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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  August 24, 2022 6:00pm-6:59pm PDT

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amna: good evening and welcome. i'm amna nawaz. judy woodruff is away. on the "newshour" tonight, loan forgiveness -- president biden cancels up to $10,000 in student debt for millions of americans, a move sharply dividing advocacy groups and budget hawks. then, the voters speak -- in new york, democrats triumph in a special election, while in florida, they choose a former republican to challenge governor ron desantis in november's midterms. and, one year on -- afghans who fled their homes during the chaotic u.s. withdrawal reflect on the last 12 months since the taliban takeover. >> i was afraid because i was a female artist, and all my artwork was about women's lives. so we decided to leave afghanistan until are able to
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breathe again. amna: 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.
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contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. amna: well, president biden today announced his long-awaited plan on student debt, an historic move to address the $1.6 trillion in federal loans held by 45 million americans. in the plan, borrowers making less than $125,000 a year will be eligible for $10,000 in forgiveness. for pell grant recipients, that goes up to $20,000 in an effort to hp those with the greatest need. and the president also extended
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corporations that slowed the economy, didn't do a hell of a lot for economic growth, and wasn't paid for, and racked up this enormous deficit. amna: white house correspondent laura barron-lopez has been following it all. she joins me here. laura, good to see you. laura: good to see you. amna: so, big picture, how big a deal is this? what's the significance? laura: so, president biden, it took him a long time to get to this decision, but it ultimately went further than what many expected. and so a big piece of this is what it did for those pell grant recipients. the student loan forgiveness for them is, as you noted, $20,000 forgivenesif they're making less than $125,000 a year. roughly two-thirds of federal loan borrowers are pell grant recipients. and black borrowers are twice as likely to receive pell grants as white borrowers. and just a reminder is that pell grants are federal tuition aid that doesn't necessarily have to be paid back for low-income americans.
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and this addresses additional loans that they took out on top of that. the white house argues that pell grants no longer cover the same amount of tuition that they used to cover. and we spoke to braxton simpson today, who is a student who has some $40,000 in student debt. she's also an activist who works for an advocacy group that is really trying to make college more affordable. and here's what she had to say about how it impacts her. braxton: when you come out of college, and you start a new job, and you're starting your new life, there's a lot of things that are being thrown at you. you're really focusing on adulting. you're picking up bills. you're trying to figure out what your next meal is going to be. so, having, of course, the cancellation of the $10,000 definitely helps to bring that and scale that down, makes things seem a little bit more attainable. laura: so, for borrowers like braxton who are looking to get relief, it's their 2020 and 2021 tax years that will be assessed when they apply.
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and president biden also said today that the education department will release a short and simple form in the coming weeks for people to apply for this relief. amna: so we know some folks wanted the white house to go further, right? progressives have been calling for up to $50,000 in forgiveness. how did the white house get to this number? and what are progressives saying about the plan now? laura: so, up until essentially today, progressives had been in president biden's ear, had been in the ears of white house staff telling them to go further, because what everyone was expecting was for president biden to forgive the $10,000 in student debt. but this $20,000 for pell grants, that took it a step further and was something that progressives were fighting for a lot. and i also spoke to wisdom cole of the naacp today. and he said that he's looking for the white house to go even a step fther. wisdom: this is a great first step in the right direction in the fight to cancel student debt.
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we have been fighting for quite some time now, pushing the administration to cancel a minimum of $50,000 or more. the idea that now we are really having an open conversation around what is possible and really dreaming about a future where debt is not going to be something that is going to be holding back millions and millions of black and brown borrowers around the country who are wanting to see a better future, wanting to become homeowners, business owners, and have discretionary wealth-building income. laura: and so, like wisdom cole, who leads their youth division for the naacp, a lot of progressives are going to reset once those payments start again next year and start pushing the ite house to potentially forgive even more for non-pell grant recipients. amna: so the administration announces this loan forgiveness. they also announced changes to how loans are to be repaid, right? tell us about that. laura: yes, so this is another big component. and this is essentially new income-based repayment plan.
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and so what this does, is it makes it so borrowers repay 5% of their disposable income per month, rather than 10%. no monthly payments for people making less than approximately $15 an hour. it forgives loans of $12,000 or less after 10 years, instead of 20, and no monthly interest for people making their repayments. amna: so, among the critics, we should note there are people who say this will worsen inflation, righ do we know what kind of impact it could have on the economy? laura: so the white house came out prepared for those arguments. and, essentially, what they're saying is that the loan repayments starting next year happening at the same time as there's targeted debt relief, they argue it's going to offset. they also say that the economists that they're talking to, be it at analyst firms like moody's, that it will be neutral or de-inflationary. now, of course, there are a number of economists, even democratic ones, that don't agree with that. the committee for the responsible federal budget
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actually estimated that it would cost some $400 billion to $600 billion. and so i spoke to jason furman, an economist and democrat who worked for the former president obama, and he was not happy with this announcement today. jason: i think this is a terrible policy for the point in time we're in as a country. it's nearly half-a trillion dollars of gasoline being thrown on what is already an inflationary fire that we're dealing with. the economy cannot absorb this money without generating more inflation, without generating bills that will have to be paid in the future as well. so you're helping one group in the country and hurting a lot of other people in the process. laura: now, the white house's response to that is essentially that this is something that the president believess fair. it's something that he wanted to
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take action. now, again, he initially wanted congress to do this. he didn't want to have to use his executive action to forgive the $10,000 in student debt, but ultimately felt that it was necessary. amna: you mentioned fair. and there has been this question around fairness, right? we have heard it from the beginning of the talk about student loan forgiveness from republican lawmakers. also, there was a reporter who shouted out a question to president biden on this, people who argue this is unfair to people who didn't go to college or people who have already paid back their loans. what does the white house say to that? laura: so, first, i think we need to look at how popular the provision is, which is actually -- recent polling from npr found that the $10,000 in forgiveness alone is actually what's popular with the american public. some 55% of americans support it, 35% do not support it. but going beyond that is where things can become less popular with the american public. and so, again, some democrats
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like jason furman agree with republicans who are saying that this isn't necessarily fair, and what about the students who already repaid all of their loans? and so, he said that it could definitely become difficult for the white house to explain that. jason: we're very constrained as a country. who is your priority to help? is it a couple of making $250,000? is it a single 24-year-old making $75,000? i just don't think those should be the top priorities for policymakers. laura: now, ultimately, again, we -- i have spoken to a lot of students across the country in the past year, students like braxton simpson. and they say that -- every time i ask them, what's the one thing that you would like to see from president biden now that he was elected to office, and the first words out of their mouth were student debt. and so this is what -- this is what braxton simpson had to say in response to that fairness question. braxton: i think that students everywhere are going to be
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excited about that. it's probably going to get them out to vote, knowing that there is a possibility and that the administration does have them on their mind when it comes to their education, funding their education, and allowing students not to focus solely on funding their education, having to work to make ends meet just to go to school, but being able to actually focus on school itself. laura: and so, just like braxton, that's a big thing that democrats are thinking could pontially play well with young voters. president biden's numbers with gen z voters, with millennials has not been good in recent months. and so potentially a number of democratic strategists i have spoke to say that these voters, these young voters are going to be key potentially in swing states heading into november. amna: and we will see how much of a difference it makes or doesn't. laura barron-lopez, thank you so much. laura: thankou.
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stephanie: i'm stephanie sy with newshour west. we'll return to the full program after the latest headlines. the school police chief in uvalde, texas was fired tonight by the school board in a unanimous decision. chief pete arredondo had faced criticism for his inaction and poor leadership during the school shootings that killed 19 students and two teachers in may. victims' families applauded the decision. a russian rocket attack in central ukraine claimed scores of victims, as ukraine marked its independence day and six months since the war began. president zelenskyy said the attack killed 22 people and wounded dozens at a train station. meanwhile, the u.s. announced another $3 billion in military aid for ukraine. the pentagon said it sends a strong message to russian president putin. >> his theory of victory is that he can outlast everybody. packages like this that signal we're not just providing assistance to ukraine right now
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but it's gonna be a steady stream of assistance that will stretch out over many months and years is precisely challenging putin's miscalculation, we believe, that he can just grind it out and wait it out." stephanie: the u.s. military says it traded fire today with iranian-backed militia fighters in eastern syria. that followed u.s. air strikes in deir ez-zor, an oil-rich province bordering iraq. local reports say at least six militia fighters were killed. u.s. central command this evening announced a second u.s. attack in syria that killed two to three militants. centcom says the militias attacked american troops in the region last week. in ethiopia, new fighting has erupted in the tigray region after a months-long cease-fire. tigrayan officials accuse ethiopia of launching a large-scale offensive today. ethiopia claims tigray's forces attacked first. in new york, u.n. secretary-general antonio guterres insisted that the fighting stop.
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>> i am deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the resumption of hostilities in ethiopia. my strong appeal is for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for the resumption of peace talks. stephanie: in this country, a congressional report has new details on how the trump white house interfered with the fda early in the pandemic. president trump and his aides pressured fda officials to reauthorize hydroxychloroquine to treat covid. by then, studies had found the antimalaria drug did not work on the virus and could cause heart complications. a federal judge in texas has temporarily blocked federal officials from enforcing new guidance on emergency abortions. the guidance requires hospitals to end pregnancies that endanger the mother, even if state law sharply limits abortions.
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the white house today called the court ruling a blow to texans. >> we've been very clear, as you look at what happened last night in texas, you know, republican legislators are working to roll back the freedoms of americans that they've relied on for a half a century. a half a century. and it's more and more clear that this is against the will of a majority of americans. stephanie: this evening, a different federal judge made an opposite decision, ruling idaho's abortion ban conflicted with the federal guidance and cannot be enforced in a medical emergency. students in ohio's largest school district started the year remotely, and with substitute teachers today. the regular teachers and other staffers in columbus went on strike monday. they're demanding smaller class sizes and better conditions, including guaranteed air conditioning. twitter's chief executive has rejected a whistleblower's claims that the company lied about its defenses against hackers and spam accounts. the ceo said at an employee
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meeting today that the allegations are quote, foundationally, technically, and historically inaccurate. the company's former security chief submitted his allegations to federal regulators. a federal jury decided today that los angeles county will have to pay $16 million to the widow of late nba star kobe bryant over photos taken at the site of his deadly helicopter crash. deputies and firefighters took and shared photos of the remains of bryant and his 13-year-old daughter gianna. jurors agreed the action invaded vanessa bryant's privacy. still to come on the "newshour," ukrainians mark their independence from the soviet union, even as they fight russia's invasion. afghans who fled their homes during a chaotic united states withdrawal reflect on the last year. the late actor michael k. williams' posthumous memoir details how his life informed his career. and much more.
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>> this is the "pbs newshour" from weta studios in washington and in the west from the walter cronkite school of journalism at arizona state university. amna: we are just 76 days away from the midterm elections that will determine which party controls congress next year. voters in florida and new york have now chosen their nominees for house and senate races, setting up some major showdowns in november. our lisa desjardins has more on last night's results. lisa: from the last swirl of primaries in august has emerged renewed hope for democts and veteran politicians. in florida, charlie crist is both. democrats chose him, a former republican governor, to face off against current governor and rising republicans star ron desantis. crist made that part of his opening argument. rep. crist: because this guy wants to be president of the united states of america, and everybody knows it.
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however, when we defeat him on november 8, that show is over. [cheering and applause] enough. lisa: desantis, who faced no primary, has stoked his image as a maverick and navy reserve officer, including in an ad referencing the "top gun" movies. he spoke last night. gov. desantis: he got involved to help candidates who were fighting the machine, fighting the lockdowners, fighting the forced maskers, fighting the people that want to indoctrinate our kids, instead of educate our kids. sen. rubio: the democratic party has been taken over by -- lisa: fellow republican senator marco rubio also faces a high-profile fight. sen. rubio: to our democrat friends that are out there, your party has abandoned you. lisa: last night, democratic voters overwhelmingly backed congresswoman val demings from orlando to challenge him. rep. demings: i stand before you tonight believing in the promise of america.
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lisa: few celebrations were louder than that of man running for demings' seat, 25-year-old democrat maxwell frost now is favored to win in the fall, which would make him the first member of generation z in congress. meantime, veteran republican congressmen matt gaetz and daniel webster each survived challenges last night. webster's opponent, election denier and self-described islamophobe laura loomer, made it a race and is refusing to concede. laura: i'm not conceding, becae i'm a winner. lisa: she's not alone. fellow far right congressional candidate carl paladino in new york also rejected his projected loss. others handled tough defeat head-on. rep. maloney: i have called congressman nadler to congratulate him on his victory. lisa: house oversight chairwoman carolyn maloney conceded in a rare matchup against fellow democrat and judiciary chairman jerry nadler, a battle sparked by redistricting.
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nadler paid tribute to maloney after his blowout win. rep. nadler: i speak for everyone in this room tonight when i thank her for her decades of service to our city. lisa: someone who worked with nadler, house impeachment lawyer daniel goldman, also pulled through the redistricting cloud. he won in a new democratic-leaning district, knocking out one-term progressive representative mondaire jones, who placed higher than expected. one final, if temporary result, in new york's hudson valley, democrat pat ryan, a combat veteran campaigning on abortion rights, won a special election, beating a republican and expectations in a closely watched house race. and joining me to discuss last night's primary is one of those winning candidates, congressman-elect pat ryan of new york. congratulations, congressman-elect. you want in a swing district you were not expected to win. why do you think that you did? pat: i think we stood up loud and clear and said, this ia referendum on freedom, on choice in the country, certainly in
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this community. and people responded overwhelmingly to that and sent a resounding message. and i think so much of this was just being clear and unequivocal in our values and our principles, and doing it in a way that's unifying. and so to see my community, where i was born and raised, respond in ts way in this moment, i'm so proud. lisa: you know, since last night, the cook political report has changed how it sees the midterms, saying now it believes that democrats are diluting republicans' advantage. one suggested reason is abortion, an area that you campgned on. how much of a factor do you think that was in your win? pat: i think it played a major role. i mean, i believe that the dobbs decision really hit a guardrail of democracy, and served as a major wakeup call that fundamental rights and freedoms that i risked my life in combat to defend, that so many worked for so many decades to secure and to hold, are really now under threat and people actively
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trying to rip away those rights. and that is -- that is something that strikes a deeper nerve and really results in the things we have seen in kansas, what we saw here last night, and people saying, this is not who we are as america. lisa: your win last night means that you will now represent the 19th district of new york. that's what it looks like right now. but, of course, because of redistricting, that map is about to change. and you will be running in november for the 18th district in new york, a different district. your opponent, the republican in that race, has already indicated that one line of attack could be that he will accuse you, as other republicans are doing with democrats, of being soft on crime. i wonder how you respond and how democrats are responding to that charge that democrats are soft on crime. pat: well, my opponent in the special election just spent over $2.5 million trying to do that, unsuccessfully.
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and, again, this is where actions speak louder than words. i mean, i have worn the uniform. i very much understand what safety is about. as county executive, where i have served the last few years, we have increased funding to law enforcement, including our violent crimes task force, and, literally, just a few months ago, had the single biggest seizure of guns and illicit opioids in our county's history. so, that just doesn't land. and i think it really is a desperate and ineffective strategy, because people see through that. people understand what's at stake. and this really is an existential moment for our democracy. lisa: you outperformed preside biden in that district last night by a little bit, but yet he remains an unpopular president, by and large. in midterm elections, that's a major factor. how do you campaign with that factor involved, president biden? pat: well, what people want right now is help. they want relief. and we have been delivering that at every single level of government. and i have been working on that as county executive, just proposed our biggest property tax cut in 40 years.
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we cut our gas tax in half to provide relief at the pumps, and then to add on to that, the incredible delivery of help from the federal government of the last few weeks and months. the chips act is going to bring hundreds of jobs right here to this district. the inflation reduction act, bringing down prescription drug prices, finally making big corporations pay their fair share of taxes, i campaigned hard and clearly on that towards the end of this special election, and it had a big impact. and i think we will continue to see that momentum. crazy idea, when you step up and help people and deliver, they appreciate it, and trust gets rebuilt. and i think that's what we're starting to really see gain momentum. lisa: those are so many of the issues we have been covering. i do want to ask you, though, would you want president biden to campaign with you in your district? pat: we would love to have anybody and everybody that wants to help us deliver here. i think the president from the
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beginning of his administration has delivered an american rescue plan that let us in this community invest in infrastructure, small business relief, mental health, desperately needed housing, followed up by the single biggest bipartisan infrastructure bill since eisenhower. so i would welcome, again, the president and anyone and everyone who wants to help deliver and provide relief for folks right now, who desperately, desperately need it. lisa: you have campaigned on this idea that there's a threat to democracy right now. you have mentioned it. i wonder, how do you deal with that in a very fraught election year? how do you confront perhaps constituents who believe these falsehoods strongly, while still trying to enge with them, even if they disagree with you? how do you deal with that? pat: well, this goes back to a lot of things that i learned as a west point cadet, as an army officer.
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it's about finding that common ground, remembering that we're all in this with a purpose and a mission greater than ourselves. sometimes, it takes a lot of work to bring that out in people, because everyone is distrustful right now. everyone is exhausted. everyone is near or at their wit's end. and that's where leadership is even more important. i mean, i had this incredible challenge and privilege to guide our community throh this pandemic. and i saw some real moments of division, but, largely, we were able to hold it together by reminding each other that there is reason to be hopeful. there is reason to be optimistic. there is reason to remember we're all in this together. and i know that sometimes that sounds almost naive, but so much of our campaign in this special election was saying, in a moment of real darkness and division, we have to continue to lead with hope and optimism and remind people that we're heading in a better direction. lisa: congressman-elect pat ryan of new york, thank you for your time on a long and big day. pat: thanks, lisa.
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amna: as we reported earlier, it was another day of grisly attacks on civilians in ukraine, as russian forces struck a train station in the central region of the country, killing and wounding dozens. that strike coincides with ukraine's independence day and comes exactly six months since the start of the war. it was a stark reminder of the brutal fight already waged and the battle ahead. residents in kyiv awoke to the usual wails of air raid sirens, but an unusual parade featuring destroyed russian tanks rolled through downtown, as ukraine marked its first independence day since russia's invasion, a show of defiance six months into the war. in a poetic address to his nation, ukrainian president zelenskyy promised victory. pres. zelenskyy: a new nation
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that emerged on february 24 at 4:00 a.m., not born, but reborn, a nation that didn't cry, didn't scream, didn't get scared, didn't run away, didn't give up, didn't forget. this flag will be everywhere it should be by right, both in donbass and in crimea. amna: but the war has been costly. in western ukraine, another tearful goodbye to a fallen fighter. st month, russ defaulted on
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its foreign bonds for the first time in a century, but russia's oil revenues have increased by 11% in june, as europe struggles to phase out russian oil. the united states, with its nato and e.u. allies, all continue to stand behind ukraine. british prime minister boris johnson met president zelenskyy in kyiv and vowed to continue helping ukraine fight russia. pm johnson: if putinere to succeed, then no country on russia's perimeter would be safe. and, if putin succeeds, it will be a green light to every autocrat in the world, a signal that borders can be changed by force.
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amna: russia launched the war by attacking ukraine from the north, south, and east, headed toward kyiv, but was pushed back by ukraine. six months on, intense fighting continues along front lines in the country's east and south. russia has now occupied nearly 20% of ukrainian territory. but even as the war enters a prolonged phase, ukraine says victory is the only option. pres. zelenskyy: and we will put our hands up only once, when we celebrate our victory, the whole of ukraine, because we do not trade our lands and our people. for us, ukraine is all of ukraine. amna: to further discuss how ukraine will use this latest package of u.s. weapons assistance, where the war stands now, and how it may evolve, we turn to keir giles. he's a senior consulting fellow at chatham house, the london-based policy institute. keir giles, welcome. and thanks for joining us. we are marking six months in a war that wasn't supposed to last this long. i mean, many people thought it would be over within a matter of
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days. when you think back six months ago, did you think the war would still be going on today? keir: no. i was one of those people that was surprised that russia did not fight the war that it had been training and equipping itself for, and instead blundered into entirely the wrong kind of conflict and fighting it the wrong way, and was repulsed by this dogged ukrainian resistance. i thought that russia would complete the conflict in a number of days in exactly the way that they had been practicing and gearing up to do. so the fact that ukraine now, six months down the track, is still celebrating its independence day as an independent nation is a terrific achievement. and let's not forget part of that, of course, is through russia's own self-inflicted injuries and the way that they have fallen victim to their own propaganda in the very early stages of this conflict, thinking that ukrainians would greet them with flowers, instead of javelins. amna: you mentioned ukraine being able to repulse that initial russian advance.
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but what is the landscape today? have we seen a meaningful counteroffensive by ukrainian forces? keir: well, a counteroffensive, particularly in the south in that kherson region, has been promised now for weeks. and a lot of people are disappointed that they're not seeing the front line moving, they're not seeing these ukrainian advances pushing russian forces back. now, ukraine argues that the counteroffensive is taking place in a different way, all of this erosion of russian military power by striking deep behind russian lines, by targeting logistics, airfields and so on is, in fact, ukraine fighting back. and, of course, ukraine has to be sure that, when it does mount finally a move to push russia out of those occupied regions, it can do so without being observed by russia, without being targeted by russian artillery. so the preparation work that we see going into ukraine's attempt to liberate its occupied territories should be expected to last for some time yet. of course, in a way, it's already been successful. the promise of an offensive in the south has drawn russian
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troops away from where they were advancing in the east of the country in the donbass region, where those advances have stopped. so, in a way, ukraine has already succeeded. amna: so, the front line seems as if it's static, right? correct mef i'm wrong. is russia continuing to seize any additional territory at this stage? ir: the front line has been surprisingly static for a considerable amount of time now. but, of course, that doesn't mean that military operations aren't continuing. now, this war has been through several very distinct phases, and it's lurched from despair to optimism for ukraine along the way. and what marks this current phase is the way in which ukraine can reach out and touch areas which russia might have thought were safe. it's those long-range strikes deep into the rear which, of course, are having an effect not only on russia's fighting potential, but also on russians themselves. we shouldn't underestimate the psychological impact when people who are on beach holidays in crimea suddenly see that they are not in a safe area, and
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reality collides with the picture they have been sold by russian state television of what russia calls as the special military operation, which, according to russia, is going perfectly according to plan. amna: what about this latest round of u.s. support, $3 billion in security assistance, president biden announced today, the largest aid package in the six months of war? is it enough? keir: there will never be enough to be -- to satisfy all of ukraine's demands and everything that ukraine could absorb. the simple fact of high-intensity warfare ongoing i europe means it could suck in vast amounts of military equipment from all of thnato militaries, and still possibly not be satisfied. but what ukraine has demonstrated is that it can field military support extremely rapidly. they're fighting a desperate war of national survival, and so any assistance that is provided gets used in the most effective way, in the most rapid way possible. at the same time, of course, you have to plan for the long term, because, even if this cuent
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conflict is resolved, there have to be longer-term plans for ensuring that ukraine can defend itself against russia in the future as well. so, while it's tempting to interpret some of the supplies that have just been announced in this most recent tranche as preparing russia for the current offensive that everybody's been expecting, of course, we keep -- need to keep an eye to the longer term as well. amna: so what about that longer term? i mean, u.s. officials, european officials continue to say, putin's theory of victory here is that he can wait everyone out, that, eventually, u.s., nato, e.u. support will dwindle. do you think that risk is there? keir: in a way, that's the same risk as ukraine has faced right from day one of this conflict or even beforehand. it's keeping all of ukraine's backers and supporters in europe and in north america onside, so that they can provide the support that's needed. and, of course, that's not just the military support and weapons supplies. it's also economic and humanitarian support to keep ukraine functioning as a state and the ukrainian economy going while it's under this stranglehold by russia.
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now, all of that is going to become even more a challenge as we head into winter and the real effect of the price spikes in energy that have been brought about by russian energy blackmail make themselves felt among european populations. it's going to be harder and harder to resist ukraine fatigue, and, most importantly, to resist those calls for ukrae to make some kind of concession, some kind of agreement to a cease-fire to end the fighting and relieve the economic pressure on the rest of the world. for ukraine, of course, that would be disastrous, because it would effectively be surrender and abandoning those occupied territories and the people who live there to this brutal russian oversight. amna: keir giles, seor consulting fellow at chatham house, joining us tonight, thank you for your time. keir: thank you. amna: the u.s. withdrawal and
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taliban takeover of afghanistan last august prompted hundreds of thousands of afghans to flee their home country. over the last year, more than 76,000 of them were evacuated to the united states and most entered on humanitarian parole, which allows them to live and work in the u.s. for two years. nick schifrin and producer valerie plesch spoke with two refugees whose lives are hanging in the balance as they face uncertainty over their immigration status one year on. nick: in suburban virginia, every brushstroke illustrates irreplaceable loss, red paint for danger, a painting for a one-year anniversary, one year of fear and silence. jahan: it was a day that vanished the hopes of all afghan women. so the colors i chose are based on the current situation in afghanistan. nick: the artists, jahan ara rafi, is a refugee 7000 miles from home. can you show me some of the art? jahan: yes. nick: her new series of paintings is called women in
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red, girls and women whose lives, like her own, were shattered after last year's taliban takeover. one group faces the horizon united in prayer. jahan: you can see a woman around a dry tree. they tied fabrics in the tree, as is their cultural tradition, because all the doors of hope are closed for afghan women now. they don't have any option, other than to pray. nick: today, rafi is one of the lucky ones. her niece and nephew, twins, already lived in the states. she escaped on an evacuation flight last august, just hours after a suicide bomber killed hundreds of afghans and 13 u.s. service members at a makeshift airport entrance, the abbey gate. rafi knew she had to leave. jahan: i was afraid because i was a female artist, and all my artwork was about women's lives. so we decided to leave afghanistan until we are able to breathe again. nick: and you boarded the plane,
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and the plane took off. can you tell me what you were thinking as you had to leave kabul? jahan: when i was looking at my people inside the airplane, a plane that was probably meant for 100 people, but there were more than 600 or 700 people inside, i was crying for kabul, that its people were displaced. i cried for the land where neither women nor men were valued. there was no art in that land anymore, only a dark regime that had taken over. nick: that day, she had to leave all her paintings behind. she brought only three books that immortalized her art. and this is your work right here? jahan: yes. nick: an international contemporary art catalogue. jahan: make art, not war. nick: make art, not war. a series of her paintings exhibited in germany. jahan: this was the first meeting. nick: and the origin of the work that makes her most proud. rafi helped start the country's first contemporary art center and taught a class of young women. jahan: when a society doesn't
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have art, it's as if that place is unknown. art and culture are a country's identity. women are part of society, same as men. when a boy can learn art, why can't a girl? nick: in virginia, her day begins at 8:00, when she says goodbye to her father and leaves their apartment. when she arrived here, a social worker helped her find a job. she was actually offered two, but chose the closest one to her house, a bakery inside her local giant supermarket. how has it been in the bakery at giant? jahan: i don't know whether i should save fortunately or unfortunately. my job involves designing cakes, fortunately, because we are in peace, and, unfortunately, because we are refugees, and we don't have a country. and there's a feeling of emptiness. nick: and uncertainty. rafi's on humanitarian parole that allows her to live and work in the u.s. for two years. she wants to return to kabul when it's safe. until then, she's applying for asylum. jahan: i think every afghan who
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has been evacuated has two years residence permit. based on what i have heard, after one year, we wld be allowed to apply for permanent residence. krish: at this moment, that is more aspirational than reality. nick: krish o'mara vignarajah is the president and ceo of lutheran immigration and refugee service. it's helping refugees who arrived last year resettle. krish: they entered the u.s. on a temporary status called humanitarian parole. but, of course, the drawback of it is that it only provides that short-term protection. nick: what are their options for staying in the united states? krish: so their real pathway at this moment is asylum. the asylum system is extremely backlogged. it's complex. it typically requires a lawyer to help navigate it. and for the individuals who come, time is of the essence. and, frankly, they don't have the resources to be able to always get a lawyer to navigate it. nick: she calls on congress to pass newly introduced legislation, the afghan adjustment act.
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it would adjust the status of an afghan in the u.s. currently here on humanitarian parole to -- quote -- lawfully admitted for permanent residence. krish: essentially would allow is for an adjustment from humanitarian parole, which would allow them to apply for a green card and then ultimately get citizenship. it would be an unprecedented failure if congress didn't, because they have done this for every modern wartime evacuation population, whether that's been the vietnamese, the cubans, the iraqi kurds. and so, i do have faith that we will do this for the afghans. >> when i arrived here, somebody just told me, the united states of america is a land of opportunity. nick: in another virginia suburb, this afghan also evacuated kabul last august. we're keeping him anonymous. he's a former officer who used to hunt for taliban spies inside the afghan military. >> we removed those people, those who worked for taliban, for isis, for terrorist groups.
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those are not accept democracy. those are not accept human rights. i think my future will be here. nick: why is that? >> if i go to afghanistan, they catch me and they kill me. nick: and so he's trying to make this rental house feel like a home. but his cooking isn't as good as his mom's or his wife's. and there's no father to talk to, the family he had to leave behind. do you talk to your family in kabul now? >> every day. nick: what do they say? >> they say they are trying too much to find you. nick: the taliban is hunting for you. >> the talib, mm-hmm. several times, they come into my home, and they told us, where's your son? and my family just told him, my son's not working as a military officer. he was just a student. and, right now, he's in turkey or iran. nick: ey have to lie? >> yes, they have to lie.
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it's really difficult, because i love my family. i miss them. it's not easy for a father or for a mother to leave without his son. nick: in the u.s., he's applied for jobs at giant supermarket and walmart, but was rejected. he just got a new job running cables for local i.t. workers. but, every day, he drives uber eats. this order is from the local taco bell, two tacos and two drinks. the livery is to a nearby residential building. the trip takes him about 15 minutes. over two to three hours of driving, he will make $15 to $20. so, after all you have been through what's it like to be doing uber eats here? >> one day, i hope to don't deliver food to people. one day, i hope to go to school, to learn skills. but, right now, i have to drive because i have to support my
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family back home, and i have to support myself also. nick: he's also applying for asylum, and he hopes to bring his family here. he dreams of creating a home for himself and others like him. what do you hope for your life here in the u.s.? >> i hope, one day, i open my own business in america. i will help other refugees, not just from my country, from other countries, to live in america. nick: perhaps like rafi. over the last year, she's exhibited her work in washington, d.c. she dreams of being the change she wants to see. jahan: my past work delivered messages of despair. i want to bring some changes to my artwork to show the hope, smiles, and happiness that afghan women feel. i'm coming from a country where women were always deprived. my goal is to use my art to be the voice of these women. i want to voice their message to the world. nick: and she has become that
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voice that many of them do not have. for the "pbs newshour," i'm nick schifrin. amna: a posthumous memoir out this week tells of the life and legacy of actor michael k. williams, who died of a drug overdose last fall. now, williams is known for his powerful performances on screen. but the memoir also reveals his struggles and the impact he made through social justice and community activism. jeffrey brown explores the roles and the man as part of our arts and culture series, canvas. >> omar coming. jeffrey: the whistle, the walk, the way of being omar little, a stick-up man and killer, but one who only takes on drug dealers, and a gay man in a violent and homophobic world. he was an indelible character on
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one of the most highly regarded series in television history, "the wire." the actor who brought omar to life, michael k. williams. eric: he played these powerful figures who were pioneering characters in terms of the portraits of black men that we have seen on television. jeffrey: eric deggans is the television critic for npr. eric: michael was constantly sort of reinventing our vision of what black maleness could be, of what black masculinity could be. jeffrey: other actors also saw an unusual talent. "wire" co-star wendell pierce. wendell: what we are actually getting to witness in his young career -- and w're going to see a lot more -- is, like, one of the great american actors giving voice and giving flesh to characters that most people would have never given the same humanity to. jeffrey: chalky white, a prohibition era gangster in "boardwalk empire," freddy
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knight, a convict who rules the prison in "the night of," montrose freeman, a mysterious traumatized man who has lived through the tulsa massacre in "lovecraft country." williams was a powerful presence in high-profile series for hbo. now, the man behind the characters comes to life in a posthumous memoir, "scenes from my life," co-written with jon sternfeld, who completed the work after williams' death. michael: and this building was where i lived all my life, from conception up until season two of "the wire." jeffrey: williams, scene here in a video from march 2021, grew up in the east flatbush neighborhood of brooklyn in a huge housing project then called vanderveer estates. in the book, he described a vibrant, but violent world, amid the crack cocaine era of the 1980's and 1990's, a loving but strict mother, an absent father, his own crippling insecurities, what he called his softness in a hard environment, and his turn to drugs. he got the scar running down his
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face that would in some ways define his on-camera image after being slashed with a razor in a fight. the arts became a way out, first as a dancer, then actor. domic: it was interconnected, his personal experiences through his professional experiences, through work and through some of his characters. jeffrey: dominic dupont, williams' nephew and friend, also grew up in vanderveer. dominic: a lot of michael's personal experiences breathed life into his characters. but what he was to me, i believe he was to most of the people who knew him in the world. he was an amazingly talented human being who cared about people, who understood what it was to suffer and how to help people heal from suffering. jeffrey: what dupont and others want the world to know of williams, especially in the last years of his life, was his commitment to social justice and
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community work, a legacy as important as his acting. michael: i ain't no angel. i have been through -- i have made some bad choices, but god lifted me up. so, the way i show god that i appreciate my second chance at life is by coming home and making sure that i show my youth what i did wrong. dana: the greatest gift that michael was able to give to people a lot of the time was making them feel like they mattered, because he was going to the places that other people don't go. jeffrey: dana rachlin is a brooklyn-based activist who, with williams, co-founded we build the bloc an organization aimed at increasing public safety through community-led initiatives. williams, she says, was eager to reach young people and help change lives. dana: and when we talk about, like, mentorship, or looking for positive role models, or looking for love, i think that's what made michael so special. he understood that he had to share pieces of himself to make
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other people feel whole. jeffrey: the focus on social justice also showed up in his work on camera, in drama such as "when we rise" about the gay rights movement, and as a father to one of the exonerated central park five in "when they see us." michael: i was that kid that the neighbors thought wasn't going to make it. jeffrey: also in a series of documentaries he made, "raised in the system," in which williams took viewers into juvenile detention centers and prisons. >> the strong survive off the weak. jeffrey: and "black market," a visceral look into the world of crime and illegal markets. in the memoir, williams wrote candidly of his own continuing struggles with addiction, also of the dark places his roles often took him and the difficulties he had returning from them. eric: the fact that he would take on those roles anyway, knowing the danger to his
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sobriety, sort of spoke to the mission that he felt as a performer, to bring these men to life, even though it was at great risk to his own sobriety and health. i thought that was sort of the tragic dilemma of his life. jeffrey: on september 6, 2021, michael k. williams was found dead of an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin. he was 54. four men were charged for distributing the drugs that led to his overdose. dominic: in a few weeks, it'll be a year already. i feel like it was just yesterday. what i understand is, is what michael would want us to understand, that there's a lot more work to do and that, if we can use this situation as an opportunity to make people more aware about substance abuse and addiction and how do we help people, then we have gained something. we have made progress. dana: i have a lot of rage when
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it comes to michael's death, and a lot of sadness. i hope that what comes out of this is michael's legacy. and that is a legacy of love, and healing, and a mirror that's put up to all of us, that we're not just telling the stories, like michael told in "the wire" or "the night of," or "when they see us," but we're actually doing things to change that. jeffrey: in addition to "scenes from my life," a final on-camera roll comes this month with the release of the film "breaking," while dana rachlin continues to work she and williams began with we build the block and other programs across this city. for the "pbs newshour," i'm jeffrey brown in brooklyn. amna: and what a legacy he leaves behind. that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm amna nawaz. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the "pbs
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newshour," thank you for joining us. we will 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 >> and with the ongoing support of these individuals and institutions. and friends of the "newshour." the ford foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. and with the ongoing support of these individuals and institutions.
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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. >> this is the "pbs newshour" from weta studios in washington and in the west from the walter cronkite school of journalism at arizona state university. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.] >> you're watching pbs.
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- [narrator] explore new worlds and new ideas through programs like this, made available for everyone through contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. - hello i'm paula kerger, president of pbs. our goal in public television is to bring you a wide array of perspectives and voices in history, science and the arts. today we are so pleased to present henry louis gates jr. uncovering america which celebrates one of our most impactful historians. professor gates is an award winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist and cultural critic who helps us discover our shared history by revealing surprising connections across time and place. this insightful look at an extraordinary man is made possible because of your financial support.