tv PBS News Hour PBS March 9, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> sreenivasan: good evening, i'm hari sreenivasan. judy woodruff is away. on the newshour tonight... >> this is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing obamacare. >> sreenivasan: republicans win an early victory for their health care bill as it makes its way through capitol hill, we take a look at the politics, and the details of the plan. also ahead, additional u.s. troops deploy to syria to help in the fight to retake the isis- held city of raqqa. and, the hippy doctor's rise to scientific fame-- one man's journey from woodstock to eradicating smallpox in india, and beyond. >> we had to visit every house in india, every month, for 20 months. we made 2 billion house-calls. >> sreenivasan: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour.
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>> sreenivasan: the first votes are in the books on the republican replacement bill for obamacare. the american health care act moved forward today, after marathon mark-up sessions. lisa desjardins has our report. >> desjardins: for, republicans a day of determination and will power. >> on this vote the ayes are 23, noes are 16. >> desjardins: two house committees worked through the night to pass the g.o.p. health care bill in party line votes. ways and means, focused on tax issues, finished just before dawn. chairman kevin brady of texas: >> an important step in the repeal of obamacare and freeing millions of americans, patients and local business from that pain. >> desjardins: the house energy and commerce committee, which looked at coverage issues, went 27 hours straight. >> this committee stands adjourned. >> desjardins: the long hours brought pizza and coffee deliveries and especially overnight, a straight-forward
debate about government's role in things like the medicaid program for the poor. >> we do not know the precise impact on working families. it is not clear. but make no mistake this destroys medicaid as we know it. it is the fundamental reworking of that vital federal-state partnership. >> we believe that if we eliminate some of the mandates in the affordable care act, give the states flexibility to run their medicaid programs that by golly they'll figure out how to provide the best health care they can for their populations. >> desjardins: while committees worked on details, party leaders aimed for the big picture. the top democrat in the house, nancy pelosi, decried the lack of analysis yet by the non- partisan congressional budget office. >> republicans are facing-- racing this bill forward before the c.b.o. can truly expose the
consequences-- the catastrophic consequences of their health bill. >> desjardins: speaker paul ryan, meanwhile, rolled up his sleeves with a power point presentation for the press and strong words for unsure republicans. >> this is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing obamacare. the time is here, the time is now, this is the moment and this >> desjardins: the republican sales push has an aggressive goal: to get this bill through congress in one month, by april 7 when lawmakers leave for easter recess. hence the pace, with the two house committees voting on two halves today and next week the budget committee planning to merge those bills into one. to stay on track, the full house would vote by march 30, leaving the senate two or three weeks to debate, and for republicans to secure senate votes.
this morning, arkansas senator tom cotton tweeted: "house health-care bill can't pass senate without major changes. ... pause, start over. get it right, don't get it fast." maine's susan collins told yahoo news yesterday: "i do not think it would be well received in the senate." and in a letter earlier this week, four republican senators, rob portman of ohio, shelley moore capito of west virginia, cory gardner of colorado and lisa murkowski of alaska said they are concerned about medicaid. conservatives like rand paul of kentucky, ted cruz of texas and mike lee of utah have also spoken out against the bill. enter president trump, who tweeted today: "despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. the white house is also moving fast to campaign for the bill on the ground. mr. trump will hold a rally in nashville next week, and vice president pence heads to louisville, kentucky this weekend. for the pbs newshour, i'm lisa desjardins. >> sreenivasan: in the day's other news, president trump's revised travel ban faced its first challenge in federal court. hawaii filed suit last night,
saying the order will harm its muslim population, tourism and foreign students. hawaii attorney general doug chin spoke in honolulu today. replaced it with a lot of neutral language but that's not going to be enough in our arguments or in our opinions to be able to erase a lot of the past statements that were made where it was just referred to in their words, in presidents trump's words, as a muslim ban. >> sreenivasan: washington state led the legal push to block the president's first travel ban order. today, the state attorney general, bob ferguson, said he'll ask a federal judge to apply the same restraining order to the revised version. arrests for illegal crossings at the mexican border are down 44% since president trump took office. the homeland security department reports that in february, about 23,500 people were arrested trying to cross the border illegally. that was down from 42,500 arrested at the border in january. secretary john kelly says it's due to the president's moves to crack down on illegal
immigration. the u.s. military has reviewed a january raid in yemen that killed a navy seal and found no failings of judgment or decision making. that word today from army general joseph votel, the top u.s. commander in the middle east. he also told a senate hearing that investigators believe four to 12 civilians died in the raid. at that same senate hearing, general votel warned it will take more american troops to win the 15-year war in afghanistan. he said afghan units need more training and support. just yesterday, islamic state attackers killed at least 31 people at a hospital in kabul. today, survivors told of facing terror. >> ( translated ): it was a nightmare situation. we couldn't believe it was this kind of situation because those who were attacking us had doctor's uniforms on, we were shocked when we saw ak-47s in their hands being fired, they killed our patients in their beds and they killed our doctors. >> sreenivasan: funerals were held today for some of the victims.
the senate foreign relations committee narrowly endorsed david friedman today, as ambassador to israel. he's a staunch supporter of jewish settlements, with a history of inflammatory attacks on liberal jewish groups and other opponents. the full senate will now vote on the nomination. it's widely reported that john huntsman has been offered the post of ambassador to russia. he served as ambassador to china under president obama. russia has rejected u.s. claims that a new missile violates a landmark nuclear arms treaty. a top u.s. general charged wednesday that the land-based cruise missile is meant to threaten u.s. and nato interests in europe. in response, a spokesman for president vladimir putin said: "russia has adhered to and will adhere to all its international obligations..." wikileaks founder julian assange says his organization will help tech firms defend against c.i.a. hacking tools. wikileaks released a trove of documents this week about the c.i.a.'s ability to breach smart phone and tv encryption. today in an online news
conference, assange accused the spy agency of "devastating incompetence" for letting the tools leak. >> the c.i.a. developed a giant arsenal, what appears to be the largest arsenal of trojans and viruses in the world that didn't secure it, lost control of it and then appears to have covered up that fact. >> sreenivasan: assange spoke from ecuador's embassy in london. he sought refuge there in 2012 after being charged with rape in sweden. meanwhile, president trump met this afternoon with c.i.a. director mike pompeo. the white house said mr. trump thinks the agency's systems need updating. a blast of gale-force winds left utility crews scrambling today across parts of the great lakes region. 1 million homes and other buildings lost power in michigan overnight, the most in the state's history. gusts of more than 60 miles an hour took down power lines across the state. the damage sparked a fire that killed five people in a detroit apartment building.
the storm also left more than 200,000 customers in the dark, in western new york. the state of utah is ready to put the nation's toughest drunken driving law on the books. lawmakers voted last night to lower the legal blood alcohol limit to .05%. the limit in most states is .08%. and, on wall street, stocks managed very slight gains today. the dow jones industrial average was up two points to close at 20,858. the nasdaq rose a point, and the s&p 500 added nearly two. still to come on the newshour: more u.s. troops land in syria to help take back the city of raqqa. how the g.o.p.'s health care plan could seriously impact medicaid, and much more. >> sreenivasan: the coming battle for the isis capital raqqa, in syria, is beginning to take shape. 400 additional american troops, marines and some army rangers,
will join 500 u.s. special operations troops already on the ground, with an array of turkish, and rebel forces. russian and syrian army troops are also there. the top american general for middle east operations, general joseph votel of central command, was on capitol hill today in the senate armed services committee. chairman john mccain pushed him on a particular flashpoint: u.s. support for syrian kurdish forces, whom turkey considers terrorists. >> i think there's a possibility of an impending conflict between turkey and the kurds as opposed to us all working together to try to defeat isis and remove them from raqqa. do you see that as a scenario that we should be concerned about? >> i do. i do, mr. chairman, and to that end we are trying to take actions to prevent that from occurring. >> sreenivasan: for more i spoke with michael gordon, the chief military correspondent for the "new york times," who said u.s. troops are key to the upcoming battle.
>> if you look at what we're doing in iraq right now, and i've been there, the united states is providing artillery support along with the french. it's providing firing surface-to-surface rockets into western mosul. it's providing air support. and it's providing advisers. this is what has enabled the iraqi forces to move forward in what is a very difficult fight. something very similar is needed in syria in we want the syrian fighters to go into a town that's defended by 3,000 to 4,000 isis militants. >> sreenivasan: you were just there a couple weeks ago, and there's lots of different factions here who at certain times are working toward a shared goal and other times are working toward their own end. it's a. can kateed situation. lay out the map for us a little bit. >> the map is a bit chaotic. in northern syria the turkish military has intervened, and along with turbish supported opposition forces, syrian
oppositions forces, they've taken the town of al allbob. you also have hundreds of american troops serving primarily as advisers. they've helped train and equip the security forces. more recently the syrian government and the russians have moved into that area. so it's a bit of a tinderbox ght now. >> sreenivasan: given all, that who goes in to take raqqa? >> well, that's billion-dollar question really. what the trump administration has done so far pretty much goes by the obama administration's playbook. i mean, their idea was the local provide the fighters, we provide the firepower and that's how we grab back territory from isis, but the big question is who are going to be the fighters who seize the town, and the most capable forces that the american military has found in the region
is this y.p.g. kurdish militia. they're the ones that have the most experience fighting. they're the ones who played a key role in taking back manditch. they're the force the american military is counting on to be a component, not the majority of the force that takes raqqa, but a key component of the assault force. the problem is turkey considers them to be terrorists, and they've sort of drawn a red line at arming the y.p.g., but unless we arm the w.p.g., they're in no position to help out in the raqqa assault. that's pretty much where things stand at this point. >> sreenivasan: so best-case scenario this operation goes as planned and we recapture this particular town or city. then what? >> well, i mean, there are a couple things. first, best case from the american military standpoint is they work with the y.p.g. they give them anti-tank weapons, vehicles, heavy machine guns. the raqqa fight goes forward.
that's going to be a long, difficult fight, just like mosul is. then once the capital of the islamic state is retaken, a couple things happen. first, there has to be a day-after plan for who governs the city, who provides essential service, who is really going to be in control. there it can't be the y.p.g. second, the war with isis isn't over. i mine, they have already begun to move some of their senior leadership. they're in iraq. they still have a shrunken cavalcade in parts of syria and iraq. and so that fight has to go on. and lastly, steps have to be taken to avoid a confrontation between the kurds and the turks, who are our nato ally. when i was in syria with general votel, i talked to the head of the manditch military council and i asked him, who is the greatest enemy, isis or the turks? he said turkey is the main enemy. >> sreenivasan: michael gordon
of the "new york times," thank you. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: the wikileaks release earlier this week showed the c.i.a. could use hacking tools to break into cell phones, computers and internet-connected televisions. we should say there is no evidence the c.i.a. used this against americans. but the revelations surprised many. it raises the concerns for the increasing number of internet connected devices all around us, and what they're monitoring and who has access to it. in fact in a recent murder case, law enforcement is trying to gather recordings from an amazon echo in order to see if it might have picked up evidence surrounding the crime. brian barrett covers these issues for "wired" and joins me now. brian, let's separate the fact from the fiction a little bit here. what have we learned from these leaks? what are these devices capable of recording? >> well, you know, it's interesting. what we learned from the leaks is more of a confirmation that the c.i.a. is hacking into lot
of devices. you would sort of expect that, but what it shows is that these devices can be used in ways that we might not have expected. so a smart tv, for instance, has a microphone on it because sometimes remote controls are voice activated now, but the c.i.a. has found a way to use that to listen to you. your smartphone, which the c.i.a. knows how to, whether it's an iphone or android phone, compromise those. the microphones can will be to you. they can access the camera. they can look through all of the documents you have. it's really full access to your digital life. >> sreenivasan: unlike the snowden revelations, this wasn't about mass surveillance, bulk collection of information. this is in the targeted sense. but there's a kind of a violation of a sense of privacy here. >> yeah, well, i think that's an important distinction to make. there is nothing in these leaks to indicate the c.i.a. is looking at anyone they shouldn't be or you wouldn't expect them to be. what it does say is that there area lot more vulnerabilities out there than we may have thought and that people other
than the c.i.a. may have access to them, as well. the c.i.a. doesn't necessarily have the only access to say an i.o.s. exploit that allows them to get into everybody's iphone, especially when you consider these documents according to wikileaks and other reports have been out for two months circulating in the underground channels you would expect some the real danger here isn't necessarily from the c.i.a. it's that these tools exist and that other people may have access to them and may be using them. >> sreenivasan: and the fact the government didn't tell the tech companies, there is this hole, this back door, this side door you can go through. does that mean that essentially since the vulnerabilities were discovered until now or until whenever these tech companies are made aware of it, that we have kind of been at greater risk? >> well, you know, i want to be cautious there because we don't know for sure if the c.i.a. talked to tech companies or not. the companies themselves understandably don't want to talk about it. the c.i.a. is very quiet about it. but i think that's true, especially when you consider there is a framework that has been in place for a few years
developed by the obama white house where intelligence agencies agreed in certain circumstances to give up these so-called zero day patches if they are not as useful as they need. so this indicates that there are hundreds of these vulnerabilities that both the c.i.a. uses, presumably is n.s.a., presumably the f.b.i. has their own, as well, that are not being disclosed. and that lack of disclosure, yes, does mean people could be at risk at large. >> sreenivasan: this isn't necessarily the privacy versus security false dichotomy, but there seems to be some privacy we exchange for convenience when we get objects in our home, whether it's a smart tv or an amazon echo that's perpetually on. i guess we trade in the fact that there is something listening to us if it's waiting for us to say something. >> that's true. i think that's more evident than ever before, especially as we start to connect more and more devices to the internet. there is nothing in the c.i.a. leaks to indicate that they had any access to an amazon echo or
a google home for instance, but these devices have microphones and listen to you. the internet, almost everything has some sort of internet connection, which isn't to say your internet-connected dishwasher is going to be spying on you, but maybe it gets enlisted in a botnet. the most important takeaway is every time you let a device into your house, you're creating new entry points for hackers. that's not to be alarmist and it is a trade-off, one that most people are happy with and one that most people went run into a problem work but it is something to be aware of. >> sreenivasan: brian barrett from "wired," thank you so much. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: the house republican plan moved a step forward today. in a moment william brangham talks to the head of an insurance company. but first, judy woodruff zeroes
in on some of the basics about key changes in the republican bill. >> woodruff: tonight we look at medicaid and some big changes that could be in store under the republican plan. under the affordable care act, more than 10 million more people got coverage in 31 states that expanded their medicaid program. the g.o.p. approach would eventually change that and more. for now the federal government would continue paying for those already added. starting in 2020, however, enrollment would freeze, and states would not get additional dollars for signing anyone up. the republican bill would also cap how much the federal government pays per medicaid enrollee. that is a fundamental change. julie rovner of kaiser health news joins us again. welcome back, julie. so remind us briefly how did medicaid work under the affordable care act? how does it work now? >> well, medicaid has always been thought of as the health insurance program for the poor, but you had to be more than poor to get on medicaid prior to the
affordable care act. you had to be poor and a pregnant woman or child, poor and disabled, poor and elderly. if you were poor and none of those things, you were not eligible in many states. the affordable care act changed that. it said that all you had to be was poor, and you could get medicaid. originally it was a requirement. the supreme court struck that down and made it optional, and as you mention, 31 states have expanded medicaid to basically allow everyone who is poor. and that's under 138% of poverty, about 15,000 a year for an individual. >> woodruff: why is the republican leadership changing this? >> well, the republican leadership, the republican party has been agitating to really scale back medicaid for many, many years, really starting in the 1980s under president reagan. there have been many effort, none of which have come to fruition, to scale back the basic medicaid program, but in particular they don't like the expansion, which they say is for able-bodied people, and in practice, not of the people in
the expansion are what you would consider able-bodied. the first thing they want to do is get rid of the expanded medicaid. >> woodruff: and they would put a cap on how much they would give people. >> that's right. they would put a cap, it's called a per capita cap. basically they would cap funding per enrollee. this is a different change than had been talked about before, which would be a block grant, where they would say, we're going to give you a chunk of money. and states say, what if we have a recession and more people qualify? this would make up for the number of people on the program, but it would still cap spending on what has has been since it was created in 1965 an open-ended entitlement that's shared between the federal government and the states in terms of funding. basically what it would do over time is make states pay a larger and larger share of their medicaid costs. >> woodruff: and that's... so we're hearing from governors, including republican governors, that they're concerned about this. >> that's right. many republican governors took the expanded medicaid. we should point out the federal
government is paying a larger share of that expansion than the traditional medicaid. that's why the complicated phaseout. but eventually the republican governors see they would stop getting extra money, they would probably get less money than they were getting before the affordable care act for the medicaid program. and the medicaid program is either the largest or second largest program in virtually every state's budget. so we're talking about a lot of dollars here. >> woodruff: a number of these governors still don't see eye to eye with the republican leadership in the white house. >> that's right, and a lot of senators in those states are coming out in favor of their governors saying they're concerned about this. >> woodruff: quickly, julie, this gets to why some states would be hurt more than others under this plan. >> that's right. it would be complicated. it's not just how many people are on medicaid, it's how much medicaid costs in those states, it's what it's based on. this is the ultimate formula fight, which congress is very familiar with, and it's a big piece of this legislation that
the republicans are trying the push. >> woodruff: we should say this is all based on what is in this proposed legislation as you andry talking. we know all this is subject to change. but this is what we can talk about at this point. >> that's right. >> woodruff: julie rovner, kaiser health news, we thank you. >> thank you. >> brangham: let's pick up where judy and julie rovner left off and hear from an insurance executive whose business is focused on medicaid and is concerned about the potential changes. dr. mario molina is c.e.o. of molina healthcare, which offers insurance through the obamacare exchanges and contracts with the government for medicaid. it operates in 13 states. welcome. >> thank you. >> brangham: you just heard the conversation about the proposed changes to medicaid, and you obviously have a lot of people under your umbrella who receive medicaid. what's your concern? >> well, i'm very concerned
about the long-term funding of the program. one of the members of congress said yesterday, if you have medicaid today, you're going to have medicaid tomorrow and things are going to be fine, but that's only partially true, because beginning in 2020, there are going to be major cuts to medicaid, and people who have gotten coverage through the aca will lose it. people who have coverage through traditional medicaid may lose it, as well. the two biggest things in the state budget are medicaid and education. and so you're going to see competition between funding medicaid and funding education. and some states are going to have the make cuts to one program or the other or they're going to have to raise taxes, but the burden for paying for health care for low-income people is being shifted to the state. >> brangham: the g.o.p. for years, not just with regards to obamacare, has said medicaid is too big, costs the government too much, costs the states too much, and that they have to control these costs. what is your response to that? >> well, you know, the c.b.o.
has looked at this. they found the most cost effective way of covering low-income people is actually through medicaid. medicaid accounts for 50% of all births in this country, one-third of all the children are covered under medicaid, and it pays for half of long-term care. so it's a big program that covers 72 million people. >> sreenivasan: you obviously have some concerns about what this means for the obamacare exchanges and for the individual marketplace, as well. what are your concerns in that regard? >> well, right now we cover about a million people under the marketplace, these are people who are working but their employers don't offer them insurance. and they're getting bsidies that allow them to purchase insurance. and they are going to be threatened. >> sreenivasan: obviously there are a lot of other larger insurance companies, larger than yours, who have expressed a lot of concern with the exchanges. what have you heard from them about their concerns? >> well most, of the big insurance companies have gotten out. united is out. aetna is getting out, humana,
cigna. so the major insurance companies that take care of employer-sponsored care, are really not participating. this is being left to smaller insurers, those that focus on medicaid, and many local companies like not-for-profits or blue cross or blue shield plans. >> sreenivasan: i know you have been on the hill talking to a lot of members of congress. what do you tell them in the midst of this debate right now? what have you been saying to them? >> we've been trying to educate them about what this would mean for the average american and the ripple effects through the economy. for example thrrveg was a study done by the university of michigan that showed this would put about $400 million into the michigan economy. that's going to go away. and it's going to have a ripple effect. many smaller rural hospitals are likely to go out of business. and so even if you have private insurance, you have difficulty getting access to care, because your community hospitals may be gone. the e.r. is going to be crowded with people who were insured and now have no place to go, so it's going to affect everyone regardless of what type of insurance you have. >> sreenivasan: all right.
dr. mario molina, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> sreenivasan: even as the president is working to pass the healthcare law, there are reports he would also like to craft a trillion dollar infrastructure plan this summer. that leads to questions about priorities and the question of public investment. our economics correspondent, paul solman, takes a trip on the rails in a second look for his weekly series, making sense. >> attention, please. this is the last call. >> reporter: mid-morning at new york's penn station. throngs rush to the 10:00 a.m. acela to washington, d.c. ridership is up-- and these highish-speed trains are at or near capacity-- as business travelers chug up and down the northeast corridor. >> amtrak conductor 2153 to the head, all station is complete, >> reporter: but they're
hurrying up in an america of slowed-down productivity. the amount of output per hour of work rising at just 1.3% a year since 2007, compared to more than double that rate from 1947- 1973. one cause: america's crumbling infrastructure, like our passenger rail system, some of which dates to the civil war, causing delays that hamstring the economy. wick moorman worked his way to the top of the norfolk southern freight railroad before retiring last year, returning to work recently, at a dollar a year, to steer and revive amtrak. riding the acela back to new york, he insisted it's not just our railroads that need work. >> when you look at the state of our highway system today-- which we all get out and drive on every day-- in terms of congestion, in terms of the
surface conditions, in terms of the fact that we're seeing that more and more bridges have to be closed to rehabilitate. it has to be an economic drag, right? >> reporter: so why aren't we investing in infrastructure of the kind that "made america great" in the '40s, '50s, '60s. government investments that hiked our economy to unheard of heights of productivity? so asks yale's jacob hacker. his answer: >> we've forgotten the incredibly important role that government plays in our prosperity. >> reporter: and thus the term "american amnesia," hacker's new book, subtitled: "how the war on government led us to forget what made america prosper." because, in the 19th and 20th centuries, prosper we did. >> we went from being from a relatively poor, relatively undereducated and relatively unhealthy society to being the richest, the most well educated and healthiest society that the world had ever seen.
after world war ii, that we see the blossoming of this really active, investing state that's investing on both non-defense and defense technology and really sowing the seeds for the productivity revolution that occurs during this period. >> reporter: government outlays of land for railroads, say; subsidies for airports and waterways that helped make the country one market, speed goods and laborfrom coast to coast. think of republican president eisenhower's interstate highway system. >> the estimates are that it accounted for something like a third of productivity growth in the u.s. economy in the late 1950s, and around a quarter in the 1960s. >> reporter: and what's true of hard infrastructure is true of what were once america's greatest soft productivity advantages: health, and education. >> if you look at older americans in the united states, they're the most educated older citizens in the world. but if you look at younger
americans, we've fallen to the high teens in terms of college completion rates. >> reporter: in short, claims hacker, we forgot what made us great, and instead adopted a profound skepticism about government. >> as we've seen government become weaker and lobbyists more powerful, americans have also become less trusting of governments. >> reporter: and yet these days, government investments may actually be the most productive ones available. >> if you look at how our economy has suffered over the last 15 or 20 years. it's in significant part because we haven't done the investments in research and development and infrastructure and other public goods that are necessary for our growth. it's the investments we made in the 1950s and '60s and '70s that result in some of the greatest technological breakthroughs that we enjoy today. >> reporter: such as? >> the iphone. we have an iphone here? >> reporter: i've got one. >> every major component of your
iphone is a result of public investment and development: g.p.s., the memory processors, touch screen technology, even originated in public research projects. >> reporter: as we neared new york, the lack of investment in passenger rail was hard to miss. the acela decelerated, cars on i-95 whizzing past us. that prompted a question to amtrak's c.e.o.: why had we slowed to a crawl? >> because there's a new jersey transit train going into penn station ahead of us, and we have exactly two tracks under that river. and, we get this kind of congestion all the time. >> reporter: moreover, those rail tunnels, now more than a century old, were flooded by hurricane sandy four years ago. >> and i think that the day is coming when this nation is just
going to be forced to invest if we want to, you know, maintain our place in the world. >> we are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. we're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will >> reporter: on election night, president-elect donald trump touted his plan for rebuilding america: $137 billion in federal tax credits to private investors who would then be incentivized to finance toll roads, toll bridges or other projects that generate their own revenue, unleashing a hoped-for trillion dollars of infrastructure investment over ten years. and if it works, says jacob hacker, a democrat... >> he's the nixon-goes-to-china of infrastructure spending. but i also think he has a very good chance of putting through massive tax cuts. they're going to take away a lot
of the public funds that we need to do that kind of infrastructure. >> reporter: furthermore, some private infrastructure investments like toll roads have failed in recent years. as for private investment in amtrak? well, says its new c.e.o. >> i'm skeptical. you fund private investment, as you know, in the highways by things like tolls. well, that's harder out here. >> reporter: not going to have a toll at wilmington. >> no, i mean every time the train goes through with an easy pass and you know you kind of click off another one. it's just harder for me to see right now. >> reporter: you're a guy who went to harvard business school. you're not talking as some kind of left wing democrat who's always for more and more spending, more and more taxes. >> no, no. i'm just a person who looks at the country and what needs to be done and says: this is what we do in the business world.
we fix this. why can't you fix it? >> reporter: good question, to which we'll all be waiting for the answer. for the pbs newshour, this is economics correspondent paul solman, reporting aboard amtrak 2168. >> sreenivasan: next, the memoirs of a hippie, physician and disease fighter. fred de sam lazaro reports, part of our ongoing series agents for change. >> reporter: the shiny red t- bird convertible is a nod to its owner's detroit roots. but it's in san francisco that he first made a name for himself. it was quite a name to begin with. >> it's so arrogant to have a name like brilliant that i put sometimes "not so" brilliant and that's where i sign. >> the memoir larry brilliant is
autographing chronicles a life of unusual journeys: a civil rights and anti vietnam war activist and hippie, who helped eradicate small pox from the world. today he's an adviser to silicon valley philanthropists who are helping him tackle other major diseases. >> in the last 30 years, we've had 30 pathogen viruses jump from animals to humans. we know same of them: sars, mers, swine flu, bird flu, ebola, zika. >> reporter: it all began in 1969 in san francisco, where brilliant had come for an internship after medical school and volunteered to work at the recently closed federal prison on alcatraz island, which was occupied by a group of about 100 native americans protesters. that stint got him on the evening news. >> that night somebody from warner brothers saw me on television and they called me the next day and said we're starting a movie in two or three
days and it's going to be a movie about hippies and rock and roll. it's going to have the grateful dead and the jefferson airplane and pink floyd and we have one >> reporter: he joined the crew as a doctor, the film was a flop but brilliant became friends with some of the era's iconic figures. >> free breakfast in bed for 400,000! >> reporter: they included the woodstock emcee who became famous in clown costume as wavy gravy. >> this is wavy gravy. >> i'm so honored! >> mr. honored, pleased to meet you. >> reporter: at 80, wavy gray has slowed only physically. the friends still gather often and recount their adventures, including a journey across europe toward india. they had planned to feed flood victims in what was then east pakistan, now bangladesh. >> the idea was that we had so much media from doing the free kitchen at woodstock that if we
got there and started feeding people that it would embarrass the government: "my god there's hippies doing it, we better do it better!" >> reporter: for larry brilliant and his wife girija, it was a transformative journey. they became disciples of a spiritual leader or guru, neem karoli baba. were you able to communicate with him in hindi? >> yeah. >> reporter: hindi was a big asset for the assignment the guru gave him: to help eradicate small pox in india and bangladesh, which were among the last holdouts for the virus had killed half a billion people through history. >> bad disease, most people thought it could never be eradicated. we had had a vaccine for 200 years, and what we were doing is we were vaccinating everybody. >> reporter: that strategy worked in the west and developed countries but could never work in india, he says, with a population then of 600 million
people, some 20 million of them on a bus or train on any given day. the hippie doctor coaxed his way into the world health organization team that took a different approach: tracking down every single infected person and vaccinating everyone around them, creating a so called ring of immunity so the virus couldn't spread. it was a herculean task. >> we had to visit every house in india, every month, for 20 months. we made 2 billion house-calls. 150,000 people. doctors from 170 countries. >> reporter: small pox became the first disease ever eradicated from the planet. brilliant went on to become a leading expert on infectious disease-- a consultant to the white house most recently when ebola threatened to escalate. >> what is it going to take to prevent an outbreak? >> reporter: today larry brilliant heads a group called the skoll global threats fund, which focuses on issues like climate change, nuclear
proliferation and pandemics. it is an affiliate of the skoll foundation, which also helps fund the newshour. >> it's about detect and report >> reporter: these epidemiologists are setting up pilot studies to gather data in 28 countries, trying to determine early patterns of how a disease breaks out. >> wouldn't you like to create advisory panels and partnerships with tech companies, major universities, epidemeology departments. >> reporter: brilliant has raised millions of philanthropic dollars for other efforts that include the seva foundation, an eye care charity now in several countries that he started with wavy gravy. after the small pox campaign, larry brilliant began forging ties in silicon valley, where he's been a kind of guru to many tech industry leaders, including the late apple founder, steve jobs. the two men met in the '70s here in india where both had come seeking spiritual harbor. >> we have shiva and krishna to welcome you.
>> reporter: the brilliant's california home is replete with symbols that reflect an embrace of all major religions. >> when i was with neem karoli baba he would say sub ek, all one. >> reporter: that was the spirit of the '60s and '70s, he writes, when beautiful flowers blossomed alongside vicious weeds-- an era that was neither all martin luther king nor all charles manson. for the pbs newshour, this is fred de sam lazaro, in mill valley, california. >> sreenivasan: fred's reporting is part of the undertold stories project at the university of st. thomas in minnesota. and we'll be back shortly with thoughts from a woman who tackled family healthcare challenges by writing a book. but first, take a moment to hear from your local pbs station.
>> sreenivasan: now to another in our brief but spectacular series, where we ask people to tonight, we hear from kelly corrigan, a new york times best- selling author and host of the podcast, "exactly." corrigan talks about how her family's health struggles inspired her work. >> i do, do a word a day and i love it. my word of the day, the other day in my email was ripsnorter. like a party could be a real ripsnorter. and that's mine forever now because i'm going to use that one. my father was easily impressed by everyone. he sort of gave me the impression that the world was rooting for me. he always used to say, "oh lovey, you're going to write the great american novel someday." and i thought, boy that would be
the thrill of a lifetime to hand him a book that i wrote. i was 36 with two kids in diapers and i had discovered a pretty big tumor in my breast. i went over to my friend's house who is an obgyn. she kind of lt me up on the sofa a nd she said, "you got to go have it looked tomorrow." the doctor said, "i am very concerned." and i said, "why are you concerned?" and he said, "because it looks like an explosion." talk about words, like really, you want to say, "explosion" to a 36-years-old who is holding back tears? that's not a good choice doctor." and so i started chemotherapy right away. and then, while i was in chemotherapy, my father was diagnosed with cancer. his was more complex because of his age and because of some previous health issues. so we were really told to have a great year.
and not to have outrageous expectations for more. i was in a panic and i sort of sent that panic energy on writing. i thought you can't possibly let this man die without telling him, with sufficient emphasis, what it has been to be his kid. and so, i got cracking. if i were to try to say to him"" god, you're a great dad" or," you're like the foundation of my life," he would say, "oh, lovey, lovey, lovey" and he would switch it back to me. so it really had to be a book because i had to have uninterrupted space on the page to say, "no, this is going to take more than a minute. this is going to take 300 pages." there is no quantifying how thrilling it was to go on that ride with my dad. i mean he came to readings. he signed books. it was the absolute dream come true of all dreams. if nothing ever good ever happens to me, i got more than i
needed. my name is kelly corrigan and this is my brief but spectacular take on the power of words. >> sreenivasan: you can watch additional episodes of our brief but spectacular series on our website, pbs.org/newshour/brief. a quick update were we go. late today the state department said in a letter that secretary of state rex tillerson has recused himself from issues related to the keystone xl pipeline. and the office of government ethics is concerned by the trump administration's refusal to discipline kellyanne conway for promoting ivanka trump's fashion line last month. the offers's director was critical of conway's misuse of her position. federal employees are prevented
finally, our own gwen ifill was posthumously awarded the john chancellor award for excellence in journalism by the columbia university graduate school of journalism during a luncheon cermony in new york today. judy woodruff spoke at the event. >> woodruff: if she were alive today, she'd be leading the charge reminding us of all the important stories out there that we must cover. >> sreenivasan: thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> our tradition is to take care of mother earth because she gives us water that gives us life. the land is here for everyone.
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