April 22, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
April 22, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: confronting climate change. The president announces ambitious
targets for reducing carbon emissions as part of the fight against the global crisis.
Then: a troubling surge. India records the highest one-day number of new COVID infections
of any nation since the pandemic began, overwhelming the country's already stressed health care
Plus: the plastic problem. Single-use items like masks, gloves, and takeout containers
pile up in landfills and wreak havoc on the environment.
MARIA ALGARRA, Founder, Clean This Beach Up: It's not just about the fact that masks are
not biodegradable or recyclable. It's about the fact that they are a hazard for our wildlife.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Leaders of the United States and other countries have set ambitious new
William Brangham has our report.
goals today to slow the planet from heating up. They left open exactly how they would 0:02:56.010,1193:02:47.295 accomplish those goals as they met in a virtual long-distance gathering.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: With dozens of world leaders in attendance virtually, President Biden said
it was urgent for the world to address climate change.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative,
a moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president pledged to cut America's greenhouse gas emissions in
half from 2005 levels by 2030. And he urged other nations to follow suit.
JOE BIDEN: All of us, all of us, and particularly those of us who represent the world's largest
economies, we have to step up.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And some of the world's largest carbon emitters seemed to heed the
call. China's President Xi Jinping cited an earlier pledge to phase out the use of coal.
XI JINPING, Chinese President (through translator): China will strive to peak carbon dioxide emission
before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
MAN: The prime minister of the Republic of India.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, repeated a promise to boost
renewable energy projects by 2030.
NARENDRA MODI, Indian Prime Minister: We in India are doing our part.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But commitments to new benchmarks came from elsewhere. Japan said it would cut
emissions by 46 percent below 2013 levels by the end of the decade. And Canada pledged
to slash at least 40 percent of its 2005 emissions levels in the same time frame.
Today's summit was timed to coincide with Earth Day and also coincided with calls from
leading climate activist Greta Thunberg at a hearing on Capitol Hill.
GRETA THUNBERG, Climate Activist: How long do you honestly believe that people in power
like you will get away with it? How long do you think you can continue to ignore the climate
crisis, the global aspect of equity and historic emissions without being held accountable?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The global meeting continues tomorrow, leading up to a larger U.N. climate
conference slated for November in Scotland.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: California's two state university systems, the nation's
largest, joined a wave of colleges mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for students this fall.
Meanwhile, India reported a global record of nearly 315,000 infections in 24 hours,
with another 2,100 deaths. We will have details on India after the news summary.
The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan COVID-19 hate crimes bill today, responding to attacks
on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It includes funding to increase data collection
Hawaii's Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono co-sponsored the measure.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): As important as the content and substance of the bill is the
message of this bill that we in the Senate are going to stand with our AAPI community
and indeed any community that is discriminated against on the basis of race or any of the
categories that you and I can think of.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. House of Representatives may act on a similar bill in the coming weeks.
Today, the U.S. House voted again to make Washington, D.C., the nation's 51st state.
Democrats pushed it through on party lines, with no Republican support. Prospects for
passage in the evenly divided Senate are low.
Russia has announced that its troops are withdrawing from the border with Ukraine, but leaving
their heavy weapons in place. Thousands of Russian troops had taken part in maneuvers
in Crimea and Western Russia. The defense minister said today they have achieved their
goals. Ukraine's president welcomed the move.
Israel and Syria traded allegations today after trading fire overnight. The Israelis
said that they launched airstrikes when a Syrian anti-aircraft missile mistakenly flew
deep into Israel. It exploded near Dimona, the desert town where Israel's nuclear reactor
is located. Syria said the Israeli air raid came first.
Indonesia is searching desperately for a submarine with 53 crewmen aboard. It disappeared Wednesday.
The hunt centered off Bali today, where the sub sank in deep water. Extreme pressure may
have crushed it. If not, the crew runs out of oxygen by Saturday.
Back in this country, Senate Republicans offered their own infrastructure plan. It would cost
nearly $570 billion over five years. President Biden wants $2.3 trillion over eight years.
Both sides talked today of compromise and their own plans.
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): It's time to say we want to do things that are really in the
best interest of the American people, what the American people are asking for, and that's
why we're here today with this proposal that was sent to the White House a little earlier
JEN PSAKI, White House Press Secretary: The president has said from the beginning that
he would welcome any good-faith effort to find common ground, because the only unacceptable
step would be inaction.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House also said the president would consider smaller steps and
not one mega-bill.
The governor of Kansas vetoed a bill today aimed at barring transgender students from
girls sports teams in public schools. Democrat Laura Kelly called the legislation regressive.
Overnight, North Dakota's Republican Governor Doug Burgum vetoed a similar measure, but
faced a possible override. Several states have already enacted such bans.
Unemployment claims in the U.S. fell to 547,000 last week. That is the lowest since the pandemic
began. But Wall Street retreated today on reports of possible capital gains tax hikes
on the wealthy. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 321 points to close below 33816. The
Nasdaq fell 131 points. The S&P 500 slipped 38.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the president announces ambitious targets for confronting
climate change; single-use plastic items pile up in landfills and wreak havoc on the environment;
the U.S. continues to grapple with police shootings despite the Chauvin conviction;
and much more.
Now to the COVID-19 disaster in India.
More than a year into the pandemic, the caseloads and deaths in the South Asian nation are skyrocketing.
As Amna Nawaz reports, while vaccines are being rolled out, stopping the spread is proving
a monumental task.
AMNA NAWAZ: A grim reminder in India that the global pandemic is far from over, as the
second most populous country in the world recorded the most new COVID cases in a single
day, nearly 315,000, more than any other country at any point in the pandemic.
India's infection total of 15.9 million is now second only to the United States.
RAJIV RAI, India (through translator): People are really scared, they are terrified. Most
people have isolated themselves in a self-imposed lockdown. They are not stepping out unnecessarily,
and the roads are all empty.
AMNA NAWAZ: Early in the pandemic, in March of 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi swiftly
imposed a nationwide 21-day lockdown, the largest in the world.
But in recent months, even as cases rose, Modi hosted huge political rallies, flouted
social distancing, and allowed mass gatherings, including thousands of Hindu pilgrims at a
time along the Ganges River for the Kumbh Mela festival.
On Tuesday, Modi addressed the virus surge.
NARENDRA MODI, Indian Prime Minister (through translator): Until a few weeks ago, the situation
was in control, and then this second wave of coronavirus has come like a storm. Friends,
in the current situation, we have to save the country from another lockdown. I would
also like to request states to only use lockdown as a last resort.
AMNA NAWAZ: Meanwhile, India's hospitals are overrun, oxygen supplies are depleted, and
crematoriums are overwhelmed, leaving some, like Vinay Srivastava, begging for help online.
The 65-year-old journalist tweeted as his oxygen levels plummeted -- quote -- "My oxygen
is 31. When some will help me," he wrote April 17.
No hospital could take him. And he died soon after. On Wednesday, an oxygen leak in Western
India led to 24 deaths, including this woman's mother.
WOMAN (through translator): My mother died. She could not get oxygen, and she died in
agony. She has been here since the past five days. She had recovered. There was no oxygen.
She died in agony. She had trouble breathing. She died. Everyone there died.
AMNA NAWAZ: The New Delhi High Court has ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial
use to hospitals to try and save lives, as the number of coronavirus cases continue to
Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan is an economist, epidemiologist and senior research scholar
with Princeton University. He joins me now from New Delhi, India.
Doctor, welcome to the "NewsHour" and thanks for joining us.
You are in New Delhi. Can you just describe what it is you're seeing there?
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN, Princeton University: Amna, it's probably the worst humanitarian
crisis that I have ever witnessed.
There are people without a hospital beds. There's no oxygen. I'm hearing of people who
are dying because the oxygen ran out in their hospitals. It's undescribable. And I hope
to never witness anything like what we're going through right now again.
AMNA NAWAZ: As an epidemiologist, when you see that spike, you see that curve going like
this, do you worry what happens if that goes unchecked?
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN: Well, as an epidemiologist, I know that that place that curve goes is
basically determined entirely by human behavior and people's attitudes.
So, it's there because mass gatherings were allowed, because the messaging was poor in
terms of how serious the virus was and is. And the system is already overrun right now.
And it's hard to imagine what it's going to look like when we have another million cases
over the next three or four days and another million after the next three or four days
AMNA NAWAZ: You mentioned the mass gatherings, the reopenings. We all remember when Prime
Minister Modi locked down the entire country. What led to the decision to reopen to this
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN: The country was locked down when the cases were only 500,
simply because there was an understanding that it could simply not deal with the kind
of upswing we're seeing right now a year ago, when the system was unprepared.
After September, the cases started coming down. And like with many other countries,
people both in government and outside assumed that the worst was over and that India had
crossed into some sense of herd immunity and the cases were not going to come back.
Now, that was obviously not true. In a country the size of India, even if you have 300 million
infections in the first round, that still leaves over a billion people who have not
yet been infected. And that's sufficient to have a second, maybe even a third and a fourth
wave. And that's what we're seeing now.
AMNA NAWAZ: Many of the reports we're seeing are coming from urban centers and from city
locations. What about the non-urban areas? What about rural areas, where we know the
majority of India's population lives?
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN: Seventy percent of India lives in rural areas, and the virus
has definitely spread.
In fact, even on this round, the predominantly affected populations are the urban well-off
who escaped the virus in the first round. The lockdown protected the well-off, even
as it ravaged the poor and urban areas.
This time around, it's definitely in rural India as well, where the infrastructure is
AMNA NAWAZ: What about vaccines, Doctor? We know India is a vaccine producer. Where is
India in its vaccination process?
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN: India got off to a great start with two vaccines, one developed
by Oxford and licensed to India by AstraZeneca.
The other one was a truly indigenous Indian vaccine. India was exporting a lot of vaccines,
but the production was not accounted for properly, in the sense that there's a shortage of vaccines
now. There's hardly enough even to meet the domestic demand, let alone export vaccine
to other countries.
AMNA NAWAZ: We know some states have implemented lockdowns. Do you expect there to be more
leaders taking that step? Do you think another national lockdown is necessary to slow the
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN: I think a national lockdown is unlikely, both because it's probably
not necessary. The virus is not bad everywhere. It's probably not sustainable, given the condition
of India's economy.
But state level lockdowns, like in New Delhi, Maharashtra, these will likely continue. And,
in some sense, that's the only tool that is left to governments to be able to signal the
seriousness of the virus.
AMNA NAWAZ: If that messaging is not made clear, what do you worry will happen?
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN: If that messaging is not made clear, even now, after all the
scenes that we all hear, every family has been affected by COVID at this point in time
that I'm aware of.
But if people don't take that seriously, both policy-makers and ordinary folks, we could
see this being a lot more painful over the next few weeks than it already is.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan joining us from New Delhi, India, tonight.
Thank you so much for your time, Doctor. We wish you well.
DR. RAMANAN LAXMINARAYAN: Thanks for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now let's turn to the ambitions of the climate summit and the very real challenges
to President Biden's plans.
Michael Mann is a climate scientist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Penn State University.
He is the author of "The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet."
Our continuing coverage of these issues this week is part of the international journalism
collaborative called Covering Climate Now.
Michael Mann, welcome "NewsHour."
Let me just start by asking, how ambitious is President Biden's plan that he's laid out,
compared to what any country's done before now?
MICHAEL MANN, Penn State University: Yes, thanks, Judy. It's good to be with you.
And it is a bold plan, make no mistake about it. I think that Joe Biden is surprising some
of the skeptics who didn't think that he would lead on the issue of climate change. They
were skeptical that he would show the sort of bold leadership that's necessary.
But, here, we have the United States really laying down the gauntlet for other countries,
a commitment to lower carbon emissions by a factor of two within the next 10 years.
That is doable, and it is essential, if we are to avert catastrophic warming of the planet,
more than three degree Fahrenheit warming of the planet, where we will start to see
some of the worst impacts of climate change.
That's what we have got to do globally. And, here, the United States is setting an example
for other countries to follow.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me read for you what The New York Times is reporting would be required
by the end of the decade in order to meet the president's goal of cutting emissions
More than half of all new cars and SUVs would need to be powered by electricity, not gasoline.
Nearly all coal-fired power plants would need to be shut down. Forests would need to expand.
And the number of wind turbines and solar panels would quadruple.
Is that realistic?
MICHAEL MANN: Yes, well, you know, nothing that's worth doing is easy.
And it's certainly a monumental task. But there is quite a bit of research now, teams
from Stanford and the University of California, for example, that have demonstrated that we
can get there with existing technology. We don't need a miracle, Bill Gates, who's said
that in the past. We have the technology necessary to solve this problem.
What we need is the political willpower, and we need the policies. And we have got leadership
from the president in terms of executive actions that address the climate crisis. We're also
going to need a legislative component. We're going to need climate legislation to make
its way through Congress, if we are going to meet those commitments.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What are going to be the easier pieces of this, and what are the harder pieces?
MICHAEL MANN: So, there's a lot of low-hanging fruit, as it were.
There are lots of things that we can do, for example, that save us money, and they decrease
our carbon emissions. They're win-win, clean energy jobs, creating a resilient, smart grid
that can be powered with renewable energy.
These are all things that will improve our infrastructure, that will provide jobs. But,
again, it's not going to be easy. If we are to wean ourselves from coal and natural gas
and oil, essentially, within a decade, we are going to need policies that incentivize
that shift. We need to put a price on carbon. We need to provide massive subsidies for renewable
We need to block the development of additional fossil fuel infrastructure. These are all
things that the Biden plan supports. But, again, we need to codify that in terms of
legislation if we're going to accomplish that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Mann, we know this is a global crisis, hence the 40 world leaders
participating in today's summit.
Tell us, how important is it what other major contributors of emissions, like China, like
India, how important is it what they do, how much they contribute to dealing with this?
MICHAEL MANN: Yes, well, it's essential.
We are the world's largest cumulative emitter of carbon pollution. For nearly two centuries,
we have been producing carbon pollution. Right now, China is the largest current emitter
of carbon pollution. And so, clearly, we need the world's two largest emitters, the United
States and China, to come together to, in fact, create an atmosphere that leads other
countries to make meaningful commitments.
That's what happened under the Obama administration. We had a bilateral agreement between the U.S.
and China that really had teeth in it, and it laid the groundwork for a very successful
Now, what happened subsequently, obviously, Donald Trump came in. He pulled out of the
Paris agreement. That took the pressure off of China. And after having been decommissioning
coal-fired power plants, they started building them again.
So, I think there's reason to be optimistic that now, with the U.S. once again demonstrating
leadership, reaching a bilateral agreement again just last week with China, that creates
an environment where other countries, and, in particular, some intransigent actors, like
Australia, Scott Morrison, who really has made fairly feeble commitments thus far, this
is going to put more pressure on them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, finally, I mean, you raise something that I do want to ask you about.
And that is, because of our political process, because we elect a new president who could
be of a different party every four years, every eight years, how much could that be
a setback to what the United States and the world are trying to do?
MICHAEL MANN: Yes, well, you live by the executive action, you die by the executive action, which
is to say that anything that one administration does through executive actions, as you say,
can be reversed.
And that's what we saw with the Trump administration. So much of the progress that had been made
under the Obama administration was reversed in just four years. And there's all that lost
time, that opportunity cost of not having been acting in the meantime.
And so what we need to do, as I said, we need to use those executive actions. And, right
now, the Biden administration is doing that, but it can only go so far. We need to codify
those changes in terms of legislation.
And with a divided Congress, with a divided Senate, with a tiebreaking vote by the Democratic
vice president, and some Democrats who might not sign on to expansive climate legislation,
clearly, Joe Biden is going to need all of the diplomatic and -- tools at his disposal,
and Democrats in Congress may have to use some of the parliamentary tools that they
have at their disposal, if we're to get climate legislation that will complement the executive
actions that are being taken.
And that's what we need.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambitious, but clearly also complicated.
Michael Mann with Penn State university, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
MICHAEL MANN: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we have been mentioning, today is Earth Day.
While carbon emissions and climate change are front and center, this is a good moment
to look at another major environmental problem.
As the world has become hyper-hygienic since the pandemic began, plastic is playing an
Stephanie Sy looks at how the single-use nature of many pandemic items are piling up in our
landfills and in our environment.
STEPHANIE SY: They're the one item we now know helps stop the spread of COVID-19, face
masks. They come in different shapes and sizes, and many are disposable.
Over the past year, they have become an important part of living safely in the middle of a pandemic.
Around the world, 129 billion are used every single month, and three million are thrown
out every single minute.
Most are made of layers of plastic microfibers. It's creating a new kind of plastic pollution,
contaminating waterways and hurting wildlife.
Maria Algarra is the founder of Clean This Beach Up in Miami.
MARIA ALGARRA, Founder, Clean This Beach Up: Let's see what we can collect in a couple
of blocks in South Beach.
STEPHANIE SY: At the beginning of the pandemic, she found she had to expand her cleanup beyond
the beach. She started the Glove Challenge, asking people around the world to tag places
they found latex gloves littered. The results came flooding in. And, before long, single-use
face masks were strewn everywhere too.
MARIA ALGARRA: Every single cleanup that we do on a shoreline, we're collecting from 50
to 100 masks.
STEPHANIE SY: To see just how easy it is to spot pandemic pollution, we asked our "NewsHour"
staff to keep their eyes open for it. From Washington, D.C., to California, they shared
videos and photos of this new kind of litter.
Why is the mask pollution particularly concerning to you?
MARIA ALGARRA: It's not just about the fact that masks are not biodegradable or recyclable.
It's about the fact that they are a hazard for our wildlife, not just because they can
eat the mask, but also because animals get entangled in the straps.
STEPHANIE SY: Algarra and her team found a mask twisted around a puffer fish. Birds are
getting caught up in them. And marine life are eating them.
So, if I needed to dispose of this mask, Maria, do you have advice on how I could do that
to minimize harm to animals and the environment?
MARIA ALGARRA: The idea is to dispose of your mask properly, put it in the bin, but also
remember to cut or rip off the straps. That will be saving so many lives.
STEPHANIE SY: Jenna Jambeck has made a career out of studying the waste we create.
JENNA JAMBECK, University of Georgia: We are the top waste generator by country and per
person in the world.
STEPHANIE SY: The University of Georgia professor is currently driving and camping the length
of the Mississippi River with her husband and two kids, all the while hunting for plastic
It's part of an initiative started by mayors of cities along the river to reduce plastic
pollution by 20 percent. Jambeck brought her scientific expertise and, as a fellow at National
Geographic, a network of educators.
One way they're helping is with data. The Marine Debris Tracker is an app that lets
people log exactly what they're finding and where. And like Maria Algarra noticed on the
ground in Miami, Jambeck said it didn't take long for reports of PPE in the environment
to roll in.
JENNA JAMBECK: Including masks, gloves and wipes, we have seen over 11,500 items reported
through just our app alone. I just think it's so reflective of sort of our actions and our
activities and what we use on a daily basis.
Some of that leaks out. And we sort of immediately pretty much saw that through this system.
STEPHANIE SY: And why and how are these things making their way into the environment?
JENNA JAMBECK: So, you go to the grocery store, you're using a disposable mask, you go in
and you need it the whole time you're shopping. And you come out, and let's say you put a
mask and gloves, and then you're like, well, these are dirty now. What do I do with them?
And that sort of speaks to how we make and use things as well. We often don't think about
end of life, meaning, what do we do when we need to dispose of anything in the environment?
It just really came to light, I think, through the PPE that we were wearing.
STEPHANIE SY: And it's not just medical protective gear that's adding to pandemic pollution.
Many busy families balancing homeschool and work-from-home schedules in the last year
relied on endless days and nights of takeout.
The leftovers shelf.
Much of it, including my family's, comes in plastic containers and with single-use utensils.
JENNA JAMBECK: I saw a lot of to-go packaging, to-go, like clamshells, both foam and plastic,
plastic bags, plastic bottles.
STEPHANIE SY: In some cases, places overcompensated on individual plastic packaging, believing
it would prevent COVID from spreading.
But many of these containers aren't recyclable. And in the U.S., we recycle less than 9 percent
of the plastic we use. One company based outside Phoenix, Arizona, Footprint, is trying to
disrupt the plastic packaging industry.
CEO and co-founder Troy Swope showed us around.
TROY SWOPE, CEO and Co-Founder, Footprint: The whole point is to take waste. To make
something that only has a very short useful life, this is the best option for the planet.
STEPHANIE SY: The containers are made of plant-based fiber, including wood the company says is
sourced from sustainable forests. Swope says they are compostable and biodegradable.
Their biggest client is ConAgra, which uses Footprint containers for some of its brands.
Takeout salad company Sweetgreen is a big client. And even McDonald's is testing out
some of their lids.
To compete with plastic food packaging, Footprint tests its containers for durability. This
simple experiment looks at whether the oil from the salad dressing bleeds through the
The key for why it doesn't, Swope says, is a proprietary coating they literally bake
in and they claim is free of harmful chemicals.
TROY SWOPE: Number one, we focus on being plastic free. And the importance of that is
at the end of life. We wanted something that had multiple end-of-life options.
So, the best way to put it is, we wanted something that nature could digest. So, at the end of
the day, if you just left it on the side of the road or got in an ocean, it would just
disappear without being toxic to animals or to the water.
STEPHANIE SY: So, do your products cost the same as the plastic alternative?
TROY SWOPE: We design everything to be cost-competitive with plastic. So, from day one, we wanted
to have a massive impact on the planet. So, we -- at day one, we said we are going to
have to develop the technologies to compete with plastic, not only in performance, but
STEPHANIE SY: But it's not just where a product ends up that matters. It's how it begins.
Energy and water go into manufacturing, even of biodegradable packaging like Footprints'
that boast lower carbon emissions.
JENNA JAMBECK: Alternative materials are definitely going to be part of the integrated approach,
I think, to this. But we don't necessarily also just want to switch all of the single-use
over to that. We would -- I think we would like to reduce quantities first still, if
STEPHANIE SY: And, ultimately, says Maria Algarra, change will be driven by what each
of us demands of government, corporations, and ourselves.
MARIA ALGARRA: We could clean every single beach, every shoreline in the world, and that
won't stop plastic pollution. The change starts with us in our choices, in our consumption.
STEPHANIE SY: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: While the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin brought celebration to the
streets of Minneapolis, that same community came together today to mourn the death of
another Black man killed at the hands of police.
John Yang reports on how the country is reacting.
And a warning: Some of the content of this report is graphic.
JOHN YANG: In Minneapolis, Minnesota, today, the funeral of Black 20-year-old Daunte Wright,
shot by a white Brooklyn Center police officer during a traffic stop.
PROTESTERS: All three counts! All three counts!
JOHN YANG: The funeral comes just days after a Minneapolis jury said former police officer
Derek Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd, a rare conviction of a police officer
in the killing of a Black person.
But just minutes before, in Columbus, Ohio, a white police officer shot and killed 16-year-old
Ma'Khia Bryant outside her foster home.
PROTESTER: Say her name!
PROTESTERS: Ma'Khia Bryant!
JOHN YANG: The news unleashed a new wave protests, grief and anger over police killings, especially
white officers killing Black Americans.
Hours later, Columbus police released body camera footage of the shooting hours later.
It appears to show Bryant holding a knife as she lunges toward another person a moment
before she is shot.
MAN: Get down!
JOHN YANG: Ned Pettus, Columbus' public safety officer, said state officials were investigating.
NED PETTUS, Columbus, Ohio, Public Safety Director: Under any circumstance, that is
a horrendous tragedy. But the video shows that there is more to this. It requires us
to pause, take a close look at the sequence of events and, though it's not easy, wait
for the facts, as determined by an independent investigation.
JOHN YANG: A day later, a white police officer shot and killed a 40-year-old Black man in
Elizabeth city, North Carolina. Police have yet to release bodycam footage.
WOMAN: It's just sad.
JOHN YANG: The shootings are a reminder of the unending pattern of killings of Black
Americans, often at the hands of the police, who, despite the Chauvin conviction, are rarely
convicted of a crime.
In the 2014 killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, at the
hands of a white officer, no charges were ever filed. The incident sparked days of unrest.
Two years earlier, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black 17-year-old, was shot and killed in
Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.
The killing became a national flash point. Zimmerman was acquitted.
Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, continues to speak out.
SYBRINA FULTON, Mother of Trayvon Martin: First of all, I want to say whoever said time
heals all wounds did not lose a child, because we are never going to heal. This country has
done something to us that will never be repaired.
JOHN YANG: In Chicago, the recent police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who ran from police
with a gun, before holding up his empty hands, shook a community who just years before lived
through another police shooting where law enforcement initially lied about what happened.
White police officer Jason Van Dyke became the city's first patrolman in almost 50 years
to be convicted of murder. The verdict came four years after the shooting, and only after
police were ordered to release dash-cam footage of Van Dyke shooting Black 17-year-old Laquan
McDonald 16 times as he appeared to be walking away from police.
To see how communities across the country are reacting to the Chauvin verdict, we're
joined by public media reporters from communities that have also had to deal with the killing
of unarmed Black men.
Jason Rosenbaum is with St. Louis Public Radio. Brandis Friedman is with WTTW, the PBS station
in Chicago, and Wilkine Brutus is a reporter for WLRN, South Florida's NPR member station.
Welcome to you all. Thank you all for joining us.
Brandis, in Chicago, of course, even as the trial was going on, Chicago was dealing with
the Adam Toledo case there in itself. What's the reaction been there to what happened in
BRANDIS FRIEDMAN, WTTW: I think all of this has kind of reinforced what a lot of activists
have already been saying even since last summer, and even long before the George Floyd death
Obviously, you're aware that we had the Laquan McDonald case several years ago, a 17-year-old
young man killed at the hands of a Chicago police officer, and he was convicted a couple
of years ago.
So, a lot of folks are calling for a lot more accountability out of the Chicago Police Department
and the mayor. And, specifically, they want to see civilian oversight over the Chicago
Police Department, which has been something they have been fighting for, for quite a while,
and that I think will take quite some time before they reach something where both sides
are kind of satisfied.
JOHN YANG: And Jason in St. Louis, of course, the Michael Brown case in Ferguson a flash
point in this whole issue.
What's been the reaction in St. Louis?
JASON ROSENBAUM, St. Louis Public Radio: It's been a reaction of relief, and also, frankly,
a lot of surprise.
With the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, there was never any sort of trial either on a state
or federal level. So, to see a police officer be found guilty of a litany of charges for
killing an unarmed Black man, I think a lot of activists here aren't used to that sort
St. Louis and the St. Louis region have changed quite a bit since 2014, when Michael Brown
was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer, both politically and policy-wise. But I think
that they feel like, while this does bring a sense of closure to one incident, there's
a whole lot of ways to go when it comes to overhauling police departments and engendering
trust between Black people here and police departments around the region.
JOHN YANG: Staying with you, Jason.
Of course, in St. Louis -- or in Ferguson last year, in the midst of the protests over
the George Floyd death, Ferguson elected its first Black player. St. Louis itself elected
its first Black mayor. Has this changed people's attitudes? Is there hope now that there's
going to be a greater connection between the communities and City Hall?
JASON ROSENBAUM: Certainly, there is hope.
One of the things that I think people around the country need to realize is, as I have
already said, Michael Brown was shot and killed seven years ago, and it took almost seven
years to see monumental political change, like Tishaura Jones being elected the first
Black woman mayor in St. Louis.
And it's not only monumental because of that designation, but she ran on a number of platform
planks that featured things that activists here have been calling for since Brown's death,
which include shifting money from the police department to things like social workers,
and closing things like the Workhouse, which is a notorious jail here in the city.
So, now is kind of the time for people that have been calling for change to put a lot
of the calls of action into action. And they're hoping for people like Jones to actually follow
through on them.
JOHN YANG: Wilkine, in Florida, of course, the Trayvon Martin case was sort of the first
or one of the first to sort of focus attention on this issue.
It wasn't police, but it was a community watch captain. What's changed since then in Florida,
or has anything changed in Florida?
WILKINE BRUTUS, WLRN: Yes, Trayvon Martin's case was certainly a catalyst to bring attention
to the sort of broad movement to address police and law enforcement accountability.
There are certainly parallels that I can think of regarding the case surrounding Corey Jones,
a man who was shot to death. And that was an accountability case where the police officer
actually went to prison. And it showed the sort of multiracial solidarity.
And that multiracial solidarity added pressure to local elected officials to pass legislation
or to at least attempt to pass legislation. And we're certainly seeing that in the city
of West Palm Beach, where the mayor enacted a task force, a racial and ethnic equality
task force, to address some of the disparities surrounding these underserved communities,
which includes access to affordable housing, access to affordable health care.
There's a myriad of socioeconomic issues that extends far beyond police brutality. And that
Trayvon Martin case certainly amplified that, and certainly amplified #SayHerName that it
isn't just a Black men who are dying. There are also Black female victims involved in
all of this.
And so that's certainly something to consider when we're talking about Trayvon Martin and
any other cases involving law enforcement accountability.
JOHN YANG: And, Brandis, in Chicago, of course, since Laquan McDonald, there's a new mayor,
there's a new state prosecutor -- state's attorney.
And yet we now find, with the Adam Toledo case, many of the same issues back, many of
the same frustrations back. Has anything really changed? Or what has changed?
BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: I think it depends on who you ask.
The mayor who is currently in office, she was the one who headed up the previous Mayor
Rahm Emanuel's police accountability task force in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting.
She ran as a reformer. And I think she's getting a lot of criticism now for not really presenting
the reform that she promised would come.
She just this week has said that she does stand by her superintendent of police, who
took the job just a little over a year ago, what some might say is probably the worst
time to take a new job like that. But some things have changed since the shooting of
Of course, there's the consent decree that the city and police department have entered
into with the federal government. And that is, obviously, a very long process. There's
a lot of work to be done there. And, as I mentioned, what a lot of activists here would
really is a lot more civilian oversight, where they are the ones who decide who the superintendent
of police is and where they have control over the budget and things like that.
So, they have got a long way to go.
JOHN YANG: Jason, Brandis mentioned the consent decree the Chicago police are operating under.
The Ferguson police are also operating under a consent decree. Has that led to any changes,
either substantively in the department or maybe in public attitudes toward the department?
JASON ROSENBAUM: It absolutely has.
But many people in the St. Louis region feel that the fact that the federal government
only put a consent decree on Ferguson, and not many other surrounding cities that are
either largely Black or largely white, with long records of police misconduct against
Black people, was a huge missed opportunity.
And just changing Ferguson is not going to be the cure-all for the systemic racism that's
been permeating around a huge region. And Ferguson has changed. As you mentioned, there's
a Black mayor. Many of the key people within city government are African American, and
African Americans have more representation on the City Council.
And because the consent decree was in place, they have had to make changes to their police
department and city government because they have had no choice. But the fact that the
rest of the region hasn't had that same force, I think many people feel, was a huge missed
opportunity on behalf of the Obama administration.
And because we had a more conservative president that didn't really get into consent decrees
or pattern and practice arrangements, there was really no opportunity to do anything else
in the St. Louis region.
Interestingly, the Justice Department has resumed that with the Minneapolis Police Department.
And Republicans like Roy Blunt of Missouri have praised the Justice Department for doing
that. And they're hoping that more things that are happening in Ferguson happen in other
police departments around the country.
JOHN YANG: Wilkine Brutus in South Florida, Brandis Friedman in Chicago, Jason Rosenbaum
in St. Louis, thank you all very much.
BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: Thanks, John.
JASON ROSENBAUM: Thank you.
WILKINE BRUTUS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Can summer camp change the world?
The documentary "Crip Camp" makes the case that one particular camp impacted the lives
not only of the young people there, but the culture at large, through the fight for disability
The film, from the production company of Barack and Michelle Obama, is vying for an Oscar
Jeffrey Brown has our look for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
WOMAN: And then, when I went to Jened...
WOMAN: There I was. I was in Woodstock.
JEFFREY BROWN: Summer camp in Upstate New York, 1971, fun and frolicking, a Woodstock
era vibe. But Camp Jened was an unusual camp for young people with a wide range of disabilities.
CAMP ATTENDEE: Come to Camp Jened and find yourself.
JEFFREY BROWN: And that, says Jim Lebrecht, an attendee born with spina bifida, made all
JAMES LEBRECHT, Co-Director, "Crip Camp": Boy, I have to tell you, as a 15-year-old,
it was like freedom. You didn't feel like you were a spectacle. You didn't feel like
people were staring at you. You didn't feel like you were a burden.
JEFFREY BROWN: Which was different from life back at home?
JAMES LEBRECHT: Yes. You knew you were really different. There, I wasn't different.
JEFFREY BROWN: Many years later, Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham have made "Crip Camp,"
a documentary about Camp Jened and the larger disability rights movement.
It features interviews with former campers and counselors.
CAMP ATTENDEE: I just feel like these people are crazy, I mean, in a good way.
JEFFREY BROWN: And archival footage shot in the '70s.
It then follows camp participants who became trailblazers in a wider struggle.
NICOLE NEWNHAM, Co-Director, "Crip Camp": It really all started with this theory that
Jim had, which was that the camp was connected to this change that happened.
And the idea was to try very hard to kind of go back and find those seminal moments
that connected through these characters that you meet as a band of friends in summer camp.
And kind of filling that in, I think, enabled us to see something which otherwise we wouldn't
be able to see, which is the impact of something very small and how it grows into something
JEFFREY BROWN: Among the key protagonists, Judy Heumann, a camp counselor who'd contracted
polio as a child. She would go on to become a leading disability rights activist.
JUDY HEUMANN, Camp Counselor: They were announcing: Paraplegics stop traffic in Manhattan.
JEFFREY BROWN: In this scene at a New York City protest.
JUDY HEUMANN: There were only 50 of us. But, basically, with the one street, we were able
to shut the city down.
JAMES LEBRECHT: Judy just opened up my mind about the fact that, oh, my gosh, we can actually
fight back? Like, this isn't fair. I mean, I know it's not fair that I have a hard time
getting around in the real world, but that we actually have legal recourse?
NICOLE NEWNHAM: And the structure that we thought of was like this camp experience of
liberation was like a stone thrown in a pond. And you saw the ripples outward. And as the
ripples of the impact of that liberatory experience grow, the movement grows and the community
grows with it.
JEFFREY BROWN: The film follows former campers who moved to California's Bay Area and built
a flourishing community.
ANNOUNCER: A small army of the handicapped have occupied this building for the past 11
JEFFREY BROWN: Several took part in a harrowing 1977 sit-in in San Francisco to demand federal
regulations guaranteeing civil rights for the disabled.
WOMAN: That's when people started really feeling like we couldn't leave, because no one knew
what we were talking about, but we knew that they were trying to rescind the regulations.
MAN: So, I figured, OK, we're going to have to spend the night.
JEFFREY BROWN: That activism would culminate in the landmark 1990 Americans With Disabilities
Act, prohibiting discrimination based on disability and bringing changes to many aspects of American
Many years later, though, that fight continues. Lebrecht himself, a veteran sound designer,
has pushed for more representation of the disabled in television and movies, on and
JAMES LEBRECHT: What I believe is that the entertainment industry needs to really embrace
us as part of their diversity and inclusion efforts and apply the same mentorships and
opportunities for people within the community to establish and cultivate their careers.
The fact of the matter is, is that because you may not see us working side by side on
a set or in front of the camera doesn't mean we don't exist. We are there. We're underemployed.
JEFFREY BROWN: Their own film, says Newnham, aims to open a window for a new audience.
NICOLE NEWNHAM: The goal that Jim and I held dear throughout the entire filmmaking process
was that we could shift people's view of disability from a medical model or a charity model to
a rights-based model, and that people could see the exciting kind of new perspective of
coming to stories from a disabled point of view.
MAN: When we were there, there was no outside world.
JEFFREY BROWN: "Crip Camp" vies for an Oscar for best documentary this Sunday.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we all hope and end to the pandemic is in sight, this past year leaves
a spotlight on a disease often overlooked, chronic fatigue syndrome.
This week, more than 1,000 people living with chronic illnesses lobbied members of Congress
for more support.
Now disability advocate Rivka Solomon offers her Brief But Spectacular take.
RIVKA SOLOMON, Disabilities Advocate: Leading up to this interview, I was definitely nervous
and anxious, but I have done a lot of public speaking.
However, what's tricky about doing these kinds of interviews is that you never know when
your brain is just going to fly away, and I will not be able to remember what it is
I want to say. I won't be able to formulate sentences.
When I was 21, two of my college roommates and I all got mononucleosis at the same time.
They got better in a month or so, and I essentially never got better. After a year of being bedridden,
I had a few years of semi-remission, but it didn't last. It all came back with a second
infection, pneumonia, and I stayed sick for three decades.
They called it chronic mono, then chronic Epstein-Barr virus, then chronic fatigue syndrome.
And now they call it ME/CFS, myalgic encephalomyelitis chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of us just
call it M.E.
There are up to two-and-a-half million of us in the U.S. with M.E., 24 million around
the globe. We have no treatments, no cure, and people can be sick and disabled for decades,
often bedridden like me, some unable to care for or feed themselves; 80 percent of people
with M.E. got it after a viral or bacterial infection like me, and 75 percent of us are
I might look vibrant and full of life right now, but what happens is that, many of us
with M.E., all of us with M.E. have post-exertional malaise. That's called PEM. And that means
that, after we do anything that requires any energy output, we will often collapse. We
have a disproportionate payback.
So, after I do this interview with you, I might end up bedridden and unable to move,
literally. When you have M.E., it affects absolutely every single dimension of your
life. Many of us, our families and friends don't believe that we're actually sick. It
is a terribly lonely existence.
Right now, there are millions who are getting sick with COVID-19 from the coronavirus, and
some are not getting better. They're staying sick with what's called long COVID. Many with
long COVID will likely be eligible for an M.E. diagnosis after six months of being sick,
because they have many of the same symptoms as us.
But something truly beautiful has come out of all this. The M.E. community and long COVID
communities are helping each other. It is beautiful to see this. It's like the old-timers
helping the newbies, but the newbies have much more political clout and are also helping
One of the problems that we have had as a community is that there's been a faction of
the medical establishment that has put forth and propagated the myth that this isn't a
real disease, that it's actually a psychological condition.
So, for example, the 1980s, "Newsweek" had a headline on their front -- they had a cover
on -- sorry -- as you can see, my brain is beginning to go, right? You can see that happening
Even right now, as I'm doing this interview with you, I can feel the brain fog is taking
over. And I can't remember what your question was, and I can't remember what the beginning
of my sentence was. I don't remember the point that I'm trying to make.
The one thing I want people at home to take away is to believe a person when they tell
you how they're feeling. Don't dismiss them. Don't disregard them. Believe them and have
My name is Rivka Solomon, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on advocating for people
with chronic illness.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Rivka Solomon, we thank you for sharing your story and the story of
so many others.
And you can find all of our Brief But Spectacular segments online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.
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