tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS August 15, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday, august 15: a guantanamo prisoner on a hunger strike causes deep divides within the u.s. government. inside american education-- examining underfunded schools, failure factories, and racial segregation. and from hawaii, producing power and living completely off the electric grid. next on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products.
that's why we are your retirement company. additional support is provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios in lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. this is pbs newshour weekend. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thanks for joining us. the u.s. government is opposing the release of a detainee at the u.s. military prison in guantanamo, bay cuba, who has been on a hunger strike for eight years. the military is force-feeding tariq ba odah to keep him alive. the 36-year-old detainee now weighs 74 pounds, roughly the weight of a 10-year-old boy. that's less than half what he weighed when he was sent to guantanamo 13 years ago. ba odah has never been formally charged or convicted of a crime, and he is among the 52 detainees who have been cleared for
release by a task force of u.s. national security agencies. last night, the justice department filed papers in federal court opposing any court-ordered release for ba odah. however, a department spokesman told the newshour the obama administration will continue to work on resettling him in a country that will take him. ba odah is a yemeni citizen whose family lives in saudi arabia. this case highlights the difficulties for president obama to fulfill his promise to empty guantanamo and close the prison before he leaves office. 116 detainees remain. only seven face current charges, including five men for the september 11 attacks. reporter jess bravin has been covering issues related to guantanamo since 2002 and covers the us supreme court for "the wall street journal." he is also the author of "the terror courts: rough justice at guantanamo bay." he joins me now from washington, d.c. first let's talk about the class of detainees that this individual falls into. he's supposed to be one of 52
who have been cleared for transfer. what does that mean? who cleared him? >> well, most of those 52 men were cleared in 2009 and 2010 by a task force of military intelligence and law enforcement officials who the president appointed to review the situation at guatanamo bay. a few of them were cleared more recently by what's called a periodic review board that's supposed to reexamine the detainees' cases from time to time to see if they are a threat to u.s. security. >> sreenivasan: so it seems on the one hand you have the u.s. state department who wants to get on with this and transfer them away to other countries. and then on the other hand, you've got the department of justice and the department of defense fighting to keep them there, or apt least not to have a rule imposed to make them move. >> well, right. there's a very-- there are many, many contradictions you could say in america's guatanamo policy. and this is just one of them. yes, he is someone who the u.s. government has said should be
transferred more than five years ago. in other words, there's no justification really for holding him in guatanamo bay. the the reason he's there is because the u.s. government, for its own political or diplomatic reasons, hasn't been able to find a place to send him that it considers secure enough. so that's not really his fault. so he has been on hunger strike for eight years, and he has filed what's called a habeas corpus. in federal district court. that's a legal process by which any prisoner can challenge what they consider to be illegal detention. so he has this legal action going. the government has decided to oppose him, even though, as you say, the state department recommended dropping the opposition because that would help clear the way to get him out of guatanamo bay. >> sreenivasan: so i'm assuming that other prisoners and their lawyers are watching this and perhaps this is-- the precedent being set if this habus corpus was handed down, if he was i guess compelled to be
transferred, that is what is the department of justice and department of defense does not want because every other detainee would line up. >> well, they don't want to encourage other detainees to persist in hunger strikes, although they don't need a lot of encouragement. many have been on hunger strike for a long time. they don't like to be told who to do. however, as a binding legal matter it's not precedent in that sense. in other words, just because the government chooses not to oppose his petition does not mean that any other prisoner who files a similar legal action automatically gets the same treatment. they can choose to oppose or not oppose each petition individually, and it does not create a binding legal precedent. but in general, the defense department, the justice deparment, aren't in the business of acquiescing to what prisoners want. if they are going to transfer this detainee, they want to do it on their terms, not because there's a court order that's hastening the way. the state department feels that the court order would remove a number of obstacles that congress imposed on detainee transfers after president obama
took office, and it would make it somewhat easier to get this guy who now weighs about 75 pounds out of detention and into some other country. >> sreenivasan: let's talk. that. i mean, he's being kept alive through forced feeding. describe this process. i mean, he can't abe healthy human being at 75 pounds. >> well, that's about half of his typical weight, or his normal weight, according to the defense department. i mean, the only information we have on his condition is from the government. it's a daily process where you're strapped to a chair and a feeding tube is inserted in your nose and a sort of ensure-like liquid is pumped into you. actually, right now, there is a court action that's been filed by a number of news organizations, including the "wall street journal," that is seeking to have videotapes of the force feeding process of a different detainee released so the public can see for itself how humane this process is. detainees say it's not. the government says that it is.
>> sreenivasan: jess bravin of the "wall street journal," thanks so much. >> of course. >> sreenivasan: chinese state media reports the death toll from this week's chemical warehouse explosion in the port city of tianjin has risen above 100, with 21 firefighters among the fatalities. firefighters continue to battle fires from small explosions and search for survivors. today, rescuers discovered a 50- year-old man found inside a shipping container. chinese officials deny issuing an evacuation order near the blast site. but a two mile area has been cordoned off. 40 people trying to cross the mediterranean sea from libya to italy were found dead today on their boat. italian officials believe they died from inhaling fuel fumes. the italian navy rescued 320 other migrants today. 250,000 migrants, mainly from africa and the middle east, have crossed to europe this year. more than 2,300 people have died making the trip. sea rescues this summer are approaching 1,000 migrants a day off of italy and greece.
the secret service confirms to the newshour it is embarking on an aggressive hiring plan. reuters reported today the agency plans to hire 700 new uniformed officers and 400 special agents over the next five years. that would expand secret service staff by 17% from its current 6,600 employees. the hiring spree comes in response to security breaches at the white house and agents being caught with prostitutes on a presidential trip to colombia. a new study suggests police officers may be more likely to be killed in the line of duty in states with higher rates of gun ownership. the study published by "the american journal of public health" reviewed an f.b.i. database of 782 police homicides between 1996 and 2010. it found alabama, arkansas, idaho, mississippi, and montana among the states with the highest rate of police homicides and gun ownership. states with the lowest percentage of gun owners, like connecticut, new york, new jersey, massachusetts, and rhode island, were among states with
the lowest rate of police homicides. wyoming had the highest rate of gun ownership in the u.s. but no police homicides in the period studied. 92% of police homicides were committed with guns. 10 days after a spill of mine waste water, colorado's animus river is open again to recreational use. colorado's department of public health and environment said yesterday the contamination levels are below what might hurt human health. to underscore the point, earlier this week, governor john hickenlooper put a bacteria- killing iodine tablet in a bottle of river water and drank it. the river had turned orange after a clean-up crew accidentally breached a dam holding back metals used in gold mining. three millions gallons of contaminated water spilled into the river, but have since been diluted. downstream new mexico has lifted a ban on drinking water from wells in the animus river valley. take an in-depth look at folksy comedian will rogers on the 80th anniversary of his death. visit pbs.org/newshour.
>> sreenivasan: the national debate over education quality, integration, and funding is playing out in two states this week: washington and florida. we begin with washington state, where state leaders will meet monday to begin addressing inequities in public school funding. the move comes after the state supreme court imposed a $100,000-a-day fine this week, because the judges say, kindergarten-through-12th grade education is insufficiently funded. the court said the state needs to do more to reduce class size, expand kindergarten, and raise teacher pay. other states, such as kansas, ohio, and new jersey, have also been embroiled in court fights over school funding. joining me now to discuss the problems in washington state i"" seattle times" reporter joseph o'sullivan. so we're all paying attention to the $100,000-a-day fine. that seems like sticker shock to a viewer or audience member but this has been a long time coming. how did we get here? >> so the washington state
constitution says expressly that education is the quote, unquote, paramount duty of the state to provide for. a family sued the state, along with some school stricts and teachers unions saying that the state was underfunding. and it made its way to the supreme court which in 1212 agreed saying the state was unconstitutionally underfunding the school system. so the court imposed a 2018 deadline for the state to come up with more funding and fix some specific problems. >> sreenivasan: so here we are now, the courts-- the judges basically say they're completely dissatisfied. they're slapping this significant fine on them, but it doesn't seem to have caused the type of deterrent we think. in your reporting, you say some of the legislators say let's keep racking up the fines until january ball because that will still only add up to $14 million versus what we have to fund this thing by. >> sure, that's the thing.
the penalty is symbolic because $14 million in a budget $38 billion large isn't that much money, and the problem is significantly bigger in the portion of the court's decision on teacher compensation. it's going to be about $3.5 billion every two-year budget cycle to fix. >> sreenivasan: okay, so what are some of the inequities? what's at the core of this? what sort of programs are missing. is there inequity from one neighborhood to one community to the other. >> the state legislature has provided more money for trors costs and operation supplies. they've put money into funding all-day kindergarten, and kindergarten-three class-size reduction. one of pieces hanging out there is the state isn't funding teacher pay enough. in washington state, local property tax levies provide supplemental funding for teacher
pay, so local school districts wind up coming up with more money to pay their teachers. and see that's one of the big inequality questions. poorer school districts that don't have as wealthy residents and good property tax levies, they can't provide funding for their teachers as easily as a wealthy district can. and so that's one of the things that lawmakers are going to have to figure out. and it's kind of-- one of the things that's being talked about is a property tax levy swap whereby some of the richer districts would send money-- pay more money and send that money to the poorer districts but that's very politically complicated to do because it's, you know, politically tricky for everybody. >> sreenivasan: where else is this happening? or is this just peculiar to washington state because of how the constitution's written? >> so, these have played out in a lot of states. about 45 states have had some kind of litigation before. for washington state, we actually had a similar case back in the 70s to deal with
teacher compensation and local property tax levies. so it's not super unusual. what is unusual for us this time is that it's the first time the state has sanctioned-- the court has sanctioned the state and fined the state. >> sreenivasan: all right joseph o'sullivan from "the seattle times," thanks so much. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: turning now to florida this week, the "tampa bay times" published an investigation of five elementary schools in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods of st. petersburg, in pinellas county. the newspaper labels the schoo"" failure factories" and blames, in part, racial re-segregation over the past eight years. among the findings: last year 95% of the black children failed standardized reading and math tests, and 52% of teachers asked for a job transfer. reporter michael laforgia co- wrote the story. he joins me now. so, you know, let's inoculate some of the basic reservations that come up when we talk about stories like this. thithat this is' poverty problem and you report this is not.
why? >> that's right. from our reporting we looked at any measure that you can think of of-- any socioeconomic measure that you can think of of a neighborhood. we looked at the levels of poverty, median household income, rates of college graduation, rates of single-parent homes, and by any measure we could find, pinnellas county, florida, falls dead in the middle of the pack of all florida counties. >> sreenivasan: but it's still producing these failure factors. another reservation is people are gog say, you know what? it's the parents' problem. the kids weren't ready to start school. had they got there they were already behind. but you found out-- >> that's right, that's right. and that's probably the most common thing you hear when you're doing a story like this. what we did is we analyzed a batch of kindergarten-readiness data, tests that kids take when they're coming into kindergarten to see how prepared they are showing up for school. and what we found was that our kids in these schools were no
less prepared than children in scores of other schools across florida but it was only after a few years in these five schools that they were falling dramatically behind. >> sreenivasan: and these five schools were not always that way. you trace is back to something that happened eight years ago. why do you think that resegregation is leading to these problems? >> well, i mean, this absolutely was a recent phenomenon. eight years ago, schools were about average. kids were performing much better, and then our school board voted fair plan that effectively resegregated the schools. it ended integration efforts and created a situation where children in predominantly black neighborhoods were suddenly going to predominantly black schools. they knew that this was going to happen when they made this decision. and in order to make it go down easier, they promised that these schools would be flooded with money and resources. >> sreenivasan: did that happen. >> social workers, counselors, that type of thing.
no, that never happened. >> sreenivasan: what did happen as a result? >> well, as a result, the schools got a little bit worse academically, and a little bit more disordered and chaotic year after year after year. teachers fled. kids began not to feel safe in class, and we got to the situation where we are today. >> sreenivasan: your reporting also highlights that there are other counties in florida that might be statistically worse off but are having better outcomes because they're doing things that this i ca county is not. >> that's right. you see in broward county, for example, they created an office dedicated slowly to raising the achievement levels of black males. they track their students' progress in real time. owner county has a similar office that targets minority achievement. deval county is paying teachers $20,000 a piece in incentive pay to work in high-risk schools. pinnellas county hasn't tried any of those things. >> sreenivasan: all right michael laforgia of the "tampa
bay times," thanks so much for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> sreenivasan: in tropical hawaii,12% of private homes have installed solar panels, the highest rate in the nation. most hawaiian homes with panels remain tied to the electrical grid to store the energy they produce. but as newshour special correspondent mike taibbi reports, other residents producing their own power are now off the grid. >> reporter: the suburban streets outside of honolulu are a dense network of houses, but in this neighborhood one house is completely independent- - that is, energy independent >> nominal voltage, 48 volts. these are my charge controllers, these are my inverters. >> reporter: for the last two years, dave green, a heating and air conditioning specialist, hasn't paid one cent in electricity bills. instead he relies on high end batteries to store the power generated by his solar panels.
when he first cut ties with the grid he had to convince his wife and daughters to conserve energy to make sure they'd have enough juice to meet their needs. >> dad was always saying, "if you're not going to use that, shut it off," or only use that for this much, you know? don't you know the sun didn't shine today? we need to do this and that you're always managing the power. but eventually you get to the point where you don't really need to manage it. you know you have enough leeway where you could go, "oh i left the light on. well it doesn't matter," because we've got plenty of power. >> reporter: greene doesn't consider himself an environmentalist and he says defecting from the grid has been a hobby more than a statement, like improving the 40 plus mpg his prius was already getting by adding even more batteries. >> it's getting about 87 miles to the gallon. >> reporter: greene estimates he's spent around $50,000 on the continuing experiment in self- reliance he calls a hobby. he says the system will pay for itself within six to eight years. >> this does all the controls, all the operations. >> reporter: and it's more than
worth it to know that he's in control of his own energy. >> it's a neat feeling. i like the feeling of knowing that if the price of energy were to go up, or if gas were to double, i'd be like, "so?" >> reporter: henk rogers, another grid defector over on the big island of hawaii, remembers the confusion caused by his decision to cut ties with the utility. >> i had a very interesting phone call and it goes something like this: "is this mr. rogers? yes. this is so and so from the electric company. there seems to be something wrong with our meter." and i said, "no, there's nothing wrong with your meter. i'm just not using any of your electricity." >> reporter: for rogers, energy independence is no hobby. he's spent a chunk of the fortune he amassed licensing the seminal video game tetris experimenting with ways to disconnect his 32-acre ranch from the grid. >> this is the energy lab. >> reporter: an industrial scale array of 360 cutting edge solar panels. >> we have 85 kilowatts peak power, 360 panels on this roof.
>> reporter: the latest in energy storage technology. >> so these are the batteries, they're charging now. they are at 91% right now. >> reporter: even an electrolyzer to make use of any extra power his system generates. >> when we're done filling the batteries, then we start producing hydrogen. this is hydrogen. this is oxygen. it's high school chemistry. so this is our hydrogen fueling station. >> reporter: hydrogen can be used to run vehicles and machinery. rogers uses it that way, and he uses his own intricate and expensive experiment in off the grid living to press home a point. >> we're experimenting with all this because we can, and because i want to and it's the right thing to do. >> reporter: rogers is confident that as energy storage technology advances, the number of residents choosing to move off of the electrical grid will increase. >> okay, so i'm a higher net worth individual. i can afford to do this. but it's only a matter of time before everyone can afford to do this. and when they can, they will.
>> sreenivasan: since we first reported this story, tetris company founder henk rogers has started a business to sell and install battery systems for homes and businesses running on solar energy. on pbs newshour weekend tomorrow, our reporting from hawaii continues, where the popularity of residential solar panels has led the renewable energy industry to a crossroads. >> so we drive up, and you have these lovely solar panels on your roof. how's that working out for you? >> it's not! >> sreenivasan: finally tonight, a week-long heat wave in egypt has left at least 93 people dead. it was 104 degrees in cairo today, and temperatures reached 117 degrees in some part of egypt this week. and it was 50 years ago today the beatles came to play at shea stadium in new york. 55,000 fans were there. the band's half-hour set was the first rock concert to fill a
sports arena. on tomorrow's program, spying on america's e-mails and cell phones. we take a closer look at revelations behind a unique partnership between the national security agency and telecom giant at&t. that's it for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. i'm hari sreenivasan. thanks for watching. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support is provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs
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