JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: a major surge.
As infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 increase across the country, some medical experts warn, the CDC's latest guidance is creating confusion.
Then: rising tensions.
Diplomats from the United States and Russia meet amid stark disagreements over Ukraine and the future influence of NATO.
And the divided state of America.
Deepening polarization prompts efforts to bridge the gap in U.S. politics by tapping into people's shared experiences.
PETER COLEMAN, Columbia University: There are not simple fixes to this.
We're going to have to recognize, like addiction, that this is a long-term problem that has been gaining steam for decades.
But we can do it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
(BREAK) JUDY WOODRUFF: The Biden administration is moving tonight to make it easier to get at-home tests for COVID-19.
The White House says, starting Saturday, private insurers must cover eight at-home tests per person per month.
Also today, the CDC warned against travel to Canada because of a rise in COVID-19 cases there.
And, in China, parts of city of Tianjin were locked down less than a month before the Winter Olympics in Beijing 75 miles away.
For the first time, doctors have transplanted the heart of a pig into a human patient.
The University of Maryland Medical Center says the 57-year-old man is doing well three days after the surgery.
He was ineligible for a human heart transplant.
The pig had been genetically modified to prevent the human body from immediately rejecting the heart.
The death toll from Sunday's apartment building fire in the Bronx was lowered to 17 today, including eight children.
Officials in New York said some victims were double-counted after the city's deadliest fire since 1990.
Investigators blamed a space heater for igniting the flames.
Many of the victims were West African immigrants, as Mayor Eric Adams noted today.
ERIC ADAMS (D), Mayor of New York: This is a global tragedy, because the Bronx and New York City is representative of the ethnicities and cultures across the globe.
And so everyone is feeling the pain of what we are experiencing.
But I would tell you this, and I say over and over again, we're going to get through this moment.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The New York tragedy came less than a week after a House fire in Philadelphia killed a dozen people.
The man who bought the gun used in the Kenosha, Wisconsin, killings pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor today.
Dominick Black will pay a $2,000 fine under the deal.
In 2020, he bought an assault-style rifle for Kyle Rittenhouse, who was underage.
Rittenhouse later shot two people to death during racial justice protests.
He was acquitted in November.
In Kazakstan, officials say last week's protests have ended, with nearly 8,000 people arrested and Russian-led troops on the ground.
Streets in Almaty, the country's largest city, were mostly empty today.
In a teleconference, Russia's President Vladimir Putin vowed to oppose revolts against regional leaders.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through translator): Of course, we understand the events in Kazakstan are not the first and far from the last attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of our states.
I agree with President Lukashenko of Belarus.
The measures taken by our alliance have clearly shown we will not allow the situation to be rocked at home and we will not allow so-called color revolutions to take place.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In addition to the arrests, Kazakh officials say that 164 people were killed in the protests.
Insured global losses from extreme weather hit $120 billion last year.
That's the second highest amount ever.
The world's largest re-insurer, Munich Re, today cited climate change as a main factor.
Meanwhile, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases rebounded sharply last year.
The research firm Rhodium Group cites a surge in coal use.
The Federal Reserve Board's vice chair, Richard Clarida, is resigning on Friday, two weeks before his term ends.
He'd been criticized over stock trades he made in February of 2020, as the pandemic first threatened the world economy.
He is the third Fed official to resign over the issue.
The IRS announced today that federal income tax season will open more than two weeks early this year, on January 24.
The agency says that it needs extra time to cope with potential delays from the COVID surge and less funding than it requested.
On Wall Street today, a slow start to the week.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 162 points to close at 36068.
The Nasdaq rose seven points.
The S&P 500 slipped six.
And several passings of note.
Tonight, comedian Bob Saget is being remembered for long-running stints on TV's "Full House" and "America's Funniest Home Videos" in the late 1980s and early '90's.
He was found dead in his Florida hotel on Sunday.
A generation grew up watching Saget on "Full House," seen here as a widowed father playing with one of his three young girls.
BOB SAGET, Actor: Michelle breaks for the basket and goes right through my legs.
(LAUGHTER) BOB SAGET: OK. She's going for that super-duper, high-flying, baby-skying, junior, junior Slama Jama.
Talk about serious hang time.
(LAUGHTER) BOB SAGET: Michelle scores!
In your face.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Bob Saget was 65 years old.
Also on Sunday, Dwayne Hickman, TV's Dobie Gillis of the 1960s, died in Los Angeles after battling Parkinson's disease.
He was 87 years old.
And Oscar-winning lyricist Marilyn Bergman passed away in Los Angeles on Saturday.
She and her husband teamed on hundreds of songs, including "The Way We Were" and "Windmills of Your Mind."
Marilyn Bergman was 93 years old.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the prospects for easing tensions after the U.S. and Russia hold high-stakes talks; we examine the latest push for voting rights legislation in Congress; how a memorial to shooting victims in Tucson elevates art born from tragedy; plus much more.
The latest guidance from the CDC on isolation and testing for COVID-19 has received intense pushback.
As William Brangham reports, many health experts are now criticizing what the CDC has said and how CDC officials have said it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That's right, Judy.
The CDC said, if you get COVID, you don't have to isolate for 10 days, like before.
You can cut that down to five.
But it also said people don't need a negative test to resume regular life.
Joining a chorus of criticism, the American Medical Association issued a rare, but strong rebuke, saying that the CDC's new recommendations were -- quote -- "not only confusing, but are risking further spread of the virus."
The man who wrote those words is Dr. Gerald Harmon.
He's the president of the AMA.
Dr. Harmon, great to have you on the "NewsHour."
I'd like to have a better sense of what it is that is bothering you about what the CDC did.
Am I right that you're OK that people might leave COVID isolation after five days, but only if they have a negative test?
Is that your issue?
DR. GERALD HARMON, President, American Medical Association: William, thanks for having me.
And that -- you have nailed it.
That is my issue, as a front-line provider.
We have a lot of evidence that shows that viral shedding might stop after five days.
We don't know as much about the Omicron variant as we would like.
Of course, we are learning on the fly.
But five days seems a little quick to let someone released back into the wild without at least negative testing before they're going back, even if they're wearing masks, even if they're wearing medical-grade masks.
Putting someone back into the environment that could spread this -- and some of the data shows that as many as 31 percent of those after five days still shed the virus -- that's a little inherent risk that I'm not willing to buy into right now.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, the CDC director, when asked about this, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said -- she implied that that rapid tests were not as reliable as they have been sold, although that's somewhat contrary to what she said at the beginning of the pandemic.
What do you make of that?
Do you think that rapid tests are reliable?
DR. GERALD HARMON: Well, I use them.
All of us use them.
We make a determination whether to put someone in isolation when they come in.
We use the test that we have available.
And that's a rapid test.
We tell people all the time, get ahold of a rapid test.
If you think you might have been exposed or have symptoms, we tell you, go do a rapid test.
That's been a relatively common standard.
And if it's good enough to make the diagnosis, I would hope that it's good enough to make the un-diagnosis that you're no longer contagious.
Now, there are going to be, like any test, some false negatives, some false positives, but it's been the standard.
They're generally a good indicator of whether a patient is infectious.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, anyone who has actually tried to go out and purchase one of those rapid test knows that they are in incredibly short supply right now.
And your letters seemed to imply that the CDC made this decision because of that shortage.
Do you believe that that's really true?
DR. GERALD HARMON: Listen, this is not the AMA or other health care agencies against the CDC.
We love them.
We're supportive of them.
They're a public health messenger that we rely on.
So we're a little bit concerned with the messaging and the confused messaging, because I think testing is good to have.
I wish we had more tests available, the rapid tests.
I, like others, are struggling to find tests in the community.
Almost every day -- in fact, every day, people call me: Hey, I need testing, and I can't find one.
I will tell you a story.
I bought a handful of them, four of them, when I could still get four, about a week or two ago.
And I have used them when my neighbors come knocking on my door literally to test them, because I need to make a decision about recommending my personal advice to my patients.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, there's an echo here about what happened with masks at the very beginning of the pandemic.
I mean, Dr. Fauci himself has now acknowledged that there was the worry that there weren't enough N95 masks and they didn't recommend them for people.
You mentioned the somewhat confused and confusing messaging of the CDC.
Is this something that has been frustrating to you for a while?
DR. GERALD HARMON: Well, again, this is science.
This is not mathematics, so that the numbers may change.
The data may indicate different transmission variants we have.
All of us, the CDC, all of my scientific colleagues, myself, on the front lines, we're learning.
So the messaging may change at times, but it's not in any deliberate format to confuse people or because we don't know what we're doing or the CDC doesn't.
It is a changing discipline.
And data tells us what to advise.
So, yes, we're now recommending medical-grade masks.
I used this.
I will use this morning.
And I have got a an N95 mask for when I'm in the environment.
But I don't use cloth masks anymore, because I think the messaging and the science shows they're not as protective, especially with the transmissibility, of the Omicron variant.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, if a patient comes to you and says, look, I tested positive, I have been in isolation for four or five days, CDC says, I can get out without a test, but they're not sure about their symptoms, and they cannot get a test, what would you advise them to do?
DR. GERALD HARMON: They do come to me with that very question.
You're exactly right.
So that's not just a hypothetical thought experiment.
That's real time.
And I'm going to stick with my recommendation, not necessarily the AMA's recommendation, but it's going to be, if you're not sure, you have only been five days since the onset of symptoms or the date of positive testing, then I think, if you don't have an available tests to help support that you are not contagious, you're not infected, why don't you wait a couple more days, and then seven days might be a reasonable, prudent recommendation that you could go back to work?
If you're -- if I did test you positive, I would wait a couple days later and get you tested again.
We're not trying to pick a magic number.
We're trying to meet someplace in the middle.
We're trying to do the best we can with the data we have and use common sense.
And that is the challenge for all of us right now, is that none of us are deliberately trying to release people into the wild that are infectious or contagious.
We're trying to do the best we can to keep our schools open, our hospitals open, our businesses open, and help the economy.
I understand the motivation, but the science still is catching up with the reality.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, thank you so much for being here.
DR. GERALD HARMON: William, thanks for having me.
Thanks for being part of the solution, and you and the PBS folks being a source of reliable medical information and for being on the side of science.
Thank you again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is one of the most significant crises with Russia since the end of the Cold War, 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's border that the U.S. says could invade within weeks.
Today, in Geneva, senior American and Russian diplomats met, kicking off a week of intense diplomacy.
Nick Schifrin reports NICK SCHIFRIN: The photo-op was tense and silent.
U.S. and Russian negotiators met for eight hours of bilateral talks that Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov described as a possible basis for agreement.
SERGEI RYABKOV, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister (through translator): A professional, practical conversation by itself puts us in an optimistic mood, of course.
But, by all means, the main questions remain.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Speaking to reporters by phone, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called it a frank and forthright preliminary dialogue.
WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State: Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other's priorities and concerns.
It was not what you would call a negotiation.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The crisis caused by 100,000 Russian troops deployed to Ukraine's borders.
The U.S. warns Russia has plans to mobilize twice that number and possibly invade.
But what the U.S. raised today, mutual limits on Eastern European exercises like these in Poland and on missile deployments by reviving the defunct Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or defunct intermediate nuclear forces treaty, or INF, that banned an entire class of nuclear weapons.
WENDY SHERMAN: Even on things that are not Russian priorities, we had useful discussions and exchanges today that will help inform our way forward.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Russia's public priorities expand much further.
In December, it released demands, including roll back all NATO forces and weapons in Europe to 1997, and no further enlargement of NATO, including Ukraine.
That would rewrite decades of U.S. and NATO policy and the map.
In 1949, NATO's Eastern border was Italy.
By 1997, it had added four more countries, for a total of 16.
Since then, in five rounds of expansion, it's grown to 30 countries, including those on Russia's border.
In 2008, NATO said Ukraine and Georgia would become future members.
The Biden administration says it refuses to negotiate NATO expansion or the deployment of U.S. troops in Eastern Europe, which Ryabkov today said was still Russia's priorities.
SERGEI RYABKOV: For us, it's absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never, ever becomes a member of NATO.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But in Kiev this weekend, Ukrainians who look West urged the U.S. to stand up to Putin.
It's been eight years since Russia invaded Eastern Ukraine.
And, still, this weekend, Ukrainian soldiers fought Russian-backed separatists.
Kiev insists that Moscow cannot be allowed to block its NATO membership, as Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna said today in Brussels.
OLGA STEFANISHYNA, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister: We have inherent sovereign right to choose our own security arrangements, including treaties and alliances.
What Russia is doing is tries to impose its agenda, instead of returning to the negotiation table.
NICK SCHIFRIN: So, did today's talks create a diplomatic pathway to avoid war in Ukraine?
For that, we get to views.
Debra Cagan had a 30-year career as an American diplomat, where she focused on arms control and NATO.
And Dmitri Trenin joins us from Moscow, where he directs the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.
Welcome to the "NewsHour" to both of you.
Dmitri Trenin, let me start with you.
There are Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.
There are Russian demands that the U.S. had to respond to today.
Do today's talks create a pathway for a diplomatic solution?
DMITRI TRENIN, Director, Carnegie Moscow Center: Well, it's too early to tell.
I think that, as Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said, they will assess the results of the talks of today and, in fact, yesterday, also the talks that are scheduled for the 12th of January with NATO and, to some extent, what happens the following day, the next day in Vienna at the OSCE.
And then they will come to a decision whether a new round of talks is possible, is promising, or whether that's it.
So, I think we are at an inflection point in -- not only U.S.-Russian relations, but more broadly in Russian Western relations.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Debra Cagan, do you believe we are at an inflection point, and the outcome wasn't decided today, but, in fact, will only be decided after a week's worth of diplomatic meetings?
DEBRA CAGAN, Former U.S.
Diplomat: I don't even think it will be decided after a week's worth of diplomatic meeting.
And I think that inflection point has been going on for quite a long period of time.
It is not just right this second.
So, I think that a lot of talking has to be had.
And there has been no evidence of any Russian de-escalation to this point, which I think should be a precursor of moving forward on any of the other diplomatic solutions.
NICK SCHIFRIN: So, Dmitri Trenin, let's go to what the U.S. administration has proposed.
In response to a series of requests, many of which are about NATO and Ukraine, the U.S. administration is focused on mutual concessions on arms control, on revisiting the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and on restricting exercises in Eastern Europe.
Will that be enough?
DMITRI TRENIN: I think the short answer is no.
I think that the issue of INF forces in Europe is certainly something that Russia would want to address and resolve.
I think that Russia is also interested in caps on troops in its vicinity, on exercises by NATO forces.
But most important issues for Russia were membership, or, rather, non-membership of Ukraine in NATO, and the nonexpansion of military infrastructure of NATO, no-strike weapons that can reach Russia in Europe, including in Ukraine.
And he also mentioned a rollback of NATO's infrastructure to where it was back in 1997.
So he called those three elements core elements, key elements of the Russian position, and unless those were addressed in a manner that would be found acceptable by the Russians, other things would not be pursued.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Debra Cagan, many of those proposals are dead on arrival for the administration.
So, do you believe it will be enough for this administration to propose things like arms control and exercises to respond to and try and defuse this crisis?
DEBRA CAGAN: I think it's great to put those things out there.
But it depends on how adamant, as Dmitri said, the Russians are on this.
If they're going to continue to insist that NATO has to pull back to pre-1997 borders, that's palpably ridiculous.
That's not going to happen, because Washington and the rest of NATO are never going to treat, for example, Berlin and Paris and London better than you treat Warsaw and Vilnius and Bucharest.
And that's what the Russians are asking for.
And I think that is an absolute nonstarter.
And I think Deputy Secretary Sherman was very, very clear on that today.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Dmitri Trenin, Debra Cagan is not the only one who calls these ideas ridiculous or nonstarters.
Do you believe that they are designed to be rejected and become the prelude either for war or some kind of permanent Russian presence on Ukraine's support?
DMITRI TRENIN: Well, in my judgment, the third condition that the Russians are putting forth, i.e., the rollback of NATO's military installations that have been built in the territories of the new NATO states, that this is rather less important for Russia than the two other issues raised by Mr. Ryabkov.
So, that -- this could be an area where Russia potentially could give, should it see progress on the truly important issues, nonexpansion of NATO and nonexpansion of NATO's infrastructure beyond where it is today.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Debra Cagan, again, the U.S. and NATO are not willing to provide any kind of solid assurance to Russia that NATO won't expand.
So do you fear that these Russian demands are an excuse to be denied, an excuse to go to war?
DEBRA CAGAN: I wouldn't say that it's an excuse to go to war do.
I do think the Russians know that these are going to be denied.
I think the Russians try to split some of the older members of NATO from some of the newer members of NATO.
And that's to be expected.
But I don't think that this is -- I don't think the Russians need an excuse to further invade Ukraine.
And so I think that might be a misnomer.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Dmitri Trenin, just quickly, in about 30 seconds that we have left, the proposal there that Debra Cagan lays out would take some time to actually negotiate.
Does Moscow have that kind of patience during this crisis?
DMITRI TRENIN: Well, I think Moscow insists on moving ahead swiftly.
But the important thing is that Moscow's agenda needs to be at the core of the negotiations.
And that, I think, is non-negotiable for the Russian side.
Unless those issues are addressed, other things will probably not get the attention that they may deserve.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Debra Cagan, quickly, just in 30 seconds, do you see that at the core of the agenda in these talks?
DEBRA CAGAN: I see that's part of what Moscow is hoping to get.
But I just want to point out one quick factor.
There's about 60,000 U.S. forces in all of Europe, and only about 6,000 of those are deployed east of Berlin, for example.
And of those, about 4,000 are in Poland.
So if you want to talk about exercises, NATO doesn't do 100,000-person exercises.
They're not going to do it in the future.
And so it's sometimes ridiculous to say, we have 100,000 troops here, and it's just an exercise.
And so I just want to point out that I think this shows how ridiculous some of the Russian positions are on this, because the numbers just don't match up at all.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Debra Cagan, Dmitri Trenin, thank you very much to you both.
DMITRI TRENIN: You're welcome.
DEBRA CAGAN: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We spent much of last week trying to examine what still divides our country and the deep polarization that preceded the January 6 riot last year.
Tonight, Paul Solman looks at multiple efforts to bridge those major political and cultural divides in the U.S., beginning with smaller steps forward.
PAUL SOLMAN: Polarization in America, the data are unreal.
According to a poll just out, a projected 25 million American adults think force is at least somewhat justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.
In a poll before the last election, 18 percent of Democrats approved of violence if their candidate lost.
And 15 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats agreed that the country would be better off if large numbers of the opposing party just died.
PETER COLEMAN, Columbia University: We are in a crisis.
PAUL SOLMAN: Psychologist Peter Coleman runs Columbia University's Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.
So, how bad is polarization in America, Peter, compared to the past?
PETER COLEMAN: It's bad.
I mean, Jon Meacham, the historian, has compared today as being similar to where America was in the 1850s right before the U.S. Civil War.
PAUL SOLMAN: Coleman's Rx is detailed in a recent book, "The Way Out," which begins with a fatal 1994 shooting rampage at two abortion clinics outside Boston.
In the wake of that tragedy, activists on both sides of the issue agreed to meet.
Pro-life Barbara Thorpe's (ph) image of the pro-choice activists?
BARBARA THORPE, Pro-Life: Hard and harsh and angry.
PAUL SOLMAN: Pro-choice Episcopal priest Anne Fowler's (ph) image of pro-life advocates?
ANNE FOWLER, Episcopal Priest: Not thoughtful.
PAUL SOLMAN: And, says Peter Coleman: PETER COLEMAN: They still remain opposed to one another on the issue of abortion, on pro-life, pro-choice, but they developed affection for one another in relationships that were thick and important.
And, ultimately, they changed the probabilities around violence in America on this issue.
PAUL SOLMAN: No changed minds, however.
Does that in some sense mean that the experience was a net negative?
ANNE FOWLER: No, it was an absolute net positive.
It was one of the best -- hardest and best things I have ever done.
It changed me.
I mean, it changed all of us irrevocably.
PAUL SOLMAN: They have been friends for 28 years.
PETER COLEMAN: We at my center study deeply divided societies that at some point stop and pivot and choose to change course.
PAUL SOLMAN: And pivoting, many Americans now are, through a host of bridging efforts.
NEALIN PARKER, Princeton University: There are 7,000 organizations and individuals that we have put on a map.
PAUL SOLMAN: Princeton's Nealin Parker tracks efforts to come together.
NEALIN PARKER: But if you're asking the question of how many people across the country are interested in participating in bridging organizations, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
PAUL SOLMAN: Organizations like Resetting the Table, Braver Angels, the Greater Good Science Center, which recorded this bridging encounter.
Liberal Isaac was shown conservative Christin's bio.
He didn't know she was watching in the next room.
ISAAC J. CONNER, Liberal: Trump supporters, I mean, it's just -- there's no way around it.
Like, they're mentally deranged.
You're not right in the head.
CHRISTIN BALL, Conservative: Because I like Trump, right away, he says I'm mentally deranged.
He don't know me.
You know what I'm saying?
And that -- I mean, that's wrong, you know?
That's prejudice, to me.
PAUL SOLMAN: But they then learned that each had experienced great loss.
Christin's sister died when she was 16.
Aunt and grandparents who raised her died in quick succession.
Isaac lost his mother, his grandfather, his cat.
ISAAC J. CONNER: Kitters, my cat, I found her headless carcass on the road.
She got run over by a car.
And, like, it was just too much.
PAUL SOLMAN: By the time they met in person... MAN: This is Isaac.
CHRISTIN BALL: Hi.
I'm mentally deranged.
(LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: ... political differences were becoming a humorous footnote.
ISAAC J. CONNER: You and I see certain things similar.
You and I have had similar experiences with loss.
CHRISTIN BALL: Yes.
ISAAC J. CONNER: This experience we're sharing is going to color my interactions going forward with other people.
CHRISTIN BALL: Because you never know what someone might be going through in their life or what's the problems they have.
So just don't be quick to get angry.
PAUL SOLMAN: And then there's One Small Step, an offshoot of NPR's StoryCorps.
In 2016, Amina Amdeen attended an anti-Trump rally in Texas.
Counterprotester Joseph Weidknecht wore a MAGA hat.
They came to StoryCorps to remember the moment.
AMINA AMDEEN, Attended Anti-Trump Rally (through translator): And I noticed you were surrounded by some people.
And I noticed that they were being kind of threatening.
And then somebody snatched the hat off your head.
And that's the point where I -- something kind of snapped inside me, because I wear a Muslim hijab.
And I have been in situations where people have tried to snatch it off my head.
JOSEPH WEIDKNECHT, Counterprotester: Wow.
I don't think we could be any further apart as people.
And yet it was just kind of like this common "That's not OK" moment.
You are genuinely the only Muslim person I know.
DAVE ISAY, StoryCorps Creator: It's hard to hate up close.
PAUL SOLMAN: Dave Isay created StoryCorps.
And his experience there has taught him people like to get up close.
Moreover: DAVE ISAY: There's an organization called More in Common that talks about the exhausted majority.
And that's 93 percent of the country; 93 percent of the country are exhausted by the divides and want to find a way out.
PAUL SOLMAN: Like the name of Peter Coleman's book.
And even Congress has several bridging efforts, including the devoutly bipartisan Veterans Caucus For Country.
REP. VAN TAYLOR (R-TX): Veterans get things done.
And that's what they learn in the service.
And they set aside personal differences and political differences, and they dig the foxhole.
PAUL SOLMAN: Conservative Texas Republican Van Taylor, who served in Iraq, and Virginia Democrat Elaine Luria.
NARRATOR: Commanding officer, businesswoman, mom.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): There's rules within the caucus that say 75 percent of the members of the caucus have to agree on this for the caucus to endorse it.
And so that requires working together, coming to the table, making tradeoffs.
PAUL SOLMAN: Finally, an effort I have worked on, the American Exchange Project, a domestic foreign exchange program for high school seniors, based on the underlying principle of coming together, overcoming stereotypes.
SAM BUEKER, Student: There's definitely a stereotype about the South being poor and uneducated.
PAUL SOLMAN: Sam Bueker was a high school senior in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Leticia Vallejo, in Kilgore, Texas.
When she first met kids like Sam online... LETICIA VALLEJO, Student: They were more privileged than us.
Like, you could tell by, like, their education and everything, like the way they talked.
I was scared that, since I didn't have that education or anything, like, we were more underprivileged.
PAUL SOLMAN: For two years, in online hangouts featuring everything from pushup contests to sibling squat challenges, debates over the Confederate Flag to, is a hot dog a sandwich, high schoolers North and South have connected, and, this July, hit the road to see each other's America.
STUDENT: I'm about to go on the T train station for the first time.
STUDENT: Are you excited?
PAUL SOLMAN: For Allonah Allsworth (ph) from Lake Charles, Louisiana, her very first trip away from home or on a subway.
But back to "The Way Out" author for the key question.
What are the odds that America is going to actually achieve anything like reconciliation and bridging any time soon?
PETER COLEMAN: The odds are good, but the work is hard.
There are not simple fixes to this.
We're going to have to recognize, like addiction, that this is a long-term problem that has been gaining steam for decades.
But we can do it.
And I think the urgency of certainly violence that we see on the streets is something that will motivate us.
PAUL SOLMAN: And as they said goodbye after two weeks, the kids in the American Exchange Project at least had taken the first small step.
STUDENT: End of blog.
STUDENT: End of blog.
PAUL SOLMAN: They'd made friends and recorded it in a blog to share back home.
For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senators returned to work in Washington today, as Democrats' launch their most concerted push on voting rights yet.
Lisa Desjardins is here with the latest on where legislation stands and what comes next.
So, hello, Lisa.
We know the Democrats are pushing two pieces of legislation, as President Biden and Vice President Harris get ready to go to Atlanta to talk about it.
But walk us through what is in those two pieces of legislation.
LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, many of our viewers know the Constitution states clearly that states run elections, but Congress has the power to pass rules governing the elections of members of Congress.
So these are two bills dealing with that.
The first is the broader one.
This is called the Freedom to Vote Act.
In the Freedom to Vote Act, this would essentially set national rules for how our elections should work, the federal elections.
They would ban gerrymandering for congressional seats.
States would have to offer a vote by mail or two weeks of early voting.
States would be able to require photo I.D.s to vote, but they would have to accept many forms, including potentially utility bills.
This would also include an expansion of registration, automatic registration in every state, at DMVs, for example.
There's a lot more in this bill, but essentially think of this as something that has national standards for these kind of big-ticket items for how and when you can go to the polls.
The other bill, which is called the John Lewis Voting Rights Accountability Act, is more narrow.
It is focused instead on preventing discrimination at the poll.
One of the main cruxes of this bill is to restore what's called preclearance of state laws if -- preclearance of states, if they have shown a past history and a record of discrimination.
Many of our viewers will remember this is something that was part of our voting rights law.
But the Supreme Court in 2013 overturned the idea of preclearance and said Congress has to decide to put that in place.
That's what this bill would do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So that's what the Democrats want, Lisa.
But we know the Republicans have blocked a vote so far on either one of these.
And explain to us what their arguments are.
And then what are the Democrats trying to do next?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I should mention this isn't clearly -- this isn't entirely partisan.
Lisa Murkowski, the senator of Alaska, does support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but only that one.
So let's talk then about what other Republicans who oppose both of these bills say.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, today took to the floor, and he read this.
He said these remarks.
He said: "Historically, the Senate has taken up elections legislation on careful partisan basis.
We have made sure not to trample on the rights of voters and the proper roles of local officials."
He's saying that this goes too far, that this is a federal takeover of elections.
Of course, Democrats push back and say, listen, gerrymandering has benefited Republicans, The Washington Post did a survey and, since 2011, by far, gerrymandered districts across this country have benefited Republicans politically.
Now, there is, of course, also some historic elements here, including the Civil War itself, and laws against discrimination that went in place with the Civil Rights Act in the 1950s that Democrats want to return to, and some Republicans don't.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meantime, Lisa, the Republicans, some Republicans have come forward with another issue they want to look at and are talking about legislation, and that has to do with the Electoral College.
Tell us about that.
LISA DESJARDINS: This is connected, but it's important to know this is called the Electoral Count Act.
And it is important to know it is very specific.
It is specific to even January 6, and the confusion over that day, the confusion over the certification of our presidential election.
And, for example, Vice President Mike Pence, his role under current law, under the current Electoral Count Act, is not clear.
It is open to interpretation.
Some say that he may have some power in the Senate and over -- over this.
Others say, of course, no, he doesn't have any power over deciding the electoral process here.
What's going on here is that Republicans say, we're willing to talk about clearing up this messy law that is from 1876, another messy time.
Democrats say, wait a minute .We also want to clarify how the electoral count goes.
We think there is a problem too.
But we don't think that that should take the place of voting rights legislation, which we think addresses a much larger problem of suppression, Democrats say.
They would like to do both.
For now, they're not going to take the electoral count changes until they get more in the Voting Rights Act.
We're going to be talking more about this week, Judy?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, we are.
We're going to spend a good bit of time this week looking at the effort to do something about voter access and voting rights.
Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
And for more on the political stakes of voting rights, it's time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Lisa Lerer of The New York Times.
Amy Walter is away.
Hello to both of you.
So, Tam, let's pick up where we left off with Lisa's reporting, Lisa Desjardins' reporting.
And that is, we are going to see a push this week.
We know President Biden, Vice President Harris headed to Atlanta tomorrow to speak about voting rights.
Tell us what has prompted this push right now by the president.
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: The White House has said that the president's two top priorities are passing the Build Back Better Act and getting some sort of voting rights legislation through.
And, obviously, with the anniversary of January 6, there was a lot more discussion around voting rights and around what happened on that day, including what the former president said and has continued to say, continued -- he's fighting with a Republican senator today about whether the election was stolen or not.
The Republican senator is speaking the truth, Senator Rounds, saying that the election wasn't stolen.
And yet President -- former President Trump continues to claim that the election was stolen from him.
And that big lie is the basis of a lot of local and state legislation around voting that Democrats are really concerned about.
They see it as existential.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And to Lisa Lerer now.
Is this something that is seemed to have real prospects of changing minds?
I mean, we know the president -- they're going to be speaking tomorrow in Atlanta, but what does the landscape look like out there?
LISA LERER, The New York Times: Well, the reality in the Senate is the same reality that it's been for the past year or so, which is that Democrats need basically every single one of their members to get something through on voting rights.
As Lisa mentioned earlier, there's only one Republican who's showing any inclination to support either one of these bills.
So that means what would need to happen here for any of -- either of these proposals to actually become law would be an upending or a changing of the filibuster rules.
And we really have no indication as of yet that the people that these issues always seem to come down to these days, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have any will to do that.
So some of what's happening here is a political contrast that the White House is trying to draw.
I think the president and the administration spent much of the first year, not exclusively, but trying to hold back some of their harshest criticism of Republicans.
And now, as the country is starting to move a little bit towards midterms, the White House is certainly starting to think more about the midterms, you see Biden and Harris trying to draw that sharper contrast to start framing up these midterm elections that we will have in less than a year now as a choice between their vision of the country and a Republican vision of the country.
So I think part of this is, sure, he wants to get something done on voting rights, for sure.
But I also think there's something going on here about laying the early sort of political arguments for the election to come.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, when it comes to the Republicans, it's not as if they have never supported voting rights.
They were certainly on board back at 1965 with the big voting rights law.
Republican presidents have signed extensions of that law time and again.
What has changed in Republican thinking?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, this, as you say, used to be bipartisan.
Passing voting rights legislation, renewing voting rights legislation was bipartisan, as Lisa Desjardins reported.
Then the Supreme Court took out some of the legs of the Voting Rights Act.
And it has now been years and years without Congress being able to come together on this, in part because there is just a dramatically different perception of what the problem is.
And our polling, the NPR/"PBS NewsHour"/Marist polling, other polls indicate that Republicans and Democrats agree that democracy is threatened, but they completely disagree about what the problem is.
Republicans think that voter fraud and Democrats are out to steal the election.
And Democrats are concerned about erosions of the ability of people to exercise their right to vote.
It's just an erosion of what used to be an area of agreement.
And for many Republicans, I mean, this has been sort of a slow march with these bills passing.
Obviously, the big lie around the last election put gasoline on it, but this was -- this is not a new thing, talking about voter integrity and -- or so-called integrity.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And to Lisa.
I mean, in terms of the purely political thinking on the part of Democrats around this, is this seen as an issue that could help them in the November midterms?
LISA LERER: Well, I think a lot of Democrats see this as an issue that could help them just in terms of having more access to voting for their voters, making sure that polling places have longer hours, that there's more drop boxes, that vote -- that the trend towards voting by mail continues.
So, certainly, that's a piece of it.
I do think it's also an issue that many Democrats believe could motivate parts of their base.
But I have to admit, Judy, it's really hard to see, given the times we are living in, the ongoing pandemic, concerns people have about inflation and their personal financial situation, that a huge groundswell of people, although they are, as Tam correctly points out, concerned about the future of American democracy, but it's hard to see that this huge groundswell of people comes out and cast ballots solely on this issue, or even sees this issue as really like the driving force for their vote, particularly as we drag into this third year of this pandemic.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we only have a little bit -- actually, a little bit of time left.
But, Tam, I do want to ask you about Paul Solman's reporting about efforts, small efforts, but around the country, to bring people together.
I think I know the answer to this ,based on what you have just been talking about, but what does it look like the prospects are that there's going to -- that there will be some success in trying to get people to work together to see each other's points of view?
TAMARA KEITH: I actually saw a little bit of hope in the level at which people were engaged in local elections in this last cycle of elections.
People were paying attention to school boards and city councils in a way that maybe they hadn't in the past.
And, generally speaking, focusing on national politics is not going to be where we find, as Americans, ways to come together.
But it's the small-scale stuff where there's some tiny little piece of hope.
But, no, things are grim.
Things are grim in terms of faith in institutions up and down.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa, do you have any brighter - - brighter forecast to share with us?
LISA LERER: I mean, I'm pretty dark.
I'm sort of with Tam on this one.
I wish I had more sunshine to offer here.
But I have to tell you, when I talk to historians to kind of get their sense of, is there an analogous period to the moment we're living in, in American history, they talk about things like the run-up to the Civil War, the tumult of the '60s and '70s, so not exactly these sort of kumbaya moments in American history.
And just from being out there and talking to voters and seeing where people get their information, who they talk to, what their communities look like, we are -- it just appears that we are more divided by -- than ever.
And the politicians in our political system have a real incentive to kind of exploit those divides and just sort of continue these divisions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, be that as it may, we can still applaud these efforts, the kinds of small efforts, but meaningful ones, that Paul Solman was focused on in that report.
Thank you both, Politics Monday.
Tamara Keith and Lisa Lerer, thank you.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This past weekend, January 8, marked the day when, in 2011, a gunman opened fire at a political event in Arizona.
It was a moment that underscored both the dangerous divisions and the epidemic of gun violence in this country.
As part of our arts and culture series, Canvas, Stephanie Sy visits a memorial in Tucson that is part of a new and tragic American art genre.
STEPHANIE SY: Tucson's January 8th Memorial is steeped in symbolism, starting with its location.
REBECA MENDEZ, Artist: It's like walking into healing arms.
STEPHANIE SY: Coming into view as one passes through the portico of the historic Pima County Courthouse and near City Hall.
The memorial to Tucson's deadliest modern mass shooting sits in the civic heart of the city.
That was intentional, says artist Rebeca Mendez, a professor at UCLA, who along with landscape architects, designed the memorial.
REBECA MENDEZ: It became clear that this was an attack on democracy, an attack on the very - - most -- the most important right that people.
STEPHANIE SY: Meeting with a congressional representative.
REBECA MENDEZ: Exactly, meeting and exercising your right to have a democratic process.
STEPHANIE SY: It was during a meeting between then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Tucson and her constituents on January 8, 2011, that a gunman opened fire, targeting Giffords, who was severely wounded; 18 others were shot, and six victims died, ranging in age from 9 to 79.
One year ago, on the 10th anniversary of the shootings, the memorial was quietly dedicated.
It was the height of the pandemic, so it received little attention.
It's called The Embrace.
Two berms curve toward each other.
The structure is surrounded by desert blooms within six gardens, one for each of those killed.
On the inner walls, punctures that conjure bullet holes.
At night, they look like constellations.
Golden light illuminates the voids.
Some of the bullet holes are filled with modern-day petroglyphs that symbolize the varied lives, values and ideals of each victim and survivor.
The Embrace honors the victims of a modern-day mass shooting, but it also symbolically and subtly references the way guns have shaped the region's history, especially for the indigenous tribes, who consider this their ancestral land.
BERNARD SIQUIEROS, Tohono O'odham Nation Elder: It affected all of us that live in the area.
STEPHANIE SY: Bernard Siquieros is a member of the Tohono O'odham Tribe, whose people have lived in this cactus-strewn desert for more than 10,000 years.
A former tribal arts educator, the memorial's designers sought his input during their research.
BERNARD SIQUIEROS: To incorporate that and that kind of memorial, I think, is very honoring and appropriate.
STEPHANIE SY: Petroglyphs, he says, were traditionally used to record events before written language existed among tribes here.
BERNARD SIQUIEROS: These symbols in a memorial, especially now, in modern times, where you have written language and video and other kinds of things, this memorial using those symbols will continue to tell that story so that people don't forget.
MARY REED, Mass Shooting Survivor: I was only in the hospital 24 hours.
STEPHANIE SY: Many can't forget.
MARY REED: January 8 in Tucson is beautiful.
STEPHANIE SY: Mary Reed remembers the day of the shootings in stark detail.
MARY REED: We heard what sounded like fireworks.
I got a sting in my arm, and my body started moving.
I picked up Emma, and I threw her against the wall.
And I just covered her with my body, and then the screaming started.
STEPHANIE SY: Emma is her daughter, then 17.
MARY REED: And you could hear gunshots then very clearly, and a man walking towards us.
STEPHANIE SY: He was deliberately aiming for Emma?
MARY REED: Emma.
And that got my ire up.
And I, without letting her up, turned around to look him in the face, because I thought, you're going to shoot me another time, you better be looking me in the eye.
STEPHANIE SY: Mary Reed's most evocative petroglyph?
A mama bear and her cub.
REBECA MENDEZ: Mary's story, there's nothing more courageous.
STEPHANIE SY: Reed has described the memorial as playful.
Visitors can make rubbings on the petroglyphs, bringing a piece of the memorial home.
Twin reflecting pools overflow with water that caresses the names of victims as though with falling tears, every detail researched, sketched, and sometimes, says artist Rebeca Mendez, disputed.
She had wanted the memorial to take a more overt stance against guns.
REBECA MENDEZ: This country has an epidemic.
It's a disease of gun violence.
My statement, my personal statement, would have been stronger.
And, at the same time, when you are doing public art, you really are intertwining yourself with the community, and there is a give-and-take.
STEPHANIE SY: It is a conversation other communities in the process of building tributes to victims of mass shootings are having.
Artist renderings show plans for memorials in Newtown and Orlando.
Completed mass shooting memorials include Columbine, El Paso, and Aurora.
The memorial in Tucson, seen from above, shows an abstraction of the figure 8 for January 8 and, in the artist's eye, another symbol.
REBECA MENDEZ: The idea of January 8, if you think of the Mobius, is the number eight sideways.
So, in your walking, meditating, in a sense, you could create that Mobius.
And it really is the idea of continuity.
We will prevail as a civilization.
That is my hope.
STEPHANIE SY: The Embrace tells a somber story, repeated so many times in this country that memorials to mass shooting victims have become their own American art form.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy in Tucson, Arizona.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So hard to accept that gun violence is so common in this country .
And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," stay safe, and we'll see you soon.