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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  December 20, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday december 20: a critical province in afghanistan may be on the verge of falling to the taliban. fact-checking last night's democratic debate. and, how the 2016 campaigns are using vast amounts of data to identify and target individual voters. 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. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. at's why we are your tirement company.
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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. a key region in afghanistan could be on the verge of falling to the taliban. the deputy governor of helmand province, an area that u.s. troops once fought to secure, says urgent action is needed to prevent its collapse. the official posted an unusual public plea to afghan president ashraf ghani on facebook saying, quote: "helmand is standing on the brink, and there is a serious need for you to come." the helmand official said he had lost 90 soldiers in the past two days and hundreds more during six months of taliban attacks. a spokesman for president ghani said the president is aware of
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the facebook post and met with his national security council about the situation. an afghan army spokesman said helmand would never collapse. air france says a bomb scare that forced a passenger jet to make an emergency landing in kenya today was a false alarm. the plane was en route from the indian ocean island of mauritius to paris when a passenger reported a suspicious device in a bathroom. after the boeing 777 landed safely in mombasa, all 459 passengers and 14 crew members were evacuated and screened by investigators. air france's c.e.o. says the device, made of a cardboard box and a timer, did not contain explosives and was a hoax. indonesia has arrested 10 men accused of plotting terrorist attacks around christmas and new year's day. police say they removed bomb- making materials, weapons, and training manuals from their residences. the suspects allegedly planned a suicide bombing in indonesia's capital of jakarta and attacks on indonesia's minority shia muslim communities.
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police say four suspects belonged to jemaah islamiyah, the sunni muslim extremist group linked to al qaeda, which killed 200 people in the 2002 bombing of a nightclub in a bali, indonesia. last night, the three major contenders for the democratic party's presidential nomination in 2016 shared the debate stage for the third and final time this year. the debate took place in new hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary, in february. right off the bat, the candidates dispensed with a recent controversy, when vermont senator bernie sanders took responsibility for his staff accessing a democratic party database to copy information about supporters of the former secretary of state. >> yes, i apologize. not only do i apologize to secretary clinton and i hope we can work on an independent investigation. >> sreenivasan: the candidates were pressed on domestic issues like health care and education, but like their last debate, foreign policy dominated. sanders said, unlike clinton when she was in the senate, he
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voted against the 2003 u.s. invasion of iraq, and that he is against deploying u.s. ground troops in syria. >> i do not believe in unilateral american action. the troops on the ground should not be american troops. they should be muslim troops. i believe that countries like saudi arabia and qatar have got to step up to the plate. >> sreenivasan: former maryland governor martin o'malley agreed the u.s. should show restraint with syria's president. >> we shouldn't be the ones declaring that assad must go. we have a role to play in this world. but it is not the world-- the role of traveling the world looking for new monsters to destroy. >> sreenivasan: clinton said sanders had supported the u.s. joining the coalition that caused regime change in libya in 2011. >> you joined the senate in voting to get rid of qadhafi. >> sreenivasan: she also lambasted the candidate leading republican opinion polls, donald trump, for his suggestion that banning muslims from entering
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the u.s. could stop terrorism. >> mr. trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and to make them think there are easy answers to very complex questions. >> sreenivasan: clinton also said republican calls for closing the door on syrian refugees are wrong. >> i don't think a halt is necessary. we need to have an increased vetting and screening. >> sreenivasan: joining me now from washington for further analysis of the debate is jon greenberg from "politifact." jon, during the discussion on terrorism and the islamic state group, hillary clinton made a statement about the impact of donald trump's idea to ban muslims from entering the u.s. >> he is becoming isis' best recruiter. they are going to people showing videos of donald trump insulting islam and muslims in order to recruit more radical jee addists. >> sreenivasan: any truth to that? >> well, i think the issue here is that hillary clinton said
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there was a video being produced. and the problem is not the clinton campaign nor anybody else can point to a video. so there was an article that the clinton campaign talked about which had some people saying that isis was referring to donald trump, but no mention of a video. the people who really do track this stuff say if donald trump had shown up in an isis video, lots of people would be talking about it. and nobody was talking about it. so in the absence of evidence, we really have no choice but to say this is false. >> sreenivasan: okay. in the q and a over gun control maryland governor martin o'malley accused mrs. clinton of flip flopping. >> secretary clinton changes her position on this every election year, it seems, having one position in 2 thousand and then campaigning against president obama and saying we don't need federal standards.
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>> sreenivasan: now she said that's not true, who is right here? >> to be precise, in 2 thousand she was pushing hard and she was talking about having photo identification licenses for all gun owners. and then in 2008, she backed off and said no, we don't need that kind of licensing. however, the important thing is you got to key in on mallee saying no federal standards. clinton has never backed way from having federal standards. so that part of his claim is inaccurate. but you can find that hillary clinton has shifted her position a bit on gun control over the years. >> sreenivasan: finally senator sanders who advocates medicare for everybody said a single pay health-care system would reduce u.s. healthcare spending. here's that. >> why is it that we spend
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almost three times per capita as to what they spend in the u.k., 50% more than what they pay in france, countries that guarantee health care to all of their people. >> sreenivasan: it feels like we're back a few years ago debating the affordable care act. but is he right? >> well, we don't know whether or not having a single payor system would necessarily reduce health care expenditures here in the united states. and we're not the in prediction business. on the other hand, what we can fact check is his basic math and the numbers there are very clear. in the united kingdom we're looking at about per capita 3200 u.s. dollars per person, and then in france, it's about $4100. whereas the united states is at $8700. so if if you do the math, bernie sanders is correct, then that's what we did. so we gave him a true. >> sreenivasan: all right, jon
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greenberg thanks so much. >> my pleasure >> sreenivasan: databases, like the one sanders and clinton use from the democratic national committee, are a critical tool for modern presidential campaigns. they contain voter names, addresses, and voting histories, as well as data about you that can be bought, for example, about where you shop. campaigns analyze this information to find potential supporters and target them to turn out on election day. in tonight's signature segment, newshour special correspondent jeff greenfield explains how this works. >> reporter: it has been the core of political communication. speaking to the multitudes, by any and all methods: the street corner rally; the leaflets, the radio speeches. >> this generation of americans has a rendezvous with destiny! >> reporter: the tv ads.
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>> it's morning, again, in america! >> reporter: but in recent years, technology, in the form of data-crunching computers, has upended just about every traditional notion about how to reach voters, how do you talk to them, and how to persuade them to vote. indeed, modern campaigns more and more are taking the mass out of mass communications, choosing instead to target voters one at a time. it's called "micro-targeting." and it's something almost everyone with a computer or smartphone experiences. companies send you e-mail pitches based on what you've bought from them; amazon knows what books to recommend based on the books you've already bought; your neighbor with different tastes gets a completely different list. it's why your computer looking at the same website will have different ads from those of your neighbor, based on the digital trails you've left. what's happened in the last decade-and-a-half is that the tools of consumer marketing-- the ability to gather and interpret enormous amounts of data in order to know more about individuals-- have been adapted
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and refined by political campaigns. >> i think we're talking about using the reams of available new data and statistical modeling tools to find new ways to segment the electorate. >> reporter: sasha issenberg literally wrote the book, "the victory lab," on the arrival of so-called analytics. >> what analytics is doing is collecting the hundreds, if not thousands, of a variables that are available about every adult in the united states, and looking for patterns that are less visible to the naked eye, and saying, "okay, can we come up with a better likelihood of assuming somebody's propensity to be a democrat, or to vote in a primary, or to turn out to vote at all?" >> reporter: it's happening across the political landscape, left and right. months before democrat hillary clinton announced for president, a pro-clinton super pac, "ready for hillary," was gathering data on social media like facebook to find and target potential supporters. republican senator ted cruz has
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explicitly acknowledged his campaign is very much a data- driven, grassroots-driven campaign. it and allied super pacs have already spent millions of dollars searching facebook and other sites to find likely cruz voters. and according to "the washington post," the cruz campaign explicitly credits its use of analytics to the senator's recent rise in the polls. so, how does micro-targeting work? it all starts with the voter file, public information about where you live, whether you're a registered party member, and whether you've voted in primaries and general elections, and then taking it one step further. >> every magazine subscription that you've had, if you're on mailing lists from catalogs. a lot of states have their hunting licenses, or gun permits are available. >> reporter: and here's the key: thanks to computing power, campaigns can look at traits that are common to their supporters: people who've donated or volunteered. by finding other people with those same traits, they are
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likely to find more supporters. that's what president george w. bush's re-election campaign did in 2004, when it looked for supporters in heavily democratic districts in the key swing state of ohio. in earlier times, this would have been futile; but now the bush campaign could find supporters scattered throughout hostile territory, kind of like finding raisins in a bowl of raisin bran. >> and so, the bush campaign and the republican national committee made a concerted effort between george bush's election in 2000 and his re- election in 2004 to build the infrastructure to make this work in politics. and one of their big things was saying, "yeah, let's, let's figure we know that even in the...the least republican county in america, 15%, 20% of the votes are...are ours. and i, if we know how to go find those people, we can be targeted and lower the risk of...of inadvertently mobilizing the wrong people." >> reporter: bush won ohio by 2%; a loss there would have cost him the presidency.
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it was a lesson the underdog barack obama campaign took to heart in the 2008 democratic contest. >> yeah, necessity is the mother of invention. >> reporter: michael simon headed barack obama's "targeting and analytics" team in 2008. >> in that contest of hillary versus biden versus obama versus edwards, etcetera, there was a need to do something fairly groundbreaking, because the electoral pathway for barack obama simply didn't exist if the electorate as it typically was configured was going to turn out. so, what we were really trying to do was to break down the geographic barrier. and all these different pieces of sort-of digital footprints that we leave behind, that were some telltale signs. >> reporter: this information meant, for example, that an obama canvasser would not go to every door in a neighborhood, but go only to the doors where potential supporters lived, and would go with a message shaped to the interests of that potential voter. and in the fall, the same approach that worked for george
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bush in ohio four years earlier proved critical for obama in at least one battleground state. >> one of the underappreciated reasons why they were able in a cycle to take a state like virginia, where no democrat had run a serious campaign for the presidency in-- in 30 years-- and make it competitive was that they said, "yeah, there are a lot of conservative counties here where a democrat only gets 21% of the vote, but we now have the data to figure out how we can make that 24% of the vote just by mobilizing a few more people." >> reporter: by 2012, obama's team embedded analytics into every aspect of the re-election campaign. everything from where the candidates and spouses should go, to what kind of ads should run where and at what time, was rooted in mountains of data which enabled the campaign to test competing messages scientifically. >> so i randomly assign, let's say 10,000 people into two groups. one of them gets the piece of mail that says marco rubio's tax
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plan would raise taxes on middle income people, and 5,000 of them get one that says he would lower taxes on rich people. and i see that, "wow, one group of people now supports rubio at a rate three points higher than the other." >> reporter: and because you know about those 10,000 people, you can make reasonable assumptions about a far larger people you've never polled. >> yeah, it's what they call "look-alike modeling." and then you're going out and maybe up to 250 million other american adults saying, "who are the people who statistically resemble them, and how much do they resemble the type of person whom i know cares about this or will vote that way?" and then you can go out and prioritize among that group how you want to communicate with them. >> reporter: in the last two presidential campaigns, democrats more skillfully wielded these analytic tools. but in 2016, both sides appear to be well-armed. audience partners is a firm in suburban philadelphia that offers targeted messaging largely to republican clients. jeff dittus, the firm's managing partner, says micro-targeting will be even more prevalent this time out. >> there's a group of folks, and
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i suspect it's maybe 35% of the population, that you cannot reach with mass media. all they do is look at their phones and their computers to get news. and so i see it as a necessary thing for the democracy to be able to push messages and reach those people, because you can't reach them any other way today. >> reporter: dittus showed us how his company used the voter file in chris christie's 2013 re-election campaign for governor of new jersey, a state with some 5.4 million voters-to specifically target registered republicans with a weak voting record. >> so i would exclude the people who let's just say in 2009 who did show up. and now my audience is down to 296,000 people. >> reporter: of course, as with any new technology, there's a danger of overstating its power. lynn vavrek teaches political science at ucla. >> i think that if you have the money to spend on building an analytics shop and sustaining it, then yes, i think you would
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be a little foolish not to use it. the thing i think that is important to remember is that that may be the icing on the cake that gets you that 538th vote in one county in florida. but you still need the cake. >> reporter: if analytics is overrated, one candidate seems to be testing that idea. g.o.p. frontrunner donald trump has apparently no analytics operation at all, relying instead on his celebrity, personality and media appearances, as well as a torrent of tweets, to drive his campaign. >> the big stuff in campaigns, i think, is national context. what's going on in the country right now? what's the state of the nation's economy? who are the candidates? given the state of the world and who they are, how do they try to beat one another? if you know those things, you can go a pretty long way toward having a sense of how a presidential election, at least, is going to turn out. >> reporter: even former obama
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analytics chief michael simon says analytics are less meaningful when more big issues dominate an election, as huge democratic losses in the 2010 and 2014 mid-terms demonstrated. >> it's going to get you a couple of points, and it's going to help build, you know, a robust organization that can help carry the ball or the remaining few yards to the end zone. it's not going to help buttress against a tsunami. and, you know, when the macro- forces are as stacked or as lined up as they were against the democrats in those two midterms, there's only so much you can do. >> sreenivasan: russian airstrikes in syria are being blamed for the deaths of more than 40 people today. bodies are still being pulled from the rubble after bombs struck a market, government buildings, and homes in the northwest syrian city of idlib. the syrian observatory for human rights says syrian rebels and
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civilians are among the fatalities. the human rights group says russian airstrikes over the past three months have killed more than 400 civilians. overall, more than 200,000 people have died in the syrian conflict during the past four- and a half years. because of the danger, some syrian doctors have moved their hospitals underground or have rebuilt them in mountainsides. itn's rageh omaar has more. >> deep behind the blasted face of this mountain side, these men drill and bur row their way beneath the stone and earth building this, underground hospitals and surgical units where syrian doctors, nurses and patients have been forced to hide to get away from constant bombardment. this is one of three such hospitals built in rebel-held northern syria, testament to what the war in this country has come to. the reality is medical workers and their clinics are now being
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specifically targeted in this horrific war. dr. david knot has volunteered in syria. he's a trauma surgeon in a major london hospital. this is him operating in aleppo. and he's also treated victims in one of the underground facilities. >> i hear that people now don't want to go to hospitals because hospitals are really being targeted. to take out a hospital is the worst thing you can possibly do. again the problem is it is happening. >> last weekend the rebel held suburb of dumba was hit. all ages caught up in the horror as were health workers. one of the buildings that was targeted is believed to have been a hospital. and during the same weekend, this make shift theyo national all clinic was also bombed. this was the damage inside. >> if you take out a hospital, you take out a doctor then you win the health of iran, 10 to 15,000 people. so it's a weapon of war. so where those people go, they leave. >> but no sooner had the
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underground clinics been completed then they too are now being specifically targeted. this is one which came under bombardment while if was being used. ponting to this injured man. the doctor appeals to the world. >> where is the human rights, he asks. international law is clear. all medical facilities and health workers in war zones are protected under the geneva convention. the doctor helped build three of the hospitals, constructed into mountainsides. despite all safety procedures we're taking, those new medical facilities and hospitals are also being shelled despite being in safe places because of the destructive power of new missiles being used recently in syria. one of the central reasons why millions of syrians have fled is because they can't find the hospitals and doctors to treat them at home. many people feel that unless syria's health-care system is protected, the millions who have fled will have little reason to
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return. >> this is pbs newshour weekend, sunday. >> sreenivasan: united nations- brokered talks, in switzerland, for a ceasefire in yemen have concluded without resolution. but the u.n. special envoy said there had been progress on a framework for a future agreement to end the conflict and release prisoners on both sides. fighting between yemen's internationally recognized government and rebels has gone on for nine months and caused almost 6,000 deaths, according to the u.n. the warring parties agreed to meet again in mid-january. chinese rescue crews are searching for nearly 60 people missing after a landslide in an industrial park. more than 30 buildings in the southern china city of shenzhen were buried today when a pile of soil and debris from years of construction projects gave way. hundreds of rescuers, some with
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sniffer dogs, combed the site, where the soil was as deep as 60 feet at least seven people were rescued from the rubble. in india, the youngest of six pe in 2012 was released fromng ison. the attack of a 23-year-old woman happened on a bus and the victim later died. protesters of his release, led by the victim's parents, marched in india's capital of delhi today. the victim's mother said, the government should be ashamed of itself. her father said india's parliament should pass a law allowing some juveniles to be tried as adults. both parents were among those arrested when police broke up the protest. ximum sentence india allowsthehe for a juvenile-- three years. four older men convicted in the attack received death sentences yet to be carried out. another perpetrator hanged himself in prison. do you think political campaigns should be able to use personal data to target your vote? join the debate on our facebook page at facebook.com/newshour.
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>> sreenivasan: the latest 7th installment in the "star wars" saga is breaking box office records. the force awakens grossed half a billion dollars the movie theaters this weekend. 238 million dollars in tickets were sold in the united states alone, topping jeur asic world which made $208 million in its opening weekend across the country this summer. disney plans to release several more "star wars" films. that's it for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. thanks for watching. have a good night. 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. ank you.
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