tv The News Hour With Jim Lehrer PBS August 5, 2009 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: good evening, i'm gwen ifill. on the "newshour" this wednesday: two american journalists return home from north korea with former president clinton; margaret warner takes us behind the scenes; the president defends his economic agenda; and
jeffrey brown looks at what's working and what's not. the senate debates sonia sotomayor's nomination to the supreme court. judy woodruff talks to senator charles grassley-- a leading republican negotiator on health care reform. and a report on the growing accumulation of garbage in the oceans. major funding for the newshour with jim lehrer is provided by: ♪ ( hard rock guitar riff playing ) >> we are intel, sponsors of tomorrow. >> what the world needs now is energy.
the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change. what is that energy came from an energy company? everyday, chevron invests $62 million 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. and the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: today was homecoming day for two american journalists
who spent five months behind bars in north korea. they'd been sentenced to 12 years at hard labor after being captured along the border, but were freed yesterday after former president clinton flew to north korea to meet with kim jong il. margaret warner has our lead story. >> reporter: the rescued and their rescuer landed early this morning at bob hope airport in burbank, california near los angeles. laura ling and euna lee were quickly overcome with emotion. ling raising her arms in joy and lee gathering up her young daughter, hanna. they were met plane-side by their families, colleagues and a throng of reporters and cameras. hours earlier, former president clinton greeted the women at the airport in pyongyang after north korean leader kim jong il ordered their release. it marked a successful end to mr. clinton's surprise, 20-hour whirlwind stop in the north
korean capital, which included a meeting, and dinner with kim. back on american soil today, ling spoke of their ordeal and its resolution. >> thirty hours ago, euna lee and i were prisoners in north korea. we feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp, and then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. we were taken to a location and when we walked in through the doors we saw standing before us president bill clinton. we were shocked, but we knew
instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end, and >> reporter: mr. clinton did not speak at the emotional reunion this morning, but his former vice president, al gore, did. gore is a co-founder of current- tv, which employs the two reporters. >> it speaks well of our country when two american citizens are in harm's way that so many people would just put things aside and just go to work to make sure that this has had a happy ending. >> reporter: president obama and his administration had avoided substantive comment on mr. clinton's trip while he was in north korea. but today, in washington, the president welcomed the results. >> i think that not only is this white house obviously extraordinarily happy, but all
americans should be grateful to both former president clinton and vice presi?ut gore for their extraordinary work. >> reporter: the president did not answer a shouted question about american policy toward north korea, especially on the stubborn issue of its nuclear weapons program. but mr. obama's chief diplomat, secretary of state hillary clinton, emphasized her husband's trip was solely a rescue mission. >> we have been working hard on the release of the two journalists. we have always considered that a totally separate issue from our efforts to re-engage the north koreans and have them return to the six-party talks and work toward a commitment for the full, verifiable denuclearization of the korean peninsula. >> reporter: white house officials insisted again today that mr. clinton carried no
message or apology from president obama to kim jong-il. they said the former president will brief the obama national security team shortly on what happened during his time in pyongyang. >> ifill: margaret's been following the story, and joins when did these negotiations to free these two journalists begin? >> warner: i'm told, gwen, from the time the two women were seized in march, the u.s., the special enjoy idea was certainly in the air. we all talked about it. and the u.s., through certain channels, like the swedish ambassador, north korea, and also the fact north korea has a permanent representative at the u.n.. that's called the new york channel. the u.s. actually floated some names such as al gore, such as big richardson, and former president clinton. but in the meantime, there was no answer. the two women were sentenced to hard labor. then they were heartened to hear at least they hadn't been sent to the camp, but less than two weeks ago, the two women in
talks with their families said the north koreans have told us if you send bill clinton they will grant us amnesty. general jones approached bill clinton on this, and he wanted to make sure that this would be for real. they worked the channels again, tried to make absolutely sure this wasn't a trap, that they were going to get bill clinton there and then humiliate him. once they determined that, the way was clear. they went to great pains, however, of the independence that the u.s. did not send the plane, a wealthy donor-- sglun why didn't we hear from paum on this or anybody in the administration until after the deal was done? there was an arm's length here? >> warner: because of what secretary clinton said, they wanted to be absolutely sure that the world knew, north koreans knew, that our parties
in knew. it has been a spring and summer of provocative actions by the north koreans on the nuclear front, a nuclear device tested. the u.n. has declared tougher sanctions on them. they wanted to keep that track separate. so though the state department and the n.s.c.briefed president clinton at the home he shares with secretary clinton here in washington just last saturday, president obama didn't speak until today, we have secretary-- unprecedented-- secretary of state clinton, and former president clinton. did she have any qualms that we know about, about this idea of her husband's incredible involvement? >> warner: i'm told by people close to her they do not believe she did. they were talking to them all along about how eager she was to get these two women out. she took this as a personal kind of mission. though she's worked hard to keep her role separate from her husband and make sure she's the
person in the government, once it became clear from the north koreans that he was the key to making the deal, as one friend said to me, "that's very typical hillary. she wouldn't let the psycho-babble stuff get in the way." >> we saw the pictures of the kim jong il with the president, very animated, appeared to be very engaged, a contrast of what we have seen of him in monthses. it had become conventional wisdom that he was weakened and on his way out. >> warner: the administration is reading it the same way we are. it was choreographed to present him as i'm back, i'm a world leader. i'm on the world stage. what that means for policy, they have no idea. and what they want to do is really debrief former president clinton. they consider him a very astute observer-- one, he knows the subject. he knows the north koreans, he knows the nuclear issue. >> that hasn't happened yet, the debriefing. >> warner: no, it has not. they only had very short brief
conversations, president obama and he, and either he or john podesta, who was with him, the former chief of staff, with the n.s.c. officials. whether it will be on a secure phone call when he gets back to new york or he'll come back here. >> they're certain after very carefully orchestrated this they have not given north korea an edge in larger discussions about nuclear weaponry? >> warner: yeah, they were confident of that. what i'm told is interestingly, the north koreans in the due diligence phase, when they were figuring out, is this for real, were not insisting at all is there be some link. of course they turned around and told their people that president obama had sent a message, which the americans insist is not the case. but, no, i don't think they're worried about that. and they have also taken pains to make sure the other partners in the six-party talks knew of this in advance, understood it is not undercutting the whole nuclear united front they're trying to present in any way. >> so this is not necessarily an
opening for everyone to return to the table because now we have had this great breakthrough. >> warner: well, that's the question. does it mean on the north korean's part-- after all, they're the ones who walked aeye from the talks and took all these provocative steps-- does this mean they're ready to come back? the u.s. hopes it does but they have absolutely no idea. in the meantime, they're working with, again, the partners, in the talks to what i'm told is come up with a different and tougher approach when and if talks resume, which is they've sort of concluded this step-by-step confidence building measure things isn't working because the north koreans can reverse it like that. if and when the talks resume, then we'll see what relative strength these side feels it has. >> margaret, thank you for all your reporting? >> warner: my pleasure. >> ifill: in other news today: secretary of state clinton took aim at graft and corruption at the start of an african trip. she made kenya the first stop on
her seven-nation tour, visiting a farm and later, addressing a conference of african leaders. clinton warned that economic progress in africa depends on rejecting corruption. she singled out kenya for failing to implement reforms after a violent election in 2007. in iran, president mahmoud ahmadinejad was sworn into office for a second term. outside the inauguration, hundreds of demonstrators protested the disputed election outcome. we have a report narrated by lindsey hilsum of independent television news. >> reporter: it was a subdued affair. president ahmadinejad walked in accompanied by the head of the judiciary and other senior clerics. but this ceremony was all about who wasn't there. many seats remained empty as two previous presidents stayed away, along with two former parliamentary speakers and most reformist m.p.s. state t.v. didn't show it, but others walked out when the
president began to speak. he swore on the koran to protect the system of the islamic republic and the constitution. in the chamber, foreign ambassadors, the british ambassador included, although gordon brown and other e.u. leaders haven't sent the customary letters of congratulation. >> ( translated ): nobody in iran is waiting for your congratulations, the iranian nation does not give importance neither to your frowns and threats, nor to your congratulations and smiles. >> reporter: some cheered, but it won't be easy for him to form a government, because even his conservative allies dislike some of the friends and relatives he has indicated he would like to appoint.
on the streets, protesters gathered. six weeks ago, they were calling for a rerun of the election. that's not going to happen. now, they're protesting against the system itself, and the militia and revolutionary guard will use brute force to guarantee mr. ahmadinejad's position. as they came up the escalator on the underground, they shouted, "death to the dictator." tomorrow, more protesters and those accused of organizing dissent are expected to appear in court, despite widespread allegations that they'd been tortured. president ahmadinejad will struggle to assert his authority as competing senses of power are likely to squabble over who controls the leaders of government. >> ifill: in a related development, white house spokesman robert gibbs backed away from his statement yesterday, when he said
ahmadinejad was iran's elected leader. today, gibbs said: "that's not for me to pass judgment on." he said iranians will decide if the election was fair. >> ifill: former congressman william jefferson has been convicted in a federal bribery case. the louisiana democrat was found guilty on 11 of 16 counts, at his trial in alexandria, virginia. he was accused of taking more than $400,000 in bribes while in office to broker business deals in africa. federal agents found $90,000 dollars in his home freezer. jefferson was defeated in his re-election bid last year. in economic news, a closely- watched survey found activity in the service sector was down in july. but the commerce department reported factory orders rose in june, for the fourth time in the last five months. on wall street, the dow jones industrial average lost 39 points to close just under 9,281. the nasdaq fell 18 points to close at 1993.
>> ifill: and still to come on the "newshour" tonight: the sotomayor senate debate; grassley on health care; and ocean pollution. that follows a report about the president's latest efforts to sell the stimulus plan and where that money is going. jeffrey brown has that. >> reporter: nearly six months to the day he first visited elkhart indiana, one of the cities hardest hit by the recession, president obama returned. this time, to tout the success of his stimulus plan. >> it is great to be back in indiana. ( applause ) >> reporter: mr. obama spoke at the navistar r.v. factory in nearby wakarusa-- about 100 miles east of chicago. the area is known as the capital of recreational vehicles, but as gas prices soared and the economy bottomed out, elkhart's unemployment soared. it's now nearing 17%-- much higher than the national average
and a 10% rise from the year before. >> this area has been hit with a perfect storm of economic troubles. the elkhart area has experienced the second-greatest increase in the rate of unemployment in the country, up 10 points in a year. it's an astonishing statistic. and there have been times where nearly one in five people in this area have been looking for work. >> reporter: today, amid a continuing debate over the effectiveness of the stimulus money so far the president unveiled new grants that he said can help rebuild the economy in elhkart and around the country. >> innovation is more important than ever. >> reporter: mr. obama announced a $2.4 billion investment in electric vehicles and advanced batteries. >> with these investments, we're planting the seeds of progress for our country and good-paying, private-sector jobs for the american people. right here in elkhart county, navistar, which has taken over
two monaco coach manufacturing facilities, will receive a $39 million grant to build 400... ( applause ) ... advanced battery-electric trucks with a range of 100 miles... ( applause ) ... like the trucks there today, right there. ( applause ) you know, just... just a few months ago, folks thought that these factories might be closed for good. but now they're coming back to life. >> reporter: it's one small part of the administration's $787 billion american recovery and reinvestment act, the largest domestic-spending effort in u.s. history. >> indiana is the second-largest recipient of grant funding, and it's a perfect example of what this will mean. >> reporter: the city of elkhart has already been promised some $14 million in federal stimulus money-- for improving roads, an airport runway and a sewage treatment plant. >> we need a vision. >> reporter: vice president biden was also on the road today, defending the stimulus
plan-- part of an overall effort by the administration this week that's included cabinet officials. >> brown: we take a closer look now at some of the stimulus spending and where the money's going. michael grabell is the lead reporter covering the stimulus beat for pro-publica: an independent, non-profit news website that features original and investigative reporting. welcome. >> thank you. >> brown: one issue you've just looked at is whether the money is going to communities most in need, places like elkhart, and it sounds like you found a mixed picture. >> we did. what we did, we were able to get put together a database of nearly all the contracts, grants and loans that have been awarded so far in the stimulus package, and we found kind of a mixed picture. there are some really hard-pressed counties that are get a lot of stimulus money, and there are some really hard-pressed counties that are getting very little at this point. a perfect example of this is trig county, kentucky.
it's an area that saw its unemployment rate going to 15.8% last month. as a result of sort of this spiraling of the auto industry crisis. they had a car seat manufacturer that went out of business. and they in turn now have received about, you know, a large road project, forest service contracts. they received a biomass facility funding for a biomass facility. and it works out-- if you tally it all up-- it works out to about $2400 per person. on the other end of that is la grange county, right next to elkhart, hit by the same r.v. having. it says the same unemployment rate as trig county, but it's only getting $33 a person, pretty much nothing more than the education and rural housing funds that every county is getting. >> brown: so when you ask the white house or the administration for an explanation of what looks a little bit like a haphazard process here, what's the explanation?
>> they say that at this point, a lot of the money that has gone out has gone through existing channels, these existing formulas that we have in our government. and as time moves on, some of these more discretionary programs, like the one we saw today for grants to develop advanced batteries, are going to be awarded. >> brown: so the intent is try to target places like elkhart-- or at least even it out, to places like that getting most of the money? >> right. i think that's one of the attempts that they sort of talked about all along is making the money seeps down into the hardest hit communities. >> brown: when you look more broadly at the stimulus money, what kind of projects, or categories have been funded at this point? >> about $17 billion worth of highway projects. we have seen a lot of money showing up for pell grants for low-income chronicle students. the grants for nuclear cleanup.
we saw the artss grants have gone out. we've been looking at housing assistance, and some of the title i money, education grantss that go to the school districts thut states. >> brown: and how much of the overall package has been spent to date? >> about 190-- i'm sorry, $70 billion has been spent to date. there's another 120 that hasn't been obligated, and we were able to look at about two-thirds of that, which is pretty much everything that they have reported awarding at this point. >> brown: there were always questions about how quickly you could spend this money and how quickly it will be spent. what have you found? >> well, it's really interesting because this has become the debate now secretary stimulus going-- you know, going too slow to really have an impact? and what's happened is there's sort of a natural lull right now in the stimulus package where stuff is-- products are moving through the contracting process. there was some expectation at
the beginning, if you remember, where the things we were hearing every day we don't pass a stimulus package, the-- thousands of people are losing their jobs. so i think the american public sort of expected that to mean that the stimulus package would be spent really quickly, but if you look back to the independent estimates from the congressional budget office, this is kind of how it was intended to move and that most of the money was going to be spent in this quarter, next quarter, and the first quarter of 2010. >> brown: another big question, of course, was how many jobs would be created through money like this. how hard is it to even count or figure out where the money goes to what particular job? what have we found? >> it's extremely difficult. the number we keep hearing is the stimulus package will create 3.5 million jobs. and we're about to hit the six-month mark, and pretty soon, unless they change the estimates we're going to be hearing that the stimulus package has created
or saved 750,000 jobs. this is based on a little bit of economic guesswork. the counting of the actual jobs is much more difficult. right now we don't know how many jobs have been created. there is-- the best estimate we have has come from a congressional committee and that's in the house of representatives. and they're reporting 48,000 jobs. when our reporters looked at it, they did some truth squadding on it and went back and asked them how many jobs you have actually created, and it was actually somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,000 because they were counting if a construction worker works one week on a paving project and then that project's done, and the next time he takes another job that takes two weeks, that's a job. if he goes, now he has a product that's going to last three months, now that's,un, three jobs they've been counting, where in reality he's had one job-- he's had a quarter of the year of work.
>> brown: so in the meantime, though, all of these things, like the number of jobs and speed of it, where's it although going, clearly you've been covering, this clearly is now bubbling into a political debate? >> exactly. what we were hoping to do with this story that we have out today is to really put some, you know, data and analysis behind it because so much of this has been based on anecdotes or smaller pots of money that we examined. this right now is the most comprehensive that we can get in the information that has been put out by the administration to look at where the money is going and is it seeping down to those hard-hit communities. >> brown: michael grabell from pro-publica, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> ifill: you can find out how much stimulus money may be going to projects in your state at pro publica's website. and you can link to pro publica from newshour.pbs.org. >> ifill: the senate spent the
day debating the supreme court nomination of judge sonia sotomayor. "newshour" congressional correspondent kwame holman has the story. >> reporter: as the debate over her nomination to the supreme court reached its last hours, judge sonia sotomayor's confirmation appeared imminent. nearly all senate democrats have expressed their intention to vote for her and at the end of today's debate, at least seven republicans said they will vote to confirm. they include retiring senator kit bond of missouri, who announced his support today, but also took the opportunity to criticize then-senator obama for rejecting republican-nominated judges. >> i could easily say as senator obama said that i disagree with the nominee's judicial approach and that allows me to oppose the nominee of a different party. luckily for president obama, i do not agree with senator obama. for my liberal friends i hope they remember this day, when another qualified nominee before the senate who is conservative, the standards set by senator
obama should not govern the senate. >> reporter: florida's mel martinez also is retiring next year and is the senate's sole hispanic republican. he, too said he'd vote for sotomayor despite disagreements with her, particularly her ruling in a gun rights case. >> i believe her view as expressed in her panels, maloney versus cuomo opinion of whether the second ammendement applies against state and local governments, is too narrow and contrary to the founders intent. but the confirmation process is not the proper place to relitigate this question nor is judge sotomayor's judicial record on this issue, outside the mainstream. >> reporter: but sotomayor's republican opponents, including richard burr of north carolina, said her ruling in that very case cast doubt on her promises to adhere to settled law.
>> i believe that she bent the constitution when she ruled in the maloney case that the right, the right to bear arms was not a fundamental right of the american people. >> reporter: on the opposite side of the aisle, democratic women took to the floor to herald the prospect of the nation's third female supreme court justice. >> she's been clear with me, with the judiciary committee and the american people, that her own biases and personal opinions never play a role in deciding cases. more importantly, her seventeen years on the bench stand as a testament to that fact. >> reporter: new york's kirsten gillibrand emphasized that while sotomayor's nomination is historic, her background and gender are less important than her record. >> sonia sotomayor's ethnicity or gender alone does not indicate what sort of supreme court justice she will be. rather it is judge sotomayor's experience and record that more fully informs us. the breadth and depth of judge sotomayor's experience makes her uniquely qualified for the supreme court.
>> reporter: outside the capitol, leaders of major civil rights groups-- including the national council of la raza-- rallied in support of sotomayor's elevation to the nation's highest court. and they pledged that a vote against the supreme court's first hispanic would not be forgotten. still, republicans-- even those from states with growing latino populations-- remained concerned that sotomayor would become an activist on the bench. >> judge sotomayor's appearance before the judiciary committee did little to dispel my concerns. in many cases, her testimony exacerbated them. >> the question is will she be the judge she has been as a lower court judge, making decisions which by and large have been in the mainstream with some notable exceptions which i've talked about, or will she
be untethered? will she be the judge sotomayor of some of her more radical speeches and writings, which cause me concern? >> reporter: the senate is scheduled to vote on the judge's nomination tomorrow. >> ifill: this is pledge week on public television. we're taking a short break now so your public television station can ask for your support. that support helps keep programs like ours on the air.
>> ifill: the senate push for a bipartisan approach to health care reform has involved a running series of closed-door meetings involving lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. judy woodruff goes behind the closed door. >> woodruff: it's six members of the senate finance committee who've been conducting those meetings, the only place where democrats and republicans are still negotiating with each other over health care. since in the past two weeks, we've heard both the president and the speaker of the house, nancy pelosi, make the case for reform from the democrats' point of view.
tonight, we get the views of the senior republican, sitting in those sessions: charles grassley of iowa. he joins us from capitol hill. senator grassley, thank you for talking with us. >> i'm glad to be with you, judy. >> woodruff: since it's been announced you're group is not going to reach an agreement before the senate goes into august recess, just how far apart are you? how wide is the gap? >> well, it's pretty hard to quantify but i think we're all committed to making sure that it gets done right. you gotta understand that artificial timelines just don't work when you're dealing with life and health-- life-and-death issues and that's who health care is about and when you're dealing with one-sixth of the economy is needs to be done carefully and cautiously and done right. and that's what we're all committed to doing, and we work at it a little bit every day, and we want it done right. >> woodruff: senator, you've said-- you made it pretty clear
you're against the2d public optn the government plan to provide insurance to those people who don't have it now,. how strongly do you feel? are you basically saying under no circumstances a public plan? >> well, first of all, the public plan you're talking about is just one step towards a government takeover of our health care system that i'm not going to go along with anything that ration health care. what we've got to do is make sure that people that don't have health care have health care. so as long as our principles are to make sure that everybody's covered and it's affordable and we do away with the discrimination that comes from preexisting conditions and we make it possible through community rating so people can afford health insurance, then you see the intellectual argument for a government-run plan is out the window. it's not needed when you adopt the principles that we're adopting.
and we're going to provide this through the private health insurance system so that people have choices. people don't want one plan. they want choices. and they ought to have choice, and that's where we're headed, and that's why we don't want a government takeover of health care. >> woodruff: so do you think president obama is-- when he says he doesn't believe that a public plan would lead to a government takeover, do you think he's being deliberately misleading? do you think he's naive? how do you explain that? >> well, he hasn't studied the reports and the think tank papers that are out there that says when you have a government-run plan because the government is not a fair competitor. it's not a competitor. the government is a predator. and when you have a predator out there, luin, the think tank we quote most often, says 120 million people are going to opt out. those 120 million people then aren't going to be able to have what the president promised them they could have.
if they want to keep the insurance they have, they ought to be able to keep it. and that's the principle i'm for and we need to stick by these basic principles, and i don't agree with much the president proposed during the last election. but when he said people ought to be able to keep the insurance they have, i think i agree with him, and that's where we're headed. and a government-run health insurance program would detract from that very definitely. >> woodruff: senator, you said a minute ago you didn't want to see something that would lead to rationing of health care. some would argue-- many would argue-- we already have rationing in that insurance companies make decisions about the care people can receive. the care people receive is based on what kind of coverage their employer provides them. >> well, okay, well let's see-- at least today-- if you don't like the insurance company you have, you can go get another insurance company. you're not stuck like they are in england. i heard a member of the european parliament speak today to some
of nuts congress, and he spoke about the shortcomings of the british health care system, and he says if you don't want to have delay and denial of krar, you can go buy private health insurance, and the 10% of the people that are richest that don't want to stand in line forever, then they buy it. but the government-run program's got one in four million employees over there and half of them are bureaucrats. we don't want to do that in the united states. we've got a good health care system. we want to keep it. you're saying people can't get care. well, you can change or in the case where you can't afford it or you're discriminated against, we're going to solve that problem. >> woodruff: senator just a couple of quick qedz. one is another alternative that's been discussed is the so-called cooperative, which would would be another way of providing health coverage for those who don't have it. is that something you would consider?
>> oh, of course i would. if they want to do it the way that we've known co-ops operating in the private sector, not run by the federal government, and our-- all of their existence to the consumers that use them, the consumer members, i think promoting that kind of competition is the very best kind of competition. >> woodruff: senator, two things on getting something passed or not. the president is now saying over the last day or so that as much as he wants a bipartisan solution, as hard as he's worked for it, that if he can't get the most important element, he would be prepared to go in another direction. in other words, to go with a democratic-only solution. do you think he's worked hard enough for a bipartisan solution? >> i think that he's torn between two camps. he wants a good health care system. he'd like to have it be bipartisan, but he's got so many people in his political party,
as evidenced by a vote in the senate health committee, when a majority of the democrats voted for a canadian-style single pair he's got so many people that are torn in the other direction that he's got to satisfy both camps and it's difficult to do. i think what we all have to do is accept certain principles and live by those principles, and principles can't be compromised. >> woodruff: one other thing, senator, we are seeing a number of reports lately about sttzs-- citizens and some organized groups showing up in different congressional districts angry, accusatory, raising the temperature, and in some cases, some ugly scenes out there around the country, and the expectation is this may get worse over the month of august. do you worry that that sort of thing could make agreement here in washington impossible? >> no, not at all. listen, what we're doing here in washington to redirect the health care system, so more
people get served, so we don't have a government takeover, so that we cut costs, and not have more deficit spending, those are good principles, and if we do those things and they don't meet the test of grass-roots public opinion in america, remember, this is a democracy. we shouldn't be doing them anyway. so i'm going to have 20 of these meetings throughout the state of iowa. i invite ioans come in and i want to listen to their opinions. i want to answer their questions and it's mawe're talking about doing. and i'm against the pelosi bill. i'm against the kennedy bill. i hope i can be for a bipartisan bill. i won't know until we get it developed. but if i can't defend that, then we shouldn't be doing it, or any plan, the pelosi plan or the kennedy plan or the obama plan. >> woodruff: senator charles grassley, we appreciate your answering our questions. thank you so much. >> thank you.
>> ifill: finally tonight, the problems created by trash floating in the pacific ocean. here's an encore of a spencer michels science unit report. >> former owner of the a furniture repair business in long beach, california, and an amateur scientist, surprised the scientific world with the discovery he made in the middle of the pacific ocean. while sailing his research vessel back from hawaii in 1997, he ran into what he calls a vast garbage patch in a calm part of the sea. >> every single day for that week we saw trash every time we came on deck. i think it's fair to say that the phenomena exists from just off the coast of china all the way to a few hundred miles from the coast of california. >> reporter: using a mantotrol
to skim the water, he and his crew found a ton of trash in an area called the norpacific giant that is off the main shipping and sailing routes. among the junk-- umbrella handles, cigarette lighters, ropes, thousands of toothbrushes. >> these are from hawaii, huh? >> they're from asia, probably. here's a brand i don't recognize. >> reporter: most of the trash moore found was plastic. he and others believe that plastic is washed downrivers into the pacific, then carried by currents past central america by guam and the philippines, on towards japan, picking up more deprix all the time. it then flows east into the gyre a garbage patch estimated by scientists to contain 3.5 million tons of junk. >> it's a very circtous group taking five years. >> reporter: once there, it gets stuck. >> you get the toilet bowl
effect of dragging the debris from the rim and bringing it into the center. >> reporter: the problem with plastic is that it doesn't biodegrade. it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, down to the size of grain of sand, bite size for fish and birds. moore worries that plastic is entering the food chain. he's found six times more plastic than plankon, tiny plants and animals, in some trawls, and inside the fish he catches. >> we're starting to find more plastic than natural food in some of these fish. in fact, over 50% of the over 500 fish we've opened up have had plastic in them. >> reporter: an estimated one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from eating or becoming entangled in debris, most of it plastic, according to the pacific marine mammal center. but so far, despite work at moore's laboratory, he can't prove his suspicion that the plastic is killing fish and sea
birds. >> that's from an albatross. >> reporter: scientists at the university of california at santa cruz are studying how much plastic albatross eat and then pass on to their offspring. albatross are large sea birds that cover thousands of miles calf anging for food. millions of them live in the northwest hawaiian islands, a national marine stangueary where bill henry and mia finkelstein collect saemps. they examine the indigestible stomach contents of albatross chicks. it's a messy but revealing undertaking. >> their body cavities are stul of huge chunks of many types of plastics from toothbrushed to bottle caps to needles and syringes. they can't get them out. and it's heartbreaking. >> reporter: finglestein is focusing her research on the
toxicity of the plastics. >> the concern is these plastic compounds leach toxic material. there's not a lot of research that's being done for albatross, at least, of how many birds die of plastic ingestion. it's a very difficult question to answer. >> reporter: henry is studying the flight baths of the birds over the pacific gyre to try to determine where they are ingesting the plastic. >> the plastic is aggregated in the same spots their food has been for years. they cover so much ocean, when they bring back can really tell us something about what's going on in the ocean. >> reporter: the national oceanic and atmospheric administration would also like to know what's going on. holly bamford, who directs the agency's marine debris program, isn't sure what to make of charles moore's research. >> there's a lot of stuff out in the ocean, and plastic being one of them. the question is, is the so what
factor? what is it actually doing to the organisms? what is it actually doing to the sea birds? is it actually collecting contaminants? is it going up the food web. the convergent zone and the debris located there is not twice the size of texas or twice the size of the united states. at least a cohesive mass upon. i do believe there is debris out there in various hot spots. there are also cold spots. >> reporter: a few federal and state laws plus international treaties have targeted marine debris but enforces it in difficult, spotty, and largely ineffective ways. as for solutions, moore, for one doesn't think the ocean can be cleaned up. >> it's just too large an area. all the fishing fleets of the world, would not even make a dent in it. >> reporter: but moore intends to keep sailing into the gyre to document the danger.
he says he's already achieved one goal-- to alert the public and scientists to a problem that previously was receiving scant attention. >> ifill: this week a crew from the university of california's scripps institute of oceanography set out on a voyage to find out more about the size, contents and impact of the garbage patch and perhaps even how to clean it up. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day: american journalists euna lee and laura ling arrived back in the u.s. after five months behind bars in north korea. and iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad was sworn into office for a second term as hundreds of people protested. on newshour.pbs.org >> ifill: we'll see you on-line and again here tomorrow evening. i'm gwen ifill. thank you and good night. major funding for the newshour with jim lehrer is provided by:
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