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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  May 17, 2015 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT

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captioning funded by cbs and ford >> the $500 million national museum of african american history and culture is rising on the national mall. the complexion will be rendered in shades of bronze. a building of color, against history's white marble. >> this is not the museum of tragedy. it is not museum of difficult moments. it is the museum that says here is a balanced history of america that allows us to cry and smile. >> my family knows i'm here but they can't stop me. i'm here to commit suicide on america. >> how difficult is it to stop a child suicide bomber?
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>> there is hardly anything that you can do. >> children learn how to become human bombs in remote training camps like this one. they were here primarily to learn how to wear and detonate suicide vests. >> you have two sons of your own. would you want them to be suicide bombers? >> yes. i've made a promise to allah. >> when a speeding amtrak commuter train went off the rails just outside of philadelphia this past week there were multiple fatalities hu immediate suspicions about the condition of the track and the lack of safety technology that could have prevented it. but when we talked to the head of amtrak last fall, he said that's just one of the many problems on the northeast corridor. >> this is the achilles heel that we have on the northeast corridor. >> how much traffic goes over it every day? >> it's almost 500 trains a day. it's the busiest bridge in the western hemisphere for train
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traffic, period. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm leslie stahl. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm lara logan. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight, on "60 minutes." cbsmoneywatch update sponsored by lincoln financial, calling all chief life officers. good evening federal reserve yellen is getting much anticipated talk on the economy on friday. wal-mart and target could show their turn around strategies are working when they announce therntion week, and gm unveiled a newer smaller camaro, i am jeff glor, cbs news. >> >> pelley: 400 years have passed
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million national museum of african american history and culture. the idea was authorized by an act of congress, which called it, "a tribute to the negro's contribution to the achievements of america." the words are jarring because the act was written in 1929. building the museum has been a long struggle, just like the story it hopes to tell. beside the monument to washington, a slave holding president, the museum is breaking free of the ground on the mall's last five acres. eight decades after congress framed a museum on paper, and then failed to fund it, the dream is being written, this time in steel and stone: ten floors-- five above ground, five below; its complexion, rendered in shades of bronze, a building of color against history's white
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marble. you've been at this nine years now. it's a big job. >> lonnie bunch: well, as i tell people, at 8:00 in the morning i have the best job in america and at 2:00 in the morning it's the dumbest thing i've ever done in my life. this is a romare bearden from the 1950s. >> pelley: sleepless nights are all in a day's work for the museum's founding director lonnie bunch, a scholar of the 19th century. >> bunch: clearly, this is... ought to be one of those moments where people are going to sort of reflect, pause. what does it mean once we open? what does it mean in terms of development opportunities? >> pelley: in 2003, president bush signed the law creating the museum. congress put up $250 million and bunch has raised most of another $250 million. >> bunch: i knew that this is where this museum would have to be, that this is america's front lawn, and this is the place where people come to learn what it means to be an american, and this museum needs to be there. >> pelley: so, we're on the ground floor.
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this is where the visitors will come in. this will be their first experience in the museum. so, what's going to be here? >> bunch: they will walk in either from the mall or from constitution ave, and they will run into amazing pieces of african-american art. >> pelley: when all of this is finally complete, what will america have? >> bunch: america will have a place that allows them to remember-- to remember how much we as a country have been improved, changed, challenged, and made better by the african- american experience. they'll have a place that they can call home, but they'll also have a place that will make them change. >> pelley: but even this place is only space until you fill it. >> oh, my goodness. now, did somebody already look at some of these things for you? >> no. >> no?! >> pelley: seven years ago, the smithsonian began rummaging the attics and basements of america. >> this may have marked a milestone in his life. and what we don't know is what that was. >> but at least it gives me
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something i can investigate. >> pelley: 3,000 people brought their family history to 16 smithsonian events across the country. >> mary elliott: and this is the early free black family based out of baltimore? >> yes. >> pelley: it sounds like "antiques roadshow." >> nancy bercaw: it is like "antiques roadshow." >> pelley: mary elliott and nancy bercaw are curators. >> elliott: we have experts from across the museum field. experts in conservation. experts who understand about paper, about metals, about you name it-- fabrics, textiles. and they come in and they review objects for the public. >> the coating on this is in pretty good condition. >> some of that looks like it's dried out a little bit. >> and don't put it near the air conditioning unit because that will dry it out too much. >> pelley: how do you convince someone to give up a priceless family heirloom? >> bercaw: do you know what? our museum pitches itself. all we have to do is tell the absolute honest truth. people have been waiting for us.
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people in america have been waiting for this moment. and so, literally, they just hand us things. >> elliot: and we're very excited like you are. >> pelley: thousands of relics were examined, but only 25 will be in the collection. this is one of them. >> renee anderson: this was actually a connection we made with the family. mr. jesse burke was an enslaved man, and he was charged with playing this violin and entertaining the slave holder and his guest. >> pelley: this is the smithsonian's warehouse in maryland, where the story is being written. and these are a few of the lines. "received by grigsby e. thomas the sum of $350 in full payment for a negro boy by the name of jim, about ten years old, this 31st day of december, 1835." jim would have been familiar with these-- shackles dating before 1860, bondage that might have been broken if the keeper
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of this bible had succeeded in his bloody rebellion. nat turner had said that god commanded him to break the chains. his bible was taken away before his execution. paul gardullo is a leader of the curating team. >> paul gardullo: i think many of us who know the story of slavery know about nat turner; know about nat turner from the perspective of perhaps a fighter, perhaps a murderer. well, we know this is a religious person. we know this is a person who can read, and when you begin with that, and those ideas, suddenly, the person of nat turner and your understandings of nat turner take on a whole new light. and i look to do that again and again, ways that we can see well-worn stories, stories we think we know, in a new light. >> pelley: you may think you know the story of a boy murdered for whistling at a white woman
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until you are confronted with his casket. >> bunch: the story of emmett till is a crucially important story in terms of what it tells us, both about sort of reinvigorating the civil rights movement, but also it's a story of his mother, mamie mobley, who was really one of the most powerful people, who said that her son's murder should not be in vain, that it should help to transform america. >> pelley: no one was punished for the murder of emmett till. his body was exhumed in a later investigation, and the original casket was neglected. >> bunch: but then the question was: would we ever display it? should we ever display it? and i wrestled a lot with it but then i realize i kept hearing mamie mobley in my head. and she said, "i opened this casket to change the world, to make the world confront the dangers, the power, the ugliness of race in america." >> pelley: a lot of the things that you intend to put on
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display are going to be hard to look at. >> bunch: what i'm trying to do is find the right tension between moments of sadness and moments of resiliency. >> pelley: one resilient moment came out of the blue. air force captain matt quy and his wife tina rebuilt an old crop duster, and in curiosity, they sent the serial number to an air force historian. >> matt quy: and he said, "are you sitting down? because i have some news for you." >> pelley: turned out, in 1944 the stearman trained america's first black squadrons, the tuskegee airmen, who flew to fame in world war ii. >> tina quy: i had never really known much about the tuskegee airmen. i'd seen a p-51 plane, but i'd never really, truly, understood what it meant. >> matt quy: take your time. >> pelley: before donating the plane, known as a pt-13, the quys carried the last of the airmen back to the air.
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>> matt quy: and it was just great to sit back in the back seat and look at this real tuskegee airman in a real tuskegee airplane. just magical. >> leo gray: the greatest thrill in my life was sitting in the seat where you are and watching the ground drop out from underneath me. the pt-13 was the baby that we used to learn how to fly. >> pelley: the smithsonian collected the thoughts of lieutenant colonel leo gray in 2010. >> gray: they said we couldn't fly. but we had the best record of any fighter group in the 15th air force, and probably in the air force itself. we stayed with our bombers, we brought them home as best we could. and we proved that we could fly. >> pelley: time is the enemy of history, so smithsonian conservationists have been working for years restoring america's heritage from textiles to trains.
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this 1920 railcar had two sections-- "white" and "colored." the same number of seats, but "colored" was compressed in half the space-- physical, touchable, jim crow confinement just like the guard tower from the prison in angola, louisiana, notorious for cruelty. >> carlos bustamante: it's about 21 feet tall. and this is cast concrete, so it's an enormous object. >> pelley: from monumental to miniscule, carlos bustamante is the project manager building a place for 33,000 moments in time. >> bustamante: so when you had the railcar, the railcar pieces the guard tower, and all the support equipment, we had a convoy of about 12 semi-trucks traveling down the road across six states to get here. and it took them about three days. >> pelley: how do you get those
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things into this building? >> bustamante: so we set up two very, very large cranes. and these cranes are... are rare, there's not a lot of them this size. and we picked up these two objects, and basically brought them over the site and lowered them down about 60 feet below grade. >> pelley: the answer is, you don't move these objects into the building, you put these objects in place and you build the building around them? >> bustamante: exactly. there's no other way. >> gardullo: oftentimes, what i'm drawn to are some of the smaller things-- shards of glass that were picked up after the bombing of the 16th street baptist church in birmingham alabama. and it's finding the balance between the big and the small, scott, that makes this work a challenge and so wonderful. >> pelley: what is something that you desperately want and have not been able to find? >> gardullo: i want willie mays' mitt.
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>> pelley: which would be quite a catch to display along with louis armstrong's horn, and chuck berry's horn behind the chrome of his '73 cadillac. there's the welcome of minton's playhouse, which resonated to miles, monk and dizzy. ali's headgear, pristine condition. and this firemen's head gear, a revolutionary invention in 1914 by mechanical genius garrett morgan. do you think the country's ready for this now? >> bunch: i don't think america is ever ready to have the conversation around race, based on what we see around the landscape, whether it's ferguson or other places, that people are really ready to shine the light on all the dark corners of the american experience. but i hope this museum will help, in a small way, to do that. >> pelley: this is not the american museum of slavery? >> bunch: this is not the museum
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of tragedy. it is not the museum of difficult moments. it is the museum that says "here is a balanced history of america that allows us to cry and smile." >> see other artifacts including marion anderson's gown and a freed slave's copy of the emancipation proclamation at sponsored by pfizer. ♪ body was made for better things than the pain, stiffness and joint damage of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. before you and your rheumatologist decide on a biologic ask if xeljanz is right for you. xeljanz is a small pill, not an injection or infusion for adults with moderate to severe ra for whom methotrexate did not work well. xeljanz can relieve ra symptoms and help stop further joint damage. xeljanz can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers have happened in patients taking xeljanz.
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>> logan: in its propaganda, isis uses gruesome videos of beheadings and mass executions but on the battlefield, suicide bombers have become one of its most effective weapons. they are like modern kamikazes and many of the bombers are children. it's difficult to know how many children have been trained in iraq and syria, but there have been reports the number in recent months is in the hundreds. it's a tactic perfected by the taliban and other terrorist networks, who systematically recruit and train child suicide bombers in afghanistan and pakistan. and that's where we went to learn how children as young as seven years old are being turned into human bombs, with devastating effect.
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how difficult is it to stop a child suicide bomber? >> asim bajwa: as long as the child is in their custody and he's been indoctrinated, there is hardly anything that you can do. you would never expect a child to come to you and blow himself up. >> logan: asim bajwa, a major general in the pakistani army, told us that, in just one province, close to 400 pakistani soldiers have been killed by teen-aged suicide bombers. so, this is organized. this is not random or haphazard. >> bajwa: they've become organized. and they have a proper training regime. they motivate people and recruit them. >> logan: we wanted to find out how the children are recruited and we were introduced to this man by an afghan journalist who works for cbs news. he said he is a taliban commander with ties to al qaeda and recruited children in afghanistan. is there an advantage to using child suicide bombers over
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adults? i mean, why do you do that? >> commander ( translated ): children accept what you say after you talk to them just a couple of times. they can be used in rickshaw bicycle, or motorcycle attacks. >> logan: it's made him a wanted man, but he agreed to meet us in kabul because he could tell an american audience why he's at war with the u.s. we insisted on meeting at a secure location and he insisted on concealing his identity. >> commander: we have suicide bombers from all districts of helmand province. they are as young as 12, 13, up to 50 years old. >> logan: i want to know, when you look at these young boys what makes you decide, "this one, i'm going to choose this one to kill himself"? >> commander: it takes four, six, seven months of training. everyone knows who is fit for what kind of work.
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you can easily understand their abilities for different tasks, like to be a fighter, a watchman, or a suicide bomber. >> logan: that's what the taliban claimed this teenager was doing in a propaganda video they distributed. it showed a car loaded with explosives. then, the video showed what appeared to be the same car driving off to a mountain road. as an american convoy started to pass, the car bomb was detonated. the taliban commander told us the child bombers are martyrs, motivated by religious honor. but general bajwa says many children are forced to join. >> bajwa: there are children who have been abducted. >> logan: there's also threat, violence, intimidation. >> bajwa: yeah. when talibans gained control of some of the areas, they asked families to give away one child, along with some cattle and some money, contributing to their
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cause, and the parents had no option but they did it out of fear. >> logan: children learn how to become human bombs in remote training camps like this one in an unforgiving part of northern afghanistan. it's rare for journalists to be allowed inside, but our local cameraman managed to get permission. he captured these images of children being trained to handle conventional weapons, but he was told they were here primarily to learn how to wear and detonate suicide vests. >> commander: this is the place where the special leader of the americans is staying. one person has to reach this place with your suicide vest. >> ( translated ): i have only been here a week. i want to kill and eliminate the infidels. >> logan: once these children are taken to the camps, they are not allowed to leave to see their parents again. >> ( translated ): my family knows i am here, but they can't
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stop me. i am here to commit suicide on america. >> logan: what do you tell these boys will be their reward for doing this? >> commander: we teach the holy koran to them. we teach them that we have been promised by allah that we will be sent to paradise. >> logan: the taliban commander said his whole family is ready to go to paradise. >> commander: i want to sacrifice myself, my wife, everyone. >> logan: well, you haven't. i mean, you've been with the taliban 11, 12 years or longer and you haven't blown yourself up yet. >> commander: i am ready but i have other responsibilities. >> logan: you have two sons of your own. would you want them to be suicide bombers? >> commander: yes, i have made a promise to allah. i have devoted them to commit suicide attacks for the will of our god. i have raised them and they will do it, if allah is willing.
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>> logan: so you would give your own son? >> commander: yes, of course. one of my sons already knows about it. when you ask him "what are you going to do?" he says he is going to fight the infidels. he is five years old. he asks me when he will go for jihad. he is mentally ready for it. >> logan: i just don't understand that. i don't know how to understand that. >> commander: well, you know nothing about the holy koran. you are not a believer. >> logan: afghan police told us that many young believers were locked up in this kabul prison where they are segregated from other criminals. authorities said all these teenagers had been trained to blow themselves up. and all the 37 suicide bombers that you have in this jail they're in there? >> ( translated ): yes. >> logan: the youngest, we were told, was 13.
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we tried to talk to them, but they didn't want to talk to us. since our visit, there have been more arrests-- more than 90 children and teenagers according to afghan intelligence. pakistan has decided to take a different approach. many child bombers were recruited here in the swat valley. honeymooners used to come here because of its natural beauty and its long tradition of music and song. then, in 2006, the taliban moved in. they banned music and art, blew up schools, and beat or killed people who opposed them. three years later, the pakistani army drove them out and claims to have found hundreds of child soldiers in the taliban camps.
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rather than lock them up, the pakistani military decided to try to rehabilitate many of them. >> some of them have conducted some very violent acts. but i saw hope that they weren't hard, fast militants. we could change them. >> logan: this psychologist was hired by the army in 2009 to run a school for these children. taking on the taliban is a dangerous job, so she asked us to alter her voice and not to use her name. the school is called sabaoon which means "first light at dawn." security here is tight, like a top-secret military installation. the children are held here until the doctors decide they're no longer at risk of returning to the taliban. so what kind of condition are these boys in when they come here? >> actually, they... the reality testing is compromised. >> logan: what do you mean by "reality testing"? >> they don't know what was real or what was not when they were in the camps, isolated from the
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normal way of life, shown videos that were not real. you're not seeing any other videos but beheadings. what kind of damage does that do to your empathy? >> logan: to help reverse that damage, the children are treated by psychologists and social workers and receive religious training about a moderate islam, not the radical islam preached by the taliban. can you tell me a little bit of what kind of abuse they suffered? well, i think psychological abuse, to begin with, and of course, physical abuse at times. >> logan: and by physical, you mean beatings? >> yeah. >> logan: sexual abuse? >> i don't want to talk about that. >> logan: because it's humiliating for the boys? >> if they hear me talking about it, they will be embarrassed or ashamed. >> logan: what was the most harrowing story that you were told? >> i guess a young child who's
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here still, whose father took all his sons to become suicide bombers. and i cannot... and the mother allowed it to happen. >> logan: and how old was he? >> seven. >> logan: do you think he would have done it? he would've blown himself up? >> yes. >> logan: why do you say that? >> authority of the father. >> logan: in this case, the militant and the father were one and the same person. it's easy to accept that authority. >> logan: family members who are not connected to the taliban are allowed to visit their children under controlled conditions at the school. if the children can convince their psychologists that they have renounced terrorism, they are released. does it take a lot to forgive these children and welcome them back into the society? >> bajwa: i would say it takes greater courage to forgive people than to punish them. >> logan: the school says it has treated more than 220 children.
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164 of them have been allowed to return home, where they continue to be monitored by school officials and authorities. they arranged for us to meet some of the boys. the one on the right told us he was trained to be a suicide bomber. he said he is still very afraid of being tracked down and killed by the taliban. how much risk are you taking in talking to us? >> ( translated ): i don't want people to be able to recognize me from my face. >> logan: after three months of training, he says one night, he was assigned to blow up a mosque the next morning. >> ( translated ): it was a very difficult night. i was very scared. >> logan: and how old were you? >> 13. >> logan: 13? >> yes. >> logan: as he was walking to the mosque, he told us he realized that blowing it up would be wrong. >> i turned to look back and saw
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that the guy who dropped me off had left. so i decided to go inside and surrender to the police. >> logan: a school official who monitored the interview said he did not surrender but was captured. the boy was fortunate that the person who dropped him off, his" handler," had decided to leave the scene. according to major general bajwa, child bombers often have a handler to make sure they don't back out. >> bajwa: in some cases, he would hold the remote control. and he would explode. >> logan: so if the child doesn't blow himself up, the handler would blow the child up? >> bajwa: yeah. you know, this has been a technique that has been used in... in cases, yeah. >> logan: suicide bombers are promised an afterlife in paradise, but this is where kabul residents say many of them are buried-- in a modest cemetery on the outskirts of the capital. the graves are unmarked, we were told, so the taliban cannot celebrate the bombers as martyrs
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and use their dusty graves as fertile ground to rally even more children to the cause. >> and now a cbs sports update brought to you by lyrica. at the wells fargo championship at charlotte, north carolina, world number one rory mcilroy won it by seven shots his second win here in the second, and the second victory in the last three weeks. nba playoffs the rockets beat the clippers in game seven to advance to the western conference finals against golden state, for more sports news and information go to this is reporting from charlotte. .. >>ar of a family... ...and walked a daughter down the aisle. but i couldn't bear my diabetic nerve pain any longer. so i talked to my doctor and he prescribed lyrica. nerve damage from diabetes causes diabetic nerve pain.
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>> kroft: there are a lot of people in the united states right now who think the country is falling apart, and at least in one respect, they're correct. our roads and bridges are crumbling, our airports are out of date, and there are many miles of railroad track lacking safety technology that might have prevented last week's derailment of an amtrak commuter
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train outside of philadelphia. the situation is the result of decades of neglect. as we reported last fall, none of this is really in dispute. business leaders, labor unions governors, mayors, congressmen and presidents have complained about a lack of funding for years, but aside from a one-time cash infusion from the stimulus program, nothing much has changed. there is still no consensus on how to solve the problem or where to get the massive amounts of money needed to fix it; just another example of political paralysis in washington. tens of millions of americans cross over bridges every day without giving it much thought unless they hit a pothole. but the infrastructure problem goes much deeper than pavement. it goes to crumbling concrete and corroded steel, and the fact that nearly 70,000 bridges in america-- one out of every nine- - is now considered to be structurally deficient. >> ray lahood: our infrastructure's on life support right now.
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that's what we're on. >> kroft: few people are more aware of the situation than ray lahood, who was secretary of transportation during the first obama administration, and before that, a seven-term republican congressman from illinois. he is currently co-chairman of building america's future, a bipartisan coalition of current and former elected officials that is urgently pushing for more spending on infrastructure. according to the government, there are 70,000 bridges that have been deemed structurally deficient. >> lahood: yep. >> kroft: what does that mean? >> lahood: it means that there are bridges that need to be really either replaced or repaired in a very dramatic way. >> kroft: they're dangerous? >> lahood: i don't want to say they're unsafe, but they're dangerous. i would agree with that. >> kroft: if you were going to take me someplace, any place in the country, to illustrate the problem, where would you take me? >> lahood: there is a lot of places we could go. i mean, you could go to any major city in america, and see roads and bridges and
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infrastructure that need to be fixed today. they need to be fixed today. >> kroft: we decided to start in pittsburgh, which may have the most serious problem in the country. our guide was andy herrmann, a past president of the american society of civil engineers. from up here, you can see why they call it "the city of bridges." >> andy herrmann:: yeah. between the highway and the railroad bridges, there's many of them. >> kroft: and most of them old. >> herrmann:: most of them old. they're nearing the end of their useful lives, yeah. >> kroft: there are more than more than 4,000 bridges in metropolitan pittsburgh, and 20% of them are structurally deficient, including one of the city's main arteries. this is the liberty bridge ahead? >> herrmann:: yeah. >> kroft: an important bridge for pittsburgh. >> herrmann:: a very important bridge for pittsburgh-- a connection from the south to the city itself, and then to the north. >> kroft: it was built in 1928 when cars and trucks were much lighter. it was designed to last 50 years. that was 86 years ago. every day, in pittsburgh, five
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million people travel across bridges that either need to be replaced or undergo major >> herrmann:: one of these arch bridges actually has a structure built under it to catch falling deck. see that structure underneath it? they actually built that to catch any of the falling concrete so it wouldn't hit traffic underneath it. >> kroft: that's amazing. >> herrmann:: it all comes down to funding. right now, they can't keep up with it. 300 bridges become structurally deficient each year in the state of pennsylvania. that's 1% added to the already 23% they already have. they just can't fix them fast enough. >> kroft: pennsylvania is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to the condition of its infrastructure, and philadelphia isn't any better off than pittsburgh. nine million people a day travel over 900 bridges classified as structurally deficient, some of them on a heavily traveled section of i-95. ed rendell is a former democratic governor of pennsylvania. how critical is this stretch of i-95 to the country? >> ed rendell: it's the nation's
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number one highway. 22 miles of it goes through the city of philadelphia. there are 15 structurally deficient bridges in that 22- mile stretch. and to fix them would cost $7 billion, to fix all the roads and the structurally deficient bridges in that 22-mile stretch. >> kroft: rendell says no one knows where the money is going to come from, and this stretch of i-95 has already had one brush with disaster. in 2008, two contractors from the pennsylvania department of transportation stopped to get a sausage sandwich, and parked their cars under this bridge. >> rendell: and fortunately, they wanted that sausage sandwich because they saw one of these piers with an eight-foot gash in it about five inches wide. and oh, they knew automatically that this bridge was in deep trouble. >> kroft: the section of 1-95 was immediately shut down and blocked off while construction crews buttressed the column with steel girders. it was closed for three days creating havoc in philadelphia. but the city was lucky.
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>> rendell: i mean, it was unbelievable. it's so fortuitous. >> kroft: and if they hadn't wanted a sausage sandwich? >> rendell: there's a strong likelihood that bridge would have collapsed. these all are tragedies waiting to happen. >> kroft: the i-95 bridges were built in the early 1960s and are now more than 50 years old, the same vintage as the i-35 bridge that collapsed in minnesota back in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145. the antiquated skagit river bridge in washington state that collapsed last may after a truck hit one of the trusses was even older. and it's not just bridges. according to the american society of civil engineers, 32% of the major roads in america are now in poor condition and in need of major repairs. yet the major source of revenue- - the federal highway trust fund, which gets its money from the federal gas tax of 18 cents a gallon-- is almost insolvent.
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>> lahood: that was the pot of money that, over 50 years, helped us create the best interstate system in the world which is now falling apart. >> kroft: why? how did it get this way? >> lahood: it's falling apart because we haven't made the investments. we haven't got the money. the last time we raised the gas tax, which is how we built the interstate system, was 1993. >> kroft: what has the resistance been? >> lahood: politicians in washington don't have the political courage to say, "this is what we have to do." that's what it takes. >> kroft: they don't want to spend the money. they don't want to raise the taxes. >> lahood: that's right. they don't want to spend the money. they don't want raise the taxes. they... they don't really have a vision of america the way that other congresses have had a vision of america. >> kroft: lahood says public spending on infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level since 1947. and the u.s., which used to have the finest infrastructure in the world, is now ranked 16th according to the world economic forum, behind iceland, spain
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portugal, and the united arab emirates. it's a fact that's not been lost on the most powerful economic and political lobbies in the country, who believe the inaction threatens the country's economic future. big corporations like caterpillar and g.e. say it's hurting their ability to compete abroad. and at a senate hearing earlier this year, tom donahue president of the generally conservative u.s. chamber of commerce, voiced strong business support for raising the gas tax for the first time in 20 years. >> tom donahue: first, let's start by having some courage and showing some leadership. for once, let's do what's right, not what's politically expedient. second, let's educate the public and your fellow lawmakers. >> kroft: he was joined by richard trumka, president of the afl-cio, who said that every billion dollars spent on transportation infrastructure would create 35,000 well-paying jobs. >> richard trumka: if business
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and labor can come before you united on this issue-- and we are united on this issue despite our sharp disagreements on a variety of other matters-- i think that should tell everybody something and tell it very loudly.but it was not heard during the midterm elections where there was virtually no public debate on infrastructure, and that has barely changed in the weeks that have followed. we wanted to talk to pennsylvania congressman bill shuster, the chairman of the house transportation committee and made numerous requests over the last five months for an on- camera interview. all of them were declined. we did the same with michigan congressman dave camp, chairman of the house ways and means committee, which has to come up with the money to fund transportation projects. we met with the same result. but we did talk with one of the committee members, earl blumenauer, a nine-term oregon democrat. he says the last time congress passed a major six-year transportation bill was in 1997. since then, there have been 21
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short-term extensions. >> earl blumenauer: i've actually been trying now for 44 months to at least get a hearing on transportation finance on the highway trust fund that is slowly going bankrupt, and we've not had a single one. >> kroft: why can't you get a hearing? >> blumenauer: it has, to this point, not raised to the level of priority for the republican leadership. although, in fairness, when the democrats were in charge, we had a few hearings, but not much action. >> kroft: so you see this as a bipartisan failure. >> blumenauer: absolutely. the bush administration, they had two blue-ribbon commissions about infrastructure finance that recommended a lot moree gas tax being increased. we couldn't get them to accept... being able to move forward. since president obama's been in
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office, there has been, to be charitable, a lack of enthusiasm for raising the gas tax. >> kroft: and the problems with transportation infrastructure go well beyond roads and bridges and the gas tax. there's aviation. a shortage of airports, runways, and gates, along with outmoded air traffic control systems,have made u.s. air travel the most congested in the world. there are more than 14,000 miles of high-speed rail operating around the world, but none in the united states. in chicago, it can take a freight train nearly as long to go across the city as it would for the same train to go from chicago to los angeles. but perhaps the most glaring example of neglect and inaction may be this sad little railroad bridge over the hackensack river in new jersey. it was built 104 years ago and is, according to amtrak president and c.e.o. joe boardman, critical to the u.s. economy.
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>> joe boardman: this is the achilles heel that we have on the northeast corridor. >> kroft: how much traffic goes over it every day? >> boardman: it's almost 500 trains a day. it's the busiest bridge in the western hemisphere for train traffic, period. >> kroft: and what kind of shape is it in? >> boardman: it's safe, steve, but it's not reliable. and it's getting less reliable. it's old. its systems are breaking down. there's an inability to make it work on... on a regular, reliable basis. >> kroft: boardman says the portal bridge is based on a design from the 1840s, and was already obsolete shortly after it was completed in 1910. it's a swing bridge that needs to be opened several times a week so barges can pass up and down the river. it takes about a half an hour. the problem is it fails to lock back into place on a regular basis. and what kind of problems does that cause? >> boardman: it causes trains to stack up on both sides. and actually, when a train stacks up here, it can stack up all the way down to washington
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and all the way back up to boston. this is a single point of failure. that's one of the biggest worries we have on this corridor is these single points of failure. >> kroft: amtrak's president says the bridge has to be replaced. the design work has already been completed, and the project which would cost just under a billion dollars, is shovel ready. >> boardman: if congress wants to do something now, build this bridge. it's ready to be done. it's been ready for two years. build it. it's tangible evidence that they can really get something done. >> kroft: it's less a case of wanting to get something done than coming up with the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to do it. there is no shortage of ideas from democrats or republicans, who've suggested everything from raising the gas tax to funding infrastructure through corporate tax reform. but there is no consensus and not much political support for any of the alternatives, as andy herrmann told us last summer when we were flying over pittsburgh. >> herrmann:: you're sitting there at these committee
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meetings. they seem to agree with you. "yes, we have to make investments in infrastructure. yes, we have to do these things." but then they come around and say, "well, where are we going to get the money?" and you sort of sit to yourself and say to yourself, "well, we elected you to figure that out." >> kroft: since we first aired this story last fall, a number of things have changed in pittsburgh. two of the bridges we featured-- the liberty bridge and the bridge with the structure underneath it to catch falling debris-- have been promised funding to repair or replace them by 2017, in small part because of an increase in the state gas tax. in washington, there is still no political consensus on how to solve the infrastructure crisis, and the federal highway trust fund is once again set to expire at the end of this month. ameriprise asked people a simple question: can you keep your lifestyle in retirement?
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[baseball crowd noise] ♪ ♪ [x1 chime] ♪ ♪ [crowd cheers]
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oh! i can't believe it! ♪ >> kroft: i'm steve kroft. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." tomorrow, be sure to watch "cbs this morning." good job! still running in the morning? yeah.
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