tv PBS News Hour PBS October 21, 2010 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. the pentagon stopped accepting gay recruits today, just two >> warner: and i'm margaret warner. on the "newshour" tonight, mark thompson of "time" magazine has the latest on how the military is coping with the court-ordered back-and-forth on "don't ask, don't tell." >> brown: then, special correspondent betsy stark reports on a house contest in an ohio district battered by job losses. >> warner: we get a snapshot of how the sagging economy is playing among voters across the country. >> brown: and an overall campaign update called
"political notebook" with our political editor david chalian. >> warner: paul solman looks at an effort to uncover what's really in herbal supplements. >> in one of america's fastest growing and least regulated industries-- medicinal herbs-- what you see may not be what you get. >> brown: and we close with a conversation with haitian- american writer edwidge danticat on her new book-- a collection of essays, including reflections on her homeland after the earthquake. that's all ahead. on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: the military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell" on gays serving openly in the ranks was reinstated, at least for now. "newshour" correspondent kwame holman begins our coverage. >> reporter: in new york's times square, on wednesday, dan choi applied to re-enlist in the army. he'd been discharged for being openly gay last july, but the military had changed its rules on tuesday. >> we're still in a time of war and soldiers are still needed. able-bodied and patriotic americans regardless of their orientation are eligible to come on back and sign up to serve their country, openly, honestly and with integrity, acknowledging their partners, acknowledging their families and
their lives as full citizens. >> reporter: hours later, choi and others were back in limbo-- after a federal appeals court re-instated "don't ask, don't tell" temporarily. the policy has zig-zagged back- and-forth since september, when federal judge virginia philips, in california, ruled it violated the free speech rights of gays and lesbians..j then on october 12, the judge issued a permanent injunction barring the u.s. military from enforcing "don't ask, don't tell." two days later, the obama administration asked the judge to lift the injunction, while it appeals the underlying ruling. she refused, but last night, three members of the federal appeals court in san francisco did freeze her injunction at least, until next monday. in response, the military today
a new cbs news poll, released overnight, reaffirmed what other surveys found that a majority now supports letting gays and lesbians serve openly... president obama has insisted he wants the "don't ask, don't tell" policy repealed, but through congress and the executive branch, not just the courts. >> it has to be done in a way that is orderly, because we are involved in a war right now. but this is not a question of whether the policy is end-- will end. this policy will end, and it will end on my watch. but i do have an obligation to make sure that i'm following some of the rules. i can't simply ignore laws that are out there. i've got to work to make sure that they are changed. >> reporter: some conservative advocates, including tony perkins of the family research council, say they want the policy to stand as is. >> this would be detrimental to the military's mission at a time
when our military is stretched. this is not the time to begin a radical policy change. so, i think the fact that this judge is essentially saying she knows better than military leaders what's best for our nation's military is very troubling because that actually is a threat to national security. >> reporter: in the meantime, a pentagon review of how to end "don't ask, don't tell" is still under way, and due for completion in december. >> warner: for more on all this, we turn to mark thompson, "time" magazine's pentagon correspondent. mark, welcome back. so parse this for us, the new order that came out today. there was a briefing. what uses s this going to mean in practical terms. >> basically margaret, we're going back to the status quo ante with one big difference. from now on if you're a gay person, they want to kick you out, it's going to take the service secretary to sign off on that. it's going to go through a funnel of one person and they're going to be sure it's done shipshape and not in
embarrassing ways. basically "don't ask, don't tell" is back and the bar has been put back a little higher than before. >> warner: so is the intention to slow down these charges? just to make sure they're by the book? >> i think to make sure they're bulletproof. we're getting to a sensitive stage now, we've been there for a couple month and they don't want snafus. >> warner: now what about would be applicant who come to the recruiting stations as dan choi did yesterday or the day before and they say "i'm gay and i want to enlist." what happens to them? >> well, remember, when "don't ask, don't tell" came into being 17 years ago, the first half of that is "don't ask. requests the military stopped asking incoming recruits. so if incoming recruits come in now and they are gay and they keep their mouths shut, they'll be allowed to get in, as they have for the past 17 years. but if they volunteer they're gay, they're recruiting papers will not be processed. >> warner: how hard has it been for the pentagon to deal with this on again/off again policy from what you've heard from people at the pentagon.
>> they're fed up with the ping-pong nature of it. they did set up a construct to make it go as smooth as they felt it could go. it was a prolonged construct which some people argue isn't the way to deal with an issue like this. >> warner: the month's long review. >> yeah. the fact that may may want a year after the review to do the training before the ban is officially lift which had some folks are now arguing for. but the key thing is that the recent aberrations have been handle pretty much as smoothly as silk according to one army recruiter in their places. some folks have said "i'm gay, i want to enlist." that's now done and now we'll have to wait for this to go in full. >> warner: so what happens to those who came in the last two days and said "i'm gay and i want to enlist"? >> plainly as you know in the military, margaret, things don't move fast and those folks will not be allowed to enlist. >> warner: and do you happen to know if any gay service members out there serving did speak up and suddenly declare themselveses? >> well, some of the gay rights
groups have set up web site dedicated to looking at what secretary of defense bob gates called the enormous consequences if this thing were lifted abruptly under the judge's ruling and so far it's zero, zero, zero, zero. nothing has happened. this is the dog that has not barked. >> warner: what are is the status of the brorder review? they sent out these surveys to service members, nearly half a million, then their families. that was in the early midsummer. are those in yet? >> it's been collected by an outside firm. it soon will make its way throughout the pentagon. the sense i'm getting talk to insiders is this basically breaks down into thirds. a third of the body politic doesn't care. a third opposes it and a third is an advocate for lifting the ban. >> warner: this is within the military. >> the military it's going to be a little more warped. >> warner: or you were talking about regular polling? >> just general polling. but the marine commandant this weekend, john conway, said 95% of the... james conway, said 95%
of the marines he has taken surveys of do not want to serve with openly gay men and women. that is a stunning figure if that is what's going to be in the poll. the key question is what's going to be in the poll. if it's that high, they're going to have difficulty getting openly gay men and women to serve. but folks inside say listen, we think we've reached a tipping point, we think this is doable. there will be some problems but it looks like it can happen. >> warner: so on december 1, which was the deadline, or at least when secretary gates told congress he'd have something, will they have just the results of the poll and some sort of outlines or are they going to have a full policy recommendation laid out about how exactly they'd implement it? >> i think it will be a fulmen you of options saying this this is the best way forward, this is how we should do it. war war war war will they say we can do it or that there push back from the service chiefs? >> their mission is only how we should do it if the law changes, not should bit changed. so they're going to look for the
best path to undo "don't ask, don't tell." there is some sense that the service chiefs, especially the service chiefs, especially the service chiefs, especially the marines and the army, the ground force guys are slow rolling this thing. they don't want it to move out fast. they want it to take a long time. i mean it's interesting. the papers filed with the courts have said we have to train everybody before we do this. meanwhile, you talk to the generals in afghanistan who are saying my lord, we have more important things to worry about, this is the last thing on our minds so there is some sort of disconnect there. >> warner: so is that why you're saying they might be saying it will take us a year to roll it out? because there are so many things that would have to be changed everything from partner benefits to training, sensitivity training. >> yeah, that's the military's mine set. i mean, when rand studied this issue in 1993, the think tank, they said the way to do this is to do it immediately and with leadership. don't stretch it out and turn it into a taffy pole which is what it has become and that's allowed
all sorts of polarization to occur and we're reaping the fruits of that right now. >> warner: mark thompson, "time" magazine. thank you. >> brown: still to come on the "newshour": job losses and a campaign story in ohio; a wider look at the economy and the midterm election; our "political notebook"; the genetic footprint for some medicinal herbs and haitian-american writer edwidge danticat. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: there was word today a u.s. and afghan offensive is making gains against taliban fighters in their stronghold in kandahar. a report in the "new york times" said the advances are due mainly to a new mobile rocket and raids on insurgent supply lines. the operation began this summer. mass protests against pension reforms in france raged for another day. youths rioted in lyon, and police fought back with water cannons and tear gas. in paris, students marched peacefully, opposing austerity measures that would raise the minimum partial retirement age to 62 and the full time retirement age to 67. in paris, president nicolas sarkozy insisted the government will not give in.
>> ( translated ): i perfectly understand that people are on strike. there is a right to strike. we shouldn't be offended, and we shouldn't criticize. but no one has the right to take innocent people hostage in their daily lives. we cannot be the only country where, when there is a reform, a minority group wants to paralyze the others. this is not possible. >> sreenivasan: the senate is expected to vote on the retirement age question tomorrow. approval of the final text, by both houses of parliament, could come next week. the government rescue of mortgage giants fannie mae and freddie mac could end up costing nearly $260 billion. that projection today, from the treasury, is roughly twice what the two companies already received. it's also easily the most expensive bailout of the financial crisis. fannie and freddie buy home loans from lenders and sell them as bonds with a guarantee against default. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average gained more than 38 points to close at 11,146. the nasdaq rose two points to close at 2459. toyota is recalling more than
one and a half million lexus, avalon and other models around the world. 740,000 of those vehicles are in the united states. the majority may have a problem with a master cylinder that can weaken braking power. toyota has recalled more than ten million vehicles for a variety of problems over the past year. for a list of the affected models, you can log onto our website: newshour.pbs.org. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to margaret. >> warner: and to campaign julie philipp is host of need to know rochester. gene grant is host of a weekly political round table on public television in john kerry, new mexico. kathy lewis is host of hearsay with kathy lewis in hampton road, virginia and john myers is the sacramento bureau chief for
kqed public radio. let's start with the economic picture and then bring in the politics. gene grant, how about a snapshot of the economy there? things better than when we last talkd? >> a little bit. the snapshot is a bit of a mixed bag but we're holding steady on the unemployment rate. we're at 8.3% for the last reporting period of august, up just a little bit from 8.2%. not a big deal. we're adding jobs in some sectors. some sectors are starting to get... claiming a little bit. we're hemorrhaging some other jobs still but it's just not as bad. bankruptcies are a little bit up. foreclosures are holding steady. so we're holding tight here. it's actually not so bad as it could have been. >> brown: julie philipp in rochester, what do you see? >> in a word, static, the region is not really falling behind but it's not moving forward really at all, either. all of the job sectors, there's nothing to get excited about.
really it's sort of similar to what you just heard. what we are seeing, though, however, is governments are broke. nearly all of them looking at pretty significant deficits. you're seeing high poverty rates still and also we're starting to see the homeless shelters starting to turn people away at the door. so we are seeing some signs of strain even though the statistics show us holding fairly flat. >> brown: kathy lewis, hampton roads, you have the big military installations that play a big role there. >> one of every two of our dollars is generated by the defense community and we had a shocking bombshell in august with the announcement of the closure of the joint forces command. the economists at old dominion university anticipate that will be a ripple effect of 6,000 to 10,000 jobs, good jobs that average $60,000 to $80,000 a year and possibly up to a billion-dollar hit in the local economy. so we anticipate some real challenges around that. >> brown: john miers in sacramento, big state, lot of
campaign stuff we'll get to there but what about the economy? >> well, slow recovery is what we're being told by the economist. we're going to get new unemployment data tomorrow but the august numbers weren't good, 12.4%, one of the highest in the country. even beyond that we got a new statewide poll last night that i think shows how concerned people are about the economy. 62% of the people surveyed said they are worried about paying their rent or their mortgage in the near future and i think that doespeak to the concern, the fear among californians about this economy. >> brown: so let's connect the dots to the campaign we here in the midst of here. gene grant, i'll start with you again. how does this play out? pick a race or two specifically to tell us how... what you just told us about the economy plays into the race. >> well, the obvious one for us out here is the gubernatorial race. we have an open seat, our governor richardson is term limited out and so his lieutenant governor is running against susanna martinez, she's the republican candidate. she's the d.a. from the southern
part of our state that borders mexico. it's interesting. immigration was the word at the beginning of the general election. no one's even talking about it. it's all about jobs and all about economy and all about putting food on the table. we've just had some very high-profile cases where childrens services were cut, governor richardson is out of his discretion their moneys that he got from the federal government. he used the last little bit to shore up. but we've got some real problems headed our way. we've got a tough next spring. a lot of things are pointing towards a huge difficulty when the stimulus money runs out. our medicaid nut is growing hugely, 21,000 new members probably by the exact same time that money is going to run out. so this has become the issue in this race. and it's really very interesting. you're not hearing much on details except the typical waste, fraud, and abuse about how to chop down a $230 million deficit that we're having in our
legislature and our budget here. and so the issue is going to be how do you put public sector folks... we've hemorrhaged 4,100 government jobs out in the last 12 months. who do you... how do you absorb those folks? in the free market? we're not getting there yet. government jobs are not going to be coming back any time soon. so this is the issue in this gubernatorial race is jobs, jobs, jobs. >> brown: okay, and julie philipp, you've got a number of key house races up there, right? >> we have a lot of races and, really, for voters the economy is the only issue and the polls we've done, the interviews we've gone out and talked to people on the streets, all they want to talk about is the economy, jobs, taxes. and right now in new york state, in addition to some congressional races, there's about three that are either likely or could go from democrat to republican that are being watched very closely in those congressional races but we also have every statewide office from the governor on down is up for grab this is year as well as
ever seat in the new york state senate and the new york state assembly. so there are a lot of campaigns and all of them are talking about the economy. there's very little else in the discussions. >> brown: and kathy lewis, two years ago i was down there visiting with you in the midst of a race that was seen as a real bellwether for turning a red state blue and president obama was elected on states like yours. what's happening now? >> well, exactly so. and one of the candidates that many would argue road in on those coattails was democratic incumbent glen nye who was elected in 2008. he's fightináto restain his seat in a largely republican e race that everybody's watching. even across the country. there were six republicans lined up almost immediately after he was elected to run for that spot. in the end, one spun off as an independent, he was the former chair. in fact, you interviewed him back in the day, the virginia beach republican party. he's now spun off as an independent candidate, his name is kenny golden. and the republican candidate
wound up being scott rigell, a car dealer from hampton roads. the interesting piece where the economy has come into play a bit in this campaign has to do with this idea of deficit spending and the stimulus program. glen nye saying to scott rigell, wait a minute, you're a car dealer, you benefited for cash for clunkers. scott rigell saying "wait a minute, you vote with nancy pelosi so many percentage points of the time." and that seems to be one of those ads that you've seen replicated in races across the country. the nancy pelosi connection. >> brown: john myers, you got a lot of big races out there. how does the economy play into them specifically? >> it's been playing pretty well. it's interesting to hear about people talking about nancy pelosi in virginia because she represent this is area not far from here. she's not in trouble but the two races we're watching are the race for governor and the race for u.s. senate. governor's race, megawhitman, former c.e.o. of ebay who's on record here par to spend somewhere around $140 million so far on her gubernatorial effort.
jerry brown, the former and hopefully... he hopes to be aspiring future governor of the state. they're talking a lot about jobs. as i said, the economy is bad here. interestingly enough, the polling we got last night showing brown is up by eight points shows that while the voters think the economy is the number-one issue, they think whitman would be better on it-- the republican-- and yet they're still picking brown by eight point which is goes to show there's something there that the voters aren't comfortable with her. of course, the other race, the u.s. senate, barbara boxer, the incumbent, against carly fiorina, the republican challenger, former see you of hewlett-packard, jobs, the stimulus, president obama all of that very big here. one warning sign, boxer is up by five points in that race, jeffrey, but one warning sign out of the poll last night, president obama's approval rating among likely voters is now at 49% in california. and he's been very high here compared to the rest of the country. if those numbers start to be trouble for him, you've got to think they're trouble for boxer, too. >> brown: and, of course, john, you had all the kind of
budget woes there in california so that must all play into these races as well, right? in terms of what's to... what cuts are still to come. brown. >> especially in the governor's race, you're right. we faced a $20 billion problem last year. we're on the magnitude of somewhere $10 to $12 billion next year already. and you've got meg whitman, jerry brown, two very different views of how to do it. whitman is talking about jobs, talking about cutting government spending. brown is a little harder to pin down, talking about changing the rhetoric and the dynamic of partisanship and angry partisanship at the state capital in sacramento. remember, schwarzenegger was elected governor of california seven years ago promising the very same kind of things that meg whitman is promising to bring common sense and to cut spending and here we are later he's at a very low approval rating and we are still struggling with the state budget >> brown: so gene grant, just briefly here as we close out, are you getting sort of specific responses from the candidate when they talk about the job
factors or is it more sort of playing to this general anger that we keep hearing about. >> you know, it's... no, to answer your question directly, we're not getting specifics. the one thing they're on the record, both cants the lieutenant governor and susanna martinez is that they will not raise taxes. that's a big issue here. you know, in the past we've talked about things like sin taxes, we had a cigarette tax increase last session. however the lieutenant governor, the democrat, has said she's not going to consider raising taxes for the foreseeable future. and the republican candidate just saying no new taxing at all. so the big difficulty is going to be in a democrat-controlled legislature coming up in january for our session how is this going to play? are we going to all be seeing some form of tax increase to chop away at this and maybe perhaps get to some place where we can get b on better footing for jobs or taxes cleanly off the table. the specifics are yet to come.
we have another televised debate tonight. ma inwe'll hear something tonight. it's the last one scheduled for these two but nothing specific for either one of them. >> brown: how about in rochester, julie philipp? do you get specifics or just the general... >> depends on how specific you want to get here. they're all talking about property tax caps, restricting unfunded mandates, labor reductionings, zero-based budgeting, all those sorts of things but when you ask them what mandates would you cut, you you don't hear. how many positions would you cut, there are no answers. so, no, i wouldn't say we're getting terribly specific about the answers. >> brown: kathy lewis, brief word from you. how specific there? >> not. how brief was that. >> brown: (laughs) not like a radio broadcaster that you are very down to detail. and john myers, how about you? >> not a lot of specifics. i hate to repeat the same thing. you hear some things that sound specific but when you start trying to push through that, how are you going to create those jobs, you get a lot of "we'll
work on it." and i think that's probably true in politics in general. >> brown: thank you all four. john myers, kaye think lewis, gene grant and julie philipp. where's your notebook? >> i didn't bring a >> warner: now, we take a look at the broader pre-election trends and counter-trends nation-wide. our political editor david chalian joins us with his "political notebook." >> warner: there have been a number of polls out this week, the "wall street journal" was one, pew is another, and there seems to be a headline out of it which is despite the furious campaigning we're seeing all the ad it is democrat has been putting out that really the republicans retain their edge among likely voters. >> which is the key to any election, right? you want to screen the folks that are actually going to get to the polls and this is where that term "enthusiasm gap" that we've heard so much about this cycle exists. take a look at these pew research survey polls out today. if you look among registered voters, margaret, the republicans edge the democrats
346% to 42%, but that's a pretty close race. when you screen for these likely voters, folks that say they're definitely showing up on the polls, that goes to a ten-point spread, 50% to 40% of republican advantage there. so you're right, we see the president sort of barnstorming the country right now all focused on trying to motivate that democratic base and we're not seeing that in the polls. >> warner: another interesting thing, i thought, in the journal poll is that the president himself has become... it's become more about him this election. >> every president likes to say, especially when things are not going in their party's direction, that this election is going to be a choice between two candidates on the ballot, not a referendum. i cannot think of a midterm election that is not a referendum on the president, on the party in power. that's what they are. that's what midterm elections are by nature. and if you look at that journal poll, 69% of americans right now say their vote is going to be a signal either in opposition to
or in support of barack obama. but that his sort of... grading his performance is part of why they're voting, only 56% said that in august. so while he's out there, he is... although he likes to say it's a choice, his presence on the campaign trail just by its nature elevates that referendum side that this really is a chance for the american people to give barack obama a midterm grade. >> warner: now the democrats say they're still counting on their vaunted ground game to get out there and get those still maybe unenthused voters and their base to the polls, to get out and vote. how's that going? >> i thought this was one of the most interesting statistics we saw in the polling numbers today and the pew pole, that pew research center survey, they did phone calls that voters receive at home, you're talking about the ground game. voter contact by phone, 67% of republicans said they have received a campaign phone call. only 54% of democrats. four years ago when democrats were riding a wave and eventually overtook control of
congress, 45% of democrats had got an phone call at this point in the campaign, only 37% republicans, so you see this is the reality of that enthusiasm gap. this is what it means. it means that there are momore people willing to go out and volunteer and pick up the phone and call on the republican side. right now they're willing to do anything to get their vote recorded and to be active in this election. >> warner: so it's not just a matter of having paid phone banks. it really measures enthusiasm? >> without a doubt. >> warner: which then is a sort of vicious or virtuous circumstance? >> exactly. it feeds on itself in that way. you get more and more volunteers out there making the phone calls and obviously you can help your poll numbers. >> warner: all right. now let's look at how all this is playing out in the senate races. you've chosen 18 that you consider contested senate races. 13 of which the democrats currently hold and five republicans. >> right, which shows you how much turf they're defending, the democrats. these are the 18 most competitive races across the country right now and if you take a look here, you said 13 of them are currently held by democrats but we have nine of
these 18-- them-- i've already put into the leaning or likely republican column including such democratic states like wisconsin, north dakota, indiana, arkansas. i have four democratic-leaning states there, california, washington, connecticut, and delaware. and those yellow states, margaret, on that map, those are the key contests, you should watch them from now through november 2. they are the real tossups: nevada, colorado, illinois, west virginia, pennsylvania. but here's the thing. two of those blue states-- washington and california-- you just heard them talking about california. they're tightening up a little bit. they mayeir way into the tossup category. and the same thing with that red state of kentucky, that paul/jack conway race. that may inch into the tossup race. the races are getting quite tight in the senate and we may even have more come election night. >> warner: very briefly. the house races, bill mcinturf and peter hart who do their
poll, peter hart said he thought category four hurricane, mcinturf said 52 or 53 seat for the republicans. if the election today, where do you think it is? >> i would say the republicans have enough to get over that hump of 39. they need 39 seats picked up in their favor to become the majority party. we'll see how these last ten days play out. war wafer you're not even going to say... >> i don't know where the number will be but when you see that likely voter number and see that ten point spread in favor of the republicans, that tells you there is a big wave coming the democrats' way and right now i think it puts the house in jeopardy for them. >> warner: all right, david, thank you. >> sure. >> brown: next, "newshour" correspondent paul solman on a project aimed at determining what's really in herbal supplements. >> reporter: though we rarely do consumer stories, at the new york botanical garden not long ago we happened on one we just
get relief from their menopausal symptoms, but many other studies showed there were no effects whatsoever. in addition, reports in the literature of severe liver damage, muscle damage and vein and artery damage from the use of black cohosh, and the summary of those articles suggests that it's not from black cohosh but from adulteration of black cohosh. >> reporter: and how did you react to the apparent contradiction? >> i started to think: what were they really using? >> well, i think if you buy it from a reputable store or if you buy a reputable label you hope that this product is what you're getting. >> reporter: but that might not always be the case. black cohosh is a species in a whole family of plants, many of which look alike and can confuse even experts-- a far cry from, say, the putative memory aid, the herb gingko biloba.
>> there's not any plant out there that looks like a gingko. a gingko is a gingko is a gingko. >> reporter: but, says botanist dennis stevenson: >> black cohosh is one of these plants that's collected in the wild and if i'm not a trained botanist, i go out and it looks like cohosh, i'll get a bunch of it and sell it to the supplier and then we're all happy. >> reporter: that sounds rather casual. >> well, it is. but these kinds of mistakes can happen fairly easily. >> reporter: to remedy cases of mistaken identity, stevenson is working on a quick and easy way to identify plants genetically. instead of mapping all of an organisms d.n.a., he and his colleagues are zeroing in on single genes. >> we call it d.n.a.-barcoding because we sort of liken that to the barcode we see in the storeg as a unique signature for a product. >> reporter: just four amino acids-- a, g, c, and t, are the building blocks of all life. but every species has at least one unique d.n.a. sequence.
>> if i found that signature i would know that i had that species as distinct from all other species on the face of the earth. >> reporter: now, d.n.a.- barcoding has been getting some high profile press of late. a couple of years ago, two high school students used it to uncover the fishy truth about new york sushi. >> one of the most striking results was we had something labeled as white tuna and it was actually mozambique tilapia. >> reporter: kate stoeckle was inspired to do the project by her dad, a molecular biologist. >> half of the restaurants, and six of ten grocery stores sold one or more items that were mislabeled. >> reporter: inspired by sushi- gate, stevenson looked into herbal tea. >> almost all the herbal teas, to have enough in the little packet, have a filler. >> reporter: filler? >> yes. >> reporter: you mean like hamburger helper. >> right! it ends up the filler is chamomile. >> reporter: chamomile? >> yes, and it's kind of interesting to know that because this filler isn't listed on the box.
in other instances, the fillers were grass or the whole tea sample was just grass. >> reporter: grass like that grows? >> grass like mowing your lawn, right! not the other grass! >> reporter: but stevenson soon moved beyond tea. >> we wanted to build a large database that would cover the thousand or so species used in dietary supplements. >> reporter: this is a $25 billion industry, according to baker, famous for loose regulation. so stevenson and baker agreed to collaborate and start with black cohosh. they sliced and diced eye of bugbane, toe of snakeroot, if you will, and eventually, they came up with a bar code, then they went shopping. >> we went on the internet, we ran around new york and long island, and just walked into stores and got 26 different black cohosh. >> reporter: or at least, 26 different preparations labeled as distinct black cohosh brands. all were subjected to the bar coding test. >> reporter: so 26 samples, and the results?
>> 30% had no black cohosh at all. >> reporter: none? >> none. >> reporter: baker did the tests anonymously, looking for general, not specific results. and what he found could explain the variation in the research outcomes, he says. but dr. jack killen, of the agency that funded the governments black cohosh tests, says he's sure his samples were authentic. >> i think we have a great deal of confidence that the variability we see in the research is not attributable to sometimes the black cohosh is there and sometimes it isn't. >> reporter: at this point, we decided to buy our own samples and have them tested-- not just black cohosh, but a couple of other best-selling herbs-- gingko and ginseng, both of which stevenson's lab had already d.n.a. barcoded. we bought only four samples of gingko biloba, that supposed aid for-- what was it again? oh yes, memory.
and four samples of ginseng, thought to enhance other sorts of performance. >> there's one species, the north american species quinquefolius, panax quinquefolius, is the preferred ginseng around the world. >> reporter: because it's supposed to have aphrodisiac powers. >> yeah, it's supposed to have, be the most effective. >> reporter: admittedly, our sample size was too small to be statistically significant. but surely, all the ginkgo would be gingko; ginseng, ginseng. and the lab agreed to do the test, so why not? the results also reported anonymously? get this: only two of our four ginseng samples seemed to contain ginseng, and even that was the asian species, not the preferred north american variety. the other two contained some complex mixture of d.n.a., none of which could be confirmed as ginseng. the four supposed samples of the ubiquitous, unmistakable gingko tree? one was legit.
another, an exact d.n.a. match for common rice. the third, a complex mixture of d.n.a., none of which, the lab report said, resembled gingko biloba d.n.a. and the fourth contained no plant d.n.a. at all. our black cohosh samples did better. seven out of eight did contain the plant, but one did not. of 16 supplements, then, bought at random from major retailers in the washington, d.c., area, six were suspect, or outright frauds, prompting one last question for dr. baker. so dietary supplements are the wild west of self-medication. >> that is correct. >> reporter: a sobering thought, especially as the role of government regulation again becomes a matter of national debate. >> warner: paul's reporting is supported by a grant from the sloan foundation, which also
funds some d.n.a. bar-coding research. >> warner: we hoped to have a story about the close contest from a house seat from ohio but we've had some technical difficult tease. we'll air that piece soon. instead, an encore look at the connections between obesity and geography. health correspondent betty ann bowser reports on the prevalence of so-called food deserts in the south. >> reporter: the small towns of the mississippi delta have a tempo of life all their own. the landscape is dotted with rural enclaves like lambert here in the northwest part of this state, population 1,700. it's the kind of place where everybody knows each other. ♪ lord, today is fine... >> reporter: on sunday morning, the good book rules supreme. so people here have no trouble getting their souls nourished. the problem is getting
nourishment for their bodies. lambert is what's known as a food desert because finding a place that sells good fresh food is like looking for a needle in a haystack. if you live in lambert and you need groceries, your only option is this convenience store. on the day we were here, there were no fresh fruits or vegetables, a few cold cuts, and the prices were high. the department of agriculture says 23.5 million americans-- including 6.5 million children-- live in low-income areas more than a mile from a supermarket. life long resident jennifer hoskins says it's not easy to find healthy food for her family. >> it's really hard because when i was coming up, we had greens and gardens and all that but now you have to buy produce so it's real hard for the kids. the majority of them, they eats like pizzas and that's obesity.
>> reporter: like so many delta towns, lambert was once the heart of a thriving farming community in whitman county. most of its residents are african american and descendents of sharecroppers. as farm workers were replaced by machines, many found work in nearby textile mills. but over the past decades, those jobs have also dried up. today nearly half the town lives below the federal poverty line. >> when a person was growing up in this town, everything was here. we had dry goods store, we had a grocery store, we had a pharmacy. we had all that. a doctor's office. now there's nothing here. >> reporter: exseptember in a few cases, the food that's grown in a few... in a few... in a few... here is rarely eaten here. that's because the rich farmland is used to grow commodity crop is used to grow commodity crop is used to grow commodity crop s that are shipped out. the closest grocery store is over three miles away and even there produce is pricey and locals say often the pickings
are slim. we weren't permitted inside with our cameras. it's more than a 20-mile drive to get to a store with better and less expensive selections. and in this part of mississippi, there is no public transportation, no taxis. in american food deserts, gas stations, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants are the only places to buy something to eat. and when money is tight, the dollar menu at the local fast food joint is tempting. at the only mcdonalds in whitman county, the salad menu isn't served. so it's burgers, mcnuggets and the like. >> the variety of foods that are available are poor quality nutrients. >> reporter: dr. al rosing is the district health officer for 18 counties in northwest mississippi. he's been working as a public health official in the delta for 40 years. >> i had a malnutrition problem
when i arrived, i have a malnutrition problem now. back then it was the absence of food or the unavailability of food that was the problem. and now i've got this abundance of food. >> reporter: the problem now, rausa says, is that the food people eat is loaded with calories and fat and they're leading more sedentary lives. medical studies show that people who live in these food deserts have higher rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes than those in areas served by mainstream grocers. >> we can't tell people to buy fresh food if there's no place to buy it, right? >> reporter: first lady michelle obama has zeroed in on food deserts as part of her signature campaign to end childhood obesity. and the obama administration pledged $400 million to help underserved areas. last month, she visited the state's capital, jackson. >> if you've seen it, you know
how hard it is, so we've got to make it easier. we've got to eliminate food deserts and make sure there are more grocery stores and farmers markets in communities. >> but it's not all bleak. a group of local growers and community organizers has s trying to expand farmers' markets in the delta and get their produce into local school cafeterias. farmer cornelius toole is part of an effort to help students grow their own vegetables. >> we've just got to teach our kids about healthy eating and teach them where food comes from and teach them what they need to know about it. >> reporter: and at the new mount zion baptist church in lambert, pastor michael jossel and his wife evelyn don't... do their part. >> we don't just grow vegetables for ourselves because our children are grown, basically. we grow enough vegetables to feed the entire congregation, especially the elderly. we have a healthier congregation
initiative. we partner with other congregations in the community. we are growing a community garden. that's on a larger scale. we're not going to change it overnight but i think if we are consistent and do it collectively and collaboratively i think we can make a difference. >> reporter: while locals pray government incentives will encourage mainstream grocers to come to their communities, they know the solutions to changing their food landscape of the delta won't come easy and won't come from washington alone. >> brown: finally tonight: reflections on haiti and the life of an immigrant writer. the earthquake this year put haiti once again into the international spotlight, and, again, in the harshest of circumstances. the country's plight through the decades has led more than a million haitians to leave and live elsewhere. one of those was edwidge danticat, whose fiction and memoirs have explored the
disconnections of history and place in and outside her native land. she's done so again in a new book of essays, "create dangerously: the immigrant artist at work." edwidge danticat came from haiti to the u.s. at age 12. she now lives in miami. welcome. >> thank you. thank you for having me. >> brown: "the immigrant artist at work." one theme here is you've left but in some ways you can't leave. what explains the hold of this place? >> it's an extraordinary hold. i think when you come from a place that is so full of joy on one hand and so full of pain on another, it's very hard to leave it even if your body leaves it. my parents used to say as soon as we got here that we left haiti but it never left us and that certainly has proven true. >> brown: what comes through here very strongly, though, is that it is a kind of fraught, tenuous relationship, right? a feeling that you belong but don't belong. of writing of something you know but you don't know. >> well, the thing, is i think most artists have this feeling of being outside the experiences
because we're writing whether we live in the country or not of a place of our imagination. but being outside of a country,s specialfully the time of great crisis offers definitely a sense of tension, of pull and tug and wanting to be there but realizing that on the daily life way of it you're not there. >> brown: well, explain that. take in the wake of the earthquake, the biggest thing to have happened. how tid that change the equation for haiti? how did that change the equation for your relationship? >> well, it changed it a great deal for haiti, certainly. the physical landscape and the psychological landscape, if you will. but for people outside, people like me who lost family members, who still have family members in very difficult circumstances it suddenly became more than a... certainly more than a subject, something to write about. it became something very real in terms of actually locating people so as an artist, there's that moment where you're frozen. i kept thinking in the first
days maybe i should have taken my father's advice and become a doctor that perhaps i might have been more use informal that way. >> brown: it's interesting because it plays into something you're open about, the sense of guilt. you are writing as an artist, as a writer, about the experience of people going through lots of tragedy. and the impact that has on you. >> and on me and in others. albert kamu, who i borrowed the title from, wrote that art in a way is a deceptive luxury. and any artist in any culture, the fact that to be able to create, you're allowed... you have to allow the time. there's a friend of mine, a haitian writer who says that the great haitian novel would be about hunger but if one is hungry you can't write a novel. so there is that guilt of having that type of luxury that so many ... when so many are longing for basic necessities. >> couric: there's a lot of
beautiful parts here but one essay called "walk straight" about a visit you make back to your ancestral village and the one surviving relative who still live there is. your aunt? >> yes. my aunt. >> brown: it shows how striking it is. how familiar and unfamiliar, how close and yet far away in distance and time. >> yes, because it's my father's side ancestral village. it's about a two-day walk before the motorcycles that are so common in haiti and when i went there to see my aunt, she was the last person to have stayed and i remember after walking two day there is and i told her "i want to be buried here when i died" she said "who's going to care you you all that way? so there's that visit to her it's striking, the idealization. you idealize what you're going to happen and you face an elder, someone who live there is sometimes and slaps you straight with a very real fact of the distance, the physical but also
sometimes the ideological differences. >> but you go as... you said, as a visit. you're a visitor, right? someone who's going to then go back to your own life. >> well, it's... it's a visit in the sense that my daily life is elsewhere but it's also a homecoming. >> >> brown: so what is it that you want to convey of haiti in your writing that we don't getb in news reports? >> i wanakwx/
>> sreenivasan: there's more from "patchwork nation's" dante chinni about ohio's 16th district on our politics page. we look at life in somalia through the eyes of npr reporter frank langfitt, who has been on the ground there. he's narrated a photo essay for us. and for something very different-- we have an update on the science of the moon. nasa and a team of researchers reported today that the lunar surface not only has water but also has a long list of chemical compounds left behind by comet and asteroid collisions. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm jeffrey brown. >> warner: and i'm margaret warner. we'll see you on-line and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks, among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> i do a lot of exercise, but, basically, i'm a runner. last year, i had a bum knee that needed surgery, but it got complicated because i had an old injury.
so, i wanted a doctor who had done this before. and united healthcare's database helped me find a surgeon. you know, you can't have great legs, if you don't have good knees. >> we're 78,000 people looking out for 70 million americans. that's health in numbers. united healthcare. >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy productive life. 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