tv 60 Minutes CBS June 18, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. ( shouting ) >> their only hope is the syrian civil defense, a self-appointed volunteer force of rescue workers, who call themselves the white helmets. this woman told us her entire family was buried. "i didn't expect my son would survive," she told us. "he was only ten days old." but after 16 hours of labor, her baby was brought into the world a second time. ( cheering ) >> looking for a change of scenery? or maybe a change of country? a new life, or perhaps a new identity?
in this era of globalization, citizenship and passports for caribbean islands like this one have become just another commodity to be bought and sold. how much does it cost to get a citizenship? >> $100,000. >> do you have to come and live in dominica? >> no, no. you don't even have to come to dominica to get the citizenship. you pay the money from wherever you are. >> sort of mail-order citizenship? >> sort of. something like that. >> until a couple summers ago, the ancient game of chess was still mostly a mystery for the folks of rural franklin county, mississippi. >> what's this called? >> so imagine everyone's surprise when a tall stranger arrived from memphis to bring chess to the country. >> i was like, what? why would somebody come down here? >> two years later, a chess boom is under way in the unlikeliest of places. >> people said that country kids couldn't learn chess. >> and? >> we showed 'em different. >> we proved them wrong.
we proved 'em wrong. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm sharyn alfonsi. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight on "60 minutes." >> cbs money watch update sponsored by lincoln financial. you're in charge. >> reporter: good evening. britain begins talks monday on leaving the european union. fedex, car max and blackberry are among the companies reporting earnings this week, and dairy workers marched to a ben & jerry's ice cream factory in vermont saturday, asking for better pay. i'm demarco morgan, cbs news.
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december, assad and his russian ally had just intensified their air strikes against aleppo's dense neighborhoods. for civilians under this bombardment, the greatest fear is to be buried alive, to suffocate or bleed to death in the rubble of their own home. their only hope is the syrian civil defense, a self-appointed all-syrian volunteer force of rescue workers, who call themselves the white helmets. the air strikes, day and night, obliterate apartments and shatter the nerves. often, the bombs are not aimed at military targets; they're not aimed at all-- just a barrel of shrapnel and t.n.t., heaved from a helicopter onto any neighborhood the assad dictatorship does not control.
>> rami jarrah: it's to terrorize people in this area. it's to tell these people that "you're not welcome here, and we want you out." >> pelley: rami jarrah is a syrian reporter, who's followed the white helmets from their makeshift beginnings to today's trained force of 3,000 rescue workers. >> jarrah: they provide some sort of security or safety, or some sort of hope to civilians that live in this area, that even if you are attacked, even if your building comes down, there is someone that's going to come and save you. >> pelley: you are not alone. >> jarrah: you're not alone, yes. >> pelley: this little boy was alone, and nearly invisible, when the white helmets happened to spot just his hair in the pulverized concrete of his home. bare hands were in a race with suffocation. >> jarrah: i think, for them, it's luck.
it's that... that they dig any rubble that they see to get those people out. they frantically dig through every part of any apartment building or anything that's been... been destroyed to check. they're usually there for hours after the attack. >> pelley: how many hours? >> jarrah: how many hours? six, seven hours. i've seen them operate continuously. >> pelley: this is that same boy, his face freed. they excavated the ruin, hour by hour. the white helmets say they have saved 90,000. and, with each, they shout their gratitude to god. majd khalaf and rady saad have been white helmets three years. khalaf said, "we feel as if we've brought that person back to life. the joy at that moment is indescribable."
tell me about the hardest rescue you've ever done. "there was a woman and her husband," he told us. "only four of her fingers were sticking out of the rubble. we could see her moving her fingers like this, so my colleagues dug her out. and the first thing she asked about was her husband. they'd been married for ten days. unfortunately, her husband had been killed." fingers-- or, here, the leg of a boy-- are clues in a chaos of concrete. the leg led to hips and a torso. body parts are expected. but then, they uncover a face.
more often than anyone could expect, life is resurrected from a shallow grave. when you uncover one of these faces covered with dust and the eyes open, what is that moment like for you? rady saad told us, "i don't have any feelings, i have a goal. the goal is to save the most people in the least amount of time. but when i go home, i've spent nights crying, really crying." day after day, building after building, hour after hour, victim after victim, how do you keep going?
"there are a lot of people who need our help," he said. "there's a 50% chance in every operation that i'll live and 50% chance that i'll die. but in the end, i've left my mark. i've left children who are going to live and complete our future." rady saad calculates his odds at 50/50 because the white helmets themselves are targets of the assad regime. >> jarrah: the plane doesn't attack once. it usually attacks twice or three times. so, the civil defense are able to actually continue doing their work, even understanding that that plane is waiting for people to gather up because it wants to come back and attack when there's a large crowd of people. >> pelley: the white helmets call that second bomb run, the
one aimed at them, a double tap. and it happened during this rescue in aleppo. raed saleh wears the loss of his men and his country. he once owned an electronics business. the white helmets in more than 100 towns elected him their leader. how many of your people have you lost? he told us a white helmet had been killed that morning, and as of last week, saleh has lost more than 190 volunteers. how did the white helmets begin? "after several bombings," he said, "there were individual initiatives by regular people-- tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, university students, doctors; people from different backgrounds, who formed teams to respond to emergencies in a more
organized fashion. after that, there was communication with outside organizations who began to train these teams." this is the training, in a country we agreed not to name. elite disaster teams from other nations teach the use of microphones to sense vibrations, and cameras to peer into crevices. the united states chipped in $29 million for this, about a quarter of the white helmets' budget. this home was blasted into a family's tomb. the only thing escaping was one faint voice. a white helmet, searching, calls out, "brother, can you see our light?" the voice replies, "something's on my back."
he's right. it's the roof. but for an inch, the 16-year-old boy would be dead. you're looking at him right there, face down. this is his shoulder and his right arm, already in a cast. no architect's calculation of blast loading or lateral resistance can explain the simple miracles of survival. after seven hours, it appears the boy emerged an orphan and only child. everyone else in the house was dead. hadi al-abdullah is a syrian journalist who posts stories of the white helmets on youtube. "if there is meaning to the word 'courage,'" he said, "it is represented by the civil defense." abdullah's stories caught the disapproving notice of the assad
dictatorship, and last june, the door of his apartment building was connected to a bomb. "without me hearing any explosion," he said, "there was stone and steel on top of me, and i couldn't move any of my limbs." rescue workers he'd covered came to uncover him. "when i heard the sound of the civil defense bulldozer, i started to feel some hope that i might live. slowly, the stone started to be removed, rock by rock. all of the weight started to lessen." just hearing their voices gave you hope that you would live? "exactly," he said. "i was able to breathe, to hear their voices. it was difficult to open my eyes, but i opened them a little and saw them wearing their white helmets. i was so happy that i was out of the rubble." they said you were going to die,
and then you returned to life. abdullah endured more than half a dozen surgeries, then returned to syria in a wheelchair to continue his reporting. in turkey, we visited this clinic for syrian amputees, and you find most everyone owes their life to the white helmets. was your leg completely severed? "yes," he told us. "when the civil defense came, they tied my leg for me from here, with a cord." they tied a tourniquet around your leg. "then they put us on stretchers and took us to the field hospital." "they didn't leave me there to bleed to death," she said. "i would be in heaven if not for the civil defense." it seems, in every rescue, there are children. this man flailed for freedom, and just below him a child's head, inches this side of the living. this woman told us her entire family was buried, and she was rescued first.
"i didn't expect my son would survive," she told us. "he was only ten days old." but after 16 hours of labor, her baby was brought into the world, a second time. "everyone told me that he's a miracle child. it really is a miracle." three years later, her son is all she has. her husband and daughter are dead. the man who saved her boy, 31- year-old khaled harrah, was later killed in a double tap. he had two children, and another on the way.
the white helmets respond to an average of 35 attacks a day. fighting for life in a vicious war, they were nominated last year for the nobel peace prize. syria has descended into murder on an industrial scale, but, on the outer limits of cruelty, humanity begins. >> the white helmets don't just wear helmets. the women of the white helmets on 60minutesovertime.com ♪ my bags last night ♪ pre-flight ♪ zero hour nine am
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double means double. >> kroft: if you have been thinking about leaving the united states, moving to another country and changing your nationality, it's never been easier to do. in this era of globalization, citizenship and passports have become just another commodity to be bought and sold on the international market. all you need is money and a willingness to contribute a few hundred thousand dollars to the treasury of a cash-starved country, or acquire a piece of real estate there. it's called citizenship by investment, and as we first reported in january, it's become a $2 billion industry, built around people looking for a change of scenery or a change of
passport, a new life or maybe a new identity, a getaway from the rat race or perhaps an escape from an ex-spouse or interpol. in any event, it's brought in huge amounts of revenue for the sellers, and attracted among the buyers a rogue's gallery of scoundrels, fugitives, tax cheats and possibly much worse. if you're shopping for another passport, the top of the line right now is malta. by investing $1 million in this mediterranean island, a russian or chinese or a saudi can become a european citizen with a new e.u. passport that will allow them to travel just about anywhere without a visa. there are also much cheaper, less discriminating alternatives available in the caribbean, especially on the tiny island of dominica, where lennox linton is a member of parliament. how much does it cost to get a citizenship? >> lennox linton: $100,000. >> kroft: do you have to come and live in dominica? >> linton: no. no.
you don't even have to come to dominica to get the citizenship. you pay the money from wherever you are. >> kroft: sort of just mail- order citizenship? >> linton: sort of. something like that. >> kroft: our introduction to this world of citizenship by investment came in dubai, the gleaming, international bazaar that was hosting the ninth annual global citizenship conference. gathered here were government officials, lawyers, bankers and real estate developers who facilitate and profit from the trade of citizenship for cash. >> chris kalin: good evening, and a very warm welcome. >> kroft: this is the man who more or less invented the business: chris kalin, chairman of henley and partners, a consulting firm with offices where else but in zurich, switzerland. for a fee and healthy commissions, kalin helps countries set up their program, rewrite their citizenship laws and recruit people of means looking for a second, third or fourth passport, which he sees as just another travel accessory, a passport of convenience. >> kalin: you probably have more
than one credit card, i would assume. and, you know, if visa doesn't work, mastercard will do. so, i think any wealthy person nowadays should have more than one credit card. and likewise, you'd have more than one passport. >> kroft: but you need to have some money to do this? >> kalin: yes. >> kroft: to be able to do this? >> kalin: yes, absolutely. it's just for wealthy people, of course. yeah. >> kroft: quite often, these wealthy customers come from politically problematic countries where their passports don't work very well, making it difficult for them to get where they want to go. global citizens like international lawyer sirous motevassel, a middle easterner from iran who travels on a west indian passport from st. kitts and nevis. and where do you live? >> sirous motevassel: i'm living in dubai, united arab emirates. >> kroft: so, you're an iranian living in dubai with st. kitts citizenship. >> motevassel: yes. yeah. >> kroft: that's complicated. >> motevassel: ( laughs ) yeah, it... yeah. this is the life. >> kroft: it's the life because motevassel's st. kitts passport, available for $250,000 or a $400,000 real estate investment,
allows him entry to more than 100 countries without having to get special permission. it's a legal way to circumvent visa controls that nations set up to screen people coming into their country. but it's also an opportunity for shady characters to mask their true identity and avoid suspicion as they travel around the globe. the business was born here in st. kitts, when chris kalin struck a deal with the government a decade ago following the collapse of the islands' sugar industry. since then, passports have become its major export, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in income. in fact, in 2014, the last year for which there are government statistics available, 40% of the government's revenue came from selling passports. it's provided st. kitts and nevis with hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects, private development and tourism, but a lot of the money is unaccounted for. more than 10,000 people have purchased citizenship here, but
it's almost impossible to tell who they are because the information is not public. chris kalin doesn't like the words "citizenship for cash," or any suggestion that all you need is money to get a passport. >> kalin: you have to go through a process. you have to apply. and you have to answer a million questions. and you have to undergo a background verification. and you have, at least in the properly-run programs, you have to be a reputable person. and that's checked. >> kroft: but evidently, not that carefully. about the only way to identify people who have purchased st. kitts citizenship is if they've happened to turn up on a list of international fugitives, or gotten in trouble with the law, and st. kitts/nevis has had more than its share for two sleepy, little islands. its passport holders have included a canadian penny stock manipulator, a russian wanted for bribery, a kazak wanted for embezzlement, two ukrainians suspected of bribing a u.n. official, and two chinese women
wanted for financial crimes. >> kalin: i think it's no secret that these islands have made decisions that are not always optimal. >> kroft: they've taken some bozos, as you would call them? >> kalin: yes, exactly. >> kroft: what about crooks? >> kalin: yes. it goes all the way down to crooks, yeah, absolutely. and it tended for some time to attract quite a few people that i would never let into the country, but i'm not the government of st. kitts and nevis. >> kroft: but you set up their program. >> kalin: we helped to set up the program. but, you know, as it is, advisors advise, ministers decide. >> kroft: the island nation drew the ire of the u.s. treasury department three years ago, after three suspected iranian operatives were caught using their st. kitts passports to launder money for banks in tehran in violation of u.s. sanctions. it also had to recall more than 5,000 passports because they either didn't include a place of birth or were issued to people who had changed their names. since then, a number of reforms have been made, but questions remain.
>> peter vincent: they're not transparent programs. there are not safeguards in place. >> kroft: until 2014, peter vincent was the top legal advisor for u.s. immigration and customs enforcement, part of the department of homeland security, which he says is well aware of all the vulnerabilities. in fact, before general john f. kelly became secretary of the department of homeland security, he expressed concern in a 2015 report that "cash for passport programs could be exploited by criminals, terrorists or other nefarious actors." does that present a security threat, do you think? >> vincent: it does. in my opinion, the global community has established a very effective global security architecture to prevent terrorist attacks. i see these cash for citizenship programs as a gaping hole in that security architecture. >> kroft: but it's not stopped the programs from multiplying across the caribbean; dominica,
grenada, st. lucia and antigua are all competing with st. kitts now for customers and badly- needed cash. >> gaston browne: so, what are we supposed to do? sit back and do nothing? you tell me. >> kroft: gaston browne, the prime minister of antigua and barbuda, says the revenue from its four-year-old program has kept the government from defaulting on its international loans and has turned the economy around. antigua also claims to have among the strictest programs in the caribbean. you actually have to show up here to get citizenship, albeit very briefly. >> browne: our law provides them to spend at least five days here. >> kroft: that sounds like a vacation. >> browne: yes. i-- i understand. but, however, we have made sure that at least there must be some face to face contact so we know who these people are. >> kroft: for five days. >> browne: minimum. >> kroft: what kind of people are you looking for? >> browne: we're looking for high net worth individuals, people who are established businesspeople, who are well- known, and to make sure that we
get the crème de la creme. >> kroft: if so, they are recruiting them in some odd places. last summer, antigua announced it was opening an embassy in baghdad, hoping to sell passports to iraqis. it didn't work out, but it's doing better next door in syria after hiring a relative of president bashar al-assad to represent them. have you had any applications from syria? >> browne: yes. we have had applications from syria. >> kroft: and you've approved them. >> browne: syria is one of the areas in which we have had some concerns, but did not place it on a restricted list. >> kroft: prime minister browne told us instability breeds opportunity. besides syria, antigua has sold citizenship to iranians, libyans, pakistanis and the people who bought condos in this half-built complex in the desert outside dubai, 7,300 miles away from antigua. its website advertised, "buy a villa in the u.a.e. and get citizenship of antigua." i mean, you said that you were
looking for the crème de la crème. >> browne: crème de la creme. >> kroft: i mean, there's a developer in dubai-- >> browne: yes. >> kroft: --sweet homes. >> browne: yes. >> kroft: --who is advertising that he's giving away passports to anyone who buys a condominium there. >> browne: you don't believe that, right? >> kroft: like, you open a bank account, you get a free toaster. >> browne: that is not so. >> kroft: browne dismissed the sweet homes ads as advertising hype, saying the citizenship is not free or guaranteed; somebody has to come up with the $250,000 for antigua, and condo buyers must pass a background check. >> browne: you have to go through all of the due diligence. >> kroft: what kind of due diligence do you do? >> browne: well, and that is where the crux of the matter lies. >> kroft: the prime minister claimed that the names of all applicants for antiguan citizenship are screened by american intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and generally speaking, due diligence in the caribbean has improved substantially since the scandals in st. kitts. the small island offices with a
few people are now backed up by international firms that take the screening to a higher level. but ultimately it's up to each country to decide who gets a passport, and the caribbean has a rich history of turning a blind eye to official corruption. it's affected the way passports are handed out, especially diplomatic passports that entitle the bearer to all sorts of special privileges, which peter vincent says represents a much more serious security threat. >> vincent: the border officials at the receiving country, even without a visa, almost always admit an individual carrying a diplomatic passport. in addition, border forces are not entitled to search the luggage of diplomats like they are for regular tourists. they simply wave them through. >> kroft: the sale of diplomatic passports is not part of the citizenship by investment program, but it's gone on under the table, according to u.s. authorities, particularly in dominica, which has had a lot of
dodgy diplomats. >> linton: we had a diplomatic passport in the hands of francesco corallo, who, at the time, was on interpol's list of most-wanted criminals. >> kroft: lennox linton, who heads the opposition in parliament, says no one in dominica had ever heard of corallo until he was stopped by authorities in italy. >> linton: he said, "you can't detain me, i'm a diplomat." they said, "diplomat? diplomat of where?" he said, "dominica." >> kroft: then, there's dominican diplomat alison madueke, a former nigerian oil minister charged with bribery and money laundering. and rudolph king, a bahamian fugitive from u.s. justice, who presented himself as dominica's special envoy to bahrain. >> linton: what we were doing with an ambassador in bahrain, i don't quite know, but they seem to think that there was some benefit in there for us. >> kroft: i assume that you've asked the prime minister... >> linton: yes. >> kroft: ...how he ended up appointing these people, diplomats. >> linton: yes. >> kroft: and what was the answer? >> linton: the prime minister doesn't answer those questions.
>> kroft: with vast sums of money flowing into these island nations, and more and more countries selling their citizenship, there is consensus that still more oversight and transparency is needed. but privacy and secrecy have always been a major selling point for people buying multiple passports, including chris kalin, the man who invented the business plan. how many do you have? >> kalin: i have multiple. ( laughs ) >> kroft: so, you don't want to tell us how many you have? >> kalin: there's a few things in my life that... that i don't talk openly about and i keep for myself. but i am swiss originally, and many people think i'm very swiss. and so, i'll leave it at that. >> kroft: our report in january sparked a flurry of reaction in the caribbean. in dominica, there were riots demanding the resignation of prime minister roosevelt skerrit for his handling of diplomatic passports. he denies any improprieties. the st. kitts government deactivated more than 15,000
passports, including 91 diplomatic passports. and antigua's program, singled out by the u.s. state department as "among the most lax in the world," has also recalled many of its diplomatic passports. >> this cbs sports update is presented by the lincoln motor company. hello, everyone. i'm adam zuker in our new york studio. in nba draft news, the 76ers will now have the number-one overall pick after a reported trade with boston. they're expected to draft markelle fultz monday night. and the major league baseball, the rockies stayed atop the n.l. west. and the indians extend their league in the a.l. central. for more sports go to cbssports.com. for more sports go to cbssports.com. happy father's day.
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few had ever played chess before; many confused it with checkers. a chess board was as out-of- place in the county as a skyscraper. but, as we first reported in march, that all changed when a tall stranger arrived from memphis to bring chess to the country, with a belief that the game could transform a community. he was initially met with bewilderment. who was this six-foot-six outsider, and why would anyone come to franklin county to teach chess? two years later, a chess boom is underway in the unlikeliest of places. tucked deep in the southwest corner of mississippi lies remote franklin county, where the trains don't stop any more. half the county is covered by a national forest-- the other half, it seems, by churches. >> ♪ hallelujah >> alfonsi: this is the buckle of the bible belt. 7,000 people live here, and no one's in a hurry.
there are only two stop lights in the entire county, and one elementary school. >> jeff bulington: what's this called? >> alfonsi: so imagine everyone's surprise when dr. jeff bulington showed up at school to teach the kids of franklin county a new subject: chess. >> bulington: so, everybody say, "checkmate." >> checkmate. >> alfonsi: before dr. b. came to town, had you played chess before? >> braden: i didn't have a clue how to move the pieces or nothing. >> donovan: only time i saw it was on tv. >> alfonsi: donovan moore, braden ferrell, parker wilkinson, and benson schexnaydre didn't know what to make of dr. b., as he is known, when he first appeared in 2015. what did you think of dr. b. when you first met him? >> benson: this 12-foot man. >> alfonsi: the 12-foot man. >> parker: whenever he came into the room saying he was planning on teaching us chess, i was like, "what? why would somebody come down here?" >> alfonsi: in the middle of nowhere.
you're a logical guy, and it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. >> bulington: if there are people there, it's not nowhere. this is somewhere. it's just a somewhere that doesn't get a lot of attention. >> alfonsi: jeff bulington was lured to franklin county by a wealthy benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous. the benefactor had seen how bulington had molded chess champions in memphis, in one of the most distressed zip codes in america, and wondered if chess could take hold in the country. >> bulington: where can you put the king? >> alfonsi: he convinced bulington to give a few demonstration lessons in franklin county. >> bulington: does that stop him from coming here? afterwards, i was asked, "so, hey, what do you think? do you think this, these kids have it? could you have a chess program here?" and i was, "yeah, of course." they're as smart as any other kids i've ever met. >> alfonsi: motivated by the challenge, bulington signed a ten-year contract with the benefactor and left the city for the country. >> bulington: what is he doing? he's x-raying the king. >> alfonsi: bulington has taught
chess for the better part of 25 years. >> bulington: what's so wonderful about the bishop, and why might we think of it as an archer? >> alfonsi: he may not be a grand master, but he's a master of using chess to tell a narrative, especially with beginners. >> bulington: this is a story about a little girl, and the stranger and the little girl's daddy. "elizabeth and the stranger" is just my adaptation of little red riding hood to the chess board. elizabeth needs to get down here to e-1 where school is, where she can be safe. it involves just simply teaching how a pawn moves and a king moves. oh, no! is she going to make it? >> ricky: i told you this was a bad idea! >> bulington: i remember my partner in this project saying to me, we'd have maybe 12 kids playing chess. he didn't know what to expect. >> alfonsi: and how many kids do you have playing chess right now? >> bulington: well, a couple hundred. >> alfonsi: students flock to bulington, in part, because at heart he's one of them. he grew up in rural indiana and
identifies with kids who have to feed the chickens, count tarantulas as pets and have different tastes in food. what do you like to eat? >> parker: fried rattlesnake. >> alfonsi: fried rattlesnake. >> parker: if you got to my house, if we ever find a rattlesnake in a course of like a week or so, you're getting some fried rattlesnake. >> alfonsi: bulington's opened up a new world to his kids. >> bulington: check. this is a famous game by morphy against count isowarde and duke of brunswick. it's played in paris. this is paris. >> bobby poole: we teach history. we teach geography. we teach science. we teach math. we teach it all using the chess board. >> alfonsi: bobby poole is a part-time preacher and a full- time assistant chess coach for bulington. poole says there were doubts that bulington could succeed in mississippi. >> poole: all the statistics, everything you look at, mississippi is the poorest. it's the dumbest. it's the fattest. we know that the rest of the nation has that conception of us. >> parker: people said that
country kids couldn't learn chess. >> alfonsi: and? >> parker: we showed 'em different. >> benson: we proved them wrong. we proved 'em wrong. >> alfonsi: proof came last year in starkville, where bulington's team of mostly- elementary school kids from franklin county faced off against much older high school players at the mississippi state championships. rebekah griffin was in the fifth grade. what was their reaction when they saw you, a little fifth grader, sitting across the table from them? >> rebekah: one of them started bragging to their friends about how he got easy pickings. >> alfonsi: is that a little scary, playing somebody who looked that much older than you? >> rebekah: i didn't really think about it until somebody told me, "you played a guy with a beard?" >> alfonsi: you guys roll in, and they say, "who are these kids," right? >> braden: they were basically, like, trying to say we were a joke 'cause we were kids. but after the game, we usually beat 'em, and they were, like, very shocked. >> alfonsi: don't you guys feel bad you beat all those older kids? >> braden: never. >> parker: no. i don't want that to make me
seem like a cruel person, but i'm, i really am just okay with crushing people's spirits. >> alfonsi: in the end, franklin county dominated the state championships. >> mitch ham: what happened is, a bunch of hillbillies beat the snot out of a bunch of really highly educated, sophisticated people. so that's what happened. >> alfonsi: mitch ham was among the many parents in starkville. he thinks the victories served as a milestone for franklin county's kids. >> ham: that was very sobering for them, to suddenly realize, "wow, we are good." so them having the realization of their own potential was a beautiful moment. >> alfonsi: how did the teachers, the other teachers, react? >> bulington: over the course of my career in teaching chess, people say things like, "i did not know that he could do something like that," or even something as simple and as crass as, "i did not know he was smart," or she was smart, or something like that. >> alfonsi: what does that tell you?
>> bulington: it tells me some people got it wrong, that some kids have been underestimated or written off for reasons that are false. >> alfonsi: chess has helped bulington's players see there's more to themselves than they've seen before. >> parker: chess is, like, something that, like, i'm, like, really good at, for once. >> alfonsi: has it changed you at all? >> donovan: it has. my grades have gone up. >> alfonsi: your grades have gone up? >> donovan: all my grades used to be, like, low, medium-low b's. now, they're a's and high b's. >> rebekah: i feel like chess could take us anywhere. but it's not about where it takes us, it's about how far it takes us. >> alfonsi: last year, only seven of the 93 graduates from franklin county high school went on to a four-year college, but every chess player we spoke to plans to attend college some day. >> jennifer rutland: it's really shocked me, how far he's came. >> alfonsi: jennifer rutland is braden's mom.
she runs the first and main café, one of the few places in the county that serves a hot meal. she believes her son won't be flipping burgers for a living. is it fun to see your kids dream a little bigger than the county line? >> rutland: yes. yes. so big that it's almost like, "braden, come on, get real." you know, it just gets so big. >> ham: you always want to see your kids go further. and i think chess can be a vehicle to take them there, you know? this gives them a window at a young age, that, "hey, there's a whole world out there. i don't need to set my goals at making $8 an hour, i need to set my goals at whatever i want them to be." >> alfonsi: chess has filled a social void and given main street a pulse. in october, a new chess center opened in the middle of meadville, the county seat. do you feel like chess has made the community more hopeful? >> bulington: certainly parts of it, yeah, right. i mean, this flower hasn't
bloomed yet. it's just starting to, right? there's a lot yet to come. >> alfonsi: the chess center has become like a beacon in the county. each day after school, kids who have the desire and aptitude receive more instruction from bulington. >> bulington: so, what does black do? >> alfonsi: they've become so immersed in the game, with its infinite number of possible moves, that when these students finish playing chess, they go home, and play more chess. can the best chess player in the world come from franklin county? >> benson: maybe. >> braden: absolutely. >> parker: absolutely. >> benson: it's super possible. >> alfonsi: before they could take on the world, they would have to face the nation. >> bulington: we'll take care of them. >> alfonsi: the week before christmas, 33 of franklin county's chess wonders and their parents gathered in the school parking lot... >> ya'll are coming back right? >> alfonsi: ...to begin a ten- hour journey to nashville, for their biggest test yet: the national championships. >> bulington: queen g-7, excellent.
>> alfonsi: as day turned into night, bulington and his students were lost in what they call the chess dimension. >> austen johnson: where are we? >> bulington: well, i don't know where we are. we're in the middle of problem nine. that's all i know. >> alfonsi: preparing, in their own language... >> bulington: knight d-4 attacking the queen, and threatening. the queen takes h-3, check. >> alfonsi: ...for what lay ahead: a weekend of intense chess. more than 1,500 players from 644 schools gathered in a giant ballroom at opryland. >> please shake your opponent's hand. >> alfonsi: for seven rounds of chess, over three days. every grade, k through 12, was vying for a national title. the best teams come from the best schools in new york city. and, two hours into the tournament, it appeared as if little franklin county was overmatched. after round one, the kids from mississippi had lost 30 of their first 32 games.
>> bulington: you know, it's a real struggle and they're going to learn to struggle at this level. and they're learning that they have to struggle at a different level than they ever have before. >> alfonsi: what's the feeling when you walk in here as a player, as a coach, as a parent? >> bulington: it's a deep agonistic experience, right? >> alfonsi: deep agonistic experience? >> bulington: yeah, it's real, true competition, based on skill alone, right? and you look around and you can see it in the parents' faces as much as the kids, that there's something significant at stake here. >> alfonsi: nervous parents from other programs tried to sneak a closer peek into the ballroom, desperate for any news. after their shaky start, franklin county's players bore down. taking more time, probing for openings, watching for threats. a bulington mantra played in their heads: let your opponent show you how they'd like to lose. >> bulington: today is the last day, it's the hardest day. >> alfonsi: by sunday, with the final two rounds looming, franklin county's fifth and sixth graders were hovering near the top ten.
>> bulington: everybody needs to fight for those points today. we need them very much. >> alfonsi: parker wilkinson, braden ferrell and benson schexnaydre all delivered for franklin county. that left donovan moore, who was mired in a two-and-a-half hour struggle against a higher-rated opponent from kentucky. on the verge of victory, donovan was asked for a draw. he said no. his opponent snapped, the tension of the event bursting to the surface. donovan moore eventually won, boosting franklin county's fifth graders to number eight in the country. >> making their debut to the stage, franklin county upper elementary. >> alfonsi: the sixth graders placed tenth, two grades in the nation's top ten, only a year and a half after jeff bulington first showed up to introduce chess to a small county in mississippi.
>> parker: one thing that i don't think i say enough is thank you. >> benson: i was thinking the same thing. >> parker: for teaching us all this. >> alfonsi: what are they capable of? >> bulington: somewhere in the top three at least. >> alfonsi: you think you can stick it out for eight more years in franklin county? >> bulington: i won't even think of it as sticking it out. >> alfonsi: what do you think of it as? >> bulington: i think of it as, doing what i want to do, being in a place i like to be. what if technology gave us the power to turn this enemy into an ally? microsoft and its partners are using smart traps to capture mosquitoes and sequence their dna to fight disease. there are over 100 million pieces of dna in every sample. with the microsoft cloud, we can analyze the data faster than ever before. if we can detect new viruses before they spread, we may someday prevent outbreaks before they begin.
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