tv PBS News Hour PBS February 23, 2016 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> ifill: good evening, i'm gwen ifill. judy woodruff is on assignment. on the newshour tonight: >> for many years it's been clear that the detention facility at guantanamo bay does not advance our national security. >> ifill: president obama gives congress a plan to shut down the controversial guantanamo bay detention center, and congress pushes back. also ahead, republicans get ready for tonight's caucuses in nevada, one week out from super tuesday. and, the first in our two part series on how los angeles is working to improve its special education programs after a court case exposed a broken system nearly 20 years ago. >> what we've been working on for a number of years is to convince people that students
with disabilities are all of our responsibility. they don't belong to the division of special education. >> ifill: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> lincoln financial-- committed to helping you take charge of your financial future.
>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> 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: from president obama today, came a fresh appeal to "close a chapter" at guantanamo. from republicans, came an outright refusal. it all focused on a fight at least as long as he's been president. >> for many years, it's been clear that the detention facility at guantanamo bay does not advance our national security. it undermines it. >> ifill: for the president, it may be his final chance to keep a 2008 campaign promise: shutting down the military prison at guantanamo. >> it's counterproductive to our
fight against terrorists because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit. it drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running, and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward for less than 100 detainees. >> ifill: at its peak in 2003, guantanamo held 680 detainees. today, 91 prisoners remain at the detention facility. 35 are expected to be transferred out by this summer. the president's new proposal would send the remaining detainees to an unspecified facility inside the united states. it speaks of 13 potential sites, including civilian prisons and military bases, but makes no recommendation. >> the notion of having terrorists held in the united states rather than some distant place can be scary.
but part of my message to the american people here is we're already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the united states, because we threw the book at them. and there have been no incidents. we've managed it just fine. >> ifill: then-president george w. bush first ordered foreign terror suspects held at guantanamo, after 9/11. >> guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now. >> ifill: but, in one of his first acts as president, mr. obama signed an executive order to shut it down. today, he pointed out that early on, the decision appeared to have bipartisan backing. >> my predecessor, president bush, to his credit, said he wanted to close it. it was one of the few things that i and my republican opponent, senator john mccain, agreed on. >> ifill: but mccain and others have never backed this president's solution, and have even passed a law that would bar
transferring moving detainees to american soil. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell underscored that point today. >> we'll review president obama's plan. but since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in u.s. communities, he should know that the bipartisan will of congress has already been expressed against that proposal. >> ifill: presidential candidates also weighed in. democratic senator bernie sanders welcomed the president's announcement. and hillary clinton, has said she too supports shutting the prison down. but republicans, including frontrunner donald trump, roundly rejected the plan. >> heard obama talking about gitmo, which by the way we're going to keep it open and fill it with bad dudes. >> ifill: the president said he is "clear-eyed" about the tough odds he faces getting congress to agree with him. but the white house has not ruled out trying to close guantanamo through executive action.
>> ifill: we'll hear from senators on both sides of the issue, after the news summary. in the day's other news, senate republicans made it official: there will be no hearings and no vote on anyone president obama nominates for the supreme court. majority leader mitch mcconnell said nearly all of his members support that decision, and that he won't even agree to meet with a nominee. the announcement gave new life to the partisan war of words that has erupted over the future of the court. >> it's up to the american people in this next election, no matter who they choose to make the nomination for this important seat on the supreme court. justice scalia served for 30 years. so this clearly extends far beyond president obama's term of office. >> today's effort by senator mcconnell to get every member of the judiciary committee to sign a letter saying they won't do hearings is an effort to make this issue go away. it won't. the american people won't let
it. we won't let it. >> ifill: president obama has said he still plans to nominate a replacement for the late justice antonin scalia, and he's urged the senate to act. scalia died this month in texas, and the associated press reported today he had coronary artery disease, diabetes and other ailments. texas officials relied on those findings, by the supreme court's physician, in deciding against an autopsy. there may be new evidence that the zika virus can be transmitted through sexual contact. the centers for disease control and prevention said today it's investigating 14 possible cases in the u.s. all involve women whose male partners recently returned from places affected by zika. the virus has been linked to birth defects, and is typically spread by mosquitoes. the syrian government and its main opposition group signed on today to a proposed cease-fire, but with conditions. damascus said it will continue attacking terror groups, and the rebels insisted on an end to sieges and bombardments.
meanwhile, at a senate hearing, secretary of state john kerry acknowledged skepticism that any truce will hold. but said this is the only viable, diplomatic option. >> it may be too late to keep it as a whole syria if we wait much longer. so that's what at issue here and i'm not going to vouch for this. i'm not going to say this process is sure to work because i don't know. but i know that this is the best way to try to end the war and it's the only alternative before us if indeed we're going to have a political settlement. >> ifill: the u.s. and russia proposed the cease-fire. kerry said the u.s. is considering "plan b" options if it fails. the flood of migrants and refugees pouring out of syria and other countries and into europe has reached dramatic new levels. the international organization for migration said today more than 110,000 people have landed in greece and italy since january 1. it took six months to reach that total last year.
top u.s. military and diplomatic officials fired new criticism today at china's actions in the south china sea. the commander of u.s. forces in the pacific told senators that beijing is seeking hegemony over eastern asia. and he said newly installed missile batteries and radar systems on disputed islands pose a serious threat. >> in my opinion, china is clearly militarizing the south china sea, and you'd have to believe in a flat earth to think otherwise. these are actions that are changing in my opinion the operational landscape in the south china sea. >> ifill: secretary of state kerry also complained of "militarization" by china. later, he met with the visiting chinese foreign minister. the price of oil headed south again today, after gains in recent days, and wall street went down with it. the dow jones industrial average lost nearly 190 points to close at 16,431. the nasdaq fell 67 points, and the s&p 500 gave up 24.
and, chocolate maker mars has issued a candy recall, after finding bits of plastic in a snickers bar in germany. the recall includes snickers as well as milky way and mars bars, among others. it covers 55 countries, including germany, but the company did not specify all of the other countries affected. still to come on the newshour: the future of the guantanamo bay detention center. nevada votes in the last g.o.p. contest before super-tuesday. alarming, new predictions on rising sea levels, and much more. >> ifill: president obama's pledge to close the guantanamo bay detention center faced immediate roadblocks on capitol hill today. for two views on that debate, we turn first to republican senator cory gardner of colorado, one of the states where the administration has considered building a replacement prison. he joins us from capitol hill.
senator gardner, is the president's plan a non-starter for you? >> it's not obstruction from the capitol hill the president is facing. it's own law he signed that he's facing, which states that no dollars shall be extended to assist in the transfer of guantanamo a gun detainees to gitmo to the united states. >> ifill: so your objection is not to the closure of guantanamo per se but the shifting of detainees somewhere else? >> i think there are two separate questions. i think guantanamo bay is a tailor-made facility for terrorists and they should stay. i also think the law the president signed last year clearly states that the president shall not spend money to assist in the transfer. so the very law he signed prohibits his actions of transfer. >> ifill: what changed in this debate for people who have been watching it between what president bush believed when he left office and what president obama is trying to do now? >> well, i can't speak for anybody else, but i was in the state legislature in colorado, and i was concerned about
terrorists being transferred then from guantanamo bay to colorado. i made it very clearly as a state legislator during the presidency of george w. bush that there could be this transfer. so i have long held the view that we should keep the guantanamo bay terrorists in guantanamo bay and not in our backyards in colorado. >> ifill: let's talk about the price tag because taxpayers want to know about that. it costs about $445 million to keep guantanamo bay open to, maintain it. it would cost $475 million according to the price tag the president put out to build a new facility. doesn't it make more sense fiscally to try to build something new? >> i think there's a lot of wa's this president could cut spending, and if the president wants the cut spending, we can start cutting billions of dollars across federal agencies in wasteful spending, but for this president to say he's going the hide behind fiscal responsibility, and that's what he wants to close guantanamo bay for, i think that's just a misnomer. i think he's trying to throw a red herring out there while he's fulfilling a cam plain page.
>> ifill: what he said is a red herring is what you suggested before, that there's recidivism, that there is concern about security if you bring the remaining prisoners to our soil. what can you tell me about past evidence that this is true, that this exists? >> well, i think there is evidence of people leaving guantanamo bay, going back on to the battlefield. there is a recidivist count that we have seen and it's well documented. i've also heard from law enforcement officials, though. it's not just me. it's not just the coloradans i interact with each ander -- and every day. over 40 sheriff's in colorado have written a letter to the president of the united states saying don't bring these guantanamo bay detainees to colorado. don't bring terrorists back to the state. i have heard from federal law enforcement in colorado who are very concerned about what impact this would have on local communities, and so it's not justing? that a republican or democrat is saying. it's what we're hearing from law enforcement. it's what we're hearing from people at town meetings and in tele-town halls. people are concerned about the impact this would have on their community and their safety.
>> ifill: some of the president's defenders say he should use executive action to force this to happen, that it's unconstitutional for congress to stop the president from deciding where our military assets should be deployed. what do you say to that? >> again, i think congress has a right, as we did, passed a law. the president signed it, to state no money shall be expectedded. we have the power of the purse. this is something the president cannot overcome. if he tries to do it, this will end up in court spending millions of dollars that he's talking about saving now on a costly court battle because he wants to fulfill a campaign pledge. look, the president didn't put forward a serious plan today. he put forward eight pages worth of a document. the iphone user agreement is longer than eight pages. the plan he put forward to close guantanamo bay is less detailed than an iphone user agreement. i think that's what the president is trying to do with more of a talking-point document than an actual plan. >> ifill: senator gardner, while i have you, let me ask you
i have to ask my fiscally conservative republican friend, you really think it's right to spend $5 million a year on each detainee so you can beat your chest and have bragging rights about how tough we are? >> ifill: is this a moral fight we're witnessing or neither? >> i think what the president has said and i agree with, guantanamo has become a very
negative symbol of the united states. you see over and over again in propaganda films being used by terrorists those depictions of the early detainees in their orange jumpsuits. that inflames many people. the president is trying to put an end to that problem and that issue, and he's trying to do it with the help of congress, but unfortunately the republicans don't want any part of it. >> ifill: what seems to inflame politicians domestically is the idea that the president is leaving open the possibility of using executive action to force this action. how do you argue that that is even necessary or constitutional? >> i wouldn't assume that. you know, i think that's taking it to an extreme by some. the president came through and said to congress, join me in doing this together. we've seen the reaction from everybody involved. they don't want to join the president either to fill the supreme court nomination or to deal with guantanamo.
>> ifill: if those folks are worthy of being off the island, why not release them. >> because some of them are dangerous. about 35 of 91 the president believes can be safely transferred to another country, but some are too dangerous. they need to be tried. they need to be incarcerated. we need to keep our country safe. the president is not saying turn them all loose at all. he's very care informal choosing those that could be a danger to the united states. >> ifill: is the president closing guantanamo, is that moving the problem elsewhere? if international concerns about the treatment of these prisoners is the real one, why wouldn't those concerns continue to exist if this supermax prison was built in your home state, even though that's been ruled out apparently? >> guantanamo is a symbol. and much as we may not like, that it's being used against us. the president has said that over and over again. what he said is keep america safe. detain these prisoners where they can be held safely, but don't continue to spend $5
million a year per prisoner to maintain guantanamo. >> ifill: i have to ask you what i ended with senator gardner, which is this decision by the republican leadership not to hold hearings, not to even hold meetings with anyone the president nominates. this has never happened before. what's your reaction? >> there is no constitutional precedent for what the republicans announced today, not only did they say we won't consider the president's nominee, we won't have hearing, we won't have a vote, senator mcconnell, the republican leader, said i won't even meet with this nominee. that's never happened before in history. the constitution which we've sworn to uphold is very clear when it comes to article 2, section 2. the president shall appoint a nominee to fill a vacancy on the supreme court. and the senate shall by advice and consent vote on that nominee. those are not vague words. they're words that impose a responsibility on the senate, which the republican leader is ignoring. >> ifill: and we'll be following that story very closely, of course. senator dick durbin of illinois,
thank you very much. >> thank you, gwen. >> ifill: now to the campaign trail, where the men and woman who would be president are in the midst of a critical week. and as poltiical director lisa desjardins reports, they've already embarked on the all important hunt for convention delegates. >> reporter: if anything, the war of words between ted cruz and donald trump has heated up ahead of tonight's g.o.p. caucuses in nevada. the charge from cruz today, in fernley, nevada: that trump can't be trusted. >> look, frankly i don't care what position donald decides to support today or tomorrow or the next day. they change every day. i don't care what they are. but pick one and defend it and don't pretend, whenever people point out what you said-- oh! never mind.
>> reporter: but in sparks, nevada today, the frontrunner kept up his attacks, that cruz is the dishonest one... >> he's like a baby compared to some i have to deal with. he is like a little baby. soft, weak, little baby, by comparison. but for lying, he's the best i've ever seen. >> reporter: beyond charge and counter-charge, the fight increasingly has a new focus. the only race that matters-- the delegate count, where trump has a big lead. after the three contests so far, he's amassed 67 delegates, according to the associated press. that's far shy of the 1,237 needed to win the nomination, but it puts him well ahead of his two closest rivals: cruz, and florida senator marco rubio. rubio, though, is now riding a wave of republican endorsements. and in his final pitch to nevadans today, he stressed his ability to unify the party, and the country. >> if you make me president of the united states, i'm not going to tell you that everyone is going to agree with me, that doesn't even exist in my home. i am telling you that i will never divide you against each other to win an election. >> reporter: as for the
democrats, the name of their game is also the delegate count. after their first three races, hillary clinton and bernie sanders are just about even in delegates earned from votes, again according to a.p. analysis. but add the super-delegates. those are democratic party leaders who get an automatic convention vote. they've gone heavily to clinton so far, giving her a whopping delegate lead. sanders is pressing ahead, with delegate-rich super tuesday on the horizon. his first stop today: one of the states that will vote on march 1-- virginia. >> all over this country, including virginia, we are closing, closing, closing that gap. and with your help, we are going to win here in virginia. >> this is johnson controls. >> reporter: clinton, too, was looking toward the super tuesday states, making a splash on minnesota's airwaves. the target: a wisconsin company she slams for moving profits out of the u.s. to dodge taxes. >> it's an outrage.
when i'm president, when companies walk out on america, they'll pay a price. >> reporter: but first clinton and sanders make back-to-back appearances tonight at a cnn town hall, before facing off in the south carolina primary on saturday. democrats head to the polls on saturday. >> ifill: stay with us, coming up on the newshour: successes and hurdles in improving special education. how states are working to fight opioid abuse. and pushing boundaries through modern dance. but first, a trio of new studies provide new alarm about rising sea levels, and the prospect of further flooding along the coasts. among them: seas rose faster during the past century than at any point in the last 2,800 years. hari sreenivasan is here with more on this story.
>> sreenivasan: scientists say this is more definitive proof that human actions are contributing to sea level rise. already, coastal cities like charleston, south carolina and miami, for example, are facing more flood days than in decades past. the global climate conversation is working toward keeping temperature rise limited to two degrees celsius, and even under that scenario as this animation shows, cities like washington, d.c. and its well-known landmarks could look very different one day, albeit several hundred years in the future. one study estimated that sea rise could be as much as four feet higher by the end of this century under more dire scenarios. benjamin strauss is with climate central, a research organization that worked on some of this. benjamin, when you see your graphs at the very end, there's this almost hockey stick effect, what is it that caused that acceleration of sea level rise? >> the sea level is extremely sensitive to global temperature, and by burning fossil fuels and putting carbon in the atmosphere, we've heated up the
planet a great deal over the last century. >> sreenivasan: how do we know in these models, how do you build these models to figure out what sea level rise was like going back 2,000 years. there wasn't somebody with a stick saying here it is at 2.5 feet, here it is at 3. >> that's true. there was a lot of detective work involved. scientific teams around the world have been studying coastal marshes, looking for clues about where things grew at what times, and this body is special in that it went beyond each of the individual studies that we've seen in the past and integrated them all to put together one picture out of all of that detective work. >> sreenivasan: let's talk a little bit about impact. take a city like charleston, a low-lying city that is already facing some of these floods. what's it going to be like going forward say to the end of this
century? >> really the sharp increase in floods caused by us that we've seen over the last several decades is only just the beginning. we're a few inches into a problem that's going to be measured in feet this century. and i'm afraid to say we can expect floods and flooding to accelerate a great deal more, even in the next two or three decades than what we've already seen in the last two or three decades. >> sreenivasan: as we mention, the climate conferences that haen around the world, they're trying to figure out this two-degree celsius target, but your forecasts and your predictions and your models are showing that even at two degrees celsius there's a tremendous amount of increase in sea level rise and a lot of coastal cities are impacted by this. >> yes. in the long run, two degrees celsius warming probably is not... a lot of today's coastal cities are probably not compatible with that, whether you're talking about miami or shanghai or london.
but two degrees is a great deal better than our current path, so there's some solace in that and how quickly sea level rises will play a large role in how well we can adapt. i'd also say that if we can end up being more ambitious than two degrees celsius and cut warming down to 1.5 degrees in the long run, the impact there would be about half of what we could expect from 2 degrees celsius, so that last half degree makes a big difference. >> sreenivasan: this conversation about two degrees or half degree here or half a degree there, often it gets meyered in politics and lifestyle changes. you start thinking globally in different countries. i mean, reading your data at some point is an incredibly sort of sad and dire prediction. is there any way through this? >> yeah. well, it is sad, and it's a difficult line of work in a way,
but i take some solace. first of all, there's a lot we can do to adapt and to deal with change over time. and i take some solace in knowing all people are mortal. right? we still live our lives. we still have meaningful lives. there are some places on our coasts now which we now know are especially mortal because of sea level rise. it won't stop them from making contributions for the next decade or the next century, but over time we're going to have to either build tall walls and live beneath, you know, in the bottom a very deep bowl, which is a frightening prospect, or we're going to have the move. >> sreenivasan: already, ben strauss of climate central, thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you.
>> ifill: it's been four decades since a groundbreaking law known as the individuals with disabilities education act-- i.d.e.a.-- took effect. today, it helps ensure that more than six million students with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate public education. but in many places, it's been a struggle getting schools to comply with the law, and nearly a hundred class-actions have been filed. special correspondent john tulenko, with our partners at education week, follows the impact of one such case in california. that's part of our weekly tuesday night look at education, "making the grade." >> reporter: los angeles, california is the nation's second largest school system. and like other big cities across the country it's been the site of a pitched legal battle over special education. the story begins in the early 1990's with a student named chanda smith who was dyslexic and by high school could barely read. >> it's just like a bunch of words just scribbling on the paper. just everything just scribbling
or just, it was very overwhelming. my mom told the teachers and everything. but after the third grade i never got any help. >> reporter: now 39 and a mother of four, chanda continues to struggle with a learning disability. >> it affected me a lot. it's hard for me to get a job and i'm always having big worries because i have to take care of my family. and it's kind of sad because, when i have to go up to my ten year old, "can you read this for mommy?" you know, i have a grandson now. i want to be able to read him a story. and that's something that i can't do. i feel like it's been taken away from me. for what reason? so, you know, it's really hard and emotional. >> chanda was lost. they hadn't identified her. they didn't know where her records were. and so they weren't providing adequate service to her. they were virtually providing no services to her. >> reporter: chanda's story was a familiar one to david rostetter.
he's a court-appointed monitor charged with ensuring schools in los angeles, and elsewhere, comply with special education laws. >> i've had a lot of superintendents around the country-- i'll go to them and say, "you know, this is really bad over here. i mean, this is a budding lawsuit and it's patently illegal." and their answer will actually be, literally be, "i'll deal with it when we get sued about it. thanks for your advice, dave." >> reporter: that was the case for chanda smith. despite repeated requests for help, l.a. unified did nothing until 1993 when chanda's mother took action. and a single case of neglect turned into a class-action lawsuit that exposed a woefully broken system. thousands of students were not identified or mis-identified. nearly one third of all special education teachers were unlicensed. and procedures for tracking student records were nonexistent. the lawsuit pushed los angeles into a settlement agreement imposing federal court oversight until the problems could be fixed.
that was nearly 20 years ago. >> good morning to you. >> reporter: today much has changed for the district's 80,000 students with special needs. evaluations for services for example take less than 90 days. most special education teachers are certified. academic performance for students with disabilities has improved, and the graduation rate is up, although it's still short of the rate for students with disabilities nationwide. the biggest change, to sharyn howell who directs special education services here, has been in people's attitudes. >> i see a much different conversation than i used to see about our students. and it really is about people wanting them to perform academically and having expectations for them. >> what we've been working on for a number of years is to convince people that students with disabilities are all of our responsibility. they don't belong to the division of special education.
>> reporter: most simply need extra help and are already in regular classrooms. those with greater needs are just beginning to make the transition. in the last three years, the district's been moving these students from 18 special education centers into neighborhood schools like grandview elementary. >> what used to be two separate communities, now we've become one community, an integrated community. >> reporter: principal alfredo ortiz has managed an influx of new students from the school next door. >> we have mcbride, which is a special education center. >> reporter: mcbride was one of the schools exclusively for students with disabilities. it was separated by a chain link fence. >> and as you can tell, the fence has come down. so now we're one campus. >> reporter: 89 students from mcbride and other schools moved into grandview increasing its special education population by about 50%. most of the new students spend the majority of their day in classes like maria ventura's. she teaches eight students on the autism spectrum. to help develop their social
skills, every morning she invites kindergartners to her classroom for a shared lesson. >> this is circle time. as a kindergarten teacher i used to do that. and so when becoming a special ed, i collaborated with another kinder teacher and said, "you know what, bring me your kids so that my kids can use them as a model." now you can't even tell the difference between my kids and the gen ed kids because they've learned by watching their peers, oh this is how i need to sit in a class. >> reporter: looking around the room i noticed nearly half the students with autism weren't participating. you're bringing them together but maybe they're still staying apart. >> well, i can't force it on them. it's basically their demeanor and how they do it. for example, sean and austin and marigold they're much more open to change. depending on david's temperament if he's not having a good day, i don't want to force it. we slowly bring them in when they're ready. if we rush them then it actually goes against what we're trying to do. we wanted to make a good experience for them.
>> reporter: so it takes time. >> exactly it does take time. >> reporter: however grandview's elective classes are fully integrated including physical education, gardening and cooking. all this has been a huge transition for teachers. >> to meet everyone's need you know is, it's a lot of work, but we have a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist. and i work with the resource teacher to meet their needs. >> reporter: but it seemed some teachers were having to spend most of their time focusing on the students with disabilities. >> yeah, there are kids who demand extraordinary instructional time. and one of the problems that l.a. is experiencing is a lot of these regular education teachers and special education teachers are just learning how you do integration. >> reporter: it's still a work in progress, but principal ortiz says he's seeing the benefits.
>> it's amazing how the kids, their interactions have evolved. if a child needs help, we have gen ed kids that say, 'hey i'll take you', 'i'll go with you. it's creating leadership. >> go arlene! >> reporter: seeing all these children playing together was undeniably unique. i've never seen anything like that. >> that is a fundamental statement. you never saw anything like that because you didn't grow up and go to a school where that occurred. socially, people with disabilities, particularly people with physical disabilities have been erased from our environment. >> the more we get together. >> and so now these kids are gonna grow up with each other. and they're gonna make friends with each other. and hopefully we'll end up with a group of kids as they go into middle school and high school expect to be with each other. >> the happier we'll be. >> reporter: but not everyone's
happy with the changes. brandon, can tell me whether you understand me? brandon buschini is one of the few students still attending dedicated special education centers. his mother is fighting any plans to move him. >> the district tells parents that this is still a gift for their child and that they should be included, and that socializing them is important. and they really hang their hat on that versus educating them and providing what they really need. >> reporter: in our next report, fears about including students with the greatest needs and the unfinished business of fixing special education in los angeles.
>> ifill: now to the problem of opioid abuse and propopsals by governors to tackle it. judy woodruff has the story. >> woodruff: the dimension of the problem is becoming ever larger. the federal government reported that opioid, which includes prescription painkillers and heroin, were involved in more than 28,000 deaths in the u.s. in 2014. this past week leading voices at the national governors' association called for new limits for some painkillers like oxycontin, and for greater drug monitoring of those prescription drugs. the epidemic has hit a number of states very hard, including massachusetts, where more than 1,200 people died of opiate overdoses in 2014. governor charlie baker has proposed legislation that would limit practitioners from prescribing more than three days worth of opiates to patients when they're using them for the first time.
governor baker is the head of the health committee for the governors' association, and he joins me now. thank you for being here. how did this get to be such a high priority for you, governor baker? >> well, when i was campaigning for governor in 2014, i literally couldn't go anywhere without somebody having a story to tell me about this, and all the stories were for the most part stories that ended tragically in the death of a family member or close friend or a coworker. you hear this enough over and over and over again, and you start to realize it's everywhere. and when i took office, i talked about this in my inaugural address and said, you know, we have more people dying of opioid overdoses in massachusetts then car accidents and gunshots combined. four people a day. there has to be a better way here. >> woodruff: you propose a number of things to do about this in your state and through the governors' association. a big part of that is limiting to three days a prescription. how did you decide on three days versus two days or four days or
more? >> well, first of all, the overall proposal, and we have a good working relationship with our legislature on this. they've already done two separate bills on this and i believe they'll this a third, but it's a prevention and education piece, an intervention piece and a recovery piece. you got to do all of them. but on the prevention and education piece, we picked three days for the first prescriptions, sort of acute pain. you have a wisdom tooth out, you break a finger, something like that. our approach to this was to take the c.d.c. preliminary recommendation, which was three days. now, the mass medical society after we proposed three days proposed seven. >> woodruff: this is your state society. >> correct. that seven-day proposal ended up in the house version of the bill. they're now conferencing the two of them, but my gus is we'll end up with a limit on first prescriptions, which i think is a good thing. >> woodruff: i saw the national organization, the american medical association, i read their statement today. they're saying it's arbitrary and surrounding circumstances
are clinically vague. they say, how do you define major surgery? in other words, they're raising some questions about the three days. >> well, i think whether it's the c.d.c. three days or the seven days mass medical society, my view is we need to separate acute pain from chronic pain. there's no reason to give somebody who has their wisdom teeth out 30 pills. there's no reason to give somebody who has a minor procedure 60 pills. the stories about this that i heard still as i travel around the commonwealth are overwhelming. it's like an avalanche. remember, 5% of the world's population, the u.s., we consume 80% of the world's opioids. there's something inherently not right about that. >> woodruff: what are you hearing back right now from the pharmaceutical industry and from the medical immunity? >> well, the interesting thing is most of the practicing do cs i talk to, and i talk to a lot of them, tell me they believe having some limit on first prescriptions is a good idea.
the dentist i know feel the same way. and, in fact, we got the medical schools in massachusetts and the dental schools to incorporate for the first time a core requirement for graduation you have to pass a class in pain management and addiction, which has never been true before. there's a lot of interest in this issue and a lot of belief that something needs to be done on the part of the health care community. >> woodruff: i saw that president obama, that the white house said the president had declined to endorse the governors' association proposal. he said words to the effect, limiting prescriptions should be part of a comprehensive approach. sometimes painkillers are sometimes he said the only realistic treatment option for people in rural communities. what about that? >> well, i think his overarching measure of it being part of a comprehensive plan is correct. ours is prevention, education, intervention, treatment and recovery. i think you got the play with all those. he also said at this meeting, and i thought this was an
interesting perspective, as well. he said states are many times the laboratories of democracy. you folks should try a variety of different solutions, and if you come up with something that ends up becoming kind of the standard around the country and a whole bunch of states, then we the federal government might choose to just follow you, which i think is fine. >> woodruff: you mentioned other legs to this dual. what about the provisions to educate and train doctors, physicians differently? >> i think that's a big part of it. i hear from doctors all the time who tell me that they don't necessarily feel they've had the training that they should have on this. and most, you know, the three biggest prescribing groups currently can graduate from medical school without ever taking a course in pain management. there is no requirement that you take a course in pain management as an in-service part of your continuing education as a physician. we're trying the change that in massachusetts. i mean, this is a very complicated issue. i get that. but i think the more we can do to create an opportunity for
both existing soon-to-be doctors and dentists and nurses and physician assistants and current ones to get smarter about this, we should take. >> woodruff: what about the other part of the argument, governor baker, that so much of narcotic abuse, opiate abuse is on the part of people who are just stealing drugs, who just are addicts and they didn't get into it because of a bad prescription, but they have fallen into it and there need to be other methods to get to them? >> i certainly think treatment and recovery are a big part of. this we need to treat this as a public health issue. and in many cases for the disease that it is. there are a whole series of elements in what we're doing already in massachusetts and what we're proposing to do going forward that factor into that, as well. we're also working with a bunch of local pharmacies to make sure that they have drop boxes and where people can take unused medicine back and deposit it safely. there's no silver bullet to
this, but i also believe that we will never change this 25% per year increase in deaths, prescriptions and overdoses unless we do some things to disrupt this trend line. and i think you got to bring every tool to the table here, prevention, education, treatment, recovery and intervention. and if you're not willing to chase all this stuff in a pretty serious way, it's probably not going to get any better. so i'm not going to consider success to be taking the increase of deaths from 25% to 20%. i want the take that number and flatten the number out and start the drive it in the opposite direction. too many people are losing too many people. >> woodruff: massachusetts governor charlie baker, we thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: tune in later tonight for frontline's two-hour documentary "chasing heroin." it paints a larger picture of opiod abuse, from pharmaceutical companies push to popularize painkillers, to personal stories of heroin addiction. check your local listings for
the time. >> ifill: finally tonight, a dance company steeped in tradition takes bold new steps, and finds direction under a new leader. jeffrey brown has our look. ♪ ♪ >> brown: "revelations," a dance set to gospel songs and spirituals: over five decades it's become an american classic. ♪ ♪ and still the showpiece of the renowned alvin ailey american dance theater. it's opened the eyes and minds of many, including in the 1980s, a teenager living in one of miami's poorest neighborhoods. >> i saw myself. i saw possibility.
>> brown: years later, robert battle heads the company that helped change his own life. how did you see your task when you took over the company? >> wow, that's-- just to survive! >> brown: first, survive. >> first survive. >> brown: battle is just the third leader of a company that was founded by alvin ailey in 1958 as a troupe celebrating african-american culture. and then led to even greater international heights by judith jamison, a renowned dancer in the company who was tapped by ailey to take over. five years ago, jamison picked battle to replace her. >> i think she chose me because i think she thought that this was right for the company, that i would sort of push the boundaries of what people thought was possible. >> brown: in his prominent new role, battle has opened up about his own boundary-pushing, including in a new children's book: he barely knew his birth mother, was taken in by an uncle and
aunt and raised by a cousin. he was severely bow-legged as a child and wore metal knee braces until he was six. bullied in his dangerous liberty city neighborhood, he turned to martial arts for confidence. and then, and forevermore, to the arts: music and then dance. >> i think young people see people in certain successful positions, and they thing: 'i don't have the tools for that.'and what i'm saying is, you do have the tools for that. >> brown: what made you think you did? when you look back at that young child you were? >> i don't know. i always felt that i was guided. i always felt this sort of maybe, some people would call it this third eye. i always felt that the sense that i was looking down over myself within the context of the rest of the world. and so i had this sense that i was supposed to do something. i remember that early on, from growing up in church, watching the preacher preach. and something about that, and
watching the rest of the congregation respond and be uplifted. i wanted to do something like that. in fact, i used to imitate the preacher. i put on my bathrobe at home. my great uncle would always tape the services. and i would learn the sermon. >> really? leading the congregation, but also the performative side to that as well clearly attracted you. >> yeah. and what's interesting, the flip side, i was painfully shy, i didn't like school because i didn't like being sort of an extrovert, but when i took on these sort of roles i could be bold. >> brown: i'm thinking of the child wearing the leg braces, right, to straighten your legs, and then dance. >> yes. >> brown: take the braces off and start going... >> yeah, yeah, it's not enough to walk, you have to run, leap even, you know. often when young people say to me, you know, i want to be a
dancer, i want to be like that, i say, well, start where you are, start exactly where you are, if you want to be a dancer consider yourself a dancer, and move from that space, your imagination costs you nothing, but can cost you everything if you don't use it. >> brown: fast forward: the problem is how to leap into the future while holding onto the past. battle is doing this by bringing new dances to the company from a varied group of choreographers, including recently at washington's kennedy center, ronald brown's "open door," a vibrant latin-jazz romp. ♪ and a very different dance choreographed by battle himself, titled "no longer silent," set to the music of erwin schulhoff, a german composer who was silenced and then killed by the nazis.
>> sometimes i feel a little bit of guilt when i go to take my seat in the back of the theater to watch the audience consumer this work. >> brown: guilt? >> yeah, because i don't want to bring them down, you know. >> brown: are you also a little afraid of how they're going to accept it? >> yes. and i'm very sensitive to that. i see everything when i'm sitting in the back of the house. i can see if somebody's looking down at their phone, or somebody's tilting their head not in a way of interest, but in a way of saying, 'what's going on up there?' >> brown: you really sit back there and watch for this? >> i try not to. but i can't help it. >> brown: but this goes back to what we were talking about earlier, where you've got an audience, you've got a tradition, right? >> yes, definitely. definitely. and i have to make my own statement about how i see the world. i have to. in some ways i'd rather be silent. when i was a kid, i had a high speaking voice. and so every time i said anything people would laugh, the other students. "he talks like a girl," you
know. so i didn't want to talk in front of people. i'm still that person. but what i know is it is necessary. that i'm here for a reason, to tell stories that celebrate our common humanity. >> brown: robert battle says his newest dance, the first he's choreographed since taking over the company, reflects part of his own story. he calls it "awakening." the alvin ailey american dance theater is now in the midst of a 20 city north american tour, through may. for the pbs newshour, i'm jeffrey brown. >> ifill: you can hear more from robert battle about the connection between dance, history and contemporary social issues, that's on the artbeat page of our website, pbs.org/newshour. >> ifill: on the newshour online, our jobs guru follows up
on a column he wrote about employers rescinding job offers. it led one reader to ask: is it ever advisable to quit without giving notice? read this week's "ask the headhunter" for everything you should consider when leaving your job. that's on our homepage, pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm gwen ifill, join us online, and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
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>> this is bbc "world news america." >> funding of this presentation is made possible by the freeman foundation, newman's own foundation, giving all profits from newman's own to charity and pursuing the common good, kovler foundation, pursuing solutions for america's neglected needs, and hong kong tourism board. >> want to know hong kong's most romantic spot? i'll show you. i love heading to repulse bay for an evening stroll. it is the perfect, stunning backdrop for making romantic moments utterly unforgettable.