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

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    RICK KARR: Portland, Ore., is at the vanguard of the war to reduce gasoline consumption. You can find evidence all over its downtown area ... and at its car dealerships.

    EARL BLUMENAUER: We're looking at hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars.  There's some hyper-efficient diesel engines in the works.

    RICK KARR:  Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer’s constituents have been more enthusiastic buyers of green cars than people anywhere else in the country -- but drivers across the U.S. are catching up. And over the next twelve years, EVERY new car will become more fuel efficient thanks to an agreement that President Obama struck with thirteen automakers, including Detroit’s Big Three:

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: The companies here today have endorsed our plan to continue increasing the mileage on their cars and trucks over the next 15 years.

    RICK KARR:  Mileage targets for passenger cars will increase by two-thirds -- from about 30 miles per gallon this year ... to nearly 55 MPG in 2025. Which means Americans will be able to keep cutting back on their purchases at the pump. And that’s where the bad news in this story starts…

    By definition, more efficient cars use less gas. If drivers buy less gas, state and federal governments collect less in gas taxes. But those gas taxes – a federal tax of about 18 cents per gallon and state taxes that range from eight cents to more than fifty cents a gallon – are what covers the cost of maintaining highways and bridges across the country.

    And that’s already a huge problem -- take the example of the news that broke in May, when an Interstate Five bridge collapsed just a couple hundred miles north of Portland. By next year, the federal highway trust fund -- the source of almost all of the funding for bridges and roads that comes from Washington -- will go bust.

    EARL BLUMENAUER: The bottom line is that we're in a downward spiral.  What it means is the federal government is not going to be able to able to help states and localities maintain what they've got.  It means that people will pay with less safe driving conditions.

    RICK KARR:  does the gas tax generate enough revenue for the state of Oregon to maintain its roads properly?

    VICKI BERGER: No.  Just plain no.

    RICK KARR: Vicki Berger is a Republican member of the Oregon house. She says ... as the state’s residents buy even more efficient cars -- and less gas -- the budget crunch is only going to get worse. But she thinks there may be a solution: instead of having Oregon motorists pay a thirty cent state tax on every GALLON of gas they buy, have them pay a fee of a penny or two for every mile they drive. It’s known as a Vehicle Miles Traveled or VMT fee. Oregon was the first state in the union to impose a gas tax nearly a century ago ... and in two thousand six it set up an experiment to see whether it might be able to lead the nation again.

    300 volunteers let the state hook up computers and transmitters to their cars, so that their mileage in Oregon could be tracked with a GPS, global positioning system.

    The technology worked pretty well. But civil libertarians and privacy advocates said the GPS was a way for Big Brother to snoop on drivers. So the legislators in Oregon’s state house decided the whole idea was political poison, and for five years, it faded from view.

    Until the Oregon Department of Transportation ran a new experiment late last year. This time, participants had a range of choices. They could let their smartphones track their movements ... install GPS units that sent data to a private firm instead of the government ... or use a device that recorded only how many miles they drove, but not where they drove. That’s what Vicki Berger chose for her car. Every month the unit transmitted her mileage count to the state DOT, which then sent her an invoice.

    VICKI BERGER:  From a tax policy point of view, this was really interesting to me because when I go to the pump, I am filling my car with gas.  I'm not thinking about the taxes I'm paying.  And I'm paying both federal and state. When you get a bill in the mail, you think about the taxes that you're paying. And that does sort of awaken this sense of, "Oh, I'm paying a tax here for the privilege of using the roads."  Which I don't think people think about when they just fill their tank.

    RICK KARR:  But skeptics think administering a program like that would create a bureaucratic mess. And they say taxing fuel-efficient cars sends an anti-green message, charging hybrids more than Hummers.

    KARI CHISHOLM: We are reducing the incentive for people to shift to fuel efficient cars. 

    RICK KARR:  Kari Chisholm is a Democratic political consultant and blogger based in Portland.

    KARI CHISHOLM: Gas tax is a great incentive to get folks into fuel efficient cars, to put less carbon in the atmosphere.  By going into a tax that hits-- plug-ins and electrics and high-- high-mileage cars, we’re reducing that incentive.

    RICK KARR: But what do we do?  I mean, the national highway trust fund is nearly broke, the amount of revenue gathered on the state and federal level-- from the gas tax is declining like crazy and at the same time we have bridges that are falling apart, we have roads that are crumbling.  What’s the alternative?

    KARI CHISHOLM: The first thing I would do, if I were king of the world-- is raise the gas tax and then index it to inflation over time.

    RICK KARR: In other words, the gas tax would automatically rise at the rate of inflation. Supporters of mileage fees argue that legislators lack the political will to raise gas taxes -- so, they say, state and federal governments need another plan to pay for critical repairs to roads and bridges. Last month, Oregon passed a law expanding of the mileage fees program starting in twenty-fifteen -- this time to five thousand vehicles. Meanwhile, Portland’s Democratic U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer is looking for a Republican cosponsor for a bill that would test the fees nationally.

    EARL BLUMENAUER: I want to take that Oregon experience and move it to the national level.  Where states can apply to test it in their own locations so that-- road users,   can understand how it works, what the advantages are and-- make it less mysterious.  The idea is to be able to encourage other states to innovate.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: President Obama made an appeal to young people today to enroll in health insurance exchanges to help the Affordable Care Act succeed. He urged them to think of the consequences of not being covered.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Sometimes, in this debate, what we have heard are people saying, well, I don't need this. I don't want this. You know, what's -- why are you impinging on my freedom to do whatever I want?

    And part of what I say to folks when they tell me that is, if you get sick and you get sent to the hospital and you don't have any coverage, then somebody else is also going to be paying for it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president made that pitch as a new survey from Harvard University reveals that, as of a month ago, the 18-to-29-year-old generation was skeptical of the Affordable Care Act. Fewer than 40 percent said they approved of the law. More than 56 percent disapproved.

    The poll also found Mr. Obama to be at his lowest approval rating since taking office.

    John Della Volpe is director of polling at the Institute of Politics at Harvard, and he is here to discuss the findings.

    John, welcome back to the program.

    So, you found these numbers there polling of just about a month ago. Tell us what the numbers were when it came to the Affordable Care Act.

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE, Institute of Politics at Harvard University: So, overall, Judy, we found that by a margin of about 2-1, young people believe that the quality of care will actually get worse under the Affordable Care Act.

    By a margin of 5-1, they believe that their costs will increase. And as you said a moment ago, a solid majority disapprove of the act as of today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what did you find -- so, pretty significantly overwhelming disapproval. What did you find along partisan lines, Democrats, Republicans, independents?

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: It's a great question.

    Essentially, 95 out of 100 Republicans disapprove of the Obamacare or Affordable Care Act. We actually asked half of our poll, 1,000 people, about questions related to the Affordable Care Act and the other half about Obamacare. Essentially, the numbers are about the same. And Democrats were significantly more likely to support it, of course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Any greater sense, John, of why people, why these young people feel so strongly?

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: Yes, there's a -- we're not actually too surprised by this.

    For the last several cycles that we have polled, we have seen the overall level of trust between young people and the powers within Washington, D.C., whether it's the administration, Republicans, Democrats in Congress, actually kind of lose trust every single day.

    So, number one, not surprising that a significant program coming out of Washington, D.C., would have a hard time getting traction among millennials. Also, when you take a step back, when you think about the messages that millennials have been hearing, it has been less about them, the benefits to them. It is more about it is necessary for them to join in order to compensate for older, sicker Americans.

    So I don't think the narrative has been particularly terrific when it comes to connecting with millennials about the benefits that they would have enjoying one of these exchanges.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, just to button this up, what percentage said they would enroll in an exchange among those who are not insured?

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: Well, among the 22 percent of millennials who are not insured today, less than a third, about 29 percent, say they will definitely or probably enroll.

    You have about 41 percent or so who are in the middle, on the fence. I think open to listen to the president over the next couple of weeks. And then you have, of course, the remainder who said they won't enroll under any circumstances.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about support for the president overall? We were saying a minute ago it's -- that too has dropped. What did you find there?

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: Well, remember, millennials were the outliers, and one of two significant groups that helped elect the president and then reelect him in 2012.

    And up until the last year or so, they have been outliers. But over the course of our last two surveys, they have actually fallen quite neatly with the rest of America, looking a lot like their older brothers and sisters. We have seen that -- frankly, that the president's approval rating has decreased by about 11 points across board over the last year, significantly, 15 points among women, nine points among men.

    And even among college students, his rate of approval is under 50 percent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do they say about the Congress, which we know has also seen its approval ratings drop?

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: Unfortunately, those numbers are bad and getting worse.

    Democrats in Congress continue to fall and Republicans in Congress, only 19 percent of all -- of young Americans underneath -- under the age of 230 believe they're doing a good job or approve of the job that they're doing in Washington, D.C. So, as bad of a day this might be for the president and those who care about the Affordable Care Act, it's not any better for Republicans in Congress.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John, finally, I want to ask you about something I found fascinating in this poll, and that is young people's view of their student loan debt burden.

    It is striking to me, because it didn't seem to always be affected by what political party they say they belong to.

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: Well, that's the thing.

    If the president and members of Congress want to reconnect with young people, this is the issue to do that, to build some of that support. Economic issues specifically, issues related to student debt, is one issue that Democrat, Republicans, independents under 30, they can all agree on. And 57 percent say it is a major problem. Majorities of people from both parties think it's a national priority that needs to be settled right away.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, is that something that has gotten worse over time? How do you see that?

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: We haven't tracked that particular question, Judy, over time. But we have seen, especially for the millennials who are under 25, this increase in importance, and for good reason, on economic issues.

    So we see 90, almost 90 percent of young people in community colleges are impacted by the financial situations. These are people who wanted to go to four-year colleges who had to make a different choice, and attend a two-year or a community college instead. So, it's impacting millions of young people across America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics, thank you.

    JOHN DELLA VOLPE: Thanks, Judy.


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    Math teacher Stacey Roshan creates video lectures that her students watch at home or on mobile devices. Photo by Mike Fritz/ PBS NewsHour

    Stacey Roshan, a math teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md., does it at her dining room table and sometimes on the sofa. Andy Kastl and his colleagues at suburban Detroit's Clintondale High School do it in a sparse room in a corner of their school.

    What are they doing? Recording lectures for students to watch at home or on their mobile phones as part of the flipped classroom approach to teaching.

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    Teachers at Clintondale High School send students home with lectures on video. The next day they tackle what would normally be considered homework together in class. The new model is called a "flippped" classroom and for this school, it seems to be working.

    CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Walk the halls of Clintondale High School, just north of Detroit, and the school doesn't appear out of the ordinary. You'd find the typical smells and the sprawling nondescript interior, as well as the persistent challenges confronting many American public high schools serving mostly low-income students.

    Yet, there's a stark difference in the way instruction is delivered. Clintondale is the nation's first completely flipped school, meaning teachers record lectures for students to watch online outside of class, and what was once considered homework is now done during classtime, allowing students to work through assignments together and ask teachers for help if they run into questions.

    In 2010, with more than half of the school's ninth graders failing math, science and English, principal Greg Green decided to adopt the flipped approach, a blended learning model that also relies heavily on outside videos like the popular Khan Academy and Ted Talks.

    "We were desperate for change," said Green. And, he suggests, change has come.

    Clintondale ranked among the worst 5 percent of all schools in the state of Michigan prior to the flip. But since then, the principal says failure rates for students have declined from 52 percent to 19 percent, and standardized test scores have risen steadily.

    Local businesses helped fund the instructional overhaul at Clintondale, and students who don't have access to needed technology or the Internet at home are given extra time to use computer labs and the media center.

    Proponents of the flip argue that it allows teachers to spend more one-on-one time with students, and because lectures are mainly recorded and digitized, it removes some of the monotony of repeatedly delivering lessons. Another often-cited benefit of recorded instruction is that it allows students the chance to rewind and watch lessons as many times as necessary to fully grasp them.

    Moving away from the traditional model wasn't an easy sell for some members of the staff at Clintondale. Chris Carpenter, who has utilized the flip in his social studies class for the last few years, said he was initially reluctant to adopting the change.

    "At first I was a little bit put off by it," Carpenter said. "But I soon realized that I was no longer just one teacher to 35 students... but more of a tutor for all 35 students."

    Over the last few years teachers at all levels of education across the U.S. have begun experimenting with the approach. Justin Reich, a fellow at HarvardX, the university's digital teaching and learning initiative, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, has been studying the flipped classroom. He is optimistic that the model could force schools to rethink how the precious time between teachers and students is being spent on a daily basis.

    However, Reich is also quick to caution that changing only the sequence of how instruction is delivered will likely have little effect on academic achievement. If the instruction is poor, he said, recording it and delivering it to students via video will not likely enhance it.

    "I think we know very little about the efficacy of [the flipped classroom] so far," Reich said, adding that the teachers using these new methods should be given a few years to test what works before judgments are delivered on their merits.

    Greg Green recognizes that the flipped classroom might not work for everyone, but he's pleased it's now firmly in place at Clintondale.

    "We feel we've perhaps figured out the structure of the way schools should be set up," Green said. "And we're trying to make it an ideal situation for both the learners and the teachers."

    Read more:

    'Vining' the Bill of Rights: History lesson taps social media

    How to create a 'flipped' video lecture for at-home study

    Support Your Local PBS Station

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    Fast food workers in 100 cities are expected to walk off the job in protest Thursday. In this file photo from April, a McDonald's worker chants during a protest for better wages in Harlem. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama on Wednesday outlined a sweeping populist agenda for the three years he has left in office, making the case that government cannot "stand on the sidelines" when it comes to addressing the issue of economic inequality.

    "In fact, that's our generation's task -- to rebuild America's economic and civic foundation to continue the expansion of opportunity for this generation and the next generation," the president said during remarks at an arts and education center in a working-class neighborhood not far from the nation's capital.

    The Morning Line

    The address hit similar notes to those in a speech the president gave nearly two years ago in Osawatomie, Kan., where he called restoring economic fairness the "defining issue of our time."

    Mr. Obama's comments Wednesday were delivered in the face of growing public skepticism about the ability of the government to do big things following the botched rollout of a key part of the health care law. Despite those problems, the president said pushing to reform the country's healthcare system was the right thing to do.

    "More people without insurance have gained insurance -- more than 3 million young Americans who have been able to stay on their parents' plan, the more than half a million Americans and counting who are poised to get covered starting on January 1, some for the very first time," the president said. "And it is these numbers -- not the ones in any poll -- that will ultimately determine the fate of this law."

    The president also renewed his call to raise the federal minimum wage ahead of protests planned Thursday in about 100 cities where fast-food workers are expected to walk off the job.

    "I'm going to keep pushing until we get a higher minimum wage for hard-working Americans across the entire country," Mr. Obama said. "It will be good for our economy. It will be good for our families."

    Mr. Obama also took aim at the "elephant in the room" of gridlock in Washington. He said while a divided Congress may never resolve all of its differences, "it is important that we have a serious debate about these issues."

    "For the longer that current trends are allowed to continue, the more it will feed the cynicism and fear that many Americans are feeling right now -- that they'll never be able to repay the debt they took on to go to college, they'll never be able to save enough to retire, they'll never see their own children land a good job that supports a family," he said. Watch the speech in full here.

    As we pointed out Wednesday in this space, the White House sees the focus on the middle class and income inequality as a lead-up to the president's 2014 State of the Union address to Congress.

    But it's worth noting that this marks 10 months since he made similar calls for a minimum wage hike in his 2013 State of the Union address and went on the road to push the idea. And there's been little movement. House Republicans voted down a proposal in March that would have raised the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.

    The president tackled health care at a second event Wednesday as well, imploring young people to be "smarter than that" when it comes to signing up for health insurance.

    "My suspicion is, for a lot of you, between your cable bill, your phone bill, you're spending more than $100 a month," he told the White House Youth Summit Wednesday at the White House.

    He specifically asked the young leaders to spread the word through their student events and through their social networks. "Post something on your Facebook or Instagram. You can tweet using the hashtag 'get covered.' But do whatever it takes to make sure that people have the information they need to make the decision that's right for them," Mr. Obama said. Watch the speech in full here.

    The comments came as a new poll of 18- to 29-year-olds found the millennial generation is deeply skeptical about the Affordable Care Act. Politics Desk Assistant Aileen Graef summarized the poll here and Judy Woodruff interviewed Harvard University's Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe about the trends his survey revealed.

    Watch the segment here or below:

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    To explain the relationship between aria and variation in Bach's "Goldberg Variations," pianist Jeremy Denk likened the work to jazz. He described the "Variations" as "the largest, most complex jazz riff in the history of music." Denk released his version of the "Goldberg Variations" the same month he received a MacArthur grant.

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    Afghan children attend school at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan on Dec. 1. A new survey shows that Afghans feel their country is improving in part from strides in education. Photo by Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

    Afghans questioned in the Asia Foundation's 2013 survey released Thursday cited insecurity (30 percent), corruption (26 percent) and unemployment (25 percent) as the biggest problems their country still faces.

    Read the Asia Foundation's full 2013 survey.

    Those concerned about security pointed to suicide attacks as one of the main reasons. Fifty-nine percent said they fear for their own safety or that of their family.

    On a brighter note, 57 percent of Afghans surveyed said they felt their country was moving in the right direction because of some progress in reconstruction, security and education. That percentage has increased steadily over the past few years.

    This marks the Asia Foundation's ninth annual survey of the Afghan people. It was conducted in July with face-to-face interviews of 9,260 Afghans throughout the country's 34 provinces.

    Read about past surveys:

    2012: Survey: Afghans Concerned About Jobs and Security as Troop Departure Looms

    2011: As U.S. Prepares to Exit, Poll Shows Afghan Public Fearful for Its Safety -- and Democracy's Demands

    2010: Afghan Poll Shows Persistent Worries Over Security, Corruption

    2009: Survey Finds Afghans Optimistic, But Still Troubled by Security

    View all of the NewsHour's World coverage.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

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    By Robert Stavins

    Protesters assemble outside the 19th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland, late last month. What the conference achieved -- and avoided -- and an emerging convergence between the world's two biggest carbon emitters has left Harvard environmental economist Robert Stavins hopeful. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Adopt a Negotiator.

    The parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change met for their 19th conference late last month in Warsaw, Poland. Here to update us on their progress is chair of Harvard's environmental economics program Robert Stavins. His blog, "One Economist's Perspective on Environmental and Natural Resource Policy," is required reading for anyone interested in environmental economics. As is his earlier post on the Business Desk examining the prospects for climate change action within the American political system. Along with Harvard economist Marty Weitzman, who's defended on this page the economic incentives of preparing for climate change's potentially drastic outcomes, Stavins is someone to watch if you follow climate change or economics, and especially both. Today, he takes an international prospective in sharing some glimmers of optimism that the interests of the two biggest carbon emitters -- the United States and China -- are beginning to align.

    Rob Stavins: The 19th Conference of the Parties (COP-19) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to a close in Warsaw, Poland, on Nov. 23, after several all-night sessions spent haggling over subtle changes to the text on which countries were willing to agree.

    The key task was to pave the way for negotiations next year, at COP-20 in Lima, Peru, as a lead-up to reaching a new international climate agreement at the 2015 negotiations in Paris. A new agreement would be implemented in 2020, at the end of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which set internationally binding emission reduction targets.

    If paving the way for a new agreement was the major objective, the Warsaw meetings were at least a modest success. The baton was not dropped; rather, it was passed successfully in this long relay race of negotiations.

    The Lead Up to the Warsaw Negotiations

    The UNFCCC, adopted at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, contains a crucial passage for understanding the relative success of current negotiations.

    The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof. [emphasis added]

    The countries considered to be "developed country Parties" were listed in an appendix to the 1992 Convention -- Annex I -- including, of course, the United States. As a developing country, the People's Republic of China was not part of Annex I.

    The phrase "common but differentiated responsibilities" took on a specific interpretation in 1995 as part of the Berlin Mandate, formulated at the first Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC. The mandate launched a process to commit (by 1997) the Annex I countries to quantified greenhouse gas emissions reductions within specified time periods. At the same time, it stated unambiguously that the process should "not introduce any new commitments for Parties not included in Annex I."

    MORE FROM ROB STAVINS: Is Obama's Climate Change Policy Doomed to Fail? Maybe Not.

    Thus, the Mandate drew a dichotomous distinction between the requirements for Annex I (developed) and non-Annex I (developing) countries. The non-Annex I countries, had none of the emission-reduction responsibilities of their developed counterparts.

    But the distinction didn't achieve all that much balance between what were understood to be the richer Annex I countries and the poorer countries not held to the same standards. Within a few years, as many as 50 non-Annex I countries came to have greater per capita income than the poorest of the Annex I countries. In short, the distinction was quickly out of whack.

    The distinction in the Berlin Mandate was impractical for several other reasons, too. Under the divided standards, half of global emissions would be from nations without constraints, and that meant that the country fast becoming the world's largest emitter -- China -- would be unconstrained.

    Second, not requiring developing countries to curb their emissions drove up aggregate compliance costs to four times their cost-effective level because opportunities for low-cost emissions abatement in emerging economies were taken off the table.

    Third, setting up this developed-developing divide perpetuated an institutional structure resistant to change since it was in the interest of all non-Annex I countries to maintain the status quo. They wanted to freeze the 1995 list of which countries should take action.

    Two years after the Berlin conference, the Kyoto Protocol codified the Berlin Mandate with numerical targets and timetables for Annex I countries and no commitments for other nations. Prospects for meaningful action seemed bleak.

    Change Afoot

    Fast forward to 2011, however, and things began looking up. At the meeting of the 17th Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa, delegates adopted a platform that - according to some interpretations -- eliminated the Annex I/non-Annex I (or industrialized/developing country) distinction. In the Durban Platform, the delegates decided to reach an agreement by 2015 that will be applicable to all countries in 2020.

    National delegations from around the world faced a challenge to identify a new international climate policy architecture that is consistent with the process, pathway, and principles laid out in this Durban Platform. They sought a way to include all (key) countries (such as the 20 largest national and regional economies that together account for upwards of 80 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions) in a structure that brings about meaningful emissions reductions within an appropriate timetable at acceptable cost, while remaining within the overall framework provided by the UNFCCC, including the celebrated principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

    Making Progress Toward a Post-Kyoto Agreement

    Two weeks ago in Warsaw, the negotiators succeeded in developing a work plan under the Durban Platform and a related calendar that will set the stage for developing a new agreement that can be discussed at COP-20 in Lima one year from now and then be subject to final consideration and adoption a year after that at COP-21 in Paris. In the process, they identified six components for the new architecture: mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer capacity-building, and transparency of action and support. Some of these are more necessary than others, but this was the package on which they agreed in Warsaw.

    It now looks likely that the 2015 agreement will take the form of a hybrid architecture, combining: (1) a bottom-up system of national contributions that arise from -- or are at least consistent with -- national policies and goals; plus (2) top-down, centralized management of oversight, guidance and coordination, with an eye to increasing ambition over time. At the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, we outlined such a hybrid international climate policy architecture four years ago, and we explored it further just last month in a new report.

    Avoiding a Long and Perilous Road

    The talks in Warsaw last month were a success for one other reason. Delegates avoided getting mired in one of the touchiest subjects that could have blown up the talks: the issue of "loss and damage," or the effects of climate change on developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to its adverse effects. International policy discussions on the topic frequently raise arguments about who should pay for such loss and damages. So the delegates were taking a risk -- with potential pay offs, certainly -- by agreeing to put "loss and damage" on the agenda. So who should foot the bill for this damage? Since climate change is a function not of current emissions, but of concentrations, responsibility for damages is presumably correlated with cumulative emissions. Hence the industrialized countries, in particular, the United States, worry that negotiations on "loss and damage" would soon raise the specter of unlimited legal liability.

    MORE THE BUSINESS DESK: The Odds of Disaster: An Economist's Warning on Global Warming

    The link between cumulative emissions and responsibility for damage is less direct than one might think, however. First, climate change is a global commons problem; it cannot be linked to emissions from a specific country. And second, links between climate change and changes in weather patterns are highly stochastic; no specific weather incident -- whether Superstorm Sandy in New York, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines -- can be deterministically linked with global climate change. These two scientific realities mean that moving from "loss and damage" to legal liability would take countries down a long and perilous road.

    But this is a very important issue in the climate negotiations for many developing countries, in particular, for the small island states that are most at risk from loss and damage. Therefore, it's no surprise that this area of discussion -- in some ways only a sideshow of the primary talks on reducing emissions and the risk of climate change -- almost caused the talks to collapse.

    In the end, however, the delegates agreed to finesse the topic by creating the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which does not mention liability or promise compensation, but rather states that this is a topic to be discussed further at future meetings, and under the general subject of adaptation to climate change.

    Little Progress on Finance

    On the third major issue in Warsaw, finance, there was -- not surprisingly -- little or no progress. Specifically, the delegates needed to address when and how the industrialized countries will meet their 2009 commitment to begin delivering $100 billion per year of financial assistance to developing countries in 2020 to help with mitigation and adaptation.

    Any Reason for Optimism?

    Given this description of what happened (and did not happen) in Warsaw, is there any cause for optimism regarding the path ahead? There is cause at least for cautious optimism, because of a singular reality -- the growing convergence of interests between the two most important countries in the world when it comes to climate change and international policy to address it, namely, China and the United States.

    First of all, the annual carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of these two countries have already converged. Whereas U.S. CO2 emissions in 1990 were almost five times greater than Chinese emissions, by 2006 China had overtaken the United States. We are the world's two largest emitters.

    Second, looking at cumulative emissions is also important because they are what cause climate change. Any discussion of distributional equity in the climate realm inevitably turns to considerations of historic responsibility. Looking at the period 1850-2010, the United States led the pack, accounting for nearly 19 percent of cumulative global emissions of GHGs, with the European Union in second place with 17 percent, and China third, accounting for about 12 percent of global cumulative emissions. But that is changing rapidly: emissions are flat to declining throughout the industrialized world, while they are increasing rapidly in the large emerging economies, in particular, China. Depending upon the relative rates of economic growth of China and the United States, as well as many other factors, China may top all countries in cumulative emissions within 10 to 20 years.

    Third, the United States' and China's historically high reliance on coal for generating electricity has diminished, in the case of the United States, and will inevitably at some point in China, as well. U.S. dependence on coal is decreasing because of increased supplies of unconventional natural gas and hence lower gas prices. China continues to rely on coal, but is very concerned about this, partly because of localized health impacts of particulates and other pollutants. Importantly, both countries have very large shale gas reserves. U.S. output (and use for electricity generation) has been increasing rapidly, bringing down CO2 emissions, whereas Chinese exploitation and output have been constrained by available infrastructure (i.e., lack of pipelines), but that will change.

    A fourth way convergence between the two countries can inspire some optimism is that in both countries, sub-national climate policies -- cap-and-trade systems -- are moving forward. In the case of China, seven pilot CO2 cap-and-trade regimes at the local level are under development, while in the United States, California's ambitious AB-32 cap-and-trade system continues to make progress.

    Fifth and finally, there is the reality of global geopolitics. If the 20th century was the American Century, then many observers, including leaders in China, anticipate (or hope) that the 21st century will be the Chinese Century. And, as David Jolly quoted me recently in the New York Times, "If it's your century, you don't obstruct, you lead."

    The Path Ahead

    There was no fundamental setback in Warsaw to the stream of work that needs to be accomplished in Lima, Peru, one year from now. The key objective for COP-20 in Lima will be to develop the text of an agreement that can be reached in Paris in 2015, as mandated by the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. So, without a setback in Warsaw, the baton has been passed. This modest success, combined with the increasing convergence of Chinese and U.S. perspectives and interests, leaves me cautiously optimistic -- or perhaps, just hopeful -- about the path ahead.

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

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    What world events affected you this year? NewsHour Extra has partnered with Google and Meograph to ask students to create a video that encapsulates the year for a chance to win a Nexus 7 tablet. Photos by Getty

    From the typhoon in the Philippines to Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA, the events of 2013 have made an indelible mark on the world.

    To look back at the triumphs, tragedies and trends, Google creates an annual Zeitgeist, a summary of the biggest events of the year as seen through the site's search engine results. The result is a joyous, inspiring and sometimes tragic diary of what we've accomplished and endured over the last twelve months.

    This year, NewsHour Extra, the NewsHour's educational resource site, has partnered with Google and Meograph to offer students the opportunity to create their own Zeitgeist by compiling the events that have made the biggest impact on their lives.

    Watch Google's 2012 Zeitgeist.

    "Zeitgeist," a German word meaning the "spirit of the times," refers to the events, people and works that encapsulate and define the greater mood of an era. What were the world events this year that affected you and your community?

    Students should use the Meograph creator on the NewsHour Extra site to submit a story of what 2013 looked like to them. The students can use clips of news events, voiceovers, maps and photos. If you're a teacher or interested parent, use our education resources to make this activity part of your classroom over the next week.

    The best student story will win a Nexus 7 tablet, courtesy of Google, and will be featured on YouTube's education channel and Google's Google+ page. Submissions will be judged on newsworthyness, creativity and execution. The entries will be judged by participants from NewsHour Extra, Google and Meograph.

    All submissions must be received by midnight Dec. 14 to be eligible. Teachers must email entries to Katie Gould, NewsHour's teacher resource producer, at kgould@newshour.org.

    For more information on the Zeitgeist, how to use Meograph or details about the competition, use this NewsHour Extra guide.

    Support Your Local PBS Station

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    Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Thursday new legislation that aims to reform the state's underfunded pension system -- a $100 billion unfunded liability that was the worst in the United States.

    "Illinois is moving forward," Quinn said in a statement. "This is a serious solution to address the most dire fiscal challenge of our time."

    The new plan, in addition to allowing Illinois to make a full yearly contribution to pension funds, is expected to save Illinois around $160 billion in the next three decades. The law is the latest action among U.S. cities and states who have also moved forward with similar pension cuts to address funding issues, including Rhode Island in 2011.

    Read more:

    Do the Dutch have the pension problem solved?

    Illinois pensions in peril

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  • 12/05/13--11:40: The Life of Nelson Mandela
  • Nelson Mandela was an activist and lawyer who became the country's first black president and one of the most respected statesmen in the world after being jailed for 27 years. He passed away on Dec. 5, 2013.

    Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, credited with ending apartheid there, died Thursday, Dec, 5, 2013. He was 95 years old.

    Nelson Mandela

    Rolihlahla Mandela was born in a small village in 1918 into the Madiba clan of the Xhosa-speaking Thembu people. He is pictured here around 1950. Photo: Photo by Apic/Getty Images

    Lawyer and Activist

    Mandela became a lawyer and helped open the first black law firm in South Africa, in Johannesburg in 1952 to provide free or affordable representation to blacks and challenge apartheid. He is pictured here in 1961. Photo: STF/AFP/Getty Images

    Wedding day

    Mandela and his second wife Winnie, on their wedding day in 1957. Winnie later became a controversial figure in the ANC during Mandela's imprisonment. Photo: OFF/AFP/Getty Images

    Accused of treason

    Mandela became a well known anti-apartheid activist and leader in the African National Congress. He and nine other men were accused of conspiracy, sabotage and treason in 1964 for activities related to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), a branch of the ANC focused on armed struggle against the white minority government. In this photo, the defendants raise their fists in defiance through the windows of the prison car. Photo: OFF/AFP/Getty Images

    Sentenced to life

    On June 12, 1964, Mandela and seven other defendants were convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life in prison. During the trial, Mandela had prepared for the possibility of the death sentence and made this famous declaration: "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." Photo: OFF/AFP/Getty Images

    18 years

    Mandela would remain in prison for a total of 27 years, 18 of which were spent in this cell on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town. He was forced to do hard labor in the quarry on the island with other prisoners. Photo: Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images


    Mandela was released from prison at the age of 71 on Feb. 11, 1990. By the time he was freed, then-President Frederik Willem de Klerk was beginning to dismantle the apartheid system. "Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future," Mandela said in a speech upon his release. "Our march to freedom is irreversible." Photo: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images

    Soweto welcomes Mandela home

    Crowds of supporters across South Africa danced in the streets on news of Mandela's release and some clashed with police officers. A mass rally was held in the Johannesburg township Soweto on Feb. 12, 1990, (pictured here) to welcome the leader home. Photo: PHILIP LITTLETON/AFP/Getty Images

    International statesman

    Months after his release, Mandela visited heads of state in countries in Europe and North America. Former U.S. President Bush had promised to invite both South African President DeKlerk and Mandela to Washington if Mandela was freed, in an effort to boost the process of government negotiations. He followed through and met with Mandela in June that year. Photo: KEVIN LARKIN/AFP/Getty Images)

    Family ties

    Mandela had four children with his first wife and two daughters with Winnie, including Zindzi, seen here on her wedding day in 1992. He lost three of his children with first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase -- a baby girl in 1947, their eldest son to a car crash while Mandela was in prison, and their second son died in 2005 of AIDS-related illness. Photo: WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images

    Nobel Prize winners

    In 1993, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk "for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa." The next year, South Africa held its first democratic election. Photo: GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

    Campaigning for president

    Young ANC supporters wait for Nelson Mandela atop a billboard in a township outside Durban in April 1994. The country's first democratic election was held April 27, 1994, formally ending the apartheid era. That day, Mandela also voted for the first time in his life.

    Photo: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images

    South Africa's president

    The ANC was victorious and Mandela was inaugurated May 10, 1994. “We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free," Mandela said in his inauguration speech. "Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward." Photo: WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images

    World Cup 2010

    After stepping down as president after one term in 1999, Mandela continued to be a face of South Africa's new democracy to the world, including campaigning for the country to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. South Africa won the bid in 2004, and last year became the first African country to host the tournament. In this photo, Mandela waves next to his third wife Graca Machel during the final match between Netherlands and Spain at on July 11, 2010. Photo: Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

    A country's love

    Mandela, or Madiba as he is affectionately called by fellow South Africans, remains an unparalleled symbol of the struggle against apartheid, and of strength, wisdom and grace in leadership. "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others," he wrote in the final paragraphs of his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom". Photo: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images

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    Former South African President Nelson Mandela pictured in March 1999. Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

    Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa credited with ending apartheid there, died Thursday in South Africa. He was 95 years old.

    Mandela was revered worldwide for leading the anti-apartheid movement and not letting his nearly three decades in prison shake his determination.

    South African President Jacob Zuma said in an address Thursday, "Our nation has lost its greatest son."

    Longtime PBS NewsHour correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who interviewed Nelson Mandela several times, prepared a remembrance of the South African leader.

    Rolihlahla Mandela was born July 18, 1918, in a small village in what is now Eastern Cape province of South Africa. A teacher at a British colonial boarding school later gave him the English name Nelson.

    Nelson Mandela pictured here in his youth c. 1950. Photo by Apic/Getty Images.

    As a boy, Mandela spent his free time playing with the other children in Qunu, swimming, catching fish, stick-fighting and making animals out of clay. He became a herd boy, looking after sheep and cattle, by age 5.

    "From these days I date my love of the veld, of open spaces, the simple beauties of nature, the clean line of the horizon," Mandela wrote in his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom."

    After his father, a counselor to the Thembu royal family, died, a 9-year-old Mandela was taken in by the acting regent of the Thembu people, Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, according to the BBC.

    Mandela attended Fort Hare University in southeast South Africa and became involved in the political struggles connected with the discriminatory practices in the country at the time. He was expelled in 1940 for participating in a student demonstration with his friend Oliver Tambo.

    When Mandela returned home and discovered his tribal chief had already made arrangements for him to marry, he ran away to Johannesburg. There, he completed his course work through the University of South Africa and received his bachelor's degree in 1942.

    He became increasingly involved in the African National Congress, a group dedicated to bringing democratic political change to South Africa, and alarmed by the injustices he was seeing around him, helped form the ANC Youth League with Tambo, Walter Sisulu and others in 1944, according to his foundation's Web site. Mandela became the group's president a few years later.

    View Slide Show

    View scenes of Nelson Mandela's life.

    The same year he formed the ANC Youth League, Mandela married his first wife Evelyn Mase. They had three children together -- a son, Makgatho, a daughter, Makaziwe, and a third child, Thembi, who was killed in a car accident while Mandela was in prison -- before they divorced in 1957.

    Mandela earned a law degree from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and, according to his foundation, set up South Africa's first black law firm with Tambo in 1952.

    Mandela then immersed himself in leading non-violent campaigns of civil disobedience, including strikes, marches and demonstrations against the ruling National Party's apartheid policies, which led to a series of arrests and acquittals starting in 1952.

    In 1956, he was arrested for treason, which led to a lengthy, four-year trial, but eventually the charges were dropped.

    Mandela poses with his wife Winnie during their wedding in this file photo dated 1957. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

    During the trial, Mandela married Winnie Madikizela, who would later spearhead an international campaign to free her husband from jail.

    Tensions with the apartheid regime were growing, and in 1960, 69 black people were shot dead by police in what became known as the Sharpeville massacre. With peaceful protests seeming to be ineffective, Mandela went abroad for military training and upon his return, formed the ANC's military wing -- the Umkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation).

    As the group's leader, he helped plan sabotage campaigns against the military and government, and organized funding and paramilitary training for a possible guerrilla war in case the sabotage tactics didn't work.

    When the ANC was outlawed in 1960, Mandela went underground. He hid during the day and worked at night, staying in different people's homes and rarely seeing his family. He grew a beard and donned workman's clothing, receiving the nickname the "Black Pimpernel" after the character in the "Scarlet Pimpernel" who evaded capture during the French Revolution.

    Mandela had several brushes with authority during his clandestine period, and he tells of one such close call in his autobiography:

    "One afternoon, when I was in Johannesburg posing as a chauffeur and wearing my long duster and cap, I was waiting on a corner to be picked up and I saw an African policeman striding deliberately toward me. I looked around to see if I had a place to run, but before I did, he smiled at me and surreptitiously gave me the thumbs-up ANC salute and was gone. Incidents like this happened many times, and I was reassured when I saw that we had the loyalty of many African policemen."

    After more than a year on the run, Mandela was caught and charged with sabotage and treason in June 1964. During the trial, he served as his own defense and used the stand to convey his ideas of democracy, freedom and equality. In the closing of his four-hour speech, he said:

    "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

    Mandela's cell on Robben Island. Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images.

    In 1964, Mandela and eight other ANC leaders and members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe were sentenced to life in prison. For 18 years, Mandela was held on Robben Island before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland in 1982.

    From the start, Mandela bucked authority by refusing to jog with the other inmates from the harbor where the ferry docked to the prison gates. And when a warden warned him that if he did not obey, he could be killed and no one on the mainland would be the wiser, Mandela's retort, according to a Time magazine profile, was: "If you so much as lay a hand on me, I will take you to the highest court in the land, and when I finish with you, you will be as poor as a church mouse." The warden backed off.

    Mandela recounted his prison experiences in "Long Walk to Freedom," from the early wake-up calls to the food, which the authorities touted as a balanced diet. "It was indeed balanced -- between the unpalatable and the inedible," he wrote.

    The meals consisted mostly of corn porridge with an occasional vegetable added and sometimes meat, which was mainly gristle, he recalled. For breakfast, the inmates received what was called coffee but was really ground up maize or corn, baked until black, and brewed with hot water.

    Mandela would jog in the courtyard until breakfast arrived. After breakfast and inspection, the prisoners would hammer stones in the courtyard, and continue the work between lunch and dinner.

    A freed Nelson Mandela on Feb. 11, 1990. Photo by Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images.

    In all, Mandela spent 27 years in jail. When he was freed in 1990 at age 71, the extended separation from his family proved too much to repair.

    He separated from his wife Winnie, and later, when she was convicted on charges of kidnapping and accessory to assault, they divorced. Mandela acknowledged in his autobiography that the difficulties she faced while he was in prison rivaled his own; she raised their two daughters -- Zenani and Zindzi -- alone and had to deal with government persecutions. Their differences, he wrote, became more pronounced upon his return from Robben Island.

    In 1990, PBS NewsHour co-founder Robert MacNeil interviewed Nelson Mandela in New York City.

    "She married a man who soon left her; that man became a myth; and then that myth returned home and proved to be just a man after all," he wrote.

    Mandela was freed by the South African government after F.W. de Klerk became president. De Klerk was considered conservative and, in an unexpected move, said in light of the growing violence, he thought it would be best for the country to provide equal rights and opportunity for all inhabitants, essentially bringing an end to apartheid.

    De Klerk made a series of good-faith moves, including lifting the ban on ANC and other organizations, freeing political prisoners and arranging for Mandela's release.

    Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk, right, display their Nobel prizes in Oslo on Dec. 9, 1993. Photo by Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images.

    The two men shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and a year later, Mandela won the South African presidency by a landslide in the country's first multi-racial elections.

    The ANC won 252 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, according to the BBC.

    Mandela performed the ceremonial duties of a leader, succeeding in keeping multinational corporations invested in the country. He entrusted his day-today business to his deputy Thabo Mbeki.

    In 1997, Mandela handed over the presidency of the ANC to Mbeki and officially stepped down as president in 1999 after the ANC's overwhelming victory in the national elections, the BBC reported.

    Lynne Duke, author of "Mandela, Mobutu and Me: A Newswoman's African Journey" who also covered Mandela's presidency as a reporter, said Mandela had a vision and was willing to do whatever it took to get there, "if it meant launching an armed struggle against the apartheid regime or pursuing a reconciliation agenda, which many South Africans got tired of and thought was excessive.

    "He was able to put aside the passions of a man and rise to a level of leadership that made him perceived as almost superhuman. He answered the call of what was required going into a democratic era," she said.

    After retiring, Mandela continued to meet with world leaders, attend conferences and participate in peace negotiations with African countries. He also took on the fight against AIDS, despite many in South Africa regarding it as a taboo topic, and urged people to seek testing and treatment.

    When his son, Makgatho, died of illness related to AIDS at age 54 on Jan. 6, 2005, Mandela made the cause of death known and urged families to talk about the disease.

    Mandela is survived by his wife Graca Machel, the widow of the former president of Mozambique, whom he married in 1998, and three children.

    Read more:

    Remembering the regal and gracious Nelson Mandela

    Watch FRONTLINE's "The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela"

    See FRONTLINE's timeline of Nelson Mandela's life

    Slideshow: South Africa's greatest son, 'Madiba'

    Charlayne Hunter-Gault spoke with President Mandela about South Africa's past and future on the Oct. 6, 1994 NewsHour.

    How Nelson Mandela Survived His Years in Isolated South African Jail

    View more of NewsHour's World coverage.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

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    Longtime PBS NewsHour correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault reflects on the first time she interviewed Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95. In this 1990 file photo, Hunter-Gault is seen with Mandela shortly after he was released from prison.

    No one could imagine what the world's most famous prisoner would be like. But in February of 1990, when the African National Congress announced that Nelson Mandela would be available for interviews a mere five days after his release from prison after 27 years, dozens of us journalists from all over the world made our way to his tiny home in the sprawling, poor, black township of Soweto.

    Until his emergence from prison five days earlier, Mandela had not been seen publicly since he was sentenced to life for conducting an armed campaign to topple the ruling white minority regime. And this aggressive media was a new experience for him. Because I had been in close contact with members of the party since I first went to South Africa for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in 1985, I was able to get one of only two half-hour interviews, but I also had to wait my turn. Still, when I got my first glimpse of him, I couldn't restrain myself. Since there was no real security, I bounded up to him once he emerged from his house and introduced myself, saying I would be interviewing him later.

    I was at once struck by his height -- at least a head taller than me at five-feet-eight -- and his regal, upright bearing, though on the latter I should not have been surprised given his royal pedigree. And there were no signs of his years as a prisoner, although photographers were not allowed to use flashes due to his eyes being weakened from the dust in the lime quarry he was made to work in as part of his prison duties. Nor was it evident that his lungs had also been affected by prison and that he had contracted tuberculosis. (It was a lung infection that sent him to the hospital June 8, 2013.) Still, Mandela was smartly dressed in suit and tie and showed no outward signs of the confined life he had been forced to live all those years.

    Even though meeting the press was new to him, he showed no signs that he was uncomfortable. He smiled easily and responded warmly as I broke what little protocol there was and moved up to him as he headed for still another of the 10 minute interviews the other media had been granted. He was gracious, smiling warmly and waiting patiently as my producer Jacqui Farmer, snapped a picture with me standing behind him, tiptoeing in order to look over his shoulder.

    He would greet me with that same warm smile in our encounters over the rest of his life, as I conducted more interviews with him than almost any other journalist. And as time went on, the Mandela I saw on that first day was the Mandela he remained: gracious and regal, the custodian of his lifelong vision of a rainbow nation.

    Read more:

    Video: Remembering Nelson Mandela

    Watch FRONTLINE's "The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela"

    See FRONTLINE's timeline of Nelson Mandela's life

    Slideshow: South Africa's greatest son, 'Madiba'

    Charlayne Hunter-Gault spoke with President Mandela about South Africa's past and future on the Oct. 6, 1994 NewsHour.

    How Nelson Mandela Survived His Years in Isolated South African Jail

    View more of NewsHour's World coverage.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

    Support Your Local PBS Station

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    President Obama speaks to the nation on the passing of Nelson Mandela:

    Jacob Zuma's statement announcing Mandela's death:

    We will continue to update below as world leaders and others from around the world speak on the loss of the former South African President and activist Nelson Mandela:

    UPDATED 6:20 EST:

    Message from The Nelson Mandela Foundation, The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation:

    "It is with the deepest regret that we have learned of the passing of our founder, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - Madiba. The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa will shortly make further official announcements.

    We want to express our sadness at this time. No words can adequately describe this enormous loss to our nation and to the world.

    We give thanks for his life, his leadership, his devotion to humanity and humanitarian causes. We salute our friend, colleague and comrade and thank him for his sacrifices for our freedom. The three charitable organisations that he created dedicate ourselves to continue promoting his extraordinay legacy.

    Hamba Kahle Madiba"

    Gathering outside Mandela's house:

    More and more people are arriving at Madiba's house pic.twitter.com/Oj6zmrxHys

    — Mzilikazi wa Afrika (@IamMzilikazi) December 5, 2013

    Former President George W. Bush:

    "Laura and I join the people of South Africa and the world in celebrating the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathy to President Mandela's family and to the citizens of the nation he loved."

    Former President Bill Clinton:**

    "[Nelson Mandela taught us so much about so many things. Perhaps the greatest lesson, especially for young people, is that, while bad things do happen to good people, we still have the freedom and responsibility to decide how to respond to injustice, cruelty and violence and how they will affect our spirits, hearts and minds."

    Former President George H.W. Bush:

    "Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know. As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment -- setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen."

    Former President Jimmy Carter:

    "Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world's leading democracies. In recent years, I was gratified to be able to work with him through The Elders to encourage resolution of conflicts and advance social justice and human rights in many nations. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family at this difficult time."

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

    "Only because of such a great man like Nelson Mandela is it possible that particular people in Africa and elsewhere are able to enjoy freedom and human dignity. We have to learn the wisdom and determinations and commitment of Mr Mandela to make this world better for all."

    U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron:

    A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No10 to be flown at half mast.

    — David Cameron (@David_Cameron) December 5, 2013

    Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

    All of Canada mourns with the family of Nelson Mandela and the citizens of South Africa. The world has lost one of its great moral leaders.

    — Stephen Harper (@pmharper) December 5, 2013

    Rep. John Boehner:

    "Nelson Mandela was an unrelenting voice for democracy and his 'long walk to freedom' showed an enduring faith in God and respect for human dignity. His perseverance in fighting the apartheid system will continue to inspire future generations. Mandela led his countrymen through times of epic change with a quiet moral authority that directed his own path from prisoner to president. He passes this world as a champion of peace and racial harmony. I send condolences to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa."

    Sen. Harry Reid:

    In a way, Mandela was both the "George Washington" and "Abraham Lincoln" of his country. We're so fortunate to have lived in his time.

    — Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) December 5, 2013

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

    May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope. pic.twitter.com/Bgv5TpayBW

    — Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) December 5, 2013

    Sen. Mitch McConnell:

    "Elaine and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, a man whose skillful guidance of South Africa following the end of the Apartheid regime made him one of the great statesmen of our time and a global symbol of reconciliation. 'Madiba's' patience through imprisonment and insistence on unity over vengeance in the delicate period in which he served stand as a permanent reminder to the world of the value of perseverance and the positive influence one good man or woman can have over the course of human affairs. The world mourns this great leader. May his passing lead to a deeper commitment to reconciliation around the world."

    Bishop Desmond Tutu:

    "He was amazing in his selfless altruism for others, recognizing -- just as did a Mahatma Gandhi or a Dalai Lama -- that a true leader exists not for self-aggrandizement but for the sake of those he or she is leading."

    Dan Rather:

    (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by Dan Rather Reports.

    Morgan Freeman:

    "We have lost one of the true giants of the past century. But in our loss is the realization that thanks to him, we have all gained something. For in bringing down the evil of apartheid, Mandela raised us up; his wisdom, patience, compassion and insistence on reconciliation make us aspire to be better people. In his determination to break from the chains of the past, he allowed us all to join him as the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls."

    New York Times Johannesburg Bureau Cheif Lydia Polgreen:

    News broadcasters are deeply emotional, holding back tears as they speak about Mandela's death.

    — Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) December 5, 2013

    Muhammad Ali (via Ann Curry):

    "I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Mandela. His was a life filled with purpose and hope; hope for himself, his country and the world..."


    "Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world." Nelson #Mandela. RIP #Madiba, your voice will live on forever.

    — Malala Fund (@MalalaFund) December 5, 2013


    In honor of Nelson Mandela, who died today, here is an image of South Africa from #ISS: https://t.co/JkwMuxcGm0 pic.twitter.com/mdrNs2lHFH

    — NASA (@NASA) December 5, 2013

    The Apollo Theater, Harlem, NYC:

    Photo: The Apollo Theater in Harlem remembers Nelson Mandela. pic.twitter.com/PJGqTsMLh8 via @keithboykin

    — Yvonne Bynoe (@YvonneBynoe) December 5, 2013

    The New Yorker released their Mandela cover:

    Our cover. http://t.co/iaN10YDr58pic.twitter.com/zsq5O3gYDg

    — Nicholas Thompson (@nxthompson) December 5, 2013

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    GWEN IFILL: Nelson Mandela's death was formally announced late today by South Africa's current president, Jacob Zuma.

    He expressed the country's love and sense of loss for their iconic leader, often referred to, out of respect, by his clan name, Madiba.

    PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, South Africa: Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed.

    He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20:50 on the 5th of December, 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace.

    Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.

    His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. Our thoughts are with the South African people, who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nationhood.

    Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own and who saw his cause as their cause.

    This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son.

    Yet, what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.  

    As we gather, wherever we are in the country and wherever we are in the world, let us recall the values for which Madiba fought. Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another.

    Let us commit ourselves to strive together -- sparing neither strength nor courage -- to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

    Let us express, each in our own way, the deep gratitude we feel for a life spent in service of the people of this country and in the cause of humanity.

     That is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow. Yet it must also be the moment of our greatest determination, a determination to live as Madiba has lived, to strive as Madiba has strived, and to not rest until we have realized his vision of a truly united South Africa, a peaceful and prosperous Africa, and a better world.

    We will always love you, Madiba. May your soul rest in peace.

    God bless Africa.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma.


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     JUDY WOODRUFF: This evening at the White House, President Obama expressed his condolences to Nelson Mandela's family and praised the transformative leader.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

    And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real. He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.

    Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa -- and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.

    His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives. And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable.

    As he once said, "I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."

    I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.

    I studied his words and his writings. The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him.

    To Graca Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us. His life's work meant long days away from those who loved him the most. And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.

    To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real. A free South Africa at peace with itself, that's an example to the world, and that's Madiba's legacy to the nation he loved.

    We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set, to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

    For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived, a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

    May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace.

    GWEN IFILL: Other reaction immediately began coming in from the U.S. and around the world.

    In New York, the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon said, "We have to learn from the wisdom and determination and commitment of President Mandela to make this world better for all."

    Former President George H.W. Bush issued a statement, saying of Mandela, "He was a man of tremendous moral courage who changed the course of history in his country."

    And in another statement, former President Jimmy Carter said, "His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide."


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to a personal retrospective on the life of Nelson Mandela from one of our own.

    Former NewsHour senior correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault covered the South African leader for more than a decade, and interviewed him on a number of occasions, from the time he left prison to his election as South Africa's president.

    She prepared this remembrance.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: To my generation, the one that came of age in the '60s, Nelson Mandela was a towering man of myth and legend, of action and passion, of selfless sacrifice.

    And before any of us ever dreamed, he became the embodiment of a notorious decades-long struggling against white oppression. Many would call that victory a miracle, Mandela the miracle maker.

    These rare images from the book "Mandela: The Authorized Portrait" help us tell the story of Mandela's long walk to freedom.

    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in a tiny rural village in the Transkei on South Africa's eastern coast. But it was here in neighboring Qunu that the man who was to become a legend was nurtured, spending some of the happiest years of his boyhood.

    Qunu is a gentle place of rolling hills and farms, where children still play Mandela did when he wasn't laboring in these fields as a herd boy, looking after his mother few sheep and calves. In time, they would call him Madiba, his Xhosa clan name for respect.

    Here, Xhosa boys, even ones like Mandela, descended from royalty, were shaped by Xhosa ritual and taboo, tradition that taught respect and responsibility for others. As Mandela grew into manhood, the Xhosa mantle of responsibility led him to fight against oppressive white minority rule that deprived and demeaned Mandela and his fellow Africans.

    In 1948, oppression was legalized into a system known as apartheid. As a young lawyer in the 1940s, Mandela joined the African National Congress, an organization then dedicated to peacefully pursuing equal rights for all South Africans.

    Mandela emerged as one of its leaders, staging mass rallies, strikes and campaigns of defiance against apartheid's unjust laws. But by 1960, the harsh white government's resistance to the ANC's peaceful process caused Mandela and his ANC colleagues to launch a military wing operating underground.

    Their armed resistance was called Umkhonto we Sizwe, Spear of the Nation. The campaign was aimed at military industrial and civil installations, and not soft or human targets. But in time, the ANC's bombings and urban guerrilla warfare resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people, though exact figures aren't known. But their acts bore no comparison to the thousands murdered and otherwise disappeared by the regime.

    NELSON MANDELA: There are many people who feel that it is useful and futile for us to continue talking peace and nonviolence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In 1962, a vicious crackdown by the apartheid state was unleashed, and Mandela was caught up in the regime's wide net.

    As he sat in prison, his ANC colleagues were also rounded up at a farm in an area outside of Johannesburg called Rivonia and jailed. In 1963, during what came to be called the Rivonia trial, the government tried and convicted Mandela and seven of the top command of the ANC on charges of sabotage aimed at fomenting violent revolution, a capital offense.

    In June 1964, the eight were sentenced to life in prison. Even from his cell on Robben Island, the Alcatraz-like site of the country's harshest, most remote prison, six miles off the coast of Cape Town, Mandela was uncompromising, says Helen Suzman, then a particularly representative who spoke out against apartheid.

    HELEN SUZMAN, former South African politician: He had no hesitation. He rattled off all the complaints about the bad food, the fact he was sleeping on sleeping rolls, not proper mattresses, the fact that the visits were too few and far between, and mostly about the behavior of a warden, yes, who has a tattoo on the back of his hand of the swastika. And he said, this man really is very bad. He treats us badly.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But even then, Mandela was ever the statesman.

    HELEN SUZMAN: His bearing, his self-confidence, remarkably self-confident man. He was never making outrageous remarks about the government. He was always thoughtful. And what he said was, you know, in keeping with someone who wanted peace.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And he used the captive audience in prison to educate his young followers for the future he envisioned. They even called it Mandela University.

    Tokyo Sexwale was one of the students.

    TOKYO SEXWALE, African National Congress: And that's where he was teaching of the spirit of reconciliation, studying history, studying science, studying everything that we were supposed to equip ourselves, economics, to prepare ourselves for the new South Africa.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mandela's life sentence removed him physically from the fight against apartheid, but his spirit was felt throughout the townships of South Africa.

    The government pressed hard to retain control of a black population that refused to be silenced. In 1985, I made my first trip to the land of Mandela's birth to find out what was driving the country's people, black and white, and also to determine how much of Mandela's spirit was still alive.

    What -- what are you singing about? Tell me, what is this about? What is the song about?

    GIRL: Mandela, Mandela.


    GIRL: Mandela.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mandela and...


    WOMAN: We want Mandela to be released from jail.


    WOMAN: And those who are exile to come back.

    MAN: There's one man we all respect and we take him -- we call him our father, none other than Nelson Mandela.

    If and only if that man can be released, and then we can see the direction of South Africa.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: From those otherwise dark days, a new direction was on the horizon, as pressure at home and abroad mounted on the regime.

    The apartheid system was crumbling. Mandela, who had been moved to a different prison, began four years of secret negotiations with the government that would eventually lead to the release of many of the political prisoners and the unbanning of the ANC. Change seemed inevitable. And the South African foreign minister admitted as much in an interview with me following my reporting on South Africa for NewsHour in 1985.

    ROELOF FREDERIK "PIK" BOTHA, former South Africa Foreign Minister: I made my position clear. We have said that we have outgrown apartheid.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But Mandela's own release would not come for another five years, in 1990.

    After 27 years, Nelson Mandela took his first steps as a free man. He was 71 years old. And few had seen him or any up-to-date photograph of him in all those years. At his side were now Winnie Mandela, his defiant wife who had kept his name and his message alive, and other comrades from the African National Congress.

    NELSON MANDELA: Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.


    NELSON MANDELA: I stand here, before you, not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. Today, the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future.  


    NELSON MANDELA: It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I left for South Africa as soon as I saw those pictures. And within a few days from his release from prison, I found myself sitting with him in his backyard in the black township of Soweto, where I soon gleaned insight into Mandela's iron resolve, as well as his humility.

    NELSON MANDELA: We fought back. And as I -- I must stress again, I was not the only one who fought back. We all fought back.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In what way? I mean, in what...

    NELSON MANDELA: And the amount of bravery, of courage that was displayed was absolutely marvelous. And we had hunger strikes and resisted doing anything which we considered to be humiliating.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Were you aware of this mythical character that was being built up in the outside world, through portraits on television, movies, this sort of thing? And did that concern you at all, or...

    NELSON MANDELA: Well, that worried me a bit.


    NELSON MANDELA: Because I wanted to be presented as I am. And I'm an ordinary human being, with weaknesses. And you don't want that to be built up into something that you are not.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Still, Nelson Mandela was the man of the hour, and he wasted no time on efforts to dismantle the apartheid regime, even before a full United Nations assembly in 1990.

    NELSON MANDELA: We know also that you harbor the hope that we will not relent or falter in the pursuit of that common vision, which should result in the transformation of South Africa into a country of democracy, justice, and peace.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In 1993, the year before apartheid ended, Mandela shared his vision of a new South Africa as he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the man who had seen the handwriting on the wall and acted, the last apartheid president, F.W. De Klerk.

    NELSON MANDELA: South Africa will be like a microcosm of the new way that is striving to be born. This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But, in South Africa, change was accompanied as the last gasp of the regime as it backed black-on-black violence.

    Still, Mandela's way prevailed. And on the 27th of April, 1994, Mandela himself voted for the first time in his life, at age 75.

    A few days before, Mandela and I sat down in Johannesburg, and I got a rare glimpse into his steely side when I asked him about De Klerk's assertion that a liberation movement wouldn't know how to govern and that Mandela's presidency wouldn't be as powerful as his.

    NELSON MANDELA: My power of persuasion is sufficient.

    I have wielded power as a prisoner, without occupying any position, and Mr. De Klerk had to recognize that. We have taken decisions and forced him to use his legal powers. The decision was taken by us.

    Take, for example, how he dismissed two ministers. We gave him an ultimatum that you must appoint a judicial commission to investigate the question of violence. He must dismiss a certain two ministers. And he came out and he said he would never do that.

    We embarked on mass action. He was forced to do exactly what he said he would never do. So, we have wielded power even before we assumed the government of the country. And that is how the situation should be examined.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela took another giant step on a journey that took him from prisoner to president.

    NELSON MANDELA: We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity -- a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Elements of the repressive apartheid past remained, but Mandela and his young government rose above them, insisting on forgiveness and reconciliation, which would become the hallmark of his presidency.

    NELSON MANDELA: It is necessary for one to heal the wounds of the past if you're going to build your country and to have unity.

    I am working with people who fought me very bitterly before the elections. It was my responsibility, as the man who is leading the majority party, my responsibility to heal the wounds of the past and to work with people who were my opponents.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mandela kept his part of the bargain, enabling a forum offering amnesty in exchange for truth about apartheid-era atrocities on all sides. It was called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Countless black victims came forward, but almost none of the whites who had ordered or committed atrocities did or told the truth. But the process is credited with averting a bloodbath as the government changed from white to black hands. Moreover, Mandela's government put to rest concerns that the ANC's past leftist rhetoric would lead to nationalizing the economy. Instead, he told the world his country would be a democratic, capitalist society, and kept his word.

    Mandela's government also established principles of redress aimed at bringing blacks into the economic mainstream, while building millions of houses and providing basic services that didn't exist for the poor, not enough and not fast enough for all, but enough to earn the gratitude of millions and the patience of most of its long-suffering people.

    But Mandela's own personal life suffered. The Mandelas divorced. Mandela stepped down after serving only one term, setting a new standard on a continent of presidents for life.

    At the same time, Mandela had set the bar so high, it would be close to impossible for anyone to fill his shoes or to think of South Africa as anything but a miracle nation, a perception that would belie South Africa's down-to-earth realities and create problems for anyone not the icon Mandela had become, not least because the icon stayed in the adoring public's eye.

    On his 80th birthday, Mandela married his third wife, Graca Machel, widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel.

    As his physical walk became more labored, Mandela announced his retirement from public life.

    NELSON MANDELA: Don't call me.


    NELSON MANDELA: I will call you.



    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But, even in his later years, Mandela kept on walking, joined by his wife in their advocacy for the world's children and boldly making up for the silence and inattention on HIV and AIDS dating back to his own time in office.

    Mandela had come to realize the disease was overwhelming the country he loved and threatening the very future he sought to ensure, not least taking the life of his one remaining son. Mandela took on AIDS as a public crusade and spoke out forcefully about the need for others in high positions to join him, though few did.

    NELSON MANDELA: I am alive because the people gave me love and support. And that is why I am here today to deal with your questions. So, there is no difference whatsoever between somebody who is HIV-positive and myself.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mandela was equally passionate about children, the nation's, his own and Graca Machel's. And in time, he even brought Winnie back into the family fold.

    And that extended family will join a cast of millions who will honor him from far and near as he becomes an ancestor, buried in the Mandela family cemetery in his quiet village of Qunu, free at last from his epic journey, free to take a moment of rest on his now long walk to eternity.

    GWEN IFILL: That's Charlayne Hunter-Gault.


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    GWEN IFILL:  For more on Nelson Mandela's life and legacy, we turn to four people who knew him or watched South Africa's emergence from apartheid.

    Gay McDougall was a member the South African Election Commission, which administered the country's first democratic non-racial elections in 1994.  Prior to that, she served as director of the Southern Africa Project of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  Douglas Foster is the author of "After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa."  He's an associate professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.  Donald Gips served as U.S. ambassador to South Africa from 2009 to 2013.  And John Stremlau is vice president for peace programs at the Carter Center.  He taught at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. 

    Welcome to you all.

    Gay McDougall, what is your first reaction tonight on hearing of the loss of Nelson Mandela? 

    GAY MCDOUGALL, Member, Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa:  Well, I'm terribly sad.

    Of course, we all expected it.  We knew it was coming.  But, nevertheless, it is a shock.  And it's quite saddening.  I think, first of all, of the people of South Africa who will be mourning in a very special way.  But I think of us all around the world have lost a hero, a hero that we desperately needed when he came forward and gave us hope. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, as we continue this conversation, we want to -- we do want to say to local stations, because of the special nature of tonight's program, that we are not going to be taking a break tonight, so that we can continue to discuss Nelson Mandela's life and legacy. 

    And I want to pick up with you, Professor John Stremlau. 

    You taught, as Gwen just said, in South Africa for a number of years after Nelson Mandela was released.  What did you see of the man?  What did he mean to his country? 

    JOHN STREMLAU, Carter Center:  Well, he means everything for his country. 

    And I think the challenge is to live up to the example he set, as President Obama indicated.  What was great about Mandela was his respect for the rule of law.  Think about it just for a moment -- 27 years in jail under an illegitimate legal system, and to come and to defend the rule of law above all else.

    When he was asked to appear in court as a sitting president, his advisers said, no, no, no, you can't do it.  You can't appear in this case on rugby and discrimination that he had asserted.  It was a libel suit of some sort.  And he said, look, no man is above the law, and so I will be there.

    I think he inherited this stubborn sense of freedom -- fairness, as he described himself once, from his father.  It was that stubborn sense of fairness which kept the process on track.  And we Americans owe him and the country of South Africa a great debt, because nothing would have torn this country apart in the 1970s and perhaps into the '80s than a race war in South Africa. 

    So, I -- all I want to do is to celebrate this wonderful, wonderful man. 

    GWEN IFILL:  I would actually like to pick up that, Ambassador Gips, because, by the time you arrived in Johannesburg as ambassador from the U.S., you had been appointed by an African-American president.

    You went -- you were there and saw the legacy, the real legacy, the current-day legacy of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.  And how did it resonate? 

    DONALD GIPS, Former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa:  It resonated incredibly.  His presence still drives the country.

    You know, from people on the street to people in government, everyone aspires to live up to the legacy he left.  It is a difficult challenge to live up to someone of his iconic nature, but he really inspired all of us, I think, around the world. 

    And the message that he left for all of us is one that I think the world needs, whether it's our Congress or people around the world, of putting -- putting aside our differences to work for the greater good. 

    You know, I was so inspired -- my most inspiring moment in South Africa was actually holding some of the letters that he wrote from prison at the Center for Memory and reading about what he gave up to fight for freedom and to fight for a better South Africa for everyone. 

    And I think if -- given what he gave up, we all need to take this moment and decide how we can make the world a better place. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Douglas Foster, you got to know the Mandela family.

    In the last decade, you moved to South Africa for a time to write a book about what -- after Mandela, the struggle for freedom after his time as president.  What -- how did you experience this?  What would you add to this question of his effect on the country? 

    DOUGLAS FOSTER, Author, "After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa":  Sure.

    I got to know the old man, as everybody calls him in South Africa, through his grandchildren, primarily through his grandson Ndaba.  And the last time I saw him at his home in Johannesburg, he did this typically puckish, mischievous thing. 

    As my son and I entered the room, he said, "Ah, it's nice that young people still come to an old man who has nothing new to say."

    I think one of the important legacies of Nelson Mandela is to have given the challenge to the half of the population in South Africa that is 24 and under and didn't have direct experience of conditions under apartheid to understand that this is their moment and a time to shape the freedom that was on in their names.

    I think that the South African editor Ferial Haffajee wrote recently that Mandela had prepared his people for his passing in an unusual way, she said -- quote -- "like a good parent" -- unquote. 

    And I think that's worth marking on a day like this, that most leaders attempt to assert indispensability.  That's their sense of their own role in life.  I think one of Nelson Mandela's great gifts was to live long enough and also to be conscious enough about what it means to step away from power that he has given his people the gift of dispensability.  The great experiment in creating a non-racial, non-sexist, non-homophobic and more egalitarian society at the Southern Tip of Africa survives him. 

    GWEN IFILL:  Ambassador Gips, we know you have to move on from us in a few moments, so I want to circle back to you for a moment and just ask you a sense about whether Nelson Mandela's one term as president of South Africa and his heroic status, whether that had an effect on surrounding countries, on the region, on Africa as a continent? 

    DONALD GIPS:  Oh, I think he inspires people around the continent and around the world. 

    I think -- I witnessed people coming to South Africa to pay tribute to him during the World Cup and at other moments.  There is no greater figure in my lifetime.  And I think, as President Obama said, he's his inspiration.  So, I think he has inspired people not just in South Africa or in Africa, but around the world. 

    But, in the end, what he did in South Africa is an example that we all need to follow. 

    GWEN IFILL:  Gay McDougall, how do you explain the essence of Nelson Mandela?  What gave him that impossible-to-understand strength that he had to come out of prison after 27 years and to go on to be the great leader that he was?   

    GAY MCDOUGALL:  Well, he is quite a remarkable individual. 

    That's -- I don't think there's no question about that.  He has a certain regalness to him, but also a sort of down-home folksiness to him as well, but I think the mixture of knowing how to handle and to deal with power, yet seeing himself very much as a member of a collective of decision-makers, as a member of a liberation movement, of a political party, of South Africans as a whole. 

    I will never forget the really transcendent moment that I was privileged to spend -- to share with him when he voted for the first time in 1994.  I was there as a member of the commission that ran the elections then.  And President Mandela had put my name forward to be on the commission. 

    But it was a remarkable moment for him and for his nation.  And, you know, all of the suffering and struggle that had occurred before that moment was now telescoped through him and into the future, as he dropped his ballot into that box. 

    So he has been a manifestation of all of the hopes and dreams and aspirations and -- of his country.  And he's been able to articulate that and to live a life that was worthy of that. 

    GWEN IFILL:  John Stremlau, I'm curious. In watching Charlayne's piece, it was interesting to see his personality and his political side as well.  He talked about his own -- his own -- how much he was convinced in the power of his own moral suasion. 

    Was that an essential part of his success and his -- his legacy as well? 

    JOHN STREMLAU:  Well, absolutely, Gwen.

    The one error in the presentation, which is understandable, is when he said he's just an ordinary man.  This was certainly no ordinary man.  He had an appreciation of the humanity in all of us.  He took an inspiration from Dr. King.  He understood what the civil rights struggle was in this country.

    And he understood what tolerance and justice is for all.  He's helped to make South Africa, which now celebrates next year 20 years of democracy -- we are celebrating 50 years of a movement toward greater racial justice in our own country -- what it meant to be part of a global, truly global community.  And he appreciated the interest and support that he got from everywhere.

    But he also was willing to sort of look at the individual in his own country and say, you matter, and what you do really does count for something. 

    And so, as a professor, the born free, so-called, now, the new generation of kids coming along who didn't know apartheid, they have to be reimbued with this Mandela ethic, as was said earlier in the -- in the obituary. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And Douglas Foster, pick up on that, and talk about why he was the beacon that he was for the rest of the world.  People do amazing things and -- but -- but when you think about him, I mean, he really stands apart. 

    DOUGLAS FOSTER:  Well, I think it's partly in the context -- if you think about the idea of contingency in history, he stitched together so many divergent parts of South African culture -- divergent parts of South African culture.

    He grew up as a shoeless cowherd.  He went to the city and made something new of himself as a lawyer.  But then he traded in that privilege, that hard-earned privilege to become a figure who was denounced as a terrorist in the United States and in South Africa, endured those prison years, as Charlayne told us, and came out with a singular vision of a different kind of society, and drove towards it so relentlessly.

    I think it's that commitment and consistency, the requirement of a very disciplined mind and a very steely man, too.  As -- as much as we're tempted on a day like this to only sing praises about the soft and warm side, he didn't succeed by being a pushover.  He succeeded by being very tough, very strategic, and -- and committed, absolutely committed to a vision during periods where one wouldn't have guessed that it would succeed. 

    GWEN IFILL:  Gay McDougall, here in Washington, outside of the remodeled South African Embassy, there is a statue going up in which Mandela has his fist in the air.  And he's right across the street from Winston Churchill, who has his victory sign in the air.  It's quite a place on Massachusetts Avenue.

    It's tempting in moment like this to look at the past and -- and not to look at the present and the future.  So, as you think about Nelson Mandela tonight, and you think legacy, how do you think about his effect on the present and the future? 

    GAY MCDOUGALL:  Well, I think that he stands for the importance of personal commitment, for being true to one's principles, of working with people who share that kind of a vision, and of modeling a new kind of leadership for the future.

    I think these are all lessons that young people in the United States, as well as throughout Africa, are going to continuously turn to.  He is a figure that is going to, in many ways, live forever.  His lessons to us will live forever. 

    And so while I think we all of course his passing, I feel that, you know, very soon, we will be taken with how much of a gift his life has been to all of us. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, Gay McDougall, we thank you.

    We thank Professor Stremlau, John Stremlau, and Douglas Foster.  We also want to thank Ambassador Gips, who was with us for a few minutes.  We appreciate your joining us on this day. 

    DOUGLAS FOSTER:  Thank you. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And PBS' special coverage of Mandela's death includes a FRONTLINE documentary, "The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela: An Intimate Portrait of One of the 20th Century's Greatest Leaders."  You can watch that online at PBS.org.  

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    GWEN IFILL:  In addition to the passing of Nelson Mandela, there was other news today.

    The U.S. economy gave off a new round of mixed signals a day before the latest unemployment and job creation numbers come out.  The Commerce Department reported growth hit an annual rate of 3.6 percent between July and September, the best since early 2012.  At the same time, consumer spending was the weakest in nearly four years.

    Meanwhile, the White House lobbied to keep benefits going for the long-term unemployed.

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary:  Even though the unemployment rate has come down significantly from its high because of the great recession, it is still too much too high at 7.3 percent, considerably higher than it was, when it was the right thing to do for President Bush to sign into law an extension of unemployment insurance.

    So, if it was right then, it is certainly right now to do.

    GWEN IFILL:  Republicans have argued that extended benefits may make it more attractive to stay unemployed than to actively seek work.

    House Speaker John Boehner had this to say today:

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House:  If the president has a plan for extending unemployment benefits, I would surely entertain taking a looking at it.  But I would argue the president's real focus ought to be creating a better environment for our economy and creating more jobs for the American people.  That's where the focus is, not more government programs.

    GWEN IFILL:  The White House says, if Congress doesn't extend the program, 3.6 million Americans will run out of benefits over the next 12 months.

    Fast-food workers walked off the job and held rallies today in a number of cities, demanding better wages.  Organizers said they want $15 an hour.  The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and it was last raised in 2009.  President Obama has called for raising the federal minimum wage, but prospects for passage in Congress are uncertain at best.

    An arctic blast kept the Northern Plains in the deep freeze today, and spread east and south.  Parts of North Dakota expected wind chills of 40 below zero.  In Denver, the bitter cold had crews de-icing airliners early this morning.  Snow arrived before dawn in Wichita, while Oklahoma and Arkansas faced a possible ice storm this evening.

    Britain and Northern Europe are facing what could be their most powerful storm in years.  At least three people died today, as hurricane-force winds swept out of the North Sea.

    We have a report from Liam Dutton of Independent Television News.

    LIAM DUTTON:  December, a time of year when you would expect the British weather to deliver its worst, and, today, it did.

    Scotland bore the brunt of today's damaging winds, with gusts of around 90 miles an hour hitting much of the country.  Transport was severely affected, with all train services suspended for a time this morning, before slowly returning to normal this afternoon.

    The pilot of this plane had to abort landing at Birmingham Airport, buffeted by strong crosswinds.  One hundred thousand homes in Scotland were left without electricity, with another several thousand homes in Northern Ireland and Northern England affected as the strong winds move southwards.

    In North Wales, as well as gales, emergency services were prepared for coastal flooding, as large waves combined with high tides were expected to crash over seawalls.  Parts of Newcastle city center are flooded this evening, after the River Tyne burst its banks.  Tonight, the risk of coastal flooding continues for North Sea coasts, where the Environments Agency is warning of the worst storm surge in 60 years.

    Sea defenses have improved significantly since the great flood of 1953, but even so, the next 24 hours will be worrying for those who live close the water.  Today's storm is now heading for Northern Europe, taking the stormy weather away from the U.K., with the danger of flooding coast receding later tomorrow.

    GWEN IFILL:  The United Nations Security Council authorized new military action in the war-torn Central African Republic today.  The former French colony has descended into chaos since a coup last march.  A reported 100 people died today, as Muslims and Christians battled in the capital.

    In Yemen, a coordinated attack killed more than 50 people at the Defense Ministry.  The victims were medical staffers, including a number of foreigners.  Smoke billowed after a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives through the complex's gates.  The blast cleared the way for a vehicle full of gunmen in army uniforms to storm the compound.

    An American teacher, Ronnie Smith, was shot to death today in Benghazi, Libya, by unknown gunmen.  He taught chemistry at the international school there.  Local officials said he'd been jogging near the U.S. Consulate, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed last year.

    The quarterback for top-ranked Florida State University will not face sexual assault charges.  A woman had accused Jameis Winston of raping her last December.  Winston's attorney says the sex was consensual.  The investigation had been inactive, until news accounts surfaced recently.

    Today, the state attorney in Tallahassee said there's not enough evidence to proceed.

    WILLIE MEGGS, Florida State Attorney:  We do not believe, after we examined all of the evidence and interviewed all of the witnesses that we could find, did everything that we knew how to do -- and there may be something else we may need to do.  I don't know, but I don't think so.

    We came to the decision that it was -- it wasn't a case that we could bring forward, because we wouldn't have the burden of proof, the probable cause and the reasonable likelihood of a conviction.

    GWEN IFILL:  Nineteen-year-old Winston is a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award in college football.

    Cases of measles are surging this year to nearly three times the annual average.  The Centers for Disease Control reported today there have been 175 cases in 2013.  More than half involved people who were never vaccinated and were infected overseas.

    China today barred banks and other financial institutions from handling Bitcoin.  The computer-generated currency has been widely traded in China, but the central bank issued a statement saying it has no legal status.  The agency said the ban will prevent money-laundering and promote financial stability.  Private individuals are still allowed to trade in Bitcoin, at their own risk.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 68 points to close at 15821.  The Nasdaq fell nearly five points to close at 4033.

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    Speaking from the White House late Thursday, President Barack Obama said activist and peacemaker Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to millions. Video by PBS NewsHour

    WASHINGTON -- Counting himself among the millions influenced by Nelson Mandela, President Barack Obama on Thursday mourned the death of the anti-apartheid icon with whom he shares the distinction of being his nation's first black president.

    "He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages," Obama said in a somber appearance at the White House.

    "I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," he continued. "And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set."

    Mandela died earlier Thursday at 95. He had spent much of the year in and out of the hospital, and his illness prevented a meeting with Obama when the U.S. president visited South Africa this summer.

    Still, the former South African president's legacy influenced nearly every aspect of Obama's trip. Obama, along with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, made an emotional visit to Robben Island, standing quietly together in the tiny cell where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. Obama also met privately with members of Mandela's family.

    The president is likely to travel to South Africa for Mandela's funeral, though a trip has not yet been announced. Other former U.S. presidents and dignitaries are also likely to attend.

    Obama's political rise has drawn inevitable comparisons to the South African leader. Both are Nobel Peace Prize winners and the first black men elected to lead their countries.

    However, the two men met in person only once, a hastily arranged meeting in a Washington hotel room in 2005 when Obama was a U.S. senator. A photo of the meeting hangs in Obama's personal office at the White House, showing a smiling Mandela sitting on a chair, his legs outstretched, as the young senator reaches down to shake his hand. A copy of the photo also hung in Mandela's office in Johannesburg.

    The two presidents did speak occasionally on the phone, including after the 2008 election, when Mandela called Obama to congratulate him on his victory. The U.S. president called Mandela in 2010 after the South African leader's young granddaughter was killed in a car accident. Obama also wrote the introduction to Mandela's memoir, "Conversations With Myself."

    Mandela had already shaped Obama's political beliefs well before their first encounter. As a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Obama joined protests against the school's investments during South Africa's apartheid era. In 1981, Obama focused his first public political speech on the topic.

    "It's happening an ocean away," Obama said, according to a retelling of the story in his memoir "Dreams From My Father." "But it's a struggle that touches each and every one of us. Whether we know it or not. Whether we want it or not."

    Associated Press writer Julie Pace wrote this report.

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