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JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer no longer on vacation. On the NewsHour tonight: Our summary of today's news; then a Newsmaker interview with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; a John Merrow report from Maine on the effect of the federal "No Child Left Behind" program; the situation in Afghanistan as seen by a top Afghan cabinet official; and a new book conversation about the new Latino face of baseball.
JIM LEHRER: A truck bomb exploded outside Baghdad's police academy today. One officer was killed and at least 13 others were wounded. Plumes of black smoke were visible as U.S. military police cordoned off the area. The target may have been the acting chief of police, but he escaped unharmed. Later, U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer said he agrees Iraqis must be given more responsibility for their own security, but he also said, "terrorism is not new in Iraq." He spoke via videophone.
L. PAUL BREMER: There was terror on this land under Saddam Hussein. It was perhaps not car bombs; it was a more silent and in some ways a more awful terrorism so I would say to Iraqis, I understand their anguish and share it about the car bombs. It's a fight we're now going to have to winhere, this fight against terrorism.
JIM LEHRER: The U.S. Military today announced the deaths of three more American troops. Two were killed yesterday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb. A third died today when his helicopter crashed. Officials said it appeared to be an accident. Thousands of Iraqi Shiites gathered today, to bury one of their leading clerics. He died in a bomb attack in Najaf last Friday, along with more than 120 others. We have a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Some 400,000 people thronged the streets of Najaf as this man was glorified as a martyr. Saddam Hussein banned these Muslims from such displays of religious fervor. Today it was as if all the grief of those decades was spilling out in a mass demonstration of anger, despair and pain. The force of the bomb which killed Ayatollah Hakim was such that there was no body to bury, so the coffin contained his watch, his pen and his wedding ring. After 23 years in exile and only three months back in Iraq, today he came home for the last time to the center of Shia religious teaching and the place where he was murdered on Friday, the holy shrine at Najaf. Women and men walked separately. The heat was stifling. The crowd was also mourning the scores of others killed in the Najaf bombing. Ayatollah Hakim was laid to rest, his death, Iraqis fear, heralding an even more violent era. Some want the Americans to provide security while others want them to leave immediately.
JIM LEHRER: Iraqi police said today they've arrested 25 people in the Najaf bombing. A senior police official told the Associated Press that nine of them have links to al-Qaida, including three from outside Iraq. He said the investigation was being slowed because U.S. Troops would not let police use their normal interrogation methods. In Afghanistan today, Taliban leaders claimed they sent 300 more fighters to join the battle against U.S. and Afghan forces. Some 1,000 Taliban already are fighting in a southern province. There's been heavy combat in that region in recent days. Coalition forces have begun operation mountain viper to wipe out the resistance. We'll have more on this later in the program. A court in Indonesia convicted a radical Muslim cleric today of inciting insurrection. Abu Bakar Bashir was sentenced to four years in prison. He was acquitted of leading a terror group with ties to al-Qaida. The group is blamed for last year's nightclub bombings in Bali. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will make another 5,000 armed agents available to protect commercial airliners. Secretary Tom Ridge made that announcement today in Washington. He said agents working in customs and immigration will be cross-trained as air marshals. That way they can be assigned to aviation security if needed. We'll talk to Secretary Ridge in just a moment.
Senator John Kerry formally launched his presidential campaign today. The Massachusetts Democrat had already been a candidate for his party's nomination for several months; today's action in Charleston, South Carolina, simply made it official. That state's primary immediately follows the January contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Kerry stood before an old aircraft carrier underscoring his decorated service in Vietnam. He accused President Bush of sacrificing lives in Iraq, by trying to go it alone.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Pride is no substitute for protecting our young men and women in uniform. Half the names on the Vietnam Memorial are there because of pride, because of a president who refused to admit we're on thewrong road that we might be wrong. Pride is no excuse for making enemies overseas. It is time to return to the United Nations.
JIM LEHRER: Kerry also accused the president of pursuing an economic policy of "lost opportunity and lost hope." A White House spokesman declined to respond to the charges. A federal appeals court in San Francisco threw out more than 100 death sentences today. The affected cases were in Arizona, Idaho, and Montana. The court said death sentences imposed by judges must be commuted to life in prison. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only juries may impose the death penalty. It did not say whether that ruling was retroactive. Today's appeals court action is expected to be appealed.
Manufacturing in the United States expanded in August for the second month in a row. That word came today from the Institute for Supply Management, a business research group. On wall street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 107 points to close at 9523. The NASDAQ rose 31 points to close at 1841. That's it for the news summary tonight. Now it's on to Secretary Ridge, making the grades in Maine, an Afghanistan update, and a changing baseball conversation.
JIM LEHRER: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. I spoke with him late this afternoon. Mr. Secretary, welcome.
TOM RIDGE: Good to be back.
JIM LEHRER: Your announcement today about more air marshals being made available, what... 5,000, is that right? That's the number?
TOM RIDGE: We're going to take several thousand men and women who are presently federal air marshals from the Transportation Security Administration, and we're going to put them with the other law enforcement officers within the Department. We'll also cross train these other officers so we'll not only have several thousand federal air marshals but we'll have, if we need literally thousands more, that we could use to enhance and improve aviation security if we need them.
JIM LEHRER: Why are they needed? Why have you done this?
TOM RIDGE: One of the challenges we've had around any sector of the economy or anything we've tried to make more secure is to build in layers of defense because there's not a single group of people or not a single technology, not a single plan of action that provides what we consider to be the maximum amount of security. So the federal air marshals, several thousand of them on our flights arming pilots we're in the process of doing that. If you remember pre-9/11, 9/10, you went through an airport, somebody might have checked your baggage and if you had a Swiss army knife they might have taken it off you, but we didn't have the kind of trained professionals that we needed. We ramped up that dramatically as well. So this is just one of several things we believe we need to maximize the security for men and women and families who travel.
JIM LEHRER: You say several thousand. Can you be more specific than that?
TOM RIDGE: Well, it's a classified number in terms of those who are presently federal air marshals, but there are thousands. And by moving these men and women-- and we consider them....
JIM LEHRER: Who are these folks now? They're border patrol officers?
TOM RIDGE: They will be. They'll going to become part of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. These are a group of men and women who out of the Legacy customs, Legacy INS, other Legacy agencies, had law enforcement responsibilities. We thought about moving... when we thought about putting the air marshals there, it's a better career path for them.
I mean, flying as an air marshal for twenty/twenty-five years may not keep the best people available and keep them as motivated as we want. They will be cross-trained to do some other things just like the other individuals in their new department will be trained from time to time to move as air marshals if we need them -- again, one more way of enhancing protection.
JIM LEHRER: Unless there's some classified situation involved here, as far as most people can tell all an air marshal does is get on an airplane, sit in first class, and fly some place, get off, go on another plane and come back, is that right?
TOM RIDGE: Air marshals really do a lot more than that and they'll be able to do it even better as they pour them in. Access to real-time information -- there are other things that air marshals can and will be doing around aviation security now that they're a part of this new entity that we've created out of the old, some of the old members of Customs and INS, and frankly they'll also give us a capacity, depending on the threat, depending on the need, they'll be trained to do other law enforcement... meet other law enforcement needs of the new department. Maybe customs people need them, maybe they will need them to help investigate other potential terrorist activity outside aviation.
JIM LEHRER: But was it fair to say that some of the motivation for making these changes was that this was considered awfully boring work by people who were highly trained?
TOM RIDGE: Well, I think part of the consideration again was for us to attract the best and most qualified and highly motivated people, we have a lot of them but to keep them in the Department of Homeland Security. And it's been our experience that if we can train more people to do more things and then have the flexibility to use them where we need them, then the Department will be stronger and America will be safer.
JIM LEHRER: Does this mean that Homeland Security Department considers airline travel the number-one threat of terrorism still?
TOM RIDGE: It means among other things that we continue to work within the Department and with the Congress to add additional protection around commercial aviation and the people that fly. It has been and is and will always be one of the top priorities of the Department.
JIM LEHRER: Is it "the" top priority?
TOM RIDGE: We have to have several top priorities. We have to be right several thousand times a day. The terrorist only has to be right once. And so as we look at commercial aviation, we take a look at our ports, we take a look at our borders, I mean, there are a lot of places we have to be right. Wherever we see a vulnerability -- more often than not -- you will find that working with the president and Congress we will probably add layers of defense. And this is just one additional layer.
JIM LEHRER: Early in the summer there was a specific alert that went out that al-Qaida teams of five or more, something like that, were going to target commercial airliners either in the United States or maybe in other countries, but Americans involved as targets. Is that warning still in effect?
TOM RIDGE: Well, there has been a consistent drum beat from all the intelligence sources that al-Qaida and this group continue to view or would like to continue to use aviation, continue to use airplanes as instruments of terror. It is because of that continued expression of interest that we continue to add more and more levels of protection around commercial aviation. So whether they're targeting one group, three groups, a team of this or a team of that, we know that one ofthe experiences that we have with terrorist organizations, they like often will go back and employ or deploy the same methods that were successful previously. They turned several commercial airliners into missiles on 9/11. They got an opportunity to do it again -- we just want to make it a lot tougher if not impossible for them to do it.
JIM LEHRER: But that specific alert is that still in effect?
TOM RIDGE: That's still-- we passed on that information that they were targeting and talking about using commercial aviation, but that's just a general threat against commercial aviation. And the reason -- the threat persists, the reason we continue to be persistent in our effort to provide more and more protection.
JIM LEHRER: On the more general threat area, where do we stand now in terms of the color-coded alert?
TOM RIDGE: We're at code yellow today. It's an assessment we make every single day. That's where we are -- where we have been for several months.
JIM LEHRER: Refresh our memory. What does that mean?
TOM RIDGE: It means that according to the best intelligence that we have and analysis that is shared among principals within the president's cabinet, that we are at an elevated risk of a terrorist attack. It also means, particularly a year since we inaugurated or launched the system, that our level of protection at yellow is a little bit different and frankly it's better and stronger than it was a year ago because this is a signal we send to security and law enforcement people that you need to do additional things. So right now it is our collective belief that within the intelligence community that we are at an elevated level of risk. It's been that way for two or three months.
JIM LEHRER: Since May.
TOM RIDGE: Yes and we make an assessment on a day-to-day basis.
JIM LEHRER: But there has not been much discussion of this lately. Does this mean that the threat is in the middle of yellow? Are you on the verge of - are you thinking about raising it? In other words, is it toward the top part towards orange or on the bottom part towards the other....
TOM RIDGE: We don't have the... I'm not sure we'll ever have the information to be that nuanced about it. But what it does mean is that for the past months as we take a look on a daily basis if the information is out there not only from our sources but from around the world, our notion that we're at that level of risk of a terrorist attack has remained constant. But again, that is an assessment we make on a day-to-day basis. And, frankly, twice a day, the representatives from the agencies involved in that assessment meet by videoconference to review the threat, review the vulnerability and really even begin the discussions -- should we make any changes.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, Mr. Secretary, there are some people who think this whole thing is a lousy system, the color coded thing.
JIM LEHRER: I was reading today, Senator Lautenberg from New Jersey, a Democrat, said a couple of weeks ago the terror alert system may be contributing to the very panic and confusion in our society that the terrorists seek to generate.
TOM RIDGE: First of all, I think it is a very good and sound system. I think it is a system that has been designed... I know we helped design it-- it is a system designed so that if we ever got the kind of information that would enable us to say to Senator Lautenberg, New Jersey is going from yellow to orange or certain facilities in your state is going yellow to orange, we can do that. There's enough flexibility in system to do it, but I don't think it has done anything other than increase the awareness when we've used I. We haven't used it in the last three or four months.
JIM LEHRER: You haven't gone to orange.
TOM RIDGE: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: But these general alerts that's what most people are complaining about. Well, okay, so what else is new? Nothing changes. Even local enforcement now say that. They no longer put people on overtime. They no longer... when anything changes, it's nothing more they can do, they say. Study after study, survey after survey says that. Are you frustrated at all that this isn't working?
TOM RIDGE: No, I do it is working, Jim.
TOM RIDGE: Because right now at code yellow there are precautions and safety measures and security measures that are in place, number one, that weren't in place a year ago as people accept the notion that we are at an elevated level of risk and therefore on a permanent basis we ought to have at least this level of security.
If we ever take it to orange, that's a signal to the law enforcement and security personnel that now you have to take it up to the next level. It is a system that I think has worked to achieve those goals and I know people are frustrated because it's a general alert but I assure them, as soon as we have specific, credible information so we can target the alert, we will, because it is designed to do that.
JIM LEHRER: But you haven't done that yet, have you? You haven't targeted a specific.
TOM RIDGE: We haven't been able to do it because we haven't had the specific... the information that was both credible and specific so we could target it. Again, every single day we get more and more information about individuals, operations, methods of operation, and again one of the things the president has alleged in the war on global terrorism is the collective effort of these nations to pull together information from multiple sources and share it and then act on it.
JIM LEHRER: Is it your feeling that the United States is more vulnerable or less vulnerable to a terrorist attack now than it was two years ago on September 11, 2001?
TOM RIDGE: We are two years, nearly two years post-9/11 far safer than we were. Just conjure this for a moment, what we used to do when you walked to get on an airplane and what you experience now admittedly there was some convenience, but there are a lot more security measures being taken. The borders on 9/11 they had a bunch of orange cones there and people were waiting in line for hours and hours if not almost a day to get across.
But we began the process of working with Canadian and Mexican government to identify people and cargo so we can shift our resources to the people and cargo we don't know. We've got far better communications state and local officials so we can develop a secure network so we can share classified information with governors and homeland security advisors, all the states and the territories have developed the national threat warning system and are putting in security measures accordingly. We're working with the private sector to that end. We've stockpiled, I mean right after the anthrax crisis, the biggest fear was will there be enough antibiotics? Now we've got over a billion stockpiles including enough antibiotics for an anthrax attack. So on an incremental basis but a steady basis day by day we get to a new level of readiness every day.
JIM LEHRER: But at the same time hasn't the risk increased with the action against Iraq? In other words, the potential for terrorist attacks has risen accordingly with our ability to confront them, right?
TOM RIDGE: Well, I wouldn't conclude that the potential has been enhanced because we have decapitated a lot of their leadership. We have frozen a lot of their accounts. I mean, they still need money to operate. We with our allies have frozen a lot of dollars. We are getting more information about them, but because they are decentralized and because they are persistent and patient and because we know we have been and will be the primary target, I still think that we still have... we can't rest on what we've done the past two years. We have to do a heck of a lot more in the next two years.
JIM LEHRER: What's been the problem getting federal money to the local authorities and to the states to beef up their homeland security -- problems?
TOM RIDGE: The first problem was that the... a lot of the huge sum of money that the president put in this 2003 budget that they legitimately anticipated getting access to last October/November because they couldn't get a budget passed, that money didn't come in to... it wasn't appropriated and wasn't signed until this March. We now have nearly $4 billion out on the street. The federal government has done its part in the various grant programs for the fire grant program, the state and local money, the urban security initiative, the dollars that have been appropriated are out on the street and we're now working with states and local governments to get the money channeled in. But the federal government has done its part. Now we need the state and locals to access it so we can buy equipment and pay for training exercises and the like.
JIM LEHRER: Much was said, as you know, Mr. Secretary, as you know before you became secretary of Homeland Security, before there was a Department of Homeland Security that Ridge needs to be a member of the cabinet. Once he's a member of the cabinet and there's a cabinet office, things will be different. Has it been different?
TOM RIDGE: For the country there's been an enormous difference but not just because of what we've done I think it's very appropriate to cite the cabinet because since September 11 under the leadership of the president, the mission of the FBI has been refocused from law enforcement to dealing with combating domestic terrorism; Health and Human Services which always a significant piece of the effort to deal with public health has also shifted resources and taken on the challenge along with the Department of Homeland Security to deal with the potential biological attack. The Department of Justice, I mean, you go down the list of cabinet agencies, the secretary of agriculture in the Department of Agriculture, everybody since 9/11 has been doing things differently and more aggressively as it relates and more as it relates to terrorism -- state partners, local partners the private sector. We are all engaged in this. I mean, one of the missions of the Department of Homeland Security is to build and then sustain partnerships with governors and mayors and fire chiefs and police chiefs in the security personnel in factories and plants around the country. We've been very successful so far but we still have more work to do.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have the power to do what you need to do?
TOM RIDGE: Yes I do.
JIM LEHRER: Do you have the clout?
TOM RIDGE: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: Do people listen to you as a member of the cabinet more so than before?
TOM RIDGE: Yes they do. It's one of the interesting lessons learned during this whole process. The president reminded Congress and asked Congress to be patient shortly after I was appointed special assistant for homeland security so that we could make our own independent analysis, do our own review of the... of government to see if it was organized as well or as effectively as it could be to combat a permanent condition of global terrorism. We concluded it was not, and therefore, some of the responsibilities that I would have had to kind of coordinate between Customs and INS and these other agencies, now that it's in the department....
JIM LEHRER: You've got them, you're the boss.
TOM RIDGE: We've got them. So it's not a matter of coordinating; it's really a matter of directing. It's a big difference.
JIM LEHRER: Yes sir. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
TOM RIDGE: Nice to be with you again. Thank you, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, a "No Child Left Behind" story from Maine, an Afghanistan update, and the new face of baseball. Special education correspondent John Merrow reports the Maine story.
JOHN MERROW: Ever since the "No Child Left Behind" act went into effect, educators and legislators from Maine have been looking for a way out. State Senator Peggy Rotundo:
PEGGY ROTUNDO: We know we have very good schools. We have high standards. We have national test scores to demonstrate that. When you have a great success record, why change things? If it's not broken, why change it?
TOM HOOD: I think we could have done all of what "No Child Left Behind" is trying to do. Without the measures that the "No Child Left Behind" has in place.
JOHN MERROW: Tom Hood is principal of Governor Longley Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine.
TOM HOOD: Some of those things that they're asking in the "No Child Left Behind" leaves teachers, staff feeling really stressed and I don't think that's a good climate for learning for kids and for teachers.
JOHN MERROW: If states want federal education money, they must adhere to the provisions of the "No Child Left Behind" Act. Among other things the new law calls for: Highly qualified teachers. All teachers must have state certification, a bachelor's degree, and training in the subject area. School choice: Local school districts must offer public school choice to students in low-income schools identified in need of improvement two years in a row. Testing: States must test all children in grades three through eight in reading and math. Some of the new laws' requirements do not sit well with educators in rural states. More than 50 percent of Maine students attend rural schools. That's second only to Vermont.
SUSAN GENDRON, Maine Education Commissioner: As a small rural state we don't believe the law recognized the ruralness of Maine.
JOHN MERROW: Susan Gendron is Maine's commissioner of education. She's struggling with the law's demand for highly qualified teachers.
SUSAN GENDRON: I was in a remote part of the state last week and the superintendent was asking me, he said, you know, I can't find a certified, qualified foreign language teacher. I have an individual in the community who was raised in another country, knows the language... it's their native language. Can that person come and teach it as a foreign language? "No Child Left Behind" would say absolutely no. And yet if we don't work and support this school system, the children there will go without foreign language.
JOHN MERROW: In addition to teacher quality, the issue of school choice is problematic in states like Maine.
SUSAN GENDRON: We don't necessarily have the opportunities to offer choice. When you look at Maine, we have one community with two high schools-- Portland. Other than that, we only have one high school in all of our school districts.
EUGENE HICKOK, Deputy Secretary of Education: When one says rural school don't offer school choice, literally you're right. The idea of being able to go from a public school that's needing improvement to a public school that works may not be feasible.
JOHN MERROW: At the U.S. Department of education, Deputy Secretary Eugene Hickok oversees state compliance with the No Child Left Behind act.
EUGENE HICKOK: Go to the spirit of the law. Create choices within the school -- curriculum offerings. Use technology. Create charter schools. Create schools in schools. The goal here is if things aren't working try to find opportunities for kids and try to change the way things are working to make them successful.
JOHN MERROW: Maine Congressman Tom Allen, a Democrat, voted for the "No Child Left Behind" act, but has since changed his mind.
REP. TOM ALLEN: No Child Left Behind doesn't work as well in rural areas because there aren't alternative schools. There aren't charter schools to go to.
JOHN MERROW: Maine's legislators and educators are also concerned with the law's requirement for annual testing in math and reading in grades three through eight.
SUSAN GENDRON: Maine recognizes that learning takes place in different time frames. We would assess at grades four, eight and 11 as benchmark years. And Washington said "not good enough."
SPOKESMAN: The curriculum is becoming very narrow. You don't see kids involved with singing, music, doing art projects as much as they have in the past because they've got to meet the assessments.
JOHN MERROW: The state consistently ranks in the top six in the nation in math, reading, science and writing. A few years ago "Forbes" Magazine compared states and concluded that Maine provides the biggest bang for its education buck.
SUSAN GENDRON: We believe that the methods that we have established, the processes we have put in place, long before "No Child Left Behind" came on the scene, really was the best way to go.
JOHN MERROW: Maine's own education curriculum, "learning results," was established in 1996 and relies heavily on local control. Maine believes that it works. So for Maine is "No Child Left Behind" a good law?
SUSAN GENDRON: We did not need "No Child Left Behind." We were already there.
EUGENE HICKOK: When Maine says that and every state in the nation says that. I mean literally. We had every state come in for private conversations at the department, and two things were said, I think literally by every state at the start of every one of those conversations. The first one was "we agree completely with the ideas and goals of 'No Child Left Behind.'" We're your staunchest supporters." Secondly, "we've been getting it right for the last ten years. Let's keep doing what we're doing." So Maine's voice is added to a chorus that is very loud and very clear. The data tells us nationwide that's not the fact.
JOHN MERROW: The U.S. Department of Education has no plans to ask congress to change the law.
EUGENE HICKOK: Wherever students are not achieving at levels they should and whoever those students are, we have an obligation to do something about it -- whether it's on a mountain top in Montana or in a ghetto in New York City.
JOHN MERROW: Are you going to bend when states yell?
EUGENE HICKOK: Well, I mean, we're going to listen -- whether they yell or not because our job is to listen. But, you know, America wasn't built on an attitude of throwing up our hands and saying we can't do it. It was built on an attitude that says "we'll get it done. We'll get it done."
JOHN MERROW: The Department has created a rural education task force to address concerns coming from Maine and other rural states. One of the major issues is funding. Maine is eligible for about $90 million in federal funds under the "No Child Left Behind Act." But Representative Allen believes that the increased testing, retraining teachers and other new requirements will cost Maine a lot more than that.
REP. TOM ALLEN: Back home, the school districts don't have the money to fulfill all the mandates that the federal government has now imposed on them through this law.
EUGENE HICKOK: There's lots of money. Could there be more money, of course? I've never met the school board member or the superintendent or the state board member or anyone who has ever said "please, we have enough money. Don't give us anymore money."
JOHN MERROW: In May, Maine's House and Senate passed a resolution asking Washington for a waiver from the new law. State Senator Rotundo was a co- sponsor.
JOHN MERROW: Did you really believe the federal government would say, "oh, sure, you can have a waiver, Maine?"
PEGGY ROTUNDO: We were hoping that it would help. We were hoping that it would help them to understand that we felt that we could do the work on our own, that it wasn't necessary for us to meet the standards in the federal legislation because we had ample evidence that we were doing a very good job already.
JOHN MERROW: Maine asked for a waiver.
JOHN MERROW: Was any conversation given to saying yes?
EUGENE HICKOK: Not much. To be honest with you. We are not really big fans of the "w" word. Congress isn't. We're not. We try very hard to be partners with the leadership in Maine. Of course they do have the ability, every state does, to just not accept the federal dollars and therefore not do what "No Child Left Behind" requires.
JOHN MERROW: Maine does have the option of refusing the $90 million, but that's 5 percent of Maine's education spending. And like most states, Maine has a budget crisis. The state is facing an overall deficit of more than $1 billion.
JOHN MERROW: What are the odds that Maine would turn its back on the money?
SUSAN GENDRON: It's still 5 percent and it's very difficult to raise that. We're going to work hard to change "No Child Left Behind."
JOHN MERROW: This fall, Maine will be watching the "No Child Left Behind" act carefully, paying special attention to how much the changes are costing the state.
SUSAN GENDRON: If the funds do not match the requirements, then I anticipate that they will request the attorney general to go forward.
JOHN MERROW: Sue the federal government.
SUSAN GENDRON: In Washington, yes.
JOHN MERROW: Maine is not alone. Other rural states-- Alaska, Montana, Vermont, New Hampshire, Nebraska-- have expressed their concerns about No Child Left Behind. A law that seems certain to continue to have a dramatic effect on public education.
JIM LEHRER: The comeback of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Gwen Ifill has that.
GWEN IFILL: Suspected Taliban fighters ambushed a government checkpoint yesterday, killing eight Afghan soldiers. Over the weekend, two U.S. soldiers died during a 90-minute gun battle, bringing to thirty-five the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan since the U.S. Went to war in 2001. Officials now say hundreds of reconstituted Taliban militants are on the attack in remote southern mountains along the Pakistan border. It's a battle which has been building all summer demonstrating that the war in Afghanistan where more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers remain is actually far from over. The continuing clashes present new challenges for the Afghan government, which is hoping for a new infusion of financial aid from the United States. Ali Jalali is the country's interior minister. He joins us now. Welcome. Explain to us how it is that the Taliban is regrouping.
ALI JALALI: Well, Afghanistan is a front-line state in the war on terrorism so it's not unexpected that the elements of international terrorism will infiltrate into the country and fight the Afghan forces that are trying to provide security for the reconstruction effort that is going on in the country. And the Taliban tried to send infiltration groups into the country or infiltrated small groups into the country for a while and then they established themselves in a remote area in the mountains called the mountains which is about 190 kilometers southwest of Kabul. That's a remote area. So they wanted to establish a base there. However, from there, they attacked the security forces that caused the construction between Kabul and Kandahar in other reconstruction projects. However, now an operation has been launched against them. Fortunately people in Afghanistan don't support them. They do not have a logistic system inside Afghanistan so they come and they fight and they get killed or escape.
GWEN IFILL: The distinction you're making however is they're not necessarily attacking U.S. and coalition forces. They're attacking other Afghans.
ALI JALALI: They are attacking Afghan forces. They are attacking coalition forces. They are trying to undermine the reconstruction work in after Afghanistan, to discredit the government and discredit the system and the political process.
GWEN IFILL: Is that working? I know some of the attacks have been along the road from Kabul to Kandahar, which is a major reconstruction project. Has that not slowed it down?
ALI JALALI: No, not at all. The road construction is going on -- obviously reports from that area. Along Kabul and Kandahar highway we have deployed the highway patrol brigade. That's a very strong brigade, well trained police officers. They are protecting the reconstruction work.
GWEN IFILL: There's been some talk in the United States that Hamid Karzai is actually the mayor of Kabul which is to say there isn't much of the government's reach which is going beyond the capital to, for instance, the southern mountain regions where the reconstituted Taliban happens to be.
ALI JALALI: Oh, this is not true. There is no force in Afghanistan that can question the authority of President Hamid Karzai. This is no force inside Afghanistan that can defy the authority of the central government. There are problems that the administration does not have the capacity to reach to every quarter of the country. Inside the government, outside the government, in the province and in the remote areas there's no force that can defy the government of Afghanistan or its legitimacy.
GWEN IFILL: What about al-Qaida? We have heard al-Qaida as the bogeyman in so many cases in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan and there is evidence they were in collusion with the Taliban before. Is there any evidence of that now?
ALI JALALI: Yes. There's a lot of evidence inside Afghanistan. Just about a few days ago, when combined force of terrorists was defeated in eastern Afghanistan, they included both former Talibans, members of Taliban, Arabs, even fighters from other countries.
GWEN IFILL: Mullah Omar is supposed to be centered right along the Pakistan border and orchestrating a lot of these, the former Taliban leader. Is the border with Pakistan as porous as it once was? Is that part of the problem here?
ALI JALALI: It is porous and it's part of the problem. Afghanistan and Pakistan are two members of the international coalition against terrorism, and cooperation between the two countries is very crucial in fighting terrorism in this area. We hope that the two countries will work together in order to establish firmer control in the unstable areas along the border between the two countries.
GWEN IFILL: Is that happening or is that just something you're hoping for?
ALI JALALI: They are trying. We hope. We also requested the Pakistani neighbors to do more in order to prevent cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
GWEN IFILL: What about Iran?
ALI JALALI: In Iran we have a border with Iran but the immediate threat from remnants of Taliban and al Qaida as from the... along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
GWEN IFILL: How about the money? There's been talk for some months here now that Afghans have been arguing for initial... doubling the billion dollars which is already on the table for reconstruction. You're here in the United States this week talking to some administration officials. Any sense when that's going to happen?
ALI JALALI: Well, I hope so. There's a lot of hope that it will happen. The war on terror is not the... it's a joint campaign between the countries in the region and the world. So it needs international commitment, international cooperation. I think Afghanistan needs help from international community. We have been receiving assistance but in order to accelerate this war on terrorism or strengthen this struggle against terrorism, Afghanistan needs more resources.
GWEN IFILL: And where does that money go?
ALI JALALI: This money will probably be spent on training national police, Afghan national army, also reconstruction of the country, reconstruction of infrastructure which also plays a major role in stabilization of the country and the war on terrorism.
GWEN IFILL: The President of this United States, President Bush, said in August-- and I quote to you-- "thanks to the united states and our final lies Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terror. The Taliban is history and the Afghan people are free." Are the Taliban history yet?
ALI JALALI: Taliban is a force that can dominate Afghanistan's history. Afghanistan is no longer a haven for Taliban and the reason that they get defeated very quickly in Afghanistan is because people are against it. Even they lead government security forces to their locations. That's why they cannot be... they cannot consider Afghanistan as a safe haven for them anymore.
GWEN IFILL: But some Afghan officials say the Taliban are as strong now as they have been since they were toppled.
ALI JALALI: Well, if they were as strong, why cannot they make inroads in Afghanistan? They come across the border into the country, get killed or escape, cross the border. They do not have the logistic system inside Afghanistan.
GWEN IFILL: Has the war in Iraq had any residual effect in terms of keeping the enemies of the coalition alive in Afghanistan?
ALI JALALI: Well, the war in Iraq has, of course, it splits attention. However, you know, the war in Iraq did not affect Afghanistan in a negative way. But the international terrorism certainly wants to use that in order to make another strong front for the anti-terrorism coalition in Afghanistan but they have not succeeded yet.
GWEN IFILL:What are the major challenges ahead for you right now? You are in charge of a lot of internal security. You're in charge of the police force, training, rebuilding. What are the big challenges on the plate right now?
ALI JALALI: Security is a major challenge. Building national capacity in order to respond to the challenges that we face -- in a very short time we will have to convene the Loya Jirga, the grand assembly, to approve the new constitution of the country. And also soon Afghanistan begins a major campaign for voter registration across the country. And then in June or next year, the general elections will be held. Providing security for all these major events is a challenge. And the national capacity should be built to the extent that can be able to respond to these challenges.
GWEN IFILL: What can the international community do to help with that?
ALI JALALI: The international community can help Afghanistan accelerate the training and building the national police force, Afghan national army, and also the local capacities, the infrastructure that can help provide security in the country.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you very much for joining us.
ALI JALALI: Thank you very much.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, a conversation with the author of a new book, and to Ray Suarez.
RAY SUAREZ: The book is "The New Face of Baseball: The 100-Year Rise and Triumph of Latinos in America's Favorite Sport." The author is Tim Wendell, one of the founders of "U.S.A. Today baseball weekly." Well, I was looking at the all- star lineups the other week and six... six of the American league starters were Latinos. And I thought, "wow, this feels new," but at the same time it's something that has been percolating for a long time.
TIM WENDEL: It's something that has been coming for a long time. You also look at those rosters, ray, that one-third, more than one-third of the combined rosters were Latino or Latino descent. But it goes way back. It goes back to guys like Dolf Luque, '20s and '30s, certainly through guys like Herestas Manoso to Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda. And what's interesting is a lot of these guys really know their history. They know that these guys kind of paved the way, and I think that's maybe that's one reason why we're seeing such an enthusiasm and such a passion for what I think many Americans feel is their national pastime.
RAY SUAREZ: Now some baseball historians have suggested over the year that it's just the latest group, that groups cycle through baseball, and you know, Lou Gehrig's parents weren't born in the country. He grew up in a German-American neighborhood in Manhattan, and Yogi Berra's parents spoke Italian as a first language. That in a way there's nothing new about this. But you suggest that it's the size of it and the extent of it and the length of it that's just different.
TIM WENDEL: That's correct. I don't think we've ever seen like a wave like this, such a cutting edge and so dominant in the game. What's really ironic, Ray, is I think they're kind of bringing baseball back home to where its origins are. I think we've fallen so in love with the home run-- "let's get a couple guys on base and we'll, you know, we'll just cross our fingers and wait for the homer." You know, it's funny, I think if you go to a game in Havana, Santa Domingo, you see guys taking the extra base. In a sense, you see the way it was played in the '40s and the '50s here.
RAY SUAREZ: There were... there was a slow ascent of the Latino player during the mid decades of the century. Talk about why and how it happened.
TIM WENDEL: Well, in part, they were kind of confined by some of the same things that were confining baseball. I mean, there were so many great players we will never really know about because of the color barrier until Jackie Robinson came along in 1947. One of the guys that I researched here was a guy named Martin Diego who was a great pitcher and also an everyday player. In a sense, he was kind of the Babe Ruth of his time, but they didn't say "well, we're going to make you an everyday player so up can't pitch anymore." They said, "you can pitch. The days you're not pitching, why don't you play catcher, why don't you third base, why don't you right field." But he never made the major leagues because, you know, it was before the color barrier. His skin was too dark. So in a sense once Robinson broke it in '47, then you no longer had this criteria that used to be on the scouting cards when they used to go down and scout these players: How light- skinned are they? That was suddenly gone.
RAY SUAREZ: Were teams that got involved in the Caribbean early able to reap benefits before other teams? Was there somebody who invented Latin scouting?
TIM WENDEL: Well, there was "Papa Joe" Cambria with the Washington Senators, and in a sense it was done somewhat because of an economic move. And it was interesting that suddenly this guy became the super scout of the Caribbean. He didn't really speak Spanish that well, and potentially even at one point pursued Fidel Castro as a prospect. And you know, it helped the senators certainly, but like with anything with baseball the other smart teams catch up. You look at what's going on right now, I would say Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, I mean, many of the top teams, they have a very significant Latino element not only at their major league level, but certainly at their minor league system as well.
RAY SUAREZ: Is there an implied unity that really isn't there either in the locker room or on the field or on the roster between the large number of American-born Latino players and those who, in fact, grew up somewhere else? Do we sort of think they should be... there should be some chumminess there that is hard to establish in real life?
TIM WENDEL: Well, at times I think it's hard to establish, but you look at teams who are doing a good job, not only are they good at kind of seeking out good prospects-- whether it's in Venezuela, Dominican Republic, going after the new defector say from Cuba-- they're very good at bringing them along in their system. And that's why I think what's going on right now in baseball, which I really kind of view as a civic institution, you know, I think companies and corporations will study, because this impact in a way is as big as the rise of the African-American athlete in the '60s and the '70s. Okay how do you bring, in a sense, new people, different culture into your organization and have them excel?
RAY SUAREZ: Is it good for baseball in the united states? I was reading in the paper that the ratings for the all-star game were the lowest ever. Some teams are having some real attendance problems. Is baseball... who they're putting between the lines changing who's out there in the stands?
TIM WENDEL: I think eventually it has to, Ray, and I think the teams that are really smart are going to do that. You look at attendance, it's fallen off 5-10 percent. Yet I was just out in Los Angeles talking to go some Latino leaders, community leaders and they were telling me, "you know, the NBA, the NFL do a better job of marketing their games to us than major league baseball does?" And I was just stunned because, again, you look at the breadth and the number of stars, say, coming from these other countries there. I think the other thing that really needs to be done too is from an infrastructure and also, say, playing something of... maybe a World Cup for baseball. I think the average U.S. fan would be stunned by how enthusiastic and how well this game is played outside our borders. And again we're not just talking the Caribbean or South America. We're talking, you know, all around the world. I just talked to a super scout friend of mine, a guy in Seattle, Roger Jongewaard who signed Darryl Strawberry, A-Rod, Ichiro. I said, "where have you been lately roger?" He said "of course I've been to the Dominican Republic. But after that, you know, I went to China, Russia, Croatia, Holland, Italy and I signed what I think are top prospects from all those countries." So let's have everybody play for their own country and I think it would be great competition and I think it would really put baseball back on the map.
RAY SUAREZ: When you buy a paper in Puerto Rico I know and you pick it up, look at the sports page, there's a separate box that you won't see in papers in other places that says our stars in the major league-- nuestra estrellas. Do kids grow up still in the Caribbean thinking, "I can be the center fielder for the New York Yankees like Bernie Williams? I can be hitting home runs like Evan Rodriguez?"
TIM WENDEL: I think they do in a sense, ray, because it's closer. Those people are closer in their community. Like up on my wall at home, I've got a photograph of Willie Mays playing stick ball on the streets of New York when he with the New York giants. I think right now, so many professional athletes are perceived as living at the end of gated cul-de-sacs, whereas if you go to Cuba, Dominican Republic, you want to know where the top star is, you ask the kids. The kids know where he is, and they know it's perfectly fine to go walking up to his house and knock on his door. And I think, you know, because they're much more part of the community, even though that's sometimes a very unrealistic dream, maybe it fuels it a little bit more. Okay, there's so-and-so, there's Sammy Sosa, there's Pedro Martinez. They made tonight the major leagues, maybe I can, too.
RAY SUAREZ: From your reporting and from the traveling you've done throughout the Spanish-speaking world, is this a wave that hasn't even crested yet?
TIM WENDEL: I don't think so. I asked that question of Junior Naboa who used to play second base for the Montreal Expos. Now he runs the baseball academy for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Dominican Republic. I said "how far can this go, junior?" He said "I think right now we're looking at probably 20, 25 percent of the players at the major league level right now Latino or Latino descent." He said that can go easily to 40-45 percent, because that's how passionate they're playing the game. And also, unlike what's happening in this country, in the inner cities, there's the infrastructure, there's the instruction, there's the fathers playing catch with their kids. Baseball is a game that has to be handed down generation to generation. You just don't go out and pick it up one day.
RAY SUAREZ: "The New Face of Baseball." Tim Wendell thanks a lot.
TIM WENDEL: My pleasure.
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major developments of this day: A truck bomb in Baghdad killed an Iraqi policeman. And two U.S. Soldiers died late Monday in a separate attack, thousands of Iraqi Shiites mourned a religious leader killedin a bombing last week. And the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security announced another 5,000 agents will help protect commercial airliners. On the NewsHour, Tom Ridge said terror groups still want to target flights, but he also said the country is far safer now than before 9/11.
And again to our honor roll of American service personnel killed in Iraq. Here, in silence, are five more.
JIM LEHRER: We'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 2003-09-02, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
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