tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS March 11, 2017 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday, march 11: the vice president promoting the g.o.p. health care plan in a state with one of the highest rates of people covered by obamacare; and in our signature segment, an american joins isis-- what drew him to the terrorist group? 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. 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, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: hello, and thanks for joining us. vice president mike pence hit the road today to begin selling the virtues of the republican party's plan to repeal and replace the affordable care act. in kentucky this morning, mr. pence promoted the white house- backed legislation moving through the house of representatives. it is one of 32 states that expanded federally-funded medicaid coverage for low-income americans under obamacare. kentucky has seen its uninsured rate drop from 17% to less than 7% thanks in part to a private insurance exchange and medicaid
covering 25% of the state's residents. but pence and kentucky's current governor say medicaid expansion and new insurance premiums are too costly. the affordable care act added 20 million americans to the insurance rolls during the obama administration. pence told an invitation-only audience of 100 people that obamacare is a "nightmare that is about to end." >> the truth is, kentucky is a textbook example to obamacare's failures. here in the bluegrass state, premiums skyrocketed by an average of 24% last year with some plans spiking by 47%. nearly half of the state has one health insurer to chose from, and next year, humana, headquartered right here in louisville, is pulling out of the health care exchange. >> sreenivasan: pence said the house plan would repeal the individual mandate to have insurance and take away the penalties if you remain uninsured; replace government subsidies to help pay for insurance with tax credits;
replace medicaid expansion with block grants to states; continue to prevent insurers from dropping people with pre- existing conditions. two house committees have passed the plan, which faces a house budget committee vote next before going to the house floor. officials say twin suicide bombings in damascus killed at least 40 people and wounded more than 100 others today. the attackers targeted buses carrying shiite pilgrims from neighboring iraq who were visiting holy shrines in the syrian capital and planned to pray at a cemetery where ate-- or isis-- militants havee claimed attacks on shiite shrines in damascus in the past. in india, prime minister narendra modi's party has won a landslide victory in elections in the country's biggest state. results announced today show his hindu nationalist party, the b.j.p., captured 75% of the legislative seats in uttar pradesh, which has a population of more than 200 million. the victory gives modi momentum toward winning a second term in
the 2019 elections and pushing for more economic and political reforms. the win also overcame modi's controversial decision last year to fight corruption by suddenly replacing high value banknotes, which temporarily left banks and millions of indians without cash. south korea's impeached president remains out of sight a full day after the country's highest court removed her from office due to a corruption scandal. supporters of park geun-hye, decrying a "political assassination," were well outnumbered on the streets of seoul today by thousands of demonstrators who support her removal. nearly 20,000 police were deployed to avoid a repeat of yesterday's clashes between the two sides. park assumed office in 2012 as the country's first female president. an election to replace her is expected within two months. a diplomatic row between nato allies turkey and the netherlands escalated today when the netherlands, citing security concerns, blocked a scheduled visit by the turkish foreign minister to the dutch city of rotterdam.
foreign minister mevlut cavusoglu intended to speak to a planned rally of turkish immigrants in the netherlands who are eligible to vote in next month's referendum in turkey. the referendum could grant turkish president recep erdogan greater powers. about 200,000 turks live in the netherlands. erdogan blasted dutch officials for turning back the minister's plane, calling them "nazi remnants" and saying "they are fascists." dutch prime minister mark rutte, who is up for re-election wednesday, said erdogan's comment was "crazy" and "way out of line." >> sreenivasan: the new administrator of the environmental protection agency, scott pruitt, raised eyebrows this week when he said in an interview that carbon dioxide is not the primary cause of global warming and climate change, opinions at odds with scientific consensus and decades of data.
pruitt, the former oklahoma attorney general, has reportedly started to stack the e.p.a. staff with like-minded skeptics. joining me now from washington to discuss what this means for environmental policy is" washington post" reporter brady dennis. brady, this isn't necessarily new on how scott pruitt thinks about the environment. >> no, i mean, he's said before, and most recently, i think, in his confirmation hearings in the senate, that this idea of uncertainty-- we don't really know how much of the warming of the planet is driven by human activity. i think what he said the other day was a step further than that by saying, "i don't believe humans are the primary cause of global warming." so it is a degree further, and i think that's why you saw a lot of the backlash that mr. pruitt is getting. >> sreenivasan: what was that backlash like? what did environmental groups and lobbies say? >> it was swift. they pointed out, correctly so, that decades of research point to human activity as being the primary driver, and this is true
through researchers at places like the e.p.a., where mr. pruitt, you know, is now the administrator. also, nasa and noaa and international groups of scientists have found this as well for many decades now. the interesting thing is that it didn't just put him at odds with scientists or with environmental groups. you know, even large-- some of the nation's largest businesses now agree that the climate is warming in this way and that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with, companies like shell and conocophillips, and others, expon, have supported the paris climate agreement which aims to tackle this problem. >> sreenivasan: if the headline of the e.p.a. doesn't believe climate changed is cause by humans or carbon dioxide. >> it raises a lot of policy qelz and all you have to do is look back to the last administration. the obama administration made this a priority and probably the signature effort was a
regulation known as the clean power plan, which sought to limit carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's power plants. scott pruitt, as oklahoma attorney general, sued over that, as did many other folks, and that's currently tied up in court. he's currently, you know, said he plans to unwind that, as does donald trump. we're expecting an executive order to that effect soon. so there are a range of regulations that the obama administration tried to put in place to limit the nation's carbon dioxide, co-2, emissions and i think we could very well see, and most people expect to see a lot of that rolled back. >> sreenivasan: so if the carbon emissions, or at least the rules governing carbon emissions are rolled back, if our clean air plan or our-- perhaps our adherence to the paris climate accords changes, what happens? >> that's a really good question. and in part, it's a good question because there's a lot of moving parts. as i mentioned, the clean power plant is tied up in the federal
courts right now, and yet, carbon emissions have fallen, and a lot of states are on pace to meet the targets that that sets. in some ways, the market is dictating some of this-- wind energy, solar energy-- are all gaining steam, gaining ground. to some extent it's out of the government's hands. that said, i think it would send a big signal domestically and internationally if the trump administration were to unwind all these regulations that say that it's a priority for the united states to tackle this problem. >> sreenivasan: all right, brady dennis of the "washington post" joining us from d.c. today. thanks so much. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: since the united states shifted its counterterrorism focus from al qaeda to the islamic state in iraq and syria-- or isis-- the f.b.i. has opened investigations
of potential isis supporters in all 50 states, and federal prosecutors have charged more than 120 individuals for supporting isis in some way. a new book unveils the thinking of isis supporters around the world, including one little- known american said to be among the group's leaders. it's called "the way of strangers: encounters with the islamic state," by graeme wood, a national correspondent for" the atlantic" who has spent time as a journalist with many isis sympathizers. newshour weekend's phil hirschkorn sat down with wood to learn more. >> reporter: americans since 9/11 have really grappled with this question: "why do they hate us?" from your discussions with isis supporters around the world, was it: a, that they don't like our liberal social mores relative to theirs? or b, they don't like our foreign policy, our military deployments in some muslim- dominated countries? or would you say it was something else? >> i think when we look at the reasons that osama bin laden gave for fighting against the united states, they were very
clear. they were often very political. so israel would be mentioned. autocracies in the middle east. when i spoke to people who were associated with isis, it was a very different type of hatred. they would emphasize this concept of loyalty and disavowal. loyalty to all muslims, disavowal and hatred of non- muslims. so, for them, it was an inherent obligation of their religion to hate me. and they would even say after the most friendly interactions, "oh, by the way, we still hate you." >> reporter: in your view, is one of the key factors that separates isis from al qaeda the fact that the group declared a caliphate, territory? >> one is that they had territory. they had a state that they called people to come to join by migration to the state. whereas al qaeda was sending people out to attack from their bases. i see isis as, in a way, being two separate entities. one is the territorial entity in iraq and syria that's subject to the local dynamics of syrian and iraqi politics.
and the other is this kind of global caliphate idea that's energizing people in many different countries, and that will probably survive the extinction of the territory of that first caliphate. >> reporter: as you interviewed some of these isis supporters and followers, influencers, did you feel they were trying to convince you of their righteousness, their rightness, or even to recruit you? >> yes. in many cases, they were speaking to me because i think they thought that i might join their movement. and they would explicitly phrase it like this. they'd say, "we're giving you an invitation. we like you," they would say. "we don't want you to burn forever. we want you to be on our side and share in your part of paradise." i was able to have interactions with them that were enjoyable, that were social, that were things like playing soccer, like hanging out in cafes, like having long discussions about what matters to us in life. i really actually treasured those discussions and look back at them fondly, even though the content of them was, in many cases, genocidal. >> reporter: so your book title, "the way of the strangers," seems to refer to another thing that a lot of the isis supporters you met have in
common, that they don't really feel at home even in their home countries. can you explain that? >> they would often quote a saying of the prophet that islam began as a strange thing, and it will return to being a strange thing as it was in the beginning. so, "blessed be the strangers." and they would often associate themselves with that. they really felt that their views were strange even to them. they were coming from places like the united states, like the u.k., like australia. and to them, too, it was strange that they felt drawn to a caliphate in the middle east, a country... in countries where that they had in many cases never been to at all, had no association with. they felt like they were not any longer at home in their own country. they were also strangers in the sense that they were intending to immigrate. >> reporter: the focus of wood's book excerpt in the "atlantic" magazine this month is an isis member known as "yahya the american." his real name is john georgelas, the son of a career military officer who for a time lived in the dallas suburb where wood grew up. brought up in the greek orthodox christian tradition, georgelas
was a loner, drug user, and junior college dropout who drifted to a new faith. he decides to convert to islam two months after 9/11. how did that come about, as far as you know? >> in a moment of having left his home, first year of college kind of rebellion, he stepped into a mosque on the first day of ramadan, first ramadan after september 11, and he converted. and from there, the path was greased toward jihad. i think he was really trying to rebel, and to do that in the most pronounced way possible. and that, for him, meant converting, moving to damascus, and memorizing this textbook, dictionary of arabic, and learning the language to such a degree that when i show his writings now in arabic to native speakers of the language, they can't tell that this was done by a community college dropout from texas. and so, for him to master the language is really the first step in his becoming a cleric, as he eventually has become within the islamic state. >> reporter: how were his writings disseminated? was it over social media?
how did he build an audience? >> by going online, discovering that there were people out there who were curious about this. and he did have a web site that consisted of writings in arabic and english. later on, once he had formally joined the islamic state, once he actually got there, he was disseminating his writings in the principle magazines and channels of the islamic state, and namely the magazine "dabiq." "dabiq" is a reference to a location that's really the place where the sort of the coin toss that begins the end of the world will happen. and from there, armies will collide, cities will fall, empires will collapse. and eventually, when things get really interesting, the antichrist will appear, and jesus, from christianity, will come back as a muslim and fight on the side of the islamic state. >> reporter: they believe this? >> they certainly do. this is something that has been from the very start a centerpiece of their propaganda. >> reporter: wood reports, in 2013, georgelas became one of at least 65 americans known to have
joined isis overseas. he moved to the group's de facto capital, raqqa, syria, bringing his pregnant wife and their three young children. but his wife didn't stay for long. she comes back to america, comes back to texas, moves in withis parents for a time, and then she decides to divorce her husband. where do things stand now? >> yahya's family took in the grandkids, and i think they really thought of their son as lost. he had joined isis at this point. there was a very low chance that he was ever coming back. and so they decided to trade him for a bunch of nice grandkids, who they can raise to not follow the path that their son had actually taken. that's where it stands right now, as far as i know, is that the kids are being raised in a christian household in texas and are doing fine, and certainly better than they would be doing if they were in raqqa. i think no parent really wants
to face up to the fact that their son has gone down the path that john georgelas has, and especially knowing that it's not even something that could really have been prevented. they're not bad parents. they haven't done anything to push him down that path. but he's brought embarrassment to the family. >> reporter: wood reports that at before al-baghdadidadi, and proclaimed the isis caliphate in mosul, iraq, in 2014, georgelas had advocated that very move. >> if you look at john georgelas' writings before the declaration of the caliphate, they were constantly saying that one of the requirements of the religion is the appointment of a single person, an imam, a caliph, to lead the muslims. so in the months before abu bakr al-baghdadi actually did that in mosul, john georgelas went to different emirs of isis and said, "look, you're in sin if you don't do this." >> reporter: for the americans who get caught up in jihadist ideology, why do you think the draw for them still is to go to
syria or to go to iraq, even if that means fighting against american soldiers? >> first, it must be said that the flow has pretty much stopped. the number of people who are traveling is somewhere between zero and one on average per month, which is down from ten to 12 a year ago. that's a big change. but for these people that they are told from the start, as soon as they are interested in isis propaganda, that they have an obligation to live in muslim lands; that as a muslim, they can never fully realize their religion as long as they are being ruled in a secular christian society. so that's a very strong impulse. if they're being made to feel unwelcome at home through other political developments, especially, then that's going to be a push for them to go find a home elsewhere. >> reporter: what would you say is the biggest misconception about isis, based on your travels? >> i think there is a kind of folk misconception, a folk belief about what brings people to isis that involves their having no opportunities at home, that involves their not having a job.
in fact, many people i spoke to who are sympathetic to isis are certainly smart enough to hold down a job. they have opportunities at home. people are going to isis not because they have a nihilistic desire to just kill, kill, kill, but because they have an idealistic view of what they have waiting for them. they have an opportunity to be part of something big, and they see it in that positive way. >> sreenivasan: find a new book recommendation from irish author colum mccann on our web site at www.pbs.org/newshour. the nation's infrastructure received an overall grade of "d- plus" in a report card published this week by the american society of civil engineers, the same grade the group issued in 2013. among the 16 categories graded: bridges received a "c-plus"; roads, dams and airports, a "d"; while mass transit came in with a "d-minus." the group's senior managing director, casey dinges, joins me now from washington to explain these very low grades. mr. dinges, these are not grades that we would want to see on any
child's report card, yet, i guess we tolerate them at such crucial things as the roads and bridges we drive on and the water we drink. >> i think the way the issue may play out is the kegradation is maybe so imperceptible to the public users, the traveling public, you know, the water main break, even though it happens every 2.5 minutes in the united states, people say, "it's just not naepg my neighborhood, so i'm not thinking about it." traffic congestion is a huge issue in major metropolitan areas. pavement issues you'll find in regions all across the country affect people, but maybe not enough to make it a top-of-mind issue. at this point, we are somewhat encouraged to see presidential leadership being exerted on the infrastructure issue. but funding is the key thing. that would be the heavy lift for the congress. >> sreenivasan: the trillion-dollar plan that president trump has aliewlded to and perhaps will propose in writing is not enough to cover the kinds of upgrades that you're saying our infrastructure needs today.
>> it's not. you know, the gap we identify is $2 trillion over 10 years. that's how we have the $200 billion-a-year number. if $1 trillion were to come forth from the federal government in a number of years over orderly fashion, that's okay. state and local government have a huge role to play and also the private sector. you've probably heard there's a lively discussion going on about how we can use more public-private partnerships in some of these infrastructure categories. >> sreenivasan: how do you change the thinking about this? because it's not very sexy to fund a new water main or waste water system that's crucial. and yet, we start to think about this in very specific terms when there's a dam that's about to break or when there's a bridge that just collapsed. >> it's easy to take for granted your water supply, your bridges, your tunnels, until they're suddenly not there. certainly in this region, we've seen a number of-- i should point out transit was the lowest
graded, "d-minus," across the country, certainly here in the washington area, the capital of the united states, a 40-year-old system showing signs of complete breakdown after decades of under-investment and ignored maintenance. it's a wake-up call for the country. people need to realize this issue is already costing each family $9 a day. and what our economic studies suggest is that for an investment of just $3 per day per family, you could limb nathat drag on the economy and if we don't we're putting at risk 2.5 million jobs by 2025, and nearly $4 trillion in u.s. g.d.p. that's the equivalent of germany's g.d.p. >> sreenivasan: all right casey dinges from the american society of civil engineers, thanks so much. >> good to be with you. >> sreenivasan: finally, the secret service says there was a security breach at the white house last night, but the president was never in any danger. a man jumped the fence just before midnight and reached the
executive mansion's south grounds before agents arrested him. the intruder was carrying a backpack, but it did not contain weapons or hazardous materials. president trump said today the secret service did a "fantastic job" and called the intruder a" troubled person." that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. i'm hari sreenivasan. good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> 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. 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:
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