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Special Event

Millennium 2000: New Zealand Baby Born with a Bang; For Trees, Millennium No Big Deal; Proofing the Prognosticators

Aired January 1, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


JUANITA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. You're watching CNN's Millennium 2000 coverage. Well, the ancient Acropolis is quiet this morning after being the focal point of celebrations in the Greek capital Athens. On the streets, tens of thousands of revelers joined a giant party around the city center that included folk dance troupes. In his new year's address, Greek Premier Costas Simitis said he hoped relations with rival Turkey would continue to improve in 2000.

Well, the first twin babies born overnight in Berlin arrived in two different months and two different years. A mother in Germany gave birth to two happy boys, one at 11:56 P.M. on December the 31st, the other five minutes later on New Year's Day. It's unclear whether the younger twin would qualify as Berlin's first baby of the new year.

Another infant male was born almost simultaneously just across town.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: And there's apparently no doubt as to who is the first new year's baby born in Bethlehem. A 28-year-old Palestinian woman can claim that honor. The housewife from near Hebron gave birth to a boy in the West Bank town at half past midnight and Christian tradition says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The race to give birth to the first child of the new year, the year 2000, was won by a couple, though, in New Zealand, and CNN's Tom Mintier reports on the baby boy who was delivered with a bang.


TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They say timing is everything. As the first fireworks illuminated the skies over Auckland, New Zealand, doctors at a downtown hospital were making history.

RACHEL HAGGERTY, MATERNITY MANAGER: Well, certainly that's recorded on the baby's birth record that it was 12:01 and that is the time that's reported on our clock so whether they've been tested against Greenwich Main Time would be up to someone else to find out, really. But we're quite confident that the child was born at 12:01.

MINTIER: Seven minutes later New Zealand's second child of the new millennium entered the world, weighing a hefty nine pounds, 10 ounces, another boy, not the first to arrive, but proud parents just the same.

UNIDENTIFIED PARENT: (unintelligible) looking out the window.

UNIDENTIFIED PARENT: We could see far away that he was coming out so.

MINTIER: In all, there were six babies born in the first 20 minutes of the new year. The fireworks over the city lasted just 12 minutes. A local radio station last April held a contest in hopes of promoting the first millennium baby here. More than 100 couples received a free night in a hotel. Seven pregnancies were the result. Four arrived around Christmas, one just before New Year's and two others are still waiting. None of the first six babies born were part of the radio station promotion.

(on camera): Just how much publicity the new millennium baby will receive is unknown. So far, his parents are unwilling to talk to the media. Some have estimated that it could be worth millions of dollars in promotions if they do, indeed, decide to go public.

Tom Mintier, CNN, Auckland, New Zealand.


PHILLIPS: And we'll return after a short break.

NELSON: And we'll have the story of the silent witness to four millennia, believe it or not.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's now 24 hours into our special coverage and the new year has come and gone now for most of the world's population.

NELSON: But CNN's coverage continues as we look now at what the dawn of the new millennium brings to people around the globe.

The Panama Canal is now officially in the hands of the country after which it was named. Control of the waterway reverted to the Panamanians Friday for the first time since it was completed in 1914. Panama celebrated the hand over and new year with a day of events that culminated with 12 ships moving through the 50 mile long canal without any incident. With its mechanical, not computerized operations, there were no worries over Y2K computer glitches.

PHILLIPS: Well, for many of us, at least half the world's population, the arrival of the year 2000 is a really big deal. But there are living creatures on this earth who've witnessed several millennia pass by.

CNN's Richard Blystone reports on one, a tree.


RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ho hum, another millennium. The great yew at Crowhurst south of London has seen four millennia come and go, so say the botanists. Four thousand winters, 4,000 summers, already ancient in the time of Jesus, let alone when this old church was built. What you doing for the millennium, humans ask each other? The honest answer, don't know. Going to be dead for most of it.

But England's veteran trees like these oaks near Windsor Castle will stand when our season is long gone, charting the chronicles of sun and rain in their rings, indifferent to the turning of human pages, if short-lived, short side mankind gives them the same break they give others.

Crowhurst's great yew is partly dead, the core where its infant sapling grew vacant these many centuries, yet at the same time bursting with life, its own and those of its guests, from birds to bugs. Foresters tell us the hollow's a survival strategy, resilience against the tens of thousands of gales and ice storms a tree has to cope with in the long haul, a lesson here for an age obsessed with style and surface.

(on camera): Nowadays for people who can eat fresh strawberries or funny lettuce all year round, listen to Gregorian chants one minute and rock and roll the next, all the fashions of all the eras seem to coexist. But not here.

(voice-over): Around here, there is one fashion that never changes. Green is the new green. The tree knows what it will be wearing next year.

Richard Blystone, CNN, Crowhurst, England.


NELSON: There's more to come with that tree and there is much more to come here on CNN's coverage of Millennium 2000.


BARBRA STREISAND: Like the corners of my mind, misty water color memories ...


PHILLIPS: Including a concert by one of the recording world's most successful performers.


PHILLIPS: Well, this millennium eve she was one of the hottest tickets in town in the city that sets the standard for live entertainment in the United States. Barbra Streisand thrilled her audience in Las Vegas.


STREISAND: Light the corners of my mind, misty water color memories of the way we were. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: She was among several top draw acts headlining stages throughout the city. Those who had to have the best seat in the house paid up to $2,500 for tickets. They say, though, it was worth it. Outside, fireworks added to the glitter of the neon Las Vegas skyline.

NELSON: And singer Bette Midler also entertained in Las Vegas. The divine Miss. M. sang with a full stage show to a full house. Some people paid over $1,000 per ticket to see her.


BETTE MIDLER: Mighty, mighty, mighty.


MIDLER: Mighty, mighty, mighty yeah, yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: Freedom (unintelligible).

MIDLER: Oh, yeah, yeah. Mighty, mighty freedom. Oh, Vegas. We're in Vegas.

For auld lang syne my dear, for auld lang syne.


PHILLIPS: Several of the top acts, however, were to be found out west. In New York, the piano man, Billy Joel, put on a concert shown on a giant screen for the crowd gathered in the city's famous Times Square. A storm of confetti may have obscured the view for some, however. An estimated two million people gathered to watch the famous ball drop as the new year came to the United States.

NELSON: And the '70s super group The Eagles, one of my favorite, returned to its west coast roots for a special concert in Los Angeles. Their laid back sound set the tone for what was overall a relaxed approach to the new year in L.A. The famed Hollywood sign was lit up in red, white and blue at the stroke of midnight.


NELSON: Well, many of us are using the turn of the new year to gaze into the future. The last time the century turned many people were doing the very same thing.

PHILLIPS: That's right. There were lots of predictions made. But just how accurate were those early prognosticators?

CNN's Garrick Utley reports on how things actually panned out.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the time and the place to look to the future, the World's Fair, held in Chicago in 1893, viewed then and now as a gateway to the modern age. Visitors were introduced to the new marvel of electricity and also Cracker Jacks, diet sodas and for the first time in the United States, the hamburger.

The organizers of the exposition called on some of the leading thinkers in the United States to predict what life would be like at the dawn of the 21st century. In the age of the steam engine, how did they see us traveling 100 years later? "The railway and steam ship will be as obsolete as the stage coach," said John Engles (ph) of Kansas, who served in the U.S. Senate. "It will be as common for the citizen to call for his dirigible balloon as it is now for his buggy or his boots."

Another predictor saw balloons crossing the nation, tied to wires 100 feet above the ground in order to pass over trees and buildings. Only 10 years later, the Wright brothers proved them wrong.

And what of those on the ground? New York's Broadway, according to one visionary, would have glass tubes above the sidewalk through which moving cars would provide public transportation. Moving sidewalks and other people movers we have. But you might want to wait another century or two before throwing away your walking shoes.

A century ago, Broadway also meant theater, the live entertainment of the time. Richard Mansfield, a superstar actor of his day, saw American stage drama becoming "one of the proudest achievements of American civilization of the 20th century." How right he was, except it happened on screen more than on stage. Movies became the new art form of the 20th century. Movies and marketing made the American film a global cultural force.

At the end of the 19th century, the United States was well on its way to becoming an urban society.

(on camera): But there was a rivalry as to which city would become the predominant American city by the end of the 20th century. Several predictors said that Chicago would take on that role. One claimed that Buffalo would become the greatest manufacturing city in the world. And more than one, looking west, said that the American city would be Salt Lake City.

(voice-over): In 1893, Grover Cleveland was president of the United States. Did voters have a real choice between the two major parties? Of course they did, according to Chauncy Depew (ph), who served two terms in the U.S. Senate. "By 2000," he wrote, "little will have changed," he said confidently. "The Republican Party will still be the party of big government to advance the interests of the people while the Democratic Party," Depew predicted, "will continue to fight for smaller government."

At the start of the 20th century women were not a political force in the United States because women didn't have the vote and wouldn't gain it until 1920. And yet one prediction saw some "rare noble woman" being elected president of the United States by the end of the 20th century. And Mary Lease, a social activist, saw women gaining equal opportunities with men, becoming less dependent on them and even having "the sole right to say when she shall wear the crown of motherhood." Mary Lease also saw the working day by 2000 being reduced to three hours.

(on camera): So, what are predictions? Sometimes we can't see the future even when we are literally looking into it. This is the television set used in 1927 for the first long distance transmission of television pictures in the United States. They were carried on a telephone line between Washington, D.C. and New York City. The pictures on the tiny screen were grainy and what they would lead to was not at all apparent.

(voice-over): The next morning the front page story in the "New York Times" reported the experiment in which Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover appeared. The historic importance was evident. But of course television, it was thought, would have no commercial future.

In 1893, the postmaster general, John Wanamaker, predicted that by 2000 mail would be sent through electronic tubes. How right he was except that its sent through the digital pipes of the Internet as e- mail in addition to paper mail.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: He knew that the passage through the city.

UTLEY: And a century ago there was even an inkling of voice recognition technology. A journalist wrote that through "forces just beginning to be understood" the spoken word could be set in type.

Seen from the World's Fair at the end of the 19th century, the future was a land of promise, yet one of the thinkers refused to attempt any predictions, saying even the wisest man cannot possibly foresee the results of the next invention.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.



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