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NEXT@CNN

Ozone Hole Splits in Two; 21 East Coast Sites Marked Off for Wind Farms; LAN Parties Change Video Gaming

Aired October 5, 2002 - 15:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: Today, on NEXT@CNN, a twist in the ongoing saga of the South Pole ozone hole. Researchers are seeing double.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've never seen anything like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Do two holes mean double trouble?

A wind farm could be coming to a beach near you. Twenty-one areas off the U.S. East Coast have been marked as sites for this cleaner energy source.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you see it, say that's one barrel lest of Middle East oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: But that first site is running into opposition from folks normally considered conservation minded. Find out why.

And meet a crowd where the hot rods aren't cars, the sport is not physical, and the trash talk is everywhere.

We'll take you to a party that's changing the notion that video gaming is a solitary affair. All that, and more on NEXT.

JAMES HATTORI, HOST: Hi, everybody. And welcome to NEXT@CNN. I'm James Hattori.

This week at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California, where on a clear night you can scan the heavens on this 20-inch, 1915 vintage refractor telescope. One thing you can't ever see is the invisible protective ozone layer around the Earth. If you could you might notice something strange happening. Every year at this time at the end of the Antarctic winter the ozone layer thins over the South Pole, letting more of the sun's damaging rays reach the ground. This year, as Ann Kellan reports, the ozone hole has researchers seeing double.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This year's ozone hole, in dark blue, is unlike any seen before. There are two holes instead of one.

PAUL NEWMAN, NASA ATMOSPHERIC PHYSICIST: In all the years of meteorological observation that we have, we've never seen anything like this.

KELLAN: Every August for 20 years or so, the ozone layer over the South Pole, that shields us from the sun's ultraviolet rays has been thinning out, creating a hole. This year, because of a very forceful weather system in the upper atmosphere of the South Pole, it split the hole there in two. And because that system was warmer than usual, comparatively speaking, those holes weren't that big.

NEWMAN: It's good news for the environment. The ozone hole is very small this year.

KELLAN: Even though it is split in two, the ozone hole hasn't been this small since 1988, about 6 million square miles, 4 million less than last year's hole, which was about the size of North America. The smaller hole means fewer damaging UV rays reach us. Good for sun worshipers, but keep sunscreen on.

NEWMAN: That's good news, because ozone screens ultraviolet radiation. And ultraviolet radiation can affect plankton, it can cause skin cancer in humans, cataracts, and other harmful health effects.

KELLAN: Even though one of the ozone holes this year is close to South America...

NEWMAN: They should be a little bit concerned, but not a lot.

KELLAN: As satellite and ground based instruments continue to monitor ozone levels NASA's Paul Newman expects the hole, like it has every year, will close up over South America before the sun's damaging rays are at an angle to penetrate through the atmosphere to Earth.

Don't expect the ozone hole to shrink every year. Scientists think this year's smaller hole is more a fluke.

NEWMAN: One year doesn't really make a trend.

KELLAN: The ozone layer has yet to reap the benefits of a global treaty signed in the 1980s that took most ozone destroying chemicals off the market. Like chlorofluorocarbons once used in aerosol cans, as coolants in air conditioners, and halon that puts fires out fast. Now, both are off the market.

Scientists say these chemicals have a long life and will continue destroying ozone for the next five years. After that, NASA expects a slow restoration. Instead of getting larger every year like it did in the '80 and '90s, leveling off around 2000, the ozone hole could get smaller, even disappear by 2050.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: Find more about the ozone hole on our Web site at CNN.com/next.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis was supposed to launch but officials delayed until next week because of Hurricane Lili. The launch site was in no danger but the storm threatened mission control in Houston. When the launch does happen, it will mark the end of a four-month grounding of the shuttle fleet prompted by fuel pipeline cracks. More from Miles O'Brien.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Something old is nothing new for NASA's manned space flight effort. As Atlantis sits on the pad poised for the first space shuttle flight in four months, engineers are wondering how old is too old?

RON DITTEMORE, SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM: Just because it's a little old doesn't make it to the point we should throw it out.

O'BRIEN: NASA's man in charge of the $3 billion shuttle program Ron Dittemore earned more gray hair this summer dealing with a spacecraft designed in the '70s and launch facilities built during the moon race. The first sign of trouble came here, deep in the tangle of wires and pipes in the aft compartment of Atlantis in June. An eagle- eyed inspector saw this, a crack no bigger than a third of an inch, a small thing, but in a critical spot. The 12-inch pipe that carries liquid hydrogen rocket fuel from the shuttle's big external tank to its main engines.

JAMES WILDER, ASSOC. PROGRAM MANAGER: The worst-case scenario is that you could continue to crack break off a piece of the material, but if that material breaks off and gets ingested by the main engine, it could be a bad day. It could be a catastrophic event for us.

O'BRIEN: More inspections ordered, more cracks found, about a dozen in all. The fleet was grounded. They now believe it was a flaw in the way the pipes were made a quarter century ago. Simply ordering new parts from the manufacturer was not a viable option.

WILDER: The jigs and the tooling and even some of the people are now gone away. We have now been in contact with their men, they are pulling the tooling out to go manufacture some additional lines. And they are also pulling back what we call some of the graybeards that understand how you are going to build those lines.

O'BRIEN: So, instead the cracks were welded over and polished smooth by the steadiest hands in the hangar.

(on camera): NASA designed its space shuttles to fly 100 missions each, originally over a 10-year period. But 21 years after the first space shuttle launch, the fleet has logged 110 missions total. At that rate, the fleet of four could fly for another 60 years. That may sound far-fetched. But NASA managers are now asking the shuttle program to see what it would take to fly until the year 2020.

(voice-over): The report is still in work, as they say in the space business. But the shuttle team will likely push for continued improvements to the avionics, hardier wheels and tires, replacement of old tape data recorders with digital technology, even replacing clunky old circuit boards.

Beneath the skin, not your father's space mobile.

DITTEMORE: You cannot replace this vehicle with the exact capabilities that we have and be cost effective at it.

O'BRIEN: But in the space business, even the first step can be daunting. While engineers burn the midnight oil to fix fuel line cracks, another team found some badly cracked bearings in the 37-year- old crawler that takes stacked shuttle out to the pad. Time to trade it in? Not a chance. It, too, will be repaired. NASA is inching toward the future on the backs of some vintage gear that for all its quirks remains state of the art.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: Speaking of state of the art, in Washington this week an Israeli company showing off the latest in high-rise evacuation systems. It uses a steel coiled chute covered in fire resistant fabric. The system mounts on a window and uncoils automatically when sensors detect smoke or heat. It can also be deployed by hand. The chute can extend 23 stories in less than 10 seconds, according to the company. Manufacturers say they're working on a system that can reach 100 stories.

ANNOUNCER: Later on NEXT@CNN, Ghana's forests are getting quieter and quieter. We'll tell you what's wiping out the wildlife.

And up next, a limo that's completely non-polluting and goes almost 200 miles an hour. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HATTORI: If you think of electric cars as pokey and utilitarian, here's a shocking development. This is KOZ, an electric-powered limo invented at Japan's Kao (ph) University. It can reach a top speed of 311 kilometers per hour, that's more than 190 miles an hour.

KOZ seats eight and runs lithium ion batteries. The inventors say it can go almost 200 miles on an hour's worth of charge. It has four-wheel steering on its front four wheels, and the two back wheels turn the opposite way on corners to minimize the turning radius. All this doesn't come cheap. KOZ is expected to cost around $400,000.

Being environmentally minded sometimes comes at a high price. Just ask some residents on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, including a few prominent environmentalists who are questioning what they're willing to pay. What's kicking up a storm is a proposed wind farm to generate electricity with zero pollution. Here's Michael Schulder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL SCHULDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A plan to develop America's first offshore wind power farm, in an area famous for its natural beauty, has set off a battle between some people who want to protect the environment and others -- who also want to protect the environment.

JIM GORDON, PRESIDENT, ENERGY MANAGEMENT INC.: Michael, we're developing America's first offshore wind farm.

SCHULDER: What are we seeing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on our way out of the inner harbor, we're in the outer harbor.

GORDON: Six miles off the coast Hyannis, we have this awesome inexhaustible supply of wind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you go around that point you get into Hyannis Port, where you have the Kennedy Compound.

GORDON: We're going to have 170 wind turbines spaced about a third to a half mile apart.

WALTER CRONKITE, RETIRED NEWS ANCHOR: That's right in the middle of Nantucket Sound, once they fill it up with these things it's going to be disastrous.

SCHULDER: Here's what is not in dispute. Wind turbines convert wind to electricity and do so without causing any air pollution at all. That means no greenhouse gases, that means no contribution to global warming.

If you drive through the mountains east of San Francisco or through the Palm Springs Desert you can see, and hear, the very largest wind farms in America. The newest wind turbines are quieter and more powerful. There's a large array along the Washington/Oregon border. There's big growth in Texas. The wind energy industry says the technology is reliable enough to put them at sea. This is the newest installation under construction off the West Coast of Denmark, which brings us back to Nantucket Sound.

SCHULDER: We're on the ferry now from Cape Cod to Martha's Vineyard where Walter Cronkite has a home. Captain Cronkite has sailed the Nantucket Sound for many years. He's been weighing the potential costs and benefits of putting wind turbines in the sound.

(on camera): Are these just ugly things to you, or are they conceivably part of a landscape that we might just get used to?

CRONKITE: Oh, no. I don't think these things can possibly be considered attractive in any possible way. I don't care what colors you paint them or if you have them dance in unison to music or what. They're big, ugly things sitting out there in the middle of what should be the pristine waters. The way we're affected in the visual sense, it will be nothing compared to what the natural life is, how it is affected out there.

Do the whales know how to get around those towers? Dolphins know how to get around those towers? I don't know. We'll have to find out. But it sounds to me like they're going to have a very tough time.

GORDON: This is the exact dimension of the wind turbine. If you were standing on the beach, you would see this from Hyannis. You'd be nine miles from Martha's Vineyard, this would be your view. So the visual impact is really very, very small.

SCHULDER (voice-over): The organized opposition has done its own simulated images. They claim the turbines will be far more imposing. Robert Kennedy, Jr. is a long-time environmental activist and attorney who opposes a wind power installation in Nantucket Sound. And he knows what some people will say now that he's come out against the source of clean, renewable energy near the Kennedy family compound.

ROBERT KENNEDY, JR., ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: This isn't just a not in my backyard by a bunch of wealthy people who own land along Nantucket Sound. It's -- there are people from all over New England who use this. It's going to injure a very, very valuable tourist industry. And it's going to destroy a resource, which is really part of the Commons. It's part of our nation's history. It's part of the maritime and nautical tradition of Massachusetts.

SCHULDER: Kennedy says Congress needs to stop this permitting process in Nantucket Sound so there can be a national debate to establish where the most appropriate sites are for these wind farms.

This $500,000 wind farm in Nantucket Sound is unlikely to replace any older polluting power plants. It's designed to keep up with America's ever-expanding demand for more and more energy. Jim Gordon is president of the company that wants to develop the wind farm.

GORDON: Now, Mike, between now and 2020, we're going to have a 40 percent increase in electric demand. How are we going to supply that increased demand? The last energy facility built in Cape Cod was built in the late 1960s -- and it needs a new source of clean, renewable energy.

SCHULDER: The evidence is now being evaluated by state environmental officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With a large number of wind farm proposals on the drawing board, many communities may soon have to decide, just as the people around Nantucket Sound are trying to decide, what they value most in the environment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Later on next, the future of personal computing, could it rest in the power of the pen? Also ahead, a Navy vet and his unrelenting search for a sunken sub off the California coast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HATTORI: The practice of eating the meat of wild animals has been commonplace in West Africa for years. Now one nation has decided to do something about it. Gary Strieker has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY STRIEKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There was a time when traditional nature conservation was enforced in Ghana. When clans were symbolize by wild animals protected by rules and ancient taboos. Today, commercial hunters are wiping out much of the wildlife in Ghana's forests.

MOHAMED BAKARR, CONSERVATION INT'L: The hunting is really taking its toll on the wildlife population. And there's no question about it, that we're at the stage now where many of the species actually are going extinct in the country.

STRIEKER: According to wildlife experts, the business of wild game, or bush meat, legal and illegal, is now a $350 million industry in Ghana. Thousands of hunters using traps, poisons, brush fires, and automatic weapons, still more employed in transporting bush meat and selling it in markets and restaurants.

Ghana lies in the heart of the upper Guinea Forest, stretching across nine countries in West Africa. There are scores of endangered mammal species in the forest, including monkeys and antelopes prized for bush meat. In many areas hunting has destroyed virtually all wildlife resulting in what conservationists call "empty forests" that are unnaturally quiet.

BAKARR: Oftentimes, when the forest is hunted out, that's the first thing that you notice. These animals simply don't make any calls. Either because they're not there or their populations have been so reduced, that only individuals are moving around so there's no one to call to.

STRIEKER: Recently, government authorities and private groups in Ghana adopted an action plan aimed at reducing bush meat consumption and finding economic alternatives for people working in the bush meat industry. Conservationists hope something can be done before all the nation's wildlife resources are destroyed.

Meanwhile, demand for bush meat might be affected by a new scientific study by Ghana's government showing nearly a third of bush meat sampled in Ghana's markets is contaminated by chemical pesticides used by hunters to kill their prey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: While Ghana worries about bush animals, researchers in North America are worrying about Monarch butterflies, which have begun their annual migration to their winter home in the mountains of Mexico. There are one-third fewer Monarchs this year than last due to a devastating storm in Mexico, which killed millions of the butterflies in January. Expert say there may not have been enough trees to give the insects shelter because of deforestation. Despite the loss researchers say Monarch populations are not dangerously low, but they're going to keep a close watch on what happens to the butterflies this winter.

For years, a World War II veteran has been keeping a close watch on the waters off of San Francisco. He's been searching the Pacific in hopes of finding a sunken enemy submarine, and solving a military mystery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI (voice-over): After years of planning and hundreds of hours of preliminary searching, 74-year-old Bill Anderson is back out in the waters off the California coast to solve a 57-year-old mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the name of the vessel we're going to be looking for?

BILL ANDERSON, VETERAN: A submarine.

HATTORI: A submarine, Anderson says, he and his shipmates encountered unexpectedly when he was an 18-year-old sailor aboard the destroyer Willard Keith.

ANDERSON: I was pretty sure that we had killed a number of people.

HATTORI (on camera): The mystery dates to the waning days of World War II. The Willard Keith was running training missions up and down the California coast. When one day in the spring of 1945, about 25 miles outside the Golden Gate, Anderson says the crew suddenly went to battle alert.

ANDERSON: The next thing we heard was depth charges. Ka-bang, Ka-bang. Came back over it and we had the oil showing.

HATTORI: The Navy has no record of the Willard Keith's encounter and despite some Japanese activity in 1942, there is no record of any sub sinking off the California coast. Now Anderson is pinning his hopes on this. The video ray, an eight-pound, remote control underwater camera. His best chance yet to spot the wreckage. Until now, he's only seen it on sonar.

ANDERSON: You see a long slim bow. That's all I saw, at least a third of the submarine.

HATTORI: Sunday, the camera proved up to the challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go, there's the site of your vessel, right there.

HATTORI: But on this trip, the only vessel spotted was some sort of barge on the ocean floor 230 feet below. Not a total surprise. Equipment problems prevented Anderson from getting to the spot where he says he saw the sub before. So he and his wife, Lila May, want to try at least one more time.

ANDERSON: We need to find them. We killed them. We think they're there. And we wanted to find the sub and identify it and notify the country, which is probably Japan.

LILA MAY ANDERSON: Something's out there. We've had too many people tell us stories.

HATTORI: And they've waited too long for this story to end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: Bill says he spent $60,000 of his own money on the endeavor. We wish him the best of luck.

Well, it's halftime for us here at NEXT, but we'll be right back after a commercial break and a look at the latest headlines from the CNN newsroom.

ANNOUNCER: Still to come, a pile of dead fish and an "I told you so" over government environmental policy. Also, cell phone safety and video gamers party hardy. That and more when NEXT@CNN returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HATTORI: Welcome back to NEXT@CNN from the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California.

The controversy over the Klamath River flowing from southern Oregon through Northern California is raging again. In the last few weeks, thousands of salmon have died in the Klamath. Federal biologists say they don't know what's causing the fishkill, but environmental groups blame government policies that give more of the Klamath river to upstream Oregon farmers for irrigation, meaning there's less water where the salmon are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE THOMPSON (D), CALIFORNIA: The National Marine Fishery Service reports that this fishkill alone may represent nearly 30 percent of the entire salmon population in the Klamath river.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HATTORI: On Wednesday, a California congressman brought a pile of dead fish to Washington, calling on the Interior Department to change its policies. Some experts say it's just not possible for the Klamath to meet all the demands on its water, especially in a prolonged drought.

A little farther north in Oregon, there's a salmon restoration project under way that looks a little like a military operation. A helicopter is being used to deliver supplies to make the fish happy. Simon Gutierrez from our affiliate KEZI has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SIMON GUTIERREZ, KEZI CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crab Creek, a small meandering stream in the Alcee river basin, about to come under attack from the air. A twin-rotor Chinook helicopter packing heavy artillery.

PAUL BURNS: We're taking trees, large Douglas fir, primarily Douglas fir trees from the ridge lines along roads, bring them down into the creeks.

GUTIERREZ: It's a joint effort between the Forest Service and the state and U.S. Departments of Fish and Wildlife. The idea, to restore habitat for coho salmon and native trout.

BURNS: Slow water in the streams provide places for gravels to collect.

GUTIERREZ: In the past, logging companies and even the Forest Service itself thought streams were healthier without logs in them. Scientists have since done an about-face; hence the effort to put the logs back in.

TOM ROSENBERG, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: We've been averaging around 90 to 100 a day.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): It costs $7,000 an hour to rent the helicopter. Not cheap by any means, but the Forest Service says it's much more efficient than doing it by hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This way, you can get a lot more trees in over a larger area.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): This helicopter will make daily deliveries along 25 miles of coastal creek, dropping off upwards of 850 trees along the way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

The project will cost more than $600,000, most of it from federal grants, although Oregon also chipped in some money.

Southern California may soon be getting a cut in its water allowance from Uncle Sam. As Casey Wian reports, this war is over who gets how much water from the Colorado river.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This has been the driest year since the mid-1800s in the Santa Ana River basin. Orange County's ground water is now 65 billion gallons short. And water is growing scarce throughout southern California.

VIRGINIA GREBBIAN, ORANGE COUNTY WATER DISTRICT: It's going to lead to higher costs, unfortunately. The cheapest water is the water that comes for free from mother nature, and right now there isn't any, or very little amounts. WIAN: Since the 1920s, California has taken excess water from the Colorado River. Now, Arizona, Nevada and other neighboring states need more water, so the federal government is demanding that California cut back.

(on camera): California faces the first in a series of deadlines December 31 to show that it's making progress. If it fails, the federal government vows to cut off about 15 percent of California's Colorado River water.

(voice-over): That's about enough to supply the entire city of Los Angeles.

The drought is complicating battles between farmers and cities, environmentalists and businesses in water districts and consumers.

ROBERT HERTZBERG, CALIF. STATE ASSEMBLY: It was Mark Twain who said, "Whiskey is for drinking and water's for fighting over." You know? And that's kind of the way it is in California.

WIAN: Former California Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg is trying to broker a key water-sharing deal between farmers in California's Imperial Desert and rapidly growing San Diego County.

HERTZBERG: If we reach this agreement, we'll avert a crisis. If we don't, we're going to be right smack in the middle of another crisis.

WIAN: Orange County is spending $400 million on a new water treatment plant with up to 10 times the capacity of this one. Water districts are also considering importing more water at two to three times the cost and encouraging conservation.

Any solution will likely lead to higher costs for water users as early as next year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Next up, computer makers gamble that you'll pick up a pen and kick out the keyboard. Will write-on screens be the next big thing in PCs?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HATTORI: The future is looking brighter for Afghanistan's Kabul zoo, which lost nearly all its animals during the war. A new group of critters has arrived, and as Sean Callebs reports, there are a goodwill donation from China.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Small, dilapidated ranging ringed with eager eyes. Word that the Chinese government donated lions, bears, wolves and other animals spread from child to child, and they chose the newest attraction over the classroom. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They heard the news at night, when the news said that China sent some animals to the Kabul zoo, and these kids, all of them come to see it.

CALLEBS: The pride of the zoo, Jong-Jong (ph), a 2-year-old lion, and Kelly (ph), the lioness. For years in the early '90s, the zoo grounds were the front line in fierce fighting. The grounds and pockmarked buildings would horrify many zoo keepers in developed nations. War claimed many of the animals. Others died simply because they couldn't be fed while battles raged.

Chinese officials say they visited the zoo several times before agreeing to sign the animals over, and they say reconstruction has to start somewhere.

SUN YUXI, CHINESE AMBASSADOR: Although the conditions in this zoo is not so good, it needs very much to be improved, but I think this is the first step.

CALLEBS (on camera): The zoo bears the scars of decades of fighting. And the gift will go a long way toward replacing one of the most beloved creatures here. Marjan (ph), a 40-year-old one-eyed lion who survived 23 years of war, rocket attacks, grenades, shooting, only to die two months after the Taliban was ousted from power. Today, Marjan (ph) is buried not terribly far from the pen he called home for so many years.

(voice-over): Aside from the lions, China donated two Chinese brown bears, wolves, deer and two domestic pigs.

Shira Aga Omar (ph) was an accountant before taking over control of the zoo nine years ago.

"For a long time," he says, "we didn't have animals. And the cages were empty. When people saw that, it was painful for us."

Omar (ph) is the first to say the zoo is in poor condition and needs outside assistance. But he says what will really help will be prolonged peace and the chance to rebuild.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: The personal computer industry continues to struggle with weak demand. Now manufacturers have been thinking, maybe you're tired of typing and would prefer to write on your computer. In this week's "Technofile," Kristie Lu Stout shows us the long awaited and much-hyped tablet PC.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Computer jockeys, drop your keyboards. It's time to dot your I's and cross your T's with the tablet PC.

OLIVER ROLL, GENERAL MANAGER, MICROSOFT: It recognizes handwriting. You can store your handwritten notes. And the really clever thing is that the intelligence in the code means that you can actually search those notes and find what you've been working on in the past.

STOUT: The tablet PC will retail for around $2,000, and is set for a worldwide launch on November 7, timed with the debut of Microsoft's new note-taking software.

(on camera): Microsoft says the tablet PC is designed to make us think in ink, but that doesn't necessarily mean the next great novel will be written in PC longhand.

(voice-over): Since it's made for quick and dirty writing, like jotting down notes in a meeting.

ROLL: And the interesting thing is, most of the time, even though we're all using computers today, when we end up sitting in meetings, what do we use? Pen and paper. The tablet PC means that for the first time, we can actually use that PC device wherever we are.

STOUT: Acer and others PC makers are betting that computer users will want to write with pens, a gamble that could lift a severely depressed sector.

ROLL: The first time you can now do more things with the computer in more places. So I think it will encourage the sales of PCs and notebooks.

STOUT: Research from IDC has cut its 2002 forecast for worldwide PC sales growth to 1.1 percent from nearly 5 percent. And some industry watchers simply don't see revival led by a touch-sensitive laptop.

WINSTON RAJ, EDITOR, "COMPUTERWORLD": Why would you want to read my lousy handwriting when you can see it in a font which is globalized?

STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout, and that's "Technofile."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: Microsoft is not the only company thinking in ink. Acer, Legend, Toshiba, H-P and Fujitsu will be touting tablets as well.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, find out what makes this money recyclable and harder to counterfeit than ordinary bills.

Also ahead, should you worry about cell phone safety?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HATTORI: When Americans talk about using plastic when they shop, they of course mean credit cards. But in more and more countries around the world, they're switching to currency made of plastic. Geoff Hiscock reports from Australia, where it all began. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEOFF HISCOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can wash it, you can roll it, you can crumple it. Even try to tear it. But this money just keeps springing back to shape. It looks a little shinier than real paper money, but it works just as well, because it is real money.

Plastic notes have been part of the Australian money scene now for a decade. And increasingly, they're finding their way into wallets around the world.

Mexico becomes the latest recruit. Ditching its 20-peso paper note for a new plastic bill, after exhaustive testing and printing here in Melbourne. Mexico joins 20 other countries that have gone plastic. Along with Australia and New Zealand, they include China, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. Outside of Asia, countries such as Brazil, Romania and Kuwait are converts too.

The reasons are not hard to find. Plastic money, which is actually made from a special polymer substrate, lasts longer, stays cleaner, and is harder to counterfeit because of its clear window and hologram effect.

(on camera): These plastic notes have a life span four or five times that of ordinary paper money. And at the end, they can be recycled into these granules, which in turn are transformed into carbon products, such as wheelbarrows and compost bins.

(voice-over): That's in sharp contrast to the experience in Europe earlier this year, when Germany's Bundesbank (ph) was forced to pulp 50 million euro notes that lasted just three months.

The technology to make plastic money was developed jointly by Australia's Central Bank and the national scientific research body, CSIRO (ph). Now Australia's bank notes and samples for other countries are printed in Melbourne, using special materials and security.

MYLES CURTIS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SECURENCY: We've done trials in all of the major central banks in the world, including Europe and the United States, and in fact issued a note in China in the year 2000. But as this is a five to 10-year plan; things don't happen quickly in this business.

HISCOCK (on camera): So what's the downside of the plastic notes? Well, they cost more to produce, and they don't burn quite so crisply for high rollers lighting a cigar. But they're really fakes, and that's like money in the bank.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: A federal judge threw out an $800 million lawsuit against cell phone maker Motorola this week. A Maryland neurologist had sued the company claiming an old analog cell phone caused a cancerous tumor behind his right ear. The ruling could affect pending similar lawsuits.

Cell phone safety is today's topic in a new segment here on NEXT@CNN. David Kirkpatrick, senior editor with "Fortune" magazine, will be commenting from time to time on technology in a segment we call "Fast Forward."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: The problem with cell phone safety as an issue is it waxes and wanes depending on whether there's a lawsuit in the news. There are two new studies that are quite worrisome. One in particular found that there was a correlation between cancer incidents and the use of analog cell phones, that's non-digital cell phones. And it's one of the first studies that's been conducted really well that found that result. And that's pretty scary.

I think the cell phone industry would not like to see there be any evidence that these phones are harmful, because they potentially could be liable for very vast amounts of damages.

I think the cell phone industry, to their credit, has tried to do some research into the health effects of the phones. But I think they more or less have stopped before they got to the bottom of it. There's almost universal acceptance of the notion that using an ear piece will reduce or eliminate your exposure to any significant amount of the radiation from the phone.

As a result, I think the only reasonable thing that people can do is just simply try to be prudent and not expose themselves anymore than is necessary.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, we'll take you to a party where the action is in cyberspace. And the computers don't look much like that beige box on your desk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HATTORI: The classic image of a computer gamer is a guy sitting home alone in the dark, staring at a screen and blowing away enemies. Time to change that image to a bunch of guys sitting at screens together blowing away enemies. Daniel Sieberg went to a party where networking means more than just keeping in touch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Water-cooled desktop computers made of aluminum and Plexiglass with tweaked processors that run faster than a speeding bullet. The owners of these machines have converted traditional computers into a high- performance gamer's weapon of choice.

(on camera): Sure, you could play video games at home, alone, or over the Internet. Or you could come to a place like Netland, where gaming takes on a social environment, and a whole new level of competition.

(voice-over): These days, interactive gaming is more than hooking up players via the Internet. LAN parties like this one in Atlanta can consist of dozens of gamers playing together over a local area network, which uses servers to connect multiple computers in the same venue. These gaming parties first became popular in Korea, and now interest is growing in the U.S. as well.

DERRICK HOUSTON, NETLAND OWNER: Internet cafes have been around for a long time, but this is a little bit different. This is more socially -- more social interaction with gaming, playing against one another.

SIEBERG: The competitors are serious about the games they play and the tools they use. These tricked-out computers are known to insiders as "hot rods." An appropriate name since the atmosphere at these events is akin to a sporting event or a car show. The fastest machine with the best driver wins bragging rights and respect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? I'm getting confused!

SIEBERG: The games and graphics are futuristic as the machines they run through. "Counter Strike," currently perhaps the most popular LAN game in the world, is a shooter game that pits teams against one another on terrorist and anti-terror missions. Places like Netland also allow people to play online games like "Dark Age of Camelot," against other LAN party goers, as well as players from all over the world. Holiday LAN party gone global.

PETER CHUN, GAMER: Every single character in there is a person in front of a computer, just like we are. So if you see like 500 people gather somewhere, that's 500 people elsewhere in the world playing the same game as us.

SIEBERG: Many LAN party games are loaded with plenty of blood, death and destruction. A lot of people say these games promote violence and unhealthy levels of competition. No surprise, folks here disagree.

CONRAD GROSS, GAMER: This is like playing a sport. I mean, it's not physical, but it's playing a sport. You get to hang out with people and do teamwork. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) gaming is a social thing. With the Internet and with LAN parties, I mean, you can make tons of friends.

SIEBERG: And destroy tons of enemies. LAN parties have turned video gaming into an indoor version of a street basketball game. Show up, bring your best game, and let them see what you've got.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HATTORI: Well, we've got to wind it up for another week. I'm going to take a quick peek through the telescope. But here's a look at what's coming up next week.

These goggles are like earphones for your eyes. If you're tired of squinting at movies on your portable DVD player, get ready to broaden your horizons.

Plus, babies wearing velcro mittens? The babies get a grip on the objects around them, and researchers get new insights into how we learn to use our hands.

That's a look at what's coming up on NEXT. This thing got a lens cap? Until then, let us know how we're doing. You can drop us an e- mail. Our address is next@cnn.com.

Thanks so much for joining us this week. And thanks to our friends here at the Chabot Space and Science Center, including Rachel -- telescope is nick-named Rachel.

For all of us on the sci-tech beat, I'm James Hattori. We'll see you next time.

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