21/08/2017 Newsnight


A look at the total solar eclipse in the US, the latest on Grenfell institutional failures and there is a report from Mosul. Kirsty Wark presents.

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The last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century and


not until August the 21st, 2017, will an eclipse be visible from


North America,. That day was today -


the Great American Eclipse. Millions turned their faces


to the sky - from Donald Trump Millions turned their faces to the


sky. Why is this awe inspiring,


but rational mathematical event And does it have any


scientific value? We speak to Nasa's director


of planetary science. In just over three hours,


Donald Trump is due to make a major speech on military


policy on Afghanistan. And I am in Afghanistan as President


Trump reveals his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan.


We speak to the US's former Ambassador to Afghanistan.


After Grenfell - tonight we are finally getting some clarity


on how big a safety problem has been uncovered


The government now knows of more than 200 high-rises fitted


with cladding that does not meet our fire rules.


A pulverised city, Isis fighters still hiding out in pockets.


Can traumatised residents, and returning refugees


This is what liberation looks like. Iraq's second-largest city, just


ruins. The bulk of the city is completely destroyed and devastated.


There is nothing left. Millions across the United States


witnessed the Great American From the Oregon coast


to Charleston in South Carolina, people gathered in sport stadiums


and on beaches and city roofs as the country


was plunged into darkness, coast to coast, for the first


time in 100 years. It was said to be the most


documented such event in history. Centuries ago, an eclipse


was everything from a divine warning The ancient Chinese thought the sun


had been eaten by a dragon. No matter the rational explanation,


it is still for many an extraordinary moment,


when we realise we are just So what's the draw,


and can we actually learn We'll hear from Nasa in a moment,


but first here's Stephen Smith. I have seen grown men cry at solar


eclipses. Across a great swathe of America, and in a break from the


norm, people have been taking a holiday and rushing to get out of


the sun. A shadow cast by a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse.


For once, the president did not seem to mind being put in the shade. For


90 minutes the eclipse tracked east over 14 states, from one American


seaboard to the other, before heading out over the Atlantic. If


the eclipse is a highlight in the calendar, consider the men and women


who devote themselves to studying solar activity. For then it is a


real day in the sun, or rather shadow. I am working on how the sun


shines and we keep making progress and understanding how the sun


shines, but there are gaps and it is exciting to be outside and have the


universe dark and and have this fabulous stuff go on in the sky. The


view outside is fabulous. We have tried for a long time to explain


this to people and my conclusion is you have to see it to believe it. It


is unbelievable. On a red day like this, our earthbound concerns seem


suspended and it is possible to sense the war and terror our


ancestors must have felt at a celestial event like this -- awe.


Not until August the 21st 2017 will another eclipse be visible, 38 years


from now. Maybe shadow of the moon fall on a world of peace. ABC News


will bring you a report on the next eclipse. Even better, this is Evan


Davis on the spot in his eclipse chasing talks. A few observations.


The sound changes. Dogs start barking. We heard a cow in the


distance and the insect noise changes. Huge temperature drop. We


have been in the burning heat, 94 degrees in American money, and


suddenly it begins to cool down and become cool. Perhaps the most


exciting, just at the edge of the eclipse, as you look at the sun, you


catch a bead, which is the sun catching behind the hills and


valleys of the craters on the moon. You are seeing the sun deemed behind


the rough surface of the moon, as the shadow passes. It is really


extraordinary. They are calling this the American eclipse. At a


particular American moment. I suppose we do now have a president


who really enjoys being the centre of attention. And finds it hard to


be eclipsed, if you will. I found something maybe a little funny, that


we have moment here where we really are, as Americans, celestial li


required to look at something else, to look at something larger and


think of ourselves as members of the planet. Others say today is a


reminder of what man now understands about the heavens. I have heard


people say they are reminded of the awe of things but I think the


opposite, that it shows humans have been able to understand the workings


and predict this and understand how the stars shine with these details


we are trying to improve. This brings the universe to us and


humanises our son shows we can understand it.


I'm joined from Idaho Falls by Nasa planetary science director


And from Wyoming by David Baron, the author


Good evening. I can see David Baron in bright sunshine but Jim Greene,


you look happy. What was it like the experience? It is the first one I


have ever seen but I have to tell you there was not a cloud in the sky


and it got dark and it was just beautiful. What did you learn? You


have the awe and wonder, but what immediately are you learning from a


scientific perspective? Nasa has an array of instruments we tested, some


from planes, others from balloons we launched. We launched 57 balloons


along the path. They went up to more than 100,000 feet. We performed a


variety of experiments. What will that tell us and help us, that we do


not know now? I had as a planetary scientist and experiment. A


principal investigator David Smith had bacteria we put on two coupons.


One on the ground and one on the balloon and we did it to 30


balloons. We went to 100,000 feet. The reason we put the bacteria on


it, and it is a hardy, harmless bug, but pervasive in this world, is that


we wanted to see if it could survive the conditions. They were special


conditions. At 100,000 feet you are above ozone and you get ultraviolet


light. You also are at a temperature and pressure with the same


conditions as on the surface of Mars. The concept is, camber bugs


survive on the surface of Mars? David Baron, you have seen many


eclipses and have a rational response in a sense, but for you it


is still magical when you watch eclipses. Absolutely. I am a science


writer and my background is in science, but chasing eclipses is


about emotion. It is the most awe-inspiring spectacle anyone can


have on this planet and I'd tell you everyone in their life owes it to


themselves to see a total eclipse. After you have seen one you often


want to see more. Why? We have a rational response to it but in years


past it was seen to be a harbinger of doom, harbingers of happiness. We


interview the -- we imbue it with meaning. In ancient times you see


this beautiful shining ring of light and people were confused and even


today. We know that all is going on is the moon passing between us and


the sun but it messes with your head. It looks like no sky you have


seen and it just connects you with universe like nothing else because


you realise you are looking towards the centre of the solar system and


you see with the naked eye what a beautiful object the sun is. It is


not just a simple disc in the sky, it has like air. Beautiful tendrils


coming off you can only see in a total eclipse. Thank you.


It's being reported in the New York Times that


in a major foreign policy speech tonight, President Trump


will announce a new military push in Afghanistan.


One that will put more American military boots on the ground -


perhaps as many as 5,000 pairs - in order to ramp up the war


against against the mainly Taliban insurgents who have been


Trump has been accused by US lawmakers of dragging his heels


over an intensification, and a kite was flown that


suggested he might want mercenaries to do the job.


But tonight, at Fort Myer in Virginia, he is expected


to indicate the US military will be the ones


We'll hear from a former American ambassador to Afghanistan


First, I asked Secunder Kermani in Kabul what the security


The levels of violence have been steadily increasing.


And some of the statistics are really quite shocking.


Last year for example there were nearly 3500 civilian


And parts of the country that were previously


considered quite safe, like Kabul, for example,


Kabul has seen a number of high-profile, quite


In fact, not too long ago there was a rocket attack


And across the country the Afghan government only controls around


Insurgent groups, that's mainly the Taliban, control just over 10%.


And they contest nearly a third of the country.


One of the criticisms in the past has been that President Obama did


commit to sending large numbers of troops back in 2010, 2011,


there was around 100,000 American soldiers here in Afghanistan.


But he was also quite explicit in saying that he wanted America


to withdraw from Afghanistan and set a date for that.


And the argument goes that that encouraged


the Taliban to effectively wait the Americans out.


On the other hand it seems there is no real simple solution


The crux of the problem seems to be that whilst many in Afghanistan


and internationally believe that peace can only be achieved


through some kind of negotiated settlement with the Taliban -


because it is not going to be possible to defeat


at the moment the Taliban do not really seem to have much


of an incentive for coming to the table for talks


because they feel they have got the momentum behind them.


So what most analysts say needs to happen is there needs to be


a greater level of military pressure exerted on the Taliban to encourage


them to come and start meaningful negotiations.


So how will Afghans take the news this evening of a kind of beefed


Well we have to wait and see what exactly President Trump says


but certainly the figures in the Afghan government that I have


been talking to want to see more American troops here in Afghanistan.


Although at the same time they are quite clear


that they want to see them in that training and advisory role that most


American soldiers are primarily in in Afghanistan at the moment.


They want to see Afghan troops take the lead on the battlefield.


What they want to see more of is they want greater access


to American military technology and aerial capabilities.


One thing that many in the Afghan government I think would be quite


concerned about would be a greater role for private security firms


which is meant to be one of the options that


I think that would also cause a great deal of concern amongst many


Zalmay Khalilzad is a former Ambassador to Afghanistan and US


ambassador to the UN under George W Bush.


Good evening Ambassador. Reports coming out of the US of increased


troop deployment. Is that what you understand will happen? That is my


understanding as well but we will have to wait and see until we hear


from the President. He has inherited a difficult situation. He has been


very deliberate taking his time, looking at the US objective going


forward. Looking at alternative strategies. And we will see what the


result is. I hope the strategy he announces will be comprehensive as


the review has been. The word is it could be roughly about 5000 troops.


Do you think that in this situation when the Taliban seems to be back on


the front foot that 5000 US troops will be sufficient for the task? The


question is what is the task. If the task is as military leaders say, to


stop the momentum of the Taliban and also indicate unlike the previous


administration in the US which set a timetable for reducing the forces


that it had increased and was indicating it was anxious to get all


troops out, which encouraged to tell about not to come to the negotiating


table. That this increase plus giving more flexibility to the


commanders to use the force as they see fit, plus pressure on Pakistan


which is a diplomatic issue of great importance affecting Afghanistan,


might change the Taliban calculus, the power -- the Pakistani calculus


and therefore encourage negotiations. That is what the


objective is and they believe that the troop numbers associated with


the other things that I said could produce the results of a negotiated


settlement. But we will have to wait and see. Interesting that you talk


about pressure in Pakistan which is a US ally but it has been there for


a long time but the war goes back 16 years. And tonight not even the


whole of ten to say. Why has there been such a long term failure of


policy and indeed over the issue of Pakistan, why have they failed to


get to grips with Pakistan and its continuing harbour of the Taliban?


Afghanistan on the one hand is not what it was 16 years ago and I think


it is a mistake to say it has been a failure. Because now Afghanistan has


a large security force, it has state institutions that they did not have


16 years ago. We needed 100,000 troops only six or seven years ago


to prevent the Taliban from winning if you like or prevailing. Now the


military are saying we need only 4000, 5000. So that has been a


positive change but on the other hand you are right that the strategy


to encourage Pakistan to play a constructive role has failed. And we


need to and we will have to see what President Trump says about this


tonight, how to shed Pakistan from its comfort zone that it can be an


ally on the one hand and also act as an anniversary and support the


Taliban network. At the start of the interview you said President Trump


had been very deliberate and looked at reviews and taken is fine. Others


accuse him of dragging its heels. And there was also talk that part of


the announcement tonight, which may have come from the Steve Bannon win,


that it was not military force but mercenaries. What you think of that?


I think there is a role for contractors to assist the military.


At the present time we have more contractors in Afghanistan Ben


troops. But I do not think that you can subcontract the war to the


contractors. Their role is a limited role to be in support of the


military. And I believe that is where it will come out tonight.


Thank you very much. Today the results of the final


significant fire safety test triggered by the Grenfell


disaster were released. They seek to help us


work out which other buildings are safe or not,


by working out what sort of cladding The results make for


troubling reading. I'm joined by our Policy


Editor Chris Cook. I'll have we got here, just remind


us. Just after the Grenfell Tower fired the government began an audit


of tall buildings across England to work out of the buildings that had


aluminium cladding on the outside, what type of installation did they


have and what sort of aluminium facing they had on the exterior. The


reason why they wanted to know that was that it is possible to have some


kind of slightly combustible installation and some kind of


slightly combustible exterior cladding if you have them in the


right combinations. If they are properly designed and only used in


certain combinations. But they did not know what the safe combinations


where. So having done that audit, they have done six fire tests so


far, there will be seven, and these are to work out which combinations


of materials can be used. So what is the significance of this report?


This is the last of the ones that were in doubt, the conclusions are


that when you take all the test results together we now know the


right children 28 tall buildings across England that have designs of


cladding, combinations of integration and aluminium cladding


on the outside that is not fire safe. 200 buildings unsafe, how do


we get to a situation where we handle that. In principle under the


building regulations you should not be able to put up the stuff without


going through a rigorous fire test of the sword the government has been


doing. But the institutions that we rely on to police that requirement,


they basically let us down. One example, the longest standing


Private institution that has a lot to do building inspection in the UK,


the National house-building Council, Derry esteemed, not a jazzy company,


they released guidance last year saying they would sign off


combustible cladding and insulation without anyone needing to do any


test or any further requirement to show it was safe just because


culturally that is what was accepted. Institutions like that who


had a responsibility to the public to make sure buildings were safe


they basically dropped the ball. They took their eye off fire safety.


And now we discover many buildings to not read the rules that we set


up. The coalition forces who retook


Mosul from Isis have moved on west, where the battle is now for Tal


Afar. In their wake, they have


left a city, much of it Mosul suffered three years of Isis


occupation and then a nine-month 700,000 of the residents,


many of them traumatised, But is there anything to come home


to and is it really safe from Isis? This special report by Yalda Hakim


contains images some viewers The road to Mosul is


long and convoluted. To reach even the outskirts


of the city you have to navigate The Baghdad government


has declared victory. There are still pockets


of IS fighters in the old city. And this is what


liberation looks like. Iraq's second largest


city, just ruins. The bulk of the city is just


completely destroyed and devastated. I cannot even begin to imagine


what it would have been like for the people trapped


in this city. They were not allowed out,


Isis wasn't letting them. And there was constant


bombardment here. Trapped beneath these ruins


there are untold numbers of bodies. This woman is now homeless along


with a million other This is the ambulance that has


come to transfer me. This doctor is getting to work,


the only way he can. I am a volunteer doctor,


not a graduate doctor. And now I'm going to the hospital


in the west of Mosul. Mosul's only functioning


hospital is overwhelmed. There is no one checking the people


who are coming and going. And so the security forces


are concerned that some of these people could be Isis fighters


or Isis supporters. And I'm examining the site of the


shrapnel and the depth of the nail. At the height of the fighting


the doctor was treating up And not just from injuries


but illnesses caused due According to the Army,


retreating Isis fighters have rigged 90% of the buildings


with improvised explosive devices. Do you have the resources, I mean,


do you have enough men to...? But the Iraqi military is now


accused of targeting and killing people they suspect


of belonging to Isis. The government say they are


investigating these allegations. When Islamic State swept


into Mosul three years ago the world watched in horror


as they unleashed At first many saw them as liberators


from an oppressive Shia Mosul University, once home


to over a million books. Rare maps, ancient manuscripts


and a ninth century Koran This is the college


of computer and mathematics. This seat of learning represented


everything Isis stood against. Intellectuals like Ali Al Hadidi,


a renowned professor of law, I have come to visit


the doctor from Mosul Over lunch he explains


that it was his profession that ultimately saved him and his family


from the wrath of Did that make you nervous, though,


that your son would go out Is there fear then that there


could be another uprising? The people of Mosul now have to


rebuild a broken and divided city. But real reconciliation


will be a battle. And all the while, Isis fighters


are hiding amongst the population. When is it appropriate to remove


statues from our streets and squares and parks,


erected to men whose past glories When the city of Charlottesville


voted to remove a statue of General Robert E Lee,


who commanded the confederate army of North Virginia,


the ensuing furore saw KKK, white supremacists and


neo-Nazis on the streets, violent clashes with


counter-demonstrators, the death of one


young woman, and approbrium heaped on Trump for his failure to condemn


the actions of far-right groups. In Russia, it's the 80th anniversary


of the Great Terror, the purges in which Josef Stalin


killed and enslaved millions, and yet new statues to him


are springing up in the country, led by Vladimir Putin's


admiration of the dictator In a moment, we will be discussing


what to do with fallen idols and how But first, here's a Vewsnight


on the subject from Dr Rahul Rao, And Rahul Rao joins me now,


as does the historian Tim Stanley. Good evening. Let's have a


conversation about how you decide all this. He would suggested in his


piece that it is possible to consider bringing down the statues


of Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I admire him for his honesty and


logic because a lot of people would say they want to stop at one set of


statues but once you approach the subject from the principle of let us


eradicate those things from the past that were morally wrong and not


acceptable today, you cannot stop at Confederate statues, you put


everything on the table and the problem with that is you create an


artificial sense of the past. We try to cleanse it of all things that


make no sense morally today and therefore you rewrite the past and


create a past that simply was not real. You are rewriting the past?


Not at all, I think a lot of these movements objecting to statues are


not about rewriting the past. The rash of Confederate monument that


scars the American landscape were exercises in revisionist history and


built to nurture a view of the Civil War as a noble struggle fought


against Northern aggression and removing them help source right a


better history of the Civil War. Looking back at the Second World


War, and indeed looking at the Spanish Civil War, are you against


the removal as has been done, statues of Franco, Mussolini? It is


about contemporary culture and context and it must be a legal


process, not driven by a particular interest group. Ukraine is removing


statues of Lenin, which makes sense to me. By contrast, consider


Parliament Square because we are focused on Big Ben today. Who is in


the square? You have Winston Churchill, architects of Empire, men


with bigoted and unpleasant views. In Parliament Square you have Nelson


Mandela. Statues tell the full story. History does not start in


leaps and bounds, it is evolution and if you keep all the statues, you


then have a full history of Empire for people to read. You cannot


remove everything, obliterated his street. It is not about


obliterating, the ascetics of celebration are different from the


aesthetics of critique. It would be one thing to put the statues in a


museum. It is quite another thing to put them on a pedestal literally in


a public place. Where do you stop? I could say you would not want a lot


of statues of 19th century politicians because they stood


against suffrage for women. I do not think any historical figure should


be beyond examination and re-evaluation. Does that mean


removal? It could mean replacing those statues in a museum. If you


put them in private places you do not have a dialogue. Why put them in


a museum? These people are so fundamentally immoral, why not get


rid of the statue altogether? The objective is not to raise and skill,


it is to expose and the renaming of Robert E Leigh Park as an


emancipation park tells the history better, that does not glorify


slavery that recalls the struggles of those who were enslaved. That is


a particular contemporary context but my fear is a lot of the effort


to take down statues is not about correcting history but telling a


particular Buddhist school... -- a political political... What about


Oliver Cromwell. One section of the community to them he was a tyrant


and is remembered as a tyrant and to another section of the community in


he is not. When you have a divide, how do you decide? When putting up


the statue of Cromwell it almost brought the government down it was


so controversial. I am catholic and have Irish and my family and


Cromwell is a war criminal who shut down Parliament that 100 years on


from the statue being erected I understand it is part of British


identity and sometimes we lie to ourselves and tell national


fantasies and it is part of our identity that Cromwell stood up the


Parliamentary sovereignty. Russia, Vladimir Putin seems hell-bent on


rehabilitating Josef Stalin. The idea now that people in Russia will


look and see the man who murdered their ancestors put on a pedestal. I


think we are talking about different examples as if they are equivalent


and we need to distinguish between situations where those in power bill


statues to ratify their stranglehold and those wanting to put up statues


to get a toehold in a public sphere from which they are excluded. Thank


you. On a day when we looked


to the heavens, we sadly lost a giant of the science


fiction literary world. The great Brian Aldiss


passed away aged 92 today. One of the pioneers of the genre


who used sci-fi to hold up --


he counted everyone from Stanley Kubrick


to Agatha Christie, CS Lewis to Tolkein as friends


and colleagues. So in his honour, we dug


into the BBC interview archive to let him say goodbye


in his own words. Really, a novel takes


you about a year to write, so you have not got to be bored


by it, so you don't plan it. But Doris Lessing told me long ago,


no, sorry, it wasn't Doris, Iris said, you must never tell


anyone how much you enjoy writing. You must always make out that


it's really hard work. Well, it is hard work,


but it's also the second most Well, I don't agree with those


people who think that science fiction is some kind of prediction


of the future. I think it is a metaphor


and it is a metaphor There is certainly something in me


that urgently needs expression, and it doesn't quite tell me


what it is. Hello, Tuesday morning will dawn


mild but murky. A lot of


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