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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  January 16, 2022 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, january 16: all hostages are safe after an hrs long standoff at a texas synagogue. a winter storm brings snow and ice to the eastern united states. and the economic and environmental impacts of a changing climate in iraq. next on “pbs newshour weekend.” >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. beard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the anderson family fund. the estate of worthington mayo-smith. leonard and norma klorfine. the rosalind p. walter
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foundation. koo and patricia yuen, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. baara hope zuckerberg. we try to live in the moment, to not miss what's right in frt at mutual of america, we believe taking care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america financial group: retirement services and investments. >> for 25 years, consumer cellular has been offering no contract wireless plans designed to help people do more of what they like. our u.s.-based customer service team can help find a plan that fits you. to learn more, visit additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewe like you.
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thank you. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thank you for joining us. the four people held hostage for more than ten hours yesterday at a texas synagogue, are safe and unharmed. today the f.b.i. identified the hostage taker as malik faisal akram, a 44-year-old british citizen. hours after the man first appeared at the synagogue yesterday during services, one of the hostages was released in the late afternoon. a specialized f.b.i. hostage rescue team continued negotiating, but at about 9:00 p.m. agents breached the synagogue, freeing the remaining three people. law enforcement officials said akram was shot and killed after the hostages were out of the building, but did not say who shot him. in a statement, the f.b.i. said there s no evidence anyone else was involved. this afternoon, at a service event marking martin luther king day, president joe biden was asked about the investigation. >> they did one hell of a job. this was an act of terror. this was an act of terror. i put a call into the rabbi. we missed one another on the way
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up here, but they should rest assured that we are focused, we are focused. the attorney general is focused on making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts. and thank god, thank god we have such a professional f.b.i., as well as the local cooperation, i was told was incredible, it was seamless. >> sreenivasan: yesterday, police were called to the synagogue as it live streamed its services. a man now identified as akram could be heard, but not seen, shouting and demanding the release of pakistani neuroscientist aafia siddiqui who was convicted of trying to kill u.s. army officers in afghanistan. relatives and supporters of siddiqui, now serving an 86-year sentence, condemned the synagogue attack. the f.b.i. had no comment on a motive for the hostage-taking at a jewish synagogue. new cases of covid-19 are rising rapidly in u.s. nursing homes, but deaths among patients there are not reaching levels seen in past surges.
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the spike in cases is causing some facilities to again limit visitors as the high contagious omicron variant spreads. health officials say high vaccination rates among nursing home residents is keeping deaths from covid far lower than in 2020. about 87% of nursing home residents are fully vaccinated, according to the c.d.c. and in china today, officials announced they are gradually lifting restrictions in the city of xi'an. they began a strict lockdown on december 22, following an outbreak attributed to the delta variant. yesterday, the first locally- transmitted omicron infection was reported in beijing. the winter olympics are set to begin there on february 4. a powerful winter storm began unleashing snow, ice and high winds in the southeast today, knocking out power and creating treacherous travel conditions. five states declared states of emergency, and the storm left tens of thousands of customers without power in georgia, the carolinas and florida. freezing rain was reported in parts of north carolina, and
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expected in other states. winter weather alerts stretched across several states that normally don't grapple with such storms. the winter sto, which first hit the midwest, will make its way through the northeast tonight and into tomorrow. the aftermath of a huge underwater volcano eruption off the coast of tonga has cut off the island nation as tsunami warnings end. in countries from japan, to ones in north and south america, high waves caused somdamage and evacuations and there was a report of two deaths in peru as waves came on shore. in tonga, there is little information on damage because the eruption created a massive ash cloud now covering much of the small nation. new zealand and australia are offering assistance, but the ash and smoke are delaying surveillance flights and aid missions. much of tonga's communications were cut off when the volcano disrupted undersea internet connections. tennis champion novak djokovic left australia today after losing his final legal appeal to
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allow him to play in the australian open, which begins tomorrow. djokovic, who is unvaccinated and had covid-19 in december, said he qualified for a medical exemption to play in the tournament. australia's immigration minister argued that djokovic's presence could present a risk to public health and “may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in australia.” in a statement, djokovic said he was disappointed, but respected the court's ruling. the number one ranked player, who is from serbia, left australia shortly after the decision. djokovic has won nine australian opens and is tied with rivals roger federer and rafael nadal for the most grand slam singles trophies in men's tennis history at 20 each. he was set to defend his title starting tomorrow. for more national and international news, visit >> sreenivasan: it's 2022, which
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means midterm elections are now less than a year away. and in state legislatures around the country, and in almost every congressional district, those elections are being held in newly-drawn districts. despite delays in gathering data caused by the pandemic, the first phase of redistricting, where states use updated population counts to redraw legislative maps, is now nearly complete. we wanted to check in on how that process has played out around the country, but first, an update from michigan. last september, we brought you a report about the state's inaugural independent redistricting commission. this bipartisan group of citizens has just approved legislative maps in a state that remains deeply divided politically. newshour weekend's christopher booker has this update. >> the motion to amend the resolution, please raise your hand and say "aye." >> aye. >> reporter: drawing legislative maps is a process that has traditionally been done behind closed doors, in proverbial
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dark, smoke-filled rooms, by the very politicians who will run in those districts. >> the motion to amend the resolution is adopted. >> reporter: but for the first time here in michigan, redistricting is happening under bright fluorescent lights for anyone te in person, or anywhere in the world online. and the process is entrusted to 13 ordinary michiganders, chosen by lottery from a pool of nearly 10,000 that applied. >> aye. >> reporter: four democrats, four republicans, and five unaffiliated voters: this is michigan's independent citizens redistricting commission. i sat down with three of the commissioners: douglas clark, a republican; rebecca szetela, who is unaffiliated; and m.c. rothhorn, a democrat. one of the primary quests, if not the primary quest of this process, is to take the politics out of the process from where you stand, is that possible, and does it remain possible as the process continues to unfold? >> i think one of the reasons that we're doing this process in a transparent way is because we
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are trying to show people that it's possible to do something fairly and have people, citizens doing it. you don't need these professionals, so to speak, i'll say the professional politicians. >> reporter: after months of feverishly working to draw districts and hold constitutionally-mandated public hearings, the commission voted in late december to approve maps for the state house, the state senate, and 13 congressional districts. but the process has not been without controversy. after the commission held closed sessions to discuss legal memos, news outlets sued. and in december, the state supreme court ruled that withholding the memos and meeting in private violated the constitution. litigation on the final maps has also begun. last week, a group of current and former black legislators sued the commission, arguing that the new maps dilute the voting strength of black voters in theetroit area. a spokesperson for the michigan republican party also alluded to litigation, tweeting ”we are evaluating all options to take
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steps necessary to defend the voices silenced by this commission.” when we spoke with the commission last year, this outcome was not unexpected. end of the day, do you think you will receive political attacks based on what you create? >> yes, i think there are powerful interests that have a lot at stake in what we're drawing. >> reporter: so, no matter what you do? >> yes, yes. but i think that's actually clarifying for us, because we're not letting the concern about what a particular political group thinks drive us. instead, we're focused on the process being fair, being transparent, and listening to people who come and, and give us opinions about where they want the lines drawn. >> sreenivasan: for more on michigan's maps, and how redistricting is shaping up around the county, i recently spoke with adam podowitz-thomas, senior legal strategist at the princeton gerrymandering project. it's a nonpartisan research group that analyzes redistricting with the aim of eliminating partisan gerrymandering across the country. so, adam, the project that
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you're working on gave out letter grades. and i want to know, since we just heard the story about michigan, how did michigan do? >> pretty well. for their congressional map we gave an overall score of an a. and then for both the state house and the state senate, we gave them both bs. so, it's aually, compared to a lot of maps across the country, they did very well. >> sreenivasan: and how do you come up with the letter grade? what goes into that? >> so, several different factors are feeding into it. we have geography scores, and those e derived from comparing to other maps that we have an independent mapping corp draw. but then i think, perhaps more interestingly, our partisan fairness scores and our competitiveness scores, and those two sces are derived using computer algorithms that draw one million maps. and then we compare the map that was producedthe commission to those million maps and judge it based on whether it falls within expected distributions or whether it's an extreme outlier. >> sreenivasan: wow. so, michigan used an independent commission this time, for the first time, it was one of only a handful of states to do this.
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has this lead to better grades? >> it has, it has. what we've seen pretty much across the board in states that use commissions, they are scoring just significantly higher than those maps that are drawn by legislators. the maps tend to be fairer on a partisan basis, and they tend to also do better on geography, actually. they tend on average to do better at keeping counties and communities together in ways that legislators just don't seem to be doing. >> sreenivasan: now, while michigan might have scored well, there s been gerrymandering in lots of other states during this cycle. >> that's true. we've seen pretty egregious gerrymanders in a number of states from illinois, texas, georgia. really across the country, we're seeing pretty extreme abuses of the process. >> sreenivasan: so, was it as bad as it could have been, was it better than it should have been? you know, kind of put it in perspective for us, because we're looking at an existing map that's already gerrymandered in so many states. >> yeah. so, i think in the states where there was process reforms, things have gotten a lot better. so, i think, and obviously there
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are there are a number of states where that is new, as you have already referenced, where these commissions have been put in place. and so, in those states, things are looking significantly better. but in the states where no reform occurred over the past decade, i actually think things might be slightly worse. the way that map drawers drew the lines in 2010 was such tt, over the course of a decade, as folks moved around and policy preferences changed, we saw districts change hands. and i think that the way that the linehave been drawn this time, it's much less likely that at the end of the decade, we're going to see that sort of shift in these districts. i think they're pretty solidly held for the next ten years. >> sreenivasan: let's talk a little bit about who is most affected by these gerrymanders. oftentimes, you know, particular groups are packed into little corners that can sway an election in one direction or another for the opposite tea so to speak, but are people of color, or communities that are predominantly filled with people of color or minorities, how does gerrymandering affect them? particularly, we're seeing cycle
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really egregious abuses from minority communities. with the supreme court striking down, sort of, one of the key provisions of the voting rights act in shelby county in the past decade, a lot of the protections that minority communities had in redistricting just aren't there anymore. and so, we're seeing, really across the country, that minority communities are not having districts drawn where they're going to have an opportunity to elect. so, we've seen, for example, in north carolina, it looks like probably one of the congressional districts that used to elect a black congressperson is probably not going to do that in this next cycle. and then, you know, growing latino populations in states like texas are not seeing increased representational opportunities in the maps that are being drawn. so, it is really profoundly impacting minority communities across the country. >> sreenivasan: all right. adam podowitz-thomas from the princeton gerrymandering project. thanks so much for joining us. >> yeah, thank you.
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>> sreenivasan: in november, nearly 200 nations gathered in glasgow, scotland, for the cop26 climate summit. the outcome was disappointing for experts, who wanted stronger commitments to ensure capping global warming. the conference also failed to ease vulnerable countries' concerns about long-promised climate financing from rich nations. one of the countries lacking international support is iraq. as newshour weekend special correspondent simona foltyn reports, the country is already facing the alarming effects of imate change. this story is part of our ongoing series, "peril and promise: the challenge of climate change." >> reporter: sunrise in iraq's mesopotamian marshes. these historic wetlands are nestled in southern iraq, where human civilization emerged 7,000 years ago. but water scarcity is threatening this habitat and the humans who rely on it. >> ( translated ): there's no water. and if there's no water, there's
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no more fish. there's only bare land left. the water has dried. >> reporter: in this area, average annual rainfall for the last 20 years was 10% lower than in the three decades prior. declining water levels means the water that is left is increasingly salty, making it largely unfit for humans, animals and vegetation alike. only small fish survive here now, but they fetch a lower price for the fishermen. their catch earnedhem $15 each, the result of two daysf hard work. >> ( translated ): of course this is not enough. i have a family that depends on me. but this iour life now. >> ( translated ): i have four children. two are married and two aren't. >> reporter: i ask jassem ali if he's thinking about leaving fishing to find work elsewhere“" and do what?” he asks in return. it's a question that weighs on
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many people's minds here, explains jassem al assadi, a water engineer who has dedicated his life to protecting the marshes. >> reporter: drought has further compounded another longstanding water problem here. the marshes are fed by the tigris and the euphrates rivers, both of which originate in turkey, as well as other tributaries from iran. both countries have built dams upstream, which has gradually reduced water flow. the dams have long been a source of regional tensions, but climate change has further raised the stakes.
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>> reporter: the mshes only span 2,000 square miles today, a 75% reduction compared to eir original size. this is what the marshlands increasingly look like: cracked soil, and bone-dry reeds. and even though we're now in november, which is supposed to be the onset of the rainy season, water levels continue to decline. life here is simply no longer sustainable. more than half of the households here have lost cattle this year due to lack of water, according to a survey carried out by the norwegian refugee council. dhuhriya saquir and her family used to keep 20 water buffaloes, but that number has dropped to four over the past few years. their animals refuse to drink the polluted water, which means herders like dhuriya are forced to buy drinking water to keep them alive. >> ( translated ): taking care of the buffaloes is really making us tired. they are not coming back to us. we go looking for them, but even
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the boat cannot float after them anymore because there's no water. then we find them dead, stuck in the mud. >> reporter: temperatures in iraq have risen by more than 2.5 degrees celsius since the end of the 19th century. that's 4.5 degrees fahrenheit, double the global average. projections are equally alarming, says the world bank's special representative for iraq, ramzi neman. >> we expected that an increase in temrature of almost 1.5 degrees within the coming years, and that would have tremendous effect. >> reporter: but while iraq is reeling from the impact of climate change, it is also a significant contributor to the greenhouse emissions that cause global warming. iraq is the world's sixth largest oil producer, but is second only to russia in gas flaring, a wasteful process of burning natural gas during oil extraction. flaring emits co2 and methane into the atmosphere, and accounts for 15% of iraq's total greenhouse emissions.
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the government has vowed to eliminate flaring by 2027. at a recent roundtable with journalists, iraq's oil minister said the country has allocated over $5 billion for gas capture projects. >> we will secure the finance to make all the gas capturing for all iraq. we will secure the finance to improve the refinery. we will secure the finance to change the liquid fuel in all power generation to be gas fuel. >> reporter: and all of this without any international support? >> all of this without the need for international support. if we are requested to do more, we are happy to receive. and we know no one will give. >> reporter: indeed, at the recent cop26 summit, developed nations failed to meet financing targets for climate mitigation and adaptation programs. but iraq's promises to end gas flaring have ao not translated into commensurate commitments to reduce its carbon emissions.
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iraq only pledged to reduce its emissions by 2% through national efforts, even though climate experts estimate that global emissions need to be cut by half by the end of this decade to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius. >> these commitments are a bit shy. iraq is a middle income country, and i think that that they have resources that are generated that could be enough in really guiding the process forward. >> reporter: for iraq's farmers, time is running out. record-low rainfalls over the past two years have resulted in widespread crop losses across iraq, according aid agencies. muhsin al rudaini is one of many farmers forced to abandon their fields due to the drought. >> ( translated ): during the 70s and 80s this land was irrigated by the river flooding the land. then, gradually, we had to start using pumps. last year, the wat levels really dropped, and this year there's no water at all.
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>> reporter: outdated irrigation methods compound the water scarcity. farmers today rely on the same inefficient surface irrigation techniques used by ancient sumerians 4,000 years ago. experts say iraq urgently needs investments to modernize irrigation, but corruption and mismanagement are deeply entrenched in iraq's bureaucracy, wasting oil money that could be used for climate adaptation programs. entire farming communities have disappeared, sending ripple effects through iraq's food supply chain. >> ( translated ): this used to be the breadbasket of baghdad. we used to collect the crops in the morning and they'd reach baghdad after an hour or two. >> reporter: but now, much of the produce sold here is imported from neighboring countries. meanwhile, al rudaini and his son have had little choice but to swap their fields for jobs at a nearby brick factory, where the air is thick with
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pollutants. >> ( translated ): normally, no man would accept this kind of work, because it makes you sick and it is tiring. it's too hot. you see the smoke? it means disease. what to do, what is the alternative? there's nothing but this work. >> reporter: crofailures are further accelerating rural-to- urban migration. but already, iraq's cities are suffering from widespread unemployment and inadequate infrastructure. iraq's population hit 40 million in 2020 and is expected to reach 50 million by 2030, with most of the growth concentrated in urban areas. >> any kind of forced migration creates a problem. so, how about talking about cities that are accommodating a huge number of in-comers without the basic services that need to exist. >> reporter:he consequences for iraq could be dire. >> all of these are elements that lead to social destabilization. and this country has enough
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drivers of fragility that we cannot add more to that. if this is not being looked at carefully, that's something that could lead into conflict. >> reporter: in iraq, the effects oflimate change have become impossible to ignore. its case offers a stern warning, and a glimpse into what the future might hold for the rest of the world, should policy makers, and the prate sector, fail to take steps to cut emissions. >> sreenivasan: tomorrow is martin luther king, jr, day, a day to honor the civil rights leader who was born on january 15, 1929. this year, his family is asking americans to mark the national holiday with rallies in support of voting rights. it is also a day of service, with volunteer events and projects scheduled nationwide. that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend.
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for the latest news updates, visit i'm hari sreenivasan. thanks for watching. stay healthy, and have a good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the anderson family fund. the estate of worthington mayo-smith. leonard and norma klorfine. the rosalind p. walter foundation. koo and patric yuen, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities.
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barbara hope zuckerberg. we try to live in the moment, to not miss what's right in front of us. at mutual of america, we believe taking care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america financial group: retirement services and investments. additional suppo has been provided by: consumer cellular. and by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. you're watching pbs.
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