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Need to Know, February 25, 2011: Sea level rise, National Guard bonuses, Somali pirates

This week on Need to Know, the effects of climate change are already hitting the city of Norfolk, Virginia. We travel to Norfolk to see how the city is dealing with regular flooding caused by sea level rise and a sinking shoreline.

Also: We look at an investigation by a Sacramento Bee reporter into millions of dollars in incentive bonuses that may have been wrongly paid out to members of the California National Guard.

And: This week, four Americans whose yacht had been taken hostage by Somali pirates were killed by their captors. We reprise an excerpt of “The Trouble with Pirates,” which explores the root causes of Somali piracy.

The episode airs Friday, February 25 — check your local listings for details.

Watch the individual segments:

The Watch List: Bonuses for the California National Guard

Sacramento Bee reporter Charles Piller and a former federal auditor dug deep into the California National Guard and discovered that as much as $100 million of taxpayer money may have been improperly or illegally paid out to undeserving Guard members in the form of cash bonuses or loan repayments.

Sea level rise comes to one Virginia town

The city of Norfolk is already experiencing the effects of sea level rise. Streets that used to flood only occasionally now fill with sea water at each full moon. Need to Know reports on how one American city is dealing with a problem that may soon be on all our doorsteps.

Mark Hertsgaard: Climate change comes for us all

Author Mark Hertsgaard anticipates what cities around the U.S. can expect from the effects of climate change in the coming years, and discusses the media’s responsibility in covering it.

The trouble with pirates

The four Americans who were killed this week by Somali pirates were the first Americans to have lost their lives since piracy became a serious problem off the African Coast. The deaths of Jean and Scott Adams, accompanied by another couple, raise some questions. Last November, Need to Know first brought you this unique and close-up encounter with pirates as part of a documentary called “The Trouble with Pirates” that goes behind the headlines about piracy in Somalia and looks at its root causes, as well as exploring the multimillion-dollar business it has become.

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    A symphony orchestra thrives in Congo, and we investigate faltering safety in work sites that police themselves. Also: South Sudan's historic election and Jami Floyd on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. Maria Hinojosa guest hosts.
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    How will Greece's debt crisis affect the U.S. and the rest of the world? Also: California's radical new approach to statewide redistricting, and journalists Brian Stelter and David Carr discuss "Page One: Inside the New York Times."
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    We explore the inner workings of a military organization's $17 billion effort to combat IEDs, and Jami Floyd discusses the ramifications of the Supreme Court's decision on the Wal-Mart case. Also: The science of what makes a good marriage.


  • Mmagrant

    I would begin by noting that I am a believer in climate change. I have seen many changes in my short lifetime that is testament to it. The problem appears to be though that in trying to get the message across many resorted to hyberbole. This hyperbole regarding climate change was carried by hollywood and multplied it. Naturally there was a push back and those persons are now leaning to the extreme. The hyperbole has to be removed from message of climate change

  • Hcamp

    I am convinced about global warming. There are two qualifiers in the program which were not fairly considered. In the opening moments it was explained that this Norfolk area was built on swamps, implying their plight could be a result of sinking land, rather than rising sea level. Reference was made to other populated waterfronts, NYC and Sacramento, but these are not to date not in the same plight as Norfolk. Skeptics may say, show me!. The melting of the ice caps, and glaciers due tio the greenhouse effect is a proven condition with predictable ramifications for the planet. Unless i have misread something Norfolk may not be an early warnings


    What about New Orleans, water is 3 to 10 feet above it now. It proves global warming!!

  • Jack

    Excellent AND scary report on our rising waters. Do highly populated parts of Calif. and New York have to start disappearing before the country takes notice? Unless it’s in your backyard, it’s another person’s problem. Thanks for a poignant report on what is already happening in Virginia.

  • Guest

    Excellent broadcast. Nobody seems to be interested in my local area and quite frankly look at me crossed eyed. I believe the fear needs to be removed and explanations need to reflect what’s actually happening in local areas, as discussed in the story.

  • Jethro Bodine

    Sadly one-sided report.Unscientific hype about the flooding risks from climate change will cost us all dear The warmists have sound financial grounds for hyping the dangers of flooding posed by climate change, writes Christopher Booker |

  • Anonymous

    A quick trip to the University of Colorado web site and a few clicks of the mouse reveals that the actual sea level off the east coast of the US has, surprisingly, not changed much if at all since 1994. It is likely that subsidence of the land is to blame for any apparent recent rise along that coast. The level does wander up and down, for a variety of reasons, but there is no apparent change in the last 14 or 15 years, at least along the mid Atlantic coast of the US.
    The global average rate of rise is about 3.1mm per year, which would be 31cm in 100 years. That is slightly more than a foot. Significant, but nowhere near the 3 feet the alarmists claim. Another fact conveniently ignored by alarmists is the the sea has been rising at about this rate since the early 1900′s. Since CO2 emissions were relatively modest in 1920, it is hard to believe CO2 caused the sea to start rising. Also, while CO2 emissions have accelerated since then, but see level rise has been steady, it is difficult to see a direct causal relationship.
    If the problem is real, why do the alarmists feel the need to resort to exaggeration? They make it sound like a propaganda campaign, not science.

  • Anonymous

    The causal relationship between melting glaciers and man caused global warming is not clear. It is well documented that glaciers have been melting since the late 1800′s, before people started burning fossil fuels to any great extent. The earth is warming, but there are likely a number of causes. To attribute all warming to the rise in CO2 requires that a large feedback loop also come into play (due to higher humidity, for example). Evidence of feedback has so far not been verified. Without this feedback, the global climate models don’t give the dire results that were expected (and desired).

  • Anonymous

    According to the University of Colorado, the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California has not risen since 1994. That may be why no one is terribly alarmed.

  • Anonymous

    Much of New Orleans was built on fill and swamp. It is sinking at about 8 mm per year. In 100 years, that is over 2.5 feet. That would appear to account for the problem. So no, that is not proof of anything but a poor choice of building sites.

  • Grannie

    Climate change IS a fact. The cause IS NOT clear.

  • Lena

    Charlie, It doesn’t have to be due to a single cause. Even if global warming was already happening at the end of the 1800′s, if there is someone we humans are doing that is making it worse, shouldn’t we stop? Wouldn’t that be the reasonable thing to do?

  • Jeffrey_jj_joseph

    FYI: the name of the city of Norfolk was consistently mis-pronounced throughout the segment. The correct way to say it is Norf-olk, not Nor-FOLK! The vowel in the concluding syllable is short, not long.

    I have been a Norfolk resident for 18 years, and resided in the neighboring city of Virginia Beach for 23 years before that.

    Anyone who comes around here talking like that is marking themselves straightaway as a dumb tourist. I cannot believe the narrator did not pick up on this while conducting his research in the city. Seems most peculiar that he persists with the mis-pronounciation.

  • Anonymous

    There is probably not much we could do. Land use is probably the other biggest driver of climate change that we have control over. Burning the forests of Brazil is known to be a bad thing to do, for example. Most known drivers of climate change are not within our control, such as sun activity, orbital eccentricities, volcanic activity, etc.
    I don’t advocate doing nothing. Since we probably can’t change climate, we need to adapt.
    Something else to keep in mind is that, despite the predictions of disaster, there are good things that will come from a warmer climate. More arable land, for example. Also, remember that some of the worst periods in history were due to global cooling, such as during the dark ages in Europe. So be careful what you wish for.