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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 20, 2018 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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captioning sponsored bydu newshour pions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, another shakeup at the top of the trump administration. secretarof defense james mattis resigns saying the president deserves someone whose views are better aligned with his. then, 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. a new deal will force immigrants seeking legal asylum to wait in mexico for months, maybe years, while the u.s. processes their claims.nt and, ancieetlands believed to have been the garden of eden are now evaporating, leavingwa iraq facing r crisis.
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o ( translated ): athis used to be green and now it is almost a desert. last year we hawater but this year there is none at all. you can see that with your own eyes. >> wdruff: all that and more on tonight pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by the alfred ponsloan founda supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> carnegie corporation ofew
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york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and individuals. >> this program was made possible by thcorporation for blic broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: we ben with word that defense secretary james mattis is stepping down,oft the enebruary. president trump announced it on twitter this evening. it came a day after he announced a u.s. withdrawal from syria, something mattis opposed.
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in his resignation letter, mattis said he is leaving because "you have the right to have a secretary of defense whe views are better align with yours." michael gordon of the wall street journal joins me now. michael gored up, what happened? >> well, i think the differenc between secretary mattis 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 defended the administration's position, butti k syria really was the last straw because the way in chi president trump ordered out the 2,000-odd american troops inot syria isthe way the u.s. military would do it and, from the military's perspective, itts ll their hard-earned gains in jeopardy. >> woodruff: but it wasn't, you're suggesting, just over the decision on syria that came as a surprise, was it? it waer other things as well.
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>> there have been tensionswh h have been obvious to people at the pentagon who have watched the two individuals or a while. in the resignation letter, secretary mattis made it clear that he's a strofong supporte alliances. it's really an essential component of his stragy to counter russia and chieb. well, president trump had a peion to criticize the allies. secretary mattis was overruledwh he recommended general goldstein to be the next chairman o the joint chiefs of staff. president trump picked mark milley of the army instead. it's not merely that hdidn't get his way, i think there's a sense thatnsis cou and advice on matters that are really in the province of the secretary of defense were not being sufficiently tan into account. >> woodruff: michael gordon, we're also hearing today through reuters news service that there's talk by t administration of a dramatic pullout of u.s. troops from afghanistan. do wknow whether that might
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have played a role in th? >> well, i don't know if that played a role. it's not referenced in his leer, but also my colleagues at the "wall street journal" also had that story, along with reuters, and they noted they're looking at a withdrawal of up to 14,000. we know thant presirump has long been uneasy about keeping american troops in afghanistan, and essentially had to be talked intot by secretary mattis, by thegenerals, by h.r. mcmaster when he was the national security advisor and n thos voices are gone. it's striking bruise president trump came in office touting generals. now general kelly, secretary ttis, retired four-star marine general, and h.r. mcmaster, the generals are all gone and, you know, they tend to be a voice at least of pragmatism and inderation an administration that is often more ideological. >> woodruff: and that's my
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question. mattis was seen pey widely as a stabilizing force in this administration, serving this president. so what could hi departure mean? >> well, younow, president trump has sort of shown a tendency to surround himself with people that agree with him.en e dispatched secretary tillerson from the state department, picked secretary pompeo, he said, i want -- he agrees with me. he really likes to surround himself with people who are sort of like-minded. i think there's a real danger in that. i think it's much better to have different views within your own cabinet. of course, the president is the commander-in-chief. we don'teally know, you know, whether he's going to opt for senator coon or who he might pick to be the next defense secretary, but he claims to have a candidate in miod. >>ruff: and, of course, ion. is a natural que
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who, as you survey the horizon, who out there might have views that are more in alignment with the esident? >> well, i think -- you know, i don't know that you could eveger someone who would have a perfect match, but the kind of people who have binn speculated he past is tom cotton who's, you know, former arimy offcer, very conservative, certainly wellersed on military issues. occasionally people have mentioned jack keane, the former army vice chief of staff. f but i heard w months ago that he isn't particularly interested in the job. the allies are going to be very anxious about 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 performed his duties. he was really cautious about the it of force, cautious when was used in syria, not looking for a fit with iran, you know,
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he was, indeed, a voice of moderation, and i think allied powers and even some of the united stes adversaries are goikd going the be wondering what comes next. >> woodruff: in a word, michael gordon, a shock at the penedgon that this has h or not? >> no, not a shock. there's been enormous speculation about is mattis going to last the administration, and most people thought he wouldn't. people thought he would perhaps make president trump fire him ther than leave because of his own sense of duty. but i ink the syria decision which the military sees iat puttin risk the campaign against i.s.i.s. when it's really in its fial phase, i think, is something that would be hard for any secretary of defense toow swa >> woodruff: michael gordon, pentagon reporter for the "wall street journal." thank you, michael. >> all right, thank you.
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ot woodruff: that news comes as r drama 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 at does not include $5 billion rer a southern border wall. he appto retreat from that demand earlier in the week, but he took a tougher line today, after a backlash from conservatives. cl any measure that funds the government must e border security. it has to. not for political purposes but for our country, for the safety of our community. this is not merely my campai promise. this is the promise every lawmaker made. it is the solemn promi protect and defend the united states of america, and it is our sacred obligation. >> woodruff: let's dig into all of this now with newour white house correspondent yamiche
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alcindor, and our capitol hill correspondent, lisa desjardins. as if there wasn't already enough going on, we this going on between the capitol and the white house. so, lisa, where does it stand right now? i was quite a day. here's where we are right house republhave sort of switched the plan midstream today and are now offering a new continuing resolution to keep these agency funded. that would conta $5 billion, as the president is requesting, for border money. they say that would go to a wall. now, here's the thing, judy, it is not clear if the house or senate will actually pass that version. ye expect the house to vote ver soon it could be this hour or in coming hours. ateare unclear if the sen will be able to vote but mitch mcconnell the senate leader has told senators to e ready for a vote on this as soon as tomorrow, which, of course, isd thdline. finally, another issue is theit senate passeown funding
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bill by the president said he would not sign that. so these three legs of the chair have yet to align. the house is voting tonight and 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 opd schumer soon which are expected to pose "post" the house bill which could be a problem. >> woodruff: what does the president want? >> wants a deal to make hima strongnd $5 billion for a border wall. earlier this week was exactlywh opposite o the white house said they'd do. sarah sanders said 'find $5 billion somewhere else. we'll even request federal agencies irok into thbudgets to see where they might be able to put this $5 billion. essentially, the president changed his mind and again we are where we are right now it's important to note that apart from lawmakers in congress having some opposition to this bill wthat there conservative voices in the
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media, in some of the channels the president wahes also voicing their opinion. rush limbaugh, the popular conservative radio host, accused the president of caving in on getting border wall money.ur ingram, fox news host, the sament so the presiwas watching these things essentially and heard that and was very worrd about whether or not that could be something that would be singh as a promise broken which s what we heard in the clip we just played. >> woodruff: so, lisa, what is going on with republicans with this kind e of pressming from their right flank, what's happening? >> this morning seems like week ago. the morning, house and senate thought they'd pass the bil funding would be taken care of, but i think yamiche is on to it. conservative members sensed an opening and, as we talked about last night, ey were pressuring the president as well. when the house republicans met this morning, they startedth talking aboufact that no one was confident about where the president was at all. so even members who liked the senate billre scared to vote
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for it because they wereri wor it would pass and the president would change his mind. they sa to paul ryan, figure out where the president, is we nt the answer today. that may change everything. >> woodruff: how far is the president prepared to take this? is he prepared to see the own?rnment partially shut d >> it sound like the president is ready to shut down the government or might be proud top shut down the government. what we should remind people what a partial government shutdown would mean. the department of homeland security, department of agriculture and interior and the justice department and theat department would be affected. we're not talking about smallag cies we might be able to operate without. the dew point of homeland security is where the heart of where the president wants to do border security and they could be out of work. >> or unpaid while they're working. >> woodruff: and we're waiting to see. we are literally waiting now, lisa, as you're saying. >> i'm watching my phone at the
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moment. as much as it feels a shutdown is coming, the truth is there's a day until the deline, so there's a lieutenant of room too potentially maneuver. it's hard to figure out how they t there but often they do. there could be something about semantics an -- about what is border security money. >> woodruff: 24 whole hours. lots of time! aughter) yamiche alcindor, lisa desjardins, thank you both. now,nother major story tonight: thousands of mainly central american migrants will be barred from enterin united states while their asylum claims are reviewed. instead, they will s 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,i ng interest rates, and fears
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of a partial government shutdown. the dow jones industrial average lost 464 points to close at 22,859. it's on track for its worst mon.h since the great recess the nasdaq fell 108 points, and the s&p 500 slid 39. president trump's plans to rom syria drew fire today from a key ally. the kurdish-lesyrian democratic forces rejected mr. trump's assertion that the islamic state group has been defeated. they warned a u.s. pullout will revive isis. meanwhile, in moscow, russian president vladimir putin u welcomed t. decision. fo ( translated ): athe islamic state group defeat, i agree with the president of the united states. i have already spoken about the fact the we achieved significant changes in the fightm gainst terror this territory and have seriously hit isis in syria.
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>> woodruff: president trump defended h 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 state news agency declared the north will not give upea nuweapons unless the u.s. removes its own nuclear threat from the region.en the statsaid otherwise,d north korea wocome a "defenseless state". the u.s. justice department hass charged two chcitizens with an elaborate, global hacking campaign. the hackers allegedly acted on behalf of chinese intelligence and stole data from the military, industries and governments in at least a dozen untries, including the u.s. f.b.i. director christopher wray sat'idpart of a pattern.
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>> no country poses a broader more severe long-term threat too our nation'smy and cyber infrastructure than china. china's goal, simply put, is to replace the u.s. as the world's leading superpower. and they're using ille methods to get there. >> woodruff: the two alleged chinese hackers remain at large. we'll take a closer look at the scope ofheir cyber-attacks later in the program. on a separate track, u.s. and chinese trade envoys will hold trade talks in january. beijing said today the 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. in britain, drones buzzing london's gatwi airport delayed ns of thousands of holiday travelers. all flights in and out wereas haltednight and again
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early today, leaving travelers stranded. officials cited fears of a collision with what police called "industrial"-strength drones. the government has now called in the military 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 t 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 it. the president's choice 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 ounted to obstruction of justice. in the memo, barr wrote that special counsel "robert mueller's obstruction theory is fatally sconceived." senate minority leader chuck schumer said the memo disqualifies barr from being nominated as attorney general. republicans dismissed the
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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 lookg on. the bill totals $867 billion over 10 years. still to come on the newshour: we unpack the trump administration's plans to keep asylum-seekers in mexico.ti what the j department knows about two chinese hackers indicted for stealing confidential data. a water crisis in iraq threatens historically fertile l, and mu more. >> woodruff: thousands of people seeking the american dream, many fleeing violence at home, now face a new fate as they arrive at the u.s. amna neports. >> nawaz: an unprecendted
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licy change: effective immediately. they are taking lawful, unilateral action to stop illegal entry >> nawaz: the trump administration announced tod asylum-seekers on the southern border will be forced to stay in mexico while their immigration cases proceed in the united states. the new rule was announced as department of homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen testified on capitol hill. >> only one out of 10 from central america are actually granted asylum by a judge. this will make it clearer for what exactly our asylum laws allow for. >> nawaz: it's a reversal of a long-held policy that allowed asylees to stay in the u.s. while their case was considered. and part of a larger effort by the administration to slow immigrn acro south border. under law, individuals can seek asylum if on u.s. whethe entered legally or illegally. secretary nielsen, today: >> the disappear into the united states. they will have to wa approval to come into the united states.
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if they are granted asudum by a u.s., they will be welcom into america. >> nawaz: the change comes as the number oasylum seekers has skyrocketed. the immigration court backlog is now at a record high 775,000s. ca asylum cases can take years to process. >> but if anyone who applies for asylum whether they have a legal right to get here or not should be detained 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?po t more 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. claims most asylum claims are without merit, and asylumte seekers offail to appear for court hearings. but immigration advocates say
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the new rule violates asylum seekers rights and puts them in danger. d.h.s. said mexico will providet migrantshumanitarian and work visas as they await their court date. and here with me now to dig into this new policy is theresa cardinal brown. she served in the george w. bush administration, as a policyom adviser to thessioner of she is now director of immigration policy at the bipartisan policy cent thanks for being here. >> thank you for having me. we heard the secretary of homeland security say earlier this is aeffective immediately kind of policy. what does that mean? do we know howready this is to be implemented. w. we don't kno i understand it was a little bit of a surprise to a lot of people it was going to be announced today. there are a lot .of detai we haven't seen policy guidance about customs and bored of protection about how it will be implemented at point ofentry or how they will notify individualx
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ino of hearing times and dates. we don't know from mexico how they will support thople 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. bord how unusual is it we don't have the detalls? >> under previous administrations all of this would have been worked out.d you wove had directions to the field, you would have had public affairs guidance, you would have had policy announcements made. under the administration, thisha is not unusual unfortunately. we've seen it happen with the travel ban early in the presidency, with the zero tolerance policy which was implemented quickly with litt motive. this seems to be the way this administration works. >> the just if case for the rule a lot is based on asylum clas. they also say most of the claims are without merit. is that true? >> without meritr ofraudulent is another term they use. i think that's a ittle misleading. it's true an awful lot and
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probablprobably majority ofthe 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 eyrcumstances. on't know the law very well. they're not purposely making a fake claim to try to get into khe united states. they are just g advantage of the one legal avenue open to teem to try to seek protection in the ustates. >> the majority of the asylum change over the yea have been dn three countries, guatemala, honduras an el lvador. what sit based on. >> a lot can be the basis of their claims, it can be they don't have enough evidence to support their claims when it comes to asylum the burden proof is on the immigrant to prove they're elirgible for asylum. they may not have enogh proof even if they have a valid claim. a lot are not reprend by attorneys, so they're in a
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process they don't understand. 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 ftter e here. >> statistics show that when they have actually attorneypr entation, that rate goes up. >> it does. and in part wast because attorneys are able to vet out the cases that aren't as ong in other avenues that aren't available or uybe tell them yo aren't going to make it. there are advocas for th system and how the system rocks and the immigrants. >> part of the plan relies on xico filling in the gas. it's not exactly clear how they will do that. this week we heard the story aboutio two young migrant teenagers killed while awaening y to the united states, part of that caravan waiting. w how know that we're o fulfilli humanitarian obligations to make sure the itlnerable populations aren't targeted while g observe the other side of the border. >> this is a very big issue with
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this policy. the immigrant advocates ar probably going to make this a central basis on what i expect to be a fairly quickly litigation on this policy, but also the mexican government said we're going to provide orq authorization but they're relying on humanitarian organizations to provide help to these individuals. it's not clear how much they're offering protection. so a lot we don't know. >> the process, you expect this will be challenged in the courts like other immigration efforts have? >> i expect it will be fairly soon. almost i've licy has been implemented by this administration has been challenged in court and so far the courts have struck down an awful lot of them. so we'll hve to see. >> the two biggest pieces of this are t rising number of asylum cases and also the immigration backlog in the immigration court system, which is absoluteltrue, that's at a record high. what else do you think thead nistration could be doing eight now, steps they could take now under power to ease
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both those things. >> a couple of the things they decided dot the s put significant additional resources into the imigration courts, to have those case processed faster or be able to process more caes that we're seeing. there are also things they could do at the border. right now, for example, asylum officers from citizenship and immigration service do the itial screening called the credible fear claim. if they find credible fear, they can't accept an asylum claim there, it hasto go bere the immigration judge, that puts more cases before jthe i..s. they could be authorized to approve affirmative asylum claims if they believe the cases are strong enough d they have enough evidence. that would more quickly approve thigible for some sort of relief. there are other things that can be done, but this administratio has cho to put all of its resources and energy have licies and operations that try to deter and prevent asylum seekers from coming to the united states rather than
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looking at the process and figuring out how to adjust the asylum process to accommodate this info. i believe if we were to have a system to adjudicate within a couple of months rather tha several years, that would provide the effect the administration wants, once the people realize the majority of the cases don't get approved and people return watt rher quickly, that would change the dierveg. the immigration judges that's where you think the changes could be made? >> that's where the bottleneck is aerything else that happened has come about because of thetlboteck. >> theresa cardinal brown. thank you very much for being here. >> you're welcome. >> woodruff: we return to the indictment of two chinese hackers. the chargeare part of a broader effort by the department of justice to crack down on chinese cyber espionage. today's case centers on two men
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who allegedly worked with chinese intelligence to steal vast amounts of sensitive data from companies, militaries and governments around the globe. joining me now, assistant attorney general for national security john demers. mr. assistant attorney general, thank you very much for joining us. this was a pretty high profileod announcement. the tep at the attorney general, the f.b.i. dictor, you were there. why are these two men worthy of such attention? >> two significant things i think about today's indictment, is particular, the firsthe way the hacking worked here was that these individuals are alleged to have hacked through managed service provided then getting into the systems of managed service providers, and those are companies that provide i.t. services to oth companies. so once you get access to those companies, you can go through their systems to gccess to a variety of other companies. so first is the way that they
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did the hacks. the second is this is the first time thawe at the department have charged conduct that violates the 2015 agreement between president xi and president obama, the commitment th is by china that it would not conduct cyber espionage for commercial purposes. ou>> woodruff: do you feel have solid evidence that these men, the company, the organization they work for did do this? do you have the evidence? >> oh, absolutely. we wuld never bring this indictment if we were unconfident that we couldn't prove this-year-old. that's the stanrd we operate under all the time at the department, so if we didn't think we could do that, we would have never brought these charges. >> woodruff: do you, though, also have evidence that the companies they were stealingio informfrom or the information that it went to,
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rather, benefited from this and, if so, why not go after them as well? >> well, i can't go beyond what's in the indictment, so -- and we don't describe what happens to the information in the indictment. in other cases, wehave also pursued actions, not necessarily our authorities, but the authorities of other partners in with theovernment against the companies that have benefited from the charged activity. in this case, we haven't described in the indictment, so i can't go beyond that to describeho benefited from it and where this might go in the future. >> woodruff: let me ask you, these men, yo describe them as hackers, what about the the people at the top of this enterprise, the people at the top of the government in china who authorized, made sure this happened? y >> well, yea know, we do
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charge here that these hackers and the company they worked for were acting in association with the ministry of state security in china, andat 's the premer chinese intelligence services that does counter and foreign intelligence. allege they are acting on behalf or in association with the chinese government. we are charging individuals who we know individually, actually ire people who are with the hands on the keyboard, and that's a significant aspect of the attribution here. here's not just saying this company or country did it, but these two individuals, individually, did it.uf >> woo can you describe briefly, in lay's terms, what kind of information was stolen? o> well, so, a wide variety of information m both government systems, so we described in there a hck of personal,
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identifiable information of people in the united states navy, but also looking out at a variety of commercialectors, 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 vaety of companies. >> woodruff: since the chances of prosecution are very low, we assume, mr. demers, what's the message or the point of going ahead with this indictment? >> sure, and this is a question we g often in the cyber indictments. we've done indictments this year ainst russia, against iran, against north korea and against china, and sometimes we can get the dendant right away. we had one chinese one where we managed to extradite a chinese
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intelligence oficer from belgium this year. so sometimes we get the person right away. sometimes we get the person in the future. but even if we never get the person, the idea behind the indictment is, first, to educate the public to what's goi on, educate the private sector and encourage the private sector to come forward and work withs if they have been the target of a computer intrusi, and also lay the groundwork for actions by other agencies across the government, including, you know, diplomaticactions and other tools that we have across the government to try to change -- all of the goal ngis chag the behavior of the chinese oovernment when t comes t espionage. >> woodruff: assistant attorney general john demers, thank you very much. >> well, thank you very much. good evening. l
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>> woodruff: th 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 killing plant life and the water buffalo iraqis depend on to survive.nd special correst jane ferguson was recently in southern iraq. and as she reports, water has become a rare commodity in the coun >> reporter: few people lookut on these marshes with as much love and concern as jassim. alassa 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 opene eye and it was an eden. the plan, buffalo and fish.
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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 the d ble. they have sustaiman life here for thousands of years, stretching on for miles and miles. itprecious, unesco world heritage but they shouldn't look like this.n yellowy breds are a sign m the plant life dying. these are the sashes filmed just four years ago. it is not normal. because historically in everywhere in the marshes the water suitable for the buffalo. but in seasons andears drought years like this year, 2015, 2009, there was a problem for the water. there was a problem for the quality of water and the
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quantity of water. as you see.e you is water? it is dead completely, beforeag four monthall 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 water crisis 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 low. it's also too salty. according to alassadi, the reduced volume of water has caused salination to spike from 200 partper million, as it was tsen he was a child here, to 1800 per million today. that means the water is not onl killing ant life, but also the water buffalo people here depend on. these cows provide cheese, milk,
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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 herder abbas jawad collecting water from one of the remaining f, 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. h last year water but this year there is non at all. you e that with your own eyes. >> reporter: entire villages have been abandoned, as life for the herders becomes too hard to bear. usthe land simply cannot sin them. >> ( translated ): our livelihood is ter. we just need the water. if our herds die, we will starve. >> reporter: zaharis just 15be and has never en to school,
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cst she understands the po behind her community's struggles. te ( translated ): they stopped the flow of the war from they want oil xchange for water. the iraqi government refused to give them the oil and we are the ones who sr. >> reporter: she is referring ta the ilisu a massive, newly constructed dam upstream along the tigris river, across the rder in turkey, part of massive 22-dam project. ilisu dam went into operation this summer, and water levels downstream, in iraq, immediately plummeted. around 70% of iraq's weier flows fromboring countries like iran and turkey. iraq's minister for water resources hassan al janabi says the dams upstream in those neighboring nations only add the effects of climate change. >> it's tough to quantify t i would say that the climate change impact is felt, is
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whatever but the control by the 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 and floods year after year, snow-melt in spring, scarcity at other times, is how agriculture began here, and sustained humans for thousands of years, making the land that runs between the tigris and euphrates part of the legendary fertile >> so wethat during spring p time we have tk influx to our country, in summe we have less water but this over history we know it is the predictable behavior of the
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water system now when you build major dams upstream you le everything that is dependent on this cycle of the flow: biodiversity, floods, you know his renewal ofl the fey of the soil. >> reporter: already, farmers are being driven from the land in iraq. in the northern province of ninevah, wheat farmers struggle toeep their crops alive in parched, dry earth. farmer sami yessi says his wheat fields are failing. >> ( translated ): last year i yeanted 175 acres, but thi i could not. i planted only 125. it costs me around 40 million dinars. the rain fell late and t crops failed. if this situation continues, we cannot plant. if this situation remains the same next year, we will not be
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ab to. reporter: even if farmers are ntle to nurture crops, the iraqi governas cut wheat production by 50% and banned planting rice because both crop use so mter for 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 nt the once famously fertile mesopotamian basinan uninhabitable dust bowl. >> the desert is expanding. and with this expansion of desert, this means poverty, displacement, irreversible change in thland. you cannot get people back even when conditions inhe country, assuming conditions in the country, are right to support them and get them back. sy won't happen. it's not that ea. >> reporter: meanwhile, iraq has turned from a country that once exported food to one increasingly dependent on imports.
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as water becomes a rare commodity here, the price of food will increase. in the place known as the cradle of civilization, life 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 branghareports, the move comes after similar explicit restrictions were blocked from the farm bi that president trump signed today. >> brangham: that's right, judy. republicans and president trump want restrictions to the foo stamp program to be included in the $867 billi farm bill, but
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democrats balked and so those specific restrictionwere left out. but in the farm bill, there waon addi power 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 exemptions, for hundreds of thousands of americans who receive this federal help buying their groceries. espublicans have long sought these kinds of chaarguing that too many able-bodied americans are getting help they don't really need. democrats argue these requirements are too har and will hurt unemployed and under- employed workers the most. jeffrey steihas been covering 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 day. what specific changes are they making? >> i think what's really impoant to understand is th vast majority of the 40 million americans who receive food stamps are working, and there are ways around what basically these states are allto do is to grant exemptions for these work requirements for people
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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 nd job opportunities in that are areas. what the trumpindmtration said today was we're going to restrict and pair back the ability of states to grant these wavers which will have cut bac about 750,000 people from the program. >> the argument they're making is the rules re too ient. you're saying if the vastpe majority ole who receive food stamps are working, what do the requirements actually change? >> right now, the way the food stamp waiver works is if yo rrea, your county has an unemployment rate than 20% of the national average, then you can get the waiver. is would change it to set it up 7%, so your county would have to have an unemployment rae above 7% to receive the
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exemption, and there are approximately 900 down us the across the country that fall into that designation, so there are a people who rely on these benefits. >> so of the 750,000 people, do we know kind of who those people are? old, young? d whographic is it? >> it's mostly white people, poor people. 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 states, 38 states and territories have these waivers, that's basically hae country, more than half the country. so it's a wide swath of e poor in america. >> the repubcans long argued, this isn't just a fight happening in the trump administration, they've long argued that people need to work and, if they work, then they n receive these benefits. this has been a long ideogical ght that the republicans and the democrats have been fighting for a long time. i understand that the
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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 elderly people tween the ages of 49 and 59 to be able to receive food stamp benefits. those changes were rejected because russian republicans needed votes in the senate to pass the farmllio 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 window now, and i've already seen in my e-mails and onte twthat the democrats and other groups that support the food stamp program a fighting this. is there anything they can do to change this? >> there's going to be a legal challenge. it's notngclear who's go file that. my guess is it's going to be governors in democratic states who say this impedes our ability
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to strait the program but we haven't heard that. seems like the trump administration is going to be able to do this without anyone stopping them. maybe that will change.'l see. >> jeffrey stein of the who's. thanks for being .re >> 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 the lucas brothers as part of our weekly series, making sen$e. >> reporter: a comic take on a scary, albeit exaggerated, stat: >> we read one out of three black dudes gets shot or arrested before turning 34. we just turned 33. getting close. (laughter)
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>> rep lucas, a.k.a., the lucas brothers-- a comedy team unafraid to tackle tough subjects, from violence tc econnequality. >> the town that we are from, newark, new jersey wasmooted the thir dangerous city in the country. when we found that out, we were very disappointed, because we thought we were going to get the number one ranking this year. (laughter) n reporter: the duo has b the rise the past few years, first with an animated tv series, "the lucas brothers moving compa," then roles in e movie "22 jump street," recently their netix special." on drugs." but here's where they grew up: inner city newark, new jersey.l >> it's stre.
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>> 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 tieeltown, where they now l and work, has inspired their atest standup routine, playing earlier this monnew york city's comedy cellar. >> the high school we went to was even worse. it was ranked 331st out of 339 according to inner city weekly. whenever we thought about it, we were like, those other eight schools, why we they were worse than us? >> reporter: encouraged by mom oad guidance counselors, funded by l and a scholarship for students from poor areas, keith and kenny lucas were able to leave home, eventually study philosophy and economics in college. you have survivor's guilt a little? >> i mean sort of you kn people you grow up with a lot of people. and some of these people aren't here anymore. >> and you think about how i'm living now. and i'm like, i could have been one of the dudes on the block to
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get gunned down. t or it could happen to mey moment. so of course like it weighs on you because i kn i didn't anticipate making it this far. >> i was happy to go to college. >> reporter: after getting tir b.a.'s, they went to law school at duke and new york universities. but left to pursue comedy just weeks before graduating. >> didn't want to be didn't have the passion to be lawyers. >> reporter: they dotoave a passioake folks laugh, though, they say, and to realize that the american economy isn't oming for everyone. but anybody who wants a job can get a job in america right? we're at full employment. what are you laughing about? >> what kind of jobs are people getting? n i know a lot of jobs wite so you may have a job but it's not enough to raise a family. e ner city it's underemployment.
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>> it's a job in none. >> reporter: has the inequality gotten worse since you guys were newark? t >> i donnk the school system has improved much. housing i doprt think has ed much. >> and plus the recession hit pretty hard. and we're still recovering from that now. >> reporter: for the record, newark's unemployment rate is, nearly double the nati average. and in-your-face economic inequality prevails across the country. economics is what drew the lucas brothers to campaign for bernie sanders in 2016. >> he's dope, he's de, he's the dopest dude i know. >> bernie sanders was offering a different message. it's a message that counteracts the extreme cutthroat capitalism. i i don't knf 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? >> reporter: this is ter america, the one the lucas
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brothers escaped. >> reporter: to thlucas brothers, their cousin and his neighbors are at the mercy of economic policies that could have been, could be, otherwise. and a lot of people don really take into account statepo cies or city policies that keep african americans. >> or poor people in general. >> or poor people in general,ca what do yo it. >> a system of or generational poverty. >> 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 alth. you're stuck in an area wherehe not only are no jobs, but you can't build your own wealth so what you do? if enough groups across the country are stuck in the same situation-- blacks, whites, latinos-- engh group are stuck in that situation, there's only going to be one option and that's rebellion. >> reporter: and tt point of view underpins the dark humor of
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keith and kenny lucas. >> we're hoping to mako 34 but we have to get our younger brother shot. it's eier him or us! it's a dog eat dog world out there! t >> reporter: f 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 "brith city" tour, hows in philadelphia this weekend and across the country starting in january. and a quick news update before we go. house republicans moved tonight to add $5 billiofor a border wall to a temporary funding bill to avert a government shutdo 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 schumer said that "everyone knows" that bill can't pass in the senate. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
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for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newsur has been provided by: >> kevin. >> kevin! >> kevin. >> advice for life. life well-planned. omarn more at raymondjames >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. pd by contributions to yo station from viewers like you. thank you.
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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh
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