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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for March 19, 2001

Aired March 19, 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.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And welcome to a brand new week of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Shelley Walcott. Glad you're with us. Here's a look at what's coming up.

In today's news: Political storms in Japan cloud Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori planned meeting with U.S. President Bush. Then, in "Environment Desk": why it's becoming more difficult than ever to stop and smell the roses. From fleeting fragrances to history up in smoke: "Worldview" weighs in on the demolition of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan.

And, in "Chronicle": Russia prepares to send Mir crashing back to Earth. What are the odds a piece of the space station could hit close to you?

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is visiting U.S. President George W. Bush today. The trip comes as the U.S. Navy continues its investigation into last month's collision between a U.S. submarine and a Japanese research trawler.

February 9, 2001: The USS Greeneville strikes the Ehime Maru while performing a rapid-surfacing maneuver; 16 civilian guests were on board the submarine watching. The Japanese vessel sinks off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii. Nine people on board the ship remain lost at sea and are presumed dead. Four of the missing are teenagers.

The Greenville's skipper, the lieutenant commander, and the officer of the deck could face courts-martial depending on the outcome of a court of inquiry currently under way. The inquiry is looking into the cause of the accident. The panel is made up of three Navy admirals and advised by a nonvoting Japanese admiral. They granted testimonial immunity Friday to the submarine crewmember who was tracking ships in the area at the time of the collision. Testimonial immunity prevents testimony given by the witness in a court of inquiry from being used against him in a court-martial proceeding.

Last month's submarine tragedy has led to much pain and anger in Japan and harsh domestic criticism of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. The accident has also strained relations between the United States and Japan. But the two countries remain on friendly terms. U.S. President Bush would like to strengthen that bond. But, as Rebecca MacKinnon reports, he faces some tough challenges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the ocean floor in Hawaii lies a Japanese training ship tragically sunk by a U.S. Navy submarine, causing pain and anger in Japan, international embarrassment for the U.S. government, and harsh domestic criticism of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who didn't stop playing golf when he first heard about the accident.

Many members of his own party now want him to resign and some ask why he is still going to Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a lame duck prime minister unable to make commitments which can be carried out later.

MACKINNON: But as Mori grasps for political survival, the U.S.- Japan relationship is safely afloat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what Japan can and should do is for Mori to express his clear commitment to the fundamental cause of the alliance.

MACKINNON: The U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of Bush's Asia policy. With 47,000 troops stationed in Japan, the politically sensitive issue of U.S. military bases will be a major summit topic. Another pressing problem: the North Korean missile threat to Japanese territory. Earlier this month, President Bush told South Korea's president that Washington remains skeptical of North Korea's intentions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my view, pushing for the policy line held by President Kim Dae Jung is an important part of Japan's involvement in the region, and of course, the deterrent factor remains as critically important.

MACKINNON: Then, there's Japan's economic slump, as it deepens and affects the rest of the world. The Bush administration is expected to push the Japanese government to make tough economic and financial reforms soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States government will be able to push Japanese politicians much more vigorously, given their expertise in Japanese politics and Japanese foreign policy.

MACKINNON (on camera): Bush's top Asian policy advisers are experts on Japan, and well known to officials here. Many are hopeful the Bush team will keep the U.S.-Japan relations a priority no matter who the prime minister may be.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: There's nothing like a bouquet of flowers to heighten the senses. They're not only visually stimulating, but some flowers can fill up a room with their amazing fragrance. Well, scientists say that is changing. Next time you see or buy some flowers, take some time to smell them. You might be surprised to find something is missing.

CNN's Marsha Walton reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSHA WALTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blaring horns, jangling phones: In a world of information overload, sometimes it makes sense to stop and smell the roses.

NATALIA DUAREVA, PURDUE UNIVERSITY: Here you can see this snapdragon flowers we're working with.

WALTON: Or, in the case of professor Natalia Dudareva: the snapdragons.

DUDAREVA: A lot of flowers don't smell. They look very nice, but they don't smell.

WALTON: Fragrances are fading in some modern flowers because they're overworked. The floral industry breeds them for color, shape, and to keep them fresh longer. But all that takes some of the energy the plants would have used to produce smells.

JACK PETIT, FORRESTER'S FLOWERS: There's so much breeding being done in -- certainly in the case of roses. The farther you get away from some of the originating species, you know, you may lose that scent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how we get the flower into the form that we need it.

WALTON: Research at Purdue University is aimed at understanding the volatile compounds that produce plants' distinctive smells. Isolating the right genes could help restore those fleeting fragrances, even create new ones for the perfume or aromatherapy industries.

While we enjoy the smell, scent is critical to a plant's survival. It sticks to bees like perfume, acting as a flying advertisement to the rest of the hive. The message: Hey, trade you some nectar for a little pollination.

DUDAREVA: It means that you have here some kind of communication between plant, bees, and other bees. And they're coming back.

WALTON: A more powerful scent could improve quantity and quality of some crops. Strawberries and watermelons must be pollinated many times to bear fruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like to mix in lavender with a fresh flower bouquet. I think that just is an amazing smell.

WALTON: For those who like a particular fragrance, genetic engineering could even prompt flowers to produce their scents at a certain time. So after a frantic day at work, your roses could still smell sweet.

Marsha Walton, CNN, West Lafayette, Indiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: In "Worldview" today, our stories take us around the globe, including the United States and China. But our first stop is Afghanistan. CNN has obtained new video showing the destruction of age-old Buddhist statues there. Afghanistan's ruling Taliban government ordered the demolition of the statues, saying they go against their religious beliefs.

The Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamic militia group that has governed most of Afghanistan since 1996. On to Japan, where whale hunting is a hotly debated issue, one that is expected to be an agenda item at the summit between U.S. and Japanese leaders.

Gary Strieker has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Japanese ships are still hunting whales. Protesters have tried to stop them, but they've failed. Japanese government officials say it's a matter of principle. Whales are just like all other resources in the ocean.

Fifteen years ago, the International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial hunting. But Japanese whalers are killing more than 500 Minke whales every year, last year adding Bryde's whales and sperm whales to their list of targets. All three species, they claim, now so abundant they cannot be endangered by limited hunting.

MASASHI NISHIMURA, JAPAN FISHERIES ASSN.: We have enough whales for hunting, and there's no reason to limit our rational activities.

STRIEKER: Japan's whaling ships operate under an exception to the whaling treaty allowing whales to be killed for scientific research, an exception critics say is being used as a camouflage for an operation supplying hundreds of tons of whale meat every year to the Japanese market.

NAOKO FUNAHASHI, INTL. FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE: They started right after they say they finished commercial whaling, and they started scientific whaling. Same organizations, same ships, same crew going to same area, hunt same whales.

STRIEKER: But authorities claim this research whaling is essential to collect data they believe will support resumption of limited and controlled commercial whaling. Selling the whale meat helps to finance the research. They say scientists and world opinion are behind them and that the International Whaling Commission continues the moratorium only because it is dominated by the United States, the United Kingdom and a few other nations which are manipulated by animal rights pressure groups.

(on camera): The government and whaling interests here say it's time for Western nations to stop opposing them with emotions and protectionism and to adopt instead a sensible plan to manage and exploit abundant whale resources based on sound scientific research.

(voice-over): They agree some whale species are still endangered and should not be hunted, like the blue whale and the humpback. But scientists here say there are more than two million sperm whales in the oceans and hundreds of thousands of Minke whales, and that hunting a few hundred of these every year will have no impact on their populations.

The Japanese argue the International Whaling Commission was set up in 1946 to further the interests of the whaling industry and not for the total protection of whales.

Others say times have changed after more than 50 years, and the Japanese will also have to change. But there's no indication that will happen anytime soon.

Gary Strieker, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Ever wonder which country in the world has the most people? Well, it's China. Over one billion people live there. That's one-sixth of the world's total population. China is also the world's oldest existing civilization. Its recorded history dates back 4,000 years. But age and a population boom can have devastating consequences.

Rebecca MacKinnon reports on how the drive to change one ancient city into a modern metropolis appears to be backfiring.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eighty-one- year-old Liu Wang Qing (ph) is devastated because his home is about to be. Liu and his wife are being forced out of the two-room house they've lived in for 30 years. She says the authorities offered them a small apartment in a high-rise in the suburbs. But the conditions there, they say, are unacceptable.

The neighbors, what's left of them, are upset. The problem, says this man, is that the authorities haven't made the policies clear. And his family hasn't been adequately compensated for the loss of their home. The authorities have a different view.

ZHANG CHANGENG, DEMOLITION OFFICIAL (through translator): There are many old and dangerous one-story houses in the downtown area which will prevent Beijing from becoming an international metropolis. So they have to be demolished. But the government is trying to consider the people's needs.

MACKINNON: Over the past decade, the homes of more than a million Beijing residents have been flattened to make way for shopping centers, office towers and apartment high-rises.

(on camera): According to lawyers involved in disputes, thousands of people have either petitioned or sued the government with complaints of unfair treatment. Few have gotten very far. Others are mourning the loss of a large part of the city's cultural and architectural heritage.

(voice-over): Some are asking why more of Beijing's old neighborhoods couldn't have been renovated and preserved? U.S. businessman Laurence Brahm, who has bought and restored several old Beijing homes, blames the loss of historic buildings on corrupt officials.

LAURENCE BRAHM, NAGA GROUP: The tearing down a lot of the old is, in fact, part of the cycle of corruption involving certain departments of the local city government. And the system is involved of building new buildings, which involve high costs and involve a network of contractors and subcontractors which often have, in fact, networks of kickbacks involved.

MACKINNON: But such claims don't sit well with local officials.

ZHANG (through translator): I disagree with that. Chinese companies have to make a profit just like American companies. But they won't do anything against their conscience. As for corruption, China isn't the only country with a corruption problem.

MACKINNON: Whatever the motives, whatever the need, authorities insist the drive to transform China's capital from an ancient city to a modern metropolis cannot be stopped.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Now to the United States, specifically to one of the country's important industrial and shipping states: Maryland. Maryland is divided by the Chesapeake Bay, which provides the state with several harbors. Not only does the state have many national monuments and historic sites, but it also houses 35 state parks and nine state forests.

And Maryland is home to the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, which, like other refuges, are safe havens for birds and endangered species.

But, as Christy Feig reports, these protected lands are now facing threats to their delicate ecosystems.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge: more than 23,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, forests, and waterways, home to more than 250 types of birds, two endangered species, and the threatened bald eagle.

Now the refuge itself is in danger, primarily from an outside species, the Canada geese. When injured or captive Canada geese were brought to the refuge, they never learned to migrate, disrupting the balance between migratory and year-round birds.

GLENN CAROWAN, BLACKWATER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE: What the resident geese do is that they actually depredate on the marsh 12 months out of the year, and they in turn adversely affect the amount of food that`s available for the migrant birds when they come south.

FEIG: Another invasive species damaging Blackwater is the nutria. The nutria was introduced in 1940. Today, the animal digs up the marsh grass, eating only the roots, destroying the marshes.

CAROWAN: We`ve lost roughly 12 square miles of marsh since 1940.

FEIG: Blackwater isn`t alone. A recent Audubon Society report says similar problems are happening at sanctuaries across the country. In addition to invasive plants and animals, the problems include water pollution; pesticide exposure kills more than 65 million birds a year; habitat loss, especially from development; and harmful public uses of property.

Experts say the answer to most of the problems: simply, more money.

EVAN HIRSHE, NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY: The refuge system has a massive funding backlog. $1 1/2 billion are needed to get refuges where they need to be if they`re going to successfully conserve birds and wildlife in this country.

FEIG: Congressman Wayne Gilchrest is making the sanctuaries a top concern for the Bush administration.

REP. WAYNE GILCHREST (R), MARYLAND: We need to discuss this with the administration to make the administration see that it is a priority so in their budget, when it comes to Capitol Hill, there will be more money.

FEIG: In the meantime, Blackwater is trying to control the nutria. But until then, the refuge will continue to lose between 500 and 1,000 acres per year.

Christy Feig, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: We continue our trip through the United States with a visit to the Midwest. Next stop: Chicago, Illinois. Chicago ranks as one of the largest cities in Illinois, with a population of nearly three million. You may have heard Chicago called the Windy City. Contrary to popular belief, this nickname has nothing to do with wind velocity.

It came instead from loud and windy boosterism. In the early 19th century, Chicago promoters traveled up and down the East Coast, touting Chicago as a smart place to invest. Detractors claimed they were full of wind. Yet, within years, Chicago became a commercial hub of America, producing many inventions still used today such as zippers, spray paint, and the Hostess Twinkie.

One example of Chicago's taste for business: its leadership in the candy industry. Candy is big business in the United States. Americans consume, on average, 26.2 pounds of candy each year. Their favorite flavor: chocolate, followed by berry flavors. And the Midwest and Northeast consume more candy per region than any other part of the country; 65 percent of American candy brands have been around for more than 50 years, many of those based in Chicago. But that is quickly changing.

Lisa Leiter tells us why home sweet Chicago is losing its flavor for many candy businesses.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA LEITER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chicago, the Windy City, the city of big shoulders. It's also considered the candy capital of the United States. Almost one-third of the nation's candy is made here, by about 100 companies -- from industry giants to small, family-owned factories.

Confectioneers flock to Chicago because it is close to producers of ingredients like milk and corn syrup. But now, another ingredient, sugar, is driving them away. Most U.S. candymakers must buy their sugar from domestic growers. And through government price supports and import quotas, U.S. sugar costs twice as much as it does on the world market. And that stretches companies like Primrose Candy too thin. The company is considering opening a plant in Canada.

MARK PUCH, PRESIDENT, PRIMROSE CANDY: It's a serious subject, and it's going to be -- it's tough for us to compete.

LEITER: Ferrara Pan already has expanded overseas. The maker of Lemonheads has a factory in Mexico and a few years ago moved production of atomic fireballs to Canada.

SAL FERRARA, PRESIDENT, FERRARA PAN: There's a ton of product coming from South America made with very inexpensive sugar, which is competing -- which is competing with our products and making it very difficult in our marketplace.

LEITER: The bitter reality is that some companies are leaving Chicago altogether.

(on camera): Brach's last month said it would close this 76- year-old plant on Chicago's West Side over the next three years, moving production overseas and putting 1,100 workers out of a job.

KEVIN KOTECKI, PRESIDENT, BRACH'S: This is an extremely difficult decision, and certainly wasn't one that was taken lightly. But we feel it's absolutely necessary for the survival of the company.

LEITER (voice-over): For mom and pop in small businesses, there's no way to sugar coat it: Making candy here is getting harder. Family is the only reason why many still call Chicago their sweet home.

Lisa Leiter, CNN Financial News, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: The Russian space station Mir is making a slow descent back to Earth. It is scheduled to reenter Earth's atmosphere later in the week. And if all goes according to plan, pieces of it will crash into the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Australia and Chile. Scientists are controlling its fall into the planned splashdown. But many countries are still concerned wreckage may hit land, and worse yet, people.

Ann Kellan has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANN KELLAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even though Russians will control much of Mir's reentry, and its target is huge -- 380,000 square miles of unpopulated south Pacific waters -- no manmade object this big has ever come down before. So what are the chances it could land on your head?

COL. NORMAN BLACK, U.S. SPACE COMMAND: I'll say 2.0 billion chance to one that you're going to get struck by this thing.

KELLAN: Odds are, pieces of the station will rain down, far from land and from populated areas. And according to its operators, Mir is carrying no hazardous materials. Still, aiming the 140-ton station is no easy task.

JOHN LOGSDON, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: The odds are it's going to be OK, but the odds aren't 100 percent. There is some risk in this.

KELLAN: Of the many variables, Mir's orbital path.

LOGSDON: The orbit it has carries it over 85 percent of the world's population, over most of the major cities of the world except Moscow.

KELLAN: Some people in Japan don't like the sound of that. Mir's final orbit, if everything goes right, will pass over the Pacific Rim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Of course I'm worried. There's no assurance that it won't drop here.

KELLAN: Here's what could go wrong. If the rocket engine guiding Mir into the South Pacific quits halfway through its burn, debris could strike parts of Europe. If the engine quits even sooner, Mir could stay in orbit a lot longer, landing anywhere. Who's keeping track of its path?

BRUCE BAUGHMAN, FEMA: We have a direct line with NORAD and U.S. space command.

KELLAN: FEMA has a plan of action, ready to go in the event it got word that debris was headed toward the U.S. It would put out a warning similar to those used to warn of severe weather. Once it starts coming down, you'll have less than an hour to react.

BAUGHMAN: I would say that it's probably a low probability. You know, the best thing to do is keep alert, listen, and if it looks like it's going to hit somewhere, we'll get the warning out to everybody, and then I think they should take whatever appropriate action that their local government recommends.

KELLAN: The size of the pieces, or how many will hit Earth, no one can predict. Specialists say it's like skipping rocks on water. You can aim it, but you can't pinpoint exactly where it's going to land.

Ann Kellan, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITNEY WHITE, SEWANNE, TENNESSEE: This is Whitney White from Sewanee, Tennessee, and my question for CNN is "Why don't we send the broken Mir Space Station into the sun instead of crashing it into the earth at the risk of life?"

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are two things you have to understand about Mir. First of all, it is very heavy, about 300,000 pounds. And it is relatively speaking, compared to space in general, very low; it is only 250 miles above us.

So to get it from that orbit into an orbit which would put it on its way to the sun would require a tremendous amount of fuel, more fuel than is practical to send up to the Mir to send it up on its way up to the sun. It sounds like a great idea, but Mir, basically, is too bulky, too big, too cumbersome to easily nudge out of its orbit around the planet Earth.

It's much easier to send up a tanker full of fuel and send it down. The Russians do to have the capability of bringing it down in a controlled manner. The idea is to send it to a watery grave in the South Pacific, somewhere between New Zealand and Chile.

And the chances of it clonking somebody on the head are remote, not only because of the location where Mir is headed but because most of it will burn up as it reenters the atmosphere of Earth. So while it may not be headed to the sun, it'll be hot as blazes as it comes in.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: And there's more science news coming your way this Thursday when we present "Storm," a CNN NEWSROOM special report. It's all about weather: what it is and how it affects us. Then head online Friday for "Storm: Extreme Weather," a CNNfyi.com Web cast.

Lots to look forward to this week. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye- bye.

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