Author Topic: Rare earth and scorched earth: Self-described optimist Lesley Stahl  (Read 3060 times)

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By: Rebecca D. Costa, The Costa Report


Acclaimed CBS journalist Lesley Stahl has spent her career in journalism unearthing stories that are frequently difficult for her audience to read or to hear.


On a recent edition of The Costa Report, the veteran co-editor of "60 Minutes"  admitted that she often comes away from a story asking herself the same questions she wants her audience to consider: "Why aren't we doing something about this?"


Case in point, Stahl's recent report on China's not-so-secret plan to corner the global market on rare-earth elements, a plentiful, but difficult-to-extract resource that is essential to daily life. "Rare-earth elements are the heart of our technology today," Stahl explained. "They're what enable computers to be small. They are what enable us to walk around with a computer in our hand. They are what allow our cars to be digital. They are essential to modern life, and over the years China has been able to corner the market on these things - not just the mining, but also the manufacturing."  China currently mines 93 percent of the world's rare-earth minerals and controls more than 99 percent of the world's supply of some of the most prized rare-earths - which sell for several hundred dollars a pound.


The Chinese have already flexed their muscles when it comes to controlling the supply of rare-earth elements. In September of 2010, The New York Times reported that China halted shipments to Japan due to a geopolitical skirmish on the open sea - causing the Japanese economy to scramble to acquire minerals used in hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missile systems. The embargo also had reverberations throughout United States manufacturers.  American companies rely on Japan as a primary source for magnets and other components using rare-earth elements.


Although China's dominance represent a clear threat , very little action has been taken. Reports like Stahl's expose' on "60 Minutes" have had a limited impact. "It's very frustrating,"  Stahl said. "People think that one piece on '60 Minutes' will change the world, but it can't be just one story . .  what has to happen is that your story produces other stories, encourages other reporters and other outlets to do a second story, and a third story. If a story doesn't have legs, it's not going to make a difference. If other reporters don't follow up, very often it's a big thud."


Stahl, a self-described optimist, says that lately she hears more thuds than she has in the past causing her to worry about the affect gridlock is having in Washington's ability to stop these and other dangers in their tracks. "I'm at the point where I think our system of government just isn't working at all. Polarization has made it infinitely more difficult, but I've been thinking about it for many, many years," she said. "We never tweaked the system, itself. We never say, 'We have so many new technologies, and we ought to make some adjustments to allow for that.' We don't do that."

To hear the complete interview with Leslie Stahl, visit www.rebeccacosta.com.



 

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