December 15, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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December 15, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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12/15/2021 | 56m 45s | Video has closed captioning.
December 15, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: raising rates.
The chair of the Federal Reserve signals an earlier increase in interest rates, as inflation surges.
Then: picking up the pieces.
President Biden visits Western Kentucky, as the region undertakes a fifth arduous day of recovery.
Plus: COVID's toll.
More than 800,000 Americans have already lost their lives to COVID-19, as hospitals brace for another potential wave from the Omicron variant.
And heightened tensions.
China's increased focus on Taiwan sparks a debate in the U.S. about how and if the United States can protect the island.
RICHARD HAASS, President, Council on Foreign Relations: China has built up its military significantly.
It's got real capabilities to overwhelm Taiwan if left alone.
And there's real doubts in China's mind about America's willingness to come to Taiwan's aid.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Federal Reserve officials announced they are prepared to fight inflation with a series of interest rate hikes next year, suggesting it will begin earlier than they projected just months ago.
The Fed's benchmark rate, which affects borrowing, lending and economic growth, has been near zero since the start of the pandemic, in an effort to boost the recovery.
But, today, Fed Chair Jay Powell said there could be as many as three rate hikes next year, starting next spring, in an effort to cool persistent rising prices.
JEROME POWELL, Federal Reserve Chairman: High inflation imposes significant hardship, especially on those least able to meet the higher costs of essentials, like food, housing and transportation.
We are committed to our price stability goal.
We will use our tools both to support the economy and a strong labor market and to prevent higher inflation from becoming entrenched.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Fed also announced that it will scale back even further its efforts to stimulate the economy though major bond purchases.
For more on these moves and their potential impact, we turn to Julia Coronado.
She is an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, the founder of the firm MacroPolicy Perspectives, and she is a former economist for the Fed.
Julie Coronado, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
This is a pretty dramatic announcement.
Why is the Fed doing this?
JULIA CORONADO, University of Texas at Austin: Well, the message from Chair Powell today was, it's not just about inflation that has been running pretty high in recent months, but the labor market is really strong.
The economy is basically running pretty hot.
We have seen the unemployment rate drop substantially.
We have seen really significant wage gains.
Interest-sensitive sectors, like housing, are running really strong.
So the economy doesn't need as much support for monetary policy as it once did.
Despite all the turbulence from the ongoing waves of COVID, the economy is doing really well, and the Fed has concluded that it needs to start pulling back, start stepping away.
It's not trying to kill the recovery.
It's just trying to cool things off and, again, keep that inflation in check, as the clip you just played indicated.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So what effect is the increase in interest rates expected to have on the economy?
JULIA CORONADO: Well, over time, as the Fed raises interest rates, consumers should see somewhat higher interest rates for mortgage loans, for car loans, and businesses should see maybe some tighter terms to obtain financing.
We have seen really easy financial conditions in the last year, and so we should expect to see a bit tighter conditions and a little bit higher prices to obtain credit, in particular.
So, it's those credit-sensitive sectors that the Fed would like to see cool down just a little bit.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And the other thing the Fed announced is, they are shrinking these monthly bond purchases.
They are going to be doing this much faster than they had said.
How is that going to affect the economy?
JULIA CORONADO: Same channels.
The bond purchases work by lowering, putting downward pressure on longer-term interest rates after they have lowered short-term interest rates to zero.
So, as they back away from these purchases, we should see some of those longer-term interest rates move higher.
And, also, there are spillovers to other areas of the financial markets.
The stock market's been really -- running really strong.
We have seen a lot of you might call it froth in areas like cryptocurrencies.
And that kind of sort of enthusiasm may seem -- see some cooling as the Fed stops injecting liquidity into financial markets.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Are most analysts at this stage saying that these are the right moves at the right time, that -- and the right pace?
JULIA CORONADO: Yes, well, there's a lot of mixed views.
And let's be clear.
The uncertainty around even just next year continues to be really, really high, given the pandemic, given different calibrated potential outcomes for fiscal policy.
So there's different views, .
But the markets took the Fed's announcement actually, extraordinarily well, surprisingly well, given that they were unambiguously declaring the easing of policy is going to be in the rearview mirror soon.
So there isn't really any indication from financial markets that the Fed is either tightening too soon or even really that it's tightening too late.
So, right now, they're giving the Fed a lot of credibility.
And there's no real indications of turmoil or concern that they're about to kill the recovery.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To what extent did you -- you listened to the Fed chair today.
To what extent did you hear him acknowledge that the Fed had been misreading the economy over the last year?
JULIA CORONADO: Chair Powell was actually very forthcoming.
And he's been pretty clear all along that this is an unprecedented economic environment.
We have never been in a global pandemic.
When it looked like the global economy was sliding into a depression, the Fed and fiscal policy-makers threw everything they had at it.
And the other side of that may be that we have got a recovery that's a little hotter than they anticipated.
And so they're recalibrating policy accordingly.
But he's been very clear that they don't have any magic wand.
They don't have a crystal ball.
They're reading things as best as they can.
Part of the idea that inflation was going to be transitory was that so much of it has come from supply chain disruptions, things like semiconductor shortages that have pushed car prices higher, rather than sort of wages and a broad base of prices.
That dynamic is shifting a little bit, and that's one of the reasons that they have shifted strategy a little bit.
So they're going to continue to be very flexible as we move forward, given the uncertainty.
Things can -- the economy can involve in -- evolve in unanticipated ways.
And they will be there to recalibrate policy accordingly, with the ultimate objective of a long, stable expansion, like we had last time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we heard him say -- use that word stable, stability.
Finally, how soon should consumers who are listening to this and watching expect to feel that things are changing?
JULIA CORONADO: Well, it's going to be a gradual process.
So they have sped it up, but they're still indicating three rate hikes for next year.
That means it could come -- they're going to end their bond purchases in March.
So we could see rate hikes in June.
Maybe June, September and December would be a reasonable baseline expectation.
So you could start to see rates creeping higher over the next year.
So, again, this is not a ripping off the Band-Aid.
This is a gradual, more methodical removal of accommodation that consumers will feel over time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Julia Coronado, thank you very much.
JULIA CORONADO: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we move from economic recovery to tornado recovery.
It has been five days since twisters shattered towns and killed 88 people across Kentucky and neighboring states.
Another person died today of a heart attack while cleaning up storm debris.
That came as the region got a presidential visit.
Stephanie St reports.
STEPHANIE SY: The scope of destruction was on full display as President Biden traveled to Western Kentucky to see for himself.
Five tornadoes blasted the region last Friday, including one that cut a roughly 200-mile-long path.
The president began his visit meeting with local leaders at Fort Campbell and commenting on how the tragedy was uniting communities.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: There's no red tornadoes or blue tornadoes.
There's no red states or blue states when this stuff starts to happen.
And I think, at least in my experience, it either brings people together or it really knocks them apart.
And they are moving together here.
STEPHANIE SY: Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said more than 600 members of the National Guard are assisting in the 18 counties that were hit.
ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): It's something that feels pretty therapeutic.
We're actually hauling some of this debris out of town, hauling a little bit of that chaos and devastation and death out of town.
STEPHANIE SY: From Fort Campbell, Biden visited the town of Mayfield, which was almost all flattened.
Melinda Gouin is one of dozens of now-homeless tornado victims staying at this community shelter.
MELINDA GOUIN, Resident of Mayfield, Kentucky: Three minutes, you walk outside, your town doesn't even look like a town anymore.
It's nothing but rubble, you know?
Some of those buildings, they carry your story.
They carry your memories.
And they're on the ground.
There's nothing left of them.
It's heartbreaking to see that.
STEPHANIE SY: Ray McReynolds' apartment complex for seniors in downtown Mayfield is also gone.
RAY MCREYNOLDS, Resident of Mayfield, Kentucky: Everybody lost everything.
The worst thing we need about now is, we need money, because we don't have no place to live, and we don't have the money to rent another place.
STEPHANIE SY: Seventy miles northeast of Mayfield, a similar story in Dawson Springs.
Some 75 percent of the town was destroyed, and it may be a month before residents and businesses get their electricity back.
To make matters worse, a third of the 2, 500 residents fall below the poverty line, and many don't have insurance.
JOE BIDEN: With the shock of losing a home and business, the grief of losing someone, it's happening right before the holidays, as I said.
And we're going to make sure that you have all the help you need.
STEPHANIE SY: For every tale of grief emerges a story of giving.
Reina Guerra Perez has opened her small home to no less than five families.
REINA GUERRA PEREZ, Resident of Mayfield, Kentucky (through translator): There are 26 of us sheltered in my house.
Some of them are out helping, but they're all back by the afternoon after they help clean up the destruction with some neighbors' houses.
STEPHANIE SY: Her home survived, but she doesn't have water or electricity.
What they do have, she says, is each other.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: A new storm front brought record warmth, dust storms and the risk of tornadoes across states from the West to the Great Plains.
Temperatures topped 70 degrees in some places.
Winds gusted to more than 100 miles an hour in Colorado and whipped up dust that took visibility to zero and knocked out power.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans lifted a nationwide ban today on a federal COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers.
The court left the ban in place for the 14 states that sued to block the mandate.
It's blocked in 10 other states, under a separate injunction.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles schools have postponed a January deadline for students who are 12 and older to be vaccinated.
The new deadline is next fall.
There are also new signs that the Omicron variant is rapidly gaining ground.
U.S. health officials said today that the Delta variant still accounts for most cases, but that Omicron is catching up.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC Director: In looking at early data on transmissibility of Omicron from other countries, we expect to see the proportion of Omicron cases here in the United States continue to grow in the coming weeks.
Early data suggests that Omicron is more transmissible then Delta, with a doubling time of about two days.
JUDY WOODRUFF: European Union officials predicted today that Omicron will become the dominant strain across the continent by mid-January.
Data so far suggests that the new variant is more contagious, but that most cases are less severe.
The death toll has reached 75 in Haiti, after a fuel truck explosion late Monday.
Residents in the northern city of Cap-Haitien walked amongst the rubble and charred debris today.
Early reports say the tanker swerved to avoid a motorcycle, and then flipped and exploded.
In Hong Kong, firefighters averted disaster today and saved 770 people from a skyscraper that caught fire.
Smoke billowed -- started billowing from the 38-story building in the early afternoon.
Firefighters used extendable ladders to reach people on a lower floor.
The cause was under investigation.
Back in this country, the U.S. Senate gave final approval to the National Defense Authorization Act.
It calls for $770 billion in spending.
That's about 5 percent more than last year.
The bill includes a pay raise for troops, military aid to Ukraine and a new initiative against China's moves in the Pacific.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): With both China and Russia flexing their military power and the growing danger of a further Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is critically important that we ensure that our nation is always prepared to defend itself and our vital national interests, whatever the threat.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The measure also takes responsibility for prosecuting sexual assaults and some other crimes out of the hands of military commanders.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty today to violating George Floyd's civil rights.
Chauvin is already serving a 22-year prison term for a state murder conviction in Floyd's death last year.
The maximum sentence on the federal civil rights charge is 25 years.
New York City is getting its first female police commissioner and the first Black head of the department since the 1990s.
Keechant Sewell was tapped today to lead the nation's largest police force.
She is currently chief of detectives for Nassau County in New York.
On Wall Street, stocks rallied on the Federal Reserve's moves to control inflation.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 383 points, 1 percent, to close at 35927.
The Nasdaq rose 328 points, 2 percent.
The S&P 500 added 75.
That's more than 1.5 percent.
And they marked a centennial in Paris today 100 years since the Bloody Mary was invented.
The famed watering hole Harry's Bar is believed to have mixed the first of the vodka-tomato juice concoctions in 1921.
Today, it serves 12,000 Bloody Marys a year.
That's a lot.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": how melting ice at the Earth's poles could create and cause a drastic rise in sea levels; a mountaineering group aims to be the first all-Black team to climb Everest; remembering the prolific author and activist bell hooks; and much more.
As the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly, top federal health officials warn it could bring a massive wave of new infections to the U.S. as early as January.
John Yang has our report.
JOHN YANG: Judy, there are now confirmed cases of Omicron in at least 36 states.
The CDC estimates the new variant represents about 3 percent of positive U.S. cases.
Dr. Saad Omer is an epidemiologist and the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.
Dr. Omer, thanks so much for being with us.
Given what we know about Omicron, or, maybe more important, what we don't know, how concerned should people be about it, and how -- and should we expect Omicron to become the dominant strain?
DR. SAAD OMER, Director, Yale Institute for Global Health: So, here's what we know.
We know that it is a highly infectious strain.
We know that it evades immunity, especially by two doses of the vaccines we use, but we also know that it responds to three doses.
So people have better protection with three doses of vaccine.
What we don't know is how severe it will be.
So there are two ways of looking at severity.
You look at severity at the individual level.
It seems there are very early signals that there may be sort of at least the same or less severity per infection.
But at the population level, if something is more infectious, it's three times more infectious and half as severe, it will still produce more hospitalizations.
So I'm just giving you an example, so there - - that, from a public health perspective, public health authorities should absolutely be on alert.
From individual perspectives, we have a lot of self-efficacy.
We can -- we're not helpless in the face of this new variant.
We can get vaccinated and boosted.
We can take other precautions in the interest of public health and personal protection, like testing before gatherings, including family gatherings, like wearing masks, like having good ventilation, et cetera.
JOHN YANG: Given what you said, that it may be more contagious, but less severe, but that will still result in a lot of hospitalizations, how worried are you about what apparently the CDC talks about as the worst-case scenario, the triple whammy of Omicron, Delta and seasonal flu?
DR. SAAD OMER: We may see a mixed picture.
Influenza, this is a season where people are mixing.
So, for the last couple of seasons, what has happened is, especially last season, there was a lot of social distancing that people had due to COVID.
Therefore, you didn't get that big a wave of influence.
So, it is a possibility, but it's not a certainty.
So there is some stochasticity.
So, there is an element of chance still there.
We are still learning about this variant, but also, again, as I said, we are not helpless bystanders in the face of this virus.
JOHN YANG: You have talked and written a lot about misinformation, about the role of misinformation in what's going on.
What's your prescription to fight that?
DR. SAAD OMER: Well, that's a really good question.
So, I think the prescription to fight that is, first of all, at the overall government level, there are a lot -- a lot of interventions governments can do, including the U.S. government.
There's a really nice surgeon general's report that actually lays out a road map for responding to misinformation and disinformation at various levels, from the federal to the state to the local government.
So, without going into the details of that report, that's a good recipe for that.
At the individual level, what we can do is, for our friends and family, to make sure that they have access to the right information.
So, the second thing is, we should be argumentative.
The third thing is, we should lead with facts and empathy, rather than our instinct to correct the disinformation and, by doing so, repeating the disinformation.
And then the last thing is to have a long engagement with our loved ones who have misinformation or disinformation readily accessible, rather than the expectation that, in one righteous conversation, we're going to convert people to the cause of vaccination and actually sort of remove them all to the -- from the all the exposure they have to misinformation and disinformation around COVID and vaccines specifically.
JOHN YANG: Dr. Saad Omer of the Yale Institute for Global Health, thank you very much.
DR. SAAD OMER: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There's troubling new research about the impact that climate change is having on both of Earth's polar regions, and how that could affect people all over the world.
William Brangham has the latest.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That's right, Judy.
A warming atmosphere is creating serious problems in the Arctic Circle and on the continent of Antarctica.
The Arctic Report Card is out.
High temperatures, shrinking sea ice and extreme melting events are transforming the region.
And at the opposite pole, in Antarctica, a key ice shelf that sits in front of the Thwaites Glacier could break up much sooner than expected, within five years.
Joining me now is David Holland.
He studies atmospheric and ocean sciences at New York University, and is a leading researcher on the global initiative that's studying the Thwaites Glacier.
David Holland, great to have you back on the "NewsHour."
I should explain why you look so dapper tonight.
You are being elected a fellow in the American Geophysical Union at their conference in New Orleans.
Viewers might remember that the last time we saw you on the "NewsHour," you were on the Thwaites Glacier itself doing research there.
Can you help us understand what this most recent research showed?
DAVID HOLLAND, New York University: Yes.
We have been seeing for the last couple of decades a large change in Antarctica and, in particular, on this one glacier called Thwaites in West Antarctica.
And it's a very special place here because it's marine-based.
It's actually largely in the ocean.
And the ocean can, in theory, easily melt it.
And so that is what actually now looks it's coming to pass.
Warm ocean waters have arrived at this glacier, and they're melting it like crazy.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As I was saying, it is the ice shelf that sits in front of Thwaites that is in particular jeopardy.
Why do we care about the ice shelf, as opposed to the glacier itself?
DAVID HOLLAND: Maybe one way to think of it is like if you think of a bottle of water with a cork, and all the water in the bottle is the water that represents all the potential sea level rise from Thwaites.
And the cork is the ice shelf.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I see.
And so the breakup of that ice shelf itself would lead to Thwaites moving more quickly into the water.
DAVID HOLLAND: Exactly right.
Effectively, there'd be nothing to hold it back.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, if that ice shelf were to break up, and Thwaites were to move into the ocean, what kind of impacts are we talking about?
DAVID HOLLAND: It would be absolutely massive, on the time scale of the last century, what we'd seen.
We would see a dramatic rise of several feet of sea level.
And it could be Thwaites itself perhaps two to three feet, but Thwaites is holding back its neighbors.
And they, too, could fall apart, raising sea level by an additional maybe six feet, so, altogether, something of scale 10 feet.
And if you try to wrap your head around that, we're talking around the entire Earth, the entire ocean.
It's a massive amount of water.
It's a rewriting of the global coastline in that sense.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, we're talking about hundreds of millions of people all over the Earth who are living on those coastlines that are then facing inundation, flooding and having to move, having to migrate.
DAVID HOLLAND: Absolutely.
So, surely, in the past, as we look back in records, sea level at the end of the last Ice Age was down 300 feet, or something of that scale.
And it has since come up that.
So it naturally changes on the planet by big numbers.
This could be a relatively large change, but in short order, and perhaps with our fingerprint on it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So I'd like to switch to the other polar region, to the Arctic Circle.
And this recent Arctic Report Card that came out referred to the disappearance of sea ice, rising temperatures there, extreme melting events on the ice sheets of Greenland.
What stood out to you in that report?
DAVID HOLLAND: I started my Ph.D. Actually working in the north on the Arctic.
When I started in the early '90s not a human being on Earth would have said the Arctic will ever change in our lifetime.
And then, within a decade, it began to fall apart.
And it's been the largest change on the planet, perhaps, with half of the Arctic sea ice now gone.
But what really struck me in the report were the ramifications of that change, for example, more shipping, and thus more noise in the ocean, disturbing marine mammals, a change in the vegetation, a change in species.
Now, apparently, animals like beavers have moved into Alaska.
So it's all a change and it's a disruption to what was there.
It's very significant.
And it goes beyond just the melting of the ice.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And, broadly speaking, I know there's lots of influences in these regions, but we're talking about changes that are being driven both in Antarctica and in the Arctic because we burn oil and gas and coal, and it is warming the atmosphere.
Is that right?
DAVID HOLLAND: I would have been the first to -- when I started my career, I found that really difficult to believe.
And -- however, data and modeling outcomes now make it almost certain that that is the case.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, David Holland of New York University, thank you.
Very good to see you.
And congratulations again on your honor today.
DAVID HOLLAND: Thank you so much, William.
Have a great day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A group of mountaineers is aiming to make history and inspire others in a field not known for its diversity.
Amna Nawaz reports.
AMNA NAWAZ: Most days for Dom Mullins start like this, runs through the woods, workouts in his makeshift gym, and post-exercise plunges into a freezing cold pond.
It's a grueling regimen, all to prepare to climb a mountain synonymous with the ultimate challenge, Mount Everest.
DOM MULLINS, Full Circle Everest: To climb a mountain like Everest, you need to have a lot of endurance.
So that's what I'm doing.
I'm building my endurance over time.
AMNA NAWAZ: Mullins, who has been climbing for more than a decade, is part of a group that aims to become the first all-Black team to summit the world's highest mountain.
Called Full Circle Everest, the team of 10 experienced mountaineers and climbers from the United States and Kenya is set to climb Everest next spring.
NARRATOR: Two unassuming men have climbed the 29,000-foot monarch of the Himalayas.
AMNA NAWAZ: Since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary first climbed Everest in 1953, around 6,000 have followed in their footsteps.
But the team says only 10 of those have been Black.
As you were making your way up through the years, did you see or know a lot of other Black climbers?
DOM MULLINS: Actually, I knew none.
(LAUGHTER) AMNA NAWAZ: None?
DOM MULLINS: I knew none.
So, the -- in fact, the only Black climbers that have ever been within the mountains are all on the Full Circle Everest mountaineering team, yes.
Lots of people would remark when they would see me in the mountains, like, wow, I have never seen a Black person climbing before.
I have never seen a Black person in the mountains.
AMNA NAWAZ: People would say that to you.
DOM MULLINS: Oh, absolutely.
AMNA NAWAZ: The numbers reflect Mullins' experience.
Black people make up just nine percent of all those who participate in outdoor recreation in the U.S., and just 1 percent of the climbing community.
Mullins, an Iraq War veteran, was introduced to climbing through his work in veterans organizations.
He says it helped fill a void left by the military.
DOM MULLINS: It was a part of my identity.
To be able to meet an obstacle, to be able to discipline myself enough to overcome it, and then achieve that thing gave me pride in myself.
And so climbing became this other another vehicle in my life for that same process.
AMNA NAWAZ: When you think back to that very first climb you did, not knowing what was ahead, not knowing what it would take, do you think you would have ever known back then that you would be attempting to summit Everest these years later?
(LAUGHTER) DOM MULLINS: Absolutely not.
(LAUGHTER) DOM MULLINS: Absolutely not.
AMNA NAWAZ: By attempting to scale Mount Everest, he hopes to inspire others to connect with the outdoors and highlight the access barriers Black communities often face.
DOM MULLINS: There was absolutely no one that I knew in my community that even hiked or camped outside.
If you don't have people who are -- who live within proximity to you that you can learn certain things from, then you don't learn those things.
AMNA NAWAZ: The cost too is a hurdle.
Full Circle Everest has so far raised more than half-a-million dollars from sponsors and fund-raising to make their summit attempt possible.
Team lead Philip Henderson: PHILIP HENDERSON, Full Circle Everest: Everest expeditions don't happen unless you have sponsorship or you're pretty wealthy, you have made a lot of money.
That's the only way it happens.
So, for most people, especially in those communities that are underrepresented in the outdoor community, for most people, Everest is untouchable.
AMNA NAWAZ: Conditions on Everest have been under scrutiny in recent years, record numbers of climbers raising concerns of overcrowding, and 11 climbers dying over a two-week period in 2019.
A recent study actually found, despite crowds, the rate of deaths for Everest climbers has slightly decreased over the last two decades.
Despite safety worries, Henderson, who attempted to summit Everest in 2012, is confident.
PHILIP HENDERSON: I know that people die on Everest every year.
They always have.
We look at managing the risk the best we can, knowing that there are a lot of things that are out of your control.
But the things that are within our control is what really makes a difference.
AMNA NAWAZ: Mullins too believes all the preparation will pay off in Nepal.
DOM MULLINS: I have had so many hurdles as you do when you're training for something like this.
But it's meeting those hurdles and overcoming them that really allows you a certain belief in your ability for the main event.
AMNA NAWAZ: Reaching for new heights and forging a new path for others to follow.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense warned that Chinese military exercises now being conducted could be cover for a future invasion.
China's President Xi Jinping has said he wants to reunite with Taiwan peacefully, but Beijing has increased the pace of its exercises and boosted its capacity to invade Taiwan.
That has led to questions about how the United States would or should respond if Beijing tries to take over.
Here's Nick Schifrin with more.
NICK SCHIFRIN: On Chinese army videos, the world's largest military practices launching missiles quickly.
Chinese Navy drills improve ships' ability to fight combat.
And a slickly produced package shows off soldiers rehearsing amphibious assaults and beach landings.
The unmistakable target, Taiwan.
The island is across the Taiwan Strait about 100-miles-wide.
And Taiwan has its own islands just off mainland China's coast.
Taiwan worries China could turn these exercises that Chinese TV releases with English-language subtitles into a surprise attack to reunify Taiwan with China, which has been a dream of Beijing's for decades.
NARRATOR: In Formosa, 80 miles from the China coast, Chiang Kai-shek presides over his defeated nationalist remnants.
NICK SCHIFRIN: In 1949, General Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang party fled to Taiwan, then called Formosa, after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's mainland communists.
Communist China never controlled Taiwan, but has always considered Taiwan a breakaway province.
For decades, Taiwanese lived under martial law, and the island was a one-party state.
But in the last 30 years, Taiwan has tried to create a multiparty democracy with respect for rule of law, human rights, and a booming economy.
Last year, President Tsai Ing-wen was reelected on a platform of protecting Taiwan from Chinese domination.
Today, she highlights U.S. military and diplomatic support.
TSAI ING-WEN, Taiwanese President (through translator): This collaboration between the defense industries of Taiwan and the United States signifies the solid vow of partnership.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But the requirements of that partnership are deliberately ambiguous.
In the early 1970s, President Nixon and national security adviser Henry Kissinger launched U.S.-People's Republic of China diplomacy.
In a joint communique, the U.S. acknowledged - - quote -- "All Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China."
In January 1979, President Carter officially normalized relations with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and broke relations with Taipei.
But he also signed the Taiwan Relations Act that says: "The United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."
The act is ambiguous about the U.S. military responding to a Chinese invasion.
But in an October CNN town hall, President Biden seemed to end that ambiguity.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: So, are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if China attacked?
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: Yes.
Yes, we have a commitment to do that.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki immediately walked that back.
JEN PSAKI, White House Press Secretary: Well, there has been no shift.
The president was not announcing any change in our policy, nor has he made a decision to change our policy.
NICK SCHIFRIN: So, should the United States be more clear about whether or not it would defend Taiwan?
Should the U.S. even come to Taiwan's defense?
For that, we get three views.
Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served in a number of jobs at the State Department and National Security Council staff since the 1980s.
Bonnie Glaser is the director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund.
She's written extensively about U.S.-China relations.
And Charles Glaser, not related to Bonnie Glaser, is professor of political science and director of the Institute for Security and Conflict at George Washington University.
Welcome to all three of you.
Thank you very much.
Richard Haass, let me start with you.
Has U.S. policy of ambiguity about whether it would defend Taiwan from Chinese invasion run its course?
RICHARD HAASS, President, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, it's worked well for about four decades.
The Chinese have not been able to dismiss the possibility we would come to Taiwan's defense.
Taiwan could not be assured we would, and that's kept everybody essentially on their heels a bit.
The problem now is, China has built up its military significantly.
It's got real capabilities to overwhelm Taiwan if left alone.
And there's real doubts in China's mind about America's willingness to come to Taiwan's aid.
They look at what's happened in Afghanistan.
They look earlier at what we did with the Kurds, the red line and Syria, how we didn't respond to Hong Kong, how we didn't respond to Crimea.
So there's a lot of people in China who think there's a major opportunity.
So I would essentially say we need to be much more explicit about our willingness to come to Taiwan's defense.
Our allies in the region, Japan, Australia and others, are expecting that, want to see that.
And I much prefer to deter China through certainty, through specificity, through clarity, rather than leaving this up to ambiguity.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Bonnie Glaser, deter China through specificity?
BONNIE GLASER, German Marshall Fund: Well, Richard makes the assumption that strategic clarity would deter China, and I would argue that it would likely provoke China.
I think that Beijing would view the U.S. stance of strategic clarity as reneging on the understandings reached between our two countries when we normalized relations in 1979, which included breaking our mutual defense treaty with Taiwan, under which we had an ironclad commitment to Taiwan's defense.
So I agree with Richard, in that he has argued that the United States has to make significant investments in developing capabilities to defend Taiwan.
But, right now, we have questions about whether or not we can come to Taiwan's defense.
So, perhaps the most dangerous thing we would do would be to say, yes, we will under all circumstances defend Taiwan, but then not have the capability to do so.
We might tempt China to take that action today, rather than postpone it until the future.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Charles Glaser, should the U.S. defend Taiwan at all?
CHARLIE GLASER, The George Washington University: I think it's actually time to reconsider that commitment.
And I think we should actually break our commitment.
The key issues have already been touched on in a certain way, which is that China's much more capable.
The leadership is much more determined to achieve its sovereignty aims, its identity aims.
And so I wouldn't say war is likely in the next few years, but I wouldn't say it's unlikely over the next couple of decades.
And that's going to be a large war.
It's a war that could escalate to nuclear war.
And I think, on net, giving U.S. interests, the risks are too large, the risk being the probability of war and then the potentially huge costs of a large conventional war and a war -- that war could go nuclear.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Richard Haass, pick up on that point.
Is Taiwan important enough to risk war?
RICHARD HAASS: Let me disagree with both my colleagues.
Taiwan is important enough.
At stake is the entire American position in the critical -- this critical part of the world, where a lot of 21st century history is going to be written.
It begins with our relationship with Japan.
If the United States is not there for Taiwan, we not only allow a democracy to disappear, the principal producer of semiconductors to come under China's sway.
China would gain strategically in terms of its ability to use Taiwan that as a forward base.
But Japan and other countries would conclude they could no longer rely on us.
And I think you would either see appeasement of China or the nuclear proliferation in places like Japan.
So, what we would do is take what has been the most stable, successful region of the world and turn it into anything but.
Let me just disagree with Bonnie on an important point.
There is nothing that is inconsistent with the one-China policy, with our commitments to China by the United States articulating a position of strategic clarity.
She's right it just can't be verbal.
We should tell China, this is -- we're not supporting Taiwan's independence.
This is not a two-China policy.
We continue to be committed to a good relationship with you, if you, in turn, are committed to the same.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Bonnie Glaser, could the U.S. be more explicit and maintain one-China policy?
BONNIE GLASER: I believe, again, that we would provoke an attack from China if we did so.
I think that the Chinese know that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense.
Richard and others have argued that, in fact, the Chinese could miscalculate.
I think that all the PLA modernization over the last few decades has been based on the assumption that the United States is likely to intervene in a war in Taiwan.
I believe that we should wait until the contingency arises and allow the president the flexibility to determine based on circumstances.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Charles Glaser, why not wait?
Why not maintain that flexibility, as Bonnie Glaser just said?
CHARLES GLASER: I think the ideal policy is a clearly conditional commitment, one that's clear that we will protect Taiwan if it's attacked by China, an unprovoked attack, but, at the same time, clear to Taiwan that we will not come to Taiwan's aid if Taiwan provokes the attack by declaring independence or moving too close to China's red lines.
But I'd like to return to Richard's point about that -- essentially, that if we break the commitment to Taiwan, we're giving up in East Asia.
And I think this greatly exaggerates the risk.
We can explain to Japan and other allies that Taiwan is very different than they are, from the U.S. perspective, and, most importantly, from China's perspective.
China does not think Japan is part of China.
Second, we can do many things to make clear that our commitment to Japan and our other East Asian allies stands, including increasing our defense spending, increasing the tightness of the alliances and so forth.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Richard Haass, could the U.S. explain the difference between Japan and Taiwan?
RICHARD HAASS: I think we're kidding ourselves.
If China's allowed to take Taiwan, and the United States does not respond, Japan, Australia, India and every other country in that part of the world, including South Korea, will recalibrate their dependence on the United States.
It gives China tremendous geographic and strategic advantages to pressure its neighbors.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Bonnie Glaser, I wonder if I could just in the last few minutes we have left zoom out a little bit.
Richard Haass mentioned Afghanistan, the withdrawal from there.
We have also seen a desire from multiple administrations to reduce the U.S. footprint in the Middle East.
There is a perception around the world that the U.S. is not committed as it once was.
How do you believe that affects the Taiwan question?
BONNIE GLASER: I don't believe that the Chinese draw the conclusion from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that the United States would not come to the defense of Taiwan.
Taiwan is extremely different from Afghanistan, as is Hong Kong.
Hong Kong was already part of China, having been returned to China in 1997.
So I think the United States has to make statements and actions that will ensure that China doesn't draw the wrong conclusion and see the U.S. as weak.
But we have many different ways of doing that that are -- fall short of a position of strategic clarity.
So, in other words, the U.S. government has to walk a very fine line.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Charles Glaser, can the U.S. thread that needle?
CHARLES GLASER: I'm not confident that, even if we thread it as well as we can, that we can avoid war over the next few decades.
We could get into a really large war with China over Taiwan, and it could be an extremely costly war.
And, hopefully, if we maintain our current policy, deterrence will work.
But it may not work.
There are a variety of reasons it could fail, no matter how well we manage that policy.
So I would come to the hard conclusion that we should break the commitment.
NICK SCHIFRIN: We will have to leave it there.
Charles Glaser, Bonnie Glaser, Richard Haass, thank you all very much.
RICHARD HAASS: Thank you.
CHARLES GLASER: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The influential critic, author and feminist bell hooks died today at the age of 69.
She was at home surrounded by friends and family.
Amna Nawaz is back with a look at her work and her legacy.
AMNA NAWAZ: Born Gloria Jean Watkins, bell hooks grew up in segregated Kentucky in the 1950s and '60s.
The daughter of a janitor and a maid, hooks left home to attend Stanford University, where she earned an English degree.
She went on to earn a Ph.D. and then authored more than 30 works under her pen name, which is taken from her great-grandmother.
Her prolific writing spanned poetry, essays, and children's books, examining the intersection of race, politics, and gender, and making her one of the most influential Black feminist scholars of the last half-century.
In 2004, hooks returned to Kentucky to teach at Berea College and later founded the bell hooks Institute there.
Here to talk more about her life and impact is Imani Perry.
She's the Hughes-Rogers professor of African American studies at Princeton University.
And, Professor Perry, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thank you for making the time.
IMANI PERRY, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African-American Studies, Princeton University: Thank you for having me.
AMNA NAWAZ: You reacted to the passing of bell hooks on Twitter by sharing this thought.
You wrote: "For exactly 30 years, she was not only an intellectual influence, but a presence in my life."
Professor Perry, tell us about the impact that bell hooks had on you.
IMANI PERRY: Well, I met her when I was 19 years old.
I was an intern at South End Press, where she published much of her work.
And she was a teacher to her core, even though I didn't have her in the classroom.
She brought ideas alive.
She is a person who bridged the space between high critical theory, European scholars and intellectuals, Marxist thinkers, and everyday life.
And she wrote and spoke in a way to make all of that theory applicable to our daily lives.
And, also, she wanted it to bear upon the way we thought of each other ethically, our relationships, our personal stories.
So, she was both an intellectual and she was also a kind of -- I don't know, a curate, like a person who tended to soles as an educator.
And so to be brought under her wing as a teenager was incredibly influential.
It allowed me to imagine how to live a life of the mind, but also how to pursue right relation to other human beings in my midst.
AMNA NAWAZ: So, as we mentioned, she was born Gloria Jean Watkins.
IMANI PERRY: Yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: She took the pen name bell hooks, which was her great-grandmother's name.
IMANI PERRY: Yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: What do we know about why did she take that name and why all lowercase when she used it?
IMANI PERRY: Yes.
She was -- it was consistent of leftist organizers of the era to think of one -- the individual in the lowercase, that one spoke in the collective, right?
So, her name was both an homage to her great-grandmother and the women who came before, but also with a kind of humility to choose the lower case.
And she was very much -- I mean, she traveled the world.
She had a massive influence.
She was a Southern country woman to her core.
And she never lost touch with that.
It was - - and so there was a kind of intimacy with that identity that she held on to through her pen name, as it were, but I always called her Gloria.
AMNA NAWAZ: And she mentioned those Southern roots, growing up at the intersection of racism and sexism.
She actually spoke about it in this 2016 talk at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin.
Take a listen to what she said.
BELL HOOKS, Author: I think that many of us as females find sexism so normalized, whereas people of color, Black, brown, whatever, when we hear a racist joke or racism spoken not as a joke, we really feel assaulted on our sensibilities, but sexism is such woven into the fabric of our daily lives that I think it's harder for people to resist.
AMNA NAWAZ: Professor Perry, how did that lived experience show up in her work?
IMANI PERRY: Well, she told a lot of stories from her own life.
She in many ways was an open book.
She allowed herself to be vulnerable.
And she contemplated.
So, the way that she engaged with people -- and she was outspoken, and she could be really challenging -- was to open that up that -- those - - to explore those questions of internalized sexism, internalized classism.
How do we love each other?
I mean, those -- so that kind of exploration was -- I mean, that was consistent with who she was.
And, for me, it allowed me to think all of the sort of academic things I was pursuing, they boiled down at -- to the very core about how we are going to live and how we're going to coexist on this planet, right?
I mean, that's who she was.
AMNA NAWAZ: It has been four decades since her first full-length book, "Ain't I a Woman?"
And you have to note that a lot of the ideas she brought up back then about Black women and feminism and white feminism and the intersection of race and sex and all these things, we're still talking about those things and grappling with them today.
IMANI PERRY: Oh, yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: What do you think the legacy of those ideas that she raised four decades ago is today?
IMANI PERRY: Well, I think her legacy is enormous.
And part of this incredible body of work that she created, the legacy that is found is, there's so many young people, the first time they start to think seriously about class, about sexuality, about gender, about identity, about vulnerability, about spirituality is through her work.
Her work has never gone out of press.
That "Ain't I a Woman?"
you can still purchase, right?
And so the legacy is actually in all of us who have been influenced by her work, not just in academia, in every sector of society, in organizing, in nonprofit worlds, in corporate America.
And so, I mean, it really has -- she has shaped several generations of thinkers and of people who are members of communities.
And so I hope that, at this moment, it becomes a time for us to reflect on how much she helped us think, how much she helped us grow, right, and how she pushed the world closer to justice.
AMNA NAWAZ: An incredible life and an enormous loss.
Professor Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers professor of African American studies at Princeton University, thank you so much for joining us.
IMANI PERRY: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On the "NewsHour" online: Louisiana abortion clinics are seeing an influx of patients from Texas seeking access to abortions.
And a case before the Supreme Court could complicate matters further.
You can read more at PBS.org/NewsHour.
And the Washington National Cathedral today marked a somber milestone.
The cathedral's funeral bells tolled 800 times this evening to commemorate the 800,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
(BELLS TOLLING) JUDY WOODRUFF: And our heart goes out to everyone who's lost a loved one in this pandemic, a heartbreaking reminder of the enormous toll this pandemic has had and continues to have every day on this nation.
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 we'll see you soon.