AMNA NAWAZ, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR: Good evening.
I’m Amna Nawaz.
Judy Woodruff is away.
On the “NewsHour” tonight:
Fallout in Russia.
Lingering fear after nuclear engineers are
killed in a mysterious explosion.
What it means for the country’s weapons program,
and for Vladimir Putin’s hold on power.
Then, the artistic world is rocked as legendary
operatic singer Placido Domingo is accused
by multiple women of sexual harassment.
And, digital casinos, where you can’t win,
but you can lose everything.
An inside look at how gambling companies target
vulnerable users who play online — where
there’s zero chance of reward and every chance
of financial ruin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUZIE KELLY: You don’t know this until you
play this game, but you’ve got a problem.
If you have an addiction, you’re screwed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMNA NAWAZ: All that and more on tonight’s
AMNA NAWAZ: Clashes rocked Hong Kong today,
as anti-government demonstrations crippled
the busy international airport for a second
Scuffles broke out when riot police armed
with pepper spray and batons confronted pro-democracy
protesters inside the terminal.
Jonathan Miller of Independent Television
News has our report.
JONATHAN MILLER, INDEPENDENT TELEVISION NEWS
REPORTER: Midnight Hong Kong time, and the
protestors who’d forced the cancellation of
all outbound flights for the second day running
became suddenly agitated as a thin blue line
tentatively entered the arrivals hall, terminal
Laser pens blinded the officers, who were
immediately forced to retreat.
The black shirts thought for a moment they’d
seen the police off.
Then, the riot police arrived.
Initially they picked off individuals.
Some were beaten, then cuffed.
One riot policeman became immediately trapped
inside the doors to the terminal.
You see him attempting an arrest, then he’s
He loses, then is beaten with his own baton.
The intensity of the mistrust and hatred that
has built up exploding.
The cop pulls a hand gun but shows restraint;
he does not fire.
He’s finally rescued.
Beijing’s rhetoric of “no leniency, no mercy”
still reverberating around Hong Kong, a city
in the throes of chaos and escalating violence
and now gripped by fear of what China might
At 20 to 1:00 in the morning, the protestors
surround another suspected police spy and
cuff him with plastic cable ties.
The editor of a Chinese communist party paper,
the English language “Global Times,” tweeted
that Fu Guohao is one of his Hong Kong-based
There is an ugly symmetry to all this.
It followed other violent incidents on Sunday
in which Hong Kong police fired tear gas into
underground stations, chased and beat fleeing
protestors, and, across the harbor, shot a
young female protestor in the eye with a baton
Carrie Lam, the pro-Beijing political leader
of the semi-autonomous territory, held a news
conference this morning.
CARRIE LAM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, HONG KONG (through
translator): Hong Kong has become unsafe and
unstable, violence, not matter who commits
it or who lets it happen, is pushing Hong
Kong onto a road of no return.
JONATHAN MILLER: Just inside mainland China,
battalions of people’s armed police now
stand at the ready.
This is China’s counter-terrorism force and
tellingly, the protests in Hong Kong were
yesterday described by Beijing as “emerging
Hong Kongers watch anxiously.
As Carrie Lam sticks to her guns, they know
it’s Beijing who’s calling the shots.
AMNA NAWAZ: That report from Jonathan Miller
of Independent Television News.
Also today, the U.S. announced it’s delaying
tariffs on some Chinese goods until December
15th while removing other items from its tariff
The tariffs have been set to go into effect
next month on products including laptops,
cell phones, and video game consoles.
President Trump was asked about the timing
of the delay before departing for an event
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
We’re doing this for Christmas season, just
in case some of the tariffs would have an
impact on U.S. customers.
But so far they’ve had virtually none.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMNA NAWAZ: Planned 10 percent tariffs on
about $300 billion in other Chinese goods
will still be imposed.
Word of the tariff delay actually sent stocks
soaring on Wall Street today.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 372
points to close at nearly 26,280.
The Nasdaq rose 153 points and the S&P 500
Scrutiny intensified today of the Manhattan
jail where accused sex trafficker Jeffrey
Epstein was found dead on Saturday.
The Justice Department said the two guards
assigned to watch Epstein have now been placed
on administrative leave.
The jail’s warden was also temporarily reassigned,
pending the outcome of both the FBI and Justice
Department investigations into Epstein’s death.
A coalition of 29 states and cities filed
a lawsuit against the Trump administration
today to stop a rule easing restrictions on
coal-burning power plants.
The Trump rule rolled back an Obama-era regulation
that set limits on carbon dioxide pollution
The outcome of the case could set a precedent
for how future administrations can fight climate
change by restricting pollutants.
Most of the southern U.S. and parts of the
Midwest were under heat advisories and warnings
today, from Texas to South Carolina.
The triple-digit heat wave was most intense
across Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana
But some relief is on the way.
The National Weather Service said an approaching
cool front will help reduce the heat and humidity
in some areas tomorrow.
CBS and Viacom have agreed to reunite.
They’ll merge their networks and the Paramount
movie studio in the face of growing competition
from streaming services like Netflix.
The combined company is estimated to have
$28 billion in revenue.
The merger is expected to be completed by
And, a new report out today finds that child
care costs in most states exceed federal subsidies
for low-income parents.
That’s according to the inspector general
for the Department of Health and Human Services,
Each state decides how to allocate funds from
an $8 billion national block grant, meant
to offset child care costs for over a million
But many states set their payment rates much
lower than recommended.
HHS has now put 33 states on watch to ensure
they comply with equal access requirements.
Still to come on the “NewsHour”: what
we know and what remains hidden about the
shadowy Russian nuclear program; the multiple
sexual harassment allegations against celebrated
operatic tenor Placido Domingo; how online
casinos target gambling addicts and the devastation
it wreaks on their lives.
Plus, much more.
AMNA NAWAZ: An explosion at a remote site,
shifting stories from the Russian government
and nuclear officials, public concern about
radiation exposure — we’re not talking about
Chernobyl 33 years ago.
We’re talking about two Russian military accidents
near the Arctic Circle, one just last week.
Our William Brangham has the details.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM, PBS NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT:
Somber crowds lined the streets of Sarov today,
bearing witness to funerals cloaked in mystery
after a nuclear reactor explosion at a nearby
missile testing site killed at least seven
The final death toll is unknown.
Russian nuclear officials have been slow to
But with long faces, they admitted Thursday’s
blast at their Nenoksa testing site was a
VALENTIN KOSTYUKOV, DIRECTOR, RUSSIAN FEDERAL
NUCLEAR CENTER (through translator): A chain
of tragic incidental events and uncertainties
led to this happening.
Although, after a preliminary analysis, we
have seen the testers were fighting to get
the situation under control.
Unfortunately, they did not succeed.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Authorities say they will
evacuate the town of Severodvinsk.
Officials say gamma radiation there is four
to 16 times greater than background levels.
Analysts believe the accident involved a new
nuclear-powered cruise missile, the kind Russian
President Vladimir Putin boasted about last
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through
translator): A real technologic breakthrough
is the creation of the advanced strategic
missile system with a totally new combat equipment
and programming cruise unit.
Its testing was completed successfully.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Jeffrey Lewis is the director
of the East Asia non-proliferation program
at the Middlebury Institute of International
JEFFREY LEWIS, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL
STUDIES: Since about late 2017, Russia has
been developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile.
Because this cruise missile uses a nuclear
reactor at its power source, it seems like
it’s incredibly finicky.
The easiest way to think of this missile is
as a flying, a tiny flying Chernobyl.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Moscow’s push for new missile
technology is aimed at outsmarting defense
systems the U.S. is building, and this resurgent
arms race has cost other lives.
Just last month, 14 Russian sailors died after
an explosion on one of their nuclear submarines.
JEFFREY LEWIS: The people who were killed
were all very high ranking, and that’s not
typical to have so many high-ranking officers
on a submarine.
As relations between the United States and
Russia get worse, the Russians are stepping
up all these kind of traditional Cold War
So, we’re seeing all kinds of new systems
and new systems often have problems.
So, it’s — it’s sad, right, that these people
keep dying, but this is kind of what an arms
race looks like.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: These developments come
as a major U.S.-Russia arms control treaty
is set to expire in 2021, and after the U.S.
withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear
Forces Treaty, saying that Russia was in violation
of that agreement.
On top of that, with Western sanctions mounting,
the Russian economy and Putin’s approval ratings
are both declining.
Moscow has also been erupting in enormous
protests, as Russians took to the streets
to complain about the Kremlin’s tight grip
on domestic politics.
Police turned violent as they arrested more
than a thousand demonstrators this weekend
who were out demanding more open elections.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For more on what these military
mishaps and protests mean, we turn to Angela
She directs the center for Eurasian, Russian
and East European studies at Georgetown University’s
School of Foreign Service.
Her latest book is “Putin’s World: Russia
Against The West And With The Rest.”
Angela Stent, welcome back to the NewsHour.
I wonder if you could — is there anything
else that you can tell us about Russia’s testing
or this accident that happened around this
ANGELA STENT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think
no more than what we already heard on the
broadcast, which is they really are giving
the minimum amount of information, but because
of Chernobyl and because of what happened
33 years ago, the Russian people are very
suspicious when they heard about this.
This is why there was a run on iodine immediately
after they heard rumors of this.
So, this pattern really hasn’t changed very
And we just don’t know.
I think that most American specialists will
say that the U.S. tried to develop a nuclear-powered
cruise missile and gave it up in the 1960s.
It’s just not practical.
It’s, as we heard, you know, like a flying
And so, we don’t really know what the Russians
do or don’t have.
We do know that last year, Vladimir Putin,
as you said, demonstrated a picture, a video
of this missile, which can evade U.S. missile
defenses and finally landed in Florida and
dropped something on what suspiciously looked
In other words, the Russians are trying to
develop weapons that can totally evade the
elaborate missile defense systems that the
U.S. has been creating.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: With this secretive shifting
story, tight-lipped response from various
Russian officials, is that what we’re just
supposed to expect when this kind of a military
ANGELA STENT: Well, we have never seen anything
else from the Russians.
When the Kursk submarine sank early into Putin’s
tenure, there was a total blackout on information
for a long time.
They are not good about giving out accurate
information or at least enough information
to try and save their population from needless
radiation and other effects.
I myself was in Moscow during the Chernobyl
explosion, and I know how frightening it was
for everyone to figure out what was happening,
where the radiation was, and this pattern
doesn’t seem to have changed.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amidst these two different
accidents that have happened, we’re also
seeing this seeming escalation in the arms
race between Russia and the U.S.
Can you just give us a sense of the lay of
the land with regard to arms control and arms
development between the two nations?
ANGELA STENT: Certainly.
So as you said, the treaty on Intermediate
Range Nuclear Forces is dead since August
2nd of this month.
So, neither the United States nor Russia abound
by that, and we will both now be developing
new classes of intermediate range missiles.
Our defense secretary has said that we will.
And I think the first place they could be
deployed is in Asia.
That’s if we’ll have any allies that will
The Russians have also said they’re developing
a new class of weapons.
I think the real thing to watch is the new
START treaty regulating strategic nuclear
It’s set to expire in 2021.
It could be extended for five years just by
mutual agreement, but our national security
advisor John Bolton has frequently said that
he regards these kinds of arms control agreements
as antiquated and useless.
And, in fact, he said in a speech two weeks
ago that he didn’t really see any reason to
extend this new START agreement.
So what we’re talking about is in 2021 we
could be in the situation, if this new START
agreement isn’t extended, where for the first
time since 1972, since President Nixon went
to Moscow and signed a similar agreement with
Brezhnev, while the U.S. was mining Haiphong
Harbor, by the way, will be the first time
we won’t have any agreement that regulates
the nuclear arsenals of the world’s two nuclear
superpowers who between them control 90 percent
of the world’s nuclear weapons.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Shifting gears just a tiny
bit, we saw these protests erupting in Moscow
over as I mentioned what seemed like somewhat
provincial local elections.
Does this crack down and this response by
the Russian citizenry in Moscow say anything
broader about Putin and his hold on power?
ANGELA STENT: I think it does.
I think this is more than just a squabble
about who is going to sit on a 45-person municipal
council and regulate refuse collection and
I think younger Russians particularly who
have been out on the streets, 50,000 people
on Saturday, realize looking ahead that they
have very little control over their political
They have very little choice.
They understand that even though President
Putin’s term doesn’t expire until 2024, this
kind of interagency and the rivalry for power
questioning about succession, this is already
going on, and they would like to have a different
They would like to be able to have, again,
more choice in the system.
So, it’s not just about a municipal election.
It’s about the principle of having people
who are not a member of the official united
Russia party and who have independent views
have some say in this system.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We’ve certainly seen here
in the U.S. a lot of discussion about Russia’s
interference in our last election.
We’ve also seen Russia trying to flex its
muscles in Europe, in the Middle East, in
Syria, in Turkey.
You wrote a recent piece where you were trying
to get Americans to recognize that judo is
Putin’s sport of choice, not chess as a game.
What did you mean by that?
ANGELA STENT: So what I meant by it, and judo
— and Vladimir Putin became a judo champion
as a young man.
He said in his own autobiographical essay,
it helped him to get out of the rut and the
hardscrabble background that he had.
What I meant by that was that in judo, even
if you are maybe weaker than your opponent,
if you sense their own distraction, if you
sense their own weakness, if you can distract
them, you can in fact prevail over what would
appear to be a stronger opponent.
And I think what Putin has done very effectively
is to take advantage of the opportunities
presented to him by distraction in the West,
by the divisions, by the polarization, and
by the fact, I would argue, that the United
States did not have a very coherent idea about
what it wanted to do after the Soviet Union
And when Putin came to power in 2000, he had
a pretty clear idea that he wanted to restore
Russia as a great power.
And so, he’s managed to take advantage of
this and restore Russia as a global player.
And when you look at the fundamentals in Russia,
a GDP which is the size of that of Italy,
a declining population, an economy that’s
overwhelmingly dependent on raw materials
revenues, you realize that he’s played a weak
hand quite effectively.
And, of course, he’s been in power for 20
years now, and he’s seen American presidents
and other leaders come and go, and he feels
that he has the upper hand in many ways, despite
all these problems.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right.
Angela Stent of Georgetown University, thank
you so much.
ANGELA STENT: Thank you.
AMNA NAWAZ: With more performances than any
other opera singer in history, Placido Domingo
holds a special place in the performing arts.
Domingo is not just one of the most recognizable
faces after a career that’s lasted nearly
He’s also a leader and performer with real
But in the wake of #MeToo, there are now a
series of revelations by the “A.P.” about
his alleged personal behavior, allegations
that raise disturbing questions about the
use of that power.
AMNA NAWAZ: For decades, Placido Domingo has
been one of the biggest names in opera.
A multi-Grammy Award winner and one of the
iconic Three Tenors, his star power and industry
status are beyond compare.
The 78-year-old Spaniard currently conducts
and directs the Los Angeles Opera, and he
still attracts sell-out crowds across the
But a new “Associated Press” report out today
says that rise to fame was littered with sexual
The story cites nine women, eight singers
and one dancer, who say Domingo harassed them
and tried to pressure them into sexual relationships
over 30 years, often at venues where he held
a managerial position.
All but one requested anonymity.
Patricia Wulf sang at the Washington National
Opera in the late 1990s and 2000s.
Domingo was the artistic director there and
later the general director.
PATRICIA WULF, FORMER OPERA SINGER: He would
come up to me this close and he would say,
Patricia, do you have to go home tonight?
And it was arresting, it was very difficult.
AMNA NAWAZ: Wulf said she started hiding from
PATRICIA WULF: I don’t know how it could have
been shoved under the rug as long as it has
It’s gone on long enough.
It needs to stop.
AMNA NAWAZ: The women’s stories followed a
They say Domingo would push for private meetings,
under the guise of offering professional advice.
That Domingo offered them jobs and then sometimes
punished professionally those who refused
Seven of the nine said they felt their careers
were negatively impacted when they told him
Three said he forcibly kissed them and one
said he put his hand down her skirt.
In a statement, Domingo called the allegations,
quote, deeply troubling, and as presented,
I believed that all of my interactions and
relationships were always welcomed and consensual.
However, I recognize that the rules and standards
by which we are — and should be — measured
against today are very different than they
were in the past.
PATRICIA WULF: When someone comes this close
and kind of smiles in a wry smile and says,
do you have to go home?
I think that was pretty clear.
But I — there were no misconceptions in my
AMNA NAWAZ: None of the women had documentation
of Domingo’s actions such as phone messages.
But the “A.P.” talked to three dozen singers,
dancers, musicians and others who said they
had witnessed Domingo acting in a sexually
AMNA NAWAZ: Let’s further explore the reaction
to this news and wider questions about this
abuse of power in the field.
Peggy McGlone has written about this issue
extensively for “The Washington Post”
and she joins me now.
Peggy McGlone, welcome to the “NewsHour”.
Now, the story broke just today.
But tell me, what has been the broader reaction
within the opera and the classical music world?
PEGGY MCGLONE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well,
there was swift reaction actually today.
The Los Angeles Opera announced an outside
investigation and then several organizations,
the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco
Opera, canceled upcoming performances with
AMNA NAWAZ: So, there’s been some reaction
and actions already taken.
One of the commonalities I took away from
some of the allegations in the “Associated
Press” report was this idea of a whisper
network when it came to Placido Domingo, that
it was sort of an open secret among women,
he was someone to be avoided.
You’ve reported in this space for a while.
Is that anything that had ever come up before?
PEGGY MCGLONE: Right.
That is a common thread that we’ve heard.
My colleague Anne Midgette and I did a big
report last year.
We talked with more than 50 musicians and
— about others, not Placido Domingo.
But that was a common — a common thing that
we heard, that women would help each other
by, you know, sharing what they thought with
rumors or other, you know, firsthand experiences,
don’t be alone with him, don’t ride the elevator
with him, don’t let him walk you to your car,
have an escape plan.
It was a myriad examples of how to deal with
these kinds of people.
AMNA NAWAZ: One of the allegations is that
he retaliated against women who refused his
Help us understand a little bit about how
power is distributed.
I mean, Placido Domingo held a number of top
managerial positions at a number of organizations.
What kind of influence would he exert in those
PEGGY MCGLONE: These top people have control
for reasons like casting, for recommendations,
especially with young artists who are starting
out, and we heard this a lot last year, Anne
and I, where you wouldn’t want to rebuff someone
who could give you a recommendation or sign
you up for an audition or get you into the
next training program that would be the next
step in your career.
And so, part of it was that there were these
choices that had to be made that, you know,
that these young women, many of them starting
out didn’t want to ruin things before they
even got going.
AMNA NAWAZ: Peggy, you reported today that
Domingo in particular was invested and active
in a lot of those young artist training programs.
You spoke to a woman who participated in one
What did she have to tell you?
PEGGY MCGLONE: Yes, yes.
So, she was not the target of him herself,
but she said that it was, you know, well-known.
It’s again that open secret in the community.
You know, you just go about your day knowing
that he was going to make unwanted advances
or in the story she was telling me, have a
very open — you know, everybody knows about
it, sexual relationship with a young artist.
And no one knew what to do about it.
And then she said that that sort of creates
a culture where people feel like this behavior
is acceptable or there will be no consequences,
and then others, maybe people who aren’t
superstar status, then have the opportunity
or take advantage of that to do terrible things
And she also talked about how that power dynamic,
who is going to believe a young artist over,
you know, a major superstar, and so, that’s
also, you know, part of this equation.
AMNA NAWAZ: You mentioned obviously L.A.,
is that they’re investigating.
Philadelphia has rescinded an invitation for
Domingo to perform there in September.
But Salzburg, Austria, said he will still
be performing there later in August.
Peggy, I want to ask you, because you have
written about a number of other people, other
high-profile figures in this world, who have
faced similar allegations.
What have you learned from their cases that
tells you how these kinds of allegations can
be handled in this world?
PEGGY MCGLONE: You know, it does matter, you
know, and it is different organization to
Last year, the Cleveland Orchestra also investigated
with an outside company, and they posted their
findings on their Website.
And not only did they confirm the allegations
that were in our story about William Preucil,
but they found another musician who also was
And so, they fired both of them.
But then James Levine sued after he was fired
from the Metropolitan Opera last year, the
result of similar sexual harassment allegation,
and they settled recently.
And neither side will say, you know, what
the agreement was.
So, you know, it’s hard to say what the aftermath
of these things are.
AMNA NAWAZ: Still remains to be seen.
Peggy McGlone of “The Washington Post,” thank
you so much.
PEGGY MCGLONE: Oh, thank you.
AMNA NAWAZ: Stay with us.
Coming up on the “NewsHour”: Democratic
presidential candidate, Mayor Bill de Blasio
of New York, on why he’s running for the White
And a hidden history of theft.
How one million black farmers in the U.S.
were robbed of their land.
Every year, more people are playing games
on their phones.
And one category, called social casinos, has
quickly become a multi-billion dollar industry.
But new evidence shows game developers are
targeting vulnerable users, all with the help
of Facebook and its massive trove of personal
For the record, “PBS NewsHour” produces
some content as part of a business relationship
From Reveal at the Center for Investigative
Reporting, Nate Halverson has the story.
NATE HALVERSON, REVEAL FROM THE CENTER OF
INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: Suzie Kelly is a
grandmother from suburban Dallas.
Five years ago, she and her husband were thinking
But, all that changed one afternoon, when
she sat down to watch TV.
SUZIE KELLY: There was a commercial for Big
I thought it was a casino-casino at first,
and then I realized it was a game.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Big Fish Casino.
Play for free.
Play for fun.
NATE HALVERSON: The game she downloaded is
part of a rapidly- growing industry called
“social casinos” that launched on Facebook
about 10 years ago.
These apps bundle together games like poker,
roulette and slot machines.
Kelly’s slot machine game was free to play,
But, once her free chips ran out, she had
to buy more to keep playing.
SUZIE KELLY: I would say that my spending
increased to hundreds of dollars and thousands
of dollars within the first month.
NATE HALVERSON: How much could you win playing
Big Fish Casino?
SUZIE KELLY: Real money?
Nothing at all.
NATE HALVERSON: Why?
SUZIE KELLY: Because they don’t pay real money.
They only take money, to give you virtual
chips to continue to play on their app.
NATE HALVERSON: Fully aware she could never
cash out her chips, that first month, Kelly
still spent nearly $8,000.
SUZIE KELLY: I just couldn’t stop.
You know, it’s like, holy cow, what the hell
have I done again?
NATE HALVERSON: Nine months after downloading
the free game, Kelly had spent more than $40,000.
SUZIE KELLY: I have an addiction.
I just — I realize I had to get out of it.
I needed out.
NATE HALVERSON: She decided to quit, and emailed
the game company.
Kelly showed me hundreds of messages between
her and Big Fish Casino.
And you write to them, and the subject line
is, all caps, “cancel account.”
SUZIE KELLY: Right.
I wrote, I just can’t do this anymore.
I’ve maxed out my AmEx twice.
NATE HALVERSON: Did they delete your account?
SUZIE KELLY: No, sir.
NATE HALVERSON: Kelly asked Big Fish Casino
to delete or permanently ban her from playing,
nearly a dozen times.
The company never did.
She continued spending, hiding it from her
In total, Kelly would lose more than $400,000.
SUZIE KELLY: You know, I had to come clean
with my husband.
I took a breath, I remember this, and I said,
its like I said, I’m sorry, Chuck.
I said, I think we might lose.
I don’t want to lose everything.
KEITH WHYTE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL
COUNCIL ON PROBLEM GAMBLING: I mean, it’s
And it should be unacceptable.
NATE HALVERSON: Keith Whyte is the executive
director of the National Council on Problem
He said real casinos would be required to
cut her off, or face big fines.
But there are no regulations on social casino
KEITH WHYTE: Those people who, like Suzie,
appear to have very severe gambling problems,
or gambling-like problems, they can’t just
NATE HALVERSON: Whyte said their helpline
is increasingly filled with people addicted
to social casinos, and they’ve lost serious
He said social casino games appear to be five
times more addictive than traditional casinos.
KEITH WHYTE: In the U.S. alone, you’re talking
well over 100 million people who report playing
somewhat regularly on social casino apps.
And again, no one’s tracking this, because
it’s not being regulated.
NATE HALVERSON: Last year, social casino companies
earned more than $5 billion, nearly as much
as all the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
But companies like Big Fish claim their games
are just entertainment, and have avoided any
KEITH WHYTE: It’s a very highly lucrative
but somewhat secretive industry that has exploded
across the United States in the past decade.
NATE HALVERSON: Big Fish declined our request
for an interview, but sent a written statement
saying the company is “dedicated to delivering
experiences,” and that “we strive to ensure
that our social games comply with all applicable
standards, rules and requirements.”
I spoke to former employees of these social
None wanted to go on camera, but described
a darker side, saying it was widely known
some players were addicted, and their warnings
to management went ignored.
One player spent so much on the game, she
couldn’t afford her prescription medicine,
and they told me another’s home was in foreclosure.
Suzie Kelly said the first time she tried
to quit, Big Fish called her on the phone,
not to cancel her account, but to assign her
a personal VIP host, Byron Scott, who gave
her free chips to keep her from leaving.
Where would this relationship with Byron Scott
What did it become?
SUZIE KELLY: This was a daily thing, back
It was like a friendship.
And you know, my mother passed away in 2016.
They sent me flowers.
And they also sent, of course, chips to keep
JOSE BROTONS, PRODUCT MADNESS/ARISTOCRAT SOCIAL
CASINO: Hi, guys.
NATE HALVERSON: We tracked down footage from
a 2013 tech conference of Jose Brotons, who
helped pioneer the VIP system for social casinos.
He is speaking on stage to a roomful of game
Brotons worked for Aristocrat, the same company
that owns Big Fish Casino.
He designed the VIP system to target the tiny
fraction of players who will actually pay
to play the games.
JOSE BROTONS: You’ve got to think that about
3 percent of your users are going to be generating
80 percent to 90 percent of the value for
NATE HALVERSON: We obtained leaked company
documents that show how his VIP system tracks
players by their Facebook IDs, closely monitors
their game play, and then prods people to
keep them spending.
They refer to their VIPs as whales, a term
taken from the casino industry to describe
Social casinos now use behavioral analysis
software to quickly identify people who are
likely to become big spenders.
Behaviors like increasing your bet, or playing
frequently, are signals to the companies,
and they target these players with heavy marketing,
and label them, proto-whales, as Brotons explained
to a roomful of game developers back in 2015.
JOSO BROTONS: We are now capable of predicting
proto-whales within their first gaming session,
so we can assign a very high likelihood that
a person’s going to be a proto-whale.
NATE HALVERSON: I show Kelly documents outlining
the creation of the VIP program,
SUZIE KELLY: Yes, bingo.
For me, that’s like, let’s find the weakest
person and destroy their life.
NATE HALVERSON: Does it feel like they’re
targeting your addiction?
SUZIE KELLY: Absolutely.
NATE HALVERSON: There is another company profiting
from these games.
Facebook makes hundreds of millions of dollars
selling virtual chips to players like Kelly.
Julien Codorniou, a Facebook executive, spoke
at a game conference in 2014 about social
JULIEN CODORNIOU, FACEBOOK EXECUTIVE: It’s
the number one category on Facebook.
It’s a category that, you know, never stops
Every year, we see new companies out of nowhere
coming up with amazing games, amazing IP,
launching on Facebook, launching on mobile,
making significant money.
NATE HALVERSON: Facebook’s website shows how
it tracks people online, and can predict who
is likely to spend big by analyzing user data.
Facebook helps social casinos find those potential
It charges a premium to nudge players to spend
more, to target people whose online behavior
might be a sign of addiction.
JULIEN CODORNIOU: It’s very good for gaming
companies because they can decide to target
on Facebook, or on mobile, you know, specific
users, or just the whales.
NATE HALVERSON: Facebook declined to speak
on camera, but sent a written statement saying
that while they don’t build ad products specific
to social casinos, they understand that certain
games or products can impact some people differently,
and they are working to understand the long
term impact of certain kinds of content.
Sam Lessin is a former top executive at Facebook.
He now runs his own venture capital firm.
But back in 2012, he wrote an email to his
then-boss and close friend, Mark Zuckerberg.
Lessin wrote that he wasn’t proud of their
work with slot machine companies.
I’m fine with it, he wrote, just not proud
Lessin won’t discuss his time at Facebook,
but agreed to speak generally about how companies
are targeting people like Suzie Kelly.
She ended up spending over $400,000 playing
a slot machine game.
SAM LESSIN, VENTURE CAPITALIST/ENTREPRENEUR:
I mean, it sounds disgusting, right?
You know, we’re going to have to live in a
world where both very, very good people, and
very, very bad people have better tools.
NATE HALVERSON: Do we want hyper-targeted
ads from beer companies to alcoholics?
Do we want hyper-targeted ads from casinos
to gambling addicts?
SAM LESSIN: No, of course, we don’t want those
Like, no thinking person is like, that’s great.
But then the question is, well, OK, like,
let’s be really clear, what rule do you want
And how are you going to enforce that rule?
NATE HALVERSON: Suzie Kelly joined a lawsuit
last year in the state of Washington, where
Big Fish Casino is based, arguing that the
game constitutes illegal gambling, and she
is asking for her money back.
She is now getting help for her gambling addiction,
and says she no longer spends money on Big
But, she is still dealing with near financial
ruin from the game.
If you could go back in time to that moment
when you were about to download the app, what
would you tell yourself?
SUZIE KELLY: Don’t do it.
You don’t know this until you play this game,
but you’ve got a problem.
If you have an addiction, you’re screwed.
NATE HALVERSON: And there is nothing stopping
companies from continuing to target people’s
For “PBS NewsHour”, I’m Nate Halverson
with Reveal, in Plano, Texas.
AMNA NAWAZ: If you have spent hundreds or
thousands of dollars playing a social casino
game on Facebook or a mobile device, Reveal
wants to hear from you.
To share your story, go to revealnews.org/whale.
AMNA NAWAZ: We continue our series of conversations
with 2020 presidential candidates.
Last week, Judy Woodruff sat down with New
York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to talk about
his run for the Democratic nomination.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank
you for being here.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:
Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why are you running?
I ask because there were already some 20 people
in the race when you announced that you were
going to jump in.
And frankly you already got a big, complicated
BILL DE BLASIO: I do have a big job, and that’s
one of the reasons why I’m running, because
to take on the role of president, you better
be ready for it.
I have a job that’s often been described
as the second toughest job in America.
And I’ve been able to get a lot done in
It’s a tough big place.
It’s a big place.
It’s the most diverse place on earth.
We got pre-K for all our kids done.
We lowered crime while improving their relationship
between police committee, getting rid of things
like stop and frisk that were dividing us.
We did the $15 minimum wage, a lot of fundamental
So, I’m running because I know I can make
And I’m running because I have this fundamental
belief that what’s happened over the last
40 years since the election of Ronald Reagan
is the country is less and less serving working
Americans, more and more serving the very
few, the wealthy and the big corporations.
We have to fix it.
We have to put working people first again.
I can do it.
I have done it in New York.
I want to do it for the whole country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You clearly are a candidate
with progressive ideas.
There are already two other prominent candidates
in the race —
BILL DE BLASIO: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: — with progressive ideas,
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren.
They are running well ahead of you in terms
of recognition, support.
Why not leave it to them to make this argument?
BILL DE BLASIO: Judy, I think very highly
of both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren,
but I remind you it’s six months until anyone
even starts voting.
We have a long way to go.
And what I bring to the table is something
Both of them are very fine legislators.
I’m someone who is running one of the biggest,
most complex places on earth and has been
able to make real change for everyday people.
That experience, that ability is different
from other candidates.
You can respect people.
You can share values with them but still bring
something different to the table.
Now, what I’m concerned about is the Democratic
Party, at this point there is a big debate
going on, who are we, what’s the heart and
soul of our party?
I say we need to be a progressive party.
We need to be a party that’s about working
We need to be a party that actually shows
people we’re not about the status quo.
And I think folks are more interested in actions
I’m able to say, look, you want to know
who I am?
Look at what I’ve done for 8.6 million people.
And I think that would give voters assurance
that they know what they’re getting.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned a minimum wage.
You brought that up in the debate the other
BILL DE BLASIO: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we noticed that Governor
Andrew Cuomo’s aide, one of them, tweeted
after you said that that you had zero to do
with the statewide $15 minimum wage, and that
you raised the minimum wage for New York City
workers only after workers in other parts
of the state of New York —
BILL DE BLASIO: Well, that’s just not accurate
with all due respect to that individual.
We moved the $15 minimum wage for city workers
and for non-profit organizations that were
funded by the city before the state of New
In fact, that was one of the things that spurred
the state of New York to act.
So, I stand by that statement.
We did it on a very big scale.
And when the $15 minimum wage idea first came
out and got currency, I supported it from
A lot of other Democrats held back and said
it wasn’t realistic.
I fought for it from the beginning and helped
to achieve it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Another economy-related question.
You delivered what many people would say is
a memorable line at the debate.
At one point, you said you planned to tax
the hell out of the wealthy.
BILL DE BLASIO: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What exactly does that mean?
BILL DE BLASIO: It means —
JUDY WOODRUFF: Where does it start?
BILL DE BLASIO: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Where does —
BILL DE BLASIO: It’s — look, the reason
I was dramatic about it is to say we’re
in a dramatic problem where the rich have
gotten richer to such a point now that the
top 1 percent have more wealth than the bottom
90 percent combined.
It keeps getting worse.
In fact, the last big action on taxes was
a huge giveaway to the wealthy and corporations.
So I said, tax the hell, because I want to
make it very clear, we can’t just do this
We need to go back to the tax levels associated
with those well-known radicals, John F. Kennedy
and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
And the plan I put out, and you can go to
taxthehell.com and see all about it, the plan
makes very clear — we should have a 70 percent
income tax rate for the wealthiest individuals.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Starting at what income?
BILL DE BLASIO: At $2 million.
JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.
BILL DE BLASIO: And we should — we should
repeal the Trump tax cuts.
We should repeal the loss of state and local
That needs to go back to the way it was for
It was fair, we need to put it back.
But for the wealthiest Americans who have
benefited literally for four decades from
favorable tax policies and all sorts of other
benefits, we have to rebalance things.
I can tell you, you talk to folks all over
America, the feeling the society is not fair
to them, that’s a dangerous reality we have
JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re not worried about
the signal that sends people in the middle
class here, oh, yes, he says he’s only going
to tax the rich, but we know what that means?
BILL DE BLASIO: Well, I would say to people,
look at what I have done, which has been very
consistent on behalf of working people and
The fact is this status quo — I think you’ll
find this all over this country — folks look
at the status quo, they know it’s broken.
We’re not going to fix it with little half
We have to do something really strong to rebalance
the equation of this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You’ve had an up-and-down relationship,
I think it’s fair to say, with the New York
You’re now —
BILL DE BLASIO: With the unions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: With the union.
BILL DE BLASIO: I want to be clear.
The rank-and-file are 36,000 people with all
sorts of different views, but with some of
That’s a true statement.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just recently, criticism that
you didn’t — you have not called for the
firing of Officer Pantaleo, who was responsible
in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
What do you say to those people?
BILL DE BLASIO: So, one, the city of New York
was told by the federal Justice Department
soon after the tragedy of Eric Garner, and
I know the family.
They’ve gone through hell.
It’s a horrible tragedy.
It should not have happened.
We can’t let it happen again.
And we’re focused on making sure there never
is such a tragedy again in New York City.
We have changed the way we police profoundly.
Implicit bias training, de-escalation training,
all sorts of things to make sure it never
But the federal Justice Department told us,
do not proceed with any action, do not proceed
with departmental trial, because the Justice
Department wanted to be able to do it the
way they wanted to do it for — regarding
I will tell you in retrospect, I thought I
was dealing with an honest broker in the Justice
That proved not to be true.
Five years passed.
I’ve said, we would never make that mistake
again, and God forbid there is another tragedy.
But here’s why I do not issue an opinion.
A police department judge, this is something
you wouldn’t have assumed in the history of
New York City, under today’s NYPD, a police
department judge said Officer Pantaleo must
We have two weeks now just procedurally it
goes to the police commissioner.
I believe this has been a fair, open, transparent
process that will yield justice.
My voicing of an opinion only complicates
it and prolongs it because that could lead
to a court case and prolong this case for
a long time.
We got to close this capture for the Garner
family, for our city, for our nation.
We’ve got to close this chapter with justice.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Bill de Blasio from New
York City, thank you very much for joining
BILL DE BLASIO: Thank you very much.
AMNA NAWAZ: When it comes to understanding
financial inequality in this country, economists
often point to the absence of African-American
generational wealth as a principal factor,
resources passed from parent to child.
As John Yang reports, for many African-Americans,
one source of the problem goes back decades.
JOHN YANG, PBS NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT: Over
the past century, African-Americans have lost
millions of acres of farms they owned across
It’s a trend propelled not just by economic
forces, but by white racism and local white
political and economic power.
It’s not just a legacy of the Jim Crow South,
Most of the losses have occurred since the
That history and its lasting effects are the
subjects of the cover story of the September
issue of the “Atlantic” magazine.
It’s written by Vann Newkirk, who’s a staff
writer at the magazine.
Vann, thanks for joining us tonight.
What is important about this story?
Why did you want to tell this story?
What is important, you think, that people
should know from it?
VANN NEWKIRK, THE ATLANTIC: Well, right now,
the country is in the middle of a lot of debates
over the racial wealth gap, over the status
and economic prosperity or lack thereof of
African-Americans here, and also about reparations,
And I wanted to, with this piece, re-center
the conversation on the South, on black folks
in the South who often get left out in this
conversation, on one of the places where the
deficit has been the most extreme.
And that’s in farming, and then the ownership
JOHN YANG: You call this, as the headline,
is “The Great Land Robbery.”
Give us an idea of what happened.
VANN NEWKIRK: So, what happened was, during
— pretty much after the middle of the 20th
century, federally-funded farm programs, they
were put out there to give small and middle-sized
farmers loans to support farms, to keep them
going through bad economic times.
They systematically disenfranchised and also
discriminated against black farmers.
So they didn’t get the loan amounts.
They were denied loans that they were entitled
And often, these local USDA programs were
used as bully pulpits, or forces to actually
push black farmers off their land.
JOHN YANG: And some of this was actually accelerated
or exacerbated as a result of the civil rights
movement, that this was a reaction to the
civil rights movement.
VANN NEWKIRK: Right.
So, most of the USDA funding was actually
leveraged through locally elected boards.
And guess who could not vote in the South?
So, what would happen is, these boards were
dominated by the segregationists, and if you
were a black
they could ensure you never joined the NAACP,
or never went out to vote or to march against
segregation was to hold that money in their
hand and say, you’re not getting this money
unless you toe the company line.
And so, what they did to black farmers who
didn’t do that, who did go out and join the
NAACP and these organizations, they took their
money from them.
JOHN YANG: And you also talk about the lasting
effects of this, not only the loss of sort
of family wealth, but also the political effects.
VANN NEWKIRK: Right.
Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, these
were states that were, if they weren’t majority
black going into the Great Depression and
beyond, or close to being about half black.
And what prompted the “Great Migration”, quote-unquote,
that saw millions of black people leave the
South, was a fact that a lot of them had their
Maybe, and I think this is probably what happens,
if they hold onto that land, if they’re able
to make money in the South and have — and
vote in the South and have some type of stake
in the future of their kids living in the
South, perhaps those three states at least
stay majority black.
What happens to the Electoral College if we
have three majority black states?
What happens to the Senate?
You know, those are big questions.
JOHN YANG: You told the story through, in
part, through a woman in her 60s.
Now, she’s the third generation of her family
to be working the same farmland.
The family was a able to hold on this land.
Her name is Willena Scott-White, and let’s
take a listen to a little bit of what she
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLENA SCOTT-WHITE, MISSISSIPPI LANDOWNER:
It’s dear to me that my children know what
my ancestors went through, first to be where
we are and who we are, because I’m a firm
believer that if we don’t know our history,
then we repeat the mistakes over and over
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN YANG: Knowing your history, she says
that families were denied their history by
having their farmland taken away.
Talk about that and the other effects of this,
the impact it has on families.
VANN NEWKIRK: Well, I talked to dozens of
farm families for this story.
And the reason why Willena’s particular
story and character got to me is because she
is a historian.
This is in her bones.
She wants to build a museum in the delta to
honor not just her father and grandfather,
but all the other farmers who came before
I think she embodies the idea that what we’re
talking about here is s not just money, not
just the access to land, but the ability to
put down cultural roots, to have a place to
call your own.
That’s history, right?
That’s a thing that I do not believe we quite
It’s lost when people are forced to move,
when they are denied the ability to own the
land under their feet.
They’re denied a bit of their history.
These people who live in the delta now, black
f folks who live in the delta now, they are
in this place that was built with their hands
and work, that they are part of but not allowed
to actually hold any part of.
JOHN YANG: You’re also talking to serve out
a lot of this land through various transactions
is now held by pension funds, by venture capitalists,
by hedge funds.
You seem to hint that you think these transactions
were somehow unethical?
VANN NEWKIRK: I believe that it’s possible
through totally ethical means at this point,
so many decades away from the original theft,
to receive the land legitimately.
You know, if you buy it from somebody who
owned it and they don’t have the lineage of
the land, they don’t know where it came from.
That’s a legal purchase.
What I try to make the point of in the piece
is that it probably doesn’t matter whether
an individual company got its land portfolio
in a place where predominantly black folks
lived and worked, and should own the land.
It doesn’t really matter if they got individual
plots of land ethically or legally.
What matters is that at some point, the land
was taken unethically and was taken away from
these black folks illegally.
What is our legal, ethical, moral responsibility
as a people to rectify that?
JOHN YANG: Well, I really ask that.
You talked about reparations earlier.
How should we be thinking about rectifying
VANN NEWKIRK: I do not believe the current
reparations debate — and it’s a well-meaning
and well-intended effort to try and quantify
every single thing that was done to black
people since slavery.
That’s an amazing effort, and I believe over
the last five to ten years, there have been
people doing work that folks have not been
able to approach in 150 years on quantify,
in terms of a dollar amount.
I think that approach, though, has lost the
focus on land and land ownership, and collective
land ownership in some ways.
And the sentimental and cultural and generational
meaning of attachment to a place, and having
m mobility by choice, instead of by being
I think that’s a dimension that should be
added back to this conversation, is the original
promise of reparations was a land grant, was
40 acres and a mule.
You know, people didn’t love it because it
was — had certain monetary value.
They loved it because it gave them a place
to call home forever, gave them something
to give to their children.
Not just money, but a sense of belonging,
a place they can put their name on.
And that’s — I do believe the current reparations
debate is missing a little bit.
JOHN YANG: Vann Newkirk, its cover story,
“The Great Land Robbery,” in the September
issue of “The Atlantic” — thanks so much.
VANN NEWKIRK: Thank you.
AMNA NAWAZ: On the “NewsHour” online right
now, the Supreme Court plans to hear one gun-related
case in its new term beginning in October,
but two pending cases could have far wider
impact on the current gun debate if the justices
add them to their docket.
Learn more on our Website, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And that is the “NewsHour” for tonight.
I’m Amna Nawaz.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour”, thank
you and we’ll see you soon.