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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  May 14, 2015 2:30am-3:01am EDT

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i'm ray suarez. >> on "america tonight": learning lessons. a radically new approach to higher ed and metrics to see whether it works. >> this is not even possible this a standard classroom. >> exactly right. this is to me the magic. >> "america tonight"'s adam may on the minerva project and whether this experiment in education might make even the ivy league reconsider its approach. also tonight, chilling effect. a warning shot about the impact of nsa snooping. >> is it you know 15% of your membership? is it 20%?
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>> once it's one person it's unconstitutional. >> "america tonight's" michael okwu on whose calls the feds are track and what that might mean to you. thanks for joining us, i'm joie chen. a big disconnect looms over the government's phone surveillance program. both sides have lined up over the battle of what is known as section 215 of the patriot act which louse louis the allows the nsa to gather metadata. a federal court ruled the program illegal just a few days ago. whatever happens next opposition to it is because together some unlikely political bed fellows for what america
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"america tonight's" michael okwu has. >> a sloven entrepreneurs his taste is more to cotton oxford than camouflage more to mother fiscal than mercedes. but his passion runs deep. so much so that he spent part of his fortune founding cal guns, advocating for the gun owner. >> you have ammunition and hardware and firearms flow very naturally out of that kind of maker you culture. >> if i own a gun in sloven it doesn't say anything more about me other than i have a gun? >> we march with the pink pistols at the gay pride parade, i have as many who are for
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obamacare as who are against it. >> while hoffman and his group may be surprising one thing isn't. he believes his rights and those of others are under assault from the federal government. traditional foes in washington he session it's. >> a new source, the national security agency. many of the objections to the nsa's surveillance programs have been based on principle but have those programs had a real impact on the lives of ordinary americans? well, gene hoffman and others here in the bay area say yes. what worries hoffman most is that nsa program which keeps records of nearly every phone call made in the united states. hoffman's group runs a telephone hot line which provides legal advice to gun owners who fear they may be afoul of the law. >> i need people to be confident that they can join my organization and the fact that there's a record being kept of who's in my group and who's not in my group
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indirectly but effectively enough is very chilling to our membership. i know i have users not contacting me because they are afraid. >> can you quantify it? 15%, 20%, 30%? >> in some ways it doesn't matter how many it is. >> is it dozens or scores of people? >> once it's one that's enough. because that person hasn't been able to express their political activism. their right to speech has absolutely been chilled. >> on first amendment grounds it's a novel one but it's an approach that's gaining wide accepts. hoffman's group joined 21 politically active organization he in arguing that the its violates the right to free speech. raging from the unitarian church to promarijuana groups.
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>> what happens when groups feel they're watched all the time they don't have the conversation they don't organize they don't join a political group. >> cindy cohen is the legal director of the electronic frontier foundation, an organization that fights for free speech and privacy rights. the eff is the legal team behind the lawsuit. >> mass spying is illegal unconstitutional and extremely dangerous if you care about freedom. it puts you at the mercy of just hoping you've got a benevolent government that won't target you or won't get in the way of democratic organizing or political organizing that it disfavors. >> i can imagine that some people listening, it conjures them images of free loving lawyers in san francisco. hunkering over a table conspiracies. are you being paranoid? >> i'm not paranoid. ism i'm a mid western girl from
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the middle of iowa. >> cohen believes she's got a good case. not least because in the 1950s the supreme court did recognize the effect that government surveillance can have on government speech. >> the u.s. supreme court held that the naacp didn't have to turn over its membership list to the government. people aren't going to join the naacp if they know that the fact of their membership is going to be turned over to the government. it's going to create a chilling effect. and what we're doing in this case is really the digital version of that. because who you talk to on the phone, how long you talk to them how often you talk to them those are your associations. >> reporter: one group that's joined the lawsuit has actually dealt with government spying first-hand. zakra balou is the executive director of the office of the council
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of muslim community. >> the muslim community had experienced in smaller settings. >> in 2004, the fbi which works closely with the nsa began spying on muslims in the barometric pressure passing that bay area, passing that information around balou learned about that request. >> that is a stack of documents. >> this is a portion of it, what i could print with ordinary paper. i go to the mosque multiple times a week so think at any given day or any given event there could be a an nsa agent there. >> what came out of this surveillance, were any of these members hardened criminals, were they involved in organized crime, terrorist activity?
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>> nothing. >> nothing -- >> nothing at all. we hear from american muslims who say i'm afraid to practice my religion, i'm afraid to go to the mosque and become politically involved. we left our countries to avoid government stages. it was normal in egypt and syria that the walls had eyes and ears. now you're telling us we're not safe in our community centers or not safe amongst our friends. >> it's not understating that people in your community are living in a climate of fear. >> i think that would be an appropriate statement. that would be an accurate representation. people are living if a state of fear. >> reporter: we asked the justice department which is defending the government for an interview. it declined. however james clapper, the director of national intelligence says he cares very deeply about our privacy and civil liberties. adding i think a lot of what people are reading and seeing in
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the media is hyperbole. the concerns don't end with the fact that private information is being stored in a database. there is also concern about how that information is actually being used. those fears were heightened when it was recently revealed that the nsa has been turning over information to domestic law enforcement agencies. john schifman is a reporter from reuters news that broke the story. >> they send it to law enforcement, to a place called the special operations division in virginia. and that operation sends the evidence out to the dea, to the irs, to the atf, the fbi, and they use the information to make cases against americans in nonterrorism cases. >> reporter: the special operations is cloaked in secrecy.
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according to reuters, it strictly forbids release of the source. >> the nsa will pass it to dea to local sources, and they will pull a person over, lo and behold they'll find drugs in the trunk. the person who was arrested thinks the dea got lucky when in fact they got a whisper from the nsa or crea. cea. >> i wouldn't if the nsa was behind it? >> according to gene hoffman the fear of overzealous or wrongful prosecution, is one reason that people are pushed away from organizations like his.
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>> whether or not it's legal in california, it's a frightening thing for especially a person in california, to ask a question about whether he's a felon or not. >> i don't think that the invocation of national security, means we throw out the rights of how to have due process how to have constitutional democracy, we don't have an exception to country. >> michael okwu, al jazeera. >> the part of the patriot act that allows the nsa snooping is set to expire at the end of this month with lawmakers then forced to decide whether bulk phone collection should be stopped or as some have suggested if even more records should be collected. next, disabled by the government. how our laws keep people with disabilities from saving for their own futures. why is there a penalty on earning?
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later, an ivy league education without the ivy covered laws. >> i felt it was ridiculous how much money you had to pay to live in d.c. and study there. so minerva was also much cheap person. >> can a radical experiment in higher ed be the uncampus of the future? and hot on "america tonight's" website they defended u.s. forces in afghanistan but how are they being repaid in america? that's at
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>> in our fast forward segment closing the pay gap for a special group of workers, not women as you mites expect but disabled workers. whether they're able to earn what they're worth, as one woman explains.
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to sheila macvicar. >> from an early age sarah wolf has been defying expectations. sarah was born with down syndrome. >> what do you want people to know about you? >> i'm a fit person, i like to know that people have a good heart. >> sarah has college credits works at a law firm, is on several boards of directors and is a gifted public speaker. >> we treat sarah like everybody else in this family. >> her father dennis wolf said the family decided from the start not to let sarah's condition define her. >> do you have to advocate? do you advocate for any child. if you don't get involved in that in the very beginning it's not going to work for anybody. so you have -- my wife made that commitment. you know, she really did -- she worked hard, very hard. but she got it done. >> okay. >> there was never a sense that
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sarah was in any way unable to do something. she just did it. >> hey todd. >> how are you? >> how are you. >> todd o'malley is sarah's boss. o'malli offered her first job after school. >> she needed something to do. to me it was a natural to have her come down here. >> i've been here for 13 years. and yes i do drink coffee for 13 years. that's where i started. >> she's not writing briefs but she's filing. she goes from day to day and helps a case manager with complex things, putting together settlement packages and everything. >> reporter: today sarah not only works as a law clerk bit in the advocacy office of the arc of northeastern pennsylvania, a nonprofit helping people with disabilities. don broderick is the executive director. >> she is a very talented young lady and she has a wonderful
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skill to be able to present to large groups of people. appears to be effortless. >> reporter: but this woman who has worked so hard to overcome limitations is now blocked by limits imposed on her by federal regulations. sarah can't save more than $2,000. if she earns more than $700 a month, she will lose her disability benefits and her health insurance so she can't get a raise or work full time. sarah like every other developmentally disabled person in the united states is legally obliged to be poor. >> fast forward to a new move in the fight positive equal pay. disabled workers nationwide make less than minimum wage. it is helped that that would help them get jobs but now new hampshire ban the subminimum wage for disabled workers, but no workers receive a subminimum
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wage there. next no campus. no classrooms. but some big lessons in revamping higher ed. the virtual college offering are ivy league teaching at a bargain price. and correspondent sheila macvicar follows up on the f-35, the pentagon's most expensive weapon ever, and the risk the aircraft may pose to those on the ground. that's thursday on "america tonight". >> on hard earned, what would you do? >> the army is the last resort but i will do anything necessary for my family... >> when you're running out of choices... >> maybe i should become a nun... do nuns smoke? >> and your back's against the wall... >> i have a problem... i don't speak english... >> hard earned pride...
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hard earned respect... hard earned future... a real look at the american dream hard earned only on al jazeera america >> part of our month long look at working in america. "hard earned".
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>> it's graduation season which means more young people are entering the very grown up world of debt and lots of it. college debt and the rising cost of tuition that leads to it is a big concern of many graduates, parents and even leaders in higher ed. putting a stop to it though may take a radical learning lesson even overhaul of the way education happens. "america"america tonight"'s adam may on the wisdom of the minerva project. >> just because it's an inherently private event doesn't me we can't study it scientifically. >> reporter: for a select group of students this is a typical day at college. there are no classrooms, no lectures. no tenured professors and no libraries.
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yet these students may be getting a better education without them. >> okay. >> minerva, still in its first year of operation is a new online universities that aims to compete with the nation's most elite schools. founding dean steven coslin joined the startup after a lifetime in the ivy league. >> i don't think students are being effectively educated. i don't think they're being given tools for life. i don't think they are acquiring what we think of here as the great cognitive tools that allow them to succeed. >> he may have a point. one recent study of a sample of undergraduates found that 45% demonstrated no significant improvement in critical thinking and complex reasoning after their first two years of college. >> you don't have the luxury at a existing institution of placing the reset button. it's like a giant ocean liner
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moving ahead at sea. >> a world class neuroscientist coslin says minerva doesn't teach math or biology. instead, students take forl analysis and complex systems rather than content. >> lecturing is a great way to teach because you can teach a thousand people as effectively as ten people. but it's a terrible way to learn. >> reporter: the method is based on brain research into how people learn. >> the basic fro flows that we're going to use -- >> jonathan castman says the technology is designed to excel students to participate. a chart of each student's face color coded to show their level of participation. tools like pop quizzes and
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breakout sessions help teachers to avoid lecturing. >> you actually see the full video of the class. you see all of the times that anyone spoke, anyone typed anything. you can filter down when you say, i only want to see people who talk over ten seconds, or when people raise their hand. >> this isn't even possible in a standard classroom. >> exactly. this is magic. >> reporter: intriguing experimental. >> do you see concrete data saying this method of teaching is working? >> working very well and some of the specific practices that we use work extremely well. but other ones we don't know yet. >> reporter: do you miss out on the big campus life at all? >> sometimes but really overall not really that much. i think that anything that is on a campus you can find in the city. >> yoel bergman turned down
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berkeley and ucla to join the founding class. >> how do you compare what they're doing versus you? do you think you get the better end of the deal here? >> they party more. we don't really party that much at minerva, a much more comfortable environment much safer but i'm not here to be in a comfort zone, i want to be challenged in college, i want to grow. >> is this challenging you? >> absolutely. >> the university isn't completely online. bergman and his 27 classmates all live together, the version of a dorm and the only campus these students have. funded by venture capital to the tune of $95 million much of it from chinese investors minerva
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says it pared down to the bare essentials. >> a lot of people are afraid of unknown things, or for something new. >> roda wen is from china. >> i had an offer from georgetown, almost committed, i thought it was ridicules how was ridiculous how much money you had to pay. it was much cheaper. >> tuition is $10,000. room and board, $18 ,000, half the cost of an average college. >> my goal as i said before, my goal is to reform higher education around the world. >> all of this is the brain child of ben nelson, formerly the ceo of snapfish. we spoke to
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him vee video chat. >> multimillion dollars for >> yes. there are these five aspects of cost inflation in higher education. the amenities race, there is the tenure system right, where you inflate the cost of professors in their prime and then you overpay for 40 years after they stop being productive. you've got the sports programs which are incredibly expensive. you have undergraduates subsidizing faculty to do research. we're the only system in the world where that happens. and lastly it's the enormous increase in administrative cost, right? where you have administration costs, tripling over the past few decades. >> there's no question that minerva is different but is it the solution? >> we do claim that we're a solution. but the best thing is that if
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harvard and yale and princeton and stanford and every other elite university and every other university in the nation were looking what we were doing and say you know what, we can do better. but right now battle of ideas it's not about the substance of education. it's not about the intation of the substance ofthe student experience. and when universities engage in that battle again, then, that's what will not only save but elevate higher education around the world. >> after working out a few bugs minerva plans to expand its next class. the university has accepted 200 students from 11,000 applications and nearly 1,000 applications from interested faculty members. >> this was a big change for you to leave the institution of ivy league schools. here you are, is this -- did you make a good choice? >> oh, without question. this is the last phase of my
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career. i really wanted to have an impact. i wanted all the stuff i'd been studying for decades to be used in some way that was useful. >> while experimental now if minerva gets the results it expects this university without walls may very well up-end american higher education. at the very least, other schools are watching. adam may, al jazeera, san francisco. >> and we'll watch too. that's "america tonight". tell us what you think. at talk to us on twitter or facebook and come back. we'll have more of "america tonight" tomorrow. >> tuesday. >> i thought we were doing something good. >> bodies donated for science... >> how much regulation exists? >> very little. >> a shocking look inside the world of body brokers.
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>> got a call from the fbi saying we have your husband's remains. >> an america tonight exclusive investigation. tuesday, 10:00 eastern. only on al jazeera america. >> gun fire in burundi's capital capital. after it has overthrown its president. good morning you're watching al jazeera, i'm jane dutton. fire breaks out in a shoe factory homing to boost biggest