PBS NewsHour full episode, March 14, 2023

PBS NewsHour full episode, March 14, 2023

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AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening, and welcome. I'm Amna Nawaz. GEOFF BENNETT: And I'm Geoff Bennett. On the "NewsHour" tonight: A Russian jet forces down a U.S. drone as it was conducting surveillance

over the Black Sea. AMNA NAWAZ: President Biden signs an executive order to increase background checks on gun purchases and crack down on firearm dealers who violate existing laws. GEOFF BENNETT: As the fallout from two bank failures ripples through the markets, inflation eases, but stays high, complicating the Federal Reserve's response. AMNA NAWAZ: And an American manufacturer is accused of violating U.S. sanctions by doing

business with the Russian arms industry. SIMON OSTROVSKY: The reason Haas machining tools are so important to the arms industry is because they can take an unrefined hunk of metal like this and turn it into something useful, like this mortar round. (BREAK) GEOFF BENNETT: Good evening, and welcome to the "NewsHour." There is a new flash point today in the ever-worsening relationship between the United States and Russia. AMNA NAWAZ: The U.S. says an American drone was harassed in the Black Sea and then bumped

by a Russian fighter jet, forcing the drone down into the waters below. Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin has been following all of this and joins us here. Nick, good to see you. NICK SCHIFRIN: Good to see you.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, what more do we know about exactly how this collision occurred? NICK SCHIFRIN: U.S. officials say this drone left its base in Eastern Europe on what the U.S. assumed was going to be a routine surveillance flight over the Black Sea. The U.S. sends these drones into the Black Sea there routinely because they can see into Russian-occupied Crimea and, depending on where they are, into Russia itself. And a reminder, MQ-9 are big.

They're 60-feet-wide. They're 35-feet-long. They weigh 5,000 pounds. Now, a military official tells me that this drone was unarmed. These drones in the Black Sea have been harassed intermittently by Russia before, but never what we saw today.

Never has a U.S. jet -- sorry -- Russian jet harassed a drone for 30 minutes, then dumped fuel on the drone, then actually ran into the drone. Let's listen to Department of Defense spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder earlier today. BRIG. GEN.

PATRICK RYDER, Pentagon Press Secretary: While intercepts, in and of themselves, are not that uncommon, the fact that this type of behavior from these Russian pilots, that is uncommon and unfortunate and unsafe. NICK SCHIFRIN: A U.S. official who watched the video of this incident goes much further. He told me that this was not a controlled tap. The Russian pilot was barreling toward the drone, out of control, tried to pull away from the from the drone, and that's when the Russian jet actually hit the back of it. This person tells me -- quote -- "This was not something you would see a professional pilot do," called it amateur hour.

GEOFF BENNETT: So, Nick, how serious is this latest incident, in light of the existing tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the war in Ukraine? NICK SCHIFRIN: On the one hand, it's very serious because it just doesn't happen. This is certainly the first incident of physical contact between the U.S. and Russian militaries since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

But, frankly, it's believed to be the first contact in decades between the U.S. and Russian militaries. On the other hand, this was not a manned aircraft.

We're not talking about a Russian jet threatening a U.S. pilot. And the administration's is trying to keep it within the diplomatic lane. The Russian ambassador to the U.S. has been summoned to the State Department. The U.S. ambassador to Moscow visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow this afternoon.

John Kirby, the NSC staff spokesman, said: "If the message that Russia is sending is trying to deter us from flying over the Black Sea, that will fail." But Geoff, if there was a consequence to Russia right now, the U.S. will say -- will not say what that is. GEOFF BENNETT: Nick Schifrin, thanks so much for that reporting. NICK SCHIFRIN: Thank you. GEOFF BENNETT: In the day's other headlines: Inflation shows fresh signs of easing, but prices are still well above where they were a year ago.

The Labor Departments report from February finds consumer prices rose 0.4 percent from January. On a year-to-year basis, prices climbed 6 percent. That's down from the peak of more than 9 percent last June. There's word tonight that the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has triggered two federal investigations. Reports today say the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have opened parallel probes.

Regulators are looking into sales of stock by bank executives in the days before the collapse. Millions of Americans bore the brunt of foul weather today, from atmospheric rivers to nor'easters. Stephanie Sy reports, heavy snow and fresh rounds of rain brought new disruptions and dangers. STEPHANIE SY: The wrath of winter is once again bearing down on both sides of the country. In the Northeast, a wet, snowy storm moved in this morning, low visibility on roads making it dangerous for drivers to get around parts of New England, as well as Upstate New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania and Northern New Jersey. WOMAN: I mean, the drive was like pretty crazy.

There's some power lines down. STEPHANIE SY: It's why Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey cautioned drivers to stay put when possible. GOV. MAURA HEALEY (D-MA): We just ask people to stay safe, stay off the roads.

This is a long, sustaining storm. And so we're not out of it. STEPHANIE SY: Hundreds of flights were canceled, the majority of them at Boston and New York City area airports. Hundreds of schools had to be closed too. Forecasters say the storm will last through Wednesday with snow accumulation predicted to reach two feet in the highest elevations. Meanwhile, in the West, crews in California rushed to repair a broken levee on the central coast just as more rain started falling.

The levee break has already led to flooding in the agricultural community of Pajaro, where this mother had to evacuate her family last minute. She says she needs to get back. MARIA, Pajaro, California, Resident (through translator): The only thing we want is to pass the bridge to get our things that we left, because we don't have clothes. Many parents left their work tools at home. Then how are we going to work? STEPHANIE SY: Monterey County officials are warning of a similar fate for the Salinas River, which is at risk of flooding roadways and agricultural land in coming days. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

GEOFF BENNETT: All told, California has been hit by 10 atmospheric river storms this winter. The state of Ohio is suing Norfolk Southern railroad over last month's train derailment in East Palestine. The federal lawsuit aims to make Norfolk Southern pay for cleanup, environmental damages and economic losses.

The state says it doesn't yet know what the total cost will be. In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office says top commanders have agreed again to hold firm at Bakhmut. Russian forces have been trying to capture the front-line eastern city for seven months. Meantime, in the city of Kramatorsk, a Russian strike left gaping holes in a low-rise apartment building today. At least one person was killed. Facebook's parent company, Meta, announced today it's cutting 10,000 more jobs this year.

The social media giant also said it won't be filling 5,000 positions that were already vacant. Meta has slashed 11,000 jobs last November in the face of declining revenue. On Wall Street, bank stocks bounced back and the broader market rallied. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 336 points, or 1 percent, to close it 32155. The Nasdaq rose 2 percent.

The S&P 500 added 1.7 percent. And a passing of note: A trailblazing former congresswoman, Pat Schroeder, died overnight. The Colorado Democrat had suffered a stroke in Celebration, Florida, her home in recent years. Starting in 1973, Schroeder served 12 terms and made a name with her sharp wit.

She branded Ronald Reagan the -- quote -- "Teflon president" and often recalled the sexism when she faced while serving in Congress. FMR. REP. PAT SCHROEDER (D-CO): When the 47th reporter asked me how I could be a mother and a congresswoman, I said: "Because I have a brain and a uterus, and they both work."

(LAUGHTER) FMR. REP. PAT SCHROEDER: And let me tell you, I was in trouble for a very, very long time. GEOFF BENNETT: Schroeder was frozen out of key committee assignments, but she still managed to push through the landmark Family Leave Act in 1993.

Pat Schroeder was 82 years old. And still to come on the "NewsHour": the EPA announces new rules to limit toxic chemicals in drinking water; Australia buys American-made submarines to counter China's growing presence in the Pacific; and a theater in Appalachian, Virginia, works to rise above stereotypes. AMNA NAWAZ: President Biden traveled to Monterey Park, California, today, where a mass shooting in January killed 11 people. While there, he announced an executive order to tackle gun violence, building on the bipartisan Safer Communities Act that he signed last year.

Already this year, there have been at least 110 mass shootings in the U.S. and more than 8,000 gun deaths, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. White House correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez brings us up to speed now. Laura, good to see you.

So tell us about the president's announcement today. What exactly did he announce? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: President Biden announced an executive order on guns, Amna, that will take a number of steps that gun safety advocates have been calling on his administration to do since he took office. And so this gun violence executive order, what it would do is, it directs the attorney general to clarify who sells firearms, in effect, expanding background checks.

It would prevent some former federally licensed gun dealers from selling firearms. Those are gun dealers who had their licenses revoked in some cases. It also encourages the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report on marketing to minors.

And it tasks agencies to create a federal system for shooting response. In addition to this, Amna, as you noted, the president spoke today announcing these executive actions. And he admitted that his hands are ultimately tied when it comes to bigger steps to curb gun violence. And he called out Congress like this: JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: But let's be clear.

None of this absolves Congress the responsibility -- from the responsibility of acting to pass universal background checks, eliminate gun manufacturer immunity from liability. (APPLAUSE) JOE BIDEN: And I'm determined once again to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: In addition, Amna, he also called out Republicans, some Republicans that he says are calling to ban -- to abolish -- excuse me -- the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco services, as well as the FBI. AMNA NAWAZ: Laura, tell us more about that, the first piece you mentioned on background checks, because we hear a lot about that in the gun safety debate.

What's the potential impact of that part of the executive order? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, Amna, so here, the real difficulty is that there is no federal data on how guns are purchased -- on how many guns are purchased without background checks. And the studies are limited, but there was a 2017 study by Harvard and Northeastern universities. And that study found that one in five people, one in five gun owners bought a gun without a background check. And, again, what the president is doing today with this action is trying to get as close as possible to a universal background check without legislation by the Congress. AMNA NAWAZ: So, Laura, what are gun safety advocates, who have long been calling for the president, for Congress to do more, what are they saying about this today? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Overall, gun safety advocates that I spoke to praised the president's actions. In particular, they were very happy about this one effort that we're talking about that would more clearly define which businesses qualify as firearms dealers.

And President Obama tried to do this in 2016. But, ultimately, it didn't have much effect. I spoke to Kris Brown, the president of the Brady Campaign, a gun safety group, and she had this to say about how President Biden's actions would be different. KRIS BROWN, President, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: The lesson is that we have to have a very clear rule from the Department of Justice of what it means to be in the business of selling firearms. We want that to mean selling more than five firearms in a year. It means you are in the business of selling firearms.

If DOJ comes up with that definition, which we are pushing very hard, we can effectively close this loophole in the law. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Now, you heard there what Kris Brown wants the definition to be, but a White House official told reporters that, ultimately, the language of this possible regulation will be decided upon by Attorney General Merrick Garland. AMNA NAWAZ: Laura, I know you have been talking to your law enforcement sources as well. Many of them find themselves on the front lines when it comes to our gun violence problem in America. What do they think about the president's announcement? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So there is something in here for law enforcement, Amna, specifically about the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, that helps law enforcement match cartridge casings to the guns that they're fired from.

And I spoke to Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, and he had this to say about the president's action on that ballistics information network. JIM PASCO, Executive Director, National Fraternal Order of Police: NIBIN is purely an anti-criminal tool. And in terms of solving crimes, which is second only to preventing crimes in the minds of law enforcement officers, nothing is more valuable than being able to put the gun in the hands of the shooter, figuratively, and show where it came from. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And so what this executive order does, Amna, is, it updates the requirements for law enforcement to more speedily report this ballistics data. So, they will report it faster and more efficiently into this nationwide network.

AMNA NAWAZ: That is our White House correspondent, Laura Barron-Lopez, reporting for us tonight. Laura, thank you. Good to see you. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Thank you.

GEOFF BENNETT: Days after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, there are plenty of questions being asked about the health of our banks, whether it's in the industry, on Wall Street, among lawmakers, or everyday Americans who want to know about the security of their banking accounts. Sheila Bair is focused on these issues as the former chair of the FDIC. She led the agency from 2006 to 2011, working to keep the system stable during the Great Recession. Sheila Bair, thanks for being with us. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, of Signature Bank, it's raising questions about how the banking system is regulated and how it's supervised.

And there are those who say that, rather than tightening the screws on the Wall Street giants even more, that regulators should really focus their attention on smaller firms who have not really faced the same level of scrutiny. What's your view? SHEILA BAIR, Former Chair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: Well, first of all, I think those -- the smaller firms, the regionals and the larger community banks, I think most of them are just fine. They did actually very well, during the financial crisis. They remained stable and solid. The traditional ones, the ones that have been around for a long time, have diversified deposit bases, good risk management and good asset quality. So I think that we had some unusual situations, especially with Silicon Valley Bank, that should not be extrapolated to the entire midsize segment of banks.

That's not to say that we can't do some things better, but I don't think there are any widespread problems with regional banks. So I think we need to be thoughtful about it. And I think most of them are just fine. GEOFF BENNETT: Was it the right call for government agencies to announce what amounts to a bailout for customers of those collapsed banks... SHEILA BAIR: Right.

GEOFF BENNETT: ... ensuring the deposits well beyond the $250,000 threshold? SHEILA BAIR: Yes. Well, no, I don't think so. So, Silicon Valley was a $200 billion bank.

We have a $23 trillion banking system. It was not systemic by any imagination. And most of its uninsured depositors were very wealthy venture capitalist and the portfolio companies that they invest in. So they made the argument that we had -- they had some start-ups that needed to access their uninsured deposits for payroll. I think that was kind of probably a very small subset of the uninsured depositors who were rescued in this. I think most of them are quite, quite able to withstand some haircut on their uninsured deposits.

GEOFF BENNETT: The administration makes the argument that that extraordinary rescue action was necessary to avoid a run on the banks that could have collapsed the banking sector and tanked the overall economy. Do you buy that? SHEILA BAIR: No, I don't, because they just made the determination for two banks. I mean, this is an extraordinary procedure. You need supermajorities of the FDIC board, the Fed, the Treasury Department, the president.

So each time one of these banks gets in trouble, these smaller banks, you are going to do this, go through this process? I really don't see that happening. I think the Fed's lending facility did do a lot to calm the market. Now, that is immediately available. It's available to everybody. So, they're not giving favored attention to one or two banks. So that will provide a lot of liquidity to banks that have not -- like Silicon Valley Bank, did not -- have not managed their interest rate risk very well, have a lot of securities that have lost market value.

They will be able to get a loan with using them as collateral at the full face value. GEOFF BENNETT: A question about how we got here, because lots of people are pointing to the rollback of the consumer protections in the Dodd-Frank Act back in 2018... SHEILA BAIR: Right. Right. GEOFF BENNETT: ... under former President Donald Trump as playing a role in the collapse

of Silicon Valley Bank. Do you see it that way? SHEILA BAIR: There are so many different narratives going on. I think there were some things in -- some things that happen into 2018 with the law you're referring to, as well as some of the things that Fed did on its own, the so-called tiering, so having different regulatory regimes for different size institutions. And some of that's OK. But a couple of things, I think, were not OK.

One is, I think banks need at least an annual stress just, I think they just do. Now, you can have a simpler stress test for the smaller institutions, but they need it. They need to be -- right now, they need to be stressing the securities, the securities that they hold that have lost market value and, if they had to sell them, how much trouble they would be in. So I think that was a mistake.

I also think the revised regulations let these midsized banks, the smaller banks, even if they had the securities we have been talking about that are -- that they intend to sell, they don't have to recognize the market loss. So, in other words, they don't have to deduct from their capital market losses on those securities. That was a mistake.

At least for those that they think they might sell, they absolutely should be deducting them from capital now to make sure that they have enough capital to absorb the losses if and when they do sell. So those are two mistakes that I think should be corrected. But, there again, I don't think we need a big, broad overhaul for regional banks. Again, I think most of them are just fine. It's a teachable moment maybe, perhaps, reminding people how banks work, how deposit insurance works.

GEOFF BENNETT: The Federal Reserve meets next week to consider what would be another in a series of interest rate hikes. How do the collapse of these banks, combined with the latest data showing inflation cooling only slightly? How does that affect their decision-making? What do you think they should do? SHEILA BAIR: The reason these securities lost value is because the Fed is raising rates. Now, the Fed needs to raise rates to fight inflation. But they can only go so far, so fast. And so if I were -- I would hope that they would hit pause and assess the stability of the banking system in its ability to absorb these rapid, very rapid, very big interest rate increases. I think it would be good to measure the impact on the real economy too.

I'm very worried about the labor market. GEOFF BENNETT: Sheila Bair is the former chair of the FDIC. Thanks for being with us. SHEILA BAIR: Thanks for having me. AMNA NAWAZ: For the first time, the federal government is on the cusp of regulating a class of deadly so-called forever chemicals out of America's drinking water.

The EPA's proposal applies to six of those chemicals known as PFAS compounds, and would require water utilities to clean any detectable level out of their systems. Doing so could cost billions, and thousands of their chemical cousins would remain unregulated. Annie Snider covers this closely for Politico, and she joins me now.

Annie, welcome, and thanks for joining us. Let's back it up here a little bit, though. There are thousands of these PFAS chemicals. Drinking water is just one place that they're found. So where else do we find them? How common are they? ANNIE SNIDER, Politico: They are extremely common.

They have been in widespread consumer use since the 1940s. They have an extremely strong chemical bond that makes them very useful for commercial purposes. They have been used in nonstick cookware. You know you're not supposed to use your knife in a Teflon pan. That's because of these chemicals.

They have been used in camping gear, stain-resistant carpeting, military firefighting foam that's been sprayed at bases and installations around the country and at airports around the country. They are ubiquitous in the environment. And because of that very strong bond that makes me so useful, they're also extremely difficult to break down in the environment.

So once they're there, they typically stay there and they bioaccumulate. That's not just in the environment in the rivers and streams where we get our water. It's also in American blood.

We breathe them in. We eat them in our food, and they're in food packaging as well. And we also get them through our drinking water.

AMNA NAWAZ: So why would we want to regulate them out? What do we know about the links between some of these chemicals and negative health impacts? ANNIE SNIDER: Yes. Well, as you mentioned, there are thousands. There's estimated to be 12,000 chemicals in this class. Many of them, we know virtually nothing about.

But we do know something about some of them. The best studied chemicals, these two that have been in production since the -- that were in production since the 1940s, have been pretty clearly linked with cancer and other health ailments, things like high blood pressure, developmental impacts, problem birth defects, and also immune system effects. One of the kind of more interesting effects that we see at extremely low levels of exposure is an impact on the immune system that makes vaccines less effective. AMNA NAWAZ: So, the EPA is saying they're going to be regulated up to detectable levels, does that mean lower levels are considered safe? ANNIE SNIDER: Not exactly. So, EPA's proposed regulation here would limit six PFAS. Two of these chemicals, the two that I mentioned earlier that are the most well-understood and are actually no longer in production, would be limited to detectable levels.

So EPA has actually said that levels even 1,000 times lower than what can be detected are still dangerous to human health, can still cause negative health impacts. But, practically speaking, all that they can require is for utilities to monitor for these chemicals and, if they find them, treat them so thoroughly that they're below those detectable limits. The other thing that EPA did in this regulation is include limits for four other types of PFAS chemicals. And some of these are chemicals that are still in commercial use.

In fact, two of them are the ones that the chemicals industry turned to when they phased out those two older chemicals. And for those, EPA is taking sort of an innovative approach, which acknowledges that these chemicals might have more severe health effects in combination than they do individually. AMNA NAWAZ: So, Annie, we know some states have already moved to regulate these compounds to some degree, but this is a proposed federal standard.

How easy would it be for water utilities to meet these new standards? What would it take? ANNIE SNIDER: Technologically speaking, there are absolutely technologies that drinking water utilities could install that would treat for these chemicals that are pretty well-proven. We have got things like granular activated carbon and reverse osmosis. The technologies are there. What they are not is cheap. They are very expensive to install in the first place. And they also have ongoing operational costs.

And the way that our law is set up right now, those costs would be borne by customers. Those would show up on people's regular monthly or quarterly water bills. They would not be paid for by the polluters who put those chemicals there in the first place. AMNA NAWAZ: Annie, when you step back here, how big a deal is it that there could be a federal regulation for this, knowing what we know about the potential impacts and this compound -- on the chemical compounds more widely? How big a deal is this? ANNIE SNIDER: It's an extremely significant step.

A little bit of context here. The U.S. has not regulated a new contaminant in drinking water in nearly 30 years. The Congress overhauled the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996, and made it significantly more difficult for EPA to regulate chemicals, to regulate contaminants in drinking water. And so, if this rule is finalized -- and that is a big if -- it would be the first major upgrade to the safety of the nation's drinking water in nearly 30 years.

And what's worth noting is, those same technologies that can treat for these PFAS chemicals would also in many cases remove other contaminants from the drinking water as well. And so it could have some very significant improvements to the nation's drinking water overall. AMNA NAWAZ: That is Annie Snider from Politico joining us tonight. Annie, thank you so much. ANNIE SNIDER: Thank you.

GEOFF BENNETT: You have likely heard how Russia's economy depends on revenues from oil exports. You have also probably heard how U.S. sanctions have been ramped up to choke Russia's war effort against Ukraine.

But there's one area equally important to the Kremlin's military output that has so far avoided scrutiny, and it involves a high-tech American manufacturer that may be flouting export controls. With the support of the Pulitzer Center, special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky has this exclusive report. SIMON OSTROVSKY: This is the factory floor of RATEP, a weapons manufacturer in Russia that is part of the Almaz-Antey holding, which has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 2014, when Russia first attacked Ukraine. It produces guidance systems for anti-aircraft weapons used by the Russian military.

And it builds them using equipment made by California-based industrial manufacturing giant Haas Automation. "NewsHour" has learned RATEP is just one of several sanctioned enterprises in the Russian arms industry that have been supplied with precision machining tools manufactured here at Haas' facility in Oxnard, California, in what may represent a breach of American sanctions. That's according to documents filed with the U.S. Treasury and the Department of Commerce late last month. DENYS HUTYK, Economic Security Council of Ukraine: We were surprised that, even now, one year after the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, Haas Automation is continuing its direct shipments to Russia. SIMON OSTROVSKY: Denys Hutyk is an expert consultant with the Economic Security Council of Ukraine, or ESCU, the group that filed the paperwork with the U.S. government agencies

that oversee sanctions compliance. It alleges that Haas is doing business with the Russian arms industry through Abamet Management LTD., a company in Russia that is its official distributor in Russia and Belarus. DENYS HUTYK: Russia was publishing the actual public procurements conducted by, for example, Russian military plants. And we saw that Abamet had a lot of customers within the Russian military industrial complex, including the sanctioned entities. And we even can see the description of the actual products that were shipped by Abamet to Russian-sanctioned enterprises. And we see that Haas equipment bought by Abamet directly from the U.S. were sold to Russian-sanctioned

entities. SIMON OSTROVSKY: The ESCU said it spent months combing through Russian government procurement databases and customs records to establish that Haas, the largest machine tool builder in the Western world, supplies multiple Russian weapons manufacturers with sophisticated equipment known as computer numerical control machines, or CNC. DENYS HUTYK: Those tools are very accurate, because the military industry needs very high accuracy and high precision in the production of different parts. It can be the parts for the ships, the parts for the aircraft, the different equipment and parts for missile systems, or even radio electronic equipment.

SIMON OSTROVSKY: They're so good, in fact, that the U.S. military also uses lathes and mills produced by Haas. Russia's own machine tools industry makes less precise and less sophisticated products, so it relies on imports from other countries to keep its factories feeding the war machine. The reason Haas machining tools are so important to the arms industry is because they can take an unrefined hunk of metal like this and turn it into something useful, like this mortar round.

Notably, both sides of the front line have access to Haas equipment. This plant in Ukraine uses Haas machine tools to make parts for tractors and combine harvesters. But this dual-use technology is versatile and could easily be retuned to make almost anything, including weaponry. MAN (through translator): We made this bed for a tank-mounted machine gun. This Picatinny rail was milled on our Haas machines. It's used to mount sights, optics and illumination.

We had plans to make these mortar safeties too. It's all within our capabilities. SIMON OSTROVSKY: Haas vice president Peter Zierhut denied the company was still doing business in Russia. In a written statement, he told "NewsHour" that Haas had cut ties with its Russian distributor on March 3 of last year, just a week after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. The e-mail reads: "Haas no longer supplies machines, replacement parts, or anything else to any companies in Russia. Statements to the contrary are false."

But our investigation puts that account into doubt. Customs records reviewed by "NewsHour" show that shipments continued for months after Russia's invasion began. At least 18 shipments were made to Russia directly from Haas worth $2.8 million from March 4 through October of last year. Sanctions or no, Russia's arms industry depends on technology developed in other countries. Agiya Zahrebelska is the head of the sanctions department on the National Agency on Corruption Prevention, the Ukrainian government body that sets sanctions policy.

She told the "NewsHour" the problem was much wider than just Haas. Germany's Siemens and Japan's DMG Mori are also computer numerical control machine tool manufacturers Ukraine believes to be key to the continuing function of Russia's arms industry. AGIYA ZAHREBELSKA, National Agency on Corruption Prevention: Approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of a Russia machine industry is Western machine, is imported machine. You have no guided missile, you have no tank, you have no rifle, a simple rifle, if you have no CNC machine. SIMON OSTROVSKY: According to Zahrebelska, at least two sanctioned entities have displayed Haas equipment in their own promotional materials, including the Vektor Research Institute in St. Petersburg, which helps manufacture satellites likely used to track ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Another is the Scientific Research Institute of Electrical Carbon Products in the Moscow region, which makes satellites and electronics. That's in addition to the footage from RATEP we showed at the beginning of this report, which a Russian television channel first broadcast just three months ago. The Ukrainian authorities further believe Haas continues to help maintain the equipment already sold to Russian defense firms with spare parts and software updates.

DENYS HUTYK: Legal experts believe that the company is aware or should have been aware of its equipment being used by Russian military plants. If our organization is able to trace the links between the Abamet and the Russian-sanctioned military plants, then it is surely possible for such a big company, such a corporation as Haas Automation. AGIYA ZAHREBELSKA: We are sure that they can check what country, what entities will be end user. And if these companies cannot control, I think that they have not a right to supply these products and to produce these products, because these products can kill people.

SIMON OSTROVSKY: Now the big question is whether the U.S. government will step in to investigate one of its own leading suppliers of manufacturing technology. Ukraine's ESCU says they hope a penalty would serve as a warning to others who continue doing business with Russia's arms industry. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Simon Ostrovsky in Kyiv. AMNA NAWAZ: Beijing said today that the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia had embarked on a -- quote -- "dangerous path" after those three countries announced a historic submarine agreement yesterday in San Diego.

It's known as AUKUS, for Australia, U.K., and U.S. Nick Schifrin is back with this look at how it will extend one of the most important American weapons systems into waters that China claims as its own. NICK SCHIFRIN: Military officials call it one of their crown jewels, the nuclear-powered attack submarine, with technology so sensitive, it hasn't been shared with any ally in 65 years, until now. JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: AUKUS has one overriding objective, to enhance the stability in Indo-Pacific amid rapidly shifting global dynamics. NICK SCHIFRIN: President Biden made the announcement yesterday, alongside British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. JOE BIDEN: One of the vessels you see behind me is a Virginia class nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Missouri.

Top-of-the-line submarines are the vanguard of U.S. naval power. NICK SCHIFRIN: As we saw for ourselves late last year aboard the same Virginia class USS Missouri. Navy Commander Carlos Martinez walked me on board.

It can stay underwater longer and travel farther than conventionally powered submarines. The crew shows how they get a torpedo ready to launch. Besides torpedoes that can attack ships, these submarines conduct surveillance and can carry cruise missiles to attack targets on land. It's the one system experts agree is the most difficult for China to detect and can sail through what for China are the most sensitive waters.

CMDR. CARLOS MARTINEZ, U.S. Navy: If the operational commander tells me, as a ship, that he wants me to go to a certain area via a certain route that's international waters, then that's certainly within our right to do so. NICK SCHIFRIN: Does that include the Taiwan Strait? CMDR. CARLOS MARTINEZ: The international waters of the Taiwan Strait are available for navigation. NICK SCHIFRIN: The deal with Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. develops in stages.

This year, Australian sailors will embark with American and British sailors. As early as 2027, one U.K. Astute class submarine and up to four U.S. Virginia class submarines will rotate through a base in Western Australia.

Beginning in the early 2030s, the U.S. will sell Australia as many as five Virginia class submarines. Meanwhile, Australia and the U.K. will both build a new submarine, called the SSN-AUKUS, ready in the U.K. by the late 2030s and in Australia by the early 2040s.

It's designed to complicate China's military plans, as Beijing tests more missiles than the rest of the world combined and has launched one of the fastest military modernizations in history. Richard Marles is Australia's defense minister. RICHARD MARLES, Australian Defense Minister: We are witnessing the biggest conventional military buildup that we have seen since the end of the Second World War, and we need to respond to this. A failure to do so would see us be condemned by history.

NICK SCHIFRIN: The agreement IS part of the Biden administration's The agreement is part of the Biden administration's plans to confront China by strengthening relations with allies, especially in Asia. Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time accused the U.S. by name of trying to contain China. To discuss AUKUS and the American drone forced down by Russian jets over the Black Sea, we turn to Mara Karlin, who is performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. Mara Karlin, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Thanks very much.

MARA KARLIN, Performing the Duties of U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy: Thanks so much for having me tonight, Nick. NICK SCHIFRIN: What consequences will Russia face for helping down a U.S. drone over the Black Sea? MARA KARLIN: You know, Nick, this was a routine operation that the MQ-9, an uncrewed aircraft, was performing. And it was doing it in international airspace. And what we saw by the Russians was unprofessional, it was incompetent, and it was unsafe.

So our colleagues from the State Department are engaging the Russian government right now. But it really is quite unfortunate to see them take such a -- such steps. NICK SCHIFRIN: Unfortunate, but will there be a direct consequence? MARA KARLIN: Our colleagues at the State Department will speak with them about what happened. But I just want to underscore it's international airspace.

We all know how to operate in safe, competent, professional ways. And that is not what we saw from the Russians. NICK SCHIFRIN: Let's turn to AUKUS. You said that this agreement is not aimed at any one country. But does the U.S., Australia and U.K. independently having nuclear-powered attack submarines complicate

Beijing's plans if it were to decide to go to war? MARA KARLIN: Nick, indeed, it is not about any one country. It's about stability and security in the Indo-Pacific. It's also about delivering deterrence at all four phases, and really what... NICK SCHIFRIN: All four phases of the agreement.

MARA KARLIN: All four -- at all four phases of the agreement. Having three allies, three very close allies knitted together with this tremendous undersea capability really is going to be important for ensuring that this region, the Indo-Pacific region, can maintain its security, stability and its prosperity going forward. NICK SCHIFRIN: Is China more deterred by Australia having a nuclear-powered attack submarine than it is by the United States having yet another nuclear-powered attack submarine? MARA KARLIN: The United States is lucky to have a tremendous network of allies and partners and tremendous undersea capabilities. Having three allies with these capabilities, strengthening our defense industrial bases, does show that we're willing to work together in any number of challenges.

And, look, the U.K., Australia have stood by the United States. Together, we have dealt with no shortage of challenges around the globe. And now we are all especially focused on the Indo-Pacific. NICK SCHIFRIN: You announced today that Australia will purchase both new and older Virginia class submarines, says the plan. Will the U.S. shipbuilding industry have to build extra submarines for Australia, or will

Australia got to cut the line and get a sub that was supposed to go to the U.S. Navy? MARA KARLIN: So, Australia will be getting a mix. They will be purchasing a mix of submarines that are in service, so submarines that the U.S. Navy has been using, and then newer submarines.

And those, we will deliver. And the first one will be in hand in less than a decade, which is actually really fast, given just the significance of this -- of this capability. Our submarine industrial base has really needed a lot of investment. The Biden administration has pushed for that investment, and Congress has delivered. In fact, the defense budget, as you know, was unveiled yesterday. There's $4.6 billion in increasing our production and our maintenance of our submarine industrial

base. So that's really important. Australia will also be contributing a proportional amount to that submarine industrial base.

So we're going to work together with the Australians to make sure, as we have throughout the last 18 months of developing this massive plan that the heads of state had devised, in ensuring that they are getting what they need, and we are doing so as well. NICK SCHIFRIN: But will Australia get to cut the line? MARA KARLIN: It's really not an issue of cutting the line. It's really an issue of making sure that we can increase our maintenance. Right now, we have a lot more submarines that are -- we have got a maintenance backlog, if you will. If we can increase that, that will be really important to make sure our submarines are ready and out and about and to be able to increase that production. Look, we have put in, thanks to the Congress, extra funding in that industrial base.

That early investment is going to have an outsized effect. And I think we are increasingly going to see that we have the facilities and that we have the talent that we need to make all of this a reality. NICK SCHIFRIN: You have acknowledged this. There has been maintenance issues.

There have been huge production issues. The Congress has funded two Virginia class submarines per year, but there's only 1.2, on average, being produced.

And you cited the $4.6 billion number, but the Republicans on the Hill say that's not enough. Take a listen to this statement from Roger Wicker.

He is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee: "The Biden administration has never asked Congress for the type of generational investment of resources, authorities and political capital in our submarine industrial base to meet our own Navy's submarine requirements, let alone additional requirements." And this is somebody who is in favor of AUKUS and what you have been doing. What's your response to that? MARA KARLIN: Well, first of all, I have been pleased to see the tremendous bipartisan support for AUKUS. It really is a generational leap in this alliance. It's a game-changer, and a big play. In terms of the comments on the need to invest in the submarine industrial base, we're working very closely with Congress to be able to max the investment that the industrial base can absorb.

We're also studying really hard to see what effect the investments are having as we go forward. I think... NICK SCHIFRIN: And the effect that AUKUS could have, do you believe that it will tax the industrial base further? MARA KARLIN: I believe that AUKUS will help lift up the submarine industrial base for us, for the United Kingdom, and for Australia. NICK SCHIFRIN: Because Australia is going to invest into the American industrial base, just like the U.S. is investing in itself?

MARA KARLIN: They are indeed. But I would underscore just the increasing recognition that we, as a country, have in our spectacular undersea capabilities and the need to ensure we can maintain that comparative advantage. NICK SCHIFRIN: Mara Karlin, thank you very much. MARA KARLIN: Thanks for having me. GEOFF BENNETT: Barter Theatre, born out of the Depression, is thriving 90 years later, now known for bringing regional themes to its rural Appalachian stage. Jeffrey Brown visited Abingdon, Virginia, to show the changing face of the area for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

ACTRESS: And I said, isn't it tragic, Carla? He fell over on that big side. JEFFREY BROWN: A rehearsal of a new play about a group of women in a small factory town. ACTRESS: What's so wrong with me, mama? JEFFREY BROWN: Experiencing loss and grief, friendship and family ties. AUDREY CEFALY, Playwright: Her volume and intensity there is just kind of way off the charts. JEFFREY BROWN: Playwright Audrey Cefaly. AUDREY CEFALY: What I am trying to do is to articulate without condescension the interior worlds of working-class people of this region.

There are a lot of preconceptions and myths and stereotypes out there. And I'm trying to dispel what I can with truthful characters from an honest perspective. JEFFREY BROWN: Cefaly's play "Trouble (at the Vista View Mobile Home Estates)" was one of six featured this year at Barter Theatre's annual Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights, which offers regional writers a chance to work with actors and directors to fine-tune their plays. ACTRESS: There's no water here, because that's fun. It's so fun.

(LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: And to see how audiences respond during a staged reading here in one of Barter's two theaters. AUDREY CEFALY: There's something very singular about being among writers who are all focused and devoted to the same goal, which is to elevate voices in the region from whence they came. NICK PIPER, Associate Artistic Director, Barter Theatre: I think what it really is, is about our audience, to develop these plays for our audience, plays that reflect their lives, that reflect their values, or challenge those and explore them. It is so good to see you all back here in person. JEFFREY BROWN: Barter's associate artistic director, Nick Piper, is also director of the 23-year-old festival, an opportunity for local audiences to hear new stories and for regional writers to develop new work. At least one of these plays will eventually receive a full production at Barter.

NICK PIPER: That has the possibility of changing a playwright's career and life. Once it's gotten to production at, like, a regional theater, a professional regional theater, other theaters throughout the country are looking at -- we look at each other's seasons and see what other theaters are choosing and what their audiences are interested in. And... JEFFREY BROWN: This is the ecosystem of theater in the U.S.

NICK PIPER: This is it. It's -- that's right. JEFFREY BROWN: Barter is located in Abingdon, a town of about 8,000 in the westernmost tip of Virginia, wedged between West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. The theater has a special role in this region, according to Henry and Flora (ph) Joy, longtime supporters who drove an hour from home in Johnson City, Tennessee, to see the festival. HENRY JOY, Barter Theatre Patron: It's not just an artistic magnet, but it's an economic engine for not only Abingdon, in particular, but for the entire Southwest Virginia, East Tennessee region. It is the place to go.

JEFFREY BROWN: It's also filled with history, 90 years of it. Barter is one of the longest-running professional theaters in the U.S., founded during the Great Depression, when the price of a ticket was 40 cents, or a bartered equivalent in farm products, trading ham for "Hamlet." Founder Robert Porterfield managed to salvage equipment and furnishings, including these balcony seats, from a New York theater going out of business, in order to build his own gorgeous theater.

He also brought in actors from New York and elsewhere. Which the theater still does. And legends like Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, and Patricia Neal have performed here as they were starting out. Today, the theater fuels the local economy through tourism, but also by employing actors, stagehands and craftspeople, all part of the local community. KETCH SECOR, Playwright: I have come to the greatest theater in the world, if you ask me. JEFFREY BROWN: And it's continued to fuel the dreams of people like Ketch Secor, who grew up three hours away in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

"Hooten Holler," the fable of a boy who saves country music, is Secor's debut as a playwright. It's a departure from his normal full-time gig as front man and fiddler of the Grammy Award-winning band Old Crow Medicine Show, and a chance to do a different kind of storytelling. KETCH SECOR: It's the only way I can scratch the musical theater itch is by doing it, by writing it. I wanted to talk about the authenticity of the originators of country music.

You know, these hills, like, they're alive with song. This landscape is a soulful place. So, it's no surprise that so much of the music that has become country and rock 'n' roll comes from this place. JEFFREY BROWN: Barter, a historically white theater in a mostly white town, has also made a commitment to telling stories of Black Appalachia and promoting Black playwrights. ACTOR: How did I, Henry Brown, escape the savagery of slavery? JEFFREY BROWN: "The Transported Man" was part of this year's Appalachian Festival, written by Russell Nichols, who joined remotely, as actors gathered for their first rehearsal of the play. WOMAN: Donovan (ph) and Gio (ph) are going to enter from house right.

JEFFREY BROWN: It tells the story of Henry Box Brown, who shipped himself from slavery in Virginia to freedom in Pennsylvania. Terrance Jackson, a longtime Barter actor who lives in the community, now oversees the theater's Black Stories Black Voices initiative begun in 2022. He says things were different when he first came here 10 years ago from his native Florida. TERRANCE JACKSON, Director of Outreach, Barter Black Stories Black Voices: It was definitely difficult at first to try to find my place, you know, especially back when I first started. It was not a lot of people who looked like me were about in the community, and especially at the theater.

JEFFREY BROWN: Jackson and others here are trying to change that through full-length plays, including at least one in the Appalachian Playwrights Festival, monologue nights, and community events focusing on Black stories. TERRANCE JACKSON: My dream for us at the theater is that no one will ever be shocked to see a Black person in the audience. No one will ever be shocked, including other Black people. I want to be able to create a space where people feel comfortable at all times, whether they're white, Black, anybody.

I think its important because we need representation and we need our stories told. JEFFREY BROWN: For playwright Audrey Cefaly, the festival gave her a chance to represent the working-class people she grew up around in Northern Alabama. AUDREY CEFALY: Every writer that I know of that writes stories in this region is dying to have a space here. So, I feel very, very lucky to be here.

JEFFREY BROWN: For his part, Ketch Secor adds this: KETCH SECOR: This is a big stop on the tour of what makes our country unique. ACTRESS: How do we feel about bourbon as a verb? (LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. AMNA NAWAZ: Later this evening on PBS, "Frontline" presents a film looking at the Federal Reserve's efforts to revive the economy in the wake of the great financial crisis. "The Age of Easy Money" examines the story behind the headlines, focusing on the unintended consequences and the widening gap between Main Street and Wall Street. MAN: Facing the growing possibility of a recession, Wall Street spent another day in turmoil.

WOMAN: and you're probably feeling it in those 401(k)s. NARRATOR: For the stock market and bond market, it was the worst year since the great financial crisis in 2008. WOMAN: The Nasdaq down for four straight quarters for the first time since the dot-com bust. MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, Chief Economic Adviser, Allianz: In 2022, we had this very unusual situation whereby you have made double-digit losses on both risky assets, stocks, and risk-free assets, U.S. Treasuries.

That is not supposed to happen. But there has been absolutely nowhere to hide. AMNA NAWAZ: "The Age of Easy Money" premieres tonight on PBS at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Check your local station listings.

And 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.

2023-03-16 06:28

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