tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS December 15, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
on this edition for sunday, december 15th, nelson mandela is laid to rest, we'll look at the future of south africa without him. president obama reviews america's surveillance program, what changes are in store, and in our signature segment, what banks can learn about serving the poor. >> when you walk into a check casher, you see the fees for every services posted in huge front. you walk into a bank, and there is no signage at all. >> next on pbs "news hour weekend". pbs news hour weekend is
made possible by judy and josh and in memory of miriam wallick, the city found dags, lose land p walter. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america, designing customized and individual retirements. additional support provided by and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tish wnet studios. good evening thanks for joining us. i'm john larson, hari sreenivasan is off. nelson mandela was buried today in the remote community where he was raised.
he was remembered. >> as your journey ends today, it must continue in earnest. one thing we can assure you as of today as you take your final steps, south africa will continue to rise. [ applause ] >> more about the future of south africa after the new summery. china's president launched what is being described as the highest level corruption investigation in the 65 years since the communist party came to power there. "the new york times" reports that the former head of the nation's security apparatus is being investigated and is now being held under guard at his home. the president has vowed to take on low and high level corrupt officials, officials he described as flies and tigers. the eu sustained sended talks
about a deal to bring that nation closer to the east. ukraine has not signed the agreement because of opposition. 200,000 protesters filled the square demanding that the government move forward on the deal and joined by chris murphy of connecticut and john mccain of arizona. >> this is about the future you want for your country. this is about the future you deserve. a future of peace. >> iranian foreign minister said his country will resume nuclear negotiations with the west despite halting technical talks a few days ago. in a posting on facebook he said iran would return to the negotiating table despite unsuitable actions. on thursday, the united states blacklisted additional companies
it said are contributing to iran's new clear program. in syria, an air raid claimed 36 lives including those of 15 children. a human rights group says the casualties in the northern city occurred after syrian barrel bombs on a populated area. they are explosive filled barrels and rolled out of the back of helicopterhelicopters. michelin announced the recall of more than a million tires sold in the united states. the company says the ltxm tires are commonly used on pickup trucks, light trucks and heavy duty vans. the company says they can deflate rapidly and/or lose trade. peter o'toole has tied at the age of 81. during a career that spanned more than 50 years, o'toole was nominated for eight academy
awards. the first, for the 1962 film, lawrence of aribia. >> as they fight tribe against tribe, greedy, barboruos and cool as you are. now that nelson mandela has been buried, we thought we would look ahead to the future of south after. for more about that we're joined by the editor at large for new york times and was johannesbu johannesburg's news editor chief. we heard president zuma he thought south africa would continue to rise.
i guess the big question is will it? >> you're right, john. that's the hardest question to answer. he left an undeniable legacy of progress. the country has massive challenges with inequalities and opportunities between black masses and a white minority and black middle class is exploded and didn't exist when i was originally in south africa. at the same time, this country has challenges that, you know, very few countries could overcome. the fact that it's come this far is a miracle. i think south africans, when they talk about mandela and what he left, you hear it in their wonderment and unity we can't know what his absence is going to do to that country and what it will do, for instance, to the black majority's patience, which is enduring so far. >> i'm struck by a number on things in your reporting. one, the detailing of the accomplishments and challenges.
i believe how you wrote there is a million or so new homes built since 2001 or so, the average income of black south africans has risen significantly but the discrepancy between black and white south africans is growing every month. >> if any one group has benefitted, you say white south africans. they are better off now than the end of the apartheid because democracy and free enterprise helps those who have a level means, basic means of opportunity already where the black masses, you know, those opportunities have not really come. for a small black elite, the opportunities are extraordinary and rich and their children are educated and speak with an accent that no black person had when i was in south africa because it's an accent of the educated. for the black masses, that hasn't happened. >> in the reporting we focus on
the south african culture, the exact opposite of mandela's legacy and in the local politics, they are talking about it. how do you think we'll see this play out? will it be in national or local elections, or do you think it will be unscripted? >> national and local elections and not in the next round of elections a year or so away but after that when mandela's memory is fading more and the reconciliation and forgiveness and patience is fading. the black middle class, which is already willing to look at other parties and alternatives. you'll see the black masses, i think, probably less patient and saying the amc must have stronger policies, more radical policies and intended to change their life. that's where you'll see the anc politics change and you'll see the black middle class go away from the anc and black working class and under class demand
greater radical change9 the anc. >> marcus, editor at large at the new york times. thanks for joining us. now to the signature segment. it may be hard to imagine, but 17 million americans have no bank account at all. that means they have to use cash for their transactions, and that often means relying on a check cashing service. for sometime now, the conventional wisdom has been these businesses take advantage of the poor but charging them high fees that could be avoided if they had a bank account. some are questioning whether these check cashing services are really that much worse than banks, which they say don't do a very good job at all at serving the poor. our report is by "news hour" special correspondent carla murphy. >> reporter: for host of us, going to the local bank to deposit a check is second nature but for many poor people in the south bonks, it's not. more than half the residents
here don't have a bank account. so on a friday afternoon, customers trickle into right check, a check cashing store. they are paying bills, buying money orders and cashing checks criticized seeming to exploit the poor by charging high fees. on this day, one of the tellers is not like the others. she's a professor of urban policy at the new school in manhattan and her job at this check cashing store is part of a research project to find why people choose to come here despite the fees, rather than going to a bank. what were your impressions? >> i thought the same thing in the press. i would say the literature that called check cashers abusive and predatory, and, you know, being businesses really taking advantage of the poor. so i believed that. >> reporter: but that belief is challenged when a man that runs a business visited lisa's class as a guest lecturer five years
ago. >> lisa is like, i'll get my graduate students and laid this guy to waste. >> reporter: joe coleman is the president of the check cashing store. >> she had the usual, kind of, idea check cashes are evil. i took my horn and tail off and showed up at the new school. >> reporter: after coleman appeared in the class, she started rethinking the role check cashers were playing. >> kind of the under lying assumption, if they are bad businesses, the people that use them are not very smart, right? i knew that wasn't true. i knew from my other work, when you're low income or working poor, you're really good at managing your money because you don't have much. so it doesn't make sense that people would willingly pay more for something that they could get for less, and the only way i was figuring that out was to get as close to the problem as i could get. i couldn't really, you know, go
under cover as a poor person. it wouldn't really work, but i called joe five years after he came to my class and asked him if he would hire me as a teller. >> reporter: she worked weekly as a teller in a store. she soon discovered that just getting quick access to their money as opposed to waiting for a check to clear in the bank is a big reason they use the services despite fees that nationally average about 4%. >> they are having to pay fees to cash a check. isn't it better to do that at a bank where it costs almost nothing? >> in fact, a lot of people had bank accounts and others had had them and didn't any longer. >> reporter: she interviewed customers for her research and says one reason banks are seen expensive is a lack of transparency of fees. many didn't know the fees and when they would hit. >> when you walk into a check casher, you see the fees posted
in huge front. when you walk into a bank and there is no signage at all. >> reporter: people with bank accounts are given disclosure agreements laying out when you pay a bank fee and for how much but they typically run 70 pages. would you rather use the bank, if you could? we spent time at check cashing stores in the south bronx and heard complaints about the banks, services, the time it took them to clear and not being enough branchs and the high penalties for bouncing a check and hidden fees. >> i would rather cash my money here and i have the whole money i need and put it in the bank by the time i realize, they took half my money out. >> reporter: average fees to maintain a non-interest bearing account tripled in the last years. the percentage of free check accounts is half of what it was in 2009 and free, of then means
maintaining a minimum balance or using direct deposit. >> jonathan mince, the commissioner of the new york city department of consuper affairs says banks still play a vital role helping the poor get ahead. >> banking is really the key onramp to whether or not you're involved in a productive step forward or whether or not you're treading water or drowning. when people have to pay for each and every one of their financial transactions, it's just this cycle of unproductive banking. people aren't connecting into the financial main stream, which means the ability to become stable and grow and open businesses and save for their kids to go to college, all of that pathway that you and i take for granted is being denied to millions and millions of americans. >> reporter: but critics say
it's very hard for the poor to save in the first place, and the little money they do set aside gets a minuscule return in the bank. he argues his business model works perfectly well for low-income customers. >> our customers are lowball lance, high-volume customers and banks aren't cost effective at serving that population. if you're a low income consumer that's working on a very small budget and don't have money to deposit, we're faster, cheaper and better. look, sure,, if you have a $100,000 check it doesn't make sense to pay to cash it. if you have a $300 check and pay $6 to get $294 to have immediate immediately, it makes sense. >> reporter: they can charge 1.95% to cash a check but the estimated national average is more than 4% and all those fees add up. a study from the brookings
institution shows that over a lifetime, relying on check cashers instead of a low-cost checking account could potentially add up to more than $40,000 for a low income worker. >> it's estimated that new york residents spend $225 million in fees for cashing checks at businesses like yours. that's a lot of money. wouldn't that be better for people to put that into a saving account or something else to build, you know, assets and credit? >> right. i think first of all, if you look at the number of chan transactions, per transaction it's a small amount. the banks are profit making organizations and getting fees. the problem is that people can't keep money. asset building is good if you can afford to build an asset. what about the people that can't? >> reporter: just as coleman criticizes banks, many criticize check cashing businesses for what are known as payday loans,
short term advances with extraordinary high interest rates, something allowed in 6 states but not new york. coleman does acre knowledge his industry has problems. >> i won't say that everybody in my industry is angel i can and poor. we have bad actors too. i'm hearing the presumption that somehow this industry tends to be more evil or something or we tend to be taking more advantage as an unconscious connection there. we're down here making money. i must be ripping off the poor. check cashers are addressing this market gap, not by solving the problem, but by profiting off that problem. >> reporter: commissioner mince acknowledges traditional banks don't do a great job serving the poor but working on how cities can convince banks to serve this
population. >> when a city says t s to bankd credit unions, this is our need and we're offering tens of thoses of people, banks will respond and come up with the best product that they have, the more appropriate product we might get off a shelf or somebody might get off the shelf. >> banks are already making more of an effort to reach the community. dozens of cities launched bank on which offers free or low cost bank accounts and this fall mince announced the start of bank on 2.0 to expand on these efforts, but for lisa, how best to serve low income people is now longer as simple as advocating for bank accounts. in general, are you saying cash checking places are necessary to serve this population or are they a necessary evil? how do you view it? >> it's hard to understand why people would pay those prices if
there is a bank nearby, right? because you don't see the on the ground decision making people are doing. it's a leap from looking at the facts of the fees to saying it must be bad and abusive. and it's a logical leap, right? unless you go down there and talk to people, it's not obvious. what does it take for the poor to get by? find out what a living wage means in your city, visit news hour.pbs.org. the white house said friday it receives a report from a presidential advisory group asked to recommend changes in the nation's surveillance programs. what comes next, for more we're joined now from washington by david sanger, he's the national security correspondent for "the new york times." david, what recommendations do you think the group made and what's the president likely to do with them? >> right now, we only know about a few of the recommendations
that are in the report. there are more than 40 total recommendations, and the report, while not classified is going to remain confidential the white house says until the president had a chance to review it and make decisions. but a few things we do know, the first is that the president has decided to continue the bulk collection of domestically gathered telephone numbers, these are the very controversial program that was revealed by the snowden documents, edward snowden documents, which involves the united states keeping records back about five years of every telephone call that is made from the united states in the united states and what number that call was made to. it does not record conversations. the second big decision we know the president has made and white house announced is that the national security agency is not going to be split off from u.s. cyber command.
now cyber command is the pentagon's branch that both defends the pentagon's networks against cyber attacks and puts together offensive attacks, similar to the one that the united states conducted on iran a few years ago. some people have been concerned that puts too much power in the hands of one military commander. the president has decided to go ahead with it. >> i'm struck by the combination in your stories and this issue about, you know, the perceived need for some sort of chan transparency and yet, the public not seeming to be too alarmed on this or at least giving the government some leeway on this. it's almost like the public's right to know, in this case like the public doesn't want to know. do you sense the push and pull? >> you certainly do. there was a bit of a sense right now that the committee that reported to president obama was in fact significantly more
aggressive in talking about cutting back on some of these programs than the public has at least articulated so far. we think that the committee, in fact, wants to have significantly greater transparency for a number of the programs. there's a good indication that they are in favor of making sure that if the government goes to get a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance court that there's someone to argue the other side, the privacy side of that. that's been debated some in elite circles in the united states but not a regular subject of, say, cable news shows and so forth, and it does raise an interesting question, are americans in a post 9/11 era accustomed to it but accepting of it? >> david sanger, thank you so
much for joining us. >> thank you. this is pbs news hour weekend sunday. and finally tonight, a look at a story that slipped from the headlines, the status of the members of rock band riot weres. now, word that the two jailed members of the group could be freed early under an amnesty plan. a report is by itv's matt fray. ♪ ♪ >> reporter: until they launched the protest against the order of russia's most prominent cathedral, the world barely heard of the punk rock band pussy riot, the protested, not the music, went global and
viral. it also earned them a fate they perhaps didn't bargain for. three members were convicted motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in jail. one was later freed. they atragted support of not only human rights organizations but celebrities and out of the bluerlier this week president putin submitted amnesty. it could be a way to avoid embarrassment for mr. putin after a review into the guilty jun judgments. the president is seeking the pressure to release the pair ahead of the winter olympics in february. their early release looks, should we say, timely.
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good morning and welcome to forum. i'm michael krasny. hello, i'm dave iverson. 20 years ago in the winter of 1993 michael krasny hosted his first forum program. he has been at it ever since conducting conversations with the authors and artists, leaders and innovators, scientists and scholars who shape life in the bay area, the nation, and the world. a conversation that's also a daily exchange with all of you. michael is also the author of three books, including "off mike: a memoir of talk radio and literary life." and since 1970 he has been a professor of english at san francisco state university. he has also been a visiting and