Skip to main content

We will keep fighting for all libraries - stand with us!

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 20, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

3:00 pm
captioning sponsed by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, tiother shakeup at the top of the trump administ. secretary of defense james mattis resig saying the president deserves someone whose views are better aligned with his.en scrambling to avoid a government shutdown. president trump's demands for a border wall underscore a divide in the g.o.p. and bring negotiators to the precipice. plus, a major shift on immigration. tnew deal will force immigrants seeking legal asylwait inco meor months, maybe years, while the u.s. processes their claims. and, ancient wetlands believed to have been the garden of eden are now evaporating, leaving iraq facing a water crisis.
3:01 pm
>> ( translated ): all of this used to be green and n it is almost a desert. last year we had water but this ar there is none at all. you can see that with your own eyes. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: nd >>y the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. gi
3:02 pm
>> carcorporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and curity. at >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and individuals. >> thiprogram was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: we begin with word that defense secretary james mattis is stepping down, at the end of february. president trump announced it on twitter this evening. it came a day after he announced a u.s. withdrawal from syria,
3:03 pm
mething mattis opposed. in his resignation letter, mattis said he is leaving becaus"you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with you." michael gordon of the wall stre journal joins me now. michael gored up, what happened? >> well, i think the differences between secretary mtis and president trump are just too profound, really, to be bridged. i think mattis was a good marine for a while and played along and certainly in public defded the administration's position, but i think syria really was the last straw because the way in which president trump ordered out the 2,000-odd american troops in syria is not the way the u.s.ry miliould do it and, from the military's perspective, it puts all their harearned gains in jeopardy. >> woodruff: but it wasn't, as tu're suggesting, just over the decision on syrat came as a surprise, was it? it was over other things as
3:04 pm
well. >> there have been tensions which have been obvious to ople at the pentagon who have watched the two individuals for a while. in the esignation letter, secretary mattis made it clear that he's a strong supporter of alliances. it's really an essential component of his strategy to counter russia and chieb. well, president trump had a pension to criticize the alliess secretary mawas overruled when he recommended general goldstein to be the next chairman ofe joint chiefs of staff. president trumppicked mark milley of the army instead. it's not merely that he didn't get his way, i think there's a sense that his counsel and advice on matters that are really in e province of the secretary of defense were not >>ing sufficiently taken into account. oodruff: michael gordon, we're also hearing today thhro reuters news service that there's talk by the administration of a dratic pullout of u.s. troops from
3:05 pm
afghanistan. do we know whether th have played a role in this? >> well, i don't know if hat ayed a role. it's not referenced in his letter, but also my colleagues at the "wall street journal" also had that story, ng with reuters, and they noted they're looking at a with of up to 14,000. we know that president trump has long been uneasy about keeping american troops in afhanistan, and essentially had to be talked into it by secretary mattis, by the generals, by h.rr. mcmas when he was the national security advisor and now those voices are gone. it's striking bruise president trump came in office touting gene now general kelly, secretary mattis, retir med four-stine general, and h.r. mcmaster, the generals are all gone and, you know, they tend to be a voice at least of pragmatism and moderation in an administration
3:06 pm
that is often more ideolical. woodruff: and that's my question. mattis was seen pretty widely as a stabilizing force in thi administration, serving this president. so what could his departure mean? tr well, you know, presidenp has sort of shown a tendency to surround himself with people that agree with him. when he dispatched secretary tillerson from the state department, picked secretary pompeo, he said, i want -- heit agreesme. he really likes to surround himself with people who are sore of linded. i think there's a real danger in that. i think it's much better to have different views within your own debinet. of course, the pre is the commander-in-chief. we don't really know, you know, whether 's going to opt for senator cotton or who he might y,ck to be the next defense secretut he claims to have a candidate in mind. >> woodruff: and, of course,at s a natural question.
3:07 pm
who, as you survey the horizon, wso out there might have vi that are more in alignment with the president? >> well, i think -- you know, i don't know that you could ever get someone who would have a perfect match, but the kind of people who have been speculated in the past is tom cotton who's, very conservative, certainly well-verseon military issues. occasionally people have mentioned jack keane, the former army vice chief of staff. but i heard a few months ago that he isn'tparticularly interested in the job. so the allies are going to be very anxiobout this decision because, even though president trump used to call mattis "mad dog mattis," he was anything but a mad dog in the way he perfmed his duties. he was really cautious about the use of force, cautious when it
3:08 pm
was used in syria, not looki for a fight with iran, you know, he was, indeed, a voice of moderation, and i think allied powers and even some of the united statadversaries are goikd going the be wondering what comes next. >> woodruff: in a word, michael gordon, a shock at the pentagon that this has happened or not? >> no, not a shock. there's been enormous tisculation about is m going to last the administration, and most people thought he wouldn't. people thought he would perhaps make president trump fire hierm rahan leave because of his own sense of duty. but i think he syria decision which the military sees is putting atsk the campaign against i.s.i.s. when it's really in its final phase, i think, is something that would be hard for ny secretary of defense to swallow. >> woodruff: michael gordon,ag pe reporter for the "wall
3:09 pm
street journal." thank you, michael. >> all right, thank you. dr woodruff: that news comes as anothea takes place in washington: congress is facing a new showdown tonight over a partial government shutdown. an apparent agreement blew up today when president trump rejected a temporary spending bill, passed by the senate but that does not include $5 billion for a southern border wall. he appeared to retreat from thaa earlier in the week, but he took a tougher line today, after a backlash from conservatives. >> any measure that funds the government must includer security. it has to. not fo for our country, for the safety of ourommunity. this is not merely my campaign promise. this is the omise every lawmaker made. it is the solemn promise topr ect and defend the united states of america, and it is our sacred obligation. >> woodruff: let's dig into all of this now with newshour ite
3:10 pm
house correspondent yamiche alcindor, and our capitol hill correspondent, lisa desjardins. as if there wasn't already ough going on, we ha this going on between the capitol anh white house. so, lisa, where does it stand right now?wa >> iquite a day. s re's where we are right now. house republicanve sort of switched the plan midstream today and are now offering a new continuing resolution to keep these agency funded. that woul $d conta billion, as the president is requesting, for border money. they say that would go to wall. , it here's the thing, judy is not clear if the house or senate will actually pass thatve ion. we expect the house to vote very soon. it could be this hour or in coming hours. we are unclear if the sen will be able to vote but mitch mcconnell the senate leader has told senators to be ady for a vote on this as soon as tomorrow, which, of course, isd the dline. finally, another issue is the
3:11 pm
senate passed itown funding bill by the president said he would not sign that. so these three legof the chair have yet to align. the house is that will be a very big vote. >> woodruff: not entirely clear what that money would go for. >> i talked totimes can, saying that is more money and we'll hear fromtimic leaders pleasey pnd schumer soon which are expected to opose "post" the house bill which could be a problem. >> woodruff: what does the? president wa >> wants a deal to make him strong and $5 billion for a border wall. earlier this week was exactly t opposite of wh white house said they'd do. sarah sanders said we'llfind $5 billion somewhere else. we'll even request federal agencies loobuinto theirdgets to see where they might be able to put this $5illion. essentially, the president changed his mind and again we are where we are right now. 's important to note that apart from lawmakers in congress ving some opposition to this
3:12 pm
bill that there were conservative voices in the media, in some of the channels the president watcs also voicing their opinion. rush limbaugh, theopular conservative radio host, accused the president of caving in on getting border wall money. laura ingram, fox newshost, the same. so the president was watching these things essentially and heard that and was very worried about whether or not that could be somethi that would be singh as a promise broken which is what we heard in the clip we just played. >> woodruff: so, lisa, what is going on with republicans wih this kind of pressure coming from their right flank, what's happening? >> this morning seems like a week ago. natemorning, house and se thought they'd pass the bill, funding would be taken care of, but i think yamiche is on to it. conservative freedom caucus members sensed an opening and, as we talked about lt night, they were pressuring the president as well. when the house republicans met this morning, they startede talking about ct that no one was confident about where the president was at all. so even members who liked the
3:13 pm
senate bill were scared to vote for it because they were worried it would pass and the president would change his mind. they said to paul ryagun, re out where the president, is we want the answer today that may change everything. >> woodruff: how far is the president prepared to take this? is he prepared to see the government partially shut down? ow it sound like the president is ready to shutthe government or might be proud top shut down the government. what we should remind people wnat a partial government shutould mean. the department of homeland security, department of agriculture and interior and the justepartment and the state department would be affected. we're not talking about small agencies we might be able to operate without. the dew point of homeland security is where the heart of toere the president wantso border security and they could be out of work.p >> or d while they're working. >> woodruff: and we're waiting to see. we are literally waiting now, lisa, as you're saying.
3:14 pm
>> i'm watching my phone at the. mome as much as it feels a shutdown is coming, the truth is there's a day until the deadine, so there's a lieutenant of room too potentially maneuver. it's hard to figur how they get there but often they do. there could be something about semantics an -- about what is border security money. >> woodruf 24 whole hours. lots of time! (laughr) yamiche alcindor, lisa desjardins, thank you both. now, another major story tonight: thousands of mainly central american migrants will be barred from entering the united states while their asylum claims are revied. instead, they will stay in mexico, under an agreement announced today. it does not apply to mexican nationals or children traveling alone. we'll have a closer look, after the news summary. in the day's other news, wall street crumbled again, under the weight of slumping tech stocks,
3:15 pm
rising interest rates, and fears of a partial governmentwn shut the dow jones industrial average lost 464 points to close at 22,859. it's on track for its worst month since the great recession. the nasdaq fell 108 points, and the s&p 500 slid 39. president trump's plans to withdraw from syria drew fire today from a key ally. the kurdish-led syrian democratic forces rejected mr. trump's assertion that the islamic state group habeen defeated. they warned a u.s. pullout will vive isis. meanwhile, in moscow, russian president vladimir pun welcomed the u.s. decision. >> ( translated ): as for the islamic state group defeat, i agree with the presiednt of the untates. i have already spoken about the fact the we achieved significant changes in the fight against terrorism on this territory and
3:16 pm
have seriously hit isis in syria. >> woodruff: president trump defended his decision, and said he was making good on a promise he had made long ago. in a series of tweets, he asked: "does the u.s. want to be "the policeman of the middle east", and he added, "time for others to finally fight." north korea issued a blunt new statement today in the face of stalled negotiations with the united states. the st the north will not give upap nuclear s unless the u.s. removes its own nuclear threat from the the statement therwise, north korea would become aef seless state". the u.s. justice department has garged two chinese citizens with an elaboratbal hacking campaign. thhackers allegedly acted behalf of chinese intelligence and stole data from the military, industries and trvernments in at least a dozen cos, including the u.s. f.b.i. director christopher wray
3:17 pm
sartid it's f a pattern. >> no country poses a broader more severe long-term threat to our nation's economy and cyber infrastructure than china. china's goal, simply put, is to replace the s. as the world's leading superpower. anthey're using illegal methods to get there. >> woodruff: the two alleged chinese hackers remain at large. we'll take a closer look at the scope of theiryber-attacks later in the program. on a separate track, u.s. and chinese trade envoys wilhold trade talks in january. beijing said today t meetings will focus on intellectual property protection and trade balances, among other issues. the two nations have agreed to postpone new tariff hikes at least until march. b tain, drones buzzing london's gatwick airport delayed tens of thousands of holiday travelers. all flights in and out weregh halted last t and again
3:18 pm
early today, leaving travelers stranded. officials cited fears of a collision with whainpolice calledstrial"-strength drones. the government has now called in the litary to help. and, gatwick will stay closed until at least friday morning. back in this country, the u.s. house of representatives gave final approval to a eeping criminal justice bill. it means reductions in many sentences for federal drug crimes, and expansions of prison rehabilitation efforts. president trump is expected to sign the president'ce for attorney general, william barr, came under fire today. it involved a june memo on the firing of f.b.i. director james comey, and whether that amoued to obstruction of justice. in the memo, barr wrote that special counsel "robert mueller's obstruction theory is fatally miscceived." senate minority leader chuck schumer said the memo disqualifies barr from beingd
3:19 pm
nomina attorney general. republicans dismissed the criticism. and, the farm bill is now law, after months of negotiations. president trump signed it today at a ceremony with a bipartisan group of lawmakers looking th. bill totals $867 billion over 10 years. still to come on the newshour: 's unpack the trump administratilans to keep asylum-seekers in mexico. d what the justiartment knows about two chinese hackers incted for stealing confidential data. a water crisis in iraq threatens historically fertile lands, and much more. >> woodruff: thousands of people seeking the american dream, many fleeing violence at home, now face a new fate as they arri at the u.s. border. amna nawaz reports.
3:20 pm
>> nawaz: an unprecendented policy change: effective immediately. they are taking lawful, unilateral action to stop illegal entry >> nawaz: the trump administration announced today asylum-seekers on the southern border will be forced to stay in mexi while their immigration cases proceed in the united states. the new rule was announced as iepartment of homeland security secretary kirstjenen testified on capitol >>one out of 10 from central america are actually granted asylum by a judge. this wilmake it clearer for what exactly our asylum laws allow for. >> nawaz: it's a reversal of a tng-held policy that allowed asylees to stay u.s. while their case was considered. and part of a larger effort by the administration to slow immigration across the souern border. under law, individuals can seek asylum if on u.s. soil. whether they entered legally or illegally. secretary nielsen, today: >> they will not be able to disappear into the united states. they will have to wait for
3:21 pm
approval to come into the united states. if they are granted asylum by a u.s. judge, they will be welcomed into america. >> nawaz: the change comes as the number of ylum seekers has skyrocketed. the immigration court backlog is now at a record high 775,000 cases. asylum cases can take years to aocess. >> but if anyone wlies for asylum whether they have a legal right to get here or not dhould ained for years that's the effect of what you're saying? >> yes not for years until the court-- >> for years. why not just speed up the process?t appore judges? it shouldn't take years, it used to take hours why should it take years now to adjudicate the case? >> it takes years now sir because the numbers are so substantially higher. >> nawaz: the administration claims most asylum claims are ilthout merit, and asylum seekers often fao appear for court hearings. but immigration advocates say
3:22 pm
the new rule violates asylum seekers rights and puts them in danger. d.h.s. said mexico will provide migrants with humanitarian and work visas as they await their court date. hed here with me now to dig into this new policy issa gerdinal brown. she served in thge w. bush administration, as a policy adviser to the commir of she is now director of immigration policy at the birtisan policy th for being here. >> thank you for having me. we heard the secretary of homeland security say earlier this is an effective immediately kind of policy. what does that mean? do we know how ready this is to be implemented. >> we don't know. i understand it was a little bit of a surise to a lot of people it was going to be announced today. there are a lot details. we haven't seen policy guidance about customs and bored of protection about how it will be implemented at point ofen try or how they will notify individuals
3:23 pm
in mexico of hearing times and date d 't know from mexico how they will support these people possibly for years in mexico. so there are a lot of details we don't know yet. >> talking about a sweeping policy across a 2,000-mile border. how unusual is it we don't have the detalls? >> under pretious administs all of this would have been worked out. you would have had directions to the field, you would have had public affairs guidance, you would have had policy announcements made. under the administration, this is not that unusual unfortenately. we've t happen with the travel ban early in the presidency, with the zero tolerance policy which was implemented quickly with little motive. this seems to be the way thisni adration works. >> the just if case for the rule a lot is based on asylum claims. they also say most of the claims are without merit. is that true? >> without meritfr or dulent is another term they use. i think that's a lle
3:24 pm
misleading. it's true an awful lot and probablprobably majority of the climbents don't qualify under the real standard for asylum attend of the day. that being said, they don't know that at the time they apply. they really believe they are seeking protection, some circumstances. they don't know the law very 're not purposely making a fake claim to try to get into the united states. they are just takinantage of the one legal avenue open to them to try to seek protection in the united . >> the majority of the asylum change over the years havbeen in three countries, guatemala, honduras and salvador. what sit oased n. >> a lot can be the basis of their claims, it can be they don't have enoh evidence to support their claims when it comes to asylum the burdeof proof is on the immigrant to prove they're eligible fo for asylum. they may not have enough proof even if they have a cla
3:25 pm
a lot are not represented by attorneys, so they're in a procesdthey don't unerstand. many are coming with just hope that the generosity of america will proveil, that god will protect them, as they say, and they can have a better life here. >> statistics show that when they have actually attorneyta represon, that rate goes up. >> it does. and in part was because the attorneys are able to vet out the cases that aren't as strong in other avenues that aren't available or maybe tell them yoa aren't going t it. there are advocates for the system and how the system rocks and the immigrants. >> part of the plan relies on mexicoilling in the gams. it's not exactly clear how they will do that. this week we heard the story aboutio two young migrant teenagers killed while awaitingo entrhe united states, part of that caravan waiting. how do we know that we're fulfilling our humanitarian obligations to make sure the vulnerable populations aren't targeted while waiting observe
3:26 pm
the other side of the border.e >> this is a big issue with this policy. the immigrant advocates are probably going to make this a central basis on what i expect to a fairly quickly litigation on this policy, but also the mexican government said we're going to provide orqth ization but they're relying on humanitarian organizations to provide help to these individuals. h it's not cle much they'rero offering ction. so a lot we don't know. >> the process, you expt this will be challenged in the courts like other immigration efforts have? >> i expect it will be fairly soon. almost i've policyas been implemented by this administration has been challenged in court and so far the courts have struck down an ful lot of them. so we'll have to see. >> the two biggest pieces of this are the rising number of asylum cases and also the immigration backlog in the immigration court system, which is absolutely truethat's at a record high. what else do you think thest admition could be doing poght now, steps they could take
3:27 pm
now under theirr to ease both those things. >> a couple of the things they decided not the do is t significant additional resources into the immigration courts, to have td se case processter or be able to process more cases that we're seeing. there are also things ey cou do at the border. right now, for example, asylum officers from citizenship and immigration service do theia inscreening called the credible fear claim. if they find creble fear, they can't accept an asylum claim there, it has to go before the immigratiopujudge, that more cases before the i.j.s. they could be authorized to approve affirmative asylum claims if they believe the cases are strong enough and they hav enough evidence. that would more quickly approveb those el for some sort of relief. there are other things that can be done, but this administratio has chosenput all of its resources and energy have policies and operations that tre toer and prevent asylum
3:28 pm
seekers from coming to the united stas rather than looking at the process and figuring out how to adjust the asylum process to accommodate this info. i believe if we were to havea system to adjudicate within a couple of months rather than several years, that would provide the effect the opministration wants, once the realize the majority of the cases don't get approved and people return watt rather quickly, that would change the dierveg. >> and the immigration judges, that's where you think the cdhanges could be e? >> that's where the bottleneck is and everything else that happened has come about because of the bok.tlen >> theresa cardinal brown. thank you very much for being here. >> you're welcome. oodruff: we return to the indictment of two chinese hackers. the charges are rt of a broader effort by the department of justice to crack down on chinese cyber espionage. today's case centers on two men
3:29 pm
who allegedly worked with chinese intelligence to steal amounts of sensitive da from companies, militaries and governments around the globe. joining me now, assistant attorney general for nationalcu ty john demers. mr. assistant attorney general, thank you very much for joining us. this was a pretty high profile announcement today the tep at the attorney general, the f.b.i. director, you were there. why are thse two men worthy of such attention? >> two significant things it think abday's indictment, in particular, the first is the way the hacking worked here was that these individuals are alleged to have hacked through manad service providers an then getting into the systems of s, andd service provid those are companies that provide i.t. services to other companies. so once you get access to those companies, you can go through their systems to get access to a
3:30 pm
variety of other companies. so first is the way that they did the hacks. the second is this is the first time that we tdepartment have charged conduct that violates the 2015 agreementtw n president xi and president obama, the commitment that is by china that it would not conduct cyber espionage for commercial purposes. >> woodruff: do you feel you have solid evidence that the men, the company, the organization they work for did do this? do you have the evidence? >> oh, absolutely. we wouldthnever bringis indictment if we were unconfident that we couldn'tpr e this-year-old. that's the standard we operate under all the time at the department, so ife didn't think we could do that, we would have never brought thes. char >> woodruff: do you, though, also have evidence that the companies they restealing
3:31 pm
information from or the information that it went to, rather, benefited from this and, if so, why not go after them as well? >> well, i can't go beyond what's in thet, indictmso -- and we don't describehat happens to the information in the indictment. ns other cases, we have also pursued actnot necessarily our authorities, but the authorities of other partners in with the government against the companies that have benefited from the charged activity. in this case, we haven't described in the indictment, so acan't go beyond thto describe who benefited from it and where this might go in th future. >> woodruff: let me ask you, these men, you describe them as hackers, what out the the people at the top of this enterprise, the people at the top of the government ina who authorized, who made sure this happened?ou
3:32 pm
>> well, yeah,now, we do charge here that these hackers and the company they worked for were acting in association with the ministry of state security, in chid that's the premier chinese inlligence service that doese counter and forign intelligence. we allege they are acting on behalf or in association with ine chinese government. we are chargingividuals who we know individually, actuall the people who are with their hands on the keybrd, a that's a significant aspect of the attribution here. he's not just saying this company or country did it, but these two individuals, individually, did it. >> woodruff: can you describe briefly, in layperson's terms, what kind of information was stolen? >> well, so, a wideariety of information from both government stems, so we described in there a hack of personal,
3:33 pm
identifiable information of people in the u navy, but also looking out at a variety of commercial sectors, including the banking sector, the aviation sector, pharma, a whole host of industries, again, because to have the way they did this hacked. they went through the managed service provider, they were able to get to a wide variety of companies. >> woodruff: since the chanc of prosecution are very low, we assume, mr. demers, what's the message or the point of going ahead with this indictm >> sure, and this is a question we get often in these cyberin ctments. we've done indictments this year against russia, against iran, against north koa and against china, and sometimes we can get the defendanright away. we had one chinese one where we
3:34 pm
managed to extradite a chinese intelligence officerrom belgium this year. so sometimes we get the person right away. sometimes we get the person in the future. but even if we neveret the person, the idea behind the indictment is, first, to educate the public as to what's going on, educate the private sector and encourage the private sector to come forward and work with us if they have been the target of a computer intrusion, d also lay the groundwork for actions by other agencies across the government, including, you know, diplomatic actions and other toolthat we have across the government to try to change -- all of the goal this changin behavior of the chinese government when i comes to espionage. >> woodruff: assistant attorney general john demers, thank you very much. l, thank you very much. good evening.
3:35 pm
>> woodruff: the lush marshes of southern iraq were once a vital source of life and nourishment for iraqis. but the wetlands are suffering from shockingly low water levels, part of a widespread water crisis impacting the entire country. low water and high salt levels are kiing plant life and the water buffalo iraqis depend on to survive. special correspondent jane ferguson was recently in southern iraq. and as she reports, water has become a rare commoditin the country. >> reporter: few people look out on these marshes with as much love and concern as jassim alassadi. he has dedicated his life to preserving them. >> i born here in the middle of the marshes, i born here in the central marsh. at that time i opened my eyes and it was an eden. thr,e was a wide area for wa plants, ffalo and fish.
3:36 pm
at that time there were fish everywhere, around our houses. >> reporter: these ancient iraqi wetlands are believed to have been the garden of eden in thebi e. they have sustained human life here for thousands of years, stretching on for miles and miles. a precious, unesco world heritage site. but they shouldn'took like this. yellowy brown reeds are a sign of the plant life dying. these are the same marshes filmed just four years ago. >> it is not normal. because historically in everywhere in the marses the water is suitable for the buffalo. but in seasons and yrs drought years like this ar, 2015, 2009, there was a problem for the water. there was a problem for the quality of water and the
3:37 pm
quantity of water. as you you see ater? it is dead completely, before four months ago all of this area was covered in water, that time because the level of the euphrates was higher. now the level of the euphrates goes down by almost three feet. >> reporter: the marshes of southern iraq are suffering from low water levels, down 17 inches, and it's a part of the widespread waterrisis spanning the entire country. water levels in the life-giving tigris and euphrates rivers have plummeted. the problem is that the water isn't just l it's also too salty. according to alassadi, the reduced volume of water has caused salination to spike from 200 parts per miion, as it was eren he was a child here, to 1800 partsillion today. that means the water is not onln killing the life, but also the water buffalo people here depend on.
3:38 pm
these cows provide cheese, milk, and meat to eat. for thousands of years they simply drank the water all around them, but now it has become too salty and toxic for the buffalo, blinding them before they die. we met buffalo herdeabbas jawad collecting water from one of the remaining few, healthy parts of the marsh. from here, he will carry the water miles to his herd. he has lost 15 buffalo in the last year to the salty water. >> ( translated ): all of this used to be green and now it is almost a desert. w last year we her but this year there is none ae all. you can at with your own eyes. >> reporter: entire villages have been abandoned, as life for the herders becomes too hard to bear. the nd simply cannot sustain them. >> ( translated ): our livelihood is watehe we just needater. if our herds die, we will starve. >> reporter: zahara is jt 15
3:39 pm
and has never been tschool, derstands the politics behind her community's struggles. >> ( translated ): they stopped e flow of the water from turkey. they want oil in exchange for water. the iraqi government refused to give them the oil and we are the ones who suffer. >> reporter: she is referring to the ilisu dam, a massive, newly constructed dam upstream along the tigris river, across the border in turkey, part of a massive 22-dam projent. ilisu dam nto operation this summer, and water levels downstream, in iraq, immediately plummeted. around 70% of iraq's waterbolows from neing countries like iran and turkey. iraq's minister for water resources hassan al janabi says the dams upstream in those neighboring nations only add t the effects of climate change. >> it's tough to quantify but i would say that the climateis change impacelt, is
3:40 pm
whater but the control by th upstream countries-- the dams in turkey, iran and syria, is more visible. so, on the euphrates river for example we lost something like 55 to 60% of the average annual flow to our country. >> reporter: dams don't just lower the water levels, they prevent the natural, ancient patterns of water in iraq. the ebb and flow of dry seasons anoods year after year, snow-melt in spring, scarcity at other times, is how agriculture began here, stained humans for thousands of years, making the land that runs between the tigris and euphrates part of the legendary fertile crescent. >> so we know that during spring time we have the peak influx to our country, in summer time we have less water but ver history we know it is the
3:41 pm
predictable behavior othe water system. now when you build major dams upstream you lose everything that is dependent on this cycle of the flow: biodiversity, floods, you know his renewal of the fertility of the soil. >> reporter: already, farmers are being driven from the land in iraq. in the northern province of ninevah, wheat farmers struggle to kp their crops alive in parched, dry earth. farmer sami yessi says his wheat fields are failing. >> ( translated ): last year i 175 acres, but this year i could not. i planted only 125. it costs me around 40 million dinars. the rain fell late and the crops coiled. if this situatioinues, we cannot plant. if this situation remains the
3:42 pm
same next year, we will not be able to.ep >>ter: even if farmers are cle to nurture crops, the iraqi government h wheat production by 50% and banned planting rice because both crop use so much war cultivation. in the short term that may preserve water, but in the long term it could drive millions of iraqis dependent on agriculture from the land, turning swathes of the once famously fertile mesopotamian basin into an uninhabitabldust bowl. >> the desert is expanding. and with this pansion of desert, this means perty, displacement, irreversible change in the land you cannot get people back even when conditions in the cntry, assuming conditions in the country, are right to support them and get them back. it won't happen. it's not that easy. >> reporter: meanwhile, iraq has turned from a country that once exported food to one increasingly dependent on
3:43 pm
imports. as water becomes a rare commodity here, the price of food will increase. in the place known as the cradle of civilization, le here will become more precarious. for the pbs newshour, i'm jane ferguson in nasiriyah, iraq. >> woodruff: today, the u.s.d.a. announced new rules that will restrict who can qualify to receive federal food assistance, known as the "snap" program or food stamps. as william brangham rerts, the move comes after similar explicit restrictions were blocked from the farm bill tt president trump signed today. >> braham: that's right, judy. republicans and president trump wanted restrictions to the food stamp program to be included in the $867 billion fm bill, but
3:44 pm
democrats balked and so those specific restrictions weou left but in the farm bill, there wasp additioner given directly to the u.s.d.a.-- that's the agency that oversees the food stamp program. its secretary, sonny perdue, announced today expanded work requirements, and fewer caemptions, for hundreds of thousands of ame who receive this federal help buying their groceries. republicans have long sought these kinds of changes, arguing that too many able-bodied americans are getting help they don't really need. democrats argue these requirements are too harsh a will hurt unemployed and under- employed workers the most. been covering ha this story for the washington post. thank you. >> thanks for having me. so tell us a little bit more. the usda put out these rules today. what specific changes are they making? >> i think what's really importanto understand is the vast majority of the 40 million americans who receive food stamps are working, and there are ways around what basically tothese states are alloweddo is to grant exemptions for these
3:45 pm
work requirements for people with jp benefits, if they live in an area with very high unemployment. that way people can still get the benefits they need to be able to eat, even if they can't work because there's no jobs and job opportunities in that are areas. what the trump admtrinion said today was we're going to restrict and pair back the ability of states to grant these wavers which will have cut back about 750,000 people from the program. >> the argument they're making is the rules are too lenient. you're saying if the vast majority of people who receive food stamps are working, what do uallyequirements act change? >> right now, the way the food stamp waiver works is if your area, your county has an unemployment rate morn 20% of the national average, then you can get the waiveis ould change it to set it up 7%, so your county would have
3:46 pm
to have an unemployment rate above 7% to receive the exemption, and there areap oximately 900 down us the across the country that fall into that designation, so therep are a lot ple who rely on these benefits. >> so of the 750,000 people, do we know kind of who those people are? old, young?o what daphic is it? >> it's mostly white people, leor peop the average income of the group was about $4,000 a year. >> $4,000 a year. that's not really a lot of money. but throughout the unit states, 38 states and territories have these waivers, so that' basically half the country, more than half the country. so it's a wide swath of thepoor in america. >> the republica long argued, this isn't just a fight happening in the trump administration, they'vatlong argued tpeople need to work and, if they work, then they can receive these benefits. this has been a long ideologghal that the republicans and the democrats have been fighting
3:47 pm
for a long time. i understand that the republicans wanted even more severe restrictions in the farm bill itself. >> that's correct, what they wanted to do was to restrict the ability of people with children from 6 to 12 and ederly people between the ages of 49 and 59 to be able to receive foodtamp benefits. those changes were rejected because russian republicans needed votes in the senate to pass the farm bioll the strzok just going to do this unilaterally and bypass congress entirely. >> so the rules have been put forward. i understand there's a 90-day e-ndow now, and i've already seen in mymails and on twitter that the democrats and other groups that support the food stamp program are fighting this. is there anything theydo to change this? >> there's going to be a legal challenge. it's not clear who's going to file that. my guego is it'g to be governors in democratic states
3:48 pm
who say this impedes our ability to strait the program but we haven't heard that. seems like the administration is going to be able to do this without anyone stopping them. maybe that will chnge. we'll see. >> jeffrey stein of the who's. thanks for being here. >> thanks for having me. >> woodruff: and now for something completely different: a comedy duo with a growing reputation, and an economic critique of america on matters of inequality, poverty and race. our economics correspondent paul solman caught up with cas brothers as part of our weekly series, making sen$e. >> repter: a comic take on a scary, albeit exaggerate stat: >> we read one out of three black dudes gets shot or arrested before turn. we just turned 33. getting close. (laughter)
3:49 pm
>> reporte keith and kenny lucas, a.k.a., the lucas brothers-- an idtical twin medy team unafraid to tackle tough subjects, from violence to economic inequality. >> the town that we are from, newark, new jersey was vsted the third angerous city in the country. when we found that o were very disappointed, because we thought we were going to get the number one ranking thi. (laughter) >> reporter: the duo has been on the rise the past few years, first with an animated tv series, "the lucas brothers moving company," t mn roles in thie "22 jump street," recently their netflix special"" drugs." but here's where they grew up: inner city newark, new jersey. >> it's still here.
3:50 pm
>> this is nothing like hollywood. this is the opposite of hollywood. >> reporter: that striking contrast, between the poverty of their hometown and the wealth of tinselwn, where they now live and work, has inspired their latest standup routine, playing earlier this month ayork city's comedy cellar. >> the high school we went to was even worse. it was ranked 331st out of39 according to inner city weekly. whenever we thought about it, we were like, those other eight schools, why were ey werewo rse than us? >> reporter: encouraged by momd anguidance counselors, funded by loans and a scholarship for students from poor areas, keith and kenny lucas were able to leave home, eventually study philosophy and economics in coege. you have survivor's guilt a little? >> i mean sort of you know people you grow up with a lot of people. and some of these peopleren't here anymore. >> and you think about how i'm living now. and i'm like, i could have been
3:51 pm
one of the dudes on the block to get gunned down. or it could happen to me at any moment. so of course like it weighs on you because i know i didn' anticipate making it this far. >> i was happy to go to college. >> reporter: after getting their b.a.'s, they went toaw school at duke and new york universities. but left to pursue comedy justra weeks beforeating. >> didn't want to be didn't have the passion to be lawyers. >> reporter: they do have e passion to mlks laugh, though, they say, and to realize that the american economy isn't boominfor everyone. but anybody who wants a job can met a job in america right? we're at full empl. what are you laughing about? >> what kind of jobs are people getting? i know a lot of jobs within the so you may have a job but it's not enough to raise a family. inner city it's underemployment.
3:52 pm
>> it's a job in name alone. >> reporter: has the inequality gotten worse since you guys were newark?hi >> i don't the school system has improved much. housing i don't thedk has improvuch. >> and plus the recession hit pretty hard. and we're still recovering from that now. >> reporter: for the record, newark's unemployment rate is 6.2%, nely double the national average. and in-your-face economic inequality prevails ss the country. economics is what drew the lucas brothers to campaign for bernie sanders in 2016. >> he's dope, he's dope, he'si the dopest dudow. >> bernie sanders was offering a different message. it's a message that counteracts the extreme cutthroat capitalism. i don't know if any of his politics were even practical. but it was a message that i think needed to be heard. >> reporter: and is heard in places like their native newark. >> what's up?
3:53 pm
er reporter: this is the o america, the one the lucas brothers escaped. >> reporter: to the lus brothers, their cousin and his neighbors are at the mercy of economic policies that could have been, could be, otherwise. a lot of people don't really take into account statees polir city policies that keep african americans. >> or poor people in general. >> or poor people in general, what do you call it. >> a system of or generationaly. pove >> generational poverty. the housing policies in the '60s and '70s, they really forced blacks to sort of stay in this area and they couldn't get it out. >> and then you deprived people of wealth. you can't even build your own wealth. eu're stuck in an area wh not only are there no jobs, but you can't build your own wealth so what you do? if enough groups acre country are stuck in the same situation-- blacks, whites, latinos-- enough gup are stuck in that situation, there's only going to be one option and that's rebellion. >> reporter: and that pot of
3:54 pm
view underpins the dark humor of keith and kenny lucas. >> we're hoping to make it to 34 but we have to get our younger brother shot. it's either him or us! it's a dog eat dog world out there! >> reporter: for the pbs newshour, this is economics correspondent paul solman, reporting from newark, new jersey and the comedy cellar in new york. >> woodruff: you can see the lucas brothers on their "brick city" tour, with shows in philadelphia this weekend and across the country starting in january. and a quk news update before we go. house republicans moved tonight to add $5 billion for a border wall to a temporary funding bill to avert a government shutdown ahead of tomorrow's midnight deadline. that's after president trump said he would not sign the bill otherwise. this evening, senate minority leader chuck scher said that "everyone knows" that bill can'i pathe senate. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again here. tomorrow eveni
3:55 pm
for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> kevin. >> kevin! >> kevin. >> advice for life. life well-planned. learn more at >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this ogram was made ssible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
3:56 pm
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbhce
3:57 pm
3:58 pm
3:59 pm
4:00 pm
hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour." here is what's coming up. did i hear the word bipartisan? >> a christmas miracle. a bipartisan success works its way through congress. why democrats and republicans are coming together to pass criminal justice reform. then -- >> no. >> having a laugh with actors john c. reilly and steve coogan, how they bece the comedy duo laurel and hardy in the new film "stop and olly." plus, leading the charge against climate change. we take a lap around the world urwith "new york times" jonalist