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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  November 20, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by wnet on this edition for sunday, november 20: president elect donald trump continues to interview candidates for top jobs in his administration. in our signature segment: as the campaign to defeat isis in mosul continues, iraqi christians fight for their survival. and a conversation with the u.s. ambassador in iraq. next on "pbs newshour weekend." >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the john and helen glessner family trust-- supporting trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. barbara hope zuckerberg.
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corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios at lincoln center in new york, alison stewart. >> stewart: good evening and thanks for joining us. president-elect donald trump has spent the weekend at his golf club in new jersey meeting potential cabinet members and white house staff. mister trump has been accompanied by his transition team chief, vice president-elect mike pence. the pair took time out from their meetings today to attend services at a presbyterian church. among today's invitees were former new york city mayor rudy giuliani, new jersey governor chris christie, and kansas secretary of state kris kobach. mister pence said today mitt
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romney, who met with trump yesterday is a "serious contender" for secretary of state. mr. trump described retired marine general richard mattis who was interviewed for secretary of defense as "very impressive." on cbs' "face the nation" today, pence said the administration will take steps to avoid conflicts of interest with the trump organization's international business holdings, >> i'm very confident that the president-elect and his extraordinary talented family are going to work with the best legal minds in this country and create the proper separation from their business enterprise during his duties as president of the united states. >> stewart: on cnn today, incoming white house chief of staff reince priebus reiterated mr. trump's position that people from countries suspected of harboring or training terrorists could be temporarily barred from immigrating to the u.s. on nbc's "meet the press" moderator chuck todd asked priebus about a potential muslim registry.
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>> we are not going to have a registry based on a religion, but i think what we are trying to do, is say that there are some people, certainly not all people, chuck, there are some people that are radicalized and there are some people that have to be prevented from coming into this country." >> stewart: president obama is flying home tonight after winding up his final official foreign trip as president of the united states. mr. obama attended the asia- pacific economic cooperation summit in lima, peru and today along with other leaders donned a traditional shawl worn by sheep herders in the andes. obama met separately with some of the 11 u.s. partners in the proposed trans-pacific trade pact that would cover 40% of global trade. but president-elect donald trump and the republican-led senate will almost certainly reject the deal." new york times" correspondent gardiner harris covered the trip, which began in greece and germany. >> he basically has spent this whole week during his last trip abroad as president trying to reassure his audiences. obviously, the trump presidency has caused an enormous amount of anxiety among traditional
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allies. >> stewart: earlier, mister obama met for just four minutes with russian president vladimir putin. the white house saying the two leaders briefly discussed syria and ukraine. in germany, chancellor angela merkel announced today she'll run for a fourth term in elections next year. first she must win the contest to be the leader of her party, the christian democrat party, next month. merkel became germany's first female head of government when she was elected chancellor in 2005. there was some speculation she might not run again due to her party's poor showing in regional elections following a backlash over her open door policy on refugees. but in a new poll out today, almost 60% of germans say they see merkel as a figure of stability and trust in uncertain times in europe and the united states. immigration and islamic extremism were top issues in france's conservative party presidential primary today. former president nicolas sarkozy was among the candidates, but with much of the vote counted,
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he appeared to place third and out the running in next sunday's run-off. incumbent francois hollande has not said if he'll seek a second five-year term as the socialist party candidate in next spring's election. far-right national front leader marine le pen also plans to enter the race. syria's government today flatly rejected a united nations proposal to restore peace to the divided city of aleppo. the u.n. had suggested the syrian government grant autonomy to the rebel-held eastern half of the city where the u.n. estimates about 275-thousand civilians are trapped by the fighting. syrian foreign minister walid a l-moallem turned down the proposal saying it violated syria's sovereignty and that the rebels must be expelled. the syrian american medical society, a non profit humanitarian organization, says government air strikes have damaged or destroyed every hospital in eastern aleppo. the syrian observatory for human rights says at least 240 people have been killed in aleppo in
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the past week. /just how low was voter turnout /in this year's election? /find out at >> stewart: iraqi military commanders said today they're trying to retake the country's second largest city, mosul, neighborhood by neighborhood; and deliver food to civilians trapped under isis control since 2014. iraq is a predominantly muslim country, but there is a small christian community that has been there for centuries. this weekend, in the liberated northern iraqi town of bashiqa, ten miles outside mosul... bells tolled, and a new cross was erected at a church that reopened today for the first time in two years. in tonight's signature segment, "newshour weekend" special correspondent christopher livesay brings us the second part of his reports from inside iraq: a look at how iraqi christians are coping in the war-torn country. >> reporter: iraq's nineveh plains lie between the kurdish
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north and the arab south. the area is home to a variety of ethnic minorities, including a group of people known as assyrians. they are descendants of the world's first christians, whose presence here dates back to the first century a.d. they speak a dialect of aramaic similar to the language spoken by jesus. anwar esho is a book printer. could you read something for us? >> yeah, of course. >> reporter: it's speaking about the mother of jesus? about mary? today, there are fewer than 250- thousand christians living in iraq, down from more than a million at the start of the us- led war in 2003. the latest threat to them has come from isis. the militants invaded the nineveh plains two years ago, occupied mosul, and many of the surrounding towns. they destroyed ancient, pre- islamic art, razed assyrian archaeological sites to the ground, and issued christians a
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chilling ultimatum: convert to islam, pay taxes to us, or die. thousands of iraqi christians fled mosul, including mayada abd ghany, her husband, and their four children. isis gave them only three days notice to leave their home, enough time to pack some clothes and family pictures. they live now in an old school building converted into refugee housing in the nearby christian town of alqosh, which isis had in its sights before iraqi and kurdish forces pushed them back. now she listens to the radio for news about home, where isis kidnapped her brother two years ago. she hasn't heard from him since. this is a radio station that takes phone calls from anti-isis people inside of mosul. they phone in and let people on the outside know exactly what's going on in the city, and it's really dangerous. if isis catches them they could hang them. apparently they just hanged four people for doing things like that. before they set out to retake mosul last month, the iraqi army and the kurdish fighters known
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as the peshmerga, both with support from the u.s. military, began liberating small towns on the way, including several majority christian towns like batnaya that had been occupied by isis. and when did they leave? >> three days ago. >> reporter: three days ago? this is fresh. we walked through batnaya with father emanuel youkhana. we've got to watch our step, because there could be ieds around here. youkhana is a leader in the assyrian church. he runs a local christian charity. he was anxious to inspect the town's historic church to see what damage isis had done. this was his first time back in two years. is there one word to describe how you felt when you stepped through that door? >> joy that the church had survived. but sadness for what has been done in the church. >> reporter: holy books were burned. the book of psalms? >> yes. >> reporter: isis, or daesh, as it's known here, left its mark.
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this symbol over here. i've seen this before. >> this is by daesh. allah, islamic slogans. >> reporter: during our visit, an improvised explosive device isis left behind as a booby trap detonated outside the church. >> we are in danger. >> reporter: okay, okay we were just told we have to get out of here, because there are a lot of explosions happening, so it's time to go. >> we have to go. >> reporter: even if these towns become safer, that doesn't mean the christians who were forced out will be willing or able to come back, according to father emanuel. >> one of our immediate concerns is what will happen in these christian towns when they are liberated? because we have concerns that they'll be occupied. >> reporter: occupied by non- christians. father emanuel says there are signs that iraqi muslim troops,
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in particular shiites, are showing their colors in some christian towns in an attempt to intimidate christians. he's counting on christian militias to protect christian property. doglas aziz is a soldier in a christian militia called dwekh nawsha, meaning "those who sacrifice." an air-conditioning repairman and father of three little girls, aziz helped liberate batnaya. >> it was a fierce battle. >> reporter: aziz says isis had snipers and grenades and suicide bombers on motorcycles. he shot this video while on patrol... showing how isis dug tunnels under the church to protect themselves from american-led air strikes. in the end, the militiamen helped drive isis out. it was a proud moment when aziz himself climbed to the top of the church in batnaya to replace the cross. >> we're very happy we are winning. we want assyrians to control this area.
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>> reporter: still, some in the assyrian christian community, like printer anwar esho are pessimistic about the future. he doesn't trust the kurds or the iraqi government to protect them. what's the future look like for christians in this area? >> it seems very dark, yeah, really. if they don't have any power, and they don't have anyone to support them, they can do nothing. the only thing they can do, they will leave. so they are going to europe or to america or to australia or to other places, so they are vanishing. >> reporter: mayada abd ghany, whose family has found refuge in the christian town of alqosh, doesn't know what she will do when the fighting stops in mosul. although she was comfortable living among muslims before, she says some collaborated with isis, and now she's fearful of having muslim neighbors again. >> that's in the past.
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i don't trust them anymore. >> reporter: she and the rest of iraq's christians will have to pick up the pieces as isis retreats. just last week, isis surrendered the ancient assyrian city of nimrud, but not before laying waste to its vast cultural heritage dating over 1,000 years before jesus. father emanuel says ultimately the future of christianity in iraq will be determined by those who decide to come home to the christian ghost towns of the nineveh plains. hundreds of thousands of christians have left iraq. if this trend continues, aren't you worried there may be no christians here? >> it's a challenging question to keep the christian church alive here. and we. we can. we will never, never give up. we might be helpless, but we are never hopeless.
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>> stewart: the u.s. ambassador to iraq is douglas silliman, a career foreign service officer who has worked on and off in iraq since 2011, has previously served as u.s. ambassador to kuwait, and has held other posts in turkey and jordan. ambassador silliman joins me now from baghdad to discuss the ongoing u.s. presence and role in iraq and the fight against isis, sometimes referred to as isil and daesh. >> am bag dor, as someone without has worked in and around that region over a prolonged period of time, i would like to get your perspective. is iraq more or less stable than it was in 2011? >> allison, thank you very much for having me today. on my return three months ago, i was very pleased to see the feeling of stability in iraq compared to what i felt in previous tours here. especially i had seen a development in the
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professionalism of the iraqi military and security forces that i think has contributed to this, that probably the most important is a very strong spirit among all iraqis in the fight against daesh. >> upon taking the post you said the united states is and would be working with prime minister abadi to help, and this is a quote, meet the needs for the liberation of the city of mosul. what are those needs, and how involved is mr. abadi. >> well, prime minister abadi has been very much involved in the planning for the military assault on mosul. he has also been very involved in the planning for the humanitarian assistance for those people who have been pushed out of mosul because of the fighting, and also taking care of the needs of those who are left inside the city. so the united states has also played a significant role in both humanitarian assistance to
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the internally displaced, but we have also worked very closely as the leader of the international coalition against daesh to provide advice and assistance to the iraqi military, air strikes in coordination with the iraqi military and a significant amount of training for iraqi security forces. >> should isis be explungedplunm mosul what is being done to scastled the iraqi government and institution so it can hold and maintain isil wants that is a good question, there is a lot that is being done, first of all, in coordination with the united nations and specifically with the u.n. development program, the united states and other international partners have been working with the government of iraq to do a we are calling stablization. making sure that people go into the ground after areas are liberated from daesh, reconnecting the electricity,
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making sure that the waterworks, cleaning up the debris of war where it exists and getting the basic infrastructure of life going again. neighborhood health clinics, schools for children, and small loans for business people who want to get their shops open again. this is in iraq a relatively tested model. we have used this as the iraqi military has liberated the cities of ramadi, fallujah, and particular rit in the past. and the united nations, united states and especially the iraqi government have improved each time that they liberate a city and work on repairing the services. >> mosul is a challenge because it's the largest city that will have to be liberated and rehabilitated. but we have a lot of experience and the international community
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has put together a very good team. and has been very generous, including the united states in these efforts. >> so the rehabilitation of these other cities you mentioned are a model to what you hope will happen in mosul? >> the rehabilitation for the other cities has really been a laboratory for the way to do this in the best way possible. each city has had a different experience with daesh and with war, so the stablizationnd rehabilitation of each city has been slightly different. for example, in the city of tikrit, more than 95% of the civilian population has returned to their homes. schools are open, university has reopened. and shops and traffic seem very close to normal. in cities like ramadi where there was more destruction, a significant part of the population has returned but there are still areas of the city that literally have to be
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rebuilt and that will take some time for both the government and the individual homeowners who have to go back and recover their lives after the war. >> the kurdish fighters, the shmerga have been crucial for this fight, but some of the leaders expressed their aspiration for independence, that is obviously complex given all the players. what is the u.s. position on kurdish independence. >> what i have been most surprised and pleased by, in the military operations in mosul has been the very high degree of cooperation and coordination between the iraqi army and the kurdish peshmerga fighters. i think there is reticence on both sides to cooperate at the beginning but with a little bit of american assistance, they have put together a very good joint battle plan for mosul and each side has been working very honestly and openly in coordinating with the other on the actual operations themselves.
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now as for, in the political leadership, this cooperation has also sparked good will and cooperation between iraqi prime minister abadi and iraqi kurd stand region president-- basani. they have had more conversations than usual and basani has come to visit abadi in bag dan-- baghdad, something he hasn't done much in the past. and president abadi has visited president bazani as well. so i'm confident the coordination and political level good wil and cooperation will provide us with a good pathway forward following the mosul campaign. >> now sir, you work in the green zone which is normally a secure and safe area. but it was prepared earlier this year. i know late last month there was a security warning issued for americans specifically mentioning potential kidnappings
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of people working for ngo's. what are your safety concerns for americans in iraq currently? >> alison, it is still a moderately dangerous place in iraq. there are parts of the country that are pretty safe. but there are still many members of daesh who are able to escape the areas where they have been isolated by the iraqi military and conduct some attacks. if you look at the progress that the iraqi army and the iraqi police have made over the past six months, you will see particularly for the large cities like baghdad, the number of attacks, armed attacked or bombing attacks has dropped significantly as security has tightened. and frankly as the intelligence and cooperation that works with the international coalition and between iraqi police and security agencies have improved.
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so it is still a dangerous place. and we still caution americans to be very sure of your security arrangements before you come to iraq. but we see in general that the security situation is improving. and we hope that once daesh is pushed out of iraq, the security environment will improve even more. >> mr. ambassador, what do you believe is the biggest challenge for the incoming administration, the trump administration? >> i think that the biggest challenge for the administration is trying to decide how much, what the next step will be in the american relationship with iraq. i know that prime minister abadi this week called president-elect trump and he says that he had a very good conversation with president-elect trump. so i'm optimistic that this relationship will continue to be a solid one under the new aministration. >> ambassador silliman, thank you so much for your time today.
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>> alison, thank you vch. >> stewart: in india, rescuers are searching for survivors in the wreckage of the nation's deadliest train crash in six years. officials say this morning as passengers slept, 14 cars of an express train derailed near the industrial city of kanpur, about 250 miles south of delhi. at least 115 people were killed and more than 150 people were injured. india has one of the world's most extensive and accident- prone rail systems. the political crisis in south korea deepened today when prosecutors formally indicted a close friend of president park geun-hye in a corruption scandal, and said park herself conspired in the scheme. prosecutors indicted park confidante choi soon-sil with suspicion of interfering with state affairs and for using her friendship with the president to pressure companies into
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contributing millions to foundations she controls. two aides to president park were also charged. prosecutors said they did not indict president park, because as president she has constitutional immunity from criminal prosecution. today's developments are expected to increase the pressure on her to resign or for parliament to impeach her. a park spokesman called the accusations untrue and "built on imagination and speculation that completely ignores objective evidence." haiti finally held its delayed presidential election today. haiti's six million voters had 27 candidates from which to chose. last year's election results were annulled because of fraud and last month's scheduled do- over was put off, because of devastating hurricane matthew. today turnout was low. many haitians are still struggling to recover from the deadly storm which killed up to a thousand people and left thousands more homeless. the top two vote getters will compete in a january runoff.
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finally in a move that could snarl thanksgiving travel across the country, hundreds of workers at chicago's o'hare airport are expected to announce tomorrow morning they're going on strike this week. the baggage handlers, airplane cabin cleaners, janitors and wheelchair attendants want $15 an hour and the right to unionize. o'hare is the nation's second busiest airport. that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. i'm alison stewart, good niement night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh
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>> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: bernard and irene schwartz. judy and josh weston. trustworthy journalism thatin informs and inspires. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. barbara hope zuckerberg. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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