tv PBS News Hour PBS February 18, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
e' ready. ♪ captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, a harsh reality-- the winter storm gripping much of the country leaves many without power, and hits texas especially hard. then, a staggering toll-- covid- 19 causes a shp decrease in average life expectancy in the u.s. but an even larger drop for communities of color. and, work shift-- the ever- increasing focus on college education and a disdain for manual labor create a serious dearth of skilled tradespeople. >> there are entire categories of work that are shrouded in mystery. and if we don't destigmatize them, we're going to be waiting
for plumbers and electricians for a long, long time. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> twins! >> we'd be closer to the twins. >> at fidelity, changing plans is always part of the plan. >> the kendeda fund. committed to advancing restorative justice and meaningful work through investments in transformative leaders d ideas. more at kendedafund.org.
>> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: a huge storm system has shifted east tonight after brutalizing the united states' mid-section.
it's leaving a legacy of mangled power ids, broken water systems and political fallout. stephanie sy reports on this day's developments. >> new misery for a new part of the country, the arctic front that pummeled the central and southern parts of the u.s. pushed into the northeast today. in new jersey governor phil murphy urged people to be alert. >> a long timewise storm, this goes deep into tomorrow, so keep, keep your wits about you, do the right thing, stay home if you can. >> heavy snow blanketed the region with the most accumulation in parts of the midatlantic and appalachia. in its wake the storm left a wintery mess that has already stretched for days in texas. >> when people are making comparisons oh, texas is shutting down for three inches of snow, you guys just have no
idea what is really going on. >> high school teacher alicia hinkle and her mom juanita who live in a suburb much dallas are just two of the many texans scrambling to kept warm and fed amid yong going power and water outages. >> that was the struggle, so the first morning we did mot have a gas stove top so we had to, i mean i took some potatoes and put them in the fireplace. you end up going, without me to a gas station. >> north of-- and we were able to get a couple of sandwics. so we did that. >> sandwiches. >> yeah w eating gas station sandwiches. >> i'm sure a lot. >> juanita and her husband set up camp by the fireplace but by mid week it wasn't keeping them warm enough and they all moved in with alicia's sister at her house near dallas. >> many people rely on the
busing system and the train system that we may have in the dallas pet roplex. and just getting out to it, just having to kind of lug what you can, finding these warming stations that maybe available, it just seemed easier when you think about infrastructures in other states that are used to this. >> power is finally being restored for millions of texas residents. the numbers still facing outages fell below 500,000 today. >> officials from ercot which manages the texas power grid said that while the weather could yet bring more transmission rouble,-- trouble, they hope to reduce the number of forced outages. >> you would expect that those outages like that would be limited and we would be able to rotate them as opposed to more extended outages, if they are required. we are certainly going to try to avoid that. >> the nonprofit grid operator and other state officials have come under fire, for not doing enough to prepare for the cold
conditions, including from the mayor of dallas. eric swrn son. >> our people are suffering right now. and we don have control over the power grid. we rely on it but we don't have any control over it. those who do have control over it, ercot which overseas the-- the grid and starting at the top, those folks need to look at what happened, figure out who is responsible and then changes need to be made. >> texans are facing another unfolding crisis, obtaining drinkable water. about 13 million people in a number of cities were under boil water notices today. >> how can we boil water,e don't even have power. >> frigid temperature this week have damaged water systems throughout the state and frozen pipes, in houston people lined up at a water faucet in this park to fill up buckets while others collected rainwater and melted snow. >> as our repor as our reporting has showed, the storms and the after-effects have hit vulnerable groups the
hardest, especially communities of color. dr. robert bullard is a professor at texas southern university. he focuses on wealth and racial disparities related to the environment. he joins me now from sugarland, texas. to have you on the newshour. tell us what folks in your area have been going through in recent days, what are they lacking? >> first of all, i think it is important to understand that this blackout in terms of loss of power is more than just about energy, if is also about those communities that were struggling before the storm, in terms of struggling with enrgy insecurity. and this storm has really shown a spotlight on those disparities in terms of communities that don't have not only electricity, but no water, no transportation, private cars to get to the
grocery stores, to buy food and water, and the same communities are devastated because of health disparities. a lot of asthma, a lot of diabetes and people on die all sis machines, that they can't operate their medical equipment without electricity. so it poses a great danger, more than just being cold. >> so what you are saying is that even as we look at still hundreds of thousands of people in texas that are going without power for multiple days, that there were communities there that already didn't have consistent power? >> well, because of the fact that a lot of low income families have problems paying lech tris-- electric bills, low income communities and people of color, generally pay a larger percentage of their household budget toward energy, heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. and so any time you get a spike
in utility bills, in some cases may double that, and cause a b problem. and again, it's, these are issues that low inome families have to deal with in major disasters, whether it is a hurricane or a flood or in this case we're talking power outage. >> when you think about climate change and it's impacts on people, why is it important to focus on these communities of color and these existing disparities? >> well, i think when we talk about climate change, climate change really has to be looked at more than greenhouse gases and parts per million. we have to talk about the inequities that exist in our society that make certain communities more vulnerable, because of where they live, their location in terms of low lying areas, areas that are prone to flooding, areas that e urban heat islands because of lack of trees, green canopy and all of those kinds of things. so it is really important that
we plan for making sure that our climate action plans are resilient and will protect the most vulnerable. when we don't do that we basically will plan for leaving certain populations behind. on the other side of the levee or in the flood zones or in the heat islands, and in this case, basically without power and people whose lights go out first and who are the last one to get power back. that is the inequity that we must deal with climate plans and plans for dealing with just energy transition. >> as far, professor, as what folks in your area and throughout the state of texas are facing right at this moment, in the midst of a winter storm, have you seen any evidence that communities of color are experiencing, for example, power outages at a greater rate than other communities? >> what we find is that this area has been hit hard by the
outages. but if you talk about the aras that have experienced the most devastating impact, it's one thing for, i was out of power for two days. my lights came back on. but this is different for me than it is for low income families that have lots of people in the household. they're dealing with covid. they're dealing with the fact that they don't have power. now we have boil water-- boil water advisory, which means you can't wash your hands, you can't soak your dishes. and so the impact that that would occur for low income families would be different than another family that has means. these are issues that are cascading, that are created by this power outage and to a large extent, people are just looking at the outage, these rolling
blackouts. but for many communities, it's more than swlus a blackout. it's all these other issues and challenges and disparities that come to the front. >> dr. robert bullard, i can't thank you enough for coming on the program and discussing these ongoing issues. thank you. >> my pleasure >> woodruff: in the day's other news, stark new numbers put the human toll of covid-19 in vivid relief. the total number of lives lost to the coronavirus in the united states passed 492,000. and, the c.d.c. reported that average u.s. life expectancy dropped by a full year during the first half of 2020 due to the pandemic. that's the biggest decline since world war two. we'll get details after the news summary.
nasa's" rover "perseverance" is on the surface of the planet mars tonight, after a journey of seven months. it streaked across the martian sky today as depicted in this animation. parachutes slowed the robot craft from 12,000 miles an hour before a rocket-powered crane lowered it to the surface. then, came the signal that mission control had waited for. >> confirmed. "perseverance" safely on the surface of mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life. ( cheers and applause ) >> woodruff: within minutes, the rover sent back this first image of its landing site, a crater in an ancient river delta. we'll return to this mission to mars, later in the program. congressional democrats formally introduced president biden's immigration bill today. it lays out paths to citizenship for some 11 million migrants in
the u.s. without legal status. republicans have signaled opposition, partly because they want new border security measures. also today, the biden administration laid out guidelines for more targeted immigration enforcementhan during the trump era. the u.s. state department has announced tonight that the u.s. is willing to talk with iran, if the european union invites all the parties to 2015 nuclear deal. the biden administration had said iran must first return to compliance with the deal before any talks. iran has abandoned parts of the deal since president trump withdrew the u.s. from it. crowds were back out in cities across myanmar today, protesting a military coup. they defied policeho assaulted striking rail workers in mandalay, overnight. thousands of people in ygon carried flags and blocked roads. their goal was to obstruct military movements and prevent government employees from
getting to work in northern india, thousands of farmers staged sit-ins at railroad stations, escalating a months-long campaign against new agricultural laws. demonstrators blocked trains for hours by sitting and chanting on tracks, as thousands of security officers turned out. the protesters insisted they won't stop. >> ( translated ): farmers have decided that the struggle to get these three laws repealed is connected to our lives, connected to our future, connected to our children and connected to our daily bread. either we will survive and our assets will survive, or the country won't be able to get by as they will not get anything to eat. >> woodruff: farmers say the new laws will drastically cut their incomes. the indian government says the measures are essential to modernize the country's agriculture system. back in this country, the labor department reported new claims for unemployment benefits shot
back over 860,000 last week, as covid-19 disruptions escalated. and, vice president kamala harris warned that women leaving the work force during the pandemic has become a national emergency. some 2.5 million women have stopped looking for work; far more than the number of men. and the percentage of women in the labor force is the lowest since 1988. the war over gamestop headlined a u.s. congressional hearing today. last month, small investors and hedge funds battled for days over the video game retailer and roiled the broader market. today, the head of the trading platform robin-hood apologized for stopping trading in gamestop at one point, but he denied hedge funds influenced the decision. and, on wall street today, a combination of lower energy prices and higher bond yields sent stocks down. the dow jones industrial average lost 119 points to close at
31,493. the nasdaq fell 100 points, and, the s&p 500 shed 17 points. still to come on the newshour: the pandemic causes a sharp decrease in life expectancy for communities of color. a deadly south african covid variant strikes fear around the world. several states put forward new restrictive abortion legislation. and much more. >> woodruff: the toll of the pandemic was highlighted in stark terms again today. life expectancy fell in this country by a year on average in
the first half of 2020. that's the largest drop since world war ii. overdoses, heart attacks and other illnesses were part of that. but researchers said the pandemic undoubtedly was a major factor. moreover, the gaps along racial lines were profound. white life expectancy fell by about eight months, while black americans lost 2.7 years of life expectancy. among latinos, life expectancy dropped by nearly two years. and these numbers were even larger among men. experts say this points to major discrepancies. and we're going to focus on that tonight. dr. reed tuckson is a former commissioner of public health here in washington, d.c. who now has his own firm. he is one of the leaders of the black coalition against covid- 19. >> dr. tuckson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. we appreciate it. first of all, overall as you
look at these numbers broadly, are they surprising? >> they are not surprising. we are have known and experienced this excess exposure of african-americans to the covid pandemic. we knew that we were dying three times more ofte two times more often than the rest of the country and being hospitalized three times more. so it is not surprising. however, it still does not dim the sadness, the pain, the heartache that comes with looking at these quantitative numbers that are really describing in mathematical ways the foolings and emotions that we had all along. >> so when you see dr. tuckson as you mentioned black americans, the average drop life expectancy three times that what it is for white americans among latinos, it is two times the drop that it is for white americans, why is it? >> well, we know first of all that african-americans are
exposed to this virus more often than other people because of the nature of the jobs that we have, that so many of us are the ones on the front lines and running our buses and subways in the retail industry. the ones cleaning our street, that we are the ones who are more often unable to practice-- make our livelihood by being at home and working online. so we are much more expose-- exposed. number two, the conditions under which so many african-americans live make it very difficult to fight off this-- this covid pandemic. we are often, more often living in crowded housing with multigenerational families. we have much less opportunity to do the social distancing that we would want to have done. and third and finally, a major element is that preexisting, we were suffering from preexisting chronic health issues, more heart disease, more lung disease, more diabetes, more
obesity. and all of those as we have learned from the beginning of the pandemic predisposed to poorer outcomes when are you finally infected with the covid-19 virus. >> it is so interesting that a number of the things you're discussing are parallel to what we heard from dr. bullard a few minutes ago in discussing why communities of color are disproportionately affected by these terrible winter storms and the conditions that come from them. but dr. tuckson, what about just in terms of health-care services, and what is available and what isn't in communities of color. >> well, first of all, i think it is very important to go back to the point you are making about dr. bullard and the communities he made. remember that health is the place that all of the social forces converge, to express themselves with the greatest clarity and importance. health is where everything comes together. so when we think about the health outcomes of people of color, it's not just medical care, it is very of the social
determinate that lead to health outcomes, housing, economic instability, education, challenging access to healthy foods, community environments filled with stress, and then we come to the quality of care, that point is very important. we have known now for 20 dwreers since the publication of a major national-- of medicine study called unequal treatment that the delivery of health care to people of color is suboptimal comparedded to what america, for a variety of reasons. so this is a long-standing challenge that unfortunately the health-care industry has yet to be able to fully and adequately address. >> and i think part of what is so striking, i was looking at the numbers this afternoon, is that among black americans, life expectancy had actually been improving, it had been increasing in the last couple of decades. so this is a really stark turn
in the direction where we want to see these numbers go. does it tell you, i mean we all know the country was caught off guard, was not prepared for this pandemic. do you believe they're going to be clear lessons we can learn, we can do something with, coming out of this pandemic? >> i hope so. and i hope the first lesson that we learn, and this pandemic has shown such a bright lht, is that each of us as individuals live in the context of a community of other people, so that when we choose as individuals to exert a right not to wear a mask and don't care that we could easily sicken or cause someone else to die, that is a major issue now of an ethical and moral nature in front of the society. if we have learned anything it is that we have to begin to focus our attention on empathy and love. a concern and caring for everyone, for black people, this
is particularly important. because we now realize that black people have, because of a history of deeply planted seeds of distrust, and those seeds being watered every day by our experience in living our lives in american society, that that distrust leads to very negative behavior. it leads us to make decisions sometimes that are contrary to our best interests, and so now we know that at we go forward, that we've learned the lesson that we have to bond together. and certainly the health enterprise, the researchers, the clinicians and health policy experts have got to come together now and try to do everything we can with the rest of our society to overcome this distrust because this distrust is not just an idol emotion, distrust leads to death. and final finally what this does is focus everyone's attention on getting at the structural racism issue, the social determinate of health that were always present in creating an excess
experiences with disease and death but now we know what it does for pandemic like covid-19, and hopefully it will now regenera a much greater focus on getting at these root and fundamental causes. >> well, it is certainly something that we at the newshour are committed to continue to cover. and again so stark seeing these numbers over just the first half of the 2020, seeing the life expectancy change, incredibly discouraging, dr. reed tuckson, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: and now to south africa, which has been battling to contain a mutant strain of covid-19.
scientists worry that it is spreading more rapidly than other variants. the strain has since been found in more than 30 other countries, including here in the united states, prompting travel bans. but across africa itself, borders remain very much open on a continent that has little hope of getting enough vaccines to make a difference, for years to come. chris ocamringa reports. >> reporter: grave diggers find little rest in this cemetery in the port city of cape town. south africa has recorded more than 46,000 covid-19 deaths since the pandemic began, the highest number on the continent. and the toll continues to rise, after the discovery of a new variant, . doctor richard mihigo of the world health organization: >> at w.h.o we are taking this quite very seriously because, from some preliminary data that are starting to emerge, it's
clearly showing that the new variant is the force behind the new wave that we are seeing in many countries. >> reporter: the spread of the new variant has prompted a raft of countries, including the u.s. to ban travel from south africa. the u.k. has gone a step further, banning new arrivals from the democratic republic of congo and tanzania, amid fears the mutant strain is spreading rapidly there. at least 20 other countries, including the u.s., have also found cases. and while travel bans shutting south africans o may help, borders remain open across africa. that leaves not just countries like the d.r.c., but others that are nations still open to flights from the rest of africa, vulnerable. and according to health officials like dr.alubi mulamba, the d.r.c. has seen a spike in infections over the last five months. >> the second wave of covid when it came, we have received many patients. when we can try to compare the first and the second, we can say
that now we have received more patients than before. >> reporter: health experts here believe the rise in cases may be caused by a completely new variant. >> we are still analyzing the samples. and so it's possible that this variant is already in the country but we have not confirmed yet. >> reporter: identifying which variants are prevalent across the world is key to containing the virus. in that effort, the w.h.o. and the africa centers for disease control and prevention have set up covid-19 genomic sequencing laboratories in the d.r.c. and other african countries to help boost their capacity to detect the new variants. >> we are for the moment asking countries to ship to these regional reference laboratories a minimum of at least 20 specimen of the virus so that we can be able to establish the circulation of the new variant that has been detected in south
africa but also in other countries in africa. >> reporter: but the fact that people haven't stopped travelling among african countries leaving south africa for other african countries, including migrant laborers and businesspeople, means there is very little way of knowing how far the variant first found in south africa is spading across the continent. this congolese family in the capital kinshasa has a home in south africa, and they're determined not to let the pandemic wreck their ability to travel back and forth. >> i think it's a matter of taking responsibility. thsanitary measures. i'm not too worried about it as long as i stick to what i've got to do. you know put on the mask, have your sanitizer. its a wave it's gonna come and go so you've just got to protect yourself. >> we've applied those measures and we are safe so i trust them and i'm willing to travel because i have to go and visit my family. >> reporter: not everyone is as relaxed. some african countries, like
nigeria, are doubling down in their efforts to conta the new variants, with quarantine rules for people coming from countries where they are prevalent. still, borders remain open- increasing africa's vulnerability in the absence of a meaningful vaccine roll-out across the continent. south africa, which was on the cusp of starting its mass vaccination program, suddenly and controversially paused the rollout of the astrazeneca vaccine. reports suggest the vaccine may offer only minimal protection against mild disease in young people caused by the variant. but there the research indicates that nevertheless, the vcine does protect against serious disease, hospitalization and death. and meanwhile, south africa has announced plans to use the johnson and johnson single-shot vaccine instead. how south africa recovers from stalling thetart of its vaccine program is unclear. even so it's made more progress
with vaccinations than some other african countries, where but vaccine skepticism in other african countries is compounding the problem. tanzania's president doubts their efficacy entirely. >> ( translated ): we tanzanians must be very careful about receiving medical supplies from abroad. and i am asking the health ministry not to be quick to accept any vaccine without ascertaining its efficacy. >> reporter: as researchers investigate ways to modify covid-19 vaccines to tackle the variant originally discovered in south africa, the africa c.d.c. has warned about rising fatality rates across the continent. and with more than 3.5 million coronavirus cases already reported in africa, there are real fears about the spread of the continent is only now beginning to receive the first arrivals of covid-19 vaccines on a wider scale. but the reality is there won't be enough vaccines for potentially years to come. and as borders remain open and
the question remains what's africa's way out of the pandemic? for the pbs newshour, i'm chris ocamringa in the demratic republic of congo. today in an effort to start helping the way out, the biden add-- biden administration announced it would support a global push to distribute covid vaccine equitiably. it added $2 billion for the effort to ensure vaccine availability. adding to the $-- billion authorized by congress last year. >> woodruff: south carolina is the latest state to place tough new restrictions on abortions. it is part of a renewed focus on abortion access with a new conservative majority at the supreme court. john yang has the story.
>> yang: judy, the bill south carolina governor henry mcmaster signed today bans abortions after weeks of pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected, except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the mother's life. nearly a dozen states have passed similar measures, but they've all been blocked by the courts; and planned parenthood has already sued to block this one. at the signing ceremony, mcmaster predicted anti-abortion forces would prevail. >> if there is not a right to life, then what rights is there? what rights exist if not the elementary fundamental profound right to life? so we are here to protect that. this step we take today was long in coming and monumental in consequence but our battles are not over. yet i believe that the dawn of victory is upon us.
>> yang: state legislatures have increasingly become the front lines in the struggle over abortion rights. gavin jackson is a public affairs reporter at south carolina etv, the pbs station in the capital, columbia. and mary ziegler is a florida state university law professor. she's the author of "abortion and the law in america: roe v. wade to the present." thank you both for joining us, let me start with you it sounds like it was a wild and woolly session yesterday when the house finally passed th bill. what was it like, give us a sense of what it was like in the chamber. >> well, it was definitely a unique in day in the chamber. but i want to start with how we got here, we are six weeks in the legislative system, it was the first bill filed the senate and had multiple hearings, got right through the committee process, on the senate floor and headed right over to the house where they also had the same kind of committee process, got through that really quickly.
and the the whole key here in the house was not to amend this bill. lawmakers wanted to get this to the govary-- governor's desk as soon as possible. we had some contention on the floor among republicans, one republican lawmaker, who got upset because he wasn't able to file an amendment to the bill that would take out the exceptions for rape and incest because a lot of republican lawmakers want to go further with this bil. but of course they want to wouldn't have support to do that. this is the compromise. you heard from he governor in the clip hey, this is the first step. we can keep going forward, of course, this step is still kind of pending, depending on what is going on in the courts. as you said there is already a court challenge in place. so while abortions are halted right now temporarily in the state, that could, the injunction could be granted as soon as tomorrow afternoon. >> this is not the first time that south carolina lawmakers have tried to pass this bill. what was the difference this time, and do the lawmakers see themselves as part of a national
push, a national drive against abortion? >> yeah, this is no big secret about lawmakers here in south carolina wants to get this to the supreme court. unfortunately we're behind a few states with bills already going, lawing already going to the supreme court for challenge. i think we are the firs one in the fowrlt circuit court of appeals to try and get one to the supreme court but again, several other states including georgipassing a bill like this, like this to go to the supreme court. but right now it was really trying to make good on some campaign promises. we did see republicans pick up seats in the senate and the house last november. we saw lawmakers really want to make a big splash. we have a governor up for re-election next year. all of this comes to a good storm with uniting essentially behind a major legislative victory which is the abortion ban. and that is something that we might be seeing a lot of things going on at the national level with the future of the republican party. in south carolina the republican party is united behind what took place in south carolina.
>> let's talk about that national picture. how, place this south carolina law in context for us in terms of restrictiveness in the other state laws that are being passed or being pushed right now. >> well, i think south carolina lawmakers were trying to push this as being a kind of new generation of-- a more moderate bill, if you will. it is an example of what we think of as extreme changing in some states. ---- any time it would have been seen pretty out there and we're seeing that now in 2019. and now versions of the bill albeit with the exceptions you outline, john, are now being framed by lawmakers as normal. and that ipartly because of thsprek trum of abortion legislation has changed pretty radically. that would---- it would sentence doctors and women involved in abortion to make them face
murder charges. and potential potentially even subject them to the death pen alt given that first degree murder is eligible in arizona. so this, i would still qualify the bill as more sort of absolute in the grand scheme of things, but the more lawmakers embrace this strategy, the more what we would view as absolute or extreme laws changes. and so that is something that i think south carolina lawmakers are very consciencely done. this is a sort of new generation bill and isn't as extreme but speaks more to the fact that what we think of is as extreme is changing. >> what we think of as extreme and debate changing because the cout has changed? we now have is three justices nominated by donald trump who have all had things to say about a dorgs. >> i think that's certainly what lawmakers are responding to. there was a sense in which it was almost-- introducing a bill like this, even probably after
brett kavanaugh joined the force simply because-- he did so pretty expeditious leigh and in a fairly flashy way. and i think now state lawmakers are fretting that among president trump's supreme court nominees there is at least enough to get that magical-- that would result in the overturng of and then he goes beyond that because i think the antiabortion movement was much like the republican party is divid, there is a sort of antiabortion establishmentst, and there is a kind of insurgent-- a lot of-- -- and just as that wing of the gop wing a s ascended that wing of the antiabortion movement is taking a bid for control too, and that wing of the movement has connections just like south carolina. we are seeing the consequences of that play out now. >> there is a restrictive abortion law for mississippi that would ban abortions after
15 weeks of pregnancy that has been a request for the supreme court to hear it, has been pending since october. >> uh-huh. >> i think there were a lot of observers who thought that it would, that this new court would take it fairly quickly. what, is it possible to say what this delay means, the fact that they have not taken it yet? >> it is hard to say, ordinarily if the courts had started meeting about the case in october and still hadn't made a decision, u would confer that the court was likely not going to take the case and there was some justice-- you could imagine senator thomas writing an angry opinion des senting from the court's position not to take the case. what makes it harder to read is part of the delays stem from the fact that the court kept rescheduling this and not meeting about it at all. and we don't really know why that was. there are different theories, it could be all of the kind of election chal ings president trump is generating. it could be covid. it could be that the court just
isn't sure where to go on abortion. we have the great mystery in this is what kinds of conservative do we have on the supreme court. we hae one thing with clarence thomas and alito that seem to get rid of it quickly and chief justice john roberts who wants to take a more cautious approach and we don't know where the other three justices are going to land. and the courts kind of hesitation to go one way or another on this is a keeping it a mystery. >> mary zing leer, gaffe injackson, thank you very much. >> thanks for having us. >> >> woodruff: the u.s. is back on the red planet tonight. after a nearly 300 million mile journey, nasa celebrated late this afternoon when it landed its latest rover on mars. there's lots of excitement around nasa's most ambitious mars project yet.
the rover is designed to explore new areas of planet and look for clues to signs of past life there. just so you know, the temperature on mars is a cool 81 degrees below zero. our miles o'brien has been watching it all closely and he's with me now. >> the u.s. is hello again, miles, so i was excited watching the video feed from nasa, were you on the edge of your seat? >> always, always, judy. it is always a great moment of joy when it happens. the team is so good. they make it look easy. but i guess we should remind everyone, this is in fact rocket science, it is extremely hard what they did. nasa now is 5 for 5 in attempting to land rovers on the red planet. this one, about the size of an suv, all kinds of capability, nuclear powered and landed, threaded a needle in a very rugged part of mars. the scientists like the rugged
part, the engineers responsible for getting it on the ground safely would prefer a vert veritiable parking lot, so there is always a struggle but they had newechnology this go round. radar system imagery which allowed them to pretty much do a bu's eye in a rugged part of the planet. so we're off to the races on mars once again, judy. >> woodruff: threaded a needle. that gives us a sense of how hard it was. so miles, remind us what this is all about. we know it is looking eventually for some form of life that existed billions of years ago. but help us understand what it is. >> yeah, i mean basically if you look back to path finder back in 1997 which demonstrated we could get there safely, and then the opportunity and spirit rover in 2003, curiosity in 2012, we've steadily been homing in on first of all locations where there was water, they believe, the scientists, confirm that, then
found places with i not only had water but had a habitable environment billions of years ago. and now they are in a place where they think there is a reasonable shot at finding the remnants of organic material, buy logic, organic material. the rocks that are the age where perseverance is right now, the jezero crater, we have rocks about the same age in western australia, and they hae all kinds of evidence left over, very distinct evidence of organic biological life. and perseverance will be trucking through this region. and it sees things that look like western australian, you can bet the scientists will get pretty excited. >> woodruff: so miles again, 300 million miles away. how hard is what they are traying to do now? not only to do it but then get it back here. >> yeah, well that's the thing. this is the first stage of a very ambitious, long-sought after idea for nasa. a sample return mission.
so perseverance will go along, find some interesting samples. it will do some science on board but as capable as this rover is, it is still kind of limited how much you can do remotely on the surface of mars, all packed into a tiny rover. so ultimately what it will do is drop a couple dozen samples on the surface, and in a few years to come n partnership with the europeans, a reriever rover will come to mars and conduct basically an easter egg hunt for the samples, pick them up, they've get launched back to the earth and by the 2030s we'll have samples of mars bed rock back on earth which will allow scientists to tease out the nuance of all of this. these organics are not smoking gun or easy, so having them in a earth lab will be helpful. >> well, in the 2030sk you know what your assignment is going to be, miles, you will be reporting on it. >> we'll see you then, judy, for sure. >> woodruff: for sure.
miles o'brien, thank you, as always. >> you're welcome, judy. >> woodruff: jobless claims were high again this past week. more than 860,000 people filed claims. millions of people are sti looking for work. but some employers say they can't find enough skilled workers for certain jobs. that's due in part, they say, to stigmas that need to change. paul solman has the story for our series work shift, which focuses on navigating the job market in a post-covid economy. >> get ready, get ready, get ready. >> reporter: mike rowe: man on a mission >> to get dirty, get dirty. >> reporter: for years on the discovery channel, rowe was america's hands-on evangelist for dirty jobs. paving a road... >> you dump it, you flatten .
>> reporter: replacing an oil filter on a wind turbine. >> that's a nasty, nasty, nasty little job. >> reporter: after years of romanticizing the unromantic, rowe put money where his body was: the mikeroweworks foundation, which has awarded about a thousand scholarships, totaling five million dollars so far. >> typically what we do is pay for the fee that is due to a trade school or an apprenticeship program or sometimes a community college. >> reporter: rowe has to evangelize because fewer kids than ever believe in dirty jobs. >> before covid, there were 7.3 million open jobs, the majority of which didn't require a four year degree. >> reporter: seattle plumbing contractor vinnie sposari. >> working outside in the cold and the rain, crawling under houses. those are the things we as plumbers do. kids these days they don't want to put the effort in to get there. >> reporter: but in a low-wage- heavy economy, plumbing apprenticeships start at close to $20 an hour nowadays. and after just a few years and a
license, top earners can make $70,000 and up. unfortunately, “dirty jobs” have had an increasingly bad image, says mike rowe. and he thinks he knows why. >> the push for one form of education, in my view, really was the beginning of a long list of stigmas and stereotypes and myths and misperceptions that to this day dissuade millions of kids from pursuing a legitimate opportunity to make six figures in the trades. >> reporter: the culprit, in his view: the supposed cachet of college. >> in the eyes of many parents, and in the eyes of many counselors, the trade school was the thing you did if you weren't cut out for university. >> reporter: how many of you would seriously consider a career in one of the trades? a high school class in industrial lake charles, louisiana, anchor of calcasieu parish, which president trump carried by better than 2-1.
how many of these kids would consider a future in the trades? just one. that one is jacob brewster, who loves woodworking, and yet he feels the pressure. >> it's like go to college, go to college, there's barely anybody saying go to trade school. >> reporter: not saying it to the 15% of kids who drop out of high school bere graduating; nor to the additional 50% plus who don't finish college. trade school, as post-secondary education, can be a ticket to a six-figure income, but it's sneered at, by kids, parents, and teachers alike. >> that's not an option that's often presented to us, like this is not for you. >> at least here there is somewhat of a stigma if you don't go into college. >> i, you know, have to go to college or i'm nothing, you know. >> i think the stigma is real. >> reporter: brenda defelice has taught in southwest louisiana for 30 years. >> because we have so much industry and we do have a lot of very successful tradespeople here who make a lot of money. i think in our area it's less
so. but it still there. >> reporter: atlanta electrician tonya hicks sees the same bias in her community, even though unemployment is famously much higher for african-americans. >> after the civil rights movement a lot of african- american children were encouraged to go to college instead. sometimes even in the african- american culture, blue collar workers are looked down on or like they are less than if you do not have a college degree. >> reporter: in fact, college grads earn 74% more than those with only a high school diploma, but not that much more than skilled tradespeople: median income of $54,000 a year for a bachelor's degree, versus $51,000 for electricians, $46,000 for plumbers, new although tradespeople may have somewhat shorter careers. but regardless, mike rowe says there's a “disconnect.” >> if you look at the way colleges have been able to raise their tuitions and if you look
at the speed with which the skills gap has widened and if you look at the number of kids who are out there well educated but hopelessly in debt and not trained for a multitude of good jobs that actually exist, you begin to see the degree to which we're disconnected. >> reporter: but as an economist might ask, or a buddhist: what do you mean by a “good job”? >> i have nothing against people that want to go to college. however, they can't find a job. and now they're just in just this insurmountable debt. >> reporter: michael barbosa, now 26, had a scholarship to attend college but dropped out. >> i worked as a barista and grocery store clerk for minimum wage. it was really hard to get by. the only way to really get by was to work a lot of hours and multiple jobs. >> reporter: but on one of them, working in construction supply, he had his epiphany. >> so when i was doing my drywall stocking, i ran into a lot of plumbers and they would ask me, why are you just drywall stocking, don't you want to learn a trade? >> reporter: barbosa is now
training to be a plumber, and being paid $16 an hour to learn. daniel stanke finished the same program, is now an apprentice plumber. >> both my parents went and graduated from college. my original plan was to become a history teacher. about halfway through, though, i kind of fell out of love with that idea, kind of started looking around at other opportunities, potentially. >> reporter: his boss says he'll make six figures this year. and then there are those few like sarah schnabel, who graduated with a math degree, from ivy league cornell. >> growing up it always like, oh, you went to the trade school because you didn't do well in school. i still get comments from my family. like, why are you doing this? >> reporter: she now works with electrician brian la morte, who graduated from towson university in maryland with a computer degree. in college, would you have thought that you would become an electrician? >> no. >> reporter: why not? >> at that point, i figured i'm training myself to go out and work for some big company and and be a systems analyst or something like that.
but in reality, i eventually came to find. you can become replaced very easily. you can become very comfortable and then become obsolete very fast in the tech world. >> reporter: look, says mike rowe... >> a liberal arts education is not the enemy. i've got one. it served me well. but there are entire categories of work that are shrouded in mystery. and if we don't demystify them and destigmatize them, we're going to be waiting for plumbers and electricians for a long, long time. >> reporter: is the gap closing? is the stigma beginning to dissolve or-- >> i think it is. and, you know, perversely, i think covid might have something to do with it. i'm sure you've noticed a new word that's really been injected into the lexicon. essential. >> reporter: which is, in fact, just how vinnie sposari's plumbing apprentices feel. >> sometimes you're just people's heroes, especially if they've been in a bad spot for a couple of days.
>> they actually have called me heroes. it's just great, you know. >> i can't tell you the amount of pride from people in our industry, how we felt that we needed to keep the country going. and we have the jobs of the future for sustainability and energy and water conservation. >> as you can tell from the music i'm about to wrap things up. >> reporter: all of which makes mike rowe think or maybe hope... >> when things get back to normal, this country is going to enter a new age of work. a new age of making things and fixing things and building things. an age where skilled workers are going to be in demand like never before. >> reporter: we'll see. for the pbs newshour, paul solman. >> woodruff: on the newshour online right now, as millions in texas go without reliable electricity, heat and water, groups around the state are
working to help the most vulnerable. you can find ways to support their efforts on our website, pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, please stay safe, and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: our u.s.-based customer service reps can help you choose a plan based on how much you use your phone, nothing more, nothing less. to learn more, go to consumercellular.tv >> the ford foundation. working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide.
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