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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  April 19, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, bill o'reilly forced out of fox news, following a stream of sexual harassment complaints. also ahead, close call in georgia. examining the results from the special congressional election. then, playground fight at the supreme court. should state dollars fund repairs in a church day care? and, inside america's militia movement. why armed right-wing groups are active across the nation. >> it could be our own government, overreaching. if we end up with a tyrant in
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office, no one knows what could happen in 15 years, but at least we're going to be prepared. >> woodruff: all that and more, on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems--
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>> the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives through invention. in the u.s. and developing countries. on the web at >> 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 >> 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: the battle for a u.s. house seat near atlanta has come down to a runoff, in a race seen as a referendum on president trump. a democrat easily led tuesday's
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voting, but faces a runoff with a republican, in a district that has voted republican for years. we will have a full report, later in the program. in britain, the house of commons overwhelmingly approved prime minister theresa may's call for an early national election. she proposed holding the vote in june, instead of waiting until 2020, while britain is also negotiating its exit from the european union. before today's vote, may urged lawmakers to give the government the strongest possible hand in the brexit talks. >> leaving the election to 2020 would mean that we would be coming to the most sensitive and critical part of the negotiations in the run-up to a general election, and that would be in nobody's interest. >> woodruff: may ruled out holding televised debates during the brief election campaign. turkey's national electoral board today refused to annul sunday's referendum that greatly expanded the president's powers. the main opposition party
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brought the challenge, and its deputy chairman insisted the appeals process is a long way from over. >> ( translated ): the internal legal process is now closed with the high electoral board decision, but we are determined to employ all legal ways. we are responsible for both ourselves and for the 49% of the turkish people who voted for no. we will fulfill our responsibility. >> woodruff: the opposition says it will go to turkey's constitutional court, and if need be, to the european court of human rights. in syria, evacuations of thousands of people resumed today, from four besieged villages. it was part of an exchange deal involving two rebel-held towns near damascus, and two pro- government villages in the north. civilians and fighters were transported by bus. the exchange was delayed after a suicide bomber attacked a convoy on saturday, killing more than 120 evacuees. vice president pence used an
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aircraft carrier as the backdrop today to warn north korea yet again. he addressed some 2,500 sailors aboard the u.s.s. "ronald reagan" in tokyo bay, and, he promised an "overwhelming response" if north korea tries something. >> the united states of america will always seek peace, but under president trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready. >> woodruff: the white house faced questions today about announcements last week that another carrier was sailing for the koreas, when it was still headed the opposite way. press secretary sean spicer defended the president's statements, and his own. >> what i was asked was, "what signal did it send, that it was going there?" and i answered that question correctly at the time. that it signaled foreign presence, strength, and a reassurance to allies. that's a true statement. >> woodruff: as of today, the u.s.s. "carl vinson" and its
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entire strike group were still en route to waters off the korean peninsula. two more russian long-range bombers have been spotted off alaska. it was widely reported today that the aircraft were detected last night, about 40 miles from the alaskan coast. a similar fly-by happened monday. political discord was in the air today as president trump hosted the super bowl champions new england patriots. several players cited opposition to him or his policies as a reason for staying away. star quarterback tom brady said he was dealing with a "personal family matter." the ceremony was overshadowed by news that former patriots star aaron hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell. he was serving a life sentence without parole for murder. newly filed reports show the trump inaugural committee raised a record-shattering $107 million. that nearly doubles the record
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set by president obama, eight years ago. the biggest contributors included casino mogul sheldon adelson, plus bank of america, boeing and others. the nominee for deputy secretary of commerce has withdrawn from consideration. todd ricketts is a co-owner of the chicago cubs. he said today he is unable to resolve conflicts of interest over his finances. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average lost 118 points to close at 20,404. the nasdaq rose 13 points, and the s&p 500 slipped four. still to come on the newshour: "the o'reilly factor." bill o'reilly out at fox news; close call in georgia-- what does it mean? playround fight-- should state governments fund repairs at church schools? and much more.
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>> woodruff: bill o'reilly is out at fox news. in a statement late today, the company said: "after a thorough and careful review of allegations against him, the company and bill o'reilly have agreed that mr. o'reilly will not return to fox news channel." the popular tv host and commentator has been the face of the network for nearly two decades. that all began to unravel in recent weeks, after a "new york times" report disclosed that fox had paid some $13 million to settle allegations of sexual harassment filed by women he had worked with. he has long denied it. for more on the latest developments, and what they
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might mean to women, we turn once again, to michael schmidt, who is part of the "new york times" team who broke the story; and, noreen farrell, executive director of the civil rights organization equal rights advocates. >> i started by asking schmitt what changed the minds of the mrdoch family? thethey're the owners of fox ne. >> we wrought our story two and a half weeks ago where we said mr. o'reilly had slelted harassment cases with five women, including two in the last year, since roger ails had left the network. and at the time the our story, the murdoch family was standed by mr. o'reilly. they looked like they wanted to keep him on. what happened is he began to lose advertisers. first he lost mercedes-benz, the first one to go, and dozens and dozens of companies, up to 50. what you had was eight of the 8:00 hour, the prime time on the network, that had just a few ads running on it.
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and at the same time, fox brought in an outside law firm to do an investigation into mr. o'reilly, and there was a real trickle of women that came in that were saying different things about mr. o'reilly that the network didn't know about. so they sort of saw these two things emerging and the dynamic in the murdoch family changed and that's where we got to today, where they basically dismissed him. >> woodruff: but it wasn't just about money, was it? >> the murdoch family hasn't spoken about it. rupert's younger sons really care about the culture of the network and modernizing it. what happens is after roger ails left last summer they said they were going to change the culture and it was going to be different at fox and women were going to feel comfortable there and there weren't going to be issues. but what happened was, over that period of time, they learned about a deal mr. o'reilly had cut with a woman in 2011. they allowed mr. orile tow cut two more deals, and this was exposed and it put pressure on them. there were protests outside of
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the network. there was a plane that flew a banner around new york city calling for mr. o'reilly's ouster, and there was real public pressure on them. and i think the sons really won out here. rupert has extreme loyalty to mr. o'reilly, who is one of the founding hosts will of the network when it started 20 years ago. >> woodruff: michael schmidt, as someone who has covered network news, covered related stories, is this an earthquake in television news? >> well, i think mr. o'reilly's probably most recognize the host in cable television. he certainly had the highest ratings. he certainly had, if not the close to the highest revenues. and he was a real voice fo voicr conservatives in this country. he spoke to old-school american values and really preached them, and that preach i think and his tone, you know, rubbed some people the wrong way, but it also brought in some really high ratings. and he really established himself and had a real voice, more so than anything, and particularly to fox, he was seen as very important because the
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8:00 hour he would bring in a lot of ratings and 9:00 and 10:00 would have big ratings as well. the question fox had they were afraid of, if we take o'reilly out of 8:00, are the ratings not just going to go down for 8:00 but 9:00 and 10:00? that's what they're walking into now. >> woodruff: noreen farrell, we're hearing michael schmidt talk about family values that bill o'reilly stood for. but his leaving is for something different, isn't it? >> i think it's a remarkable moment in the cultural zeitgeist of sexual harassment. we're seeing the power of men and women as consumers to influence workplaces that are not their own. and i think, you know, to all the companies that pulled out of bill o'reilly's show, i think many women in america thank them. >> woodruff: do you think, noreen farrell, this is going to have an effect on the workplace broadly, or are we-- i mean, there were those who predicted that back when roger ailes left
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fox. >> well, i think more and more, we're seeing that there are different strategies that influence the workplaces that create incentives that clearly 50 years of federal and state laws prohibiting sexual harassment have not. and that includes people who organize online, who are really public about protests, who influence companies that are affiliated with company where's there are bad practices because, look, this happened in two weeks. this probably would take a lawsuit 10 years. >> woodruff: michael schmidt, is there a sense-- i know you have been talking to a lot of employees at fox-- that there is no more tolerance for sexual harassment at fox anymore? >> well, i'm not sure that the employees are convinced of that because the murdochs said last summer that there wouldn't be any more tolerance for this, and that they had done away with this. they have brought in a firm to investigate mr. ailes, and they said they had turned the page and that things were going to change. but then the employees look and they look the how the network stood by mr. o'reilly, knowing
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all the things they that did when our story ran and continued to support him in the days after that. we're two and a half weeks out from the story now. so the question for employees is how is fox going to prove itself to them that they are, indeed, serious about this issue? i guess getting rid of mr. o'reilly sends a certain message, but going forward what, will be different? and i think that's what they really wonder? >> woodruff: noreen farrell, when you and michael were on the program a couple of weeks ago when this story first broke, i think i asked you a version of this same question, but that is are women in other workplaces who have reason to feel threatened, who are experiencing sexual harassment, do they take away-- are they empowered as a result of this? can they take away any advice for how to handle their own situations? >> i certainly think this is a good day for whoam want to stand up for their rights in the workplace. i do think it remains to be seen whether or not mr. o'reilly is given a golden parachute or just his walking papers about how committed this company is to
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really eradicating sexual harassment in its workplaces. but certainly, i think that this is a day that women who-- and men-- who believe sexual harassment has no place in the workplace can feel good. >> woodruff: and michael schmidt, do you expect-- i mean, is your reporting telling you that there will be a large severance for bill o'reilly, as there was for roger ailes. i guess he got, what, $20 million? >> what's interesting here is fox renegotiated mr. o'reilly's contract while they knew our investigation was going on and while they knew that these settlements had occurred. it's believed that in that contract, fox was able to get some sort of leverage over mr. o'reilly that if something went wrong, they had a better way of getting out of it. so does that mean that fox can get out of the contract without having to give him a lot of money? we don't know those details yet. but we do know that mr. o'reilly was making at least $20 million a year, and has brought in millions of dollars in books for himself and in different paraphernalia that he sells on
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his show. and, you know, so the question is what kind of hit is mr. o'reilly taking and what will he be doing going forward? >> woodruff: thank you, michael schmidt, and noreen farrell. we appreciate it. >> thank >> woodruff: democrats came close, but republicans managed to avoid a potentially brutal loss in georgia for now, forcing a runoff in a closely watched special congressional election. >> this is already a victory for the ages. >> woodruff: 30-year-old democrat jon ossoff fell just short of an outright win in tuesday's crowded special election. but by capturing 48% of the vote, the filmmaker and former congressional aide easily outpaced the other 17 candidates. >> we've defied the odds, shattered expectations.
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we will be ready to fight on and win in june. >> woodruff: the seat in atlanta's suburbs came open when tom price was tapped by president trump to his cabinet. no democrat has won here since 1979. and now, ossoff faces a runoff against karen handel, a former georgia secretary of state, and the top republican with 20% of the vote. >> on june 20, we keep the 6th district red and kick a little ossoff. >> woodruff: handel never mentioned president trump last night, but today said she wants his help. >> do you think that president trump will come to georgia and campaign with you? >> i would hope so. it is all hands on deck for us. >> woodruff: for his part, the president compared the result with last week's close republican win in kansas. he tweeted, "dems failed in kansas and are now failing in georgia. great job karen handel!"
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but democratic party national chair tom perez praised the ossoff showing. >> just a few weeks ago they were saying democrats can't get over 42%, 43% of the vote. he got 48%. >> woodruff: the georgia race generated national interest and a flood of money. ossoff raised $8.2 million, 18 times more than handel. in total, republicans and democrats spent more than $13 million. and, outside groups funneled in nearly $8 million, with more than half of that on ads attacking ossoff. the white house today dismissed republicans face at least two more special elections in the months ahead, in montana and south carolina. so, can democrats turn anti- trump sentiment into actual wins in upcoming races? for that, we are joined by stu rothenberg, senior editor of inside elections; and, dante chinni, director of the american communities project, a
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county-by-county look at the u.s. electorate. he is also a columnist for the "wall street journal." and we welcome both of you back to the program. stu, more than $8million, unheard of amount of money in this district? why couldn't the democrat, john ossoff, pull this off, get over 50%? >> judy, this is a very republican district. you have to understand that, by more than a dozen points, republicans -- when you look at past republican performance, mitt rom won it, tom price, over 50% of the vote. so it's a tough lift for any democrat and i think ossoff did exceed expectations and we'll see what happens with the runoff. it's always about turnout. >> woodruff: what did ossoff do right, and what should he have done better? >> i think what he did right was find a good district to run in? donald trump only won by 1.5
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points, even though price won it by quite a bit. it's the kind of district made for what democrats are now. it's well educated. it's not super diverse. it looks like the country in large. this is a district that is made for where the party is right now, and this is the-- these are the kind of people that-- the kinds of voters that the party is resinating with. >> woodruff: sturks, that distribute sound like every single district out there that democrats need to win. >> well, look, judy, this is a republican district but not a trump district, and there are other districts out there. there are 20-- i think it's 23 republicans sitting in the house-- in house districts that were won by hillary clinton. the democrats need 24 seats. so this is the kind of district that's part mix, highly educated, high-income district that does not take to donald trump's style, his personality, and some of his issue agenda. but there are other issues, other districts out there that democrats are going to have to win and fin winfirst, frankly,
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before a district lie this. >> woodruff: let's talk for a moment about donald trump, dante chinni. is there a clear sense at this point how much difference he made or didn't make in the outcome here? >> i think it's way too early to know what kind of difference he made in terms of helping keep ossoff under 50%. i think, though, that if you look at what happened in this district, look, as sturks was saying, this was a district where romney won by i think 23 in 2008, john mccain won lie bye close to 20 points. >> woodruff: those are mainstream republicans. >> this is a district, looking at the numbers, you would say donald trump helped the democrat much more than he helped karen handel. so the question when i saw the question asked of her, "do you want donald trump to come down here?" look you're going to say what you're gog say. he's president of the united states. you're a republican seeking a seat in congress. you're never going to say, "don't come down here."
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>> woodruff: she said, "i hope so." >> when i look at that district, i don't-- who knows? who knows? i don't see the benefit of donald trump going down there for the republican. that's the kind of thing, actually, that could help john ossoff. look, there are splits in the republican party. as sturks was saying. there are different kinds of districts. this kind of scrict is not a good district for trump. this is the kind of district where too much trump is going to maybe turn off a lot of republicans. we're not just talking about republicans. there are moderates. >> the democratic strategy is to make the race a referendum on donald trump because otherwise it becomes about party, partisan, which is bad for ossoff. so he needs to make this-- look, he's a young wid kidwith not a lot of experience, not a lot of cre dpernlz he doesn't even want the race to be about himself. he wants it to be about the president. >> woodruff: and i think both of you were saying this is going to be tough for ossoff to win the runoff. >> because it's such a republican district. if you add up the republican votes and the democratic votes,
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it's likely to be close. i regard the race as a toss-up. >> i think stu is probably right. i think the political environment is so unsettled right now, and normally, you would say, "june, that's not that far away." june in 2017 feels about a million years from right now. whons what donald trump is going to tweet. ossoff is a young candidate, inexperienced candidate. a lot of things could happen. i graerk it looks like as to-up. >> woodruff: what lessons can democrats take away from this, in other places, not just the special elections this year but for next year? >> well, i think they're going to have to nationalize and anyand all elections and make it about a midterm president prt who is not particularly popular. trump's job approval, depending on the poll, 39%, 42%-- whatever it is. they want upon the elections to be about donald trump and the more controversial elements. they need to recruit good candidates in a large number of districts to put those districts in play. they can do that.
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it depends. we don't know what trump's job approval will be or what issues we'll be talking about. the dynamics need to feed a sense of change and referendum on trust for democrats to win back house. >> woodruff: and redistricting in the geography, the demography in these districts isn't favorable to daernlings right? >> no, but it's changing. this is because there are the demographics of the two parties as we understand them now, and the demographic ftz two parties as they existed back in 2012. look, i think donald trump is talk inge a lot of people think this-- is trying to take the party in a different direction, the g.o.p. in a different direction. he wants to talk about populism, people left behind. georgia six is not full of people left behind. 58% of the population has awe bachelor's degree. the 10 best-educated districts in the country. nine of them are democratic with democratics members in congress, the tenth is georgia six. it is an outlier in some ways. >> woodruff: so, stu, for those district where's democrats believe they have some kind of
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decent shot next year -- >> i think there will be enough districts in play so that the house is in play. it is not there now. democrats are just starting recruiting. they're going to have to have a good fund-raising cycle. they're going to need a good environment. they're going to need the president's job approval to be down around 40% if thams, they will be able to make the midterm a re referendum on him and the republicans will try to localize it and discrept the democratic candidates. >> woodruff: a lot of "ifs." >> and there are a lot of inherent splits in the party. is donald trump the guy who is going to take the party and say i'm antitrade, i don't like the global economy? there are a lot of whrons do quite well in the global economy, thank you very much. and this is a very complicated kind kind of issue environment that have to play out. where does he take the senator and when he takes the party in that direction, what happens to the different sides of the party? we don't know that. we'll find out a lot more in six months from now.
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>> woodruff: april 19 we don't expect perfect predictions from the both of you, but you generally get it right. dante chinni, stu rothenberg, thank you very much. >> thanks,. >> thanks a lot. >> woodruff: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: a failing state-- venezuelans' protests spill out onto the streets; and in the u.s., scientists take to the streets, protesting cuts in federal science funding; and, inside america's militias. but first, back in washington, the u.s. supreme court grappled once again with the relationship between church and state. at the center of today's legal fight? a school playground. jeffrey brown has more. >> brown: can the state of missouri give money to repair the playground of a church-run day care? and what have we learned in the
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first days of justice neil gorsuch on the bench? marcia coyle, chief washington correspondent for the "national law journal," was in the courtroom today. hello again, marcia. >> hi, jeff. >> brown: let's get right to it, the case is "trinity lutheran versus comber." >> trinity luther church in missouri operates a daycare center and it has a playground. it applied for a state grant in a program that funds the refurbishing of playgrounds by the use of recycled tires. now, it complied-- >> brown: a good project, right, to help all kinds of-- >> it would seem so. it fulfilleddule of the requirementes for the grant but it was denied a grant and the explanation was that the state constitution rohibits the use of public funds to either directly or indirectly support religious institutions.
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>> now, the church decided to challenge this denial, and it went to court claiming that the denial of its application was a violation of the first amendment's free exercise clause, and also the equal protection klaus claus. >> brown: okay, so we heard the arguments today. >> we did. and just-- the church did lose in the lower courts, which is why the church brought it to the u.s. supreme court. now, remember the free exercise clause doesn't require government to subsidize religion. in fact, it requires government not to interfere with religion. and during the arguments today, my general sense was that there was more sympathy than not for the church. i think probably the most skeptical justice of the church's position was justice sotomayor. he said there's a lot history in the states, of state laws, not
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providing direct support to churchs. the church won't close its doors here if it doesn't refurbish its playground. there's no effect on religious beliefs. >> brown: even if it's a secular purpose in this case, she still thinks there's a case to be made for not giving it to the church. >> that's right. the church's lawyer said that there is actually coercion here, that the church is being penalized because of its status as a religious organization. we also heard on the other side justices alito and breyer, for example, gave a whole series of hypotheticals to the state's attorney saying, "can the constitution require a state to deny police services or fire services to religious institutions?" and the state's lawyer said, "well, no." and justice breyer said, "well, what's the difference here with the playground where you're trying to keep little children from falling and breaking their ankles? >> brown: even some of the more liberal justices were
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arguing-- seemed to be argue in favor of the church. >> yes, exactly. and the state's argument comes back to this-- "look, we don't want to get entangled with churches. this is a neutral program. we don't want to be selecting among churches. and we don't want to be sending a check directly to a church for a physical improvement." >> brown: now, the reason people watch these things is not only because of a playground but larger implications. >> absolutely. >> brown: in this case, particularly, because there are bigger societal questions for about, for example, school voucher programs. >> a lot of the religious organizations supporting the church in this case really believe that this could say a lot about sights that do now have obstacles to school vouchers. and it also may have an impact on a whole range of state-funded programs that do not accept applications or support religious organizations. >> brown: okay in our last minute, the first week of
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justice neil gorsuch. you got to watch him. i happened to be there myself on monday. >> i know you were. >> brown: what did you see? >> he was very well prepared. he was very active on a hot bench, although i think by late today he was getting a little tired. he wasn't asking as many questions as he did that first day. he injects a certain amount of humor, and he seems to have a testy side to him. >> brown: a little bite. >> every now and then. >> brown: when he wants to, he can go back and forth quite sharply. >> yes, he can. >> brown: all right, we will be watching the future of justice neil gorsuch and all things with you, marcia coyle, thanks as always. >> thank you, jeff. >> woodruff: thousands of venezuelans took to the streets in protest again today-- two demonstrators were killed-- as a political crisis in this failing state deepens amid economic calamity. chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner reports.
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>> reporter: organizers dubbed it "the mother of all marches." hundreds of thousands of opponents to socialist president nicolas maduro flooded caracas. >> ( translated ): today, people are in the street demonstrating peacefully, seeking a democratic exit to a situation that is already overflowing. here, the president of the republic is playing with fire. >> reporter: the peace was broken almost immediately, as protesters clashed with police and government supporters. national guard troops fired tear gas, and a teenage boy died after being shot in the head. demonstrators have tried repeatedly in recent days to reach the capital city's downtown. each time, they were turned back by riot police. at least five people were killed, and hundreds arrested. brian ellsworth, a reuters reporter in caracas, says tensions have been building. >> this has been sort of the culmination of that, about two and a half weeks of all these
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demonstrations. the opposition called this big demonstration and said, all over the country, we need to be protesting against the government. >> reporter: these latest protests erupted last month, after the pro-government supreme court took over the powers of the national legislature, controlled by the opposition. after an international outcry, the court reversed itself. but the criticism continued. >> ( translated ): they haven't done anything, the supreme court, but the supreme court has installed a coup d'etat it cannot correct. >> reporter: the oil-rich nation is also mired in an economic crisis, with sky-rocketing triple-digit inflation, rampant crime and food shortages. the opposition wants maduro's removal, new elections and the release of political prisoners, including opposition leader leopoldo lopez, who was jailed in early 2014. in february, leopoldo's wife went to the white house with florida senator marco rubio. president trump tweeted a photo
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with her, saying: "venezuela should allow leopoldo lopez, a political prisoner, out of prison immediately." that same month, the u.s. treasury department designated venezuelan vice president tareck el aissami for sanctions on drug trafficking charges. >> we are concerned the government is violating its its own institution dispoougz not allowing the opposition to have its voices heard. >> reporter: maduro has struggled ever since. maduro came to power four years ago, upon the death of his charismatic predecessor, hugo chavez. maduro has struggled ever since. chavez himself survived a brief coup in 2002, and accused the united states of subverting him. riding on high world oil prices,
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chavez had created subsidies and price controls, raising living standards for the poor. but no longer. again, brian ellsworth: >> once oil prices collapsed in 2014, the country basically hadn't saved money during the oil boom, private enterprise has a really hard time producing goods and services, which means we basically don't have them. >> reporter: the maduro regime is also under pressure from its latin american neighbors. 11 countries called this week for a time frame to hold elections. for the pbs newshour, i'm margaret warner. >> woodruff: next, is the scientific community finding it's political voice? science correspondent miles o'brien looks into a growing number of street protests staged by members of a profession not generally known for this sort of activism. it's part of our weekly "leading edge" series.
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>> who is ready to stand up for science? >> reporter: they are scientists; and on this february sunday in boston, they were conducting an experiment they'd just as soon avoid. facing a white house that is pushing across-the-board, steep cuts in federal science funding, they are taking to the streets. their hypothesis: in order to keep their work alive, they must dive into the political fray. >> today, science fights back! i think, scientists, it's not in our natural nature to shout, to make a loud noise, but apparently we can do it when come together. >> reporter: geoffrey supran is a renewable energy modeler at m.i.t. he was there among a few hundred protesters in copley square, one of several protests staged by scientists since donald trump became president. the administration has proposed double-digit cuts for the environmental protection agency and the national institutes of health, and a 20% across-the-
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board cut to research on climate change. >> as scientists, it's actually our responsibility-- and as citizens-- to warn the public when we see danger. you know, if you see something, say something. we feel the civic duty. >> reporter: the protesters here hope this rally is merely a prelude to something much bigger; a march en mass in washington and hundreds of other cities all over the world on april 22. kishore hari is one of the organizers of the earth day events. >> science has been political since the time of galileo. nothing has changed between now and then, but it's important that we are non-partisan, because this is a march for science, and that unifies everyone around the world. >> reporter: but the idea has drawn controversy from some scientists, who are concerned march organizers are also advocating a host of other liberal social causes. the rally in boston happened in the midst of the annual meeting of the largest scientific
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society in the world, the american association for the advancement of science. the organization is supporting the political mobilization of many of its members. physicist and former democratic congressman rush holt is the c.e.o. >> it'll be the first time in my this would be, it's purported to be a demonstration for science, the very idea of science, the essence of science. isn't that a wonderful idea? >> this rally isn't about promoting a particular policy. it's about promoting the idea that the scientific enterprise as a whole improves our lives. >> reporter: naomi oreskes is a scientist and a professor of the history of science at harvard university. she has written extensively about the role of politics, special interests and science. for most of history, she says, scientists had to be politically and publicly engaged in order to fund their research. but in the u.s., that changed
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after world war ii, when the federal funding started flowing into laboratories. >> we lost the sense of a kind of civic obligation, or reciprocal obligation, that if we expect the taxpayer to pay for what we do, that we also should-- that they have an expectation that we should be spending time explaining it. and i think that breakdown, that reciprocal communication breakdown, has had real consequences in our lifetimes. >> reporter: during that same time, the political pushback against science grew, whether the realm was evolution, acid rain, the ozone hole or climate change. >> the scientific community made a mistake in not taking that more seriously. so now we're in a situation where it's become a crisis. and now, the scientific community, i think, realizes that we have a very serious problem in our hands. >> scientists, as a rule, are not comfortable being out there politically, but we should. putting science into politics and into society is something that they can do and should do,
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probably must do. >> reporter: naomi oreskes is writing a new book; science fiction that imagines a society that embraces climate change science and renewable energy. geoffrey supran is helping her with this. after all, renewable energy is what his research is all about. >> this is where we make next- generation l.e.d.'s and solar cells. it's essentially a continuous vacuum facility. >> reporter: supran was here in his lab at m.i.t. when president obama visited in 2009, leaving his autograph on a vacuum chamber used to make better solar cells and brighter l.e.d.'s. he was sitting in the same place when it dawned on him and his colleagues that most of the technology to tackle climate change already exists, but the political will to do something does not. he says for his generation of scientists, that is a call to action.
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>> there's a cultural shift throughout that young people are-- i'm proud to say, "taking the lead," i think. and so we're really starting to see the scientific community adjusting to the landscape and preparing itself better to deal with the political realities of today. and if they don't get it, let's run for office and vote them out! >> reporter: some scientists are hoping to do just that. >> shaughnessy, tell us a little bit about today. >> today, we had our first candidate training for scientists who are thinking about running for office. >> reporter: a science advocacy group called "314 action", which is encouraging scientists to run, says 3,000 have signed up for its candidate training program. "314 action" has some 101 level political how-to videos to help them take the leap out of the lab. >> hi, heather. this is tracy van houten, and i'm the aerospace engineer who is running for congress here in this district.
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>> reporter: a handful have thrown their slide rules into the ring. tracy van houten is an engineer at nasa's jet propulsion laboratory, who works on mars rovers. >> i was in washington last week and then the president's budget came out, and i was there advocating on behalf of stem education, and... >> reporter: she ran for in a special election for a vacated congressional seat in los angeles. >> if we really care about doing the big things in the world, for me at some point, it just didn't feel big enough anymore to focus on answering mankind's questions about the universe. i needed to kind of return my focus here on earth, to help out in the community here. >> reporter: tracy van houten didn't succeed in her experiment. she lost in the primary. despite her aspirations, she is most at home in a clean room. the smoke-filled room is a new frontier. >> science is not what? >> silence! >> thank you. >> reporter: scientists may find
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it hard to make the transition, but many of them believe this is a phase change they are compelled to investigate. for the pbs newshour, i'm miles o'brien in boston. >> woodruff: today is the 22nd anniversary of the oklahoma city bombing. 168 people died in that attack, carried out by timothy mcveigh. mcveigh sympathized with armed right-wing militia groups, which were surging in membership at the time. these groups are still active, gaining members online, and honing their combat skills in training camps. the newshour's p.j. tobia went inside one of these camps to produce this report. >> reporter: this is the kill house-- part of a training ground for a right-wing militia in the american south.
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>> it's for conducting military operations in urban terrain. we want to practice and rehearse moving out to these structures, covering each other, taking cover and concealment everywhere we can find it. >> reporter: these men and women call themselves the georgia security force. >> our common goal is to provide for security for ourselves, our friends and our families, and the other people in our states, if and when the need should arise to do so. >> reporter: their leader, chris hill, a.k.a. "blood agent" says the need could arise at any time. >> i think what the government gives, the government can take away. if they're providing the security for us, they can take it away. >> reporter: they're part of the three percent militia, one of the nation's largest armed right wing groups. they believe only 3% of colonial americans fought the revolutionary war, yet were able to overthrow british rule.
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historians say, 25%. according to the southern poverty law center, more than 10,000 people identify as three percenters. though few train like this, they have a presence in nearly every state. their ideology? a mix of anti-government conspiracy theories. >> it could be our own government overreaching, you know. if we end up, you know, with a tyrant in office, no one knows what could happen in 15 years, but at least we're going to be prepared. >> reporter: three percenters also are suspect of islam and foreigners; to some, many recent arrivals to the u.s. represent both. >> it's an unarmed invasion. >> , " mcnab is an expert on these groups. she says the groups have committed or planned hundreds of violent attacks. >> they range from plots to kill
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cops, for example, blow up a police headquarters. there's a lot of resisting arrest. they don't believe the cops have any authority over them. >> two at a time, two at a time. >> there are more than 500 militia groups in the u.s., more than double the number in 2008, according to the antidefamation league. most of them are right wing and antigovernment. in addition to the 3% militias, there's the oath keepers, formed in 2009. they're primarily current and former law enforcement and military personnel. oath keepers showed up in ferguson, missouri during the protests in the summer of 2015. they said they were there to help keep the peace and protect reporters working for alex jones' conspiracy-fueled "info wars" website. meanwhile, thousands have flocked to older groups like the sovereign citizens movement, tax resisters who deny the legitimacy of the american government. some of them have dabbled in biological weapons, such as
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ricin. >> th >> reporter: the georgia three percenters say they are strictly a defensive force. in the time we spent with them, they repeatedly renounced violence or criminality. chris hill says his group is careful about who they accept and train. >> well, we go through a vetting process. each member has to be interviewed by a board of no less than four or five ranking members from several different states. we look for red flags. if an individual seems radical or they're missing some screws, then, you know, we're going to keep that person to the side. >> reporter: these men claim their militia gives them a sense of shared identity. >> we've basically built it as a family. i don't have a lot of family, so it's family that i don't have. a lot of like-minded people, but yet we also stand for the same cause. >> i'm seeing a conflict in morals and values in the country that make me question, is this really happening? crybabies are going to demand transgender bathrooms or whatever. at the end of the day, your rights end where mine begin.
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you know, don't push your belief on me. >> any terrorist organization cannot be trusted. and unfortunately, a lot of them, you know, are stemming off from the muslim religion. you know, from islam. today, militias are energized by more recent events: last year's occupation of the malheur wildlife refuge by amon bundy; and the 2014 standoff in nevada, where bundy's father, backed by militia men, squared off with federal officials over grazing rights on public lands. chris hill was one of those militia men at bundy ranch. >> i was pissed off, i was angered. seeing peaceful people being pushed around, and this bureaucratic agency is up in the hills, pointing, training their
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weapons down on a family because maybe they owe taxes because the cows eat corn. >> reporter: for the georgia three percenters, donald trump's election sends a signal. >> with a trump victory, that gives me a little bit of hope where i had none, that we can turn the tide against these communist, marxist, socialist ideas of governing and return to they can no longer focus-- president obama or candidate clinton. >> i don't have a good feeling about where this is going. what happens right now when trump paints targets on people, when he paints targets on the press? he went off about a state senator who did something a sheriff didn't like in texas. "let's take him down." he says he's joke, but this movement doesn't have a sense of humor. >> despite the f.b.i.'s recent arrest, mcnab says federal law enforcement isn't doing enough. >> they've done almost nothing to monitor and counter this movement. it started in 2009, right after obama took office. >> in that year, d.h.s. release
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aid memo to law enforcement, detailing the threat posed by right wing extremists. >> but because it had a line saying veterans returning home from war were at risk of being approachedded by this movement, homeland security disavowed it and they term 98edly the division that tracked this movement. >> the man who led that division of d.h.s., is darrell johnson. >> there was basically a political firestorm that erupted. >> and you lost your job. >> pretty much. >> johnson says he was forced to resign and now runs a consulting business with government contract. what kind of capabilities for monitoring these groups does the d.h.s. have now? >> yeah, since i left in 2010, homeland security had one analyst that was looking at these problems, these domestic terrorist issues, and essentially, that lone, single analyst left. and so today they have no-- no one looking at this theft. >> in response to newshour's questions about militia groups, a department of homeland security spokesperson said since 2009, they have improved their
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analysis of domestic terrorism and continue to work with the f.b.i. to investigate these groups purpose they denied johnson was forced out, agenda johnson's report was withdrawn because of incomplete sourcing. j.j. mcnab says the lack of attention has had $deadly consequences like when two arkansas police officers were gunned down by tax-resisting sovereign citizens in 2010. >> a police chief in west mem sis, arkansas, had two of his officers killed by a sovereign citizen and two others shot. he resident all the things he got from the f.b.i., and while they had told him in incredible detail what the risks of al qaeda were, they had never mentioned any home groam extremism that wasn't islamic. >> oh, my. (bleep). god! >> both johnson and mcnab says militia have successfully recruited police and active military personnel. >> we have a lot of returning
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veterans, military members who have fought in the warses in afghanistan and iraq, and they bring that mentality with them, that training that they had in the military, that kind of desensitized, dehumanized muslims in these war zones and in these conflicts. and so when they come home, a lot of them carry that sentiment with them, and it reflects itself in the modern day militia today. >> with law enforcement, that's particularly problematic because if, for example, an agency wants to investigate someone they suspect of building a bomb, will one of their members, one of the police officers who is part of that group, tip off the criminal? there's a recent leak that came out of an f.b.i. manual that talked about how there were white sprem sirveghtz for example, in certain police departments, but the f.b.i. couldn't tell the police departments that it was a problem because they were worried that that would tip off the white supremacist they were investigating. >> we asked to speak to the f.b.i. about the monitoring of domestic militias and militias recruiting veterans.
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the bureau declined, but a spokesperson said, "our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on criminal activity." the f.b.i. add that they want to protect the rights of all americans. members of the georgia security force claim that they, too, are committed to protecting those rights by any means necessary. for the feebs now, i'm p.j. tone yeah. >> woodruff: finally, another television milestone. fox television's animated comedy series, "the simpsons," has become one of the longest running programs on american television. william brangham tells that story. >> reporter: thirty years ago today, viewers met what would become an iconic american family: the simpsons.
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on april 19, 1987, this strange- talking, yellow-skinned family of five made their tv debut, appearing initially on the sketch comedy series, "the tracey ullman show." ♪ the simpsons but soon, 20th century fox spun them off into their own 30-minute program. more than 600 episodes, and 32 emmy awards later, "the simpsons" is now the longest running scripted primetime show in u.s. history. >> reporter: in its early years, "the simpsons" was criticized by cultural conservatives who felt the show's subversive streak set a bad example for the nation. >> go on out there and have fun. and if you lose, i'll kill you! >> reporter: the show even earned a presidential rebuke in 1992: >> we are going to keep on trying to strengthen the american family, to make american families a lot more like "the waltons" and a lot less like "the simpsons."
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>> reporter: in time, the show's wit and biting satire made it a critical and commercial success. it's earned fox billions of dollars. what's the secret to its success? the 616th episode of "the simpsons" airs next sunday night, and according to its creators, there are no plans for stopping anytime soon. from springfield, i'm william brangham for the pbs newshour. >> woodruff: we certainly hope not. on the newshour online right now: we asked female authors to and that's the newshour for tonight. on thursday: "making sense" of the airline industry's high profits and diminishing service. i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again right here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and we'll see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> supported by the rockefeller foundation. promoting the wellbeing of humanity around the world, by building resilience and inclusive economies.
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more at >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and individuals. >> 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 newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh >>
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narrator: tonight on "quest"... wind energy is the fastest-growing source of power in the united states, but wind turbines can be deadly to birds. now biologists say there's a way to reduce bird deaths. and concussions are surprisingly common for athletes. what happens during a concussion? and what can be done to prevent brain damage? and there's a hidden danger in san francisco bay that's poisoning wildlife and people. learn how mercury pollution got here and what's being done to get rid of it. ♪ announcer: support for "quest" is provided by...