tv PBS News Hour PBS October 11, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: political eyes are looking in one direction tonight at the first and only matchup between vice president joe biden and congressman paul ryan in danville, kentucky. good evening, i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the "newshour" tonight, we get some pre-debate analysis from mark shields and david brooks. >> woodruff: then, margaret warner examines the charges and counter charges over the syrian airliner forced to land in turkey because it was allegedly carrying russian weapons. >> brown: we begin a series of "battleground dispatches." tonight, todd zwillick reports
from florida and new york on how medicare is playing in close congressional races. >> the vouchers, i think it would work, i think it would be very competitive. >> i know what medicare is and the affordable care. i don't know what would happen under a voucher plan. >> woodruff: hari sreenivasan has the story of the illegal but very profitable trade in ivory elephant tusks. >> if consumers stop buying, then elephants stop dying. >> brown: great literature and tangled politics: we look at the nobel prize for chinese writer mo yan. >> woodruff: and we profile poet sharon olds. her deeply personal verse captures life, love, sorrow and healing. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
and 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. 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. >> woodruff: tonight's vice
presidential debate marks another high-stakes moment in the campaign. the romney-ryan team is hoping to hang on to its new momentum, while the obama-biden camp is trying to win it back. that left all of the pressure on the number two's today, as the hours counted down. the candidates were sounding upbeat, ahead of their face-off at centre college in danville, kentucky. vice president joe biden departed his home state of delaware today for the debate. >> i'm looking forward to it. >> woodruff: the republican vice presidential nominee, wisconsin congressman paul ryan, arrived yesterday. >> feel good about it. >> woodruff: but the public show of confidence belied the tension, as several new national polls show ryan's running mate, governor romney, with a slight lead, though within the margin of error. that made what happens on the stage tonight, even more critical. president obama called his vice president to wish him luck
today, and voiced support for his man last night, in an interview on abc news. >> i think joe just needs to be joe. >> woodruff: and mitt romney played up ryan's chances, at a wednesday event, in ohio. >> i think paul ryan will do great. >> woodruff: the debate will run 90 minutes, and be moderated by abc's martha raddatz. the presidential contenders will meet again in new york on tuesday. joining us for the debate later tonight and here now to preview what to expect are two familiar faces syndicated columnist mark shields and "new york times" columnist david brooks. >> well, if you look at the polls after the first debate, then it's magnified in part because of the way the democrats
reacted, a pollster told my friend e.j. dionne that when republicans hate a poll they want to kill the posters, when democrats hate a poll they want to kill themselves. so they've been reacting with this emotion which has been magnifyed with the effect and so the momentum for romney roy ryeian has continued. so this is the night you will either accelerate that momentum or reverse it. >> republicans, judy, who just ten days ago were savaging all polls as part of the ann sister liberal conspiracy to discourage the romney ryan are now trumpeting them. every survey that comes out there's no question there's been a total change in morale in the two -- in into t entire campaign. >> woodruff: just in a week. >> just in a week. the president didn't show up last week, he said "let joe be joe" in that clip we saw to diane sawyer. i don't know who barack was last wednesday and i think a lot of
democrats are just troubled by that. they were very, very disappointed and republicans are golden. i -- last week democrats suffered from overconfidence. they thought president obama would go in and wipe the floor with mitt romney and obviously they were very, very wrong but this week by a 13-1 margin republicans think paul ryan will win. so the overconfidence factor now is on the republican side. >> pelley: so what does that mean joe biden needs to do tonight? >> i think they each have an assignment. i think paul ryan's assignment is to show that they can be bipartisan. one of the things that helped romney, he was portrayed as a white wing whacko that was never going to compromise and he said look, i can compromise. when you looked that the debate data it was that hit that propelled him and something the obama campaign was unprepared for. so one of the things paul ryan has to say, yes, i'm a confident guy, too. i'm flexible but i know how.
so that would be him. for joe biden there are two things one is to fill the blank of what the obama administration wants to do the next four years and not only policies but an energy and passion to win and do those things. finally probably he has to use the medicare issue with a ryan plan. the romney/ryan plan, is it politically unpopular? he has to bring that up. >> woodruff: how do you see it, mark? >> i would say with paul ryan, he's got to keep it going. the republicans are on a roll right now, they feel they're on a roll. but he should heed the council of robert frost to john kennedy who said be more boston and less harvard. i would say be more wisconsin more walk shaw than washington, d.c. he cannot give in words his powerpoint if he mentions sequestration oncetor committee as a whole or the motion to
recommit eyes will glaze over he's got to stay on offense but at the same time he has to par tri differences between him and governor romney and especially changes that governor romney -- several incarnations that have gone to is going to parry that, not to get into the weeds but parry it. as far as joe biden, i think he's got a tougher but in many ways more simple. he's got to lift the spirits of the spirited -- dispirited democrats. i think he f he does that -- he is the happy warrior, very much so. a lot more so than the president. but he these play both offense and defense. last week the president played neither. by defense he's got to be able to say "this is what we've accomplished." and point out especially in states like ohio and michigan the difference the auto industry has made student loans being -- the interest being removed. the pre-existing condition. all of those things, he's got to
do it. and at the same time he's got to go on offense as far as the other side is concerned. to make -- question about mitt romney and the romney/ryan and the fractures and fissures within their own program. >> woodruff: the other thing tonight, it is 890 minutes, david, but tonight we are told the questions are going to alternate between domestic and foreign policy. how will that change what we should look for? >> well, we can all expect that joe biden will do better on the foreign policy. it's never been paul ryan's main interest and it's always been joe biden's main interest so you would think he would have natural advantage there. one quick disagreement i had with mark is i'm afraid ryan is going to go too walk shaw. i'm struck by the fact that the two most important performances of this campaign-- bill clinton's and mitt romney's in that debate-- were the two wonkiests. somehow i think in a moment of great cynicism people like to be talked to in a serious powerpoint sort of way in which a lot of us in the media think oh, it's over their heads,
they'll be bored. >> pelley: but don't be folksy? >> i wouldn't go too far away from the statistics and data which is ryan's home turf. >> the difference is bill clinton used the word arithmetic i've never heard paul ryan use the word arithmetic. arithmetic is a word understood by people who only went to the sixth grade or people with ph.d.s. it's one thing to be wonky and not to do it in obscure language that's off putting. i do think as well that the question of the vice president is always, judy, he's mr. august when he's chosen. joe lieberman was a popular choice in 2000 but the real test is mr. october, what he does in this debate. paul ryan was a popular choice among many conservatives but this is his moment of truth. and there's going to be a lot of nervousness. >> i think you would agree it's never about them. they have to talk about the number once. >> no, no, i mean their performance. you recall joe lieberman did a
"can't we all get along?" as did jack kemp in 1996. >> woodruff: in three hours it gets under way and the two of you will be with us for the whole thing. mark shields and david brooks. online, we have more about danville, kentucky and how the tiny city has prepared to host its second vice presidential debate. plus, we kicked off our livestream coverage of tonight's debate a short time ago, and our online team is running a liveblog with sharp, robust analysis all night long. you can find that at newshour.pbs.org. >> brown: still to come on the "newshour": the syrian plane forced to land in turkey; how medicare is playing in congressional races; illegal trafficking in elephant tusks; the nobel prize for literature and one of poetry's leading voices. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: some new data on jobs offered signs of encouragement today. the labor department reported first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in more than four years. that suggests slightly improved hiring. wall street rose on the news at first, then gave up the gains.
the dow jones industrial average ended with a loss of 18 points to close at 13,326. the nasdaq dipped two points to close at 3,049. the international monetary fund warned today that european leaders still aren't moving fast enough to deal with their debt crisis. at the same time, the fund cautioned against forcing too much austerity on deeply indebted greece and spain. just yesterday, standard and poor's cut spain's credit rating to just above junk status. but the spanish government complained today that move will only make things worse. >> ( translated ): what everybody needs to have in mind is that political stability is also listed on the stock exchange, and there are a lot of everyday questions for government and citizens that depend on political stability. when some actions or decisions generate political instability, it is much harder to get financing. i am not only talking about financing for public administration, but also for individuals and companies. >> sreenivasan: meanwhile, the government of greece reported unemployment reached a record of
more than 25% in july. the rate among young people, 15- to-24 years old, is double that 54%. an outbreak of fungal meningitis in the u.s. has now claimed 14 lives. the centers for disease control reported the latest count today. it said a total of 170 people have been infected across eleven states. the outbreak has been linked to steroid injections for back pain that came from a specialty pharmacy in massachusetts. roughly 14,000 people received the shots. in pakistan, a 14-year-old activist was still fighting for her life today, in critical condition, after being shot by a taliban gunman. malala yousufzai was moved by helicopter to a military hospital in rawalpindi. the teenager had advocated education for girls, and was attacked as she left her school on tuesday. elsewhere in pakistan, officials said a u.s. drone strike killed ten militants near a village in the northwest tribal region. at least 15 others were wounded. a masked gunman in yemen has assassinated a yemeni security official working at the
u.s. embassy there. the drive-by shooting happened near the man's home in the capital city sanaa as he headed to work. officials said the attack bore the hallmarks of al qaeda. the victim worked for the embassy for 11 years. yemeni officials said he was investigating a recent assault on the compound. but the u.s. state department said that was not the case. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jeff. >> brown: a diplomatic row between russia and turkey has erupted over the grounding of a plane in turkish airspace. margaret warner reports. >> warner: turkish military jets forced the syrian passenger plane to land last night at ankara, after it entered turkish airspace enroute from moscow to damascus today, turkish prime minister recep tayyip erdogan said his government, acting on a tip, had found the plane was carrying russian-made munitions and military gear to aid the assad regime, in the syrian civil war. >> this was equipment and ammunition that was being sent
from a russian agency to the syrian defense ministry. this equipment is now being examined by relevant units. under no circumstances, can this and something like this happening on a passenger plane is a violation of international flights. >> warner: russian authorities had disputed earlier reports that military equipment was on board the plane. and moscow accused the turks of endangering the roughly 30 crew and passengers, many of them russian. the plane was allowed to fly on to damascus without the disputed cargo. but the syrian transport minister condemned turkey's actions. >> ( translated ): what happened could be described as turkish aero-piracy against a civilian syrian plane. they took with force a part of the shipment without giving any receipts. it's a kind of provocation that reflects a turkish political failure in its dealing with the syrian issue. >> warner: the turks have voiced repeated frustration that russia-- a major arms supplier to syria-- has blocked multiple efforts in the u.n. security council to sanction damascus. in washington, state department
spokesperson victoria nuland, left little doubt where the u.s. stands. >> we strongly support the government of turkey's decision to inspect the plane, and while we would send you to them for more details on what they found, we'd be concerned by any effort to supply military equipment to the assad regime because it's clearly being used by the regime against their own people. >> warner: all of this, as tensions between turkey and neighboring syria have escalated sharply. ankara has been leading demands for syrian president assad's ouster. last week brought cross-border shelling after a syrian mortar attack into turkish territory. the turks and the syrian army have traded artillery volleys for several days since. for more on what's behind the plane incident, i'm joined by soner cagaptay. he's director of the turkish research program at the washington institute for near east policy, and a columnist for
turkey's oldest english-language newspaper, hurriyet daily news. welcome to the program. >> good to be here. >> warner: so this is a pretty bold step to send fighter jets to intercept and bring down a foreign plane. what provoked turkey to take this? >> i would say two things. one is thisclnwni is turkey uppe ante with the assad regime because turkey is the spearhead of the international community's policies to confront the slaughter of the civilians and demonstrators. but secondly and perhaps importantly it's also a snub to russia. russia's at the forefront of the international opposition to the western alliance with nato and turkey's policy to confront assad and they're supporting assad's crackdown and turkish prime minister erdogan is very upset with putin and this is his way of telling putin "i'm upset with you." the fact that this plane was forced to land in a turkish airport days ahead of putin's
anticipated visit to ankara is erdogan's way of telling putin "i don't want you in my country anymore, don't come." and putin got the message. his visit has been postponed to november. >> warner: yet again. but explain why the tensions are so deep that at least turkey feels toward moscow over this. i mean obviously moscow is not cooperating at the security council. >> it's kind of surprising because for the last two decades there's been an improvement in turkish russian ties, trade has boomed, there's been closer relations in energy and elsewhere. now you see turkey confronting russian that. only a snub, though, not picking a fight because this is the most the turk cans do. they are scared of the russians. turkey is seeing next door in syria civil war is brewing. it could turn into sectarian and ethnic war and that could spill over to turkey. 's a fire that could burn turkey as well. they're scared of what's going on in syria and the more the international community delays
action that fire will get bigger and they see russia and iran as responsible iran because it supports the regime, so turkey's very angry at the assad regime but more so iran and russia because they're blocking international policies to punish him. >> warner: why is russia standing behind assad? at least on the security council? how do they see turkey's role? >> i think russians have standing behide the assad regime. their last clients, they're in the middle east. it's their only naval base in the mediterranean. russians always wanted to have access to the seas, russia is a landlocked country so losing syria and that space is a big loss but there's other elements. russia does not like the fact that syria's fall is going to create yet another sunni dominated state. russia feels it has a soft belly of sunni muslims. >> warner: in its own country? >> in its own country and it doesn't want to see sunni political excitement built to
its which could resonate to russia. the russias are looking at turkey's piftd and turkey has come back closer to the united states and they're not krtable with that because they saw nato and turkey and the united states get together and take out qaddafi and they don't want that to happen again to another ally. last but not least this is also putin's primal fear that if he sets up a precedent of supporting an uprising and the international community to back that uprising, they say what if tomorrow there's a russian spring so he doesn't like what's going on in syria at all. >> warner: what message is turkey sending to russia? russia is a major arms supplier to syria. are they saying you can't use turkish arms space to ship arms in? at least not on passenger planes? and can they enforce it? >> there's a gray area of legality and the turks are enforcing it. they are saying we can do this because it ears our airspace and
they're probably acting on intelligence that might have come to them from other places. usually if the turks that has kind of intelligence it's not theirs. and the turks -- >> warner: kind of a nato intelligence? >> that's possible and i think the turks felt comfort to use that intelligence because it's for them a show the strong arm to the russians and syrians at the same time it's saying the shelling has stopped but turkey will not stop confronting his policy and the best way to do that is to effectively tend arming of the assad regime. >> warner: let's go back to the turkey/syria boarder where things really are hot. the turkish chief of staff said it was yesterday if these shells don't stop coming in we're going to have a tougher response. turkey has a pretty mighty military. how far are they ready to go to use that military mull? >> i think turkey doesn't want a full-blown conflict. >> warner: you mean a conflict with syria?
>> with syria with full blown war because they would have to do it alone. it would be difficult to get nato back in if this was a fait accompli. there are a number of europeans like the french who are not keen to come to turkey's defense, even though the united states would support that war effort. and a war just at the u.s. election campaign would not necessarily be popular and i think turkey would be left alone for other reasons and the economy would be hurt, turkey has been on a ten-year growth pattern and nobody wants that kind of a conflict that could end turkey's phenomenal growth. so a variety of reasons turkey doesn't want full blown conflict with syria. what i see mostly in the next few months is the new normal which is that every time assad picks a fight with turkey, shelling turkish territory, turkey will act in kind and reciprocate. now that we see turkey has shelled syria in return for syria shelling turkish cities, the question is what if there's an incident in which, accidental as it might, be the syrians end
up shelling at one more turkish town because some of the shelling is not precise and the syrians are not known for their master of the artillery targeting and if there's another shelling that creates a large number of casualties, turkey would have to respond with a larger force. so i could see the conflict escalate bug the turks don't want it to get to the next level unless they know that the united states and nato support them. >> pelley: well soner cagaptay, it's kind of a bleak picture but thanks so much. >> thanks for having me. >> woodruff: now, we return to politics. tonight's debate might be the biggest stage yet for republican vice presidential nominee paul ryan, but the budget plan that bears his name has been a central topic in congressional races across the country. special correspondent todd zwillich of public radio international's "the takeaway" reports on three such races in florida and new york. it's part of a new collaboration between the newshour and public
media partners across the country. we'll be bringing you reports from areas that will likely dictate the outcome of the election in a series we call "battleground dispatches." >> reporter: one person sure to be watching the debate closely tonight is paul ryan's mother, betty douglas. she lives here along florida's atlantic coast where her son's budget plan and proposed changes to medicare are front and center in two tight congressional races. >> the vouchers, i think it would work, i think it would be very competitive, and i think its something the american people should look into. >> i know what social security is and i know what medicare is and the affordable care. i don't know what would happen under a voucher plan. >> reporter: in the states 22nd district, which spans from west palm beach to fort lauderdale, republican adam hasner, a former state house majority leader, is fighting for an open seat. >> the fact is, medicare is going bankrupt within the next decade, the medicare trust fund is going to be insolvent. you have 10,000 new retirees
every day, and you have 8% health care inflation. those two numbers spell insolvency for medicare in a decade. >> reporter: senior citizens are a large voting bloc is hasner's district and they care about medicare. hasner doesn't mention the ryan budget by name, but he does support the policy. he hopes to turn what is a liability for some candidates into an opportunity to talk about debt and spending. >> i support the bipartisan plan for medicare reform. it saves medicare for today's seniors and strengthens the promise of security for future generations. >> reporter: hasner's opponent is democrat lois frankel, former two-term mayor of west palm beach. >> the fact of the matter is, to ask people when they're oldest and sickest to febd for themselves with private insurance company to me is not what the people here want to see happen. >> reporter: the race is being closely watched by both national
parties >> reporter: the race is being closely watched by both national parties. they're throwing money and star power at the candidates with fundraising visits from former president bill clinton and joe biden for frankel and republican house majority leader eric cantor for hasner. nathan gonzales is with the "rothenberg political report" and "roll call." >> democrats are using medicare in every single congressional campaign, whether democrats are running against an incumbent who voted for it, it might just be a republican who said nice things about it in a candidate forum, it doesn't matter. >> reporter: democrats have seized on a key component of the ryan plan, which would allow those under age 55 to use a capped government subsidy to buy private insurance. political analysts say democrats are banking on poll-tested buzzwords, voucher and privatization, to court the votes of seniors and baby boomers. brian crowley has kept a close eye on florida politics for two decades. he's a former political editor of the palm beach post and now writes the crowley political report.
>> the democrats have successfully grabbed the paul ryan plan, dubbed it a voucher and it just rings. it's very similar to efforts made in the past where you take one key phrase and turn it into a political bombshell, and there's no explaining away the word vouchers very easily. if you look at a 30 second ad with it, it takes a lot more than 30 seconds to explain and if you can't explain, you have a problem. >> reporter: north of palm beach in florida's 18th district, incumbent republican and tea party favorite congressman allen west is battling out the issue of medicare on the stump, and on the airwaves. west says democrats are relying on traditional scare tactics. >> and to continue to talk about ending medicare as we know it, medicare as we know it ends in 12 years. that's not allen west, that is the actuaries and trustees of medicare and social security saying those things. >> reporter: the issue of the ryan plan, while a flashpoint
now in florida, has been years in the making in washington. it was back in 2008 when ryan first proposed it as a way to curb spending. since then? a number of bi-partisan efforts to tackle the debt have failed. last spring, president obama took the issues of medicare and debt to the stage in washington. >> i will not allow medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry; with shrinking benefits to pay rising costs. >> reporter: with ryan in the front row mr. obama laid bare the agenda for a political season that hadn't yet arrived. in the primaries, former governor mitt romney said he fully supported the ryan plan, but he has since backed away from a complete endorsement. >> people become concerned. no changes for current retirees
>> reporter: meanwhile, democrats across the country had seized on the ryan budget well before he was on the republican ticket. >> i think we have to remember that democrats were talking about paul ryan and paul ryan's budget months before governor romney even chose him to be his running mate, this was already an issue, it was already in ads, and something that was already part of the conversation at the congressional level, before paul ryan was named the v.p. running mate. >> reporter: here outside buffalo, ny, congresswoman kathy hochul is perhaps the clearest example of democrats' national strategy. hochul won a special election in 2011 in a republican district, running against the ryan plan and its changes to medicare. national strategists thought they had a winning issue. in the meantime, hochul's district, the 27th, was redrawn to lean even more republican. hochul is still on the offense when it comes to the ryan budget. but she's facing criticism from republicans for her support of president obama's health care
reform law. >> when times are tough, you decide where you've got to cut. but i am telling you, we don't do it on the backs of our seniors. this is not an entitlement program, like a lot of people in washington call it. it's not an entitlement. it's something you have all paid into since your high school job, just like i did. >> reporter: she's in a dead- heat race with republican chris collins, a former erie county executive and businessman. collins says he supports changes to medicare, but stops well short of endorsing the ryan budget. >> i never said i support the ryan plan. the ryan plan is in the past. it's a romney budget. and that's what i'm looking forward to being a part of the debate in. >> reporter: for hochul, the ryan budget is a political opportunity. >> the ryan budget last year, when they were trying to privatize social security and turn it into a voucher program, it allowed me to show the crystal clear differences between myself and my opponent, a year and a half ago. and the person i'm running against this time, has not only said-- his words are, the ryan budget doesn't go far enough. >> reporter: these arguments are
likely to have an impact well beyond a few congressional races. lawmakers are at an impasse and answers to these big questions. what to do about debt, spending and medicare for the next generations will hinge on what voters decide in november. >> brown: while on the ground for this piece, we captured some voices from upstate new york as part of our "listen to me" project. you'll find those on our politics page. and we'll bring you more "battleground dispatches" in these final weeks before election day. >> sreenivasan: we turn now to the ivory trade, a business that is causing the deaths of record numbers of elephants these tusks are worth thousands of dollars. but to some of the world's faithful, they have priceless spiritual value.
last year 34.7 tons of illegal ivory was seized globally by law enforcement and wildlife management authorities. much of it was in, or going to, asia. according to the cover story in this month's national geographic, the hunger for ivory in asia is being stoked by a demand for religious icons like these used in a catholic procession in the phillippines, carved from the tusks of elephants. factories in china, like this one owned by the government, turn out thousands of pieces each year, many of them later blessed and consecrated by buddhist monks. the appetite for ivory isn't limited to one religion. in asia, groups of christians, buddhists and muslims all covet it. "national geographic's" two-year investigation revealed that governments are often complicit in the purchasing and processing of ivory. the magazine also found that ivory traffickers are operating with impunity, thwarting poorly written international laws and ineffective organizations
designed to clamp down on the illegal trade. in countries where corruption is widespread, ivory that is seized by the authorities, often disappears. in 2006 a government storeroom in thailand, like this one in bangkok, was raided, and the tusks replaced with plastic replicas. meanwhile, in 2011 more elephants were poached than in any year since a global ban on ivory trading was passed in 1989. they were killed for their tusks and tusks alone. the reporter on the story, brian christie, joins us now, thanks for being with us. pleasure being here, hari. >> sreenivasan: didn't the planet say ivory trade was illegal back in 1990? >> it did. it did. and as soon as it did elephant populations began to recover. but not everyone agreed. three african countries. we have sufficient elephant
populations, we want to trade ivory and asia, particularly japan and china, wanted to buy. and so the first break in that ban began -- was in 1999, japan was allowed to make a purchase of 50 tons of ivory. it was supposed to be an experiment to see how that worked. and without much ability to measure the impact of that break they allowed a second one in 2008 and that's when china got involved and things began to change. >> sreenivasan: what are the measurable impacts that we know? >> causation is a difficult thing to prove but certainly what we've seen, particularly after this second sale where we have over 100 tons sold to china and japan we've seen massive, unparalleled killing in the last ten years across africa. 90% of dead elephants found in central africa have been poached. we're seeing unprecedented
levels since the ban of ivory trafficking and we're seeing in china particularly very strong growth in trafficking and a desire for more ivory. the. >> sreenivasan: let's talk about the demand side. you take us into is this world in china that most people have never been into. a, the kind of money they're spending on these incredibly gorgeous objects, the fact that the government has factories. they have schools, they even have retail outlets on where you can sell or how you can sell >> that's right. the key player for ivory is not -- is generally said to be china. but is not china, it's the chinese government. the chinese government was the major buyer at the 2008 auction, they bought 60% of the ivory for themselves. they have -- that built a factory. it's the largest ivory carving factory in china. i visited there, i was there two
weeks ago post the story. they are training people in schools there. they are building a capacity so it's not just the -- the thing to focus on is not what just happened up to now but is everything about china is saying we've done this, we've opened the door to ivory and we're ready to get bigger and everything about china is capacity expanding capacity. >> sreenivasan: one of the questions we had in social media is what is the consumer responsibility of this? there's no fair trade ivory per se, is there? >> no. the only legal ivory is ivory that either came in before the ban-- and that's true across the world-- or ivory in these two countries, china and japan. but consumers -- well, we can put it this way, if consumers stopped buying, elephants would stop dying. and consumers -- you know, there
are lots of reasons that it makes sense to kill an elephant in africa. you're poor person an elephant is intruding on your space. imagine if an elephant were you n your yard. these sorts of questions become complicated the closer you get to an actual elephant. but the consumption, nub of this would -- all of the bad elements, the corruption, the dead rangers in the field, the dead poachers, even, none of that would happen without people buying ivory. >> sreenivasan: what's the thing after these two years you spent reporting the story? what's an image or moment that sticks in your head? >> there's one particular moment where we were driving along and the light was coming out, the sky was gray and we had been driving for some time and i looked to the right and realize there had had been an enormous herd of elephants that we had been driving along, no one had noticed and they had noticed us and it was this -- it was this
incredible moment that really was moving for me and you could see an an instant the society and the social structure that i'd been reading about at work and these were sent yent equals. certainly with equal rights to life. and i have held that image throughout the investigation. >> sreenivasan: brian christy from national geographic, thank you so much for your time. >> thank you very much. >> brown: the nobel prize in literature was awarded today. because it went to a chinese writer, it stirred unusual interest and reaction. the official announcement came in stockholm, sweden. >> the nobel prize in literature for 2012 is awarded to the chinese writer mo yan, who with hallucinatoric realism merges folk tales, history and the
contemporary. >> brown: the 57-year-old mo was recognized for popular short stories and novels based on life in rural china, including "red sorghum" and "the garlic ballads." many ordinary chinese hailed the choice. >> ( translated ): i am proud of him as chinese. i saw the news just now. the nobel prize is a world class prize. he is great. i am so happy for him. >> brown: and the selection was a hit with the chinese government, too. in a rare move, state-run television broke away from its newscast to announce the nobel prize. the regime had shunned two previous chinese laureates: jailed dissident liu xiaobo won the peace prize in 2010, and gao xingjian a critic of beijing's policies who'd become a french citizen and a critic of beijing's policies won the literature prize in 2000. in a turnabout, the selection of mo drew fire from some dissidents, including the artist ai weiwei, who accused him of
being too close to china's communist party. he said in a statement, "i think the nobel organizers have removed themselves from reality by awarding this prize." the swedish academy said it based its decision "on literary merit alone" and did not consider reaction in the winner's homeland. for more on the writer and his work, we turn to charles laughlin, professor of chinese literature and director of the east asia center at the university of virginia. and sha-wo chung, chief editor of "china digital times". he's also a professor of new media and internet freedom at the school of information at the university of california at berkeley. charles laughlin, i want to start with you. tell us about his work, about his themes. what's he writing about? >> well, xiao qiang came out at the reform and opening. many writers came out influenced by western literature, particularly realism from south
america and in mo yen's case particular influence from the american writer william faulkner and many writers came out at that time, but not many have continued their careers and sustained them into the president day and mo yan is one of only three or four who have done so and he is among them one that emphasizes his rural origin it is most in terms of subject matter and the particular sort of course rural voice he maintains in his fiction. >> brown: xiao chiang chiang, what's his status there? >> he's an acclaimed author, very popular. i left china more than 20 years, i have heard his name and read his literature back in the '80s and '90s when i was in the united states. he's also apparently embraced by
the chinese state media, particularly for this receiving award event. >> brown: nail in a little bit more, charles laughlin. so his writing is embraced, in a sense, by the people? who would read him? how would be his relationship there to readers and the government? >> well, the position of literature in chinese society has been marginalized in the last 15 years or so so belonging to a group of serious writers his greatest influence would be among those who are particularly interested in literature. a lot of people are reading detective novels and soap opera type of fiction and so he wouldn't be appealing to them as much. to chime in with what xiao qiang is saying, he is in the chinese writers association and thus a government official. >> pelley: what does that mean in china? >> that's a good question. critics, including ai wei wei,
use this to put across the idea that what he writes is not literary and he's just acting as a spokesperson for the government. but i view him still in terms of his literary productivity as a sincere author who's writing about virtually everything that world authors write about and his work is not without social and political criticism. it's just that he doesn't push some red buttons that authors since 1989, for example, have decided to no longer push in their work. >> brown: well, xiao qiang, you've got the chinese government celebrating, you have dissident voices unhappy. what's going on there? >> well, first of all, i think i agree with charles what charles just said about literature accomplishment of mo yan, he's very prolific and he's -- his writing is original in in a sense seeking to -- to literature in-depth to make a
remarkable contribution to chinese literature, chinese culture. that being said, he is not isolated from the social political reality and he does hold a very cozy and official position within the system and some of the activity he v done in the past generates such a controversial in terms of his politics. here's an example just very recent of this year. the official -- the writer association says they have prominent writers handwriting the copy of mao's -- one of the 1942 documents about how what's the party's view on art and literature. essentially saying that only -- the bright side of society should be written about and be elaborated. in that campaign, mo yan is part of it. he personally handwrites a copy of mao's document and has printed the book.
in my view, that's very poor choice considering mao is personally responsible for destroying china's freedom of expression and the persecution of so many writers and intellectuals in the past. that's been said and mo yan is receiving a literature award. so we should judge him in terms of merit of his literature accomplishment. >> brown: but this, charles laughlin goes to so many interesting cases of writers, artists through history in different regimes where it's difficult politics. i've seen mo yan described as having a good sense of what he can and can't say without getting in trouble. is that -- does that sound -- is that a fair description? >> that is a fair description and this should not be mistaken for being a mouthpiece for government policy. to give another example, what xiao qiang just referred to, this was probably not mo yan's
initiative, it was probably participated by most of the leadershiptor broader membership of the chinese writer's association. this is a document that's considered to be of great historical importance to the communist party and so hilz participation in it should not be viewed necessarily as a particular statement in favor of government policy in -- especially not of the repression of freedom of speech. >> brown: just stay with you. what about putting this in the larger context of the clanging china and what writers are writing about these days. you were saying most of his stories are set in rural areas about rural issues. is he engaging, are others engaging more so now with the kind of changes that we hear about all the time? >> he is but i'm not sure he's keeping up as well as people of the younger generation who are much more cosmopolitan and multilingual and savvy about world trends and technologically savvy. mo yan is writing a lot of novels recently. he's published more prolificly
in the last three or four years than he has before and i've noticed that he tends to move from a rural focus in the early or midpart of the novel to generationly maybe a more of a focus on the urban environment in the latest stages of the novel. but in so doing he demonstrates a little bit less familiarity with that slice of contemporary chinese life and i think these younger writers are probably more in their -- you might say native habitat when they're writing about these. >> brown: xiao qiang, a brief word on that? how this fits into contemporary writing? >> i think it's very interesting to see how the chinese state media lauded about his receiving this award. in contrast with the former two chinese, as you mentioned, that one is gao xingjian, in exile, the government doesn't approve his politics and the other is liu jiabao.
mo yan is his pen name. and his pen name means "don't speak q. sots there's a popular internet joke saying "who is the first chinese winner of a nobel prize? don't speak. who's the second chinese nobel piece prize winner? don't speak. who's the third one? don't speak. this one is mo yan. but two other people are being banned and the chinese official media and chinese internet. >> pelley: qiao qiang and charles laughlin, thank you very much. and you can read more about mo yan online. find that on our home page. >> woodruff: finally tonight, sharon olds is one of the country's best-known and best-selling poets. she recently talked with us at her new hampshire home about her newest book. >> this latest book stag's leap, is a story of loss and mourning and healing after the end of a
32-year marriage. "the healers: when they say if there are any doctors aboard would they make themselves known i remember when my then-husband would rise and i would get to be the one he rose from beside. they say now that it does not work unless you are equal and after those first 30 years i was not the one he wanted to rise from or return to. not i but she who would also rise when such were needed. now i see them lifting side by side on wide medical waiting bird wings like storks with the doctor bags of like, loves, like dangling with their beaks. oh, well. it was the way it was he did not
feel happy when words were called for and i stood. " we are at gray leg which is a nature retreat belonging to my partner carl wallman. people come here for weekends in the cabins. carl and i met six years ago. i'd get up and carl makes coffee and i bring up a cup into my table and i look. my first book was published when i was 37. so it took me a long time to -- for the poems that i was writing to feel like me rather than feel too much like the people i admired and was learning from not in school but while reading their books. we also want to make something that will be pleasing to someone else. that will have some kind of beauty. each one with a different kind
of beauty. and not too beautiful, not pretty, but strong and companionly. something that -- this is my favorite word for what i want my poems to be: useful. useful. we're also -- if you're late late at night if you're lonesome and there's no one around you can pick up a book of poems and then poetry being the place where it's like one person talking to one person. "bathing the newborn: "i love with an almost fearful love to remember the first baths i gave him. our second child,h!jk i kn
and family. now go ahead, run for president. >> woodruff: sounds simple, give it a try and good luck with your campaign! the instructions are front and and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on friday, we'll have reaction to tonight's vice presidential debate. plus a look at predicting winners and losers in elections. i'm judy woodruff. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online. plus, here at 9:00 p.m. eastern time for full coverage and analysis of the debate. see you then. for now, thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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