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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  September 30, 2017 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday, september 30: president trump lashes out at the mayor of san juan, puerto rico, as the island remains in crisis after hurricane maria. what's next for healthcare, following tom price's resignation? and in our signature segment, an american citizen takes up the fight in south sudan's civil war. next, on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: bernard and irene schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. dr. p. roy vagelos and diana t. vagelos. the j.b.p. foundation. the anderson family fund. rosalind p. walter, in memory
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of abby m. o'neill. barbara hope zuckerberg. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios at lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thanks for joining us. with the u.s. territory of puerto rico still struggling to recover from the catastrophe of hurricane maria, today president trump questioned the puerto rican people themselves, and singled out the mayor of san juan personally for blame. food and water shortages continue in puerto rico, ten days after maria made landfall. and, while more aid is finally reaching those who need it, the morning began with a series of tweets from president trump, taking on san juan mayor carmen yulin cruz.
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the early morning dispatches criticized puerto rican leadership, claiming they "are not able to get their workers to help. they want everything done for them." the attack comes after mounting criticism from mayor cruz and others of the trump administration's slow response to the devastation in the aftermath of maria. >> we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy. >> sreenivasan: president trump claimed, without providing details, that the democrats had told mayor cruz "you must be nasty to trump." both the governor and mayor cruz responded that politics should not hinder aid. >> this isn't about me, this isn't about anyone. this is about lives that are being lost if things do not get done properly real quickly. >> sreenivasan: the white house social media director, dan scavino, using his personal twitter account, called mayor
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cruz a "hater", and "the perfect example of an opportunistic politician." mississippi congressman bennie thompson, ranking democrat on the house homeland security committee, which oversees fema, said in a statement that mr. trump's tweets were "abhorrent" and "baseless," and "beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency." earlier in the week, puerto rican governor governor ricardo a. rosselló had warned the island was on the brink of a "humanitarian crisis." today, he noted some progress is being made. >> somewhat over 50% of the gas stations that we have in puerto rico are already operating, and are receiving fuel at this juncture. >> sreenivasan: responding to currently, there are nearly 4,500 u.s. troops on the ground helping with recovery efforts. army lieutenant general jeff buchanan said yesterday the u.s. was bringing in more aircraft and medical help, and also that what they currently have is not enough. the u.s. naval hospital ship "comfort" left norfolk, virginia yesterday with more than 500 medical and support staff. it is expected to reach san juan late next week. in the u.s. virgin islands, east of puerto rico, also battered by
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maria, many of the more than 100,000 residents are still without power and shelter and schools are closed. spending the day at his golf club in bedminster, new jersey, president trump plans to visit both puerto rico and the u.s. virgin islands on tuesday. for more than a week since hurricane maria struck puerto rico, most of the more than five million puerto ricans living on the u.s. mainland have had little to no contact with their loved ones back home. newshour weekend's ivette feliciano reports on the growing frustration in one community in eastern pennsylvania. >> reporter: since hurricane maria hit, 40-year-old barber hector cruz santiago hasn't been able to reach his 20-year-old daughter, who's a student at the university of puerto rico in san juan. >> ( translated ): nothing. i've tried a thousand ways to communicate, and i haven't been able to. it really worries me because i have no idea how she's doing, if
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15 years ago. >> ( translated ): i really have no idea how my family is doing. i just want to know what's going on and to know that they are okay. >> reporter: santiago's wife, luz estremera, is worried about aid reaching her grandmother and aunts in the coastal town of guayama. she hasn't heard from them, but she's gotten tidbits of information about her hometown on social networking apps. >> ( translated ): puerto rico is my island. it's so sad. u can't live there anymore. >> reporter: adding to their stress, concerns about how the u.s. territory will pay to rebuild, given its massive debt crisis, rampant poverty and high unemployment rate. puerto rico's power company owes $9 billion of the island's $72 billion debt. maintenance cutbacks before the hurricane exacerbated damage to the electric grid.
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the lehigh's valley's puerto rican community has grown to almost 40,000 people in the last few years. it's sending cans of food and supplies to help the island's residents. >> what we are envisioning is, as we get more and more of our families from the island, they are going to be coming through here. >> reporter: at the area's hispanic center, board president mary colon believes the hurricane will accelerate the exodus that began due to puerto rico's financial crisis. >> we have to roll up our sleeves and welcome the families that are coming here, help them, as well as help those who are staying behind. >> reporter: michelle cabrera moved with her husband and two children to bethlehem from puerto rico seven years ago and says her sister and niece will soon join them on the mainland. >> my mom is still pending because she takes care of her grandparents. they're sick, they're diabetic. and my grandmother does not want to come. she has her house there. she's... she's worried about who is going to care for it, if something will happen to it. >> reporter: puerto rico's 3.5 million u.s. citizens have one representative in congress,
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but she can't vote. so, cabrera and the hispanic chamber of commerce here are organizing a letter writing campaign to pennsylvania's congressional delegation, asking for more federal aid. >> puerto ricans that have moved from the island here, it is our job to then make a movement and talk to the community, the representatives. anything that we can do to have that voice. >> reporter: yarimar bonilla, an associate professor of latino and caribbean studies at rutgers university, is from puerto rico. >> you know, a lot of people are discovering puerto rico and its political status for the first time right now. you have this in a bureaucratic apparatus that is not able to work quickly and efficiently, especially when they're in a context outside of the continental united states. >> reporter: she's written about how caribbean territories like puerto rico with limited self-governance are more vulnerable during a crisis. >> they have complicated arrangements with u.s. and imperial european powers.
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so, places like guadeloupe, st. maarten, turks and caicos, the british virgin islands, a lot of the sites that have been impacted by the hurricane season this year, they are in different kinds of entanglements with the united states and europe. >> reporter: bonilla's mother caught a flight from puerto rico and packed as if she'll never go back. >> we saw that in new orleans after katrina, many people left and did not return. all of us observing this in the united states, we're... we're very scared about what is going to happen to our communities, and we feel the clock ticking. >> sreenivasan: find out how the jones act could affect recovery in puerto rico, at >> sreenivasan: the search is on for a new secretary of health and human services, after former georgia congressman tom price
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was forced to resign late yesterday in a scandal over using expensive private charter flights for official travel. president trump named deputy assistant secretary don wright as acting chief of the massive department and its 80,000 employees. finding and confirming a permanent successor to price is only one of the challenges ahead for the administration. joining us now from the nation's capital is "washington post" reporter john wagner. john, let's first start by the person who is supposed to take over now. what do we know about him? >> well, we know he's a practicing physician, don wright, and i don't think there's any expectation that t it was-- it was somewhatsition teresting that they went ahead and appointed someone as soon as they got rid of price. i think it showed this has been keyed up for a little while. >> sreenivasan: is the ease of confirmation an issue, considering what tom price went through, and now that the spotlight is maybe a little sharper / well, i think the confirmation process for whoever
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is named permanently will be interesting on a couple of levels. one, i think it becomes a proxy battle over the future of the affordable care act. democrats are really not happy with the administration saying that they've done nothing, you know, from the executive branch respective to try to shore up what's in place now. so i think whoever the nominee may be, they're going to really be pressed on that issue. and then i think one of the lessons learned here on both sides of the aisle is that you need to carefully vet these nominees. the whole issue of price's trades and stock-- health stocks was an issue when he was going through the confirmation process. and republicans really gave him a pass on that, and i think a lot of them came to regret it it, and it was one reason he didn't have many allies left when he got in hot water again. >> sreenivasan: speaking of the affordable care act, the law of the land, this is still the open enrollment period that's coming up, right? >> that's right. and that's another looming question is, you know, to what
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extent is the administration committed to trying to make this work? democrats will tell you they're trying to undermine it at every turn and i think, you know, that's really going to be a question going forward because ories i read yesterday about the price situation was that he had just sent out a memo to his staff, talking about a reorganization, and places to save money and cuts that could be made. nctioning of a department this big? >> well it's interesting. i think, you know, on-- as of thursday night, he still was appearing confident that he was going to stay on board. he was on fox news saying he was looking forward to regaining the trust of the president and of the people. it is a very big department. there are a lot of people in place running pieces of it. so i'm not sure, you know, certainly from the public perspective that we'll notice a whole lot immediately. sema verm awho runs the center
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for medicare and medicaid services, who is also oversees the marketplaces is still there. she's one of the folks being talked about as a possible successor. so from a policy standpoint, you know, we will probably see a fair amount of continuation. >> sreenivasan: all right, john wagner of the "the washington post." thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: with assistance from the united states, the country of south sudan gained its independence from sudan in 2011. civil war took over the new nation in just two years. it has led to famine, tonight's signature segment,ng, a rarely-seen side of the story: an american citizen who is leading a rebel group fighting to change south sudan's government. this report was produced with support from the u.s. holocaust memorial museum's center to prevent genocide.
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newshour weekend special correspondent simona foltyn and journalist jason patinkin made the treacherous journey into to south sudan. >> reporter: in the hills of northeastern uganda, a concealed forest path leads across the border into south sudan. the young nation, mired in a four-year civil war, is increasingly difficult for journalists to access, so we use this hidden route to enter into rebel-held parts of the country. >> this is the river. >> reporter: we are traveling with martin abucha, a commander with a rebel group called the sudan people's liberation army in opposition. what separates abucha from other combatants in this war is, he's a dual south sudanese and american citizen with family in the united states. >> i would like to enjoy eating hamburgers. i'd like to enjoy going to burger king and mcdonald's with my daughters, and things like that. but i feel it's an obligation that i must carry. i don't want my kids to go through this. >> reporter: as we pass the peak
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of this hill, we cross into south sudan and meet the rebels. for the next four days, we'll travel with abucha to a base, to see how these soldiers live and why they fight. abucha is 45, and his life now is a far cry from his comfortable life in the united states. >> i have a tent, but it's necessary to have a sleeping mat. this is my military fatigue. >> reporter: abucha is determined to fight to overthrow a government that stands accused of widespread human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing. >> you know, to us, we are not rebels. we're people fighting for their rights. >> reporter: abucha's life now is a far cry from his comfortable life in the united states. abucha's journey to the u.s. began in 1995, when, at age 22, he obtained a visa to enter the u.s. as a refugee from sudan. he followed an uncle to phoenix and ended up living there, on and off, for 15 years.
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>> my whole goal of going there was just to getting an education. >> reporter: after earning a bachelor of science, engineering and masters of business degrees, abucha worked for companies like honeywell and hewlett packard. he started a family, became a citizen and a leading figure of arizona's growing community of south sudanese refugees. >> phoenix is still my home. that's where i have my buddies. >> reporter: do you sometimes miss the comforts of the united states? >> sometimes, yes, sometimes. but if i look into the suffering of our people, i think i should spend more time here. this is primitive. yes, it is. but we are good with it as long as nobody sits on us. we don't want to be imposed on. we want to govern ourselves. >> reporter: when south sudan won its independence from sudan in 2011, abucha went back and took an i.t. job in the census bureau in this new nation of 12 million people. abucha says there was rampant corruption in the fledgling government. >> to be honest, over 20% to 30%
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of the money went, where, we don't know. we knew there was money in there, but we don't know what the money was used for. >> reporter: disillusioned, abucha left and went back to phoenix. in 2013, just two years after the country won its independence, the civil war began as a power struggle over the country's top post between president salva kiir and former vice president riek machar, who mobilized their rival tribes, the dinka and the nuer. the war has since spread through the country's southern equatoria region, drawing in other ethnic groups, including abucha's, called the madi. abucha, who underwent compulsory military training as a young man in sudan, went back in 2014. he initially joined the rebels as a member of machar's negotiating team. in 2015, the u.s. brokered a peace deal, but it fell apart last year.
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now, with peace talks on hold, he's living the life of a soldier. much of south sudan is covered with dense forest, which is why this area is so conducive to guerrilla warfare. the bush provides cover and prevents the government from bringing in tanks and other heavy machinery. this allows the rebels to sustain their insurgency even though they're outgunned. government troops control the main towns and roads in the area while the rebels have the upper hand in the bush. many young men join the sudan people's liberation army in opposition because of atrocities committed against their communities. lokuku charles says the south sudanese army went after his family in equatoria. >> they went to my home. they came and arrested all the family members. three sisters were arrested and my mother arrested, and my wife and my children, which means all of my future. >> reporter: what do you think happened to them? >> what i think happened to them is, they are dead. that's why i have four years in the bush.
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i have nowhere to go. >> reporter: to show us the devastation of the war, abucha wanted to take us to his hometown, called loa. to get there required traveling deep into rebel territory. first, we crossed the nile river, which flows north through south sudan, in small dugout canoes. then, we hiked for two days through the dense bush, escorted by the rebel soldiers. every so often, we stopped to wait for the green light of a reconnaissance unit ahead of us to make sure it was safe. approaching the village, we saw dozens of burned houses. >> when we came here last year in september, the houses were all intact. now, they are gone. all had property inside. all had windows. now, you can see. >> reporter: christian missionaries built this cathedral in the early 20th century. >> this was a very beautiful church. we used to do the way of the
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cross during easter. this is where we go around, we go back this way to the altar. i was an altar boy here in this church, as well. >> reporter: last year, rebels say government soldiers looted and ransacked the church, its health center and school, turning this once vibrant community into a ghost town. independent observers, including the united nations and human rights watch, blame president kiir's army for most of the atrocities in this war, including civilian massacres and mass rape. but the rebels are accused of atrocities, too. for instance, in equatoria, they've carried out attacks on army convoys that sometimes escort civilians. abucha accuses the army of using civilians as human shields and denies targeting them. >> we have no intent of killing any civilian. if a civilian gets hurt in an operation where our forces are
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engaged, it's very unfortunate. and lately, the government starts moving with civilian vehicles, and soldiers in these vehicles shooting, and this is very dangerous for these civilians. >> reporter: but you still attack convoys with civilians? >> we don't attack a convoy of civilians. we have never done that. it's only that, when we begin to take fire from these vehicles. they may be civilian vehicles, but they are shooting at us. that's when personnel will defend themselves. >> reporter: martin abucha is frustrated the international community hasn't done more to end the war. as a rebel negotiator, he had a front row seat to the diplomacy behind the failed 2015 peace deal. he blames john kerry, president obama's last secretary of state, and the former special u.s. envoy to sudan and south sudan, donald booth, for forcing through a peace deal that backfired. >> many times, just delivering
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an ultimatum-- the parties were not allowed to negotiate, but things were imposed on them. and it was very unfair. and unfortunately, the agreement collapsed. >> reporter: abucha says the u.s. imposed a power-sharing agreement that divided government posts between president kiir's loyalists and machar's camp, but failed to ensure it was implemented. the demilitarization of south when the united states signed off that document as the guarantor, when things went wrong, they were not there to support it. when it was being violated, they did nothing about it. >> reporter: abucha says u.s. diplomats failed to stop president salva kiir from reneging on the deal. three months after riek machar returned to juba last year to serve again as vice president, kiir's army chased him out of the country, and kiir appointed another politician as his number two. in the past 15 months, as the
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fighting escalated again, south sudanese civilians fled their homes, mostly across the border to uganda. >> today, if you have over one million people displaced and have taken refuge in uganda, in particular, it was because of that crisis. >> reporter: food shortages resulting from the civil war have left six million south sudanese, half the population, dependent on international aid. as martin abucha sees it, political negotiations needed to end this war require stronger engagement by global and regional powers. he says the u.s. offers humanitarian aid but stands on the sidelines as the violence continues. >> the united states' government is saying they'll spend over $2 billion since 2013, but i'm sure they should have spent less and stopped this war. you're talking about just the cost of human justice. i don't know how many people have died. you can never put value to that number of lives lost.
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>> this is pbs newshour weekend, saturday. >> sreenivasan: secretary of state rex tillerson today confirmed for the first time that the u.s. is in direct contact with north korean officials. in beijing for talks with chinese president xi jinping, tillerson said the u.s. has opened several lines of communication with the north, to see if it might be interested in holding talks on its nuclear and missile programs. tillerson said, "we are probing, so stay tuned." and added "we're not in a dark situation." but late today, the state department said north korea has so far shown no interest in holding talks. the kurds in the northern part of iraq overwhelmingly voted for independence earlier this week. now, their leadership is feeling the pressure grow. officials said today that iranian and iraqi troops will hold joint military maneuvers next week near kurdistan's borders, and iraq said its troops are preparing to seize
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control of kurdistan's border crossings, in coordination with iranian and turkish forces. iraq has also banned international flights from kurdistan's airports. turkey and iran are concerned that the referendum and talks of kurdish independence could encourage kurdish separatists in their countries. another controversial independence referendum is set to happen tomorrow, in the catalonia region of northeast spain. tens of thousands of catalans are planning to vote in the banned referendum, even though police have sealed off many of the schools being used as polling stations. but supporters of the ballot barricaded themselves in schools last night and plan to stay there, to keep them open for voters. police have ordered them to leave by dawn. spain's constitutional court says the planned referendum is illegal, and spain's central government says the results will be invalid. in madrid today, thousands rallied for spanish unity, and against tomorrow's planned vote in catalonia.
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>> sreenivasan: on pbs newshour weekend sunday, did gerrymandering in wisconsin go too far? jeff greenfield reports on the case that's headed to the supreme court on tuesday. that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. i'm hari sreenivasan. good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: bernard and irene schwartz.
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the cheryl and philip milstein family. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. dr. p. roy vagelos and diana t. vagelos. the j.p.b. foundation. the anderson family fund. rosalind p. walter, in memory of abby m. o'neill. barbara hope zuckerberg. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. be more, pbs. ♪
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man: there are no borders when it comes to culture, when it comes to community. using artwork is the best way of taking away las fronteras. second man: mexico is a crucible. we have been part of a larger picture since pre-columbian times. woman: i picked up a kind of honesty of work ethic from mexico. it wasn't really about art, it was just about who they were and what they made. second woman: i see influences from oaxaca in los angeles. one of them is dia de muertos. third woman: my mexican heritage ties in with what i do today in the united states, making altars to carry on the tradition of remembering our ancestors. third man: at the textile museum, we don't believe in strict borders.