered the study of inheritance by studying the simple pea plant. Genetic research has come a long way since then, now promising to revolutionize medicine.

Christy Feig has more on that, and why some people want genetic research stopped.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The next step is deciphering this genetic code, figuring out which genes do what.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: What is their function? What do their instructions mean? How do those determine a human being in a biological sense? And how do glitches in those instructions result in disease?

FEIG: It's only then better, more precise medicine can be designed; medicine that specifically targets what's going wrong in our genes. And through our genes, we will be able to tell why some people respond differently to some drugs, allowing us to create personalized medicine designed to work with our own individual genes.

The pursuit of the human genome has already produced gene therapy, the attempt to replace or fix damaged genes.

DR. W. FRENCH ANDERSON, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Almost everyone still believes that gene therapy will revolutionize the practice of medicine.

FEIG: Another approach said to benefit, gene-based medicine. Instead of replacing bad genes, this method goes another microscopic level lower, working on proteins which determine what a gene does. Gene-based medicine blocks bad proteins or mimics good ones.

To be sure, no one believes that genes control everything. Interaction with the environment also plays a key role, but genes are the basis for how we handle the environment.

ANDERSON: If we understand our genes and we understand what genes are turned on and turned off in order to allow us to breathe, to eat, to move. We'll be a long way towards understanding how to develop attacks against diseases.

FEIG: But with every scientific advance comes ethical questions, and the genome is no exception. We don't have yet have the power to protect our genetic information, so knowing who is at risk for depression, Alzheimer's or cancer, for example, could open the door to discrimination.

ARTHUR CAPLAN, BIOETHICIST: These sorts of predictions are -- could be used, if you will, to take away people's ability to get life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, and even a job.

FEIG: Venter and Collins are both calling on Congress to pass laws banning genetic discrimination. But the deciphering of our genes is moving forward, bringing with it enormous potential benefits, and also enormous potential complications.

Christy Feig, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: News from space makes today's headlines as shuttle astronauts make history. After a delicate spacewalk to attach the newest and priciest addition to the International Space Station, two space commanders became the first to open the door to Destiny, the American-made science laboratory.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSHA IVINS, ASTRONAUT: Tell Ginny (ph) I said, la, la, la, la, la, la.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fellow astronaut Marsha Ivins sang while she worked her way through one of the trickiest maneuvers ever attempted by the shuttle's robotic arm. She deftly plucked the school bus-size Destiny science lab, and with only an inch to spare on either side, gingerly guided it out of Atlantis' payload bay, flipped it over and then eased it onto its berth on the budding International Space Station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drop it right in the slot.

IVINS: Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't get much better.

O'BRIEN: She was on target even though she could not see what she was doing. She relied on cameras, computers and the watchful eyes of her spacewalking compadres.

The only snafu came after the $1.4 billion station addition was locked in place. While linking cooling cables between the station and the lab, some ammonia crystals leaked out, engulfing Curbeams's spacesuit. In the end, the suit was no worse for the scare, and the crew savored their clean sweep on a challenging day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: In today's "Desk," a closer look at some preservationists in Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation was founded about 35 years ago to preserve and protect --- well, you guessed it --- the Chesapeake Bay. Now the foundation's members are building a new headquarters, and they've decided to go green with the project in order to keep the red out of their faces.

Mary Pflum explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY PFLUM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They wanted to practice the environmental message they preached, so when the Chesapeake Bay Foundation decided to unite its many regional offices under one roof near Annapolis, Maryland, leaders opted to go green -- way green.

WILL BAKER, PRESIDENT, CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION: Our goal for the past 35 years has been to help save the bay. And when we decided to build a new headquarters facility, we said, how can we do it so we walk the talk? So it's absolutely essential to our mission that we do the most environmentally friendly, energy efficient headquarters that we can as we go out on this new path.

PFLUM: Driving home the point, the building's passive solar design. Louvers allow precious sun rays to enter the building in the wintertime but help block the sun in sticky summer months.

There are ceilings made from recycled paper, floors made not from wood but cork, and water-free toilets. Sinks provide recycled rainwater, and waste is recycled in-house via a complex compost system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, in about a year, this is what it will look like.

PFLUM: And that's just the inside of the multimillion-dollar facility, financed, organizers say, by generous donors and loans.

Outside, in the bay at the heart of the foundation, members continue to replenish precious underwater grasses and oysters. They're vital to maintaining the bay's rich watershed, which extends from New York State to Virginia.

BILL STREET, DIRECTOR, WATERSHED RESTORATION, CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION: We're hoping that we can provide examples of all these critical components to the Chesapeake Bay right here at our headquarters, so people can come here and see many of the issues that face the Chesapeake Bay and what they can do help save the bay.

PFLUM: Returning the region to the pristine state of long ago is the game plan for members of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, as they build into practice that which they preach.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: More on the environment coming up in "Worldview." Get set for some monkey business in India. We'll tell you about a problem that has some people going bananas. Plus, the answer to a once popular question: Where's the beef? We'll provide one solution to the mad cow scare as we travel to France. And journey to the Everglades with us, where scientists are working to restore the balance of nature there.

A new prescription is on the way for what ails the Everglades in the state of Florida in the southeastern United States. Once a pristine wilderness area that covered much of the southern third of Florida, today it covers only about half of that. Over the last 50 years or so, the unique marshlands have been assaulted by humans on several fronts. Engineers have dammed it, farmers have planted it and developers have paved it.

Now, the federal government hopes to rescue it with a recently approved plan to restore some of the Everglades to its original glory.

But as John Zarrella reports, don't expect any miracles. This remedy is going to take a long time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The Florida Everglades. Before history's most ambitious environmental restoration project is finished, humans could be walking on Mars.

RONNIE BEST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: We can't just simply build it and they will come, we have to make sure we build it right.

ZARRELLA: It will take at least 30 years to fix the Everglades. But finally, after more than a decade of debate and wrangling over what to do and how to do it, a massive nearly $8 billion project is about to get started.

STUART APPELBAUM, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We can't put the Everglades back the way they were, unfortunately, 100 or so years ago, but we can recover the essential characteristics that make the Everglades unique. And we're very confident that the plan that we've got will do that.

ZARRELLA: That plan is designed primarily to restore the natural flow of water through the Everglades. In the early part of the 1900s, the Everglades looked like this. Wetlands and saw grass and marsh covered nearly all of the southern third of the Florida Peninsula. Today, the river of grass is a fraction of what it once was.

To control urban flooding and to dry out land for agriculture and development, the Army Corps of Engineers in 1948 began digging a labyrinth of drainage canals and building dikes and levees. As the natural flow of water was altered, the glades began drying out. (on camera): But no one knew at the time that a delicate natural balance was being destroyed. It was the constant movement of water, sometimes just a few inches deep, but covering millions of acres that gave the Everglades life and allowed life to flourish.

(voice-over): As a result of the altering of the water flow, dozens of species of plants and animals began disappearing. Migratory birds stopped showing up. Agricultural runoff polluted the waters. Half of the Everglades of 1900 was lost forever.

Now, the Army Corps of Engineers has been charged with fixing the other half.

FRANK MAZZOTTI, UNIV. OF FLORIDA CTR. FOR NATURAL RESOURCES: I think it really shows how we've shifted our view of the Everglades. And what was once considered an important public works project to destroy it has now become the most important public works project to protect it.

ZARRELLA: The belief is that when restoration is complete, the river of grass will look at least in part as it did in 1947 when naturalist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas wrote, "There are no other Everglades in the world."

John Zarrella, CNN, in the Florida, Everglades. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Now to one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world: India. India is a country in southern Asia that ranks second in the world in population, China being first. India's people belong to a variety of ethnic groups and speak hundreds of dialects and languages, but Hindi is the national language.

Today, we head to India to learn about some popular primates. Monkeys live in many of India's tropical forests, where they move about by using all four limbs. They are predominantly arboreal, leaping from limb to limb as they move swiftly through trees. As in all primates, their brains are comparatively large. That combined with a well-developed vision allows monkeys a great latitude of activity.

With more on the activities and antics of monkeys, here's Denise Dillon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DENISE DILLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the trees, in the streets, in the parks, thousands of monkeys have set up homes in New Delhi, India, near the government buildings. At first, it may seem a bit funny, but not everyone sees the primates as friendly.

SUREKHA RAO, GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE: What I do is, if I am faced with, you know, a group of monkeys, or one or two of the big, huge looking fellows, then what I do I make some noise with a shoes, you know, I mean walk firmer and harder so that your shoe does clack, clack, clack, and the monkey on its own moves away. This I have learned over a period of time. I didn't know it before. I was scared even before.

DILLON: The monkeys have become quite a nuisance. There are an estimated 10,000 in this area, and the numbers are growing. At one point, there was talk of devising a system of monkey contraception.

As they increase in numbers, they're also getting more aggressive, barging into offices and stealing food. The government is certainly in a quandary over the problem. Monkeys have a sacred status under Hinduism, India's main religion, so they can't kill or trap them. For a while, they captured the monkeys and sent them to neighboring states, but now those states are complaining they're having problems of their own.

Animal rights activists say it's only natural that the monkeys have settled near the city's center.

IQBAL MLIK, ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: So we have encroached in their homeland, we have taken away their fruiting species, we have reduced the water source in their home range, and we are trapping them non-scientifically from their home range.

DILLON: So until a solution is found, it may be mostly monkey business in and around the government buildings.

Denise Dillon, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: On to France now where there's growing concern about mad cow disease, a fatal brain disease that strikes cattle. Symptoms include odd behavior, difficulty walking, and then death. Scientists believe mad cow disease originated in 1986 in Great Britain, the result of healthy cows being fed ground up meat and bone meal from infected animals.

The British government has since banned use of cattle and sheep byproducts to feed other cattle and sheep. British experts say beef from the so-called mad cows might be linked to a deadly illness in humans called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. It's killed as many as 80 so far, mostly in Great Britain.

But new cases of mad cow disease are still being reported, bad news for most people, but good news for some French biological farmers who are seeing a big jump in sales.

Peter Humi reports from France.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER HUMI, CNN PARIS BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Luc Coutant farms 80 acres of rolling countryside in the fertile Loire Valley. On his farm, there are 70 head of Limousin cattle. He is one of an increasing band of farmers in France who have turned to biological or organic agriculture. LUC COUTANT, BIOLOGICAL FARMER (through translator): The way we raise cattle, there are no chemicals, no pesticides, no doping, if you like, of the cows. I produce all the food myself for the animals. There's no reason to believe they could contract BSE.

HUMI: The fear of BSE, or mad cow disease, has gripped the nation. Beef consumption overall has fallen by 40 percent, according to producers.

"We have about 10 percent fewer customers these days," says Pierre Cassagne (ph), the managing director of a restaurant chain that specializes in steaks.

Schools have banned all beef products. And many traditional cuts of beef are no longer for sale. It is, admits Coutant, a good time to be a biological farmer.

(on camera): Luc Coutant started off as a conventional farmer, but his ecological convictions made him turn to what he calls natural farming, a process of conversion that took six years.

(voice-over): His cows graze the pastures. And there is a huge stock of cereals, including rye, wheat, oats and protein rich pea plants: no meat or bone meal commonly used by cattle farmers, less expensive and protein-rich, but now banned, blamed in part for the spread of mad cow disease.

COUTANT (through translator): Ruminants, such as cows, aren't carnivores. They're herbivores. We have to respect nature. We live in a society where people are taken care of, but animals are treated like machines.

HUMI: Biologically produced beef is routinely inspected. And production has to meet standards imposed by the European Union. The mad cow scare has resulted in a surge of interest in naturally produced beef. Even though it is more expensive than other beef, it's expected to increase it's current 10 percent share of the market.

COUTANT (through translator): I hope the whole mad cow scare will help other producers rethink. They shouldn't just rely on the government to sort out the problem.

HUMI: Peter Humi, CNN, in the Loire Valley, France.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: in "Chronicle" today: high drama in high school. And we're not talking about a play either. No, this is the tale of how, for one talented athlete and his coach, it can all go wrong. This is the story of a high school kid who allegedly got sold to the highest bidder and never knew anything about it.

Here's Bob Lorenz.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BOB LORENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A year ago, Albert Means was one of the top prospects in the country: a six 6 foot 6 inches, 300-plus pound defensive lineman who was voted Mr. Football in his home state of Tennessee. Today, he may be a prime example of what can go wrong with college recruiting.

ALBERT MEANS, COLLEGE STUDENT: I knew stuff like this happened, but I didn't think it was going to happen to me.

LORENZ: Means finds himself at the center of a controversy, amidst allegations that his former high school football coach, Lynn Lang, negotiated a package worth $200,000 from University of Alabama boosters to deliver Means to the school. The story came to light thanks to a December snowstorm which kept Means' mother Lisa from several days of work. It prompted her to call Lang to ask for help with Christmas expenses for her seven children.

LISA MEANS, ALBERT'S MOTHER: He said: "No, I don't have nothing right now," you know, just like that. "Wait until after Christmas and I'll then I'll see what I can do." And then I said "OK." There was nothing else I could say. He said he couldn't do it.

MILTON KIRK, FMR. HIGH SCHOOL ASST. COACH: What really knocked my lid off was: Albert came home for the holidays. Coach Lang did not make an effort to see that he had a comfortable Christmas. Now, yes, I blew the lid then.

LORENZ: On January 10, Milton Kirk, a former assistant coach under Lang, also blew the lid on the alleged deal. He went public, telling the Memphis "Commercial Appeal" that, in the fall of 1999, he had helped Lang broker an arrangement with Alabama boosters.

KIRK: There were some installment plans. The first meeting coach Lang had, he got $10,000. And he was told that if he needed any more, to come and get it. And he went three times. So, before February the 4th, 2000, he had gotten $30,000 from the boosters.

L. MEANS: I got a call on my job from "The Commercial Appeal." And they told me, "Ms. Means, don't you know your son was sold for $200,000?" And I'm like, "What?" I mean, "Say it again." I mean, he said, "How do you feel about this?" And I said, "Well, look, this is sort of a big shock to me."

LORENZ: Albert Means, who had ceded control of his recruitment to Lang, says he had no knowledge of any behind-the-back orchestration.

A. MEANS: They knew more than I knew. So I was just going by what they say and what they do and what they think.

L. MEANS: I couldn't believe that coach Lang wanted to do that to my boy. And -- you know what I'm saying? Because we -- I didn't sent him to school for no money. I mean, all I wanted him to do was just go to school. I mean, I was proud to be a mother that have a son that can go to college and can play football like he do. LORENZ: Lang denied the charges shortly after the story broke, telling the paper -- quote -- "It's totally false. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Kirk will definitely be hearing from my lawyers."

Last week, the Memphis school system interviewed Lang as part of its investigation, where his lawyer says Lang again denied all allegations. School officials have suspended both Lang and Kirk. And the Memphis School Board is considering new regulations to prevent something similar from happening.

WAYNE WEEDON, MEMPHIS CITY SCHOOLS: It doesn't really matter whether it's $1,400 or whether it was $200,000. When you start selling players, it's wrong.

LORENZ: Meanwhile, former Alabama assistant coach Ivy Williams, who recruited Means, has also denied having any knowledge of or taking any part in the alleged deal, saying -- quote -- "I absolutely and unequivocally deny any personal wrongdoing during the recruitment of Albert Means. Neither Lynn Lang nor Milton Kirk ever asked me for money, cars, or gifts at any time during the recruitment."

The school is awaiting the results of an NCAA investigation.

MAL MOORE, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: The NCAA is investigating this. And as long as this investigation is under way, I am not allowed to comment one way or the other.

LORENZ: Means left Alabama last month and enrolled at the University of Memphis. He also has some advice for future recruits.

A. MEANS: Just tell them to take their time making their decision, and make their own decision, and make sure they feel comfortable with their own decision and not somebody else's decision.

LORENZ: Advice that rings as loudly now as Memphis' famous blues.

I am Bob Lorenz.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYNES: And finally from us, it took a mere 19 seconds to erase the much heralded home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers baseball and football teams. That's right: 4,800 pounds of dynamite sent the 30-year-old stadium crashing in. Look at that. It was a blitz, a play of the day, where a symbol for sports championships was reduced to ash and memory. You should note the teams will play in two yet-to- be-built stadiums.

I'm Tom Haynes. We'll see you tomorrow.

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