November 23, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
11/23/2021 | 57m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
November 23, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
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11/23/2021 | 57m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
November 23, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: pain at the pump.
The president taps the Strategic Oil Reserve to try to ease gas prices, as millions of Americans travel for the holidays.
Then: the verdict.
A jury finds white nationalists liable for the violence perpetrated at the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And vaccinating kids.
How disparities highlighted by the pandemic are now preventing children of color from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
JANEY PEARL STARKS, Mountain Park Health Center: There aren't the systems of a lot of other health care facilities.
There's a lot of poverty.
There's a lot of people working several jobs.
There's a lot of multigenerational families.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: President Biden is tapping an emergency national stockpile of oil to try to stem a rising tide of energy prices.
His order today draws 50 million barrels of crude oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
William Brangham begins our coverage.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: With rising energy prices, President Biden was under growing political pressure to make a move.
JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: So, today, I'm announcing that -- the largest-ever release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help provide the supply we need as we recover from this pandemic.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Five other nations, including China, have agreed to make similar withdrawals from their own stockpiles.
JOE BIDEN: We're launching a major effort to moderate the price of oil, an effort that will span the globe in its reach and ultimately reach your corner gas station, God willing.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All of this comes after pandemic lockdowns had slashed the demand for oil last year, but when the U.S. economy revved back into gear, renewed demand outpaced supply.
Nationwide, average gas prices have spiked to nearly $3.40 a gallon.
That's up more than 50 percent from a year ago.
Republicans have blamed the president for the climbing prices.
SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): Every time you go fill your car up with gas, you wonder if you're going to set your own personal high that day.
Is this going to be more than I have ever paid for gas before in my life?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Democrats, like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, put the blame elsewhere, but they too pressed Mr. Biden to address the issue.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We're here today because we need immediate relief at the gas pump, and the place to look is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Biden is not the first to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an emergency.
In fact, the Reserve was birthed from a crisis.
In 1973, after the Middle Eastern members of OPEC cut off oil exports to the U.S., President Gerald Ford signed a law creating the emergency stockpile.
The U.S.' reserves are located along the Gulf Coast in underground salt caverns at four major facilities in Louisiana and Texas.
They hold more than 600 million barrels of petroleum.
But Mr. Biden's move comes at a complicated moment, with his administration trying to strike a balance between boosting the economy, while also cutting oil and gas use because of its impact on climate change.
Days before last month's U.N. climate summit, the president was asked if he's being inconsistent.
JOE BIDEN: On the surface, it seems like an irony, but the truth of the matter, is you have all known, everyone knows that the idea we're going to be able to move to renewable energy overnight and not have -- and from this moment on not use oil or not use gas or not use hydrogen, is just not rational.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The question now is whether these temporary actions boosting oil and gas supplies will make enough difference for consumers to see.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president's move today comes at one of the busiest times of the year for drivers, as many prepare to travel for Thanksgiving.
Bob McNally is president of Rapidan Energy Group, an energy policy and consulting firm, and he's a former energy adviser to President George W. Bush.
Mr. McNally, thank you very much for joining us.
So, this is the first time the United States has done this, a president has done this in coordination with other countries.
How much difference do you believe it will make?
BOB MCNALLY, President, Rapidan Energy Group: It is.
Judy, it's great to be with you.
It is the first time he's done this in coordination with other countries without an emergency.
We have had coordinated releases during the first Gulf War Katrina and after the Libya disruption.
But what's unique about this is that it's a coordinated release of some producers, about six, without an actual supply interruption.
As for the impact, I expect what most people expect and what the president himself has said, not much of an impact from this.
It's going to wash away in a few weeks to a few months.
It's, in a way, a drop in the ocean.
The global oil market is enormous and shaken by huge trends in supply and demand.
And this injection of oil is just one factor.
And we think it'll maybe bring gasoline prices down a dime, maybe 15 cents.
And, really, that is arrived from the last few weeks, because the price of oil has fallen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
BOB MCNALLY: The crude oil price has fallen over the last several weeks.
And that is what drives the price of gasoline.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, at this point, there's some expectation that the oil-producing countries around the world, the OPEC countries, they may reduce their production in order to offset this.
What's your expectation about that?
BOB MCNALLY: Well, that is what they are considering right now.
There's no question they're considering that.
They signaled yesterday, if we did this, they might react.
Now, that would be a very provocative event.
Were they to meet next Thursday, and they do meet next Thursday, December 2, and decide to stop their increases, that would be quite provocative.
I think there's a good chance of that.
However, they may choose to lie low a little bit, especially, as we saw today, the crude oil price rallied.
It went up on the decision by 3 percent.
So, if oil prices continue going high, the smarter move for OPEC Plus might be to lay low for a while and gradually start to maybe reduce the increases starting next year.
That's what I think they will do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So you're seeing a minimal effect on prices.
What other options does the president have at a time like this?
BOB MCNALLY: The only good option he has was plan A that President Biden tried.
And that is to lobby OPEC Plus, really Saudi Arabia, to increase more oil, because the sad reality anybody in the White House who served knows - - I know it, my friends who served know -- is the only way to get a lot of oil quickly is to ask OPEC Plus to increase.
But they have said no.
So we're at second best.
Other options we have heard talked about are -- would be counterproductive.
You hear a lot of discussion of banning crude oil exports.
Six members of the House Democrats and 11 Senate Democrats have called for that.
That would be an authentic policy error.
It would actually, we think, cause gasoline prices to go up and do nothing but hurt shale oil production.
But that is on the table.
And it's been reported it's on the table.
He can threaten to sue OPEC Plus countries under the Sherman Antitrust Act, and it was that act that was used to break up Standard Oil in 1911.
I don't think that would be productive either.
There are things he can do such as adjust the renewable fuels mandate, which is our ethanol mandate.
There are some measures there he could do that might bring just a little bit of relief.
But the real truth is, Judy, there is no short term solution to high gasoline prices, other than to get OPEC Plus to put a lot more oil on the market fast.
And this, they won't do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Of course, a number of people are pointing out today this is a president who has said that fighting climate change, reducing carbon emissions is a priority for him.
This is a move in the opposite direction.
BOB MCNALLY: You know, that's right.
And I'm sure you have heard too, in Washington, there's this myth that Democrats or environmentalists love high oil prices, because it gets folks to buy more fuel-efficient cars and electric vehicles.
And it does.
But I think what we're seeing today is, elected officials, anyway, they do not like high oil prices.
And President Biden's taking every step he can to get prices down.
And there is a disconnect.
And the president has acknowledged that.
There really is a question whether political leaders are willing to see their consumers face the types of cost increases that will be needed to decarbonize the energy sector down the road.
Today suggests they may not be that willing to do so.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, bottom line, I'm going to come back to the question William Brangham asked at the end of his report.
And that was, will there be enough of a difference here for consumers to see?
BOB MCNALLY: I don't really think so.
I think you will see squiggles and a nickel here, a dime there, in the coming weeks.
Again, most of that is baked in the cake over the last several weeks with crude oil prices dropping.
I think it's not quite enough, I'm afraid, no.
I wish I had better news.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we all do.
Bob McNally, the president of Rapidan Energy Group, thank you very much for joining us.
BOB MCNALLY: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: A child has died of injuries suffered when a car drove into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Sunday.
This raises the death toll to six, as the suspect, Darrell Brooks Jr., made his first court appearance.
He entered the courtroom in manacles and listened as the charges were read and as the presiding official set bail at $5 million.
KEVIN COSTELLO, Waukesha County Court Commissioner: Detectives not only tried to stop this, but rendered an opinion that this was an intentional act.
You're presumed innocent, sir.
But that's what the allegations are.
And I have not seen anything like this in my very long career.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Police have said that Brooks was speeding away from a domestic dispute when he collided with the parade.
A Black Kansas City man, Kevin Strickland, was exonerated today of three murders, and released.
He had spent 43 years behind bars.
Strickland was wheeled out of prison in Cameron, Missouri, hours after a judge ruled he had been wrongfully convicted by an all-white jury in 1979.
Strickland was 18 at the time.
He is now 62.
A federal jury in Cleveland has found three retail pharmacy giants liable in the opioid epidemic.
The panel said today that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart recklessly dispensed huge amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties.
A judge will decide later on damages.
The Biden administration asked a federal appeals court today to uphold a COVID vaccine mandate for large employers.
The rule is suspended, for now, after Republican state attorneys general and others argued that there's no federal authority to mandate vaccines.
The U.S. Justice Department says that the policy would cut transmission of the virus.
Jury deliberations began today in Brunswick, Georgia, in the trial of three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery last year.
The lead prosecutor had the last words today, saying the defendants cannot that it was self-defense because they chased Arbery and started the confrontation.
LINDA DUNIKOSKI, Cobb County, Georgia, Assistant District Attorney: They were the first, unjustified aggressors, and they were committing felonies against Mr. Arbery.
And, therefore, they don't get to claim self-defense.
And you can go directly to the charges in the indictment.
When they do something like this, they have to be held accountable and responsible.
Nobody gets a free pass.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The defense says that the three men thought Arbery might have stolen something from a home under construction.
At least 45 people are dead after a bus full of tourists crashed and caught fire in Bulgaria early today.
It happened near Sofia as several buses headed back from Istanbul, Turkey to North Macedonia.
In the aftermath, officials inspected the remnants of a charred bus near a damaged guardrail.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.
In Hong Kong, a former pro-independence leader has been sentenced to roughly 3.5 years in prison.
Tony Chung was charged with secession and money laundering under an ongoing crackdown by Chinese authorities.
Back in this country, several far right organizations and their leaders were subpoenaed today in a probe of the January assault on the U.S. Capitol.
A select congressional committee ordered documents and testimony from the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and another group, plus their leaders.
On Wall Street, a mixed day of trading.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 194 points to close at 35813.
The Nasdaq fell 79 points.
The S&P 500 added seven.
And Australia's Christmas Island was crawling with crabs today.
Millions of red crabs are migrating to the sea during mating season.
It is the largest migration by any crab species in the world, and roads are closed to let the swarms travel undisturbed by humans who cross their path.
BRENDAN TIERNAN, Natural Resource Manager, Christmas Island National Park: Yes, you get some very different reactions.
Some people were quite freaked out by the fact that they're surrounded by millions of crawling arthropods, whereas other people are just immersed, basically, do a little red crab angel.
They will lie on ground and let themselves get covered in red crabs.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The crabs are found only on Christmas Island.
And after mating, each female can deposit up to 100,000 eggs in the ocean.
So, they're not going away anytime soon.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": tensions rise as Russia amasses more troops near Ukraine's border; schools around the country struggle to find enough teachers; a new documentary draws attention to the many Black people who have gone missing; plus much more.
A civil court jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, today found the main organizers behind the deadly 2017 Unite the Right Rally liable on four counts, but deadlocked on two key charges.
Lisa Desjardins explains.
LISA DESJARDINS: A jury in a nearly month-long civil case involving the violent Unite the Right Rally ordered white nationalist leaders and organizations to pay more than $25 million in damages.
But the jury deadlocked on charges of a federal conspiracy in the lead-up to the rally, which led to the death of a counterprotester, Heather Heyer.
The rally was planned in part to protest the removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The plaintiffs described emotional trauma, broken bones, and bloodshed during the rally.
For more, I'm joined by Ian Shapira, an enterprise reporter at The Washington Post who has been covering the trial.
Ian, the jury decided this after a month-long civil trial.
Can you tell us exactly what we know about that decision?
What did the jury decide?
IAN SHAPIRA, The Washington Post: The jury handed down a pretty stinging rebuke to the people who organized this rally.
They meted out millions of dollars worth of punishments to participants.
They awarded a total of $26 million in damages against 12 individual defendants, five white nationalist organizations at the trial.
It was a message sent by the jury that this kind of violence cannot happen in today's day and age.
LISA DESJARDINS: But, still, what about those federal conspiracy charges that I know the plaintiffs also hoped to prove?
Why do you think that those were tougher for the jury?
And what does it mean that those were left unaddressed?
IAN SHAPIRA: That's actually a great question, and that's something the plaintiffs' attorneys want to continue fighting for.
They told us at the end of today's verdict that -- at the end of today's hearing that they plan on appealing those or bringing back those charges again.
These are important counts, very crucial to the plaintiffs' attorneys, and to all but advocates who wanted to see real serious reform.
They were -- they had sued the defendants under an old -- an old law meant to protect enslaved Black people from the KKK in the late 1800s.
And, in that respect, this case was considered kind of like a landmark case under those particular counts.
The plaintiffs, instead, though, won on state claims instead.
So that's where we are right now.
It's still a pretty big victory for the plaintiffs and those actors who do not -- who wanted to send a message to these white nationalists and white supremacists.
LISA DESJARDINS: As you say, the legal proceeding here was very complicated.
I know the jury instructions alone were 77 pages' long.
But this revolves around really a simple and dangerous divide that this country is experiencing right now, in large part over race, over our identity, over the past.
What did you hear in this trial about where the white nationalist movement is now and if they are standing by racist beliefs?
IAN SHAPIRA: The white nationalist movement that inspired this particular event has been - - has largely cratered.
I mean, it's dispersed.
Many of the finances of these organizations are just nonexistent.
Several of the organizations have gone underground.
So, for that component of this story, you have seen a real victory for the folks who want to see those forces eradicated and gone.
But, as we all know, white supremacy and white nationalism still exist very much in the United States.
We saw -- we see this every day, basically.
So, this event -- this lawsuit was important in beating back the forces that prompted so much violence, and so -- on that day.
And it could be used -- these kind of lawsuits could be used in the future in other events that might happen.
LISA DESJARDINS: This particular case has been watched for years.
What happens next here?
Do we think that the plaintiffs in this case will get this money anytime soon?
IAN SHAPIRA: It really remains to be seen.
What's going happen next is defense lawyers will ask the judge to reduce the penalties and the punitive damages.
And there are state laws that limit or that actually put a cap on punitive damages, depending on certain cases.
So they're going to go for that.
And it sort of remains to be seen how quickly the money can be extracted.
It also remains to be seen how much money these organizations or individuals have at all in the first place.
I mean, they could extract future wages, impose liens on their properties.
It all just depends.
We're all trying to figure this out actually right now.
LISA DESJARDINS: One last question.
You have been there in Charlottesville.
I know how tense it has been over the past couple of years.
What's the feeling there now after this?
IAN SHAPIRA: I think the sense in Charlottesville is exhaustion.
I think they're exhausted with everyone, to be honest.
They're exhausted with the story.
They are exhausted with the news media, frankly.
And they are, of course, exhausted with lawyers and for -- white nationalists and the white nationalist themselves constantly showing up in court all the time for various hearings.
We have gone through so many different criminal cases.
This particular civil litigation has dragged on for a while now.
And so I think they're quite relieved that at least part of this is over.
And what we're trying to figure out now is whether the plaintiffs will file a new -- file a new lawsuit, trying to win on those two federal claims that they didn't get a verdict on today.
So, that remains to be seen.
But the sense in Charlottesville is that they still have issues that they're dealing with here in terms of race and inequality, and they're just exhausted.
LISA DESJARDINS: An at times difficult, but a very important story.
Ian Shapira, thank you for joining us.
IAN SHAPIRA: Thanks for letting me be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: American and European officials are growing increasingly alarmed by a Russian military buildup of more than 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine.
As John Yang reports, there is concern that a full-scale Russian military invasion could be on the horizon.
JOHN YANG: Judy, U.S. officials are closely watching that Russian military buildup.
Today, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley spoke with his Russian counterpart, Valery Gerasimov.
The region has been a flash point since 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea and supported separatists in two provinces of Eastern Ukraine.
Since then, there's been fighting between those separatists and the Ukrainian army, and more than $2.5 billion in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.
Now there are reportedly more than 100,000 Russian troops along much of Ukraine's Northern and Eastern borders.
Andrew Weiss worked on Russian affairs in both the George H.W.
Bush and Clinton administrations.
He is now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Mr. Weiss, thanks so much for joining us.
What is Vladimir Putin up to, and why is he doing it now?
ANDREW WEISS, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Ukraine is the single most importance piece of unfinished business in Vladimir Putin's more than two decades as Russia's leader.
He is the Russian leader who bears, I think, the ignominious distinction of being a person who's lost Ukraine twice.
He lost it in 2014.
He lost it in 2004.
And he's sending a message right now, which I think no one should underestimate, that he is thinking about undoing the unstable cease-fire that's been in place since the war in 2014 and 2015 was at its bloodiest.
And he seems to smell an opportunity, when the West is divided, when the Biden administration has other priorities, and when Russia has overwhelming military superiority.
JOHN YANG: Why is Ukraine so important to him?
You say that he has the distinction of having lost it twice.
But there's -- there's more.
I mean, this has almost an emotional attachment for him, doesn't it?
ANDREW WEISS: Sure thing.
So, we tend to think of Putin as this great chess master, who's obviously very tactically smart and very cunning.
There's also a side of him which is quite emotional.
And when it comes to Ukraine, it's an issue that cuts very close to the bone and that he feels is a huge stain on his record.
Losing Ukraine, which is probably the single most important former component of the former Soviet Union, and seeing Ukraine move decisively Western after -- Westward -- after the revolution in 2014, he now is saying is a red line for Russia's own security.
He's looking at what's happening inside Ukraine, particularly the increase of U.S. and NATO military activities in and around Ukraine, as a threat to Russian security.
He's saying it's a red line for the first time since this totally avoidable conflict began more than seven-and-a-half years ago.
JOHN YANG: And you mentioned earlier he looks at the United States, and he seems emboldened.
Why is it?
What does he see in the United States domestically and in the Biden administration that makes him think this is a good time to do this?
ANDREW WEISS: Vladimir Putin knows that Joe Biden came into office not wanting to have his presidency dominated by dealing with Russia.
He knows that President Biden's priorities lie elsewhere.
He's focused on overcoming the pandemic, getting the U.S. economy back on track and then, when it comes to national security, retooling our national security apparatus to focus on the major threat that we're facing long term, which is China.
Russia, in some ways, is benefiting from the fact that the Biden administration would be perfectly happy to park the U.S.-Russian relationship and get on with business that it thinks is more important.
But Putin sees that in some ways as an opportunity.
It's a chance to once again force Western leaders into a reactive posture, to make us off-balance, and to basically show, as he's done many times in the past, that he cares about Ukraine much more than we do.
And he believes that because Russia is a nuclear weapons state, that no one is going to tangle with him or challenge him directly.
And if you go back just in recent history, people like former President Obama have said very clearly the United States is not prepared to go to war over Ukraine.
I don't think anything has changed.
JOHN YANG: You also mentioned what's going on internally in Ukraine.
What's -- talk about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and how what's going on there may also be emboldening Putin.
ANDREW WEISS: So, when Zelensky was elected a few years ago, there were a lot of expectation that this was a person who was going to be more Russia-friendly and potentially take away from some of the intense acrimony that's been in place since the revolution in 2014.
Instead, what we have seen is, Zelensky has sort of squandered what was initially a very strong popular mandate, and he's become more antagonistic towards Russia in ways that definitely irritate Kremlin sensibilities.
There are no way a predicate for Russian military action, but they're becoming part of this broader Russian excuse of why something has to change.
And they point to things like changes to the language law in Ukraine.
They point to the increase of Western military support for Ukraine's military, for its security apparatus, and for the increased NATO military presence in and around the Black Sea.
The Russians are now claiming, in a very theatrical and completely unconvincing way, that President Zelensky is planning to invade Eastern Ukraine, and that they will never allow this to happen.
They said things very similar to that in March and April of this year, when there was an earlier war scare.
They are putting in place all the pieces to justify military intervention in Ukraine.
JOHN YANG: The Biden administration says that the United States' commitment to Ukraine is ironclad.
What does that mean?
What, short of war, would the United States do, or what should they do if Russia invades?
ANDREW WEISS: The Biden administration is in a bit of a box right now.
It is, on the one hand, wanting to send as many signals as it can have support for Ukraine and to bolster multilateral responses to what they are seeing as a credible threat of Russian military intervention sometime in the coming months.
But, on the other hand, they don't want to do anything that needlessly provokes Russia or gives them an excuse for military action.
If they back away from Ukraine, they will be seen as having been too timid.
And if they lean in too far, they will be seen as provoking the bear.
So they are trying to play this one very straight and very steady.
As you mentioned earlier, our top military commanders, General Milley and General Gerasimov, spoke earlier today.
In the past, during crisis situations, that channel has been the most important one between the two countries.
There's expectations that Presidents Biden and Putin will get together in coming days as well.
There is probably going to be in the coming months a very elevated sense of tension in and around Ukraine.
The Russians can turn that level of tension up and down.
They will also do things that are going to throw us off-balance.
And that's, unfortunately, the name of the game for Vladimir Putin.
JOHN YANG: Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, thank you very much.
ANDREW WEISS: Great to be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Public schools across the U.S. are taking a break for Thanksgiving, after a more traditional fall semester that saw students largely back in their classes in-person.
But it is still a long way from the usual.
Many teachers and staff did not return this year, and that's meant a shortage of teachers, substitutes, bus drivers, custodial staff, and more.
In some cases, it's even led to virtual classes.
Our student reporting team reached out around the country and asked educators and students about how this was affecting them.
Here is some of what they told us.
RYAN DANG, Student: I was waiting, like, 30 minutes for my bus driver to come pick me and my classmates up to go to school, but they ended up never coming, and we had to call the office, and they ended up sending an extra bus.
DARLIN DIAZ-VELAZQUEZ, Student: My school had a lot of vacant spots for teachers.
The sixth graders only had one teacher available, so other staff members had to fill in.
TAHARI GARY, Student: I don't even have an English teacher.
And it makes it really hard to learn with no one in the classroom.
CODY WOLFE, Student: I had to go to the auditorium here at our building because our teacher wasn't here.
And, in the auditorium, there was three other math classes.
SAM BARTLETT, Assistant Principal, Eagle Valley High School: We largely don't have enough substitutes.
At the beginning of the school year, I believe that the administrative team, including our principal and the three assistant principals, were covering about 20 percent of the absences.
JAIZARLYN SUAREZ, Student: A lot of them may not know, like, the topic that we're learning, so it's really hard to keep learning in school.
And you sort of feel stuck.
Being a junior in high school, this is a very important year for us, and to not have the right teachers is really frustrating.
DARLIN DIAZ-VELAZQUEZ: You're on your own.
You have to read the material to the projects and the quizzes and the exams on your own, and you kind of lose motivation.
You get tired of sitting there for so long and doing it on your own.
CHRISTINE ALONZO, Substitute Teacher, Maui High School: People want to go into education, but they can't because they feel like they're choosing between their passion, which is educating and inspiring, and just growing up and paying bills.
JOSE ESTEVEZ, John A. Ferguson Senior High School: If I had known 20-something years ago that I would be stuck at the same pay scale, more or less, I probably wouldn't have made this choice.
JAIZARLYN SUAREZ: The pandemic has made me change my mind-set on what a good teacher actually is.
With the pandemic, a lot of people developed, like, mental health issues and aren't, like, really coming back as themselves.
And a teacher who understands that we were just in a pandemic and we are just high schoolers, that's really, to me, what makes a good teacher.
SPENCER WILSON, Dean, Brentwood High School: A good teacher has to be born.
You can't just make them come into the business just because they have summers off or the pay is good.
So, to attract new teachers, I mean, I guess we would have to go with salary and hope that people that are born to teach fall into the career.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Our communities correspondents have been tracking how this is playing out where they are based, and two of them join me now.
Gabrielle Hays is in St. Louis, and Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
And hello to both of you.
And, Gabrielle, I'm going to start with you.
You have been talking to education officials.
You have been looking at schools in Missouri.
Tell us what you're hearing and seeing there.
GABRIELLE HAYS: So, we're seeing these shortages across the state.
And here in St. Louis, one of our school systems, St. Louis Public Schools, tells us that they have experienced over 200 vacancies, and that includes teachers and other support staff.
And so I think the way that we're really able to see how this is affecting our state is kind of through the solutions that districts are coming up with.
So, that's everything from some school districts paying their bus drivers more to be custodians when they're not driving.
We have one district in Missouri that's now hiring some of its own high school students to fill in some of those nonteacher roles.
But, again, it's a state issue, right?
So our state has pledged $50 million over the next couple of years to try to fill in some of the gaps, and also to attract more teachers, because the state says that it has seen a dip in that.
And so they have created tools and they're putting money towards it.
And it continues to be a real issue.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Frances, you have been looking at the schools and talking to people across Michigan, and you're seeing some similar challenges.
FRANCES KAI-HWA WANG: Yes, here in Michigan, winter has just started, which is also the beginning of flu season, and COVID is spiking.
Michigan is currently number one in COVID cases, in new COVID cases.
And so schools are trying to balance the traditional teacher shortages, substitute shortages, as well as increasing cases.
So, some of the things that school districts are doing include shifting the schedule to four days in person, one day remote.
And, during that time, they have the support staff, like bus drivers and food service people, double up on custodial duty to help deep-clean the schools on those Fridays with electrostatic sprayers and U.V.
Other school districts are closing on days they anticipate there will be substitute shortages and teacher shortages, so that they call it ahead of time, so that parents can prepare.
So, such as Thanksgiving, instead of the regular three days, they have extended to -- they have added Monday and Tuesday off as well.
And that gives them a chance to disrupt the COVID cycle.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Frances, you were telling us some of these staffing issues existed even before the pandemic hit.
FRANCES KAI-HWA WANG: Yes, these are longstanding issues.
Salaries in Michigan have -- if you account for inflation, salaries have actually gone down 16 percent over the last 20 years.
Retirements have gone up due -- during -- due to COVID in the last year.
Retirements were up 40 percent over what they had been the previous four years.
And the number and most pressing -- the number of college students who are studying to become teachers in the state of Michigan has gone down 50 percent over the last six years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And back to you, Gabrielle.
I know, in your reporting, you have looked at whether these schools are financially prepared to deal with the kind of challenges that are now facing them.
GABRIELLE HAYS: Yes, you know, I think it's important to remember -- and we learned this through our interviewing -- that while some school districts -- and a lot of them were able get some CARES funding, and they are using that to do different things, a lot of these issues existed before the pandemic started, as Frances said.
So, when we're talking about teacher shortages, a lot of that in some cases has to do with teacher pay.
And Missouri is not alone in that.
I mean, we have seen that across the country.
And it's a thing in Missouri as well, but also the amount of funding that school districts get from the state, and that matters.
That matters, especially if we're talking about issues that happened before the pandemic when a pandemic hits.
And not having those funds and maybe not being funded adequately, well, it matters more than maybe it did before.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Frances, just quickly, what -- have you seen something similar with regard to financing in Michigan?
FRANCES KAI-HWA WANG: Yes.
In Michigan, the educational revenue growth in Michigan is 50th out of 50 states.
And so teachers are trying to increase pay rates for substitute teachers.
They're trying to increase pay rates for support staff.
And they are also offering -- whatever benefits they can offer their teachers, they're extending to substitutes, so such as vaccination clinics.
And then, also, they are trying to promote these grow-your-own teacher programs, where they can encourage and help paraprofessionals and support staff who want to become teachers, help support them, so that they can become teachers as well in the schools that they're already a part of.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is such a difficult set of issues.
And it is facing so many of our public schools across the country.
We thank you to Frances Kai-Hwa Wang and to Gabrielle Hays, our two -- two of our communities reporters.
Thank you both so much.
And you can read more about this issue from our reporters across the country on our Web site.
Since the FDA granted emergency authorization of the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, more than two million children in the U.S. have been vaccinated.
Public health officials are highlighting the importance of providing vaccine access to low-income and minority communities that have been hit hardest by COVID.
Stephanie Sy visited one of those communities in Phoenix, Arizona.
STEPHANIE SY: It's a busy Saturday morning at the Mountain Park Health Center in the Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix.
A few dozen parents have flocked to this vaccine clinic to get jabs for their children.
Some kids made it look easy.
Others were understandably nervous, especially the youngest ones, which included 5-year old Gustavo Carrazco.
He's a cancer survivor who's currently in remission.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) STEPHANIE SY: His mom, Janet Esparza, wanted to be there on day one to get him vaccinated.
The pandemic upended her life.
She quit her job, worried about bringing the virus home.
JANET ESPARZA, Mother (through translator): He never left.
He was in the house unless it was absolutely necessary to leave.
STEPHANIE SY: Ten-year-old Rosalinda Ibarra, who has asthma, came with her two younger brothers and mom, Janet Villa.
ROSALINDA IBARRA, Vaccine Recipient: My grandpa, he's the one that got COVID.
STEPHANIE SY: Her grandpa wasn't vaccinated and died earlier this year.
JANET VILLA, Mother: That's why I came in and brought them in, so they could get the vaccine.
I got it because of what happened to my dad.
At first, I didn't know when to get it, because I was scared and everything.
STEPHANIE SY: So many families have lost loved ones in this low-to-moderate income, largely Latino neighborhood.
This community health center is on the front lines.
Janey Pearl Starks is director of equity, diversity, and engagement at Mountain Park Health Center.
JANEY PEARL STARKS, Mountain Park Health Center: It's a very vibrant community, and it's also a lot of -- a community that has a lot of needs.
And so there aren't the systems of a lot of other health care facilities.
There's a lot of poverty in Maryvale.
There's a lot of people working several jobs.
There's a lot of multigenerational families.
STEPHANIE SY: At one point in the summer of 2020, Arizona had the highest rate of COVID cases in the nation, and Maryvale was particularly hard-hit.
Now, public health officials worry that the same systemic barriers that led to that may prevent parents from vaccinated their children.
RAY DIXON, Maryvale Resident: I go to work like 3:00 in the morning, and I get home about like 2:30, 3:00 in the afternoon.
STEPHANIE SY: With a truck driver's schedule, and caring for multiple grandchildren, the vaccine simply wasn't top of mind for Ray Dixon.
RAY DIXON: I have been talking to some people about the vaccine.
A lot of them saying, Ray, yes, you should go ahead and get it.
It's all right to get.
And then some of them say, well, man, you don't need it.
You ain't sick.
You don't need it.
I'm like -- so they got me, like, confused.
I don't know.
STEPHANIE SY: What about the kiddos?
Did you know that they just approved the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11?
RAY DIXON: No, I didn't even know that.
STEPHANIE SY: You didn't know that.
This is the challenge in neighborhoods like Maryvale.
People may not have time to go out of their way to get the vaccine, and health officials say patients are getting mixed messages about it, and rumors are spreading faster than facts.
It's why Mountain Park Health Center is sending outreach workers to knock on doors.
They're connecting people with providers that can answer their questions and even help make appointments for them to get the vaccine.
They have met mixed success.
JANEY PEARL STARKS: We're going to be knocking on doors.
We're going to be talking to people and trying to further that trust, because just as -- just as the folks who are already vaccinated want their kids to get vaccinated, we also know there's a lot of adults who aren't vaccinated yet who don't want their kids vaccinated.
STEPHANIE SY: Benigno Martinez was just getting back from his job when outreach workers approached him in his driveway.
He said he was worried about the virus and its spread, but still hadn't been vaccinated.
BENIGNO MARTINEZ, Maryvale Resident (through translator): I have friends who have gotten sick after getting the vaccine.
STEPHANIE SY: The language barrier with Maryvale's large Latino population is another barrier, according to Pearl Starks.
JANEY PEARL STARKS: We have seen that.
Where, in English, a lot of the misinformation and disinformation gets fact-checked and gets blocked out on social media, that doesn't happen in Spanish.
STEPHANIE SY: Just more than a third of Latinos in Arizona have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, compared to more than half of white Arizonans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
As dusk approached, we met Artemiza Castro with one of her five children.
Joan (ph) is 5, and she plans to have him vaccinated as soon as possible, but her husband is adamantly refusing the vaccine.
ARTEMIZA CASTRO, Maryvale Resident (through translator): Some people say that they are putting a chip in your arm.
I don't know, to be honest.
There are so many rumors, and my husband believes all of them, and not that the vaccine is actually working.
STEPHANIE SY: The microchip conspiracy theory is just one bit of misinformation Dr. Mandy Oliden battles.
Microchips are not in the vaccines.
DR. MANDY OLIDEN, Pediatrician, Mountain Park Health Center: This is Joe Anthony?
DR. MANDY OLIDEN: Hey, big guy.
The hard has been, I think, for me and a lot of our providers or physicians here, has been being able to battle the false news or false information that's being heard out there.
I want to meet them in the middle, but also let them know, as your pediatrician, this is why my recommendation is what it is.
Otherwise, it does sometimes come down to a lot of frustration.
STEPHANIE SY: Frustrating because the pediatrician has seen how COVID has ravaged this community.
DR. MANDY OLIDEN: Aside from the number of cases, we have been seeing also, parents get affected from even, like, a work standpoint, schools being shut down, schools going online.
I have seen it hit across multiple levels.
One of the areas, I think, that I have seen it really hard that has struck me is the adolescents, our teenagers and their mental health.
STEPHANIE SY: Public health experts say vaccinating children is also important for protecting the most vulnerable, as the Delta variant continues to threaten the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions, even those that have been inoculated.
Five-year-old cancer survivor Gustavo Carrazco can relax, now that the jab is over.
His mother has that vaccine card in hand.
For her and countless other parents, the child COVID vaccine was long anticipated and offers a path toward some much-needed normalcy.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy in Phoenix.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A third of the almost 300,000 girls and women reported missing in the U.S. in 2020 were Black.
That is according to the National Crime Information Center.
And yet those cases often get little attention or are all but ignored by law enforcement and national news media.
Now a four-part documentary series on HBO follows the lives of two women working to bring awareness to these cases.
Amna Nawaz has the story.
AMNA NAWAZ: The new series tells the story of Natalie and Derrica Wilson, co-founders of the Black and Missing Foundation.
The sisters-in-law rally communities and help families as they search for their missing loved ones.
Here now is a clip featuring Derrica Wilson.
DERRICA WILSON, Co-Founder, Black and Missing Foundation: Being a former law enforcement official, I have dealt firsthand with missing person cases.
Back in 2002, I ended up getting hired on with the City of Falls Church Police Department as the first African American female police officer in the history of the agency.
My goal and aspiration initially was to work for the FBI and get into forensics.
I spent six months in a police academy, and we dedicated, what, like an hour or two to missing persons cases.
I actually had a case where there was a young lady, and I didn't realize she was missing until I was able to recover her.
We received a call, and I was the primary officer responding to that call, of a domestic violence situation in progress.
As I'm driving to the scene, I notice two people walking really fast.
And it just looked out of the ordinary.
I stopped, and this young lady ran to me.
It was the young lady that was the domestic violence victim, and her hair was pulled out.
She had bite marks all over her body.
Had to take her to the hospital to get a rape kit.
She had been missing for days.
She was stuck in a motel in the city of Falls Church with her abductor.
She was reported missing in our neighborhood jurisdiction, and her flyer never crossed my desk.
And she was a young Black female.
I don't want these cases to be handled sloppy because our community matters.
AMNA NAWAZ: And Soledad O'Brien is the executive producer of "Black and Missing."
And she joins me now.
Soledad, welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thank you so much for making the time.
Tell us a little bit more about these two women, Natalie and Derrica Wilson.
Why did you choose to center the story around them and their work?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, Executive Producer, "Black and Missing": We started this documentary process about three years ago because we found the work they were doing just fascinating.
We were hearing from Derrica talking about being in law enforcement and trying to use her expertise to help families who have missing loved ones who can't figure out how to break through the barrier of disinterest in a lot of cases, where no one seems to actually really care enough about the person who's missing that they go the extra mile, or maybe just go the basic mile, to make sure that there is a missing persons flyer that is circulated in areas outside of just that one jurisdiction.
For Natalie, who's had a background in public relations, she was interesting in leveraging in what she does in her day job in P.R.
to helping families learn how to navigate the system.
How do you make a media that does not seem to very often care about women of color who are missing, and make them care?
Sometimes, that's about the information you give, the press conference you give.
How do you address people on the phone?
Who do you reach out to?
All of that, she could help.
But so the two of them get together to use their skills to help communities that are - - and the data shows this very clearly -- communities that are very often ignored by media, by law enforcement, and sometimes by their own community when they go missing, to help them get a leg up.
AMNA NAWAZ: This issue of the media not caring, not paying as much attention as it does to other stories, there's a phrase many of us have heard, missing white women syndrome, which the late great Gwen Ifill is believed to have first used.
And it basically means, in our industry, that the stories of missing white women often get a lot of attention, and the media tends to stay with those stories, in a way that they do not with the stories of missing Black women or indigenous women or Latinas.
Gwen Ifill said that back in 2004.
Why is this still a problem today?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Yes, because I don't think anybody has really thought about, well, why do we not care?
Is it that people in media are cold and callous and don't care about stories?
I don't believe that's true.
I think there's a lot of bias involved.
And missing white woman syndrome, as Gwen called it and penned it originally, I guess, also includes the wall-to-wall coverage that actually gets communities up in arms, to the point where you have people flying themselves to Aruba to help look for Natalee Holloway.
So it's not even just the media.
It's this idea of like, why do people as a whole just not care?
In our documentary, we profile a young woman, a beautiful young woman, who's Black who goes missing.
And then a couple of weeks later, Natalee Holloway goes missing.
And her aunt describes what it's like to watch the attention that Natalee Holloway -- I remember I covered the Natalee Holloway case.
What a horrific story for her mom to go on newscast after newscast to beg for information about her daughter.
But, at the same time, the aunt who's looking for her niece is saying, why does no one cares about my niece?
And she's reaching out to these news organizations.
She's a TV producer.
She has some wherewithal about how to navigate.
She can't get any attention.
And so I think it's about, why do we care about some people and why do we not care about others?
I personally believe it's a lot of bias.
I know, when I have done documentaries that focus on people of color, "Black in America," "Latino in America," I have been told, listen, don't make it to Black.
Make sure that you don't push away the audience we really care about, which is to say the white audience.
So I think there's often a sense of, our audience is this.
This is a person who's appealing, attractive, interesting to me as a producer.
And, therefore, that's what should get the focus, vs. thinking about, what are the communities that you serve, and how do you serve those communities?
In our doc, we talk to a former news president who says race is not a factor.
That is just not true.
That is just absolutely not true.
The data does not hold that up.
And so I think, until newsrooms are willing to say, like, why do we not care, maybe we should examine that, I don't know that you're going to get a lot of movement.
AMNA NAWAZ: Soledad, in the law enforcement angle, is it the same issue at play there, bias?
They're less incentivized to follow these stories?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: I think so, and also a little bit about runaways.
Many, many folks told us in the process of this documentary that the police would sort of push back and say, she's probably a runaway.
Maybe she went to stay with her boyfriend.
The idea that someone can be in a motel with their abuser covered with bite marks and only because of a chance call is able to be saved is just too horrible to kind of wrap your head around.
People should be searching.
But if you call someone a runaway, suddenly, there's much less of an interest in thinking that maybe you can help find them.
They have run away.
The folks at Black and Missing Foundation would say no one should be characterized as a runaway.
If you're missing, you're missing.
And that search should start immediately.
Someone shouldn't be set home to say, maybe they will turn up.
Let us know in a couple of days.
We all know that the first 48 hours, obviously, are critical in gathering information about a person who might be missing.
AMNA NAWAZ: Well, it's a fascinating series, necessary storytelling.
And the four-part HBO documentary series "Black and Missing" debuts tonight on HBO and HBO Max.
Executive producer Soledad O'Brien, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: My pleasure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's a story that deserves much more attention.
We're so glad that it's getting it.
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.