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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  August 15, 2021 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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>> someone described it as a flight from hell. >> he's talking about the evacuation of sick americans after a covid outbreak on a european cruise. it was the beginning of the pandemic. and as you'll hear tonight, passengers on that flight from hell were surprised how their own government responded. >> and all of a sudden, this man comes walking up. he's heading like he's going to the bathroom. and he just starts, like, a weeble wobble. and he just hits his head on the wall. and he falls to the ground. ( ticking ) >> good afternoon, brothers.
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our work is to help people who don't have lawyers to access justice. >> this soft-spoken, 36-year-old lawyer founded an organization called justice defenders-- a group that so far has trained hundreds of incarcerated men and women in prisons in africa, to become paralegals and lawyers. the results have been astounding. ( ticking ) >> you've heard a lot about the future of driver-less cars. but, what about this? that's right. 18 wheels on the road, and nobody in the driver's seat. don't be surprised to see this on american highways soon. how close are we to a day when these trucks have no driver? >> we'll be operating on the public highways with real cargo, with a real fleet, in 2021. ( ticking ) >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker.
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>> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm sharyn alfonsi. >> i'm jon wertheim. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight, on "60 minutes." ( ticking ) cancer means... grabbing a hold of what matters. asking for what we want. and need. and we need more time. so, we want kisqali. living longer is possible and proven with kisqali when taken with fulvestrant or a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor in hr+, her2- metastatic breast cancer. kisqali is approved for both pre- and postmenopausal women, and has extended lives in multiple clinical trials. kisqali is a pill that's significantly more effective at delaying disease progression versus a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor or fulvestrant alone. kisqali can cause lung ps, it can cause serious skin reactions, liver problems, and low white blood cell counts that may result in severe infections. tell your doctor right away if you have new or worsening symptoms, including breathing problems, cough, chest pain,
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banking with capital one is, like, the easiest decision in the history of decisions. kind of like... i'll take barkley. yes! yep, even easier than that. what's in your wallet? yep, even easier than that. up here, success depends on the choices you make. but i know i've got this. and when it comes to controlling his type 2 diabetes, my dad's got this, too. with the right choices, you have it in you to control your a1c and once-weekly trulicity may help. most people taking trulicity reached an a1c under 7%. and it starts lowering blood sugar from the first dose, by helping your body release the insulin it's already making. trulicity is for type 2 diabetes. it isn't for people with type 1 diabetes. it's not approved for use in children. don't take trulicity if you're allergic to it, you or your family have medullary thyroid cancer, or have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. stop trulicity and call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction, a lump or swelling in your neck, severe stomach pain, changes in vision, or diabetic retinopathy. serious side effects may include pancreatitis. taking trulicity with sulfonylurea or insulin
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raises low blood sugar risk. side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and may worsen kidney problems. show your world what's truly inside. ask your doctor about once-weekly trulicity. >> sharyn alfonsi: in the early days of the covid crisis, 235 americans boarded the "costa luminosa" cruise ship headed for europe. they left fort lauderdale on march 5, 2020. at that time, there were only abou0 cod ofcovius ithe edates s the crossing the atlantic, word spread that three passengers who left the ship during port calls in the
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caribbean tested positive for covid. and one had died. as we first reported last fall, the flight back home had all the ingredients of a super-spreading event. this is the story of what happened next, and how the agency tasked with controlling such outbreaks, the centers for disease control and prevention, knew about it and did not stop it. by the time the "costa luminosa" was halfway across the atlantic, passengers we spoke to say it seemed like everyone was coughing. it was supposed to be a 20-day cruise, from florida to italy. bob and sue anderson were travelling to visit family in europe. those early days in march, you know, covid was starting. but you made a decision that you were going to go on a cruise. >> bob anderson: we wanted to travel to see our granddaughter. we didn't really worry about it. >> sue anderson: and it wasn't until we got on the ship and two
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or three days into the cruise where everything then blew up. >> alfonsi: at what point did you start feeling sick? >> bob anderson: oh, probably a week into the trip. it was fatigue. i just didn't feel like doingan. and then i got a tightness in the chest, lost my sense of taste, my sense of smell. >> sue anderson: i told bob, i said, i feel like i'm in the petri dish of the covid. >> alfonsi: kelly edge had been travelling with her husband woody. he had been sick in bed for five days when everyone on board was ordered to quarantine in their cabins. >> kelly edge: we are captive. >> alfonsi: captive. >> edge: you can't come in with a helicopter. we're in the middle of the oce >> alfonsi: passengers began to call home, asking for help from members of congress, reporters, and family. >> edge: there was a-- conversations from people from the-- the states that were
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contacting all government agencies. you know? they had very sick family members on the ship. and they knew that-- that they needed to get their family off a.s.a.p. e uise, passengers lea would a france had just started a nationwide lockdown. the americans had to gather in this ship lounge to be checked by french medics before they were allowed to board buses for the airport. >> edge: this is where, in my opinion, it became criminal. >> alfonsi: "criminal," she says, because the passengers, many in their 70s and showing symptoms of covid, waited in the locked buses for five hours while paperwork was sorted out by u.s. diplomats. it was midnight when they finally got on the jet hired by the cruise line. >> jenny catron: so, as you can hear, everybody's coughing. >> alfonsi: this is jenny catron. she hoped the worst was behind
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them as she settled into seat 26d. >> catron: here we go. we are hoping that when we get back to the united states, that these people will be able to get some medical help, finally. >> alfonsi: the jet took off for atlanta at 2:00 a.m. it wasn't lost on many that their destination, atlanta, is the home of the centers for disease control and prevention. the atlanta airport is also one of 20 quarantine stations the c.d.c. has around the country to screen ill travelers. did you expect that when that plane landed in atlanta, that you would be taken to quarantine? >> edge: 100%. >> alfonsi: while at sea, passengers saw news reports about covid outbreaks on other cruise ships, including the "diamond princess" in japan a the "grand princess" in california. in both cases, the c.d.c. ordered hundreds of those passengers to quarantine at u.s. military bases. what was the scene on the plane like?
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>> bob anderson: someone described it as a flight from hell. >> alfonsi: did it feel like that? >> bob anderson: yes. i kept looking at the man and woman to my left, coughing and coughing and coughing. >> alfonsi: it became 9.5 hours of misery. e andersons were in row 32. kelly and woody edge were in the middle of the plane. >> edge: and then it-- and then it happened. it was behind me about ten rows. and a man started to collapse, and his wife was like, "help. help. please help. we need a doctor." >> alfonsi: jenny catron was several rows behind her. the experienced red cross volunteer who attended nursing school was already trying to help. >> catron: he was glowing. he had so much sweat-- he was pale, pale-ish green. >> alfonsi: you didn't think, "oh, my gosh: this guy might have covid" right away? >> catron: i was pretty sure that, at that point, that we all had covid. >> alfonsi: kelly edge noticed jenny was on her own, and got up to help, too.
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>> edge: and then, on the other side of me, to the right, and behind me about two rows, this man started going into some kind of respiratory distress. so i say to jenny, "i think you need to go for this man. i can-- what-- what's going on here, and i can do this." and she said, "just-- just hold his hand, just reassure him." and all of a sudden, this man comes walking up. he's heading like he's going to the bathroom. and he just starts, like, a weeble wobble, and he just hits his head on the wall. and he falls to the ground. >> alfonsi: so, it's one, two, three, four. >> edge: they're going, like-- they're going, like, fast now. we're laying them out-- >> alfonsi: in the aisles? or... >> edge: in the, like, bulk heads, you know. >> alfonsi: where are the flight attendants? >> edge: in the back. they just didn't know what to do either, you know. they were very scared. >> catron: the captain comes out, and we start discussing whether or not to divert the flight. we still had another four hours to atlanta. and if we had landed in bermuda,
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they could have still been sitting on the plane for another six hours, where they debate whether or not they're going to let people into the hospitals there. >> alfonsi: so the flight continued to atlanta. but when the plane carrying the sick and exhausted passengers landed at 6:43 in the morning, the doors stayed closed. >> edge: and then we finally hear from the pilot that-- "well, apparently nobody knew we were coming. nobody was prepared." >> alfonsi: does that make any sense? based on the calls you guys are making from the ship? you guys are waving flags, calling the media... >> edge: the atlanta news was there at the airport to meet us. >> reporter: lori, you know, i can't even iginehat it mus have been like to be on that plane. >> alfonsi: so where was the help? "60 minutes" spoke with the state department, customs and border protection, and the c.d.c. on background. we were told the c.d.c. knew the plane was coming, but didn't make plans to quarantine passengers. instead, the decision was made
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to treat them like any other americans returning from europe in march, by having them fill out a health questionnaire. but about an hour before the plane was to touch down, the c.d.c.s an blew up. memberrliehee french medics who screened the passengers in the ship lounge? it turns out, the french tested four americans for covid, and three were positive, and on the plane. that news surprised the c.d.c. they had to scramble together a team to go to the jet. jenny catron got sick of waiting. >> catron: and at that point, i just get on the phone and i called 9-1-1. >> alfonsi: you called 9-1-1 from the plane? >> catron: yes. >> atlanta airport 911. >> catron: my name is jennifer catron. i am on a plane that we just came over from france. >> hm-hm. >> catron: i have nine medical emergencies that i had to handle on this plane from france over to here. >>mmm-hm.
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>> catron: we are waiting for the c.d.c. because we have possible coronavirus cases on board. >> catron: i have people passing out. >> alfonsi: three more hours passed before the doors finally opened. who are the first people to board the plane? >> catron: there were two or three different girls. they said that they were from the c.d.c. they were dressed in plastic-- they're like, "okay, well, we need these three people that had tested positive in marseilles." so they get those three people off. and she goes, "okay, now i need the people that have fevers and coughs." and the steward looks at them. she goes, "honey, they're all sick." >> alfonsi: the three positive passengers were taken to a hotel. everybody else went to a cargo building, where they were checked by the c.d.c. for fever, and filled out a short questionnaire. nobody was given a covid test. and some passengers told us, they saw people with symptoms get through. >> edge: there were people-- get this-- their temperature was too high, so the c.d.c. had them sit in chairs and wait and see if it got lower.
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>> catron: so i'm trying really hard not to, like, second-guess. and i was so-- >> alfonsi: you're thinking, "this is the c.d.c. they've got this." >> catron: that's what i'm trying to tell myself. >> alfonsi: "and it's in their hands now." >> catron: i'm trying to tell myself that. >> alfonsi: but your mind is saying what? >> catron: "you're not doing it right." >> alfonsi: passengers were then loaded onto buses for a short drive to baggage claim. and that was that. they were all free to go wherever they wanted. >> edge: like, half of it was the walking wounded, and i watched them all leave. >> alfonsi: this plane comes in, people are sick, they're fainting, they're coughing, and then they're let into the main terminal of one of the busiest airports in america. >> bob anderson: it was crazy. >> alfonsi: was it lost on anybody? or were you guys kind of looking at each other, like, "i can't believe they let us go?" >> bob anderson: exactly. those are the exact feelings we had. utter surprise and bewilderment. >> alfonsi: some passengers removed their masks. heit t food court. within hours, more than 200 of them, exposed to covid or
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already sick with it, boarded commercial flights to 17 states and canada. including the andersons. >> bob anderson: we felt guilty. we had our masks. we had our gloves. and we sat down. and the seat next to me was empty. and i said, "please don't let anybody sit next to me." >> alfonsi: bob anderson tested positive for covid after he flew home to utah. kelly edge's husband tested positive after he took a flight to miami. three people on the plane were put on ventilators days later. and two other passengers who flew home-- tom sheehan, who was in seat 24j, and herman boehm, who was in 10a-- both died, nine days later. we wanted to know what the c.d.c. was thinking, but they declined our request for an interview. we did obtain 160 pages of emails from the agency about the operation through the freedom of information act, but all the sections about decision-making
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were redacted. how does this happen? >> dr. ali khan: undoubtedly, you know, i would say this sort of constitutes public health malpractice-- that you have individuals who you know are exposed, potentially multiple people infected within that group, and then you put them in the busiest airport in the world. >> alfonsi: dr. ali khan is the dean of the university of nebraska school of public health. he is a former director of the c.d.c.s office of public health preparedness and response. should any of those passengers been allowed to get on commercial flights at that point? >> khan: so, those individuals definitely should have stayed in atlanta and been appropriately isolated or quarantined based on their circumstances. >> alfonsi: we knew enough at that point to know that was a bad decision. >> khan: oh, no-- not only did we know enough at that point, we had already acted on that knowledge multiple times. we know that, what was the right thing to do was with the "grand princess" and other cruise ships, that those individuals
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need to get off the ship, needed to be monitored separately, in quarantine, before they cou gute would not share the passenger list with us, but we were able to track down 64 of the and of those 64? 45 of them told us they tested positive for covid soon after coming home. >> khan: this is what the agency plans for, day in and day out, on how to do this. i mean, this should've been second nature of how to make this happen. >> alfonsi: the c.d.c. alerted state health departments. but some passengers told us, their states never followed up with them, and didn't do any contact tracing. the lack of a unified response means nobody knows exactly how many passengers from that flight from hell brought home the coronavirus, or how many unsuspecting people they infected with covid along the way. ( ticking )
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>> anderson cooper: over the years, we've done a number of stories about wrongly-convicted prisoners who get exonerated when a crusading attorney takes on their case. in prisons around the world, however, that rarely happens. in kenya, for example, more than 80% of prisoners have never been represented by a lawyer. justice defenders would like to change that. it's an organization started in africa by a soft-spoken, 36-year-old lawyer named alexander mclean. justice defenders has worked in 46 prisons in kenya and uganda, giving legal training to hundreds of inmates who can then help their fellow prisoners, the innocent and the guilty, get a fair hearing in court. they are also helping some prisoners get law degrees, and as we found out when we visited kenya before the pandemic, the results have been astounding. thika main prison outside
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nairobi is a miserable place. built almost 70 years ago to hold 300 prisoners, when we visited 18-months ago, there were more than 1,000. in this one dank holding cell, 140 men were packed tightly together, the air thick with the smell of sweat and urine. they'd been accused of everything from trespassing and robbery to assault and murder. some have already been convicted, but most have yet to stand trial. they can't afford bail, so they'll likely have to wait here for years. >> alexander mclean: good afternoon, brothers. our work is to help people who don't have lawyers to access justice. >> cooper: that's alexander mclean, the founder of justice defenders, which has been working in kenya's prisons for 14 years. >> mclean: how many of you have a lawyer? >> francis munyao: two, three. >> cooper: just three men in this group of more than 200 prisoners have an attorney. >> mclean: we think it's a problem that often poor people fenseless is at the heart of
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alexander mclean's mission. most of the people who are in prisons in kenya don't come to court knowing their rights, knowing how a court works. >> mclean: you might meet people in prison who think that the police are the ones who've convicted them of an offense. or, they've never had a copy of their judgment. so they know that they've been convicted, but they don't know exactly what of and why. and so, our hope with our work is that we give people fair hearings, so even if they're convicted or they're given a prison sentence, afterwards they say, "well, that's fair because my voice has been heard." >> cooper: morris kaberia was sent to thika prison in 2005. he was a police officer, and was accused of stealing a cell phone and credit card. how much time do you end up in pre-trial detention, waiting for your trial? >> morris kaberia: eight good years. >> cooper: eight years? >> kaberia: eight years. from 2005 to 2013. >> cooper: in court, he claimed he'd been framed because he didn't pay a bribe to a superior
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officer. the judge found him guilty of armed robbery and gave him the mandatory sentence: death. the death penalty, for an armed robbery? >> kaberia: yes. >> cooper: when the verdict came, do you remember that day? >> kaberia: very much. when the judge sentenced me to death, to suffer death by hanging, i just saw black, darkness everywhere. >> cooper: mclean took us to langata women's prison in nairobi, where justice defenders have trained 31 inmates to be what they call paralegals. they are given a three-week law course, which enables them to then teach other prisoners about bail, court procedures, and rules of evidence. petions and wre appeals llengi inmates' conviction and sentenat yr did you arrive ? jane manyonge became a paralegal four years ago.s sharged with kr husband, who she says was
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abusive. convicted of murder, she too was given a mandatory death sentence. you didn't know your rights, you didn't-- >> jane manyonge: never, never. >> cooper: --how courts work. >> manyonge: and that's what propelled me to join the paralegals. that legal, basic knowledge that i get, it goes a long way. you don't need a degree to draft somebody an appeal, or something like that. >> cooper: how does that feel? >> manyonge: you feel that you are still a human being, even if you are here. you can do something to change someone's life. >> cooper: alexander mclean began volunteering to help others as a teenager growing up in south london. his father is jamaican and his mother is english. he first went to africa when he was 18 to do hospice work in prisons and hospitals in uganda. >> mclean: we went onto this ward, and by the toilet on the floor, i saw a man lying on a plastic sheet in a pool of urine. and for five days, i washed him and tried to advocate for him. came the sixth day, and he was lying dead and naked on the
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floor. >> cooper: it's not something a lot of people i think would volunteer to do. >> mclean: i guess that sometimes in life, we see things that we can't unsee, and then we have a choice as to how we respond to them. because every person has gifts, and talents, and something to contribute to our society. our society can only flourish when the inherent worth of each person is valued. >> cooper: after returning to london, and graduating from law school, he could have gotten a high-paying job. instead, in 2007, he started a charity to improve conditions in african prisons. at nairobi's kamiti maximum security prison, a notorious and sometimes violent place, he met george karaba, who was on death row for killing a man in a dispute over land. >> george karaba: i remember the first thing that we asked was how he could be able to provide us with reading materials. >> cooper: mcleabegan collecting whatever books he could find for the prisoners. >> mclean: my sense was that books could transform us and--
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and transform our circumstances and take us-- to a different place. >> class: 9, 10, 11... >> cooper: prison authorities had already started an academy of their own, with classes from first grade through high school, teaching math, english, science, and religion. and with mclean's help, they turned a room at the end of a cell block into a library. >> karaba: you can't imagine the happiness. you can't imagine-- >> cooper: just from a book. >> karaba: yeah. because when i start reading this book, and it's actually enlightening me. it's like, now i'm being opened up to the outside world. it started giving us hope. >> cooper: mclean wanted to do more than just improve life in kenya's prisons. he wanted to make sure those accused of crimes had a fair hearing. >> mclean: often, there's people from backgrounds of privilege who become lawyers, or become politicians and make the law, but it's the poorest people in our societies who disproportionately feel the impact of the law. and i wondered what it'd look like to tap into that lived experience.
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>> cooper: so in 2012, mclean arranged with the university of london law school for inmates to begin taking a three-year correspondence course-- the same one nelson mandela took when he was in prison. to qualify, they have to pass an entrance exam, and have a track record of helping other prisoners while they've been behind bars. so, even if they may have murdered somebody and have a life sentence, if-- if they have transformed themselves in prison, if they are serving others, they might be able to qualify? >> mclean: yes. because we believe that there's more to someone that's killed than being a murderer or more to someone that's-- who's stolen than being a thief. i don't think any of us has to be defined by the worst thing that we've done. >> cooper: remember morris kaberia, the cop in for armed robbery? he enrolled in law school and found the learning curve steep. >> kaberia: i had never touched a computer in my life before i went to prison. >> cooper: really? >> kaberia: yes. i touched the first computer in that law class.
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>> cooper: in some ways, they are like law students anywhere. in the chapel at kamiti maximum security prison, we watched as they held a moot court, a mock legal hearing where they role- play, arguing cases with all the gravitas and grandeur of a real kenyan courtroom. some prisoners play prosecutors. >> phillip: the society, as a whole, needs protection. >> cooper: others, the defense. >> isaac: it is better to acquit nine guilty suspects, then convict one innocent person. >> cooper: there's also a defendant. >> cooper: andriner judges >> judge: the appellan the appeal. ( cheers ) >> cooper: you may have noticed prison guards in attendance. remarkably, some of them are taking law classes as well. willie ojulu is the chief inspector at langata women's prison, and just completed his university of london law degree.
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i don't know that i know of many guards in the united states who train to become a lawyer so they can give legal advice to the people they're guarding. it's pretty unique. >> willie ojulu: well, it sounds unique, but that's what happens here. you kn prison as a punishment, but not for punishment. >> cooper: i've never heard it phrased that way.h them? but-- >> ojulu: but to help them improve on their life and manage their life properly, so that they don't get in conflict with the law. >> cooper: two years ago, inside kamiti maximum security prison, there was a graduation ceremony the likes of which no one here had ever seen. 18 inmates-- former prisoners and guards-- received their university of london law school degrees. george karaba got his, and while he may spend the rest of his life in prison, he says he has been transformed. >> karaba: even if i do not get
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out of prison, i will still continue doing what i do. >> cooper: to see somebody you've helped get out of prison. >> karaba: it gives me great satisfaction. >> cooper: does it feel like part of you goes out with that person? >> karaba: yeah. i feel part of me is actually out. and therefore, i'm good. >> cooper: george karaba and others helped morris kaberia quitted him of all charges after 13 years in prison. >> kaberia: i felt like i-- i-- i did not hear right. so i asked her, "what?" ( laughs ) and she told me, "hey, come on. i thought you're a lawyer." >> cooper: you didn't believe what she was saying? >> kaberia: i-- i don't believ- - >> cooper: you wanted to see it in writing? >> kaberia: i don't believe it can happen that way because i-- it-- it was not-- even in my mind. first impression is very important. >> cooper: morris kaberia was freed, but when he got out, he went right back to prison-- as a full-time employee of justice defenders. here he is teaching inmates a lesson he learned in court first-hand. always look the judge straight in the eye.
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>> kaberia: don't just lie low, don't keep quiet, it might affect your defense or your case. >> cooper: justice defenders says in the last three years in kenya, they've helped nearly 21,000 people get a fair hearing, and more than 4,300 people get acquitted and released. this was pauline njeri's walk to freedom, after five years in prison for fraud. her daughter was there to greet her. some of the people that your paralegals are training have committed very serious offenses. >> mclean: for sure. >> cooper: do they really deserve, a chance to get out if they've really committed those crimes? >> mclean: we're not determining sentence. those who are guilty of offenses should be punished. and the punishment should be proportionate and it should be viewed towards euipping them one day to leave prison and to contribute to society. but those who are innocent shouldn't be wrongly punished.
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>> cooper: justice defenders relies entirely on donations, and spends about $2 million a year helping inmates. they've begun trying to expand their work into other prisons in africa, europe, and the united states. >> mclean: we have a shared hunger for justice. >> cooper: already, their impact in kenya has been profound. morris kaberia was part of a team of justice defenders who successfully challenged the constitutionality of kenya's mandatory death sentence. the law was changed, and as a result thousands of death row inmates became eligible for re- sentencing. that must feel extraordinary. >> kaberia: extraordinary. i love law. i love law. i eat law and drink law. i love law. i-- >> cooper: you eat and drink it. >> kaberia: i sleep law. i-- everythi-- i do everything in law. ( laughs ) >> cooper: listening to you talk about the law, it sort of makes me excited about the law. >> kaberia: yes. let me tell you, cooper. you know, there is one thing we do.
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we make assumptions as people, as a society. and we dig our graves through those assumptions. law is not for lawyers. law is not for the government. law is not for some people somewhere or the rich. law is for everyone. ( ticking ) >> cbs sports hq is reported by progressive insurance. adam schiffam zucker with shorts news. kisner wins a hole on the second play-off. his career first sudden death play-off victory. >> major league baseball. atlanta completes a series sweep of washington to take a one game lead on the phillies in the nl east. for 24/7 news and highlights cbs
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[music] 'my own garden is my own garden,' said the giant, so he built a high wall all around it.
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then one morning the giant heard some lovely music. through a little hole in the wall, the children had crept in. and the giant's heart melted... and they found the giant...all covered with blossoms. ( ticking ) ( ticking ) >> jon wertheim: you know that universal sign we give truckers, hoping they'll sound their air horns? well, you're going to be hearing a lot less honking in the
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future, and with good reason-- the absence of an actual driver in the cab. we may focus on the self-driving car, but autonomous trucking is not an if, it's a when. and the when is coming sooner than you might expect. as we first reported last year, companies have been quietly testing their prototypes on public roads. right now there's a high-stakes, high-speed race pitting the usual suspects-- google and tesla and other global tech firms-- against small start-ups smelling opportunity. the driver-less semi will convulse the trucking sector and the two million american drivers who turn a key and maneuver their big rig every day. and the winners of this derby? they may be poised to make untold billions, they'll change the u.s. transportation grid, and they will emerge as the new kings of the road. it's one of the great touchstones of americana-- the romance and possibility of the open road. all hail the 18-wheeler, hugging
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those asphalt ribbons, transporting all of our stuff across the fruited plains, from sea to shining sea. though we may not give it a second thought when we click that "free shipping" icon, truckers move 70% of the nation's goods. but trucking cut a considerably different figure in the summer of 2019 on the florida turnpike. starsky robotics, then a tech startup, may have been driving in the right lane, but they passed the competition, and did this... yeah, that's 35,000 pounds of steel, thundering down a busy highway with nobody behind the wheel. the test was a milestone. starsky was the first company to put a truck on an open highway without a human on board. everyone else in the game with the know-how keeps a warm body in the cab as backup-- for now, anyway. if you didn't hear about this,
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you're not alone. in jacksonville, we talked to jeff widdows, his son tanner, linda allen and eric richardson, all truckers, and all astonished to learn how far this technology has come. >> linda allen: i wasn't aware until i ran across one on the florida turnpike, and that just- - it just scares me. i can't imagine. but i didn't know anything about it. >> wertheim: no one's talking about it at work? >> jeff widdows: nobody, never, never. >> eric richardson: i didn't know that it'd come so far. and i'm thinking, "wow, it's here." >> wertheim: he's right. the autonomous truck revolution is here. it just isn't much discussed-- not on c.b. radios, and not in statehouses. and transportation agencies are not inclined to pump the brakes. from florida, hang a left and drive 2,000 miles west on i-10 and you'll hit the proving grounds of a company with a fleet of 50 autonomous rigs. this is a shop floor? or this is a laboratory. >> chuck price: it's both. >> wertheim: in the guts of the
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sonoran desert, outside tucson, chuck price is chief product officer at tusimple, a global autonomous trucking outfit valued at more than a billion dollars, with operations in the u.s. and china. at this depot, $12 million-worth of gleaming self-driving semis are on the move. right now, we've got safety operators in the cab. how far away are we from runs without drivers? >> price: we believe we'll be able to do our first driver-out demonstration runs on public highways in 2021. >> wertheim: that's the when. as for the how? >> price: our primary sensor system is our array of cameras that you see along the top of the vehicle. >> wertheim: i've heard about souping-up vehicles. this takes it to a new level. >> price: it's a little bit different, yeah. >> wertheim: the competition is fierce-- so much so, their technology is akin to a state secret. but price points us to a network of sensors, cameras and radar devices strapped to the outside of the rig, all of it hardwired
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to an internal a.i. supercomputer that drives the truck. it's self-contained, so a bad wifi signal won't wreak havoc on the road. >> price: our system can see farther than any other autonomous system in the world. we can see forward over a half mile. >> wertheim: you can drive autonomously at night? >> price: we can. day, night. and in the rain. and in the rain at night. >> wertheim: and they're working on driving in the snow. chuck price has unshakable confidence in the reliability of the technology, as do some of the biggest names in shipping: u.p.s., amazon and the u.s. postal service ship freight with tusimple trucks. all in, each unit costs more than a quarter million dollars. not a great expense, considering it's designed to eliminate the annual salary of a driver, currently around $45,000. another savings? the driver-less truck can get coast-to-coast in two days, not four, stopping only to refuel-- though a human still has to do that.
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we wanted to hop in and experience automated trucking firsthand. i feel like it's our turn on space mountain. chuck price was happy to oblige. we didn't know what to expect, so we fashioned more cameras to the rig than nasa glued to the apollo rockets. >> maureen fitzgerald: is everybody buckled in? >> buckled in. >> fitzgerald: all right-- three, two, one. >> wertheim: and we hit go. >> truck computer: autonomous driving started. >> wertheim: we sat in the back alongside the computer. in the front seat, maureen fitzgerald, a trucker's trucker with 30 years experience. babysitting, with no intention of gripping the wheel, but there just in case. riding shotgun, an engineer, john panttila, there to monitor the software. the driver-less truck was attempting a 65-mile loop in weekday traffic through tucson. the route was mapped and programmed in before the run,
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but that's about it. the rest was up to the computer, which makes 20 decisions per second about what to do on the road. as we rolled past distracted drivers, disabled cars, slowpokes and sheriffs, our safety driver kept vigil, but never disengaged the driver-less system. >> john panttila: watching the front targets close in a hundred. yep, got to cut in right now. 55 mile an hour, bad cut-off. >> wertheim: this guy just flagrantly cut off-- >> price: he just really cut us off. >> wertheim: we did not honk at him. did we disengage? >> price: we did not disengage. this vehicle will detect that kind of behavior faster than the humans. >> wertheim: how far are we from being able to pick up the specific cars that are passing us? "oh, that's joe from new jersey s points on his license." >> price: we can read license plates, so, if there was an accessible database for something like that, we could. >> wertheim: chuck price says that would be valuable to the company, though he admits it could create obvious privacy issues.
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but tusimple does collect a lot of data, as it maps more and more routes across the southwest. their enterprise also includes a fleet of autonomous trucks in shanghai, as well as a research center in beijing. the data collected by every truck, along every mile, it's uploaded and used by tusimple, they say, only to perfect performance on the road. maureen fitzgerald is convinced that tusimple's technology is superior to human drivers. you call these trucks your babies? >> fitzgerald: right. >> wertheim: what do your babies do well, and what could they do better? >> fitzgerald: this truck is scanning mirrors, looking 1,000 meters out. it's processing all the things that my brain could never do, and it can react 15 times faster than i could. >> wertheim: most of her two million fellow truckers are less enthusiastic. automated trucking threatens to jack-knife an entire $800 billion industry. trucking is among the most common jobs for american's without a college education. so this disruption caused by the
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driver-less truck, it cuts deep. >> steve viscelli: as truckers like to say, if you bought it, a truck brought it. >> wertheim: steve viscelli is a sociologist at the university of pennsylvania and an expert in freight transportation and automation. he also spent six months driving a big rig. what segment do you think is going to be hit first by driver- less trucks? >> viscelli: i've identified two segments that i think are most at-risk. and that's refrigerated and dry van truckload. and those constitute about 200,000 trucking jobs. and then what's called line haul, and they're somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 to 90,000 jobs there. >> wertheim: so you're talking 300,000 jobs off the top. it's a big number. >> viscelli: it is a big number. >> wertheim: the florida truckers we met represent 70 years experience and millions of safe driving miles. they say they love the job, and when asked to describe their work, they kick around words like vital, honest and patriotic.
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>> richards:: it makes you feel like you could just poke your chest out with the responsibility. ( laughs ) that you're taking on kind of makes you feel like you're needed. >> wertheim: asked about driver- less trucks, they feel like they are being run off the road. but another issue troubles them even more. >> widdows: i think that companies need to keep safety in mind. >> richardson: you have a glitch in a computer at that speed-- >> allen: yeah. >> richardson: --you can do some damage. ( laughs ) >> allen: there's too many things that can go wrong. >> richardson: one of them semi hits something that's small, like a car or a passenger car, or anything like that, it's a done deal. i mean... >> allen: i was on 75 last month through ocala, and there was a bad accident, so a state trooper came out, and he was hand- signaling people-- "you go here, you go there." how's an autonomous truck going to recognize what the officer is trying to say or do? how's that going to work? >> wertheim: sympathy, empathy, fear, code, eye contact-- i don't know how you create an algorithm that accounts for all that. >> allen: you can't. >> werm: does the public have a right to know if they're testing driver-less trucks on the interstate?
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>> all: absolutely. >> tanner: that's-- well, that's our concern, is, who's watching this? who's making sure they're not throwing something unsafe on the road? >> sam loesche: i think a lot of it is being done with almost no oversight from good governance groups, from the government itself. >> wertheim: sam loesche represents 600,000 truckers for the teamsters. he's concerned that federal, state and local governments have only limited access to the driver-less technology. >> loesche: you know, a lot of this information, understandably, is proprietary. tech companies want to keep, you know, their algorithms and their safety data secret until they can kind of get it right. the problem is that, in the meantime, they're testing this technology on public roads. they're testing it next to you as you drive down the road. >> wertheim: and that was consistent with our reporting. do you have to tell anyone when you test? >> price: no, not for individual tests. >> wertheim: do you have to tell them where you test? >> price: we do not currently have to tell them where we test in arizona. >> wertheim: or how-- how often you test? >> price: no. >> wertheim: do you have to share your data with any state department of transportation? >> price: currently, we're not
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required to share data. we would be happy to share data. >> wertheim: what about inspections? does anyone from the arizona d.o.t. come by and check this stuff out? >> price: the d.o.t. comes by all the time. we talk with them regularly. it's not a formal inspection process yet. ertheim: we wanted to ask elaineo, the secretary of the department of transportation during the trump administration, about regulating this emerging sector. she declined an interview, but provided us with a statement, which reads in part, "the department needs to prepare for the transportation systems of the future by engaging with new technologies to address safety without hampering innovation." to that point, chuck price is emphatic that driver-less trucks pose fewer dangers. >> price: we eliminate texting accidents, no distraction-- >> wertheim: because there's no- tre's a computer.e driving when >> price: there are no drunk computers. and the computer doesn't sleep. so, those are large causes of accidents.eim: he adds that driver-less trucks are more fuel-efficient, in part because they can stay perfectly aligned
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in their lane and, unlike humans, are programmed never to speed. but he admits the profit motive is significant. you think there's a lot of money to be made here. >> price: there's certainly a lot of money to be made. there's a-- there's an opportunity to solve a very big problem. >> wertheim: steve viscelli says the industry may be imperfect, but he thinks the solution should not depend on driver-less technology alone. what's your response to the technology companies that say, "look, i'm trying to do something more efficiently, and i'm going to improve safety. this is american enterprise. what are you going to get in the way of this for?" >> viscelli: i'd say that, that's wonderful. ( laughs ) but that's not your job. right? your job's to make money. policy is going to decide what our outcomes are going to be. trucking is a very competitive industry. the low-road approach often wins. >> wertheim: we talk about the internal combustion engine replacing the horse and buggy, and eisenhower's interstate system. when we talk about these
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transformational markers in transportation, where's driver- less trucking going to rank? >> viscelli: it's going to be one of the biggest. >> wertheirm: this spring, tusimple was the first autonomous trucking company to go public-- raising a billion dollars, and with it, ambitious plans to expand their trucking routes in the southwest and texas, to florida, tennessee and the carolinas. ( ticking ) >> more on tonight's stories, including how prison internet access transformed the kenyan court system. at 2 dia? on it. on it. on it, with jardiance. they're 22 million prescriptions strong. meet the people who are managing type 2 diabetes and heart risk with jardiance. jardiance is a once-daily pill that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular death for adults who also have known heart disease. so it could help save your life from a heart attack or stroke. and jardiance lowers a1c.
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