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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  May 29, 2021 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for saturday, may 29: memorial day travelers hit the road and take to the skies as more states lift covid-19 restrictions; jeff greenfield wh a look at the political implications of crime bills; and in our signature segment, the god equation, michio kaku and e search for the “theory of everything.” next on pbs newshour weekend. >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the anderson family fund. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. barbara hope zuckerberg. the leonard and norma klorfine
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foundation. the peter g. peterson and joan ganz cooney fund. the estate of worthington mayo- smith. we try to live in the moment, to not miss what's right in front of us. at mutual of america, we believe taking care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america finaial group, retirement services and investments. >> for 25 years, consumer cellular's goal has been to provide wireless service that helps people communicate and connect. we offer a variety of no-contract plans, and our u.s.-based customer service team can help find one that fits you. to learn more, visit www.consumercellularv. additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the american people. and by contributionso your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> sreenivasan: good evening, and thank you for joining us.
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the 2021 memorial day weekend is under way with covid-19 mask mandates ending in most states and travelers on the move. a.a.a. forecasts a 60% increase in travel on the roads this year over last year's record low number of memorial day weekend drivers. at airports, where masks are still required, the transportation secury administration reported it screened more than 1.9 million passengers, crew members and workers yesterday. a t.s.a. spokesperson tweeted that wait times were under four minutes but urged travellers t“" pack your patience.” the centers for disease control and prevention reported yesterday that more than 62% of people over 18 in the u.s. have received at least one dose of a covid vaccination while cases and deaths have dropped to record low numbers in the u.s., globally there are still more than 520,000 new cases and more than 11,000 deaths on average every day, according to the "new york times" database. in china, officials shut down parts of the city of guangzhou
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and began mass testing today after new cases were reported there. health agencies there reported 20 new infections over the past week. the biden administration is re- imposing economic sanctions on belarus after the country's authoritarian leader sent a fighter jet to force down a passenger plane last sunday. a journalist opposed to alexander lukashenko's regime was on the flight and remains under arrest in belarus. in a statement released last night, the white house said it will re-impose sanctions on nine state-owned companies in belarus beginning next week. the federal aviation administration is also warning u.s. air carriers to “exercise extreme caution when considering flying in belarusian airspace.” today, air france and lufthansa gained approval to use new flight routes to moscow that avoid belarus. many european union countries have banned the country's air carrier, belavia, from flying in their airspace, and the european union has told airlines not to fly over belarus.
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for more national and inteational news, visit >> sreenivasan: this week's mass shooting at a light rail yard in san jose, california, was the deadliest in the bay area's history. it was one of an estimated 230 mass shootings in the u.s. so far this year, according to the gun violence archive. the seemingly endless instances of gun violence underscore a broader issue, the upsurge of violent crime that has been plaguing american commities in the last year or two. it's a matter that has had serious political implications in the past and may do so again. here with a look is special correspondent jeff greenfield, who joins us from santa barbara. so, jeff, i'm old enough to remember when crime was one of those big political decision- making issues; that it was the driver of where you voted, who you voted for, depending on what their stance was on crime.
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>> all through the '60s, crime rose sharply. the violent crime rate doubled in that decade. and then, when you add in upheaval in the cities, upheaval on campus, the whole issue of disorder and lawlessness became a national political issue, particularly in 68 in the campaigns of george wallace d especially in the campaign of richard nixon. >> it is time for an honest look at the problem of order in the united states. >> and that issue hung around for decades. in 1986, tre were three justices of the california supreme court removed by the vters for not being tough enough on crime. and i know you'll remember in 1988, michael dukakis' presidential campaign was hobbled by the issue that there had been a furlough program where convicted criminals were let out for a while and one of them went on a crime spree, which resulted in a major effort by the bush campaign in its commercials. >> his revolving-door prison policy gave weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers.
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>> and that also explains why bill clinton, when he ran for president in 1992, made a point of appearing in front of police officers and presenting both as candidate and as president a very tough crime package supported in no small measure by then-senator joe biden. >> sreenivasan: what happened with joe biden and crime? i mean, we see president biden today versus his rhetoric when he was pushing this bill >> the major thing that happened is that crime went down. nationally, it went down, and in some cases dramatically. in new york, in 1990, there were some 2,200 murders. by 2018, there were fewer than 300. and when there's less crime, it's less on people's minds. then, you had the murder of george floyd and the massive protests against police violence against blacks so that in 2020, biden was apologizing for the tough, draconian crime bills
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that he sponsored back in the '90s. there was also a demand on the part of some progressives to defund the police, although biden himself opposed that. and at the same time, you began to see another rise in crime so that crime began to rear its ugly head again in the last election. >> sreenivasan: we saw, in effect, an effect in the november election about the topic of crime. >> absolutely, because of the violence that was on television screens, the occasional sporadic violence around protests and the fact that crime jumped in 2020. in many big cities, though, the murder rate, the homicide rate went up sharply. and what people like jim clyburn, one of the most influential democrs in the house of representatives, said ter is that the whole issue of crime hurt congressional democrats running in many purple districts. it may explain why donald trump, whran a very, very strong law
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and order campaign, got moref the brown and black votes in many parts of the country. these were middle class folks who were upset by violence. and so, now you have the specter of a president trying to run on what he's doing for the economy who could be politically threatened by the fact that when crime rises, it becomes a central issue to people because it is literally about their safety. and that's a very real possibility that will hinder biden's attempt to win back reluctant democrats by saying, "look what we're doing for you." because if the response was, "yeah, but i'm not safe in my neighborhood," that can be a powerful political tool. as you mentioned, we saw that a generation ago. >> sreenivasan: jeff greenfield joining us from santa barbara. thanks so much. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: homicides and gun violence are up in new york
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city and many other places across the country compared to two years ago. some blame the uptick on criminal justice reform, but advocates say it's far too early to tease out exactly what is driving the surge, especially as the country is still suffering from the effects of the pandemic. for more, newshour weekend's christopher booker sat down with jullian harris-calvin of the vera institute of justice in new york, a nearly 60-ye-old advocacy organization focused on criminal justice reform. >> reporter: can you put the recent increase in violent crime into context within new york city in the last 30 years? >> yes. so, the increase in gun and homicide violence is an increase compared to the last two or three years. it is still 70% below what we were seeing in the '90s, and somewhere around 50% below what we were seeing in the early 2000s.
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so, there is an increase and it matters, but it is not this dramatic crime wave. rapes are-- are down, larceny is down, burglary is down. all of the other things we think about, those are down despite the craziness of the last year and all the instability and the pain and suffering that's happened in this last year. all of those other categories are still at 2019 lows. >> reporter: what's your reaction, then, when you hear new york governor andrew cuomo say "we have a major crime problem"? >> of all the things we have to do when we're talking in new york city, specifically,rime, crime, crime are the top three. >> we do not have a major crime problem. we do have a problem, which is that murders are still happening, whether it's below or above the murder rate from last year or the year before.
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we're not saying that there shouldn't be a response to any nd of crime, right, that there shouldn't be-- we shouldn't be taking notice of the uptick in homicides and murders. but the real issue for us is, what is the correct response? >> reporter: harris-calvin points to a number of community- baseviolence prevention programs like violence interrupters, which send community members to immediately meet with shooting victims to try to avoid retaliation. but the pandemic and the need for social distancing put many of these programs on hold. in new york, some have blamed the recent uptick in violence on sweeping criminal justice reforms enacted in 2020-- most notably, bail reform. the law eliminated cash bail and pretrial detention for nearly all misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases. but given the short length of time it's been in practice and the pandemic, which led to many prisoners being released to prevent the spread of covid, harris-calvin says it's way too early to draw any correlation
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between the reforms and the recent uptick in gun violence and homicides. >> it's going to take us years to, like, really look at both the quantitative but the qualitative data around not just the spike in these two kinds of crimes, but just all of the fallout and all of the myriad consequenceshat have come about because of the pandemic. you know, a lot of people have tried to blame criminal justice reform, bail reform, our massive decarceration both in new york city but across the state. but when you look across the country, gun violence and murders have risen in blue states, red states, urban ars, rural and suburban areas. this is something that's happening across the country, which is another reason why it's going to take a while for us to really assess what exactly led to this. and there's no one factor. there's never one factor. >> reporter: what do you think this does to the broader efforts to reform criminal justice? >> it really harms it, right. a damper on those reform efforts
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and threatening to roll them back. between the time that bail reform was passed and the robacks came around, where the fear mongering came around, just after january 2020, there's no data to support that, you know, there were folks who were being released on bail reform and-- and we're still debating or creating new crimes. >> reporter: but it's happening across the country. chicago mayor lightfoot recently said that judges are not able to make discretionary decisions as it relates to release. it does seem quite remarkable that this has reached chorus level across the country so quickly. >> the problem is, folks are scared, right? because we've just come out of this period of immense instability, insecurity in terms of health and economics and all the other intersections that have arisen from the pandemic. and when we see that there is the rise in shootings and homicides-- which is still far fewer, something like 70% fewer than what we were experiencing in the '90s, right.
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but they see that happening, and people want quick and easy responses to very complex, nuanced problems. and i push back on using these quick talking points because i think we folks try to force us into being like, just give us the thing you need to do. give us-- do we need to find violence interrupters? do we need to find housing? do we need to find education? and the answer is, you need to do all of that. >> reporter: are you optimistic? >> i am optimistic, yes. >> reporter: you are? why? >> because as we've seen, even when the pendulum kind of shifts back and forth, we're still moving closer to a more fair, a more just, a more equitable system. you know, there's still 2.5 million folks in this country who are incarcerated, and that is more than there were 30, 40, 50 years ago. but even people who have-- use tough-on-crime rhetoric, and even folks that are using some of these racial undertones, will acknowledge that going back to
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the '90s is not the answer. and i think that is huge progress. >> sreenivasan: for decades, physicists have been working th a theory called the“ standard model” as a way to understand the mysteries of the universe. but the standard model is incomplete. st last month, the discovery of a wobbling particle opened the door for new research and discovery, and there are also other theories beyond the standard model. theoretical physicist michio kaku is co-founder of the string field theory, a model that he says is a step towards the theory of everything. last month, he released his latest book, "the god equation," about that quest. newshour weekend's mi rothman has the story. >> when i was eight years old, something happened which totally changed my entire life. a great scientist had just died, and the newspapers all published
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a picture of his desk with an open book. and the caption said, "this is the unfinished manuscript of the greatest scientists of our time." >> reporter: the scientist, albert einstein, had been working on the so-called “god equation.” >> he wanted an equation no more than one inch long that would allow him to "read the mind of god." so, i said to myself, wow, this is for me. this is something that i have to do. >> reporter: kaku went on to build a particle accelerator in his parent's garage in high school and dedicated his life to finding that equation, which has also been referred to as the“ theory of everything." >> reporter: kaku has written 17 books and appeared in tv
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specials explaining science. his latest book, “the god equation,” explains the history behind the search for a theory of everything and the emergence of the string theory, which kaku believes could be the equation einstein was searching for. >> the power of string theory is that it unifies the forces of nature. >> reporter: theoretical physicists believe there are four fundamental forces-- strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, gravity and electromagnetism. kaku says if we could explain all of tse forces, we could understand how our universe operates. he equates it to the rules of chess. >> let's say chess is the rules of the universe. after 2,000 years, we finally figured out how the pawns move, how the bishop... and then, i suppose one day we'll havehe god equation, and that'll tell us how the whole chess board ves, and then we'll become grand masters. we'll be able to apply this to answer some of the deepest unsolved questions in relativity. for exame, is time travel
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possible? einstein's theory says yes, but is it really true? we don't know what happened before the big bang, before creation itself, what lies on the other side of a black hole. all these questions cannot be solved with the present understanding of physics, but that's what string theory comes in. string theory is a theory of everything. >> reporter: in the 1970s, kaku and his colleague, keiji kakkawa, took the ideas of string theory and put them into one simple equation known as the string field theory. kaku says string theory is closer to einstein's ideal of a god equation than the long and complicated but widely accepted standard model. >> now, we have something called the standard model, which clumsily gives us rhyme or reason with regards to all these subatomic particles. t it is ugly as sin. how can nature at the fundamental level, the level of the standard model of particles,
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be so ugly and clumsy? it's like getting an aardvark, a platypus and a whale, scotch taping them together and declaring this to be nature's highest evolutionary achievement. the elegance of evolution? no, we need a new paradigm. string theory says this new paradigm is music, the music of resonances. you know, when you learn music, you learn that each vibration corresponds to a note-- a b- flat, c-sharp. how many notes are there on a string? an infinite number, infinite number of octaves. >> reporter: the string theory suggests tiny strings make up everything and that the infinite number of their vibrations, like musical notes, account for the vast diversity of our universe. kaku says the string theory is not complete as it needs to account for newer ideas such as eleven dimensions. >> i think that some young enterprising kid out there will
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finally finish the whole theory from a fresh point of view. so, i ink the theory is testable, and i think the theory is falsifiable, and i think the theory is correct. >> reporter: you've been working on the string field theory for decades now. do you ever have the shadows of doubt because it is a theory, that it could be disproven? >> it's always possible that you spend a lifetime on a theory, and the theory turns out to be wrong. but you see, that is a good feeling because you're one step further toward understanding reality itself. but removing the dead ends, removing the false leads-- as physicist freeman dyson once said, the road to the unified field theory, the road to the final theory is littered with the corpses of failed attempts, hundreds of failed attempts. the greatest minds of humanity
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have tried to createhis theory and have failed. what keeps me going is the fact that of all these corpses, one theory has defied everyone's-- all the critics expectations. it has survived ery challenge. so, we know that mathematical consistency is on the side of string theory. so, that's why i think that it has to be correct. >> reporter: someone like me who isn't versed in physics can pick up the book and try to understand all of this. was your a to impress on people who aren't alrey aware of what this search for the theory of everything is, what the potential, the incredible potential is if we do find the answer? >> well, there are two kinds of audiences that i want reach. the first is the young upstart who really wants to find the unified field theory, and i give them a message of advice. i tell them that if they ever find the god equation, the theory of everything, then tell
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me first and we'll split the nobel prize money together, you and me. when i write a book, i think of myself at the age of eight. i went to the library, and i found nothing, nothing about the unified field theory. lots of books about atomic bombs, lots of books about einstein the man, but nothing about hyperspace, antimatter, all the stuff that's contained within the god equation. and i said to myself, when i grow up, i'm going to become a theoretical physicist. and in addition to working on the god equation, i will write for children, young adults, the curious to satisfy their curiosity about higher dimensions, about antimatter, about hyperspace, about wormholes, because that's what i do for a living.
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>> this is pbs newshour weekend, saturday. >> sreenivasan: tomorrow night, pbs will air the annual national memorial day concert with appearances by gladys knight, vince gill and mor the concert will include a tribute to u.s. nurses from the vietnam war and a 20th anniversary remembrance of 9/11. that's here tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. eastern and streaming live. here's an excerpt. ♪ >> welcome to the national memorial day concert. as always, this great american tradition gives us a chance to united in tribute and remember all those who gave their lives for our freedom. all who ser and their families.
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♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ >> i remember a young sldier, wrapped nearly head to toe in bandages, his wounds were too severe, i knew he wouldn't make it through the night. now he said, please stay. i don't want to die, don't leave me. i won't, i said. i'm here with you. i held his hand as it grew colder and colder. he died a little after midnight. i still couldn't let go of his hand. i couldn't. i remember pulling the sheet over his face and i knew that i would never forget that night at his side. in times like that, all you
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could do is pray for grace. >> sreenivasan: that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. for the latest news updates, visit i'm hari sreenivasan. thanks for watching. stay healthy and have a good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the anderson family fund. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. barbara hope zuckerberg. the leonard and norma klorfine foundation. the peter g. peterson and joan
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ganz cooney fund. the estate of worthington mayo smith. we try to live in the moment, to n miss what's right in front of us. at mutual of america, we believe taking care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america financial group, retirement services and investments. additional support has been provided by: consumer cellular. and by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private corporation funded bthe american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. you're watching s. show is brought to you
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