January 27, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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01/27/2022 | 56m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
January 27, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: the future of the court.
Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement paves the way for President Biden to fulfill his campaign promise and nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
Then: a wave of violence.
Many cities grapple with a steady increase in crime.
We examine the potential causes and solutions.
And a long recovery.
We return to tornado-ravaged Western Kentucky to examine the lingering aftermath and the difficult path toward healing.
JO ANNA SCHROER, Constable, Graves County, Kentucky: This is not a one-week repair here or a two-week or a six-month.
This is years of commitment.
And when the fanfare is over, the work is still here and has to be done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The process of filling upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court can now begin in earnest.
Justice Stephen Breyer formally announced today that he is stepping down, setting the stage for a Senate confirmation battle.
The "NewsHour"s Geoff Bennett begins our coverage.
GEOFF BENNETT: President Biden and Justice Stephen Breyer together at the White House today to announce Breyer's retirement from the Supreme Court.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: I'm here today to express the nation's gratitude to Justice Stephen Breyer for his remarkable career of public service.
GEOFF BENNETT: Breyer served more than 27 years on the nation's highest court, a career he called challenging and meaningful in a letter informing the president of his intent to retire at the end of the court's term.
STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice: It's a kind of miracle when you sit there and see all of those people in front of you, people that are so different in what they think.
And yet they have decided to help solve their major differences under law.
GEOFF BENNETT: The announcement gives President Biden an opportunity to deliver on a key campaign promise nominating an African American woman to the Supreme Court.
JOE BIDEN: While I have been studying candidates' backgrounds and writings, I have made no decision, except one.
The person I will nominate will be someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity, and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.
It's long overdue, in my view.
GEOFF BENNETT: The president said his process of selecting a nominee will be rigorous, and he will seek the advice of the Senate, getting input from lawmakers of both parties, as well as scholars, lawyers and Vice President Kamala Harris, herself an attorney.
He said he expects to announce his selection before the end of February.
The current front-runners include U.S.
Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated by former President Obama, then elevated by President Biden to the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C.
Early in her career, she worked as a law clerk under Breyer.
California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, also a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk, she has argued a dozen cases in federal court.
And U.S. federal Judge J. Michelle Childs of South Carolina, who has been nominated to the D.C.
Circuit of Appeals.
She's a favorite of South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn.
the House majority whip who was instrumental in Biden's win.
Breyer's retirement also marks a full circle moment for the president, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during Breyer's 1994 confirmation.
JOE BIDEN: I was proud and grateful to be there at the start of this distinguished career on the Supreme Court.
And I'm very proud to be here today.
GEOFF BENNETT: The nomination will be one of the most consequential choices of Biden's presidency and could offer him a political lifeline ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, Breyer's retirement giving the president a chance to nominate his first Supreme Court justice, a history-making selection, while reinforcing the High Court's liberal minority.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Geoff Bennett in Washington.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is not known exactly when President Biden will select his Supreme Court nominee, but the Senate confirmation battle is already taking shape on Capitol Hill.
Here to explain how it could all play out is congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins.
So, hello, Lisa.
We know this is happening, as we know, at a time when there is a 50/50 divided Senate.
What is the process -- what does the process look like that we should expect to see?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I'll tell you, a slow week on Capitol Hill sure got busy fast for many Capitol Hill staffers.
I want to tell people that the 50/50 Senate will mean a slightly different process for President Biden, maybe a more difficult process for him, than was the process for President Trump.
Let me take folks through this.
That first step in the process, of course, is the Judiciary Committee.
And in the 50/50 Senate, it is 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans.
A tie vote in that committee for a nominee fails the nominee.
Now, if there is a tie, however, Democrats can get around that by using a discharge process.
That's something they have used repeatedly with judicial nominees.
Then the nominee would go to the full Senate, where a Supreme Court nominee currently requires only a majority vote.
There is not the 60-vote threshold involved any longer for Supreme Court nominees.
Now, the question is how much will Republicans fight this nominee.
And, of course, who the nominee will make - - is will make a very big difference.
This is one reason that the White House, we can report, from Geoff Bennett getting sources at the White House, telling us that the Biden administration wants this to be a judge, not someone who is outside of the judicial sphere.
Let's look at those three judges that Jeff mentioned in his piece.
And I can report what Democrats are telling me on the hill as they see the different advantages to each one.
The first is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Now, she's someone interesting enough that Biden personally interviewed last year before he elevated her to the Court of Appeals.
Now, Justice Leondra Kruger of California, she is someone who's seen as more of a moderate, someone who perhaps could gain more Republican support.
And then Michelle Childs of South Carolina, she is someone who already has some Republican support, South Carolina's senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, saying that they support her.
And, of course, Judy, as we heard in Geoff' piece, so does Jim Clyburn, that real pivotal figure in the Biden administration, has a lot of influence.
Here's what Representative Clyburn said last night on CNN.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): I want us to make sure that it is a Black woman.
I want to make sure that it's a woman that will get universal support.
When I say universal, I mean bipartisan support.
And I know that Michelle Childs will have the support of several Republicans, including the two Republican senators from South Carolina.
LISA DESJARDINS: And how about this for timing, Judy?
Next week, Judge Childs is to appear for her confirmation hearing for the Court of Appeals, so a very rare potential tryout, if you will, for this woman who is getting a lot of attention in this moment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, is it your understanding that both parties already have their strategy figured out for how they're going to approach this?
LISA DESJARDINS: You know, again, it depends on the nominee.
But, yes, let's talk about what we know at this moment.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today told reporters that he will give the nominee a fair look.
He has said he doesn't want someone who's from the radical left, but he said he's not going into this with his mind made up.
Senator Schumer, for the Democrats' part, says he wants a fair and quick process.
I'm told that he would like the entire process to last about a month from the time the nominee is announced.
Again, who the nominee is will matter.
Republicans do have one method of blocking a potential Supreme Court nominee.
It's a bit weedy, but, essentially, they could just not show up for a committee vote.
Democrats don't have a work-around for that.
But, right now, both parties seem to want a smooth and easy path forward.
No drama at this moment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Interesting.
And just finally, Lisa, as we know, the Democrats have a number of things on their agenda right now.
How does this Supreme Court nomination process, how is it seen that could affect what they're trying to get through, meanwhile?
LISA DESJARDINS: The calendar is getting busy again, Judy.
First of all, if you look at these three weeks now ahead, Democrats will be working on potentially a China competitiveness bill, Electoral College reform.
Then, on February 18, we have government funding set to run out.
After that, Republicans and Democrats both go on recess in the Senate.
And that is right when the president's goal is for having a nominee.
Of course, right after that, March 1, State of the Union.
That's when President Biden wants this nominee announced and the process to be under way.
So it's going to be a busy few weeks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Certainly looks like it.
Lisa Desjardins, thanks very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The U.S. economy rebounded strongly in 2021, with the best growth since 1984.
The U.S. Commerce Department reports the nation's gross domestic product increased 5.7 percent.
The jump was driven by strong consumer spending and private investment.
Separately, new unemployment claims fell last week for the first time in a month to 260,000.
This was the deadline for health care workers in nearly half of the states to comply with a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the requirement earlier this month.
It extends nationwide in the next few weeks.
Also today, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urged schools to spend federal pandemic aid on tutors to help students who have fallen behind.
In Russia, the Kremlin says there's little room for optimism after the U.S. rejected its security demands, but it says that dialogue on Ukraine is still possible.
That came as Russian fighter jets landed in Belarus today for exercises north of the Ukrainian border.
To the east, tanks and guns took part in maneuvers.
Still, Moscow insisted it won't start a war.
ALEXEI ZAITSEV, Spokesperson, Russian Foreign Ministry (through translator): From our side, we have repeatedly stated that our country doesn't plan to attack anyone.
We consider even a thought about a war between our peoples unacceptable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House said that it hopes the Russians are not playing games with diplomacy.
And President Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
U.S. official said Mr. Biden again promised a decisive response if Russia invades Ukraine.
China is demanding that the U.S. stop interfering in the Beijing Winter Olympics, an apparent reference to a U.S.-led diplomatic boycott of the games.
The Chinese foreign minister and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone today.
The Chinese quoted the minister as saying: "The U.S. continuously puts forward wrong words and actions toward China, causing new conflicts in relations."
The Pentagon put out new guidance today on limiting civilian casualties from airstrikes.
It calls for standardized reporting and response and a special office focused on the problem.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also asking for plans to ensure that limiting civilian casualties is a priority in each mission.
The U.S. Coast Guard has found four more bodies in the search for dozens of migrants off Florida's Atlantic Coast.
That word came today as vessels continued to look for 34 people whose crowded boat capsized over the weekend.
But officials said they expect the rescue operation to end, this evening.
JO-ANN F. BURDIAN, U.S. Coast Guard: It does mean that we don't think it's likely that anyone else has survived.
And, again, that's why we say we're suspending and not closing.
That's based on the best information we have right now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The boat had sailed from the Bahamas.
Only one survivor has been found.
A congressional watchdog issued a stinging review today of the Department of Health and Human Services over the pandemic and other challenges.
The Government Accountability Office said that HHS has mismanaged the medical supply chain and is not ready for weather disasters or bioterror attacks.
The GAO designated the department as a high-risk sector of government.
And on Wall Street, stocks gave up early gains, as investors remained uneasy about inflation.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost seven points to close at 34160.
The Nasdaq fell 189 points, nearly 1.5 percent.
The S&P 500 slipped 23.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": we return to tornado-ravaged Western Kentucky to examine the lingering aftermath; Moderna's chief medical officer discusses the ongoing fight against COVID-19; children go to great lengths to get an education amid ongoing bombings in Syria; plus much more.
Supreme Court Justice Breyer will leave behind a storied legacy, as he prepares to step down after more than 27 years on the bench.
To reflect on what his absence will mean for the future of the court, I'm joined by two legal veterans, Gregory Garre, a former U.S. solicitor general who has argued several cases in front of the court, and former acting U.S.
Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who clerked for Justice Breyer.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Welcome to the program to both of you.
Neal Katyal, I'm going to ask you, what was it like to argue a case before Justice Breyer?
NEAL KATYAL, Former Acting U.S.
Solicitor General: It was always tough.
I have done 45 before him.
And he is able to get to the heart of the issue, at least in the way he sees it, with usually a long hypothetical.
The advantage of that would be that you would have time to think about the hypothetical before answering it, unlike, say, Justice Kagan, who has more staccato questioning style.
And it allowed a conversation between justice and advocate.
So, I thought he was just phenomenal at oral argument, was always a delight.
And his written opinions are really works to behold.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gregory Garre, what about you?
You also argued before Justice Breyer.
How is he different from the other justices?
GREGORY GARRE, Former U.S.
Solicitor General: He's a real delight to appear before, and I think, as Neal said, is -- what's most distinctive about his style at oral argument is, he would ask very long questions, and would immediately bring you back as a law student, and you are trying to keep up with his questions and answer them.
And it was a great challenge, but also a great - - a lot of fun during oral argument.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This is kind of a big question, Neal Katyal, but what would you say his main contributions were over the course of his career on the court?
And it's not ended.
He's there until the summer.
NEAL KATYAL: Yes, I would say the president today singled out a line that Justice Breyer said in his confirmation hearings back in the 1990s, that he believed government should work for the people.
And that was really his mantra both when I was clerking for him, and you see it in the written opinions that he's -- that he's authored.
And it means really listening to experts on things like COVID regulation, or greenhouse gas regulations, or affordable health care, things like that, all of which he fought hard for and was often successful in winning those battles at the court.
He really does, to my mind, to carry on Chief Justice John Marshall's legacy of trying to interpret a Constitution in a flexible way that's adapted to the crises of human affairs.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your perspective on that, Gregory Garre?
How do you see what difference he's made as a justice?
GREGORY GARRE: I think that's right.
I mean, the one thing that was really different about Justice Breyer is, he was very much a pragmatist, very much a consensus-builder.
And you could see that in his opinions.
He was in favor of multifactored tests and balancing inquiries, which, in some sense, could frustrate people looking for a clear rule, but, in another sense, was easy to adapt to the particular facts before him.
And I think that's an important part of his legacy.
And I also think that, more recently, he's been very outspoken in defending the court as an institution, including against attacks and suggestions of court packing and the like.
And I think that that will end up being an important part of his legacy as well, his defense of the court.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And I wanted to ask the two of you about that, because it seems Justice Breyer has gone out of his way recent -- in recent months, years, even, to talk about the importance of a court that is not seen as partisan.
I saw today that even Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in his statement, praised Justice Breyer for what he said was his commitment to the importance of a nonpartisan, nonpoliticized judiciary.
He said it's been especially admirable.
Neal Katyal, is that something we can expect to see continue on the court, this push for the court to remain in some way nonpartisan?
NEAL KATYAL: Well, I hope so.
But I think it's tough, because I think that losing Justice Breyer is losing the most solid, most reliable vote for civility and apolitical interpretation of the law.
I mean, that's what his career stood for.
I mean, as law clerks, we're 26 years old or so.
We get upset when we see our boss attacked.
Justice Scalia, for example, attacked him in some written opinions.
And we wanted him to say something back.
And that was never what he did, never once, because he believed so much in civility.
And I think you saw it also in his speech today that Justice Breyer gave at the White House, in which he started by talking about, what is the majesty of the law?
It's that 330 million Americans who are far-flung, of every religion and race and political ideology, they agree to resolve their differences through the rule of law.
That's something he really celebrated.
And I hope that the other justices will take that up in the same way as he does.
I think the chief justice has been a very strong part of that.
And I expect that to continue.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gregory Garre, how do you see the court in the future when it comes to any effort to keep it from appearing driven by partisanship?
GREGORY GARRE: I think all the justices will rally around that, because they will see it as so important to the future and functioning of the institution.
But I do think this is a very important point, and that the replacement, although may not move the court in terms of ideologically, because it will still only be three more liberal members, but the tone that the person takes could be quite important in terms of how the court is perceived.
And whether or not that person is going to be as ardent defender of the institution as Justice Breyer remains to be seen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Neal Katyal, let's talk about, how different could the court become?
We presume -- we know who the -- some of the names are who've been suggested.
President Biden has made it clear he's going to appoint a Black woman.
How do we expect the court is going to change in the future with another justice?
NEAL KATYAL: Well, the Supreme Court is really quite conservative at this point, far more so than the American public.
And you just flashed, Judy, on the screen a statistic which showed that Republicans have nominated 15 justices over the last 30 or 40 years.
Democrats have nominated four.
And so that's really changed the matrix of the court a lot.
And I think Greg is absolutely right to say that whoever replaces Justice Breyer is probably not going to change the ideology of the court very much, because it's maybe one relatively liberal justice being replaced by another one.
So, it's -- in that sense, this vote is not quite as important.
I do think some of the names that are being floated around, like Ketanji Jackson and Leondra Kruger, these are spectacular, spectacular names.
And we're so lucky to have people like that on the so-called short list.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Gregory Garre, how do you see the court changing, given some of the names that are now out there?
GREGORY GARRE: I think that's right.
I mean, I don't think we're going to see a big change in the replacement, like we saw with Justice Barrett replace Justice Ginsburg, which was a complete flip in the seat.
But I do think that the tenor and tone that the new justice takes will be important.
And the other thing that's going to happen is that Justice Sotomayor is going to become the senior justice in the liberal bloc, and so can decide when to take the lead on dissents or opinions where she's in the majority.
And that could have a significant impact on the tone of the court's opinions as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean by that?
GREGORY GARRE: Well, she's been a little bit more outspoken, and we have seen it more recently in some of her comments, for example, during the Texas case that was argued a month or so ago, in really sort of calling out the conservative bloc for perhaps moving more quickly than she thinks that the court should.
And so I think, if she takes the role as the senior justice on the more liberal side and begins writing more frequently, I think we may see a more aggressive tone on the left.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are all certainly going to be watching this process as it moves ahead.
Gregory Garre, Neal Katyal, thank you both very much for joining us.
NEAL KATYAL: Thank you.
GREGORY GARRE: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Recent shootings in New York City have spotlighted a troubling rise in gun violence and homicide across the country.
Amna Nawaz has our report on why violent crime has increased and how cities can prevent it.
AMNA NAWAZ: A grim start to the year in New York City, with residents across the boroughs reeling from a series of attacks, in Times Square, a woman pushed to death on the subway tracks, in the Bronx, an 11-month-old baby shot in the face, and, in Harlem, two police officers shot to death while on duty.
It's sent newly inaugurated Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, to prayer vigils, roundtables and to the center of a national debate on gun violence and public safety.
ERIC ADAMS (D), Mayor of New York: We need Washington to join us and act now to stop the flow of guns in New York City and cities like New York.
AMNA NAWAZ: The issue is resonating nationwide.
Over the weekend, an officer was wounded in Washington, D.C., and a deputy killed in Houston, Texas.
TED HEAP, Harris County, Texas, Precinct 5 Constable: We cannot have people like this on our streets.
AMNA NAWAZ: The overall picture of violent crime in America right now is complicated.
A new report by the Council on Criminal Justice tracks that.
In 2021, the homicide rate rose by 5 percent, an increase, but by a much smaller margin than in 2020, when homicides rose by 29 percent.
And these numbers are still only about half the rate during the nation's peak in the early 1990s.
Still it was top of mind for city leaders, who gathered for the national mayors conference in Washington, D.C., last week.
There, Republicans and Democrats alike endorsed investing in police departments, like Miami Mayor Francis Suarez: FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), Mayor of Miami, Florida: As we have invested in our police departments, we saw a shocking correlation.
Crime went down.
AMNA NAWAZ: And President Joe Biden: JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: We shouldn't be cutting funding for police departments.
I have proposed increasing funding.
AMNA NAWAZ: Back in New York on Monday, Mayor Adams echoed that message.
ERIC ADAMS: We will not surrender our city to the violent few.
AMNA NAWAZ: Laying out a blueprint to end gun violence, to empower community anti-violence groups, expand programs for youth jobs and mental health, harsher sentences on gun trafficking, and an increased police presence on the streets.
ERIC ADAMS: The NYPD is our first line of defense against gun violence.
We will make new efforts to strengthen and reinforce it, while continuing our mission to involve the community.
AMNA NAWAZ: That includes bring back a remodeled version of plainclothes units, the teams behind a number of the city's most notorious police shootings, disbanded amid calls for reform in 2020.
Adams said he'd ensure they didn't repeat past mistakes.
ERIC ADAMS: We're not looking to be heavy-handed.
But we're not looking to be dangerous to our city.
And I'm going to look for and strike that right balance.
AMNA NAWAZ: New Yorkers can expect to see change on the streets in the coming weeks, a sign of one city's approach to violent crime.
To understand why violence is up nationwide and what policies can address this, I'm joined by Thomas Abt.
He is the chair of the Council on Criminal Justice's Violent Crime Working Group, which studies evidence-based strategies for public safety.
Thomas Abt, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thanks for being here.
So, as we mentioned there, the violent crime rates are not what we saw in the 1990s, but those increases, they show up.
People see that and they feel that in their community.
So, what do we know is behind those increases?
What is driving them?
THOMAS ABT, Council on Criminal Justice: Sure.
It is a pleasure to be with you, Amna, today.
Basically, it is hard to tell what drives crime trends, but the experts broadly agree on three main reasons.
First, it is the pandemic.
As people know, the pandemic has placed everyone under incredible pressure, but, in particular, it has placed disproportionate pressure on poor communities of color, precisely where community gun violence concentrates.
The second major cause is, in fact, these guns.
We saw record sales of guns in 2020, continuing to 2021.
And, unfortunately, some recent ATF data shows that the -- quote, unquote -- "time to crime," meaning the time illegally purchased gun needs to funnel through the gray and black markets into the hands of the criminal, has shortened considerably.
And, in fact, what we're seeing on the streets of our cities is that more illegal guns are being recovered, despite the fact that there have been fewer arrests.
The final thing that's driving these crime trends is the social unrest that followed the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
And what that incident and other incidents like it did is, it drove a wedge between cops and the communities they serve.
And what we're seeing is, we're seeing police alienated from communities and communities alienated from police.
So, we're seeing less proactive investigation from police.
And we're seeing less cooperation in some of the impact -- in most impacted communities.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, let me ask you what you have seen so far, as mayors are responding.
We just saw the New York City mayor, Adams, there talking about how he'd like to respond to the increase in crime there, more police on the streets, but also empowering some of those community programs you were mentioning.
We actually spoke with a gentleman in New York who works with a crime -- or, rather, a violence reduction program in the neighborhood of Brownsville.
His name is Anthony Newerls.
And here's what he told us about something they tried recently.
ANTHONY NEWERLS, Brownsville In, Violence Out: We asked the police department to let us police our own community.
So it was a community-based-led resources.
Knowing the needs of the community, knowing that they have housing issues, mental health issues, summonses and warrants and food, we bought resources out for a week straight from 12:00 p.m. to 800 p.m. And not one, not one violent incident took place that week.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, Thomas, Anthony saying they actually pulled back on policing, and they saw crime go down.
Is that an approach more cities should be trying?
THOMAS ABT: I think what cities need to do, and, frankly, what I think Mayor Adams is doing, is try to strike the right balance.
It's important to understand that police are essential to crime fighting, particularly fighting against the most serious forms of crime, such as violence.
At the same time, police are necessary, but not sufficient.
So we also need partners for those police, including community groups like the one we just heard about.
And so that's really the important thing.
Unfortunately, across the country, far too often, we're having sort of an either/or conversation.
Either it's the police or it's these community groups.
You're either for the police or you're against the police.
And the science says, we actually need both.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, what about this kind of knee-jerk reaction we see in a lot of places, right?
People see crime numbers go up, and the immediate response from leaders who want to appear responsive and assertive is to say we're going to answer with more police.
We know, even with all the conversation around police reform, that more cities are spending a bigger part of their budget on police departments in the last year.
So, how do you encourage those leaders to make sure there's a mixed response; it's not just responding with police; these community programs are also getting funding?
THOMAS ABT: Sure.
Police funding as a share of overall state, local and even federal budgets is remarkably consistent.
And I wouldn't expect to see a major increase this year.
But what I would say is that it's very important to understand that it's not necessarily more police that we need or less please.
It's the right kind of policing.
Serious gun violence is remarkably concentrated.
It's concentrated in every city among a surprisingly small number of people and a small number of places often known as micro-locations or hot spots.
And so, yes, we need police in those places.
But, no, we don't need to return to some of the practices that -- of mass arrest, mass incarceration that left us with really some of the highest levels of imprisonment in the world.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Thomas Abt, chair of the Violent Crime Working Group, joining us tonight.
Thank you so much for your time.
THOMAS ABT: Pleasure to be with you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's been seven weeks it's a series of ferocious tornadoes tore through Western Kentucky and surrounding areas, killing 90 people and making hundreds more homeless.
Kentucky's governor and President Biden have promised whatever is needed to rebuild.
William Brangham recently returned to the town of Mayfield and found a community struggling to get back on its feet.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Nearly two months on, it's still jarring to see, block after block of utter destruction.
Over 1,000 homes and businesses were hit by one of the most severe tornadoes this area had seen in decades.
Survivors now live in hotels or state parks or with family far away.
Huge hydraulic metal cutters pick through the wreckage, but they seem dwarfed by the scale of the work still to be done.
JO ANNA SCHROER, Constable, Graves County, Kentucky: It's kind of -- and I hate to compare it to this, but it's like if you lose a member of your family, and you go to a funeral, and everybody shows up for the funeral, and then they leave the next day and you're sitting there in silence in your home and everyone's gone, but you're still suffering.
That's what this town is doing.
This is the fairgrounds.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Jo Anna Schroer is the local constable in Mayfield.
And since the tornado hit, she's become something of a one-woman relief effort.
JO ANNA SCHROER: Do you guys have any medical supplies back here?
MAN: I don't think so.
JO ANNA SCHROER: Plenty of gauze bandages, medical tape.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Hunting through mountains of donated goods, Schroer is trying to steer this generous tide... JO ANNA SCHROER: That's adorable.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: ... towards the very specific needs of her community.
JO ANNA SCHROER: And I found this little toy here.
I'm Jo Anna.
Nice to meet you.
JO ANNA SCHROER: Amanda, I have stuff for you.
Is your son here?
WOMAN: Yes, he is here.
MAN: Doing a lot better than what I was doing in the hospital.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This young man in this bed broke his leg in multiple places doing volunteer cleanup.
He can't work now, and his family is struggling.
Schroer brought bags of medical supplies for his mom to use.
WOMAN: And when I got that phone call, it - - I was really scared.
JO ANNA SCHROER: The people that I work with every day, they're mentally hopeful, because the news keeps telling them to be hopeful.
But the reality of it is, they're in despair.
Face to face, one on one, they're scared.
They're very scared.
They're scared what tomorrow is going to bring.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: FEMA says almost 15,000 Kentuckians have registered for help.
It and other federal agencies have given out over $35 million in loans and grants in the state.
A quarter of that went to housing assistance and repair.
And a million cubic yards of debris -- that's about two-thirds the volume of the Houston Astrodome -- has already been removed.
There's another three million still to go.
The needs are everywhere.
JO ANNA SCHROER: Right now, you let us help you.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Including another person Schroer is helping.
Chance Pitts was injured by the tornado.
He lost two cars, his job, and he's running out of money.
Pitts worked at the candle factory in Mayfield that was completely flattened by the tornado.
After the collapse, several employees claimed supervisors told them that, if they left work in advance of the storm, they could lose their jobs.
A state investigation is under way, and a class-action lawsuit has been filed.
Pitts isn't part of the suit.
Company owners deny those accusations and say none of their supervisors told people they had to stay.
CHANCE PITTS, Former Candle Factory Employee: I was told by people there that they was not able to leave, so I did not ask to leave that day, because I was more worried about having a job to support my family.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Pitts says that, when the roof blew off, a large cinder block wall fell on him and several others, trapping them inside a pile of debris.
CHANCE PITTS: I'm sandwiched between the floor, other people underneath me, the walls and all the metal on top of me.
Soon as it first happened, I prayed to God to let me live.
And then after I got done, I was able to reach into my pocket and call my wife, and told her that I loved her, and I didn't know if I was going to make it home.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What did she say back to you?
CHANCE PITTS: To please not say that.
And I told her that I didn't want to say it, but we're just getting crushed by the moment.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Pitts was trapped inside that building for five-and-a-half-hours.
Among the eight people who died in the factory that night, one of them was right underneath Pitts.
JO ANNA SCHROER: He has a strong sense of guilt.
He feels that he should have been able to save her, as he was trying so hard to save everyone that was in that compartment with him.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But he helped hold up a wall to protect all those other people.
JO ANNA SCHROER: That's correct.
But you can save 20 and lose one, and you will worry more about that one than the other 20, because they're already out there with their families, and this woman is not.
CHANCE PITTS: I have dreams about it a lot.
I will say that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To this day?
CHANCE PITTS: To this day.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The wreckage of the candle factory has now been cleaned away.
It seems like one of the fastest cleanup jobs in the area.
We went to the site with Pitts and Schroer.
JO ANNA SCHROER: It's overwhelming.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For Schroer, who hasn't been back since that first night, when she called for help online... JO ANNA SCHROER: This is the candle factory.
This is where the tornado went through.
There is nothing left of it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: ... coming back today, seeing the place scraped clean, was rough for her.
For Chance Pitts, the company just announced the factory isn't rebuilding.
He and most of the other employees are permanently laid off.
Because he worked there just three months, he can't file for unemployment.
So, what are you doing for money now?
CHANCE PITTS: Basically, at this point in time, I'm broke, living on a prayer, I guess.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And how much longer do you think you can go like that?
CHANCE PITTS: Not much longer.
And I have to go find another job, even though I got injuries.
So, I'm going to have to work through it.
You know what I mean?
Bills don't pay they self.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It's a dilemma that is facing this entire region.
TERESA ROCHETTI-CANTRELL, Former Mayor of Mayfield, Kentucky: When you look at all of the businesses that have been affected, some of these businesses have moved outside of the city limits.
Will they come back?
Will they rebuild in Mayfield?
I don't know.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell was Mayfield's mayor for eight years, and now she runs a large charitable organization in town.
She says new money will come in time, but, right now, Mayfield's desperate for funds.
TERESA ROCHETTI-CANTRELL: I'm probably being aggressive when I say that we have lost half of our tax base.
But when you look at all of these, for everywhere that there was a building, there was a value on that building.
And now the value of that building is gone.
And so it's going to be valued at just the vacant land.
That's a huge deficit for a city tax base.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Chance Pitts' experience mirrors much of what's going on in this whole community, damaged, hurt, and struggling to get back on its feet.
Constable Schroer says she and lots of others will be here for the long haul.
JO ANNA SCHROER: Let's look at what we need to do tomorrow to make tomorrow better, because this is not a one-week repair here or a two-week or a six-month.
This is years.
This is years of commitment.
And when the fanfare is over, the work is still here and has to be done.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham in Mayfield, Kentucky.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The CDC reported today that a third shot of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID vaccines substantially reduced the risk of hospitalizations among people with weakened immune systems.
This comes after both vaccine makers announced this week they are moving forward with clinical trials for new boosters designed to guard specifically against Omicron.
Amna Nawaz is back with a look at some of these developments.
She spoke earlier today with one of Moderna's top scientists.
AMNA NAWAZ: Dr. Paul Burton is the chief medical officer of Moderna.
And he joins us now.
Dr. Burton, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thank you for making the time.
DR. PAUL BURTON, Chief Medical Officer, Moderna: Thank you.
AMNA NAWAZ: Let's begin with vaccines and young kids, because this is on a lot of people's minds right now.
Parents of kids under the age of 5 are really struggling, worried about how to keep their kids and families safe.
A couple of weeks ago, Moderna had announced you're going to share efficacy data on your vaccine for kids aged 2 to 5 by March.
So, should we take that to mean that parents shouldn't expect a Moderna vaccine for those young kids anytime before March?
DR. PAUL BURTON: Well, so look, first of all, I share those sentiments.
Certainly, with Omicron, those little kids, 2-to-5-year-olds have been disproportionately impacted and affected.
And it's an unmet need.
You know, we need a good vaccine for them.
We are on track to have data, as you say, by March.
We will get that to regulators as soon as we possibly can afterwards.
And the data that we have had in older children has been very reassuring.
It shows excellent effectiveness.
So I would be hopeful, we would be hopeful that the data from that study will be the same.
And then, obviously, my R&D colleagues and the rest of the company will work with regulators to talk to the FDA and see how we can now get this approved.
AMNA NAWAZ: But that timeline means that no time before March should they expect that from Moderna, correct?
DR. PAUL BURTON: I think that is a fair assessment, yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: I'd like to ask you about Omicron specifically as well.
You have talked about making an Omicron-specific booster available later this year.
I believe clinical trials for that have just started.
I guess the question is, why would those boosters be available or be necessary even later this year?
Do you believe that Omicron is going to continue to circulate for many more months?
DR. PAUL BURTON: I think there's a couple of things.
We presented some data in "The New England Journal of Medicine" on Wednesday evening that showed that, while there is still protection, there is waning of effect, waning of antibody levels around six months after a booster.
I would also say it's clear to us now that Delta is still going to be here, Omicron is still going to be here.
There's even now a stealth variant of Omicron.
So, I think, as the leader in mRNA, as the leaders in COVID, it's on us, as Moderna, to make sure that we have a vaccine available that can cover Omicron, as well as Delta and other variants.
You know, it's our responsibility to make that, provide that insurance.
AMNA NAWAZ: You're saying this is something that Americans should expect to deal with for many months ahead?
DR. PAUL BURTON: We believe so.
I mean, we're not going to eradicate the virus.
Omicron may go down in numbers.
We -- as we go into spring and summer, people get outside, maybe we can see a reduction in cases.
But, think, we have had days where a million, a million-and-a-half Americans have been infected.
Nearly 4,000 people a day have died in recent weeks.
We have unprecedented levels of hospitalization today.
While it may come down, I think it's proven time and time again that this is a virus that can take really radical steps of evolution and surprise us.
So I would predict that we will need a booster dose just to keep everybody safe and protected in the fall of 2022.
AMNA NAWAZ: Knowing what we know now at this point, with the waning efficacy, is it fair to say people shouldn't consider themselves fully vaccinated unless they have three shots, rather than just two?
DR. PAUL BURTON: I would agree.
I think that is what will provide maximal protection against death and hospitalization, and certainly against infection, with Omicron and with COVID in general.
AMNA NAWAZ: I think roughly half of the global population now is vaccinated.
But, as you know, in those low-income countries, the numbers are really abysmal.
It's estimated about one out of every 10 people have just had their first shot, and many people will point to manufacturers like you refusing to waive the patents for those vaccines as part of the reason that gap perpetuates and persists, right?
They say it limits manufacturing, it keeps prices artificially high.
So, why not waive those patents?
DR. PAUL BURTON: Well, so, look, we have said that we certainly will not enforce any patents during this pandemic phase of the virus.
I would also add that, in 2021, one out of the maybe 825 million doses of vaccine that we produced as Moderna, a quarter of those went to low- and middle-income countries.
And we have committed to do another billion doses in 2022.
We're actively looking to build our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Africa that will provide for Africa 500 million doses.
AMNA NAWAZ: Can I just clarify, though?
When you say you won't enforce the patent, is that the same as waiving the patent rights?
DR. PAUL BURTON: I think not, no.
We have said that we will not enforce the patent during the pandemic phase.
So, if other people want to produce the vaccine during this time period, we would not enforce our patent rights, not during the pandemic phase.
AMNA NAWAZ: But does that mean that Moderna is doing anything to enable other countries to produce it or manufacture it themselves?
DR. PAUL BURTON: Well, look, as I say, certainly, for Africa, we have committed to build and work with countries there to produce a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that will produce vaccine doses for Africa in a country to be determined very soon.
So, we are doing everything possible.
AMNA NAWAZ: But when do you expect that facility to be up and running?
DR. PAUL BURTON: I think we're still working.
We're going to hopefully announce a country in coming weeks.
And then we will work as fast as possible to actually get the facility up and running.
AMNA NAWAZ: You have made billions of dollars on the sale of the vaccine, and mostly to wealthy nations.
And there were numbers late last year, for those who track those vaccine shipments, that showed Moderna shipped a greater share of your doses to wealthy countries than any other vaccine manufacturer.
So, what would you say to critics who point to those facts and that say Moderna has not done enough to help those low-income countries?
DR. PAUL BURTON: As we now go into this next phase of the pandemic and hopefully into the endemic phase, we will continue to supply as much vaccine as we can to those low- and middle-income countries, and we will expand our manufacturing facilities in those countries as well.
So we're working with governments, we're working with those regions, again, to do everything possible.
But it's a very difficult situation to supply as many people as have been asking for our vaccine throughout last year.
But I think we're in a better position now this year.
We have learned a lot.
And I think 2022 will see a new opportunity for us there.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Dr. Paul Burton, chief medical officer of Moderna.
Dr. Burton, thank you for your time.
DR. PAUL BURTON: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Syria is in the throes of several different major conflicts.
In the northeast, Syrian Kurdish forces are fighting ISIS militants who forced a prison break a week ago.
And in northwest, Idlib province, President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies are continuing to pummel civilian areas with airstrikes.
But, as video journalist Abddulrazaq Alshani found, Syrian children are determined to pursue their education.
And Ali Rogin has their story ALI ROGIN: Each morning, the students at Al-Zahir Baybars Elementary greet their teachers outside.
They line up grade by grade.
They hold on to each other's shoulders as they enter school.
The chatter subsides as they take their seats.
Then it's time to learn.
The routine is a precious bit of order and normalcy for young lives filled with chaos and war.
They are in Idlib province in Northwest Syria.
It's the last stronghold of opposition against President Bashar al-Assad, who began a brutal crackdown against civilians in 2011.
In mid-2019, Assad and his Russian allies started a campaign to retake Idlib, killing at least 1,600 civilians.
Despite a cease-fire in March 2020, the bombings have continued, often targeting civilian infrastructure.
Not even schools are safe.
On a recent winter's day, the Syrian Civil Defense Forces, known as the White Helmets, installed an early warning system at Al-Zahir Baybars.
Buying time to hide if the Defense Forces spot Russian jets.
The children practice ducking under desks and escaping to the hallway single file, in the same way they enter in the morning.
ABDUL JALIL GHANNAM, Civil Defense Awareness Office (through translator): First things first, we're going to exit in an orderly way.
So, I will not exit until my classmate in front of me exits.
ALI ROGIN: For 9-year-old Shahd, this drill is a bad memory.
SHAHD, Student (through translator): We do this to protect ourselves from the bombing and so no one is killed.
ALI ROGIN: She is among the two million Syrians in Idlib displaced by violence.
SHAHD (through translator): We fled our town because of the bombing.
I am afraid to go to school sometimes because of the bombing.
ALI ROGIN: But she still goes, hoping school remains a haven for learning and for protection.
Not all of Idlib's children have the luxury of solid schoolhouse walls.
At the Al-Sukari camp, north of Idlib city, class takes place inside this tent.
The nearest schools were destroyed by Russian airstrikes.
But it doesn't seem to dampen the students' spirits as they learn the Latin alphabet and how to count in English.
Children here make do with limited learning tools.
But the sad reality is that some have none at all; 11-year-old Mahmoud Mandora had to drop out of school to support his family.
His older brother was injured in an airstrike.
His father has been in an Assad regime jail since he was born.
Mahmoud found work at an auto shop in Idlib city, and now spends 12 hours a day fixing cars, earning the equivalent of $2.
In order to stay warm, he and another working boy burn old note papers.
They can't read them because they never learned how.
MAHMOUD MANDORA, Car Mechanic (through translator): The work is difficult here, and it's cold.
When I go home, my back really hurts.
ALI ROGIN: Mahmoud finds refuge on the back of a beat-up bicycle, which he restored himself using his tradesman's skills.
But he just wants to be a child again.
MAHMOUD MANDORA (through translator): I hope to go back to school and to stop working this job.
I hope my dad comes back from jail.
ALI ROGIN: Up in the mountains of Idlib, 14-year-old Yamen Kurdi also had to grow up fast.
He lost his leg when Russian bombs hit his school.
He was in fourth grade.
YAMEN KURDI, Student (through translator): The plane bombed us, and we started running.
Then it bombed us again.
I was injured and saw my leg was amputated.
And I tried to get up, but I couldn't get up.
ALI ROGIN: Yamen and his family now live in a remote refugee camp a mile away from the nearest school.
He and his father walk there together each day.
It's hard for both of them.
By the time they arrive, Yamen is in great pain.
ABU HANI, Father of Yamen Kurdi (through translator): His back hurts him.
He comes back tired from school.
He wants to learn.
He wants to read, but he comes back so tired.
The regime and Russia bomb the schools on purpose, so they can kill learning and destroy the young people.
ALI ROGIN: But they haven't killed Yamen's drive.
He wants to become a doctor and help people like himself.
ABU HANI (through translator): For me, the most important thing for Yamen is for him to learn.
He's a good student, and he's doing everything he can, and he won't let us down.
ALI ROGIN: The bombs robbed Yamen of a limb.
But, like so many children in Idlib, he refuses to let them steal his desire to learn.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Ali Rogin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You might remember the unlikely but true story of the Jamaican bobsled team that made it to the Olympics.
It was a feat popularized in the 1993 film "Cool Runnings."
Now Jamaica's bobsled or bobsleigh team, as it's called in British English, is at it again.
Lucy Watson from Independent Television News explains.
LUCY WATSON: Just like in "Cool Runnings," the country's four-man bobsleigh team has qualified for the Winter Olympics.
The last time was 24 years ago, so the hype is here.
NIMROY TURGOTT, Jamaican Bobsled Team: Back home in Jamaica now, it's -- some people still don't realize that Jamaica actually have a bobsled team.
MATTHEW WEPKE, Jamaican Bobsled Team: We look forward to kind of put on the show, energy, dancing skills, just love for our nation.
LUCY WATSON: Most of the team were born in Jamaica, but live and train in the U.K. And that training is hard.
ASHLEY WATSON, Jamaican Bobsled Team: It's a massive adrenaline rush, but it's like you're getting beaten up for a good minute.
All that aggression you can find from anywhere in life, you just to take out in that sleigh.
So, you see a bit -- people go a bit crazy, growl.
I tend to growl sometimes.
(LAUGHTER) LUCY WATSON: Growling is one thing.
Pushing vehicles is another.
Shanwayne is in the military and, during lockdown, had to tell the queen how he'd been practicing.
SHANWAYNE STEPHENS, Jamaican Bobsled Team: I have been pushing a car up and down the street.
I have had to make a gym.
(LAUGHTER) QUEEN ELIZABETH II, United Kingdom: Well, I suppose that is one way train.
(LAUGHTER) SHANWAYNE STEPHENS: Yes, that is definitely one way to train, ma'am.
It was a really nice feeling, the way she reacted.
And you can tell she generally was interested in what I was saying.
So, that was fantastic enough.
I think Jamaica bobsled has got a new fan.
LUCY WATSON: With a lot more skill than the movie stars, they head for Beijing on Friday to put the fire on ice.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You have got to wish them luck.
That was Lucy Watson from Independent Television News.
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, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.