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tv   Matthew Algeo All This Marvelous Potential  CSPAN  April 11, 2020 5:00pm-5:41pm EDT

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>> the current best selling nonfiction books according to news max. abc news white house correspondent joan jonathan carl's recount offing the coverage over to trump administration in front row at the trump show. then in the house of kennedy, best selling author james patterson and journalist cynthia fagan recall the political lives of the kennedy family. after that it is pulitzer prize winning investigative journalist a look at the opioid epidemic through the experiences of those in kermit, west virginia. that's followed by the sum of the people, data scientist history of census taking and wrapping up our look at the best selling nonfiction books according to news max is, the sword and the shield, the examination of the relationship between malcolm x and martin luther king jr., and how they defined the civil rights movement.
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... my name is travis cohen, i'm a bookseller and in charge of the ãbamended to quick housekeeping and we can jump right in. i'm gonna take a quick second to remind everyone to please silence your cell phone. we are also recording video and audio in today's talk. also when it comes time for the q&a portion we have a standing microphone right here, at the end of the aisle we ask that you speak clearly into it and keep your question to a question. following everything we have all the books on sale behind the cash register at the front
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of the store so if you want to get those and come back will be more than happy to sign them. then we ask that you keep your chairs in place. we have as many of you probably know we host a lot of events this year or every year, we need help keeping track of those we have more info desk pand check our website we updat that all the time it's the best way to get that information. campers that enough. today we have the pleasure of hosting matthew algeo, an award-winning journalist whose ãbis the author of many books, he is here to discuss his new book "all this marvelous potential" robert kennedy's 1968 tour of
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appalachia. this story tells of kennedy's tour starting mid efebruary les than four months before his assassination. looks like evicted hillbilly aji and recast the midcentury story of appalachian life and what decisions were in place to generate the world as it became to myself having lived near cumberland for years have seen how the story told in the book title still resonates with the population. even deeper into the books pages readers will be familiar with the story of economic withdrawal and much to discover everyone please join me in welcoming matthew algeo [applause] >> thanks travis. i'm going to adjust this a little bit. >> hours already feeling? are you feeling okay? doing this with the handshake. it's great to be at politics and prose again. i said it before, for authors this is like madison square an garden.
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it just smells better. travis was mentioning some of my earlier books i kind of like how this fits into some of the previous books are gone but a little background about myself is in order i think it's always good to let people know the person who wrote the book. the person who you will be giving your money to hopefully. i grew up in a town about 30 miles was a philadelphia town called perkasie. it's an indian word that means ãbi went to college at university of pennsylvania in philadelphia and majored in folklore. so i've got that going for me. after i graduated i couldn't find any work in folklore. [laughter] my parents were surprised. i started working in public
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radio it was kind of the place where folklore people want at the time. i worked at a few stations in seattle and minnesota and st. louis. i met my wife and st. louis and 97, we were married in 98 and in 05 she was hired by the state department and joined the foreign service. since then, i've been able to write these books because my wife have a real job and destroying of non-best-selling books has given me something to do at least while hioverseas. quick plugs for some of my earlier books if i could my first book was "last team
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standing". thank you. big fan. in 1943 merger of the steelers and eagles they became the steagall's because the nfl was so short of players during world war ii that had emerged two teams. the cornerback is blind in one eye running back has ulcers. they aren't the last team standing but the publisher insisted on calling the book "last team standing" don't worry about that it's a good book. exthe next book was "harry truman's excellent adventure" retraced the road trip harriet and bess truman took in the summer of 53 after they left the white house this is before ex-presidents had pensions or secret service protection.. harry and bessie got in their chrysler and drove from independence missouri to the east coast to visit their daughter margaret who lived in new york at the time and then drove back again. it's kind of a sweet book. harry and bess are staying in motels and eating at diners and it speaks to a bygone era. ex-presidents now are basically midsize corporations unto themselves. when truman left office he was last president to return to something resembling a normal life.
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it was a lot of fun to do that story i did "the president is a sick man" ãbhoward is not best sellers i can't believe this.industrialism the anhistory of competitive walkin in the 1880s america's most popular spectator sport the six-day walking race. okay. abe and fido, which was widely acknowledged as the greatest biography every written tlincoln's dog and i mean, lincoln plus dog, come on. what i have to do? all right, we will see about all this marvelous potential and while that fits into the scheme of things. this book came about in 2016 after the presidential election are probably aware donald trump is president and a lot of
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people were surprised when he was elected and went and looked at the numbers and they were especially surprised at the overwhelming majorities he picked up in a lot of counties in appalachia and people started writing about this and i thought, that's interesting i wonder how that happened. i knew about the kennedy trip just as a piece of political trivia that robert kennedy and d 68 had gone on one of his famous poverty tours to eastern kentucky and at the time nckennedy was not officially a candidate but considering running against lyndon johnson in the democratic primary. it was in effect kind of a campaign stop certainly had all the toppings of the campaign trip with photo opportunities and the hearings and the ig speeches. i just thought it was interesting that robert kennedy in 1968 as a liberal could go to eastern kentucky and very credibly campaign and 50 years
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later you see donald trump winning these counties with 60 or 70% of the vote. i thought i should write a book about that but then everybody else thought the same thing so this book ended up being a little bit different and focuses more on the trip itself. i don't get too much into the analysis of why things have changed. i think i look more at how things are changed and leave it up to the reader to decide whether the changes are better or worse, therefore worse. i went down to kentucky i began researching the book in 2017. i grew up in philadelphia, outside philadelphia, lots of money, i have a lot of bias attached to it. to the story of appalachia and also the 1960's. my idea of the 1950s was woodstock and the chicago convention. san francisco. you don't really think of kentucky when you think about the 60s.s. at least i didn't. where i came from. the 60s happened in kentucky a lot. there were a lot of crazy things going on in appalachia and eastern kentucky. things to do with te environmentalism and poverty.
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it really surprised me and i thought, maybe that's a way to approach the story is to look at what the 60s were like in eastern kentucky. by way of background before the rfk trip in 1960 his brother jack ran for president and in west virginia was an important ntprimary for john kennedy to win. and bobby was his campaign n.manager and this was the firs time jack and bobby really were exposed to american poverty up close. i think it really stuck with both of them. there is a funny story from 1960 campaign in west virginia where an old coalminer came up to jack kennedy and said, is it true that you've never worked a day in your life? jack kennedy said, yes there is some truth to that.the coalminer said, don't worry, you have it missed a dam thing. [laughter] kennedy was enamored with the people in west virginia and the people in appalachia and they always stayed with him. it 63 in july 1963 harry
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cottle, a writer from eastern kentucky wrote a book called mike comes to the cumberland's and it was really an exposc on the exploitation of the people in eastern kentucky by the coal companies in the major corporations in the u.s. that depended on calls. in october 63 homer bigger who was a reporter for the new york times wrote an exposc about poverty in eastern kentucky and i think jack kennedy had seen both of these and they made quite an impression on him and he had planned to go to eastern kentucky to see what the conditions were like for himself that trip was scheduled for december 1963. of course that never took place. after his assassination, lbj stepped up and really took up the mantle for antipoverty campaigns and in his january 64 state of the union address famously declared war on poverty. in august 1964, seven months later, the bill the economic
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opportunity act was passed, creating the office of economic opportunity or oto which was the agency that oversaw all the war on poverty programs. there were so many programs. it takes a page in the book to list all the programs but some of them were headstart medicare was really something that came out of this school lunch program things like this. rfk ethic when he went to eastern kentucky in january 68 he had a few reasons to go. one was i think it was in the back of his mind his brother had made had wanted to visit eastern kentucky in december 1963 and never made it. sshe reappropriated the office of economic opportunity was coming up so he wanted to see what progress had been made on the war on poverty. i think robert kennedy also wanted to show that poverty wasn't just an african american problem or native american
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problem or mexican-american problem, it was an american problem. this affected every community and every group in the country including white people, white people in eastern kentucky particularly and i thought, i think he thought it was important to show that to the country. the trip itself was two days he held hearings in one room schoolhouse in vortex and then added gymnasium in a town called neon, a high school gymnasium. as i was writing the book i really thought it was more interesting, robert kennedy a lot of books have been written about robert kennedy obviously with larry tie wrote what i thought was an excellent biography and gave me a good blurb which really is the most important thing. i didn't want to read a book really about robert kennedy and a biography of him as much as explaining what he did on this trip. the people he met and the issues he faced. and try to put them into some kind of context of what was happening in the 60s and what's happening today. also to show what changes have happened since the 60s and what
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changes happen. a few of the issues that he discussed, or he confronted in eastern kentucky, one was stripmining, at the time there was a system called the broad form bd, i don't know why they called it the broad form deed, maybe it was big but these were deeds people had signed over the mineral rights to the property, often 50 to 100 years earlier. these deeds gave companies the right to just strip the land that the call was on and companies work required to repair the land, they were required to do anything to fix the damage that was created by stripmining so people would see coal companies dig in their land to take the call and leave. it was environmentally very disastrous. it stripped hillsides of all the covers so the hollows would flood every spring. not to mention very exploited since it destroyed the land they had and they got no
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benefit from the call that was t taken out. i think something like $1 trillion worth of coal has been extracted from eastern kentucky. not much of that money made it back. another fissue that was present at the time was this concept of maximum feasible participation. the economic opportunity act provided that the people most affected by these programs, i.e. poor people, would be given maximum feasible participation in deciding how the money would be spent. and what the money would be spent on, where the money would be spent. just as an example there was a grassroots citizen committee of wolf and buffett counties that was organized that got $40,000 grant from the federal government to build new roads. this was a committee that had been formed by unemployed minors in the two counties and it seemed like a really fantastic thing they were able to get this money but who do you think didn't like the fact that the federal government
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sent money directly to grassroots citizens committees. the state and the county politicians. they were used to having the money go to them first and they would decide who got to spend it. when the money started going bypassing state and local politicians and going directly to poor people but this was kind of the final straw for a lot of people who were opposed to the war on poverty in the economic opportunity act. it was such a fantastic ideal but in a way it planted a emlittle seed of its own demise right there in the act. it triggered such a backlash aover the entrenched political interest. this wasn't only kentucky but anywhere this money went. 1968 the presidential campaign was heating up.
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we are in february when the trip takes place so we are about six weeks before robert kennedy officially announces his candidacy. like i said earlier, it really had the trappings of the campaign trip and it's funny, i have pictures in the book, kennedy's aides did not expect quite the crowd of a oppressed of the company to the senator on this trip so he would see these long caravans of cars following him and would stop somewhere go inside the house to talk to somebody and he would be done and onto the next house before the caravan even finished pulling up to the house. it's kind of funny how much attention it got. although, i was surprised to learn that the networks did not archive nightly newscasts until august 1968 when the democratic
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convention came. they would be occasional newscasts you would find that if someone thought it was important to say for one reason or another but the network newscast from kennedy's trip i was not able to find and i think they were just, they didn't archive the newscasts at that time. there were a host of issues, real brief really, food stamps was one of the fascinating issues to me that i learned about in this book. mainly because people had to pay for food nlstamps, which i hadn't really appreciated but when the food stamp program began, you paid for a certain denomination of stamps and in addition to that you were given free stamps. you pay like say $10 and get $15 worth of food stamps and the fee was number of factors the size of your family your income, that kind of thing.but it could be a fairly big price, kennedy one of the people he talked to on the trip at one of the hearings
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was an unemployed minors named swingle if you get spent $72 a month for $94 in food stamps. had to pay $72 to get $22 in food stamps and another minor was a guy named kristin click berg johnson a father 15 whose monthly income was $60. he paid $26 a month for ãb leaving just $34 for all other expenses. kirsten johnson at the hearing said to kennedy have you ever seen 15 kids and three beds? robert kennedy said, i'm headed in that direction. he had 10 kids at the time i think. after the trip, one of the things that came out of this fo was eventually the purchase requirement was lifted although it didn't take effect into the food stamp act of 1977 and that didn't take effect until january 1979 when the purchase requirement was finally ended
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and participation in the food stamp program went up 1.5 million in one month. it made a big difference in a lot of people's lives just by lifting that purchase requirement. also interesting to find that food stamps are a welfare program for people for the hungry also welfare program for mark because about four percent of walmart sales come from food stamps. it's always interesting to see walmart how they come down on legislation that makes it harder for people to get food stamps because it cuts into their revenue. after rfk's assassination in june 1968 richard nixon was elected president and he had to appoint someone to oversee the office of economic opportunity. to oversee the war on poverty. of course republicans for the most part hated the war on poverty and hated the programs
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so this kind of put nixon in a tough spot. who's gonna find to this thankless job that nobody wants? he found a congress guy from illinois, he took over the office of economic opportunity and one of his first hires was a young ambitious congressional intern from wyoming a guy named dyck cheney. in 1981 the office of economic opportunity was finally abolished so we can give months filled and cheney credit for ending at least one war and that was the war. the war on poverty. what? too soon? finally, a couple statistics, one is that poverty was reduced from 1959 poverty was 22 percent. it's pretty crazy. it's like, do the math, one in four, one in five. in 1973 was 11 percent so it was cut in half.
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in the space of 14 years. when you look at a graph of a chart of where poverty was headed from 1959 to 1973 straight down but since 1973 when the brakes really the heeffect of putting the brakes the world poverty took affect its held steady at about 11 to 15 percent since then. in some ways i think the war on poverty was a success and another ways of course it wasn't. i'd be happy to take questions if anybody's got them you can step up to the microphone and let it rip. somebody has to have a question. >> thank you for being here. thank you for the talk. i look forward to reading your book. i wondered if you could speak more about the decline in poverty. i work in montgomery county
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with a patient population of uninsured adults, the criteria to get into the program is to be below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. the federal poverty levels the same across united states even though the cost of living is not necessarily the same across the united states. can you give us a little bit of context of where the numbers came from? >> one of the things and i talk about it in the book in excruciating but fascinating detail is how you determine poverty. this is a huge thing when kennedy came in and 61 and said what we do about poverty the first thing he wanted to know is what's the number? people say we don't know the number. there was rita or shinseki, or sharansky the department of elder kircher was a woman who came up with the formula for determining what the poverty line was. basically she took the usda figures for nutrition for a family of four and figured out, she came up with this number. that formula has basically been
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unchanged now for 60 years. the problem is at the time housing was very cheap and food was very wexpensive. now you have the opposite, food is cheap and housing is expensive. if you made changes to the poverty line it would d immediately put millions of people technically into poverty, no politician wants to do that. you have 'tthese things where t criteria 250 percent of the poverty line, why do we just move the poverty line? what would make the poverty line fluid by regions, by metropolitan regions and things like that. i think the problem is it so politically difficult for people to come up with a comprehensive and up-to-date formula for exact determining exactly who's in poverty anywhere. there's just not the political will to do that nobody wants to touch it.
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>> with the war in vietnam and these young men that were out in the appellations in the very poor areas of the country, how did he deal with, sometimes the military dwas their own way ou. yet how did he convey the fact that this was an unjust war, best not to participate in it and yet the military was often the only way out for these young men and often times these young men coming from these regions would perhaps be on the front lines more likely to be killed or injured. that was kind of ã >> kennedy came out i think the month before with his deepening swamp speech in chicago where he had unequivocally come out eagainst expanding the war in vietnam. you are right, support for the war in appalachia was strong, however, i think there was a
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lot even among people who supported the war there was a lot of people opposed to the way it was being managed. they saw that their sons in eastern kentucky were dying at higher rate than any other region of the country. west virginia had the highest casualty rate of any state in the vietnam war and eastern eastern kentucky were of considered their own state they would have even higher rate. appalachians were appalachian boys, men were considered especially good at walking point because they were familiar with modern terrain they were fantastic marksmen and familiar with living in rough environments they could live rough for long periods of time. i think it was a percent of the combat veteran of the combat soldiers in vietnam were from appalachia.
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metal of t of the honor recipients were from appalachia. i think the parents were more ambivalent that they supported the war but certainly didn't like seeing their children go off and fight it and die in such post ãbin such proportion. >>. >> what's known about the health effects of the war on poverty? it certainly must be something something studied but i don't know anything about it for sure. >> in terms of say ã [multiple speakers] >> one of the really fascinating things i hadn't even mentioned some of the
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people i met on this while researching the book. just amazing people. one of the war on poverty programs was the creation of li community health clinics and still community health clinics were founded 50 years ago in eastern kentucky that are the primary health care providers for communities there. i would stay to statistically the incidence of childhood diseases which were still prevalent entity homeward bigot. talkedãb they certainly that decreased, the school lunch program helped immensely. this is a guaranteed meal the kids had every day they hadn't had before. even though there they had political l problems trying to get those and plummeted. a lot of the school districts there were little fiefdoms people ran they didn't like the
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idea of people coming in and telling them what to do even if that meant free lunches. besides many of the schools where one-room school houses that didn't have the facilities to cook lunches. they didn't have indoor plumbing. there were a lot of hurdles to tackle but overall as far as public health effect was positive. >> thanks. >> thank you. >> imagine the people you met i wondered sort of did you hear many reflections of people about kennedy's trip. >> it was cool, this book was the one i had done that was the most recent to happening, not very well worded. it was only 50 years earlier less than that there were a lot of people around that met kennedy. the problem i had as i mentioned swingle fugate mothers she dates everywhere.
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there is items everywhere. the names of but he has the same name. it took a little work to track people down but a lot of people had memories, first-hand memories of the trip itself. i think it was interesting to look at the impact it had on people even to this day. people got very emotional talking about meeting robert kennedy. one of the people i talked to was a woman with melamine she went to her sister to meet in high school in neon and written on the pacer excuse slip and had kennedy sign it so she could get excused from school which was a good thing because a lot of the schools didn't want the children to attend. they didn't think bobby kennedy was a positive influence. it was a lot of fun like finding people who remembered
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the trip and had first-hand memory. one of the guys i talked about in the book was a guy named steve caywood university of kentucky of law student and friend of carl perkins the congressman from eastern kentucky. one of the reasons kennedy went to eastern kentucky was that he originally was going to go to south carolina but fritz hollings was running for reelection at the time and he was like maybe not shine a light on poverty in south carolina while i'm running for reelection and kennedy said okay and hollings later supported some of the legislation. he went to kentucky because there wasn't a senator up for reelection and the congressman was carl perkins. he held the job like the pope he held it until he died. he would occasionally come to washington and help out carl perkins in his office. he would arrive in the car witha kennedy. and so a state trooper drove kennedy, carl perkins, kennedy and steve caywood university of kentucky law student.
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in he basically has worked in environmental and poverty issues ever since then. that's cool i don't even know if i answered your question. did i? would you uphold that particular theory one of the quotes i have in the book i'm can go through but there's a quote from a reporter a white kid you support bobby kennedy. he said yes, he said we don't
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like negroes around here, kennedy wants to improve life for the negro why do you support kennedy? i know i just do. he had been attorney general so he came from a background of law and order i think people saw him as being somebody who would balance certain interests of communities with law and order. by the way, i go into george wallace in here a little bit
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because i think kennedy and wallace were competing for the same voters. in appalachia. george wallace was a piece of work. at the time and 68 when he was campaigning. couldn't run for reelection so he got his wife reelected in alabama. when she had her third child and 61 or 62 the doctor saw suspicious tissue but of courses told george, you need to get lurline to get this checked out. a i think it might be cancerous. but george was running for reelection at the time. it wasn't until late 67 you are lean was formerly diagnosed with cancer and then died in i think march 1968.
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wallace was running for president at the time not a nice man. i'm just gonna go out on a limb and say that. it was fascinating to look at george wallace and bobby kennedy there was definitely overlap in their constituencies. it was fascinating. >> i would support that in the sense i grew up in western pennsylvania i was 18 years old in 1968, i had friends and new acquaintances people who thought george wallace, bobby kennedy? without any hesitation and ended up voting for ronald reagan. >> thank you thank you for coming out. the most important thing to take away is to remember to buy the book. [applause]
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>> we will have a signing right up here. >> at an event at the atlanta history museum historian leanna keith discussed the origins of the republican party. here's a portion of the program. >> the radicals are people who believe kansas should be a free state and willing to organize themselves as immigrants they were willing to take up arms as necessary to defend the idea of free cancer. and it meant to resist the fugitive slave act operation in the north and the west. to organize the committee to assault course out courthouses with battering ram to rescue
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fugitives caught up in unjust rendition system. to be a john brown mist in the 1850s. it's not only the secret six to become famous. to be a radical meant to lean into that idea. the nation is taking down the war road to be radical republican to be in favor of hard work to be to demand so
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much of the nation. so willing to confront slavery and terminate it. so in the words of raphael emerson who was a radical good doctor but bad is sometimes better. in the agony of the nation of the civil war was the only way we could address these fundamental issues.>> to view the rest of this talk visit our website type leanna keith or the title to her for her book into the search box at the top of the page. >> tonight at 11:00 p.m. eastern watch authors sonja shaw ali khan and jeremy brown discussing pandemics. >> what happens now would we have outbreaks of contagious disease, we don't look for the social political roots, we wait for those epidemics to a rep, people get sick and then we
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hope we can throw sufficient vaccines and drugs added to make it go away. >> it should not be surprising that when i talk about zika and bullock, somehow very quickly the animal connection comes into play. with zika obviously mosquitoes, with ebola it's bats, the original cause of where the virus lives and in fact somebody and that's how you spread out the chain of transmission and humans. >> there's nothing about this virus that suggested anything other than a natural mutation and as a reminder that we don't need all kinds of theories of biological warfare to explain something that is natural and i think to be a wake-up call to all of us that it must be taken very seriously. >> sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern on "after words" netflix director of inclusion and former un official michelle king with her book "the fix". >> were often in denial about the challenges of women's space to work something i discovered in my own research that people
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ãbthe belief that everybody is the same because everybody's treated in the same way. if people don't have different experiences of work and with that kind of logic we are not only denying difference but denying inequality. >> watch authors discussing pandemics tonight at 11:00 p.m. eastern and afterwards with michelle king sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern on booktv on c-span2. up next, the library of congress hosts a virtual author talk with the rain university professor john barry about his book on the 1918 influenza pandemic. >>


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