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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  November 7, 2021 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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. this is lincoln financial. captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> suspicious of the biden administration, gun rights advocates are looking to their states to keep their rights, right where they want them. have you heard from legislators in other states who say, "we want to do the same thing"? >> absolutely. i've been contacted by multiple legislators, across the united states. >> opponents to the missouri legislation aren't who you might expect. several policemen and sheriffs that we've spoken to have told us that this law benefits criminals. is that too strong of a statement? >> no. i don't think it does, i know it
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does. ( ticking ) >> my first reaction was, "this isn't micron droplets that's coming out from the sea floor-- this is an underwater volcano." >> he is talking about the longest running oil spill in u.s. history. and tonight, you'll hear how this homegrown cajun engineer and this no-nonsense coast guard captain said "enough is enough," and hatched a plan-- first tried in a backyard pool-- to stanch a spill that has sullied the gulf of mexico for almost two decades. ( ticking ) >> how do you define "hero?" >> we define it as-- at least in terms of our medal-awarding requirement-- as a man or a woman that willingly and knowingly risks their life, to an extraordinary degree, to save or attempt to save the life of another human being. >> thousands have been awarded the carnegie hero medal, along with a $5,500 prize. we wondered why some people are heroic, so we went to georgetown
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university to see the neuroscience for ourselves. ( ticking ) >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm sharyn alfonsi. >> i'm jon wertheim. >> i'm norah o'donnell. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories and more, tonight, on "60 minutes." ( ticking ) rybelsus® lowered their blood sugar and reached an a1c of less than 7. rybelsustaking rybelsus®u with type 1 diabetes. don't take rybelsus® if you or your family
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it prohibits state agencies from helping the federal government enforce any law, rule, or regulation which missouri considers an infringement on the right to bear arms. each violation can carry a $50,000 penalty. think of it like this: for a police officer in missouri, federal gun laws, effectively, no longer exist. missouri democrats and lawyers at the u.s. department of justice argue the new law is unconstitutional, but what got our attention is that a significant number of conservative police and prosecutors who love their guns, don't like this law. >> kacey proctor: i think a lot of people, when they hear about this bill-- at least a lot of people in missouri that have heard-- they think, "this is great. the state of missouri's told the federal government to go mind their own business and stay away from our guns." but what this bill does is impact a local law enforcement officer's ability to do their job. >> o'donnell: kacey proctor serves as the prosecutor for rural butler county. steve sokoloff is general counsel for the missouri
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association of prosecuting atrneys. ouave a histof opposing laws that would expand second amendment rights in missouri? >> proctor: absolutely not. i'm a member of two different gun clubs. i shoot once a week, at minimum. my kids shoot. my seven-year-old owns multiple firearms. i am all in favor of responsible people owning firearms, and raising their children to own firearms responsibly. and so, yeah, i'm 100% in favor of expanding second amendment rights. >> o'donnell: so, then, why do you oppose missouri's second amendment preservation act? >> proctor: what i oppose about it, and what i would ask for, to be-- to be looked at and possibly fixed, is the ability for law enforcement officers to interact with their federal partners, to go after people who are violent in nature and are committing crimes in our community. >> president joe biden: we should also ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country. >> o'donnellest bin' reated c for sr control laws motivated
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republican legislators in missouri to pass the second amendment preservation act. and, this past june, at a gun store outside of kansas city called frontier justice, governor mike parson signed it into law. supporters hailed the bill as a legal shield to safeguard missourians' gun rights from what they consider to be federal overreach. i mean, missourians did overwhelmingly elect a republican legislature and a republican governor. i mean, isn't this just democracy? >> steve sokoloff: i think that- - that the general public, if they understood what was in this statute, that-- that they wouldn't be in favor of it. >> o'donnell: at the core of the bill lies a bold proclamation: "all federal laws and regulations that infringe on the people's right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the second amendment to the u.s. constitution and the constitution of missouri, shall be rejected by this state, and shall not be enforced by this state." the bill outlaws missouri state resources from being used to
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further federal gun regulation. but the sweeping law doesn't stop there. it also dictates under what circumstances a missouri officer can help a federal agent investigate or prosecute a gun crime. the prosecutors say it's these provisions of the law that are vague, poorly written, and create a legal minefield for missouri law enforcement. agencies that break the law are "subject to a civil penalty of $50,000," payable to a missourian who believes their second amendment rights were violated. >> sokoloff: and the problem here is that-- that it has a tremendously chilling effect on- - on-- law enforcement officers, because they're put in a position of guessing about what conduct is prohibited by the statute. >> o'donnell: it seems like this law would fundamentally change the criminal justice system and the way it works here in missouri sokolof ialha >> o'donnell: we've learned missouri law enforcement agencies pulled atstfederal task forces that targeted illegal guns.
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in addition, the state highway patrol's information and analysis center will no longer provide investigative support to the bureau of alcohol tobacco and firearms, or a.t.f. kansas city mayor quinton lucas told us this could not be happening at a worse time for missouri, where the murder rate in the state is nearly twice the national average. before the law passed, it was routine for local police to work with their federal partners. why does local law enforcement want the help of the federal government when it comes to dealing with gun violence? >> quinton lucas: the volume of crime, the volume of incidents. on a night in kansas city, you can have multiple people shot. in the same way that, if you have a severe storm hit a city, we bring in federal resources to help us with that crisis. this is the problem with gun violence right now in some of america's major cities-- particularly in the midwest, particularly in missouri. >> o'donnell: mayor lucas says he's concerned that under missouri state law, people
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convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors are still allowed to have a gun. >> lucas: there's been a domestic violence loophole in missouri law for years now. the saving grace alone was that there was a federal law that a police officer could say they're violating. now that we lose that, what does this mean for so many missourians? so many survivors of domestic violence? i hope it doesn't make them victims. >> o'donnell: since 2017, the f.b.i. has identified 744 people in missouri convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor who then broke federal law when they tried to buy a gun. according to the a.t.f., local law enforcement was key to investigating these cases on the ground in missouri. if those same officers helped the a.t.f. with cases like that today, they would be breaking state law. are local law enforcement essentially going to stop and omeo with an illegalry gun?
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>> lucas: yes. now, if you stop someone with a firearm, you may be asking yourself, "do i want to be subject to litigation? do i want to subject my department to liability?" and in many cases, the answer's going to be no. >> o'donnell: st. louis and jackson county are suing to stop missouri's second amendment preservation act in state court- - so far, without success. in southeast missouri, police and prosecutors started a campaign to have the law changed. chief danny whiteley is leading that effort. >> danny whiteley: something bad's going to happen, and i'm going to be the first one to say, "i told you so." >> o'donnell: he's the longest- serving police chief in the history of poplar bluff, a small city near the ozarks that he says has a big-city gun violence problem. chief whiteley told us, he's no longer working with federal prosecutors, and misses the help. >> whiteley: number one, they have a lot of resources that we don't, manpower-wise and
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forensics-wise. and, if they get convicted in federal court, they're going to do 85% of the time. >> o'donnell: he shared with us summaries of nine recent alleged gun crimes he says he would usually refer to the nearby u.s. attorney's office for prosecution. yeah, i've looked at some of them, and one of them is a guy who shot at his ex-girlfriend, shot at her vehicle in a 6convenience store. >> whiteley: correct. >> o'donnell: but you're not going to refer that to a federal prosecutor? >> whiteley: that's correct. >> o'donnell: why? >> whiteley: because of the $50,000 fine. >> o'donnell: several policemen and sheriffs that we've spoken to have told us they think that this law benefits criminals. is that too strong of a statement? >> whiteley: no. i don't think it does, i know it does. >> o'donnell: butler county prosecutor kacey proctor says the new missouri law makes it more difficult to catch unknown assailants who've committed gun crimes. >> proctor: probably two months ago, we had a murder that was being investigated here in poplar bluff. while that murder was going on,
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about 10:00 at night on highway 67, two vehicles parked on the highway and dropped about 17 rounds in the middle of the highway. >> o'donnell: and when you say "drop," you mean "fire". >> proctor: i mean fire, correct. >> o'donnell: kasey proctor says he rushed to the scene of the gunfight, where one person had been shot in the stomach. he found police debating whether they should send some of the 17 spent shell casings found on the road to the a.t.f. for analysis and tracing. >> proctor: so, we had to have that conversation after we were investigating a murder, while investigating a shooting on the side of the highway at 10:00 at night. and the ultimate conclusion from the local department was, "we're not going to send these to the a.t.f. because we're not going to risk violating sapa." >> o'donnell: but that's the whole point of investigative work, is to pick up the rounds, put them in a database, and see if they match any other crimes. >> proctor: correct. >> sokoloff: it should be. >> o'donnell: for smaller police departments, like poplar bluff, which don't have the technology themselves, a.t.f. can analyze shell casings in order to match them with guns from other crimes.
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poplar bluff is just one of several departments who've stopped sharing evidence with the a.t.f. ballistics network, for fear of violating missouri's new gun law. >> proctor: about two hours later, they had another shooting. and, while they were investigating that shooting, they had another one. and that was all in the city of poplar bluff. >> o'donnell: and you think it could've been the same people. >> proctor: could've been, but we still don't know who it was. >> o'donnell: this past july, the first plaintiff to try out the new law in court was an accused drug dealer who police say was busted with 58 grams of cocaine and four firearms. he pled not guilty to the charges, and then turned the law on law enforcement, suing the officers to prevent them from testifying against him in federal court. kacey proctor volunteered to represent one officer. the lawsuit was dropped, but it sent a message. >> proctor: i could tell you for a fact that two of the police officers that were sued over the second amendment preservation act in ripley county told me that, as soon as they can i'm afra that 're gog uff. makeliceicthisnts to wt todo it.
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( gun firing ) >> o'donnell: missouri state senator eric burlison and state representative jered taylor co- sponsored the second amendment preservation act. they say there are plenty of missouri law enforcement officers who support the law and are not having any issues. those having problems, they say, don't yet understand it, or are receiving poor advice. >> jered taylor: i think there's bad information. i think that they're getting bad information. if you ask ten different attorneys, they're going to give you 15 different answers on any number of issues. >> o'donnell: some of the law enforcement that we spoke with in southeast missouri, they say it's preventing them from putting bad guys away with federal help. how do you respond? >> eric burlison: i think that the dust needs to settle. any bill that comes out, originally there might be ambiguity from understanding what the intent of the bill was. our intention is to make certain that-- that law enforcement is not hindered in any way. >> o'donnell: you're aware that there are several police departments and county
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prosecutors who have stopped working with the a.t.f. and u.s. attorneys on gun crimes altogether? >> taylor: and there are several that are still working with them. >> o'donnell: what about those that are not working with them? >> taylor: i think it's unfortunate, because i don't think that this law prohibits that. >> o'donnell: poplar bluff police chief danny whiteley disagrees. last month, he joined five other police chiefs, six county sheriffs and eight county prosecutors in a letter to governor mike parson that asked for a meeting to discuss how they might amend the law. the governor, a former county sheriff himself, has said he might be open to changing it. >> mike parson: i think that there's things out there we can correct. i think we need to do a little better job making sure we're out here talking to law enforcement, understanding the everyday issues they're facing. >> o'donnell: would you be willing to go back and say, "okay, let's take a look at the law and make the changes?" >> taylor: i'm not willing to-- to even consider that, at this point. but of course, i'm always willing to work with law enforcement and-- and, you know, better understand the way that they operate and what they do.
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>> o'donnell: so far, 17 states have laws on their books similar to the second amendment preservation act, though none goes as far as missouri. have you heard from legislators in other states who say, "we want to do the same thing"? >> taylor: absolutely. i've been contacted by multiple legislators across the united states, asking for help and asking for the resources that we used in order to pass our legislation. >> o'donnell: the future of that legislation will be decided in court. st. louis' suit against the second amendment preservation act should get to missouri's highest court next year. the u.s. department of justice has not yet decided whether to file its own lawsuit. the co-sponsors of the law say they're ready. do you think this goes to the supreme court? >> taylor: absolutely. >> o'donnell: you do? >> taylor: i do. >> o'donnell: do you like your chances? >> burlison: i love our chances. ( ticking )
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>> jon wertheim: the hurricanes keep coming with increased force and increased frequency. even before hitting land, they're often wreaking havoc. katrina, sandy, most recently ida-- name a tropical storm, and odds are good it's caused an off-shore oil spill. and these messes aren't easily cleaned up. tonight, we bring you a distinctly louisiana story, the saga of the taylor energy oil spill, a storm-caused environmental crisis that's sullied the gulf of mexico since 2004. then, along came an unlikely duo: a no-nonsense coast guard captain who said "enough is enough," and a homegrown cajun engineer who brought with him the power of local knowledge. together, they would resist a deep-pocketed energy company and help stanch the ngesrunning oil spill in u.s. history.
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how many miles offshore are we now? >> timmy couvillion: we're about 12 miles offshore from the coast of louisiana. >> wertheim: a seventh- generation cajun, timmy couvillion grew up on the louisiana delta, where river mingles with sea. even as an engineering student, he moonlighted as a fishing captain. >> couvillion: i've caught, you know, 150-pound tunas this close. >> wertheim: he showed us the precise site of a ground- breaking contraption that's consumed him lately. we're right above it now, aren't we? >> couvillion: yes, sir. the taylor energy platform would be laying on its side, just below us. >> wertheim: his engineering company has conceived of and installed a system to help contain a stubborn oil spill. it's directly below this spot, nearly 500 feet underwater. >> couvillion: if we didn't have g.p.s. coordinates, we wouldn't know that we had a functioning system that was actively collecting 1,000 gallons of oil a day. >> wertheim: catch that? an average of 1,000 gallons of oil a day, that would otherwise be contaminating the gulf of
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mexico. it's being captured by timmy couvillion's system and transferred to these tanks to be sold later as recycled oil. >> couvillon: 100,000 gallons is a major oil spill. this is seven major oil spills that we've collected, since april of 2019. >> wertheim: how many years you been doing this? >> couvillon: two years. >> wertheim: the mouth of the mississippi forms the heart of louisiana commerce. this region is nourished by a mix of fish, water, gas and oil. but increasingly, both the terrain and the economy are getting beaten up by mother nature. in 2004, hurricane ivan devastated the gulf, including bringing down this massive oil platform operated by taylor energy. couvillion made this video simulation of what likely happened. >> couvillion: to see the energy that it took to shear the legs of this eight-pile platform, the taylor energy platform, it's hard to comprehend.
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>> wertheim: the underwater mudslide toppled the oil platform, damaging the connections to as many as 28 oil wells below. to this day, the structure lies horizontally on the floor of the gulf. the sheen caused by the oil spill spread for miles. for years, ships traveling through were coated in the slick pools of oil that bubbled up to the surface. and marine life, like these schools of giant amberjack, had to swim through the muck. how could this spill have gone on for 17 years and counting without much public awareness? for one, taylor energy is not a fortune 500 giant, but a local company-- and a beloved one at that. for people not from here, who are the taylors of taylor energy? >> pat mcshane: this is a family which has built its reputation as a benevolent community corporate citizen of the highest order.at m i
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prominent louisiana maritime lawyer, whose clients include timmy couvillion. he says that in new orleans society, the taylors are known for their educational philanthropy. >> pat taylor: how ya doing, man? i'm pat taylor. nice seeing you. how ya'll been? >> wertheim: in 1989, "60 minutes" reported on the taylors' generosity. when the spill occurred, locals assumed the taylors would clean it up. >> mcshane: taylor has been tasked under the federal oil pollution act with the responsibility for containing the oil and coming up with a permanent solution. and during that time, they worked hand and glove with the united states government. >> wertheim: the u.s. government makes money-- billions, in fact- - leasing offshore oil rights. so, when there is an oil spill, the government has ultimate authority. but we were surprised to learn how much the government relies on the leasing oil companies themselves to lead the recovery efforts. people might hear the story and say, "wait a second, it's up to the oil companies to give the estimate how severe this is?" >> kristi luttrell: it is. and, in general, the industry's
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very responsible in reporting those type of amounts and even cleaning up the-- the spill and securing the source. >> wertheim: captain kristi luttrell, a veteran of the coast guard, was placed in charge of overseeing the taylor energy spill in 2018. >> luttrell: this is the biggest pollution response case i'll see in my 28-year career. >> wertheim: taylor energy was required by federal law to set aside $666 million in a trust to fund clean-up costs. taylor says that by 2011, it had spent hundreds of millions to plug nine of the most active wells at the site. then, in 2013, taylor energy, along with u.s. government agencies including the coast guard, issued this report concluding the best option was to leave the underwater site alone. it said only small amounts of oil-- "about three gallons per day"-- were likely flowing, and further action could hurt the environment.
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for years, they were claiming this was about three gallons a day, not 1,000. three gallons a day that was seeping out. >> luttrell: i honestly could not speak for their opinions on their science. >> wertheim: but measuring oil spills deep underwater is difficult, and estimates varied wildly, depending on the source of the data. captain luttrell says that by 2018, the coast guard had access to improved sonar, revealing that oil was still escaping-- a lot of it. >> luttrell: we believe there's multiple wells still leaking inside the erosional pit at the site. >> wertheim: at what point did you say, "you know what? enough. the coast guard's going to take over this containment"? >> luttrell: i came to that decision sometime in late summer of 2018. it didn't take me long to realize that we were going to go ahead and have to federalize this case, when i didn't feel like i was getting a timely response out of the responsible party. wertheim: luttrell says she was concerned that taylor energy was, in her words, "not acting in a timely manner," and she
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took over control of the containment, putting out a call for bids for a temporary solution to collect any flowing oil. timmy couvillion's louisiana firm competed with other engineering contractors to come up with an invention. >> jack couch: i've worked with timmy at oceaneering. >> wertheim: couvillion summoned two friends, former colleagues. they began with a basic concept: oil and water don't mix. >> couch: i had invented the underwater separator. >> wertheim: jack couch is a longtime expert deep sea diver; dr. kevin kennelley, a.k.a doctor k, is an engineer. the "three amigos," they called themselves, hunkered down in timmy couvillion's man cave in belle chasse, louisiana, taking breaks only to shoot pool and eat po' boys. take me back to when you guys were using this room to solve problems. >> doctor k: well, i remember jack sat there, timmy sat there, and i sat over here. we each had a desk. >> wertheim: it took the three amigos five days before, as they put it, they went "from can't to can." >> couch: there was even no moving parts. there's no pumps, no nothing. we just used the natural buoyancy of the fluids and
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stuff. >> couvillon: i looked at them, and i'm like, "is there any reason why this won't work?" ( laughs ) >> wertheim: they even tested their invention in the backyard pool. >> doctor k: we did everything, from test it in a swimming pool to full-scale tests in-- in very, very large tanks, to make sure that it worked. >> wertheim: against steep competition, their proposal was chosen by the coast guard in late 2018. the blue box would act like a cap, which collects the leaking oil and gas. that would get separated in the white tank, and then the oil would go to storage in the yellow tubes. from there, it would be pumped off to a ship each month. but couvillion had to make the concept a reality, and the clock was ticking. >> couvillion: it was about december-- december 15. we were onsite with our r.o.v.s, which is a remotely operated vehicle. so, an underwater robot. >> wertheim: couvillion's team dropped the r.o.v. to get detailed sonar images of what was going on 470 feet down.
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he says he was shocked by what he saw in his images. the red represents plumes of oil and gas spewing in front of the downed platform. this is what you're seeing after you have the contract. >> couvillion: that's right. my first reaction was, "this isn't micron droplets that's coming out from the sea floor. this is an underwater volcano." >> wertheim: couvillion's crew put more than 200 tons of steel pieces together using enormous cranes, teams of expert sea divers, and multiple remote operated vehicles. to get a sense of proportion, note the size of the men compared to the equipment. >> luttrell: i did not sleep very well those nights that i knew the divers were out and about on the seafloor in almost 500 feet of water. and i was concerned about the ight dropping.and that much >> wertheim: spring of 2019 brought the moment of truth. this wasn't testing a simulation in a backyard pool. this was the real thing, a $43 million system in the gulf.
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>> couvillion: when we opened up the valves and, less than a day later, the sheen had largely disappeared, we knew we had really done something. it was awesome. >> wertheim: a good day for the environment? >> couvillion: oh, no doubt. look, nobody wants oil in their backyard, right? we proved that we can clean up our mess, right? >> wertheim: you send it 500 feet down and, dang, it's working. >> luttrell: it was simple, yet effective. and i give the engineers credit for coming up with that design. >> wertheim: but like the muddy mississippi itself, this tale has no clear endpoint. taylor energy headed straight to court. in total, it's filed more than ten separate suits in conjunction with the oil spill, including one against couvillion. the claim: he was trespassing, and was negligent. taylor's lawyer also told the court: >> we very much dispute that these activities need to be going on out there at this point in time, or that this is even taylor energy oil out there at this point in time.
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>> wertheirm: in response, couvillion's maritime lawyer, pat mcshane, characterized taylor's allegations as "pernicious." and he pointed us to a wealth of evidence indicating that the oil was indeed taylor's. >> mcshane: the national oceanic atmospheric administration, the united states coast guard, have taken all manner of visual evidence of the plumes coming out of the seabed right at the platform. when you say "that's not our oil" against this overwhelming evidence, you're playing some different kind of game. >> wertheim: couvillion, a former louisiana state wrestling champion, says he's not backing down from the fight. you're working to fix a problem that an oil company was responsible for, and now they're suing you? >> couvillion: kind of crazy, isn't it? it's intimidation by litigation. >> wertheim: taylor energy also filed legal action against captain kristi luttrell, arguing that she overstepped her coast guard authority. you've been named personally. how do you perceive this situation? >> luttrell: as the federal
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on-scene coordinator, i used my authority to do the right thing and to protect the environment. >> wertheim: phyllis taylor, c.e.o. of taylor energy, declined our interview request. the company said in a statement that it, "has retained and relied upon the world's foremost experts to study and then recommend a plan of action. we continue to advocate for a response driven by science." taylor lost its case against couvillion and an action to recover the $432 million still left in that clean-up trust. "60 minutes" has learned that taylor is now in mediation with the government to conclude all the outstanding litigation at once. asked why he thinks taylor resisted so intensely, timmy couvillion doesn't hesitate. >> couvillion: that's the $432 million question, you know. in this case, it seems like if you follow the money, you'd have a better chance of getting your answer. >> wertheim: what would you say to phyllis taylor, if she were sitting right here? >> couvillion: i'd just want to know, why? why are we at this point? someone that has given so much to our state-- why would you
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continue to allow this oil spill to happen in our gulf waters? >> wertheim: the federal government says that some of the oil wells buried in the mud still need to be sealed permanently. meanwhile, couvillion's system plugs away, so to speak. as of this past week, it's captured more than 800,000 gallons of spilled oil. ( ticking ) >> >> welcome to crbs sports hq presented by progressive insurance. >> i'm james brown with the scores of the nfl today, denver stays perfect in the nnc east. sam donnell still hawrpted of the ghost of nfc east. for 24-7 news and highlights, go
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americans were trapped by fire in a pennsylvania coal mine. two heroes went in to save them, but the rescuers and all but one of the miners perished. still, that act of heroism touched one of the richest americans of all time-- a man whose steel mills were fired by coal. andrew carnegie donated more than $100 million in today's money to recognize heroes in the u.s. and canada. a good deal has changed in 117 years. thousands have been awarded the carnegie hero medal, and advances in neuroscience are revealing why some of us may be heroic. we'll get to the science. but first, meet some of the carnegie heroes, including terryann thomas. >> terryann thomas: i remember thinking just almost instantly, "i am not going let somebody die."
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>> pelley: terryann thomas was a civilian overseeing confiscated property at the headquarters of the topeka police department. in 2015, an agitated man came into the basement property room to demand his bicycle. thomas turned to find it. >> thomas: as soon as i turned around and started to walk off, i heard a scream. >> pelley: the scream came from officer tammy walter. for reasons we don't know, she'd been attacked by the man in the property room waiting area. thomas hit a panic alarm and charged out of her locked room. >> thomas: and so, as i ran out there, i saw there was blood on the wall, and she was down. and she was not moving. and i went over there, and i pulled him off of her. he looked at me, and he punched me in the face. he turned around, and he started back on her. he's kicking her while she's on
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the ground, and constantly punching her, so i went and grabbed him again, and i pulled him off. >> pelley: help was slow in coming. it seems no one had triggered the panic alarm before, so the cops upstairs weren't sure what it meant. >> thomas: he grabbed something off her gun belt, and i thought, "okay, he has her gun. this whole thing has just changed." he hit the elevator button, and he looked at me, and he said, "you're coming with me." >> pelley: later, it turned out it was the officer's radio the man had, not her gun. but thomas didn't know that in the fight. what happened then? >> thomas: and so, i put my foot in the door. it opened up. and with everything i had, i grabbed him, and i pulled him out of the elevator. and just as soon as we got out, i ran to the door. i opened it, and i just started
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screaming. and that's when all the officers came in and took him down. >> pelley: a topeka cop reported hero fund commission. eric zahren is president of the commission. he's a former secret service agent. >> eric zahren: well, we look at up to 1,000 cases a year, and we award about just a little over 10% of that. so, in recent years, that equates to about 80 cases a year. >> pelley: how do you define "hero"? >> zahren: and we define it as-- at least in terms of our medal- awarding requirement-- as a man or a woman that willingly and knowingly risks their life to an extraordinary degree to save or attempt to save the life of another human being. >> pelley: what are some of the things that your investigators go through when they're investigating a case? >> zahren: we write to or contact police departments, fire departments, the victim in the case who was the rescued party, and other eyewitnesses to the act, and we start to build an understanding of each case. >> pelley: and this is the
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medal. the carnegie medal, molded in bronze, comes with $5,500, and other financial support. >> zahren: we also pay for funeral costs fully for a hero that is killed in the act. we pay any medical costs for any injury that they incur, to include psychological after- effects, p.t.s.d. we don't present a medal and walk away. we stay there, and we stay there for the hero's lifetime and sometimes far beyond. i mean, we were recently looking at a case that, you know, a gentleman was killed in his heroic act, and we supported his wife and then one of his daughters for a total of 72 years until his daughter died. >> pete pontzer: on the beach, on that day, i just reacted. >> pelley: pete pontzer fit the carnegie definition of hero. he was on a north carolina beach in 2015 when someone pointed to a boy swept away by a rip current. pontzer and another man swam about 150 yards. >> pontzer: and we found a young teenager, 13-year-old boy, and
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water was starting to wash over his face. >> pel they swam him back to shore. >> pontzer: as we get to the beach, a church youth group leader comes out and meets with us, and he says, "thank you. there's another one." >> pelley: a second boy was drowning. pontzer ran, broke his foot, ignored it, and swam out. he eventually lost sight of the boy, but the child was pulled from the water by others and flown to a hospital. so, why you? >> pontzer: i didn't think about it. it's kind of like, if you put your hand on a hot stove and pull it back right away without thinking-- that's kind of what it was like for me. it just needed to be done. and i did it. >> pelley: it was the same reaction for david mccartney, when fate arrived on a two-lane road in indiana. >> david mccartney: i was
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heading south, and there was a vehicle that seemed like it was going a little bit left, a little bit right. then, all of a sudden, it went right, and it hit a culvert. >> pelley: what happened next? >> mccartney: you could start seeing smoke. it was starting to bellow out. and you could start hearing miss testerman, who i come to find out was starting to scream because the vehicle was actually starting to catch on fire. >> pelley: elizabeth testerman was trapped. >> mccartney: she's sitting there, screaming. underneath, the dash is on fire. the smoke's just going through your nose, and you're trying to figure out, well, what to do now? >> pelley: mccartney and another man kicked in her windshield and cut her seatbelt with a knife. >> mccartney: we pull her feet out, and then we kind of wiggle up to that windshield that was kicked out. and then, we pulled her over to the grass and laid her down. >> pelley: a minute later, he told us, the car exploded. that fear of dying in a car is well-known to abigail marsh. she's not a hero, but she was saved by one. at age 19, she was on an interstate at night and swerved
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to miss a dog. she went into a spin, which left her facing lanes of high-speed traffic in a car she couldn't restart. >> marsh: and i spent some amount of time 100% certain i was about to die. i mean, i was, snap, you know. any one of these cars hadn't swerved in time, and i definitely would've been dead. >> pelley: what happened? >> marsh: i hear a rap on the passenger-side window, and i see a man's face staring into my car. and he said, "you look like you could use some help." >> pelley: the stranger got her car started and drove her to safety. his act of heroism led her to become dr. abigail marsh, a neuroscientist who studies what gets into the heads of heroes. at georgetown university, she has published studies on the brains of two kinds of people-- compassion for others, and people who have so much compassion that they donated a kidney to a stranger.
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she found a striking difference in a pair of tiny structures near the bottom of the brain called the amygdalae. they subconsciously recognize danger, and react faster than conscious thought. >> marsh: one of the big things that we know they do is, they're responsible for generating the experience of fear. what's interesting about that is that, not only is the amygdala essential for giving you the experience of fear, it seems to allow you to empathize with other people's fear. >> pelley: as her subjects were scanned, marsh showed them emotional faces. >> marsh: and whereas people who are psychopathic show very minimal responses in the amygdala when they see a frightened face, people who have given kidneys to strangers have an exaggerated response in the amygdala, which we think means that they are more sensitive than most people to other's distress, better at interpreting when other people are in distress, more likely to pick up on it. >> pelley: perhaps like the man who saved her on the freeway. no telling how many psychopaths drove past you that night.
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( laughter ) >> marsh: just try to relax and stay as l >> pelley: we wondered whether our carnegie heroes were born heroic. was there a difference in their brains? all three volunteered for 6dr. marsh's scans. >> marsh: to my-- i'm not going to lie, it was-- i was really pleased and gratified by what we found in the heroic rescuers, which is that, just like the altruistic kidney donors, their amygdalas were larger than average and significantly more responsive to the sight of somebody else in distress. which makes so much sense. i mean, you know, these are the people who, when they saw somebody terrified because they thought they were about to die, they didn't just sit there. >> pelley: you know, they have all told us that they sprang into action, as you say, without thinking. >> mccartney: you don't think; you just-- you're strictly acting. >> pontzer: i didn't think about it. >> thomas: i didn't even think
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about it. >> marsh: it really makes sense, when you think about how ancient and deep in our brain structures like the amygdala are. and i wouldn't want to say that the amygdala is where altruism is in the brain. it's one link in a very long chain of events that's happening that takes us from seeing that somebody's in danger to actually acting to help them. but we know that it's definitely an essential link in that chain. whether you are a mouse or a rat or a dog or a human, it's performing the same functions at a really deep, fast, subconscious level. >> pelley: if the act of heroism is a sprint, the consequences are a marathon. for david mccartney, it was for the better. he's the first to admit he wasn't a good man. in the past, he'd pleaded guilty to battery. but he promised the woman he pulled from the burning car that he would do good, and, in 2019, he donated a kidney. who did the kidney go to? >> mccartney: i have no clue. >> pelley: on the other hand, for terryann thomas, heroism has
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been troubling. she wasn't able to go back to work in the police property room. >> thomas: i had a hard time. i still have a hard time. >> pelley: and it's been a hard time for pete pontzer, who was left with regret. that second boy he could not reach was flown to a hospital, but did not survive. >> pontzer: a hero would've gotten the second one, as well. and that's a challenge that i always live with. i just couldn't get the second kid. >> pelley: his regret was coupled with curiosity about the boy he saved six years ago, the boy whose name he never knew. the young man that you saved is named sebastian prokop, and we found him. and he had something that he wanted to say to you. so, let me introduce you.
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>> sebastian prokop: i'm sebastian prokop. i'm 18. i recently graduated from high school, and i'm working toward going to college, getting a car, all that good stuff. thank you to the one who pulled me out and let me be able to achieve all the milestones that i've got and that i plan to get. >> pontzer: thank you, scott. >> pelley: what is it like to see him today? >> pontzer: it kind of takes my breath away, scott. it helps to bring some closure, and some help. >> pelley: help for heroes has been the mission of the carnegie fund for 117 years. it has bestowed 10,000 medals, and awarded $40 million. back in 1904, andrew carnegie sensed what science has now confirmed. heroes, he said, cannot be
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created; they act on an impulse, a mysterious gift to the few. ( ticking ) >>psychogical cost for some heroes. >> it's okay to say, "look, i really need to talk to someone. >> at 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by cologuard.
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>> wertheim: now, an update on a story we first reported in 2018. sharyn alfonsi looked at how a "plastic plague" was turning oceans into vast garbage dumps. a young dutch inventor, boyan slat, created a device meant to clean up the notorious great pacific garbage patch. >> boyan slat: the eventual goal of this cleanup is to get to a 90% reduction by the year 2040. >> wertheim: the combination of pipe and nylon netting collected more publicity than plastic. but slat's organization, the ocean cleanup, has developed a new design. in tests this summer and fall, it successfully collected some 63,000 pounds of ocean plastic. i'm jon wertheim.
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we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." ( ticking ) you've saved, how much you'll need, and build a straightforward plan to generate income, even when you're not working. a plan that gives you the chance to grow your savings and create cash flow that lasts. along the way, we'll give you ways to be tax efficient. and you can start, stop or adjust your plan at any time without the unnecessary fees. talk to us today, so we can help you go from saving...to living.
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talk to us today, robyn: i serve as an equalizer. i'm the one you call when you can't call 911. previously on the equalizer... come on, babe. five years of freedom from being hunted by the feds. harry: five years of being stuck underground. it's getting a little old. when i was working overseas, no one knew who i was. maybe i was foolish thinking i could do this work so close to home. anything we do risks exposing her. as hard as this is, we just have to trust her. (both grunting) (gunshot) (grunts) someone's got to have your back. harry: hold on a sec. let me get this straight. there's a truce between you and the d.a. robyn: she won't actively pursue me as long as i don't go too far. have you met yourself? too far is kind of your brand. boy: mama! (gasps) mama!

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