the modern express was towed it was listing off of the southwest of france. the crew manage today get off safely. for more aljazeera.com. aljazeera.com. congress takes up the flint water crisis, despite michigan officials refusing to participate. a california gas company faces criminal charges and a state lawsuit for a gas leak that has forced thousands to leave their them tos. a case of sexually transmitted zika surfaces in dallas. the issue with the mosque is we didn't know who was behind it, where it came from. >> backlash over a new mosque as president obama prepares to
address the rise of islamapho a islamaphobia. ♪ this is al jazeera america live from new york city. i'm richelle carey. firey words today on the water crisis in flint, michigan. a house committee is grilling city, state, and federal officials to determine who is to blame for the contaminated water. that is congresswoman sheila jackson lee there. the emergency manager appointed by the state won't testify even though he has been subpoenaed to do so. he is the man who changed the water supply in flint at the direction of the state. libby casey is live in washington with this. libby, officials at all levels of government, all of them, have been under fire for not protecting the people of flint. what has been said so far this
morning? >> reporter: that's right. it's really the absences that are notable here. darnell earley is that manager who is not appearing this morning. his lawyer says a subpoena was served late yesterday back home in michigan and it wasn't realistic for him to be able to get to this hearing at the last minute this morning. that is not sitting well, though, with members of congress like the republican from michigan. >> it's disappointing that former emergency manager earley had his attorney tell us when he received the subpoena for his attendance here, that it borders on nonsensical to accept the subpoena to come here. >> reporter: the chairman of this committee this morning is saying that marshals should hunt him down, deliver that subpoena and make sure he does appear. republicans are also talking about subpoenaing the regional manager of the epa from the time
of the flint water crisis beginning. now democrats are equally outraged by what has happened richelle, and they are trying to dig into just who is responsible. they would have loved to have seen the governor of michigan testify. republican rick snyder. we heard strong words from elijah cummings this morning. >> i want to be real real clear. i have said -- i don't care whether it's epa, whether it's local, whether it's state. i want everybody who is responsible for this fiasco to be held accountable. i'm not protecting anybody! because that's not our job! we are the last line of defense! and if we don't do it! nobody is going to do it! >> reporter: you get a sense there, richelle of just how angry members of congress are.
the hearing room is full of people who live in flint, michigan, some of them holding up bottles of dirty water. and elia cummings, said he was very impressed that they made it there. flint is being represented here in washington today, richelle. >> of course they can make it, but unfortunately some of the people who represent them have not. andy roesgen has been covering the story in flint. he tells us there is some positive news. >> reporter: here there is possible good news for flint homeowners who have been paying their water bills for month and getting dirty water, and those who have refused to pay their bills because of the dirty water. the governor is offering $30 million for that debt relief not only to help homeowners who have not been paying their
bills, but to reenbores those who have paid their water bills for months, and yet getting dirty water. the fbi is now investigating possible federal violations in the flint water crisis, as is the u.s. postal inspection service and the epa. the epa point person who was appointed by president obama has arrived here in print to oversee the ground operations. she squarely laid the game at the former emergency manager here in flint who signed off on the disastrous water switch in the spring of 2014. and she says their big goal is tackling those homes that live in the highest risk areas for lead contamination. mainly in the northern neighborhoods of flint. back to you. another republican presidential contender is dropping out of the race for 2016. kentucky senator rand paul is suspending his campaign. he was the second republican to
enter the race last april. paul placed fifth in the republican iowa caucuses on monday. he got 4.5% of the vote. an international conference is underway today in uruguay to deal with the zika virus. concerns are growing over the zika virus here in the u.s. someone in texas has contracted the virus after having sex with an infected person. >> reporter: the vast majority of inflections have happened through mosquito bites. and health officials in texas have confirmed a case that was likely sexually transmitted. it was acquired from someone who recently went to venezuela. the newly infected person had not travelled there. >> if a person is traveling to one of those 26 countries that have been declared by the world health organization to be transmitting the disease, mostly in the caribbean and south
america, they should use condoms for their sexual contacts. >> reporter: zika infebruarying -- infections are usually mild and rarely deadly. the world health organization has announced a global response unit to fight the virus. >> to have a ten-fold increase in numbers, and the potential to spread not just across america, but into africa, and asia, which have the highest birthrates in the world, we believe is a matter of public health concern, and constitutes an international emergency. >> reporter: french drug maker announced a project to develop a zika vaccine, but the world health organization says a vaccine for wide-spread use might not be ready for a long
time. >> i think we're talking years not months. >> reporter: testing for the zika virus will soon be possible in this texas. first state health officials need to make sure they have the right equipment, chemicals and training. >> we have to send samples to atlanta, which have slowed the process down. >> reporter: dozens of u.s. residents have been infected with zika. u.n. brokered talks on syria are in jeopardy today as syria's army escalates the fight on the ground. and as mohammed jamjoom reports, the attacks on syria's largest city have brought those talks to a halt. >> reporter: with the bombardment in aleppo only intensifying, peace talks here in geneva have come to a complete stand still today. nobody knows what is going to happen in the hours to come, and
there is a lot of dip massey going on right now, the u.n. trying to put pressure on both sides of the negotiating teams to make sure they stay in geneva. one member telling us earlier today the russians aren't just bombing aleppo, they are also bombing these peace talks. they feel that their negotiating position here has substantially weakened. they feel if they stay here, it will just look bad. they also feel they can't enter into any negotiations unless there is some good-faith effort put forth by the syrian regime, unless the bombardment stops, unless prisoners are released. when it comes to the syrian regime, they continue to say they don't trust the opposition. they continue to say that very specific procedural matters have
not been accomplished, and because of that, they can't really enter into these negotiations in earnest. the talks like i said before have really come to a stand still and nobody knows what is going to happen in the day ahead. a bill thaungd mines the iranian nuclear deal is headed to the senate. legislation cleared the house tuesday after a vote almost entirely along party lines. the measure would restrict president obama's ability to lift sanctions against iran. even if it passes the senate, president obama has promised to veto it. and the president is making the first visit of his presidency to a u.s. mosque. he is meeting with muslims in baltimore. in that center houses a mosque and a school. the white house says the president will focus on the need to speak out against bigotry and promote religious freedom. mike viqueira is live outside of the mosque. mike how much of a game changer
could this be among muslim americans? >> reporter: well, i don't know if it could be termed a game changer. after all the president has been urged time and time again by muslim leaders, including a recent trip by many of them to the white house to have president obama do such a visit. he has never visited a mosque here in the united states. this is the first time that he will visit one, seven years into his presidency. it is a continuing theme that the president has hit time and time again, in the wake of a rise of anti-muslim statements, not only by members of the public at large, but also by some top republican political leaders. donald trump's notorious comment, banning all muslims from the united states until we
can, quote unquote, figure out what is going on. other top leaders criticizing the president for his refusal to used terms. and in fact he has spoken out quite forcefully first at an international conference in turkey, a very angry statement criticizing those who would use the kinds of inflammatory rhetoric that has been used, and again in the state of the yuan yoon. it's anti-american. it goes against american values, the fabric of this society, it's a melting pot. it speaks against american values to use this kind of rhetoric, and number 2, it's simply an incentive and recruiting tool for the enemies like isil who can point to the statement of these leaders and say, look, america is against you, come and join us. >> so mike, as you mentioned the
president has visited mosques on official trips outside of the country. he has been invited to mosques here. and you have made a really good point about why he is probably accepting now, what the environment is. why didn't he accept sooner, though? >> reporter: well, you are absolutely right. for the reasons we have just outlined this up tick in islamaphobia around the country, frankly speaking in political terms i think it's unlikely the president would have made a visit like this. the white house was very sensitive to this criticism, coming from extreme quarters on the right. the president arrived just a little while, and began with a round table with individual leaders of the islamic community around the country. he'll be introduced for his remarks by a student here at the university of maryland, baltimore county, a biology student. and so a slate of activities
we are seeing the first criminal charges against a company behind that mayor gas leak in southern california. john henry smith has the story. >> reporter: this family are among the 13,000 people who have had to leave their poems in porter ranch to escape a methane gas leak. it has spewed 80,000 metric tons of methane into the year since late october. >> our 13-year-old daughter has been sick as well, and missed school. >> reporter: now l.a. county district attorney has filed four misdemeanor charges against the gas company. this move came on the same day california attorney general filed a lawsuit against the company. in a statement she said:
the gas has been leaking from a decade's old pipe with no safety valve to turn it off. >> the people who put that well down were not intending that that casing would be used to inject natural gas or to withdrew it. they were trying to extract oil in the 1950s. >> reporter: the spokesman has repeatedly insisted that his company complied with state and federal regulations in the time leading up to the leak. >> we operate with safety and we see to all of the regulations, and we are in total compliance. >> reporter: they have promised that a relief well its is digging to sale the damaged well will plug the leak by the end of february. john henry smith, al jazeera. new york real estate heir robert durst could soon be put
on trial for murder. he will be extradited to los angeles where he faces charges in the shooting death of his friend in 2000. he is expected to be arranged on those charges in august. bill cosby is back in court. this is happening near philadelphia. his lawyers want the case thorn out, the judge will hear more testimony after a former prosecutor testified he agreed not to prosecute cosby more than a decade ago. john this former prosecutor made a case for why cosby should not go on trial? this is interesting. tell us more about this. >> reporter: that's right. that's the whole nub of the case. remember, this is a pretrial hearing, and the only thing being discussed whether or not an agreement made over ten years ago now by the then district
attorney with bill cosby not to prosecute him, whether that's legal, whether it was meant to be forever. that's what the attorneys and the judge are talking about. in court today a surprise witness on the stand. he is the corporate legal counsel for bill cosby. when you are bill cosby it is like being treated as a corporation, and you have to have legal counsel, and this is john schmidt. and he was asked did you get this agreement in writing? no. why not? because the attorney at the time issued a press release saying he would don't be after bill cosby on criminal charges and we got him to sign that press release and also we have verbal agreements. and he went on and said he would have never allowed his client to testify in the civil case had he thought there would be criminal charges coming down the road, ten or 11 years later.
so that's where we are at, at the moment. but we're at that point at the moment. they have broken for lunch now. we just heard that the television feeds coming out of the court have been extended until 3:00 this afternoon, and we're expecting some kind of decision from the judge before close of business today. >> all right. of course there are moments during this trial when the public is reminded of what a big celebrity bill cosby is, and that was obviously the case this morning. tell us more about that. >> reporter: that's right. yesterday when he turned up, he looked to me like a man who really is not taking all of this terribly well. he was propped up by his miners. he didn't look very well. today a lot better. he took a long time to get out of the suv, and as he made to walk all the way up to the steps
of the court, a very strong walk, today some of his fans were here shouting out mr. bill. and mr. bill turned around and acknowledged the fact that he had been supporting him. richelle. >> all right. keep us posted john. coming up -- renter's rights, why arkansas residents have very little rights. and another nfl star suffered from the brain disease cte when he died.
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a record number of americans were cleared of false convictions last year. the national registry of exonerations found 149 people were exonerated in 2015, 139 were cleared the year before. many were convicted of drug crimes, but a third had been convicted of homicide, and five had been sentenced to death. the people behind the list say many of the cases involved official misconduct. word this morning that former raider's quarterback ken stableler had cte when he died last year. in that is the condition that has been found in a number of players? he donated his brain for research. housing advocates in arkansas say the laws offer little protection for renters. a lack of standards mean that
you have to pay your rent in full even if your house is unfit to live in. >> reporter: what is your biggest fear? >> that they are going to close down. >> reporter: why do you stay? >> i don't have no money, and i docket have nowhere to go. >> reporter: on december 21st, the residents of the alexander apartment complex in little rock, arkansas received a notice that was hardly in the holiday spirit. >> i have got some boxes, but what you need to see is over here. >> reporter: this 65 year old was among the hundred families told that they had one week to vacate their homes, because the complex had been condemned. did you ever think you would be in a position like this? >> no. >> reporter: so what are you going to do? >> i don't know. i really don't. >> reporter: in condemning alexander, the fire chief found the conditions to be so bad he
called them life threatening. among the problems were wide-spread mold, exposed wiring, and fault i will plumbing. >> reporter: when you moved here, did you hear stories about this place? >> yeah. >> reporter: but you still moved in? >> yeah, because it was the only place that would take me. >> reporter: tenant advocates have long considered arkansas one of the worst places in the country to be a renter. >> the roof fell in. >> reporter: the roof fell in? >> yes, here at 602. >> reporter: was there anybody living there? >> yeah, they were actually asleep at the time. >> reporter: this is also a resident at the apartments. >> reporter: this is unsanitary. >> oh, my god, that's a dead animal. >> yeah. >> reporter: the state of arkansas does not require what is called habitability for renters. that means landlords aren't required to provide the basics,
working plumbing, heating, hot water, unless it's written into the lease. alexander apartments one of at least three complexes to be condemned by the city in the last year and a half. for tenants the negative impact of the land lord tenant laws have been well documented. we tried speaking with jason bolden, a real estate attorney and the land lord who owns the alexander apartments. >> i have no comment. >> nasty, filthy, and stinking. >> reporter: the residents have sued the city to keep the complex open. for now the court has granted them a restaining order. what are you going to do if they condemn the apartment? >> go into a shelter. i don't have but that little
700-some dollars they give me a month. you can see more of the reporting on "america tonight" 9:30 eastern, 6:30 pacific. home depot are hiring more than 80,000 workers for the busy up coming season. the hires comes amid a solid housing market as people look to renovate their homes. the clock is ticking for one lucky lottery winner in california. a ticket from august still has not been claimed and it's worth $62 million. it was bought at a 7-eleven, the winner has until 5:00 pm on thursday to show up, or all of the money disappears. thank you for joining us. a reminder we are waiting for remarks from president obama as he makes his first-ever visit to a mosque.
in the men time, the news continues from london. do keep it here. >> and a very warm welcome from me david foster to you on this al jazeera news hour live from london. let's take a look at some of the main stories at this hour. the u.n.-syrian envoy calls for a three-week pause in the talks in geneva, but calls what has happened isn't a failure. >> it is not a failure of the talks. >> syrian governm