tv 60 Minutes CBS September 3, 2017 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
inside the bicycle, a high-tech stealth form of cheating that many people we spoke with believe have been used in the tour de france. so if someone came to you and said directly, "i want to use your invention to cheat, i'll pay you a lot of money for it," would you sell it to them? >> if the money is big, why not? >> whitaker: we took a test ride to see how well these motors work. hello. >> what do you want? >> there are not many shows on television that deserve to be called true american institutions. ♪ ♪ but one of them surely is "sesame street." now there's a new kid on the street who's making news. hi, julia! julia, a muppet with autism. not an easy addition. >> it's tricky, because autism is not one thing. because it is different for every single person who has autism. >> we really like julia. she's really spe
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repairing or replacing homes and businesses will take years, and it will cost tens of billions of dollars in insurance settlements. the victims are relying on it. but, as we first reported some two and a half years after hurricane sandy devastated parts of the east coast, sandy's victims were hit by another disaster-- we called it "the storm after the storm." many people said they were cheated out of their insurance claims. thousands of claims remained unresolved for years, and there was evidence that many homeowners were victims of apparent wide-scale fraud, where original damage reports were later changed to make it look like the damage wasn't as bad. hurricane sandy damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and rearranged neighborhoods. long beach, new york, was one of them. this was bob kaible's house the next day. the yellow one, with a sand dune
>> kaible: the beaches decided that they didn't want to be there any more, and they came to pay a visit. and that's what happened. and we got back to the house and we were devastated. >> alfonsi: what was that like, to walk into your house for the first time? >> kaible: everything that you worked so hard in your life to get is now gone. >> alfonsi: but you had flood insurance. >> kaible: uh-huh. >> alfonsi: you'd pay for every month. >> kaible: absolutely. >> alfonsi: did you think you were okay? >> kaible: sure. i mean, that's what you pay insurance for. >> alfonsi: the city condemned kaible's home, saying it was damaged beyond repair. the house had been knocked off its foundation. his insurance company, wright flood, sent an engineer to inspect the damage. three weeks later, the kaibles couldn't have been more surprised. >> kaible: i get the engineering report, that there's no structural damage to the house. so i'm going like, "what do you mean there's no structural damage? the house is not what it was before." >> alfonsi: the insurance company agreed to send someone back out to the house. surprisingly, it was the same
engineer, george hernemar, who worked for a company called u.s. forensic. >> kaible: i said, "george, how could you write a report like that?" he goes, "it's not my report." i said, "what? what do you mean, it's not your report?" he says, "wait here." he goes to the trunk of his car, goes... picks up the report and brings it into the house. he says, "this is the report i wrote." >> alfonsi: bob kaible got out his phone and took a picture of george's original report. it plainly said there was "structural damage" to the house. but this is the report the insurance company sent to kaible when they denied his claim, "not structurally damaged." they said the damage was "long- term," meaning it existed before hurricane sandy. the kaibles' insurance company, wright flood, the largest provider of flood insurance in the country, paid him just $79,000 of his $250,000 policy. >> kaible: we had a mortgage on the house.
i've had estimates of $300,000 to $350,000 to rebuild the house. what am i going to do? >> alfonsi: bob kaible's house was torn down after he sold it for a loss, and he believes it was because of a falsified engineering report. the photo kaible took was solid proof for many other sandy victims who were struggling with similar situations. how many houses do you see that are empty? >> kaible: on this block? probably half of them. >> alfonsi: the kaibles pleaded to a vice president at their insurance company and passed on their evidence. but the company denied full payment, arguing subsequent reports supported them. with frustration as high as the water marks in their home, the kaibles filed a lawsuit. that suit drew the attention of a texas trial lawyer who had never been to long beach, but got on his plane in a hurry. steve mostyn has won billions fighting insurance companies, and when he heard about bob kaible's case, he says he had a gut feeling the kaible family
sure enough, he says, his houston office is now flooded with paperwork from victims of the superstorm. >> mostyn: there's been a systematic fraud on the policy holders who've filed flood claims from sandy. >> alfonsi: what's the fraud? >> mostyn: the fraud is taking engineers' reports and changing them-- from saying there was structural damage to saying there's no structural damage, or giving the engineers a form to fill out that already has the conclusion of no structural damage. >> alfonsi: why would anyone do that? >> mostyn: save money. the biggest ticket item inside a claim, for a flood claim, is the structural damage. and so, when they don't pay for structural damage, they save hundreds of thousands of dollars on each claim. >> alfonsi: of the thousands of cases lawyer steve mostyn says he's found, electrician john mero and his wife gail's is the most revealing. their house is in east rockaway, new york. what was this street like in the days... the day after sandy? >> gail mero: six-foot-high water in the street. >> john mero: well, the day after, it was like armageddon. >> alfonsi: the meros' h
to be torn down after the storm. their insurance company paid them just $80,000. and now, they're buried in debt after rebuilding their home. >> john mero: i was like, "how can you tell me that you're not going to cover this, that i'm not going to get the full amount of my insurance?" i says... "you got my payments every month." said "it's time for you to pay and here's what you're going to tell me." >> alfonsi: it was two years later that the meros felt a second wave hit them, when the engineer who assessed their home after the storm called them out of the blue. >> john mero: the engineer sent his report in to the insurance company saying that the house was damaged due to flood. the structural damage is caused by the flood. and from what i understand, the insurance company changed it, changed his words, without him knowing. >> alfonsi: this is andrew braum, the engineer who could no longer stay silent. braum told us, not only were changes made to his engineering reports, but he was asked to cover it up. he showed us the original report he'd written about the damage to
>> andrew braum: we assess in the conclusions hydrodynamic forces, hydrostatic forces, due to the flood, caused a cracking and shifting throughout the foundation. >> alfonsi: so you're saying the flood caused this damage? >> braum: correct. and then, in the revised or the altered report, it says, "settlement due to consolidation of soil caused the foundation wall to crack." that's not what i wrote; it's completely altered. >> alfonsi: braum inspected more than 180 homes after sandy, working for a company called hi- rise engineering. after he discovered the changes made to the report he wrote about the meros' home, he went back to check all the copies of his original reports against the final copies that the homeowners received. how many of those reports were doctored? >> braum: at least 175 of them, or approximately 96%, is the number that i calculated. >> alfonsi: 175 of your reports were doctored? >> braum: correct. they were altered.
>> braum: the ones that weren't changed, interestingly, were ones where i recommended that no repairs are required. >> alfonsi: braum says hi-rise engineering pressured him to sign an affidavit saying he agreed with their final reports. he says he ignored the request and never did it. do you think they were trying to cover up something? >> braum: now knowing what i know, yes. >> alfonsi: what do you think was going on? >> braum: they figured out that they altered all those reports. and they wanted to hurry up and have-- they called me braum; "braum, get braum to sign off on this quick." so if braum wasn't thinking or if braum didn't care, he would just sign his name 200-something times, and they were off the hook. and that wasn't happening with me. >> alfonsi: insurance companies have argued the reason the engineering reports were changed was to allow for a peer review
process, a standard practice in the insurance industry. >> braum: peer review, to me, would be amongst my peers of an equal licensing or education level, and review a report and discuss it. but not peer review when i send my final report and it's changed without my knowledge. that's not peer review. >> alfonsi: in february, 2015, the offices of hi-rise engineering were raided by the new york attorney general's office, which was conducting a criminal investigation into hi-rise, as well as the insurance companies that hired them. hi-rise pleaded guilty to criminal charges. wright flood and u.s. forensic declined our requests for an interview. they have denied allegations of criminal activity, and all three said they cooperated with the investigation. more than 2,000 sandy victims have filed lawsuits in federal courts. >> mostyn: you know, we thought originally it might be one engineer, right? and then we find multiple engineers inside the same company. and as we g
other engineering companies. well, then you got to start looking for a different common denominator. >> alfonsi: and in this case, all of those companies are overseen by fema, the federal emergency management agency. more than five million homeowners living in designated flood zones all around the country are required to buy flood insurance policies backed by fema and taxpayer money. brad kieserman was the new head of fema's flood program, when we first spoke to him. he'd been on the job just three weeks, and he'd already had to answer to allegations of fraud and criminal activity at the expense of some of sandy's hardest-hit families. >> brad kieserman: i'm not going to sit here and conceal the fact that it happened. because in the last three weeks, i've seen evidence of it. >> alfonsi: you say you've seen evidence of these fraudulent reports. >> kieserman: yes. >> alfonsi: you've seen evidence of what could be criminal activity by using unlicensed engineers? >> kieserman: yes, which is why i referred it to the inspector general. >> alfonsi: when did fema learn that there may be a problem here, that fraudulent reports may be used to deny claims?
>> kieserman: i think that there were signals. based on what i've seen, if you will, signals in late 2013, early 2014 that there were problems that our survivors were experiencing with engineering, with the claims process, with appeals. but those were signals. and i think those signals got louder, if you will... >> alfonsi: it was more than signals. this is... this is a letter to fema in the summer of 2013 that clearly says that the person conducting, doing the inspections here wasn't a licensed engineer. this is to fema... >> kieserman: so... >> alfonsi: ...in-in the summer of 2013. >> kieserman: so... you're right. this is dated august 19, 2013. and, you know, i've seen this. >> alfonsi: the document, sent to fema, was an appeal from another family who felt badly cheated by their insurance company. in it they provide proof that the engineer who inspected their home, working for the firm u.s. forensic, was not licensed to work in new york. >> kieserman: this upset me very much. because th
information, had it been elevated in the agency, would have been very helpful in helping us help people earlier. >> alfonsi: why wasn't it elevated in the agency? i mean, this to me is the type of thing you run to the boss with. >> kieserman: this would be the type of thing that i would run to the boss with. and i need to find out why that didn't happen. >> alfonsi: but as far as you know, no one at fema ever said to the insurance companies, ever said to the engineering companies, "keep the claims down?" >> kieserman: as far as i know, no one at fema has ever done that. >> alfonsi: but lawyers paid for by fema have gone after sandy survivors in court, accusing them of fraud. bob kaible, who took the photo of his altered engineering report, was accused in court of stealing the report done on his own home, which he denies. we have homeowners who went through the appeals process, and the attorneys, who are being paid for by fema, called them thieves, said they were trying to conduct fraud.
those are your dogs at the end of the leash. do you take any responsibility for that? >> kieserman: yes, i take responsibility for the fact that when fema funds activities, the people who are getting paid by those funds need to behave in a professional, ethical manner. >> alfonsi: so, are you going to make it right? >> kieserman: i am. as you know, i'm doing everything i can in the midst of negotiations-- to try to make that right. let's face it, i don't have unlimited authority. i can't wave a magic wand and make all of this right for everyone. >> alfonsi: since we first reported this story, fema created a review process and has settled many of the sandy flood cases. brad kieserman left fema and is now overseeing relief operations for the red cross in the wake of hurricane harvey. people would stare. psoriasis does that.
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>> bill whitaker: the sport of cycling is notorious for its culture of cheating, made most famous by the rise and fall of lance armstrong and his use of performance-enhancing drugs. now, when cycling hopes to be cleansed of the dopers, there's a surprising new twist: riders enhancing the bike's performance. some professional racers aren't putting steroids and blood boosters in their veins, they're hiding motors in their bike frames. we followed a lead to budapest, hungary, and met an engineer who said he built the first secret bike motor back in 1998. he told us motors have been used in the tour de france. as we first reported in january, our story is not about the latest drugs the riders are
using to cheat, it's all about enhancing the bike. where, where is the motor in here? >> stefano varjas: here, the motor is here. >> whitaker: it's in here. in a bike shop in budapest, hungary, we met istvan varjas. stefano, as he's known, is a former cyclist, a businessman, and a scientist. his most important invention, he placed inside this bike. the frame is fitted with a small motor he designed. add to it a lithium battery that powers it, and a secret button that he installed. >> varjas: this is first speed. >> whitaker: uh-huh. >> varjas: try to keep the pace. >> whitaker: wow. the sound is mostly the chain and the wheels. he said you can't hear it on the road, and all of his motor designs use brushless motors and military-grade metal alloys. and how does this work? this is now the latest version
unbelievable. it can be connected to a heart rate monitor by remote control. when a rider's heart beat gets too high, it sends a signal for the motor to kick in. we took his hidden motors for some test rides up in the hills above budapest. this is like i'm on flat ground. it was hard to believe it's real until i put my feet on the pedals; harder to believe when i took them off the pedals... hello. ...and still beat the local talent. as you can tell, it's not like a moped. there's no exhaust pipe or revving engine noise. it's designed to give a short but powerful boost to the rider's own effort. so, this is a lower gear or a higher gear? stefano varjas sells complete motorized bikes to wealthy recreational riders for about $20,000, but we went to budapest to find out who else might have bought a silent, hidden motor
for a racing bike. do you know, are professionals using bikes like these on a professional tour? >> varjas: this one, no. this one. >> whitaker: but bikes with motors? >> varjas: yes. i know... i know this. >> whitaker: they are? >> varjas: they use, yes. >> whitaker: suspicions of hidden motors are fueled by videos of riders crashing in races. this bike seems to move by itself without the rider. and, the first time anyone suspected they were looking at a motor was in 2010, when a famed swiss racer sped ahead of the pack at unnatural speeds. these riders all denied they were using motors, and no one had ever been caught, until last year. race officials suspended this belgian rider after they found a motor inside her spare bike. jean-pierre verdy is the former testing director for the french anti-doping agency, who investigated doping in the tour de france for 20 years.
>> whitaker: have there been motors used in the tour de france? >> verdy ( tranlsated ): yes, of course. it's been the last three to four years when i was told about the use of the motors. and in 2014, they told me there are motors. and they told me, there's a problem. by 2015, everyone was complaining and i said, "something's got to be done." >> whitaker: verdy said he's been disturbed by how fast some riders are going up the mountains. as a doping investigator, he relied for years on informants among the team managers and racers in the peloton, the word for the pack of riders. these people told jean-pierre verdy that about 12 racers used motors in the 2015 tour de france. the bikers who use motors, what do you think of them and what they're doing to cycling? >> verdy ( translated ): they're hurting their sport. but human nature is like that. man has always triedfi
that magic potion. >> whitaker: he now thinks that magic potion is a motor like the one designed by stefano varjas. are you selling your motors to pro peloton now? >> varjas: never, ever. >> whitaker: never, ever? >> varjas: never, ever. but i don't know, if a grandfather came and buy a bike and after it's go to finishing his grandson who is racing, it's not my problem. >> whitaker: it sounds like plausible deniability, which means, my fingerprints aren't on this when it ends up in the bike of a professional. i just sold it to a client. what the client did with it... >> varjas: ...is their problem. >> whitaker: i don't know... >> varjas: it's not my problem. >> whitaker: so if someone came to you and said directly, "i want to use your invention to cheat. i'll pay you a lot of money for it," would you sell it to them? ( laughs ) ar
>> whitaker: he said he got his first big money in 1998 when a friend saw his hidden motor prototype and thought he could sell it to a professional racer. so your friend said, "with all this doping going on, you, you're crazy not to try to sell your invention..." >> varjas: exactly. and... >> whitaker: "...to these professional racers." >> varjas: ...he, he proposed me. he proposed me, "give me this bike and i fix it up, your life." and it's happened. >> whitaker: he told us his friend found a buyer in 1998, and stefano swears he has no idea who it was. he gave us this bank record, that shows that he had about $2 million at the time. we also know that he spent time in jail for not paying a substantial tax bill in hungary. he said whoever paid him all that money wanted an exclusive deal. he couldn't work on the motor, sell it or talk about it, for ten years. and you were okay with that? >> varjas: for ten years. ( laughs ) $2 millions... if you are... in hungary, if
if you... they offer you $2 million to don't do nothing... >> whitaker: you couldn't refuse it? >> varjas: ( laughs ) can you refuse it? i don't think. >> whitaker: so you believe that hidden motors have been used by professional cyclists since as far back as 1998? >> varjas: i think, yes. >> whitaker: in france, where cycling is a religion, the newspaper "le monde" said in december 2016 that the timeline of stefano's story might implicate lance armstrong. armstrong won his first of seven tour de france victories in 1999, just a year after stefano varjas' said he sold his first motor. armstrong denied to the paper ever meeting stefano in person or putting a motor in his bike. we asked armstrong too, through his lawyer, and he denied ever using a motor and declined an interview. we contacted armstrong's former teammate, tyler hamilton, who has admitted to being part of
members of the u.s. postal team, and tyler told us he never knew of any motors on the team back then. in order to demonstrate that motors existed as far back as 1998, stefano varjas suggested to us that we find a carbon fiber 1999 u.s. postal service team bike, the same bike the u.s. postal team used in the 1999 tour de france. we bought this bike off the internet, and he installed a motor, based on his first design, into the bike. he charged us $12,000, saying that covered his costs for the parts and labor. we then asked tyler hamilton to test out the bike. you could feel the difference? >> tyler hamilton: oh yeah, oh, yeah. it's not super obvious. you know, you-- all of a sudden, you're just like, "ah." >> whitaker: it seems easier? >> hamilton: it feels a little bit smoother, yeah. yeah. >> whitaker: so you could see how somebody could get away with it? >> hamilton: i could see how teams are doing it. yeah. i could.
>> whitaker: the motor gives a limited boost of power for about 20 minutes. tyler hamilton said that much motorized assistance during a race on a mountain road could be a game changer for a professional rider. what kind of benefit could this motor give a cyclist? >> hamilton: that's the difference between winning and losing, for sure. for sure. >> whitaker: few riders know that better than tyler hamilton. when he spoke to "60 minutes" in 2011, he was one of the first to talk openly about chemical doping in the sport. he said riders have always looked for ways to stay ahead of the authorities. >> hamilton: they'd find... you know, for a while, they didn't have an e.p.o. test. e.p.o. increases your red blood cell production. when the new tests came out, you'd figure out new ways around them. i guess we should have known this was coming, you know? because, i mean, there's more pressure in today's cycling world than ever to win. >> whitaker: during this car ride in
varjas, we listened as he talked on the phone with one of his clients about delivering some new motorized bikes. he said he was speaking to this man, dr. michele ferrari. ferrari is the man behind the doping programs of lance armstrong and other top cyclists. he has been banned from the sport of cycling. still, stefano varjas told us that ferrari bought bikes with hidden motors in the past three years. we spoke to dr. ferrari by phone and he denied buying motorized bikes from stefano, but said he has tested one. three-time tour de france winner greg lemond and his wife kathy first learned about hidden motors in 2014, when greg met stefano varjas in paris and took a test ride. greg was outspoken about chemical doping, and now has the same level of concern about the motors. >> greg lemond: i've watched, last couple years, and i'm going, "i know the motor's still in the sport and..."
>> lemond: yeah. yeah, there's always a few bad apples and, because, it's a lot of money. >> whitaker: he is so concerned about it that while working as a broadcaster at the tour de france, he and his wife worked secretly with the french police investigating the motors. his best source, it turned out, was stefano varjas. >> kathy lemond: i asked stefano if he would please come and talk to the french police. >> whitaker: did he? is he cooperating with the police? >> kathy lemond: completely. >> whitaker: stefano said he told the french police that just before the 2015 tour de france he again sold motorized bikes to an unknown client through a middleman. he said he was directed to deliver the bikes to a locked storage room in the town of beaulieu sur mer, france. stefano varjas told us that in addition to the motors in the bike frames, he's designed a motor that can be hidden inside the hub of the back wheel, seen here in a video he gave us. >> kathy lemond: stefano had said, "weigh the wheels.
the wheels are in the peloton." >> whitaker: according to varjas, the enhanced wheels weigh about 800 grams, or 1.7 pounds, more than normal wheels. you could detect it by weight? >> greg lemond: yeah. in cycling weight is everything. your body, your bike. if your bike weighs a kilo more, you would never race on it. >> whitaker: in the 2015 tour de france, bikes in the peloton were weighed before one of the time trial stages. french authorities told us the british team sky was the only team with bikes heavier than the rest-- each bike weighed about 800 grams more. a spokesman for team sky said that during a time trial stage, bikes might be heavier to allow for better aerodynamic performance. he said the team has never used mechanical assistance, and that the bikes were checked and cleared by the sports governing body. a heavy bike doesn't prove anything on its own, but to greg
should have set off alarm bells. in this case, sources told us, the sport's governing body would not allow french investigators to remove the team sky wheels and weigh them separately to determine if the wheels were enhanced. lemond said not enough is being done by the international cycling union to prevent cheating with motors. >> greg lemond: this is curable. this is fixable. i won't trust it until they figure out how-- how to-- how to-- take the motor out. i won't trust any victories of the tour de france. >> whitaker: the 2017 tour de france wrapped up in july, and for the fourth time, rider chris froome led the british team sky to victory. the sports governing body said they checked 4,000 racing bikes during the tour, and found no motors.
>> cps sports update is brought to you by ford division. hello everyone in you are new york studio. at the u.s. open, anastatia defeated maria sharapova to advance to the quarterfinals. in baseball the astros swept the mets in first series babin houston since hurricane harvey. and arizona wins their 10th in a row. for sports news and information go to cbssports.com. okay, so let's... stop. don't mess it up! (squeaking) ahh-h-h! ee-e-e! ( ♪ ) all right. (chuckle) ( ♪ ) nice! ( ♪ ) come on, dad, let's go! for those who know what they're really building. always unstoppable. knowing where you stand.
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>> stahl: there are not many shows on television that deserve to be called true american institutions, but one of them is surely "sesame street." it's been on the air now for almost 50 years. when "sesame street" began in 1969, it was considered an experiment. the question: could television be used to educate young children? well, research proved the answer
children's television workshop, now called sesame workshop, that created the show, has been refining and expanding that mission ever since. everything from abcs and 123s, to race, and even death. when we first broadcast our story this past spring, "sesame street," which now airs on hbo as well as its longtime home on pbs, was getting ready to take on its latest challenge: introducing a new kid on the street-- a muppet named julia, who has autism. ♪ ♪ for many of us, these opening notes are a trip down memory lane... ♪ ♪ >> sally, you've never seen a street like sesame street. everything happens here! >> stahl: ...to a street we watched as kids, with our kids, or both. >> bert: do you know that you, uh, have a banana in your ear?
>> stahl: with muppet characters as known and beloved as any human tv star. >> bert: will you just take that banana out of your ear? >> ernie: i'm sorry, you'll have to speak a little louder, bert. i can't hear you. i have a banana in my ear! >> stahl: today, almost half a century later, "sesame street" is shot on a soundstage in astoria, queens, with one of the cameramen who filmed the first episode still on the job. the "sesame street" set is a vibrant, upbeat place, with puppeteers on rolling stools down below, and the furry and feathery creatures they bring to life in the sometimes crowded space above. >> abby: it was a little awkward. whaaaaaa! >> big bird: i'm sorry! >> stahl: the puppeteers figure out how to position their muppet by watching the scene on monitors. the day we visited, they were filming the debut of the new muppet character, julia, who has
the story begins with julia's friends, muppets elmo and abby cadabby, introducing her to big bird. >> big bird: oh, hi, julia. i'm big bird. nice to meet you. oh. julia? >> stahl: but big bird is confused when julia doesn't respond. >> christine ferraro: i think the big discussion right at the start was, "how do we do this? how do we talk about autism?" >> stahl: christine ferraro has been a writer at "sesame street" for 25 years, during which time the frequency of autism diagnoses has multiplied. the chances of a little kid, two, three, four years old, having some kind of a relationship with another kid with autism is pretty high. >> ferraro: exactly. especially once they hit school age, because they'll be in their classrooms. >> abby: julia, you're so creative! >> julia: ( laughs ) >> stahl: but how to portray autism? >> ferraro: it's tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism. there is an expression that
with autism, you've met one person with autism." >> stahl: "sesame street" has always based its characters and content on extensive research. they regularly bring in educators and child psychologists. in the case of julia, they also worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics she should have and how best to normalize autism for all children. >> ferraro: so that when they encounter them in their real life, it's familiar. and they see that these-- these can be their friends too. >> abby: hi, miss lesley, you look very shiny and beautiful today. >> stahl: well, so do you. during a break in the filming, julia and her friends did for us what they're hoping to do for millions with this episode... and hi, julia. ...help the audience understand when a child with autism doesn't react the way one might expect. big bird, when you first met julia-- >> big bird: uh-huh? >> stahl: --she didn't answer you either. >> big bird: yeah, that's right.
and i-i thought that maybe she didn't like me. >> elmo: yeah, but you know, we had to explain to big bird that julia likes big bird. it's just that julia has autism. so sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things. >> stahl: you're explaining her, because you've come to understand her so well. >> elmo: well, we're pretty good at understanding people. we live with a grouch. ( laughs ) >> oscar: what do you want? >> stahl: "sesame street" has been around so long now that it's hard to remember a time before children's television was educational. but "sesame street's" creator, joan ganz cooney, remembers it well. >> joan ganz cooney: it was just nutty cartoons with no purpose at all. i mean, i would watch them and just be appalled. >> stahl: as you're talking, i'm seeing a cat slam against a wall, be reduced to nothing, slide down, and come back to life. ( laughter ) >> ganz cooney: yes, that was commercial television. >> stahl: ganz cooney, then a public television producer, was asked by the carnegie
corporation to study whether television could be something different. >> ganz cooney: the question being, "do you think television could teach children?" >> stahl: ironically, she says the answer was right in front of her, and everyone else... in beer. ♪ ♪ >> ganz cooney: they were singing beer commercials, children were. ( laughs ) well, so obviously, they had learned.. >> stahl: they'd learned the jingle? >> ganz cooney: so if a commercial could teach beer, couldn't it teach one-- one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten? >> stahl: and that became the model ganz cooney spelled out in her 50-page report proposing what would become "sesame street." >> ganz cooney: and we did. we created little commercials. >> ♪ boys and girls, have you met the 26 letters called the ♪ alphabet? >> stahl: the new show had a particular target-- low-income children who werar
school less prepared than their middle-class peers. so ganz cooney deliberately made the set a gritty new york street urban kids could relate to, with an interracial cast that got the show banned early on in mississippi. nationwide, though, it was a hit. kids-- and parents-- loved jim henson's muppets. >> girl: 8, 9, 9, 10, 11. you got pretty eyes. >> kermit: so do you. >> stahl: and testing showed kids who watched were learning. sometimes the lessons were about real life-- >> mr. hooper: i'm your neighborhood friend, mr. hooper. >> stahl: as when the actor who played beloved shopkeeper mr. hooper passed away, and the show decided to address the subject of death head on. >> big bird: tada! >> adults: oh, look at that. >> big bird: i can't wait till he sees it. say, w i
>> stahl: you could have changed actors. >> ganz cooney: yes. but we decided "sesame street" had always dealt with the real. and it was real, so we decided not to just replace him and call the man mr. hooper and hope they didn't notice. >> maria: uh, don't you remember we told you mr. hooper died. he's dead. >> big bird: oh yeah, i remember. well, i'll give it to him when he comes back. >> susan: big bird, when, when people die, they don't come back. >> big bird: ever? >> stahl: over the years, "sesame street" did segments about other challenging subjects, like skin color, disabilities, and prejudice. >> gulliver: in my neighborhood, birds only play with birds, so i'm not playing with a snuffleupagus. >> snuffleupagus: ohhh, that hurts my feelings. >> stahl: less well-known is a
branch of "sesame," separate from the tv show, that creates online videos like this, and other materials. they're called social impact initiatives, and they're targeted at specific communities of kids... >> abby: this one is where i live with my mommy, and this one is where i live with my daddy. >> stahl: ...like children of divorce, kids from military families... >> elmo: it's like a robot hand. >> stahl: ...and the nearly three million kids with a parent incarcerated. >> muppet: my dad's in jail. >> stahl: the focus on autism began as one of these social impact projects, with videos... >> mom: my son louie is six, and he has autism. >> stahl: ...and an online animated storybook about a little girl named julia. the initiative was so well- received, "sesame" decided to bring julia to the broadcast-- which meant designing a new muppet. >> rollie krewson: this is our eye drawer. >> stahl: look at that! this is where muppets are born,
the work station of master puppet creator rollie krewson. >> krewson: the male eyes have no eyelashes. and the female eye have eyelashes. >> stahl: because julia has autism, were there special challenges in building her? >> krewson: yes, actually, because when she gets upset, she flaps her hands. so she has two separate sets of arms. she has a set of arms that does this-- and then she has a set of arms when she's fine and okay. so they would switch on set. >> big bird: high five, julia. >> stahl: and of course every muppet needs a puppeteer. but, not every puppeteer has the connection stacey gordon does to the role. gordon is the mother of a son with autism. she traveled all the way from phoenix to audition for the part. the idea that there will be a child with autism on sesame street-- tl
to you. >> gordon: it means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. having julia on the show, and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion... >> stahl: and like her. >> gordon: and like her. >> stahl: that's big. >> gordon: yeah, it's huge. >> stahl: gordon told us she channeled her son's experiences for a tough scene where julia's heightened sensitivity to noise triggers a meltdown. >> julia: noise, noise. >> alan: the sirens are bothering you? >> gordon: it's important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like. >> julia: break, break. >> gordon: had my son's friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on tv, before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. they might not have been worried when he cried. they would have known that he
plays in a different way, and that that's okay. >> stahl: he didn't have that. >> gordon: he didn't-- >> stahl: but maybe-- >> stahl: --kids from now on will. >> gordon: and that's a beautiful thing. >> abby: you want to play now, julia? >> julia: play, play, play. >> stahl: also beautiful to gordon, the message of inclusion at the heart of one of the episode's most memorable scenes. >> ferraro: they decide to play tag together. but julia's so excited that she's jumping up and down. that's a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism. >> abby: oh, julia, you're bouncing like a rubber ball. boing, boing, boing. >> elmo: boing, boing. >> julia: boing. >> ferraro: and then it turns into a game where they're all jumping like her. so it was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation, they can meet her where she is, and get something out of it themselves. >> elmo: this is fun, julia. >> abby: hey, it's a whole new game, it's boing tag! >> julia: boing! >> abby: ah! now i'm it! >> big bird: you know, i think i'd like to be a friend of julia, too.
>> stahl: she is going to be a recurring character? >> ferraro: that's the hope. >> stahl: and will she become a major character? >> ferraro: we'll see. >> stahl: you'd like to have her become a major character, i can see. >> ferraro: i would-- i would love her to be. i would love her to be not julia, the kid on "sesame street" who has autism. i would like her to be just julia. >> elmo: yeah, we really like julia. she's really special to us, miss lesley. >> stahl: julia, are you having fun with your new friends? >> julia: fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. >> elmo: that's a yes. ( laughs ) >> stahl: since our story first aired, "sesame street" has shot a new episode featuring julia, to be part of the show's upcoming season. >> hello, sofia. >> for a look at how "60 minutes" reports its stories as well as interviews with correspondents and producers, go to 60minutesovertime.com sponsored by pfizer.
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