PBS News Weekend full episode, July 23, 2022
geoff: Good evening. I'm geoff Bennett. Tonight on "Pbs news weekend"... One on one -- my interview with transportation secretary Pete buttigieg. How he's tackling persistent flight delays and cancellations and how Democrats should highlight historic infrastructure investments. Sec. Buttigieg: This is a huge achievement that we need to make sure is well understood, even if that means being maybe a little shameless compared to how we're used to being on my side of the aisle.
Geoff: Then... Climate costs -- with Democrats' agenda stalled in congress, we look at the economic effects of unchecked climate change. And... Metaverse dangers -- how future technologies could accelerate the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories, like the ones that fueled the capitol attack.
All that and the day's headlines on tonight's "Pbs news weekend." Geoff: Good evening. It's good to be with you. We begin tonight with news about the monkeypox outbreak.
Today, the world health organization announced the virus has now reached more than 70 countries and should be treated as a global emergency. That's the who's highest level of alert. Monkeypox has existed in parts of Africa for decades, but since may, cases have been reported on five other continents, unaccustomed to the virus. In the U.S., there are nearly 3,000 cases of monkeypox, according to the CDC, and nearly 17,000 cases worldwide.
Washington, D.C. Has the highest number of monkeypox cases per capita in the country. Today, the war in Ukraine hit its 150th day, and the state department has confirmed that two Americans have been killed in the country's eastern donbas region. Elsewhere, Russian missiles struck the southern port city of odesa one day after the two countries agreed to resume vital grain exports. Cell phone video captured a massive explosion, around tankers and shipping containers. No injuries were reported, but the U.S.
And united nations condemned the strikes. Millions of tons of grain have been trapped in the country, ready to export around the world. The white house released a new letter from the president's physician today, saying president Biden most likely contracted ba.5, the high contagious and now-dominant covid strain in the U.S. The president's symptoms are said to include a sore throat and body aches, as well as a runny nose and loose cough.
But, his vital signs remain, quote, "Entirely normal." Today, president Biden's chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the president is on the mend. Dr. Fauci: The president is doing very well.
He continues to improve. We continue to always be careful. But really, the chances of him getting into severe difficulty is very, very low, given the fact that he's vaccinated, doubly boosted, and he's on an antiviral drug. Geoff: And, a wildfire near yosemite has exploded to nearly 7,000 acres in just a day, triggering widespread evacuations.
The oak fire started yesterday afternoon, and has already grown into the state's largest active wildfire. It is zero percent contained, has destroyed at least ten structures, and is threatening thousands more, according to calfire. That's as temperatures soar across the country this weekend.
According to the national weather service, more than 85 million Americans were under heat warnings or advisories today. Still to come on "Pbs news weekend"... The economic costs of unchecked climate change. And... The new technologies accelerating conspiracy theories.
Geoff: From a supply chain crisis to a summer of flight delays and cancellations, all of it has fallen to transportation secretary Pete buttigieg to help solve. The 40-year-old former presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana also has the task of overseeing one of the most significant investments in America's infrastructure -- roads, bridges and rail -- in more than half a century. I sat down with secretary buttigieg for a wide-ranging interview at his agency's headquarters, and asked what Americans should expect to see, as communities across the country cash in on the president's trillion dollar infrastructure package. Sec. Buttigieg: You are going to see it in ways big and small and the airports are good example. Traditionally we have funded what we might call the back of the house, the air traffic control tower, the apron, and we still do.
Now we can fund the terminal, the part you interact with as a passenger. We are doing it in communities of all sizes. I was in L.A. Celebrating what we are doing there with a $50 million grant to simplify traffic through what they call the horseshoe, what you can get tied up in for half an hour even after you drop somebody off. It ranges from something like that in one of the busiest airports in the world all the way to places like chamberlain, South Dakota, whether terminal is currently a mobile home, and with less than $1 million, we can fund them to have a fixed building.
Everything in between is the range of what we can do, whether we're talking about airports, ports, improving bridges, roads, pretty much anything that affects how people and goods move around the country. We are improving it right now with the funds through this infrastructure bill. Geoff: As you revitalize airports, lots of Americans have significant frustrations with air travel.
The dot this week put out a report showing complaints against airlines are on the decline since April but still 200% above pre-pandemic levels. How are you addressing that? Sec. Buttigieg: Our consumer protection office has been overwhelmed with complaints that they are working their way through right now.
I think the flying public is expecting a good level of service from an airline sector that we all rallied to make sure was saved during the pandemic -- geoff: $50 million of taxpayer money. Sec. Buttigieg: And it's a good thing we did or we might not have airlines today, but now the airlines to step up and service the tickets they sell.
We've seen improvements, we saw after memorial day weekend some unacceptable numbers in terms of cancellations and delays. I've had a lot of conversations with the airlines since then. We are seeing the cancellation and delay rates moving in the right direction but it is still a struggle to keep up when it comes to staffing.
It is a good piece of news, it is great news that passengers have the income and inclination to take trips they wouldn't or couldn't year ago, two years ago. We are glad to see demand back, but we need to make sure the system can meet demand. Geoff: What about lawmakers like Bernie Sanders, Democrats in addition to him, who make the case that that $50 billion came with strings attached and the airlines, when they do cancel on folks and have folks waiting on the tarmac for X amount of hours, they should be fined heavily? Sec. Buttigieg: That's what we do as a department. Our preferred outcome is we don't have this problem in the first place, but when we find an airline is, for example, failing to issue prompt refunds or not treating passengers fairly, we will ask.
A few month ago, we should the stiffest fine in the history of our consumer protection program we have ongoing investigations about other practices. We want things to go well, but when they don't, we will act. Geoff: One of the most intractable issues I think is the pilot shortage, in part because it takes a while to train folks and there doesn't seem to be the number of job candidates coming from the military you might need, and many pilots took early retirement during the pandemic. What are the steps to address that? Sec.
Buttigieg: We need to build generations of aviation professionals, including pilots. Part of it, like any issue where you see a labor shortage, has to do with pay. I've been encouraged to see a lot of airlines, especially regional airlines, that's more entry-level for commercial aviation, they are upping the pain I think that will make a difference. We've also got to stimulate and support the spark of wanting to be involved in aviation an early age. We are supporting college and even high school curriculum to encourage that. Recently I was in Compton, a neighborhood in Los Angeles that is a low income area, where volunteers came together and created a flight school where teenagers, some of them there early old enough to drive, are now getting their first solo flights.
They have a fantastic, good paying career ahead of them, and we need to do more like that to give people who maybe haven't had exposure to that in the past the chance to be part of this. As a country, whether it is aviation or construction, we are trying to do so much that we cannot afford to leave any talent on the table. Geoff: You are highly regarded among Democrats as being I think one of the greatest assets in terms of messaging that the party has.
What should Democrats do headed into the midterm election to better explain what they see as there are compliments? Sec. Buttigieg: This administration has a lot to be proud of. Honestly I think in normal times, any one of the achievements of this administration, the American rescue plan, not to mention the infrastructure law, could define an era.
We are not in ordinary times. We've seen a lot of extremism in our country, we've seen huge challenges, whether it is covid or inflation and the affordability challenge, that make it that much more challenging to have this conversation with the American people. But if you look at what we've done, especially on infrastructure, where year after year, congress after congress and multiple presidents talked about a so-called infra structure week without results, and now it is actually getting done, it is a huge achievement we need to make sure is well understood, even if that means being maybe a little shameless compared to how we are used to being. Geoff: Is that the answer, being shameless? Sec. Buttigieg: I think it support of the people understand how and why these improvement came to their neighborhood. I was at home in South Bend and I was on a trail that had been built that I always wanted to do when I was mayor but did not have the funding to do, thanks to the American rescue plan.
Whether it is small improvements like that, or the millions of people lifted out of poverty. That rescue plan alone was a huge deal and we should not be afraid to talk about it and why it happened, who was for it and who was against it. Geoff: How do you see this current moment? You are a historical figure, the first openly gay member of a presidential cabinet, and yet we are living in a moment where Republicans are trying to roll back hard won protections and rights of the lgbtq community. How do you see that? Sec. Buttigieg: We are in a precarious moment. A lot of progress has been made in my lifetime, a lot of progress made in the last 50 years.
Now we are seeing it in many ways withdrawn. When the supreme court ruled against a woman's right to choose, that I think prompted any of us to ask did we just live to see the high watermark of rights and freedoms in our country? Historically, rights and freedoms have always expanded from one era to the next. It's always been more free and more just, even if imperfectly so. The question is are we going to start going backwards? Right now it is extreme lead disturbing, certainly as a married gay man and a member of the lgbtq community, not only to see our rights coming up for debate once again, to see the law called into question, and to see most members of one of the two political parties when it came to a policy vote in the U.S. Congress vote against my marriage. That day, I was testifying in the transportation and infrastructure committee, having for the most part what I consider to be very civilized and high-minded exchanges with members from both sides of the aisle on transportation policy and what we were doing about everything from trucking safety to pipeline improvements.
The thought that a few hours later, some of those same people I was sitting in that room with walked down the hall into the house chamber and voted against my marriage is a troubling thing to take on board. Geoff: Sec. Pete buttigieg, we appreciate your time. Around the world, the ravages of climate change are evident in record high temperatures, floods, fires and other natural disasters. Here in the U.S., president Joe Biden is taking executive action in to address the climate crisis, citing climate change as both a national security and economic risk.
My colleague Ali rogin takes a closer look now at these economic costs of inaction. Ali: A major plan from Democrats in congress to address climate change is now all but dead. Last week, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin said he would not support the legislation, citing what he said was the proposal's inflationary impact. But the white house office of management and budget says failing to act on climate change could cost the federal government $2 trillion annually. And a recent study from dartmouth university found the United States alone was responsible for over $1.8 trillion in losses to developing countries between 1990 and 2014. Joining me now to discuss the economic impacts of climate change in action are Mary Anne Hitt, she's the West Virginia based senior director of the advocacy group climate imperative, and dharna Noor, climate reporter for "The Boston globe."
Thank you both so much for joining us. Mary Anne, I'd like to start with you. Senator Manchin, as we said, has cited the inflationary impacts of this, these proposals, which included tax credits to encourage clean energy incentives to purchase electric vehicles. How would you respond to his concerns about inflation? Mary Anne: The sad reality is that this bill actually would have helped address inflation because it would have helped bring energy prices down for regular Americans. And that's by making clean energy, which is already cheaper than fossil fuels, more available to more people and he let that slip through his fingers. And it's a real missed opportunity for folks here in West Virginia and around the country to lower our energy bills and tackle the climate crisis at the same time.
Ali: And dharna, Mary Anne just mentioned some of the impacts that actually affect both west Virginia and nationally. But I want to drill down into what you're seeing on a national scale. What are some of the arguments on an economic basis that climate action advocates are making right now? Dharna: I think that what we're seeing is a refusal to sort of take on the bold action that we need to take on the climate crisis. And one of the effects that we're seeing, this is continuing to sink costs into fossil fuel infrastructure and other infrastructure that's really not going to be around in the future if we want to essentially have a livable future on Earth.
And so continuing to spend money on these technologies that we need to be phasing out is not a very good idea. Ali: And dharna, as we said, the office of management and budget is estimating that the federal government could lose up to $2 trillion a year. Due to climate change inaction. What are some of the factors that lead to a conclusion like that? Dharna: Well, again, by continuing to sink costs into technology and into infrastructure that we know we should not have around anymore. So that's things like fossil fuel plants, but also things like expanded highways which create a sort of market for more cars and things like this. There's the cost the climate disaster itself can kind of levy on our economies and on people.
You know, every time, for instance, that infrastructure is destroyed, highways destroyed, a building is destroyed by the climate crisis, by, you know, a hurricane or a flood or a heat wave or whatever it is. If we continue to ignore the impact of the climate crisis and rebuild as though, you know, another hurricane, flood or heat wave is not going to come, I think we're going to see that we're wasting a lot of money. Ali: Lastly to both of you, the dartmouth report that we talked about in the introduction, which quantified that U.S. Carbon emissions have done $1.9 trillion worth of damage to other countries from 1990 to 2014.
That includes the damage to other major carbon emitters like Brazil and India, but also to developing nations like Venezuela and Nigeria. Firsto you, Mary Anne. Why is a study like this important? Mary Anne: A few years ago, at one of the big global climate conferences, the developed nations of the world pledged $100 billion to help the developing world with climate solutions. And we have not delivered on those funds.
And in the period that since then, those developing countries have been hit the hardest by climate impacts, and that eventually spills back over onto our borders when there are food shortages, water shortages, triggering refugee crises and global instability around the world. So the developed world needs to step up and do our part to help these countries face the climate crisis because, again, ultimately, it will spill back over onto our border. Ali: And dharna, lastly to you, the study also found that the u.s.'s own carbon emissions
actually boosted its economy by $183 billion over the same period. Does that make it harder to argue that the economic costs for climate change action when over the years polluting industries have actually been so much a part of what drove economic development in this country? Dharna: I think it demonstrably has made it harder to sort of overcome this challenge. But I would say that part of the reason that these polluting industries have been such a huge part of the economy is because the U.S. Pours billions and billions of subsidies into them. If the U.S. Instead decided to subsidize or even, you know, create a public
sector for clean industries, I think that we'd see that those would end up being a huge part of our economy and we could really help other nations to sort of make that transition as well. So I think that, yes, while there's so much that so much that we do have to spend, there's also quite a lot to be gained for, you know, the U.S. As a whole for the world and also for us on the individual level.
Ali: Mary Anne Hitt with climate imperative, dharna Noor with "The Boston globe," thank you both so much for your time. Dharna: Thanks for having me. Mary Anne: Thank you so much. Geoff: If tech industry watchers are right, we will soon be living in the metaverse.
Glimpses of the virtual environment are already among us -- from virtual concerts and fashion to popular immersive games like fortnite and minecraft. While the virtual world could revolutionize work and play, it could also supercharge conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns. I spoke about this next generation of the internet, also known as web3, and the risks that come with it, with Laurie Segall, CEO of dotdotdot media and a former correspondent for "60 minutes" and CNN. I think it would be helpful if we start with an explanation of what web3 is and then explain why it could potentially make online conspiracy even more dangerous and nefarious than it already is. Laurie: If you think about web 1, this was the internet boom and bust of the early nineties where we were browsing the interwebs for the first time. Then you had web 2, this was the rise of mobile and social and thinking about using your phone for airbnb and Uber.
And it was the birth of all of these new economies, essentially. And now we're entering a world called web3, which is, if you imagine technology moving beyond your phone, us living in these more interactive and immersive worlds. Having communities, having friendships, having digital identities, making money, having jobs you didn't even know could exist in these digital worlds. Geoff: After January 6, as I understand it, you interviewed some of the people who stormed the capitol, including the guy known as the qanon shaman while he was in jail.
And you also interviewed his mother. So what did the interviews with people like that tell you about how technology can make it really hard for people to change their beliefs once they believe in conspiracy theories, even faced with significant consequences like doing prison time, which he's doing right now. Laurie: I mean, I got to tell you, it was pretty astounding. He was pushing back so much on all of these questions on why did you do this? And he was holding on so tightly to these beliefs that had put him behind bars, these conspiracies. And then going out and visiting his mother and interviewing his mother, Martha, where he grew up. And there was just this exchange that we had where she kept talking about, you know, he was a part of that day, but he wasn't a part of the bad part of it, the violent part.
And I kept saying to her, but all of it was bad. You know, an attack on democracy is horrible. And there was just this moment where she said, but it was all a fraud. The election was a fraud.
And having spent a lot of time with groups, extremist groups, I will never forget being out in rural Michigan and speaking to a young man who had just become a boogaloo boy, which was an extremist group. And he said, you know, I was lonely during the pandemic. I couldn't go to the gym. And I went on Facebook and he said, I found this group.
And the next thing you know, I was clicking on it and I was surrounded by all these people -- I mean, it's a no brainer that this happened. This was both preventable and this was both predictable. But there's a whole new immersive era of the internet that's happening where these conflicts are going to be even scarier if we don't get on top of them. Geoff: So that then explains why web3, as you put it, is even more dangerous because it is more immersive and that people who are looking for connection when they find it and in a sort of environment, a web3 environment, it becomes harder and harder to find your way out. Laurie: That's exactly right.
Our children are going to be growing up in these environments that are immersive. There are going to be new platforms for domestic terrorism recruitment, for children to be recruited into these types of groups. And so how are we going to figure out how to regulate these new technologies that people are investing billions of dollars into when it comes to web3? Because it's all the rage right now.
And I'll give you one specific example. It's called a Dao, a decentralized autonomous network. And it sounds super wonky, but if I could just explain it to you, it is like a group chat with a balance sheet and it's run on crypto and people have the ability to raise extraordinary amounts of money in just a couple days.
And at its best, Dao's in the in the future of web3 could give people the ability to organize and fund projects in a setting that could really benefit community building and force organizations and businesses to rethink their business models. Now, in the worst of settings, imagine if qanon could organize and 4chan could organize so quickly using cryptocurrency, using a lot of anonymity. And now imagine January 6 with a Dao. And so I'm not trying to give ideas here as much as I'm trying to say we have to think about new technology as it is being built because we haven't even figured out how to regulate web 2, these big tech monopolies.
And now we're entering a whole new generation of the internet. And we've got to talk about our children growing up in these immersive worlds, and how do we actually build them with a humanity-first approach? Geoff: Are these active conversations happening inside companies like Facebook? Laurie: Yeah. You know, Facebook has put quite a bit of money towards safety in the metaverse. And I think there's a lot of skepticism around that. And then you talk about web3. The idea behind web3 is it is more decentralized, as there should be lots of companies that have a lot of this different type of power, but there's really no structure, right? And we don't really have an ethical construct for this.
I just spoke to one investor and I said, what do you think is the most important thing we need to think about when it comes to the unintended consequence of the next generation of the internet? And he looked at me and he said, "Laurie, we should believe in the future. Every single thing we see on the internet is going to be fake." And this is coming from a very prominent investor investing in the future of tech companies.
So I think it's important to have these conversations now and try to get some of these good people in the doors now. Because we certainly have a playbook of what went wrong over the last generation of tech. Geoff: Laurie Segall, thanks so much for your time and for your insights. Laurie: Thanks for having me.
Geoff: That is our show for tonight. I'm geoff Bennett. Thanks for spending part of your Saturday with us, and we'll see you back here tomorrow.