tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS January 24, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm EST
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday, january 24th: isis executes a japanese prisoner it was holding in syria. unrest in yemen deals a blow to american counter-terrorism efforts in the region. the fighting in ukraine intensifies. what is russia's role? we'll hear from a "new york times" reporter there. and in our signature segment-- unable to find work and being forced into poverty because of a criminal record. >> i did my probation. no violations. model citizen. it's like every time i apply for a job, i feel like i'm committing a crime all over again. >> 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 mtj station from viewers like you. thank you. from the tisch wnet studios in lincoln center in new york, hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: good evening. thanks for joining us. isis has executed one of the two japanese hostages it was holding in syria. images released online today by the islamic extremist group purportedly show the beheading of haruna yukawa, a 42-year-old unemployed man who went to syria in july and was captured the next month. the japanese prime minister,
shinzo abe, called the execution, "an outrageous and unforgivable act." isis is threatening to kill the second japanese hostage kenji goto, a 47-year-old journalist, unless jordanian authorities release a man they are holding. isis had previously demanded that a $200 million ransom be paid. following the collapse of the government in yemen, efforts by the c.i.a. and the u.s. joint special operations command to combat terrorism reportedly have suffered a setback. the "washington post" reports that the obama administration has been forced to suspend certain operations because of losses suffered by government forces there. those forces helped american drones target extremists. you'll recall that the recent terror attacks in paris were organized by al qaeda in the arabian peninsula which is based in southern yemen. spain today announced the arrest of four terror suspects. authorities described them as" highly radicalized and highly trained." the two pairs of brothers, were taken into custody in the spanish territory of sayota, which borders morocco.
a police official said they were of moroccan origin but held spanish citizenship. he said there were many parallels with the brothers who attacked the offices of the french satiric newspaper "charlie hebdo." a 19-year-old from a denver suburb has been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that she tried to help isis. shannon conley was arrested in april while trying to board a plane for turkey. she had planned to continue on to syria to marry a fighter there whom she had met online. the judge, who imposed the sentence, said it was meant to deter others from trying to aid the terror group. the president and first lady left today on an official visit to india. even before they departed, the white house announced that the trip would be cut short so the president can visit saudi arabia on the way back, to pay his respects and offer condolences to the family of the late king abdullah and to meet with his successor. in ukraine, at least 29 people were killed and almost 100 others wounded after a barrage of rockets fired by pro-russian
rebels hit a crowded, open-air market and a nearby neighborhood. the incident occurred in the port city of mariupol, near crimea. that's the area russia forcibly annexed last spring. fighting intensified this week and the rebels announced a new offensive, even though a ceasefire was announced last september. the fighting in eastern ukraine near russia has claimed more than 5,000 lives. we'll have more on the escalating conflict in ukraine later in the program. gas prices continue to plummet. the a.a.a. reports that gas is now being sold for under $2 a gallon at about 60% of gas stations across the united states. the average price is about $2.04. that's the least expensive it has been in six years. the department of energy predicted last week that the average american household will spend about $750 less on gas this year compared to last. two marines have been killed in a helicopter crash during a military training exercise. the incident occurred late yesterday afternoon at the base in twentynine palms california about 120 miles east of los angeles.
authorities are investigating the cause of the crash. peggy charren, has died. her decades of activism led to passage of a federal law requiring tv stations to air educational programming for children. she said her campaign had been inspired by watching what she described as "wall-to-wall monster cartoons" with her daughter. the group she founded, action for children's television, is also credited with getting broadcast networks to cut advertising time on saturday morning programming and to halt the advertising of sugar-coated vitamins for kids. and ernie banks, affectionately known as "mr cub," has died. the hall of fame, power-hitting shortstop became the first african-american member of the team in the fall of 1953. he went on to hit 512 home runs, was a two-time national league mvp, and played in 14 all-star games. in 2013, president obama presented ernie banks with the presidential medal of freedom, citing his good cheer, his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the cubs would go
all the way. the team last won the world series in 1908. he is also remembered for his signature expression, "let's play 2," a comment he reportedly first uttered on a 105-degree day in chicago. ernie banks was 83 years old. >> sreenivasan: for more about today's beheading of one japanese hostage and japan's efforts to free the second, we are joined now by hajime ozaki he is the new york bureau chief of the kyodo news agency. so what steps did the japanese government take to try and free this particular hostage or what are they still doing to to get the next one? >> i believe that the japanese government is trying all its effort to release mr. kenji goto, the second hostage, so there are channels including neighboring countries, countries
to isis, and then jordan and so on. >> sreenivasan: there's been some concern that this is in retaliation to the prime minister's visit to the middle east region pledging another $200 million for counter measures against isil, but also humanitarian support. >> correct. the prime minister last week visited cairo and issued that statement that the japanese is trying to help the refugees and neighboring countries to isis, which are fighting with the threat of isis. apparently isis seized the moment of the prime minister abe's statement, and the ransom that they demanded coincides with the amount of the money that prime minister abe pledged to humanitarian assistance. >> sreenivasan: so is there any chance japan would pay the
ransom? back in the late 70s, there was an incident in bangladesh and there was some question about an incident in the late 90s in kyrgyzstan. was there an official government policy that said they wouldn't pay? >> the official government policy is to comply with the kind of international norm, not to bend to the threats of the terrorists. so it is understood that the japanese government is not ready to pay the ransom. but everything may be possible. but on the other hand, now isis changed their demand from the ransom to the release of the hostage taken in jordan. >> sreenivasan: so what has the reaction been in japan over the past few days? obviously, this news broke so late at night that most japanese were asleep and they won't know
until tomorrow morning and & that will be the reaction to this hostage's assassination. but over the past several days, as this story has been building in japan, what's it been like? >> of course most of the japanese population are very much concerned and worried about the fate of the two hostages and there was a press conference by one of the it's mother of one of the hostages the other day, and it-- her appeal to free the-- free her son was widely appreciated and a lot of compassion grown in japanese society. >> sreenivasan: all right. >> on the other hand, there are some senseiments in certain people in japan that the guys went to syria knowing that there
are risks and there are some voices that blame the behavior-- >> sreenivasan: that they engaged in risky behavior. >> correct. >> sreenivasan: hajime ozaki thank you very much. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: and now to our signature segment. tonight, the debate about employer background checks. how far back should they go? it's more than a personal issue. because a growing body of evidence suggests that anyone with a criminal record, even for a minor offense committed long ago, is much more likely to live in poverty. and tens of millions of americans have some sort of criminal record. the newshour's stephen fee recently traveled to philadelphia and has our report. >> reporter: every afternoon, at his dining room table, 35-year- old ronald lewis does his homework.
by day, he's a student, learning to fix heating and air conditioning systems, and he looks after his three kids. he also works the nightshift running high-pressure boilers at a chemical plant here in his hometown philadelphia. >> i'm a father. i'm a hard worker. i'm very ambitious. >> reporter: he's also got a criminal record. a decade ago, lewis had two major run-ins with the law that he says have interfered with his job prospects ever since. in august 2004, he was picked up during a drug arrest alongside his brother. lewis was carrying a 9 millimeter handgun. days later, he was nabbed for stealing a pocketbook from a department store. so what was that like-- and what happened at that stage after they arrested you? >> it was life changing. but it wasn't a good feeling. it wasn't a good feeling because you felt like you disappointed your family and you disappointed your mother, which is the most important person in my life. >> reporter: on the suggestion of his lawyer, lewis took a deal. for both cases, he pled guilty
to a total of three misdemeanors and was sentenced to five years probation. no jail time. at that time, were you worried at all about how this might impact your future? >> no. because the lawyer had told me, "it's only a misdemeanor. it's never gonna hurt you. don't even worry about it." so no. i really didn't think that much into it at that point. >> reporter: a short time later, lewis began looking for new work. he was overjoyed when he got a tentative job offer from a building company. >> i worked there for about a month, was honest with them. told them, you know, what was on my record. they still hired me. we're working. so i work there about a month. they called me in the office and said, "your record came back. we've got to let you go." >> reporter: and that was it? even though you had disclosed everything? you were never dishonest in the hiring process? >> never dishonest. never. they looked so scared of me-- it was a shame. >> reporter: what do you mean? >> when they-- we got to get you out of here. we've got to get you off the premises. >> reporter: lewis says that scenario played out over and over again. later on, he had two offers that were then revoked.
he had promising phone calls with another company that went nowhere. he says the only explanation he received: the existence of crimes in his past. four of those companies declined to discuss lewis' case with us. there are people who are going to watch this, and they're going to say, "you know what? you weren't a kid. you were 25. you were an adult. you knew what you were doing. and that this is a consequence-- this is a consequence of your actions." >> if you show me one person that hasn't made a mistake, then i won't apply nowhere else. >> reporter: nine in ten companies in the u.s. conduct background checks and with rap sheets widely available online, advocates say people with criminal backgrounds, sometimes just an arrest record, no conviction, are being blocked from employment. they say it's driving a growing number of people into poverty. and that ronald lewis' case is hardly unique. >> it's very common. we see clients come in with variations of his story on a daily basis. >> reporter: sharon dietrich is now ronald lewis' lawyer. she didn't represent him in the
original criminal cases. she's also the litigation director at community legal services of philadelphia. she's been there for nearly thirty years. >> we serve the low-income community of philadelphia, basically unemployed and low- wage workers in philadelphia. and it's the single most common reason people come to us for help is because they have a criminal record that has been keeping them from getting a job. >> reporter: last year, the "wall street journal," using data from the university of south carolina, reported that americans with a criminal conviction by age 23 have higher unemployment rates, make less money, and are twice as likely to end up in poverty as their peers. >> the re(c+uv s that with the rise of technology and really with the proliferation of background checks in this nation in really every walk of life from employment to housing a criminal record now carries often lifelong barriers to basic building blocks of economic security. >> reporter: rebecca vallas is a lawyer and poverty expert at the left-leaning center for american progress in washington.
she and sharon dietrich, ronald lewis' lawyer, published a report last year linking poverty and criminal backgrounds, especially among black men. >> the fact is that between 70- 100 million americans, and that's nearly one in three of us, has some type of criminal record. and so it's really an incredibly pervasive problem that impacts whole segments of our community. but it-- this issue also really disproportionately impacts communities of color. >> reporter: employers say they aren't just shutting out everyone with a criminal past-- they're being careful and complying with guidelines from the federal equal employment opportunity commission meant to give people second chances. that's according to beth milito at the national federation of independent businesses which represents 350,000 small businesses. a cynical part of me says, "hey if i sat down and, boy, it looks like someone's got a criminal record and then i've got another candidate who doesn't, i'm gonna go with the guy who doesn't have the criminal record," right? >> maybe, maybe not.
i think it depends on the nature of the job. the equal employment opportunity commission issued new guidance in april of 2012. and it reiterates that where at all possible it's good for a business to consider three factors: the nature of the crime, the time that's elapsed since the crime and the nature of the job. and when at all possible to make an individualized assessment. and i think many employers will do that. >> reporter: dozens of cities, including philadelphia, along with thirteen states, have passed so-called ban the box measures that basically ban that little check box on job applications asking about your criminal history. but vallas and dietrich's report for the center for american progress wants to go a step further, and seal low-level nonviolent criminal offenses that took place more than ten years ago. according to rebecca vallas, the data show that after a decade, nonviolent offenders are no more likely to commit a crime than anyone else, so their records shouldn't be part of the hiring process at all. >> we really have policies in
place that treat a person as a criminal long after they really pose any significant risk of ever re-offending. and it really doesn't make much sense to be shutting someone out of opportunities to access-- a job for instance, because of misconceptions about who that person might be and the risk that they might pose to public safety. >> reporter: but beth milito at the national federation of independent businesses says employers face major risks, and even potential negligent hiring lawsuits, if a past offender commits a crime on the job. and for small business owners especially, their reputations could be on the line. >> hiring decisions are challenging. and they need this information. they can't turn a blind eye. too much is at risk. they can't turn a blind eye to criminal history. it'd be foolish to. you know, there's people, property at stake. >> reporter: someone might be watching this and they say, "you know what? i wouldn't trust you at my business." how do you defend yourself to
that charge? >> what i say to them is it was 2004, and i'm pretty sure if you made a mistake in 2004, you don't know what your mistake was. but mine is documented. so you know what my mistake is. and look at the positive things i've done since 2004. so if you're going to hang your hat on just 2004, then you probably aren't the person i wanna work for anyway. >> reporter: do you think an employer doesn't have the right to know what happened in your past? >> employers should know-- should know who they're hiring. it's fair. you-- you should know. but you should also remember that these are lives we're-- these are people's lives we're talking about. it's like if almost double jeopardy. just look at it like this. i serve my-- i did my probation. no violations. model citizen. i go to school and try to better myself, and i'm-- it's like every time i apply for a job, i feel like i'm committing a crime all over again. >> reporter: lewis has submitted two pardon applications to the
state to clear his record, and while both have been rejected, he plans on re-submitting in the near future. >> sreenivasan: should employers doing background checks be blocked from seeing non-violent criminal offenses? take our poll and share your views at pbs.org/newshour. >> sreenivasan: that shelling attack that killed dozens of people today in eastern ukraine was only the latest sign of the deteriorating situation there. even though a ceasefire was signed in september, fighting between pro-russian rebels and ukrainian government troops once again has intensified. and yesterday, the rebels launched a new offensive. for more we are joined via skype by andrew e. kramer of the "new york times." he is reporting tonight from the regional capital of donetsk. so, andrew, for most americans we thought this was a conflict that smfs resolved. there was a cease-fire but it was over but for the past week you have been talking about and reporting on a war on multiple
fronts. >> that's right. thank you for having me on the show. conventional wisdom seemed to ahead that the economic crisis in russia would encourage the russian government to take a softer line in eastern ukraine but what we've seen in the last week is quite the opposite. russia, of course, formally does not support the separatist movement here mill taylor. we see statements of support for their actions and a major military escalation. >> sreenivasan: when you say "military escalation" is this similar to crimea where you have unmarked uniformed troops rolling in, in tanks? >> i've seen tanks on the streets of donesk. it's impossible to ascertain where they came from precisely. the rebels have not taken new ground in months and yet they have more military equipment than they did when the cease-fire was signed, at least impressionistically when what i
see. the donesk republic claims to be operating separate from russia and the assertion is any russian fighting in ukraine is doing so as an individual, as a volunteer and maybe on vacation but not as an stfer member of the russian army. there has been a very aggressive stance on both sides. there has been shelling from the ukrainian side from the city of donesk. a bus was hit recently with tragic consequences. the other way there has been bombing from the rebel side. of course, there is this disastrous shelling in the city of mariupol. >> sreenivasan: this has been one of the least-effective cease fires in recent history. the u.n. estimates more than 1,000 people have been killed after it was signed and are these rebel forces emboldened by the fact they have this military support coming in from russia? >> i think that's the case. without the russian backing the separatist movement would have crumbled or struck a deal long ago. now they say they want to expand their boundaries and ultimately
achieve a more sustainable mini state here in eastern ukraine glarp so what about the leverage that the west has? i mean, the sanctions have been in effect. it's squeezed russia's economy. the price of oil has tumbled. we don't really have any more levers to pull. >> there could be additional sanctions. that seems unlikely given the sanction fatigue in europe. other than that, there's only hand wringing. most western governments have said they will not join this fight militarily, given russia's strategic importance and nuclear weapons. and at this point, there are not a lot of breaks on the rebel movement here in eastern ukraine. we have attacks on the donesk airport, the city of mariupol and a road hub vulnerable. >> sreenivasan: all right, andrew kramer, thanks so much
for joining us. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: this is pbs newshour weekend saturday. >> sreenivasan: and now to viewers like you, your comments about our recent work. tonight, some of what you had to say about last saturday's signature segment from belgium describing that country's euthanasia laws, the least restrictive in the world. one viewer said: "i've seen patients get great comfort out of simply knowing they have the choice to end their suffering. i am, however, somewhat dubious about using euthanasia on psychiatric patients. not because i doubt their suffering, but because i doubt their mental competency to make a life altering decision." hana sheala added: "i live with muscular dystrophy and i hope euthanasia will not be legal, that there always are alternatives for being self determined even as a vented functional quadriplegic." there was this from lstcaress:
"after suffering from severe depression for thirty years and growing tired of being a drugged zombie, i'm appalled i'm not allowed this option." and from michelle a. mead: "my mother and my cat were both dying at the same time. one of them was allowed to die with dignity. it was not my mother." others commented about the provision in the belgian law that allows for terminally ill children to choose euthanasia with their parents consent. briee della rocca added: "i wish we had this in the states. everyone, even children, should be allowed to free themselves from unending pain and terminal conditions where treatment is only torture." beth deroos said: "putting an innocent child to death because medical 'professionals' or parents feel it's best? sorry, but actually executing a child which is what this is, is just so wrong." and finally, there was this, from hillery geelon: "unless you're ever in that situation, no one would ever be able to judge." as always, we welcome your
comments at newshour.pbs.org, or on our facebook page, and tweet us @newshour. >> sreenivasan: some more news before we leave you tonight: president obama has strongly condemned the beheading of one of two japanese hostages held by isis in syria. kia is recalling 87,000 of its 2014 forte sedans. the company warns of the risk of fire from a cooling fan part. and parts of atlanta's hartsfield-jackson international airport were closed today after bomb threats were made against two inbound passenger jets. both planes landed safely after being escorted by fighter jets. that's all for tonight. join us on air and on line tomorrow. i'm hari sreenivasan. have a good night. 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.
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