PBS NewsHour full episode Aug. 3, 2017
Thursday on the NewsHour, special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly using a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russian election meddling. Also: White House policy on Afghanistan in flux, the NAACP warns against travel to Missouri, financial barriers to creating new antibiotics, realistic prospects for tax reform, a museum embraces its industrial past and keeping doctors in rural Africa.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: ramping up the Russia investigation.
The Wall Street Journal reports special counsel Robert Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington,
D.C., to investigate Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Then: a rare look inside the White House.
Leaked transcripts of President Trump's initial calls to leaders of Australia and Mexico reveal
contentious conversations and contradictory statements, especially on the border wall.
And part two of our look at drug-resistant superbugs -- why the economics of antibiotics
make it hard to find a market solution.
KEVIN OUTTERSON, Boston University: In any other field, there would be venture capitalists
running around funding these pre-clinical ideas.
For antibiotics, because there's no big payday at the end, the business model is broken,
there's very little private capital.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus: an industrial building turned modern art museum, how the revolution
of manufacturing is being played out in a small Massachusetts town now harboring a massive
JOHN SPRAGUE, Former CEO, Sprague Electric Company: Without MASS MoCA, believe me, there'd
I don't think there'd be anything left of North Adams.
That's -- the question is, is that enough?
And that's the story all over the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Russia probe ramps up.
Late today, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is using
a grand jury in Washington, D.C., marking a new phase in the investigation into Russian
interference in the 2016 election.
Joining me now to walk us this could mean is Steve Bunnell.
He is the former chief of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Attorney's Office here in Washington.
Steve Bunnell, welcome to the program.
First of all, explain to us, remind us of is a grand jury, what does it do?
STEVE BUNNELL, Former Federal Prosecutor: Well, thank you, Judy, for having me.
A grand jury is 23 citizens who sit to review proposed charges and vote indictments.
And in the federal system, they typically are involved in long-term investigations as
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is it -- I mean, we don't have all the information here, but based
on what we know, what is the significance of this news?
STEVE BUNNELL: Well, it appears that the investigation is getting more intensified, it's getting
It could be a consolidation of grand jury investigations which have been reported in
other districts, but certainly a grand jury is used for collecting financial information
and for doing long-term, deep-dive investigations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There had been reports that Robert Mueller was using a grand jury in Virginia,
perhaps using one in New York City.
What would this new grand jury permit him to do that he couldn't do before?
STEVE BUNNELL: It wouldn't expand the authorities that he has.
It may be a little more convenient for him, if he doesn't have to travel so far to actually
present evidence or to present witnesses.
So, it doesn't expand his ability to collect evidence.
It may just make it more convenient.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it say anything about the seriousness of what he is doing?
STEVE BUNNELL: Well, it suggests that the investigation is not ramping down.
It suggests that it is at an early stage of ramping up.
And the fact that there is a new prosecutor that recently joined the team that we have
learned about, that suggests that this investigation will be a serious, intensive investigation
that will go on for some time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There -- again, there have been reports that Mr. Mueller is not only
looking at, of course, the Russian activity, but he is looking at financial transactions,
possibly financial transactions on the part of President Trump.
Can one read anything along those lines into this?
STEVE BUNNELL: Well, Bob Mueller is a very experienced prosecutor and law enforcement
And he knows that you investigate potential crimes.
You don't investigate people.
And so I think what he's doing is investigating a set of allegations, a set of potential crimes.
And whatever individuals may be involved in that will be sort of part of that investigation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How does something like this get out into the public realm?
It is supposed to be secret, am I right?
So how does it -- what happens?
STEVE BUNNELL: Well, the federal rules of criminal procedure impose secrecy obligations
on the prosecutors, on the grand jurors themselves, on the agents that work with the prosecutors.
But the witnesses who appear before a grand jury or people who receive subpoenas are free
to talk about what -- you know, what the grand jury ha asked them.
And so it's not uncommon for grand jury investigations to get out into the public domain through
witnesses or people who receive subpoenas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And final question, what does this say about how long this could take?
I mean, are we looking at weeks, months, longer?
STEVE BUNNELL: I would say longer, certainly not weeks.
I would guess several, many months.
Federal grand juries are impaneled for 18 months and can be extended another six months.
And financial investigations take a long time, especially if you are trying to obtain records
from overseas locations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Bunnell, attorney here in Washington, former prosecutor, thank you
STEVE BUNNELL: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All this as two separate pieces of bipartisan legislation emerged in the U.S.
Senate designed to protect special counsel Mueller if President Trump were to decide
to fire him.
In other news, The Washington Post today published the transcripts of conversations President
Trump had with the leaders of Mexico and Australia during his first days in office.
Their contentious nature is at odds with the official White House report of the exchanges
at the time.
An excerpt from the call between Mr. Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto
showed a significant focus on the president's campaign promise to build a wall along the
Here's the exchange read by our "NewsHour" producers.
President Trump: "The fact is, we are both in a little bit of a political bind, because
I have to have Mexico pay for the wall.
I have to.
I have been talking about it for a two year-period.
If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want
to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that."
President Enrique Pena Nieto: "You have a very big mark on our back, Mr. President,
regarding who pays for the wall.
But my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot
pay for that wall."
President Trump: "But you cannot say that to the press.
The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that."
President Enrique Pena Nieto: "This is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and
goes to the national pride of my country.
Let us for now stop talking about the wall."
President Trump: "OK, Enrique, that is fine, and I think it is fair.
I do not bring up the wall.
But when the press brings up the wall, I will say, let us see how it is going, let us see
how it is working out with Mexico."
JUDY WOODRUFF: A second phone call, this one with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,
centered on an Obama-era deal for the U.S. to screen and take in refugees who had been
imprisoned after trying to enter Australia by boat.
The 24-minute exchange came just one day after the president had signed his original travel
ban, barring people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Again, the voices of "NewsHour" producers.
President Trump: "This is a stupid deal.
This deal will make me look terrible."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: "Mr. President, I think this will make you look like a man
who stands by the commitments of the United States.
It shows that you are a committed..."
President Trump: "OK, this shows me to be a dope.
I am not like this, but if I have to do it, I will do it.
But I do not like this at all.
I will be honest with you, not even a little bit.
I think it is ridiculous and Obama should have never signed it.
I am going to get killed on this thing."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: "You will not."
President Trump: "Yes, I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week
by these people.
This is a killer."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier in the conversation, the president referred to himself as the world's
greatest person, and close to the end of the conversation, he told Turnbull it was his
- - quote -- "most unpleasant call" of the day.
He has met with both world leaders in person since both those phone calls.
Separately, today, President Trump kept up his criticism of Congress, after reluctantly
signing into law new sanctions against Russia.
He tweeted this morning: "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous
You can thank Congress."
The Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, later retorted,
and defended the sanctions, which lawmakers approved overwhelmingly.
BOB CORKER (R), Tennessee: The relationship that we have with Russia is solely because
What he's done is an affront to the American people to try to have an effect on the election
It had to be spoken to.
I think we did it in a very appropriate manner.
I'm proud of the legislation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke on the phone today with his Russian
counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
The two men agreed to discuss U.S.-Russia relations in person at a meeting in the Philippines
In Brazil, embattled President Michel Temer has narrowly avoided suspension from office
for a bribery charge.
The Lower House of Brazil's Congress voted last night against sending Temer to trial
before the country's highest court.
Still, Brazil's attorney general may bring additional charges in the case, which involves
allegations that Temer took bribes from a meatpacker.
China is welcoming some recent comments from the U.S. about North Korea.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration is not looking for
regime change in Pyongyang.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing, the Chinese foreign minister urged all parties to find
a peaceful solution.
WANG YI, Chinese Foreign Minister (through translator): We attach importance to State
Secretary Tillerson's remarks on the Korean Peninsula.
China hopes that all relevant parties move forward together, and through equal dialogue,
find fundamental solutions that address everyone's reasonable concerns over security.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has expressed growing frustration over what he says is China's
reluctance to rein in North Korea.
One soldier from the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has died in a suicide attack north of Kabul.
Five other troops and an interpreter were wounded.
And a sad update to a story we brought you recently.
A man who died in an attack in Western Afghanistan this week has been identified as the father
of a girl on the country's now famous robotics team.
The all-girls team won a silver medal in a U.S. competition last month, after being denied
visas to the United States two times.
We will have more on the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan later in the program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now says that it won't delay rules on reducing
EPA head Scott Pruitt originally said that he'd hold off on enforcing an October 1 deadline
for states to start meeting new ozone pollution standards.
But after 16 Democratic state attorneys general sued Pruitt over the change, he reversed course.
The Pacific Northwest is enduring one of its most prolonged heat waves in years.
The temperature was expected to hit 106 degrees in Portland, Oregon, which would be just shy
of a record.
Meanwhile, smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada, has snaked into
Washington and Oregon, causing breathing problems for people with asthma.
There are new questions about President Trump's plan to hire 15,000 more Border Patrol agents
and immigration officers.
That's according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector
It said that officials are -- quote -- "facing significant challenges in identifying, recruiting,
hiring, and fielding the number of law enforcement officers that the president mandated."
Canada, meantime, is making space for hundreds of asylum seekers who have crossed the border
from the U.S. in recent weeks.
Montreal opened the doors of its Olympic stadium to hundreds of Haitian newcomers to the country,
as temporary housing options filled up.
In the first half of this year, some 4,300 asylum seekers have arrived in Canada from
Many are unsure of their status under the Trump administration.
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 10 points to close at 22026.
The Nasdaq fell 22.
And the S&P 500 dropped five.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the White House policy on Afghanistan in flux; why the
NAACP is warning people not to travel to Missouri; the financial barriers to creating new antibiotics;
and much more.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan has been under way for almost 16 years, and now a third president
is facing a policy decision on how to handle America's longest war.
With at least 10 more American deaths on the ground there this year and more than 2,400
since the war began, the Trump administration's next moves are in the spotlight.
P.J. Tobia begins our coverage.
P.J. TOBIA: Helicopters raced across the Afghan sky, transporting wounded from yesterday's
Taliban attack near Kandahar City in Southern Afghanistan.
On the ground, the charred husk of an American armored vehicle destroyed by a suicide bomber.
Two U.S. service members were killed, four others wounded.
For months, a new Afghan strategy has been the subject of divisive debate among the president
and his national security team.
DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: We're going to be getting some ideas, because
we have been there.
It's our longest war.
We have been there for many years.
We have been there for now close to 17 years, and I want to find out why we have been there
for 17 years, how it's going, and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.
P.J. TOBIA: Progress has been slow, and Mr. Trump has apparently grown frustrated with
NBC News reported yesterday, Mr. Trump suggested that Secretary of Defense James Mattis and
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joe Dunford fire the top commander
in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson.
Nicholson assumed command more than a year ago.
The Pentagon was reportedly considering extending his term.
General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, dismissed the charge in an interview
yesterday with MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt.
HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC: Do you have confidence yourself in General Nicholson, the combatant
commander in Afghanistan?
H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. National Security Adviser: Of course.
I have known him for many years.
I can't imagine a more capable commander on any mission.
HUGH HEWITT: Does -- Secretary Mattis, does the president?
H.R. MCMASTER: Absolutely.
P.J. TOBIA: Today, Republican senators came to Nicholson's defense, and cautioned Mr.
Trump against ignoring his advice.
LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: If you don't listen to the generals and you try to
make this up as you go, as Obama and Biden did, you're going to wind up losing Afghanistan
like we did Iraq, and the consequences to America are worse.
P.J. TOBIA: The president's own position on Afghanistan is unclear.
In June, he authorized Mattis and the Pentagon to dictate troop levels in Afghanistan.
Nicholson said earlier this year he need several thousand more troops to assist the roughly
8,500 Americans and 5,000 NATO personnel already on the ground.
On Capitol Hill in June, Mattis added:
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: I understand the urgency, and I understand it's
We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this.
P.J. TOBIA: But so far, there's been no formal announcement about adding troops.
Adding to the uncertainty, The Wall Street Journal reports the administration is now
also exploring the possibility of withdrawing forces.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm P.J. Tobia.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on all of this, we turn to retired Army General Jack Keane.
He was vice chief of staff of the Army from 1999 to 2003.
He was an influential advocate for the surge of troops in Iraq 10 years and now has his
own consulting company.
General Keane, thank you very much.
It's good to see you again.
What is the Trump administration policy toward Afghanistan?
JACK KEANE (RET.), U.S. Army: Well, right now, they're just maintaining the status quo.
The commander in the field has requested some additional troops, to be sure.
The president has asked for a strategic review of what is happening in Afghanistan.
I think the questions you just heard him ask are the appropriate ones.
Why are we there for 16 years?
And I can just tell, from you my own perspective, when I had the opportunity to talk to President
Bush about why the strategy was failing in Iraq and what we should do about it, that
is the place to begin, Judy: Why?
Why 16 years and no enduring victory?
The reason for that is simply this.
A lack of political will and commitment to achieve an enduring victory and the lack of
capacity and resources in support of that.
And that began almost immediately after the Taliban were defeated in 2001, when Secretary
Rumsfeld, in charge of the Pentagon, denied us the opportunity to put in the kind of trainers
to build a security force that would keep the Taliban down.
We didn't do that.
And then from 2003 to 2008, the United States was preoccupied with the war in Iraq, and
Afghanistan, Judy, was put on a diet.
And then, in 2009, President Obama added more troops, but he didn't give Generals McChrystal
and Petraeus what they wanted.
They told him the minimal force required to win in Afghanistan is 40,000.
He cut that number by 25 percent and then pulled it out 15 months later.
That doomed Afghanistan to the protracted war that we have right today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you are talking about a lack of will, a failure of will, a lack of
Is there agreement at least on what the goal is in Afghanistan?
What is it the United States wants the outcome to be there?
JACK KEANE: Well, I think they're probably is some agreement there.
Look, let me give it a try.
Number one, a fifth of all the terrorist organizations in the world reside in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So, what we want to do, because of our painful experience of 9/11, we want to deny a safe
haven and target terrorists in Afghanistan.
We want to stop the Taliban from overthrowing the Afghan government, which is a duly elected
We want to stop Pakistan from supporting and providing safe haven to the Afghanistan Taliban.
And we also want to continue international community support.
We need to assist the government of Afghanistan in providing more effectiveness, the rule
of law, and also assisting it with the incredible mineral capacity that they have.
And, finally, we want to seek a political reconciliation to the war.
That is kind of how I would shape what our strategy would be.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is the advice that President Trump is getting, as far as we know it, going
to lead to that outcome?
JACK KEANE: I'm not convinced.
The pathway to some kind of resolution favorable to the United States and the government of
Afghanistan has got to be through Pakistan, Judy.
There has never been insurgency ever that was defeated when it had a bona fide safe
haven outside of the combat zone.
And the Afghan Taliban have two in Pakistan.
Not only that, the Pakistan military provide them with intelligence and support for their
operations, which is quite outrageous, considering they're supposed to be an ally.
That has to stop.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of a split is there among the people around the president, secretary
of defense, secretary of state, General Nicholson an others?
JACK KEANE: I don't know the specifics on that.
I do know that I think, instinctively, the president would like to resolve this favorably,
but he doesn't want to get mired down in a long, protracted war that his predecessors
But the reality is this, Judy.
Afghanistan, if we do not stabilize that country, it will become a breeding ground for terrorists
that will threaten Europe and the United States.
And we cannot do that.
So I think we have got a tough decision in front of us here.
And it means more involvement in Afghanistan, not less.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, who is the most influential at this point in terms of who the president
JACK KEANE: I think the president certainly listens to H.R. McMaster and also General
Mattis and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
Those are the three major players here when it comes to Afghanistan.
He will always get certainly advice from Jared Kushner and also from Steve Bannon on any
But in terms of whose lane is this, that is the lane.
And there is -- I take it from -- because he's been briefed by these key figures, that
he doesn't like the answers he's been given.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, if General McMaster is saying that General Nicholson is safe, who
is in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but the president is expressing frustration,
how is that going to turn out?
JACK KEANE: Well, if I was one of those three people, I would just flat tell the president,
I would say, Mr. President, the problem in Afghanistan has never been our field generals.
The problem in Afghanistan has been the commander in chief, in not providing the resources and
the political will to win this war.
It is not the field commanders.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And do you think the president is prepared to do that?
JACK KEANE: I honestly do not know, Judy, where he is going to come out on this.
I don't want to try to speculate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, a lot of questions, I think more questions than answers tonight.
JACK KEANE: Yes, I agree with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: General Jack Keane, we thank you very much.
JACK KEANE: You're welcome, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The NAACP has issued a warning, what they're calling a travel advisory, for
women, minorities, and LGBT people traveling to the state of Missouri.
It is asking those travelers to use -- quote - - "extreme caution" when visiting.
Our Hari Sreenivasan has this conversation, recorded earlier this evening.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It's the first time the NAACP has issued a travel warning for an entire
It followed a new state law that makes it harder for fired employees to prove racial
Joining us to discuss all this is attorney Rod Chapel.
He's the president of the Missouri NAACP.
For the record, we invited Missouri's governor to join, but he declined our invitation.
Mr. Chapel, what prompted this action now?
I know that this was approved statewide in June, and this was a vote that still has to
be ratified, but why now?
ROD CHAPEL JR., President, Missouri NAACP: What led to the travel advisory are a couple
of things, one, the recognition that there were widespread civil rights violations that
were occurring in the state of Missouri, and that those were not properly being addressed
by local or state authorities.
And that was compounded by the fact that Senate Bill 43 was signed into law.
It will affect people in the workplace, people searching for housing, as well as just in
the general public experience.
It changes the standard that discrimination must be proved to, as well as gives immunity
to individuals who discriminate and harass against others.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, some of the language in your text here, it says this travel advisory,
travel with extreme caution, that you may not be safe while in Missouri.
You say this is not a boycott, but what are you trying to accomplish?
ROD CHAPEL JR.: Well, honestly, we have done about everything that we can to try to talk
with state and local officials about the ways that laws are being enforced, asking that
they have appropriate or better laws that allow people to live with dignity.
That has not succeeded.
So, at this point, we didn't have much of an option.
We had to warn people, so that they knew what they are coming into in the state of Missouri
or what conditions they're living under if they are already here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what about the notion that this is just trying to cut back on frivolous
That was one of the rationale given when this was proposed.
ROD CHAPEL JR.: Well, unfortunately, we have heard that argument before.
And so when I talk with the members of the Chamber of Commerce about it or people close
to them, when I talk with the governor, one of the questions that we at the NAACP had
is, how do you quantity that?
And did you try?
There are no numbers that they have for what they say are these frivolous lawsuits.
They have a hard time trying to identify businesses that will come forward and say that they had
What they do have is a senator who got sued for discrimination in one of his rent-to-own
stores in Southeast Missouri who introduced this legislation, and he talked about frivolous
But other than one person who would like to keep himself or his stores from being sued
for discriminatory conduct, we haven't heard from a single individual or business that
has advocated for Senate Bill 43.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, the governor says that the standards that you are referencing, the
standards would try to align Missouri with 38 other states with the laws on the books,
moving what is called a contributing factor to a motivating factor, whether racism was
a contributing factor in discrimination or whether it was the motivating factor.
What is the response?
ROD CHAPEL JR.: You know, unfortunately, I feel like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce
has done a poor job of informing the governor on this issue.
Unfortunately, what has been adopted in Missouri is not the federal standard.
What this standard is, is the motivating factor.
That means that it is the -- and I can tell you, my mother is a professor.
She would tell you that "a" and "the" do not mean the same thing.
There are some jurisdictions that have adopted a motivating factor.
But my third grader would also tell you "a" and "the" are two separate words, and you
can't interchange them however you want to.
I challenge those that have said that, that if you had 38 other states that Missouri will
be joining and having the same law, show them to me.
Point that word out.
Show where it says the motivating factor, on top of the fact that I'm not aware that
the federal standard would prevent people from being sued for discriminatory conduct.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, what about other states?
I know you are responsible for the NAACP in Missouri, but what is the bar for the NAACP
to put out a travel advisory like this?
ROD CHAPEL JR.: Well, this is the first time that it's been done.
Missouri is leading the way in this way, and regretfully so.
We wouldn't have issued if it wasn't ultimately necessary to ensure that people in the state
and traveling through the state were safe.
And I think that other states are going to have to make those same determinations.
At the point, though, that you have people readopting what we have consider to be Jim
Crow laws, where you say that entire segments of society cannot have access to the courts
to address grievances, and, worse than that, legalize what I can consider to be immoral
conduct, discrimination and harassment of other people based on God-given characteristics.
Then I think that the states really do have to decide whether or not they have got an
obligation to the people there in the state and people who may be traveling through to
let them know the conditions that are happening.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Rod Chapel, thanks so much for joining us.
ROD CHAPEL JR.: Hey, thank you.
I appreciate it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have this development to add.
Late today, the Saint Louis County NAACP released a statement calling on the national organization
to revoke the advisory for Missouri.
And I'm quoting.
The statement says: "We suggest that, if the NAACP doesn't rescind their advisory immediately,
then they should add to it the other 38 states with similar laws as well."
They claim that the advisory will hurt many of their members locally, especially those
employed in hospitality.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Stay with us.
Coming up on the "NewsHour": the realistic prospects for reforming the U.S. tax code;
a museum's decision to embrace its industrial past; and a Brief But Spectacular take on
bringing doctors to rural Africa.
But first: our series on antibiotics and the dangerous so-called superbugs building resistance
It's a joint project from our science correspondent, Miles O'Brien, and our economics correspondent,
Last night, Miles looked at the clear and present dangers for patients.
Tonight, we start tackling the hunt for new drugs, and why the market for creating them
has just about collapsed.
Here's Paul's report.
It's part of our weekly series Making Sense.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, Russian emigre, 1989, came here speaking no English.
How do you like capitalism?
SLAVA EPSTEIN, Northeastern University: I embrace it.
PAUL SOLMAN: Slava Epstein has been embracing novelty his entire life.
Told he'd never make it as an astrophysicist in the former Soviet Union, he swapped telescope
for microscope and became a biologist instead.
Then, unable to find an academic job upon emigrating to the U.S., he volunteered at
university labs while doing odd jobs to survive.
SLAVA EPSTEIN: Painting houses takes no English.
Repairing roofs doesn't take very much English.
Paving driveways with bricks can be a silent job.
PAUL SOLMAN: And nearly 30 years later, Epstein is still getting his hands dirty, looking
for new antibiotics.
SLAVA EPSTEIN: One gram of dirt like this contains roughly, give or take, 10 billion
PAUL SOLMAN: And as he told my colleague Miles O'Brien:
SLAVA EPSTEIN: One percent has been more or less explored.
The remaining 9.9 billion cells per gram have not.
PAUL SOLMAN: Now, digging up dirt is actually a grand old tradition in antibiotics research.
NARRATOR: One hundred samples of soil to be scientifically searched for a lifesaving organism.
PAUL SOLMAN: A project made that much more urgent by the onset of World War II, and the
wounded soldiers who filled England's hospitals.
MARIE-LOUISE KERR, History of Science Museum: Chambers of horror seemed the best way to
describe those septic wards.
PAUL SOLMAN: Marie-Louise Kerr of the History of Science Museum in Oxford, where penicillin
was developed into a drug.
But, by the end of World War II, penicillin is a key factor in the Allies winning the
MARIE-LOUISE KERR: Definitely.
America was able to produce penicillin on a much larger scale.
And, yes, by 1944 to' 45, there was enough penicillin to treat every soldier involved
in D-Day and also civilians as well.
PAUL SOLMAN: But just two years after that, penicillin-resistant staph infections were
already being reported, a pattern that's been repeated for every antibiotic since.
SLAVA EPSTEIN: Resistance arises very quickly to antibiotics.
Really, in clinical use, it takes just a few years.
PAUL SOLMAN: Now this wasn't much of a problem during the so-called golden age of antibiotic
discovery and development, but that age has been over for decades.
KEVIN OUTTERSON, Boston University: The last time that we had a new class of gram-negative
antibiotics, approved for human use, that drug was discovered the year that I was born,
So we have had no new classes discovered in my entire lifetime.
PAUL SOLMAN: Boston University law Professor Kevin Outterson specializes in health law.
KEVIN OUTTERSON: So, these drugs worked well for our parents and grandparents' generation,
but they won't work that way forever.
Resistance will undermine them.
We have to replace them.
PAUL SOLMAN: OK, clear enough: As today's antibiotics begin to lose their oomph, a clear
and present danger lurks.
But here's where prudent medicine runs into the hard truths of economics.
JOHN REX, Former Pharmaceutical Industry Executive: Early on, if you bring in a new drug that
goes one bacterium further, so to speak, you would say, I really need that, I need it today.
I'm going to start using that today.
PAUL SOLMAN: Dr. John Rex is a former pharmaceutical industry executive.
JOHN REX: But now you invent a new antibiotic that hits the very most resistant bacteria
in the world, what we as a community want you to do with it is sit on it, OK, and save
it for just that rainy day.
PAUL SOLMAN: That's because the last thing we want to do, as a society, is use a new
superdrug too soon, spurring the evolution of superdrug-resistant bugs that will eventually
render the new drug worthless.
So then the increasing awareness of the overuse, potential overuse of an antibiotic because
it will create resistance makes the economics worse?
JOHN REX: It does.
And also our awareness of how hard it is to find them, so once we have found this precious
jewel, we need to protect it, because every use of an antibiotic, even a correct use,
KEVIN OUTTERSON: This is not a question of if this is a problem.
PAUL SOLMAN: John Rex and Kevin Outterson are both working on a new project called CARB-X,
a public-private partnership to spur development of new antibiotics, because the market just
can't do the job by itself.
After all, why would a drug company spend a fortune developing a new antibiotic, when
no responsible doctor will prescribe it until there's no alternative?
KEVIN OUTTERSON: From the company perspective, it's a disaster, because their novel, cutting-edge,
exciting product doesn't sell.
PAUL SOLMAN: And it's a product in which they have presumably invested a huge amount of
KEVIN OUTTERSON: Hundreds of millions of dollars.
PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, the patent that keeps any other company from making and selling
a generic version runs out after only 14 years.
KEVIN OUTTERSON: Two of the most highly used antibiotics in the United States, last-ditch
antibiotics, are Colistin and Vancomycin.
And both of them have been off patent for decades.
At the time that they entered the market, we had better drugs.
Now we need them, right?
So this is a classic example of, if it's useful, it's saved for the future, which makes the
commercial prospects very difficult.
PAUL SOLMAN: Another problem: For a relatively rare infection, a company might have to charge
tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a return on its investment.
KEVIN OUTTERSON: You see that for cancer.
PAUL SOLMAN: Right.
KEVIN OUTTERSON: It's impossible to do that for antibiotics.
PAUL SOLMAN: Why not?
KEVIN OUTTERSON: We lack the diagnostics that would tell the doctor immediately that this
antibiotic is the one that would save this person's life.
PAUL SOLMAN: As if all that weren't enough of an economic disincentive for investing
in new antibiotics, infectious disease specialist Lindsey Baden points out yet another one:
length of treatment.
LINDSEY BADEN, Infectious Disease Specialist: Often, the treatments are short, a week or
two, and intermittent.
And that's very different than for hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterol, where it's a treatment
every day for the rest of your life.
PAUL SOLMAN: So does that mean that the market as currently constructed can't come up with
new antibiotics; there just won't be the investment to making them?
KEVIN OUTTERSON: We won't get the sort of antibiotics we really need.
What about the antibiotic that saves the life and returns you to full health of somebody
who's 20 or 30 or 40?
That antibiotic is worth, truthfully, millions of dollars.
In any other field, there would be venture capitalists running around funding these pre-clinical
For antibiotics, because there's no big payday at the end, the business model is broken,
there's very little private capital.
PAUL SOLMAN: So how does society change the economics to solve a problem that could be
as important to the future of humanity as any?
SLAVA EPSTEIN: Well, I happen to be an optimist.
PAUL SOLMAN: That's where Slava Epstein comes in.
SLAVA EPSTEIN: An incurable optimist.
PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, still dancing to his own beat.
And while it still takes two to tango, Epstein's eternal optimism is all his own.
SLAVA EPSTEIN: The probability of overwhelming success is over 100 percent.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, 100 percent seemed a tad high to both me and Miles O'Brien.
Is Slava Epstein a piece of work or not?
And I use that phrase in the best possible sense.
MILES O'BRIEN: Absolutely.
And he wouldn't be offended.
But his optimism, I wonder about.
Now, you're the expert on the invisible hand, though I have a certain amount of expertise
on this myself.
But let's put that aside.
Everybody I have spoken to along the way about this says this just cries out for some government
PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, and that's where we're going with the next story.
How does government get involved when the market can't seem to solve a problem, as is
the case here?
For the "PBS NewsHour" I'm economics correspondent Paul Solman.
MILES O'BRIEN: And I'm science correspondent Miles O'Brien.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There is no question health care has commanded the spotlight recently
on Capitol Hill, but waiting in the wings, an issue equally important to Republicans.
And that one is arguably even harder to solve.
It's tax reform.
Our Lisa Desjardins is here to walk us through where efforts stand.
Lisa, you have been spending a lot of time looking at this.
Who has been pushing this, who is working on it, and what do they want to accomplish?
LISA DESJARDINS: First point, Judy.
This is a process very different than health reform, than health care.
First of all, let's look at who Republicans are using right now, who is determining this.
It is the big six leaders.
That means two leaders from the White House, the treasury secretary and also the president's
national economic adviser, then Leader McConnell in the Senate, as well as the chair of the
Senate Finance Committee, and then Speaker Ryan himself and his tax-writing chairman.
Here is what they came out with in the last week, an idea that they say they want to lower
rates for individuals and businesses.
And they also want to simplify our large tax code.
We hear that a lot, fewer brackets, but also fewer deductions.
So, it's not clear who wins or loses yet, but the White House has come up with a little
bit more specifics.
They have said they want to cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it's not clear, you're saying, yet who the winner -- who is a winner
and who is a loser, what income brackets stand to gain or lose?
LISA DESJARDINS: No.
And I think that's why we're talking about it tonight.
It is very important that people start paying attention now, because they are starting to
make these decisions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So this is a massive undertaking.
I happen to remember tax reform back in 1986, a long time ago.
It takes a long time.
Do they really hope to get this done by the end of the year?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, as you remember, in 1986, it took almost a year for President
Reagan to do that.
And that was with the help of Democrats.
They only have a few months left.
And they want to get this done by the end of 2017.
Let's whip out the calender and see how that could possibly happen.
Here is what Republicans are hoping happens.
In September, they're hoping the House can pass a tax reform bill.
Then, sometime in October or in November, they would hand it over to the Senate.
They are hoping that is when the Senate would pass its tax reform bill.
You see that there.
Now, here is another problem, though, Judy.
Look back at September.
At the end of September, they have got to fund all of government, also have to pass
a debt ceiling increase, and, oh, by the way there is still talk of passing a health care
stabilization bill or Affordable Care Act bill.
That is an incredibly crowded calender.
And on top of all of that, Judy, to even get to tax reform, they have to pass a budget.
And so far, the House Republicans have not found the votes for that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And none of that is simple, as you suggest.
So let's talk about the money.
I believe you were telling me they want this to be revenue-neutral.
They don't want it to raise the deficit.
But there was income -- there is money they were counting on this year that hasn't materialized.
LISA DESJARDINS: Right.
They thought they would get money perhaps from an idea from House Republicans, which
was to increase an import tax, a border adjustment tax.
That is off the table because it ended up being too unpopular.
Also thought they would get nearly a trillion dollars from health care reform.
That doesn't look like it will happen.
That was all money they were going to use to cut taxes.
So, without that money, where do they find the tax cut money so that they don't raise
It's a big question.
And one consideration right now is perhaps to cut mandatory programs, like Social Security
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, just backing off of this a little, for Republicans, why is
Do they know what they want to accomplish here at the core?
And what are Democrats saying about all this?
LISA DESJARDINS: Republicans see this as about the economy and jobs.
I think a good sound bite to listen to is this Senator John Thune, who is leadership
on the Senate side.
He said this on Tuesday.
JOHN THUNE (R), South Dakota: We think that tax reform really needs to be built around
the idea of economic growth.
We get greater growth in our economy, it creates better-paying jobs, higher wages, provide
tax relief for middle-class families in country, simplify the code.
LISA DESJARDINS: It's interesting.
Democrats don't dispute that.
They also want economic growth.
They want people's taxes lower.
They say they are willing to work on this, but they have some requirements, Judy.
They don't want a tax cut for the wealthy.
They also say no cuts to Medicare or Social Security in tax reform.
Those are areas where they clearly seem to disagree.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, again, looking at the calender, today is August the 3rd.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: When should people start paying serious attention to all this?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I think already we have seen this week the Koch brothers and
their organization have rolled out their effort to push for tax reform, also seen Speaker
Next week, we will see an important speech by the Ways and Means chairman, Kevin Brady,
But, Judy, my advice is, I think, September is the time to really pay attention.
If the House can get something moving in September, then this is a real effort.
If they get sort of stuck on the rocks, then they have got a real timeline problem.
So, there's three weeks of September.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins following it all at the Capitol for us, thank you.
LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The recent expansion of an art museum in Western Massachusetts has made
it one of the nation's largest museums for contemporary art.
The exhibition space has grown to more than 250,000 square feet, a huge showcase for modern
As Jeffrey Brown reports, it is also a case study in reviving old industrial towns.
JEFFREY BROWN: In James Turrell's work, as the title promises, you can literally walk
into the light.
Tanja Hollander presents nearly 6,000 images exploring friendship in the age of Facebook.
Laurie Anderson's large-scale charcoal drawings fill a gallery.
The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known as MASS MoCA, is a big space for big
It first opened in 1999 in an old industrial factory in North Adams, a small town in the
Berkshire Mountains, and made a name for itself by commissioning and exhibiting works by many
leading modern masters, including the sculptor Nick Cave, who filled this enormous with,
among much else, 12,000 spinners suspended from wire cables.
JOE THOMPSON, Director, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art: It's grand.
It's a football field in length.
MASS MoCA's director, Joe Thompson walked me through it.
JOE THOMPSON: It's a challenging space.
It's a lovely, beautifully proportioned space.
We love the fact that it has light streaming in from both sides.
JEFFREY BROWN: You pick the artist, but then you don't know what that artist is going to
do with the space?
JOE THOMPSON: I think that's -- and that's the joy of this space.
We pick our collaborators, then give the artist a lot of rope, a lot of latitude, a lot of
time, and the help that they ask for.
JEFFREY BROWN: The exhibitions here can be long-term, really long-term, 25 years in the
case of this gallery dedicated to the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt.
A big part of the story here is the art, of course.
But the walls, the paint, the architecture, well, they tell a different story too, one
about American industry, a changing culture, and historic preservation.
MASS MoCA was created from a shuttered network of 26 19th century brick buildings, at the
confluence of two branches of the Hoosic River.
It was an industrial powerhouse in a region known since colonial times for its manufacturing,
everything from shoes to machinery.
From 1860 to 1942, the plant housed the Arnold Print Works, a textile manufacturer.
That was followed by Sprague Electric Company, which built components for televisions, weapons
and more, and was by far the largest employer in town, some 5,000 jobs in a total population
JOHN SPRAGUE, Former CEO, Sprague Electric Company: People used to call it Sprague Town,
because if you wanted to get a job in North Adams, you went to work for Sprague or someone
who was a local contractor for Sprague, so absolutely dominated the local economy.
JEFFREY BROWN: John Sprague, the company's last CEO, says he and his family closed the
factory in 1985 due to labor disputes and competition from abroad.
Today, he walks through his old plant with a bit of wonder.
JOHN SPRAGUE: This building was falling apart, and if something hadn't gone in, it would
eventually have been -- just fallen apart, have been absolutely devastating.
JEFFREY BROWN: Signs of the old are everywhere, most notably in the Boiler House.
Rusting away, with a soundtrack added, it's a kind of artwork in itself.
Museum director Thompson worked with the design firm Bruner/Cott.
JOE THOMPSON: Layers of paint, worn floors.
JEFFREY BROWN: And you kept it?
JOE THOMPSON: We kept it.
It's beautiful, for one.
Where are you going to get something that beautiful?
And, on one hand, it marks time.
There's no designer willfulness in it.
It's what came with the building.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some of the artists here play directly to this idea of making something
new from the old.
Lonnie Holley, who uses everyday found materials, is paired with Dawn DeDeaux, who features
a wrecking ball, in an exhibit that tapes into the MASS MoCA concept, all the way to
the idea of renewing earth itself.
DAWN DEDEAUX, Artist: The work, I think you find in Lonnie's work and mine, there's a
lot of destruction, reconstruction, considering those types of possible inevitable losses.
LONNIE HOLLEY, Artist: We are taking all of these things and we are turning them into
glamorous works of art.
This is beautiful.
This is like heaven.
We called it...
JEFFREY BROWN: This building, this museum.
LONNIE HOLLEY: We called it Holy MoCA for a minute, didn't we?
We called it Holy MoCA.
JEFFREY BROWN: Holy MoCA?
LONNIE HOLLEY: Holy MoCA.
JEFFREY BROWN: The museum might be a new kind of shrine, but can it be more?
The original promise of MASS MoCA was ambitious: to anchor a new local economy around culture
One local we met has seen the transition up close and personal.
Missy Parisien heads security at the museum.
Long ago, her mother, Dolores, worked for Sprague Electric.
Do people in your family, people in the town kind of get that this can be an economic engine?
Do they see it that way?
MISSY PARISIEN, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art: My family?
My family, yes.
They're all about new things and bringing new things to the city, yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: But other people were a little skeptical.
MISSY PARISIEN: Not so much, yes.
Even now, it's still -- it's difficult to get through to the people of North Adams what
exactly it is we have here.
And I used to be one of those people, too, until I started working here seven years ago.
JEFFREY BROWN: Many years in, MASS MoCA director Joe Thompson believes the economy here has
finally turned upward.
But it's been a slow process, beginning at the most basic level of jobs.
JOE THOMPSON: So, you're talking about, you know, maybe 500 vs. 5,000, a 10th of the labor
On the other hand lots of people visit.
I think we will have probably something like 200,000 people visit this year.
And they obviously stay and spend time and money, and that generates a lot of economic
But it's a completely different economic reality now.
JEFFREY BROWN: At 87, John Sprague has seen it all in this area, and he's written a book
about its history, with the subtitle "Creation, Disruption, and Renewal in the Northern Berkshires."
JOHN SPRAGUE: MASS MoCA is certainly the prime example of renewal.
And without MASS MoCA, believe me, there'd be nothing.
I don't think there'd be anything left of North Adams.
That's -- the question is, is that enough?
And that's the story all over the United States.
It's not just the story of Sprague Electric or Arnold Print Works or -- that's a manufacturing
in the United States problem.
JEFFREY BROWN: And another question, whether art, culture and tourism can be a solution.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people
to describe their passions.
Tonight, we hear from Christopher Ategeka.
The Ugandan-born entrepreneur founded Health Access Corps.
It's a nonprofit that aims to combat the shortage of health care professionals in sub-Saharan
CHRISTOPHER ATEGEKA, Health Access Corps: If you look at the United States, the doctor-patient
ratio is about one doctor for every 390 people.
But if you look at a country like Uganda, my home country, the doctor-patient ratio
is one doctor for every 24,000 people.
I see myself in these people all the time, because, at one point, I was them.
I was raised by a deaf-mute grandmother.
My father and mother both died of HIV and AIDS.
And my brother died of malaria before his fifth birthday.
I got an opportunity, through one of those send-an-orphan-to-school programs.
You have seen a lot of programs around the world where you send a couple dollars across
the globe to help an orphan.
They go to school, and, you know, for you on the other side, you hope their life is
And, for me, my program that supported me, it offered a little more than just sending
me to a local school.
It said, we will send you to college.
Being born in the rural parts of Uganda, and raised there, and seeing the devastating effects
of not having health care access, there was no better place for me to apply my engineering
talent than help individuals access quality health care.
We are a nonprofit organization that recruits newly graduated doctors, nurses, and midwives,
and places them to work in underserved regions.
It all started with the problem of brain drain of health care professionals on the African
What we have learned is, no one wants to leave their food, their culture, their language,
their family to go work elsewhere if they can find a job with the same conditions locally.
And if you look at the global health systems, they spend a lot of time and money and resources
sending medical volunteers to go work in developing countries on short-term missions.
And they have good intentions.
But if we could spend a small amount of that money and those resources, and empower the
locally trained professionals to serve their own communities, in their own countries, we
could have, you know, an exponential impact.
I grew up in that environment.
I know what it means not to have.
You know, I wore my first pair of shoes when I was in my late teens.
Being in the position that I'm in now of privilege to come back and help, there's no better place
to be for me.
My name is Christopher Ategeka.
And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on providing health care access for all.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch more of our Brief But Spectacular episodes online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.
And a news update before we go.
One of the world's tallest buildings, Dubai's 86-story residential Torch Tower, catches
It is still unclear how many, if any people may have been injured.
But there are initial reports that the building was successfully evacuated.
We certainly hope so.
On the "NewsHour" online: President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally this evening
in Huntington, West Virginia, where he's promised an announcement.
We will be streaming his remarks live, scheduled for around 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
That's on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again right here tomorrow evening with Mark Shields and David Brooks.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, and we will see you soon.
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