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tv   Craig Melvin Reports  MSNBC  January 18, 2022 8:00am-9:00am PST

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good tuesday morning. craig melvin here. we're following several fast-moving stories, starting with the fight over voting rights today. we're reaching a critical moment on capitol hill because in the next hour the senate should start debate on the john lewis voting rights act.
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that's about as far as that bill is expected to go. the clash expected ahead on the floor of the u.s. senate. where does it all leave the biden administration? this now leaves voting rights and the build back better act stalled in the upper chamber. now, we have new reporting about a change in strategy for the white house. it could mean cutting much of washington out of the president's schedule. then the omicron wave pushing hospitals to the absolute break. there are more americans in the hospital right now than at any point in the pandemic. the u.s. surgeon general warns we haven't reached the peak of it yet. also, a scary warning from the nation's top airline ceos about those 5g cell networks. they say those signals could interfere with a vital tool that pilots need to land planes in bad weather. the negotiations that we're just learning about to avoid that interference. there's been a major development
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on that story in just the last hour. we are going to start with our team of reporters and experts on the voting rights debate that's going to start in the next hour. our senior capitol hill correspondent garrett haake, mike memoli, damon hewitt and la tasha brown, cofounder of the black voters matter fund. garrett, we'll start with you. the process of voting on the john lewis voting rights act set to start next hour. take us through how this is going to play out. >> reporter: we know how this process starts, but we don't yet know how or when it's going to end. this debate will begin at noon when the senate floor opens on the john lewis bill and the freedom to vote act. both have the support of all 50 democrats, but that's not enough to get them passed. i think we're going to see
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debate the next day or so and likely see a vote wednesday of thursday. when those votes fail, then we're going to see a vote in the senate on the rules that keep that 60-vote threshold. that is also expected to fail. there's even a question among democrats about whether they should have that vote, divide their caucus, because there are two democrats that don't support rule changes. but there are plenty of progressives who say we need to go on the record for this. that's what elizabeth warren was saying this morning. listen to what she had to say. >> 50 democrats, all 50 have agreed to the voting rights protection bill. we're just hung on this procedure that effectively gives mitch mcconnell a veto. you know, the thing about that procedure is it's keeping us from doing a lot of things americans want that are popular across this country. >> reporter: tons of frustration
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about that procedure, but not the votes to change it. how democrats approach it, what kind of rules change they even put forward, still an open question. >> mike, the white house watching, knows this is not going to pass. despite that, were there any last minute attempts to try and twist arms to get a different outcome today? are they still working the phones? >> reporter: based on what we know about the president's schedule, there's no indication he is spending any time working the vote as you would typically see. the president has no public appearances. sometimes that's an indication he is spending a lot of time on the phone, but he has his first white house news conference in months and preparations for that as well. the last time the president spoke with senators manchin and sinema was thursday night. the readout from the white house was that the conversation was cordial and respectful.
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that's usually code for not much was accomplished. we also know the president's focus was also on build back better, the other stalled legislative priority. what the white house has been doing is making this sort of a moment of choosing, as the president himself said in one of his martin luther king videos yesterday. vice president harris yesterday said that she does not absolve any of the 100 united states senators who have a vote on this from their responsibility here. it's an attempt by the white house to focus less on the divisions within the democratic party and more on what could be a really potent, they hope, election issue in the fall. we saw in 2020 how the focuses on the voting processes in a pandemic helped focus democratic energies on getting to the polls in a way that ultimately led to the president's election. now the hope is the democratic base is motivated to try to elect more democrats to give them an opportunity to come back
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and swing at this in the next congress next year. a very uphill climb, though, craig. >> indeed. i want to remind our viewers what's inside the two bills that we've been talking about that are under consideration, the john lewis voting rights act updates the voting rights act of 1965, requires cities and states to get preclearance from the voting department before changing laws. then there's the freedom to vote act. it outlaws partisan gerrymandering, protects election workers and implements campaign finance reforms. knowing the expected outcome of both of those bills, how are you feeling and what do you hope comes out of this fight? >> well, craig, we are keeping an even keel here. we know what the likely result of the vote will be.
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but two things are critically important. one is that we want to see senator manchin and senator sinema vote for this legislation. that's not just a moral victory, but it's important that they go on record. we want to make the case you can't just support the legislation, you have to go all the way to do whatever it takes to see the legislation implemented and adopted. the other thing we're watching is what happens on the other side. we do not expect any republicans to vote for the legislation. minority leader mitch mcconnell has drawn a line in the sand and forbade his caucus from supporting this critical legislation. he is the roadblock. this is a vote that history will remember. it's not just a pro forma thing. it's a pretty momentous occasion today and tomorrow. >> damon, i had you on a few months ago. we were talking about the administration's approach. you said you thought the
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president could use his bully pulpit a little bit better, that he could be bullier. do you still feel that way or do you feel like the administration gave its all? >> i think we start to see some seeds of that in the last week or several days. i wish it had started much sooner. i don't know if it would have changed the result, but it certainly would have changed the tenor. if you're going to use capital, you better use all of it. you better go all the way. what we in the civil rights community largely want to see is every stop that was pulled out for economic infrastructure legislation, we want to see that for voting rights as well. i don't think we're at the ceiling of what's possible for this administration. i think we've only seen the start. >> natasha, if and when these bills do fail as expected, what then? what more do you want to see the
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president and this administration do to answer the call of activists like yourself on voting rights? >> i think damon said it. you know, what we want is we want to see the fullness. we want them to put everything in this. we believe this is a fight that today, whether it passes today or not, we believe that our deadline is victory. we want to see all hands on deck. as this vote starts, there's 40 activists, young activists, 25 faith leaders who have been on a hunger strike for over a week as well as faith leaders and social justice leaders that are planning action and will most likely get arrested today. we're going to be resistant to any effort that seeks to undermine voting rights in this country. >> why do you think this has been such an uphill climb legislatively speaking? >> i think it's a couple things.
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one, i don't think this has been a priority for the administration. i certainly believe that the president supports voting rights. i think they made a miscalculation around the priority. i believe that this should have been one of the first bills to push forward. because we had all the momentum right after the election, then after january 6th there was a certainly level of republican voters actually understanding what was at stake there. then with all of that momentum and the timing, i think the priority should have been last year. but here we are now. then we did see the president do what we asked him to do, which was say he's going to put the full weight of his office behind this support. part of protecting democracy is responsibility for all of us, including those 16 republicans that voted for the voting rights
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authorization. where are they now? we need a call to consciousness that this is not about partisan power, this really is about protecting democracy. >> mike memoli, the president is going to round out his first year this week in office with expected legislative failures on voting rights, the stalled build back better bill, approval ratings that are sinking. now we're hearing that the white house is planning a new communication strategy to address some of this. what more can you tell us? >> reporter: call it a reset, call it a pivot. at any rate, the one year mark the white house is set to honor on thursday is sort of a natural time to take stock of the successes and the failures of what they've done so far. there was a broad agreement that the president really has been bogged down too much in washington, talking to
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legislators. in year two they really want to have the president speaking more directly and often to the american people. this is a tried and true tactic, especially as we head into a campaign year. really there have been two barriers to the president doing that more often in year one. one is the busy agenda, the necessity of spending a lot of time talking to lawmakers. but the other is the pandemic. it's been harder to get the president and all the staff out required for presidential travel. there is this broad agreement within the administration that there needs to be more direct communication with the american people. there isn't clearly a sense of what that looks like other than trying to have the president travel more. we know one of his great skills is his ability to empathize with the american people, to relate with ordinary americans. that's something they want to do more of, but we're waiting to see what that looks like in the months ahead.
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>> garrett, what are you watching for and listening for when the debate starts in the noon hour? >> reporter: i'm interested to see if we hear any more on the rules change, either the democratic side putting pressure on their colleagues, or whether this is drawing a line in the sand. right now, hospitals all over this country are facing staff shortages. and an intensifying challenge because of omicron. what if there was a way to put many doctors and nurses in icus with the push of a button? we are in the command center of a virtual icu that may be the future of this pandemic fight. also, fears of thousands of
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flights grounded and our economy grinding to a halt. that's the dire warning from airlines about a worse case scenario if we roll out new 5g cell phone technology less than 24 hours from now. what we're learning about those negotiations underway right now. negotiations underway right now. ] i don't know. i think they look good, man. mm, smooth. uh, they are a little tight. like, too tight? might just need to break 'em in a little bit. you don't want 'em too loose. for those who were born to ride there's progressive. with 24/7 roadside assistance. -okay. think i'm gonna wear these home. -excellent choice.
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in texas using new technology to treat patients. also dr. andrew pavilla. you're at the operations center of a virtual icu at houston methodist. walk us through what a virtual icu is and how it's helping the hospital treat patients there. >> reporter: from the simple biggest goal, it is to put more doctors and nurses inside patient rooms without them having to physically be there and therefore get them in those rooms a little bit faster. so doctors and nurses can sit on this side of a screen, monitor patient information and literally communicate with teams that are at the bedside of a patient. this is a covid patient's hospital room right now. you can see the health care
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worker in that room working to take care and treat this patient. on this end, you have another health care worker able to offer guidance, answer questions if needed. this entire system, the virtual icu here, this is something they plan to implement well before the pandemic, but once covid reared its head, this became even more vital. listen. >> the number of patients going up to almost 200 in our icus, in our intermediate care units, patients waiting in the emergency room for icu care and to expand our icu, literally expand overnight. that would have not been possible if we did not have virtual icu. >> reporter: these buttons, these carts are in icu rooms. imagine i'm an e.r. nurse. say i have a patient who needs to go to the icu, but because of covid surges and staffing
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shortages, we don't have an open available bed. hi, laura. i can push a button in the e.r. and tap into this resource, talk to another nurse who maybe has more expertise in this particular area than me. and say i have a covid patient on a ventilator and i need to wean him off, i can push that button, get on this camera and get advice from a nurse or a doctor in realtime. >> wow. that's pretty high-tech. doctor, let's start with what we just heard and saw there. do you think a virtual icu could be a solution? >> we've had a lot of experience with this. it's a way to provide more expertise to more far flung and
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rural communities. it brings the expertise of doctors much closer to the bedside and it can bring some nursing expertise. what we're experience right now is this terrible shortage particularly of nurses and nurses with a lot of acute care experience. as important as telemedicine is, it's not a substitute for having a lot of well trained nurses. >> nearly 92% of all of utah's icu beds are full, according to state data. you told our nbc affiliate there in salt lake city that your hospital is, quote, in crisis. the sheer number of cases is leading to an absolute flood of sick patients. what do you need at your hospital? >> we need to decrease the amount of infection in the community. that would be the most important thing. omicron is a little bit
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different. during delta and earlier phases, we ran out of icu beds before we ran out of hospital beds and space in the emergency department. because omicron tends to cause a lot of hospitalizations, but somewhat fewer percentage of those patients end up in the icu. the real strain right now is in emergency rooms and hospital beds and staffed hospital beds with nurses to take care of them. we're running a little over 93% of our icu capacity in theory, but a bed is just a bed if you don't have the staff there to take care of that patient. >> the percentage of folks there unvaccinated who are hospitalized, any idea? >> yeah. about 80% of children who are hospitalized are unvaccinated. some of those because they're
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younger than 5 and can't be vaccinated. and about 85% of all people who are hospitalized in utah are unvaccinated. if you go to the icu, it's an even higher percentage. if you look at deaths, it's somewhere around 90%. people are getting sick with omicron despite vaccination, but they're not getting very sick. the people who are requiring hospitalization, who are ending up in the icu are either those who haven't been vaccinated or those for whom the vaccine hasn't been able to work because of their underlying conditions, the drugs they're on or their age. had we gotten the vaccination rates higher, we'd still have a lot of societal impact from people being sick and having to stay home, but we wouldn't see this enormous crisis of hospitals being so full. >> when it comes to this idea that omicron could mark the
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final wave of the pandemic, this is what dr. fauci said about that on monday. >> it is an open question as to whether or not omicron is going to be the virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for. >> what say you? do we think that's a reasonable possibility? >> i rarely disagree with dr. fauci and when i do, i often find myself wrong. i don't think we know the answer. omicron is going to change the course of the next couple of months because so many people will be infected, they're going to get a boost to their immunity. it's definitely going to cause a short-term drop in omicron cases and hopefully a drop overall in disease. but we've been fooled by this virus so many times. its ability to mutate is something that we can't
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underestimate. people who are declaring an end to the pandemic because of omicron are indulging in a lot of wishful thinking. it will change things, but we really have to admit that we don't know for how much and for how long. let's hope it's the last major wave and after this we're dealing with a much lower level of disease. but let's continue to be prepared, let's build up our resources, get everyone vaccinated and improve our preparedness. in may we were incredibly confident. we were down to 17,000 cases a day in the u.s. we never thought we would see these surges again. it could happen again. we have to be careful. if we are prepared and it doesn't happen, that's great. you're always accused of overpreparing if you do the right thing. >> thanks for your time this
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morning. take a look at this flag. it may look pretty standard. right now the supreme court hearing a case focused entirely on that flag. how it became the center of a huge legal hearing. also, why the hostage taker at that texas synagogue got the attention of britain's mi-5 intelligence agency back in 2020. mi-5 intelligence agency back in 2020
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. just moments ago the supreme court wrapped up hearing arguments in a case against the city of boston. the case itself centers on whether boston was correct in refusing to fly a christian flag over city hall. take a listen to this exchange inside the chamber between justice elena kagan and the attorney arguing against boston. >> the city has a policy of that kind and then somebody coming to it says we'd like to put up a
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swastika on your pole. does the city have to say yes? >> if it's a designated public forum, i think the answer is yes. >> we showed you the wrong flag before the commercial break. this is the flag at the center of the debate there on your screen, a white flag, a blue square in the upper left corner with a red cross inside that blue square. our justice correspondent pete williams joins us with more. break down this particular case for us and what it could mean nationwide? >> reporter: that's what's known as the christian flag. this is a group called camp constitution in massachusetts that wanted to fly it in front of city hall. this is a group that teaches how
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christian views could inform the history of the u.s. the city of boston said, no, you can't fly your flag on our pole. here's the distinction. if boston sets up a city park and says anybody can come in and say anything they want, you can walk into that city park and say massachusetts ought to succeed from the union. you can't put that because that's government speech. this is really an essence of a factual question. what is the flag pole in front of boston city hall? is it a public forum or is it the government's message? you heard in the question from elena kagan, many of the justices say, you walk in front of city hall, look up at the flag pole and you think that's the city's message. boston has a program where it
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takes down the city flag and puts up flags of 50 or 60 different groups that want to celebrate diversity in boston, but the city had a policy that said you couldn't put up any flag that was religious because boston thought that would violate the constitution's establishment clause. it could be a government endorsement of religion. the supreme court has to decide is the flag pole in front of city hall government speech or is it open to all comers. that's question one. the city is probably going to be able to say it can set up that program if it wants but the city didn't do it right in the first place. the broader question is this muddled question of exactly when does a government endorse religion. the supreme court has said you can't put these ten commandments up inside the courthouse but you can put the ten commandments up in a city owned park if it has
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other monuments. there's a bit of a muddle here of when the government is endorses religion. if the city wants to have a strict policy that it won't allow religious messages, it can do that, but it's going to have to change its policy to make it clearer. >> it's fascinating. i enjoy being able to hear the justices inside the supreme court asking questions and explaining themselves. thank you, pete. thanks as always. this morning we're also learning more chilling details about that hostage standoff at a texas synagogue over the weekend. one of the four hostages, jeffrey cohen talked about the incident and the attacker. >> he came to the jews because he bought into these very dangerous stories that the jews
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control the world and the jews control the government anding the banks and the media. and we as good people and we as patriotic americans need to challenge those things when we hear them, because these words do have consequences. they play on people's ears, they play on people's fears and it leads to actions like this. >> right now we're learning that the man who took those hostages was known to british intelligence agents before the weekend standoff. morgan chesky has been following the story. what more do we know about this prior british intelligence investigation? >> reporter: it is interesting. a british security source confirmed this morning that he was the center of a low level
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investigation for about a month by mi-5 back in 2020. it originally began, according to this source, because they were looking into whether or not he may have been involved in a potential terrorist plot. over the course of that month, the source says the evidence found was insufficient to continue the investigation. so at that point, it essentially ended and/or was tabled. okram's name joins a list of 40,000 others in the u.k. that at one point or another have been under investigation for similar allegations. again, we've also learned from a senior law enforcement official that he had arrived in the united states at jfk airport on december 29th. just within the last 24 hours we've learned he was in the dallas area for several days prior to walking into that synagogue on saturday. a local homeless shelter confirmed he had stayed there, the director there saying he appeared to have been dropped off by someone he knew.
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the two exchanged an embrace before they drove off. the details surrounding that time frame still coming to light. we know the synagogue still closed down today, still under investigation as federal authorities work to piece together the story. >> keep us posted on the investigation, please. we continue to follow this breaking news on what's being called a, quote, catastrophic disruption by the nation's top airlines. airline ceos are sounding the alarm ahead of tomorrow's nationwide rollout of 5g cell networks. well, nbc news just learned from a source that discussions are underway on a new proposal. nbc's tom costello has this new reporting for us. tom, what's at the center of this new proposal? >> the bottom line is that there
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are discussions right now between the fcc, the faa and the cell phone industry about essentially creating a buffer zone, if you will, around the new 5g cell towers that would go up around airports. now, already the airlines have said they don't want any 5g site turned off if it's within two miles of an airport because those cell sites, they fear, could interfere with radio altimeters on planes, critical technology if a plane is landing in bad weather. we understand the conversation is about creating a two-mile or three-mile buffer zone between any 5g cell site and airports nationwide. if that doesn't happen, if they don't come up with an agreement and they reach a deal, at midnight these 5g cell sites go live nationwide. if they are turned on around airports, the faa has already said pilots cannot use
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altimeters when landing. if you can't use an altimeter landing in bad weather, the options involve cancellations, diversions and massive disruptions, potentially hundreds of thousands of flights and passengers affected. the stakes here are very high. it's very unusual that you have all of the airlines sign a letter to the white house, demanding, quote, urgent action, asking the white house to immediately get involved in the situation because it is not going anywhere in the standoff between the faa and the cell phone industry. also on the cell phone industry side has been the fcc, which is supposed to be a regulator relulating telecom but has been accused by some in the aviation community acting more as an advocate for the cell phone industry as opposed to being concerned about aviation safety. this technology has rolled out in europe.
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it's gone very well, no disruptions, no interference with planes, and they see no reason it can't roll out in the united states. aviation experts here say we have a much, much lower risk that we are willing to take and accept. also they're concerned about the position on the radio spectrum that could have interference caused by these altimeters. it's very much in the weeds and gets very complicated. it looks like negotiations are underway to come up with some sort of resolution. >> thank you so much. right now, a lot of students do not feel safe going to school in the middle of this pandemic. it's driving some of them to stage walkouts nationwide. i'm going to talk to one seattle
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high schooler who helped organize one of these walkouts. we'll talk to her and talk about the changes she wants her school to make. changes she wants her sl to make.
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students nationwide are raising concerns about the classroom and their safety in this pandemic. on friday, some students in seattle public schools organized a sickout, demanding masks and covid tests. seattle public schools responded in a statement saying, quote, seattle public schools welcomes student voice. we know that some students, families and staff have concerns about being in school as covid-19 cases surge and we are listening. sps will not compromise the health and safety of students and staff. with me now, one of the organizers of that protest. mia is a senior.
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let's start with what compelled you to organize this sickout. >> well, school is not safe right now. we have students missing, we have educators sick. they're out of the building. and the uproar of cases with covid have just increased every single day and we wanted to see change, me and the other students in my community, we wanted to see change in our education and this is a way to start, to walk out to let them know that we're here and we want to make changes and we want to see changes. >> specifically what do you and your fellow protesters want to see? >> we want to go remote until school is safe to be back in person. we want to have mental health resources for the experiences we've been facing with covid and beyond that and we want to change what defines an instructional day, because you have to have 180 days of in-person school for it to be required. that is not safe right now to
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have 180 days of in-person learning with all of the covid cases. >> has the school district been responsive to your quests? >> not as we would like. they use inaccessible language communicating with the community. they are not transparent with the language they use and anything they do when it comes to communicating with students and families of educators. >> mia, we want you to keep us posted. >> thank you. >> best of luck to you. we'll talk soon. when we come back here on a tuesday morning, a father using hip-hop to spread a special message in the classroom. black history is everyone's history, next. om black history is everyone's history, next. 're age 50 to 85, and looking to buy life insurance
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aleve-x. it's fast, powerful long-lasting relief with a revolutionary, rollerball design. because with the right pain reliever... life opens up. aleve it... and see what's possible. in just a matter of minutes, the senate will start debate on those voting rights bills and we will be following that very closely here. but first, as part of my dad's got this series, i talked to a bronx father who is getting pretty creative to teach black
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history. here's part of my conversation with rapper and social justice artist, fyutch. this is not your ordinary library story time. fyutch is in the house, teaching black history through hip-hop and educating and empowering kids in the process. your songs and the videos, they've really taken learning about black history to a whole new level. what inspired you to do it this way? >> so it really came from me wanting to teach about the history that i wished that i learned in school with this like catchy style that educates, entertains, and empowers our people all at the same time. >> fyutch credits his parents for recognizing and nurturing his public speaking skills at a young age, encouraging him to carry on a family legacy.
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>> we never ever underestimate the power of god. >> so i have a lot of pastors in my family. both of my grandpas, one is still living. my uncle is a pastor. i always grew around these strong black male influences that had a way with words. >> there is a little person over your right shoulder who keeps popping up. >> i see you. you going to sit down? sit down. hold on, she needs me to put her slinky back. it's messed up. >> introducing to new legends. >> that little person is fyutch's 4-year-old daughter, aura, who has appeared in many of his music videos and is featured on a song on his debut album, "family tree." ♪ look around, because we're all brothers and sisters, because we all have african ancestors ♪ >> you really sort of stress that black history isn't just black history, it's everyone's history. why do you think that's a
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concept that's sort of gotten lost with a lot of folks over the years? >> it's something that is common sense. i think sometimes, people try to overpoliticize truth. this is all of our accomplishments together. it's okay to champion another community of people for the things that they have done, because it's all humanity. ♪ black history is the story of you and me ♪ >> reporter: fyutch's music videos have been embraced by teachers in classrooms around the country, who have sung his songs at assemblies and used them to design black history lesson plans. back at home, fyutch's daughter and musical collaborate, aura, is his biggest fan. >> there's a new one that we just made up. >> you made a new song? can i hear it? >> it's a remix. >>. ♪ daddy and daughter, ain't none hotter ♪ ♪ say you're trying to battle us ♪ ♪ don't even bother ♪ ♪ yes, this is my daughter ♪
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♪ and her name's aura ♪ ♪ and she's got the shine ♪ ♪ the beats and the rhymes ♪ ♪ we kill 'em with the lines ♪ ♪ you heard what we said ♪ ♪ you ain't got to lie, craig ♪ >> yes! i enjoyed that. no lie. the world could definitely use a few more teachers and dads like fyutch. thanks for joining me on this busy tuesday. "andrea mitchell reports" picks up the coverage next. up the covt excuse me? do the research, todd. listen to me, kayak searches hundreds of travel sites to find you great deals on flights, cars and hotels. they're lying to you! who's they? kayak? arr! open your eyes! compare hundreds of travel sites at once. kayak. search one and done. deon, hand it over. compare hundreds now how does that make you feel?
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good day. this is "andrea mitchell reports" in washington with breaking news. the state department has just announced secretary blinken is adding talks with russian's foreign minister lavrov in geneva on friday, trying to revive their failed diplomacy to avert an invasion. this would extend secretary blinken's trip. he's leaving today from ukraine and has meetings on thursday in germany with officials there in berlin. but this would add a day and he is meeting with the russians. this after the russians had said that talks were at a dead end. we'll bring you a lot more on that trip coming up. also, some optimistic trends in omicron cases later this hour. but let's begin with the breaking news right here in washington. the senate gaveling into session, as we speak. democrats beginning to wage what is expected to be a largely symbolic, losing battle over voting rights legislation. in response to frust


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