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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  August 18, 2021 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, the fall of afghanistan-- top military leaders say u.s. troops don't have the capability to escort civilians to the kabul airport, as thousands continue their desperate attempts to flee. and, boosting the vaccine-- the biden administration reveals its plan to administer booster shots for all vaccinated adults as the delta variant continueto surge. we talk with the u.s. surgeon general. then, devastation in haiti-- frustration grows with the country's government over the lack of aid, and hospitals are overwhelmed, as the death toll rises days after a massive earthquake.
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>> people are now needing to go into mass shelters or crowd together in tightly enclosed spaces or crowded spaces in order to find some shelter from rains which have only just stopped last night. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's most pressing problems--
3:02 pm >> the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives through invention, in the u.s. and developing countries. on the web at >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: protests against the taliban provoked violence today as the insurgents-turned- rulers of afghanistan fired shots into crowds in at least
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two cities. in kabul, the airlift of u.s., allied, and afghan civilians and others continues, as more american troops land at the airport. desperate crowds remain outside, and as jane ferguson reports from kabul, again with the support of the pulitzer center, there is fear and hopelessness. >> reporter: each day brings growing desperation at kabul international airport's perimeter walls. at this entrance gate, british soldiers try to maintain order amongst frantic civilians, anxious to make evacuation flights out, as taliban soldiers, victors in this war, watch. british troops are here to process people who have been approved for flights out. but all civilians who show up must first pass through taliban checkpoints to get here. >> they attack on my sister with gun. and again the american soldier stopped her and carry her in here.
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and now we don't what to do. when we go out of here. >> reporter: this young woman fled the westernity of herat when taliban fighters took over and tried to force her to marry one of them. and you are a doctor? >> yea, i'm a doctor. and now the taliban came to herat city i cannot even drive. i sold my car. >> reporter: like so many who come here, she has no visa and no flight out. you came here because you are hoping to get on a plane? you want to go? >> anywhere, yes. >> reporter: where do you want to go? >> we don't know, just i want to go and be safe. because we are alone. >> reporter: you don't feel safe? >> no. >> reporter: people beg to be allowed in, aware that each day is one closer to the end of this eventual evacuation. the fear of being left behind is palpable. for all the crowds that show up here, you've got the lucky ones, over here. who have visas, and paperwork.
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and the soldiers are able to help them, they are able to show them into the airport. but you also have the unlucky ones, so many of them. just like these families here with newborn babies, arguing with the soldiers. the soldiers are trying to get them to move over so they can separate those who get to leav the country and those that don't. and all the while, those gunshots that you hear in the background beyond these vehicles, that's taliban checkpoints and they are firing off their rounds. the emergency evacuation of americans and their allies from afghanistan, in the midst of a sweeping taliban takeover of the country, continues. there are now 5,000 american troops at the kabul airport to ensure embassy staff and afghans who worked for the u.s. and allies make it out safely. amidst the chaos, tens of thousands more who once worked with and for americans, now fear being left behind and at the mercy of a vengeful taliban. in washington, defense secretary lloyd austin and chairman of the joint chiefs mark milley briefed president biden at the white house.
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they spoke at the pentagon later in the day. >> it's obvious. we're not close to where we want to be in terms of getting the numbers through. >> reporter: austin was asked if he could send forces into kabul city to helphe passage of people tthe airport. >> we're gonna do everything we can to continue to try to de- conflict and create passageways for them to get to the airfield. i don't have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into kabul. and where do you take that, i mean how far can you extend into kabul and how long does it take to flow those forces in to be able to do that? >> reporter: milley defended the intelligce estimates on the stability of the afghan government and security forces, which forecast one scenario of a total collapse in months or even weeks. >> i did not, nor did anyone else, see a collapse or an army that size in 11 days. >> reporter: the chairman
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>> there'll be many post mortems on this topic, but right now is not that time. resistance to taliban rule were met with swift violence. former president ghani who fled the country sunday hours before the taliban swept into the capital appeared the first time in a video sent from from the united arab emirates. ghani denied reports that he had over $150 million in cash in bags when he left. he also addressed the many failures that led to the taliban takeover: >> ( translated ): we failed in politics. but which politics? it was the failure of the taliban leadership. that was the failure of the government leadership and also the political failure of the international allies. >> reporter: the taliban says it won't seek revenge against those who worked for ghani's government, including members of the afghan national security forces. most here don't believe them. this family of four boys and their mother lost their father, they told the newshour, just a month before, a high ranking helicopter pilot killed fighting
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in the war. they have visas for another country, but with the commercial side of the airport shut, no way out.“ the taliban knows me,” he tells us.“ they know us all.” for professional, educated women here, like the doctor, life is now divided between before and after the taliban came to town. >> in the past when the taliban was not here we had a most good life. i could work, i could drive. but now i cannot go out of the home without any man. within these two-three weeks we are so bad life. we had a good life, it was good for us. >> reporter: and what do you think it going to happen to you? what do you think will happen in the future? >> i don't know, even if i go out of here i'm sure they will find us. i am a surgeon. i had good work in herat city.
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i was so famous in herat city, but because of my life. i should leave all of this... >> reporter: and what are you going to do? right now, what are you going to do? >> i don't know. >> reporter: a british commander went to talk to the taliban fighters, trying to ease the tension. but his troops were still forced to turn back those not on the list for evacuation. including the family of the pilot killed in action. nothing could ease the painful indignity of being pushed back behind the razor wire, back towards the taliban. >> woodruff: in an interview today with abc news' george stephanopoulos, the president again defended his decision to withdraw, and said that troops of americans and others out of the country by the end of this month, or as long as that takes. >> so americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond august 31st? >> no, americans should understand that we're going to try to get it done before august 31st. >> but if we don't, the troops
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will stay? >> if we don't, we'll determine at the time who's left. >> and? >> and, if you're american force -- if there's american citizens left, we're going to stay until we get them all out. >> woodruff: and with that jane ferguson joins me again. jane, just some remarkable reporting that you've done for us all this day. you listened to president biden's interview day. what struck you from what he had to say? >> well, the point that he was just making that we just heard from him there was very striking, that if they were to stay later, they would do so to get out american citizens. again, there still isn't quite so much clarity as people here need on what the interpreters and those who would be getting siv visas and different kinds of visas, those who assisted american forces on the ground, how they're going to get out.
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journalists and diplomats are contacted every day constantly right now by people like that who haven't been given a visa who are stuck in process. the other thing he said that was interesting when pushed on whether or not he took responsibility whether this was a cries or disaster that would have been averted, he doubled down in blaming former president ashraf ghani that because he abandoned his position, effectively, left the country, it was him that precipitated this crisis that couldn't have been foreshadowed. >> woodruff: as you were reporting, jane, former president ghani revealed his whereabouts today after leaving the country abruptly over the weekend. >> that's right, he had been missing for several days. he had not addressed his people. he just left the country, and it was an absolute mystery and really an enormous scandal. the government and security forces collapsed within hours of him leaving and disappearing.
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today we heard he had shown up in the united arab emirates, that that country had given him a humanitarian reprieve to leave. he released that statement trying to push back against the enormous criticism that he has faced because of his abandment of the country, saying that he blamed the taliban, certain political processes, that he intended to return to afghanistan and pushing back against accusations that he left with vast sums of money. so i don't think anybody sees this as a realistic attempt to save face, but, you know, people had been absolutely astounded that they had not even heard from their president up until this point. so it's not entirely unexpected that he at least released a statement and showed the nearly 40 million citizens of afghanistan where he was. >> woodruff: and finally, jane, back to all those people trying to get out, factoring in what president biden is saying, what is the sense there of how long these evacuations are going to go on?
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>> we know, judy, that they're getting more efficient. you know, we can hear the planes. where i am right now is very close to the airport. we can hear the planes take off and land, and we have seen, you know, very patchy cooperation between the taliban and the american and other security forces that are here, where the taliban had been basically making life difficult around the airport. they had been agitating people, frightening civilians, beating people, firing guns over their heads. we've seen, at times, a little bit of a reduction of that. but -- and, also, it's believed the runway is much clearer now, so they're able to get people in and out more efficiently. but there are still thousands of people here. there are still many people trying to get out. i've spoken with militaries here who estimate anything from two, three, four, five days left for this, but as you heard from president biden, it may take longer. that puts a lot of pressure on everyone involved because we're -- at the end of the day,
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we're talking about the american military in close proximity and surrounded by the taliban. so nobody wants this to have to go on any longer than it needs to. >> woodruff: and the president is saying august 31, but we will see. jane ferguson reporting again from kabul. jane, please stay safe. thank you. >> thank you, judy. >> woodruff: the white house announced today several new actions in an effort to combat the growing spread of covid-19. the most significant is the recommendation of booster shots, which will be available starting september 20th. other actions include: requiring vaccinations for nursing home workers. directing department of education to help schools open safely.
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extending federal reimbursement to states for covid-related expenses. the moves come as the u.s reported more than 1,000 people died from covid on tuesday, the first time the daily count has be that high, since march. it also comes as the delta variant accounts for more than 98% of new cases. >> woodruff: u.s. surgeon general dr. vivek murthy is a member of president biden's covid task force, and he joins me now. dr. murhty, thank you very much for being here. explain for everyone watching and listening exactly what is it that the administratn based its ecision on to offer boosters? >> well, thank you, judy. so let me lay out what we announced today and why we actually made this decision. what we announced is that, beginning september 20th, we plan to offer booster shots to adults who are 18 and up who have received the moderna or
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pfizer mrna vaccines. this would be a third dose of vaccine. this will be pending the full and independent evaluation of the f.d.a., and the advisory committee in immunization practices. the reason we made that decision is as follows -- we have been tracking data closely over the last several months to understand the level of protection the vaccinations are giving us. the good news, the protection that vaccinations has given us against hospitalization and death has remained very high, that's positive. but what has concerned us that the protection against mild and moderate disease seems to be declining and, as we look forward, if that decline continues, we may start to see an increase in breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths. so, in an effort to plan ahead and look forward, we put together the best scientific b minds and medical minds at the department of health and humans services. we looked at the data and discussed it and it was our judgment that that decision to boost was important and that doing it in the september time frame, which would be the eight
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month anniversary, would be appropriate. >> woodruff: how close do you think we may be to seeing the vaccines lose enough effectiveness that people are subject to severe illness and death? because it's clear that that's something the administration sees down the road. >> that is the purpose of the vaccines is to prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and death. the good news is that, in the data we presented and pushed out publicly today, you can see that the protection remains high against severe disease, hospitalization and death, but the goal here judy is for us to be ahead of the game. we are anticipating where delta is going, what the vaccines will be doing in terms of their level of protection and we're doing what is very common with vaccines is we're offering a boost. so i want people to know this, that booster shots are very common with other vaccines. this is not unusual what is happening, but this will extend
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the extra protection we've gotten from the vaccines. >> woodruff: how long will protection from the borts last? >> we'll have to follow that but we have good reason to believe that, just as our prior vaccine doses, the first and second shot have given us protection for many, many months, that we are get protection for a while from the third shot. there are other vaccines that require a three-dose series like hepatitis b, where after you get that you are protected for years and years and years. so time will tell, we will look at the data closely, but this is the step we think will be important to continue our protection against covid 19. >> woodruff: and this refers to individuals who have received the pfizer and moderna vaccine. what about individuals who received the one-dose johnson & johnson, the j&j vaccine, when are they going to learn about boortsz is this. >> let's talk about j&j. we rolled out the johnson & johnson vaccine about 70 days after the pfizer and moderna
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vaccines, so people who had those vaccines are still not close to the eight month mark but we're anticipating j&j recipients will likely need the booster as well. we have studies looking at different combinations of vaccines and, as soon as we get that data and evaluate that, have the f.d.a. do their thorough, usual evaluation, we'll be able to make a recommendation on booster for j&j recipients. >> woodruff: dr. murhty, as you well know the world health organization asked the so-called wealthy countries of the world not to offer boosters until the end of september because there are so many hundreds of millions of people ound the world who don't have any vaccinations yet. we heard president biden today say he disagreed with that assessment, but isn't the u.s. -- isn't the government, the administration making a choice here putting american lives ahead of the lives of others? >> well, judy, here's something we're very clear-eyed about, we know that ending this pandemic
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for america and the world will require vaccinating americans and people around the world, the billions of people who need vaccines. but what we also know is the data is telling us and suggesting protection is declining to the point where we're going to see more hospitalizations and death, so we have to act to protect people here. but we also need to continue and accelerate our efforts to vaccinate the world. this is not an or choice, it's not this or that, we have to do both to end the pandemic. so we'll continue to accelerate our efforts to donate vaccines to the world, to push the companies to produce more that they can give to the world and to work with other countries to stand up manufacturing capacity so we can ultimately supply the vaccine that the world needs. judy, we will not stop in this effort until amecans and the rest of the world are protected against covid 19. >> woodruff: finally, dr. murhty, about those americans who are still not vaccinated, i looked again today, the percentage of all americans who are vaccinated, just over 51%.
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it appears the efforts to get people to get the shot is just not progressing very much. does the administration have a plan for how you're going to get more people to agree to take the vaccine? >> well, judy, it is absolutely essential that we get folks who are not vaccinated, who have not had a single dose, that we get them to start their vaccine series. we know that the vast majority of people who are hospitalized and dying from cov 19 are those who are unvaccinated. but here's the good news. if you look at the the last few weeks, we have seen a significant increase in vaccination rates, particularly in states that have been hardest hit by the covid 19 delta surge. so while that is encouraging, that's not making us, you know, stop our efforts to continue to increase that pace, and that's why we are continuing to work with trusted americans on the ground, we are continuing to increase the number of mobile unit bringing the vaccine to where people are, and we're continuing to get vaccine into doctors' offices because we know
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that people want to be able to talk to their doctor and ideally get a shot right there when they're in the office. >> woodruff: we are watching that along with you, and thank you very much, the u.s. surgeon general vivek murthy. thank you. >> thank you so much, judy. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, anger built among haiti's earthquake victims as thousands spent a fourth night in the open. many accused officials of doing nothing, and hospitals struggled to treat victims. saturday's quake killed nearly 2,000 people and injured almost 10,000. we'll hear more from to haiti, later in the program. there's word that suspected islamist fighters in burkina faso killed at least 47 people today. the government in the west african nation says extremists linked to al-qaeda or isis ambushed a convoy.
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the dead included 30 civilians and 17 soldiers and volunteer troops. remnants of tropical storm "fred" blew into t u.s. northeast today, with warnings of mudslides and flash floods. the system already caused widespread flooding in georgia and the carolinas, where scores of people had to be rescued. one deatwas reported in florida. meanwhile, the storm named "grace" is now a hurricane, heading for mexico's yucatan peninsula. in northern california, another community lay in charred ruins today. the "caldor fire" destroyed at least 50 homes in grizzly flats on tuesday, and threatened hundreds more. flames and fierce heat burned out trucks and cars, and left chimneys standing alone d skeletal chairs in a gutted church. evacuees were in shock as they gauged their losses. >> it was a beautiful, close, small, vibrant community of
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mixed peoples from every demographic that you can think of, but a tight community. and it's nothing now. >> woodruff: some 100 miles away, the huge "dixie fire" is still burning near susanville, a town of 18,000. the biden administration is proposing major changes to cut a record backlog of 1.3 million asum cases. they'd be moved from immigration courts to the homeland security department, which would add 1,000 new asylum officers. the proposal is now subject to public comment. one of the owners of purdue pharma testified today that the company, and his family, are not responsible for the opioid epidemic. richard sackler appeared at a federal bankruptcy hearing on the company's plan to settle thousands of lawsuits over oxycontin. the sacklers are also demanding immunity from further lawsuits. the federal sex abuse trial of
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the grammy-winning singer r. kelly, has begun in new york. he's accused of using money and fame to lure and abuse girls, boys and young women. in opening statements today, federal prosecutors said kelly was a predator. the defense said his alleged victims knew what they were getting into. gegia has moved closer to taking over elections in the atlanta area. the republican-controlled state elections board approved a bipartisan review panel today. it will investigate elections in heavily democratic fulton county. former president trump has falsely claimed that fraud led to his narrow loss in georgia. and, on wall street, stocks lost ound late in the day, with major indexes down roughly one percent. the dow jones industrial average lost 382 points to close at 34,960. the nasdaq fell 130 points. the s&p 500 was down 47.
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still to come on the newshour: the uncertain future for women and girls in afghanistan living under the taliban's control. anger grows in haiti over the slow recovery following the adly earthquake. police reform and the key issue preventing negotiators from reaching a deal in congress. plus much more. >> woodruff: we return now to afghanistan, and the uncertain future for women and girls now living under talibanule. here's william braham. >> brangham: judy, as taliban forces re-claimed power this week the gains millions of afghan women and girls have made in the past two decades are on the line. for more on that we turn to two woman who know afghanistan well.
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rina amiri w born in afghanistan and left when she was very young in the 1970s. she has focused on conflict resolution in afghanistan and other parts of the world for the united nations and the u.s. government. during the obama administration she was a senior advisor at the state department. she's now senior fellow at new york university's center for global affairs. and nura sedique is a public policy fellow at princeton university's school of public and international affairs, and a member of the afghan-american coalition. welcome to you both. thank you very much very much for being here. rina amiri, to you first, my colleague jane ferguson in kabul spoke with this young woman earlier in the program who was in tears, despairing over her future in a taliban-led afghanistan. i know you have been speaking with women all over the country recently. can you give us a sense, what are you hearing from those people? >> what i'm hearing is they're rights disappeared overnight. there's enormous devastation and jjust disbelief that this has
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happened to them after the international community made such a strong commitment that afghan women's rightsould not be abandoned. they do feel abandoned. what i'm hearing throughout the country is that, despite the taliban's very positive rhetoric about supporting women's rights, what we're seeing is systematic intimidation throughout the country. as the taliban takes over terrorist, one to have the first things that it does is go into houses where they know women activists are, with their names on a list, and start interrogating them and their families and demanding to look at their work. it's spread an enormous level of terror among women's rights activists, and they have been silenced overnight. >> reporter: nura sedique, i see you nodding your head. is that what you'veeard as well from the people you've spoken with? >> absolutely.
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i have colleagues whose sisters have received letters on the door. there's palpable fear, women going into hiding simply because they want a better afghanistan for everybody and, because of that, they are being targeted immediately. the taliban are much more organized in the fact that they know who to target, and to target women first is of dire concern. there were warnings even before the withdrawal that women would be on the front line and among the most vulnerable. we're seeing that happening now. even the fact that they cannot report, there's a twitter handle hear afghan women, and they fear for their safety in revealing their identity. the fact they have to anonymously report shows how unsafe the country has become overnight. >> reporter: these reports of the taliban going to door to door clearly indicates the taliban had been planning to do this, had been building lists and assembling some sense of who
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they might be targeting. rina, just imagine going forward, what is your greatest fear for women i these types of actions continue? >> my greatest fear for women is that the progress that's been achieved over the last two decades by afghan women themselves with the support of the international community will disappear. what the taliban a effectively doing is creating an environment of just tremendous -- a climate of fear and intimidation, and it is leading to women seeking to leave afghanistan. they're put in a terrible position. they are at the fiber of their being activists, leaders, and they have been pushing for women's rights, human rights for decades, well beyond 2001, and suddenly they're confronted with a dilemma of do they stay and fight for their rights while being under threat and even
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worse for them is their families being under threat, or do they leave and give up the fight? it's a tremendously sad situation they're in. >> reporter: that's a terble dilemma, obviously. nura sedique, yesterday we did see the taliban hold this rather unusual press conference where many afghan female journalists asked very tough questions to have the taliban commanders, and the the taliban went to great lengths to assure the world's community that, no, no, no, it's different now, we will respect the rights of women. does anyone fundamentally believe what the taliban is saying should anyone what the taliban is saying? >> the taliban are wolf in sheep's clothing, to use the old adage. this is not the -- the scars from their prior position and power remain. women still have those scars. the communities still remember. we still have the blood of those experiences that we hold.
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so rhetoric is not sufficient. we already see them acting and targeting women, and the disparate treatment women are already facing from their hand. they want legitimacy from the international community and we cannot give them that legitimacy, nor can we romanticize what they are doing. we need to see change, and it's just not possible with the record that they have left within the country and communities for afghan women. i've spoken to women at kandahar, herat and kabul, and while they're distinguished by the different languages they speak, the experiences and distrust they have towards the taliban unites them in a meaningful way. we cannot trust these empty promises they're trying to put forward. it almost feels like a game for the international community. they know people are watching them now. >> reporter: rina amiri, let's say that the taliban puloff this sheep's clothing and re
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veal the wolves, as nura describes them. will this generation of women who have lived 20 years with the belief that there is a freedom and a civilization that they can be a part of in afghanistan, what will they do? whether they resist, protest, take to the streets, or is that simply too dangerous a thing to do? >> afghan women and men are tremendously resilient. during the harshest period during the taliban regime, as you know, there were girls' schools -- underground girls' schools. you know, the reform movement in afghanistan goes back to the 1920s. it's always been there, that aspiration is always going to be there, and they will continue both in the diaspora and inside the country. but what they require is the international community to stand with them and to not be complicit in the silencing of women.
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and stripping the afghan citizens morbroadly of their rights. there has to be condemnation. there has been a deafening silence among the international community and the the region where the taliban has militarily taken over, and there is a desire to accept their rhetoric because it's convenient to the west'sesire to exit from afghanistan. and there is -- i think there is a sense of responsibility that the world has to feel in seeing what has taken place to the rights of people that have stood by the international community. they have tone their part, and it's incumbent on the world to stand by them now. >> reporter: rina amiri and nura sedique, thank you both fo joining us and sharing your reporting with us. >> thank you.
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>> woodruff: as we reported, the death toll in haiti continues to rise, to almost 2,000 people, following last weekend's earthquake. thousands more are injured and hospitals are overwhelmed. in cities near the quake's epicenter, tropical storm grace brought heavy rains and flooding, exacerbating already- difficult recovery efforts. the newshour's ali rogin has an update. >> reporter: in southern haiti, survivors of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake had little time to brace for a second disaster: tropical storm grace. people whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake tried to protect themselves under flimsy tents. but overnight, they provided little shelter from howling winds. >> ( tranated ): the rain fell on top of us. we slept sitting down on chairs. nobody has come to help us. we have no tarps, we sleep here sitting down.
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>> reporter: those whose homes survived the quake now face flooding. the storm maden already- difficult recovery mission even harder. hospitals continue to fill up with people who couldn't reach them after the earthquake. suppes are growing scarce. lanette nuel brought her daughter to this hospital in the city of les cayes. but doctors were unable to treat her. >> ( translated ): we came in yesterday afternoon. they didn't do anything for her, they just gave her a painkiller. she died in my arms this morning. >> reporter: with so many ailing people in close quarters, covid- 19 is a constant threat. haiti only began receiving vaccines last month. >> we're talking about people who are clinically vulnerable, who have not yet had a chance to get some protection against this virus. at the same time as people are now needing to go into mass shelters or crowd together in tightly enclosed spaces or crowded spaces in order to find some shelter from rains which have onljust stopped last
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night. >> reporter: christy delafield is with the humanitarian organization mercy corps, in the hard-hit neighborhood of l'asile. she said it's important that the recovery from this earthquake be led by haitians. people in haiti remember the last major earthquake, which killed hundreds of thousands in 2010. much of the $13.5 billion in humanitarian aid raised never made it into haitian hands. >> every response has to be led by the community. if any of us had a disaster in our own community, we would know where the resources are. we would know who had access to what types of information, to what types of tools. and it's exactly the same here. >> reporter: but for now, many haitians are focused on more immediate challenges, like finding food and shelter to survive another day. for the pbs newshour, i'm ali rogin.
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>> woodruff: congress is on recess, but a small group of lawmakers are still in talks on police reform. but negotiators are no longer tackling a major issue for those who want reform. lisa desjardins explains. >> desjardins: it's called qualified immunity: a legal principle which can protect officers from lawsuits when they harm people while on the job. police reform advocates have long wanted it to end while others think it's an important protection for law enforcement. and dropping it from police reform talks makes it easier for conservatives but possibly harder for progressives to get on board. to help us understand the different sides of the debate, i'm joined by joanna schwartz, professor of law at u.c.l.a. and a leading expert on police misconduct litigation. and lenny kesten, a lawyer in boston who has represented hundreds of police officers in civil rights cases. to both of you, qualified immunity for police has been a
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major flashpoint in this discussion but you both agree that it isn't granted by courts all that often. joanna, i want toask you then what's the biggest issue with it? why is it important? >> qualified immunity protects law enforcement officers and other government officials even when they have violated the constitution, as long as there's not a prior court decision with rtually identical facts. that means people who have had their rights violated sometimes in agreens ways by law enforcement have no basis for relief for the harms that were caused to them. qualified immunity also dramatically increases the costs and burdens to playoffs in bringing these cases. it focuses courts on whether there's a prior court decision that holds the law unconstitutional as opposed to what actually happened in the case, and there's a variety of ways in which qualified immunity makes it more difficult for law enforcement to understand what they are constitutionally allowed to do. >> reporter: lenny, how
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important is this? >> it's important that police officers know -- are apprised of the rules before they break them. it's easy to say that they violate the constitution. all the constitution says is the conduct has to be reasonable, doesn't lay out any rules. it's court decisions that lay out rules so that the officers know what does and what is not constitutional. >> reporter: but, lenny, how do you respond to the idea that some say, giving this immunity to police officers takes away accountable. why should police officers have immune at this ever in a court of law from what they do? >> people argue with the name, they thinketh immunity. it's not. think of it this way, all qualified immunity does is say if the police officer has no way of knowing that what he or she was doing violated the constitution, they can't be held liable for that action. it's an issue of fairness to the police officers. >> reporter: joanna. that's not the way in whic qualified immunity actually
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works in principle. it is true that the constitution does not lay out specific rules, but the supreme court, in its fourth amendment doctrine and the court decisions that it has had, do lay out general principles, and what qualified immunity requires is not that law enforcement officers follow those general principles but that the payoff be able to find a prior court decision with virtually identical facts. as one quick example, it is well known and established that a police officer cannot use force against a person who has surrendered and is not posing any harm. but a man named baxter hat his se thrown out of court on qualified immunity grounds when he surrendered and officers released a police dog on him, even though in that same court they said releasing a police dog on a person lying down and surrendered is excessive. baxter was sitting up and not lying down when the dogs were
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released upon him. this is not a matter of notice, it's a matter of common sense, and officers should be able to understand that it is not appropriate to release a dog or use force against a person who has surrendered without being able to identify a precise case with virtually identical facts. >> reporter: lenny what do you say? >> i disagree. i read the case. the issue is where the person had clearly surrendered. i tried a case in which we agreed before the trial that if the dog was released after the man had surrendered that the officer was liable. the question was did that happen. so i disagree, when you look at the actual facts to have the cases that are cited, it doesn't come out like that. >> reporter: one other issue on the table here, perhaps going off the table now, is the idea of making it easier to sue police departments. i want to ask you each of you if you think that could significantly help with issues of policing right now. joanna, first. >> right now, it is as difficult to sue local governments for the
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unconstitutional conduct of their officers and as it is to sue the officers themselves. qualified immunity shields the officers and there are a set of legal barriers a plaintiff needs to overcome to show a city essentially violated the constitution. so removing those barriers would mean that local governments work the same way as private businesses do, when a person, you know, is harmed by an employee of a private company, they can sue that company as the employer and recovery against them directly. you can't do that as it stands right now. and, so, that would facilitate things and in some ways be an end around qualified immune at this. >> this is a false argument. as it stands now, in 99.99% of the cases, if an officer is found liable, the city or the county or town pays. who pays? the taxpayers pay. that won't change anything. you don't need to sue the city.
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experienced plaintiffs attorneys don't sue the city, they sue the officer because they're going to get paid. >> reporter: you both agree the system should change. lenny. >> the system could always be improved. police officers have a terribly difficult job and almost all of them do it well, but what's the most important thing that can be done is to make discipline of police officers more certain. right now, because of arbitration awards and civil service decisions, all too often the employer, the police department has to rehire or put that officer back on the street, and that could be improved. >> reporter: joanna. i certainly am in favor of improving internal discipline and supervision. i also think there is a lot more that can be done. certainly there are changes that could be made on the front end that reduce the frequency with which people are harmed or killed by the police. we are seeing a lot of
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experimentation around the country thinking about when and can police could do traffic stops, who should be responding when people are in mental crisis. but we also need to think about back-end accountability. there has to be consequences for officers when they violate the law and there needs to be remedies for people whose rights have been violated. >> reporter: joanna schwartz and lenny kesten, this is an important and complex debate and we really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us. >> thank you. for the opportunity. >> woodruff: and we'll be back shortly with a conversation with commerce secretary gina raimondo. but first, take a moment to hear from your local pbs station. it's a chance to offer your support, which helps keep programs like ours on the air.
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>> woodruff:or those stations staying with us, we look at a book out this summer that explores a life of scientific discovery in nature, and some extraordinary feats of the human body. jeffrey brown went deep into the woods of maine to meet the man behind the story, as part of our arts and culture series, canvas. >> oh! baby birds! >> brown: at 81, bernd heinrich is still studying the natural world around his home in the mountains of western maine. >> you know, there's data being created, might as well use it. >> brown: he's a renowned biologist, best known for his work on insect and animal physiology and behavior. he's also a renowned runner. he no longer races in the ultra- marathons he's set records in, but he still takes a jaunt of five or more often rugged miles many days. you know this is unusual, right? >> i guess so. but i don't care if it's
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unusual. and it definitely makes me feel more alive. they say if you stop moving you start dying. so i don't want to stop moving. >> brown: his new book combines his two lifelong pursuits-- and the animal' under observation is himself. it's called "racing the clock." >> this is one of the big topics in biology, is a biological clock. how does that clock work? because things are so geared to time. so that is a theme because i'm connecting it to the running. >> brown: you write in this book, "aging is a trial of one." what do you mean by that? >> well, if you're the guinea pig, i'm doing an experiment and i can't have somebody else do it. >> brown: just getting to heinrich isn't easy. he lives ane in a cabin, or' camp', as it's called in maine he built ten years ago. an older camp nearby is used to keep books, photographs and files, and provide shelter for
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the students at the university of vermont, where heinrich taught for decades, who still attend his 'winter ecology' session each year, covid permitting. this is largely off-the-grid living: without running water. he draws his water from a well and chops his own wood for heat. there's a small solar panel for charging the computer and satellite dish to access spotty internet service. in his science, heinrich says, he looks first for patterns in nature and then for the differences, the 'anomalies' that offer a way in. >> anomaly means that there should be some reason for it. >> brown: a reason why something's not going to pattern? >> yeah, so if you only see one pattern, you can't even think about it, it just 'is'. but when you see a different one, then you can ask 'why?' >> brown: he's been asking >> brown: he's been asking 'why' in 24 books, including two on one of his best-known subjects: ravens, a bird not usually found in great numbers here. his work with them began with
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one of those 'anomalies'. >> i heard 'aahh, aahh'. ravens making this noise. and i said, well, i've never heard them make that noise before, what's going on? and i said, i bet there are some big food there. and so i went up there almost a mile up into the hills there and sure enough, there was a moose, and it was covered with brush. you couldn't really see it. i think a poacher had killed it there and then covered it up. but the ravens had found it and they were feeding there. and all of a sudden there were a lot of them. so where did they come from? did they attract each other? no-- they're not supposed to do that. you get a big pile of gold, you hide it. you don't let anyone know. >> brown: what's going on individually and then as a group. >> yeah. so that took, like 20 years. >> brown: that included raising ravens himself to study their behavior. and some of them would accompany him on his runs. heinrich ran short distances, the half-mile, in high school
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and college. long distances came later: at 39 he won his second marathon, in san francisco. a year later, he won the boston marathon 40 and over masters division. and then: even longer distances, with u.s. records set, including: 100 kilometers in 1981; a 24-hour, 156 mile run around a track in 1983. 100 miles in 1984. he's kept the beat-up old pair of running shoes from his competition days. and kept running as he's aged. from the start, he says, the fascination was to see what he could do, how far and fast he could run. and the scientist in him was always at work. he studied how insects regulate their energy output and metabolism to achieve endurance. and then, his own behavior and potential, sometimes to comical effect. >> i didn't take anything for granted, like fuel. i tried, you know, i shouldn't
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en mention all i tried. i tried beer and olive oil and honey and all the things that are not even mentioned, you know, and i fell flat on my face a lot of times. so i thought, that was kind of fun, you know, to find out. and then you wonder, why did you fail? well, it's because of that? now i know, i'm not going to drink a jar of honey to run. >> brown: he's had accidents through the years from his outdoor life and surgery on both knees. but somehow, in ways he can't explain, he hasn't worn down. >> maybe it's like friedrich nietzsche said, 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' i don't know. but there might be something to it. >> brown: a man who's studied animals all his life looks at the animal that is 'man' and sees this: >> we are built for running. >> brown: but most of us don't run. >> we run for, basically,
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emergencies, but we try not to run if we don't have to, because of course we want to save energy. so the bird isn't going to fly 1,000 miles unless there's a purpose behind it. if he doesn't have to, he's not going to fly. so most of us don't. we don't have to migrate, we don't. you know, the grocery is right there. we don't have to go far. we don't have to travel. but we have the capability. >> brown: the question is: do we want to use it? bernd heinrich says he can only fer one man's experience, but as you can see, his answer is clear. for the pbs newshour, i'm jeffrey brown in western maine. >> woodruff: "the 19th," an independent nonprofit newsroom
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and streaming partner of the newshour, continues its annual "represents" summit today with an interview i did with commerce secretary gina raimondo. we spoke about the care economy and how the pandemic has impacted women in the workforce. here's a brief look at our conversation: >> you know, i talk to c.e.o.s pretty much daily and they will tell me they have a lot of women who are their very best employees, their very best software developers, their very best managers. they want them to take promotions. they're offering them promotions. but women are saying, i can't do it right now. i can't do it right now. with schools being closed, with childcare hard to find, with maybe they have, as i have, an elderly mother or father, it's hard to find care, they're having to either drop out of the workforce or maybe part time or maybe not be fully engaged, say
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no to that promotion, which is which is, you know, holds us back as an economy. and it's certainly not equitable. you know, when we talk about building back better, it's building back equitably means everyone ought to be able to participate to their fullest potential in the economy. and so i think it's child care, providing high quality child care, providing public pre-k, providing high quality home care. this isn't a luxury. it's fundamental. every other developed nation in the world is far ahead of america in this regard. basic things like pa time off, paid sick leave, the child care tax credit. it's past time for this to happen. it's good for our economy and america needs to catch up. woodruff: you can watch all of "19th represents" this week on our website,, and on the newshour's youtube page on the newshour online right
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now, william brangham sat down with public health expert dr. leana wen earlier today to answer questions about covid-19 and protecting kids in school. find their conversation on our website, and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> our u.s.-based customer service reps can help you choose a plan based on how much you use your phone, nothing more, nothing less. to learn more, go to
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>> the ford foundation. working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh
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hello, everyone. and welcome to "amanpour and company." here's what's coming up. i am president of the united states of america, and the buck stops with me. >> biden puts the blame squarely on desperate afghans. i ask mark esper whether there was a way to avoid america's humiliating withdrawal. then she was almost killed by the taliban. now she fears for afghan women and girls. also ahead -- >> we want more girls and women to be in decision-making positions. >> billy jean king joins me with her new mem ware "all in,"


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