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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  May 19, 2022 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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♪ judy: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. the abortiobattle. the league supreme court opinion that would overthrow roe v. wade energizes activist on both sides of the issue afternoon polling shows most americans disagree on where the court appears to be heading. and a critical shortage. president biden invokes the defense production act to counter a nationwide dearth of baby formula. will this be enough to provide parents some relief? in the cost of war. how their russian invasion of ukraine could lead to a global food crisis as millions of tons of grain are stuck behind blockades. >> the countries that are net
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food importing countries are particularly affected. judy: all that and more on tonight's pbs "newshour." ♪ >> major funding for the pbs "newshour" has been provided by -- >> fidelity dedicated advisors are here to help you create a wealth plan. planning focused on tomorrow while you focus on today. that is the planning effect from fidelity. ♪ >> the kendeda fund, committed to restoring transformative justice and meaningful work. more at kendeda carnegie corporation of new
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york. supporting innovations in education and democratic engagement and the advancement of international peace and security at and with the ongoing support of these individuals and 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: president biden threw his support behind finland and sweden's bids to join nato today. he welcomed their leaders to the white house a day after they
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formally submitted their obligations in response to the russian invasion of ukraine. at a rose garden event, the president said both countries would be valued members of the defensive alliance. >> finland and sweden make nato stronger not just because of their capacity or their strong, strong democracies and a strong united nato is a foundation of america's security. by joining nato, allies make a sacred commitment to one another that an attack on one is an attack against all. judy: but the government of another nato member, turkey opposes their effort to join the alliance accusing the nordic countries of the porting kurdish militants it claims threatened turkey's security. the president of finland addressed the objections at the white house. >> as nato allies, we commit to
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turkeys security as turkey will commit to our security. we are open to discussing all of the concerns. turkey may have concerning our membership being an open and constructive manner. judy: more help is on the way for ukraine. the u.s. senate voted overwhelmingly today to send the country an additional $40 billion in military, economic, and humanitarian aid. the biden administration also authorized 100 million more dollars in military assistance including long-range howitzers, radars and other field equipment. a grand jury has indicted the white man accused of killing 10 black people at a supermarket in buffalo, new york. on first degree murder charge. the 18-year-old peyton briefly appeared in court today but did not speak during the proceeding. authorities are still
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investigating whether to pursue hate crime and terrorism chges. u.s. house committee investigating the capitol siege has requested an interview with republican representative perry loudermilk of georgia seeking more information about a tour that the congressmen led of the capital the day before the inrrection. the panel believes some involved in the violence were gathering information ahead of time about the layout of the building. the congressman insisted that the tour w with a constituent family with young children and the family never entered the capitol building. ac/dc advisory panel approved the use -- a cdc advisory panel approved a vaccine booster for children ages five through 11 but it still requires formal authorization from the director. the fda gave its approval on tuesday. in china, shanghai is slowly lifting its covid restrictions. some residents were allowed to
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shop for groceries for the first time in nearly two months. >> it is good. my mood feels very happy. the lifting of the lockdown is starting. it is good news for us. this is my first day to go to the supermarket. judy: the world health organization reported today that global covid deaths dropped by about 21% in the last week but infections are rising in the americas, the middle east, afri and western pacific. more americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. the labor department reported that new jobless claims rose by 21,000 to -- hitting a four month high by the total number of americans collecting unemployment aid is still at a 53 year low. on wall street, stocks added to their losses a day after suffering their biggest drop in
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nearly two years. the dow jones industrial average lost 237 points. the nasdaq fell 29 points. the s&p 500 slipped 23. still to come on the "newshour," a look at the biden administration plans to address the baby formula shortage. a new book exploring whether we are prepared to address major global crises. how political entrenchment has transformed the evangelical christian voting block plus, much more. ♪ ♪ >> this is the pbs "newshour" from w eta newshour studios in washington. judy: the leaked draft opinion from the supreme court that suggests the justices may soon overturn roe v. wade has made abortion one of the biggest political debates of the year.
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just today come the oklahoma state legislature passed a near total ban on abortion. marist paul shows -- a new poll shows americans' views on the subject. lisa desjardins is here taking a hard look at the pole and what it shows. the court seems poised maybe to overturn roe v. wade, where are americans? reporter: there is so much to talk about in this pole. let's start with a big headline -- americans overall do not support overturning roe v. wade. our figures show 33% of americans only would support overturning and 62% say do not overturn it. i want to note that is a slight increase and those that want to overturn roe v. wade from a few years ago but not a significant one.
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two thirds of the nation want to keep it and one third says overturn edge. judy: you reported last night that many americans are in the middle on abortion restrictions. reporter: these are figures i was interested to see. where are americans? let's take a look at the time and pregnancy abortions should be allowed. in general, a quarter of americans believe it should be allowed always in every part of pregnancy. leave it up to the woman and family involved. another third say somewhere between three and six months is where there should be a limit. another third says for specific objections only. that would mean rape, insets, life of the mother. 9% says abortions should not be allowed with no exceptions. if you look at this, you see that clearly the middle is somewhere around 3-6 months and
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that was reinforced by what we found in pennsylvania. i want to bring back another soundbite from the woman we spoke to who we met on her front porch. >> abortion is not birth control. and i think people are fine -- and i do believe it is the right of women to choose but i do think there should be limitations. 15-20 wakes. reporter: and that is what our poll shows. judy: we know that if the court moves in the direction it looks like they may be, this decision will turn back to the states. what are the states looking at? reporter: americans agree on some things saying it goes too far. the idea of criminalizing this with jail time for doctors, 75% say no. the ability. civil lawsuits against doctors, 80% says no.
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the ban after 6-8 weeks, 69% says these american say this goes too far. where the gray area is is interesting. we also found out in our poll that the gray area is on a ban after 15 weeks, exactly what denise was saying. the nation is almost completely divided. also divided over whether to mail abortion drugs to people at their home. that was also a divide that stood out to us in that pole. it shows the gray area. people are not sure. judy: it reminds us of what a tough issue it is. and in the pole, people were asked questions of their view of the supreme court and the congress. reporter: this is something we have seen change dramatically. i want to look at the question
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of --do you have confidence in the supreme court? this is what the survey told us. the top answer, 40% only says they have confidence. a majority said no. almost a perfect flip from four years ago, july 2018 when 50 -- 57% said they had confidence in the supreme court. we are seeing in this the battles over supreme court nominations and the league opinion --what does this mean for the midterms? the stakes are so high, control of the senate and the house on the table. democrats have had an enthusiasm problem. we have reported on that before. are you more likely to vote because of the leaked opinion? democrats say 66% yes. republicans, 40%. independents, 46%.
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that democratic number is one that people will pay attention to. this is something that may charge up democrats who have had a president with low approval ratings and have not been able to find the enthusiasm elsewhere. judy: it certainly looks that way and we will see when that opinion does come out. reporter: just weeks away. judy: a reminder that y can dig into these poll results and more on our website. that is ♪ judy: the president is being pressed on a number of fronts show results that people cand to feel in the near future. that is particularly true when it comes to the current shortage of baby formula around the country. dr. and zeroes in on those concerns. reporter: the shortage has been
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a serious problem and has been getting worse. shelves are 40% short of the formula they normally sell which means prices are going up for what is left. in some cases, we have heard of parents arriving hours to find what they need or more serious measures like watering down formula which experts say is dangerous. the president has announced new measures to address this but there are important questions about how effective this will be. ryan d's is the director of the national economic council for the biden administration. welcome back to the "newshour." president biden invoked the defense production act which requires suppliers to provide baby formula ingredients to companies that produce it before it goes to other companies. he has also authorized a new program called operation fly formula to speed up imports. what is the expectation for how
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quickly infant formula will appear back on shelves and be widely available? >> we need to focus on a couple of things to make that happen. the first is to increase production. we need to manufacture more formula. the president invoked the defense production act to make sure that the manufacturers of the formula in the united states have all of the supplies and components they need to get to 100% production as quickly as possible. that is happening now. we need to get more formula outside the u.s. that we know is safe into the united states and that is what the operation fly formula is about. the defense department was directed to use commercial cargo to bring that product into the united states. these steps are happening in real-time. we are in contact with the retailers and the manufacturers overnight, today and into the weekend. we will help get that product produced and moving quicker than it would otherwise move. reporter: you have said the
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administration was aware of the shortage in february. by then did the government let -- why then did the government let it get to this point? >> the genesis of the challenge was that on february 17, the fda shut a facility in michigan because of a concern that the formula being produced was unsafe. i was a safety judgment that has to be made. we are dealing with infant formula so safety has to be at the front. immediately after that happened, the administration began working with manufacturers and retailers to try to make sure that production is increasing and the reason why we are where we are today is because of the work that has been happening over the last several weeks. the reason for the defense production act now is we want to make sure that manufacturers can stay at the 100% capacity.
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we don't want them to be in a place where they cannot get the bottles a need to fulfill an order. having the flexibility with the defense production act in place will make sure they can stay at the high rate of production going forward. reporter: it strikes me that the government is relying on the fda to get us out of this mess when you could argue that it was the fda that created the crisis in the first place. running that lab that was -- that did not have sanitary conditions and the fda which did not address a whistleblower complaint appropriately received in october. how is it that the fda and abbott can be relied upon to fix the problem? >> the fda is focused on safety. the reason it took the actions it did in february to shut the facility was based on a scientific regiment. now, we need abbott to move as quickly as possible to get the
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facility up and running. the fda has made clear the steps needed to be taken so it can run save play. abbott is committed to the steps and is moving to put them in place but they need to do so without delay. and we need other manufacturers to rob -- ramp up production as well and we have to ask hard questions about a private sector market that is dominated by three large producers that supply 90% of the infant formula in this country. we need to think about bringing more competition into this market, more entrants into the market so the american consumer is not reliant on any one private company as we are today. reporter: as you rightly point out, abbott create 40% of the u.s. infant formula that is available on shelves. millions of american families are relying on baby formula and they are dependent on a handful of companies. you say there will be time for
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questions but what does that look like? how concerned is the administration about market consolidation? >> it is a concern and it is a concern in infant formula more broadly and the president has identified the lack of competition and consolidation in a number of industries has reduced benefits for consumers and driven up prices but also created this type of risk that a supply chain vulnerability can leave americans exposed. we have seen this through the pandemic. our economy is too reliant on these brittle supply chains. we have ramped up antitrust scrutiny and merger scrutiny. that is one element. the other is encouraging more new businesses to enter into a market like this so consumers have more choice. when it comes to formula, we have to make sure it is done safely and anything that makes it to the shelves is safe for consumers but we need to
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encourage more competition across the economy generally. reporter: brian deese is the director of the economic council. thank you for your time. judy: thank you, jeff. let's dive into the complexities of this shortage including what it will take to alleviate it more quickly and to fix bigger problems over time. our allie rogan has been reporting on this and she joins me now. you have been looking at this for quite some time and you remind us there is a bigger context. reporter: across the industry, people have been telling me today that the measures of white house introduced cannot hurt but they will not address the core issues. a lot of these companies have not had issues obtaining the raw materials that brian deese was talking about. and as he said, it is a proactive measure to ensure the companies that of ramped up production can sustain those levels without interruption.
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the same can be said for these flights the white house is introduced. industry representatives say that this is not a chief driver of the crisis. but it cannot hurt. a spokesman for abbott labs tells me that they already had emergency airlift of their product from an fda approved facility in ireland. they welcomed any measures that would cut down on transfer time. judy: we know this issue has been getting a lot more attention from lawmakers. they have been pressuring the white house. urging it to do more it. the fda commissioner testified on the hill. reporter: what brian deese did not refer to which is important to point out is that the fda is under a lot of scrutiny for its timeline and how quickly it acted. there was a whistleblower report that came out in october of 2021. the fda did not interview the whistleblower until december.
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they did not do an inspection of that sturgis, michigan facility until january. there are a lot of questions about the timeline. the commissioner was before the house appropriations committee today. he did mirrored on a lot of the specific citing an ongoing investigation but that did not satisfy a lot of lawmakers including rosa. >> you cannot hide behind an investigation. we need answers and we need them now. >> we have an oversight hearing next week and we will be prepared to go into much more detail at that point. we can do better. >> you have an oversight committee meeting next wk, you are before the committee that funds what you do. this information is relevant to this subcommittee of appropriations. >> i appreciate what you are saying but the investigation is not completed yet so i am not in a position to answer specifics like that. judy: what -- beyond what the
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administration is doing, what is seen to be the chief solutions? reporter: to the immediate crisis,t is about getting the formula back on the shelves and the fda announced iis working with abbott labs to reopen the closed facility in mhigan. the reopening process will take about two weeks and it may need another 6-8 weeks before we see product on shelves. this reveals a paradox. the two entities most responsible for the crisis are those with the most tools available to help us get out of it. the house voted to approve an additional $28 million in emerncy funding for the fda to beef up the fd safety program. the fda is also surging resources to abbott to help it reopen this facility. as brian deese noted, abbott and three others makeup 90% of the american market share.
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these companies are too big to fail. judy: and you were telling us there are longer-term solutions that need to be looked at. reporter: this is forcing an industrywide reckoning. brian deese talked about competition. legislators also talked about federal funding for low income infant nutrition which covers about 15% of all american infants. it is a program known as wic. these state programs went quickly and expanding access for beneficiaries ate by state but that was because they had existing flexibilities because of the covid-19 health security crisis. lawmakers today, the senate unanimously passed a bill to make the flexibilities permanent. the house passed it earlier this week with nine no votes and it heads to the president's desk. the scrutiny of the fda will
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continue. the commissioner and expected -- and executives from three of the four formula companies will be back on the hill to testify. judy: we are learning so much about this industry which i think most of us knew very little about. reporter: absolutely. judy: thank you, allie rogan. ♪ judy: at the united nations security council tod, the u.s. accused russia of using food as a weapon in its war against ukraine and in turn creating a global food security crisis. ukraine grows enough food to feed 400 million people and russia and ukraine together account for one third of the worlds wheat exports. russia's invasion and its blockade of ukrainian ports are preventing ukraine from exporting its grain and steel.
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nick schifrin recently witnessed this in southern ukraine. reporter: ukraine's largest steel plant still faces a risk of russian airstrikes. in march,he plant had to close for the first time since world war ii but now workers are back. the plant offers every step in the process to produce 6 million tons of steel per year. this is known as the foundry yard. this creates what is known as pig iron and that becomes steel appeared before the war, the plant was one of ukraine's against employers and largest exporters. the war has cut production here in half and up blocked the company's traditional routes to the middle east and africa says the chief administrative officer. >> the main export route for us was the ports of the black sea.
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now, the ports are closed so we cannot use them. reporter: odessa is ukraine's largest port and it has avoed a russian erect assault. a blockade has forced companies to ship via trains. >> it takes more time. it makes it more costly. reporter: how important is it to get these new supply lines going for the future of ukraine? >> it is the critical in -- it is the critical industry of ukraine, one of the cornerstones of t economy. reporter: another cornerstone, agriculture. ukraine is one of the largest exporters of wheat, corn, and oil but the breadbasket is scarred. the u.s. and ukraine are accusing russia.
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russia has even fired at farmers and tractors. ukraine says what russia does not target it steals. trucks with tons of ukrainian green have been moved to russian occupied territory. in farming villages, occupied and destroyed by russian troops, farmers have lost their livelihoods and many of the animals they sold to survive. >> they shelled us with high explosive projectile which immediely began to burn. the piglets and calves were screaming and were roasted alive. reporter: theussian government seems to believe that using food as a weapon will accomplish what it's invasion has not, to break the spirit of the ukrainian people. the security council session about the war on mobile food access. the secretary-general is negotiating with moscow to lift the blockade but there has been no progress. the food supply for millions of ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite
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literally been held hostage by the russian military. >> this war is having effect on global supplies and prices around the world. reporter: platelet -- caitlin welch is from the center for strategic and international studies and she says the war exacerbated an already high global food prices. >> the countries that are net food importing countries consume argtshemo blackun sea for impoe particularly affected. reporter: what is the solution short of somehow figuring out how to end the russian black sea blockade? >> the solution is to end the war. even if it were to end today, it would take time and investment to bring ukraine to its prewar levels of agricultural activity. reporter: the world's largest exporter of wheat and fertilizer is russia. >> we have deliberately not
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sanctioned russia's food and fertilizer exports for global food security reasons. it is important to keep russian agricultural products on markets. reporter: and ukraine, despite the threats come farmers are planting the harvest for now, the experts that have long hoped feed war will be trapped by the war that has no end in sight. judy: our coverage of the war in ukraine is supported in partnership with the pulitzer center. ♪ judy: with a russia's invasion of ukraine, the pandemic, the climate crisis and extreme political polarization, the dangers the world is facing right now are stark and how we respond is critical. ian bremmer runs the eurasia
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group, a leading global risk research and consulting firm and he explores the most pressing issues and solutions in his new book, the power of crisis -- how three threats and our response will change the world. ian bremmer, welcome back to the newshour. congratulations on this book. you have been focused on the collapse of the international governing order. the fact that countries are not working together the w they should and yet we have seen with russia's invasion of ukraine, nato has come together and the west has come together, is this the exception that proves the rule? >> i would not say it is an exception but a response to the crises that continue to emerge as the international order starts raking down and snapping back. i wish vladimir putin had read a draft of the book because he clearly thought that the united west would be incapable of
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responding. he has seen what has happened in afghanistan and in iraq, and he saw january 6 in the united states and he saw a lack of reaction to his invasion in georgia but this decision to fundamentally try to usurp a democratic government in ukraine was absolutely step too far and the response internationally has been extraordinary and has made the west stronger than it was before vladimir putin invaded on february 24. judy: but before this happened and the reaction to it, one of your principal concerns was that the world was not well-equipped to deal with some of the big, mega crises that the world is facing. >> what has basically been happening is both the united states and other advanced industrial democracies around the world have seen the populism , the unwillingness to be global
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policeman, the unwillingness to lead on global trade and the incapacity to be the world's leading democracy and that -- and as that happens, you see a breakdown in institutions. you see the growth in crises. over the last three decades, we have watched as our institutions at home and abroad have gradually eroded. and feeling like we cannot do anything about it. the purpose of this book is that the status quo is not going to get you there but as these crises emerge, and we are in a target rich environment for these. it is not just the russian invasion. it is climate change on the pandemic. that is what is going to lead to a step function to force countries to respond with new institutions, strengthened leadership. it is the only way to get it done in this environment. judy: let's take these particular crises one by one starting with public health.
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the global health emergencies like the one we are still living through right now. where do you see the mechanism, the solution that will prepare the world to be in a better place at the next pandemic? >> probably the weakest of the crises to respond in part because it built less trust with the united states and china. china covered it up to begin with and leading the united states to even leave the world health orgization in the middle of a pandemic. while the united states was focused on it in a strong way in the early days, relatively soon on with the vaccines and therapeutics, a lot of americans felt it was no longer as much of a crisis for them and it became politicized. one part of the world that took the lessons on board of the pandemic was the european union in terms of providing as of economic support from the wealthy countries to the poor countries like a european
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marshall plan. they learned from the eurozone crisis of 2008 and 2010 and also in taking on board and you function for vaccine acquisition and distribution, everyone got them at the same time. the eu leaves the crisis stnger than it came in. the u.s. leaves it more divided. u.s.-china relationship is more dided. judy: climate change -- massive questions and crises facing the world. where do you see the mechanism to bring countries together to address this? >> much more like the russia crisis where the fact that everyone recognizes that this is a big problem that's them on the same side -- gets them on the same side of the issue. the fact is that climate represents what i call a goldilocks crisis, not so big that we crawl ourselves into a circle and wait for the end but not so small that we keep
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behaving the way we used to behave. judy: what makes you believe that the kind of solution you're talking about, anything close to that, can be agreed on when the world is -- yes, we are seeing the west come together when it comes to ukraine but again, so much of the rest of the world is split over the very issues you have described and so much more -- rich versus poor, have and have not and on down the list? >> what happens with even a crisis like russia is it creates more interdependence. at the beginning of the russia crisis, a lot of people said -- why are you saying this is so important when you don't look at syria or somalia? it is only because it is white europeans. that is why you care. that is not true. this is a much bigger crisis. it is because of the interdependence of the global economy. it is the food, the fertilizer and the energy will make this a much bigger crisis all over the
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world and that forces the world to take it seriously. it reflects the interdependence that we may not like what we need. judy: one final question and this is not in your boat but it is much related to covid and how china has responded by these massive lockdowns of entire cities and regions. whether that specific strategy works or not, what effect do you see that having on the chinese economy and frankly on whether president xi remains secure in power? >> sometimes the reason you don't respond a crisis is because your country is too strong and your institutions are too resilient for it to bother you. waste saw this in the united states even after the elections and the events of january 6. a year later, people are shrugging their shoulders about it. in china, they will probably experience next to 0% growth.
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they have had massive draconian shutdowns. the reason they are doing it and refusing help from the west, refusing mrna vaccines that would make a difference on the ground is because they know they can't. there is not the challenge domestically to jie zheng ping. that is what makes it harder for a country like china to respond effectively and internationally to a global crisis. judy: on that note, ian bremmer, thank you so much. how three threats and our response will change the world. thank you. ♪ judy: the supreme court's leaked draft opinion to overturn roe v. wade has brought the intersection of politics and religion to the forefront.
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the relationship between the two has a long and complicated history but one trend has stood out. the evangelical churches swing the far right. reporter: a staff writer at the atlantic whose most recent article entitled how politics poisoned the evangelical church delves into this issue and he joins me now. welcome back to the "newshour." this is a tradition that you are familiar with personally. you have grown up in the evangelical church and around evangelical churches and professionally you have been reporting in these communities for years. big picture, why did you decide to return to report on it with this deep dive? >> what is most striking to me at this point is just what we have seen as a confluence of events and factors and circumstances. you have these massive cultural divisions in the church over
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everything from discussions of human sexuality and abortion to race relations to the me too movement and sexual abuse. all of this swirling creating a perfect storm inside the church where decades-old alignments, theologically, politically and culturally our fracturing in real-time. what you're seeing now is a massive realignment in which a lot of folks who have been members of the same churches for many years, who called a church in their community home have abruptly left and relocated somewhere -- sometimes down the road to another church or a new church and those churches most often are not only reflecting their own partisan views more accurately but those churches tend to be substantially further to the right and that really represents a sea change the evangelical movement. reporter: when we talk about
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evangelicals, we are talking about an overwhelmingly white group. people who self identify as evangelical, 76% are white, largely conservative. you profile in great detail a number of people in the community and a number of pastors that you meet with including ken brown and bell. you said in leading their predominately white congregation they have come to agree on one important thing. they both believe there is a war for the soul of the american church. how does that show up in their ministry? >> it is fascinating. bill leads a church in my hometown in brighton, michigan. he became a celebrity overnight in his community and the reason his church grew is because he refused to close down his church and comply with government regulations at the beginning of
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the covid pandemic. before this was seen as an explicitly partisan political issue. he and his church decided to make it one and they have reaped a whirlwind from it. they saw their church grow from about 100 people on any given sunday and of course, in another suburb in detroit is ken brown's church who has seen his own congregation lurch to the right in a dangerous appreciation for conspiracy theorizing and far right french politics. ken brown around the time the other pastor was the growth ands church, ken brown decided to do the opposite and he decided to put his foot down and begin challenging his own congregants and make sure that his church would not become radicalized in the way that others were. reporter: when you tk to people in the community that see their participation in the church as part of their battle for the soul of the country,
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what about abortion? you are talking about a group that has long been opposed to abortion rights in the country. what does this supreme court leak mean for them moving forward? >> many of those voters, if the issue is the federal lies and pushed back to the states, many voters will now have to confront an altogether different calculus in november of an election year in which it is not clear whether or not abortion from the great single issue driver that has galvanized so many churches and frankly, which has invited so much of this partisan political activity from churches in recent decades, whether that will now be decentralized and whether you will see more activity on the ground at the local and state level with much more church involvement in those races rather than at the top of the ticket. that is something a lot of churches are working through and we will see how it plays out. reporter: when you look back,
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there has always been an intersection of politics and faith among evangelicals. you think to the 1980's and the moral majority. you write about the evolution and how it is causing fractures. how do you think this political influence will be? >> what sets this moment apart a bit is the fact that for moral majority in its heyday, there was a real belief that they were savingmerica from itself. that there was great momentum on their side in this fight as they saw it to restore the christian charter of this nation. i think what is different now is that as i write the piece, there is a certain fatalism that has set into the evangelical movement. the white evangelical church today is in a real way defined by a belief that america's best days are behind it that america
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is in big -- inexorable decline and rather than fighting to save america as it were or this idealized version of america, the battle now is to sort of carveut their own space and to prevent the secularization of all of america and to keep the wolves at bay. there is now a sense in which many white evangelical christians are sort of lettg go of the church and clingin closer to america rather than the other way around. reporter: that is tim alberta from the atlantic and his latest piece -- howolitics poisoned the evangelical church. thank you for your time. ♪ judy: this has been a mainstay
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on the music circuit since 1988. people flocked to the foothills of the blue ridge mountains in north carolina each year to celebrate the music of the appalachian region and in turn give a boost to the local economy. jeffrey brown went to take a look for our arts and culture series, campus. ♪ reporter: music flooded in.hts m multiple stages. and being grounded in traditional bluegrass, picking tents were busy with adults and children but one important difference is the setting in rural wilkesboro, north carolina on the campus of a community college where jeff cox is president. >> this is the campus that the merrill fest built. this is our festival. >> ♪
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reporter: it began in 1988 when the college's doc watson was asked to put together a small fundraiser to help the school. it was named for his son who performed for years before his death in a tractor accident. the original festival was held on two flatbed trucks. no one could've imagined what it would become. >> it is one of a half dozen of the greatest american festivals in the u.s. ♪ reporter: jeff hanna, one of the founders of the nitty-gritty dirt and first performed here in 1992. this was his fifth visit on e main stage. >> everyone that goes out on that stage is special and has great respect for the foundational part of the festival. reporter: the musical foundation stems from doc watson himself,
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the guitarist and singer blind from infancy who influenced generations of musicians including 1960's southern california kids like hannah. >> i went by doc watson and it was like, oh my gosh. reporter: what did you hear in his music? >> he had a simplicity and conversational approach that really drew you in. and on top of that, the guy was a virtuoso. one of the greatest guitar players to ever pick up the instrument and incredibly influential. here at merrill fest, there are plenty of children of doc. reporter: the music itself expanded to what watson called traditional plus. ♪ reporter: bringing other styles and genres beyond bluegrass. but the types of music and community have continued including -- especially important in a town where nearly
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a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line. the festival has become indispensable raising money for scholarships, student emergency assistance fund and student activities including a culinary program that often leads to jobs in the food industry. the funding from the festival allow some students to study abroad. >> it changes the world of the students. once they step on the airplane and come back, they never look at life the same. reporter: a lot of the students are from this region and they would not otherwise have the opportunity to go to paris. >> many have left -- many have never left this area. it changes their world and it is good to see. reporter: scholarship aid can be more basic for students like mckenzie who says the $250 a month monthly stipend, free laptop and monthly tutoring makes it possible for her to attend school especially as a
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single mother with a nine month old son. >> they have helped me mentally and educationally. without them, i would've dropped out. reporter: you fige that is what would've happened. does that happen to a lot of people? >> i know a lot of people that are scared to go to college because their family cannot afford it. the financial aid makes it possible for them to go which is amazing. reporter: she will soon graduate with a two year associates degree and then attend east carolina, the first-ever family to make it to a four-year university. according to the president, jeff cox, community college has received $18.5 million from merrill fest to date and he says the extra funds are more crucial now. >> the impact of the pandemic has been really tough on our economy. rural folks and tt ahohe tladdey hard-hit with the pandemic and our students are a lot of them
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in that category. ♪ reporter: of course, all of this depends on a thriving music festival. >> welcome some merrill fest veterans! reporter: and that means finding a fresh combination of sounds to attract audiences. a veteran took the stage. sam bush and jerry who have attended the festival from the beginning. ♪ reporter: the old pro medicine show even re-created a performance like they did 20 years ago drawing a large crowd. ♪ the band sang songs for members with ukrainian roots.
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this has been an effort to diversify the musical talent and attract new audiences as well. ♪ reporter: one rising star in americana and roots music, a 41-year-old, alice russell who had three grammy nominations. a black woman playing the banjo, she is a proud part of a history with its own deep roots. >> the banjo is at the heart of bluegrass. the oldest banjo was heard in haiti. this musicomes out of that cross-pollination as does bluegrass. reporter:w th. >> i think it is starting to change. i have noticed a big seachange in the last couple of years of there being more awareness that this is not a single story music. reporter: she thinks her
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generation of musicians is helping to change the future onstage and in the audience. >> we are part of the trailblazing and we will make it easier for those coming after us and there will be kids that see themselves in what we are doing and feel welcome there. >> there are so many artists out there doing amazing bluegrass work but also younger artists coming in and doing bluegrass but they are doing their twists on edge. reporter: some of that work towards building the future falls to lindsay who helps program the festival and its performers. she grew up and continues to live in the region and knows the value of the festival beyond the music. >> artistic anything in a small community is key to keeping the smaller communities alive. i think merrill fest means the world to wilkesboro. i hope it does. we put a small community on the map. reporter: by the end of the
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weekend, some 60,000 people have enjoyed it all. for the pbs "newshour" i am jeffrey brown from merrill fest in wilkesboro, north carolina. judy: it is definitely putting them on the map. on the newshour online, across the country investors have been buying up mobile home parks, renovating them and raising rents. in california, one group of renters decided to push back. you can read about their legal battle and what it portends for others in the u.s. and that is the "newshour" for tonight. i am judy woodruff. join us online tonight and tomorrow. for all of us at the "newshour," thank you, please stay safe and we will see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs "newshour" has been funded by-- >> consumer cellular. our u.s.-based customer service
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team can help find a plan that fits you. to learn more, visit consumer >> the ford foundation working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. ♪ and with the ongoing support of these institutions. ♪ and friends of the "newshour." ♪ >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪
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♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content anaccuracy. visit] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ >> hello everyone, welcome to "amanpour & co." from kabul in afghanistan, coming up, women and girls dealing with flow of taliban edicts. visit trade school giving a fighting chance and speak to the brave woman running it. one of four women to negotiate peace with the taliban before the takeover, talks about recognizing the brave reality while fighting forange. plus, mounting attacks in afghanistan and neighboring pakistan, inside fraught relationship with new foreign minister, son of storied


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