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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 30, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> ifill: good evening. i'm gwen ifill. judy woodruff is away. on the newshour tonight, deadly flooding from the mississipi river forces evacuations in missouri and illinois. also ahead, after decades' worth of sexual assault accusations, bill cosby faces criminal charges for the first time. did the u.s. government spy on israeli government officials as they lobbied congress on the iran nuclear deal? plus, michael pollan comes to the defense of food: the best- selling author proposes an alternative way to eat. >> we need to kind of take back control offour diet from industry which is really trying to get us at every stage to eat and drink more than we even really want to.
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>> ifill: all that, and more, on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> what if this year, we went around the table and instead of saying what we were thankful for, we say who we're thankful for. lincoln financial helps provide financial security for those who are always there for you, because this is what you do for people who love. lincoln financial-- you're in charge. ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> 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 water keeps rising along the mississippi river and its tributaries, and with it, the toll in death and damage.
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several small towns have been overwhelmed across parts of missouri and illinois, and at least 20 people have been killed in the region. with the disaster still building, one local official said today: "nobody that is living has ever seen anything like this." it's already bad in places like valley park, missouri, outside st. louis. dozens of homes and businesses are under water, and the meramec river isn't due to crest until tomorrow at a record 43 feet. the floodwaters have also closed a stretch of interstate 44, and hundreds of other roads and highways in the region are now submerged. today, missouri governor jay nixon visited the nearby town of pacific, where the flood tide is also expected to set a record. >> winning fights upstream means water moves downstream and so we are putting a significant concentration in those areas. we fully expect to see a continuing rise in those areas
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in the next six to eight hours and all the way into tonight. >> ifill: farther south, in high ridge, this water treatment plant has been inundated, and is spewing raw sewage into nearby streams and rivers. it could get even worse if levees give way. the army corps of engineers is watching 19 of the earthen barriers along the swollen mississippi river and its tributaries. meanwhile, sandbagging operations are in full force in st. louis, as volunteers race against time, where forecasters predict the mississippi river will crest there tomorrow evening at nearly record levels. >> we want to be very cautious and sandbag the low areas in case it would come over. other areas, as you come up, we've already repaired, are in better shape with the pumping stations and everything else. >> ifill: the rising mississippi has already spilled over its banks near the city's iconic gateway arch.
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>> all our friends and family are losing everything. >> ifill: across the region in places like uniontown, south of st. louis, people insist they'll piece their lives back together, once the water recedes. >> it's a very close, if you say, family around here. so once it gets down, everybody will come out, friends, family, everything. we will help everybody get it cleaned up, and see if we can rebuild and get their lives going back again. >> ifill: flooding is also a threat on the other side of the mississippi: in illinois. crews in alton worked through the night to shore up sandbag walls, hoping to hold back the deluge. the flooding now rivals the great flood disaster of 1993 along the mississippi. in the day's other news, after four years of extreme drought, california may be getting at least a little relief. state officials reported today that snowfall has deepened the sierra nevada snow-pack to 136% of normal levels. that's three times what it was
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at this time, a year ago. come spring, the melting snow could provide nearly a third of the state's water supply. chicago mayor rahm emanuel announced a "major overhaul" of police training today, amid a storm of criticism over fatal shootings. he said the city will put tasers in every squad car and focus on getting officers to take a less confrontational approach. still, he acknowledged at an afternoon briefing, it is going to take much more to improve relations between police and the public. >> we have a long history in this city, that trust has been frayed to the point that it's broken. part of what we're doing here, and i believe we'll be better off at the end of the process, is building a police department that has the trust of the community; that is essential for the safety those residents rely on. >> ifill: the mayor returned early from a vacation in cuba, after police killed two black residents over the weekend-- one of them accidentally. that added to the protests over a white officer who's now
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charged with murder for killing a black teenager last year. there's word of another terror plot foiled-- this time in turkey. police in ankara say they've arrested two islamic state suspects, accused of planning to attack new year's celebrations. they were taken during a raid today, and police also recovered explosive devices and suicide vests. the suspects allegedly planned to target crowded bars and shops on new year's eve. just yesterday, police in brussels, belgium said they broke up a similar plot. today, the city canceled its new year's eve festivities. on the tech front, consumer demands for streaming video have fueled a surge in internet connection speeds in the united states. the federal communications commission reports they nearly tripled between 2011 and 2014. but, the u.s. still lags behind a number of other countries. among the states, new jersey has the fastest average download time; idaho is slowest.
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and wall street slowed down today. the broader market followed energy stocks lower after oil prices tumbled again. in the end, the dow jones industrial average lost 117 points to close back near 17,600. the nasdaq fell 42 points, and the s&p 500 was down 15. still to come on the newshour: bill cosby charged with sexual assault; has the n.s.a. been spying on israel? how congress managed to get more done in 2015, and much more. >> ifill: after dozens of allegations that stretch back decades, comedian bill cobsy was charged today, for the first time, with sexual assault. william brangham has the story. >> brangham: the legendary entertainer exited a black
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s.u.v. outside a courthouse in montgomery county, pennsylvania. cosby was accused of drugging and fondling andrea costand back in 2004. prosecutors did not seek charges at the time, citing lack of evidence. but since then, scores of women have accused cosby of similar misconduct, though he has steadfastly denied all the allegations. at a press conference earlier today, prosecutor kevin steele said today's charges were based on new evidence. >> on the evening in question, mr. cosby urged her to take pills that he provided to her, and to drink wine. the effect of which rendered her unable to move or to respond to his advances, and he committed aggravated indecent assault upon her. >> brangham: for more on the case and the cosby story, we are joined by maryclaire dale of the associated press. she's been covering cosby's
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legal battles in pennsylvania. maryclaire dale, you were in that tiny courtroom in pennsylvania today. what was it like? what did you see? >> yes, i was. it was a very brief hearing. it was an arraignment where the district justice, basically a magistrate, told cosby what the charges were. he did not have an opportunity to enter a plea. in pennsylvania that's typically done later. cosby seemed to be fairly relaxed given the situation. he was smiling occasionally with his lawyer. he did seem unsteady walking. he had serious vision problems and needed help signing the court and bail papers and such. they had arranged -- the bill was set at a million dollars and he posted that and is free tonight. but it was a brief hearing. quite a lot of media there, of course. although the charges were not announced until this morning at 10:00 a.m. >> brangham: help us understand how we got here. there have been so many allegations against mr. cosby over the years. this current complainant
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ms. costand previously made a complaint back in 2004 against cosby but the prosecutor said there wasn't enough evidence to bring a case. so how did we get to today? >> right. she was one of the first if not the first accuser to go to the police and ended up with a decision by the then montgomery county prosecutor that he did not have enough evidence to move forward to trial. however, she then filed a civil lawsuit that was settled a year later in 2006, and the -- cosby had to give a deposition in that case. it was quite a lengthy deposition given over four days, in 2005 and 2006, and, of course, it was not known to the public what he said at the time, but after he gave his deposition, the case settled, and this year the associated press went to court and tried to unseal some of the sealed documents in the case and were successful in getting some filings that had parts of his
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deposition, and they included his acknowledgment that, in the '70s, he had obtained quaaludes with the hope of giving them to women that he had hoped to seduce, and that, in addition to a number of other women who had started to come forward, i think that encouraged even more women to come forward, and with that deposition, the prosecutors in montgomery county today went and took another look at the case and decided, today with the announcement, that they did now have enough to build a criminal case against cosby. >> brangham: so it was cosby's own words from ten years ago that got him in the trouble today? >> in part. they were running up against a 12-year statute of limitations on the filing of felony sexual assault cases. certainly, they do believe his acknowledgment that he has in the past obtained drugs to use with women, they said that was part of it. another part is thousand now believe they can prove that the
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woman was impaired and could not give consent. in the deposition, cosby says that he acknowledges that he had a sexual situation with this woman that night in his home near philadelphia but says it was consensual. but prosecutors now believe that, with this evidence and his statement in the deposition that he gave her three pills, he says they were benadryl. the lawyer for ms. costand believe they were probably stronger. prosecutors feel they can prove in court she was too impaired that night by wine and whatever pills he gave her to give any type of consent. >> brangham: so the prosecutor is arguing she was basically intoxicated at mr. cosby's hand, it seems, and she couldn't consent to sexual activity? >> exactly. in fact, in the affidavit, the 20-page police affidavit filed today in support of the charges, it says she was "frozen" and semi-paralyzed, moving in and
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out of consciousness, and unable to shout or articulate her, you know, lack of consent, in fact. >> brangham: is it clear whether or not that deposition from ten years ago can be used in this current case against cosby? >> well, certainly that's one of the many defense motions we would expect to come before the trial plays out at the pretrial stage i'm sure they will try to have that deposition which is again from a civil lawsuit, you know, not ruled inadmissible. prosecutors will try to use it. they're building their case upon his very own words. the other thing that could be of interest in the trial is whether or not the subject allows in or many of the other accusers to come forward and tell their story as sort of similar-act evidence, evidence of cosby's m.o., for instance. there are times when that is permissible under pennsylvania law. it has to be a fairly
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substantial relationship to the crime that is charged, so it will be up to the judge to determine whether the facts of other accusations or other cases are close enough to be used by prosecutors to show an alleged pattern of behavior. certainly that's something the defense will try to throw out. >> brangham: maryclaire dale of the associated press, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> ifill: the rift between the u.s. and israel over the iran deal was no secret, but we now learn the dispute was fed by high stakes political espionage,
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carried out by both countries, and ensnaring members of congress. the details were laid out on the front page of today's "wall street journal." reporter adam entous has been piecing together the story for months, and he joins me now. adam, what is more surprising to you after all the reporting you've done that there was spying going on or that we -- or who we were spying on? >> i think for me it was the unintended consequence where the president of the united states decides that he doesn't know what bibi netanyahu was planning on doing so he has spice prioritize learning what his intentions were. what happened when bibi netanyahu came to congress and launched what was probably the large tion campaign by a foreign government in congress and the n.s.a. is listening very closely
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to what the israelis are doing and, suddenly, they're talking every day to members of congress, and this is a dilemma -- what is the proper use of that information? and the white house thought about it. they knew that this was tantalizing. they also knew, if they asked for it, they would get in a lot of trouble, so they decided not to decide. they decided to tell the n.s.a., you decide, you figure it out, we'll take what you send us and we're not going to ask for more. >> ifill: which is more troubling in the end, the fact that the president said at some point we're not going to spy on our friends with a couple of exceptions, didn't say who the exceptions were or the fact that israel was so intricately involved in u.s. foreign policy making? >> right. when the president said in 2014 that he would stop spying on our closest friends and allies, the heads of state, he also had a carve-out which he did mention in his speech that if information that could be gleaned from those leaders was
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of significant national security purpose or was important for national security, so he gave himself wiggle room but didn't define what that process would be, who would be the leaders that would be protected and who would not be protected. what we discovered when we looked at this closely was they created a list called "the protected list," and the chancellor of germany merkel was put on that list, sort of seen as a no-brainer. she was very vocal in her criticism. also hollande of france was put on the list. when they went to another n.a.t.o. leader, erdogan of turkey, they realized, wait a minute, we don't really understand his policy in syria, so they decided they would not put him on the last which basically meant the n.s.a. could target him. with bibi netanyahu, there was no debate, they weren't going to stop collecting against him. >> ifill: how involved -- first of all, is israel also spying on the u.s. and how much of a problem was it as the u.s.
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was collecting this in fact that they swept up u.s. lawmakers in some of their eavesdropping? >> i mean, the israeli government say publicly that they do not commit espionage against the united states, that's their policy, that's what they say their policy is. if you talk to u.s. counterintelligence officials, they will tell you that israel is probably the number one ally that spies on the united states. so you have a he said, she said here, and you're not really sure. with regard to collection that happened incidentally to capture communications or the contents of communications about lawmakers, it definitely was something within the white house that they knew they face add very awkward situation. >> wasn't that exactly what some lawmakers had been worried about and criticizing the administration on? >> to a certain degree. keep in mind, there are things we don't know yet. there are different types of communications collected by the n.s.a. where the prime minister
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of israel speaks to a senator on the phone, is the n.s.a. listening to that? or if the ambassador to israel meets with 2 20 lawmakers during this debate and writes a report he sends back to his foreign fon ministery detailing the conversation he is had on capitol hill, which conversations were they collecting, which were they passing to the white house and what were the rules? we know what administration officials told us which was no matter what the term is minimized, that means they didn't identify the name of the lawmaker, so just appear in the report that the n.s.a. sent that it was a -- >> to stay on this side of the law. >> the rule is to not identify. if the white house wants to know, they can ask. but if they ask and the n.s.a. provides it they have to noacht the intelligence committees. >> ifill: was there any blowback from israel or turkey?
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>> i haven't seen much from turkey. from israel, they said they were appalled that this would be happening, that the president would be spying on his close ally netanyahu, and they basically said that they would consider a complaint -- some sort of complaint they would file to try to get the u.s. to stop the surveillance. >> ifill: an interesting peek behind the curtain, adam. you have been doing it all year. thank you. >> my pleasure. >> ifill: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: should scientists be allowed to edit human genes? tracing the path our ancestors walked, two million years ago; and why we should get back to the basics when it comes to food. but first, congress ended the year on an unusually productive note, despite partisanship and divided government. political director lisa desjardins explains how that happened.
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>> reporter: in what has been the capitol of gridlock, 2015 brought signs of legislative life and a measure of pride. >> as we end the year, by any objective standard, it's been a year of significant accomplishment. and i want to thank the democrats who did cooperate. >> i also want to give speaker ryan credit. i called both him and mitch mcconnell, as well as nancy pelosi and harry reid, for the orderly way in which they actually negotiated a budget. >> i look forward to, in 2016, just like we have in the last six weeks: getting congress working back on the way it should be working, getting back to what we call regular order. >> reporter: the bi-partisan lovefest came after congressional leaders and the white house agreed to a rare full-year bill to fund the government. a trillion-dollar compromise passed with a majority of both democrats and republicans and capped off a wild, but productive last month. of course, some things on the congressional "done" list were
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political symbolism: for the first time, republicans passed a repeal of obamacare through both houses, forcing a presidential veto. but what stood out was the long- term legislation that made it into law. call it the "punt" list: problems that congress had kicked down the road year after year, including: pay for medicare doctors, who had faced potential pay cuts for more than a decade. this time, congress passed a five-year fix that bases pay on quality of care. also, tax cuts. a series of technically "temporary", but in fact every- year, tax cuts were made permanent. and the big one: highway funding. after 34 short-term patches, congress passed a five-year long-term plan. that was a breakthrough for every state in america that pete ruane is a lobbyist of the american road and transportation builders association and says lawmakers found a way to agree. >> frankly, there was a fatigue factor on capitol hill. they've been dealing with this
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for so long. they were looking for substantive, tangible accomplishments, ones that did have bipartisan support. and the transportation legislation was ideal for that. so there was serious interest in actually doing something this year, and that worked in its favor to getting it done in 2015. >> reporter: another factor? years of building tensions among house republicans finally burst, forcing out house speaker john boehner. but on his way out, boehner pushed through tough bills, like raising the debt ceiling. in the end, republicans compromised with themselves, boosting the military and other priorities, but at the cost of raising the deficit. that said, if you think all of this means a productive 2016, think again. congress typically does not pass major legislation in an election year. for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins.
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>> ifill: it's been called the scientific "breakthrough of the year," and a development that could revolutionize medicine. it's all about a way of editing genes, known as "crispr." the new method allows scientists to snip out a faulty section of d.n.a. and replace specific genes in living cells. researchers have long edited genes in the lab, but crispr is cheaper, far more precise-- and could even be used in d.n.a. found in eggs and sperm. it has lots of promise, but has raised many concerns too. we explore those questions with jennifer doudna, a professor at the university of california, berkeley, who helped develop this breakthrough; and paul knopfler, a biologist and writer from the university of california, davis. welcome to you both. jennifer doudna, i'm going to start by just asking you to define in laywoman's language
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gene editing and crispr. >> well, i would say gene editing is a method of making very precise changes to the dna in a cell, and the crispr methodology allows scientists to do that with just really unprecedented precision. >> ifill: so there is a targeted, practical use for this? >> indeed, actually many. it's technology that operates in basically all types of cells and allows very precise changes to be made to the genetic code that allows scientists to do things like explore the function of genes and also, in principle, correct mutations that cause disease. >> ifill: so give me an example of how this would be applied practically. blood diseases, for instance? eyes? what kind of uses? >> well, i think, in the future, there are very exciting applications to cure diseases in the blood and potentially in the eye and potentially in other kinds of tissues as well. i think a lot of people are excited about the blood because
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it's a tissue where, in principle, at least, we can deliver this kind of technology to cells outside the body and then put those collective cells back into a patient. >> ifill: paul knopfler, this is already in use in some labs outside the country. do you find it exciting or a little troubling? >> it's actually very exciting. i have been working on gene editing in the lab, in test tubes and rodents for 15 or 20 years, and crispr really represents, you know, a transformative technology. i would say, you know, if you could put a number on it, it's probably, you know, ten times better than what we used to do. in a sense, this allows us to do all kinds of new research, but it's almost too good because i think it's also kind of opening the door to a new frontier of gene editing in human beings. >> ifill: let's talk about that new frontier for a moment, mr. knopfler because, when i think of gene editing, i think of being able to go in and actually change outcomes, change
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what a baby looks like, change who the baby is, for instance, in the womb. is this something crispr would allow, not right now but at some point? >> you know, it is possible in the future. i think right now they're asking the majority of us working on crispr, you know, we really have no interest in making designer babies. we want to advance science through research and, you know, i think our top priority, if we do go into hearings, is going to be preventing specific genetic diseases. but i think where we run into trouble is there is sort of a spectrum of what can be done with this, and there is certainly some proponents of actually enhancing people and going the designer baby route, and that's something i find very concerning. so i have been speaking out on that and actually just came out with a book where i address some of the concerns here. >> ifill: jennifer doudna, you're nodding in agreement but you're also aware that the
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national institutes of health put a moratorium on funding this research. does that mean there are widespread concerns of the uses? >> i think there is widespread awareness this is powerful technology that needs to be applied in a prudent fashion. i have been quite involved in the ethical discussions around this technology and, in fact, earlier in december of this year, we had a meeting in washington, d.c. sponsored by three different national academies in china, the u.k. and the u.s. to discuss this very issue so this is an area where many scientists and clinicians and obviously other stakeholders are getting involved in the discussion. >> ifill: also another stakeholder in this are private companies. even if the government won't fund the research, what's to stop a private company from forging ahead on this? >> exactly. right now, nothing. so this is something where, i think, again, the scientific community needs to step forward and really point out what the issues are with the technology that can be employed for the kind of genome editing that
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could effect human evolution. >> ifill: could we be sacrificing accuracy for speed? >> i think so. i think, you know, crispr is much more accurate than the kinds of technology we used in the past, but i think it's not accurate enough right now to actually use it either in humans or for the creation of a new human being, say a corrected genetic mutation. so one of the exciting things about crispr is it's evolving so fast that i think even by, say, the middle of 2016, it's going to be more accurate, it's going to be more powerful than it is today. so, you know, perhaps one of the challenges are going to be where do we stop and say it's good enough, it's accurate enough where we could, say, use it for gene therapy or something like that. >> ifill: when we're talking about clinical trials to use it for something like that, are we anticipating that could happen relatively soon, jennifer doudna?
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>> well, my guess would be within a couple of years we'll see initial clinical trials. that's what i'm guessing based on the pace of the field right now. >> ifill: and paul knopfler will agree with that, obviously? >> yeah, i think so. i think for gene therapy work, it would be appropriate to go ahead in the next few years. what i'm more concerned is there is fertility clinics, some philosophers and others saying let's not stop there, let's go ahead and let's try to make better human beings. i think we can kind of put "better" in quotation marks, but a who decides what's better and, you know, if they were trying to make a child who has dodged a bone disease, you know, what if that child is not just healthy, their bones are better than anyone else's in the world, you know, and, so, you know, would you resist the temptation perhaps to get stronger bones, bigger muscles? i guess i feel like it's a tough thing to draw the line between medical application and human
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enhancement. >> ifill: how do you draw that line? say you want to be able to find a cure for sickle cell anemia and this gets a lot closer to it faster. jennifer doudna, what happens if, say, that makes for a better person who has to say to their mate ten, twenty years down the road, by the way, i am genetically altered, before we have children? >> well, yeah, i think that's still a bit in the future. i think the crispr technology officer a way to discover the functional genes and one of the things that currently in the field is the lack of knowledge about the genetic basis for all sorts of traits including disease but other things as well and i think this is where we'll see a loft active work in the future is on the research front. >> ifill: let's assume for a moment we figure out where the lines should be drawn and this is an unalloyed good in the long run. i want to ask each of you, paul knopfler starting with you, how big a leap forward is this?
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>> i think it's transformative. i think it's as big as nuclear physics or something like that. i think, you know, one of the most exciting and also frightening aspects of it is that it's going to enable us to literally change ourselves, you know, and kind of hack into the human code. so i think, you know, that's unprecedented in history and, so, as we're doing that, as we're changing ourselves, i think, you know, whether that's in five years, ten years, i do think someone's going to do that and, so, you know, that's scary because what will we become? what will we become in the future? >> ifill: jennifer doudna, how do we balance this out? this hacking into the human code sounds exciting to a scientist but might sound scary to a layperson. >> well, again, my feeling all along is i feel, as paul just said, very, very excited about the potential for this
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technology to affect human societies in the future in positive ways, but i do think it's a powerful technology, no question, and it needs to be handled with appropriate caution. >> ifill: jennifer doudna and paul knopfler, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> ifill: since january 2013 journalist paul salopek has tracked ancient man's path out of africa, what he calls "the out of eden walk." tonight, we take another look at hari sreenivasan's visit-- and walk-- with paul, as they trace the footsteps of early man on his global trek. >> sreenivasan: the fog-shrouded fields and rolling hills of southern georgia are much more than a waypoint for paul salopek. we were nearing the ancient city and archaeological site of dmanisi. >> so, dmanisi is finally in sight, and this is probably one of the most important human migration sites outside of africa proper.
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>> sreenivasan: salopek is following the path humans took after the ice age, 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. but here in dmanisi, that path is much older. along these green and jagged river gorges, we have walked in one form or another for nearly two million years. the history here is stacked high, part of what salopek calls the layer cake effect of the caucasus. with a happy dog welcoming us, we passed what was likely an outer defensive tower of the 1,400-year-old city of dmanisi. this has been a crossroads for a long time. >> from day one. and pretty much everybody invaded it. >> sreenivasan: and was this a trading route? >> this was a silk road trading route city, a big shining city on the hill, very rich, until the mongols came and plundered it. and then they were here a few hundred years until the georgians and armenians pushed them out. >> sreenivasan: it's an archaeological gold mine. with the summer digging season finished, we arrived at a sort of bunk house for archaeologists to rest for the night.
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>> if we did, by some miracle, get a clear sky, it really will change everything completely. >> sreenivasan: the next morning, a miracle had indeed swept away the fog. within what you're seeing is nearly two million years of history, the medieval city, whose walls still stand, built on top of a bronze age settlement that's 5,000 years old, and still beneath that, the 1.8 million-year-old remains of one of modern human's earliest ancestors. salopek, dima bit-suleiman, his walking partner in georgia, and i were joined by the director of georgia's national museum, david lordkipanidze, for the walk up to the hilltop dig site. >> what we found here, it changed our understanding about early traces of human evolution, about first dispersal of our ancestors. and, also, it's completely changed our views about who,
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when left africa and how they were looking and what they were doing also. >> sreenivasan: what were these guys doing? >> these guys were enjoying life here. ( laughter ) >> sreenivasan: enjoying life in a place much more lush and temperate 1.8 million years ago. thanks to bones discovered here at the same latitude as boston, we know this was a land with game, like elephant, giraffe, and rhinoceros, but also large predators like saber-toothed cats. so, when they come here, are they the predator or are they the prey? >> i think they were both. on the bones of the humans, you can sometimes see cut marks, so it shows that they were prey. but, you see, it's lucky for archaeology, right? ( laughter ) >> sreenivasan: bad day for them, good day for you. >> yes. we are very lucky. >> sreenivasan: and that lucky day came 10 years ago, with the discovery of a skull, the last of five found that is the remarkably complete skull of an ancient ancestor of modern man.
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so this is it? david took us to the national museum in the capital city of tbilisi to see the actual skulls kept in a vault and handled with kid gloves, because they are indeed national treasures. this is how old? >> this is 1.8 million years old. >> sreenivasan: the brain capacity was about 40% of ours, and they stood about five feet tall. the skull has features of three different species, a possible snapshot in time of evolution. an older adult, probably a male, was among those found. and the toothless, worn jawbone might tell us more than just size and age. >> it means it was a weak individual who could survive only with help of others. and i think that dmanisi shows also the first traces of compassions and solidarity in homo erectus. >> sreenivasan: so, homo erectus, even though they had a
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brain that was a third our size, they still cared for somebody other than themselves. >> one of the human characters could be taking on others. >> sreenivasan: taking care of others. how did these guys get to dmanisi? why did they leave? >> see, i don't think there was just one reason of it. they were able to do it. they wanted to do it. i think main human character is the curiosity. >> sreenivasan: so this is the same instinct that we have today, to look around the next corner, over the next hill. >> paul is doing the same. >> sreenivasan: as these guys did. >> as these guys did. paul is follower of homo erectus. ( laughter ) >> sreenivasan: and, in a sense, so are we all. but for salopek, their ancient journey to this point has particular meaning. >> these are the first pioneer wanderers. these are kind of like the dawn people who first left our collective home in africa. so being here is a terrific echo of my own project. i'm following people who came much later, but these were the trailblazers. >> sreenivasan: only 10% of this
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sprawling site has been excavated. that layered effect was evident everywhere. so, where are you taking me? in a deep pit, david showed us where an ancient wine maker had sunk his vat. >> you can see, 1.8 million years old. >> sreenivasan: the bone is 1.8 million years old. and, in the process, that person had tossed aside some of the much older bones. this wine jar is how old? >> it's 1,000 years old. >> sreenivasan: you know, finding a 1,000-year old wine jar would be kind of a big deal for anybody else. >> not for a paleontologist. ( laughter ) >> sreenivasan: but there are few better places for a writer gauging the crosscurrents of history. so, with sunset not far off, paul and i walked to the top of the citadel that has stood here for 1,000 years, a relative blink of an eye geologically speaking, the majesty of this place clear, spread out before us, and perhaps a key to its fraught and important past. so, why is this place such a crossroads? >> well, it's an antique bridge
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between asia and europe and has been for millennia. and there has been migration routes through here going back before memory. the silk road passes through here. but it also is the epicenter where three major empires meet. and they have always contested this area. from the south, the persians, from the west, the ottoman empire, which is today turkey, and from the north, more recently, russia. they have overlapped and contested and fought over this corner of the world for centuries. >> sreenivasan: so, if they have lived here, they have also died here. >> a lot of people have died here over the years. i think we're standing on one of the oldest boneyards in the world. >> sreenivasan: atop the boneyard in dmanisi, georgia, i'm hari sreenivasan for the pbs newshour. >> ifill: after leaving georgia, paul salopek traveled through azerbaijan and is continuing his walk across central asia on the road to china. salopek's work is supported in part by the pulitzer center for crisis reporting, which also partners with the newshour.
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for more on his walk, head online to our site at >> ifill: now, a call to arms for making real-- instead of processed-- food a bigger part of americans' diets; a push for more sensible nutritional policies; and the influence of marketing. that's the focus of michael pollan's best-selling book, "in defense of food." tonight, there's a new film on pbs with the same title. here's a quick look at what's in the documentary. i have been writing about the food system for a very long time, but what i kept hearing from readers was, yeah, yeah, yeah, you've told me where the food comes from and how the animals live but what i really want to know is what should i
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eat. >> we make over 200 decisions about food a day and the majority are basically unconscious to us. >> the food industry has gotten incredibly food at manipulating the properties of food so it has just the right texture, just the right color, just the right smell. >> but we have been paying a heavy price. >> four of the top ten things that will kill you are chronic diseases linked to diet. >> we're dealing with a crisis that's at an emergency level. their lives are at stake. i think all of our lives are at stake. we are looking for answers. we are looking for dietary salvation. >> so i studied the science from tanzania to peru, from paris to the bronx. >> let's walk our way through this... >> and what i discovered will surprise you. >> you don't have to be a scientist to know how to eat. >> it was just like a light hat gone off.
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>> it's very rare in our lives when the answer to a complicated question is so >> ifill: michael pollan joined simple. >> but when it comes to eating, it is. >> ifill: michael pollan joined jeffrey brown recently, for a conversation about the book and the documentary. the title, in defense of food, you're arguing food needs defending because in part we're confused what we mean by the term. >> the word is up for grabs because food has changed more in the last 75 years than in the previous 10,000. we've learned how to process foods in whole new ways and i would argue that we're creatings things that don't deserve to be called by that beautiful word. so i call them edible food-like substances. >> brown: you talk about how we're all caught up in the grips of something you call nutritionism. define that and explain the problem. >> sure. nutritionism, it's not a science, although it's supposedly based on nutrition science. it's an ideology. it's a way of thinking about
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food that i think is at the root of our national eating disorder. it's why we're so anxious and confused about food. nutritionism basically argues the important things ability foods are the nutrients they contain. it's not the whole food itself. we don't look at a piece of meat, we shouldn't be thinking about saturated fat and iron and things like that. by extension it argues if nutrients are important that we need ex 40s tell us how to eat and that's a dangerous ideas. >> brown: and advertising, right? >> the message we hear most is the message of industry which spends more than $30 billion a year to market food to us. by comparison the government's voice, the doctor's voice, the voice of sanity gets drowned out and swoarks walk into a treacherous landscape in the supermarket where we're
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bombarded by health claims that are very often deceptive. >> brown: added nutrients, fat, low fat, nonfat. give us an example. >> the cereal aisle is a wonderful example. you find cereals to prevent heart attacks and extend your life span, just outrageous claims. the government has been trying to tone them down but every time they have a new rule, industry comes up with another way to make the same claims. keep in mind that when you're looking at the really h healthy food and over in produce, notice how quiet it is. the broccoli is not screaming about its whole grain goodness or the fact it has no fat. so it's an important rule of thumb that the healthiest foods are the quiet est. the silence of the yams, we should listen to it. >> brown: the film looks at different ways of changing behavior. the core message that came through to me is there are a lot of things that one can do
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individually and community-wise. you look at a lot of examples. >> this is a very solvable problem. it's true that the food landscape has gotten treacherous. on the other hand, we still know what to do, and a lot of the science in the film ends up being really a confirmation of common sense that if you eat lots overplants you're better off than eating lots of meat. it's not to say meat is evil or bad for you, it's not, it's very nutritious food, but we eat way too much of it both for our health and the health of the environment. there is a lot of interesting things about how the environment shapes are eating. the s3ze of the plates you use at home. merely by reducing the diameter of plates by an inch or two, you can reduce your food consumption by 20% or 30% without even thinking about it. so we're getting all these messages that 16-ounces is the proper size for a soda or that, you know, a burrito should be two pounds, and we tend to do
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what we're told. we have the thing called the unit bias, if that's how much you pour i in the glass, that'sa proper portion. that's crazy. we feed to take back control of our diet from industry which is trying to get us at every stage to eat and drink more than we even really want to. >> brown: what about the policy level where we are at the moment where new dietary guidelines are in the works, coming out pretty soon. >> every five years the government endeavors to tell us what to eat. we don't really listen but it's an interesting conversation and they will be coming out in a few weeks, a new set of dietary guidelines. you know, hopefully, they will be more progressive than in the past but in the past they've really fallen into that nutritionism frame of saying eat more of this nutrient, less of that nutrient, this is evil, this is good. you need to remember the guidelines have been wrong in the past. they were telling us for many years to eat less fat, that fat was what was going to make us fat and give us heart disease.
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well, in fact, that consensus, this is something we cover in detail in the film, the consensus around the low-fat campaign has completely collapsed, even though your cardiologist probably hasn't told you, the links between fat and heart disease and links between fat and obesity actually are very slender. >> brown: i have to ask you, michael, finally to the extent that this is sort of a personal quest for you in the film and in your books, where do you break the rules? what's your worst eating habit? what's the michael pollan bad eating? >> well, like everybody, i struggle with quantity, when to stop. i love to eat. i love food. i have my junk food favorites. i have kind of a weakness for cracker jacks, i'll admit that. my point in the film is we shouldn't stress so much about that. it's not the special occasion food. it's the everyday, default practice. it's not having a soda, it's
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having a soda every day. so if you get the basic default down, you can indulge. one of my food rules is borrowed from oscar wilde, all things in moderation, including moderation. >> brown: "in defense of food," michael pollan, thank you so much. >> thank you, jeffery. >> ifill: finally tonight, we thought the holidays seemed a good time for an encore look at author ylonda gault's take on a particularly challenging family personality: the bragging parent. >> it will start innocently, a chance run-in. i will see a fellow mom at the grocery store or the park, maybe a coffee shop. i will say, "hey, girl." we will hug. at least i will, because i'm a hugger. i will compliment her outfit. she may notice my new highlights. we will trade innocent gossip. i will ask about her work, then the family, to which she will
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respond with a sigh, as though fatigued, because, for moms, every season touts tired as the new black. thus begins the humble brag, feigning exasperation. said mom will half-giggle and wax self-mocking. "well, sophie scored 2,200 on her s.a.t.s, despite this slacker mom who forgot to get new calculator batteries. and zach's fourth grade teacher recommended him for advanced calculus. meanwhile, his dad and i still don't get new math, old math, or even everyday math. these kids, i tell you." a wan smile will wash over my face. it's the expression i usually reserve for my eight-year-old when he's regaling with my intricate details of obscure superheroes and their powers. when she laughs and throws her head back, i do the same thing on the outside.
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inside, i wince, and whisper to myself, "bless her heart," as momma would say. for black people, those sweet little words are a nice way of saying, "how pitiful." it's a gracious phrase, and i mean it in the best possible way, because a part of me truly aches to see a grown woman, smart and accomplished in her own right, boasting about her children as though they were prized heifers at the county fair. and it's odd to me, because, growing up, momma always played down what my siblings and i did. it may be a black thing, but i think it's also an old-school thing. no one wanted their kids to get too big-headed, i suppose. importantly, parenting wasn't an extreme sport back in the day. and, remember, there was no facebook. social media posts are the lifeblood of the humble braggart. i get it.
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they feel less secure in their own worth, so tethered are the kiddos to their own self-image, the offsprings' accomplishments become their own. intellectually, i know most studies will show that mothers and fathers hell-bent on this image of perfection desperately need the world to take note of their kids' awesomeness. it's a way of saying, "see? my kids are great. therefore, i am great. look at me. see? i'm a great parent. really, i am." do they believe it? sadly, i don't think so. it's not that these parents don't have good kids. i mean, all kids are good, right? just like all babies are...ahem, cute. see, all moms lie. as the humble braggart prattles on, i pretend to listen. and when she's done, i put on my best girlfriend face and try to sound super astonished. i say, wow.
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go, you. >> ifill: on the newshour online: as we prepare to kick off 2016, it's a good time to reflect on some of the predictions we made this time last year. for one of our "making sense" columnists, that included forecasts on the global economy, international politics, and oil prices. see how his predictions fared; that's on our home page, at and that's the newshour for tonight. on thursday, jeff brown looks back at the year's best movies. i'm gwen ifill. join us on-line, and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us here at the pbs newshour, thank you, and good night.
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>> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> what if this year, we went around the table and instead of saying what we were thankful for, we say who we're thankful for. lincoln financial helps provide financial security for those who are always there for you, because this is what you do for people who love. lincoln financial-- you're in charge. >> bnsf railway. >> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems--
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>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh
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this is "nightly business report" with tyler mathisen and sue herera. >> housing holdup. pending home sales drop for the third time in four months for one very specific reason. we'll explain. all in? donald trump opts to spend $2 million a week on campaign ads. how that claim might impact others in the run for the white house. and a taxing issue. how wall street pros playing the tax game could hit your portfolio and what to do about it. all that and more for wednesday, december 30th. good evening, everyone, and welcome. tyler has the evening off. stocks fell almost a percent today on what else, a drop in oil. more on that in a moment, but first, not even warm weather across much of the country helped home sales last month. pending home


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