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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  October 11, 2011 5:30pm-6:30pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: justice department officials thwarted a plot to assassinate the saudi arabian ambassador to the u.s., a scheme that they said was conceived of and sponsored by the iranian government. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, we get the latest on the charges and the alleged conspiracy. >> ifill: then we look at opening day in the trial of the so-called underwear bomber, who tried to bring down a u.s. airliner on christmas day 2009. >> brown: we debate the merits of president obama's jobs bill with two senators: michigan democrat carl levin and georgia republican johnny isakson. >> ifill: john merrow examines
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the dilemma faced by a pennsylvania school system that spent big on a state-of-the-art facility. >> reporter: the economic crisis hit. like rural school districts all across the country, this school had to put its ambitious dreams on hold almost overnight. the challenge became to make ends meet. >> brown: and ray suarez talks to a 94-year-old former french resistance fighter who urges young people to take to the streets and show their outrage. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> computing surrounds us. sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's very surprising on where you find it. soon computing intelligence in unexpected places will change our lives and truly profound ways. technology can provide customizeded experiences, tailored to individual consumer preferences. igniting a world of possibilities from the inside out, sponsoring tomorrow
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starts today. moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> chevron. we may have more in common than you think. the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations.
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and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: the country's top law enforcement officials accused iran today of fomenting a terror plot inside the u.s. the targets: the ambassador to washington from saudi arabia and, possibly, two embassies. the announcement came from attorney general eric holder. two men have been charged, both of iranian background. one man was arrested last month at new york's kennedy international airport. he's a naturalized u.s. citizen who also holds an iranian passport. the other man is a member of the kuds force, the special operations unit of iran's revolutionary guard. he remains at large. the men are accused of plotting to assassinate jooub
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beer, the saudi ambassador to the united states. u.s. officials said they also talked of trying to bomb the saudi and israeli embassies in washington d.c. according to the complaint no one, including the ambassador was ever in any immediate danger. attorney general holder said today there is no question where the plot originated. >> the complaint alleges that this conspiracy was conceived, was sponsored, and was directed from iran and constitutes a fragrant violation of u.s. and international law including a convention that explicitly protects diplomats from being harmed. in addition to holding these individual conspiracies accountable for their alleged role in this plot, the united states is committed to holding iran accountable for its actions. >> brown: holder stopped short of saying iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad or others in the upper echelons of his government were involved, and iran denied any role. secretary of state hillary clinton warned the u.s. is now preparing further penalties against iran.
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elements of the plot read elements of the alleged plot read, in the words of f.b.i. director robert mueller himself, like a "hollywood script." the planners are alleged to have engaged in a "murder for hire" scheme with members of a mexican drug cartel, who turned to be sources of the u.s. drug enforcement agency. joining us now with more: charles savage, domestic correspondent for the "new york times." and abbas milani, director of the iranian studies program at stanford university. charlie savage, fill in the picture a bit. what's known about these two men and how they intended to assassinate the saudi ambassador. >> there are two men charged today. one is at large. he remains in iran. the other whom you mentioned was arrested at j.f.k. airport as he was attempting to fly from mexico city back overseas late last month. he's a naturalized american citizen. he had been living in corpus christi texas working as a used car salesman. apparently this spring his cousin was a member of the
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kuds force, supposedly, approached him and asked him to recruit a mexican drug dealer who could both kidnap-- which was the plot at the time, later to assassinate-- the saudi ambassador to the u.s. and who also might be able to open a side deal in narcotics with the kuds force for multiple tons of opium supposedly. >> brown: so they went to talk to what they thought were mexican drug cartel people and then it became something of a sting operation? >> well, it's a little bit hazy. the agencies tend to be cloudy about these things for obvious reasons. but it seems like the guy he thought was a member of the most hyper violent of the mexican cartels did in fact have ties to senior leaders of that cartel, although he may himself may not have been a member. there's something strange about this where the defendant supposedly knew of him through his aunt who was a friend of his in corpus christi.
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the whole thing has a certain element of bizarreness along with its provocativeness. a lot of national security analysts are puzzling still about whether this was, in fact, an iranian government operation. was it a rogue operation by some handful of members of the kuds force or what? what is this? >> brown: officials have said that nobody ever... this never got close to being put into practice. >> that's right because the guy that he approached who he thought was a member was in fact an informant for the d.e.a., you know, to inform on cartel issues. he came to the d.e.a., and he said this iranian guy is wanting to hire me and my organization to carry out some attacks inside the united states. they had him start recording those conversations, both in personal meetings and in telephone calls. and as the plot unfolded and 100,000 dollars as a downpayment was wired to him, the f.b.i. and the d.e.a. were
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watching it every step of the way. >> brown: while everyone is trying to figure out the iranian connection here, remind us first, what is the kuds force and why would they be out to get a saudi arabia ambassador? >> well, the brigade is a very small, elite unit of the revolutionary guards which are now "the" most important political and economic force in iran. i think they're the virtual rulers of iran. within them there is is the shadowy organization called the kuds brigade. it takes its name from the city of jers salem which in arabic is called kuds. they have been alleged to be and in many cases have been proven to be involved in all kinds of assassination attempts. they are the group that radically, fundamentally organized hezbollah in lebanon, for example.
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it was groups from the kuds brigade that went there. they're very powerful in iraq. there are many stories of them engaging in arming iraqi insurgents, in afghanistan they have been involved. they're also the group that was alleged to have been involved in the attempt to... and the absolute bombing of the synagogue in buenos aires. >> brown: the attorney general holder, as we said, did not want to point fingers directly at iranian leaders. i was a little unclear exactly how far he was pushing this. who controls the kuds brigade? who pulls the strings for what it does? >> well, the commander of the kuds brigade is a man of about 50. his name is salay moni. he has appeared recently because there was a guardian article about him alleging that he was really the second most powerful man in iraq, the
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alleged... general petraeus landed in baghdad. he got a text message on his phone from this man saying that i'm the boss here. if you want to do business here, you have to see me. from then on, he has been more apparent. they brought him out and they had him give that kind of a security overview to the council of experts that met two months ago. but ultimately the brigade is commanded by hamani who is the commander in chief. he appoints the commanders. i.r.g.c., and commanders at the level of this man. >> brown: charlie saf raj, let me bring you back in here because the attorney general talked about the u.s. holding iran accountable for this. do we know what that means exactly, what kinds of sanctions or penalties are being thought about? >> of course, the kuds force itself has already been designated a terrorist organization which makes it
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illegal to do business with it and so forth. back in 2007 that happened. today the treasury department announced that five specific members actually... well, five people, four of whom are allegedly senior officials of kuds, were personally designated as terrorists and would, therefore, have their assets frozen if they have money in accounts elsewhere. one cannot do business with them. that's the first overt sign of something that he may have been referring to. >> brown: now abbas milany, back to the iranian part of this. there have been tensions between the u.s. and iran for a long time. iran quickly denied any involvement here. so are there questions surrounding this or being raised either in iran or for you about why iran would have done this? >> well, you know, the iranian regime has committed numerous acts of murder against its
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opponents, against figures it doesn't like. it has at least killed 120 opponents in europe in one famous case. it killed the leadership of the kurdish movement. in that case, in fact, the german prosecutor went and named hamany as the person who ordered the hit so there have been cases where hamani has been personally named in this. but right now when you think about all problems that the regime is facing in the region, the kuds brigade incidentally is also the group that is alleged to have been employed in syria to suppress syrian democrats. when you think about syria, when you think about iran's increasing tensions, with saudi arabia, the losing of its position, it now has a popularity of 14% amongst the muslims in the middle east. to think that they would dare something like this in the united states where they have only killed one opponent-- and
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that was 30 years ago-- it seems that audacious but this is a regime that has done crazy things before. other regimes.... >> brown: briefly, charlie, what happens next? >> well, today the one defendant who is in custody was... met a judge for the first time and did not enter a plea but has a court-appointed lawyer who said he will plead not guilty when the time comes for that. we'll have to see as this case unfolds what other information shakes loose. >> brown: charlie savage, abbas milany, we'll watch with you. thanks for now. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: still to come on the newshour, the trial for the underwear bomber; senators levin and isaakson; tough choices for a pennsylvania school district; and words of outrage from a french resistance fighter. but first, with the other news of the day, here's kwame holman. >> holman: israel and hamas announced a deal late today, exchanging some 1,000
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palestinian prisoners for israeli sergeant gilad shalit. he's been held in gaza since 2006, when the militant islamic group captured him in a raid along the border. israeli prime minister netanyahu convened his cabinet this evening to approve the deal. >> i believe we've reached the best agreement that was possible to reach at this time. a time of storms that are rocking the middle east. i don't know if the near future would allow us to achieve a better deal or a deal at all. >> holman: hamas officials also confirmed the deal, pending completion of "technical arrangements." thousands of egyptians protested overnight against the ruling military's actions during demonstrations by coptic christians sunday in cairo. and today egypt's finance minister submitted his resignation in protest. at least 26 people were killed sunday night when a peaceful rally by christians erupted into all-out street fights with muslims and police. most of the victims were christians. the woman who led ukraine's pro- democracy orange revolution in
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2004 was sentenced to seven years in prison today. yulia tymoshenko is now the main opposition leader. she was charged with abusing her authority while she was prime minister, in signing a gas deal with russia. tymoshenko heard the verdict read today in a courtroom in kiev. she condemned the sentence, even as the judge was still reading. >> this verdict will not stop me. we will fight and protest my honest name in the european court. i'm sure that the european court of human rights will give its own legal verdict. >> holman: the european union, russia, and the u.s. charged the whole case was politically motivated. a white house statement called for tymoshenko's immediate release. the effort to expand the european bailout fund ran into trouble today. the parliament in slovakia rejected the proposal. the other 16 euro-zone countries have passed it, but the decision has to be unanimous. wall street had waited all day for the vote in slovakia, which came moments after the closing
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bell. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 17 points to close at 11,416. the nasdaq rose 17 points to close at 2583. federal regulators have moved one step closer to barring banks from trading for their own profit. it stems from the 2008 financial meltdown. the federal deposit insurance corporation unanimously backed the so-called volcker rule today. it's named after paul volcker, a former federal reserve chairman. the securities and exchange commission still must vote on the proposal. in the presidential race, republican mitt romney picked up a major endorsement from new jersey governor chris christie. christie ruled out running himself last week. in new hampshire today, he said romney, a former massachusetts governor, is the most qualified candidate to lead the country and defeat president obama. >> america cannot survive another four years of barack obama. mitt romney is the man we need to lead america.
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we need him now. his experience in the private sector, running businesses, turning them around, going in there, telling the people the truth about what needs to be done, and then coming up with a plan to get it done. and look at his experience as an elected official. we know that he brings the best of both to what we need for america right now. >> holman: also today, romney urged texas governor rick perry to repudiate accusations that romney is not a christian, and his mormon faith is just a cult. the claims were made by a baptist minister from dallas who's backing perry for president. a spokesman said perry disagrees with the pastor, but he also rejects romney's challenge. global rates of tuberculosis fell last year, for the first time ever. the world health organization reported today 8.8 million people fell ill with t.b. in 2010. that was down by some 200,000 from the peak year of 2005. better testing was cited for the improvement. t.b. took 1.4 million lives last
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year, the lowest total in a decade. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: and we turn to the trial of the nigerian man accused of trying to blow up an american airplane nearly two years ago. opening arguments were heard in a detroit courtroom today. christmas day, 2009. northwest airlines flight 253 was on on approach to detroit's wayne county international airport. u.s. authorities say nigerian- born umar farouk abdulmutallab emerged from the bathroom, took his seat and then tried to set off explosives sewn into his underwear. the device made from a kem chemical failed to explode but did catch fire. one of the passengers who witnessed the scene. >> i saw the smoke come in out of his clothes. so i yelled fire, fire. and it was like he was moving
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something or doing something. so i yelled he's a terrorist. >> reporter: abdulmutallab had bordered a flight in nigeria clearing security there. he was rescreened and passed during a connection through amsterdam. investigators say he confessed that he trained in yemen and his ordered was ordered by awlaki the radical american-born cleric who was killed in a missile strike in yemen ten days ago. the detroit bombing plot also raised new questions about u.s. security and intelligence. it turned out that abdulmutallab's own father had warned american authorities of his son's radicalization. britain had banned his entry into the u.k. in the federal trial that began today, the charges against abdulmutallab ranged from attempted murder to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. the 24-year-old was acting as his own lawyer but is being assisted in his defense.
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for more from inside the courtroom, we turn to quinn, senior news editor quinn, give us the sense of the scene inside that courtroom today. >> lots of security. it's usually a very tight place as it is being a federal building but today lots of police dogs everywhere. full body scanners, that type of thing. mr. abdulmutallab himself was in there in court dressed in a traditional garment and cap. and loooooooooooog to family there. the scene was something as you would expect except for the fact that neither he nor his court-appointed advisor actually gave an opening statement which took a few people aback. >> ifill: but the prosecution did get to make their case. what did they say today? >> they gave a very detailed description of what they thought actually happened during the attack. very passionate in terms of that wasasasasasasasasasasasasas
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mr. abdulmutallab. they thought he had erupted into a fire ball. it was a chemical fire. they had a guy who was trying to put it out with a hat. that didn't work. they to get fire extinguishers from the flight attendants. they laid him down on the aisle and his clothes were mostly burned away they said at the lower extremities. they took him to the front of the plane where he supposedly without being... having too many prots actually told several people that he was trying to explode a device. that's been one of the contentious arguments in the trial. was he in fact actually doing this or was it just an alleged activity? according to the authorities he told several people before the plane had actually landed that he was trying to explode a device and take the plane down. >> ifill: after hearing what the government's argument is-- and that's the side of the story we've been hearing since arrested-- it's tough to imagine what his defense is. you mentioned he a court- appointed advisor. he's going to represent himself? >> yeah. in these cases the legal system wants to make sure that
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somebody can't get off because they say they didn't have a fair trial. so what they will always do is try to have somebody appointed to advise them on legal maneuvers. in this case we have attorney anthony chambers. he, in fact, said he would take the opening stamentd that mr. abdulmutallab had agreed. it sounds as if he may not talk much during the actual trial. and they deferred that opening statement. i've talked to mr. chambers, the advisor, a number of times in the past. he says he believes in some ways it may be better to wait until the government presents its entire case and try to knock it down piece by piece so he can delay his statement until probably about halfway through the trial. >> ifill: one of the things he did try to do i read today was tried to have the use of the words "bomb" and "explosive" excluded from the prosecution's argument. >> yeah. again there was the question as to whether or not this device was powerful enough to actually bring in plane down. and the government says that
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not only it was but that they have a model of the bomb that they actually have video that will show just how destructive of a force that it would have contained. in fact that's been one of the several setbacks that mr. abdulmutallab has suffered legally since actually before the trial began. he gave a statement to the f.b.i. fors about 45 minutes after he was taken into custody where he basically according to the government confessed to everything, that he was trained in yemen, that they gave him a bomb that was made by a saudi arabian who trained him in the use of it, and that he intended to do a suicide mission and bring down the plane. this was all giveno him without having been read his rights to remain silent. so the defense thought they would be able to exclude those from the trials but judge actually said there was a national security exception that the agents involved were so concerned that this could have been a coordinated series of attacks, very similar to 9/11, that it was within their rights to be able to question him without giving him the miranda rights as they're
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called. and that that information should still be included in the trial. that was something that the defense i think was counting on not happening. it's been a bit of a blow before the trial actually even got underway. >> ifill: before the trial got underway, there had been reports of interesting outbursts from abdulmutallab including his screaming osama bin laden is alive. in one of his appearances. and actually asking that he be tried according to islamic law. >> yes. saying that if people didn't believe or understand the koran, then they couldn't actually judge him fairly. in fact that seems to be a lot of legal experts believe one of the reasons why he may not talk a whole lot during the trial. he made that out at first. he yelled anwer is alive when they were doing jury selection. at one point stopped proceedings and said jihad out of nowhere. it seems as if as he's going forward that he did actually question one witness or one prospective juror during the
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jury selection process and was very calm when he did that. she was worried about what reprisals might await somebody depending on what the verdict might be.... >> ifill: you mentioned. i'm sorry. i just wanted to get in this. when you mentioned anwer just a moment ago you mean awlaki who he is alleged to have gotten some of his guidance from. >> right. during the court proceedings today that was one of the things that came out. it didn't sound as if the government was saying that he ever actually met awlaki himself but he heard recordings of him and that drove him to want to pursue a violent jihad. that seem to be a place where the government was murky on in terms of what the actual motivation would have been for mr. abdulmutallab. but they very much established the things that he went through to try to accomplish whatever goal he was. they said he went to yemen recisely to meet somebody from al qaeda, that he actually did meet an operative, and that they decided that the best use of him would be to try to bring down an american airliner.
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>> ifill: quinn klinefelter of wdet public radio in detroit, thanks for filling us in. >> thank you, gwen. >> brown: president obama's $447 billion jobs bill faced a key test vote in the u.s. senate this evening. republicans moved to block the proposal, which includes a combination of tax cuts and infrastructure spending. in pittsburgh today, the president urged lawmakers to pass the bill. while in washington, senate republican leader mitch mcconnell said the plan was just more failed stimulus. >> this is a moment of truth for the u.s. senate. in front of them is a bill, a jobs bill, that independent economists have said would grow this economy and put people back to work. this is not my opinion. it's not my administration's opinion. this is people whose job it is for a living to analyze and
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evaluate what kind of impact certain policies would have. they've said this could grow the economy significantly and put significant numbers of americans back to work. >> americans deserve more than a clumsy political stunt. they deserve better than the same well rehearsed talking points we've been hearing from democrats over the past few weeks. above all, they deserve a different approach to this crisis than the one they've gotten from democrats over the past few years. >> brown: for more on the president's jobs plan in congress, judy woodruff talked to two senators a short time ago. >> woodruff: joining me are democratic senator carl levin of michigan and republican senator johnny isakson of georgia. senators, it's good to have you with us. thank you.>> thankou. >> good to be withhhhhhh jdy. >> woodrf: let me just try to break this up into a few questions hopefully to get to the heart of this. one is, senator isaacson, the president says we have an economic emergency, that the country needs to do something
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right now to create jobs. is he right? >> i think he's right that we have an emergency. i think the way he wants to go about doing it is all wrong. i think we need to revis it what happened with the first sometime lugs stimulus and why it didn't work and look at what is causing corporate capital to sit on the sidelines: overregulation of american business. >> woodruff: what do you think should be done in the short term that's different from what the president suggests? >> well, the first... i would do three things. the first thing i would do is have a timeout on regulation and try and let business absorb what's been put on them during the last two years without threats of more. we've already got the health care bill coming on top of us in 2014 by will be another suppression on the economy. i would have a preferential tax on repatriation of off shore stranded profits which would bring capital in this country predicated on it being invested in job creation. you can make a difference in a hurry with those two things. >> woodruff: are those alternatives that could work? >> when you talk to the small
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business people and according to the national federation of independent business who has taken a poll, the problem isn't regulation or taxes. the problem is the lack customers. what you need to do is really help two groups out there. the ones that create the jobs. one are small business people. and the president's bill has a couple major provisions in there that will help small business people. and the second thing you need to do is to get folks working again because the middle class creates jobs when they're working and when they're consuming. you need to have a stimulus. i think the last stimulus package obviously didn't do what we wanted it to do but without that stimulus package according to most economists you would have had a depression instead of a recession. and i think most economists who have been surveyed by bloomberg this time say the president's package will do some good. according to the moody's economist mark zandi, there will be a 2% increase in gross domestic product with the president's package and about
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1.9 million additional jobs so it's not regulation. it's not going after epa which is going to do the job here. it's getting people working again. that requires a couple things: support for small business and again to do some direct infrastructure work and some of the other things that are directly provided for in this jobs package. >> woodruff: senator isaacson, why is is that formula wrong? >> well, i appreciate carl talking about small business. i ran one for 30 years in georgia. i do know that's where the heart of the jobs are but the vote we have tonight is a vote to put the millionaire surcharge tax as a pay-for, for the president's jobs bill. that will raise the taxes on 392,000 small businesss in the united states of america which will be a retardant to jobs coming back not a help. >> woodruff: well, senator levin and one hears this from other quarters as well that instead of hitting million areas, this surtax-- and it will hit a third of them i'm told because most of them earn
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that income from capital gains, that it will hit many many small businesses and do the opposite of what the president wants. >> as a matter of fact one third of one percent of small businesses make a million dollars a year. that's not the issue here. the issue here is whether or not millionaires who have done incredibly well, the only group that has done well in terms of income in the last couple... in the last decade or so, the upper 1%. their share of the income has gone up from 10% of our national income to almost 25% of national our nbc income. the wealthiest 1% have done so well. the piddle class has done very, very poorly. they've taken a hit. so there's no point in protecting millionaires by claiming that these are small business people. a tiny percentage of small business people are millionaires, making a million dollars a year. it's the folks that have done so well making millions that are not small businesses, the executives whose pay has skyrocketed that need to be...
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to have some tax fairness applied. >> woodruff: senator isaacson, is there anything you can add to that argument? the two of you come at this differently over whether small businesses would be hit by this millionaires' tax. is there anything you can add to that to help your side of this argument? >> well, you know, i love carl levin to death but his answer to that question just proves this is all about political messaging and doesn't have anything to do with purpose because if they really cared about small business they would exempt limited liability corporations, s-corporations and sole proprietorships from the application of this tax. they'd only be taxing millionaires but they're going after small business as well. >> woodruff: senator isaacson, what about this other argument that one hears from economists across the spectrum, you hear it from independent economists and others, and that is that this is the exact time when the government doesn't need to be cutting spending and contracting. if nothing else, what the country needs is government to
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spend some more to get more money in circulation. >> we have a selt committee of republicans and democrats named by the congress to try and find $1.2 trillion in savings because we have a debt problem and a debt crisis. in the last stimulus bill paid school teachers salaries for a while and kept them employed. i understand that helps the economy. the minute that money ran out they became unemployed. we need to empower small business and empower capital investment in this country and return confidence to the consumers of america. >> woodruff: you just don't buy the argument that contracting is the wrong thing to do when the country is... when the country's economy is scooting along the bottom. >> i buy this argue umgt. you know, leverage is a good thing. i was a real estate guy for 0 years but too much leverage will kill you. we're at the breaking point of too much leverage as a country. i don't want to bankrupt our country because we borrowed too much money and weren't accountable. i want to try and inspire the private sector to reinvest in our country and reinvest in their businesses. >> woodruff:son tofer leaven,
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if the president's job bill doesn't pass in its entire tee, there's already talk about splitting it up into pieces, are there pieces that at this point you think republicans and democrats could agree on? >> i think republicans and democrats over the past few years have voted for this bill in various pieces. this bill already. that's why some republicans really ought to vote for this bill. because there's so much in this that many republicans had previously supported. there's a lot of capital that's sitting on the side lines. we don't need more tax cuts to continue to go to upper income people. we should not be protecting millionaires from the restoration of that 3% higher tax rate that they were paying prior to the bush tax cuts. >> woodruff: but is there anything.... >> while we're cutting teachers, while we're not building the kind of roads that we have to do, this jobs bill directly will hire back teachers and cops and firefighters. it will build roads and bridges. that is what we need in the
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short term. >> woodruff: let me turn to you, senator isaacson, are there pieces of this legislation that you think the two sides could come together and agree on in the short term? >> yes, ma'am. there are. if we get off a political messaging and get down to the work we're supposed to be doing we could probably do that. roads, bridges, infrastructure construction makes a difference. there are some pieces of this legislation that make some sense but it doesn't make sense to destroy capital investment or to run capital investment away by having selected taxation and creating enemys in this country. it's time we empowered the entire private sector. >> woodruff: just in a word extending the payroll tax cuts? >> that's one of those things you can sit down and talk about. but as long as you have the medicine all in one big at a spoon you have to swallow it all good and bad it's not going to pass the congress. >> we haven't heard from republicans is what their alternative is. all we hear is less regulation, less taxes for upper income folks. that's not what the problem is according to the small business community which has been surveyed on this. the problem is lack of customers.
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that's really... the middle class needs to be supported in this country, not the wealthiest among us. >> woodruff: we're going to leave it there. senators johnny isakson, carl levin, we thank you both. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: now, how the weak economy is contributing to and magnifying the problems of some school districts. the newshour's speci correspondent for education, john merrow, reports on the problems one district faces. >> reporter: six years ago mifflin county pennsylvania had a vision for a better high school. it would offer students an outstanding education in a state-of-the-art facility. >> i was really excited when i went through that school. everybody that went through with me was, "this is such a great place." >> reporter: the local business leader hoped the school would draw businesses and revenue to the area. >> the school, i's the hospital. it's other areas that show
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quality of life and quality of place. >> reporter: the new high school opened in august under the leadership of principal mark crossman. >> the statement that we want to make to kids is that we value you. your education is important, way beyond the four years you're with us. >> reporter: this $64 million school, including $141,000 worth of new gym equipment was paid for with a municipal bond. it was a vote of confidence for a blue-collar industrial community that was struggling economically. nearly half the district's 5,500 students qualified for free or reduced lunch. and then the economic crisis hit. mifflin county, like rural school districts all across the country, had to put its ambitious dreams on hold. almost overnight the challenge became to make ends meet. in mifflin county, that job fell to its new superintendent james east. >> things are going to change dramatically. >> reporter: change started with the school budget.
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the state cut over 12% from its allocation, about 4.3 million dollars. the bond that paid for the high school wasn't affected. but just about everything else seemed to be up for grabs. declining enrollment also meant fewer state dollars. giving a $6.5 million deficit for the approaching year. >> we'll do what we have to do to balance the budget and still be able to offer as much as we can to the kids. >> reporter: in a radical and dramatic step, he closed five of mifflin's 13 schools. >> 80% of our staff had to be moved to a different building and/or grade level and/or subject. >> reporter: and the kids? a lot of kids are in different buildings. >> everyone has moved. >> reporter: the move has not been easy. here at the elementary school we found the librarian single handedly unpacking boxes of books during the third week of school. >> the day i came here, it was all i could do to get in the door. my goal is the first of october that i can get the
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rest of these books on the shelves. >> reporter: are you doing all this yourself? >> yes. >> reporter: debbie is one of the lucky ones. she still has a job. >> i knew if there was going to be cuts in the district that i was going to be one of them cut. >> reporter: brian patton who caught health education in mifflin county was one of 33 teachers who lost their jobs. >> i was at the bottom of the list on the seniority list. when it actually occurred at the beginning of may, it was definitely a shock. >> reporter: you tried to get other teaching jobs. >> i applied in other states, virginia, west virginia, new york. i was getting maybe one call a week. that's with ten hours of applying every day. >> reporter: with an estimated 280,000 teaching jobs at risk this year, that's not surprising. >> i feel terrible. can i sleep at night with the decision? yes. because i feel to a great degree things beyond their
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control and mind have let to this. >> reporter: in august, brian finally found a job as a sales manager of a new verizon store in lewis ton. is there a part of you that wishes you were teaching? >> yeah. that's where my heart is. but i've truly appreciated where i'm at now. >> let's open our books to.... >> reporter: fewer teachers means larger classes. on average 7 to 10 more students per class. >> you're teaching to 30 kids. even a couple of them need additional attention and a level of skill is very different, so as a teacher you want to teach so that the higher kids get what they need but you can't ignore the lower kids. no child left behind. what does teacher do? they're overwhelmed. >> reporter: peggy fisher has been teaching for nine years after a long career as a computer programmer. >> so if you go to the number, numbers is where you can do the pick random. >> i teach web design. i teach programming.
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so this year the kids are going to learn about how to program, how to design, how to analyze a problem. >> we're going to set that to the x value because remember x goes across. you got it. you got it. good, good, good. >> reporter: fisher may have a job but she can no longer teach all the classes she'd like to like advanced placement computer science. >> according to the numbers, we only had 13 people signed up which is still a lot for an a.p.-class. we needed 15. so they made us cancel the class. >> reporter: courses have been cut all across the district. including 25% of the high school a.p.-classes. over many new a.p.-classes are now being offered online, students must pay $700 per class per year. for some that's not an option. >> i'm going into agricultural engineering. so the courses that would be very helpful would be the computer science and the physics and things like that. but they just weren't
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available. i'm a little angry. i'm really angry actually about it because like i said i'm going to be way behind all the other students in my college classes. collectively i'm forgetting all the things i learned in physics one. >> reporter: as bad as the cuts may be, superintendent east says they could have been worse. >> we were very seriously going to have to consider whether or not we could continue to operate full-cape kindergarten, whether we could continue to offer elementary art, music and phys. ed.. >> reporter: could they be worse next year? >> every reading that i got is that for the next several years, we are going to have to do either the same with less or more with less depending on our choice. and the only way that i know of to do more with less is to fundamentally change how you do things. we're doing more and more with technology in the public schools. maybe there's more opportunities for blended learning. where we're combining the use of on-line or distance learning coupled with
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traditional face-to-face. it's not hard to see where i know we want to go. it's hard to see how we're going to get there. it's new territory for sure. >> reporter: it's probably no consolation to the superintendent in mifflin county, but most of the nation's 14,000 school districts are living with the same uncertainty. >> brown: next, a conversation about a very little book, with a very big call to action. and it comes from a most unlikely source. ray suarez has that story. >> suarez: it's not often that an elderly european writer can pack a room at an american college campus but columbia university had to find larger quarters when frenchman stephen hassel visited recently. his journey to this place was long and action packed. son of a german jew raised after world war i in paris by
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parents whose marriage became the basis for the movie jewels and gym, he joined the french resistance in world war ii escaping death in a nazi concentration camp. a u.n. official who worked with eleanor roosevelt and witnessed the birth of israel, at 94 he has suddenly returned to prominence and controversy with a book no longer thank a pamphlet really: time for outrage of, telling young to express outrage over everything from israel's invasion of gaza to the excesses of capitalism in the west. welcome. >> thank you. very glad to be with you, ray. >> suarez: at an age when no one could blame you for just relaxing and maybe puttering in your garden, you've decided to take an argument to the people of the world. asking them to get indignant, to get angry. about what, exactly? >> about anything that they consider is contrary to the basic values for which we have
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been fighting all this long age long. you see, my feeling was that certain values which came up immediately after world war ii, which were raised by great american president for whom i have the greatest admiration, franklin roosevelt. he made the charter of the united nations applicable. i'm very, very grateful to him and to his successors because, thanks to them, we have an ethical stand on which to judge what happens. if something happens that goes against that ethical standard, it is good for us to feel outrage. >> suarez: you think we're contradicting, violating the ideals that world war ii was fought around? >> indeed. some of us are trying to... others are violating it a lot and others are violating it a lot. to me what brings my outrage
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to one particular spot of this world is, of course, the way the israeli government treats the palestinians. i consider that as a violation of international law. in all our countries, there are things that are no longer really acceptable. the way we're going to treat immigrants. the way that social security that is really required. lobbies. organized and oppress our governments. all that seems to me a thing against which normal citizens-- the older but also the younger-- should find a way to answer with outrage. and to react not by violence, not by another great revolution which would throw anything to pieces, no. but by a determineded will. i was partularly to see that
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for two months after my little book came out in october of 2010 the arab strain arose and these tunisians and egyptians and syrians really took it into their hands to get rid of the tyrant and to work for a more democratic world. >> suarez: your amazing life story, does this give you standing in effect? say, "hey, i'm not just some old guy. i have something to say. listen up, world"? >> you're quite right. it is true that many so very old and having lived through that long period people listen to me with a certain amount of respect. and if i am together with younger people-- as i am all the time now; i'm the oldest of them all-- i can tell them, look, you may think that the problems today are not serious problems. you may think that my generation has had the good luck, if you want, to have a clear challenge to meet, a war
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of decriminalization, a fight against... those are clear goals. what are your goals now? look around yourself and look at what makes you furious? when something makes you unhappy, then engage yourself. >> suarez: you could have written a shelf full of books on that. you chose instead to make a simple set of arguments. how did you design this book, this creed, if you will? >> i started by having a meeting in a part of france in the mountains. a spot where resistance during world war ii had some of its worst moments-- best and worst-- fight against the german army and finally terrible defeat. we stood there with comrades of my age, all resistance
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workers. we had a group of 3,000 penal... people watching and listening to us because they wanted to recall the days of the resistance. we told them, look, the ideas that were put up at that time are still valid. if these ideas for social security for all, for the fight against money and market, and if you look around you and you find that these values are being threatened, then do something about it. that was how it started. and the publisher of this book, a charming woman, she came to me after i had given that speech and she said, what you said is important. why don't we put it into a little book. she said, i suggest that it be called... that is interesting because it contained the word
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dignity. what we are really trying to say is that the dignity of human beings has to be defended. when one feels that the government, whichever government, is not really doing the thing to preserve that dignity, then we should get angry or outraged, if you want. >> suarez: we'll continue this conversation online. thanks for joining me. >> thank you. >> ifill: finally tonight, the experiences of women in wartime and peacetime. that's the subject of a five- part series produced by our pbs colleagues at wnet new york. this excerpt tells the story of an all-female army team reaching out to women in rural parts of afghanistan. the narrator is actress geena davis. >> reporter: the u.s. military in afghanistan realized it had made a crucial mistake.
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it was failing to connect with half the country's population. rural afghan women, the rarely seen by outsiders, hold the key to understanding life in the villages. by not fully engaging them, the military was missing out on a vital source of information. and an opportunity to win hearts and minds. >> let's go, girls. >> reporter: army sergeant first class abby blaisdell leads a female engagement team or f.e.t., one of about 75 such teams now operating in provinces throughout the country. >> we're maybe going to get the word to go up and do talking with some women or children. i want to see what kind of issues they may have in this area, whether it's health care or if they need schools for their children. we just wanted to make sure that you saw that we brought the doctor back to help the women. >> reporter: in tribal pashtun
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areas, women are often forbidden from interacting with men unless bonded by marriage or blood. the all female units of the military give the military new access to a world that was formerly out of reach. >> we've very well received out here right now as western women because we don't fall under the muslim rules and we're not as imposing as the male soldiers. we're going to go right in here. just have one guy stand here for security. we'll be good inside. basically it's our goal to go out and engage the women within the population of afghanistan and try to find out what their needs are and how we can assist them. to improve their quality of life. >> are they healthy? >> reporter: sergeant blaisdell, her medic and her
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translator check in with the village elder before moving on. >> ask her if the women we visited with yesterday that are doctor treated if they were satisfied with the treatment they received. >> all the women are very happy about it. only the people who didn't receive it were unhappy. >> it's very important that we all work together especially as women because we have a lot of good ideas. sometimes the men don't know to listen to our ideas. but if we all work together, we can probably bring some resolution much more quickly. >> when you start thinking about women and war, you really change your idea about what security is. security becomes, is there water out of the tap? or is the well polluted? you begin thinking about electricity and what happens to women's security when electricity fails.
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how do they make a living in the middle of war? it makes you think about really a more realistic notion of security. >> ifill: the first episode of "women, war and peace" airs tonight on most pbs stations. check your local listings for the time. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day. the justice department said it disrupted a plot-- conceived in iran-- to assassinate the saudi arabian ambassador to the u.s. israel and hamas announced a prisoner swap: 1,000 palestinians for israeli sergeant gilad shalit. he's been held since 2006. on our web site, find more on the fight against terrorism. kwame holman has the details. kwame? >> holman: you can see all of attorney general holder's news conference about the plot to assassinate the saudi ambassador. plus, on "frontline" tonight, a report on an investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001. new evidence raises doubts on the f.b.i.'s case against suspect bruce ivins. check your local listings, or watch it right now on "frontline's" web site.
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all that and more is on our web site, gwen? >> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at the fallout from tonight's republican presidential debate in new hampshire. i'm gwen ifill. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> okay, listen. somebody has got to get serious. >> i think... >> we need renewable energy. >> ...renewable energy is vital to our planet. >> you hear about alternatives, right? wind, solar, algae. >> i think it's got to work on a big scale. and i think it's got to be affordable. >> so, where are they? >> it has to work in the real world. at chevron, we're investing millions in solar and biofuel technology to make it work. >> we've got to get on this now. >> right now.
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bnsf. intel. >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... 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 macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh
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