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NEXT@CNN

New Technology Helps Distinguish Radiation Types; Chevy Cobalt, Toyota Corrolla Top Side-Impact Crash List; Bison Continue To Thrive In Yellowstone

Aired March 12, 2005 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RUDI BAKHTIAR, CNN ANCHOR: A deputy and a court reporter killed at the Fulton County Courthouse yesterday. Police are linking Nichols to the death of a federal agent this morning. Nichols was turned in by a woman who called 911 and told police the man they wanted was in her apartment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF CHARLES WALTERS, GWINNETT CO. POLICE: She was able to get out of the apartment and called us, and our S.W.A.T. team responded, they deployed and were able -- our uniform folks were able to control the scene, kept him contained. Shortly after the arrival of our S.W.A.T. team, Mr. Nichols surrendered to us without incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAKHTIAR: Nichols had been on trial for rape. He's now being held under tight security. You want to stay with CNN for all the details in this developing story. Including a live news conference by investigators at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. There will be a live news conference by investigators at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Moving on now the funeral for the mother of Federal Judge Joan Lefkow was today near Denver, Colorado. Donna Humphrey and Lefkow's husband were killed in Chicago nearly two weeks ago. His funeral was just last week. A suspect in the killing shot himself earlier this week during a traffic stop in Milwaukee.

President Bush is trying to build support for his proposed changes in his weekly radio address. The president reassured older Americans they would see no changes in their benefits. Mr. Bush says younger people will suffer if Social Security isn't fixed.

And in New York, in a hospital there today, former President Bill Clinton continues to recover after surgery. Doctors removed fluid and scar tissue surrounding his left lung two days ago. Surgeons say the procedures went well. Mr. Clinton is expected to remain in the hospital for up to ten days.

And high school students across the country are taking a new version of the S.A.T.s today the college board telling the Associated Press there would be more emphasis on writing and grammar and it will have tougher math questions. The test is also going to be a little longer, almost four hours total.

I'm Rudi Bakhtiar here at the CNN Center, more news at the bottom of the hour. NEXT@CNN begins right now.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Daniel Sieberg. Today on NEXT@CNN, new technology to help inspectors distinguish between harmless natural radiation and the kind that could lead them to a terrorist weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want Oakland to go up in a mushroom cloud.

SIEBERG: Also a simulated SUV slams into small cars in an insurance industry test. We will tell you which ones is best.

And we'll take you to an African village where people consider crocodiles their friends. All that and more on NEXT.

With officials warning that a dirty bomb could be the next mode of terrorist attack, President Bush has proposed doubling the money for research into the next generation of nuclear detection devices. Jeanne Meserve takes a look at the cutting edge of this technologies in CNN's ongoing "Security Watch" coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nuclear detectors sound the alarm. This is not a drill. Customs and border protection moves to search a cargo container for the source.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be advised the container has isotope industrial on 232.

MESERVE: The culprit, toilets.

STEVE BAXTER, U.S. CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: We had a good example of naturally occurring radiation that comes in all the time.

MESERVE: This happens about 20 times a day here at the busy port of Oakland. So at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, scientists are trying to develop nuclear detectors that can tell the difference between naturally occurring or harmless sources of radiation and those that could be used as a weapon.

SIMMON LABOW, LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATL. LAB: We use liquid nitrogen, which looks like this.

MESERVE: Simon Labow heads up the Radiation Detection Center. In his lab right now a devise to accurately identify even minute amounts of radio active material. Like the uranium oxide in this rock.

LABOW: It just told me, suspect norm, naturally occurring material.

MESERVE: Quickly identifying sources of radiation might prevent overreactions like the recent closure of a roadway in California after detectors picked up radiation. Radiation it turns out from a man who had recently received medical treatments.

LABOW: We call this ultra speck.

MESERVE: Also in the lab, this machine which might be able to lead investigators back to the source of material used in the terrorist crime.

LABOW: I think it will be a very powerful tool for what we call nuclear fingerprinting.

MESERVE: Labow is also experimenting with putting a chip, circuit board and GPS in cell phones, creating a computer connected network of radiological detectives.

LABOW: Some examples might be delivery people going to a lot of places. The postal service, every street, every day.

MESERVE: Dennis Slaughter is another scientist at Livermore.

DENNIS SLAUGHTER, LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATL. LAB: : We're trying to address the problem. If the stuff is really well-shielded and other people don't see it, we think we do.

MESERVE: He hides uranium or plutonium encased in lead deep inside sample cargos like this plywood. When bombarded with neutrons, a tiny amount of nuclear fission occurs producing intense radiation which detectors can pick up.

SLAUGHTER: I was doing nuclear physics until a couple years ago, and 9/11 came along, I quit that and I said I'm not doing that anymore, I going to do homeland security.

MESERVE: Why?

SLAUGHTER: I really wanted to work this problem?

MESERVE: Why?

SLAUGHTER: Because I don't want Oakland to go up in a mushroom cloud.

MESERVE: Top U.S. officials warn that it is just a matter of time until terrorists try to use radiological or nuclear weapons. The hope is that innovative science will help find them and stop them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIEBERG: Science is also helping make the postal service safer for employees as well as customers. After letters laced with anthrax killed five people in 2001. A post office at the center of that incident will reopen next week after more than three years of decontamination and renovation, Gerri Willis has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The sun's not up yet, but Joan Van Wagner is already at work in the vast New Jersey warehouse currently serving as the Trenton mail processing center. JOAN VAN WAGNER: I've got print thin, you got all the city zones that we deal with.

WILLIS: As for her husband --

J. VAN WAGNER: My husband his mail is over there, he'll end up with this mail and he'll sort it out and out he goes on the street.

WILLIS: Mark Van Wagner, a mail carrier and local union leader is prepping his mail before starting on his route.

MARK VAN WAGNER: I love postal work. I love delivering mail, I've been on this route about 15 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey John. Good, thanks, how about you?

M. VAN WAGNER: I know the customers, I know the customers kids, I know the customers pets. I can tell who's home by what car's in the driveway. I feel more connected to the route that I serve than the neighborhood I live in.

WILLIS: He lives here in Hamilton Township. It's this postal plant that Joan worked at in the fall of 2001. It's here those anthrax-laced letters were processed, and here where the investigation in the nation's attention focused. Four of Joan's co-workers were infected. Two postal workers in Washington, D.C. died. The Hamilton plant was expected to close for a matter of weeks. It's still closed more than three years later for decontamination and renovation.

M. VAN WAGNER: The whole building was a hot zone. You couldn't have worked in that building with out being exposed, the new systems in place should prevent that.

WILLIS: That's the biohazard detection system or BDS. The postal service is installing it in mail processing centers nationwide at a cost of $779 million.

JOANNA KORKER, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE: There are 283 facilities, and all will have these by the end, but we've got a ways to go.

WILLIS: District manager Joanna Korker explained the system to us at a plant in Bellmart, New Jersey. The basic idea, test the contents of each piece of mail as it's being sorted for anthrax and other biohazards.

KORKER: This is Barney. This is where mail actually gets entered into, and after the mail is dumped on to a conveyor belt it comes along this into this contained area. As it travels through the system here, we have vacuum tubes that are connected that will suck up the particles of mail as the letters go through a pinch point. The pinch point will make anything in the envelope come out into the air and go into the cabinet to be tested. We have the results of those tests in 30 minutes.

WILLIS: And if the alarm goes off. KORKER: Lights go flashing, everything stops, every person in this building is evacuated. First-responders take over, managers throughout the country are automatically alerted with an electronic system that we carry with us in fact at all times, and I don't think we want to go into what happens next.

WILLIS: A thought that Joan echoes.

J. VAN WAGNER: It won't be as widespread contamination as it was, because it will be detected with the new system they have, but it will still disrupt everything, and we'll still probably have to go on medication and all that.

M. VAN WAGNER: It won't stop it being brought into the system, but it will stop it at the point of intake, which is increased safety for everybody and of course the American public who won't have that contaminated mail coming out to them.

KORKER: This is detection and isolation. Once anything is identified, the potential for it to spread is almost negligible.

WILLIS: For security reasons, we're not revealing exactly which bio threats the system currently tests for or which centers currently have them.

KORKER: These machines didn't come out until April of 2004. Ours was installed in July, the first one started in July 2004.

WILLIS: More than three years after the anthrax attacks, is there still reason for concern?

KORKER: I don't think so. And I say that because our postal employees really work as the first line of defense.

WILLIS: As for what mail gets tested.

KORKER: Basically anything that comes in through a collection box, comes in through a post office, a letter carrier might pick up.

M. VAN WAGNER: The postal service and all the external agencies and Homeland Security and everybody have focused on ahead and what could happen, and what can we do to be aware of it and stop it.

WILLIS: Does it make you angry they haven't figured this out? It's been a long time.

J. VAN WAGNER: I'm very skeptical. It use to be the FBI, CDC, I used to think, wow. Now, I don't believe anything anybody tells me. It's just the way it is. I've changed my way of thinking. Those two postal employees in Washington, they did not have to die. Those letters would not have gone out to them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIEBERG: Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just ahead, how an ordinary-looking sidewalk can hide potential deadly electric current.

And later in the show, should buffalo that wander out of Yellowstone National Park be fair game for hunters?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIEBERG: Mount St. Helens blew off some steam this week. On Tuesday a plume of ash and vapor rose about seven miles over the volcanic crater in Washington State. Scientists are checking out the crater to try to determine what caused the release. It was accompanied by ten small earthquakes. The volcano has been rumbling and emitting steam since September, and geologists say it may be working up to an eruption. But they don't expect anything as big as the 1980 eruption.

Well bad weather can make streets and sidewalks dangerous. We're not talking about slipping on an icy patch. Sidewalks, streets, manhole covers, they can all carry dangerous electrical currents. Dan Lothian has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's the unseen danger lurking under streets and side walks that rises to the surface sometimes with deadly results.

KYLE DEVITO, DOG OWNER: We were really close, too. He was my best friend.

LOTHIAN: Thirteen year-old Kyle Devito's Christmas present was a year boxer named Cases was electrocuted on a Boston area side walk last week.

DEVITO: He stepped in a patch of dirt and just started to like shake and yelp, and he fell down.

LOTHIAN: Enstar the utility company took full responsibility. A live electrical wire left behind after a light pole was removed caused the deadly charge.

PAUL DEVITO, KYLE'S FATHER: He went out in the morning to walk his dog and found something that could be so unsafe.

LOTHIAN: Across the northeast, more evidence. Last week a black lab was zapped in downtown Boston, and a wheaten terrier puppy on a side walk, both survived. Last month, a volunteer paramedic performed CPR to revive his dog he says was electrocuted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I noticed that she had stopped breathing and her heart had stopped.

LOTHIAN (on camera): The problem is more pronounced during winter months, especially in areas where there is a lot of snow on the ground. The moisture mixed with salt, a potentially deadly combination conducting stray electrical current, sometimes just stepping on a manhole cover could mean trouble.

LOTHIAN (voice over): And humans are in danger, too. Thirty year old Jodi Lane died last August in New York City after she stepped on an electrified metal service box. What's being done? In Boston and New York City, the utility companies are searching for hot spots. Records are also being reviewed in order to identify any old lines. Boston Mayor Tom Menino is putting together a task force to investigate hot spots and Kyle's family has hired a lawyer. To get the company to act, they're asking Enstar for a settlement equal to the companies CEO's salary, $740,000.

P. DEVITO: It didn't have to happen to us. If they had been a little more mindful.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIEBERG: Well one of the towering figures of 20th century physics died last weekend at the age of 98. Hans Beta was an important part of the Manhattan project who developed the atomic bomb, he won a Nobel Prize for discovering how the sun and other stars produce energy. Beta fled Nazi, Germany before World War II and was on the faculty of Cornell University for more than 60 years. He died quietly at his home in upstate New York last Sunday.

King Tut, the Egyptian pharaoh was only a teenager when he died. Modern scientists have been puzzling over how he died. New tests offer some intriguing clues but the mystery still isn't solved. Ben Wedemen reports from Cairo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One of the oldest murder mysteries solved -- well, maybe. More than 3,000 years ago, 19- year-old Pharaoh Tutankhamen better known as King Tut was found dead in his royal bed. Many historians suspected foul play. Late last year, Egyptian scientists oversaw the first-ever C.T. Scan, a three- dimensional x-ray of Tut's mummy. They poured over 1,700 imaging searching for clues to answer the question, was Tut murdered? Last November we asked Egypt's top archaeologist what he thought.

ZAHI HAWASS, DIR. SUPREME ANTIQUITIES COUNCIL: I believe there was a conspiracy, and I believe he was murdered.

WEDEMAN: After the C.T. Scan he's changed his tune.

HAWASS: King Tut was not murdered, but we found out that his left leg was crushed, he had an injury just maybe a few days before he died.

WEDEMAN: Which might have caused a fatal infection or...

HAWASS: Maybe he was poisoned.

WEDEMAN: The high-tech scan may not solve the mystery but it may give us a better idea of what Tut really looked like.

HAWASS: It shows a three dimension of the mummy and we'll be able to reconstruct the face of King Tut.

WEDEMAN: Egyptian's authorities say old Tut has been roughed up enough since his tomb was discovered in 1922, and now it's time to put him back in the ground for good.

WEDEMAN (on camera): So King Tut wasn't killed by a blow to the head, but an infection or maybe even poison might have done him in. Say what you like, but this case is far from closed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up, researchers gets some scientific data on how men and women react to sexual images.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIEBERG: There was an epic struggle of man against machine this week and the man won. Actually it was a 17-year-old girl arm wrestling against three different robotic arms, and she beat all. Girl power, the competition was held by Assets (ph) Jet Propotion Lab to show off advances in development of so called artificial muscles made of electro active polymers. Impressive, but the researchers will have to keep working if they want to beat Panifelson (ph) the high school senior who disgrants herself as "a weakling."

So do men and women react differently when they look at sexually explicit materials? You may thing the answer is obvious. But scientists want to know what happens inside the male and female brains. Gary Tuchman reports on what they are learning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Four courageous graduated students, because they have volunteered to let us witness.

BRAIN BUSS: Just like you look at them as if you were watching a movie and just have your natural reaction.

TUCHMAN: Their reactions to explicit sexual images, all in the name of science, of course. Jen Properny (ph) is hooked up to a skin response machine that measures sweat. This is her response when looking at a nonsexual picture, almost a flat line. But when looking at an explicit picture of a couple her lines start to move, but compare her lines to Henry Lane's. He looks at a similar image and this is what happens on the computer screen.

Now, it's not revolutionary to find out men have stronger reactions to sexual images, but research here at Atlanta's Emory University with a larger group of people showing these pictures and others found that much of the reason for the differences has to did with our brains.

PROF. STEPHAN HAMANN, EMORY UNIVERSITY: We found that there are very specific parts of the brain that are more active in men than in women.

TUCHMAN: Professor Stephan Hamann research using MRI brain scans in addition to the skin tests have shown...

HAMANN: The areas that were more active in males were here in the amygdale in both sides and in the central area, the hypothalamus.

TUCHMAN: And the women?

HAMANN: And the women, you can see in that same area the amygdale on both sides no activity, and just very little activity in the hypothalamus.

TUCHMAN: Among our group, the women insist that they found some of the pictures arousing.

JEN POKORNY, GRADUATE STUDENT: I was surprised that there was relatively little response.

TUCHMAN: But the results in our test as well as the complete study show that men are more likely to have a dramatic response. Is it enough for you to just see the picture and know nothing about what you're looking at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely.

TUCHMAN: There are certainly sociological reasons for the differences. You're looking at pictures with no context at all, no social context at all. If there was some context and you knew more about the people, if you knew the people, would that make it more arousing?

POKORNY: Probably, yes, because you can look at it that they're just pictures, but yes, if there was a story or if there was some sort of context to put into it, you can't probably respond better.

TUCHMAN: But this study has shown these students and many others there are biological reasons, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up in our next half hour, the bison in Yellowstone National Park are usually pretty calm, but the humans are in an uproar over how the herd should be managed.

And the remote control that does a lot more than just change channels. Those stories and a lot more are coming up after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIEBERG: Welcome back to NEXT@CNN. Bison are thriving in Yellowstone National Park, but they run into trouble when they wander outside the park. Ranchers are afraid that the bison will spread disease to their cattle, and some hunters would like to bag a buffalo. Gary Strieker reports on the debate.

GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are now more than 4,000 animals in the nation's largest herd of wild free- roaming bisons, usually called buffalo. They're protected inside Yellowstone National Park, but what happens when they wander outside the park has caused a running dispute between neighboring cattle ranchers and those who want to give buffalo more freedom to roam. Last year, Montana authorities approved a plan allowing hunters to shoot buffalo outside the park, and many hunters supported it.

SANDORD SHROUD, HUNTER: I like it. I think it's something they should have done here a while ago.

ROGER KOOPMAN, HUNTER: The bisons, ultimately, are being killed, they have to be killed one way or another.

STRIEKER: The plan was cut back to permit only ten buffalo to be killed this year, but in November, a new governor was elected, democrat Brian Schweitzer, who called the hunt a public relations nightmare and canceled it.

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: That's not a hunt. Montanans know what a hunt is. A hunt is a free chase.

STRIEKER (on camera): Some say the governor has caved into pressure from out of state animal rights group, but there are hunters here, who are who also oppose the bison hunt at this time.

(voice-over): They remember the last public hunts, more than a decade ago, when wildlife authorities escorted hunters so close to buffalo they couldn't miss.

JOE GUTKOSKI, HUNTER: It was a slaughter, and hunters do not participate in wildlife slaughter.

STRIEKER: Ranchers in Montana worry that buffalo leaving the park could spread a disease, brucellosis, to their cattle. While there's never been a recorded case of buffalo transmitting brucellosis to cattle, Montana Livestock and Wildlife Officials insist it is a real threat. Authorities chase wandering buffalo back into the park. Captured buffalo, testing positive for disease, are sent for slaughter, more than 260, last winter. Some caught it persecution of buffalo, and they hope the new governor will stop it.

MIKE MEASE, BUFFALO FIELD CAMPAIGN: The governor's on the right track, stopping the buffalo hunt, but he needs to do more.

STRIEKER: They say it's time to give buffalo more free access to public lands bordering the park and more effective ways to control brucellosis without harassing buffalo. The governor has provoked a storm of criticism by suggesting all buffalo in the park should be rounded up and replaced with a new herd of brucellosis-free animals. He's now backed away from the plan, and is getting good marks from all sides for being open to new ideas.

SCHWEITZER: Ideally, we would like the last free-ranging herd of bison left in North America to be healthy and to have the opportunity to range outside the park.

STRIEKER: Only then, he says, should the public be allowed to hunt buffalo, but to reach that point, he'll first have to deal with Montana's powerful cattle ranchers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIEBERG: So, how green is the ocean? Well, scientists say it's getting greener as we speak. Images from NASA's SeaWiFS spacecraft indicate the oceans have rising levels of chlorophyll, the stuff that makes plants green. That's caused by increases in phytoplankton, the tiny plants that are the base of the marine food chain. Because plankton are so important to the ecosystem, the increase of just four percent over six years could be significant. Scientists are trying to figure out what's causing it and why the increase is greatest closest to the coasts.

Well, China is not generally known for protecting the environment, but that may be changing. New legislation and efforts by activists are trying to address the country's environmental problems. Stan Grant reports from Beijing.

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A glimpse of a Beijing past. Here, the so-called New China, vanishes in the alleyways and marketplaces of an earlier time. Women bargain in the open meat markets, their men, many unemployed, live life behind the eight ball. If China's economic growth is measured at all, it is measured in waste, piled up by the roadside, dumped in filthy creeks, and no one seems to notice. This schoolteacher simply giggles when asked about the dangers of pollution. Others know it may all soon be gone anyway. The city sprawl swallows up a way of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The land has been blocked by the government and faces redevelopment, so it's getting better and better.

GRANT (on camera): One of the big problems is simply education, making people aware of their environment, the dangers of pollution and what they can do to make a difference.

(voice-over): Dai Ging is trying to change all this, an environmentalist, she fears China's culture and natural beauty has been sacrificed to getting rich.

DAI GING, ENVIRONMENTALIST (through translator): In the past, we had a philosophy of admiring nature and being one with nature, but in the early '80s, the power of capital had taken over and greedy thoughts changed everyone's minds.

GRANT: Powering the rapidly growing economy has made China the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. It has signed the Kyoto Protocol, but as a developing country, is exempt from emission reduction targets, but it has now passed renewable energy legislation, giving preference to renewable energy producers, financial incentives, and tax breaks to renewable energy projects. China, trying to encourage wind power, and other alternatives. It may not be enough.

GING: The main resource we use is coal. Its air pollution has not only affected China, but the whole world. Sun power and wind power are quite good, but they count for a small percentage of China's energy sources.

GRANT: The new energy law comes into effect next January. Communities like this can barely wait. In rural areas across China, 30 million people have no power. Sixty percent of China's 800 million rural residents still cook on open fires. Health problems like asthma are rampant. The message for children in the new China is to get rich is glorious. But many right now, just breathing clean air would be enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: When we come back, we'll tell you which small cars held up the best in a simulated crash with an SUV.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIEBERG: When a big SUV t-bones a small car, the small car is likely to come out the loser. The insurance industry has been doing crash tests to figure out which small cars do the best job of protecting occupants. Julie Vallese reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JULIE VALLESE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In tests designed to simulate a side-impact crash between a car and an SUV, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashed 16 small cars. Only two were rated acceptable, the Chevy Cobalt and the Toyota Corolla.

ADRIAN LUND, INSURANCE INST. FOR HWY SAFETY: The test results for the Cobalt and the Corolla, when it was equipped with side-impact air bags, show that even small cars can be made to protect their occupants.

VALLESE: Without the side-impact air bags, the two vehicles received poor ratings in the simulation that both manufacturers and the institute characterize as severe.

LUND: I think that this test is a message to manufacturers. They're selling a lot of small cars to people out there, and those people aren't adequately protected in the kinds of impacts that are increasingly frequent.

VALLESE (on camera): In small cars, side-impact air bags are not enough, says the institute. Some of the cars rated poor had them. The structural integrity, the actual design of the car, says the institute, must be improved. Manufacturers say safety is their top priority, and that they're working to make improvements wherever possible, something the institute is happy to hear.

LUND: We are hopeful that the new designs that are coming out, later this year, that weren't included in this test group, will do better. VALLESE: But no one knows for sure until those new cars go up against the SUV simulator at 31 miles per hour.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIEBERG: Based on those tests, "Consumer Reports" revised its rating of small cars. Three cars, the Ford Focus, the Hyundai Elanta, and Mazda 3 were knocked off the recommended list because of their performance in the side-impact test.

Well, did you ever wonder about those crash test dummies that spend their lives being beaten up in accident simulations? Paula Zahn reports on how they were developed and what they do in this week's "Getting There" segment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They do some of the hardest work on earth, but somehow they're always in a good mood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really, I hadn't noticed.

ZAHN: When they get into a crash, no one even calls an ambulance for them. They're never charged with causing an accident or leaving the scene, and even after going through a dozen crashes in one day, they still have that ridiculous grin.

More than 50 years ago, Samuel Alderson began creating test dummies, first for the Air Force, later for car makers. Nowadays, dummies test everything from construction equipment to golf balls to plane crashes. This test was a controlled crash landing done for NASA. You can see why it's hard to recruit live volunteers for this kind of work.

After 50 years of evolution, this is the standard model. The Hybrid III, the 50th percentile male, 5'7" tall, 172 pounds. He's the product of decades of dummy research, with vinyl skin, a rubberneck, steel ribs, and a body cavity full of sensors. He sometimes works naked, but he's not embarrassed. Those yellow birthmarks are used by scientists to measure exactly how badly he gets bangedded up in each crash. Over the years it dawned on dummy makers that 170-pound men are not the only people who ride in cars, so they develop entire dummy families who go out and crash together. Tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, kids, toddlers, and now even pregnant women.

The smartest dummies cost more than $100,000, and of course there's also the expense of crashing hundreds of cars every year. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates since 1960, more than 300,000 lives have been saved by seatbelts, airbags, and other safety features designed with test results from dummies. They strap in, crash, hit the air bag, and come back for more.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Still to come, is your cell phone about to take over the music playing duties from your MP3 player?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is cnn breaking news.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)

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