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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  April 12, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: new tensions with pakistan, as islamabad demands that the u.s. limit c.i.a. involvement and halt drone strikes on the ground. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, we look at what the growing rift could mean for the war on terror and relations between the two allies. >> ifill: then, ray suarez finds out what's really in and what's out of the contentious federal budget deal with naftali bendavid of the "wall street journal." >> woodruff: jeffrey kaye reports on the challenges of going green for the world's most populous country.
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>> reporter: while china strives to clean up pollution, it's also set ambitious goals for economic development and growth. the question is whether those aims are compatible. >> ifill: margaret warner talks to health analyst susan dentzer about the disturbing risks of medical errors linked to hospital admissions. >> woodruff: and we get perspectives from three historians on the myths and the facts of the civil war 150 years after the first shots were fired. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: during its first year a hump back calf and its mother are almost inseparable. she lifts her calf to its first breath of air and then protects it on a long journey to their feeding grounds.
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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. >> ifill: two old allies are at potentially dangerous loggerheads as pakistan, a key partner in the fight against terrorism, openly demands the u.s. limit covert activities on the ground. the concerns come in the wake of a u.s. drone attack that killed 40 pakistani civilians and uproar over the release of a c.i.a. contractor who shot and killed two pakistanis in lahore. the tensions apparently came to a head yesterday at a meeting between c.i.a. director leon panetta and pakistan's intelligence chief, lieutenant general ahmed shuja pasha.
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for more, we turn to shuja nawaz, the director of the south asia center at the atlantic council, and the author of "crossed swords: pakistan, its army and the wars within." welcome. you were recently in pakistan. does this represent a new break or a continuation of the building tension? >> i think this is a very sharp escalation of the war of words between the united states and pakistan. it's really reflecting the very deep-seated anger that i could feel in my conversations with senior military and intelligence officials in pakistan. and what they thought was very striking use of tactical weapons inside pakistan which risked damaging the strategic alliance between the two countries. >> ifill: this is not new, this unhappiness about the use of drones. was it the c.i.a. contractor, the raymond davis case that sparked it? why the meeting yesterday here in washington?
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>> i think it's a culmination of a number of things. the raymond davis case was merely a symptom of this difficult relationship. there has been building over time a feeling inside pakistan that they felt that they didn't get the trust and the respect that they deserved from the u.s. counterparts. the u.s., of course, feels that the pakistanis haven't done enough for them in return particularly in the battle against the taliban that have sanctuary in pakistan. but there is a co-dependency between these two strategic partners. i think that was being lost in the tactical moves that were evident. >> what does the u.s. do at this point? are there concessions that they are prepared to make and are there concessions that the pakistanis are prepared to make for this co-dependency to continue? >> i think it's predictable that they get together and agree on the strategic objectives, yet again, to reaffirm those, and to make sure that any of the tactical
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moves that do occur don't undermine those. without that, they will be targets of opportunity for the c.i.a. drone attacks, but now i guess the c.i.a. will be much better prepared to share information with the irx s.i., because if it doesn't, then we're going to see a repeat of this unhappiness. what i heard was that the army chief in his private message to the united states checking that if he were pushed he would react. and another senior military official has been quoted as saying this they might even shoot down the drones. i think this is probably rhetoric, but there is some basis for it. that one needs to be careful about. >> ifill: it sounds like all the partys in this dispute aren't necessarily on the same page. the pakistani intelligence is obviously at logger heads or friction with the c.i.a. and the u.s. embassy on the ground isn't speaking the same
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language that maybe the pakistani military is. >> i think the embassy on the ground is now much more aware of what's happening inside pakistan. the differences probably in the relationship between the c.i.a. and the i.s.i., this visit of yesterday would have helped clarify some of the issues. >> ifill: the potential of shooting drones from the sky. how much of that is trying to send a domestic message inside of pakistan and how much of that is a real threat, which you can imagine ever coming through? >> i think aware of the domestic pressures on them. in fact, after this attack that killed reportedly 41 people at a place in north waziristan, it was quite clear that the pakistanis were being blamed for not protecting the borders. a number of tribal elders sent a message saying we hold the army chief general and the
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head of the i.s.i.pasha responsible for those deaths. i think the army is very cognizant of public opinion in pakistan. >> ifill: is there still a common agreement about what the goal is along the border there? or is this... from the u.s. point of view obviously to stop the seepage that would create tensions in afghanistan. but is there a common agreement about what you do about that? >> i think there's common agreement about the ultimate goal which is stability in afghanistan and stability in pakistan. but short of that, how you get there is still a work in progress. the pakistanis, for instance, are very confused by what they see as military actions in afghanistan as well as talks of reconciliation and reintegration. they want to know what the u.s. and the coalition prefers because that will guide them in what they do in the border region against the afghan taliban. >> ifill: thank you, as
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always. >> thank you. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, the details of the budget deal; china's environmental challenges; reducing medical mistakes in hospitals; and reflections on the civil war. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: the u.s. military is now investigating a drone attack that apparently killed two u.s. troops in afghanistan. it happened last week in helmand province. an unmanned predator fired a missile at a u.s. marine and a navy medic. military officials said the two men were mistaken for militants as they tried to reach other marines, who were under fire. fresh fighting raged on two fronts in libya today. moammar qaddafi's troops bombarded the city of misrata again. residents reported a dozen people were killed. and rebels outside ajdabiya braced for new attacks as qaddafi's forces fired rockets there. the city is the gateway to much of eastern libya. meanwhile, france and britain complained nato air strikes are not doing enough to protect libyan civilians.
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the french foreign minister made the claim in luxembourg, and a top nato commander answered in brussels. >> nato absolutely wanted to leave this operation. voila. this is where we are. i trust them to assemble the necessary means. it is unacceptable that misrata can continue to be bombed by ka doofy's troops. >> when you look at what we've done in the high operational tempo of the last few days taking out numerous things, armored personnel carrier, with the assets we have we're doing a great job. >> sreenivasan: nato took control of operations in libya from the u.s., france, and britain on march 31. in northeastern syria, government forces staged attacks on two villages. neighboring villagers said they could hear heavy gunfire for much of the day. the towns are outside the city of banias, now sealed off by the army. in washington, a white house spokesman accused the syrian government of "outrageous" acts of repression. top generals in ivory coast
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swore allegiance today to president alassane ouattara. he was finally able to assume power on monday, when his rival, laurent gbagbo was arrested. gbagbo had refused to leave office, despite losing last year's election. sporadic gunfire continued in ivory coast today, even as ouattara urged all fighters to disarm. japan has raised the severity level of its nuclear crisis to the highest rating possible. the announcement today did not signal any worsening in the situation. instead, japan's government acknowledged what international nuclear officials had already concluded. we have a report narrated by tom clarke of independent television news. >> reporter: radioactive steam and the cooling water still leaked in fukushima. radiation levels have fallen but they still needed a remote control helicopter to record this video. it's been a month since the tsunami. filmed here as it struck the plant. but the water went weeks ago the nuclear emergency remains. so japan has upgraded the
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disaster to the highest level joining a club only chernobyl belonged to before. aware of the implications, the japanese prime minister called for calm. >> we cannot leave this country sinking. what we need to do now is to recover this country with all our might in such a way that we will not feel ashamed for the victims and for the children who will carry the future of this country. >> reporter: driving the point home the cabinet secretary talked enthusiastically. this was grown in fukushima and look, no radiation. but his engineers from the plant conceded today they simply don't know how long fukushima will leak, hence the upgrade in disaster level. >> if the radiation leak is not stopped completely, then it is likely that the total cumulative radiation could eventually exceed chernobyl. >> reporter: it's thought the chernobyl disaster released ten times more radiation than fukushima but the amount that
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has leaked so far don't meet the international atomic agency's definition of a level 7 emergency, a major release with widespread health and environmental effects. for fukushima residents growing accustomed to life in the fallout zone, the change in emergency level isn't helping. >> if they're going to announce something like that, they should do it in a way that's not so alarming to people. if they say it's level 7 and the same as chernobyl and then a video of chernobyl starts playing then of course people will be uneasy. >> reporter: as the clean-up continues fukushima's managers and the japanese authorities have been criticized for confusion over the disaster. it's the i.a.e.a. that defines evacuation zones and levels of emergency, but it has no powers to intervene in a crisis. without any international oversight, japan will have to keep managing on its own. >> sreenivasan: the chernobyl disaster erupted 25 years ago this month in ukraine.
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to this day, everything within 19 miles of the ruined nuclear plant is off limits to human habitation. the news from japan sent markets falling across asia and europe, and it carried over to wall street. the dow jones industrial average lost 117 points to close at 12,263. the nasdaq fell 26 points to close at 2744. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: lawmakers agreed last week on how much to cut as part of a spending bill to fund the government through september. now, they know what they'll be cutting. ray suarez has our report. >> suarez: the details of the coming cuts. for this fiscal year were released overnight. for instance, the environmental protection agency would lose $1.6 billion from its budget, largely from eliminating clean water projects. first responder grants from the homeland security department would be sliced by nearly $800 million. and another $600 million in savings would come from cuts for community health centers.
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those and dozens of other reductions add up to $38 billion in savings, agreed to late friday. that total includes some $12 billion already cut and three stop-gap measures approved earlier in the year. but the new six-month spending bill also protects some key white house interests, especially in education. among the protected items, $7.5 billion funding for head start promoting early childhood development. $700 million for the race to the top fund that rewards states for implementing reforms. and pel grants for low-income college students keeping the maximum award at $5550. on the senate floor today, majority leader harry reid said democrats shielded those priorities and others from republicans. >> there are many examples where they wanted to cut recklessly. we insisted on cutting responsibly. throughout this debate we
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stayed true to our values. american people noticed and they're glad we did. by clear majorities our constituents are glad we stood up for health reform, for women's health for cleaner air and on and on. >> suarez: it also became clear today that many of the cuts were one-time only. such as unused census funds and leftover construction money. some house republicans argued today it's not enough to make any real dent in the deficit. ohio congressman jim jordan, chair of the republican study committee, said in a statement, "while i respect that some of my republican colleagues will ultimately support this spending deal, i believe voters are asking us to set our sights higher." jordan said his group, with nearly 180 republican members, had wanted $100 billion in cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year. in the meantime, lawmakers have begun girding for future budget battles. much of the focus turned today to president obama's planned
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speech on broader spending reforms. his 2012 budget did not address social security and medicare, buty expected to do so tomorrow after briefing the bipartisan congressional leadership. the g.o.p. alternative budget, released last week by house budget committee chairman paul ryan, proposed sweeping changes in medicare and medicaid. senate minority leader mitch mcconnell said today he's glad to see the president weigh in. >> hopefully the president will put forward a plan that doesn't just pay lip service to the commit manys we've made to seniors and the poor but which acknowledges the unique problems that this generation and a rising generations of americans face. we all know that both sides will have to play a part in addressing the crisis we face. so we do well to leave all dishonest rhetoric aside. >> suarez: before lawmaker ies can do that, they still have to get final approval to a compromise on this year's spending. a final vote is set for thursday.
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for more we are joined by naftali bendavid, congressional correspondent for the "wall street journal." we had the total before. now we have the particulars. were there any cuts that you hadn't heard talked about in the debate leading up to friday's deal? >> well, some of them, you know, we certainly were surprises. we didn't know the details until as you say i think the thing came out at 1:00 in the morning. there were big can yous, for example to high-speed rail which is something that's been a real priority of president obama's. there was a $1.6 billion cut to the epa's budget which is 16% of its budget. that's a lot. it was less than the republicans wanted but it is still enough to make a really big difference. something else that i hadn't really expected was a $500 million cut to the women's, infant and children's program. this is a program for low-income families. that's a pretty big hit for that program. there were a lot of president obama's prioritys that really did take a hit under this deal. >> suarez: w.i.c.is a program that came out of the great society. when something like that gets such a big cut, that does that
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tell you about the negotiations that went into this deal? does something like w.i.c.just have fewer supporters on capitol hill than it once did. >> the way the negotiations worked the democrats had to pick and choose which ones they were going to go to the mat for and which ones to give up easily and which one to settles for half measures. welfare programs had somewhat less report and had somewhat of a bad reputation for some time. obviously that program had fewer defenders. it's a program that helps the poor. those often do have less of a powerful constituency than other programs. a lot of hard choices had to be made. democrats had to swallow things they didn't like. that ended up being one of the victims. >> suarez: the pentagon budget will increase somewhat overall but still a very controversial weapon system or part of a weapons system was cut. tell us about that. >> you're talking about the joint strike fighter. this was particularly controversial in part because or interesting, i guess you should say, because this engine was built right near
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congressman or speaker boehners in district. it was thought that would be protected somehow. it's something the military doesn't want. it was very hard to defend even among republicans. people did notice when that fell by the wayside. >> suarez: now that the details are out, will republican and democratic members starting to pick out programs they favor and say they didn't like the look of it? >> absolutely. this is not a deal that anyone loves by any stretch of the imagination. i mean all the responses to it were luke warm at best. you know, the highest praise was, well, it was bipartisan and prevented the government from being shut down. make we can tolerate it. there were pretty strong opposition from the right and the left. senator rand paul sent out a letter excoriateing the deal saying it's such a miniscule amount urging his colleagues to vote against it. he had a similar reaction on the left where senator bernie sanders said this is robin hood in reverse taking from the poor and give to go the
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rich. there's no question that there will be a reasonable amount of opposition to this. my sense is it will go through but not without a lot of complaining. >> suarez: now that we've gotten this kind of reaction, are the lines starting to form? is the terms of debate starting to emerge for both raising the debt ceiling and that coming vote and negotiating the 2012 budget? >> i think the lines are formed. i think if anything we're sort of setting the stage for fiercer debate. i think from the republican perspective their appetites have been weded for even more cuts. you know, one reason that some of them are going along with this is because they have the understanding that there are bigger cuts to come in the 2012 budget and around the debt limit. democrats on the other hand feel i think many of them like they've given a lot of what they can give. on the one hand it sets the stage for these coming fights. on the other hand i think it will make them that much harder to reach an agreement on. >> suarez: what happens next? as we lean forward and pivot toward the coming weeks, what are some of the big items and what kind of timetable are they on?
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>> well, the current deal is going to be voted on by the end of the week but then we'll turn fairly quickly to both a 2012 budget which is really much more far reaching and has really significant cuts and changes suggested by congressman paul ryan and it's going to be a huge topic of debate but also there will be a vote that has to be within just the next one or two months on raising the nation's debt limit. that's going to be very controversial. there are a lot of republicans saying no way will they raise the country's debt limit or vote to do so unless they feel that they see really serious moves to reduce the deficit and the debt. so i think we're going to see very intense fight and some real big discussions about the country's future and really this fight as much as anything is about what we want our government to be, what its scope and reach and size and shape should be. it's not just about the dollars but about the vision we have for the country's government. that's why it's so intense and emotional. >> suarez: naftali ben david, thanks for joining us. >> thanks.
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>> ifill: next, china tries to combat pollution while keeping up with its phenomenal industrial growth. from southern guangdong province, special correspondent jeffrey kaye reports for our global health unit. >> it's not easy for visiting foreign journalists to gain admission to chinese factories. >> protection for the workers because they see the cover, the hood. >> reporter: but this man is so proud of what his company is doing to protect workers and the environment that he was eager to show us around the company plant in china's southern province guangdong. this company takes in a billion dollars a year and is china's largest exporter of shirts.
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customers include a.m.er crock bee and fitch. j. c. penney, nike and polo. with 54,000 employees this massive plant functions almost as a mini-city. executives count their environmental commitment to recycling water and lowering energy use. the factory has an on-site power plant that generates electricity and produces steam for heating. other power plants release steam into the air. >> it can balance the power generation and the steam generation based on our need. when we need more power, then we can generate more power. >> you also contribute to the grid when you generate. >> yes, we can contribute also to the grid if we have extra power. >> reporter: using lime in its cold-fired power plant cuts down kplutants but does not
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eliminate them. the growing comp company serves as an illustration not only of environmental consciousness but of the country's challenges. the size of china's economy is second only to the u.s., but the country relies mainly on coal to drive its furious industrial expansion. and that has made china the world's largest emiter of greenhouse gases. while china strives to clean up pollution, it's also set ambitious goals for economic development and growth. the question is whether those aims are compatible. following the recently concluded meeting of china's parliament, the premiere addressed the issue. >> we need to unceasingly increase the size of our
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economy but not at the cost of excessive consumption of resources and energy and environmental pollution. that would not only be unsustainable. it would also affect future generations. >> reporter: guangdong province speaks to both pollution and promise. sometimes referred to as the world's factory flaw, the area's colossal growth has come at an enormous cost. its waterways have been ravaged by industrial contamination. its consistently smoggy skies are evidence of chronic air pollution. china is investing increasing amounts in clean-up efforts. its recycling industry of metals and of paper is also growing. one effort to promote environmental stewardship is the environment health and safety academy. at the university in the provincial capital of.
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the two-and-a-half-year-old academy trains managers in manufacturing companies. it provides courses on environmental regulation, health hazards and risk assessment. it has support from the u.s. government, major transnational corporations, and a vermont-based foundation, the institute for sustainable communities, represented in guangdong province by this manjoo we are delivering some courses, some training to, you know, change the behavior of the workers, change the awareness and mint set of their managers, their ceos. and finally helping to, you know, to protect the environment, help to address the global climate change issues. >> reporter: one company he has worked with makes a product that is exported around the world and power electric devices such as elevator doors, washing machines and air conditioners.
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. it employs,000 workers at its plant on the southern coast. general manager says his company's output grows by 40% each year. energy consumption is also rising but at a lower rate than production. >> we're trying to reduce the amount of electricity that we're using. we're trying to adjust our equipment to make it more efficient and third we're trying to switch all of our light bulbs to the more efficient kind. >> reporter: he says the factory has also started to recycle water used for cooling instead of discarding it. the water treatment attached to the textile factory is much more elaborate. it recycles 60% of the water used to dye textiles and wash shirts. after various stages of filtration, dirty water comes out clean.
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company executive says while the company may be taking the lead, he is optimistic about efforts as a country to clean up the environment. >> china is changing. more and more people and more and more companies are paying more attention to the environmental protection. the environmental protection is getting better and better. >> reporter: but not at the pace some would like to see. a former journalist directs the beijing institute of public and environmental affairs. the non-governmental organization maps water pollution to try to expose the most polluting businesses. >> we changed status quo is not easy because some of the stakeholders have benefited through this, you know, lower standards on the environment and labor. >> reporter: by shining a spotlight on pollutors, he
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tries to pressure large companies to clean up their supply chains. he says corporate pollutors have taken advantage of lax governmental regulators in china. >> the enforcement of all the environmental standards and the standards on occupational health and safety remains to be weak in this country and the cost of violation are still lower than the cost of compliance. >> reporter: the calculation of the companies, it's easier and cheaper for us to pollute, pay the fines and get on with our business than it is to clean it up. >> i think the dynamic process, a training process. the governments of china are imposing more and more strict regulations. and the risks are becoming higher than.... >> reporter: the risks? >> yeah. and also the buyers. i think they are more strict
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with their suppliers. >> reporter: so they've got to pay attention. >> yes, yes. if they want to stay in this business. >> reporter: the process of reversing environmental degradation and preventing future pollution comes as china steps up its demand for energy. chinese officials argue western companies with factories in china as well as consumers who bye chinese-made goods should bear part of the responsibility for cutting china's pollution. chinese authorities say they plan to raise taxes on the export of goods whose production is energy intensive or highly polluted. >> >> woodruff: jeff's next reports look at china's efforts to reform its healthcare system, and the human costs of manufacturing the electronic gadgets we all love. >> ifill: next, medical mistakes in the american healthcare system. it's an issue that first
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captured national attention more than a decade ago, and it remains a significant problem. margaret warner has the story. . >> warner: 12 years ago a landmark studied found up to 98,000 americans may be dying each year from hospital-induced mistakes. today, the obama administration announced yet another program to address that. the new initiative aims to reduce medical errors and accidents and save more than 60,000 lives and $35 billion in health care costs over three years. today's move comes on the heels of a study published last week in the journal "health affairs," suggesting the problem is even worse than previously thought. it found that one-third of all people admitted to a hospital fall victim to a preventable medical error or accident. here to tell us more about all this is susan dentzer. she's the editor-in-chief of "health affairs," and a health analyst for the newshour. welcome back, as always. >> great to be back, margaret. >> warner: pretty stunning finding. one third of all people who
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check into the hospital develop something in the hospital? >> very shocking indeed. our study looked at a new way of going back over hospital records and looking for signs of something bad had happened and investigating those and making sure that something untoward had happened. in fact, when that was done for one month in 2004 at three hospitals that were very sophisticated hospitals in the united states that had very advanced patient safety programs still one in three of the hospital admissions during that month had an adverse event associated with them. we don't know how much harm or injury or death. but, for example, it's things like if you have what's called a central line which is a tube that can be inserted in your chest, if you're very seriously ill, to deliver medication or to drain fluids out. you get an infection associated with that. that's called a central line infection. there are thousands of these every year.
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they get into your bloodstream and are very hard to treat and they can kill you. that's an example of an adverse event. pressure ulcers. if you're not being turned often enough and you're leaning back in a hospital bed your bone can press into your skin and create this sore. the sores can actually go into your muscle or bone and you can eventually die of those. those are preventable also. those are adverse events. >> warner: another disturbing thing in this study is that most of these errors weren't detected by the normal monitoring system of the hospitals. >> that's exactly right. all of these hospitals had voluntary reporting system s so the staff is encouraged to voluntarily report that an adverse event did in fact happen. this other methodology found that there were 100 times more, easily, of these events than were voluntarily reported. and other ways of looking at these. also this more sophisticated methods of looking deeply into the records found many of
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these events that had been previously thought to occur. >> warner: the study that you covered as a journalist was supposed to be a wake-up call. to err is human. there were all these promises to do more on the part of the government and hospitals. did anything improve? was progress made? >> yes and then a subsequent study crossing the quality chasm said we have to improve quality. by many metrics we have. for example, now, if you go into a hospital after you've had a heart attack in the vast majority of hospitals now you will get what you should get which is an aspirin within 24 hours and a beta blocker which prevents a secondary event. that's going very, very well. bloodstream infections are down 63% in a ten-year period so that's going well. however, we just learned last week from the head of the joint commission which accredits hospitals that there are still 40 wrong-site or wrong patient surgeries performed every week in the united states.
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this is after ten years of having people sign on your arm that it's this arm. >> warner: operate on this arm. >> all of these precautions that have been taken and still 40 times a week this is happening. >> warner: in a nutshell what is there in the obama administration, the new effort, that has any greater chance of making a difference than all these other efforts? >> two things primarily. the government has been handed under the affordable act, the health reform law, lots of new tools to essentially push hospital systems in the direction, pay them less. for example, already hospitals are not paid if they have one of these adverse events and they're not paid for the additional medical costs of treating those events. they don't get paid. they have incentives to fight this. in addition the nation's payors are tearing their hair out about the cost of health care. there's money on table lying there because people are getting these adverse events. we're paying extra to care for it. the nation's payors now are
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really mobilized to push very hard. that's part of what was announced today. a commitment of employers and others to help encourage people to use the best hospitals, take other precautions to essentially protect themselves against adverse events. >> warner: what is a patient to do if you know you have to go in the hospital and you can actually make a choice? >> well, the first thing to do is to ask as many questions as you can. am i getting... are you about to operate on my right leg? do you know who i am as a person? you can also go and google "20 tips to prevent medical errors." it will take you to an information sheet put out by the agency for health care research and has a wonderful list of precautions you can take to maximize the notion that you'll get out of the hospital. >> warner: you mentioned that choosing the hospital, there are tools now to choose the right hospital. >> absolutely right. you can go to wwww.hospital
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compare dot hhs dot-gov. you can see oum adverse events have been recorded at the hospital that your doctor has suggested. you could say i would like to go to this particular hospital. can you help me? >> warner: let's hope when we have this conversation another five years from now that the news is better. susan dentzer, thanks. >> thanks, margaret. >> woodruff: finally tonight, the civil war 150 years later, and its relevance today. the anniversary of the war's beginning was commemorated this morning with a reenactment of the attack on the union base at fort sumter in charleston, south carolina. before our discussion, a bit of history. here's an excerpt of how documentary maker ken burns described that moment in his pbs series, "the civil war." it was narrated by historian david mccullough.
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the civil war began at 4:30 a.m. on the 12th of april, 1861. general pierre gustav beauregard ordered his confederate gunners to open fire on fort sumter. at that hour only a dark shape out in charleston harbor. confederate commander beauregard was a gunner, so skilled as an artillery student at west point that his instructor kept him on as an assistant for another year. that instructor was major robert anderson, union commander inside fort sumter. all the pent-up hatred of the past months and years is voiced in the thunder of these can none, and the people seem almost beside themselves in the ex-al tags of a freedom they deem already won. >> reporter: the signal to
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fire the first shot was given by a civilian a virginia farmer and editor who had preached secession for 20 years. of course, he said, i was delighted to perform the service. 34 hours later, a white flag over the fort ended the bombardment. the only casualty had been a confederate horse. it was a bloodless opening to the bloodiest war in american history.
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>> the first gun that was fired at fort sumter sounded a death knell of slavery. they who fired it were the greatest practical abolitionists this nation has produced. >> woodruff: more now on the history and the legacy of the civil war. we're joined by three historians who have studied it closely. the president of harvard university. she's written a number of books about the civil war. a teacher at howard university who focuses on the civil war and african-american history. and walter edgar is a professor of history and southern studies at the university of south carolina. thank you all three. we appreciate your being with us. i just want to quickly share with our audience two findings
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from a poll that was done this month by the pew research center. when people were asked their reaction to seeing the confederate flag displayed 9% said they had a positive reaction. 30% a negative. and 58% said neither. and when people were asked what do they think the main cause of the civil war is, 48% said mainly about states' rights. only 38% said mainly about slavery. 9% said both. to each of you, what do historians think was the cause of the civil war and what do you think? >> well, historians are pretty united on the cause of the civil war being slavery. and the kind of research that historians have undertaken especially in the years since the centennial when there has been so much interest in this question of the role of race and slavery in the united states, that research has shown pretty decisively that when the various states
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announced their plans for secession, they uniformly said that the main motivating factor was to defend slavery. the kinds of percentages that you quote that must be disturbing to historians who believe quite differently from the genuine public. >> woodruff: any idea about why that perception is out there given the pretty common view among historians which i assume you swear. >> absolutely. it's all about slavery. americans unfortunately don't know our history first of all. ality some point, of course, after the war the nation sort of came together and decided that it was going to forget what the real cause was because it was too painful to remember that slavery was what divided the nation. despite all of the books and all of the classroom discussions and all of the television programs we still have that perception that it was about anything other than slavery. it's unfortunate.
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>> woodruff: professor walter edgar, how do you account for that, the fact that historians are pretty unified in this view but the public isn't. >> well, i agree with the professor that perhaps people don't know their own history. even more disturbing in that poll it was younger responders who did the states' rights answer as opposed to older ones. all i can do in south carolina is go back to the 169 men who voted to secede first said it was to protect slavery and their other domestic institutions and the men of 1860 and 1861 in other southern states were pretty blunt about what they were doing. >> woodruff: professor edgar, do you think there persists a different view among... in the south among southerners? >>. >> white southerners and black southerners because both black and white are southerners. among white southerners, there are disagreements. some would say states' rights
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and some would say slavery. i've heard the tariff mentioned. very few people talk as much about the election of lincoln although that was a defining factor in south carolina's decision to secede. >> woodruff: you've looked at this and i know you've traveled around the country and spoken a lot about it. how do you see the evolution of people's understanding of the war? >> evolution over time. >> woodruff: right. >> we had a critical moment in the understanding of the civil war and the nature of engagement with the civil war that happened around the time of the centennial, 50 years ago. when the centennial and the civil rights movement were occurring pretty much simultaneously. so even as many americans wanted to celebrate the civil war and engage in kind of nostalgic connection with it, there was at the same time such a powerful social movement that was asking all americans to interrogate themselves about whether does
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race play a role in american life? and what was the real legacy of the war? and have we fulfilled the promise of equality and freedom that was an essential part of the war? so i think that was a transformative time in the kinds of research questions that historians took up and the way in which the public began to battle and to reinterpret the civil war. >> woodruff: edna immediateford are the questions that historians are asking themselves, yourselves about the war, have those questions changed over time, do you think? >> i think we still are dealing with the same kinds of issues. what's wonderful is that there are more of us who are in agreement than there used to be. i think it's because documentation has become so much more available to us. >> woodruff: and what did it used to be? >> certainly there was that perspective, that southern perfect tiff about the war. we may have lost the war but
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it was such a noble cause for which we fought. historians supported that for a number of years. i think now to take that position, you're sort of on the fringes of history. most trained historians would never come to those conclusions. >> woodruff: how do you see that as somebody who you were raised in the south and you teach in the south now. >> well, you know, things clearly have changed since the 1950s when i was in school. i think one of the things we could look at is the observance or really the non-observance of confederate memorial day throughout the south. growing up in mobile alabama it was a big deal on the day closest to confederate memorial in alabama which was april 26, paraded through the streets with a private military school all the politicians were there. the graves were decorated. now pretty much it's a non-event there and most
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everywhere else. there's, quote, an observance but it doesn't draw people to the streets and certainly not to the confederate. >> woodruff: was there a moment when that stopped happening or has that just faded away over time? >> it's really been over time. but as professor faust said, the 1960s were pretty much a defining moment. and one of the interesting questions i would ask about the pew poll when they asked about the confederate flag, which one are they discussing? are they talking about the battle flag which i suspect they are. are they talking about the confederate national flag which many states such as alabama and georgia still fly at historic sites. >> woodruff: very interesting question. i don't know the answer to that. do you? do either one of you? >> an important part of this issue of the confederate flag is that the confederate battle flag which is the flag we associate with dixie today and the one that is most commonly regarded as having been the confederate flag actually was not adopted very widely until
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late in the war. it was not the flag, the official flag of the confederate nation. it began to play a big role in american life at the time of the civil rights movement as an expression of protest against the changes in american culture and race and its place in american life. in many ways that poll about the confederate flag is more about, again the 1960s than it is about the 1860s. >> woodruff: another question that was asked in that poll was about how relevant people believe the war is to american political life today. more than half said they do think it's relevant. professor medford, what do you believe is relevant today to american life about this war that we fought so long ago? >> i think we spent so much time on the war these days, and it's great that we are, because that war helps us define who we are now.
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who we were there and who we are now. i think that we have so much difficulty with it because we all had different views of what america is. and it's such a painful history. it's very hard to look back and so when you do look back, we try to do so in a way that that's not going to be too harmful to us psychologically, i think. the war has tremendous relevance to us today. we have an opportunity to sort of get it right this time with the sesqui centennial. that war put us on the path to true freedom in this country. i don't think we're quite there yet but we have the opportunity to sort of renew that commitment. >> woodruff: interesting you make the point that there's a choice about how we look back. >> absolutely. >> woodruff: at the war. what about you, professor edgar? what do you think is relevant to american life today about this war? >> well, clearly the nation, the civil war was a crucial point in american history.
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it changed us. it made us one nation. i think the memory issue that professor medford talks about is very important because if you look at the physical losses by the white south not just in terms of property but also in terms of human life, that's part of the picture that is still handed down in many families today. in a little state like south carolina, over 30% of the eligible white male population died in the war. that's twice the figure that the european nations lost in world war i where they supposedly all lost a generation. >> woodruff: drew faust, you've written about the human suffering. your book, this republic of suffering, we know about it. how do you see the legacy? >> an important part of the legacy-- and i would just like to reinforce what others were talking about was the importance of slavery and race. another dimension of the
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legacy is the way in which the civil war is an important moment in the history of warfare. it's often called the first modern and the last old- fashioned war because it involved a level of carnage and a scale that was a kind of harbinger of things to come in the 20th century. so we need to look at the civil war in that way as well and to understand the kinds of inhumanity and slaughter that were part of that war where about 2% of the american population died. that would be they equivalent of six million americans today. those are military deaths not even including an estimate of civilian deaths so there's a kind of understanding of what human beings are able to do to one another that is an essential part of really looking back at the meaning of the civil war. >> woodruff: important insights. we thank you all three.
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>> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. u.s. officials acknowledged relations with pakistan need work as the pakistanis demanded curbs on u.s. drone strikes and other covert activities. france and britain charged nato is not doing enough to protect civilians in libya. and stocks around the world took a hit after japan raised its nuclear emergency to the highest level. and to hari sreenivasan, for what's on the newshour online. hari? >> suarez: we have a slideshow of civil war photographs exploring life behind the scenes of the battles. they come from a newly released book. art beat has a live chat with filmmakers from the pbs series "independent lens." you can join the discussion tonight at 7:00 p.m. eastern, or check back later to read the full conversation. plus, our partners at globalpost reported today while their staffer james foley and three other journalists captured in libya by forces loyal to moammar gadhafi are still being detained. turkish diplomats are now working to secure their release
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and hope to have good news soon. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. gwen? >> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at president obama's plan to reduce the federal deficit. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> oil companies make huge profits. >> last year, chevron made a lot of money. >> where does it go? >> every penny and more went into bringing energy to the world. >> the economy is tough right now, everywhere. >> we pumped $21 million into local economies, into small businesses, communities, equipment, materials. >> that money could make a big difference to a lot of people.
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