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tv   News  Al Jazeera  May 15, 2015 9:00pm-10:01pm EDT

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fierce fighting in iraq where isil has ceased control of government headquarters in ramadi, the capitol of anbar province, only 80 miles from baghdad. >> translator: we will fight in anbar as long as it takes. we will kick them out of anbar. while in syria, isil threatens the ruins of the ancient city of palmyra, and desperation grows among the millions who have fled their homes. >> translator: what do we do in we don't have fuel electricity or food.
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we have no money. so they tell us! >> reporter: nows stuck at sea. also an american first in cuba. ♪ >> a major orchestra raising an oafture to cuba's people. ♪ good evening, i'm antonio mora this is al jazeera america. a desperate battle is underway in iraq tonight where government forces are losing ground in anbar province. the army and police units retreated west to ramadi. isil released photos of their fighters attacking a police station. and cell phone video shows
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people caught in the cross fire rushing to escape anbar's capitol. in syria, isil fighters have advanced to the gates of ancient palmyra. it is feared they will destroy the world heritage site in the same way it has destroyed treasures in iraq. >> reporter: the symbol of government authority in ramadi is now under the control of the islamic state of iraq and the levant. ramadi has long been a city that has been fought over. it was also the iraqi government's main strong hold in anbar province. but isil fighters launched an all-out assault early friday taking over the ramadi compound which houses most of the city's go buildings. they managed to penetrate using suicide bombers. government forces and their sunni allies were not able to
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stop the advance. many were killed. it is a strategic blow to the authorities who have been losing ground in other areas of the province. the assault on ramadi was part of a large-scale attack on government forces on multiple fronts in the province. late thursday isil used 22 suicide bombers to target the barracksover security forces in the town of garma. it is clear that isil considered anbar strategic. it borders territories it controls in neighboring syria. it has controlled most of anbar province before this latest assault, now isil controls most of the capitol of the sunni heartland. people of ramadi were caught in the fighting and the fear is isil will punish those who cooperated with the authorities. council officials in anbar are blaming the central government in baghdad for isil's huge gains. sunni tribes have been warning that isil would make gains if
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military reinforcements and weapons weren't sent to ramadi. but the government won't give them weapons because they are suspicious of their loyalty, and the regular forces are too weak to fight the war alone. after suffering military setbacks in other provinces, isil can now claim a victory just weeks after the government declared a military campaign to recapture anbar. the united states says it is watching the situation in anbar closely, but as rosiland jordan reports from the state department, the fighting is flew it with and the u.s.-lead coalition is supporting the iraqi government with air strikes. >> the u.s. government is watching developments in ramadi and anbar province with concern, however, the state department spokesperson said on friday that this is an area that has been contested between the iraqi military and isil for several months, and so the situation is not as clear-cut as some might assume. >> there will be good days and
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bad days in iraq. isil is trying to make today a bad day in ramadi. we have said all along we see this as a long-term fight in conjunction with our iraqi partners against isil. we are -- we are confident that -- that iraqi forces with support from the coalition will continue to push back isil where they have tried to gain advantages on the ground. so you know, our -- our policy and our engagement retains retains -- remains the same. >> reporter: the u.s.-lead coalition has been conducting air strikes in support of the iraqi military's efforts to push back isil. however, they say there is no plan to put in ground troops because ultimately this is a fight that the iraqi military and local forces are going to have to carry out. >> for more we're joined from washington from the former deputy director of joint chiefs
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of staff. ramadi is only an hour and a half drive from baghdad. how is isil making these kinds of advances at in stage after months of coalition bombing and the training of iraqi troops? >> good evening, antonio. really the reason i think the air strikes have not been as effective, because they have not been coupled with a cohere rant ground strategy. we have had reports on the ground and those have not been sufficient to overcome what isil has been able to do on the ground, and that is really the tragedy of this situation. >> what we have heard in the past from the u.s. military is that ramadi is not that important in the grand scheme of defeating isil. do you agree? >> i do not. the reason i don't agree antonio is that ramadi has a symbolic meaning, not only for iraq but it also has a symbolic
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meeting for the united states. about a third of u.s. casualties in the latest iraq war were actually in and around ramadi. the other part of this is of course that ramadi is the capitol of anbar province and when a provincial capitol falls that is an indication that there is a lot of trouble there, and that in essence that part of the country is not sustainable and holdable by the central government, and it points to other weaknesses that the central government will have and that i think is really why ramadi is very very important from a strategic standpoint and symbolic standpoint. >> what about the argument that isil is using its moves in anbar to distract iraqi forces and the coalition to maybe take forces away from the big prize for isil, which is mosul, iraq's second-largest city? >> well i think there might be some merit to that because, of
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course mosul is a town city that isil wants to hold on to at practically any cost. but i think one of the key things to look at is the momentum that isil has is really derived from the ability that the organization has to move forward. so as long as it can keep moving forward, it will engender not only recruits but it will also engender the feeling that it is winning, and that feeling as the french would call it that is part of what -- you know, what any military force has to deal with. that becomes the critical component of a strategy that they have so they see it as an opportunistic strategy. they believe if they can bring american and iraqi forces into ramadi then they can in essence control the tempo of the battle. what we should try to do is
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really develop a strategy that confines them to certain parts of iraq but that's parts should not be 70 miles away from baghdad. >> right. as we reported isil is threatening a world heritage site in syria. it is fighting across a vast territory. so why is it so effective in syria and iraq? they fought the syrian army the curd r kurdish peshmerga, the iraqi army what is happening here? is it training strategy? >> it is quite a bit of the training and strategy part that is paying off for isil. but the key thing is they have an adeology and as abhor rent as many of us think it is the key component is the belief the central figure in their world view really has to do with their view that they will gain
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salvation by doing what they are doing. so this religious fervor that they have all of that is in essence distilled into concrete action on the battlefield, and that then leads them into this spirit of forward momentum. and they have a philosophy and a coherence about them which both the syrian and the iraqi government lack and because those governments lack that coherence, we are seeing them being defeated by isil forces. there's of course a lot that is also part of the weaknesses in either army in either the syrian or the iraqi army but the key thing is those armies lack spirit. isil forces have spirit strategic understanding, strategic goal and they have something that they are believing in. they are lighting for their belief system and their desire for a world according to their particular plan, their caliphate. those other governments do not have that same belief system.
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and that is what is hindering them. and it is also quite frankly a factor that is making it impossible for there to be cohesion among those different forces. >> yeah, and as you said retake ramadi certainly will take isil's spirit. colonel it's good to have you with us. thank you. >> thank you. a federal judge in new york has sentenced a former aid to osama bin laden to life in prison today. he was convicted in connection with the 1998 bombings of two u.s. embassies in west africa. he was found guilty of four counts of conspiracy. the u.s. says he ran an al-qaeda training camp and was a spokesman for bin laden. the president of burundi is back in his country after a failed coup attempt. he said today peace has returned
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to the country. >> translator: we ask the world to be friends of burundi, because if they stop supporting us it will be like they are opening doors to trouble that will strengthen people who want to seize power by force. leaders of the coup attempt are admitting it failed but protesters continue to battle security forces. malcolm webb has more from burundi's capitol. >> reporter: this soldier came to the hospital injured. after the coup leaders announced the coup failed doctors say police came here and shot the injured man. >> we received a patient, and he was here in emergency room. after that moment we see a group of policemen arrive here and they began to shoot everywhere, and they began to look for this patient. >> reporter: out on the streets,
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some protesters tried to block the roads after hearing about the coup's failure, but were quickly dispersed with gunfire. on wednesday the military takeover was initially popular, but since it failed many now think it's made things worse for them. >> translator: this whole coup d'etat is something they came up with by themselves. we don't agree, because he came from the same party. they fought together, and did a lot of things together. and then he came here trying to talk to people about the demonstrations, things we didn't want to hear about. >> reporter: but most of the streets in the capitol were quiet with loyalist, police and soldiers in control. after the coup attempt, fighters loyal to the president attacked and burned independent tvs and raid yous. now the only radio and tv on air are the state broadcasters controlled by the government. [ cheers and applause ] >> reporter: when president
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pierre nkurunziza returned to the capitol, his forces welcomed him. but the activists who has been organizing the protest against his bid for a third presidential term say they now fear a ruthless and violent crackdown. many are in hiding or have fled the country. the government says those involved in the attempting coup will go on trial. activists are still calling for more protests on monday against the third term. burundi burundi's political crisis is far from over. the united nations says more than 105,000 people have crossed burundi's borders to escape the violence. among them were the 9,000 who arrived in boats to the democratic republic of congo. >> there is a clear risk that the instability may be prolonged or made worse if there are violent reprisals in response to
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what happened over the past two days. >> supporters of the president swarmed the streets to celebrate his return. secretary of state john kerry is asking thailand to help rohingya refugees adrift at sea after being rejected by malaysia and indonesia. kerry wants thailand to provide temporary shelter for the thousands of migrants. in some cases human traffickers have abandoned their own ship leaving the rohingya to fengd for themselves. passengers on this ship were sent back out to sea after receiving supplies from thailand. >> we're dying. we don't have food or clean water, nothing to keep us alive. two more people over there are dieing from starvation. yesterday one man jumped off of the boat and drowned because he went crazy. >> reporter: u.s. ambassadors in the region are consulting with governments about how to mount a
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rapid humanitarian response. some indonesia fisherman defyied their own go. steph spoke with some of them. >> reporter: turned away by the navy. they were finally rescued by fishermen. the migrants accuse the indonesian and malaysian navy of sending them away. many were in the water for hours. they got into trouble after fighting broke out on board between rohingya asylum seekers and migrants from bangladesh. they attacked each other with knives and hammers in a fight over food and water. this man was on board and says 12 of his relatives were killed. >> translator: they said you are rohingya, we are bengali, we're going to kill you. >> reporter: people on board say the indonesian navy towed their boat out of indonesian waters on monday and sent them to malaysia. there they say they received the
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same treatment from malaysian authorities. after that fishermen in indonesia found a boat in distress and mobilized as many vessels as they could find to save them. then the fishermen were questioned by police. >> reporter: they started killing each other after indonesia and malaysia refused to accept them. if the international community doesn't act soon more tragedieses at sea are bound to happen. after the fishermen brought them ashore the authorities had no choice but to give them medical aid, after three months at sea, they were very weak. some had serious injuries. >> they tell us to -- more money. give them more money. we -- we says i have no money. we are poor. our families very, very poor. we are almost there. we are almost there. we have no money.
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so they tell us -- they sell us go back to bangladesh. they tell us. >> reporter: there was great relief when some of them managed to call their families to say they were live. >> reporter: this is the second boat carrying rohingya and bangladeshis that has made it to land this week. but it is estimated that thousands are still stranded at sea. they the migrants are a game of political ping-pong. a game that is costing people their lives. in europe hundreds of migrants rescued in the mediterranean sea arrived in italy today. the it tall can coast guard says they are some of the 2200 migrants rescued in just the couple of days. medical workers checked them out. the international organization
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for migration says more than 26,000 migrants have crossed think mediterranean so far this year. closer to home dozens of cuban migrants trying to reach the u.s. are facing an uncertain future. 38 migrants are stranded in the straits of florida. they were among about 96 cubans at sea that were taken aboard. the u.s. wanted to return them all to cuban, but the cuban government only allowed 58 to come back. this comes as the u.s. and cuba are trying to normalize diplomatic relations. secretary of state john kerry heads to china. plus starving children rummage through garbage with siri. why a truce in one neighborhood has not solved the food shortage.
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in context tonight the tension over territorial claims in the south china sea. china has literally been building islands in the area there now the u.s. may be considering sending ships and aircraft to the region. and secretary of state john kerry will meet with chinese officials in beijing tomorrow. jamie mcentire has more. >> reporter: the source of the tension is a series of islands china has built in some of the world's busiest shipping lanes in the south china sea. here is the fiery cross reef as it appeared last august. by march of this year it was built up enough to support an airstrip with work underway on what appears to be another runway. the u.s. says china is embarking on an ambitious plan that violates the spirit of a 2002
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regional agreement. and is a provocative flexing of military muscle. >> china's land reclamation should have a series of potential impacts. these could include long-range radars berthing deeper draft ships >> operator: china's rapid reclamation has alarmed the philippines and vietnam, which have territorial claims in other islands. while the u.s. is concerned the port airstrips, and fuel storage facilities will allow beijing to project power much deeper into southeast asia. the u.s. is struggling how to curve the construction of man made bases. last month, president obama told a townhall event in jamaica, the u.s. thinks china is using its
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sheer size to muscle aside the philippines and vietnam. >> we don't have a particular view on the disputes. our attitude is simply let's use the mechanisms we have in place to rethem. >> china's ambassador forcefully rejects what beijing calls u.s. interference in to what are legitimate activities in the south china sea and blames washington for makes things worse. >> translator: the cold war mentality is already outdated. >> reporter: and he denounced any suggestion the u.s. might send ships to pass to within 12 nautical miles of the islands tos a pert the right to the
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area. gordon good to have you back. you heard the chinese ambassador, and then there's also a chinese newspaper who -- that called any deployment of u.s. ships to the south china sea a pirate-style action against the wrong place and the wrong people. how productive can a carry visit be to china amist all of this saber rattles. >> i think john kerry is going to make the u.s. position absolutely clear, but the chinese are also determined to go ahead with their island building and to dominate the south china sea, trying to exclude other nations. although kerry may be serious, i don't know if the chinese will believe him. because there has been dynamic in the past where there has been poe vauktive chinese behavior american warnings and then american inaction. so we're going to see beijing
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test the united states. >> should the u.s. send ship into the area? and what good would do it? >> it would preserve the freedom of navigation. if there has been any consistent foreign policy it has been to defend our right to go into international waters. and china has a view of the south china sea that is inconsistent with this navigation. we do insist on the right to be on the high seas. >> and you really think that china would try to further project its own power in that way in that region in >> it has been doing it for deck indicate -- decades. >> this is all part of growing assertiveness by the chinese president. some analysts say he is the most powerful chinese leader since the a leader who died almost two
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decades ago. is what xi is doing going to move china further away from democracy? >> well, i think certainly. internally he has been the most coercive chinese leader and he saabings about mow all the time. externally we have seen a much more bebig rant china. so this is a story which rings china's borders to the south and east. >> we need china on a series of issues. will it make china less of a willing partner?
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>> probably it will. we have tried to integrate chinese into the international system. they don't want that. they want to change the system. >> part of that integration involves xi coming to visit president obama in september. as you know the president had some tension relations with other world leaders, most notably benjamin netenyahu. but he does seem to have a better relationship with the chinese leader. >> i think with regard to the settlement in the south china sea, our relations could get better or worse, but they are going to change. because there is no room for compromise. >> gordon thank you. coming up the search for a u.s. marine helicopter that
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disappeared while delivering aid in nepal is over. and the struggles moscow's subway has.
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welcome back to al jazeera america. i'm i'm antonio mora. music as diplomacy. but first a look at the stories making headlines across the u.s. convicted boston marathon bomber has been sentenced to death. all 12 jurors agree that he planned and premeditated an act of terrorism. and also agreed he demonstrated a lack of remorse. a funeral was held today for one of the victims of tuesday ease amtrak derailment.
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the naval academy mid-shipman was among those killed in the crash. president obama spoke at the national peace officer's memorial service today and addressed the high profile killings of officers and by officers in the u.s. and called for respect on both sides to help heal the divide. the wreckage of a missing u.s. marine helicopter has been found in nepal. debris was discovered on a steep mountain side in eastern nepal. military officials say it is unlikely any of the six u.s. marines and two nepalese soldiers on board survived. >> i'm not able to positively identify the cause of the
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mishap. >> rough water forced rescue and recovery teams to suspend their efforts overnight. president obama paid tribute to the service members. >> they want to that remote land to help people who suffered devastating losses in the terrible earthquake. they represent a truth that guides our work around the world. when our friends are in need america helps. >> reporter: the crew was in the process of evacuating injured earthquake survivors when it disappeared on tuesday. there are reports of fighting in yemen despite the humanitarian truce. security officials say there were clashes in the cities of aden and ta'izz and two key provinces. the fighting comes as planes filled with aid arrived in the capitol, sana'a. kate king has the latest. >> reporter: this was the scene in the yemeni city of ta'izz.
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street battles between pro-government forces and houthi fighters. it was the worst day of fighting since the saudi-proposed trust came into effect on tuesday. fighting has also been reported in the southern city of aden the western city of dahl and the province just east of the capitol where tribal fighters who support the president said the houthis are violating the truce. >> translator: the houthi breached the alleged truce. they have attacked us with heavy weapons and tanks. but with god's help we will stand up to them until we expel them from all of yemen. >> reporter: even with the ceasefire in place, the united nations is complaining the fighting is halting the delivery of aid. it is warning that fuel shortages is now absolutely critical, and the hospitals will soon seize to function. but one u.n. aircraft carrying
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25 tons of aid has arrived in the capitol. >> translator: this airplane is part of five airplanes that will arrive in the coming three days. the aid is to help the displaced and the victims all over the republic. >> reporter: the aim was to deliver aid to 2.5 million yemenese in need of food fuel and medicine before the truce ends on saturday. for the continuing violations of the ceasefire are putting that goal further out of reach. the syrian opposition has raised concerned about talks being held in geneva. the political leadership in exile has told the u.n. envoy that his attempts to include iran and other allies of bashar al-assad will not be helpful for peace. meanwhile the humanitarian situation is worsening. >> reporter: for many syrian children this is the only way
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to find something to eat. some parents help them rum age through the garbage not from the capitol. this woman's kitchen has looked like this for months. and she says she struggles every day to feed her children. >> translator: what can we do? we don't have fuel. neither electricity, even food. we don't have it. >> reporter: but that's not what you see on syrian state tv where it looks like everything is under control. in this segment, happy children are seen preparing for exams. there is no mention of the war that has killed more than 200,000 people and continues to add to the 12 million people who desperately need humanitarian assistance. activists say the conditions in many areas resemble those here. people in this town agreed to a truce with government forces in exchange for badly needed food aid. but rebels say it has made the
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regime the only source of food and the soldiers control everything. not enough food is distributed to feed everyone. >> translator: what can we do in we pray to god every single opinion to send us any food to feed our little children anything even bread. >> reporter: in geneva there is another round of talks in which the u.n. envoy is trying to bring all sides to the table. but the armed groups that control many parts of syria are not attending and insist president assad cannot be part of any solution. back here activists raise the flags of the revolution during a visit by state media. this child was asked what happened to his school. he told the pro-government presenter about how his school was destroyed by shells fired by the assad forces. fighting goes on and more
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neighborhoods continue to be turned into piles of rubble. outrage in poland over the payout over a quarter million dollars of cia torture. they ordered poland to compensate a palestinian and saudi national. the saudi man is charged with orchestrating the attack on the uss coal in 2000. the court said poland allowed the cia to imprison them and did not stop the treatment. many poles say they should not be punished for american wrongdoing. valley plain will sit down with al jazeera america on sunday, and talk about nuclear proliferation and why she believes nuclear weapons are the biggest threat we face. columbia's has agreed to stop spraying drug crops.
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the world health organization recently announced that the herbicide columbia used is probably carcinogenic. >> translator: at the latest within a month a technical committee shall deliver a report with recommendations to adjust the new policy against drugs in the country based on this new reality related to the suspension of spraying on illicit crops. >> reporter: columbia plans to phase out the herbicide by october. demonstrations in southern peru have turned violent. police clashed with protesters who want work on a .copper mine halted. and now the mining industry will have to deal with an if definite strike that started on monday. peru is one of the world's leading exporters. some residents of okinawa are talking about the possibility of breaking away from japan. and israeli prime minister benjamin netenyahu begins to set
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the agenda with his new government. ♪
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history was made in lucks someberg today, the prime minister married his partner. he originally said he wanted to keep his wedding private but today he today he posted a picture of his partner on twitter. in israel prime minister benjamin netenyahu held the first meeting of his new cabinet today. netenyahu needed the full six weeks allowed to put together a coalition government. his coalition only has 61 seats. the cabinet is lead by hard liners who oppose concessions to palestinians. this is netenyahu's fourth term. and in the u.k. british prime minister david cameron met with the scottish first prime
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minister. the meeting focused on britain's government handing over more power to scotland but cameron stopped short of granting the scots full autonomy. >> this gives massive tax and spending powers to the scottish parliament. so if scotland wants to take a different path it will be able to. >> reporter: surgeon called the talks constructive and said the two agree that the transfer of greater governing powers should be implemented as soon as possible. off of the radar tonight, okinawa and the calls for independence from japan. the united states seized the island during world war ii and continue to maintain a sizable military presence there. to this day it is japan's
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poorest area. >> reporter: scattered around a garden frozen moments charting the violent history of okinawa, the end of world war ii and the land seize sures that followed. but this is the director of the japanese rulers at the time. >> translator: they called us spies. if we used our own language we had to wear something called a disgrace tag, but it is our culture. >> reporter: the united states formallihanded okinawa back to japan in 1972, but even now a fifth of the island is occupied by u.s. bases. tombs serve as reminders of what was lost. many put the responsibility for this loss of land not just on the u.s. military but also on japan. some feel the time has come to break ties with both washington
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and tokyo. this person leads a movement charting a route via a referendum for independence. a 2011 poll suggested 20% wanted greater autonomy or independence. but he says support has grown since. >> two, three years ago, independence was a -- like, you know, like big dream or unrealistic dream. but now it's getting realistic and realistic. >> reporter: for its opponents there's a fear that independence could be replaced think china. a discussion about the heroism and grace of japanese soldiers in world war ii. no support here for independence. >> translator: since joining this group, i have realized you have to think about japan's national security and it's
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evident that okinawa is geographically very important. ♪ >> reporter: this is a long-time defender of okinawa's distinct culture. >> translator: i don't think like that. okinawa is part of japan, and it can also be a place where people around the world can find some kind of feeling that they miss to enrich their hearts. i hope it's going to be everyone's okinawa. ♪ >> reporter: but if he's not fighting for territory, he is fighting for language the key, he believes to the warmth of the heart of the okinawan identity. that is what he says needs to be passed on. harry fawcett, al jazeera, okinawa, japan. warming up for a diplomatic overture. ♪
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>> the minnesota orchestra is performing tonight in havana. and saying good-bye to blues legend b.b. king. ♪
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sicily's mountain is putting on a spectacular show. it has been spewing lava for the last few days. it's one of the largest and most active volcanos in the world. moscow has one of the most spectacular subway systems in the world, but for all of its early 20th century grandeur the big challenge is to bring it into modern times. >> reporter: deep beneath moscow's streets, one of the
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russian capitol's wonders is buried. a lavish world of mosaics, grand architecture and exquestion it is detail. oh, and people in a hurry, lots of them. because however beautiful it all is it's not a museum. it's a transport network. 196 stations, 10,000 trains per day. 12 lines, 327 kilometers of track, and an on average working day, 8 million passengers are carried. moscow undeniably has one of the world's greatest metro systems. by the time the first train started rolling, there were already 15 other underground networks in europe. moscow's may have been late but this was stalin's project, executed in stalin's grandiose style. a boast of communism's raidant
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future. >> translator: every station has its history, especially the stations that have existed for 80 years. they are unique in architecture. every one carries a layer of energy put in to them. >> reporter: in recent years like many transport systems the moscow metro has proven a soft target. s bombers killed 40 people in 2010, and a few accidents like last year's fatal derailment have tan initialled another wise pretty good safety record but the system's main challenge in the 21st century is how to cope with the overcrowding and financial constraints of a mega city holding between 13 and 17 million people. >> we have great plans for the development of the moscow metro, up to 2020 we have a plan to increase and -- our metro system
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in double plus 50% of our lines, metro lines. >> reporter: the metro built to display the usar's well beaten madernity is moving with the times. doing business in russia just got a bit harder for foreign companies. lawmakers backed a bill to restrict the work of foreign non-governmental organizations, or ngo's. an existing law requires russian ngo's that receive foreign funding and engage in political activity to register as foreign agents. now our global view segment. a look at how news outlets are reacting to various events. the guidian writes:
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the economist writes that france's efforts to break a deal to supply two helicopter carriers to russia might hurt the nation's reputation. in an article titled scrapping the deal the paper argues that france's ability to quote choose its friends wisely is under even greater scrutiny. and finally london's the telegraph offers a warning to david cameron under the headline new terror laws must safeguard free speech the paper writes that new laws have to be balanced with traditional british values including freedom of expression. the sounds of the minnesota orchestra are signalling a new era in u.s. cuban relations. the group took to a stage in havana. usher is in cuba with more on how music is making a difference tonight. usher? >> reporter: good evening antonio, well the concert got
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underway just about an hour ago. about 2,000 audience members packed the theater here. it is a concert that has been long anticipated. ♪ >> reporter: in havana music is everywhere. ♪ >> reporter: this weekend, music is the universal language that many hope with reunite the hearts and minds of cubans and people from the u.s. even for a brief moment. >> i think music is a great and powerful essential element of our life. and when someone is trying to build something new between two countries, what could be better than music? ♪ >> reporter: it's the first time an orchestra from the states has
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travelled to the communist island in 15 years. ♪ >> reporter: more than 100 american musicians from the minnesota orchestra are performing as part of the international cuba disco festival. this is the group's first visit to cuba since 1930. maestro says the ensemble is performing one of the same pieces played here on that last tour 85 years ago. >> they have played the third similarthonny of beethoven. and that was one of the reasons the organizers wanted to have beethoven. come back and play but do it like you did 85 years ago. >> reporter: the trip takes on even more meaning since the recent revolution of u.s. cuban relations. diplomats from both countries do
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their work -- ♪ >> reporter: -- tours like this help build the relationship on a person-to-person level. >> i want you to get more -- what i call corp to the sound. ♪ >> reporter: u.s. musicians like tony ross are coaching and playing with cuban music students. >> they seem to have a huge appetite for, you know, our kind of classical music, which is our cause to bring that to life. >> we talk about the relationships between nations and countries, and in this particular case this is beyond symbolic. it's very, very important. >> this is incredibly exciting. to be the first major orchestra in hopefully this new era in relations and to make friends through music is the easiest way. we both love the same thing, so let's talk about it. ♪
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>> translator: it is interesting to see how music, which is a universal language can eliminate barriers. you can get to unite people through music, and that's something great. ♪ >> reporter: it is this greatness, artists here hope will help build mow mem numb to bridge the divide between cuba and the united states through the sound of music. and antonio on the political front, cuban officials are expected in washington next week to reinitiate some talks to try to reestablish diplomatic ties. antonio? >> under the cuban embargo, americans still can't go as tourists. was it difficult for the minnesota orchestra to go to cuba? >> reporter: well there seemed to be more of a logistical challenge. the first question is how are they going to get 165 people to
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havana in the most efficient way possible. add to that the equipment, the musical instruments, 65 cases, about 4 tons of material. so they had to charter a flight from minneapolis to havana. and then they had to bring in additional equipment so it could sound the best it could. organizers said this could take years to plan, they did it in about a hundred days or so. >> how was the turnout? >> reporter: it was a packed crowd. it holds about 2,000 people loud applause when the orchestra took to the stage. one of the things that organizers here in cuba wanted to make sure of is that people had access to this concert. that this music was not going to be sold at a high premium.
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the most expensive seats sold for just under a dollar u.s. dollar tonight. >> thank you. finally tonight we say good-bye to a musical icon. ♪ [ cheers and applause ] >> b.b. king didn't just play the blues, he lived them. he was born a sharecropper's son in a shack in mississippi in 1925, and he rose to international stardom. he performed almost to his last days, and always played from the heart, inspiring fans from around the world, and generations of musicians. he died last night in his home in las vegas. he was 89 years old. that's it for this edition of al jazeera news. "america tonight" is up next. i will see you again in an hour. ♪
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>> [ ♪♪ ] on "america tonight" - getting schooled. >> now i owe over $33,000 in loans i never signed for, or know where they came from. i could have gone to a real university and had a real degree, and i have nothing to show for it now for-profit colleges - who gets stuck paying the price, a lesson in multiplying debt and why students say it's an