December 14, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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December 14, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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12/14/2021 | 56m 43s | Video has closed captioning.
December 14, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: after the storms.
Families and businesses begin picking up the pieces in the wake of devastating tornadoes that left scores dead, including several children.
Then: investigating the insurrection.
Text messages from former President Trump's chief of staff provide more insight into the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
And casualties of war.
New details emerge about the widespread deaths and injuries caused by U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan and Syria.
LARRY LEWIS, Research Director, Center for Naval Analyses: The fact that we have seen thousands of these strikes and we see recurring problems creates a questions about, OK, who really should be accountable?
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Search teams, utility crews, and property owners have spent another long day in the tornado wreckage that was strewn across five states last weekend.
The confirmed death toll remains at 88, most of them in Western Kentucky.
William Brangham is there, and begins our coverage again tonight.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The power's still out in much of Mayfield, Kentucky, so volunteers fold the tide of clothing that's been donated to victims by candlelight.
Teresa Rochetti-Cantrell was the mayor of Mayfield for many years.
She now works at this local charitable foundation.
TERESA ROCHETTI-CANTRELL, Former Mayor of Mayfield, Kentucky: We're still wrapping our head around it, you know?
And you stand there.
I stood there last night where the City Hall was.
And I have been up there before.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Was.
TERESA ROCHETTI-CANTRELL: Was, yes.
And I looked across, I'm trying to -- it's - - there's such devastation that you can't even picture what was there.
But, going forward, honestly, I can't wrap my head around what the challenges are.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Elsewhere in Mayfield, at the candle factory where at least eight people died, several factory employees told NBC News that they wanted to leave before the tornadoes arrived, but said supervisors threatened to fire them if they did.
The owner of the factory, Mayfield Consumer Products, said that was -- quote -- "absolutely untrue."
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said today they will get to the bottom of what happened.
ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): And everybody's expected to live up to certain standards of both the law, of safety, and of being decent human beings.
And I hope everybody lived up to those standards.
You can expect a state agency to be taking a look.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Meanwhile, in Illinois, OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is investigating the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville that killed six people.
OSHA will look into whether workplace safety rules were followed.
It'll have six months to complete the investigation.
President Biden has now declared a federal disaster in that state as well.
Back in Mayfield... CHUCK FOSTER, Tornado Survivor: This is the front door right here.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, where was your office?
CHUCK FOSTER: That corner right over there.
That's my desk right there.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Local attorney Chuck Foster set up his law practice on this downtown corner 25 years ago.
It's completely gone.
He said a small army of people keep showing up, helping him clean up and sort through the wreckage.
CHUCK FOSTER: At one time, we had 25 volunteers in here just moving stuff around here and cleaning stuff up.
And we had three -- two or three different groups come with sandwiches and food and water.
So, everybody chipped in and tried to help out.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That's a beautiful thing.
CHUCK FOSTER: It is.
It kind of gives you a sense of pride and a sense of community, I guess, when something like that happens to everybody pick up and try to help you out, people we didn't even know.
We met a lot of people yesterday for the first time.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Brand-new friends, right?
CHUCK FOSTER: Oh, yes.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Former Mayor Rochetti-Cantrell says the outpouring of love and support and donations are so appreciated, but she's worried about the deeper, long-term impacts.
TERESA ROCHETTI-CANTRELL: I think there's going to be huge, people who were maybe down on their luck to start with, and then this... WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right, blow after blow.
TERESA ROCHETTI-CANTRELL: And just wrapping your head around what's happened.
I mean, I just think that's going to be a big deal.
All the things that you have to do, some of these people don't know how to do that and aren't capable of doing that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All the paperwork, all the insurance, all the bills, all the tax loans, all of that stuff.
TERESA ROCHETTI-CANTRELL: Mind-boggling.
I predict suicides.
I hate to think that way.
But there's just some people that can't handle this.
There are some people that just cannot mentally handle this.
And I think we're going to be dealing with some of that in the coming days, months, years.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As daunting as it may seem, the cleanup and the rebuilding after this disaster may be the easy part.
It is this deeper trauma that the former mayor is describing, that could be a scar that this tragedy leaves on this community for years to come.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham in Mayfield, Kentucky.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: A new disaster has struck Haiti.
At least 60 people were killed and dozens injured late Monday when a fuel truck overturned and exploded.
It happened in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, burning cars and scorching buildings.
The mayor toured the scene as daylight showed the extent of the destruction.
YVROSE PIERRE, Mayor of Cap-Haitien, Haiti (through translator): I'm here to see the aftermath of last night's unfortunate event.
I received many calls, and sent the firefighters and police an alert, so they could intervene.
Unfortunately, many people died.
We couldn't save them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Haiti has already seen its president assassinated this year and an earthquake that killed more than 2, 200 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
Back in this country, the U.S. House of Representatives moved to advance criminal contempt charges against former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
He has refused to testifying about the assault on the U.S. Capitol last January.
The U.S. Justice Department will decide whether to prosecute Meadows.
We will return to this after the news summary.
Congress is also on the verge of raising the national debt limit by $2.5 trillion.
It passed the Senate this afternoon 50-49, with no Republican support, and it went on to the House of Representatives.
The U.S. Treasury had set tomorrow as the deadline for action.
As of tonight, the COVID pandemic has left 800,000 nearly dead across the United States.
That's out of just over five million worldwide.
The milestone came one year since vaccinations began.
New data today suggests Pfizer's COVID vaccine is 70 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations from the Omicron variant.
Findings from South Africa also indicate that the two-dose vaccine is less effective at preventing Omicron infections.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization warned today that Omicron is spreading faster than previous variants.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO Director General: Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril.
Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, Pfizer reported that its experimental COVID treatment pill works against Omicron, reducing severe symptoms in high-risk adults become infected by nearly 90 percent.
A federal appeals court has rejected President Biden's attempts to end a policy keeping asylum seekers in Mexico.
The latest ruling came Monday night.
A Trump era policy has required thousands of migrants to remain in Mexico until their U.S. asylum cases are resolved.
There is new evidence that the Arctic is still getting hotter.
The U.N. weather agency certified today that temperatures reached 100.4 degrees in Siberia last year, the highest ever recorded in the Arctic.
And the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that growing ice melts are altering ecosystems.
On Wall Street, stocks fell again, on news that wholesale prices jumped nearly 10 percent in November from a year ago.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 106 points to close at 35544.
The Nasdaq fell 175 points.
That's 1 percent.
The S&P 500 slipped nearly 35.
And the year's inductees into the National Film Registry are out, and they range from the "Star Wars" film "Return of the Jedi" to "A Nightmare on Elm Street."
The Library of Congress announced 25 honorees today.
Others include "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," Cicely Tyson's "Sounder," and Pixar's "WALL-E." Still to come on the "NewsHour": new details on civilian casualties overseas wrought by U.S. airstrikes; political gridlock in Washington hamstrings the diplomatic presence abroad; a food blogger-turned-social media celebrity mixes Korean recipes with personal history; plus much more.
As we reported earlier, the U.S. House of Representatives today took up a contempt of Congress charge against Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff.
This comes after Meadows defied a subpoena from the select committee in the Senate investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
LISA DESJARDINS: On the House floor today yet another rarity.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): There's just a handful of people like Mr. Bannon, like Mr. Meadows who somehow think that they're above the law.
LISA DESJARDINS: Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin and other select committee investigators argued for a contempt of Congress charge for a second very high-profile Trump advisory, Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff to President Trump, who just two years ago was himself a House member.
On January 6, as attackers smashed and punched their way into the Capitol, Meadows was at the White House with Trump making him a pivotal hub of information from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Now he is a flash point over the push for his testimony and Trump allies' insistence that it's political.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN: Mark Meadows has to testify.
He has to come in, like 300 American citizens have patriotically and lawfully done.
What makes him special?
The fact that he knows a former president of the United States?
I'm afraid not.
REP. MARY MILLER (R-IL): The members of the January 6 commission have turned this body into a Star Chamber, using the powers of Congress to persecute and bankrupt their political opponents.
LISA DESJARDINS: The back-and-forth is complicated.
Meadows did turn over 6, 600 pages of e-mails and around 2,000 text messages.
Notably, he also sent so-called privilege logs, enumerating hundreds more documents which he claimed could not be shared because of separation of power.
Then he did not show up for a deposition last week.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Whatever legacy he thought he left in the House, this is his legacy now.
LISA DESJARDINS: Last night, as it recommended contempt charges, the select committee also read some of the Meadows texts it has out loud.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Donald Trump Jr. texted again and again, urging action by the president - - quote -- "We need an Oval Office address.
He has to lead now.
It has gone too far and gotten out of hand" -- end quote.
LISA DESJARDINS: The committee also wants to ask Meadows about an e-mail in which Meadows wrote that on January 6 the National Guard would -- quote -- "protect pro-Trump people."
Meadows responded last night to all of this on FOX News.
MARK MEADOWS, Former White House Chief of Staff: Let's be clear about this, Sean.
This is not about me, holding me in contempt.
It's not even about making the Capitol safer.
This is about Donald Trump and about actually going after him once again.
LISA DESJARDINS: Meadows and Trump are both suing the select committee over its requests.
Judges have so far ruled against Trump.
And, today, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked a bipartisan commission, but has blasted Trump for January 6, had notably open words about the committee's work.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I do think we're all watching, as you are, what's unfolding on the House side, and it will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved.
LISA DESJARDINS: All this as the attorney general for the District of Columbia announced a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, seeking civil finds for individuals and two groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, for their role in the Capitol attack.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meadows' refusal to cooperate and the committee's recommendation to hold him in contempt of Congress raise questions about executive privilege and about what information the committee is owed.
For some answers, we turn to Jonathan Shaub.
He is a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law and a contributing editor at Lawfare.
He previously served in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice.
And before I come to you, Jonathan Shaub, I want to clarify.
I said the issue was taken up in the Senate.
It was in the House, the House select committee, of course, where this investigation is under way.
But let me just ask you about Mr. Meadows.
He is yet another witness who won't testify before this House select committee.
But they have received documents.
They have received some information.
So is the committee being stymied, or are they making progress?
JONATHAN SHAUB, University of Kentucky: Well, I think they're being stymied with respect to the information that Meadows has that maybe nobody else has, what was going on that day in the White House, what was President Trump doing.
And Meadows is probably one of the only sources from whom they could get that information.
But they have a ton of other information.
They revealed yesterday they had interviewed, I think, over 300 witnesses.
They have a ton of documents, including some from Meadows himself.
So it seems like they will be able to piece together what happened and what was going on for the most part.
But I do think there's probably certain pieces of information relating specifically to what was happening in the White House that they may not be able to get as long as Meadows and others who may have that information continue to refuse to provide it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when Mark Meadows' attorney talks about executive privilege, referring to President Trump, what exactly does that mean, and how and where would it apply in a situation like this?
JONATHAN SHAUB: So, executive privilege has a long history.
And it's generally the doctrine that the president has the authority to withhold information if the disclosure of that information would harm the public interest, if the president determines that.
And so it's a power belonging to the president.
It's typically invoked for private conversations of the president, for national security information, attorney-client information.
So, here, we have a former president who's been -- who is asserting it, President Trump.
And the Biden White House has said very clearly there's no privilege claim here.
The events of January 6 are extraordinary.
The committee has a need for them, and so we're not going to assert privilege or related doctrines like immunity.
And President Trump has sued to contest that determination.
And, so far, he's lost with the D.C.
Circuit, and he has a chance to appeal to the Supreme Court.
But, generally, it's a presidential authority, and so it's very hard to see why a former president would get to make a determination about what's in the public interest, as opposed to the president who is currently serving in that office.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's what we're trying to understand, whether this claim or invoking of executive privilege is going to hold up in court.
JONATHAN SHAUB: Well, so, once you go to contempt, Meadows is going to defend himself -- and his lawyer has already done this -- by saying, even if I'm incorrect about privilege, I was operating in good faith.
And the committee is really no longer going to be able to get information from Meadows.
He's subject to criminal prosecution, but that won't take place for potentially a year or several months.
So it's very unlikely that, at this point, they will get Meadows to cooperate once they have held him in contempt.
And I think they basically said we have got as much information as we can from him, he's now adopted this total defiance stance, and so we're going to refer him for contempt to Congress and use him as an example to other witnesses who we do want to comply.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Jonathan Shaub, as you look at the big picture of what this select committee is trying to get, they're trying to get to the bottom of what happened on January the 6th.
What is standing in their way, mainly, and what do you think is working in their favor?
JONATHAN SHAUB: Well, I think the fact that the Department of Justice moved forward with the prosecution of Steve Bannon shows that there are serious consequences to defying the committee's subpoenas.
If they indict Mark Meadows, then that will be even further evidence, because Mark Meadow was, of course, in the government.
So, even - - if he can be prosecuted, that will serve as a example to other government officials.
So I think they're probably going to be able to get a lot of information about the day and reconstruct what was happening going up to January 6 and on the day itself.
And -- but I do think, though, they probably won't be able to force people who remain very loyal to President Trump to comply.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meaning that they will be able to claim executive privilege and hold out for courts to rule in their favor?
JONATHAN SHAUB: Yes, I mean, they will cite executive privilege, and they will defend themselves in a criminal prosecution.
But the court actions, even if the committee decided to pursue a civil action, it just takes time.
And from what I have understood, the chairman has said they want to be completed by spring, or, at the very latest, the end of 2022, when there's another election.
So I can't imagine that court resolution of issues involving executive privilege would occur before that time frame.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Still a lot of questions, a lot of questions out there about what the committee will be able to get.
Jonathan Shaub, University of Kentucky Law School, thank you very much.
JONATHAN SHAUB: Well, thanks for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: During last night's hearing, committee Vice Chair Representative Liz Cheney read text messages sent to Mark Meadows on January 6 from some of President Trump's closest allies.
The text messages showed concern and an urgent request to the president to stop the siege on the Capitol.
Some of those allies included key FOX News personalities, like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who, later that day, however, suggested the crowd was not made up of Trump supporters.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Quote: "Mark, the president needs to tell the people in the Capitol to go home.
This is hurting all of us.
He is destroying his legacy," Laura Ingraham wrote.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX News: Earlier today, the Capitol was under siege by people who can only be described as antithetical to the MAGA movement.
Now, they were likely not all Trump supporters, and there are some reports that Antifa sympathizers may have been sprinkled throughout the crowd.
We will have more on that later.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To talk us through the role FOX News plays in all this, I'm joined by NPR's media correspondent, David Folkenflik.
David, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
So, as you listen to and read about these text messages and then what these FOX News anchors said in the aftermath, what does it all add up to, in your mind?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, National Public Radio: Well, it tells you the central role that FOX News played throughout the Trump presidency.
It tells you, in a sense, that they don't see any distinction between advising the president, trying to champion his reputation, champion his standing, champion perhaps his aims and goals from their own supposedly journalistic endeavors.
They may be opinion hosts, but, if you work for a news organization, you're supposed to acknowledge, even as opinion journalists, facts that go contrary to your rooting interests.
They seem to have done that in what you have seen on, a brief clip of on the air, and in other clips throughout.
And it also tells you that they know.
They knew that this was a problem.
They knew this was serious.
They knew this represented a crisis, in a sense, a challenge, a violent challenge, to the peaceful transfer of power that was supposed to be ceremonially certified on that day from President Trump to his successor, then president-elect Joe Biden.
And it tells you yet they nonetheless were willing to say something quite different to the millions of viewers who turn to them and rely on them on a daily basis.
I think that tells you that they don't see their loyalty to the truth.
They don't see their loyalty to their viewers' need to understand the facts as they are, but to perhaps serve their appetites and their political rooting.
It's a very different journalistic mission than you and I embrace.
I don't think it's, in fact, a journalistic mission at all.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in terms of what we knew about -- we have known in the past they have spoken favorably of a former President Trump for years.
But does this take it to a different level, do you think?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: I mean, it shows you how there's no wall, no membrane separating FOX News and its prime-time lineup and political opinion stars from President Trump's closest circle of advisers.
Sean Hannity was an adviser from the outset of Trump candidacy into the White House, Laura Ingraham, for that matter, Tucker Carlson, who doesn't appear on this particular roster of text messages as sent to Mark Meadows.
Nonetheless, I think what it does is sharpen the disconnect between what we know that FOX News stars know when they're purveying conspiracy theories, supporting the president's -- former president's most outlandish claims, in effect, amplifying, projecting and embracing lies that are corrosive to Americans' understanding of their own civil society, that they know better, that they knew.
The person they turned to was the chief of staff to President Trump, because he was the person best situated to try to defuse this incredibly tense and violent situation, even as, hours later, Laura Ingraham and others are on the air blaming Antifa, claiming somehow that there might be deep state plants of FBI informants, for which there's been no credible proof of in any meaningful way.
And so I think that what you have here is a question of FOX News having that word news appended to its name, but not operating like a news operation.
You're not seeing any authority being brought to bear?
Yes, they are starting more than 24 hours after this was released by Liz Cheney on the committee to address this in their own coverage on the news side.
And Sean Hannity talked a bit about it on his radio show today, but not in a way that keeps faith with the viewers and the listeners, their audiences and the public to say, the truth comes first, even when it cuts against what we want to have happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do you think the consequences - - why does it matter?
I mean, as you said earlier, it's a different -- it's certainly different from the kind of journalism we do at the "NewsHour," and many other -- the other journalistic organizations we're familiar with.
But why does it matter?
I mean, we know we are in an era of opinion.
There's a lot of opinion out there in news, news coverage and news reporting.
What -- I mean, what effect does something like this have, do you think?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Listen, FOX has always played an outsized role in Republican politics, increasing over the years ever since its founding in 1996, in the leadership under Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.
Right now, you have something like, what, three-fifths of registered Republicans or so claim that they believe that Joe Biden won the election fraudulently, which is not true, and disproven in countless ways, in courtrooms and political officials, both Democratic and Republican.
And the reason they do that is because an echo chamber is provided by FOX News and sort of its lesser peers, and it gives amplification to and ballast to not only former President Trump, but those around him and those who seek to ride his coattails to power into office by having them say, well, this is a message that will work for us.
And, therefore, we will lie about things, we will mislead the public, we will raise concerns, and we will, by the way, deny, deflect dismiss, or denounce claims of any involvement of people in the Trump's circle or people with loyalty to President Trump or just support for him with what happened on January 6, even at the same time as they claim that what happened January 6 isn't meaningful.
They're claiming it was a terrible hoax perpetrated by people in the deep state or in Antifa.
JUDY WOODRUFF: David Folkenflik, who covers the media for NPR.
David, thank you very much.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the aftermath of last Friday's deadly tornado outbreak, federal emergency officials say they are bracing for more severe and more frequent weather disasters.
As John Yang reports, that is raising questions about whether there's a link between climate change and tornadoes.
JOHN YANG: Judy, while scientists are confident that climate change is driving an increase in some natural disasters, in the case of tornadoes, they say it's a bit trickier.
Victor Gensini is an associate professor of geographic and atmospheric sciences at Northern Illinois University.
Mr. Gensini, thanks so much for being with us.
So many superlatives being used to describe this tornado outbreak on Friday night.
Help us put us -- put this into perspective.
How major of an event was this?
VICTOR GENSINI, Northern Illinois University: It's very likely to be historic.
The National Weather Service right now is still surveying the longest tornado that started just north of Little Rock, crossed into the Bootheel of Missouri, into Northwest Tennessee, and finally into Kentucky, where it did its most prolific damage.
We think the tornado right now has a path length somewhere near 250 miles.
That would put it at first place, if you will, the most historic tornado path length in history, only to surpass the infamous Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925.
That tornado had a path length of 219 miles.
JOHN YANG: And to put that in perspective, I mean, the -- a tornado track is generally - - I mean, a long one could be 50 miles.
And tornadoes generally lose their energy pretty quickly.
VICTOR GENSINI: Most tornadoes are under five miles.
It's pretty hard to get a tornado 50 miles, let alone talking about one that was on the ground for 200 miles.
So, yes, as I was watching this tornado unfold on Friday evening, I got a pit on my stomach watching radar.
I knew exactly what was happening at the surface.
And it was just a matter of time until we saw some of those devastating pictures on Saturday morning.
JOHN YANG: Help us understand, what do we know and, maybe more important, what do we not know about the link between climate change and tornadoes?
VICTOR GENSINI: Right now, the link is still muddy.
There have been studies that have shown a mean increase in overall severe weather in the future, but also an increase in the variability.
I think the best analogy right now is honestly Major League Baseball during the steroids era.
We couldn't say for certain if a home run was due to steroids, but when you look at the batting averages and the number of home runs over the season, it becomes pretty clear that steroids was having, right, an impact during the season.
I think the same thing can be said here about tornadoes.
We're just not sure right now if something like Friday evening was the direct result of climate change.
JOHN YANG: Why is that?
Why don't we know yet?
VICTOR GENSINI: It's mostly due to the small scale.
Tornadoes are actually on a very small scale relative to things like hurricanes or wildfires or drought.
And that link, when you start to go down really small to the storm scale vs. the large climate scale system, makes these types of questions very, very hard to unpack from a scientific perspective.
JOHN YANG: When you talk about sort of looking backward to try to figure it out, what have we seen?
What changes have we seen in tornadoes in recent years?
VICTOR GENSINI: Great question.
Really, the only thing that we can hang our hat on right now is a pretty significant downward trend in the Great Plains of the United States.
So, you think of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, your colloquial Tornado Alley, they have actually seen a decrease in the number of significant tornadoes that are over the last 40 years.
And there's been a significant increase in places in the mid-South, like Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, some of these areas that are -- have been hit hard recently.
And I think that's a really important thing, because we have a lot more assets, a lot more people as you get east of the Mississippi River, due to the increased population density.
JOHN YANG: Any idea what that tells us or what that suggests, why that might be, that shift?
VICTOR GENSINI: We think it's due -- partly due to climate change and partly due to natural variability.
To what extent?
What percentage of that shift is being caused by climate change?
These are all questions that are really good, and that research groups like us at NIU are still trying to unpack.
JOHN YANG: And what are the implications for the future, from your research and what you're learning from your research?
VICTOR GENSINI: Well, I think there's two things.
I think we want to understand what the future holds for these extreme events, like those of Friday evening.
And on the flip side, we also want to understand the changing footprint of society.
Both of those go hand in hand in understanding the future of tornado disasters like what we witnessed last week.
And I'll tell you, looking ahead, even here tomorrow, it looks like another significant severe weather event possible across the Siouxland area.
It only takes one event, right, to make your day, one tornado event to make your day a very bad day.
And I think there's going to be a lot of questions about what happened to that Amazon warehouse and what happened to that candle factory on Friday evening.
JOHN YANG: Victor Gensini of Northern Illinois University, thank you very much.
VICTOR GENSINI: Thanks, John.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. military has been facing questions this week over how it conducts airstrikes and whether it is doing enough to prevent killing civilians and to report those casualties when it does.
Nick Schifrin explains.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The last known airstrike of 20 years of war conducted before U.S. troops left Afghanistan did not kill its intended ISIS target.
Instead, a drone missile killed 10 civilians, including seven children.
Yesterday, the Pentagon said it will change procedures, but would not discipline any troops for that strike in Kabul.
JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: What we saw here was a breakdown in process and execution and procedure, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership.
There was not a strong enough case to be made for personal accountability.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin endorsed that move, based on a recommendation from the commanders of Central Command, whose responsibilities include Afghanistan and Syria, and Special Operations Command, whose personnel ordered many of those strikes.
In the last few weeks, I have asked both commanders whether these incidents expose structural issues, including in how service members call in airstrikes.
Both said no.
Are they too quick to call in airstrikes?
GEN. RICHARD CLARKE, Commander, U.S. Operations Command: Categorically, no.
There's structure in place with commanders that take it by a step-by-step process.
You're looking at where -- what the potential strike is.
You're talking about what type of effects you're trying to achieve, what type of munitions you're going to use.
GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE, Commander, U.S. Central Command: We have gone to elaborate lengths to prevent civilian casualties.
I cannot tell you in every case that we have been able to achieve that goal.
I can tell you that, when we know about it, when we have an opportunity to learn that civilian casualties may have occurred, we do investigate it.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Your response does not sound like you think that there is some kind of systemic problem, whether it's a climate or whether it's special operators calling in airstrikes too quickly?
GEN. FRANK MCKENZIE: Combat, and particularly close-infantry combat, as occurs in a lot of these things, is an inherently messy, imprecise, bloody business.
And we would like for it to be antiseptic.
We would like for it to be perfect.
It often is just not going to reach those standards of excellence.
NICK SCHIFRIN: There was another incident on December 3, when a drone over Syria targeted an al-Qaida commander.
The military says it killed him, but acknowledges it also killed civilians.
A family posted this video of the strike as it hit and told us in an interview they were innocent victims.
AHMED QASOUM, Injured in Drone Strike (through translator): My son Mahmoud's head was broken.
My wife's leg was broken.
All of us were injured and full of blood.
We went from happiness to devastation.
FATIMA QARAQ, Injured in Drone Strike (through translator): We don't have anything to do with the people in power.
And had we known that was a motorcade in front of us for someone that was in a powerful position, we wouldn't have driven behind it.
NICK SCHIFRIN: To discuss these incidents and the larger issue of civilian casualties, I'm joined by Larry Lewis, who has worked with the Defense Department for over a decade to prevent civilian casualties.
He was also the State Department's senior adviser on civilian protection, and is now research director at the Center for Naval Analyses, CNA.
Larry Lewis, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Thanks very much.
What's your reaction to the military not holding anyone accountable to the August drone strike in Kabul?
LARRY LEWIS, Research Director, Center for Naval Analyses: So, first of all, it's not surprising.
We often see a lack of accountability and discipline for these strikes.
But, in my mind, there's a different question, not only holding individuals accountable for those that were involved in that strike, but the fact that we have seen thousands of these strikes, and we see recurring problems creates a question about, OK, who really should be accountable?
Not necessarily the trigger pullers, but the senior leaders that have overseen these processes that have systemic problems.
NICK SCHIFRIN: You mentioned you have seen thousands.
You published an essay this week in which you wrote that the Kabul drone strike was - - quote -- "not an isolated mistake," but, rather, part of a systemic pattern," and you called the strike negligence.
LARRY LEWIS: So, negligence is defined as a lack of care, and that the exactly what we see.
So, analyzing thousands of strikes, literally thousands, I have seen the same patterns that occurred in that strike over and over again.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And yet you also have heard the military say again and again that they do care.
And you just heard the Central Command commander, General McKenzie, and the Special Operations Command commander, General Clarke, say that - - quote -- "There are structures in place" and -- quote -- "We have gone to elaborate lengths to prevent civilian casualties, such that there are no systemic issues causing these casualty incidents."
LARRY LEWIS: I do disagree.
So, again, what does the data say?
So, clearly, the U.S. military has processes in place, they have an infrastructure in place.
The problem is, that infrastructure has flaws.
There are a number of implicit assumptions and there are a number of systemic problems that weaken the care that they give, and so you tend to see these patterns again and again.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In all of those studies that you have done, are there specific examples that you can remember that are particularly indicative?
LARRY LEWIS: A prominent airstrike in Afghanistan in 2010, where there were Special Forces on the ground, and they knew there was enemy combatant forces out there, and they knew it was along the line of bearing.
So they kind of looked out with their drone and found the nearest thing along that line of bearing.
It was three vehicles, so they follow the three vehicles, and then they struck it with airpower.
And it was three civilian vehicles, and dozens of civilians were killed.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Do you believe there are lessons the military have identified, but not learned or implemented?
LARRY LEWIS: Absolutely.
I say that the military seems to have amnesia, because we have identified a number of these problems before, but then they don't stick.
You know, for example, in the drone strike, there were a number of different things.
There were civilians right outside of the frame.
But what you need to do is kind of step back and say, OK, have things changed right before I make this engagement decision?
NICK SCHIFRIN: Do you think this is a question of leadership?
LARRY LEWIS: Absolutely.
It's -- I mean, and what we have seen over and over again is, when senior leaders are very clear that protecting civilians is part of the mission, and it's something that they're watching and prioritizing, we see improvement.
And when there's not that clear message from the top, then we see basically what we have been seeing the last few years.
NICK SCHIFRIN: I want to ask specifically about a New York Times report this weekend on a special operations task force named Talon Anvil that during the height of the war against ISIS -- quote -- "circumvented rules imposed to protect noncombatants."
That's what The Times reported.
You have worked with these special operates for years.
Do you believe that, during the height of the war in ISIS, they circumvented the rules?
LARRY LEWIS: I have been following the unit quite a while.
And I have seen quite different behavior over the years.
So there are times where the care wasn't as great.
And I would include Syria in that part.
I have also seen times where they took great care.
And the difference was they had command emphasis that said, this is important.
And when that emphasis was there, they did a fabulous job.
NICK SCHIFRIN: And, finally, what practical steps do you urge the military to take in order to reduce civilian casualties?
LARRY LEWIS: So, I think, first of all, it has to start with leadership.
There's no leadership on this issue.
And, in addition to that, there are no resources.
So, if we're going fix this problem, and we're not going to have amnesia and forget about these things that we do over and over again, we have to devote resources and we have to have leaders that are committed to actually solving these problems.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Larry Lewis, thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nearly one year into office, the Biden administration is still lacking ambassadors in key parts of the world, including India and Pakistan.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered candidates for those two posts today, marking a step forward in what has been a painstakingly slow process to fill U.S. embassies.
Amna Nawaz has more on what this means for U.S. diplomacy.
AMNA NAWAZ: Of the 80 ambassadorial nominees President Biden has put forward, the Senate has so far confirmed just 12.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week blamed a slow Senate confirmation process.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. Secretary of State: As of last week, only 16 percent of our ambassadors have been confirmed.
At this point in the last three administrations, the number was between 70 percent and 90 percent.
AMNA NAWAZ: For more on all this, I'm joined by Eric Rubin.
He is the former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and is now president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Ambassador Rubin, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thanks for being here.
So, to fill these ambassador posts, two things have to happen.
The president has to nominate people, the Senate has to confirm them.
Where in the process is most of the backup right now?
ERIC RUBIN, Former U.S.
Ambassador to Bulgaria: Well, both of those problems are very real right now.
The biggest backup is the fact we have blanket holds in the Senate.
That means almost all of the nominees have been blocked from being considered on the floor of the Senate.
This has never happened before, to anyone's knowledge.
In addition, the administration has been slow to nominate candidates, so we still have about one-third of the jobs without nominees.
Put that together, and we have an astonishing number of vacant ambassadorial posts around the world.
AMNA NAWAZ: Let's take it piece by piece, though.
Let's start with the administration.
Why have they been so slow?
Is that unusual?
And what could be causing that?
ERIC RUBIN: Well, it's a good question.
And we have been asking that question.
I think part of it may be holding back nominees because they already have such a backlog in the Senate that they don't want to add to it.
I can't speak for the administration.
But we think they should nominate every candidate they have to get them on the table, so that also the world knows that we're serious about getting ambassadors out to our embassies across the world.
AMNA NAWAZ: Ambassador, is a more sort of extreme or intense vetting process any part of the holdup here?
And I'm asking because I'm thinking of the hearing today of former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to India, facing a number of tough questions because of previous reports about concerns over conflicts of interest in a relationship with Hunter Biden, and one of his former top aides facing allegations of sexual harassment by a Los Angeles Police Department officer.
Is it harder today to find good nominees to put forward?
ERIC RUBIN: Well, I think the vetting process has gotten more complicated over the years.
I can't comment on individual nominees, but I can say definitely that, for people who've been confirmed before, the hope is that they can be confirmed more quickly the second, third, fourth time.
In reality, it's like starting from scratch every time.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, can I ask you, more broadly, what worries you about a lot of these posts not being filled right now?
ERIC RUBIN: Well, we need ambassadors in the field.
We need to have ambassadors representing our country, representing the president.
When an ambassador is confirmed by the Senate, that person goes out with the endorsement of both the president of the United States and the United States Senate.
That has a lot of strength for everybody who's involved in the process.
If you're a foreign government, you know that this person represents our country, two branches of government.
But, also, we have got a lot of diplomacy to do in this very messy world right now.
And without an ambassador, we don't have access to the senior leaders.
We don't have the coordinating function that an ambassador has to play.
So we're really tying both our hands behind our back.
AMNA NAWAZ: Let me ask you about some of those blocks and hold on the nominations from the Senate.
There's a notable one from Senator Marco Rubio, who's holding up the confirmation of Ambassador Nick Burns to go to China.
He has concerns over his business relationships there.
But at the forefront of a lot of the Republican pushback are two senators, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas.
Hawley's concerns are that he wants to see Secretary Blinken resign after the Afghanistan withdrawal.
And Cruz's concerns are that he wants to see sanctions against a natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.
They're not objecting to the qualifications of the nominees, though.
And I wonder how usual that is in the process.
ERIC RUBIN: Well, that's actually the strongest argument, I think, for moving forward, is, obviously, senators have policy concerns.
That's the whole reason the Senate has the right of advice and consent on nominees.
So individual concerns, individual holds have always been part of the process.
It's this concept of just saying nobody is going to be confirmed, that we're not going to send anyone out -- or, in a few cases, we have - - for former senators, for former senatorial spouses, there are a few people who have been confirmed.
But, as Secretary Blinken said in his statement, the numbers are unprecedentedly low.
And our argument is not with any specific concerns, and we don't get into policy issues.
We just think that America needs strong diplomacy, needs strong representation overseas.
And to do that, we can't -- can't not fill our ambassadorships.
And no other country - - it's important to say, no other country does this.
And the days when America could simply assume that whatever peculiarities that we have in our process would just be understood and accepted by the rest of the world, I think those days are past.
We need to get our game up and get the ambassadors out to the field as soon as we can.
AMNA NAWAZ: That is Eric Rubin, former ambassador of the U.S. to Bulgaria and president of the American Foreign Service Association.
Ambassador Rubin, thanks for making the time to be with us.
ERIC RUBIN: It's a pleasure to be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: During this holiday season, as people spend more time in the kitchen, we look at a twist in cuisine that is taking social media by storm.
Jeffrey Brown explores the magic behind The Korean Vegan, as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO, Author, "The Korean Vegan": This is my grandmother, who taught me how to tie my shoes, who taught me how to swing while standing up, who taught me this very kimbap recipe I'm making right now.
JEFFREY BROWN: It's not your typical cooking tutorial.
Joanne Lee Molinaro, AKA, The Korean Vegan, does offer up exquisite dishes.
But her popular specialty, story time videos that have attracted nearly four million followers on social media.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I thought it was a great vehicle to sort of share a little bit of insight in what I hope is a very palatable way, if you will, about the immigrant story in the United States, because I think it is a beautiful story.
And I think it's one that hopefully can be celebrated.
JEFFREY BROWN: Molinaro's stories tell of her grandmother's harrowing escape with her infant son, Joanne's father, from what would soon become North Korea.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: My mom made it very clear to me that she was embarrassed about certain aspects of our culture.
JEFFREY BROWN: And of her own experience growing up in America, where her family's culture and food weren't always accepted.
We joined her for shopping at a Manhattan H Mart, a Korean grocery chain.
She's not a trained chef.
She is an attorney, working full-time until very recently for a high-powered Chicago firm.
But Joanne Lee's life changed when she met and married Anthony Molinaro, who convinced her to go vegan in 2016.
She decided to adapt the food she'd grown up with.
And social media, Instagram and then TikTok, became her way to reach people with her new passion.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I did see how social media could be used to bring people together, and that's really the point of The Korean Vegan, is bringing people together, bringing families together, bringing colleagues together, friends together over some really delicious food.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now she's collected her stories and recipes into her first cookbook, "The Korean vegan: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's" -- or mom's -- "Kitchen," all plant-based.
But even she was uncertain in the beginning.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I was very skeptical.
Can you even be vegan and Korean at the same time?
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, it's a real question, right?
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: Yes.
If I can't eat Korean food and be plant-based at the same time, then it's not a choice.
So, the question that I set out to answer when I started cooking more was, well, can - - is there a way to adjust the ingredients, the recipes, tweak them here and there, so they still taste like the food I grew up eating, but don't have any animal products, and it is a little bit healthier?
And that's really how it all started.
So, I'm chopping up some carrots right now to add to our tteokbokki, which is... JEFFREY BROWN: We got a demonstration and taste of what it became.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: So, tteok means rice cake.
That's right here.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
And bokki is kind of a reference to bokk-eun, which means fried.
A little bit of gochugaru, which is Korean pepper powder.
We have got gochujang, which is the main sauce that you're going to use for this particular sauce.
So, we have got here just a lot of vegetables and some zucchini.
We also have the aromatics, some onions and some garlic.
JEFFREY BROWN: Then things came together quickly.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: So, I have made you a bowl, which has the rice, right, because every Korean meal starts with rice.
And then we have some braised potatoes, or gamja jorim.
We have some dubu jeon, which is like tofu pancakes.
And then we have the star dish that you helped me prepare.
JEFFREY BROWN: That I -- of course.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: Expertly helped me prepare.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, I stared intently while you made it.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: Yes.
And that's why it's going to taste so good.
JEFFREY BROWN: The rice cake, with spice.
We did a good job.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: You did an excellent job.
It turned out perfect.
JEFFREY BROWN: And in the family history, there's more.
Like many immigrant families, the Lees didn't speak much of the past, and only as an adult did Molinaro learn some of what her parents had experienced as children in the aftermath of the Korean War, as when her mother one day exclaimed that her favorite food is baked sweet potato, because it had sustained her as a refugee living in South Korea.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I was like, I have literally never heard you say the word refugee in my life before.
What do you mean you were one?
She said: "Oh, I was born in North Korea."
(LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: What's the larger story that you're telling us through these videos?
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I really wanted to honor my parents through these stories.
That is, I think, like my heart's passion is sharing the stories of my mom and dad and making them feel like their stories matter.
These are stories that I think are so beautiful.
But I also think they're stories that show everyone, no matter what color you are, how old you are, what your background is or what your food looks or smells like, that there are some things that we all share in common.
The more hate crimes that are prosecuted and result in conviction, the harder it becomes for lawmakers to ignore the underlying cause of hate crimes.
JEFFREY BROWN: She's also ready and willing to mix it up, pushing back hard when she sees anything smacking of bias against Koreans or Asian Americans generally.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I still feel that some people look at me, they look at my food, they look at my hair color, they look at the shape of my eyes and say, foreigner, she's not American.
You know, I have been told so many times, go back home to where you came from.
Well, that's Chicago, Illinois.
(LAUGHTER) JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I was born and raised there.
So, there is that sort of thing that I still have to contend with, I feel like.
And on the other side of that is this mainstream acceptance of "Squid Game."
Everybody's talking about "Squid Game," the Korean drama.
JEFFREY BROWN: Of course, yes.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: I love that.
I love that people are opening their hearts and their minds and their palates to things that, like I said, might be outside of their normal experience.
I think what I'm trying to convey is, I am American.
These are the foods that I eat.
I spoke Korean when I was growing up with my grandmother.
I spoke English when I started going to school.
This is very everyday life in a Korean-American household.
And while it may seem a little different, it's still just as American as anything else.
JEFFREY BROWN: You're saying, this is an American food.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: For me, it is, because I'm Korean-American, and I made this food, and this is what we ate in America.
(LAUGHTER) JEFFREY BROWN: In Chicago, Illinois.
JOANNE LEE MOLINARO: In Chicago, Illinois.
JEFFREY BROWN: And now with a Korean, vegan twist.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And I'm hungry after looking at all that great food.
And on the "NewsHour" online: We check back in with Sandra Lindsay.
She is the New York nurse who one year ago today became the first American to receive the COVID vaccine outside of clinical trials.
You can hear what she says about our progress against the virus and the Omicron variant.
That's on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And that is 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 we'll see you soon.