tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS November 15, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday november 15: vladimir putin is accused of aggression at a contentious meeting of world leaders in australia. we'll examine whether there is a new cold war. in our signature segment, from iowa: superweeds, herbicide- resistant plants that could threaten american agriculture. >> this plant, when it's mature, can get five to six feet tall. where it gets real heavy, you can have 50% losses. >> sreenivasan: and from milwaukee, honoring a holocaust victim by making the dresses she never got to create. next on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by:
corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support is provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios in lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: good evening. thanks for joining us. at a summit meeting in australia of the leaders of the world's 20 largest economies, president obama today described what he said is america's one-of-a-kind role in the world and condemned russia's incursions into ukraine. >> as the world's only superpower, the united states has unique responsibilities that we gladly embrace. we're leading the international
community in the fight to destroy the terrorist group isil. we're leading in dealing with ebola in west africa and in opposing russia's aggression against ukraine. >> sreenivasan: british prime minister david cameron and russian president vladimir putin are both at the summit, and later, after a private meeting, cameron said he had warned putin of additional sanctions. russia sent new troops into ukraine earlier this week. in an interview with german television, putin warned that sanctions could backfire by limiting russia's ability to do business with the west. and he added this: >> ( translated ): of course we expect the situation to change for the better. of course we expect the ukrainian crisis to end. and of course we want to have normal relations with our partners, including in the united states and europe. >> sreenivasan: during a surprise visit to baghdad today, the chairman of the joint chiefs, general martin dempsey, said the u.s. military had helped iraqi and kurdish forces" pull iraq back from the precipice." and he said the tide is starting to turn against isis fighters there. yesterday, iraqi government troops reportedly drove the
extremists out of the town north of baghdad where the nation's largest oil refinery is located. pope francis has weighed in against the so called right to die movement. speaking today to the association of italian catholic doctors, the pope said the movement offers what he called " false sense of compassion." two weeks ago, a top vatican official condemned the assisted suicide of brittany maynard, the 29-year-old suffering with brain cancer. she took a fatal dose of prescription drugs in an effort, she said, to die with dignity. according to new data, last month tied for the warmest october in the 134 years that records have been kept. it was the third consecutive month of record-setting temperatures. unless temperatures around the world are sharply below average this month and next, experts say this year will go down as the warmest on record. the spacecraft that made a historic landing on a comet earlier this week has lost power and, today, it stopped sending back information back to earth. scientists hope its solar- powered batteries will recharge, but the spacecraft touched down in an area that apparently receives little sunlight.
before it shut down, scientists conducted a series of experiments, and the spaceship relayed the information back to earth for analysis. comets are believed to contain the remnants of materials from when the solar system was formed billions of years ago. during a meeting with central american leaders, vice president joe biden announced a plan starting next month that will allow children in guatemala, honduras and el salvador to apply for refugee status if their parents are living legally in this country. biden announced the plan yesterday in response to last summer's mass migration to the u.s. by tens of thousands of central american children. >> we all have an obligation to help the most vulnerable and to keep families together. >> sreenivasan: and today is the first day to go to www.healthcare.gov to enroll for next year's health insurance under the affordable care act, also known as obamacare. the website relaunched this morning without incident. the enrollment period runs until february 15.
>> sreenivasan: last weekend, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall, former soviet leader mikhail gorbachev warned that a new cold war could soon be under way, if it isn't already. and in just the few days since, russia reportedly sent more troops into ukraine and then sent four warships to the waters off australia, where vladimir putin and other world leaders are meeting. what does putin have in mind? for more, we are joined now by kimberly marten. she is a russian scholar and a professor at barnard college and columbia university. so you know what's interesting is those two were just the most recent in a long list of aggressive moves that russia has been take. just a few weeks ago sweden was looking for a submarine off their coast. they confirmed there was a foreign sub. the suspicion is certainly on the russians. we have had greatest flights near the u.s. simulating bombing runs that could work for new york, chicago. what's he doing? >> i think part of what's going on is putin is trying to take attention off of the problems that the russian economy is facing.
the singleses are working much better than than many people predicted they would, and they're having real impact on the russian oil industry, which is one of the major contributors to the russian budget. and the united states and the europeans are holding together on those sanctions, much better than people thought they were going to. and now, even proposing more sanctions. sp so i think that what putin needs to do is create an enemy in order to justify what's happening to the economy, to get people to be motivated by a patriotic fervor in supporting him, and so what that means is that he's trying to provoke the west, trying to provoke the united states into take something kind of action that justifies what he's doing. >> sreenivasan: is it working? >> not so far, thank goodness. when we hear about these new bomber patrols that are happening, putin is now threat thing that they're going to go into the gulf of mexico. i thought it was really interesting that we've had retired air force officers who have worked on this in the cold war period saying, "oh, it's nothing. we shouldn't be worrying about this." and i think that's the right
response. i think the most important thing is that the united states does stay calm and say, "look, russia is not really a military threat at this point. let's keep things in perspective." >> sreenivasan: it seems like he's also trying to shore up his base. there were these photos that the russian news agency just released of allegedly a ukrainian fighter jet shooting down the malaysian airlines, and in the public opinion polls in russia, there's only a very small fraction of people that actually believe that the rebels could have done it. >> yes. and the photographs were very badly photoshopped. so people have gone back and found earlier images that match the images that were released of supposedly having happened in this event. >> sreenivasan: you know, when you said russian oil companies, that also made me think the price of oil seems to go going down if & down. it's down to around 75 bucks. that has to have an impact on russia's overall economy and what they're able to sell to the rest of the world. >> it does. the new estimate that came out from the united states energy
agency, a couple of days another throughout 2015, oil prices are going to hover around $80 a barrel. and the russians had been planning it would be more like $90 a bar expel that's what their state budget was based on for 2015. they're going to be in some difficulty managing to get the base that they need in order to have their expenses covered. especially because now that they are responsible for this area in crimea and you now that they're responsible for the eastern parts of ukraine, these are impoverished territories, the ones in eastern ukraine have faced a lot of destruction. the people are unemployed, and somehow russia is going to have to provide for them. >> sreenivasan: just like when we see lower gas prices back into consumer pocket pooks here, do you think there will be enough frustration on the parts of russians when they see these economic positions, maybe something that affects them. they'll say stop with all the saber rattling. focus on our country. >> it might happen put there's a lot history in russia of the general population being
passive, accepting what the government does, of believing that the government must have superior knowledge to what they have. it will be very interesting to see what happens as the winter goes by. i think this might be a year of concern for russia but i think it's too early to predict that's of that something is going to go wrong yet. >> sreenivasan: all right, kimberly marten, thanks so much for your time. >> thank you uhari. >> sreenivasan: and now to our signature segment, our original in-depth reports from around the nation and around the world. tonight, we take a look at a growing problem in many of our states that produce the food we eat. we're talking about weeds that are resistant to common herbicides, and that experts say threaten the ability of farmers to grow crops. recently, the e.p.a. approved new chemicals that could help those farmers, but some environmentalists say those chemicals will pose risks. the newshour's megan thompson reports. >> reporter: autumn means it's harvest time in iowa, the heart of america's heartland.
farmer jeff jorgensen is busy harvesting soybeans. he also grows corn on about 2,000 acres in the southwest corner of the state. farming is big business in iowa. the state is the biggest producer of corn in the country, and it's second only to illinois in the production of soybeans. for jorgensen, whose family's been farming for four generations, it's all about keeping his yields as high as he can. >> this is the yield monitor here. >> reporter: and one of the biggest battles he fights is against weeds. >> a weed in the field's going to take moisture, going to take sunlight, nutrients away from the plants surrounding it. and that's why we have to keep clean fields. >> reporter: but jorgensen says keeping "clean" fields has been getting harder and harder. like many farmers, he relied for years mainly on an herbicide called roundup that's manufactured by monsanto. roundup use exploded in the mid '90s with the introduction of new, genetically modified crops that dominate the market today. the crops were engineered to
withstand roundup, so farmers could just spray an entire field and the herbicide would kill the weeds but not the crops. >> any weed you had in the field, roundup took care of. roundup revolutionized weed management for farmers. >> reporter: jorgensen says it all worked great, for a while. he no longer had to spend lots of time plowing to kill weeds. but over time, roundup and its generic versions-- all of which contain a chemical called glyphosate-- stopped working so well. >> simple use of one herbicide recurrently in the system is going to inevitably result in weeds that evolve resistance to that herbicide. >> reporter: agronomy professor mike owen is a nationally- recognized weed expert at iowa state university in ames. >> it is a widespread and... and a significant from an economic perspective problem across the midwest and, dare i say, across agriculture in general. >> reporter: owen says it's no mystery why this has happened; it can all be explained by evolution.
in iowa, one of the weeds that's evolved to be resistant is called "waterhemp." >> this is giant waterhemp, a weed that we have down in southwest iowa that's become more tolerant. this plant, when it's mature, can get five to six feet tall. where it gets real heavy, you can have yields cut in half, 50% losses. >> in iowa, we would estimate as that about 75% of the fields have infestations of common waterhemp that are resistant to one or more herbicides. >> reporter: the weeds are not just a problem in iowa. in one survey, almost 50% of farmers across the u.s. reported herbicide-resistant weeds in their fields. the problem is worst in the south, where some cotton fields can't be farmed. but the threat is creeping north into the corn and soybean belts. keep in mind, crop yields in the u.s. are booming, but mike owen
says it's possible the yields could be even higher were it not for the weeds. owen says it's difficult to quantify the damage, but if the weeds start having a significant impact, it could be too late. >> we have, if you will, hidden yield losses and thus hidden profit losses on millions and millions of acres in the midwest. it hasn't gotten to the point of the train wreck. >> reporter: what could happen or what's at stake if this doesn't get under control? >> well, the train wreck, and... and that is the inability to produce crops. >> reporter: over the last four years, the issue has started to get more and more attention. congress held hearings, and the u.s.d.a. recently announced new measures it's taking to combat the problem, a problem also acknowledged by monsanto. and now, another major manufacturer has stepped in. >> growers across the country face an increasing problem of resistant and hard-to-control weeds. >> reporter: biotech giant dow agrosciences recently won federal approval for new,
genetically modified corn and soybeans, and a new herbicide to go with them, called enlist duo. dow is promoting it as an answer to the herbicide-resistant weed problem. >> these weeds are out of control. >> reporter: but there's another piece to all of this, and that is whether the herbicides used to control weeds pose a health risk for farmers and the rest of us. the center for food safety, a national environmental advocacy group, recently sued the e.p.a., alleging the agency didn't fully analyze the new herbicide's potential effects on human health and the environment. the group cites studies that suggest a correlation between pesticides and diseases like non-hodgkin lymphoma and parkinson's. attorney andrew kimberly heads the center for food safety. >> they're bad for us, right, because it's going to mean much more of these toxic herbicides in our food, in our groundwater, in the air. >> reporter: but in approving the product, the e.p.a. published this document, saying
its scientists determined:" when used according to label directions, enlist duo is safe for everyone, including infants, the developing fetus, the elderly and more highly exposed groups such as agricultural workers." >> reporter: in a statement to the newshour, dow quoted the e.p.a. analysis and added its new system helps farmers "as they struggle to control weeds that impact the food supply while respecting the wellbeing of both people and the environment." the e.p.a. approved the new product for use in only six states so far, and it imposed restrictions-- 30-foot buffer zones, no aerial spraying and no applications in windy conditions. the new product is a mix of the main ingredient in roundup-- glyphosate-- and a chemical called 2,4-d, used for decades and found in common lawn care products. pretty much anybody can walk into a hardware store and buy a product for use on their lawn that contains this stuff, so, if it's so dangerous, why is it so widely available? >> this isn't just about 2,4-d.
enlist duo, the product that's been approved, is also glyphosate. what do they mean together? we know some of the health impacts separately, but what happens when they're... when they come together and... and combine? what does that actually mean for health effects? what does it mean for toxic effects on farmers and applicators? >> we have the model system with the e.p.a. reviewing the safety of these herbicides, and my sense is that the evidence says that the herbicides when used appropriately are safe. >> reporter: but even if they are safe, there are serious concerns that weeds could become resistant to the new herbicide just as they did to roundup. it's something the e.p.a. is requiring dow to monitor. >> the problem will inevitably get worse unless changes are made. >> reporter: changes like relying less on chemicals, and also going back to some of the old ways like growing crops in the off season to suppress weeds and removing weeds mechanically.
>> growers thus far have been wanting a new, simple solution. and unfortunately, the industry has not been able to come up with, if you will, another silver bullet. >> reporter: farmer jeff jorgensen says he thinks the new dow products expected to come to market this spring will help farmers, especially in the south. to battle his weeds, he's been mixing other herbicides with roundup, something monsanto recommends. but he says he knows his system will inevitably have to evolve, just like the weeds. are you afraid that your system might stop working? >> oh, there's no question it will change. there will be a time where it will not have the effect that it does now. after seeing what's happened with roundup, you always have the worry that whatever chemical program you're using, what will happen if it loses its effectiveness. that is always on farmers' minds because we need to be able to control the problems that we have in fields.
>> sreenivasan: what questions do you have about herbicide- resistant weeds? ask producer megan thompson in a q&a on facebook. visit facebook.com/newshour for details. >> sreenivasan: it's been nearly 70 years now since the end of world war ii. even so, stories continue to come to light about some of the victims of the holocaust. recently, newshour special correspondent martin fletcher learned what's being done to honor the life and works of one woman, one of the six million victims. his piece is a collaboration with milwaukee public television. >> reporter: when the nazis occupied czechoslovakia in 1939, tens of thousands of jews applied for visas to anywhere, and among them paul strnad and his wife hedwig, nicknamed hedy. their best hope to save their lives was help from their cousin alvin, thousands of miles away in milwaukee, wisconsin. so, on december 11, 1939, paul wrote him this letter. >> you may imagine that we have a great interest of leaving europe as soon as possible.
>> reporter: and paul hoped he had an ace up his sleeve-- these drawings, eight beautiful dresses and all accessories, down to hat pins and shoes, purses and gloves. modern. elegant. his wife hedy was a seamstress, a dress designer. could alvin find a firm in milwaukee who'd hire hedy and sign an affidavit to grant the couple visas to the u.s.? in his letter, paul wrote: >> i hope the dress manufacturers you mentioned in your letter will like them. >> reporter: karen strnad is alvin's granddaughter. >> it was a letter that was pleading for, you know, a savior, for, you know, survival, and using the dresses as a tool to be able to get out of there. >> reporter: alvin strnad tried to find hedy a job and visas for them both, but too late. paul was declared dead january 31, 1943, murdered in either the treblinka concentration camp or the warsaw ghetto. hedy's fate is unclear, but her
dresses live on. almost 60 years later, karen's parents found the letter in the basement, complete with a nazi censor's swastika stamp and the colorful drawings. >> the dresses represent prejudice and persecution and what was lost in the holocaust because of it. the dresses represent love. >> reporter: the strnads gave the letter and dress designs to what is today the jewish museum of milwaukee, just another painful link to the past. until one day a visitor had an idea-- why not make the dresses? >> we had a wonderful opportunity to fulfill a victim's dream. >> reporter: so, when kathy bernstein, the museum's director, met the costume director of the milwaukee repertory theater, she didn't hesitate. >> and i said, "we want to create an exhibit.
we want to show... have a tangible example of what has been lost in the holocaust, and is this something the rep can do?" well, she said, "absolutely." >> reporter: and the rest, as they say, is history. the milwaukee rep began a labor of love. >> they became filled with hedwig's story, and it became personal for them. >> reporter: then, hard work paid off; a researcher found a letter from hedy, and bit by bit hedy strnad took shape. >> we found out she had red hair, and that she smoked cigarettes, and that she had a sense of humor. >> reporter: today, the dresses with their accessories, hedy's last hope for survival, are the stars of an exhibit in the milwaukee jewish museum called "stitching history from the holocaust," running through february 2015. >> it's happy, but it's haunting, too. it's a haunting thing. >> reporter: and inspiring, too.
for karen strnad, family history come to life in the most personal way. >> when i put the dress on, it fit me perfectly. the whole thing is surreal. the torch has been passed. it was passed from hedy's dress designs that she created in bohemia to her husband to my great grandfather, who started this process in terms of starting the immigration application process in the united states." >> reporter: among those admiring the dresses: family members who never knew their murdered relatives, didn't know their story, and now do. >> what we see here is history is ongoing. this is never going to die. and we have to keep telling the story so that history does not repeat itself. >> sreenivasan: visit www.newshour.pbs.org, where you can find a link to a documentary produced on the same subject by milwaukee public television.
>> this is pbs newshour weekend, saturday. >> sreenivasan: and now to" viewers like you," some of your feedback about our recent work. we heard from many of you about our report last sunday about compensation-- or the lack of it-- for people like drew whitley, who served time for a crime he did not commit. it turns out that while 30 states do offer the wrongly convicted some form of compensation, another 20 states don't, including pennsylvania, where whitley spent 18 years in prison before being exonerated of the crime. >> did people assume as soon as you were exonerated that you would be paid money? >> oh, yes. i did, too. >> sreenivasan: almost everyone who wrote us on facebook expressed outrage. phyland-juan becerra wrote: "it is ludicrous that in so many states, mine included, they are let out and left to their own devices with absolutely nothing. shame, shame, shame." carole papy added this:
"we can never give them back the lost, best years of their lives, but money is better than nothing at all. a sliding scale for time served and harshness of the experience would be a start, and those 20 states that offer nothing need an overhaul and a conscience." several people said authorities should be held accountable for their mistakes. from judith harlan: "not possible to give back what was stolen, which is why judges and prosecutors need to be brought to justice as they know and accept daily wrongs." and james lee lucier went further: "if he was intentionally wronged, those who wronged him should spend time in prison, and he should be awarded their assets. the authorities should make a clear and loud public apology." but several of you questioned whether there was any real way to make amends. joshelle grest wrote: "there's no way to repay time! there's just not!" and joshua iano summed it up this way: "we owe them a new life." as always, let us know what you think of our stories on twitter, facebook or at newshour.pbs.org.
>> sreenivasan: some more news before we leave you tonight. another doctor who contract the ebola in west africa will be treated in the united states. dr. martib salia, a surgeon from sool, who is a permanent u.s. resident, arrived in nebraska this afternoon. he is said to be critically ill. a lebanese canadian sociology professor has been charged with a 1980 bombing outside a paris synagogue. four people were killed. authorities link him to the popular front for the liberation of palestine. he denies the charges. join us tomorrow on air and online. we will report on the controversy of a massachusetts town with a plan to ban sale of all tobacco products. i'm hari sreenivasan, have a good night.
captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support is provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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