tv PBS News Hour PBS September 3, 2013 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: top house leaders vowed today to back president obama's plan to strike syria. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, the pressure for military action intensified today in a white house meeting with lawmakers and at the first hearing on capitol hill. we hear from michigan democrat carl levin. >> ifill: then, japan struggles to stem radioactive leaks from its crippled nuclear plant, including a plan to build an ice wall below the damaged reactors. >> woodruff: we break down two big deals in the world of technology and telecommunications. >> ifill: as the debate over a living wage is reignited by fast-food workers, ray suarez sits down with the new secretary
of labor, thomas perez. >> good luck the only service that can be sustained in america are minimum wage, no benefit jobs. i categorically reject that >> woodruff: and schools in oakland, california, want to curb a decade of declining graduation rates. we profile programs aimed at engaging students. >> >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> and the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: president obama won key support today as he stepped up his courting of congress to back military action against syria. he and his top lieutenants lobbied for punishing the damascus regime over the use of chemical weapons. >> i want to that leaders of both parties for being here
today. >> the president called in house and senate leaders this morning, plus key committee chairs, in part positive reassure them that he has no intention of overreaching in syria. >> i want to no-fly zone to the american people, the military plan that has been developed by the joint chiefs and that i believe is appropriate is proportional. it is limited. it does not involve boots on the ground. this is not iraq and this is not afghanistan. >> more over, mr. obama said he is willing to work with congress to add just the resolution's language, authorizing the use of force. >> so long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, with i have to send a clear message to assad and his abilities to use nuke collar weapons i'm confident we will come up with something. >> afterwards it appeared the president had hit his mark with the lawmakers, house speaker john boehner backed the call for
military strikes on syria. >> this is something that the united states as a country needs to do. i'm going to support the president, call for action. i believe my colleagues should support this action. >> house democratic leader nancy pelosi agreed. but she also said the administration does need to win over the public. >> i am hopeful, the american people are persuaded that this action happened, that assad did it, that hundreds of children were killed, this is the behavior outside of the circle of civilized human behavior and we must respond. >> later, second of state john kerry and defense secretary chuck hagel took the administration's picks directly to the senate foreign relations committee. >> i will tell you there are some people hoping that the united states congress doesn't vote for this very limited
request the president has put before you. iran is hoping you will look the other way. our inaction would surely give them a permission slip, for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test. >> hagel suggested a us failure to act would also embolden the syrian government. >> the assad regime under pressure by the syrian opposition could feel im powered to carry out more devastating chemical weapons attacks without a response. >> both men played down fears of a wider war. kerry agreed the language of the resolution could rule out the use of u.s. ground troops. at one point, the proceedings were interrupted by anti--war protesters. and kerry looked back 0 his early years opposing the war in
vietnam. >> you know the first time i testified before this committee was when i was 27 years old. i have feelings very similar to that protester. and i would just say that is exactly why it is so important that we're all here having this debate, talking about these things before the country and that the congress itself will act representing the american people. >> kerry and hagel, both former senators, generally got a supportive reception. but idaho republican jim rich made it clear it was not unanimous. >> are we really going to be giving them credibility, if we go in with a limited strike and the day after or the week after or the month after, assad calls out of his rat hole and said, look, i stood up to the strongest power on the face of thisarth and i won. so now it's business as usually here. >> there is no question that whatever choices are made by the
president, that he and his military effort will not be better off, number one, and the opposition will know that and the people in syria will know that. >> woodruff: at the end of the day, the president still face add fight with a number of conservative republicans and some liberal democrats opposing any action in syria. in a new washington post/abc news poll found broad public opposition as well. meanwhile the united nations secretary general warned against any american attack without the approval of the u.n. security council. >> also today, russia criticized the deployment of u.s. warships near syria, complaining its only aggravating tensions. and illustrating those tensions, a u.s.s.-israeli joint missile exercise in the mediterranean sparked a brief overnight flurry of alarm in the region. >> at the
>> ifill: as the syria debate unfolds in congress, we'll be talking to lawmakers as they decide what comes next. tonight we get the view from one senator who supports the president, but believes the u.s. should be doing even more. michigan democrat carl levin is chairman of the senate armed services committee. i spoke with him a short time ago. >> senator levin, thank you for joining us. first i want to ask you where do you stand tonight on the president's authorization got? >> i think we should authorize the use of force in order for it to be most effective, that means that we have to do a couple of things besides authorize it. we have to help the syrian people who are resisting assad to have the weapons to fight for themselves and so for certain weapons that would be helpful in that respect have not been provided for them and particularly in response to a chemical attack. if they had antitank weapons to go against the tanks, it would
protect the launchers that launch the chemical weapons for instance, that would show this is not just an american fight, that this is a fight that the syrian free army is right in the middle of and is willing to fight but they need the weapons, we ought to help get those weapons to them, and, secondly, it seems to me it's important that, when we do strike, that we have other countries with us for it to be effective and that includes a number of arab countries. we were assured today there will be a number of countries that would join with us and that's very important for the effectiveness of any of our action on our part. >> let's talk about one thing at a time. the first part, with i is arming the rebels, which you have been arguing on behalf of for the better part of this year, is that something that you understand to be part of the authorization request as redrafted in congress? >> i would like to see it as part of the authorization of congress but whether it's part of the authorization or not, if the administration does move
there that direction, and i am more confident now than i was before the meeting this morning that there will be that kind of an effort, then it has the same effect. so one way or another, it seems to me, we have the syrian people who hate this dictator, we have a free syrian army, which is willing to take him on, every day, but right now they don't have the kind of weapons that would allow them to respond to a chemical attack inside of a city. for that they need for instance to go after the tanks and the artillery, which are protecting the rocket launchers which are the ones that launched those chemical attacks. >> and the second part, point you made was you had been assured this morning that there would be support from arab nations in this enterprise. what kind of assurance did you get? >> well, we got aid insurance that there will be at least some nations that are willing to speak out. i think almost all of the arab nations want us to do it but there will be a few, we will be
assured and they weren't named and that was appropriate but we were assured there would be some arab nations that would actively participate with us and a number of additional nations both expaish non-arab, that would be publicly supportive of this action. it's important that this be viewed not as just an american effort to keep a red line which the world has drawn against chemical weapons intact, r. but that in fact it is an international effort and not every country may join us. but provided there are a number of countries that do, it will send the same signal. >> back to the army rebels we have had this conversation before. in fact last time we talked about red lines i think the president said he would do it. if it hasn't happened, why not? and what certainty do you have it will happen this time? >> because i heard some things this morning that reassured me that it's going to happen, that they now have a greater comfort level with certain parts of the opposition, and so that we can make sure to the extent that is
humanly possible that the weapons do not fall into the wrong hands, because there are parts of the opposition to assad that are not people that we want to provide weapons to because they could use them for the wrong purpose. a very complex situation. the free syrian army is led by a person who we know is a moderate, that we know will, when they succeed, help the syrian people and the free syrian army and move in the right direction but there are other elements such as al qaeda and we do not want to do anything which could help them get the kind of weapons that they would use. >> and you are reassured that this plan, whatever plan that you have been briefed on, would ensure these weapons did not end up in the hands of jihaddists on the front and that they would not be a vacuum that followed as a result? >> well, there is greater insurance now than there was months ago, that we have -- that we can identify the groups that
should have the weapons to take on assad and it should be done safely. it's not a perfect deal. there's no guarantee that some of these weapons would not fall into the wrong hands but there's greater confidence now. one other thing, particularly as it relates to the antitank weapons. these are tanks which are protecting assad rocket launchers. those tanks can only be knocked off with antitank weapons and those antitank weapons are useful only against assad's tanks because there are no other tanks in syria beside assad tanks and so those weapons it seems to me can be provided to the vetted components of the syrian opposition. >> secretary kerry said today there was absolutelily positively no way there would be boots on the ground and he would be open to this being included as part of the war authorization. do you think it's a good idea to draw that line? >> i do. >> why. >> because i think it's
important that the american people know we're not going to get dragged into a civil war, that there are ways of taking action against the use of chemical weapons which needs to be taken. if countries such as syria and iran understand that the transfer, for instance, of weapons of mass destruction or the use of weapons of mass destruction, will precipitate a ponce on our part because if those are transferred such chemicals going to terrorist groups th this is in our interest that chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction not be used because they could be readily transferred to terrorist groups that are targeting us and so i think it is terribly important that the stepsen taken that i have outlined and also that we not be dragged into a civil war. we can act against the use of weapons of mass destruction and help others, like the syrian free army to act against the use of chemical weapons without
being dragged into a civil war. >> how do you reassure your constituents and others around the country that look at this and see echos of the arguments that were made for iraq or afghanistan, that this is not going to drag us into a wider war or that even these chemical weapons are the reason to act now? >> well, first of all i distinguish iraq and afghanistan for a lot of reasons but going back to iraq itself, what has changed now is that there is a global terrorist network now which is much more threatening now to us than 'twas five, 10, 15 years ago. so the possibility that weapons would be transferred to a terrorist group now with a global reach is a very different and more threatening situation to us than it was before. that does not defend our failures before, particularly would the use of chemical weapons by iraq, but i am saying that it is a much different situation now than it was 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. >> senator carl levin of
michigan. thank you very much. >> good being with you, glenn. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, stemming the radioactive leaks in japan; merging tech and telecom giants; inspiring african american boys in oakland; and secretary of labor thomas perez. but first, the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. >> holman: the sporadic violence in baghdad surged again today. at least 67 iraqis died in a series of bombings in the early evening. some of the targets were in shiite areas, others were largely sunni. more than 4,000 people have been killed in iraq during a period of sectarian violence spanning the last five months. al jazeera television's affiliate in egypt and three other stations were blacked out today. an egyptian court ordered them shut down for siding with ousted president mohammed morsi and his muslim brotherhood. that brought divided reactions, from those who favored and opposed the ruling.
>> i filed the case because it is not objective and transmitting a picture that does not reflect the truth of the protest which is inciting violence against the regime. >> this is not a democracy we have been waiting for. back during the revolution, al-jazeera was the one showing the truth and other egyptian channels were not. >> now they say they oppose the revolution because it shows the truth and the people that got killed. that's not right. >> meanwhile >> holman: meanwhile, egyptian helicopter gunships struck militants in the northern sinai peninsula today. at least eight were killed and 15 injured as part of a campaign to control islamic radicals in the region. in economic news, new data showed u.s. manufacturing grew in august by the most in more than two years. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average gained 23 points to close near 14,834. the nasdaq rose more than 22 points to close at 3612. the largest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world opened for business in san francisco today.
vehicles began crossing the new section of the san francisco- oakland bay bridge, some six years behind schedule. the span cost $6 billion, five times more than its original budget. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: there's more bad news from japan about radioactive leaks at the crippled fukushima nuclear plant and a new plan to deal with those problems. we begin with a report from tom clarke of independent television news. . >> it's two and a half years since the area was sent to meltdown and the cleanup has hardly begun. instead, engineers have been back to prevent hundreds of tons of radioactive water leaking from storage tanks from the site today japan's prime minister announced the government would intervene. >> the whole world is watching
whether we can successfully resolve problems with the plant and decommission the reactors. we must all work together on the issues. >> the total crises stems from this the huge quantities needed to cool the reactors. nearly 400,000 tons of water is being stored in these hastily constructed tanks. more are being added daily and they're running out of space. since the initial meltdown in 2011, contaminated water has been leaking from the reactor buildings into the groundwater beneath, and a third said water leaked from the storage tanks today. today's plan is to drill holes around the reactors and pump them full of cool water from the ground that would stop the contaminated water leaking out. >> the difficulty comes in actually being age able to get close enough to get from the
locations as they would require to install the wells so it may be that they have to make the -- make it further away from the source than they wanted. >> the rest would be spent on the thousands of tons of contaminated water in leaky tanks. it's being suggested today degrees action is to increase japan's image abroad and the decision to choose the 2020 as a host nation >> ifill: jeffrey brown picks up the story from there. >> brown: we check in again with two people who've helped us keep up with the continuing crisis. arjun makhijani is an engineer specializing in nuclear fusion. he's the president of the institute for energy and environmental research. kenji kushida specializes in japanese studies at stanford university. . >> welcome back to both of you. arjun, let me start with you, how serious are the new revelations about the water contamination. >> the last time we spoke or we talked about the leak and the radiation levels that could give
a worker an annual radiation dose in 12 minutes. well, more recently, there have been reports that the radiation levels near another tank are 1800 units per hour. this is an extremely high level of radiation. a few hours basically constitutes a lethal dose. so now we're talking about radioactive contamination in the tanks and the liquid stored in the tanks that are very highly radioactive so the leaks that are extremely problematic for the workers and for management. >> is this something they just discovered or what suddenly causes that much more serious amount of levels. >> the best i can understand, through all of the confusing information that is out there, is the first measurement was done with an instrument that only went up to a hundred millie units and now they're making more measurements and finding there are more contaminated spots and apparently more leaks.
so i'm not quite clear what the company knows when. but the information is kind of dribbling out ask the government is clearly concerned that the situation is getting more out of control. >> kenji, you pick up on that because there's the government and the government is stepping in with more force now, right? >> yeah, absolutely. because the next election in three years is going to definitely reflect the response on this nuclear issue, because they're essentially a pro nuclear party that just won a landslide election and so if they can't manage the operator's rescue efforts and the operator seems to be unable to deal with the worst parts of the situation then the government is on the hook. >> but from the outside, it looks like this is taking a long time to get to even the kind of understanding of the contamination levels that never mind getting into a lot of the
more serious work that needs to be done. what is the sense in japan as far as you can tell about the levels of, i don't know, desperation or urgency there? >> yeah, well, similar floor what we said last time, the operator's reputation and people's confidence in it, which was already at an all-time low is now even lower and after the government essentially defect nationalized the operator about a year ago and replaced top management people hoped that the ability of the operator to deal with some of these problems would have been enhanced. but some of the media reports coming from japan are saying things like subcontractors, leaking information that -- they are leaking information that the tanks that they put together, in great haste, under severe cost pressure under tecko, and they are put together with bolts that are not welded together so some of these subcontractors are saying well in the long run, you
would expect them to start springing leaks, so clearly, they haven't been on top of the situation and people are getting very nervous about that. >> so, arjun, explain the idea of the ice wall. it sounds strange. how would it work and how much has it been tried before? >> well, i don't know if an ice wall like this has been tried before. it's like building a dam underground but with ice, by freezing august of the water in the soil, so there's water coming in uphill, through the side and going into the ocean, all underground. it's an aquifer, so there's like water fuel and becoming contaminated so they hope to freeze it with a giant freezing machine like your freezer at home and put cooling coils in the soil, it takes an enormous amount of electricity and they would freeze it.
of contains the water behind it like a dam but eventually it's going to overtop the dam as it did before, they had another wall that they built, they chemically impregnated the soil to kind of solidify it and that is what is overflowing three times a day. >> so it has been done before but that on this scale, you think, so is it an experiment or is it a stab at something -- >> it is an experiment. and i think it's a risky experiment because if the power fails, you know, just like when the power goes out with your refrigerator,çó everything will defrost in the freezer. if the ice melts and it's blocking an enormous amount of contaminated water behind it, you have a problem and at the same time you know, the tanks are themselves something of a threat, if there's another earthquake and this highly contaminated water gets into the ocean so they have a got a
couple of very, very serious problems of containing the water. >> and then, kenji kushida, there's a the long-term here and i heard talk about decades to decommission the plant for example. >> yes. some of the estimates are a minimum of 40 years to decommission the plant so the idea of frozen underground walls, a massive spending into innovative infrastructure projects can be a good thing but when it's a last line of defense designed as a permanent solution to a seamingly intractable problem i think the general public would be more comforted if they saw several options out there instead of all of the eggs put into this potentially unrisky, unno enand untested solution that may or may not work. >> you were talking about the politics of the area. is there any sun certainty as to the will to stay with this for the decades that you're talking about. >> well, there's no choice.
given that the party is pro nuclear and they do not face elections for three years, their interest is definitely to do whatever is possible. because if this gets truly out of hand in a greater sense than now, then they will be -- their heads will be on the chopping block in the next election but they would like to void that. that being said, it's not like there's a set of technical solutions that are easily possible here that can be chosen from. so in the very long-term, they do need to try to stay in power so you would expect them to put as many resources as possible. and they are moving but they need to much much more quickly as the general public would agree. >> all right. kenji and arjun, thank you very much. >> thank you >> woodruff: we turn now to the world of technology and telecommunications, where two big deals have been announced in as many days.
the latest: microsoft is buying nokia's smartphone and cellular handset business for just over $7 billion. it comes just days after questions were raised about the future of microsoft when c.e.o. steven ballmer announced his intention to retire. on monday, verizon announced it would buy vodafone's stake in verizon wireless for $130 billion, making it one of the largest merger and acquisition deals in history. cecilia kang of the "washington post" has been covering these stories and joins me now. >> welcome back to "the news hour," cecilia. let's start with the newsiest of the two stories and that is microsoft buying nokia. what is behind this? >> reporter: microsoft has really struggled to get a foot hold in the smartphone market that has really dominated all of technology in the last six years
since the iphone was released. and it's struggled because its software development has been slow and it has not been able to compete with companies like apple and google which now completely dominate the smartphone market and this is really where the future of all technology is going. >> why is mike so soft so far behind the other two? >> microsoft is behind for several reasons but much of it, there's a development of its software, it's windows software, and also it made a strategic bet, about six -- before six years ago, before the iphone was introduced in 2007, where it believed that its ability to extend its dominance in technology from the pc market could be done in the same way in the mobile device market by simply licensing software. but what it saw was apple really broke out and came out with a new model where, when it introduced the iphone and then subsequently the ipad, it showed that it could be that the real successful model for that
company initially was to control the device, to actually produce and control the device as well as the software that runs on it. and microsoft has really struggled to be able to compete and bring forth a device and software that is as appealing to consumers as apple has and subsequently google with the an tried platform. >> so do analysts believe this is going to allow microsoft to catch up in some way or what? >> well, microsoft is colonelling really late to the game. again the iphone was introduced in 2007. it's really only been able to make some waves with its nokia windows phone called the lumina, in the last few quarters really and this is many years out. so it's really in a way coming very rate but maybe that strategic was -- it's trying to mimic the apple strategy by buying nokia and developing in-house the technology hardware and the software. and whether it's able to succeed in this way will really be
difficult. just by putting these companies, the developers under one roof may not be able to produce the results that it's betting it will be able to do which is create the next big hit device, blockbuster device. >> what about the other much bigger deal, and that have verizon spending $130 billion for vodafone share in verizon wireless. that's the thinking there? >> well, the thinking there, and the price tag
around the country following the summer break, making it a good time for a series of stories on important ideas being discussed and debated in education. we start with a report from oakland, california, on a different approach to the dropout problem, where young black men are more likely to miss school, get suspended, or end up in jail than other students. those statistics have alarmed officials, who have now set out to reverse a decade of declining graduation rates. our story from special correspondent joshua johnson was produced by our colleagues at kqed in partnership with the san francisco chronicle. it's part of the american graduate project. >> reporter: sizwe abakah teaches the manhood development class at oakland's skyline high school. he and about a dozen african american male teachers focus on making sure that black boys graduate high school. >> we're trying to make transformations.
if you look at the statistics in oakland, black boys are the highest in everything we don't need to be in. >> you will see higher rates of dropouts, lower rates of graduation, higher rates of chronic absence, higher rates of suspension. >> reporter: junious williams is c.e.o. of the urban strategies council, an oakland-based nonprofit working to eliminate persistent poverty. in 2010, the council partnered with the oakland school district to develop solutions for improving academic and social outcomes for black boys. the result was the office of african american male achievement. chris chatmon is the executive director. >> one of the strategies with our manhood development classes is how do we put the swag back into education and learning. >> reporter: one challenge to restoring that swag, that swaggering sense of cool, was getting boys motivated to even show up to school. >> what we found was if kids
weren't excited about the classroom, if kids weren't getting encouraged, they would get turned on to the streets. >> reporter: skyline is one of eight high schools and three middle schools in oakland that offer the manhood development class. students come from varying academic, economic, and family backgrounds. >> define manhood. in the context of this program, what does it mean to be a man? i want brothers to embrace all aspects of manhood-- not so much the strength, but the compassion, the love, the aspects of fatherhood, aspects of husbandhood, aspects of brotherhood. >> reporter: every day abakah, also known as brother sizwe, leads the boys in exercise. it focuses their minds so that they can become better students. >> my major concern is, they don't know how to receive information, they don't know how to take notes, they don't know how to sit down. a lot of our brothers need
fathers, just period. i don't know what other way i can put it. >> i was actually one of the smartest kids in my class. >> reporter: abakah says sometimes the class feels more like therapy. >> we might have to deal with a brother that lost a cousin or a brother that might be having a baby next week. >> reporter: students built altars to honor fallen classmates and other victims of gun violence-- stark reminders of the trauma many carry into the classroom. >> i grew up on 94th. that was a bad area, a lot of killings happening. >> reporter: wesley brownlee, a 15-year-old freshman, is a student in the manhood class. when he graduated from middle school, he had a 3.5 g.p.a. once he started high school, it began to drop. >> i've seen myself hanging out with kind of the wrong friends and all that, like into bad stuff.
>> whatever support you need, call myself, the youth center, tutoring on campus, it's time. >> before >> before, all i was worried about was just sports, and now brother sizwe, he made us dig deeper into school. like, if we don't have a good education, we might not get to the school we want, or we might not have the job we want when we get older. >> reporter: a few miles away from skyline, a charter school is trying a more comprehensive approach. it's targeting kids starting in kindergarten, and all of the nearly 75 students enrolled are african american boys. >> a lot of boys that come to this school have failed in other schools. they have been kicked out or expelled, and we are not quick to do that. >> reporter: dr. mark alexander, a retired epidemiologist, is board chairman of the 100 black men of the bay area community
school, which opened in 2012. the focus is on an educational mix of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. the school currently serves elementary students, but the goal is to expand coverage through 12th grade. >> i grew up foster homes. i grew up in very, very tough situations. i used to fight a lot. i used to get suspended. so i see a lot of myself in these boys and i see the genius in a lot of these kids. and i know it only takes a few people to just give a young man or a young woman the encouragement they need to really thrive. >> reporter: kids at the school start every morning with breakfast, then line up to repeat their morning affirmations, also known as the "scholar holla." . >> we are!
>> the >> reporter: the school's robust offerings include a homework club, an aeronautics class, as well as mentoring in medicine and science. the goal is to make sure that all the needs of african american boys are met. if you had not received the support that you are providing to these african american boys, where would you be? >> i would be in san quentin... or dead. >> reporter: you seem very sure of that? >> absolutely. but i had a lot of people that refused to let me fail. there were people that said, "mark alexander is not going to fail. you've got to do this. you've got to do this. there are no other options for you." and we have to have that kind of attitude for our kids. >> reporter: dr. alexander says the situation is more dire than people may think. it's not just an african american issue, or even an oakland issue.
it's an economic issue that impacts everyone in california, a state where minorities now make up the majority. >> when we fail black boys, latino boys-- whomever it is-- there is a cost attached to that incarceration, social services, added police protection, insurance rate. the litany goes on and on and on, and it is a huge price tag. when you invest up front and you make those boys successful, you invert that. >> reporter: the office of african american male achievement is seeing some early signs of progress. some of the participating schools are reporting fewer discipline problems, better grades, and improved attendance. but reversing the old trends remains daunting. for chris chatmon, success begins by acknowledging achievements every step of the way.
this year chatmon's office co- sponsored an annual honor roll event, celebrating african american boys and girls from eighth to 12th grades who maintained a 3.0 grade point average. one of the skyline manhood development students, 15-year- old javon mabon, performed a spoken word piece at the event. reporter: can't read. the teachers didn't notice me but >> reporter: javon did not have the g.p.a. needed to win an award, but hopes to next year. >> but on the biggest day of the biggest game of the year, when the number 13 came crashing into me, at the same time i heard my knee snap, i heard my family's dreams shatter.
and i'm asking y'all, what are my options? i can't read. >> reporter: his performance was both a painful reminder of what black boys are up against and a moving testament to their potential. >> ifill: the "american graduate" project is funded by the corporation for public broadcasting. >> woodruff: the latest portrait of the jobs market due later this week is expected to show that hiring is continuing at a moderate pace. but even as the economy recovers slowly, there are other worries, including a lack of progress on wages and related issues. ray suarez recently sat down to discuss this with the new secretary of labor. reporter: they don't capture the top headlines but the question of a living wage is moving front and center as of late. protests by fast food workers have helped raise the profile of the issue, in the largest
demonstration yet, workers from 60 cities walked off the job last week, for seeking $15 an hour and the right to unionize. many restaurant owners say those added costs would make it too difficult to maintain their businesses. for his part president obama called for raising the federal minimum wage to nine dollars an hour, up from the current level of 7.25. labor is a key voice for dealing with these and other issues. he was recently confirmed by the that and welcome to "the news hour." >> pleasure to be here. >> we saw in many places fast food restaurants with workers outside, trying to tell the public where they stand. recently, you wrote: people who work full-time in america should not have to live in poverty, simple as that. but how do you change a marketplace that manages to get people to come in to work on very low wages? >> i think you take a page out of what happened 50 years ago. we just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the march on
washington. that was not simply a march for civil rights as you know but a march for economic justice and one of the demands of the marchers was a fair and decent wage and that is really what the president is calling for in this context, because nobody should have to live in poverty who is working a full-time job and there are a lot of myths about minimum wage workers, they're all teenagers. that's just categorically inaccurate, and in order to get people up to the ladder of opportunity they need to make a december it wage and for all too many people across america, the rungs between the ladder are growing further and further apart. >> the show of the american workforce represented by labor unions has dropped pretty significantly in recent decades. is organized labor still important or does the secretary of labor have to look more broadly to employers when talking about the fate of american workers?
>> the answer to your question is both: organized labor is still important. i. grew up in buffalo, new york, strong union town, and labor unions continue to play an important role there and across america. at the same time, we need to make sure that we're not talking about yesterday's battles, us against them, labor against management. we need to be focused on tomorrow's challenges. we're all in this together. that's what i learned in maryland, when we were trying to create jobs and you look at the partnerships in nevada between the labor unions and the large employers, mgm and others, you look at the partnerships in new york city between sciu and the health care system. they have come together arounden understanding that if we're going to bring jobs back to america, whether it's manufacturing, service or otherwise, we have to come together around a shared vision and a shared understanding and leave yesterday's battles behind and come together around a joint
need for skill development and partnership. >> has the allow in many places in the country just made it too hard to organize as you're a group of workers would like to be represented by a union? >> well, it's up to each state, in terms of whether they want to pass right to work laws. i happen to believe, as the president does, that right to work laws are not good public policy. that is a state judgment. and in those states it has been more difficult to organize. i would like to see a level playing field so that workers can make a full and fair choice, and some states have that and some states don't. >> but again, what heartens me as much as anything is i think there's an acute recognition in the labor movement and among responsible employers that we can't fight yesterday's battles anymore. if we're going to bring jobs back, if we're going to build a robust economy, we have to recognize that we're all in this
together. >> your department has recently put in place targets, new targets for people that do business with the federal government for hiring disabled workers and veterans. how does that work and what is that meant to respond to? >> what it's meant to respond so is that the promise of the americans with disabilities act, that that law has been a game-changer. but in the employment context, there's still -- they're still stubbornly high unemployment rates among people with disabilities. how many people do you meet, ray, that come up and say i want to be a taxpayer? that's what people with disabilities tell me. and what this regulation sets in place is that, for veterans with disabilities, for people with disabilities, employers need to set targets, their goals, and they need to have a plan to make sure that when you're looking at a person with a disability, you're focused on their ability not their disability.
and i applaud employers like walgreens and others that have already exceeded these goals and are models for the nation and i'm confident this will open up windows of opportunity for people. >> a group of hr managers and large employers have gotten together to complain this puts them in the position of asking their prospective workers about possible disabilities in a way they wouldn't have before, in effect, they're saying the federal government is forcing us to invade their privacy. how do you respond to that? >> it's incorrect. there's no requirement on the perspective employee to answer any questions, all of the questions are voluntary. and again i would go back to all of these employers, large and small, as i mentioned, walgreens, ernst & young, others that issued statements strongly supporting this initiative. this isn't a partisan initiate.
>> there's so much to talk to you about but i have to close with the long-term unemployed. the unemployment rate has been coming down steadily, not as fast as people would like but it has come down. people that have been unemployed for a long time are having a terrible, terrible time getting jobs. what can we do for them? >> well, we can do a lot. and you're correct that, while the economy is slowly and steadily growing, we have to go at a faster pace and, in particular, we need to dress the terms of the long-term unemployed and the president has been talking about this issue specifically and a number of things that we can do. number one, we have been talking about with employers and as recently as a few days ago i engaged there this precise conversation about what we can do to identify employers would best practices for hiring the long-term unemployed, and making sure there aren't inadvertent
barriers in place that screen out the long-term unemployed. secondly and equalry, if not more importantly, investing in skills, because the thing i hear the most in my conversations with c.e.o.'s across the country is, i am -- for every job i have, i have 50 or 60 percent of the applicants don't have the skills knows do the jobs -- don't have the skills necessary to do the jobs. the department of labor is a department of opportunity and the way we enhance opportunity is by making sure people have the skills to succeed. >> thomas pettis is the secretary of labor. >> thank you for joining us. >> it's a pleasure. >> ifill: finally tonight, some words of triumph from endurance swimmer diana nyad. the 64-year-old became the first person to swim from cuba to florida without a shark cage. she covered 110 miles in 53 hours. at a press conference today in florida keys, nyad said she'd chased her dream of making the
epic swim for decades. her fifth try was finally successful. >> there are so many factors out there against you, if you are going to lay the odds in vegas, it wouldn't be pretty. you wouldn't make money unless you bet against it. but we did it plawdz. [ applause ] >> as a swimmer you're never happy in the end. any time you have to breathe and go up and down and fight it, you're not happy and you're not feeling well. and when i had to put on the jellyfish mask at night i felt 100% prepared for the jellyfish, but, every breath when you're in waves like that coming through that mask, and i started swallowing, the 13 hours of saturday night, tremendous volumes of sea water, and then i started vomiting constantly. and as soon as that happens and you can't replace that food, the protein, the electrolytes,
you're in had a bad place, you're cold. and that night was hell on earth. >> i think my favorite press corp question for several people that asked me, well, do you have any boats that go along with you? [laughter] you know or do you just do it by yourself? i said, no, no, no, i put a couple of banana in any suit and i take a portable saltwater disstiller on my desk and i carry a buoy knife and i skin them and eat them alive. yes, i have boats that go along with me. >> the thing about aging is, it's true that the clock seems to be ticking faster as you get older. it isn't but it seems to be. time seems to be running out. and i wanted to swim this endeavor not to just be the
athletic record; i wanted it to be a lesson for my life that says: be so awake and alert and alive every minute of every waking day because that's what i had to do to get this ton. >> that was dianne nyad reflecting on her history-making swim from cuba to key west. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day. president obama won support from top house leaders and others as he courted congress to back military action against syria. and the government of japan announced it will spend $470 million to try to stop leaks of radioactive water from a crippled nuclear plant. >> ifill: online, getting your voice heard in the debate over syria. kwame holman has the details. >> with members of congress before they vote, from tips on tweeting to telephoning, and in
our ask the headhunter columnist translates the rejected letter from hr. that's on making sense. all that and more on news hour.pbs.org. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. gwen? >> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. before we go, a reminder. we have good news if you're used to watching the pbs newshour monday through friday. starting this weekend, you can find us saturdays and sundays as well. pbs newshour weekend premieres this saturday, september 7. join hari sreenivasan for a 30- minute look at the top news stories, with the same in-depth, independent coverage you've come to expect from the newshour. that's pbs newshour weekend, premiering right here this saturday. check your local listings. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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