tv PBS News Hour PBS January 26, 2022 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
judy: good evening. a major retirement. justice stephen breyer will announce he is stepping down from the supreme court, setting up a senate confirmation battle for his replacement. then, confronting inflation. the federal reserve signals it will soon raise interest rates to counteract surging prices across the economy. and postal problems. pandemicnduced staffing shortages and delivery delays plague the already beleaguered u.s. postal service. >> we don't have enough people to be able to process and deliver the mail. in my area, they're actually making deliveries on sundays in order to try to keep up with the demand. judy: all that andore on
tonight's "pbs newshour." ♪ >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by -- ♪ consumer cellular. johnson & johnson. financial services firm raymond james. supporting social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the world's problems. schoolfoundation.org. the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives in the u.s. and in developing countries. supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur
foundation. more information at macfound.org. and with the ongoing support of these institutions. this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. judy: this is a day of three major news developments. from word of justice stephen breyer's plan to retire from the u.s. supreme court, to coming interest rate hikes, and a nato rebuff of russia. but first, the breyer news, and questions about who will succeed him. president biden said today he'll wait for breyer's formal announcement. senate majority leader chuck schumer cited the president's past words. sen. schumer: during the
campaign, president biden stated he'd choose a black woman as his choice for the supreme court, and i expect he'll follow through on that. in the senate, we want to be deliberate. we want to move quickly. we want to get this done as soon as possible. judy: senate minority leader mitch mcconnell said it's too soon to comment. he said republicans will respond once there's a nominee. but first, breyer still has to make his retirement official. that could come as soon as tomorrow. john yg looks back now at his long career. john: for 27 years, justice stephen breyer has been a moderate liberal on a supreme court that has moved increasingly to the right. pres. clinton: judge stephen breyer. [applause] john: nominated by president bill clinton in 1994, he sits on a court with a solid conservative majority, secured by three selections by president donald trump. the most senior of the three remaining justices appointed by
democratic presidents, he defends positions he has long championed, like abortion rights. in oral arguments last december, he quoted an earlier decision to say that the landmark ruling roe v. wade should not be overturned. justice breyer: to overrule under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason, to reexamine a watershed decision, would subvert the court's legitimacy beyond any serious question. john: and gun control, here in the 2008 case that led to the precedent-setting ruling that the second amendment protects an individual's right to keep a gun in the home, breyer was in the minority. justice breyer: why isn't a ban on handguns, while allowing the use of rifles d muskets, a reasonable or a proportionate response on behalf of the district of columbia? john: breyer also argues that
the death penalty is unconstitutional. here he is in 2015 on boston pbs station gbh. justice breyer: the way it's administered is sufficiely arbitrary, cru, unusual now that we should reconsider the matter. john: through it all, he's interpreted the law by looking at its everyday effects on people. in a virtual talk for the national constitution center last year, he described his approach. justice breyer: when you have a statute, and the statute has some words in it, and these words could be interpreted in two or three different ways, and the issue is how to interpret them, what do they mean, you look at the history and you look at the purposes and you'll look at the consequences, too, and you'll try to evaluate them. john: he also seeks common ground in cases of competing
rights, what he's called "the play in the joints." here's breyer in 2011 speaking at the kansas city public library. justice breyer: in many of our cases, the most difficult ones are not about right versus wrong, they are about right versus right. john: in oral arguments, his questionare marked by humor, spirited give-and-take with lawyers, andften whimsical hypotheticals, like this one om a 2000 case about whether trademark law prohibit knock-offs. >> you could have a weird situation. imagine you made a hairbrush the shape of a grape. john: those characteristics were also on display in a series of appearances with the conservative icon justice antonin scalia, before his 2016 death. >> we are making progress. [laughter] >> he had unbridled optimism. john: federal judge vince chhabria, a former breyer clerk. >> when i was clerking for him, he was of the view that he would be able to convince justice scalia that the death penalty was unconstitutional.
john: former clerks like chhabria remember breyer as a considerate, though sometimes absent-minded boss. >> one time he walkeinto the clerk's office, and he started talking about a case, and he said, "ok, i'd like you guys to research this and that." and then the judicial assistant looked up and said, "justice, none of your clerks are in the room right now. they're all outside having lunch." and he said, "oh, ok." and he came out and joined us and sat down with us to talk about the cases. but i want to emphasize that, you know, when it came to writing opinions, you didn't see the absent-minded professor quality in the opinions he wrote, because he was always so careful to make sure that his opinions were widely accessible. john: and they remember his commitment to diversity. >> when you go to his law clerk reunions now, you see a group of people in the room that looks a lot like america. plenty of won, plenty of black and brown faces. justice breyer has launched all of those people to the highest
levels, and that's a diversity-related contribution that will last far longer than his time on the bench. john: former clerk risa goluboff, dean of the university of virginia law school, says part of his legacy is his humanity. >> one time i brought my little children, my nieces, my brother, my sister-in-law to meet him and to go on a tour of the court. and my son at the time was about four or five years old, and he immediately climbed under justice breyer's coffee table, which is not what you want to happen when you bring your family to the chambers. and justice breyer just sat down on his couch, and for some reason had a children's book sitting on his coffee table, and he opened it up and he just started reading it. and my son crawls back out from under the coffee table and sits up on the couch, and my niece sits there too, and they both were enthralled by him. he was going to meet my son where he was. john: a graduate of stanford and oxford universities and harvard law school, where he was an editor on the law review, breyer was chief counsel on the senate
judiciary committee in 1980 when president jimmy carter named him to the federal appeals court. >> to be the 107th justice -- john: in 1993, clinton picked ruth bader ginsburg over breyer in his first oortunity to name a supreme court justice. clinton picked breyer for the next vacancy. the day the president introduced hinominee, the two jogged along the national mall. >> who's faster, the judiciary or the executive? >> he's much faster. john: the senate confirmed his nomination, 87-9. after president biden took office and with democrats holding a slim senate majority, progressives pressed breyer to retire. last september, judy woodruff asked him about his plans. judy: after 27 years on the court, what time frame are you talking about, in the coming year, are you saying? justice breyer: there are many different considerations, and i haven't made up my mind definitely just exactly when, but i don't want to die on the
court, and before then, i would like to retire. just when that will be i have not fully decided. i think this isn't the place or the time when i want to go too in depth. john: university of virginia law school dean risa golof. >> i think justice breyer takes really seriously his role as a protector and a champion of the court. and i think he thinks that in order for the people to have trust and faith in the court, the kind of trust and faith that lets the court do its job, he has to continue to be a neutral judge. and i could imagine that for him, taking a step that might appear to be political in a small-p politics kind of way would have ft anathema to his stewardship of the court and its legitimacy in the eyes of the people. justice breyer: the jobs i have
had in the justice department -- john: on the day he spoke in the rose garden to mark his nomination, breyer talked about what it meant to him to be a judge. justice breyer: i have been given quite a few labels, but i hope none would mind if i'm particularly proud of one label, that of judge. a judge of whatever court is honored by that name, and so too by the name of public servant. john: labels he has held for almost 50 years, nearly 30 of them othe nation's highest court. for the pbs newshour, i'm john yang. judy: joining us to discuss justice's breyer's legacy and the future of the nation's highest court is marcia coyle from the national law journal. hello to you. you have covered this court for a long time. i know it is hard to condense 28 years into just a few sentences, but what would you say justice breyer's main legacy is?
marcia: i would have to say it is his approach to judging. whenever possible, he would try to make decisions that would work for the people and for democracy. not just in deciding a case on the basis of facts and law, but he had a broader vision that the constitution was more than a structural document. t washis second one would be his concern for the institution itself, and how it is perceived by the public. as you know, he has recently been concerned about the perception othe court in the eyes of the public and what reforms might do to the court, as well as whether the court would be perceived as a partisan body because of certain decisions, some of which may
come this very term. judy: in connection with that, he has made a point about speaking about how the court is not driven by partisan concerns, yet the last time i interviewed him, in september of 2021, there was a lot of speculation about whether or when he might retire. i asked him about the effect that it might have on his decision, which party was in power. here is a quick excerpt of that conversation. [video clip] justice breyer, do you think it make a difference when you step down? justice breyer: yes, probably. i mean, i don't know for sure. no one ever knows. and to what extent you take that kind of thing into account, it's a personal decision. justice scalia, justice rehnquist have said you do take that kind of thing into account. others have been more reluctant
to do it. so it's in the mix. judy: marcia, but would you say is the main reason he is doing this now? marcia: i am not sure if he knew he was ready to go wholeheartedly, because i think he truly loves the job and the challenges, but he is 83. he is alert, active, involved in many different things, so probably that also is in the mix , that there are other things he wants to do, as well as his family. he has a number of grandchildren, and perhaps he wants to spend more time with them. judy what does the court lose with his departure? marcia: i think they loose somebody who tried to be a consensus maker, someone who, he once told me, listens very hard with the justices in their private conferences for what he called the play in the joints
was there some room to bring them closer together? there was one term, the term in which justice scalia died, in which he and three other justices fmed this group that worked very hard to find consensus and were successful in achieving their decisions that brought the court together. i think they lose that very much and they loose someoneho brought humor to the bench. they are not thamany who are very funny, to be honest, but he could be, and it was in a self-deprecating sort of way. he is known for his incredible hypotheticals. i remember one that he gave to an advocate that, after the hypothetical was written up in the transcript, it ran for three pages. i am sure the applicant had to bite his lip to say at the end, could you repeat the question? that is going to be missed as well. judy: the attention turning very
quickly to who president biden will nominate to succeed him. as we heard earlier, we are reminded the president spoke about this during the campaign, during one of the early debates, primary debates, and here is what he had to say. pres. biden: i commit that if i am elected, i have an opportunity to elect someone to the courts, i will appoint the first black woman to the courts. it is required that they have representation now. it is long overdue. judy: what is the significance of that? marcia: it is very significant. it would be another woman. women are underrepresented on the court. secondly, it would be a black american, and they are very underrepresented. she would bring a certain type of diversity beyond her color, and the court needs that as well. just a reminder, when thurgood marshall is on the bench, justice o'connell often said it
was the stories he told in their private conference meetings that opened their eyes to a lot of what race meant in america. it can't but help this court to have a black female on the bench. judy: marcia, thank you so much. marcia: my pleasure, judy. ♪ vanessa: i'm vanessa ruiz, in for stephanie sy. we'll return to the full program after the latest headlines. in the day's other news, the federal reserve is ready to ratchet up interest rates in a bid to beat back inflation. the central bank reaffirmed that stance today, and it signaled that the first in a series of rate hikes could come in march. we'll have more later in the program. the u.s. and nato have rejected russian security demands amid moscow's crew building -- through building --
troop-building along ukraine's border. the formal responses came today in official letters. the secretary general of the united nations sounded a dire warning today about afghanistan. antonio guterres told the un security council that millions of afghans face extreme hunger in the dead of winter. >> six months after the takeover by the taliban, afghanistan is hanging by a thread. for afghans, daily life has become a frozen hel -- hell. we need to jump-start afghanistan's economy through increased liquidity. vanessa: most foreign aid to afghanistan dried up after the taliban took control in august.
in northeastern syria, kurdish led forces backed by u.s. coalition air strikes have retaken a prison. this was the biggest "isis" attack since 2019. the north has been ramping up missile testing activity since last fall. and new covid-19 infections raged 21 million worldwide last week, the most since the pandemic began. the world health organization reported the new data today. it also said the global rate of increase in infections is slowing. the search is still on for 38 migrants believed missing off of florida's atlantic coast after their boat capsized saturday. authorities have found a lone survivor. he said the storm swamped his
boat after the crew tried to pass near the bahamas. officials also found one corpse, and they say today that time is growing short. >> it is dire. the longer they remain in the water without food, without water, exposed to the marine environment, the sun, e sea conditions, every moment that passes, it becomes much more dire and unlikely that anyone could survive in those conditions. vanessa: federal agents are treating the incident as possible human smuggling and have opened a criminal investigation. a texas man is now charged with selling the gun used in a hostage standoff at a dallas-area synagogue. they british man held four people captive for 10 hours earlier this month. they escaped, and he was killed by the fbi. the alleged gun-seller is accused of possession of a firearm by a felon. the city of san jose, california, has adopted the nation's first law to make gun owners carry liability
insurance. the city council overwhelmingly approved the ordinance yesterday. gun owners sued today in federal court, saying the new law would violate their second amendment rights. still to come on the "newshour," what the united states' latest response to russia's military buildup means for ukraine. the postal service struggles with staffing shortages and delivery delays. a children's book author connects holocaust history to the present. plus, much more. >> this is the pbs newshour. from w eta studios in washington, and in the west from the walter cronkite school of journalism at a was in a state university -- at arizona state university. judy: the federal reserve is shifting its approach to the economy and monetary policy. it's a major change after many months of holding interest rates at near zero levels. and given the pandemic, it's not without its own risks. but as lisa desjardins reports, the fed chairman said the state
of the economy required changing course. >> good afternoon. lisa: from the fed chair today, a clear message the central bank hopes to clamp down on inflation with an interest rate hike in a matter of weeks. >> the committee is of a mind to raise the rate at the march meeting. lisa: fed chief jerome powell is signaling what would be the first fed interest rate increase in three years, and the potential for more in future months. this as rising inflation weaves into daily american life, with costs up in gas stations and grocery stores. in december, prices were up 7% over the previous year. but the fed must also balance the continued spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus and its effect on the economy. on that, powell indicated reason for optimism. chair powell: fortunately, health experts are finding that
the omicron variant has not been as virulent as previous strains of the virus. if the wave passes quickly, the economic effects should as well. lisa: powell noted that unemployment is low overall, arguing the job market can handle a shift from the fed. german powell: i think there is room to raise interest rates -- chairman powell: i think there is room to raise interest rates without risking the labor market. this is by any measure an historically tight labor market. lisa: but the jobs picture is not the same for all americans. unemployment remains high for black americans, at 7.1 percent, versus white americans at 3.2%. that economic conrn is on the frontburner at the white house, where president biden met with corporate ceos to try to revitalize his stalled build back better plan. pres. biden: the build back better plan lowers prices for families and gets people working.
it creates the best educated workforce, hopefully in the world, ensures to remain the most dynamic and productive economy in the world. lisa: meantime, businesses, like this cafe just two miles from the white house, are feeling a shaky economy. >> you can see when peoplere are not getting the extras. you can see when they are getting drip coffee instead of cappuccino. lisa: i'm lisa desjardins. judy: let's break down a bit more of today's developments, and how this fits into the larger economic picture going forward. greg ip is the chief economics commentator for "the wall street journal." how much do we think the fed will raise interest rates, and how quickly? greg: they have signaled the process will get started in the month of march with a quarter went increase. last time he gave a speech, they thought they would raise rates three times, three quarter increases this year. at the body language from powell today says that they will do quite a few more great increases
this year. the reasons why our simple. in the last two months, all the data they have looked at has made the case for high interest rates even stronger. inflation has gotten worse since the bad 7% number, and the job market is extremely strong, with far more job openings than there are unemployed people. the two things the fed cares about much, a strong job market and keeping inflation down, both fronts tell them that rates right now are way too low, so i think it is a probability that they will raise rates at least four times this year and possibly many more times than that. judy: you are referring to his body language. what made you come away with that impression? greg: in the last cycle where the fed raised interest rates, they didn't every three months, four times per year. the reporters asked, well, is that going to be the same template you follow this time? he repeatedly emphasized the
difference between the economy today and the economy in 2018, 2019, when they were last raising interest rates. the economy is stronger today, the job market is tighter, and inflation is a lot higher, around 7% and two -- rather than 2%. you cannot look at low rate increases last time around and believe that is important for how we are going to behave right now. i think that that is where they are behind the curve. they are facing an economy and and inflation that are -- they e sitting here with interest rates way too low already for the strength of the economy and how high inflation is now, and they have a lot of work to do to get rates to a more appropriate level. judy: we heard in lisa's report a reference to why they are doing it right now. anything you would add to help us understand why they made this major course correction? greg: i think they, like a lot
of people, includinthe biden administration, the economy is not behaving the way they thought a year or two ago. the expectation was the economy would, like after the global financial crisis a decade ago, be one where there was prolonged and very high unemployment, a lack of spending, a lack of demand, and lots of unused capacity. it is kind of the opposite. we have red-hot demand. shortages of everything. the problem today is there is too much demand and not enough supply. all the fiscal stimulus we had, the monetary stimulus, they got the economy back to a healthy state, but now we are in a situation where policy is completely inappropriate for the shape of the economy. one last point, which i think the fed and everybody is struggling wh, is the virus. we are discovering the virus does not lead to weaker spending. fewer people shopping and fewer people in restaurants. also, fewer people are willing to work, and that adds to the
problems of reopening the economy and adds to inflation and makes a very complicated picture. judy: we heard chair powell talk about the connection between the economy and the pandemic. how much is it thought they are tied together, that ifhe pandemic lifts, the economy gets better? what is the thinking? greg: in a perfect world, and the world they were assuming until a few months ago, was that as the pandemic receded, some of the distortions of the economy would go away. supply chains would normalize. prices would come back down to earth. people would start chipping spending to goods and services. people thought they would be willing to go back to work. all the childcare issues would be fixed. the longer the virus hangs around, the more of a wave we get, the less likely normalcy is to return. you have to come around to the idea that there is going to be a new normal that does not look like the old normal, and it is
going to be a world where some of these shortages may be very persistent. i think that weighs heavily on the fed's thinking and adds to the inflation risk that they are trying to tamp down with their coming rate increases. judy: in just a few seconds, is it believed that this is going to ring inflation out of the economy in the right way? greg: there are several reasons to be cautiously optimistic. most people still believe the prices we are seeing now are indeed distorted by the pandemic , and with time those things should go away. it is not the case that used-car prices will keep going up 30% every year. they are good reasons to believe that as the omicron variant works its way through, labor markets will normalize. we are not going to get another 2 trillion dollars stimulus program from the federal government like we did a year ago. just the absence of that fiscal push means demand is going to cool off a little bit, and that will provide some scope for
inflation to return to normal. but i would emphasize that there is a -- of that, the reason you see markets behaving in such a -- there is an enormous uncertainty in that, the reasons you see markets behaving in such a volatile way. judy: greg, thank you. ♪ as we reported today, the u.s. submitted a written document that responds to russian demands over ukraine and nato's future. the document rejected russia's core demand that ukraine never join nato, but suggested other diplomatic off-ramps to try to defuse the crisis over ukraine. nick schifrin has more on the day's developments. nick: in moscow today, an effort to save diplomacy. u.s. ambassador john sullivan left the foreign affairs ministry after delivering a
written document that secretary of state antony blinken said reiterated a core us-nato principle. >> i can't be more clear, nato's door is open, remains open, and that is our commitment. >> but that is the very commitment russia demands the us break, as it deploys equipment and 100,000 troops to ukraine's border. back in december, russia demanded that nato close its open-door to other european countries, including ukrne, and roll back all its forces and weapons in europe to 1997 levels. giving into that demand would rewrite decades of u.s. and nato policy, and the map. in 1949, nato's eastern border was italy. by 1997, it had added 4 more countries, for a total of 16. since then, it has grown to 30 countries, including those on russia's border. in 2008, nato said ukraine and georgia would become future members. >> there is no change.
there will be no change. >> but the u.s. is offering mutual limits on eastern european exercises like these, poland, and missable claimants by reviving the defunct intermediate nuclear forces treaty, or inf, that banned an entire class of nuclear weapons. >> we could actually advance security for everyone, including for russia. the placement of offensive missile systems in ukraine, military exercises and maneuvers in europe, potential arms control measures, greater transparency. >> but even before blinken spoke, foreign minister sergey lavrov suggested that wasn't good enough. >> if there is no constructive answer and if the west continues its aggressive course, moscow, as president putin has repeated said, will take the necessary retaatory measures.
nick: the u.s. and nato are also trying to deter war,y reinforcing nato's eastern flank with european jets, european soldiers under nato command, and as many as 8500 us troops. nato secretary general jens stoltenberg. >> we have plans in place that we can activate, execute on very short notice so what we're done over the last weeks is increase readiness. nick: to reassure allies, the administration is working to replace russian natural gas that europe relies on, in case russia cuts exports. let the u.s. admits ultimately, whether diplomacy lives another day, will be decided by vladimir putin. >> the document is with them and the ball's in their court. [5.0] nick: for more the confrontation with russia and where things stand diplomatically, we turn to richard haass, president of the council on foreign relations, whoses held a number of foreign policy positions at the state department and on the national security council staff during republican administrations. richard, welcome back to the newshour. the u.s. has a written responses
today. why is the biden administration rejecting key demands? richard: article 10 talks about the openness of the alliance for other members. we cannot be in a situation where russia can determine who gets to be a nato member or not. that is a sovereign decision-making rights of the united states and its 29 allies. one other thing, russians know that. what we do not know is whether their positions represent an opening bid from which they are prepared to negotiate or compromise, or whether this is setting up diplomacy to fail. nick: so those negotiations or compromises that the u.s. wants to talk about include limiting military exercises in europe, stricking missile deployments, and new arms control agreements. it is that the right approach? richard: i think it is all fine.
you could add dealing with the russian presence in eastern ukraine. the question is whether it is enough for mr. putin, who has manufactured this crisis. for him to walk away, if you will, take the offramp, means he has to think there is enough in it to save face, to talk to his own people, to tell the world that he did not climb down because he was pressured. i do not think any of us know whether this will be enough for him to justify a change in his behavior. nick: secretary blinken today stressed allied unity, but there are differences. germany is blocking weapons, going to ukraine, and refusing to threaten to cut off the pipeline, nord stream 2, in case russia invades ukraine. is nato really unified? richard: no, but it was not unified during the cold war either. there were always tensions on how to deal with the soviet union, the wisdom of going ahead
or not going ahead with various deployments. we are seeing similar things now about how to deal with russia. the germans are very skittish. their energy dependency adds to it. there was also a lot of history and geography. not surprisingly, in an alliance of 30 countries, you have a range of opinions, and that is part of the challenge facing the biden administration, putin knows that, and it is one of the reasons he might think about a scenario where he uses a limited amount of force. the more limited the scenario, the deeper the crack's are likely to be within nato. nick: one of the challenges putin also faces is the calendar. we heard from the deputy secretary of state today, who suggested vladimir putin would not launch an invasion during the olympics, would start next friday, because it would take away from xi jinping's big moment. do you agree? richard: that is probably right.
russia is too dependent on china strategically. economically, that's one reason the sanctions may not have the desired effect. he probably has a month in which the weather is cooperative, the ground is largely frozen. all things being equal, if he is thinking about something that involves an intervention, i think you are more likely to be looking at the month that follows the close of the olympics. nick: i wondered if i could ask you about a little domestic politics. yesterday we heard from the top republican in congress, mitch mcconnell, saying that biden was "moving in the right direction" in confronting russia and supporting ukraine militarily. but very often, top cable channel host tucker carlsen on fox, urges the u.s. to go soft on russia. explain that dichotomy. where is the republican party today on russia? richard: it is hard to describe the party as a single entity.
i think the mainseam republican party agrees with the biden administration, strengthening nato, threatening putin with various sanctions, bolstering ukraine's ability to resist an occupation, but maintaining some diplomatic offering. i honestly do not fathom or understand the sympathy we are seeing on parts of the far right for mr. putin. he was repressive to his own people at home. he interferes with american democracy, uses military force with some abandon. he gets up every morning and basically things about what he can do to undermine the world that the united states has helped build, how to undermine american democracy. i do not understand the sympathy he seems to be generating in some quarters. nick: richard haass, thank you very much. richard: thank you, nick. ♪
judy: a key part of the biden administration's plan to distribute free covid tests depends heavily on the united states postal service. white house officials say that effort is going well, with tens of millions of tests now being shipped. but the u.s. postal service remains under intense scrutiny for its customer service and delivery, its finances, and how its workforce is dealing with covid. geoff bennett has our report. geoff: diana wahl of arlington, virginia says she went a full week without mail delivery last month. >> it was just terribly frustrating. if i'm mailing checks for health insurance or things like that, then i begin to wonder, are those being delivered? >> for me, the medication is lifesaving. [00:02:39] geoff: paul m. of atlanta, who
asked we notse his last name, relies on at-home delivery of his medication. in 2021, he says those deliveries through the u.s. postal service started taking longer to arrive then, one week in noveer, he says nothing showed up. >> that package that i missed, it showed that it was delivered and showed on the u.s. posl service webte that it was dropped off at the front office in my apartment complex. it wasn't. geoff: he says he missed a week's worth of doses. >> i had to space out my medication and actually ration, which isn't good for any medication. ever since then, i have not receed my medication through the u.s. postal service anymore. geoff: he is one of scores of people nationwide who complained to the newshour about delivery delayst usps for everything from medication to bills and birthday cards. the u.s. postal service reported that during this past holiday season, it delivered more than 13 billion pieces of mail and packages, with an average
delivery time of less than three days. but reports of delays and frustrated customers are still piling up. we asked postal workers, why? mark dimondstein, president of the american postal workers union, says one reason is worker shortages caused by covid. >> we have between now 15,000 and 20,000 people a day who are quarantined, officially quarantined, so that has an impact on service. geoff: since the start of the pandemic, the union told the newshour nearly 200,000 of the roughly 650,000 postal service employees have had to quarantine at some point, with more than 90,000 positive cases. kimberly karol, president of the iowa postal workers union, says she's seen a similar covid crunch. >> we don't have enough people to be able to process and deliver the mail, and we're working even more hours. in my area, they are making deliveries on sundays to try to
keep up with the demand. geoff: the postal service says it has put in safety measures, including face mask requirements, social distancing inside facilities, and contact tracing protocols to keep workers safe. usps also told the newshour that it is increasing staffing as necessary and in most cases it has resources to ensure on-time delivery. beyond the pandemic, postal advocates point to a larger overhaul of the independent government agency, led by postmaster general louis dejoy, as the main reason for the issues. his plan is aimed at fixing long standing financial problems at usps. >> i would suggest that we are on a death spiral. geoff: in early 2021, dejoy testified before congress and argued the agency needed dramatic reforms to avoid financial catastrophe. the 10-year plan unveiled last march, among other things, opens longer first-class mail delivery windows, from one to three days
to five days in some cases, reduces post office hours, and raises prices for postage. >> our dire financial trajectory, operational and network misalignment to mail trends, outdated pricing, infrastructure underinvestment, inadequate people engagement, and an insufficient growth strategy all demand immediate action. geoff: action that is needed, he says, to avoid $160 billion dollars in losses over the next 10 years. the postal service declined newshour's request for an interview with the postmaster general. since 2007, the u.s. postal service has reported net losses of more than $90 billion dollars, in large part due to a 2006 law that requires it to pre-fund employee healthcare and pensions. another factor is the major drop in mail volume, which drives profits. in the last 20 years, the postal service says first class mail shipments have declined by half. to address this, one part of the 10-year plan shifts emphasis toward shipping packages, which is more profitable.
veteran postal service employees, like kimberly karol, say they understand the financial challenges, but are wary of dejoy's plan and the impact on customers. >> we're seeing the impact of the and in service standards, the raising of prices and the changes in our networks. our our customers are not getting the deliveries that they are expecting in the timeframe that they are expecting, and they're frustrated because they're paying more for the product. geoff: changes made to postal delivery under dejoy, a major donor to former president trump, sparked outrage in 2020 when critics blamed him for service slowdowns ahead of the november election. democrats accused dejoy of attempting to sabotage the delivery of mail ballots, linking him to the former president's anti mail-in voting rhetoric. dejoy denied those allegations. democrats are now at odds over how to handle dejoy, who can only be dismissed by the postal service board of governors. i asked white house press
secretary jen psaki about this recently. what's the white house position on the persistent delivery delays that the postal service seems to be experiencing, at least anecdotally, and dejoy's current place as postmaster general? >> going back to the holidays, 97% or 98% of packages from the postal service were delivered on time, so there may be anecdotes from that 1% or 2%, but that's actual data. >> we have expressed concerns in the past about delays' leadership - sorry, dejoy - that was a little slip there -- dejoy's leadership in the past, that has not changed. geoff: the biden administration is relying on the postal service as a critical partner in its covid-19 strategy, tasking it with delivering rapid covid tests to any american who wants one, deliveries that started ahead of schedule. pres. biden: we are making one billion at home tests available
for you to order and be delivered to your home for free. geoff: mark dimondstein of the postal union says this underscores the value of the postal service. >> what's happened in the pandemic and what's happening with this test kit project, again, just fundamentally shows the people of a country how important it is to have a public entity. there's no private entity that could get a test kit to everybody's home, because a private entity is going to move packages based on whether they can make a profit. postal service is a service here for everybody. geoff: with a mission, he says, not to make a profit, but to serve the american people. for the pbs newshour, i'm geoff bennett in washington. ♪ judy: people across europe, israel and the world are preparing to observe international holocaust remembrance day tomorrow, commemorating the millions of european jews killed by nazi germany. the day was created in 2005 by
the united nations to sustain public awareness of the genocide, which studies show has rapidly declined in recent years. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro shows us one creative attempt to educate younger generations. history is part of our arts and culture series, "canvas." fred: the pen and ink drawings are his trademark, intricate, layered with meaning in thousands of dots, dots children's book author peter sis wants his readers to connect. >> i have almost like a third language when between the minimal text and the picture, i can load in some symbols and things which, maybe, will make you open the door or try to think about something else. fred: his books have a wide demographic target, young readers to teens. many are profiles of heroic
figures in history. sis: galileo galilei, who doesn't give up and he is a genius! and it was like the idea was like, children among you, one of you can be galileo galilei. fred: he has won a number of awards, including for "the wall." his latest book, "nicky and vera," tackles a darker subject: the holocaust and a quiet hero, nicholas winton, whose efforts saved 669 mostly jewish children from almost certain death. >> as a young man, nicky traveled all over europe. frthe idea came to sis in europe, in 2009, on a visit to his native prague, where a group of those children were retracing their long ago train journey to england. a celebration was planned there for winton's 100th birthday. >> it's wonderful that idid work out so well because, after
all, history could have made it very different. fred: winton was a stockbroker in london when he learned of disturbing developments in czechoslovakia, which had come under german occupation in the months leading up to world war ii. he went to prague, hoping to evacuate children whose parents were willing to let them go to england for what they hoped would be temporary safe haven. >> so he himself immediately sets up a little office, writes the lists of the children, and manages to get trains, visas, places in england where they would stay with foster families -- with foster families. fred: urgency drove creativity. sometimes winton faked documents or bribed gestapo officials, doing whatever it took to get as many children out quickly before war would shutter borders. >> if i bribe the train people, they will give me train. if i bribed the gestapo person, he will be looking the other side. so i appreciate that he was creative in this terrible situation. fred: nicholas winton's efforts were not the only so-called
kindertransport child rescue program in the period leading up to world war ii. what's different here is that once done, he just went on with life and didn't tell a soul about it. >> he helped open a school. he got married. he founded an old people's home. he never told anyone about the children. fred: until nearly 50 years later, when winton's wife, gretchen, found his scrapbook in their attic and passed it on to researchers, who tracked down some of his children. that led to a meeting on a bbc broadcast. >> is there anyone in our audience tonight who owes their life to nicholas winton? if so, could you stand up, please? fred: it was this video that drew sis to one of those children, vera gissing. and, nicky and vera began to take shape. >> vera was the queen of cats. fred: sis illustrated vera's
idyllic life before the war, people and things she would leave behind -- her parents and grandparents, horse, and of course, her cats. but vera's mother feared the nazis and joined hundreds of desperate parents in lines outside winton's office in the prague hotel. sis draws this in muted black, white and blue. >> he took their photographs. he found train connections. spies kept watch. fred: three days before her 11th birthday, vera boarded a train with 76 other children, including her sister. for almost all, it would be the last time they saw their parents -- saw their parents. >> little vera finds a family which is very poor, but the husband says, i cannot beat hitler, but i can at least help one child who will survive this this whole time. eva paddock: my biggest takeaway is how incredibly fortunate we were. fred: 87 year old eva paddock was just three when she boarded
the last of winton's trains. eva:irst of all, that my mother would allow us to go. giving up a child or children is amazingly difficult. it stops me right there even now. fred: paddock was one of very few children whose parents survived the war and reunited with her in england. she moved to the u.s. and had a career in education and later mental health care. shhas no worries that sis' book is too dark for young children. eva: every child has understood being left out of a group, being meanly treated. to me, the book, and when i talk about it, is really a message of altruism, actually. fred: the book is filled with illustrations that she says encourage readers to dig deeper, even at older ages. eva: children will ask questions and then you go in their direction and in as much depth as they can, but the story, you
know, simply can't die. it's going to die unless we start with children. fred: nicholas winton died in 2015, aged 106. vera gissing, whose own memoirs that informed so much of this book, suffers advanced dementia. she's 94. i reached her daughter, nicola gissing, in bristol, england. nicola: i think on some kind of deeper level, she realizes that there is something about her and something's been made and her story's still being told. fred: a story both she and peter sis say is very relevant today, a time when millions of children find themselves in migrant journeys in search of safe haven. sis: i realize these are all human beings who have dreams, who, how impossible it is for the parents. what parent would even put the children on the train and tell the children go, you have to go now, this is the only solution to survive? all of a sudden, all these children who were crossing the borders were trying to live somewhere else, who were immigrants like me, it all connected.
fred: "nicky and vera" has been translated into italian, chinese, korean, and starting on this holocaust remembrance day, its available in german. for the pbs newshour, i'm fred de sam lazaro in irvington, new york. judy: it just grabs your heart. fred's reporting is in partnership with the undertold stories project at the university of st. thomas in minnesota. on the newshour online, if you're immuno-compromised or otherwise medically vulnerable to covid, what do you do if you test positive? we look at treatment options that may help keep eligible patients out of the hospital. you can find tt at pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, please stay safe and we'll see you soon. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.] >> major funding has been
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