PBS NewsHour full episode, Aug. 11, 2021

PBS NewsHour full episode, Aug. 11, 2021

Good evening, I’m William Brangham, I’m Judy Woodruff is away. On The NewsHour. Tonight, the road ahead, beyond infrastructure. Democrats push for a broader investment in jobs, families and ways to combat the climate crisis. Then, Afghanistan in crisis. The Taliban continues to rapidly seize territory in its bid to regain control of the country. And rewiring an experimental new technology hopes to harness a brain machine interface to help people with paralysis. We would like to be able to design technology that records from the brain, bypasses the spinal cord injury and allows the person to control meaningful movements. All that and more on tonight’s PBS NewsHour. Major funding for the PBS NewsHour has been provided by. BNSF Railway. Consumer, cellular. Johnson and Johnson. Financial services firm Raymond James. Supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, Skoll Foundation, Doug. The Lemelson Foundation committed to improving lives through invention in the U.S. and developing countries on the Web at Lemelson Doug. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, committed to building a more just verdant and peaceful world, more information at Mac Found Dog. And with the ongoing support of these institutions. This program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you. The US Senate has gone home for its summer recess, leaving a big spending fight for the fall. Early today, Democrats passed a blueprint for a three and a half trillion dollar bill to expand family health and environmental programs. But party moderate Joe Manchin of West Virginia warned the price tag has to come down when actual spending bills are voted on. And Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged there’s tough going ahead. There is some in my caucus who may believe it’s too much. There are some in my caucus who believe it’s too little in reconciliation. One. We are going to all come together to get something done and to it will have every part of the Biden plan in Big Four in a big, bold, robust way. The US House will cut short its recess and return this month to try and pass the budget outline. And a bipartisan infrastructure plan will return to all of this after the news summary on the pandemic. California today became the first state to require all public school teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or get tested weekly. Also today, the CDC fully recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated. It said new research shows the vaccines do not increase miscarriages. Infections are rising among mothers to be and their vaccination rates are low. Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing new criminal charges as the Kremlin cracks down ahead of elections next month. Officials allege today that Navalny is anti corruption group incited illegal protests by highlighting government corruption. Navalny is already in prison for violating parole when he was treated in Germany for a poison attack that he blamed on the Kremlin in Afghanistan. Three more provincial capitals fell to the Taliban today, making nine so far. The latest are in the northeastern and western provinces. Insurgents also seized an army headquarters in Kunduz. This lightning advance comes amid the US withdrawal, but Pentagon spokesman John Kirby dismissed suggestions that officials somehow underestimated the Taliban. We could revisit the past all you want, but what matters really is today and where we are now and again, we believe that Afghan forces have what they need to make a significant difference. And it really is going to come down to leadership. Kirby would not confirm reports that U.S. intelligence now believes the Afghan capital, Kabul, could fall within weeks. We’ll explore why later in the program. Dozens of fires raging in Algeria have now claimed at least sixty five lives, including twenty eight soldiers who were fighting the flames. The fires have scorched forests and villages across the North African countries mountainous region, leaving a thick, smoky haze. Algeria will observe three days of national mourning starting tomorrow. Crews in northern California are facing new flare ups from the Dixie fire. It is already the state’s largest ever and has burned more than five hundred and fifty homes. Many were in Greenville, where before and after satellite images show the devastation after the fire swept through there last week. Making matters worse, a new heat wave moved into the Pacific Northwest, which could send temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Tropical Storm Fred formed in the Caribbean overnight and crossed the Dominican Republic hours later. The storm is on track to pass north of Cuba on Friday before moving toward Florida this weekend. Downpours of up to six inches of rain could trigger flooding and mudslides. The incoming governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, promised today to change the culture in state government. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is resigning over allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women. Hochul, who is also a Democrat, is now a lieutenant governor. She said today she had not known about Kormos alleged abuses. I think it’s very clear that the governor and I have not been close physically or otherwise in terms of how much time I’m going to stand right here at the end of my term whenever it ends. No one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment. Hochul will be the first woman to ever serve as governor of New York. Consumer prices rose again in July. The pace was slower, but prices are still up nearly five and a half percent from a year ago. President Biden today urged OPEC to pump more oil and bring down prices. He also asked regulators to investigate gasoline pricing. And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained two hundred and twenty points to close near thirty five thousand four eighty five. A new record, the Nasdaq fell twenty three points, but the S&P 500 added 11, also hitting a record close. And the venerable game show Jeopardy has two new hosts after a highly publicized search. Executive producer Mike Richards was named today as the regular host. Actor Mayim Bialik will headline primetime specials and spinoffs. Longtime host Alex Trebek died of cancer last year. Still to come on the news hour, how the Taliban staged this push to take control of Afghanistan. The challenges of returning to in-person classes in a state spiking with covid. Why Russia struggles against the Delta variant and low vaccination rates, plus much more. This is the PBS NewsHour from WETA Studios in Washington and in the West from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. It is a massive investment, three and a half trillion dollars to be spent on American families and to combat the climate crisis, but it faces a rocky political road. Democrats are pushing a particular budget process to make it happen, thankfully. Lisa Desjardins is here to help us understand what’s next Lisa. So good to see you. This is the time for the Democrats to go full force on this. They want to use this process known as reconciliation. My definition in the dictionary is reconciliation conjures people trying to get over their acrimony and work out their differences. Maybe not so on Capitol Hill. Right. That’s how normal people would want to define that term. Now, on Capitol Hill, the term reconciliation is a very specific budget process. You’re reconciling figures and dollars together. And when you do that, you can use a loophole in the process that allows you to pass something with just 50 votes and not 60. So think of reconciliation in the Senate more as sort of fast track and a way around the filibuster. That’s why Democrats want to use it. It has to have budgetary effects, though. So the numbers are going to be important and the next month will be critical because Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, has said he wants his Democrats to come up with an outline for this mega bill by September 15th. They’re not here again until September 15th. So we’re going to have Zoome meetings for the next month. Committee chairs will be consulting each other, progressives and moderates. All of this will be hashed out while senators are away. And it’s very high stakes game to see if they can make that deadline. Now, we know that Senator Joe Manchin and other Republicans have been raising questions about the debt and this massive amount of spending and what it might do, explain the consequences here. That’s right. As we heard earlier, Manchin has a real problem with the spending. So does Kyrsten Sinema and I think a lot of other moderate Democrats. But let’s talk about where we are in terms of the national debt right now and what this would mean. So if you look at the national debt right now, twenty two point three trillion dollars, I looked it up. That’s the amount today they calculated each day. And the infrastructure bill alone, if it were to pass, as is right now, would add somewhere between 250 and four hundred billion dollars, depending on how you calculate it. Now, then add to that the reconciliation bill, one point seven five trillion dollars in debt is allowed under the resolution that was passed last night. Now, Democrats say they plan to pay for this up for most of that, but we don’t know the devil’s in the details. President Biden, other Democrats say, hey, Republicans spent money. They ran up the red ink themselves, too. But this is a real long term question here about the long term benefits of what Democrats want to do program wise and the debt that they could incur while doing it separately. Last night, the Democrats also moved S1. This, I believe it’s the for the People Act all about voting rights. Explain what’s happening there. This is a very significant move for you on this morning when they were in the Senate, was finishing its business before recess. Senator Schumer brought up as one basically teed it up procedurally so that when they come back in September, the first thing the Senate will deal with is this bill, which is also a massive bill that would deal with voting rights questions. It would limit what states can do. Some of these bills that are passing in conservative states would have problems and also it would deal with federal elections laws. Now, it’s not clear that he can get 60 votes. It’s unlikely he can get 60 votes. He tries for 50. Then we have a question about the filibuster. The House also is in play. There’s a more narrow bill, which is the John Lewis bill, which also may be in place. Just to say September is going to be incredibly important on all of these questions. Voting rights will be there right at the beginning. As always, Lisa Desjardins, thanks for helping us get through all this. You’re welcome. Across the country, school mask mandates are dividing communities. This was the scene following a school board meeting in Williamson County, Tennessee, last night when medical professionals were heckled and threatened for recommending masks in their schools. And you will never be allowed in public again. In Mississippi, a state that’s also hit hard by this coronavirus surge. The Oxford School District originally ruled masks were optional for students and staff, but the school superintendent overruled them, mandating face coverings regardless of vaccination status. This move has drawn widespread criticism and that Superintendent Bradley Robertson joins me now. Superintendent, great to have you on the news hour. Help me understand what happened here. The school board said we’re going to leave it up to the parents and teachers and staff to decide whether they wear masks inside schools. But you overruled them. Why? Well, we were gathering data from across the state. There are a couple of school districts that start in the state of Mississippi earlier than the rest of us due to a modified calendar. I had received confirmation from a school district in south Mississippi, the Lamar County school district, that they had already had five outbreaks and one of their high schools, four outbreaks, and another high school that had to transfer or move both of those school districts to virtual learning. And they had not even been in school 10 days as of yet. You know, we were hit really hard last year. Our student academic progress was hit really hard due to the high number of quarantines that we had in our schools. It may be surprising for you to know that Oxford School District students last year miss nineteen thousand five hundred and fifty eight days of school due to quarantine alone. It affected two thousand two hundred fifty nine students in the school district. Based on that, it’s very important for us to do whatever we can to keep kids in school because I think it’s clear a virtual learning does have some benefits. But we do a better job across the country of teaching kids when they’re in the presence of our great teachers. So you make the decision that, no, in fact, you think it’s the smartest move to have everyone wear masks in school. And what was the reaction to that? The emotions were mixed. Obviously, we do have a large population of the community that were upset that now mass, we’re going to be mandated. But there is also a population of people in our community that were, you know, glad that I took that extra step. Again, to me, it’s about keeping our kids in school so that we can provide them the best education that we can. Can you help me understand this? I mean, this is an airborne respiratory virus. And we know that this a little piece of fabric over our faces can in part help protect us. Do you have a sense as to why this has sparked such fury among some people? You know, from what I hear, it’s just that they feel like it’s a violation of their freedoms to require individuals and they would like to be able to make that decision for themselves. You know, the difficult position we’re put in as educational leaders is we’re not health professionals by any means. We’re educators, right. We’re professional educators. We we know how to educate kids. So being in this very difficult social situation that’s become very politicized is hard for leaders all across our community, our state and country. And it’s not just education leaders, it’s the leaders in any capacity. So, you know, again, it’s just a difficult time for us all. And so far, have people been following the mandate? Yes, sir, they have. You know, we’ve had a few hiccups here and there, but for the most part, all of our stakeholders have been very responsible and follow the mandate as we have requested. And let me just say, I’m so thankful for that. You know, as a leader, it does mean something to a leader when you see your constituents that even though they’re upset, even though they may, disgruntled, be disgruntled about it, that that they’re following the lead. And I really, really appreciate that your mandate to wear masks in schools expires in a couple of days. According to all the public health data I’ve seen out of Mississippi, this surge doesn’t seem to be anywhere near over. Do you think you might have to extend this mandate going forward? Sure. And, you know, that’s where we are right now is trying to determine the next steps. But you’re right, the cases continue to rise that continue to rise in the state of Mississippi and unfortunately, they continue to rise in the Fayette County. So, yes, I do think it is a distinct possibility that we will need to extend the mandate moving forward for another period of time. But we are continue to analyze all of the data right now. And that’s not just data for myself. That’s in conversations with other superintendents across the state of Mississippi, because, again, we’re all in this together and we’re all trying to make decisions what’s best for our children. All right. Bradley Robertson, school superintendent in Oxford, Mississippi, thank you so much and best of luck to you. Thank you. Authorities in parts of Russia are now mandating vaccination in the face of high covid-19 infections and record deaths, just 25 percent of adults are fully inoculated in the country with four domestic vaccines available. Russians aren’t facing any shortages, but the government is struggling with widespread skepticism and reluctance to take those available vaccines. Special correspondent Julia Chapman reports from Western Siberia. More Russians fear the vaccine than they do the virus, but Irina Emiliana is not one of them. A teacher in the Siberian city of Tomsk, she is allergic to lactose and is careful about what she puts in her body. So when it came to getting vaccinated against covid-19, Irina did her research. She chose one of the country’s four shots at beBack. Corona reported to cause milder side effects than the alternatives. But two weeks after her second dose, Irina caught coronavirus. A week later, she was in a makeshift hospital, which filled up rapidly. The main problem is that there are too many people, especially nowadays. It’s about 200. When we arrived, there were just so durables and Thurston was OK. It was very difficult and I stopped sleeping, as I usually do, so I could sleep just from midnight to three or four a.m.. The government says only 2.5 percent of covid-19 infections are among those already vaccinated, but stories like arenas are fueling already widespread skepticism. Russia was the first country to approve a covid-19 shot for mass use. It is only using domestically produced vaccines. Health officials say they are all safe and effective. But that judgment came before any had a full trial data. Peer reviewed results have since validated the Sputnik vaccine, which is being used most widely. But experts have cast doubt on the one Irina received at Corona is a peptide vaccine produced by state run lab victor. It uses synthetic viral proteins, which are meant to teach the immune system to identify and neutralize the virus. The vaccine was approved to market for people to use before a second or third phase is worked completed. So and that practically means if you have leverage, if you have a connection with government and whose approval? Organization, you can get anything out of the market, so and that’s a huge room for corruption. The Vector lab says antibodies can’t be detected using normal tests, but only with its own technology. Some clinical trial volunteers attempted to verify their immunity. Independent labs could find no neutralizing antibodies. The story of Eppalock is unfortunate. And again, I was openly criticizing a PAVUK. Still, in the end of the day, if you don’t want to take a walk, you can get Sputnik. I guarantee you, even if you live in remote Siberian towns where the dominant oxygenation was running by Eppalock and you don’t want epilog, you go across the street and you get Sputnik. But surveys suggest that 55 percent of Russians don’t want a vaccine at all. Most cite fear of side effects and the speed at which they were produced. Polls suggest that critics of the Putin government are also less likely to get a shot. The low vaccination rate has left Russia exposed to a third wave of infections outside of Moscow. Pop up hospitals and conversion covid wards are reopening in Tomsk. Hospital beds are filling up even as authorities open more dedicated facilities like this one. The Delta variant is simply spreading faster than the population can be convinced to get vaccinated. So authorities have started making vaccination mandatory in a quarter of Russian regions. Certain groups are now obligated to get immunized. The rules vary, but mostly apply to those working in the state or service sectors. President Vladimir Putin has at once distanced himself from the policy and insisted that its legal representative tonight. I once said that I do not support mandatory vaccination and I continue to adhere to this point of view. However, the law says that in the event of an increase in the number of cases and in the event of an epidemic, regional heads can introduce mandatory vaccinations for certain groups of people, especially risk groups, on their nickel in their covid vaccine. Skeptics don’t live in the shadows in Russia, but Marena, an accountant who asked us not to use her real name, fears her job is at risk. She is one of millions of Russians whose employer has ordered her to be vaccinated. We don’t know this vaccine. We don’t know what it is. I don’t want to inject myself with something unknown and we don’t trust our government. But if we don’t have a medical exemption to vaccination will be sent home without pay. Some of Marina’s colleagues have turned to the black market for their vaccine certificate. She says she may do the same. Authorities are cracking down on the practice, arresting those suspected of selling them. But demand for fake certificates sits in stark contrast to many countries where people are lining up to get vaccinated. While vaccine mandates are controversial, they have doubled Russia’s rate of inoculation to the press in Moscow. People can get vaccinated at Pop-Up clinics and parks at their doctor’s office, so the mass vaccination will certainly lead to the development of collective immunity. That target is still a long way off. And in the meantime, people are dying. In other countries, rising immunization rates have led to falling fatalities. That hasn’t been the case in Russia. Although the official infection figures are still lower than in winter, daily deaths from the virus are higher than ever. Statistics show more than 400000 excess deaths since the start of the pandemic, one of the worst per capita rates in the world. The Kremlin has ruled out another unpopular lockdown ahead of parliamentary elections in September. It’s relying on vaccines to carry Russians to the polls. Irina also wants her fellow citizens to get a shot. Some people don’t think that it’s good to get the vaccine. Some people think that it’s a kind of politics. People don’t understand that now. So our government and our scientists tried to help people to protect themselves. She’s confident that vaccines are the only chance to keep future waves of the virus at bay. For the PBS NewsHour. I’m Julia Chapman in Tomsk. As we’ve been reporting, the Taliban continue to make gains in Afghanistan, seizing more and more territory, especially in the north. Stephanie SCIE has more. William, the Taliban seizure of nine provincial capitals and vast surrounding lands now means that the insurgents hold loose control of two thirds of Afghanistan. All this as the US and NATO finalize their withdrawal by the end of this month after two decades of war. So what has been the Taliban’s strategy? How have they conquered this territory so quickly? For that, we turn to Bill Roggio. He is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the editor of their Long War Journal, Bill Roggio. Thank you for joining the News Hour. You’ve been watching this rapid succession of Taliban victories. We have a map that shows the regional capitals they now control those nine black squares you see in the north and the west. The pink areas are Taliban controlled. The lighter yellow is government controlled. And you can see the darker yellow is a huge chunk of the country. Those lands are currently under Taliban threat. What do you see as the insurgents strategy and objective? You know, the insurgents, the Taliban’s objectives is to seize control of Afghanistan, to reestablish its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, that’s the name of its government prior to the US invasion. It will do this by force or it will do it via diplomacy and via diplomacy means the Taliban will accept the Afghan government surrender. The Afghan government isn’t surrendered. So the Taliban is taking it by force. It has focused on taking areas in the West and particularly in the north. These are strategic areas for that where the Taliban and for the Afghan government, many Afghan powerbrokers are based in the north. This is where they derive their power. And the Taliban has could easily take the south and much of the east if it focused its forces there. But instead, what the Taliban decided to do is to go straight after the government strength. And that’s why seven of the nine provincial capitals in northern Afghanistan are under Taliban control. And they’re the to destroy. I’m sorry, the two provinces in western Afghanistan, they also are under Taliban control. The Taliban ultimately is seeking to surround Kabul strangelet and either force the surrender or militarily take the capital of Kabul. OK, let’s let’s pass everything you set out a little bit, because the north is typically not where the Taliban is the strongest and yet they’ve been able to take all those capital. So tactically, what has the Taliban done to lay the groundwork and set conditions to accomplish this? The Taliban leveraged its alliance with al-Qaida in order to gain control of areas. What it did, it used al-Qaida group associated groups, Tajik and Uzbek groups to gain influence in the northern areas. And this so this was very effective. It allowed them to reach out to Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmen to increase the ranks because the Taliban traditionally in the Middle East in the 1990s was primarily a Pashtun organization based in the south, in the East, and instead by expanding its influence and its reach in the north to these groups, if it’s allowed, it’s increased its combat power. This is the untold story of what has happened in the north. We have to remember that the North was the last bastion of resistance to the Taliban pre 9/11. Badakhshan province, which is currently under Taliban control, was the headquarters of the Northern Alliance and now the Taliban, with the help of al-Qaida, leverage those assets. And this is how we’re seeing this remarkable success in the north. OK, that’s the strategy, and I want to go back to al-Qaida in a bit, but I want to ask you about tactics. Did we also see that there was prepositioning of, for example, weapons and fighters in those northern cities? Absolutely what the Taliban did since the U.S. handed over security to the Afghan forces and back in 2014, they focused on taking control of rural areas. US generals, the commanders, they dismissed this and said we’re going to focus on the population centers. The Taliban said, that’s fine. We’ll work on the rural areas. We’ll stage from there and we’ll expand our control outward. This was this Taliban strategy is over a decade in the making. They explained it in English, by the way. So it was all out there to see, but unfortunately bad US and Afghan and NATO strategy combined with solid Taliban strategy. And yes, they were stockpiling weapons in every area. They took control. They gained more and more material. And this is how we’ve seen this spread. It’s gone from the rural areas and now it is inside the Afghan cities. Several provincial capitals are under threat right now. We may see two or three more capitals fall in the next 24 to 48 hours. And you did say there is an approach toward Kabul. My question is, do you think that the US foresaw the level of coordination and efficiency on the battlefield that the Taliban has shown in the last week? I think this is one of the greatest intelligence failures in decades, certainly in US military history. The Taliban organize this offensive. It planned it it it prepared it, organized it, recruit recruited it. It deployed fighters. It prepositioned war material all under the nose of the US military, NATO and Afghan intelligence. This is this story has to be told. It’s it’s what the Taliban did in the north particularly is significant. And everyone was caught off guard. Remember, the President Biden and his his administration is basically their estimate that the Afghan government was able to hold out and now they’re talking. The US latest US estimate is that Kabul could fall within 90 days. There are mounting critiques now of the US withdrawal, but the US mission, as you know, in Afghanistan, was explicitly to deny al-Qaida a safe haven after 9/11. So if the Taliban do return to power, do you think al-Qaida will again be able to plot attacks against the United States from Afghanistan? Absolutely, the Taliban al Qaeda alliance is as strong as it ever has been. The Taliban claims with that Doha deal, which really was a deal to get the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan. The Taliban claims that they won’t allow Afghanistan to be used as a base of operations for foreign terror groups. But the Taliban made the same promise pre 9/11. And we all saw what happened then. The Taliban couldn’t be trusted. Then they couldn’t be they can’t be trusted today. And you could be certain that al-Qaida will be seeking to leverage its relationship with the Taliban to plot attacks against the West. So are the negotiations that are taking place in Doha between the Taliban and the US envoy who just arrived there yesterday, Zalmay Khalilzad, are they relevant, are at all, or is the military taking orders from the folks in Doha or vice versa? The negotiations in Doha, a smokescreen it’s designed to give false hope to the United States, to NATO and particularly to the Afghan government, that there will be a negotiated solution. The Taliban’s position has been the same for Bridewell for two decades now. It has stated in English on Voice of Jihad, its website numerous times, even seven days after signing the Doha agreement, that the only acceptable outcome of this war would be the reestablishment of the Islamic Emirate with Mullah habia to Hopkins out to its Amir as the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Taliban and the Doha Group in the Taliban’s Doha Group is merely providing that screen they’re giving. You know, again, it’s giving false hope to everyone. Tying up diplomatic efforts while the Taliban tries to take the Taliban would accept the surrender of the Afghan government. Remember, that would lead to peace. That would be the peace of the Taliban. But they’ll take it militarily. That is not a political settlement, a surrender. Bill Roggio, thank you for coming on The NewsHour and sharing your point of view. Thank you very much. Next, we look at the forefront of research to improve the lives of people living with paralysis, finding a way to bridge the severed connections between their brains and their limbs remains an urgent but often elusive goal for researchers. As Miles O’Brien reports, they are making steady progress and they have a good feeling about restoring some people’s sense of touch. This is the latest in our breakthrough series on invention and innovation. Austin Belgin was 22 when his life changed in an instant, a dove into some shallow water left him with a broken neck between the C3 and C4 vertebrae. At that level, you’re talking about breathing. You’re talking about swallowing. You’re talking about pretty much. Everything that comes with it as far as how severe of an injury it is, when he first started living with quadriplegia, he imagined himself getting better, you know. How are you doing, man? Bob, are you great? You’re always thinking you’re going to wake up the next day and it’s just going to come back three months with really no motor gains kind of set in life like this might be more of a long haul. Now, six years since his injury, he is a volunteer participant in a groundbreaking project aimed at changing the long haul for people with paralysis. The big goal is to find a way for them to move their hands and regain sensations of touch. Ostin begging is just getting started, moving his hand for the first time since his injury. It really is remarkable that these little wires coming out of my arm, you know, are allowing something like this to happen. What does that feel like? Just the fact of feeling the arm move is the remarkable part of it. I mean, I could do this all day, just have it go up and down, up and down. It’s a project run by Cleveland’s pioneering functional electrical stimulation center, part of the Lewis Stokes VA Medical Center. For 30 years, they have been innovating technology that restores function for people with paralysis. We are presently trying to understand the underlying mechanisms of the brain that relate to movement and also sensation. So I’m just looking through your Spight panel right now, and it seems like we have a good number of action potentials. So your brain is working. Biomedical engineer Bolu Ojibway is the principal investigator. We would like to be able to design technology that records from the brain, bypasses the spinal cord injury and allows the person to control meaningful movements of their hands, such as positioning their arm in space, moving individual fingers, being able to grasp different objects so that they can perform many activities of daily living that people take for granted every day. It begins with brain surgery. Ostin begins. Operation was done by neurosurgeon Jonathan Miller with University Hospitals Cleveland. So this is the electrode we implant into the brain. As you can see, this is the part that goes in. It’s very small, actually has a total of six of these that we implant for this particular project going into six different areas of the brain. But where in the brain simply targeting the area that controls the nerves that fire muscles is not enough. We’re interested in the areas of the brain that are responsible for motor planning, for not just the actual individual nerves that control the muscles, but also the neurons that are upstream of those that control what it is that the person wants to do. In another operation, surgeons implanted electrodes to stimulate begins hand and arm muscles. The surgeries were just the start of a long journey. The team is now busy trying to decipher the myriad of signals from Meghan’s brain measured in micro volts. What we’re interested in is the fact that we’re not just looking at one cell, we’ll be looking at hundreds of cells. And there’s this is this is where you get the pattern. This is where you get the pattern. But it’s so if he tried right now to move his finger, some of these panels would light up more than others. The fire has to change. Right. And that change can lead to the naked eye and maybe be a little bit challenging to detect. So but our algorithms can detect the change not just again in one neuron, but across the population of the algorithms are programs that can identify subtle patterns of brain activity across many neurons linked to specific movements. To improve their accuracy, the team has begun to play games. He imagines moving his paralyzed arm to match with the animated hand is doing on the screen. There is learning on both sides, actually, so our algorithms get better and better with more information that we have from participant. At the same time, there is an opportunity for learning on his hand as well. What they’re doing here is unique, but there are several other projects underway aiming to understand the activity of the brain during various functions. Some use brain signals to control robotic arms or enable communication, Austin begins. Predecessor in this project was Bill Kosovar. In 2014, he became the first person in the world to be able to use this system to control his own limb. He was able to open and close his hand, move his wrist, elbow and shoulder. But he had no sensory feedback, giving paralyzed people a sense of touch. As biomedical engineer Emily Graczyk priority, very little is known about the natural language of touch in the human brain. And that’s something that we hope to study here on this project. Eventually, they will give Austin back and a glove with sensors in the fingertips. The hope is. They will send sensory information to his brain implants without sensory feedback. You really don’t know how to control the emotions that you’re producing. You don’t know how to control the forces are exerting on an object or the positioning of your body. But there is more to touch and motion than that, something harder to quantify, something Austin begging understands profoundly. People say like, what would you love to do? Just I mean, if I could actively shake someone’s hand, I mean, what would be what? I mean, what. You couldn’t put a price on that? To me, a lot of the technology this team is refining to help paralyzed individuals came out of a lab nearby, one focused on a disability. That is part of my reality. In my next story, I’ll show you how amputees are learning to feel things through their prosthetic limbs. For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Miles O’Brien. Such fascinating research, we’ll have that follow up report from Miles next Wednesday. Drinking water and restrooms are readily available to most school children in America, that is not the case across the developing world. Special correspondent Fred to Sam Lázaro reports on schools coming together around water. Part of the story was shot in Uganda just before the pandemic. It’s part of his series Agents for Change in Rwanda. Across the developing world, many schools lack not only books or desks, but something even more basic water to drink for sanitation. I grew up in a village in Uganda. Houses, didn’t have water kitchens, didn’t have water. Schools never had water. So without water, there’s a lot less education going on. Fundamentally, that’s what I’m said to a Sigurd Jackson. Kaguri founded Nyaka, a school tucked high in southern Uganda’s mountainous region. It provides free education to children who’ve lost a parent to HIV AIDS. Kaguri, who now lives in Michigan, vividly remembers those early years. Still, the reality for millions of children around the world, going to school at seven a.m. in the morning and finish school at five p.m. without drinking a sip of water. When I set out to build schools, one of the things I was determined to have is clean water. The Nyaka schools clean water comes from a rain collection system. The local community raised some funds to install these large tanks and provided material and labor. But a significant chunk of the funding came from an unlikely source of content. Right now, school fundraisers in suburban White Bear Lake, Minnesota. There’s plenty of water here, but students haven’t come to this event just to soak their teachers. It’s an exercise in building empathy for children elsewhere who work literally laboriously to fetch water for their daily use by the Minnesota students. Get a tiny idea of what that’s like carrying two liter bottles for a mile along the lakeshore. They were carrying buckets of lake water a few hundred feet for a chance to dunk teacher Ben Butters, who helped connect his students to the Ugandan school gym teacher. Buttars teaches physical education at Mitofsky International School. Part of the local district. We just work together all year long, coming up with ideas on how we can conserve water at our school and in our town and at homes and how we could teach that to the younger kids. And then we connect that to the global issue where some kids their age have to walk miles for water. His water curriculum and the Uganda connection was made possible by H2O for Life, a group that partner schools across the U.S. and Canada with those in developing countries and recently the Navajo Nation. I had a friend in Kenya that asked me if I know anybody who could help him because his community was desperate for water. Their kids were dying. Retired Minnesota schoolteacher Patti Hall founded H2O for Life in 2007. So I wrote a letter back and said, how much would it cost? And he said, Seven hundred thousand Kenyan shillings. And I kind of choked until I realized that meant seven thousand dollars. By the end of the school year, Hall and her students raised nearly double that. Inspired, she founded H2O for Life and has so far helped about 1500 North American schools create nearly a thousand water and sanitation projects in low resource settings. These projects are only half funded on purpose. Well, I got good advice from a really smart man in the water sector who said don’t fund an entire project and make it a gift because then it’s not owned by the community. You want to do a shared project so that the community has buy in and it’s going to be sustainable for the future. And then butter’s nice to meet you. Jackson takes a visit, made that connection to the world even more personal. Kaguri visited Hold Buttars and a group of H2O for Life students in White Bear Lake. Because of your help and hard work and generosity, guys like you now have the seventh grader. Ava Barth is one of the program’s so-called water warriors. I realized how much I was taking water for granted and like I really wanted to help people that didn’t have water available to them every day. Just before the pandemic call led a tour group to some of H2O for life schools, including Nyaka, the where 17 year old Prema Newberry played host. Before we had water in our school, we suffered so much we could fetch water from very far, carrying jerrycans from very places. So now you’re able to use the time to do something else. What are you using the time to do? We are using that time to revise our books, do our personal administration like washing, bathing, preparing books for the next day? If we build a culture of kids, generation of students that take actions and see others as equals and treat people kindly and give them the same dignity that everyone deserves. That’s my hope for the whole world right there. For its part, H2O for Life hopes to see a sharp increase in school partnerships in the next year, even with the pandemic disruptions. The group says it raised some 210000 dollars in the most recent school year, enough to fund 75 water and sanitation projects in places where it will make a big difference. For the PBS NewsHour. I’m Fred Decem. Lázaro Freds reporting is a partnership with The Untold Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Despite this week’s successful passage of the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, Washington, D.C. is still a polarized city. But its author, George Packer, recently explained to Judy Woodruff the divisions more broadly in our nation are greater and deeper than we may realize. Pecker argues the pandemic has exposed rifts in America among regions, races and classes. That’s the focus of his new book, Last Best Hope America in Crisis and Renewal. George Packer, welcome back to the News Hour. The book, as we said, last best hope you start with the premise that America’s government failed all of us last year on so many levels, but especially by not protecting Americans from the from the pandemic. Who is to blame for that? It starts with President Trump, who from the beginning seemed more interested in using the pandemic to advance his own political interests, to divide Americans, to turn us against each other over things that shouldn’t have been debatable, like mask wearing simple things. I think the bureaucracy failed. The Centers for Disease Control famously failed at what it’s supposed to be able to do, which is coming up with a test that could allow us to trace and control the pandemic. But really, the failure goes all the way through our society because the pandemic showed such deep divisions, both between red and blue Americans, between regions, between classes and races, we found that we are now divided into two categories essential and nonessential workers, which means those who have to go to work in the middle of a of a plague and may get sick and those who can sit at home in front of a laptop. And so it became a sort of soldiers and civilians in wartime. And you go on George Packer to to argue that every country needs a narrative, to explain who it is, to understand what it’s as you, I think, say is its moral identity. And you talk about how the political identities that used to be there for decades that broke roughly into Republicans, Democrats is now split into four different disparate groups. Just in brief, I know I’m asking you to condense the whole book, but what are those four groups? Right. So we all know that we are divided at red and blue. Every election shows us how deep that that division is. It really into two countries. But I think red and blue are themselves fractured and have been more and more over the last, say, 30 or 40 years. I call them Free America and Smart America, which are sort of the elite narratives that shaped the Republican and Democratic parties. Free America is Reaganism. It’s the free market. It’s low taxes. And that became Republican orthodoxy for decades. Still is, in a way, at the top of the party. Smart America is more Bill Clinton’s America, Barack Obama’s America, the America, the professional class of the educated who believe that if you go to the right schools and get the right degree and work hard, the the modern world is yours, that globalization will work for you. You’ll be among the winners. Real America, I think, is a rebellion against free and smart America. That’s a phrase Sarah Palin used in 2008. And to me, it means the America of the white Christian heartland, the people who work with their hands in small towns and rural areas, that who Palin was talking about. And that became Trump’s base. And in a way, real America has displaced free America as the motor of the Republican Party. The at the top of the party, you still hear free market ideas. But the real energy of the party is with nativism, I think, and with anti-immigration anti free trade feeling, which I associate with free America. And finally, just America. On the left is also a rebellion from below, a generational rebellion by younger people against what they see as the hollow promises of progress that the meritocracy of their parents gave them. And instead, it’s a dark view of the country as trapped in a caste system for centuries. That hasn’t really changed all that much. And progress is something of an illusion. And you write about how each one of these groups in a way fulfills a different aspect of our needs as a country, but how they also are very much pitted against each other. How do you see this playing itself out? And what what do we as a country do about it? Yeah, I think all four of them in some ways are dead ends. They create winners and losers and they are as exclusive as they are inclusive. My narrative is what I would call equal America. It goes back to Tocqueville’s idea that the the defining quality of Americans is what he called the passion for equality, the desire to be as good as everyone else. And today, inequality has become so pronounced that I think it’s at the heart of a lot of the social conflict we see when when equality is denied, it produces endless conflict in this country. So I think the fracturing into those four narratives is largely the result of decades of growing inequality. So I think there are two. The ways in which we can begin to at least govern ourselves in a way that we failed last year, one is by creating conditions of equality for more Americans, and that’s largely about economics and and policy. The other is by reacquiring the art of self-government, which is a skill that you can lose and that we have lost. And that is more about our role as citizens with a shared sense of responsibility. And in the book and in fact, on a note of urging Americans to find ways to see each other to to connect, to engage with each other in ways that we we don’t see very much of right now, except maybe at the local level. I think in a way it has to start at the local level. National politics is so poisoned. But if Americans are almost required to face one another as fellow citizens on some level, like through national service or through civics education, they may discover that even though they still deeply disagree, they can they can imagine a country in which the other still has a role. Right now, it’s as if each group sees the others as an existential threat that has to be eliminated. And that’s a terrible formula for a country that is going to continue toward a breakdown of our democratic way of life. And George Packer, having watched American politics or American life as long as you have, do you think that’s a message that can get through? I have been a little more hopeful this year than in quite a long time. We have begun to emerge from the pandemic through the miracle of the vaccine. And we’ve also avoided four more years of an authoritarian presidency that instead Joe Biden, with all of his weaknesses and the strangeness of this accident of history that puts him in the White House seems to understand that equal America, treating Americans as all deserving the same chance through policy and through his rhetoric, he seems to know how to do it, how to speak to us in a way that doesn’t divide us. There will be people who don’t like him. There will be people who think he’s not going fast enough or far enough. But at the moment, I think Biden turns out to be what the country needs, and I wish him all the best. George Packer, his latest book, As of Last Best Hope America in Crisis and Renewal. George Packer, thank you very much. My pleasure. On the news online right now, real estate brokers have used so-called pocket listings to keep home sales within their own networks, despite a rule aimed at cracking down on the practice. Some say loopholes have allowed it to persist or even get worse. You can read more on our website, PBS, again, NewsHour. And that is the News Hour for tonight. I’m William Branom for all of us at the PBS NewsHour. Thank you. Please stay safe and we’ll see you soon. Major funding for the PBS NewsHour has been provided by for 25 years, consumer sailors’ goal has been to provide wireless service that helps people communicate and connect. We offer a variety of no contract plans, and our U.S. based customer service team can help find one that fits you to learn more. Visit Consumer Cellular TV. Johnson and Johnson. BNSF Railway. Financial services firm Raymond James. The Ford Foundation working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. And with the ongoing support of these individuals and institutions. This program was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you. You’re watching PBS.
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PBS NewsHour full episode, Aug. 11, 2021

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