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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  September 15, 2021 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: countering china. tensions rise in asia, as the u.s. partners with australia and the united kingdom to address beijing's ambitions. then, system failure. u.s. gymnasts testify before congress about the f.b.i's botched investigation of sexually abusive doctor larry nassar. and, fentanyl frontier. the u.s. struggles to contain the flow of the high-powered opioid across the border, amid a addiction crisis. >> if addiction is always going to be with us, then let's treat it like the illness that it is. when we bring people back to
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healthy lives, t demand for the product goes away. >> woodruff: all that and more, on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> fidelity wealth management. >> consumer cellular.
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>> johnson & johnson. >> financial services firm raymond james. >> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems-- >> the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives through invention, in the u.s. and developing countries. on the web at >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at >> 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
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station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: this evening at the white house, president biden, joined by the prime ministers of the united kingdom and australia, announced a new partnership in the indo-pacific region. chief among the announcements: an effort to build nuclear-powered submarines for australia. the one issue not mentioned by the three leaders, but clearly driving this move: a rising china. our foreign affairs correspondent nick schifrin is here with me now. and, nick, tell us what it was that the president and the two prime ministers announced. >> reporter: this is what they called a landmark defense and security partnership known as aukus, australia, u.k., u.s. this is about sharing technology, sharing defense industries and cooperating militarily. they talked about defending shared interests but as you just said, they didn't mention china. but this is about defending
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shared interests against a rising china. take a listen to president biden and australian prime minister scott morrison who appeared at the white house virtually. >> our nations will update and enhance our shareability to take on the threats to have the 21st century just as we did in the 20th century, together. our nations and our brave fighting forces have stood shoulder to shoulder for literally more than 100 years through the trench fighting in world war i, the island hopping in world war ii during the frigid winters in korea and the scorching heat to have the persian gulf. >> aukus, a partnership where our technology, our scientists, our industry, our defense forces are all working together to deliver a safer and more secure region that ultimately benefits all. >> this is a giant, strategic step for australia. i asked alan tidwell who directs
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the center for australian pacific studies for new zealand how significant it was for australia to decide this and he said it was the most important decision australia has made since the early '50s, since the australia-new zealand-u.s. treaty. > this is a significant upgrading of the alliance between the united states and australia and a significant statement about the role that australia envisions for itself and the united states in the region. >> increasingly that role is the a united one the united states and australia. and the u.s. gets an ally that isuch more capable of deterring china on its own. >> woodruff: how is the united states doing that militarily? >> this is the premier announcement today, nuclear powered conventionally armed submarines for australia. this is some of the u.s.'s most trusted, secret technology. the u.s. has historically
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refused to provide this technology to anyone. the only time it was erred shared was with the u.k. more than 70 years ago. australia has diesel electric submarines, so it was a big investment, and the powered submarines will allow them to deploy stealthily and stay in strategic areas like the south china sea and south asia, even taiwan that china has been using territorial claims throughout that region as tidwell said again to me. >> and, so, it could be that one day china decides that it wants to curtail the trance shiment of australian ships or other vessels through that region and australia has to protect those vessels, and so what better way to do it than with a submarine. so i think it's based upon in part chinese behavior in the south china sea and they have created a problem that is really
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leaving australia with very few choices about how it proceeds in the future. >> and china has not only expanded its claims in the south china sea, it's tried to punish australia for steps its taken, one to block chinese 5g from coming into australia and, two, calling for simply an investigation into the or gins of covid. china is australia's nmber one trading partner, judy, yet, today, clearly a sign australia is deciding strategically that the future is with the u.s. to counterchina. >> woodruff: and as yu say, this is a big move that's happening. what do the people you talk to say they expect china to do in response? >> they're not going to respond well. this will only reinforce what china already believes is happening which is the u.s. is ying to contain china using what china calls gangs as in the u.s. and its partners are ganging up on china. but the chinese experts i spoke to today pointed out the
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chinese-u.s. relationship is already bad. chinese's rath may be pointed to london. boris johnson was part. chinese has not punished london economically yet. even experts say this is a response to chinese behavior, that the u.s. and australia are creating the greater military alliance to counter chinese behavior. there is no sign china has any intoafntion changing its own mayor of. >> woodruff: significant developments and nick schifrin reporting on all that. meantime, our yamiche alcindor was at the white house in the room where the president spoke, and she joins me now. so, yamiche, how does this announcement, this set of steps fit in with all the other international challenges the president is facing now in particular afghanistan. >> well, the president, of course, is facing a number of challenges on the foreign and domestic front. in the room, the president really had the spirit of optimism, this idea that this new agreement was going to be
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him turning the page a bit and focusing on what he wants to talk about which is working with u.s. allies well as though he didn't mention china as nick said, really focusing on how to better compete with china. that said, afghanistan didn't come up, buff guess from myself and other reporters as president biden walked away without taking questions. that tells you that while the president wants to talk about the agreement with the u.k. and australia, chief on people's minds is the chaos in afghanistan left behind. the president sat down with two senators, senator manchin and sinema, from west virginia and arizona. these are two d. j. senators who democrats really want to get on board on this reconciliation bill. it's what they have been calling a human infrastructure package, the $3.5 trillion deal. the president really trying to get them on board. we'll have to sew what happens
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there. the other thing the white house tells me is they are focus opened covid and talking about that. the shows you the who was does not want the talk about afghanistan now but is still, of course, top of mind. >> woodruff: a lot on the president's plate today, yamiche alcindor, reporting from the white house. thank you, yamiche. >> thanks. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, president biden that comes a day after excerpts were released from "washington post" journalists' rob woodward and robert costa's book abou phone calls that milley made to his chinese counterpart during the final months of the trump administration. president biden told reporters that he has "great confidence" in u.s. general mark milley. milley's office, the white house and the pentagon defended the general.
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>> woodruff: some republicans have charged that general milley overstepped his authority, and have called for him to be fired. the two koreas traded missile tests today, amid rising tensions. south korea fired its first ballistic missile from a submarine, with president moon jae-in looking on. he called it a deterrence against the north. earlier, north korea launched two ballistic missiles into the sea. pakistan is warning that it cannot take any more afghan refugees. the national security adviser says his country already hosts three million displaced afghans. today, members of the afghan women's soccer team, along with coaches and families, crossed into pakistan. they will seek asylum in other countries.
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back in the united states, president biden carried his campaign for covid-19 vaccinations to major u.s. corporations today. he met with officials of walt disney, kaiser permanente, and others, and said many are moving to mandate shots-- including one in particur. >> the vaccine requirements work, and more companies are instituting them-- even at fox news, they require it. and i'm not being facetious when i say that, but it's interesting that they've stepped forward and done that as well. >> woodruff: to date, just over half of the u.s. population has been fully vaccinated. some 665,000 nationwide have died from covid-- about one out of every 500 people in the country. pope francis says catholic clerics should not let politics influence who receives communion. he declined to answer directly today about whether president biden and other politicians who support abortion rights should receive communion. instead, he said the church should minister to them with compassion. california's democratic governor
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gavin newsom will stay in office after defeating a republican recall bid. incomplete returns, from tuesday's voting and mail-in ballots, showed him with 65% of the vote. he addressed supporters last night and said it's a win for him, and for the people of the state. >> i'm humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of californians that exercised their fundamental right to vote and expressed themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division. >> woodruff: we'll look at the recall and its wider implications, later in the program. boston voters have chosen two women of color for a mayor's run-off. michelle wu and annissa essaibi george finished first and second on tuesday. acting mayor kim janey lost her election bid. she's the first woman and first black person to hold the office. stalled over louisiana today,
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remnants of hurricane nicholas dumping more rain. rooftops tn open from hurricane ida last month left people exposed to new downpours. flash flood watches stretched to the florida panhandle. and on wall street, stocks regained some lost ground. the dow jones industrial average gained 236 points to close at 34,814. the nasdaq rose 123 points. and the s&p 500 added 37. still to come on the newshour: what president trump's continuing grip on the republican party means for elections. why the u.s. struggles to contain the flow of fentanyl across the southern border. a new parenting book draws criticism for its counterintuitive advice. plus, much more.
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>> woodruff: the senate judiciary committee today heard damning testimony from four elite u.s. gymnasts about the f.b.i.'s mishandling of sexual abuse allegations against former u.s.a. gymnastics coach doctor larry nassar. each of them criticized the agency, and pressed lawmakers to demand further accountability for those who enabled nassar. amna nawaz reports. >> what is the point of reporting abuse if our own f.b.i. agents take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer? >> nawaz: today on capitol hill, four of america's top gymnasts recounted their abuse by former team u.s.a. gymnastics doctor larry nassar, and thf.b.i.'s failure to investigate. >> this was clear cookie-cutter dophilia and abuse. it's important because i told them all of this, but they
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falsified my report. >> u.s.a. gymnastics and the u.s.a. olympic and paralympic committee, and the f.b.i. have all betrayed me, and all those who were abused after i reported. >> the f.b.i. made me feel like my abuse didn't count, and it wasn't a big deal. and, i remember sitting there with the f.b.i. agent, and him ying to convince me it wasn't that bad. and it's taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, and it does matt. >> to be clear, i blame larry nassar, and i also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. >> nawaz: sine biles, the lone nassar assault survivor on the 2020 tokyo olymps squad, said pushing for accountability is part of why she kept competing. >> the announcement, in the spring of 2020, that the tokyo games were to be postponed for a year, meant that i would be
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going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days. one thing that helped me push each and every day was the goal of not allowing this crisis to be ignored. that has proven to be an exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry. >> nawaz: more than 250 women and girls accused larry nassar of sexual abuse. he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison in 2017. should he outlive that, nassar faces up to 175 years in michigan state prison. lawmakers berated the f.b.i.'s botched probe, including failing to properly inveigate allegations of abuse, first brought to their attention in 2015. >> dozens of young women lay before larry nassar, and he did with them what he wanted, with trauma and terror that will last
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a lifetime. that pain was preventable. it was needless. >> if f.b.i. did so little in the investigation that involved world class athletes, what hope can an average american have? >> nawaz: the f.b.i.'s failures were laid out in a july report from the justice department's inspector general. it found f.b.i. field offices failed to formally document a july 2015 meeting with u.s.a. gymnastics when the f.b.i. first received allegations against nassar; they waited five weeks to conduct a phone interview with one of the athletes who was abused, and failed to reach out to others altogether; and that the special agent in charge made false statements, and omitted material information, in an attempt to minimize errors made by the indianapolis field office. the special agent in charge went so far as toeek out a potential job opportunity with the u.s. olympic committee. f.b.i. director ristopher wray called the f.b.i.'s inaction "unacceptable."
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>> when i received the report and saw the supervisory agent indianapolis had failed to carry out even more basic parts of the job, i immideately made sure he was no longer performing the functions of a special agent. that individual no longer works for f.b.i. in any capacity. >> nawaz: still, questions remain about what justice looks like for these women, and the hundreds more who say they were abused by nassar, and failed by the system. >> all we are asking for is that when a child goes into gymnastics, or goes to school, or does anything, that they can be spared abuse. and the fact that we've been treated like adversaries by so many organizations, and our abuse has been diminished-- we've been victim-shamed online over and over again, we've been gas-lit, we've bn made to feel that we don't matter by these organizations. and i never want another child to fl that way again.
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>> nawaz: for the pbs newshour, i'm amna nawaz. >> woodruff: californians have voted overwhelmingly to keep democratic governor gavin newsom in office until the end of his term. this, in a recall election where covid and homelessness were big concerns. ballots are still being counted, but newsom improved on his share of the vote from his first election three years ago. to discuss the results, and any lessons they hold for next year's midterm elections, we turn to two writers who both contribute comns to the "washington post." perry con, who's in kentucky, and gary abernathy, who's based in ohio. it's great to see both of you. welcome back to the "newshour". perry bacon,et me start with you. how do you explain gavin newsom
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winning? >> california is a very blue state, so that's the first and most important dplaition. joe biden won there by a lot and now gavin newsom has. an important thing happened during the campaign which is that dpav gave really leaned into the idea that larry elder, who is the top republican running in the recall, would be a donald trump like figure for california particularly in terms of not supporting vaccinations and mask wearings. i think once it became a race about, you know, who takes covid seriously and whether larry elder is kind of like a donald trump or california, that's what really drove up the no on the recall and made sure newsom stayed in office. >> woodruff: gary abernathy, what's your sense of why larry elder didn't do better? he looked for formidable at one point in this campaign. >> i think perry is right, judy. i think as soon as you are able to make it a one-on-one race and
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not just a recall and not just a referendum on the governor but which one of these people do you want, and then able to paint elder as a trump surrogate, do you want donald trump in california, and in california the answer to that is clearly no, but, you know, part of me, frankly, is a little bit happy with the way it turned out because i'm just not a big fan of interrupting people and trying to undo the will of the voters before a term is up, whether it's a recall election or whether it's through impeachment or some other means. we need to start accepting election results and understand that people have a chance to weigh in again when that person is on the ballot again at the end of the term. >> woodruff: and perry, you talked about the role of covid and some other issues in this campaign. what lessons do you see for democrats coming out of this recall for next year in the midterms, when president trump is not going to be on the
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ballot? >> i think they're going to put him on the ballot, i don't mean directly so, but i think if you look at this race, when newsom talked about trump, that's when his numbers went up and the recall became less likely. so i think the lesson is california is liberal but there's still plenty of swing districts and the house is particularly important, who does well in california. one in eight americans live in california, so it's important what happens there. the campaign, 2018, 2021, when the democrats ran against sort of trumpism broadly in 2018, 2021, and when he was on the ballot himself, i think that has worked. in this case what didn't work, newsom has a good record from terms of accomplishing policies, but he didn't run on those. it was better he didn't run on those and kind of ran a negative campaign mostly because that
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seems to have worked. >> woodruff: so, gary abernathy, pick up on that. i mean, in terms of whether democrats try to make whatever campaign it is, they try to inject donald trump into it. >> well, again, it's going to depend on the state, judy. in california, putting trump as your opponent is going to be successful. he's not pular there. in a lot of other states, that's not going to work so well. although, i believe the republicans need to, more and more, come to terms with the fact that donald trump is not going to be a winning factor for you in a general election. he may do well in a primary situation, but in general elections, a lot of moderate or swing voters will not come back to trump, nor, my opinion, should they. i used to be a trump supporter, but his actions after the elections, his refuels to accept joe biden's presidency, his role in the january 6th
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insurrection. but trumpism will continue to be popular philosophy with a lot of voafortsz but you can't have trump leading it. >> woodruff: how did democrats thread that needle, perry, the fact that, yes, donald trump himself may not be as popular but there's till this philosophy that's got a hold on many republicans. >> so i tend to think it depends on the issues a little bit. lining i think the republicans, the election this year and the republicans were running, being skeptical of vaccinations and masking, which i think are pretty popular with most voters, the majority even in a swing state like florida or north carolina. i think if they're running sort of skeptical of vaccines and mask-wearing, that's not a great place to be in. if you talk about immigration or other issues, i think that's where it's closer or maybe the g.o.p. is more popular. so i think it depends on where you are. but i think this sort of right
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now in this moment in california, or other places in virginia, i think it would be better to be th pro mask, pro vaccine candidate, and republicans are at a weak place right here. in november 2022, i don't know if covid will be the big issue and i think a lot of people will be vaccinated, i think that may not be the issue this time next year, but right now, sort of following the trumpism into anti-vaxism is not smart. >> woodruff: and gary abernathy, you can pick up on that, but i do want to expand -- ask you to expand on what you said earlier about donald trump, former president trump hurting himself after the election. how many republicans do you think are coming to grips with this? >> i think more d more, very, very slowly, judy, are coming to that conclusion. you know, we still see polls that say, oh, wow, trump has 90% support among republicans still. but think about it this way, that's 10% that have broken away
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from him, and that's a lot of votes. i mean, he needs every last vote if he himself is on the ballot, and he'll lose more as time goes by. it's going to be a slow process, but i believe it will happen. >> woodruff: we're waiting to hear from him whether he'd like to run in 2024, we will see. gary abernathy, perry bacon, very good to see you both, thank you. >> you, too. thank you both. >> woodruff: tonight, the second part of our series on the ravages of the synthetic opiod, fentanyl. last night, we took you to see where it is made by mexican cartels. tonight, the deadly cost of the drug just across the u.s.-mexico border, in arizona. again, with the support of the pulitzer center, special correspondent monica villamizar and producer zach fannin report.
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>> reporter: a tall stretch of border wall separates nogales, arizona from its sister city, nogales, mexico. despite the heavy security measures, this area is a main smuggling route for fentanyl and other illicit drugs, both above and below ground. border patrol agent kevin hecht gave us a rare peek at subterranean tunnels, designed a century ago to catch water runoff from mexico. in recent years, the tunnels have also been used by drug smugglers. >> they tunnel through the floor in here, or tunnel through the wall, and dig into a house or dig into a drainage pipe in the u.s. and then they come out of the pipe, and they might go into a car. they might have another short tunnel to the bottom of a car. where the reflective yellow is, that's the border fence. >> reporter: hecht also showed us this more cramped, training tunnel, where his agents learn how to navigate the land below nogales. he says smugglers connect their illicit tunnels to the existing
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ones. >> they know that there is a big long pipe here. why dig this, when you can use it? so they'll break it, and then they'll try and conceal it the best they can. like, ifthey cut this out, they'll glue it back in, or seal it back in. and then they'll only open it when they need it, and then they'll crawl this to the next point where they don't have any more pipe, and then they'll dig another illicit tunnel. >> reporter: so far in 2021, hecht and his team have not intercepted any drugs in the tunnels. the vast majority of drug interceptions, including fentanyl, are caught by officers at u.s. ports of entry, like this one in nogales. guadelupe ramirez is the director of field operations for customs and border protection's tucson sector. >> years ago, they'd make a compartment in the gas tank. so, half the gas tank had gas, the other half had narcotics. and then they started going to the quarter-panels. they started going to the tires. now they're using drive shafts, transmissions-- even inside the motor. if you can imagine it, it's been tried.
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>> reporter: from august 2019 to july 2020, ramirez and his officers seized just over 1,100 pounds of fentanyl. during that same period of time this year, they seized twice that amount, almost 2,300 pounds. 80 miles to the east, sargent tim williams works in a specialized unit for the cochise county sheriff's department that tracks smugglers crossing a rural area of the border. >> my main strategy is using this little camera that we have here-- it's called the buckeye. and these things allow us to get real-time information about what's crossing. we see a lot of what we call military males, between 20 and 30 years old, crossing the border. >> reporter: the team was launched in 2017, and has caught over 400 drug smugglers so far. their cameras have captured groups of drug mules crawling on the ground, and even this man with an automatic rifle. just down the road, the border fence ended. >> so where we're standing right
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now is where, in cochise county, the fence officially ends on our western border, and it doesn't start again until roughly around nogales, which is about 70 to 80 miles away. >> reporter: after president biden was sworn in earlier this year, he signed an executive order that stopped the construction of former president trump's border wall. today, scattered pieces of wall and construction equipment dot the u.s. side of the southern border, along with long stretches of fencels border. arizona state senator christine marsh's 25-year-old son landon was one of last year's0,000 overdose deaths. since fentanyl is so inexpensive, it has made its way into virtually every illicit drug. fentanyl is now found in cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and even the painkiller percocet. marsh says her son took a percocet that was laced with fentanyl. >> he had one wild night with a childhood friend, and that
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resulted in his death. and i contend that one wild night shouldn't be a death sentence. and he didn't have a habit of taking anything. and i, unfortunately, know that, because i'm the one that went through all of his stuff, and there's no evidence of any type of drug use. >> reporter: after her son's death, marsh discovered that these testing strips, that can tell users if fentanyl has been added into other drugs, were illegal in arizona. >> he was the kind of kid who was prepared for everything. i have no doubt that, had the strips been available, he would have used it. >> reporter: earlier this year, marsh brought a billo arizona's state senate floor that proposed the legalization of these fentanyl testing strips. it was signed into law weeks ago. >> the law was signed on the one-year anniversary of landon's death, and i'm very grateful that there was there was that
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teeny bit of, "we're going to turn around and save some other lives," on ldon's death date. >> next semester is all going to be research, and then i have to two comprehensive exams. >> reporter: this is danielle. she didn't want to give us her last name. she is in her 30s and is currently a graduate student at a university in phoenix. >> i'm supposed to produce a dissertation, defend it. then i'll get my fancy little cap and i'll be a doctor. >> reporter: danielle is probably not the image most people think of when they picture a heroin addict who's been using for over a decade. >> i think that there is a reason that people kind of scapegoat the most visible type of struggling person that they see. >> reporter: just over a decade ago, danielle hid her addictio from her employer. the result was so graphic, we are blurring our footage. >> i would try to avoid injecting in my arms or somewhere visible. i would injectn my legs.
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i also wasn't aware that even if i wasn't sharing syringes, reusing dull needles could traumatize the circulation in my legs. >> reporter: first, she t a skin infection. she says over time that her tissue damage progressed. >> part of what you see is like venous insufficiency now. so, without that blood flow there to bring oxygen, the soft tissue dies, and then it doesn't heal, ever. if someone had just been like, hey, if you are going to continue to inject drugs, here are some things you can do to prevent this from becoming, you know, a lifelong issue for you. >> reporter: danielle wishes she could have received transparent information about how to use heroin as safely as possible. she said she had to suffer because drug users are often stigmatized. >> all drug users are pretty much routinely despised, hated, and feared in our society. >> reporter: danielle's friend christopher abert, who is also a drug user, is the founder of the southwest recovery alliance. despite having the word "recovery" in the group's name,
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their main focus is to help decriminalize drugs in the u.s. and help drug users reduce harm. >> the idea of, like, focusing on the drug itself is the problem-- and it's not the conditions and concurrent illnesses that accompany some people's drug use that is actually the root of the problem. so if you focus on this idea of this chaotic drug user who's dangerous, then you lose the picture of the fact that, you know, human beings have been doing drugs for a millennium, and doing them without what is ailing our society, like right now-- death, disconnection, destruction, disease. >> reporter: the group also laments that fentanyl has flooded the illegal drug market, and has made heroin harder to procure. >> i can inject heroin and, about eight-- about eight hours later, i will start coming out that high. and then eventually, you know, withdrawal will set in, and i will start again. but with fentanyl, it's about four hours after i do the shot.
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so people are having to use more and more and more, as well. so, i think for me personally, i would much prefer heroin. >> reporter: 115 miles south, in tucson, the newly elected democratic county attorney laura conover is changing how the criminal justice system treats drug users. today, that means passing out food aid to her constituents. >> we're here out in the neighborhoods that have been decimated by the war on drugs. what we want to look at is a new way forward in making sure that we are not continuing to attempt to incarcerate our way out of substance use disorder. >> reporter: at the new jerusalem baptist church, conover is trying to personally connect with this black and latino community, that been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, to get the word out that her office is not prosecuting all drug offenses. >> when we're talking about simple possession, because there's a substance use disorder, we are looking to
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make sure that we are moving those people back into the medical and behavioral health realm where that belongs. >> reporter: however, conover cautions, her office is not legalizing the sale of narcotics. >> when we are talking about high-level distributors, those who are mang a profession of causing harm in our community, we have the resources and labor ready to holthem accountable and prosecute them. >> reporter: for the past 50 years, the demand for drugs in the united states has proven insatiable. >> if addiction is always going to be with u then let's treat it like the illness that it is. when we bring people back to healthy lives, the demand for the product goes away. >> reporter: from crack to heroin, to methamphetamine, to the most deadly illicit opioid america has seen: fentanyl. for the pbs newshour, i'm monica villimizar in arizona.
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>> woodruff: the largest school district in the country-- new york city-- marked the beginning of its school year in person this week. and districts around the country are back in class. but, there has been a jump in the number of students who are quarantined, and some places are allowing distance learning again. all too often, parents are facing difficult choices about schooling, and other decisions. stephanie sy has the story of an economist and writer who's trying to help parents navigate this time. >> sy: amid the chaos of life with young kids, parents face an endless stream of decisions. >> what we let them watch, what we let them eat, what we let them do. >> sy: and the pandemic posed new challenges. >> what are their interests, outside of technology? i don't really know anymore. >> we kind of joked over the summer that she's going to have to learn how to be social again. >> sy: enter parenting guru to the data-obsessed millennial mom, emily oster, an economist by training. her new book, “the family firm”"
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employs business strategy for parenting choices. start with the big picture, she says. >> write down what are the, like, the three top priorities for your-- for your family. that's, like, a very simple thing, that could potentially be moving you forward. >> sy: for the most important decisions, oster suggests “the four f's.” >> the idea is to start by articulating exactly what your question is. >> sy: frame the question. that's the first "f?" >> frame the question. think about what your-- you know, what your concrete options you're trading off. second thing is what i call fact-finding. and some of that is about collecting data, but it's also about kind of collecting the information your family needs, about the logistics around those choices. >> sy: kineta sanford's big question: whether to move, so that her daughter could attend a smaller public school. >> i really wanted her to be in a place where she would have the support that she needed. is this the right environment for her? >> sy: fact-finding included weighing the benefits to her daughter of both choices.
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>> thinking about, what are some of the opportunities that one might have in a bigger school district. you know, do they offer more sports? do they offer more classes? things like that. but i do think the school district we're in now, where the schools are small, class sizes are small, is conducive to her learning. >> sy: oster's third “f” is to make that final decision. the fourth “f”? follow-up. >> let's plan to talk about this again in a year, in three months, whatever it is, and see if we want to make a different choice. >> sy: in the book, oster looks at data studies about fraught issues like school choice and what to feed your kids, but unlike for toddlers and babies, the research provides less- obvious answers for school-age children. in a few areas, data is clear, however. sleep is one of them. >> even relatively small manipulations of sleep can matter for kids' behavior and for their, sort of, memory and cognition. so we've done experiments where
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they just reduce sleep for like four days by an hour. so it's-- it's small. >> sy: and it made a huge difference? >> and it makes a huge difference. negative difference. and the other thing is that, when kids watch screens within a couple of hours or the hour before bed, that is not good for their sleep. >> sy: but, is all screen time bad? janelle spence has five sons. >> when my oldest child was he was an only child, he didn't watch television until he was after two years. and i was like, really? like, ohmy god, tv, so bad. that's what all the experts say. and then like, as i had more kids, it was just impossible to keep them away from the television. i mean, the one-year-old is and so, as that kind of happened, i'm like, well, i don't-- i don't know, why is it really so bad? >> sy: it's a question many parents have grappled with, especially during covid lockdowns. >> every day is kind of a constant struggle of, "when do i get to get my ipad? when do i get to watch
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television? can i turn on youtube?" >> sy: kerry peterson has three kids. >> we've all been inside together for the past 18 months, and with three kids at home and two doing virtual school, you know, trying to keep one of them quiet while the other one is on a zoom call, things like that, i've definitely been handing them a device more often than i would like. >> sy: oster says the data offers one simple central insight. >> when your kid is watching screens, they're not doing something else. >> sy: right. >> and that is that is the reason to limit screens. but also, most of what we-- we-- maybe people think they know about, you know, "violent video games make your kids violent." you know, that literature is not very good. there isn't a lot of reason to think that the content, per se, is problematic. and i think it's become much harder in the pandemic. we're all trying to work from home and have a job and have-- and, like, everybody's kids use a lot more screens. and i think one way to think about that is the choices there felt very much like, it's screens, or it's me yelling at you to get out of my office. >> sy: which is not good for kids. >> which is also not for kids. right. and so i think it's much better. screens are better than me
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yelling at you. this was the best use of time under those constraints. >> sy: again, it's about the big picture. kerry peterson has encouraged her kids to play sports, to get them away from screens. >> we try to keep them active. it's a balance between, how many evenings a week do i want to spend shuttling kids to different activities, versus how else am i going to fill the time in the evening when they're at home? if they're just sitting at home, are they going to just be begging for an ipod? >> sy: for janelle spence, the decision to let her son do travel baseball was a no-brainer, despite juggling four other kids. >> he loves it. it's more of a decision of, how are we going to get him there, rather than if he's going to play. >> sy: what did that mean for the family, though? >> it means a lot of days at the ball field. >> sy: kinetta sanford's daughter plans to do lego league in addition to the running group she joined during the pandemic. >> was really about getting her to connect with some-- some kids outside of her school. they were there on video all day
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long. >> sy: that's a key reason to join activities, says oster. >> some people think about extracurriculars as, like, a way to, like, achieve. or like a path into college. >> sy: enrichment. >> enrichment of some nature. but in fact, when you look at the literature, the big benefits to the extracurriculars are this kind of sense of belonging. >> sy: but as the delta variant causes covid cases to surge, decisions about extracurricular activities are again taking a backseat-- especially for parents of children under 12, who can't get vaccinated. as a new school year begins, covid is top of mind for kineta sanford. >> will we be able to stay in school the whole entire year? >> sy: kerry peterson is optimistic about her childrens' return. >> we are pretty confident that our kids will be safe in school, and also the fact that they just really need to get into some kind of a utine. >> sy: as kids return to the classroom, oster thinks
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mitigation measures will be key. >> we saw schools operate safely last year with masks, with ventilation, you know, with-- with teacher vaccinations. by the end of the year, with some testing. and i think those are all the kinds of things we want to be layering in. and i think we've increasingly learned how important in-person school is, and that really pushes in the direction of making it happen for everybody. >> sy: throughout the pandemic, oster collected data on schools and covid. many parents turned to her for information. but she also faced backlash for arguing against school closures last fall. >> it's a policy intervention that's really, really costly for kids and families, and doesn't seem to have a lot of public health benefits. i try to be thoughtful about this. i believe that what i'm saying is reflecting the best evidence that we have. but, boy, wouldn't it be better if there was a more concerted centralized effort to collect some of this information. >> sy: and in your case, it led to aot of scrutiny, and even criticism, of people saying "emily oster is an economist, she is not an epidemiologist,
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she's not a public health expert or a public education expert." how did that land with you? >> in the space of covid and schools, and trading off risks and benefits, and thinking about data, you know, those are things that i am trained in. in the space of commenting on covid and schools, most of this time, i am-- i-- i was running the database with the most data on that. and so, it felt like, you know, on the one hand, i'm not an epidemiologist. but the idea of bringing additional perspectives, i think is very valuable. and i'm not sure that we should say that our decisions will be made best if we listen to only one kind of expertise. >> sy: the issues parents face these days are complex. but oster believes different perspectives and data can help them make their own best decisions. for the pbs newshour, i'm stephanie sy in providence, rhode island.
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>> woodruff: now, a prominent po confronts private pains and public strains-- home and history. jeffrey brown has the story, for our arts and culture series, "canvas." ♪ ♪ ♪ >> brown: more than 20 yea ago, the poet rita dove and her husband fred viebahn took up ballroom dancing. it was originally an escape, a bit of joy, after a fire had damaged their charlottesville, virginia home. soon, though, it gained new importance, after dove was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> i so basically had to learn to regain my balance. i lost feeling in my fingers and my toes. luckily, my husband and i do ballroom dancing. and that helped me, because i learned a different way of feeling pressure on the floor. it's trite to say, you know, when life hands you a lemon,
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you'll make lemonade. but basically, that's what i was doing, making a lot of lemonade. >> brown: dove is one of the nation's best known poets: former poet laureate, winner of the pulitzer prize, professor at the university of virginia, editor of an anthology of american poetry. but she'd kept her condition private, until now, in a new volume that explores bother personal health and our collective well-being. it's called “playst for the apocalypse.” >> it's an idea of how to live with a group of poems, have them accompany you through life. so when i was putting together this book, i thought, you know, what are we all doing in this pandemic? we are trying to find ways to live through it. and so these poems were meant in a way that's a kind of an accompaniment. >> brown: i get the idea of the "playlist." but "for the apocalypse?" so you mean the pandemic? you mean our political situation? what do you mean? >> all of the above.
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but also, i would say that the word "apocalypse" can mean the end of the days, but it also can mean a revelation or, you know, a resurrection. so there's a little bit of hope in there, too. >> brown: the pandemic helped slow her down, she says, to "hear" this playlist of the everyday, and of the nation's history. (“beside the golden door”) >> "surely there must be something beautiful to smile upon-- the umbered blue edge of sky as it fades into evening, the brusque green heave of the sea." >> brown: the poem, “beside the golden door,” begins a section titled “a standing witness,” of verses on key figures and moments from the last decades of american history, up to the present. it ends this way: >> "truth would say these are arrogant times. beevers slaughter their doubters while the greedy oil their lips with excuses and the righteous turn merciless; the merciful, mad."
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the poem itself is a lament, in a way, but it's also a kind of plea. it's a plea for, come, let's come together. i still believe that we listen more closely to a whisper than to a shout. but in the middle of everything that's happened in the past five, six, seven years and the pandemic, this kind of rage was bubbling up in me. at such a point, i decided, you know, it was unhealthy to hold it in. i'd better let it out. >> brown: tell me how you think of history, as a poet, and how you speak to it. >> i believe that poets, as i think all artists, you are really connected to the world and to life. and as a black woman, from a very early age, i understood
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thathere was a history and there was history. in fact, that mainstream history did not include me or did not look at me as i thought of myself. >> brown: anher change? the effects of an illness that has prevented dove from playing her viola da gamba and cello-- she's a great lover of classical music. it also forced her to relearn to write by hand. that's how she'd always written her poems. now, though, she uses a computer much of the time. >> " reason for it: i just find myself on pause-- paused for longer than is proper. if i were more seasoned, i'd ignore it." >> brown: in the poem “blues, straight,” dove addresses head-on some of the pains of daily life. >> "the cup of plenty runneth over, ruins my hands-- i've scrubbed them, but they won't come clean. strange, i know, to wish for nothing.
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a day to live through. a scream." >> brown: dove says she's learned to manage her illness, and feels incribly lucky. and, her love of language and its music abides. she writes in one poem of“ loving every minute spent jostling syllables,” and then“ each word caught right.” >> i wish i could explain the mystery of that moment where everything sparks and starts to come together. but what i love to do is to wrestle with the language, because language is what a writer has. it's our tool, it's our clay. and it sounds terrifically nerdy... but, you know, i'll sit there and debate-- comma or dash? and, but it has something to do with the music of the words, too. >> brown: you've spent a life as a very public poet, really making a case for poetry out in the world.
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i wonder what you're thinking about for the future. how important is it for you still to be out there in the public talking to people about poetry, reading poetry for them? >> it's really important for me. because what we still don't have in this world, at least in this country particularly, is a sense of true communication. when you sit down and read a poem to yourself or even in a room with other people, what you feel inside is all yours. ( laughs ) and yet you can feel that everyone around you is also feeling it. what an incredible feeling! so yes, i'm committed to it. i'm ready to come out again. ♪ ♪ ♪ >> brown: a feeling we all share. for the pbs nehour, i'm jeffrey brown.
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>> woodruff: and we close tonight with a dramatic re-opening. last night, broadway was back performing for the public. before the shows, cast members from the musicals "hamilton," "wicked," and "the lion king" celebrated on the street, with this rendition of "new york, new york." ♪ start spreading the news i'm leaving today ♪ i want to be a part of it new york, new york! ♪ these little town shoes are longing to stray ♪ right through the very heart of it ♪ new york, new york! ♪
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>> woodruff: so great! and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. 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 cellular's 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 >> fidelity wealth management. >> johnson & 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 institutions and individuals.
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>> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh >> you're watching pbs.
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