tv PBS News Hour PBS January 30, 2014 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: while president obama was on the road touting his economic agenda, house republicans were plotting their way forward on immigration, drawing the battle lines today for a busy 2014 in politics. good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. also ahead, the 20 "al jazeera" journalists jailed in egypt amid the government's sustained crackdown on those seen as allies to the muslim brotherhood. >> ifill: and we examine a mysterious epidemic devastating the starfish population up and down the west coast. >> this is the change of my lifetime. we've had now occasional dieoffs
here and there, but it's not like this. it's not a mass mortality of them. >> ifill: those are just some of the stories we're covering on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> i've been around long enough to recognize the people who are out there owning it. the ones getting involved, staying engaged. they are not afraid to question the path they're on. because the one question they never want to ask is, "how did i end up here?" i started schwab with those people. people who want to take ownership of their investments, like they do in every other aspect of their lives. >> and the william and flora hewlett foundation, helping
people build immeasurably better lives. >> 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: house republicans and president obama challenged each other today to engage on major issues. republican leaders insisted they've passed vital legislation that stalled in the senate. the president said americans can't wait any longer for action on jobs and wages. we'll get a full report and explore the political realities in washington, right after the news summary. consumers spent more at the end of 2013 than they have in three years. that, in turn, fueled solid growth in the fourth quarter at an annual rate of 3.2%. the numbers in a new commerce
department report suggested the economy has momentum going into 2014. that report helped wall street bounce back. the dow jones industrial average gained nearly 110 points to close at 15,848. the nasdaq rose more than 71 points to close at 4,123. the city of atlanta was finding its way back to normal today. highway traffic came to life with the cleanup from a surprisingly fierce winter storm. scores of vehicles still littered roadsides two days after an icy gridlock paralyzed the area. police and the national guard helped thousands of commuters find the cars they abandoned. meanwhile, georgia governor nathan deal said it's clear that storm preparations failed and he promised a full review. >> i'm not going to look for a scapegoat. i'm the governor. the buck stops with me. i accept the responsibility for
it, but i also accept the responsibility of being able to make corrective actions as they come in the future. >> woodruff: schools and government offices remained closed today in atlanta and other parts of the south. roughly 1,600 students in alabama finally got home after spending two nights stranded in their schools. federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the alleged boston marathon bomber dzhokhar tsarnaev. the explosions killed three and wounded more than 260 others. in a court filing today, prosecutors said tsarnaev attacked innocent men, women and children and showed a "lack of remorse". the new mayor of new york city bill de blasio moved today to end a 14-year court battle over "stop and frisk" tactics by police. the city will no longer appeal a court ruling that found the stops violate the civil rights of black and hispanic men.
they make up the majority of those targeted. de blasio said he wants reforms to end any discrimination. the number of air force officers linked to a cheating scandal in the nuclear missile corps has more than doubled. air force secretary deborah lee james announced today that 92 officers are implicated out of 500. james spoke at the pentagon after touring nuclear bases nationwide. >> i believe now that we do have systemic problem within the force. i heard repeatedly from teammates that the need for perfection has created a climate of undue stress and fear-- fear about the future, fear about promotion, fear about what will happen to them in their careers. >> woodruff: the cheating scandal involved officers at malmstrom air force base in montana. in iraq, an assault on the
ministry of transportation building in baghdad killed as many as two dozen people. six gunmen stormed the building and took hostages before some of them detonated suicide vests. iraqi security forces eventually regained control. at least 50 people were wounded in the attack. negotiators at the syrian peace talks agreed on one thing today: they joined in a minute of silence for the 130,000 people killed in the civil war. otherwise, the assad regime and the western-backed opposition made no progress on creating a transitional government. only one day of meetings remains before the talks take a week- long break. authorities in russia now say two suicide bombers who killed 34 people in december were part of a militant group in dagestan. the attacks in volgograd raised new fears about security at the winter olympics in sochi 400 miles away. meanwhile, athletes began arriving in sochi today, passing
through heavy security to get credentials. american speedskater kelly gunther was among them. >> i am pretty excited, it's pretty cool to be here, it is my first olympics. so, am very excited with everything that's going on. i'm kind of overwhelmed. you know, i haven't really thought about anything else that's going on, i know we will be in good hands and this security, i know, it's pretty tight. >> woodruff: the opening ceremony for the winter takes place on february seventh. the political crisis in ukraine took a sudden turn today when president viktor yanukovych went on sick leave. this came in the face of weeks of anti-government protests, demanding his resignation. his website said yanukovych has an acute respiratory ailment and a high fever. it did not say when he'll return. president obama has made his choice to run the national security agency amid a global debate over u.s. surveillance. he's nominating vice admiral mike rogers, who's now in charge of the navy's cyber command. the current head of the n.s.a,
army general keith alexander, plans to retire in march. one of the leading liberals in congress, california democrat henry waxman is retiring after 40 years. waxman is 74 years old. he said in a statement today that he wants to sample life outside congress. waxman helped craft president obama's landmark health care law and has championed environmental and safety legislation. still to come on the newshour: the political realities facing the white house and congress, the german government's point man with washington, the epidemic devastating starfish on the west coast, the detention of al jazeera journalists in egypt, plus new water worries after the west virginia chemical spill. >> ifill: president obama hit the road for day two of his annual post-state of the union
push as house republicans traveled to their annual retreat in maryland. newshour congressional correspondent kwame holman reports on the day's events. >> it's important that we show the american people we're not just the opposition party, we're actually the alternative party. >> holman: from their annual retreat on maryland's eastern shore, house speaker john boehner and his fellow republicans aimed to dispel the notion that they're to blame for lack of action on major issues. majority leader eric cantor urged president obama to seek them out instead of just issuing executive orders. >> the president did say the other night, he said, "look. in america, it's always been if you work hard and you're responsible, you get ahead." well, we agree. we republicans have been talking about that for years and years. and so we want the president to work with us to try to solve that. >> holman: in his state of the union address, the president painted the house g.o.p as the
roadblock on immigration, for instance. >> it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders and law enforcement and fix our broken immigration system. republicans and democrats in the senate have acted. i know that members of both parties in the house want to do the same. >> holman: the house republicans charged today it's senate democrats who've been stalling key bills. as for immigration, speaker boehner signaled a readiness to act, but he gave no details. >> this problem's been around for at least the last 15 years. it's been turned into a political football. i think it's unfair. and so i think it's time to deal with it. but how we deal with it is going to be critically important. you know it's one thing to pass a law, it's another thing to have the confidence of the american people behind that law as you're passing it.
>> reporter: boehner did send a set of principles to the party rank-and-file. it calls for providing a chance of citizenship for children brought to u.s. illegally. but mr. obama kept the pressure on in a speech at job training in a general electric plant in waukesha, wisconsin. >> the question for folks in washington is whether they're going to help or they hinder that progress. whether they're going to waste time creating new crises that slow things down or they're going to spend time creating new jobs and opportunities. >> holman: from there, the president traveled to a high school in nashville, tennessee. a student there was killed tuesday night, in an off-campus shooting. >> ifill: how are the agendas of the president and congressional republicans shaped by the political realities they now face? we explore that with michael gerson, "washington post" columnist and former chief speechwriter for president george w. bush, neera tanden, president of the left-leaning center for american progress. she served in both the obama and clinton administrations. and andrew rudalevige, professor
of government at bowdoin college, and author of the book "the new imperial presidency: renewing presidential power after watergate." what did the speech, neera tanden, tell you about where the president and the presidency stands right now? >> well, i think the president was really trying to foe can cus on the country from the lead where he could. i think not that much is going to get through congress. i'm optimistic about immigration reform, but past immigration reform it seems like he recognize there is's a limit to what he can do in washington and he is not just limited by washington, he can do things in the country as well. fill fill michael, you've had a hand in crafting these hydra-headed state of the union speeches with so many people contributing to it. what did that speech tell you and the republican ae action to it tell you about where things stand now? >> well, i think it's first worth saying that wherever there's a tribute to a wounded
warrior it's a great moment. that was a deeply memorable moment in that speech and i think it was great that the president did that. all that said, i defer a little bit. i think a lot of the policy in the speech was modest, a lot of it recycled, pretty generic from the democratic perspective, not a lot of innovation in the speech. and that that's probably appropriate for a second term, expectations are lowered, but it's a real contrast with this president even last year coming out of his reelection where he pushed the congress hard on gun control and environment and some other issues. so i think we're seeing a big change in the expectation, but he did give his own party a theme: give the american people a raise. that's a real important goal for him and if he loses the senate it's important to his presidency. fill fill i'm going to ask you both. does partisanship demand modesty at this point where washington is now? >> i think the challenge is you
can't judge the president by the fact that congress isn't passing many pieces. to say he's repeating thing he is did before, well, there's a lot of disnungs congress itself. the help tifts isn't passing his legislation. so i think the president -- i give the president credit for trying when he can to make positive change. and i think he is limited in that because he doesn't have a so i think challenge to judge him harshly is unfair. >> ifill: michael? >> i did participate in this process and sometimes you tend to come up with creative policy that puts the other side on the defensive. and maybe get some things done. and the president did that in a couple of small areas in my view: a an expension of e.i.t.c., which the republicans could do. the expansion of a new savings
mechanism for low income people. but that was pretty rare in this speech. i don't think there was much in that category. and i do hold the president accountable for that. >> ifill: andrew rudalevige, as the nation shows skepticism and not a lot of optimism about washington and the ability to get past these things, do these moments count? >> well, they count in that they try to set the agenda for the coming year. the president here obviously has the biggest audience that he'll have all year. it's an audience that's diminished over time as broadcasting and viewing habits have fragmented. but nonetheless it's his best opportunity to set the tone for the year with the american public and to try to get members of congress to be pressured in a way towards supporting his agenda. as was mentioned, in a way that wound up cutting water a little bit politically, perhaps. a lot of proposals on the table. not as many executive actions proposed as we'd been led to believe but they could be important in allowing the
president to set the agenda towards the midterms. >> ifill: let me ask you this: today we heard john boehner, the speaker of the house, tell fellow republicans "we want to be the alternative, not the opposition." and we heard the president in the speech as you point out not throw the gauntlet down but talk about ladders of opportunity, language like that. is that what the american public demands: this kind of optimistic talk? >> certainly it was a more cooperative conciliatory speech than we've been led to believe. the president has a few times during his administration signaled a turn a more administrative strategy. the "we can't wait" strategy that was unveiled october, 2011, tried to lay down a record of activity towards the presidential election in 2012 and here we're seeing a return to that given the stalemate on capitol hill the president wants to sort of highlight the fact that any inactivity is not his fault. if only members of congress
would come to him he would be able to act and, of course, members of the republican majority in the house are saying the same thing. if only the president would come halfway towards them we could get something done. the end result being that very little is likely to get done. >> ifill: michael, let me ask you this about the alternative versus the opposition language that john boehner used and marco rubio used it yesterday. is that sustainable whether the tea party is really the party of opposition? >> i think there's a real distinction here between the party of congress. in the house districts off different political dynamic, as many of these house members do. but if you're trying to lead a national party to have a message on immigration or other things. so there's a huge cleavage here. the party has to appeal to minorities, women, younger voters and they want to craft a message to do that. members of congress have different political dynamic. so some of this only gets
resolved in the presidential primaries where you have the emergence of a candidate that can give shape toward repositioning of the republican party. >> ifill: and does the president's language count in this, too, when he talks about ladders of opportunity and he steps out of the way to allow the republicans to lead the way on immigration? why does that make you optimistic. >> >> i thought he was -- i thought he really talked about immigration in ways that would attract the president's support. he talked about in the terms of economic growth and competitiveness so he didn't throw down the gauntlet on any particular issue and i think the real issue this year -- >> ifill: except giving america a raise. >> but on immigration reform itself he didn't say "there has to be a path to citizenship or i won't sign it." he's trying to move that process along without getting in the way. i think the real issue will be for speaker baner in the next few months whether he wants to pass legislation, to be looking like there's a republican caucus
that is solving the country's problems, ready to act or simply obstruct. and i think this language that we're seeing is something we should welcome. an alternative means actually solving ideas not just say nothing to everything. >> ifill: professor rudalevige, let's talk about things that require maybe a little bit of legislative action. universal pre-k, an education requirement change. is there any room for those kinds of things to actually get action in the midterm election here? >> well, i think there are -- can be action on things that both parties see as mutually beneficial in their own political interests. as we move towards the midterm, the parties obviously need to burnish their brand. the democrats want to boost turnout in the midterm among their own constituencies, constituencies that tend to be underrepresented in midterm elections. that electorate tends to be older, whiter, wealthier. these are demographics that have
moved more towards the republican party and, of course, from the republican point of view they don't want to do anything to dissuade that base from coming out. so where you can see action, i think, are on things like immigration reform where there is a clear political interest from both parties moving forward. i think something like pre-k, education generally, remember the no child left behind act is something like seven years overdue for reauthorization. there are issues hanging out there where both parties could see in the their interest to move forward and that i think would be beneficial if they could do that. the. >> ifill: low-hanging fruit that's out there. but are there political incentives or disincentives for either political party to act or not to act? michael? >> well, some is a long-term/short-term situation. the republican party can't win national elections with 27% of the hispanic vote, for example. that's what mitt romney got in the last election, it was disastrous. it's not consistent but a lot of
members that i talk to believe that the president's been badly hurt by obamacare, they don't want to give him victories or cover in the context of a midterm election. i think that's a general belief. if john boehner were to move forward on a comprehensive reform and immigration it would deepedly divide his own caucus right now leading to a midterm election. so i think he's seeing how people are going to react right now and judging in this circumstance that i think conservatives are likely to react very badly and he has a situation where a significant portion of his caucus doesn't follow him. >> ifill: what are the realistic political expectations? >> well, i think another big issue is really the republican primary season and whether we'll have action after the primaries on something like immigration reform when republican house members feel less of a threat. when they're in a safe district, they don't have to worry about that republican challenger from the right hitting them on an immigration bill.
and i think there will be a window past this primary season but not in the heat of the elections where we could see some action. >> ifill: already, neera tanden, the center for american progress; michael gerson of the "washington post"; andrew rudalevige at boden college, thank you all very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: as secretary of state john kerry prepares for his visit to germany tomorrow, chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner takes another look at the country's outrage over u.s. surveillance programs. tonight, she talks to a rising star in german politics who tells her that many in his country are disappointed with the american president who at one time spurred so much hope. >> warner: german chancellor angela merkel criticized washington for its surveillance
of german citizens-- including herself. >> ( translated ): the program with everything that is technically possible has been done has harmed us. in the end there will be more not less security. >> warner: though their center right party has long stood by the u.s./german alliance, he's been a blunt critic of n.s.a. surveillance and is now the point man dealing with washington on tough issues facing the two allies. we spoke this morning in the parliamentary office building in berlin. philipp missfelder, thank you for having us, congratulations on your new job. >> thank you very much. >> warner: in your speech yesterday chancellor merkel said not only was spying in germany undermining trust between our countries but that it would undermine security. does that undermine the kind of cooperation against global threats, say terrorism. is germany cooperating less we the united states now as a result of this.
>> we depend on the security and how we can great the united states, the united states will remain as our best friend in the world and our best ally and this is the reason we had no terrorist attack in the germany was also the help by the americans but this is the kind of double standard we have in this debate that on the one hand side we wish to have support of the united states of america on the other side we're in a complete other culture about data. >> ifill:. >> warner: explain why this has struck such a nerve here in germany. >> most people in our country the history in mind of the system in germany and also much older people remember how the nazi party controlled everything. this is something in which has a big impact in every debate when it comes to that.
>> warner: how do you resolve that? >> there is no solution for this debate because at one point towards president obama himself were so big the people believed that he was coming to germany and restoring the distrust that was damaged by the legacy of president bush and a lot of people are disappointed that he's not stopping with the n.s.a., that he's continuing the program. >> warner: so real disappointment in president obama himself as a person here. >> absolutely. if dick cheney would be in charge of all these programs people would not be surprised because it would be what the people have expected during the bush era but this is opposite of obama. obama was seen as the one who takes care of the europeans or responds to the problems people present him in 2008 in berlin and they're really disappointed by him. >> warner: u.s. intelligence officials say that in fact
germany is a appropriate target for fairly widespread surveillance. that you're a a cross roads here in europe, some of the 9/11 hijackers plotted this attack in the so-called hamburg sell here. are they right about that? >> germany is the most important country in europe and we became important for many people with the many immigrants who came to us. many russians are here and many people from the middle east and this is something which makes germany very interesting also for spying and i would agree that for anybody who is interested in information that this is one of the hot spots. >> and so what would be the appropriate level or the appropriate approach in your view for u.s. intelligence community to take toward germany >> from our point of view there is no difference between the cell phone of our chancellor and
the cell phone of the person working in the retail shop, for example. it is completely different when it comes to people who are known by our security intelligence, who are known by the american authorities coming here, hiding here in germany, for example. this is something we should specify
and where we should cooperate when it comes to fighting international terrorism. >> the german magazine "der spiegel" revealed based on the snowden papers that right on top of the new u.s. embassy right next to the brandenberg base is one of these supersecret intelligence collection hubs and in fact, it's used to spy on all these government buildings. what did you think when you learned that? >> i was really shocked because if you find out these kind of details, everybody is shocked because then you know who it was when it was, where it was. and this is something completely
angering. >>. >> warner: has angela merkel's government received any satisfaction from the americans on other these issues other than not spying on her cell own? >> honestly so far not. we haven't had the progress we need and we hope we are able to manage it until the chancellor has her visits in june in
america. we should continue our cooperation because there are much more important things the. i hope that we can focus on the more important issues among all these problems then about one. >> warner: speaking of mr. snoebd, there's something of a boom here to grant him asylum. can you imagine that happening in germany? >> no, i don't think so. if he would be invited to germany we would deliver him to the united states of america because we have an agreement with america and we still believe in this agreement and that means that we trust each other. i trust also the legal system in america that they would take care of him.
>> warner: so what would the chancellor say to secretary kerry on this n.s.a. surveillance question when he visits tomorrow? >> we don't have any kind of leverage to frighten america. the only argument we have is our word when we say our people are unhappy and i think the american leadership needs the german population which is on their sign, on the right moral side. and this is something where america was always on the moral high ground. >>. >> warner: philipp. thank you very much. >> ifill: scientists are searching for clues to what's been killing starfish up and down the west coast. the mysterious die-offs were first noticed in washington state. that's where k.c.t.s seattle has been partnering with the environmental public media project earthfix to get to the bottom of the epidemic.
special correspondent katie campbell reports. >> reporter: something strange is happening in seattle's waters. laura james was one of the first to notice. she alerted scientists when starfish began washing up on the shores near her home. >> i thought, you know what? this is getting a little too close for comfort, i need go see what's going on and i need document it. >> reporter: as a diver and underwater videographer, james was equipped to do something. she decided to take her camera to a spot popular among both divers and starfish. these pilings are usually covered with a rainbow of starfish. on a recent dave, james discovered a scene from a horror film. >> there were bodies everywhere and they were just -- to me it was like someone had take an laser gun and just zapped them and they vaporized.
>> reporter: starfish, also known as sea stars, are wasting away by the tens of thousands. not just in puget sound but up and down north america's pacific coast. and nobody knows why. >> i've been diving out here for 24 years and people ask me "do you see any big difference between now and when you started?" and i've seen some subtle differences but this is the change of my lifetime we've had small occasional dieoffs here and there but it's not like this. it's not a mass mortality event. i'm just a diver. i need to find out what the scientists know. i tishgs scientists have also been wondering what's going on. they first started noting sick and dying starfish on washington's olympic peninsula last summer. reports have since surfaced from southern california to as far north as alaska. at first only a certain species
known as the sunflower star seemed to be affected. then it hit another species, then another. in all, about a dozen species of sea stars are dying along the west coast. it's been coined "sea star wasting syndrome" and it's also been reported at sites along the east coast. but researchers say it's too early to connect these outbreaks. >> you know, i was surprised, too, that the crabs weren't just -- >> reporter: this man is a biology professor at western washington university. he studies how environmental changes affect marine life. today his team is collecting sea stars in washington just north of seattle. >> the population of sea stars is -- they are quite abundant on that site so on the pilings there were healthy sea stars but we were also coming across arms and piles of deteriorated sea stars and individuals that were twisted.
>> reporter: the divers are searching for stars showing symptoms as well as the ones that appear healthy. >> the experiments are infectiousness experiments where we take individuals that have signs of the syndrome and we put them in tanks with individuals that don't have signs. >> reporter: then they closely watch the progress of the disease. first, the stars twist their arms into nots and sometimes lesions form on their skin. >> one of them was very sick and the other two individuals started ripping themselves apart. the arms just crawl away from the particular body. >> reporter: you heard that right-- the arms crawl in opposite directions until they tear away from the body and their insides spill out. and unlike most starfish, the arms don't regenerate. stars that came in with symptoms died within 24 hours. >> interestingly, though, i didn't see the individuals that were exposed to those dying
individuals show symptoms any more rapidly than individuals in the other tanks. >> reporter: so being in the same tank with a dying starfish doesn't seem to accelerate the disease. divers recently returned to find that most of the starfish there have died. but we still don't know how they're catching the illness or where it comes from. could an infectious pathogen from the other side of the world have hitched a ride on ocean going ships? or could it be something larger like climate change or ocean acidification? >> no signs of lesions. >> reporter: drew harvel is coordinating the research into answering these questions. she's a marine epidemiologist from cornell university who is studying at the university of washington's labs. she's sending these samples to cornell. there they will be analyzed for
viruses as well as bacteria and other protozoa. the first step, she says, is to figure out the distinct characteristic that identify the disease. >> we know organisms get sick, they get bacteria, they get viruses like humans do. they get the cold and the sniffles but it's harder to see it happening when they're under the ocean. >> reporter: scientists worry the loss of sea stars could have far reaching ecological consequences. that's because they're voracious predators. they gobble up mussels, clams, sea cucumbers and even other starfish. >> because these are ecologically important species and when you lose this many sea stars it will certainly change the sea scape. >> it certainly suggests that those ecosystems are not healthy something that can affect species that widespread is i think just scary. >> reporter: if there's a silver lining, it may be studying this outbreak should shed light on
how marine diseases spread. that's a question laura james is hoping citizen scientists can help answer. >> the big problem we had here is we didn't have a baseline. the starfish got sick when we noticed. it would be cool if we could show this in realtime and show the spread and the changes in realtime. the. >> reporter: james and her dive buddy built a web site tracking posting to social media site with the hashtag "sick starfish." >> take a picture of any starfish you'll find when you're walking on the beach and hashtag it "sick starfish" and then they can look at it when it pops up on the map or if we're not sure we can send it to the scientists make them take a look at it. we may not be able to stop it, we may not be able to fix it but we need to be aware so that we can recognize it when it happens again.
>> reporter: all this research may be paying off. scientists think they're honing in on a cause and hope to make an announcement in a few months. >> ifill: new experiments started in washington state this week to test possible infectious agents. >> woodruff: we turn now to egypt and a crackdown on the news media. on wednesday, authorities charged 20 journalists working for the al jazeera satellite news channel with being agents of the muslim brotherhood. they were also accused of plotting to defame the country and running a terrorist cell out of an upscale cairo hotel. of the group, five hold foreign citizenship including acting bureau chief mohamed fahmy and english language correspondent peter greste. to tell us more, i'm joined by nancy youssef, middle east bureau chief for mcclatchy newspapers. back here in the united states
for a few weeks? >> yes, thank you. >> nancy, thank you. what is the egyptian government saying these journalists did? >> they're alleging that they were working out of the marriott hotel and that rather than there to report aboutively about egypt they were purposefully trying to distort egypt's move by only presenting the muslim brotherhood's view of things. and so the egyptians are saying they're members of the muslim brotherhood, non-egyptians have come into cairo with the purpose of training them on how to distort the news in such a way that was favorable toll the opponents. >> woodruff: what's the evidence? i know government is saying they ed ted and manipulated video footage. >> that's right, and the statement they released yesterday they didn't offer too much detail other than to say they that they had brought an expert who said their equipment showed that they were distorting video that they were obtaining, that they were manipulating the video in such a way that was designed to be unfavorable to
the egyptian government. rough vouf what is al jazeera saying in its defense? >> al jazeera said a couple things, number one that these guys are not members of the muslim brotherhood and not set in there to do anything but be journalist. and they're also saying in the case of some of these, they haven't been formally handed papers charging them. that they've heard the charges through this statement but not through the prosecutors' office directly. >> is there a sense from any quarter other than the government that al jazeera has taken sides? >> well, there is a feeling amongst egyptians that al jazeera is favorable to the muslim brotherhood. it's a qatari funded news channel and that that country supported the morsi presidency, certainly more so than other nations did. and so on the streets there's -- it's perpetuate waited because on state news media there's constant us iss that al jazeera's plotting against the
state, that they're working against the interest of egypt and agents of the muslim brotherhood. >> woodruff: so the government has been going around saying that? >> on state media, yes. >> woodruff: you visited one of the al jazeera journalists in his jail cell. tell us about that. >> well, mohamed fahmy, i wanted to see the conditions he was being held in so we had to sneak in because he's being held at a prison which is a maximum security prison in cairo where mubarak was held, the former president during his desense and so to see him we had to the go to the prosecutors office and see him in a holding cell where he was going to be questioned by the prosecutors' office and the only way we were able to do it is go as egyptian there is to bring him things like food and clothing which families must provide detainees so he had he not been egyptian we wouldn't be able to get in. >> woodruff: what was he saying when you saw him? >> when we saw him he was
initially very confused and almost suspicious about why we were being let in and once he realized we had a platform he tried to think of everything he wanted to tell everybody. that he was being held in a dark room, that he was being forced to sleep on the floor. that he was being held among the worst detainees including jihadists that have been arrested in this government crackdown and that the government was building a case against him and telling him things like he was a good catch and he would never see the light again. so he's trying to get out as much as he could and at the same time reassure everyone that he was okay at that time. >> woodruff: then of course since then we know charges have been officially filed is only al jazeera being singled out by the government? >> well, al jazeera is really disliked by many, many egyptians. remember al jazeera was key in 2011 to people's understanding about what state media was saying about the protest being not so big.
al jazeera was talking about what was happening in places like tahrir square and since then they've had a growing influence on the country so that's made them really disliked by the egyptian public. that said, we're seeing crackdowns on journalists writ large. today state information service had to put out a directive about whether interviewing a member of the muslim brotherhood or giving their point of view constituted a threat of the state and we saw today and a number of muslim brotherhood members arrested for putting out tweets and facebook messages that were seen as inciting violence. so while al jazeera has been targeted, it seems that the net is being cast wider and wider. >> woodruff: the crackdown seems to be wider. one of the things i want to ask you about, nancy youssef, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the military leader-- he's now calling him field marshal, al-sisi, what's the reaction
again? >> largely positive because he's seen as the savior of egypt. he was the one who announced morsi's ouster. the fact that he was promoted to general just a few days ago suggests that the military in a way endorses his potential presidency. and that he is the only person with the background and cape possibility save egypt and put it back on the right track. you should know that his picture isn't eating anywhere. his picture is on candies and t-shirts and on the third anniversary of the uprising in tahrir you couldn't walk a few feet without seeing pictures, posters, cutouts of his face. he has been ralded as a single greatest possible person to come in and salvage not only egypt but for some the hopes of the revolution. and so many people say about it but quieter some people are saying this threatens the resolution and marks a
regression from what people hoped would come three years ago. >> woodruff: quickly, if there were elections, when would they be b? >> under the constitution that was ratified on july 15, is elections have to happen within 90 days of that so assuming they stick to that, we hope to know something by april. >> woodruff: nancy youssef with mcclatchy newspapers in the united states. thank you for your reporting. >> ifill: it's been nearly three weeks since news first broke of a chemical spill near charleston, west virginia. since then, there have been new details almost daily about the size of the spill, what was leaked, the risk the accident still poses to the surrounding community. jeffrey brown has our update. >> i just want to know, who do you trust? >> brown: that was a dominant question at wednesday's town hall meeting in charleston, west virginia. officials say a chemical spill that fouled the elk river has dissipated and they've rescinded
the "do-not-use" orders for some 300,000 people. but three weeks later, shamaya lewis and others are still anxious. >> who do i trust? do i trust the water quality specialist that's been told to call me and i've been continually following up on-- i spoke to him again yesterday-- or do i trust you all to go ahead and let my children, you know, bathe and stuff in the water? i'm extremely frustrated. >> brown: testimony at a state legislative committee hearing also yesterday did nothing to ease the frustration. >> the biggest problem is-- and my biggest concern is-- we still don't have a good handle on what it is we're being exposed to or at what concentrations. >> brown: scott simonton co- chairs the state environmental quality board. he said traces of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, showed up in water samples from a restaurant. >> i can guarantee you that, that the citizens of this valley are at least in some instances breathing formaldehyde. they're taking a hot shower, this stuff is breaking down into
formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they're inhaling it. >> brown: simonton said it could be coming from the spilled chemical m.c.h.m used in coal processing. his testing was funded by a law firm representing businesses suing over the accident. the state public health commissioner quickly denounced the claim as "totally unfounded." she issued a statement saying: back at the town hall, the local health officer said whatever the cause, he is seeing effects. >> people at the same time i'm seeing are having a lot of issues with smell. i'm seeing rashes, i'm seeing diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, asthma triggers, migraines, you name it. >> brown: if that weren't enough, chemical plant owner freedom industries disclosed last week that another coal processing agent, p.p.h, was also in the tank that leaked.
but officials say the limited amount and toxicity do not pose additional health concerns. the accident is drawing more attention from congress as well. next tuesday, a senate subcommittee will hold a hearing to learn more from state officials and to examine the safety and security of drinking water supplies. ashton marra is covering the story for west virginia public broadcasting. so let's pick up first on this new chemical found in the spillage p.p.h.. there's a debate over whether it might be harmful or whether there's enough of it to be harmful. what's the latest? >> we what we've heard about the second chemical is the same thing we heard during the initial week: that they don't know enough about this chem dool know what it will do to the human body. what we have been told is that it was in such a small amount within that tank that even if the chemical leaked and did make it to the river itself that that chemical shouldn't be harmful to
the public so far the national guard testing throughout the distribution system has said they have non-detect levels of p.p.h. not meaning there's no p.p.h. in the system but at the level they're testing for it at it hasn't been showing up. but as to what the health effects are of this chemical, what it could do, we don't know any of that yet. >> brown: there's been dramatic testing about formaldehyde, that clearly upset officials there. tell us about the background there. >> so after the commission meeting yesterday where this information came outsy spoke with our senate majority leader who is the chair of that commission and he called it "disturbing and shocking." those were the two words he used to describe the information that came out. he's basically saying if there is something public officials know that they aren't telling the public we are putting our
health and safety in their hands and they should be releasing that information as soon as they know about it. the entire commission was a little put back. we do have one senator whose wife is pregnant and has a three-year-old child and has been saying over and over again "i want answers and i want answers for my constituents." >> so how is the public reacting to all this? for the one thing, are they drinking the water? are people bathing? what are they doing now? >> i think we saw from the piece that during the town hall meeting last night people were still angry and still distrustful of the system itself and of the officials that are telling them that it's safe. but i can tell you personally from my experienced reporting at the statehouse, from my personal interaction with colleagues and friends i didn't think of a single person that's saying "i'm drinking the water, it's fine, i've been drinking tap water all along." it's been three weeks now and i don't know of anyone.
people are feeling safe enough to bathe and do dishes and to wash their clothes but nobody that i've heard of yet feels safe enough to drink it. >> brown: and those in the urban areas and beyond into rural areas, is there a clean water supply available to people or do they have to buy it themselves? >> i think right now what's disturbing is that those emergency distribution sites have all been closed. we heard at the town hall meeting last night a woman from a rural part of the distribution area saying "i work from paycheck to paycheck, i live off of minimum wage and i can't afford to continually go out and buy water to provide for my family yet these distribution sites have been closed. no one at that meeting was able to step up and say "this is the time frame, we'll get this started again." the supply seems to have stopped coming into the area but charleston's mayor danny jones said if there's enough calls from the public, if you want it
we'll find a way to start giving you the water -- start giving water out again. there's been no word today as of when those distribution sites or even if those distribution sites will reopen. >> brown: ashton, finally, going back to the original spill, what kind of legislative response has there been? and i wonder given the politics of your state does it change anything vis-a-vis the coal or chemical industries? >> so far we are in a legislative session right now which only happens once a year for us and our senate has passed a bill that basically has three parts. it requires the site owners to identify and locate where all of these team cams are being stored. the d.e.p. must inspect those sites annually and make sure they're up to the standards of the bill and site owners -- i'm sorry, water distribution system owners must yes qlat are called source water protection plans saying that they can deal with the contaminate and provide the secondary source of water for
their customers. as far as changes to the coal industry, this chemical was held at a chem kohl storage site. it's not part of the coal industry to i don't think it changes that relationship as much as it makes lawmakers take a second look at the chemical industry, especially since it's so highly popated here. >> brown: ashton mara, thanks so much. >> thank you. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day: house republicans and president obama challenged each other to act on major issues. g.o.p leaders circulated principles for immigration reform, while the president called for improved job training. the economy turned in solid growth at the end of 2013 thanks to the strongest consumer spending in three years and federal prosecutors in boston served notice they'll seek the death penalty for the man accused in the boston marathon
bombing. >> woodruff: on the newshour online, read about a group in california dedicated to bringing nutritious meals to schools in low-income areas across the u.s. that's the latest dispatch in our social entrepreneurship series. and we're looking for your input: know of an organization whose mission is to help children? tweet us your recommendations at @newshourworld. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. >> ifill: and again, to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the afghanistan conflict we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are seven more.
>> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on friday, as ben bernanke exits the federal reserve we examine his economic legacy. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks among others. for all of us here at the pbs newshour, thank you and good night.
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