Can this project clean up millions of tons of ocean plastic?

About 9 million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans every year — enough to fill a football stadium 23 miles high. But a project dubbed the Ocean Cleanup aims to eliminate it with a method that researchers are testing in the North Sea.

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on August 14, 2016.

Producer/Writer: Saskia de Melker
Associate Producer: Melanie Saltzman
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman
Editor: Judith Wolff
Correspondent: Saskia de Melker

Native community in Louisiana relocates as land washes away

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on July 30, 2016.

Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana has lost 98 percent of its land to coastal erosion caused by sinking land and exacerbated by rising seas and increased storm surges. The tribal community that lives there will be the first to receive federal tax dollars to help them relocate in response to climate change.

Producer/Writer: Saskia de Melker
Associate Producer: Melanie Saltzman
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman
Editor: Steve Thompson
Correspondent: Hari Sreenivasan

 

How Democrats have changed since the Bill Clinton years

This report aired on PBS NewsHour on July 24, 2016.

This week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia will have a “back to the future” feel as another Clinton readies to become a presidential nominee. But, as NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports, the Democratic party of today is not the same as the party of the 1990s.

Producers: Saskia de Melker and Mori Rothman
Associate Producer: Melanie Saltzman
Camera:  Mori Rothman, Saskia de Melker, Melanie Saltzman
Editor: Mori Rothman
Correspondent: Jeff Greenfield

 

Foreign-born workers in the UK share their fears for the future

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on June 26, 2016.

 
Uncertainty prevails in Britain after Brexit has left immigrants feeling vulnerable. The service sector, a large part of the British economy, is also a big employer of foreigners, which means these workers may be hit hard.
Producer: Saskia de Melker
Associate Producer: Melanie Saltzman
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman
Editor: Michael Pilgrim
Correspondent: Hari Sreenivasan

Rethinking wages for tipped workers

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on March 26, 2016.

Due to low federal minimum wages for tipped workers, many grapple with poverty rates. Seven states, however, pay tipped workers full minimum wage before tips. And with minimum-wage hikes looming, some restaurants are pioneering no-tipping policies, eliminating gratuities in favor of higher hourly wages for workers.

Producer: Saskia de Melker
Associate Producer: Melanie Saltzman
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman
Editor: David Kreger
Correspondent: Alison Stewart

The opioid epidemic’s toll on pregnant women and their babies

The risk for overdose from opioid painkillers and heroin among women, including pregnant women, has skyrocketed, which means a growing number of babies are born dependent on opioids. NewsHour Weekend Special correspondent Alison Stewart reports on the challenges for pregnant women struggling with addiction.

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on January 9, 2016.

Producer/Writer: Saskia de Melker
Associate Producer: Melanie Saltzman
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman
Editor: Judith Wolff
Correspondent: Alison Stewart

Why is New York City cracking down on Airbnb?

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on August 1, 2015.

Short-term housing rental industry giant Airbnb now lists more than 1 million rooms available in 192 countries. The platform’s largest market is in New York City, with more than 25,000 listings per night, but it’s also where the debate over how to regulate short-term rentals is the most contentious. In light of a new report by the NY Attorney General that says nearly three-quarters of Airbnb’s listings in the city are technically illegal, the city is cracking down.

Producer/Writer: Saskia de Melker
Correspondent: Hari Sreenivasan
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Sam Weber
Editor: David Kreger

These six people simulated a mission to Mars on a Hawaiian volcano

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on June 14, 2015.

A NASA-funded study is focusing on the psychological impact of a potential mission to Mars. For the past eight months, six people have been living in a self-sustaining 1,000 square-foot dome on the Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii, cut off from the outside world. It is the longest space-travel simulation to take place in the United States. Saskia de Melker reports.

Producer/Writer: Saskia de Melker
Correspondent: Saskia de Melker
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Sam Weber
Additional Video: University of Hawaii, HI-SEAS crew
Editor: Judith Wolff
 

A tale of two grid defectors: Why some are quitting electric companies in Hawaii

This story was published on PBS NewsHour on April 11, 2015.

Dave Greene, who is living off the grid in Hawaii, stands in front of his house. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker Dave Greene, who is living off the grid in Hawaii, stands in front of his house. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker

In Hawaii, the combination of sky-high electricity prices and abundant sunshine have made installing solar panels enormously popular. In fact, the state has the highest percentage of rooftop solar users in the country.

And while most of those who have installed panels still remain tied to the local electrical grid in order to store the energy they produce and get energy when there’s no sunshine, some residents have also installed their own battery storage system to move off the grid completely.

In the video above, learn more about how two men in Hawaii have cut manged to cut ties with local utility providers and live off the grid.

Whether as a hobby or as an experiment in energy independence, both agree it’s only a matter of time before more people make the switch to also become grid defectors.

Video by Saskia de Melker

Gridlocked by the power grid: Why Hawaii’s solar energy industry is at a crossroads

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on April 11, 2015.

In some parts of Hawaii, where many homeowners have installed rooftop panels to capitalize on federal and state tax credits for using solar energy, the local utility company has slowed down approvals of new solar systems, saying that abundant users may threaten the safety and reliability of the power grid. As the popularity of rooftop solar spreads, many Americans could soon enter the same gridlock. NewsHour special correspondent Mike Taibbi reports.

Producer: Sam Weber
Associate Producer: Saskia de Melker
Correspondent/Writer: Mike Taibbi
Camera:   Sam Weber and Saskia de Melker
Editor: David Kreger

Hawaii’s aquarium fish industry in deep water over collection controversies

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on February 15, 2015.

A proposed bill in Hawaii has ignited renewed discussion about the impact of the state’s largest aquarium fishery, which catches hundreds of thousands of gem-like saltwater fish each year for shipment to collectors around the world. Supporters say the industry is sustainable and regulated. But environmental activists say the practice is destructive and depletes populations of popular fish species.
Producers: Sam Weber and Saskia de Melker
Correspondent: Mike Taibbi
Camera:  Sam Weber and Saskia de Melker
Editor: Judith Wolff

Whistleblowers win with False Claims Act, but does it actually deter fraud?

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on December 21, 2014.

Last year alone, the federal government and its whistleblowers — people incentivized by the False Claims Act to expose fraud in companies that work with the government — recovered nearly $6 billion in lawsuits that exposed wrongdoing. But some question whether the False Claims Act actually prevents fraud or merely incentivizes people with potential reward money.

Producers: Sam Weber and Saskia de Melker
Camera: Sam Weber and Saskia de Melker
Editors: Saskia de Melker and Judith Wolff
Correspondent: Rick Karr

 

Rap lyrics used as evidence in criminal cases

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on June 29, 2014.

Based largely on a rap he wrote, and accounts of two witnesses given years after the shooting, rapper Antwain Steward was arrested and charged with double murder. Critics contend rap is a musical art form that should not be taken as evidence of criminal behavior. But some prosecutors say they don’t buy the argument that the work is all fiction.

Producers/Writers: William Brangham and Saskia de Melker
Correspondent: William Brangham
Camera:  William Brangham and Saskia de Melker
Editor: David Kreger

Exonerated but not free: What do we owe the wrongfully convicted?

This report aired on PBS NewsHour Weekend on November 9, 2014.

In the US, state laws governing compensation for wrongfully convicted people vary significantly. While some states offer sizable packages for the exonerated, at least 20 offer nothing. And even for those that do, it may not be enough to make up for the emotional damage on those who’ve been wrongfully convicted.

Producer/Writer: Saskia de Melker
Correspondent: Hari Sreenivasan
Camera:  Saskia de Melker and Sam Weber
Editor: Saskia de Melker and David Kreger