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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 24, 2009 6:00pm-7:00pm EST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. after months of wrangling, the united states senate has passed the health care overhaul bill. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, the vote sets the stage for tough negotiations with the house. >> woodruff: we examine the politics it took to get to this democratic win, what still lies ahead, and what the changes mean for americans and their health care system. >> brown: also tonight: after copenhagen, ray suarez looks at the debate over global
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warming's impact on public health. >> this for us is more than an environmental issue, it's more than a debate about targets or about how much it is going to cost. it is a debate about basically saving people's lives. >> woodruff: then, an update on yemen, where air strikes hit al qaeda militants today, including a radical cleric linked to the fort hood shootings. >> brown: and another look at one of john merrow's reports chronicling plans to reform public schools in washington, d.c. tonight, the debate over how to improve teaching standards. >> it's a terrible thing to say but ha of this past year ought -- half the staff here ought not be. they just don't fit into what we are doing here. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's "pbs newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour is provided by: >> what the world needs now is energy. the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change.
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what if that energy came from an energy company? everyday, chevron invests $62 million in people, in ideas-- seeking, teaching, building. fueling growth around the world to move us all ahead. this is the power of human energy. chevron. intel. supporting math and science education for tomorrow's innovators. >> bnsf railway.
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toyota monsanto. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: christmas eve morning brought a landmark moment in the u.s. senate today: democrats pushed through their health care reform legislation. newshour health correspondent betty ann bowser begins our coverage. >> reporter: senators began gathering before sunrise to make history. it was their first session on
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christmas eve since 1963. >> the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 3590. >> reporter: vice-president joe biden made a rare appearance in his formal role as senate president. and senators also honored the memory of the late edward kennedy, a long-time champion of health care reform who died in august. >> with senator ted kennedy's booming voice in our ears, with his passion in our hearts, we say, as he said, "the work goes on, the cause endures." >> reporter: and then came the long-awaited vote on the bill to extend coverage to 30 million people. >> mr. akaka. >> aye. >> mr. akaka, aye. >> reporter: the outcome produced no surprises, falling along party lines, 60 to 39. >> mr. alexander. >> no. >> mr. alexander, no. >> reporter: clearly exhausted from weeks of marathon negotiations, majority leader
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harry reid mistakenly voted no before realizing his mistake and changing his vote. >> mr. reid of nevada. >> no. ( laughter ) ( applause ) >> mr. reid of nevada. aye. >> the yays are 60, the nays are 39. h.r. 3590 as amended-- the patient protection and affordable care act-- is passed. ( applause ) >> through 24 days of grueling debate, republicans had done everything they could to stop the bill, and they warned it's not over. minority leader mitch mcconnell: >> i guarantee you that people who voted for this bill are going to get an earful when they finally get home for the first time since thanksgiving.
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>> reporter: but democratic leaders were triumphant as they spoke to reporters afterward. >> this is a victory because we've affirmed that the ability to live a healthy life in our great country is a right and not merely a privilege for the select few. i look forward to working with my friends in the house so we can send a bill to the president as soon as possible. >> this is probably the most important vote that every sitting member of the senate will cast in their tenure here. and i'm just proud to have been a part of it, and i thank my colleagues for staying with this. >> reporter: and president obama had his own words of praise at the white house. >> having passed reform bills in both the house and the senate, we now have to take up the last and most important step and reach an agreement on a final reform bill that i can sign into law. and i look forward to working with members of congress in both chambers over the coming weeks to do exactly that. >> reporter: while today's vote is seen as a big victory for the president's top domestic
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priority, getting a bill to his desk still presents challenges. the senate version now has to be merged with a more liberal bill passed by the house in november. for example, the house bill includes a government-run insurance option; the senate bill does not. and the house measure prohibits the federal funding of insurance coverage that covers abortions. the two bills also differ over funding the health care overhaul. the house would add an income surtax on the wealthy. the senate would tax high-cost insurance plans. the president said yesterday he supports taxing the so-called "cadillac" plans. and he told "the newshour's" jim lehrer he plans to be heavily involved in reconciling the two bills into a final version. >> we hope to have a whole bunch of folks over here in the west wing, and i'll be rolling up my sleeves and spending some time before the full congress even gets into session, because the american people need it now.
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>> reporter: mr. obama has said he hopes to have a health care bill on his desk before delivering his state of the union address early next year. >> we have been coughing the battles on capitol hill for "the wall street journal" and has more about the pitfalls ahead. and a half tali, thanks for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> woodruff: they've been at this for years, months on this particular piece of legislation, how big a deal is this. >> i actually think it's a hauj deal. for a century liberals have been fighting for something like this never before has even one chamber of congress come close to considering this and now you have both chambers passing it. you know, as recently as a few months ago after all the tea party demonstrations in august people thought it was dead. just a few days ago they thought senator nelson might leave the talks and they might collapse. so i think getting this through, whatever you think about it substantively as a legislative accomplishment really can't be minimized. >> woodruff: let's talk
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about some of these things that we heard in betty ann bowser's piece that have to be resolved before you get it completely finished. first of all, the public option. in the house language, there is a public option, a government-run insurance plan. the senate has something different, 50 state exchanges. how did that get worked through? >> i think that the liberals are going to have to give up a lot of what they want and what they care about in this legislation. you know, it passed the senate with no room for error. it got exactly 60 votes. 60 votes is what it needed. they can't afford to lose a sinkeldam crat or independent. with something like 9 public option i think the liberal democrats are going to have to accept the fact that if they want this bill they have to give up on that. >> woodruff: what are the political forces against the public option. i mean and how is that at play. as you say there is a delicate balance in the senate. no room for give? >> i think there is almost no room for give on the public option. harry reid tried almost everything. obviously the insurance companies don't want the public options. they see that as unfair competition by the government with what they do.
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but just from an ideaological perspective a lot of conservatives and the more sen trust democrats don't like this idea. and people like ben nelson, joe lieberman are refusing to give their vote to health reform if there is public option in it. and it is hard to see anyway out of that for the liberals. >> woodruff: let's talk about another area of difference. and that is how you pay for this. the house taxes a so-called cadillac plan, high, expensive health insurance plans. the senate imposes a tax on the wealthy. how expect to see that resolved. i have it backwards. the house taxes wealthy americans, the senate would tax the so-called high-end cadillac plans. how does that get resolved. >> well, cost, unlike certain other areas, you can split the difference and they may end up trying to mix aren't match but clearly the momentum now is with the senate plan, i think, of taxing the high-end insurance plans, that is something the white house said it prefers. there a certain sentiment that paying for this should come from within the health-care system. it just applying a
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broad-based tax on the wealthy doesn't make as much sense as trying to get those dollars from the health-care system itself. my sense is that is where it has to go. just in general because the senate passed it, with no room to spare, i think that the chances are that the house bill is going to have to become more like the senate bill. the senate bill can make a few changes but ultimately if they make too many changes to it they will lose a senator. they can't afford to lose enone. i think that is the dynamic we will see in the next few weeks. >> woodruff: among others, the labor unions are going to be screaming, are creaming, they don't want this change. they don't want those plans taxed. >> they don't want a tax. they feel their members have worked for years, bargained other rights to get these fairly expensive health insurance plans and the idea of now having them taxed is something that is very objectionable to them. and you know they have made some changes in it in the senate. they agreed to tax higher and higher-cost plans to exclude more and more of them. but union members have but ultimately there is enough support for this that my sense is that some version of that will ultimately pass. >> woodruff: one other area of difference of course is abortion. you have different language
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in the house from in the senate. how do you see that being worked through? >> well, when it comes right down to it the language certainly isn't that different. ben nelson, conservative senator from nebraska but a democrat insisted on fairly tough restrictions. in both bills women that want abortion coverage will have to write a separate check to get that coverage. in the house bill they have to get a dmeetly different policy which is something the senate senate doesn't have. but ultimately the differences are small and i think that they will have to try to find a way to ultimately this is going to come down to hard, political calculations. whatever they can do and still get 60 votes if in the senate and 218 votes in the house that is what they going to do. >> woodruff: the role of the catholic church in this. >> they have been very outspoken in a unusual way. the catholic bishops made it clear there is only some language they will accept and it may be they win on this one. this is one area where the house language prevails because if they insist on it, a lot of these house democratic members are simply not going to change. >> woodruff: all right tnaftali bendavid, from "the
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wall street journal." thanks very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: now let's look more closely at some of the major areas of agreement, and what these changes will mean for individuals, employers and insurers among others. susan dentzer is back to help us with that. she's the editor of the journal "health affairs," and an analyst for the newshour. susan, thanks for being with us again on this day that it passed the senate. so setting aside these differences that i just talked about with naftali, we know that some big things could change in american health care. let's start with just ode working american who has health coverage, say i work and i have coverage through my employer. how are thing goesing to change for me and my family. >> well, judy, immediately that is to say in 2010 presuming that this is signed into law next year, which looks like will be the case, there are some changes that go into effect that shore up and stabilize the health insurance market which even will help people who do now have coverage. for example, some things
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that insurance companies now are able to do, rescissions, that is to say they can cancel coverage on you if they have discovered that you have not necessarily told them about a preexisting condition or whatever. they can now rescind your coverage. that would be outlawed as of next year. in addition to that, certain benefits that people now have preventive benefits, wellness oriented things that people now have to make a contribution towards, for all new health insurance policies that would be issued starting in 2010, those cost-sharing arrangements as they are called would be -- would go away and in fact these people would not have to pay for this. >> woodruff: that is in the short term. >> that is in the short term. in the longer run, many, many more change was take place in 2013 and 2014 depending on whether the house or the senate version prevails. in effect, sweeping health insurance regulatory changes take place, not only will rescissions already have
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been taken care, preexisting condition restrictions will go away so that no insurer will be able to not cover you for a preexisting condition. they have got to actually insurance you if you have diabetes. they have to sell you a policy that covers your diabetes. and a whole array of those changes take place involving regulation of insurance at both a federal and state level that will really shore up insurance coverage for people. >> woodruff: let's talk about -- so i'm someone who doesn't have coverage right now. either because i can't get it through my employer or i just don't, i don't have access to it. >> again, short term and long-term changes. short term, for example, $10 billion under the senate bill would be put into community health centres so people who now go to those centers, largely lower income people. will probably be able much more easily access care through those entities. in addition to that, small, certain small businesses
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will get tax credits so that to the degree are you working for a small business that does not now provide coverage, possibly your small business will start to offer you coverage, again those are short term changes in 2010. then again when we get to 2013 or 2014, a large array of changes. dramatic expansion of the medicaid program so that thing el -- single adults largely, those who do not have dependent children who now don't have medicaid coverage will be able to access it. and all a total of 15 million more people are able to go into medicaid. then for other better off people they will be able to buy coverage through new insurance exchanges. either at the federal level or at the state level. and this will give people a choice of an array of products with a federal help depending on your income, tax credits to help support the purchase of the coverage. >> woodruff: quickly, some people still will not, even under this legislation, will still not be able to get health coverage. >> that's right.
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>> woodruff: and who are they? >> they will be people without will be able to claim that they need to be exempt from a new individual mandate on coverage that will go into effect starting in 2013 or 12014, people who can't afford it for affordability grounds. people who are in the country illegally will not be able to access -- will not have any provision of coverage. they will be able to get care in many instances through the community health coverage -- depending whether it is the senate or house version there could be as many as 18 to 23 million people without coverage at the end of the line. >> let me tick off a couple other groups i want to ask you about. what about health-care providers, doctors, nurses, obviously this a big subject of discussion. but what essentially will change for the providers? >> for providers, i think in the longer run, we're going to see emerging a number of very new and different arrangements under which people will be given their health care. and that will mean that many doctors, nurses, nurse
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practitioners and others will be practicing men's in different ways. they'll be delivering care through things that we call medical homes and accountable care organizations. arrangements lake that. in the nearer term, hospitals have agreed to give up some of the payment ineouss that they would normally expect to help pay for coverage. physicians, some primary care physicians under medicare in certain regions of the country that don't have a lot of doctors, are actually going to be paid more. so it's going to be a kind of mixed bag for providers. some will benefit. for many, life will change. >> woodruff: and there will be change, presumably for nurses, for physical therapists and other people who work in the health-care field. >> yes, and lots of effort to support education and training for people, particularly people who are in the business of providing primary care but who are not physicians, like nurse practitioners, scholarships, programs to shore up the national health service corps which gives people loans to go to medical school or other education
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and then practice in communities that don't have much access to medicine. >> woodruff: you mentioned some of the effect on hospitals. what about on the pharmaceutical industry. >> across-the-board many players in -- an array of health businesses are going to have to pay higher fees. insurance companies will be paying higher fees to contribute toward the cost of financing it. medical device manufacturers. pharmaceutical companys are fighting having some of those fees exacted on them. they also though under various different provisions are actually going to get paid less for the drugs they now make, particularly those that go to medicaid patients. so they will hurt. they have also agreed for people on medicare who fall into the doughnut hole, the pharmaceutical companys have agreed to sell those people branded prescription drugs at 50% discount to help make drugs affordable for people who are in so-called part d coverage in medicare and
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fall into this doughnut hole. >> that that point at which you breach it and you don't get coverage but then dow again. >> and finally very quickly, the insurance industry. >> the insurance industry sees an array of changes. a whole new layer, probably of federal regulation as well as all of these new state regulations. they also will see depending on the version of the bill, requirements that they have to pay out 80% or to 85% of all the premium dollars they collect, those have to be paid out in benefits, not in returns to shareholders, not in ceo salaries. if not, if they don't achieve that threshold, they have to give rebates to their policyholders. so they will be subject to a very large array of changes. >> woodruff: okay a lot for us to digest over the holiday season. >> indeed. >> woodruff: susan dentzer, thanks very much. >> great to be with you, judy, thanks. >> brown: and still to come on
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the newshour: global warming's impact on health; al qaeda in yemen; and teacher standards in washington, d.c. but first, for the other news of the day, here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. hari. >> sreenivasan: a huge snow and ice storm spread across more of the midwest today on one of the most heavily traveled days of the year. the slow-moving system left some people hanging on this christmas eve. they faced a deluge of rain, sleet, and forecast of up to two feet of snow in some parts of the country by christmas day. the national weather service issued blizzard warnings from texas up to minnesota. state police warned of dangerous conditions, and urged drivers to carry water and flashlights. >> if you're on a road and you see red lights, treat it like a school zone-- put the cell phone down, put your coffee down, both hands on the wheel, focus. >> sreenivasan: in kansas, winds gusted to nearly 40 miles an hour and visibility was nearly zero. one interstate was completely covered by ice. but it wasn't just roads that were frozen-- in nebraska,
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icicles clung onto power lines, and weighed down trees which dropped branches in some unlikely places. >> all of a sudden, i heard this big bang. and this is what happened. >> sreenivasan: there were also air delays all across the midwest, but some people made the best of it. >> i never spent the night in the airport, so i think i'll enjoy it. >> sreenivasan: nearly 100 flights in minneapolis were cancelled and dozens of flights were delayed. officials there were preparing for the worst. we're looking at total accumulations now through friday, 15 to 20 inch range there. >> sreenivasan: and farther south, heavy rain overnight knocked out power at houston's hobby airport. electronic ticket machines shut down, and travelers had to wait in long lines to check in manually. the storm, which tore through the southwest earlier this week, is expected to lurch toward an already slushy east coast by week's end. pope benedict xvi had a scare this evening as he celebrated christmas eve mass.
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a woman jumped security barriers in st. peter's basilica and knocked the pontiff down. the procession halted, and guards began running to the pope's aid. but he was unhurt and continued with the celebration. vatican officials said the woman was apparently mentally unstable. in the middle east, thousands of pilgrims gathered in bethlehem under tight security as singers, rock bands and dancers performed. bomb attacks across iraq took the lives of at least 27 people, as a major shiite religious observance nears its end. in hillah, south of baghdad, twin explosions killed 13 and wounded 74 others. most were shiite pilgrims on their way to the city of karbala. pilgrims and a funeral procession were also targets of multiple bombs in baghdad neighborhoods. the u.s. senate voted today to raise the federal debt ceiling to $12.4 trillion. the house already approved the increase of $290 billion over the current limit. it lets the treasury department issue enough bonds to finance government operation till mid-
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february. the senate vote was largely down party lines. there was encouraging economic news on this last business day before christmas. jobless benefits fell more than expected last week, and orders for durable goods rose in november. it was enough to bring good cheer to wall street. the dow jones industrial average gained more than 53 points to close at 10,520. the nasdaq rose 16 points to close at 2,285. for the week, the dow gained nearly 2%; the nasdaq was up 3%. those are some of the day's main stories. i'll be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you'll find tonight on the newshour's web site. but for now, back to judy. >> woodruff: now, we move on to the aftermath of last week's summit in copenhagen on climate change. yesterday, in his white house interview with jim lehrer, president obama acknowledged that he didn't believe the summit had been a complete success. >> people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in cop enhall -- copenhagen.
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what i said was essentially that rather than seeing a complete collapse in copenhagen in which nothing at all got done and would have been a huge backwards step, at least we kind of held ground and there wasn't too much back sliding from where we were. it didn't move us the way we need to. >> woodruff: tonight, ray suarez, who covered the copenhagen summit for the newshour, reports on one of the implications of deferring decisions on global warming-- the possible effect on global public health. >> suarez: there may still be some debate over what's causing climate change, but amid all the back and forth in copenhagen over economics and development, there was no debate about the fact that something's up, and that it's changing lives. the world health organization used the climate conference to press the point that a warmer planet will be a sicker one, and a less polluted planet saves lives.
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>> 2.2 million people die every year from diarrheal disease, which is highly sensitive to climate. 1.1 die from disease-- that's highly sensitive to climate. 3.5 million die from under-nutrition-- that's entirely dependent on agricultural production. all of those deaths occur in those parts of the world that are going to be most affected by climate change. so this, for us, is more than an environmental issue, it's more than a debate about targets or about how much its going to cost: its about basically saving peoples lives. >> suarez: diarrheal diseases, malnutrition-- those are poor people's diseases. the w.h.o. insists the health effects of climate change are not just a poor person's problem. >> americans will benefit a lot if you embark on a campaign to reduce carbon emissions. they will reduce cardiovascular diseases in a very important way.
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they will probably create a place or places with a less sedentary lifestyle. and thus, people will be less obese, which is one of the major problems we are having at the moment. >> suarez: but most climate scientists say we're still in the early stages of global climate change, and for now, the most severe effects of rising sea levels-- or too little rain followed by too much-- is among the developing world's major concerns. for example, a storm in bangladesh can drive millions of gallons of seawater inland, fouling water supplies and threatening farmland. >> ( translated ): its not just the cyclone. we're facing a disaster every day from water problems. >> suarez: kirsti ebi has written reports on climate change and health for the intergovernmental panel on climate change. climate change, the i.p.c.c. >> there was a recent workshop
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in bangladesh. as a part of that, there were field trips out to rural area where they were having saltwater intrusion, which is affecting the rice crops. and voluntarily, a farmer, an illiterate farmer, said "climate change has a taste. it tastes like salt." >> suarez: sudden, violent downpours will also be an increasing problem in wealthy countries with aging infrastructure. >> many of our communities combine stormwater with sewage, simply because its too expensive to separate these systems. >> suarez: dr. jonathan patz is the director of global environmental health at the university of wisconsin in madison, and also a lead author for the intergovernmental panel on climate change. >> every year, we get these combined sewage overflow events already, just with the type of rainfall intensity we get today. we have over a trillion gallons that overflow into surface water, so over a trillion gallons of sewage-contaminated
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water overflowing from simple rainstorms every year in the united states. >> suarez: one example of this is new orleans. hurricane katrina contaminated and shut down the municipal water system long after the storm had passed. but in places like haiti, contaminated water brings typhoid and even death. but as temperatures rise and climate zones shift, wont some places benefit as others suffer? sure, says jonathan patz-- the former soviet union will have a longer growing season, but he says losers will outnumber winners. >> a majority of agricultural areas will suffer, and the adverse effects will outweigh the beneficial effects. >> suarez: in developing nations, the increase in temperatures could affect the ability to be economically productive. as the world's poorest people try to work themselves out of poverty, the climates they live in are making it harder to work hard.
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dr. tord kjellstrom studies the effects of climate on work. >> and as the only way to protect your body from overheat and heatstroke, which may even kill you, is to actually slow down work. it means you are less efficient in the work you do. and you get less income. if you are an agricultural worker who is cutting sugar cane in nicaragua, for instance, you will produce less sugar per day if it's very hot and you get paid less. >> suarez: rising heat levels, according to kjellstrom, is an added tax on the poor, who must work longer hours in the hot months to maintain meager incomes. new seasonal patterns will force changes in daily life in the wealthy industrialized countries. declining air quality and extreme heat will force people, especially the elderly, to remain indoors. and more co2 will mean more allergy sufferers.
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>> ragweed is a major producer of allergy problems. >> suarez: dr. richard weber is an allergist at national jewish health in denver. >> and for the past several years, there have been reports coming out that the increase in co2 means that the ragweed plants grow more vigorously. they have more above-ground bio- mass, which in english means they're bigger. they start pollinating sooner, so they flower earlier and they produce more pollen, so there's an increase in the amount of pollen that's being released into the air. >> suarez: it doesn't end there. dr. weber said explosive growth in grass pollens after heavy rains will flood the world's emergency rooms with asthma patients. higher seas and higher humidity will bring more illness from mold spores. while scientists point to thinning ice sheets and endangered habitats, the w.h.o's
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maria neira has two basic messages she hopes will come from the conference and spur a change in global behavior. >> our message is if climate change continues, the health of the people will be affected. particularly, the health of the people living in very poor countries but also the people living in developed countries. the second message is to convince everybody that they need to do something about reducing carbon emissions. it is common sense thing. >> suarez: the question is, now that the copenhagen conference has pushed deadlines further into the future, will that message resonate with world leaders and change behavior fast enough to prevent what may be devastating health effects of global warming? >> brown: now to yemen, a growing focus of the fight
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against international terrorism. the government there launched air strikes against al-qaeda hideouts today, reportedly killing 30 militants, possibly including the group's top two regional leaders, and a figure linked to the fort hood, texas, shootings. the fort hood connection involved this man, anwar al- awlaki, an american muslim imam. it's believed he died in an air strike in the shabwa region, part of an escalating campaign against al-qaeda forces there. the fbi has said awlaki was contacted by u.s. army psychiatrist nidal hassan a year ago. last month, hassan allegedly shot and killed 13 comrades at fort hood, texas. yemen also claimed other key kills in today's air raid. the yemeni embassy in washington issued a statement, saying: "preliminary reports suggest that the strike targeted scores of yemeni and foreign al-qaeda operatives.
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nasser al-wah-hey-shee, the regional al-qaeda leader and his deputy, saeed al-shihri, alongside anwar al-awlaki were presumed to be at the site." saeed al-shihri was held at the u.s detention center at guantanamo bay for nearly six years; he was sent to saudi arabia in 2007. just last week, yemen carried out another strike on al qaida. according to some reports, planes fired american missiles to kill at least 34 suspected militants and an unspecified number of civilians. after that raid, a u.s. state department spokesman would not comment directly. instead, he reiterated u.s. support for yemen: >> we cooperate with the government of yemen and other governments around the world in fighting al qaeda and others, you know, practicing terrorism. >> reporter: in fact, the u.s. has given at least $70 million in military aid to yemen this year, a sharp increase from the past. the country, long a redoubt of
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al qaeda, has become a focal point of u.s. counter-terror strategy it's also been the site of past attacks on u.s. targets. the american embassy there was hit last fall by a coordinated assault including car bombs. and in october 2000, the destroyer u.s.s. "cole" was bombed in the port of aden by al qaida operatives. 17 american sailors were killed in that attack. for more on this we turn to christopher boucek from the middle east program of the carnegie endowment for international peace, and a frequent visitor to yemen; and glenn carle, a 23-year veteran of the c.i.a., including service as deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats, where he tracked terror networks like al qaeda. he retired in 2007. welcome to both of you. we are still waiting for more information about the result its of these attack what is known about the presumed targets, these leaders, how important are they? >> if this proves to be correct this will be a huge victory for the struggle against al qaeda in yemen. 9 people who are talked
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about as being targets, is the commander of al qaeda in the peninsula. the resurgent ala organization. the merger that was -- between saudi and al qaeda affiliates as well as his deputy commander who had returned from guantanamo. >> what would you add about the significance of these two in particular? >> i think it is a very significant development. certainly in the straightforward sense of any time you have an operational success and you get a senior member of al qaeda or affiliated group, that is a good thing. i think we may find that this is a more lasting impact than the many similar sounding successes, i would attribute the increase in terrorist attacks over the last two years or three years in yemen to al wahashi. i think his eliminate -- elimination will have a positive impact. >> i i -- i mejsed there was
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an attack last week and this. is there a reason they are happening now. >> i think the governor of the yemsen under incredible pressure to take action against al qaeda. >> from. >> from the united states and western allies and reg all ally, the saudis in particular are exasperated with the situation in yemen. as the situation in yemen deteriorates it is having an effect on the region. >> what about anwar al -alwaqi, what is his importance in the context of yemen. >> i don't know that he has particular importance in the context of yemen, really. i think the phenomenon of who becomes inspired to actually quit a jihadist terrorist act is clearly strongly linked to charismatic individuals. traditionally or normally this happens in direct human contact. it might be the captain of the soccer team that was the case in thailand and elsewhere, the casablanca also, the attacks there. with the internet one can have virtual charismatic
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individuals inspiring people to act and that is what we saw with ft. hood, i think. so it is a positive thing to have one-less -- one less charismatic individual prey ing upon souls, and for ymen in particular. >> do you have more to add on that. >> i think he is emblematic of a new generation of english language preachers, so people who don't have the access to arabic but in english. and i think is especially telling that for the last couple of weeks there has been suggestion that al -aqwi was not very involved in ski add terrorist but in places where other people were killed would suggest otherwise. >> now how big a threat is al qaeda in yemen and to what degree are they independent or indigenous actors and to what degree are they somehow tied to the people in afghanistan and pakistan. >> well, its -- the simple paradigm has been to view
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ala as coherent and have its networks that follow clear commands from ala central and someplace in waziristan. i think in this instance there are with ala and yemen, there are legitimate links and associations but one shouldn't think of it as a direct subsidiary taking orders and only acting upon the orders. so associations growing concern for the west, as iraq as a poll for jihadists winds down and the pressure in waziristan, afghanistan and pakistan increases, the increasing concern but not necessarily directly being a branch. >> how do you see their strength there, their threat to yemen? >> i think it is a huge threat. i think as the government in yemen has less and less ability to exercise its control throughout the complete territory of the country, you see that there is greater and
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greater spaces for ala, affiliated or aligned organizations to take route. this is what we see in yemen. there are more and more spaces as long as the central government in yemen is repreoccupied fighting the central war. >> fill in the picture bit a for us. the yemeni government this is just one concern for the government, now right. >> the yemeni government is facing a lot of challenges. they are fitting a civil war in the north against shi'a revivalists, a secretary sessionist movement in the south, al qaeda, plus the country is running out of money they are running out of oil, water, rampant inflation, unemployment. all of these things, there a fear will overwhelm yemen in the future. we might have thought that would be three, four, five years down the road but this yar is -- war is rapidly accelerating the collapse t is destroying the economy and that is what will doom yemen. >> last night we did a segment on somalia as a potential failed state and
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that sounds like what we are talking about here too. this one is on the border of saudi arabia. >> right. >> i think to pick up on one of the points about the safe haven and failed state issue , waziristan, northwest frontier provinces in pakistan and yemen as the second one are the two primary areas of concern, many places in the world the fear of a failed state, there is less there than our fear was lead us to believe. but in these two cases itly is something of real concern for policymakers and counterterrorism officials, absolutely. >> you said the u.s. was pushing for more action and as we said in our setup, the u.s. is give morning money now. is there a debate here in the u.s. about doing even more? >> oh, i think so. and i think i would hate to underestimate yemen's ability to absorb foreign assistance but the foreign assistance yemen gets is grossly disproportionate to
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the military assistance going into the country. counterterrorism training, training for the border guards and the coast guard. i think a big policy dia, however s that everyone knows what we want to avoid in yemen, state failure, state collapse. no one can tell you what that looks like in yemen and no one can tell you what it will be that will lead to state failure. so am coulding up with the prescripted policy measures is difficult. >> in the meantime do we expect more raids by the government with the help of the u.s. and the potential for retaliation, i assume. >> the answer is yes, it appears to me that the strikes in yemen by counterterrorism officials by yemeni and with american-saudi support is part of a coherent strategy, really, to increase the pressure on the safe haven of waziristan and now in the ungoverned parts of yemen . >> is there the expectation of retaliation is possible? >> oh, i think definitely.
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i think one of the things about today is i think there is talks that this may have been a meeting to plan out retaliation for last week's attack. and i'm sure there will be a response from ala. it will be a propaganda video or an attack or something. it is coming for sure. >> all right, christopher boucek and glenn carle, thank you very much. >> woodruff: now, the next chapter in our series about reforming the public school system in washington, d.c. the newshour's special correspondent for education, john merrow, has been reporting on this story for the past three years. tonight, we go back to the beginning of a new school year-- the fall of 2008-- when chancellor michelle rhee pushed a proposal that attracted national attention, on the question of teacher pay and performance.
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>> the hardest job i ever had and the hardest job in my mind that exists is being a teacher in the classroom every single day. >> in august, three days before school is opened in washington, d.c., chancellor michelle li addressed the city's 4,000 teachers and principals. >> we are going to change the face of public education in this country. >> reporter: it had been only 14 months since the rookie superintendent accepted the job of turning around one of the worst public school districts in the country. >> good morning. >> reporter: and in her whirlwind first year she closed 23 schools, replaced 58 principals and assistant principals, fired nearly 17% of her central office, and began a process known as restructuring in 27 schools that had failed to make sufficient academic progress. michelle's next target? teachers. >> if we have ineffective teachers in the classroom, the goal is to not have them
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in the classroom any longer. >> reporter: just 12% of washington's 8th graders are proficient in reading. last year principal nelson burton of coolidge high school told us how unhappy he was with his teachers. >> it's a terrible thing to say. but half of the staff here ought not be. they just don't fit in to what we are doing here. and i dare say, many of them won't fit into any program where they are trying to raise student achievement . >> reporter: ri granted burton's wish and more. as part of the restructuring effort she forced all teachers at coolidge to reapply for their jobs. out of 53 burton rehired just 17. but what is good for coolidge isn't necessarily good for everyone else. because when teachers leave one school, they don't automatically leave the system. ri is staking her success on her ability to change that. so far she has been able to push through her reforms because of the backing of
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washington's powerful mayor fenty without controls the school system. >> reporter: has he ever said no to you? >> no, no. >> reporter: never. >> nope. >> reporter: but the mayor can't help her now. to change how teachers are hired, fired and paid, ri needs support from the teachers themselves. >> i think there is an atmosphere of mistrust. >> reporter: george parker, a former math teacher is president of the washington teachers union. >> there is a belief that few of the fear that the chance of solution to improve in education is firing people. >> reporter: now for the first time since taking office, ri's plans may be in jeopardy. although she and the union have been negotiating since december, they have knot been able to reach agreement on a contract. she is offering the teachers a carrot, the chance to earn six figure salarys if their student does well. but there is also a big stick.
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tenured teachers have to give up job security for a year. then if their students do well, they get the money and they get their tenure back. but if not, they could lose their jobs. the way it works now in washington and just about everywhere else is that teachers earn money based on how long they've been in the system. right now a ten-year veteran with a masters degree earns just over $64,000. under ri's two-tiered proposal, teachers could stick with that approach putting that same teacher at $82,000 next year. but if teachers choose what is known as a pay for performance model and their students perform well, that ten-year veteran could earn as much as $122,000 in salary and bonuses. but some fear that exchanging job security for higher pay could open teachers to unfair firings. ri is already being sued by over 70 teachers claiming
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wrongful termination. >> clearly we are willing to move into flexibility that is needed in order to improve student achievement. what we are not willing to do is to move into unnecessary flexibility that is more geared towards union busting than it is student achievement. >> and so what i want you to do right now is to help give me some guidance. >> reporter: when the teachers got together in august, george parker seized 9 opportunity to gauge his members' support for ri's proposal. >> how many of you would like a contract that you can vote on with the two-tiered system raise your hand . >> i think that it would be -- with the vote i took i think it was probably two-to-one in opposition of what they have seen thus far. the younger teachers are much more in favor than the veteran teachers who have acquired seniority and acquired tenure and are less trusting. >> my action was that was a
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really dumb move. >> why? >> when you have a situation like that, what those people need is leadership. they need their union president to come out and say either this is the worst thing that we've ever heard and we all have to rally against it, or this is the right thing to do, and here are the reasons why. >> well, first of all the chancellor has the authority to make a decision and she only reports to the mayor. i report to 4,000 members. and ultimately they get to vote on the agreement. so it makes sense for me to say what do you think and what do you want. >> what was the result. >> it was --. >> reporter: parker is in the hot seat. teacher unions everywhere are watching to see what happens. even some his own members including the union vice president have attacked him publicly. >> it a tough position. i get calls internally from teachers who strongly support the concept of the two-tear system. i get calls on teachers who
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are strongly opposed. >> do you have any empathy for george parker, he's got a lot of -- >> oh, gosh, i absolutely feel for him. because he's in a very difficult situation. he's got a lot of pressure on him. >> reporter: nonetheless, she is keeping up the pressure from her side. >> the bottom line is that the union is going to have to decide whether they are going to accept my final offer and we're going to to roll this out in a tentative agreement or not. >> we will move forward with the negotiation process and at the point that if the chancellor feels like this is the end for me, then she will state that and we'll decide what to do following that. >> she has already said that. said take it or leave it. >> she said that to you. >> so this is it. >> we'll see. >> there's still negotiating. the union expects to vote this fall. but ri says that whether her plan passes or not, shell's find new ways to remove ineffective teachers.
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>> woodruff: that was in 2008. since then, contract negotiations are at a stalemate. in fact, both sides had hoped to reach a deal by the start of this school year. but as of this week, there are no new signs of progress. in our final installment tomorrow, john looks at how rhee is faring in her third year amid anger over her style and recent layoffs. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day: the senate passed a health care reform bill-- 60 to 39-- down party lines. lawmakers will now try to work out differences between the senate measure and a house version. and a huge snow and ice storm spread across more of the midwest on one of the most heavily traveled days of the year. the newshour is always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's there. hari. >> sreenivasan: on our web site tonight, you can compare the house and senate health care reform bills that democrats will try to reconcile after the holiday break. that's on our "rx for reform" page. also, check out our education site, "newshour extra." there are daily classroom
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activities, in-depth lesson plans, and opportunities for students to try their hand at writing and reporting. and finally, some good news from elkhart, indiana, the heart of unemployment country. paul solman went there earlier this year to report about manufacturing towns hard hit in this recession. he's posted a follow-up blog that shows things are looking up-- people are buying recreational vehicles again, and factories are hiring. all that and more is on our web site, >> woodruff: and again to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the iraq and afghanistan conflicts. we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are ten more.
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and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks, among others. have a happy christmas eve. thank you and good night.
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