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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Millions of people in Kenya voted for a president today, but 19 people were killed in a series of attacks. The election was seen as a test of democracy in the East African nation under a new constitution.

    We have a report narrated by Inigo Gilmore of Independent Television News.

    INIGO GILMORE, Independent Television News: Even before the first ballots had been cast, the bloodletting had begun. This was the scene early this morning in the coastal town of Kilifi, after security forces were attacked by dozens of armed men from a suspected militia.

    At least four officers were killed in two separate attacks. And many more were caught up in the violence.

    MAN: They hit me and slashed me with machetes. They told me they had been sent and had been given money by politicians to disrupt the polls.

    INIGO GILMORE: Despite this violence, voting today passed off peacefully across most of the country with millions queuing patiently. Election officials said the turnout was very high.

    But it's the fear of what may come next following the results that is causing anxiety. Following elections in 2007 and claims of vote-rigging, more than 1,200 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced in a horrific spasm of tribal carnage. Much of the fighting, like the voting, erupted along tribal lines, as armed young men from rival militias went on the rampage.

    Among those accused of bankrolling the death squads is this man, presidential front-runner Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president. He has been charged by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity for his role in the tribal bloodletting five years ago. His trial was scheduled to begin as early as next month, just when he's likely to face a runoff vote against the current prime minister, Raila Odinga. Odinga has mocked Kenyatta during the campaign, suggesting that if he won, he would have to run the country remotely from The Hague via Skype.

    It may take up to seven days before the official outcome is announced.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Pakistan, Shiites mourned the death of 48 people killed in a powerful car bombing in Karachi. At least 200 others were wounded. Thousands of people flooded the city's streets to attend funerals for the victims of last night's attack. They also appealed for protection against Sunni militant groups. Despite those pleas, gunmen killed two more people as they were leaving one of the funerals.

    The U.S. government today began its first full week under the sequester. The $85 billion dollars in spending cuts took effect Friday. And President Obama promised today to minimize the effects on American families. House Republicans plan to vote this week on giving the military more money and largely exempting the FBI and the Border Patrol.

    Stocks rose on Wall Street today, in spite of the fallout from the sequester. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 38 points to close above 14,127. The Nasdaq rose 12 points to close at 3,182.

    Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Gwen.


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    GWEN IFILL: President Obama convened the first Cabinet meeting of his second term today, even as he continued to fill seats left open at that table.

    Sylvia Burwell, the president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, was nominated to head the Office of Management and Budget. She served as deputy director of that agency during the Clinton administration. And the president's picks on energy and environment brought other policy priorities into sharper focus.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Everybody, have a seat. Have a seat.

    GWEN IFILL: The president filled two more seats for his second-term Cabinet this morning, the nominees: Ernest Moniz, who would be energy secretary, and Gina McCarthy, who would run the Environmental Protection Agency. Both require Senate confirmation.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: They're going to be making sure that we're investing in American energy, that we're doing everything that we can to combat the threat of climate change, that we're going to be creating jobs and economic opportunity in the first place. They are going to be a great team. And these are some of my top priorities going forward.

    GWEN IFILL: Moniz is an MIT physicist who runs an energy initiative on new ways to produce power and curb emissions. He also served as undersecretary of energy during the Clinton administration. McCarthy already works in the administration as assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. She has run state environmental agencies in Connecticut and Massachusetts, working for five governors, including Mitt Romney.

    Moniz and McCarthy would replace outgoing Cabinet members Steven Chu and Lisa Jackson. Early last month, the president also tapped business executive Sally Jewell to replace Ken Salazar as interior secretary. The nominees face major challenges. One imminent decision involves debate over approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that would move crude oil from Canada to the Gulf. The project has drawn environmental protests, but a draft report released by the State Department last week suggested there might be minimal adverse impact if proper precautions are taken.

    Republicans like Oregon Congressman Greg Walden are pressing for approval.

    REP. GREG WALDEN, R-Ore.: The thing Americans care most about is, am I going to have a job? Are we going to get this economy going? Can you sign off on Keystone pipeline, create 20,000 American jobs?

    GWEN IFILL: The administration is also weighing decisions on coal-fired power plants and their emissions and whether they need to be more strictly regulated.

    We look at the president's agenda and what his new team signals about how he may act.

    Michael Brune is the president of the Sierra Club. And Scott Segal is a lobbyist for energy companies at Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP.

    Scott Segal, if you had to look at what you saw today in these announcements, what would you say the administration's priorities are?

    SCOTT SEGAL, Bracewell & Giuliani: Well, I often remind folks on Capitol Hill that even if you oppose the president's choice, you don't get to pick the Cabinet yourself.

    And, in this instance, I think we have got some interesting choices that I believe advance the ball forward. With respect to Gina McCarthy, she's shown herself to be open and very direct. I don't always agree with the final result she reaches on rules. Sometimes, the benefits and costs of those rules are both overstated and understated. And that can be problematic. But when there are problems -- and there are always problems with 1,000-page EPA rules, Gina McCarthy at least wants to hear about it and interact with the regulated community.

    Ernie Moniz brings a very clear-eyed approach to the Department of Energy -- and here's something interesting -- an actual familiarity with energy policy, which will be a refreshing change at the Energy Department.

    And, last, as far as Sally Jewell is concerned, a big question mark. As far as we know, she doesn't have experience with the signal issues that face the Interior Department, from things like regional haze in our national parks to offshore oil and gas development to fracking on public land. These are big issues, but she has no real experience in them. Maybe she will be good, though.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Brune, as you look at the president choices and you look at his priorities, how are they lining up for you?

    MICHAEL BRUNE, Sierra Club: Pretty good so far.

    We're -- to take it in reverse order, Sally Jewell we think is an excellent post, has the potential to be a transformative post, because for the first time you have someone running the Department of the Interior who looks at our natural resources and economic base that can be built from them from the recreation to be found, hiking, hunting, fishing, rafting, in our natural resources as the former head of the -- of REI.

    Gina McCarthy, of course, has been fantastic over the last four years in helping to safeguard our air and water and our climate and has put forward some of the most powerful rules to transition towards clean energy. She is a Red Sox fan, but other than that, she seems like a great lady.

    And as far as Ernie Moniz, we think that he has said some very powerful things about the role for solar in our future economy, but also the role that energy efficiency and upgrading our energy systems, what that can do to both curb carbon pollution, but also create jobs at the same time. So, we're very encouraged by these three picks.

    GWEN IFILL: As you look at the president's priorities, what are your biggest concerns and what are your biggest -- which ones are your priorities as well, starting with you?

    MICHAEL BRUNE: Well, it all fits in the context of climate change. We're coming after a year of record droughts, record fires, record storms and record temperatures.

    And so the president has said that fighting climate change will be a top priority of his. To do that, we're going to have to find a way to curb the carbon pollution coming from smokestacks and refineries around the country. And the administration has made that one of its signature pieces of -- one of the signature rules that will come forward in the next couple years.

    Keystone, of course, is probably the first, biggest test of the president's commitment on climate change, and then finally I would say the degree to which we go all in on clean energy to serve as an antidote of sorts to all of the fossil fuel projects that some of our proponents are putting forward.

    GWEN IFILL: Scott Segal, your concerns, your priorities?

    SCOTT SEGAL: Well, actually, they're not too dissimilar from what -- from what Michael Brune just discussed.

     

    I do think carbon is a big near-term objective and a big near-term problem as well. For one thing, the president and environmental organizations have set rather high expectations for the next EPA administrator to use existing Clean Air Act authority to address carbon.

    The problem with that is, the statute was frankly not structured in a way that makes such addressing very useful or easy to do. And, therefore, the chances are that only very, very costly rule-making might emerge. Such costly rule-making will decrease job creation in the United States, will stop projects from being built.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me stop you there, because you say rule-making.

    SCOTT SEGAL: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: And people at home don't really know what you're talking about.

    SCOTT SEGAL: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Are you saying this is now being handled by edict, by fiat, rather than the legislative process?

    SCOTT SEGAL: Well, it's interesting.

    The president himself and the last administrator, Lisa Jackson, early in their tenure suggested that really legislation was the way to go. And for an issue that is so economy-wide, shakes the economy literally to its foundations, legislation really is needed. The use of mere regulatory authority under the existing Clean Air Act is, in my judgment, improper.

    And I think Lisa -- and I think Gina McCarthy is a realist who will quickly realize that overbroad regulatory interpretations are probably illegal, inadvisable and are likely to stifle economic recovery in the United States.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Brune, on that point?

    MICHAEL BRUNE: It seems a little -- this seems a little overstated to me.

    First of all, the Clean Air Act was signed by President Bush about 20 or 25 years or so ago. And what the president needs to do is simply follow the law and protect public health by curbing carbon pollution. The good news here is that clean energy in Obama's second term is a lot cheaper than it was in his first term. The price of solar has dropped by almost 70 percent. The price of wind continues to decline, so much so that, in 2012, solar and wind combined made up 58 percent of the new capacity that was added to the grid last year.

    So what we're seeing is that clean energy can take up more of the burden in terms of our energy demand than coal and gas and nuclear power can. So, the rule-making that Scott was referring to, the burden to make that rule actually stick is a lot lower than it used to be. And, of course, we always know that clean energy creates more jobs at the same time that it cuts carbon pollution. So, the great news here is that we can have a win-win at the same time.

    GWEN IFILL: You know, Scott Segal, that the second term can be different from the first term. Do you expect a big change?

    SCOTT SEGAL: I don't expect a tremendous amount of change.

    But the one thing that I believe will come even sharper into focus in the second term is that when I -- you know, when I first came to Washington and even at the beginning of this administration, words like energy independence or energy security were just taglines that were used almost in advertisement.

    We now stand at the precipice of being able to actually embrace true energy independence, with the consequences of being able to change U.S. foreign policy, create jobs in the United States. Part of it is, as Michael suggests, through investment in renewable power. But the other part of it is through signal investments that are occurring in natural gas production and in learning new and effective ways to use our coal resources.

    When the president says all of the above, he doesn't just mean all that's above the ground. He means fossil fuels, plus renewables. That's the best way to make the U.S. secure and to create jobs.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Brune, you get the last word on what you expect for the second term.

    MICHAEL BRUNE: You know, in that term, all of the above equals more of the same. Right? So, we do have a face choice here. We can have energy independence and fight climate change at the same time by investing in clean energy.

    If we perpetuate our dependence on these extreme dirty fuels, like the tar sands or oil drilling in the Arctic, that's only going to extend the timeline by which we're reliant on fossil fuels, as opposed to going all in on clean energy that will create more jobs, cut carbon pollution and make our air and water more clean.

    There's a historic opportunity here for the president. And we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that he seizes it.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Brune of the Sierra Club and Scott Segal of Giuliani & Bracewell, Bracewell & Giuliani, thank you both very much.

    SCOTT SEGAL: Thank you.

    MICHAEL BRUNE: Thank you for having us. 


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    RAY SUAREZ: Now: doctors opting out of Medicare.

    Much of the political talk on Medicare focuses on its rising costs. But, for some patients, there are growing concerns about how hard it is to find a doctor.

    Once a month, these seniors get together at the public library in South Austin, Texas, to talk about what's going on in their lives. This week, Medicare looms large.

    WOMAN: I wonder, where would my friends and neighbors who are retired be if it weren't for Medicare?

    MAN: It's a crisis, especially in the primary care area.

    RAY SUAREZ: What they're talking about is how it's getting harder and harder to find doctors who will treat Medicare patients.

    For one of the group's members, 78-year-old Nancy Martin, the search was particularly tough. After moving here from Lubbock in 2007, she spent hours calling primary care doctors.

    NANCY MARTIN, Texas: I said, I'm Nancy Martin. I have just recently moved to Austin. I am looking for a physician that will take a new Medicare patient. Sorry, we don't take any new Medicare people.

    I felt frustration, disappointment, I would say despair, a lot of days, just get to the point where I thought, I'm never going to find a doctor in Austin. What do you think I will have to do? I don't know.

    RAY SUAREZ: Martin has high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

    NANCY MARTIN: If I had something bad, I just went to the emergency room.

    RAY SUAREZ: After two years of searching, Martin finally found a primary care physician.

    MAN: It's nice to see you today.

    MAN: Thank you.

    RAY SUAREZ: There are differing estimates on how widespread the access problems are for Medicare recipients nationally. Only a handful of health organizations have even tried to study the issue. Texas has one of the few state medical associations that has.

    LOU GOODMAN, Texas Medical Association: Patients are having a much harder time getting -- finding a doctor who will accept Medicare.

    This is Lou Goodman.

    RAY SUAREZ: Lou Goodman is the CEO. With 47,000 members, it's the largest state medical society in the U.S.

    LOU GOODMAN: And in 2000, we had about almost 80 percent of the doctors were taking new Medicare patients. We just completed a survey last year, and we found that less than 60 percent were taking them. Almost 20 percent fewer doctors are taking new Medicare patients. And that really troubled us.

    RAY SUAREZ: Goodman says the primary reason doctors are not taking new Medicare patients or opting out altogether is because of something called the sustainable growth rate.

    It's a mathematical formula established by Congress in 1997 to contain rising Medicare costs. But, in practice, it would have cut government payments to physicians for treating Medicare patients every year since 2001. So, every year, Congress at the last minute passes the so-called doc fix, averting the cuts and giving doctors a small raise.

    The annual doc fix and the threats of lower reimbursements in the future have left some doctors insecure and unwilling to take on more Medicare patients.

    Tricia Neuman tracks medical for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    TRICIA NEUMAN, Kaiser Family Foundation: Over the years, a number of problems have emerged with the formula. And it has resulted in a threatened reduction in payments for physicians each year. So, this year, for example, had Congress not taken action, physician fees would have been lowered by 30 percent approximately. And nobody really wants that to happen.

    RAY SUAREZ: Congressional leaders have talked about passing a permanent payment fix. But each time they get close, they have been scared off by the estimated $138 billion dollar price tag. That's left some physicians to make tough decisions.

    MAN: Anybody sick at home?

    RAY SUAREZ: Last year, the Austin Regional Clinic, or ARC, bit the bullet and stopped taking new Medicare patients.

    ARC, one of the largest health care groups in Central Texas, serves more than 400,000 area residents. Dropping Medicare wasn't something the health system wanted to do, but CEO Dr. Norman Chenven says it was an economic necessity.

    DR. NORMAN CHENVEN, Austin Regional Clinic: The issue was really one about survival.

    It's really time and materials that it takes to provide care to someone. We can pretty much predict that if our Medicare population grows beyond a certain percentage that our profitability is going to go away.

    RAY SUAREZ: The Texas Medical Association says this chart tells the story. Since 2001, Medicare payments to hospitals and nursing homes have steadily gone up. But those to physicians have remained flat.

    Meanwhile, the cost of running a practice, according to the Texas Medical Association, has increased between 25 and 50 percent. But it isn't just money that is driving the exits. Two hours west of Austin in the Texas hill country, Dr. Janet Chene says it was government rules and stepped-up audits for fraud that drove her to stay out of Medicare altogether.

    DR. JANET CHENE, Family Physician: I didn't see any way that I could stay in that program and give my patients the level of care that I want to give them.  

    RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Chene says Medicare criticized her for spending too much time with her patients.

    DR. JANET CHENE: I'm a family doctor. I'm not a specialist that's been just taking care of their toe or their eye. This is the oldest, sickest part of our population. And I felt I was being pushed to herd them through in a turnstile way in 15 minutes or less.

    RAY SUAREZ: Medicare makes up nearly a quarter of the nation's health care spending on physician services, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.

    Chene says even though she stopped taking those seniors, she doesn't believe they have had trouble finding another doctor. And Kaiser's Tricia Neuman says their research indicates it's not a widespread problem.

    TRICIA NEUMAN: We just did a survey last year. And, in fact, only three percent of seniors said they had trouble finding a doctor who would take Medicare. There could be certain situations where a senior may not be able to get their first choice in terms of physicians, but, in general, there are physicians available who would see them.

    RAY SUAREZ: The independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission also looked at the problem last June. Of the six percent of seniors they surveyed looking for a new primary care physician, one in four had a small or big problem getting an appointment. And Medicare itself says fewer than 10,000 doctors have officially opted out of the program in the past two years.

    But Texas Medical Association's Goodman thinks that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    LOU GOODMAN: I think we're going to have a real shortage and a real problem. There is data -- there are data on both sides of that argument. Our surveys show that we're going to have a huge influx of seniors, but also not enough doctors to take care of them, no matter what.

    I think what could happen is, our emergency rooms could get flooded. And, as we know, emergency rooms are the costliest place to get care.

    RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Chenven says making a permanent doc fix isn't all that needs to be done to keep physicians in the Medicare program. Doctors get paid by Medicare based on fee-for-service. Each service is paid for separately, giving incentive for physicians to provide more treatments, regardless of the outcome.

    DR. NORMAN CHENVEN: That has to change for us, for this country to figure out a better way to deliver care.

    RAY SUAREZ: Every day, about 10,000 Americans turn 65. And it's estimated more than 25 million new Medicare recipients will be in the program by the year 2020.

    The fight over the sequester could add even more complications. Physicians are bracing for a 2 percent cut in Medicare payments starting Apr. 1st.

    Online, we look at another source of doctors' frustration, a new system requiring specific codes for everything from flaming water ski burns to dolphin bites. That's on our Health page. 


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    GWEN IFILL: Two high-level members of the Obama administration issued new warnings to Iran today.

    Margaret Warner has the story.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: President Barack Obama is not bluffing.

    He is not bluffing.

    MARGARET WARNER: Vice President Biden brought that message to AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee today, insisting that U.S. policy toward Iran is firm.

    VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, period, period.

    End of discussion, period, prevent -- not contain, prevent.

    MARGARET WARNER: If needed, he said, the U.S. will use military action to achieve it, though negotiation remains the better option.

    VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: While that window is closing, we believe there is still time and space to achieve the outcome.

    MARGARET WARNER: Moments later, the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed the same conference via satellite from Jerusalem. He gave a more dire assessment.

    PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israel: I have to tell you the truth. Diplomacy has not worked. Iran ignores all these offers. It is running out the clock. It has used negotiations, including the most recent ones, to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program.

    MARGARET WARNER: The most recent talks ended last week in Kazakstan, with agreement only on further meetings. The U.S. and its partners did make an offer to Iran, suspend enrichment of uranium at its Fordow plant and some sanctions will be eased.

    But, in Vienna today, the chief of the U.N. Nuclear Agency voiced frustration that Iran still bars inspections at its Parchin military site. Yukiya Amano said, as a result, the agency cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.

    In fact, Israel and the U.S. suspect Tehran is amassing nuclear material and know-how so it could sprint to a bomb with little or no warning.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It's not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September, but Iran is getting closer to that red line. And it's putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.

    MARGARET WARNER: Iran's Arab neighbors are likewise nervous. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Saudi Arabia today.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY, United States: We both prefer diplomacy as the first choice, as the preferred choice. But the window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open indefinitely.

    MARGARET WARNER: In sum, said Kerry, there is a finite amount of time.

    Iran maintains its nuclear development is for peaceful purposes only.

    For the latest on the standoff over Iran's program, we turn to former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy school, and Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council director, now a professor at Penn State.

    Welcome back to you both.

    Ambassador Burns, what is behind these really mirror, almost identical statements today from the vice president and the secretary of state, coming right on the heels of these talks in Kazakhstan that at least ended on a somewhat promising note?

    AMBASSADORNICHOLAS BURNS, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs: Well, Margaret, I think the administration is trying to send a very strong signal to Iran that, while they're willing to negotiate, there is a limited amount of time to do that.

    And they're trying to create some leverage, some strength on the American side of the negotiating table. I remember when I was a negotiator; it was always helpful to have some strength and leverage against the country on the other side if that was an adversarial relationship. And this certainly is.

    And in this case, the administration, like President Bush's administration, has pursued a very tough sanctions line with the Iranians. And now you saw today Vice President Biden articulating that there's a threat of force there if negotiations don't succeed.

    Now, I think President Obama is fundamentally dedicated to using the next couple of months to negotiate. And there's a window for that because the Iranians are now saying, just in the last 48 hours, that they might be open to direct talks. But it's not a bad idea to have some toughness to the American position. And that's what you heard today from the vice president.

    MARGARET WARNER: Would you agree, Flynt Leverett, this is just another example of this so-called two-track strategy, which is -- which President Bush started -- be open to or even talk; at the same time, you're toughening the sanctions all the time and you're being very tough about the prospect of military action?

    FLYNT LEVERETT, Former National Security Council Director: Yes.

    I think the two-track approach is internally contradictory and ultimately counterproductive. You don't need sanctions to get Iran to the table. Iran has been prepared to negotiate about its nuclear activities for decades. It even suspended uranium enrichment for nearly two years as part of that process and, from its perspective, got nothing in terms of U.S. recognition of its right to safeguarded enrichment or even its legitimate security interest.

     

    It's still prepared to negotiate, and seriously, but it insists that any deal has to be predicated on acknowledgment of its nuclear rights, including safeguarded enrichment. That's something that the United States has never been and is still not willing to give. And until that changes, you're not going to get a positive result. And sanctions won't help you close that -- won't help you close that gap. It's counterproductive.

    MARGARET WARNER: Nick Burns, Ambassador Burns, what do you say to that, that there's something inherently contradictory and that -- I mean, this two-track approach has been going on since '06. Has it really produced anything?

    NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, I don't agree that somehow this is contradictory. In fact, it's got a logic to it.

    The Iranians have not been willing to negotiate since serious negotiations were first offered to them in 2006 by President Bush and by the Russians, Chinese and Europeans. And, Margaret, you have seen President Obama since the very day of his first inauguration in 2009 reach out to the Iranians.

    It's the Iranian government that hasn't wanted to negotiate, so they have really forced the rest of the international community -- and that does include nearly every major power in the world -- to vote for these sanctions and to do so until Iran shows up at the negotiating table.

    I think they showed up in Kazakhstan last week because they're feeling the pinch of the sanctions. Their currency has been devalued. And their oil production is down by a million barrels a day. So, I think the sanctions are working.

    FLYNT LEVERETT: I was just in Iran in December, a little over two months ago. No one who has been in Iran recently could possibly think that sanctions, even with the real hardships they're causing, will prompt either the Islamic Republic's implosion or its surrender to U.S. demands in the nuclear talks. That is just detached from reality.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you both, starting with, you, Ambassador Burns, so when does this -- quote -- "window," this proverbial window that we keep hearing about actually close? In other words, given the current pace of enrichment on the part of the Iranians, at what point is it going to approach that -- approach that red line, a point at which Israel certainly and perhaps the U.S. concludes that they can't be allowed to go any further?

    NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, from all the publicly available information, it doesn't appear that Iran is close to a nuclear weapon right now. So the good news is that we have really got most of 2012, if not all of it, for extended negotiations.

    MARGARET WARNER: You mean 2013, this year.

    NICHOLAS BURNS: We have not had extended substantive -- 2013 -- thank you. We have had not extended substantive negotiations with the Iranians, serious ones, on any subject since the Jimmy Carter administration.

    So, I do think that the administration, President Obama is really dedicated to the diplomatic track and will give this, as Vice President Biden said today, time and space necessary. It can't happen in two weeks. And I wouldn't agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that diplomacy has failed. We really haven't started the serious talks yet. So Israel needs to support President Obama and not get ahead of him in these talks.

    MARGARET WARNER: But, Flynt Leverett, when you listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, he said over and over he thinks it's coming to a head this summer.

    I mean, are -- this goes back. This is an old question, but I ask it anew. Are the U.S. and Israel still on very different time clocks here?

    FLYNT LEVERETT: They are to some degree, but I think, you know, Netanyahu is trying to generate as much leverage as he can in advance of President Obama's trip to Israel, to generate as much leverage as he can in order to keep the administration pursuing the more coercive aspects of the dual-track policy.

    The diplomatic track has to be more than a sound bite. You know, if you compare our approach to Iran to what I would call really serious diplomacy, the way that President Nixon approached realignment of relations with the People's Republic ...

    MARGARET WARNER: Of China.

    FLYNT LEVERETT: ... of China in the early 1970s, this was a very, very different approach, based on acceptance of the People's Republic, recognition of its legitimate interests.

    And Nixon actually proactively relaxed sanctions, stopped covert operations against China, and told the fleet -- the U.S. Navy to stand down from aggressively patrolling the Taiwan straits. Obama has gone in the opposite direction. This is not serious diplomacy.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, on that provocative note, we're going to have to leave it there. But -- and opening the China parallel, I'm sure we will revisit that possibility.

    Flynt Leverett and Ambassador Nicholas Burns, thank you both.

    NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you.

    FLYNT LEVERETT: Thank you. 


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now a story about trash.

    As the nation produces more and more, one city is trying to eliminate all of it.

    NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels reports.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Each year, Americans throw away about 250 million tons of garbage. That's roughly four pounds per person per day.

    You can find all manner of trash in a landfill, old bent music stands, plastic bags, and a lot of items that could have been recycled, like bottles and cardboard. Beyond the obvious blight they cause, landfills create environmental damage and emit harmful greenhouse gases. They are monuments to waste.

    Those concerns have prompted San Francisco and a handful of other cities to aim for a once-unthinkable goal, zero waste.

    In 2009, San Francisco became the first city in the country to require that residents and businesses alike separate from their trash compostable items, like food scraps, and recyclable goods, like paper, metals, and plastic, into separate bins.

    And that has led to a big reduction in the amount of garbage headed to the landfill, according to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

    MAYOR ED LEE, San Francisco: We're proud of the 80 percent diversion rate, the highest in the country, certainly of any city in North America.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Lee likes to talk garbage. He touts the fact that the city's recycling and composting law has helped the city keep 80 percent of its waste out of landfills. The national recycling average is just 35 percent. But Lee wants the city to go even further.

    ED LEE: All of us, as part of our culture of living here in the Bay Area, have appreciated the goals of our environment and climate change and doing everything that we can.

    And I think the 80 percent, we're not going to be satisfied with that, Spencer. We want 100 percent zero waste. This is where we're going.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Is that possible?

    ED LEE: I think it is. It is possible.

    SPENCER MICHELS: What do you do with a plastic bag? You can't recycle that.

    ED LEE: Well, we have banned plastic bags in the city.

    San Francisco residents Sven Eberlein and Debra Baida think it's possible, too. They are avid recyclers and composters, so much so that they produce almost no trash. Baida lists what goes into the compost bin.

    DEBRA BAIDA, San Francisco resident: We put the wrappers from our butter. We put any meat or packaged -- that kind of packaged paper food, soiled food wrappings like that, tissues, Q-tips, paper napkins, which we don't have in our home. If those come in, those go there. Soiled paper plates, milk cartons.

    SVEN EBERLEIN, San Francisco resident: I go and travel somewhere, and I'm, you know, I have, like, eat an apple and where's the compost? You know, and I have to throw it in the trash, and it just doesn't feel quite right, you know.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But not all San Franciscans are as enthusiastic as Eberlein and Baida. Those who refuse to sort their garbage can face fines ranging from $100 to $1,000.

    WOMAN: So, we're just in the neighborhood trying to educate people on composting and recycling and answer any questions that you may have.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Teams of workers from the city are knocking on doors of residents who, unbeknownst to them, have had their garbage cans inspected by auditors early in the morning. On the evening we followed along, outreach workers were visiting homes which had put items in the wrong bins.

    WOMAN: We have noticed that there's been a lot of confusion about what goes in what bin, and so I'm here to offer any answers to any questions you may have.

    WOMAN: I think we're pretty good with recycling. I guess, could you give me a rundown on what goes in composting?

    WOMAN: If it was once alive and it's soil or food, then it is compostable.

    WOMAN: OK.

    SPENCER MICHELS: So far, only warnings have been given out. No fines have been imposed yet. And city officials say the move toward zero waste is catching on.

    San Francisco's 80-year-old private garbage company, which recently invented a new name for itself, Recology, has been investing in recycling and composting facilities, and trying to change San Franciscans' perceptions of their garbage.

    NARRATOR: Where some see garbage, Recology sees opportunity. Working together, we have helped make San Francisco America's greenest city.

    MIKE SANGIACOMO, Recology: The biggest remaining fraction after we began recycling of the San Francisco waste stream was food waste.

    SPENCER MICHELS: CEO and president Mike Sangiacomo took us on a tour of Recology's sprawling 22-acre composting facility northeast of San Francisco.

    MIKE SANGIACOMO: In terms of food waste composting, this is as good as it gets. We're creating a product that can be used on the soil to replenish nutrients that growing food crops take out of the soil.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Food scraps and yard clippings brought here, some 400 tons a day, are turned into rich compost that is now being used by vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. In the rest of the nation, where composting is a rarity, 97 percent of food waste is disposed of in landfills, and that causes environmental problems, according to regional EPA director Jared Blumenfeld.

    JARED BLUMENFELD, Environmental Protection Agency: About half the food we buy from the supermarket ends up going into the landfill. That's unacceptable.

    The stuff that rots and smells produces methane, which is a very, very potent greenhouse gas. And even if there's a cover on the top of just soil and stuff, that goes into the atmosphere and is really contributing in a large way to climate change issues.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Beyond the environmental benefits of moving toward zero waste, Recology and city officials point to another perk: jobs.

    At Recology's massive recycling center, which has been inundated the weeks after the holidays, 186 jobs have been created over the past 10 years.

    Most of the sorting is done here by hand. Workers separate plastics, cardboard, cans and bottles, so they can be packaged and shipped to recycled material markets, mostly in Asia.

    SPENCER MICHELS: For all the ballyhoo over San Francisco's recycling and composting programs, there are some skeptics. Some San Franciscans say that city officials haven't verified the rosy statistics.

    QUENTIN KOPP, former California legislator: It's a myth. It's a bogus figure.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Quentin Kopp, a former state and city senator, took part in an unsuccessful ballot effort last year to open the city's garbage contract to a competitive bidding process.

    Kopp says Recology is inflating their recycling figures so they can boast that they are leading the nation.

    QUENTIN KOPP: Yes, it is a good idea to recycle. It's also a good idea to be honest to the public about how much of the refuse and garbage in San Francisco is actually being recycled.

    Nobody knows, except probably this company knows. They falsify the quantity. They falsify the type of material.

    And it's part of a bogus scheme to inflate the amount of recycling done. And City Hall goes along with it, because it makes the politicians at City Hall look good.

    SPENCER MICHELS: How do you know that 80 percent figure is accurate? Do you check it?

    ED LEE: Yes, Spencer, we actually do. In fact, not only does our Department of the Environment go out and do audits. We actually have auditors that go out there and make sure that we're all in compliance with the way we measure it, and using the state standards and the state process to do it.

    SPENCER MICHELS: So there's no doubt in your mind that the 80 percent is real?

    ED LEE: Oh, no doubt at all, no doubt at all in my mind.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Whatever the actual number is, recycling and composting don't come free.

    Recology's Mike Sangiacomo:

    MIKE SANGIACOMO: All of the services we provide are paid for by the customers whose material we're taking away.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Are they paying more in rates because of all this recycling and composting than they would otherwise?

    MIKE SANGIACOMO: I would bet they're paying a little more. But if you compare rates in the Bay Area, San Francisco vs. other communities, we're right in the middle of the pack. And we're doing a lot more recycling than any of the other communities.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Residents currently pay about $28 a month for their trash bins. Recycling and composting bins are free.

    But last month, Recology requested a rate increase, and for the first time wants to charge for composting and recycling bins, something the company says is necessary as the city moves toward eliminating its trash by 2020.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Spencer reflects on his trashy assignment, the moves by his city to reduce waste, and the financial factors at play behind the scenes. His blog is on our website.


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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: a poet still exploring his own deep connections to the past.

    Jeffrey Brown has our story.

    DAVID FERRY, Poet: In February, "It will be my snowman's anniversary, with cake for him and soup for me."

    JEFFREY BROWN: The weekly poetry reading for 88-year-old David Ferry with his daughter and two grandsons, who live next door to his home in Brookline, Mass., today's entry, Maurice Sendak's "Chicken Soup With Rice."

    WOMAN: "Blowing once, blowing twice, blowing chicken soup with rice."

    JEFFREY BROWN: More often, Ferry is found here at his desk, filling in more lines and verses in a lifetime of writing. And, late in life, the honors keep coming. Recently, he was given the Ruth Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award. And his newest collection, titled "Bewilderment," won the National Book Award for Poetry.

    What does it turn you are bewildered by?

    DAVID FERRY: Everything.

    Everything.

    But -- every poem, as I -- just as everything we say to one another, is an attempt to try to get something clear to the other person or to ourselves and so on. And that's always a partial success and a partial failure. And the title acknowledges that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ferry grew up in New Jersey the son of a businessman, and spent most of his adult life teaching English at Wellesley College, chairing the department, raising a family, busy with all that entails.

    And he has a simple answer for what some have seen as a hugely productive flowering late in life.

    DAVID FERRY: One answer is retirement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Your retirement gave you more time?

    DAVID FERRY: It gave me more time. It doesn't feel like, you know, suddenly I have got a lot of energy I didn't have in a sense. I don't know whether I had it or not, just because I was doing other things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In addition to his own volumes of poetry, Ferry is renowned as a translator. He's done acclaimed English versions of the Babylonian epic "Gilgamesh" and of Latin texts by Horace and Virgil.

    And lines from works of the past will, in turn, show up in and become part of his own verse. In the "Bewilderment" collection, for example, a translation of a poem by Virgil is followed by a similarly themed poem by Ferry himself. This is a man clearly obsessed with connections and links.

    I saw a review where someone referred to you with great admiration as a special kind of thief. So that's all artists, you know, use, right?

    DAVID FERRY: Yes. And I do, do that. One reason for doing that is what it says in my own poem, its usefulness for that poem. It also, I think, does mean that there's a kind of motive to connect what you're saying to the past of writing, that you want your own poem to be part of that kind of enterprise.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There is a poem of yours called "Ancestral Lines" which goes to this question of connections to the past, right?

    DAVID FERRY: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Can you read the beginning for us?

    DAVID FERRY: It says: "When following the others' lines, which are the tracks of somebody gone before, leaving me mischievous clues, telling me who they were and who it was they weren't, and who it is I am because of them, or, just for the moment, reading them, I am, although the next moment, I'm back in myself and lost."

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have these lines of others telling me who they were, who they weren't, and who I am.

    DAVID FERRY: Yes. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That's the kind of connective tissue you see.

    DAVID FERRY: Yes.

    When you read something, and especially when you're reading compellingly great, that becomes part of your identity, at least while you're reading it. You become changed by reading it. And then you're finished with it. Then you're lost again. Then you're back to just who you are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: After the death of his wife seven years ago, Ferry moved to be nearer his daughter and grandsons.

    And in his new neighborhood, he now finds himself the unofficial poet laureate of Matt Murphy's, a local Irish pub that has immortalized him with a photo on the wall and a passage from one of his poems painted around the bar.

    He's also working his way through a new translation of one of the famous poems in world literature, Virgil's epic "The Aeneid," hoping to finish in another two years.

    The recognition is pleasing, he told me, though he had his own humorous take on the National Book Award victory.

    DAVID FERRY: When I told I was a finalist, I told my daughter, and she said -- she said, what do you think your chances are?

    And I said, "One in five," because there were five finalists. And I said, but my hope is maybe they'd give it -- give it to me as a preposterous pre-posthumous award.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Preposterous pre-posthumous award?

    DAVID FERRY: Right, right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, David Ferry, I'm glad they gave you the award. Congratulations.

    Nice to talk to you.

    DAVID FERRY: Thank you. Very nice to talk to you.

    GWEN IFILL: You can watch David Ferry reading his poem "Soul" on Art Beat.


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    President Barack Obama meets with his CabinetPresident Barack Obama met with his Cabinet at the White House Monday. The president and Congress remain locked in stalled budget negotiations as the effect of the sequestration begin to impact the U.S. economy. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    With Washington bracing for impact on two fronts -- ice expected to fall from the sky and across-the-board budget cuts slowly taking effect -- the conversation has shifted to the budget battle that will dominate the final days of winter.

    The $85 billion in sequestration cuts that became a certainty on Friday hung over President Barack Obama's Monday cabinet meeting, the first of his second term.

    "We are going to manage it as best we can, try to minimize the impacts on American families, but it's not the right way for us to go about deficit reduction," the president said. He said his agencies would be supported as they make "some very difficult decisions" but stressed that sequestration will hurt and the unemployment rate could go up.

    Mr. Obama noted that it's "an area of deep concern" and pivoted to his view that a "balanced" approach would be best for the nation's long-term fiscal health.

    "I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things," he added.

    That comment came as the Wall Street Journal's Peter Nicholas and Janet Hook report that Mr. Obama has been "courting more junior GOP lawmakers in hopes of creating a coalition to push through a budget deal that includes tax revenue increases." They found that in the last few days the president has phoned Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Each senator has been known for dealmaking. Coburn was once considered one of Mr. Obama's best friends on Capitol Hill.

    And at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, House Republicans detailed a $982 billion, six-month spending measure that locks in new sequester-level spending and aims to "mitigate the adverse impacts of sequestration, not roll back the reductions themselves," as Politico's David Rogers puts it.

    The proposal would give the Defense Department the ability to manage the reductions, adding $10 billion to the Pentagon's operations and maintenance budget, offset with cuts to other parts of the defense system.

    The language in the continuing resolution, which likely will get a floor vote by Thursday, makes clear that defense spending gets a carve out.

    Except for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the (Continuing Resolution) will extend funding for other government agencies at last year's levels. However, the funding within the bill is subject to sequestration cuts. This means that the funding rate within the legislation is approximately $982 billion -- the level required by the President's sequestration order.

    "The legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27th, prioritize DoD and Veterans programs, and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has," said Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

    And on a dual track this month, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is crafting a new budget blueprint that seeks to be deficit neutral in a decade. The outline revives his idea for a voucher-like Medicare system and could raise the eligibility age for the program. Democrats have seized on the plan as harmful to seniors, with the Washington Post describing the party as "salivating over the framework." Democrats say Ryan is doubling down on the Medicare wars that they believe helped their party last fall.

    Senate Democrats are expected to reveal their budget outline next week, and both sides are expected to hold budget votes before the Easter recess.

    And mark your calendars for March 21 -- that's when the Senate will hold its famed "votarama" on budget amendments. Roll Call's Meredith Shiner got a hold of a memo from Budget Chairman Patty Murray's office mocking the House GOP budget and hinting the direction Senate Democrats are heading. From the memo:

    "We won't be able to impact the budget House Republicans are preparing. But as we work on our own, and hope to find a path to a bipartisan budget agreement, the House Republicans' extreme approach makes the need for a responsible alternative that puts middle class families first is all the more clear."

    Her plan is expected to include both spending cuts and tax hikes. Politico's Manu Raju examined Murray's difficult task of uniting Democrats around a plan.

    With a new CBS poll showing 53 percent of Americans believe they will feel impacts of the sequester, several news outlets are looking at the affects. As The Hill notes, even getting into the Capitol will be harder, and Roll Call reports that members of Congress are getting a cut to the "allowance" they can use to travel back-and-forth between their districts.

    With between 6 inches and a foot of snow forecast for Washington, and scant compromise on the horizon for spending matters, everyone should expect to bunker in.

    LINE ITEMS

    Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., announced Monday that he no longer supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. "I think there has to be some difference between people who come here legally and illegally," Bush told NBC's Matt Lauer. "It is just a matter of common sense and a matter of the rule of law. If we're not going to apply the law fairly and consistently, then we're going to have another wave of illegal immigrants coming into this country."

    The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Ernesto Londoño report an escort who said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., had paid her for sex has told police in the Dominican Republic that she was paid to make up the claims.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized his GOP colleagues on Monday for blocking John Brennan's nomination to lead the CIA and called on lawmakers to hold a confirmation vote this week. "Republicans say they will not filibuster but their actions say otherwise," Reid said. "A 60-vote threshold for nominations is unfair."

    The New York Times' Kim Severson looks at the upcoming South Carolina special election to fill the U.S. House seat left open by Tim Scott, who is now serving in the Senate. And Stu Rothenberg uses his Roll Call column to suggest that Elizabeth Colbert Busch may not be such a long shot candidate.

    New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait excoriates Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for his attacks on the fiscal assumptions of the president's health care law.

    Roll Call's Pam Radtke Russell reports that key Senate committee leaders said Monday they would withhold judgment on Ernest Moniz, the president's choice to be the next Energy secretary.

    The Omaha World-Herald reports that 2012 Senate hopeful Jon Bruning will seek re-election as Nebraska Attorney General instead of running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republian Sen. Mike Johanns, who is retiring in 2014.

    A spokesman for Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., meanwhile, told Roll Call that the GOP congressman would seek re-election to his House seat in 2014 instead of launch a challenge to Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

    And Rep. Tom Graves won't run for Georgia Senate.

    American Crossroads takes a hit at the president's advocacy effort, Organizing for Action, mocking the group as "Organizing for Access" in a new web video.

    A 22-year-old man has been charged with the murder of a Mississippi mayoral candidate, whose body was found beaten, burned and left near a Mississippi River levee this week.

    The president will deliver commencement addresses this spring at the U.S. Naval Academy, Ohio State University and Morehouse College.

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett won't help actor Bradley Cooper and director David O. Russell with tax credits to shoot a movie in Philadelphia, even though the pair visited the governor's mansion to plead their case.

    A Democrat who likes to create snarky websites has a new one suggesting Republicans have done little outreach to Hispanics.

    The National Park Service announced Monday that the [peak bloom] (http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/2013/03/04/peak-bloom-dates-and-festival-info-announced/) for this year's cherry blossoms will be March 26 through March 30. Peak bloom is defined as when 70 percent of the blossoms are open.

    We highly recommend this pontiff-centric spoof of Netflix's "House of Cards," called "House of Cardinals." Welcome to conclave.

    Today's tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA asks what the U.S. may do with its $36 billion worth of military hardware in Afghanistan.

    NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

    The president unveiled three new high-level members of his administration on Monday, including Wal-Mart Foundation President Sylvia Burwell as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Gina McCarthy as director of the Environmental Protection Agency, and MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to lead the Energy Department. Both Scott Segal, who lobbies for energy companies for Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, and Michael Brune of the Sierra Club were positive about the president's EPA and Energy Department choices. They joined NewsHour correspondent Gwen Ifill to discuss the energy and environment priorities for the second term. Watch Ifill's report here or below: Watch Video

    Researchers announced Sunday that for the first time, a baby with AIDS had been cured. Ray Suarez spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Rowena Johnston of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, about how the baby was cured and what this portends for other babies born with HIV. Their conversation is here or below: Watch Video

    For some seniors on Medicare, there are fewer and fewer primary care physicians willing to accept them as new patients because they fear, in part, the threat of reduced reimbursement rates. Ray Suarez spoke with seniors in South Austin, Texas, and with Tricia Neuman of the Kaiser Health Foundation, one of the few organizations that tracks Medicare patients' access to doctors. Watch that piece here or below: Watch Video

    TOP TWEETS

    Made it through the ATL airport this morning with lanes open as normal. Obama said that wouldn't be possible post sequester.

    — Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) March 5, 2013

    Only one Sunday show had a guest whose presence accurately reflected the level of dumb in DC these days.

    — Sam Youngman (@samyoungman) March 4, 2013

    Today marks 100 years since the United States had a president with a mustache twitter.com/yoonCNN/status...

    — Robert Yoon (@yoonCNN) March 4, 2013

    Twitter opinion vs. public opinion: sometimes more liberal, sometimes more conservative, always more snarky pewresearch.org/2013/03/04/twi...

    — davidfrum (@davidfrum) March 5, 2013

    It's not often you see Lincoln cast as a communist icon. tmblr.co/ZrYMByfVJfAm

    — WBEZ (@WBEZ) March 4, 2013

    Who's down with OMB? RT @simonmaloy: Yeah you know me. RT @nickbaumann: You down with OMB?

    — daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 4, 2013

    NO WASHINGTON POST IT CAN'T BE CALLED SNOWQUESTER

    — john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) March 4, 2013

    Don Young, elected 40 yrs ago Weds, now 4th-longest-serving House GOPer ever (Joe Cannon 1, Bill Young 2, Joe Martin 3)

    — Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) March 4, 2013

    Governor Deval Patrick helps to weigh baby black bear cubs in Western MA instagr.am/p/WcRn1ZNuFq/

    — Juli Hanscom (@JuliHanscom) March 4, 2013

    Years ago, AP credit = anonymous photographer. Now you know who took this Nixon photo. Today's @washingtonpost pg B2 twitter.com/Dharapak/statu...

    — Charles Dharapak (@Dharapak) March 3, 2013

    The PBS Online Film Festival is featured in the print version of @usatoday. #PBSolfftwitter.com/PBS/status/308...

    — PBS (@PBS) March 5, 2013

    Katelyn Polantz and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

    Follow @burlijiFollow @kpolantzFollow @elizsummersFollow @indiefilmfanFollow @tiffanymullonFollow @dePeystahFollow @meenaganesan

    Support Your Local PBS Station


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    Headhunter Nick Corcodilos urges job seekers to write their own resumes, in plain ol' English, so that potential employers can see how candidates would be profitable additions to their companies.

    Photo by Flickr user Olivier Charavel.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: I was terminated along with dozens of other people when my company got into trouble. I've had to look for jobs in totally different industries because I want to stay in this city. Attached is my resume. I paid good money to have it professionally written, but it has not led to even one job interview. Do you think it's any good?

    Nick Corcodilos: Talented people get downsized out of their industry, but they don't realize that jargon prevents other employers from understanding their experience.

    Let's look at some of the wording in your resume:

    "Utilize strong facilitation skills to significantly improve PVA results." "Provide research expertise to the BU/Ds and the STS/NRSO Delivery Teams for initial facility availability studies." "Use a systematic process to develop globally focused training interventions and performance support tools."

    Say what? How can you expect to be hired by an employer who can't understand what you're talking about because the terminology is so arcane?

    Fancy explanations and acronyms don't impress anyone. Employers are impressed by simple English that explains who you are, what you've done, and how you might add profit to a business.

    No matter how specialized your field, try to explain your work so your grandmother or a 12-year-old child would understand it. I mean no offense to erudite grandmothers or children, but I use this test on my own writing. If you can't express it simply, you're not helping the person you're talking to, and you're not helping yourself.

    Just because you paid to have your resume written doesn't mean it's better than one you could write. Please see "The Truth About Resumes". In fact, I strongly recommend that people write their own resumes. I know it's not an easy task, but it's worth the effort. It will help you crystallize your story about why employers should hire you. Unless you work with a rare resume writer who interviews you in depth, this "story development" won't happen when you let someone else do it. Your local library has lots of books on resume writing. Study them and use only the best tips that make sense to you.

    Rewrite your resume yourself, and explain your experience and skills as simply as possible, so managers in other businesses and industries will be able to see how your credentials might be relevant to them.

    If you would like to try something really different, consider committing "Resume Blasphemy". This is one of the most popular articles on my website, in which I suggest that a really good resume actually violates every rule of resume writing. It "doesn't show any of your past experience and it doesn't list any jobs you ever did. No accomplishments, no achievements or awards." Instead, "it requires you to do the job, not just apply for it." I call this a "Working Resume."

    So, what do you put in it? The article outlines four components that your Working Resume should include:

    An outline of the business of the employer you want to work for Proof you understand what work needs to be done Your brief plan for doing the work Your estimate of how much "profit" you can add to the job

    That's right: This resume is not about you. It's about the employer and job; that's what's so blasphemous.

    Now, can anyone tell me what makes this kind of resume such a challenge to use when you're looking for a job? What makes it a huge challenge to any employer you give it to? Please post your comments below.

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sen$e readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?" and "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps."

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sen$e. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow Paul on Twitter.Follow @PaulSolman


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    Photo by Johannes Eisele/ AFP/ Getty Images.

    This really gives a whole new meaning to laundry day. But in all honesty, if we saw ultimate celebrities like Darth Vader and Luigi walking down the street, we'd probably beg for a photo. Wouldn't you? Until then, let's-a-go and get to work captioning. May the force be with you.

    How it works: Every other Tuesday, we post a photo. You compose a caption, submit it in the comments section below or on the NewsHour's or Art Beat's Facebook pages by 5 p.m. ET Friday.

    We'll announce the best caption on Art Beat the following Tuesday and send the winner an official NewsHour mug. The tiebreaker for similar or identical entries will be earliest time of submission


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    "It doesn't have to be the way it is today," Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told Judy Woodruff earlier this week, referring to the country's entitlement programs.

    Cuccinelli, the leading Republican candidate in Virginia's gubernatorial race, sat down with the NewsHour to discuss his new book, "The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty," and its overarching theme -- the overreach of the federal government.

    The full book conversation will air Tuesday night on the PBS NewsHour at 6 p.m. ET.

    Above, we've excerpted a five minute preview, in which he outlines how he'd approach the deficiencies of Medicare.

    For more political coverage, visit the NewsHour's Politics page.

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    A lab technician pipettes liquid into test tubes. Photo by Photo by Apostrophe Productions.

    Scientists nationwide are bracing for the impacts of the sequestration cuts, which are poised to strike a fierce blow to research.

    Policymakers aren't the only ones fatigued by the automatic federal spending cuts that became a certainty on Friday, said Joanne Carney, director of government affairs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Barring further congressional action, the sequester includes 5.1 percent across-the-board cuts to non-defense agencies. This includes the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Food and Drug Administration and the energy and interior departments. Since these agencies are already five months into their fiscal year, all the cuts will be felt in the remaining seven months.

    NASA is facing an estimated $474 million in cuts to research, and the National Science Foundation is facing $283 million in cuts, according to a AAAS analysis. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar warned that they could be forced to close 128 of the nation's 561 national wildlife refuges -- that's 22.8 percent -- and halt visiting to those refuges.

    Republicans don't agree with all of the cuts in sequester but say they are necessary to fulfill a promise to get America's spending under control.

    "It's time for the president and Senate Democrats to get serious about the long-term spending problem that we have," House Speaker John Boehner said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

    The National Institutes of Health, the country's largest supporter of basic research, are taking a particularly hard hit in dollar terms. The agency's $1.6 billion in cuts translates to about 20,000 jobs and cuts to critical research areas. Cancer, the influenza virus and Alzheimer's research will stall, faced with less grant money and fewer scientists, according to Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who spoke on the impacts of the sequester during a press conference on Feb 25.

    Biomedical research, he added, has been undergoing stress since 2003. A researcher's chance of being funded for grants has dropped from one in three to about one in six. This comes at a time when China, India and Brazil are increasing their support of biomedical research at double digit percentages each year. Scott L. Zeger, vice provost for research Johns Hopkins University worries specifically about cuts to genomics, a key component to biomedicine.

    "Imagine yourself as a young investigator with a great idea, ready to tackle it and to do so in your university setting somewhere in that great land of ours, knowing you have an only one in six or less chance of being funded, seeing that there seems to be no real clear path forward for achieving stability in support of biomedical research...," Collins said. "I worry deeply about this."

    In an interview for the NewsHour on Feb. 20, Collins argues that science is a good investment for the economy.

    Watch Video

    "You heard the president quote the statistic about the Genome Project, that every dollar returned $140 dollars in terms of economic growth in the first few years after the project was completed," Collins told the NewsHour's Ray Suarez. "That's a pretty darn good return on the government's investment."

    The National Science Foundation's calculations show they will support 1,000 fewer grants in 2013. And that number translates to 1,600 fewer graduate research fellows and nearly 180 fewer postdocs.

    "It presents a bleak picture for their future," Carney said. "Where are they going to go to look for jobs? Many will have to look in other fields or look overseas. Who wants to pursue a degree in science and engineering when prospects look so grim?"

    QUICK BITES

    "Blind tadpoles can be gifted with sight from grafted eye tissue -- even when that tissue is put in their tails," reports The Scientist.

    Don't flip out: I just flipped over to my B-side computer while the team looks into an A-side memory issue go.nasa.gov/ZN8xsx

    — Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) March 1, 2013

    That was the tweet sent out by the Mars Curiosity Rover feed on March 1, after a computer glitch forced the rover to switch to backup computer. As of 6 p.m. ET on March 4, the rover was still in "safe mode," according to this BBC report. The mission's project manager Richard Cook told the BBC that it would probably take several days, "maybe a week, of activities to get everything back and reconfigured."

    NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped this shot of Venus while in orbit around Saturn.

    Must read from Wired: "How Far Could a Drug Cannon Shoot?"

    For Twitter fans who must tweet at all costs, there is now a service that allows you to share your thoughts from the grave. LivesOn.org will study your Twitter messages and tweet accordingly, Bloomberg News reports. Or as this writer puts it: "For some there might be no finer way to spend the afterlife than insulting TV presenter Piers Morgan."

    When a video of a breathing baby is run through an algorithm that amplifies movement and color, "the baby's face blinks crimson with each tiny heartbeat," reports the New York Times. The technology, originally used to monitor neonatal babies, may eventually be useful in search and rescue efforts.

    "A ring of radiation previously unknown to science fleetingly surrounded Earth last year before being virtually annihilated by a powerful interplanetary shock wave, scientists say." From Live Science and Space.com.

    Patti Parson and David Pelcyger contributed to this report.

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    We take a look back at the political career of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela since 1999.

    Power and Glory

    Hugo Chavez, pictured here with his wife at the time, Marisabel, officially opens a bid for election in 1998. Chavez began his life in poverty and served in the military before entering politics. After a failed coup, he rose to the top of Venezuelan politics. Photo: BERTRAND PARRES/AFP/Getty Images

    Failed Coup

    In this room of the presidential palace, guards and journalists took cover from a 1992 coup against President Carlos Andres Perez, staged by Hugo Chavez. Although the coup failed, a televised address from Chavez placed him in the Venezuelan consciousness. He then traveled extensively in Latin America and slowly gathered political support in the run-up to the 1998 elections. Photo: JOSE COHEN/AFP/Getty Images

    'Pink Tide'

    Hugo Chavez met Cuban leader Fidel Castro during his tours in the 1990s and they bonded over a shared socialist ideology. Here in 2000, Castro and Chavez salute the unknown soldier monument in Campo Carabobo, Valencia, Venezuela, on Castro's official state visit. "Pink Tide" is a phrase used to describe the trend of left-leaning leaders in Latin America over the last several decades. Photo: ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images

    Backlash, Blame and Big Oil

    Although Hugo Chavez enjoyed populist favor at first, opposition grew over some of his proposals, including granting more government control over oil companies. Graffiti in the capital Caracas reads "Chavez Out." Thousands of protesters gathered in 2002 with a call for Chavez's resignation. He was ousted but reinstated after two days. Photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

    Recalling the Past

    Hugo Chavez faced a recall election in 2004. He won but questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the results. Here, Chavez speaks at a press conference after the victory. Behind Chavez is a portrait of Latin American hero, Simon Bolivar. Chavez often invokes Bolivar as an exemplar of Venezuelan leadership and an inspiration for his work. Photo: ANDREW ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images

    Chavez at the U.N.

    Hugo Chavez admonished the United States for imperialist practices at the 2006 U.N. General Assembly. Gesturing with a copy of a Noam Chomsky book, "Hegemony or Survival", Chavez called President George W. Bush a "devil" and accused the "American government of protecting terrorists and of having a completely cynical discourse." Photo: SPENCER PRATT/Getty Images

    Alliances Half a World Away

    Hugo Chavez addressed a town in Sweida, Syria, and held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2009. Venezuela under Chavez's jurisdiction has been supportive of the Assad regime. Newspapers such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal report that Venezuela has been shipping oil to Syria. Chavez also is a supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

    Illness Takes a Toll

    Hugo Chavez publicly announced a diagnosis of cancer in 2011. After treatment, Chavez said the cancer had been in remission, but in 2012 the cancer returned. Here Chavez addressed a rally in November 2011 after undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

    Election Stakes

    Hugo Chavez attended one of the final campaign rallies for the October 2012 presidential election. The race against newcomer Henrique Capriles promised to be close. Photo: Gregorio Marrero/LatinContent/Getty Images

    David Versus Goliath?

    Hugo Chavez faced Henrique Capriles, pictured here speaking at a press conference, in the Oct. 7, 2012, election. "This has always been a spiritual fight. For me this was since the first day the fight of David versus Goliath," Capriles said at a rally. "But it is written, in the fight of David versus Goliath, David won, and here is David, accompanied by millions of Davids." Photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

    Chavez Wins

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez holds up the National Electoral Center document certifying his win in the Oct. 7, 2012, election.

    Updated Jan. 4, 2013. Photo: Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images

    Health Deteriorates

    After winning re-election, President Chavez's health soon worsened. He was admitted back into a Cuban hospital for cancer surgery in late 2012 and suffered a "severe" respiratory infection during recovery in early January. Here, members of the Venezuelan army attend a mass for his health in Caracas on Dec. 13.

    Updated Jan. 4, 2013. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

    Chavez in Cuba

    Hugo Chavez smiles with his daughters, Rosa, right, and Maria while recovering from cancer surgery in Havana, Cuba, in this file photograph released by the Ministry of Information on Feb. 15, 2013. He returned to Venezuela three days later, and was in his homeland when he died on March 5, Vice President Nicolas Maduro told the nation in a televised speech.

    Updated March 5, 2013. Photo: Handout Photo via Reuters


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    View a slideshow of Chavez's political career.

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who grew up in a working class family, led a failed coup, and became an internationally controversial head of state while maintaining the support of marginalized groups, died Tuesday at the age of 58.

    Chavez was born on July 28, 1954, in the sugar-producing town of Sabaneta in rural Venezuela. At age 17, he enrolled in the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in Caracas, and it was in the military that he developed the mindset that the military should work in the interest of common people when the leadership is perceived as corrupt.

    He created a secret section of the military, the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army-200, and planned to overthrow the government of President Carlos Andres Perez in 1992. The coup failed, and Chavez was imprisoned, but he also was propelled to national fame.

    Chavez ran for president in 1998 and won by a sizable margin. His brazen rhetoric and love of the camera increased his visibility abroad. Within the country, the socialist leader maintained support by establishing social welfare programs. He also sought to limit foreign investment in the country's oil production and increase state control.

    Despite his popularity within some regions of the country, an opposition movement was growing and he began having health issues. In 2011, Chavez told the public he was being treated for cancer.

    Chavez faced his biggest challenge yet in the 2012 election campaign from newcomer Henrique Capriles. Chavez handily won re-election, but soon after had to be re-admitted to a Cuban hospital for more cancer surgery.

    In early 2013, the government said he was suffering from a "severe" respiratory infection, throwing into doubt his inauguration ceremony on Jan. 10. The ceremony was canceled, and he recently returned to his homeland, where he died Tuesday, said Vice President Nicolas Maduro in a televised speech.

    Related Resources:

    Chavez's Chosen Successor: From Bus Driver to Vice President

    View from Venezuela: Chavez Backers Celebrate Win; Opposition 'Stunned'

    Hugo Chavez Faces Serious Challenger in Venezuelan Presidential Elections

    Chavez's Health Fuels Political Power Struggle in Venezuela

    We'll have more about Chavez's life and impact on the NewsHour. See all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter:

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

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    GWEN IFILL: It was a record day for Wall Street today, as the Dow Jones industrial average climbed to its highest levels ever. The Dow, made up of 30 blue-chip stocks, gained nearly 126 points to close at 14,253. The previous closing record was set in October 2007, at 14,164.

    Then came the housing crash and the financial crisis, sending the Dow spiraling to 6,547 by March 2009, before its long road back. Several other indexes are also rebounding. The S&P 500 was up 14 points to finish at 1,539, within striking distance of its record of 1,565 set in 2007.

    We look behind the rally and these numbers with Barry Ritholtz, a market strategist, author and CEO of Fusion IQ, an online research firm. He blogs at The Big Picture. And Matt Phillips, who writes for Quartz, a digital news site that covers the global economy for Atlantic Media.

    Welcome to you both.

    Starting with you, Barry Ritholtz, what's behind this sudden rise?

    BARRY RITHOLTZ, Fusion IQ: Well, it's a combination of a number of factors. First and foremost is going to be really good earnings that we’ve seen over the past couple of quarters, past couple of years.

    And a lot of this has to do with the massive intervention of the Federal Reserve. They have kept rates so low that it's made it very inexpensive for corporations to borrow and invest and it's created a lot of liquidity, which drives equity prices higher.

    GWEN IFILL: Matt Phillips, because of the intervention of the Federal Reserve, some people are calling this rebound a sugar high.

    MATT PHILLIPS, Quartz: Well, they might have a point.

    But one thing I would add to what Barry said is that another reason the markets seem to be catching a little bit of a tailwind here is that the housing market seems to be showing real improvement. And one way you can see that is as some of the fruit of the Fed policy, that low interest rates are stimulating people to get back in the housing market.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me stay with you for a minute, Matt Phillips, because there are people who are picking up their 401(k) statements today and they are celebrating. And there are people who are back on the computer looking for a job who are not celebrating, who don't feel like this has anything to do with them at all.

    Do we have two economies here now?

    MATT PHILLIPS: Well, the stock market does skew towards older, wealthier Americans. And there is a big difference between the stock market and the balance sheet of most Americans.

     

    Median household income, which is one of the broadest gauges of how households are doing in terms of income, is still down about eight percent from its 2007 peak. So, Americans have good reason to feel that they're still sort of trying to catch their breath after the blow that they suffered during the financial crisis.

    GWEN IFILL: Barry Ritholtz, is there a disconnect under way here?

    BARRY RITHOLTZ: Well, there are two economies.

    But it's not the stock market and the broader economy. It's the global economy and the U.S. economy. If you look around the world, Europe seems to have stabilized. South America is doing well. Asia is actually improving. And when we talk about a major index like the Dow, a bunch of multinationals, or the S&P 500, the biggest market cap stocks, they derive more than half their profits from overseas activities.

    So, even if the U.S. economy is a little soft -- and let's be blunt -- this has been a mediocre recovery -- this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a robust economic recovery -- but corporations are very lean and they're getting profits and revenues from around the world. So there is a little bit of a disconnect because the global nature of business today.

    GWEN IFILL: Domestically, is keeping unemployment rates relatively high, or at least not low, is that helping the corporate bottom line?

    BARRY RITHOLTZ: Well, there's certainly been lots and lots of layoffs right in the middle of the crisis.

    They cut with an axe, not a scalpel. But the flip side of that is that the productivity gains and the deployment of technology has allowed companies to do more with less of a head count. So that efficiency factor is definitely an element. Their labor costs are just much lower than they used to be.

    GWEN IFILL: Matt Phillips, Barry Ritholtz was just talking about cutting with an axe, not a scalpel, which is what everybody said the sequester debate that happened in Washington was about.

    So, why -- if the sequester was supposed to be so harmful to the economy -- we heard Ben Bernanke said it was going to put a drag on the economy -- why aren't we seeing it here?

    MATT PHILLIPS: Well, that is a concern when coupled with other things like rising gasoline prices that could put something of a damper on U.S. consumers.

    But I think we can simplify things. The U.S. economy is mostly consumption, and the biggest things that Americans buy are houses and cars. There are signs that they're buying houses again and they're buying cars because interest rates are low. So if you try to boil it down to the simplest terms, the U.S. economy looks pretty decent.

    Sequester is out there on the horizon. There are some dark clouds. But for the data that we're seeing right now, things look OK.

    GWEN IFILL: You just heard Barry Ritholtz call this a mediocre recovery. Have people regained the losses from 2007?

    MATT PHILLIPS: Well, it depends on what you're looking at.

    Overall, house prices are still about 25 percent below their peak. So that is still having a negative impact on household balance sheets. But house prices have been showing decent gains lately, so that's going to help people -- that's going to help people feel a little bit wealthier.

    And I think that's an important point. Part of the reason why the Federal Reserve has been pumping so much cash into the economy is to try to shore up asset prices. And stock markets are one of those assets. So, as you mentioned, people looking at their 401(k) statements and feeling good, that's really important for keeping people willing to open their wallets and spend.

    After the Japanese financial crisis, we're about 23 years after Japanese stocks peaked. They are still about 70 percent lower than they were in January 1990. Now, if you wanted to feel bad, you would go back in time and look at your 401(k) statement in about March 2009, and you wouldn't feel too good about spending.

    GWEN IFILL: Barry Ritholtz, what about this idea of consumer confidence as a driver in all of this?

    BARRY RITHOLTZ: You know, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to consumer confidence, except when it looks at extreme levels.

    We just saw income come out recently, and it was as bad as it's ever been, and yet at the same day, we saw consumer spending actually ticked up. It's -- I'm fond of saying the countryside is littered with the bodies of economists who bet against the U.S. consumers. So even though we have an eight percent unemployment rate, 92 percent of the labor force is working and they're out spending money.

    I think that's going to continue until we see the next significant downturn. Remember, these things are cyclical. There's always a downturn in three, five, seven years off in the future.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you both this question, and starting with you, Matt Phillips.

    How enduring is this? How much good news should we take from a day like today, breaking new records? We love empirical measures. We had one today. Can everyone sigh now?

    MATT PHILLIPS: I don't think so.

    GWEN IFILL: I will start with Matt, and then I will come to you, Barry.

    MATT PHILLIPS: I think it might be good for everyone's morale just to sit back and take in the view, but you should be pretty cautious about trying to extrapolate where the economy is going to go from the stock market.

    They are two different things. The stock market can run way ahead. The optimism in the stock market can run way ahead of where the economy is. So I think it's true that the economy is still showing some signs of improvement, but it's also true that the stock market might be getting a little bit too optimistic.

    So it really depends. If I knew, I would be sitting in a different chair.

    GWEN IFILL: Barry Ritholtz, I think I heard you begin to say it's not time to exhale yet.

    BARRY RITHOLTZ: Well, typically -- I will give you a little more empirical data.

    Typically, when we see a market crash like in '08-'09, the average snapback is about 70 percent. And here we are. We're 136 percent. So this has gone a good long way, and that's where a lot of the credit or blame has to be given to the Fed.

    The question that I think a lot of people are thinking about longer term is when the Fed finally begins to remove this accommodation, what might that do for stocks? And the expectation is, unless it's a really robust economy, once the Fed starts throttling back, it might become a little tougher sledding for equities.

    But in the meantime, it's a pretty positive development to set new highs.

    GWEN IFILL: Barry Ritholtz of Fusion IQ and Matt Phillips of Atlantic Media, thank you both very much.

    BARRY RITHOLTZ: Our pleasure.

    MATT PHILLIPS: Thank you. 


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. and China joined today in pushing for fresh U.N. sanctions on North Korea. The aim is to punish Pyongyang for conducting another nuclear test last month.

    U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the proposal will target what she called illicit activities by North Korean diplomats and banking operations.

    U.S. AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE, United Nations: North Korea will be subject to some of the toughest sanctions imposed by the United Nations. The breadth and scope of these sanctions is exceptional and demonstrates the strength of the international community's commitment to denuclearization and the demand that North Korea comply with its international obligations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: North Korea angrily rejected the proposed sanctions, and it denounced ongoing new war games by the U.S. and South Korea. The country's military talked of canceling the cease-fire that ended the Korean War in 1953.

    KIM YONG CHOL, Korean People's Army: The Korean People's Army Supreme Command will declare completely invalid the Korean armistice agreement as of March 11th, the day when the war maneuvers enter into a full-dress stage. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea will make a strike of justice at any target any time it pleases without limit and achieve the great cause of the country's reunification.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.N. Security Council may vote on the sanctions resolution on Thursday.

    John Brennan is one step closer to becoming CIA director. The Senate Intelligence Committee approved his nomination today 12-3, and sent it to the full Senate. That came after White House officials provided classified legal opinions justifying drone attacks on terror suspects overseas. Later, NBC News reported Attorney General Eric Holder has ruled out drone attacks inside the U.S., except in an extraordinary circumstance, such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

    U.S. officials are saying the CIA wasn't involved in the latest drone strikes in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have said the attacks in early February killed two senior al-Qaida commanders and several others in remote tribal areas. The New York Times today cited unnamed American sources who said the CIA hasn't attacked any targets in those areas since January. The officials suggested Pakistan's military may have carried out the strikes.

    China's Communist Party rulers laid out their plans for the future today, and they conceded the need to address environmental damage and political corruption.

    Margaret Warner has that story.

    MARGARET WARNER: In his final address to China's National People's Congress, outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jiabao touted his country's economic leap forward in the face of the 2008 global downturn.

    WEN JIABAO, Chinese Premier: In the last five years, we have moved beyond the serious blow dealt by the international financial crisis. This crisis hit hard and expanded quickly. Its impact was deep and seen once in a hundred years. We have faced it with a clear head.

    MARGARET WARNER: In fact, China's GDP nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012. But this year's growth rate target was set today at 7.5 percent, which, if not exceeded, would be China's slowest since 1990. And Wen warned the country's communist leaders that they must deal with the growing gap between rich and poor and the quality-of-life issues affecting all citizens.

    WEN JIABAO: We should resolutely solve problems of serious air, water, and soil pollution that affect people's vital interests, improve environmental quality, safeguard people's health, and give people hope through our concrete action.

    MARGARET WARNER: Beijing in particular is choked by smog, and there is widespread contamination of China's water and soil. There's also mounting anger over official corruption, as Wen acknowledged. The most public scandal involving Bo Xilai, a former rising star in the Communist Party who fell from power last year.

    WEN JIABAO: We should unwaveringly combat corruption, strengthen politically integrity; establish institutions to end the excessive concentration of power and lack of checks on power.

    MARGARET WARNER: These challenges will largely fall to Xi Jinping, who officially takes over as president at the end of the two-week-long assembly. He will take the reins at a time of rising Chinese assertiveness in the region and territorial disputes with Japan and other neighbors.

    All this bolstered by a defense budget that it was announced today will expand by more than 10 percent again this year. Yet, spending on internal security will top defense spending for the third straight year.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A late winter storm in the U.S. roared across the Upper Midwest today, bringing a load of heavy wet snow. The storm blanketed Wisconsin and Illinois, making for treacherous travel conditions and shutting down schools. Chicago was expecting 10 inches of snow, forcing the city's airports to cancel more than 1,100 flights.

    The system was on track to strike the Washington, D.C., area overnight, where more than 800 flights are already canceled.

    Those are some of the day's major stories -- now back to Ray.


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    RAY SUAREZ: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is dead. The 58-year-old leader succumbed to cancer this afternoon.

    We turn again to Margaret for that story.

    MARGARET WARNER: The announcement of the Venezuelan leader's death came late this afternoon by the country's vice president, Nicolas Maduro.

    Chavez had shown remarkable staying power, ruling the South American country for 14 years. He survived a coup that briefly deposed him, a constitution that term-limited him out of office, and won an October election after his first bout with cancer.

    He and his brand of revolutionary socialism antagonized three U.S. administrations, as he cozied up to the world's most isolated regimes in Cuba, Iran, and Syria.

    For more on his death and what it means for the future of Venezuela, I'm joined by Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, and Carl Meacham, head of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    And welcome to you both.

    Michael Shifter, Chavez is gone. What does he leave behind?

    MICHAEL SHIFTER, Inter-American Dialogue: Well, he leaves behind a country that's very, very polarized, very divided. There's tremendous mistrust.

    A lot of people had a lot of hopes and expectations for him. There's going to be a lot of sadness and a lot of grief, genuine grief, in Venezuela. He was somebody who put his finger on the legitimate grievances, the social injustice and social inequality in Venezuela. But in the end, he couldn't solve the problems, because he concentrated power in his own hands.

    There was only one person who made decisions for 14 years, and that was Hugo Chavez. And that doesn't work in this day in age. And so it's a country that has high rates of inflation, tremendous crime, scarcity of goods, fiscal deficit. It's not in good shape, decaying infrastructure. So whoever takes over, whatever happens, it's going to be very, very difficult.

    MARGARET WARNER: Is it fair to say, though, Carl Meacham, that he transformed a country more than most leaders in the modern era can or do?

    CARL MEACHAM, Center for Strategic and International Studies: Sure, you can say that he led -- his personality was larger than life. There's no doubt about that.

    And he was able to push through some reforms that were very helpful to a lot of folks that needed them. He was able to speak for folks that hadn't been respected in Venezuela before. On the other hand, there's the autocratic leadership. There's questions with regards to his commitment to be a democratic leader. There's question with regards to his ability to be a rational actor in an economic -- in a capitalist world.

    And the views that folks have regarding the economy now in Venezuela are very, I would say there's -- in his wake, he leaves a lot of destruction in areas that before his leadership or before his tenure weren't as bad.

    MARGARET WARNER: You mean like the oil industry, for example?

    CARL MEACHAM: Correct. Correct.

    MARGARET WARNER: So can Chavisma -- Chavismo survive Chavez's death, in other words, his brand of he called it 21st century socialism, or is it unsustainable?

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think it will survive in some form.

    This is -- there are a lot of people that have benefited a lot from this regime over 14 years. They benefit in terms of power, in terms of money. This is a regime that has a lot of money and spent a lot of money. Oil was $10 dollars a barrel when he came in, in 1999, and it's gone up to way over a hundred.

    So there are a lot of people that have benefited from this regime. And it's going to survive. He is a figure that generates enormous passions. Nobody is neutral about Hugo Chavez. And you look at other countries, like Argentina, Peron. Peronism survives many, many years after Peron. So this, I think, will survive.

    But nobody can match his charisma, and nobody can have his ability to hold things together. He had enormous leadership and he had money.

    MARGARET WARNER: What would you add to that? I mean, do you think this economic approach in particular can survive him?

    CARL MEACHAM: I think the questions are out there with regards to the survival of Chavismo.

    I think that, as you have seen with places like Argentina with Peron, they survive in -- might -- they might survive in name, but the actual implementation of these models, there's no such thing as Chavismo. There's patronage within Chavismo, and there's -- there's not a model to strengthen government institutions within Chavismo.

    There is not an opening up to economic opportunity within Chavismo. So I think there are a lot of questions with regards to this way of governing going forward.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do either of the at least main candidates or likely candidates in the next election, do they share this vision that he so relentlessly pursued?

    CARL MEACHAM: I think that, first of all, we don't know if there's going to be an election any time soon. There's been a funny sort of interpretation of the constitution of Venezuela.

    MARGARET WARNER: Which calls for elections in 30 days, but ...

    CARL MEACHAM: But they haven't done it. And there's been an actual designation by President Chavez to have his vice president, Mr. Maduro, succeed him, when the constitution actually said that the head of the assembly would take over for 30 days and there would be an election.

    So there's questions in that regard. But is there going to be a model of Chavismo going forward? We don't know if it's going to survive the events that are coming up during the next months.

    MARGARET WARNER: Did he, Michael Shifter, nurture kind of a new generation of leaders that shared his vision, or was it quite particular to him?

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think it's -- nobody can -- he has a vision, and he thought he was Simon Bolivar ..

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: ... his independence hero of South America. And he really had a -- there's very, very -- the other leaders that are there, the most probable candidate, his successor, Nicolas Maduro, clearly doesn't have his vision.

    He's been a loyalist. There have been yes-men. They have been part of this machine, this apparatus that he's built up, part of the movement, but they don't embody what he had.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, what about his reflex -- his anti-Americanism? That was one of his signature issues. Maduro today accused the United States essentially of being behind his illness, expelled two Air Force attaches.

    Is that likely to endure?

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think Maduro did this. He needs to shore up support and rally the base of -- I think -- I disagree with Carl. I would be very surprised if there weren't elections, frankly.

    I think that there are going to be elections because the government is in a very strong position. They're going to win. At least, the odds are that they're going to win. There's a lot of compassion and sympathy. Chavez's death will further mobilize that. So they're in a strong position.

    The opposition is very disoriented, very, very demoralized. And so there are going to be elections. It gives them legitimacy. So I think that is going to happen.

    MARGARET WARNER: And back to the U.S. interests here, do you think this anti-Americanism is somehow really embedded in the political culture?

    CARL MEACHAM: I think that, within Chavismo, it is.

    I think before the tenure of President Chavez, you had a much more mixed view towards the United States. I would disagree with what Peter's saying about the elections and support within Chavismo. Chavismo is split. Chavismo, we are going to also see what happens with Chavismo in the next coming days. We're also going to see what is going to happen with the military support of whatever model occurs or emerges out of Chavismo. And there's the opposition, who really would want to have elections.

    So, the opposition might even benefit from a split within Chavismo. We don't know.

    MARGARET WARNER: Very complicated.

    CARL MEACHAM: Sure.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, thank you very much, Carl Meacham and Michael Shifter.

    MICHAEL SHIFTER: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: Online, you can find a slide show highlighting Chavez's political career. That's on our home page. 


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    RAY SUAREZ: Lawmakers missed last week's deadline on the sequester. Today, they moved forward on laying the groundwork for averting a government shutdown later this month.

    With the sequester now reality, House Republicans turned to a new issue, a spending bill to fund the federal government through September.

    House Speaker John Boehner:

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: The House will pass a bill there week to keep the government open through the end of the fiscal year. Spending is the problem here in Washington, and our goal is to cut spending, not to shut the government down.

    RAY SUAREZ: The bill would leave the overall sequester cuts of $85 billion dollars in place, but it would also make adjustments, increasing Pentagon funding for military readiness and allowing the Border Patrol to maintain current staff numbers without the threat of furloughs.

    Other changes would protect funding for federal prisons and for firefighting programs in the West, and ensure new funding for embassy security, all of that in a continuing resolution, or C.R.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: We are optimistic that we will be able to pass a C.R. both through the House and the Senate at the sequester level, and thereby not have a huge dispute over the continued operation of the government for the rest of the year.

    There seems to be no interest on either side in having a kind of confrontational government shutdown scenario.

    RAY SUAREZ: Still, Democrats will want some changes. For one thing, the Republican bill denies funding for implementing health care reform and overhauling financial regulation.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: So what remains to be seen is whether this move apparently away from a crisis is truly a shift in strategy for the Republicans or just a short break from extremism that they have had over the last few years. They're going to have make a decision soon as to what they're going to do.

    RAY SUAREZ: Indeed, current funding for federal operations runs out March 27, so Congress will have to act by then to prevent a government shutdown. And less than two months later, on May 19th, the nation will again reach the debt ceiling, its borrowing limit.

    In the meantime, the Republican funding bill is set to advance through the House as soon as tomorrow.

    For more on the upcoming debate over the Republican spending measure and the potential hurdles, we are joined by Todd Zwillich. He's Washington correspondent for "The Takeaway" on Public Radio International.

    Todd, welcome.

    TODD ZWILLICH, "The Takeaway": Good to be with you.

    RAY SUAREZ: As we just heard, there's more than one clock and more than one deadline. What's job one for Congress right now?

    TODD ZWILLICH: Preventing the government shutdown, as you mentioned in the piece, is job one.

    And you heard a lot of nice talk there from the leaders about how they intend to avoid this crisis. And they do intend to avoid it. Whether they actually can is an open question. There are some land mines here as they try to pass this continuing resolution, with the sequestration cuts lingering in the background and policy differences between the House and Senate.

    You see the House protecting some of their priorities. You mentioned defense spending and homeland security, border protection. The Senate Democrats want to do the same thing. And what's really going on here is what you see is lawmakers kind of getting their authority back, authority that they have lost with all the budget-cutting going that has been on the last two years in Washington. Sequestration cuts takes away their authority.

    Earmarks are banned. Being a lawmaker now, under Article I of the Constitution, being an appropriator, isn't what it used to be. It's now presiding over cuts. By making these changes that you mentioned there in the piece to the C.R. which holds spending levels constant, they're taking back some of their own authority to say, yes, we're going to continue at the same levels, yes, sequestration is still the law of the land, but we're not going to rely on these broad, they call them meat axe cuts.

    We're going to say, yes, troop levels get this much funding, border security gets this much funding. Democrats want to say, we're going to put money into Head Start. We're going to put some money into education programs or transportation, grabbing their authority back from what they see as the broad cuts of sequestration.

    RAY SUAREZ: People may be sitting at home listening to what you just said and think, I have seen this movie before. There's just over three weeks until the sand runs through the hourglass, and the Republicans in the House and the Democrats and the Senate look like they're going to come up with different versions of that continuing resolution.

    Then what?

    TODD ZWILLICH: It's a game of Ping-Pong is what we call it on Capitol Hill.

    The old idea of the House passes a version, the Senate passes a version, they get a conference committee together and work it out, that's dead for now. There's no capacity for a conference. What's going to happen is the House is going to pass its bill tomorrow -- likely tomorrow. We have a snowstorm coming. It was going to be on Thursday. They moved that up to tomorrow.

    You have to watch that bill closely. How many Republicans does John Boehner get to vote for this bill? There are some conservative groups already, Ray. Club for Growth -- pardon me, FreedomWorks, Tea Party group, important Tea Party group, has said to members, we're watching this vote, vote no, it doesn't cut spending enough.

    There are conservative House Republicans who say, this bill is a great opportunity to repeal the contraception mandate under Obamacare. Democrats will revolt if that happens. Boehner passes this bill tomorrow, sends it to the Senate. Senate Democrats then, as Mitch McConnell so gratuitous -- graciously said today, get to put their stamp on it.

    Once that's done, no conference. It goes back to the House. Now the conservative House Republicans have to stomach a bill that Senate Democrats, some of them liberals, Harry Reid, Barbara Mikulski, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, have their fingerprints all over.

    And that means is a probable repeat of a dynamic we have seen with every tough vote. There may not be -- in fact, there likely won't be a majority of Republicans to prevent a government shutdown. John Boehner will have to rely on Nancy Pelosi to provide the votes. She has a lot more say than she used to in these things.

    RAY SUAREZ: Unlike some of these other deadlines, is the thought of a government shutdown so frightening for political reasons to some of the players here, that they may have to bend in order to avoid the clock running out on March 27th?

    TODD ZWILLICH: Well, that's exactly what you see here.

    The leaders on both sides appear to have decided that a showdown over a shutdown is not in their interests. There have been some bloody fights in the past. Everybody knows that. There a couple of more to come in the future. Everybody decided that the polls are telling them that a shutdown won't be in their interest.

    It's encouraging, in that the House is going to act here with a three-week window before time runs out. If this were a situation where they really were backing each other up against the wall and it were a real showdown, they tend to back those things up five days to go, four days to go, time to make decisions.

    This three-week window helps to get an agreement, but there are land mines, as I mentioned, on John Boehner's right with the House conservatives, and then sending that bill back, if they have to get an agreement in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats to get that magical 60 votes.

    Then it goes back, and how many Republicans actually vote for it? How many votes does John Boehner have to go to Nancy Pelosi to provide to make sure the government doesn't shut down? It's not clear yet.

    RAY SUAREZ: Todd Zwillich of "The Takeaway," thanks for joining us.

    TODD ZWILLICH: Pleasure. 


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    GWEN IFILL: Next tonight: the debate over the role of the federal government.

    The issue was a central focus of last year's presidential campaign, and it is at the heart of a new book by Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general and a candidate for governor.

    Judy Woodruff talked with him recently.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, thank you very much for talking with us.

    ATTORNEY GENERAL KENNETH CUCCINELLI, R-Va.: My pleasure. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the book is "The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty."

    Your main theme is about how the federal government has overstepped its authority, that it's taken liberty, it's taken freedom from the American people. And you say this goes back over a long time. So, who's responsible?

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Well, you can't lay this on one person.

    This has been a growing process. And we have reached a point in this particular administration where it's happening faster and more brazenly than in my lifetime and your lifetime ever before across the administration. But it isn't new. And we point out in the book Republicans have done this, other Democrats have done this.

    It's a continual tension between the federal government, typically the executive branch of the federal government -- though, with health care, you had them all engaged -- and everybody else, typically represented by the states. But also, if you look at something like the first NLRB case with Boeing, that's ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the National Labor Relations Board.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: That's right -- between an agency and a company. And the states can't step in there. They have got to fight for themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You start -- you actually go all the way back to the founding fathers, and you write about how they struggled about this balance between power at the center ...

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... the federal government vs. the power of the states, the people.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: That's right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you make a case for how they didn't quite get it right.

    If you could have gone back and looked over their shoulder, what would you have had them do differently in the beginning?

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Well, I was having a similar conversation yesterday.

    And the two things I would do differently if -- or I think the founders would do differently, put more accurately, if they could have looked ahead, were they wouldn't have done lifetime tenure for judges. They would have had long terms, but not lifetime. And I think they would have done term limits. But those sorts of things ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean for members of Congress?

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Of Congress and the Senate, yes.

    And those sorts of things are pretty fundamental. And they're not going to happen now or, at least they're very unlikely. But the kinds of balance of power we're talking about really was much more gradual. If you look at one of those two changes, it's the lifetime judges, actually, because, gradually, in the end of the 19th century and as we moved into the 20th century, the court, particularly in the New Deal era, really opened up the power of the federal government relative to what it had been perceived to be for the 150 years before.

    And that opened the door to much more expansive executive power. And we have seen that continue to happen and to grow. And what we talk about in the book is example after example where they're breaking the law, or where they're trampling the Constitution. And the states have a role to play. And I'm obviously an attorney general. I represent a state.

    And we pushed back. And the founders expected us to do that. That part is working.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned health care just now.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you spent a lot of time in the book on health care.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You, as the attorney general of Virginia, want to -- were the very first to sue the Obama administration over health care reform.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: That's right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, now fast-forward a couple of years. A number of Republican governors around the country are saying they are going to go along with the administration's Medicaid expansion.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that?

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Well, first of all, it's worth remembering that, in that health care case, there were four constitutional arguments. The smaller-government side won three of them. We won three of them.

    The only reason the law is still standing is because the chief justice read the taxing power what was considered by any of us to be incredibly expansively, and upheld the law with four other votes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, you say he may have done irreparable harm to the independence of the court.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: I think that he did. I think that -- I suspect -- and I'm speculating here and not applying motives -- I think he was very concerned about the view of America of the Supreme Court.

    And in his desire to have the court be viewed favorably by America and Americans, he overthought where this ought to end up, because really what a judge ought to do is walk through a process of how to analyze it, is it constitutional or isn't it on any of a number of bases. And I think what he ended up doing was doing great damage to the view of Americans of the court.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Global warming, though, you say in the book you believe there is such a thing as global warming. You just question how it's being addressed.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: I have serious concerns about how it's being addressed.

    The proposed reactions -- and, by that, I mean government policies -- are phenomenally expensive. They're phenomenally restrictive of opportunities in the economy. They make poor people poorer. And if you go down to Southwest Virginia with me, you will find one industry, the coal industry.

    It's Appalachia. It's probably the poorest part of America. This administration is attacking that industry and that region of Virginia. Those are the poorest people in Virginia. And when you have this kind of incredible cost -- and there are times when huge regulatory costs properly should be absorbed, but we need to be sure before we do that, because these have crushing effects in real people's lives.

    And they're not rich people. They're poor people. Poor people are hurt first and worst by this sort of regulatory onslaught. And those are the people I'm fighting for. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You're running for governor of the state of Virginia.

    And a number of mainstream Republicans, I guess we will call them, have looked at the results of last year's election and they have said the party has got to focus on expanding its appeal to voters ...

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... who didn't vote Republican last year ...

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... minorities, women. And they say extreme views are not the views that are going to -- that are going to appeal.

    How do you look at that argument? What do you say?

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Well, first of all, in the context of what I have done as attorney general, or what I am most known for -- there are a lot of other things I have worked on, whether it's mental health, whether it's protecting the elderly -- but what I'm known for as attorney general is pushing back on the federal government.

    And there are -- because that's a confrontational undertaking, there are people who view that uncomfortably in the Republican Party, some of the folks that you mentioned. But the fact of the matter is, of our three lawsuits with the federal government, two of them have had Democrat co-plaintiffs. We just won one last month with Fairfax County, the largest county in Virginia, run by Democrats, saved them about $250 million dollars by beating the EPA.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you're saying -- you're saying you're not out of the mainstream?

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Not at all.

    In fact, Pew Research last -- at the end of January, had their first ever poll with a majority of Americans saying that they thought the federal government was a serious threat to their rights and liberties. Now, that means we're right in the mainstream.

    That's not just Republicans. That -- independents were in a majority, and almost 40 percent of Democrats said that. So, I think there's a serious concern that Americans have woken up to in terms of the role of government and how far it should go and how far it shouldn't go. And I have been active in pushing back on an expansive federal government. And I think that's actually being favored -- more favorably viewed today than it has in recent years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are going to continue this interview online.

    For now, let me thank you ...

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Well, good.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

    KENNETH CUCCINELLI: Thank you, Judy.

    GWEN IFILL: And, as Judy mentioned, you can find more of that conversation on our website, including Cuccinelli's views on Medicaid expansion.

    Also online, a different perspective, courtesy of former Vice President Al Gore, who joined us recently to discuss his new book, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change."


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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: Thanksgiving is about family and Turkey, yes. But it's also about football, especially high school football, as teams around the country battle archrivals or play in championship games.

    Recently, I talked with an unusual high school football coach about success on the field and off.

    It's part of our American Graduate project, our series on the high school dropout problem.

    Natalie Randolph is a high school science teacher with a finely developed sense of the psychology of teenaged boys.

    You have to prove yourself.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH, Coolidge High School: No.

    JEFFREY BROWN: No?

    You have to prove how tough you are?

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: No. They have enough fun proving how tough they are with each other.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That keeps them busy.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: That keeps them busy long enough.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Randolph, 32, is slightly built and has a high-pitched voice, but she is plenty tough.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: All the way up.

    STUDENT: It hurts.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: So what? Pain is weakness leaving the body.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Tough enough in fact to be head football coach at CoolidgeHigh School in Washington, D.C.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Come on. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. come on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She's believed to be the only woman in the country to hold such a position. And that put her in the media spotlight when she took the job nearly three years ago.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: While I'm proud to be part of what this all means, being female has nothing to do with it. I love football. I love football. I love teaching. I love these kids.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And tension only grew last year as Randolph coached her team into the city's championship game, the annual Turkey Bowl played on Thanksgiving.

    Randolph grew up in Washington, graduated from the University of Virginia, and played football herself for six years with the D.C. Divas, a professional women's league.

    But if she's passionate about football and focused on winning, she's also quite clear about priorities, football as a means towards staying and excelling in school.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Academics come first. And we always -- all of my coaches, we always preach to them, when you get our age, you won't be playing football. So, we like to think we have a lot of life to live, so you will too. And you need to prepare for that.

    Football is kind of just icing on the cake.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How do you break it down? I'm one of your kids here, right?

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I just want to go out and practice. I don't want to go study.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Well, we tell them you have to be a whole person. You have to be smart. You're not going to be very effective on the football field if you're not smart and you're not good at studying, analyzing things.

    These colleges, you know, they have hundreds of applicants to choose from, hundreds of players to choose from that are just as big, just as strong, just as fast.

    And what's going to set you apart is your character and your academics.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Part of being a whole person, she says, graduating from high school. As elsewhere around the country, that's a major problem in the city where Randolph teaches.

    The high school graduation rate in Washington, D.C., last year was under 60 percent.

    And like public school teachers elsewhere, she sees the realities facing many of her students.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Their responsibilities at home and outside of school, sometimes, that will pull them away. They, you know, figure that it's easier for them to get a job at this point so that they can sustain whatever needs to be sustained. And they don't come back to school.

    Or some of them are so far behind, you know, academically, they get frustrated. And it's like, well, why bother?

    JEFFREY BROWN: All athletes at Coolidge are required to attend a one hour and 15 minute study hall Monday through Thursday before practice begins.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Who messed you up? Nobody messed you but you. You earned them grades.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Randolph and two other teachers run the session, hitting their students athletes over the head with the football facts of life.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: When the college coaches come here and they ask me what your GPA is, they're not worried about the GPA on here, on your transcript that says cumulative GPA. They're not worried about that. What they're worried about is your GPA of these combined 16 courses.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She also mentors her charges in a variety of other ways.

    MYLES GINYARD,CoolidgeHigh School: I come to her when I'm having trouble in a class. She talks with me: Don't give up. Keep pushing through it. Like, in life, everything is not going to go your way.

    BRYAN FULFORD,CoolidgeHigh School: She all wants us to succeed and like go to college to the next level, even if it's not football-wise. Like, if it's academic-wise, she still wants us to do that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Randolph's success on and off the field has attracted praise from local leaders.

    MAYOR VINCENT GRAY, D-Washington: You need to have a full array of opportunities that are going to attract kids. And, certainly, interscholastic athletics like this is one of the best dropout and truancy prevention programs we could possibly have.

    TOMMY WELLS, D.C. Council member: She's really shown how to leverage the football team to keep these young men, you know, on the straight path, but also to graduate from high school.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One former player, Chuck Gaines, is now at ShawUniversity in North Carolina. He credits Randolph with getting him there.

    CHUCK GAINES, former CoolidgeHigh School student: My grades improved from a C average to a B when I was being coached by coach Randolph. Like, she pushed academics had. So, it was school first and then football. The majority of kids nowadays are just focused on sports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Gaines, who spent much of his childhood moving from one homeless shelter to another, Randolph also taught him important life lessons.

    CHUCK GAINES: It's always something I will remember that she always told me that helped me do everything.

    If it's not hard, it's not worth it.

    When I'm in class and I have got a big paper write, I always go to her and she will always tell me that. She will always tell me that. She goes, if it's not hard, it's not worth it.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: It sounds sappy, but if they know that you love them, they will work. And if they know that you care about what they're going through and understand what they're going through, they will work.

    And they make mistakes. They fall. We pick them back up and then show them what they did wrong. They fix it. And they do it again.

    And eventually they get it. In the end, they always get it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You used the word sappy. I'm thinking of football, which is violent, tough. On the football field, you have got to show how tough you are.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Oh, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And here you are talking about love. You don't see a disconnect?

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: No. I mean, they will go out there and they will run into each other and hit and whatever they need to do. And that's not the hard part about it.

    They need to know that they're going to be cared for in order to make that sacrifice. They need to know they're not making that sacrifice for nothing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, life on the field got harder this year for Randolph and the Coolidge Colts. The good news, more than 20 seniors from last year's team graduated.

    The bad news, that left a much younger and less experienced group behind. The team went 3-9 this season and won't be playing in the Turkey Bowl, leaving Natalie Randolph, the teacher, sounding like football coaches everywhere.

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Yes, it sucks to lose. Every coach wants to win. And, yes, I want to win. Some games ...

    JEFFREY BROWN: But that's the ...

    NATALIE RANDOLPH: Right. Some games, we could have won, you know?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Still, success here is measured in many ways. Coolidge's young players did end their season with a victory.

    And, online, we have more from coach Randolph's former student Chuck Gaines. You can read about his journey from being a homeless teen to a college freshman.

    American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And she's an inspiration.


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    GWEN IFILL: And we close about with new findings about declining life spans for some women. Those come from a pair of new studies.

    The first reported that, in 43 percent of the nation's counties, many of them in the South and the West, women -- more women 75 and younger are dying sooner. The second study found mortality for all Americans under 50, but particularly women, is more pronounced in the U.S. than other high-income countries. Both were published in the journal "Health Affairs."

    Editor in chief and a NewsHour regular Susan Dentzer joins me now.

    Susan, hello.

    SUSAN DENTZER, “Health Affairs”: Nice to be with you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: So, the first question is why. Why are we seeing these increased mortality rates at younger ages?

    SUSAN DENTZER: This is an unfortunate stew of unpleasant circumstances.

    Chronic disease is driving a lot of this early death in women. A lot of this is death before the age of 50, believe it or not. So it's issues like obesity, correlated with heart disease, diabetes, smoking. We know that one in five U.S. adults are still smoking. A lot of that smoking is going on in this population.

    Unintentional injuries, traffic accidents, and drug overdoses, particularly prescription drug abuse emerging now in the data as another big cause of mortality in this population.

    GWEN IFILL: But, at least in one of these studies -- one was from the University of Wisconsin, one was from the University of Washington -- at least in one, they said that male mortality figures were holding steady. Why aren't men more affected?

    SUSAN DENTZER: Well, it's been true over time that female life expectancy is generally longer than male life expectancy anyway.

    So it's not as if the situation is completely rosy for men. It is true, in the David Kindig study from the University of Wisconsin, that in three percent of U.S. counties, male mortality also is rising. So the men aren't held harmless here.

    But the big effect has been I'm women, and particularly since we have been -- we have been expecting women's life expectancy to be longer. What we now see is that, for women in particular with less than 12 years of education, so women who didn't make it out of high school, their life expectancy has actually fallen by four years since 1990.

    And that means, overall, it's part of the equation that now has U.S. life expectancy looking so poor relative to all our other rich countries, all peer countries.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there a regional way of pinpointing this, or demographics?

    SUSAN DENTZER: Yes.

    If you look at a map, it's concentrated in, say, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, down to what's known as the "Stroke Belt," Louisiana, Texas, over to the West -- not so much California, interestingly.

    And one interesting aspect of the story is that this is not a situation that is driven -- it's not cropping up in the Hispanic population, for example. It's really more white lower-income populations in the Southern part of the country in particular.

    GWEN IFILL: And we say 43 -- that number, 43 percent of counties, what number? Is there a way to say how many women are actually affected?

    SUSAN DENTZER: Well, not necessarily from this study.

    But if you think about it, we have about 3,000 -- 3,100 U.S. counties or parishes or the equivalent. And so it's a hefty portion. It's not the most populous counties. The more populous counties tend to be, say, in the Northeast or in California. These are less populous areas of the country that still are very, very hard-hit by these phenomena.

    GWEN IFILL: And are there trend lines that we should be watching, whether it's comparing what is happening here to what's happening in other countries, to just what's happening domestically?

    SUSAN DENTZER: Well, what we know is our situation continues to worsen relative to all the other rich countries.

    The Institute of Medicine published a study in January, "U.S. Health and International Perspective," that shows that our life expectancy is worse, that our mortality before age 50 is particularly driving the problem. That was emphasized also by Jessica Ho's study.

    Again, we're -- if you look -- if you compare the years of life that Americans lose before the age of 50 relative to the average of all the other rich countries, we're double. We lose double the amount of life before age 50 of these other countries.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there a way to pinpoint when this slide began? Is this something that is brand-new, or is this something that we have been able to document over time?

    SUSAN DENTZER: We have been seeing this crop up in the data starting in the late '80s and early 1990s.

    And one of the interesting factors that David Kindig, one of the authors, suggested is we really need to go back now and look at these data and see if they're correlated with any of our economic cataclysms that we have had.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    SUSAN DENTZER: Has that been driving any of this? Or it this just independent of economic forces, independent of unemployment rates, for example? That could be a driver.

    We also know, of course, these are areas of the country where there's barely been any wage growth to speak of for many years. And we need to start to tease it across all of these economic and social factors that are driving this.

    GWEN IFILL: So, your -- there's an assumption somewhere in this that if you dig deep enough, you may find that the reason why it happens in certain counties and not in others is that these people who maybe don't have the resources may be eating a worse diet, may be more likely to smoke, may engage in behaviors that you might not do if you were more prosperous.

    SUSAN DENTZER: And we know that the social and economic determinants of health, as they are called, are extremely powerful, and usually are driving differences in health status. And it's most likely that that's the case here.

    What that means is that to tackle this is much more complicated than, for example, giving people access to health care.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    SUSAN DENTZER: That really isn't going to be the fix. It will be efforts to raise educational levels, create more economic growth in communities, secure access to high-wage jobs, create a healthy food environment, more activity for individuals, all of those things, a much, much broader agenda.

    GWEN IFILL: How to turn it all around.

    Susan Dentzer of "Health Affairs," thank you so much.

    SUSAN DENTZER: Great to be with you, Gwen. 


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