March 19, 2023 - PBS News Weekend full episode
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March 19, 2023 - PBS News Weekend full episode
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03/19/2023 | 26m 45s | Video has closed captioning.
March 19, 2023 - PBS News Weekend full episode
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
JOHN YANG: Tonight on "PBS News Weekend," a massive belt of seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean threatens the beaches of the United States, Mexico and Caribbean.
Then, a new allegation that Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign worked to sabotage President Jimmy Carter's election your efforts to free the Iranian hostages, and a look inside the growing world of BookTok the online space where book lovers are sharing recommendations and driving book sales.
WOMAN: TikTok can really, really make an author and it can be a new author can be an author that's been around for a while, a book that's been around for a long time, a classic, a brand new novel, anything.
JOHN YANG: Good evening, I'm John Yang.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unannounced visit overnight to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
Once a symbol of defiance when Ukrainian forces held out in a steel mill for nearly three months before Russian forces seize the city last May.
It's Putin's first trip to Russian held Ukrainian territory and comes just days after the International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes and issued an arrest warrant.
This week Putin is to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow.
Swiss investment bank UBS has agreed to take over its troubled rival Credit Suisse for more than $3 billion.
The deal was engineered by Swiss officials in an urgent effort to restore trust in the global banking system.
Global markets tumbled last week on the news of vulnerabilities at Credit Suisse following the earlier collapse of two U.S. banks.
Officials were eager to finalize the deal before Asian markets began a new trading week.
Later this week in the United States, the Federal Reserve is set to make its next move on U.S. interest rates.
Rescuers comb through rubble today searching for survivors after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook the southern coastal regions of Ecuador and Peru on Saturday killing at least 15 people.
The quake was felt as far away as Guayaquil, Ecuador is second largest city, which is home to more than 3 million people.
Former Vice President Mike Pence came to Donald Trump's defense today after the former president claimed he expects to be arrested on Tuesday on charges connected to hush money payments to several women who say they had affairs with him.
Speaking on ABC's This Week, Pence slammed the prosecutors saying it's all about politics.
MIKE PENCE, Former U.S. Vice President: I'm taken aback at the idea of indicting a former president of the United States just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left in this country.
It just feels like a politically charged prosecution here.
JOHN YANG: If indicted, Mr. Trump would be the first former president to be charged with a crime.
Still to come on "PBS News Weekend," a sloshing mass of seaweed making its way toward us shores, and the boost authors and books are getting from the social media platform TikTok.
(BREAK) JOHN YANG: Almost from the moment Iran free the U.S. hostages in 1981 just minutes after President Ronald Reagan took the oath of office, there have been suspicions about a deal between the Reagan campaign and Iran.
The hostage crisis had consumed the last year of the Carter presidency, contributing to a perception of weakness.
Now, Ben Barnes, a prominent Democratic politician at the time, tells the New York Times he was a witness to Republican efforts to prevent the hostages from being freed before Election Day.
Gary Sick was the Iran expert on President Carter's National Security Council.
He wrote a 1991 book making the case that there was a deal called October Surprise.
Mr. Sick, when you heard what Burr Redwood - - Ben Barnes, said, what was your reaction?
GARY SICK, Former National Security Council Staff: My reaction was pretty straightforward.
This was the first high level official of any government that had specifically identified the fact that the Reagan administration was trying to make contact with Iran, and tell them that they should keep the hostages until after the election of Jimmy Carter, the election which Reagan was running against Jimmy Carter.
And we had pretty well figured that out, we had a bunch of evidence that that was the case.
But this is the first most credible of all of the sources that have talked about the story to this point.
JOHN YANG: How does this fit in with the research you did for your book, October surprise?
GARY SICK: Well, my book had dozens and dozens of sources.
But a lot of them were people that you wouldn't trust.
You wouldn't want to go to a birthday party with these guys, arms dealers, people who were on the fringes of all of the black operations that were going on around the world.
And so their word, which was pretty much that the Republicans wanted to keep the hostages in place until after the election.
That view was held by a great many people.
And it was held by a lot of people in the Middle East.
But of course, I'm quite accustomed working in the Middle East to the fact that there are conspiracy theories going on all the time.
So I didn't pay too much attention to them at the beginning.
But the evidence began to be overwhelming that something was going on here.
But the problem was, there was really no smoking gun.
JOHN YANG: There was a key moment in Iran on the morning of election day in the United States.
In 1989, Jimmy Carter spoke to Jim Lehrer about that.
JIMMY CARTER, Former U.S. President: There was a flurry of activity in their Iranian parliament that they were going to vote on whether or not to release the hostages just before the votes were cast in this country that Parliament decided under Khomeini's pressure, that they would not release the hostages and this devastating negative news about hostages swept the country.
That election day, I have always been convinced that this was a major factor.
JOHN YANG: That hardline position by the Iranians on election day.
And then January 15, five days before President Reagan was inaugurated, you've written that the Iran -- Iranian position changed dramatically.
Was that suspicious to you?
GARY SICK: Well, at the time, as I say, we were really tied up in the -- it was a hectic time, everything was happening at once.
But, you know, I later talked to the secretary the -- what would it be the Secretary of the Treasury in Iran in doing research for my book, and he said he had actually been one of the people in Iran, who wanted to see the hostage just released.
He thought it was foolish and a mistake by Iran to hold the hostages.
But he said when he found out what kind of terms they were offering in this last second deal, to get the hostages out of there, he changed his mind because he said Iran shouldn't have had to pay a price that high.
They were actually paying off loans that cost them enormous amount of money.
Basically, they lost almost the order of $8 billion in that trade.
And at the very last second, they changed their terms totally.
And basically, we're willing to make concessions that we would never have even asked for in doing the negotiations.
JOHN YANG: William Casey was the campaign chairman in 1980.
In the Reagan administration, he was the director of the CIA.
Based on what you know about him, is it conceivable that he could have been behind all this?
GARY SICK: We know for a fact that he actually made a trip to Madrid, where we believe he met with Iranian officials.
But again, we can't tie that down beyond the dates and the times.
We know that he sent his emissaries out talking to the Palestinians and asking them to get in touch with the Iranians and deliver this message that they didn't want the hostages released and that they would pay a price for it.
A lot of things happened around Bill Casey during that period of time.
JOHN YANG: As we know, President Carter is in hospice care.
And Ben Barnes said one reason why he wanted to speak up is because the President is near the end of his life.
How do you think the President is going to respond to this?
GARY SICK: I have talked to President Carter a number of times about this, but very generally, basically, as far as I know, he believes that this did in fact happen and has become as much of a believer as I am.
And I think he was also skeptical at the beginning, but I think has come around to come to believe that this really did happen.
And, you know, people are -- the amazing thing is that Mr. Barnes waited for 43 years to tell his story.
And it's really too bad.
Because I think the American people would really have deserved to know if something like this happen if an election is being fixed.
We ought to know about it.
And I'm sorry that this story didn't come out much, much sooner.
JOHN YANG: Fascinating bit of history.
Gary Sick member of the National Security Council under President Carter, thank you very much.
GARY SICK: Pleasure to be with you.
JOHN YANG: It sounds like science fiction.
A 5,000 mile long belt of seaweed mitt weighing more than 11 million tons is sloshing around to the Atlantic Ocean.
When some of it reaches Florida, it threatens to wreak havoc in the coastal waters and on the beaches, but it is very real.
It's called The Great Atlantic Sargassum belt, so big it can be seen from space spanning the tropical Atlantic from West Africa to the Caribbean.
Earlier I talked with Ajit Subramaniam, an oceanographer at Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM, Oceanographer at Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory: So I guess it was a seaweed that grows entirely on the surface of the ocean it has never attached to land, and the Sargasso Sea is called the Sargasso Sea because of the prevalence of Sargassum in the northern part.
I guess Sunbelt is a new population of Sargassum that seems to have developed since about 2011.
We have been seeing there and satellite imagery before that.
And then we saw this explosion of a popular new population about them.
But seems to basically slosh back and forth between the coast of West Africa and the Yucatan, a Mexican coast, on the other side of the Caribbean, on an annual basis.
JOHN YANG: Is this one bed of seaweed, is it multiple plants?
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM: Actually, it is made up of individual strands.
So when you're out on a ship, we often will see a band of Sargassum maybe a couple of meters wide, so let's say 10 feet wide, and that stretches sort of disconnected, but into the horizon.
So you have these streaks that are continuous only to about 200 meters or 30 meters, each one, but then they line up one behind the other because of the wind.
JOHN YANG: And you say that this was first seen in imagery in 2011.
And it's grown a lot since then, why did it suddenly appear?
And why is it growing so fast?
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM: There are a couple of theories on that that have been published.
One has to do with the change in circulation and a deep mixing which brought nutrients to the surface in 2010. that seems -- that could have initiated this new population.
The other theory is that it is changes in agricultural or land use patterns in the Amazon River basin that has increased the flow of nutrients coming out with the river.
I personally think the boat may be partially right.
But I do not know that either one explains it completely.
So for me, it is still a little bit of a mystery as to what caused the new population.
But it is obvious it is there.
And it has been growing since.
JOHN YANG: And I also understand that in the open sea there can be benefits from this is that right?
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM: That's right.
So in the Sargasso Sea, for example, where this population has existed since before the times of Christopher Columbus, this has seen as habitat for fish.
When we are out in the ocean, we often see fish like mahimahi that are hanging out under these big rafts of Sargassum.
So, it's a very active ecosystem.
I've basically sometimes compared it to an upside down coral reef in that it's a hotspot of biological activity.
JOHN YANG: What are the threats if it gets when it gets closer to land?
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM: There are just multiple threats.
One is that when it washes up on beaches and in Barbados, I've seen piles of Sargassum five feet high and you do not want to go to the beach when it is covered with Sargassum, both because it really smells very badly when it rots.
But then people have now done studies to show that pregnant women are affected by the hydrogen sulfide that is produced due to the clotting of a Sargassum.
Methane is produced when it rots.
And that is a very potent greenhouse gas.
You also have environmental damage because while in the process of cleaning up Sargassum you have heavy trucks going on the beach and damaging the rather delicate environment that beaches.
There is increased erosion when Sargassum was washing up on the beaches and gets washed away.
It's been suggested that catching turtles have a difficult time finding their way through the massive Sargassum into the beach, and therefore, it might be affecting turtle populations.
JOHN YANG: Is there anything that can be done about this?
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM: The idea of dealing with this is to try and prevent it from beaching.
The (INAUDIBLE) is where you put it, you know, because you don't have enough land area to then go dump it someplace.
I have been working with colleagues.
We've been working on this idea that if we can collect the Sargassum when it is still in deep water offshore and sink it, then we are actually coming up with a nature based solution and basically mitigating against climate change.
Because when the Sargassum grow, they do photosynthesis, which basically means they take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into biomass.
And if you think that biomass to depths greater than maybe 2,000 meters, you're taking the carbon dioxide out of circulation for about 100 years from the atmosphere.
JOHN YANG: We've seen a lot of discussion about seaweed replacing plastics, and they're starting to farm it in the oceans.
Are there any ecological concerns about farming in the ocean?
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM: If you are doing this in a way to mitigate against climate change or replace plastic from seaweed, you just want to make sure that you're doing some sort of lifecycle analysis where you're not spending more carbon in harvesting, less amount of carbon, you know, I always say you can spend 100 kilos of carbon to get 10, get rid of 10.
And so that lifecycle analysis is something that needs to be done.
And people are doing research on that.
But I do not know that.
That's a simple fact that you can actually do this in a carbon efficient way if your objective is to mitigate against climate change.
JOHN YANG: Ajit Subramaniam of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.
Thank you very much.
AJIT SUBRAMANIAM: Thank you pleasure.
JOHN YANG: The publishing world has a new infusion of enthusiasm and energy, all because of an online community of book lovers gathering on TikTok, known as BookTok.
It's not just a place for book recommendations and reviews.
It's also helping to drive book sales.
Geoff Bennett takes a look at this growing phenomenon.
LEE LYNCH, Therapist: I remember going to a Barnes and Noble and I saw a book type table and that kind of went over there and looked at some of the books that were on that I remember seeing those books and being like, Oh, I'm interested in this like what is this GOEFF BENNETT: Lee Lynch isn't alone step inside a bookstore in the last year.
Colorful tables like this one are now a common part of the book buying experience.
By day, Lynch works as a therapist in her spare time she creates videos on the social media platform TikTok focused entirely on books.
LEE LYNCH: You are new here.
My name is Lee.
My book from every independent country in Africa in 2022.
I was on maternity leave, I was reading a ton of books because I had a ton of time.
GEOFF BENNETT: Lynch says she used that time to immerse herself in BookTok, a space for anyone who loves books.
MAN: Little Life, the magnum opus of sadness.
Fun fact the cover is actually just a picture of me when I finished reading it.
WOMAN: And it has a black queer main character, black witches, paranormal ghosts, a little bit of romance, but mostly thriller.
MAN: January, February, March.
GEOFF BENNETT: BookTok is having a major impact on the book industry.
In 2021, adult fiction driven by BookTok grew by 25 percent over the previous year.
Last year, it grew another 8 percent.
ADRIAN CEPEDA, Owner, Golden Lab Bookshop: I think a lot of people hopped on TikTok, especially during the pandemic because we were isolated.
GEOFF BENNETT: Adrian Cepeda who owns a bookstore has himself jumped into the world of book talk.
ADRIAN CEPEDA: This was a way for me to reach people again through books and recommendations.
And really try and talk to them again about what they wanted to see and what they wanted to read.
GEOFF BENNETT: Cepada says his own BookTok videos and others are driving sales at his store.
ADRIAN CEPEDA: The minute a BookTok video goes viral, the sales in my store go up for that book.
GEOFF BENNETT: BookTok has become the go to platform for readers looking to find recommendations for books, and all kinds of genres, not always in the mainstream.
CHIOMA NWUZI: So it's like a mini universe of books that is encompassed in a social media platform.
GEOFF BENNETT: Chioma Nwuzi, who goes by ChiBeReading on TikTok has 17,000 followers.
CHIOMA NWUZI: You're going to get your nonfiction, your true crime, your fantasy romance, all of it.
Click on one of those videos like I like him.
See what everyone says cool.
And now all of a sudden you find this book about like in 2,500 like humans have become robots.
And they now live on Jupiter and you were just looking for a book.
GOEFF BENNETT: The diversity of books featured on BookTok is also expanding the time type of books that are selling says Kristen McLean the executive director of NPD Books and Entertainment, a company that tracks book sales.
KRISTEN MCLEAN, NPD Books and Entertainment: The largest categories that have grown are also the largest categories on BookTok.
So things like romance, contemporary women's fiction, thrillers and mysteries, fantasy, all of those have very strong followings on TikTok, and we've seen the authors that are embraced by TikTok being the leading authors driving the growth in these categories this year.
ELIZABETH HARRIS, The New York Times Journalist: It completely took people by surprise.
GEOFF BENNETT: New York Times journalist Elizabeth Harris has been reporting on the meteoric rise of BookTok.
ELIZABETH HARRIS: TikTok can really, really make an author, it can be a new author or it can be an author as it's been around for a while a book that's been around for a long time a classic, a brand new novel, anything, there's kind of a no limit to how much how many people can kind of take off on TikTok.
GEOFF BENNETT: Samantha Shannon is one of those authors, her 2019 book, The Priory of the Orange Tree is filled with dragons and queer characters.
Shannon recalls a conversation with her grandmother wondering if the book would succeed.
SAMANTHA SHANNON, Author, "The Priory of the Orange Tree": And I remember telling her what it was about.
And she said, some of that is absolutely certain that anyone's going to want to read a book about dragons and lesbians.
I know that Game of Thrones is successful.
So people definitely want the dragon part.
I'm hoping that they will also want the rest of it.
MAN: I want to be so immersed that I'm thinking about the book, even when I'm not reading it.
And I was thinking about the Priory of the Orange Tree all the time, MAN: I feel so quenched by this book.
SAMANTHA SHANNON: With TikTok, I've discovered there's actually a huge community of readers that really want to read those kinds of books.
And I often have readers asking me, you know, like, is it sapphic?
Is it about women loving women, and that's something that they're actively looking for and asking for.
GEOFF BENNETT: Adrian says BookTok is a place to find connections that are relevant to his identity.
ADRIAN CEPEDA: I didn't see myself in stores until I was in college.
And then I had to work backwards.
And I thought it was a very singular experience for myself.
But when I got onto BookTok, and it showed me that oh, we all went to the same thing.
We're all just trying to help people diversify their shelves so their kids don't feel like we did.
GEOFF BENNETT: And Lee says the connections are even broader, they're global.
LEE LYNCH: Being able to join this community and find other people who not only look like me, but also share this interest was such a big moment for me, it made me just feel a part of a community of a greater community than what I grew up in.
JOHN YANG: For Women's History Month, we're spotlighting another figure whose contributions have often been overlooked.
Tonight, a 20th century physicist who made indelible changes to her field.
Over the course of her trailblazing career, Chien-Shiung Wu was known by a number of monikers, the First Lady of Physics, the queen of nuclear research, the Chinese Marie Curie.
She was one of the most influential physicist of the 20th century.
Her work helped hasten the end of the Second World War and changed our understanding of subatomic particles.
At a time when it was rare to educate girls in China, she studied physics at National Central University in what is now Nanjing, graduating at the top of her class.
With a financial support of an uncle, Wu came to the United States and in 1940, earned her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.
She couldn't find a research position at a university so became a teacher.
She was the first woman in Princeton University's physics department.
In 1944, she was asked to join the faculty of Columbia University to become a senior scientist on the top secret Manhattan Project, the government's World War II efforts to develop an atomic weapon.
Her work primarily involved uranium enrichment and radiation detection.
Columbia, where she worked until retiring in 1980, was the site of her most significant work.
In 1956, theoretical physicist Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang asked her to come up with a way to test their theory on the behavior of subatomic particles.
The results of her ingenious method known as the Wu Experiment, shattered a fundamental concept of nuclear physics that had been universally accepted for 30 years, Lee and Yang were awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics, but Wu like many women's scientist of her day was left out.
In a speech at MIT in 1964, she asked whether the tiny atoms and nuclei are the mathematical symbols or the DNA molecules have any preference for either masculine or feminine treatment.
Her 1965 book Beta Decay is still concerned standard reading for nuclear physicist, while her work wasn't recognized for the Nobel Prize she earned many other honors including the National Medal of Science in 1975, and the first Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978.
And in 2021, 24 years after her death in 1997, Wu was honored with the U.S. Postage Stamp.
And that is "PBS News Weekend" for this Sunday.
On Monday, we look back at the start of the Iraq war 20 years ago with an update on one Marine unit that helped lead the invasion.
I'm John Yang.
For all my colleagues, thanks for joining us.
Have a good week.