Skip to main content

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  November 25, 2013 3:00pm-4:01pm PST

3:00 pm
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: the biggest challenges still lie ahead in the deal to halt iran's nuclear program. good evening, i'm judy woodruff >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. also ahead this monday, 15% of americans now receive help in the form of food stamps, but additional money for the program is ending just as thanksgiving approaches, we profile colorado families trying to get by with less. >> $20 doesn't sound like a lot, but it is a lot. it's a meal. it's milk. it's meat. it's vegetables. and every little bit helps. >> woodruff: and, with promises of tunisia's revolution unfulfilled, pressure mounts to find a path forward to democracy in the birthplace of the arab
3:01 pm
spring. those are just some of the stories we're covering on tonight's "pbs newshour." >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> 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.
3:02 pm
>> ifill: european sanctions on iran could be eased as early as next month. that word came today from french and european union officials. it follows the weekend agreement to relax some sanctions in return for freezing much of iran's nuclear program. we'll look at the details and the wider implications for the middle east right after the news summary. national security advisor susan rice was in kabul today, urging afghan president hamid karzai to sign a security deal without delay. the agreement would govern any u.s. troops who stay to train afghan units, after nato combat forces withdraw next year. afghan elders endorsed the pact sunday, but karzai insisted he'll leave it to his successor to sign after april's elections. a date and place for syrian peace talks are finally set: january 22 in geneva. the united nations announced it today. the talks will be the first between the syrian government and opposition since the civil war began, nearly three years ago.
3:03 pm
u.n. secretary general ban ki moon urged both sides to lay the groundwork for peace. >> even though the conference will take place in about eight weeks, all parties can and must begin now to take steps to help the geneva conference succeed, including toward the cessation of violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees and return of syrian refugees and internally displaced people to their homes. >> ifill: announcement of the talks came as the fighting raged on. more than 160 people were killed over the weekend, as rebels tried to break a government siege of a damascus suburb. new findings are out, on the mass shootings at sandy hook elementary school in newtown, connecticut last december. the motive remains a mystery, but the report sheds new light on other aspects of the killings. jeffrey brown has the story. >> brown: the long-awaited report came nearly a year after
3:04 pm
the shootings that ravaged the tiny connecticut town. on december 14, 2012, adam lanza shot and killed his mother at their home, then drove to nearby sandy hook elementary school, where he'd once attended. there, he killed 20 first- graders and six school staffers before turning the gun on himself. the state attorney's report concludes lanza planned the rampage on his own and told no one in advance. it finds he had an obsession with mass killings, but it concludes the ultimate motive for the sandy hook attack may never be known. the report is heavily redacted. that's partly because newtown officials have labored to protect the privacy of the victims' families and help the community recover. that included a decision to demolish the school itself-- a move welcomed by many. >> we're a very strong community and we're going to overcome this. we're going to move on and they're going to put up another beautiful school and we're going
3:05 pm
to move on. >> brown: a fuller account of the shootings may ultimately come from the connecticut state police. there's no release date for their report. >> ifill: a blast of arctic weather swept across the u.s. today, with nearly a month still to go before winter officially arrives. what began as an ice storm in the west moved eastward, dumping sleet, freezing rain and snow in arkansas, oklahoma and texas. the system is blamed for the deaths of at least ten people in traffic accidents. forecasts show the storm sweeping up the east coast, just as thanksgiving holiday travel begins in earnest. in thailand, the prime minister invoked emergency law in the face of escalating protests against her rule. thousands of demonstrators flooded streets in bangkok and occupied major ministries. hours later, in a nationally televised address, prime minister yingluck shinawatra said it has to stop.
3:06 pm
>> ( translated ): the protesters today have staged mass rallies and seized government offices such as the finance ministry, budget bureau, foreign ministry and public relations department... which is preventing officials from doing their work and causing trouble to people in a wide area, and affecting the country's stability. >> ifill: opponents say the prime minister is actually a puppet for her brother, a former prime minister ousted by the military in 2006, amid corruption charges. president obama tried to refocus attention on immigration reform today, but his message was momentarily drowned out. the president was speaking in san francisco when a man on the stage behind him began to shout for an end to deportations and others joined in. >> you have a-- a powerful -- >> that's why we're doing. >> i need your help. >> okay. >> what i would like to do-- . >> ifill: the president managed to quiet the hecklers, and urged
3:07 pm
them to put their energy into lobbying congress. >> the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like i can do something by violating our laws. and what i'm proposing is the harder path which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal you want to achieve, but it won't be as easy as just shouting. >> ifill: the prospects for quick action on sweeping immigration reform are doubtful as best. house republicans have said they will not hold any votes on the issue for the rest of this year. on wall street, stocks were largely unchanged. the dow jones industrial average gained seven points to close at 16,072. the nasdaq rose just under three points to close at 3994. still to come on the newshour, going inside the science, the politics and the diplomacy behind the nuclear deal with iran; living on less after cuts
3:08 pm
to food stamps; four fictional republicans share a house in gary trudeau's new web series and the push for democracy in the birthplace of the arab spring. >> woodruff: amidst a chorus of complaints from israel, some arab gulf states and members of congress, president obama and other administration officials went out today to try to sell the interim deal reached with iran over its nuclear program. the president took time at the start of an immigration reform event in california to make a pitch for the iran deal struck in the wee hours of sunday morning: >> if iran seizes this opportunity and chooses to join the global community then we can begin to chip away at the mistrust that's existed for many many years between our two nations. none of that's going to be easy, huge challenges remain. >> woodruff: but today talk focused on the nuts and bolts of the six-month pact. and the initial sanctions relief secured in sunday's deal
3:09 pm
had shoppers and merchants buzzing in tehran's grand bazaar today. >> ( translated ): people have more motivation to buy. there is more confidence among shoppers. >> woodruff: iran's economy has been crippled by comprehensive international sanctions for years, but today, france's foreign minister said the european union could begin easing its penalties next month, including, mainly, access to frozen oil revenues. he also said all moves are conditional. >> vigilance goes in both directions. i mean that tehran will also be vigilant on us sticking to our commitments. for instance, we've committed to ease a certain number of sanctions. it's reversible. >> woodruff: that air of caution permeated talk throughout europe. in london, british foreign secretary william hague explained the deal to parliament, and he urged israel and others to give the agreement a chance. >> we would discourage anybody
3:10 pm
in the world, including israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement and we will make that very clear to all concerned. >> woodruff: israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu had denounced the deal as a historic mistake and said his government is not bound by it. today he was no less direct after speaking to president obama last night. >> ( translated ): it is a bad deal as it takes the pressure off iran without receiving anything concrete in return. and the iranians, who are laughing all the way to the bank, have said themselves that this deal has saved them. this agreement must bring one result, dismantling ira nuclear weapons capabilities. >> woodruff: in fact, though, that is not on the table in this six-month, first-stage agreement. instead, iran agreed to neutralize its stockpile of uranium that's already enriched to 20%, a big step toward reaching weapons-grade; stop
3:11 pm
enriching any uranium beyond 5% purity; stop installing new centrifuges or building new facilities to enrich uranium and grant new and greater access to international inspectors. iran also agreed to halt work at its arak plutonium facility. the deal produced a hero's welcome for iranian negotiators as they returned to tehran last night. but a major core issue remains unresolved, whether iran has a fundamental right to enrich uranium. the u.s. says it does not; iran's foreign minister says it does. so, does this deal do enough to contain iran's nuclear program as negotiators attempt a final agreement? we have two views: jeffrey lewis is director of the east asia non-proliferation program at the monterey institute of international studies. and gregory jones is a senior researcher at the non
3:12 pm
proliferation education center. >> welcome to you both. jeffrey lewis, to you first, you believe this is a good deal. explain why you think it stops or begins to stop iran from enriching uranium to a weapons grade, a place where it can use it for weapons? >> well, the first thing to note is it is an interim deal. and so the question is, is this deal good enough to keep talking? or is it worth blowing up and just going our separate ways? by definition, the deal prevents iran from enriching above five percent, and it caps the size of iran's stockpile of enriched uranium. the reason you need an interim deal is because if we are going to be talking to the iranians we didn't need to be talking to them while they were continuing to enrich uranium and expand their system. in exchange there is a temporary and reversible
3:13 pm
reduction of sanctions so that the iran yen side comes home with something. because-- although i think in the yonted states we seem to have forgotten untilment usually when you make deals internationally both sides get something. >> so gregory jones, how do you see this question of enriching. iran's capability of enriching uranium? >> well, first of all, we are still permitting iran to enrich uranium. its stock pifl enriched uranium is continuing to grow. a number of nuclear weapons, they will be able to produce for this is also continuing to grow in the next six months. president obama says that we've cut off iran's path to nuclear weapons. in fact, we haven't. it's still there and virtually everyone agrees that the time would require iran to acquire a nuclear weapons is virtually unchanged by this agreement. furthermore, this agreement is, in fact, something of a disaster because it actually does validate iran's right to enrich. even though secretary kerry says it doesn't. it seems to plainly do so.
3:14 pm
and this is a disaster not only with regard to iran, but with regard to nonproliferation worldwide. >> woodruff: well, before we get to that broader question of the right to enrich, what about what mr. jones just said. let me come back to you, jeffrey lewis. basically he's saying that iran can still make-- can still enrich, can still, in esence, make a web. >> well, if the united states had agreed to the deal that greg is suggesting that we a he good to, it would be a bad deal. but it's not the deal we agreed to. in terms of enrichment, iran is allowed to continue running the centrifuges and enriching uranium but the size of the stockpile can't increase. so it has to take whatever it produces and convert it into a form that's not weapons-usable. he mentioned the fact that there would be no increase in the length of time that it would take iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, again, it's just-- it's not true. one of the provisions is that for daily access of the
3:15 pm
iaea to iran's nuclear facility. so it would be much harder for the iranians if they decided to make a break for a nuclear weapon. so i think one of the biggest problems the president is going to have in selling this deal is dealing with what really amounts to a tremendous amount of disinformation about its terms. >> woodruff: gregory jops, you want to respond to those two points? >> i'm afraid he's incorrect. one cannot convert enriched uranium into a form that can't be converted into weaponsment i mean they talk about converting the enriched uranium to oxide but it's easy enough to convert that back. for the 20% that was a problem because of critality issues t isn't for 3.5%. so they can certainly do that. they can continue to enrich. the safeguards only do us any good if they think the u.s. will take action on it and give enthe president's choking when syrian-- syria used chemical weapons back in august, i don't know what we think's going to happen, even if the iaea were to
3:16 pm
detect something. >> woodruff: jeff row lewis, it sounds like you are talking about two different agreements. >> well, i mean, i think a lot of this is just sort of-- you heard the reference to the president's choke. i mean, the fact is that the terms of the deal are pretty plain to see. and if you were to look at them, you would see there are plenty of safeguards and measures. we're to the going to resolve it on tv. but i think basically boils down to this, which is, there was no meaningful constraint on iran's nuclear weapons program before we had this deal. and so the argument amounts to we should blow up what we have, and let iran go back to enriching uranium on unconstrained basis on the belief that there is somehow some better, amazing deal out there. and you know, a lot of people making that argument had urged the bush administration to get a better deal and they didn't. >> woodruff: so gregory jones, you hear what he's saying. i mean, he's saying this, at
3:17 pm
least, begins to put the brakes on what-- on where iran was headed. >> well, and that would be a useful thing. and there are some useful things in the agreement. in particular our getting to inspect their centrifuge production facilities. >> woodruff: i'm sorry, it looks like we've lost one of our guests or both of our guests? all right, let me come back to you. >> i'm here. >> woodruff: my apologies. jeffrey, lewis, i mean-- maybe i have you both back. but jeffrey lewis, let me come to you now. this question of inspectors, how confident are you that the international inspectors are going to be able to get in there and verify that iran is doing what it says it's doing? >> well, look, there's an easy problem in iran and a hard problem. the easy problem is verifying the declared facilities. and so having daily access to those facilities i think
3:18 pm
gives one a very high level of assurance. the hard problem in iran is always going to be the possibility of a covert facility, a facility one can't see. and so the way that one needs to address that is by having a much broader and more comprehensive access to the iranian program. so for example, what greg mentioned was access to the workshop where the iranians build the centrifuges. right now the iranians can build as many centrifuges as they want and if they show up, the inspectors see them. if they show up in a mountain somewhere, in a tunnel, we don't see them. so we are able to get inside those workshops and see how many centrifuges they're making. and in fact, the deal contains a constraint on how many they can make. it helps deal with that second harder problem of sites we don't yet know about. >> woodruff: gregory jones, we have you back. sorry were that. but what about the points that we just heard from jeffrey lewis. >> as i said, its deal has some useful features. but it's giving up this
3:19 pm
major point that it is agreed that iran can have enrichment. once you've done that, we are looking at a very long-term problem, not only with iran, but with nonproliferation worldwide. >> woodruff: jeffrey lewis, final word. >> well, it's a good ideament i don't know if anybody had noticed but iran does have enrichment and they do have centrifuges. and we've told them for about ten years that they can't and they don't stop. if we want them to stop, we have to have a dell. this is the deal on the table, we should take it. >> woodruff: all right, gentlemen, we'll leave it there. jeffrey lewis and gregory jones, we appreciate it >> ifill: now to the diplomacy behind the geneva deal, and its potential impact in the region. we turn to: nicholas burns, former u.s. undersecretary of state for political affairs. he now teaches at harvard university's kennedy school of government and is the senior foreign affairs columnist for globalpost. and walter russell mead, editor at large of the "american interest" magazine and a
3:20 pm
professor of foreign affairs and humanities at bard college. nick burns, what did we see, a temporary pause on its way to-- here? >> well, it's very hard to say. the value is it is an interim deal. it stops the iranians in place, the first times that's happened. it gives time and space for diplomacy. you know, this is a big issue for an american national security in 2014. can we stop iran through negotiations, through some diplomatic settlement or are we going to have to use force at the end of the day. and of course the president, i think quite rightly, has said before we consider force, we've got to consider this diplomatic option. i think you have to resolve the nuclear problem with iran before you can really say it's a new day in the relationship. we haven't had a relationship with them. diplomatically for 34 years. since the jimmy carter administration. it's a rare diplomatic opening and even if we resolve a nuclear problem we're going to have to talk
3:21 pm
to them about their support for hezbollah and hamas, about their opposition to what we are trying to do in afghanistan and iraq. there is a sea of difficulties in this relationship. and it requires patience, and it requires a lot of discussion. and that is i think one. values of the geneva deal reached over the weekend. we now have the time to have those discussions with the iranian government. >> ifill: well, walter russell maeted, as we just heard in judy's conversation, there were a lot of pretty fundamental disagreements about whether the nuclear part, the science part of this is even workable. does the science have to work for the diplomacy to stick? >> well, i'm actually much more worried about the diplomacy than the science, maybe because i know more about diplomacy than i know about science. but i think, you know, and the problem is to really get to an agreement that can stick with iran, there are two things that we need to be doing. one is addressing the nuclear issue and finding a way to talk about that in some kind of negotiating
3:22 pm
framework. and the other is to sort of deal with iran's regional ambitions. i think iran right now feels it's on a roll in the region. iran and russia were more or less able to frustrate u.s. policy in syria. we've talked about how assad must go. we've talked about red lines. but at the end of the day, he's still there and if anything, as the rebels divide and the situation on the ground gets messier, assad seems to be gaining ground. hezbollah is also doing very well. when you put all that together, it looks to the iranians as if they're dealing from strength. i'm not sure that that is the mood that is going to get them to make the kinds of concessions that we actually do need on the nuclear issue. >> that's a question, nicholas burns. we saw the pictures of the kind of partying in the streets in tehran as the
3:23 pm
negotiators returned. are they dealing with strength now having worked out this deal? >> i'm not so sure. there is a sense of jubilation in iran because there's going to be temporary limited relief from sanctions. and they've been hit very hard by sanctionsment but the real problem here is that the iranians are in a relatively weak position vis-a-vis the united states in europe. we have retained as you heard secretary kerry say the really crippling sanction. the oil & gas sanction. we're to the going to lift them until we i have a long-term permanent deal and as you know, the united states has reminded the iranians the last few days, as has israel that both of us retain the right to use force should negotiations not be successful and should iran then drive towards a nuclear weapons capability. so i think the iranians have to respect that. and that's why we needed this time and space for negotiations. i think the president now is going to have to focus on this, probably as his number one national security issue for the next four or five months.
3:24 pm
we're going to need a lot of help from our allies, the french and the british especially. but the president has to operate now on multiple levels. he's negotiating with the iranians an all those other countries. he's trying to establish a separate bilateral challenge channeled to the iranians that we haven't had in 34 years. he's also got to negotiate, the president, with the israelis and saudis who oppose what he's doing and he's got to negotiate with congress that wants to slap on more sanctions at a time when the president doesn't want that. this is about as challenging as it gets. >> ifill: way, you-- yeah, you just put a lot on his plate. walter russell mead, as hard as it was to get to this temporary six month pause, how much harder will it be for this administration or any administration to tackle all the things nicholas burns just talked about? >> i think it's very hard. that's one of the reasons that i'm worried about the diplomatic situation. you know, i think to the saudis right now, what it looks like is happening is the u.s. is offering iran a kind of a fertile crescent for nukes deal.
3:25 pm
that we are more or less dropping any serious opposition to iran's consolidating power in iraq, in syria and lebanon. and meanwhile we're sort of working towards a nuclear agreement that may or may not pan out. i think for the saudis that's not just a little bit unacceptable. that is radically and totally unacceptable. and an existential threat. now they may or may not be able to do something about it. but its-- your life in the middle east is usually not very easy when the saudis are fundamentally unhappy with you. and i should say that, you know, we haven't even gotten to israel which is another issue. >> ifill: let me ask nicholas burns about israel, because at the very least it seems this deal might tie their hands for a short time at least, in the ability to just unilaterallically strike against iran, is that possible?
3:26 pm
>> i think it's inconceivable that prime minister netanyahu would launch a military strike on iran when president obama and secretary kerry are at the negotiating table. i don't think the israelis will do that. but they're very unhappy with this deal. and on the one hand you have to be sympathetic to the israelis because even just last weekt supreme leader of iran said the most reprehensible things about the state of israel. the iranians have not made their peace with the state of israel and they have to take that seriously. but this deal, i would say, as secretary kerry did over the weekend, it really isn't a long-term interest of israel to see secession and to see if there is a possibility of a long-term a emgrote. i think we have to agree to disagree with the israelis but managing that problem is going to take a lot of time by both the president and secretary kerry. the israeli and saudi problem. and gwen, i don't think the president is acquiescing in irannian policy in sir why and lebanon. we're going to try to stop them from becoming a nuclear weapons power but we're going have a big argument
3:27 pm
with the iranians on what they are doing regionally. >> ifill: let me ask but the sanctions, there was a an argument the white house makes that the sanctions are what brought the iranians to the table. if that's true, wouldn't more sanctions which some members of congress are threatening make them even more serious? >> well, you know, it's possible. but i think we should not overestimate how crippling the sanks have been. you know, not so much on the iranian economy but if iran was really broke it wouldn't have been able to funnel all that money to assad and hezbollah during this civil war. i don't think iran is down to scraping, you know, looking behind the sofa cushons for the last few nickels and dimes. again, i think we are overestimating the degree to which we've coerced iran into making, into a position where he has no choice but make the kinds of concessions we're looking for. i don't think that's the way they see it.
3:28 pm
i don't think it's the way other people in the region see it. and if that's true, we're likely to have a pretty stormy period of negotiations ahead. >> ifill: well, let's talk about the next stormy period. because today or this weekend we heard that they're going back to the negotiating table over syria in geneva. we've also heard that the-- in afghanistan with some resistance perhaps on timing from the president-- have agreed to the withdrawal pact this deal that has been signed. and now we have these negotiations ongoing involving iran. is that something nicholas burns, that is going to change the entire focus of this administration as it enters the next kind of critical six months? >> well, and there is also the israeli-palestinian negotiations with secretary kerry is consumed by. >> that too. >> you know, i think the administration correctly sees our longest term vital interest to be in asia and wants to pivot to asia but it really can't right now because of what you just said.
3:29 pm
these are crisis that have to be dealt with now. i think there is the bandwidth within the administration to deal with all of them simultaneously but it's going to require an extraordinary focus on this region. the middle east is still the place. where the united states has to be directed day-by-day. i do think of all the issues you mentioned, gwen, the iran issue is a priority. they're all important. but that's the one where the united states cannot afford to let iran become a nuclear weapons power. we have a chance now, a require diplomatic opening. i agree with walter. this is going to be extraordinarily difficult. but not impossible. and that's why the president's right to take this opening and that's why this deal makes sense for the u.s. >> walter meade, does this administration have the bandwidth? >> we're going to find out. but i think we should also mention that at the same time we're seeing the middle east in trouble. we're seeing in asia we have china declaring its new air defense restrictions near those disputed islands. we've seen the european
3:30 pm
union fail to get ukraine in to an association agreement which is a big win for russia. we need to look the at iran, russia and china. three significant players in your asia who would like to see american influence diminute shalled and the post-cold war order in eurasia altered significantly. they're all making progress right now. they're all pushing to the limits. and i'm not sure that the administration has yet sort of come to terms with the nature of a much bigger foreign policy challenge, than maybe they hope we're facing. >> walter russell mead, nicholas burns, thank you both so much. >> thank you. >> thanks. >> woodruff: thanksgiving week is naturally a time when closer attention is paid to the role of food in our daily lives,
3:31 pm
including concerns over how we get it, the cost and nutritional value, and why some don't have enough to eat. we'll be looking at some of those issues throughout this week. starting tonight, with a report on the impact of changes to the food stamp program. the "newshour's" mary jo brooks filed this story from colorado. >> reporter: 24-year-old angie mogaka, spends a lot of time, shopping and preparing food for her two young daughters in denver. six months ago, she was forced to quit her job to care for her mother. that loss of income meant she needed help paying for groceries, so she applied for the federal program known as "snap"-- the supplemental nutrition assistance program, which gave her the maximum benefit for a family of three: $526 a month. >> things happen in peoples lives where you have no other resources. nowhere else to go. nothing to fall back on. everyone comes to a point in their life where they need help.
3:32 pm
that's where i am right now. >> reporter: but magoka will receive a little less help now that extra money from the stimulus program ended on november first. president obama had used stimulus money to boost the snap program during the recession. but now the money has run out. and even for mogoka, who receives more than the average recipient, $20 less a month means a lot. >> $20 is milk for a month. or $20 is meat for two meals. $20 doesn't sound like a lot. but it is a lot. it's a meal. it's milk. it's meat. it's vegetables. and every little bit helps. >> reporter: to make up the difference, mogaka went to metro care ring, a non-profit organization that provides fresh produce, groceries and nutrition counseling free of charge. the number of people needing that help has sky rocketed, according to director lynne
3:33 pm
butler. >> it's staggering. since november 1, we have seen an increase in need. we've seen long, longer lines at our facility. and it's not just because of the holiday season upcoming. we're certain its because of the decrease in benefits. since nov 1, the lines have been down the block. >> reporter: from 2008 to 2012, the recession and weak recovery led more people than ever before to apply for food assistance. in colorado, the number of individuals receiving snap benefits doubled to 511,000 people or 10% of the population. nationally the number grew from 28 to 48 million people or 15% of all americans. that rapid rate of growth has slowed a bit this year as the economy improved. but the snap program still costs $80 billion a year and has become the target of republican budget cutters in washington.
3:34 pm
as part of the farm bill, house members voted to cut $40 billion from the program over the next ten years. the senate voted to cut $4 billion. so the bill is now stalled. republicans say the food stamp program has ballooned out of control giving benefits to people who don't deserve them. this summer, some lawmakers seized on a report by fox news about a 29-year-old unemployed surfer in california who used food stamp benefits to buy lobster. it's an image that cheree carrigan says is far from the kind of life she leads. a single mother of two teens, carrigan began receiving benefits when she went back to college.
3:35 pm
she's now working on a masters degree and volunteers 20 hours a week at metro caring. she says she's very careful about the groceries she buys and still the government benefits don't cover everything. >> we usually run out about a week before they reload. so our last week of the month is usually pretty tight on what were eating. we have to be much more careful. and we're careful to begin with. we're budget shoppers. >> reporter: most republicans don't dispute statistics that show two thirds of recipients are children, the elderly or disabled. but they say there are over three million adults who get benefits who are able bodied and should work. cutting benefits to those people, they say, could save the program $2 billion a year. representative tim huelskamp is a republican from kansas. >> we believe in productivity. we think it's good for the tax- payers. but most importantly, its better for the people getting benefits. now most people wouldn't be in
3:36 pm
this category of able-bodied adults. but there are 3.5 million americans that fit this category and were just expecting them to look for a job. because in my area, if you look for a job, you're going to find one. >> reporter: huelskamp says tightening restrictions including eligibility will help reduce longterm dependency on the entitlement program. >> what i'm proposing are some actual policy changes that would probably reduce spending. some of the welfare reform proposals that worked well, that bill clinton signed into law in the mid-90s, to apply those and maintain those for foodstamps. >> reporter: but kathy underhill of hunger free colorado bristles at the notion that the program encourages dependency. >> what the data shows us is that the average length of participation in the snap program is ten months. so it's certainly a safety net, not a hammock. >> reporter: her organization acts as a clearinghouse for people who have exhausted their food benefits and need advice on where to turn.
3:37 pm
underhill says there's been a spike in calls since the november 1 benefits reduction, but that pales in comparison to what they would see if the larger cuts get passed. >> it would really change the entire landscape of hunger in america if the $40 billion cuts went through. you'd be looking at the prevalence of hunger and malnutrition spiking incredibly. but you also have to look at the economic impact. talk to grocers and you'll find out that means they need fewer employees, they need to purchase fewer products, and fewer trucks moving that product. it has this whole rippling effect that would be profound. >> reporter: the lawmakers on capitol hill who will determine the size of the next round of cuts will resume their work after the thanksgiving break. in the meantime, angie mogaka is bracing for a leaner holiday season this year. >> ifill: four senators share a house on capitol hill in
3:38 pm
washington: a little reality, a lot of fiction. cartoonist garry trudeau explores that premise in "alpha house", amazon's the first streaming series. it features john goodman as republican senator gil john briggs, a lawmaker running for re-election who, as it happens, is not exactly keen on joining his colleagues on a trip to afghanistan. >> whoever put that on my schedule is about to have a good day, what a waste of time, do i look like somebody prepared to fly to-- for the national committee. >> dow not, you look like someone prepared to fly to phillie for its world series. >> you get me, i will give you that. my wife, what. >> you're going the delegation to of a began stand, right, tj? >> why would i do that, maddie? >> because, a full brigade of north carolina guards rotated over there last week. >> what, they know i support them. i will make a video. >> gil john everything is changed. >> changed, how change. >> taylor had another stroke, we draw-- withdrew from the
3:39 pm
race? >> what? that's good? well, not for him, obviously. but-- that's an outstanding development. >> wrong, honey bear. guess who just announced he's running? >>. >> who. >> dicker mancusey. >> you're in a real race now, you can't sit in your man cave any more waiting to be re-elected >> ifill: jeffrey brown picks up the story from there. >> brown: the creator of "alpha house" is garry trudeau, best known for his long-running "doonesbury" comic strip. he took a break from the strip to work on the new series. >> glad to be back. >> brown: it is almost too easy to make fun of washington s it not? what were you up to here? what did you think you could bring to the party? >> well, it's a different medium entoirely from what i'm accustomed to. obviously i've written about politics off and on for 40 years. i think there is a bit of a misperception as to how much i write about politics, that doonsburry is somehow a
3:40 pm
rolling critique, a rolling progressive critique of political parker when in fact it is actually a small percentage of what i do in the strip but this time-- is very focused. right there on capitol hill. although all our episodes were shot in queensment but nonetheless we tried to capture the spirit and feel, look and feel of a certain culture. some years back, in the previous election cycle, in 2008, i saw a piece about these four senators who shared a house up on capitol hill. and that seemed like a wonderful premise for a tv show and so i wrote a pilot. schumer said-- i think it was senator schumer who was one of the four or durbin who said well people always said they're going to make a tv show about it. then they remember that it's about four middle age men, and they would lose
3:41 pm
interestment we got around that problem by adding sex and adding violence and that-- . >> brown: an making them republican. >> and making them republican. >> brown: so let me ask you about that. the original, in reality the four were democrats. >> i had them republicans from the start. >> brown: why is that? >> i wanted at the time which was 2008, i wanted to kind of look into the lives of these four republicans who were going to be dealing with the aftermath of the bush presidency. and what that meant for the party. because the democrats are coming on strong. they had a very interesting lively campaign with obama and clinton and in fact they won. and there was quite a shift on the hill. so i thought well let's see what those guys are like in the middle of a difficult time. because those are where the stories are. i fine them in adversity. the first show i did which was about 25 years ago was for hbo, was called tanner 88. it was about a democrat at
3:42 pm
the time when democrats were in disarray. he was an old school liberal who tried to redefine himself by basically turning up the volume. >> but that's a serious subject. the republican party after the bush years and after-- in the obama. an one we talk about on this program all the time. >> right. >> in a serious way. but something very interesting happened in those four years since then which is that they wer were-- withering under all this fire from the left and suddenly it's all coming from the right. and that's what is so different and fascinating. so as primary turned from a known into a verb over the last few years. but wow, what if these guys, their whole world is shaken up by attacks from their right, where they least expected to see it. that the washington they knew, because they have all been in washington for some time. >> brown: your main characters, what you would call mainstream republicans. >> right, mainstream conservatives. and so they're used to a political culture of
3:43 pm
accommodation and civility. and suddenly they're in ted cruz's america. and things are very different. and they don't quite-- they've lost their bearings. so they have to keep sort of trimming their sails and now they are in uncharted waters. and that's interesting to me. you know, people who are caught in crisis from a story telling point of view. not simply because i have some agenda that i need to act out on. >> brown: how does this compare to your doonsburry work both in terms of the way you work, for one thing i guess it's a group thing as opposed to sitting alone in your room, right. which i have seen in your studio, you know, are you working away by yourself. >> it's just me. my whole life i've had a handful of part-time employees and suddenly i a am-- i've got 120 teammates. that's very different, obviously. and you have certain responsibilities when somebody like a jeff bezos from amazon basically hands you a medium size corporation and says don't mess it up.
3:44 pm
so that was a major change for me. although hi worked in television. hi done some pilots and i worked on a couple series. >> brown: this of course is something we've looked at on the show. this is a new model of television. amazon taking this on, streaming video, right, digital. it's not turn on your television. >> no, and i had some serious misgivings about that. when i was first approached by my partner john alter about taking it to am zon hi some pretty serious misgivings. i thought well everything i'd seen, in the world of webtv had not been very impressive. it had been underresourced. and my association was with you toub videos, not serious high end episodic programming. so there being no model for that i was a little skeptical. then along came house of cards. and a lot of other players got into that particular space. and i'm going wow, this is beginning to happen.
3:45 pm
there -- people are committing some pretty serious budgets to these projects. it's attracting high end talent. it's attracting very good people. why not jump in. and take a chance. >> you raise a house of cards. i want to ask you about-- you've been at this a long time looking at washington in one form or another. what is the-- what do you think of the state of political, well, sattire, the state of creed of people looking at washington? >> i think it's never been better. >> brown: never been better. >> yeah, never being more interesting. and they are such good talented voices, jon stewart and stephen colbert and on and on. it's-- there's a lot going on. and i have far more competition than i did when i first started out. i pretty much had the field to myself. there were a few late night comics who were doing rapid response hummer. but it was humor, it wasn't really is a tire, it was very gentle. so probably the reason i did
3:46 pm
as well as i did in the early part of my career is just through sheer novelty, now there is a whole universe of wonderful political sat fire. >> brown: okay, the new series, is alpha house, garry trudeau, thank you so much. >> thank you, jeff. >> woodruff: now to an update from the birthplace of the arab spring-- tunisia. the north african nation has struggled with democracy since the ouster of its former leader nearly three years ago. that struggle is not unique among the region's new democracies, but its attempt to right its course is without precedent in the new arab world. producer jessie deeter recently visited the country and filed this report, narrated by hari sreenivasan. >> when i used to pray, they would stop me and take my taxi permitment but now they give iting ba. and i went back to work. there is the only thing i
3:47 pm
gained from the revolution. >> anise suffered under former president's dick statership in tunesia when muslims were not allowed to show outward signs of their faith, including wearing head scarfs. now like many ton esians he's still searching for the great promise offered by the revolution that kicked off the arab spring nearly three years ago. >> an unemployed seamstress who had high hopes after the revolution but has become disillusioned with the party she helped vote into power. >> my wish that tunesia would stop and go back to the way we lived before. life has gotten more expensive, too expensive. the population can't handle freedom. it's true. i swear to god, look what freedom has done, where it's taken us. >> reporter: tunesia's revolution gave hope to the rest of the region. the democracy was possible, but the transition from decades of authoritarian
3:48 pm
rule remains difficult. over the summer liberal politician was assassinated it was the second mird of a political figure in a year. the killing combined with frustration over high unemployment and security concerns set off a month-long protest and calls for the ruling party to dissolve government. >> they haven't been able to achieve the goals of the revolution. in other words, the unemployment, the poverty and the marginalized regions. >> reporter: former ton-- tunesia prime minister has the second main opposition party to -- >> there have been serious incidents, assassinations of politicians which have never happened before in tunesia. >> reporter: in an extraordinary move, the group agreed to exit rather than experience the fate of an ouster like egypt's morsi.
3:49 pm
>> we in the party have accepted to step down from the government. without elections and without a coup. we will just work towards the transition and towards democracy. >> monica marks study tunesia's political system at oxford university. >> they realize that's probably the best strategic option for them because they're sitting at the helm of government at a time of great strife. >> we're in a situation now where growth is very weak. job creation is very weak and the social tensions are high. >> reporter: a former governor of tunesia's central bank fears that if a new transitional prime minister isn't chosen soon, it will be hard fortun esia to pull back from the upheaval created by ongoing political uncertainty. >> you have banking system under pressure. a lot of these things are
3:50 pm
coming now to there and the risks of some slippage of some serious crisis are there. >> i voted, the next time i will cut off his finger, this finger that voted for him. >> reporter: a shop owner, from an industrial town in the south of tunesia says that the government hasn't helped him gain the work and security he sought by moving to tunis. >> before the revolution a woman could go out in the street around 10 or 11:00 at night. now, no, because the country isn't safe. >> the security situation makes a lot of people nervous. they are used to the stability of a police state in which nothing really ever happened. but for average tunesians this is a situation, a frightening situation. and that kind of fear and
3:51 pm
instability i think makes people very vulnerable to these discourses of stability, of authoritarianism bringing more stability. >> reporter: the main alter difficult to islamist group is-- tunis, a party having links to the old regime which was notorious for torture and corruption. it's alleged that much of the country's business community had direct ties to the former president. the leader says that he and his party shouldn't be judged by the transgressions of some in the prerevolution government. >> si have been in politics since march 1956, independence day. i was here and i'm still here. but the old regime isn't all dirty, you know. there were 2 million tunesians with ben ali, we can't exclude them all. >> reporter: but the new government by its own admission has not held members of the old guard accountable for past crimes.
3:52 pm
>> we have failed in some things. we did not hold accountable those who were corrupt. and so the protest against us are back because we were not strong enough in punishing the corrupt individuals. >> the political opponentses are in gridlock over the country's future. and attempts to agree on a caretaker prime minister have been delayed. a new election won't happen until 6 or 7 months after that leader is chosen. >> we are currently pressuring them, to convince them to reach a consensus in order to save tunesia. >> from the union that is mediating negotiations between the two parties is worrying about the consequences of not reaching a deal. >> it is critical that we avoid a bloody confrontation. it is essential that we succeed in bringing back safety and social stability. if we don't find a solution
3:53 pm
in december, it will be the bankruptcy of this regime. >> the constituent assembly,ed body charged with rewriting the constitution is more than a year past its mandated deadline and must wait until a new acting prime minister is chosen to finish. but it unlike other parts of the government, will not be dissolved until the constitution has been completed. -- >> the constituent assembly will remain because it is a symbol of democracy, the symbol of the will of people and it is thanks to this assembly that we will guarantee the movement or the transition to another period, to an intrinsic democracy, new republic. >> reporter: as difficult as this transition seems experts like monica marks are still hopeful. >> if tunesia can pull through, if people can
3:54 pm
together work for compromise and have that creed mentality, we're going to get through this no matter what, it could become the first democracy in the arab world. and no longer can people say arabs aren't ready for democracy. >> reporter: but the longer they wait for the critical next steps, the further away that democracy becomes >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: president obama defended the agreement to ease some sanctions, if iran freezes much of its nuclear program. and an early winter storm swept across texas and arkansas, heading east and promising to snarl thanksgiving travel. >> ifill: on the "newshour" online right now: how social security discriminates against younger, divorced parents. we continue our weekly series on everything you ever wanted to know about your benefits. that's on "making sense." you can find all that and more
3:55 pm
on our website >> woodruff: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on tuesday, we'll look at, how chef paula wolfert is coping with alzheimer's by cooking. i'm judy woodruff >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us here at the "pbs newshour," thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
3:56 pm
>> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at >> 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. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh
3:57 pm
3:58 pm
3:59 pm
>> this is bbc world new dz america. >> funding of this presentation made possible by the freeman man's ion and new foundation and pursuing the common good for over 30 years and union bank. >> at aou
4:00 pm
bbc world news america reporting from washington. deal ns cheer a nuclear with reports of sanctions lifted israel is not happy calling this a historic mistake. thailand protestors storm buildings demanding from that step down and how on earth will they be ready in time. months to go until brazil hosts the world cup and stadium still e looks like.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on