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Spain, Russia Hold National Elections; Deadly Weekend for U.S. Troops in Iraq

Aired March 14, 2004 - 07:30   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The race for a $1 million leads engineers back to the drawing board. We'll have more on that coming up in just a moment.
Welcome back, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. That story in just a moment. First want to get to the headlines at this hour.

A deadly weekend for U.S. forces in Iraq. One soldier was killed early today by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Three others were killed several hours earlier by a similar bomb here in the capital. And then an explosion in Tikrit killed two soldiers on Saturday.

Spaniards are voting at this hour, knowing that al Qaeda has taken responsibility for Thursday's blood bath in Madrid. Authorities have not authenticated a videotape that claims to be from an al Qaeda operative. Five people are now in custody in connection with the commuter train bombings that killed 200 people.

Russians are also voting right now. President Vladimir Putin is expected to win another four year term if enough people cast ballots for the election to be valid. At least 55 million Russians must vote.

Against this backdrop, the Kremlin today warned the Republic of Georgia against using force in the autonomous region of Adzharia after Georgia's president was prevented from entering the region.

Pope John Paul II today becomes the longest serving pope in a century. He surpasses Leo XIII, who was pope from 1878 to 1903. John Paul is still six years shy of the 31 years served by Pius the IX, in the 19th century. Catholics regard Jesus' disciple Peter as the first pope, a position he held for a record 34 years.

To debate or not to debate? That is the question looming over this year's presidential race. John Kerry is challenging President Bush to a monthly series of debates from here to election day. The senator, who's taking center stage at a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania today, made the invitation in Quincy, Illinois yesterday, site of the historic debates between Abraham Lincoln and Steven Douglas.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am asking George Bush to agree to a series of monthly debates starting this spring, to talk about the real issues in our country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The Bush-Cheney campaign responded to the invitation saying, "Senator Kerry should finish the debate with himself before he starts trying to explain his positions to the voters."

President Bush's plan to send a mission to the moon is getting the thumbs up from one name synonymous with outer space. Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon says Americans should support President Bush's plan for new missions to the moon. And he told "The Houston Chronicle" the country can afford it. Bush's plan calls for a return to the moon by the year 2020.

You can follow all the latest political news by watching CNN's "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER." Today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will be his guest. That comes your way at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

In Washington, Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt was among the VIPs last night at a gay and lesbian awards ceremony. Gephardt said he and his wife were proud to attend as a show of support for their daughter Chrissy and her partner. The former presidential candidate lashed out at President Bush's support for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same sex marriage.

If new polls are any indication, it's going to remain an uphill battle for anyone trying to legalize gay and lesbian marriages, though. According to a CNN/"USA TODAY"/Gallup survey taken this past week, 61 percent of those interviewed say gay marriages should not be recognized as valid.

When asked if they would favor a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman, 50 percent said yes. 45 percent are against an amendment banning gay marriages.

People are more open to the idea of civil unions, as long as they're not called marriage. When asked if they favor civil unions, giving gays some of the legal rights of traditional marriages, 54 percent said yes; 42 percent opposed.

The issue of gay marriages is one of the year's hottest topics, as you know. In Atlanta, some people say gay couples do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as married couples, even on the golf course.


RANDY NEW, MEMBER, DRUID HILLS GOLF CLUB: It makes me mad because there's really no logical reason for the club not to do this, other than prejudice.

COLLINS (voice-over): Atlanta attorney Randy New is an avid golfer, a member of the Druid Hills Golf Club. And he's gay.

NEW; This is not a bridge club. COLLINS: His golf club cost $50,000 to join and $600 a month. But married couples pay only one membership fee. Spouses are free. But since gay couples are not allowed to marry in Georgia, gay partners have to pay full price, an extra $50,000.

LEE KYSER, DR., MEMBER, DRUID HILLS GOLF CLUB: I'm a human being, like you and like anybody over there. And I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I'm not giving that up to anybody.

COLLINS: New and golfing buddy Lee Kyser are in long term relationships, have filed with the city as domestic partners and say they would marry if they could. But as far as the Druid Hills Golf Club is concerned, that's not enough. They are still considered single.

Because Georgia is one of four states without an anti- discrimination law, New and Kyser filed a complaint with Atlanta's Human Relations Commission.

KYSER: You know, I'm 57-years old and I grew up in Augusta, Georgia. And I'm a lesbian woman. This is not the first time I have faced people not seeing my benefits.

COLLINS: The mayor of Atlanta asked the two sides to sit down with a mediator.

RICHARD LIND, MEMBERSHIP CHAIRMAN, DRUID HILLS GOLF CLUB: We don't believe we are discriminating. We don't want to discriminate.

COLLINS: Richard Lind heads the club's membership committee. He says it's a matter of fairness. Everyone's treated the same. Single, straight people follow the same rules as single gay people. And according to Georgia state law, marriage is defined as between a man and a woman.

LIND: We have a standing policy of non-discrimination in this club and have had for years and years. We have black members and members from other religious faiths, members of all walks of life. And we encourage them to come and be members here at Druid Hills. And we always have.

COLLINS: Druid Hills is a private club that operates with a liquor license that could be revoked by the city.

LIND: We are in a private club format. People join this club on their own. They wanted to do it. And most of the members of our club want a quiet, simple life inside this club. They want to play golf and play tennis and do other recreational activities with their families.

NEW: In the end, you're going to find that things like this trip you up. You can't paper around this. You can't lawyer around this. It's a group of people who have some control over a portion of your life.

COLLINS: For members straight or gay, it's about the simple things in life.

You want to play golf?

KYSER: Oh, golf is a part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


COLLINS: Atlanta Mayor Shirley Frankman asked the two parties to talk to a mediator. And both sides agreed. At stake here could be the club's Atlanta liquor license, as we said, something the city says it has a right to take away if there's a violation of the human relations ordinance. Druid Hills officials say that is a matter for the courts to decide.

Well, next time you take pictures at a birthday party, you might be able to make them laugh 100 years. All you'll need is a super portable digital printer, of course. Find out what else is hot and fits in your pocket when "Popular Science" editor Suzanne Kantra joins us in the next hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

Then at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, two brave Americans pursuing their dreams to help rebuild Iraq, become the first U.S. civilians to die at the hands of insurgents. We'll talk to the families of those brave souls.

And later, at 9:45 a.m., find out how to get yourself out of the parking ticket penalties you might have accrued.

But up next, are your kids watching Internet? We'll introduce you to a new kind of TV, mixing entertainment and education.


COLLINS: Well, here's a tasty recipe for fun. A new Internet TV show is stirring up a mix of entertainment and education for kids, while serving up stacks of laughter.

CNN's Elaine Quijano explains.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To describe Pancake Mountain as just another kids show isn't at all accurate.

For now, it's only on the Internet, an edgy, eclectic mix of music and some education. But mostly fun, complete with kids dance parties, appearances by local D.C. bands, and a cast of characters like a not so bright backstage reporter named Rufus Leaking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We play a variety of music from Go-Go...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go where? Where do you want me to go? I don't understand the hostility here because I'm just trying to do an interview and there's no need for that kind of... QUIJANO: If you've never heard of Pancake Mountain, it's for good reason. The show's creator and producers wanted to retain its local flavor. And more importantly...

SCOTT STUCKEY, CREATOR, PANCAKE MOUNTAIN: Without kind of the whole promotional stuff or trying to sell anything, so the kids can kind of have fun and learn about their community and see friends of theirs.

JEORGE SEDER, PRODUCER, PANCAKE MOUNTAIN: If had kids, I would want to sit down and watch this show with them. I would enjoy the show just as much as they did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know we all agree on this show we would never sell this kind of cheap commercial products.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, especially something as ugly as this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And heavy. This could really hurt somebody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cheap merchandising.

QUIJANO: The show began as just a handful of skits a few months ago and grew to a more elaborate production, paid for mostly by its creator with the help of borrowed equipment and time. The kids involved show up with their parents, eager to perform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today I'm just doing my thing, being wild.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really a lot. I won a dance contest twice at my school.

QUIJANO: As for the future, the producers hope their recipe stirs up interest from either cable access or a local D.C. TV station. So the can serve up Pancake Mountain to an even bigger audience.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, Washington.


COLLINS: Well the man stirring up all that fun on Pancake Mountain is the show's creator, Scott Stuckey. And he is joining us now live from Washington to tell us more about the show.

But first, Scott, we want you to do a little dance for us. Come on.

STUCKEY: OK, sorry, Heidi. It's kind of early for that.

COLLINS: It is early. You are right. Hey, let me ask you, Scott, where did the name Pancake Mountain come from? I don't think we learned that in our story that we just aired.

STUCKEY: Yes. Musician friend, Brendan Canty (ph), had written a song called "Pancake Mountain" and knew I was doing the show, and thought that it would be a good song for the show. And when I listened to it, I was like a name -- this -- we should name the show that. It was just an amazing song. And so the song kind of came first, then the name.

COLLINS: Tell me about the Web site. Of course, we have seen quite a bit of video from there. And who you're targeting. I have a little three-year old. Do you think he's too young?

STUCKEY: Maybe a little too young, but really the kind of thing for children of all ages, that you can enjoy it whether you're three or 30 or any age, I think. Hopefully it'll appeal to all ages.

COLLINS: Now how did you come up with the idea? I mean, what was the inspiration? I know, you know, my little boy's kind of into the Wiggles. And they say, you know, they looked around and they saw what was available for kids. They really didn't think there was very much, at least that they liked. And then -- and tried to do what they are doing now. Was there some sort of inspiration like that for you?

STUCKEY: A few things. Well, a lot of it was local TV. I grew up here in Washington, D.C. And there was a lot of local TV. And it gave a great sense of kind of community, belonging to Washington, seeing my friends or seeing the people that hosted the different local shows around town was kind of a great feeling in the music that we had when I was growing up was just amazing. Mentioning the Wiggles and kind of Barney, a lot of that music seems kind of dumbed down or diluted. And when I grew up, there was this great thing, Schoolhouse Rock.

COLLINS: I remember that. Yes.

STUCKEY: It was great. I just listened to it or was rewatching some of it recently. And it really rocks. I mean, it...

COLLINS: Yes, it did rock. I remember how a bill came to be. Remember, and they showed the whole process of a bill coming to law. I remember...

STUCKEY: A lot of my education came from learning it that way, but the actual musicianship and...


STUCKEY: ...the creativity of the songs was just -- was great. And you know, we tried to hopefully capture a little of that.

COLLINS: And you do that, of course, with the music and Captain Perfect and the Dance Party stuff.

Last question that I want to ask for you is what do you want kids to take away fro this? Obviously, there is some educational value here?

STUCKEY: Right. Well, not just the education. I think there are a lot of shows that really get into the education part. Or just the entertainment part, but not as much the imagination. And I really feel that the imagination is as important as the education. So I hope they take away kind of what I've taken away from local TV, that 20 years from now, if they're sitting around and grew up in this area, said, wow, do you remember Captain Perfect or Rufus or Pancake Mountain? I would be happy.

COLLINS: All right, Scott Stuckey, I'm sure you'd be happy with your own TV show, actually, on the airwaves as well. Maybe. You never know.

STUCKEY: Yes, yes. I hope.

COLLINS: Thanks again, coming to us live, Scott Stuckey from D.C. this morning. Appreciate it.

STUCKEY: Thank you so much for having me.

COLLINS: You bet. Well, the Grand Challenge with a $1 million on the line, sounds pretty exciting, right? We're going to recap the robot race when CNN SUNDAY MORNING returns.


COLLINS: In the battle of man-made machinery versus the elements of nature, nature won out. This year's Robot Race ended in the Mojave Desert yesterday, amid technical glitches. In the Grand Challenge, the score was Robots 0, the Desert 1. As all 15 computer run challengers either broke down or withdrew.

For more on the race, here's Daniel Sieberg.


DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they came, they crashed, they stalled, one of them even caught on fire. None of the 15 robots that arrived here in Barstow, California for the Darpa Grand Challenge were able to complete the race. Officials called it off. The only robot that was able to get the furthest made it about 10 miles or so. Other than that, none of them were able to complete the 200 plus mile course that was set out.

These are autonomous vehicles that Darpa was hoping to test out here in Barstow. The race was designed between Barstow, California and Prim, Nevada. They started here early today. They were lined up here in the start gate with a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm, even some helicopters overhead.

Each of the robots had a chance to try and get out of this start area and make it as far as they could. A lot of excitement very early in the morning. Some of them crashed very early on, didn't get very far. Others were able to make it a few miles or several miles before they stopped and ran into some problems.

Now the race was designed by Darpa, which is a research agency of the Defense Department. In order to create these autonomous vehicles for the military, there was a congressional mandate set for 2015, at which time a third of the military vehicles need to be autonomous. So Darpa opened up this race called the Darpa Grand Challenge to anyone that wanted to compete. And by the way, dangled a $1 million prize out there for anybody who completed. And so, no one was able to complete the race in the allotted 10 hour time limit. As such, that million dollar prize will carry over, at least for a couple of years until about 2006, when Darpa says they might hold this Grand Challenge Race again. Back to the drawing board.

For now, Daniel Sieberg, CNN, Barstow, California.


COLLINS: Al Qaeda claims responsibility for the Madrid bombings and threatens more attacks. Details on that, next on CNN SUNDAY Morning. Also, do terror threats make you think twice about travel these days? We'll read your e-mails when we return.


COLLINS: Did you know that one in every six couples faces an infertility battle at least once in their lives? Extreme baby making gives more families a chance to have kids, but at what cost? In case you missed it yesterday, get the answers on our weekend House Call. Holly Firfer will have the insights about 35 minutes from now. That's coming up at 8:30 Eastern.

I'm going to go ahead and turn things over to Rob Marciano, standing by on a kind of empty weather map behind you there. What you got?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well, because we're going to start off with Washington, D.C., because your last interview was -- you referenced Schoolhouse Rock.

COLLINS: Yes. Remember that?

MARCIANO: And there's the capitol. So give me a little bit of that, you know, I'm only a bill.

COLLINS: I barely remember.

MARCIANO: Oh, come on.

COLLINS: I'm only a bill.

MARCIANO: Yes, yes.

COLLINS: I don't -- I know he had a low voice.

MARCIANO: And I'm sitting here on capitol...

COLLINS: Sitting here on Capitol Hill, yes.

MARCIANO: Where I stand on line with a lot of other bills just waiting to be -- it's 36 degrees in D.C.

COLLINS: That was a long around to get to 36 degrees in D.C.

MARCIANO: Cloudy, and the wind's blowing. And a little bit of rainfall later on today expected.

All right, back to the map that had nothing. And we'll throw up some text for you to highlight a few hot spots as far as weather goes. Rainy snowy and windy across the Great Lakes today, Chicago included, at least the windy part. Dry Sunday weather expected across much of the East Coast. And six days until the beginning of spring next Saturday.

Let's go over to the weather map. Here you go, the same areas that saw rain and thunder yesterday, Dallas to Houston, will see it again today, stretching more into Tennessee and to the east of Chicago, to the east of St. Louis. But the wind will come in across Chicago and Minneapolis, eventually into Detroit. You might see a little bit of snow there, possibly a couple of inches, but much of the East Coast will see dry weather, at least for the daylight hours. Then this system comes on board. And West Coast looking pretty nice as well with warm weather across Los Angeles.

Back to you, Ms. -- no we'll do a little conjunction junction what's your function.

COLLINS: Oh, yes.

MARCIANO: Next half hour.

COLLINS: Gosh, you have a great memory. I love that.

MARCIANO: That's all I remember.

COLLINS: Thanks so much, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right.

COLLINS: We'll check in a little bit later on.

Want to go ahead and check those top stories now making headlines today as well. Peace demonstrators were in the streets of Madrid this weekend, protesting the deadly terrorist bombings that killed 200 people. Authorities are questioning five suspects now, and they're looking at a videotape in a which man claims al Qaeda is responsible and threatens more attacks.

Back here in the United States, firefighters in Pittsburgh are mourning the loss of two of their own. They were killed yesterday when a bell tower collapsed on them during a fire at a church. 31 firefighters were injured.

Want to go ahead and take a look at that e-mail question we've been asking you all morning. Does the threat of terror make you think twice about travel? We've been asking you to e-mail us. And here are some of your responses.

Now from Edwin in Toronto, he say, "yes, somewhat. I find myself taking a bus to street cars that run across the city, rather than take the subway. Though I haven't gone to any place that I would have as a result of the latest terrorism, the question is there."

And from Arlington, Virginia, Linda says "No, in fact I'm thinking of going to Spain to help counter what will be an inevitable reduction in tourism after the bombing. Some Spanish friends of mine made a point of coming to the U.S. in the fall of 2001. And I'd like to reciprocate if I can."

Interesting idea. All right, the next hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING begins right now.


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