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Jane Pauley is off today. I'm Lee Cowan, and this is Sunday morning. We begin where you might expect, in Afghanistan.
A week after the Taliban seized power, we'll take stock of the aftermath with national security correspondent David Martin. Then it's on to our cell phones. We pretty much take them for granted now, but they truly did change the world. David Pogue sits down with the man who, believe it or not, invented them, and he is still hard at work. A radio telephone on your dashboard. In 1972, a mobile phone was a car telephone, a 30-pound box installed in your trunk. In the trunk compartment, a tiny radio transmitter.
The Hall of Fame. Yeah. But this man had a vision of something much better.
Small enough to put in your pocket, big enough so that it could go between your ears and your mouth. Coming up on Sunday morning, meet 92-year-old Marty Cooper, the father of the cell phone. From Star Wars to Indiana Jones, E.T., Harry Potter, the music of John Williams is part of the soundtrack of our lives. And as Tracy Smith will tell us, Williams isn't about to stop now. John Williams is still busy as ever and still not satisfied. I know you're a very modest man, but do you ever allow yourself that moment to step back and say, wow, look what I've done?
It's very hard for me to take complete pleasure in anything that I've made. Later on Sunday morning, the incomparable, unstoppable John Williams. Luke Burbank visits one ghostly town with one very living resident. Dr. John LePoucque introduces us to a musician whose practice makes perfect. My name is Dr. John LePoucque, and I'm here to tell you a little bit about my life.
Dr. John LePoucque introduces us to a musician whose practice makes perfect. A story from Steve Hartman and more on this Sunday morning for the 22nd of August 2021. We'll be back in a moment. It's been barely a week since the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Their return to power was swift and organized.
We asked our David Martin to help us make sense of just what happened and what it might mean for the future. There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days. The collapse no one saw coming began on Friday, August 6th, with the fall of a provincial capital in the far west of Afghanistan. The White House said it was time for the Afghans to step up. Now is the moment for the leadership and the will in the face of the Taliban's aggression and violence.
In the next two days, four more provincial capitals fell, including the key city of Kunduz, which surrendered without a fight. That night, General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, alerted the Pentagon Kabul could be surrounded within 30 days. An alarming prediction that turned out to be way off.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. Clearly, the security situation is deteriorating. And just all over the last, what, 72 hours, roughly five provincial capitals fell to the Taliban.
That's deeply concerning. And they kept falling as one after another, Afghan units trained and equipped by the U.S. gave up without a fight. By August 12th, Ghazni, just south of Kabul, was in Taliban hands. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley warned that the Taliban was within 24 hours of Kabul, and the Pentagon ordered in combat troops to reinforce the airport and safeguard the evacuation of Americans from the embassy.
The first movement will consist of three infantry battalions. They will move to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul within the next 24 to 48 hours. Taliban leaders assured U.S. officials they only intended to surround the capital, not take it. Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment. But clearly, David, if you just look at what the Taliban's been doing, you can see that they are trying to isolate Kabul. Last Saturday, General McKenzie the central command chief flew to the Persian Gulf to meet face to face with Taliban leaders. He took a map showing a 25 kilometer area around the airport, intending to warn the Taliban to stay out or their fighters would be attacked. But by the time they met on Sunday, Taliban fighters were already rolling into the city, and all McKenzie could do was tell them not to interfere with the evacuation. Afghan President Ghani fled the country, and the Taliban were taking selfies in the presidential palace. The collapse of the House of Cards, erected over 20 years, was complete.
It was a very hollow government and a hollow military. Since 2012, John Sopko has been the watchdog for reconstruction as the special inspector general for Afghanistan, issuing report after report calling out failed projects and rampant corruption. Just this past week, he issued a lessons learned report.
I did not think it would collapse this quickly, although once it happened, we realized that all the preconditions for failure were there. The report is based on his own inspections in Afghanistan and on more than 700 strikingly candid interviews with senior administration officials down to aid workers in the field. None more candid than Douglas Lute, an army general who served as a special advisor on Afghanistan to Presidents Bush and Obama. We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan, Lute told the inspector general. We didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.
It's really much worse than you think. Or this recorded interview with Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Afghanistan, talking about the Afghan police. They're useless as a security force and they're useless as a security force because they are corrupt down to the patrolman level. This endemic corruption is also one of the key reasons of the success of the Taliban. When we poured money like mana from heaven on in Afghanistan, what would you expect?
They grabbed it. We contributed to the corruption by just pouring too much money. $145 billion went into rebuilding Afghanistan, producing, according to President Biden, an Afghan army and police that should have been capable of holding its own against the Taliban. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force with some 300,000 strong, incredibly well-equipped.
Was that a real 300,000? That's what the Afghans reported, but we knew that there were serious problems with what we call ghosts. That means people on the rolls, but who don't exist, but whose salary and everything else is just stolen by the Afghan officers and generals. And it was more than salaries. It was all the supplies for those ghost soldiers and policemen. A U.S. general told us 50 percent, 5-0, of the fuel we provided to the Afghans was stolen.
50 percent. We were talking about billions of U.S. dollars. But sheer waste doesn't explain why Afghan armed forces couldn't or wouldn't fight once the U.S. withdrew. Why couldn't the Afghan army become less dependent on the United States? We didn't let them become less dependent.
The Afghans couldn't deliver the food or buy the fuel. We did it for them. So we essentially made them dependent. We gave them equipment that they didn't know how to maintain and couldn't sustain.
They just couldn't function without us. But the military officers who were advising and assisting the Afghan army must have seen all this in detail. Were they warning that as soon as we pull our support, they're going to collapse? It was the U.S. Air Force that first alerted us and alerted the Pentagon that without U.S. or coalition contractor support, the Afghan Air Force would collapse within a matter of months. The American way of war simply did not work for the Afghan military.
While child mortality rates went down over the last 20 years, sick babies must now be lifted over barricades to get care. The scenes of chaos at Kabul Airport promised to be the most indelible of the lessons learned from the American failure in Afghanistan. So the debate's going to take place. Who lost Afghanistan? The United States lost Afghanistan. There's a lot of mistakes to go around for everybody. And I think, in my humble opinion, a healthier question is, what do we learn from those 20 years?
So we don't repeat it again. By one estimate, there are now more cell phones than people on this planet, a pocket-sized marvel that changed our world. David Pogue tells us we have one man to thank. There wouldn't be Uber or Lyft or Google Maps or FaceTime or Instagram or Tinder or Snapchat or TikTok or iPhones or Android phones if someone hadn't invented the cell phone. Fortunately, somebody did.
I know a lot about the future because I spent all my time there, but I should be thinking about practical things of today. It was Marty Cooper whose memoir tells the story. Chicago native, Navy submarine officer, and eventually an executive at Motorola, maker of police and military radios, and in the early 70s, the two-way radio known as the car phone, something like this one. A radio telephone on your dashboard ready to connect you while you drive. These car telephones were not cellular car telephones.
That's correct. They had one transmitter in a city and a very limited amount of radio channels. The chances were one in 20 that you could make a phone call.
That's how bad that service was. In 1972, the idea of a cellular network was catching on where cities were divided into smaller land regions called cells, each with a transmission tower. As you moved from cell to cell, your call would be handed off from one tower to another. AT&T, Motorola's much bigger rival, asked the FCC for a monopoly on cellular communications, not because it had a vision of phones in our pockets, but to expand its car phone business.
They were going to take over our business as well as this whole new thing and do it wrong. People had been wired to their desks in their kitchens for over 100 years, and now they're going to wire us to our cars where we spend five percent of our time. Motorola wanted to prove that opening up the airwaves to competition would spur more innovation. So I thought about, how can we do a dazzling demonstration?
The only way to do it is to have a working something. In only three months, Marty Cooper had overseen the construction of a working cell phone. Cooper named it the DynaTAC. You could talk for 25 minutes before the phone ran down. On April 3, 1973, Cooper made the world's first public cell phone call as a demonstration for a reporter. So we met this guy on Sixth Avenue in New York in front of the Hilton, and then I had to make a phone call to demonstrate it. And whom did he call? Joel Engel, his arch-rival over at AT&T. And I said, Joel, I'm calling you on a cell phone, but a real cell phone, a personal, handheld, portable cell phone.
Silence at the other end of the line. Cooper's gambit worked. Seems like this are becoming commonplace in U.S. cities where cellular is available today. The FCC was so impressed that it opened the cellular industry to competition. More people will take advantage of cellular as its benefits become apparent. Cooper left Motorola in 1983.
Since then, he and his wife Arlene Harris, a tech inventor in her own right, have started a series of companies in the cellular industry. Isn't the general advice for relationships not to work with your spouse? We don't agree about everything, but, you know, that's the spice of life. Disagreement is long. It's friendly. But it seems like if there's a technological dispute, can't you just go, I'll have you know I'm the father of the cell phone?
Wouldn't you automatically win? No. The cell phone has come a long way, but Cooper thinks that we've only begun to tap its potential. Oh, David, we are only at the very, very beginning. We are going to revolutionize mankind in many ways. I believe that the whole process of education is going to be revolutionized. And the other revolutions that are going to happen is in health care. I know I sound like an optimist, but poverty is going to be a thing of the past. Already, he says, workers in poorer countries use their cell phones to move money around without needing a bank. This is stimulated entrepreneurship. People's lives are being saved.
People are being moved out of poverty. Marty Cooper is a notorious fitness buff. At 92, he lifts weights and takes walks, sometimes on the beach in front of his home. But he considers mental exercise even more important.
If you don't keep learning all your life, keep an open mind, and soak up stuff, be curious, you lose the ability to learn. And to me, that's the scariest thing of all. As for his book, well, Hollywood has already bought the film rights. Who's going to play you in the movie? I was hoping that you would do it, David. You're the only star that I know. Have your people talk to my people.
I love it. Here's what I find strange, Marty. I know this is a stereotype, but as a 92-year-old guy, I might expect you to relish the stories from the past more than the stories of the future. Well, I have observed that things in the past have continued to improve. You know, people are richer today. They are healthier today.
We've still got a lot of problems, but there's no reason to think that we aren't going to keep improving. Hi, podcast peeps. It's me, Drew Barrymore.
Oh, my goodness. I want to tell you about our new show. It's the Drew's News Podcast. And in each episode, me and a weekly guest are going to cover all the quirky, fun, inspiring, and informative stories that exist out in the world because, well, I need it.
And maybe you do too. From the newest interior design trend, Barbie Corps, to the right and wrong way to wash your armpits. Also, we're going to get into things that you just kind of won't believe and we're not able to do in daytime television, so watch out. Listen to Drew's News wherever you get your podcasts. It's your good news on the go. Most of us have felt the urge to get away from it all, and then there's Brent Underwood, who's taken that concept to a whole new level, as Luke Burbank explains.
All right. It's day two here at Cerro Gordo. Six months by myself.
Eight months. There might only be a few people on planet Earth who can say they've been more socially distant during the pandemic than Brent Underwood. So I thought, hey, you know, what better place to socially distance than an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere? And so I packed up my truck. I drove out here.
Here, perched on the edge of Death Valley, eight miles up a winding dirt road, is the abandoned mining town of Cerro Gordo, California. Population, Brent. Hello. Do you ever start to feel sort of like Tom Hanks in Castaway? So I do. People think that it's a really lonely place, and it can be.
But I think to combat that, I remind myself that a lot of people are lonely than in the past year. So where are we standing right now? This is one of the original cabins. Underwood isn't just Cerro Gordo's sole resident. He also owns it. All 380 acres. Back in 2018, he and some business partners bought it to turn it into a tourist destination by restoring the town and its old hotel. It was $1.4 million.
I didn't have anywhere close to that much, but I had enough to put down the earnest money deposit. So it was, let's secure this thing, and let's figure out the rest later. As it turns out, people have been taking a chance on Cerro Gordo ever since 1865. When silver was discovered here, high in the Inyo Mountains. Things during the silver period were wild. Roger Vargo is an expert on Cerro Gordo, who co-wrote a book about it, along with his wife, Cecile. We talk about a wild west town right out of a Clint Eastwood movie.
Various newspaper accounts had shootings once a week, stabbings, other kinds of violence. At its peak in 1872, Cerro Gordo generated roughly $150 million, adjusted for inflation, in silver and lead mining. But, like all booms, things eventually went bust. By the 1930s, Cerro Gordo was all but abandoned. Over the years, a series of different owners lived here and maintained the town, before 34-year-old Brent Underwood bought it. How long do you think you're going to stay here? A long time. During my time up here, my parents sold my child at home, and so when people ask me what's home now, it's like, it's Cerro Gordo, you know, this is my home.
Underwood left his city life in Austin, Texas, where he ran a hostel, to live and work full-time at Cerro Gordo. And then, slowly, I rebuilt the floor. And it is, very much, a full-time job. Do you know how to build things? Like, do you have a background in that?
No, I do not. And so, I'm learning on the job, on-the-job training, if you will. But, of course, living in an abandoned mining town has its perks.
So, 400 feet of ladder would lead you down to the 400 level. Brent gets to explore the mines, which haven't been touched in decades. And lookie what we have here. And the stuff that he finds.
I don't want to get anybody too excited too early, but there's definitely some garments over here. It all goes into his museum. The most common type of bottle you find here is the Lee and Perrin's Worcestershire sauce. Really, because the meat was so bad that he had to put a lot of sauce on all of the meat that was here. And when he finds cool things, Underwood is sure to put them on his YouTube channel, Ghost Town Living. He shares both the highs and the lows of living in Cerro Gordo.
About five hours ago, around 2, 2.30 in the morning, a fire burned down our hotel here at Cerro Gordo. The videos have become so popular that fans often trek up the mountain to volunteer or just tell Brent they love the channel. Someone's chasing a dream. That's what I see. I see somebody who's able to do what they and others would only think about in the back of their mind. And you got this guy right here doing it. Have you been pleasantly surprised how he's thrown himself into it?
Oh, absolutely. He's gained an understanding of Cerro Gordo that you can only get when you actually live there and experience it for an extended amount of time. Of course, even his biggest fans eventually head back down the mountain. This is Lola. For now, Underwood's cats, goats and alpacas will have to do for companionship. His priority, he says, is to rebuild that town hotel that burned down so he can start hosting paying customers.
Who knows? Maybe Cerro Gordo has one last boom in it after all. I was here before I was here, so I just see myself as the current chaperone.
And to do my best, I'm willing to give it my all. Steve Hartman now with a lobster tale. At 78, Max Oliver is an old salt. But to his crewmate on this lobster boat, Max is but a child. Her child. Virginia Oliver is 101, Maine's oldest lobster fisherman. Three days a week, May through November, you can find Virginia out here on Penobscot Bay, balancing on her sea legs, tackling one of the most hazardous jobs in the country.
Not long ago, she got cut so badly, she needed seven stitches. And the doctor said to me, what are you out there lobstering for? Good question. And I said, because I want to. I think he might have thought that was a little too dangerous for somebody of your age.
Well, I don't care what he thought. Well, clearly. Yeah. Virginia has been lobstering on and off since the age of seven. She used to go out with her father. It was man's work then, not another girl in sight.
But 94 years later, she is the master of the sea. After Max hauls in the traps, Virginia measures the lobsters. No going. Tosses out the small ones. Going to throw it away.
And then tames the claws of the keepers. Who's the boss out there? I am. Okay. So let's say he didn't want to go out one day. He's too tired. No?
No, I won't put up that stuff. Virginia says she expects nothing of her son that she wouldn't do herself. Unfortunately for her son.
How many days have you called in sick in the last year? Young. She don't give up. What would she say if you said, I'm ready to retire? You better have something wrong with you.
You better have something wrong with you. As for Virginia's retirement date, she says you'll find that one place and one place only. Etched on her tombstone. When I die.
When you die. Yeah. In other words, no time soon. This morning's commentary comes from a decorated veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Travis Mills. To my fellow veterans who have bravely served in Afghanistan over the last two decades and to all the Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice, my message to you can best be summed up in three short words. We did good. I know it might not feel that way in this immediate moment. Ten years ago when I put down my backpack on an IED during my third tour in Afghanistan and lost portions of both arms and legs, I was feeling angry, hurt, depressed, and hopeless. Many of the emotions we are experiencing right now. I have been there.
I feel your pain. Since my injury, I have spent the majority of my second chance at life trying to live life to the fullest, helping other veterans overcome a range of mental challenges and physical obstacles while building a close-knit veteran community. So my message is simple. Afghanistan wasn't all for nothing. It was because of us, those who have served, that some good things did in fact happen.
We did good. We built and dug wells to provide fresh drinking water to the Afghan people. We built schools so that more of the population had access to education, including women and children. We provided modernized Western medicine and provided medical assistance in the region. We built hospitals. We also helped with the local economy and commerce by hiring Afghans to build infrastructure.
These are all tools that the population will hopefully still be able to use even after we leave. We did good. Could the pullout have been handled logistically better? Of course. We probably should have left Afghanistan a long time ago. But don't let recent events erase all the positive that we did to make the country better.
It wasn't all in vain, and as hard as it might be, I hope there is some comfort in that. There's Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Springsteen, and then there's Rich Krueger. Ever heard of him? Our Dr. John Lapook introduces us to a songwriter who truly knows the healing power of music. At a bar in the Chicago suburbs early last year, before the pandemic, Rich Krueger rocked the house.
You seem to be having a blast up there. I love being on stage. I love playing music. In 2018, Krueger independently released two albums of original songs. Since then, he's won some high-profile fans who say this little-known musician is the real deal. Why should anyone pay attention to Richard Krueger? Because he's one of the greatest songwriters ever to make long-playing records.
It's as simple as that. Pioneering rock critic Robert Christgau has written for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone magazine during a career that has spanned over 50 years. I don't mean he's a Randy Newman or a Lennon McCartney or a Jagger Richard, but just below that, yes, he is.
He is that good. You heard his music, and it said something to you. I'm sorry. I think it's more than that. It's not that it said something to me. It's that it says something. It says something. It says something, period. Some people think what I do is pretty amazing. I think that's wonderful. But what's remarkable is that for Rich Krueger, music is only the half of it.
Let's try 25 percent at two liters. Dr. Krueger is also a neonatologist, a doctor who takes care of ill or premature newborns. For him, music and medicine aren't as different as they might seem. It's observation. The doctor does that and helps to treat the patient. The poet articulates it in language. It's the same skill set.
It's just doing something different with the information. It was a story that she fed him to the best of her invention. Krueger wrote and performed music throughout medical school and residency. And a few years ago, he set out to finally make professional recordings of his songs. It did not come cheap. If you were not a doctor, you would not be able to have made these albums, right?
No, not possible at all. How much does it cost per album? I've spent about $250,000 on the two records.
Wow. Does that take a hit into your life? Well, that's why I work 80 to 100 hours a week as a physician. But Dr. Krueger doesn't dwell much on his day job in his songs, with one notable exception. Somebody basically said you've got to write a song and a theme for a show, and the theme happened to be birth. It kind of wrote itself. Well, honey, giving birth can be sort of uncomfortable. Said the nurse with a straight face somehow. For the most part, it's a comic song.
This is a difficult birth, which is what neonatologists do. He mentions that he lost one, and it's just a couple of lines. All but what's done is done, there's always next time. If you lay at home, he's got a bottle of wine. The day says, oh, well, I've got a bottle of wine at home. On the one hand, he's being light and cynical, but on the other hand, he has to deal with tragedy. In Dr. Krueger's line of work, tragedy is inevitable. So learning to cope is critical. Sometimes things go wrong and you move on, you know.
It was this week, wasn't it, going to coding a baby who died. And how do you deal with that? We're professionals, you know, I'm a professional. And when you're dealing with an emergency, you cope with it. Since the pandemic began, Dr. Krueger has continued his normal hospital duties and has been performing to virtual crowds from home. Music remains a lifeline.
That's the best thing about music. It makes the world go away, which sometimes you need. He's doing very well. He's doing very well. Even in trying times, especially in trying times, Rich Krueger seems to strike just the right note. Have you enjoyed being a physician? I've enjoyed a lot about being a physician. It's a really special honor to be able to do that.
I'm a really lucky man who's had a really amazing life and has really, really incredible friends and a lot of good stories. Thank you, we're the Rich Krueger Band. Thank you very much for coming. I'm Lee Cowan. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Until then, stay safe, be well, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. Have a great power competition.
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