tv PBS News Hour PBS September 25, 2013 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: after 21 hours, ted cruz stopped talking and the senate voted unanimously to move forward with a bill to fund the government. good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. also ahead, the first detailed look at what premiums will cost under the federal health insurance exchanges starting next week. >> ifill: and we close with one poet looking back at the life of another. kwame dawes remembers his uncle, a renowned writer and diplomat from ghana, among those killed in the terror attack in kenya.
>> kofi belong to that generation of african poets and writers that emerged in the late '50s and early '60s who saw a vista of independence and a new vision of africa. >> woodruff: those are just some of the stories we're covering on tonight's "pbs newshour." >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
>> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions 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: our lead story tonight: a bill to fund government operations beyond the end of the month cleared its first procedural hurdle today. it was a rare unanimous vote. "newshour" congressional correspondent kwame holman begins our coverage. >> on this vote, the yays are 100, the nays are zero, three- the motion is agreed to. >> reporter: that outcome--
without a single dissenting vote-- came after texas republican ted cruz and others strongly dissented, for more than 21 hours. they warned fellow republicans to insist that any bitllha funds the government, also de- funds the president's health care law. >> i don't think you're entitled to vote with harry reid and the democrats, give harry reid and the democrats the ability to fund obamacare and then go to your constituents and say, "i agree with defunding obamacare." you don't get it both ways. >> reporter: the talkathon split republican ranks. on the one hand, florida's marco rubio defended cruz's tactics. >> if nothing else, i think people across this country know more about this law and its impacts than they did a day ago. if nothing else, the people in this country are now increasingly aware of all the implications of this law on their lives, on their hopes and on their families. >> reporter: a number of other republicans took issue with cruz-- in particular, his comparing the current fight to events preceding world war two.
>> we saw in britain, neville chamberlain, who told the british people, accept the nazis. yes, they'll dominate the continent of europe, but that not our problem. and in america there were voices that listened to that. i suspect those same pundits who say it can't be done, if it would have been in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them. >> reporter: that drew a forceful rebuke today from arizona's john mccain. >> i resoundingly reject that allegation. that allegation in my view does a great disservice, a great disservice for those brave americans who stood up and said what's happening in europe cannot stand. >> reporter: on the democratic side, majority leader harry reid minced no words in dismissing cruz's effort. >> it has been a big waste of time. the government is set to shut down in a matter of hours, just a few days, government will close. and it's a shame we're standing
here having wasted perhaps two days-- most of yesterday and a good part of today-- when we could pass what we need to pass very quickly and send it back to the house of representatives. they're waiting for us to act. >> reporter: in the end, after the marathon floor speeches, even cruz voted in favor of taking up the government funding bill. he said the real test will be another procedural vote, expected tomorrow. majority democrats say if they get over that hurdle, they have the votes to strip the anti- obamacare language from the bill, and pass it by the weekend. meanwhile, the obama administration today released its first estimates of how much premiums will cost the uninsured under obamacare. and, the house returned to work, as it waits for the senate to finish the spending bill and the clock counts down to the deadline for a government shutdown, next tuesday. >> ifill: we'll talk with two senators about the day's developments and what happens next, after the other news of the day. the u.s. treasury warned today the government will run out of borrowing authority by october 17.
that means a national default, unless congress acts to raise the debt ceiling-- now set at $16.7 trillion. house republicans will work on a bill this week, and they say they'll attach a one-year delay in implementing obamacare. the f.b.i. has concluded the gunman in last week's navy yard shootings was driven by paranoid delusions. aaron alexis killed a dozen people on september 16, before he was shot dead by police. today, the f.b.i. released video showing alexis carrying a shotgun in the moments before he opened fire. investigators said there's no sign he had any specific targets in mind. >> we believe that his victims were random as he walked through the hallways and stairwells of building 197. as referenced, we have found relevant communications on his electronic media which references his solutional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves for the past three months.
>> ifill: the investigation is continuing. meanwhile, the pentagon has launched three separate reviews into the rampage. they'll focus mainly on the navy yard's security and employee clearance process. we'll have more on the mental health angle, later in the program. >> ifill: government troops in kenya spent this day combing nairobi's westgate mall, making sure the site is finally secure after a four-day battle. the confirmed death toll stood at 72, but the somali militant group behind the assault al- shabaab claimed nearly twice that many had died. we have a report from lindsey hilsum of "independent television news." >> reporter: the bomb squad and their sniffer dogs prepared to go into west gate. the siege is over but there may be booby traps or unexploded grenades lying in the rubble. this amateur footage shows the collapsed four story car park. it's not yet clear why it caved in yesterday but it seems that
was how the siege ended, with the terrorists buried underneath. the red cross says 71 people are still missing but the government maintains there were very few, if any, civilians left inside. >> we are convinced that there will be insignificant, if there are any, still being holed up there, except for the terrorists. >> reporter: dramatic new footage emerged today, showing a plainclothes police officer trying to rescue a woman and her two children as the attack unfolded on saturday. >> madam! mami! >> reporter: she plays dead. he reaches for them but she doesn't trust him. he worms his way around the barrier and calls out to her. eventually he convinces her he's not a terrorist. he's able to pick up her little girl and after a while all four run for safety.
today, west gate was still smoldering and some were beginning to ask how could this have happened? >> there is a shocking, fairly in terms of intelligence because we knew for a long time that this was coming. al-shabab and other terrorist groups have threatened to attack kenyans. >> we move in one minute. >> reporter: this afternoon, volunteers were preparing for their next distressing task, pulling bodies from the rubble. whatever the governments says, others fear there are more dead, maybe many inside. >> ifill: the death toll from an earthquake in southwestern pakistan climbed sharply today, to at least 285. the powerful quake rocked a remote area in baluchistan province yesterday, with a registered magnitude of 7.7. its force leveled mud-brick homes, and injured nearly 370 people. the force of the quake even
pushed up a new island in the arabian sea, off india's southern coast. in western india, late-season monsoon rains have touched off extreme flooding, forcing thousands to flee to higher ground. at least three people have died. entire cities in gujarat state have been inundated by surging rivers, with roads and railway lines paralyzed. large swaths of farmland are also under water. the united states today signed an international treaty that regulates global weapons trading. 90 other nations have already done so. the u.s. signing came at the united nations. secretary of state john kerry insisted it will have no effect on lawful gun sales in this country. >> this treaty will not diminish anyone's freedom. make no mistake: we would never think about supporting a treaty this is inconsistent with the rights of americans, the rights of american citizens to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our constitution. >> ifill: the treaty is expected
to meet strong resistance in the u.s. senate, where it needs a two-thirds vote for ratification. 50 nations must vote to ratify before its provisions can go into effect. so far, six have taken that step. there are new signs of deepening divisions among syrian rebels. 13 groups, including a powerful faction linked to al-qaeda, rejected the western- backed syrian national coalition today. instead, in a statement, they called for all rebel fighters to unite under a clear islamic framework based on shariah law. meanwhile, u.n. inspectors returned to damascus. they'll continue their investigation into a series of alleged chemical weapons attacks earlier this year. the cost of mailing a letter could go up soon by three cents. in a bid to reduce a huge deficit, the u.s. postal service asked today to raise the price of a first-class stamp to 49 cents. it expects to lose $6 billion this year. the rate increase is subject to approval from the independent postal regulatory commission.
in economic news, governor jerry brown signed a bill, raising california's minimum wage to $10 an hour-- the highest of any state. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average lost 61 points to close at 15,273. the nasdaq fell seven points to close at 3,761. the america's cup yacht race ended today with an unprecedented comeback by the u.s. team. oracle team usa beat emirates team new zealand in the winner- take-all 19th race off san francisco. the americans had to win eight straight times in the last week, after new zealand took a commanding lead. the america's cup is the oldest trophy in international sports. >> ifill: still to come on the "newshour": senators johnson and warner on latest capitol hill budget battle; what premiums will cost under healthcare reform; new details on the navy yard shooting; the c.e.o. of comcast on the future of t.v.;
the charm offensive by iran's president. and remembering a renowned poet killed in the kenya attack. >> woodruff: we return to the fight here in washington over funding the federal government, now that an effort to stop the measure as long as it includes money for president obama's health care reform law, has failed. a short time ago, i spoke with two senators who have been working with their parties and the white house in hopes of a broader fiscal solution. joining me in the studio is republican ron johnson from wisconsin and on capitol hill, democrat mark warner of virginia. gentlemen, thank you both for being with us. before i ask you, senator johnson, about the spending bill, let me ask you about what senator cruz did. 21 hours on the floor. you did not speak out in support of him. do you think what he's done is
helpful to the republican goal of defunding obamacare, the president's health care reform? >> well, judy, i appreciate any effort that highlights, really, the harm that obama is going to do to our health care system, what-to-our economy, to average americans. so, listen, when somebody's sitting on the floor for 21 or 22 hours, you're certainly drawing attention to the law that republicans are totally united in wanting to repeal it, defund it, to do whatever we can to limit the damage to the american economy caused by the health care law. >> woodruff: did he help that cause? >> i think he probably did. we've certainly -- this whole defund effort has certainly raised the issue of obamacare, together with the fact that unions now have got a great deal of concern about it. they're asking for the law to be changed. some of them are close to calling for its repeal. what's basically happening here is president obama delayed its implementation. now this law is being implemented, americans are starting to see the damage it will cause. >> woodruff: from your perspective, senator warner,
what do you think? >> i think we saw a piece of political theater that is probably going to mean you're going to end up with a shutdown of the government for a couple days as we send these bills back and forth and a lot of folks around virginia are going to wonder why did we have to go through this exercise. if somebody wants to sit down and have a legitimate conversation about what's good and what's bad in the affordable health care act, that's a valid debate. let's hold hostage the whole federal government because the president was reelected, the law was affirmed, the law was passed seems to me to be the kind of, again, political action that got the vast majority of americans turned off on everything that goes on in this town. >> woodruff: senator johnson, is a government shutdown now more likely because of what's happening in the senate? it's assumed the democrat- controlled senate is going to strip out the defend health care reform piece of this. it's going to go back to the house. is that what you expect to happen? is a shutdown more likely? >> i hope not.
i've been arguing within our conference and to anyone willing to listen we should have been passing continuing resolutions - - we first of all should have passed appropriation bills, realizing the united states senate hasn't passed an appropriation bill in over two years. so we should have been doing that in the summer but where we're at right now, and certainly in the past what we've done passed one or two weak continuing resolutions to allow us to get through the time process where we can get a longer continuing resolution but judy this is a terrible way for a government to function. it's hard to convey the dysfunction that is washington, d.c., so my message to the american public is stop relying on the federal government to solve your problems, they're incapable of doing it. >> woodruff: where do you see this going right now, senator warner, now that the cruz effort is behind the senate. what happens next? >> you know, i think that we will go through a couple more votes, send it back over to the house, they'll have to decide whether they take that or throw it back and start another clock
running. you know, this affects people's lives. we're going to have a whole lot of civilian defense employees sent home and not get paid. admiral courtny in norfolk today said if congress doesn't get its act together all the soldiers and sailors will have to report but they're not going to get paid. this is not the way to run the largest enterprise in the world. and, you know, one of the things i think ron and i -- we may have disagreements but i would concur that we ought to have a budget. we had -- we actually passed a budget. ron didn't agree with it but we can't even get the budget conference together so the house and the senate can try to work this process through. and it makes no sense to me to continue to operate this government. ron was a business guy, i was a business guy before we went into politics. operate this government on three week, six week, nine week continuing resolutions when no efficient business would operate that way. so i'm pretty discouraged. i've been involved in any bipartisan effort since i've been here to try to get our balance sheet right. end of the day, this problem is not going to get fixed.
this isn't about obamacare, it's about how do you get our balance sheet right? and that means we're going to have to deal with entitlements and the democrats thereof give on that and we have to deal with tax reform to generate more revenues, republicans will have to deal on that. if not, we'll see this same movie play out time and time again. >> woodruff: but in the short term, senator johnson, do you see fellow republicans in the house, tea party or other fiscal conservatives, who feel strongly about this budget? who feel strongly about health care reform not going along with a final spending bill and therefore the government shutting down? >> well, i've worked an awful lot with my house colleagues to try and determine -- develop strategies that would work so i think what's going to happen is they're going to hopefully provide some kind of continuing resolution and package it up in a form that harry reid basically has to say yes and president obama is going to be willing to sign it. >> woodruff: including funding of obamacare, the health care reform. >> well, again, i think we're going to run that process out. i don't see the prospect that harry reid will pass a defund
law or president obama will sign it. possibly we can work with members of the senate to delay obamacare. president obama's pretty well implicitly acknowledged the fact that harry reid and max baucus was right when they said the implementation of this is a train wreck. he's delaying all kinds of different portions of obamacare without the legal authority to do so, i might add. so maybe we could get democrats to agree with at least a one- year delay. this now law is not ready for prime time. maybe that would be a compromise. but in any event, i don't want to play brinksmanship with the american economy, i know senator warner doesn't, i don't think many republicans do. so let's get past this time frame, this period right now. but we have to address our long- term entitlement problems because it's bankrupting this nation. >> woodruff: i'm asking you what may happen in the house, senator warner, but your fellow democrats, do you believe they're prepared to go along with speaker boehner if he tries to get this budget -- this spending proposal through and needs democratic votes in order to do so?
>> i think if he needs democratic votes to accept a -- what i think the senate will send over, a short-term funding mechanism that allows us to have further debate on the health care bill at another time, yeah. i think speaker baner will get the votes. i guess one of the things i feel there is some good things in obamacare, there's bad things in obamacare. today it came out in virginia that we're going to actually have competition in a whole lot of parts of virginia that never had private health care insurance competition in the past. we saw a lot of the rates for the 20% of virginnians eligible to get into this marketplace, the rates will be lower than ha what's offered right now. r-z there things that can be changed in obamacare? like the disincentive to hire full-time workers? absolutely. let's have that debate. but this all-or-nothing approach that some members of the senate and some members of the house are proposing i think is a political theater that
jeopardizes what meager recovery we have going on right now. >> woodruff: very quickly to the two of you. what some members are even more concerned about is the debt ceiling. we heard from the treasury department today that it's just a few weeks away from the country -- the government exceeding the permitted debt ceiling. do you think we're going to see another showdown like this over that? >> any time the president comes to congress asking for the authority to increase the debt burden on our children and grandchildren we should have a debate. we should have discussion. and if we're going to increase that debt burden on our kids and grand kids there should be something given in exchange in terms of some level of fiscal discipline so, yeah, i think there's going to be a debate. >> woodruff: senator warner? >> listen, i laid out a plan that was based on the simpson bowles plan, the so-called gang of six plan that would have got us where we needed to go. it wasn't perfect but it showed real entitlement reform and real revenue generation. that's a fair debate. but to basically put in jeopardy at this moment with the world economy teetering the full faith and credit of the united states
and to have members of the senate-- and ron johnson isn't saying this, but there are members in both bodies who are saying this would not be a problem if america defaulted-- there is no great industrial nation that has ever defaulted and i don't care whether it would be a president obama or a president romney, i don't think anyone should be playing politics with the full faith and credit of the united states of america. >> woodruff: we're going to leave it there. senator mark warner, senator ron johnson, thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: now we take a deeper dive into the healthcare story with the first look at what premiums will cost as the new marketplaces known as exchanges come on line. among the details released today: customers will be able to choose from a variety of plans, ranging from lower-cost plans in a bronze or silver category with less coverage, to higher cost ones known as gold or platinum with greater coverage and benefits. the average monthly premium for an individual buying insurance through one of the cheaper options will be $328 a month. then it gets complicated. ray suarez picks it up from
there. >> suarez: it's not simply a matter of picking among these different categories like bronze or silver. each class of plans will have a number of options to choose from and in many cases, people will also be able to get a subsidy to help purchase the insurance. but the premiums will vary by age, health status, geography and other factors. and there are additional costs, too. we try to walk through this now with louise radnofsky of the "wall street journal." louise, for a long time the opponents of the affordable care act have threatened that premiums were going to go way up once these exchanges opened and people had to buy their own insurance. now the administration answers with its own survey of the products being offered in those exchanges. what do they have to say? >> well, the data has something for everybody. it is true that for young, healthy people who previously got very attractive rates because they were known to
insurers to be a really good risk, they might see that their skimpy products that they currently have aren't available anymore and that their rates are going up once they're being treated blindly. at the same time, if you were an older or sicker consumer and you were being rated on your health status, you won't be rated on it next year, you might see your premium go down. you might see you're getting a more generous coverage for a similar rate. this could be a big win. the administration is also able to point to the rates that have come in being lower than they were expected to be by the congressional bought office. so that's why they're saying these are less expensive than expected. >> suarez: is this really the design of the program? health and human services secretary kathleen sebelius said "in many cases premiums will cost significantly less than what was originally projected." is it because of the way these marketplaces have been structured? >> the administration is certainly praising the competition. they're hoping when plans become more uniform and people are able to compare them side by side they might make decisions more on competition and the insurers will behave accordingly. >> suarez: there are families of different size-- obviously-- different levels of coverage, as we've discussed in the different
plans. to arrive at the numbers that they released in this survey, does the administration compare apples to apples like policies to like policies across the states? >> the nature of insurance and what it covers is changing fundamentally between 2013 and 2014, the way it's priced is also changing. there isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. the administration tries to do it but isn't able to. nobody is truly able to do it. but if you're interested in the fruit market, then apples-to- oranges is an important comparison. >> suarez: obama's assistant for health policy, the president's advisor in this regard, says that the exchanges have done a pretty good job of getting affordable options on the shelves. are we talking just about the states where the federal government will be managing the exchange rather than states that are doing their own programs? >> well, what the administration released today is data on the 36 states where it's running some or all of the marketplaces. there's some huge markets in there like texas and pennsylvania that we didn't have
a glimpse into in the federal data came out. we've seen some data from other states before. we've seen information from states running their own exchanges, northeastern, states in california, new york, places like this. and what we're seeing there is relatively similar to what's going nonthese states. it's been really interesting. >> suarez: competition was supposed to bring down prices and the number of choices in these states range from just a few-- like seven or eight policies-- all the way to 106 different products. in those places where there are more participants in the market offering more products are the prices lower? is it working out that way? >> that's certainly something the administration is pointing to. they're very hopeful competition has brought down prices. the number of carriers available in a given area and the prices of premiums in a given area are tied to local health conditions and the cost of delivering care, the cost of living in the area as well as a number of other factors. it's hard to pinpoint one. certainly one of the arguments going around is that officials in states that are supportive of
the law have done various things to try to make premiums lower. there's not a lot of evidence to support that being the only factor but it could be one. >> suarez: let's talk about that a little more. there are wide variations in what these policies are going to cost state to state. when you do control for how many people you're buying for and what precious medal you're working with, silver or platinum or gold. in some states it's just so much more money. what is it that drives health care costs in those places? what makes it more costly to get treatment and always -- it was the case before the affordable care act. what makes health care more expensive in some places than others? >> what's really interesting is that while there is still a striking range to people in premiums between the states they're closer than they were before because before you had state insurance practices that varied much more widely. the federal rules create a new standard where at least insurance is similar state to state if you want to make comparisons but it's true that delivering care in wyoming, for example, a rural area, is generally considered to be more expensive. delivering care in the northeast
because of the cost of living, in massachusetts even before the state overhaul law was expensive. one of the states that came in with very low premiums is tennessee and particularly in the nashville area. it may have something to do with the way the health economy there operates or it may be something else to do with tennessee. it's an interesting study and there's more grist to dell into it in future years than there has been before. >> suarez: are the people running these exchanges for the federal part of the plan, are they expecting that customers will only slowly commit? the windows open up on october 1, next tuesday, for six months. is it going to be a rush to beat the deadline at the end or do they expect steady traffic through the whole period? >> they're not entirely sure what to expect but administration officials have been down playing the october 1 start date for a while now saying it's the launch of the six-month period, people can come in at any time. they do have to have coverage starting january 1 to avoid a penalty although really in practice there's probably a few weeks leeway even after that.
what people are being encouraged to do, particularly by consumer advocates, is by december 15 to have coverage that starts january 1 to get the maximum benefit out of what they're being offered. >> suarez: so if you do need health insurance, might as well buy it once it takes effect, right? >> right. you can't get coverage -- your coverage won't take effect until january 1. you could buy it early or later but either way you won't be covered if you don't currently is a plan by buying something on the new exchange until january 1. that's the real start day. >> suarez: louise radnofsky of the "wall street journal," thanks a lot. >> ifill: the latest information on the gunman in the navy yard shootings comes amid more disclosures this week about his own troubles with mental illness and problems never fully reported all the way up the chain. it's also prompting questions about whether better screening and treatment could help prevent
some of the mass killings. for some perspective, we turn to barry rosenfeld of fordham university. he is a clinical forensic psychologist, whose recent work has focused on assessing the risk of violence in patients. welcome, dr. rosenfelde. could you explain to us what we don't know? how can we determine when someone is sick enough to keep an eye on who may crack? >> well, that's about four things all at once. what we don't know is a pretty long list. we've come a long ways in terms of what we understand about mental illness and violence. we do much better when we look at things at the aggregate. we have general ideas that when people have -- or general -- generally accepted research that when people have some of the beliefs that, in fact, mr. alexis revealed, things like delusions that you're being controlled by other people, we're pretty good at recognizing those at risk factors for future violence. we're very good at the macro level, saying here's 100 people, these the handful that i think are at the greatest risk.
we have a much harder time when it comes to an individual prediction. to say how about this one person sitting in front of us? and that's a really in depth and detailed analysis that takes quite a bit of effort that we can't do on the fly in an emergency room when somebody comes in and asks for medication for insomnia. >> ifill: so why is it so heart? what is to be argued against trying to put a red flag on anyone who comes to you or comes to several different mental health organizations as he did and says "i'm hearing voices"? >> well, you know, what's hard about it? there's many things that are hard about it. first of all, we don't have any kind of centralized focus, a centralized system where we can say this person's coming to hospital a, oh, he was in hospital c last week. we don't have, that i'm aware november many systems, that kind of ability to recognize a pattern like that. so if somebody comes into the same hospital repeatedly and sees maybe even the same doctors, we're going recognize that pattern. but when someone goes place to place and maybe even across state lines we're not going to
know that they've gone to other places. when someone comes in and shows one of these red flag symptoms symptoms that we're aware of, assuming the person that's seen them recognizes those as red flags-- and i think that's another hurdle that has to be overcome, then i think we do have mechanisms for let's say hospitalizing people for observation and treatment. we've come a long ways in terms of recognizing and treating the patients we identify, but we're still talking about a very small minority of people with mental illness and picking that one is a real challenge. >> ifill: what have we learned, if anything, from past mass killings. we heard the president this weekend talk about how has been to five different locations now where there were mass killings to grieve with the victims. have we learned anything from what these allegeed in many cases and convicted in other cases or murdered in other cases of shooters, what we learned about them that we can apply for future possibilities?
>> well, you know, i hate to sound pessimistic but i think one of the things we've learned is that there's a great deal of variability in what people look like who engage in this kind of behavior. some have serious mental illness that's obvious to anyone who asks them. others seem to be quote/unquote normal until we dig and dig and dig and then we find things that are relatively subtle. so the idea that there's some profile out there and we can just make a checklist and say here are the eight things to look for or here are the three things to look for, i think what these repeated episodes show us is that it's really a very broad range of things that lead people to the same outcome. >> woodruff: and that the cracks that they slip through can't necessarily be sealed? >> well, how could they be sealed? they could be sealed by having some kind of centralized health care registry. they could be sealed if when someone went to purchase a gun they looked online and saw, oh, this person presented at an emergency room with paranoid symptoms. maybe there's some provision in
place for not giving them a gun. they could be sealed, but that requires a lot of steps that i think many people are uncomfortable with and a great deal of infringement on the rights of people who don't need those cracks sealed for them so to find that need until a hay stebg we have to step on a lot of people's rights and that's where we run into a lot of problems. >> ifill: barry rosenfeld of fordham university, thank you so much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: broadcast tv networks are clamoring for new viewers this fall. but beyond the traditional scramble for ads and ratings, the networks and the companies that own them are also preparing in to do battle with an entirely new set of competitors. hari sreenivasan gets the perspective from one of the industry's biggest players tonight, part of our occasional series on the future of t.v.
>> sreenivasan: with all the new ways to consume media-- phones, tablets, laptops-- you can now watch t.v. shows without a television set or a cable connection. but established companies are reluctant to give up their hold on the media industry. among them: cable giant and owner of nbc-- comcast. it's the largest cable company in the u.s., and one of the biggest broadband internet and home phone service providers. in 2011, it acquired nbc universal, making it a major content player in the market. >> we can't wait to show you what's next. >> sreenivasan: but new companies are starting to threaten media veterans like comcast, and their service models. one of those is aereo, which allows customers to stream live free t.v. to phones and computers for a monthly subscription fee, but without paying a cable bill. the c.e.o. and founder of aereo, chet kanojia, says that there is a transformation underway in the media industry. >> the goal of aereo was to create an alternative, to create a parallel system almost, if you will, because the current system in which you get television is a
highly integrated, monopoly- based sort of system. >> sreenivasan: but companies like comcast and other broadcasters have taken aereo to court, saying it's stealing content. so far, aereo has prevailed in two decisions in federal court. the battle over aereo is not the only clash of late. earlier this month, time warner and cbs reached a deal over how much that cable company would pay the network for the right to transmit cbs's content. during the summer, cbs was temporarily blacked out for a month for time warner systems in eight markets totaling three million viewers. >> well, you have this fantastic moment in time with all the technologies progressing so quickly but ipads or tablets that the last foot may be wireless.
you have wi-fi getting better and more ubiquitous. in the case of comcast, we're taking a lot of our technology into the cloud so you don't need a new box every time you want to innovate. and it's all speeding up. and so it's an exciting, invigorating time for the industry and for the consumer. >> sreenivasan: is the definition of television changing back into that of an appliance? it's just a bigger screen to view this content? >> i think the definition of television may be that but i think the definition of what the consumer gets and what the consumer expects to get is every piece of content wherever and when ever they so choose to have it. sometimes it's "free, sometimes it's part of a bundle, sometimes it's pay-per-view, sometimes it's all about advertising. or search. but one way or the other on whatever device you like you want to get as much access as possible and that's what comcast's strategy has been about for five years. >> sreenivasan: we're seeing an
increase in broadband subscribership but a decline in cable subscribers. do you see a tipping point where cable television as we know it today are challenged because more people want the pipe? >> i think that's a bit overblown. i think we still have as many customers basically as we started the year or so. i the consumer is still saying i want live sports, i want all those channels. some customers say i don't need that. most customers do. it's important we stay in touch with our customer and try to over time are have more packages and flexibility than perhaps we've historically offered and that's part of this thaepbgs is healthy that is going on in the marketplace. >> sreenivasan: i recently moved to new york and i had to sign up for cable and it was one of those scenarios where i don't watch the other 52 channels you're selling me, i just want these six. is unbundling ever going to happen? >> well, i look at pbs. if you had to pay separately for just pbs probably, sadly, not a
majority of americans would do that. so there's many channels, whether it's discovery channel or c-span or many, many others that just aren't viable. you can't just buy the sports section of the "new york times", you take the whole paper. that's been the historic model and what advertisers have wanted. most every study i've seen supports that economic rationale. but there's some things that are getting very expensive and if there's a way to say to some of our customers you don't have to take everything there's a different package. we are trying to do that. we've been experimenting with that. other companies are as well. >> sreenivasan: one of the significant disruptions on the horizon is this tiny startup called aereo and they're saying we're the exextension of an antenna. we are not violation of the spirit of the law and producers, distributors and including one lawsuit pbs in the new york market say that's not the case.
why are they wrong? >> there is a law that says you have to get the consent of that broadcaster before you can retransmit their signal. and that's what cbs time warner was all about that. cbs retransmission fee. so here comes a company that says "i don't want to pay that fee." well, i understand that but i don't think that's the law of the land. >> sreenivasan: so let's say we have this conversation ten years from now. what does the television landscape look like? >> i wish i had the perfect crystal ball but i think for the last 30 years nobody's ever been able to say quite what's next. so if i had to guess there's going to be a lot cheaper device, tablets if you will. whether it's eyeglasses or watches or a little bit of everything. i think personalization is clearly a trend. i want what i want. it's my t.v., my device, my phone, so we're doing a lot of that. speeds are mind-boggling. the capacity of storage is mind-
boggling. so our bet as a company is to try to be part of broadband, be part of wi-fi, have a wireless relationship, have a content relationship and try to touch as many parts of that changing landscape as possible. but i think it's going to be very exciting, consumers are going to love it and i can't wait. >> sreenivasan: all right, from this is from the internet audience. a lawyer in seattle asks "can mr. roberts see a day where there are no traditional networks and merely streaming options?". >> well, anything's possible but there l there be a lot of choices that don't involve networks? absolutely. even on the internet if you look at youtube channels, there's themes and ways to get to content that in effect is some of the function of the network and i think it's hard for know imagine a world with no networks in ten years. >> sreenivasan: do you think the internet will become a utility like power and water?
>> i hope not. i don't think regulation is the answer and the government setting standards. i think it's a race to innovate and if you look at the last ten years it wasn't this innovation whether it was a tablet or whether it's our cable box getting smaller and more powerful and taking the d.v.r. and putting in the the cloud so you can have it on any device. these things are all changes because there's less making it like a utility and more a competitive industry where you're on edge, you're exideing but you're racing. >> sreenivasan: brian roberts, thanks so much for your time. >> my pleasure. will, because the current system >> woodruff: we return to iran. a short time ago the country's president hassan rouhani sat down for an interview with pbs's charlie rose. >> what's necessary for you tv
bilateral meeting with the president? >> (translated): well, after all, we're speaking of two countries who have had no relations for 35 years so it's clear to begin talks requires some preparation work and wherever the prep work is completed i believe that it's possible to have a meeting. we must all admit, i believe, that the principle of the meeting of the two sides is important but perhaps more important than that is the result of such a meeting. so we must make every effort so that first official meeting between two countries will definitely yield positive results. >> woodruff: gwen, you were also in new york this morning, part of a breakfast that president rouhani had. tell us, did you get a sense of whether the iranians viewed what they were doing when they turned down president obama's request as a snub? whether they meant it that way? >> ifill: it's important to remember that hassan rouhani is a self-described politician and he was being very shrewd. it was clear the u.s. was making the overture, it was clear to them they were not ready. that's what the u.s. said yesterday and what rouhani suged today that they need time in order to decide what's the
proper thing to do and what they wanted to happen was the meeting on thursday with kerry first before they have a chance. >> woodruff: how seriously are they viewing these talks between their foreign minister and our secretary of state? >> i sensed they're taking it very seriously. rouhani was very open to this idea of meeting with the president. he said it wasn't about go or playing games, he also really wants these crippling sanctions which the international community has imposed on iran taken off. that's the only time he got emotional during his talk today and the only way to do that is to get people to sit down at the
table and talk. >> woodruff: we were talking earlier and we talked about whether this really is a charm offensive that they're trying to put together. is that how it came across when you were across the table with him this morning? >> ifill: absolutely. not only across the table, not only was he speaking to leaders this the u.s. media, not only was he talking to charlie rose at pbs and christiane am pure at cnn, he's -- anne curry last week at nbc. he's doing his best to get in front of the eyeballs of the american people and he's saying i'm a different kind of iranian leader, not guy who came here last time and denied the holocaust. i'm someone who believes that way you believe and who you can do business with. >> woodruff: yet they must know that americans view him and other iranians now through the lens of what's happened with u.s.' iranian relations over the last 30, 35 years. >> ifill: absolutely. if americans view iranians at all it's not in a good way. he's aware of that and feel
there is has to be some way to close that gap. what they want to do to close the gap is first to open our minds to the possibilities of a conversation and what they have in that is an american president and american administration which is saying well, let's see. let's see. they're saying let's see which is so much farther than they've been so far. >> woodruff: we know he does speak some english. how much english did you hear from him? >> ifill: i heard two words of english today. he spoke entirely through an interpreter. he's more comfortable. i was talking to the interpreter who said to me "he's just much more comfortable that way even though he can express himself in english." he can engage better speaking in farsi. >> woodruff: fascinating. >> ifill: it was. >> ifill: finally tonight, remembering some of the victims of the attacks in kenya. the assault claimed a number of people known far and wide and also some of the country's
elite. they included kenyan president uhuru kenyatta's nephew. also, a popular radio and television journalist in kenya, a clinton foundation staffer who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and her fiancee, an architect, were killed as well. and there was reknowned ghanian poet, kofi awooner, whose body was returned home today. jeffrey brown gets a personal recollection. >> brown: kofi awooner was a poet and novelist, author of numerous volumes influenced by both his native traditions and western literature. a scholar-- teaching in ghana and the u.s.-- and a politically-engaged statesman, serving as his country's ambassador to the u.n. and serving time in prison for his political beliefs. he was in nairobi to attend a literary festival. with him and with us now, was his nephew and fellow poet, kwame dawes, professor at the university of nebraska and editor of the journal, "prairie schooner". kwame, welcome back to our program, let me offer condolences for the death of your uncle.
>> it's good to be back, jeff, and thank you so much. appreciate it. >> brown: tell us who he was and why he was such an important figure in ghana and throughout africa? >> kofi belonged to that generation of african poets and african writers that emerged in the late '50s and early '60s who saw a vista of possibility in independence and in a new vision of africa, pan africanist view of africa. and his first book of poems came out in 1964. he was about 26 years old at the time. he would continue to write poetry and novels and he had this wonderful sort of role as this great statesman, a fantastic professor and teacher, people in ghana know him as prof and became an international figure as an ambassador and diplomat. so there's a great loss in ghana because this was a major figure. >> brown: what did he write about? how did he combine his interest in literature and in the politics that you're talking about? >> he had a -- you know, he came of a generation -- and this is
the generation that connected him with my father. he was a best friend of my father for many years and he regarded my father, nevil dawes, as a kind of mentor. but i remember once talking about my father of men who were artists and writers but who felt themselves deeply engaged in the political realities of the world. these were left wing individuals, they call themselves old campaigners. they believe that literature should speak to the experience of people. should be involved in the process of liberation and yet at the same time they believed in the highest quality of literary expression that engaged both the african traditions, the voices of africa, the languages of africa and what essentially was a modernist sensibility and i don't think there's any poet that managed to do that as effectively as kofi awoonor, he would be in the category of dennis brew us the from south africa or christopher akibo. this is the character of writer we're talking about. >> brown: tell us about the man you knew, your own personal recollections.
>> i grew up with him as uncle kofi. he was my father's very good friend and he was the uncle that we liked to come to the house, this tremendous laughter. a great deal of energy. but we also knew that he was seriously committed to the struggle. he faced tremendous obstacles. he spent time in jail for his beliefs and for his work he lived in exile and spent time with us in jamaica for that work. but we also grew up with him as a was on the my mother, somebody he loved dearly and so on but a great, fun but brilliant man. and later on in life he became somebody who encouraged my writing and encouraged me as an artist in ways that i can't explain. so to lose shim a great -- it's
a tremendous loss. but i had a chance to see him while i was in nairobi to enjoy our fellowship with each other so that was one good thing. >> brown: in fact, you were there and he was there for the literary festival and i gather he's been -- remained hard at work. you told me you were putting together a new volume of his selected poems? >> yeah, the african poetry book series which i started which was committed to publicking african writers, african poets primarily. we asked him if you'd be willing to be our first of a series of new and selected books by major african poets and he agreed right away. so in early 2014 we'll be publishing a book called "promises of hope, new and selected works" which is ed ted with a selection done by another great ghanaian poet and that book will be out. it was the book that took us to nairobi to be at the story hay festival to celebrate the work
and to start to get interested in african poetry. and, you know, that was the celebration. but at the same time the incredible tragedy that took place makes it bittersweet. >> brown: we're going to end with you reading one of his more recent poems call "feed feed our people." >> yes, it's a very new poem. >> brown: all right, the poetry and life of kofi awoonor as told to us by kwame dawes. thank you so much. >> thank you, jeff.
>> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: the senate voted unanimously to take up a stopgap bill funding the government. that came after republican ted cruz and others spent nearly 22 hours urging that the bill also de-fund obamacare. the f.b.i. said investigators believe washington navy yard shooter suffered from delusions that his mind was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves. and government troops in kenya combed nairobi's westgate mall, after a four-day battle with fighters from a somali militant group. the final death toll remained in doubt. >> ifill: online, we look at the decline of oysters in the chesapeake bay and the slow, uphill battle to bring them back. that's our science wednesday report. all that and more is on our website newshour.pbs.org.
>> ifill: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll cover the face to face talks between secretary of state kerry and iranian foreign minister zarif. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. on behalf of all of us at the "pbs newshour," thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
>> rose: welcome to the program. tonight, a conversation with the new president of iran, hassan rouhani. >> the president said he gives you respect and recognition of iran's right to have mostful nuclear energy. that seems to be an answer to your concerns. >> well, the nuclear issue has turned into an issue of national pride. and a symbol of the perseverance of our the people. and i want to say that the people really have