PBS NewsHour full episode, March 9, 2022


On the “NewsHour” tonight: The war grinds on. Evacuations from Ukraine become ever more desperate, as brutal Russian shelling continues on civilian targets, including a maternity hospital. Then: Putin’s power. We examine the long career of the Russian leader, from his beginnings in the KGB, to his increasingly totalitarian rule as president. AMY KNIGHT, Author, “How the Cold War Began”: I think he is genuinely fearful that Western values, democracy, could undermine his leadership and the whole regime. JUDY WOODRUFF: And across the aisle. Congress moves forward on several major pieces of legislation, including government funding, aid for Ukraine, and Postal Service reform.All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.” (BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: It has been a day of carnage in Ukraine. Russian bombing struck a maternity hospital, sending new and expectant mothers fleeing. There was also continued confusion about a plan to deliver Polish Soviet era jets to Ukraine, while the U.S. sent anti-missile batteries to Poland. Late today, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, tweeted a warning about Russian propaganda that accuses the U.S.Of creating bioweapons in Ukraine, saying — quote — “We should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine or to create a false flag operation using them.” In and around Ukraine, the humanitarian catastrophe continues to spiral. More than two million Ukrainians have fled their nation, as more seek shelter within it. Having just returned to Lviv, in the country’s west, Nick Schifrin again begins our coverage. And a warning: Images in this report may disturb some viewers. NICK SCHIFRIN: This is a hospital under attack, a maternity hospital, a victim near childbirth, just the latest target in the siege of Mariupol. The city was supposed to be under a cease-fire, so residents could flee safely. Instead, the bombardment resumed. Mariupol officials say two weeks of war have killed more than 1,100 civilians. IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, Ukrainian Prosecutor General: What we now see in Mariupol, in this absolutely civilian place, so many terrible things, with war crimes, with crimes against humanity. NICK SCHIFRIN: Iryna Venediktova is Ukraine’s first female prosecutor general, equivalent to the attorney general.She is investigating Russian war crimes. Do you call these attacks war crimes because you believe they are specifically targeted at civilians? IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA: Absolutely. I say it. We have now 1,000 cases, actually. It’s ordinary soldiers who understand whom they kill, actually. NICK SCHIFRIN: The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has fast-tracked an investigation against Russia focused on attacks on civilian targets, as seen today in Kharkiv. But the battlefield is the crime scene. IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA: Now it’s very hard. In a few months, it will be impossible. That’s why the main goal of prosecutors and investigators, to fix war crimes, to collect this evidence. So I can demonstrate, if it’s possible to demonstrate. It’s cluster bombs in Kherson region, for example. And we can see such possibilities in the main cities of Ukraine. This in the chest of the boy. His family tried to run from Russian tanks. And this is a piece of projectile in his chest. NICK SCHIFRIN: In Sumy, rescuers worked through the night to pull survivors from the rubble of homes damaged in an airstrike.How would you define justice? Is it holding to account Russian soldiers, Russian commanders, or even Vladimir Putin himself? IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA: All of them, of course, all of them. NICK SCHIFRIN: Putin included? IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA: I am sure that Vladimir Putin is the main criminal of 21st century. NICK SCHIFRIN: Ukraine did manage to evacuate more than 40,000 people today in humanitarian corridors, adding to the exodus of those escaping the war. The U.N. estimates 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled their homes, but remain in Ukraine, many in miles-long lines heading west. To see the conditions they faced, we traveled the same route. So, we’re just leaving Odessa. The drive back to Lviv, near the Polish border, is supposed to be 10 hours, but we think it might take two days, because we’re going in the same direction as so many displaced people who are fleeing the fighting.So, we will see how it goes. The road from Odessa first heads north toward Kyiv, and then turns west on Ukraine’s central artery. The route is 500 miles. We ended up driving for nearly 20 hours through hailstorms and, the next day, through Sunnier skies on roads lined with checkpoints, some with troops, others just to slow would-be invaders. For hours, the traffic starts and stops. They flee on a single road from this war’s epicenters, B.B. for Luhansk, B.E. for Mykolaiv, A.X. for Kharkiv. And many tape the Russian word deti, children, as in children on board, including in this car, where Daria and her father have spent the last three days after fleeing Kharkiv. DARIA, Evacuated From Kharkiv: There is no electricity, and, all time, we sit underground. And it was really — we are afraid of this. Maybe I go abroad in Europe, but I hope I will return my native city, Kharkiv. NICK SCHIFRIN: You want to go back home? DARIA: Yes, of course.NICK SCHIFRIN: A senior U.S. defense official said today there have been no significant movements toward Kyiv or Chernihiv. In the east, Russian troops are still laying siege to Kharkiv, to the south, Mariupol also besieged by Russian forces. And in the strategic port of Mykolaiv, Ukrainian troops have repelled Russia for nearly a week. To stop Russia’s advancement, Zelenskyy once again demanded a no-fly zone or jets. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, Ukrainian President (through translator): This is about human lives. We ask once again, solve it faster.Do not shift the responsibility. Send us planes. NICK SCHIFRIN: But the U.S. again today rejected Poland’s plan to transfer Soviet era fighter planes to the U.S., then Ukraine, fearing that would expand the conflict, even though Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that was the plan. ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. Secretary of State: That gets a green light.In fact, we’re talking with our Polish friends right now. NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, Blinken punted. ANTONY BLINKEN: Poland’s proposal shows that there are some complexities that the issue presents. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY (through translator): So, when will the decision be made? Listen, we have a war. We do not have time for all this. NICK SCHIFRIN: Part of fighting that war is a national curfew. By 10:00 p.m., all of Ukraine’s cities are under curfew.The streets are quiet, and kept quiet by volunteer patrols. They’re a neighborhood watch born from the war. They coordinate with police, and are allowed to enforce martial law with their own weapons. They were already friends, but now a night on the town now takes on new meaning. Yuri Dyakun is a 23-year-old fitness coach. Why is it important for you to enforce the curfew? YURI DYAKUN, Lviv Territorial Defense (through translator): First, to identify those saboteurs that can harm our country, our city.They usually operate at night. NICK SCHIFRIN: That means checking anyone who’s out too late. It’s 10:45, 45 minutes after curfew started, and these guys saw a suspicious car, so they surrounded it. They asked him questions, and they left him go. On a night like tonight, most of these guys would usually be having fun. That was at least before the war. Now they’re dedicated to doing what they can for their city. Others hope this city is the road to safety. We came across the Mishyna family 12 hours after they fled Kyiv. Katya doesn’t sugarcoat their fate for sons Illya, 6, and Kiril, 8. KATYA MISHYNA, Kyiv Evacuee: I told them the truth. I told them that this is war, and this is bombing noise. So they know why. But, in another hand, I’m happy that they don’t understand all the reality that is surrounding them. NICK SCHIFRIN: The reality is, they will soon be split. Dima and all Ukrainian men 18 to 60 can’t leave the country.DIMA MISHYN, Kyiv Evacuee (through translator): I’m sending them off, and I will stay here. I will help send humanitarian aid to Kyiv, to Kharkiv, and will encourage my relatives to meet me here and help. For now, that’s my plan. NICK SCHIFRIN: They are hopeful, but their future remains uncertain. We checked in with the family in the few days since we met them. Katya and the boys made it Gdansk in Northern Poland, but they have nowhere to stay, because the city is overwhelmed by Ukrainian refugees. The best they have been offered is a place in a gym.Judy, as for those images from Mariupol and that attack on the hospital today, the WHO says Russia has now destroyed 18 medical facilities across the country. But we have learned tonight those pregnant women that we saw evacuated at the top of the story are all safe and sound. JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank goodness for that, amidst all the rest of this carnage. Nick Schifrin, thank you for your incredible reporting. And for more on the latest developments in Ukraine, and how Ukrainians are fighting back against Russia’s invasion, we turn to Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States.I spoke to her a short time ago. Ambassador Markarova, thank you very much for joining us. At this point, who is winning this war? OKSANA MARKAROVA, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States: Thank you very much for having me. Well, Ukrainians are winning this war, and the moral win is on our side from day one, because we never did anything to provoke this. We never did anything to inflict this upon us, and we never attacked anyone. It’s Russia that attacked us, and we’re defending our homes. And, if you remember, a lot of people said that we will not be able to defend ourselves against this big, mighty Russia, that a country like ours does not stand a chance.It’s truly a David-against-Goliath fight. But because we are fighting for our homes, because we are fighting for our freedom, today is day 14 of the brutal war that Russia is waging, and we are defending our home. So, again, as much as it gives us pain to see how many Ukrainians are wounded, how many homes are ruined, how many hospitals, maternity hospitals today are shelled at, we are not ready to surrender, and we will not.JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me to ask you about the fighter jets. As you know, this was under discussion with NATO. Ukrainian officials had been saying they expected fighter jets. But then, after Poland announced they would be sending them to Germany to be then delivered to Ukraine, the — NATO, the United States said this is not tenable. Is this now a deal that’s dead? OKSANA MARKAROVA: I’d rather not discuss specific discussions, to be honest here. We have to understand Ukraine is at war, and we need all the support we can get, and we focus on these discussions with our partners, strategic partners here especially, but we would rather discuss it and get everything, rather than discuss different processes in the press. So that’s why you saw that we’re trying not to comment on it.But I have to say that we are working very closely, both with our colleagues in Pentagon, but also with Congress and administration. And, as you know, there is this new package coming up — coming out in the Congress of the support. We are dedicated to fight for our homes. We are very much — armed forces ready to fight. And we need a steady supply of all kinds of equipment and weapons that we can get from our partners, especially with regard to the anti-air, because what we see — and we see it all on videos and photos — how they are bombing from the skies. Again, this Mariupol maternity hospital today is unbelievable war crime, unbelievable. You don’t shoot at pregnant women. So, we are talking about all of it. And I want to say that we are getting more supplies, and we will be getting more supplies. JUDY WOODRUFF: Can Ukraine win this war, though, without fighter jets? We’re also seeing Bulgaria, other countries saying they can’t provide fighter jets now. OKSANA MARKAROVA: Look, we have to win this war, because this is our home.But we also, as civilized world, have to win this war, because we all together have to show that it’s not all right for an autocratic terrorist state to attack a neighboring country and get away with it. So, all the support that all civilized countries can provide to us, I think this is time to do it, because this is a global fight. This is a fight for democracy. This is a fight for our planet to be a peaceful place, not a place of war. JUDY WOODRUFF: You say it’s a global fight. And yet NATO is saying, we will give you some weapons, we will give you surface-to-air, we will give you anti-tank weapons and other humanitarian needs, but we can’t give you some of the most lethal and powerful weapons that — like fighter jets. Is that — are you — is Ukraine getting the support that it needs? OKSANA MARKAROVA: We are getting a lot of support. But, of course, we are talking to all our friends and partners that we need more, because, again, pay attention to the size of Ukraine and to the size of Russia.And this is something where we all have to focus on right now, because Putin will not stop in Ukraine. JUDY WOODRUFF: The diplomatic track, we know the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers are supposed to be meeting tomorrow. Is there a diplomatic path at all at this point? OKSANA MARKAROVA: As we said, we will never surrender. We will not give up. But, of course, we would like to save all — you know, as many Ukrainian people as possible. So, we are open for discussions.And we showed it from the day one. So, our delegation is always ready to meet and discuss. And we hope that there’s an honest desire to discuss on the other — to discuss on the other part. JUDY WOODRUFF: And would that include Ukraine saying it has given up on the idea of joining NATO? I’m asking you because President Zelenskyy said a few days ago — and I’m quoting — he said he had cooled down on the question of NATO a long time ago, after he said that, we understood that NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine. OKSANA MARKAROVA: Well, I think this is something that we should ask NATO.Ukraine, not only the majority of Ukrainians supported to joining NATO, more than 60 percent. Not only it’s in our Constitution. In 2018, Ukrainian Parliament voted that we would like to be a part of European Union and NATO. We are the EOP status partner with NATO, and our army has been transformed according to the NATO standards, and plus everything else, I mean, the democratic standards, the election, free and fair elections, everything else in the country. So our desire to join NATO was always there and is still there. But it’s an alliance of 30 members, and it’s up to 30 members to take a decision. JUDY WOODRUFF: Last question, Madam Ambassador. I see those photographs behind you of war scenes in your country. How long can Ukraine hold out? OKSANA MARKAROVA: A lot of people said we would not hold for a day or two. We are in our homes. And even though people are shot, there are war crimes, there is — there are war criminals on our territory with tanks, armored vehicles, guns, and airplanes and rockets are shooting at us from all the places, we are defending our homes.So, even though many people fled to save their children, but the majority of adults even would put their kids into safety and come back to defend our homes. And after everything we have lived through these 14 days, I think the question to ask would be — is not how long Ukraine can hold. The question would be what the world is ready and is prepared and should do in order for us to defend our home, but also in order for the civilized world to show that the international rule of law still exists, that international order still exists, and a peaceful country can defend itself from a large autocratic state that decided to attack it for no reason. JUDY WOODRUFF: Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova, thank you very much. OKSANA MARKAROVA: Thank you. Thank you for all the support. JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Wall Street rebounded after oil prices dove 12 percent in New York, back below $109 a barrel. It followed reports that the United Arab Emirates had changed its position and would now urge OPEC to boost oil production.After trading ended, the UAE said it supports OPEC’s existing plan. For the day, though, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 653 points — that’s 2 percent — to close at 33286. The Nasdaq rose 460 points. That’s 3.5 percent. The S&P 500 jumped 2.5 percent. That’s the most since June of 2020. The U.S. House of Representatives moved this evening to fund the government for the rest of the 2022 fiscal year, ahead of a Friday deadline.The bill totals some $1.5 trillion, and includes nearly $14 billion in aid for Ukraine. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi removed $15.6 billion in new COVID relief spending, when some Democrats complained that it would actually cost their states money. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is a democratic process, where people have weighed the equities, expressed their views, and the timing is what the timing is. And the timing on this is March 11. And so we had to move when we had an agreement. JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans also opposed the COVID spending, but Pelosi said she hopes the House will approve it in a separate bill. We will return to all of this later in the program. A federal judge in Washington threw out claims today that Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama incited Trump supporters on January 6. The judge ruled that Brooks’ speech to a rally that day was protected by the First Amendment.California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell had made the claims against Brooks in a lawsuit. In South Korea, conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol has claimed victory in a bitterly fought presidential election. Hours after South Koreans voted today, Yoon was declared the winner. He finished ahead of the liberal ruling party candidate by less than 1 percentage point. Yoon favors stronger ties with the U.S. and a tougher stance toward North Korea. The prime minister of Australia declared a national emergency today over severe flooding along the country’s east coast.Historic rainfall around the two largest cities, Sydney and Brisbane, has killed 22 people and left entire communities stranded. Officials said they need to cut through red tape to meet the crisis. SCOTT MORRISON, Australian Prime Minister: There is no flood event that has occurred in this part of Australia like this in anyone’s living or recorded memory. And so what we’re dealing with here is an extraordinary event. Australia is becoming a harder country to live in. JUDY WOODRUFF: Just two years ago, some of the flooded communities were battling the effects of disastrous forest fires. Back in this country, the Biden administration today restored California’s authority to set tailpipe emission standards for cars. That reverses a Trump era policy, and it means that California will again be allowed to impose mandates that are stricter than federal rules. At least 15 states have endorsed the California standards. And the first recipient of a heart transplant from a pig has died two months after the procedure.David Bennett was 57 when he passed away Tuesday at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He had terminal heart disease, and received the genetically modified animal organ as a last resort. Still to come on the “NewsHour”: Russia’s invasion in Ukraine highlights the vulnerability of nuclear power plants; we break down Congress’ latest government spending bill; plus much more. The war in Ukraine is the making of one man, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. He is now in his third decade of ruling Russia, decades marked, at times, by cooperation with the West, but more often by antagonism and confrontation. Lisa Desjardins charts Putin’s rise and reign. LISA DESJARDINS: He is a new kind of czar, equal parts autocrat and operative. Before this, though, at 47 years old, in 2000, Vladimir Putin was a new president, praising a democratic transfer of power. VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through translator): For the first time in Russian history, the executive power of the country is being transferred democratically, legally, and peacefully. LISA DESJARDINS: But, within a few years, he would change Russia’s laws to keep power for himself.The same man who reached out to the U.S. president in 2005 denounced America as a threat just two years later in front of U.S. senators. And, in 2016, he ordered a Russian cyber campaign that attacked U.S. democracy itself with misinformation, lies that were anti-government and pro-Donald Trump. Constant throughout, Putin’s survival instinct and grand ambitions. Those started here, St. Petersburg, Russia communist Leningrad, when Putin was born. According to Putin, his mother survived the brutal Nazi siege there, while his father fought elsewhere during World War II. He grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, a time of surging Cold War and swelling pride in the Soviet Union.The space race with America was on. Heroes in Soviet movies were soldiers and spies. AMY KNIGHT, Author, “How the Cold War Began”: Putin was drawn to this — the lure of the of the KGB spy. LISA DESJARDINS: Amy Knight is a longtime Russia analyst. She has written six books on the subject. Putin joined the KGB in his 20s. And Knight points out his first assignment, in Leningrad, was preventing dissent. AMY KNIGHT: This is an area of work where he’s very strongly influenced by the Soviet paranoia about any opposition. LISA DESJARDINS: Then, in 1991, communist hard-liners tried and failed to overthrow reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin disavowed the coup attempt and resigned from the KGB. As the Soviet Union collapsed, Putin rose, from a deputy mayor in St. Petersburg to President Boris Yeltsin’s right-hand man, in just six years, that rise, in part, to his handling of a Russian crisis. AMY KNIGHT: The Chechen war started. This basically was what catapulted Putin to the presidency. LISA DESJARDINS: In 1999, Putin took over and unleashed hell in Chechnya, a scorched-earth assault that left thousands of civilians dead.As Putin surged, Yeltsin plummeted. Facing criticism and health problems, Yeltsin resigned, making Putin president on the eve of the new millennium. His survival was tied to Russia’s. He stabilized and breathed new life into the economy. Businesses opened. Poverty dropped. GEORGE W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. I was able to get a sense of his soul. LISA DESJARDINS: And Putin warmed to the West, an ally after September 11, smiling and shaking hands across the world.But while he touted democracy, Putin was, in fact, building a government of one man, but, barely a year into his rule, terrible missteps that echoed from his Soviet past, the Kursk; 118 sailors perished after a submarine explosion. Russians lost precious days fumbling the rescue of those trapped. Putin lost trust while he stayed on vacation. SERGEI BELAYEVSKY, Russian Citizen (through translator): He, and not some subordinate, should have responded with a visit sooner here. LISA DESJARDINS: His war with Chechnya and his iron fist approach turned tragic twice. Chechen militants took hostages in a Moscow theater in 2002. More than 100 died after Russian forces gassed the building.In 2004, Chechen terrorists seized a school in Beslan. More than 300 were killed, including 186 children, in a botched security response. That same year, a new grisly era began, the lethal poisoning of Putin’s opponents. Some survived. Some died gruesome deaths, this as Putin stoked his tough guy image for the cameras and changed the face he showed the west. At the 2007 Munich Security Conference, Putin blasted NATO expansion and the United States specifically as threats. VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): One state, primarily the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every area, in economy, in politics, humanitarian, and educational policies it imposes on other nations. LISA DESJARDINS: It was a stark warning that turned to warfare the next year. Russia rolled into breakaway parts of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, itself hoping to enter NATO.Soon, Putin had a new threat to his power. The Russian middle class now wanted a say. Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets, joining leaders like Alexei Navalny to challenge growing repression. They charged rampant election fraud by Putin. The “NewsHour” spoke with Navalny just before the presidential election in 2012. ALEXEI NAVALNY, Russian Opposition Leader (through translator): He’s a kind of a czar, an autocrat. Unfortunately, he cannot imagine for himself another way of existence. LISA DESJARDINS: Again, Putin survived by force, arresting Navalny and other opponents, winning an unprecedented third term as president, and expanding suppression of some groups, including LGBTQ Russians. But resistance was also rising on Russia’s border. In early 2014, Ukrainians revolted against their pro-Russian government, wanting closer ties with Europe. It was Putin’s nightmare.He struck. Amidst a bloody crackdown that left dozens dead, Putin sent secret special forces, little green men, into majority-Russian Crimea, ultimately annexing the prized territory from Ukraine. VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. LISA DESJARDINS: In a kind of victory speech, Putin decried the West as the problem. He said he wanted Ukraine to be a sovereign state, but he also nodded toward Russian ambition. VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): Kyiv is the mother of Russian cities. Ancient Rus is our common source, and we cannot live without each other.LISA DESJARDINS: Putin next turned to a divided region in Ukraine, the Donbass, where war began in May 2014, and fighting has continued since. Thousands were killed. But that wasn’t enough. Putin now wants all of Ukraine. It’s a core goal, to restore a Russian-run Eastern Europe a Russian empire, with him in charge. AMY KNIGHT: I think he is genuinely fearful that Western values, democracy, could undermine his leadership and the whole regime. LISA DESJARDINS: Putin’s attack is killing hundreds of Ukrainians, but thus far not breaking their will. It is their will to live and for self-preservation vs. a man who knows how to survive. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins. JUDY WOODRUFF: Ukraine gets much of its electricity from nuclear power. And a series of Russian attacks near nuclear plants over the last two weeks are elevating fears of potential accidents and what they could trigger.John Yang has the latest. JOHN YANG: Judy, the latest warnings come from Ukrainian authorities, who say Russian attacks have left Chernobyl disconnected the power grid. Chernobyl, as many know, is the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986. And while it’s no longer generating electricity, it still stores spent nuclear fuel, which must be cooled. There are emergency generators providing power to do that, but they run on diesel fuel and only had a 48-hour supply. And, last week, a training area near another nuclear plant in Ukraine, the largest one in Europe, briefly caught fire during a Russian assault.Science correspondent Miles O’Brien, who covered the aftermath of Chernobyl and other nuclear accidents, joins us now. Miles, the name Chernobyl, of course, haunts any discussion of nuclear power. What’s the real threat of what’s happening there now? MILES O’BRIEN: John, I think we have to put it in perspective. The nuclear fuel we’re talking about there is old and cold. The last operative reactor at Chernobyl closed down in 2000. Yes, there are 20,000 spent fuel rods in a pool there slowly cooling down, but each of them has about the equivalent of 35 watts, or a night-light, to them.And so, if you left them in that pool of water for a week, it might — without doing anything to it, it might get to the temperature of a warm bath. Now, as for the actual melted-down portion of Chernobyl, where the real trouble occurred 36 years ago, there’s no power or water required to keep it safe. It’s inside a shelter. JOHN YANG: But there are operations still going on, decommissioning operations.What are the options of restoring power to Chernobyl? And why would the Russians want to be in that area, which is uninhabitable because of contamination from radioactive materials? MILES O’BRIEN: It’s a good question. There are a couple of other connections to the grid which could be reactivated, one inside Ukraine, one which comes from Belarus, which was turned off right before the invasion. So, you could get the power on there fairly quickly, in theory, and there are a few hundred people who work there. And, on a good day, it’s a dark and dank place to work. Strategically, it makes good sense for the Russians to be there. It’s north of Kyiv, straight shot into the capital, and there is a sophisticated electrical switching station there which they may want to control. JOHN YANG: Miles, you have been to that area. What’s it like? MILES O’BRIEN: Well, it’s 1,000 square miles of mostly nothing, and then this plant, this surreal abandoned plant in the middle of it. Some old people have held on and are still living there.I remember talking to an elderly woman living in her house, asking her why she didn’t move. She said she was more worried about the roof falling on her head than the possibility of radiation exposure. What has happened, interestingly, is, it’s become, some would suggest, sort of an ironic Garden of Eden, a lot of wildlife there. But a lot of scientists would tell you there’s been all kinds of genetic mutations making the wildfire there not so healthy. JOHN YANG: Ukraine does rely heavily on nuclear power for its electricity. A number of nuclear power plants across the country. What is the danger or how dangerous is it to have a battlefield like this? MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, this is where you get into the nightmare scenario.There are 15 operative reactors there. And if you cut off power to one of them, you could march down the road to a Fukushima scenario. You need water flowing over the hot core of these operating plants in order to keep them from melting down. Since Fukushima, plants all over the world have bolstered their defense in depth to try to insure against this. But we’re not exactly certain how well-defended these plants are. John, this is unprecedented. We cannot think of another time in history when nuclear power plants have been caught in the crossfire of war.JOHN YANG: Earlier in the program, we heard the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States tell Judy that monitors have been disabled at Chernobyl and some other plants. What are the dangers? What’s the threat of that? MILES O’BRIEN: Well, it’s always good to have visibility of what’s going on at Chernobyl, in case things don’t become stable. Right now, it is relatively stable. But the sensors that are there from the International Atomic Energy Agency are — many of them are remote. They’re solar-operated. And the data comes back on cellular networks. And, of course, if the power grid is down, there’s no cellular transmission. So, right now, we’re a little bit blind about Chernobyl. And that’s kind of a scary thing to say on the face of it. But the experts tell me, because it hasn’t been operating for 22 years, we need to temper our concern. JOHN YANG: Science correspondent Miles O’Brien, thank you very much. MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome, John.JUDY WOODRUFF: Lawmakers here in Washington are working around the clock to pass a massive funding bill to keep the government open through the fall. The bill includes billions in aid for Ukraine, among other key provisions. Our congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins is back with more on this and other news brewing on Capitol Hill. Lisa, hello. Welcome back to the studio for a change. LISA DESJARDINS: Right. Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, another whirlwind day, I guess you could say, in Washington. You do have this big government spending bill worked out overnight, only to hit a snag today. That was overcome. But tell us, what is in this bill, some of that, and why is it so important? LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, this is a mega-bill. It’s called the omnibus for reason. Our Latin scholars out there know why. It includes everything. This is the way the government touches American people’s lives the most. And I want to take people through some broad strokes of this bill. We can’t possibly cover it all, but, in general, this bill is $1.5 trillion. It’s the annual spending bill, but there’s also increases in it, more increases for defense and non-defense, and, for the first time that we have seen in well over a decade, earmarks have returned.We have reported on that. That is in this bill that is slated for passage. Also in here that you heard, that you talked about with the ambassador earlier, $13.6 billion for Ukraine. Half of that is military funding. Another roughly half is more humanitarian and diplomatic. Also in here, another big issue, $1.5 billion, about, for shoring up the Southern border. So, you can see this is a big-ticket item. It covers a lot of issues. There was an issue earlier today with the COVID money that was in it. It’s about $15 billion mainly for vaccines, medicines.How do you pay for that was the issue. Because of that debate, that has been separated out into another bill. I think we are going to be talking about that more in the future. Its fate is unknown. But, tonight, we expect this large package to move forward. How long it takes, we don’t know, but we think government will not shut down and this bill will become law, likely. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I was hearing it’s more than 2,500 pages. You have actually been reading it. LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us more about what else it does. LISA DESJARDINS: There’s so much. I would love to just spend hours taking people through it.It really tells you what government does. And a few items to highlight here that I want to talk about. This bill would renew the Violence Against Women Act, a big deal. That’s the first time in nearly a decade that that act has been renewed by Congress. Also, it addresses the immigrant visa backlog, with hundreds of millions in new spending to try and deal with that problem.It also contains the largest increase in funding for the IRS since 2001, almost the largest increase this century. And it also has some small things with big meaning. For example, this directs that there must be a plaque placed on the West Front of the Capitol to honor the police who fought there on January 6. It covers items big and small. It has a major effect in what this country does and how Congress sees this country. JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a lot of different, important issues that are wrapped up in one place. It’s not the only piece of important legislation, though to pass this week, significant Postal Service reform. Tell us some of what is in that legislation. LISA DESJARDINS: Well, first of all, to remind people — I know Geoff Bennett’s reported on this — why we have a problem with the Postal Service, so the Postal Service last year actually increased its revenue. It’s making more money. However, if you look at the numbers, they were — they’re losing money overall. They’re losing more money than they’re bring in.So, in fact, last year, it was a net loss of almost $5 billion. The key issue for them, Judy, has been pension funding. They have been required by Congress to fund pensions ahead of time. No other agency has to do this. So, when you look at the workers of the Postal Services, of some 650,000 people, we all know what they look like. We all see them in our lives. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. LISA DESJARDINS: Their jobs have been on the line in whether they could actually deliver the mail six days a week. That was a question for the Postal Service. This reform bill that passed the Senate this week, goes to the president’s desk, actually says that the — saves about $50 billion for the agency by changing health pension system works and diverting many of those workers to the Medicare system instead.And it keeps our six-day delivery system intact. JUDY WOODRUFF: So much there. LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, one more significant bill went to the president’s desk that week — this week, and that is the Emmett Till anti-lynching measure. LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us what is in that. LISA DESJARDINS: Right. And, first, thanks to our viewers for hanging in. This is a lot of information. But this is all very important stuff that doesn’t get attention all the time. This bill, the Emmett Till anti-lynching bill, of course, is named for the 14-year-old victim of a murder, a lynching in the 1950s in Mississippi. And this is something, the idea that a lynching should be a federal crime has been debated for 100 years. But, this week, it passed and made its way to the president’s desk. And I want to talk a little bit about what it actually does. It would make lynching — it defines lynching essentially as a conspiracy that results in a violent hate crime.So, some people say the Ahmaud Arbery death in Georgia could be considered a lynching, for example, under this law, a federal hate crime, federal lynching. And it applies to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status. This was overwhelmingly passed by both chambers, a bipartisan vote, something, as I say, that has been in the air for a century. It took a long time to do. And now it’s going to the president, which should be law soon. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you take notice when legislation passes and when there is bipartisan agreement. LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. That’s right. There is some. JUDY WOODRUFF: There is some. Lisa Desjardins, thanks very much. LISA DESJARDINS: You’re welcome. JUDY WOODRUFF: We will be back shortly with the discovery of a long-lost shipwreck off the coast of Antarctica.But, first, take a moment to hear from your local PBS station. It’s a chance to offer your support, which helps keep programs like ours on the air. For those stations staying with us, we turn to how COVID-19 is changing the health care industry. Two years into the pandemic, many hospitals and other health care facilities are still grappling with a shortage of nurses and physicians, but data indicates there’s also been a surge of interest in nursing, in medical and other health-related career programs. Stephanie Sy explores the trend in this reprised report that is part of our Rethinking College series. STEPHANIE SY: At 55, Debi Kinder is taking a new path. Last year, the mother of two, plus dog Diva, was semi-retired and working a part-time job. Then the pandemic hit, and she was laid off. Sheltered at home, Kinder saw a gap that needed filling DEBI KINDER, Student, Gateway Community College: I kept — I’m going to cry. I kept seeing the nurses on the news, and they were, like, sitting in the hallways, and they were just, like, crying. They were exhausted. And I was just, like, really driven to go see if I could help in any way.STEPHANIE SY: So, she started training to become a licensed practical nurse, and got a full-time job at a local home hospice. When she finishes her program in December, Kinder will take more courses to become a registered nurse, or R.N., a role with more responsibility and pay. Full-time school on top of full-time work is no easy task. But Kinder says she’s prepared for the long road ahead. What else do you think it takes to be a front-line worker during a pandemic? Because we’re still in it. DEBI KINDER: Endurance. STEPHANIE SY: Endurance. DEBI KINDER: I definitely have the endurance. I have done three Iron Man. I have done an Ultra run.And so I think that gives you the stamina. I’m not fast, but I never stop. (LAUGHTER) STEPHANIE SY: Kinder is part of a new trend. Last year saw record interest for many health-related programs nationwide. Medical schools saw applications soar by about 18 percent. Public health programs reported spikes in interest for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. And Kinder’s school, Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, saw a 15 percent rise in interest for its licensed practical nurse and nursing assistant programs.MARGI SCHULTZ, Director of Nursing, Gateway Community College: They really want to help people, and they want to make a difference. And they feel that this is a way to do it. STEPHANIE SY: Margi Schultz is the director of nursing at Gateway. MARGI SCHULTZ: A lot of students have cared for their family members who had COVID, and some of them were extremely ill. And they realized they weren’t scared by it, or, if they did home care, they liked it, and they were drawn to that. STEPHANIE SY: She says that some applicants are also attracted to the field because of the high demand for nurses at all levels.MARGI SCHULTZ: There are more jobs than there are people to fill them. STEPHANIE SY: The unprecedented interest that schools like Gateway saw last year has been dubbed the Fauci Effect, after prominent physician Dr. Anthony Fauci, who, along with other front-line health care workers, emerged as heroes during the pandemic. Ming Lian and her fellow classmates are some of the lucky few accepted to the University at Buffalo’s Medical School from a record number of applicants. Last year, the school saw a 40 percent surge. MING LIAN, Student, University at Buffalo Medical School: During the midst of the pandemic, I had to focus on just getting by day by day and the task at hand.STEPHANIE SY: Lian was working as a medical scribe, assisting doctors at a hospital in Brooklyn. When New York City became the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, she felt powerless. MING LIAN: I was very disappointed in myself not knowing enough to help anyone. So, going through medical school will allow me to directly participate in patient care. STEPHANIE SY: She had worked on her medical school applications for two years, and was ecstatic when she found out she was accepted. MING LIAN: That was incredible. It was an incredible feeling. STEPHANIE SY: Dr. Dori Marshall is the director of admissions at the University at Buffalo’s Medical School.She says that, like Lian, many first-year students were inspired by front-line doctors, but did not apply on the spur of the moment. DR. DORI MARSHALL, Director of Admissions, University at Buffalo Medical School: It’s really a process that takes years to get themselves ready to apply for medical school. STEPHANIE SY: She says last year’s spike in applications is more likely attributable to other reasons, like moving the entire process, including interviews, online. DR. DORI MARSHALL: The expense of flying here was gone with COVID.There was no overnight in a hotel. There was no travel expenses. The only expenses last year were really the application and then taking an hour for each of the two interviews. So I think that that had a lot to do with it. STEPHANIE SY: Fully-online applications meant aspiring doctors could afford to apply to more medical schools. MING LIAN: Being able to do it virtually and at home saved me quite a bit of money, so that I can actually use those money to apply to more school. STEPHANIE SY: These changes meant University at Buffalo saw a 59 percent increase in applications from first-generation college students like Lian, who moved to the U.S. from a village in China when she was 13. But this rising interest won’t mean more physicians anytime soon. Medical schools and hospitals have not increased class sizes and residency programs to meet demand. Back in Arizona, Gateway Community College has enrolled more nursing students, but students need hospital experience to complete their training, and those spots, as with physician residencies, are limited.While students can practice in simulations like this one, it’s no substitute for the real thing, says nursing director Margi Schultz. MARGI SCHULTZ: You absolutely must get in there with real patients. And patients do different things than a simulator does. And you really have to be vomited on, and you have to really experience it up close and personal to be a nurse. STEPHANIE SY: Student Debi Kinder is eager to join the fray. What most excites you about the prospect of being an R.N.? DEBI KINDER: Being done with school. (LAUGHTER) DEBI KINDER: I think just that — honestly, I hate to say it, but that feeling of accomplishment, of doing something I didn’t think I was able to do, and then being able to help patients and interact with them and get that quality time.STEPHANIE SY: She’s got the bedside manner part down. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Stephanie Sy in Phoenix. JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, a bit of brighter news, this time from the deep sea. Off the coast of Antarctica, deep underwater, researchers have discovered the British ship called Endurance, the vessel that launched one of the most remarkable stories of survival and determination. William Brangham has our report. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: She hasn’t been seen in over 100 years. This is the Endurance, resting nearly 10,000 feet down in the dark, freezing waters at the bottom of Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, just a few sea anemones and other creatures bearing witness to perhaps the final chapter in one of the world’s great stories of heroism and survival.This was Endurance back in January of 1915, a sturdy, three-masted ship that had carried British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 to the coast of Antarctica. Shackleton’s plan was to land and then cross the entire continent, which would have been a first. But the Endurance got stuck off the coast, trapped by the massive halo of sea ice that grows around Antarctica every year. The ice seized the ship, and, despite the crews best efforts, never let her go. Shackleton and his men were stranded, forced to live on the drifting ice with their ship for nearly 10 months, their heroic expedition plans ruined. After carrying them many miles along the coast, that churning ice crushed the Endurance, and she sank to the bottom of the sea. What makes this story so legendary is the extraordinary journey that Shackleton and his men then had to do over unmapped mountains, and across hundreds of miles of open ocean in small lifeboats to get out.JULIAN DOWDESWELL, Director, Scott Polar Research Institute: This is regarded as one of the epic small boat voyages ever undertaken, across some of the steepest, harshest seas in the world. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In this 2019 documentary, the director of the Scott Polar Research Institute explained how precarious their journey was to finally reach a distant whaling station. JULIAN DOWDESWELL: They’d done this epic boat journey, and survived that, and then they have to do an epic mountain crossing as well, because the whaling station was on the other side, all the time knowing that, if they failed, no news would ever come out, and the whole party of 28 would probably die.WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But they all made it. Polar historian Katie Murray says this is partly why Shackleton’s leadership skills are taught in business schools and military academies to this day. KATIE MURRAY, Polar Historian: There are so many places where that could very easily have gone wrong, and it seems absolutely miraculous that not only did this feat that seemed impossible actually succeed, but it succeeded in bringing all the men of the expedition home safely.WILLIAM BRANGHAM: More than a century later, an exploration crew, organized by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, went back to the icy Weddell Sea, where Shackleton’s ship first went down. Using the last known coordinates recorded by the Endurance’s crew, they deployed underwater drones to search the seabed. After about two weeks of searching in very difficult conditions, they found the wreck, the word Endurance, as fitting a name as ever, still clearly visibly on her stern.For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m William Brangham. JUDY WOODRUFF: Wow, and just the kind of news we like to see and need to see right now. Thank you, William. 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. .

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