tv PBS News Hour PBS September 25, 2014 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> in the months ahead i will leave the department of justice, but i will never leave the work. >> wooduff: eric holder announced he's stepping down as attorney general. we examine how his tenure changed the nation's justice system. good evening, i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. also ahead this thursday, at the united nations, world leaders focused on how to contain the ebola outbreak in west africa. we talk with the head of doctors without borders about conditions on the frontlines in the fight against the deadly virus. >> wooduff: plus, changing the face of public service in california by training young black and latino men to become
emergency medical responders. >> public agencies are now looking at the community in a different light, because now once they see the young men from our program, it breaks down the stereotypes that some folks may have had toward young men of color. >> wooduff: those are 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.
>> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions 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. >> ifill: the pentagon tallied the damage today from u.s. and arab air strikes that blasted oil installations held by islamic state forces in syria. they represent a key source of funding for the militants up to $2 million a day in black market oil sales.
at the pentagon, rear admiral john kirby said the strikes were successful, but there's much more to do. >> they still have financing at their fingertips. they still have plenty of volunteers. they still have plenty of weapons and vehicles and the ability to move around. they still control a sided with swath inside iraq, no question about it. this is just, as i said the other day, and i want the state it again, this is just the beginning. >> ifill: syrian activists reported civilians were killed in last night's attacks, but admiral kirby said there is no credible information to support that claim. meanwhile, f.b.i. director james comey said the u.s. may have identified the islamic state militant in video beheadings of two american journalists and a british aid worker. the man has a british accent, but comey would not give his name or nationality. >> wooduff: iraq now says it has intelligence of an alleged plot by islamic state militants to attack subways in the u.s. and france.
prime minister haider al abadi said today he's received credible information of an active threat. senior u.s. and french officials said they had no evidence of a plot. but nyc's police department added more officers. >> ifill: iran's president hassan rouhani charged today that outsiders bear the blame for the rise of islamic state and other extremists. he told the u.n. general assembly that certain intelligence agencies helped fund and support such groups. that was taken as a reference to the u.s. and israel. rouhani also challenged u.s. leadership of a coalition. >> ( translated ): it is a strategic mistake if some countries under the pretext of the leadership of the coalition are in fact trying to continue their hegemony in our region. obviously, since the pain is better known by the regional countries, better together they can form a coalition to shoulder the responsibility and the leadership of the fight.
>> ifill: the iranian leader also said a deal on his country's nuclear program is possible by a november deadline if the west is flexible. >> wooduff: a cruise liner in the mediterranean rescued more than 300 people from a small boat off cyprus today. they're believed to be refugees fleeing syria. the packed vessel had been stranded about 50 miles off southwestern cyprus, and the coastal town of paphos. hundreds of people have already died at sea this year, trying to sail from the middle east or north africa, to europe. >> ifill: a woman beaten by a california state trooper is getting $1.5 million in a settlement. the incident involving marlene pinnock was captured on video last july first. pinnock is bipolar. court documents say the trooper tried to pull her from oncoming traffic on a los angeles freeway, and she resisted. the officer has agreed to resign. >> wooduff: wall street hit the skids today, driven partly by in apple. the tech giant sank nearly four
percent after it had to pull a troubled software update for iphones. overall, the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 258 points to close at 16,952; the nasdaq fell 88 points to close at 4,466; and the s&p 500 dropped nearly 32 points, to 1,966. the decline came amid talk that the market is overdue for a correction. >> wooduff: still to come on the newshour. examining eric holder's tenure as attorney general. the challenges for health workers on the front line in the fight to contain ebola. helping young men of color in california by training them to save lives. president obama creates the world's largest marine preserve in the pacific ocean. and, how billionaires are shaping american politics. >> ifill: attorney general eric
holder tendered his resignation today after six years at the helm of the department of justice. when he officially steps down, he will be one of the longest serving and most controversial members of president obama's cabinet. the president and his top law enforcement officer entered the white house state dining room late this afternoon. >> as younger men, eric and i both studied law, and i chose him to serve as attorney general because he believes, as i do, that justice is not just an abstract theory. it's a living and breathing principle. >> i'm proud to call you my friend.
>> i have loved the dept of justice ever since a young boy, i watched robert kennedy how the department can and must be a force for that which is right. i hope i have done honor to faith you placed in me and to the legacy of all those who have served before me. >> ifill: eric holder became the nation's first african american attorney general in 2009. he quickly became a lightning rod for criticism, first over khaled sheik mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind. holder wanted a civilian trial in new york, but was forced to leave it with a military commission at guantanamo. the attorney general also drew heavy partisan fire over operation fast and furious, a botched gun-running investigation in the southwest. house republicans cited him for contempt of congress for allegedly withholding documents. and holder clashed publicly with house oversight chairman darrell issa.
>> you didn't want us to see the details, mr. attorney general. >> no, no, i'm not going to stop talking now. when you characterize something as-- ( talking over each other ) it's too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of congress. it's unacceptable and it's shameful. >> wooduff: holder rejected demands that he resign, and told the newshour today in a phone interview: "to those who think that they forced me out, i hate to break their hearts, but that's totally untrue." the attorney general has focused instead on major civil liberties issues including gay marriage. earlier this year, he told his state counterparts they are not obligated to defend bans on gay unions. >> i believe that we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orientation. and we must endeavor in all of our efforts to uphold and
advance the values that once led our forbearers to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity. >> ifill: the attorney general also vowed to find new ways to protect minority voters, after the supreme court invalidated part of the voting rights act last year. >> we cannot allow the slow unraveling of the progress that so many, throughout history, have sacrificed so much to achieve. >> wooduff: more recently, holder pushed to shorten prison terms for many non-violent offenders. he singled out drug sentencing in a newshour interview this past summer. >> if you are basing a sentence on something other than the conduct of the person who was involved, and the person's record, if you're looking, for instance, at factors of what educational level the person has received, what neighborhood the person comes from >> ifill: to be clear, some states are doing that already. >> they are. right, and using that as a predictor, though, of how likely this person, this individual is going to be a recidivist i'm not
at all certain i'm comfortable with that. >> wooduff: and last month, he announced a full-scale investigation of the police in ferguson, missouri. that followed violent clashes over the death of an unarmed black teen-ager michael brown at the hands of a white officer. >> i promised that the united states department of justice would continue to stand with the people there long after the national headlines had faded. >> wooduff: holder leaves undone a promised update of racial profiling rules for f.b.i. agents. it's expected to include religion, gender and sexual orientation. also unresolved, a request for more immigration judges at the border. so far, congress has balked at funding the idea. >> ifill: we examine eric holder's tenure and legacy with: tony west, who served as holder's associate attorney general, until stepping down earlier this month. and, hans von spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the conservative heritage foundation and co-author of "obama's
enforcer: eric holder's justice department." tony west, he was your boss for a long time. there what is his legacy? >> i think his legacy will definitely include civil rights, making historic gains in civil rights, as well as reforming our criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to defending our rights at a time when those rights are under attack. i think it will also include looking at the criminal justice system where we have a criminal justice system that too often manifests divisions along race and crosslines. eric holder is someone who has not been afraid to take those on and to try to change that. i believe that will be part of his long-term legacy. >> ifill: hans von spakovsky, what is your idea of his legacy? >> well, frankly i welcome the resignation today, and so would anyone else who believes in the rule of law. he has politicized the department to an extent never seen before. in fact, one of the career lawyers that we interviewed for
the book, who was hired during the clinton administration, told us that he thought eric holder was the worst attorney general since mitchell under nixon, and that's quite a statement coming from a career lawyer. >> ifill: what does he base that on? >> he bases it on the fact that the decision-making on prosecutions, rather than being made on the objective and fair administration of justice, has often been made on ideology and politics. a great example of that is in the civil rights division, where according to an i.g. report issued last year, the race neutrality, which has always been the policy of the justice department when it comes to enforcing the voting rights act, was ended because eric holder did not believe in the race neutrality of enforcing the voting right. >> ifill: let me ask tony west to respond to that? >> well, as someone who was there in the justice department, that just doesn't seem to comport with the facts. the fact is that when you look at where the department has had to be very aggressive in
defending voting rights after the supreme court struck down part of that act, t voting rights act, eric holder has led. she's led in texas. he's led in north carolina with innovative legal arguments based on the voting rights act, section 2. we've also been very active in ohio and in wisconsin in participating in lawsuits there, as well. so i think it's almost comical to think that of any attorney general eric holder has not stood very strong to protect the voting rights of all americans. i think that is what the record shows. >> ifill: let's talk about another issue, which is the prosecution of clerk will read khalid sheik mohammed. there was much pushback when the president wanted to prosecute them in downtown new york in the shadow of where the towers once stood. he told me today when i talked to him at the phone, he said if he had not been forced to
reverse himself and send khalid sheik mohammed to a military court he would be on death row right now. >> democrats in congress did not agree with that. it was a bill they passed and agreed to that prevented him from doing that. i think that's another example of what he's done wrong. he has brought back the clinton-every era idea of treating terrorism as a criminal act. we saw how successful that was in 9/11, and i don't think that's been good
for national security. in the same vein, he's opened up more leak investigations of classified information than any prior attorney general combined. there's been a distinct pattern. whenever a low-level individual could be found to be prosecuted, they've done, that but when leaks have been directly traced to coming out of the white house, leaks clearly intended to make the president look like he was tough on terrorism, those leak investigations have not been pursued and have not been prosecuted. >> ifill: tony west? >> certainly when it comes to whether or in the our article 3
courts, our criminal justice system is well equipped to deal with terrorist cases, i think eric holder has been vindicated by history. we saw just this week the conviction and the sentencing to life of osama bin laden's son-in-law. that was in an article 3 court in manhattan no less. we've seen it with abu hanza earlier this year. i think it's quite clear that one of the great principles of our justice system is that our courts can handle cases like this. it is something that eric holder believed in back then when kfm was the issue of the day. >> ifill: there has been bad blood this congress, including members of his own party, as mr. von spakovsky points out. did that hurt his ability to get the job done? >> i don't think so ultimately. oftentimes when you think about these types of tenures, only in the fullness of time are you able to appreciate how effective
an attorney general or president has been. i think that will also be the case here. the fact is that controversy is often the laboratory of greatness. i think when you look at some of the controversial steps that other attorneys general have taken when attorney general kennedy integrated the university of alabama, that was controversial but it was also right. i think if there's anything you can say about this attorney general, he's never shrunk from doing what he believed was right. >> ifill: the attorney general identified two things where he thinks next incoming attorney general can work with republicans, and that's on reforming or reviving the voting rights act and also on sentencing reform. we have heard some cross-party agreement on those issues. do you see movement coming on those issues no matter who the attorney general is? >> well, there's no reason to revive the portion of the voting rights act that was thrown out by the court. that was an emergency provision that was originally only supposed to last five years. the rest of the voting rights act, section 2, is an effective tool against discrimination.
that's the tool that he's been using in lawsuits around the country, although he has been me until nally unsuccessful so far in many of those lawsuits because he doesn't have the evidence there to actually show that, for example, voter i.d. is discriminatory. >> ifill: so you don't see movement happening? >> i don't. on criminal justice reform, i actually agree with him. the heritage foundation actually believes that there are many instances of people being sentenced for crimes criminally that should not be, that should, for example, just have civil fines. some of the sentencing lengths are too long. and there is an area i think that both parties can work together on. >> ifill: tony west, mr. hans von spakovsky earlier compared this outgoing attorney general to an attorney who was, who departed under a cloud, mitchell. i noticed today one of the first calls he made notifying his
stepping down was to ethel kennedy is. that who he identifies with? >> he's certainly earned the comparison. when you look at the major issues, and if you just take the cause of lgbt rights in this country, eric holder was on the right side of history. he was on the right side of history in a way that not only allowed the department to comport with its traditional role, but in a way that allowed us to move forward in a way that has transformed this country ever since. so i think when we look back and again in the fullness of time we consider his tenure, we consider what he's done in criminal justice reform, we consider what he's done in voting right, we consider what he's done for civil rights, i think there's no question that eric holder will be one of the greatest attorneys general that the country has seen. >> ifill: will he outlast his critics, mr. von spakovsky? >> i don't think so. i think going down the road, the legacy that he is going to be considered to have is not going to be a good one and not one that's very complimentary to him.
>> ifill: final word. >> well, i think only time will tell, but one thing i like to remember is that when you think of the most controversial attorneys general we've had in history, the fullness of time shows that oftentimes they were on the right side of history, they were right there. are many reasons to believe that this attorney general will have that... will be able to be in that type of company. >> okay. we'll wait and see who the president nominates and when he nominates someone to succeed him. hans von spakovsky, the author of "obama's enforcer," and tony west, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> wooduff: next, how to contain the ebola outbreak ravaging west africa? that was the main question world leaders addressed at today's meeting of the united nations general assembly. >> there's still a significant
gap between where we are and where we need to be. >> wooduff: from president obama, a grave appraisal today, that the world has not done enough to stop ebola. >> if we move fast, even if imperfectly, then that could mean the difference between 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 deaths versus hundreds of thousands or even a million deaths. >> wooduff: the president last week unveiled a billion dollar plan to send u.s. medical and military support to west africa. today, at the u.n., he warned fellow heads of state that they have to commit as well. >> do not stand by thinking that somehow, because of what we've done, that it's taken care of. it's not. and if we don't take care of this now, we are going to see fallout effects and secondary effects from this that will have ramifications for a long time, above and beyond the lives that
will have been lost. >> wooduff: the warning came as the world health organization announced ebola has now killed more than 2,900 people out of more than 6,200 confirmed to be infected. the agency also said the spread of the virus now appears to be stabilizing in guinea, where the outbreak first began. from there, ebola has since spread to nearby sierra leone and liberia. senegal and nigeria have also reported cases, but it appears the disease has been contained there. in sierra leone today, the government sealed off three new districts where ebola outbreaks are flaring. that means one-third of the country's six million people are now under quarantine. the w.h.o. said today that liberia alone needs another 1,500 beds for ebola patients. and in omaha, nebraska, dr. rick sacra was released from a hospital after recovering from
ebola. he's the third american aid worker to contract the virus in africa. for a closer look at recent calls for increased urgency in addressing the ebola outbreak and at conditions on the ground in west africa. we turn to dr. joanne liu president of doctors without borders. an organization at the forefront of the effort to contain the epidemic. dr. liu, welcome. first of all, i have to say, the number that jumped out at me today this morning was that 18% of the patients in liberia infected with ebola, only 18% of them are in hospitals or places where they can be quarantined. if that's the case, how do you hope to get control of this? >> well, we do hope if this can happen, only through mobilization, that's the reason why on september 2nd in my
u.n. remarks, i have asked for people to jump in and come with assets in terms of big workforce , trained with chain of command who can work in a relations center. >> woodruff: we heard president obama, and we referred to this last week, he said the u.s. military he said is going to build 17 new treatment centers in the region, 1,700 new beds. he's going the train, he said, 500 health workers a week. does all this sound realistic to you? >> well, i must say that i have some reservations on those statements. i think that right now it's really difficult to find staff to be trained. the reality in the region, and these are very conservative figures, but there's 240 health care staff that have been infected. half of them died. we know it's much more than that. so where will we find those
personnel who will be willing to come? that's another question? >> where are those personnel coming from? where are you looking for them, the health care workers? >> well, the workforce right now is quite, i will say, dispersed. many of them have fleed from health care centers because they are completely collapsed. we know that most of the hospitals, for example, in marovia are not working except some small emergency facility for obstetrics. so right now the health personnel is not working. some have been infected. and we don't know how many of them have been affected by ebola so far. >> woodruff: so are you saying this pledge coming from the united states may not be something that can be fulfilled? >> i think it's going to be a real challenge to say the least. >> woodruff: so what needs to be done? if it's not military, the u.s. is sending military in to do
this work of building these centers, what is needed? >> well, what is needed, it's more than only building isolation centers. and then running away from it. it's to build isolation centers and then have a workforce, an outside workforce for the time being to come and staff those isolation centers. and this is why we asked for hands-on today in my remarks. if we don't staff these centers, they will not work. they will not be able to welcome patients. >> woodruff: so what kind of skills are you talking about? what are the skills that the people who would stay would need to have? >> well, basically you need to have the skills of i would say a health care worker that can work with highly contagious diseases. so we're not talking about anything fancy. there's a routine. this is why we talk about being disciplined and rigorous, but if you follow the rules, that's
fairly easy. so anyone who can follow rules and be a bit religious about it will manage. >> woodruff: so you're saying it doesn't take extensive training to learn how to do these jobs? >> it didn't require extensive training in terms of we're not talking about going to med school for five years. we're talking about a few days of getting, i would say, a training. and after that what we should invest on is sort of what we call a more intense training insight in an ebola center or simulation ebola center. >> the question i think on a lot of people's minds, dr. liu, is how do you persuade these workers to come and assure them they're going to be safe, that they're not going to get ebola themselves? >> well, it depends about which type of worker you are talking about. but locally national staff, when you talk to our staff in our
centers, they always say, please, keep ebola out of my country, and this is why. that's the key motivation to continue and work and be at the front line. so i think that we have to appreciate, you know, that motivation from them. regarding to international staff, the reality is we don't need a specialist in virallology. we need health care workers, nurses, doctors, but as well legislation, water sanitation staff where we'll be able to run an ebola center with safety. because the paramount i would say thing about running a center is protection of our staff. >> woodruff: but for those who come in contact with these patients, of course there is some risk? >> there is a minimal risk, but the thing is, if you are following the rules, you will decrease i would say dramatically the risk. but it's like anywhere where we
go as staff in the 67 countries, there is always a bit of a risk. >> woodruff: you mentioned the french name for the organization you head, doctors without border. dr. joanne liu, thank you. >> thank you very much. >> ifill: the police shooting of michael brown in ferguson, missouri last month cast a harsh spotlight on how a majority black city came to have so few black law enforcement officers. in fact, in many communities around the country, police, fire and paramedic services remain predominantly white, no matter what the communities they protect look like. in oakland, california, a new effort is underway to change those statistics, and give young men of color new career opportunities. sarah varney of kaiser health news collaborated with the newshour on this report.
>> 22-year-old dexter harris, who lives with his aunt near oakland, california, is getting ready for a 12-hour shift as an emergency medical technician or emt, an entry-level job in the paramedic field. harris works full time and supports himself and his family members. when he was younger, his life was headed in a very different direction. >> i thought i could run around in the streets and make a living like that. if you grew up, my home was rocky. you don't have someone telling you, you can be whatever you want to be, a doctor or a lawyer, so you start looking up to the wrong people. >> harris spent nine months in a juvenile detention center when he was 17, a common experience for many young men of color in alameda county, which includes oakland. here black and latino youth account for nearly 90% of those detained in juvenile hall. school drop-out and unemployment rates for that population are among the highest in the country, but while he was in
juvenile hall, harris' life took a dramatic turn when he was recruited for a new county program that not only trained him how to be an emt but profoundly altered what he thought he could do with his life. >> come on. >> one, two, three, four, five, six. >> the program is called ems corps. 25 students in the current class were practicing basic life support skills under the watchful eye of their instructor. >> the chest rise and falls. >> so go through. >> i'm an emt. i'm here to help you. >> it's an intensive five-month emt certification force for men between the ages 18 and 26 who have completed high school or earned a ged. >> i feel the heart. i move 180 degrees. >> the program seeks out students with disadvantaged backgrounds. most are african american or latino. the students commit to 40 hours of training a week. they get a lot of hands-on
practice, like learning how to operate ambulance equipment. >> what's the oxygen on the breather max? >> 90%. >> all right. and how many meters per minute would that be? >> 15. >> good. >> they also have to pass rigorous anatomy tests. >> what happens with oxygen and carbon dioxide? >> diffusion. >> what does that oxygen molecule diffuse into? >> pulmonary capillary. >> we worked with about 90 young men so far. out of the 90 young men, i want to say about 60 or so are certified emts and working in the field. >> michael gibson is the director of ems corps. he says his own experience spending time in and out of juvenile hall helps him understand the challenges these young men face. >> they can't get a job because of their juvenile record or they do not have enough work experience. then they're right back into the revolving door of incarceration. in our program, we wanted to be able to address those needs, to eliminate the excuses.
you need a way to get here. our offices are down the street from the station. here's a bart ticket. you're hungry, here's a $20 safeway gift card. there's a $10 subway gift card. now you can eat. >> gibson says those small donations make a big difference. but what really makes ems corps stand out from other youth vocational programs is students are paid to attend, up to $1,000 a month, and the education they receive goes way beyond cpr. >> all right. stand for the mantra. >> we have the courage to walk while others are running away. >> every week students attend group counseling and leadership training classes. nearly all have suffered some trauma in their lives, including drug addicted parents and gun violence. valerie street, the corps' executive life court, pushes the men not to be victims but instead to set goals. >> we are completing the road map the manhood. >> on the day we visited, five weeks into the five-month
program, street was giving a lesson about persistence. >> we don't want to be hit coming up the field. but, see, that's where the richness is. getting knocked down and coming back up. and knowing that you're making five yards, five yards, five yards. >> where is the dreaming? where is the power of what i can become. it does not exist in our communities and our schools or anywhere else. they now know who they are and what they can do. five weeks of coaching puts them in that spatter. that's powerful, powerful. it's the power of the mind. >> the men say no one expected much from them before. but now people in their own neighborhoods rely on them during an emergency. >> i'm happy. i'm on the path that i'm on because if it wasn't for this program, i would probably be stuck in a box with a stalemate. >> i know now that it doesn't matter where i've come from as
long as i'm the one to make the change in my family. >> since the corps began three years ago, 95% of those enrolled have graduated. it costs about $800,000 a year, paid for by local sales tax revenue and public health funds. the robert wood johnson foundation, which has also been a "newshour" funder, provides additional revenue. >> jumping jax. go! >> one, two, three... >> those who finish rigorous workouts and medical training have to take a national test to become licensed emts. the corps' success rate is high. three out of four pass the exam. while the majority find emt jobs, others enter fire fighting, nursing or community college. getting the menem employed soon after they graduate in the communities they come from is a big priority, says mike gibson. >> when you look at the stats on the ems workforce where it's over 70 plus percent here in alameda county, that's not...
that's a disproportionate number of young men of color being left out. >> he says since program graduates have started working locally as emts and other health professionals, that's starting to change. >> public agencies are now looking at the community in a different light because now once they see the young men from our program, they work to break down the stereotypes that some folks may have had toward young men of color, and as well as what young men of color have toward public agencies. >> one of the companies where several ems corps graduates have landed, including dexter harris, is paramedics plus, which provides ambulance services in alameda county. new emts can earn up to $49,000 a year plus prize benefits like health insurance. the county requires paramedics plus to seek out job candidates from impoverished neighborhoods, but hiring graduates from ems corps isn't a benevolent act. it improves customer service, says the chief operating officer
dale feldhauser. >> it puts the patient more at ease. it makes the experience significantly less traumatic on the patient, which i think has huge value. >> which hospital do you normally go to? >> summit. >> summit hospital? >> for his part, mr. harris says this program has changed him in fundamental ways. >> helping people, it changes you. you want to help people. >> harris is a volunteer emt teacher at oakland's juvenile hall and he's looking the take next step to become a paramedic. >> wooduff: a region of the pacific ocean three times the size of california will now be off limits to commercial activity. president obama signed an order today expanding protection for what scientists say is one of the most pristine remaining
ocean ecosystems. hari sreenivasan has more. >> sreenivasan: the pacific remote islands marine preserve is farther from human settlement than any other u.s. territory. the president's expansion of the reserve today will close 490 thousand square miles of largely undisturbed ocean to commercial fishing and underwater mining. the area is home to thriving colonies of rare and endangered ocean life including a recently discovered species of whale. joining me now to talk about the significance of today's announcement is elliott norse. he is founder and chief scientist of the marine conservation institute. thanks for joining us. first off, what is in these waters? >> these waters are filled with marine life. they have extraordinary coral reefs, extraordinary because they are among the most pristine coral reefs on earth. they still have their big sharks. waters further from shore have
large predators, including tunas of several species. they abound with sea birds, sea turtles. there's a species of whale there that was discovered within the waters of that monument just relatively a few years ago. it's full of life. >> sreenivasan: the area was deemed a monument by president george w. bush. why the need to expand it? >> well, president bush did something really visionary in 2009 by designating it as pacific remote islands marine national monument, but i don't think all of the scientific information was taken into account at that point. we know now that the sea birds that feed their chicks in their nests on the islands forage out to a distance in some cases of several hundred miles, and they need to find concentrations of
food so they can go back and feed their babies. >> sreenivasan: so didn't president obama want more of the area initially in their first proposals to be preserved? there were i think a couple areas that could have been expanded further today but were not? >> well, i don't know what president obama wanted. he certainly said that he was interested in expanding the boundaries of the whole marine national monument, but on the other hand, he got a lot of pushback from anti-environmental forces that said that they wanted these... they didn't want protection of this area. they wanted it open to commercial fishing for tunas. >> so about the concerns that the commercial fishermen or fisherwoman, people who fish had, they said that there's already the endangered species act. there's the marine mammals act. what does this kind of a
preservation actually do to help these fish? >> what it means is that these fish won't be killed within the boundaries of pacific remote islands marine national monument. and that's not only important for the fishes, like tunas, but it's also important for the sea birds, because these birds depend on things like tunas to drive the little fish they eat up to the surface where the sea birds can get them, catch them and brick them home to their babies. >> sreenivasan: so does this also... this also prohibtds drilling and commercial mining. are those sorts of activities happening in this area now? >> no, they're not. and i don't know if oil or gas drilling will ever be an issue in these places, but deep-sea mining is a real threat to marine life and might have happened there but for president
bush's and now even more president obama's visionary actions. >> sreenivasan: you mentioned commercial fishing. i just wanted to come back to that for a second because people who catch fish go where the fish are. how do you prevent them from going into these waters? how do you enforce this? we asked the president recently about the knee knicks -- phoenix islands the same question. how do we enforce this? >> that's an important question. i think the united states has means at its disposal the make sure that fishing is not going to be happening, and if the united states decides to prevent fishing, we will watch as a people and make sure that there's no commercial fishing going on there. >> sreenivasan: what sort of a signal does this send to the rest of the world? >> i love the signal it sends
because the united states now has protected more of its waters than just about any other nation. and there are other great nations, canada, france, russia, china, that have not done nearly as much. this sends a signal to nations large and small that our oceans are important, that we need to protect marine life and we need to act now for future generations as well as our own. >> sreenivasan: it seems like there's also a political element to this. the president accomplishing this through an executive order. on the one hand, it seems it's very difficult to get anything through washington these days. this is sort of an act of bipartisanship and he's expanding president bush's initiative. >> this is true. congress obviously is broken in many ways. it hasn't been working.
so presidents since teddy roosevelt in 1906 have had the opportunity to protect places that congress didn't lead on. i am proud to have helped president george w. bush do this in 2009, along with the organization that i then headed, and new i'm part of, and i am proud that president obama has dramatically expanded protections in this area. if congress doesn't do its job, thank goodness our presidents can. >> sreenivasan: elliott norse, thanks so much. >> pleasure to talk with you. >> ifill: finally tonight, how has big money come to dominate politics? and who is writing the checks? it can be hard to tell, for instance, the new york times discovered a glitch in the website run by the tax-exempt
wing of the republican governors association that revealed the names of prominent corporate donors. large political contributions are perfectly legal, and both parties solicit them. but corporate donors's identities are usually kept secret. in this book conversation, jeffrey brown looks at a group of very rich donors who's names are already well-known. >> brown: the numbers keep growing and the dollars keep flowing. this mid-term election has already seen more spending by outside spending groups than any in history, some $230 million and counting, more, in fact, than any election other than the last one for the presidency in 2012. under campaign finance laws, much of this funding is not required to be disclosed, but a lot of it comes from a relatively small number of the very wealthiest americans. darrell west, director of government studies at the brookings institution, writes of their influence on politics in his new book, "billionaires: reflections on the upper crust." welcome to you. >> thank you.
>> brown: the argument first is that billionaires and their money are big players in politics, right? how big and how much influence? >> very big. the koch brothers are estimated to be spending $125 million just on this election year, much of it focused on those key senate races, but then liberal and moderate billionaires are also amping up their resources. michael bloomberg has put $50 million into fighting the n.r.a. and gun violence. tom stire is spending $50 million of his own money. 2013 is shaping up as the battle of the billionaires. >> brown: you document that today we're seeing these people pioneer new activist models. what exactly does that mean? how are they using their money in new ways? >> well, the old model was buying ads and trying the influence the election. we're certainly seeing a lot of, that especially in those close senate races. we're also seeing a lot of issue advocacy, not just at the national level, but billionaires are contending state ref remember this all across the country.
they're norming non-profit organizations and having them try and influence the process and much of that influence takes place in secret. and then a number of them have foundations for a very politically active. so we're seeing a much greater increase in types of tactics that are being used this year. >> one pushback would be, yeah, there's a lot of money. but we see an eric cantor loose, right, in a primary to a fellow who nobody ever heard of and didn't have much money. money doesn't buy every race in that kind of sense. >> that's absolutely true. and billionaires have a mix of successes and failures in terms of their political activities. you know, bloomberg, mark zuckerberg and rupert murdoch have been trying to push immigration reform. they've gotten nowhere on this. bloomberg is trying to get congress to adapt some measures in terms of fighting gun violence. that has not been successful. but we're seeing billionaires really spend a lot of money to try to influence public
discourse, in many cases they're setting the terms of the debate. and certainly at the state level where you often have one-sided types of campaigns, they have been very successful in a number of areas. >> brown: another question i have looking at this, have we arguably been worst in the past? just this summer i was reading a become about the american west in the early 20th century where the timber industry, you know, had so much control over what was happening. the wealthy oil magnets of the time, power in politics through their money. >> well, this is certainly not the first time wealthy interests have been influential when you think about the carnegie, the rockefellers, the other barrons of 100 years ago. they were very influential and in some cases dictated public policy. after watergate we made a serious effort to clean up the political process. there were caps on spending. people had to disclose the sources of their contributions, but over the last 3 years, there have been gaping loopholes in these rules.
so now we've essentially returned to the pre-watergate era of big money and great secrecy. and this is also taking place at a time when with news media are much weaker. so the oversight organizations are having a difficult time keeping track of all the money. >> you write there are of course the ideological splits that you were just referring to earlier. but you also find interestingly a lot of places where it looks as though the super wealthy as a group are sort of coherent, cohere and have different views than the majority of many americans. >> we certainly have liberal billionaires, conservative billionaires and even libertarian one, but the one issue that united a lot of these people was the opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy. obama in 2012 actually had a rough time getting liberal billionaires to support him in part because some of these people did not like his rhetoric on raising taxes on the wealthy. so there are sometimes class interests that trump ideology.
>> brown: the classic idea of the american dream is that americans believe that we can all become billionaires, and therefore do not envy the very rich. do you see enough movement, public attitude in what's going on that there might... that that might change, that there might in fact be an anger and a desire to do something? >> there certainly is a lot of anger among the general public, but the public can't decide whether they should be angry at big government or big money and corporations and the billionaires who are behind them. so that division diffuses the public anger. it's kind of divide and conquer some we often end up with public policies that don't promote opportunity in terms of education, particularly sensitive to this because i grew up in a small town in ohio, was raised on a dairy farm. but through education i had a lot of opportunities. i want to make sure the next generation has the same type of opportunity that i had. >> so what do you want to see happen with campaign spending laws? what do you think needs to be
done? >> well, the biggest thing is we really need to improve the transparency of the process. i don't really have that big of a problem with all the money that's coming to the political process. it's the secrecy that is most toxic. so we need to improve campaign disclosure. in the digital era, we should ask daily disclosure of campaign contributions instead of the quarterly numbers that we see today. there are technology solutions that can improve the level of information that's available to the average voter. >> all right. we'll continue this discussion online. for now, the book is billionaires, reflections on the upper crust. darrell west, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> wooduff: again, the major developments of the day. the nation's first black attorney general, eric holder, resigned after six years of leading the justice department. president obama said holder will stay on until a successor is confirmed.
earlier, at the united nations, the president appealed to world leaders for a far greater commitment against the ebola outbreak in west africa. air strikes in syria struck at oil installations controlled by islamic state forces. pentagon officials said the air campaign still has much more to do. and the detroit city council voted to transfer daily operations back to elected officials once a federal bankruptcy court approves the city's restructuring plan. >> ifill: on the newshour online right now, can an electronic device mimic the job of a dog trained to sniff out cancer? we have a report on a new technology designed to help diagnose disease. read about that on our science page. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. >> wooduff: on saturday, most pbs stations will mark american graduate day with a special broadcast, featuring interviews with education secretary arne duncan, and celebrities like tony bennett, and actress allison williams, along with many others making a difference
in the lives of young people. one of them is 21-year-old samir madden, a student at the university of arizona and president of i-can. it's aup that promotes education and support for children with traumatic or congenital amputations. >> everyone in middle school is trying to fit in. they're trying to be normal. people see me as being different automatically because i'm missing my arms and i'm missing my leg, but i have been able to show others that we can accept each other. and it's trying to tell these individuals, these kids, it's like, no, you're different, but that's okay, and it's great that you're different, because you are contributing. >> i was picked on because people saw my limb differences. for emmanuel and others like him, they see, i'm not the only one. you're missing this arm or you're missing that leg, but you're able to do this much.
that gives them the confidence to say, okay, i can do anything i want. we have to accept each other. when we do, then the person who is being picked on because they're different is able to focus on the academics. they're able to focus on getting to know other people. when they realize they have everything that they need, then their school gets better, and they start to make friendships. you have to be able to see beyond the physical stuff. kids in high school can definitely graduate. they can go the college. they can get a degree in whatever they want. and that's the most important thing. >> woodruff: so inspiring. tune in for "the american graduate" this saturday on most pbs stations. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you on-line and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks. for all of us here at the pbs newshour, thank you and good night.
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