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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  August 8, 2013 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: as radioactive water continues pouring into the pacific, the japanese government may be forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stem the tide. good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the "newshour" tonight, an estimated 300 tons a day of radioactive waste-tainted water began spewing from the fukishima plant soon after the earthquake in 2011. we update japan's bid to halt the worsening crisis. >> ifill: then, the story of henrietta lacks, who died 62 years ago but lives on in science. margaret warner examines a new agreement between her family over who gets to control her still productive cells.
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>> brown: it's a hope for many people later in life: growing old without leaving their homes. ray suarez profiles one group, bringing a retirement community's perks to urban neighborhoods. >> when we initially started beacon hill village, there were 11 of us who got together on a cold november day with this abstract determination that we're not going anywhere. >> ifill: a veteran political reporter looks back at the transformative 2012 election and how it permanently changed politics. we talk to the washington post's dan balz about his book, "collision 2012." >> everything changes from one cycle to another. i don't think i've seen as many changes in one cycle as we saw between 2008 and 2012. >> brown: and can apps for babies be educational? or are they harmful entertainment? we look at one advocacy group's complaint to the federal trade commission. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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thank you. >> brown: a badly damaged nuclear plant in japan loomed over budget talks today in tokyo. officials are working on ways to stop contaminated run-off at the site from poisoning the surrounding sea. the radioactive water is escaping from the fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean at a rate of 300 tons a day. that's enough to fill an olympic sized swimming pool in less than a week. and, it began soon after the earthquake and tsunami shattered the plant on march 11, 2011. three of the nuclear reactors went into melt-down. none of that was known until tepco-- the plant's commercial operator-- discovered radiation spikes in water samples last may and began creating a chemical barrier underground.
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the company made the problem public in late july. that spurred the japanese government to act. prime minister shinzo abe is now pledging to become more involved. >> ( translated ): as a nation, we ourselves will take firm measures against the issue, and will not leave it entirely in the hands of tepco. >> brown: the measures could include an effort to build a new barrier by freezing the ground so the water can't get out. >> ( translated ): building such a large-scale water barrier by freezing the ground, is unprecedented anywhere in the world. we believe it is necessary that the country steps forward in supporting its construction. >> brown: meanwhile, a university of tokyo research team has found multiple radioactive hot spots on the sea bottom, near the fukushima plant. >> ( translated ): we have detected over 20 spots around with levels of radiation five to ten times higher than the
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surrounding areas, with diameters ranging from tens to hundreds of meters. >> brown: the news dealt a further blow to the region's already struggling fishing industry. >> ( translated ): just when i thought people had started to want to eat fish again, this news is going to hit our reputation as fishermen once more. it's once again just typical tepco. >> brown: for now, tepco is going ahead with its 40-year, $11 billion cleanup of the plant. the government could end up spending $400 million in the effort. and we're joined by arjun makhijani, an engineer specializing in nuclear fusion. he's the president of the institute for energy and environmental research. and kenji kushida, research associate in japanese studies at stanford university. arjun makhijani, let me start with you. translate for us first to bring us up to date. what exactly is the problem now and how serious is it? >> so there are a couple of different problems. one of the problems is what they've found in the groundwater, what actually is
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there. so, so far we've been concerned about an element call cesium 137 and 134, which is radioactive. but now they have found strarchum 90, which is much more dangerous, at levels that are 30 times more than cesium. so to give you an idea of the level of contamination-- if somebody drank that water for a year, it would almost-- they would almost certainly get cancer, so it's very contaminated. so that's one problem. the other is the defenses to hold back this water from the sea seem to be overcome. so now the contamentd waters, 70,000, 80,000 gallons is flowing into the sea every day. >> brown: do we know how far out to sea this contaminated water is going and what happens to it when it goes into the sea? >> when it goes into the sea, of course some of it will disburse and dilute. some is taken up by the life in
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the sea. the thing about south africanium, it targets the bone, because it's like calcium, so this is a problem. we don't have measurements far out to sea. the woods hole institute has done some surveys and they were surprised by how continuing radioactiveity they found, but no clear explanation yet. >> brown: well, kenji kushida, how has this news been received in japan and what is the level of trust at this point in both the company and the government? >> well, clearly, trust in the company has gone down quite seriously, even from a low point after the accident. and the government does need to-- basically they don't have to call an election for about three years, so the government is trying to shore up its decision to support restarting nuclear reactors by showing some kind of commitment to preventing this disaster from getting too much worse. >> brown: well, what kind of steps is it taking and how much
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has it-- we just heard the clips in the setup talking talking abt action. what kinds of things are they proposing and how energized, how seriously are they taking this? >> well, it seems to be fairly serious because the budget that they're asking for is for the following year, for the fiscal year of 2014, to help shore up the defenses against this. and tepco itself, it's been de facto nationalized. so, in essence, it's basically the government's problem. the buck stops with the government. so how to deal with this 400 tons a day of water pouring into the passageways into the react buildings, that's a problem that the government has to deal with and about 50% of the population in a recent poll was against restarting nuclear react orlz after certifying their safety, and about 40% were supporting the restarting. and the government, as a strong supporter of restarting
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reactors, do feel it's quite a bit of their responsibility to deal with it. >> brown: well, i want to come back to that subject, but first arjun makhijani, what about these measures that they're taking to try to stop the contamination, the leaking water-- building tanks, walls, freezing the ground? >> well, you know, they already built this chemical-reinforced wall, and what happened-- of course it's like a dam, so you have water coming in from upstream, above the plant, and then at a certain point, it's going to over-top the dam. it's like constant rain coming into a reservoir. and so that has been the problem is those defenses have been breached because there's too much wart and not wall and at a certain point that's always going to be the case. it seems to me there's a risk the same thing will happen with with this new wall. they already had a wall and it didn't work. building a new and longer wall would worm for sometime. the other problem is, of course,
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you need a massive amount of water to freeze that much soil. it would be a mile long, apparently. if you have a power failure, another major earthquake-- they had a power failure a few months ago when a rat ate through a wire -- and that would then be very, very problematic. now you've got so much water behind. we actually sent a proposal to japan two years ago, some colleagues of mine and i, saying you should park a super tanker, or large tanker offshore, and put the water in it, and send it off someplace else so that the water treatment and the water management is not such a huge, constant issue. >> brown: sounds like still an ongoing experiment. >> yes. >> brown: kenji kushida, come back to this question you were raising about the politics of this and the cult ofure nuclear power there. there are still a lot of people that want to feel it's necessary for japan. where does all that stand?
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>> the funny thing about the recent japanese politics is that the nuclear issue didn't-- wasn't part of the main issues that were debated. it was mostly about the economy. and there was partly a reason for that, as i just mentioned, the public is pretty deeply divide over this. interestingly, in tokyo, the local candidate from tokyo metropolitan area was running on an antinuclear power platform, and he got elected pretty safely. so what we see here is the antinuclear power public-- i mean, this is reinforces all their worst fears. the operator that doesn't seem to be in control, the government that says it's going to back it up, but the technological hurdles are just very high to doing that. on the other hand, you have a fairly silent majority-- minority of about 40% who do think that some of the other reactors are necessary for maintaining japan's economic
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competitiveness, because japan doesn't have any natural resources. so in the absence of nuclear power, they have to import very large amounts of liquid natural gas to basically generate the power that they need. so there's this economic constraint that they see. and that's sort of where the public stands in its divisions. >> brown: i'm sorry, i was going to ask very briefly, arjun makhijani, those kinds of debates-- is what happens still rattling the whole industry worldwide? >> well, i think it is different in different places. it rattled germany and they decided to shut down. i don't think it's rattledly the u.s. industry very much. but french are somewhere in between. they, of course, get 75% of their power from nuclear, and they've decided-- or the president has said that they will decrease their nuclear to 50%. they're having a big energy debate-- much more serious than we've had. >> brown: all right, arjun makhijani, and kenji kushida,
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thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> ifill: still to come on the "newshour": d.n.a. and the legacy of henrietta lacks; growing old, but staying at home; dan balz on how 2012 changed elections and the reliable but troubling new way to calm babies. but first, with the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. >> holman: a thousand firefighters raced today to save half a dozen small communities in southern california from a rapidly growing wildfire. the blaze erupted yesterday in the foothills of the san jacinto mountains, 90 miles east of los angeles. overnight, it ballooned to more than 15 square miles and burned out of control today. so far, at least 15 buildings have burned, and some 1,500 residents have been ordered to leave their homes. in the midwest, the problem is water, in the form of flash floods. up to ten inches of rain hit parts of arkansas, kansas, missouri and tennessee early today. water surged into homes and offices and poured through
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streets. emergency workers rescued at least one baby, but two people were killed. it was the latest in a series of storms across the midwest that began sunday. thousands of egyptians took part in rival rallies in cairo today, marking the end of the holy month of ramadan. opponents of ousted president mohammed morsi held a prayer service in tahrir square. elsewhere, morsi's supporters held their own gathering, highlighted by a surprise appearance from his wife. she had not been seen since the military forced her husband out, july 3. rebels in syria marked the end of ramadan with an attempted direct attack on president bashar assad. two groups claimed they fired rockets and mortar rounds that struck his motorcade in damascus. in turn, state television aired video of assad, unharmed, at a prayer service. his information minister portrayed the claims as the rebels' wishful thinking.
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>> ( translated ): regarding what was said on the saudi channel, al-arabiyah, i confirm to you that, of course, the news is completely untrue. this news just shows the false hopes of some media outlets, and the governments who are behind them. >> holman: opposition groups nonetheless said today's attack rattled the regime. 30 people died today in pakistan, when a suicide bomber attacked a policeman's funeral in the western city of quetta. it left burned vehicles from the explosive coupled with ball bearings. emergency workers rushed to help the wounded. hundreds were at the funeral inside a police compound. 21 of the dead were policemen, including five senior officers. a military judge at fort hood, texas refused to let defense lawyers take over today from army major nidal hasan. he's accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 nearly four years ago. hasan is acting as his own attorney, but his standby lawyers say he's trying to get himself executed. today, the judge agreed to let hasan continue defending himself, and ordered the lawyers to continue advising him.
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on wall street today, stocks rose a bit after a three-day skid. the dow jones industrial average gained 27 points to close at 15,498. the nasdaq rose 15 points to close at 3,669. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: now, the living legacy of one woman's d.n.a. margaret warner has the story. >> warner: in 1951, a poor african american woman in maryland became an early and unwitting donor to medical science. henrietta lacks died at age 31 of cervical cancer at johns hopkins hospital in baltimore. then doctors discovered tumor cells they'd removed from her body earlier continued to thrive in the lab. a medical first. before long, her cells, dubbed hela cells, were being used for research around the world, contributing to major advances in everything from cancer treatments to vaccines. but henrietta lacks never gave permission for that research, nor had her family, until now.
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in an agreement announced yesterday with the national institutes of health, which grants the family a limited say over some of the research. dr. francis collins is the director of the n.i.h. and spear-headed the talks with the family. dr. collins, welcome back. >> it's nice to be here. >> warner: henrietta lacks' cells as we know are the most widely used in the world today. her family never had a say in this. why did the nsa seek its buy-in now? >> what happened this year is different. hela cells, yes, have been used in almost every laboratory, including my own. now what we've had happen is read out the complete d.n.a. instruction book, the genome of hela cells, laying out all kinds of details about why those cells grow so rapidly, but also revealing something about henrietta's original d.n.a.
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instruction book, which,sh, has implications for the family, and her blood relatives raised concerns, rightly so, that this information being freely available on the internet might be placing them at risk for people learning things about their medical risks for the future, that they would like to keep private. >> warner: so this agreement you negotiated with the family, what does it grant them? what does it give them? >> well, over three long meetings in the evening in baltimore with the family-- and i give them a huge amount of credit for rallying together and dealing with some pretty complicated scientific facts-- ultimately, they are very much in favor of research going forward. they are wonderfully positive about the legacy of henrietta for all of the things it's done for medicine. they don't that want to stop but they did want to have some say over who had acstoas this d.n.a. information because of its implications for them. so we set up a plan where any researcher who would like to have that complete d.n.a. information can put in a rather
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quick and brief application explaining what they want to do, agreeing that they will not pass the data on to other people, that they will report as to what they have found, and that they won't try to contact the family members directly. if that is actually considered appropriate and two of the lacks family members will sit on the group that reviews those applications, then the data is made available. >> warner: two quick qegz qez. the researchers can publish the data-- publish the results. >> absolutely. >> warner: and the family will still receive no financial benefit here. >> they will not. and they are basically not asking for that. they did think it was fair to have a seat at table when it is their medical circumstances that might also be involved here, and we thought they were right about that. >> warner: now, explain a little more what makes henrietta lacks' cells so special? is it that they can live indefinitely in the lab? is that unique? >> they are immortal. and there are other cell lines, but this was the first one, derived in 1951, after many
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failed efforts to get human cells to grow in a petri dish, these cells, hela cells, grew and grew and grew and got sent to laboratories all over the world. my own lab works on these cells as well. >> warner: but if you take sequencing the genome, genetic research, aren't there living people now who are having their genome sequenced, why couldn't you just use their-- why couldn't researchers use their d.n.a.? >> hela cells, because they're cancer cells, have been used also to learn a lot about cancer, but a cancer cell has a lot of things driving it to grow when it's not supposed to. and to be able to interpret all those decades of experiments on hela cells, it really hopes ton what the d.n.a. sequence was. >> warner: so her cells still remain unique even for this fairly new field? >> they do, indeed, and all the people who will be working on these cells going forward are going to benefit by knowing a bit more than we've known before about what's driving these cells to keep growing and growing and growing. turns out, these cells have a
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copy of the human papaloma virus inserted in the most vulnerable place you could imagine, on chromosome 8, activating a particular cancer gene. this is now probably why we know at last why these cells grow so rapidly. >> warner: now, how eye don't want to say "well grounded," but how serious is the risk to the privacy of descendants? when you get to the level of grandchildren and great-grandchildren? >> very important question. it is certainly the case that my challenger have my d.n.a., but they also have their north's, and it gets dliewtd as you move further and further away from the individual, but there is still some connection there. and i think her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have an interest making sure this is handled respectfully, and respect for persons is one of the ethics we can't brush aside, even if it's inconvenient so, it
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seemed very appropriate to listen carefully to their concerns and then incorporate them into the decision, which i think has turned out really well. >> warner: that raises the question of the broader policy implication of this. i mean, does there need to be an send policy for dealing with all such cases, even if you don't have cells like hers that are unique? >> yes, i think that's a very appropriate question. basically, henrietta lacks, who has given us a legacy of medical research, is also now giving us a new legacy of policy, about how we should handle biological spec mention for people, and basically, the bottom line is, going forward, we ought to ask consent for anybody who is having a tissue sample obtained that might be used for this kind of analysis. ask them, "is it okay?" if they say yes, you're on much firmer ground, and if they say no, that means no. >> warner: briefly, today, if you sign an agreement to have a boston police,-- biopsy, are you signing way weigh those rights or is there something new that
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will have to be added? >> it will need to be more precise to make it clear what you agree to. the obama administration is work hard on a new way to approach this so it is not so ambiguous so science can flourish and have the opportunity to be pants and not just subjects. >> warner: francis collins, director of the nsa, thank you. >> brown: next, an organization that believes there's no place like home when it comes to growing older. ray suarez has our report. >> how are you? >> reporter: once a week, 82- year-old john sears gets picked up at his beacon hill townhouse, and driven to a nearby grocery store. sears looks forward to that weekly outing, and not just to replenish his pantry. >> what else can i get for you? >> reporter: but for the simple joy of getting out, seeing people, catching up on
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neighborhood news, all harder to do as age makes it more challenging to get around. sears doesn't hire the driver, bob spicer. he works for beacon hill village: it's a non-profit, membership organization providing low-cost services to seniors who want to continue to live in their own homes. >> they call all the time. a couple times a week someone will call up and say, "are you still there? what can we do to help you?" >> reporter: the village offers transportation to doctors and grocery stores, and regular exercise classes and lectures on current events. it organizes social clubs like the weekly second cup gathering at the beacon hill bistro, where members discuss books, movies and perhaps most importantly: politics. >> she failed, i think, as a governor. but she was smart... >> reporter: and there's a bi-
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weekly terrific tuesdays happy hour where women gather at a local restaurant to plan trips to concerts and art galleries. >> you really have to look into that early because their reservation list is way backed up. >> reporter: in short, beacon hill village offers all of the amenities of a retirement community. distributed, you might say, in the dense streets of an urban neighborhood. so getting old doesn't mean leaving a cherished life behind. a senior can age in place. >> when people hear about the beacon hill village concept, when they learn they don't have to leave their homes, they don't have to leave everything that's familiar to them, they want to learn more. and they want it for themselves. there are now 110 such villages in the united states. and nearly twice that many in development. >> reporter: 12 years ago susan mcwhinney-morse and her neighbors got together to devise a way to stay in their boston neighborhood, even as their needs changed, and increased with age. >> when we initially started
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beacon hill village, there were 11 of us who got together on a cold november day with this abstract determination that we're not going anywhere. but we wanted to be responsible by not going anywhere. we didn't want to have to depend on our children, who might live across the country. so after two years, we formed this organization that seemed to fit our needs. and it was at that point, we understood that maybe we had tapped into a whole movement, a whole dynamic-- that one could stay in ones community. >> reporter: beacon hill village now has 400 members. they pay an annual fee of about $100-$1,000. the organization has just three full-time employees and a small office space. the village depends on donations and the work of volunteers to
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survive. many of its activities take place in borrowed community spaces. members are charged additional fees for driving and social outings. and the village negotiates reduced prices for members to receive medical care and home repair services when needed. when we visited john sears, he was getting a window screen replaced. >> i have a bar for the shower and a bar for the tub that they put there. and tiles fixed. and bulbs inserted. i have a computer and they sent a teenager over to help get me back online. it's wonderful that there are people who are ready and willing. >> this is the little hut where we entered and went down. >> reporter: for years joanne cooper, an active 78-year old, didn't think she needed the village because she was busy
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traveling. she showed me photos of her and her partner bill on an archeological dig in israel three years ago. then bill had a massive heart attack and everything changed. >> i knew when he came home from the hospital that we would need help. and so we said, it's time to join the village. we'll be able to get help. we had a fabulous woman who would come every day when he was stronger and take him for walks and i could go to the gym and meet friends. >> reporter: bill never recovered and died six months later. that's when cooper discovered she needed the village even more. >> we had a great life and you want to maintain that. and then you're by yourself and you sort of renegotiate how you're going to do things. and i started going to things at the village.
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i began to do all the things that i did before bill got sick and then more. >> reporter: the beacon hill village model has spawned a national organization to advise other communities. but mcwhinney morse says it's important for every village to be different. tailored to the specific needs of each community. what works in an urban setting like boston, may not work in a rural town in iowa. >> one of the geniuses in the way the village movement has been set up is that it takes into account that we are all aging in different ways with different needs at different times. people said you cannot retire on beacon hill. it won't work. you have bricks to fall on, stairs to climb and that's not appropriate for older people. and my answer to that is if i stop climbing stairs, i won't be able to climb stairs.
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>> reporter: and she's convinced the village concept works in neighborhoods with people of all different socioeconomic levels. >> this model is a terrific answer particularly to people who are low to moderate income and middle class, who simply have no other options. who can't move to retirement communities. who don't have the resources to go to sun city or, even more the. he is convinced stieg in his own
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home keeps him feeling young and active. >> i love the fact that we have some kids on this little old street that when the snow comes, they will toboggan down those cobblestones you just walked across. they keep us younger and feeling like we're still part of the world. >> reporter: sears acknowledges not everyone will be able to stay in their own homes, not everyone can, but he and the other members think america only 10% of the members use scooters, wheelchairs and walkers, but he other ands think america should be looking at the village concept as tens and millions of baby boomers enter their 70s and 80s in the coming years. >> brown: online, you can learn more on how to age in place with seven simple tools seniors can use in their homes to help them keep their independence.
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>> ifill: the 2012 presidential election lasted nearly two years, cost billions of dollars, and featured any number of twists and turns. but how will it shape elections to come? i sat down recently with washington post chief correspondent dan balz, who tackles that question in his new book: "collision 2012: obama vs. romney and the future of elections in america." welcome, dan. >> thank you, gwen. >> ifill: so you said you chose to tell this book from the outside in rather than the inside out. we're all used to election recaps which tell us all the granular, inside details. why from the outside in? >> i thought that this book deserved that because i thought that this campaign was smoo different. there's inside detail in this bangladesh as there are in all campaign books. but i thought this was a campaign in which larger forces were as important as the decisions of the candidates, and particularly the operatives.
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this is a change country. we're divide red and blue. and i think that those forces, along with the economy, were as decisive or more disiefers than asking the candidates or their staffs did. >> ifill: one of the things you write with is mitt romney, the republican nominee, that his family didn't really want him to run a second time? this was going to be his second shot at this. >> right. it was one of the footstepinating and to me one of the more surprising things. we always assume that people who run for president have that incredible fire in the belly, as we say. but there was a family meeting around christmastime in 2010 that the whole romney fam gaght experd they took eye vote, should he run for president a second time? when they did this four years ago, the vote was unanimous, yes. this time the vote was 10-2 against running and among those who voted against it was mitt romney himself. i don't think he was ever not going to run. all the machinery was moving forward and he was doing all the
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things a prospective candidate would do but it tells you there was some element of doubt. when we talked about it in the interview, a couple of things came out. one was he felt that there were others in the party who might be better suit, who might have a better chance of beating barack obama in the election, and he mentioned jeb bush by name. the other is, i think he felt that the party that came out of 2010 election was not exactly the mitt romney party-- a heavy tea party element. an even jalical party, he's a mormon. a very conservative party, he's more of a moderate. >> ifill: if there was one actually one thing that seemed to run through the book were all these candidates and some of the players who weren't necessarily candidates, was credibility question, whether you were credible, and the money you put into a campaign. whether you were credible seeking reelection. whether you were credible, in mitt romney's case, a rich guy,
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roorn eye man of the people. >> i asked romney-- i did a long interview in january, about a week after the inauguration of the president, and i said-- we had talked about the 47% comment, and he recognized how damaging that was, though, he felt it was misinterpreted. i said, do you think this was a moment in which, given where the country was, in shorthand, that a lot of people thought the rich were doing very well, and that the average person was getting left behind, that someone with his profile would have enormously difficult time winning? and he said there's no question that there was some element of that, but he said, "i thought i could overcome it." and he clearly couldn't. >> ifill: did he really think about dropping out at some point early on? >> he had a moment-- he was due to give a speech about health care because he knew there was a serious doubt among a lot of republicans with what he had done in massachusetts with health care, and how much that paralleled what president obama had done with his health care plan. the "wall street journal" clobbered him one day in an editorial and he woke up and
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called his oldest son, tag, and said, "i don't want to run. fican't convince the most conservative editorial page in the country that i am worthy of this nomination, i won't make it." he was due to have an early-morning call with his staff, and he got on the conference call to talk about the editorial and how to respond and basically the staff said, "look, don't take this that seriously. these things happen. you'll be able to get through it." he never shared with them that sort of gut feeling that he had gotten up with that morning, but tag romney said he felt that up until the moment he actually formally announced, he was looking for a way not to run. >> ifill: there are so many characters throughout this election, people who were supposed to be a big deal and turned out not to be-- rick perry. people who had their brief moments in moments in the sun, like michele balm man. we haven't got time to get to them all, but i want to ask you something with this idea of the obama campaign, and what is seized on to, and what was
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different in 2012 from 2008. it was all technology or was it that they had a vision that somehow superceded the republican vision? >> it was not all technology. certainly, they did extraordinary things with technology. the effort that they put into it, the amount of money they invested in it. and the sophistication of what they were trying to do was well beyond what they did in 2008, and we all thought in 2008 they had kind of broken the mold. technology was an important in factor in it. i think another was that they did an enormous amount of research about what the right message was, and part of that was to try to get a better understanding of kind of where voters were, what were their hopes and dreams, what were their anxieties. and they came out with this idea that if this campaign was fought on the question of barack obama's handling of the economy, then he was going to have a very difficult time winning. if they could, in fact, leapfrog beyond that to force a debate about as you look into the
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future, which of these candidates is going to be better fur as a middle class parent or family? and they came up with that frame which he unveiled really at the speech he did at the end of 2011 in kansas, and that was a very important part of what they were able to do. >> ifill: at the same time, they were speak to a different demgraphic model than the republicans were at the end of this election. >> well, i mean, one of the-- one of the great failings, if you will, of the romney campaign was an inability to recognize what the shape of the electorate was likely to be like. one of the things we've seen election by election by election is the quite share of the electorate in a presidential election has gone down steadily as the country has become more diverse. and the romney campaign, i think, believed-- or wanted to believe that that might be at least reversed or even held steady, and in fact, the obama campaign-- i mean, i sat down with jim mussina the campaign
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manager in the spring and he said, "here's the demographics on election day." and he was exactly right. >> ifill: dan, you've covered a lot of elections -- not time you or date you in any way-- but this dthis one feel different for you in terms of how it will set the stage for elections to come? >> it felt different. i don't think i've seen-- everything changes from one psyche toll another. i don't think i've seen as many changes in one cycle as we saw between 2008 and 2012. i mean, we've talked about technology, and particularly the rise of social media, and specifically, the importance of twitter in the way it affects communications in politics. the role of the debates. descrbz always been important, but they took on an out-sized importance in this election. the saturday of "citizens united" decision and the aftermath of that creating super paks-- >> ifill: super individuals. >> super individuals who in the primary cases had the capacity or ability to keep alive candidacy that otherwise might have been forced to the sidelines for a lack of money.
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i think all of those are harbingers of where we're headed unless something significant happens. there will be new changes in 20 escape, but i think everybody is going to school on what happened in 2012 as they look to 2016 and get ready. >> ifill: dan balz, we'll talk more about this online. the name of the book is "collision 2012: obama vs. romney and the future of elections in america." not too big a topic. >> no. thank you, gwen. >> ifill: thank you. in gwen's extended conversation dan balz detailses the behind-the-scenes push to get governor chris christie to run for president. we'll be back with a look at concerns over babies using smartphones and tablets. first we are taking a pledge break, and we ask forthe pbs ne. i'm paul anthony along with patty kim. this brief break has a very specific purpose-- to ask you to take action and support outstanding journalism and this public television station.
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before we return to the newshour, let's take a look at our thank you gifts just one more time. pledge $75 or more, and choose the pbs newshour morning line mug. for a $100 donation, ask for the pbs newshour total coverage umbrella. or for a pledge of $150, you can choose both the mug and the umbrella. so please take this opportunity to call the number on your screen and support this station and the pbs newshour. we'd like to thank you if you called to make a contribution during this brief break. if you haven't made your call yet, there's still time to call the number on your screen and make an investment in the most trusted news source on television. thank you. and now back to the pbs newshour. >> brown: finally tonight, the latest thing in child-raising and technology: so-called "baby apps." software products that light up mobile device screens to keep young children occupied.
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some companies promote them as educational. but that's met some resistance, including from an advocacy group called the "campaign for a commercial-free childhood". it filed a complaint yesterday, asking the federal trade commission to step in. to tell us about the phenomenon and the debate, we turn to dr. michael rich, director of the center on media and child health at boston children's hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at harvard medical school. welcome to you. first, tell us about the world of apps for very young children. how much is out there, and what range of activities and experiences is offered? >> well, there are many, many apps out there for children, and they grow exponentially, really over just days, it seems, because what people have discovered is that a smartphone with an engaging app will keep their child busy and quiet in a restaurant or in a waiting area for-- in an airport, et cetera. so i think what we found is a very convenient electronic
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baby-sitter. >> brown: glou take us into the dispute, then. what are the claims of this advocacy group and others who are worried about what they see happening? >> well, i think this particular case echoes one that happened just a few years ago around infant d.v.d.s, or baby videos, like "baby einstein" in which the same group brought a suit with the federal trade commission against them for claiming that they were educational. their really is no evidence that these apps can teach a baby anything. in fact, the research over years on educational television and other electronic screens shows that babies really can't learn anything from a screen under the age of about 30 months. but i think what's happened is these app developers have recognized that parents are using their smartphones and their tablets to divert and engage their kids anyway and are
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providing something that feels to them less guilt-inducing in terms of distracting them. so if they can claim it's educational, even if it's not, they will get sales from parents who both feel guilty andment the best for their children. >> brown: what do they say, the companies say in their defense when they're pushed on something like this? >> they say parents and children like them and want them and will buy them. they don't dispute that there's no research on this, and interestingly, they don't do any research of their own, which is kind of ironic in a business that does a great deal of research on their products to find out how well they'll sell or how well they will do the job that they purportedly do. so i think that what we have here is a product that is designed to fill a void that's being filled with less-good material, if you will-- violent video games, et cetera-- if they
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don't step up and put something innocuous, but certainly not educational in that space. >> brown: has the research looked into the differences in so-called touch devices-- these are the tablets-- versus television, whether there's deferences in the response or the reactions from young children? >> the researcher is looking at it now. this is a field that is evolving so quickly, in terms of the technology and the capabilities of that technology, that research is not able to even keep up with the new developments. not only that, but what we're talking about here are outcomes that are two and five and 1015 years out in terms of how this interaction affects the way the child's architecture of their brain actually develops. we do know the stimulus they receive affects their brain architecture, and at least there's theoretical basis for believing that a software or an
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app that engages the eyes, the hand, and the mind at the same time may have more teaching ability than a screen that they passively watch. but the jury is still out on that. and the research is being done as we speak. >> brown: and does the research make interesting distinctions among ages, different ages? what do you tell parents of a very young child, up to a year, and then after? what are the differences? >> well, the american academy of pediatrics has now, for over 10 years, recommended against the use of screens in children under the ages of two, and as a pediatrician, i follow that. and i think that many parents do follow that mode. the problem is that, you know, these screens are so ubiquitous in our environment now, that the little kids are watching as their older brothers play on a handheld video game or watch as mom or dad is surfing around the net on an ipad.
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so i think that what we're seeing is that they are noticing that the kids are getting engaged with the material. the kid are being distracted and being quiet around this material so, they're using it anyway. the nice thing, if you will, about so-called educational apps is that parents don't have to feel quite so guilty about using them as the electronic baby-sitter. >> brown: and let me just ask you, briefly, if you would, yes, it's true, there are more of these-- these aplieps, these devices are uquick wittous. but these debates have been with us a long time. this is a very similar debate as in television. >> absolutely. and in television, we do know that the content of that television programming does affect how kids respond. if you were look at "sesame street" or other educational programs versus violence, you're going to see a difference in outcomes over time. and one would presume that the
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same thing will occur with apps. but what we're dealing with, with these very young children, is the fact that their brain is developing, and their brain is very, very different than the brains of even a child a year or two older, let alone the adultss who develop this software. and the fact of the matter sthis software is developed to sell to adults, not to two-year-olds or one-year-olds. and so all one has to do is convince those adults that this is good for their child in order to sell it. >> brown: all right, very interesting. dr. michael rich, thanks so much. >> thank you. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day: japan's cabinet discussed a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stem the rush of radioactive water pouring into the pacific. thousands of egyptians took part in rival rallies in cairo-- for and against ousted president
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mohammed morsi-- as muslims marked the end of ramadan. and a thousand firefighters in southern california raced to save hundreds of homes from a rapidly growing wildfire. >> brown: online, there's much more on japan's fukushima nuclear plant. kwame holman tells us about it. >> holman: from 300 tons of radioactive groundwater to $300 million. these are just some of the numbers to consider from the fallout of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the nuclear facility. see more of those figures on our world page. and tomorrow, join our politics editor christina bellantoni as she hosts a reddit "ask me anything" chat. find the details on our homepage. all that and more is on our website gwen? >> ifill: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on friday, we'll consider what bankruptcy means for already battered detroit. i'm gwen ifill >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with david brooks and ruth marcus, among others. thanks for joining us. good night.
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