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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  October 31, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday, october 31: a russian passenger plane crashes in egypt, killing more than 200 people on board. in our signature segment, drought-ridden californians prepare to tap into a new water supply-- the ocean. and, the increasing rates of breast cancer for african- american women. next on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the citi foundation. supporting innovation and enabling urban progress. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii.
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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 has been 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 at lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thanks for joining us. egyptian and russian officials say there are no survivors among the 224 people aboard a russian airliner that crashed today in egypt. the crash happened in egypt's sinai peninsula. the chartered airbus a-321 had disappeared from radar 23 minutes after taking off from the red sea resort town of sharm el-sheikh. all but three of the 217 passengers were russian; so was the seven-member crew. the plane belonged to the russian airline metrojet and was headed for st. petersburg, where
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relatives and friends of the passengers waited at the airport. teams at the crash site have recovered remains and have retrieved the the plane's black boxes containing the cockpit voice and flight data recorders. the cause of the crash is not yet known, but egyptian officials say the pilot had reported technical problems and planned an emergency landing before losing contact with air traffic controllers. egyptian and russian officials are discounting an online statement by the terrorist group the islamic state, or isis, claiming responsibility for the crash, "in response to russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of muslims on syrian land." u.s. secretary of state john kerry is defending president obama's decision to deploy several dozen ground troops to syria for the first time. traveling overseas today, kerry said the special operations forces will not target forces loyal to syrian president bashar al-assad but will assist syrian rebels fighting isis, which he referred to by its arabic name, daesh. >> it is not a decision to enter
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into syria's civil war. it is not an action or a choice focused on assad. it is focused exclusively on daesh and on augmenting our ability to be able to more rapidly attack daesh. >> sreenivasan: today, the u.s. pledged another $100 million aid syrian rebels, bringing the total to $500 million since 2012. in romania's capital of bucharest, 27 people died last night in a music club fire. the victims died after a rock music band's fireworks display inside the basement club sparked a fire and heavy smoke. more than 180 people were injured as the crowd stampeded for the one available exit. already a candlelight memorial to the victims has sprung up outside the club. even romania's president has laid flowers there, inspected the club, and declared three days of mourning. in the u.s., the early release of more than 6,000 federal prison inmates is nearing completion this weekend.
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most were incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses, and, on average, their sentences were shortened by two years. new guidelines designed to lower the nation's prison population and costs were set last year by the independent u.s. sentencing commission. at first, a majority of the released inmates will live in halfway houses or home confinement. about 1,700 former inmates are foreign nationals who now face deportation. in the next 12 months, another 8,500 federal prisoners will be eligible for sentence reductions; judges are approving about 75% of the requests. >> sreenivasan: next month in drought-weary california, san diego county is expected to start supplying itself with millions of gallons a day of drinkable water. the source? saltwater from the pacific ocean converted to fresh water by a new desalination plant. in tonight's signature segment, we look at this question: is desalination the future for california's water needs?
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newshour special correspondent mike taibbi has the story. >> reporter: on the surface, san diego doesn't scream "water crisis." kids still splash in public fountains, and the lawns haven't all been converted to sand and succulents. but the water story below the surface is historically grim. four years of almost no rain, record low snowpack from the sierra nevada mountains, and record high temperatures are causing the worst drought since the state has kept weather records. california has imposed conservation measures requiring a 25% reduction in water usage. even the state's biggest drinkers, the agricultural producers who consume 80% of the state's water, are being forced to cut back. now, the state's second most populous county, san diego county, is betting on the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere to boost its water supply. so this is it, this is where the magic happens? >> the desalination process that
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we have running behind us here is the most efficient desalination technology anywhere in north america. >> reporter: peter maclaggan is a senior vice president of poseidon water, which will operate the plant in carlsbad, just north of san diego. poseidon spent $1 billion and took nearly three years to build it. >> this facility will create an opportunity to learn what large- scale desalination can mean to southern california and the rest of the state, for that matter. we've got the largest reservoir in the world here at our doorstep. >> reporter: that reservoir is the pacific ocean, covering a third of the planet's surface with saltwater. of course, converting saltwater to freshwater is not exactly a new idea: greek sailors did that with crude evaporation techniques back in the 4th century bc. today, at least 120 countries use desalination, or "desal," as it's commonly called. saudi arabia relies on desalination for 70% of its
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water needs and poseidon water sees itself starting a trend in the u.s. here in san diego, out of necessity. >> we get 85% of our water comes from hundreds of miles away. that water's under intense competition, interstate competition, competition between farmers and urban settings. so in southern california, this will not be the last desalination plant that gets built, there'll be others that follow. >> reporter: here's how state- of-the-art desalination process works: the plant draws saltwater through ocean intake pipes with screens to keep out marine organisms. sand and chemical filters further clean the seawater, which is pushed through thousands of tubes, each with filters so fine that water can get through, but the larger salt particles cannot. it's a technology known as "reverse osmosis." this version of the process uses half as much energy as it did 20 years ago, while also pumping out a higher volume of water. the captured salt is diluted with the cooling water from the neighboring power station, and that's discharged back into the
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ocean. fresh water is what remains. the last step: these eight high- powered pumps start shoving 50 million gallons of fresh water a day through these big pipes, up the hill and straight in to the aqueduct that serves 112,000 homes, some 300,000 people, about a tenth the population of san diego county. san diego county has committed to buying water from this plant for the next 30 years. that will increase monthly water bills for residents and businesses by about 6%, says bob yamada of the san diego county water authority. >> the cost to the average rate payer, let's say the average residential customer, is going to be about $5 a month, in terms of their individual cost to pay for the water supply coming from this facility. >> reporter: the water authority's own poll of a- thousand san diego residents last year showed overwhelming support for what it called a "diversified water strategy" to include desalination.
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and for around $5 a month per family to re-mediate the effects of the drought, carlsbad could be the bellwether. more than a dozen other desalination plants are now in the planning stages up and down the california coast. all of them call for the modernized "reverse osmosis" design that poseidon is using here. earlier this year, newshour weekend visited a plant in israel that is using the same technology that now provides nearly half that country's drinking water. >> we're able to produce up to 54 million gallons a day of desalinated ocean water. that's enough to fill an olympic-sized pool every 18 minutes. >> reporter: that all sounds good, a drought-proof supply of fresh water. but critics say there are still questions about desal, and the bandwagon is filling up way too fast. among those critics is matt o'malley of the california coastkeeper alliance, which filed one of several lawsuits that tried and failed to delay construction of the plant. he says the carlsbad plant will
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generate greenhouse gases that could contribute to more frequent droughts. >> we're sort of sticking ourselves in this cycle. you can't really desal yourself out of a drought, because what you're doing is partly contributing to the exacerbation of climate change and to droughts long-term. >> reporter: even with its efficient design, the plant will burn through 840 megawatts of power per day-- about the same amount of electricity used to power nearly 30,000 homes. then there are other environmental questions, such as, what are the long-term effects of dumping all that concentrated salt back in the ocean? poseidon says that won't hurt marine life, and it will be monitoring the salinity levels around the plant. >> all the science supports the fact that we can do this without harming the environment. >> reporter: california's coastal commission signed off on this project after a six-year permitting process, but has required poseidon to implement mitigation measures, like restoring local wetlands. and the state has enacted new guidelines for future desalination plants, which include placing intake valves
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fully underwater to reduce risks to marine life. jay famiglietti, a senior water scientist for nasa's jet propulsion laboratory, which uses its technology to study earth's water supply, says there hasn't been enough research on desal's long-term impacts. >> i'm worried only because of the unknown environmental impacts. the unquantified environmental impacts. let's do the work. let's do the work and figure out what the environmental consequences are, and if they are acceptable, great. but we haven't done that work. >> reporter: the country's going to say, "we can't afford to wait." >> i bet we can afford to wait, and the way we afford it is by more conservation and efficiency. >> we still have communities in san diego that are using per capita over 350 gallons a day. >> reporter: environmentalist o'malley agrees the county should promote more water conservation, capture storm water, and recycle wastewater, including from toilet to tap. >> it's the general reduce, reuse, recycle mantra, and it applies to water as well.
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it's hard for me to say that we should be investing all this money and the associated environmental costs when we are still using water in some places in our community at obscene rates. >> reporter: but the question remains: can the drought zone afford to wait? california has struggled with drought and limited water supply throughout its whole history. even with a forecast for a wet winter, thanks to el nino, the nasa water scientist says the current water shortage numbers don't lie. >> it will take about 12 trillion gallons of water in storage in our reservoirs and snowpack, in our groundwater, to get us out of the drought. that's going to take about four years of above average precipitation, so not one el nino, not two, but three or four above average years of precipitation. >> reporter: desalination might help make up that deficit. it provides a more expensive and energy intensive source of fresh water, but it's also the more reliable one. even a drought cannot dry out the pacific.
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that's why up the coast, in santa barbara, another desalination plant could be running next year. the city built one back in 1992 in the middle of a five-year drought, at the time, one of the state's most severe. but then the rains came-- a lot of rain-- and, just four months after the plant started running, the city shut it off to save money. now, santa barbara is spending $55 million to knock down the existing pumps and filters to turn this into a modern desalination operation. helene schneider is the mayor. >> this drought will end one day, there is going to be another drought in the future. we don't want to be put in the situation of going through a panicky session of getting permits up to date or getting things moving. we want to have desal as an option when we need it. >> reporter: what happens if the rains come this time, and they come in el nino proportions, in that magnitude? is there going to be some hand wringing, saying, "did we screw up again here?" >> we're doing the best we can with the information we have at
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the time we have it. and i've said many times, i've been calling mother nature, she's not returning my phone calls. >> reporter: mayor schneider knows california's water crisis won't be solved by desalination. it will at best be a partial solution, supplying an important though limited amount of the population's water needs: about 30% of demand in santa barbara and about 10% in san diego. but poseidon's peter maclaggan believes desalination is a game changer and "another tool in the toolbox" come rain or come shine. >> it can rain buckets all winter long, and that will be a great thing, but it's not going to eliminate the need for this facility. >> reporter: but as california considers more and more desalination options, it will have to weigh the costs and benefits of turning to this great reservoir just off its coast. >> sreenivasan: daylight savings time ends tomorrow morning, but that doesn't mean you should spend your extra hour sleeping in. find out why at pbs.org/newshour.
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>> sreenivasan: a new report from the american cancer society finds breast cancer is now as common among black women in the u.s. as it is among white women. the data published this week shows the rate of breast cancer among african-americans had ranged from 119 to 125 out of every 100,000 women, but in 2012, that rate went up to 135 out of every 100,000 black women, matching the rate of white women. that number is troubling in part because breast cancer is more fatal for black women than white women: they are 42% more likely to die from the disease. joining me now from atlanta discuss this report is doctor otis brawley. he's the chief medical and scientific officer of the american cancer society. you look at these numbers and what i am a little concerned about is, if that rate was able to catch up does that mean it is on a bad trajectory and could even get worse? >> i believe it will get worse, and we need to address it now to
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prevent it from getting worse. >> sreenivasan: and what is it that actually caught this population up? what is it in african-american women that makes them more likely to die from a diagnosis or after a diagnosis of breast cancer than white women? >> a couple of factors that actually increase risk for breast cancer and they are working very hard and unfortunately very effectively in the black upon haitian. obesity causes breast cancer. black women have gone from 15 percentgthpbult black women being obese in the 1970's to now over 60 percent today. diets that are low in fruits and vegetables cause breast cancer, and unfortunately, we have a number of people who have bad diets. not breast-feeding actually increases risk for breast cancer and that is a problem as well in the black population. we don't have enough women who are breast-feeding when they have a child. >> sreenivasan: so this is a case of increased diagnosed? >> yes. this is not a case of they have
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always had it and we are now starting to find it. this is a case of, they are starting to have it in greater and greater numbers. >> sreenivasan: what about the access part of the equation? say, for example, for mammograms and screenings? >> yes. well, ma'am nothingly rates between rates between blacks and whites are similar but the data shows black women and i would add to that poor white women are less likely to get high quality ma'am nothing graphy, once diagnosed with abnormality they are less likely to get high quality diagnostics and very importantly, when that good data shows that black women and poor white women and poor other minorities as well are less likely to get good treatment, and some of the disparity .. in mortality we see amongst blacks and whites is actually due to disparities in quality of treatment. >> sreenivasan: okay. so what do you do about this? how do you get the cancer rate down for all women, but especially when you see this problem in communities of color?
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>> my message is a message for all women, not just women of color and that is try to maintain an ideal body weight, try to get good exercise, try to have a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, try to decrease meat consumption, if you have a child, try to breast-feed. if diagnosed with breast cancer, you need to seek the highest, best quality care that we can. >> sreenivasan: all right. dr. otis fits from the american cancer society, thanks so much. >> my pleasure. thank you. >> >> sreenivasan: this week marks three years since hurricane sandy struck the northeastern united states. there were more than 100 deaths, and caused $50 billion in property damage. in one borough of new york city, staten island, 24 people died from the storm, and more than 2,100 homes suffered major damage or were destroyed. while many coastal residents there rebuilt, many moved, but only after the government paid them to leave. the newshour's stephen fee
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explains. >> reporter: tina and randy downer built their dream house and raised their two kids in the oakwood beach section of staten island. their house was just 300 feet from the atlantic ocean. >> it's beautiful. it's like we got to live in some kind of a nature sanctuary. >> reporter: the downers knew the area was prone to flooding during storms, but the destruction of superstorm sandy took them by surprise. >> i could not believe what we were seeing. >> reporter: their house took on 13 feet of water. just down the street, joe tirone owned a small bungalow that he rented out. after the damage from sandy, he told a consultant for the federal emergency management agency- or fema- that he didn't want to rebuild. >> he said, "well if that's the case why don't you have the government buy out your home?" and i had no idea what he was talking about. >> reporter: for two decades, the federal government has financed the purchase of homes in severely flood prone areas
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all over the country, getting homeowners permanently out of harm's way. the buyouts are administered by the states and local municipalities. when tirone learned about this program, he presented the idea to his fellow homeowners at a community meeting. >> i said, "how many people here would be interested in a buyout?" basically every single person raised their hand. >> reporter: in the three years since sandy, nearly every one of the 180 homeowners here in oakwood beach has taken the voluntary buyout from the state. that included the downers, who now feared living so close to the ocean. three of their neighbors died during sandy. >> people we know died here. that hit home with a lot of people. >> reporter: when new york governor andrew cuomo visited oakwood beach on the second anniversary of sandy last year, he promised every house bought out would be demolished, and this vulnerable land would never be built on again. >> we're going to return this back to the natural pristine
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wetlands, so that god forbid there is another storm, this becomes an effective buffer for the rest of the communities. >> reporter: homeowners were offered the pre-sandy market value of their homes- plus as much as 15% more. overall, the state is planning to spend $200 million to buyout 500 homes mostly in three staten island neighborhoods. lisa bova-hiatt oversees new york state's recovery program and says it was necessary for the state to pay above market value. >> if you are going to get people to buy into a "managed retreat" scenario, you need to give them incentive to leave. it's not a windfall for them. any additional money that they've received from insurance companies or from fema is deducted. >> reporter: bova-hiatt says buying and demolishing homes in these areas saves taxpayer money in the long-run. >> we are making sure that we're not spending money on infrastructure in areas that
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will repetitively need to be fixed. >> reporter: but aren't there other parts of staten island that are just as prone to flooding where this program isn't being offered? >> sure, but we have other programs. the reality is that there's no one way to take care of a neighborhood or a borough, or in our case, a state, after a storm. >> reporter: where the downer's house stood is now an empty plot. they now own and live in a one-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a building elsewhere on the island. with the state buyout money, they also bought a second home out of state. what do you say to somebody who says, "sounds like a lot of money." was it a windfall for you? >> no, i think that it was very fair that the state used the proper valuations on the property. it still can't replace what we lost. the sense of community, where are roots are, our friends and neighbors. so it didn't even matter, we lost a lot.
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>> this is pbs newshour weekend, saturday. >> sreenivasan: there was a literary gathering last night at london's wheat sheaf pub, a regular hangout of the late poet dylan thomas. the crowd was there to hear a reading of a newly discovered poem entitled "a dream of winter," 73 years after thomas wrote it. itn's peter smith reports. >> a winter night, a winter night scene -- >> it has been 62 years since dylan thomas died but his works in a long fo forgotten poem have just been brought back to life. born 101 years ago this week, thomas is considered the greatest welch poet if not britain's best and one of the few poets of this era to be recorded reading his own work. >> do not go gentle into that good night.
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rage, rage against the dying of the light. >> but it is a new old poem that is generating excitement, "a dream of winter" slipped into obscurity after publication in 1942 in an american periodical that went out of print. its rediscovery came about by complete accident. >> my it was in a magazine to tore it out from a magazine when he wrote to me, why haven't you included it? i didn't have an answer. >> this poem also offers something completely unique, the chance to see the energies that inspired the words. >> to me, it is sort of pandora's box in his mind's eye, because you see all of these images, which he is directly referring to. >> the first reading was in the wheat chief in london which is testimony 79 years on he is still impressing people here with his poetry. >> stand at the london means.
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[ applause ] ♪ ♪ >> and finally, online now, pbs.org/newshour, eight things you probably did not know about the operatic rap song bohemian rhapsody released by queen 40 years ago today. on tomorrow's program our report from greece, number one entry point in europe for refugees fleeing wars in the middle east and a report from turkey on the critical national elections taking place there. that's it for this edition of pbs newshour weekend, i am 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:
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lewis b. and louise hirschfeld cullman. bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the citi foundation. supporting innovation and enabling urban progress. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. 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 has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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>> ellen: i grew up on the east coast, living a typical suburban life, eating what my mom cooked and put on the table. farm animals were something found in a petting zoo and had nothing to do with the food on my plate. as a teenager, i rejected meat and became a vegetarian. i believed that industrial meat production was cruel and that more people could be fed if less grain went to cows. i'd never actually met anyone who hunted and didn't expect to, until work took me to alaska,

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