PBS NewsHour full episode, Nov. 25, 2021
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Good evening, and happy Thanksgiving. I'm William Brangham. Judy Woodruff is away. On the "NewsHour" tonight: hunger in America. This holiday, many Americans face food insecurity amid the ongoing pandemic and rising prices. JAX GARNETT, Virginia: We live on top of a Whole Foods that we can't afford to shop at, so we feel the weight of food inflation and insecurity on us every day. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Then: California burning. The state's largest utility company
faces questions over whether its aging equipment sparked this year's biggest wildfire. And America divided. How the culture wars engulfing the country are finding their way into nearly every facet of political conversation.
JAMES DAVISON HUNTER, University of Virginia: There's a sense now that each side sees the other as an existential threat, and that intensifies our public discourse. It intensifies the anger and the fear. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Millions of Americans have celebrated this Thanksgiving day with a return to traditions, this after the pandemic pause last year, but with infections rising once again. In New York this morning, thousands gathered to watch giant balloons and marching bands in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And in Nantucket, Massachusetts, President Biden and Mrs. Biden met with U.S. Coast Guard members, and thanked them for their service.
Elsewhere in the state, Native American activists held an annual day of mourning at Plymouth, where the Pilgrims first landed. They said it marks the disease and oppression inflicted on them by European settlers. The COVID surge across Europe raised new alarms today, as Germany became the fifth European nation to pass 100,000 deaths from the virus. The Czech Republic declared a 30-day emergency, and France announced stricter mask mandates. Meanwhile, the European Commission warned against growing travel restrictions, and called for all 27 E.U. members to observe the same rules on vaccinations. DIDIER REYNDERS, Commissioner For Justice, European Union (through translator): In today's recommendation, we are saying that anyone who has received a booster should be considered fully vaccinated. There is an obvious risk that differing approaches between countries
could endanger confidence in the COVID certificate system and harm free movement in the Union. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Europe now accounts for nearly two-thirds of new COVID infections globally, with around a million new cases reported every two days. Russia is insisting it had no involvement with the so-called Havana Syndrome that's been affecting U.S. diplomats overseas. The Kremlin's denial followed a Washington Post report that CIA Director William Burns warned Moscow of potential consequences.
U.S. officials and family members have reported unexplained brain injuries, hearing loss and other ailments, with the first starting in Havana, Cuba, back in 2016. A fire inside a coal mine in Russian Siberia triggered a major tragedy today. The TASS News Agency reports 52 people were killed. Emergency crews arrived in
snowy conditions to try to reach those trapped underground, but three of the rescuers died, and operations were halted. There was no word on the cause of the fire. In Sudan, thousands of protesters marched today, renewing their demands for a full civilian government. They rallied in Khartoum, opposing a deal with military leaders that let Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok return to office. Instead, they demanded a complete end to military rule. IHSAN, Protester (through translator): Hamdok came back without any power and without any decisions. Why did you come back, Hamdok? The
Sudanese people are on the street. The Sudanese people don't want the army chief in charge. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The armed forces staged a coup in October, but top generals have promised new elections. And Australia is sending troops and diplomats to the Solomon Islands amid violent protests there. Two days of unrest have rocked the islands' capital city about 1,000
miles northeast of Australia. Demonstrators burned Chinese-owned stores amid criticism of their nation's closer ties with Beijing. They also breached the National Parliament building. Australian forces say they will help guard key sites, but their mission is limited.
SCOTT MORRISON, Australian Prime Minister: Our purpose here is to provide stability and security to enable the normal constitutional processes within the Solomon Islands to be able to deal with various issues that have arisen. It is not the Australian government's intention in any way to intervene in the internal affairs of the Solomon Islands. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The two countries have a security treaty, and Australian forces helped restore peace in the Solomons after ethnic violence from 2003 to 2017.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": a look at the origins of the fraught state of American politics; the former head of Saudi intelligence discusses his country's decades-long involvement in Afghanistan; a new exhibit displays a collection of Titian paintings not seen together in hundreds of years; plus much more. On this day, when Americans traditionally gather with friends and family to celebrate the bounty of food, there are still many in this country struggling to feed themselves. According to the USDA, almost 15 percent of families with kids in the U.S. suffer from what's known as food insecurity. As the pandemic continues and prices rise,
Amna Nawaz has a closer look at the toll all of this is taking on Americans. AMNA NAWAZ: On a recent morning in Virginia, dozens of people bundled up against the November chill to wait for a Thanksgiving turkey. The line at the Arlington Food Assistance Center was orderly and socially distanced. And in the middle was Cynthia Anthony, a 73-year-old grappling with how to make ends meet. She moved through the line, checked in, greeted volunteers she's come to know over the past year she's been a regular visitor, and collected her food items.
CYNTHIA ANTHONY, Virginia: My food stamps is not enough to hold me throughout the month; $20 in food stamps don't get you nothing, and that's what I get. AMNA NAWAZ: What do $20 in food stamps get you these days? CYNTHIA ANTHONY: A half-a-gallon of milk, a pack of hot dogs for $1.99, one loaf of bread. I might be able to get a dozen eggs. If I don't, I get a half-a-dozen. That's where the $20 stop at. That's for a few days. I got 28 or 29 more days to go. AMNA NAWAZ: Anthony is not alone; 55-year old Ana Dheming started coming here after she injured her wrist and couldn't work her hotel job anymore. Here, she's able to pick up the essentials.
ANA DHEMING, Virginia: They give me tomato, or some onion, potato. They say I don't have to buy. AMNA NAWAZ: And then there's 23-year old Jax Garnett, a military spouse and mom of five who's currently looking for work. JAX GARNETT, Virginia: We live on top of a Whole Foods that we can't afford to shop at, so we feel the weight of food inflation and the insecurity on us every day. AMNA NAWAZ: A recent survey found that the pandemic made it harder for nearly one out of every three Americans to access food. And of those who responded that they had
fewer financial resources, nearly half said they were eating less. CHARLES MENG, CEO, Arlington Food Assistance Center: You know, the minimum wage is still $7.25. So, that really is impossible to live on. AMNA NAWAZ: Charles Meng is the head of the Arlington Food Assistance Center. He says, since the pandemic started, there's one group they have been seeing more of.
CHARLES MENG: The typical profile is really the working poor. That's the group that changes the most. We have seen an increase very significantly in that particular group AMNA NAWAZ: One reason, rising costs at grocery stores across the country. A dollar just doesn't go as far. A pound of ground beef is up nearly 18 percent over last year. Bacon is up 28 percent, eggs 29 percent.
KATIE FITZGERALD, President, Feeding America: For low-income households, about a third of their total income is spent on food. So, this makes it really difficult to have any -- any margin right now for them to be able to feed their families. AMNA NAWAZ: Katie Fitzgerald is the president of the nonprofit Feeding America that coordinates a network of 200 food banks nationwide.
KATIE FITZGERALD: We're seeing skyrocketing transportation costs, labor challenges at food banks, still a challenge to get enough volunteers in. And then just the price of food itself is really pricing out some products that food banks otherwise would normally be procuring for their communities. AMNA NAWAZ: At the Arlington Food Assistance Center, director Charles Meng said they bought 2, 400 turkeys to hand out ahead of Thanksgiving, but that came at a cost. CHARLES MENG: Last year, we paid a $1.05 per pound for turkeys. We're now paying $1, almost $1.42 per pound. So, there has been a tremendous increase in that cost. And if you're one of our clients, you see that cost in your daily grocery store bill.
AMNA NAWAZ: Part of what's at play in higher grocery bills begins in backed-up container ships in ports around the world, a lack of truck drivers to transport goods. Higher gas prices. It all adds up to sticker shock on grocery store shelves. And food banks aren't immune. KATIE FITZGERALD: The safety net is subject to those same pressures, right? So, on one hand, if you think about the supply chain backups, we have orders that food banks have for canned fruit and vegetables in particular -- that's right now a major problem -- that are just not being fulfilled and are delayed weeks, sometimes months.
The challenges for the supply chain are not sustainable for us, because they're impacting food donations as more food that would otherwise come to us is going to the secondary market. AMNA NAWAZ: Another issue facing hungry America, more than 54 million Americans live in areas with poor access to healthy food. CHARLES MENG: That's why food insecurity in the United States looks like obesity. We have an abundance, but it's the wrong food.
AMNA NAWAZ: In Arlington, they have made it part of their mission to help people get more nutritious foods that often come at a higher cost into their diets. With five children, Jax Garnett says it's a big reason she started coming. JAX GARNETT: Sometimes, you're like, OK, I don't want to make macaroni again, even though they like that. It's not nutritious. I need substance. There's a lot of other great resources that are food drives or easy pickup options, but a lot of them don't have fruits and vegetables. So, to get something fresh, to get milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables, this is one of the few opportunities in Arlington that offers that. AMNA NAWAZ: And with a turkey in her backpack, Garnett headed off, better prepared to feed her family this Thanksgiving. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz in Arlington, Virginia.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Unlike last Thanksgiving, which came in the depths of the pandemic, the creation of vaccines means many of us can now gather safely with our loved ones this holiday. We heard from people across the country about the ways they're celebrating this year and what they're most grateful for. GREG TENOR, Maryland: Hi, my name is Greg Tenor, and I live in Rockville, Maryland. I think, this year, given everything that's happened during the pandemic, we want to take even the smallest things that give us joy and really realize how important they are to us. MICHELLE DELGADO, Colorado: I'm Michelle Delgado. I'm from Aurora, Colorado. I'm grateful for the response from my family, how we have reached out to each other.
JEAN DARNELL, Texas: My name is Jean Darnell, and I'm a middle school librarian in Pflugerville, Texas. I'm thankful to have a job. Last Thanksgiving, I didn't. I was out with current COVID, quarantine and whatnot, and so I am eternally grateful to be here in a library again inspiring kids. KEVIN REED, Washington: I'm Kevin Reed from Seattle, Washington.
And I'm thankful for shelter, food. I live in Seattle, so we have a lot of homeless around, and you're reminded constantly how fortunate you are just to have a home and food. JESSICA SHAPELY, Texas: My name is Jessie (ph) Shapely. I'm 35. I live in Houston, Texas. This year, we're really looking forward to being together as a family, now that my 5-year-old are vaccinated and we're all vaccinated.
SILVIA GARCIA-LIVELLI, Maryland: My name is Silvia Garcia-Livelli. I live in Bethesda, Maryland. I think that we all have felt the stress of knowing how fragile life is and how important it is that we are not isolated entities. We are part of a group, that shared responsibility and shared support. MICHELLE DELGADO: My grandchildren have sent me artwork. My grandson, he and his mom traced his arms and his body on tissue paper and sent me a hug, which I still have hanging on my wall.
KEVIN REED: When I go out in the morning and I could see the stars and the planets and the moon and everything, I'm just aware of being -- that we're on this ball of rock in space. And I'm just thankful for the life and everything that's on there and being a part of it and being on the cutting edge of billions of years of evolution. That's always kind of exciting. JEAN DARNELL: My plans this Thanksgiving is to get in the kitchen with my sons. I'm going to teach them what goes into their favorite dishes, whether it's sweet potato pie or bacon mac and cheese, those "Mama, this is so good, how did you make?" recipe. I'm like, you're going to make it this Thanksgiving. I'm going to sit on a stool somewhere in the kitchen and supervise, delegate.
(LAUGHTER) GREG TENOR: I'm an only child, so it's going to be my mom, my dad and I spending Thanksgiving just at their home. I love to cook. I order out a lot, but there's nothing like a home-cooked meal. SILVIA GARCIA-LIVELLI: I am going to just breathe, be present and be happy and just enjoy the warmth of their -- that comes from interaction from family and friends. JESSICA SHAPELY: I know my daughter is really looking forward to hugging my mom.
They haven't seen each other in person for a little over a year. And I know we're all really excited for that, just hugs, lots and lots of hugs again. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Southern California's largest utility company, Edison, turned off power today for over 63,000 homes and businesses, as low humidity and high winds increased the risk of starting dangerous wildfires. While that state is experiencing a record drought driven in part by climate change, the initial spark for many of these blazes often comes from utility equipment and their power lines.
Fire investigators are now looking into whether another utility, PG&E, was behind the nation's largest fire so far this year. From KQED and the California newsroom, Lily Jamali reports how their findings could have ramifications for the victims of past fires caused by the utility company. LILY JAMALI: After three months, firefighters in California have contained the Dixie Fire, which, this summer, engulfed almost a million acres, an area bigger than Rhode Island. It's
the second largest fire in California history, and has left at least 1,000 people homeless. It may have been started by equipment belonging to California's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric. PG&E has been implicated in several devastating fires, including the deadly Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills almost three years ago. It was sparked when this hook that kept a power line suspended snapped after a century of use, causing sparks to fly onto dry brush below. The company ultimately pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the residents who died in the Camp Fire.
Last year, Bill Johnson, PG&E's then-CEO, entered the company's pleas: BILL JOHNSON, Former PG&E CEO: I wish there was some way to take back what happened or to take away the impact, the pain that these people have suffered, but I know that can't be done. LILY JAMALI: Among the tens of thousands of people who lost homes in that blaze is Teri Lindsay. Since the fire, she and her family have been crammed into one trailer after another. TERI LINDSAY, Fire Victim: There were five people, four dogs, two guinea pigs, and a cat all living in this mobile home.
LILY JAMALI: Teri escaped with her daughter, Erika (ph), who was just seven when they fled for their lives. Erika still struggles to talk about what happened. TERI LINDSAY: She was really affected. She sees a campfire, a little campfire in a pit, and she gets scared of the smoke.
She hears sirens, she gets worried there's a fire. She is so traumatized by this. But she was my helper that day. LILY JAMALI: This past summer, the Lindsays were on the long list of PG&E fire survivors waiting to get paid from a controversial settlement set up as the company left bankruptcy last year. Seventy thousand people who lost homes, businesses, and loved ones in fires caused by the company were promised approximately $13.5 billion, but their settlement has never actually
been worth that much. And, today, the vast majority of them have yet to receive a dime. PG&E set up a compensation fund for these victims of past fires with $6.75 billion in cash and, in a highly unusual outcome, almost 500 million shares of PG&E itself. That's left PG&E fire survivors collectively holding almost one-quarter of the company's shares through a special trust, whose value fluctuates with the price of PG&E stock.
WILLIAM ABRAMS, Fire Victim: PG&E would not have the incentives LILY JAMALI: William Abrams was one of several fire survivors who objected to those terms. His family lost their Sonoma County home in 2017. He says the deal has tethered the victims' compensation to PG&E's performance. WILLIAM ABRAMS: Here's this company that burned down your house, and then they are forcing you to take an investment in their company. LILY JAMALI: This past spring, more than 100 fire survivors organized a march in the fire-ravaged town of Paradise. PROTESTER: Come on through.
LILY JAMALI: Making it known they're unhappy. After more than a year, just 12 percent of even the cash portion of their settlement has made it to them, this as independent administrators have racked up at least $100 million in fees, with no end in sight. PROTESTER: It's a trust that's set up for fire victims. Yet, so many months and years down the line, fire victims haven't seen much. LILY JAMALI: Teri Lindsay told fellow survivors she needs cash in her hands and a roof over her head.
TERI LINDSAY: I'm angry right now. It's because my little girl here, she can't heal until we can go home. LILY JAMALI: These victims have watched as PG&E comes under scrutiny for more fires and faces charges for more deaths. The company is facing criminal prosecution for a 2019 Wine Country fire,
and was charged last month with its second round of manslaughter charges for a 2020 fire in Shasta County. STEPHANIE BRIDGETT, Shasta County, California, District Attorney: Their failure was reckless, and it was negligent, and it resulted in the deaths of four people. LILY JAMALI: PG&E acknowledges that fire was caused when a tree fell onto its power lines, but disputes the claim that it's criminally liable. A tree striking its lines also caused the Dixie Fire, this year's largest, which PG&E is being investigated for now. PG&E CEO Patti Poppe: PATTI POPPE, CEO, Pacific Gas & Electric: That tree that fell on our line is one of eight million trees that are in strike distance to our lines.
This is an extraordinary problem. LILY JAMALI: PG&E declined our request to interview CEO Ms. Poppe for this story. But the company sent us a statement, saying that it is hardening its system, piloting new technologies, and taking other aggressive action to increase system safety. The safety plan PG&E has submitted to state regulators lays out just how tall an order that is. More than 30,000 miles of PG&E's power lines run through high-threat fire districts, places like this neighborhood in the city of Fremont just outside San Francisco.
It's ringed with high-voltage PG&E power lines. NATHANIEL SKINNER, California Public Utility Commission: These houses, just they're right up against the hillside. And so, if there was to be a fire, it's right up against people's homes. LILY JAMALI: Nathaniel Skinner is a manager at the internal watchdog agency of California's utility regulator. He says PG&E has stepped up work on its system in recent years, but adds, the goalposts are constantly changing, amid relentless change at the top. NATHANIEL SKINNER: So, we have been through a never-ending cycle of CEOs at the company, and yet we still keep seeing the same kinds of problems at the utility, missed inspections, delayed inspections, falsified inspections. LILY JAMALI: For 2021, of those 30,000 miles of power lines in high-risk zones, just 1, 800 miles are slated for PG&E's stepped-up tree-trimming program, and less than 200 miles are set to undergo major upgrades.
The company is behind on those goals. But, even at its planned pace, advocates like Skinner say it would take PG&E up to 100 years to address those risks across its system. TERI LINDSAY: Those are really low. I mean, we can touch them. LILY JAMALI: Teri Lindsay's temporary home is in the fire zone.
She worries about what's ahead. With climate change, these fires aren't going away. TERI LINDSAY: The winds that come through here, we get some bad winds. LILY JAMALI: This fall, she learned how much she's owed for her losses, but she will get just 30 percent for now, as PG&E stock flounders. And they will never get back all that they lost, including their town.
TERI LINDSAY: We love our town. And to see all this, everything gone, ashes, all that stuff, it's not something I would wish on anybody. LILY JAMALI: For fire survivors, promises of a safer PG&E have come too little, too late. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lily Jamali in Northern California. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Most families gather on Thanksgiving hoping that politics is not on the menu. And this year is certainly no different. Amna Nawaz is back with a look at why it seems that cultural and political polarization seems to be getting worse in this country, and what might be done to lower the temperature just a bit.
AMNA NAWAZ: We're witnessing the newest evolution of the culture wars, a term first popularized nearly 30 years ago in a book by James Davison Hunter. He's also the executive director of the Institute for Advanced Studies and Culture at the University of Virginia. And he joins me now. James Davison Hunter, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for making the time.
So, it was 30 years ago you used this phrase culture wars. You were trying to capture sort of the national divides and debates over issues like abortion rights and LGBTQ rights and the role of religion in schools. How have the culture wars from 30 years ago changed? What's different today? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER, University of Virginia: One of the most important differences is the ways in which the culture wars have now become class culture wars.
Progressives tend to predominate in the upper middle class, highly educated professionals and managers. And traditionalists, conservatives tend to cluster in the middle, lower-middle and working classes. The class differences are highlighting real differences in life chances and opportunities, the horizons of the future that mean so much to everyday life. AMNA NAWAZ: So, I guess, definitionally, too, maybe I can ask you to help us understand how you look at the phrase, what culture wars even mean today, because it feels almost as if the term is applied reflexively to any issue that people disagree on that's not purely a matter of policy. You can talk about science or sports or education or anything, and it becomes a culture war issue. So, how do you see it? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: So, culture wars can be understood in two different ways.
The main way in which people think about culture wars is in terms of the politics of culture. It's essentially about politics, but around cultural issues. So, it's the politics of abortion. It's the politics of gay rights, lesbian rights. It's the politics of race and the like. The second way in which the culture wars plays out is in terms of the culture of politics.
It's the symbolic environment within which politics and our democracy unfolds. This is the difference between weather and climate. They're related to each other. They feed on each other. But they're ultimately reinforcing the same kinds of divisions in our society. AMNA NAWAZ: You have also written about and talked about this idea of fear of extinction being sort of a central issue in some of these culture war issues as well. And polls actually show messaging like that really resonates among the American public.
In one recent poll, 52 percent of Americans agree with the statement -- quote -- "Today, America is in danger of losing its culture and identity." We have just seen the largest and most diverse nationwide calls for racial justice and people more willing to see and recognize the racist history of this country. I'm curious what role you think race plays in all of this. JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: Well, my sense is that race is, for the most part, replacing abortion as the central issue of the culture war.
Ever since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion was really the main catalyst of conflict. Race was never really discussed as much through the '80s and '90s. It's now center stage. AMNA NAWAZ: There's also, we should point out, a really deep divide, a partisan divide on that one issue of whether or not America is in danger of losing its culture and identity.
It's a 50-point gap, a 50 percentage point gap between Republicans and Democrats; 80 percent of Republicans, we should say, agreed with that statement. Does that surprise you? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: It doesn't surprise me. I think that there's the -- in a way, you can think about the interplay of our national motto of e pluribus unum. The pluribus has expanded and it has polarized. The unum has all but evaporated. There's a sense now that each side sees the other as an existential threat, and that intensifies our public discourse. It intensifies the anger and the fear. If there is an unum right now in our public culture, it's probably fear. It cuts across race, class, gender,
the divide between conservatives and progressives. Fear seems to be our common culture right now. AMNA NAWAZ: You have also talked about the justification of violence that comes with some of these culture wars. I'm thinking about the violence we saw on January 6 that was perpetuated by the lie of a stolen election and political propaganda. I'm also thinking about messaging
and political violence. We just saw Congressman Paul Gosar censured for a violent video that he shared online depicting him causing harm, murdering a fellow congressional colleague. Talk to me about that. Should we have seen all this coming?
JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: Well, there was a 30-year culture war that was prior to the Civil War. You never have a shooting war without a prior culture war. Culture provides the justifications for violence. It's -- and you tend to see this kind of move when each side doesn't see any way forward, when you're at a stalemate, and there's no way democratically to move it forward.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, where is the exit ramp in all of this? I mean, if the onus seems to be upon the people who are perpetuating these kinds of culture wars, leaning into them, maybe even benefiting from them politically, if it's resonating among the American public, how does this all get tamped down? JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: I think that there is a sense on both sides of just deep exhaustion, that we're no longer part of a shared project called America, and that -- and even reason or facts, each side has their own reasons and their own facts. And there's the sense of exhaustion. What's the point of talking through our differences? They're not getting us anywhere. So, we end up with a very shallow public discourse that's shouting. It's cliches. It's a kind of
truncated discourse that tends to feed each side's base and to mobilize the base toward action. This is not healthy for democracy. And it seems to me, if we don't commit ourselves, if leaders are not censuring acts of both physical and symbolic violence, these tendencies are only going to increase. So, it's a dangerous moment. And my sense is
that, unless we address this, we're going to be seeing more violence in the future. AMNA NAWAZ: James Davison Hunter giving us all a lot to think about, and we're grateful for it. Thank you so much for your time. JAMES DAVISON HUNTER: You're welcome. Thank you. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It was the anger and fear seeping into American political culture that struck journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Evan Osnos when he moved back to the United States in 2013. He'd been living and working abroad for 10 years, first in the Middle East and then in China.
As he recently told Judy Woodruff, Osnos set out to understand why the country had changed. It's the focus of his latest book, "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury." JUDY WOODRUFF: Evan Osnos, welcome back to the "NewsHour." EVAN OSNOS, Author, "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury": Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the title of the book, "Wildland," fitting in many ways, that the country does feel that way, I think, right now to many of us. You went back for this book to three of the places you have lived, Clarksburg, West Virginia, where you worked as a as a beginning news reporter, Greenwich, Connecticut, where you spent time growing up, Chicago, where you work. And you talked to hundreds of people to try to get a sense of the trajectory of their lives, how they're experiencing this. And what comes through is often the destructive forces at work out there. I'm thinking particularly that hedge fund manager in Greenwich. EVAN OSNOS: Yes. Well, one of the things that I was really struck by was the way that the things that were happening in one place were impacting the politics in another place, to a degree I hadn't expected.
Take Greenwich, for example, where I grew up. It had experienced huge growth in wealth in the early years of this century. The average CEO was making hundreds of times what the average front-line worker was. And when I went to West Virginia and I spoke to people about how they thought about the American system, coal miner there said to me, he said: "Do you know any man who was worth 400 or 500 times other men?" He said: "I don't." And that sensation, that feeling of somehow things being off was deeply felt, to a degree I don't think we appreciated. JUDY WOODRUFF: You give us the stories of these individual lives, but there's a lot of data in here to back it up, the discrepancy in wealth in this country, the role of money in politics.
It gives the book a foundation, I think, so that you're reading human stories, but you're also learning a lot about this country. EVAN OSNOS: Well, there were statistics that staggered me, frankly. I mean, take, for example, the fact that, if you live in McDowell County, West Virginia, if you're an adult male, your life expectancy there is 18 years less than your life expectancy over the border in Virginia, in Fairfax County.
And the fact that these are two parts of one political community gives you a window into some of the underlying stresses that are pulling us apart. JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is the theme of politics that runs through this. And along the way, Donald Trump appears, runs for president, is elected, and, of course, so much controversy around him. But you see the forces that he's bringing out in these communities and in the lives of the people you talked to.
EVAN OSNOS: Yes, in a way, I suppose I was writing about Trump before he was even on the scene. I didn't know it yet. I was writing about this rising sense of fury in American politics. And when he arrived, I thought I was writing a book about somebody who was never going to be president. He became president, and then I realized, actually, that was, in the end, the kind of confluence of all of these structural forces I'd been writing about, politics, economics, technology.
But, ultimately, it's also how we relate to one another as citizens. JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think you came away, Evan Osnos, with -- from all of this reporting you have done, with a better understanding of why Donald Trump has the following that he has in this country? EVAN OSNOS: Yes. I think, in the end, I was struck by the fact that, fundamentally, Americans have broken faith with institutions, at the core. I mean, these are -- it applies to universities and government and the law and politics.
And that's a process of restoration that takes more than just four years to get back to it. It's not just enough to get rid of one president and to put another in place. As we're seeing right now, these divisions endure. This is a generational project about restoring credibility by restoring opportunity to people, making them feel as if it's possible again to be heard and to make their way in this country. JUDY WOODRUFF: There are stories of people trying in their local communities to make a difference.
EVAN OSNOS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, there are some uplifting tales here, but they're not the majority of the... (CROSSTALK) EVAN OSNOS: In a way, I was really struck.
I didn't go out looking for either successes or failures. What I was trying to do was document the country as it really feels to be here in this period. I mean, frankly, I was writing so that, later, my kids could read about what it was like to be in the United States at this period. And, in a way, I came away encouraged by some things, some really impressive projects. To just
name one, something as simple as taking kids from very segregated neighborhoods in Chicago, bringing them across town to another part of town and making them feel as if the whole city is theirs, that can transform their sense of themselves. And I came away quite encouraged by that. JUDY WOODRUFF: But is there enough of that kind of thing going on in our local communities, in our cities across the country? EVAN OSNOS: There is this tension going on, because there is a nationalized political conversation. And that grinds us down.
I mean, there's an amazing fact, which is that Americans today have an easier time naming presidents and vice presidents than their own governors of their states. And it wasn't always that way. Historically, you used to know your local officials better than you knew national politics. So, part of the lesson that I drew from this is, it's time to reinvest in the places we know. I mean, reinvest in your local newspaper,
in the institutions that actually connect you to your neighbors. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. And I -- and I think many people look at that and they say, it's admirable, but is it going to be enough? But you're saying, in the end, you have hope? EVAN OSNOS: I'm saying it's actually not hope; it's work. Like, we have work to do, but it's not as if it's mysterious. There's very definable reasons why we ended up in this mess. And, for that reason, we can also begin to address them, things like
fundamental income inequality of a scale that we haven't had since the Gilded Age, things like the decline of reliable news in a way that people feel they can go online and read something they trust. These kinds of things are not, in the end, impossible. And part of the process of addressing them is laying it out on paper. JUDY WOODRUFF: Washington still has a role to play in all this, but you're saying it's got to be more than that? EVAN OSNOS: It is, yes.
I mean, one of the clear takeaways I had was that, to understand Washington's dysfunction right now, you have to get outside of Washington. JUDY WOODRUFF: Evan Osnos. The book is "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury." Thank you. Thank you very much. EVAN OSNOS: My pleasure. Thanks, Judy.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It's been three months since the U.S. withdrew its forces from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, but America's involvement there didn't begin after September 11, 2001. It began decades earlier, after the Soviet Union invaded that country in 1979. The U.S. wanted to do everything it could to counter the Russians during the Cold War. And so, at that time, the U.S. worked with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
to arm Afghan Islamist fighters known as the mujahideen. Nick Schifrin recently talked with one of the key architects and partners in that effort. NICK SCHIFRIN: From the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the 9/11 al-Qaida attacks plotted in Afghanistan, few people have been focused on the country and the battles its people waged on behalf of world powers than Prince Turki Al-Faisal, whose term as Saudi intelligence head coincided almost exactly with those years. He's written a new book, "The Afghanistan File."
Your Royal Highness, welcome to the "NewsHour." PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD, Former Saudi Intelligence Director: Thank you, Mr. Schifrin. NICK SCHIFRIN: Let's start at the beginning. In 1979, the Soviets invade Afghanistan. And the Carter administration
decides to fund the mujahideen the Afghan fighters who would fight the Soviet Union. There's a formal decision by the middle of 1980 for Saudi Arabia to essentially split the cost with the United States and have the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, funnel weapons to the mujahideen. You were, of course, in the middle of that effort. How did it work? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: The recipients were picked on their ability to harm the Soviets, basically. The Pakistanis and us and the Americans would sit together and see which one was more effective reaching certain targets that were put for them. I would say that, on the issue of Afghanistan, from 1979 until I left the intelligence department in 2001, there was, if you like, a good war, and then there was a bad war. The good war is when we got the Soviets out jointly.
But once that happened the United States, basically, and the other countries in the world turned their back on Afghanistan. And, unfortunately, the mujahideen that had worked so well together to get the Soviets out, they began to fight each other, and there was civil war. And that's what I would call a bad war. NICK SCHIFRIN: In retrospect, do you think, if the international community had stayed focused on Afghanistan, the country could have looked different in the 1990s? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: I believe so, because remaining in a dysfunctional state, as it happened in the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal, allowed for all sorts of developments to take place, including the formation of al-Qaida.
Its roots began in the late '80s in the refugee camps of Afghans in Pakistan, with bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, who is now the head of al-Qaida. NICK SCHIFRIN: But is it only what happened there? Saudi Arabia itself has been accused of basically sowing the seeds of Islamist radicalism. You write in the book -- quote -- "We simply tolerated Saudis to fight in Afghanistan if they wished, and we had never thought, when we encouraged young men to go to Pakistan in the 1980s, it might change their political ideas."
In retrospect, do you think that was naive? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: Well, it was naive. But, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, everybody supported the mujahideen. When, finally, al-Qaida established itself in Afghanistan, and bin Laden in 1989 came to me to inform me that he would like, as he said, to bring his mujahideen to go and fight the communist regime in the Arabian Peninsula, South Yemen, at the time, and I told him, we don't need your mujahideen, basically, so, don't call us, we will call you.
The same year, 1990, the Iraqis invaded Kuwait, and bin Laden didn't come to me, but he went to another Saudi official, the late defense minister, basically repeated what I had told him before: Thank you very much. Don't interfere. And I think that's when he began his enmity, if you like, to the kingdom. NICK SCHIFRIN: In the book, you call bin Laden -- quote -- "ill-informed, naive, a believer in the most simplistic solutions."
But you also admit in the book how the expansion of religious influence in Saudi's education system, in the media played a role in creating people like bin Laden. Do you believe the kingdom has a part to blame? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: There was this growth of extremist opinion in Saudi Arabia. So, yes, we're -- definitely. And we rued the day afterwards, when we were -- became even more of the targets of these people inside the kingdom. And that's why the kingdom went through a soul-searching procedure and process, not just by the government, but by the people in general.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Which brings us to today and the kings and crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to modernize, to diversify the economy. For every major announcement, such as buying Newcastle Football Club, hosting Formula 1, there are still condemnations from human rights groups. Do you believe it would be wise for Saudi Arabia to change its positions on human rights, if for no other reason than self-interest? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: Well, it's not a matter of self-interest. It's a matter of
being human beings and holding high principles and high ideals. It is unacceptable for anybody, and not just Saudi Arabia, to stay rigid on a course and not reform and evolve. And the kingdom has chosen evolution. And the kingdom is, I think, rightfully proud that it has managed in a very short time space to come from, I would say, the 17th century until the 21st century in a period of 60 to 70 years. NICK SCHIFRIN: Saudi Arabia's critics say it's less a question of whether the kingdom is moving fast enough than the motivations, frankly, of Mohammed bin Salman himself to persecute his critics, not only Jamal Khashoggi, but also with widespread detentions inside the kingdom. PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: Welcome to criticism, if it is fair. In every case that they mention about arrests and things like that, they are taken to court. And, in
the court, with sentences and with accusations and so on, the process is done, as happened with the killers of Jamal Khashoggi, who were identified and were brought to justice in the kingdom. NICK SCHIFRIN: Let's end by bringing this back to Afghanistan. In a speech in early November, you said that the U.S. withdrawal would lead U.S. allies to contemplate -- quote -- "a future away from the Western-dominant paradigm." Why? PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: Well, if you can't depend on your friends, who can you depend on? I don't think there is anybody that can replace the United States and its -- with its military power, its economic power and its diplomatic capabilities and so on.
So, we're not seeking to replace the United States. But, definitely, I think we are seeking to have friends, more friends. We should not turn our back on Afghanistan. We should hold the Taliban to task to see that they perform on what they said that
they will do, an inclusive government, issues of human rights, women's rights, education, et cetera, et cetera, and that they're not going to allow anybody to use Afghan soil to harm others. All these things have -- the Taliban have to account for. And I don't think we should offer them diplomatic recognition until and unless they do that. NICK SCHIFRIN: Prince Turki Al-Faisal, thank you very much. PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL AL-SAUD: Thank you, Mr. Schifrin.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It's an exhibition many have called the art show of the year. It's a collection of master works by Titian, which have not been seen together in more than 400 years. They are on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Special correspondent Jared Bowen of GBH takes a look. It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
JARED BOWEN: At first blush, there is so much to absorb, a master painter working at his most majestic, skin bared to carnal extremes, but also an atmosphere of terror. And then there is this, seeing these six Titian paintings reunited for the first time since the Italian Renaissance. NATHANIEL SILVER, Curator, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: It's huge. They haven't been back together since they left the royal collections in Spain over the course of several centuries. JARED BOWEN: It was Spain's young and soon-to-be-King Philip II who commissioned Titian to paint this series in 1550.
Hiring the Venetian painter was akin to landing Picasso as your interior designer, says curator Nathaniel Silver. NATHANIEL SILVER: Titian was the celebrity painter of Europe. He painted for popes. He painted for princes. He was the personal painter to the holy Roman emperor, who was Philip II's father. Everybody who was anybody wanted a Titian. JARED BOWEN: Titian painted the works over 10 years.
In that time, Philip became king and the world's most powerful ruler, but the monarch gave the artist free rein. NATHANIEL SILVER: Usually, it was, you ordered the work of art, you signed the check, and that was it. This is really the artist having quite a big voice. JARED BOWEN: The series depicts ancient mythological stories as written by the Roman poet Ovid, but Titian distilled the writer's epic text into jam-packed paintings teeming with symbols. NATHANIEL SILVER: Titian calls these paintings the poesie. And the word literally translates as painted poetries. He is putting his own stamp of originality on them. You could say that he's challenging the written word with the painted image. He is challenging
the pen with the brush. JARED BOWEN: They reflect on and telegraph a world of violence. In the painting Danae, the God Jupiter transforms himself into gold dust, descending on the nude princess to impregnate her. In Diana and Callisto, Jupiter is again a perpetrator, having assaulted one of the goddess Diana's nymphs. NATHANIEL SILVER: Diana is pointing out her finger of judgment at Callisto, casting her out of her sacred spring. Callisto is lying here. And if you look carefully at her eyes, you see she's crying,
the other nymphs around her exposing her pregnant belly. This is no less than the shaming of a rape victim by her peers. The whims of the Gods leave so much of the fates of mortals out of the hands of mortals themselves. It's a hard painting. It's a very hard painting. And it's hard to reconcile the beauty of the way in which it's painted, of the fabulous palette that Titian uses, the incredible sunset behind it, with the horror of its subject. JARED BOWEN: The works are metaphors for war and conquest and a world often consumed with violence.
It's Titian offering commentary, while also working at the height of his career. NATHANIEL SILVER: He's a painter's painter. He's a virtuoso with the brush. He knows how to apply the minimum of paint to create a particular figure and get the most out of it pictorially.
PEGGY FOGELMAN, Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: One of the things that I love about the installation at the Gardner is how intimately they converse with each other. JARED BOWEN: Peggy Fogelman is the director of Boston's Gardner Museum, the last stop on what has been an international tour of the works, one stalled, but not derailed by a global pandemic. PEGGY FOGELMAN: It's not an easy undertaking and took a couple of years of negotiating, actually. JARED BOWEN: The works remained in Philip's Madrid palace only for about 20 years before being scattered throughout Europe. But this one, titled The Rape of Europa came to the U.S. 125 years ago by way of the museum's shrewd founder and collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner. Here, Jupiter appears again as a bull this time stealing away with the princess Europa to Crete, where he impregnates her, and she ultimately gives birth to the first of European civilization. It was Gardner's prized masterpiece, if not a fraught one.
PEGGY FOGELMAN: It made quite a splash when it came to Boston. She talks about men sort of bowing down before Europa and women averting their gaze. She was very much enamored of the emotional responses to works of art. JARED BOWEN: The purchase was so monumental, Gardner's friend the writer Henry James wondered if the pope would sell her one of the Vatican rooms next. And she loved the painting enough to give it a singular space in her museum built to resemble a Venetian palazzo. PEGGY FOGELMAN: The Titian Gallery. She named the whole gallery after this painting,
she was so enamored of it. And everything that's arranged on the wall and the colors in that fabric is really evocative of the painting. JARED BOWEN: At the exhibition's end, Europa returns to the empty space on this wall. The other five paintings return to their European museums, but, says curator Nathaniel Silver, this once-in-a-lifetime reunion has made them more relevant than ever. NATHANIEL SILVER: We see horrifying things every day, and we're forced to reckon with these forces outside of our control. And that's exactly what Titian is forcing Philip to do. JARED BOWEN: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jared Bowen in Boston.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm William Brangham. Be sure to join us here again tomorrow evening. From all of us at the "NewsHour," we have so much to be grateful for, and we're especially thankful for all of you for being a part of our "NewsHour" family. Thank you. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Good night.