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

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    It's clear our lives have changed as a result of the technological revolution. What's not clear is what happens to our digital lives when we die. Five states currently have laws that govern digital assets, but they vary widely.

    Monday on NewsHour, Naomi Cahn of The George Washington University School of Law and Evan Carroll, co-author of "Your Digital Afterlife," spoke with Jeffrey Brown about the legal and ethical questions regarding who gets access to a loved one's digital life after they've died. You can watch that segment below:

    Cahn and Carroll will join us for a live chat Friday afternoon. Do you have questions regarding this debate? Leave them in the comments section below or tweet them to @NewsHour using #DigiLife.

    Note: This post has been updated to reflect a revised live chat time.

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    GWEN IFILL: Catholic cardinals proclaimed a new leader of the church today: An Argentine archbishop who will now be known as Pope Francis. It was a departure from centuries-old traditions, and it brought an outpouring of celebration in Vatican City.

    A great wave of cheering broke as the much-anticipated white smoke rose from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel. By the tens of thousands, the faithful braved a chilly rain in St. Peter's Square. The bells of St. Peter's confirmed the news the crowds had been anxiously awaiting for hours. After just five rounds of voting, a new pontiff had been elected, just one day after the conclave began its closed meeting.

    As word spread, even more pilgrims and tourists descended on the Vatican, filling the square to capacity and packing into nearby streets to witness the historic moment.

    FRANCISCO ORIOLI, Argentinean Pilgrim: I cannot explain it. This is tremendous. This is the first time I am in Rome, and to have an Argentinean pope, it's tremendous.

    MANUEL ARRIETA, Argentinean Pilgrim: We are very happy as Argentineans. I think he is a very well-prepared person and we need to pray for the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ to give him the strength to lead the Catholic Church.

    GWEN IFILL: Italian military bands and the Swiss guard also marched through the square. But the new pope's identity wasn't officially revealed until more than an hour later, when he finally emerged from the velvet curtained balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, the chosen one, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, the first pontiff from the Americas.

    The 76-year-old chose the name Pope Francis. He delivered his first public address to the cheering crowd.

    POPE FRANCIS, Leader of Catholic Church: Brothers and sisters, good evening.

    As you know, the duty of the conclave is to give Rome a bishop. It seems to me that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world, but finally we are here.

    I would like to pray for Benedict, our bishop emeritus. We pray together for him, for God to bless him and for the Madonna to hold him.

    GWEN IFILL: The new pope has spent most of his career in Argentina, where he oversaw churches and priests across the country. Now he will lead the 1.2 billion members of the Roman Catholic Church, all while addressing a number of difficult issues plaguing the church, from priest sex abuse scandals to allegations of corruption.

    Pope Francis succeeds Benedict XVI, who stepped down last month. He was the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.

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    GWEN IFILL: Pope Francis will be formally installed on Tuesday. Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation.

    We get more now on the historic selection of Pope Francis from Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter.


    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS, National Catholic Reporter: Good to be here.

    GWEN IFILL: The first obvious question is, who is he?

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: Some of us are all scrambling. I think he was a surprise choice in part because of his age.

    What we have learned is he's a very simple and A humble man who, when he became the archbishop of Buenos Aires, chose not to live in the big mansion, but got a small apartment. He takes public transportation and did away with the limousine. He's obviously doctrinally conservative. And I think you will see -- none of the candidates were what we in America would consider doctrinal liberals.

    And most importantly he's from Latin America, and for the last 50 years the issue that the Latin American bishops have been dealing with is what does the preferential option for the poor mean and trying to wrestle with that on -- theologically, but also practically?

    Is it going to be just words, or is it really going to galvanize the church to care for the poor?

    GWEN IFILL: Was it also important that the pope come from an area of the world where there is growth, population growth in the church?


    I think this gets to the heart of the Gospel, which is good news for the poor. And I think sometimes in America and in Western Europe, we're simply too affluent to really hear it anymore in the way it was intended. But, in Africa, Latin America, where there are desperately poor people, for them it is still good news.

    GWEN IFILL: But he has no Roman experience, as it's known, that is, work inside the Vatican. He didn't come from that experience. Does that put him at a disadvantage at all?

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: And this is the danger is obviously he -- although he's been on several congregations as a cardinal, so he might know his way around, he's never worked in Rome.

    And the danger is that the old guard will say, you know, we're not going to tell you where the bathroom is unless you do what we want. So we will see. But he's a very strong leader in Buenos Aires, has a reputation as a decisive man, and I suspect has a mandate from the cardinals to clean up some of the messes that are there.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the things he said when he came out in the square today was -- or on the balcony -- was that he would be the new bishop of Rome. He specifically talked about the city of Rome. What was that about?

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: Again, this is our hope. And at this point it's all speculation.

    On too -- there's been so much centralization in the Catholic Church in Rome over the last 150 years. And I think bishops out trying to do their best don't want to be considered just branch managers. The bishop of Rome is the pope, but that doesn't mean you're the bishop of the entire world. And too many pontiffs have acted in that way and been not giving local bishops the authority and the decision-making power that I think that they want. And, hopefully, he will pursue that kind of a decentralization of authority.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, even though Pope Francis wasn't the front-runner, if there is such a thing, since we don't really know what goes on inside that conclave, he's still considered or it's been reported that he was the runner-up in 2005 to Pope Benedict.

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: It's hard to interpret that.

    One wonders -- you know, those were 40 votes that he supposedly got in 2005 who were not voting for Joseph Ratzinger, and that may indicate a certain amount of change. I just -- I want to caution. I think a lot of Americans think, oh, when they think of reform and change, they think we're going to have women priests. That wasn't a realistic expectation, given the cardinals who were in there.

    I think what they mean by reform touched on other issues, partly reorganization of the Curia, its relationships with local bishops, and again, are we going to focus a little bit less maybe on the traditional Latin mass and a little bit more on caring for the poor?

    GWEN IFILL: So this is not a pope or a papacy where we're going to see any kind of change when it comes to things like abortion or ...

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: Of course not.

    GWEN IFILL: ... gay marriage ...

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: Of course not.

    GWEN IFILL: ... or adoption or any of those social issues that get us so worked up, especially in the United States?


    And these are not issues in the Latin American church. When 50 percent of your people are living below the poverty line, shame on you if you're worried about other issues like that. You have got to be very hands-on worried about feeding your people so they don't go to bed hungry at night.

    GWEN IFILL: He was quoted as saying not too long ago, "If the church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old."

    Does that hearken some sort of change that's imminent?

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: You know, my worry is that the church sometimes does become very self-referential.

    And when they talk about the new evangelization, they reduce it to like teaching bishops how to use Twitter. And it has to mean more than that. It's curious he chose the name Francis. Francis actually faced a very corrupt church and a very degenerate culture in his day. And he changed it by kissing a leper.

    GWEN IFILL: We're talking about St. Francis of Assisi.

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: St. Francis, right.

    And that's how the church changes, that's how the church reforms, is by becoming again the gospel church that reaches out to the poor and embraces them and loves them.

    GWEN IFILL: We have to go back a little bit to this process and how he came to be pope. Was there anybody besides Americans -- were there anyone besides Americans who thought an American would be pope?

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: There was evidently a strong candidacy for Cardinal O'Malley. It was being pushed by an African cardinal and a couple of ...

    GWEN IFILL: The Boston archbishop.

    MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS: Yes, and a couple Latin American cardinals who were big fans of Cardinal O'Malley.

    We will find out within the next couple of weeks, get estimations and guesses about what the vote totals were. But I think that was a real -- there was a real buzz there. That wasn't just the media.


    Michael Sean Winters of National Catholic Reporter, thank you so much.


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    RAY SUAREZ: And for that, we're joined by Chester Gillis, a dean and professor of theology at Georgetown University. He has written extensively on the history of the papacy and Catholicism. And Sister Simone Campbell is the executive director of Network, a progressive Catholic organization which promotes social justice.

    Well, the new pope joked that the fellow cardinals went to the ends of the earth to find him. He is the first pope from the global south. In his context, Sister, what does it mean to be socially progressive and doctrinally conservative?

    SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, NETWORK: I think in the Argentine context, especially in the global south, it means to be keenly aware of the suffering of people at the margins of society.

    He has spoken very strongly against the income disparities, against the concentration of wealth in the north by First World countries, against the consequences, the adverse consequences of globalization and globalized trade for people who are poor.

    And then he is apparently very conservative on some of the social issues. And -- but that's very consistent with this whole idea that it's lifting up people in poverty is the key. That's where Jesus went, that's where Jesus was. And so I think he lives -- and it's interesting that he picked the name Francis, because that -- Francis was the most radical to reject the riches of his time and to embrace the whole concept of voluntary poverty, care for those at the margins.

    It's a significant step, I think.

    RAY SUAREZ: Dean, he comes from a background of supervising priests, rather than being a theologian or intellectual of the church. What practical aspect -- what practical application does that have in his new job?

    CHESTER GILLIS, Georgetown University: Well, that means he's a pastoral person, which is probably a good thing for the church.

    He's also a Jesuit. And Jesuits are intellectuals, all of them virtually, and a very powerful order in the church. So I think he has both sides. He has the pastoral side. And Jesuits are contemplatives in action. So there's a contemplation side and a spiritual side, but it is the activity side that has to manifest itself in culture and society. And it has to be on the side of the poor, the preferential option for the poor, as has been said.

    I think that's part of his orientation. He supervised priests, so he knows how to run an organization. He knows how to manage people. He knows the pressures of that job. But they haven't -- he hasn't let that go to his head.

    RAY SUAREZ: At the election of the last pope, Benedict XVI, it was observed because of his age that the electors were anticipating a short papacy. And, in fact, that's what they got. But Pope Francis is 76 years old, Sister. Did they just do it again?

    SIMONE CAMPBELL: Well, I think they did just do it again. But I think this is also an important step, because in our fast-paced globalized world, I think maybe the electors have some insights that a very long papacy like with John Paul had a lot of positives, but there was a lot of anguish at the end of the papacy, and a lot of things went undone, because we always need a variety of skills and a variety of gifts to make a difference.

    And I think that's what they're choosing, some new gifts, but not for too long.

    RAY SUAREZ: There's been stories of financial mismanagement, decline of the church in the West, and, of course, the ongoing unfolding, consistent revelation of the sexual abuse scandals. What's job one after the installation?

    CHESTER GILLIS: I think that job one is to put a management team in place, so to speak, to make some changes probably, even in the Curia, and put people in whom he trusts and who will make some changes in those structures and maybe even to more transparency in the Roman structure.

    You know, who would want this job, you wonder. You say, my goodness, it's not an easy task. And you're right. He's coming in at a very difficult time. This is not coming in when things are smooth. So he can make a big difference in a short period of time, potentially.


    CHESTER GILLIS: And part of that would be by what kind of management structure and with whom he surrounds himself to manage the affairs of the Vatican.

    RAY SUAREZ: But that's a tough thing when you're coming in from the outside, isn't it?

    SIMONE CAMPBELL: Oh, it is extremely difficult coming from the outside.

    But the thing that he brings, it appears, is a sense of humility, a sense of humor, which is wonderful, and the capacity to welcome in everyone to the center. And I think it's that capacity to welcome people in that will allow him to form a management team that can do something different.

    He comes from a democratic country, which is -- has been -- is led by a woman, so he is used to having other voices to deal with. So I think the fact that he understands democracy, knows the value of various voices, has worked with strong women will allow us then to create a good team that is diverse and that is pastoral as well as administratively sound.

    RAY SUAREZ: His home, Latin America, is also the home of a third of the world's Catholics. But it's also a place that's seen a lot of decline in the church, a lot of move to Protestant churches, to a more exuberant form of worship, great inroads in the church.

    Evangelism is being talked about a lot, that is, spreading the faith. He's been living that struggle, hasn't he, Dean?


    And the evangelism has really been an evangelism to Catholics, ironically. Evangelism traditionally has always been trying to convert people to Catholicism. In this case, it's the bring people back to Catholicism. As you suggested, in Latin America, there's a great migration to evangelical Protestantism that's problematic.

    In Europe, there's just a decline in religious interest and people just drop out. So to evangelize in both contexts is a very important element of the church. And someone who can carry that message, but also has a certain credibility about his own character and humility, I think, will help in that.

    But it's a struggle. It's not going to be easy. This is not going to turn around on a dime.

    RAY SUAREZ: Sister, what are your hopes now, as we're approaching the installation of a new pope, the seating and anointing of a new pope and Easter?

    SIMONE CAMPBELL: Well, I live in hope. And I think this peace of evangelization is really important, because it's also that the people will evangelize our leaders.

    Our leaders within the church need to hear from ordinary people. And that, I believe, Pope Francis has already been touched by them. But he will now need to be touched by the whole world. And when you touch the pain of the world as real, there is a solidarity, an engagement with the Gospel, a living faith that blossoms forth. And I guess I just pray for a moment of blossoming.

    RAY SUAREZ: It must be a shocking thing to go to Rome and then find out you're really never going to live in your home again.

    SIMONE CAMPBELL: You're not going home.

    RAY SUAREZ: You're not going home.

    CHESTER GILLIS: You're not going home. When you're elected, that's it. Somebody brings your belongings from your home country, and you are -- and you never have the same identity. You will be known as Francis for the rest of your life.

    And there's -- the first thing the cardinals do is pledge obedience to him. Now, these were his colleagues and his peers a few hours ago, and now he's the Holy Father, as he's referred to the in Rome all the time, the Holy Father. It has to be an astonishing change for him. I'm sure he contemplated it to some degree, but I'm sure it's humbling.

    I hope it's humbling. And it's probably a little bit frightening, saying, I hope I can do this. I hope I have the courage to do this, I have the insight, the spirituality, and the stamina to do the job.

    RAY SUAREZ: Dean Gillis, Sister Simone, good to talk to you both.

    SIMONE CAMPBELL: Thank you.

    CHESTER GILLIS: Thank you, Ray.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. House voted today to block the Obama administration from granting state waivers to work requirements under welfare. Republicans charged the president is trying to gut the 1996 welfare reform law. Last summer, the White House said it would grant waivers if states can meet welfare-to-work goals by other means. So far, no state has applied for a waiver. The House bill is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    A juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio, today opened a rape trial that's drawn international attention. The two defendants are high school football players, ages 16 and 17. They're accused of raping a 16-year-old girl last August. Social media postings have fueled claims that other students should have been charged and that police underplayed the incident to protect the football team. The police have denied it.

    In China, authorities near Shanghai pulled hundreds more dead pigs from a river that provides drinking water to the city. In all, they have found more than 6,600 pig carcasses in the water since Friday. Officials say the dead animals may have been dumped by swine farms upstream. The Shanghai city government said it is monitoring water quality, and that so far there is no sign of contamination.

    On Wall Street, stocks managed small gains in another relatively calm day of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average gained five points to close at 14,455. The Nasdaq rose more than two points to close at 3,245.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amid a backdrop of budget negotiations, President Obama kept up his bipartisan outreach today.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The president's meeting with House Republicans at the Capitol was his first with them on their turf since January 2009, a week after his first inauguration.

    In an interview that aired on ABC this morning, he sounded a note of optimism.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right now, what I'm trying to do is create an atmosphere where Democrats and Republicans can go ahead, get together, and try to get something done.

    KWAME HOLMAN: But at the same time, the president said a sweeping long-term deficit deal could be impossible, given Republican opposition to higher taxes.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: But, ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide. If their position is, we can't do any revenue, or we can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid, if that's the position, then we're probably not going to be able to get a deal.

    KWAME HOLMAN: After the president left, House Speaker John Boehner replied that it's Mr. Obama who's the obstacle to getting a deal.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: We have a spending problem. We have to attack the spending. And the president understands, yes, we have got some long-term spending that we need to deal with. But he's going to hold hostage the fact that he wants to raise taxes on the American people again. That's not going to get us very far.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Some Republicans, such as House Budget Chair Paul Ryan, on MSNBC today also questioned whether the meetings with lawmakers are just for show.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis.: Was the so-called charm offensive a temporary, you know, poll-driven political calculation, or was it a sincere conversion to try and bring people together?

    KWAME HOLMAN: Other Republicans expressed more optimism about the talks and about the larger process of compromise.

    REP. REID RIBBLE, R-Wis.: There are going to be places we are going to disagree, and he recognizes that and we recognize it. But that doesn't mean that we can't find places where -- as he would say, where there is overlap and try to do those things. And so it was encouraging. I was glad to have him come.

    KWAME HOLMAN: For now, House Republicans are going ahead with Ryan's budget proposal, unveiled yesterday, to balance the federal ledger by 2023, relying heavily on spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

    Democrats in the Senate are pushing their own plan, a 50-50 mix of spending cuts and higher tax revenues. Neither plan is given much chance of being enacted into law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: With the president putting renewed emphasis on bipartisanship, we take a broad look at whether that has been a successful strategy in politics and policy.

    Joining us are Michael Beschloss, our regular presidential historian and Marc Hetherington, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University and the author of two books on polarization and trust in U.S. politics.

    Welcome to you both.

    So we just heard some Republicans, Michael Beschloss, questioning whether the president is sincere in this. And we know separately that a senior official at the White House was telling a reporter that they thought -- that he thought that this outreach was just a joke, because they didn't expect it to produce any results.

    So the first question I want to get out of the way with both of you, is has it made a difference historically whether presidents, political leaders were sincere in an effort to be bipartisan?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Oh, certainly. And they're usually sincere, particularly eager to be conciliatory when there's one or both houses of Congress in the hands of the other party, as is the case now.

    But I think the last 25 years or so have been different from most of American history in the intensity of the combat between the two parties and also the aversion to compromise. And I think what you're seeing is that the suspicion of a president of the opposite party -- look what happened to Charlie Crist in Florida.

    When he was with President Obama, they embraced. That just about killed his political career. He's now a Democrat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the intensity has gotten worse.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Marc Hetherington? Is that how you see it, that what we're dealing with now is just a much more strongly felt version of what's been here before?

    MARC HETHERINGTON, Vanderbilt University: I think Michael is right, especially compared with 25, 30 years ago.

    You think about the Reagan presidency and of course he was facing a House of Representatives that was strongly Democratic at that point, but there were a lot of moderates in the Democratic Party back in that day and age. And there are really no moderates on either side of the aisle for a president to reach out to, in this case a Democratic president reaching out to Republican moderates.

    If there were, then this would probably be a more successful effort. It's worth doing. I think it's one of those things where we live in these -- this media environment where all we hear is our side of things, so getting the two sides together is certainly a helpful process. But whether it is able to overcome the polarization that we have these days, that's another story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marc Hetherington, a question people -- I often hear from people is, is this a partisanship that's born out of ideological differences, strongly held views that are just at opposite ends at the spectrum of belief, or is it something structural that's due to the way the parties are organized?

    MARC HETHERINGTON: Well, I think it's a little bit of both.

    Back in 1950s and '60s, there was a lot of overlap in Washington. There were conservative Southern Democrats, Northern-Northeastern liberal Republicans. And these days, those things have changed. You can't really find moderates and liberals in the Republican Party or conservatives and too many moderates in the Democratic Party.

    So part of it is really ideological. And we all agree on the ends that we want. We want peace, we want prosperity. But the means that the parties have in mind about how to accomplish those ends, they're quite a lot different. So bringing the parties together these days is very, very difficult.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Beschloss, what about this question of whether it's born out of ideology, strongly different views, or is it the structure of the way our politics ...

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I don't think it has much to do with ideology at all, because you look at this intense conflict, and most people who are in Congress now will say it's worse than they have ever seen it.

    You look at the kind of people who want to be the leaders of their party in Congress, it's not a Gerald Ford of the old days, someone who could make deals with the other side and is friendly with people from the other party. It's someone who can be the most intense partisan leader. That's also different.

    And you would think that this all came from there being issue differences like over the Bank of the United States with Andrew Jackson or the run-up to World War II, you know, stay out or go in, Franklin Roosevelt 1940. Nothing remotely close to that in terms of magnitude, yet the intensity of the conflict is perhaps greater than most times in history.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And yet if you were to sit a partisan Republican and a partisan Democrat down here at this desk, they would say we have strongly -- very, very different views, for example, on taxes, on the role of government.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I would say they certainly do. But you look at it in the historical context, does that rise to the intensity of the conflict over slavery, for instance, in 1860? I don't think so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marc Hetherington, how do you see that?

    MARC HETHERINGTON: Well, maybe so, but hopefully we have come a long way since the 1860s and slavery.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I hope we have.

    MARC HETHERINGTON: I would hope so, too.

    The fact of the matter is, there used to be a situation in Washington where the parties had different wings, a moderate wing and a liberal wing. So the party leaders who tended to come from the political middle, they had to bring the various parts of the caucuses together. Now the splits in the caucuses are, say, between -- for the Republicans, between the conservative and the very conservative.

    There's very little centrist incentive to move the parties in that direction in Congress. And, you know, at this point, I think the Republicans realize, boy, if we make a grand bargain with the president, he's going to get credit for it, it's not going to be us. So the incentives in the process are really going to have to change for us to see very much of anything different happening.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: And they fear that they might get primaried, which is a relatively recent verb, but this is something that's very much on their minds in a way that wasn't so much before.

    The way you raise money is to exaggerate conflict. The way you get on not the NewsHour, but most TV is to sort of hype up your differences with the other side. So there are a lot of rewards for a member of Congress who wants to be combative and not -- or -- excuse me -- to be combative, and a penalty if he wants to or she wants to compromise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask both of you to put this -- to put this question in some context. Given where we are today, what's the likelihood that the two sides this time are going to be able to come together and work something out?

    Marc Hetherington?

    MARC HETHERINGTON: Well, I'm -- I'm a little bit pessimistic at this point. We know that the ...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Only a little bit?

    MARC HETHERINGTON: Actually, I'm more than a little bit pessimistic.

    We know that the sides are drawn the way that they are. It used to be there was a time when there were less partisan people in the public at large. So Ronald Reagan could go out to the public and say, hey, look, I have this idea. And let's put pressure on your members of Congress to come around to that. But that is not going to happen these days.

    Both partisans in Washington and partisans in the electorate, they don't like the other side. And that makes compromise very difficult to come by.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the prospects, Michael?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, the last 12 years, we have had the first attack of the continental United States by someone else since the War of 1812, not much bipartisanship even after that catastrophe, the worst economic cataclysm in 2008 since the Great Depression, not too much bipartisanship after that either.

    So, my view is that if they didn't knock it off after events like this, it is rather bleak.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So maybe we need to have another whole discussion on whether it really matters that there's bipartisanship or not, whether we're better off if they don't agree. Maybe they're telling us something.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: A lot to say.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Beschloss, Marc Hetherington, thank you.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Thanks, Judy.

    MARC HETHERINGTON: Thanks for having us.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien begins a two-part look at America's drinking water, and the regulatory system that is supposed to guarantee its safety.

    His report is the result of a partnership with the Center for Public Integrity. It begins in the small desert town that made Erin Brockovich a household name.

    ROBERTA WALKER, Resident of Hinkley, Calif.: Come on, you want some water? Want to get some water? Come on.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Clean water is something most of us take for granted, but not Roberta Walker. She, her dogs, and her family drink spring water that is either bottled or trucked in, because where she lives, people can't drink the well water.

    Welcome to Hinkley, Calif.

    ROBERTA WALKER: This is bought out, this home on the right. This is all boarded up. So you can see how these are all boarded up.


    Roberta drove me around town, what's left of it.

    ROBERTA WALKER: There was a home here on the corner and that, of course, is gone.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It is a ghost town?


    MILES O’BRIEN: The steady decline of Hinkley is rooted here at a natural gas pipeline pumping station owned by the giant California utility Pacific Gas & Electric. In the 1950s and '60s, PG&E admits it dumped 26 tons of a coolant made of chromium 6 into unlined retaining ponds here. The chemical is toxic and causes cancer.

    It leached into the soil and contaminated the aquifer, the drinking water in Hinkley. The Hollywood version of the story is writ large in the movie "Erin Brockovich" released in 2000. Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the crusading legal assistant who forced PG&E into a $333 million dollar settlement with the residents of Hinkley in 1996.

    But, for Roberta, there was no Hollywood ending.

    So your house was right about here?


    MILES O’BRIEN: PG&E did buy and raze her old home, as they did for many others here. So she built this place on the outskirts of town out of harm's way, or so she thought.

    So far, PG&E has spent $700 million dollars trying to clean up the stubborn mess. But the plume of chromium 6-tainted water persists.

    Sheryl Bilbrey is in charge of PG&E's remediation effort.

    Why is it taking so long?

    SHERYL BILBREY, Pacific Gas & Electric: It's a very complex project. We are highly regulated. There's a lot of interested parties. The other thing is, it's very important to us that we get it right.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Recent testing shows there is still chromium 6 in the groundwater in Roberta Walker's neighborhood. It is less than it was in the bad old days, but Roberta is still girding to move once again, this time away from Hinkley.

    Did you ever think you would ever have to deal with chromium 6 or PG&E again?

    ROBERTA WALKER: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. In front of God and the world, they said they were going to clean it up.


    ROBERTA WALKER: And they didn't. It was just -- it's just a shocker.

    MILES O’BRIEN: For the real-life Erin Brockovich, it was also an unwelcome surprise.

    ERIN BROCKOVICH, Consumer Advocate: I thought it was being cleaned up. The state thought it was being cleaned up. The community thought it was being cleaned up. So here it is 10 years later, I'm not paying attention because I thought it was all being handled.

    MILES O’BRIEN: And how are people finding you? Just through the social networking?

    Brockovich is now an environmental activist on a larger stage, curating a crowd-sourced map of reported cancer clusters, which she says are largely linked to chromium 6-contaminated water nationwide.

    ERIN BROCKOVICH: There's more and more mounting evidence or what chromium 6 does to the human health, what it does to the environment, what it does to the air. Every community that I deal with that has been exposed to chromium 6, they have the same health symptoms, they have the same problems.

    MILES O’BRIEN: In 2010, a nonprofit advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, tested tap water in 35 U.S. cities; 31 of them were contaminated with chromium 6. Utility testing records show about 70 million Americans are drinking this tainted water.

    With evidence mounting that chromium 6 may be more dangerous than once thought, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to revisit the drinking water standard for the chemical. The standard, 100 parts per billion, was set 20 years ago. It is 5,000 times greater than the California EPA's public health goal for chromium 6 in drinking water, .02 parts per billion.

    Ann Mason is a senior director with the American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry.

    Ann Mason is a senior director with the American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry.

    ANN MASON, American Chemistry Council: The people in the United States are drinking water that meets the EPA safe drinking water level.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, you -- would you say categorically, it's OK? Everybody is safe?

    ANN MASON: I would say if the drinking water meets the safe drinking water level, that EPA has set that level and that's the rule of the land as we see it right now.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There is a lot of research that links chromium 6 in drinking water to cancer. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health weighed in with an eye-opening rodent study. It uncovered clear evidence that high doses of chromium 6 in drinking water cause cancer in rats and mice.

    Heather White is executive director of the Environmental Working Group.

    HEATHER WHITE, Environmental Working Group: We think the science is clear. There's been a lot more research that we have seen over the last decade that shows that there is a big cause for concern about drinking hexavalent chromium, whether it would be stomach cancer, whether it be liver damage, whether it be toxicity. There's even been studies that shows that it can have reproductive health effects.

    JULIA ROBERTS, Actress: By the way, we had that water brought in special for you folks. It came from the well in Hinkley.

    MILES O’BRIEN: After the "Erin Brockovich" movie in 2000, California lawmakers decided life should imitate art. They chartered a so-called blue-ribbon panel of scientists to help set a chromium 6 drinking water standard for the state.

    One of the scientists on the panel was this man, Dennis Paustenbach. The NewsHour and the Center for Public Integrity learned the company he ran, ChemRisk, had been hired by Pacific Gas & Electric during the lawsuit. At the time, the most compelling scientific study that linked chromium 6 in drinking water to cancer came from China in 1987. It studied villagers in Liaoning Province who lived near a chromium ore smelter and drank tainted water for years.

    The lead author, Dr. Zhang JianDong, found they had increased rates of stomach cancer. Acting on behalf of its client PG&E, ChemRisk paid Zhang to redo his study. Paustenbach offered this explanation before the California Senate.

    DENNIS PAUSTENBACH, ChemRisk, Inc.: After he saw the questions that we raised about the analysis, he went back and examined and said, of course not. It can't be true. My original conclusions don't make sense.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The revised study reversed the original conclusion that chromium 6 was the likely cause of the villagers' developing cancer.

    Scientists at the California Environmental Protection Agency were skeptical and took a look at the underlying data themselves.

    Allan Hirsch is with CAL/EPA.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The original study itself, was it good science?

    ALLAN HIRSCH, California Environmental Protection Agency: Well, our analysis which we completed in 2008 agreed with the original 1987 paper. And we found that the rates of stomach cancer in these five villages were significantly higher than stomach cancer rates in the overall province.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The California EPA set its public health goal of .02 parts per billion in 2011. The next step, changing the drinking water standards, has not happened.

    There's been a fair amount of study about hexavalent chromium over the years. Isn't the scientific jury in?

    SHERYL BILBREY: I don't think so. There's a lot of scientists that are still debating that question. I think that's why the process has taken so long, from what I have read, both at EPA and at the state level. So, I think they're still trying to figure out exactly what is the right answer there.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Back in Hinkley, I got tour of the massive PG&E cleanup project.

    Kevin Sullivan is the engineer in charge.

    KEVIN SULLIVAN, Pacific Gas & Electric: This barrier is about a half-mile-long.

    MILES O’BRIEN: They are pumping ethanol into the ground, which converts chromium 6 into a more benign form of the chemical called chromium 3. They have also planted acres of alfalfa that is irrigated with the tainted water. The rich organic soil also makes the conversion.

    So that is now chromium 3 in your hand.

    KEVIN SULLIVAN: Exactly.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There is so much alfalfa, the utility now owns a thriving dairy farm.

    But since the ethanol injections began, a new problem seems to have surfaced. Residents have started reporting elevated levels of arsenic and manganese in their wells. PG&E says it occurs naturally and has always been there. Nevertheless, when Sullivan appears at community meetings here.

    KEVIN SULLIVAN: These are concentrations of over 100, OK? And we wanted to cut that off right there.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There is dirty water on the table and angry accusations in the air.

    RICHARD JOHNSON, Resident of Hinkley, Calif.: The community is in an uproar right now. We are not just being poisoned by chromium. We got high arsenic levels, manganese. All this can lead you to believe that PG&E really don't give a crap about any one of you.

    TERESA SHEEFTSALL, Resident of Hinkley, Calif.: I don't want to live here. I don't want my family here. I have no choice. No one will buy my home. Who wants to move into this?

    MILES O’BRIEN: But Sullivan insists they are making progress.

    KEVIN SULLIVAN: We have cleaned up like 54 acres. Now, I know that doesn't -- believe me, I understand that if it is not your property, what have you done for me lately? But 54 acres is a lot of progress in terms of getting this cleaned up. We have a lot longer to go, but these are positive signs that we have been able to achieve in the last few years.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But Sullivan says it will be at least another 40 years before they're done with the cleanup here. It seems nothing moves quickly when the wells are poisoned.

    GWEN IFILL: In part two of his report on Friday, Miles takes a closer look at the Environmental Protection Agency's system for regulating toxic chemicals in the environment.

    Online, we go behind the scenes in Hinkley, and you can also check out chromium levels in the water of 31 U.S. cities. 

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    RAY SUAREZ: Next: art and activism.

    Jeffrey Brown has a look at the first North American exhibit of work by China's Ai Weiwei.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Antique wooden stools from the Qing Dynasty repurposed into a sculpture called "Grapes," a video documenting changes along a major street in Beijing, an ancient vase creatively altered or debased -- you decide -- with a modern-day logo, now on display at the Smithsonian's HirshhornMuseum in Washington, D.C.

    In an exhibition called "According to What?" these are the works by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, a prankster who can make a tea house literally out of tea leaves and represents the real surveillance camera that watches him at his home in China as a marble sculpture.

    He's also a visionary who helped design the Bird's Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics and whose use of social media is shifting the boundaries of art and activism, and a dissident pressing for human rights who took a picture and tweeted it even as he was being arrested in 2009...

    MAN: You're hitting me? You brought all these cops to beat me?

    MAN: Who hit you?

    JEFFREY BROWN: ... and then spent 81 days in prison, was beaten and made an X-ray image of the damage he suffered into an artwork, "Brain Inflation."

    AI WEIWEI: For me living in today's world, living in China, it's very hard to do a work which does not reflects or suggest with other possibility and meanings.

    All the works I do which connect or reflects either to the art history or to the political situation. And only in that context, my work can have some meaning.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ai lives in works in Beijing and is not allowed by the government to travel outside China. He spoke recently to a camera crew hired by the NewsHour to pose our questions.

    AI WEIWEI: I cannot separate myself from once as artist or as a so-called activist, only because I don't know what I will be next.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Born in 1957, Ai is the son of a renowned poet. The father and his family, including the young Weiwei, were sent to be reeducated in a rural village for two years during the cultural revolution.

    Ai Weiwei came of age as part of a generation of young Chinese artists breaking out of past strictures.

    And beginning in 1981, he lived in the U.S. for 12 years. His New York photographs, many of which are in the Hirshhorn exhibition, chronicle his Bohemian life with other artists and writers, both Chinese and American.

    KERRY BROUGHER, Smithsonian's HirshhornMuseum: For me, Ai Weiwei has been one of the most important artists that has emerged from this new wave of Chinese art from the '90s and the 2000s.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kerry Brougher is chief curator at the Hirshhorn.

    KERRY BROUGHER: There are multiple layers in Ai Weiwei's work. You can read certain pieces very simply, as what they are, but you can also dig deeper. You can see the history of China reflected in much of the work.

    You can see conflicts with Western culture and Eastern culture. And you can see critiques sometimes of the Chinese government or of other governments as well, power in general.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Often, you can see a provocation, as in one of Ai's most famous works, dropping a Han Dynasty run, three photographs showing exactly that, the destruction of a 2,000-year-old cultural relic.

    KERRY BROUGHER: One of the things I think he is saying is, sometimes, it's necessary to destroy the old before you can move forward with the new.

    And, also, by destroying something that is important, it suddenly makes you have to think about the value of things. What are they worth? Who says they're valuable?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ai returned to China in 1993 and became part of the country's cultural elite, eventually tapped by the government to collaborate with a Swiss architectural firm to design the 2008 Olympic Stadium.

    Photos are on the floors and walls of the exhibition. But he grew critical of the Communist Party's attempt to control the event. His biggest confrontation with the authorities soon followed, after the earthquake in SichuanProvince, when more than 5,000 children were killed in poorly constructed schools that collapsed, leading to accusations of official corruption and a cover-up.

    Ai photographed the destruction and started an online campaign to collect the names, ages and other data from each victim. That became a wall-sized display and an audio recording called "Remembrance."

    He also transformed tragedy into art, collecting some 38 tons of twisted steel rebar from the destruction, straightening it and arranging it as a large rolling sculpture titled "Straight."

    And picking up one particularly poignant image from the rubble, he created a long serpentine work constructed of children's backpacks.

    The documentary film "Ai WeiweiNever Sorry" captures some of his attempts to gain information on what had happened. Filmmaker Alison Klayman spent three years watching Ai Weiwei up close through his work as artist and activist.

    ALISON KLAYMAN, filmmaker: He is an artist first and foremost as a sort of overriding umbrella for all of his work, but to him, what is the definition of an artist? It's someone who is interested in communication, who is interested in engagement, who has to be talking about things that are relevant to the world around him or her.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, communication and new technology, the Internet and social media, became a passion for Ai. Beginning in 2006 and lasting three years, he wrote a blog about art, life and politics, before it was shut down by the government.

    He now spends hours a day online and remains very active on Twitter, though it's blocked within China.

    AI WEIWEI: The Internet is such a beautiful miracle for the society here, like China, because we are still living under a very restricted dictatorship. You know, we are still dealing with a very restricted control on freedom of expression.

    And the Internet probably is the only vehicle for people to even sense there's another person who shares the same idea or who can offer different information about what is happening. And that is the foundation for civil society.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A very serious side, and still the playful side, the work of some 3,200 river crabs made of porcelain.

    Why? Well, the Chinese term for river crab sounds like the word for harmonious. That, in turn, has become ironic Internet slang in China referring to official censorship.

    Ai Weiwei continues to make museum-ready objects, such as "Cube Light," a huge chandelier that refers to the traditions of both Chinese lanterns and Western minimalist art. He also continues to speak his mind.

    AI WEIWEI: I often tell young people, because they always say, oh, Mr. Ai, I feel so bad because I don't think we can change a society like this.

    So, I often reply to them, I say, we are part of the society. If we can change ourselves, if we can act, so that means part of our society had changed. If more people can do so, then we can change the society.

    JEFFREY BROWN: After his release from prison in 2011, Ai was charged with tax evasion and hit with a multimillion-dollar fine, which his backers see as further punishment for his activism.

    In the meantime, the Chinese government continues to hold his passport, which made it impossible for Ai Weiwei to attend the opening of the exhibition of his own work in Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In our interview with Ai Weiwei, he said he will never be optimistic about China's new leadership. Hear that, plus his views on art and censorship, on our website.

    We also have more from our interviews about the artist. And you can view a slide show of images from the Hirshhorn exhibit.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, we return to the issue of sexual assaults in the military.

    Earlier today, victims testified before Congress about what they went through and the changes they think need to be made in the armed forces.

    Women in combat zones are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by the enemy. But of the nearly 4,000 reports of sexual assault in the military last year, only 191 defendants were convicted at courts-martial. And because very few victims actually come forward, the real number of cases is estimated at 19,000.

    Those numbers from the Pentagon have fixed new attention on the problem, with stories in The New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine on rape survivors, and the Oscar-nominated documentary "The Invisible War," filled with testimonials from military veterans who were sexually assaulted.

    TANDY FINK, U.S. Army: I reported it two different times to my squad leader. And he told me that there was nothing he can do about it because they didn't have any proof.

    TIA CHRISTOPHER, U.S. Army: And they took me before my lieutenant commander. He says, do you think this is funny? And I said, what do you mean? He's like, is this all a joke to you? I was like, what do you mean' And he goes, you're the third girl to report rape this week. Are you guys like all in cahoots? You think this is a game.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, a Senate Armed Services subcommittee took up the issue, starting with Anu Bhagwati of the Service Women's Action Network.

    ANU BHAGWATI, Service Women's Action Network: During my five years as a Marine officer, I experienced daily discrimination and sexual harassment. I was exposed to a culture rife with sexism, rape jokes, pornography, and widespread commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls both in the United States and overseas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: From there, the panel heard first-hand accounts from victims, both women and men.

    BriGette McCoy is a former Army specialist.

    FORMER SPC. BRIGETTE MCCOY, U.S. Army: I'm a Gulf War era service-connected disabled veteran. I was raped during military service and during my first assignment. That was 1988. I was 18 years old. It was two weeks before my 19th birthday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Navy Petty Officer Brian Lewis also appeared, said to be the first male victim of military rape to testify before Congress.

    FORMER PO3 BRIAN LEWIS, U.S. Navy: During my tour on the USS Frank Cable, I was raped by a superior noncommissioned officer. I was ordered by my command not to report this crime.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebekah Havrilla, a former Army sergeant, said she didn't report her rape initially, and then:

    FORMER SGT. REBEKAH HAVRILLA, U.S. Army: Approximately a year after separating from active duty, I was on orders for job training. And during that time, I ran into my rapist in a post store. He recognized me and told me that he was stationed on same installation. I was so re-traumatized from the unexpectedness of seeing him that I removed myself from training and immediately sought out assistance from an Army chaplain, who told me, among other things, that the rape was God's will and that God was trying to get my attention so that I would go back to church.

    Six months later, a friend called me and told me they had found pictures of me online that my perpetrator had taken during my rape. At that point, I felt that my rape was always going to haunt me unless I did something about it. So, I went to Army Criminal Investigation Division, CID, and a full investigation was completed.

    The initial CID interview was the most humiliating thing that I have ever experienced. I had to relive the entire event for over four hours with a male CID agent who I have never met and explain to him repeatedly exactly what was going on in each of the pictures.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, chairing the subcommittee, got a mixed response when she asked if an outside prosecutor would help in reporting crimes by moving the process outside the chain of command.

    BRIAN LEWIS: An independent prosecutor would have made a world of difference. It would have gotten -- it would have gotten the reporting outside the chain of command and not enabled my commanding officer to sweep this under the rug.

    REBEKAH HAVRILLA: Had I actually gone through with a full investigation while serving, I still would have had to live with many of the men who were abusive towards me. And that was -- that's not anything that I would have ever wanted to go through, independent prosecutor aside. The challenge is partially changing the culture within the military of how women are viewed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, Defense Department officials acknowledged the military culture must change.

    Maj. Gen. Gary Patton directs the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

    MAJ. GEN. GARY PATTON, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office: Underpinning all efforts is a need for enduring culture change, requiring leaders at all levels to foster a command climate from top to bottom where sexist behavior, sexual harassment and sexual assault are not tolerated, condoned, or ignored.

    I believe we will know changes occurred when prevention of sexual assault is as closely scrutinized as a prevention of a fratricide or friendly-fire. We will changes occur know sexist behavior and derogatory language produce the same viscerally offensive reaction as hearing a racist slur. We are not there yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The new defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, promised stronger leadership on the issue at his confirmation hearing.

    DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL, United States: It's not good enough just to say zero tolerance. The whole chain of command needs to be accountable for this all the way down.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hagel has already ordered a review of an Air Force general's decision to overturn a sexual assault conviction against an officer who served in Italy. 

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    Over the next three days, more than 8,000 right-leaning political activists are expected to attend the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and according to sponsor American Conservation Union, they'll receive the "intellectual and training tools they need to combat the liberal agenda."

    CPAC is the premier event for conservative politicians, writers and thinkers. The conference lasts Thursday through Saturday at the Gaylord National Convention Center at the National Harbor, just outside of Washington, D.C.

    Not surprisingly, the 2012 conference heavily focused on presidential campaign politics, with speakers who were at the time, running to win Republican primaries, including Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.

    The theme of this year's gathering is "America's Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives; New Challenges, Timeless Principles." The livestream, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET, will bring you highlights from some of the key speakers throughout the day.

    Among those expected to speak Thursday include:

    9 a.m. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

    9:30 a.m. Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania

    11:45 a.m. Sen. Mike Lee, Utah

    1:15 p.m. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida

    1:30 p.m. Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky

    3:15 p.m. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 2012 presidential candidate

    3:30 p.m. Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    Follow @cbellantoni

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

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    Young fans prepare for the Pi Procession at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, holding handmade signs with a digit in pi's numerical sequence. Photo courtesy the Exploratorium.

    March 14 is Pi Day, the official celebration of the mathematical constant pi, the number that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It's a geek's holiday, and I say that as a fellow geek who brought pie to her office to celebrate.

    What makes pi so special? Pi has mystified mathematicians for centuries, because it's an incredibly complex way to describe the simplest shape, says David Blatner, author of "The Joy of Pi."

    No matter how large or small the circle, the ratio is always 3.1415926 ... I could keep going on forever because, as an irrational number, pi never ends. To date, pi has been calculated to 10 trillion digits past the decimal point, a figure that took enterprising computer scientists 371 days to calculate.

    But the numbers of pi are random, with no repeating patterns. Blatner says it's that unknown, infinite quality that draws people to pi.

    "Pi is ubiquitous in pop culture. That's weird for a number, for something out of math," Blatner said. "It strikes a dissonant chord within us. How can something so simple as a circle -- the most simple shape in a universe -- how can it be defined by something we cannot know?"

    Pi Shrine at the Exploratorium. Photo courtesy the Exploratorium.

    Look around -- pi shows up everywhere. It's in movies, like Darren Aronofsky's "Pi" , and it was the inspiration for the title character's name in "The Life of Pi." The secret code in "Mission Impossible"? Job 3:14 -- another pi reference. Sandra Bullock unlocks a web of information when she clicks on a pi icon in "The Net." Kate Bush sings out 100 digits of the number in her song "Pi." Givenchy named a cologne after it. Your birthday, anniversary or high school locker combination can all be found in pi, and this site will find its place in pi for you.

    "We come across pi very early in the educational world," said Rob Semper, director of programs for the Exploratorium in San Francisco, which held the first Pi Day celebration 25 years ago. "It almost becomes a character and that's why it becomes fun to celebrate it and engage with it."

    Pi even has its own language, so to speak. The book "Not a Wake" by Mike Keith is written in Pilish, a style of writing where the letters in each word follow the digits of pi. These are the first two lines of the book:

    Now I fall, a tired suburbian in liquid under the trees, Drifting alongside forests simmering red in the twilight over Europe.

    Count the letters of each word: 3, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9, 2, 6, 5, 3, 5, 8, 9, 7, 9, 3, 2, 3, 8, 4, 6. They spell out pi, and the book continues the pattern to 10,000 digits, the first novel to do so. It's a challenging way to write, so Keith, a computer programmer by day, developed software that alerts him when a word doesn't fit the sequence.

    "No one has ever done this with pi," Keith said. "No one has really explored this. The digits of pi are interesting pieces themselves. They're random and weird and unpredictable, and that's philosophically interesting."

    Larry Shaw leads the Pi Parade at the Exploratorium. Photo courtesy the Exploratorium.

    In 2009, Congress officially recognized March 14 as a holiday to encourage math and science education. People celebrate by eating pies, the appropriately circular and homophonic pastry, but others take it farther. The Exploratorium writes 314 digits of the number in the sky. (Pi in the Sky -- get it?) They hold a pi parade, where hundreds of participants hold each of the digits in sequence and walk to the newly installed Pi Shrine, a brass plate with the Greek symbol and the digits listed into infinity.

    "So much of math in schooling seems rigorous....But here, you can play with something and make it fun," Semper said. "I find it very joyful."

    Pi Day participants in Princeton, N.J., throw pies as part of the festivities. Proceeds from the festival go to a fund for local high school students who wish to attend college. Photo by Ferrari Iris.

    Pi Day also happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday, so in Princeton, N.J., Einstein's American hometown, Pi Day takes on special significance. The four-day festival includes an Einstein look-alike competition, pie judging, pie throwing and a pi recitation contest, where competitors recite out as many digits of pi as they can before making a mistake. (The Guinness Book of World Records lists Lu Chao as the champion for this sport, memorizing 67,890 digits.) Princeton's celebration drew 9,500 people to the "academic Mayberry" this year, said Mimi Omiecinski, the event's organizer. She said it's also a day to elevate mathematicians and other "geeks."

    "If you're a geek, or you're like me and you get crushes on them, this is the one time to make them feel like a rock star," she said.

    But pi has a rival. There is a growing movement to acknowledge tau -- the ratio of a circle's circumference to its radius, which is two times pi or roughly 6.28 -- as the superior constant number. Michael Hartl, author of "The Tau Manifesto", a tongue-in-cheek argument for using tau, said in most geometry and trigonometry equations, 2pi is necessary. So why not simplify and just use tau? Using pi is measuring everything halfway, Hartl points out. It's like reaching your destination and saying you are twice halfway there, Keith added.

    Math departments can become divided on the issue, Hartl said, but others are taking up tau's cause. And its holiday -- June 28 -- is also growing in popularity.

    "If you want to out-geek the geeks, you celebrate Tau Day. It's like the hipster Pi Day," he said.

    But what do you do to celebrate Tau Day? You eat twice as much pie, Hartl said.

    We want to know how you're you celebrating Pi Day. Include @NewsHour in your #PiDay tweets and Instagram photos and check out others' Pi Day festivities below.

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  • 03/14/13--06:00: Asia's Mojo Keeps on Working
  • Shoppers in the Paragon mall in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.

    No matter how many Washington think tank conferences one covers, all their accumulated wisdom is no substitute for going to the countries they are talking about. In that spirit, I am back from a month in Asia -- Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta, Indonesia.

    The first headline, after my fourth trip to the region in four years: I am convinced more than ever that this is the place where, in the words of a tune from my relative youth, the world's Mojo is working. The energy, dynamism and optimism are intensifying and infectious.

    A second headline: China looms ever larger in the official and unofficial consciousness of the residents where I visited, and the United States seems to shrink in perceptions beyond the purview of foreign and defense ministries, embassies and think tanks. In Thailand, where for decades ethnic Chinese were required to take Thai names, people now will volunteer some pride in their Chinese heritage, and the Chinese New Year celebrations become increasingly large events. As one Ph.D. engineering student, an ethnic Chinese Malaysian studying in Singapore expressed it: "China is large, it has been large for us for thousands of years and will continue to be." In contrast, the sentiment of one of Singapore's leading public intellectuals, Kishore Mahbubani : a two-hundred year interlude of Western dominance over Asia is coming to an end.

    A third headline: for a journalist who has closely tracked the peaceful evolution of post-Word War II Europe, the persistence of historic disputes and grievances in Asia is increasingly startling. Armed conflict remains unimaginable, but the political landscape is filled with landmines that could go off through accident or miscalculation, the flareup on the Korean peninsula the latest example.

    Across Asia, hundreds of millions of people are rapidly moving out of poverty into middle class status, and they are all going shopping in sparkling, air conditioned malls that are becoming the landmarks and popular gathering places of the cities. In Hong Kong alone, nearly 40 million mainland tourists arrive each year and return home with bags stuffed with products from Hermes, Gucci and other top stores. (But when a group of expatriate businessmen in Hong Kong asked a noted China scholar how that former British colony's liberal and westernized values might rub off on all those visitors, he replied: "Luis Vuitton is not Thomas Jefferson.")

    With traffic-jammed Jakarta a notable exception, hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in infrastructure -- subways, fast trains, highways, airports and water projects. Trillions more in public and private investment are projected in the coming decade.

    Even politics cannot get in the way of economic dynamism. In Thailand, where a populist government rules in a tense stand-off with urban middle classes and three years after riots in the center of Bangkok, tourism is back, new office and apartment towers are sprouting, the growth rate is reaching six percent and the primary economic concern is about potential stock market and real estate bubbles. Indonesia is growing at a similar rapid clip more than a decade into its experiment in democracy and even though the current ruling party is going through internal upheavals a year before national elections.

    While hundreds of millions still live below the poverty line, increasingly, the politics of the region are not of development but of managing middle class expectations and anger at corruption, pollution, inadequate housing and immigration. Even in Singapore's benign autocracy, the government is losing parliamentary bye-elections, confronting its first public demonstrations in five decades and trying to stem anger over growing inequality and a government plan to add another million people, mostly foreigners, in a city-state of 5 million jammed into high rise apartment blocks, where flats on the private market are at Manhattan prices.

    "People are getting increasingly frustrated," said one Singapore academic. "A couple with two good salaries cannot afford the middle class life they would have in Australia and Canada with a car and a decent-sized apartment." (Singapore's efforts to hold down auto traffic include whopping fees that can easily drive the price of an ordinary new car to close to $100,000).

    I found it telling that the comparison was drawn to Australia and Canada and the United States not mentioned. When I started traveling and working overseas in the 1960s, people were full of curiosity and eager to discuss and argue about politics, culture and life in the United States. I did not receive a single question about America from an unofficial Asian in my month of travel in the region.

    Another sign of the diminished presence and allure of the United States: the students who still crave admittance to American universities are returning home in growing numbers after their degrees.Some also are finding it harder to get fellowship money from those universities for advanced studies. And then there are U.S. immigration laws. A frustrated U.S. corporate president at a meeting in Hong Kong said, "we should staple a green card on every diploma we award in America." Job prospects look better for college grads, especially scientists and engineers, in their home countries. And even coming to the U.S. for professional conferences can be frustrating. My Malaysian interlocutor, though ethnic Chinese, goes through a grilling comparable to that for a Saudi citizen because he comes from a predominantly Muslim nation.

    Whatever is being thought unofficially, on the government level, relations between the United States and Southeast Asian nations are as smooth as they have been since the Vietnam War. President Obama's pivot to Asia has been welcomed by countries that want a balancing force alongside China in the region. a view enhanced by by China's assertive stance in territorial disputes in the East and South China seas. But these are highly nuanced views. The overwhelming op-ed opinion and analysis in the English-language newspapers across the region was that the U.S. should restrain its friends and allies, especially Japan, that are involved in territorial issues with China.

    Even in Indonesia, where the U.S. was the imperialist bogey for decades, Mr. Obama is personally popular, the first U.S. president who can speak some Indonesian street slang from his Jakarta boyhood. The 16th round of negotiations for a Trans Pacific Partnership comprising 11 Pacific nations, maybe to be joined by Japan, opened in early March in Singapore. But the prospects for a final deal before the Asian summit in October are far from certain and could unravel on issues from agriculture to intellectual property protection.

    Whatever that outcome, this region already has weathered and rebounded from the financial crises of the late 1990s and 2008-09. As Mahbubani declares, "we have not reached Nirvana," and new crises definitely will arise. But for the moment, this part of the world is asserting itself as dramatically as all those glittering skyscrapers filling its urban landscapes.

    Michael D. Mosettig, PBS NewsHour foreign affairs and defense editor emeritus, watches wonks push policy in Washington's multitude of think tanks. From time to time, he writes dispatches on what those scholars and wannabe secretaries of state have in mind for Europe, Asia and Latin America.

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    Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrives in the basement of the Capitol for a meeting with President Barack Obama and House Republicans Wednesday. Boehner described the 80-minute session as a "very frank and candid exchange of ideas" that he found "productive." Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

    The Morning Line

    Here's a political pop quiz to start your Thursday.

    What will matter more in the long run as the nation's lawmakers tackle big questions about government spending, tax rates and cutting the deficit?

    a) A freewheeling Republican question-and-answer session with President Barack Obama, or b) the anti-Obama red meat expected from conservatives taking the stage during a major 3-day confab in Washington.

    In the answer lies the struggle for policymakers as they attempt to bust through gridlock that has crippled the nation's Capitol for years.

    Politicians in both parties say they are looking to compromise for the good of the country. Mr. Obama is signaling with his outreach that he at least wants to appear to be working together with his political rivals.

    But each side wants to win, and with the 2014 midterm elections a crucial test, perhaps it is impossible for deal-making to be done in a vacuum.

    The Daily Beast acquired quotes from the president telling the House GOP conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday that he is facing scrutiny from liberals. Two lawmakers quoted the president as saying: "You should read The Huffington Post and see how I'm getting slapped around by the left. They think I'm giving everything away to you guys every day."

    Roll Call's Jonathan Strong breaks down each questioner's query to the president, including discussion of the Keystone pipeline, taxes and the sequester.

    Politico's behind-the-scenes piece focused on Republicans saying they had heard what Mr. Obama said before.

    And some members told reporters they bristled when the president described his revamped campaign organization as not focused on the next election, especially given he planned to speak with the group later that night.

    Officially, both sides called it a "good" meeting.

    "The president handled a variety of questions on a range of topics from the members and reinforced his strong desire, especially now that the election is over, to find bipartisan common ground on a range of legislative priorities," a White House official told reporters. "He noted that they did not need to resolve all policy differences to make progress on challenges facing the country where there is agreement."

    Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, penned a Washington Post op-ed suggesting he'd heard it all before. From the piece:

    If we're going to find bipartisan solutions, the president will have to move beyond the same proposals and Democratic dogma. For all of Washington's focus on the president's outreach to Republicans, it's his engagement with members of his own party that will determine whether we succeed in dealing with the challenges facing our economy.

    In a statement, Boehner described the 80-minute session as a "very frank and candid exchange of ideas" that he found "productive." He noted there are "some very real differences between our two parties like issues jobs, balancing the budget and what do we do to get our economy moving again."

    "But, having said that, today was a good start, and I hope that these kinds of discussions can continue," Boehner said. "Even though we have very real differences, our job is to find common ground to do the work the American people sent us here to do."

    The olive branches extended over the course of the president's meetings this week on Capitol Hill -- he'll meet with Senate Republicans over lunch Thursday and House Democrats in the afternoon -- aren't expected to get much mention as 8,000 activists gather to hear some of the Republican party's top stars at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

    The opening speaker is Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who does not hold the president's policies in high regard. The stage will be peppered with conservative bomb-throwers never timid about criticizing Mr. Obama, from ex-Rep. Allen West, Fla., to Sen. Rand Paul, Ky., and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

    Breakout sessions will focus on national security, fears about becoming a nanny state and one panel focuses on "Lessons They Have Learned and We Haven't: The Europeanization of America."

    And that's just on Thursday. Later at CPAC, activists will be treated to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and reality television's Donald Trump. Mitt Romney will appear for his first public speech since losing his presidential bid last fall.

    We'll be livestreaming the majority of the CPAC speeches on Thursday and Friday. Follow along here starting at 9 a.m.

    On PBS NewsHour Wednesday, Judy Woodruff explored the question of whether bipartisanship has ever been effective in Washington with presidential historian Michael Beschloss and Marc Hetherington, an author and political science professor at Vanderbilt University. Their discussion addressed how today's climate of political polarization may be different from past partisan divides as early as the Civil War.

    Watch the segment here or below:

    Watch Video


    The president spoke at a fundraising dinner Wednesday for Organizing for Action, the political action group born out of Obama for America's grassroots campaign network. Bloomberg News reports some unenthused OFA backers are reluctant to open their wallets so soon after Mr. Obama's re-election, and that this dinner asked attendees for a $50,000 suggested donation.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney faced more questions Wednesday on the sequestration-related cancellation of White House tours. Amie Parnes of The Hill examined how the cancellations may have backfired on the president. And Roll Call's Emma Dumain writes that tourists should get used to sequester-induced long lines at the Capitol.

    Republican members of Congress want access to the supposed Walter Reed Hospital patients who were injured in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi last September.

    Politico reports Mr. Obama said he was better than former Vice President Dick Cheney when Democratic senators confronted him at a closed-door meeting Tuesday on drone policies.

    Glenn Thrush profiles Denis McDonough, the president's new chief of staff who's likely behind the so-called "charm offensive."

    The Associated Press reports on the sweeping multistate investigation of a Florida charity that "led to nearly 60 people indicted and the resignation of the state's lieutenant governor," Republican Jennifer Carroll. Attorney General Pam Bondi says charges "will include racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and possession of slot machines."

    The Washington Post's Peter Finn tracks the NRA's involvement in gun laws.

    Meredith Shiner of Roll Call lists 10 things to know about the Senate Democrats' budget.

    Republicans were gloating Wednesday about this tweet from former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder questioning Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe's experience. The Virginian Pilot ran a story on the same topic Wednesday.

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $6.3 million in February but still is carrying $10.9 million of debt. The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $5 million last month.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a new website promoting immigration reform.

    The House passed legislation by a vote of 246-181 to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from allowing states to waive the welfare-work requirement. Both parties have at times supported the waiver, but Republicans -- resurrecting a Mitt Romney campaign attack -- have pounced on the administration's authority to issue a waiver that they see dismantling welfare reform.

    Former Congressman Allen West is starting an issues advocacy group to support a new generation of minority conservatives.

    Pope Francis wasn't the only one chosen for a new job Wednesday. Mr. Obama appointed Melissa Rogers as the new director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In 2009, she headed a committee recommending ways to overhaul the office.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham is getting some Palmetto State love for his efforts to craft immigration reform, with the Evangelical Immigration Table, Republicans for Immigration Reform and a Partnership for a New American Economy joining forces to air ads praising the Republican senator on his home turf.

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution scoops that Rep. Phil Gingrey is preparing to run for retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss' seat in Georgia. That would bring the race among Republicans to two.*

    Michelle Obama will be on the cover of Vogue again, with bangs, of course, the Washington Post's Robin Givhan writes.

    If Hannah Horvath is the voice not only of a generation, but of U.S. geopolitical strategy, is America headed for humiliation on the world stage? We'll wait for the Lena Dunham Doctrine on that one.

    Today's tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA: one-third of American families couldn't pay their medical bills in 2011.


    The NewsHour devoted 17 minutes to the selection of the new pope. See the celebration at Vatican City, watch a debrief with Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter and check out Ray Suarez's discussion with Chester Gillis of Georgetown University and Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK, a social justice organization, about how Pope Francis will help shape the Catholic Church.

    NewsHour will host a live chat 1 p.m. ET Thursday on the digital afterlife, in other words, what happens to social media and web presence after someone dies. Go here to watch a discussion of the issue from earlier this week, and to leave a comment or question for the panelists.

    Production assistant Cindy Huang writes on our Art Beat blog about how some Chinese communities have copied Western architectural design for new buildings.


    Chris Christie won't be speaking at CPAC -- but he will be on the Straw Poll ballot - dailycaller.com/2013/03/14/who...

    — Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) March 14, 2013

    House hearing today about TSA's new knife policy today for air travel.

    — Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 14, 2013

    Francis I will not be good news for the Chavismos in Latin America.He has the proper understanding of how we are to care for the poor.

    — Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) March 13, 2013

    If the Church thinks it'll be this easy to win over Hispanic voters...

    — Molly Ball (@mollyesque) March 13, 2013

    There are 166 Catholics in Congress, per @cqprofiles#newpope

    — Lauren Whittington (@l_whittington) March 13, 2013

    Jesuit pope = Georgetown gets #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, right?

    — Mike Madden (@mikemadden) March 13, 2013

    Paul Ryan pointed to 2 solar projects as examples of how DOE loans failed, but the problem is they're up and running: wapo.st/Xvgd2r

    — Juliet Eilperin (@eilperin) March 13, 2013

    Rep Crowley on criticism of Obama Capitol visits: John Lennon had a song "Give Peace a Chance." He hasn't even come & you're criticizing him

    — Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 13, 2013

    Also, the Obama Tumblr is dead: bit.ly/rLtgzq

    — Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 13, 2013

    Politics desk assistant 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

    *Correction appended.

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    By Paul Solman

    A new type of financial investment being pioneered in the United Kingdom may be the key for breaking the cycle of recidivism -- and it could be coming soon to a prison near you.

    The Riker's Island penitentiary complex could be one of the first prisons in America to roll out a groundbreaking cognitive therapy program, financed by an innovative type of investment called social impact bonds. Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

    Paul Solman: In an upcoming PBS NewsHour report, we focus on a potentially breakthrough cognitive therapy program for young offenders at New York's Riker's Island jail, which holds 88,000 prisoners every year as they await trial. The program is being financed by a new financial instrument known as a "social impact bond."

    One of its champions is Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. In a recent interview with her, she explained the workings of this new piece of financial engineering.

    What Is a Social Impact Bond?

    Paul Solman: What is a social impact bond?

    Judith Rodin: A social impact bond is a new way of bringing financing into social and environmental support issues. And [it's meant to help finance] either preventive or rehabilitation services that the government is providing and paying for.

    What [society] does is look for very well-proven, well-demonstrated, data-driven social interventions. Then it looks for private sector financing to support those interventions [that have been proven effective] based on performance.

    So it's a triple win because the government gets a proven intervention, the organization giving the intervention gets to take it to scale, and the investor -- the buyer of the bonds, whether it's an individual investor or an endowment or some kind of private wealth fund -- gets a chance to have a double bottom line investment: something that can produce quite a significant financial return, but at the same time produce social returns as well.

    So there's a financial return on the social impact bond, but there's also a social return because they are supporting a proven intervention, they are helping the government to deliver more effective services at lower costs.

    Paul Solman: What's in it for me as an investor?

    Judith Rodin: In the U.K., it was young investment bankers who were talking to wealthy clients who didn't want to separate their philanthropy from their investing. The bankers wanted to respond to what they saw as a potentially growing market where affluent individuals wanted to do well and also have a financial return.

    The individuals were asking: "Isn't there anything innovative? Isn't there a new way that I could fulfill both my social concerns and my financial obligations?"

    So that led to the creation of the social impact bond. It's like any other debt. It's a bond paying between 2 percent and 9 percent. The payback is based on the performance of the social organization.

    So if I'm to reduce homelessness or prevent criminal recidivism among juveniles, I have to generate empirical data that shows my success rate. The eventual payment is based on that.

    Paul Solman: So if I'm the organization that's receiving the money, I will have to pay a higher or lower interest rate depending on how well I meet my goals?

    Judith Rodin: No, it's the government which is paying the bond, not the organization. The organization gets a flat fee for achieving the goals. If they don't achieve the goals, they get no more money for further interventions. And the government for which the service is being provided -- a criminal justice system, say, where the goal is to reduce recidivism -- doesn't have to pay if the intervention doesn't work. So the investor doesn't get paid out. The innovation here is around the financial instrument not the social delivery organization.

    Paul Solman: The first experiment was in Peterborough County in England, where investors backed a nonprofit with a track record in reducing criminal recidivism. If recidivism was reduced, the county would pay the investors interest on the bonds. If not, it wouldn't, correct?

    Judith Rodin: In this initial Peterborough experiment, the recidivism rate they were trying to reduce was 60 percent: 60 percent of the offenders went in and out of prison within the first two months over two or three times. And it was costing the money of the reincarceration, plus all of the costs to society of re-offending, because these people don't get put back in prison for doing nothing.

    How Governments Save Money

    Paul Solman: I see why it costs a fortune. How does the social impact save the government money?

    Judith Rodin: There are these great small social programs, many of which have been collecting very, very good data over a number of years showing how they intervene and how they actually can reduce the rate of people going through that turnstile over and over again.

    Paul Solman: So there are good, but very small, localized programs that can do a better, less expensive job than bureaucratic, unwieldy government?

    Judith Rodin: Yes. And those that stand out often work with reoffenders, with homelessness, with workforce development programs. That's why we call this other sector the NGO sector -- the non-governmental organizations that are much more nimble, typically smaller, and often far more rigorous in collecting data about what works and what doesn't.

    Paragons of Efficiency

    Paul Solman: So since government is spending the money anyway and not doing a very good job of it, and there are other people who are doing a good job, can we somehow change the system so that the people who do a good job get the money?

    Judith Rodin: That's innovation No.1. Innovation No. 2 is a win for the local organization. It gets to scale up its efforts because government is buying its services wholesale rather than supporting little boutique programs.

    The social organization that is successful and has good evidence base is now able to go to scale with the government as their buyer, the government as their client.

    Paul Solman: And that's a sustainable pool of income?

    Judith Rodin: Totally. Win No. 3, government. It is always seeking new sources of capital and this is a particularly rough time for many governments, especially in the West, where the resources to run social programs and the challenges about the efficacy of social programs are quite significant.

    Government Finally Gets New Capital

    Paul Solman: So win No. 3 is government getting capital to solve social problems it hasn't been able to?

    Judith Rodin: Correct, and maybe allows government to deploy some of the money it was spending towards other things that would be harder to fund from the outside.

    Paul Solman: Because if the program supported by the social impact bonds is successful, the government would save money?

    Judith Rodin: Correct. The fourth win is for the investors. There is a growing cadre of investors who would like to not only make a financial return but also produce a social return. "Do well by doing good" is the mantra for this category of investor.

    Paul Solman: That's an old mantra.

    Judith Rodin: It's an old mantra but with a new flavor in the bottle. And because you can allow many different kinds of social impact bonds, the degree of risk and the pricing for the return can vary actually considerably. So an investor can get a bond that is likely to pay out 2 percent in financial return but have a massive social return, or get one that's paying 9 percent financial return but doesn't have the same sort of walloping social impact.

    Paul Solman: I'm imagining people would be thinking: "Hey, I can get 9 percent and do social good? What investment is that?"

    Judith Rodin: That was the Peterborough experiment. We haven't yet seen the payout but that bond was sold and priced on the basis of the success rate of that service organization. It showed that the government could pay 9 percent because the recidivism rate would be reduced so significantly, they can gain more money by paying out at 9 percent than the cost to them for never going into this in the first place.

    Paul Solman: In other words, government was so inefficient that if this provider came in it would so lower the cost and achieve better outcomes then Peterborough could afford to pay investors 9 percent a year?

    Judith Rodin: Absolutely.

    Paul Solman: Is this a next step in the realm of what's been called, for the past decade or more, "venture philanthropy"?

    Judith Rodin: It's a different form of venture philanthropy, with almost the opposite emphasis. Venture philanthropy is investing in a lot of innovative things and seeing what works, then doubling down and bringing to scale.

    Paul Solman: Enlarging it so that it applies in lots of places?

    Judith Rodin: Exactly. That's venture philanthropy operating in the same way a venture capital fund would. This is taking a very traditional investment vehicle, the bond, and making it adventuresome, making it innovative, and socially relevant. Innovative finance, Paul, I think, is the next big step in solving social problems.

    Cancer Research-Backed Securities

    Paul Solman: We'll be doing this story with Andrew Lo, a finance professor at MIT's Sloan School. He wants to set up a diversified fund to back cancer research and sell shares of that fund to the public: not mortgage-backed securities, but cancer research-backed securities.

    Judith Rodin: Interesting.

    Paul Solman: And we're going to do a story with him because I suspect you may be right: there may be a huge potential for innovation using the techniques of modern finance which have become so stigmatized that they're not being used at anywhere near the rate they might be to achieve positive goals.

    Judith Rodin: I think those ideas are critical: bringing the positive tools of Wall Street to Main Street. CDOs didn't work out right but there are lots of securities that are much less risky and could be important social innovations, whether cancer research-backed securities or climate securities. Insurers are developing Cat bonds against catastrophes. There are ways to develop bond structures to promote good things like healthy behaviors.

    Paul Solman: And with social impact bonds, to promote good things for society as a whole? Things that are in everybody's interest, like keeping criminals from repeating their crimes, which, in the sense of promoting a safe society, is good for the investors as citizens, not just as people looking for a financial return?

    Judith Rodin: I think that people ought to be thinking about social returns and environmental returns on their investments and we are absolutely seeing that more and more.

    Paul Solman: Because it's in their interest?

    Judith Rodin: It's in their interest. We ultimately will not be a sustainable society unless we solve some of these problems. So it is with an entirely self-interested lens that I could take the view, "It's worth me investing in this in order to protect my environment, to protect my overall health, etc."

    Again, this is a whole system and so we've got to really get everybody engaged in new and different ways. Enabling government to act creatively is in everyone's self interest.

    This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman

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  • 03/14/13--09:00: The Daily Frame
  • Click to enlarge.

    Women touch a creation by Austrian artist Franz West at the "Franz West: Where is my Eight?" exhibition held at the MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art) in Vienna. West, who died in 2012, ranks among Austria's most important contributors to contemporary art. Photo by Alexander Klein/ AFP /Getty Images.

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    Republicans and Democrats are talking to each other. The president spent an hour this week answering questions from his biggest critics -- House Republicans. This on the heels of a dinner with a dozen Senate Republicans, as yet another meeting is set with all 45 GOP members of the Senate.

    Has something gotten into the drinking water in the nation's capital? Maybe, but it's clear some important people have decided they're not getting anywhere by remaining in their separate corners. At the White House, the president and his advisers have evidently decided they can't go on as they were. A few insiders have confided to reporters that new polls showing Mr. Obama's approval dropping after the latest budget debacle -- the infamous sequester -- persuaded them that standing on principle was not an adequate approach. The White House view that Republicans would take most if not all of the blame for the blunt, across-the-board cuts on Republicans, did not pan out.

    It is true that Americans are holding Republicans accountable: a survey by the firm Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner gave them a 27 percent approval rating, and 66 percent disapproval. But that's an improvement from their ratings in January. At the same time, Americans are making it clear they believe President Obama bears some responsibility too. His standing remains higher than theirs, but it has dropped from 54 percent before inauguration, to 48 percent now. Fully 49 percent of those surveyed said they disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling his job. In November, he won re-election with over 51 percent of the vote, to 47 percent for Mitt Romney; the slippage is small but measurable.

    Looking at numbers like these helped persuade the president and his inner circle they couldn't afford to assume public backing just because they believe they are right on the issues, or because Mr. Obama prevailed in November by 4 points. It's true that not everyone in the White House appears to be on board with the new approach. One "senior White House official" told reporter Ron Fournier of the National Journal that the outreach to Republicans is "a joke," and suggested it would lead nowhere. The official said, "I hope you all (in the media) are happy because we're doing it for you."

    Likewise, Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan told an interviewer he and his colleagues aren't at all sure the president is sincere in his outreach; they suspect he may be doing it as a "temporary, poll-driven political calculation." Of course, both sides are looking at polls, at the same time both sides are motivated by principle.

    So far, for all the eating and the talking, no progress has been reported. Comparing the Paul Ryan budget proposal with the budget emerging from Democrats in the Senate, there are some glaring differences. Ryan would balance federal revenues with spending in 10 years; the Senate Democratic plan -- honchoed by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray -- takes a longer timeline to balance. The proposed House budget takes a larger bite out of entitlements, moving to transform Medicare into a voucher or premium support system;the Senate plan makes no changes to Medicare beyond what is already in the president's health care reform plan.

    The president is trying to find common ground between the two, first by building up some goodwill, something sorely lacking in this city. It won't be easy. As I watched the white smoke billowing out of the chimney over the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Wednesday, signaling that 114 Catholic Cardinals had agreed on a Pope, I thought about how it took these men, representing every different corner of the world, less than two days to agree on a new leader for their church. If these men of such contrasting backgrounds can reach agreement so quickly on a decision so profound, maybe they have some tips to share with American political leaders who are searching for a few strands of common thinking on how to get our fiscal house in order.

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    As in the U.N. Development Program's last review in 2011, Norway reigns supreme and the United States made the top five, while the African nations of Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo came in last.

    #1 Norway

    As in 2011, Norway again in 2013 made the top of the list with a Human Development Index of 0.955. The CIA World Factbook estimates the country, with a population of 4.7 million, has a per capita GDP of $55,300 compared to $400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which ranked lowest.

    Here, a Norwegian soccer player maneuvers around a German player during the Women's U19 Tournament match in Spain on March 11, 2013. Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Bongarts/Getty Images

    #2 Australia

    Australia placed second in 2013 with a Human Development Index of 0.938. The country of 22 million has 6.94 deaths per 1,000 population, according to the CIA World Factbook, compared to Mozambique -- the nation second to the last in the U.N. scale -- which has a death rate of 12.79 per 1,000.

    Here, a Royal Australian Air Force officer and children attend a welcome home parade in Newcastle, Australia, on Oct. 11, 2009. Photo: Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images

    #3 United States

    When the U.N. Development Program factored in internal inequalities in health, education and income, the United States (with a 0.937 Human Development Index in 2013) dropped to No. 16 because of disparities particularly among Latinos and African-Americans.

    Here, a migrant worker picks oranges at a grove in Bradenton, Fla., on March 29, 2006. Photo: Phillippe Diederich/Getty Images

    #4 Netherlands

    The Netherlands (Human Development Index of 0.921) has a population of 16.7 million and a population growth rate of 0.45 percent, estimated the CIA World Factbook, compared to Chad -- ranked fourth from the bottom in 2013 -- which has a population of 11 million and a growth rate of 1.98 percent. Photo: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

    #5 Germany

    In the 2013 rankings, Germany (with a Human Development Index of 0.920) nudged New Zealand (which got an HDI of 0.919 this year) from the fifth slot -- the only change in this year's top five. Photo: Ralph Orlowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    #183 Burkina Faso

    On the other end of the scale, Burkina Faso dropped into the bottom five this year with a Human Development Index of 0.343. Last year, Burundi was in that lowest group but rose five slots this year with an HDI of 0.355.

    Here, people in the capital city of Ouagadougou line up to vote in Burkina Faso's legislative and municipal elections on Dec. 2, 2012. Photo: Ahmed Ouoba/AFP/Getty Images

    #184 Chad

    Chad (with a Human Development Index of 0.340) hasn't seen the sustained fighting of its civil war from about 1960-1990, but is still sometimes drawn into the ethnic and rebel clashes of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

    #185 Mozambique

    The coastal Southeast African country of Mozambique ranked second to last (with a Human Development Index of 0.327) but its economy grew more than 7 percent per year from 2010 to 2012 partly due to investments in its gas sector.

    Here, people in Mozambique's capital Maputo set free pigeons on Oct. 4, 2012, to mark the 20th anniversary of the peace agreement that ended Mozambique's civil war. Photo: Ferhat Momade/AFP/Getty Images

    Tied #186 DR Congo and Niger

    Tied for No. 186 in the U.N. Development Program's rankings, the African nations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger (each with a Human Development Index of 0.304) continue to struggle with drought and conflict, but have made strides in school attendance, life expectancy and per capita income growth, according to the UNDP.

    Here, a veterinarian feeds a bonobo at the "Lola ya Bonobo'" (Paradise for Bonobos) sanctuary outside the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa on March 5, 2013. Photo: Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

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    View a slideshow of the top five and bottom five countries in this year's U.N. rankings.

    An annual assessment of 187 countries released Thursday shows the economies of countries such as Brazil and China continuing to grow, but also improvements in areas such as education and income in more than a dozen developing nations.

    The 2013 Human Development Report (PDF) issued by the U.N. Development Program takes into account the countries' economies, education, health and gender equity when ranking them.

    As in the last review in 2011, Norway reigns supreme and the United States made the top five, while the African nations of Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo came in last.

    But, the agency notes, Niger and DR Congo -- though still struggling with drought and conflict -- also are among the nations that made the greatest improvements since 2000 in the areas of school attendance, life expectancy and income growth. They, along with 12 countries, made a Human Development Index gain of more than 2 percent in the past decade. The other countries are Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Angola, Timor-Leste, Myanmar, Tanzania, Liberia, Burundi, Mali and Mozambique.

    Click to create your own index on UNDP's website.

    No country with complete data had a lower HDI than it did in 2000, according to the U.N. Development Program. Nations that rated in the low and medium range had faster progress than those in the higher groups.

    See all of the countries' rankings and track their HDI over time in this interactive (by clicking on "Explore Data" in the lower right-hand corner):

    View more of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter:

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    Renowned folk songwriter and singer Arlo Guthrie performs at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Va., and catches up with Art Beat to talk about his father, Woody.

    Arlo Guthrie, the son of folk legend Woody Guthrie, played his first gig at the age of 13. He has performed all over the world and runs his own record label, Rising Son Records. But while the younger Guthrie found his own sound and subject matter, separate from his father's, he has never forgotten his roots or forsaken that legacy as a great source for lessons in music and life.

    For months now, he has been traveling on his "Here Comes the Kid" tour in celebration of what would have been Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. In mid-February, Art Beat spoke with him during a two-night run at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Va., about his own music and his relationship with his dad.

    "He really was determined to be a freethinker," Guthrie told Art Beat. "To believe what he wanted to believe, or what he thought was important, to say what he had to say without you getting the feeling that he's selling you something. To me these were very important lessons."

    Guthrie reached deep back into the archives of well-known Woody Guthrie songs and stories to share with fans. Like his father, whose songs were often almost "journalistic," Arlo Guthrie is a storyteller, but in a different way.

    "He wrote songs about things that were going on, songs about stuff that had already happened, songs about what he thought ought to happen," said Guthrie. "That's not my style. I'm more of a personal writer. I write about things that are personal to me."

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    A representation of the innerworkings of the Atlas particle detector painted on one of the walls at the CERN campus in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images.

    New results from Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider “strongly indicate” that scientists have found the Higgs boson, the elusive particle believed to be responsible for giving mass to matter, scientists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, reported on Thursday.

    New results indicate that particle discovered at CERN is a #Higgs boson press.web.cern.ch/press-releases…

    — CERN (@CERN) March 14, 2013
    After analyzing two and a half times more data since the discovery announcement in July, CERN researchers say “the new particle is looking more and more like a Higgs boson.” But they stopped short of conclusively calling it Higgs. Still unknown is whether this is the “standard model,” the subatomic particle that was originally predicted or “the lightest of several bosons predicted in some theories that go beyond the Standard Model,” according to the CERN announcement. The Higgs boson is responsible for giving other particles — and thus stars, planets and everything on Earth — mass. And mass means weight, size and shape. For background, here’s the NewsHour’s discussion with Guardian Science correspondent Ian Sample from July, 2012. Watch Video

    “There’s an energy field in the space all around us, it goes through us, it’s everywhere you can think of,” Sample told NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez.

    “That field does something absolutely fundamental, which is it gives mass or weight to the smallest particles that make up you and me and everything else you can think of — any normal object. It gives weight to those objects, and if that wasn’t there… we wouldn’t have stars, planets, none of us would be here.”

    Note: the news isn’t all new. Some, like Wired’s Adam Mann earlier this week called it a yawn. Cosmologist Sean Carroll said “it’s looking pretty vanilla.”

    Big analysis of new data on the Higgs boson, and — it’s looking pretty vanilla. home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/…

    — Sean Carroll (@seanmcarroll) March 6, 2013

    Here’s a report we did a while back explaining what the Higgs boson means to physics, and how particle physicists will know when they’ve found it.

    And below, find some of our favorite videos on the subatomic particle.

    This video, by Daniel Whiteson, a physics professor at University of California, Irvine and cartoonist and robot scientist Jorge Cham, relies on animated drawings of quarks, a periodic table and cartoon people clinging to subatomic particles flying through space to tell the story of the Large Hadron Collider searching for Higgs.

    Here’s a wonderful video explainer about the Higgs boson by The Guardian’s Ian Sample. He explains what a Higgs boson is, how to look for it and why it matters using just a tray, a bag of sugar and some ping pong balls.

    And we promise to never talk about Higgs without including the LHC Rap:

    Read more science news on NewsHour’s Science and Technology page.

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