tv PBS News Hour PBS August 1, 2012 12:00am-1:00am PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: it's day four of the olympics, and a big day indeed for american athletes. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight, we get the latest on the medalists, and explore how the changing expectations of a digital world affect the way we watch the games. >> woodruff: then we look at the world's biggest electrical blackout ever. a part of india with a population twice that of the u.s. was without power today. >> ifill: hari sreenivasan reports on the political clout the nation's fastest-growing immigrant group may wield in a swing state this fall. look at the asian-american vote and how influential it could be in the state of nevada.
>> woodruff: we update the battle for syria's largest city and commercial hub. and ray suarez interviews the head of refugees international about the unfolding humanitarian crisis. >> ifill: plus jeffrey brown talks with author walter dean myers about his books for young people and his mission to get more of them reading. >> the positive thing i can give them is their own presence, acknowledging them. i know where you are coming from. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial
literacy in the 21st century. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: this was a day of medals and milestones for u.s. athletes at the london olympics. we take a look now at some of what went on, including marquee results from the competition. spoiler alert: if you don't want to know the results just yet, you might want to tune out for a moment. gray skies and puddles didn't keep the crowds away from day four of competition at london's olympic park. after some early disappoint, today proved to be with a good one for u.s. fans. the women's gymnastics team won its first team gold since 1996 and beating the russians handily. and with two trips to the medal
podium today, american swimmer mike phelps became the most decorated olympian of all time. he's now won 19 medals over all, 15 gold, two silvers and two bronze. also in the pool, fellow u.s. swimmer allison schmidt th won the women's 200-meerlt freestyle defeating teammate missy franklin. the colorado high school senior franklin scored her first gold medal last night in the 100-meter backstroke. >> im so happy. i knew that tonight was going to be difficult but i had a blast with it. it was so much fun. i couldn't be happier. >> ifill: ryan lochte failed to medal monday placing fourth in the 200-meter freestyle although he was also part of today's winning relay. and questions were raised over the performance of chinese swimmer who powered to a world record in the 400-meter individual medley on saturday night. but the win was questioned by an
american coach not part of the u.s. delegation who told the guardian newspaper he found the win disturbing and unbelievable. the communications director for the international olympic committee defended the swimmer today saying any allegations of doping were unfounded. >> it is inevitably a sad result of the fact that there are people who dope and who cheat. but i equally think it's very sad if we can't applaud a great performancperformance. let's always give the benefit of the doubt to the athletes. >> ifill: fellow athletes also came to her defense. >> let's not speculate on what's going on. the athletes haven't produced any positive samples, and they're doing... they're swimming very fast. let's give credit to their training as producing the results. >> ifill: she won a second gold medal in the women's 200-meter individual medley.
another brewing controversy, how nbc is covering these games and when. some frustrated olympic fans have taken to the social media site twitter to complain about delayed or incomplete programming. the hash tag: nbc fail. the performances of these the performances in these first few days of competition have put the athletes-- and the games themselves-- under a microscope. we look at the wins, the losses, and the coverage with christine brennan, who's covering the olympics in london for "u.s.a. today," abc, and others. and richard sandomir, sports, media, and business reporter for the "new york times." a quick warning, everybody, if you don't want to know what happened don't listen. you were at the women's gymnastics gold medal win this afternoon. tell us about it. >> it was really stirring. it was a dominating performance by the american women. i think a lot of people know about jordan weiber two days ago. she came back on the vault, the
very first person for the u.s., nailed it and set off a tidal wave of performances. 12-for-12. americans did not have a major mistake and won the gold medal going away over the russians. in fact by the time that the americans and the russians got to the floor exercise, the final of the four rotations, all the americans had to do was a couple somersaults because the russians had made major mistakes on the balance beam and the floor. it was the biggest victory by a women's gymnastics team in the modern era of gymnastics. for the u.s., its second gold medal ever first since atlanta in 1996 so it's been 16 years. this is is a pint-sized team that had an industrial strength performance here today. >> ifill: i have to ask you about michael phelps who finally broke the record everybody was expecting he would have broken already. tell us about that. >> right. michael phelps did break... he's now the winningest olympian in
history, 19 medals. that is extraordinary. but he kind of backed into it. he won... he set the record with the u.s. relay. that was... they won the gold medal. but before that, in his signature event, gwen, the 200 butterfly -- this is the event that he made the olympics in 2000 as a 15-year-old -- he has never been beaten in this event. he was caught at the end of a finish reminiscent of what happened four years ago for those who remember in the butterfly where michael phelps caught his competitor at the very end. this time someone caught michael phelps. i never thought i would say these wors, that michael phelps faded in the stretch in his signature event the 200 butterfly but he did. that has to be a great disappointment for him tonight. >> ifill: we should point out that neither of the events we just described have been broadcast here yet on east coast time in the united states. shortly around 6:00 p.m. so what
has been the reaction to that? we've seen this before where people get taped-delay broadcasts. there seems to be a special outcry this time. >> well, there's a special outcry this time because in past olympics there's always been discontent about nbc tape delaying and before nbc abc tape delaying especially european the foreign olympics. now the discontent has merged with a lot of discontent and anger about the fact that nbc is sending live streams of all the sports events but a lot of people are having problems with the live streams. they are getting freezing pictures, skipping pictures, microblocking. all that has merged on twitter into this platform of outrage that has come to be called nbc fail. >> ifill: is it technology that's the problem this time or is it just that people now have this platform to complain in a more amplified way? >> well, i think it's both those things. the complaints may be no more of a percentage than there was in
the past, but the technology has created expectations. you go from tv to streaming. people think it should be the exact same kind of quality. i expect that same kind of quality. they're saying it's not anything on their end coming from london. it might be the age of your computer. it might be the broadband capability, the band width of your broadband service. no one knows for sure. on three different levels i've tried two p.c.s and a laptop i've not gotten a smooth picture. that's the the experience a lot of people are having. >> ifill: you said this would be the twitter olympics. you've been tweeting up a storm from there. does this kind of complaint and debate, does it an fect what you see, what you cover, what people are saying about it? >> actually, it doesn't, gwen. of course i've been following rich and listening to him now. it is just fascinating because we could have really all anticipated this. when nbc treats the olympics as some 1950s ozzie and harriet broadcast, you know, where mom
and dad put up their feet at k-78 and we all sit around and watch from 8:00 to 11:00. this is the 21st century. those days are long gone. i'm treating it of course as a newsy vent. this is not just sports or entertainment. this is news. we are journalists. we're covering this very seriously as of course rich is as well from his perspective. for people to get angry that there's twitter, spoilers on twitter, for heaven's sakes, of course there are. these events are live. they're news. they're important. i think nbc is doing a great disservice to itself. frankly and embarrassing itself because it should come into the 21st century and show them live and then if they want to package them beautifully for people for prime time, do that. i'll bet you their ratings overall would still be pretty good. >> ifill: it should be said you mentioned ratings, rich, it seems like their ratings have not been affected by this controversy. >> the ratings have benson sayingsal certainly from london five hours away. you can't do a live olympics
because nothing is live at prime time in the united states. christine is right. you can do live during the day. it may well stoke more ratings at night. if somebody is saying there's this great missy franklin race, you might want to tune in later. you may see it early on in streaming and see it early on on nbc in the afternoon. you may want to see it again at nighttime. no one really knows for sure what the impact would be, but, you know, this is a template that was created by roone arledge in the '60s. for the most part even with the addition of more cable coverage and the addition of streams nbc treats the prime time broadcasts as if it were still a super sized version of what was done in the '60s. >> ifill: the way abc has, are they dying by the sword they've been wielding. >> could you repeat that. ifill: by doing what they've been doing in courting social media, are they dying by the sword that they wielded?
>> you know, it's hard to say. they have four more olympics coming up. do they want to keep stoking the anger of viewers as they go to rio? rio is a time zone similar to ours so you'll probably see a lot more live olympics but still the nbc business model is built on building an audience in prime time so that they can repay their growing rights fees. it's a very tough thing to be both in one century and in another and trying to satisfy people who are more than ever motivated by technology and by instantly complaining or talking about their experiences on social media. it's a very tough thing to follow. this isn't 1980 where the great men's hockey team game against the russians was also on tape delay. people didn't know any different. now they know a lot different. they know the tricks that nbc
has been doing. the tricks that get them a lot of ratings but also create a lot of anger. >> ifill: christine, whether we're watching it live or watching it online or whether we're watching it in a taped package tomorrow, what are you watching for? whichy sends? >> well, i think more swimming because especially phelps who is not performing well individually. i think that's a fascinating story. missy franklin again in swimming. and then gymnastics thursday so another day or so away we've got that women's individual all around final, the one that jordan wieber is not in but gabby douglas could become the first person of color to win this prizedded gold medal. she is from the united states and one of the two americans in that. she is terrific to watch tonight in the team competition, watching her today this afternoon was terrific. and then she will now be competing for that gold medal. i think it would be a historic gold if she could win it. >> ifill: we'll be watching all of it. thank you both very much.
>> woodruff: still to come on the newshour, the massive power blackout in india; the asian american vote in nevada; the humanitarian crisis in syria; and an ambassador for young people's literature. but first, the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. >> holman: bipartisan leaders in congress agreed today to keep the government funded through next march. the stop-gap measure is meant to avoid a shutdown when the federal fiscal year concludes in september. funding would continue at levels specified in last year's debt limit agreement. lawmakers still face automatic tax increases and defense spending cuts in january, unless they can agree on a deficit reduction package. a major critic of russian president vladimir putin will face criminal charges. alexei navalny was accused today of stealing half a million dollars from a state timber company. navalny organized mass rallies against putin in moscow before the presidential election in march. the protests drew up to 100,000 people. today navalny insisted he was framed as part of the kremlin's
mounting efforts to silence putin's opponents. >> we think the case was set up, and we are not going to do anything or play their games. the charges contradict the expertise and evidence. i don't know how they will prove all that. >> holman: if he's convicted of the embezzlement charges, navalny could serve up to ten years in prison. in iraq, two deadly blasts struck baghdad today, killing at least 21 people. the twin car bombs exploded in an upscale shiite neighborhood during rush hour. the dead included six policemen. 57 other people were wounded. the violence came a week after series of coordinated attacks-- claimed by al-qaeda-- killed more than 100 iraqis. republican presidential candidate mitt romney wrapped up his three-nation overseas tour today in poland. romney met with polish leaders in warsaw today. he cited the country as a model of economic liberty and smaller government, and as a long-time comrade in arms.
>> poland has no greater friend and ally than the people of the united states of america. you helped us win our independence. your bravery inspired the allies in the second world war. you helped bring down the iron curtain. and your soldiers fought side by side with ours in iraq and afghanistan. we have fought together. we have died together. >> holman: romney also dismissed criticism of remarks during his trip about the olympics, jerusalem, and israel's economic superiority over the palestinians. he ignored shouted questions after laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in warsaw. but an aide argued with reporters, telling one to "shove it." back in washington, white house press secretary jay carney said american leaders who go abroad should avoid controversy. >> what they say is placed under a magnifying glass. it carries great impact.
presidents, senators, congressmen, former governors need to be very meanedful of the impact because of the diplomatic implications of what, you know, what you say overseas. >> holman: from poland, romney is returning to the u.s., and resumes campaigning on thursday. president obama campaigns tomorrow in ohio. unemployment in europe has reached record highs. the european union reported today that 17.8 million people were unemployed in june across the 17-country eurozone. that's the most since the euro currency union was formed in 1999. spain and greece have been hardest hit, with jobless rates well above 20%. wall street fell back some today, waiting for wednesday, when the federal reserve issues its latest statement on the economy. the dow jones industrial average lost 64 points to close at 13,008. the nasdaq fell six points to
close at 2939. the bestselling irish author maeve binchy died monday in a dublin hospital. she'd had a brief, unspecified illness. binchy was widely known for her bestselling novels, including "circle of friends" and "tara road." at her death, more than 40 million copies of her books had sold worldwide. maeve binchey was 72 years old. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: and to india, where an area with a population of 700 million-- almost one-tenth of the population of the entire world-- lost power tuesday, when three of the country's regional electricity grids failed. it was by far the largest blackout in human history. it came as millions of indians faced summer temperatures well into the 90s. >> the northern grid failure has created many difficulties for people. this is summertime and
hospitals, air conditioning and factories are not able to function. people are facing many problems due to this failure. >> woodruff: the outage encompassed 20 of india's 28 states, a vast region that stretches 1900 miles east to west. it's home to roughly half of india's entire population. in city after city, major transit systems were shut down. and passengers were left stranded as hundreds of trains across the country sat motionless on the tracks. >> i was going to board a train to deli, but we just found out a while ago that the trains are not functioning due to a grid failure. we've been here since 1:00 p.m. >> woodruff: in the capital, new dehli, police directed traffic after signals went dark, causing massive jams and confusion. the power began to return within hours, but all of this came on the heels of yesterday's outage which left 370 million indians
in the dark for most of the day. officials blamed growing demand for air conditioning and less rainfall than usual. this meant lower water flows for hydroelectric dams. they also pointed to large-scale illegal siphoning of power, and regional governments taking more than their share. >> modern and eastern have failed. at the moment >> woodruff: it was unclear exactly how many indians actually lost power. that's partly because one-third of the country's households have no lech... electricity according to indian census data. gasp powered generators are widespread in a country where smaller-scale blackouts are common. even so, two major outages in 48
hours underscore the problem. india's growing demand for power has outstripped its power system. >> one grid failure and the entire country is at a standstill. this is a system failure. a systemic failure. >> woodruff: and the problem is likely to persist. the indian government recently scaled back plans to spend one trillion dollars to rebuild infrastructure over the next five years. for more we turn to steven cohen. he's lived in dehli and is the author of many books on india and south asian and arvind subramanian of the peterson institute where he's an expert on indian growth, trade and development. gentlemen, we thank you both for being here. arvind subramanian, let me start with you. india is accustomed to smaller blackouts but this is of a different magnitude. >> this was an entirely different magnitude. 700 million people but in some ways the real tragedy, judy, of this is the fact that had highlights the fact that india's
chronically short of power. that's been a problem for 10, 20, 30, 40 years. i'm hoping that this will shed the spotlight on that bigger and more persistent problem. >> woodruff: chronically short of power. is is that what's behind this? >> i think that's true. behind that is the fact that india like china shifting from a state-directed system of economy to one where enterprise operates on its own. both countries are in a state of transition. countries have set up weird capitalist market system operating. india is moving in that direction. they're in the transitional period where it's neither a market system that functions in response to demands nor directed system which is compelling things to happen. that's true in china but not in india. when it breaks down in india, we see it very clearly. >> woodruff: what's known to be the immediate cause of this? is there something that triggered what happened yesterday and then today? >> as the report said i think what happened was because the
monsoons have almost failed 20% efficiency of rainfall so supply has come down because the water tables have dropped. hydro power is just 20%. in the face of this declining supply and demand growing, what happened was that some states especially the agricultural states like punjab started overdrawing on the grid. and the grid was not equipped to handle that. so that tripped some line somewhere. then that cascaded backwards creating this big blow out. >> woodruff: some of this, as i was reading today, has to do with the states drawing more power and they're supposed to. how is that regulated? >> it's not. that's the problem. there's no way of enforcing the states to stop drawing power except to cut them off. that may be one of the triggers of this. in all of these complex disasters there are many causes. in this case the action of the state's absence of a marketing coal and other energy supplies are all contributing factors. at the bottom of this i think is
politics. india has too much democracy. there's too much... >> woodruff: too much democracy? in the sense that the central government can't control these states the way they used to in the days when there was a single party at the center and the states. yet they need the states, they need the state parties to stay in power at the center. they have to make concessions with the state. they can't compel the states to do something. in a sense that's democracy but it's a negative aspect of democracy. >> woodruff: how do you see that, the politics? >> i think it's more an imperfect democracy than too much democracy because the fundamental problem with power in india is that if people were to pay for power, private investors would come rushing in to build and increase supply. but the point is that politicians found it politically opportunistic to say we'll either give you no power or free power or free power or subsidized power. people don't pay. that's okay. but 30% of the power generated
in india is lost to theft and to free power. >> woodruff: to theft. e saw the people of video. and then agriculture is very powerful. they get free and subsidized power. it's proved to be environmentally cat trosk because water tables have dropped, the aquifers have dried up. politicians basically think they can win elections by promising free power. the tragedy is that it leads to all these very adverse outcomes. >> woodruff: i think people also look at india. they see the incredible business progress that it's made, commercial progress, the progress in education. yet the infrastructure not catching up. >> the business community are the first to say that the infrastructure is is failing, that the government hasn't invested as much in infrastructure as they can. in a country that has so many bill airs you ask why isn't some of this money going to infrastructure? part of it is politics. the billionaires and the rich can protect themselves from the
taxation that would build up the infrastructure. it's a question of political priorities. i would say that india is an imperfect perhaps maybe not too much. in an imperfect democracy these decisions are being made on political calculations not economic and energy calculations. >> in this case i think business is actually hurt by what's happening in power. because some people get very cheap power. and some people have to pay too much for power. that's business. >> woodruff: there's imbalance. exactly. what do they do? as the report showed, they get private generators. to generate their own power. that's environmentally disastrous. >> woodruff: what does it take to change a system like in terms where india wants to go in the future? >> sometimes a shock like this will lead to a reform which would lead to, you know, major innovations and transformation of the system. i'm not sure whether the indian system respond in that way this time. we'll have to wait and see.
>> i'm a bit more hopeful on this because what's happening in india is that some of the states are actually doing innovative things. the which is like india's china has started implementing a system of power where people... where farmers have to pay for power. in return they get more regular power. that system, if it works, will help... >> woodruff: that's not the region though... >> that is... woodruff: where it was blacked out? >> india is such a vast country that some of the states are doing very well. others are doing very badly in a sense the system where the states that are moving well should be rewarded and the states doing badly ignored if necessary. but the problem is the political calculation depends on the number of votes not on how well a state is doing economically. some states have a lot of votes which are are doing badly in terms of policy are getting political re. >> woodruff: at the moment as you look at what india aspires to be, what does this say about how difficult it's going to be to get there?
>> it's going to be very difficult to get there because, you know, the demand for power is just outstripping the ability to handle it. but i think if we get some good successful experiments in some of the states like, you know, tapping into two or three states, i think in principle that can spread. that's i think the only basis for hope in india because fundamentally the politics in new dehli is not going to change very much. >> there are three things that have to happen. the coal industry is a state monopoly that has to be broken up. secondly, they have to move on the question of nuclear energy. for political reasons they block the importation of american nuclear power plants, whether you like nuclear or not they expect to have power produced by nuclear. they're not going to reach their goal. they need to work with other regional states in nepal and pakistan to develop a hydroelectric grid based on waterpower which is environmentally secure. >> woodruff: complicated and a stunning situation yet one that
has drawn the world's attention. >> blackouts in new dehli, i've lived through them. it's no fun. >> woodruff: steven cohen, arvind subramanian, thank you very much. appreciate it. >> ifill: next, to the presidential campaign. asian americans, the nation's fastest-growing minority, surpassed latinos last year as the largest group of new immigrants. and politicians are beginning to hari sreenivasan reports from pay attention. hari sreenivasan reports from the battleground state of nevada. >> go ahead and fill it out. sreenivasan: newly minted citizen genevieve is registering to vote for the first time. >> this is my first time. it's exciting for me. >> sreenivasan: she lives in clark county nevada where this year ball localities and election materials will be available in her native filipino
language. filipinos are the second largest minority group in the county behind latinos. their numbers have passed a threshold required by the voting rights act to have ballots printed in a language other than english. voter registration drives are happening at places like this ethnic grocery store in las vegas frequently because asians and pacific islanders make up 9.9%. population in the county. amy organized this registration event. >> i think sometimes they don't understand the electoral process. they don't want to vote. >> sreenivasan: one challenge is the language barrier. it's far easier for the shl campaigns to produce ads in spanish than to communicate with voters in a dozen or more asian languages. between 2000 and 2010, the population of asians in nevada has more than doubled along with that population has come another las vegas strip. along this four-mile stretch of spring mountain road there are
chinese, japannese, vietnamese, korean and other asian businesses. they're all going after the asian-american dream. this man has reached that dream. he immigrated to las vegas from south korea 32 years ago and opened one liquor store. you own the travel agency, the water company, the food court and this entire mall. >> yeah. sreenivasan: he is now one of the largest minority liquor retailers in the u.s. and is the godfather of an unofficial korea town. while lee has supported democratic candidates in the past, this time he says his pro business vote is squarely behind mitt romney. >> i like his policies. the last four years very tough time. >> here's a little information on mitt romney. are you a fan? good. >> sreenivasan: the romney campaign is trying to appeal to asian small business owners' concerns over the economy.
the campaign's nevada coalitions director. >> with 11.6% unemployment here in nevada, it's very important to reach out to the asian-american community and work with them and have them support governor romney because he's a free market, he understands what the asian-american community needs. >> sreenivasan: we caught up with her on board one of the romney campaign buses which briefly came through town. >> today a romney bus wooed asian voter. just by coincidence a pbs newshour crew was in town researching a piece on the presidential campaigns outreach to asian voters. >> sreenivasan: john has been covering politics in nevada for more than 25 years. he says in all that time campaigns have not paid much attention to the asian vote. >> i think the focus has been on the two most obvious minorities here. the african-american community and especially the burgeoning hispanic community which has
just exploded here. asian-americans are not as well organized. >> sreenivasan: this lack of organization leads to one of the lowest voter turnout rates of any minority group. a challenge amy faces as she tries to mobilize this community. >> it's procedural. there is a protocol that you need to do. that's intimidating for them because they're not used to that. >> sreenivasan: she says president obama who won two thirds of the asian vote nationwide in 2008 may have a slight edge in nevada because of the work done by senate majority leader harry reid's come-from-behind campaign in 2010. >> he managed to get the endorsement of a very prominent filipino boxer. he was able they believe to bring votes to bear because of his prominence and almost status as an idol in the filipino community. >> sreenivasan: senator reed still writes an occasional column for the asian journal newspaper. in 2008 democratic supporters of president obama were buying full
page ads in this campaign while the mccain campaign did not buy any. >> my parents are so proud of the work i'm doing for the campaign. >> reporter: this year the obama campaign has launched an initiative online. >> asian americans will once again be an important part of the program here in nevada. >> sreenivasan: and at all centers like this. how long have you been at this reaching out to asian communities specifically here in nevada? >> i would say about a year-and-a-half now. >> sreenivasan: a year-and-a-half you've been reaching out to fellow asians in nevada. >> chinese and my ethnic group. and i come from hawaii. so does our president. >> sreenivasan: this woman and fellow obama supporters hope to capitalize on the infrastructure democrats have built here over the years. >> at the end of the day, i would really like for the facts and the data to be able to say that asian-americans and pacific islanders showed up to vote and we made a difference in this election. >> sreenivasan: president obama won nevada by a wide margin in
2008 and las vegas was a democratic stronghold. mr. obama has held the lead of a few points in every nevada poll taken since last fall but both sides say they expect it to be close. nevada isn't is the only battle ground state where the asian population has swelled. the 2010 census found higher than average growth over the past decade in virginia, florida, and north carolina. asians tend to make up their minds late in the political process, says this professor at u.c. riverside who studies race and politics and is coauthor of the asian-american survey. >> what we found last time is about a month before election day over 20% of the asian-american population had not made up its mind. that's about triple the national average. >> sreenivasan: he says nationally up to half of asian voters have not decided on a political party. >> asian-americans are a population that are very much up for grabs. you have a population that has relatively low party identification, has not heard
enough about the different candidates. >> sreenivasan: this woman is on the fence and is surprised that campaigns have not been reaching out. you don't get phone calls some. >> no. sreenivasan: no mailings? no. sreenivasan: nobody comes knocking on your door. >> it's surprising that we're not a big part of that national conversation to reach out to either presidential campaign. we are a very educated and focused on our kids, on going to high school, going to college, getting a degree. >> sreenivasan: asian-americans are on average more than educated than the rest of the country. according to a recent pew research survey. another undecided voter wonders why presidential campaigns don't do more. >> when you have presidents and candidates shaking the hands of iron workers, so why can't you go to chinatown and shake hands with people who don't look like you and who actually can have an idea and have voting power?
speaking from a chinese-american standpoint, if you empower them, they will go out there. if you allow them, say, listen, back where you come from, there are no elections. now you have an election. you can make a difference. >> sreenivasan: an ideal and a . that both presidential campaigns will have to sell if they hope to win the hearts, minds and votes of asian-americans in nevada and beyond. >> ifill: yo >> ifill: you can go behind the scenes with hari on his nevada trip on our politics page. and while you're there, visit our 2012 map center for a county-by-county breakdown of the nation's asian american population. >> woodruff: next, to syria, where the battle for aleppo has been under way for 11 days. it's the largest city, with a population of three million, and the country's commercial center. much of the fighting is concentrated in the opposition strongholds in the southwestern part of the city, including the salaheddine district.
we begin with a report narrated by inigo gilmore of independent television news. reporter: hand-to-hand fighting on the streets of aleppo. this is the salaheddine district of the city, an area the syrian government claims to have recaptured. but here rebel fighters seem to have something of a swagger as they stand their ground. giving as good as they get. >> we hope our brothers and the syrian army will look and see what assad has done to our country. he destroyed it. we're asking them to put down their arms and join us to fight this infidel regime. >> reporter: now they seem to be on their own as government forces continue to bombard this area with heavier weapons. salaheddine has become a critical battle ground. the army is a key access point to the city. the fighting is relentless, and the injured continue to pour
into makeshift clinics. earlier rebels attacked a series of police stations in the city. one of the few international journalists in aleppo was with them at the time. >> there have been some rebel fighters who have been attacking police and military. they were successful in the first three. the fourth one they went to attack and i accompanied them. it wasn't quite that way. the rebels ran out of ammunition. then the regime called in air strikes. >> reporter: after a series of setbacks the syrian army is trying to reinforce their armory. here a convoy of tanks and armored vehicles are hastily moved up to aleppo from damascus 500 miles away. its heavy weapons the army decemberraltly appears to need. >> at some stage one would think that they'll start using their heavy weapons and their heavy or
till but that hasn't happened. >> reporter: that might explain why the rebel leader in this city appears so confident at least for now. here he was today strolling through the streets, being greeted by well wishers. >> a street war with the regime. we liberated some areas and are trying to establish stability. then when we move forward to other neighborhoods in the direction of the city center. >> reporter: but their planned push into the center of aleppo will not happen easily. there are reports tonight that assad forces are stepping up the fight hounding rebel positions by air and land. >> ifill: that civil war in syria has sparked a refugee crisis. ray suarez has that part of the story. >> suarez: days of shelling have forced tens of thousands of people to flee aleppo. many are struggling to find shelter and food. for more on the worsening humanitarian situation, we turn to michel gabaudan, president of refugees international. he recently met with syrian
refugees in lebanon and jordan. mr. gabaudan, how many people have been displaced? what's the best estimate on how many are now refugees in syria? >> there are 120,000 syrians who have been registered as refugees in jordan, in turkey, in lebanon and a few in iraq. but there are many more that have crossed into this country than have not sought to be registered. >> suarez: probably many that are internally displaced, inside the country not having crossed borders. >> indeed. the numbers are extremely varied. they estimate to range from 400,000 to a million-and-a-half. whatever the real figure, these are astounding figures. unfortunately aid doesn't reach them well. >> suarez: has the syrian government and, for that matter, have the rebels allowed international aid to reach people who are out of their homes? >> well, i think agencies trying to get into syria formally
through government are not getting the visas they need to operate neutrally as all humanitarians seeng to work. there are agencies working cross border. mostly in the medical field trying to help those people in the free syrian army who are helping the wounded. there are lots of clandestine hospitals and the evacuation of these is a key challenge. >> suarez: you mentioned people who are making it overboarders. syria borders five other countries. is there a difference in the way they're being received in these various places? are they being allowed to cross unmolested? >> well, i've been very much impressed when i was in lebanon and syria to see that these countries have done three things that are uncommon: open borders, access to services, to schools and to the medical facilities, and no report of brutality or abuse by local security forces. this is quite remarkable. therefore, the welcoming of the syrians had been very good.
it is important that we support these countries so that they keep on keeping their borders open. the only syrians who are can help now are those getting out. >> suarez: are people who are trying to make it to the border being harassed? are they under attack while they're still in syria? >> when we were in lebanon in the northern part of lebanon just across hama, the border was very dangerous. we had reports of syrian sharp shooters taking aim at refugees trying to flee. most of them have been crossing into the bekka valley and increasing numbers into jordan. in jordan they either move legally through the border but that is proving more and more difficult because the syrians are putting their own checks on when people can leave. therefore more people leave illegally in the eastern part of the border. they are then picked up by the jordanian army and brought into centers. >> suarez: it sounds like people have terrible individual choices to make. they live in places where
there's artillery fire, gun battles, even now attacks by fixed wing aircraft. it's dangerous if they stay. but it's also dangerous if they move. >> it's dangerous to move. as i said the neighboring countries have received them well, have kept their borders open, have not tried to limit their entry. now that policy seems to be changing a little bit with the encampment policy that has been designed by jordan. we feel this may be a sort of light deterrent. you'll still be welcome if you come. you won't have access to our whole country as was the case previously. i think it's because these countries realize that the situation in syria is extremely unstable, is getting worse, is likely to keep on. they say if we maintain our open border policy as open as it was before, how many hundreds of thousands are going to come? these countries are becoming a bit worried.
that's why... >> suarez: can they take advantage of international support? for instance, if there are now camps with tens of thousands of people in turkey, can turkey turn around to the u.n. high commissioner for refugees, international aid groups that that you work with and say, help us out. >> well, turkey so far has managed along pretty well. they are reluctant to have lots of foreigners on their border for reasons that are of national security, i imagine. but, yes, they should turn to international community. other countries have turnedded to the international community. but so far, for example, the regional response plan, the appeal that the u.n. has made to the international community has been funded only by a third. so most agencies operating in lebanon and jordan are operate below their capacity because of funding shortage snawrd we should talk for a moment about the people who do this work. as the situation worsens in syria, is it also becoming more dangerous to be a relief worker?
>> i think for those people who carry out cross-border activities, it is dangerous. we have seen that the syrians have no qualms about shooting at people, doctors who provide relief. most of the people working cross-border are syrians. there people have been at great risk. lots of workers in neighboring countries who try to help them with supplies and evacuation, i have seen people operating in the field hospital of terrible injuries survive so they are doing an extraordinary work. >> suarez: mr. gabaudan thanks for joining us. >> thank you very much. suarez: on our website read a dispatch about >> suarez: on our web site, read a dispatch about how christians are fighting for their survival in syria. that's by our partners at the international news website globalpost. >> woodruff: finally tonight, one man's need to write, and a society's need to read. jeffrey brown talks with author and advocate walter dean myers.
. >> i was raised where? new orleans. i was raised... brown: on this day it was to harlem that author myers returned. at 74 he is the library's... he is the first african-american on oto hold the post. he had come to his old neighborhood to talk with second graders about his life at a writer and the need to read, something myers' own father never learned to do. >> you didn't know that your father couldn't read. do you feel bad? >> i feel it's a funny thing because he had died. then i discovered he couldn't read. but what happened during his lifetime, he never said anything good about my books. i felt bad about that. i thought he didn't like them.
i was too embarrassed to ask him. so when i found out he couldn't read, i really felt bad. i should have taught him how to read. >> brown: what do you get out of coming to a school like this? >> well, it reminds me of why i'm writing. >> brown: why you're writing? why i'm writing. it validates what i'm doing. i realize i'm giving something. what i'm doing is i'm telling them that their lives are worthwhile. >> brown: myers is author of more than 100 novels, biographies and other books for young adults and children. some of thate laer illustrated by his son christopher. altogether his works have sold more than a million copies and frequently focus on the gritty side of city life, one that he's lived and knows still from visits to detention centers and prisons as well as schools around the country.
the best selling novel monster, for example, is about a harlem teen jailed as an accomplice in a murder. hoops features a young basketball player whose coach gambles on their championship game. a new book "just right: here's how" tells of myers own troubles in and out of school, how reading and write saved him and how they can help others too. you've taken this new role as ambassador for young people's literature. i read about your life. it seems as though that's a role that you've sort of assigned yourself a long time ago. >> i've always been interested in people, young people reading, and i see the, you know, when i go to the juvenile detention centers and prisons i see people who can't read. i know that when they leave those prisons and those detention centers they're not going to be able to make it in society. i'm also old enough to know that reading is changedded. >> brown: in what way? well, it's changed in that
when i was young, many many people who could go out and get a job in a factory or they could get a job doing some sort of physical work and make a good living or at least a good enough living to make it. now you can't do that. even the job that you think is pretty good today may not be around in five years. you have to be able to read. it's not like it's a nice thing to do or a funny adjunct. it's essential. >> brown: growing up, myers said he always loved reading but found few examples of kids like him in books. his own path took many turns. he dropped out of high school, joined the army and worked a variety of jobs. eventually he started writing in off hours. when you were growing up -- and you write about this -- the idea of being a writer, that one could make a living and be a writer was sort of unheard of in your background.
>> it was completely unheard of. but i liked to write. i couldn't speak well. i went to speech therapy for ten years. and i was sort of frustrated in that sense. but i found that i loved reading. and i like writing stories. i never thought of making a living at it. i never thought about making a living at writing. i didn't even know for years that people even got paid for this. they don't teach you that in school. they don't say shakespeare got a check. or shelly was getting royalties. they don't say that. they make it sound as if these guys are geniuses and they were above money. >> brown: the speech impediment is also something you write about. being laughed at as a child. >> luckily i was big. brown: but that meant what? getting into fights? >> i got too many many fights.
many, i would start. i would start the fights because someone would smile. they could be smiling at anything. but they were laughing at me. so i would be very aggressive. >> brown: the young adult novels that you perhaps are best known for now, they are tough stuff. you're looking at some real tough issues in the lives of young people, right? >> they're tough issues. they're tough issues. i started writing sports, when i was first writing i was writing sports, adventure, mysteries. but then i began going to prisons. i began to realize that these guys had families. who is raising your kids? then i went to juvenile prisons. some of these kids face some very, very tough lives. how do they handle these lives? do they even know that their life is bad, that they're still
okay? do they know that? do they know that someone is thinking the same way that they're thinking. >> brown: of course a lot of people, i suppose, would think, is this the stuff for young people's... for young people to read? you know, to read about prison and drugs and poverty? why not give them something more positive? >> well, the most positive thing i can give them is their own presence, acknowledging them. you know, if i say to a kid you are a human being that i understand. i'm not going to excuse your... if you've done a crime, i'm not going to excuse your crime. but i know where you are coming from. i know that you feel. and that you're thinking. i need to do that. i need to write that. >> brown: and keep writing he will. this spring myers published his
latest novel "all the right stuff" set again in harlem. he tells story of a young man trying to find direction in his life. in the meantime myers will continue to proselytize in his role as a reading ambassador. his mantra, he says, "reading is not optional." >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day, it was day four of the london olympics, and a big one for american athletes in gymnastics and swimming. bipartisan leaders in congress agreed to keep the government funded through next march, avoiding a possible shutdown at the end of september. and a sweeping blackout hit india, affecting a region with more than half the country's population of 1.2 billion. next week, a new visitor lands on mars. kwame holman explains. >> holman: the countdown is on. nasa's rover, named "curiosity," arrives on the red planet early monday.
on our science page, we look at the nine-month journey, the purpose of the mission, and how difficult the landing might be. plus, you can pose questions to economist larry kotlikoff, author of the wildly popular blog post "34 social security secrets you need to know now." submit yours on our making sense page. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. judy? >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at the outcome of the republican senate runoff in texas, which pits a tea party conservative against an establishment candidate. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> bnsf railway. >> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to
live a healthy, productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org