PBS News Weekend full episode, July 16, 2022

PBS News Weekend full episode, July 16, 2022

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♪♪ geoff: Good evening. I'm geoff Bennett. Tonight on "Pbs news weekend"... As president Biden wraps up his trip to the Middle East, we get the latest on his high-stakes meetings in Saudi Arabia.

Then... With covid cases spiking across much of the country, we take a look at the subvariants behind this latest surge, and the protection offered by vaccines. And...

Correspondent Nick schifrin speaks with a top Saudi diplomat about the u.s./saudi relationship. Mr. Al-jubeir: Human rights is an issue that American presidents attach great importance to, even though sometimes they don't live up to those ideals, which makes America human like the rest of the world. Geoff: All that and the day's headlines on tonight's "Pbs news weekend."

♪♪ >> Major funding for "Pbs news weekend" has been provided by -- >> For 25 years, consumer cellular's goal has been to provide wireless service that helps people communicate and connect. We offer a variety of no contract plans, and our u.s.-based customer service team can find one that fits you.

To learn more, visit consumercellular.tv. ♪♪ >> And with the ongoing support of these individuals and institutions -- ♪♪ and friends of the "Newshour." ♪♪ this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. Thank you. Geoff: Good evening. It is great to be with you.

We begin tonight in Saudi Arabia, where president Biden today wrapped up his first trip to the Middle East as commander in chief. The visit unfolded amid questions about the relationship between the two countries and the Biden administration's attempt to balance human rights, energy and security interests. Following a highly scrutinized meeting with the Saudi crown prince and a summit with Arab leaders, president Biden unveiled what he called a new framework for the Middle East. Joining us now from jeddah, Saudi Arabia to discuss all this is Nick schifrin. President Biden today laid out his vision for American policy across the Middle East.

What did he say? Nick: Senior officials describe it as a major speech and frankly that's what they want to be talking about rather than that fistbump with the crown prince yesterday. President Biden called it a new framework and he delivered it in a conference to gulf and Arab allies and he said it could be summarized in one sentence. >> The United States is invested in building a positive future in the region in partnership with all of you and the United States is not going anywhere. Nick: U.S. Officials emphasize the last phrase, and attempted to reassure allies who have been worried about U.S. Disengagement

in the region and also an attempt to ensure that Iran that China and Russia don't expand their influence in the region. Specifically it says the U.S. Will not allow a foreign power to jeopardize freedom of navigation or dominate through military buildup, that is a clear reference to Iran.

But also it pledges to reduce tensions and de-escalate wherever possible, that is reference to diplomacy with Iran and the nuclear program. Also, that the U.S. Will promote human rights. U.S. Allies are supportive of the u.s.'s combative stance, but they are not happy with the nuclear deal.

Still lots of questions after president Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia a pariah and now giving the crown prince a fistbump. Geoff: And president Biden criticized for that. He also said that he confronted the crown prince over the killing of Jamal khashoggi. What's the reaction been on the Saudi side? Nick: It is a really important question because it reveals both sides's motivations. President Biden claimed he confronted mbs, the crown prince, over Jamal khashoggi, but I spoke with the deputy foreign minister and he said that mbs responded by basically describing his own version of human rights. He told the president, "You can't impose one set of values on another country.

The U.S. Tried to do this in Afghanistan and Iraq and it backfired. He brought up another journalist recently killed in the occupied west bank, an American Palestinian, and mbs asked what is the U.S. Going to do about that? That is according to that minister. Both sides benefit from spinning.

The U.S. President claims he confronted the man that intelligence say ordered the murder of Jamal khashoggi, and Saudi's, presenting mbs as holding his own but trying to reset relations. When I spoke with the minister, he did not describe it as they were confronting each other, described that they were explaining to each other what their various versions of the story were. That is really what the Saudis are trying to do here, but the president will continue to face questions about whether he should have come, and frankly mbs will not erase the stain of the murder of ball khashoggi and the ongoing detention of thousands.

Geoff: We will see that interview later in this broadcast. President Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia despite that human rights record, in part because of oil. On that issue, did he move the needle on getting OPEC to produce more oil? Nick: Officially know, but that is only because both want to portray this as a meeting of strategic interest rather than transactions. Independent analysts and officials do believe Saudi Arabia and OPEC will increase production starting in September, but there is a question whether that will lead to decreased gas prices in the U.S. That the administration wants so badly before the midterm elections. Geoff: Finally, president Biden said he strongly supports the trump administration's Abraham accords as a way to integrate Israel in the Middle East.

Give us a sense, what has been the reaction to that? Has there been any diplomatic progress since the signing nearly two years ago? Nick: It is interesting. Administration officials, Biden administration officials did not embrace Abraham accords in the early days but they do so now and that is in part because those political agreements signed during the trump administration have led to military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and a handful of Arab allies. What that could lead to is a kind of regional architecture against Iran, Iranian drones and missiles. That is the glue to U.S.

Strategy, presenting the U.S. As the only political and military actor that could be at the center of a common purpose against a common enemy. But frankly, China's influence here is growing, Saudi Arabia's connection to Russia still is very high. These countries would be taking these steps against Iran with or without U.S. Leadership. Geoff: Nick schifrin reporting live in Saudi Arabia.

Thank you. Nick: Thank you. ♪♪ geoff: In today's other headlines...

The January 6th committee has issued a subpoena to the U.S. Secret service for records and text messages from the day of and day before the attack on the capitol. It marks the first time the committee has subpoenaed an executive agency, and comes after the department of homeland security inspector general told the panel the text messages were erased after the watchdog agency asked for the data as part of its ongoing investigation around the capitol attack. The secret service disputes that, claiming no texts relevant to the investigation were lost, after agency phones were reset during what it calls a planned "System migration."

Starting today, people experiencing a mental health crisis can simply call or text 9-8-8 to reach the national suicide prevention lifeline, and speak to trained counselors. The suicide lifeline connects to an existing network of over 200 crisis centers across the country. Modeled after the 911 emergency number, it is the first nationwide mental health crisis hotline in the U.S. In addition to 988, the old 1-800 lifeline number will also remain functional. Parts of Europe are in the grip of a scorching heatwave in the -- scorching heatwave. In the United Kingdom, the soaring temperatures are being treated as a life-threatening emergency.

The government there met today to discuss how to respond. The uk's weather service on Friday issuing a red warning for the first time ever, with temperatures expected to reach 104 degrees fahrenheit early next week. That would be a record in a country accustomed to only moderate summer temperatures. Many buildings do not have air conditioning. Meanwhile, the high temperatures in Europe have created tinderbox conditions, fueling numerous wildfires across France, Portugal, Spain, and Greece. Tens of thousands of people across those countries have been forced to evacuate.

And, Russia today ordered all of its forces, across Ukraine, to step up military operations in order to prevent strikes against key Russian assets. But as fighting continues in the eastern donbas region, Russian forces are now striking cities elsewhere in the country with missiles and rockets, killing scores of civilians. Entire blocks lie in ruins in dnipro to the west. And buildings were reduced to rubble in chuhuiv to the northeast. The Pentagon estimates that as many as 150 civilians have been killed by Russian military strikes in Ukraine in just the last two weeks.

Still to come on "Pbs news weekend"... How two variants are causing a surge in covid infections, and the role vaccines can play. And... Nick schifrin's conversation with a Saudi diplomat about issues raised during president Biden's Middle East trip.

♪♪ >> This is "Pbs news weekend" from weta studios in Washington, home of the "Pbs newshour," weeknights on pbs. Geoff: Covid cases are spiking in many parts of the country. Hospital admissions have doubled since may, according to the CDC. This latest covid surge is being driven by two new omicron subvariants. The CDC estimates that together, the ba.4 and ba.5 subvariants represent more than 80 percent of U.S. Cases.

And, vaccination or prior infection does not guarantee protection from these variants. Joining us to discuss this and what role vaccines play in this latest surge, is Dr. Peter hotez, Dean of the national school of tropical medicine at Baylor college of medicine in Houston.

In the time since we've had a covid vaccine I think the only silver lining to catching covid is you would not catch it again but that seems to no longer be the case especially with this latest subvariant. What accounts for that? Dr. Hotez: What is happening is if you had an omicron infection in the past, and a lot of Americans have, because during that big spike in January, there were roughly one million new cases per day according to some estimates, that is not conferring protection against the ba.5 reinfection. The other name for omicron is ba.1 and it is not conferring protection for ba.5, and less you have been vaccinated and boosted, preferably twice.

That's what is needed to combat ba.5, to max out vaccinations. That seems to be keeping people from the hospital even if it doesn't keep you from getting the infection and keeping you at home for a few days. Geoff: The current vaccines available now, are they targeted against the omicron variant and subvariants? Dr. Hotez: Not specifically.

All of the current vaccines, both in the United States and globally, including our vaccine used in India, are developed against the lineage that emerged out of central China. But if you have high enough levels of virus neutralizing antibody induced by the vaccine against the original lineage, there seems to be significant spillover to ba.5, enough to keep you from getting very sick.

Centers for disease control put out some information in may among the visuals over the age of 50 in there is a clear difference between those on and those vaccinated, but there is even a clear difference to those who are vaccinated but not boosted and those who are boosted. And those boosted twice have a mortality rate pretty close to zero, so that is potentially the good news. What it means is you have to be mindful of your vaccination status. If you've only gotten two doses of the vaccine, you are still pretty vulnerable and you need to get that used -- that boost. If you've been boosted once and you're eligible for a second boost, get the second boost, that will lock-in you won't get very sick from this virus. Geoff: Generally speaking, how do we stop playing catch up.

First it was the delta variant than the omicron variant and now it is the omicron subvariant. Will we ever get to the point where we are not in this situation? Dr. Hotez: We can but a couple of things have to happen.

First of all, we need to do a better job of vaccinating globally because all of these new variants like delta, ba.5, are rising out of low income countries were vaccination rates have been low. Mother nature is telling us until we vaccinate the entire world, she will continue hurling variants of concern at us. Problem number two is there is a lot of handwringing about the next boost, because the boosts are not necessarily lasting as long as we hoped with mrna. Do we try to develop a ba.5

specific boost? The problem is by the time it is ready in the fall, ba.5 they be in the rearview mirror. There's a lot of interest, including our group of developing a universal coronavirus vaccine to handle this and other future variants and potentially other future coronavirus's, because member covid-19 is our third major coronavirus of global major concern. What we really need to figure out is how we proceed between now and say the next year or two when that universal coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

It's not clear to me that the ba.5 boost will be the example simply because when it is ready in the fall, it will be behind us. We need to look at boosting with different technologies. We need an overarching strategy for the next few months. Geoff: One question I have for you, when we talk about reinfection's. Are there long-term consequences for people who get covid-19 multiple times? Dr. Hotez: I think what you're

probably eating at is what is the situation with long covid and neurological deterioration. Is there a greater propensity of people who have it once versus people who are getting reinfected and I think the answer is we don't know that yet. There is a lot of interest in trying to understand the circumstances that make you more vulnerable to long covid.

Among them, it turns out women seem to have a higher rate of long covid and underlying diabetes is a risk factor. Were trying to figure out how to mitigate against the effects of long covid. Likely one of them will be turning out to be vaccinated and well boosted because severe illness seems to make you more susceptible to long covid. By reducing the severity of illness, vaccination boosting may have added benefit. Geoff: The white house covid coordinator this past week said even in the face of ba.5 subvariant, that the tools we have continue to work.

Basically he is saying we shouldn't let this subvariant struct our lives. Is that a fair assessment? Dr. Hotez: It is partly right. He is right, we have the tools.

The problem is as a nation, we are failing to convince the American people to use those tools. For instance, only about 30% of the U.S. Population has taken a single booster. That means 70% of the population is still highly susceptible to this ba.5 variant and hospitalization. The number of Americans taking their second booster is likely far lower than that.

I took my second booster and my colleagues in the medical and science professions have but we are doing a terrible job convincing the American people of the need for the second booster. So yes, we have a lot of tools in hand but now the next up is convincing people to use them. And by the way, we are doing even worse vaccinating our kids, only about 30% of the eligible five to 11-year-olds are vaccinated and we had terrible news about the very slow uptake in under five. There's a lot of work to do. Geoff: Thank you as always. Dr. Hotez: Thank you.

♪♪ geoff: As we reported earlier, president Biden wrapped up his first trip to the Middle East today at a meeting of 10 regional leaders, led by Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman. The trip largely focused on Saudi Arabia's human rights record, and president Biden reversing his promise to make Saudi Arabia a "Pariah." But there was also talk of oil, and whether Saudi Arabia would produce more, possibly easing gas prices. Last night, correspondent Nick schifrin sat down with Adel al-jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs. Nick: Do you believe that these meetings mean that president Biden has decided not to make Saudi Arabia a pariah? Mr. Al-jubeir: I believe that

that quote was during the campaign, and the campaign is what I call the funny season. Lots of things happen, but things, people have a different perspective they're in office and have access to intelligence and information. And they look at the vastness of the relationship, so it's a critically important relationship and it's important that we have a continue the tradition of personal contact between the leadership of our two countries. Nick: One of the points of contention that president Biden has pointed out is human rights.

And tonight he specifically said that he brought up Jamal khashoggi's death to the crown prince. The president said that mbs said he was not personally responsible for it. And then the president said, I indicated to him that he probably was responsible for it.

Is that how that went? Mr. Al-jubeir: I didn't hear that exchange, that particular exchange. What I heard is that the president talked about the importance of human rights to the United States, and that human rights is an issue that American presidents attach great importance to, even though sometimes they don't live up to those ideals, which makes America human like the rest of the world. Nick: Did the president did the president bring up Jamal khashoggi? Mr. Al-jubeir: He brought -- he mentioned the issue of Jamal khashoggi, and he said that this is an issue that has generated a lot of interest and concern in the U.S. Congress and among the American public, and that he understood, he knew what what Saudi Arabia's position was, and the crown prince indicated that Saudi Arabia, every civilized country would do.

We investigated. We brought charges against those who committed this crime. The courts rendered their verdicts, and those individuals were punished. America did this after Abu ghraib.

Nobody can say that George Bush as president was responsible or ordered Abu ghraib. Nick: President Biden said tonight that the Saudis, "Share the urgency about lowering oil prices." Will Saudi Arabia push for OPEC plus to increase oil production in the next few weeks? Mr. Al-jubeir: Saudi Arabia's

policy has always been to make sure that there are adequate supplies of oil that go to the markets. Nick: Adequate is a different word than the president used. Mr. Al-jubeir: Whatever the markets need.

We try to ensure that the markets are adequately supplied. This has been our policy for a number of decades. Nick: That, with all due respect, that doesn't sound like you're going to increase production in the next few weeks as the president hinted. Mr. Al-jubeir: No, we have

increased production over the last nine months, um, tremendously. There will be an OPEC meeting on the 3rd of August, I believe, and decisions will be made with regards to whether the market needs more crude or not. So it is not a yes or no.

Nick: Let's talk about Iran. U.S. And Israeli officials I speak to say the breakout time in Iran is just a few weeks, but that actually creating nuclear bombs might take as much as two years.

Is that the Saudi assessment as well? Mr. Al-jubeir: I can't comment on terms of specific assessments, but our view is that the Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon is extremely dangerous to the world and extremely dangerous to our region. We believe that Iran should be prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon with all means possible. We believe that the jcpoa away -- the jcpoa in its original form was too weak and too limited.

Nick: And therefore the deal that's on the table currently is also too weak and too limited? Mr. Al-jubeir: We believe that any agreement has to ensure that Iran can never produce a nuclear weapon. Our criticism of the original deal was that it had a limit on how many years Iran was restricted from enriching, and it also had a limit with regards to the extent of the inspections.

Inspections are very intrusive, but they were not broad enough. Nick: The crown prince four years ago said that if Iran were to go nuclear, Saudi Arabia would also go nuclear. Has Saudi Arabia taken any steps toward that decision, given how close that breakout time is in Iran? Mr. Al-jubeir: We are, we

certainly would not be discussing this on television. [Laughter] But we have pointed out the danger of Iran going nuclear. We believe that it will contribute to proliferation in in our region. And our position was very clearly articulated. Nick: Will Saudi Arabia take further steps of normalization toward Israel, so long as there is an occupation by Israel of the Palestinians? Mr. Al-jubeir: It's not about

normalization. Our objective is to have peace, and our objective is to have peace in which you have two states living side by side in peace and security and both states prospering. We believe that when you reach that point, then everything is possible. But we believe that the Israelis have to do take certain steps in order to try to make that happen. Nick: Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt and, of course, the United Arab Emirates have political normalization. But they also, according to Israeli officials, have military and intelligence cooperation with the Israeli military.

Is that something that the Saudi military is willing to do? Mr. Al-jubeir: We see the countries that signed agreements with Israel under the so-called Abraham accords. We're beginning to see some impact of those decisions on the Israeli domestic politics with regards to the benefits of having peace.

And we hope that those positive changes will continue and lead to a more forward leaning policy within Israel towards an accommodation with the Palestinians. Nick: So that sounds like that kind of cooperation, military to military intelligence cooperation -- these are simple he steps that you're not willing to take yet. Mr. Al-jubeir: It's difficult to take steps in the absence of peace agreements. Nick: Adel al-jubair, thank you very much.

Geoff: And that's "Pbs news weekend" for tonight. Tomorrow we look at what's behind this year's crypto currency crash and who is bearing the brunt of the downturn. I'm geoff Bennett. For all of us at "Pbs news weekend," thanks for spending part of your Saturday with us. >> Major funding for "Pbs news weekend" has been provided by -- ♪♪ and with the ongoing support of these individuals and institutions -- ♪♪ this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.

Thank you. ♪♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its

2022-07-19 17:04

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