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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  March 4, 2010 6:00pm-7:00pm EST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> lehrer: good evening. i'm jim lehrer. voting began today in iraq's important parliamentary elections. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the "newshour" tonight: a string of attacks targeted polling stations. we examine the stakes in iraq. >> lehrer: then, fixing the nation's schools one district's solution: fire all the teachers in one high school. >> if a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show any sign of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability.
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>> brown: the state of relations between the u.s. and its neighbors to the south. margaret warner reports. >> secretary of state clinton is in latin america, and learning first hand that many of the countries there are ready to go their own way. >> lehrer: a before-the-oscars peak at "hurt locker," an iraq war movie nominated for nine awards, including best picture. >> brown: and fred de sam lazaro reports on the growing religious tensions in egpyt. >> lehrer: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> every business day, bank of america lends nearly $3 billion to individuals, institutions, schools, organizations and businesses in every corner of the economy. america-- growing stronger everyday.
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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. >> lehrer: bombs ripped through parts of baghdad today as early voting began for sunday's parliamentary elections. 17 iraqis were killed in the attacks, more than 30 others were wounded. ray suarez begins our coverage. >> reporter: people were already lining up to vote early today when the first attack came. a rocket killed seven people about 500 yards from a not-yet- opened polling station. two suicide bombings followed, despite heavy security. one attacker detonated his explosive vest near soldiers lining up to vote, while another
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went after police. they joined hospital patients, medical workers and others among the hundreds of thousands of iraqis casting early ballots. >> we come here today to perform parliamentary elections for 2010. we hope that the next government pays heed to security. >> reporter: the goal of early voting was to make sure security forces and hospitals are fully staffed for sunday. millions of iraqis are expected to vote then with insurgents expected to carry out more attacks. overall, in the last two years, violence has dropped sharply in iraq, but there's been a series of bombings in the run-up to the voting. just yesterday, a string of suicide blasts in baqouba killed 32 iraqis. >> ( translated ): we condemn this cowardly and terrorist act. this will not undermine our will or our determination to participate in the vote. >> reporter: the election will be iraq's second for a full parliamentary term since the 2003 u.s.-led invasion ousted
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saddam hussein. the first one, in 2005, led to the shiite-dominated government in power today. that government has banned dozens of sunni candidates from running because of alleged ties to the former ruling baathist party. and the ban has intensified deep rivalries over power-sharing among the minority sunnis, the majority shiites and the kurds. on sunday, about 19 million of iraq's estimated population of 28 million will be eligible to vote. more than 6,200 candidates are competing for just 325 seats. u.s. officials will be watching closely, as the outcome will determine the shape of the government that runs iraq as american forces begin to go home. there are currently just under 100,000 u.s. troops in iraq. the obama administration plans to withdraw all combat troops by the end of this august and the remaining forces by the end of 2011.
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>> lehrer: two perspectives now on sunday's election. feisal istrabadi has served as iraq's deputy ambassador to the united nations. he is now a visiting law professor at indiana university. brian katulis was on the national security council staff in the clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the center for american progress, a washington think tank. first, what's your best guess as to what's behind the bombs and who's doing it? >> well, this is always occurred in iraq whenever we've had significant events. we've had... whether it's electionstor referendum on the permanent constitution, et, there are interested voices or individuals interested in iraq and outside iraq, unfortunately, in disrupting the process. the government always says it's al qaeda and the ba'athists. whether that's the case or whether there's also a
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national... an internal insurgency aside, that is to say a domestic insurgency, not necessarily related to the others, is not clear to me. i think there may be elements of that, things like the deba'athification might, for instance, provoke sunnis... sort of rank-and-file sunnis to contemplate going into an insurgency mode. it's not clear, i don't think. >> lehrer: what would you add to that? is there a message being sent for people not to vote or vote a certain way or is it that sophisticated? >> well, i think that there are some people who want to take prime minister maliki and make him look like a weak incumbent. and i think's a lot of speculation about these attacks. but one thing i think we need to. >> lehrer: you mean so weak he can't keep the country secure. >> he's named his coalition state of law and he wants to demonstrate that he's in control of the situation. >> couric: his political coalition. >> exactly. his political coalition is named for that reason and we've seen a substantial decline in violence
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in iraq compared to 2006. but what's missing, i think, has been political reconciliation. a lot of the factions that had major differences over how to share power in iraq still have those major differences and i think there's a lot of speculation about who's behind each individual attack. i suspect we won't see a return to the levels of violence that we saw in 2006, but i wouldn't be surprised to see more violence between the elections and then importantly in the postelection period, which i think is a very uncertain period for iraq. >> lehrer: sure. in general, what's at stake in this election? how do you see it? >> i wish i were as sanguine as my colleague about the possibility of returning to 2006 and 2000 levels of violence. i think that is at stake. >> lehrer: you think it's possible? >> i do think it's possible. maybe as high as 50-50. i think that the odds of it recurring increased when-- it being the violence-- when the de
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ba'athfycation order came through. because the message that was sent to the sunni, look, there are shi'a in power or in the corridors of power in iraq today who were powerful and influential members of the previous regime. >> lehrer: saddam hussein. they worked for saddam hussein. >> that's correct. they're very close to the levers of power today, some of them. the message that went out with the deba'athification order that your prior piece discussed is that if you're a sunni, the fact that... the sitting minister of defense was... the current minister of defense was deba'ath phid. current members of parliament were bard from running for office. the message is if you're a sunni, your loyalty is always under scrutiny. your having participated in the political process today and your desire to participate tomorrow does not immunize you from having your loyalty tested. and what we've ended up with is a system very similar to iran's
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in which the government decides who its quote/unquote legitimate opposition can be. >> lehrer: and you don't think the election... or do you think the election could possibly cleans this situation in such a way that could prevent violence? >> i'm not certain this that this election will bridge these divides. n and of itself. i think this election is the ultimate stress test of iraq's political system. >> lehrer: the ultimate stressest? >> just like a cardiologist puts a patient on the treadmill and checks his vital signs, i actually think this election-- and, importantly, the postelection period, how the leaders deal with the coalition building and others december tests how viable iraq's political system is. we have a myth of our surge of u.s. forces in 2007/2008. clearly that helped lead to a decline in violence. but the other part of the rationale for the surge-- let's help iraqis bridge these divides-- i would argue today the key factions are still as divided. >> lehrer: the ba'athist issue
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aside, what are the issues? what are people going to the polls to vote for or against? >> well, that's a really good question. and the problem is that the iraqi political elites-- now, we here in our second election in the permanent constitution phase, this is the second election and most scholars will tell you that it's the second election that matters most, because that's the one, as my colleague has just pointed out, that's the one that tests whether institutions have started to take root more so than the first election. but the political elites in iraq have never engender add debate on the issues. rather, they have manipulated their constituencies towards sectarian... towards ethnoconfessional divides. >> lehrer: meaning shi'as and sunnis and kurds and if you're one of those than that's how you vote? that's how you're supposed to vote? >> that's right. and what i think the individuals behind the deba'athification order of five, six weeks ago
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have attempted to do is to equate ba'athist equals sunni equals nationalists. because the nationalists seem to be doing better, particularly the list of iyad allawi seem to be doing better in the polls that than they did in the last set of elections. >> lehrer: so there's no really serious work yet that makes a sunni and shi'a and kurd sit down together and say we've got more things that unite us than separate us? they're not to that stage yet in the democracy? >> you have at a superficial level some of the election coalitions contesting this trying to present themselves as such. but as their core i think some of the fundamental demands, one demand, for instance, constitutional reform, in 2005 the iraqis wrote a constitution that had many gaps that didn't define very basic questions. the identity of this country, whether it's arab or kurd, how do we share power? a promise was made to sunni factions in particular of constitutional reform. here we are five years later and
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there's been no reform to the constitution. five years later we haven't addressed the arab/kurdish divide in places like kirkuk and disputed teartories in northern iraq. so a lot of those fundmental questions of what is iraq still remain unanswered today. >> lehrer: but what about the fundamental issue or the fundamental fact that there are 6,000 people who are running in these parliamentary elections. there's 80 some parties. is that not "democracy in action"? >> it's a form of democracy. what i would say is that constitutional democracy has not set in. but certainly a kind of major tear democracy has. and i have to say. >> lehrer: well, anybody can run except the ba'athists. but anybody who's got it... who can get a few people together can go and run for the parliament, right? >> you don't even need a few people together. there are a lot of individuals who are running, in fact. and what i have to say is this. in my more optimistic moments--
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and i'm not an optimist by nature, i try to be a realist, i'm often accused of being a pessimist. but in my more optimistic moments, my optimism has nothing whatsoever to do with the political elites in iraq as a class. it has more to do with the people of iraq who i think are truly attempting to. >> lehrer: to make it work? >> and to embrace genuine democracy. but they just deserve a better quality of political elite. >> lehrer: the problem is with the elite, not the folks? do you agree with that? >> i agree. and i think from a u.s. policy perspective, just simply staying there as some people have suggested with large numbers of troops aren't going to bridge those divides. i think the real hope i see is an iraqi people which which has suffered. it's suffered for decades under saddam hussein and they want better leadership and to date i don't think they've had it. >> lehrer: but they're going to have to rise up and say "enough of this." >> absolutely. and you saw glimmers of this in the provincial elections last year where people were voting for different types of candidates and this' my slope
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that new faces emerge in the iraqi leadership. >> lehrer: we'll see what happens. gentlemen, thank you both very much. >> brown: and now, to the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: the head of the u.n. mission in afghanistan said today it's high time talks with the taliban went forward. kai eide held a final news conference after two years on the job. he conceded peace in afghanistan within the next year or two is unachievable. and, he said the overall strategy has to change. >> i believe that the focus is too much on the military side, too little on the political side, the civilian side, that our strategy has been unfortunately too much militarily driven, with the political agenda as an appendix to military strategy, instead of the a political strategy being at the basis of our military operations. >> sreenivasan: eide said he hopes a spring conference organized by afghan president hamid karzai will bring a consensus for peace. meanwhile, a u.s. marine commander said today there are
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no immediate plans to withdraw 4,000 marines and afghan forces out of marjah, in the south. they waged a major offensive last month to push taliban forces out of the city. a german court has convicted four members of an islamic extremist group for plotting to attack americans in germany. the targets included the u.s. air base at ramstein. no attacks ever took place, but the judge said the two germans and two turks had intended "a terrible bloodbath." the plotters showed little reaction as the verdict was announced today. they had confessed during the trial, which started last april in dusseldorf. sentences will range from five years to 12 years in prison. top democrats in the u.s. house worked today to find enough votes to pass health care reform. president obama called wednesday for quick, final action even if there's no republican support. majority leader steny hoyer said today the goal is to get a final vote by easter break. and speaker nancy pelosi said she's optimistic but also, realistic. >> i feel very confident about
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how we go forward. but we take a new vote every time. every legislative vote is a heavy lift around here. you assume nothing, assume nothing in terms of where you were before and where people may be now. you start one, two, three, four, all the way up to the majority vote. >> sreenivasan: pelosi spoke not long after a dozen house democrats warned the senate's bill does not go far enough to block federal funding of abortions. michigan congressman bart stupak told a.b.c: "we're not going to bypass some principles and beliefs that we feel strongly about." and house minority leader john boehner said republicans mean to make sure the bill never reaches the president's desk. >> i'm going to continue to urge the american people to be actively engaged in this fight. this doesn't have to become law. they are not there yet and this bill can be defeated, and i and my republican colleagues are going to do everything we can to stand with the american people and defeat it.
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>> sreenivasan: at the white house, president obama met behind closed doors with more than a dozen house democrats, including some who oppose the bill. the house has passed a jobs bill that extends a tax break for employers who hire the un- employed. the bill would cost $35 billion, and also include funds for federal highway programs. the vote was mostly down party lines 217 to 201. the measure returns to the senate now for final action. in economic news, retail sales rose more last month than any time in the past two years. and first-time claims for jobless benefits were down last week. wall street responded with new gains. the dow jones industrial average added 47 points to close at 10,444. the nasdaq rose more than 11 points to close at 2,292. a stampede at a temple in northern india killed at least 63 people today and wounded dozens more. it happened in a small town in the state of uttar pradesh. thousands of people scrambled for free food and clothes, at a scheduled donation of alms for the poor.
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the force of the stampede broke the temple gates. almost all of the victims were women and children. chile will ask the world bank and others to help finance rebuilding from saturday's massive earthquake. outgoing president michelle bachelet said today she thinks the country needs assistance for three to four years to come. and president-elect sebastian pinera laid out his own recovery plan. he said, "the future government will not be the government of the earthquake, it will be the government of reconstruction." hundreds of thousands of homes, bridges, highways and office buildings were heavily damaged in the quake. those are some of the day's main stories. i'll be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you'll find tonight on the "newshour's" web site. but for now, back to jeff. >> brown: and still to come on the "newshour": secretary clinton in latin america; a war movie at the oscars and religious tensions in egypt. but first: taking dramatic steps to fix failing schools. judy woodruff has our story. >> i have nothing to deserve to be fired. absolutely nothing.
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>> reporter: kathy luther is a teacher at rhode island's central falls high school, near providence. until yesterday, she and 92 other teachers and staff were about to lose their jobs at the end of the school year. last week, the central falls school board voted to axe the entire faculty at the school, where less than half the students graduate, after the teachers' union wouldn't agree to state-mandated reforms. >> i'm heartbroken, i'm heartbroken. >> reporter: but on monday, that spat between a school board and a teacher's union got a lot more public. >> if a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show any sign of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability. and that's what happened in rhode island last week at a chronically troubled school, when just 7% of 11th graders passed state math tests-- 7%. >> reporter: during that speech, the president proposed $900
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million new dollars for systems that take similarly drastic steps to save failing schools. those steps include: firing the principal and at least half the school's staff; re-opening the school as a charter or closing the school and transferring students to better performing ones. the president's remarks about the rhode island firings and his proposals drew criticism from the nation's two largest teachers' unions which traditionally support democrats. in a statement, the president of the american federation of teachers, randi weingarten, said, "we know it is tempting for people in washington to score political points by scapegoating teachers, but it does nothing to give our students and teachers the tools they need to succeed. superintendents around the country are grappling with the issue of teacher and staff accountability. the "newshour's" john merrow has tracked how this has played out
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in several cities, including washington, d.c., where chancellor michelle rhee has closed schools, replaced principals and targeted teachers. >> i think it's important for us to identify teachers who are struggling. and if they aren't able to become successful through professional development, that we move them out of the system so that they are no longer negatively impacting students. >> reporter: back in rhode island, tempers subsided this week. the teachers' union there has now agreed to some of the state reforms. and the superintendent said she's willing to reconsider the firings. all this takes place while the obama administration today announces finalists in the competition among states for federal money in return for school reforms. >> woodruff: and for more, we turn to randi weingarten, president of the american federation of teachers. and, former colorado governor roy romer.
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he served as superintendent of the los angeles unified school district and now consults on education reform. thank you both for being here. randi weingarten, we've just heard your view. essentially you were saying the president was wrong to say that after a school has for several years not been able to get achievement of students up, it's wrong to do something with those teachers. why do you believe that? >> i actually believe that the president when he... imposing it is saying if this is really the last resort, of course you have to close the school. where the president was wrong was that this is not the last resort. and, in fact, what we've seen in that school-- and this is unfortunate about the way in which the facts have been shut out there-- is that we've seen a real turn of the page starting last year. now, this is a school that's the only high school in this small little very, very poor city of
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central falls, rhode island. and it's a school where, in the last two years, we've started to see this increase in test scores significant in literacy and in writing. not in math, but yet the school that the president applauded had worse math test scores than this school. so the real issue becomes how do we turn it around to really help the kids? >> woodruff: so you're saying for that school it was wrong. but, roy romer, is it ever right to take this kind of drastic step if a school is not showing improvement? >> it is. and i think the president was right in this one. he didn't, possibly, know enough of the facts, but the facts he was presented with was a local school district and the state had said we have a school for many years that's failed and we've got to take this action. he relied upon that. i think's a difference of opinion as to whether that was the last action. but i think the president is dead right in saying we have got to act on this throughout america. we have hundreds of schools that
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are failing and we just have not been tough enough in making demands that there be change. >> so the issue here is not whether schools need to be changed but the issue really how to do it. and the problem has been that we've actually seen this story before. we did these closing, fire everybody, redesign schools in san francisco and chicago in the '90s. it didn't work. we did something different, actually, in new york city where we actually did what the union proposed a couple of days ago, which is these are the two or three good programs to put in, this is the extra time we need and... >> woodruff: on the part of teachers? >> on the part of teachers. the issue was never in that school whether teachers were going to work longer, they had agreed to do that. >> woodruff: but what should be the measurements here, governor? >> the measurements... i'm sorry. >> woodruff: for whether a
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school is doing its job or not. >> there are four things that are really critical, i believe. one, reaching the right standards. second, having curriculum and learning stan cards that can get you there. teaching is the most important agreement of all and then assessment. the president and arn dunk can are working on this package with all the governors and state school chiefs. i think we're making progress but i think randi brings something to the that i believe that's critical and that's the evaluation issue. we don't do a good job of evaluating teachers or principals and we need to change that process dramatically. >> woodruff: how does one decide, then? if you're a school superintendent and a school like this school, whether the exact facts were correct or not, but say there is a school district that year after year has a less than 50% graduation rate, what should be done? >> well, whether they're... if there's a school that has... you know, if we are not succeeding with all kids, we have to do that work regardless.
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but for low-performing schools, what we need to do is some of what roy just said plus the labor/management relationships are key. so ultimately, judy, it is about real good instructional programs. we're not saying that you never close the school. what we're saying is we do something that works for the kids and helps the teachers help the kids. >> woodruff: but is it ever right to fire teachers enmass if somethinlike this has happened? >> look, we... in this situation what we saw was that the last commissioner of education last april did a report that lauded the school that said they were turning the corner. the problem is, when you have in a high school kids who have... that we have not helped, we have to make sure that the teachers are trained enough and that the kids get the extra support they need. but the key that i wanted to say
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to roy is that that link, that collaboration, that working together is the linchpin to make this all work. >> woodruff: and how do you see this based on your own experience in los angeles? >> well, many i own experience, there are some schools that, frankly, need to be closed and restarted. they just need a new lease on life. in l.a., i had 750,000 students and there were some schools that we simply had to start over on. but that's the last resort. you don't want to get there. what you need to do is to engage teachers into a package where you can give them the tools to do their job, give them the training, but you also need to put the right kind of expectations on both teachers, students, and the system. >> exactly right. >> woodruff: so does that mean that the obama administration generally is on the right track or what? >> i think they're dead right on the right track. and it's very critical in the weeks and months ahead that we keep this bipartisan. let's not let this polarize like we have on health care. >> woodruff: and how do you
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see the administration policy? >> look, we need to give teachers the tools and the conditions they need to do their jobs. that's what they want. what we must do, though, is make sure that everybody's in this game. the moment that all the responsibility shifts to the shoulders of teachers, they know they can't do it alone. and so... >> i agree with that. >> the real issue become house do we all take more collective responsibility. that's what roy was talking about when he talked about the speech i gave a couple weeks ago about evaluation. but that means it's both the money that the administration came up with last year. we need more of that, we need another stimulus plan or investment act and we need accountability system wide. >> woodruff: but to bring it back to this school, at what point are teachers properly held accountable for what's going on in that school system? >> well, teachers have to be held accountable ultimately for the learning of students. but they need to be given the tools. they need to be given the proper
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kind of evaluation. they need the right kind of support to do their job. we need a wakeup call in america and unfortunately this was the a rough one. but i just think obama and others are right to say we've got to get after this and we've got to get after it hard. >> i think you had... because in this school given that there were five principals in the last six years and given that there's been this reform turn with so many programs going in and out, this one is a bad example. the issue is how do we within when we see a school that's chronically underperforming, how do we create a laser-like focus on instruction, give teachers what they need to do their jobs and hold everybody accountable. >> woodruff: have you let the white house know exactly what you feel? >> absolutely. >> woodruff: and what was their response? >> i think the... i've made it clear i thought the remarks were unfortunate. and i think that's... what's happening since that point is that all of us are looking to see how we can resolve the situation for kids because
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ultimately at the end of the day we need a cadre of teachers in this country that feel deeply respected by the other adults in the country for doing the amazing job they want to do for kids. >> woodruff: i'm sure everybody can agree with that. >> many unions in the country need the kind of leadership she provides. it's not there always. it's not there always . >> woodruff: thank you both, we appreciate it. >> lehrer: secretary of state clinton travels to a more assertive latin america. margaret warner has that story. >> reporter: it was time for brazilians to crow last fall when rio de janiero was chosen to host the 2016 summer olympics over chicago. it was perhaps symbolic of brazil's rising global status, even vis-a-vis its powerful neighbor to the north, the united states. and yesterday, during her latin american trip, secretary of state hillary clinton came face- to-face with brazil's determination to chart its own course.
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the issue at hand was stopping iran's nuclear program. the number one objective of her trip was to persuade brazil to support tougher u.n. sanctions versus iran. in meetings with the brazilian foreign minister, clinton urged just that. >> we both do not want to see iran become a nuclear weapons country. we both support the goal of non- proliferation. we both believe that engagement and negotiation is preferable to sanctions and pressure and to that end president obama has been reaching out to the iranians for more than a year and unfortunately that outreach has not been reciprocated. >> reporter: but brazil, which currently has a seat on the security council, has resisted calls for tougher sanctions so far. and yesterday, even before clinton spoke, brazil's president luiz inacio lula da
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silva pre-empted her plea. >> ( translated ): i already told all of you-- you cannot push iran against the wall. the prudent thing to do would be to begin negotiations. i have stated publicly, i want the same things for iran that i want for brazil. i want them to use and develop their nuclear energy for peaceful means. if iran agrees with that, then iran will have brazil's support. >> brazil is feeling very good >> reporter: michael shifter, incoming president of the inter- american dialogue, thinks brazil is resisting sanctions against iran, in part, because of growing commercial ties. but more important, he says, is brazil's desire to show independence from the u.s. >> brazil is feeling very good these days. they have a lot of pride. they're doing very well, they're connected to and have relationships with other major powers, with india, with china, with russia. they don't want the united states to set the terms of their
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agenda. and so they are very, very >> reporter: moises naim, editor of "foreign policy magazine," concurs. >> it has to do with the notion that of conveying to the world that brazil has arrived. that brazil is no longer taking orders or instructions from the united states. that brazil is a global player and it is a very important actor that needs to be taken into account and sometimes can do things and take positions that are at odds with what the u.s. would prefer. >> reporter: what's more, says naim, defying the u.s. is popular with lula's leftist base, and the hangover from clinton was confronted directly on the issue of brazil's independence at a town meeting in sao paolo last night. she parried by acknowledging it's a new world. >> state secretary, this is a question from the internet which, again, relates to what you just said about brazil being a global player. does it mean that brazil will have to support to you in the
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security council, playing like the big guys do? >> ( laughter ) well, i think brazil is a global player with an independent mind, just as the united states is. i mean, every country has to make a judgment about what is in their core interest, their security interest, their economic and political interest. and we work with brazil on many, many issues. >> reporter: president obama came into office pledging to reinvigorate u.s. relations with brazil and all the other countries in the region. >> we think that there's enormous possibilities of making progress in latin america. >> reporter: but the past year has seen the u.s. at loggerheads with many of its southern neighbors over the handling of the coup in honduras. the ongoing presence of u.s. military bases in colombia. and the continuing u.s. embargo against cuba. the old u.s./latin american relations was symbolized by this
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stately building, near the white house: the organization of american states, or o.a.s. but the latins, who have long chafed at what they saw as u.s. domination here, last week voted to form a rival group, which includes washington's nemesis, cuba, and excludes canada and the united states. the creation of that new regional bloc was met with applause at a summit in cancun, mexico last week. >> ( translated ): the community of latin american and caribbean states should drive regional integration in order to promote our sustainable development. it should promote regional political consensus, the latin american and caribbean agenda in global forums, and the better positioning of latin america and the caribbean in important world events. >> reporter: moises naim sees the new bloc as a pipe dream. >> in principle it's not a bad idea to have something that is an entity that coordinates common positions among latin american, caribbean countries. the principle is not a bad idea. in practice, it's an impossible idea. >> reporter: impossible because?
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>> impossible, because these countries don't see eye to eye. >> reporter: but michael shifter believes it sends an important political signal. >> i think we should take them seriously at least as an expression of political distancing of latin america and an attempt to come together, all of the countries for the first time, not just south america but >> reporter: clinton's trip wasn't filled entirely with setbacks. after the inauguration of uruguay's new president, josã mujica, the two held fruitful talks. in buenos aires, she pleased the argentineans by urging talks to ease the standoff over britain's drilling for oil near the falkland islands. and she and her offers of american help were greeted warmly in earthquake-ravaged chile by chilean president michele bachelet and her incoming successor, sebastian piã¡era. >> we brought some satellite phones. >> reporter: still, shifter says, u.s. influence in the region has waned for good.
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>> the u.s. capacity to effect events in latin america has diminished and is likely to continue to diminish. and this is a new reality, it reflects the relative positions of both the united states and latin america in the world. this risk is, the danger, is that the united states will be tempted to withdraw, become disengaged from the region. i think that would be a serious mistake. the united states has a lot at united states has to hang in there, and do the hard diplomatic work that needs to be done. >> reporter: naim thinks the trend is reversible, if washington will do that hard work. >> i think the united states can easily regain influence, the united states continues to have a very strong gravitational pull, both in terms of trade, investment, culture, and links, and geography matters. and the united states and latin america are very close, in a variety of ways. >> reporter: after stops in costa rica and guatemala, clinton returns to washington tomorrow and to other pressing
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global issues that may make it hard to give latin america the attention it seeks. >> brown: next, a look at hollywood's latest portrayal of the war in iraq. one generating plenty of praise, but questions as well. >> got a wire. hang on. >> brown: set amid the war-torn urban landscape of iraq, "the hurt locker" tells the story of american soldiers sent out daily to diffuse bombs. jeremy renner plays the fearless adrenaline addicted staff sergeant william james. >> i want to shake your hand. >> thank you, sir. >> yeah. how many bombs have you disarmed >> i'm not quite sure. >> sergeant? >> yes. >> i asked you a question. >> 873. >> 800! what's the best way to go about disarming one of these things?
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>> the way you don't die, sir. >> reporter: the movie, written by mark bole and based on his experience of being embedded embedded in w the u.s. military in iraq has garnered critical acclaim and nine oscar nomination, including one for best picture and another for its director, kathryn bigelow. but it's also run into some blowback just ahead of sunday's academy award presentation. the film's accuracy and portrayal of excessive risk taking have brought criticism from some veterans. and just this week, a bomb disposal expert who served in iraq sued the makers of the film claiming the lead character is based on him. in recent years, the iraq and afghanistan wars haven't translated into big numbers at the box office. films like "in the valley of elah," "stop loss" and the more recent "brothers" have attracted good reviews but not large audiences. by that standard, "the hurt
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locker" has done reasonably well, but its $1919 million haul is dwarfed by its oscar rival i can't have kwhraf earned more than $2 billion worldwide. more now from ann hornaday a film critic from the "washington post" and paul rieckhoff is an army national guard lieutenant who led a phra tune in iraq from 2003 to 2004. he's executive director of iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, an organization that advocates on behalf of troops still serving. ann hornaday, starting with you first. as a critic, what makes this movie about war stand out? >> you know, this is one of those rare movies that is utterly immersive. it just plunges viewers into this very gent and immediate and chaotic world of battle but somehow makes it coherent. so it sort of achieves two things at once. it captures the disorganization and the fear and the unpredictability of war, but also leads viewers through that territory with a great deal of
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assurance and logic. >> brown: paul rieckhoff, you among others have raised some of the questions about it. what's your view? >> well, i think it an s an exciting film, there's no doubt about it. but the problems that i've raise have had to do with the accuracy of the film. most americans walking into this film if they follow the marketing and the critical acclaim are going to think that this is how iraq is. and it's really not. it's riddled with inaccuracies ranging from the tactics to even the rank structure and the uniforms. it touches on a broader issue that we're concerned about, which is that most americans for better or worse are going to understand war through movies. if you ask someone what they think about vietnam, they're going to think about "platoon," "full metal jacket," films that really define that experience. and when a film like "the hurt locker" is going to say we are the definitive iraq film, it's got to get the facts right. so i've been approached by countless veterans, especially the last weeks since my most recent piece was published that say they think this is wildly ridiculous. there are some parts of it that
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are really compelling. it represents the tension you feel on the ground well, but the exposure of the e.o.d. units, the way they approach combat situations and the wide array of kind of spectacular things they're involved involved with y not grounded in reality. >> brown: now, i want to explore this issue of accuracy in film and art. for one thing, ann, you told me you were at a screen with some veterans who felt otherwise, that it was quite accurate. but this issue of accuracy comes up all the time. for all kinds of areas. >> exactly. and you're right, it comes up with almost any profession that's going to be depicts in a feature fiction film is going to run up against the fact that usually for the sake of narrative tension and drive you're going to create a protagonist who takes reckless risk, who's a cowboy, for lack of a better term. and that definitely comes up in this film. i mean, clearly renner's character takes reckless risks and i don't think he would ever be held up as a role model of behavior, especially that context. but in order to create a
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compelling character and a compelling story, i can't speak for the filmmakers, but i would imagine that that is the kind of thing that heighten it is drama of a narrative to allow viewers to come in. and, you know, one of the tensions that exists in hollywood film making, especially about any kind of historical event or biographical subject is the narrative truth versus emotional truth. and what i gather regardless of the inaccuracies that mr. rieckhoff is talking about, there's an emotional truth to this film, i believe, that allows viewers to relate to these characters and to come in and follow them throughout this story. >> brown: paul rieckhoff, it's not just attention in hollywood, this goes back to shakespeare and as long as there's been art around. do you think there's a special responsibility when it is a piece of art or film about a war, a current war? does that somehow make it different ? >> i think it does in some ways. i've got friends who are there
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now. i've got friends who have been wounded, all of us who have served their due. and we consider, each of us, to have a responsibility to serve as kind of pop culture watchdogs. and when it comes to making good film making, there's no shortage of drama in iraq and afghanistan. you don't have to make it up in order to tell a good story. and i think that's why so many veterans have pushed back against this film. it's also important to note it's not just veterans, also combat journalists, people like nbc's brian williams and the department of defense themselves dropped their support of this film because they felt like it was just too sensational. and there have been some films that have gotten it right. "taking chance" for example, on hbo, while not centered on comb goes down to the details, had extensive k-bgt contact with the military community and was written by a marine. when you get close to the community and understand the community then you can impress that community. to be honest with you, impressing the marines and soldiers should be the standard, not impressing critics and viewers who have never been to iraq and afghanistan themselves. >> brown: let me switch the
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subject just a little bit. ann, starting with you. i mentioned in our setup piece that a lot of these movies have not done very well at the box office. why do you think that is? >> you know, i don't pretend to know the answer to that. i think it might have been quote/unquote too soon. it might have been the fact that these conflicts are ongoing and people didn't feel the need if they have family members in harm's way or they're engaged in the war reading their newspapers they didn't feel the need necessarily to go out to the multiplex to get $10 worth of fiction about it. i do think what sets "hurt locker" apart is the fact that, first of all, it is such a visceral action-oriented behavior-driven film. it doesn't have a political ax to grind. it's certainly not taking any kind of point of view one way or the other pro or con about the conflict itself. so i think that's in its favor in this regard. and i also just to go back to the emotional truth piece. the screening i attended last summer with veterans-- and i
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think there might have been some active duty people there, and a lot of bomb techs-- one thing that it does seem to capture is the sense of dislocation that returning soldiers feel. you know, when they're sort of shot out of that situation, that heightened situation and back to their daily lives state side, just the sense of dislocation and alienation they feel. and i think it creates a great deal of empathy for those of here who are welcoming them back >> brown: paul rieckhoff, we have about 30 seconds. but what's your view of the audiences and the general public's taking or not taking to these movies? >> i don't think there have been great films yet. whether they're about iraq or not, i think for the most part the films that have come out haven't been they that highly entertaining and when they are and people can tell a powerful, visceral story that connects that has to do with the w iraq and afghanistan i think people will see it. i think "taking chance does" sorry, this film "hurt locker does tell that story well of folks coming home.
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it does capture that very difficult emotional moment. that's something veterans have consistently said that this film does do well. but when it comes to tactical and technical stuff they're way off base. >> brown: we'll leave it there. paul rieckhoff and ann hornaday, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> lehrer: finally tonight, religious tensions in egypt. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro reports from cairo. a version of this story aired earlier on the pbs program, "religion and ethics newsweekly." zabaleen-- literally trash city-
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country that's now 90% muslim. they often complain about being discriminated against. sometimes religious tension has escalating into violence. six worshipers and a muslim guard were gunned down outside a church on january 7, the day coptic and orthodox churches celebrate christmas. the attack was an apparent retaliation for the alleged rape of a muslim girl by a christian man. the funerals for the dead brought forth more violence, this time angry continues clashed with police. author and democracy activist allah allah swanny blames the attention on a steady rise in the wahabi brand of religious conservatism, much of it financed by saudi arabia and he says promoted endlessly on television. >> you have, for example, in egypt more than 17 t.v. channels, every promote ing their ideas. and this way of understanding
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the religion is very exclusive in the sense that they are against anybody who is different they are against the shi'a people of iran, they are against even muslims who are for democracy like myself accusing me of being secular against the religion . they are against jews, of course, they are against christians. they are against everybody who is not with them. >> reporter: egyptians who grew up in the '50s and '60s say they see signs of this growing conservatism. most egyptian women now cover their hair and growing numbers don the knee cab, covering all but their eyes. it's evident in cemeteries like this one where you can see disagreement over inscriptions on tombstones. >> this is the most merciful, whatever, and somebody says "' nor spot toesed to do that. so you actually see the council are clashing in print right in
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the front before your eye s . >> suarez: this man has lived in minnesota for 25 years where he hosts a t.v. show. he recently visited the nile delta village where he lived as a young man. >> this is all muslims. this is all as you can see all muslim in this section. bro. >> suarez: he says when he was growing up one christian family lived in the village. there was no cemetery nearby so they were buried alongside muslim neighbors. this departure from custom prompted some debate, but it was resolved by community leaders. >> i remember when the neighbor, my uncle, said he didn't help us when he was alive... hurt us when he was alive, why would he hurt us when he dies? and i think that really sums up the whole story. you know, the people act based on their values and their tradition more than their religion. and their interpretation for religion will be through their values. >> suarez: would this ever happen today? >> i don't think so.
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>> suarez: alaa swanny says it wouldn't happen today because both sides are gotten more rigid. >> this intolerance has been existing in this society because it was heavy people but also it has been transmitted as an infection to the other side. so you have also some ko *pt i can fanatics and you have also coptic channels who are drawing to make the point that the religion of islam is a whole bunch of nonsense. >> reporter: this man, a professor at alexandria university, says everything now is seen through that religious lens. >> (translated): you always find a religious interpretation of any conflict between coptics and muslims because we live in an era of tension between the religions that i've never seen registered at this level. and that's why in any conflicts between muslims and coptics, in the subway or the market, it will always end up being taken
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in the religious context. >> reporter: after the january riots, religious leaders from both communities succeeded in restoring come. copts and muslims have lived side by side for centuries with only occasional spasms of sectarian violence. the key question is are things different this time? will the current tension escalate into an enduring religious conflict? this author thinks it's not in the egyptian character. >> it could be repeated but i don't think this is... this is an opening of an era of killing in egypt. because as i said, the egyptian culture which is very old and very civilized will never tolerate that. so we have had one positive aspect to be belonging to a country which has been existing for six centuries... 60 centuries, 6,000 years. because everything you are having now you will discover
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that it happened before many times. >> reporter: now everyone is bracing for the upcoming trial of the copt man accused of rape and of the three muslims accuse to have had christmas day killing. >> lehrer: again, the major developments of the day: bombs ripped through parts of baghdad as early voting began for sunday's parliamentary elections. 17 iraqis were killed. and top democrats in the u.s. house worked to find enough votes to pass health care reform. the "newshour" is always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's there. hari? >> sreenivasan: on "the rundown," spencer michels blogs about california's guberatorial contest and candidate jerry brown. education correspondent john merrow's take on the finalists for the race to the top competition among the states. and on the oscars, a look at the five documentaries nominated this year. all that and more is on our web site, jeff? >> lehrer: and i'm jim lehrer. we'll see you on-line and again
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here tomorrow evening with mark shields and michael gerson, among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> what the world needs now is energy. the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change. what if that energy came from an energy company? everyday, chevron invests in people, in ideas-- seeking, teaching, building. fueling growth around the world to move us all ahead. this is the power of human energy. chevron.
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