The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
MR. LEHRER: Good evening. Leading the news this Wednesday, a Beirut Paris group said it will release an American hostage within 48 hours, the U.S. trade deficit fell sharply in February and the U.S. Supreme Court said states can outlaw child pornography. We'll have the details in our News Summary in a moment. Roger Mudd is in New York tonight. Roger.
MR. MUDD: After the News Summary we focus first on the possibility of an American hostage release in Lebanon [FOCUS - HOPE FOR A HOSTAGE], then the abortion controversy [FOCUS - BOARDROOM BATTLE] moves into the corporate boardroom and part 3 [SERIES - THROUGH THE SAFETY NET] of Charlayne Hunter-Gault's Wednesday night series "Through the Safety Net", tonight, a homeless family in Denver and a social worker who's trying to help them.NEWS SUMMARY
MR. LEHRER: There was the promise of a released U.S. hostage in lebanon today. It came from a Palestinian terrorist group holding three U.S. university professors. They said one of the three would be released in the next forty-eight hours. The Islamic Jehad for the Liberation of Palestine sent a letter to a Western news agency in Beirut. It was accompanied by a picture of Jesse Turner, a former professor at Beirut University College. He was kidnapped more than three years ago, along with two other American teachers, Allan Steen and Robert Polhill. The message did not say Turner would be the one released. The group said the freed hostage would carry a message to Pres. Bush. Secretary of State Baker was asked about the situation at the State Department.
JAMES BAKER, Secretary of State: We've seen reports like this before and of course we're always hopeful. We would like the unconditional, immediate, and safe release of all hostages. That is our position. That remains our position. I'm not going to comment any further with respect to this specific report. I don't want to say anything that might adversely affect any chances that there are for the release of any hostages.
MR. LEHRER: We'll have more on this story right after the News Summary. Also in Beirut today a school buswas hit with a grenade. Eleven children and four others on the bus were killed. Two rival Christian factions were fighting in the area at the time. Roger.
MR. MUDD: The Soviet Union and the Lithuanian republic continued their thrust and perry today. The Lithuanian parliament offered in effect to shut down for two weeks to encourage negotiations, but the Kremlin carried through on its threat to cut off oil supplies today, so in Moscow, the Lithuanian government was busy seeking an alternate supply of fuel. We have a report from Moscow by Bill Neely of Independent Television News.
MR. NEELY: The Lithuanian prime minister left Moscow after calling at the Norwegian embassy, her mission, to break the threatened blockade. She told ITN she was going to try to buy oil and was confident of some success. Lithuania's only oil refinery received its normal supplies today, but two reactors at the republic's nuclear power plant are now to be shut down. Supplies of natural gas are unaffected, but one Lithuanian leader says the gas blockade has began. ALGIMANTAS CEKUOLIS, Lithuanian Parliament: The rolls were turned in this morning but just technically it takes some time, still there's oil and gas in the pipes.
MR. NEELY: The Lithuanian parliament is about to offer Moscow more concessions, no new anti-Soviet laws for two weeks and a new formula for talks. Petrol cues are growing in Lithuania and local officials are now asking people not to waste heat and electricity.
MR. MUDD: In Washington, the Bush administration repeated its warning that Soviet actions in Lithuania could provoke a U.S. response, but the warning which came from Secretary of State Baker was again non-specific.
JAMES BAKER, Sec. of State: Some of our bilateral commercial contacts with the Soviet Union may be more directly in their interest than in ours and those contacts are being put to risk by Soviet actions in Lithuania. Our willingness and ability to take such steps that benefit perestroika in the near-term is to be sure affected by Soviet behavior.
MR. MUDD: An Aeroflot jet was hijacked today and forced to fly to Lithuania. The hijacker, who claimed to have a bomb, said he wanted to help Lithuania gain its independence. Soviet authorities described the man as a patient at a Moscow psychiatric clinic. He surrendered after the plane landed in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. The jet then resumed its scheduled flight from Moscow to Leningrad.
MR. LEHRER: Pres. Bush made another speech on global warming today. He defended his policy before his own White House conference attended by delegates from 17 nations. Some had criticized his administration for emphasizing the need for more research on climate change and its economic impact. Mr. Bush spoke this afternoon at the closing session of the two day meeting.
PRES. BUSH: -- economic growth and environmental protection, I say they miss the point. We are calling for an early new way of thinking to achieve both while compromising neither, by applying the power of the marketplace in the service of the environment, and we cannot allow a question like climate change to be characterized as a debate between economists versus environmentalists. To say that this issue has sides is about as productive as saying that the earth is flat. It may simplify things, but it just doesn't do justice to the facts or to our future.
MR. LEHRER: After the speech, some European delegates who had criticized U.S. environmental policy said they were encouraged by the President. They said he seemed to be moving to their view that action was needed soon.
MR. MUDD: The U.S. trade deficit went way down in February, falling to its smallest margin in more than six years. According to the Commerce Department, U.S. exports exceeded U.S. imports by nearly $6 1/2 billion, which is a 30 percent reduction. The Department said a generally mild winter held down the amount of imported oil.
MR. LEHRER: The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled states may forbid the possession of child pornography, even in private homes. The 6- 3 ruling upholds laws in 19 states. The court said the interest in eliminating child pornography outweighed certain constitutional rights to privacy. The high court also heard arguments today in two child abuse cases. The issue in both is whether defendants are entitled to a face to face confrontation with their young accusers or whether videotaped or other such testimony is adequate. Lawyers on both sides of the argument spoke to reporters outside the court.
JAMES JONES, Idaho Attorney General: If we can't use the hearsay statements by these very young children, people who can't testify in court, themselves, then we're not going to be able to go forward with the prosecutions and a lot of child molesters will simply go free.
WILLIAM MURPHY, Defense Lawyer: Whether or not a child needs to be protected depends on whether or not the child is telling the truth or whether the child is falsely testifying that he or she was the victim of child abuse. If the child is falsely testifying, no protection can be justified, and so implicit in the judgment whether to protect a child is an assumption of guilt rather than the presumption of innocence, and we can't work that way.
MR. LEHRER: The court also issued a ruling today on school desegregation. For the first time it said federal judges do have the power to order local officials to increase taxes to pay for desegregating public schools.
MR. MUDD: There were earthquakes in Northern California today but there have been no reports of injuries or serious damage. Six of the tremors hit during a one hour period shortly after dawn. The epicenter was about 60 miles South of San Francisco along the San Andreas Fault. A few high rise buildings in downtown San Francisco swayed and there were a few rock slides. By happenstance, today is the anniversary of the great earthquake of 1906, which killed more than 500 people in San Francisco. That's our News Summary. Just ahead on the Newshour, new hope for a hostage release in Lebanon, a major corporation confronts the abortion controversy and Charlayne Hunter-Gault's series, "Through the Safety Net". FOCUS - HOPE FOR A HOSTAGE
MR. LEHRER: The hostage development is first tonight. A group called the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine said today it would release an American hostage in 48 hours. It holds three American university Professors, Robert Polhill, Alan Steen and Jesse Turner. A picture of Polhill came with today's announcement in Beirut. The kidnappers statement said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly should fly to Damascus, Syria for the release. The White House said that it would welcome the release of any hostage. We get three perspectives now on this story from Joseph Sisco former Undersecretary of State who handled Middle East Affairs in the State Department for many years. He is now a consultant. Shireen Hunter, Deputy Director for Middle East studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former diplomate in the Iranian foreign Service. And Martin Kramer of the Diane Center for Middle East Studies in Israel and author of a book about the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. He is now a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington. To you first Mr. Kramer. tell us first about the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine. Who are they and what do they want?
MR. KRAMER: The Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine made its first appearance in 1987 with the kidnapping of the Americans, three Americans you mentioned earlier. It made its immediate demand the release of 400 persons detained by Israel or by the Israeli backed South Lebanon Army, a 110 Shiite and 90 Palestinians. It is not considered to be a Palestinian Group. The consensus is that it is predominately Shiite and that it is closely allied to Iran.
MR. LEHRER: Have they done anything but take these three hostages?
MR. KRAMER: No they have not.
MR. LEHRER: And we have not heard of them in any other context?
MR. KRAMER: They have occasionally issued threats from time to time that they would take this or that action. In fact recently they were the ones behind the threat against the Hungarians who were allowing Soviet Jewish Immigrants to leave Hungary for Israel. But apart from threats they have not been responsible for any terrorist act.
MR. LEHRER: They hold three of the eight Americans now who holds the other five hostages so we will understand?
MR. KRAMER: There is another group which goes by the name of the Islamic Jihad and which is the most veteran of the hostage holding groups. It holds two Terry Anderson and Thomas Sutherland. The demands of that group have always been connected with the release of Shiite that were held in Kuwait. A second group a cluster of hostages is held by the Revolutionary Justice Organization. There perhaps two or three we are not sure. And in their case although they have occasionally made demands their demands have never been systematic and it seems to be that they have a general philosophy that holding of hostages keeps the enemies of Hezbollah and the captures themselves at bay. They have no systematic demands for release. They only threaten to execute their hostages from time to time.
MR. LEHRER: Now is there any connection, an connection that we know of, the out side world knows of among these three organizations?
MR. KRAMER: We believe that time to time there is cooperation between the three different groups. Certainly they are all associated in one way or another with the Umbrella movement Hezbollah. There have been reports in past instances that hostages held under one name have in fact have seen or come in contact with hostages held by another. But basically each of the groups represents a different logic for holding hostages and those logics are quit distinct.
MR. LEHRER: Ms. Hunter would you agree with Mr. Kramer that this group we are talking about the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine is an Iranian Organization for all practical purposes?
MS. HUNTER: Well I really don't think that one can say any of these groups are exactly the same, have the same objectives or are completely under the control or influence of their sponsors. It seems to me that the experience in the last few years have shown that even though they are obviously responsive to the countries that are responsible for them over the years that they also have their own agenda. But it seems however, at least, this group depending on how everything evolves that they are indeed perhaps sensitive to the views coming from Teheran. I don't think that one can say that Teheran is just pulling the strings.
MR. LEHRER: If any one wants to give credit for this announcement today assuming that it actually comes off and the hostage is released that nobody should give credit to the Iranians. You don't think they should have that kind of power?
MS. HUNTER: I think that they have a significant amount of influence but there is a difference between influence and actually having the power of ordering them to release or not to release and I don't think that one can actually give credit people for helping release hostages because taking them was a discredited action. But I think that it is safe to assume that probably Iran has also played some role in this.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. Sisco is this statement today something that should be taken seriously?
MR. SISCO: It is a very credible one in my judgement Jim. The reason is that it is void of any anti American Rhetoric. I don't release in 48 hours with any pre conditionality. From the Bush Administration point of view we couldn't get the Assistant Secretary in that kind of bargaining position for one when so many other hostages need to be released. If there is anybody who has to go and coordinate the release the Red Cross can do the job very nicely.
MR. LEHRER: But you don't read the statement that if Kelly doesn't come this hostage is not going to be released?
MR. SISCO: I do not and I assume Jim that something has occurred before this and hopefully something will occur afterward and by that I mean there has been a lot of activity in the last three or four weeks through the confines of diplomatic channels. I think that we can very easily signal a willingness to continue the dialogue indirectly. Once this hostage is released unconditionally and that way we have been doing it by third parties and other means for the time being.
MR. LEHRER: Meaning lets say with in the 48 hours the hostage is released that then the United States takes some action?
MR. SISCO: No I think that in the context of this release we can make it clear through all sorts of other sources that we are willing to talk, not bargain, but we are willing to carry on a dialogue and I am struck with the fact that if you examine the statement very carefully there is referenance to Iran, there is reference to Syria. I think they are both involved as well as the Shiite on the ground who have their own interests. Jim, hostage holding is just not consistent with the overall global environment and above all the holders really haven't gotten anything from holding on to the hostages.
MR. LEHRER: But wouldn't they want something now Ms. Hunter if they are going to give them up?
MS. HUNTER: Well I think that everybody wants something eventually. The question is when they are going to get it and whether they want to get something immediately, whether they want to get an assurance, rather firm assurance, that once the whole hostage file is closed sort of speak there is going to be something not necessarily a quid pro quo but certain consequences of this act. But I think that I never the less agree with Joe Sisco that in general the whole international and region environment is against hostage holding and hostage taking. Now this may be that the process is still for getting everyone released is a lengthy one but I am hopeful that this is the year that we are going to get everybody out.
MR. LEHRER: Isn't there a problem here in that what Iran wants is one thing maybe, what Syria wants is another thing maybe and what the holders of the hostages may be an entirely different thing?
MS. HUNTER: That certainly is the case but what I am a bit more encouraged in actually is that in the past I would say that several months there has been greater coordination since the meeting between Iran and Syria. I think that both States it seems to me have reached a point that Lebanon and particularly all these hostage problems have become really a burden and that it is not only an asset but it is rather a liability and I think in that sense obviously this is a very positive thing. However, as far as the groups are concerned and I think Martin Kramer mentioned probably they are going to have some plans. Some of them may have much less nobel but you know purposes perhaps some financial pay offs in this regard. Others are more difficult because there are questions of relatives in jail and so forth.
MR. LEHRER: I was just going to ask Mr. Kramer can the holders of not only the first three that we have been talking about, the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine but the other ones as well can they be satisfied?
MR. KRAMER: Well they have very specific demands and if one reads their statements carefully one sees the reiterated again and again. In this particular case the demand regarding the release of the detainees has been a systematic one and I think that is really their top priority. They look back to the 1985 TWA highjacking as the root which resulted in the release of over 700 Shiite detainees held by Israel in return for the American passengers. I think that the difference and the sticking point for this group has been that 1985 is not 1990. In 1985 there were no Israelis held by any of the Shiite fundamentalist groups. Today there are as many as three Israeli servicemen who are held by Hezbollah and the sticking point has been that Israelis position is that they should be included in any comprehensive trade involving detainess which would include perhaps Sheik Abdul Kareem Obeid who was abducted by the Israelis last summer.
MR. LEHRER: Well, what's your judgment, your overall judgment, Mr. Kramer? You've been particularly studying the Hezbollah, the Islamic Jehad. Do you think this is the beginning of the end? Do you agree with Ms. Hunter that it's now in Iran and Syria's interest to get this thing behind him?
MARTIN KRAMER, Middle East Analyst: Well, I would definitely agree with Ms. Hunter regarding the Iranian interest in putting this behind Iran. I think in particular Pres. Rafsajani has an agenda which he wishes to get to. And that agenda requires that he put this behind him. My sense is nonetheless that it's more incremental events. The fact is that in order to stay in business, in the hostage holding business, you need only two hostages. Islamic Jehad, itself, that holds Sutherland and Anderson, is down to two and it is never going below that, because the two are held in order to meet its own demands. In this case Islamic Jehad for the Liberation of Palestine had three. It may give up one. In any case it will still have two in which to pursue its own demands. And those will be very hard to meet and would have to be met within the context of a very comprehensive negotiation involving Israel, the United States, Iran, the hostage holders, perhaps Syria.
MR. LEHRER: So the Islamic Jehad for the Liberation of Palestine is not going to be terribly interested in whether or not Iran has an economic problem that could be solved by the release of the hostages, right?
MR. KRAMER: Well, they want to be accommodating. There's no question about that. Other groups have taken and released hostages in the past in order to advance Iran's interest, but their position has always been that they must keep at least two inorder to assure that their own demands, their own agenda, is met.
MR. LEHRER: How does that sound to you, Joseph Sisco?
JOSEPH SISCO, Former State Department Official: I agree with what Mr. Kramer has had to say and at the end of the line, there's little doubt in my mind that they're going to want something in return. I think what's important is that in this ongoing dialogue that I've mentioned that we make it clear that we understand the broader considerations that are involved. The reason why Syria and Iran are so involved right now is that there is a parallelism of interest between the two. They're both very isolated in the area. The Soviet Union and the United States, if we should ease tensions in the Middle East, they're less a strategic asset, if they ever were a strategic asset in the area and therefore, I believe that hopefully it's the beginning of the process without getting unduly optimistic, but it's a long road ahead.
MR. LEHRER: Long road, you agree, Ms. Hunter?
SHIREEN HUNTER, Middle East Analyst: I agree that it's a long road. Yes.
MR. LEHRER: Well, Ms. Hunter, Mr. Kramer, Mr. Sisco, thank you all three very much.
MR. MUDD: Still ahead on the Newshour, Charlayne Hunter-Gault on people who have fallen through the safety net and the abortion battle moves to the corporate boardroom. SERIES - THROUGH THE SAFETY NET
MR. MUDD: Next tonight, Charlayne Hunter-Gault's series "Through the Safety Net". There's a growing debate over whether the United States is developing a permanent underclass, people who have fallen through the safety net, the social safety net, and remain at the bottom, almost untouched by programs for the poor. Throughout her series, Charlayne has been reporting on some of the people who fit this profile, single mothers, the chronically underemployed, mothers addicted to crack. Tonight she looks at a homeless family in Denver trying to find its way back to a normal life. [PARENTS TALKING TO THEIR SMALL CHILD]
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Like most American families that have to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning, the Pfertshes have a certain routine. But unlike most American families, the Pfertshes share their routine with dozens of other people. It begins with breakfast. Ed, Nancy and four year old Sara Pfertsh eat along with 17 other families. It's not a routine of choice but of necessity. For the Pfertshes and all these other families are temporary residents of this private non-profit shelter in Denver run by the Franciscan Capacine Brothers. In other words, they are all homeless. And it is the rules set by the staff that establish everybody's routine, rules intended to motivate the homeless and keep them from treating the shelter as a hotel instead of a temporary residence. After breakfast, every man, woman and child has to leave the shelter unless they have a specific excuse. Twenty-four year old Nancy Pfertsh's routine outside the shelter is different from most of the homeless. She's found a job as a housekeeper in a nearby motel. The salary of about $175 a week that she takes home from cleaning all of these units, that is, making the beds, cleaning the bathrooms, is usually all the family can depend on, and so far, that's not enough to help them get out of the rules and routine set by someone else. That leaves Ed in charge of taking care of Sara.
MR. PFERTSH: They have us leave here at 8 o'clock in the morning and me and Sara go out and we just kick around on the streets. You know, if I'm looking for a job, she goes with me. We ride the buses. Sara is into books and pictures and we go down to the library almost daily and she's four years old so she makes me read her four stories a day. It's fun. You have to kind of invent things to do. Most people don't go to the library almost daily, you know, and read their kid four stories a day, four books a day, but most people aren't in a position where they have snow outside or rain outside and they have to get into a sheltered area to keep their little one out of the weather. We run around the park and we feed the squirrels and we just, you know, kill time out there, you know, and then they let us back in at 5 o'clock at night.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: The past year has been especially hard for the Pfertshes. Their car died, then Ed was laid from his job as a construction worker. That's when they had to give up their $475 a month apartment. But the Pfertsh family's homelessness is a part of a cycle that Ed traces back to his first arrest as a juvenile. From then on, it was one thing after another that landed Pfertsh in jail, from street brawling to aggravated assault to armed robbery and drugs. Today, at 37 years old, Pfertsh has cleared his record of outstanding warrants, but potential employers tend to look at the past rather than at the present or to the future.
ED PFERTSH: As the old saying goes, when you do right, no one remembers, when you do wrong, no one forgets, and they don't. It's a catch-22. You know, go straight but we're not going to hire you. It's, you know, it's tough. They ask you the question on the application, have you ever been convicted of a felony, have you ever been convicted of a crime? That's how I got into construction. All they cared about if I was strong enough to do the work and if I'd show up on time, but in the last few years, with the economy being what it's been, I have on more than one occasion set out to look for other kinds of employment, and there's always that question, have you ever, and yeah, I have.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: There are certain jobs you just won't even apply for because of your record?
MR. PFERTSH: Yeah. I went and apply for a 230 unit apartment complex as far as being a maintenance man there and I knew I could do all the work, but after I got done with the application, I told Nancy, I said, I wouldn't give me that job, you know. I wouldn't hand over a set of pass keys to 230 units to somebody that's got a record like I got, and I got a ninth grade education. That limits some of my income possibilities. Some people don't like my personal appearance. I have teeth missing. I've been in the fast life. I've got tattoos that offend some people.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: You can put your teeth back in, can't you? Can you afford to do that?
MR. PFERTSH: You can't afford to do that when you don't stay workin', okay, you know what I mean?
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: You'd like to?
MR. PFERTSH: Oh, yeah, I'd love to. There's a lot of things I'd like to do, okay, but having the opportunity to do it is somethin' else.
POTENTIAL EMPLOYER: [Talking to Ed Pfertsh] Once you learn the city and get comfortable with the dispatch system, the opportunity is bigtime bucks.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: This opportunity to get work as a cab driver is one of the first real prospects Ed has had in a long while. What's good about it is he's done it before. [POTENTIAL EMPLOYER TALKING TO
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: With his spirits sagging, Ed Pfertsh needs the job for his self-esteem as much as for the money it will provide. You had more success in a way when you were into the criminal life, right?
MR. PFERTSH: I never lived in a shelter. I never got evictedout of the house that I was livin' in. I didn't have to worry about takin' my little girl out in weather like this. It was a lot easier to make it, you know, knowing that whatever monetary gains were out there were just, you know, done by burglars, and robbers, prostitutes, whatever.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: So it's real hard going straight?
MR. PFERTSH: It's not the easiest thing I've ever done. [COUNSELOR AT SHELTER TALKING TO MRS. PFERTSH]
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: As long as Nancy Pfertsh is working, the shelter will allow the Pfertshes to stay until mid May. A counselor gives her advice on building a nestegg when that time comes.
COUNSELOR: [Talking to Nancy Pfertsh] With what Ed will have, the two of you will have pretty close to $1200.
MRS. PFERTSH: That would be nice.
COUNSELOR: It would be great. [COUNSELOR STILL TALKING TO MRS. PFERTSH]
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Like Ed, Nancy is weary of the shelter life. Though she is grateful for a place to live, the shelter is no substitute for the privacy and freedom of her own home.
NANCY PFERTSH: It's depressing, that's probably the best word for it, I mean, well, because I can't cook. I was cookin' my own breakfasts and dinners. It's depressing just to see what we're doin' to our little girl. I mean, she had her own bedroom, she was able to get out all her toys, spread 'em all out, this is my room, and we've got to put her in this little room where we all stay and she can only bring certain toys because there's not enough room to store everything. After you come from work, it can be pretty irritating. I mean, you come up there and you just got done eatin' dinner and most people like to sit down and relax and have quiet time or whatever, but then you still again don't really have your time alone unless you just go to your own room because then you just have everybody out in the lobby area, talking, or playing cards or whatever. Me and my husband got our wedding anniversary next Monday and sure we'd love to go out and celebrate it and all that because they got the restrictions. We can't even go out for the night.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: How do you feel about having to live like this?
MR. PFERTSH: Not real good. Ah, ashamed; this is the last time it's goin' to happen though.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Have you established any goals, any timetables? What do you see when you look down the road six months from now?
MR. PFERTSH: Everybody has to draw a line somewhere. I have drawn a line. If I don't see -- and it's a reasonable line I figure, you know -- if you don't see something happening in a certain period of time in your life, then you draw a line, and if I don't see it happening by that point in time, then I will walk away from Nancy and Sara and let them have a better life.
MRS. PFERTSH: I don't agree with it. That's one problem that we're having. He says that he loves us so much that if he feels that we're not getting anywhere -- he thinks that it's fault, the position that we're in, because of the life that he's led and he just pretty much tells me he loves me and Sara so much that if he feels like he can't take care of us that we might be able to have a better life on our own.
MR. PFERTSH: I'm 37 years old and I know the life I've lived, okay. Nancy's 24 years old and the worst things she's ever done honestly is get hooked up with me. She hasn't done anything to offend anybody. When we were in Arizona, we were unemployed. She put in 10 applications and got three job offers. I put in 50 applications at the same kind of places and I got no job offers. There are only a certain number ofthings that I'm qualified to do honestly, and if this one doesn't like me because I have my teeth missin' and this one doesn't like my tattoos and this one doesn't like my criminal record, this one doesn't like my ninth grade education, and all I'm saying, it limits what you can do, and if the economy is bad in a town or a state, you know, I've got a lot of strikes against me, you know, and Nancy doesn't have any.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But she loves you. She doesn't want you to go.
MR. PFERTSH: Well, I'll tell you what. Love is fine, but love and 25 cents will get you a phone call, you know, and that's in all honesty, you know, and God bless the woman, she's hung with me in times like this when I'm surprised that she did it, but it can't be any more of this, not for her and Sara. Sara's, you know, Sara's young and Nancy's young. They need to be able to see some of their dreams come true in life. I'm not going to drag Nancy and Sara through, you know, an ugly kind of life. They deserve better than that. They deserve better than this, you know. I wouldn't wish this on anybody, okay?
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: As a social worker at Samaritan House, Mabel Risch occasionally meets with families like the Pfertshes. She tries to help them all find ways to break out of the cycle of homelessness. Are Ed and Nancy fairly typical of the people you see passing through here?
MABEL RISCH, Social Worker: In some respects, they're very very typical. Most of the families that we see at Samaritan House only come to the shelter once. A lot of families come two or three times. And we have a few who come as many as four, five or six times, so I say they're probably average, probably right in the middle.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Is it that there aren't enough services available for people like that, or is that we need a whole new system of service delivery?
MS. RISCH: One of the things about services for homeless, you know, that I'm discovering more and more is that they need to be really easy access. It's very very difficult for a homeless person to wait around for three or four weeks or even months to have an application approved and come back and back for interviews after interviews, so the services that work for the homeless, and the ones that are very quick, where you can go in an afternoon and have your application approved and get your service either that day or at the very very latest the next day, there simply aren't that many services that are like that. Some of it is access distance, having to transport and getting to a service is very difficult, and I frankly think for a lot of homeless people it's just money.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Does this seem to be presenting any catch-22s for people in situations like this? For example, they have to be out of here early in the morning, they can't come back until late at night, but if they call for jobs and the jobs have to call back during those hours, how do they get the messages, how do they get the calls?
MS. RISCH: It is true that once you're homeless it is trying to get those things like having a telephone to be able to get telephone calls back is very very difficult. We also have 250 people here. And we have, you know, we have one telephone number. The lines are not -- you know, that's not a problem, but trying to get telephone call backs for two hundred and fifty people with one phone system, it's a very difficult kind of situation. Other examples that have nothing to do with the shelter, but for example, if you're about to be evicted, there are several federal programs, mainly FEMA money, that will help you not get evicted. They'll give you money so that you can stay in your own home. The problem is that you end up having to go to about 10 different agencies to get enough money to get the rent to get the money stave off that eviction and when you're traveling by bus with small children, that gets to be very very hard.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: How do you see people getting out of this situation? I mean, do we know enough about Ed and Nancy and people like them to help them get out for good?
MS. RISCH: I think we know enough. Whether we have the resources is another issue. I think for most homeless people the bottom line is they need housing. They need low income housing that they can afford and that's simply not available. It's not available in Denver and it's not, I don't think it's available anywhere in the nation, so we know how to do it. The issue is getting the resource to be able to do it.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But is it just housing? Because Ed, for example, has a criminal record, he talked about his appearance, I mean, it's just a multiplicity of things, homelessness being just one.
MS. RISCH: No, and there are some other factors like in Denver having a car to be able to job hunt is sometimes very very important. We have got a public transportation system, but it's not real convenient to the job hunting, so you have to work on one problem at a time. I think we know what to do. Again, it's getting the resources together and mobilizing all the resources for a particular family to keep them from, you know, to get them out of the shelter and to keep them in a home once they've gotten there.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Do you think society really understands homelessness and its real sources?
MS. RISCH: The whole issue is one that society has got to continue to kind of struggle with. You know, I feel that the gap between the haves and the have nots is getting wider and wider. We have a whole group of people where it's a real normal thing to for them to spend 50 percent of their income for housing, 50 to 75 percent of their income for housing and to really really struggle and think about whether they can buy this Twinkie or milk for their children or whether they should pay their rent, and we've got another whole group of people who think it's absolutely nothing to buy a car for $21,000. You know, for most of the people I work with $21,000 is double their income, I mean, their annual income. I mean, they don't make $21,000 a year. So the whole struggle for society is how do we -- how do we give a little bit more to those people who are on that bottom, on those bottom rungs, how do we best take care of our children? You know, it's frightening for me to see some of the children that I've seen, the conditions that they're in.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: In the shelters?
MS. RISCH: In the shelters.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What conditions?
MS. RISCH: No medical care. Just basically no shots, no -- you know, a lot of them have not seen doctors, teeth are not in good condition, developmentally just not doing well, you know, behind in speech. You know at two or three they are already a year behind, by the time they get to four and five, where are they going to be? The stress the children are under is very frightening to kind of see and they feel the stress every bit as much as their parents do. They get depressed. They get stress. They get very anxious about what's going on.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: You see that right here?
MS. RISCH: We had one little girl in here who was -- can't remember now -- she was eight or nine years old and we had a snow storm and she told mother she needed boots to go to school and her mother tried to explain to her that she didn't have any boots and that little girl just sort of lost it for a period of time. She just got really really upset and started to really cry and cry and cry because she didn't have boots. And it wasn't that she needed them so much, I thought, it was the fact that she was just feeling such a loss as that are any of her needs going to be met, is she going to have a house, is she going to have, you know, a place to come back to, and boots were only the symbol that she was frightened. We have some children who go to school and they come back, they're not sure that their parents are going to be here. It's not that the parents have left them, but it's just that they are feeling so insecure and unsettled.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: The impermanence.
MS. RISCH: Right, everything, yeah. They want to make sure that their mothers and fathers are here when they come back to the shelter.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What happens when they come in the door?
MS. RISCH: They look for them immediately, want to know where they are, have they come back yet, and if a mother is late, you know, you can just see the anxiety level in the children just start to rise, where is she, did she get hurt, why isn't she here?
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: If you were suddenly elevated to national czar in charge of eradicating homelessness, what policy would you put in?
MS. RISCH: For any homeless family I would put in the support systems so that if that family needed somebody to talk to who understood their problems and what they had been going through in the past four or five years that that service would be available to them. I'd put in a system so that when they began to get into trouble that we could stop it right at that point, like the rent assistance, you know, half a month's rent assistance, and I'd also put in low income housing, you know, housing that if one person lost their job or if one person was sick and had to be out of work for two weeks, they'd still be able to maintain their housing.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Do you ever get used to it?
MS. RISCH: No. And I think that's probably good that I don't because I think getting used to it means that you are accepting of it and I don't accept it. I'd like to work myself out of a job, you know. That's my goal is I'd like to see myself without a job in five years because we don't need it any longer.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Mabel Risch, thank you for joining us.
MR. LEHRER: An update. Through the help of the Denver shelter, the Fertsch family has moved temporarily into a subsidized apartment. They can stay there for up to eight months as long as one of them has a job. Nancy continues her work at the motel but Ed is still looking for a steady job. Next week Charlayne will profile Will Butler, a Chicago man who's been chronically underemployed for more than 10 years. FOCUS - BOARDROOM BATTLE
MR. MUDD: Next, a familiar story in a new setting, the abortion controversy in corporate America. Increasingly, the nation's businesses are being confronted by activists urging them to take positions on abortion. Today in Los Angeles at its annual shareholders meeting AT&T took up the matter. Correspondent Jeffrey Kaye of KCET-Los Angeles was there and has our report.
MR. KAYE: People attending today's annual meeting of AT&T shareholders had to walk through a gauntlet of demonstrators. Most were union members protesting planned layoffs, but a handful were activists on both sides of the abortion controversy there to press their agendas. Despite their small numbers at the shareholders meeting, abortion activists have made their presence felt at the highest echelons of AT&T. Today's focus was a resolution brought by anti-abortion activist Shirley Leschin of Iowa. Leschin proposed that AT&T refuse to fund groups that advocate or perform abortions.
SHIRLEY LESCHIN, Anti-Abortion Activist: I came here to speak for the millions of missing Americans who have been destroyed by abortion. They will never be able to reach out and touch someone. They will never be able to say "mama".
MR. KAYE: Leschin argues every abortion creates a missing American and deprives AT&T of a potential customer. So your main point would be that abortion is simply bad for business?
MS. LESCHIN: Correct.
MR. KAYE: AT&T officials drawn into the debate took care to distance themselves from Leschin's proposal. Prior to the vote, chairman Robert Allen urged shareholders to reject the resolution.
ROBERT ALLEN, Chairman, AT&T: We believe that a corporation should not take a position for or against abortion. That is a matter of individual conscience.
MR. KAYE: AT&T's attempt to try to keep a low profile on the abortion controversy has been unsuccessful. A recent decision by the company to withdraw funding from one abortion rights group backfired and thrust it into an unexpected spotlight.
ANNOUNCER: [Public Service Announcement] Will anyone know if you use birth control? No. Everybody will know if you don't.
MR. KAYE: This public service announcement was funded in part by AT&T. It is one element of a nationwide campaign to educate teens about pregnancy, one of a number of programs operated by Planned Parenthood. Such services as medical examinations and counseling are among a variety of programs offered by Planned Parenthood but the organization also runs abortion clinics and takes a high profile stance in advocating abortion rights. Because of that, financial support of planned parenthood has become an explosive issue. In 1988, the Christian Action Council started a letter writing campaign that has become the latest example of how the abortion debate has moved into a new arena, from the courtroom to the boardroom. The council, an Protestant, anti-abortion organization with 500 chapters nationwide urged its followers to contact AT&T to demand the corporation stopped funding Planned Parenthood even though AT&T's annual $50,000 contribution had nothing to do with abortion. Douglas Scott is the Christian Action Council's public policy director. What's wrong with supporting teen pregnancy counseling?
MR. SCOTT: Nothing.
MR. KAYE: That's what AT&T was doing.
DOUGLAS SCOTT, Anti-Abortion Activist: No, it's not. AT&T is supporting teen pregnancy counseling because they had a restricted grant to Planned Parenthood for that reason, but there's two problems. First, any plans to Planned Parenthood, any restricted funds, releases unrestricted funds for abortion advocacy. The other problem is that if you give to any part of Planned Parenthood as well, you are now saying that we concur with Planned Parenthood's agenda, we think that Planned Parenthood is a legitimate organization and therefore, we're going to give them money, but Planned Parenthood without question is one of the most controversial organizations in the country right now because of their decision to be involved in the abortion rights battle.
MR. KAYE: As anti-abortion activists escalated their campaign against AT&T, suddenly on March 12th of this year the company's foundation informed Planned Parenthood that it was terminating its support. Planned Parenthood cried foul. It took out full page newspaper ads, slamming its benefactor of 25 years. Organization Pres. Faye Wattleton says AT&T has sold out.
FAYE WATTLETON, Planned Parenthood: They have capitulated to anti-abortion zealots who have pressured them for the last few years. If there's anything that has changed, perhaps there has been a step up of attacks on AT&T and they have felt the pressure to deny 25 years of a record and 25 years of an association.
MARILYN LAURIE, AT&T Foundation: To think that with our record that we're the kind of company that would get a couple of letters from an extremist group and fold up and cave in and go into a closet is to truly misjudge the kind of company that we are.
MR. KAYE: Marilyn Laurie is chair of the AT&T Foundation.
MARILYN LAURIE, AT&T Foundation: We believe that a corporation should not take a stand on an issue that is as personal and as private as abortion and we do not want our funding confused with a stand on the abortion issue.
MR. KAYE: By withdrawing the money, aren't you taking a stand?
MS. LAURIE: Absolutely not. We had no position on abortion beforehand. We have not reversed the position on abortion. We are not going to be pushed into taking a position by publicity on either side.
MR. KAYE: Both sides in the abortion controversy intensified their campaigns following last summer's Supreme Court decision in the Webster case, a ruling which shifted responsibility for abortion laws to the states. At times, the scenes have become ugly, a distasteful image for a staid corporate giant like A&T.
MS. LAURIE: I think and the directors of the AT&T Foundation think that a corporation has a role to play in this country in the issues of this country that is a restricted one. We believe that issues that are truly matters of personal individual conviction and moral judgment, private personal issues of individual decision, are not the kinds of issues that should be influenced by corporate funding and those issues we will not get involved in.
MR. KAYE: Your corporation funds politicians, gives millions of dollars --
MS. LAURIE: That's for a PAC. That's for a Political Action Committee for supporting specific political candidates which I would hasten to tell you we support or oppose based on their positions on economic issues that affect the economic future of the AT&T enterprise and have nothing whatever to do with abortion. And our philanthropy has nothing whatever to do with abortion either.
MR. KAYE: You're continuing to fund hospitals --
MS. LAURIE: Absolutely.
MR. KAYE: -- that perform abortions. Will you pull the money out of those hospitals?
MS. LAURIE: We fund a variety of broad based medical services based on the fundamental charter of those medical institutions and we do not ask when we give general funding to those institutions whether or not for medical reasons they perform any kind of clinical service. We don't ask if they do heart transplants. We don't ask if they do abortions.
MR. KAYE: Because AT&T restricted its decision to Planned Parenthood, Faye Wattleton fears her organization could become the target of a corporate blacklist.
MS. WATTLETON: Unfortunately because AT&T caved to this pressure, other corporations that are giving to Planned Parenthood will now come under tremendous pressure to do likewise, and so AT&T in many respects cut the knees out from under other organizations who have decided to hold firm and will now be the source of a fair amount of attacks by these right wing groups.
DOUGLAS SCOTT, Anti-Abortion Activist: We are going to do the same thing that we did with AT&T, and that means a continued letter writing campaign, no threats, no boycotts, just let the company officials know that it is not in their best interest right now or in the best interest of the country to be supporting the nation's No. 1 abortion advocate.
MR. KAYE: That sounds like a threat to me.
MR. SCOTT: No. How's that a threat? What are we saying that we're going to do to them?
MR. KAYE: You're telling them that it's not in their best interest.
MR. SCOTT: It's just educating them.
MR. KAYE: Scott has a list of companies he wants to educate. No. 1 he says is American Express, which he labels a consistent supporter of abortion rights groups. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is waging a battle on its own behalf. [SPOKESMAN ON TELEPHONE]
MR. KAYE: Planned Parenthood is getting the word out on MCI telephone lines after cancelling a contract with AT&T. [AT&T
MR. KAYE: At today's shareholders meeting, AT&T Chairman Robert Allen painted a rosy financial picture, even without Planned Parenthood's business.
SHIRLEY LESCHIN: [AT&T
SHAREHOLDERS MEETING] I ask you to be more logical and vote yes.
MR. KAYE: When Shirley Leschin introduced her anti-abortion motion, other speakers used the opportunity to criticize AT&T's Planned Parenthood decision.
SHAREHOLDER: [At Meeting] AT&T, after 25 years of Planned Parenthood support, has given the American public the impression that AT&T is bending to political pressure from groups of minority opinion.
MR. KAYE: Even though speakers were passionate about the subject, many shareholders in attendance left the room, showing their displeasure at having the abortion issue inserted into a corporate meeting. Their walkout echoed the company's position that AT&T should refrain from public involvement in the abortion controversy. When the vote was tallied, an overwhelming majority of shareholders, 94 percent, rejected the proposal to take an anti- abortion stance. But the issue will not go away. Anti- abortion activists say they'll be back at next year's meeting of AT&T and promise to move on to press their demands on other companies. RECAP
MR. LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Wednesday, a terrorist group in Beirut said it would release within 48 hours one of three American hostages it is holding. The U.S. trade deficit fell in February to its lowest point in six years, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legality of laws in 19 states that forbid the possession of child pornography. Good night, Roger.
MR. MUDD: Good night, Jim. That's our Newshour for tonight. I'm Roger Mudd. Thank you and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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- This episode's headline: Hope for a Hostage; Through the Safety Net; Boardroom Battle. The guests include MARTIN KRAMER, Middle East Analyst; SHIREEN HUNTER, Middle East Analyst; JOSEPH SISCO, Former State Department Official; CORRESPONDENTS: CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT; JEFFREY KAYE. Byline: In Washington: JAMES LEHRER; In New York: ROGER MUDD
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- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-m61bk17f45