West Virginia Coal Feature

A feature story about the coal industry. As President Donald Trump keeps promising to "bring back coal" jobs, we spent time in West Virginia with a coal miner and state senator, Randy Smith, to show what life is like in the industry and find out if Trump's promises can make a difference. We also spoke with a fourth-generation coal miner-turned-environmentalist, Junior Walk, who now spends his time trying to stop mining, and an energy expert who also comes from a coal mining family in West Virginia.



March 2017

STUDIO INTRO: On the 28th, American President Trump signed an executive order reversing global warming policies promoted by the Obama Administration. What effects will it have on the environment?

TRUMP: Today, I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the ‘War on Coal!’” [00:20]

VOICEOVER: On the 28th, President Trump signed an executive order completely revising US global warming policy. The order sets out a review of restrictions on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and resuming approvals for mining on federally owned land. [00:42]

The order aims to effectively utilize domestic energy resources and promote the recovery of coal industry jobs, but how will it affect the environment?

[noise / drive shot]

VO: The Appalachian mountains, which cut across the eastern United States.This area is dotted with around 700 coal mines.

Here, we meet Mr. Randy Smith, a 40-year veteran of the coal industry. His workplace is about 100 meters below the earth. [01:15]

SMITH: Are you ready? Goodbye sunshine.

CORRESPONDENT: “That wall behind me is coal, currently being mined by a machine drill and place into this truck here and bringing it right over there.”

VO: In West Virginia, the third lowest ranking state in America for average household income, coal mining is one of the few jobs where workers are ensured a high enough salary to support a family without a college degree. However, for some 10 years, Appalachian coal mining production decreased by roughly half, with frequent mine closures [01:58]

SMITH: Gas prices got real cheap, you know. And a lot of it too was that people got real scared because President Obama, he wasn’t passing laws. He was just making ‘em up.

 VO: As a result, people placed their hopes in Pres. Trump’s promise to put coal miners back to work.

MINER: “Trump all the way! He’ll put coal miners back to work and change America!” [02:27]

VO: His fellow miners are optimistic but Mr. Smith, who is also a state senator, confronts the reality of his situation.

SMITH: You know, coal will never ever be back to where it was.

SMITH: I just think there’s a happy medium we can meet, a common sense where we can still have clean coal technology The coal industry will never be back to its former level of activity.”

VO: As the only state senator to concurrently work as an active coal miner, he made a campaign pledge to diversify the state’s coal-dependent economy while paying heed to environemtnal concerns.

SMITH: I just think there’s a happy medium we can meet, a common sense where we can still have clean coal technology and keep jobs. [03:05]

VO: On the other hand, there are also young people in the state who warn about the environmental damage from mining. Mr. Walk comes from a long line of coal miners. Unable to stomach the environmental damage of strip mining, he left his job to join an environmental protection organization.

WALK: Anything that they do that tears up the earth this bad is just wrong, blatantly.

VO: The Trump Administration is also considering leaving the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases. [03:36] We asked a specialist in the field what the impacts of such a move might be.

DR. JEREMY RICHARDSON: The fundamental economics has shifted away from coal and toward cleaner forms of generation. I think [promising the return of coal jobs] is misleading at best, and I think it’s very dangerous.  

VO: President Trump has sharply altered the course of the country with his “return to coal.”

SMITH: “Black gold!”

VO: This move is also aimed at shoring up his base of support among blue-collar workers, but the ultimate impacts remain unclear. [04:10]

TBS News (Japan) -- Synthetic Drugs feature

A feature story about the dangers of synthetic drugs. We spoke to a former user in Carrolton, Missouri, whose younger brother passed away after smoking synthetic marijuana.



3.12.15 SYNTHETIC DRUGS -- Carrolton, Missouri

Next, a new national survey has found that 53 percent of secondary school students are able to obtain dangerous drugs. This issue is spreading ever-wider, and in the United States, dangerous drugs can even be obtained at drive-thrus.

Delirious youngsters. They have all been taking dangerous drugs.

Police, open the door!

US authorities are strengthening enforcement of dangerous drugs. At the same time, there is the reality that such drugs are often easily available.

Can I get the list?

The state of Missouri, in the central United States. Along a highway surrounded by cornfields is a small storefront.

Here comes a car.

One by one, vehicles line up next to a small window. Signage advertises tobacco, but the interior is invisible from the outside. We rode along with man who used to be a regular at this store.

Yeah. To buy synthetics.

He says that dangerous drugs can be purchased here, just like fast food.

Can I get the list?
What happened to your guys’ no names?

Upon request, the employee produces a menu with the names of six dangerous drugs and their prices.

15 spot up at the top left.

Oh ok. It’s only 15 bucks for 10 grams? Holy crap, that’s a deal, dude.

Despite being a weekday afternoon, there was no ebb in the tide of vehicles approaching the drive-thru.

With a population of 3,700, this looks like any small Midwestern town, but drug addiction among teenagers is becoming a serious problem.

A majority of junior high schoolers here have experience using dangerous drugs. One of those was Kevin (22), who says he tried such drugs for the first time at the age of 14, after a friend recommended them.

You know, I didn’t really enjoy it the first time, but you know, the next 10 times after that, I pretty much—I fell in love with it for a while.

I didn’t know that he had a problem until, you know, probably a year ago when he started walking around like a zombie.

Soon, Kevin was also partnering with like-minded neighbors to engage in the production and sale of dangerous drugs.

Right here. That’s one of the last chemicals I’ve ordered from this site. And it was—I don’t know, it was mediocre. It wasn’t worth my money.

He says that detailed instructions were available online for every step of the production process, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent survey found that 1 in 9 American high school seniors have tried dangerous drugs, and cases of accidental death are not uncommon.

Sensing a looming crisis, authorities are targeting these dangerous drugs with a country-wide investigation.

The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), located in suburban Washington, DC. Numerous samples of dangerous drugs seized during police investigations are gathered here. Analysts warn that dangerous drugs created by amateurs vary wildly in quality, and in some cases can lead to serious health problems.

You could take two of these Kush packages, and they could contain two different drugs, and even if they do contain the same drug, they could be different dosages. So one could give you a really good high, and the other could send you to the hospital.

Further, the officer responsible for investigations points out another issue.

Quite frankly, it’s been very very profitable for organized crime that’s involved in this.

Criminal organizations, sensing a business opportunity, are entering the market, and portions of the profits are flowing to Middle Eastern countries like Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

It does flow out of the country. It has flown to the Middle East to areas of concern because some of the subversive groups that might be a recipient of this illegal money.

Dangerous drugs: A quite scourge, slowly eating away at society. For Kevin, who at one point was active in both the production and sale of these drugs, the time to quit came out of the blue: On December 30th of last year, his 15-year old younger brother died suddenly after taking dangerous drugs.

I’ve always protected my little brother. You know, it killed him, so—I can’t necessarily kill “fake bake,” but I can, you know, keep it away from my life forever.

Kevin blamed himself for the sudden death of his brother. As the specter of dangerous drugs spreads globally, one question remains: Will this chain of tragedy ever break?

TBS News (Japan) -- Global Hawk

A feature story about the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle used by the United States government all around the world. Included in the story are exclusive images taken by the Global Hawk after the 3/11 tsunami in Japan. 



5.27.14 GLOBAL HAWK FEATURE -- Grand Forks, North Dakota

VO: These are photos obtained exclusively by JNN, which show the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This one shows a factory in Sendai, approximately 19 hours after the earthquake. It contains a close-up image clearly showing an uprooted fuel tank. Here, we see Kamaishi City, in Iwate Prefecture. We can clearly see a rail bridge has collapsed onto a road bridges. These high-quality images were taken from an altitude of 15,000 meters, by an unmanned aerial surveillance craft operated by the US military.

VO: Following the earthquake and tsunami, the US military received a request from the Japanese government to assist in surveilling the site of the disaster, particularly the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The US responded by utilizing “Global Hawk” aerial surveillance planes from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

KAZUHISA OGAWA, MILITARY ANALYST: They were flying overhead the next day, filming the entire site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. They were able to fly relatively low in that case because they’re unmanned and because they’re equipped with a certain degree of protection against radiation.

VO: The Japanese government received approximately 3,000 photographs, all very high quality. At the time, the Kan Administration, surprised by the clarity and detail in the images, decided to refrain from publicizing them.

KAZUHISA OGAWA, MILITARY ANALYST: These photos are all very important in the early stages of planning rescue and recovery operations.

VO: That same Global Hawk will now officially be deployed to Japan by the US military.

VO: This is the Global Hawks’ home, located in the state of North Dakota, in the Midwest region of the United States. We are the first among Japanese media to be permitted to film here. The US Air Force’s 9th Reconnaissance Wing of the 69th Reconnaissance Group is based here. Their primary mission is surveillance and reconnaissance by unmanned aircraft.

CORRESPONDENT STAND-UP: Here in this hangar is the Global Hawk. Notice the size of the wings relative to the body- the total wingspan is around 40 meters.

VO: This is the Global Hawk, an unmanned craft armed with state-of-the-art surveillance technology. Because it needs no pilot, it has no cockpit. Built of lightweight material, it is capable of flying up to 30 hours at a time.

CORRESPONDENT STAND-UP: The Global Hawk is armed with an array of surveillance capabilities, but most distinctive is this bottom part. Inside here are the cameras and radars.

VO: Inside the enlarged portion at the front of the craft are satellite antennae and, in the bottom part, a sophisticated camera. It has no attack capabilities. Global Hawks are operated remotely from a control room on the ground, and images it captures are transmitted live via satellite.

CORRESPONDENT STAND-UP: The Global Hawk behind me is about to embark on a mission. It is currently undergoing final maintenance work in preparation for take-off.

VO: 7:00 a.m. On the base’s runway, the Global Hawk is being prepped for departure. One hour later, it begins to move. Time for lift-off. Images from the front camera of the plane are visible from the control room, but vehicles trail from behind to make sure there are no issues in the plane’s blind spots.

CORRESPONDENT VO: The Global Hawk is taking off. It is heading out on a reconnaissance mission.

VO: By the end of the month, two of these Global Hawks will be deployed to Misawa Airforce Base in Aomori Prefecture.

COL. LAWRENCE SPINETTA: At the invitation and in cooperation with the Japanese government, the Global Hawk will forward deploy towards Misawa and help strengthen the security of the region.

VO: Because the Global Hawks’ are currently deployed to Guam, which is going through typhoon season, the US expects a 70% increase in Global Hawk operations from the deployment to Misawa. Colonel Spinetta declined to identify specific surveillance targets, but they are widely believed to be aimed at the military operations of North Korea and China. However, China is also making rapid advances in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology. Last year, one of their UAVs invaded the airspace of the Senkaku Islands. In addition, drones recently found in South Korea were determined by authorities there to have originated in North Korea. The militaries of the world are pouring time and resources into research and development of UAV technology, but with the increased use of these craft comes a new problem. With the War on Terror now stretching on more than a decade, the US military has an interest not just in unmanned surveillance aircraft, but also in unmanned attack aircraft that allow them to minimize human casualties. The representative example is the unmanned attack vehicle Predator. These craft are used largely by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and American authorities have so far been unwilling to reveal many details about them. However, numerous cases of civilians deaths due to drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan and Yemen, and human rights groups criticized their use as a clear violation of international law.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The government keeps this program in almost complete secrecy. We really don’t know how many people have been killed.

VO: Meanwhile, after witnessing their capabilities firsthand following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Japanese authorities decided to place orders for three unmanned surveillance craft for their own forces, with the Global Hawk at the top of the list.

COL. SPINETTA: Cooperation between the United States and Japan has always been strong. And I would expect that if the Japanese government decides to buy the Global Hawk, then that relationship—that strong relationship—will continue. My eyes were wide open when I came over to first fly the Predator, and then later the RQ-4. Unequivocally, unmanned aircraft are the future—or at least increasingly so—of aviation.

VO: However, international human rights organizations caution that after buying unmanned surveillance vehicles, Japan will in the future also become interested in UAVs with attack capabilities.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: I could imagine that, you know, once you think you’re going around surveilling everyone and getting all the information, that it becomes more tempting to then sort of use this lethal force. VO: The United States has full turned its wheel toward the UAV age. Just how far will Japan follow in that wake? The country now finds itself at a crossroads.

Interests Collide: Whalers and Whale Watchers at Odds

2009 -- Reykjavík, Iceland

Late in 2008, Iceland experienced a financial collapse. The nation that once enjoyed many luxuries now faced a 10% unemployment rate. In a country that embraces history while moving towards the future in green efforts, a new whaling quota was enacted by the outgoing Minister of Fisheries. Created the day before he left office, the Minister's quota once again allowed for whalers to fish for whales commercially.

At the same time, those in the tourism industry have worked for years to build up Iceland as a whale watching destination. Whalers claimed they would boost the economy through the creation of jobs and the export of meat. Whale watchers believed that the renewed practice would shed a poor light on the country as the world aims to be more environmentally friendly, turning tourists away.

I went to Iceland in March of 2009, soon before the new whaling season was to begin. Here is my report.