This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

Need to Know, May 27, 2011: Political storm over tornadoes, Paralympics, shrinking Youngstown

In recent weeks, many U.S. cities have experienced massive devastation from one of the deadliest tornado seasons in decades. This week on Need to Know, we explore whether climate change has played a significant role. We also feature the story of one Iraq War veteran, Scott Winkler, whose war injury led him to take up paralympic sports, become a world-class athlete and help his fellow soldiers.

Also: Earlier this year, we featured a look at Detroit’s plan to “right-size” the city, using financial incentives to entice residents to move. Continuing with our “Shrinking Cities” series, this week we visit Youngstown, Ohio, a city trying to cope with population loss and abandoned buildings by revitalizing itself on a smaller scale.

And: Alison Stewart interviews New York Times East Africa Bureau Chief Jeffrey Gettleman on Libyans’ attitudes toward Col. Moammar Gadhafi and the political outlook for Africa’s newest country, South Sudan.

Tune in this Friday, May 27, to watch the full episode. Check your local listings for details.

Watch the individual segments:

Political storm over tornadoes

In the wake of the deadliest tornado season in decades, Need to Know interviews meteorologist Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, to see whether there is any validity to the claim that climate change is a contributing factor.

Jeffrey Gettleman on ‘stability’ East Africa

Alison Stewart sits down with the New York Times East Africa Bureau Chief Jeffrey Gettleman to talk about how Africans view Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and the chances for a successful transition of power in Africa’s newest country — South Sudan.

Blueprint America: Youngstown, Ohio, the incredible shrinking city

With thousands of houses sitting empty and crumbling, experts say people won’t be moving back into the old industrial cities that pepper the rustbelt anytime soon. But what about the residents who continue to live there? In Youngstown, Ohio, a city tries out a plan to restore its former greatness, but on a smaller scale.

Dan Kildee on the ‘shrinking cities’ movement

Post-industrial cities are facing steep population loss and vast expanses of abandoned property — a phenomenon known as “shrinking.” Dan Kildee, president of Community Progress and a leader in the Shrinking Cities movement, talks to Alison Stewart about the need for a national agenda, the good that comes from demolishing houses, and the mental shift Americans will need to make before they stop seeing downsizing as failure.

Warrior athlete

Scott Winkler thought his life was over when he came home from the Iraq War in a wheelchair in 2003. Paralympic sports gave him hope and a desire to live. Now an American record holder in the shot put and a favorite for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Scott has turned his attention to helping his former soldiers.

In Perspective: A Memorial Day at war

Jon Meacham presents an essay on the importance of Memorial Day to all.

Veterans share their stories, in six words

In cooperation with SMITH magazine, Need to Know features the memoirs of veterans coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq, who told their stories in just six words.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.

  • thumb
      Watch the full episode
    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.
  • thumb
      Watch the full episode
    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."
  • thumb
      Watch last week's episode
    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.


  • Harvey S Cohen

    Debating the effect of a long-term trend on a specific event is a scientifically meaningless digression. If I weight a coin so that it comes up “heads” on 60% of flips, what is the contribution of that weight to a specific flip of “heads”, or to a specific flip of “tails”? The question barely makes sense.
    What does make sense is that, over a reasonable number of instances, the weight will cause a nontrivial increase in the proportion of “heads”. Similarly, it is transparently clear that an average increase in temperature (whether anthropogenic or not) will cause a nontrivial increase in tornadoes.

  • Kenneth B.Smith, P.E.

    Atten:  EDitor:  This country is badly in need of a National Day of Prayer.  Pray for a more moderate
    series of Tornados, more moderate flooding and forest fires, and a return to the U.S. Constitution,
    Laws, that forbid torture and execution without due process. Include return to Habeas Corpus laws.
    “One nation, indivisible, under God, with liberty and justice for all”. He has protected us for centuries,
    He will protect us from violent storms of nature. Signed: K.B. Smith, P.E.  Wilmington, DE.

  • Nancy Buono

    So glad to see this coverage. It would be helpful to take a look at the various weather modification programs now in effect, as there are many who believe there is a direct correlation. Take a look at the forecasts at He looks at radar effects, HAARP, low and hi frequency bursts. So far, he has been able to successfully predict these types of events 24-48 hours before they occur. He would be an excellent person to interview.