tv PBS News Hour PBS January 22, 2016 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> sreenivasan: good evening. i'm hari sreenivasan. judy woodruff is away. on the newshour tonight, winter wallops the east coast: high winds, and heavy snow have cities from north carolina to new york shutting down. then, a clash over how to handle a rise in feral cats in communities across america. >> take antioch, california, about 40 miles east of san francisco. the town is home to about 17,000 strays; one cat for every six citizens. >> sreenivasan: and it's friday. david brooks and ruth marcus are in, to analyze the week's news. all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour.
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>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and friends of the newshour. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> sreenivasan: a blizzard is bearing down tonight on washington d.c., and states to the north and south. the snow moved in this afternoon, shutting down schools, government and transportation, and canceling thousands of flights. forecasters warning that by this time tomorrow, they'll be measuring in feet instead of inches. with store shelves nearly empty, and road crews gearing up, millions across the eastern u.s. waited for the worst. forecasters are predicting one
of the biggest storms ever-- in the mid-atlantic, especially-- with up to three inches of snow an hour. as the wall of weather closed in, blizzard warnings or watches went up from arkansas and tennessee, through washington and as far north as new york. about six inches of snow fell overnight in the little rock, arkansas area, breaking a record set more than 20 years ago. it shut down schools and state government offices. and in north carolina, the snow started falling before sunrise, triggering a number of fatal wrecks. >> where i'm seeing the accidents is where it looks like it's a safe road, and people are speeding because they assume it's safe, because they don't see snow on the roads. that's our greatest concern right now. >> sreenivasan: north carolina declared a state of emergency, along with tennessee, virginia, maryland, and pennsylvania. so did the nation's capital-- sitting squarely in the blizzard's bull's-eye, with estimates that more than two feet of snow will fall. >> i want to be very clear with
everybody. we see this as a major storm. it has life and death implications, and all the residents of the district of columbia should treat it that way. we have a forecast that i don't think we had in 90 years. >> sreenivasan: in a bid to beat the storm, the federal government closed all its washington offices at noon. and, for the first time, the city's entire subway system planned to close for the weekend. but anti-abortion forces were meanwhile, all the major airlines issued waivers for the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook and avoid the storms. the snow and high winds are expected to continue into sunday, amid warnings of more than a billion dollars in damage. so far, at least five people have died in storm-related accidents. in the day's other news, bad weather off the greek islands caused one of the worst migrant tragedies yet. at least 46 people-- including 17 children-- drowned when two wooden boats capsized as they tried to cross from turkey.
so far, dangerous winter weather conditions have not stopped the surge of people trying to reach europe by boat. but the rising fatalities make this the deadliest january on record. the prime minister of iraq now says criminal gangs may have abducted three americans in baghdad-- for ransom. but he also says it is not yet clear they were kidnapped at all. the three disappeared in baghdad last saturday. iraqi prime minister haider al-abadi spoke in davos, switzerland today, where he's attending the world economic forum. >> i have to rely on the information. a, we don't know if they're still missing. we're still looking for them. i don't believe there is any political thing out of this because what gain would anybody get from that. >> sreenivasan: other iraqi >> sreenivasan: other iraqi officials-- and some western security sources-- have said two shi-ite militias are the top suspects in the abductions. north korea announced today it has detained an american college
student. he is identified as 21-year-old otto frederick warmbier, from the university of virginia. he had been in the country on a five-day tour. north korean state tv made the announcement. it said warmbier is accused of committing unspecified "hostile acts" and allegedly plotting to "destroy the country's unity." the u.s. state department said it is looking into the report. in somalia, at least 20 people died overnight when islamist gunmen attacked a popular beachside restaurant. it happened in mogadishu, and the islamist group al-shabab claimed responsibility. the attackers set off bombs and then opened fire on diners, triggering an hours-long gun battle with security forces. it was not clear how many gunmen were among the dead. tunisia's government imposed a nationwide curfew today in a bid to halt violent demonstrations over youth unemployment. tensions flared this week after a young job seeker was electrocuted when he climbed a transmission tower in protest. unemployment in the north african nation has worsened since the 2011 revolution that
launched the "arab spring." and back in this country, wall street rallied as oil pushed back above $32 dollars a barrel. the dow jones industrial average gained 210 points to close above 16,90. the nasdaq rose nearly 120 points, and the s&p 500 added 38. overall, the market scored its first weekly gains of the year. still to come on the newshour, brooks and marcus as the race for the white house intensifies; looking to the skies for a possible new planet; a big push so no child is left off-line; how to control a spike in feral cats across america, and much more. >> sreenivasan: turning to the race for the white house: it's crunch time for the candidates on the campaign trail, with only ten days remain until caucus goers gather to make their choices in iowa.
the front runners are using tried and true tactics to turn votes in their favor. political director lisa desjardins reports. >> reporter: voting day gets closer, and-- what do you know-- the race suddenly gets sharper. in each party, the two frontrunners, previously friendly, are going on the attack. for republicans, the ted cruz/ donald trump detente has exploded into shots fired. >> cruz is going down. he's having a hard time. he looks like a nervous wreck. >> donald has been an active supporter-- he gave $100,000 to the clinton foundation. >> reporter: and in the last day, the candidates have each launched new ads, each arguing the other is not a real conservative. trump's play: immigration. his ad raises cruz' past support of some legal status for the undocumented. >> i want immigration reform to pass, and that allows those who come here illegally to come in out of the shadows. >> reporter: cruz' ad plays a
different card, pointing to trump's defense of "eminent domain:" the taking of private land for development or roads. >> ...it made him rich. like when trump colluded with atlantic city insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow. >> reporter: their fight for the nomination is now, suddenly a fight for the soul of the republican party. this week, bob dole, former senate republican leader and presidential nominee-- blasted ted cruz, saying he would mean "cataclysmic and wholesale losses" for the party. cruz has said that's a sign that washington is scared of him. other conservatives see trump as more alarming. "national review" magazine-- a conservative icon-- etched its cover with the words "against trump." inside-- sharper words still. editors wrote that trump is a "political opportunist;" that he "knows approximately as much about national security as he does about the nuclear triad ...which is to say almost nothing;" and that trump has "shown no interest in conservative issues: limiting government, reforming
entitlements or the constitution." trump was equally stinging, tweeting back that: "the national review is a failing publication that has lost its way." meantime, with the democratic race suddenly tighter, hillary clinton is pushing her national security credentials in a new ad and she's going after bernie sanders' for wanting government- run healthcare, not obamacare. >> i don't want to rip up this accomplishment and begin this contentious debate all over again. that's where i disagree with my esteemed opponent, senator sanders. >> reporter: sanders is getting attention for this, more thematic, ad. ...portraying a movement of regular, working americans. the images have been criticized it for a lack of diversity, in a race where sanders trails with african-americans. on the trail, the vermont senator is stepping up his criticism, this morning pointing to social security.
he'd like to raise taxes on the wealthy to expand it. it is closing argument time. ten days until iowa. tight races on both sides. that also means time for closing punches. for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins. >> sreenivasan: and now to the analysis of brooks and marcus. judy spoke with them earlier today. >> woodruff: and that is "new york times" columnist david brooks and "the washington post" columnist ruth marcus. mark shields is away. welcome to you both. as we just heard, a new front opened up in this battle of the republican party. david, up this iconic magazine of the conservative movement going after donald trump saying he's a menace to conservatism, he's coming back. where is this headed? >> the split is interesting. it's between people who are more iideal logically minded and roge minded. the ideological is going with
trump. the rogue minded are suspicious of trump because he's all over the place. it's breaking down on that line. the talk show folks are more trump than the print folks. that's the breakdown. i happen to think that in voters' minds the last four years have made republicans less conservative. the economic stress and crisis made them any i want somebody on my side and are a little more willing to tolerate government than they were, say, ten years ago, and they're willing to tolerate a little more chaos than ten years ago. so ideology versus chaos, i think chaos wins. >> woodruff: good for donald trump. how do you see this? >> i think breakdown would be the operative word and there is a division between various piece toffs republican establishment, the conservative republican establishment as exemplified by
national review is freaking out, i think is the technical term, about the trump menace, and that's the word national review used, menace. the washington establishment and the party establishment is freaking out about cruz because they see, strangely, trump -- some of them do, we heard from bob dole this week, trump is more electable than cruz. they do not want to have no shot at a third term in the -- they don't want to have a third democratic term in the white house. >> woodruff: well, so, but where does it go? david, you're saying that republicans are less tolerant or less warm to the idea of conservatism. they're willing to tolerate some chaos. but does that mean -- does that automatically mean that trump prevails over these other establishment candidates? >> not automatically. i'm still hoping the establishment will get off their rear ends and actually do something and act like an
establishment and rally behind one candidate. so you have to say right now, given all the things that have happened this weekend, remember a lot can still happen between now and the caucuses. the final week is, like, 70% of the campaign. you can see massive swings. so you're looking for magic. who has magic right now? and given all the things that have happened, i don't think bob dole gives trump a lot of magic, but sarah palin gives him a little. and to me -- >> reporter: you do think so? the vibe feels, if there is any magic, trump has a little imagining and cruz even in the polls is falling slightly. >> woodruff: how do you see the sarah palin endorsement? >> so, as a general matter, endorsements don't matter very much, but this one, from that low baseline, matters a little more than most. first of all, once again, donald trump managed to take attention away from everybody else, including ted cruz, who needs the attention more, put it on him, on trump, for several days,
and also sarah palin. also to the extent that endorsements matter, they matter because they're validators of something that voters may still have a question about. with donald trump, and this is the argument ted cruz has been making, the question is he a real conservative, can you really trust him to be a conservative, not the guy with new york values. with sarah palin, who may not be convincing to republicans inside the beltway, she can speak pretty convincingly to voters in iowa who, remember, you know, were for rick santorum four years ago. >> woodruff: but also, david, there are some voters who say they absolutely don't trust her and don't care what she thinks. >> this is why we shouldn't can trump the nomination. there is a real ceiling there, especially as we get into the more diverse states. so i think, once you get an establishment candidate, a moderate candidate, what we now call moderate, trump is still extremely vulnerable as we get there. if you tray to break down the
party into lanes, which may not be valid anymore, but there is still 40, 50% who are either moderate, have some mixture of conservative and liberal positions, who are party regulars and not particularly ideological. that's why the conservatives haven't disappeared. the party is radicalized, clearly, but trump and cruz are still vulnerable if there's a single alternative. >> david said "once you get" and i think that's the operative term because how in this time with super pacs and so many candidates still running for that moderate establishment, maybe not moderate but certainly establishment mantel, how does that sort itself out? there is a degree that can't be denied of anti-trump animus. i was at a ted cruz event
earlier this week in new hampshire and i was surprised the number of them not shopping between cruz and trump. trump was totally off their list. >> one other thing is the ads. i think the trump ads, i find them extremely noxious. they're extremely anti-immigrant. they attack cruz on two grounds, that he's sufficiently anti-immigrant and he's squirrely and there is images of him talking to fox news looking squirrely. >> woodruff: meaning? he flip-flops. he took a week when immigration was passing to try find the right position with himself. that's the inauthenticity and opportunism when he's week. cruz is charging trump with being an effective businessman. but people like that in trump. trump as a little advantage in the ad wars. >> we haven't talked much about
ads in this campaign. in the last hours before people vote, will these make any difference? >> there have not been really breakout ads that have galvanized attention in this campaign more than in previous ones, but there was an interesting one that was just released last night from the bernie sanders campaign, with which had this very morning in america, if you don't mind my using that phrase -- >> woodruff: from ronald reagan. >> -- had a bernie sanders tone to it, had zero message, from the guy who has a very crisp and explicit message, it was a simon and garfunkel american song with pictures of bernie sanders and rapturous voters. >> woodruff: could something like that work? because we're seeing a much tougher race now between clinton and sanders. >> i watched it a few times. i have to say, it made me smile and it made me also kind of have flashbacks to barack obama 2008,
and i think hillary clinton may be having some flashbacks now as well, because as with barack obama, sanders has turned his campaign into quite a movement. you see it with the voters in new hampshire and you see it with the polls in new hampshire, and it's not that he has -- he can afford to run that ad because it's not as if he lacks the message. voters know clearly what his message is. >> woodruff: but he also went after her, david, in that debate on sunday night on several things including the speaking fees she collected from wall street from the big financial firms. is that something that gains traction for him? >> among his voters who think wall street is the epicenter of evil, it is. they also had an interesting debate about healthcare reform, and that was her making an incremental argument, we've got to make our changes gradually, and him making a radical argument. so that was a substantive argument on how to change any system. again, i'm going to go back to
the magic or a better word is charisma. some campaigns have charisma at certain moments and some are flat in certain moments. like that arizona, sanders has a little more charisma in his campaign and clinton a little lacking and that's important because people gravitate in final days. >> woodruff: essentially the argument is whether you just wipe away to what we've done and go to a single payer healthcare system which most americans say they don't want, right? >> well, it really is this argument about practicality, and one of the things that's interesting is there is actually a parallel argument going on in the republican and democratic campaigns so hillary clinton says i'm the pragmatist, i'm a progressive but a pragmatic one, i know how to get results. what he's saying, maybe it's a great idea in theory but he'll never be able to put it in practice. oddly enough, donald trump is making that same argument against ted cruz. he is saying ted cruz, it
can't -- well, first of all, he's a little squirrely and maybe not a real conservative and look at this squirrely answer on immigration. also, ted cruz can't get anything done in washington because he doesn't know how to get along with anybody and he's too extreme. so there is that sort of practicality argument emerging on both sides. >> woodruff: it is interesting because you see bill clinton out there, david, making the same arguments. ruth you saw him on the trail this week. >> i was with him. i was having a flashback at memory lane. bill clinton talking about stopping off at the dunkin' donuts. >> woodruff: does he bring the same weight, gravidas to this campaign that he did in the past? >> he's good. he's still master at making the case, and there's a lot of residual good will toward him. what's striking is how he ran and really governed as a moderate, he still has personal good will. the other thing that's going on and i think this is also helping sanders in new hampshire and again i would not bet on him to
win the nomination but helping sanders a little residual resentment among democratic voters about obama and him being more centrist than they would like in the first six years. so they're more suspicious of moderation and more willing to take a flyer on a guy who may not be that pragmatic. >> woodruff: do you see that? i actually felt a lot of obama love still there in new hampshire among the voters that i talked to, but i think bill clinton especially among democratic primary voters and especially in new hampshire which was a state that has shourd both clintons with love and success -- well, you know, he didn't win the new hampshire primary but came in second -- is a valuable tool. i think the really important question for us all to be thinking about going forward is what if. what if what one seemed unimaginable happens, bernie sanders wins both iowa and new hampshire. the clinton campaign argument is the demographic fire wall of
minority voters in south carolina and beyond. the sanders campaign argument is the kind of magic that david's been talking about and whether people will be -- whether that demographic fire wall is as strong as the clinton campaign thinks it is. >> woodruff: foreign policy, the iran story, prisoner swap, we won't have time for that, but striking a month ago we were talking about i.s.i.s., the terror threat, and that seems to be off the page. >> it will be back. you never escape it. the middle east is more destabilized than if our life times. it will be back when an incident happens. >> it will be back and a central part in the discourse in the republican election. >> woodruff: voters are bringing it up. >> voters and candidates are bringing it up. >> woodruff: ruth marcus and david brooks, good luck. and good luck in the storm. >> thank you. same to you.
>> sreenivasan: next, a big finding and discovery in space that has astronomers, and plenty of other people excited. jeffrey brown has our conversation. >> brown: nine planets in the solar system, that's what most of us grew up thinking. that ended in 2006 when pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet. now news there might be a ninth planet after all. researchers at the california institute of technology found evidence of a planet with a mass ten times that of earth. one of the caltech astronomers mike brown joins us now and i'll add he is also known as the chief culprit in lowering pluto's status. his memoir, how i killed pluto and why it had it coming. so sort of making amends here i guess, mike brown? >> i don't think of it that way. i think of it as this is something i have been working at for 20 years and pluto was just collateral damage along the way. >> brown: let's be as clear as we can about what you have done here. you have not seen this new
planet, right? this is something you surmise. explain to us. >> yeah, that's absolutely right and it's important to know that no one has actually seen this planet yet. what we've done is felt it or more precisely we have seen its gravitational effect on the most distant things in the solar system and from those gravitational effects, we can tell it must be out there. the same way neptune, for example, was discovered by its gravitational effects, so a long history on this sort of astronomy. >> brown: you're seeing gravitational effects on, i gather, six small bodies out there? >> there is quite a big collection. six are doing one thing. there are five more doing something else. then there is another eight doing something. when you put them all together, it's a pretty big population going in directions and moving in ways that they shouldn't be doing unless there is something organizing the whole pattern. >> brown: i don't know if this is a silly question, but this is what confused me, if you can see
those bodies, why can you not see the planet? if you know those bodies are there for sure. >> that's a really good question. the effect of the planet can be felt by probably many thousands of bodies that are out there. we've only found the first score of them. but there must be many thousands out there. so it's a lot easier to look in a random direction in space and see something that has been affected by this planet than to immediately go and find it. so right now we know the orbital path of the planet through the sky, but we don't know where in the orbital path it is, so we're setting out on a grand search to try to find it. >> brown: if it is a planet, what do you know in terms of size, mass, why it's so far away from the other known planets? >> having not seen it, we actually know quite a good bit about it, or we have inferred quite a good bit about it, so we know it's about ten times the mass of the earth. it has to be that big to have
had the gravitational influence over such a distance it has, and at ten times the mass of the earth, makes it a lilt smaller than neptune. so we think it's probably a miniature neptune, a gas giant neptune with just a gas surface. it has a crazy elliptical orbit. it takes 10,000 to 20,000 years to go around the sun and the closest it ever gets to the son is about 20 million miles which, to put it in context, is five times further the distance than pluto now and goes out to 100 billion miles which is 20,000 times the distance of pluto. so a long ways out there and an extended orbit. >> brown: this is not the first time astronomers have suspected the presence of a phantom planet at the outer edges of the solar system, right? there is reason to be more
confident this time? >> yeah, so, actually, the idea there is another planet beyond neptune or pluto when pluto was a planet has a long and fairly sordid history over the past hundred years, really. every time astronomers would see something they didn't quite understand in the outer part of the solar system, the immediate thing everybody jumps to is must be a planet. so you can go back over the last century and read all the different accounts of why there must be a planet. every single one of them turned out to be wrong. usually the data they were looking at were incorrect, sometimes they're misinterpreting data but they've always been wrong. so we're saying, yes, for 100 years, everybody's been wrong, but we're, of course, right. >> brown: of course. i'll go with you for now. this made me think about, for the layman, how this kind of science is done. s the always a mix of theory and
observing, that they both work hand in hand? >> yeah, that mix is personified and the two of us have been working on this problem. me, i'm primarily an observational astronomer, i look at the sky and try to figure out what's going on. my colleague who i think did the heavy lifting here is konstantin batygin, a theorist, he understands the gravitational dynamics in gory detail, and he and i are four doors down from each other at caltech and we would be running back and forth across the hallways for the past two years. i would bring in more observational constraints. he would think about it, put it in the computer, we would talk with each other and argue. the two different viewpoints were critical to making this realization that there has to be this planet out there. >> brown: what happens next? how will scientists verify it's existence. do you ultimately have to see it? >> you have to see it. right now, any good scientist is
going to be skeptical because it's a pretty big claim and without the final evidence that it's real, there is always that chance that it's not. so everybody should be skeptical. but i think it's time to mount this search. i mean, we like to think of it as we have provided the treasure map of whether this ninth planet is, and we have done the starting gun and now it's a race to actually point your telescope at the right sphot in the sky and make that discovery of planet nine. >> brown: mike brown of caltech, thanks so much and good luck. >> thank you, it's been a pleasure. >> sreenivasan: tonight, an innovative solution to bridging the digital divide for students. too frequently, kids and their parents in rural, low-income communities don't have access to the internet and high-quality learning technologies.
but in california, a unique project is providing free home access to the web in one of the nation's poorest districts. much of the footage for this story was shot by teenagers who are part of our student reporting labs network, in collaboration with pbs socal in southern california. the correspondent is david nazar. >> 30 minutes west of the wealthy suburbs of palm springs is a desert oasis best known for annual coachella valley music and arts festival. but beyond stretch as vast and isolated landscape home to the second poorest school district in the country where most families live below the poverty line and struggle just to pay the rent. >> we have some of the poorest of the poor in our country, economically challenged and most student on free or reduced lunch. some living in trailer parks, some condemned, some in
abandoned railroad cars. it's unbelievable. >> reporter: coachella valley superintendent darrell adams believes the right use of technology is critical for the families in this area, like norma and her daughter anissa perez. >> i do see students sometime struggling and right now some of the kids struggling to get school, and i just wouldn't want my daughter to go through that, to be a drop out. >> reporter: when adams took the job in 2011, the graduation rate was 70%, according to the district. one of his key initiatives was to get every student an ipad and wi-fi service but he knew it would be challenge. >> we have 1250 square miles to cover, larger than rhode island. when we found spots where students weren't connected, we said how can we get them connected? we said let's put wi-fi routers on the buses and park them where they need it.
>> reporter: finding the funding for the fleet of buses was no easy tasks. nevertheless, in 2012, the community voted for and passed measure x, a nearly $45 million school bond to fund the mobile learning initiative over ten years. they called the program "wi-fi on wheels." >> in the bus, it's kind of cool that we have internet because when the project is due the next day, we can actually spend time to do it. >> reporter: completing assignments was difficult for anise before getting her wi-fi service. >> we would have to travel to get to the library, get the books she needed to look up the information and go home. i don't make a lot of money, but i will do whatever it takes to make sure she does get a better education. >> brown: adams is doing whatever he can to make sure the 20,000 students in his schools, 98% hispanic and about 10% undocumented, develop the skills
they need to graduate. >> so we realize that we had to provide this to our students in order for them to compete in the 21st century. >> brown: installing solar panels on tops of the school buses to establish the routers was proposed by adams. >> i was a music teacher from l.a. unified when i started out 30 years ago. as a musician, you're always creating and thinking of different ways to do things or play things or hear things, so i brought that to my career and education. i've had difficulty in the past because some people weren't ready for adams' crazy ideas. but this district was and just about anything we do that's maybe different and is good for kids, with we go with it. >> reporter: the director of technical services provides the technical support for the entire district. >> we run power through the conduit already existing on the bus and goes through the front of the bus where the router is
located. we have antennas pointed in different directions that will cover a 150-foot radius. >> brownradius. >> reporter: the school districts allow the buses to park in different places throughout night. >> we want to make sure the students have 24-7 access the internet because learning does not stop at the end of the school day. >> what should we do at the elementary school level? >> reporter: megan smith is the chief technology officer of the united states. it's her job to advise the president on technology and innovation that will improve the future. >> coachella is incredibly creative. there is a lot of work to do in the rural areas. >> reporter: there are federal programs in place to provide wi-fi to rural district like the fcc's erate program which provides about $1.5 billion each year to schools.
however, census data shows there are still 5 million households with school-age children not effectively connected to the internet. smith says that has to change. >> there is a lot of creativity that american people have and, so, whether it's going to come from a school district, the municipal leader or a national player, we need everybody in this game working on it. it's a very, very important fundamental resource for all of our people. it drives our economy. it drives our community and our interconnections. >> reporter: with adams at the wheel, the graduation rate jumped from 70% to 80%. now the superintendent has aspirations beyond students getting their homework done. he wants to connect everyone in the east valley. >> because we found we had a problem with some of the third-party internet service provider companies not willing to go into some of the areas we serve. so, in the long run, we would like to become our own time warner or cost communication and provide this for our students. it's too crucial for them to have this access for us not to
go down this path. >> reporter: anisa recognizes this wi-fi is providing a role in her education. >> i wanted to do this for my mom because my mom didn't get to finish school so that's what motivates me to finish work and get a good job. >> i would want her to have a better life and do really, really good in school so she can get all of these ideas that she wants, nice restaurants, different things like that. that's one thing she always wants to do, travel, and that's what she's hoping to go for. >> reporter: for the pbs "newshour", i'm david nazar in coachella valley, california. >> sreenivasan: two of our student reporting labs, etiwanda high school and west ranch high school traveled to the coachella valley to shoot the video for this story. for a behind the scenes look at
their journey and how the program is training the next generation of public media producers, visit the website at www.studentreportinglabs.com >> sreenivasan: a story about cats. stray and feral cats that live outside. there are 80 million feral cats and how to control them is sparking controversy. animal rights activists say there is an alternative to to euthanizing feral cats, a method that will control the cat population that's more humane and effective. our partner reveal from the center of >> reporter: americans have long investigative reporting has the story. >> reporter: americans have long been obsessed with cats-- in commercials, cartoons and, of course-- on the internet. but for every cat in our homes,
there's a stray one on the loose-- roaming parking lots, alleyways, fields and backyards. they're everywhere, and increasingly, it's a problem. take antioch, california, about 40 miles east of san francisco. the town is home to about 17,000 strays-- one cat for every six citizens. at the local animal shelter, monika helgemo is overwhelmed. >> this one's obviously saying pet me, pet me. this cat here, see the ears go back. that's a feral cat. >> reporter: feral cats like this one are basically wild animals and so they're not candidates for adoption. >> we'll do what we can and see if we can find a place for her and go live her life. if not, we're going to have to put her to sleep. euthanize her. >> reporter: antioch is typical: there are an estimated 80 million stray and feral cats in the u.s. traditionally, the only way to deal with this overpopulation was to euthanize them. more than a million cats are killed in animal shelters every year.
and that's made some cat lovers so mad, they've gotten organized. >> are you guys ready to save some more cats!! woohoo!! >> reporter: this is a national gathering of feral cat advocates near washington, d.c. it's hosted by "alley cat allies"-- they run a network of a quarter million activists that fight for feral cats. >> we changed the community, we brought neighbors together, we changed cat care, forever. >> reporter: becky robinson is the founder and president of alley cat allies. she helped pioneer a population control method called trap, neuter, return, or t.n.r. instead of killing them, it's about sterilizing cats and letting them live the rest of their lives outdoors. >> trap-neuter-return for feral cats works. what we mean when we say, "it works," is that it stops the breeding of a cat so there's no more litters of kittens. >> reporter: in antioch, susan smith shows me how trap, neuter, return is done. she's supported by alley cat
allies, and she's trying to get the city to embrace t.n.r. >> i'm going to bait the trap with some wet food, some tuna, some albacore. >> reporter: the cats are spayed or neutered at a local clinic, given rabies shots, and the tips of their ears are removed to show that they've been fixed. then smith returns them back to the streets where they were trapped. she continues to feed them in what are known as cat colonies. the feeding is key; without it, she couldn't attract other cats in the area to trap them and get them fixed. t.n.r. is catching on-- more than 400 cities and counties have adopted this method over the past 25 years. even pet products retailers have signed on, creating non-profits that donate millions of dollars to t.n.r. groups every year. bryan kortis manages t.n.r.
grants for petsmart charities. >> petsmart charities in wanting to end cat overpopulation, has embraced trap-neuter-return as the most effective way to make that happen. >> reporter: t.n.r.'s expansion alarms wildlife conservation groups. >> this is an emerging conservation crisis. >> reporter: grant sizemore directs the invasive species programs at the american bird conservancy in washington, d.c. >> there were zero domestic cats in north america in 1492, which means that we now have well over 100 million invasive predators roaming the landscape, killing wildlife. >> reporter: sizemore cites a study from the smithsonian conservation biology institute that estimates cats kill around 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals, every year. on jekyll island in southern georgia, dr. sonia hernandez and her research team are seeing this from the cats' perspective. they're putting cameras on cats. >> so far, we've been able to collar 31 cats.
a majority of them do hunt despite the fact that they get fed. >> reporter: the cat camera footage shows that even well-fed cats in t.n.r. programs hunt anything they can get their paws on. they're just hard-wired to hunt. and the food used to attract the cats and trap them also draws in other predators that can cause problems. raccoons, skunks, and possums compete with the cats for food. >> we want to be very careful that we don't encourage a lot of wildlife coming together, sharing pathogens, and then potentially bringing that to people. >> reporter: back in antioch, california, public health concerns prompted the city to propose a ban on feeding cats on public property. >> the cats are not the villains in this. >> reporter: there was stiff opposition. >> they don't deserve to starve, they deserve to have a right to live. >> i'm not afraid of a cat urinating on my foot, i'm afraid
of the meth-heads that go around my building and threaten me. ( applause ) >> how's everything going over here? >> reporter: dr. julie levy is a professor of veterinary medicine and is considered the preeminent feral cat researcher in the country. she runs one of america's largest trap, neuter and return programs in the country-- it's called operation catnip, and it receives support from petsmart charities. >> i'm very confident we're going to see this nationally as a successful model for cat population control. >> reporter: in many ways, operation catnip is the best case scenario for trap, neuter, return: it's well funded, with a steady stream of volunteers, and but when a population biologist analyzed operation catnip's numbers, the results came up short. >> cat populations were not significantly going down. and that's probably the single take-home lesson here. >> reporter: dr. patrick foley teaches at california state university in sacramento. he says there's no proof t.n.r. reduces large populations of cats.
they just reproduce too quickly. >> imagine introducing a single pregnant female to an island. she could produce three female kittens plus herself by the end of the year. that means the population will multiply by four in one year. next year, if the same thing happens, then there'll be 16. the year after that 64. if you had money in the bank at that kind of rate, you would be delighted. you would, in fact, be owning the world after a very few years. and so would cats. >> reporter: according to foley's calculations, operation catnip would need to spay about 75% of the female cats in the county in order to make this work- that's roughly 10 times more than they're able to do right now. i asked bryan kortis why petsmart charities is involved with a nationwide campaign when the research doesn't show that it works on large cat populations. >> i'm totally comfortable with trap, neuter, return moving forward on a much larger scale
than it has in the past, even though we don't have 100% scientific proof that's been peer reviewed and published, that it works on that large of a scale. >> reporter: while kortis remains committed to the trap, neuter and return of feral cats, his employer is reconsidering. since we recorded this interview with kortis, petsmart charities announced late last year that it was laying off its entire staff. in a statement sent to us, a spokesperson said the organization is re-assessing its programs, including its support of trap, neuter, return, but they will honor all existing grant commitments. although one of the biggest funders of trap, neuter and return is having second thoughts-- the feral cat movement continues to gain political clout. last month, after a long standoff, antioch's cat feeders prevailed. the city council granted susan smith and her allies the right to feed as part of an official trap, neuter and return program. when it comes to controlling cats, it's not only about
science-- it's about our emotions. and in the court of public opinion, it seems that america will always back the cat. for pbs newshour, i'm adithya sambamurthy in antioch, california. >> there is still some question about the effectiveness of this approach. why are companies and charities putting money behind it? >> it's a good question. one i put to pet smart charities. the response i got is the founders of the company want to end homelessness -- cat homelessness. they want to end the euthanasia of cats in shelters, and they believe that this is the best approach. when you look at it through strictly a, you know, animal rights, animal welfare perspective, i think there is something to be said for it. the problem is at the city level and county level when you're talking about many thousands of cats, the research just doesn't show it's working at that level.
>> sreenivasan: let's talk about the societal impact. how significant of a problem is this in different communities? >> the study i reference is the university of georgia's cat camera study. what's interesting is even if you feed cats on a daily basis and spay and neuter them, they will still go hunt, they're instinctual predators. the university of georgia show cats are not just killing mice and rats. they're killing frogs, a surprising number of them, reptiles, amphibians, small animals and birds. so if you have vulnerable species in your community, it's a problem. >> sreenivasan: is there any way to domesticate a feral cat if you catch them young enough? >> yeah, i did that. i've adopted a kitten born to a feral mother. he's doing well and loves humans so he's definitely tame now. for adult feral cats it's rare
and not a followsy prescription. we won't adopt our way out of this problem. >> sreenivasan: you talk about the large numbers here. how do you ever get control of a population that's multiplying as quickly as these cats are? >> it's really difficult. the one thing i found is that this is a largely volunteer-driven effort. the movement to, you know, sterilize these cats and.them back outside is largely driven by volunteers who is incredibly hard working, have jobs and families and they do this work. unfortunately, as i'm finding, it's not proving to work at that scale. it's a really difficult endeavor. >> sreenivasan: reveal and the center for investigative reporting, thank you so much. >> thank you, harry. >> reporter: revealnews.org, for more.
>> sreenivasan: finally tonight, a newshour essay. what better way to battle discrimination, than with pop culture? or so thought haroon moghul when he asked j.j. abrams in an open letter to add an islamic character to star wars. here's more of his thoughts on why a jedi named mohammad could help fight fear with hope. >> the day before "the force awakens" was released, i wrote an open letter to its director, j. j. abrams, who also rebooted "star trek." with tensions between muslims and our neighbors worse than i'd ever known, i asked abrams to add a positive muslim character to one of these franchises. maybe, i mused, a jedi named muhammad. someone we could all cheer for. but many readers were dismissive. one wrote simply that "star wars" was "set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, where islam doesn't exist." by missing my point, he made my point. we can accept a ben kenobi, though ben's a hebrew name. we don't seem to have any trouble with luke skywalker, even though luke was also one of the 12 apostles.
captain jim kirk, great. but proposing a captain hussein kirk made some readers think i wanted shariah law on the bridge, when i'd said no such thing. i only wanted us to confront how we treat muslims. islamophobia is real, and it's ugly. robert doggart planned to attack muslims in new york with guns, bombs, even a machete. a former klan member, glendon crawford, tried to build a radioactive weapon to attack mosques. people have been kicked, punched, stabbed, shot, murdered, even pushed in front of trains. targeted for their faith and their faith alone. islamophobia is like racism, not because islam is a race, but because, for anti-muslim bigots, islam functions in the exact same way that race does for racists. that doesn't mean i deny the terrible violence committed by some muslims, sometimes in islam's name. that doesn't mean i don't respect everyone's right to contest ideas and beliefs they don't agree with, including my own. it just means i think judging
every single muslim by the actions of a few, especially when nearly every muslim institution and organization condemns those actions, is a problem. what someone thinks of islam depends a lot on whether she knows any muslims. the challenge is that out of 322 million americans, only a few million are muslim. how could we meet and greet everyone in time to change minds? which is why i wrote that letter to j.j. abrams in the "washington post." science fiction and fantasy, whether books or movies, are astonishingly effective ways to reach huge numbers, reflect us back to ourselves, and provoke us to think differently. the original "star trek" featured an african communications officer, a russian navigator and a japanese helmsman, not to mention a half- vulcan, half-human first officer. that was back in the 1960's, during the civil rights era, at the height of the cold war, just a few decades from japanese internment camps. yet the television show was wildly popular.
and it still is, as are the many spin-offs that grew out of it. it didn't matter where all those characters came from, but where they were going. where no one had gone before. it gave us a vision for our divided planet, of a united future we could want, not dread. can we see someone of a muslim background being part of that future too? i hope so. people often ask me, how can ordinary folks fight extremism and intolerance? i tell them, by imagining a world that's not just different, but better. you don't fight fear with fear. you fight fear with hope. >> sreenivasan: on the newshour online: the suicide of a college student in india prompted one indian woman living in new york city to finally speak out against the archaic system of discrimination that still persists today. yashica dutt was born into the lowest caste, or dalit, and now she's asking fellow
"untouchables" to share their stories. read how this is opening up a new discussion on discrimination in her home country on our home page, www.pbs.org/newshour. and a reminder about some upcoming programs from our pbs colleagues. gwen ifill is preparing for "washington week," which airs later this evening. here's a preview: >> ifill: remember when donald and ted and hillary and bernie said they weren't going to attack each other? well, that was then. now the polls are tight, the voters are deciding, and the rubber is about to hit the road. also tonight, the supreme court tackles immigration again. and iran frees u.s. hostages, but not without a cost. we'll cover all of that tonight on "washington week." hari? >> sreenivasan: tomorrow's edition of pbs newshour weekend looks at two police departments that are re-training officers to be better prepared for confrontations, including when to use lethal force.
>> this training in full protective gear is known as a reality-based scenario. >> your hands up! i want your hands up! >> in philadelphia, every officer gets 40 hours of this reality training to learn tactics other than lethal force, even when suspects are armed and dangerous. >> is he threatening anybody right now? >> no. is he killing anybody right now? >> no. sergeant kenneth gil, a police academy instructor, says the training is designed to teach police officer how to deescalate emotionally-charged confrontations. >> slow down the momentum. don't always just rush into something. you want to be able to look at your surroundings. what else can i do except for jump in. >> sreenivasan: tomorrow night on pbs "newshour" weekend. >> sreenivasan: that's tomorrow night, on pbs newshour weekend. and we'll be back, right here, on monday, when we'll have a wrap-up of the weekend's political highlights from the campaign trail, one week ahead of iowa's vote. that's the newshour for tonight. i'm hari sreenivasan. have a great weekend. thank you, and good night.
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