tv PBS News Hour PBS August 16, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> sreenivasan: good evening. i'm hari sreenivasan. judy woodruff is away. on the newshour tonight: president trump disbands two business councils after a slew of executives resign, following charlottesville backlash. and, while more political leaders raise their voices, we get a reality check on what happened on the ground in charlottesville. and, how do americans feel about president trump's response to the violence in charlottesville? the results from our latest pbs newshour/npr/marist poll. also ahead, as the city of raqqa becomes ground zero in the battle against isis, we go to the front lines where syrians fight for their lives, and their homes. >> ( translated ): these people are our families. every soldier we lose to free the people, is worth it to us. we are ready to be killed for the freedom of the people. >> sreenivasan: plus, a rare coast-to-coast total solar eclipse is on the horizon.
>> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems-- skollfoundation.org. >> the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives through invention, in the u.s. and developing countries. on the web at lemelson.org. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> sreenivasan: the fallout from the weekend's clash in charlottesville has dominated the day's news again. it came in new criticism of
president trump, and in words of praise for the woman who was run down by a car. john yang begins our coverage. ♪ amazing grace >> yang: in charlottesville today, hundreds of people gathered to remember heather heyer at a downtown theater, just blocks from where the 32-year-old was killed as she protested saturday's white nationalist rally. >> did i ever tell you how much i loved you? heather, when my children ask me who i admire most, i will them, you. >> yang: president trump called her "a truly special young woman." the firestorm over mr. trump's ricocheting response to the violent confrontation spread: more c.e.o.'s quit trump administration advisory councils. with even additional resignations likely, mr. trump moved preemptively.
"rather than putting pressure on the business people of the manufacturing council and strategy and policy forum, i am ending both." in chile, vice president mike pence stood by his embattled boss. >> the strength of the united states of america is always strongest, as the president has said so eloquently, when we are united around our shared values. and so it will always be. >> yang: but lawmakers from both parties condemned equating the white nationalists who organized saturday's rally, and counter- protesters-- many republicans never mentioning the president's name. former presidents george bush, father and son, issued a joint statement: "america must always reject racial bigotry, anti- semitism, and hatred in all forms." the backlash also extended abroad. >> i see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them. and i think it is important for all those in positions of
responsibility to condemn far-right views, wherever we hear them. >> yang: mindful of saturday's confrontation, baltimore officials ordered the overnight removal of statues of confederate leaders in the interests of public safety. in charlottesville, all this was on the minds of those who spoke of heather heyer. >> i want to thank you, heather, for all your passion, for all of your talks, for all of your smiles, for believing that this world can change, and trying to make that happen. >> yang: a greiving mother sought meaning in her daughter's death: >> they tried to kill my child to shut her up-- well, guess what? you just magnified her. ( applause ) so remember in your heart, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. and i want you to pay attention. and that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile. i'd rather have my child, but by
golly, if i have to give her up, we're going to make it count. ( applause ) >> yang: for the pbs newshour, i'm john yang. >> sreenivasan: later, two members of the trump cabinet, attorney general jeff sessions and secretary of state rex tillerson, condemned racism and violence. we'll have much more, later in the program. in the day's other news, president trump welcomed a gesture by north korea to ease tensions. he tweeted that kim jong-un's decision not to fire missiles toward guam was "very wise and well-reasoned." separately, the u.s. territory's homeland security adviser joined appeals for calm. >> we are hopeful that diplomacy will win the day. i am hearing that secretary tillerson, rex tillerson, is opening up dialogue with north korea. we are hopeful that that goes through. we are also moving about with the business of government, praying that things go well. >> sreenivasan: also today, china urged both sides to "hit the brakes" on verbal threats.
there's word an american soldier has died fighting islamic state forces in eastern afghanistan. the u.s. military says several other soldiers were wounded. it's unclear exactly where or when the fight occurred. the people of sierra leone kept digging today, desperately hoping to find survivors from monday's deadly mudslide. more than 300 are confirmed dead in the capital, freetown, with 600 still missing. john ray, of independent television news, is there. >> a lament for the dead. by the time all the bodies are counted, it will swell to a great chorus of grief. this woman cries for the sister she's lost. a few feet away, a husband mourns a young wife and their twin children. born a few days ago, their young lives snuffed out. they were summoned in the hundreds to the city's morgue to try to identify the dead. ish shell tells me he's looking for his sister and her family.
>> everybody died. we lost everybody. >> reporter: in two miles, nothing but destruction. the falling mountain tossed huge boulders down on to what were once busy streets. silence now except for the diggers and the regular call for another body bag to be brought to the scene. hard to imagine any survivors in the suffocating bud. >> ten to 12 now. >> reporter: ten to 12 this morning? >> correct, sir. >> reporter: have you found anybody alive? >> not yet, sir. everybody's dead. >> reporter: this nation only just recovered from ebl la, yet again they are brig out the bodies. each corpse accompanied by tears. (crying) the government declared this week a week of national mourning. the grief is tangible. this is a disaster that has stunned even people who have
grown used to tragedy and hardship. by the time they opened the more chiewmortuary gates to relativee rain is falling again. does nothing to wash away the smell of decay nor the sorrow of a nation. >> sreenivasan: report from john ray of ind >> sreenivasan: that report from john ray, of independent television news. in the philippines, police have killed 32 people in the deadliest single day of president rodrigo duterte's war on drugs. authorities say the victims died in shootouts during raids in a northern province, from monday night into tuesday. officers also arrested 109 people. in a speech today, duterte hailed the results and said, "let's kill another 32 every day." back in this country, the republican primary race for a u.s. senate seat in alabama will head to a runoff in september. interim senator luther strange finished second on tuesday, to former state chief justice roy moore, who's heavily backed by evangelical voters. after the results were tallied last night, both men positioned themselves as change candidates.
>> the voters of alabama just sent a powerful message to washington, d.c., a resounding message that can't be denied. they want to stop playing games with the people of alabama. >> president trump called me, said, "luther, i want you to be elected to th senate, because you understand what i'm trying to do to make america great again. you understand the problems that need to be addressed on the ground in alabama." >> sreenivasan: the president tweeted that his endorsement of strange helped close the gap with moore. the runoff winner will face democrat doug jones in december for the seat that jeff sessions gave up to be u.s. attorney general. the trump administration will make cost-sharing payments to health insurance firms under obamacare for the month of august. the white house announced the decision today, but gave no indication about future months. the payments subsidize co-payments and deductibles. prident trump took fresh aim at amazon again today. he tweeted that the e-commerce giant is doing "great damage" to retailers, and costing jobs.
many traditional retailers have blamed amazon for driving them out of business. the company has also hired thousands of warehouse workers nationwide. amazon c.e.o. jeff bezos is also the owner of the "washington post," which has published many stories critical of the president. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average gained about 26 points to close near 22,025. the nasdaq rose 12 points, and the s&p 500 added three. still to come on the newshour: continuing coverage of charlottesville-- we offer a reality check on the president's comments. two activists with very different points of view band together to combat violence. our new poll shows how the american public is reacting to the week's events. and, much more. >> sreenivasan: at president trump's press conference yesterday in new york, he made a series of statements about the participants in the deadly weekend protests in charlottesville. newshour's p.j. tobia was at the protests.
he compares what he saw on the ground, to the president's comments. >> reporter: the "unite the right rally" was formally supposed to begin on saturday, but neo nazis and white nationalists held a surprise, torch-light march on friday night. they filed through the university of virginia's main campus, chanting, in a display reminiscent of 1930s germany. >> jews will not replace us! jews will not replace us! blood and soil! blood and soil! >> reporter: but, at his trump tower news conference yesterday, president trump defended the marchers. >> i looked the night before. if you look, there were people protesting, very quietly, the taking down of the statue of robert e. lee. i'm sure in that group, there were some bad ones. >> reporter: newshour producer mark scialla and i arrived in charlottesville the next morning. by that time, police were pushing white nationalists and
neo nazis from the grounds where they had originally been permitted to demonstrate. the city called for a state of emergency and cancelled the permit. on their way out of the park, they clashed with counter- demonstrators. the white nationalist neo nazis were far outnumbered-- but most looked ready for a fight, wearing helmets and carrying sticks and shields. from what we observed, the white nationalists were far more aggressive than the counter- protesters. yesterday, though, the president suggested, again, both sides were equally violent. >> it looked like they had some rough, bad people: neo-nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. but you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest, because you know-- i don't know if you know, they had a permit. >> reporter: a few of those protesting the nazis and white nationalists were armed with sticks and helmets too. the president accused them of also using violent tactics, as he defended the so-called "alt-right," a loose affiliation of white nationalist supremacist groups.
>> excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? do they have any semblance of guilt? let me ask you this-- what about the fact they came charging, that they came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? >> reporter: the vast majority of counter-protesters we saw were unarmed, like this group of local clergy. >> fear and hate have been given license in our country. violence, racialized violence, has been given permission in this country and we are here to stand for love. >> reporter: there were also many local people who came to defend what they see as charlottesville's values. >> it's not what we love, and it feel you know like abuse. it feels like our wonderful city is getting abused. >> reporter: by midday, the white nationalists were routed from the park, and regrouped at a separate location. it appeared the counter- protesters had won the day, as i explained on saturday's newshour. the protest had turned kind of festive. there were people with funny
signs, there was laughing and singing and chanting. but moments later, a car driven by 20-year-old james alex fields jr. plowed into the group of anti-white nationalist nazi protesters, killing one and sending 19 more to the hospital. those who know the driver fields say he had long idolized adolf hitler, and believed in white supremacy. >> i think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country, and that is... you can call it terrorism. you can call it murder. you can call it whatever you want. >> reporter: even those who were physically unscathed were shaken and terrified. after the attack, protesters and counter-protesters dispersed. we followed a pennsylvania militia carrying long guns and confederate battle flags from pennsylvania, who wandered into a largely african american neighborhood. they were soon met by angry locals, who pelted them with rocks. soon after, they packed up their guns and left the area. for the pbs newshour, i'm p.j. tobia in washington.
>> sreenivasan: in response to the recent events in charlottesville, something interesting happened in charleston, south carolina yesterday, that could be a road map forward. a secessionist and a black nationalist came together to make sure the racial tensions in their town do not lead to what happened in charlottesville. they agreed to what they're calling the charleston accord, which says though they may continue to be on opposite sides of an issue, they would: have an open dialogue; promote legal avenues for change; work to prevent violence; and collaborate for the public good when they could. as part of our "race matters" solutions, tonight we have with us james bessenger of the south carolina secessionist party and johnathan thrower, who goes by shakem, a self-described black nationalist. gentlemen, welcome.
johnathan, i want to start with you. i'll call you shakem from now on. >> yes, sir. >> reporter: to say the two of you have different world views is an understatement. as of a few nights ago, you and james were exchanging critiques on facebook. give me an idea. how tense are race relations in charleston and what changed after charlottesville? >> yes, well, race relations have lakes been on a sharp decline ever since the walter scott and dylann roof incident. the flag over the south carolina state house has been a boiling point in the media and the minds of the people here. race relations have basically gone down. so essentially what we are looking at now is a situation rough two ideologies basically amongst white people and black people and there are people who don't actually see it as a race
issue, it's also looked as a class issue because classism is an issue also more so as race. right now, it's almost like a boiling point and there has been a lot of words exchanged lately, tensions are very high. now with the -- a lot of leaders, black and white, calling for the jon c. calhoun statue and a lot of the confederate monuments to come down in the city, that has sparked the ire and attention and put the focus back on race relations in the city and they were already very tense to begin with. >> sreenivasan: james bessenger, for your group, the confederate monuments and statutes are a source of pride, for members of shakem's group they're a source of pain. how do you have a conversation like this which is deeply personal for people without it coming to blows?
>> i think we have to do that by exactly what we've started here in charleston. we don't see a lot of dialogue -- hardly any at all between organizations like ours and his that represent two very polar opposite groups in this debate. it's been difficult to try to find someone, at least on our side that we could talk to like that, but i think sitting down and having a first-time dialogue is a good way to start that process. >> sreenivasan: james, when shakem first reached out to you, tell me a little bit about that. >> i heard from him the first time. we got to know who each other was a little bit, and it was the first time i heard from someone on that side of the debate who didn't describe me as a racist, fascist or neo-nazi. so it was refreshing to find people on the other side of the debate to pay attention to where we were coming from without jumping to conclusions.
>> sreenivasan: when you first met him, what was going through your mind? >> it's hard. when i look at a white person with a confederate flag it brings up a lot of emotion because that brings images of an enemy and, you know, in spite of the fact that all of them aren't klansmen or k.k.k. members, it's something you have to get over psychologically in your head especially as being a black person. so that was something that really kind of, you know, took me a moment to get over, and also we -- you know, we have a lot of issues with the klan here in south carolina. it was just something that really took something in me to sit down and say, okay, let's see how this issue of race can actually be resolved without coming to blows and let me just ask something really quick, you asked him a question about how do we look at this issue, how do
we resolve this issue without coming to blows. >> sreenivasan: yeah. one of the things i had to do on my end as far as talking to black people as a whole and being a leader in this community, i had to show them that taking down a statue does not end systematic oppression, whether it's classism or racism. so i really wanted them to get a big picture understanding of what's being done here, and if we begin to invest all our energy -- and i'm not saying don't take the statues down because if they come down, i'm happy -- but what i had to do before i could have a conversation about the relevancy of our conversation, i had to let them know that fighting to take a monument down is not necessarily a substantive victory. that's what i had to overcome before i can let them know, okay, this is what we'll do to try to prevent some of the
violence. >> sreenivasan: james, how do you work with organizations and try to stop the violent pulling down of statues that might already be planned or happen in the future? how do the two of you work together to let people know an accord or pact like yours exists and this would be a violation of that? >> we both have gone to our community and let them know what we agreed on. charleston has a wonderful reputation in not responding to crises in that way. charleston and south carolina does things differently. i think what we've started is it's got an lot of positive feedback already and it's giving people a little hope considering what we've seen so far. i have a strong inkling that if we were to see things like what we saw in durham, north carolina
that way, i think those people would come out of state. i don't think we would see south carolinians acting that way. >> sreenivasan: shakem, what about the people that are further on the fringe from your position who are going to look at you and say, you know what? you've sold out, just by shaking this man's hand, you're not one of us anymore. james, i want you to answer the same question. >> this is what i say. in 2015 when the confederate flag came down after we fought so hard to get that to come down, we see the murder rate increasing and education continued to remain at the bottom. south carolina is last in education. when you begin to look at the economic conditions that are prevalent in this city you see that our cities are urban -- our urban communities are being starved of resources. so if what you're telling me i'm selling out because, i'm telling you don't go to jail for pulling down a statue, then i think the problem is with you and we need
to actually refocus our energy and intelligence on getting solutions that are going to raise the economic level of black people here in this city. that's what i would say to them. >> sreenivasan: james bessenger, what about the neo-nazis or the klan or others who would say you're a traitor, i can't believe you're sitting shoulder to shoulder with this guy now? >> that's their opinion. they're entitled to that. i would tell them those organizations that have tried to involve themselves in southern defense of monuments have onlymade matters worse. when organizations presents themselves at events like in charlottesville, it exacerbates the problem and they have made zero progress in alleviating the tension we feel. as far as calling me a race traitor, what have you, south carolinians have been in family in lieu of slavery for years. me and this man have more in common than i do with some of those people. >> reporter: james bessenger
of the south carolina secessionist party and johnathan thrower shakem, thank you for joining us. >> thank you. appreciate it. >> sreenivasan: stay with us. coming up on the newshour: families trying to rebuild their lives in the rubble of their hometown, ground-zero in the fight for an isis stronghold in syria. and, preparing for the solar eclipse that's expected to be out-of-this world. but first, back to the fallout from the president's comments on charlottesville. political correspondent lisa desjardins joins me now to discuss how republican lawmakers have reacted, and the new numbers from our latest newshour poll, done in collaboration with npr and marist college. these were done after the statement on saturday. >> that's right. this was a poll done monday and tuesday. so some of this might include the president's latest reaction. most sin colluding his reactions from saturday. here's what we've found. we asked people what they thought about the president's
response. 27% felt it was strong enough. hari, a majority of americans felt, 52%, not strong enough. now, that did break down across party lines. republicans felt better about the president's response than did democrats and independents, but on another question this was universals agreement. the question was should the fatal crash in charlottesville be investigated as an act of domestic terrorism? 67% polled answered yes. that was the same across all parties. we saw that resonate. what's interesting there, hari is the president has yet to say this should be investigated as nestic terrorism. he talks at islamic terrorism, but here americans seem to be raising a phrase the president is not. >> sreenivasan: so the president may not be in line with the views in that question, but how are other republican leaders handling this now? >> that's right, he's not the only major republican leader. we've seen one common response and that is the one we've seen from house speaker paul ryan and
senate leader mitch mcconnell. mitch mcconnell in his response said there are no good neo-nazis. we have a responsibility to stand against racism whenever it rears its head. but they are not taking on the president by name. a few have. senator marco rubio tweeted, mr. president, you can't allow white supremacistists to share only part of the blame. going after the president's idea that there is blame on all sides and then we've seen even more, even fewer republicans have said this on camera because, of course. it's recess right now but one is an interesting congressman wil h.i.r.d. of texas in the swing districts. >> what would you say to the president, congressman, right now? >> apologize and that racism, bigotry, antisemitism of any form is unacceptable and the
leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that. >> so he says it should be unambiguous and that the president should apologize. it's a range for republicans, but hari, the truth is most are not addressing the president directly. >> sreenivasan: they're in recess now. when they get back to business, what does this mean for them? >> i spent a lot of time making phone calls today and the truth of them, a lot of them don't know. they're not sure. this september, hari, will be one of the most difficult climbs for republicans and many people in congress. they have to pass a budget, have spaning bill, keep government operating, pass a debt ceiling increase, and they want to also try to tackle tax reform. so i hear from republicans that they're trying to focus ahead and in coded words they say we are focusing on what we can do here many congress. that means they're not expecting or not sure they can get help from this president at this point. one person said the president has to be part of this process, we know that, but also multiple
people said we would like less drama from the white house. it's as if they're driving into a storm now with the president. >> when those members of congress come back to the capital, the issues of monuments doesn't go away. >> that's right, hari. ten statutes in the u.s. capital of men who served in the confederacy. it's something that members of congress see every day. >> sreenivasan: lisa desjardins, thank you so much. >> sreenivasan: and now we continue our conversation on the national reaction to the violence in charlottesville, and the president's multiple responses to the events there. john yang is back with that. >> yang: thanks, hari. to get two different perspectives on all of this, we're joined by karine jean- pierre, a senior advisor to moveon.org and a veteran of the obama administration. and from phoenix, chris buskirk,
editor of the conservative blog americangreatness.org, and a talk radio host. thank you both for joining us. karine, let me start with you. since saturday, there has been a lot going on and it seems like a big moment. what does this tell us about who we are as americans in 2017 and where we are as a nation. >> right, there's clearly no secret that this country has struggled with racism for many, many decades, right? it is a dark, troubling history of ours and, so, the difference is that most presidents have been on both sides of the aisle, when it comes to a scenario like this, they would have tried really hard to bring the country together. now, i have not agreed with both sides of the aisle, either democratic or republican presidents, on how they've dealt
with race, but they come from a place, usually, where they feel like the country needs to come together, we have to do all that we can. what we've seen in the last four days is the complete opposite of that. we've seen a president who has been on the side of nazis, white supremacists, and others and not those fighting and standing against that. >> yang: chris, she says the president is not bringing us together. what do you say? >> i don't think that's right. i think the president has done what he thinks he could in order to speak clearly to the american people and the speech he said clearly racism is evil, he talked about the neo-nazis, white supremacists as being evil and thugs. he was very clear. i'm not sure everyone wants to hear that. the problem, to your earlier question, where are we as
people? we've become too comfortable with a level of political violence that's intolerable. we saw this in charlottesville and it was tragic. it was terrible. we have what are racial provocateurs, the neo-nazis that go out and the rhetoric has heated up that people think not only do they have a right to commit violence but have an imperative to do it. that's something we need to address as a people and culture and the president can certainly take a lead on that. >> yang: karine, the president was criticized for his first response. the people in the white house i talk to say he saw this as a law and order issue, not as an ideological issue. what would you say about that? >> i will say, when it comes to nazis, white supremacists and
nationalists, there are no two sides. i can't believe what he's saying. he continues to divide this count. he watched people say "jews will not replace us, blood and soil, white lives matter," and says those are good, fine people? he went out of his way to criticize people standing up to them. that is incredibly troubling. not only that, we saw one donald trump monday which was a teleprompted donald trump, his staff wrote a script and he stuck to it, that's right, he did condemn the violence. but off script he was a completely different person. we saw exactly who he was. it was this donald trump that incites violence, that agrees with violence and he did that for two years during the campaign. >> yang: chris, what's your take on the difference between the president's statement monday
and yesterday in what we said in the press conference? >> karine makes a point, there is not two sides when it comes to nazis and neo-nazis, at least in this country and we can be thankful for that. in the president's and a lot of people's perspective, it's not just a race or law and order issue, it can be both. people are trying to parse the president's statements as an either/or choice. it's both. he said there is a racial issue here in terms of the neo-nazis, the white supremacists, and that's unacceptable and wrong and can't be toll raid. on the other hand, he said political violence, what he was talking about yesterday, we cannot have mobs of people from different political parties or viewpoints battling it out in the streets. this is where the police in charlottesville made an issue where there didn't have to be one. they with respect present.
they needed to keep these two groups apart. we wouldn't be talking about this today if they had not let this situation spiral out of control. >> yang: i think the police role is a big issue. chris, these advisories councils and the fall south from this, you had c.e.o.s trying to distance themselves and leave those advisory councils. this is a president who ran on being business friendly, touted his closeness to c.e.o.s, is this a sign of trouble for the president? >> it's hard to tell on the political front. it is a sign people like to talk about courage and coming together a lot more than they like to do it. it would take courage for the c.e.o.s to lead by example and come together and talk about the kitchen table issues that matter to mainstream america. they need to be working on things they were there for. how do we increase the number of good paying jobs and wages?
that's why they were there. yet at the first moment they could make a political statement they cut and run. i think they should have led by an example and stuck together to work on those projects. >> yang: karine. i think they did show courage, rightly , so they dropped out, but the lesson is when you work for donald trump, you would either be hue mill yaid or burned, -- humiliated or burned. this applies to republican governors, white house staff, if you work for this president, he's done it over and over again, he will drag you in the mud and make you look bad. >> yang: we've heard critics talk about whether the president's lost moral authority by equating the two sides in this. how do you respond to that? what's your take on that? >> i think that that remains to
be seen and, of course, the answer is going to -- the answer you get is going to depend on who you ask, of course, but the president needs to show leadership on this front, eng that's absolutely right. we'll see what happens over the days and weeks to come. i'm more optimistic than karine is because i think the president understands this as an issue that is important for the country and is important in racial terms but it's also important in law and order terms. we need to get to a place where we can have political differences with each other that don't break out in violence on the streets. >> yang: less than 30 seconds left. >> i don't think the president has shown any type of moral standing or leadership on this and we are at an inflection point in our country. on one side, we're closer to war with north korea than we've ever been in decades, and on the other side we have, you know, nazis and white supremacists and white nationalists who feel emboldened and are in the streets without hoods.
>> yang: we'll leave it there. thank you for joining us. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: tonight, our first in a series from syria. while a six-year civil war drags on, the fight against isis is heating up. the heart of the battle today: the northern city of raqqa, where a u.s.-backed coalition of kurdish and arab fighters are working to wrest the group from its de facto capital. the fight has been brutal, claiming thousands of civilian lives, and forcing tens of thousands of families from their homes. from raqqa, in northern syria-- and with support from the pulitzer center on crisis reporting-- special correspondent gayle tzemach lemmon and producer jon gerberg report. >> reporter: in northern syria, the long, bloody trail of the fight against isis.
but here amidst the rubble, 30 miles from raqqa, signs of life. >> ( translated ): we are staying in this home, but the landlords will come eventually. where should we go? i wish i could go home, to my family, my neighbors and relatives. we were living in peace. but there is no peace now, not even in our homes. >> reporter: in the shadow of syria's civil war, now live tens of thousands of families like this, civilians forced to flee in the fight against isis. the center of the battle today: raqqa, the de facto capital of the islamic state, and the grueling campaign to drive them out. an increasingly cornered isis now uses car bombs and suicide attacks to slow oncoming forces. supported by u.s. air power, weaponry and military expertise, the syrian democratic forces-- a group of kurdish and arab
fighters-- is pushing deep into the city, wresting isis from its four-year stronghold. in east raqqa city, half a mile from the front line, coalition mortars sailing overhead in the afternoon heat, soldiers' spirits were high. >> ( translated ): there are daily battles. we can be at one building, and they'll be in the next. but we've made good progress from street to street. and we are the winning so far. >> reporter: they told us they are killing isis fighters every day. and the risk to their own lives is worth it. >> ( translated ): these people are our families. every soldier we lose to free the people, is worth it to us. we are ready to be killed for the freedom of the people. >> reporter: getting these soldiers ready is the work of commander ahmad khalil. for 17 days, soldiers from across syria undergo basic training.
after that, the front line. advisors from u.s. special operations forces have helped establish these training centers, and now, syrian leaders are taking the helm. one major source of concern: ethnic division. foreign advisors have stressed the need for a force that reflects the syrian population, both kurd and arab. as u.s. advisors looked on, commander khalil underlined this priority. >> ( translated ): we want this example to be replicated throughout syria. all of the people of syria, if we are not united in fighting isis, we will not win. >> reporter: forces must be ready, not just to fight isis but to secure the streets afterward. about 30 miles north of raqqa, security forces for the city are training and deploying. >> ( translated ): we know the mission is very difficult. >> reporter: wissam, a former university student, now teaches new recruits, preparing them to
secure and stabilize their own communities after isis. >> ( translated ): this war was forced on us, and we will defend ourselves. the new generation has paid the price for this war. students, workers, they have all paid the price, with their future. they dreamed of becoming doctors, teachers and engineers. and now we are just starting to rebuild our country-- our institutions as well as our lives. >> reporter: the long-term stability of a city like raqqa will depend on services and governance. it's a slow, complicated effort. but this is the work that keeps wars ended. >> ( translated ): rebuilding is a very difficult process, and it's very expensive. and the war is also very expensive. but we have the will to rebuild our country. and we will continue. >> reporter: ibrahim al-hassan, also on the council, says rebuilding raqqa is in the world's interest. >> ( translated ): it does not make sense that our people are paying the price alone. if we can eliminate terrorism here in syria, it will not spread to france, england and
new york. >> reporter: for the u.s.-led coalition, eliminating isis militarily has been a fraught operation. isis has tightened its stranglehold on raqqa's civilians. and the u.s. has supported local forces with front line advice and air support. american military leaders tout the precision of u.s. technology and weaponry. but precision only goes so far against an enemy that hides behind civilians to protect its fighters. sites like this school outside of raqqa are proof. in march, a coalition airstrike leveled this three-story building, killing scores. rights groups and witnesses say the dead were mostly civilians. but isis fighters were also killed in the attack.
according to the monitoring group airwars, american-led airstrikes have killed at least 3,000 civilians since the fight against isis began. in the next town just outside raqqa, ali abdullah mabrook showed me the one thing he had left of his three daughters-- a single digital photograph of his youngest, alaa. mabrook told us his three daughters were killed when a coalition airstrike leveled his family's home. >> ( translated ): i have been working for 45 years to build this house. how can i do it again now? where should i go? does trump think that all of us are businessmen with billions of dollars? we are people who don't have the food of their day. would he donate me money now to build my house? i sleep in the streets now. >> reporter: but his wife pointed fingers much closer to home. she said isis fighters, living on her street, had been using her house as a base. it was revenge against her son, who was battling the islamic state with the syrian democratic forces. by fighting from her roof, she says, isis made her house a target.
>> ( translated ): they knew they would be targeted, but the islamic state wanted this. they came so my home would be targeted. what else should i say? may god take our revenge... three girls! they were well-educated! they had their university certificates and all. >> reporter: abdulsalam hamsourk recently learned his raqqa home was destroyed in an airstrike. but he told us he was happy: the strike killed several isis fighters. today he works north of raqqa, leading civil council efforts to help families fleeing isis. tens of thousands have arrived at this camp run by raqqa's civil council. >> ( translated ): we will fulfill our responsibility to our people. we will not say no to anyone. as a council and as residents ourselves, we will help our people. >> reporter: batoul was eight months pregnant, when she led her toddler and sick husband out of raqqa city. she gave birth to her two-week- old daughter here at the camp. >> ( translated ): there was a
lot of violence. you could see it all. one time i went to the doctor with my daughter when she was sick and we saw a beheading and we tried to run away from that area. they didn't allow anyone to escape. >> reporter: but eventually, she says airstrikes and fear for her family compelled her to risk isis reprisal and flee. >> ( translated ): we suffered a >> ( translated ): we suffered a lot under the control of isis. and we hope to go back. if it is s.d.f. or anyone, if they will bring security, we just want to go home. >> reporter: but for now, this is what home looks like for so many raqqa families.
inside this bombed-out building, the khalil family struggles to forge ahead. the women clean and wash the dishes; the men salvage scrap metal from the wreckage they're living in. they welcomed us inside, past the stench of corpses rotting in the rubble underfoot, and into a home, made bright with the sounds and colors of their 20-person family. >> reporter: she told us of the hell of living under isis. and of her despair at her family's displacement. >> ( translated ): we left everything behind. we had been saving for 35 years. and we were safe there. then we left everything in one helpless moment. whatever i say, it won't describe the suffering we've seen. i am devastated deep inside. i feel the pain of all raqqa's
people, as the pain of my own family. i can feel the injustice, how people lose their children. even those who survived have nothing. >> reporter: nothing but hope-- hope that the fight will someday end, and that her family can return to raqqa and build their home, once more. for the pbs newshour, i am gayle tzemach lemmon in raqqa. >> sreenivasan: read more online from gayle tzemach lemmon about why she says she can't stop thinking about the children she met while reporting in syria. that's at www.pbs.org/newshour. >> sreenivasan: in our "leading edge" segment tonight, the eclipse. monday, the united states will experience the first coast-to- coast solar eclipse in nearly a century. this dazzling spectacle happens when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking out the sun and plunging the earth
into momentary darkness. for more about what to expect and how to view this rare event, i'm joined by science correspondent miles o'brien. miles, can you explain to us what exactly will be happening on monday? the moon will pass in front of the sun. the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun but the sun is 400 times farther away and, so, the optical illusion is they are the same size, the moon passes in front, it completely covers the sun's disk, allowing pem to experience an amazing, beautiful thing, and it gives scientists an opportunity to study the sun's cay rona. >> it happens but not this often over the united states. >> it happens every 18 months. the planet is 70% water, and the
moon's orbit is tilted 5 degrees, so to have it line up perfectly opportunity happen every time. in addition the moon's orbit is elliptical, so sometimes it's a little bit farther away and you get what's called an annular eclipse meaning you still see a ring of fire around the sun. >> sreenivasan: you're going to be where, and i'm imagining all the places along this line are preparing for people like you going there. >> eclipse excitement is running high across the nation. airbnb owners are doing well now. i'm going to be in urban, idaho, right underneath the path of totality. it's likely to be a nice, clear day, at nice, high altitude which helps. i will be doing a facebook live stream with nova and we'll watch with great care, which is
an important point, of course. >> sreenivasan: how to you see this safely? >> kids, do not look at the sun directly except for that two minutes or so when it's in totality as they call it, it is very dangerous. what happens is when we look at the sun on a normal day, it's our reaction to turn away, it's too bright. the sun is still very bright even when covered in great portion by the moon so the natural reaction goes away and you can hurt yourself. so get some of these glasses which are kind of milar, very dark. make sure they have an i.s.o. certification on them indicating they are the right darkness. there are some counterfeit glasses out there. amazon sold some. they will give you your money back, but please make sure you didn't get a counterfeit pair of glasses that was a particularly malicious thing for somebody to have done. the backup plan, if you can't get the glasses, plantarrums,
viewing parties might have them. number 14 welder's glass or a pinhole camera like i made in the '70s. scientists will be studying this. what will they find out? >> the corona is hot than the center of the son itself and no one knows why that is the case. above and beyond the scientific pursuit, the corona itself can be dangerous to our planet and caused problems for the communication satellite and the power grid. the more we understand how it operates, the more we can predict these things and shield the sensitive aspects of our society that might be affected by it. >> sreenivasan: will scientists study from the ground, fly along with it? >> n.a.s.a. will loft two former bombers that will fly along the path of the eclipse, going about 700 miles an hour, the eclipse moves about 1500 miles an hour. so they can't keep up, but with
two operating in tandem, n.a.s.a. estimates 7 minutes of totality, which in iowa about 2.2.5 minutes. so in theory, they get a lot more data. >> sreenivasan: even if we're not in this perfect path, what will we see? >> you will be in new york city, for example. you will get 70-plus percentage coverage of the sun. that in itself is very striking and worth taking a look at it. if the weather supports it, with the safety measures taken, take a look. if you don't want to spend the money on the $2,000 a night airbnb, if you can't just get to the path of totality which goes from oregon to south carolina, by all means, take time, middle of the day monday, to take a look, make sure you do it safely. >> or if you're not in any of those places, you can certainly follow live on facebook on the "newshour" page on nova, and you will be doing a special about this as well?
>> yeah, as a matter of fact, we'll do the streaming during the day and nova, that evening, will have a show that will air "eclipse over america," so we invite all our pbs viewers to watch that as well. >> miles o'brien, thank you so much. >> in venezuela, at least 36 are dead after security forces raided a prison in the country's south. officials say it came after fighting erupted between inmates and prison staff. it's unclear if the blood shed is tied to months of political unrest in the country. on the "newshour" online, join us tomorrow on the newshour online: join us tomorrow for the 2017 hutchins forum on race and racism in the age of president trump, hosted by henry louis gates, jr. and moderated by newshour special correspondent charlayne hunter- gault. watch it live tomorrow at 5:00
p.m. eastern. and earlier in the day, join our twitter chat, when panelists will tackle why hate is on the rise. learn more on our website, www.pbs.org/newshour, where you can also find our newest newshour/npr/marist poll about president donald trump's response to violence in charlottesville. and that's the newshour for tonight. on thursday, paul solman and the "making sense" team look at whether the shift of jobs from retail to e-tail is a boom or bust for those looking for work. i'm hari sreenivasan. join us online, and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> supported by the rockefeller foundation. promoting the wellbeing of humanity around the world, by building resilience and inclusive economies. more at www.rockefellerfoundation.org. >> and with the ongoing support
of these institutions and individuals. >> 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 newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org >> you're watching pbs.
terri yoho: the pictures of emery as a young man are pretty conventional. he looks like a sweet attractive american boy. roger neth: he was pretty ordinary except for that machine. the healing machine. and that was something all together different. dan dryden: he opened the door, flipped on some light switches, and this rainbow of colored lights came on. i've never seen anything like it before or since. connie paxton: he truly believed that the energy made people feel better and i think that he really wanted people to feel better because he'd experienced so much pain in his life. neth: he was gonna build that machine and nobody
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