tv PBS News Hour PBS December 28, 2011 5:30pm-6:30pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: weeping mourners crowded the streets of north korea's capital today as designated successor kim jong un led a snowy funeral procession for his father. good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight, we have a report on today's elaborate proceedings and we assess north korea's future role in the region as well as the direction u.s.-korean relations may take. >> ifill: then we look at the flood of expensive political advertising in iowa, as republican presidential hopefuls compete for the last word. >> woodruff: hari sreenivasan takes a look at the year in extreme weather and what's
behind the record breaking snows, floods and tornadoes. >> ifill: from kenya, fred de sam lazaro has a report on the effort to contain a global disease threat to the world's wheat crops. >> without the fungicides, there would be no wheat crop in this country and in other countries. its as simple as that. >> woodruff: and jeffrey brown talks about some of the best works of fiction in 2011 with ron charles, book reviewer for the "washington post." >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪
moving our econo for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. 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. >> ifill: the capital city of north korea was a vast sea of grief today. thousands upon thousands of people turned out in bitter cold for the two-and-a-half-hour
funeral procession for kim jong il. we begin with a report from angus walker of independent television news. >> reporter: it was perhaps fitting for a leader of a country still trapped in the cold war, that kim jong il's funeral procession made its way through the capital of his regime. as the snow fell, so did the tears. voices trembling with emotion, state tv commentators said the people would devote themselves to the departed dear leader. in a nation shrouded in secrecy cut off from the world, he was all they knew. on every screen, every front page and every billboard.
a hero, a father figure a god. and they mourn with religious ferver. "how could the sky not cry when we've lost our general who was a great man from the sky," this soldier says. after the father comes the son. the next leader, kim jong un, was given a key position, walking alongside the hearse just in front of his uncle, the power behind the throne. only the party faithful have been allowed to line the root to show their boundless loyalty. which spilled out onto the streets. this was orchestrated propaganda. the regime telling it's people that it's still in control. the military showing it's might to the world.
a reminder north korea is a nuclear power, now led by a young man in his twenties, thrust into leadership by his father's death. >> woodruff: still to come on the "newshour": iowa political tv ads; a year of extreme weather; the threat to the world's wheat and outstanding fiction. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: the u.s. military warned iran today against trying to choke off oil traffic from the persian gulf. a pentagon spokesman said the u.s. would not tolerate it. iran has threatened this week to close the strait of hormuz, if the west embargoes iranian oil. one-sixth of the world's oil flows through the passage, linking the gulf to the arabian sea. iran's navy chief said today it would be very easy for his forces to block the strait. and the iranian navy continued drills in the area today.
wall street had a down day, amid new fears about a credit crunch in europe. stocks fell after the european central bank reported record overnight deposits. it was new evidence that banks across europe would rather park their money, even at very low interest, instead of lending to each other. in response, the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 140 points to close at 12,151. the nasdaq fell 35 points to close below 2,590. in the republican presidential campaign, the latest poll reshuffled the standings in iowa yet again with the caucuses set for tuesday. the cnn-"time" survey found mitt romney leading now, with 25%. texas congressman ron paul had 22%, after a recent surge. former pennsylvania senator rick santorum polled 16%-- three times what he had a month ago. and, newt gingrich slumped nearly 20 points in recent weeks to 14%. new turmoil erupted across syria today, as the presence of arab league peace monitors failed to stop the violence. activists reported security forces killed at least six
people in the city of hama and there was word of new shootings in homs, as well. we have a report narrated by cordelia lynch of "independent television news." >> reporter: gunfire on the streets of hama as the army shoots at demonstrators. "freedom will be forever," they cry as teargas is thrown at them. closeby in homs, the monitors sent to observe are forced to dodge bullets. shortly after, their leader stated nothing frightening was happening there. but in the same city they're led as they step outside a clear view of the tanks so publicly withdrawn. yet, the protesters keen to peacefully demonstrate have little faith in the ability of the observers.
>> ( translated ): we could not go to the square to demstrate because the army was shooting at us. where are the monitors. in my opinion, it's better for them to pack their bags and go back home. >> reporter: but they may be leaving the beginnings of a civil war. these images which we cannot yet verify appear to show for the first time the free syrian army ambushing the security forces. it happened in the south in deraa, the cradle of the revolution. ( gunfire ) we do not know when they were while most eyes are on the north this was deraa today. it's where the arab league delegation is headed tomorrow. in a gesture of good will, state run syrian tv announced the release of 755 prisoners
detained on the government crackdown. but the rebels remain defiant at the end of a day that's claimed >> sreenivasan: amnesty international estimated that up to 15,000 syrians remain in detention. human rights watch said hundreds of them are hidden at military sites, where arab league observers will not see them. the supreme court of nigeria ruled today that president goodluck jonathan's election victory will stand. his closest challenger had demanded a recount of last april's vote in the oil-rich african state. also today, authorities said attackers hurling homemade bombs wounded seven children at an islamic school in southern nigeria yesterday. that followed christmas day bombings on christian churches that killed at least 39 people. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: with less than a week to go until the iowa caucuses, republican presidential candidate it is and the outside groups supporting them are poring money into television and radio ads throughout the state. in december, the candidates and
their commit tease spend more than $10 million combined. rick perry's campaign is spent the most, almost $3 million. ron paul and mitt romney spent more than one million each and newt gingrich trailed the pack, spending $$726,000 in iowa this month. the bachmann and santorum campan didn't make their figures public. the outside groups known as superpacs or political action committees also laid down big money. a group supporting romney spent close to $3 million, while a similar group backing perry spent $1.3 million. just today a gingrich superpac put an ad worth almost $250,000 up on the iowa airwaves. we look closer now with ken goldstein, president of the campaign media analysis group which tracks political advertising. good to see you. let me start by asking how this spending compares with previous cpaigns and what does it say about the health of these campaigns? >> reporter: well, the
advertising air war in iowa was very late to start this year so when all is said and aired we're going to have less spending in iowa this cycle than we saw in 2007 leading up to the 2008 iowa caucuses, even if we just look at the republican side. but as those numbers, you were saying before, the campaigns and their group allies are absolutely fully engaged at the very, very, very highest levels here for this last couple weeks and last week of the campaign. >> woodruff: let's look at two spots. one run by the mitt romney campaign and the other run by the so-called superpac, political action committee that is independent but is running ads on his behalf. let's take a look at those now. >> i'm near do something to government. i'm going to make it simpler and smaller and smarter, getting rid of programs, turning programs back to states and finally making government itself more efficient. i'm going to get rid of obamacare. it's a moral imperative for america to stop spending more money than we take in.
it's killing jobs and it's keeping our kids from having the prospects they deserve. the experience of balancing budgets is desperately needed in washington and i will take it there. i'm mitt romney and i approve this message. >> why is this man smiling? because his plan is working. brutally attack mitt romney and help newt gingrich as his opponent. why? newt has a ton of baggage. like that fact that gingrich was fined $300,000 for ethics violations or that he took at least $1.6 million from freddie mac just before it helped cause the economic meltdown. >> woodruff: so ken goldstein, the first ad clearly pro-romney, all positive. the second one contrasts newt gingrich, tough on newt gingrich. what does that tell you about the role these superpacks are playing? >> very interesting. putting those two ads together is almost going to tell you exactly what's going to happen. what we're going to see in 2012 with advertising in general. you see the ads paid for by the
romney campaign, mitt romney speaking in his own words, making a little attack on obama but a positive ad, talking about mitt romney, his plans. and then his group allies hitting newt gingrich and hitting newt gingrich pretty hard. and i think that's not only what we're going to see in iowa but down the line. groups from going to be a very, very big player in the 2012 advertising air war and i think you're going to see the campaign generally going positive having the candidates sneak their own words then having the groups do the attacking. >> woodruff: let's see whether this is another example. this first one... next one we're going to show is an ad run by the gingrich campaign. as we pointed out, they've been short of money compared to the other campaigns and then just today a group supporting newt gingrich, outside superpack, began running another ad. so we'll run the gingrich ad and then the superpac ad. let's look at that now. >> reporter: these are challenging and important times
for america. we want and deserve solutions. others seem to be more focused on attacks rather than moving the country forward. that's up to them. i believe bold ideas and new solutions will unleash america's creative spirit. when i was speaker, our budget was balanced and 11 million jobs were created. we can do it again and rebuild the america we love. i'm newt gingrich and i approve this message. >> the republican establishment wants to pick our candidate. when a principled conservative took the lead they attacked newt gingrich, attacking him with falsehoods. conservatives need someone who fought for us. newt balanced the federal budget reformed welfare, cut taxes and created $11 million new jobs. newt will take on radical judges and fight against abortion. don't threat liberal republican establishment pick our candidate. newt gingrich. winning our future is responsible for the content of this message.
>> woodruff: ken goldstein, the pro-gingrich superpac just able to get that up today, it's our understanding. so very late in the cycle. and, again, contrasting with the gingrich campaign spot. >> right. you have gingrich the candidate going positive and then the group supporting him going negative. but it's not a particularly the focused or devastating negative attack on a particular remember candidate. i think it uses the term "liberal republican establishment." the ad talks about gingrich being outspent 20-1. what's interesting is gingrich has been outspent in ads about him by over 10-1. so there's certainly been other spending there, but there's been ten times as much money spent on t.v. advertising messages criticizing newt gingrich than messages defending newt gingrich and that's taken its toll in iowa. rough off there superpac add on his behalf is almost a defensive
ad. >> it is a defensive ad. listen, there's a lot of ways to deal with negative ads. the best way is to not complain about them. usually you want to either take specific charges on, head on, or hit back pretty hard at the people making those attacks against you. and those ads to me seem to be in that middle ground. maybe neither here nor there. >> woodruff: we're going to look at two more spots. one is the ron paul campaign and the second one by rick perry who is spending a lot of money in iowa. let's look at those now. >> everything that gingrich railed against when he was in the house he went the other way when he got paid to go the other way. >> you're an embarrassment to our party. >> he flipped and flopped based on who's paying him. >> he's demonstrating himself to be the very essence of the washington insider. >> it's about serial hypocrisy. >> it's wrong to go around to radically different positions because then people have to ask themselves "what will you tell me next time?"
>> if washington's the problem, why trust him the fix it. among them, they've spent 63 years in congress leaving with us debt, earmarks and bailouts. congressmen get $174,000 a year and you get the bill. we need a solution. >> that's the reason i've called for a part-time congress. cut their pay in half. cut their time in washington in half. cut their staff in half. send them home. let them get a job like everybody else at home. i'm rick perry and i approve this message. >> woodruff: newt gingrich taking two more hits in those campaigns directly from ron paul and then in the second spot from rick perry he's going after anybody who's had anything to do with congress. >> absolutely. so that's a very, very focused attack by ron paul on newt gingrich and the rick perry campaign and the rick perry group supporting him, make us great again, has spent an awful lot of money. they were the ones who were on the air earliest in iowa and
have spent the most in iowa. the ron paul and rick perry attack ads or negative ads are interesting because as ron paul takes on gingrich and rick perry takes on nerve that ad, sometimes it's hard to know who an ad like that benefits in a primary. it's not like a general election where it's me against you. if i take support away from you it comes to me. if you take support away from me it goes to you. in a multicandidate caucus like we're seeing in iowa. you can go after candidate "a," it might not help you, it could help some of the other candidates. >> woodruff: so finally, there's one of the candidates who spent very little money on advertising in fact, as far as we know has had one spot up, there's rick santorum, the former pennsylvania senator. today a new cnn/"time" magazine poll shows he's rising in favorability in iowa coming in third after romney and ron paul and now santorum pushing
gingrich. gingrich dropping. how do you explain that with santorum when he's had so little on television? >> it's interesting. it speaks about the last point we were talking about. we'll see if santorum keeps the trend he's got going now. we're seeing dates come and go where it explodes and comes down. but it reminds me a lot of what we saw in the 2004 iowa caucuses on the democratic side. when howard dean and dick gephardt were the front-runners all along, gephardt and dean went after each other. people called it a murder/suicide. and gephardt and dean basically knocked each other out and john kerry and john edwards ended up coming in one and two in iowa. coming on very late about this same time in the cycle as we're seeing now leading up to the iowa caucus. so all of these ads thatre attacking candidates 1, 2, 3 and 4 maybe it gives the chance for rick santorum who, as you said, has barely spent any money getting his message out in
television to be a second or third choice of iowa caucus goers. but, again, let's see if those numbers hold up. people have come up; people have come down in this roller coaster of a caucus or primary season so far. >> woodruff: they sure have. that, in fact, is the signature of this republican contest. ken goldstein, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> ifill: for more on how the leadership change in north korea could affect u.s. policy toward the isolated nation, we turn to former u.s. ambassador to south korea donald gregg. he's now chairman emeritus of the board of the korea society. and balbina hwang, a visiting professor at georgetown university who was a korea specialist at the state department during the last bush administration. ambassador gregg, the president was in washington saying the
u.s. is an asian power. here is the first test. what is the u.s. to do with this chafrng of leadership? north korea? >> well, that's a very good question. i think the timing of his trip to asia was excellent. he ran head on into the growing influence of china and one reason china's influence has expanded is that we have done nothing to talk with north korea in the last two or three years and so the chinese influence has increased as it has become the chief supporter of the north koreans. so we have some things to talk about with the chinese about their role in north korea and the president has an opportunity to do that next month when the current vice president of china visits washington. and i think it would be a very natural thing for them to talk about. he also needs to stay in close touch with his close friend lee myung-bak in south korea who up to now has taken a fairly harsh line toward north korea and if lee myung-bak decides in his
last year to be more accommodating and flexible toward north korea it would be make it easier for president obama to follow that line. >> ifill: professor hwang, he sees an opportunity using china as a go between. other commentators say there's nothing new under the son-- speaking of his successor. which do you think is true? >> i think in this case the proper procedure could be to continue with obama's policy, what we have deemed strategic patience regarding north korea. >> ifill: what does that mean? >> well strashgs t.j. i can patience has essentially been a mixture of containment in the sense of containing or deterring north korea's aggressive behavior, including its proliferation activities. at the same time, limiting engagement to the proven track record or the existing avenues, including the space walks as ways... six party talks as way to draw north korea out. that may have not been the most
effective policy vis-a-vis the purpose of denuclearizing north korea. but in this case now as we face this new succession in north korea, i think it's actually most appropriate policy. >> ifill: let me continue with you for a moment. is north korea less stable than it was under the previous leader? that has succession thrown things up in the air? >> no, i don't think we should assume things are completely unstable in north korea and in chaos. i think the images that we see clearly show that the new succession is in control and they're managing very well and i think thus far there's every indication that succession will proceed relatively smoothly. certainly as far as purposes of the outside world. >> ifill: ambassador gregg, is that because of the new young leader or the man we saw walking behind anymore that n that funeral procession, his uncle? >> well, i think it's a combination of both. i am very impressed by the way the transition has gone. i agree with balbina on that but
i disagree that a continuation of strategic patience is what's called for. the north koreans have signaled that they want wider range of western investment. kim jong-il himself has more of the knowledge of the outside world due to couple of years he was educated in switzerland than either his father or his grandfather. so i think there's a natural opportunity for us to start fresh with a new chapter with north korea. kim jong-il took with him to the grave the cheonan, the sinking of the ship, the firing of the missile, the nuclear test, and the bombardment of the island as a very well-established south korean observer has said, this is the first north korean leader who has come to power with a clean record. so i think this is a chance to start fresh. i think that strategic patience has not worked well. all it has done is increased north korea's isolation and dependence upon china. >> ifill: what reason do we have
to believe, professor hwang that this is a fresh page turn. that he's not going to do some of the aggressive things we have seen with previous north korean leaders when power has changed hands. >> well, the problem here is that there may be a new face, but this new face, this new young leader, will have very limited opportunities to actually make these vast changes. i mean, look at president obama. he was elected, esstially, very popularly in this country because people expected them to make great changes and many became disappointed because even he couldn't do that. kim jong-un can only survive and only gain credibility and legitimacy by continuing the policies, at least in the short to medium-term. which means that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to make any bold efforts towards reform or openness. even if that is what he holds in his heart. by the way, it's not such a clean slate. there are some that believe that kim jong-un was behind both the
sinking of the "cheonan" and the attack last year. whether or not he masterminded them, he certainly was caught up in the aura of responsibility for it because it was deemed a great success in north korea. that's part of his attempt to garner leadership. >> ifill: ambassador gregg, let's talk about another outstanding question, that's whether north korea qualified for food aid from western nation and whether that should be linked to its effort to step away from its nuclear program. do you think there should be a linkage there? >> i very much agree we should not starve people for political reasons but i also have to respond to something balbina said. i referred for years to north korea as the longest-running failure in the history of american espionage and i'm qualified to say that because i chased them unsuccessfully for a couple of decades. for douse say suddenly well, we don't know what's going on, that's true. but then when we say we think
kim jong-un was tied up to the sinking of the "cheonan" and the firing of theal artillery on the island, that's nonsense. we have no basis upon which to make those assertions except for the fact that we demonized kim jong-il and saw him capable of anything and started the same process with kim jong-un. and i think it's time to step back, take a deep breath, admit we know dangerously little and start working with a young leader in the hope that he will be able to establish himself and move north korea in new directions. >> ifill: is that, professor hwang, what south korea wants us to do? >> i think there's a great debate going on in south korea. i agree ambassador gregg, we should not demonize kim jong-un ahead of time. on the other hand, we should also not ascribe to him because he spent a couple years at a boarding school in switzerland and that he's so young that he is of this new young generation that's willing to reform and be open minded. i agree we may simply not know what is in his heart and mind.
my point is i think that we can be pretty definite, though, in knowing that he cannot ins it too any of those reforms or make any bold efforts towards openness in the short term. it simply cannot be done if he wants to maintain his position as leader of north korea. >> reporter: you talked about china being our go-between. has there been any indication at all that they're willing to be that? >> reporter: in the past they have not wanted to talk about that kind of thing because i think they feel we would encroach upon their influence. i think the obama administration is in a better position to do that now. he fought wendy sherman into the state department at the number three position. she's a very good... very good on north korea having worked under bill terry. and the vice foreign minister of china is an extraordinary woman named fu ying who i met. she understands north korea very well and i would hope at some
point wendy sherman and fu ying can talk about ways we in china can cooperate in dealing with north korea. now, our policy goals in north korea are not identical. but we share the same desire for stability so at least we can sit down with the chinese and talk about making the peninsula far more stable than it has been. and i think kim jong-un's ability to move in new directions in part is going to depend on how the outside world responds to him. if there is a positive response from south korea, if there's a positive response from the united states that empowers him greatly. that's why i think it's a two-way game in terms of how we move to help him establish himself and move in new directions in pyongyang. >> ifill: professor hwang, a two-way game? >> most certainly it is but we have to remember that coming up next year there will be regime changes all around north korea. south korea will have elections. of course we will here in the united states.
china new leadership. even russia. the point is is that if you look at therack record of north korea's engagement or relationship with its neighbors and with the united states it's actually been us, the united states, that's been rather erratic. this has been north korea's position. so north korea will not make any real attempts and certainly not trust the united states until at least the next administration is established in washington and seoul. >> ifill: balbina hwang, ambassador donald gregg, thank you very much. >> pleasure to be with you. >> woodruff: some of the biggest stories of 2011 involved extreme weather that wreaked havoc in many states and cities. as the year comes to a close, it's sparking plenty of discussion in the world of science about the causes and meaning of those events. hari sreenivasvan explores all that following some background.
>> reporter: from snow to floods to tornadoes, it's been a year of record-breaking weather across the u.s. mainland. more, in fact, than any year since modern record-keeping began. it began in late january with paralyzing blizzards that dumped heavy snow on 22 states. chicago was buried under nearly two feet of snow and the windy city ground to a near- standstill. >> for the past ten hours i've traveled 0.9 miles. so now the fire department finally came to see if i wanted to leave my car, i saw the tow truck four cars back and i was like, i'll just wait for it. that was two hours ago. >> reporter: spring brought the start of an especially deadly tornado season, with three of the largest twister outbreaks in american history in just six weeks, killing more than 550 people and causing $25 billion in damage. more than 300 were killed over
three days in late april in central and southern states. tuscaloosa, alabama was the hardest hit. >> it was horrifying. it was coming towards us, so we ran to the back, and got under a metal structure in the back, and that's honestly what saved us. >> reporter: then in late may, a tornado with winds topping 200 miles an hour leveled the town of joplin, missouri. it was the single deadliest u.s. tornado since 1947, killing nearly 160 people. >> i actually was planning on helping where it was really torn up but there's nothing really to help. it's just flattened. i don't know, there's probably three quarters of a mile of nothing. >> reporter: that same storm system brought triple the normal amount of rainfall to the ohio river valley. the rain coupled with snowmelt caused both the mississippi and missouri rivers to flood. in august, hurricane irene drenched the eastern seaboard. it triggered record flooding in new jersey, new york state and vermont, and cost more than $7 billion. >> once the water started coming
through the front door i knew it was getting bad and once the walls started to break and molding started to pop, i knew i was really in trouble. >> reporter: the southern plains and southwest could only hope for some of that rain. texas suffered through its worst, one-year drought, as losses reached $10 billion dollars in crops, livestock and timber. the tinder-dry conditions in texas also fueled wildfires that burned a million acres. the bastrop fire, over labor day weekend, was the state's most destructive on record. overall, it was the hottest summer texas has ever seen. wichita falls had more than 100 days of 100-degree readings. nationwide, more than 6,000 heat records were broken this year. on average, the u.s. has three or four events every year that are considered major natural disasters. but this year, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration counted at least a dozen such events. based on reports to date, damages are expected to exceed
$52 billion. weather around the world showed equal extremes. australia was hit with record flooding followed by one of its worst tropical cyclones ever. floodwaters also ravaged parts of thailand and china, while the horn of africa suffered its worst drought in decades. >> sreenivasan: we have more on this with two experts who watch the impact of weather closely. kathryn sullivan is the deputy director of n.o.a.a., the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. an oceanagropher and former astronaut, she helps oversee noaa's work on weather observation and climate sciences. and jeff masters is a meteorologist with the weather underground website. he joins us from ann arbor, michigan. so thanks for being here. miss sullivan, i rattled off what seemed like an exceptional year of weather, but put this in perspective. how rare is this? >> well, the prior record-breaking year was nine significant events, well above the three to four that are typical. that was 2008.
so a third again in number of events, each of which had greater than a billion dollars. many other events, of course, fell below that billion-dollar threshold through the course of that year. quite a remarkable string, quite a remarkable array. i came aboard noaa as the deputy administrator early in may and the preceding month of april in one month alone. we had record-breaking flood, wildfire, tornado outbreaks within one single month. it was certainly unprecedented in my experience. >> reporter: jeff masters you've said in your blog you never saw a year like this. what else stands out to you? >> in one year we had three of the most remarkable extreme weather events in history of the u.s. we talk about the dust bowl summer of 1936. well, this summer pretty much matched that for temperature. almost the hottest summer in u.s. history. we also talk about the great 1974 tornado outbreak. well, we had an outbreak that
more than doubled the total of tornados that we had during that iconic outbreak. also we talk about the great 1927 flood on the mississippi river. well, the flood lights were higher than that this year. so it boggles my mind that we had three extreme weather events that matched those events in u.s. history. >> sreenivasan: jeff, how do we tie this in with any particular cause? we can't say a temperature warming or global temperature increase causes tornado or this hurricane. what can we say? what does the data show us? >> that weather has natural extremes. you can have extreme years and not very extreme years. certainly this year was a very naturally extreme year. but i argue that when you have a naturally extreme year occurring between context of global warming, okay. now you've put more heat in the the atmosphere. that means you have more energy to power stronger storms and more energy also to give you more intense heat waves and droughts. so in particular we look at heat
waves, droughts, and flooding events. they all tend to get increased when enough extra energy in the atmosphere. i call it being on steroids for the atmosphere. >> explain that. what do you mean? >> well, normally you have the everyday ups and downs of the weather. but if you pack a little bit of extra punch in there, it's like a baseball hitter who's on steroids. you expect to see a big home run total maybe from this slugger but if you add extra oomph to his swing by being on steroids, now he can have an unprecedented season, a 70 home run season. that's the way i look at this year. we had an unprecedented weather year that i don't think would have happened if unless we had an extra bit of energy in the atmosphere due to climate change and global warming. >> sreenivasan: kathryn, in your opinion joplin yourself. what are some of the longer-term impacts. the costs we're not seeing here as we total up the dollar signs. >> it's really a sobering and heart wrenching experience to be on the ground in those tornado
ravaged areas. the casualties, of course, the injuries and loss of life take precedence over everything. but the scale of the damage and pervasiveness of it boggle my mind. the figure i heard that day in joplin was there were 1,800 acres of debris and debris hardly begins to describe it, businesses and homes and a large first-class hospital were little more than toothpicks. fabulous large trees with trunk diameters up to 18, 24 inches were maybe 10 or 12 foot tall shrubs with not a shred of bark. amazing the power and fury that ripped through that community in such a brief period of time. so you think about rebuilding a house but, you know, first debris, it's a massive undertaking. then to deal with the administrative mechanics of
whatever you might have, insurance, a builder. and for it to be that pervasive over that large of a swath of a community just means it will take such a long time to come back. small business is affected, larger major storms affected. major building damage. fire houses, schools, and one of the primary hospitals all destroyed. so the fabric of the community is really affected in an experience like this and that also makes it harder for the community itself and its citizens to rebound. so very long train of consequences well beyond the media moments that we've tended to pay attention to. >> sreenivasan: jeff, what sorts of economic or geopolitical consequences do you see when we have natural disasters like drought in different parts of the world? >> drought is my number-one concern for climate change because drought affects food prices. we had a terrific drought in russia last year that caused them to shut off their exports of wheat. now global food prices spiked there have and it's thought that
the arab spring revolts that happened this year were due in part to the fact that food prices were so high due to the russian drought. those food price twrs highest we've seen since the early 1990s. had we had a drought of that magnitude this year in the u.s., there would have been very severe consequences for the global economy, the global food supply and there would have been a large amount of political unrest, much higher than we saw, i think. >> sreenivasan: kathryn, briefly, what kind of changes are you making at noaa when it comes to modeling and what are cities trying to do to plan for the possibility of more extreme weather? >> we always are working to advance the technology we use to observe the atmosphere in countless ways as well as the computing infrastructure that runs the forecast models that gives us our everyday three, five, seven-day outlook. in addition, this season really is... has focused our attention even further along with our partners in the private sector such as jeff and his colleagues and emergency managers on the human part of the warning
process. from the forecast information that noaa puts out for everyone to work with how can we do better on that? what combination of communication improvements or better understanding how people are accessing information these days, of how people make high impact decisions, almost the social science side of completing the forewarning process will have heightened attention from us in the years ahead. >> sreenivasan: kathryn sullivan from noaa, jeff masters from weather underground. thank you very much for being here. >> woodruff: next tonight, fighting off a deadly threat to the world's wheat crop. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro has our report. what would happen if the majority of the world's wheat
crop was wiped out by disease is unfathomable. >> this is a variety and actually disease is eating the whole plant. >> reporter: scientists say a fun gal disease thought long under control called wheat rust is back and could destroy 80% of all known wheat varieties if it isn't stopped in its tracks. so here in kenya's valley, they are testing wheat varietys from around the world to find the most resistant strains. >> we are getting it in areas about 3,000 meters above sea level. >> reporter: the wheat stem rust was first discovered several hundred miles west of here in gahn da in 1999 hence the name u.g. 99. it blew very quickly into the farmlands here in kenya's rift valley and thereafter east across the red sea into yemen and as far east as iran.
the big fear is that under the right climate conditions-- a dry spell and winds-- stem rust will spread further east into the populous asian subcontinent and later to china. in kenya, wheat is not the main wheat rust has been devastating. samuel langat got a better yield and you got about 12 bags per acre? >> yeah. you used to get double that before. >> reporter: and even that required chemical spraying that further crimped any profit. >> me, i actually sprayed twice but some people went up to four times. so it depends on the kind of money you have. >> reporter: bruce nightingale plants 1,000 acres on his large farm operation, one that dates back to british colonial days. he's managed to preserve a crop but only after repeated sprays with chemical fungicides. >> without the fungicides, there would be no wheat crop in this
country and in other countries. it's as simple as that. we have to use the fungicides to get a crop of wheat. our fear is that the rusts will build up resistance faster that we can have new sprays for them. >> reporter: in the u.s., brian steffanson and colleagues work with the deadly fungus in a tightly secured lab and only from november to april. if any spores did escape, they could never survive the cold weather until spring planting. >> so most of these are susceptible. >> reporter: creating resistant wheat varieties is a tedious genetic form of russian roulette-- cross breeding different varieties in hopes of hitting the right combination of genes and traits. >> you're going to introduce the desired resistance gene but you're also going to introduce some other deleterious genes that may reduce the yield, bread making quality and other aspects
as well. >> reporter: new technology, including more direct gene transfers-- so-called genetic modification-- can speed the process, he says, but it will still take up to six years to create a new resistant strain of wheat-- a situation that he says was avoidable. >> reporter: in his search for new resistant genes, steffanson has gone back to the very beginnings of wheat-scouring the near east region called the fertile crescent where wheat was first domesticated. >> there's been a tremendous amount of diversity that's been left behind after man first domesticated our crops. we're identifying resistance genes that are effective against ug-99 but not putting them in singly by pyramid.
hopefully, keep pathogen off balance, it will not be able to overcome all of those resistance genes and lead to durable resistance against stem rust. >> reporter: back in kenya, peter njao says about ten percent of the experimental new varieties are showing good resistance to stem rust. but that's just the first step. >> there is still a number of stages to go, you need after that adaptation trials, seed multiplication and seed distribution to the farmers and each one of that requires time, that is what we are fighting with. >> reporter: bruce nightingale has been trying a new variety developed by the kenya institute, derived from a brazilian species. he's cautious but hopeful. >> it's too soon to say but visually they look very promising and in the trials that we have seen, they looked to be more resistant to fungal
infections although not entirely resistant. >> reporter: you still need to spray them. >> we have to spray them and we still are very dependent on the plant breeders to try and genetically produce something that is resistant to that. >> reporter: scientists here say it may take until 2016 before they could send resistant wheat strains to meet most farmers needs. as they race to genetically outfox stem rust, it will be a game of hoping, praying-and spraying >> woodruff: fred's reporting is a partnership with the under- told stories project at saint mary's university in minnesota, and the pulitzer center on crisis reporting. >> ifill: finally tonight, four books of fiction from 2011 that top one reviewer's "best" list. jeffrey brown has that.
>> brown: what kind of year was 2011 for books? both for the content and the actual things? the books themselves? we talk with ron charles, the fiction editor of the "washington post" book club. welcome. >> thank you. >> brown: if you take the year as a whole, was there a theme or themethat jumped out with you in terms of the kind of books you were reading? >> it was a lot of books. hundreds of thousands of books. when you look at top-quality fiction what struck me was the number of fine books by women and about women. particularly young women. >> brown: we saw this in the book awards. >> the national book awards particularly. sort of surprised. this young woman, african american, jasmine ward, writes a book that comes out from nowhere. hadn't been widely reviewed at all and wins the national book award. >> brown: it was just leading up to katrina? >> it takes place in ten days before connecticut. this very poor african american family, about a 14-year-old girl. it's a powerful poetic raw story. >> brown: that's an example of
one whereas you say few people had heard of it, it gets on the list and everyone says what's that. i know you wrote about it afterwards and loved it. >> we read it right before. it had not been widely reviewed. i think what will happen is it will be adopted by colleges and maybe more progressive high schools and it could be in print for a long, long time. >> brown: what of the technology and economics of the book business. we've talked about the, book, the rise, and will it take over for from the actual book-book. >> we say it every year, but this is the year. this is the year. about 50 million, books are going to change hands this year. many of them the next few weeks. amazon is selling a million kindles a week now. the new year is going to begin with a lot of people owning, books for the first time and they'll read in an entirely different way. the industry will have to adjust more quickly than they realize. >> brown: do they realize?
where's the industry in awareness or change? >> it's a strange moment because we had years of terrible news for independent bookstores and then, of course, the big change, borders, close this is year. this year it seemed to be turning up. independents were surviving, there's new independents and some have started their own stores so things seem to be stabilizing. >> i did want to ask you about the independent bookstores because as i travel i... after years of hearing how they're going out of business some of the old stalwarts remain and i do keep reading... occasionally read new ones. so is there a new niche throughout possibility? >> it seems to me the ones that survived are the strong ones and they may be able to keep going and as you say they have to find... defined themselves in particular ways. they're not general bookstores anymore. they're specializing in certain things. mystery book stores or they sell wine and books. have little restaurants that are very nice. they found some way to make themselves essential from their
community. and that's a take from this point going forward. >> so a couple of your favorites from here out of the many that you... >> "state of wonder" by ann patch chet. >> brown: speaking of her. >> as i said she opened a bookstore this year. she wrote bel canto and this book probably the easiest book to recommend to everybody. it's very exciting. bt it's about a scientist in minnesota who is sent on assignment into brazil to find a colleague who's died. she's a fertility specialist. it's very exciting. it's sort of weirdly creepy and it ties right into the news about the behavior of pharmaceutical companies, about fertility science. and about what it means to have a mentor and how you grow up and pull away from those people. i thought it was probably the most exciting book of the year. >> brown: i should say we're talking fiction here. give us another novel that you love. >> another book i loved an historical novel by mary doria
russell called "doc." what's weird about mary doria russell is she's a science fiction writer then she wrote a book about the middle east which seemed out of character then she came out with this western about doc holiday and wyatt earp. it's written right into the history that most of us think we know but she does a lot of very sophisticated correction of those cliches of old western cliches. it's a great story. and doc holiday turns out to be a much richer more fascinating character. >> pelley: than you remember in the movies? >> he's got this hungarian prostitute who speaks latin. he really wants to be a dentist but he can't make enough money so he plays cards instead. the books take place before they even ghetto the o.k. corral. that's coming up in the next book. >> brown: i'll give you one more. "the marriage plot." >> he writes very slowly. in 20 years he's only brought out three novels. most people remember "middlesex "the virgin suicides" before that.
this book is a charming intellectual book about a young woman who just graduated the day the book opens from brown university and she loves old-fashioned novels and you can tell she's been completely corrupted by them. the way she thinks about love and herself and the men who are in love with her. she needs to straighten her life out and she needs to do that if but how will she if she only knows 19th century novels? >> brown: what happens when you open a book and your heart sinks and you realize "i'm not going to love this book." >> (laughs) brown blup is that? you still have to write about that. >> i spend a lot of time... we get about 150 books a day. >> brown: 150 books a day? >> and we're choosing about 15 a week. so we don't review almost all the books. >> brown: of course. >> so i don't make the selection lightly. once i'm committed to it, having done research, i stick it through to the last page. but it will be a very bleak week if i don't like it. (laughs) >> brown: but you have enough
weeks to keep this going. >> yeah. and usually it's the opposite. usually i'm delighted. usually i'm amazed and i can't believe how much talent the country keeps producing, how old writers keep reinventing themselves, how new writers can come out of nowhere and do really, really fine work. i'm always impressed. usually. >> brown: ron charles of t "washington post" book world. thanks so much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: vast crowds of north koreans turned out in the cold and snow of pyongyang for the funeral procession of kim jong-il. the u.s. military warned iran against trying to choke off oil traffic from the persian gulf. iran has threatened to make that move if there's an oil embargo over its nuclear program. and stocks slumped on new and to hari sreenivasan for what's on the "newshour" online. hari? >> sreenivasan: all this week, our political team is covering the lead-up to the iowa caucuses in "the morning line." find a link to sign up for our daily emails on our politics page. we also have more from fred de sam lazaro on local and global efforts to fight wheat rust. that's on our "world" page. on "art beat," we talk to the
man behind the lovable red monster, elmo-- master puppeteer kevin clash-- about a new documentary on his life and work. all that and more is on our web site: newshour.pbs.org. gwen? >> ifill: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll look at the long term impact of a sluggish economy. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. 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: >> intelligent computing technology is making its way into everything from cars to retail signs to hospitals; creating new enriching experiences. through intel's philosophy of investing for the future, we're helping to bring these new capabilities to market. we're investing billions of dollars in r&d around the globe to help create the technologies that we hope will be the heart of tomorrow's innovations. i believe that by investing today in technological advances here at intel, we can make a better tomorrow.
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