September 13, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
September 13, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: Taliban takeover. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken faces
congressional scrutiny over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as the militant group exerts
Then: kids and COVID. A sharp rise in hospitalizations prompts the American Academy of Pediatrics
to advocate for emergency authorization of vaccinations for children.
And 20 years later, 9/11 first responders still suffering from exposure to toxins often
struggle to receive adequate health care.
MAN: All of us just knew that we weren't safe, but we did our job.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: The nation's largest public school district has
opened for in person classes in the biggest test yet of classroom learning during a COVID
About a million students in New York City returned to school today. There's no option
for remote learning, and nearly all staff must be vaccinated or tested weekly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio greeted students and parents in the Bronx this morning, and he
insisted they will be safe.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), Mayor of New York: Kids coming to school today all across this city
are going to experience a gold standard of health and safety measures. And, as everyone
knows, in the coming days, every single adult in our schools is going to be vaccinated.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis threatened to fine local governments
that force employees to get vaccinated. And a federal judge in Iowa blocked a state law
that bars schools from mandating masks for students and staff.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken today defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. At a
congressional hearing, he called it -- quote - - "an extraordinary effort."
At the same time, U.N. human rights officials cited credible reports of the Taliban hunting
down and killing former Afghan security forces. We are going to look at all of this after
the news summary.
Tropical Storm Nicholas is headed for landfall in Texas tonight, with up to 16 inches of
rain. It could become a minimal hurricane, and then move slowly across Texas and Southwestern
Louisiana through midweek. That's likely to trigger flash flooding in a region west of
where Hurricane Ida struck two weeks ago.
President Biden got a firsthand look today at the aftermath of Western wildfires. He
traveled to Idaho and Northern California. and he said the fires show the nation needs
his plan for spending $3.5 trillion on social and environmental needs.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: We can build back better than it was before.
And it literally provides for billions of dollars for wildfire preparedness, resilience
and response force management, and public water sources.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Biden claimed every dollar spent now on fighting extreme weather and
climate change will save $6 in the future.
Top Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives called today for tax hikes to pay for that
$3.5 trillion spending plan. They would raise the corporate rate from 21 to 26.5 percent
and also increase taxes on the wealthy.
We will speak with Senator Bernie Sanders, who's pushing the spending bill, later in
The federal budget deficit for this fiscal year topped $2.7 trillion through August,
driven by COVID relief spending. With one month to go, it's on track to be the second
largest ever, behind last year's record of more than $3 trillion.
U.S. Capitol Police have formally announced that they will put temporary fencing back
up ahead of a Saturday rally. It's being organized to support Trump backers who stormed the Capitol
on January the 6th. More than 600 people are facing charges.
On Wall Street, today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 262 points to close at 34869.
The Nasdaq fell 10 points. The S&P 500 added 10.
And George Wein, founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, died today at his home in New York.
He launched the Newport Festival in 1954 and led it for more than 50 years. He later started
the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and his success sparked numerous other events, including Woodstock.
George Wein was 95 years old.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": Senator Bernie Sanders on the challenges facing the spending
bill; why the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for children to get the vaccine;
how the Boston mayor's race reflect that city's changing demographics; and much more.
It is now four weeks since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
And as the militant group cements control, restricting the rights of women and minorities,
the lives of so many millions more Afghans lie in the balance. The very real specter
of famine looms, and global efforts to deliver emergency aid accelerated today.
Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin reports.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, in a Kabul market where the Taliban flag flies, where fighters are
traffic cops, the furniture's on sale, so families can avoid starvation.
JAMSHID JAN, Seller (through translator): I brought my household items here for sale
because there are no job. How will we eat? We sold these today. What will we sell tomorrow?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Afghanistan's economic crisis continues to push Afghans to flee. Thousands
tried to cross the Friendship Gate along the Southern border with Pakistan. Afghans say
Pakistan hasn't been very friendly, but, today, allowed more refugees entry.
For Afghan health care, the crisis is acute. Most hospitals are propped up by international
organizations that have now frozen $600 million; 31 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces are at risk
of losing health services entirely. And Afghan officials fear a fourth COVID wave. Only 1
percent of people have been fully vaccinated.
Today, I spoke with Dr. Wahid Majrooh, Afghanistan's minister of public health during the previous
government, who stayed on after the Taliban took over.
DR. WAHID MAJROOH, Afghanistan Minister of Public Health: Approximately 150 mothers will
be deprived of Caesarean sections every day. Patients who are admitted in the hospitals,
unfortunately, are not provided with food at least, with oxygen.
If health service delivery in contribution to the sector is politicized, we will witness
the human price. We will witness a collapse.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, at a U.N. conference, donors pledged more than $1 billion in urgent
humanitarian assistance. Thousands of Afghan health care personnel have worked without
Majrooh urges the international community to fund the Health Ministry through or outside
the Taliban government.
DR. WAHID MAJROOH: It doesn't matter for me what the political agenda is. What matters
for me is how we can reach the children in need, the mothers in need.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Why did you stay on? Why are you still in the same position, despite the
fact that the government is now controlled by the Taliban?
DR. WAHID MAJROOH: It was and it is a challenging decision to make.
I mean, I had to weigh my safety and safety of my family and safety of 35 million people
who are in need of emergency care. I'm very happy I could stay to ensure that the Health
Ministry remains operational, the health facilities remains functional.
My purpose and my ultimate goal is ensuring service delivery to our patients.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But so many Afghans need so much help. The U.N. warned today millions
could run out of food and a million children are at risk of starvation and death.
As for Dr. Majrooh, Judy, he will soon give way to a Taliban-appointed minister, who will
have to lead a ministry that is still dependent on foreign aid to exist.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So much to watch there.
Nick, first of all, welcome back from parental leave. Very exciting.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You're a dad.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We're so happy for you.
Let's shift over to Congress, what we were reporting on what happened today. And that
is the first testimony by a Biden administration official since the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan.
Secretary Blinken, how did he defend what the administration's done?
NICK SCHIFRIN: One of the main criticisms is the withdrawal itself, of course, because
of what happened, that Taliban takeover.
The administration has argued that its hands were tied by the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed
during the Trump administration. But Republicans Steve Chabot today pointed out what many have
pointed out, that the Biden administration actually rejected other Trump policies.
REP. STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): This was the one Trump policy that he had to follow.
Do you understand why this is pretty hard to fathom for a lot of people?
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. Secretary of State: The agreement reached by the previous administration
required all U.S. forces to be out of Afghanistan by May 1. In return, the Taliban stopped attacking
our forces, our partners, and it didn't commence an onslaught of the Afghanistan cities.
Had the president not followed through on the commitments that his predecessor made,
those attacks would have resumed. We would have re-upped the war in Afghanistan after
20 years for another five, 10 or 20 years. We would have had to send more forces back
NICK SCHIFRIN: But that black-and-white answer doesn't acknowledge that the military was
willing to stay in Afghanistan for a longer time with a small number of troops.
And it also does acknowledge the administration could have argued the Taliban weren't pledging
their part of the agreement, so the U.S. could have decided not to follow through on its
agreement to withdraw.
As elsewhere, Judy, it got much more heated. Republicans accused Secretary Blinken of passing
the buck to the Trump administration and demanded he resign. He refused.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And there was also criticism of the execution of the pullout, leaving Afghans
behind. Tell us about that.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, it's Afghans who are eligible for visas and refugee status. It's also Americans.
About 100 Americans who were in Afghanistan who want to leave are still there, as well
as thousands of green card holders.
And this was the criticism during the day from Chairman -- sorry -- Ranking Member of
the House foreign affairs committee Republican Mike McCaul.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): To make matters worse, we abandoned Americans behind enemy
lines. We left behind the interpreters who you, Mr. Secretary, and the president both
promised to protect.
I can summarize this in one word, betrayal. Our standing on the world stage has been greatly
diminished. Our enemies no longer fear us and our allies no longer trust us.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Secretary Blinken vowed to take out all of the Americans from Afghanistan,
once again blamed the Trump administration for -- quote -- "stalling" the visa problem
- - the visa program, rather.
But lawmakers from both parties, Judy, as you know, over the last few weeks have accused
the Biden administration of not evacuating early enough.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of talk about that.
What is known, Nick, at this point about what the Biden administration plans are diplomatically
in terms of dealing with this new Taliban government and also the humanitarian crisis
that we have been reporting on?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, this is the dilemma.
The U.S. needs to work with the Taliban to get those Americans, to get those Afghan allies
out and to confront the humanitarian crisis, but doing so without supporting or propping
up the Taliban government.
The administration is considering its future relationship with the Taliban. And Blinken
today laid out U.S. demands.
ANTONY BLINKEN: We expect the Taliban to ensure freedom of travel, to make good on its commitments
on counterterrorism, to uphold the basic rights of the Afghan people including women, girls
and minorities, to name a broadly representative permanent government.
The interim government named by the Taliban falls very short of the mark that was set
by the international community for inclusivity.
NICK SCHIFRIN: That last line about the interim government is a bit of an understatement.
It has as its interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is perhaps singularly responsible
for the worst attacks on American forces in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
But the Taliban desperately need money in order to avoid state collapse, in order to
confront some of that humanitarian crisis. And that gives the West, that gives the U.S.
leverage. That money, though, needs to be delivered quickly. There are millions of Afghans
who are undergoing that humanitarian crisis that we talked about who have nothing to do
with these politics, who are simply suffering and could suffer very dramatically in the
Their lives are at stake. Right now, the West and the world needs to figure out how to get
humanitarian aid into Afghanistan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very tough decisions to make about getting that aid in, but under what
NICK SCHIFRIN: Absolutely.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nick Schifrin, thank you. And, again, welcome back.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Thanks very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released
a proposal today that would help pay for most of President Biden's $3.5 trillion spending
In addition to raising the corporate tax rate on businesses making $5 million in income
to 26.5, the plan also includes a 3 percent surtax on wealthy Americans making over $5
million a year and a top tax rate of 39.6 percent on couples earning more than $450,000.
For more on all of this, I'm joined by the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator
Bernie Sanders. He is leading the effort behind the massive bill.
Senator Sanders, welcome back to the "NewsHour." It's very good to see you.
And let me ask you about what we are seeing from the House tax-writing committee, the
Ways and Means Committee; $2.2 trillion over 10 years is what they have so far laid out.
It's a lot of money, but it's well short of what President Biden was looking for. What
is your take?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, I think we will probably do a lot better in the Senate.
The bottom line, as I think every American knows, is that, in our country today, the
people on top, the 1 percent, large corporations are doing extremely well. And what we are
seeing is that, in any given year, you have multibillionaires who are not paying a nickel
in federal income taxes. That's true for many large, profitable corporations.
So I think what the American people are quite clear on, I'm quite clear on, now is the time
to demand that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations start
paying their fair share of taxes. My hope is that we will pay completely for this $3.5
trillion reconciliation bill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we mentioned, one of the things they're proposing is to raise
the top corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 26.5 percent, raising the capital gains
tax rate to as high as 31.3 percent for the very wealthy.
That's less than the top rate for earned income. Is that acceptable to you?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we will see what the Senate Finance Committee does.
But my general view is that, at a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality,
when two people own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent, when the top 1 percent has more
wealth than the bottom 92 percent, now is the time to ask the wealthy and large corporations
to pay their fair share, so that we can begin to address the long-neglected needs of working
families, in terms of our children, in terms of health care, in terms of the elderly, and,
by the way, in terms of addressing the existential threat of climate change.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I know you're saying this has to go to the Senate Finance Committee, but
let me just ask about one other element of this bill that the House committee looked
And this is something that Senator Joe Manchin, who has problems with the overall spending
bill, he said he accepts this, and that's extending the child tax credit, which has
taken a lot of families out of poverty. The difference, though, is that he said it should
be limited to the poor and middle-income Americans, not to families earning as much as $400,000
How do you see that?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Look, what I believe is that, in the richest country, in the history
of the world, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost major country
And what we should all be very proud of is that, in terms of the American Rescue Plan,
what we did, Judy -- and this is -- this tells you what good policy can do -- through the
direct payments that went to working-class families and that $300-a-month payment to
working parents, we have reduced childhood poverty in this country by over 50 percent.
That is pretty good. And we have got to make sure that this approach, this direct payment
to working parents, continues, because, if we do not, if we do not pass a reconciliation
bill, that ends in December, and that would be an absolute shame.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, for the overall spending bill, $3.5 trillion, I know you, President
Biden and many others are saying it's absolutely necessary.
But you have now got several members of your own party, Senator Sanders, who are saying
it's just too much, among them, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. It doesn't look
right now as if you have got the votes to get that $3.5 trillion passed.
Are you prepared to compromise?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I have compromised, Judy.
The truth of the matter is, I brought forth a budget for $6 trillion. And we need every
penny of that, by the way, if we are going to deal with the extraordinary crisis facing
this planet in terms of climate change, and have the United States lead the world in transforming
our energy system.
I compromised. I took that 6 -- and by the way, that $6 trillion budget, I would say,
had the support of at least 80 percent of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate. It was
what people wanted. I compromised. We took it down to $3.5 trillion.
But what you're looking at right now is a budget and a set of proposals, whether it's
expanding child care, expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses,
making sure that pre-K in America is free and universal, ending the absurdity that we
are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave, building
the housing that we need, and, by the way, when you do all these things, creating millions,
many millions of good-paying jobs.
This is a popular idea. It is supported widely by working-class Americans, whether you're
Democrat, Republican or independent. That is the approach, I think, that has got to
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Senator, my point is, you not only have blanket Republican opposition.
They're calling it a socialist wish list.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At least Senator McConnell is. But you also have Democrats, as I just
mentioned, Senator Manchin and others, who are worried this is too much. They talk about
inflation. They talk about how much government money has gone out the door during this COVID
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, look, we had a similar problem in terms of passing the American
Rescue Plan, which, as you will recall, ended up being passed, I think, at 4:00 in the morning,
with the vice president casting the deciding vote.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You think Senator Manchin will come around?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Look, I think that, at the end of the day -- and, by the way, everybody
has a problem with this bill. I have problems with the bill.
So we're working 24/7 trying to resolve everybody's problem. But if you're asking me, at the end
of the day, do I think the Democratic Caucus will turn its back on the needs of working
families, turn its back on the unbelievable crisis we face in terms of climate change,
no, I do not believe we will turn our back.
I think we will resolve it, we will come together, and we will pass, by the way, this -- not
only this $3.5 trillion. This $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, as you know, is tied
together with this $550 billion physical infrastructure bill.
And I hope very much that we can pass both.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Final, very quickly, different subject.
Newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in a speech yesterday in
Kentucky, Senator Sanders, said that, contrary to what some believe, the court is not driven
by partisanship. She said: We're not a bunch of partisan hacks. We are driven by judicial
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I -- depending on how you -- I don't consider them to be
partisan political hacks.
I think there is no question but that Donald Trump and other Republican presidents have
appointed people who they felt would toe a very, very conservative line with regard to
corporate needs, with regard to being anti-choice in terms of women's rights. That's what Republican
presidents, including Trump, who appointed Ms. Barrett, have done.
And that's the simple reality.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you're saying they're not driven by their judicial philosophies?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: No, I'm not saying that at all.
I'm sure they believe that they are. But it's not an accident that Donald Trump happened
to appoint them, and not somebody else.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, we thank you
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Biden administration rolled out new mandates last week to expand vaccination
for more than 100 million more Americans.
But questions remain about when one major population ineligible for the shot, and that
is kids under the age of 12, will be able to get it.
William Brangham looks at those concerns.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Judy, there are 48 million kids in America under the age of 12, but the
timeline for a vaccine for those kids keeps changing.
This summer, the FDA went back to manufacturers asking for expanded trials and more data.
It's not clear when emergency authorization will actually happen. But with the Delta variant
raging, almost five times as many children are now being hospitalized for COVID-19.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has called on the FDA to pick up the pace.
We talk now to Dr. Lee Beers. She is president of the Academy and also a pediatrician.
Dr. Beers, great to have you on the "NewsHour."
You wrote this letter on behalf of the Academy to the FDA saying, we have got to move quicker.
Make the case. Why do you think that they need to speed up the process?
DR. LEE BEERS, President, American Academy of Pediatrics: For any vaccine, medication,
any kind of medical intervention, one of the things we always think about is the risk/benefit.
And we need to make sure that the benefit of the vaccine or the medication or the therapeutic
outweighs -- the risk of that outweighs the risk of the illness. And what we have been
seeing with COVID, we know, thankfully, COVID tends to be very mild in children, but some
children can still get very sick. But low risk is not zero risk.
And what we have seen with Delta is that Delta is so much more contagious that we're seeing
many, many more children get sick. I often say a small percentage of a large number of
children is a really large number of children.
So, right now, we're seeing children get very sick. We see it in the numbers. We also see
it in our pediatricians' offices, where we're hearing from pediatrician offices and hospitals
all across the country that they're -- that they're overwhelmed.
And so, in our mind, actually, we have always thought that the vaccine is a really important
tool in the toolbox for -- to keep our youngest kids healthy. But now it's really getting
particularly acute and particularly urgent.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the letter that you all wrote to the FDA, you said that, if after
two months of data, it looks like it's a viable vaccine for kids, let's approve it, vs. the
six months that they seem to want.
Can you explain the difference there?
DR. LEE BEERS: I think this is something, actually, that we all maybe have gotten familiar
with in the final approval of the vaccine for adults.
Emergency use authorization was given after two months and final approval after six months.
And what we know from vaccine science and vaccine development really across the past
70 years is that we really -- for a virus that's not a live virus, like this one is
not, we have never seen a side effect that has occurred after the first six to eight
So, we feel quite comfortable, actually, that a two-month monitoring period is adequate
for making this decision about whether the vaccine is safe and effective. And we know
that the Delta variant really is quite contagious. And so we're seeing a lot of kids get sick
And so those two things together really tell us that we feel like a two-month period is
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We have seen some very rare complications with young -- younger adults,
younger males in particular, this myocarditis, the inflammation of the muscles of the heart.
Do you worry, though, that, even if after two months, we don't -- the FDA doesn't see
anything really problematic, that there still might be some of those cases in children,
and sick children, because of a vaccine in a hospital becomes wildfire in this media
ecosystem that we live in, and that that could do much greater damage to the vaccine effort
Is that a fear that you have?
DR. LEE BEERS: It's a really important question, right, because we do want to be cautious.
That's part of why we have these very structured and deliberate systems in place to make sure
that our vaccines are safe. The one thing I always like to remind people is the fact
that we're even having this discussion about a side effect that really is quite rare tells
us that our vaccine monitoring systems are working the way they should.
Of course, we take every side effect seriously. And what we have seen with the cases of myocarditis
after the vaccine is that almost exclusively they are quite mild and do resolve their own.
What we also know is that getting infected with COVID can cause myocarditis as well.
And what we're seeing in those cases is that the risk of myocarditis with COVID infection
is much greater than the risk that we're seeing with the vaccine and also the risk of myocarditis
- - or that the myocarditis that happens in kids after a covered infection can be much
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We have seen some anecdotal reports of parents getting so-called off-label
vaccinations for their children for COVID-19, I guess through doctors or clinics that are
willing to do that.
You guys have also been counseling against that as well.
DR. LEE BEERS: Yes, that's absolutely correct.
Our FDA processes are in place for a reason. We want to make sure that we can be confident
in our vaccine safety. And so it's really important to follow those processes.
The also other pieces that we know from the clinical trials that actually the dosage in
younger children of the vaccine is likely to be smaller. And so we really don't want
children getting off-label vaccines. But it's - - we want to make sure that the vaccine,
when they get it, it's authorized and it's safe and effective.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dr. Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics,
thank you so much for being here.
DR. LEE BEERS: Thank you so much for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Voters in Boston are getting ready for a major shakeup in their city's
politics. Tomorrow's election in the race for mayor narrows the field to two finalists.
One thing won't change: All the contenders in this nonpartisan election are left-of-center.
But, as Jeffrey Brown reports, the face of leadership looks different this year.
It's part of our Race Matters series.
JEFFREY BROWN: Meet the mayor, the old one, always a white male, and, for 90 years, all
but one Irish. But look now. Change is in the air in Boston, where the top candidates
this year are all women of color who serve on the City Council, acting Mayor Kim Janey
and Andrea Campbell, both black, Michelle Wu, Taiwanese-American, Annissa Essaibi George,
daughter of Tunisian and Polish parents.
To many, like Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, it's a watershed moment. She grew up here and now
heads MassVOTE, aimed at increasing voter participation in communities of color.
CHERYL CLYBURN CRAWFORD, Executive Director, MassVOTE: At one point, we could not see ourselves.
A female -- a Black female mayor, this just wasn't in the cards. We didn't see it.
As the demographics change in the city is more -- is becoming more mixed, diverse, people
see themselves in the role, in those roles, and say, I can, right? Like, that role is
open for me.
JEFFREY BROWN: This is a city of rich history, but part of that history includes deep racism.
When I was growing up in this area, one of my childhood heroes was Bill Russell, one
the great basketball players with the Boston Celtics. He would write years later in a memoir
with bitterness of his experience as a Black man here, calling Boston a flea market of
So, one question posed now, how much has this city really changed?
In the 1970s busing era, overt violence, today, continued economic disparities. A study by
the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found the median net worth for non-immigrant Black households
in the metropolitan area was just $8, compared to $250,000 for whites.
Boston has a -- quite a reputation as a racist city, a racist past.
CHERYL CLYBURN CRAWFORD: It does.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is it deserved?
CHERYL CLYBURN CRAWFORD: Yes, very much so. I grew up here. I went to school here. I left
and I came back after 25 years. And, yes, in a different shape, in a different form,
but it still exists.
And I just -- I think we're working on it. I feel hopeful.
MAN: These are the 411 kits with all of the information about the different campaigns
that we're working on.
JEFFREY BROWN: Crawford's group is nonpartisan and doesn't back specific candidates. But
she says an election amid a pandemic gives all of them and voters a need to respond.
CHERYL CLYBURN CRAWFORD: I think, with COVID last year, 2020, ripping the Band-Aid off
and exposing all the inequities that exist within our communities, that we have a real
opportunity to make change.
LARRY DICARA, Former Boston City Councillor: Thriving church, the hub of this neighborhood.
JEFFREY BROWN: The old way in Boston revolved around tight-knit neighborhood institutions
like the Catholic Church. Larry DiCara learned that as a politician himself in many roles,
beginning in the 1970s as a city councillor and candidate for mayor.
We met him outside Blessed Sacrament, shuttered since 2004, in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
LARRY DICARA: When I arrived in Jamaica Plain, there were four Catholic churches and four
Catholic schools. Today, there are two Catholic churches.
JEFFREY BROWN: Today, Jamaica Plain is a more gentrified community, new businesses mixed
with old and its own Whole Foods.
LARRY DICARA: And many of the buildings are now occupied by young single people who are
not from here. And they...
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. They don't have those roots.
LARRY DICARA: Don't have the roots. Don't even know what church they're supposed to
go to. Very, very different.
JEFFREY BROWN: But people don't have those roots, but they also don't have the political
LARRY DICARA: Don't have the political roots because they don't know that Maura Hennigan's
was in the state Senate and her grandfather was before him.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
LARRY DICARA: They just don't know those things.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
In another part of the city, Dorchester's Fields Corner, immigrants, most from Vietnam,
have helped revitalize a neighborhood in decline.
PAUL WATANABE, University of Massachusetts Boston: I have seen it in just a few years
after they built this thing.
JEFFREY BROWN: Paul Watanabe, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts
Boston, brought us to the Vietnam American Community Center.
PAUL WATANABE: And what they did is, they came here and they found the rent is cheap,
and they found an opportunity here. And they really built a community here.
This is a city that, for example, that was on a decline. Up until the most recent censuses,
for example, we saw the population of Boston going down, not increasing. And we have seen
the growth of the city take place under one explanation, and that is immigration.
Immigration is really what has added to the vibrancy of the city in a large degree.
JEFFREY BROWN: It helped bring it back?
PAUL WATANABE: It helped bring it back.
JEFFREY BROWN: What will happen? In West Roxbury, Rachel Poliner, head of the local chapter
of Progressive Massachusetts, is backing current front-runner Michelle Wu, who happens to be
originally from Chicago.
But, today, Poliner she thinks Bostonians vote more on issues, like affordable housing
and homelessness due to the opioid crisis, rather than old ties.
RACHEL POLINER, Progressive West Roxbury/Roslindale: We have questionnaires that go out to candidates.
We interview the candidates. We have forums.
And I think all of those contribute. The political conversation is shifting over the last decade,
more to issues and policies and problem-solving.
JEFFREY BROWN: For Paul Watanabe, there is a chance Boston itself will move from national
political lagger to leader.
PAUL WATANABE: If you think about Northern industrial cities, most of them have had a
Black mayor before. And I will argue that the leadership that emerges from this election
is going to be one that has, I hope, a national impact on this debate, not only what happens
in Boston, but how we get a nation that is going to look like Boston soon, a majority-minority
nation that, again, has leadership that reflects that new reality.
JEFFREY BROWN: Tuesday's preliminary election will narrow the field to two, who then go
head to head in November. As appears all but certain, a winner will reflect the face of
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown in Boston.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As Senate Democrats negotiate a trillion-dollar budget resolution in Washington,
Democrats in California are in the final stretch of a recall election that risks their hold
on the governor's mansion.
Here to talk about this busy week in politics, our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The
Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.
And it is so good to see both of you on this Monday. Thank you for being here.
So let's start out with talking about what I was talking to Senator Bernie Sanders about,
Amy, and that is this mega-spending bill, $3.5 trillion. He says he is sticking to his
guns, he has already compromised. Where does it stand?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: It stands not with Senator Sanders, but with
When you only have 50 votes in the Senate, your ability to get something passed on a
party-line vote rests with the one who is most at risk. And the most at-risk senator
right now is Joe Manchin, who has said out loud multiple times, we're not doing $3.5
I think the bigger challenge right now for Democrats, though, as they're thinking about
this process is, everything we have talked about has been the price tag. We have talked
very little about the policy underneath it. And I think for Democrats who are talking
about selling this in the next election in 2022 or beyond, right now, what they're talking
about is all kinds of different things within it.
We heard Senator Sanders talk about, right, making the rich pay their fair share, income
inequality. But what is it tangibly? It hasn't really been defined yet by that. And Republicans
then have the opportunity for these next few weeks and probably throughout the campaign
in 2022 to define it by that number, right? This is just more money going out of Washington.
AMY WALTER: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
AMY WALTER: It's -- whether it's socialism, whether it's this is why the deficit so large,
or why inflation is going up.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Tam, you could argue the administration, the president has tried to
talk about it. Senator Sanders has tried to talk about it. The president's out there in
California today talking about, we're going to fix the environment with this, among other
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Yes, certainly, President Biden has been pitching
what they call the Build Back Better agenda, which I think that a lot of the conversation
about it, as Amy says, has gotten bogged down in the process: Oh, it's a reconciliation
The reality is that, if they are able to pass something, and it has things in it that matter
to people, then they will have something to talk about. But if they don't pass anything,
then they won't.
And Senator Sanders, I think, in his interview also seemed to say Democrats aren't going
to let nothing happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
TAMARA KEITH: So, at some point, something's going to have to give.
But it seems like Democrats are very motivated to have something. And they know that the
window of time to do this is not that wide, because, once you get into 2022, that is an
election year. The endangered members of Congress and members of the House are going to start
thinking about their futures.
And it gets much harder to do it.
AMY WALTER: Yes, I agree.
It's -- we're at the place where it's too big to fail, basically.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will see what not nothing looks like that.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The other reason the president, Amy, is in California is to do a visit, to
show his hand for Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall vote coming up tomorrow.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And people have been voting, but it comes to a head tomorrow.
What are we -- what are you watching from this? What could the parties learn from this?
AMY WALTER: Yes, it's been very interesting.
Part of the reason that Newsom was imperiled at all was his handling of COVID -- of COVID
and, specifically, his decision to go and hang out with a bunch of wealthy lobbyist
types at a really fancy restaurant in the Bay Area, when he's telling everybody else
in California, hey, you got to wear a mask, or all these businesses were shutting down.
That anger then turned into all the other troubles that the rest of the country is having,
right, with the Delta variant and more shutdowns. But, over the last few weeks, Newsom and Democrats
have been able to actually turn COVID against Republicans.
The front-runner on the Republican side named Larry -- Larry Elder has come out against
mandates for vaccines and for masking, which in a state that has an 80 percent vaccination
rate, that's not -- that's not a popular position.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.
AMY WALTER: And so you have everybody from this president to former President Obama to
other major Democratic figure saying, voting against Gavin Newsom is literally dangerous
to your health, using the -- nationalizing COVID, but in a way that helps a sitting governor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's not for lack of challenges. There's something like 46 of them.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes.
However, that's not nearly as many challenges as there were in 2003, when then-Governor
Gray Davis faced a recall.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You're right.
TAMARA KEITH: And sadly, Gary Coleman is no longer with us to run again in this recall.
But there are a lot of challengers. One thing that is missing, though, is -- that was there
in 2003 that I think hurt Gray Davis that Governor Newsom has been able to avoid is,
of the options on question two, the people that could be picked, there really is no major
There is a YouTuber that has generated some buzz among younger voters who is a Democrat,
but, otherwise, it's mostly Republicans, which, again, has allowed Newsom and Democrats to
nationalize this election, say it's a Republican power grab, say it's just Trump Republicans
out to get us.
There are other different dynamics too. Despite all of Gavin Newsom's troubles, he's actually
above water. His popularity is above 50 percent...
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the latest polls.
TAMARA KEITH: ... while Gray Davis was below 30 percent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. So, we will see there.
AMY WALTER: We will wait and see.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the number -- but it looks good for...
AMY WALTER: But it does.
There's both the polling. And then, as you said, this is mostly mail-in ballots. We have
already had more than seven million ballots cast. Democrats were having -- early on, the
polling was picking up an enthusiasm gap. They have definitely come and turnout -- turned
And it's much more polarized today than it was in '03. There are a lot of Democrats in
2003 who voted for the recall.
TAMARA KEITH: And for Arnold Schwarzenegger, because he was moderate in a way that Elder
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right, different in so many ways.
Hard to get people in California to pay attention to elections.
AMY WALTER: Fair.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And sometimes in many states, so not just picking on California.
But last thing I want to quickly ask you about, over the weekend, 9/11, some very somber,
solemn remembrances of that terrible day in the history of this country 20 years ago.
Tam, one that stood out to me was former President George W. Bush, Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Here's just an excerpt of what he had to say.
GEORGE W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: There's little cultural overlap between
violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home.
But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination
to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing
duty to confront them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: "Children of the same foul spirit."
He's talking about the January 6 insurrectionists, even though he didn't name it, and what happened
TAMARA KEITH: He is drawing a direct line. And, certainly, Flight 93 was thought to be
aimed at the nation's Capitol. And January 6 truly did attack the Capitol Building.
A lot has happened in those 20 years. It has been an incredibly difficult 20 years for
this country, with a recession and wars and now this pandemic, but the words from the
former president also indicate just how much things have changed, that what he is saying
was sort of a mainline idea, or at least an ideal, probably not realized, 20 years ago.
But now it's almost controversial, at least in some parts of his own party.
AMY WALTER: Yes, and the -- but his position about domestic terrorism vs. terrorism abroad
is also reflected among many Americans, right?
In the NPR/"PBS NewsHour" poll, more Americans said they were worried about extremism in
the United States than from abroad. And then there was an AP poll also out in August, same
thing, where a larger percentage of Americans said, I'm much more worried about what's going
on here than being attacked by extremists from overseas.
And, yes, to Tam's point, it is this moment we had in 9/11, this moment we thought was
going to be unity, and, instead, we have seen all these big -- other big events lead us
to more polarization.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Solemn.
AMY WALTER: Very.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.
AMY WALTER: You're welcome.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. On that day and
for weeks after, first responders at the World Trade Center worked to clear rubble and to
search for remains.
Many were stricken with debilitating illness, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
Amna Nawaz has more on the challenges first responders are still facing.
But let's start by hearing from some of them in their own words, brought to us by the Dorney-Koppel
MAN: It was very, very bad. It was like a sandstorm. I have been in sandstorms. It was
like that. You couldn't see three or four feet in front of you.
MAN: It took two weeks for that dust to get out of my work boots.
MAN: I went home, and my teeth felt like I was -- had sand in my mouth. I was blowing
my nose for weeks, and blood was coming out of it. But I just kept going back, and then
I was every night for three months.
MAN: After the Twin Towers went down, that area was a disastrous area. And the air wasn't
healthy enough for the people that were living or working there. And I was there every day.
MAN: The air quality wasn't what it should have been. We all knew it, in spite of what
we were told. We went in anyway.
MAN: I think it was the Environmental -- the Department of Environmental Protection came
out and said, the air is fine. It's healthy to breathe. Don't worry about the air.
MAN: They told us the air was clean, that it was OK.
MAN: They said, everything will be all right, you know? And everything wasn't all right.
MAN: We all knew the site was contaminated, no matter what government agency said it wasn't
and that it was safe. That was not true. We all knew it. All of the first responders knew
it, and all of us knew we weren't safe. But we did our job.
MAN: It took a few years. I started to notice that I couldn't go as long, like, say walking
or, like, say, running, because I love sports. And I noticed that my breathing was slowing
MAN: I was fooling myself, because I would think there was nothing wrong, and I would
just take some time off from work. A year later, two years later, I started to realize
that it is not going away. It's not getting any better.
MAN: When the doctor told me, "You have COPD," I said, what is that?
I had no clue what it was until he explained it to me.
MAN: I can't even wash my own cars now. I used to wash my own car. I used to rake my
own leaves, keep my house nice and neat. I can't do any of that now.
MAN: If it is under 20 degrees out, I can't go outside my house, because it feels like
I'm inhaling broken glass.
MAN: I can't play (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sports no more. Seeing people running around as I
pass by, seeing them on the field throwing the football around, running -- one day, I'm
hoping to have grandchildren, and I want to be able to do that with them. But who knows
what it holds.
AMNA NAWAZ: There's more information about those suffering from this disease at COPDSOS.org.
Now, COPD is just one of many illnesses plaguing first responders since the attacks of 9/11.
Among the initial first responders and those who worked or lived in the area, more than
4, 600 have died since that day. It's still not clear how many of those deaths were linked
to exposure at the attack sites for weeks and months afterward. Since 9/11, more than
80,000 responders have sought medical help.
For a closer look, I'm joined by Dr. Steven Markowitz. For eight years, he ran the World
Trade Center Health Clinic in Queens, New York. And from 2011 to 2020, he served on
the Scientific and Technical Advisory Board of the World Trade Center Health Program.
He's an epidemiologist who now works with the advocacy group 9/11 Health Watch.
Dr. Markowitz, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for making the time.
That World Trade Center health program, it is a federal program. Just, for people who
aren't familiar, give us a sense of the scale and scope of it. What kind of support does
it provide? How many people has it helped?
DR. STEVEN MARKOWITZ, 9/11 Health Watch: Well, it serves over 110,000 people at this point.
Three-quarters of them are responders who worked at Ground Zero, firefighters, police,
and the like. And the remainder, about a quarter of them, are neighborhood residents or survivors.
So, it is a very large program, providing both routine annual monitoring for most of
them, but also care for selected health conditions that have been deemed to be related to 9/11
work or residents near 9/11.
AMNA NAWAZ: And 20 years later, do you have your arms around the universe of people who
need help? In other words, is everyone who is eligible for that support already reached
out, part of the program?
DR. STEVEN MARKOWITZ: Well, you know, actually, in the last eight months or so, there are
over 500 people each month who are joining the program.
So that means there clearly is an untapped population. Even though over 110,000 are members
now of this program, clearly, there are more who could be served.
AMNA NAWAZ: What about the medical impact? What is sort of range of health conditions
you're dealing with? We just heard about COPD and its devastating impact. We have heard
about stories of cancer linked to that day. What else?
DR. STEVEN MARKOWITZ: Well, that -- about 40 percent have aerodigestive conditions.
So what this means is either asthma or other upper respiratory problems, or gastroesophageal
reflux disease, acid reflux, about 40 percent. That's about 45,000 people in that program.
Cancer is a common problem. Over 20,000 responders and residents in the program have developed
and been treated for cancer.
An additional 20,000 people have mental health problems, mainly post-traumatic stress disorder,
depression, and anxiety, and a range of other conditions as well.
So, the majority of people in the program have one or more of these certified health
AMNA NAWAZ: So, the program was set up for a 90-year duration, right? But there are now
concerns it's going to run out of money by 2024 or 2025.
How did that happen? And what more is needed now?
DR. STEVEN MARKOWITZ: Well, it happened because Congress did its best to estimate what kind
of funding would be needed over a certain period of time.
But, in fact, more people have gotten ill and more people have joined the program than
expected. And those illnesses are very costly. Now, the health care that's given for the
responders and the residents is very good health care. It's excellent care.
And, in fact, there was just a recent research study looking at cancer among the program
participants has demonstrated that they do better in this program than they would have
if they were part of the general population of New York state, in fact, 28 percent better
in terms of cancer outcome, either cure and or long-term survival.
So the program is providing excellent care. It costs money. It means that, if the money
runs out in 2024 or '25, that the program will be -- won't be able to continue. That's
a big problem.
AMNA NAWAZ: Some folks may remember, back in 2019, it took former "Daily Show" host
Jon Stewart publicly shaming Congress to get funds reauthorized for the program.
Are you confident that it will get the funds it needs now?
DR. STEVEN MARKOWITZ: I am confident because I think people understand.
The other thing is that the people who are cared for in this program, they're really
all over the country. I mean, the majority are here in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut,
but they're all -- there are thousands of people in Florida who are part of this program,
thousands of people in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia.
So they're really spread throughout the country. It's a national care program. So I think people
- - I think people in Congress will understand that.
The other thing I should mention is that it's 20 years now. Now, most toxins don't cause
problems right away. The toxins that cause chronic conditions like cancer, neurologic
diseases, et cetera, they normally wait 15 or 20 years before they cause their problems.
Now, in this program, we have seen an accelerated development of problems. But the worrisome
now -- thing now is, now that we have hit 20 years, is that, if these toxins act like
they normally do, then we have to be very careful, very vigilant about the health of
these program participants, and make sure that, if new problems develop, that we catch
AMNA NAWAZ: Twenty years later, we can only hope those who need the help can get it.
That is Dr. Steven Markowitz, board member of the advocacy group 9/11 Health Watch.
Thank you for your time.
DR. STEVEN MARKOWITZ: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we certainly do hope they can get the help that they need.
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff.
Thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.
More Episodes (329)
October 18, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episodeOctober 18, 2021
October 17, 2021 - PBS NewsHour Weekend full episodeOctober 17, 2021
October 16, 2021 - PBS NewsHour Weekend full episodeOctober 16, 2021
October 15, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episodeOctober 15, 2021
October 14, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episodeOctober 14, 2021
October 13, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episodeOctober 13, 2021