PBS NewsHour full episode, Sept. 28, 2021

PBS NewsHour full episode, Sept. 28, 2021

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AMNA NAWAZ: Good evening. I'm Amna Nawaz. Judy Woodruff is away. On the "NewsHour" tonight: facing questions. Top U.S. military leaders take heat from lawmakers and contradict President Biden on America's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then: high stakes. Progressive Democrats in the House dig in, threatening to vote against the president's bipartisan infrastructure bill just days before a key vote. And the cost of COVID. School closures in Uganda lead children to help their families

survive, with many being trafficked into forced labor. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: 2020 was the first year in two decades that saw an increase in child labor around the world. And with the pandemic devastating economies, the United Nations says the problem is getting much worse. AMNA NAWAZ: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour." (BREAK) AMNA NAWAZ: Strategic failure. That is the assessment of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,

General Mark Milley, on the end of America's 20-year war in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, top commanders recommended to President Biden that the U.S. keep troops in Afghanistan. The president rejected that and the Americans and NATO allies withdrew on August 31. Milley, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Frank McKenzie, who runs U.S. Central Command, all appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Nick Schifrin has the story. SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Let me call the hearing to order. NICK SCHIFRIN: In the Senate committee responsible for military oversight, the military's leaders today said that, earlier this year, after 20 years of war in Afghanistan, they advised it was not time to withdraw.

Central Command Chief General Frank McKenzie: GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE, Commander, U.S. Central Command: My view is that 2, 500 was an appropriate number to remain, and that if we went below that number, we would probably witness the collapse of the Afghan government and the Afghan military. NICK SCHIFRIN: That refutes President Biden's August statement to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that the military supported the withdrawal.

JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: They didn't argue against that. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC News: So, no one told -- your military advisers not tell you, no, we should just keep 2, 500 troops, it's been a stable situation for the last several years, we can do that, we can continue to do that? JOE BIDEN: No, no one said that to me that I can recall. SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R-AK): Was that a false statement by the president of the United States? Remember, you do not have to duty to cover for a president when he is not telling the truth.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Republicans seized on the president's having rejected military advice. Alaska's Dan Sullivan: SEN. DAN SULLIVAN: On the biggest national security fiasco in a generation, there has been zero accountability. NICK SCHIFRIN: Mississippi's Roger Wicker: SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS): Our credibility has been gravely damaged, has it not, General Milley? NICK SCHIFRIN: Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley: GEN. MARK MILLEY, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: I think that our credibility with allies

and partners around the world and with adversaries is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go. And I think that damage is one word that could be used, yes. NICK SCHIFRIN: And after two decades of war, more than 2,000 Americans killed, 20,000 Americans wounded, and the Taliban in control in Kabul for the first time, Milley admitted defeat.

GEN. MARK MILLEY: An outcome that is a strategic failure. The enemy is in charge of Kabul. There's no way else to describe that. That outcome is the cumulative effect of 20 years, not 20 days. NICK SCHIFRIN: The commanders defended the chaotic evacuation of more than 100,000 Afghans and Americans, and they said President Biden did take their advice on withdrawing by August 31, even though thousands who wanted to leave were left behind. GEN. MARK MILLEY: If we stayed past the 31st, which, militarily, is feasible, but it would have required an additional commitment of significant amounts of forces, probably 18th Airborne Corps, 15,000, 20,000, maybe 25,000 troops, we would have had to reseize Bagram.

We would have had to clear Kabul of the 6,000 Taliban that were already in Kabul. That's what would have had to have happened beginning on the 1st. And that would have resulted in significant casualties on the U.S. side, and it would have placed American citizens that are still there at greater risk. NICK SCHIFRIN: But the war's critics say that argument for rapid military escalation was the heart of the U.S.' strategic failure, and even Milley today agreed that, despite

years of training, the Afghan military wouldn't have survived U.S. withdrawal, no matter the date. GEN. MARK MILLEY: I think the end state probably would have been the same no matter when you did it.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Indeed, senators and commanders revisited a series of fatal mistakes, creating the Afghan army dependent on the U.S., Afghan corruption, and U.S. failure to create strong Afghan institutions. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin: LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Did we have too many strategies? Did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective Afghan institutions, an army, an air force, a police force, and government ministries? We helped build a state, Mr. Chairman, but we could not forge a nation.

NICK SCHIFRIN: And wavering American commitment. Milley confirmed for the first time that President Trump tried to withdraw unconditionally late last year, months after the agreement signed in Doha with the Taliban that first promised U.S. withdrawal. GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE, Commander, U.S. Central Command: The Taliban were heartened by what they saw happen at Doha and what followed and our eventual decision to get out by a certain date. I think the Afghans were very weakened by that morally and spiritually. NICK SCHIFRIN: Separately, Milley defended his actions during the Trump-Biden transition, when he reassured his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. wasn't going to attack, and

when he talked with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about nuclear procedures, and ensured with nuclear command staff he was part of the nuclear reporting process. GEN. MARK MILLEY: At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority, or insert myself into the chain of command. NICK SCHIFRIN: Moving forward, the military says the Taliban has not broken with al-Qaida, which could reconstitute within 12 months. But the military doesn't know if it can effectively target terrorists in a country where there are no service members.

Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly: SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): Are you confident, confident that we can deny organizations like al-Qaida and ISIS the ability to use Afghanistan as a launchpad for terrorist activity? GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE: I would not say I'm confident that that's going to be on the ground yet. We could get to that point, but I do not yet have that level of confidence. NICK SCHIFRIN: That's because today, as it was 20 years ago, Kabul has no American troops and is ruled by the Taliban.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin. AMNA NAWAZ: In the day's other news: The Senate faced a stalemate over raising the federal debt ceiling and avoiding a national default. Republicans again blocked Democratic efforts to raise the debt limit, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the deadline is October 18.

Yellen appeared at a Senate hearing and appealed for Congress to take action or risk economic chaos. JANET YELLEN, U.S. Treasury Secretary: America would default for the first time in history. The full faith and credit of the United States would be impaired, and our country would likely face a financial crisis and economic recession as a result. It's necessary to avert a catastrophic event for our economy. AMNA NAWAZ: Meanwhile, Democratic factions worked on paring down a sweeping domestic spending bill that now totals $3.5 trillion. We will return to the political battles over all of this after the news summary.

On Wall Street, stocks had one of their worst days in months, as inflation worries and rising bond yields took a toll. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 569 points, 1.6 percent, to close below 34300. The Nasdaq fell 423 points -- that's nearly 3 percent -- and the S&P 500 gave up 90 points, or 2 percent.

The nation's COVID-19 booster shot campaign is off to a fast start. White House officials say at least 400,000 people got them over the weekend, and another one million scheduled appointments, but the CDC's director warned today that only 30 percent of pregnant women have been vaccinated at all and the rate is lower still for minorities. DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC Director: About 15 percent of African American women who are pregnant are vaccinated, and this puts them at severe risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

In August this year, we lost 21 pregnant women to COVID-19. So, we absolutely have the data that demonstrates the overwhelming benefit of vaccine, and really very little safety concerns at all. AMNA NAWAZ: Separately, New York City's COVID vaccine mandate for teachers is back in effect, for now. A federal appeals panel upheld it last night, but teachers said they will appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court. We will look at New York state's vaccine mandate for hospital and nursing home workers later in the program. The U.S. State Department now says two American siblings have returned from China after being

blocked from leaving since 2018. Cynthia and Victor Liu arrived home on Saturday. China defended holding them until now, as it pursued their parents in a money laundering case. Beijing also denies any link between the Lius and Canada's release of a Huawei executive who'd been held on U.S. fraud charges. The U.S. has reportedly extradited a convicted hacker back to Russia. It's a rare move, since the two countries don't have an extradition treaty. Russian media reports that Aleksei

Burkov was detained today upon arriving in Moscow. He had been serving a nine-year prison sentence in the U.S. for operating Web sites that enabled credit card fraud and hacking. Investigators for the World Health Organization say agency staffers committed sexual abuse during an Ebola outbreak in Congo. The findings were commissioned by the WHO. They cite at

least 83 alleged incidents and implicate at least 21 WHO workers. In Geneva today, the agency's director in Africa addressed the victims, some of whom were as young as 13. MATSHIDISO MOETI, Regional Director for Africa, World Health Organization: We in WHO are indeed humbled, horrified and heartbroken by the findings of this inquiry. As WHO leadership, we apologize to these people, to the women and girls, for the suffering that they have had because of the actions of our staff members and people that we have sent into their communities to help in a very difficult situation of an epidemic. AMNA NAWAZ: The Associated Press has reported that senior WHO officials were informed of the abuse claims back in 2019, but failed to act. An overloaded boat docked in Sicily overnight with nearly 700 migrants on board. That marks

the biggest arrival in Italy in five years. Passengers were mostly from Africa and were crammed together on a rusty fishing boat out of Libya. After disembarking, they headed to a reception center. Nearly 45,000 migrants have reached Italy this year. That's nearly double the total at the same point last year.

Back in this country, the Georgia man accused of killing eight people at spas in the Atlanta area pleaded not guilty to four of the killings. Robert Aaron Long entered the plea in Fulton County, Georgia. He had already admitted guilt to the other killings in a separate county. Six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent.

The gunman who killed five employees at a newspaper in Maryland was sentenced today to life in prison without parole. Jarrod Warren Ramos opened fire with a shotgun at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis back in 2018. It was one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in American history.

And the Obama Presidential Center had its celebratory groundbreaking on Chicago's South Side today. The former first couple attended, along with Chicago's mayor and the governor of Illinois. The center will house the Obama presidential papers, plus a museum and other facilities. The project had been delayed over concerns about displacing Black residents and historic preservation. Still to come on the "NewsHour": vaccine requirements face widespread legal challenges, amid a shortage of health care workers; COVID school closures in one African country lead to children being trafficked into forced labor; farmers struggle to protect their livestock from the threats of climate change; plus much more. Well, it is a crucial day of negotiations on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue today.

As we reported earlier, Democrats are working around the clock to pass two significant pieces of legislation central to President Biden's agenda. One is the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the other is the president's $3.5 trillion spending package. Our Capitol Hill correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, is here with me now for more of what's at stake. Lisa, good to see you. LISA DESJARDINS: Good to see you.

AMNA NAWAZ: It's a busy day on Capitol Hill. Let's start with these two big bills. Just where are we right now? LISA DESJARDINS: Well, it's about as clear as a glass of mud, to be honest, at this point.

(LAUGHTER) LISA DESJARDINS: And, somehow, it got even muddier today. Let me explain what's going on here. As we reported, the infrastructure bill has long been connected to that larger we call it reconciliation package. That's how they want to pass it in

the Senate. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said she would take a vote on that infrastructure bill Thursday. Well, she has an all-out rebellion from progressives, who think, if that happens, it will jeopardize that reconciliation bill. So we saw this statement today from progressives. Pramila Jayapal, someone we have talked to here on the show, reiterated, doubled down on this statement, saying: "We will only vote for the infrastructure bill after passing the reconciliation bill." That then was bolstered by Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the top progressives in this country. He came out and said today, we thought we had a deal that the two would only go together. He told people not to vote for the infrastructure bill this Thursday.

So how do they get the reconciliation bill moving? First, they need to figure out how big it's going to be. There's a real divide over that. And we're watching two key senators. Everyone is watching them, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. They are moderates who have said that $3.5 trillion number for kind of gross spending in this is too large for them. But, Amna, they have not come up with their figure yet. Everyone is watching and waiting. The clock is ticking. And we will see if this infrastructure vote happens Thursday or not.

AMNA NAWAZ: We will see. There's a lot of maneuvering. You're going to be following it all. We talk a lot about those politics and the procedures. But let's take a step back and

talk about what's at stake. Democrats are fighting hard for what's in that reconciliation bill. Let's just dig in and talk about where they are and why they're still divided. Let's start with one of the biggest issues, climate. Where are they? LISA DESJARDINS: I'm so happy we're doing this, talking about the substance of what's in these things. So, this is one of the biggest portions of this bill, especially for progressives. And I want to just run through really quickly what they want, what is in this bill. This

is a kind of a very minimum look. But look at what's in here. First of all, the reconciliation bill would have extensive clean energy tax credits for individuals and businesses. But it also has some carrots and sticks. It would reward or penalize businesses based on how much renewable fuel they're using vs. how much fossil fuel they're using. And then, also, I have to say there's issues with this, of course, Manchin is one of them.

He's worried about coal jobs in the short term. There's also a real question about Senate rules and whether all of these mechanisms can pass the kind of narrow channel that reconciliation measures have to. A reminder that, obviously, climate change is one of the biggest issues facing this country. That's why the stakes are so high right now, because Democrats realize this may be their only chance, perhaps this generation, to really get something significant through. And I talked to members leading this effort today. And they really are sweating this. They're worried about these provisions staying intact.

AMNA NAWAZ: There's another issue that really resonates with American voters out there. That is drug costs. Where's the discussion on that? LISA DESJARDINS: This is a point of contention between Democrats amongst themselves about what they should do. First of all, let's talk about drug costs in this country. I don't think I need to tell

any of our viewers they're high. They're higher than the rest of the world. And, in fact, they're about two-and-a-half times higher than most of the rest of the world. America, on its own, represents almost half of all of the money coming into drug companies in this country -- in the world. So we talked to one of the experts who's testified before Congress on this, Harvard Medical School's Aaron Kesselheim, about this issue. DR. AARON KESSELHEIM, Harvard Medical School: There have been, of course, reports from patients with diabetes unable to afford their insulin and having to ration their insulin, or patients who are needing to get cancer treatment not able to afford the cancer therapy that they need.

And those kinds of things can have important impacts on their health. LISA DESJARDINS: That's why this is on the table. What would Democrats do in reconciliation? So far, what we have seen in the bill, a few things. First, they would like to expand Medicare to include vision and dental over a series

of years. They would also have Medicare negotiate drug prices. That -- Medicare has such leverage in the industry, could completely change what people pay in drugs. And it would be based on what other countries pay.

The issues here, moderate Democrats are worried that Medicare would go too far, change the drug pricing for too many drugs, and that American drug companies would be harmed. They are in the minority, but they are enough to potentially hold up the bill. So we're going to watch that very closely. AMNA NAWAZ: So, another thing we have heard them talk about is making historic investments in child care, especially after this first pandemic year. What could the bill do? Where's the disagreement here? LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

So a reminder on child care, of course, we have an affordability problem in this country when it comes to child care. And, matter of fact, when you look at 41 industrialized nations around the world, America is almost at the bottom in terms of affordability for child care. So, on this, we also talk to an expert to get us a sense of where we're at. Brandy James Lawrence is with the Bank Street College Education Center. BRANDY JONES LAWRENCE, Bank Street College of Education In more than 40 states, I think 40 states, plus the District of Columbia, the cost of child care is upwards of a mortgage payment for an average family.

LISA DESJARDINS: My apologies. That's Brandy Jones Lawrence. Quickly, here's what they would do on this. Democrats' plan right now, they would cap child care costs based on income. There would be a tax credit, that they would continue the current tax credit, $3, 600 up to per child. The question is, would they limit this based on income more than they're doing right now? AMNA NAWAZ: Very quickly, before we let you go, a couple of other looming deadlines, raising the debt ceiling, funding the government. Where do we stand on those? LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

It does look like Democrats, I can report, will have a way to fund the government past Thursday. We should learn about that tomorrow. We're cutting it close. On the debt ceiling, Amna, there's two ways to do things in the modern Congress, the hard way or the excruciatingly hard way. This is excruciatingly hard. There is not a path yet on the debt ceiling. We're going to watch it day by day, week by week.

AMNA NAWAZ: We will be watching it. LISA DESJARDINS: OK. AMNA NAWAZ: Thank you so much, Lisa. LISA DESJARDINS: You're welcome. AMNA NAWAZ: And for more on the Democrats' plans now, I'm joined by the chairman of the House Budget Committee. That is Representative John Yang of Kentucky.

Mr. Chairman, welcome back to the "NewsHour." Always good to see you. REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): Thank you. Thanks. AMNA NAWAZ: Let's talk about those two big economic bills, the infrastructure bill, the reconciliation bill. They had been moving through together. Speaker Pelosi decoupled them. You have some of your colleagues, progressive colleagues, calling that a betrayal. Do you agree with that? REP. JOHN YARMUTH: No, it's not a betrayal.

I mean, what we're trying to do is navigate a very, very precarious waterway right now, where we have no margin in either the House or Senate. We can lose three votes in the House, no votes in the Senate. And we have some differences of opinion about how we can get these two major initiatives done. The good news is two things. One is, both the moderates and the progressives -- I'm a progressive -- both groups want to get both of them done. And the second thing is, they're

both overwhelmingly popular with the American people. And if I might add a third, these things are both things that we absolutely have to do to serve the country well, to serve the American people. So I'm convinced that, ultimately, we will get them done. We will compromise. There's always compromise. I never doubt Nancy Pelosi's ability to, again, navigate these very precarious waters.

But, again, I think all those factors mean we will get them done. AMNA NAWAZ: So, Congressman, I guess the question is, how? How do you navigate that tough path? In what order do they move through, and how quickly? REP. JOHN YARMUTH: Well, I think what's going to happen in the next 48 hours -- and the good news is that nobody will remember that I said this. (LAUGHTER) REP. JOHN YARMUTH: But I think that, over the next 48 hours, there are going to be enough agreements reached on the specifics of what will go into the Build Back Better Act, which is the larger bill -- that's the partisan bill -- and that the moderates will -- that the progressives will say, OK, we're confident enough that we can support the infrastructure bill.

Remember, if one goes down, they both go down. I think that's kind of the eternal truth here that we're dealing with. And I feel good about the fact that, really, they're -- we're only talking about eight to 10 Democrats who are really laying down the red lines. And I think we will overcome that. AMNA NAWAZ: But you need many of those eight to 10 Democrats.

So I'm curious why you think... REP. JOHN YARMUTH: We need virtually all of them. AMNA NAWAZ: ... with the language we have been seeing, why you think those Democrats,

those progressive Democrats, would be willing to basically take a leap of faith, right? You're saying that they would sign on to the infrastructure bill with enough assurances that what they want will be in that reconciliation bill. Is that what you see happening? REP. JOHN YARMUTH: I think the -- this is a question of good faith right now. And there -- I think there is a question of -- on both sides as to whether it's good faith.

But I have heard conversations behind the scenes and on the staff level. And I don't think the positions are nearly as rigid as what we're seeing and hearing in the public arena. AMNA NAWAZ: So you're saying what we hear from Senator Sanders, for example, as my colleague Lisa just reported, telling House Democrats to vote against the infrastructure bill, that there's a different message being delivered behind closed doors? REP. JOHN YARMUTH: Yes.

And, for instance, Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Progressive Caucus, she's acted very responsibly throughout this message. And, yes, she's advocating very strongly for her priorities and the priorities of the Progressive Caucus, but she's left enough of the door open to allow her to say, OK, we believe that we can get both of these done. We will go again and not kill -- we will go ahead and not kill the bipartisan bill on Thursday if it comes up for a vote on Thursday, which the speaker has said it would. AMNA NAWAZ: Just to follow up on that, you said an if there.

Do you still think that vote will happen on Thursday? REP. JOHN YARMUTH: The last word I got from the speaker was yes. AMNA NAWAZ: OK, we will take that on this day at this time. I got to ask you about this two other major things that you have to deal with on your plate right now. That is government funding and raising the debt ceiling. Republicans,

we should remind folks, have blocked that bill that would do both. And you have got some looming deadlines. So what's the plan. REP. JOHN YARMUTH: We sure do. We sure do. Well, we're going to pass, probably tomorrow, a continuing resolution. Republicans in the Senate have said they would support it. So I think we will get that done before -- before

the deadline on Thursday night. As for the debt ceiling, we have, according to Secretary Yellen, the Treasury secretary somewhere around the 18th of October. So we have some time. What I'm hoping will happen -- we're going to pass on the next couple of days what we call a clean debt limit suspension, which means there's nothing else on it. And what

this will do will be to put Senate Republicans in a very interesting spot, because there's no way they can hide their vote. They will be voting to default on the full faith and credit of the United States. I don't think that's where anybody in Congress wants to be. And my senator Mitch McConnell, who has bizarrely said we absolutely have to raise the debt limit, but I'm not going to help you do it and neither will Republicans, to me, that's kind of like a mother saying, yes, I know, my baby needs to have food to eat, but I'm not going to feed her. I'm going to rely on the nasty woman across the street. And it's just an amazingly irresponsible position to take. But I think, ultimately, one option

is -- and I hope this is the case -- that at least 10, Republican senators are sane enough to say, we're not going to let the nation default, we will break ranks with Republican leadership and help the Democrats pass the suspension of the debt limit. If not, we will probably have to resort to a reconciliation motion, a resolution that will take some time. It generally takes at least 10 days, probably two weeks, to get done. We will do it on our own.

The other option, which is the one that makes the most sense, is we put this bill up to suspend the debt limit, and then Republicans just don't filibuster in the Senate. So they get their wish. Democrats will raise the debt limit or suspend the debt limit by themselves, no Republican help. Just don't filibuster. That's all the -- there's actually a pretty easy solution here. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, let me ask you about that path ahead if you have to move without Republican support, because Mitch McConnell has said Republicans -- Republicans are unified in their opposition to raising the debt ceiling. It was just a week ago you said that you didn't have enough time for Democrats to be able to move ahead without Republican support to raise that debt ceiling limit. Janet Yellen

saying October 18. Do you have enough time? REP. JOHN YARMUTH: It's close. Again, it's a 10-to-14 day process. And so if we started it Monday, which -- whatever that day is, the 3rd or 4th -- that's, yes, I think the 4th -- then that gives us -- yes, if we can get it done in two weeks, that's right up against the limit. It is really playing with fire. And we have already seen some of the havoc that can be

created by this. We saw the Dow Jones average plunge 500 points today. The market is very volatile right now. Bond rates are changing because of the uncertainty. So, we really -- we really need to do this. Listen, it's -- it would be unprecedented. We have never defaulted on our debt now in 100 years since this debt ceiling was put into the law. We need to get rid of the law, actually. AMNA NAWAZ: It's a lot to follow on Capitol Hill. We know it's a busy day for you. We appreciate you making the time.

That is Congressman John Yarmuth, Democrat from Kentucky, chair of the House Budget Committee, joining us. Thank you, sir. REP. JOHN YARMUTH: You're welcome. Thank you. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, New York state has become the first in the nation to require all health care workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine, or face being fired. Before last night's midnight deadline, there was a dash for vaccinations. Of the 450,000 hospital nursing home staff and other health care workers, the governor's office said today more than 90 percent have gotten at least one shot.

But, as John Yang reports, many hospitals are bracing for staff shortages if they have to lay off workers or some leave the profession altogether. JOHN YANG: Amna, while New York Governor Kathy Hochul says the vaccine requirement is needed to try to curb the spread of COVID, she acknowledges the problems it may create for hospitals already strained by a surge of cases caused by the Delta variant. She's declared a disaster emergency, opening the door for health care workers from out of state and even out of country to practice in New York. GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): It reflects my priority to just stop this virus dead in its tracks. We are over it. We are done. We want to move on. And the only way we can do that is to ensure that everyone is vaccinated, but particularly individuals who are taking care of the people who are sick.

JOHN YANG: To see the effect on one health care operation in New York, we're joined by Tom Quatroche. He's president and CEO of the Erie County Medical Center, which operates a hospital and a nursing home in Buffalo, New York. Mr. Quatroche, thank you very much for joining us. What's been the compliance with your staff so far on this vaccine requirement? TOM QUATROCHE President and CEO, Erie County Medical Center: Well, thank you, John, for having me. We're down to about 5 percent in the hospital of folks that had to go on unpaid leave as a result of the vaccine mandate. In our nursing home, it's a little different situation. About

20 percent of our work force is on unpaid leave. And that's kind of a common theme among nursing homes, because some of the workers are on -- lower on the wage scale. They're able to make other choices, and get out of health care if they choose to be unvaccinated. So, for us, it's a challenge, because, obviously, patients need to be discharged from the hospital to nursing homes.

So, it's kind of clogged up a lot of hospitals with patients who really belong in nursing homes, but are stuck in hospitals. JOHN YANG: And what are those numbers doing to your operations, in terms of elective surgery and that sort of thing? TOM QUATROCHE: So, about a week ago, we started seeing this effect that I discussed about nursing homes kind of not accepting our patients. So, we had the highest census we ever had in history, with 56 people waiting in the E.R. So we took some mitigating steps. We stopped elective -- inpatient elective surgeries.

We stopped many of our outpatient visits. We stopped medical ICU transfers to rural hospitals and lower levels of care. So, we took some mitigating steps. It did have an effect on lowering the volume. Right now, we have a lot of people that remain taking extra shifts for us, and we incentivize them to do that. And that's working very, very well. But this is a longer-term problem. In the short run, we're managing the situation, but we're very concerned long-term because we had some of these staffing issues prior to the decision to do a vaccine mandate.

JOHN YANG: And you say, at least in the hospital, a lot of the unvaccinated workers are so far being put on unpaid leave. You're not severing them altogether from employment. Are you hopeful that they will come around, that they will eventually become vaccinated? Or what's the situation? TOM QUATROCHE: Yes, we weren't certain what the actions of the state would be around the date, so we wanted a little bit of flexibility with those workers. They do have 30 days before their employment will be terminated. And there's some question around exemptions, and religious exemptions, and those types of things. For us, as a public institution, it's very hard to sever somebody from employment, and then bring them back. So, we have a unique challenge in that regard. That's why we decided to do the unpaid leave.

JOHN YANG: Are you talking to them at all? TOM QUATROCHE: We are. Many people, actually, as a result of the incentive to work extra shifts, which is obviously extra money, some of them came back and received vaccinations because of that. So, you never know what's going to work in getting somebody motivated to be vaccinated. But as we continue to educate, and I hope colleagues continue to talk to them about the importance of vaccination, we will get some folks back. But the reality is, there are some people that just believe in either choice or they don't want to be vaccinated for whatever reason, and they're leaving -- leaving health care.

JOHN YANG: And you said there's a difference between the hospital workers and the nursing home workers. The nursing home workers, you say, tend to be lower on the pay scale, is that right, and so more likely to go elsewhere? TOM QUATROCHE: Yes, the way the reimbursement models work for nursing homes is, it really doesn't support as much nursing care as it maybe probably should. We actually have a higher nursing ratio than many other nursing homes, but it's supported by a lot of aides. And those aides are in the range of anywhere from about $18 to $20, somewhere around there. And, as you know, many, many organizations are offering that kind of wage for workers, including fast food restaurants.

So they can't get the benefits maybe that they can have in a place like ours, but they can get the same wage. JOHN YANG: If the governor had not placed this mandate or placed this requirement on health care workers, had you been considering doing it on your own? TOM QUATROCHE: We hadn't. We had not considered that. We were continuing to educate our staff, and we were also worried about the fact, if we did it, then those workers could go to another hospital somewhere else. So, it was a competitive issue for us. So, the government's doing the right thing for all the right reasons. There's just a reaction and an effect that it has on the health care industry. So we're trying to work with the state government, and we're supportive of the vaccine mandate, but we just need some help with the reality on the ground.

JOHN YANG: And, as we said, the governor has opened the door to not only out-of-state, but out-of-country health care workers. Is that something you think you might avail yourself of? TOM QUATROCHE: We will have to see if that can be helpful. We're just grateful that the governor is trying everything that she can do in her power to help us. It's a challenge. Agencies across the United States are charging crazy amounts

of money for agency nurses. We're talking $150 to $200 an hour. But, normally, it's about $65 an hour for an agency nurse. So, the demand that's been created nationally for agency nurses is a real challenge for everybody in health care. JOHN YANG: What -- as you look forward, you look ahead, what are your concerns? TOM QUATROCHE: I worry about burnout of our staff. They have been through a lot during COVID.

And I think it was a shocker for them to think they're going to have even less people in the institution. So, I -- we worry about the long-term sustainability of these types of staffing levels and making sure that we can take care of many of the patients that come into our care. JOHN YANG: Tom Quatroche, the CEO of Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, thank you very much. TOM QUATROCHE: Thank you very much, John. AMNA NAWAZ: Well, the effects of the pandemic on children vary dramatically depending on the country. With schools still shuttered in Uganda and other developing nations, many

children have no choice but to work to survive. In Africa, more than a fifth of all children, or some 87 million kids, work. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Kampala. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It looks like a scene set in the Middle Ages, a gaping, sprawling stone quarry just outside Uganda's capital. It is also a gravel factory, all of it done by hand, large, small, and very small hands.

Evelyn is 11 years old. She works every day balancing on a makeshift ladder to crack open the rock face. Her family will then pound the larger rocks into gravel with crude hammers. For some, the only available tool is a larger rock. Evelyn's mother, Sylvia Naggujja, who has done this work for more than a decade, labors by her side, next to six brothers and sisters. For all this work, they earn less than $2 a day. That's the whole family. SYLVIA NAGGUJJA, Mother (through translator): We go and break stones. Like, that plastic jerrican you see there. We fill it at 300 shillings for each jerrican.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It's exhausting, dangerous work, a scene repeated at dozens of sites in the area. Accidents and injuries are common, especially among young children. EVELYN, Uganda (through translator): Life is not OK. When I break these stones, sometimes, they cut my fingers. Sometimes, the small pebbles fall into my eyes. Life is not good. Another time, a big stone hit me on the head right here. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But what weighs on Evelyn most is her life before the pandemic. Aside

from a few weeks between Uganda's two COVID surges, schools have been shuttered across this nation of 44 million. EVELYN (through translator): I miss school. I miss work at school. I work every day. I would like to be a doctor or a nurse. I wanted to go to school, go to university, possibly

go abroad and help my mother. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It is not uncommon to see young children doing hard work, fetching water or wood for the family cook stove. But, whether in quarries, mines, or farmland more and more children are being forced to work for their survival. 2020 was the first year in two decades that saw an increase in

child labor around the world. And with the pandemic devastating economies, the United Nations says the problem is getting much worse. It issued a report that found 160 million children, some as young as 5, working in child labor, many doing tasks that directly threaten their health and safety.

ANGELLA NABWOWE, Initiative For Social and Economic Rights: I saw a 9-year-old in a gold mine. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: As the mother of a 9-year-old herself, human rights advocate Angella Nabwowe says the encounter stopped her in her tracks. ANGELLA NABWOWE: I was practically looking at my daughter doing that work. I talked to this girl. She lives with her grandmother. They have nothing, nothing. A 9-year-old in a gold mine working, it is not right. It's not. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She says years of progress have been wiped out by the pandemic, as have the income and prospects of a large number of Uganda's poorest people, who live hand-to-mouth in the mostly informal economy.

ANGELLA NABWOWE: The urban areas, the official data is that 23 percent of that lost everything. They do not have any source of what? Income, because of COVID-19. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It's not just income, she says. For many children, the loss of school has deprived them of a reliable meal each day. As we saw in this school in 2017, meals are often provided across the developing world to boost both nutrition and attendance. That

all stopped when the schools closed. ANGELLA NABWOWE: Food is a basic right. People don't have what to eat. And what is the effect of that? TYLER DUNMAN, Human Trafficking Institute: It's been pretty catastrophic. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Tyler Dunman, a lawyer with a human rights group, is on loan to Uganda's director of public prosecutions. Unlike children such as Evelyn, who work with their parents,

many have been trafficked into labor, he says. It's illegal, but enforcement is spotty, complicated further by the pandemic. TYLER DUNMAN: Oftentimes, they're finding themselves on the streets begging, or being forced to sell things, or, as they call it, hawking things here. Those situations have

increased exponentially. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So has trafficking into the sex trade, he says. Young women are particularly vulnerable. And there's another risk. Social workers we talked to say they have seen a spike in teen pregnancies. ESTHER, Uganda (through translator): I'm 15 years old.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: We visited Esther in this Kampala slum. She enjoyed school and got good grades, and, when school stopped, she took a job in a food stand to help out the family. Then she became pregnant, the result of boredom and rebellion, she now admits. When the baby arrives in February, school will be out of the question, impractical, she says, and unaffordable. ESTHER (through translator): I was studying to become a doctor. I missed the company of

my friends. We used to sit down there. We would talk. We would be reading books. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What is your dream for your future? ESTHER (through translator): My dream is, if I have a chance, I want to learn how to weave hair, do hair, and, in the process, be able to start my own business. ROGERS MUTAAWE, Uganda Youth Development Link: How do they survive? Because their parents cannot meet their basic needs. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Rogers Mutaawe runs the Uganda Youth Development Link, part of a team of charities that work with at-risk youth. Since March of 2020, the number of young people

they're helping train for safer jobs has nearly doubled. When we visited, they were learning baking, cupcakes on this day. ROGERS MUTAAWE: And so we are trying our best as a program, as an organization to be able to give them a second hope, to give them some future to their lives, because most cases is young people have been vulnerable, they have been left alone, they have low self-esteem, they have depression. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He took me to meet 14-year-old Christopher. Two years ago, he dreamed of being a professional soccer player after completing school. What was your favorite subject? CHRISTOPHER, Uganda (through translator): Math and science.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Now he works from 4:00 in the morning until the national curfew at 7:00 p.m. at a food stand in Kampala's Banda slum. His mother, Harriet Namoulondo, sells meat kebabs nearby. It is not enough, she says.

Are you able to buy enough food for the family today? HARRIET NAMOULONDO, Uganda (through translator): We do not eat after lunch. That's the end. We stopped eating dinner long ago. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For its part, the government hopes to open schools by the new year, by when, it hopes, teachers and staff will be vaccinated. Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng. DR. JANE RUTH ACENG, Ugandan Minister of Health: We are losing a generation of people who would

later on become economically productive and steer this country ahead. We are doing our best to ensure that we open schools as quickly as possible, but also open schools not to close them again. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Opening schools is only step one in what many activists say is a long road to repairing a public education system that is desperately short of the resources children and their teachers need. Although tuition is free, various fees and expenses for uniforms put school out of reach for many low-income Ugandans. Evelyn's mom says she will do her best to send her and her six siblings back when schools reopen.

SYLVIA NAGGUJJA (through translator): I dream for my children to be OK, to be able to support themselves in the future, and also to be able to support me. I want my children to have a good life. FRED DE SAM LAZARO: "For now, I'm grateful for one thing," she said. "None of my children has gotten ill or seriously injured." For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Fred de Sam Lazaro just outside Kampala, Uganda. AMNA NAWAZ: And Fred's reporting is in partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Farmers across the country are struggling to keep their livestock cool enough, amid rising temperatures and dangerous heat caused by climate change. As Illinois Public Media's Dana Cronin reports, livestock producers are searching for ways to keep their animals safe. DANA CRONIN: It's feeding time on Borgic Farms in Raymond, Illinois. Hundreds of 12-week-old pigs are crammed into a long barn, climbing over each other in search of feed.

It's pushing 90 degrees today, and the air here is humid and heavy with the smell of pig manure. Phil Borgic owns this farm. He just turned on eight massive cooling fans with six-foot blades to suck the hot air out of the barn. PHIL BORGIC, Pig Farmer: If the temperature comes up, like this afternoon, and -- where it gets warm enough, then we will turn on the water. But the first thing that comes

is a breeze. And then it gets warmer yet. Then we bring out the garden hose and hose down the kids and cool them off. DANA CRONIN: Borgic's parents bought the farm in the 1950s, when most livestock farming was done outside. As the climate warmed over the years, they have since moved things indoors to help keep the pigs safe from increasingly high temperatures. PHIL BORGIC: As we went through time, our fans kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger to pull more air through and over the top of the pigs then to get that heat out of there. And in the beginning, we didn't add water. And so, as we learned, we started adding that

sprinkle of water then to help cool them off some more. DANA CRONIN: Average temperatures in Illinois have already gone up by between one and two degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years. Right now, the state sees about a week of temperatures above 95 degrees during the summer.

Climate scientist and University of Illinois Professor Don Wuebbles says, if we continue emitting high levels of greenhouse gases, the state will only get hotter and the heat will last longer. DONALD WUEBBLES, University of Illinois: If you look at the high scenario, which is what we're following right now, most of the summer ends up being above 95 degrees, again, very different Illinois than we have right now. DANA CRONIN: Those scorching temperatures threaten not only farm animals' comfort and health, but also their productivity. Amanda Stone researches heat stress in dairy cows at Mississippi State University, and says when, the heat index is above 68 degrees Fahrenheit much cooler than the 90 degrees here today, a cow's milk production can decrease up to 25 percent.

AMANDA STONE, Mississippi State University: So, if a cow is producing 100 pounds, during periods of heat stress, she's only producing 75 pounds. DANA CRONIN: And it's not just cows. It's goats too. Every morning at 5:00 a.m., the 100-plus goats here at Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery outside Champaign, Illinois, file in for milking. Milk meters measure how much each goat produces per day. When it's hot, farm co-owner Wes Jarrell says there's less milk. And he has noticed the changing climate is having an

impact. WES JARRELL, Goat Farmer: We've always known that, in the summer heat, their production goes down. And we know just by looking at the records that the duration of that and the intensity of that is increasing.

DANA CRONIN: Prairie Fruits Farm is pasture-based, meaning the goats spend most of their time outside grazing on acres of grass and shrubs. Like dogs, Jarrell says goats pant when they get too hot, and take cover in the shade under trees. And while the farm does have a couple of small barns, he says they're making plans to build a bigger indoor facility, in part because it's getting harder to keep the goats cool enough. WES JARRELL: In a summer when it's going to be hotter and more humid, we need the best ventilation possible, and we need protection. DANA CRONIN: The price tag on that new barn is nearly $700,000. The Illinois Department

of Agriculture doesn't currently offer any assistance or information for farmers dealing with the effects of heat stress on their animals. Jarrell says they will have to find some way to pay for the new barn, and there are few options, except to pass the costs on to consumers. WES JARRELL: Obviously, what we need to do is make sure we can sell the product and we can look at what customers are willing to pay. Are they willing to pay any more for

a product that addresses all these other societal and environmental problems that we're talking about? DANA CRONIN: Jarrell's hoping the answer is yes, so don't be surprised when you start paying a little more for your milk, pork, or goat cheese. It may just be another cost of doing business in a changing climate. For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Dana Cronin in Champaign, Illinois.

AMNA NAWAZ: More than 20 years ago, Kara Swisher decided to leave The Washington Post to cover the Internet full-time. That decision has made her one of the most respected and feared journalists on the beat, holding those in the tech world accountable. She's now the host of The New York Times podcast "Sway" and the Vox podcast "Pivot." And, tonight, Swisher offers us her Brief But Spectacular take on power and responsibility within tech. KARA SWISHER, Host, "Sway": When I was younger, I was often the person in class that was like, no. The teacher would say. I'm like, no. Like, no is a really powerful word. I love to use it.

When I started off in reporting, you do suspect people. Like, what are they trying to spin me? What are they trying to say? What's their messaging? What do I have to get past to get to the real story? But, actually, the real question is what they're lying to themselves about. What do they need to have said about themselves so that they can feel good about talking? And everybody has a thing. A lot of powerful people get licked up and down all day. I'm very obvious. I would say I'm obvious of which way I'm going to go. You have to

respect the person's point of view. You don't have to agree with them. And you have to say it out loud. What I hate is when interviewers sort of shake their head and then add on layers of narration that's really obnoxious. Like, I hate that. Like, you better not do that here. I have a lot of information before I talk to people. I'm very skilled at understanding

when people are lying to me. I went to the School of Foreign Service. I was super interested in the uses of propaganda, and I studied that in school. I wanted to go into the military. I couldn't because I was gay, courtesy of Bill Clinton. We had don't ask, don't tell. I wanted to tell. I wanted to be asked. I started my career at The Washington Post. I was walking out of an interview for a book I was working on AOL, my first book on AOL. It was a beautiful day in New York. And I

walked out and I thought, I'm leaving The Washington Post. I'm going to write about the Internet. Like, this is going to be so big, this Internet thing. This was super early in the 1990s. You could see how bad it could go and you could see how good it could go. I love tech for its ability to transform people's lives in really positive ways. I love tech, and

I hate what they have done to it. Obviously, our history is littered with powerful people who make decisions for people who are unelected. But, in this case, they can see every bit of your life. Now it happens that Apple is

very good on privacy, but what if it wasn't? My favorite interview was with Elon Musk. I met him when he was a nobody, so we have kind of a really interesting relationship. Silicon Valley is a lot of big minds chasing small ideas. And I think he's a big mind chasing big ideas. I have interviewed Mark Zuckerberg several times. I think very few people are capable of handling the responsibility he has, and he's certainly not up to the task. He's like a world leader without any world leader experience. He wants to create an all-enveloping universe

around you of reality. And he's really bad at it. QUESTION: But you like him. KARA SWISHER: I do. QUESTION: Why do you like him? KARA SWISHER: Because he's a nice boy from Chappaqua, New York. But I think he lives

in a bubble, and he doesn't tolerate dissent very well. I honestly think we should shut it down at this point. You can't fix it. I'm optimistic about climate change technology. I'm confident that there are innovative technological solutions to global warming or living in new ways in a new environmental situation. And so I'm optimistic about that.

What I'm not optimistic about is that authoritarian streaks in people will take advantage of all this information and be able to control people in ways that are both subtle and obvious at the same time. My name is Kara Swisher, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on tech. Get off your phone. Put it down. OK. Bye. AMNA NAWAZ: And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

On the "NewsHour" online right now: Health care systems that are already in harm's way of natural disasters face the increasing threats of climate change. Read more about how hospitals are coping with the potential for flooding on our Web site. That's PBS.org/NewsHour. And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Amna Nawaz. Please join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you for joining us, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.

2021-09-29 14:03

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