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Gun Violence Prevention in Baltimore, Health Lessons from Animals, Woody Harrelson

Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
February 26, 2023 7:30 pm

Gun Violence Prevention in Baltimore, Health Lessons from Animals, Woody Harrelson

Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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February 26, 2023 7:30 pm

Hosted by Lee Cowan. In our cover story, Ted Koppel reports on one organization effort to stem gun violence in Baltimore. Plus: Cowan explores why Utah’s Great Salt Lake is rapidly shrinking in size; Tracy Smith talks with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Ke Huy Quan; Ben Mankiewicz interviews actor Woody Harrelson; Anthony Mason profiles “Women Talking” writer-director Sarah Polley; Bill Whitaker looks back at the trailblazing career of journalist Belva Davis; and Jonathan Vigliotti examines how animals’ genetics or behavior may hold clues to reducing heart disease, cancer or dementia in humans.

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You can listen ad-free on the Amazon Music or Wondery app. Good morning. Jane Pauley is off this weekend. I'm Lee Cowan, and this is Sunday Morning. It's tragic but true. Before this day is over, more than 100 Americans will die by gun violence, many of them teens and children. Black Americans suffer the most. They experience ten times the number of gun homicides as white Americans. So, especially for those who live in impoverished urban neighborhoods, it's pretty easy to despair. But there are good people doing the hard work of changing minds and saving lives.

Our senior contributor, Ted Koppel, found some of them on the streets of Baltimore. Deontay Dorsey was 16 when he died in early January. Just one of 11 teens and preteens shot and killed in Baltimore already this year. People are dying over senseless things like how we're staring at each other. People die over that.

They pull the gun out of the drawer like we put a belt on. And yet, inch by inch, this man and the program he runs are making a little bit of progress. Coming up on Sunday Morning. Ben Mankiewicz this morning is in conversation with actor Woody Harrelson to talk about his new movie and an old habit. For nearly 40 years, Woody Harrelson has continually surprised audiences. His new movie is no exception. Welcome to the team, Cosentina. What's with the boogie board? You do you, I do me, okay? Where do you get this guy? He just showed up one day. You haven't made many movies like this.

No one has lately. I've done so many movies lately where, like, why am I playing the villain all the time? Why am I such a bad guy? I'm not that way in life.

Living the good life with Woody Harrelson later on Sunday Morning. It's an intriguing prescription for a longer, happier, healthier life. Dr. David Agus will tell Jonathan Vigliati all about it. You might not think to look to an elephant, octopus, or giraffe for medical advice. These are just engineering marvels.

Gorgeous. But research shows animals may have a thing or two to show us about healthy living. Whether it be the ocean or the jungle or, you know, just the woods behind your house, there's a lot we can learn there.

And it's really amazing to look at the results. Lessons from the animal kingdom ahead on Sunday Morning. We'll visit the Great Salt Lake, ravaged by mismanagement and drought and disappearing by the day. Tracy Smith sits down with one-time child actor Ki-Hui Kwan to talk about his return to the big screen and an Oscar nomination besides. Anthony Mason speaks with writer-director Sarah Polley about her movie, Women Talking. Plus, Bill Whittaker on an American television trailblazer. A story from Steve Hartman and more this final Sunday Morning of the Month, February 26th, 2023.

We'll be back in a moment. As you may have heard, gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. And hardest hit? Young black males.

Our Ted Koppel went to one of Baltimore's toughest neighborhoods to learn about a program working to turn that deadly tide. Each of those purple ribbons hanging outside the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, each ribbon represents a life lost to gun violence in Baltimore over just seven months. Of this group, how many would you say were white? Probably zero. All black? Yes. Many of them, too many young men.

Jamal West heads up youth work for a program called ROKA. You knew a lot of the people that these ribbons represent, right? A wide number of them, yes. How did they end up dead? It's a kill or be killed city. It's what goes on here. They'd rather shoot than fight. In the old days, it's easy to take one on the chin, fight back, shake hands, and it's over.

But now these days, with so much access to firearms, it's easier to shoot than be embarrassed by a fight on Instagram. What does that say about our community here? Broken homes, lack of education, lack of resources. What's missing in the lives of so many of these young men is a foundation, something solid. ROKA, the program that Jamal works for, the name is Spanish for rock.

I got everything in order, like you told me to. My man. Our crew rode along with Jamal and Amar Makunda, the assistant director of programming at ROKA Baltimore, as they checked on young men in the program.

How you doing? Your emotions show through in your body language. If you mad, we're going to see it. ROKA engages in what they call relentless outreach. So we got a little situation with Ricardo here. Mayweather.

Mayweather. What's up, brother? Whether the young men want to be found or not, ROKA keeps after them. I got a message for you. Stop ducking me. This young man hadn't been in touch with ROKA for more than three weeks. What's your next off day? Scene.

No, I need to know a day, brother. We don't care if you don't want to be a part of ROKA. We understand that if you're not with us, the likelihood of you being in jail or killed by gun violence is very, very high.

So we keep coming back. ROKA has several branches on the East Coast. Kurt Palermo runs ROKA Baltimore. Why is so much gun violence in Baltimore, Kurt? It's too easy to get a gun in Baltimore, and I don't know that the young men that we work with feel that there's any consequence. A lot of them will tell us they pulled a gun out of the drawer like we put a belt on. It's I feel unsafe, and if I see the individual that I'm having an issue with, I'm going to pull out that gun and shoot them before they shoot me. And that is directly related to trauma, and that really is the root cause of violence.

In a setting where the most profitable business is the sale of drugs. Unless you live here and see it, you would never believe that this block generates about 20,000 a day. It's all day every day. $20,000 a day passing through just one block. There's a lot of people on that block. There's a structure as well.

So the guys at the bottom, they're not keeping anything close to that. Now, you live there. You live on that block. I do. Why? It's expensive, and I'm young and single, and so I can live in a place that's a little less comfortable to save money. But the other is, to be perfectly frank, this work is my life.

I want to wake up every morning and see the guys that are in the program. Are you protected in any way? When I say protected, I don't mean do you have an armed guard. I'm protected by my relationships. You just have to be careful. You have to have your head on a swivel.

You have to know when to be outside and when not to be. It's a problem that's so important that it's worth that. What's a bad year in Baltimore? One homicide is a bad year. We have a lot of expectations to keep us under a 300 mark. That's 300 homicides a year she's talking about.

Colonel Monique Brown, she's been with the Baltimore Police Department for 22 years. We have had some times where many will tout that we were at under 200 mark, but we also did some things that were unconstitutional to get us there. I don't think I'd ever sat across from a cop telling me we were doing stuff that was unconstitutional. What were you doing that was unconstitutional?

I think we're under a consent decree. Patting people down? Patting people down, I'll stop and frisk. Those things were labeled and deemed to be unconstitutional.

Unreasonable search and seizure is unconstitutional. It explains, in part, why there's been such a strained and complicated relationship between Baltimore's police and the city's black community. It was also, it should be noted, an effective way of reducing gun deaths. We have not slowed down in our arrests.

We most certainly have not slowed down in the number of gun seizures that we recover daily. So policing constitutionally and making sure that we are building those relationships between them for our community to trust us more goes a long way. And as one path toward building those relationships, the Baltimore police have been referring young men to the ROCA program. We don't necessarily want to only use the one tool in the toolbox, which is putting young people into a criminal justice pathway.

We would prefer to pull them out and see them have more positive outcomes for their lives. Sheldon Smith Gray is 25 now. He was such a chubby kid that he's still known by his street name, Snax. Back in the day, Snax was pulling down as much as $2,000 a week selling drugs. I lost people to gun violence, lost people to drug overdoses, suicide, jail, prison. Dealing drugs led to two stints in jail.

After a violation of probation on a gun charge, Snax was referred to ROCA. What was it, do you think, that made you let him in? Just tired, like tired of everything. People are dying over senseless things like how we're staring at each other. People die over that.

People die over the stupid things. Jaleel Dorsey is a former drug dealer who came very close to proving that point. He was working construction, driving with his boss, who cut another driver off. Nothing to do with drugs, road rage.

He was trying to aim for the driver, but instead I got hit. The bullet shattered his collarbone. Jaleel was in the hospital for six days.

That bullet is still lodged in his back, still causing medical problems. Police referred Jaleel to ROCA. ROCA got into my life when they came to my grandmother's house, knocked on the door.

I was just coming home from the hospital. What I'm wondering is what it is about these people that made you say, yeah. Once they took me under their arms and they really embraced me when I got shot and I came home, I didn't ask them to do nothing and they did it on their own. That's what really made me, oh, this is what you call home, this is what you call family, this is what you call people that really care about you, that really want you to succeed and not be another statistic. No matter where y'all start at, no matter what y'all going through, y'all can be where y'all want to be.

Y'all just got to stick to the plan. ROCA works with young men for four years until they've built critical job education and life skills. They're young men who feel scared and anxious and they think everyone and everything is out to get them. So when they're in that situation, their reaction is fight, flight or freeze and they don't think.

And how do you change that? So what we do is rooted in brain science. It takes about 18 to 24 months to see sustained behavior change. There's some alternatives to my behavior.

What are some of the alternatives? It's called CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, and with these young men it can literally change and even save their lives. What you doing? You bottling all that up, right? By teaching them to change their thought patterns.

If you bottle all of that up, it only takes a small little pinprick to make you explode. So if I see someone I'm having an issue with across the street and I immediately think they're looking at me and they're disrespecting me, I need to take 8 to 10 seconds to say, did they even see me or am I about to react because of that trauma? It's all that stuff that was built up on the inside that you didn't deal with. What's taught at ROCA is a version of CBT that's been adapted for young men whose brains are still developing.

Is that important? Over time, the brain can change the neural pathways through the reuse of CBT over and over, whether it's a conversation on a stoop, whether it's in a classroom, whether it's before the young people go to work group. They will replace those old, unhelpful behaviors with new ones that are in line with their values. It's not only what happens to you, that's only 20%, but how you react to it, that's the other 80%.

The young men in ROCA practice these skills of pausing between feeling and doing almost every day. If you can act intentionally and actually sit back and think before you react, that's when you're very powerful. Basically, it's think before you do, right? Yes, sir. Now, that's easy for me to say.

Sometimes it's not so easy to do, right? I had just lost my mother around that time and somebody basically stood up here and said, oh, you're going to end up just like your mother. I wanted to react so bad, but I had to really remind myself, oh, I'm going to just prove to them that I'm nothing like my mother. And that's all I did. I didn't react.

So I didn't want to go out here and do something stupid and I'd be behind bars for the rest of my life. Jalil, who is only 26, has five children and a long way to go before he can take full responsibility for them. But these days, he's making the effort. He has made a lot of good choices in the last year to put himself in a better position. But Jalil is very much in a vulnerable state. He's only been working with him for a year. He still struggles with homelessness. He still struggles with physical and mental pain that he has from being a gunshot victim.

I hate to put it this way, but Jalil could easily be somebody who's back in the streets. Easily. It's our job to make sure that doesn't happen. I came a long way from nothing to something. You're proud of what you've done. You should be.

And I know my mother looking and my sisters looking over me, so I can't do that. How do you measure success? For young people who have been in Roca for two years or longer, 85% have not had rearrests. Which is significant because the vast majority, if not all of the young men that we engage with, have been arrested or incarcerated at some point in their life. Snacks completed his four years and graduated from Roca last September. He is particularly proud of his 11-year-old daughter, who's an honorable student. When he and I spoke, he'd recently earned a certificate to become a heating and air conditioning technician.

But he had other ambitions. If I come back to Baltimore and I say, anybody seen Snacks around? What are they going to tell me?

Yeah, they would probably tell you they seen me and I'm doing good. Probably working in Roca five years from now. I'm probably running Roca, actually.

Being a good father, a good friend, a good family member, a good man. Snacks is well on his way. Last October, he was hired by Roca as a youth worker. He's not running the program, at least not yet.

Could creatures great and small help unlock the secret to a longer, healthier life? Jonathan Vigliani is talking to a CBS News medical contributor, Dr. David Agus. You got a friend coming behind you. Hey there.

Nice to meet you too. These are just engineering marvels. Gorgeous. Here at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, California.

Say please. It's hard not to marvel at giraffes. I think you got a friend. With their towering height and gentle ways. But it turns out they may be medical marvels as well. These giraffes have a blood pressure that's like 280 over 180. So more than twice what our blood pressure is.

When we as humans get elevated blood pressure, we start to have significant heart disease, stroke, kidney problems. That doesn't happen to a giraffe. Physician and biomedical researcher, Dr. David Agus, is the CEO of the Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine. He's also now the author of The Book of Animal Secrets, published by Simon & Schuster, a part of CBS' parent company, Paramount Global. Do animals really have secrets? No, I mean, animals don't have secrets, but they have behaviors that are secrets within them that can help our human health. Lessons from across the animal kingdom. Whether it's looking up to birds and our efforts to ward off dementia. Birds can migrate all over the world and get to where they're going.

They use certain landmarks, right? So if you want to retain cognitive function for a long time, you need to do activities that involve pattern recognition and that physical activity. Or dieting and exercising like a rhino. The best exercise we can do is on, off, on, off rather than keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing.

But it's the sprint, stop, sprint, stop, which is how a rhino exercises. They may seem like small steps, but Agus says in the long run, they could change lives. You talk about diseases of civilization.

What do you mean? What are they? Alzheimer's, heart disease, cancer. So these are big diseases that basically evolved from our lifestyle. We probably can't prevent them a hundred percent, but we can delay them. Do we find these diseases of civilization in nature?

Of course. I mean, we see them occasionally in nature, but they're much lower frequency and they happen at a much later point in their life. Heart disease, very rare in nature. Cancer, very rare in nature. And a lot of that is because of their lifestyle. The secret to long life is right here. Getting to the bottom of those differences has become the life's work of researchers like Dr. Joshua Schiffman.

It's really the most exciting thing I've ever been involved in. A professor of pediatric hematology oncology at the University of Utah. Each animal has a secret power, right? Has a super power.

Schiffman is also the CEO and co-founder of Peel Therapeutics, a biotech company looking to tap into nature's super powers to develop treatments for people. This is a special, special place for me. We met him at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City.

You know your manners. Where several years ago, he took a special interest in their elephants. Fewer than 5% of elephants die of cancer compared to up to 25% of humans. Look at them. Look how big they are.

A hundred times the size of you and me. That's a hundred times as many cells. All of these elephants should be dying of cancer.

They shouldn't even be here right now. But they are, thanks to what Schiffman calls a superhero gene that fights off cancerous cells. Instead of two copies of the P53 gene like humans have, one from mom, one from dad, elephants have, wait for it, 40, 40, 20 times as much.

I almost fell out of my seat. That gene is a focus for Schiffman and his colleagues at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. Here they study animal cells sent from zoos around the country.

And Schiffman says some of these so-called animal secrets could be game changers. We basically made copies of that P53 gene from elephants and we put it into human cancer cells. And we watched those cancer cells just explode, just burst. Gone. Gone. Just shattered like shrapnel. Bits and pieces.

Nothing left. And you're telling me right now that there is a way to translate the success, the genetic success and pass that on to humans? That's what we're trying to do, right?

That's the holy grail. But that's the idea, right? So what we need to do is follow nature's roadmap, right? Nature's roadmap to preventing cancer. Nature's roadmap might not lead us to a cure for decades.

Want some more of that? But Dr. David Agus says animals have plenty of secrets to share in the meantime, if only we're willing to listen. Are there things that we can learn from the Alzheimer's and the dolphins?

No question about it. Are there things that we can learn from ants and infectious disease? We're just scratching the surface of what we can learn from the animal kingdom. And you and I need it.

We need to learn more. Meet Jill Evans. Jill's got it all.

A big house, fast car, two kids and a great career. But Jill has a problem. When it comes to love, Jill can never seem to get things right. And then along comes Dean. I can't believe my luck.

I've hit the jackpot. It looks like they're going to live happily ever after. But on Halloween night, things get a little gruesome. This is where the shooting happened outside a building society in New Romney.

It's thought the 42-year-old victim was killed after he opened fire on police. And Jill's life is changed forever. From wondery and novel comes Stolen Hearts. A story about a cop who falls in love with a man who is not all he seems to be. I'm Kerry Godliman. Follow Stolen Hearts on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can listen early and ad-free by subscribing to Wondery Plus in Apple Podcasts or the Wondery app. You might remember the young sidekick in the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. His acting career ended in his youth, or so it seemed. Tracey Smith is talking with actor Qui Hui Quan. You might have heard it said that Hollywood is a place where dreams go to die.

But if you really believe that, maybe you just haven't met the right dreamer. Qui Hui Quan never looked for fame. Fame found him.

Born in Vietnam, he'd come to this country in 1979. And, along with his parents and eight siblings, settled near downtown Los Angeles. 38 years ago, that would be me right there.

Really? Was it the same? Screaming, screaming, playing with the kids.

Life in L.A.'s Chinatown, he says, was happy but unremarkable. This is your old elementary school? Yes. Castellaw Elementary School, yes. That is, until the day in 1983, when Hollywood casting agents showed up here, looking for a young Asian boy to star in a Spielberg movie. And the funny thing is, you didn't even really go to the call. It was your brother who went to audition. Yes, he went to audition. I tagged along. And as he was auditioning, I was behind the camera giving him directions, coaching him what to do. And the casting director saw me and says, Ki, would you want to give this a try? And I didn't think much of it. I said, yeah, sure, why not?

And so, only four years after coming to America, Ki Hui Kwan beat out 6,000 other kids for the role of short round. Is he nuts? He's nuts. He's crazy. In 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

At age 12, he was suddenly a star. I hate you guys. They're gone.

They're not here. And a few months later, when he was cast in 1985's The Goonies, young Ki thought he'd made it in Hollywood. And then, the phones stopped ringing. What happened?

Well, I saw it at the very top, so there was no way to go but downhill from there. After Goonies, he made a couple of TV series and a few guest appearances. But after that, nothing. It was frustrating, especially when I walk into the room to audition for the casting director and she recognizes me and she says, oh my gosh, we love your work in Indiana Jones.

We love you in The Goonies. So then you're thinking, oh, maybe I have it. Exactly. And I'm thinking, oh, I can land this role.

But then again, a week will go by, two weeks will go by, and then nothing. What does that do to you inside? It's not good for your confidence, that's for sure. He remembers going up for a two-line part as a Vietnamese soldier. And I walked in the room and there were 30 other Asian actors waiting to read for the same role. I went and auditioned, went back and waited for the phone to ring. And it was that moment that I said, maybe this isn't for me. Dejected, but determined to stay in the business he loved, he came here to USC's School of Cinematic Arts and went on to build a career working behind the scenes as a stunt coordinator on films like X-Men. But in 2018, his dream of working in front of the camera got new life. Are you ready for this? When he saw this, Crazy Rich Asians. Oh, damn, Nick. It's a party, though.

Okay. I saw it three times in the theater. I cried every single time. But one of the reasons why I cried was because I wanted to be up there with them.

I wanted to be up there with them. And, incredibly, he was about to get a chance at a second act. A new film about an Asian family was in the works.

And after a 25-year break from the casting world, Ki Hui Kwan read for the male lead, and he nailed it. I left, called my agent, and I said, I think I have a shot. I think it went well. I was so excited.

I was like, yeah, yeah, please, please, let me know what they think, okay? Two months went by. Two months?

Two months. And as each day went by, my hope of landing the job slowly, slowly dissipated. But it was my wife that said, Ki, you. She said, you will get this role. I said, how can you be so sure? And she said, because you said this role is written for you, and you want it more than anything.

You will get it. She would say that to you. She knew. And his wife, Echo, was right.

His agent finally did call with good news. And that phone call was one of the happiest phone calls I have ever gotten. And I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I said, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And I kept jumping up and down. I said, yes, yes, yes. And I started crying.

And I didn't, I didn't have to say a thing. She knew that what that phone call was about. She knew.

Yeah, I remember that day well. And now, watching everything everywhere all at once, it's as if Kiwi Kwan has poured 25 years of pent-up emotion into his performance. And the world has taken note. Kiwi Kwan!

These days, if Kiwi Kwan looks like a man whose fondest dream has finally come true, well, that's because it has. And now, Oscar nominee. Never, never, never in my life did I think that the word Oscar would be associated with my name. I wasn't thinking much. None of this.

But Oscar nominated? Come on. I just wanted a job. Just a job. Just a job.

Just a job. But now, looking back, I would not change a thing. It's so much sweeter now. It's so much sweeter? So much sweeter now, yeah. And I always believe in this.

A full life is a life full of ups and downs. You don't know what sweet tastes like until you taste sour or bitterness. And it's awfully sweet now. I can't believe it, Tracy. I still can't believe it. I don't know how I got here. I don't know how it happened.

But I don't think I've ever been this happy. Her name is Belva Davis. A true broadcast pioneer. A woman who helped pave the way for generations of journalists.

Including our 60 Minutes colleague, Bill Whittaker. Hope and fear drove six million black Americans to leave the South in what is known as the Great Migration. They went north and west seeking opportunity and safety. Our story is about one of them. An eight year old girl who in 1941 was carried along in that hopeful historic flood of humanity by train to California.

Her name, Belva Davis. And one day she would write her own role in American history. I was encouraged by the shifting tides of the time. I had no idea of the mountain I was climbing. Along the way, she influenced so many people.

Including me. I met Belva in 1979 and soon heard her favorite saying. Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. Knowing Belva Davis changed my life. She was born in Monroe, Louisiana to a 15 year old girl who worked in a laundry. At the time, lynchings were a brutal reality for blacks in the South.

When her uncle was threatened with being tarred and feathered, the entire family headed west. There, Belva excelled in school and graduated from Berkeley High. But with no money for college, she found a job and her voice in black radio.

The most consistent thing about my early journalistic life is that I never got paid for anything. The 1964 Republican Convention in California changed everything, as Belva told a gathering at Google. America was making a very sharp turn politically.

While covering the convention for black radio, she saw the power of television. We couldn't get press passes because we were minority media. We were in the rafters.

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. When a mom did find us, they yelled to us, what are you niggas doing in here anyway? We were driven out of that hall. I thought to myself, watching the major media work, seeing the hatred from that floor, but seeing their power to tell that story, I want to be able to tell people what happens to us.

You see me first as a Negro and then as a human, I'm first a human being. It convinced me that I could do this job. The big news. But convincing a television station to hire her was next to impossible. Blacks were all but invisible on TV news. And it was a manager saying to me, we have not yet decided to hire negresses, but if we ever do, we will certainly think about you. In 1967, as protests exploded across the country, Belva landed an on-air spot at KPIX, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco, believed to be the first black female TV reporter in the western United States.

Thereby disarming the whole world. What Angela Davis had to say here at UC Berkeley was no different from what many other radicals have said. Belva's husband, Bill Moore, who was a cameraman at another station, worried about her new job. It was challenging for her because here she was, a little black girl, going to work at this station old white redneck cameraman, and I liked every one of them, but they were still rednecks. I was often asked to lead news conferences because no one could imagine that I was a real legitimate reporter. Belva brought a black woman's perspective to stories the mainstream press often ignored. One on a young black boxer named Muhammad Ali.

We don't drink, we don't smoke, we don't chase white women, we're not looking in a grave, we bathe twice a day, pray five times a day, but yet we seem to be the most despised and hated. Eyewitness News with Belva Davis. I kind of knew I needed when I stopped paying attention to the hate mail. It didn't mean anything to me anymore. There's brutality here, believe me.

Moving to the NBC affiliate. This is a story about black and white. She took on the hot topic of police brutality. It's also a story about fear.

Long before it became a national concern. Charles Goulston wears a metal brace because his neck is broken. The officer who allegedly beat Charles Goulston is black. And so is the mayor and much of the power structure in his town. Along the way, she overcame countless racial and gender barriers.

TV viewers of all races came to trust Belva. Anchoring the evening news at San Francisco's public station, she exuded calm even when the world seemed to be spinning out of control. Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed. Willie Brown, a future San Francisco mayor, I will remember George Moscone as... lived through those grim days. How can I forget George Moscone?

I don't think he's dead. Belva was so trusted. She had so much credibility and so much respect.

Harvey Milk was no ordinary supervisor. So Belva carried a heavy load. You are so fabulous, Belva.

Kamala Harris, a future vice president. You have been a role model to me. Today, black journalists walk in Belva's footsteps. I'm Associate Producer Bill Whitaker. Belva was my mentor at that public TV station, showing me by her actions and work ethic how to succeed in a tough profession. But how do you thank the person who pushed the door open for so many of us? Hello, Belva.

How are you, my friend? Today at 90, Belva struggles with age and memory. But what has not diminished is her legacy, born from the simple power of her dream. Love you, Belva. Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality.

If you dream it, you can make it so. From Steve Hartman, the story of a high school football player wise beyond his years. When Lincoln East High School football phenom wide receiver Malachi Coleman announced he'd be playing for Nebraska next season, it was the completion of the ultimate Hail Mary. Twelve years earlier, Malachi's mother left him and his younger sister by the side of the road and never returned. Malachi suffered abuse in the foster system, until eventually he and his sister were adopted by a loving family. But so much damage had been done. He was a broken kid.

Parents Miranda and Craig Coleman. Like he lived for today and only today and nothing mattered. A mean and selfish jerk by his own admission, who refused to do anything kind for anybody. Yeah, because nobody had really helped me up to that point, you know.

So why should you help them? Yeah. So when the Nebraska School Activities Association ruled that high school athletes could now profit off their name and likeness, it came as no surprise that Malachi was first in line. The shocker was how he planned to spend it.

Never could have predicted. No, it was his idea. They say Malachi walked into this local restaurant and offered to promote a burrito. On condition a portion of the profits go to one cause. Put it towards advocating for the foster care system.

Nick Maestas is the owner. How would you not want to be on board with that? This kid's remarkable transformation actually began a few years earlier, after an hour-long argument in which Miranda insisted he do something selfless. Yeah, I threw out at least 100 ideas of things he could do and exasperated. I finally said, what about holding a door? Can you hold one door for one person? And he finally was like, I can hold a door. The next day at school he held a door, then another, and another. At church he held the door for the entire congregation. Till now he says kindness is his passion. Hi, Ms. Daly. So you're saying all this charity stemmed from you holding a door for someone?

Yes, because once I realized how good it makes me feel to help other people, it's just something that I knew that I wanted to continue in my life. Hopefully opening many more of the most important doors, the ones leading to a forever family. Woody, I think you ought to lay off. How many have you had? Eleven. Eleven beers?

Eleven sips. It's Sunday morning and here again is Lee Cowan. That's the Woody Harrelson we all came to know as the beloved if befuddled barkeep in the hit TV series Cheers.

This morning he's in conversation with our Ben Mankiewicz talking about passions new and old. So Ben, what we have here is a lot of marijuana. Is that what this is?

It likely doesn't come as a surprise. And this is more like smokeable stuff. That Woody Harrelson is a weed fan. It's just a little dream of what a great dispensary could be. At The Woods, the cannabis dispensary he co-owns in West Hollywood, his dream has come true. A lush and welcoming space complete with a koi pond and macaws.

There's some macaws here and over here. It is not a place young Woody Harrelson, raised in a deeply religious Presbyterian household in rural Ohio by his mother, ever expected to be, let alone own. She'd be sitting there. She'd have her coffee and cigarette and everything in the morning.

She'd be like, son, if I ever hear that you're smoking marijuana, it'll just kill me. Now 61 years old, Harrelson's day job remains the same. He's spent the last 38 years yo-yoing back and forth between TV and movies, comedy and drama. Versatility is his calling card.

I've always been much more partial to the more indie spirit. You know, the movies that have this kind of deep heart, you know, and this movie definitely has heart. This movie is Champions, out next month. Harrelson plays a prickly but charming basketball coach with NBA dreams who finds himself coaching a team of players with intellectual disabilities called the Friends. Welcome to the team, Cosentino. What's with the boogie board?

You do you, I do me, okay? Where do you get this guy? He just showed up one day. Before the first day shooting, director Bobby Farrelly, who Harrelson first worked with 27 years ago on Kingpin, told him the first scene he'd shoot, when his character meets the team for the first time, My name is Marcus.

would be almost entirely improv. You were basketball coach for the next three months. Nope.

To just throw things out and see how it goes, it just kind of freaked me. I didn't sleep. Then I went in there, I meet these guys, and they are just awesome. I'm Johnny.

I'm your homie with an extra chromie. I just had the best. I love them. They're just all incredible people and just phenomenal senses of humor, which really comes through. Harrelson's sense of humor has been on display since he made his screen debut on the fourth season of Cheers in 1985. What do you think?

You want to give them a try? Me? Mr. Malone, this is the proudest day of my life. But it's the laugh he got one day in his high school library that hooked him on show business. The guys from the football team who had heard me do it before, they're like, Woody, do your Elvis. I'm like, kidding me, this place is packed. I can't do my Elvis. But just do it quiet. They convinced me, and so I'm like, I start off kind of soft. With a blade in my soul, what is wrong with me?

I'm looking like a man on a 40 tree. And before you know it, I'm in the middle of a circle of the entire library, including the librarian, has gathered around, and they're like clapping. And at the end of it, it was unbelievable. Like, everybody was applauding.

And the feeling of that, like they say, that feeling that you get from that applause, that's what makes you say, this is it. He's been at it ever since. He studied theater in college, though after getting his big break, he wasn't sure there was life after cheers. I thought that was just going to be my career, because six years in, I hadn't done any other part.

And back then, it was much harder to jump off of television in the movies. Now, it's kind of an open door both directions. He's gone through that revolving door multiple times, from TV to movies and back again. Along the way, there have been a couple of whiffs. You turn stuff down a lot, right? Or you have? Well, I should. No, I don't think you should.

No, I do, of course. Jerry Maguire? Yeah, yeah, that was a blunder. And then like two days later, I hear Tom Cruise is doing it, and I'm like, oh, I might have fucked that up.

There haven't been many mistakes. He has an Emmy for Cheers, three Oscar nominations, and a film he made last year, Triangle of Sadness, is nominated for Best Picture. When he's not working, the father of three girls lives in Maui and Texas with his wife, Laura. We call this the treehouse. But wherever he is, he always seems to be in Woodyville. You're a vegan, you're an environmentalist, you're a cannabis advocate, but you seem to know you don't want to bully other people into your ways of thinking, even though you feel passionate about it. Well, I never noticed that preaching works. Like me trying to tell someone, don't eat that cheese, has never, ever worked. What works for Woody changes.

For a while, a few years back, he even gave up weed. I want it to be emotionally available. To your family? To my family, to my friends. It was a good experiment. His long-time pal and fellow toker, Willie Nelson, brought that experiment to an end at one of their regular poker games. Willie would always act like he didn't know that I quit. You know, I'm saying for like the fifth time that day, I quit, you know, and he's like, oh, oh. I win a big hand, he hands it right to me, and I just grab it and I take a big toke, and he goes, welcome home, son.

Welcome home, son. Because I got to say, even when basically I came out of the closet on the herb thing, it was not a happy, frolicy, fun response. Do you think it hurt your career for a bit?

I don't think it helped. That was 25 or so years ago. This is it. In 2023, the world has finally caught up to Woody Harrelson. People are just anxious to put you in a little box in this industry, you know, so I'm the year of the ox. You know, just slowly I tread you along.

I'm not the fastest animal out there, but I keep going. It's been called America's Dead Sea, Utah's Great Salt Lake. It's not entirely dead, but it is dying, erasing habitats, businesses, and memories, including mine. Utah's Great Salt Lake doesn't look so great these days. This place where tourists once bobbed up and down like corks in water far saltier than the ocean is now quite literally turning to dust. It's just all so sad. Like, I just can't believe all this happened just since I was in high school. This story hits pretty close to home.

I grew up in Salt Lake City. We had a sailboat here. That's a shaggy-haired me hugging the mast. But today, this marina is lifeless. The only boats here now are sailing the blacktop of a nearby parking lot. You'd go out the channel there, and as soon as you rounded the corner there, you just saw this huge expanse of water. I mean, to me, it was like the ocean. But my ocean has shriveled. One's covering 2,300 square miles.

Today, Great Salt Lake is only a third that size. Are you guys ready? Yep.

Let's do it. We took to the air to see for ourselves. Normally, that would be full of water all the way up. Andy Wallace was flying over these waters at about the same age I was sailing on them.

You see that kind of island lens that's out there? Yeah. That was completely underwater in the spring. That's emerged since then. Have you noticed a difference year by year?

Oh, yeah. The lake always had a cycle, depending on how much water was flowing into it. Some years it was low, and some years it was high, like 1983, when floodwaters were diverted down city streets. There are some people who say, oh, it's all going to change. Don't worry. We're going to go from dry to wet. This is just a big cycle. Utah Senator and former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney believes this has gone far beyond the normal cycle. Assuming that we're going to have a continuation of what we're seeing now, you've got to take action.

What if action? And allowing the lake to dry up is not something we can allow. Climate change and the West's historic mega-drought certainly haven't done the lake any favors.

But it's the diversion of water away from the lake that he says is less than divine. The water in this area helped us bloom like a rose as the scripture says. We've got trees and beautiful lawns, but some of that's going to have to change.

Most of the lake's water is spoken for long before it gets there. And it's not just those green lawns for Utah's exploding population. Seventy percent of the water goes to agriculture. And then there's the billion-dollar-a-year mineral extraction industry. It uses the lake's water too.

Salt is obviously king here. We produce about a million tons annually. A million tons?

Yeah. But there's magnesium and lithium too, says Joe Havasy, vice president of natural resources at Compass Minerals. If the lake dries up, he worries, so might thousands of local jobs.

When you appreciate the scope, the direct extraction, but then you have the indirect jobs, so vendors, contractors, trucking. So just how bad is it really? Well, a scientific report out just last month warns the lake is on track to disappear in the next five years, unless water use is cut by as much as 50 percent annually. I don't know of any other environmental threat that's moving this quickly. Bonnie Baxter is a Westminster College biochemist and one of the authors of that study.

Oh, you got the jackpot. For two decades, she's been studying the lake's brine shrimp and brine flies. Not the most pleasant inhabitants, as I recall, but they were a nutritious food source for some 10 million migratory shorebirds.

Those I remember fondly. This year was pretty horrific. We didn't see a lot of flies, and the birds that eat the flies are really emaciated and struggling. It sounds like you're talking about the whole ecosystem collapsing.

Exactly. When I'm out here, I have to walk away and cry often. I can't get through the day just thinking about the science, I have to take a moment.

It's emotional to be sure, and that's not even the worst of it. A bigger problem is actually blowing in the wind. That's Kevin Perry, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah. He spent the last 15 years biking across the lakebed, trying to determine if the newly exposed soil poses any threat. Every 500 meters, I would scoop up a soil sample. And what he found was that it was laden with toxic heavy metals. There were nine elements that had concentrations out in the soil that are potentially alarming, but by far, arsenic had the most widespread abundance.

Yep, he said arsenic. The same wind that used to blow sailboats around will also, he says, pick up that toxic dust and send it straight into the lungs of residents all along the Wasatch Front. I'm trying to get a sense of how you quantify the danger. I mean, how big is the danger? There are 2.5 million people that live within 50 miles of this lake, and all of those 2.5 million people are at risk from long-term exposure from the dust. It's happened before, about 600 miles to the southwest, at what used to be Owens Lake in California.

Its inflows were diverted a century ago to provide water for the city of Los Angeles. But once its lake bottom was exposed, this area became the largest source of toxic dust in the nation. How bad was it?

Really bad. It was 100 times or more over the federal air quality standard. Philip Cadoux is the pollution control officer here in the Great Basin who oversees a massive operation to tamp down that dust using gravel, brush, and yes, more water. How much does all that mitigation cost?

Today, 2.5 billion. Just to basically fix the mistake? To mitigate the mistake, yeah. I think the Owens Lake is a bellwether for the Great Salt Lake. As hard as controlling the dust is here, consider this. Great Salt Lake is 12 times larger.

This would be exponentially more expensive, maybe not even possible. Under the leadership of Brad Wilson, Republican Speaker of the Utah House, the state has passed a flood of water conservation measures. Utahns have responded by voluntarily saving about 9 billion gallons of water just last summer alone. It's been almost unprecedented, really, on this issue, how everyone, regardless of political ideology or age or where they grew up, is aware of the lake and cares about it for various reasons.

President Biden just signed a bill co-sponsored by Senator Romney that allocates $25 million to monitor Great Salt Lake and others like it. But studying the problem and fixing it are two very different things. My guess is the cost is going to be in the billions and billions of dollars.

And how you fund that, that's another question. Are you optimistic that we can fix it? There's no question in my mind that we can fix it. The question is, will there be the public and political will to take the tough medicine? We're going to have to take pretty aggressive action. If we don't, the consequence for all of us would be severe. The last light to leave the Salt Lake Valley is from the sunsets that even now still reflect off the lake. It's been that way for thousands of years.

I'd like to think in geologic time, anyway, Great Salt Lake is still too young to die. But I guess that's up to us. It's one of the most talked-about films of the year, Women Talking. Anthony Mason catches up with its writer, director, and Oscar nominee, Sarah Polley. Action. In Sarah Polley's film, Women Talking, the women in a cloistered religious community have been sexually abused. We know that we are bruised and infected and pregnant and terrified and insane and some of us are dead. They decide to vote. It is a part of our faith to forgive. On whether to leave.

Is forgiveness that's forced upon us true forgiveness? What these women are talking about is literally breaking down one world and building a next. The Oscar-nominated screenplay, adapted from a book by Miriam Taves, was written by Polley, who's also the film's director. You were reluctant to direct at first. Yeah, so I have three little kids.

That takes a whole summer, trust me. Polley told Frances McDormand, who co-stars in the film and co-produced it, that she couldn't handle the long, grueling days away from her children. And there was this little pause and then Frances McDormand just kind of went, well, men have written the rules of this industry and this movie's called Women Talking, so we're going to change the rules. Amen, sister. We're just going to do it.

I started writing it the year before the pandemic. We met Polley in Toronto, her hometown. Can you practice your slap shot here? This is my tour. In this country, we have hockey.

You're welcome. But she didn't grow up on the ice. She grew up on film sets, acting from the age of four. Did you like being a child actor? By and large, it was a terrible experience.

Get away! She was traumatized running through explosions in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. A lot of the time when the explosions and things were going off, it was really scary. There are a lot of cherries in your pies.

She was called Canada's sweetheart when she starred in the series Road to Avonlea. You didn't like all the attention either. Being recognized was really scary for me and uncomfortable. At 11, Polley lost her mother to cancer. A few months later, she was diagnosed with scoliosis. My spine growing completely out of control into this curve, which I needed surgery for, I think all those things just kind of came to a head.

And so that was a really big moment of breakage in terms of just everything kind of crumbling. Was there anything unusual about the bus that particular morning? At 17, Polley was cast in Adam Agoyan's film The Sweet Hereafter. I'm a wheelchair girl now. Playing a girl paralyzed in a school bus accident. It's okay with you?

Great. You have to do so much in your facial expressions in that movie? I'd been going through so much since I was so little, and there was no place to put it. And suddenly I was able to put everything that had ever happened to me that I hadn't said into these silent moments.

Polley won glowing reviews. In 1999, she made the cover of Vanity Fair's Hollywood Issue and reached a turning point in 2000 when she was cast as rock groupie Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe's film Almost Famous. And did you walk away from it? I did walk away from it. It became really clear to me really fast whoever played that part was going to become a huge star. I knew definitively I didn't want that from my early experiences of fame, which were so negative. So I thought, wait, why am I getting on this train? Were there a lot of people who said, what are you doing? Oh, yeah. If people weren't coming by the house from Toronto, they were flying in to knock on my door and go, so you're not going to be Penny Lane in the new Cameron Crowe movie. That's a fascinating choice.

In the end, the part of Penny Lane was played by Kate Hudson. You haven't regretted it at all? Never, because I never would have made my own films. It came directly from that moment. Polley recounts some of her traumas in her recent memoir, writing, the past and present are in constant dialogue.

In the book, she alleges she was sexually assaulted when she was 16. And I'm wondering the degree to which that was in conversation with you when you were making this film. I think a lot of experiences I had as a young woman, I think they made their way into the process of thinking about this film absolutely. Do you feel you look at yourself any differently after reexamining a lot of this?

After I told those stories, I did feel lighter. I just have a buoyancy now that I don't think I had before. Has that buoyancy in any way changed the way you approach filmmaking, do you think? Yeah. I think I approach filmmaking with a lot of gratitude now.

And action. I didn't have a second that went by that I wasn't so grateful to be there every day. Visit today or you can listen ad-free with Wunderly Plus in Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at slash survey.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-26 20:10:42 / 2023-02-26 20:34:11 / 23

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