PBS NewsHour full episode, Aug. 9, 2023

PBS NewsHour full episode, Aug. 9, 2023

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AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening. I'm Amna Nawaz. Geoff Bennett is away. On the "NewsHour" tonight: President Biden issues an executive order limiting American investments in the Chinese tech sector,in the latest escalation of trade tensions.

New details emerge about former President Trump's plan to employ fake electors in one of many attempts to overturn his 2020 loss. And black lung disease rises sharply among miners amid aggressive new coal extraction techniques and pushback against regulation by the industry. DR. BRANDON CRUM, Radiologist: This is not our grandfathers' black lung anymore.

This is a whole different aggressive form of black lung that we're seeing. This is severe, severe lung disease. (BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Welcome to the "NewsHour." FBI agents have shot and killed a Utah man accused of making threats against President Biden.

It happened early today in Provo, Utah, hours before the president was due to arrive in the state. The FBI says agents were trying to serve a search warrant at the home of Craig Robertson. He had posted that he was dusting off his sniper rifle ahead of the Biden visit. Hawaii is beset tonight by hellish scenes of wildfires, driven by a passing hurricane.

So far, six people have been killed. Thousands of acres have burned across Maui, including parts of Lahaina town, dating to the 1700s. Overnight, flames rimmed the horizon as high winds grounded firefighting helicopters. By day, amateur video showed plumes of smoke and homes and businesses destroyed in Lahaina. Some people ran into the sea to escape the flames. Others were flown out for treatment of burns.

Days of downpours in Northern Europe caused a partial dam burst in Norway today. Flooding had already put parts of the countryside underwater and prompted evacuations of more than 1,000 people. Elsewhere in Norway, overflowing rivers have swept away mobile homes and small buildings and landslides have ravaged homes. HANS OLAV LEITE, Landslide Victim (through translator): It was like a massive machine, like a bulldozer that was sweeping everything away with it. When I looked out my window, I saw a pile of huge, muddy tree trunks that were laying right next to my house. There was a rescue team at my door right away.

They had to find a big rock and break the glass of the door to get me out. AMNA NAWAZ: Meanwhile, in Southern Europe, some 1,000 firefighters are battling fires in Portugal fueled by triple-digit temperatures. It's the region's third severe heat wave this summer. Leaders of eight South American countries urged industrialized nations today to do more to preserve the Amazon rain forest, the world's largest.

They have been meeting in Brazil at a regional climate summit. Today, Brazil's president called for wealthy states to protect the Amazon before it reaches a point of no return. LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, Brazilian President (through translator): It's not Brazil that needs money. It's not Colombia that needs money. It's not Venezuela. It's the nature that industrial development over 200 years has polluted that needs them to pay their share now for us to recompose part of what was damaged.

It is nature that needs money and financing. AMNA NAWAZ: Some environmental groups say they have been disappointed with the summit, and that the leaders have offered little in the way of concrete action. In Russia, authorities say a factory explosion killed one person and wounded 56 today, amid conflicting reports of a Ukrainian drone attack.

It happened at an industrial site north of Moscow that makes optical and mechanical gear for the Russian military. Security camera footage showed the blast erupting at what officials said was a warehouse storing fireworks. Rescue teams searched through the day for survivors. Back in this country, there's word the January 6 special counsel fought for months to view former President Trump's account records from Twitter, now known as X. Court documents out today show a federal judge ultimately fined the company $350,000 for failing to comply with a search warrant on time. Voters in Ohio have set the stage for a showdown on abortion rights this fall.

On Tuesday, they rejected a proposal making it harder to amend the state Constitution. It would have required 60 percent approval, instead of the current simple majority. Turnout was much higher than usual, as the two sides pointed toward November and a ballot question that would enshrine abortion rights in the Constitution.

DR. MARCELA AZEVEDO, President, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights: Ohioans will have a say when November comes, and we will vote yes. STATE. SEN. MATT HUFFMAN (R-OH): If it passes in November, there's going to be another abortion amendment go on after that to repeal that.

AMNA NAWAZ: Six states have had votes involving abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year. Supporters of abortion rights have won all six. An American nurse and her young daughter are free tonight in Haiti, after kidnappers released them.

They'd been held nearly two weeks. Alix Dorsainvil was abducted, along with her daughter, as she worked at her husband's Christian aid clinic. It's located in a gang-controlled section of Port-au-Prince. U.S. officials welcomed their return, but gave no further details. The cost of this year's severe weather across the U.S. is setting records.

A leading reinsurance company, Swiss Re, reports thunderstorms alone racked up a record $34 billion in insured losses in the year's first six months. And, on Wall Street, stocks dipped as investors wait for the July inflation report tomorrow. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 191 points to close at 35123. The Nasdaq fell 162 points, or 1 percent. And the S&P 500 dropped 31 points.

And Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist and songwriter for the legendary group The Band, has died in Los Angeles. He and The Band's four other members went from backing up Bob Dylan to their own stardom through the '60s and into the '70s. In the process, they reshaped popular music. Here they are in 1969 performing one of Robertson's classic compositions, "Up On Cripple Creek." (MUSIC) AMNA NAWAZ: Robbie Robertson was 80 years old. Still to come on the "NewsHour": Asian Americans weigh in on the Supreme Court decision to end affirmative action in college admissions; the relationship between presidential candidates and political action committees raises questions about campaign finance; police issue arrest warrants after a massive brawl on a Montgomery, Alabama, boat dock; plus much more.

The Biden administration released a long-awaited executive order today aimed at curbing China's military development. These new rules mark a first step by the U.S. government to clamp down on overseas investments by American firms. Laura Barron-Lopez has the story.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: The new executive actions limit investments in China by private equity and venture capital firms in three high-tech sectors, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and semiconductors and microelectronics. It would also require firms to disclose investments in other Chinese industries not restricted under the president's order. Here to discuss is Chris Johnson. He had a 20-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, where he focused on China.

Now he runs his own consulting firm, China Strategies Group. Chris, thanks so much for joining us. What is the significance of this executive order limiting American developments in China? And how will it be implemented? CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON, President and CEO, China Strategies Group: Well, I think its main significance is that it's finally managed to get out the door. This is something that the administration has been working on for nearly two-and-a-half years now of its tenure, and then, of course, if we count the time of basically the entire Trump administration, where they were also thinking about such an executive order and working on it then.

So we're talking about a sum total of six-and-a-half years in the making. So it's quite significant in that regard. It's important as well, obviously, because it's the next step, really, in the process that we have seen under the Biden administration of trying to control Chinese ability to develop some of these core technologies, most specifically, things that might have military application, semiconductors, in particular. That's where the executive order is going to be the strictest in terms of actual prohibitions of investments, and then also these new and emerging technologies, of course, of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, as you said. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: The administration has made clear that these actions are meant to stop China from using U.S. technology to modernize their military and intelligence capabilities.

How much American money is actually going to develop those technologies in China? And will these new restrictions actually impact China's ability to advance their technology? CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: Yes. Well, on the scale of total investment that the Chinese are making in these core technological areas, the actual U.S. dollar flow into those investments is relatively small. The Chinese government, of course, is pouring a ton of money into all three of these areas, largely through its industrial policies, which are of great concern to the U.S. So, the actual amount of money, by comparison, that the U.S. is putting in is small. But it's not really the money necessarily that I think the administration and other folks who are looking at this closely, especially on the Hill, have been focused on. It's really the knowledge, the special capabilities, the sort of things that a U.S. venture capital

or other firm can bring to the table in terms of expertise that might actually help the Chinese make advances in the technology itself. So, in other words, to facilitate making the investment that the U.S. investor is making profitable, they are willing to share their ecosystem, if you will, of technological and other expertise. And that's really what the concern is. So, while the actual dollar amount is small, that's been the concern.

And in terms of the ability to impact Chinese developments, it certainly will not ease their ability to do so. One of the things that's been most challenging for them is, they want to obviously have access to foreign direct investment coming into these technologies, and especially those expertise categories that I mentioned a moment ago, coming their direction. They will continue, of course, to pursue these technologies, because they're critical, in their minds, for not just their military advancement, but also their economic development in the 21st century, because, obviously, these are the three core technologies that are looking like they will define the knowledge-based economy of this century. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Senior administration officials told us today that it took a thoughtful and deliberative process to get to this executive order. Could you explain some of that process that they underwent to actually reach this point? CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely. And I think the administration deserves a lot of credit for this.

First of all, there was extensive consultation with affected parties, venture capital firms, other investing firms. And they took into account a lot of their feedback in the process. And, obviously, as the executive order tells us, there will be a comment period as well, which will be quite lengthy. So that will be another opportunity for the administration to engage with affected parties, most specifically industry and most specifically the semiconductor industry in the United States, because that's the institution that, as I mentioned earlier, will be the most affected, that sector.

So they have taken a very judicious and deliberative approach. Some critics argue it's been too judicious and too deliberative, in the sense that the executive order only requires what they call a sort of notice-and-go system for areas that are not prohibited under the executive order. So, that is basically an entity wish -- a U.S. person entity wishing to make an investment has to report to the Treasury Department about what they're doing. But it's not a proper screening mechanism, like had been advanced earlier, especially in some possible congressional legislation, wherein they would have to screen that investment and decide whether it is allowed or prohibited. Instead, it is just a notification process.

And some critics have said that is too -- too loose. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: How do you expect China to view these new restrictions? And is there wide expectation that they will retaliate? CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: There definitely is. I think we should expect them to retaliate, in part because they have told senior U.S. officials that they will. When Secretary Yellen, our Treasury secretary, was visiting China, that message was definitely conveyed. It's been conveyed to Secretary of State Blinken and other senior U.S. officials.

So the Chinese have made clear that this is one of many of the sort of red lines. In March of this year, President Xi Jinping at a -- in comments at a legislative session said that the United States and the West was acting actively to sort of suppress, contain and encircle China. And, since then, we have seen them take more deliberative retaliatory actions. So, one instance is the banning of sale of the semiconductor, U.S. semiconductor for Micron's chips to many Chinese customers.

We have seen them react with restrictions on certain rare earth meddles that are critical in the semiconductor space. So, they have kind of shifted gears. We have seen a step change from this sort of largely rhetorical responses to actual retaliation that does matter. And I would expect to see something similar like that in this instance. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Chris Johnson of China Strategies Group, thank you so much for your time. CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: My pleasure.

Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: New information is coming to light in a central charge against former President Trump, that he schemed to prop up fake sets of electors to overturn the 2020 election. Our Lisa Desjardins has more on the latest developments.

LISA DESJARDINS: The accusation, like much in the Trump case, is unique. Federal prosecutors point to these seven states which Trump lost, but where they allege he plotted to subvert the results with false slates of electors poised to cast the state's electoral votes. The indictment alleges that Trump's goal was to cast doubt and disrupt the final vote certification January 6.

Joining me now is Amy Gardner, who covers voting and national politics for The Washington Post. Amy, we're talking about a fundamental part of our democracy here, the last step in voting for a president. This indictment charges that Trump and six unnamed co-conspirators were working to overturn that. Now, these are the faces of some people that are believed to be those co-conspirators, including one, Boris Epshteyn, who The New York Times has said is indicated. The others, Rudy Giuliani, these are people clearly close in the Trump orbit.

What did you learn from the indictment about them and about this plot? AMY GARDNER, The Washington Post: I think one of the most interesting and really quite blockbuster elements of this indictment is that Jack Smith and his team are alleging that the pretext for the electors to meet, which was simply to preserve their legal remedies in the pending court cases in each of those seven states, was a lie, and that the real reason that the Trump campaign was endeavoring to get all of these electors to meet and cast their ballots for Trump and send these false elector slates to Washington was, as you put it in the introduction, to disrupt the proceedings on January 6. That's something that the Trump folks denied. But Jack Smith presents quite a bit of evidence to suggest the possibility that's indeed what was going on. LISA DESJARDINS: We also learned today from The New York Times something about a memo, a new memo that we hadn't seen in public before. This was written in December of 2020 from Trump's ally, one of these that you just saw the picture of, Kenneth Chesebro, pushing these false slates of electors in those states even after most of those states had already certified their electoral process.

What is significant about this memo? AMY GARDNER: What's significant about it is that it shows that, indeed, as early as December 6, when he apparently authored that memo, which The New York Times divulged last night, they were plotting to use these elector slates on January 6, not merely to preserve their legal recourse, as they stated at the time. It's also worth noting that, even earlier than that, on December 3, another one of those unnamed co-conspirators who we have identified as John Eastman was testifying before the Georgia legislature about very similar possibilities about using these slates of electors on January 6. So there's a good deal of evidence that Jack Smith includes in his indictment to show that the intent all along was, in fact, to subvert the final counting of the Electoral College vote on January 6.

LISA DESJARDINS: As I said, this is unique. This is an also about an archaic piece of American law, the Electoral College process. The Trump team has said, there's nothing illegal with having these slates of electors ready to go. I know you're saying this indictment says otherwise. But what does the prosecutor in this case, the special counsel, have to prove to show that this was illegal? AMY GARDNER: Well, so the way that conspiracy charges work is that all you have to prove is that at least two people planned to commit a crime. And the crime -- those individuals charged don't have to have been the people directly executing the crime, and the crime doesn't even have to have taken place.

LISA DESJARDINS: So they have to know it was a crime. AMY GARDNER: Well, that is -- thank you. That was my next point, which is that they do have to show that Trump knew.

And there is lots of evidence that people were telling the president at the time there isn't widespread fraud and, also, you can't do this thing with the electors that you're trying to do. In one of the texts of changes with his -- some of his senior campaign staff, at the time that they were trying to arrange these elector meetings, it was -- one of them called it a donkey show. They were so certain that it was just legally not sustainable. But, at the same time, he was also hearing from close advisers, including Giuliani, including Eastman, including Chesebro, that it was possible. Let's try it.

So I think that is the really, really big challenge that prosecutors face in this case. LISA DESJARDINS: In our last minute or so here, how about the states? These were state slates of electors? What's going on in the states regarding this generally? AMY GARDNER: So, it's really interesting that Jack Smith is not going after the electors themselves in -- who in many instances appear to have been duped into believing that it really was about preserving those legal remedies in those cases that were still pending. However, in the states, some of the prosecutors who are looking into this, they are looking at the electors. We know that, in Michigan, the attorney general, Dana Nessel, has already charged all of the Michigan electors with crimes because, in part, Michigan didn't even have any pending cases. So there was no pretext to meet, other than to disrupt January 6.

We also know that the Fulton County prosecutor in the Atlanta, Georgia, area is planning to make a charging decision any day now. And we expect some of the electors in Georgia to actually be charged in that case as well. LISA DESJARDINS: Amy Gardner, thank you so much for your very clear reporting.

We appreciate it. AMY GARDNER: Thank you so much. AMNA NAWAZ: The first Republican presidential debate is just two weeks away, and at least eight candidates have met the RNC criteria, which includes collecting 40,000 donors across the country. Some of those candidates have used creative fund-raising tactics to reach that -- reach that threshold.

One campaign offered $20 gift cards to people who donated at least $1. Another established a sweepstakes giving away soccer tickets. Are these methods aboveboard? That's just one campaign finance question being raised in this election. To help break it down, I'm joined by Adav Noti of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

He previously worked as a lawyer at the Federal Election Commission. Welcome, and thanks for being here. ADAV NOTI, Campaign Legal Center: Thanks for having me. AMNA NAWAZ: So, gift cards and soccer tickets, is all this aboveboard? Is it legal? ADAV NOTI: Well, in theory, having small donors contribute in large numbers to a campaign is not just legal; it's a good thing for the system.

It helps balance out the disproportionate influence that wealthy donors usually have in campaigns. But what's happening with some of these debate qualification schemes that are going on is that the campaigns are really taking big money, sort of seed money from major donors, and parceling it out to collect these token small contributions, which are not enough to actually run a campaign. So these are not small-dollar-funded campaigns. They're big-money-funded campaigns.

And so, unfortunately, it's another example of big money sort of dominating even these -- the system that's intended to broaden the contributions to smaller donors. AMNA NAWAZ: And is that allowed, to take those big money donations and parcel them out that way? ADAV NOTI: Unfortunately, it's allowed. And the incentives are set up so that collecting those large donations of seed money at the beginning can be very helpful to candidates, who are then very grateful to the donors who provided them. AMNA NAWAZ: There's a number of questions around former President Trump's finances, in particular, I want to ask you about, in particular, his post-2020 fund-raising efforts. We know they're being looked at by the special counsel.

And the question is really about whether or not he was raising some of those enormous funds he raised after he lost the 2020 election on the backs of false claims of voter fraud. What does the law say about this? ADAV NOTI: It does look like, under the legal definition of fraud that applies not just in campaigns, but to all sorts of solicitations for money, that the solicitations that the Trump campaign was making in that post-election period were very deceptive and intended to mislead donors into giving to what they thought were election protection efforts, but, in reality, were -- the money was not being spent on anything of the kind. Most of it was just being banked. And so there's a fairly serious claim, potentially, by the Department of Justice that that fund-raising was fraudulent. AMNA NAWAZ: There's this question about the relationship and coordination between Mr. Trump's PAC and his super PAC, one organization requesting a so-called refund of $60 million from the other.

How do you make sense of that? ADAV NOTI: Well, super PACs are supposed to be independent, completely independent of any candidate. And so when you have a super PAC that's exchanging money back and forth with another entity that's controlled by a candidate, it sure looks like coordination, financial coordination, between those entities. And coordination between a super PAC and a candidate is illegal. So it looks like there is illegal coordination going on between those entities. AMNA NAWAZ: So, if something is found to be illegal, what's the enforceability here? ADAV NOTI: So the problem with -- as with many things in the current campaign finance system, is that the federal agency that's supposed to be enforcing the law, which is the Federal Election Commission, essentially does not enforce campaign finance law and has not for quite some time.

And so there are very few consequences for even very serious misconduct. And so it leads to a situation where, each election cycle, we have more and more activity that appears to be illegal under longstanding federal law, but is conducted anyway because there don't appear to be consequences. AMNA NAWAZ: There's another recent report I want to ask you about related to the campaign of Tim Scott and the use of LLCs paying money to these organizations, and we don't know who they are. How legal and how unusual is that? ADAV NOTI: So, this is another situation where, if the Federal Election Commission were enforcing the law, none of this would be happening.

So, all voters have the legal right to know every dollar that a presidential campaign is taking in and every dollar that it spends. But the trend that we have been seeing, including this cycle from the Scott campaign and others, and going back to 2020 and the Trump campaign, is campaigns using shell companies to hide their spending. So, the campaign runs all its money through a shell company, and then just reports the payments to the shell company. But the shell company is the one that actually makes the disbursements to the people who are doing the campaign's work. And so it hides from the public where that money is actually going. AMNA NAWAZ: There's one last thing I need to ask you about, just the influence of big donors.

We have seen that growing over time. We saw it just yesterday in the special election in Ohio. How do you see that now? ADAV NOTI: Well, every cycle, the problem of big money dominating elections gets worse.

And that's a combination of the government not enforcing the laws that are on the books, the laws not being updated for the modern era. And in the absence of real enforcement, we're going to continue getting more and more domination of elections by wealthy special interests. AMNA NAWAZ: All right, that is Adav Noti of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

Thanks for helping us make sense of it all. ADAV NOTI: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, coal mining has long been known as an arduous and dangerous job.

In addition to working in very tough conditions often miles below the earth's surface, coal miners are also susceptible to the respiratory disease known as black lung. It currently afflicts one in five veteran miners, and the most severe form of the disease is at the highest it's been in decades. As William Brangham reports, after years of inaction, new federal rules are aiming to protect those workers. WOMAN: Catch your breath. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: These men all worked for years mining coal deep underground, and now they are struggling to extend their lives a few more years.

They all have what is called complicated black lung disease, the most severe, incurable version. It brutally scars the lungs, making it hard to breathe. Exercises like this aim to strengthen their remaining lung capacity. BILLY HALL, Former Coal Miner: A lot of people take breathing for granted. But when it comes down you can't breathe, that's something else.

And you wanted to do things, and your mind said you could, but then your body says you can't. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sixty-seven-year-old Billy Hall was diagnosed with the disease at 48 after starting work in the mines just out of high school. Last February, he was lucky. He got a double lung transplant. How did you reconcile doing a job you loved when you knew it was also starting to harm your health? BILLY HALL: Got to feed your family, is one way of putting it, you know? WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the last decade, hundreds of coal miners suffering with black lung have come to the New Beginnings Pulmonary Rehab Clinic in Southwest Virginia.

Many of these men are no longer alive. Scientists have long known that breathing cold dust can cause black lung, a disease that got its name as miners' lungs turned the color of coal. But an even more dangerous culprit has been identified, silica dust, which comes out of the rocks that get demolished during mining. That dust is 20 times more toxic to the lungs. This stretch of Southwestern Virginia is where federal investigators found the largest cluster of complicated black lung cases ever officially recorded.

It's affecting younger miners and sickening them much more quickly, men like Denver Hoskins. DENVER HOSKINS, Former Coal Miner: My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my dad and me also, we was coal miners. And, I mean, it -- once you become one, you -- it's hard to get away from. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: At 17, this Kentucky native had a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds and plan to go to college.

But when his dad got sick with black lung, he stayed home and, like everyone else in his family, went to work in the mines. At 43, Hoskins was diagnosed with the worst kind of black lung at the Stone Mountain Black Lung Clinic across the border in Virginia. He now can't work and sometimes requires oxygen to breathe. Can you put that into words what that is like to live with what you're living with in your chest? DENVER HOSKINS: Whenever you having that -- having trouble, I guess the best -- the best illustration is cap your hand over your mouth or put a bag over your head, seal it off, see if you can breathe. I can't get air out, but I can't get enough air in. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The reason young miners like Hoskins are getting silica into their lungs is because modern coal mining is using high-powered machinery to cut through increasing amounts of rock to get at this limited amount of coal that is left.

That cutting releases silica dust into the air and they breathe it into their lungs. DR. BRANDON CRUM, Radiologist: And when you tell the younger monitors they have complicated black lung, you don't get much of a reaction at all.

They're kind of just stunned. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Every day, fourth-generation coal miner turned radiologist Brandon Crum reads lung X-rays with the telltale cloudy masses that signal black lung disease. Since 2015, his clinic in the town of Coal Run, Kentucky, has diagnosed nearly 700 miners with complicated black lung. DR. BRANDON CRUM: If they never go to work again, they continue to get worse, because, once that dust is in the lungs, it's there for the rest of their life.

And it is a chronic inflammatory process in their lungs with some of them that leads to this significant progression and shortness of breath. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Still, Crum says, the initial cause of this severe disease is preventable. DR. BRANDON CRUM: We don't have to have this disease.

We don't have to have men in their 30s and 40s going through transplants. We don't have to have wives that are widowed. This is not our grandfathers' black lung anymore. This is a whole different aggressive form of black lung that we're seeing.

This is severe, severe lung disease. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some U.S. industries where silica exposure occurs, like construction and fracking, are regulated by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That agency recognizes the threat and mandates exposure limits and safety precautions.

But coal mining is covered by a different agency and has been an exception. That's now changing. In June, the federal Mine Safety and Health Association, or MSHA, proposed a rule to cut the exposure limit for silica dust in half for a work shift. CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMSON, Mine Safety and Health Association: This is my great-grandfather's hard hat that he wore when he was a coal miners. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Chris Williamson heads MSHA. CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMSON: I have seen more miners packing around oxygen tanks than I would ever like to see.

And if these things are put in place, all this is entirely preventable. So it goes back. We have known for decades that silica cause -- causes workers to be sick.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Decades ago, the CDC recommended reducing silica dust in coal mines by half, but no action was taken. In the 1990s, MSHA warned the industry about silica exposure, but no rules were adopted. Separately, the National Mining Association, which is the industry's biggest lobbying group, successfully blocked broader regulatory measures. In 2014, the Obama administration passed a rule limiting overall coal dust, but stopped short of regulating silica. REBECCA SHELTON, Appalachian Citizens Law Center: Regulations on coal mining have always had pushback from the industry.

The industry is interested in running as much coal as possible, and regulations slow that down. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Rebecca Shelton is the director of policy at the Appalachian Citizens Law Center. She says, when silica levels are high, the best way to protect workers is to increase the spraying of water to tamp down the dust and boosting ventilation inside the mines. But the industry has argued that giving miners additional respirator masks would be enough.

In a statement to the "NewsHour," the National Mining Association said: "The new proposed rule specifically indicates that the use of respiratory protection equipment cannot be used as a method of compliance. We believe this is a mistake." REBECCA SHELTON: We have represented many miners that have been punished for wanting to enforce mine safety regulations.

The enforcement is going to be really challenging if you don't have more sampling. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Shelton says effective enforcement will be difficult if Congress doesn't increase funding and resources for MSHA. She says the agency has seen a 50 percent reduction in enforcement staff over the last decade. CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMSON: The ultimate goal here is to prevent miners from getting sick. I can't predict a year, two years from now what resources Congress are going to -- is going to make available to us.

It's going to be a priority. And we're going to do the best we can with what we have. And that's outside of my control. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the proposed rule, mine operators will self-report silica dust exposure.

It's a detail that worries safety advocates. But Williamson says those records would be double-checked by MSHA. CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMSON: It's in a mine operator's best interest to do sampling in the way that's there too, because they want to know -- they want to know what is the health hazards out there, right? Like, what is potentially in that environment that may make one of their employees sick? WILLIAM BRANGHAM: These new rules have come too late to protect Denver Hoskins and countless others. Men like him worked for decades to mine the coal that helped power and build this country, but they have suffered terribly for it. On average, a diagnosis like his cuts 12 years off a person's life.

DENVER HOSKINS: I hope and pray that the good man above gives me another 20, 30 years. I would like to see my children grow, become a granddad and get to see them grown, if it's his will. But if it ain't. it ain't.

He's blessed me so far. He truly has. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A final rule on silica dust exposure is expected next year, but would be subject to reversal under a different administration. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham in Central Appalachia.

AMNA NAWAZ: Since the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions, questions remain over how this will affect students moving forward and who will be most impacted. The court sided with plaintiffs, who argued race-conscious admissions discriminate against Asian Americans. But how do Asian American students feel about the loss of race-based college admissions? Let's hear first from some who support the decision and then those that oppose it.

JEFF HOU, High School Student: I was overjoyed with the decision. I believe that the Supreme Court got this right and that affirmative action needed to go. Obviously, this doesn't guarantee us entry into any college we want. But what this does guarantee me is that I know that everything that happens is not because of something I can't control. And if I don't get in, it's because I could have just worked harder.

It's because I should have studied more, not because of something that I can't change, which is in my race. JAYSON, High School Student: They take away opportunities from certain ethnic groups in order to benefit others, which is completely racist. And Asian Americans such as me and my peers, we have worked extremely hard. And we fear that our college admissions will be denied because of our race. I was considering, like, opting if -- opting out of my race in the college admissions process. But I think now that affirmative action is gone, it's just more fair.

And if I don't get into the college I want to get into it's not something that I can't control. And it's more of, like, I could have worked harder. JUSTIN WANG, College Student: I come from a pretty privileged family, right, relatively affluent.

And I understand that I perhaps do have some advantages over many others. However, I think that disadvantage is not from the color of my skin, right? I don't want to -- I don't want to be judged on that. AMY LUM, College Student: I definitely believe that affirmative action is beneficial to Asian Americans. The Asian American community is a very diverse community. We have, like, Hmong people, Vietnamese people, Cambodian people, Chinese people.

We have all sorts of different cultures. And so affirmative action is one of those things that ensures that our culture is represented and that we all have a voice. ZOE CHOE, College Student: Race is something that, historically, has been very important in shaping the lives of current -- of people currently, and that's not something that I think can be ignored, especially on a level when people are applying to colleges. WENA TENG, College Student: I actually wrote a paper in high school against affirmative action, because a lot of the conversation in my household and growing up was always on the idea of, like, meritocracy, which a lot of people against affirmative action are talking about now, and this idea of survival.

Again, if you work so hard, you should be able to deserve it. But, as I'm now going through the reality of this country and navigating all these systems and spaces, I'm starting to realize that meritocracy is only an illusion, and that there are just so many, again, factors that make meritocracy incredibly hard. LUCAS LIN, College Student: Until we progress to -- in a society where, I think, I don't know, maybe Americans can truly be race-blind, or we can truly acknowledge each others as equals, or be more holistic in our interpretations and our understanding of others and our identities, I think that affirmative action still has a place. AMNA NAWAZ: To dig more deeply into those views, I'm joined by Janelle Wong.

She's a political scientist and the director of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland. And Susana Liu-Hedberg, the executive director of the education nonprofit The 1990 Institute. Welcome to you both.

Janelle, I will begin with you. Based on your work and the research that you have done, and what you just heard from those students there, how do you believe that Asian American students will be impacted by the Supreme Court's decision? JANELLE WONG, Professor of American Studies, University of Maryland-College Park: So, I'm a senior researcher at AAPI Data. And we have been asking Asian American registered voters this question about whether they favor or oppose affirmative action programs designed to help Black people, women and other minorities get better access to education. And, for more than 10 years, we have found consistent support for affirmative action among Asian Americans interviewed in language. And young people, just like those you heard from, on the whole are even more supportive. So I recognize the value of hearing from diverse voices.

But, on the whole, I think Asian American students are going to really miss the diversity that happens when you have a program in place that systematically accounts for lack of access for some groups to the college campus. AMNA NAWAZ: Susana, one of the students mentioned Asian American comprises a very broad range of racial and ethnic backgrounds. And, to Janelle's point, they do broadly support affirmative action. But does that support change based on which group you're talking about? SUSANA LIU-HEDBERG, The 1990 Institute: It does change. And as we delve deeper and disaggregate data, the myth of the Asian American monolith and the model minority myth correlate in this way.

And we see this playing out with, for example, the June Pew Research survey which showed that the Asian -- that Asian Americans have mixed views on affirmative action and of what -- the interviews that you saw. So, first of all, just uplifting the Pew Research survey that was done a few years ago that showcased 30-plus different ethnicities that are under one Asian American monolith, that we all, 30-plus ethnicities, are the same, we experience the same things, desire the same things. And when we disaggregate this data, we find that not every Asian American has the same lived experience.

And the study even delves deeper into each ethnicity and where they fall within poverty and education, including access to higher education. AMNA NAWAZ: There's a couple of really good ideas in there I want to pull apart. But, Janelle, I want to put to you some of those numbers that Susana just referenced.

When you take a look at those Pew numbers on Asian American views of affirmative action, overall, 53 percent of those surveyed say it's a good thing. They support affirmative action. But then 76 percent said race should not be a factor in admissions, and in 53 percent said that considering race and ethnicity in admissions would make the process less fair. Janelle, those seem to be contradictory ideas.

So what should we understand about that? JANELLE WONG: So with the Pew question race and ethnicity as a factor, it provides very little context to respondents. It asks if race should be a major, minor or no factor. And that is not how admissions works in the real world. Race has been considered holistically.

So, in race-conscious admissions, race is never the only factor considered, nor is that the primary factor. But many think it is. And this may affect how they respond to that question. Some with this question may not even know that they're being asked about affirmative action.

And I think what's really critical here is that other studies have shown that a majority of Asian Americans do support affirmative action. But Susana is right. There's one group that doesn't support affirmative action consistently. And that is my own group, Chinese Americans.

AMNA NAWAZ: And what should we understand about why that view is held among Chinese Americans, Janelle? JANELLE WONG: Well, Susana mentioned the model minority myth. This is the idea that Asian Americans have a special value for education and are uber-competent. Jacqueline Lee and her colleagues show that the internalization and endorsement of this model minority myth is associated with anti-Black attitudes among Asian Americans and associated with skepticism about affirmative action.

Let me be really clear. Asian Americans face racial discrimination, and they are victims of white supremacy. But that is really what gave this Supreme Court case power. Edward Blum recruited Asian American plaintiffs because they are victims of white supremacy, and they shielded his organization from charges of racism. So, the fact is that Black, Latino and Native American students are showing up -- the fact that they're showing up on these campuses in much smaller proportions compared to white and Asian students tells us that something is wrong with the system, and that some groups face much higher barriers to accessing education than others. And that's not fair, and it does not lead to opportunity for all.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, Susana, clearly, the views held among the very diverse population that falls under the category of Asian Americans, it's very complicated and worth unpacking, disaggregating. But when it comes to impact, what do you believe that the Supreme Court's decisions -- what the impact of that will be on Asian American students? SUSANA LIU-HEDBERG: First of all, diversity remains incredibly important in any learning environment. And as we can see from the interviews and also the surveys that we have read, this issue was and it remains a complex one. The two cases and the ruling tied two mutually exclusive things together. On the one hand, we acknowledge that there needs to be some mechanism in place to support students that have been historically marginalized and underrepresented to ensure equity in access to higher education. But, on the other hand, if processes are or -- and admissions are based on one certain criteria, like race, then that does become discriminatory.

Now, affirmative action didn't need to be struck down. But it did need to be fixed. The law, like many other of our laws, is -- it's not perfect.

But it was and could have been reworked or implemented differently to reflect today's needs and address the inequities and the frustration that some of the AAPI community felt, and also in the case of the students that you interviewed here. The nation really did a disservice to so many minority students by taking a sledgehammer, basically, to decades of progress. We should have worked together to find a solution that allowed all historically underrepresented minority students to thrive, which includes Asian American students. And, also, now is the time where we're looking to do and see what's next. Now's the time to seize on the opportunity to move forward and really work together, not just within the AAPI community, but also all affected communities.

AMNA NAWAZ: That is Susana Liu-Hedberg and Janelle Wong. Thank you both for joining us and bringing your experience to this very complicated issue. Thank you.

The city of Montgomery, Alabama, is on edge after a large chaotic brawl broke out there over the weekend that seemed to divide along racial lines. As John Yang reports, the altercation has the attention of Americans nationwide. JOHN YANG: Amna, the incident occurred Saturday evening at Montgomery's Riverfront Park along the Alabama River. A city riverboat was returning from a two-hour cruise, and a private pontoon boat was blocking the dock. Police said the riverboat crew repeatedly used a loudspeaker to ask the men to move the pontoon boat. Eventually, a co-captain took a small boat to the dock and tried to move it himself.

Videos of what happened next have gone viral on social media. The group from the pontoon confronts the co-captain. Words are exchanged.

One of the men from the pontoon throws a punch, and the brawl begins. Several men are seen beating -- beating and kicking the co-captain. More and more bystanders join in, and the police have to be called to break it up.

So far, three men from the pontoon have been charged with assault, and police say they're still investigating. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed is the first Black person to hold that office. He was elected in 2019.

Mr. Mayor, what was your reaction? What did you think, what did you feel when you saw that video? STEVEN REED (D), Mayor of Montgomery, Alabama: Well, like many people are surprised and then shocked to see something like that happen for someone who was just doing his job. I was disappointed, to say the least, and it was disturbing. JOHN YANG: Are you satisfied with how the police have handled it and the charges so far? STEVEN REED: Yes, I think our police department has handled it in a professional manner.

I think they have gone about this with leaving-no-stone-unturned mentality. I think they have approached it with a very deliberate sense of urgency. And I think the fact that we have one person in custody and a couple others that will be in custody shortly is proof-positive of the work that's been done by the men and women of our police department. JOHN YANG: Were you surprised how quickly this spread on social media, that it went viral on social media so quickly? STEVEN REED: Yes, definitely was surprised by that. I think I probably have a better understanding of it now than I did Sunday evening, when I first kind of started getting some texts about it. I'm amazed at how many people have viewed it and what conversations have come out of it.

But it's one of those things where you never can tell, in this day and age of camera phones, what people are going to be interested in and what they're not. JOHN YANG: What -- I mean, this now becomes sort of what people think of Montgomery right now, huh? How do you feel about that, especially this city that has violent racial history? STEVEN REED: Yes, I would be cautious about casting aspersions on the city. The perpetrators who have been identified and warrants have been signed on are not from Montgomery, number one.

I think, number two, it's important for people to understand that we're the second most visited tourist city in the state. So, we want that to continue. It's important to our economy.

It's important to the nation that they learn the history of the civil rights movement. And that's what most of the tourists are coming here for. So, I think that, when we consider the community itself, the community itself has responded very positively.

I think there's been no issues around this. And I would say that the city has kind of come together around many of those who -- not just the co-captain, but even some of those on the crew, to say that we're glad somebody stopped something wrong from happening until the police could get there. And that's not to say that people are condoning violence.

It's just that I think there's a sense here that we have seen a lot of progress in this city. We certainly aren't perfect. We certainly have more work to do.

But this is not indicative of who we are. JOHN YANG: The -- on the videos, it looks like the fight breaks down along racial lines. And CNN is now reporting that a witness of says that a racial slur was used against the captain before the fight began. Do you think there's a -- this is race-related? STEVEN REED: Well, look, I saw what you saw and what millions of other people saw. I think, for us, we're looking at it from the standpoint of a legal case, and does it meet the FBI standard for hate crime? So far, we have been told no.

But the case is still ongoing. We're still talking to witnesses, and we're still gathering information. And if something changes to point us in that direction, then that's where we will go. JOHN YANG: Do you expect more charges as the investigation continues? STEVEN REED: Yes, I think that's possible. Again, I think, for us, it would be premature to say there would or would not be any additional charges. As witnesses come forward, as more information comes out, there certainly could be.

And we're going to continue to follow the evidence and let that take us to whatever decisions that are made by not only the police department, but also our district attorney and anyone at a high-level prosecution. JOHN YANG: You talked about the progress that's been made in Montgomery. What's the state of racial relations in your -- in your city right now? STEVEN REED: You know, I think progress is certainly measured by the fact that I'm here.

And I was elected in 2019 with two-thirds of the vote and a multicultural, multiracial, multigenerational coalition that we put together. That said, there are still strains. There's still a level of tension that probably is here, much like it is in a lot of places where there's old versus new. There's a certain mind-set that has been prevailing, and there's a new one that's come in. And I think, when you add to that the national discourse around whether it's Black history being taught in schools, or whether it's our legislature not adhering to a Supreme Court order to draw a second congressional seat as majority-Black, there are certainly challenges here.

But that's not to say that, when we think back 10 or 20 years ago, that we haven't come a long way. It's just that we still have a long way to go. And I think that is not just Montgomery. I think that is many cities throughout this nation.

JOHN YANG: Steven Reed, mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, thank you very much. STEVEN REED: Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: And, remember, there is a lot more online, including an in-depth explainer on the South American summit focused on deforestation in the Amazon. That's at PBS.org/NewsHour.

And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Amna Nawaz. On behalf of the entire "NewsHour" team, thank you for joining us.

2023-08-11 17:28

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