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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  February 19, 2016 9:30pm-10:01pm EST

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thanks for joining us on "america tonight." i'm joie chen. this is the season that many californians were counting on to make a difference. we have reported on the golden state's seemingly unending sunshine and its unending drought, a kind of situation that faces many of our communities throughout the country. el nino has brought some relief, unheard of rains and flooding in some areas. but will it be enough to stave off california's thirst?
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"america tonight" michael okwu traveled had to find out. >> dominated by a huge agricultural business, 25% of all fruits and vegetables consumeconsumed in america grow. what happens when the towns run dry? five miles north of l.a., we enter fermi, we asked thelma about the drought. >> in the seven or eight years since you've been here have you noticed -- >> this used to be green. now it's so dry. warm up your water before you wash the dishes, make sure you have enough to flush, water for the cooler, you don't just do the regular routine. >> the fact that you don't have water. >> no water. >> when did you know that that was happening?
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did you get a warning? >> opened the tap and that was it. >> thelma has gone without running water for five years. as the drought got worse her well water started shrinking. her new neighbor the almond orchard sucked up what's left. >> the fact that this is brown and decaying, was the farmers were able to drill much further than she was essentially getting all that groundwater. >> they are drilling to get the groundwater that you were drinking before your taps ran dry. >> right. >> do you ever feel these guys are literally using your water? >> they went and took it away. it would be wrong for me to open up their taps and say, let me give you a cup of water for coffee. >> and those with the biggest drills can take water out from
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under their neighbors' homes leaving them high and dry. that's how thelma lost her water and here in fairmead she's far from the only one. >> we have bobby lee, my aunt caroline, a lot of people. >> would you say it's the majority of the town? >> it's the majority of the town. >> water is the talk of the town how to pay for it how to get it and how to keep it. thelma buys water by the jug. >> and how often do you do this? >> maybe twice a day. they are five gallon bottles, i have these two here, and one already full in my car. >> i can see your car is absolutely filled with them. >> water. yes. >> you're doing this every single day twice a day so not only are you suffering for not having this water you are forced to have a serious workout. >> yes. >> we drove to the fairmead
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reservoir and stunned by what we saw and when we didn't see. it's amazing. this university to be a boat launch. everything that's brown used to be blue, covered in water. people in town tell me they used to come here to swim. it's amazing because this is one of the many ways this small town has been completely changed by the drought. people used to hang out here and they just don't do that anymore. it all dried up about five years ago. >> in nearby chowchilla, this farmer told us his water ran dry. >> for five months you haven't had any water. >> he didn't have enough money to drill. he's been a farmer for 25 years but maybe not much longer. if the drought doesn't break he'll have to find some other way to make a living.
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we finish the day driving through another town which doesn't live up to its name we found, la grand. we stopped at the market where the talk is all about getting out. >> my co-worker moved to north carolina because there's no work here. there's no water, he didn't know what he was stepping into but he said it had to be better than california where there is no water. >> not everyone can move. that takes money. money people already spent trying to survive. they are stuck in this parched valley. here workers can hardly keep the shelves stocked with drought boxes, filled enough to feed a family of four. >> i'm seeing more individuals that don't maik the ends meet. >> dina runs the center, she
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says the drought is turning farmers into beggars. >> you see more and more relying on the boxes for sustenance. >> i was out of those boxes and i just got 200 more boxes. >> less water means fewer jobs. fields are lying fallow, farms are being put up for sale. people are losing their homes. ending up on the streets. >> about 25% of our homeless population was affected 50 drought. >> the drought is a rolling disaster. flattening town after town all across the valley floor. in tiny dos palos we meet dorothy who rungs a farm bank. >> i don't believe a year from now this street will be any cars at all driving down it. >> yes or no do you directly attribute that to the drought? >> absolutely. we're a farm town. we got to have water. that's what our people do they're farm workers. everything is related to the
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farms. if the farms aren't producing we're not. >> reporter: lets take a drive. show me around town. kathy gives us a tour of dos paloospalos. >> this building just went out of business. >> dos palos was hurting before the drought but hard times is everywhere now. >> one is closed. >> yes. >> about every block has a boarded up house or business. >> i see at least ten buildings within 100 yards of me that are boarded up or completely destroyed. it's just completely desolate. and just when it seems that it can't get any worse kathy takes us 20 miles west to mendota, it's long struggled with poverty but now it's also running out of water. >> all of their drinking water has to be trucked in and it's
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getting worse. at one time they had water here, lots of water and now he said there's places where they don't even have water. >> at this farm labor camp a couple tells us their family of seven lives on just two gallons a day, that's all they can afford since their hours were cut at the fields. when i walk around here it reminds me of old photographs of the dust bowl. >> yes it does. as a matter of fact i lived there as a child, a teenager. there literally was no water. michael i believe we are right on the verge of coming what i saw as a child. that frightens me so much and nobody seems to be understanding that we are really in the middle of a very, very desperate situation. how are these people going to move? they don't have the money. where are they going to go? >> last year california pledged $600 million towards drought stricken communities throughout the state. driving through a dozen or so
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rural communities you realize help can't come soon enough. these towns are not only dying. some are actually sinking into the earth. the unregulated and perhaps unsustainable drilling of groundwater has literally made the land collapse. we leave the central valley with the feeling people are just waiting. waiting for help from above. michael okwu, al jazeera. >> next we look inland where the heavy rains of el nino can have another sort of punishing effect. later we travel across the country to find another sort of desert and the surprising forces rising up to quench the thirst. and hot on "america tonight's" website now, the quiver full, faith, family and an often unseen commitment to grow the quiverful movement. at aljazeera.com/americatonight.
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>> so we've seen the impact this year's monster el nino will have on the california coast, but its reach extends surprisingly far inland too. in fact experts can link changes in the weather pattern
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throughout the country. south, east coast acknowledge wherever you live you're being touched by el nino. the system expected will be found down into foundations of our country. here is al jazeera's jake ward. >> here is what el 19 joe does in one hour to a drought strin hillside. taking with it 100 cars and stranding passengers. but that's nothing compared to what may happen this winter if an epic el nino arrives. >> take those small events and have it rain longer over a larger area and give you an image of how things could go badly. >> geologist jeff mount is an expert on california's rivers and water supply. >> we are not ready as a state for the very large floods. >> to keep floodwaters under control california has over 13,000 miles of levees which have been called a mess, a
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katrina type disaster poised to flood california. >> those are two types of levees, those that have famed, those that will fail. eventually your levee system will be overwhelmed. the question we have every year, is this the year? is this the year that the levee system somewhere is overwhelmed? >> the california delta just outside sacramento encompasses thousands of miles of waterways, home to thousands of people and the stat capital. we went there to discover why it's so concerning. >> what are these guys doing will you show me? >> let's walk on over there and check it out. >> mike is an engineer with the california department of water resources. he spots a major levee repair going on here and he shows it to us. it's a fix that costs five to $10 million per mile. it's a rehab that apparently rarely hatches.
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>> something of this scale maybe once a decade if that. >> repairs are crucial. for decades report after report has warned of possible levee breaks in california. there's one that mike is particularly worried about. >> i'll take you down south on the river here. it's a scenario when you have a winter storm it's going to have water racing on the top of the levee. >> on the road we travel on top of the levees, passing niche ney homes. ists not exactly clear what the problem is. >> you are talking about this being ground zero. why is that? >> this is one of the lowest spots in the system and i wouldn't be surprised if this winter we have waves crashing over these levees taller than you. >> wow, that seems unimaginable.
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>> given a strong enough storm it may be a reality with catastrophic results. this is not a local problem. let me show you what's at stake. you have not only the people living right up against the levee whose homes are threatened, you have farmland, tens of thousands of acres of it that produce fruits and vegetables that piel peopl peopy across the united states. then we have the san joaquin river, the water supply for tens of thousands of people, moves through this body of water and if it gets over this levee suddenly salt water will get into that drinking supply and will ruin l.a., san francisco and beyond, all of that is being held back by piles of rock like this. delta residents we spoke with are afraid of the el nino. at the corner bank in rio vista we met sarah cummings. her home is right up against a
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levee. >> if the levee breaks, we wouldn't have -- i wouldn't have enough notice if the levee broke anywhere near to get out because the levee road is my way out. >> in walnut grove we ran into another resident. >> this is the sacramento river over here and you can see that's the levee right there. if we get say three or four days of rain in a row these levees will not be able to sustain the pressure. >> a state report suggests the worst case scenario would see 500 dead, 300,000 placed. sacramento could be under 20 feet of water. driving around here, you can't help but wonder, why were people allowed to build on a flood plane? >> kind of the root of the problem. a decade of natural disasters, now when floods come they come
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fast, hard, the water rises quickly because it has nowhere else to go. >> as if the state doesn't have enough to worry about a few miles south there is a cruel iron yiirony. the flood that has gripped the state for years, groundwater drilling has made the ground shrink. it's threatening the levees. we head to dos palos. >> this ground last subsided. >> hurley scrambles down the dirt levee to show us what's happening. >> some of this is after effects of subsidence. >> the land has literally dropped away with neelt it, five feet in four years. and erosion makes it worse. >> now the land has potential to be under water. >> subsidence has created a deep
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hole here. when the rush of water fills that hole it has to go somewhere. >> it will go over the top of that levee. you have grape vines, almond trees, a local school a mile and a half away, downstream, two big dairies that are right here. >> all of that is underway if el nino delivers big storms over the winter. and this canal is already about to go over the overpass. >> you should be able to look underneath that bridge and see air all the way to the other side. >> he told us problems with another canal, a mile away. we find out that it is buckling and crumbling. the land is subsiding. mother nature may give california a 1-2 punch, a record drought and catastrophic el nino. according to jeff, it is not mother nature to blame, it's
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decades of neglect. >> we stopped paying for this stuff years ago. why should we be shocked that our bridges are failing, our roadways are failing, we chose not to pay for it. >> the truth is that california and the nation will pay. one way or another. the question is whether the bill comes due this winter. jacob ward, al jazeera, sacramento. >> next up we reach a flood of new ideas. how to bring life and energy to some of america's hardest hit food deserts.
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>> you don't have to be famous in order to help out your community.
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let's face it, it can't hurt. sometimes when you take the stars out of the hood they forget the hard times that led them to success. in a new york neighborhood though a pair of hip hop heavy weights are back to juice the generation and leave their community with a taste of much needed success. "america tonight"'s sarah hoye. quenching a food desert. >> this is a juice bar in yonkers new york. and this is rapper styles p. what may appear an unlikely pairing is actually a deliberate matchup. yonkers native styles p and jadekis is part of the locks locks.they're known for their collaboration with then shaun puffy combs and all about the benjamins. the two veteran m cs joined
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forces to open juices for life. very own chain of juice bars in lower income neighborhoods. the ends goal was simple: offer a healthy option in neighborhoods considered food deserts where processed foods are king. growing up here in yonkers what were your food options like? >> growing up in yonkers my options were all bad. >> like what? >> fast food fried chicken pizza, chinese, doughnuts, chips, candy. >> every day all day? >> every day all day. pretty much the same too. >> has anything changed? >> nothing has changed until we had. >> two and a half times the exposure to fast food. study after study has shown junk food diets are associated with obesity and other chronic diseases, diabetes to certain cancers. >> it's a fact that we let in breeze over our heads because
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we're always paying attention to who has the rolls-royce, the rolex, how much money can i get for this how much can i do for that. my bills are killing me. >> that's all right, one more slice one more slice. >> it's easy to fall into that. and we have been trained and program to eat wrong and think it's okay to eat wrong. >> reporter: according to the nonprofit food empowerment project an estimated 750,000 people in the new york city area live in food deserts and nearly 3 million people live in neighborhoods like this one in yonkers that are in need of grocery stores. >> i am the gang sister rapper, certified. i am a gentleman too. signed sealed and delivered. i am a gentleman. i have to lean more towards my gentleman side when it comes to help and my gang sister side to
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push this out. besides my family, and the creator, nothing has been more important to me than hip hop. this is the point, it is help, this is going to help the world and i think through hip hop we can also get it done. >> with some 23 and a half million americans nationwide, including six and a half million children currently living in food deserts. even first lady michelle obama is talking about nutritional waste lands. style says the constant tourists coupled with his already bad eating habits let him down a dangerous road. >> when you are in hip hop as in any kind of music you're used to being on the road a lot and partying, shows, alpha hall, weed, fast food, no sleep no exercising.
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so between being on the road and kind of noticed i had a bad temper and i was getting into trouble. >> how bad did it get? >> well, i went to jail. 2002 i was -- i made it in rap, i made it from the slums to actually making it to a professional great career which is rap and then, with my ego and my pride would get me into certain issues. >> so he changed his life from who he hung around to what he ate. >> it started getting to a point where i would feel sluggish and i would recognize i would feel sluggish after eating so many pieces of chicken or eating a burger. >> fries. >> i would eat the green i would take a wheat grass shot, i would feel better about myself, i noticed when i felt better about myself i got into less problems. i didn't have as much ego and pride when it came to any issues, you know what i mean. >> you found your happy place. >> i found a happy place. i found better things to do, and
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plus when you lose your freedom and you're away from your family it sort of opens up a few senses to say, i have to change something in my life. >> what's interesting i've done a lot of stories, people such as yourself put your name behind something, that's what they do put their name behind it. clearly you are amped up. why is this so important? >> we don't go to the doctor. we don't have health insurance, we are going to jail at a high rate, we are obese, we don't take care to learn something about things, we learn more about our car than our fellow man. i find that odd. being desensitized where nothing means nothing. each one of us take time out to be healthy i feel, to me it made such a big change in my life like i was headed in the wrong direction. it's about people at the end of
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the day. we're a juice bar. we take the bar -- >> you take the shots? >> like a couple of shots of oj and wheat grass, vitamin c shots, wheat grass. >> getting high on life. >> yes. health is well, movement is medicine. >> okay. >> ah! tastes like second base. >> well that just gave me a little like -- >> little kick. >> sarah hoye, al jazeera, new york. >> health is wealth. that is "america tonight." please tell us what you think. at aljazeera.com/americatonight. you can talk to us on twitter or facebook and come back please. we'll have more of "america tonight" tomorrow.
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else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight. >> training camp argted. >> i have been clear from the outset that we will go after i.s.i.s. wherever it appears. >> this time, in libya. u.s. air strikes take out dozens of i.s.i.l. operatives including one believed to be a high level commander. friendship tested. >> it's not about choosing sides here. >> president obama tries to smooth things over with his rk

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