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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  April 22, 2017 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday, april 22: on earth day, a march on the nation's capital and other cities to stand up for science; in our signature segment, scientists consider a run for elected office; and a preview of tomorrow's presidential election in france. 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.
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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: good evening, and thanks for joining us. the nation's capital has seen large demonstrations for civil rights, for and against abortion rights, protesting wars and many more causes. today, the cause was science and defending it from political attacks. on this 47th annual earth day, thousands of scientists and those who support independent, fact-based research on climate change and a range of other policies, took to the streets of washington, across the country and around the world. newshour weekend's christopher booker has more. >> reporter: from sydney to berlin to london, it was a global day of action, in the
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words of organizers, to" celebrate science and its critical role" in society. the march for science drew scientists, teachers and students in more than 500 cities across the world, calling for more science-based decision making in public policies both local and global. >> today, we have a great many lawmakers, not just here but around the world, deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. >> reporter: in the u.s., the nonpartisan event was anchored in a rainy washington, d.c. speakers urged the scientific community to step out of the lab and onto the political stage. >> we need to make ensure that data and science drive policy, not uninformed ideology. >> reporter: speakers also criticized the trump administration's environmental policies and its proposals to cut funding for scientific research. the crowd also heard from a past the trump international hotel and power protesting the president's pledge to withdraw from the 195-nation climate >> reporter: in new york city, marchers deliberately walked past the trump international hotel and tower, protesting the president's pledge to withdraw from the 195-nation climate
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itten statement today:afied by he added, he can do that" without harming america's working families" and while" reducing unnecessary burdens on american workers and american companies." >> sreenivasan: for a closer look at the environmental policies of the trump administration-- what it's done and what it plans to do-- i am joined from washington by "new york times" reporter coral davenport. coral, there's been a strong perception that the trump administration wants to undo the obama legacy, starting with the clean power plant. >> ypresident obama, sort of the centerpiece of his environmental agenda was the clean power plant, a set of environmental protection agency regulations that were designed, essentially, to shut down coal-fired power plants, the number one contributor to greenhouse gas pollution in the u.s., and slowly shut them down and replace them. and so just last month, we saw
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president trump put out an executive order directing his e.p.a. administrator, scott pruitt, to gwinnett legal process of essentially totally rolling that back. >> sreenivasan: one of the things that people point out is that it's great to have an intention and a proclamation, but there is a totally different reality on the ground when it comes to market forces, that this doesn't automatically bring crease the roll out of solar and wend that's happening around the country right now. >> that's true. before these regulation were put out, they still haven't actually ever been implemented, we had already seen a shift in the miles per houmarketplaceas elece choosing, due to market forces not to invest in new coal, to start shutting down old coal plants and turn to natural gas which is cleaner than coal, about half the carbon pollution,
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but more importantly for electric utilities, it's also a lot cheaper. and in the long run, a lot of electric utility c.e.o.s say first of all, we're make these changes because of the market. what happens with regulations in washington is not really going to change that. this doesn't mean we're going to go start building new coal plants. far from it. eventually, they assume that there will be some kind of tax or regulation or government restrictions on carbon pollution abuse that's the number one cause of climate change and that problem is not going away. >> sreenivasan: and speak of climate change, scott pruitt claims he is not interested in participating in the paris accords, but he's not exactly the person that can make that decision. it's not a unilateral one. that takes quite a bit of time. >> yes, it's really interesting the debate that is happening within the white house over what to do on the paris accords. first because for president trump, that was a signature campaign promise. his exact words were he would cancel the paris climate change accord. that's technically not possible to do. you can't rip up a multilateral
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accord that's been legally ratified and signed by over 190 countries. but the u.s. could withdraw, could legally withdraw, and that would be a huge blow to the accord. what's happening right now, though, a lot of president trump's sort of core base supporters and advisers have urged him to go ahead and act on that, to announce he's going to withdraw. he's got another set of advisers who are saying, "look, the diplomatic fallout globally fr from-- from withdrawing the united states, the world's largest economy, the world's historic largest climate emitter, had been essential broker of the paris accord, it would send a message to the rest of the world that the u.s. doesn't keep its word, and that could come up again and again and again." so there is a push from leading advisers like secretary of state rex tillerson, leading foreign policy adviser, and we're also hearing that this could be
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coming from the president's daughter, ivanka, and her husband, jared, who are very influential within the white house, to saying, "look, maybe we can negotiate a middle ground where we stay in the accord but the accord but just don't do everything obama said we were going to do." >> sreenivasan: all right, coral davenport of the "new york times" joining us from washington. thanks so much. >> great to be with you. >> sreenivasan: how do scientists reintroduce an animal to the wild once it becomes extinct? watch our interview at the smithsonian's "earth optimism summit" at: facebook.com/newshour. as the newshour reported earlier this week, and as today's marches showed, some scientists are becoming more engaged in the political conversation. some are even considering running for office. currently, only a handful of the 535 elected members of congress have backgrounds in science, engineering or technology. in tonight's signature segment, newshour weekend's megan thompson reports on an effort to improve those numbers, and whether partisan politics could spoil the objectivity that
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scientists bring to policy debates. >> he's probably going to be in charge of yard signs because she has the biggest garage. >> reporter: on thursday morning, around 80 people filled a hall in washington, d.c., for lessons in campaigning for local school board, state legislature and even u.s. congress. >> when you're running for office for the first time... >> reporter: the agenda covered fundraising, messaging and recruiting volunteers, with political veterans like joe trippi, a high-profile democratic campaign consultant. >> the hunger's definitely there. the energy's definitely there. >> reporter: but this crowd wasn't typical activists; they were scientists and engineers who say the trump administration and republican-led congress have a hostile attitude toward science, especially when it comes to addressing climate change. >> we really need people with pro-science backgrounds to get involved. >> reporter: the group that organized this session is 3-1-4 action.
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that's 3, 1, 4-- as in the first three digits of the number pi. for now, it's supporting only behind democrats. shaughnessy naughton is the founder. >> i'm a chemist. i worked in breast cancer research and in drug discovery. >> reporter: naughton, who now runs her family's printing business, also knows about running for office. >> for years, i was a laboratory chemist developing drugs to fight deadly diseases. as a scientist, i know there's more washington can do to help families. >> reporter: she's run twice for congress and lost in 2014 and 2016, in the democratic primary in pennsylvania's eighth district, north of philadelphia. why did you run for office? >> well, one of the reasons was, i was really concerned about the anti-science rhetoric we hear out of so many politicians and the cuts to basic research funding that i think are putting us behind, as well as hurting us economically. >> reporter: naughton believes scientists like her can inject a fresh point of view into a congress where a majority of
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members have backgrounds in law, politics or business. >> they certainly bring something to governing, but i think that we would benefit by having more people with these diverse backgrounds. scientists are taught to solve problems, and we certainly need more problem-solving and less bickering. you know, taking a fact-based approach to decision making, looking at what's presented and basing your decisions on that rather than some preconceived notion. >> reporter: but so far, the group hasn't found a republican it can support. you are, at this point, only supporting democrats. why is that? >> well, although we do want to see more republicans act on combating climate change, currently the difference in the two parties' platforms is hard to ignore. and so, we did feel that we had to pick a team.
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>> reporter: a role model for these politically-inclined scientists is rush holt, a time princeton university physicist who represented his new jersey district for 16 years in the house of representatives. he's now the c.e.o. of the american association for the has 110,000 members.ce, which >> they're beginning to say, "well, have we really entered an evidence-free era? a post-fact era? why is so much policy made apparently on ideological assertion rather than scientifically validated evidence?" >> reporter: holt, who was one of just a handful of scientists on capitol hill, believes scientists can improve public policy even on less obvious issues like national security and transportation or the rollout of paperless touchscreen voting machines after the election in 2000, many of which turned out to be unreliable. >> they never bothered to talk to the computer scientists who said... who, quickly, after this bill was passed said, "oh, wait
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a minute. these... this procedure for voting is... is unverifiable and unauditable." having a scientist in the office, you might identify some technological aspects in the legislation that otherwise you'd miss. >> reporter: one engineer hoping >> so it is our responsibility as much as it is to invent these technologies to develop and test them as it is to understand the impact on society. >> reporter: one engineer hoping to head to washington is joseph kopser. he's a tech executive from austin, texas, who's considering a run for congress. kopser spent 20 years in the army after studying aerospace engineering at west point. >> as a kid, i was so inspired by nasa, and the idea of being in space was just fascinating. >> reporter: kopser is exploring a run against texas republican lamar smith, a 30-year incumbent who's chairman of the house committee on science, space and technology. >> most climate science today
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appears to be based more on exaggerations, personal agendas and questionable predictions than on the scientific method. >> reporter: kopser says he's motivated in part by smith's skeptical views of climate change science. >> lamar smith is a nice gentlemen. he has a view toward science and technology that is not helpful in terms of where our economy is going. his views on climate change are not in step with where the body of the science is. >> reporter: smith also supported president trump's recent executive order rolling back president obama's clean power plan. >> the whole discussion of the clean power plan and repealing so much of that work over the last eight years is not only not smart in terms of market forces and what's happening and the actual trends in science and what's happening in their energy industry. solar and wind are actually adding jobs to the economy faster than coal right now. but if we come out with a rhetoric that is anti-new technologies and favoring one industry, picking and choosing
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winners and losers, then we're going to not only be investing in industries that are on the decline, but we also won't be able to unleash the potential that wind and solar have. >> reporter: congressman smith's office did not respond to pbs newshour weekend requests for an interview. if kopser runs and he wins the democratic primary in this conservative district, he plans to stress his military and business experience. he created a transportation app that he sold to daimler, which owns mercedes benz. kopser will also focus on education and jobs. >> if we don't get science and technology policy right, what's at stake is even more people falling out of the economy. so, a good example of that looks at what's going to happen to society when autonomous vehicles, when machine learning, when advanced materials eat away at even more jobs. and if we continue this anti- science or anti-stem rhetoric, we're just going to leave people behind. it's just going to make it worse.
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>> reporter: by running, would >> if you run, you run as a democrat, it would be a partisan campaign, would you risk sort of politicizing some of these issues more? >> yes, unfortunately, but that should not be a determinant that would keep you out of the >> yes, unfortunately. but that should not be a determinant that would keep you out of the race. >> reporter: but some scientists say maybe it should be. >> i think it is problematic when scientists are lumping together scientific issues with other points of advocacy that may be viewed as having a party affiliation or a particularly political bend. >> reporter: rob young is a coastal geologist at western carolina university in north carolina who's seen his own research politicized. when he co-wrote a 2010 report predicting a three-foot sea level rise along the carolina coast due to climate change, developers were outraged. the state's republican-led legislature then passed a law barring agencies from making
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policies based on the findings. >> i absolutely agree that we need to be speaking out. i'm not advocating silence, but we need to do it in a way that's strategic and that's effective. >> reporter: young doesn't like the idea of marching for science and worries about scientists aligning with partisan efforts like 314 action supporting only one party. >> it would baffle me why that would be the case. what you're doing, once again, is playing into this narrative that scientists are liberal democrats. and scientists are not just liberal democrats. >> reporter: young thinks scientists should get involved locally rather than engaging in national partisan politics, which he worries could jeopardize valuable work being done by career scientists inside federal agencies. >> and we also need to remember that the federal government is full of dedicated scientists and engineers who will be spending the next few months bringing their political appointees up to speed on what it is that their agencies do and why science matters within those science and regulatory agencies.
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and we need to give those people our support, and we need to give them the space to work. >> reporter: 314 action founder shaughnessy naughton understands these concerns, but she says to elevate science's place in government, politics can't be avoided. >> what we don't want to see is science under attack from politicians, and i think the way we combat that is to get more people with science a seat at the table. >> sreenivasan: france holds the first round of a presidential election tomorrow to replace outgoing socialist president francois hollande, who chose not to run again. with 11 candidates on the ballot, none are expected to win an outright majority and be elected tomorrow. the four leading contenders for the two spots in the expected runoff next month are: marine le pen, the far-right nationalist who wants to curb immigration
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and have france leave the european union; emmanuel macron, an independent centrist and former economic minister; jean- luc melenchon, the far-left candidate who would pull france out of the nato military alliance; and francois fillon, the conservative former prime minister. the vote occurs three days after a gunman sympathetic to the islamic state terrorist group killed a police officer and wounded two others on the champs-elysees, a famous parisian avenue. newshour weekend special correspondent malcolm brabant has more on the race. >> reporter: dijon is in the burgundy wine growing region, a two-hour train ride east from paris. but here, there are reminders that even picture postcard france lives with terrorism. strategically placed concrete blocks protect the pedestrian area from jihadis, who consider trucks as weapons of mass destruction. fear of islamic extremism could help marine le pen, but she scares lawyer guillaume byk. >> france has to have its own place in europe, and it's very important for me that we still
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have, like, french playing a full role in the european union. >> reporter: but according to opinion polls, a third of all voters under the age of 25 will be opting for marine le pen. edouard cavin campaigns for the national front in dijon. >> ( translated ): i think that the young people, some of them might even have voted for fran├žois hollande in 2012, and they were totally deceived. these young people have had enough with the left. >> reporter: unemployment is hovering around the 10% mark and is one of the key issues in this election. promises to help the disadvantaged are boosting the far-left candidate, jean-luc melenchon. one of his supporters is mohamed amin medjkoune, who has algerian heritage. >> ( translated ): for us, what matters is work, employment and training. we don't want to be rich at all cost. we want better work access for the young people because we can work and get rid of racism. >> reporter: christian frescard runs an organic food shop. he's alarmed by the rise of the extreme right and hard left and is opting for the centrist candidate.
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>> ( translated ): at the first round, i'll vote for macron. if i had listened to my heart, i would have most certainly voted for melenchon, but one has to know when the worst has to be avoided. i think he still has some good ideas, but mainly it's to avoid the worst. >> reporter: the original frontrunner, the center-right francois fillon, has been dogged fillon francios fillon he could actually make something of a comeback because of the terrorist attack on thursday night. harry. >> sreenivasan: malcolm, let's talk a little bit about that. how has the climate changed in the past few days since the attack? >> reporter: as far as the latest opinion polls are concerned, those put emmanuel macron in the lead and marine le pen in the second place at the moment. but, those opinion polls were taken before the shooting, and so there are some experts who do believe that the shooting could seriously have an and the person
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who is likely to benefit most is going to be marine le pen. >> sreenivasan: something you mentioned in the expees even some of the folks that you talked to in the story point out, there is a little bit of strategy as a voter going in because this is just a first round. they might actually vote in ray different way than who their candidate is that they're supporting just to try to vote against somebody who they dislike strongly. >> reporter: the french system is very different from the united states one, and there is normally the first round. i mean, if by some miracle, somebody was to get 50% of the vote they would go through straight away, but that's unlikely to happen. i think in the first round, people can actually vote with their hearts and what they really think. but then come the second round, that's when it gets really interesting and people are going to have to start voting tactically to vote for the person they-- they despise the most, and that's why whereit gets interesting. most people think when it comes to any of the permutations of the others and marine le pen in the second round, then she will lose, unless there is something
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exceedingly nasty, like an attack of the magnitude of, say, nice. >> sreenivasan: how much of the french voters' thinking right now refers to the context of brexit and the u.s. elections? >> reporter: what concerns many people is that this election very much is about europe, and the way in which france's position within europe could actually change because le pen and melenchon are talking about renegotiating, or perhaps even pulling out of the european union. the most likely winner in all of this, possibly, is emmanuel macron, who is this very get-up-and-go, young independent candidate who is supposed to be extremely bright guy. limited political experience but he has certainly got a great deal of magnetism, and he's got barack obama's vote, that's for certain. and that may help him in terms of improving his international sort of recognition. >> sreenivasan: all right malcolm brabant joining us from paris tonight. thanks so much.
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>> reporter: you're very welcome. >> this is pbs newshour weekend, saturday. >> sreenivasan: winding up his ten-day asia-pacific tour, vice president mike pence has mended fences with long-time ally australia. in meetings today with prime minister malcolm turnbull, pence said the u.s. will now honor a refugee resettlement deal made during the obama administration. president trump once called it" dumb" in a tweet soon after taking office. it calls for the u.s. to accept 1,200 asylum seekers from iran, afghanistan, iraq and other countries who are detained by australia in camps in the south pacific. in return, australia will accept refugees from central america who had sought asylum in the united states. regarding tensions on the korean peninsula and the u.s. navy strike group that has yet to arrive, pence said the aircraft carrier "vinson" and guided- missile warships will reach the sea of japan in "a matter of days." pence also thanked australia for
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urging china to pressure north korea to end its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs. afghanistan's president, ashraf ghani, has declared tomorrow a national day of mourning after visiting an army base struck by insurgent taliban fighters. the afghan government says more than 100 of its soldiers were killed or wounded yesterday when ten taliban attackers, many disguised as soldiers wearing army uniforms and driving army trucks, stormed the base in northern balkh province. the attack began as soldiers were leaving a mosque after friday prayers. it was the worst ever taliban attack on an afghan military compound. the first country to burn coal to generate electricity 135 years ago has become the first to wean itself from coal power completely for a day. britain went 24 hours without using any of its coal-fired power stations yesterday. instead, it used electricity generated by natural gas, nuclear power plants, solar panels and wind turbines. only two years ago, coal provided almost 25% of britain's
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electricity. britain plans to phase out coal power completely by 2025. >> sreenivasan: and finally this earth day, a new view of our relative place in the universe. you may recall this famous 1968 color photo from the apollo 8 spacecraft. the image "earthrise" helped spark the environmental movement. nasa recently released another photo of earth as seen from space. this is an image sent back from the unmanned "cassini" spacecraft. the picture is from 870 million miles away as the satellite explores the planet saturn and its rings. that's not a spot on your screen-- that's earth, that little dot off in the distance. that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. i'm hari sreenivasan. thanks for watching. have a good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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>> 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.
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[contemporary music] swartz: i guess the reason i really want this film to happen is because people don't understand how passionate artists feel about wanting to make a difference in the world. i mean, now they call it "social practice art," and i just want to help people. i feel that we've gone astray in our culture.

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