tv PBS News Hour PBS May 31, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: a massive blast rocks kabul, leaving at least 90 dead, hundreds wounded, and an entire city block in ruin, in the diplomatic hub of afghanistan's capitol. then: >> the u.s. finds itself in odd company with syria and nicarauga. >> woodruff: with reports the trump administration may pull the u.s. out of the paris climate accord, i sit down with germany's ambassador to talk about the growing rift between berlin and washington. and, part two of our look at how we treat premature babies. can the simplest, emotional connections help combat the stress of premature birth? >> the child is bombarded with sounds and light.
it's antithetical to what the brain needs and the child needs for development. so, what we're doing is trying to make up for that, to the greatest extent possible. >> woodruff: all that and more, on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years.
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>> woodruff: "the situation is deteriorating day by day." those were the words of one of afghanistan's lawmakers, after a huge truck bomb devastated part of kabul today. it killed at least 90 people, and wounded 400 more. chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner has our report. >> reporter: a pall of black smoke. sirens wailing. chaos in the streets. a gigantic suicide bomb had detonated in the highly-secured heart of the afghan capital. the tremendous force of the blast gouged out a 15-foot crater, and blew out windows as far as half a mile away. >> ( translated ): i walked into my office a few minutes before the explosion. the explosion took place the minute we sat down. after the explosion, we hurried downstairs and saw all the things damaged. >> reporter: special correspondent jennifer glasse in kabul, who spoke to us via skype, said the bombing came as
a jolt. >> it's been quiet here in the afghan capital for the last couple of weeks-- almost eerily quiet. the weather's been beautiful. people have been going out for picnics. the scale of this attack is really unprecedented. the worst we believe since 2001, and that is such a terrible, terrible shock to people. >> reporter: the bomb-- hidden in a septic tank-cleaning truck-- rocked the diplomatic quarter at the height of morning rush hour. despite its fortified blast wall, germany's embassy suffered extensive damage. the bomb site was also close to the afghan presidential palace and defense ministry. the u.s. embassy is about a mile away, yet 11 american contractors were hurt. scores of the wounded were rushed to nearby hospitals, where some told of surviving the blast. >> ( translated ): everything was destroyed in my location. i don't know what happened. there were lots of workers, a lot of people were martyred,
all the people who were on the street were killed. >> reporter: in nuremberg, german chancellor angela merkel condemned the attack. >> ( translated ): in moments like these, it is once again clear to us that terrorism knows no boundaries. all of us who believe in the rights, the freedom and the dignity of mankind in europe, america, in africa, and of course also in afghanistan, will wage the battle against terrorists and we will win. >> reporter: today's bombing is just the latest in a string of attacks that have wracked the afghan capital. security conditions have deteriorated sharply. and hundreds of afghans have been killed in bombings from both a resurgent taliban, and a growing faction of the islamic state. jennifer glasse says the afghan security forces' failure to protect them have roiled the country's citizens. >> there's a lot of anger here among the afghan people. how this large truck got into this part of kabul, heavily fortified-- you're not allowed to have big trucks in the center
of kabul during the daytime for security reasons and for traffic reasons-- and so, there are a lot of questions among the afghan people, how this could have possibly happened. >> reporter: the taliban denied responsibility for today's blast, and in fact condemned it. >> we've seen this before, especially in cases where there have been large civilian causalities and potential for public backlash, that the taliban, even when they've carried out the attack, denied that the attack was theirs. >> reporter: afghan troops have suffered heavy losses over the past year, as the taliban has made gains across the countryside. now the trump administration has signaled it plans to take a more aggressive role there. reports surfaced earlier this month that the president is considering sending 5,000 more u.s. troops to support the 8,000 already on the ground. again, jennifer glass: >> the idea is to get more international forces a little closer to the ground level, to
guide the afghan security forces in the field, to get them a little bit more coordinated, to make them a little more effective in the fight against the taliban. they're right now taking punishing casualties, losing 15 to sometimes 20 soldiers a day, across the country. >> reporter: the u.s. also has stepped up air strikes and raids against the islamic state group that's now active in eastern afghanistan. last month, in a highly publicized move, the u.s. dropped its most powerful conventional bomb on isis hideout there. for the pbs newshour, i'm margaret warner. >> woodruff: president trump spoke by phone today with afghan president ashraf ghani. the white house said the u.s. condemns the attack. in the day's other news: there's word that ousted f.b.i. director james comey will testify that the president pressured him to drop the investigation of michael flynn. the fired national security
advisor is under scrutiny over his russia ties. cnn and the "wall street journal" report that comey is expected to tell that to the senate intelligence committee, as early as next week. and, the house intelligence committee today issued subpoenas for flynn, the president's personal lawyer, michael cohen, and others. president trump today promised a decision "very soon" on whether the u.s. will quit the paris accord on climate change. the white house would not confirm news reports that he is likely to withdraw, but will leave open the possibility of reversing his decision. we'll take a closer look at this, and the day's many reactions, later in the program. a tropical cyclone that tore through southern bangladesh has left thousands of rohingya muslim refugees in ruined camps. they had fled persecution in myanmar and were living in flimsy shelters when the storm struck tuesday, killing seven people. authorities evacuated 350,000
permanent coastal residents, but refugees, most stayed behind. now, many have lost what little they had. >> ( translated ): yesterday, the storm destroyed my house. my son and daughter were injured, they are in a hospital. i was also injured. the roof has fallen on my chest. now i don't have any food, and no money to repair my house. >> woodruff: the refugees spent last night exposed to the rain, waiting for outside aid to arrive. there's word that president trump has invited other leaders to call him on his private cell phone. the associated press and others report that it is raising concerns about holding sensitive conversations on unsecured lines. the reports say that mr. trump has given his cell number to the leaders of mexico, canada and france. ivanka trump's fashion line is facing calls to cut ties with a shoe supplier in china. that's after the arrests of three activists who had investigated labor abuses. the democratic national
committee and "amnesty international" both called today for the trump brand to respond. the company declined comment. separately, china has delayed enforcement of a new cybersecurity law. it requires that foreign companies face government security checks and store their data inside china. that drew widespread complaints that it violates free-trade agreements and opens the door to chinese government snooping. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average lost 20 points to close at 21,008. the nasdaq fell four points, and the s&p 500 slipped one. and, cnn has fired comedian kathy griffin from its new year's eve broadcast, after she posed with a prop resembling the severed head of president trump. the image drew widespread condemnation, and the president tweeted that it was "sick." griffin has issued an apology. still to come on the newshour:
germany's ambassador discusses europe's changing relationship with the white house. what pulling out of the paris climate accord would mean for the u.s. and the world. minnesota senator al franken's new memoir. and, much more. >> woodruff: president trump's first overseas trip included meetings last week at nato and european union headquarters in brussels, and with other g-7 nations in sicily. germany is a key member of all three bodies, and in the aftermath of those meetings, chancellor angela merkel sounded notes of concern about president trump's stance on some key issues. chief among them: climate change and the paris agreement. to discuss this and other matters, i spoke a short time ago with germany's ambassador to the united states, peter wittig.
>> woodruff: ambassador peter witig, thank you for joining us. >> a pleasure to be here. >> let me start with the terrible incident this morning in kabul, afghanistan. this is a normally considered safe area, diplomatic area. but the german embassy was among the many places affected. you had a german citizen with was injured, others who work at the embassy, one died, another severely injured. does this give your government pause, does it give you seconded thoughts about the commitment you have made to nato in afghanistan? >> well, this is an atrocious and horrible attack, once again, in the center of kabul, hurting not only german citizens or injuring or killing them, but also a lot of afghan civilians. but this is reason for us to waiver in our commitment to stabilize afghanistan. we've been there together with the u.s. from the outset.
and we are not quitting. we will remain there in the north, basically in the north of afghanistan where we have the largest force. and we will stay there and do the job to stabilize afghanistan so that it doesn't fall back into conflict and turmoil. >> woodruff: different subject. the paris climate accord. as you know you are aware, there have been reporting today all day long that president trump is close to making a decision. and that he is leaning toward the united states pulling out of the accord. if that happened, what will the repercussions be? >> first of all, as we speak, we don't know what the decision will be. it's no secret we have been a staunch advocate of the paris agreement. we think it's a landmark achievement.
it's almost universal agreement containing the global warming, fighting climate change. and we think it's so important that the u.s. stays on board in a leadership role. thanks to the u.s., this agreement was possible in the first place. now if the u.s. would leave, you know, it would be a kind of self-isolation and the u.s. would find itself in odd company just with syria and nicaragua, the only countries that are not part of the paris agreement. and we don't think that's a good option. >> woodruff: let me read you something that we just learned. this is the european commission president jean claude yokur. he had a message for president trump in. germany he said mr. trump believes that the u.s. can leave the agreement. and i'm quoting him, because he said he doesn't get close enough to the dossiers to fully understand them. he went on, he said we tried to explain that to mr. trump.
where the meetings were, in clear german sentences. it seems our attempt failed. does the president understand this issue, do you believe? >> well, i think he has advisors that explain that to him and i trust that he will be fully briefed by his advisors on the importance of that agreement. i don't doubt that there is the expertise of the white house to judge on the merits of that paris agreement. we just hope that it will not lead to major repercussions for this global achievement. that we think paris is. >> of course it was not only the paris accord that came up during the g-7 summit and even during the nato conversations but it looked as if to the outside world that this was a strained series of meetings, in the aftermath of it your own
chancellor had remarks over the last few days in which she said, and i'm quoting again, she said the times in which we, referring to europe, could completely rely on others are over to a certain extent. she said this is what i experienced in the last few days. what is she saying? >> well, judy, i think, you know, chancellor merkel has a good and productive relationship with president trump. they've met in washington and now in europe. they've been on the phone on a whole range of issues of the international agenda. and the chancellor has been committed to transatlantic relations, to a friendship with the u.s. right from the start, as few other leaders have been. so she is a staunch believer in close relations with the u.s. and that doesn't change with the president. what she said is, and i think
that is, you know, a call on the europeans. >> and she has said this before, we cannot leave our fate in the hands of others, we have to take it in our own hands. we've got to push european reform forward and it's us who have to determine the future of europe. >> but she is saying this as a result of the new policies of president trump, correct? >> we have -- to the united states, we always have. and part of those relations is precisely that you can also discuss divergeencees and this is what happened in europe where they discussed points where they diverge. they have differences of view, climate change was one of them. and so i think that's part of good and dependable relations,
that we can, you speak openly about our differences. >> does she believe that the u.s., that this administration can still be relied on, as a reliable partner to the nato nations and to common values with the european community. >> there are so many trusted interlocketters in this administration, minister of defense, secretary mattis, secretary tillerson, the national security advisor mcmaster. we have had a lot of contacts with them. they assured us on nato, they reassured us on the close alliance with our country and with the europeans. so we have heard a lot of good messages from this administration. >> so she absolutely believes the u.s. is committed to the defense of nato. >> this is what we hear from many important members of this
administration. and we believe it. >> i'm asking, of course, because the president has hammered away time and again at the amount of money the nato countries, european countries are putting into their own defense. he tweeted again, president trump did yesterday, he said we have, you mentioned the quote in large capital letters, massive trade deficit, he wrote with germany. plus they pay far less, again, all caps. then they should on nato and military. very bad for u.s. >> president raises two important points. fair burden sharing in nato, i think that's a valid point. we are fully subscribing to the decision of the leaders of nato in 2016 to increase our spending, defense spending incrementally in a certain time line. what we reject is that when people tell us you're not paying your membership dues, yes, we
are. we are paying the common costs for nato, but apart from that there is this pledge to raise the defense spending and we're doing that. we have raised our defense budget by nine percent last year. >> thank you very much, ambassador peter wittig, we appreciate it. >> thank you, judy. it was a pleasure being here. >> woodruff: as we just heard, president trump reportedly will not keep the united states in the paris climate accord-- the 2015 agreement signed by nearly 200 nations to reduce carbon emissions that are driving climate change. the u.s. is the second biggest emitter of those greenhouse gasses globally. william brangham has the story for our weekly segment on "the leading edge" of science. >> you're gonna find out very soon. >> brangham: it's a decision being awaited around the world. president trump, who's repeatedly called climate change a "hoax perpetuated by china,"
tweeted that his decision on the paris accord will come "over the next few days." for weeks, mr. trump has signaled that he would walk away from the deal. he pledged to do so on the campaign trail, and has long argued that environmental regulations cost american jobs. >> we're going to cancel the paris climate agreement. >> brangham: the president also appointed scott pruitt to lead the e.p.a.-- a man who, in the past, has sued to stop environmental regulations, and who supports withdrawing from paris. >> paris is something that we need to really look at closely. it's something we need to exit, in my opinion. it's a bad deal for america. >> brangham: and in march, the president signed a executive order undoing obama-era climate change regulations. last week at the g-7 summit, mr. trump would not pledge to support the paris deal, a move that frustrated many european leaders. that sentiment was repeated today by jean claude juncker, the president of the european commission, who strongly criticized the idea of the u.s. walking away from the agreement:
>> ( translated ): the americans can't just leave the climate protection agreement. so this notion "i am trump, i am american, america first" and i'm going to get out of it-- that won't happen. >> brangham: the original paris accord was signed by the obama administration, along with 195 other countries, back in 2015. it voluntarily commits those nations to decrease their carbon emissions to try and slow the rate of global warming. the goal was to keep additional warming below two degrees celsius, or 3.6 degrees farenheit. many scientists argue that warming beyond that level could have serious consequences-- global sea level rise, increased storms, heat-waves and droughts, and potential massive dislocation of people from low- lying nations. for months, president trump has been under pressure from competing interests. >> i'm hearing from a lot of people both ways. >> brangham: the president's daughter and adviser ivanka trump emerged as a supporter of the u.s. staying in the
agreement. the same with secretary of state rex tillerson, who argues, withdrawing could hurt u.s. negotiating power. tillerson's former company, oil giant exxon mobil, joined a litany of other companies urging the president to stay in the deal. exxon described it as an "effective framework" to address the risks of climate change. but other voices urged withdrawal, including chief strategist stephen bannon. as did 22 republican senators, including majority leader mitch mcconell, who said that it was an important part of rescinding president obama's "clean power plan"-- which has long been the target of republican lawmakers. the trump administration also took aim today at another rule on greenhouse gases-- specifically, methane emissions. the e.p.a. is stopping an obama administration rule that would cut down on methane leaks and pollution from oil and natural gas drilling wells. let's look at what's at stake if the president opts out of the paris accord. michael oppenheimer is a professor of geosciences and international affairs in the woodrow wilson school at
princeton university. he has been a long-time participant in the u.n. panel on climate change, which produced reports on the subject and won a nobel prize. and, phil kerpen, the president of american commitment, a conservative group opposed to the paris agreement. gentlemen, welcome to you both. phil, i would like to start with you first. again we still do not know if the president is going to walk away from there agreement but it looks like he is going to. i know you agree with that, so help me understand, make the best case why he should leave paris. >> i think the key point to understand is that the paris treaty has no discertainable impact on global average temperature and therefore the alleged climate benefits are i lose sorry. this is an agreement where if every country met its obligation according to the model with reduce temperature .2/10 of a's gree, but these countries are mostly not meeting their obligations, we are shedder were
germany their emissions are up, the philippines have already withdrawn if this agreement and india which is allowed toin crease emissions is building too many coal plants to even meet their target. they will go well above it the u.s. commitment would only avert an increasing temperature of about 15/1,000 of a degree by the year 2100. there is really not much upupside but there is tremendous downside because this agreement locks locks in those epa regular layings were you talking about in the introduction, the clean power plant which increase electricity prices about 25 to 30%. that has a very negative impact on consumers across this country with no benefit to show and commits the american tax pay tore pay the lion share of the 100 billion dollar per year green climate fund, a direct wealth transfer to the rest of the world. the reason the rest of the world like this deal so much is that the united states cripples itself economyically with regulations and pays the rest of the world for the privilege of doing so for increased foreign aid, that is not leadsership, that is american losership and the president was right to shall
it. >> let me get michael oppenheim are. a lot to unpack there. but the substantive criticism that even people who favor the paris agreement are, it is a volume tear agreement there are no real binding commitments. why do you think it is such a greet deal that we ought to stay in it? >> the paris agreement isn't perfect but it's an important first step. and that's why the statements are to the allly out of context. what is happening is mr. global emissions of car done dioxide have not increased, in fact, decreased a little over the last three years, for the firs time while the global economy was growing because countries are moving to the new energy sources. it would be foolish to pull out of this agreement because number one, it would do great harm to our relations with our allies around the world. an secondly, it would condemn the u.s. will world and future begin rations our own children to a world with an unacceptable level of climate change.
if is a real pittee because the bar isa greement is the firs time all countries of the world put plans on the table if he to reduce emissions including china which is the world's biggest emitter. they are moving forward not only are they moving forward to reduce their emissions, they're moving forward to make money on the new technology. they are the world's leading producer of solar, of wind turbines, the u.s. is going to be left in the dust if we don't cooperate with other nations to bring this threat under control. and i'm sure that president trump wants to go down in history, but he doesn't want to go down in history as the president that condemned the world to a dangerous climate change. >> phil kerpen, let me ask you about this, there is a strong consensus that if we continue our current path of fossil fuel use, that there are going to be some major implications, glonnally, not just here in the united states. major economic blows, major
physical blows to the planet we live on. what do you argue we ought to do about that? >> well, i think the policies that we've been pursuing in terms of the fraking boom in the united states, the dramatic increase in gas production that shifted a lot of our electric generation is really what has driven emissions lower it is united states emissions are dropping pretty dramically sick magazine up for other countries like germany that are be increasing with a heavy-handed approach. i think we can have an approach that is not central economic planning through the epa and continue to develop lower carbon energy sources including continuing the gas boom which i think is going to be the major driver of lower emissions for the fore seeable future. i don't know that we have to necessarily choose between those two things but i do know an agreement that imposes dra con quan cuts on the united states and we take it seriously and implement it in a realitily binding way while other countries make promises and do whatever is in their best economic interest is not one that serves the united states well or accomplishes those climate related policy goals
that people may say. >> part of what mr. kerpen says is correct. there has been a decrease, a significant one in u.s. emissions and that is partly due to the penetration of natural gas but a lot of the reduction in emissions that has come in the last few years and is expected to come in the future actually arises from a set of regulations that the epa promul gated and which it carefully calibrated-- that are less than the cost of the damages that climate change will bring. part of the regulations are held up while the courts decide the legality. but a critical aspect, the regulation of motor vehicle emissions which by the way moving to cars with high fuel economy, help saved the industry during the financial crisis, those regulations are still in place and so, in fact, is the clean power plant. it's the law until the courts say it isn't.
>> phil kerpen, can i ask you a question about this, there are a lot of major u.s. manufacturing companies and energy companies. there's exxon, chevron, microsoft, apple, jon jon, monday santo, dow chemical, i could go on and on. they all argue that we should stay in the paris accord. and they make an economic argument for staying in therement and i'm just curious, don't you find that argue that they are making persuasive. these are not companies that want to see american industry hobbled in anyway and they think it is a good idea? >> well, i think large incumbent corporations always look full advantage to protect themselves from new innovative competitors. that often comes in the form of begging for government regulation that tends to lock in market share by increasing barriers to entry and making it more difficult for smaller companies that don't have armies of compliant officers and lawyers and accountants to figure out what is a thousand pages of paperwork needed to northbound compliance are. so there is always disincentive for the largest companies that have an army of lobbyists who want to make themselves important, an army of compliant officers that want to make themselves important, to use
that to lock in their incumbency. i think that is why you see the large companies pushing for that. >> michael oppenheimer, last quick question to you. let's say that president trump decides to pull out. what is the impact? do you think that the other countries will continue with their pledges or do you think that they'll look and say hey, look, the u.s. isn't living up to this, why should we. >> i think what will happen is some of the countries that have just recently come around to making plans to reduce emissions will not pull out of the agreement but will peel off their commitments and it will reduce the likelihood that the world will move in a safe direction on climate change. but some countries will keep reducing their emissions becauser in's doing it for a variety of reasons, including protecting the air like china which has a bad air pollution problem, and because as i said before, they want to sell the new renewable energy technologies, the clean technologies everywhere including the united states where they are starting to push out coal. it's hard for me to believe that
the. is would subject itself to a less favorable position economicically. after all, renewable energy now has four times as much employment in the u.s. economy as does coal production. why do we look to the past instead of the future. >> we have to go, i'm sorry to say, michael oppenheimer, phil ker ppen, thank you very much. >> thank you for having us. >> woodruff: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: can simply changing the way mothers interact with premature babies improve their newborns' health long-term? and, some of the best graduation speeches of the season. but first, political satire is one thing. actual politics is another. at least, according to one of the few people who have professional experience doing
it's hard for me to believe that jared kushner wasn't telling his father in law that he was-- this is not a normal back channel they were talking about doing, using russian communications so hear it. course we're goingt but he didn't know that. i think it's very hard to believe that he didn't tell his father-in-law. we may get to a point where it is, what did the president know and when did his son in law tell him. >> all right, you are on the senate committee on health education, labor and pengses. right now there is talk that the senators are meeting behind closed doors on drafting a health-care plan. >> the republican senators. >> republican senators are meeting behind closed doors. the affordable care act had
what, 44 different hearings on this. >> yes. >> sreenivasan: if this process-- what do you know about what is happening and what that could look like? >> i don't know a lot about what is happening. i know they're having problems. and it doesn't surprise me, mitch mcconnell said they will have trouble getting the 50. they need 50 if they do this through the process called reconciliation. i can't see, you know, someone like ted cruz signing on to the same bill that sawns colins and lisa mur cowsky, will cassidy would sign on to. i the house bill is horrific. and i've had people crying at round tables saying my mom will lose her home health care which she gets through medicaid if this happensment and my husband and i work full time. we don't know what we're going to do with mom. and this will happen over and
over and over again. and, it is actually hurts the people who voted for trump more than anybody else. >> sreenivasan: your line within your line of questioning of jeff sessions eventually lead to his own recusal from the russia investigation. but in the book you say that you have come to befriend him, that his wife made your grandson his first baby blanket. >> that's true. >> i think the friendship happened before those hearings. and i haven't talked to him since. you know, jeff and i served together on the attorney general sessions and i, and i disagree with him. i think he is a terrible attorney general, i will say that. but yeah, you have to get along with your colleagues. we're a small town of 100 people. and there is no sense making
enemies. and so yeah, jeff and i had a friendly relationship. and yes, mary sessions made a blue blanket for my first grandson. it was his favorite blanket. >> sreenivasan: you talk a little bit about that relationship management and how you actually have different senators with different levels of senses of humor. but it also seems like for the first. >> that's for sure. >> sreenivasan: it seems like the first term you were almost scared of being funny because you wanted to be taken seriously. you won in a very, very tight race. now you have kind of relaxed, are you kind of joking, with pat robert or mitch mcconnell, lindsey braim. >> lindsey is funny. so is pat. mitch, not so much. but now when lindsey was like remember when he was running for president and he was 16 out of 17. i went up to him, i said lindsey, if pri voting in a republican primary i would vote for you. he said that's my problem. >> sreenivasan: there is a passage where you recount how
awe poll giezed to mitch mcconnell once. >> yes. >> sreenivasan: you were prepresiding over the snatd, you rolled your eyes while he was saying something. and then he came up to you and said this isn't snl, al. >> right. >> sreenivasan: do you ever feel that now this has come full circle. there is actually a sketch on snl today playing you as the sitting senator. and also sometimes. >> that guy was just playing straight to kate mckinnon's sessions and but a lot of this book is answering the question that i get asked probably more than any other question. which is, is it as much fun being united states senator as working on saturday night live. and the answer of course is no. why would it be. but it's the best job i've ever had. >> sreenivasan: you like melissa mccarthy's sean spicer. >> when i saw that, i went oh my goodness, this is hilarious and an instant classic. >> sreenivasan: you say that there are passages in this book
that are worthy of a middle school writing contest. >> yeah. there are a couple of purple prose descriptions. >> sreenivasan: all right, senator al franken, the book is you will cad giant of the senate. >> it's called al franken: giant of the senate. >> sreenivasan: thank you for joining us. >> you bet, thank you. >> woodruff: yesterday, we introduced you to a long-term study aimed at improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable patients: premature babies. and it is using what seems on the surface to be the simplest of techniques. we are back with william brangham, who, along with producer jason kane, reports on the results of the study, and the more complex story of the woman behind the study. >> lets go to the park! go ahead, hop in the stroller, charlotte. >> brangham: it's hard to believe, but nearly ten months
ago, kate and tyler ilie were afraid to even touch their youngest daughter, caroline. kate's first pregnancy, with three-year-old charlotte, was textbook perfect. but not so with her second. nearly five months in, her water broke, and caroline was born eight chaotic weeks later. she was two pounds, five ounces, and over three months early. like most premature babies today, she was soon living inside this plastic isolette at morgan stanley children's hospital, connected to the incredible medical technology that would save her life. >> it took us months before i actually even saw her face, because she had so many tubes in, and it just, it's just hard. and when your baby is in that kind of situation, it's almost like you can't let your guard down, to really bond with them, because you're scared of losing them. >> brangham: despite the advances that keep younger and younger preterm babies alive, these kids are still at much higher risk for emotional, behavioral and developmental
problems later in life. but, a long-term study here at columbia university medical center and new york presbyterian is testing if the simplest of human interactions-- being calmed by mom, taking in her smell, being soothed by her voice-- whether these actions can somehow change the development of these children by strengthening their emotional connection. the intervention is the brainchild of dr. martha welch. >> the brain is developing at a very rapid rate, especially at the end of pregnancy, in the last trimester. when the baby is born early, the baby doesn't have the same environment that promotes that growth, and in fact, the baby has the opposite: isolation. the child is bombarded with sounds and light. it's antithetical to what the
brain needs and the child needs for development. so, what we're doing is trying to make up for that, to the greatest extent possible. >> brangham: for the past few months, we've been following the ilie family and several others as they've gone through this study. elia cardenas found it hard to feel like a mother in this clinical setting. >> how are you supposed to bond with the baby that's behind a glass? you can only put your hand in there and touch them, but you can't hug them, you can't hold them. >> brangham: but in the study, cardenas learned how to touch and connect with her sons. >> brangham: miguelina tavarez was taught that a simple cloth, one that smelled like her, another that smelled like her still-hospitalized daughter, can calm both of them. >> you see that? >> brangham: it's called the "family nurture intervention" and over 100 families have gone through it. during the baby's stay in the nicu, mothers learn very simple nurturing techniques, while researchers monitor their progress.
>> the intervention itself, i believe, has, what we often call in science "face validity." it, it just does make-- >> brangham: it feels right. >> it feels right. it does make sense. >> brangham: but michael myers' job is to measure if these interventions do more than just "feel right." do they make any substantive, long-term difference to these children, or their mothers? >> i'm the challenger in chief of ideas, to constantly make sure that we don't accept what is intuitive as always being fact. >> brangham: for the past five years, the team has analyzed video recordings of mothers and their children at various developmental stages: right after birth; four months; 12 months; 18 months; five years. their first randomized, controlled trial, with 115 moms and 150 infants, indicate "statistically significant" results: among them, a 36% increase in brain activity in the frontal region. >> those brain waves, that difference, of about 40%
percent, is really visible. it's something that you can really wrap your head around. >> brangham: this activity is in an area associated with language, thinking and emotional regulation, and at 18 months, babies in the intervention showed improvement in those areas. whether these changes last, or even continue, remains to be seen. results for mothers were also significant. improved caregiving in the nicu, and four months after giving birth-- lower levels of anxiety and symptoms of depression. but convincing some about these results may have less to do with data, than with martha welch's past work in the 1980s, welch wrote a book called "holding time," which counseled parents to employ a very physical holding technique, like you see here. the hope is that it could increase communication and emotional connection between parent and child. but some of welch's ideas were then co-opted by other
practitioners to promote increasingly physical and coercive techniques, similar to this one seen in a cbs news report. >> these earlier sessions were designed to force the rage out of him. >> brangham: another session resulted in the smothering death of a ten-year-old girl in 2000. welch says, even though her name is still associated with these techniques, she had nothing to do with them, and that they've damaged her reputation. >> i was devastated to be associated in the press with them. it was very, very, very hurtful to me, and that upset lasted about ten years. >> brangham: welch was also criticized for claiming that her nurturing techniques can reduce the risk of autism, which is something premature babies are at greater risk of developing. back in the late 1980s, with just anecdotal evidence, she said her "holding time" techniques would reduce the risk. and now, she says her nicu intervention has shown, by one
scientific measure, to do the same. >> about one out of four test positive for risk at 18 months. we've reduced that from one out of four to one out of ten. this is a big reduction. >> brangham: but others aren't so sure. >> my initial reaction is really, i think it's unlikely that it protects children from autism. >> brangham: thomas frazier is chief science officer for autism speaks, the national advocacy group. he says there's persuasive evidence that in many cases, autism emerges in utero, or very early in life, and he's skeptical this intervention could change that. frazier also worries this study could inadvertently cause some parents of autistic children to blame themselves. >> there's an early history within autism, saying that parents were sort of at fault. right? if they had just been more nurturing, if they had just done more-- particularly moms, if they had just done more to attach to their children-- that those children somehow wouldn't have had autism.
we now know that that is just not true. >> the fact that nurture is a remedy does not mean that lack of nurture was the cause. parents cannot blame themselves for having autistic children. almost every mother blames herself. this is wrong! but, nurture is a remedy. >> brangham: meanwhile, some of welch's scientific peers who were skeptical this study would yield any positive, lasting results have been surprised by the initial data. among them: dr. richard polin. he oversees the nicu where welch conducted her trial. >> i was skeptical that this kind of intervention involving kangaroo care-- chest, skin-to- skin care, and smell-- and other interventions would have any long-term benefit. i couldn't understand the biological basis. in fact, the biological basis is still a little uncertain to me. but clearly, those kinds of interactions and bonding episodes have a biological
effect on the baby's brain. and we hope it's a long term neurodevelopmental change. >> brangham: additional trials to see if these results can be replicated are now underway in new york and texas, with two more in the works in new jersey and florida. caroline ilie, who was born at just two and a half pounds, is now a year and a half old, and seems to be thriving. back home, all these mothers say their families are better off. while the science behind it remains a mystery to them, they think this intervention strengthened their relationships during a very fraught period, with impacts they hope will continue with time. for the pbs newshour in new york, i'm william brangham. >> woodruff: now to our "newshour shares:" something that caught our eye, that may be of interest to you, too.
it's graduation season, and that means politicians, actors and industry leaders alike are imparting sage advice-- and some humor-- to college graduates around the country. take a look. >> i would like to say thank you, graduates, for that warm welcome. i would also like to apologize to all the parents who are sitting there, saying, "will ferrell, why will ferrell? i hate will ferrell." >> tip one-- always tip! preferably 20% if you can. i believe in karma and that what you put out in the world comes back to you, but it also feels good. and besides, being stingy sucks and nobody likes you! >> write your own story, right now, in your mind. see it and go live it. write a historic and heroic
story of service and selflessness and leadership, and then make it happen. >> regardless of who you are >> when you're starting out in your career, it is important that you say yes more than you say no. it lets you uncover new opportunities and it reveals new relationships. but when it's time to say no, say it loudly and firmly. there will be occasions when saying no is necessary to maintaining your values and your self worth. >> following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right. and they know what is right, but they don't have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it. >> for the moments when you are
challenged by other fears, like "am i good enough?" "am i smart enough?" "will i fail?" throw caution to the winds, look fear straight-away in its ugly face, and barge forward. and when you get past it, turn around and give it a good swift kick in the ass. >> treat people with dignity. you demand it for yourselves; you demand that you be treated that way. and all of us, all of us, have to do better when it comes to building the bonds of empathy. that folks who aren't like us, aren't like us, can know we understand them. >> the best advice that i can give to those of you who are worried about the "when" of the rest of your life, is stop trippin'. i'm sure you will all have long lists of accomplishments and multiple rebirths. some of you will have accomplishments that are asked to speak at prestigious colleges
or other institutions. dope. do that. >> so whatever your dreams are today, dream even bigger. wherever you have set your sights, raise them even higher. and above all, keep going. don't do it because i asked you to. do it for yourselves. >> and to our graduates, to whom we are trusting nothing less than the future of the human race, i'll share with you the astronauts' prayer. it goes: "dear lord, please don't let me mess up. amen." good luck and godspeed, class of 2017. ( applause ) >> woodruff: great advice. later this evening on pbs, "nova" presents a film that takes a hard look at the water crisis in flint, michigan. "poisoned water" uses the lens of science to reveal how the
water disaster in flint brought to light the many vulnerabilities of water systems across the country, including the amount of lead in pipes leading to individual homes. >> reporter: if there is so much lead in our plumbing, why aren't we all lead-poisoned? the answer lies in the complex chemical reactions that go on between the pipe itself and the water flowing through it. >> inside the pipe, as the water goes through, it reacts. chemical reactions take place with the plumbing material. and this begins to build up kind of a protective coating-- what we call a scale. >> reporter: this protective scale is crucial. it becomes a barrier that prevents lead from leaching into the water. as scientists at the e.p.a.'s office of research and development reveal, this protective scale can be made of
up to 90% lead. >> most people don't expect that there's actually a lot of lead in the scale. it's not a very good joke, but we often say that you are drinking water through lead- painted straws, because these are the minerals that were in lead paint, and yet they're lining your drinking water pipe. you're using lead to protect yourself from lead. >> reporter: to control pipe corrosion, water utilities often add a chemical that helps build up the scale and protect the water. this is so critical, that e.p.a.'s lead and copper rule requires cities with over 50,000 people to have what's called corrosion control treatment in place. the question is: has the city of
flint been using corrosion control? >> woodruff: "nova's" "poisoned water" airs tonight on most pbs stations. on the newshour online right now: one of our "making sense" columnists wants your questions about successful aging and retirement. philip moeller has answered many of your questions about medicare and social security, and now he wants to hear what you'd like to know about work, money, technology and more. that's on our website, www.pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again right here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and we'll see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> supported by the rockefeller foundation. promoting the wellbeing of humanity around the world, by building resilience and
inclusive economies. more at www.rockefellerfoundation.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
in the mid-1980's, paul newman was at the height of his career; movie star, stunningly handsome, race car driver, he was america's darling. half a world away, a child named kennedy odede was born in one of the most horrific slums in africa, facing a life of despair that promised to be mercifully short. the two would never meet and could not be more dissimilar, but they shared a motivation to make the world a better place. their effort started off almost unwittingly, but they would both go on to create grass roots efforts that would give help and