PBS NewsHour full episode, April 12, 2023

PBS NewsHour full episode, April 12, 2023

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AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening. I'm Amna Nawaz. GEOFF BENNETT: And I'm Geoff Bennett. On the "NewsHour" tonight: Americans get some much-needed relief from rising food and gas prices, but uncertainties persist in the U.S. and global markets.

AMNA NAWAZ: The Environmental Protection Agency paves the way for more electric vehicles by proposing strict limits on tailpipe emissions. FRED KRUPP, President, Environmental Defense Fund: It's a dream come true for those of us who know we need to decarbonize our society and certainly our cars and trucks. GEOFF BENNETT: And President Biden visits Ireland to promote peace, push for economic growth and celebrate his own ties to the region. (BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening, and welcome to the "NewsHour." Inflation cooled last month to its lowest level in nearly two years, the ninth straight month it has done so.

GEOFF BENNETT: U.S. inflation rose 5 percent in March compared to a year ago. The price of groceries dropped three-tenths-of-a-percent last month, marking the first decline in that index since September 2020. But core inflation, which does not include food and gas prices, remains high. Gita Gopinath is first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Thank you for being with us. GITA GOPINATH, Deputy Managing Director, International Monetary Fund: Pleasure to join you, Geoff.

GEOFF BENNETT: So, inflation has ticked down to its lowest level in nearly two years. It's still above where the Fed feels comfortable. Do we know yet when prices will fully level out or whether the economy can slow down without tipping into a recession? GITA GOPINATH: So, Geoff, inflation indeed has come down from its real highs last year. So we think that it peaked some time last year, and now it's been coming down.

The issue, of course, is that it still stays very high. And especially if you look at the components of inflation that exclude energy and food, which is critical for figuring out how much of underlying inflation there is, that still remains high. Now, it's coming down. We're seeing progress, but it is still slow.

And there is some ways to go on that. Now, the question is, what does it take to bring it down? It requires slowing the economy. It requires slowing growth and demand, which is what the Fed is trying to accomplish with its interest rate increases.

But we will see how much more is needed on that front. GEOFF BENNETT: So, to your point, part of why the inflation picture is sort of hard to read right now is because you have different sectors moving in different directions. Energy prices are down.

Food prices continue to decline. The price of a used car has come down, but it costs more money now to buy a new car, and airfares are up 4 percent. They have soared.

What accounts for that? GITA GOPINATH: It is typically the case, when you look at inflation, that you see different inflation readings in different sectors. And we have seen many changes over time. For instance, if you look at during the pandemic, goods inflation, things that you were buying, in terms of furniture and laptops and all of that, just soared because everybody was home and working from home, and that's the kinds of things they needed.

Now you see goods inflation has come down, but you see services inflation, because people are now going out to restaurants, and taking leisure of other kinds. And, because of that, you're seeing prices go up over there. And energy prices, which soared right coming out of the pandemic and Russia's war in Ukraine has now come down again. So we see very different trends, again, depending upon people's consumption behavior, and also geopolitical events. GEOFF BENNETT: The IMF, as you well know, warned of a -- quote -- "anemic outlook" for the economy due to higher interest rates, turmoil in the banking sector, the war in Ukraine, as you just mentioned. Yet Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen yesterday rejected pessimism about the overall economy, and she said: "I wouldn't overdo the negativism."

Well, why the disconnect? What accounts for that? GITA GOPINATH: I mean, firstly, we all recognize, even the IMF recognizes that the world economy has shown a lot of resilience against some very hard shocks, I mean, the pandemic, the war, with energy prices soaring. So, despite all of that the labor market is tight, consumption spending is high. So there are bright spots, right? I mean, this is clearly the case. But, at the same time, we have to recognize that policymakers are trying to bring inflation down, which means they're raising interest rates, which is what you need to do to bring inflation down.

The economy should slow. And you saw in March the banking stress that triggered more financial tightening. So, therefore, I think the baseline is that we continue to have some growth, even if it's not the highest growth numbers. But the risks are weighted to the downside.

We could see much more financial stress than we have seen. The war is not over. Energy prices could go back up. So we just want to be cautious about just declaring victory and saying that we're all in a good spot. GEOFF BENNETT: It is safe to say, though, that the era of easy money is over, at least for now. I mean, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed is 7.2 percent.

What does that mean for the way that we live and work? GITA GOPINATH: So, indeed, after a decade of very low interest rates, we are now in times where interest rates are much higher, which means mortgages are much more costlier, taking on car loans are much more costlier. That, of course, has the effect of slowing demand for housing, slowing demand for cars. And that's the channel through which we expect to see demand slowing and then inflation coming down. Now, the question is, is that, once we bring inflation down, are we going to be there in this environment of high interest rates? And, there, well, we -- our analysis shows that, if you start looking about four to five years out, we do actually think you're going to return back to an environment of low interest rates of the kind we saw pre-pandemic. Now, there's no certainty around it, but that would be our best estimate at this point. GEOFF BENNETT: Gita Gopinath is first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Thanks for your time and for your insights. GITA GOPINATH: Thank you, Geoff. GEOFF BENNETT: In the day's other headlines: County commissioners in Memphis, Tennessee voted to return a second Black Democrat to the state legislature.

The Republican-led House had expelled Justin Pearson and colleague Justin Jones for joining gun control protests on the chamber floor. Today, hundreds of supporters marched with Pearson to the commission chambers. The panel voted unanimously to reinstate him, sending him back to his seat as early as this week ahead of a special election later this year. Former President Donald Trump is suing his former attorney Michael Cohen for more than $500 million. Cohen had testified before a grand jury in New York that indicted Mr. Trump in a hush money case.

The federal lawsuit contends he violated attorney-client privilege and fabricated conversations. Michael Cohen's attorney, in response, accused Mr. Trump of again using the court system as a form of harassment and intimidation against his client. Up to 2,000 people in Eastern Indiana were under evacuation orders today as a fire burned piles of plastics.

The blaze erupted Tuesday, sending dark smoke billowing over a recycling site in Richmond, Indiana. This morning crews were still dousing the flames and health officials warned the smoke could be harmful. CHRISTINE STINSON, Executive Director, Wayne County, Indiana, Health Department: These are very fine particles and, if they're breathed in, can cause all kinds of respiratory problems, burning of the eyes, tightening of the chest. It's for your safety that the evacuation zone is there. And if you can see the smoke, you're in the smoke, get out of the smoke.

GEOFF BENNETT: The EPA says, so far, air samples show no signs of toxic compounds. The mayor said the old the recycling site had long been cited as a fire hazard. Mexico's top immigration official will face charges and a fire that killed 40 migrants last month. Officials say he should have addressed problems at the facility in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas. Security cameras video showed detainees trapped as smoke and flames engulfed the cells. Most of the dead were from Central American nations.

In Ukraine, the government in Kyiv is vowing to investigate a gruesome video that apparently shows the Russians beheading a Ukrainian soldier with a knife. The video has been circulating online. Its authenticity cannot be confirmed, but Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the act will not go unpunished.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, Ukrainian President (through translator): There is something that no one in the world can ignore, how easily these beasts kill. This video, the world must see. Everyone must react, every leader. Do not expect that it will be forgotten, that time will pass. We are not going to forget anything and forgive these murderers. GEOFF BENNETT: Moscow today called the video horrible, but said it needs to be verified.

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny report he's being poisoned in prison again. His foundation says Navalny has lost 18 pounds in two weeks and suffered acute stomach pains. It says allies believe jailers are giving him low-dose poison. Navalny was poisoned in 2020 with a nerve agent.

Back in this country, a top banking regulator says tougher banking rules would not have saved Silicon Valley Bank in California. The bank's collapsed last month sent shockwaves through the industry. Today, Travis Hill, vice chair of the FDIC, blamed management failures for what happened. He called for adjusting existing rules, instead of imposing broad new regulations. On Wall Street, stocks slipped on news that Federal Reserve economists expect a mild recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 38 points to close it 33646. The Nasdaq fell 102 points, nearly 1 percent. The S&P 500 was down 17 points. And Buckingham Palace announced Britain's Prince Harry will attend the coronation of his father, King Charles, in May. His wife, Meghan, will stay home in California with the couple's children.

Their participation had been the subject of speculation amid an ongoing public rift among members of the royal family. And still to come on the "NewsHour": the White House response in the legal battle over an abortion pill; how local public health efforts have been politicized in the wake of the pandemic; and the hit songs and video game tune being inducted into the National Recording Registry. AMNA NAWAZ: The recent dueling court decisions on the use of the abortion pill mifepristone have ignited a new debate over women's health. And, with future access in limbo, some states are stockpiling the medication. But the Biden administration has asked an appeals court to overturn the controversial Texas ruling to suspend the FDA's approval of the drug. That decision is expected as early as this week.

Jennifer Klein is the director of the White House Gender Policy Council. She joins us now. Jen, welcome back to the "NewsHour," and thanks for joining us. I want to begin with the administration's announcement today on strengthening privacy protections under HIPAA.

Explain to us what you have been seeing in the anti-abortion movement that says this move was necessary now. JENNIFER KLEIN, Director, The Gender Policy Council: So, one of the things that we have been seeing is that states are moving to criminalize mostly health care providers. And what this regulation would do -- today, the Department of Health and Human Services put out a notice of proposed rulemaking. So there's a chance for comment, and then the rule would ultimately be finalized. And what that would do is protect sensitive health information under what's called HIPAA -- that's the federal law at issue -- so that while there are exceptions for law enforcement, there would not -- we would narrow that exception for law enforcement for illegal reproductive health care. So, for example, you have seen women traveling out of state from one state where abortion is banned to another state where it's legal.

And the legal, lawful health care that she got in the state that she traveled to, her health information, the discussion she has with her doctors, the care that she receives in that state where the care is lawful would not be available to law enforcement if -- just when this rule is made final. AMNA NAWAZ: Jen, this idea was raised a few months ago. A number of senators sent a letter to President Biden in September of last year, asking him to use HIPAA in this way. Could this have been done sooner? JENNIFER KLEIN: Well, initially, the Department of Health and Human Services put out guidance very early on to make clear what the protections are under HIPAA. And we were waiting to see that, if this continued to happen, and if we saw states passing laws that would criminalize health care, lawful health care, we were ready to take action.

And that's what the Department of Health and Human Services did today. AMNA NAWAZ: I know we're awaiting the next step from the appeals court when it comes to the Texas judge's ruling on mifepristone. But there are already some advocates and some Democrats even saying that ruling was unfounded, and the administration should just ignore it. Do you think you should do that? JENNIFER KLEIN: Well, you know what? This case in Texas, this decision in Texas is dangerous. But the Department of Justice feels that it is also dangerous to ignore a binding legal decision. But what is really at issue here is that we now have two cases.

We have the case in Texas, which would -- if it stood, would be a nationwide injunction that would prevent mifepristone from being available across the country. But we also have a case in Washington, which is proceeding. And, in fact, the Department of Justice filed a motion for clarification to better understand how those two court cases would interact. So, we're using the courts.

We're confident we -- that we have both the law and the facts on our side and that we will prevail in getting a stay and ultimately succeeding in these cases. AMNA NAWAZ: If that legal process does not go your way, though, what's the plan? Could you be stockpiling medication? Are there other lawsuits you could be filing now? JENNIFER KLEIN: Several states have begun stockpiling piling medication. But the governor of Connecticut said it well today.

If the drug is illegal, stockpiling it doesn't actually help. So, as I said, we are pursuing an aggressive court strategy, and we believe that we will prevail, and that is the answer in this -- in this case. AMNA NAWAZ: What about misoprostol? I mean, that's the other drug in this two- drug protocol. This ruling applies to mifepristone. Is there anything else you could be doing now to protect future access to misoprostol? JENNIFER KLEIN: Well, at the moment, this case in Texas does not actually speak to misoprostol.

So, that -- it's really good for your viewers to understand that misoprostol still remains available. It is -- can be safely used. (CROSSTALK) AMNA NAWAZ: But, Jen, if I may, are you anticipating that could be challenged as well? Is there anything you can do to preemptively protect access to it? JENNIFER KLEIN: There's nothing to do preemptively. But, again, I think that we don't see any reason for a very legal drug to be challenged in court.

Misoprostol has a lot of uses. And, again, we have -- we have seen something egregious happen in Texas, so we will be prepared for anything. But we don't -- we don't see that as a concern, at the moment, anyway. AMNA NAWAZ: The reason I ask is, it gets to a larger frustration I have heard from some advocates and even some progressive Democrats I speak to, this frustration the administration has moved slowly or not been as creative or aggressive as they'd like to see. Their argument is, the urgency of this moment requires the administration to meet that moment, that go ahead and get caught trying, in other words.

What would you say to that? JENNIFER KLEIN: I think we have. I think this case is as a perfect example of getting caught trying. We -- the president spoke immediately after the Dobbs decision. He issued two executive orders to ensure access to abortion, to contraception. We have made efforts to protect patient privacy. We're protecting the physical safety and security of patients, health care providers, pharmacies.

This administration has worked quickly and aggressively. I just this afternoon left on the third meeting of the task force that is designed to bring everyone across the government together. We heard from the attorney general about the litigation strategy and other things the Department of Justice is doing. We heard from the secretary of Health and Human Services about this announcement on privacy, but also other things. The Department of Education is acting, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs. I think that, really, any insinuation that we have not worked -- acted quickly, decisively and aggressively is just not fair.

AMNA NAWAZ: That is Jennifer Klein, executive director of the White House Gender Policy Council. Jen, thank you. Always good to see you. JENNIFER KLEIN: Thank you. You too.

GEOFF BENNETT: Today, the Biden administration rolled out its most aggressive effort yet to combat climate change with tougher emissions limits for cars and trucks. But a number of challenges remain, including in the cost of electric cars, the batteries and how to charge them on the road. William Brangham has our report on the administration's latest move.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Cleaner cars, cleaner air as quickly as possible, that's the stated goal of the Environmental Protection Agency's new proposed emission standards for tailpipes. If enacted, these standards could mean that, in less than 10 years, as many as two out of every three new vehicles sold in America would be all-electric. It's the nation's most ambitious effort yet to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change. The administration argues that this shift to zero-emission vehicles would help the U.S.

meet its pledge to cut overall emissions in half by 2030. EPA Administrator Michael Regan laid out the plan this morning. MICHAEL REGAN, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: This is historic news for our children. It's historic news for our climate.

It's historic news for our future. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The EPA set forth two sets of proposed rules today, one governing cars and light trucks, the second for heavier vehicles like buses and trailer-trucks. If enacted, the EPA says emissions from those small and medium vehicles would drop by 44 to 56 percent. MICHAEL REGAN: As a father of a 9-year-old, I can assure you that there is no greater priority for me than protecting the health and well-being of our children, ensuring that they have a safe, healthy and reliable future. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Transportation is the largest source of America's greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 27 percent of the U.S.' carbon pollution. Supporters say this move by the EPA is a welcome addition in the fight to curb the worst impacts of climate change.

FRED KRUPP, President, Environmental Defense Fund: It's a dream come true for those of us who know we need to decarbonize our society and certainly our cars and trucks. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund. FRED KRUPP: EPA has the authority to reduce the amount of tailpipe pollution. And when you reduce it enough, the way to meet that is through zero-emitting vehicles like electric cars. And that's the mechanism.

If a company can do it with a hydrogen fuel cell or an electric vehicle, they're allowed to do that. But, in reality, the electric vehicle is the answer that not only Tesla, but GM, Ford, Stellantis, have all chosen as the best way to clean up that tailpipe. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This shift would require automakers to dramatically ramp up production of electric vehicles. Last year, E.V.s were roughly 5.8 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. Right now, they are about 7 percent. But EPA Administrator Regan said the industry is ready for this surge.

MICHAEL REGAN: Listen, over the last two years, over $120 billion of private sector investment in electric vehicles and batteries. I believe it because when I look at the projections that many in the automobile industry have made, this is the future. The consumer demand is there.

The markets are enabling it. The technologies are enabling it. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The effort to transition to electric cars is already under way in this country. And almost all automakers have rolled out new electric models, with a few even pledging to go fully carbon-neutral soon. But, still, there are some real challenges ahead on the road to an all-electric future. One is about the batteries for these cars.

The minerals currently needed for them, lithium, nickel, cobalt and others, are primarily produced in China, and some are mined in dangerous, inhumane conditions in parts of Africa. But there are other issues. John Bozzella is the president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents carmakers.

JOHN BOZZELLA, President and CEO, Alliance for Automotive Innovation: When you talk to consumers, what you often hear is, how far will this go on a charge and where can I charge it? And so that raises two immediate questions. Do we have sufficient charging infrastructure? Are there high-speed chargers available on interstates between metropolitan areas, so that I can take a longer trip, as opposed to just moving three or four miles around my hometown? WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There are roughly 53,000 charging stations currently in the U.S., compared to triple that number of gas stations. President Biden has pledged construction of new charging 500,000 stations nationwide by 2030 and set aside over $7 billion in the 2021 infrastructure law to pay for it. FRED KRUPP: Charging stations are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. In the last few days, 7/Eleven announced that they will have charging stations at all their locations.

You will be able to drink a Slurpee while you're charging your car. And Walmart, which already has 1,300 charging stations, has announced they're going to build thousands more at every single Walmart and Sam's Club. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Another impediment is cost. The current average E.V. costs about $65,000.

That's roughly $17,000 more than the average gas-powered car. Even with the federal tax credit of $7,500, which not all E.V.s qualify for, plus the longer-term savings of never having to buy gas, that initial sticker shock has kept some buyers away. JOHN BOZZELLA: Right now, the average transaction price of electric vehicles is substantially higher than the average transaction price of an internal combustion engine vehicle.

Will that change over time? Of course it will. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Because these EPA rules are an expansion of existing statutes, analysts believe they will likely be challenged in the courts. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

AMNA NAWAZ: Today, President Biden began a four-day tour of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by marking an anniversary; 25 years ago this week, parties in Northern Ireland ended decades of conflict known as the Troubles by signing the Good Friday Agreement. But, as Nick Schifrin reports, President Biden arrived in the city of Belfast at a moment of political and economic uncertainty. JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Thank you for hosting us today on this beautiful campus. NICK SCHIFRIN: In a university built near Belfast's former front line, President Biden today urged fractious politicians to once again defeat their divisions. JOE BIDEN: The enemies of peace will not prevail.

Northern Ireland will not go back, pray God. NICK SCHIFRIN: But, in Belfast, peace didn't end all violence. Just two days ago, dissident nationalists who want to reunite with the Republic of Ireland set fire to a British police car, violence the Good Friday Agreement was designed to end.

FMR. SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL (D-ME): I'm pleased to announce that the two governments and the political parties of Northern Ireland have reached agreement. (APPLAUSE) NICK SCHIFRIN: Twenty-five years ago, with U.S. mediation, the British government and Northern Ireland's political parties ended 30 years of conflict known as the Troubles.

They were Europe's longest-running conflict after World War II. Members of the Irish Republican Army, mostly Catholic, fought to reunite with the Republic of Ireland, sometimes using terrorist attacks against British leaders and citizens. British soldiers and their mostly Protestant allies fought and sometimes killed to keep Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. Today, some neighborhoods are still separated between mostly Catholic nationalists who want to reunite with Ireland and mostly Protestant Unionists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom. The divisions are also political. Pro-U.K. Unionist politicians refuse to reenter a power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland's

assembly created by the Good Friday Agreement, because they fear Brexit erodes Northern Ireland's connection with Great Britain, and they see President Biden as pro-Irish. WOMAN: He is, Dan, the most partisan president there has ever been when dealing with Northern Ireland. He hates the United Kingdom. I don't think there's any doubt about that. NICK SCHIFRIN: Biden's aides denied that today, but the political paralysis has left Northern Ireland's legislative and executive branch not functioning for more than a year.

Today, President Biden met with leaders of Northern Ireland's five political parties to urge compromise. JOE BIDEN: I hope that the Assembly and the executive will soon be restored. That's a judgment for you to make, not me, but I hope it happens. NICK SCHIFRIN: Residents in Northern Ireland also hope it happens. Many say they don't have the economic or education opportunities that the Good Friday Agreement was designed to create. NIAMH MCNUTT, Student: We do kind of need help right now and get things in order.

And maybe this would actually give people the push that they need. NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, President Biden was optimistic, that peace would produce prosperity. JOE BIDEN: The simple truth is that peace and economic opportunity go together.

NICK SCHIFRIN: For more on President Biden's trip to Belfast, we turn to Duncan Morrow, a professor of politics at Ulster University, where President Biden spoke today. He has written extensively about the conflict in Northern Ireland. Thank you very much. Welcome to the "NewsHour." Has the Good Friday Agreement led to the kind of peace that its signers hoped it would? DUNCAN MORROW, Ulster University: Probably not, to be honest.

I think, 25 years ago, hopes were higher that something more cooperative and collaborative would emerge. And we have been beset, actually, by persistent issues which have come up, not the least of which, of course, has been Brexit seven years ago. But, even before that, some of the issues about how we actually deal with some of the changes that need to happen here have always caused trouble. At the same time, nobody's saying you should get rid of it, simply because the level of violence is so much less and life is so much easier for this generation.

NICK SCHIFRIN: So, let's go through some of those concerns. As you said, the level of violence is much, much less, significantly so. And yet, at the top of the story, we did see some violence just from a few days ago.

How often is that happening? DUNCAN MORROW: Well, some of the violence on your show certainly seems a bit performative. This is the 25th anniversary. This was their chance. On the same level, though, in some communities, there's no doubt whatsoever that there are still paramilitary organizations. And we have really not been able to squeeze that down.

Having said that, I suppose people would also point to the fact that policing in Northern Ireland is in a much better place, possibly one of our best successes in the course of the last 25 years. So it's one of those not -- it's not perfect, but could do better. And, nevertheless, there's always that risk for as long as those agencies still exist. NICK SCHIFRIN: We also showed a wall that still divides a Catholic nationalist neighborhood and a Protestant Unionist neighborhood. Why do those walls still exist? DUNCAN MORROW: Well, communities grew up very much because they feared their neighbors.

And I suppose, again, some of these armed groups emerged. So taking a wall down is not just taking a wall dome. It's opening yourself up to those fears again. I think probably, I would say we have not made enough effort and put enough emphasis on taking the walls down and building communities where people can live together. And I think, if there has been a failure here, it has been the failure to really prioritize the policy is not just of saying goodbye to violence, but of constructing a better future. NICK SCHIFRIN: You mentioned Brexit before.

And, as we reported in the story, pro-U.K. Unionists are concerned that Brexit is eroding Northern Ireland's connection with the rest of the United Kingdom. Why haven't those concerns been assuaged, despite an agreement between the U.K. and the E.U., known as the Windsor Framework that was designed to address those very concerns?

DUNCAN MORROW: The first thing to say is that the Brexit crisis here has probably run already for seven years. So, when you start to put that in perspective, that's a third of the time of the Good Friday Agreement. Second thing to say is that it put onto the table this question of, where do you put a border? But do you have a hard border in Ireland, which might regenerate some of those issues? And what they came to was, they would do a trade barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Unionists have really not like that, the Protestant Unionists. The British and the government and the European Union have now finally negotiated out a settlement which takes away most of the practical issues.

The Unionists are still saying they still feel that they are still in a different regime than the rest of Great Britain. But they're now a very isolated within Northern Ireland politics. And what President Biden's visit said today was, they're very isolated in global affairs. So they really have a big choice.

Do they continue with this boycott, or do they try to find a way back in, even though they're not that happy? NICK SCHIFRIN: Explain that political significance of President Biden's trip today to Belfast. Could his trip at all end some of the political impasse? DUNCAN MORROW: I don't think anybody expects that President Biden's visits on its own will do. What he has done is underline a number of things.

First of all, America is actually a player here and is committed to what we call here the open border in Ireland. And his Irishness plays into that. But I also think he said there's a possibility of a greater push in investment. Joe Kennedy came here today with him. NICK SCHIFRIN: His special envoy to Northern Ireland, who is supposed to pick up on some of the issues of trade and economic investment. DUNCAN MORROW: Absolutely.

And he's supposed to pick up on the issue that, because of this agreement, Northern Ireland is a place where you can export into the European Union and into Great Britain uniquely in Europe. And I suppose the third thing is, he said, we support this Windsor Framework. And so, although he didn't push anybody particularly hard on politics, he made very clear, America is standing there.

And that's a big consideration in the diplomatic world, particularly for the United Kingdom. So that does make a difference. NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, after his visit to Belfast, President Biden visited the Republic of Ireland.

He visited a castle to see the point from which his ancestor left and emigrated to the U.S. As I mentioned before, the pro-U.K. Unionist Party in Northern Ireland called Biden today too Irish and anti-British. Is that fair? DUNCAN MORROW: No, I don't think it is fair. I think he's definitely an Irish president. And I suppose that, emotionally, is certainly true.

On the other side, President Biden is well aware of international diplomacy. He knows that Britain is very close to America in terms of the Ukraine crisis, so he won't go too far away from trying to balance those things. But I suppose, for Unionists in Northern Ireland, they are aware this is a man who wears his green heart on his sleeves. And, for the Irish side, that's certainly been a bit of a boost.

But that he has been a very biased present, I don't think that's fair. NICK SCHIFRIN: Duncan Morrow, thank you very much. DUNCAN MORROW: You're welcome. GEOFF BENNETT: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the power of agencies like the CDC and local health departments and brought backlash from people who said those authorities were overreaching. In the wake of this turmoil, many public health departments have been overhauled, having an outsized impact on rural parts of the country. With support from the Pulitzer Center, and in collaboration with the Global Health Reporting Health Center, special correspondent Dr. Alok Patel has the story from Colorado.

It's part of our ongoing series, Rural Rx. DR. ALOK PATEL: Emily Brown is busy with chores on the family farm, where they raise cattle and grow potatoes.

It's a big change from her six years running the Rio Grande County Health Department. EMILY BROWN, Former Director, Rio Grande County, Colorado, Health Department: My role as a local public health director previously had been pretty low on the radar. And then COVID came along.

DR. ALOK PATEL: COVID meant long days tracking cases, announcing business closures and travel restrictions. EMILY BROWN: COVID was hard. (LAUGHTER) DR. ALOK PATEL: And then, two months into the pandemic, the county commissioners fired her. EMILY BROWN: I think it was a culmination of just a lot of different tensions that sort of maybe came to a head.

DR. ALOK PATEL: Brown was the first, but not the last. Fully half the public health directors in Colorado have quit or been fired since March of 2020, a turnover rate that is alarming to Tista Ghosh, the state's former chief medical officer. DR. TISTA GHOSH, Former Colorado Chief Medical Officer: I would call it a nightmare for most of the public health community.

So, it's been a very difficult time, and a lot of people have left. DR. ALOK PATEL: The controversies did not end with COVID. Until late January, Kayla Marler was public health director in Fremont County. She says her downfall came after she tried to launch a family planning program. KAYLA MARLER, Former Director, Fremont County, Colorado, Public Health and Environment: When it comes to prevention, especially when it comes to birth control, it is something that is needed.

DR. ALOK PATEL: In these small mountain towns, options are few and far between. KAYLA MARLER: And it was really disheartening, as a public health director, that I would have to tell my staff, you're going to have to let them know they're going to have to go to a neighboring county.

DR. ALOK PATEL: Marler secured a grant to start a program that would offer birth control, test for sexually transmitted infections and treat patients who needed help. KAYLA MARLER: October of this last year, brought it to the Board of Health, and it was turned down. DR.

ALOK PATEL: So, after they rejected your proposal, what happened then? KAYLA MARLER: What pretty much happened is, I was pushed out. I was pushed out of my position. DR. ALOK PATEL: County commissioners say Marler was let go due to staff morale and financial incompetence, not family planning. But Marler denies any management problems, and showed us letters of support she got from current staffers. And it all came down to the vote by three people.

KAYLA MARLER: So I had one female and two males on my board of health. The two males voted against it, and the female voted for it. The three individuals, you also have to understand, are politicians.

They are in their position because they are elected by their constituents. They had absolutely no medical background. DR. TISTA GHOSH: I think the debate continues now over whether public officials should be scientific experts who determine policy, or if that should be left to elected officials. DR.

ALOK PATEL: That question is playing out right now in the southwest corner of the state, where two counties that have run a joint health department for the past 75 years are going through a divorce. MARSHA PORTER-NORTON, Commissioner, La Plata County, Colorado: It's just like any relationship. Whether it's a marriage or not, it takes trust. DR.

ALOK PATEL: Marsha Porter-Norton is a La Plata County commissioner who voted to stand up a new health department and end a longstanding relationship with neighboring Archuleta County. The soon-to-be dissolved organization is San Juan Basin Public Health, where Liane Jollon has been executive director for 13 years. LIANE JOLLON, Executive Director, San Juan Basin Public Health: We do everything from restaurant inspections, to childcare inspections, to tracking exposure to lead for children. We do things like ensure that people have access to family planning and contraception. We do breast and cervical cancer screenings. We do lots of family formation and early childhood programs.

We have a water lab that tests drinking water. DR. ALOK PATEL: When the pandemic came, San Juan Basin jumped right in.

LIANE JOLLON: We went into that response mode in the first week in March, which was extraordinarily early for a local public health department. DR. ALOK PATEL: But the response wasn't popular with everyone. Protesters returned to the home of the executive director of the San Juan Basin Health Department, Liane Jollon.

LIANE JOLLON: And then the cops moved them to that hillside, and now they are saying the public health director who's taking away your freedoms lives right here. And that was difficult. DR.

ALOK PATEL: At first, it was protesters in Archuleta County who wanted to break up the department. But, ultimately, it was officials in La Plata County who pulled the plug. MARSHA PORTER-NORTON: I think the pandemic laid bare a lot of differences in values.

I failed to see how we were going to go forward in the future and have the kind of public health that I expect, which is what San Juan Basin is delivering now. They're delivering really good public health. DR. ALOK PATEL: Shere Byrd is a biology professor at Fort Lewis College.

She sits on the Board of Health, which recommended the split. SHERE BYRD, Vice President, San Juan Basin Public Health: People in Archuleta County came to meetings with guns on their hips. It was just an untenable situation.

DR. ALOK PATEL: But standing up a new health department comes with a big price. A consultant hired by La Plata County released a report last month, which said this county of 56,000 people will have to find nearly a half-a-million dollars a year to maintain the same services, on top of the transition cost, nearly a million dollars. The report also suggested staff would be cut by more than a third. SHERE BYRD: If you're talking about 40 percent fewer people, it's going to have an impact. DR.

ALOK PATEL: Can you tell me how you felt when you first learned about the vote that San Juan Basin was going to be dissolved? DR. RHONDA WEBB, CEO, Pagosa Springs Medical Center: Well, we were devastated. DR. ALOK PATEL: Dr. Rhonda Webb is chief executive at the Pagosa Springs Medical Center in Archuleta

County, the only hospital for more than 50 miles around. DR. RHONDA WEBB: People in rural areas just don't have as good of access of health care, right? They -- they just -- they don't. So public health has to step in for those people and be there for them where they need to be.

DR. ALOK PATEL: Archuleta County, like much of rural Colorado, has a shortage of primary health providers. And Webb says rural counties have a lot to lose if public health funding is cut back. DR. RHONDA WEBB: Hospitals take care of your wellness overall.

They take care of people with individual health conditions. But the public health takes care of the health of our whole community. SARAH FLOWER, KDUR and KSUT Reporter: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising that cloth-based coverings no longer... DR. ALOK PATEL: Sarah Flower is a local radio reporter. She says the community isn't fully aware of what's at stake.

SARAH FLOWER: It's like, oh, fine, masking and vaccines, but what about sewers and restaurant inspections and all air quality when there's a fire? Who's doing that? It's the public health department. DR. ALOK PATEL: The current arrangement funds the department through December, when much of the staff might join Kayla Marler on the sidelines. Marler she says that subsequent events have proven she was on the right path.

KAYLA MARLER: Family planning got approved by the board of health. It was no longer than two weeks after that I get contacted by the state of Colorado, letting me know that: Kayla, we have a huge syphilis outbreak. We're needing to do something. And I'm sitting here like, oh, yes, we need to do something, back of my mind knowing, we had a plan in place, and that was family planning. DR. ALOK PATEL: Who or what is affected when politicians get to make these public health decisions? KAYLA MARLER: The people that are impacted are the residents.

There is no room for politics to be in public health. DR. ALOK PATEL: But with memories of the pandemic still fresh, the trend may be moving in the opposite direction. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Dr. Alok Patel in rural Colorado. AMNA NAWAZ: In the wake of former President Donald Trump's indictment, there's been an explosion of foreign interference aimed at dividing the American electorate and sowing distrust in institutions.

Laura Barron-Lopez brings us this exclusive data. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: New research shared first with "NewsHour" shows a covert effort by Russian- and Chinese-backed actors to interfere with American news and opinions about Trump's arrest. The analysis comes from the global security and intelligence firm Soufan Center and the data science firm Limbik. Here is what they learned.

As news of the indictment broke and Trump was arraigned, the volume of online posts about the former president spiked, going from the typical 26,000 posts every day to more than 448,000. Helping drive that engagement were automated fake accounts known as bots. These accounts are closely linked to the Russian and Chinese governments, operating with the tacit approval of the state. They share Russian and Chinese state media articles across multiple platforms or retweet them. And, on Twitter, they amplified support for Trump during the arraignment. To unpack what this means and what we can do going forward, I'm joined by two of the experts behind these findings, Colin Clarke of The Soufan Center and Zach Schwitzky of Limbik.

Zach and Colin, thanks for joining. Colin, first to you. Millions of people across the world post on social media about news every day all the time.

Why should people be alarmed about these findings? COLIN CLARKE, Senior Research Fellow, The Soufan Center: Well, I think there's a couple of reasons. And I will give you two in particular. One is the intent behind the actors.

These are Russian- and Chinese-linked actors that are seeking to divide the United States. They want to weaken the U.S. And they do that by driving debate on divisive topics. Also, the political environment that we're currently in, the current climate is highly partisan and polarized. And so it's tailor-made for these types of interventions.

The second is that they're pushing their own narratives. They're attempting to achieve their own objectives, and doing so by spreading false information that's now -- then gets picked up by American citizens and passed along. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, Zach, here's one example of what you guys found. You point to a Russian-backed bot @Peter_Davit, a Gab account that's posting dozens of times a day, including this post about Trump's -- quote -- "dodgy indictment." Explain what's happening here.

ZACHARY SCHWITZKY, Co-Founder, Limbik: Yes, I think it's really interesting to look at this, because it's really a symptom of what we're seeing more broadly, that there's inauthentic activity. And this is a very good example, because you see the image that the profile uses is from American media. There's no biography, seeing, I think, 45,000 posts to Gab. And a lot of what we're seeing from this account in particular, which is consistent with a lot of the inauthentic activity, is posting or retweeting from publications like R.T. and platforms like VK. And what was interesting about this situation is, normally, what we had seen in previous news cycles focused on Trump was, it was very positive for the former president.

And, in this case and in this example, we started to see state-backed or state-affiliated accounts like this one sort of playing both sides of the former president. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Mm-hmm. And R.T. is that Russian state media.

And, Colin, this is primarily been a Russian playbook so far, this information warfare. Are the Chinese getting in on it a new element here? COLIN CLARKE: They are. The Russians are in the lead.

And they do this for a number of reasons. One, it's a great return on investment for them. It cost pennies on the dollar, compared to kind of more kinetic options, attempts to build their own conventional military. And China is noticing.

They're seeing that it's effective, that it's cheap. And they're not only helping promote Russian disinformation narratives online, but they're learning in the process. And so they're honing their own skills in an attempt to kind of copy the Russian playbook, as they roll out and use this in tandem with a more aggressive foreign policy. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And, Zach, we saw Russia, as I just said, do this in 2016.

Specifically, Senate Intelligence found that -- in 2016, that Russia targeted African Americans on social media to create racial divisions. But now some of these accounts appear harder to attribute directly to Russia. So how has this social media information warfare evolved since 2016? ZACHARY SCHWITZKY: Yes, that's a great question. If I can take a step back just for a second, the work we do at Limbik really first and foremost focuses on, are there narratives related to a particular issue, like this Trump indictment or the election in 2016, that are resonating with different audiences across the country? And if the answer to that is yes, then we start asking, what should we do about it? Who should take that responsibility? Where are these narratives originating and who's amplifying them? And one of the really interesting things that we have seen from 2016 to now in 2023 is, as you mentioned with that Senate Intelligence report, the Senate was able to attribute thousands of artifacts back to Russia.

And what we're seeing now is, a lot of the -- what appears to be Russian activity is actually originating out of what we call proxy countries, right, where we can attribute it as far to a country like Nigeria, for example, where it very much looks like a Russian information operation, but it's difficult to make that direct connection from Nigeria as the country of origin to Russia, even though, on the surface, it -- on the surface, it appears to be very much aligned with Russia's interests. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Colin, another takeaway from your guys' research is, you say to expect more attempts by these foreign actors to use social media to create chaos and anger among Americans heading into 2024, into the election cycle. Your research specifically shows that the arraignment wasn't as big of an event as January 6, per se, in terms of the sheer volume, but both created an environment for foreign actors to exploit. So what can be done about all this? What can the government actually do? COLIN CLARKE: We're absolutely going to see more opportunities between now and the election in 2024 and, even before that, the primaries, where there's going to be some kind of contentious -- contentious issue that gets a ton of media attention.

If it's involving Trump, it'll get even more. And that offers opportunities for our adversaries, particularly the Russians and the Chinese, to get into the mix. What can we do? We can do things like we're doing now, having this conversation informing the American public, becoming more aware about it. I think the government can get more involved in terms of funding digital literacy and making sure people know what reliable sources look like. And then I think, lastly, there's outreach to the private sector, public-private partnerships that can enhance our ability as American citizens to know with confidence that the news that we're consuming on a regular basis is rigorous and sound. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Colin Clark, Zach Schwitzky, thank you so much for your time.

ZACHARY SCHWITZKY: Thank you. COLIN CLARKE: Thank you, Laura. GEOFF BENNETT: It's called the National Recording Registry. Every year, the Library of Congress picks 25 recordings of cultural, historical, or aesthetic importance, tunes for the history books, for the memory banks, or just to hum or dance along to. This year is no different.

And Jeffrey Brown is our guide for our arts and culture series, Canvas. JEFFREY BROWN: Mariah Carey put love on her Christmas list. Madonna had love of a different kind on her mind. This year's National Recording Registry features a number of powerhouse women, including Queen Latifah, the first female rapper to join the registry. And the sounds go much further back in time to the first recording of mariachi music in 1908, and 1922's "St. Louis Blues" by W.C.

Handy. If you're into shaking your "Wang Dang Doodle," there's Koko Taylor from 1966. And if you're into musical mysteries, what did Billie Joe McAllister throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Bobbie Gentry's 1967 hit? For classical music aficionados, there's a concerto by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. And for jazz lovers, there's "Black Codes" by Wynton Marsalis.

And for margarita drinkers, well, you know. CARL SAGAN, Astronomer: Consider again that dot. That's here.

That is home. JEFFREY BROWN: You can reach for the stars with an audio recording by Carl Sagan, or take the direct "Stairway to Heaven" with Led Zeppelin. Feeling a bit of deja vu yet? Enjoy "Sweet Dreams" with Eurythmics. Travel "Country Roads" with John Denver. Shake whatever you have got left to Daddy Yankee's smash hit "Gasolina," the first reggaeton recording added to the registry.

And if you're thinking of all-time great songs, you can only "Imagine" what has to be on the list. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown. GEOFF BENNETT: And, apparently for the first time, a video game tune was inducted, the theme to "Mario Bros." AMNA NAWAZ: That's right, which we all know by heart.

Would you like to sing it? (LAUGHTER) GEOFF BENNETT: I will leave it to you. AMNA NAWAZ: Thank you. Meanwhile, that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.

I'm Amna Nawaz. GEOFF BENNETT: And I'm Geoff Bennett. Thanks for spending part of your evening with us.

2023-04-18 04:37

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