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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  July 16, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT

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captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> i am steven joel sotloff. i'm sure you know exactly who i am by now and why i am appearing before you. >> steven joel sotloff was beheaded by isis in september of 2014. his execution was seen around the world on video. did you ever watch it? >> i have viewed steven's body with his head on his chest. >> i had to see that because i needed to be sure that that was him. >> steven's parents have been shattered by it, and by their strong belief that the american government could have saved his life. >> one by one, the patches are peeled away and the world comes back into focus.
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you're witnessing the moment when the people in this room realize they can see, for the first time in years. can you see my fingers? their eyes and their faces begin to light up with a quiet sort of joy and wonder at the gift of sight. doctors geoff tabin and sanduk ruit are eye surgeons, and now, they are life savers. >> ai weiwei is china's most famous political dissident. he's also one of the most successful contemporary artists in the world-- a designer, sculptor, photographer and blogger who's earned legions of followers by using his art as a weapon to ridicule the authorities. are you an artist, or are you an activist? >> i think, artist and activist is the same thing. >> i'm steve kroft.
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>> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm holly williams. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight on "60 minutes." (hard exhalation) honey? can we do this tomorrow? (grunts of effort) can we do this tomorrow? if you have heart failure symptoms, your risk of hospitalization could increase, making tomorrow uncertain.
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>> stahl: in the long, bloody history of terrorism, few acts of violence have been more savage or shocking than those carried out by isis, including the beheadings of young american hostages in 2014. the videos went viral and catapulted isis onto the world stage. for the parents of one of those americans, art and shirley
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sotloff, the murder of their 31- year-old son steven was shattering because of the brutality of his execution, and because they think he could've been saved if not for what even the obama administration admitted was its own ineffectiveness in dealing with the crisis. but, as we reported in january, what really sealed their son's fate, the sotloffs believe, was the government's policy against paying ransom. >> steven sotloff: i am steven joel sotloff. i'm sure you know exactly who i am by now and why i am appearing before you. >> stahl: steven joel sotloff was beheaded by isis. his execution, on september 2, 2014, was seen around the world on a video. did you ever watch it? >> art sotloff: i have viewed steven's body with his head on his chest. >> shirley sotloff: i had to see that because i needed to be sure that that was him.
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>> stahl: steven was born and raised in miami, attended college in israel and became a freelance journalist, reporting from war zones where information was scarce, like yemen, benghazi, libya and syria, where he went in the summer of 2013. just before he crossed into aleppo, he called his dad. >> art sotloff: he contacted me and told me not to worry and... but, if i don't hear from him within four days, that i should get in touch with one of his colleagues. >> stahl: ooh, that's ominous. he didn't hear from his son, not just for four days; it was four excruciating months.th, finallym letter with demands for the government to free all the muslims in u.s. custody, or... >> shirley sotloff: then, there is a last option: "$100 million euros will secure steven's release." >> stahl: which is something like $137... >> art sotloff: $137 million.
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>> stahl: what was your reaction? >> shirley sotloff: the reaction was, how the hell are we going to get this money together? >> stahl: they thought the u.s. government would help them, but they were bewildered and then infuriated when they say they met a stone wall: the u.s. policy forbidding the paying of ransom. >> lisa monaco: it's some of the hardest work that i've done. >> stahl: lisa monaco was assistant to president obama for counterterrorism. she oversaw the hostage crisis. >> monaco: these are horrible choices. on the one hand, if you don't pay a ransom, you are putting an innocent life at risk. on the other hand, if you do, you're fueling the very activity that's put them at risk in the first place. >> stahl: did you feel ever that the policy might be wrong? >> monaco: the policy, that's been a decades-old policy of not paying ransom. i think is the right policy. >> stahl: so, you didn't question that. >> monaco: we didn't. we believed that that was important to maintain. >> stahl: but with the exception of the u.k., most european
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countries do pay ransom without publicly admitting it. steven was held with 22 other hostages, including the three americans-- james foley, peter kassig and kayla mueller-- who were all killed. once the european governments paid ransom, isis released their citizens, one of whom smuggled out this letter from steven. >> art sotloff: he was speaking how he can't stand seeing all the captives leave from all different countries. how could the united states just stand by and not do anything? >> stahl: as the european hostages came out and spoke of mock executions and waterboardings, the sotloffs decided they would try to raise at least some of the money themselves. but then, they and the other u.s. families attended a meeting in washington with officials on the national security council. >> art sotloff: all of us were saying, "well, why can't we try to save our kids?"
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and they said, "because it's against the law. we do not negotiate with terrorists." >> stahl: did they say you would be prosecuted? >> art sotloff: they said, "you could be prosecuted, and also your donors could be prosecuted." >> stahl: so, if i gave you money, i could be prosecuted? >> shirley sotloff: yes. >> art sotloff: correct. >> stahl: did anybody say, "are you kidding me?" >> art sotloff: yes, they did. yes, they did. >> stahl: so, it was a little bit contentious. >> art sotloff: oh, yeah. we kind of verbally fought back. >> stahl: they were threatened that they could be prosecuted. is that true? >> monaco: so, what's true is that some families felt threatened, and that was unacceptable. and that should never have happened. >> stahl: are you suggesting they may not have been threatened? >> monaco: no. what i'm suggesting is, i wasn't present when any threats were made. but what matters, lesley, is that these families felt that way as they were going through the most horrific time they will ever encounter. >> stahl: but was that the policy? was that true? could they have actually been prosecuted?
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could someone who contributed to pay ransom also be prosecuted? >> monaco: so, what's true is that the justice department has never prosecuted a family, or friends of a family that has paid a ransom. >> stahl: but was it the policy? >> monaco: well, what's... the... the policy is, the united states government will not pay ransoms or make concessions to terrorist hostage takers. >> stahl: that policy is based in part on a presumption that paying ransom invites more hostage-taking, but that is refuted by a new study that examined the case of every known western hostage taken since 9/11. it was co-authored by peter bergen, a counterterrorism expert, for the nonpartisan new america foundation. >> peter bergen: they don't know necessarily you're american when they take you. it's sort of a target of opportunity. so, some countries are known to pay ransom-- the french, the germans, the spanish. >> stahl: even though they don't admit it. >> bergen: they don't admit it, but they do. their citizens have much better
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outcomes than americans. americans are huge outliers here. you're twice as likely to have a negative outcome compared to every other western hostage. >> stahl: you say "negative outcome," you mean murdered. >> bergen: murdered, die in captivity or just remain in captivity. >> stahl: 14 of the european hostages held with steven made it home. those from countries that don't pay ransom didn't; four americans and two brits died. i keep playing in my own head this horrible situation where the american hostages watched the other ones be set free, and i wonder if it wouldn't have been better if... if our government did what the european governments did, which was pay ransom but then deny it, in order to save their citizens. why couldn't we have done that? >> monaco: we'd still be fueling their terror activity. whether it's hostage-taking or whether it's terrorist plots, to kill americans here in the
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homeland or elsewhere, is not activity that the united states government should be in the business of funding. >> stahl: what do you say to critics of the policy of not paying ransom? that the beheadings of the americans ended up having more value to isis than any money would have been. that's really what put them on the international map. these beheading videos were a gold mine for isis. do you... do you see it that way? >> monaco: i don't, and i think it's giving brutal, murderous thugs too much credit. >> stahl: what about the argument that if you pay ransom, you're just encouraging them to kidnap more? also, that the money is going to go toward terrorism? and so, what's the comeback to that? it's a hard thing. >> art sotloff: going back to what president obama said to us
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in person, that he would do anything in his power to save his children if he was in the same situation. and i say that he should put himself in the same situation. and i think that the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens in whatever way that they can. >> stahl: what do you say when you hear people argue that steven knew he was putting his life at risk by going into syria at that point and, you know, kind of, the burden's on him. >> art sotloff: steven was driven by truth, that he had to report the truth. he saw that there wasn't information coming out of these areas, and that's really what drove him. >> stahl: in the summer of 2014, nearly a year after steven was abducted, president obama ordered a military operation to rescue the hostages. >> monaco: this involved a number of... a large number of
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military service members and special operators, who... >> stahl: putting their lives on the line. >> monaco: putting their lives on the line, going into the heart of isil territory in syria. and as we were monitoring the operation, word came back, some very devastating words: "it's a dry hole," which meant that they weren't there. >> jihadi john: this is james wright foley. >> stahl: about seven weeks later, james foley became the first of three american hostages beheaded. steven appears at the end of the video. >> jihadi john: the life of this american citizen, obama, depends on your next decision. >> stahl: the sotloffs then received an audio message that sounds like steven was forced to record, designed to pressure the u.s. government. it was given them by the f.b.i. >> art sotloff: this is always tough for me because it's actually his voice, and it just
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makes me feel like he's still in the room with us. >> steven sotloff: to mom, i do not have much time and will probably not get this opportunity again, so i would like to get straight to the point. my life depends on obama's next decision. mom, please don't let obama kill me. mom, you can still save my life, just like the families of my previous cellmates whom i'm sure you've met. fight for me, i love you. >> shirley sotloff: powerful. >> art sotloff: i got to blow my nose. i'm sorry. if i could excuse myself? >> stahl: it's okay. it's... it's cruel. >> shirley sotloff: very. i don't know what they wanted us to do. >> stahl: and always saying "mom" like that. >> shirley sotloff: mom. >> stahl: mom, mom. >> shirley sotloff: yeah. >> stahl: they learned of steven's death a few days after that. >> art sotloff: and he's in a much better place. >> shirley sotloff: we know he's in a better place. >> art sotloff: and, you know,
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he isn't suffering anymore. >> stahl: a couple of months later, they met with president obama. >> art sotloff: i asked the president, i said, "how did you feel when my son was being held up by his neck and they were saying that this message is for you, president obama; steven's life depends on your next decision? how do you feel about that?" and he looked down, and he really couldn't answer the question. i guess it's a question that shocked him because, it shocked me that i even asked him that. >> stahl: how do you feel now about what happened? maybe your role with the families whose kids were beheaded. >> monaco: i feel like, in many respects, we did not do right by these families, that we failed them. >> stahl: you feel you... you failed the families? >> monaco: we have americans who were brutally killed. >> stahl: after the beheadings, she put together a task force to review how the government
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handles hostage-taking, that included a meeting with the families. >> monaco: it was a lot of raw emotion and a lot of frustration and grief. >> stahl: anger at you? >> monaco: anger at us, anger at the loss of their loved ones, anger at the government. >> stahl: one of the task force's conclusions was that the various government agencies working on hostages were not coordinating with each other, which led to the creation of this new unit. >> have we seen any claims of responsibility? >> not yet. >> stahl: led by the f.b.i., it brings together all the key agencies that work on hostages-- including the c.i.a., defense and state departments-- in one place to work side by side, 24/7. they share intelligence and keep the families informed. >> any results? >> no, sir. not yet. >> stahl: however, the no-ransom policy was not changed; it
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wasn't even reviewed, though the justice department, in this public document, all but promised not to prosecute a family or their friends who do pay ransom to terrorists. is it a good policy now? are you happy with the way it has turned out? >> art sotloff: it's a better policy than what it was. i mean, now it gives at least people the opportunity to try to save their family members. >> stahl: uh-huh. >> art sotloff: but i think it's far from really solving the problem, because there is still money that has to be raised and paid, and the average family just can't do that. >> stahl: and you think our government should. >> art sotloff: absolutely. >> shirley sotloff: it's a human life. how do you let an american go like that, just let them be killed and murdered? every human is valuable. everybody has a family, and they want them to come home.
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>> stahl: the sotloffs have started a foundation in steven's memory called "two lives" that among other things funds safety training for freelance journalists traveling to war zones. on the political front, with dozens of americans still being held hostage, president trump has maintained the u.s. policy of not paying ransom. i needed something more to help control my type 2 diabetes. my a1c wasn't were it needed to be. so i liked when my doctor told me that i may reach my blood sugar and a1c goals by activating what's within me
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cricket has something epic for you. our plans start at only $30/month. we've got more 4g lte coverage than t-mobile or sprint. plus switch now, and get a brand new smartphone for free. cricket wireless. something to smile about. >> whitaker: blindness and partial blindness are not epidemic here in the u.s., but they are in certain parts of the world. our story is about two doctors who decided to do something about it. and incredibly, to date, they have restored sight to more than 150,000 people.
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doctors they have trained have restored sight to four million more. as we first told you in april, their partnership seems improbable. one is a hard-charging, ivy- league, american adrenaline- junkie; the other, a serene buddhist surgeon from the remote mountains of nepal. we joined them on one of their most challenging missions in the isolated country of burma. their goal: to lead burma out of darkness one patient at a time. one by one, the patches are peeled away and the world comes back into focus. you're witnessing the moment when the people in this room realize they can see, for the first time in years. can you see my fingers? their eyes and their faces begin to light up with a quiet sort of joy and wonder at the gift of sight. as they look around, they see who changed their world, with an
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operation the day before that took just minutes. doctors geoff tabin and sanduk ruit are eye surgeons, and now, they are life savers. to hear doctors ruit and tabin speak, they are the beneficiaries. what's it like when that bandage is taken off and that person sees for the first time, sees you? >> dr. sanduk ruit: i may have seen it thousands of times, but every time, there's a new tickle there, and i feel like my battery's been recharged. >> dr. geoff tabin: i still get such a thrill when people don't expect or realize they're going to have their sight restored. and then a transformation when they see, and the sort of moment of hesitation, "what are they seeing," and then the smile. >> whitaker: u myint oo hadn't seen for two years, until this moment. others here had been blind for decades. they all had cataracts, a milky
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white build up of protein that clouds the lens of the eye. in the u.s., they mainly afflict the elderly; removing them, a routine operation. but here in burma, also known as myanmar, cataracts go untreated and blindness is a way of life. >> dr. tabin: it's a buddhist population. they're very fatalistic. they're very accepting, and there's almost an acceptance that you get old, your hair turns white, your eye turns white and then you die. and the idea that you can actually have your sight restored has not really permeated all levels of myanmar society. >> whitaker: what does that tell you about the state of eye care here? >> dr. tabin: well, it's a place we can make a difference. >> whitaker: burma is one of the poorest countries in asia, slowly emerging from the darkness of decades of dictatorship. after years of trying, tabin and ruit finally were permitted to bring their treatment here.
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we met them in taunggyi, in central burma, where the lack of care has led to some of the highest rates of cataracts in the world. through radio and pamphlets and conversation, word of the doctors visit spread. hundreds of burmese who'd lost their sight found their way to taunggyi's hospital, with the help of care givers-- many trekking for days. here, cataracts are not just a malady of old age; they take the sight of the very young, too, caused by infections and malnutrition. >> i think it's better to redo it. >> whitaker: by the time the doctors scrubbed in, the corridors were choked with people hoping to have their sight restored. is it ever daunting? i mean, you look out there and you see that line of people, all who need this surgery. >> dr. tabin: it's daunting on a worldwide basis. it may be a long line, but this individual person, i'm going to give the very best care i can. >> whitaker: dr. ruit set a
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rapid pace. he repaired an eye; the patient got up; the next patient was ready on an adjoining table. just minutes an eye, then onto the next. dr. tabin performed the delicate surgery just feet away. >> dr. tabin: want to take a look? see how nice and clear that is. i don't know what that was, maybe four or five minutes. and it's going from total blindness to great vision. >> whitaker: they kept up this pace until 7:00 in the evening. it's almost like an assembly line-- but assembly line sounds too mechanical. i mean, this is people's eyes. >> dr. tabin: it's people's lives. you know, once someone goes blind in a developing world, their life expectancy is about one-third that of age and health matched peers. and for a blind child, the life expectancy is five years. and also in the developing world, it takes, often, a person out of the work force, or a child out of school, to care for the blind person. so when we restore sight to a
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blind person, we're freeing up their family and restoring their life. >> whitaker: among the throng waiting to have their lives restored, we found kancchi. her son, a farmer, had been her eyes and devoted caretaker since cataracts took her sight. 15-year-old yawnu had been blind since age seven. he was overwhelmed, but grateful. "thank you," he said. drs. ruit and tabin heard that a lot. in four days in taunggyi, with the help of local doctors they were training, they performed 503 cataract surgeries. her eyes now bandaged, kancchi waited with her son. you are going to be performing as many cataract surgeries as the hospital does normally in a year. >> dr. ruit: we are basically here to ignite fire. ignite fire of the possibility
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of doing high-quality, high- volume cataract surgery. it is still possible. >> whitaker: you want to ignite a fire here. >> dr. ruit: ignite a fire here. >> whitaker: as long as he can remember, sanduk ruit has been burning to change the world around him. he grew up desperately poor, in this village with no electricity or running water, high in the himalayas of nepal. the nearest school was a 15-day walk away. ruit's illiterate parents saw education as the way out for their children, but the grip of poverty and poor health was too strong to escape. his younger sister, with whom he was very close, died of tuberculosis. >> dr. ruit: i saw her pass away in front of me. and-- then it was a very strong determination from inside-- that maybe this is the profession that i should take and make
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healthcare available for my countrymen. >> whitaker: that determination took him to medical school in india. he came back to nepal an eye doctor, committed to bringing modern care to remote mountain villages. the documentary "out of the darkness" showed them carrying equipment on their backs. his team hiked for days. his goal, as revolutionary as it was simple: to cure blindness in the third world with a quick, cheap technique to remove cataracts. soon the medical world took notice-- and so did a young geoff tabin. >> dr. tabin: i imposed myself on sanduk and came to work in nepal. >> whitaker: what did you think of him when he first showed up? >> dr. ruit: you know, i was a bit scared in the beginning, you know. he had tremendous energy. he would never get tired. energy in working, energy in eating, energy in drinking. energy in talking, you know?
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>> whitaker: it was like being hit by a human avalanche. fitting, since geoff tabin's passion was mountaineering, more than medicine. he'd raced through yale, oxford and harvard medical school, but he had made his name as one of the first people to climb the highest peak on every continent. he met dr. ruit and thought he'd found his next challenge. ruit was skeptical this frenetic young man had the same dedication to ophthalmology he had to adventure. >> dr. ruit: i sent him to an-- to a hospital in eastern part of nepal, in the middle of summer. and i said, "he's not going to survive there." >> dr. tabin: during the summer, in the monsoon, it's quite oppressive. it's sort of 100°, 105, with a 99% humidity, and lots of mosquitoes. >> whitaker: wait a minute. you sent him to-- a difficult place on purpose-- >> dr. ruit: difficult place. difficult-- definitely, yeah. >> whitaker: did you know that he was testing you?
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>> dr. tabin: no. i thought he sent me there because there was so much need. i scratched my mosquito bites and-- was excited to go to work, that there were all of these blind people that, you know, i could make a difference in their life. >> whitaker: he won you over? >> dr. ruit: yes, yes, definitely. >> whitaker: their relationship has grown from teacher/student to collaborators and friends. like yin and yang, these opposites complement each other. they created the himalayan cataract project, started here at tilganga, ruit's hospital in kathmandu. they perfected the procedure called small incision cataract surgery: just one small splice, the cataract comes out, a new man-made lens goes in, no stitches required. it's quick and costs about $20. how does the quality of care you're providing here compare to the quality of care you'd be able to provide in the u.s.? >> dr. tabin: for these advanced
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cataracts, i'm performing the same quality of surgery that i would be doing in america. >> whitaker: dr. tabin spent most of this year at the university of utah where cataract surgery costs a couple thousand dollars an eye. he might do four or five a day. here, he does that many in a half hour, removing cataracts he'd never see in the u.s. because they'd never go untreated so long. their project is funded by donations and grants. they're able to keep costs down because they don't use expensive equipment, and they make their own lenses at their factory in nepal. the lenses are crucial to the process. they're a permanent implant. each costs about $4. in the u.s., because of strict safety requirements, they can cost 50 times more. comparable quality? >> dr. ruit: very comparable. i'd put that in my mother's eyes.
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>> whitaker: so far, they've operated in two dozen countries, including north korea, ethiopia and now burma. they've brought hundreds of doctors, including the burmese doctors working with them, to tilganga for training. and everywhere they go, they train other doctors to carry on their work once they've moved on. >> dr. ruit: how many fingers? >> whitaker: we saw the immediate benefit the morning after surgery. >> dr. ruit: how many? >> whitaker: the patients gathered in a buddhist monastery. as the bandages came off, first wonder-- then smiles and celebration. remember u myint oo, blind for two years? his family sent us this picture. he can read again, his favorite pastime.
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15-year-old yawnu, blind half his life, seemed somewhat bewildered by this new world of sight. for kancchi, the wait was over. her son was overcome when she saw his face for the first time in years. then there was this woman. is this the first time she's been able to see in months? >> yes. >> whitaker: she called drs. ruit and tabin "gods." they assured her they are not, but in this room it certainly seemed they had performed miracles. >> hallelujah! >> whitaker: the doctors recently got more good news. the himalayan cataract project is one of eight semifinalists
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>> williams: ai weiwei is china's most famous political dissident, a provocateur and a troublemaker whose clashes with the chinese government have gotten him harassed by police, thrown in jail and driven out of the country. he's also one of the most successful contemporary artists in the world-- a designer, sculptor, photographer and blogger who, as we first told
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you earlier this year, has earned legions of followers by using his art as a weapon to ridicule the authorities. and we should warn you: some of his work can be offensive. but when you meet ai weiwei, he's soft-spoken, self- deprecating and shy-- the last person you'd expect to be an enemy of the state. they thought your intention was to subvert state power. >> ai weiwei: which is true. >> williams: which is true. you want to bring down the chinese government? >> ai weiwei: not bring down. i don't think i have the power to bring it down. >> williams: but you want it to change. >> ai weiwei: yes. of course. >> williams: those are dangerous words in china, where even after decades of modernization, the government has little tolerance for dissent. but that's never bothered ai weiwei. this is the work he's perhaps most famous for. what you're seeing in the background is a portrait of china's revered former dictator
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mao zedong, part of a series in which weiwei gives the finger to other symbols of power around the world. >> ai weiwei: --just like this. ( laughs ) >> williams: it-- ( laughs ) --are, are we creating a new-- a new ai weiwei as we stand here? >> ai weiwei: you can see. it's so easy. everybody can do it. >> williams: easy. certainly not subtle, and maybe a little silly. but the chinese authorities took them very seriously. they thought it was subversive. why was the regime frightened of art? >> ai weiwei: because they're afraid of freedom, and art is about freedom. >> williams: they're afraid of freedom. >> ai weiwei: yes. >> williams: are you an artist, or are you an activist? >> ai weiwei: i think, artist and activist is the same thing. as artist, you always have to be an activist. >> williams: you have to be political to be a good artist. >> ai weiwei: i think every art, if it's relevant, is political. >> evan osnos: that's the purpose of his life. >> williams: evan osnos is a
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writer for "the new yorker," who spent years in beijing and chronicled ai weiwei's confrontations with the authorities. he calls him an "entrepreneur of provocation." what does that mean? >> osnos: it means that no matter what he's doing, he's figuring out a way not to cooperate with the prevailing wisdom or the people in charge. and this can make a lot of people very angry. >> williams: what's wrong with how things are, to ai weiwei's mind? >> osnos: in china, you are being constantly told that the world today is so much better today than it was 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, when chinese people were literally starving. that you should be satisfied. and what ai weiwei is saying is, "absolutely not. you should demand more." >> williams: it's not good enough to be rich? >> osnos: exactly. it's not good enough to be rich; you need to be free as well. >> williams: in 2008, ai weiwei's one-man rebellion turned into a war with the chinese government, after a massive earthquake shook sichuan province.
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it killed almost 90,000 people, including several thousand children, many of whom were crushed in poorly-built government schools. it was a national trauma, and the authorities tried to put a lid on the public's anger by covering up the number of children who died. it was a state secret how many children had died in these schools? >> ai weiwei: yeah. they always use that as some kind of, you know, excuse not to give you the correct numbers. >> williams: weiwei assembled a team of activists to interview the parents, many of whom had lost their only child. he called it a "citizens' investigation." china had never seen anything like it. so you were trying to get to the truth. why did that make the chinese government so angry?
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>> ai weiwei: to control the information, to the limit the truth. it's most efficient tactics for totalitarian society-- for the rulers. >> williams: he gathered the names of more than 5,000 dead children and published a list on the internet, shaming his government, and across china, people took notice. it was a challenge to the government's authority? >> osnos: and they couldn't accept it. it was an act of radical transparency. nobody had ever done that before, and they didn't immediately know how to respond. they had never really encountered a person like ai weiwei. >> williams: what-- what were they worried that he might do? >> osnos: inspire people. inspire people to do and live the way that he did. >> williams: the chinese authorities responded brutally. ai weiwei says police beat him up, and he later had to be hospitalized. doctors discovered bleeding in his brain which he says could have killed him.
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he documented it all on social media for his followers around the world, infuriating the government and escalating the confrontation. >> osnos: he weaponized social media. he figured out that in a country in-- that controls information so carefully, that seizing the tools of information distribution is a very powerful thing to do. >> williams: what did the chinese government think about that? >> osnos: they began to think he was a very dangerous person. >> williams: ai weiwei was groomed to be a dissident since childhood. his father, ai qing, was a celebrated poet who was denounced as a traitor and exiled with his family to the edge of china's gobi desert, where weiwei watched his father's humiliation as he was forced to clean public toilets. you were an outsider from the beginning. >> ai weiwei: yes, i'm a natural outsider. i always been pushed out, and-- but that also give me very special angle to look at things.
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>> williams: it made you an independent thinker. >> ai weiwei: it made me a individual, and i was always having to make my judgement independently, because the mainstream will never accept somebody like me. >> williams: weiwei got out of china at the first opportunity, moving to new york in the early 1980s. he was intoxicated by the city, chronicling everything in pictures, drawing inspiration from american masters like andy warhol, and stringing together a living doing odd jobs and street art. so you were drawing portraits of people, and-- >> ai weiwei: yeah. >> williams: --selling them for how much? >> ai weiwei: $15, $15. >> williams: $15? some of his work now sells for millions, but in america, he discovered something you can't put a price on. you once said that once you've experienced freedom, it stays in your heart. is that true? >> ai weiwei: yeah, it's true. i think it's true. you taste the most important
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thing in life, and you will never forget it. yeah. >> williams: after a decade in the u.s., he moved back to china and set up a studio in beijing, breaking new ground and challenging old sensibilities with mischievous, provocative art, like this piece, in which weiwei photographed himself destroying a 2000-year-old chinese urn. he wants to shatter the communist party's official version of history. you smashed a priceless urn. >> ai weiwei: it's not priceless. >> williams: for a lot of chinese people, it's-- it's a priceless part of their history. >> ai weiwei: for me to smash it is a valuable act. >> williams: if you buy that-- and the art world certainly did- - look at what he did to these urns doused in bright paint, or emblazoned with the coca-cola logo, paying tribute to his idol, andy warhol.
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by 2010, new commissions were rolling in, and weiwei's work grew more ambitious. not all of it was political. he cast giant animal heads in bronze and sent them on tour around the world. he hired 1,600 artisans to handcraft porcelain sunflower seeds, then carpeted the floor of a giant atrium in london with 100 million of them. it captivated the public, and helped turn ai weiwei into an art scene superstar. you're the darling of the art world. >> ai weiwei: i'm a darling of art world. i don't really care. >> williams: you don't care. >> ai weiwei: no, i don't really care. they can just forget about me. i don't care. >> williams: but they're not forgetting about you. >> ai weiwei: well, that's their problem, you know? ( laughs ) they should. they should learn how to forget about me.
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>> williams: the chinese government wanted everyone to forget about ai weiwei, blocking his name on the internet in china and making it impossible to search for him. but that didn't stop weiwei from needling the authorities relentlessly. when they put his studio under surveillance, weiwei decorated the cameras with lanterns, then fashioned replicas out of marble for his exhibitions. when officers were ordered to follow his every move, he got his own cameraman to film them filming him, ridiculing the state in a way no one else in china had ever dared. >> osnos: i mean, in a way, people have learned to be, "keep your head down." and ai weiwei doesn't. he's, "no, i'm not gonna keep my head down. i'm gonna wave my big head with my beard and my crazy haircut all over the place and you'll have to deal with it." >> williams: he was making the chinese government look ridiculous. >> osnos: yeah. he was mocking it. he was mocking it.
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and the chinese government is many things, but it is not possessed of an abundant sense of humor. and i think, you know, at a certain point, they said, "we're not going to take it anymore." >> williams: and they didn't. early one morning in 2011, as he was about to board a plane, they put a hood over his head and took him away. it was the beginning of 81 harrowing days in solitary confinement, under 24-hour surveillance. they watched you shower. they watched you use the toilet. they watched you when you were asleep at night. they were trying to humiliate you. >> ai weiwei: i think that's the very routine way when they detain somebody they think is very important. >> williams: were they trying to break your spirit? >> ai weiwei: i think-- they don't have to try. >> williams: did they break you? >> ai weiwei: somehow, i think. >> williams: when he was released from detention, his passport was confiscated and he
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was forbidden from speaking publicly. >> ai weiwei: i cannot talk, i'm so sorry. >> williams: but ai weiwei couldn't help himself. he recreated his prison cell with these three-dimensional models, which were exhibited around the world. it helped pile pressure on the chinese government, and two years ago, he was finally given his passport back. within days, he was on a plane out of china, setting up a new studio in berlin. when we visited him, he'd shifted his attention to the plight of refugees struggling to reach europe, turning these clothes they discarded into a new work. he told us he's staying in europe for the time being, out of concern for the safety of his young son. but he hasn't ruled out moving back. ai weiwei has now left china. doesn't that mean that the chinese government has won? >> osnos: i don't think so. i think-- i'm not sure how far we are into the game here. but the game is not over. >> williams: he might start the
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fight again with the chinese regime? >> osnos: ( laughs ) i would not be surprised. any time people have sort of counted him out, they've been proven wrong. >> is ai weiwei a better dissident than an artist? go to 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by lyrica. before fibromyalgia, i was a doer. i was active. then the chronic, widespread pain drained my energy. my doctor said moving more helps ease fibromyalgia pain. she also prescribed lyrica. fibromyalgia is thought to be the result of overactive nerves. lyrica is believed to calm these nerves. woman: for some, lyrica can significantly relieve fibromyalgia pain and improve function, so i feel better. lyrica may cause serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts or actions. tell your doctor right away if you have these, new or worsening depression, or unusual changes in mood or behavior. or swelling, trouble breathing, rash,
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captioning funded by cbs >> previously on "big brother." with a sniper in a line of fire. >> i know you wanted to battle it out with me. but i'm a check mate game. so cody -- >> he was worried he was leaving jess in a bad spot. >> i feel bad for her. everything she's had to do through in this game. at this point, all we can do is salvage her game. >> so he decided to throw people under the bus. >> two people came to me. >> having some fun, dominique interviewed the nominees. >> there were organically-forming teams. >> where cody continued to sr

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