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tv   News  Al Jazeera  August 11, 2015 10:30am-11:01am EDT

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do stay with us for the headlines up next, if you can. otherwise you can always check out the latest news on our website. there it is on your screen. a toxic spill in colorado is on the move. >> i cannot shower. i cannot cook. i cannot do anything with the water from my water well. >> the plume is limiting water supplies for some residents as experts assess the risks. another tension night in ferguson, missouri, dozens arrested and police out on the streets this morning trying to
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maintain calm. and we look at the effects of the riots in los angeles, and why the racial divide persists. ♪ this is al jazeera america. live from new york city. i'm stephanie sy. toxic sludge has contaminated more than 100 miles of colorado's animus and san juan rivers. it is unclear what the health and environmental impacts of the spill are, and the epa is offering few new details today. the colorado governor is scheduled to visit one of the contaminated areas this hour. he has declare stated f emergency. officials say the plunge is headed for lake powell, and the plume has been spotted in arizona and new mexico as well. jonathan betz has more.
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>> reporter: seeing yellow, a river stained with toxic chemicals, a growing disaster that is shutting off a natural treasure and poisoning some people's wells. >> i cannot shower. i cannot cook. i cannot do anything with the water from my water well. we came out here together and looked at the river and cried. >> reporter: a catastrophe 3 million gallons of toxic sludge. three times more than first thought. >> the magnitude -- it's -- you can't even describe it. >> reporter: created accidentally by the people responsible for guarding natural resources. the environmental protection agency was trying to plug a leak in an abandoned gold mine, instead crews disturbed some loose rocks in the mine. as of monday morning it was still gushing more than 550 gallons a minute.
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spending a steady stream of mustard-colored material through four states. the accident happened near silverton, colorado, then headed down streerm -- stream to farmington, new mexico. tribal initials in the navajo nation have declared a state of emergency, and have shut down some of their water in-take systems. and there are fears the spill will wind up in the grand canyon. at its peak the epa says the water had more than 300 times the normal levels of ars in addition. 3500 times the normal levels of lead. the river and some surrounding creeks have been closed. but officials say drinking water across the region is safe, at least for now. >> it's like when i flew over the fires, and you see something
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that your mind isn't ready or adjusted to see. >> reporter: the epa says the plume will eventually dissipate, but it's unclear what the long-term effects may be. >> this is my sanctuary and place of peace. my concern is the next generation and what they are walk going >> joining us live now from s dan olson, director of an organization that advocates for clean air, and pure water. thanks for being with us. what is the overall reaction in durango to the contamination of this river? >> folks are very worried and saddened by what has happened. but this pollution is something our community has been dealing with for decades. it has been mediated in terms of gold mine tailing piles.
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so this has been happening for a very long time. the epa was trying to clean up some of those sources of pollution and then triggered this massive release. i can't say we're surprised, but we're saddened economically. we're worried about what the long-term impacts are going to be. >> and the irony is the epa was attempting to drug this mine when this accident occurred. so in your view are these spills an inevitable legacy of old mining practices in that area. >> they are unless we commit the resources to address them. for over 25 years there have been ongoing discussions on how to deal with this, but sometimes those solutions and potential costs have been tied up in the politics of who wants to do what. and it's time for those politics to be pushed aside, and the necessary resources to be dedicated to addressing these
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sources of pollution. >> let's talk about the effects today on residents of durango. how significant this is river to the daily live -- lives of people in your community? >> it's not just durango, it's the entire watershed, like aztec and farmington, and the navajo reservation, really the full stretch of the river. and every community is experiencing a different condition. in durango, we have an alternate water source. other communities are not as lucky. ag producers are particularly impacted because ditches have been shut down, and those folks are in a dire situation. and finally recreation and tourism is so important to the communities here, as well as just the river is the life blood of the west. it runs through that's right of
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our community, and what our lives revolve around. . >> dan, what facts have you been given by local authorities or the e pa about the health and environmental impacts of this spill, because they have not returned our calls to give us a little bit more understanding of what we're really looking at here. >> it is a complex situation. the focus right now is on sampling and trying to understand. in the initial plume there were plenty of heavy metals that were far beyond as you just reported acceptable levels. that a plume has moved through the area for the most part. but what is also happening is sediment is deposited on the river bottoms. so everyone is trying to get a handle on what that means in terms of the long-term effects and how we need to respond. >> thanks for speaking us with this morning, dan. >> thank you. >> the rivers will remain closed for testing for at least another
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week. parks officials say preliminary tests on the animus river have found little damage to wildlife. nicole mitchell is here with more. >> this mine was already leek -- leaking. and it is one of an estimated 55,000 abandoned mines throughout the midwest. this has been causing problems and they have been trying to clean this up for decades. 40% of the head waters of wastern waterways have been contaminated from mine runoff even before this incident. and when you look at some of the stuff in this water, lead, for example, one of the readings, over 3,000 times historic levels of lead. there has been arsenic, mercury, all of these things cause cancer, birth defects, brain
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damage in large enough come tan makeses. it started in colorado, but as the water has flowed and different waterways get together, this has now made its way into new mexico, utah, arizona. the concern is it is heading to lake powell. as it gets into lake powell, the colorado river base -- basin goes through this. the problem was until the late '70s, there were very few many any regulations. so miners for decades and decades did whatever they wanted. and that's why you have this toxic concentration in mines all over the west. so we still have an ongoing problem with all of the other mines. >> thinking about the rivers right now, and going back to 7th grade science class, these heavy
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metals will settle and be depotsed. is that a problem. >> in a river sediment can be reemerged if heavy rain or something kicks it up, so it can last for a long time. it also doesn't dilute very quickly if you are talking 3,000 times the normal level. >> yeah. but, again, we need more facts. nicole mitchell thanks a lot. ferguson, missouri remains under a stage of emergency today. nearly two dozen people were arrested overnight. at least one police officer used pepper spray to disperse the crowds. are protesters taking the streets again today? and what police presence are you seeing right now? >> reporter: we don't know of any formal protests yet to go on
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today, stephanie. but last night was better than the night before. things did get hot last night. there was a line of police in riot gear, faces off against a line of about 200 protesters. but they got a lot more proactive last night, than the night before. they went into the crowd, started protecting businesses, got the crowd to start dispersing, and for the most part it worked. they did get things quieted down and in the end, stephanie, about 23 people were arrested, but far less violent than the night before when there were three shootings. >> as you were saying earlier, these guys called the oath keepers have showed up in ferguson. what do we know about that group? >> reporter: four white men showed up as oath keepers, they are called an extreme anti-government militaristic
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group. they say they are trying to uphold the constitution, specifically the right to bare arms, but a lot of chatter from people saying they should not have come here, both police and protesters. protesters said why could we not be walking around with big assault weapons. and we talked to somebody who said he thinks it is a terrible mistake to show up, like pouring gasoline on the fire. but they showed up late as the protests started to die down. >> the family of the man that was shot on sunday, they are speaking out. what is the latest they are saying. >> reporter: the 18 year old still in critical condition at last check. police say he shot at them on sunday night several times. they shot back. he is in the hospital and facing ten charges in all of this, but his family tells a very different story. his dad said he was out on an
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outing with friends, wasn't event armed and his dad said he was actually a friend of michael browns who touched all of this life. >> andy thank you. a "washington post" journalist arrested last year in mergson, has been ordered to appear in court. the summons said he could be arrested if he doesn't appear. the post's executive editor calls the move an abuse of police authority. a federal court upheld the corruption conviction for former virginia governor bob mcdonell. mcdonell was sentenced to two years in prison, but has been free pending appeals, and he can still appeal to the u.s. us supreme court. a look back at race in
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america. today marks 50 years since the riots in los angeles.
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welcome back to al jazeera america. it is 10:45 eastern, taking a
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look at today's top stories. u.s. markets are down this morning after china devalued its tightly controlled currency. china's trade was being hurt, making chinese exports more expensive. some northern california residents have been forced to leave their homes for the next time in two weeks because of a new wildfire. as democrat presidential candidate, bernie sanders has picked up his first major labor endorsement. it's a note-worthy endorsement as most of the union's 185,000 members are women. on the heels of another night of protests in ferguson, missouri, today marks 50 years since the start of one of modern america's worst race riots. the riots in south los angeles
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brought death and destruction in the industry. john henry smith reports. >> reporter: race riots broke out in a slew of american cities during the 1960s, but it's the watts riots that have endured. >> a man said to me today that all of this would not have happened if the negroes had been treated differently and he said if you treat somebody like a mad dog, he is going to behave like a mad dog. >> i have to go along with that. >> reporter: it started when a white patrol officer pulled over a 21 year old black motorist he suspected of drunk driving. as they got physical, onlookers rushed in, believing they are seeing another example of excesstive force by a police department. before long, buildings were
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being burned, businesses lieutenanted, blood spilled. the watts riots would last six days and cover more than 36 square miles of l.a. more than a,000 people were hurt. more than $40 million of property damaged about 300 million in today's dollars. many in the black community called it a violent reaction to blacks at the hands of whites. >> the white man has not been going along with us, so by doing this, we feel we can make them go along with us a little bit better. >> reporter: the governor appointed a commission shared by a former cia director, john mccone, to find out what lead to the week of violence and suggest solutions to prevent a repeat. the investigation found that quote: police commissioners
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also encouraged investment in better housing, healthcare and education for black citizens. recommendations that 50 years later, sound as familiar as the racial unrest that continues to playing american cities. another theme that persists from that era is the militarization of the police force. future l.a. police chief spearheaded the creation of the first paramilitary, special weapons and tactics team of course that's more commonly known as s.w.a.t. stephanie? >> thank you. earlier i talked about what systemic changes have occurred since the riots with the professor of history in african american studies at the university of houston. >> it's been a mixed bag. first of all with regard to
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housing in southern california at the same time wages are stagnating, the rental market has seen a spike upwards in terms of rental costs. in terms of police misconduct is an indication of the fact that what happened in los angeles 50 years ago has become a national phenomenon. >> then you have the issue of education, and i understand leading up to the riots in watts, the board of education has rezoned districts to make it so black students were in overcrowded schools, so there were real concerns. those do concerns also continue to persist today? >> not only do they persist, there are further layers of complexity. south los angeles has turned into largely latino area. at the same time of course, with the attacks on immigrant
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populations from latin america, there has been a squeeze on funding for bilingual education. i think it's fair to say there has been a mixed bag of results after august 1965, there were halting steps towards affirmative action, "the los angeles times" decided it would be better to cover such integrations with a integrated labor force. the university of california and the california state university system, the largest in the nation moved in a halting way towards affirmative action, but as you know, the supreme court has thrown roadblocks in the past of affirmative action as of late, roadblocks that will probably become more significant. >> it was also the start of major changes in immigration policy. in present day los angeles crime rates have come down in recent years. but some that has not translated
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into actual change. >> reporter: these are l.a.'s meanest steps. streets with notorious nicknames like death valley. this woman grow up here. when she was 17 her boyfriend was shot and killed in the cross fire of a gang shooting. she was six months pregnant with their daughter. now a mother of four, she struggles to keep her children from suffering a similar fate. >> it saddens me because they are not free. they are not like other children in different areas. i don't permit them to walk up and down the street. when he wants to play he plays on his bike in the paved backyard or the air condition of the house. >> reporter: here in south l.a. gang activity and violence are a way of life. there are more than 100 documented gangs here fighting for control over the streets, but there has been a spike of shootings this summer with 11 in one weekend. this boy died that weekend.
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he was sitting in his car when another car pulled up alongside and a gunman opened fire. after worlds were exchanged at a gang member's funeral that day. >> there was a murder. this is a gang-infested neighborhood. people die all the time. >> reporter: robert husband his friend. they used to roam streets as members of the west side crypts. then they turned their lives around. >> when you look at south l.a. or any urban area, you still see the same problem, namely high unemployment, joblessness, and a second thing, which i think fuels that is the alienation, the sense of disempowerment. >> reporter: about 300 people attended the funeral. >> we walked these grounds, we ran these streets, but he was a changed man. >> reporter: his family asked us not to film any reminders of his old life in the gang, but
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emphasize the work he did helping kids. still we heard calls to avenge his death, retaliation, begets retaliation. >> we don't do this work, we're going to lose our kids. >> in order to stop it, it's going to take all of us to stop it. i mean gang members. former gang members. mothers, fathers, uncles, cousins. >> reporter: in the 1990s, the murder count in l.a. topped 1,000 a year, last year there were fewer than 300. >> it's about the same thing, same hearing of gun violence and gangsters and things of that sort. it looks the same to me. >> reporter: jennifer london, al jazeera, south l.a. the u.s. prepares to raise a flag at its embassy in cuba this week. while some cubans are already embracing the stars and stripes. ♪
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>> i don't really kn
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this friday the united states will raise its flag over an embassy in cuba for the first time since 1961. secretary of state john kerry will be in havana for the occasion. many people in cuba's capitol are already embracing the change in the u.s., cuba relationship. >> translator: i use the american flag because americans respect cubans, like we respect americans. >> last month the cuban flag was raised in front of the country's embassy in washington. it has been less than a year since u.s. sanctions on cuba were eased. and some cuban businesses are already reaping the businesses. >> reporter: so close and yet so far away. a nation that took a different road than that of the united states.
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and for a while, cuba was the romantic vivid poster child for communism. ♪ >> reporter: but it became a place frozen in time by an underperforming socialist economy until now. because after decades of decline, sue -- cuba it seems on the move once again. i first came to cuba back in 2001, 14 years ago. everyone expects to see a lot of change in the next few years, but i see change already. there are a lot more cars on the road. people are better dressed. and there are new businesses. a parallel economy has developed. more than a million cubans now work as independents who don't depend on the state, but make their own money. we met roberto. in a country short on supplies of everything, his services keep
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those few cubans with access to technology connected. across town julio restores to perfection, cuba's well-known cars. it can soon import spare parts more easily. when asked whether he considers himself a capitalist or socialist. he says he is just tired. >> translator: i feel like a capital list, i don't have a life of my own. >> reporter: from socialism to the drive of capitalism, officials would insist reforms have remained true to the revolution, and some might sa saku -- say cuba has had little choice. melissa chan, al jazeera, havana. you can watch melissa's full
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report tonight at 8:00 eastern. thanks for watching. i'm stephanie sy. the news continues next live from doha. ♪ >> announcer: this is al jazeera. hello there, welcome to the al jazeera news hour. i'm laura kyle in doha. coming up in the next 60 minutes. saudi-backed forces make significant gains against houthi rebels in a key yemen province. anger in japan as the first nuclear power station is switched back on. frustrations spill over on the greek island as greeks