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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  September 17, 2013 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: the gunman who murdered 12 people at washington's navy yard showed signs of mental illness and complained of hearing voices, but was still able to keep his security clearance. >> ifill: plus, the story of families whose lives have been washed away by devastating floods in colorado. >> i actually saw the face of my house, my gut went to my feet. there was nothing salvageable. i don't even know how to describe it. >> woodruff: and we trek north-- far north-- where melting arctic ice has spurred a boom in shipping, but raised concerns about navigating uncharted waters. >> i think the surface of mars has been mapped better than our oceans have been.
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>> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. those are just some of the stories we're covering on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> and the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made
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possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: our lead story tonight: a fuller picture is emerging of the man who opened fire, killing a dozen civilians at the navy yard in washington. aaron alexis had a history of trouble during his military service, and may have had mental problems in recent months, but it remained unclear what drove him to start shooting. we'll have more on his state of mind, and the state of the investigation, right after the rest of the day's news. >> woodruff: five former new orleans policemen won a new trial today in the shootings of unarmed civilians after hurricane katrina. two people were killed and four wounded on the city's danziger bridge. today a federal judge today threw out the officers' convictions on civil rights violations. he accused prosecutors of "truly bizarre actions," including
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posting anonymous comments online. the toll of death and destruction in the colorado floods climbed again today. authorities confirmed eight dead, with several hundred still unaccounted for. at least 1,600 homes were listed as destroyed. meanwhile, new evacuations began as the flood tide moved downstream. in new jersey, investigators have ruled a fire that destroyed more than 50 beachfront businesses was accidental. the fire spread up the boardwalk in seaside park and seaside heights last week. it engulfed a number of buildings that had only just been repaired after last year's superstorm sandy. today officials said they traced the fire to wiring that was submerged during the storm. >> that i believe the wiring was sometime after 1970. it's possible that the wires just because of its age alone
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could have started this fire but we also know that not only is age a part of it, the storm is very clear that we're seeing the effect of this particular area of the board walk. >> woodruff: the officials warned there may be compromised wiring at a number of places that were hit by sandy. the five permanent members of the u.n. security council met today on disposing of syria's chemical weapons. the u.s., britain, china, france, and russia are trying to craft a resolution based on a u.s.-russian agreement. the western powers want the u.n. to authorize military force if syria fails to comply. russia does not. in iraq, baghdad was hit hard again by car bombings that killed at least two dozen. and in the west, suicide bombers attacked a police station in fallujah, killing eight others. the death toll since the violence began in april is well over 4,000. the president of afghanistan, hamid karzai, made clear today he's in no rush to sign a security deal with the u.s. it would set legal conditions for some foreign troops to
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remain after 2014, when combat forces withdraw. the u.s. wants a deal by next month, but karzai insisted his demands for security guarantees and better weapons must be met. >> ( translated ): if the americans do not give us the guarantees we have asked for until october and we do not reach an agreement they can wait for the next government. it's not necessary for me to sign it. the next president will come. there will be an election and they will sign it with them. >> woodruff: the afghan presidential election is next april. brazil's president, dilma rousseff, has delayed a state visit to the u.s. to protest spying by the national security agency. the announcement today followed revelations that the n.s.a. intercepted rousseff's communications and hacked computers at the state-run oil company. her office said the visit can be rescheduled when the u.s. provides satisfactory answers. the wrecked italian cruise ship "costa concordia" was pulled upright today off the coast of tuscany.
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the operation drew worldwide attention, just as the ship did when it capsized in january of 2012. we have a report from emma murphy of independent television news. >> and so after the 21 months the costa concordia" is righted in the water which is engulfed her. but she's a ship damaged beyond repair and bound for a scrap yard. it's very clear to see why this 114,000 ton vessel tipped. now the full extent of the damage can be assessed, those who raised her are amazed she stayed in one piece. ensure she didn't break up, this prevented an environmental disaster and the man who masterminded the salvage has become something of a local hero. so what about how it sfwhent. >> it was better than we expected but, you know, the result is right there, it's
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perfect. >> reporter: and are you hopeful now that you might be able to recover the remains of those who are still lost? >> that's what we're hoping for. >> reporter: you must be very proud of what we've achieved. >> it was a wonderful team effort. >> reporter: the 500 million pound operation took 19 hours. this time lapse footage shows how the vessel was raised through 65 degrees in order to rest her on a false seabed designed to support her until she is taken from here. for the 3,968 people who were able to escape from the sinking "concordia" these images will be a dreadful reminder of that ordeal. but there's relief the ship was righted, shell forever be associated with tragedy. >> woodruff: 32 people died when the cruise liner struck a reef and rolled over. the u.s. poverty rate failed to improve in 2012 for the sixth year in a row.
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the census bureau reported today that some 46.5 million americans were considered poor in 2012. that amounts to 15% of the population, statistically unchanged from the year before. the poverty line was set at an annual income of just under $23,500 for a family of four. the congressional budget office now estimates the government could default on its debts between the end of october and mid-november. the new timeline is about two weeks later than the previous estimate. congress can prevent default by raising the national debt ceiling, but in exchange, some republicans are demanding the president's health care law be defunded. in economic news, the labor department announced home health care workers are now eligible for the federal minimum wage and overtime pay. their ranks have grown to nearly two million. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average gained almost 35 points to close above 15,529.
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the nasdaq rose more than 27 points to close at 3745. still ahead on the newshour, what is known about yesterday's tragic shooting in washington; communities devastated and families displaced by the colorado floods; answers to your questions about health care reform; melting arctic ice opens up uncharted waters; and edwidge danticat on her latest novel. >> ifill: now, more on our lead >> ifill: now, more on our lead story, the washington navy yard shootings. investigators turned up more details today on the gunman, as the nation's capital honored the dead. it was a day for mourning and solemn tribute in washington.
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defense secretary chuck hagel and other military leaders laid a wreath at the navy memorial in honor of those killed in monday's massacre. and at the u.s. capital, senate majority leader harry reid led a moment of silence for 12 t 12 victims. officials also released the names of those killed. all of them civilians. >> this is a met cal process. >> reporter: investigators confirmed 34-year-old aaron alexis-- killed by police during the attack-- was the lone shooter. alexis, a buddhist convert who grew up in new york city, served as a navy reservist based in fort worth, texas, for four years. he was cited at least eight times for insubordination and disorderly conduct. he was given an early but still honorable discharge in 2011. alexis also had repeated run-ins with the law, arrested in seattle in 2004 for allegedly shooting at a construction worker's car tires and again in
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2011 in fort worth, accused of firing a bullet through his apartment ceiling. the f.b.i.'s valerie pilate said today that he came to washington last month. >> we can say we have determined mr. alexis arrived in the washington, d.c. area on or about august 26 and he has stayed at local hotels in the area since that time. most recently, he is known to have stayed at a residence inn in southwest washington, d.c. starting on september 7. >> ifill: at the time of yesterday's shooting, alexis was an employee with w a department subcontractor, the experts, working on a navy yard computer project. to do this work, he had a valid pass granting him access to the navy yard's building 197 where he opened fire with a shoot schott gunn he brought with him. plus two handguns he took from police. friends and family expressed disbelief at the news.
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>> he didn't seem like he would be that kind of person that would be that upset enough to do something like that. >> as a newcomer to the family, somebody should have been watching him. >> reporter: questions were raised today at alexis's mental state. the f.b.i. refused to comment that he'd been treating at veterans affairs hospitals far series of problems including pair paranoia, a sleep disorder and hearing voices. the navy had not declared him him mentally unfit, that meant he would have been stripped of his security clearance. jay carney said today administration is already reviewing contractors in the wake of leaks by edward snowden at the national security agency. >> we can tell you that the president's reaction, o.m.b. is examine standards for contractors across federal agencies. so this is obviously a matter with that the president believes and has believed merits review.
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>> ifill:tagon officials also said today defense secretary hagel will order his own security review of department irns lagss worldwide. so how did aaron alexis gain access to the tightly secured navy yard, and could officials have seen it coming? for the latest details, we turn to ernesto londono, who covers the pentagon for the "washington post." thanks for joining us. today has been a day full of "whys" and "hows." let's start with the how. how do we know he gained access to this installation which is considered to be very sdmur >> right. the answer on that different appears to be pretty straightforward and that is he was working there. he had a legitimate need to be in that building based on the work he was doing as a subcontractor for the department. the broader question that people are raising is in light of all the troubling information that we found in just a few hours-- and you can find easily by a simple google search-- what this
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man given his security clearance and a military badge that gave him unfeter access to a security facility. >> ifill: did we get to the the bottom of any of those questions today? >> not substantively. i think people at the pentagon are determined to do a wholesale review of access at installations worldwide and there's a huge interest in trying to figure out whether the -- the mechanisms we have there n place to screen job candidates and contractors are adequate. very troublingly, there was an inspector general's report released today suggesting that the navy in the past -- in the recent past, has cut corners when it came to vetting people who were requesting access to installations. this report was in the works for some time and it's not related to this case but what investigators found was this the navy was doing bad job of screening people and at least 52 cases it gave blajs to felons
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who are not supposed to be given access to military installations. >> ifill: 52 cases. that sounds like a lot, especially light of what we saw yesterday, but we know now that secretary hagel and the secretary of the navy and we heard the president launching all kinds of investigations. have there been investigations into this sort of access before? >> there have. however, you know, if you look at the serious security breaches that have happened at military installations, sort of the massive shooting incidents, there's two major ones: yesterday and the 2009 shooting at fort hood. in both cases they were perpetrated by people who had access to be there in the first place. so i think focus will likely be whether there were red flags that were ignored. whether there were people who ux you know, knew about the behavioral issues that these two individuals had who could have flagged them somehow. where there were mental health providers who were in a position
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to know that these people were unstable and showing signs of distress and once that information is shared with the proper authorities could these incidents have been stopped earlier. fill fail somewhat predictable debate erupted in washington today about how he may have gotten his weapon. what do we know about how he did? >> we know he purchased a handgun at a gun store in virginia on sunday. it appears to have been a pretty straightforward transaction. they did a check on him. they run his name through law enforcement databases. there was no red flag. there was no indication that he's a convicted felon which would have made him ineligible for a gun purchase so the gun owner sold him the weapons and he walked out of the store with it. >> ifill: what do we know about his clear from the navy at the time he was serving as a naval reservist? >> i was able to reach one former colleague who said very early on he was a bit of an introvert, he was somebody who wasn't very outgoing and was
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kind of quiet and reserved. in recent years, though, she told me she saw troubling changes in his personality. he became very aggressive. he was prone to outbursts of anger when they were out in social settings. he would sometimes just erupt in shouting matches with people around him for causes that didn't seem to warrant that reaction. he didn't like authority. he was constantly challenging his superiors. so she told me that, you know, it was concluded he was not a good fit for the military because if you're serving you need to know how to take orders. >> pelley: and do we know what his motives may have been? >> we did not. increasingly, i think we're seeing sign he is had some fairly serious mental health issues. he had complained to authorities he was hearing voices. behavior that appears to have been delusional, paranoid from what we've been able to glean from law enforcement sources. but there is no clear-cut
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motive. nobody has really articulated that he had a huge ax to grind with the navy, that he was furious at the navy, that there were any individuals working at that the facility that he knew, that he may have been trying to settle scores with. so at this point no irrational motive has emerged. >> ifill: awfully troubling. if thank you very much. >> my pleasure. >> woodruff: monday's shooting raises questions about how someone like aaron alexis is screened and allowed access to a u.s. military base, and whether his past should have raised alarm in the screening process. dr. elspeth cameron ritchie had a 24-year career in the army as a psychiatrist. and dr. e. fuller torrey is a psychiatry professor at the uniformed services university of the health sciences. we welcome both of you to the newshour. dr. ritchie, to you first. what have you heard both just now in the interview with the reporter ernesto londono and with -- that you've been reading
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today that raises questions in your mind about who aaron alexis was? >> there is a lot that raises questions in my mind. first, though, i want to send out my condolences so-to-the family members of the deceased and to the friends and colleagues of those who died because they're really important to keep them in our thoughts. in terms, though, of this gentleman's mental state, when you look back, there's red flags all over the place. there's a problem he had when he was in the navy. there's these episodes, the hearing voices pieces and you say how did this person ever get a security clearance? having said that, what i've seen often is in retrospect you can look back and see the problems, but at the time people were not putting that information together. i seriously doubt the people who granted the security clearance knew that he was hearing voices. what i do wonder, though, it sounds like his behavior was pretty bizarre and i wonder why
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nobody picked it up earlier. >> woodruff: dr. torrey, what about you? what are you hearing and reading about him that causes concern? >> judy, it sounds to me -- i haven't examined him but all the information that's now out there it sounds like a fairly typical case of paranoid schizophrenia, late-on set paranoid schizophrenia begins later than other forms of schizophrenia. he thought people were following him, he thought people were use magazines to cause vibrations in his body. this is a brain disease. it's a brain disease like parkinson's or alzehimer's disease. something along with his -- something went wrong with his brain in his 20s and you're looking at symptoms of the disease, one of which is acting out and in this case killing people and in his mind he was doing it based on delusions. my guess is that he was terminated by the navy, more or less, discharged. he probably think it is navy were doing all these things that he's experiencing in his mind and he was going to get back at
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them and so this episode makes no sense to us but to him it made perfect sense. >> woodruff: and we're still looking for more information that would confirm your theory. dr. ritchie, what about his -- the fact that -- the veterans administration, there's a report that they were treating him. now, that has not been confirmed. what are the -- what would the normal procedure be if someone who is a retired navy reservist has clearance to work on a navy base, is being seen -- if he's being seen by the veterans administration, what obligation would a health care provider have to share that information with someone else? to flag it. >> pelley: there's always a tension between preserving medical confidentiality and a duty to warn. job that the v.a. had any information about him being dangerous, but if they did, they would do a risk assessment and say how much of a danger is this person. actually, psychiatrist do this all the time.
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and we want to encourage people to seek treatment so they need to feel that will that information is confidential and on the other hand if there's an identified threat then we have a duty to warn the intended victim. and i don't know, again, who knew what when. >> woodruff: dr. torrey, a couple very clear questions raised out of this: how did he get the security clearance to be working for a department subcontractor? this company he was working for through hewlett-packard? i mean, how are we to understand something like that? >> well, two or three things. first of all, it's important to emphasize, judy, that most beam schizophrenia don't become violent. it's only a small numb mother who are not being treated who become violent. and you put it all together now and you say this guy is potentially dangerous. he had a brain disease, he had alcohol abuse, apparently he had episodes of violence. but nobody had that information. dr. ritchie is quite right.
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nobodyed that information to put together and so also people with paranoid schizophrenia can look pretty good in an interview and so it's difficult -- this is a man who didn't know he was sick, heed what -- he had no awareness of his illness. he would have been hard to treat. >> woodruff: we also know, dr. ritchie, that his father has told reporters that aaron alexis was among the first responders on 9/11. that he lived in new york, worked at a community college close to the twin towers. could something like that-- and his father said to reporters that he had some sort of post-traumatic stress illness. >> he could have had some symptoms but i want to make really clear to p.t.s.d., post-traumatic stress disorder, does not cause people to hear voices. people may have some jumppyness, some hypervigilance but the kind of paranoid delusions that dr. torrey mentioned are not consistent with p.t.s.d. >> ifill: dr. torrey? >> i strongly agree with that.
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i think there's any p.t.s.d. it was a very minor issue. this fellow had a brain disease that caused schizophrenia, almost certainly. the question is why he wasn't being treated. we don't have enough information to know that. if he had been treated, we probably wouldn't be seeing this. >> but we do know schizophrenics often have no insight into their disease. so it's likely that treatment was offer and he said "no thanks i don't need this." >> woodruff: i want to ask you very quickly from the time we have. this is not the first time we've been having this conversation about someone with a mental or emotional illness involved in a mass shooting in this country. what kinds of questions should we be asking as a country after this sort of an episode dr. torrey? >> we're seeing more of those, judy. this is increasing in incidents, this is because we have a total breakdown of the public mental health treatment system. i just happened to have published a book coming out called "american psychosis" which gives the whole history of this. you're looking at a breakdown where we've released french the
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hospital but don't provide treatment in the community for them. that's why we're having people in jail who are mentally ill, homeless mentally ill and that's why we're having increasing episodes of violence. >> woodruff: what would you had? >> i would add we also have to look at our gun laws. the fact that somebody with mental illness could go purchase a gun that day and use it. we've had this conversation so many times over these last few years connecticut, with aurora, with fort hood. we have to stand up and say we need to have a comprehensive intelligence approach to how people contain guns. >> woodruff: and we believe he purchased the gun legally in the state of virginia the day before the shooting. we're going to leave it there but we thank both of you for being with us. dr. elspeth ritchie, dr. fuller torrey, thank you. >> thank you.
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>> ifill: we return to the flooding and heartbreak in colorado. as the waters finally recede, the toll has become clear, with about 19,000 homes either damaged or destroyed statewide. and many colorodans are suddenly faced with trying to rebuild their lives. newshour producer mary jo brooks reports from one of the harder- hit counties. it's breakfast time at this home in colorado. it's a beehive of activity. several families who evacuated from the nearby mountain town of lyons have come to their friends' house in search of shelter and food after being trapped in their homes for two and a half days. lyons, one of the hardest-hit communities in the flooding, had been cut off from the rest of the world when two small rivers exploded over their banks, swamping the roads in and out of town. >> everybody's relieved to be safe. the first day it was a little giddy, actually. it was weird coming out and seeing the world continuing as normal.
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now, after we've had the chance to process, there's some grief coming up and a little bit of kind of p.t.s.d. >> ifill: dr. tear filmmaker jem moore and his family were able to drive out of lyons once the water began to recede. many other residents were airlift bid national guard helicopter. officials have told everyone to leave, even if their houses were intact, saying unstable roads and bridges and the complete lack of sanitation and electricity makes the town uninhabitable. most of the towns 1,200 residents have followed those order, leaving behind hundreds of homes and businesses that are damaged or destroyed. >> everybody's trying to find housing. as you might imagine the whole housing market has completely filled up with evacuees from the mountain towns so it will be really difficult to find temporary housing. >> reporter: david tiller is also on the hunt for housing. a musician, he watched as the floodwaters destroyed his home and recording studio.
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>> when i actually saw the face of my house, my gut just went through my feet. seeing the face of the house just blown open and realizing that there was nothing salvageable, really. nothing of the house i could tell that was salvageable. if i don't even know how to describe it. >> reporter: the town is early quiet. still under lockdown by national guard troops. there are downed power lines and water leaks everywhere and the sewage treatment plant is surrounded with 34ud mud. a brand new river has been carved out where once were ballfields and parking lots and large chunks of collapse road for an asphalt waterfall. officials are only just beginning to arrive to assess the damage to infrastructure so there's no word on when residents might be allowed to return. >> they're just guessing at this point. they're saying two to four weeks minimum and then the maximum
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nobody knows. with the sewage treatment plant out, the gas lines up, the power lines up, there's huge infrastructure damage, bridges, roads, as you might imagine. it's going to be an enormous task. >> reporter: tiller isn't sure if he'll even be allowed to rebuild. >> i don't think there's going to be any insurance company that's going to cover us. all we have is this chulk of land that's now part of a river. the river rerouted itself. so i don't know what we're going to be able to do with that. >> reporter: kathy burnett and mike whip are luckier than most. they've managed to stay in lyons since they have their own source of water and electricity. they own a tiny farm which hosts wedding receptions and dinners. stloz all been canceled for the rest of the year. since they have goats and chickens to tend they'll stay put. >> it's going to be ghost town like except for the maintenance workers and national guard. >> reporter: they also owned a
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mobile home trailer park which was completely wiped out. but it's not the financial loss that troubles them. >> one of the most devastating things to us in the town is people are displaced and the trailer park, there's 32 families that were displaced in the middle of the night. that's a heart breaker. >> our town is going to change entirely. especially economically. like many times, it's the lower income people are most displaced it seemed like. and that's going to change the complexion of our community for a long period of time. >> reporter: although residents knee a great deal of change and hard work lie ahead, they are optimistic that both the town and its residents will return in the coming months. >> woodruff: next, the health care reform law and its impact on insurance coverage. new insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, are getting
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set to open in october. but there's still much frustration and confusion about the law. a new poll finds 53% of the public is opposed to it. just 25% say they have a very good understanding of it. and only about half of the uninsured americans surveyed are supportive of it, with many questions about how it works. we're starting a series tonight in which we will try to answer some of your more frequently asked questions. ray suarez is in charge. >> suarez: it's intended to provide new insurance options for those who are uninsured. what we heard on line and from people we've interviewed are basic questions: who can sign up and what's covered. that's where we start tonight. julieovner are are from npr is here to talk about. this we've been hearing about exchanges. what is an exchange and who are
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the customers? >> an exchange a marketplace where people with k go and sign up for health care coverage. in this case, october 1 is the date you can sign up but insurance doesn't begin until january 1 with these health care exchanges. who can sign up? this is an important question for everything we've heard about these exchanges. they're not intended for everybody, in fact, they're not intended for most people. for most people nothing is going to change. most people get their insurance on the job. that will continue. the exchanges are for people who don't have insurance or who buy their own insurance. people who are self-employed largely. that's who these exchanges are aimed at and those are going to be the customers for these exchanges. in fact, the first year, the congressional budget office estimates only about seven million people are going to sign up for the exchanges out of more than 300 million americans. >> suarez: so if you don't have insurance, this will provide you a way to, what? easily compare prices than before? >> yes. easily compare prices, easily compare plans and easily sign up
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for insurance. the exchanges will also be a place where if you are eligible for medicaid, either the expanded medicaid in the states that are expanding medicaid or regular medicaid in states that have not expanded medicaid, if you go to the exchange and you're eligible, the exchange is supposed to direct you to your state's medicaid program. >> i've been talking to regular americans on the street about the confusions they still have, the concerns they still have including one woman who's worried about a friend. >> i'm from austin, texas, and my question is specific to one of my girlfriends who needs surgery. she does not have health care, she's self-employed. i'm curious about how the affordable care act is going to help her, how she'll access insurance so she can get the surgery she needs so she can resume her full time working schedule. >> suarez: you must see a lot of people in that predicament. what's up there for them? >> these are the people who have been waiting most eagerly for the exchanges to open.
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one of the big changes that happens january 1 is that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing health conditions. right now people like this woman's friend may have gone to try to buy insurance and simply have been turned away and companies have said "we can't afford to take you because the individual market only sick people would sign up because individual insurance has been very expensive. now with the requirement that most people have insurance, insurers have said now we can afford to ensure both healthy people and sick people." on so on october the 1 the friend can go to exchange, pick from whatever insurance policy she likes, sign up january 1 she can get insurance irregardless of her pre-existing condition, get the care she needs. a lot of people have been waiting for exactly this coverage. >> suarez: we've also been getting a lot of question through the newshour web site. george smith writes from los angeles: "i keep hearing about levels of coverage from bronze all the way to platinum."
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he was openly a skeptic about the law. >> that's right. and it is a little bit confusing. there are set benefits that every plan these vo ride is and every plan has to pay basically 60% of your medical -- your covered medical bills. that's the floor and that would be the bronze plan. from there you can decide do you want to pay a higher premium and get sort of more benefits paid or do you want to pay a lower premium and run the risk that if you get sick you'll have to have more of your -- you'll have to pay more of your bills out of pocket. so higher premium gets you more coverage, lower premium gets you less coverage. so if you think you'll stay healthy you might want to pay a lower premium that would cover a smaller percentage of your bill but they're all the same types of benefits, it's how much you would have to pay out of pocket if you have medical bills. so basically you're going to have toest bhat you think you
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might have in medical bills and go for there. and there's a broad, silver, gold, plat plath numb that cover different percentage of our out-of-pocket spending. >> suarez: what i found when i was speaking to people is they had fundamental basic questions about the new system and that would seem to match up with what pew found in its latest numbers. tell us about that. >> that's right. i think people are still really confused. a lot of people have found -- indeed, people aren't sure the law is still the law. a lot of people think with these repeated repeals in the house of representatives that the law might have been repealed. people don't understand the basics. some people think that everybody's going to go to these exchanges. some people simply have no idea how their own insurance works so it's not surprising they don't know how the new law works because they don't understand how the basics of the health system works. so it's easy to see why this is confusing. >> suarez: we'll help people out this week and alie their fears
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and explain the mechanics of the law. julie r.o.v.er in, thanks for joining us. >> woodruff: julie continues to answer questions at her home base for public media, of course: npr. for our part, we want to continue to hear from you. online, we're collecting questions about the new health law, and we'll be answering those in the coming days. >> ifill: next, we head north to the arctic sea. thanks to climate change, there are now new waters to discover there. melting ice has opened new routes for ships, and raised concerns about safety for maritime traffic in uncharted territory. newshour producer april brown reports part two of our series, "arctic thaw." >> reporter: the vivid blue of the many glaciers in prince
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william sound captivate tourists from all over the world. but they are slowly shrinking. >> we're back here, you know, about five months out of the year every day, so we're watching these glaciers break off, move back, and we're seeing the change daily and yearly. >> reporter: cody hanna captains the "klondike express" tour boat. he says the melting glaciers create more navigable water. >> barry glacier probably being one of the fastest-receding glaciers here in the sound, and i believe, from what i've been told and the pictures i've seen of 2003 until now, we're over a mile back. that's a lot of water. >> reporter: off the north slope of alaska, rapid ice melting is even more pronounced. parts of the arctic ocean often look like this in the summer, ice-free. james overland is an oceanographer with noaa, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. he's spent decades looking at the arctic sea ice trends.
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>> it's a scary proposition that things are happening a lot faster than we thought even a few years ago. >> reporter: last year the arctic summer sea ice extent was at a record low, shrinking significantly over the past decade and covering only about half the area it did in the early 1990s. >> the real scary thing that we're focusing on now is, it's not just the extent, but it's the thickness of the ice, and that's been going down dramatically. >> reporter: according to overland, three-fourths of the volume of arctic ice has been lost since the 1980s. and while it's destroyed a lot of habitat for animals like the polar bear and walrus, it's opened the door for many businesses. >> shell oil was beginning to explore for oil in the alaskan arctic. cruise ships. >> reporter: and just like his
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fellow mariners further north, captain hanna has no way to know it's safe to sail in the open water the melting ice leaves behind. he relies on detailed charts from noaa, and has been talking with one of its representatives about updates that will let him know how close he can take his passengers to the glaciers that remain. >> it definitely cannot be underestimated how important having these charts is. obviously someone came out here first-- someone explored, someone probably bumped a few rocks-- not something we want in our day and age with the sophistication they have on the charts. >> reporter: just off the shores of alaska, a small survey boat is gathering the kind of data that eventually leads to the creation of charts hanna and other mariners rely on. the scientists on board are painting the sea floor with sonar, going back and forth over a designated area, as if mowing a lawn slowly. hydrographic survey technician barry jackson sees something big.
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>> reporter: there is an obvious object that is coming into view here. you can see the mast and the super structure in there. >> reporter: after the information is thoroughly processed, it becomes clearer this is the outline of a shipwreck. >> reporter: previously unknown potential threats like this one are exactly what jackson and lieutenant meghan mcgovern are looking for. >> we're part of the department of commerce, so we're here to make sure that commerce is safe, that they can navigate these waters. alaska is very heavily trafficked with, you know, big ships, small ships, fishing boats-- all kinds of traffic that moves through here. and our job is to find the rocks and the shipwrecks and any other hazards that are there, so that so that those vessels don't run into anything. >> reporter: the small survey boat jackson and mcgovern are working on was launched from the noaa ship "rainier." its captain is commander rick brennan. >> i think the surface of mars has been mapped better than our oceans have been.
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>> reporter: brennan's ship and crew have spent the summer charting the popular fishing area off alaska's shumigan islands, where the "rainier" itself can mow a kilometer-wide path with sonar. its summer cruise-- as it's known-- is part of a larger noaa effort to get more information about the vast waters around the state, especially those in higher latitudes-- where, if current trends continue, more ships are heading. according to government figures, the number of vessels transiting through the arctic has more than doubled since 2008, from about 120 to 250 last year, with tankers, cargo ships, and tugs leading the way. but there is sometimes little or no information to ensure a safe passage, particularly in the arctic circle. in many places, only rudimentary depth measurements exist, some dating back to the 1700s, when the british navy's captain cook sailed around alaska. >> as you proceed north from the alaska peninsula and you start proceeding up towards barrow and
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prudhoe, it's just the soundings or those measurements that we have of the... you know, of how deep the water is just continue to get less and less and less, because those areas had never been mapped because they were covered with ice. >> reporter: and it's one of the reasons the "rainier's" sister ship, "the fairweather," surveyed a path through the arctic last summer, sailing north from the aleutian islands up the west coast of alaska, through the bering strait and into the waters off alaska's north slope, through the chukchi past barrow and into the beaufort sea beyond prudhoe bay. the voyage simply would not have been possible even a few decades ago. as arctic sea ice continues to melt and human activity in the area grows, so, too, does the pressure on the coast guard. its operations, both land and sea, are based here in kodiak. when that ice recedes, then the vessels are going to increase, and if something does go wrong in the roughly 500,000 miles of
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water around the state, the coast guard is the agency that responds. commander mark vislay is the kodiak air station's operations officer. >> an area of responsibility for one of our primary responsibilities is to ensure the safe and secure operations of maritime traffic, and that's where we come into play-- search and rescue response to distressed mariners. >> reporter: but the coast guard is also tasked with environmental protection and responding to potential disasters. in january, not far from its kodiak base, the royal dutch shell rig "kulluk," which had been drilling off alaska's north slope, ran aground during a violent storm while being towed south. the agency prepared for the possibility that thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and other fluids could leak out of the stranded rig. that didn't happen. but with an expanding area to cover and more vessels going through, vislay admits the coast guard is being stretched. >> we can manage the risk, if you will, but we definitely are short of what we need to cover this entire area of responsibility up here in alaska.
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>> reporter: all three members of alaska's congressional delegation in washington have long been calling for more general infrastructure and coast guard resources. democrat mark begich says it's been an uphill battle, but that lawmakers are slowly coming around. >> when i came here five years ago, i'm not sure people really understood that there was an arctic ocean, to be very frank with you. and so having that discussion about the impacts of what's going on there, it's not a question if the arctic will be developed-- it's happening. the question is, how do we manage it? >> reporter: meanwhile, the coast guard established a temporary forward operating base in the arctic near the bering strait this summer. last year 480 vessels sailed through the 58-mile-wide passage between the u.s. and russia-- more than twice as many as in 2008. >> ifill: our next report comes from the north slope, where native alaskans have hunted for whales for generations. but their subsistence lifestyle is now endangered by melting arctic ice. we've posted a preview on our
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home page. also online, you'll find a lesson plan to help students understand the how scientists study climate change. that's on newshour extra, our site for teachers and students. >> woodruff: now, haitian-born novelist edwidge danticat returns with her first novel in a decade, and her first work of fiction about her native country since the 2010 earthquake there. it's called "claire of the sea light." jeffrey brown sat down with her earlier today. here's an excerpt from their conversation. . >> brown: what is the story you want to tell? the story of haiti that you reach for in so many of your works? >> well, ain't multiplicity of stories to be told about haiti. i think haiti is one of those
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places that is often portrayed in a very singular way and i certainly wouldn't want to participate in that and maybe this is what harkens all these voices in this one town. i want people to see the story of communities. there's the story of poverty but also great wealth next to that poverty and environmental stories, the story of different religions. so that -- there's little bit of that in the town but if people go back to read other literatures of haiti, it's certainly haiti is not a monolithic community, it's a beautiful artistic and spiritual community but it's nothing -- it's nothing monolithic about it. >> brown: and you reach back for that -- in this case, this is based on your mother's story or your mother's town. so you reach back for that in a kind of a personal way? >> absolutely. i reach back and i think that's what all writers do, you reach back but reach forward. you also try to present a world
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in a way that you would like it to be. you try to solve problems in a way you wish they would be solved so there's no reaching back, there's also an acknowledgment of the present because haiti lives in a very ever is-urgent present even with his extraordinary history, extraordinary art, extraordinary people. but it also lives in a very difficult presence. so it's the marriage, i think, arts, the arts allow us a kind of merging of all of these elements. >> brown: this story has a sort of timelessness to it. you told me that it was set in 2009 before the earth wake, but i'm wondering how has the earthquake changed the kind of story that you think needs to be told? >> well, i mean, the earthquake is part of now the present of haiti and will always have a life before the earthquake, a life after the earthquake. i don't feel capable or ready yet to write stories that are set after the earthquake.
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so i wanted to set this story on the cusp. you know, the this town is right before the earthquake and how people were living their lives and maybe it's my attempt of hanging on a little bit longer to something that was. >> brown: and how do you do this now living in the united states? not living in haiti? >> well, i -- you do -- i do it by returning. i do it by reading. by the great literature. i do it by just staying in touch. i think's a part of me-- like all children of immigrants-- there's a part of us always in haiti. we're not in the physical place right now but i do it by staying connected and when i write about haiti it's also a way for know go back. just in the way that when i read or look at the beautiful art or listen to the wonderful music. it's another way of -- for know
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go back when i'm not able to physically go back. >> woodruff: you can find jeff's full information from danticat and read an excerpt from her novel on our art beat page. it's the first in a newly expanded series of talks with novelists and writers. >> ifill: finally tonight, a new six-hour documentary series on pbs begins tonight that chronicles the experiences of latinos in north america. five centuries of rich history is told through the very human dramas of individuals. this excerpt focuses on a young social studies teacher in 1960s los angeles who was unhappy with low graduation rates for mexican american kids. so even as civil rights leaders called for equal opportunity for all, sal castro specifically worked to improve chances for latino students. >> by 1967 with martin luther king organizing in the south and cesar chavez organizing in california, castro began looking
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for ways to organize students inest l.a. >> i went to see my father and i said what do you think? and he looked at me and he said "i don't think." that's all he said. >> castro was determined to organize a student strike of as many schools as possible. students drew up a list of demands that included having classes in mexican american history and hiring more latino teachers. castro enlisted recent graduates to help. >> there's kids today in the schools that are going through the same experience that you guys did that i did. and i want your help top get it to stop. >> the word started to circulate. walkout. walkout. let's boycott school. and we slowly planned this out,
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campus by campus over a six-month period and we set a date. march 6, 1968. >> i was scared, excited, nervous. my mother told me "i'll meet you in front of school. look for me." so that really empowered me. >> i got to lincoln high school, i knew that others were at roosevelt. we had all coordinated and others were at garfield and some were at wilson. belmont was ready as well. >> i remember being really nervous and not knowing "can i do this? what if i teem only one that gets up and does this? can i really do this?" >> and the time came, 10:00, i walked on to campus, nobody was walking out. and i started yelling up and down the hallways "walkout, walkout, walkout!"
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>> i stood up and walked out of the classroom. i was afraid to look behind me to see if anyone else was coming. >> and then the doors started to fling open and students just rushed out. >> the roar of the footsteps all coming down stairwell where i was, that was exciting. all i remembered was, okay, i have to go to the front gate because that's where mom is. and there she is. as all of the students came out, i picketed lincoln high school with my mother.
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>> over a thousand kids were out there and i looked back and was like, wow, look at all the students and parents coming out and joining us. it was a very emotional time for me. it was beautiful. >> by the end of the day, march 6, 1968, some 10,000 student had peacefully walked out of four east los angeles high schools. >> woodruff: a sad postscript, sal castro died this past april at the age of 79. "latino americans" airs over three consecutive tuesday nights on pbs, with the first two-hour installment this evening. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. there were new disclosures that the washington navy yard gunman may have had mental problems, including hearing voices. meanwhile, defense secretary hagel ordered security reviews at all military sites.
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and the death toll in the colorado floods rose to eight, with at least 1,600 homes destroyed. >> woodruff: tonight's edition of "frontline," "egypt in crisis," is a partnership with global post and looks at the rise and fall of the muslim brotherhood. and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday we have a newsmaker interview with secretary of defense chuck hagel. we'll discuss the mass shooting at the naval yard and the military's role in dealing with syria. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. on behalf of all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century.
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>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org 
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