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tv   PBS News Hour Weekend  PBS  December 19, 2021 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, december 19: omicron variant infections spread and restrictions and warnings expand. sticker shock takes on new meaning as car and truck prices soar just in time for the holidays. and a non-profit group reaches out with a guaranteed inco for people without a place to call home. next on “pbs newshour weekend.” >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the anderson family fund. the j.p.b. foundation.
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the estate of worthington mayo-smith. leonard and norma klorfine. the rosalind p. walter foundation. koo and patricia yuen, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. barbara hope zuckerberg. we try to live in the moment, to not miss what's right in front of us. at mutual of america, we believe taking care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america financial group: retirement services and investments. >> for 25 years, consumer cellular has been offering no contract wireless plans designed to help people do more of what they like. our u.s.-based customer service team can help find a plan that fits you. to learn more, visit additional support has been provided by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private
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corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> sreenivasan: good evening and thank you for joining us. the rapid spread of the omicron variant is leading to record high covid case numbers and a return to lockdowns in some european countries, less than a week before christmas. in the netherlands, officials announced a strict lockdown starting tonight through the middle of january, hoping to contain the highly contagious virus variant. great britain's health minister would not rule out additional covid restrictions in that country before christmas, citing the rapidly shifting situation. >> there are no guarantees in this pandemic i don't think. at this point, we just have to keep everything under review. >> sreenivasan: the prospect of shutdowns and ongoing vaccine mandates led to scattered protests around europe and the u.k. this weekend. here in the u.s., cases continue to rise, including in the northeast, where new york state reported a record number of confirmed covid cases for the second day in a row yesterday.
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today, the n.b.a. announced it was postponing five games because of positive covid tests. that follows the n.f.l. and n.h.l. also rescheduling games this weekend. president joe biden plans to address the nation on tuesday on the administration's plans to combat the new variant. as the biden administration grapples with the spread of omicron, its top domestic legislative priority faces another hurdle. west virginia democratic senator joe manchin said he will not support the "build back better" social spending and tax bill pending in the senate. >> i cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. i just can't. i've tried everything humanly possible. i can't get there. >> sreenivasan: with a narrow democratic majority, manchin is a swing vote for the social spending package, which includes funds to continue the childcare tax credit, combat climate change, and boost healthcare subsidies. a version of the bill was passed by the house last month and would cost approximately $1.75 trillion over the next decade, paid for mostly with tax increases. in a statement, white house
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press secretary jen psaki called manchin's comments as “a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the president and the senator's colleagues in the house and senate.” the white house statement also said the administration will continue to work towards passing social spending legislation next year. in sudan today, thousands to to the streets of khartoum and other cities across the nation in opposition to the october military takeover of the government. police fired tear gas at protestors in khartoum, as demonstrators waved flags and blocked streets and bridges. the demonstrations come on the third anniversary of the start of the uprising that eventually removed longtime autocrat omar al-bashir and his islamist government. in late october, a military coup forced democratically-elected civilians from the government, and placed prime minister abdallah hamdok under house arrest. hamdok was reinstated on november 21, but the protesters question the balance of power between the military and
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civilians, and are calling for complete civilian rule. the death toll from the super typhoon that struck the philippines friday rose to at least 146 today. aerial footage of surigao island, a popular vacation destination where typhoon rai first made landfal shows near total devastation, with debris littered across the landscape and the airport facilities broken into pieces. in nearby bohol province, officials reported 72 people died in the storm, but many towns and communities remain cut off from communication, and officials say they expect the death toll will continue to rise. typhoon rai was the most powerful storm to hit the island nation since 2013. a group of islamic countries pledged to set up a humanitarian trust fund for afghanistan today as winter sets in and millions face food shortages there. yesterday, senior taliban officials appealed for international help with the country's deepening economic crisis during a special united
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nations' conference. the u.n. estimates that without expedited help, millions of afghans could face starvation during the winter months. international aid has been slow to arrive as many countries are unwilling to engage directly with the taliban. the taliban's plea came as many afghans are out of work and the country's banking system is struggling to function. the united states continues to refuse to release $9 billion in central bank reserves for afghanistan or lift sanctions imposed on a number of taliban leaders. former republican u.s. senator johnny isakson, who reprented georgia, died today. isakson was a state legislator when he was first elected to congress in 1998. he was elected to the senate in 2004 and was seeking a third term in 2015, when he was diagnosed with parkinson's disease. he won reelection, but in 2019, after fracturing four ribs in a fall, isakson announced he would retire with two years remaining in his term. senator isakson was 76 years old.
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for more national and international news, visit >> sreenivasan: president biden's prosed "build back better bill" did not make it through the senate before the holiday recess, and faces even more trouble as senator joe manchin announced his opposition today to the close to $2 trillion dollars in spending. that means the administration is facing the possibility it will achieve only one of its two giant spending goals: the infrastructure bill that did win approval this year, designed to improve everything from roads and bridges to broadband internet. but newshour weekend special correspondent jeff greenfield has some examples from history that don't bode well for the actual construction and completion of those projects any time soon. he joined us recently from santa barbara, california. jeff, what's interesting about infrastructure is that america, more than many other countries, help define the scale and scope of large projects that we could
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take on. i mean, you're talking everything from the hoover dam to the highway infrastructure system. what's different now? >> yeah, you're absolutely right. this used to be a point of pride. i mean, go back to the erie canal, the transcontinental railroad-- hoover dam, the biggest public works project in history, at the time, in the middle of the depression, finished two years ahead of schedule and under budget. and we just don't seem to be able to do that anymore. literally, the "new york times" recently cataloged from one end of the country to the other massive delays and cost overruns. the long island railroad connection to grand central terminal now estimated years late at three or four times the original cost. out here in california back in 2008, the voters approved a high speed railroad from l.a. to san francisco, right? that is now-- supposed to be finished last year at $30 billion, it's now projected to be finished maybe in 12 years, at a cost of at least $100 billion, the first link, from bakersfield to fresno.
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honolulu's rail system is years behind schedule, and we're seeing this over and over again. and so, anybody who thinks that this infrastructure bill in a relatively short amount of time is going to produce better transportation, better grids, they're in for a very rude awakening. >> sreenivasan: are there things from all these different projects that you just rattled off in common when it comes to what is costing us so much more? why the delays and what are we not learning from these mishaps? >> well, one of the things that's happened is that there is now an enormous superstructure of reviews and rights of individuals to challenge these projects. it is certainly true that many highways we now know ripped through neighborhoods, particularly poor black neighborhoods in inner cities. so now, neighborhoods have a chance to demand reviews. they can go to court and sue. you try to run a rail line, say, from penn station out to kennedy
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airport, every neighborhood can challenge that and say, well, as environmental damage, the air pollution will get worse, traffic delays will increase. and that has caused enormous delays, which increases the cost. the other thing is these original cost estimates are almost always wrong, sometimes deliberately. they just want the number to get the ball rolling. and then there are the kinds of things that happened, like in honolulu, that rail system, the planners suddenly discover that the wheels and the rails are half an inch apart. so, there's just a continuing parade of these delays and cost overruns. >> sreenivasan: you know, this piece of legislation was called "bipartisan." the word itself seems a stranger to american politics in the past decade or so. how much does politics play into this? >> i think it's another example, hari, of where polarization has, i'll use the word "infected," almost every aspect of our
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public life. just in the last few months, when the senate passed the infrastructure bill, 40% of the senate republicans voted for it. few months later, it became a hot-button political issue among republicans. only 15% of house republicans voted for it. so, yes, no matter what the issue is, you'd think, "hey, you know what? we can improve the grid. we can improve rural broadband." it becomes infected with politics. and i should mention another issue: inflation. we've hit the biggest inflation rate in 40 years. that will inevitably drive up the cost of every construction project, because everything from steel toages increases, state and local governments may be much more reluctant to put in their share of the cost. and as a general notion, it's going to make any infrastructure project the target, and people say, well, with inflation, we st can't afford it, not to mention the fact that, you know
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how you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs? you can't build infrastructure without disruption. so, a year from now, it's much more likely that we're going to be seeing torn up roads and closed bridges and train delays as these infrastructure projects begin to get built. >> sreenivasan: jeff greenfield joining us from santa barbara, california. thanks so much. >> thank you, hari. >> sreenivasan: the restrictions and shutdowns during the covid-19 pandemic beginning in 2020, combined with a computer chip shortage, are now driving up prices in the auto industry. and if you've looked at a new or used car recently, sticker shock is a very real thing. according to a recent survey, new vehicles are now selling for an average price of more than $44,000, that's up $10,000 since the start of the pandemic.
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used cars are now averaging $30,000, an all time high. for more on what's ahead for car buyers, i spoke with nora naughton, automotive industry reporter for "the wall street journal" who joined us from detroit. so, nora, we have heard forever that buying a new car was not as good an idea as buying a used car because you will lose money on it. and used cars right now are priced so high that it makes you want to go back and buy a new car if you're in the market. what is happening that has completely turned the automotive economy upside down? >> there are not enough cars is the bottom line, new or used. what's happening in the used market for inventory is that people are holding onto their cars for longer. there were, at the start of the pandem, a lot of forgiveness programs for leases and car loans that encouraged people to
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not turn in their cars and especially lease turn-ins are a very reliable source of certified pre-owned vehicles in the auto industry. so, without that steady stream, there has been a real dogfight for the trade-ins that go through the auction. dealers are bidding up the price on everything, and then that cost then trickles down to the customer. >> sreenivasan: we've heard stories that people are havi to pay several thousand dollars over the sticker price. >> it's nothing like i've ever seen. it's really wild to see these-- they're called market adjustments. they're usually reserved for things that are limited builds, like a special edition ferrari or lamborghini that there's only six ever made of, but now you see them on run of the mill sedans and family cars, and we're talking $10,000, $20,000
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extra on top of the manufacturer's suggested sticker price. >> sreenivasan: tell me a little bit about this chip shortage. how long is it going to last and how long is it going to have this impact on the car market? >> last i checked with the experts, clear through 2022. it's really-- we've been hit with a double whammy here. as soon as production got back online after shutdowns during covid in 2020, that's when the chip shortage hit. so, we're trying to recover from, sort of, two bouts of shutdown. >> sreenivasan: so, if there is a shortage in chips, what steps are automakers taking to try to keep cars coming? >> you know, ford and gm are sort of taking matters into their own hands. they're trying to bring more chip production in-house. i think we're going to start seeing a lot more of that, not
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just in chips, but in other parts of automotive supply. really, both covid and this chip shortage has been a huge lesson in how delicate this global web of supply is for the automotive industry. >> sreenivasan: if you find yourself sck needing a new car, needing a used car, needing another vehicle, what should you do? >> if you can avoid it, i would avoid buying a vehicle. but if you are in a situation where you need to buy something, you need to do your research. you need to make sure that you're checking a broad swath of dealers in your area, maybe even a little further outside your area than you would normally go. understand that, right now, the deal is the sticker price. so, try and find places that don't have these market adjustments if you can. or, if you do find them, try to negotiate your way down sticker. the other thing that you can do if you have something that
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you're tradi in is really do your research on how much your car is worth. that is where you're going to be doing the negotiating. you're not going to be able to negotiate the new price of your car, but you will be able to negotiate how much you can get for what you have. >> sreenivasan: nora naughton, the "wall street journal's" automotive desk in detroit, than so much for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> sreenivasan: we've been reporting regularly on guaranteed income programs, efforts that communities are starting to use to provide cash, without strings attached, to needy residents in order to fight poverty. tonight we have a new twist on the story from the san francisco bay area, where a private non- profit organization is focusing on providing funds specifically for people experiencing homelessness. newshour weekend's zacharyreen has the story as part of our ongoing series, "chasing the dream: poverty, opportunity and justice in america."
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>> i thought i lost these photos. i thought they were gone, but they're here. so, benjamin, right after he was born. this is my brother, melvin, a long time ago. yeah, this was my life. wow. >> reporter: it's unpacking day for elizabeth softky. she's sifting through memories that were tucked away for two years, while she was living in a shelter. >> in my wildest, ugliest dreams, i never imagined, ever, that i would be in that situation. my life before it fell apart was full of wonderful opportunities and activities. >> reporter: softky, a mother to three grown children, taught elementary school for ten years, and ran her own educational non-profit in the san francisco bay area. that world abruptly collapsed in 2018, in the wake of an advanced cancer diagnosis. >> the surgery happened very quickly, and i thought, "okay, great, i'm done."
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bua few weeks in, my oncologist decided that she wanted me to go on a super aggressive chemo regimen. i was also not allowed to return to work. my immune system was so compromised, and that meant digging into my savings to pay rent. and then when i ran out of money, i was evicted from my home of 14 years. i was looking at the reality of nowhere to go, except for sleeping at, like, a bus stop. >> reporter: eventually, softky moved to one of the many hotels in california offering temporary housing to the homeless during the pandemic. she was safe, but the journey back to her old self seemed impossible, or so she thought. >> she was a volunteer for miracle messages, and they had started a new program because of people being housed in hotels and the struggles they were facing of isolation. >> it became evident that even though people were now sheltered safely, they were alone.
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>> reporter: and so, joan scott offered softky a lifeline. as one of the many miracle messages' volunteers, scott routinely checked in with her and promised to be there for what they hoped was her journey out of homelessness. >> we hit it off basically right away. >> she's brilliant. elizabeth is a perfect example of breaking that stereotype of what some people think of people who are homeless. >> she's a u.c.l.a. graduate, non-profit executive, former journalist. the image of who is homeless in the united states is a mirage. >> reporter: sociologist kevin adler has made it his life's calling to help the unhoused. seven years ago, he founded miracle messages, the non-profit responsible for bringing softky and scott together. >> our vision is that no one goes through homelessness alone. do you have anyone you'd want to reconnect with or help? >> yeah, i do, but then again, i don't know where any of them are. >> we'll find them.
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>> okay. thank you. >> reporter: adler gives the unhoused a connection, either with a new friend or by re-uniting them with family. >> 250 volunteers work making phone calls, writing letters, doing digital searches to locate loved ones, deliver messages, reconnect people with their families. >> reporter: but he wanted to do something more. >> and so, we launched one of the first basic income pilots for people experiencing homelessness in the country called "miracle money." >> reporter: the unconditional cash payments known as universal basic income, or u.b.i., have been tested in many cities, but the homeless have largely been left out of the picture. as a result, last year, adler launched a go fund me campaign to finance his own u.b.i. >> we set a goal of $15,000. we ended up raising about $40,000 within a day or two on facebook. >> reporter: he would eventually raise $50,000, and with that
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money... >> we distributed $500 a month for six months to 14 individuals experiencing homelessness. >> i was speechless. at the time, i wasn't working, i was getting my basic needs met, but i didn't have an income. >> reporter: but just how could an extra $500 a month change things? the median price for a house in the san francisco bay area, where the pilot was launched, is just over a million dollars. >> we had zero expectations that anyone was going to get housed. elizabeth was eligible for senior housing, she just needed to have some income to pay a contribution to the monthly dues. >> i just wanted to get back into the normal world. without the miracle messages money program, i would not be living in this home right now. >> and i saw how, immediately, it just took a huge burden off of her and enabled her to plan
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for her future, to save money. >> reporter: softky isn't the only one the program is helping. >> we had two individuals get service dogs that they needed for their p.t.s.d. one individual who bought a blender because he can't eat solid foods. if it was just us telling people what to do, we wouldn't have used the money as well as they used the money for themselves and their families. and we were shocked and amazed and inspired by the fact that 50% of our unhoused recipients were able to secure housing. there's ray, who was able to save up enough to be able to find a housemate and contribute to half of the month's rent. caridad, who had a $302 a month contribution to a single room occupancy. >> reporter: and then there was drake alabanza, who was no longer able to work his job as a nurse after he developed severe sciatica and began living on the streets. miracle money helped him afford an s.r.o. unit: single room
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occupancy. >> it's ha to describe 'cause when i think of that, all i can think of is a miracle. >> reporter: today, softky is cancer-free, volunteering with kids, and enjoying life at her new home. >> this is so cool that this is your front yard or your backyard. it's awesome. >> being back here is a major part of being restored back to the world. the miracle messages family has been a miracle for me. >> based on the results for our proof of concept of miracle money, we said we have to find a way to keep this going. >> reporter: plans are now underway to implement a follow- up miracle money pilot, this time in both san francisco and los angeles. hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been donated.
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>> sreenivasan: tomorrow on the pbs newshour, one of the nation's top scientists, dr. francis collins, reflects on his legacy as he steps down from leading the national institutes of health. that's all for this edition of pbs newshour weekend. for the latest news updates, visit i'm hari sreenivasan. thanks for watching. stay healthy, and have a good night. captioning sponsored by wnet captioned by media access group at wgbh >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. the anderson fily fund. the j.p.b. foundation. the estate of worthington mayo-smith. leonard and norma klorfine. the rosalind p. walter foundation. koo and patricia yuen, committed to bridging cultural
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differences in our communities. barbara hope zuckerberg. we try to live in the moment, to not miss what's right in front of us. at mutual of america, we believe taking care of tomorrow can help you make the most of today. mutual of america financial group: retirement services and investments. additional support has been provided by: consumer cellular. and by: and by the corporation for public broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the american people. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. you're watching pbs.
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(gentle music) - [jeff] we're getting closer to catalina right now. and as we get up here we've got some dolphins. we're coming up on a bunch of dolphins right now. here they come, right at us and woo, there they go. they just turned and now they're swimming right with us. now they're right underneath us, just beautiful spinner dolphins, man. you gotta love these guys. they are just having a blast playing with us out here right now. ah, man. so beautiful. we're basically surrounded by dolphins right now, which is awesome. look at these guys. they're so agile and they're so they just move so effortlessly through the water.


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