tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS May 23, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday may 23: not guilty: the dramatic verdict in the case against the cleveland officer accused of killing two unarmed suspects after a late-night vote, the senate fails to extend a controversial domestic surveillance program. and, in our signature segment the potential dangers of transporting oil across the country by rail >> if we're sending 10 or 20 or 30 times as much oil down the track, that obviously increases the chances of an accident occurring. >> sreenivasan: next on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by:
corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support is provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios in lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thanks for joining us. protesters marched in cleveland today after police officer michael brelo was found not guilty on all counts in the shooting deaths of two black, unarmed suspects. brelo was among the 13 officers who fired 137 bullets at a car during and after a high-speed chase in november of 2012. once the suspects stopped, brelo
jumped onto the hood and fired 15 rounds into the windshield. 43-year-old driver timothy russell and 30-year-old passenger malissa williams were killed. this morning, judge john o'donnell spent nearly an hour explaining that officer brelo's bullets could not be proved to be the fatal shots beyond a doubt, and that the decision to fire his weapon was constitutionally reasonable. >> i find that by a preponderance of the evidence that brelo's decision to use deadly force against russell and williams was based on probable cause to believe that they threatened imminent, serious bodily harm to him and the other officers, not to mention the public. >> sreenivasan: one of the victims' family members had this response: >> but how can you get on top of this car and not be charged. and not be charged. you know what you did. >> i will never trust the cleveland police, the deputy sheriff, any police period, ever
again. i will never call them to my house for anything. >> sreenivasan: brelo's defense attorney held the victims responsible for the events and had strong words for the prosecution. >> the prosecution in this case spared no expense and in fact was ruthless. it was classically a case of david vs goliath. >> sreenivasan: cleveland's police chief told reporters that officer brelo remains on unpaid suspension while the department explores administrative charges. for more on the verdict, i'm joined from cleveland by "plain dealer" reporter, mark naymik. >> other people you have talked to and the places you visited today that knew about the verdict, what was their reaction? you know some is, well we expected it. now they may expect it because, you know identified their distrust of the justice system. others, you know thought, well, okay, that's what the evidence showed, but no one was surprised. no one voiced that to me.
they are disappointed, they are frustrated, they use it as a point to talk about larger issues in the city, obviously economic issues fine, and people want more attention paid to them and their issues, but nobody said 0 to me, wow, i am shocked. >> sreenivasan: the mayor, frank jackson called this a defining moment for the city. this zazi still on edge from tamir rice and there were scheduled protests for that, right? >> yes. in fact that is just one of one more major decisions that i think will test both the police response, the organized demonstration response, and kind of the residents patience, tamir rice over the last few weeks, that issue and today is the six-month anniversary since he was shot, that's why there were scheduled protests, that really seems to connect a little bit more than this brelo verdict, which now dates back to 2012, again, two people died, many people angry about it but tamir
rice, the idea of 12-year-old boy, many knew him, he was from a neighborhood on the west side, that one really has the emotional bunch that i think with this in the police chase and the shooting of timothy russell and malis is a williams that could spark a stronger reaction but right now it is very calm. >> sreenivasan: the chief of police said they are already planning to change their policy on high speed pursuits. >> and they have shown that in the last two weeks. we had a high speed chase that was called off and there were some criticism from the police union about that saying that, you know, we let these people go away. this was get away. it was managed well, nobody was at risk. they did get license plate information the next day they arrested that suspect. the city has been making that message a lot, that they have already changed policy, in reaction to that 2012 police chase that ended in the shooting. they are talking about the
changes they are making with so-called community policing and trying to connect with the residents. very important message to be extent right now at a time when people again are on edge and potentially ready to react. one of several. we have a department of justice consent decree that is being negotiated right now that should be done, in the next month or so. that will have a reaction. the tamir rice investigation is still not completed. that will have a reaction and whether they charge another potential flash point. >> sreenivasan: all right mark naymik reporter from the "plain dealer", thank you so much. >> thank you for having me. > >> sreenivasan: despite intense debate and a late-night vote, the senate rejected legislation that would have extended the government's domestic surveillance program. the key provision of the patriot act is set to expire at midnight on may 31. earlier, the house passed a compromise that would stop the n.s.a. from collecting all phone data, but allow the government to request specific records from phone companies, with a warrant.
but top senate republicans are divided and ended up rejecting the house version early this morning. >> this is a debate about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all the records, all of the phone records of all of the people in our country with a single warrant. our forefathers would be aghast. >> this is a high threat period and we know what's going on overseas. we know what's been tried here at home. my colleagues, do we really want this law to expire? >> we will do it. >> the recess for the memorial day holiday, mitch mcconnell is >> sreenivasan: the senate recessed for the memorial day holiday, but mcconnell is calling members back early sunday, the 31, just eight hours before the surveillance program expires at midnight. the house is not scheduled to return to session until after the deadline.
in california, a dolphin and three pelicans have reportedly been found dead near that ten- square-mile oil spill off the coast of santa barbara. veterinarians are still trying to determine whether the oil caused the animals' deaths. clean up crews have been trying to contain the spill since tuesday, when a privately-owned pipeline ruptured, sending 105,000 gallons of crude into the ocean. workers describe the oil slick as "thinner than a coat of paint" and say rough seas are further complicating the cleanup. u.s. safety officials ordered the plains all american pipeline company to suspend operations while they investigate the cause. general motors is reportedly facing a record-breaking federal penalty over the way it handled an ignition defect. that defect has been tied to at least 104 deaths. the "new york times" reports that the justice department has identified criminal wrongdoing in general motors' failure to disclose the defect. gm is expected to have to pay at least $1 billion to settle the matter. however, officials say gm is
cooperating with the investigation, which could reduce the penalty. the final settlement could be reached as early as this summer. in iraq, about 3,0000 pro- government troops are struggling to retake the city of ramadi, after islamic state militants overran it last weekend. the capital of anbar province is only 65 miles west of baghdad and the isis victory there is seen as a major embarrassment and strategic loss for iraq's leaders. so far, at least 500 people have died in fighting and a third of the city's population has reportedly fled. and in ireland, a nationwide referendum on allowing gay marriage has passed. officials say more than 62% voted yes. ireland is now the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage by popular vote. a group of farmers in california are making an unprecedented offer to help the state fight a record-breaking drought. they've agreed to give up a quarter of their water this season. joining me now is "sacramento bee" reporter dale kasler with more on the crisis. >> why strike such a deal with the players involved?
>> well, it is a group of farmers in the delta region which is an agricultural region southwest of sacramento. they were faced with severe water cuts as you know in the fourth year of drought the state has been cutting water use in the cities and suburbs and among many of the farmers, and now they are going after the farmers with -- with the so-called serial water rights water rights that were thought to be untouchable, and they came to these farmers and they struck a deal. the growers believe that the state department necessarily have the legal right to take any of their water but rather than fight it out they agreed to a compromise. >> sreenivasan: so what is their incentive in going this? giving up a quarter of their land or set letting some of those lands go fallow or a decrease in their consumption by a quarter? >> well the incentive if they don't cut a deal they could get dinged even worse. it is not exactly sure but the state is serious about cutting
backwater deliveries and who knows how much water he could end up losing if they don't make a deal. this is a voluntary program the individual farmers can either opt in or opt out and those who opt out, who knows how much of a cut they could be facing. >> sreenivasan: well, if it is voluntary how does the state enforce these cuts? >> spot checks. they are going to use satellite imagery to see if people are fallowing fields like they say they will. and the state also believes there will be a certain amount of peer pressure that if your neighbor said he is going to fallow his field and not divert water out of the rivers, that they think that people will go along. they believe they will get a lot of cooperation on this. >> sreenivasan: but what is the possible impact of this deal? you mentioned this is a group of farmers. how much water does their consumption represent of all of the farmers in california? >> well, in the grand scheme of
things not a lot. these farmers in the delta region represent, oh, something less than ten percent of all the irrigated farmland in california, and they are talking about giving up 25 percent of their water. so as you can see, it is not as if california will solve this water problem with a stroke of the pen. nevertheless, this is very important because it is a compromise, and water and compromise don't often go together in california. you have to understand, even if in a normal year, a wet year there is litigation over water in california. it is such a professionals commodity. there is always a tug-of-war going on over water supplies. there are entire law firms in sacramento and elsewhere that are solely devoted to litigating water law cases. so the fact that a significant group of farmers have stepped up and offered a compromise solution is a pretty big deal in and of itself and the state
officials are hoping that this leads to further compromise around the state as the water regulators start to go after these senior water rights holders around the state. >> sreenivasan: all right. dale kasler of the sacramento bee, thank you so much. >> thank you. >> >> sreenivasan: and now to our signature segment. the philadelphia amtrak derailment brought new attention to safety on passenger trains. it comes as federal regulators are also taking steps to improve freight rail safety, especially when it comes to trains that haul oil. the oil boom in places like north dakota has led to huge budget surpluses and created thousands of jobs. but because there are few pipelines in the state, much of the oil extracted there has to be sent across the nation by rail. now federal officials are putting new rules in place, ordering companies to strengthen older railcars.
this updated story originally aired last may. stephen fee reports. >> reporter: it was just after 2:00 p.m. on december 30, 2013, when the calls began streaming in. two trains had collided just half a mile outside casselton, north dakota; one loaded with grain, the other with crude oil. volunteer fire chief tim mclean headed straight to the scene. >> then, i kind of knew this was going to be a big one, the way it was described on the pagers. >> reporter: community banker bernie sinner was meeting with a client in his office. his window is just 50 feet from the rail track. >> you could see plumes of black smoke rising pretty high above the tree line, above the buildings that are across the street from us.
>> reporter: from the town's main intersection, witnesses could hear explosions as the railcars blew apart, sending fireballs into the sky. ed mcconnell was mayor at the time. >> they evacuated the southwest corner of town, the part of the town that was most affected by it. >> reporter: but once the wind turned, officials put the entire town of 2,500 under a voluntary evacuation order. some 400,000 gallons of crude leaked from 18 ruptured cars. the fire burned for a full day. >> there'd be no battling this fire even if you had an endless supply of water. >> reporter: both trains were operated by b.n.s.f. railway and, for the record, b.n.s.f. is a newshour funder. no one was killed or injured, but the accident hit close to home for the state's governor, jack dalrymple; he grew up in casselton. >> i couldn't believe it. i was having dinner, and, all of
a sudden, somebody sent me a video on my phone. and i said, "casselton?" i said, "i can't believe that." >> reporter: what did it tell you about what's going on, on the rails here in north dakota? >> well, it tells me and i think everybody the same thing. you know, what if that happened, you know, in... in a city or even in the middle of a town? you know, it could be really catastrophic. >> reporter: as mayor mcconnell says, his town dodged a bullet. but months earlier, a community in canada wasn't nearly so lucky. on july 6, 2013, a similar train, also loaded with crude from the bakken shale formation, derailed and exploded in the center of lac megantic, quebec, killing 47 people and destroying much of the town center. seven years ago, u.s. railways carried just 9,500 carloads of crude each year.
but today, as huge amounts of oil are produced in states like north dakota far from traditional pipeline infrastructure, that figure has jumped to half a million. and after a handful of oil train derailments already in 2015 regulators are taking notice enacting a raft of new regulations they hope will prevent future accidents. >> it's just not safe. >> reporter: don morrison runs the dakota resource council, a consortium of 700 landowners ranchers and businesspeople in the state. >> they didn't look down the road to figure out how are we going to get this to market in a safe way. >> reporter: most of the roughly nine million barrels of oil produced each day in the u.s. travels by pipeline, but 70% of the million barrels coming out of north dakota each day goes by rail. that's because most of the country's refining capacity is far from north dakota. that means north dakota crude has to travel hundreds of miles
to be processed into gasoline for cars or fuel for jet engines. and while pipelines require new construction and regulatory approval-- the long-stalled keystone xl a case in point-- freight rail already crisscrosses north dakota and the country. >> historically, you would have never thought oil would travel by rail in this day and age. >> reporter: ron ness heads the north dakota petroleum council. it's a group that represents the state's oil industry and supports hauling oil by rail. how safe is it? >> well safety is certainly the number one aspect that i think all aspects of the transportation industry are focused on. and at 99.7% of the time, you know, rail movements get to their destinations safely. >> reporter: actually, the rail industry says its safety record is even better, but just the tiny chance of a catastrophe makes policymakers like the governor uneasy, especially with north dakota's major cities and
towns situated directly on the rails. >> where we, you know, never remembered any kind of an accident like this before, now if we're sending ten or 20 or 30 times as much oil down the track, that obviously increases the chances of an accident occurring. and that becomes sort of a new reality that everybody has to get used to. >> reporter: part of the concern has centered on the type of railcars predominantly used to haul oil across the nation. since 1991, the national transportation safety board has warned that railcars like these, d.o.t. 111s, are more prone to rupture in the case of an accident. but it wasn't until a 2009 derailment in illinois that the railway industry began instituting its own, more robust safety standards to strengthen cars like these. after months of consideration,
federal regulators this may made the decision to phase out or retrofit all oil-carrying d.o.t. 111s by 2018, and new cars must be built to strict new standards to prevent rupture. >> our department's rule is a package of new, interdependent regulations that all come together to improve safety. they apply to what are our rule defines as high-hazard flammable trains. and they also build on the more than two dozen actions we have already taken to enhance the safe transport of crude. >> reporter: all told, the new regulations are likely to cost the rail industry some $2.5 billion. but even with new, stronger cars on the rails, critics argue north dakota crude itself may be more flammable than other types of oil, potentially leading to more dangerous accidents. again, dakota resource council's don morrison.
>> going through people, right next to people's houses and businesses. it's... it's dangerous, and they've got to be careful. >> reporter: with just over 60 inspectors nationwide, the dot's hazardous materials regulator has launched routine and surprise inspections to ensure oil is being properly tested for flammability. the d.o.t. has put oil companies on notice. last year, they levied fines against marathon and hess for allegedly assigning their oil to the wrong safety category. what is it that... that is distinct about this kind of oil that's coming out of the ground? >> well, we don't think the bakken crude oil is that distinct from any other high- quality, light sweet crude oil across america like w.t.i. or louisiana sweet. >> reporter: to prove that point, the north dakota petroleum council last may issued its own study, which it says shows oil from the region "does not pose a greater risk to transport by rail than other
transportation fuels." early last year, north dakota's republican party chairman suggested oil development may be moving too quickly. even with the fastest growing economy in the country, critics say it's time for a slowdown in the state's energy development. but the governor thinks that's unwise. >> ultimately, we do have to look at the statistics of everything. you know, we would not shut down the airline industry because there was one airplane crash, and we don't close our interstate highways because there's a car accident. >> reporter: meanwhile, mile- long oil trains rumble through towns like casselton, and despite reassurances, former mayor ed mcconnell is worried. >> it's a mechanical system, and any time it's used more, there's going to be more failures. it's just inevitable. >> reporter: oil production in north dakota is expected to climb 70% by 2020, and most of that oil will travel by rail.
>> this is pbs newshour weekend saturday. >> sreenivasan: returning to the topic of iraq and syria and isis gains in the region, i am joined now from baghdad via skype by "washington post" reporter loveday morris. >> so let's, it gets a lot of press because it is a world heritage site but there are also people and human beings there, what is life like now that isis is in control? >> the regime actually says when they withdrew they allowed the civilians out but that is not the case. there are still a lot of civilians trapped there. isis, as soon as isis came in they made announcement from the loud speakers of the mosque that those who collaborated and there were bodies pound in the street, people who were suspected to be opposition. >> sreenivasan: and any word that the relics in the u.n.
world heritage sites are in imminent danger? have there been any videos of them destroying artifacts? >> no, not as of yet and pal mera, they said isis aren't really there yet, they are much more focused on the western step, western depos and generally securing the town and getting a military grip. if you look at other areas they have taken in iraq where they destroyed antiquities it has not been for a few weeks at least and sometimes even months after they have taken areas that they have actually destroyed this cultural heritage. you sometimes notice that maybe when the very family when the story dies down, the release of the video will of them like destroying a heritage site, so it is possible we won't see any of that for a while but obviously there is great concern of the heritage. >> sreenivasan: loveday morris of the washington post joining
us live from baghdad via skype. thank you. >> >> finally tonight more than 37 million americans expected to travel at least 50 miles over this holiday weekend. the vast majority going by car, according to triple a, that's the highest number of folks traveling over memorial day in ten years. experts say the overall drop in gas prices is fueling the spike in traffic, some drivers are saving nearly a dollar per gallon compared to last year. that is it for this edition of pbs newshour. i am hari sreenivasan. thanks for watching. >> captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
>> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: corporate funding is provided by mutual of america-- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we are your retirement company. additional support is provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.