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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  October 12, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, firefighters struggle to contain the flames ravaging northern california. with dozens already dead, shifting winds force thousands more from their homes. then, i speak to puerto rico's governor about the island's painstaking recovery. he responds to president trump's criticism that the u.s. territory might be asking for too much. plus, after congress fails to repeal obamacare, the president takes health care into his own hands, signing an executive order. and, author ta-nehisi coats looks back on the obama presidency and how it paved the way for what he calls the "first
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white president." >> the difference with president trump is that he was able to make the identity and the entire program of a black president who preceded him central to his own identity. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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celebrating 100 years of travel together. >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. 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.
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>> woodruff: the toll in the california wildfires is rising tonight as search teams check the charred ruins. officials have confirmed at least 29 deaths, in a storm of fires that erupted sunday night. mina kim of pbs member station kqed has our report. >> reporter: hour after hour, the flames keep marching across acre after acre of northern california's wine country. some 8,000 firefighters spent a fourth day on the fire lines today, fearing forecasts of winds gusting to 45 miles an hour. but, they may have caught a break. >> well first off: the good news really is the wind event that was predicted to blow through the night and today didn't materialize quite the level as
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predicted. so that gave us a better opportunity to have more containment on our fires. >> reporter: the threat was enough that officials in napa county have now evacuated the entire town of calistoga, more than 5,000 people. >> please keep us in your thoughts. to the callistogans out there who are scattered around, stay strong. >> reporter: many of those calistogans sought refugee at american canyon high school in southern napa county. karen ingalls got a call at 4:30 yesterday morning from a neighbor, saying they were all being told to leave. she's already lost her art studio in another city to the fire. >> reporter: donna hardy came to the shelter with four of her neighbors. it's depressing. lots of times you think worst. but if you're sitting and having a good time, making new friends,
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it makes you hopeful. >> reporter: >> reporter: in sonoma county, where the tubbs fire ravaged the city of santa rosa, families members are still searching for scores of loved ones. yesterday jessica tunis last spoke to her mother sunday night. >> she's coughing, coughing and i'm telling her i love her and she tells me she's going to die, she can't get out of her house, she's going to die. and then the phone call drops and i can't get her back on the phone. >> reporter: today, tunis got the news that her brother found her mother's body in her santa rosa home. sonoma sheriff robert giordano: >> identification is going to be hard. so far in the recovery, we've found bodies is not more than ash and bone. we'll do everything in power to recover people and i promise you that we'll handle remains with care and get them back to people. >> reporter: lieutenant governor
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gavin newsom visited the region today, and acknowledged the toll on life and property. >> we do know that the impact is permanent. this is without precedent in my lifetime. >> reporter: what caused the spate of fires is still under investigation. the "san jose mercury news" has reported that power lines sparked some of the fires, after they blown down by gale-force winds. the reports say sonoma county emergency dispatchers got calls about lines falling and transformers exploding, shortly before the fires broke out sunday night. in a statement, the utility, p.g.&e., said high winds and vegetation growth "contributed to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines across the north bay." as smoke clouds the sky here, and the fire battle goes on, officials are now voicing concerns that fires spreading from sonoma county could merge with ones already burning here in napa county. for the pbs newshour, i'm mina
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kim in napa county, california. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, the house passed a $36 billion relief bill for areas hit by hurricanes and wildfires. more than half the funding goes to the federal emergency management agency, including up to $5 billion to help puerto rico. >> we've got to do more to help puerto rico rebuild its own economy so it can be self sufficient, but at the moment-- this is why i'm going down there tomorrow-- there's a humanitarian crisis that has to be attended to. >> what we're talking about now is emergency relief, there's going to have to be relief right now, there's going to have to be recovery, that's a whole other, shall we say, budget. >> woodruff: the bill also earmarks about $16 billion to cover flood insurance claims in texas and florida. and, nearly $600 million will go toward fighting wildfires. president trump signed an executive order today aimed at promoting greater choice in
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health insurance plans. it lets small businesses form associations to offer scaled- back plans at lower costs. they'd be exempt from obamacare requirements to cover so-called essential benefits. we'll cover this in detail, later in the program. the president has formally nominated kirstjen nielsen to be his new secretary of homeland security. she'd worked for then-secretary john kelly and moved with him when he became white house chief of staff. mr. trump introduced nielsen today, and praised her experience. he said, "there will be no on-the-job training for kirstjen." the u.s. justice department today singled out five jurisdictions for allegedly giving sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. the city of chicago and surrounding cook county, illinois, plus new orleans, new york, philadelphia, now face an october 27th deadline. they have to show they're
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cooperating with immigration officials, or risk losing federal grants. the u.s. and pakistan have announced the release of an american woman, her canadian husband and their three children. they'd been held five years by the militant haqqani network, linked to the taliban. caitlan coleman and joshua boyle were shown in two hostage videos after being captured in afghanistan in 2012. relatives learned of their release today, in ontario, canada. >> we were told the wonderful news that our family had been rescued. and then 20 minutes later, we were allowed to actually talk with josh. that's the first time in five years we got to hear his voice. it was amazing. >> woodruff: details on how the family was freed were not immediately available. but president trump said it shows many countries are starting to respect the united states again. rival palestinian factions fatah
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and hamas announced a new attempt today to heal a 10-year breach. hamas agreed to return control of gaza to fatah by december first. fatah already controls the west bank. the agreement was brokered by egypt and signed in cairo. it also calls for reopening a key border crossing with egypt. the united states is formally withdrawing from the u.n. cultural agency unesco. the state department says the decision take effect at the end of next year. washington halted funding for unesco in 2011, after it voted to recognize palestine as a member state. experimental gene therapy to treat a rare form of blindness moved a big step closer to federal approval today. advisers to the food and drug administration unanimously recommended the approach. it improves vision in patients who go legally blind because of defective genes. the fda has until mid-january to make its decision. and on wall street, the dow
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jones industrial average lost nearly 32 points to close at 22,841. the nasdaq fell 12 points, and the s&p 500 slipped four. still to come on the newshour: puerto rico's governor on the island's recovery efforts. what the president's executive order means for your health care. hundreds of thousands more rohingya muslims flee myanmar, and much more. >> woodruff: puerto rico's recovery from hurricane maria remains very slow, and outright alarming, for many on the island. it's also increasingly the subject of a political fight with the president. p.j. tobia begins with this report. >> reporter: it's been three weeks since hurricane "maria" blasted the length of puerto rico,
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and the people of the u.s. territory are just beginning the long journey to recovery. >> ( translated ): well, we are hoping they will build us a new bridge because the road to get out of here is very uphill. it takes like an hour and a half or two hours to get out of here. >> reporter: as they struggle, the political fight over their fate is escalating. president trump has mentioned the cost of rebuilding puerto rico, as when he visited the island nine days ago. >> now i hate to tell you puerto rico but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack. because we've spent a lot of money on puerto rico and that's fine. >> reporter: today, the president tweeted: "we cannot keep fema, the military and the first responders... in puerto rico forever!" the president has also repeatedly traded verbal fire with san juan mayor carmen yulin cruz. she's publicly criticized the federal response as too slow. in her own tweet today, cruz slammed mr. trump's latest words as "unbecoming" to a commander in chief. she said he seemed to be acting more as a "hater in chief." puerto rico's governor, ricardo
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rossello, has generally made approving statements of the federal effort. today, in response to the president, he tweeted: "the u.s. citizens in puerto rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our nation." later, the white house chief of staff, general john kelly, addressed the dust-up. >> we will stand with the puerto ricans until the job is done. the tweet is exactly accurate-- they are not going to be there forever. >> reporter: meanwhile, most puerto ricans are a long way from returning to normal lives. as of this week, more than 80% are still without power, just 37% of cell phone towers on the island have been restored to service, and nearly 6,000 people remain in shelters, unable to return to what's left of their homes. nearly 40% of the island's residents still don't have access to drinking water, and even for those who do, fears are building about the safety of that water. the u.s. environmental
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protection agency warned on wednesday that some people may have been getting water from hazardous superfund sites, and it also reported raw sewage is seeping into waterways in places like catano, on the northern coast, it raises the prospect of disease outbreaks. >> it's very difficult for the people around here, besides whatever they lost here, you know, they are not healthy. >> reporter: on top of that, there've been reports of hoarding and black marketeering. governor rossello has ordered an investigation of aid distribution. and, he warns there will be "hell to pay" for any who mishandle the effort. for the pbs newshour, i'm p.j. tobia. >> woodruff: a short time ago, i spoke with the governor of puerto rico, ricardo rossello, who was at the convention center in san juan. governor rossello, thank you very much for talking with us. were you upset when you saw president trump's tweets today? >> i wanted clarification. that's why i called immediately to the white house to make sure that we got some clarification on what the statements meant.
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you know, we have heard the president, the vice president, they had come over here to puerto rico and established a commitment to be with puerto rico for the long haul. so the response was in the affirmative. i spoke to chief of staff general kelly, and he expressed that, yes, they will be here for the long haul. yes, they will treat u.s. citizens that live in puerto rico equally to those that live in texas and in florida and other parts of the united states. so i called upon him for clarification, and we got it. >> woodruff: how do you interpret what the president meant when he said, "fema and others can't be there forever." have you been give an limit on the time and resources they're prepared to spend? >> my job is not to interpret. that's why i asked directly.
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they said in the context of any recovery effort that would be quicker, that would reach their people to normalcy would be better. of course our situation is very complex here in puerto rico. i know that the president, state governors and congressmen understand this, and that is why we need all of the resources and all all hands on deck at this juncture. >> woodruff: the governor also tweeted governor rossello that this was financial crisis of puerto rico's own making. and he went on to say that puerto rico's infrastructure, electric grid was a disaster before the hurricane. do you agree? >> well, we did... we were in a fiscal crunch. there is no doubt about that. we have a fiscal oversight board in puerto rico. i arrived in office about eight months ago and started working on a fiscal plan that was very aggressive, that would empower our economy to grow. but it is true.
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there were a lot of fiscal limitations and challenge, but we were addressing them. but certainly there was weak infrastructure. that's why i'm asking for us, instead of rebuilding, putting back the same grid over again, let's take this moment to invest that capital into making a better grid, making puerto rico look as it should, not as it looks in the past. >> woodruff: well, there are now reports, governor, of people hoarding supplies, of maybe there being a black market, of local politicians playing favorites. how much of that is going on, and what are you doing about it? >> well, two things. we heard about that and immediately took action. here's what we did: we started deploying national guard to all o the municipalities to help with the distribution in case it was a circumstance where the mayors were just not executing properly. secondly, we sent out certain people from our treasury
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department to make accountability of what was being distributed. and thirdly, i ordered investigations from the federal prosecutor and our department of justice to investigate if there were, in effect, hoarding by public officials. and my petition was clear. if there is hoarding, there was going to be hell the pay by those officials. i should state that a lot of the mayors and a lot of the local leadership is doing a phenomenal job, but certainly if some are not and the resources are getting there and they're not being distributed to the people, you know, severe action needs to be taken. >> woodruff: separately, governor, you've come under some criticism for understating the problems that your hospitals face. can you set us straight on that? >> i'm not understating it. as a matter of fact, i think we have a significant problem with our hospital. we've been able to elevate them to functionality, so they can have, you know, running water, electricity, and is forth, but
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it is a very poor system. it's going to take a long time to reestablish it. that's why the proper resources to come the puerto rico are essentially. certainly public health emergencies and assuring the people that they have access to good quality care and hospitals is a longer term potential problem. we want the make sure we address them. the status of our system is frail. it depends on energy. we have generators empowering most of those hospitals and that's not a sustainable solution. so what we are focusing on on this now immediate run is to make sure that we can reestablish a fully functional hospital, not only the hospitals but dialysis centers, homes for the elderly and is forth. so it is by no means a system that is doing well. it is stabilized somewhat. but if we don't act appropriately and with the proper resources, it is a system that could collapse.
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>> woodruff: finally, governor, the there is some suspicion that the death toll, which is now at 45, could be much higher than that. could that be the case? >> it could be. we've been saying this since the death toll was about 16. then it went up to about 3 and so forth. right now we're making all of the assessments to make sure that we have all of the information from our forensic centers, from our hospitals, from, you know, from the different towns to make sure we have access to that direct and indirect death toll from the hurricane. so we're updating it as quickly as possible. we have meetings every day with the different stakeholders. and, of course, our hope is that it doesn't rise too much. but certainly after a devastating hurricane such as this, category 5, hilting the whole of the island, we're estimating hundreds of thousands of houses completely destroyed
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here in puerto rico. you have to brace yourself for the reality that that number could certainly increase. >> woodruff: well, governor, we certainly wish you the very best with the ongoing recovery efforts. governor ricardo rossello, thank you. >> thank you so much, judy. >> woodruff: since the efforts to repeal and replace the affordable care act failed on capitol hill, president trump has repeatedly taken steps to undercut and undermine the law, which he calls a "nightmare for the american people." in recent weeks, those steps have included: shrinking the enrollment season for the individual insurance market. substantially cutting money for programs that sign people up. threatening to cut subsidies for insurers and exempting more employers and businesses from providing birth control
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coverage. today, he signed an executive order that could trigger the biggest changes yet. william brangham has the story. >> brangham: the president's executive order makes two principal moves: it changes the rules over what are called "association health plans"-- these would allow some small businesses to buy cheaper insurance plans that provide fewer benefits and protections. it also expands the time frame for what are known as "short- term insurance plans," which are usually used by people as a bridge between jobs. under the obama administration, these plans could last for just three months. president trump expanded those plans to a year. critics argue these changes will pull younger, healthier people out of the a.c.a. marketplace, leaving behind older, sicker people who will then face higher prices and fewer options. the president, however, argued these changes were crucial to help save an already troubled marketplace: >> premiums have gone skyrocketing. but today, one third of all the
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counties in america have only a single insurer selling coverage on an exchange and next year it looks like only half of all counties in our country. think of that-- all of the counties, one half-- will have only one insurer. and many will have none. >> brangham: these changes of course come just weeks before the next round of enrollment for the a.c.a. begins. what does this means for health care policy in america? we turn to avik roy, president of the foundation for research on equal opportunity. he's a senior advisor to the bipartisan policy center and was a health care policy advisor for republican presidential candidate mitt romney. and andy slavitt. he's also a senior advisor at the bipartisan policy center. and for two years, he served as acting administrator of the centers for medicare and medicaid services under president obama. gentlemen, welcome both to the news hour.
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andy slavitt,'d like the start with you. today you described this executive order as long on propaganda, short on details, plenty of sabotage. i wonder if you could explain. >> thanks for having me on, william. i think what's important to understand is the executive order is a first step in trying to do by fiat what congress refused to do in repealing the aca. it essentially, as you described it, will set up two pools, a set of rules for insurers who will be lightly regulated and be able to offer insurance products that don't have to contain the services like ma turnty services, and then the other pool of services, which will be the aca plans, which will, because they will also sit right aside the other plans, we know what will happen, the prices of those plans will go up, and it will make it much more expensive for folks to get coverage some we'll have to see the details. this first step, though, looks exactly hike what we expected.
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>> brangham: avik roy, you have been a critic of the affordable care act plan in the past. i wonder what you made of this move today? >> i would say this executive order is like raindrops on a rhinoceros. it's not going to have much of an effect at all. the association health plans that allow small businesses to pool together to form larger pools, that already exists. there are groups called professional employee organizations or peos that can do that already, that can pool small businesses to buy health insurance in bulk. that's not going to have that much of an effect on the market. the point about these short-term plans, all the president has done here is revert back to the rules that were in place a year ago under president obama. it was only as the president, the last president, president obama, was leaving office, that they restricted the length of these plans to 90 days. before that you could buy these plans up to 364 days. all the president has done here is revert to those preexisting
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rules. >> brangham: andy slavitt, you heard this, raindrops on a rhinoceros. why are you so concerned if it is so minor? >> i think what's going to happen, we have some experience with this, is that, look, if you're young and healthy and a 27-year-old male, insurance price will come down for you. i think that's one of the things you're trying to solve for, you know, you'll have more options. that is not our biggest challenge right now, and if president trump is really concerned with bringing premiums down, what will happen is if you're... if you have anybody sick as a small employer or if you are in an aca plan and the people who are young and healthy are going to these 364-day plan, which is basically a loophole, then your premiums will get more and more expensive some these are not actions today, to be clear, that are in any way going to help people afford coverage. they're going to help some
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people get lower-cost, lower-quality plans, and they're going to leave other people if trouble. that's why the american cancer society came out very strongly today and said they believe it endangers millions of cancer patients and their families. >> brangham: avik roy, what do you make of that? the trend if you provide these cheaper plans that are enticing to younger, healthier people, those people will move out of the ac a marketplaces and create a two-tiered system where sicker, older people are in one and younger healthier people are in the other. >> this is such an important point. i'm glad you asked the question. people who are younger and relatively healthier, that is a huge policy problem under obamacare. there are millions of people whose premiums who have doubled and tripled on average because of the regulations in obamacare some they need some kind of relief. this executive order provides a limited amount of relief. in terms of the question about sicker people and how they get coverage, if their income is eligible for subsidies on the
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obamacare exchanges, the value of the tax credits, the value of the financial assistance they get will expand even if the premiums go up. so they won't be affected at all. this is a way to provide relief to mill qlons are now priced out of the market while preserving protections for those who want them in the traditional obamacare exchanges. >> brangham: andy slavitt, isn't the concern there though that insurance companies will then pull out of those markets? >> that's right. i think the cbo estimated in the past that if something like this, which was an amendment proposed by ted cruz, were to make it into the final bill, what president trump was talking about today, where some of the markets only have one insurer, many of them would abandoned the post and say, it's really not worth it for us to offer coverage anymore. so while i respect avik's point, the reality is at any income level, the ability to get access to these products is going to go away. remember, before the aca, the majority of women in the country could not get maternity coverage
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unless they got it through their employer. mental health likewise will be in very, very short supply. so this is something i think is going to create public health challenges very significantly. and if it's allowed to be implemented. remember, this is just a direction from the president. we're going to have to see what happens when this goes to the department, and to see if they can find a way that's indeed legal and complies with state regulations to put some of these things forward. i'm not so sure that it is. >> brangham: avik roy, what about this concern: we know when people buy health insurance, they don't often look at the details of their plans. if there is a creation of a lot of plans with less protections and less coverage, people may buy them, think they're covered, and find out when they get sick that the policy doesn't protect them. do you worry about that at all? >> i think it's a useful point. yes, you should have plans where people understand what they're buying, but that is different from saying the federal government should determine in a very narrow way the only kind of
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insurance you can buy. basically the way obamacare works is you can buy any pickup truck you want as long as it's green or any car you want as long as it's green. there are very limited choices in terms of the kind of insurance you can buy. so, yes, it's important to have a consumer friendly structure so people can understand what they're going to buy, but it's also important to have choice. if you don't have choice, you don't have competition, and you have much higher costs. that's the problem that obamacare has faced over the last four years. >> brangham: avik roy, andy slavitt, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: stay with us, coming up on the newshour: author ta-nehisi coates reflects on the racial backlash from obama's presidency. a stunning new film about poverty and childhood. plus in its 100th episode, the man who inspired our "brief but spectacular" series.
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now, what's been called a "text book case of ethnic cleansing" in myanmar. that is how the united nations high commissioner for human rights describes what has befallen the rohingya ethnic minority. in a new report, the u.n. agency said government forces and buddhist extremists have executed a "well organized, coordinated and systematic" campaign of human rights violations against the muslim rohingya in myanmar's rakhine state. an estimated 520,000 have fled their homes for neighboring bangladesh. myanmar's defacto leader, the nobel peace laureate aung san suu kyi, called for national unity today and said she had created a committee that will oversee all international and local assistance. we turn now to eric schwartz. he was assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, and is now president of refugees international. he recently returned from
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bangladesh. and daniel russel was a career foreign service officer and served as assistant secretary of state for east asian and pacific affairs. he's now a senior fellow at the asia society. and we thank you both for being with us. eric schwartz, to you first. you just did return from bangladesh a few weeks ago. what was your main takeaway? >> my main takeaway, both for policy reasons and moral reason, is we have to come to grips with the enormity of these crimes. a population larger than atlanta, larger than miami has been forced out of their homes in a matter of five weeks. the testimonies we received were heartbreaking of systematic firebombing of villages, people being shot systematically when they tried to flee, cases of sexual violence that as a father of two girls was one of the most
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difficult sets of testimonies for me to hear. and the starting point for me has to be absolute outrage. we have to recognize the enormity of this situation. >> woodruff: daniel russell, i don't think anyone doubts that this is going on, despite the denials of myanmar's government. and we know there has been discrimination of the rohingya for a very long time. but what is the source, the explanation for this kind of violence against them by the majority? >> well, the context, judy, is a series of very long-standing ethnic insurgencies and hostilities between communities. but to eric's point, look, the starting point may be outrage, but we can't stop there. we have to collaborate to find a way to stop the violence. this is an appalling humanitarian crisis. we have to find a way to protect the displaced people and engineer their safe return and to design a pathway for the two
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communities to live and work together. >> woodruff: i want to get to that in a minute, but eric schwartz, i still want to understand what explains the extreme violence that's being visited on these people. >> with all due respect to danny's comment, the idea that insurgency is the route of the problem in rakhine state is nonsense. this is not insurgency. there are parts of burma where there are insurgent issues. this is not an insurgency-driven conflict. this is a pretext that the military has given us by all evidence. but i agree, this is the result of decades of discrimination against a muslim minority population in a back to buddhist majority country. it goes back for decades. unfortunately the civilian leadership has not been very helpful in addressing this issue of discrimination. >> woodruff: daniel russell, during the obama administration,
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was there knowledge that this kind of thing was going on, could be going on when the opening was created to myanmar? >> yeah, there have been over the span of many decades tremendous tension and outbreaks of violence between the rakhine community and the rohingyas. the civilian government under aung san suu kyi is first administration in burma in decades to try to come to grips with this problem. but aung san suu kyi has only been in power for 18 months. the constitution doesn't give her authority over the military, and there is no solution to the problem that doesn't involve helping to ensure that the civilian authority exercise armed forces. >> woodruff: eric schwartz, there are a lot of questions about aung san suu kyi and why she hasn't been more outspoken
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about this violence. what is your understanding of why she has not been? >> well, i think you have to ask her why, but my concern is that while it may be understandable that she is not going to be the pointy edge of the spear against the military's action, but it's very tragic and unfortunate that she serves as an apologist for the military. she made statements on september 19th about the fact that there was no discrimination in education or healthcare in rakhine state. she said that they wanted to find out whether there was evidence of human rights violations, a sort of woeful ignorance. now, i think the real question is what do we do. unless the international community is prepared to take strong measures, sanctions against the military, a demand that aung san suu kyi list to take people back is matched and there are international
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observers in rakhine. otherwise nothing is going to happen. >> woodruff: daniel russell, what would you add to that? what does the international community need to do, and what more can act andrew do? >> this is a country that less than ten years ago refused international assistance in response to cyclone nargas which was devastating to the country because of the degree of paranoia and isolationism, xenophobia. so it's no small matter politically for aung san suu kyi to work to help build conditions that will allow for the safe return of the rohingya, allow for pathway to citizenship, and allow for development of this impoverished area, all of which she said that she seeks to do. >> woodruff: well, it is a horrific situation now. i know we are going to continue to watch it. gentlemen, thank you for being with us. daniel russell, eric schwartz, thank you. >> thank you, judy. >> thank you.
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>> woodruff: now some perspective on the presidency of barack obama and the election of donald trump. hari sreenivasan has this latest addition to the newshour bookshelf. >> sreenivasan: barack obama's 2008 presidential election was historic for many reasons, but for all the firsts, the eight years of the obama administration also fueled a backlash that strengthened many of the political and social divisions within the country. now comes some perspective on those years. we were eight years in power: an american tragedy, is a collection of essays from the national correspondent for "the atlantic," ta-nehisi coates. he joins me now. let's start with one of the things you talked about in the epilogue. you called trump first white president. from the president's responses to charlottesville, to the n.f.l. protest, to his word choice in responding after
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maria, how do you process all that? >> well, it's really predictable as far as i could see. when i used that title of the president, it's not the identify any physical feature, you know, hair, eye color or fairness of skin or anything like that. obviously we've had plenty of presidents that checked white on their census form. but the difference with president trump is that he was able to make the identity and the entire program of a black president, who proceeded him, central to his own identity and his own program. for instance, his political campaign began. look at the data in term of who his base is, what his base believes. i think he's pretty much living out exactly what the core of his base actually wants. i wasn't surprised by that.
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ism one of the essays is the limits that existed on the obama presidency. are there any limits that exist on the trump presidency. >> that is a great question. i haven't seen them yet. i haven't seen them. i'm sure there's something he could do that would be completely unacceptable, but i have to say, you know, being caught on tape bragging about, you know, grabbing, molesting, celtics si assaulting a woman, i think a lot of people thought that was a limit. you know, i think several things that have happened, and i think one of the scary things that -- scary things about this moment is those moments are quickly boken down. what happens to the next president and the president after that? what is the message about norm. s for the presidency after this? >> woodruff: you say eight years in power. the american tragedy is another part. when you look at the statistics for black americans, they didn't necessarily prosper under obama. black middle class wealth is staggeringly low.
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black home ownership is at record lows. >> right. i have no set of defenses for obama on that score. when i think about credit, the big thing i think about is the criminal justice system. i think at the end of his term, even though there are folks who would say, and i think they're right, that he waited to the end to use his power of clemency, he granted clemency to more folks in federal prison than all of his predecessors combined, some ridiculous number of people. the ability to see disturbances in ferguson and have the justice department go down there and investigate those disturbances and produce reports, that's something that's sorely missing now. you're correct, he didn't get to the deeper set of problems, and i'm kind of mixed on whether i should hold him to account. we have a wealth gap in this country between block and white for every nickel an african american family has, a white family has a dollar. that is a huge, huge chasm. perhaps he could have done more
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to close that. >> brangham: i ask that partly because there is this almost mime that says, well, the first black president existed. black families should be doing well. even know there is almost a tying in to celebrity exceptionalism. we saw even after the n.f.l., the comments of these athletes, they should be so lucky as to have the privilege to earn these millions of dollars. >> there's a lot there. the first thing i would say is that situation that i just outlined for african-americans where you have a 1-20 ratio in terms of wealth, that didn't come from one white president. that's several white presidents over the course of centuries. that's how we got there. it wasn't the act of just one. it's actually that one would undo it. i think that's a bit unfair. in regards to the celebrity exceptionalism or n.f.l. athletes, what's amazing about that is this is... nobody feels the same way about the owners. the owners who are billionaires to athletes who are millionaires earn the money, but the players
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should be grateful for their millions. and i don't really understand that. it's not... it's a very, very different standard being applied there. >> sreenivasan: we see in these eight years your writing style evolve and probably you saw that i involve. it is also strange to recognize now that given that you are a published author, you've had these essays, that people kind of forget about you lean years that you introduced us to in the book? >> well, nobody knew. so i can forgive people for forgetting. what is difficult is those lean years have formed my identity. i've been writing now for 21 years. the majority of that time was spent in lean years. so that's like how i see myself. when i go our there, other people don't see that. it's probably unfair to expect them to see that. but for me, like i have difficulty seeing what they see. i guess i should say that.
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>> sreenivasan: you have a black panther comic series, a screenplay, a secret novel you're working on. i wonder, is your gaze elsewhere? are you thinking about the world now as critically as you might have been in the last eight years? >> i don't think i am, to be honest with you, hari, to be straight with you. i don't think i am. this was a... these last eight years, it was the culmination of a long journey that started in west baltimore. i looked at, you know, my neighbors and my family, and i saw how they were living and then i would turn on the tv and see how the broader country represented itself and see how different it was. i always wondered why. i think i have some good answers now. i guess we probably have a set of questions now that you would be answered in other forms and about other things total. >> sreenivasan: coates, the book is "we were eight years in power." thank you for joining us. >> thanks so much.
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>> woodruff: and now, a new independent film opening this weekend spotlights a community not often seen in cinema and has been racking up the accolades. jeffrey brown has the story. >> okay, i warned you, one drip and you're out. >> oh come on. >> out now. >> it's going to melt outside. >> it's melting inside too. >> brown: "the florida project" follows a rebellious little girl named moonee and her friends over one mischief-making summer outside orlando. >> these are the rooms we're not supposed to go in, but let's go anyways! >> brown: but this is not the orlando of disney world's "magic kingdom". instead, moonee and her young, single mother live in a run-down motel called "the magic castle". >> it's only the second week of summer and there's already been a dead fish in the pool. >> i've failed as a mother moonee, you've disgraced me. >> yeah mom, you're a disgrace.
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>> i would say it's like the little rascals 2017 in many ways. >> brown: independent filmmaker sean baker co-wrote and directed "the florida project." >> my whole career has been inspired and influenced by the little rascals. i think it's because they used to play in syndication on local new york television so i would come home from school and see these episodes, two or three after school every day. and they just stuck with me. >> alfalfa, did you brush your teeth? >> yup, both of them. >> brown: the little rascals was a series of shorts that first debuted in 1922 as part of the silent film era. in the '50s they were repackaged for television, following a band of children-- spanky, alfalfa, buckwheat and others-- always seeking out a new thrill and finding lots of trouble along the way. >> they were set against the great depression, lots of the characters in the little rascals were actually living in poverty. but, they never focused on that. they focused on the universal traits of children.
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i thought that was beautiful. >> brown: in similar fashion, "the florida project" is told through the eyes of children but shows a community living on the margins. >> if you're working, who's looking after moonee? >> you're not my father. >> i don't want to be your father. >> brown: a young mother struggling to pay rent and care for a daughter who's free to roam the parking lots, abandoned homes and the swamp around the motel, always a stone's throw from disney's gilded wonderland. >> excuse me miss, could you give us some change we need to buy ice cream. and the doctor says we have asthma and need to eat ice cream right away. >> brown: it's not what audiences often see in theaters today, either in subject matter or story structure, and can feel almost like a documentary. >> there is a story. i mean, we're used to hollywood filmmaking almost insists that we have a three act structure, and character arcs, this and that. we tried to break that a little bit by just-- we want the
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audience to feel as if they're actually spending the summer with moonee. summers aren't exactly plot driven. we eventually do get there, and there's an unfortunate inevitability that we're leading towards. but, if there is a plot, it's disguised. if there are act breaks, they're blurry, the lines are blurred. >> i will go with you under one condition. you must promise there isn't going to be any drama. >> i promise, i promise. >> brown: the 46-year-old baker first gained attention for his 2015 film, "tangerine" about a transgender sex worker upset that her pimp and boyfriend has been cheating on her. much was made of how baker shot it-- on an iphone 5s. and it was another film set against a fantasy-world backdrop, hollywood, with a community living on the margins. >> i think i'm drawn towards underrepresented stories, under represented communities and subcultures.
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it's my response to what i'm not seeing in u.s. cinema. but, i don't think it was so much of a conscious thing. it was more of like, i feel that these stories should be told because i want to know more about it. it gives me the opportunity to learn more about other people. >> brown: this time baker shot on 35 millimeter film and cast a big supporting name in willem dafoe, as the motel manager. he found one of his leads, bria vinaite through social media-- he thought she looked the part. she'd never acted before. that made the seven-year-old brooklynn prince, who had done some acting, the veteran. >> i would be a little bit nervous, but sean, willem, brooklyn, everyone on set just always made me feel really confident and comfortable. and because of them i just felt like i had the confidence to do it. >> brown: did you, once you got to know each other, did you feel like you were creating the scenes yourselves? >> yeah. it felt like we didn't even need to be an actor, we just were
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ourselves the whole movie. and sean was very honest about improvising, he's like, "let's stick with this line." or, "that's a good line but maybe we should do this word instead of this word." and it would be just really fun, it's like another world. >> i really love mixing it up. i love combining seasoned actors with first timers, and with non- professionals. three different groups. what happens-- it's a strange, wonderful, alchemy. >> brown: and yet inside that sense of spontaneity are very real "issues" baker wanted to tackle. >> using the term hidden homeless might scare some audience members away. they might think this is going to be a heavy handed, very melodramatic film. it's actually quite a digestible one because what we're trying to
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do is have audiences, hopefully, embrace and love little moonee. but, at the end of the night, when they're going home, they're thinking about the real moonees who are living in the situation. >> brown: from washington, i'm jeffrey brown for the pbs newshour. >> woodruff: next, we ring in the 100th installment of our weekly "brief but spectacular" profiles. the series was created by steve goldbloom, who conducts every interview off camera from around the country with his producing partner zach land-miller. their intention is to invite viewers to walk in someone else's shoes. steve booked a special guest this week, his grandfather richard goldbloom of halifax, nova scotia, who helped inspire the show's title. he describes his experience with memory loss and what it feels
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like to forget. >> this is our 100th episode of brief but spectacular, i'm steve goldbloom. >> and i'm steve's favorite grandfather, richard goldbloom. >> it's very fitting that you are the 100th- it's very fitting that you are the 100th guest on brief but spectacular. >> i'm flattered. >> you know why? >> because i'm a 100 or nearly? >> well, you are close to a 100 years old, which is amazing. you know how old you are? >> no. >> you're going to be 93 this year. >> my god. if i had known i was going to live this long, i would've taken better care of myself. >> it's fitting because you titled this series, you came up with it. do you know that? >> i think i remember that. >> because the story that i tell is that i went to synagogue and left. >> that's correct. >> snuck out, came back in, and what did you say? >> i said you had made a "brief but spectacular appearance". >> i wanted to ask you a couple of questions not just because you're my grandfather and i love you, and i, you know, look up to you. >> can i get that in writing? >> no. >> part of what i wanted to ask you about is that you, right now, are going through memory loss.
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>> change of life, yes. >> change of life. and things that you used to do for yourself, like manage finances, drive a car, manage medicine, other people do for you. >> right. >> and i wanted to ask you if that bothers you at all? >> no, i consider the alternative. >> what is the alternative? >> being dead. so i'm quite happy where i am. >> yeah. >> if i can remember where i am. >> do you know what we're doing? >> i have no idea, but keep talking. >> we're going to look at this camera here, and we're going to do it on three a big clap. >> right. okay. >> right in front of your face. ready? one, two, three. just one clap. what does it feel like to forget? or does it feel like anything? >> well, there's some things i'd rather forget, in that case, it's a blessing. and otherwise, i learned to live with it, you know, people remind me like, when to get up, when to go to bed, things like that. >> do you remember when you
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stopped driving? >> uh, did i stop? >> you stopped driving, yeah. >> i didn't know that i don't particularly miss it, people drive me everywhere. >> tell me the role that arts and music has played in your life. >> i grew up with a lot of music in my environment. and i took to the piano very readily, i played by ear before i ever had a music lesson. i still play, but mostly for my own, own amazement. >> tell me how lucky you feel to have had to have the kind of marriage that you have, which is extraordinary and lasted more than 60 years. >> that is true. that was a test of my wife's endurance and it was a great lifelong love affair. she was a very acute assessor of other people.
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she was very good to me. she recognized all my shortcomings and discussed them with everybody. >> when she passed away, how did that change your life? >> oh, dramatically and forever. i mean, i still miss her a lot, and in that sense, you know, something vital is gone in life. >> and you still think about her every day? >> pretty near every day, every once in a while, i take a day off. >> what do you still take pleasure in? >> life. my name is richard goldbloom and this has been my brief but spectacular take. >> woodruff: you can watch and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff.
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join us online and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> 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. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh
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>> rose: welcome to the program, we begin tonight with bob schieffer of cbs news. >> what has happened is we're now basing our opinions on separate sets of facts. we're no longer have common data that we're basing our opinions on. so is it any wonder that the partisan divide grows deeper and wider. >> rose: and we continue with hari sreenivasan of the pbs newshour. >> 40,000 people a area die in car wrecks. last year the estimate is 5 3,000 americans died of opioid overdoses. i mean these are numbers that are staggering for any country. but this has been happening for the past several years. the numbers have been increasing. and they might even go higher this year and the feks before it gets any better. >> rose: and we conclude this evening with mac dem