tv PBS News Hour PBS May 31, 2016 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> sreenivasan: good evening. i'm hari sreenivasan. gwen ifill and judy woodruff are away. on the newshour tonight. >> i don't think it's anyone's business if i want to send money to the vets. >> sreenivasan: responding to media scrutiny, donald trump accounts for the nearly $6 million he raised to benefit veterans groups. also ahead: more than a thousand migrants lost their lives attempting to cross the mediterranean just last week-- marking a surge in journeys as the weather turns warmer. plus, brazil's favelas become the stage for bold policing experiments aiming to push out violent drug gangs before the olympics. >> we don't want the games to be an island of success and perfection. we want the games to transform rio, and to make rio a safer city in the years to come. >> sreenivasan: all that and
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lisa desjardins has our report. >> reporter: it was something relatively rare for donald trump, going on the defensive, as he held a news conference at his new york hotel. >> i have raised a tremendous amount of money for the vets-- almost $6 million-- and more money is going to come in, i believe, over the next little while too, but i've raised almost $6 million. all of the money has been paid out. i have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job. >> reporter: this goes back to january, when trump boasted about a fundraiser he held for veterans while boycotting a republican debate. >> we just cracked $6 million, right? >> reporter: but for months, reporters have asked for proof and specifics. today, trump revealed where that money went-- an array of more than 40 organizations, from work with service dogs to scholarships for families. and, he quickly turned to going on attack against journalists covering the story. >> i have to tell you, the press
is so dishonest. this sleazy guy right ver here from abc. he's a sleaze. >> you know what, when i raise money -- >> excuse me. excuse me. i've watched you on television, you're a real beauty. >> reporter: trump got words from mitch >> reporter: trump did get some supportive words today from the top republican in the senate, mitch mcconnell speaking on msnbc. >> well, i think donald trump is a phenomenon. >> really? you don't think our party changed their views on those issues? >> look, i haven't changed my views and i don't believe donald trump is going to change the republican party in any fundamental way. my view is that trump has earned the nomination because he went out and got the most votes. and we need to be respectful of the electoral process that has produced this nominee. >> reporter: meanwhile democrats were all offense-- and metaphor- - in california. bernie sanders showed up to support the golden state warriors in their must-win and did-win n.b.a. playoff game last night. he tweeted:
today, in san francisco, sanders was surrounded by nurses-- one of his biggest sources of union support-- as he talked healthcare. >> how can we be satisfied when 28 million people in this country today have zero health insurance? >> reporter: hillary clinton's offense? it came from california governor jerry brown, who surprised many by endorsing her today. a big coup for the frontrunner clinton, who has changed her travel schedule to focus more on the golden state. she spoke by phone to msnbc. >> i'm feeling very positive about my campaign in california. we are working really hard. >> reporter: clinton is 71 delegates away from clinching the >> reporter: clinton is now 71 delegates away from clinching the nomination. for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins. >> sreenivasan: in the day's other news: the state department put out a fresh warning to americans traveling in europe
this summer: watch out for terrorist attacks. state department spokesman john kirby said there's no specific threat, but major upcoming events could be targets. >> we took the opportunity since it's the beginning of summer to make-- to make our concerns known about the potential risk of terrorist attacks throughout europe. particularly when you've got the tour de france starting up, you've got this european football championship, and of course world youth day. all of which is happening in june and july. >> sreenivasan: the alert is an extension of one that was issued after the march terrorist attacks in brussels. now, it will run through the end of august. elite iraqi forces held off a fierce counterattack by islamic state militants in fallujah today. government troops began advancing into the city yesterday, trying to end two years of isis control. today's fighting erupted on the southern edge of fallujah. isis fighters used tunnels, snipers and car bombs in an attack that lasted about four hours.
an estimated 50,000 people are trapped in the city. the u.n. refugee agency says isis is using some as human shields. in syria, heavy air strikes blasted a pair of hospitals in the northern city of idlib. activists put the death toll at 23-- and likely to rise. diana magnay of independent television news, reports. >> reporter: in the maihem of rescue, after a series of airstrikes on this civilian neighborhood of idlib, a moment's relief for a life spared. (shouting) a little boy, his eyes wide with fear, his world changed suddenly by the savagery of a bomb. (shouting) >> russian warplanes make several airstrikes on idlib. can't tell yet how many are ted or injured. we know there are dozens. >> reporter: russia says there wasn't them but idlib is in rebel hands and only russia and
the regime have air power. whoever it was, they hit two hospitals. the bombing of hospitals in syria is now happening so often it's almost commonplace. february's cessation of hostilities seems meaningless now. russian and regime warplanes still a feature of syria's skies and on the ground, rescue workers busy saving whoever and whatever they can. >> sreenivasan: in washington, the white house condemned >> sreenivasan: in washington, the white house condemned the hospital attacks and said, "the international community needs to get to the bottom of this." north korea's latest attempt to launch a ballistic missile failed today. it's the fourth failure since april. u.s. and south korean officials said the intermediate-range missile could have the range to reach japan or guam. the u.s., south korea, japan and china all condemned the north's actions. on wall street, stocks struggled to make much headway today. the dow jones industrial average lost 86 points to close at 17,787. the nasdaq rose 14 points, but the s&p 500 dropped two. still to come on the newshour:
what's leading to a spike in migrant deaths, brazil's efforts to eradicate gang violence ahead of the olympics, texas braces for record flooding, and much more. >> sreenivasan: summer in the mediterranean used to be marked by northern europeans and americans flocking to beaches on holiday. but for the past few years, warm weather in the region has meant a rise in desperate migrants taking a deadly journey. more than one thousand migrants have been killed trying to cross the mediterranean sea in the last week. according to the u.n., it's one of the highest weekly death tolls since the crisis began in 2014. scenes of desperation in the heart of the mediterranean. over the past week, rescuers have scrambled dozens of times to reach struggling vessels large and small, overflowing with migrants. a survivor from eritrea-- who
chose not to give his name-- says he never imagined the danger. >> ( translated ): all my friends told me it wasn't easy-- don't try to go. but i didn't believe them, i thought it was easy and i will try it. when i saw this, now i believe them. but it would have been the same for me because for me it was the same, if i stayed in my country, i would have been dead. >> sreenivasan: this latest, unfolding disaster off libya is the newest chapter in europe's migrant drama. the u.n. refugee agency reports that so far this year, some 2,500 people have died trying to reach the continent. that's up from about 1,800 in the same time last year. >> this highlights the importance of rescue operations as part of the response to the movement of refugees and migrants in the mediterranean, and the need for real, safer alternatives for people needing international protection. >> sreenivasan: most of the deaths have come on the route from north africa to italy, where the odds of being killed are as high as one in 23. the victims come in all sizes: the humanitarian organization
sea-watch released this photo yesterday, of a baby who drowned off the coast of libya. >> ( translated ): if we as a european community don't want to see such photos, we must stop producing them. the european union uses the mediterranean as a sort of graveyard where boats filled with corpses are used to scare those who are still living and would maybe want to follow. >> sreenivasan: aid officials also say the rising death toll suggests smuggling gangs are using even riskier tactics than before. today, prosecutors in sicily announced the arrests of 16 suspected smugglers. they were on board a boat carrying nearly 900 people who were rescued over the weekend. >> ( translated ): these smugglers make remarkable profits. if we consider the great number of migrants they manage to squeeze into those vessels, the earnings are substantial, especially compared to the low value of a dinghy and the value of a low-power engine. >> sreenivasan: some survivors say libyan smugglers appear to
be trying to earn extra cash before the islamic holy month of ramadan, when daytime fasting may curtail sailings. meanwhile, the human flow between turkey and greece has dropped sharply. in march, ankara signed an agreement with the european union to curtail illegal migration. for more on this i'm joined now by david miliband, c.e.o. of international rescue committee. david, why is this happening? why this surge that we're seeing in the last couple of weeks? >> i think there are two main reasons that explain this terrible, horrific wave of death in the mediterranean from north africa. the first is the increasingly desperate tactics of the smugglers themselves. i think the official who just spoke about their tactics got it absolutely right. these are desperate people and they're being exploited by smuggling gangs. the second thing obviously is as the weather has gotten better over the last couple of months, the number of people flowing from norfol north africa into is grown.
40 or 50,000 have come into europe this year. the people from africa are coming from nigeria, somalia, from gambia, from the places like the man in the film and you are seeing this is a global refugee crisis not just a syrian crisis. >> sreenivasan: could this be a different wave considering all the countries you just listed? >> we know that the world is experiencing the biggest wave of refugees since the second world war. 20 million people are refugees at the moment, meaning they're flying the countries of their homeland, as a result of violence and conflict. 40 million people are displaced within their own countries. we as an international aid organization are working in all of these fragile and conflict states, albe they in africa or the middle east, and we know to our cost that the amount of need far outstrips the ability of the system to respond, and that's why we say there doesn't need to
be just more money going to international humanitarian aid, there needs to be a new approach in the way refugees are handled and dealt with not the least to prevent appalling loss of life on the shores of europe. >> some part of this has to do with the fact t changed and the deal turkey struck with the e.u. to limit the number of people coming from turkey crossing into europe and seem to be taking a route across libya and into more treacherous waters. >> i'm glad you raised that. we have no evidence that is the case, either from our own people on the ground or from the u.n. figures. if you look at the 150,000 people who have arrived in europe this year from -- through greece, you will see that they're made up predominantly 46% of syrians, then afghans, then iraqis. if you've looked at the 46,000 who arrived in italy from africa, they are somalis, ganbians and others. so it's a good point you make
thatta clamp-down in europe and turkey might, in time, bring people to seek an alternative to the greek route, instead of going from turkey to greece across the aegean sea, they will try to journey from libya across from norfolk into europe. at the moment the people in turkey fleeing the syrian conflict predominantly are not seeking to make that route. they are biding their time in turkey. there are reports of numbers in the turkish port that's a transit route for this. but at the moment up two distinct waves, one from syria and the middle east into afghanistan and greece and the other through north africa into italy. >> sreenivasan: how are the europeans dealing with the new wave of humanity watching up on their shores? >> regarding the middle east, they're bank ago lot on the so-called deal with turkey which is showing a lot of strain.
remember for your viewers' sake, there are a million asylum seekers in germany who are having their papers processed in an orderly way. 55,000 people in greece are waiting for claims to be dealt with. the deal with turkey is designed to stem that flow. when it comes to the north african side of things the search and rescue is much weaker. the legal routes that might be available are much less clear and that's why you're seeing the increasing desperation for the thousand-kilometer crossing from north africa to libya to lapadooza which is the island where the boats are aiming for. europe is trying to cope on all fronts and is also coping with the backlog from last year and that's why the european commission said they'll come forward with new proposals last week. organizations like minor,
resettlement agencies here, say you need clear routes, secondly you have to have proper humanitarian aid in the country and neighboring states and thirdly europe has to deal with those who already arrived in europe and those who have a genuine claim to residency status need to be accommodated. >> sreenivasan: david miliband, c.e.o. of the international rescue committee, thank you for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> sreenivasan: it's just over two months until the opening ceremony of olympic games in rio de janeiro. for the host country brazil, it's been a troubled journey-- the zika virus, corruption scandals, and an economic and political meltdown have all had an impact. but for many residents, the most worrying development is a spike in crime across rio-- and what happens after the athletes go home.
newshour producer jon gerberg teamed up with n.p.r.'s lulu garcia-navarro and they report from the shanty towns-- or favelas of rio de janeiro. and a warning, some of the images are disturbing. >> reporter: the image of glamorous rio de janeiro most people know: world-famous beaches like copacabana, a draw for tourists and residents alike. but just behind the high-rises and hotels, lies another world. these are two impoverished communities, called babilonia and chapeau mangueira. they are at the heart of a bold policing experiment, that started in 2008. it's called pacification. it introduced community-based police units to many favelas that are close to tourist areas. it's aim: to push out the violent drug gangs that operated here in advance of brazil's debut on the world stage with the 2014 world cup and, in two months' time: the olympics. babilonia and chapeau manguira
together became the poster children of rio's transformation. crime dropped, new businesses opened, catering to tourists. police would walk around with their weapons holstered. dignitaries like u.n. secretary general ban ki-moon and media like me were taken here to show off the project's success. but that success is now under threat. pacification is in crisis. the first time i came to this favela three years ago, it was safe. it was known as the disneyland favela. this time, residents refusing to talk to us because they've been threatened by drug traffickers. and the only way we can come is with heavily armed police. these pacification units known as u.p.p.s now walk around ready for battle. two rival gangs are violently fighting for control in this area, and police are struggling. at the crest of the favelas commander paulo berbat tells me the gangs use these jungle paths to ferry weapons and drugs in and out. he told me that in march the battle for control over these
routes turned deadly. so he's saying that just up here in this area, members of a rival gang from a different community used the cover of the forest to try invade this community and take it over. there was an intense confrontation between the drug gang that controls this community and three of the drug traffickers were killed. businesses that had flourished, attracting foreigners, are now reporting a 50% drop in revenue. even though no visitors have been harmed in babilonia and chapeu mangueira, tourists are choosing to stay away. it's a shocking turnaround for the residents here. among them is, rodrigo da silva. he sells food to make a living on the beaches just near his home in chapeu mangueira. he had hoped that the olympics and pacification would provide new opportunities, so he opened a hostel, advertised on air.b.n.b, but clients today are scarce
>> ( translated ): our business has decreased. we had much higher expectations in terms of hosting people throughout the olympics. if the situation had improved maybe i wouldn't still have to work here on the beach. >> reporter: concerned about gang pressure, da silva only agreed to meet us outside his favela. >> ( translated ): if you talk too much, it ends badly. here's the deal: you do not mess with their business. i don't mess with their stuff and they don't mess with mine. everyone wins in a way. >> reporter: but these violent confrontations have led to deep personal losses, across rio. in another part of the city dayse napoleaão told me about te last time she spoke to her daughter sofia. >> ( translated ): we spoke the week of her birthday. she said she was going to rent a house, to leave that area. she was planning to get back together with her ex-partner. she was making so many plans. >> reporter: a few days later, sofia had been shot. >> ( translated ): i went to see her at the hospital.
the doctor asked me, "are you prepared?" i asked him, "why, sir?" the doctor said if her hemorrhaging doesn't stop she won't survive. later they told me she hadn't been able to hold on. she was dead. >> reporter: sofia and her one- year-old daughter had been living in another "pacified" favela, vila cruziero. to get there we needed permission from the drug gangs who control the neighborhood, they did not want to be filmed. our guide was sofia's sister in law carol, who was with her the day she was shot. she says the police from the u.p.p. who were fighting with the drug traffickers sprayed their apartment with bullets. carol recorded the scene with her phone minutes after. >> ( translated ): there was blood everywhere-- blood marks on the wall, in the washing machine where she tried to hold on, blood marks in the pipes. the police said it was a stray bullet and that she was on the street. it is a lie, she was indoors and we have proof of that.
she was hit by two bullets that opened these holes in the door. >> reporter: innocent bystanders are being killed every day in rio. but police too are dying in large numbers as the battle over territory continues. on our way to film with carol that morning we heard of another casualty. we drove to the funeral later that day. police officer eduardo dias had been killed the day before, shot by gang members as he was leaving his u.p.p. post. according to the police he was killed on this street in front of the manguiera favela, and in plain view of the maracanaã stadium. site of the olympics opening ceremony in august. a police pastor at the funeral addressed the crowd: "until when dear lord will we have to bury our good cops? until when will we bury our children, our parents with young kids. do not forget the military
police in your prayers: pray for us all," he said. so far this year, 41 police have been killed in rio state. murders generally are up 15% in the city. robberies up 30%. there is a sense here that things are spiraling out of control. just last week, a 16-year-old girl was allegedly gang raped in a rio favela by as many as 30 men. two boys, 14 and 16, were tortured and murdered by gang members in another city over the bay. both were documented on social media and spread widely around brazil. those who study pacification say it's too early to say whether it has failed. but many mistakes have been made. >> for many of us, the hope was that u.p.p.s would help transform the public security paradigm and the police. and unfortunately, this is the area in which the advance has been more modest, to say it gently.
>> reporter: ignacio cano is a professor from rio state university's laboratory on violence. he says police in rio are still some of the most brutal in the world. responsible for 20% of the homicides in the city, according to amnesty international. police officials have continued to defend pacification. they blame drastic budget cuts for many of the problems. colonel ibis pereira is a former police commander in rio. he says the economic crisis in brazil has severely crippled the policing program. he also believes the spike in violence is partly tied to the imminent arrival of the olympics: >> ( translated ): drug trafficking is a business that follows the same logic of trade around the world-- supply and demand. so there is an expectation of profit, with the presence of millions of visitors to rio, and there is a moment of weakness in the u.p.p. program. >> reporter: now many are asking themselves if there is a future for pacification. >> there is a sense in the
police force and within the public at large in rio generally that pacification has hit a wall. >> reporter: robert muggah studies security and development at the igarape institute in rio. he says there will be tens of thousands of federal, state and municipal forces protecting tourists and infrastructure during these olympics-- twice the size of those used in the last summer games. but that was london and this is brazil, one of the most unequal countries on earth. and these games, says muggah, will move resources away from marginal communities. >> now if you are a white tourist coming in from europe or north america you're going to be absolutely safe. however, if you are a low income black resident from a favela in the lead up to the olympics, you are actually going to be feeling a heightened sense of insecurity. >> reporter: brazil has promised the rio games will be safe. but olympic officials acknowledge it's not enough to just secure the games. >> what we need to push, and we will do so, is to have more security before the games, and more security after the games.
we don't want the games to be an island of success and perfection. we want the games to transform rio, and to make rio a safer city in the years to come. >> reporter: what part pacification will play in that is unclear. and that worries rodrigo da silva who supports the program. if the police pull out of the favelas after the olympics, he predicts the worst. >> ( translated ): there will be more violence, more violence in all the communities because of the fights between the drug gangs, fights against the police. in the end, the ones who will pay for this will be the residents. as always. >> reporter: as rio de janeiro gets ready for the summer games, da silva says his olympic dreams of a new life-- shared by many others-- are already out of reach. for the pbs newshour, i'm lulu garcia-navarro of npr news, rio.
>> sreenivasan: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: why a city seen as an economic success story, isn't satisfied with the president's record, vermont schools facing consolidation or closure, and confessions of an abu ghraib interrogator. but first, torrential rains and flooding in southern and central texas have made for a damaging and even deadly couple of weeks. a crest on the brazos river is eclipsing records set more than two decades ago. large sections of fort bend county-- just southwest of houston-- are underwater. residents there and in several other cities have been evacuated. at least six people have died since last week. and more rain is expected in the coming days as the weather pattern pushes east. we get a report from one of the worst hit areas. jeff braun is the emergency management coordinator in fort bend county and joins me via skype. jeff, i said these records were set a couple of decades ago. tell me, have you seen it this
bad before? >> no, hari, we have not seen it this bad. 1994 was the record flood here at the richmond gauge, the city of richmond is the center part of the county and there's a gauge there that everybody bases their flood finding on. the record was 50.3 at that gauge. we're going to be somewhere about 4 feet or a little over 4 feet higher than the water's ever been seen in the county in the last 25 years. >> sreenivasan: we see aerial pictures of horses being pulled off the farm on to porches of homes. we see huge swaths of rural area that look like large lakes. how long till those drain? >> it's a major concern for us. the water that enters into the city of simonton, which is the first town in fort bend county hat has the brazos river, there are probably over 300 homes that have water in them there.
today, we also have the texas animal health commission going out to work with some of the ranchers out there because they have cattle that are in compromised positions. the water is flowing down the river, not only in rural areas, but into some of our denser populated areas in the rosenburg-richmond area, and the water level is going to crest in a very long, slow time frame, so we may be looking at several days, maybe even a week of the water staying at the level that it's at right now, which is several feet above what would be the record crest. >> sreenivasan: that river snakes all the way across your county, jeff, and has a lot of different bends and probably a lot of different elevations as well. are there particular areas you're more concerned about in the coming days and weeks that basically will be more populated? >> the city of simonton and rosenburg were the first two
cities hit and they both had mandatory evacuations. the city of richmond has a mandatory and voluntary evacuation. we have large parts of the unincorporated area of the county that have been affected. as the river crests in richmond is then going to move down into the southern part of the county. a good part of the southern part of the county has levies. all our loveyed areas are in fine shape. all the lid operators are doing a great job. so there's no worry there. but then once we get past the lid areas, we're looking at other areas where it is a combination of rural houses and also more bottomland where there is cattle and horses, a lot of those individuals have taken heed of the warnings and have moved a lot of the people and livestock out of the way. >> sreenivasan: jeff braun, emergency management coordinator in fort bend county. thanks for joining us.
i know it's a business ay day for you, thank you. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: houston which has dealt with severe flooding waters in years is bracing for flood waters to come its way. michael walker emergency management for the city, joins me now. basically flood waters in texas go through houston to get to the gulf of mexico. how concerned are you? >> obviously, whenever we have significant rainfall events that are back-to-back the way we've seen the last couple of months, we're very concerned about the impacts we could have here in the city. we've had a history of river flooding in our area and we are continuing to monitor that. unfortunately, it's just the way that houston was built, you know. this was a small town eclipsed by the town of gavels when it was built, and so, since then, we've just had a lot of development, a lot of building, but unfortunately the way that the southeast texas area drains is through a system of bayous. so if we receive heavy amounts
of rain in concentrated areas, that can put a lot of strain on the bayous towards the gulf of mexico, which then results in flooding. we've done a lot of work locally to help mitigate against the flooding. there is still a lot of work to do in the city and partners at harkt, fort bend county, all the different jurisdictions around us, we are committed to solving some of the flooding problems and also letting people know what to expect and what steps they need to take to prepare ahead of these types of situations. >> sreenivasan: flooding is one of those things that you can somewhat prepare for when you know that the rain is heavy, it's falling and you can see the flooding is happening upstream. are you trying to prepare parts of houston for possibly evacuations like they are happening in fort bend county? >> our major concern in the city of houston is not so much the river flooding you seton the brazos in fort bend county and in other parts to the west of the city. our major concern is flash
flooding. that usually is what impacts us here. that's really our concern. we're looking at rainfall totals. we're looking at the location of where that rain is going to fall. the last three federally-declared disasters we had which were all within one calendar year of each other were mostly related to flash flooding and water quickly rising and quickly receding in our neighborhoods. so that's late built more what we're concerned about. we are monitoring the addicks and barker reservoirs on the west side of houston which were built in the late '30s following a catastrophic flood in downtown houston. those are holding up. they are holding the water. it is blocking some roads in that area, but those are doing the job that they're doing. the u.s. army corps of engineers has been working closely to control the amount of water coming out of those reservoirs as it comes into a bayou that comes into downtown houston. michael walker, emergency management for the mazar-i-sharif. thanks for joining us. >> thank you.
>> sreenivasan: tomorrow, president obama will return to the first city he visited after becoming president-- elkhart, indiana. it was one of the worst hit cities back in 2009, and the president will be delivering a speech to tout what's been accomplished since then. he'll sit down with our gwen ifill for an interview while he's there, and then answer questions from residents in a town hall special we'll be airing tomorrow night. it all comes during a tough phase of the election cycle, as the president seeks to make a case for his legacy. john yang has the story. >> reporter: president obama's trip to elkhart, indiana tomorrow marks his fifth visit since he was a candidate in 2008. in 2009, he went there to announce $170 million in federal stimulus money for elkhart
county. elkhart is a city of about 50,000 people, known as "the r.v. capital of the world"-- an industry on the rebound since cratering during the recession. at its worst, unemployment was once more than 20%. seven years later, it's now 3.8%. he's been doing as best as he could do, it wasn't perfect when he got in. >> we've come a long way, the economy is fairly good now. when it crashed in '08 it was like a ghost town around here. >> reporter: ed neufeldt knows that firsthand. laid off from his job in the r.v. industry in 2009, he now works four part-time jobs, including cleaning a doctor's office. he's thankful there's enough work for him. >> if you want a job in elkhart county, you can find a job. there's help wanted signs all over-- elkhart's doing great.
>> reporter: it's quite a contract to when we last met him in 2009. when his employer of 32 years closed. >> we were all shocked when we closed down. because we were one of the bigger corporations. i thought we would be one of the last to be around, but we weren't. >> reporter: despite the recovery, neufeldt says republicans and democrats can't get along. >> they're angry. that's the reason so many people voted for donald trump. they want to see a change. i guess they feel like government is crooked. newfeldt presents one of the challenges for the president and for the democratic candidates who want to precede it. he doesn't know who he will vote for in the fall and when the "newshour" caught up with locals at the memorial day parade, some said they were unhappy with the president like this trump supporter who listed his complaints with mr. obama. >> lack of pride in america and everybody getting their feelings hurt over stupid things. >> reporter: in 2012,
president obama lost >> reporter: four years ago, president obama lost elkhart county to mitt romney by a wide margin on his way to losing the state in 2012. although elkhart's fortunes and that of its r.v. industry have made a dramatic turnaround, the lingering anxiety here mirrors communities across the nation worried about their future. i'm john yang for the pbs newshour. >> sreenivasan: vermont is in the midst of the largest reorganization of public schools it has seen in the last 125 years. as many other rural states have already done, vermont wants to consolidate its many small school districts, but it's not happening without a fight. special correspondent john tulenko of education week has this report as part of our weekly education series, "making the grade".
>> reporter: vermont is a collection of small towns, many with just one or two schools, and where people feel they have a say in their children's education. >> people have a very loud voice, you know some people will say montpelier controls everything, there's really not a lot of voice left, well there is. >> reporter: like suzanne hull- parent, vermonters stay close with their schools through their locally elected school boards. there's one for almost every town. >> i've been on the school board for 12 years. i think when you have local people living in the community, making the decisions about their school the best they can, it's going to be more vested in the good of that community. >> reporter: something else about vermont schools, they're among the smallest in the country. >> you get more individual attention. i was blessed to have that and i'm blessed to have my children have that. my daughter feels like she has a voice and i'm not sure in a bigger place that she would feel she had a voice.
>> reporter: small schools and local control are in the d.n.a. here. but that's changing as a result of a new state law called act 46. it aims to consolidate vermont's school districts and reduce their numbers by half. for now, communities can vote yes to unification and get tax breaks or say no and lose a portion of their school funding, and risk being assigned into a merger by the state. >> i don't see how this is helpful for our children. >> but what if the vote is no, what happens? >> change is hard, i think change is hard. >> reporter: for school superintendent jay nichols, change could help many students. nichols oversees five small school districts in northern vermont. two of them are neighboring districts, richford and enosburg, and both have high schools. >> enosburg high school, by vermont standards, a good sized high school.
comprehensive school, offers a lot of programming. you know seven or eight a.p. classes. has a junior r.o.t.c. program, which has saved kids. parents will tell me that it has saved their kids and have them not drop out of school, because of junior r.o.t.c. richford kids can't go do that. >> reporter: richford high school, in the town next door, offers only two a.p. classes, not to mention no r.o.t.c. the reason for this is size. >> it's a smaller school, and it's all about economies of scale. they offer as much as they can for the size that they are. >> reporter: richford has about 150 students. enosburg has roughly double. >> if we were to become one district, a kid could take some classes in enosburg, some classes in richford. >> if we share the staff, and we share the kids, we can offer more, that's all. >> reporter: but act 46 was designed to accomplish another goal: tax relief. two-thirds of the money vermont spends on public schools comes from property taxes.
>> it's a statewide property tax. and when people get their bill, it tends to be a big one. >> reporter: house speaker shap smith pushed act 46 through the state legislature. >> one of the things that was driving change was the fact that we have declining enrollment, and yet we have increasing expenses. our student to teacher ratio is one of the lowest in the country, and that is driving the education cost for the last 15 to 20 years. >> we have too many adults for the number of kids we have. that's why we have the most expensive education system in the united states. >> reporter: act 46 could lower costs by sharing staff and resources, but the fear is some districts will go farther. >> you will see school closures. >> reporter: to vermonters like suzanne hull-parent, that would be significant. >> you're losing the heart of many communities. that's where they meet. that's where they have functions that aren't even school-related. that's where families in need get support services.
i think it just is going to be devastating to communities. i think they're going to change the landscape of vermont with that. >> reporter: closing small schools means having to send students elsewhere, to larger schools that offer more courses but may not be better. >> like people who go to small schools, when they graduate they leave with something unique and special that other people don't have. >> i came from a huge school with a lot of resources and i came in knowing that there wasn't as many advanced programs. but connection is really important. you know, there's a lot of support here. >> reporter: act 46 does prohibit school closings for at least four years, but there are other things that vermonters would have to give up right away. >> school choice in vermont. if you live in a town that is a tuition town, you can go to school any place you want, paid for by the taxpayers.
>> reporter: tuition towns are those without schools, often middle schools and high schools. merging could cost them school choice. >> today we have the ability to send our kids to the best fit for them and we're going to give that up. >> reporter: many of these parents in montgomery, vermont send their children to public and private high schools, including this private school in canada, using school choice vouchers worth some $14,000 each. in all, it's about a million dollars that's projected to leave the district. >> this is a huge portion of the budget that we can keep in our local schools and communities. >> could you offer more a.p. courses? >> we certainly could. >> reporter: you don't think there's a chance that that million dollars-- >> is just going to infuse in and get-- no, i don't think that's going to happen. no, no. >> it concerns me that... >> reporter: all these debates will soon be put to the voters. on june seventh, residents here will decide whether to move forward on plans to merge. in franklin county, vermont, i'm john tulenko of education week reporting for the pbs newshour.
>> sreenivasan: the military's use of forced interrogation has always been a contentious subject. even though many who may have once approved of its use now have second thoughts. our newest addition to the newshour bookshelf is eric fair's "consequence: a memoir". judy woodruff recently talked with him about his first hand experience with torture. >> woodruff: eric fair, we can. to the -- welcome to the "newshour". >> the thank you for having me. >> woodruff: this is a painful book to read. what did you want to accomplish by writing it? >> i have to a painful and chaotic book to write. i have been writing about my experiences in iraq for close to ten years and mostly op-eds and small essays, and it was important for me to get the entire story down. it was submitted originally just by iraq and at that point
editors and agents suggested i needed to spend time exploring the whole story. >> remind the audience why you ended up in iraq in the first place. you were working with a contractor, a company hired to be involved in interrogating prisoners of war. >> i have been in army from 1990 to 2000. when it appeared there was no reason for an arabic linguist to be in the army, i went back home to bethlehem, pennsylvania, became a police officer and was diagnosed with a heart condition that ended my career. this was off 9/11, the war in iraq was ramping up, invasion was over, contract companies were desperate for employees in a number of positions and get people over as quickly as possible. i knew it was the one way i could sneak back in without a health examination and get back into the community. i supported the invasion and felt like i had an obligation to the community to be a part of it.
>> woodruff: how did that compare with what you found yourself in the middle of. >> my experience in the war in the middle east had been with the first gulf war and the impression i had was thousands of iraqi troops brought back to the rear and debriefed. we would have talked to them about the units they were in and the strength of those units, things like that, the kind of weapons they had or the weapons systems, to gauge just how committed and how strong these troops were. we had not anticipated doing interrogations or being part of a prisoner of war camp in iraq and surround bid combat and so we were driven out to abu grab and essentially started work the next day and much of it was more associated with law enforcement, it was the idea of deciding whether or not someone was guilty or why they had been captured, whether they should stay in custody. the insurgency was beginning to ramp up. mortars were coming into abu ghraib, soldiers killed by i.e.d.s, the death count was continuing to rise, the idea the
insurgency or war was going to end was clear it wasn't so, there was a need for more intelligence information to figure out what was going i don'wrong.>> woodruff: you writn graphic detail about what you saw, how people were treated. was it a matter of not expecting this? what do you think ultimately drove you to want to get out of there? >> i think i was aware right away that morally this was difficult, the kind of treatment that prisoners were receiving, but in terms of the legal issues surrounding it, it was policy and this is essentially what we were supposed to be doing. the vast majority of us as contractors were prior soldiers, so we felt a commitment to the people in uniform and to ourselves and our community to do these things. i lasted about two months doing interrogations and i took another position in baghdad that was not involved in interrogations but i knew then, even though i had supported the war, the invasion was wrong. there clearly were no chemical weapons in iraq and much of the
narrative we heard about what was going on there simply wasn't true. >> woodruff: so much of the book, eric e, is how this affected you and continues to affect you. >> the process started in late 2006 in which i knew i needed to start writing about some of the things i had done. i knew the only way to do that effectively was to write about my own role and so was not to be a policy pundit and talk about the administration or the legal issues surrounding it, but i needed to write an honest account of my own narrative. now, at the time when i started writing, i was not calling this torture. that's something i only processed recently and begun to realize absolutely the things we did were torture. so there have been consequence force me. but i realized the people on the other side of the table in the interrogation booths suffered the true consequences. >> woodruff: what do you want to come out of this book? >> i think like any writer it's a hope of a change of the narrative. we have presidential candidates who are talking about waterboarding and other aggressive techniques. we have the director of the c.i.a. suggesting his men or
employees would not waterboard, which is encouraging but also very disturbing in terms of it's a recognition of where we can go and we can still go back to where we were and we may go back to something far worse. so there needs to be an honest narrative about not only what it does to the personnel who were put in these positions but to the kind of things it does to people in our prisoner of war camps. >> woodruff: did you come away of a clear idea of what is within the bounds of what should be permitted when interrogating someone who has done something terrible against the united states, whether it's i.s.i.s. or al quaida or something, and what steps over the line? did you come away knowing what that line is? >> no, and i think that's abexcellent question because i think once you begin to push the limits of interrogation, which in and of itself is already a potentially abusive sort of thing, forcing someone to talk to you, the minute you begin to push those limits and the minute you entitle yourself to force
someone to cooperate with you to essentially change their will, you've moved into this world of torture. torture for me were things like stress positions and in particular sleep depp rivairks and i know a good number of americans would scoff and laugh and suggest we could go as far as water boarding but i think you can see how lost we are in the idea there are different levels of abuse and interrogation, and it's anything that violates another human being's will is torture. as americans, that's the attitude we need to have. we don't care what organizations like i.s.i.s. in places like syria are doing. we care about what we're doing and things we project. we have an obligation to the constitution and the bill of rights and those things require us to behave in a certain way. >> woodruff: eric fair, the book is "consequence: a memoir." we thank you very much for talking with us. >> thanks for your time.
>> sreenivasan: coming up tomorrow night on pbs, a one hour special hosted by gwen ifill, including an interview with president obama followed by a town hall meeting. i'm gwen ifill. join me for a town haul with president obama, from the economy to fighting terror to who will succeed him in the oval office. everything's on the table. that's june 1 at 8:00 p.m., 7 central only on pbs. >> sreenivasan: on the newshour online right now, it's job hunting season for new college grads. for them, and for anyone else looking for work right now, our employment expert offers four basic principles for getting the respect you deserve at a job interview. all that and more is on our website: pbs.org/newshour.
tonight on "charlie rose:" comedian and late night host samantha bee talks about the first season of her show "full frontal." and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday miles o'brien gets a look at inflatable space pods which could be key to future space travel. i'm hari sreenivasan. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> we can like many, but we can love only a precious few, because it is for those precious few that you have to be willing to do so very much. you don't have to do it alone. lincoln financial helps you provide for and protect your financial future because this is what you do for people you love. lincoln financial-- you're in
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