tv PBS News Hour PBS December 21, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. >> sreenivasan: and i'm hari sreenivasan. >> woodruff: on the "newshour" tonight, we're on the ground in berlin where police hunt for a new suspect in the truck attack that killed 12 people. >> sreenivasan: also ahead this wednesday, the political fight intensifies over north carolina's controversial bathroom law restricting transgender people's access to bathrooms. >> woodruff: and, "the atlantic's" ta-nehisi coates talks the legacy president obama leaves behind. >> if having an african-american president was as revolutionary as we claim, it was then there'd probably be some sort of backlash. >> sreenivasan: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour.
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german officials today identified him as anis amri, a 24-year-old asylum seeker from tunisia. for more, we turn to special correspondent malcolm brabant, in berlin. malcolm, first of all, what can you tell us about this suspect they've identified? >> well, this guy, amri, the reason why german authorities know it's him is they found his identity card in the floorwell of the truck when they searched it. now, he is really out of central casting when it comes to a petty criminal who has been radicalized, and he's the sort of nightmare that the authorities really have been dreading because he has been in the criminal justice system throughout europe. he spent four years in jail in italy for starting a fire. he slipped into germany using the open border system and tried to claim asylum here. the german authorities actually had him in their custody three
times but each time they managed to let him go. they wanted to deport him back to tunessia but weren't able to because the tunisians said he wasn't a citizen. that's a problem when people try to deport people is some of the third-world countries don't want the guys back. he slipped away from the germans and they're desperately trying to find him. >> woodruff: we know authorities raided or visited two different places today. what if they said about that? >> well, there have been a number of raids that have taken place. they've raided a couple of apartments in the berlin area. they also raided an asylum center in the rhineland to the west of herener the dutch border which is a place he was thought to be staying but they, unfortunately, didn't find him. what the authorities have done and what is really quite significant is they have said they would be willing to pay
more than $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of this man. the reason they're doing this is they believe that this man has gone underground in radicalized areas, there are probably a network of people he's associate with because, for example, he was supposedly keeping company who was an i.s.i.s. recruiter and somebody who radicalized others in the past who is now in the custody of the german authorities. what they're trying to do is they're hoping the money will loosen the tongues of people in areas where people might be frightened and hopefully this money will lead to amri and help them to capture him before he does any more damage . >> woodruff: separately, mac aum. we know the german cap net approved more public surveillance if germany. what's the background of that? >> well, this is a really controversial thing as far as germans are concerned because it means there will be many more
cameras around and other sorts of public surveillance. this is something germans are extremely sensitive about because of their history and that dates back to the second world war when the gestapo had terrible networks monitoring people. then when the iron curtain came down, of course, the east germans were under the stasesy and some dreadful public national surveillance going on. so germans guard their privacy very closely indeed, almost to the extent it's ridiculous. for example, the first photos authorities issued of amri had his eyes blurred to respect his privacy. now, since then, they have gone public. but authorities believe they need more surveillance to make sure security is in place and that's something the german public won't like. >> woodruff: we know the police tape has been removed from the scene of where this truck attack took place. the market is now opened again. are people going back there?
>> yes. it's a very, very sad sight, indeed. the crime scene tape was lifted about four hours ago and the lights are on, but all the christmas market stalls are closed. a bar right next to the church that was there to remind people of the second world war. it feels like christmas has been killed. >> woodruff: such a grim time. malcolm brabant reporting for us from berlin, thank you. >> sreenivasan: president-elect donald trump today issued a fresh condemnation of the attack in berlin. he spoke at his mar-a-lago estate in florida, after meeting with michael flynn, his pick for national security adviser. he said the attack underscores the danger of islamist threats. >> i've been proven to be right, 100% correct. what's happening is disgraceful. that's an attack on humanity. that's what it is. it's an attack on humanity and it's gotta be stopped.
thank you. >> sreenivasan: that was broader wording than mr. trump used right after the berlin attack. monday, in an emailed statement, he blamed militants who "continually slaughter christians in their communities." >> woodruff: the death toll rose to 32 today in a fireworks disaster near mexico city. it happened tuesday evening in tultepec, where a giant fireworks market is a christmas tradition. a chain-reaction explosion tore through the open-air bazaar, leaving charred debris, ash and the bodies of the dead. scores more people were badly burned. survivors described a harrowing scene: >> ( translated ): i live next to this market. the explosion's shockwave broke the glasses of many windows, and jolted the houses. it was really horrific. many people ran out of the market, they were shocked and didn't know where to go. my goodness, it was such a chaos, and so terrible. it is hard to accept that so many people lost their lives in the explosion. >> woodruff: this was the third such explosion to ravage the
popular fireworks market since 2005. >> sreenivasan: reports out of congo today told of security forces killing as many as 26 protesters. human rights watch gave that number. the u.n. said at least 19 were killed on tuesday. hundreds more were arrested. they had been demonstrating against president joseph kabila staying in office, after his term expired. >> woodruff: in syria, final evacuations began today in eastern aleppo. dozens of buses were on hand to ferry some 3,000 remaining civilians and rebel fighters. they left in heavy snow, as night fell. a 7-year-old syrian girl who left aleppo this week met with turkish president recep tayyip erdogan in ankara. she'd drawn global attention for tweets in her name, written by her mother. >> ( translated ): we had a lot of problems. our house was demolished, bombed. our school was bombed as well. there was no food, no water, no medication. the bombings continued everyday.
we were even afraid of going out on the street. and we couldn't do anything. >> woodruff: the u.n. security council had voted this week to send monitors into aleppo, but it was unclear today whether any have actually entered the city yet. >> sreenivasan: back in this country, there's word that the number of death sentences handed down this year is the lowest since the early 1970's. the numbers come from the death penalty information center, a group opposed to capital punishment. it says 30 people were sentenced to die in the u.s. in 2016, down sharply from last year. the number peaked at 315 back in 1996, but public support for executions has been falling ever since. >> woodruff: two big names are joining president-elect trump's economics team. billionaire investor carl icahn will be an informal, special advisor on regulatory reform. and economist peter navarro will lead a new white house national
trade council. and, the head of boeing met today with mr. trump, who's complained a new air force one will top $4 billion. he promised to build it for "less than that." >> sreenivasan: and, on wall street, the dow jones industrial average lost 32 points to close below 19,942. the nasdaq fell 12 points, and the s&p 500 slipped five. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, north carolina reconsiders the controversial bathroom law the atlantic's ta-nehisi coates on president obama's legacy. the battle over the heavens between scientists and hawaiian residents, and much more. >> sreenivasan: we turn now to north carolina, where lawmakers are meeting in fits and starts for a special session to debate repealing h.b. 2-- that's the so-called "bathroom bill" they passed in march. it's a law that thrust transgender rights into the spotlight and sparked national controversy. and now, its fate hangs in the
balance. >> visitors will retire from the chamber. >> sreenivasan: lawmakers who'd normally be home for the holidays, found themselves back in raleigh: >> i don't like to be here any more than the rest of us do on this time. >> sreenivasan: and it was clear that some who pushed house bill 2, nine months ago, weren't happy about being called into special session to repeal it. >> i'd like to protest that this is an unconstitutional session of this assembly. >> sreenivasan: the statute bars local governments from enacting legal protections for members of the l.g.b.t. community. that includes preventing transgender people from using bathrooms matching their gender identity in public schools and government buildings. it also limits any anti- discrimination measures aimed at employers. from the moment it passed, the law touched off protests. companies from paypal to deutsche bank scrapped plans to put jobs in the state. the n.b.a. canceled plans to hold its 2017 all star game in north carolina, and
entertainers, from cirque du soleil to bruce springsteen dropped plans to perform. "h.b. 2" was itself a response to an anti-discrimination ordinance in charlotte, the state's largest city. and, under fire, republicans had promised a special session to repeal it, if charlotte rescinded its ordinance. today, the charlotte city council, dominated by democrats, voted to scrap the ordinance entirely, on condition that h.b. 2 is repealed. that came despite opposition from l.g.b.t. activists: >> i feel those people in city council we worked so hard for, they turned their backs on us and it really hurts. >> sreenivasan: all of this comes too late for republican governor pat mccrory. he narrowly lost his re-election bid last month, in a race dominated by the backlash against the "bathroom bill." for more on the controversy surrounding the law, and its possible repeal, we're joined now by jeff tiberii. he's the capitol bureau chief for wunc public radio and joins us now from the north carolina
general assembly in raleigh. jeff, we're speaking a little after 6:00 eastern time. it's been kind of up and down all day on whether this thing will come to a vote or not. what's happened today? >> at this very moment, the senate republicans, they had take an ten-minute break that went on for two and a half hours. they're in right now and we believe a vote will happen on senate bill 4 which is a measure to repeal house bill 2. could happen at any moment. it would be a full repeal of house bill two. there is another section of the bill, nine or ten lines, and the other component of this bill would mandate that there would be a 180-day cooling off period for municipalities and localities where they couldn't enact any kind of ordinance or provision similar to what charlotte did last february that more or less set this whole thing off.
that's where we stand now but it's not clear that it will move through both chambers. >> sreenivasan: what were supporters saying, you visited with both sides. what were they saying when it came to this? >> of course, it depends who you talk to. what's interesting about north carolina, specifically in the north carolina house, it's 120 members, 75 republicans, and there is really some diversity within that chamber. we're talking about representatives who serve areas that are deeply red and very religious and other republicans who serve suburban areas and in swing districts and that could be seen as vulnerable. at the end of the day, the holdup at this point, the reason there haven't been a smooth process of repealing house bill, because let's remember there is a republican governor and republican supermajorities in the chambers, but the reason it hasn't moved now is there aren't enough republicans in the full
house to support the repeal and that goes back to the business leaders and religious and power players they ultimately answer to. >> sreenivasan: jeff, i heard this described in shorthand as bathrooms versus basketball. how much camebto the economic pressures the state felt and the consequences of this? >> the economic impact has been huge. as we heard in the reporter piece there, i've seen some estimates that are up $400 million. but ultimately, this is not just about bath rrms or basketball, it's about power. city council members were warned not to pass such an ordinance almost a year ago and they did and felt like they had to act act. whether from a policy or electoral standpoint they felt it would give them good cover in the elections, there are a number of reasons for that, but
ultimately this is about power. what one of the fundamental challenges in north carolina, a thing that is on the table constantly is the rural-urban divide. in the rural areas which is where many of the most powerful lawmakers you are talking conservative areas. and in other regions, chart and raleigh, they're very blue. some of the local ordinances are very out of touch or out of line with what republican lawmakers would like to enact here and that is one of the big disconnects, we shall call it. >> sreenivasan: what's the status for an average lgbt citizen that might be flifg charlotte today. if this repeals does this basically go back nine months and their life is protected or unprotected the way it was or stays the same? how does it change? >> this essentially is a reset button. that's what we've heard from republicans who have introduced
this legislation thus far today. they say it resets. effectively, we would go back to a place where, prior to the state hb-2 so many viewers know about and prior to the charlotte city ordinance that sought to provide protections for the transgender, this goes back to prior to either of those so, essentially there would not be protections for transgender people. house bill 2 established a statewide ordinance that left out the lgbt community. >> sreenivasan: while the bathrooms get the bulk of the attention, there were other things in the bill as well, right? >> mm-hmm. absolutely. >> sreenivasan: all right, jeff tiberii from wunc capital bureau chief. thank you.
>> woodruff: as president obama winds down his time in the white house, we will be looking back at the legacy of his presidency in the coming weeks. tonight, as part of our partnership with the "atlantic" magazine, my conversation with writer ta-nehisi coates about his cover story, "my president was black." >> i think so many african- americans got so much joy out of the image of barack and michelle and malia and sasha, the first family, and that was going away, and there was a kind of sadness. >> woodruff: can you put into words how much his election meant in the first place? >> the notion of an african- american president for black people was perceived as being so impossible that most of the great sort of representations of it are in comedy. it's just a moment that seemed so impossible and so far off that actually it came to be, it actually happened.
>> woodruff: you spent a lot of time with him over his eight years in the white house, and you spent a lot of time, a lot more time thinking about him, and what comes across is really a better understanding of why he was able to get elected in the first place, his own upbringing, being raised in a white family in essence. >> well, it was a unique situation. it's not-- a lot of attention, rightfully so, gets focused on the fact the president is biracial, a black biracial man. but it wasn't-- african- americans actually have quite a few biracial black people throughout our history, frederick douglass, booker t. washington, bob marley. so, that's not an unfamiliar thing. what's unique about the president is that he was born into the house of a white woman and her parents in hawaii, which was far, far from the fulcrum of jim crow at a time when marriage between his mother and father
was illegal in broad swaths of the country. the very conception of him himself was taboo, and yet in this family and in this place, hawaii, there was great, great security, and there was great love, and not a kind of love or security that required a denial of himself as a black man. in fact, it was actually confirmed, and there was no contradiction between this white family loving him deeply, and him being black. that is incredibly, incredibly unique. i don't-- i've never come across that in my life actually. >> woodruff: and that made him somebody really unusual. >> different. >> woodruff: different in the course of the american political history. >> when it came time to campaign to a broader audience beyond the african-american community, it wasn't particularly difficult for him to extend himself in that particular way he saw his family. i mean, literally actually his
family when he went to campaign. >> woodruff: you write about the unique nature of his background and who he was and how he accepted and believed in and trusted the american people you wrote made it possible for a majority of americans to support him. >> i really became convinced of the kind of optimism he showed about the country, and frankly the kind of optimism that he showed about white americans, which is very, very hard for african-americans to muster in the way that he did was, in fact, genuine, and was real. he wasn't faking it, and i think people felt that. >> woodruff: he comes into office with his own high expectations of himself and his ability to get a lot done. he immediately runs into opposition. >> the reforms i'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. >> you lie!
>> woodruff: that doesn't go away, and that it inevitably shapes his legacy, the way he connects with the american people. >> he showed a kind of optimism about the country that maybe a lot of african-americans could not show, and that actually enabled him to win, but, in fact, once he got there, he didn't deploy the skepticism. the optimism actually hurt him, but that the skepticism most african-americans would have held. they would not have been surprised by many of the things that he was actually surprised by. >> woodruff: whenever he would bring up an issue or a subject connected to race in the early years of his presidency, he got a significant amount of blowback. >> one of the things i really try to appreciate is he was always walking this line, and he had to walk the line. you know what i mean? you're president of the united states. it is true that the majority of people who you serve, who you represent, that's not the south
side of chicago anymore. that's not what you're-- you're representing a much, much broader country. and at the same time i think deep in his heart he didn't want to necessarily lie either. in other words, he didn't want to flatter egos. he didn't want to flatten out history. so, i think he was always wrestling with that tension, how am i honest about this country's history, and at the same time speak to the goodness that i actually see in the broader country. >> woodruff: how has embraced being black? >> yeah. >> woodruff: how does he see that as part of who he is? >> yeah, i think he did that relatively early on, and i think like this is again the uniqueness of his background. there was no incentive or pressure in his house to not be black. that didn't really exist. i mean, he jokingly said to me while i was interviewing him, but i think he was being truthful, that his mother thought black people were cool. you can say that's naïve, that's whatever, but it's a lot better than thinking they're horrible.
he talked about how he had-- he said listen, when i was coming up, i had people like marvin gaye, thurgood marshall, dr. j. i mean, these are the people i looked up too. so, i think from a very, very early age he had a kind of-- i mean, people-to be clear. the black community in hawaii is considerably smaller, but there is a black community. it is there, and it was there for him. so, i think he had it early on that he was black. i mean, that was just how he saw himself. >> woodruff: he wasn't dealing with the same pressure, daily pressure. >> no, no, no. >> woodruff: that so many african-americans do. >> no, not at all. i had to ultimately see it as a tremendous privilege and a tremendous gift actually to be away from the kind of grind and poverty, even if it's not in your house, that is actually around you. to not go to schools and wonder why your schools are terrible, to not have to deal with the fear of the violence and not really have to deal with the police. so, he was aware of it, but it
wasn't personal. it wasn't within him, and literally it wasn't within his family. >> woodruff: and so did that steel him against the strain of opposition, insults and so forth that happened. >> yeah, i just think he was un- traumatized. so, it didn't bring any past memories of it, in that he took his share of racist insults during the time when he was president, but it doesn't- emotionally, it doesn't call anything back to him. he's not remembering this like what they said when i was seven years old or what-the trauma is not there. >> woodruff: and did that make him stronger when he faced what he faced as president? >> i think so, although going back to what we were talking about before, it may not have given him the requisite skepticism. it's like two sides. it's two sides. yes, it did make him stronger. it did mean that when someone stands up and you're giving an address and yells "you lie", you just-what's wrong with that guy? you don't go back, and you don't storm, and you don't have
memories that it conjures up. it doesn't quite do that to you, but at the same time, someone else might have expected someone to stand up and yell "you lie". >> woodruff: it also, you write, contributed to his not seeing the potential appeal of a donald trump. >> yeah. that is-- that is where the real tragedy for me comes in, in the sense that i saw the president in the spring, and he said of trump, he said he can't win. he said he couldn't perceive donald trump as actually winning, and so as he was hearing this wave of insults that were coming in i think over throughout the campaign, in his america that wouldn't play. what he said to me, just to give the most scientific i guess analysis of this is that it's very hard to win an election in america by appealing to people's darkest instincts, and it didn't quite go that way. >> woodruff: one of the things you write, it has to do with the
election of donald trump being the price that has to be paid for having barack obama as president. what did you mean by that? >> well, i meant that if having an african-american president was a revolutionary as we claim it was, that there'd probably be some sort of backlash or some sort of counter. that's generally been true. that's the first thing. the second thing is that there was a great deal of barack obama's power is symbolic and is in the symbolism in what it communicates to african- americans, and the thing that has become so poignant for this is the picture in the oval office where the president is bending down and that young boy is touching his hair, and that basically said your hair looks like mine, and that communicated great symbolism to african- americans and great power to african-americans, but that also communicates things to other people also who may not necessarily be so happy about that kind of progress who have all sorts of feelings wrapped up
in that, and so i think a lot of that culminated in the election of president-elect. i think that those two things work together. it doesn't mean that all white people or even necessarily most white people looked at that picture and said i don't like that. it just meant that we have a significant not insubstantial minority of people in this country who being white actually means something. it gives them something. >> woodruff: stay with us, coming up on the newshour: a tech star leaves silicon valley to build a manufacturing company in liberia. and what we can learn from a prison riot in the 1970s. but first, science correspondent miles o'brien returns to an
hawaiian mountain top, for a second report on astronomers' efforts to build a cutting edge telescope there and the controversy that's raised with native hawaiians who regard the area as sacred. it's part of our weekly "leading edge" series. >> reporter: this is where the heavens meet the earth... ...and the sacred meets the scientific. they stand in opposition here, amid a long fight to stop construction of the giant 30- meter telescope. and yet both worlds are also closely aligned-- with the stars. >> mauna kea is actually it's our origin place. >> reporter: kealoha pisciotta took us to her family's altar, or lele-- one of hundreds of native hawaiian stone shrines that dot the mountain: >> we still bring offering here. these are remnants of offering from people from around the world actually. >> reporter: her polynesian ancestors were the first navigators, using the stars to
find their way here in small boats more than 1,000 years ago, celebrated in the latest disney movie, moana: >> ♪ at night we name every star, we know where we are, we ♪ know who we are who we are >> the star knowledge of our people has helped the polynesian people circumnavigate the globe millennia before most of the discoverers were doing it. >> reporter: but the summit of this mountain is also arguably the best place on earth for astronomy, home to 13 world- class observatories. >> we're in the keck 1 dome and what we're looking at here is the back of the keck telescope. >> reporter: marc kassis is a support astronomer at the w. m. keck observatory. its twin 10-meter wide mirrors are two of the largest and most productive telescopes in the world. >> this is 300 tons moving and keeping things to an accuracy of
a few nanometers. >> reporter: there are 36 separate hexagons tightly arrayed to make a primary mirror that is much larger than can be created with a single piece of glass. it is this breakthrough innovation that made possible telescopes this powerful and precise. >> sometimes i get a little teary eyed when i'm talking with other people because i really like the place and excited about sharing it. for me, it's a testament to humans' curiosity about the universe and the world in which we live in. >> reporter: it was the tug of science that first pulled kealoha pisciotta to the summit of mauna kea. a physics major and lover of astronomy, she worked for 12 years as a technician at this observatory. >> when i began to see the landscape being taken over, that's when i realized, "whoa! this is no longer man operating in a natural landscape, it's man
dominating the natural landscape and that's where it started to shift for me personally, is when i started to say, "hey, hey, you know what i mean? astronomy is great and all, but what about all these other things?" >> reporter: from an astronomer's perspective, mauna kea is the perfect place. at 14,000 feet, the telescopes sit in very dry air, above 40% of the atmosphere. steady, non-turbulent trade winds blow across the pacific and up the gradual slope of this extinct cinder-cone volcano. >> this is the cream of the crop right here, the mauna kea. >> reporter: nobody can top this? >> this is the best place in the world to do astronomy. and, you know, astronomers have tested other places in the past and currently, and they found again that mauna kea is just one of the premier sites to do astronomy in the world. >> reporter: first light for the keck telescopes came nearly 25 years ago. they have steadily improved them
with various unique cameras and sensors ever since, and starting in 1999, the most significant technological leap of all: adaptive optics. it's a conformable mirror that corrects for the distortion created by the atmosphere that makes stars twinkle. peter wizinowich is keck's optical systems manager. >> in order to correct for the turbulence in the earth's atmosphere we basically use a source outside the atmosphere. >> reporter: at first they would point the telescope at a known star and continually adjust the correction based on how it was distorted. >> 1,000 times a second or so, we're changing the shape of that mirror to get the ideal star image back. that star then allows us to look at objects which are much more complex like a galaxy. >> reporter: those guide stars are not always in view, so in 2004 they started using powerful lasers to create points of light in the atmosphere to determine how it is shimmering. >> you're a little blurry right now, i correct with my glasses
and i got to do that 1,000 different settings in a second. take a look at these keck images of neptune on the left- no adaptive optics used. in the middle, first generation a.o., and on the right, the state of the art. look at uranus without a.o. and now with it. adaptive optics offers 100 fold increase in detail. the only thing better is to get above the atmosphere with a space-based telescope, but their size is limited by the narrow constraints and payload of the rockets that loft them. hubble's mirror is only 2.4 meters, or just shy of eight feet, wide. as it happens, hubble and keck have worked in concert to help create a golden age of astronomy. >> our whole understanding of the universe has changed dramatically. 20 years ago we really didn't understand or know about dark matter and dark energy, for example.
and that's 95% of the universe the stuff we have no familiarity with. hopefully with the next generation maybe we'll be moving to the platinum age. >> reporter: astronomers say the next generation observatory they hope to add to the celestial orchestra here, the 30-meter telescope, will offer 100 fold increase in power over keck. >> so we want to see the very first stars. the price you pay is they're very faint, so you need a very large mirror to collect enough light to be able to analyze what these objects are. >> reporter: ed stone is executive director of the t.m.t. international observatory. they have designed a telescope with 492 hexagon segments in its primary mirror. >> t.m.t. will be able to make images of these very distant objects and by looking at the colors, we'll be able to tell how well they're rotating, how they're evolving to create the galaxies we see today. if we can find an atmosphere that says this place has had microbial life that would be fantastic.
>> reporter: native hawaiian opponents of the t.m.t. successfully argued the project did not get the proper approvals for its building permit. so the hawaiian supreme court revoked it. t.m.t. has started over, but also forged a plan b-- an alternate site in the canary islands. but for many native hawaiians there is no place else. there are 93 world class astronomical centers around the world. there is no place where our ceremonies like this can be done. >> reporter: kealoha pisciotta took me to the to the proposed site of the t.m.t. the nine-acre footprint of the observatory sits in an area known as the "ring of shrines." >> we don't want any more desecration to occur. >> reporter: so enough is enough in your view? >> enough is enough, yes. >> reporter: and you're a person who loves astronomy and has worked here. >> yeah, and i do think that even astronomy needs to recognize that they have-- there
are physical limits and they can't work in a vacuum. >> reporter: but the vacuum they are so focused on, space itself, beckons. astronomers believe they are on the cusp of unlocking some big secrets and answering perhaps the most intriguing question of all: are we are alone in the universe? the fight over the t.m.t. is a reminder they are not alone on this high mountaintop. i'm miles o'brien for the pbs newshour on mauna kea, hawaii. >> sreenivasan: now, opening a new fashion frontier in africa. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro has a report from liberia on one man's effort to use his success in silicon valley to bring decent jobs to africa, part of our series, agents for change. >> every morning, nearly 100 women at this garment factory in
mon robia begin their workday with song. liberian women wake up, they sing, you are the leaders of the nation. most grew up in nearby slums. many had no formal education. yet, now, they have become leaders in their communities and part owners of this factory. the man who built the factory is chid liberty, a social entrepreneur born in liberia, son of a diplomat whose family sought asylum in the u.s. during the country's 14-year-long civil war. lishty was raised in wisconsin and was working in silicon valley living the american dream, he says, when he had a revelation. >> i was living in the bay area, you know, i had a nice salary, i had a very expensive foreign car, i had everything you think a 20-something-year-old kid would want, but i realized, without going back to liberia, i would never really know who i am
truly as a person. >> lishty returned to a country which had been devastated by the war, nearly two-thirds of the population lived in poverty, more than half of all adults were illiterate. although the country exported iron ore, rubber and diamonds, those industries didn't create many jobs, he said. >> to me, that was crazy. how can we expect to pull so the many people out of poverty if we're not making or adding value to something? i've looked to countries who have done it in an amazing way in asia and i said i feel like this is africa's tame to do this. >> he decided to build a fair trade garment factory paying women competitive wages. he went looking for u.s. investors with this pitch. >> hey, i want to go do this ground-breaking world-changing thing and everybody would look at me and say, manufacturing, not just in africa but liberia? you're crazy, don't let the door hit you on the way out.
>> did you have any self-doubt that maybe this was, indeed, a very silly idea? >> what i knew i could believe in was the people in liberia. >> liberty scraped together enough money to buy 30 sewing machines and hire 30 women to work if his aunt's basement. they started by sewing t-shirts and tote bags which were sold locally. four years of aggressive door knocking finally yielded a jungle prize, a multi-million-dollar order from hagger and another from a second company. new buildings and machines were purchased and 300 workers hired. >> when this was all done, it would have been about $40 million a year we would be making from these two companies. we thought it was a pretty great business as did our investors and everybody else. >> woodruff: the ebola outbreak in west africa --
>> eebl la. 70% of the employees lived in ground zero for the deadly virus. employees were informed about precautions to take and all survived. >> we basically went to zero on the business side. we lost all our contracts, didn't deliver in time. >> and they weren't coming back even when the crisis abated. >> i would call back people and say i think the outbreak is almost over, do you want to come back to liberia? they would say, no. >> liberty got an idea to make school uniforms required for all students across africa and which parents often cannot afford. >> we knew education was a big problem, kids were out of school for a year. the one thing i could contribute was the uniform. >> to pay the workers who would sew and donate the uniforms, liberty launched a kickstarter campaign selling t-shirts, he raised $230,000 in just over a month. that got the attention of the
manhattan retailer bloomingdale's which invited him to start his own clothing line. he called it appropriately enough, uniform. it includes basic t-shirts, pants and jackets and they're marketed as socially-minded products. with each sale of a garment in the u.s., money is donated to the uniform project in liberia. we went with him recently as he delivered t-shirts to the monrovia football academy. so far he's been able to donate 8,000 uniforms to schools across liberia. chid liberty said he never thought he would be in the fashion business, but now he says he's happy not to have to depend on other clients. >> i really thought there was no way we could do this on our own, but it's been amazing to see our own brand and lead with generosity and help with kids in school, and that's what ended up making the factory successful. >> the women seemed happy. they make more money than
average, civil servants, receive healthcare and basic school course work. school was not an option for many during the war. >> you heard there was a job here. >> yes. ou came and how long would you like to be in this place? >> how long would i like to be here? forever. >> this has provided for my children and sending them to school. >> liberty is able to pay high wages and keep his prices competitive with asian factories because his garments can be imported duty-free to the u.s. thanks to a law to encourage trade with african nations. massive problems remain, the lack of roads, irregular power supply and bureaucratic corruption, but liberty feels he has created an oasis for his workers. >> it's been so amazing to watch people have the dignity of a job, so much so that at times that, you know, when we shut down because of ebola, told them don't come, they still came.
they see each other as a family and they belong to each other. >> it's a tiny effort in a country in desperate needs of hundreds more, but a prototype, he says, of what africa needs, decent jobs making african products from african resources in africa. for the pbs "newshour" this is fred de sam lazaro in monrovia, liberia. >> sreenivasan: fred's reporting is a partnership with the under- told stories project at university of st. thomas in minnesota. >> woodruff: next, a look back at a pivotal moment in this nation's criminal justice history. it's a story with themes of racial tensions, mass incarceration and policing that continue to echo today. and to jeffrey brown. >> brown: september, 1971: attica prison in upstate new york became the site of a bloody
prison clash that would shock the nation. over several chaotic days, some 1,300 inmates seized parts of the prison and demanded better living conditions. >> we are men! we are not beasts and we do not intend to be driven or beaten as such! >> brown: in the initial takeover a guard was killed. inmates held about 40 prison employees as hostages, negotiating with the state of new york, and bringing in outside counsel including attorney william counselor. governor rockefeller refused a face to face visit, talks disintegrated and on september 13, hundreds of armed troopers stormed the prison to retake control. >> the instructions is your weapon is not to be taken or you to be taken. >> brown: 29 inmates and ten hostages were killed in the the takeover, scores more injured.
the story, much hidden from view, is told in the new book "blood in the water, the attica prison uprising in 1971 and its legacy." the author is a historian at the university of michigan. you say there are two stories to tell. start with the what happened, the period leading up to the riot, what led to it? >> prisonsl in 1971, much hike today, were these out of sight, out of mind places where people were treated very badly, and the guys inside worked through the system first to try get their conditions improved -- again, very basic things, enough food to eat, sufficient sanitary supplies -- and when that really fails, frustration mounts. ultimately they erupt in a protest, and the book tells that story. it's a remarkable story of men from very different backgrounds who stand together, negotiate with the state of new york, with the help of observers.
>> brown: the riots were not planned. >> no, not at all. it actually begins in a quite unexpected clash between prisoners and guards that morphed into something much more organized. the the guys elect representatives from the cell block to speak for them, they begin negotiating to the state for better conditions and, for four days, the world watch also as the media is there to see how this thing is going to unfold. >> reporter: also violence, though. i mean, one guard is killed early on. >> indeed. >> reporter: there is real violence, not just the specter of violence. so days go by, and the state decides to go in. now, why? what led to that? >> that was one of the guess i had. this is a prison protest that starts with a great deal of violence initially but becomes a very peaceful and orderly protest and, yet, suddenly, in the middle of the negotiations, the state decides to retake this prison with enormous force.
nearly 600 heavily-armed law enforcement personnel enter the prison, and it's a massacre. and what was remarkable was that everybody in the governor's office, governor nelson rockefeller had been told don't do this, it is going to be a massacre, and he did anyway. so part of my question was that, why, in the midst of negotiations, did we end this with such violence? >> brown: what do you conclude? >> i think the short answer is nelson rockefeller was very interested in his own political aspirations. he wanted to be the president. he was moving rightward as his party, the republican party was moving rightward. this is the early '70s, nixon is in the white house. really, attica becomes this line in the sand, this moment where he's going to be tough on crime. >> brown: the politics of law and order. >> indeed. and the human rights story is a pivotal moment in american history where we go from civil
rights era discussing civil reform to a very punitive era to where we become the country with the most prisons in the world. >> brown: the second part of the story, as i said, was the information suppressed, kept secret, including efforts to avoid holding anyone accountable in your telling. >> yes. when i began the book, i had a very difficult time telling this history, because it turns out the state of new york has largely shut down access to all of the records related to attica, and that is in no small part because all of the deaths that happened on the 13th of september, 1971, the day the state retakes the prison are as a result of rawvment bullets. -- law enforcement bullets. >> brown: friendly fire, in other words? >> well, indeed. they are coming in, shooting thousands and thousands of bullets into this prison, and the carnage is prisoners, hostages die. so the records thereafter are very controversial and they get
shut down and, ultimately, no member of law enforcement is indicted for what happens during this retaking, even though all of the deaths during the retaking were at the hands of law enforcement. so those records have been sealed, and it's been very difficult to find out what happened, who committed which acts in the yard, and, thus, the length it took to do the book. >> brown: so your sense that there was never any resolution or justice for anyone on all sides? >> indeed. so ultimately, it's both prisoners and guards were killed during this retaking, and both groups suffer tremendously. indeed, for 40 years, they want to know what happened that day, what happened to my father, what happened to my brother, why was there so much violence. >> brown: what is the legacy? how did you come to see it? to what extent are the issues still with us? >> indeed. the legacy is mixed. on the one hand, because the retaking is so bloody and because the state then steps out
in front of the prison and tells the world that the prisoners killed the hostages, which was simply not true, the world is very much encouraged to think that prisoners are animals, they are not deserving of human rights, let alone civil rights, and attica helps to fuel a very punitive turn in this country that we see today. indeed, conditions in places like attica are worse today than in 1971. so one legacy is repression, a real punitive moment. but, at the same time, attica was a story of 1,300 men who stood together against tremendous odds who asked to be treated as human, and that legacy is also with us. today we see prisoners again speaking up to humanize the conditions behind bars, to be clear that containment for serving time does not mean a license for abuse or deprivation. so i think it's a mixed legacy. >> reporter: the book is blood
in the water, heather ann thompson. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: on the newshour online right now, the u.s. consumes well over four billion avocados per year, part of a booming global love affair with the fatty but healthful fruit. but like with all great booms, there are unexpected consequences. read more on our web site, pbs.org/newshour. and on our facebook page, find nine things you didn't know about christmas trees. that's at facebook.com/newshour. >> sreenivasan: finally, an editor's note. tonight when we introduced the segment about the controversial north carolina bathroom law, we had an image of the georgia state flag, rather than the north carolina one. we apologize and regret the error. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm hari sreenivasan >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and good
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