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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Good evening. I'm Elizabeth Farnsworth. Jim Lehrer is on vacation. On the NewsHour tonight, an update on the search for earthquake survivors in Turkey; a look at today's anti-Milosevic protest in Belgrade; a report on injuries from carryon baggage in airplanes; and a David Gergen dialogue about measuring the universe. It all follows our summary of the news this Thursday.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: A Marietta, Georgia grandfather and his four young grandchildren were killed in this week's earthquake in Turkey. The "Atlanta Journal Constitution" reported that today. They were the only Americans found so far. The children were ages nine months to six years. Their mother and grandmother survived and were hospitalized with injuries. Their six-year-old sister was not harmed. A Washington State Department Spokesman James Rubin said search efforts were underway for other Americans.
JAMES RUBIN: With respect to the four contractors at the Turkish naval base, which is another issue, we understand that two of the contractors had left the area prior to the earthquake, but that the other two remain unaccounted for. We are following up on these individuals. Our consulate general has -- continues to work with local authorities and has sent personnel to Izmit to determine the well-being of Americans.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: More than 200 aftershocks rocked Turkey for three hours today. More than two million residents were ordered to go outdoors. The government's official death toll surpassed 6,800, with 29,000 injured and perhaps as many as 35,000 victims still buried beneath the rubble. International search and rescue teams continued to converge on the stricken area. An American unit used heat-seeking cameras, listening devices, and sniffer dogs to locate survivors. In Izmit, firefighters were able to gain control over a massive fire at an oil refinery. We'll have more on the story right after the News Summary. In Yugoslavia, crowds estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 today demanded the resignation of it Slobodan Milosevic. It was the largest anti-government demonstration in Serbia's capital in two years. Organizers said police tried to keep demonstrators away by warning of possible attacks by pro-government supporters. The rally was briefly interrupted when a tear gas canister was hurled near a speaker's podium, causing a brief stampede. But opposition leaders continued to address the crowd. We'll have more on this story later in the program tonight. The trade deficit hit an all- time high in June. The Commerce Department said today it grew to $24.6 billion, a 16 percent increase over May. Imports from Western Europe soared, and at the same time the gap with China and Japan widened. Alcoa and Reynold's Metals will merge in a $14.4 billion stock deal. Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum maker, had made a hostile bid for Reynolds. The combined firm would have sales of $20 billion a year with operations in 36 countries. President Clinton seized on new school enrollment numbers today to criticize the Republican tax cut. The Education Department reported U.S. public and private schools can expect 53.2 million students this year, a record number. It was attributed to immigration and the so-called baby boom echo-- an increase in births in the 1980's-- the children of parents born after World War II. Mr. Clinton said the surplus should be spent on more teachers and schools and other programs, and then on a tax cut.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: This can be a great thing for America, having all these kids in the schools from all these different backgrounds. They can make us a digger, stronger, more diverse, richer, more successful country, but we have to do right by them. We've got to give them a good economy, we've got to make sure that when the baby boomers retire, the parents of these children don't have to spend money that they would otherwise spend educating their children and helping them grow taking care of their parents because we haven't done right by Social Security and Medicare, and we've got to give them a decent world-class education.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressional Republicans have scheduled more than 600 events during the summer recess to tout their tax cut. House Speaker Hastert said yesterday he was "perplexed" by the President's opposition. Republicans view their plan as giving back to Americans what they deserve. Late today, the Clintons left for Martha's Vineyard, the island off the Coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They'll spend ten days there, then another six in New York on long island and upstate, as Mrs. Clinton considers a bid to become the state's next Senator. In Denver, Lutheran Church leaders agreed today to form an alliance with the Episcopal Church. They voted at the National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Episcopalians will vote on the pact during their convention next year. The two denominations together have about 7.5 million members. Under the proposal, the churches would recognize and share each other's sacraments and clergy. And that's it for the News Summary Tonight. Now it's on to an update from Turkey; protests in Belgrade; the dangers of carry-on baggage; and a David Gergen dialogue.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Turkey's earthquakedeath toll continues to rise. Julian Manyon of Independent Television News has this report from Adapazari, one of the hardest-hit towns.
JULIAN MANYON: Amid the thousands of deaths, at least a few precious lives are being saved. Pulled from a hole underneath the rubble, a six-year-old boy. Gently he was passed from hand to hand by the rescue team. His name is Emil Yazli and he was unhurt. But his parents are known to have died and his two brothers are believed to be still trapped in the ruins. From another smashed building another even younger boy-- perhaps two or three years old-- was also pulled out alive, and as onlookers applauded, the child somehow had the strength to join in. While countless families have lost members, there have been miraculous reunions as well. As this little girl was being examined after her rescue, her mother was also saved. Exhausted and seemingly in shock, she found comfort kissing her child's feet. But in many place, hope is disappearing fast amid the sweltering hit. Here in the town of Adapazari, the worst hit in the earthquake zone, rescuers have now abandoned their attempts to save the young man whose voice was heard from this pile of masonry last night. Instead they are now simply searching for the bodies that lie beneath the rubble. In the shattered central street, machinery that was being used to try to dig the victims out is now tearing down buildings that could collapse at any moment. As more bodies are recovered, the town's mayor says that as many as 5,000 may still be hidden in the rubble. Here, as in the rest of the earthquake area, the authorities are worried by the health risks created by the large numbers of corpses, and the prime minister has called for them to be buried as soon as possible. People here are still trying to come to terms with the sheer scale of this disaster. In the crisis center tent, the town deputy governor does his best to encourage his team, but speaking to me, he could not hide his dismay.
DEPUTY GOVERNOR: (speaking through interpreter) Adapazari has suffered terrible, unimaginable damage. It has been virtually wiped off the map.
JULIAN MANYON: With at least 60 percent of the town's buildings destroyed or damaged, it is difficult to imagine how Adapazari can ever recover, though people are trying to salvage whatever pathetic belongings have survived. A young civil engineer told me that poor construction standards have magnified the effects of the earthquake.
CIVIL ENGINEER: I feel awful, but this is mistake of the project managers and project makers and the constructors.
JULIAN MANYON: As it gradually becomes clear just how much of this part of Turkey has been destroyed, estimates of the economic cost are rising. The earthquake zone normally generates about 35 percent of the country's wealth. Now industries are in ruins, and many of the work force are dead. At Izmit, the oil refinery which produces a third of Turkey's petrol is still burning fiercely. The bill for all this will be massive, tens of billions of pounds, but it is the damage in the survivors' minds, the loss of loved ones and the destruction of their hopes that will be hardest to repair.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The protest against Milosevic in Belgrade. We start our coverage with this report from John Draper of Independent Television News.
JOHN DRAPER, ITN: On the streets of Belgrade this evening, 150,000 people united in one demand, that President Slobodan Milosevic goes. They came from all over Serbia, some traveling hundreds of miles to make their voices heard for change. At one stage someone exploded a tear gas canister. People scattered, gagging for breath. But within minutes, they were back defiant. Nothing was going to disrupt this demonstration against the president. For once, the fractious opposition put on a united front backed by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Democratic Party Leader Zoran Djindjic gave the president 15 days to resign or they'd be back on the streets every day. This has been the biggest anti-Milosevic rally since the war. The tear gas incident, if anything, appears to have hardened their resolve. Many of these people have demonstrated against the president over the years, this time, they say, they'll continue demonstrating until he resigns. Vuk Draskovic, the charismatic opposition leader, appeared out of the blue and cut through the crowd to the platform. His supporters went wild, but others called him a traitor over his decision to join President Milosevic's government for several months. Once again, the divisions in the opposition were evident, but the people were clear about Mr. Milosevic.
WOMAN: He should resign.
MAN: Well, big hope that something will change in this country.
JOHN DRAPER: The people had spoken, and it was spectacular, but no one here thinks Slobodan Milosevic will go easily.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: "New York Times" Correspondent Steven Erlanger covered today's demonstration. I talked with him a few moments ago. Thanks for being with us, Steve Erlanger, and please tell us, did this rally meet the expectations of the opposition?
STEVEN ERLANGER: Yes, I think it did. They were a little bit nervous about the turnout, but they wanted about 100,000 people, and I think there were probably fewer than that, but not a lot fewer. And the rally was loud and boisterous and fervent. They heard a very mixed message from different opposition leaders, but I think it really was not a flop, and that was the key thing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tell us about the mixed message.
STEVEN ERLANGER: Well, what you had was this very strange event. It was a rally that was sponsored by a group no one had ever really heard of, a bunch of economists and experts that pulled in a lot of opposition politicians who actually don't like each other very much. And one of them, Vuk Draskovic, had sworn he would not appear on the stage with this group, and yet crashed the party anyway. And when he did crash the party, he basically criticized the people who organized the rally and also criticized his rival indirectly, Zoran Djindjic, head of the Democracy Party, and said what the country really needed was not a new transitional government, but fresh elections as soon as possible. So if you were in the crowd, you heard about four different messages, Draskovic's being one of the most different and certainly one of the most critical of the other people speaking.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Steve, who was in the crowd? Tell us what kinds of people you saw and why they were there.
STEVEN ERLANGER: Well, lots of people came who simply want change. I mean, it's been ten years of this Milosevic government. What everyone thinks of him -- it's a tired government. People have seen their lives decline. So you found a lot of kind of Belgraders, urban people, doctors, middle class people. You had the usual round of kind of young, soccer types who just want to party and want to make noise, some of them Red Star soccer fans who actually favor Zoran Djindjic. I mean, there was a little bit of squabbling in the crowd, but by in large, this was a pretty educated, pretty influential group of people, and also a number of people who I'd say, you know, have lost perspective. They don't have good jobs. They don't see what future there's going to be for their children. They're really less interested in personalities than in change, and this was the best way to express that hope for change.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Were the military or police present and visible?
STEVEN ERLANGER: There were no military present that I saw. There were police, but they were fairly discreet. I mean, they were in buildings around the sight just in case there was trouble, but they did, as I could see, nothing to intervene. There was some talk that they were redirecting traffic, but I think enough people came so that it would be hard to argue that the police stopped lots of people from coming. I mean, people came as they pleased, said what they wanted, and went home peacefully.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And was the Serbian Orthodox Church visible, and how important was their role in this demonstration?
STEVEN ERLANGER: Well, they were one of the sponsoring parties, and, you know, they have called in the past and called again recently for President Milosevic to resign. You know, they're a kind of moral force, but I think not as influential in this largely secular country as many people believe. I mean, they were more powerful in 1991 and 1992 when communism seemed to be collapsing. So what they say matters, but I don't think it swings lots of votes quite honestly.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Steve, you've been covering other demonstrations around the country. We've been reading your articles. Have they all built to this one, and is this one especially significant because of the size and the fact that it's in Belgrade?
STEVEN ERLANGER: Yes, it is significant for just those reasons. The opposition in a way seemed to be afraid of Belgrade. There was a lot of popular anger, particularly in the south of Serbia over the loss of Kosovo. And this was not something that the politicians organized. It's something that took them a bit by surprise. And they've been very slow. I mean, some people would argue this rally in Belgrade should have happened a month ago. Other people are arguing it should happen again in September when students are back and winter is coming. So they're not getting their timing right. But still, it was an important rally, but I think it's not definitive. One could only say it was one and the biggest one of a number of rallies that have waxed and waned all summer long. This story still has quite a long way to go, and President Milosevic is far from toppling, I think.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And is that largely because of the divisions that you described within the opposition?
STEVEN ERLANGER: Well, I think it's partly that. I think it's also partly, frankly, that, you know, he still looks like a titan among politicians compared to the squabbling opposition people. And also, don't forget, this still is a communist system, though by a different name. It never fell apart. There's still an awful lot of power centralized in Milosevic's hands-- the army, the police, the administration. He has money with which to buy people. There's a lot of power there. I think the regime is beginning to split a little bit. Onions are peeling away. But it's still, as they say, a sort of Slobocentric universe, and he has a lot of cards to play. They're very scared. I think this is the most vulnerable period for him ever. And he's certainly benefited by divisions in the opposition. And he's doing his best to make them worse.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And briefly and finally, what are the signs that he's scared?
STEVEN ERLANGER: Well, I mean, for instance, there were some awkward efforts to cut down the size of this demonstration. On TV last night, they talked about the arrest of a man from Montenegro with a bomb and said that he was going to blow it up at the rally. They decided to pay pensioners today. They moved the televising of a popular lottery show to tonight from Saturday night. And there were other things. I mean, they floated the idea of early elections, again, as a way to flummox the opposition, because some of the opposition isn't really ready for elections. So it's gotten them squabbling amongst themselves once again on a topic, new elections, that would leave him still in power.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Steve Erlanger, thank you very much for being with us. Good to see you again.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And joining me now are Daniel Serwer, Balkans Director at the U.S. Institute for Peace and Former Special U.S. Envoy to the Bosnian Federation. And Charles Ingrao, Professor of History at Purdue University. He just returned from spending the summer in Bosnia and Croatia. Daniel Serwer, would you agree that this was an important but not definitive demonstration just from what you've heard about it?
DANIEL SERWER: I agree completely with what Steve was saying. It seems to me they met the threshold for participation that they required, but this will not remove Slobodan Milosevic, and there are a lot of questions still open about the future of this movement.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We'll come back to those questions, but let me ask you also, what about the people who were there, just from what you heard, is there anything significant about the composition of this demonstration?
DANIEL SERWER: I don't know enough yet to be able to say about that. In the past, during this past summer, the demonstrations outside of Belgrade have included a very broad spectrum of people, including military reservists, retirees, pensioners people who aren't usually associated with the intellectual opposition in Belgrade. And that seems to me a sign of strength in the opposition.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Charles Ingrao, what did you hear today about this demonstration that taught you anything about the state of this opposition in Serbia generally?
CHARLES INGRAO: Well, the opposition is delighted to have had over 100,000 people at the demonstrations. At the same time, there is real apprehension within the alliance for change that they can trust Vuk Draskovic. There is a real fear he is really in cahoots with Milosevic to the extent he will support early elections, which will be controlled by the government, and will simply elongate his hold on power.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So Mr. Ingrao, the differences that Steve Erlanger talked about were quite evident in the demonstration today, and do you think these are still rather crippling for the opposition?
CHARLES INGRAO: First of all, there was hissing and booing and throwing of plastic bottles while Vuk Draskovic was speaking, I don't know if that showed on the feed. So this is not a good sign as far as that's concerned, but we have to keep in mind that the bottom line is Milosevic is unpopular, he has been for years. He is either distrusted, disliked or despised by virtually all the Serbs. And so whether or not the opposition can get together right now may be beside the point, because as we get towards October and November, that's when push comes to shove. The infrastructure has been destroyed, and only the West can rebuild it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're saying things could get just that much hotter then.
CHARLES INGRAO: Yes. September - as was mentioned -- when the students come back, that will be the first test. And then, after that, as we get to winter and there's no heating oil, there's no gas, that's when I think everybody has to really smell the coffee and see whether or not they are ready to go through the winter without the ability to survive.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you agree with that, Mr. Serwer?
DANIEL SERWER: Yes, I do. I think the winter is the big test. The question is can these opposition figures maintain this momentum? One demonstration won't do it. As Djindjic indicated today, they're going to have to put people out in the streets repeatedly day after day, as they have sometimes in the past to good effect. They're also going to have to develop more unity than they have today. It was quite apparent that there's a big difference in what Draskovic is asking for and what Djindjic is asking for. This group of economists that organized this demonstration is an extraordinary phenomenon, one that gives me a lot of hope about Serbia. They're a group that has been active for some time. And it's quite extraordinary to see a popular movement supporting an intellectual group advocating a transition government of experts.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That's what they're calling for. They don't want elections right away, they want a transition government.
DANIEL SERWER: That's right. And one of the big questions is whether this opposition can avoid the traps that Milosevic will lay. He's expert at traps, and snap elections under the current election laws and without international supervision would be a terrible trap.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ingrao, tell us the role of the church in all of this and how crucial you think it is.
CHARLES INGRAO: Well, historically the Orthodox Church has not gotten involved politically, and that's not just in Serbia but throughout the Orthodox world. It's much different than the western Christian world in a sense. What is really remarkable is that through the efforts and particularly Bishop Aremi, the bishop of Kosovo, who has seen everything develop for the last ten years, that they have stepped forward, largely because of Artemi's leadership and because of the advice he has gotten from Serbian opposition leaders within Kosovo and in Belgrade.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And do you have anything to add to that?
CHARLES INGRAO: Well, I think that when you look at the system that Milosevic has created and that sustains him, he's sustained by police, by the manipulation and control of public media and thirdly by a patronage system, the people who work for him, people who need access to scarce resources, people who need government contracts. He is staying in power like a typical fascist regime would, like Franco's Spain or Mussolini's Italy or the Latin dictatorships or the dictatorships of Latin America. He only controls those levers that are necessary to control to stay in power. The church is outside of that right now, but there are many pressure points, in Montenegro, in Kosovo, in the Voi Vodino, the former Hapsburg Province, which is very much more multi-ethnic and very much more tolerant, and then the church within Serbia itself.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Serwer, do you have anything to add to that about the church?
DANIEL SERWER: No, not really. The church has turned in a good direction under a lot of pressure from - actually from Kosovar Serbs in particular. And that's a very positive development that has happened, but it's not goingto be decisive. I agree with Charlie about that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what's the role of the U.S. right now?
DANIEL SERWER: The role of the U.S. should be a fully supportive role of the Serb opposition and of the efforts to remove Milosevic. There's not that much we can do about it, but we should be putting the kind of money and effort into this that we put into the democratization of Eastern Europe more than ten years ago.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is that happening? There are meetings, I mean very high administration officials have met with various leaders of the opposition, most recently the Secretary of State.
DANIEL SERWER: There are clear indications that the administration is being supportive. I think it's been a little bit slow to get moving after the war but money is now starting to flow, support is now starting to flow, and that's a good thing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But Charles Ingrao, does that also give Milosevic a stick with which to hit the opposition?
CHARLES INGRAO: Well, I think if we go for elections in September, that's going to give him plenty of wiggle room. He can manipulate those elections, and he can find yet another way to survive. But, you know, I'd like to make one point, and that is, as we're looking at Serbia, we're looking at one of our - one of our diplomats calls the hole in the doughnut - we have a region around Serbia that is very much playing ball with the West. Everybody in the Balkans wants to be part of Western Europe. They want to be part of the new international community, and so when Romania, and Bulgaria, and Macedonia, and Slovakia, and Hungary, all of these countries are carrying out the evolution from communism to a civil society based on democracy and the rule of law, it's Serbia that is in the middle, and we need to focus on that. On the other hand, they are isolated, and I think the danger now that they have lost Kosovo and now that they no longer have the ability to project force beyond Serbia's borders, it s basically a question of time, because have the leverage and the momentum, and Milosevic has very little right now.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ingrao, there's a lot of talk about civil war from opposition leaders. They warn of civil war if such and such isn't done or is done. Is that a real danger?
CHARLES INGRAO: Yes, as a matter of fact, that's one of the concerns that people in Belgrade have been telling me, that they don't want violence in the streets, they don't want the country to be split. I would suggest that the palliative for this is the army. The army has historically throughout this century not gotten involved in overthrowing the government with two exceptions: Before World War I and then on the eve of World War II. Otherwise the army has prided itself in its professionalism. But if it comes to civil war, I think we can see the army stepping in. Within the army middle-level officers, junior and mid-life officers are very much against Milosevic, there's a tremendous amount of opposition. The people at the top are part of the patronage system. They would have to be toppled. But the army I think will do what it sees as Serbia's best interest.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Serwer, what do you think about the civil war issue?
DANIEL SERWER: I think some of the talk about civil war is pumped up by Milosevic, to tell you the truth, in order to scare his opposition. But Charlie's right, that the army has a role to play here, and how willing it's going to be to play it, I'm not really sure. General Peresic, who is now out of the army, but has a lot of sympathies from inside, I understand was not at the demonstration today, and that's clearly a weakness of the opposition if it hasn't brought him fully into the picture.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I know he said he might not go, but I'm not sure he wasn't there. We don't have any information about that.
DANIEL SERWER: I'm not sure either, but I haven't seen any reports that he was there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right, well, thank you both very much for helping us understand this.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And still to come on the NewsHour tonight, injuries from carry-on baggage, and a Gergen dialogue. Tom Bearden has the airline story.
TOM BEARDEN: It's a drearily familiar moment in air travel: The mad scramble for carryon baggage space. Unwilling to wait at the carousel to retrieve checked baggage, many people haul as much of their belongings onboard as they can get away with, and try to cram it all in the overhead bins. But what goes up sometimes comes down.
PATRICIA CONNELLY: When the plane landed, I was exiting into the aisle, and I had my head down because I'm 5'8", and I heard the door open, and wham. It was almost spontaneous that I got walloped with a big canvas bag. It was just like -- like somebody, you know, blew a firecracker, it just happened so fast.
TOM BEARDEN: Five years after that accident, Patricia Connelly is still struggling to live a normal life. She suffers pinched nerves, tightened muscles, and intermittent, unpredictable pain in her hands. She is forced to use lightweight cookware, and has to stand on stepladders to reach shelves because stretching and reaching are almost impossible. The accident, aboard a United Airlines 757, ruptured three disks, the flexible pads between the vertebrae in the spinal column. Eventually two disks were surgically removed, and three vertebrae fused with a titanium implant. Connelly once had a successful career as a chiropractor, so she's especially aware of what happened to her back.
TOM BEARDEN: How did it affect your professional life?
PATRICIA CONNELY: It wiped it out.
PATRICIA CONNELY: Chiropractors use their upper extremities and their neck for looking down, for pushing, for pulling, and I can't do that any longer.
TOM BEARDEN: What happened to Trish Connelly is less of a freak accident than you might suppose. Independent safety experts estimate that as many as 4,500 people a year are injured by falling baggage. Our own research, based on court documents, indicates that's a credible figure, making carryon baggage the biggest single cause of passenger injuries today.
DR. DAVID A. THOMPSON, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University: That's sort of like one 747 crashing every month with everyone injured-- not killed, of course, but everyone injured.
TOM BEARDEN: David Thompson is a former professor at Stanford University who has served as an expert witness in several of the many lawsuits that have grown out of these accidents.
DR. DAVID A. THOMPSON: That's a significant issue. The problem is it sort of happens in onesies and twosies spread out over all airlines over the whole year, rather than having the significant impact of a whole plane full of people crashing.
TOM BEARDEN: As part of his work, Thompson has analyzed the mechanics of a typical bag injury.
DR. DAVID A. THOMPSON: The spacing of the overhead bin and the position of the seat is such that the bags fall almost directly, following a pure ballistic trajectory onto something near the center of the person sitting on the aisle. If that is a significant object like a hard-sided briefcase with sharp corners, or a computer case, something that's heavy, weighing ten, twenty pounds, it falls about a foot and a half in about 300 milliseconds, and winds up causing a really significant injury to a person sitting in that seat, either on the center of their head or perhaps bounce -- glancing off their head and on their shoulder.
TOM BEARDEN: None of the airlines we contacted would discuss baggage injuries with us. The Federal Aviation Administration doesn't keep statistics on the numbers of incidents, and the airlines aren't required to report them. The FAA acknowledges that its current carryon policies are based purely on anecdotes. Margaret Gilligan is Deputy Associate Administrator at the FAA.
MARGARET GILLLIGAN, Deputy Associate Administrator, FAA: We don't have what we would consider scientific data about the number of bags that are coming in, or the number of bags any individuals are carrying, or the kinds of incidents or accidents that are occurring with baggage, or the kinds of injuries people may be getting. But we were getting a lot of anecdotes from the flight attendant organizations, from the pilot organizations, from the operators, and what we've learned is that first of all, most of these injuries are very minor. That's not to downplay them, but they are bumps and bruises, to a large extent, although there have been some very serious injuries, and we look at those very closely.
TOM BEARDEN: Our own research shows the airlines knew far more about the problem than previously disclosed. Injury data produced as evidence in personal injury lawsuits has been trickling out despite protective orders designed to keep some of that information secret. Court cases move slowly, and some of the data is two to three years old, but experts believe it provides a credible indication of what's going on now. Documents made available to Dr. Thompson show that United has been tracking carryon bag injuries quarter by quarter for about a decade: 25 people were hurt in the first quarter of 1990; 175 in the third quarter of 1994. In 1992, a United safety engineer wrote a memo stating that the rate of injury had increased 184 percent between the first and fourth quarters of 1992. By 1992, United was even breaking the data down to track injuries from briefcases, wheelies, and starting in 1994, laptops. In a different lawsuit, American Airlines reported it had 361 claims for compensation from falling baggage between 1991 and 1995. That's claims, not injuries. The actual number of injuries was probably larger, and American said even that list of 361 claims was probably incomplete. As the data emerged, some of it came to the attention of Dr. Leo Rozmaryn, a Maryland orthopedic surgeon. He did a statistical breakdown of the available figures for one airline. Despite its limited sample, it is one of the few scientific studies of who's being hurt by falling baggage and why.
DR. LEO ROZMARYN, Orthopedic Surgeon: Any kind of bag, the average injury rates were about 20 percent to 40 percent for standard suitcases and/or laptop computers. However when people put oddly shaped objects in such as picture frames, sporting equipment, wheelies, strollers, wheelchair parts, the injury rates rose to approximately 80 percent, notably with deep lacerations, eye injuries, head injuries for the most part.
TOM BEARDEN: Dr. Rozmaryn also looked into changing passenger behavior that he believes has contributed to the rise in baggage accidents. Before deregulation, air travel was a special event-- no overhead bins, just shelves for hats and coats. It's a different world now, as Rozmaryn documented surreptitiously on videotape. More and people are flying, and they're carrying on more and more baggage. What did your tape show in terms of what went in the overheads?
DR. LEO ROZMARYN: Very large bags. All manner of shopping bags full of souvenirs and duty-free items, glass that obviously had not been packed, liquor bottles that are stuffed into a shopping bag, and the whole thing just gets rolled any old way. You can't stand the bottle up in the overhead compartment, so the stuff is lying on its side, where, during turbulent episodes of flight, they can simply roll around. And all it takes is for some guy to open up -- to open up the latch, and the next thing you know, the bottle's on somebody's head.
TOM BEARDEN: The lawsuit documents show that three major U.S. airlines not only tracked the rising number of accidents, they also looked for some kind of technical fix. None was ever installed. By 1995, United Airlines was concerned enough to start testing so-called secondary restraint systems. In memos, United's safety personnel discussed the merits of elastic straps and cords across the front of the bin. United also looked at netting systems, including one system of its own design, and another one made by a British firm called Bridport. The Bridport system uses a pair of inner doors with netting to hold bags in place after the outer bin door is opened. If a big is in danger of falling out, passengers can see it before they open the inner door. United Airlines tested the Bridport system on two aircraft beginning in 1995. In memos, United's safety personnel said they found generally favorable responses from passengers and crew. But by 1997, United engineers stated that the Bridport system "had not proven to be effective." Last year, United's lawyers told a court: "There are some devices out there that may prevent a particular type of incident, but our tests and evaluations have shown that that increases the chances of another type of incident. At about the same time, Delta Airlines actually bought enough Bridport doors to outfit its fleet of 737's, but ran into problems when it tested them on two aircraft. Gale Braden is a former safety inspector with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board who served as an expert witness in a case against Delta.
GALEN BRADEN, Aviation Safety Consultant: I think they have about $2 million to $3 million worth of these Bridport systems in a warehouse that they would really like to use, and I think they are making a concerted effort to properly test them and get them functional to where they -- the maintenance is not so high on them that they're going to cause more problems than they cure.
TOM BEARDEN: Delta Airlines declines to talk to us on camera, but confirmed that the Bridport doors are still in storage. They wouldn't say when or if they might be installed. At about the same time, British Airways had a very different experience. BA installed Bridport doors on their 747 and 757 fleets in 1994. The airline says reports of spillage incidents on its 757's fell from 26 in 1995 to five in 1998. American Airlines, which reported more than 300 injury claims in five years, did not test any restraints. One American Airlines engineer told a court: "We have not done any feasibility studies for the possible engineering solutions because we believe that this was a personal performance issue."
AIRLINE STEWARDESS: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome aboard. We have a full flight tonight.
TOM BEARDEN: That's theapproach favored by the airlines and regulators both: The passengers are both the problem and the solution. Beginning in 1992, most airlines began warning passengers about shifting bags, and some airlines began restricting the number and size of carryons. Last December, United Airlines went one step further and installed sizer templates at the security checkpoints of several major airports. If the bag's too big to fit through, it can't be taken aboard. Initial reaction in Denver last Christmas was pure exasperation. But a United spokeswoman said limits on bag size would improve safety.
KRISTINA PRICE, United Airlines: If you put bags in the overhead bins that are way too large and they tumble out and hit someone on the head, it could harm customers, passengers, and so forth. So that's a guarantee that we'll increase safety in that.
TOM BEARDEN: The Federal Aviation Administration also favors passenger-based solutions. It's publishing brochures to teach passengers how to load the bins more safety. The small number of outsiders who have looked at baggage accidents say relying on passengers to solve the problem is ridiculous.
DR. DAVID A. THOMPSON: What you have is an airline who understands the problem, who has experienced thousands upon thousands of these incidents, blaming a naive user for an accident which they really have very little control over.
TOM BEARDEN: The most visible critic of the current policy has been the Association of Flight Attendants, the biggest flight attendants union.
PATRICIA FRIEND, President, Association of Flight Attendants: Passengers have brought in an unimaginable variety of articles into the airplane cabin, including a stuffed moose head, a mini-refrigerator, a set of free weights, and a big-screen television.
TOM BEARDEN: Their concerns first came to a head in 1997, when the union hosted a conference on carryon bag problems that brought victims out in public for the first time.
GERALDINE MARGOLIS, Passenger: The steward opened the overhead, and everything went black for me. I literally saw stars.
TOM BEARDEN: Last year, the union petitioned the FAA to set an industry-wide rule for carryon baggage. The agency is examining that petition now, but currently thinks a single standard is unworkable.
MARGARET GILLIGAN: It doesn't necessarily address all of the complexities, and it doesn't allow for the fact that there are very different kinds of airplanes and airplane configurations that operate in the system.
TOM BEARDEN: In fact, some airlines, like Continental, are installing larger bins on their aircraft, and advertising that fact as better customer service. The flight attendants say the government shouldn't allow airlines to compete on matters that affect safety, and that one baggage rule is needed to avoid confusion. But FAA's Gilligan asserts that passenger education efforts are working.
MARGARET GILLIGAN: We already have seen results. We do see that passengers are being more careful. They are complying with the limitations that the airlines have put in place. And those limitations, we think-- the airline limitations-- will go a long way to addressing the kinds of injuries that have been suffered so far.
TOM BEARDEN: What do you think of the FAA's response to this?
PATRICIA CONNELY: I think they're not taking any responsibility. It almost sounds like a bogus association. Let's face it, the FAA is supposed to be there for protection, and the FAA is the only agency that the airlines will listen to.
TOM BEARDEN: As the FAA puts its public education campaign into effect, it concedes it has no firm numbers on accidents, no plans to require accidents to be reported, and no firm numerical yardstick to measure when that campaign might or might not be successful. Are the other efforts at changing passenger behavior, the templates and rules and announcements, working? Is the number of injuries being reduced? Only the airlines know for sure, and they aren't talking.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, a Gergen dialogue. David Gergen engages Kitty Ferguson, a professional musician and science writer. She is the author of "Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the Horizons of Space and Time."
DAVID GERGEN: The first question you must often get is, how is it that a graduate of the Julliard School of Music has come to write a book about astronomy?
KITTY FERGUSON, Author, "Measuring the Universe": Well, I guess I could say that Julliard had a fantastic Physics Department, but that's not the case. I think to understand that, you have to go back to my childhood. And my book begins with a story about how my father took my brother and me out when I was nine years old to measure the height of the windmill on my grandparents' farm. And this was a huge adventure. Both my brother and I had all sorts of ideas of how we might do this, very complicated ideas. But what my father taught us was very simple, and I was positively elated when we had done it. I felt that we had somehow outwitted that old windmill without even touching it. We measured its shadow, and by measuring its shadow, we learned its height. And this was not an isolated incident in my childhood. My father would - when, in fact, we sat at the dinner table, he would rearrange the salt and pepper shakers or the butter to explain how the planets orbited the sun, or how the electrons move around an atom. And I grew up -- because he was a musician. He taught music in the schools. He was not a mathematician or a scientist. But I grew up thinking there was nothing odd about somebody who was a fine musician also having this passion for science and math. And I also grew up thinking of science and math not as something necessarily you had to do for a living, or that you had to do in school, or that a bunch of other people did that didn't include me. It was really something for an adventure, a summer outing. And I think that feeling has stuck with me through my whole life, even though -- maybe partly because I didn't take that much math and science in school. It was always a -- you know, a fun thing.
DAVID GERGEN: Well, that measuring of the shadow seemed to be so important to the very first scientists, even Aritostenes --
KITTY FERGUSON: That's right.
DAVID GERGEN: Living in the second century, before Christ.
KITTY FERGUSON: Yes, that's right.
DAVID GERGEN: Who was measuring shadows in Alexandria to figure out the circumference of the Earth.
KITTY FERGUSON: That's right. And he's a good example of one of the -- my favorite themes in this book, which is the wonderful way that so many of these characters in the book, these people in the history of measurement, had of picking out the essential clue-- sort of Sherlock Holmes stuff. You know how the detective will come and say, "now we have all the information we need to solve this crime," and you as the reader say, "what?" You know, "I don't see that at all." Well, that's the sort of thing that we have so often in the history of cosmic measurement. For instance, in the case of Aritostenes, he got this little trivial news that on the day of the summer solstice in Sien, which is down near where the AswanDam is, that at noon, sunlight hit the bottom of a very deep well. Sun shone all the way to the bottom of the well. Now, that to you or me probably wouldn't mean that much, nor would it have to most of his colleagues, most of his contemporaries. But he knew that was what he needed. He had at his fingertips then what he needed to measure the circumference of the Earth. And we find that again with, well, Cassini in 1673, when he measured the distance to Mars. He recognized that the moons that Galileo had discovered around Jupiter were going to be the clue -- going to provide the clock for that measurement. We have this sort of thing all through the history of what we call cosmic measurement, and I find that absolutely fascinating.
DAVID GERGEN: The central point for so many astronomers for some 1,700 years was that man was at the center of the universe, the Earth was at the center of the universe, and that lasted right from essentially the ancient days right up until the 16th century.
KITTY FERGUSON: That's true. There was somebody, though, living at the time of Aritostenes named Aristoces, who proposed that it was it was actually the sun that was in the center of the system, and that the earth and all the other planets orbited that. And that idea was not accepted in that time. There was really no reason for anybody to accept it then. There was no evidence that that was so. In fact some of the evidence that might have indicated it was so was missing. But we have to admit that he thought of it. This is 200 years B.C.. But yes, we did think we were the center of the whole thing. Everything revolved around us.
DAVID GERGEN: That was the system that came from -- Ptolemy figured that out.
KITTY FERGUSON: That's right, and earlier, from Aristotle before that, and then was really brought to -- I guess you can say, brought to a head with Ptolemy, because he managed to systematize everything into circles and spheres, and it was a brilliant achievement, his. We sometimes say, you know, Ptolemy was wrong, Copernicus was right. But Ptolemy's achievement was one of the -- just really the premier intellectual achievements of all human history. There's no doubt about it.
DAVID GERGEN: Is it the coming of the telescope that changed our understanding that the Earth was no longer at the center of things, but rather the Sun -- the Earth went around the Sun -- the Copernican revolution?
KITTY FERGUSON: Well, the interesting thing is that Copernicus lived before the telescope, so that's not where he got the idea. And, of course, you want to know what suddenly happened, what was different for Copernicus? One of the things that was different for Copernicus was that the Ptolemaic astronomy by this time had become very cumbersome, complicated astronomy. And Copernicus was a good enough mathematician to be totally annoyed with this. It just wasn't -- also, Copernicus had a belief that a simpler explanation was much more likely to be the right explanation, and that was nothing new with him either, but he applied it to this plan or this systematization of the universe.
DAVID GERGEN: One has the overwhelming sense in reading this history that for so many centuries, we like to believe that man was at the center, then we thought, oh, the Sun is at the center. And now we understand the Sun is part of large galaxy, and that the galaxy is one of many, many galaxies, and man seems less and less significant.
KITTY FERGUSON: That's right. I mean, we -- when we first discovered there's five other solar systems, we felt very small, and the solar system seemed huge. And this was the end of the 17th century. Then in the 19th century, when we discovered the distance to the nearest stars, the solar system became tiny. I mean, you have to travel -- if you traveled from the Sun out to Pluto, you have to go 9,000 times that far to get to the nearest star. That's a lot of darkness out there. We've got this little cozy solar system, very isolated, in the middle of all this darkness, before we hit the next little outpost of light. But that was -- that seemed huge. Then we discovered, you know, the size of the galaxy, and the fact that this solar system isn't even the center of the galaxy, and then that the galaxy is only one galaxy among so many billions of galaxies, and that this -- the universe might -- there may be other universes.
DAVID GERGEN: As the 20th century comes to a close, you say there are two questions: How old is the universe and what is its future?
KITTY FERGUSON: Yes, that's right. And I think we've come near to knowing now the age of the universe. There's still some controversy about it, but you have to admit that it's amazing even to be able to have -- to know enough to have a meaningful argument about something like that. The future also is -- depends a lot on what we call the value of omega. That's the formula for omega. And that is up in the air a little bit right now because of recent discoveries that the expansion rate of the universe seems to be speeding up, and what exactly that means. There's a lot of speculation going on about that. It's very interesting.
DAVID GERGEN: So what is the future of the universe, and what's our best understanding?
KITTY FERGUSON: We don't know. I mean, it could be that the universe will expand, and then will re-collapse into what we call a big crunch. That's probably not what's going to happen. That's probably the least likely scenario. The way it seems to be right now is the universe has expanded and will continue to expand at just the right rate so that it won't re-collapse. The other possibility is that it will expand and continue to expand so that it sort of thins out to thin obscurity. And the recent discoveries that the expansion rate is speeding up at first led people to believe, yes, it's going to continue to expand much faster and thin out. But I think that now that people have given it a little more thought, worked out the mathematics of it, possibly worked in Einstein's cosmological constant as another part of the equation, they've got it back to where we think what is called the flat universe, which is the universe we seem to live in, which is this one that is not expanding so rapidly that stars and galaxies haven't formed and haven't collapsed, but seems to be the exact kind of universe we need to produce life, which is very lucky for us.
DAVID GERGEN: Kitty Ferguson, thank you very much.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Finally tonight, NewsHour regular Robert Pinsky, poet laureate of the United States, considers the subject hatred.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The cycles of mistrust, savagery, revenge and violation in the Balkans reminds us what a powerful, important force hatred is in the world. Hatred drives much of what happens, public as well as private. The polish poet Wislawa Szymborska comments on hatred in her poem of that title. Here it is as translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. "Hatred. See how efficient it still is, how it keeps itself in shape. Our century's hatred. How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles, how rapidly it pounces, tracks us down. It's notlike other ceilings, as once both older and younger. It gives birth itself to the reasons that give it life. When it sleeps, it's never eternal rest, and sleeplessness won't sap its strength. It feeds it. One religion or another, whatever gets it ready in position. One fatherland or another, whatever helps it get a running start. Justice also works well at the outset until hate gets its own momentum going. Hatred, hatred, its face twisted in a grimace of erotic ecstasy. Oh, these other ceilings, listless weepings. Since when does brotherhood draw crowds, has compassion ever finished first, does doubt ever really rouse the rabble? Only hatred has just what it takes, gifted, diligent, hard-working. Need we mention all the songs it has composed, all the pages it has added to our history books, all the human carpets it has spread over countless city squares and football fields. Let's face it: It knows how to make beauty. The splendid fire glow in midnight skies, magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns. You can't deny the inspiring pathos of ruins and a certain bawdy humor to be found in the sturdy column jutting from their midst. Hatred is a master of contrast between explosions and dead quiet, red blood and white snow. Above all, it never tires of its leitmotif, the impeccable executioner towering over the soiled victim. It's always ready for new challenges. If it has to wait a while, it will. They say it's blind. Blind? It has a sniper's keen sight and gazes unflinchingly at the future as only it can."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Again, the major stories of this Thursday. A Georgia man and his four grandchildren were among the dead in this week's earthquake in Turkey, the only American dead so far. The children's mother and their six-year-old sister survived. The Turkish government's official death toll for the disaster surpassed 6,800. And in Belgrade, crowds estimated at between 100,000 and 150,000 rallied to demand the resignation of President Slobodan Milosevic. We'll be with you online and again here tomorrow evening with Paul Gigot and Tom Oliphant, among others. I'm Elizabeth Farnsworth. Thank you and good night.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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Episode Description
This episode's headline: Deadly Force; ""Slobo Go""; Hazardous Baggage; Dialogue. ANCHOR: ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH; GUESTS: STEVEN ERLANGER, New York Times; DANIEL SERWER, U.S. Institute of Peace; CHARLES INGRAO, Purdue University; DIALOGUE: KITTY FERGUSON, Author, ""Measuring the Universe""; CORRESPONDENTS: JULIAN MANYON; TOM BEARDEN;TERENCE SMITH; KWAME HOLMAN;DAVID GERGEN; MARGARET WARNER
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Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
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Identifier: NH-6536 (NH Show Code)
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Duration: 01:00:00;00
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 1999-08-19, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023,
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APA: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from