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November 29, 2020 3:49 pm

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Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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November 29, 2020 3:49 pm

David Pogue looks at what happens following the announcement of effective coronavirus vaccines. Seth Doane talks with Charlie Mackesy, the British artist behind "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse." Tracy Smith sits down with George Clooney, star and director of “The Midnight Sky.” Faith Salie looks at those wily urban survivalists, raccoons. Mo Rocca talks with peace educator Colman McCarthy; and Kelefa Sanneh meets three scientists who spent months in isolation this COVID season in a unique locale: a New England island, home to endangered seabirds.

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I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday morning. We enter the holiday season betwixt and between. On the one hand, new COVID cases are hitting record highs. On the other hand, we're assured new vaccines are on the way. So will they provide the speedy, life-saving shot in the arm we're all hoping for?

Just one of the questions David Pogue will be answering in our Sunday morning cover story. 2020 began with COVID, but it's ending with the promise of safe, effective vaccines. It's highly likely this could be one of the key steps of turning back the pandemic. But first, a few obstacles to overcome.

I really worry about people not understanding. Once I got that shot, I should be good, right? Not so fast. The cold hard facts about the new vaccines ahead on Sunday morning. We're in conversation this morning with actor and producer George Clooney, whose newest film is a science fiction thriller about the future of humanity.

He talks with our Tracy Smith. It's a spaceship that we hope would be our future. I have to warn them about the conditions on earth.

George Clooney has a new look, a new movie. Is anyone out there? And a daily routine just about every parent can relate to. What gets you out of bed now? Well, there's twins the two. Every morning at seven bang on my head.

At Home with George Clooney later on Sunday morning. Friends in Need is a story from Rita Braver, featuring a trio of actresses bringing much of themselves to their new movie. Meryl Streep, Diane Weisz, and Candice Bergen know there's plenty to be learned from a film starring three women of a certain age. We're more able to engage in a more brutal honesty and it's uncharted territory. Maybe we're interesting just a little bit, right? Maybe. I wouldn't push it.

I wouldn't push it, but maybe. Ahead on Sunday morning, three leading ladies. John Blackstone shares a young photographer's album of the homeless. Faith Salie watches the rise of the rascally raccoon. Plus stories from Mo Rocca and Kelefa Sanneh. Thoughts from Jim Gaffigan and Dr. John LaPook. And more on this Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, the 29th of November, 2020.

We'll be back in a moment. Will these new vaccines we're hearing about provide a shot in the arm in the fight against COVID? Well, that depends. Our cover story is from David Pogue. Well, this is exciting. This says that there are now three coronavirus vaccines with effectiveness from 90 to 95%.

You know what this doesn't say, though? How they'll be distributed or how we get them or what they'll cost or how soon they'll end the pandemic. So I've decided to ask some experts, now that we have the vaccine, what next? I've spent a career of over 35 years in vaccine development, and I can't recall ever seeing a respiratory virus for which a vaccine provided this high a level of efficacy. Dr. Bill Gruber is the head of vaccine development at Pfizer. He oversaw the tests of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on 44,000 volunteers. His team learned the good news that it was 95% effective on a Zoom call.

They had tears in their eyes. This was an extraordinary, extraordinary moment. The new so-called RNA vaccines use a new approach. Instead of giving you a dead or weakened version of the virus itself, like the measles and chicken pox vaccines, these contain only a tiny fragment of the virus. So it trains your immune system to basically bite off the virus when it encounters it in the future. This is a watershed moment in two respects because obviously it's safe and effective for coronavirus, but it also could really be a pivotal moment in the ability to develop better vaccines. Pfizer tested several different formulas for the vaccine, or constructs as they call them.

We didn't know which one would work best. We moved very methodically but expeditiously. But developing the vaccine is only the first hurdle. Now you've got to ship it out to people.

It goes from the manufacturers to the distributors to the CVSs and Walgreens and Rite Aids of the world to doctors' offices directly. And you have to keep it cold. Some of the vaccines are getting down to minus 70 degrees Celsius. Minus 94 Fahrenheit. Ultra cold at scale.

That would be unusual. Thomas Teig is the CEO of Direct Relief, a nonprofit that distributes medicine to community health centers and free clinics. He introduced me to the concept of the cold chain. Welcome to the cold room, Mr.

Bond. If you buy ice cream, you're receiving food through a cold chain. It's manufactured. It's kept cold until it gets to the distribution center of your grocery store where you are the picker and packer and you are your own last mile. If the FDA gives approval to the new coronavirus vaccines, some of them will soon be crossing the country in boxes like these.

Slides in. Surrounded by super frozen slabs. We can monitor what the temperature inside the box is. This actually has a GPS tracker in it. If it ever went out of temperature range, you would know where it was when it went out of range. These are actually one-time use boxes and devices.

What kind of grand total are we talking about? All in with sometimes two or three of these data loggers in different positions, about $300 for the packaging material alone. And for use on planes and trucks. On a forklift, you could bring this. It's got its own battery. There's this self-contained battery-powered shipping freezer. It's rated for minus 20 Celsius, minus four Fahrenheit. It does seem like there's a big difference between the Pfizer vaccine with its minus 94 requirements and the Moderna, which could survive in a lot of these existing cold technologies.

The temperature difference is significant. The next challenge is making enough of the vaccine. Pfizer, Moderna, and the other pharmaceutical companies are already making their vaccines in huge tanks, 24 hours a day.

In fact, they started months ago, even before the trials were complete. You got to come up with 330 million doses. Oh no, no, it's much more than that. We should be thinking 10 times that much, at least as a starting point. We should be thinking three and a half billion doses.

Harvard Business School professor Willy Hsieh is an economist and an expert on manufacturing. A lot of the carriers like FedEx, like UPS, like DHL, they've been building these freezer farms in anticipation of having to ship larger quantities of COVID-19 vaccines at very cold temperatures. The bigger problem, he says, will be managing our expectations. The pandemic won't end once you get your shot. I really worry about people not understanding, once I got that shot, I should be good, right?

I can go back out to dinner, I can get my hair cut, you know, I can go to the gym. Not so fast. Certainly until we get broader immunization, people are still gonna have to wear masks and they're still gonna have to practice social distancing. I don't think the American public is ready for that yet. I was probably with a lot of the country thinking this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. No, only when the contagion rate goes down will we get back to some semblance of normal and that's going to take a long time. The government plans to allot the vaccines to the states according to their populations. The vaccine will be free to all. The CDC will recommend giving it first to health care workers and older Americans. If all goes well, by the spring of 2021, a vaccination will be available to anyone who wants one. But the question is, will enough people want one? Convincing people to get vaccinated is going to be our biggest challenge of all.

Dr. Celine Gounder is an epidemiologist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital. In the United States, we have a history of vaccine skepticism. You have people who don't want to be told by the government what to do. You have people who don't trust pharmaceutical companies.

You also have communities of color that have a long distrust of the health care system. This might seem like a really dumb question, but what are people worried about? People are afraid about side effects.

They're afraid that they might get sick. I've even heard theories that people think this is a vaccine for mind control. A lot of this is all over the map. We have a really tough road ahead in terms of convincing people that is not the case.

So you're a member of President-elect Biden's advisory committee on the coronavirus. Is there a plan in place for addressing some of the skepticism? We're going to have to think outside the box here and be a bit creative. This is something that we haven't had to do here before. Do you envision public service announcements and celebrity endorsements?

That's not really thinking that far outside the box. I think you're going to have to see a lot of more grassroots community outreach, partnering with local leaders, people who are trusted by the community. Well, let me ask you this. Dr. Sloane Gounder on national television, would you take the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for you and your family right now?

I will likely be among the first who are lining up to get it. I am a frontline health care worker, so I would really love to get vaccinated before I have to put myself at risk in that way again. You're not worried about mind control?

I'm not worried about mind control. The reputation of the AstraZeneca vaccine has suffered because of reporting and testing irregularities. But as for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the whole story seems improbable. The stakes were high, society was shut down, and somehow in the clutch, researchers and scientists came up with a new kind of vaccine that they say is 95% effective in a matter of months.

I asked Pfizer's Bill Gruber how that was even possible. We live in a remarkable age. Science has really progressed to a point where we have the tools to do this type of thing, and we have the dedicated people to do it, people who dedicated their lives. You know, everybody's rowing together, and it's a really extraordinary thing.

It would not have happened without them. Where most of us see obstacles and limitations in this time of COVID, some of our fellow creatures see opportunity. Faith Salie considers the curious case of the very curious raccoon. While millions of us these days settle in, these critters with their masks on venture out. In fact, this is kind of the interesting thing about the coronavirus is that now people are beginning to see animals that they didn't see before. We were very close to him.

We're gonna loop back around again. Stan Garrett is a professor at Ohio State University and has tracked raccoons for over 20 years. We put radio collars on them and we follow them as they move around the city. I've watched my study animals disappear as they were riding on top of a garbage truck. I had people email me and say that raccoons are evil geniuses out to destroy them. They're not. Raccoons are not evil geniuses.

They're not even geniuses. They are lovely little critters trying to make a living. Suzanne McDonald teaches psychology and biology at York University in Toronto, and says that raccoons' uniquely sensitive front paws, some might even call them creepy hands, are part of their success as a species. If you see a raccoon in a river where they evolve, they put their hands under the water and they feel food. It's why raccoons are commonly thought to wash their food. They don't really wash their food even though their scientific name actually is the bear who washes with their hands. The ends of their paws are more sensitive underwater that they can actually get a good image of what they're they're feeling and they can kind of see it with their fingers and then they can eat it. Raccoons are constantly reaching out and grabbing things because, unlike many animals, they're intensely curious. For many other wild animals, when there's a strange object out there, they have a healthy fear of that, but raccoons are actually attracted to new novel objects, shiny objects, things that are not normal in the landscape.

This attraction to the new and shiny is what Garrett calls neophilia. So because of their intelligence and their willingness to try new things, really we're just an opposable thumb away from raccoons being our overlords? That's something that we think about every now and then. It's like if they had an opposable thumb, they might be competition for us. McDonald exploited the fact that raccoons don't have opposable thumbs when she volunteered to help the city of Toronto create a raccoon-proof compost bin. And it worked, until a curious raccoon made Toronto's morning news. There's no way he can get into it, right? Smells good in there. There's no, really? Was it disheartening to see raccoons get into your raccoon-proof compost bin? Actually, it wasn't disheartening at all.

I thought it was fantastic and I was so cheering for them to do it because, you know, it kind of shows that they can overcome everything. If city raccoons are more wily than their country cousins, McDonald says we can thank ourselves. So over generations of time, we are actually creating the perfect urban raccoon, the perfect urban warrior, because we are making it harder and harder and harder for them to get into our trash bins and get into our houses and get into those things we don't want them to get into. And those animals that do that end up surviving and they are the smart ones.

So it is kind of our problem that we've created. The lesson of this raccoon tale? The love-hate relationship between people and raccoons isn't going anywhere because our crafty, curious neighbors are going everywhere.

So it's worth asking, what can we learn by watching raccoons? I think you can learn persistence. That's what I've learned from them is like if you just don't give up, eventually you'll get into that trash can.

It's just, you just got to keep working at it. Among other things, this pandemic has created a new generation of homeless and a young photographer is committed to documenting their distress. John Blackstone has her story. The portraits are stark, black and white, sometimes troubling.

The expressions can be wild or serene or lost. They are all people who are homeless, not the usual subjects for a portrait photographer, particularly one who began taking these photos at the age of 15. At first I was really naive to the reality of homelessness and since I'd grown up in a small town I hadn't seen a lot of external homelessness myself. Leah Denbach, now 20, has mostly photographed people living on the streets of Toronto, a two-hour drive from the town where she grew up. I began to realize these people are no different than ourselves and they're just people who had a misfortune in their life that led them to that situation.

They need our help. This is my daughter Leah, she's a photographer. Accompanied by her father Tim, she asks her subjects to stand in front of a black backdrop.

As Leah takes the photos, Tim records a conversation, learning how each life led to the street. Do you have any family in Toronto at all? No. So you're all on your own here?

Yeah. Have you been surprised as you've been doing this that so many of the people you approach are willing to have their photographs taken, are willing to tell their stories? Definitely we were surprised and we began to realize that it was firstly probably for posterity's sake. These people don't want to be forgotten and a lot of people experiencing homelessness, they don't have a lot of family and this might be the little that they're leaving behind. Denbach has published her photos in three books. With each photo, there's a brief life story. While most of the photos have been taken in Canadian cities, Leah's work has received international attention. One of her photos was selected for the annual benefit auction, Art Walk, raising money for New York's Coalition for the Homeless. She was invited to speak and show her photos at the Women of the World Festival in Australia in 2016.

In London this year, one of her portraits was reproduced as a mural by art activists working to bring attention to Britain's homeless population. It is all much more than Denbach and her father imagined when she took her first photos of homeless people almost five years ago. She maybe began doing it for artistic reasons because they had such interesting faces. Their faces tell stories. But then as we got to meet these people and hear their stories and get to know them, our sense of empathy began to grow.

So we're not just doing it for artistic reasons anymore. The family already had reason to have compassion for those living on the streets. As a child, Leah's mother Sarah was abandoned in India. I too was homeless when I was three. I was found on the streets of Calcutta and at that time a police officer, he picked me up and he knew that Mother Teresa didn't turn any children away. Dropped me off at the orphanage and I lived with her for two years and then I was adopted to Canada at the age of five. It was amazing that I was given a second chance and then we helped these others that are on the streets now and we raise money for them. All profits from sales of Denbox books are donated to organizations that help the homeless. The need has become even greater as the pandemic has created new difficulties and new dangers for those with no home. Their lives that were already hard before the pandemic have become almost unbearable. Women that we photographed with masks, their masks actually were broken so they had to like hold them to their face which I think makes it more sad and almost more dramatic because they didn't even have a proper mask. Leah and Tim give ten dollars to each person who agrees to have their photo taken. Their subjects undoubtedly need the money but Leah believes most don't do it for the payment alone. This woman Catherine we met her in Toronto and after the interview with her she said she grabbed my dad's hand and with obvious emotion in her voice she said thank you so much for doing this.

Most people just ignore me. Now streaming. I used to believe in progress that no matter what we do we just end up back at the start. We're in crazy time. The Paramount Plus original series The Good Fight returns for its final season. The point isn't the end.

The point is winning. There are bad people in the world. The best way to protect the good people is to convict the bad.

So here's to us. The Good Fight the final season now streaming exclusively on Paramount Plus. This is Intelligence Matters with former acting director of the CIA Michael Morrell. Bridge Colby is co-founder and principal of the Marathon Initiative a project focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition. The United States put our mind to something we can usually figure it out.

What people are saying and what we kind of know analytically and empirically is our strategic situation our military situation is not being matched up with what we're doing. Follow Intelligence Matters wherever you get your podcasts. Coleman McCarthy is a man on a mission to make the world a more peaceful place one student at a time.

He puts our morocca to the test. I guess we can go right to the classroom now. Writer and teacher Coleman McCarthy begins each school year with a pop quiz and a cash prize. And I pull out a hundred dollars if anybody can answer the quiz all names it's yours.

Mo I want to I want you to take the quiz. Okay. Who was Robert E. Lee? He was the general of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Yes.

I started off confidently. Who was Napoleon? He was a guy with a complex.

Yes the French general good it's looking good. But then Emily Balch. She's not the woman who wouldn't go out of her house in Massachusetts and wrote poetry. No Emily Balch was a Nobel Peace Prize winner that founded the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Nor could I identify Jody Williams a Nobel winner for her work with land mines or Jeanette Rankin the first woman elected to Congress and the only member to vote against American involvement in both world wars.

Mo don't feel bad it's always safe money. I can always count on American education. For 38 years Coleman McCarthy has been trying to give away that hundred dollars to the more than 30,000 high school and college students in the Washington DC area who have taken his course in peace studies. A former columnist for the Washington Post McCarthy has spent his life preaching and teaching non-violence.

And there are options to deal with conflicts in other ways but we don't teach them the other way so they look on people like me well you're on those old 60s hippies one of those old liberals still hanging around aren't you? McCarthy's own journey began 82 years ago. Raised on New York's Long Island he went to Spring Hill College in Alabama where he pursued his first passion. And I went there for 18 reasons Mo it had it had a golf course on the campus. He turned pro his senior year but he'd also discovered the writings of Trappist monk and social activist Thomas Merton. And driving back home from Alabama he stopped at a monastery in Georgia. He ended up staying five and a half years. How come you didn't become a priest?

I didn't like the taste of wine. His calling it turned out was journalism. In 1969 he began writing for the Washington Post where he interviewed and befriended many of the 20th century's most prominent peace advocates. I get a fair amount of mail every week from readers around the country you call me a fool jerk no nothing. Don't let his jovial manner fool you.

And then I read my negative mail. McCarthy is nothing short of radical in his opposition to the violence he sees all around us. He doesn't believe we should have a standing army. Do you think we should have border security? I don't believe in borders.

The borders are artificially created mostly by military action. He has no use for the national anthem. I've never stood up for the Star-Spangled Banner because that is a war song. It's about bombing people.

It's about rockets. It's about a useless war. He's against both the death penalty and abortion. But I don't criticize anybody who's had abortions.

I don't want the government involved but I do think we ought to educate everybody that there are other means to solve an unwanted pregnancy. If you think you know how McCarthy votes well he's never voted. His commitment to non-violence extends beyond humankind which is why he hasn't eaten meat in decades. Is anything you're wearing from an animal?

No, my shoes are not leather but good try. He doesn't own a car. Instead he bikes to work. I do have a little dark side to me though. Which is?

About my bicycle. I love it when there are traffic jams. There they are just polluting the atmosphere and I breeze right on through and for a couple of seconds I feel so morally superior. He brings about 20 speakers a semester to his class at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School in Maryland where he teaches on a volunteer basis. That's right McCarthy doesn't get paid to teach here. Guest speakers have included Nobel laureates Mered Corrigan, Muhammad Yunus and Adolfo Perez Esquivel. And then you brought in a maintenance worker at the school. I bring in Lily Flores who was the cleaning lady at the school who fled El Salvador when she was 14 never went past sixth grade.

Caroline Villasez, Kyle Ramos and Gabrielle Maisel were all students when we dropped in on McCarthy's class before the pandemic. How is your life going to be different after you leave here for having taken this course? So originally I was thinking of maybe going into a creative field but now I'm looking for something more like I guess practical like that where I'm actually hands-on helping people. So I'm thinking of being a social worker.

For me it's kind of just installed a sense of responsibility that I kind of need to like help other people and just help our world we're in. He also like just brings out the best in people. He sees the strength in us and he makes sure that like every student knows how important they are which is really awesome.

McCarthy's class has no exams and no grades. He considers grades academic violence. Would you agree? I would agree. Peace education is that your calling in life? Well my calling in life is to be a good husband and a loving father and a loving husband.

I think that comes first. He's been married to his wife Mav for 53 years. The couple has three sons. It's one of the dark secrets about the peace movement. So many of the great peacemakers were wretched people at home. They were cruel in ways we rarely hear about. Gandhi was an awful husband and father, a very domineering husband. Peace begins at home?

Yes exactly. While Coleman McCarthy's class has no exams or grades he does send his students home with one important assignment. Every class I say your homework is to tell someone you love them today and if you can't find someone to tell them that you love them look a little harder and if you still can't find them call me up. I know where all the unloved people are.

They're everywhere. You're a thief and a liar. I only lied about being a thief. I don't do that anymore.

Steal? Lie. George Clooney's acting chops were on full display in the movie Ocean's Eleven. This morning he's in conversation about his latest film with Tracy Smith. Come in Ether. This is Barbeau Observatory. Are you receiving this?

Yep, that's him. Is anyone out there? In our galaxy alone there are billions of stars.

At least one of them has the potential to support life. In the futuristic thriller The Midnight Sky, George Clooney is a lone scientist trying to warn astronauts away from an earth that is no longer habitable and all while he's caring for a young child. I understand. For the movie Clooney grew a beard, dropped some weight and put on his director's hat.

Take a deep breath. You haven't been taking on a lot of acting roles. What was it about this project that was so compelling that you decided to direct and act in it? I saw the part and I thought well this is a really great part and then I had an idea of how to tell the story and so I called up Netflix and said you know I think I think I have a take on it. As we see earth in case what we want to do is with our graphic is have it just get enveloped. So you're going to watch it go from blue to brown. Okay.

So let's try that. The film in theaters and on Netflix December 23rd is both powerful and poignant and don't even ask about the ending. Clooney shot it all last year just before the real world shut down. Are you enjoying being home all the time now?

Well look no of course not. We met George at his home in LA where he spent the past few months with his wife human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. They're two kids and a whole lot of time on his hands. It's been a while since I did you know 15 loads of film. 15 loads of laundry in a day and mop floors and you know all these doors over here I stained and it was you know I always say I felt like my mother in 1964 because she had two kids and no help and I don't know how she did it now.

I have more sympathy for her now than ever. And have you been cutting your own hair? I've been cutting my own hair for 25 years.

So it has nothing to do with quarantine. Yeah look I have my hair's like really like straw you know and so it's easy to cut. You can't really make too many mistakes. So years ago I bought a thing called the Flowbee which when we did not when I was a kid yeah. The infomercial the Flowbee. This ingenious device lets you give yourself and family perfect haircuts every time.

It comes with a vacuum cleaner and the clippers yeah I still have it. Stop it you don't use it. My haircuts take literally two minutes. Is this Flowbee? Yeah it's Flowbee.

That is awesome. Yeah listen man it works. Now you know I wouldn't do it to my wife. You've been using my hair treatment? Your hair is straight. Excuse me. In case you're keeping track Clooney and his Flowbee hair have made more than four dozen films and picked up two Oscars along the way.

Sometimes it's impossible to save a kid's life and the only thing we can do is save them from suffering. He first came to fame as a doctor in the NBC series ER but he was hardly an overnight success. He'd struggled in Hollywood for years after moving out from his Kentucky home with little more than the shirt on his back. It was 1982 when I wanted to move out to LA and I had a beat up 76 Monte Carlo rust all over it. I would fill it with oil and check the gas and I drove it out here in three days. I didn't turn it off because I was afraid I couldn't turn it back on and I got here broke down and I got a bicycle and I rode to auditions all around town for a year and a half.

On a bike? Yeah. Now 59 and a millionaire many times over he keeps busy with the Clooney Foundation for Justice that grew out of his work in places like South Sudan.

All of you should know that what you said here today will be heard and listened to around the world. But the midnight sky was one of his most demanding jobs to date. This scene where he separated from the little girl was shot in a real Arctic snow storm.

I see you! How tough was it to shoot that? That was the very first week of shooting we were in Iceland.

So we went out it's 40 degrees below zero and it's 70 mile an hour wind gusts and I was doing stuff without goggles so my eyelids would freeze shut after about a little over a minute and so we I could only do a take for that long and then I'd have to go in and take a blow dryer and get my eyelashes and blow dry your eyelashes so I could go back out. It seems like it seems like an action film but Clooney says it's really about human beings need to connect across the universe or just across a room. I would say one of the themes of the film is that idea of having someone to care for can keep you going. In your own life does having someone to care for change things?

Yes. There is no question that having a mall in my life changed everything for me no question about that. It was the first time that everything that she did and everything about her was infinitely more important than anything about me and then we had these these two knuckleheads and it is very fulfilling and something I wasn't at all didn't see coming so you know when we we never talked about marriage when we were dating and I asked her out of the blue took her a long time to say yeah I was on my knee for like 20 minutes I finally said look I'm gonna throw my hip out. We told this to her parents and they're like there's something wrong with his hip and then we never talked about having kids and then one day we just said what do you think and you know and then we go to the doctor you know you do the ultrasound and they're like oh you got a baby boy I was like baby boy fantastic and they go and you got another one there and I was like I was up for one because yeah again I'm like I'm old and all of a sudden it's like two and I literally you know it's hard to get me to not talk and I just stood there for like 10 minutes just staring at this piece of paper going two silently but now it's silent but I'm so glad they have each other you know. It is a wonderful thing right?

It's unbelievable. All right guys that's it congratulations we got this one done. When he's not making movies Clooney says he spends a third of his time with his foundation but quietly for a guy who's now made a few space movies George Clooney is forgive me for this remarkably down to earth. So do you I'm curious just watching you you're very self-deprecating and I'm wondering is is that something that is in your nature or do you work on that?

I think it's in my nature I think you know a lot of times the secret is you take the gun out of their hands before they can shoot you you know I just I think that that's a it's a healthy way of looking at the world there's a line in I think it was a movie called out of the past Robert Mitchum says I never learned anything from hearing myself talk it's kind of a good it's a good measure to go by. With Kelefasane now we take flight to an island that's truly for the birds and the people who study them. Now these birds they all know you but they never met me are they a little suspicious? Uh yeah they're very suspicious they uh they don't particularly like us either though. Every year thousands of seabirds, terns, come to these islands off the coast of New Hampshire and every year scientists like Liz Craig come too.

We try to be nice but they don't really appreciate it. The birds may not appreciate it. You've been pecked? Oh yes daily. But the researchers are here to protect them and their chicks.

Beautiful baby. This is one of the only nesting sites certainly the largest nesting site that they have so in order for them to have this active breeding colony it does require that people like us are out here making sure that this island is still available and doesn't get taken over by other competing birds so when the chicks hatch they can't fly. Craig and her research assistants Alia Caldwell and Beckley Stearns are studying two types of terns the common tern and the not so common roseate tern. How close did terns come to extinction? Seabirds generally are the most threatened group of birds on earth. There was a huge population reduction for the seabirds that we're talking about around the turn of the century late 1800s early 1900s when these birds were actually hunted for their plumage. In the 1950s and 60s environmental contaminants in the oceans again put the terns especially the endangered roseate terns at risk.

So that's the species that we we pay the most attention to. Each spring the birds all squeeze onto these two tiny piles of rock White Island and Seavey Island to lay their eggs. With human development we've certainly contracted the amount of space that is available for these birds. Even here these birds usually have to share space with tourists but not this year. If I was compiling a census of this island it would be you three and a whole bunch of birds right?

Yes that's pretty much it. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic this team of bird protectors was quarantined with the terns for about four months beginning in April. Well we're not allowed to leave. You have ankle bracelets or something?

How does this work? I mean there's an ocean and we don't have a suitable boat to get to the mainland so. Being on an island surrounded by nothing but birds it doesn't sound so bad.

A lot of people especially my friends are asking me if they could volunteer this year. It was a very popular idea. This program was started by researcher Jen Seavey that's Seavey as in Seavey Island named for one of her ancestors. The one amazing thing about COVID was that there was a lot less people on that island so on the whole it probably was good for the birds.

Their data show a record number of terns nearly 7,000 nested on the island this year. As for the other inhabitants. Do you think it was good for the researchers? I think it gave the researchers a really different experience.

It gave them their own island in that sense it was all about the research. They lived together in an old light keeper's house. The outhouse. The outhouse.

That stood the test of time. Updated with all the amenities of home or some of them. Yeah well this is a faucet but just because it's a faucet doesn't mean there's running water.

It's a decoy faucet. Yeah. Caldwell says on this island everyone's competing for the best food. If you were to have an argument on this island what would you be arguing about? Jalapeno potato chips.

Jalapeno potato chips. As breeding season ends it's time for everyone to leave the island. The terns head south. Our common terns probably are mostly spending the winter in Argentina. Roseate terns probably down in Brazil. So by the time they come back from their long-distance migration in the spring we want to be here to make sure that the island is still available for them.

Until then the researchers will return to their own nests. I'm excited to finally come off the island knowing that I'm symptomless and COVID-free and that I could safely and comfortably share a meal with my grandparents. You may have caught our special on pets. This morning the subject is pet peeves. We have an appointment with Dr. John Lapook. Lately I've been thinking about whether pet peeves are actually a good thing.

Like a pet dog can they provide comfort? My pet peeves mostly have to do with the use of language. Something cannot be very unique. It cannot be very one of a kind.

It is either unique or not unique. See how I got a little agitated there? I blew off some steam about something that means absolutely nothing in the scheme of things and I do think I'm feeling a little bit better now. Pet peeves are just important enough to irritate us but not important enough to make a difference in our lives and they have to be both barely important and recurrent. So you would not call breaking your leg in a ski accident a pet peeve. Which brings us to literally versus figuratively.

If your head literally exploded there better be brains on the wall. I'm a doctor so I know this and why ever start a sentence with to tell you the truth does that mean everything else you've been telling me is a lie? My favorite pet peeve is the call center person who politely asks may I please have the correct spelling of your last name.

I'm so glad you said correct otherwise I would have answered lapook q-r-z-z-m-w lapook. In this age of social media should you keep your pet peeves to yourself? Should you silently see or try to inform? My vote as we hope to enter an era of increased civility keep them to yourself there are enough people weighing in on other people's faults. Here's what I think our pet peeves actually serve a purpose while they're irritating they let us quietly vent about something that truly does not matter without ruining somebody else's day. So embrace your pet peeves but don't let them bite anyone else.

Like all pets they can be very therapeutic. I'm Jane Pauley please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. 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 core 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.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-28 21:15:42 / 2023-01-28 21:32:01 / 16

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