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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama administration announced several changes today that they say will make it easier for Americans to sign up for insurance coverage under the new federal health care law.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Some of the key changes involve timelines for enrollment.

    First, consumers trying to get new coverage starting January 1 now have an extra week to finish enrolling. The new deadline to sign up is December 23. The administration also announced it will push back the start of next year's enrollment period by one month. That effectively means that in year two of the program, Americans can start signing up in mid-November 2014.

    And late this afternoon, officials announced another change for this year. Insurers will be able to directly enroll people in three states, Florida, Texas and Ohio.

    Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal has been following these developments and is here to explain.

    Welcome to you.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY, The Wall Street Journal: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, if we start with the changes for this year, this one about pushing it back a week, what's behind that?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, the main reason behind it, the administration says, is that people have had problems getting into the site and they haven't had very much time to get their stuff together in time for January 1.

    What the insurers are saying is that the extension for other people actually creates a more compressed time frame for them. They now only have a week to process some of these applications if it turns up on December 23.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is all, first of all, because of the pressures of the roll out, right, the problems, but also the expected, I don't know, glut, perhaps at the end of the year.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Right.

    And the administration says it's working up stepping up the capacity for the site around the surge in December. But, of course, there are questions about whether the site can handle that and whether the carriers can handle it, too.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just to be clear for people, you still can sign up later to be covered later in 2014.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: You can.

    Typically, insurance starts on the first date of the month. So, if you want coverage for January, getting in by the December deadline is important and then so on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This was done, as you said, in consultation with the insurers? Is there differences in -- well, what had to be worked out?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, the administration -- the insurers say that they were told about it, but they didn't think it was a good idea. They're very concerned about it now and saying so pretty loudly, so the consultation appears to have been somewhat one-sided.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, to deal with this expected influx at the end of the year, the administration came out today and they said that they actually feel a little bit better. What are they -- what are they looking at?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, they're looking at the same data that we're looking at that seems to suggest that there is an uptick in interest in November both in the federally run and in the state-based exchanges too.

    So, it suggests that more people were going through the site. That said, what the insurers are saying is that they're having difficulty still with the data that is coming from people when they have completed the sign-up process. The more people that get through, the harder it is because they're checking them manually in a lot of cases.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the technology -- they feel a little bit better about the technology at this point?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: They feel a little bit better for the technology, as you said, for the direct enrollment process, for the three states where the administration is testing this out now.

    But that's been something they wanted since the beginning, and it's only just ready now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what about this -- this other announcement, that -- the direct enrollment from insurers in three states? This is kind of a pilot program.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: It is.

    It's where the insurer basically gets to help somebody sign up for a plan that they hope will be theirs in the end of it. There have been a lot of technical problems with making it work as intended. There has been some exploration of a work-around. It sounds as if it is just about working well enough now to test it out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, how is it going to work, and why these three states?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: These three states are the biggest ones, among the biggest ones that are having their exchanges run by the federal government because they chose not to do so. So, it seems like an obvious place to start.

    It also seems as if plans in those states were able to persuade the administration that they were be willing to be the guinea pigs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And is it possible that then it would roll out -- I mean, it would be allowed in other states?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: That certainly seems to be the hope.

    Again, the administration is struggling to get people signed up on its own. It needs all the help it can get.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, and then there's next year.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pushing it back another month. Now, why did the administration say it wanted to do it? And then we can get to the implications of that.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: This is very different in terms of reasoning.

    What the insurers have been saying is that they don't think they're going to have enough information from the first quarter of next year in order to set their rates around April for the 2015 cycle. They think that they might be uncertain partly because there have been a number of last-minute changes to the law about the state high-risk pools, with the administration's decision to allow carriers to continue selling policies that would otherwise have been canceled.

    And this disruption, they say, could lead to uncertainty. Generally, when insurers feel uncertain about something or their actuaries feel uncertain about something, they err on the side of caution, and caution in this case means higher rates, higher rates for 2015. You can see why that would have spooked people.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But also, of course, it plays into the politics, right, because it immediately got criticized by skeptical Republicans.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: It has certainly not been lost on people that this sidesteps the midterm election period of 2014. People will not be going through open enrollment while they're also voting.

    The Republicans were very quick to criticize that as...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: That would mean we wouldn't know the number of people signed up and we wouldn't know the rates in -- by the time of the...

    (CROSSTALK)

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: We might...

    JEFFREY BROWN: ... of the election.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: We might actually know the rates. They tend to be available through various ways a little bit sooner, but they're certainly not plastered up there and most people are not seeing them the way that reporters are seeing them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The White House response to the Republican criticism today?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, White House, the administration has just emphasized that it did this change, the open enrollment delay change, based on the needs of insurers. And certainly that is a very compelling reason for them to have done it, perhaps even beyond the politics, that they want to see the law work as they intended.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, one other last thing, briefly, which is California this week decided that it wouldn't pick up people who had lost their insurance because of the new ACA, bucking what President Obama himself had asked for.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: What we're seeing from California is a division among Democratic states about what to do.

    The president's move was designed to take political pressure off the law. What some supporters of the law, including these states, are saying is...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: ... that it could damage its actual prospects for success, and they're preparing -- they're preparing to stay the course on it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, some states are going along, some states are making a decision like California?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Yes. And among blue states, or states that are running their own exchanges, typically, what you're seeing is states that have a well-working state exchange are more willing to require people to give up the policies than people -- than states that don't have this exchange available.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Thank you.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Talks over Iran's nuclear program appeared to be gaining momentum, as negotiators met for a third day today.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, is in Geneva covering the story for us. I spoke to her a short time ago.

    Margaret Warner, hello again.

    So, tell us what happened today.

    MARGARET WARNER: Judy, it has been a total roller-coaster day.

    I mean, it began with clearly a change in atmosphere from last night. It ended with now all the foreign ministers are either here or are coming to Geneva.

    The day began with a meeting between the Iranian foreign minister, Zarif, and Catherine Ashton, who is the E.U. high rep and the sort of U.N. co-chairman for these talks. And it only lasted -- unlike yesterday, where it went for hours, it only lasted maybe less than 90 minutes, and foreign minister -- and then they left and consultations continued among the two groups.

    Foreign Minister Zarif on TV explained it this way. He said there were issues that were raised yesterday, he said, that we didn't agree on. And he said, and the delegations consulted their capitals and in some cases had results.

    In other words, it seems to me that, on some of the issues, the six, the U.S., the Chinese, the French, the Russians, the Germans, and the British, did move Tehran's way enough to satisfy Tehran. However, the rest of the day was just a complete to-ing and fro-ing. And 200 of us reporters were camped out in the intercontinental lobby, at one point forced to order wine to keep a seat in the wine bar.

    That happened about 5:00 p.m., frantically trying to glean anything. The only people talking were the Iranians. The Russian foreign minister flew in. He met with Zarif. But, finally, after much prodding, the State Department said finally after 11:00 p.m. our time that Secretary Kerry would come.

    And now -- and then it's just been announced that all the foreign ministers are. When asked -- Lavrov came on his own. But when asked whether Catherine Ashton had invited Kerry or whether he was also just arriving on his own, a Western source said to me just minutes ago that, in fact, she had talked to Kerry, that it was decided that if there is a deal she wants all the ministers here, and, therefore, it would be good if he came.

    But this person went on to say, this is not to mean that a deal is done. There is a lot of intensive work that's still going on, and I'm told it is going on, the negotiations are going to continue into the night tonight.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, what -- what do we know? What do you know about what they have agreed on and what are the sticking points still?

    MARGARET WARNER:  Well, Judy, the sticking points kind of remain the same, but according to even Iranian sources -- and they're the only ones who denied before that this point was resolved -- the whole squabble over the right to enrich, Iran's insistence that this deal recognize Iran has a right to enrich, has been resolved and finessed.

    And that is along the lines that I think you and I talked about one evening and Gwen and I talked about last night, which is, the U.S. position is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty doesn't even mention a right to enrich, it doesn't deny a right to enrich. It kicks in to impose certain verification and monitoring standards, which they're always -- the U.N. accuses Iran of violating.

    And so there's a way to not grant Iran a right to enrich, but simply word it in such a way that either side can take what they want from it. And Foreign Minister Zarif did an interview again this morning in which he indicated flexibility on those terms. He said, well, it's an unalienable right, so we don't need anyone to recognize it. We just want them to respect it.

    What we don't know yet, Judy, is, the French had put something -- had jammed up the works. That was already the deal between Iran -- between Kerry and Zarif, and what we don't know is what exactly they have tried to do and how that has been finessed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bring us a sense of what happens now that Kerry, Secretary Kerry, and these other foreign ministers are going to be there over the next day or two.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, the sense of urgency clearly remains.

    It's not known -- I mean, nobody knows whether this deal, if it's going to be done, can be done by tomorrow, or can be done by Sunday, because certain sticking points remain, not only the fate -- what kind of construction can continue, for instance, on this plutonium reactor, which, as we have had discussed, is pretty much impervious to being bombed one it's finished because it would spread deadly radiation.

    The other issue, I'm told by the Iranians, is that Zarif up the sort of price that Iran wanted in the way of sanctions relief. And so the question is, what could President Obama and/or the Europeans give in the way of some limited sanctions relief that wouldn't unravel the entire system of what really is strangling Iran's economy, which are restrictions on their oil exports and their use of the global financial system?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, sounds like you're reporting this right into the weekend. Thank you.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This has been a notable week for the stock markets, particularly for the Dow Jones industrial average, the benchmark index that's closely monitored and that's reaching new milestones.

    But there are questions about what's behind the rally of late and whether it reflects the fundamentals of the economy.

    NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman hit the trading floor yesterday in search of some answers.

    The story is part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    MARK OTTO, J. Streicher & Co:Up, up and away, yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Mark Otto at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, when the Dow ended above 16000, another record for the headline index of 30 major companies.

    Other stock indexes are hitting new highs as well, as companies continue to report healthy profits and recovery chugs along.And, yet, the recovery is weak and unemployment high.

    Even on the exchange floor, there was little enthusiasm.Why?

    MARK OTTO: I think everyone's a little bit worried.I mean, you hear the conversation of a bubble possibility coming up more often now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, says Otto, voicing a common complaint, that's because of the Federal Reserve in Washington.

    MARK OTTO: Fed stimulus has really propelled the market higher.Really, that's the debate that's going on right now as we close in to the end of the year.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But when you're buying a share of a company, you're buying a stake in or a claim on its profits, right?

    MARK OTTO: Actually, since Washington, D.C., and the markets have become more intertwined, I believe that traders are looking at stocks not only for earnings and the basis of beating expectations; it's also the fact of what's propelling those stocks.

    DOUGLAS DACHILLE, First Principles Capital Management:The Federal Reserve is trying to stimulate economic activity.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Wall Street money manager Doug Dachille, whose office literally looks down on the New York branch of the Federal Reserve, agrees.The Fed's post-crash policy of easy money, he says, has driven up the price of assets like stocks, instead of prompting investment and spending, as hoped.

    DOUG DACHILLE: Why you're here today talking to me is, you're questioning this whole thing.That's the problem.People are questioning it because they know the asset valuations have been driven by a monetary phenomenon.They have been driven by the Fed, so they're not confident that those asset valuations will be sustained and supported, because they think it may be a house of cards.

    PAUL SOLMAN: To boost the economy, that is, the Fed may have wound up goosing the stock market by creating money for the purpose of keeping interest rates down.

    So, the Fed, by keeping interest rates...

    DOUG DACHILLE: At zero -- at close to zero.

    PAUL SOLMAN: ... close to zero forces people to buy stocks instead.

    DOUG DACHILLE: Buy stocks, and then that person who used to own stocks, when he gets out of stocks, you know what he does?He looks for alternatives.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Alternatives like the new housing boom or, amazingly to Dachille, online lending clubs.

    DOUG DACHILLE: We just went through a credit cycle where you were afraid to lend against an asset supported by -- to a person supported by a house.Now you're lending unsecured, no collateral, no nothing to Joe on a Web site.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And also lending to stock investors, whose margin debt to buy shares on credit has been hitting record highs.

    The last record was set in 2007, a few months before the Dow's previous high watermark.But for all the talk of the Fed's role, Dachille agrees that there's an alternative way to understand a record Dow and higher profits: a shift of power from workers to owners.

    Another explanation is that these days labor is at the...

    DOUG DACHILLE: The mercy of capital.

    There are a lot of talented people in the world that are no longer being employed.You're now having machines and robots build stuff, and now you have one guy doing that job, where you used to have five, 10, 15.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so companies can pay labor less, keep more for themselves and their mostly wealthy shareholders.Yes, half of us own stock, if you include our pension funds.But the top 10 percent own something like 90 percent of the stock market; the top 1 percent something like 40 percent of it.

    At Zuccotti Park, home to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its "We are the 99 Percent" slogan two years ago, liberal economist Mike Konczal:

    MIKE KONCZAL, Roosevelt Institute:We see things like offshoring and globalization have really pushed down labor wages relative to how much capital gains in the economy.So globalization is creating a lot of winners and losers, and a lot of the winners are people who own capital, like people who own the stock market, and the losers are people who work and are unemployed right now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that even includes people who work at the market itself, says trader Mark Otto.

    You have been here for how long?

    MARK OTTO: Twenty years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And 20 years ago, what did this floor look like?

    MARK OTTO: We have gone from approximately 5,400 at maximum capacity to down around 800, 900 right now.A lot of that has to do with the fact that I can now do actually -- required nine people to do when I started out down here 20 years ago.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, says Mike Konczal, that's why the recovery is slow, unemployment high.

    MIKE KONCZAL: The stock market would actually be much higher if the unemployment was much lower.I think the economy is still really fundamentally weak, and that slack that's in the economy right now, with all the unemployed people, all the unemployed businesses, would actually bring up the stock market even further.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the end, then, it comes full circle.The Fed is trying to lower unemployment by stimulating the economy.But, by doing so, in some minds, it is overstimulating the stock market in the process.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome to you both, David in Philadelphia tonight.

    Let's talk about what happened yesterday in the Senate, the -- essentially changing the rules, Mark, to say that, to confirm a president's -- one of the president's nominees, it only takes a simple majority, no longer 60. They called it the nuclear option.

    But were the Democrats justified in doing this?

    MARK SHIELDS: Were they justified? I will leave that to a higher power to make that determination.

    I think it became inevitable, Judy. There have been 168 filibusters on presidential nominees in the history of the Senate. Half of them have occurred in the last four-and-a-half years, under President Obama. So it had become a tactic that was just part and parcel, that changed the system and the rules in the Senate, that you required 60 votes to be confirmed.

    And it reached the point where they weren't objecting to nominees on the basis of their qualifications or lack thereof. There was just a blanket opposition. And I think Democrats concluded, breaking their word from five years ago, when -- when they opposed this nuclear option -- but they concluded the Republicans, if they do win control of the Senate in 2014, which is probably a better-than-even bet, that they would do the same.

    So, they would get -- that any chance of compromise was probably minimal, so why not get done what they could get done in the remaining time of President Obama's term?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David -- David -- and, by the way, I made a mistake. You're not in Philadelphia. You're in San Francisco.

    (LAUGHTER)

     JUDY WOODRUFF: I knew that.

    But are you prepared to weigh in on whether the Democrats made a mistake here or not?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, they made a big mistake.

    There's -- Mark's right. There's no question there's been a deterioration of norms, but that's no reason to basically begin the erosion of the institution of the Senate, what makes the Senate special. When you go to the Senate dining room and you look at the senators, they actually do talk to each other across party lines. They have working relationships. It's not great. It's not the way it used to be.

    But they basically have working relationships. And they were able to pass legislation, even immigration reform, a couple weeks or months ago, because they have to do that, because to get a lot of stuff passed, including nominations, you have got to get 60 votes. And it's very rare that one party has 60 votes. So, they're used to working across party lines, in a way they just aren't in the House.

    And so, if you take away that 60-vote thing, starting now with some of the nominations, but probably going within a couple of years to the Supreme Court nominations and maybe the legislation, you basically are turning the Senate into the House. You're basically beginning the erosion of what makes the Senate special, beginning the erosion of minority rights.

    You're creating a much more polarized body over the long term. So, if you think partisanship and polarization are in short supply, well, then this was a good move, because we're going to have more of it, I think, in the medium and long term.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are these the kind of consequences you see?

    MARK SHIELDS: David's -- David's analysis is, as always, interesting, but erosion of partisan -- of comity and good feelings is not beginning with this. This is not -- this is not a cause.

    This is an effect of what has happened. I mean, this is a consequence of what has been going on. In running administration, Judy, personnel is policy. If you can't have your own people at a department or an agency, you can never -- you can never execute or be responsible for -- for the administration of justice and the law, which is your obligation.

    Take the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because Republicans objected to the law, they refused to confirm Rich Cordray, first Elizabeth Warren, who is now a member of the United States Senate, who, as a consequence of their opposition, became a national folk hero, and finally Rich Cordray. And only with the threat of the nuclear option did they do it.

    I mean, so it had reached a point -- it will be more partisan, no question about it. It will be more like the House. But I don't -- I think this was a -- this was one more step at a time when there wasn't that willingness that there was eight years ago for a gang of 14 to emerge and to say, we're going to break with our own party. Seven Democrats and seven Republicans, they did that on judicial nominees.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David, the Democrats argue that -- that the obstruction under this president is much worse than it was under his predecessors.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think, overall, that's true.

    I think the final year of the Bush administration was pretty bad. I think that was equal to some of these years. I would say the most defensible thing that the -- part of this law is the White House personnel. I agree with Mark on that. The president really should have wide leeway to choose who he want. I can see sort of getting rid of the 60-vote thing for the administration personnel.

    I find it much harder to defend the idea of getting rid of it for the judges. And, believe me, the Supreme Court judges, that will be -- that 60-vote thing will be gone in short order because of this.

    In the first place, what you're going to get is much more polarized judges. Now you have to kind of pick a nominee who is going to get some votes from the other party. Once this rule is in place, you don't have to do that. Both parties are going to go to their bases and we will have a much more polarized judiciary than we have now as a part of this.

    Then the final thing to be said, I agree with Mark, there's been a deterioration of norms, but the way to fix that is try to get people to behave better. We fix the norms. You don't want to break the fundamental structures and rules of the body. To me, that's basically giving up.

    And so we're sort of sentencing ourselves to a long period of greater polarization and partisanship.

    MARK SHIELDS: I think the -- historically, there has been a distinction made on presidential nominations, because a presidential appointment in the administration, at a Cabinet job or a sub-Cabinet job, is going to serve as long as that president.

    The president has been given greater latitude. The Senate has been more likely to confirm. It's very, very rare that the Senate has opposed a presidential nominee for a Cabinet job, John Tower being one of the few, Lewis Strauss under President Eisenhower.

    But judicial nominees have been historically different, that they have had to meet a different test, because they're there for a lifetime appointment, and they're going to be there long after the president who nominates them has left office. And so, I think, once you put the two of them together, I think you do -- you do accelerate and aggravate the partisanship...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are the consequences, though, for policy? For ordinary Americans watching all this, David, what is going to change as a result of this?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think, in the short-term, the Republicans are going to do a little retaliation. And so they're probably not going to cooperate, maybe some of the budget stuff, maybe some of the agriculture bills, some of the water bills, some of that kind of stuff.

    But on -- in the short term, we probably weren't going to see much passage of anything anyway. So, in the short term, you will just see -- it -- it underlines the fact that we're probably not going to have much legislation on anything. You had stuff going through the Senate before. It was dying in the House.  Now it will probably die in both bodies.

    I think what you will see in the long term, if my supposition is correct that we're going to go to a majority rule, a 50-vote rule on a to of things over the next couple years, is that you will see wider things in policy. One of the nice things about the American system is because we're a republic, and not a democracy, that we do protect majority rights, we made it hard to pass legislation.

    So, we have a lot of stability in our policy across really decades, because it's just hard to pass stuff. But now it will be much easier to pass stuff, if it's only a 50-vote rule, and so Republicans will swing policy this way, Democrats will swing it that way. And so we will probably see wider policy swings, and probably more instability.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what people are going to see?

    MARK SHIELDS: I think that -- I think there's a good chance of that.

    Just take, for example, Judy, the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. They had a real filibuster, 504 hours of Senate argument and debate over a four-month period. And it finally passed 71-29. And they invoked cloture. They ended the filibuster. And on that vote, there were 23 Democrats who opposed ending the filibuster who were opposed to civil rights, and six Republicans.

    It's reached the point now where when you -- I don't care who the nominee is. The Republicans were all against the nominee simply because a Democratic had done so. I think the implications will be, in addition to what David suggests, I think there will be -- they are felt in people's lives -- as long as the court of appeals in Washington, D.C., cannot make decisions, and they can't if the Republicans -- in the Republican system, had refused to approve, confirm another judge, then all the questions about civil rights, and gay rights, and workers' rights that come before that court, because that's where all of the regulations and laws are appealed.

    In addition to that, don't forget this: campaign finance. I mean, judges have changed the way we finance our campaigns. And it is abysmal. And anybody who doesn't think that touches their lives...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's coming from the Supreme Court.

    MARK SHIELDS: And that's coming from the Supreme Court.

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS: But it -- so I just think -- I think that these decisions do touch people's live, just not directly in the way they might be keenly aware of on a daily basis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it's -- we -- we -- today is a day for both of you when we -- the whole country looks back to President John Kennedy.

    David, you know, so much has been written about this over the last days. Certainly, today, we have been thinking about it all day long. How did this country change, or did it change, as a result of his presidency and his assassination?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    Well, I think the whole presidency really peaking, if you want to say, the martyrology of John F. Kennedy on this day 50 years ago changed the way we define presidents and politics really.

    If you go back Eisenhower, if you go back to his farewell address, which was I think three days before the Kennedy inaugural, it's a very limited sense of what government can do, and it should be balanced. We should suspect bigness. We should just try to balance interests. It's a very modest sense of what government can do.

    Kennedy comes in with that inaugural, and promises to bear any burden, pay any price, to end disease. It becomes much more utopian. And that sort of utopian sense that politics can really transform life is underlined by his charisma, the charisma of an office, and then it's underlined even more by the martyrdom, and by the mystique of Camelot that grows up.

    And politicians since, presidents since, including Reagan and including Clinton and including Obama, have tried to strike that Kennedyesque tone that they are the charismatic leader who can really transform everything.

    And, to me, the perverse effect of that, of sort of the enlargement of politics, has been subsequent disappointment when politics can't deliver that sort of Camelot dream again and again, whether it's -- whether it's Obama or whether it was Kennedy himself. And so it's perversely, I think, inflated politics, created a much more image-conscious politics, but then led to disillusionment, as politics can't live up to that sort of mirage of sort of religiosity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in a way, setting an unreachable standard, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I -- I have an advantage over David. I lived through it.

    And the first time I ever...

    DAVID BROOKS: Hey, I was 2.

    MARK SHIELDS: OK.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: The first time I ever slept in the same quarters with an African-American or took orders from an African-American as a regular course was at Parris Island, South Carolina, in Marine Corps boot camp.

    And the only reason I did it was because a president of the United States named Harry Truman said it was immoral, in the final analysis, to have Americans fight and possibly die for their country and be segregated by race.

    John Kennedy did the same thing and he was the first president actually to announce that policy, that civil rights was a matter of morality, that -- and segregation was immoral. And it changed America by so doing.

    The other thing he did and -- that is so important and is so missing is he called those who had been blessed and advantaged by education or by birth to an ethic and a -- to summon them to public service, that they had a responsibility to serve those who were less fortunate than themselves.

    It was best put, Judy, I thought by a young Peace Corps volunteer as, why did you -- why did you do this? And he said, I had never done anything unselfish, political, or patriotic. And nobody had asked me. Kennedy asked.

    And Kennedy did ask. And he did make a difference, and he brought thousands of people into public service and at every level. And I think in the best sense of a country, he touched what was best.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you both.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

     


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    Download the guide to civility. It's a handsome addition to any holiday table or potential political battleground.

    It's the holidays, and that means one thing: It's time for uncomfortable political discussions with your distant relatives.

    Uncle George founded the tea party chapter in Tulsa. Cousin Minnie just switched to a completely hemp-based diet. Sparks will fly. To bring peace across the land this holiday season, we asked Mark Shields and David Brooks to share their strategies for keeping things civil at the family dinner table. We baked Mark and David's sage wisdom into a handy Thanksgiving placemat, which you can print and share with your most uncivil family members.

    Here's what our champions of civility had to say.

    Mark and David's advice for keeping the peace

    David Brooks: My first tip: if you have a deep-down disagreement about how you were treated at your 13th birthday party, deal with it honestly and don't submerge it into a political fight. Most family political debates are fought because of deeper family issues. Second, the key to a civil political debate is to consider the likelihood that you're wrong.

    Mark Shields: Accept the rule that you can pick friends but you can't pick your relatives. I'd avoid toxic topics, no matter how tempting and provocative they may be. Avoid topics that are just depressing and would dampen the holiday spirit. Like the 2014 election if you're a Democrat. The Cheney family feud may be toxic in some families, but in others it would help them feel cohesive. The biggest rule of civility is avoiding those subjects that you know are just gonna lead to intense and intemperate disagreements.

    How to end a political battle if it gets out of hand

    David Brooks: There's a truism that you should never go to sleep mad. But I'm a believer that sometimes you just need to go to sleep. Get a good night's sleep and have a conversation about something else the next day. Politics is not that important.

    Mark Shields: A false fire alarm is always helpful. Or announcing that the turkey is ready, even if it isn't. The fire alarm or smoke alarm, either one. Other than that, just turn to Uncle Eugene who has a theory that left-handed Presbyterians are taking over the Federal Reserve and say "You're absolutely right! I never thought of that before but that's right."

    How to end an argument about the economy

    David Brooks: I think the actions of one administration or another has a very minor effect on the economy. The thing driving the economy is bigger than politics or government. They're just structural realities having to do with the way technology is evolving, the way skills are evolving.

    Mark Shields: Point out that the stock market has doubled since Barack Obama has been in office. You can't argue with that fact: It has doubled. Usually the person complaining is the one with the most in the stock market. At the same time, it's unacceptable that we have fewer jobs than five years ago. Anyone who boasts about a good economy is less than shortsighted.

    How to end an argument about health care reform

    David Brooks: Let's start with story about a rabbi who came to the synagogue with two pieces of paper in his pocket. One said the world was created for me and the other said I am nothing but dust and ashes. And the reason the rabbi carried those papers is they were both equally true. So when dealing with health care or any other issue, it's normal to have two opposing ideas be equally true. In Obamacare, it would cover millions of new people and it's also true that the website doesn't work well and it may hurt the economy. So, the big issues are always about balance.

    Mark Shields: It's always great to introduce new information. I really don't know that persuasion on this topic is possible at this time. I might be tempted to say "Isn't it interesting that after the terrible tragedy in the Philippines, China originally contributed less relief money than Ikea or Coca Cola?" In other words, think of a creative way to switch the topic.

    What do you do when someone says the president hasn't proven he's a U.S. citizen?

    David Brooks: Sometimes there are just facts. He is a U.S. citizen. Then you throw the turkey at them.

    Mark Shields: Anybody who brings up questions about where the president was born has proved his or her lack of civility. This is my kicker line: the government of Kenya will formally announce at a press conference that after exhaustive research they have determined that Obama was born in Honolulu. That's the kind of fall it's been for the government.

    Mark Shields offers this bonus wisdom on maintaining friendly family relations:

    It's a time to become a football fan. The NFL has done a great favor to the peacefulness of American family gatherings by scheduling a game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS. As soon as that's over, FOX has the Dallas Cowboys against the Oakland Raiders. If you haven't had enough -- although Sally Quinn once made the observation that any man who watches three football games in a row is probably brain dead, and that's probably true -- there's an 8:30 p.m. game that night. As long as there's a football game, it gives us something to talk about that lowers the temperature in the room.

    My other suggestion: It's good to ask non-political quizzes to get the conversation going.

    Here's a question to kick things off. What are the only four American colleges or universities to have produced both a President of the United States and a quarterback who has won the Super Bowl? (There are 44 U.S. presidents and 30 winning quarterbacks and there are more than 14,000 U.S. colleges and universities.)

    Answer: Stanford University produced Hoover and two Super Bowl quarterbacks, John Elway and Jim Plunkett, who won two as well. The University of Michigan produced Gerald Ford, as well as Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. The third school is the United States Naval Academy, from which Jimmy Carter and the Dallas Cowboys' Roger Staubach both graduated. Finally -- and no one ever gets this one -- there's Miami University of Ohio, which claims Benjamin Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The other question I use that I think everybody can play is: What are the smallest (in population) state capital cities in the U.S.?

    Answer: Montpelier, Vt., which is home to fewer than 8,000 people; Pierre, S.D., with fewer than 14,000; and Augusta, Maine. And I've been to all three.

    Interviews by Bridget Bowman

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    Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images Popular sci-fi series "Doctor Who" celebrates 50 years on Saturday. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

    The adventure started on November 23, 1963. Viewers stepped inside a police box that was "bigger on the inside," and met the Doctor, played by English actor William Hartnell, an old curmudgeon who was a time-traveling alien from the planet Gallifrey.

    50 years, 798 episodes and 11 lead actors later, "Doctor Who" Saturday brings the 50th anniversary special of the longest-running science fiction series on television. The epsiode, "The Day of the Doctor," will be simulcast around the globe allowing all fans to see watch the Doctor's latest adventure without needing to time travel to another time zone to view it earlier than anybody else.

    Not too sure what a Time Lord or a Dalek is? Feeling daunted by 50 years of "timey wimey" history? Doctor Who? A detailed infographic, created by HalloweenCostumes.com, has summed up a good portion of the "Doctor Who" lore as a primer. We at the NewsHour made our own infographic as well from 2010, when actor Matt Smith took over the role.

    If you need something to pass the time until then, Google has created an interactive game celebrating 50 years.

    H/T Justin Scuiletti

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  • 11/23/13--06:19: What we're watching Saturday
  • Iranian flag at (IAEA) in Vienna. Photo credit: DIETER NAGL/AFP/GettyImages.

    Good morning. Here are some of the top stories we'll be keeping an eye on throughout the day.

    Iran - Nuclear

    Secretary of State Kerry has joined the talks in Geneva. Diplomats say that there is a "realistic chance" for a deal, but no guarantee.

    There are reports of a possible compromise on the sticking point of Iran's demand for a "right to enrich" uranium.

    The fate of the Arak plutonium reactor (now under construction) remains a point of contention.

    Climate Talks

    Talks go into extra day in Warsaw, Poland, but delegates are deadlocked over climate aid. Rich nations are resisting demands for firm targets on how to meet pledge of $100 billion a year for developing nations.

    The only concrete agreement so far is on new rules to protect tropical forests through the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) Program which provides monetary compensation to developing nations who can prove they have cut emissions by curbing deforestation.

    Syria

    Islamist rebels of al-Nusra Front have reportedly captured the largest oil field in eastern Syria, al-Omar, in what could be a serious blow to Bashar al-Assad.

    Activists say government air strikes in the north have killed at least 29.

    Egypt - Turkey

    Cairo expels Turkish ambassador over "interference" in Egyptian affairs. Turks have condemned the coup that ousted Morsi.

    Western Storms

    A powerful storm that killed four in California and Arizona is now moving into New Mexico and Utah with snow, high winds and flooding.

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  • 11/23/13--08:50: #FCC
  • The FCC might be ready to permit cellphone calls in flight. But what about the airlines? http://t.co/TiH8W6Aox2 -CJ

    — The Associated Press (@AP) November 23, 2013

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    A man carrying a water bottle passes a sign of boxer Manny Pacquiao following the recent super typhoon in Leyte, Philippines. Credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Bright spots in the typhoon-ravaged central Philippines: cable operators have set up giant TV screens to broadcast Filipino boxing phenom Manny Pacquiao's first fight in almost a year.

    Cable operators put up a screen in a sports stadium where about 3,000 displaced people are living. TV screens have also been set up near other landmarks in Tacloban, the central-Philippines city that was decimated by the Typhoon Haiyan two weeks ago. Much of the city still lacks electricity.

    Local officials hope the fight will provide a much-needed lift in spirits to the region, where more than 5,000 died in the powerful storm.

    Pacquiao will take on American Brandon Rios in what's being called a comeback fight after his devastating knockout loss last December. The match is taking place Sunday morning at Coti Arena in Macau.

    "My countrymen, I want to make them happy. To bring honor to my country," Pacquiao told Reuters earlier this week.

    Pacquiao is also a member of the Philippine Congress, representing a southern province that was not damaged in the typhoon.

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    ANNOUNCER: “Tonight’s Mega millions jackpot is an estimated annuitized $149,000,000…”

    KARLA MURTHY: it’s a moment that millions of Americans wait for each week.

    ANNOUNCER: “Now, let’s see if we can make you a millionaire tonight…”

    KARLA MURTHY: The chance to win a huge, life-changing amount of money.

    ANNOUNCER: “A check for $10,000 dollars”

    KARLA MURTHY: But now some states are experimenting with a different kind of lottery. One where you won’t necessarily win, but you can’t lose.

    It’s something called a prize-linked savings account.

    And twenty-seven year old Crystal Rose Hudelson was intrigued by a poster for one when she walked into her local credit union in Seattle earlier this year.

    CRYSTAL ROSE HUDELSON: It had this girl-- she was really cute, too, cute clothes and cute hair, and she had this sign up and you just need $25. And I thought to myself, "Well, what is this?"

    KARLA MURTHY: It was for a savings program called ‘Save to Win.’ for every $25 dollars a member puts into their account, they are entered to win small monthly prizes ranging from $50 to $100 dollars, but also the chance to win one of four bigger prizes of $5000 next spring.

    Even if you don’t win, you get to keep the money, plus interest.

    The prize money is put up by the credit unions and their regional association as an incentive to get members to save.

    The idea is new to the U.S, but it has been around for decades all over the world. At least eighteen countries have prize-linked savings options, including the U.K.

    COMMERCIAL: “They’d found they’d won five thousand smackers. And gleefully did shout, ‘that’s mine…’ ‘It’s mine’ ‘no mine’ ‘no mine  the moral: buy premium bonds, win something worth really arguing about.”

    KARLA MURTHY: Back in Washington State, Crystal signed up for Save to Win.

    CRYSTAL ROSE HUDELSON:

    I'm not going to lose anything, so why not?"  And I keep telling everybody it's my version of gambling.     

    KARLA MURTHY: What Crystal found in Washington State is also offered in three other states. In Nebraska, nearly 1,500 savers are competing for an annual $25,000 grand prize. In North Carolina, more than 1,800 savers are vying for an annual $30,000 grand prize. And in Michigan – where the program has around since 2009 – 12,500 savers are entered into a chance to win six grand prizes of $10,000 each.

    It’s all meant to remedy America’s dismal savings rate, which has declined by more than half over the last four decades. In fact today, more than a quarter of all Americans have no savings at all.

    But Derek Kilmer has been working to change that.

    REP. DEREK KILMER:  The problem with not savings is it can often mean you're-- a crisis away from, as we've seen in some cases, living in your car or losing your home or-- having your lights shut off.

    KARLA MURTHY: As a Washington State Senator, Kilmer sponsored legislation in 2011 to allow credit unions, which are regulated by the state, to offer ‘Save to Win.’

    KARLA MURTHY:  Why isn't just the reward of compounding interest enough to make people save?  I mean, why do you actually need this prize to get people to save?

    REP. DEREK KILMER: Why do people play the lottery or why do people gamble, period?  You know, it's with the hope of winning something more. There's a sense that this actually makes savings fun.

    KARLA MURTHY: As a full-time student studying to become an aircraft mechanic, saving isn’t usually fun for Crystal Rose Hudelson. She’s paying for school on her own by also working full-time.

    CRYSTAL ROSE HUDELSON: I think the most I've ever had in my savings account honestly, now that I think about it, is probably about $500.

    KARLA MURTHY: Sharon Hall is the CEO of Express Credit Union, where Crystal is a member. They are one of six credit unions offering ‘Save to Win’ in Washington.

    KARLA MURTHY: When you first heard about this whole idea, what was your reaction?

    SHARON HALL: My reaction was yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I want to play.  I want to play.

    KARLA MURTHY: Since launching in April, Express has signed up dozens of ‘Save to Win’ accounts, which are structured as 12 month certificates of deposit – or CDs. Hall says even though the accounts aren’t profitable for the credit union, she’s encouraged by the results so far. The save to win accounts average $573 dollars, which is more than a four times the average savings balance at the credit union.

    KARLA MURTHY: Do you really think this is going to change behavior or teach people the value of having a savings account?

    SHARON HALL: I think its forced behavior which is really-- I hate to say that, but the reason why they're CDs is because you have to keep it in there for 12 months.  So if you've learned that you can live without that $25 for 12 months, it's a behavioral change.

    KARLA MURTHY: Do you think the prizes are big enough to draw people in?

    SHARON HALL:  Yeah, I think that the grand prize is.  And the more financial institutions that participate, the bigger the prize is. You know, it's not going to be a million dollars, but you know, it's enticing enough to draw-- new-- people into your financial institution.

    KARLA MURTHY: Most members at Express Credit Union are low income.

    And Melissa Kearney thinks that prized linked savings accounts will particularly appeal to low income Americans – who spend a disproportionately high share of their income playing lotteries.

    MELISSA KEARNEY: It's often thought that people are irrational when they play the lottery.  But I would challenge that assumption.  If you're a low income individual, how else can you potentially win enough money to buy a house, or really change your life?

    KARLA MURTHY: Kearney is an economist at the University of Maryland and director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. She’s thinks these lottery-based accounts help people save by leveraging their desire to win big.

    MELISSA KEARNEY: If you have low savings deposits, which many low and moderate income individuals do, you're only accumulating a few dollars every month, or even every year.  And it will take those ten years to accumulate enough interest payments on,let’s say, a low deposit checking account, to make any sort of down payment or big purchase.  And this changes that. 

    KARLA MURTHY: But does prize-linked savings actually help people save more money? Kearney helped design an experiment to find out.

    MELISSA KEARNEY: The results were quite striking. What we're able to say at the end of the day is that for a given amount of interest payment, they can actually entice a lot more deposits, and more savings, if they structure the interest to have some lottery or prize link component to it.

    The results were consistent with what’s been seen in Michigan, where the average amount saved with ‘save to win’ has grown dramatically since being launched in 2009.

    KARLA MURTHY: So why aren’t prized linked savings sweeping the U.S.? Turns out, the biggest obstacle to expanding these types of savings accounts is federal law. Unlike state-regulated credit unions, it’s illegal for banks, which are federally-chartered institutions, to participate in lotteries.

    KARLA MURTHY: But a new bipartisan bill introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House in October could make prize-linked savings accounts much more widely available.

    DEREK KILMER: The bill that we offered-- is called the American Savings Promotion Act.

    KARLA MURTHY: Derek Kilmer is now a Democratic Congressman, and he’s a co-sponsor of the legislation in the House, along with Republican Tom Cotton from Arkansas.  

    DEREK KILMER: Ideally, at the very least at the federal level I'd like to see us remove an impediment to financial s-- institutions offering this innovative product.

    KARLA MURTHY: At the end of the day is it really teaching people to be better savers?  Or is it just teaching them to do this just because you might get a prize?

    DEREK KILMER: So, to some degree this is-- you know, this is basically intermittent positive reinforcement.  As someone saves more money, they earn more chances and that's positive reinforcement to save more money.

    And I think that's a good thing. I mean, we've just gone through some of the most difficult financial years a nation can go through, and so I think there's an appreciation for the value of a tool like to help people save.

    KARLA MURTHY: Crystal Rose Hudelson is convinced ‘Save to Win’ has helped her save more money, especially after she got some surprising news last month.

    KARLA MURTHY: So have you won anything yet?

    CRYSTAL ROSE HUDELSON: Yes, I won $50.  I was so excited about it.

    KARLA MURTHY: What did you do with the money that you won?

    CRYSTAL ROSE HUDELSON: I reinvested it right back into the CD.  'Cause every $25 increment you get your name put back into the drawing.  And I would be an idiot if I didn't put it back in to get my name put back in the drawing two more times.  So it went straight back in.

    Additional funding from Citi Foundation.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: A recent string of events have raised questions about the freedom of the foreign press in China. A prominent journalist for Reuters who had been reporting there for years was denied a visa by the Chinese government with no reason given. This after revelations that Bloomberg News withheld publication of an investigative story for fear the news agency would be kicked out of the country - a charge the company has vehemently denied.

    Earlier I sat down with Bob Dietz, who is Coordinator of the Asia Program, for the Committee to Protect Journalists.  I began by asking him if these events were business as usual or something more.

    BOB DIETZ: I think this is basically business as usual. China's long had a contentious atmosphere, approach toward media. It is cyclical. You come into periods of real anger. You're looking at a new government trying to come in,  assert its authority and set new rules for the media.

    The local media, the Chinese media, has grown accustomed to dealing with this government and the governments that have come before. What we're seeing now is a greater animosity toward foreign journalists.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What's motivating that? 

    BOB DIETZ: I think increasingly the government has taken on a reform atmosphere itself and has taken on corruption at certain levels in the government. What it doesn't like is for foreign journalists or even local journalists to do that on their own. They want to control that process.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So it's OK for their own journalists to expose their dirty laundry they don't want it aired by others?

    BOB DIETZ: Not even their own media so much as their state-controlled media. They way they control the story -- how it's represented -- who is the bad guy and who is the good guy and how it should be portrayed. 

    What they don't like is is when the local media starts to get rambunctious and starts to run with the story themselves or discovers other corruption that the governments doesn't want revealed or isn't ready to have revealed. Or when the foreign media do that.

    There was a recent report out by foreign press that was in China, and they really rattled off a list of concerns that they have -- they listed not only intimidation of themselves and their sources and even cyber attacks against them.

    BOB DIETZ: It's the Foreign Correspondent's Club of China, the FCCC. They released a report, did a survey in May and in the middle of the year they brought it out. The vast majority of the respondents said that things were either getting worse or that they've stayed static and aren't improving in China. And you have the official central government level where you get this bureaucratic harassment or you get called into the foreign ministry or the information ministry and lectured. 

    When you're doing stories that are at the ground level or provincial level in China there you're dealing with a different sort of problem, really a threat. You have cops, thugs, village officials who really have this over-developed sense of entitlement and power not ready to accommodate media, neither Chinese media or foreign media. Local police can really get rough with demonstrators. There are a tremendous number of demonstrations in China. And caught in the melee very often you'll have journalists. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So is the intimidation working? Are foreign news agencies intimidated by working in China or working freely in China?

    BOB DIETZ: I look at the most of the wire services I see, and I'm an old AP reporter myself, and I don't see them cutting corners. But I do speak to journalists there and somehow they know the government is watching and if they don't like what they are writing there'll be some price to pay.  Either the grand price of being kicked out or something smaller. 

    Journalists working in China assume at all times that their phone are bugged and their email traffic is being monitored. Even if it isn't happening on a specific individual case, people are always operating with that assumption in their back of their mind. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Bob Dietz from the Committee to Protect Journalists thanks so much.

    BOB DIETZ: Thanks Hari.

     

     


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    Editor's note: This interview was recorded at 10:30 p.m. local Geneva time, before the agreement was reached. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining us now from Geneva, Switzerland is Margaret Warner. She's been covering the Iranian nuclear negotiations throughout the week. So, bring us up to speed. What happened today or didn't happen today?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Hari, as you just said, even though the six foreign ministers all flew in -- Secretary Kerry, the British, the French, the Chinese, Germans, Russians are all here for these talks.

    They spent a whole daily laboring at this and have been unable to clench a deal and right at this moment, which is about 10:30 here in

    Geneva, just the six are in yet another -- this time a post-dinner meeting.

    They had a three-hour meeting earlier and apparently, everybody is struggling over the actual language of this text.

    Iran’s foreign minister said earlier today that every word and expression has its own meaning and requires caution.

    Then his deputy foreign minister in the middle of the afternoon said -- at one point he called this breathtakingly difficult and again, he referred to words and text.

    And he said, you know, that we're making more progress he said than yesterday, but it is not at all clear that we'll have this done tonight.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So if both sides want a deal, why is this proving so difficult?

    MARGARET WARNER: You know, that's a very good question, Hari, because I think it invites one to step back.

    In other words, yes, they are arguing about, it's reported, what will happen with the plutonium heavy water reactor, the one you really can't bomb once its operational because it will spread deadly radiation.

    There is still apparently some hassle about the wording of Iran's enrichment activities -- but those are just small-- relatively small specifics.

    What's really at stake here is each side wants to maintain leverage for the big deal they are supposed to negotiate in the next six months to a year.

    With all the attention we focus on this first phase deal, I really is just the tip of the iceberg and the idea was simply for each side to give enough to sort of freeze Iran's program at least in place, relieve a few sanctions to buy time on the clock, which is what everyone says, so that Iran won't achieve nuclear breakout before they can negotiate a final, final deal.

    So each side wants to maintain a lot of painful leverage over theother. So for Iran, that means, okay, maybe we'll freeze many parts or all of our program, but we don't want to not still look frankly like a threat, and the U.S. and the West is willing to ease some sanctions, but they don't want to relax the ones that Iran really cares about, the oil, trading sanctions, the one that basically have kept them out of the global financial system.

    Because they are afraid that once -- if the U.S. does that and the West does that, Iran won't have any incentive to continue with the second phase of the negotiations.

    So there's -- it's really tactical and strategic and political, as we know, both Iranians and Americans have hardliners at home they have to satisfy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So if we see no deal reached here, we kind of saw tuis two weeks ago. There was a tremendous amount of energy, a buildup, if there is no deal reached here now, what does that do to the momentum of this conversation?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Hari, it makes it very, very difficult. Calling in the foreign ministers last time was like, okay, we're really there. We're almost there, bringing in the big guns and they got so close And then they failed.

    So this time was supposed to be the time and the ministers weren't even supposed to come in until it was really close and they were supposed to correct a final version. Instead, after three days of talks, it didn't quite get far enough. They agreed to come in.

    It is hard -- I mean, it's not impossible to go to that well a third time but each time you pull out your big card or your big gun it diminishes its cloud.

    At the same time, what is keeping the parties going is: What's the alternative? So the West looks and says well, for Iran, the alternative is to continue to this kind of uranium enrichment program, plutonium development program to get ever closer to that breakout point where they can be basically nuclear ready.

    And for Iran it would mean if there is no deal, that the U.S. congress for one is going to impose even tougher sanctions, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he’s ready to let a bill move starting December 9th.

    So the alternative is really, really potentially ugly because there is the also the threat of potentially an Israeli or U.S. strike. So that is what I think is keeping the parties on the table.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Margaret Warner joining us from Geneva, thanks so much.

    MARGARET WARNER: My pleasure, Hari.

     

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    Tonight on NewsHour Weekend, we look at credit unions in four states offering a lottery that gives savers the chance to win small monthly prizes or a yearly grand prize -- but even if you don't win you get to keep the money you put in, plus interest.

    To learn more about prize-linked savings, NewsHour Weekend Producer Sam Weber spoke with Joanna Smith-Ramani, Director of Scale Strategies for D2D Fund.

    D2D Fund aims to strengthen financial opportunity for low and moderate income consumers through new products and policies, according to the organization's website.

    SAM WEBER: What is it about prize-linked savings that you think works so well as an incentive to get people to save?

    JOANNA SMITH-RAMANI: I've yet to meet a person who didn't want to win something -- who didn't want fun and excitement in their life -- and doesn't seek entertainment in some way.

    Across the board, across incomes, across who you are, these are things people like. And you almost never see that in a financial product. So the combination of the two is a pretty unique thing that doesn't end up being gimmicky and seems to last -- especially in the international experience -- over decades.

    So these things, once they are linked, seem to have really tremendous compatibility that we didn't think it did before. And that attracts all kinds of folks, but particularly folks who haven't saved before because there just wasn't anything kind of fun, exciting, attractive, to focus their attention away from all the other demands in their lives.

    SAM WEBER: Beyond Save To Win, what are some of the applications of prize-linked savings that are underway in the U.S. right now?

    JOANNA SMITH-RAMANI: We are working closely with different states to try to build a model that leverages the infrastructure of a state's lottery system. We think this is so promising and we're really excited about that.

    Because what you get from lottery is huge distribution infrastructure and largely in neighborhoods with folks who we are most concerned about - people who are financially vulnerable.

    So you get that huge infrastructure and you get intelligence from the lottery system on how to run games and how you get people engaged.

    It's being able to leverage that knowledge base about the product that is really exciting. And you get name brand. Lottery is everywhere. You aren't trying to convince folks who haven't been saving to go into a bank somewhere or go into a credit union - so they could really impulsively do this.

    You go buy your milk, you go buy a coke, and also pick up a savings lottery ticket. So it really democratizes savings in a lot of ways because you can really get it out to the masses in what could be a more efficient infrastructure.

    SAM WEBER: So what exactly would that look like?

    JOANNA SMITH-RAMANI: The simplest way to think about it is -- I'm a consumer, I go into my local drugstore and along the wall is this opportunity to get a savings ticket.

    So, imagine it's a scratcher -- you scratch, you might win, you might not. You pay 10 dollars for your scratcher and that 10 dollars is yours -- put into a savings account for you, if you think of it that way -- and you are also entered into a chance to win.

    Then you take your scratcher, you go online, to a mobile app, you call a phone number, and you register your scratcher with the state.

    So essentially you identify yourself to the state and say: I opened up this account, bought this 10 dollar scratcher, I need you to allocate that scratcher to me. And now my account is set up with the state, so I can buy another 10 dollar scratcher, or my mom can put one in my Christmas card and I can keep building it.

    So I have the original chance to win when I scratched it, and then you can imagine there would be other weekly, monthly, annual drawings on the money I keep in that account so that encourages me to keep that savings and not just redeem it and get my 10 dollars back.

    SAM WEBER: Isn't there a sense that, you know, when you are a kid you were taught that as you get older you're supposed to save money for retirement or whatever else? Why should we have to turn this into a game? Isn't this something we should all be doing?

    JOANNA SMITH-RAMANI: We all don't learn that anymore, is one thing.

    I mean that's why there's a whole host of advocates out there trying to mandate high schools and junior highs and elementary schools to have economic education.

    It just simply doesn't happen anymore. Perhaps if we did we wouldn't need to game-ify things -- but there's a huge generation of folks, myself included, that it just simply wasn't part of your curriculum to learn that.

    And if you do not have parents who teach you, or you do not have parents who have those skills themselves, why would we expect that people just know this? It's not intuitive necessarily to know how to manage your finances.

    It is probably intuitive to say to yourself: I don't want to be destitute and I want to have some savings. But think about the energy, the money, the creativity spent in this country to try to get us to buy and buy and buy. And then the small, creative, but nowhere in comparison of resources effort to get people to get people to think more about savings and financial security and planning for the future.

    So this is like a David and Goliath situation and we need to do our best to be just as creative -- just as thoughtful, just as in tune with the literature and science about behavior and behavioral economics and leverage those to build consumer products and experiences that help them.

    SAM WEBER: So when was the last time you played the lottery?

    JOANNA SMITH-RAMANI: I probably played it last at Christmas myself. My sister always puts lottery tickets in our stockings every year.

    Additional funding provided by Citi Foundation

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    The father of 13-year old Yahya Sweed talks with his son on the day after he was released from hospital; one of his legs was amputated due to shrapnel following shelling by government forces on the town of Kfar Nubul, Syria. Credit: Aniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

    More than 11,000 children have died in the Syria conflict over the last three years, according to a new report published by a London-based think tank.

    The Oxford Research Group said most children are killed by bombs or shells in their own neighborhood, but children as young as one have also been subjected to torture and executions.

    The group used data collected by Syrian civil society groups that have been recording deaths and human rights violations that have occurred during the conflict.

    According to the report, of the 11,420 children aged 17 or younger, most have been killed in the city of Aleppo -- and boys outnumber girls 2 to 1.

    While the majority of children were killed by explosive weapons, 764 were killed by summary executions and 389 were killed by sniper fire, with evidence showing some children were specifically targeted.

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    GENEVA - It was 4:40 a.m. Sunday when Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif strode in to meet the world press in the fluorescent-lit Geneva conference center.

    He'd had little sleep over four-and-a-half days of grueling negotiations, yet he flashed reporters a wide smile and spoke expansively of how terrific the just-completed nuclear arms deal was for Iran.

    Zarif and Kerry U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations Palais in Geneva November 24, 2013. Credit: REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool

    "All of us see the opportunity to end an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons based on respect, based on the rights of the Iranian people, and removing any doubt about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," he told reporters in his easy, fluent English.

    Secretary of State John Kerry -- who'd flown in 22 hours earlier after a red-eye flight from Washington, wasn't grinning quite as broadly when he appeared just before 5 a.m., and exhaustion showed in his face. But he too spoke expansively of the deal's benefits, declaring the agreement "impedes the progress in a very dramatic way of Iran's principle enrichment facilities and parts of its program, and ensures they cannot advance in a way that will threaten our friends in the region, threaten other countries, threaten the world."

    It's tempting to conclude that Zarif and Kerry were simply spinning the deal for their own domestic audiences and critics, and there was some of that, of course. But the fact is, these two men and their teams had fulfilled the #1 feature of successful diplomacy -- especially in a multi-stage negotiation like the one over Iran's disputed nuclear program.

    That's to decide what you most urgently need in the first phase - and what your counterpart most requires as well -- and devise a win-win solution that satisfies both.

    For the U.S. and its allies, and for President Obama himself, the greatest need was to halt Iran's relentless march to achieving nuclear-weapons capability, which by some estimates is less than three months away. So persuading Iran to agree as it did yesterday to freeze progress in all elements of that program, even roll back one element, for six months, and to accept intrusive international oversight of its facilities, halted the clock just in the nick of time.

    The need was pressing for the White House. If Kerry's team couldn't achieve an agreement in very short order, President Obama faced three unpalatable choices; watch Iran evolve into a nuclear-weapons-capable state, launch U.S. military strikes against Tehran's facilities or risk the prospect that Israel might do the same, with wildly unpredictable consequences.

    But it was just as important for the Kerry team to satisfy the two most pressing domestic needs for newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani: to get some relief from the economic sanctions strangling Iran's economy, and win at least tacit recognition that at the conclusion of the whole process, Iran one day might be treated as a normal civilian nuclear state, not an outcast forever on probation.

    The modest relief the U.S. allowed yesterday -- about $6 billion worth of unfrozen oil sales assets abroad and of revived trade in defined areas like petrochemicals -- addressed the first. And on the second, while not caving in to Tehran's demand for explicit recognition of Iran's "right to enrich" uranium, the deal includes an acknowledgement that the end result of a broader deal might be an Iran that can run a civilian nuclear program under intrusive inspections, including enrichment, without being punished by the world.

    Today's agreement was just the "first step" on what's going to be a rocky path to finding a comprehensive deal to allay the world's suspicions about Iran's nuclear intentions and activities.

    The tortuous negotiations reflected the deep distrust between the parties. Today's deal could crumble, and full-scale enrichment and US sanctions revived, if progress toward the big deal stumbles.

    But Kerry and his team did achieve results by practicing diplomacy the way James A. Baker, Secretary of State for President George H.W. Bush did in negotiating a peaceful transition out of the Cold War against a wounded but still dangerous Soviet Union.

    The aim is not to humiliate one's opponent, least of all an economically wounded but still dangerous Iran. It's to suss out and satisfy your counterpart's domestic political needs without mortgaging your own leverage in negotiations to come. It's knowing that skillful diplomacy is really just politics on a global scale -- or politics as it used to be practiced in Washington.

    Joint Plan of Action, Geneva, 24 November 2013

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  • 11/24/13--11:11: #PHOTO
  • PHOTO: Birds fly as Sinabung volcano spews volcanic ash into the air in Karo, Indonesia, by @SutantaAdityapic.twitter.com/tZSQoJf1Hg

    — Agence France-Presse (@AFP) November 24, 2013

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  • 11/24/13--11:32: FROM THE WIRE:
  • ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) - Obama phones Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges consultations with ally on Iran nuclear deal.

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    Video streaming by Ustream

    It's 5 p.m. EDT -- where are you getting your news? PBS NewsHour Weekend is streaming live on our UStream channel.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM:  Since I can’t control what you’re gonna do, I can control what I’m gonna do.  And what that means, in the future, if you violate any of the conditions of probation, you can count on me giving you some jail time

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  This isn’t the way things used to be.  When Judge Steven Alm was assigned to a felony trial courtroom in Honolulu in 2004, he saw judges routinely warning offenders to follow the rules of probation … and probationers just as routinely ignoring those warnings.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: At sentencing, the judge says no drugs, you have to see your probation officer, you have to pay your restitution.  And then, in the real world, they go out there and violate those conditions.  And typically, there's no consequence.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  No consequence because the only threat was years in prison.  But that threat was usually only carried out after dozens of violations over months or years.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: And I thought what a crazy way to try to change anybody's behavior. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So, people just aren't reforming.  They're not getting better.

    Hawaii Hope statistic 3

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: That's right. They're not.  They're getting worse. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Judge Alm – a former city prosecutor and U.S. Attorney with a reputation as one of the court’s toughest sentencers, wasn’t having it.  So he decided to try a different approach – an approach based on his experience as a father.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: I thought to myself, well, what would work to change behavior?  And I thought of the way I was raised, the way my wife and I would-- were trying to raise our son.  You tell him what the family rules are, and then, if there's misbehavior, you do something immediately.  Swift and certain is what's gonna get people's attention and help them tie together bad behavior with a consequence and learn from it.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM:  Do you need to sit in jail any longer to realize how seriously we’re gonna take all this stuff?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Despite all the tough talk, Judge Alm called his new program “HOPE.”  It stands for “Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement.”    Judge Alm worked with the probation supervisor, public defender and law enforcement to institute his new procedures, which were pretty simple:  if any probationer violated the rules, they’d be punished immediately.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: In some ways, HOPE is parenting 101.  A lotta the folks in the program, I think, grew up in families was-- where there wasn't a lotta structure.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: Make sure you call the hotline every weekday morning.

    Hawaii Hope statistic 2

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The HOPE program targets probationers at highest-risk of violating the rules, and Alm estimates around 80% of them abuse drugs and alcohol.  So unlike regular probation, where offenders can usually anticipate a drug test at a scheduled appointment, hope imposes drug tests that are frequent, and random.   Probationers are assigned a color and a number and must call a hotline every single morning.

    RECORDING:  Today’s UA colors are Blue 2, Green 3…

    MEGAN THOMPSON: If their color and number are called, they must report by 2pm – no excuses.  Short jail stays – sometimes just a few days long - are immediately imposed for positive drug tests and other violations, like missing appointments.  But there’s some leeway here: 

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: Anyone who shows up and tests dirty, and admits to it is telling me that they’re having problems,  they messed up, but they’re taking responsibility for it.  I understand that.  So I’m going to reflect that by only giving you a couple days in jail. And so, we’re gonna work with you on that. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: These seemingly simple reforms in Hawaii soon produced remarkable results.  An arm of the department of justice funded a study five years after the program launched.  That study found that compared to people in regular probation, HOPE probationers were half as likely to be arrested for new crimes, or have their probation revoked.  They ended up spending about half as much time in prison.  And were 72% less likely to use drugs.  The results from Hawaii caught the attention of criminal justice experts across the nation.

    TODD CLEAR: When I first encountered the HOPE model I was skeptical.  Most criminologists are. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Todd Clear is an expert on criminal justice at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  He says he was skeptical, because old models of deterrence that use threats usually don’t work, because the threats were too big, and never carried out.  But HOPE, he says, does the exact opposite.

    TODD CLEAR: What they have done with-- the HOPE model has been to-- ratchet down the level of penalty so that it's something you can actually afford to do and then-- and then ratchet up the likelihood that if you engage in misconduct, you will actually experience that penalty.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Clear says the HOPE model also works because these penalties are seen as fair by the offenders.

    TODD CLEAR: Rapid responses that are reasonable, that are understood to be reasonable, that are clearly un-- that the person understands what was happening and why it was happening have a behavior-shaping-- behavior-changing-- capacity. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Hope’s success in steering offenders away from prison was so promising that programs modeled after it have now launched in courtrooms in 17 other states.   Washington State, for example, put its entire parole and probation population into its version of HOPE.  And the federal department of justice has launched HOPE programs in communities in four states.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Here in Honolulu, the program is working for people like John Kema. He was picked up in 2006 for resisting arrest and possession of methamphetamine.  Kema’s case was representative of larger problems that Hawaii struggles with: high rates of meth use, and disproportionately high incarceration rates among Native Hawaiians.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: First, Kema was put in regular probation.  For two years, he repeatedly missed appointments and failed drug tests, all with few consequences.

    JOHN KEMA: I wasn't ready to-- to give up drugs and alcohol. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Then in 2009, his frustrated probation officer put him in the HOPE program where he faced Judge Alm.

    JOHN KEMA: At first I didn't like him, honestly.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Yeah-- why not?

    JOHN KEMA: He kept putting me back in jail.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Within months, Judge Alm slapped Kema with a short jail stay for a dirty drug test.  Then there were the daily phone calls.

    JOHN KEMA: When I had to start calling the color on a daily basis, you know, that's when I started turning around in my life.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Why?

    JOHN KEMA: Because I needed to be accountable for those times that I call.  You know.  It was totally up to me to make the right decision whether I-- wanna go back to jail or I just wanna have freedom. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Was that the first time in your life that you were really being held accountable?

    Hawaii Hope statistic

    JOHN KEMA: Oh, totally.  Totally. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: After repeated violations and jail stays, Kema says he finally learned his lesson.  He checked into a drug treatment program in 2012 and has been sober for more than a year.  He graduated from HOPE last summer. 

    JOHN KEMA: As long as you worry about yourself, you’ll be alright, Mark.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Today he’s a mentor to others who struggle with substance abuse.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: You're working with people who have been engaged in pretty serious behavior that could send them to prison for years.  But with the threat of just a few days in jail, they're shaping up.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: It's the disruptive nature of this program.  It's not something bad might happen years down the road, it's you're going to jail today.  That will cause them to change. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Judge Alm also says the program could save taxpayers big time: According to Alm, a probationer on HOPE costs about $1,500 a year.  Prison in Hawaii costs around $46,000.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: But critics say the swift sanctions come at a cost: the stricter rules mean more work for probation officers and drug testers, more strain on the local jail, and a bigger workload for the Honolulu police, who have had to serve hundreds of warrants for HOPE probationers who’ve gone on the run.

    KEITH KANESHIRO: it's taxing the criminal justice system, law enforcement in being able to look for them-- being able to bring 'em back. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro thinks judges should put more people in prison from the start.  He also thinks HOPE keeps offenders on probation too long and allows them too many chances. 

    KEITH KANESHIRO: What kind of consequences-- do we have for these probationers?  When people violate the conditions of probation, who commit crimes-- they need to go to prison.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Is it better though that these offenders are in HOPE probation, which in theory has more oversight, more requirements for checking in, more drug testing than regular probation?

    KEITH KANESHIRO: Just by having them do drug testing is not supervision.  It's one form of supervision.  And-- but it's not enough.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Not enough, Kaneshiro says, because even though it’s been rare, he’s seen about a half-dozen offenders on HOPE probation charged with serious crimes like rape and murder, since he took office in 2010.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: There have been some instances of people committing very serious crimes while--

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: Yes.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: .- part of the HOPE program, including murder.  Do those people belong in a probation program? 

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM:  Well, if we all had crystal balls, they might have been sent to prison.  In the cases I'm aware of like that, when they were first put on probation, they were put on probation, say, for possession of a small amount of drugs.  There's no question some people on HOPE are gonna get charged with crimes.  Some people on probation as usual are gonna get charged with crimes.  The good news, the people in HOPE are getting-- charged with new crimes a lot less often. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Many are also shaping up and getting off probation.  The day we visited four successful HOPE probationers were discharged from the program.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: The motion for early termination is granted.  You’re no longer under court supervision because you’ve shown you can be responsible.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: We want people to decide I can have a life without drugs.  I can have a life without committing crime. 

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: Best of luck to you in the future.

    PROBATIONER:  Thank you.

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: Ok, thank you, good job.

    PROBATIONER: We can go to daddy!

    JUDGE STEVEN ALM: That's what it all about.  That's what we're looking for. 

     

    Funding for this story provided by Pacific Islanders in Communications.

     

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    Download the guide to civility. It's a handsome addition to any holiday table or potential political battleground.

    It's the holidays, and that means one thing: It's time for uncomfortable political discussions with your distant relatives.

    Uncle George founded the tea party chapter in Tulsa. Cousin Minnie just switched to a completely hemp-based diet. Sparks will fly. To bring peace across the land this holiday season, we asked Mark Shields and David Brooks to share their strategies for keeping things civil at the family dinner table. We baked Mark and David's sage wisdom into a handy Thanksgiving placemat, which you can print and share with your most uncivil family members.

    Here's what our champions of civility had to say.

    Mark and David's advice for keeping the peace

    David Brooks: My first tip: if you have a deep-down disagreement about how you were treated at your 13th birthday party, deal with it honestly and don't submerge it into a political fight. Most family political debates are fought because of deeper family issues. Second, the key to a civil political debate is to consider the likelihood that you're wrong.

    Mark Shields: Accept the rule that you can pick friends but you can't pick your relatives. I'd avoid toxic topics, no matter how tempting and provocative they may be. Avoid topics that are just depressing and would dampen the holiday spirit. Like the 2014 election if you're a Democrat. The Cheney family feud may be toxic in some families, but in others it would help them feel cohesive. The biggest rule of civility is avoiding those subjects that you know are just gonna lead to intense and intemperate disagreements.

    How to end a political battle if it gets out of hand

    David Brooks: There's a truism that you should never go to sleep mad. But I'm a believer that sometimes you just need to go to sleep. Get a good night's sleep and have a conversation about something else the next day. Politics is not that important.

    Mark Shields: A false fire alarm is always helpful. Or announcing that the turkey is ready, even if it isn't. The fire alarm or smoke alarm, either one. Other than that, just turn to Uncle Eugene who has a theory that left-handed Presbyterians are taking over the Federal Reserve and say "You're absolutely right! I never thought of that before but that's right."

    How to end an argument about the economy

    David Brooks: I think the actions of one administration or another has a very minor effect on the economy. The thing driving the economy is bigger than politics or government. They're just structural realities having to do with the way technology is evolving, the way skills are evolving.

    Mark Shields: Point out that the stock market has doubled since Barack Obama has been in office. You can't argue with that fact: It has doubled. Usually the person complaining is the one with the most in the stock market. At the same time, it's unacceptable that we have fewer jobs than five years ago. Anyone who boasts about a good economy is less than shortsighted.

    How to end an argument about health care reform

    David Brooks: Let's start with story about a rabbi who came to the synagogue with two pieces of paper in his pocket. One said the world was created for me and the other said I am nothing but dust and ashes. And the reason the rabbi carried those papers is they were both equally true. So when dealing with health care or any other issue, it's normal to have two opposing ideas be equally true. In Obamacare, it would cover millions of new people and it's also true that the website doesn't work well and it may hurt the economy. So, the big issues are always about balance.

    Mark Shields: It's always great to introduce new information. I really don't know that persuasion on this topic is possible at this time. I might be tempted to say "Isn't it interesting that after the terrible tragedy in the Philippines, China originally contributed less relief money than Ikea or Coca Cola?" In other words, think of a creative way to switch the topic.

    What do you do when someone says the president hasn't proven he's a U.S. citizen?

    David Brooks: Sometimes there are just facts. He is a U.S. citizen. Then you throw the turkey at them.

    Mark Shields: Anybody who brings up questions about where the president was born has proved his or her lack of civility. This is my kicker line: the government of Kenya will formally announce at a press conference that after exhaustive research they have determined that Obama was born in Honolulu. That's the kind of fall it's been for the government.

    Mark Shields offers this bonus wisdom on maintaining friendly family relations:

    It's a time to become a football fan. The NFL has done a great favor to the peacefulness of American family gatherings by scheduling a game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST on Fox. As soon as that's over, CBS has the Dallas Cowboys against the Oakland Raiders. If you haven't had enough -- although Sally Quinn once made the observation that any man who watches three football games in a row is probably brain dead, and that's probably true -- there's an 8:30 p.m. game. As long as there's a football game, it gives us something to talk about that lowers the temperature in the room.

    My other suggestion: It's good to ask non-political quizzes to get the conversation going.

    Here's a question to kick things off. What are the only four American colleges or universities to have produced both a President of the United States and a quarterback who has won the Super Bowl? (There are 44 U.S. presidents and 30 winning quarterbacks and there are more than 14,000 U.S. colleges and universities.)

    Answer: Stanford University produced Hoover and two Super Bowl quarterbacks, John Elway and Jim Plunkett, who won two as well. The University of Michigan produced Gerald Ford, as well as Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. The third school is the United States Naval Academy, from which Jimmy Carter and the Dallas Cowboys' Roger Staubach both graduated. Finally -- and no one ever gets this one -- there's Miami University of Ohio, which claims Benjamin Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The other question I use that I think everybody can play is: What are the smallest (in population) state capital cities in the U.S.?

    Answer: Montpelier, Vt., which is home to fewer than 8,000 people; Pierre, S.D., with fewer than 14,000; and Augusta, Maine. And I've been to all three.

    Interviews by Bridget Bowman

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