60 Minutes November 7 2021 – Missouri’s New Gun Law, Oil Spill & Carnegie Heroes

On Sunday November 7 2021 at 7:00pm ET/PT and 6:00pm CT, CBS broadcasts an episode of 60 Minutes featuring a story on Missouri’s New Gun Law, a story on how the U.S. Coast Guard contained the longest-running oil spill in U.S. history and a story on how brain structure might play a role in heroism.

Scroll down below to read and watch stories from tonight’s (11/7/2021) episode of 60 Minutes.

Missouri’s New Gun Law

Missouri’s new Second Amendment Preservation Act, meant to protect the rights of gun owners, is impeding the fight against violent crime, local law enforcement officials say. Norah O’Donnell reports. Keith Sharman is the producer.

The Longest-Running Oil Spill

Jon Wertheim reports how the U.S. Coast Guard, with help from a Louisiana engineering firm, contained the longest-running oil spill in U.S. history, despite legal pushbacks from the oil rigs’ owner. Oriana Zill de Granados is the producer.

Oil had been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico for 14 years when Coast Guard Capt. Kristi Luttrell was put in charge of monitoring the longest running oil spill in U.S. history. She says in late summer 2018, she concluded that the company leasing the oil rights – also the responsible party under federal law – was not responding in a timely way. So, the veteran captain took action to save the Gulf waters she swore to protect. Jon Wertheim reports how Luttrell contracted with a local engineering firm to contain the persistent spill, despite legal pushbacks from the oil rigs’ owner. The story will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday Nov. 7 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

“This is the biggest pollution response case I’ll see in my 28-year career,” the captain says. Hurricane Ivan had toppled an oil platform in 2004, damaging the connections to as many as 28 undersea wells. The resulting oil slick spread for miles. The responsible party, Taylor Energy, owned by a highly respected Louisiana family, says that by 2011 they had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to plug nine of the most active wells at the site. Then, in 2014, Taylor Energy, working with government agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, reported the leak to be down to three gallons a day, and that the best solution was to leave the underwater site alone. The report warned more action could harm the environment. But in 2018, under Captain Luttrell’s leadership, the Coast Guard had access to improved sonar technology, and determined that significantly more oil was escaping and something could be done to contain it.

Luttrell decided to take action and partially federalize the case, taking over the containment project. “It didn’t take me long to realize that we were going to go ahead and have to federalize this case, when I didn’t feel like I was getting a timely response out of the responsible party,” Luttrell tells Wertheim. She put out a call for open bids on a containment system.

Local engineer Timmy Couvillion got the job after competing with several national engineering outfits. To come up with his proposal, Couvillion and two associates, another engineer and a deep-sea diver, designed a contraption that could catch the oil and gas spewing out hundreds of feet below the Gulf, separate them, and move the oil to storage in large tanks. Each month a ship goes out and transfers the oil to shore, where it is later sold as recycled oil. The federal government says that some of the oil wells, which were buried in the mudslide that took down the oil platform, still need to be permanently sealed, but Couvillion’s system is still capturing leaking oil, an average of about 1,000 gallons per day. Since the spring of 2019, when the system came online, the Coast Guard says it has captured more than 800,000 gallons of spilled oil.

Taylor filed several lawsuits over Luttrell’s intervention, including suing Couvillion. “Kind of crazy, isn’t it? It’s intimidation by litigation,” says Couvillion, who grew up in the Louisiana Delta. In court, Taylor disputed that Couvillion’s activities needed to be going on, or even that it was Taylor’s oil that was leaking.

Taylor Energy lost its case against Couvillion and the appeal. It also lost an action to recover $432 million still in a government-mandated cleanup trust that Taylor funded. Luttrell was named a defendant in the litigation, too. One of the suits charged that she had overstepped her bounds as the U.S. Coast Guard on-scene coordinator. She tells Wertheim, “As the federal on-scene coordinator, I used my authority to do the right thing and to protect the environment.” That case is ongoing.

Taylor Energy declined to be interviewed, but gave 60 MINUTES the following statement, which reads in part: “[Taylor Energy] has retained and relied upon the world’s foremost experts to study and then recommend a plan of action…We continue to advocate for a response driven by science.”

Carnegie Heroes

Sunday, 60 Minutes reports on “Carnegie Heroes” and how brain structure might play a role in heroism.

They are people rewarded for heroic, life-saving acts done despite the danger to themselves, by a 117-year-old foundation endowed by the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. But are heroes made or born? Scott Pelley reports. Aaron Weisz is the producer.

A foundation set up by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie has been recognizing and rewarding heroes since 1904. Thousands have been honored as “Carnegie Heroes.” Scott Pelley interviews Carnegie Hero Fund awardees, and reports on the brain characteristics these individuals seem to share that could be a possible marker for bravery in human beings. His report will be broadcast on the next edition of 60 MINUTES Sunday, Nov. 7 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Carnegie endowed the fund with the equivalent of $100 million in today’s money. The steel magnate, whose mills depended on coal, wanted to honor the memories of two individuals who ran into a coal mine in an unsuccessful attempt to save 180 miners trapped by fire. Today, a commission headed by Eric Zahren decides who gets a bronze medal, $5,500 and other support, sometimes even for the hero’s dependents. Who’s a hero? “We define it as, at least in terms of our medal-awarding requirement, a man or a woman who willingly and knowingly risks their life to an extraordinary degree, to save or attempt to save the life of another human being,” says Zahren.

Pelley interviews three Carnegie Heroes. Terryann Thomas tangled with a crazed man who had attacked an officer and she thought was armed, to prevent the man from taking an elevator to a roomful of potential victims. Pete Pontzer and another man swam 150 yards to save a drowning child. When he returned with the child, he was told there was another and ran back in – despite a broken foot. David McCartney and another man broke a windshield and pulled a driver from a burning car right before it blew up.

Zahren says the commission looks at up to 1,000 cases a year and awards about 10 percent of them. Not all the heroes survive. “We also pay for funeral costs fully for a hero who is killed in the act. We pay any medical costs for any injury they incur, to include psychological after-effects, PTSD,” he tells Pelley. “We don’t present a medal and walk away…We were recently looking at a case [of]… a gentleman was killed in his heroic act. And we supported his wife, and then one of his daughters for a total of 72 years,” recalls Zahren.

Pelley also speaks with Dr. Abigail Marsh, who has researched altruism and the question of whether heroes are born or made. Her curiosity began when, as a teenager, she spun out in the middle of an interstate one night and couldn’t restart her car. She never learned the name of the hero who came to her rescue, but the experience led her to become a neuroscientist. At Georgetown University, Marsh has published studies on the brains of psychopaths – with no compassion for others – and altruists who have so much compassion that they donated a kidney to a stranger. She found those who gave up an organ to save another, had amygdalae with similar traits. They were larger than normal and more reactive to images of people who were afraid. The amygdalae are structures in the brain involved in decision making and they react faster than conscious thought.

She tells Pelley about her findings when she showed these two types of individuals pictures while scanning their amygdalae. “People who are psychopathic show very minimal responses in the amygdala when they see a frightened face, people who have given kidneys to strangers have an exaggerated response in the amygdala, which we think means that they are more sensitive than most people to other’s distress, better at interpreting when other people are in distress.”

Did the Carnegie Heroes have larger amygdalae that were more reactive to frightened faces? Thomas, Pontzer and McCartney agreed to let Marsh test them for this 60 MINUTES story. “I was really pleased– and gratified– by what we found in the heroic rescuers,” Marsh tells Pelley. “Just like the altruistic kidney donors, their amygdalas were larger than average and significantly more responsive to the sight of somebody else in distress. Which makes so much sense, I mean, you know these are the people who, when they saw someone terrified because they thought they were about to die, they didn’t just sit there,” says Marsh.

The oldest and most-watched newsmagazine on television gets the real story on America’s most prevalent issues. CBS News correspondents contribute segments to each hourlong episode. Topics range from hard news coverage to politics, lifestyle, pop culture, business, health, and science. The correspondents and contributors include Sharyn Alfonsi, Anderson Cooper, Steve Kroft, Lara Logan, Norah O’Donnell, Scott Pelley, Charlie Rose, Lesley Stahl, Jon Wertheim, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Whitaker. 

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The oldest and most-watched newsmagazine on television gets the real story on America’s most prevalent issues. CBS News correspondents contribute segments to each hourlong episode. Topics range from hard news coverage to politics, lifestyle, pop culture, business, health, and science. The correspondents and contributors include Sharyn Alfonsi, Anderson Cooper, Steve Kroft, Lara Logan, Norah O’Donnell, Scott Pelley, Charlie Rose, Lesley Stahl, Jon Wertheim, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Whitaker.

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