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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  July 28, 2019 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, july 28: the trump administration pushes ahead on a new asyluement with guatemala. in our signature segment: what'v causing macrop fires in iraq? and what we need to know about our robot future. next on "pbs newshour weekend." >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: bernard and irene schwartz.an suedgar wachenheim iii. the cheryl and philip mi.tein fami the j.p.b. foundation. rosalind p. walter, in memory of george o'neil. barbara hope zuckerberg.
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corporate fundinis 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 publicroadcasting. a private corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like yo thank you. from the tisch wnet studios at lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> senivasan: good evening a d anks for joining us. dan coats is expec resign. the former congress member and senator was tapped to head up the d.n.i. office in 2017 by then president-elect donald trump. since then, coats and the president have often clashedsi over the rinvestigation and trump's attacks on the u.s. intelligence community. in his place, the president is expected to nominate republican congress member john ratcliffe of texas, a staunch supporter of the president.
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in puerto rico, wanda vazquez, the woman set to replace governor ricardo ros declined to take the job today. rossello announced that he plans to step down on august 2 followindays of mass protests calling for his resignation. critics ha also called for the ouster of vazquez over dulegations of corruption ring her time as puerto rico's secretary of justice an asylum agreement between the ump administration and guatemala's adership is drawing sharp criticism. on friday, after earlier threats of tariffs on guatemala,es ent trump announced an asylum deal with the central american nation that would make it a "safe third country." the pact means asylum seekers en route to the u.s. must first apply for safe haven guatemala, which currently has only eight employees in its asylum agency. u.s. border patrol has apprehended more than 235,000 guatemalans on the southern border from october 'til june of this year, morthan any other nationality. hundreds of guatemalans protested and called on president jimmy morales to
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resign. details of the deal, how it will be enforced or whether it is binding are unclear. this weekend, president trump again used twitter to atofck one is critics, this time democratic congress member elijah cummings. cummings, who is african american and represents parts of baltimore, a majority black city, chairs the house oversight committee and has been one of pe harshest voices against the president's bordicies and previous racist comments. one of the president's tweets used the word "infested," a word he has often used in previous critiques, usually aimed atop of color. yesterday's proclamations were deemed racist by citizens ofe baltimd beyond. today "the baltimore sun" newspaper's editial board said, "mr. trump sees attacking african american membersgof congress a politics, as it both warms the cockles of the e white supremacists who lm and causes so many of the thoughtful people who don't to scream." police in hong kong clashed with protesters again today as onviolence in the semi-automous chinese territory escalates.
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pro-democracy demonstrators blocked a road near chinese governmentuildings and threw eggs at police in riot gear who responded with tear gas. this was the second straight day that protesters gathered without first obtaining permission from the government. for nearly two months, hong kong has been the site of mass g-monstrations against the territory's beijcked government. diplomats from iran and five other world powers met in vienna, austria today to discuss how to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal. representatives from iran,nc germany, f britain, china, russia, and the european union gathered as tensions growbe een the islamic nation and western powers. the diplomats discussed iran b comik into full compliance with previously-set nuclear enrichment and stockpile limits. iran says that it will agree if it is given economic incentives to offset sanctions placed on them by the trump administration for more on the efforts to save the rrent nuclear accord witvi iran, sit pbs.org/newshour.
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>> sreenivasan: europe broke records this past week. paris recorded an all time high temperature of 108.7es. that heat is now moving north toward the arctic. over the next few days a so- called "at dome" is expected to form, raising concerns among climatscientists. they're worried about ice melt, rising sea levels and more. "washington post" reporter andrew freedman covers weather and imate and he joins us no from washington, d.c. he first a little science explainer, what's t dome? >> a heat dome is basically a high pressure aa kind of in the mid to upper levels of the dtmosphere. it forms this kif bubble if you will. where the air within it is sinking and heting. and the weather systems around it are basically rerouted as if there was a detour in the atmosphere. >> sreenivasan: okay so as this heat dome moves over the arctic, we are expecting higher temperatures than normal an then what happens?
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>> so we are expecting a potentially exceptional melt event this week over the greening land iceet s. that could potentially lead us to new record losses in sea ice and new record in green l raising sea levels. >> sreenivasan: is there a cycle that this leads into? as the ice melts what happens? >> it doesn't raise selevel, what it does is it exposes more dark ocean water tonc ioming sunlight. which raises the ocean temperatures which in turn melts more sea ice. so there is a posite feedback there. >> sreenivasan: what are scientists going to do about this? how do they plan to study this, the ripplects what might happen the next week or two weeks? e, scientists are up thep there on boats, up there on the ice sheet. but when talthking to ese scientists, you know, the sense a system that is getting into
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sort of a run away feedback really comes through. so you can tell that there is the potential for these types of ents to encourage very severe pacts into future decades, and into future years. >> sreenivasan: in the past couple of weeks we also saw stories about forest fires in the antarctic -- arctic circle, does that add to where this ash lands? >> the warmest july on record in alaska, that state have seenr 2 million acres burn already. is fire season. there are forest fires burning all across siberia. this releases more carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases which further war the planet. and also where this ash is going. a lot of this is landings on the
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ice sheet. so on either green land or on sea ice. when you get a darkening of the ice that makes it less reflective which allows moreat o be absorbed which melts the iceh glcashington post" reporter andrew freedman joining us, thanks for jois. >> thanks for having me. >> sreenivasan: in 2014 northern iraq became the site of an isis takeover. the terror group committed genocide against the country's yazidi minority and killed thousands of others. iraq retook control of the region after three years of fighting in 2017. but the troubles are far from over. isis continues an insurgent battle, and hasterious fires broken out in numerous areas, destroying crops in ais nation thatriving to achieve food self-sufficiency. is it arson? and, if so, who is to blame?
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newshour weekend special correspondent simona foltyn reports from ira mo >> reporter: constantly billows from iraq's northern plains.hi fires likehave broken out daily, turning thousands of acres of pristine farmland into an apocalyptic landscape of ash. at first nobody tried to stop this blaze as itpread in the direction of sinjar town, home to iraq's yazidi minority. people looked on helplessly as the flames encroached on homes only just rebuilt after the latest war left them in ruins. it took two hours for help to. arri a handful of teenage volunteers with a single water trk provided by the town. >> ( translated ): i'm not employed by the town, but we have to come and help because the fire is next to our uses. >> reporter: when thboys ran out of water they drove off, once again leaving people tode their own ces. >> ( translated ): me and my three sons we were putting out the fire in the four sides. i've been waiting for help since the fire start.
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>> reporter: fires like this one behind me have been raging through northern iraq for weeks now, fueled by strong winds and the heat. and there are simply not enough firefighting resources to cover these vast areas. this province, called nineveh, is iraq's breadbasket, but fighting fires here is an enormous struggle. an offial here told me almost half of its 50 fire trucks, including the two assigned to sinjar district, have broken down. pliers and a piece of wire are all they have for emergency pairs. >> ( translated ): the resources in sinr are very bad. body takes care of sinjar. the government doesn't care. t >> reporte government minimizes the importance and extent of the fires. >> what we estimate is around 30,000 donums-- one donum is 2,500 meters-- square meters, and what we cultivated here in
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iraq is more than 12 million donums, so you canee the ratio there, the percentage of the fires. >> reporter: abdul mahdi also claimed the bulk of the fires were caused by accidents. >> most of the fires were for natural reasons, sparks, but i think the percentage of fires by criminal activities, whether it was terrorist or criminal activities, it's around 30% or 34% according to my memory. >> reporter: but according to interviews with two dozen farmers and local officials across two provinces, baghdad hasn't conducted a thorough investigation into the cause of the fires. and the areas burned appear to be much larger than what the s prime ministgests. duraid hikmat is the director of agriculture of n >> (.translated ): 40,000 donums of wheat and 80,000 donums of rley have been destroyed.
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we collect statistics for each sector, district, sub-district and village. all this has been registered. >> reporter: as of june 25, nineveh provin alone had recorded 253 fires and almost 75,000 acres of cropburned-- four times the figure given by ime minister for all of iraq. farmers and local officials say that the scale is unprecedented in their lifetime. for them, it's hard to imagine that so many fires could be the result of accints. the location of the fires has iso raised suspicions. most have occurrsunni arab farming communities across the provinces of nineveh, salahuddin, kirkuk and diyala. oly a few fires have brok in iraq's shiite south, where the capita baghdad, is located. >> ( translated ): according to perspective, there are some hidden hands, those who are not willing good for iraq and want ir. >> reporter: so who could be setting the fields ablaze, and
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what could their motives be? those affected point fingers at different sides-- from iranian-backed armed groups called the popular mobilization forces to isis to rival ethno-religious groups. t it's a sign many sources of simmering tensions that could inflame fresh conflicts in this fragile country. >> ( translated ): i swear by god, brother, in the morning ato 10:00 we camur land, maybe s,we had harvested six tonnd then they set the land on fire.t >> reporter: year had begunch ifferently. strong rains promised to yield a copious harvest, raising hopes that iraq could reach self-sufficiency. >> ( translated ): in the wh ye middle eas wouldn't have found barley like this. it reached up to my chin! >> reporter: jalal muama managed to salvage only a fraction of his barley before it went up in flames. he says no government official has come here to invtigate the
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cause. he speculates that neighboring iran, which is mainly shiite, wants to increase iraq's economic dependence on imports. >> ( translated ): it's only the sunnis' harvest that got burned. i don't want to accuse anye. but some people told me that someone from the popular mobilization forces set the harvest on fire. i didn't see it, i don't know. >> reporter: there's no evidence for such theories. they are fueled by enduring sectarian strife and growing apprehension about iran's influence in iraq.ng duri a visit to baghdad earlier this year, iran's president announced that he wanted to increase total iranian exports to iraq by two thirds. some say that a drop in iraq's wheat and barley production could benefit iran's crop exporters. iraqi officials, however, say th i despite the fires, iraqs on track to achieve record crop production. they also point to culprits other than iran.
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we are on patrol with the iraqi army through recently burnin areas aroundr. allieutenant colonel omar hassan says most fires start in sunnarab areas south of njar, one of several parts of iraq where isis has survived as an insurgency. >> ( tranated ): most of the fires come from the areas around baaj and tel qasab. isis is still present ere, it's not a safe area. >> reporter: isis has claimed responsibility for some of the fires, but the group isn't the only source of instability. isis's assault on the yazidisft has eep rifts in the community. yazidis accuse sunni arabs of supporting isis. sunni arabs say they are being ostracized simply because they belong to the sect the terror group pretends to champion. many people have been displaced, and each side accuses the other of land grabs. the commander believes that the fires could be sparked by cycles of inter-communal revenge. ( translated ): of course there are problems over land
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between the arabs and the yazidis because of theme displas. people have farmed fields that aren't theirs. >> reporter: we travelo kirkuk, another province afflicted by the fires.re here, too, isiins a deadly threat. and here, too, officials cs e land dispu a potential cause of the fires.th governor of kirkuk, however, says that the main reason for thfires was the strongar rainfaller this year. >> ( translated ): the causes are varied but they are all andriven by the heavy rain the dense bush in places that aren't farmed, so the fids are all connected with no space in betwee >> reporter: in 2017, hawija became one of the last towns to be freed from isis. but the militants retreated to nearby mountains and villages from which they continue to launch nightly operations, planting i.e.d.s or attacking security forces. farmers suspect the fires are e group's latest tactic terrorize the population and to punish them for the lack of
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support. >> ( translated ): those empty houses over there, they are very close to us. those terrorists they are hiding over there. we heard that they place lenses in the fields and when the sun is hot, they light the crops on fire. >> reporter: sami jassemmm mo lost all of his wheat when his fields went up in flames. a his nephew wng those who tried to put them out. ated ): it was a huge fire. nobody could face it. we drenched the blankets with water and put them on the fire, but it didn't work. >> reporter: some of those who came to help became victims lves. when ibrahim abdallah saleh and aven others rushed to the scene, their car hi.e.d. it exploded, killing three. saleh lost both legs and an arm. whhe has little doubt abous responsible for both the i.e.d. and the fires. >> ( translated ): isis. i saw them, those who set the fire. there were two. i saw it with my own eyes. >> reporter: i ask the prime minister whether or not there has been a thoroughat
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investn into the causes. i spent a week on the ground reporting in northern iraq, and i spoke to almost two dozen farmer government officials, security officials, and all of them said th there had not been an official investigation. they had not seen any probe into thwhat was actually causine fires. i'm wondering how certain can you be about the numbershat you have provided in the past. >> we took all the necessary measures, even the other provinces sent their equipment to nineveh to fight res. >> reporter: the people may never know who is behind the majority of iraq's mystery fires. what is certain however is that the losses have proven devastating for farming communities. >> ( tranated ): we worked so hard and it all went to waste. i was on the verge of tears. this is our livelihood. reporter: the director of agriculture in nineveh told me that farmers could be eligibler mpensation if their losses were caused by terrorist activities. but local government officials say that currently, baghdad has no plans to compensate farmers.
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>> sreenivasan: robots are all around us. some are visible, buildingin in factories and some we never see-- the bots that work behind the scenes on h e internet and beyond. i recently spoke wthor and science journalist david ewing duncan about his new book, "talking to robots," and asked him what'shead in our robot future. >> it's actually a very interesting moment in history because i think we're on the cusp of having these very, very powerful robots and technologies that we could have written about and dreamed about and had sci-fo shows about ans. but we're very close to actually having some of these, which makes us a kind of unique era, if you will, 'cause we're setting the tone for the future. >> sreenivasan: so, some of the robots that you're tking about, i mean, i guess there's a distinction between just bots and robots, robots that we see
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on sci-fi movies. but then really kind of automated tasks that are happening in the background thaa we're actualeady engaged with. give us some examples. >> most of the rots we have now we don't really ever see, you know, that's kind of robot. 's a giant arm that puts-- welds the door onto a car in a factory or it helps move packages around at amazon. the rots that i'm interested in are where we start actually attributes. some human and there, again, is a big controversy over how far we should go with that. you know, should we make robotsh lians? there are people working on that. but clearly we're already gettina little glimpse of this with alexa and skii, which seem of human, maybe, or have some aspects of that. we are talking to this machine, but that's where we are right now. and that's what's fascinatingus bewe're about to move into this era where questions of, say, morality and ethics, you know, how do we program these
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robots, if you will, or a.i. usstems to do the right thing? >> sreenivasan: bethose robots are going to reflect the personal preferences and ethics of the people who programmed them, right? >> yeah, that's right. and we're already seeing this with social medi you know, social media was created as this kind of fun way to communicate with everyone. and, you know, you'll find out about your-- what happened to your sixth grade, you know, that sixth grade little girl, you were looking at or little boy or whatever, and, you know, years later finding all of that out. and it seemed kind of fun at first. but we're seeing how, you know, this is beginning toout. and that partly has to do with howin we as humans are progra social media and some of these other a.i. systems. >> sreenivasan: and is there a creep of this technology down into younger and younger elements of society? i mean, not just that teenagers get a smartphone prerly in their lives now, but also, you
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have a teddy bear bot, right? i mean, and what, what, what changes in our brain could be happening when a child thinks that that thg is, i guess, real? >> they already exist at a sort of crude level. royt toys that look like te bears. but in the future, we werebo envisioning a that literally raised your kids would teach your kids it wouur keep them s all those different things that we would like for our children. but we immediately got into issues about, say, who would program this teddy b? would you have factory settings that the company set that made nte robot? would the governas certain parameters? would you program it to be lenient or strict? and you start getting into politics. i mean, you want to raise a baby or a child bed on the parents telitics or somebody else's. and so, it's an sting question not only about children, but about, you know, how we progr all of these robots.
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>> this is "pbs newshour weekend," sunday. >> sreenivasan: in the future, could this conversation be j conducted byrnalism bot, a completely virtual anchor interviewing somebody because it's far more efficient? >> well, i, you know, maybe you are a robot. i don't know. we'll have to see this. i don't think you are, but wete aren't qhere yet. but, yes, there is a journalism bodnchapter. i co help that as a journalist, and i was-- i was surprised at how f automation has already, um, entered t newsroom. in 2016, actually, some of the basic ection coverage that year was done by a.i. programs that had certain phrases and words and data that had been programmed in. so, those stories you werere ing thinking a human might have written them. they were already a.i.bu
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yeah, i mean, i hate to say this for you and me. much of what we do in the future might have at least some, you know, a.i. element to it. um, i happen to think that we will still like to have humans, you know, doing things like delivering the news on television. >> sreenivasan: oh, thanks. >> right now, you know, the economics is what's playing a huge role in all this automation. and i hope we turn a corner on that at some point and start ving more of a human element because, you know, the bean counters in our profession and m y others, you know, they're looking at the bottoman linethat's what's driving a lot of this right now. so hopefully, i mean, in this book is even a bit of a plea or an effort to try to get society to start really thinking this out before we automate everything in sight. >> sreenivasan: all right. g the book is called "talk robots: tales from our human robot futures." david ewing duncan, thanks so much for joining us.>> hank you. i appreciate it.
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>> sreenivasan: finally tonid t, 22-year-olcolombian egan t bernal won theour de france 00day after having the best time over more than 2,1iles of cycling, including stages that crossed both t pyrnees and alps. he becomes the first colombian ever to win, and theoungest man to do so in almost 100 years. 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 >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by:
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bernard and irene schwartz. sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the cheryl and philip milstein ndamily. the j.p.b. fion.sa nd p. walter, in memory kef george o'neil. barbara hope zerg. corporate funding is provided by mutual of america--g designstomized individual and group retirement products. at's why we're your retirement company. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting. a private corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. be more. pbs.
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masters: hollywood invented theo imathe singing cowboy, but life in the real wild west could be brutal and chaotic, rife with violence and opportunity. let's explore the fascinating origins of our modern ci as a rough and s wdy frontier town. i'm nathan masters, and thisost l.a." many people see l.a. as a city of the future, a place without a past, a freeway tropolis that sprang up fully formed in the 20th century, but the roots of southern california history run deep. people have called this land home for thousands of years, and their stories give us a richer understanding of where we are now and where we're headed in the decades to come, so let's look back and uncover some of these forgotten stories in the

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