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

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    Flowers left by mourners surround a portrait of Nelson Mandela in the Sandton district of Johannesburg Friday. Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

    In the hours that have passed since South African President Jacob Zuma announced his nation had "lost its greatest son," there has been a universal outpouring of sadness for the loss, and innumerable tributes of admiration for the man who went from 27-year prisoner to president, transforming his country and the world.

    "He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages," President Barack Obama said Thursday at the White House.

    The Morning Line

    "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," the president added. "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."

    Watch the president's full remarks here or below:

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    By Paul Solman

    Our "Solman Scale" measures the "U-7," adding to the officially unemployed part-timers looking for full-time work and "discouraged" workers -- everyone who didn't look for a job in the past week but says they want one.

    203,000 new jobs, according to the payroll survey of employers, with an upward revision of 8,000 for the past two months; nearly a million more people working, according to the monthly survey of 60,000 American households; the official unemployment number down from 7.3 to 7 percent; our more inclusive U-7 number of all Americans who say they want a full-time job but don't have one down a million people from October alone to 15 percent, the total now well below 25 million for the first time since we began reckoning U-7 a few years ago.

    OCTOBER'S JOBS NUMBERS: 264,000 Jobs Added but 700,000 Fewer Americans Employed?

    Admittedly, the strong job numbers reflect the end of the government shutdown -- everyone expected this month to be unusual. But to be fair, instead of in our default mode -- carping -- plug a target unemployment rate of 5 percent into the Atlanta Federal Reserve's jobs calculator and give President Barack Obama his remaining 37 months in office to get there, and the economy is now exceeding the 193,969 jobs a month it needs to generate. And jobs were generated in every sector of the economy last month.

    Surprisingly, given all the positive indicators: the number of long-term unemployed didn't budge. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics news release put it: "the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 4.1 million in November." Those are essentially the same words and numbers the BLS has been using for months. And as the pool of the unemployed shrinks, the proportion of long-term unemployed to the total rises. It's now up to 37.3 percent of all those officially counted as unemployed.

    What, then, should the country do about extending -- or not extending -- unemployment insurance benefits, an issue that looms with the coming of the New Year? Thursday, producer Diane Lincoln Estes interviewed James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation about the effects of unemployment insurance (UI).

    "There's no doubt that many workers are struggling," said Sherk (this was before this Friday's numbers), "but extended unemployment benefits can keep workers unemployed longer. Federal Reserve Bank economists have found that workers become more selective in their job search when they have longer benefits, and this also causes employers to create fewer new jobs because the potential applicants become more selective. In the long term, the benefits can keep workers unemployed longer and hurt the very people we're trying to help. Let's not forget what happened in North Carolina. In July, the state ended their extended benefits, and over the next few months, unemployment has dropped very rapidly in the state."

    I'm about to leave for an interview with Northeastern University economist Barry Bluestone to hear the other side of the story, slated to run Friday on the NewsHour. Stay tuned.

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

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    Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday, is pictured here in 2010 at the World Cup soccer tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by FIFA/Getty Images

    The life of Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid leader and the first black president of South Africa, will be shared and celebrated in a series of events in his home country over 10 days.

    Mandela died Thursday at his home in Johannesburg after struggling with repeated lung ailments. He was 95 years old.

    Thousands are expected to flock to FNB Stadium, also known as Soccer City and the Calabash, in Soweto for a memorial service on Dec. 10.

    Mandela's body will then lie in state for three days at the government Union Buildings in Pretoria, the base of the South African government. The public reportedly will get to file past his casket at that point.

    Mandela's burial is planned for Dec. 15, which will be attended by world leaders including President Barack Obama. "I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," he said at the White House on Thursday.

    The funeral and burial will be held on the grounds of Mandela's home in Qunu, a village in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.

    View more of PBS NewsHour's World coverage.

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    By Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein

    People wait in line at a job fair in the Queens borough of NYC.Lower unemployment isn't just a good sign for those looking for work; fuller employment also brings economic benefits to workers already employed. Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein explain. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

    The American economy added 203,000 jobs last month. That puts us on pace to have 5 percent unemployment by the end of President Barack Obama's second term. Here to tell us more about the importance of fuller employment for the whole economy is one of our favorite jobs-numbers watchers, Dean Baker. (He appeared in our Making Sense segment about October's numbers, warning us not to put too much stock in any one month's report.) Baker writes the "Beat the Press" blog at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which he co-directs.

    When we talk about the woes of unemployment, we usually think of people who do not have a job. But higher levels of employment actually have the power to improve working conditions for people who already have jobs. In "The Benefits of Full Employment," published in 2003, Dean Baker and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' Jared Bernstein explained how greater levels of employment help boost real wage growth for the bottom half of the income ladder. (Bernstein served as chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden from 2009 to 2011.) Their new book, "Getting Back to Full Employment," all of which you can read online, picks up where they left off -- a decade and recession later.

    Dean Baker and Jared Bernstein: There are people who spend their careers furrowing their brows and thinking great thoughts about how to lift people out of poverty. Undoubtedly many of these thoughts are useful and have helped shaped policy in positive directions. However, we would argue that the state of the labor market is at least as important for lifting people out of poverty as any anti-poverty program.

    The basic point is straightforward. Low rates of unemployment create opportunities in the labor market for people who might otherwise never have a chance to get their foot in the door. And, for those who already have a foot at the bottom rung of the ladder, full employment provides them the opportunity to move up both with higher pay and more hours.

    The evidence on these points is really striking. First, if we look at unemployment rates by demographic group, it is clear that disadvantaged groups get hit hardest when the economy takes a downturn. If we compare the current situation to the peak of the Clinton cycle in 2000, the unemployment rate for whites has risen from 3.5 percent in 2000 to 6.2 percent in the most recent data (November of this year), a rise of 2.7 percentage points.

    By comparison, the unemployment rate for Hispanics rose from 5.8 percentage points to 8.7 percent, an increase of 2.9 percentage points. For African Americans the unemployment rate went from 7.6 percent to 12.5 percent, an increase of 4.9 percentage points. And for African American teens unemployment rose from 24.3 percent to 35.8 percent, a jump of 11.5 percentage points. (Even worse for African American teen high school dropouts.)

    Imagine that we could just snap our fingers and get back to the 2000 levels of unemployment for these groups. This would make an incredible difference in the lives of tens of millions of people at the lower rungs of the income ladder.

    But this is only the beginning of the story. In our prior book, "The Benefits of Full Employment", which was published in 2003, we did analysis showing that low rates of unemployment had a disproportionate impact on the wage growth for those in the bottom half, and especially the bottom third of the wage distribution. We first noticed this effect because the low unemployment years of the late 1990s were the first sustained period since the early 1970s in which workers at the middle and bottom of the income ladder benefited from wage growth. We updated this analysis in our next book and the results are even stronger.

    FRIDAY'S JOBS NUMBERS: At November's Pace, 5 Percent Unemployment by the End of Obama's Second Term

    We find, for example, that a bump down in the unemployment rate from its current rate of 7 percent to say, 6.5 percent, would lift the real earnings of low-wage workers by around 10 percent, middle-wage around 4 percent, and nothing at the top. What's so notable about these findings is that they push in precisely the opposite direction of the factors that have been driving inequality up in America since the latter 1970s. Too often policy makers decry these factors -- globalization, technology, less union power -- as inevitable and thus unstoppable. They forget, or never learned, that full employment is a potent antidote.

    In addition to boosting employment and hourly wages for those at the middle and bottom, full employment also gives these workers the opportunity to work more hours, further increasing their income. Here again, our results are much like those just noted on the wage side. Workers at the top of the income scale are already working at least full-time, so there's little action for them on this margin. But for middle and especially low-wage workers, the gains in hours worked are another major benefit. The last time we were at full employment, in the latter 1990s, annual hours rose 17 percent for the poorest households and 1 percent for the wealthiest. Those gains at the bottom end were a major contributor to poverty reduction in those years.

    Full employment also makes it possible for many people to find jobs who might not otherwise even think they had a chance of getting work. In the 1990s boom, there were accounts of suburban hotels and restaurants hiring buses to transport workers from the inner cities who might otherwise find the commute difficult or impossible. There were also accounts of firms making accommodations so that they could employ people with various types of disabilities. Needless to say, firms don't go out of their way to track down such workers in the weak labor market we see today.

    The fact that full employment offers such enormous benefits to the disadvantaged is one of the main reasons that we think it is important to get and keep it at the top of the national agenda. We know that we have a long way to go, but we do think we can get there. To see how, read the book.

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

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    Nelson Mandela, seen here in 1990 embracing a young girl from Soweto, inspired South Africans and the world with his message of peace. He was also a shrewd politician who knew how to fight the necessary battles. Photo by Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Image

    I can't say I actually met Nelson Mandela. I shook his hand once; asked him a question at a news conference. But, unlike the thousands of reporters, celebrities and politicians now weighing in with tales of personal remembrances, Mandela was a distant icon who nevertheless deeply influenced me.

    In his earliest years, he was an angry man. He had to be. It's easy to forget how impossibly high the walls of apartheid were. We celebrate the nonviolent creed of Martin Luther King Jr., as we should. But by the time King rose to prominence, many less celebrated activists had already fought some of the necessary preliminary battles.

    For Mandela, violence was not a lazy option, but a necessary catalyst.

    He was not warm and fuzzy, but a clear-eyed politician. I smiled as I watched him snap at Charlayne Hunter-Gault during an interview that was part of her excellent NewsHour obituary the night he died. She had mildly suggested that he might not be able to achieve all he wanted. He wasn't having that.

    In the one reporter's encounter I had with him, in which I asked a star-struck question at a news conference with Hillary Clinton during a 1996 South Africa visit, he dismissed my question brusquely because it was redundant and ill-phrased. And he was right. "Next!" he barked.

    I use that story today as a useful lesson of when it's OK to ask a dumb question. I still don't regret the exchange. This was Nelson Mandela!

    But what I appreciate most about the life of Nelson Mandela was how it gave the rest of the world a path into the story of upheaval, reconciliation and forgiveness that defined his post-prison experience. It gave the story a necessary face.

    Without the smiling, dancing, sometimes stern Mandela leading the way, it would have been impossible for many to understand why the story of unsmiling, burdened, crushed black Africans mattered to them. In journalism, we call this a hook -- a way into the story. Mandela knew that. And he was a shrewd enough politician to do whatever it took to snatch at the fleeting emotions and attentions of the rest of the world.

    So it was that in the United States, activists campaigning for Mandela's release arrested outside the South African embassy made civil disobedience fashionable again. And so it was that self-involved college students were able to rouse themselves to campaign against college investments in South African currency.

    But here's the thing that informs my thinking about Nelson Mandela today. He understood when it was best to paint in shades of black and white, and when it was more useful to opt for shades of gray.

    Because life is told in grays, we saw South Africa's extraordinary Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where accusers faced the accused, and punishment occurred in real time. We saw western businesses forced to flee South Africa because of activist pressure, then return to reinvest and return the country to prosperity.

    We saw a beacon of what is possible. If Mandela could forgive 27 years of unjust imprisonment (in which the United States, it turns out, was complicit), what grudge is it worth it for the rest of us to hold?

    So, yes, I met Mandela, in all the ways that are important. And the lessons learned do not end at his death.


    Read more:

    Video: Remembering Nelson Mandela

    Charlayne Hunter-Gault remembers the regal and gracious Nelson Mandela

    The world reacts to Nelson Mandela's death

    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

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    Financial pressures rippling out from the 2008 global financial crisis have put pressure on the Vatican to operate its bank with more transparency. Photo by Getty Images

    An 11-month investigation by the Financial Times into the Vatican's bank reinforced what European officials have found: that for years the institution has operated with little documentation and does 25% of its business in cash -- practices that raise suspicions of money-laundering.

    Several financial professionals who have dealt with the Vatican told the FT on condition of anonymity that the bank, known formally as the Institute for Religious Works, doesn't operate as a typical bank. It has a small staff of 112 people who seemed "unversed in customer due diligence," the report said. A complex system of proxies allows representatives to perform transactions on behalf of account holders.

    In July, Peter Sutherland, the former attorney-general of Ireland and currently the non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International, met with the Pope's council of cardinals and encouraged them to push for more transparency in the bank's dealings.

    Past and present Vatican officials confirmed to the FT that the bank is sometimes used to channel cash secretly to places in need, such as Christian groups in Cuba or Egypt.

    A senior cleric, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, was arrested in June for allegedly acting as an intermediary on Vatican transactions, making them difficult to trace. The prosecution says he suspiciously transferred money on behalf of people he knew, including a Neapolitan ship-owning family. His trial begins in Rome on Dec. 13.

    Pope Francis set up two commissions of inquiry last summer to investigate the finances of the Vatican bank and look for ways to cut waste and improve transparency.

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    Carlos Santana reflected on the recent news of Nelson Mandela's passing and on what Mandela meant to him during an interview with chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown, "I'll always remember his supreme elegance and conviction."

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    Watch President Obama and his family light the national Christmas tree in front of the White House. Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and others will perform.

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    The Croatian town of Vukovar was under siege by Serbian forces during the Croatian war. Photo by Flickr user Peter Denton

    Tensions are rising in the Croatian city of Vukovar, which lies on the border with Serbia, as a group calls to make the official language of the city Croatian. According to the 2011 Croatian census, the city has a Serbian population of about 35%, enough to allow for the Cyrillic alphabet to be used on official documents and public signs. Croatian Nationalists claimed on Friday that they have collected more than 650,000 signatures for a petition to that change--the amount required to hold a referendum vote to change the law.

    Current law states that if an ethnic minority group makes up more than a third of a city's population they are entitled to have their language used officially in local government and public offices. The referendum would ask citizens if they are in favor of changing the law to grant these bilingual rights only in places where the minority population makes up at least 50 percent.

    Signs in Croatian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic have sprung up around Vukovar, but a petition by Croatian Nationalists has over 650,000 to stop that effort.

    Slavka Draskovic, head of the government office for the diasporic Serbian population, warned against this change and the repercussions it could have.

    'Denying its language to the Serbian community is not a solution to escalating tension in Vukovar', said Draskovic. 'On the contrary, the measure increases the sense of insecurity among Serbians in the city'.

    For many, Vukovar remains a painful symbol of the war for Croats due to its complex and violent past. Intense fighting occurred there during the Croatian War for Independence including the massacre of hundreds of Croats in 1991 during a siege by the Serbian army. Many war veterans are responsible for destroying the bilingual signs and remain an integral part of the campaign for the referendum.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The death of Nelson Mandela resonated across South Africa and around the world today.  Millions mourned the former president and symbol of racial reconciliation.  And officials planned a mass memorial service on Tuesday. 

    We begin our coverage with Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News, reporting from South Africa. 

    ROHIT KACHROO:  This was a day to mourn one life lost and a day to mark the many lives made by Nelson Mandela.  The gift of freedom is being celebrated here.  And even those lost in the sadness of his death know how much bleaker things here might have been. 

    WOMAN:  Now we are free because of Madiba.  I'm very, very sorry here.  But, today, I'm sad and I have got happiness.  I don't know what can I say. 

    ROHIT KACHROO:  From his home last night, his coffin was brought away draped in the rainbow colors.  His pain is over.  But the hurt is now all theirs. 

    Yet, for all the bleary eyes and broken hearts, this nation was not broken, as the old songs of the struggle from sung through the night.  And the new day brought the start of South Africa's future. 

    ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, Emeritus of Cape Town:  The sun will rise tomorrow and the next day and the next.  It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on. 

    ROHIT KACHROO:  The man who freed Nelson Mandela, the last apartheid president of South Africa, spoke today of the political enemy who became a friend. 

    F.W. DE KLERK, Former South African President:  He was a great man.  He was a very special man.  I think his greatest legacy to South Africa and to the world is the emphasis which he has always put on the need for reconciliation. 

    ROHIT KACHROO:  Mandela's condition had worsened over his final few days.  This was his last appearance in public, confused, frail, and fading, his stare broken only by the flash of a camera. 

    This afternoon, President Zuma went to comfort the Mandela family and to finalize plans for his state funeral. 

    PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, South Africa:  We will spend the week mourning his passing.  We will also spend it celebrating a life well-lived, a life that we must all emulate. 

    ROHIT KACHROO:  Nelson Mandela will now lie in state next week at Pretoria's Union Buildings, once a bastion of white rule.  Here 19 years ago, he was sworn in as president, and the rainbow nation was born. 

    NELSON MANDELA:  Never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another. 

    ROHIT KACHROO:  It was from this building, South Africa's seat of government, that he helped to steer his country away from civil war. 

    NELSON MANDELA:  The responsibility for driving the nation-building and reconciliation in this country is not something that can be done by others.  It is something in which I shall take a lead.  And, therefore, I have to suppress my feelings. 

    ROHIT KACHROO:  But the man the world most reveres wanted to be buried far from the capital city in the village he called his home, even when politics became his life. 

    Born in the British Empire, he will be buried in a distant corner of a country that is in every sense his, the man who made the miracle of modern South Africa, who brought a nation with him on his long walk to freedom.  Though the world now mourns and presidents will visit, it is ordinary South Africans who gained from his struggle and are now finding out what this democracy looks like without him.  

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  A short time ago, I spoke with Lydia Polgreen, Johannesburg bureau chief for The New York Times. 

    Lydia Polgreen, thank you for talking with us. 

    LYDIA POLGREEN, The New York Times:  My pleasure, Judy. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  How are South Africans reacting today to Mandela's death?  Are -- are they all, black and white, united in their view of him? 

    LYDIA POLGREEN:  Overwhelmingly, I would say yes. 

    Today, I was outside his home in Houghton, which is an upscale suburb of Johannesburg.  And there were not just black and white.  There were, you know, yarmulkes and sort of Muslim knitted prayer caps.  There were young and old, people from a whole variety of walks of life all over South Africa. 

    So what I'm seeing is a real kind of coming together of the rainbow nation.  And when you talk to people, you get the sense that they feel very glad to have this opportunity to kind of remembrance and reassert that identity that was so strong when Nelson Mandela first became president in 1994. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  You write today that South Africans were coming together to mourn his death in a way that you said seems increasingly rare in a nation confronting significant economic challenges. 

    You also wrote about political corruption and a sense that the nation is even slipping into despair.  What were you saying there? 

    LYDIA POLGREEN:  Well, I think South Africa has seen enormous challenges since 1994. 

    It's a country that was reborn with tremendous hope when Nelson Mandela was elected.  And I think you have seen quite a bit of that hope whittled away.  It's one of the most unequal country in the world.  Crime remains an endemic problem.  The education system is riddled with -- with problems. 

    And you also see that there is an increasing public corruption.  So the current president has been involved in a huge scandal involving his private home.  So people look to Nelson Mandela and think there was a leader, there was someone with real integrity.  So I think that this is a moment for people to look back and reflect on where they have come from and how to get back on the right path. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And also, by definition, losing what I think you call the moral center for the country. 

    LYDIA POLGREEN:  Well, I think, for many people, Nelson Mandela does represent a kind of moral center and a choice to turn away from violence, to turn away from strife, and to turn away from racial divisions, and, instead of standing in judgment of one another, to reconcile and to admit that we did terrible things to each other, but now we're ready to move on. 

    And I think that was the great gift of Nelson Mandela, that he was able to bring people together in a way that made them feel that they could forgive and move on. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Lydia, one other thing.  You wrote today in a personal way about what he's meant to you in life and in death.  Can you reflect on that? 


    My mother comes from Ethiopia, and my father is American.  I spent most of my childhood in Africa, mostly in the 1980s, a time when South Africa was a country that we couldn't even visit as a result of the composition of my family. 

    And so, today, as a correspondent in South Africa, living freely in a nonracial country where anyone can marry anyone they want, where anyone can live anywhere they want, it's an extraordinary feeling for me, particularly since I, myself, am in a multiracial relationship.  So it's a real transformation for South Africa.  And I think it's a real inspiration to the world. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Lydia Polgreen with The New York Times, thank you very much. 

    LYDIA POLGREEN:  Thank you.  

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Unemployment in the U.S. dipped to 7 percent in November, the lowest rate since 2008.  And employers added 203,000 jobs.  But the number of people actively looking for work remained near a 35-year low.  Paul Solman explores the data and the debate over long-term jobless benefits right after this news summary.

    The jobs numbers touched off a rally on Wall Street.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 198 points to close at 16,020, breaking a five-day losing streak.  The Nasdaq rose 29 points to close at 4,062.  For the week, the Dow lost just under 0.5 percent; the Nasdaq rose 0.1 percent.

    Snow and freezing rain fell from Texas up to Indiana today, posing an icy threat across the central U.S.  Roads in North Texas and Arkansas starting icing over late last night and continued today.  And some parts of the Midwest were forecast to get several inches of snow.  American Airlines, whose major hub is in Dallas, canceled 1,000 flights by this morning.

    Britain and Northern Europe spent a second day coping with flooding and other damage from a powerful storm.  It triggered the biggest tidal surge in 60 years on the eastern English coast.  The surge pulled cliff-top homes into the North Sea, and caused severe flooding in many coastal communities.  In London, the River Thames Barrier was closed for the second time in as many days to protect against the flood.

    Heavy smog descended on Shanghai, China, today, one of the worst bouts of pollution to hit the city since records were started last December.  Authorities reacted by pulling 30 percent of government vehicles off the road and banning fireworks and public sporting events.  Visibility was down to just 160 feet in some places, as people struggled to cope.

    XUE ZHIYU, China (through translator):  I have difficulty in breathing.  I feel uncomfortable.  My throat felt funny after I went home.  I hate going outside.  It was fine in the subway, but the air quality is terrible outdoors.  Visibility is also bad, and so is my mood.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The dirty air is being blamed on coal burning, car exhausts, factory pollution, and shifting weather patterns.

    The international chemical weapons watchdog now says that all of Syria's unfilled chemical munitions have been destroyed.  The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that it has verified that the Assad regime did indeed destroy the empty weapons.  It also confirmed destruction of buildings at production facilities.

    There was relative quiet across the capital city of the Central African Republic today, as hundreds of French troops began arriving.  A day earlier, at least 280 people died in heavy fighting between Christian militias and Muslim rebels.  Soldiers reached the city this morning, with the permission of the U.N. Security Council to use force.  The French contingent will eventually reach 1,200.

    The embattled president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, met today with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the face of ongoing protests back home.  The demonstrations erupted after Ukraine's leaders backed away from improving ties with the European Union.  Moscow wants Ukraine to join a trade bloc dominated by Russia instead.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now a pair of reports from the jobs front about a divide in the U.S. economy.

    The labor market seems to be getting stronger once again.  And yet, for many on the lower end of the income ladder, the big gap in wages is sparking a budding movement. 

    We begin with economics correspondent Paul Solman on the unemployment rate's drop to a five-year low, even as many jobless Americans face more difficult times ahead. 

    The story is part of Paul's coverage on Making Sense of financial news. 

    PAUL SOLMAN:  The latest snapshot of the nation's jobs situation showing 203,000 positions added in November and a jobless rate of 7 percent was even rosier than anticipated. 

    We asked Northeastern University economist Barry Bluestone what he made of the numbers. 

    BARRY BLUESTONE, Northeastern University:  On balance, this was a good report today, over 200,000 people back to work.  We have got the unemployment rate down from 7.3 percent to 7 percent.  That's all good news. 

    Of course, many of those were federal employees coming back to work after furlough, but we had some good news about manufacturing employment up, construction employment up, pretty much across the board.  So, in general, this is good news.  Plus, over the last several months, we have been seeing more job growth, in the area of about 200,000 jobs a month. 

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Indeed, job gains were broad-based, from manufacturing and construction to warehousing and transportation, to retail, as the holiday shopping season kicked off. 

    But amidst the good news, a curiously stubborn fact, says Bluestone. 

    BARRY BLUESTONE:  We continue to see incredibly high levels of long-term unemployment.  These are people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more; 4.1 million Americans have been unemployed that long.  And that isn't moving at all.  It's been over 4 million-plus for months.  So these are people who are at a point where they're just essentially out of the economy and, of course, hurting very badly. 

    PAUL SOLMAN:  The long-term jobless are facing a key policy decision this month.  Emergency unemployment insurance for them after 26 weeks, put in place during the great recession, will stop at the end of the month, immediately cutting off aid to over a million people, unless Congress extends the program. 

    The president has called for such an extension, which can provide several extra months of aid, but Republicans have not yet committed to it. 

    Bluestone, a liberal, thinks an extension would make both moral and economic sense. 

    BARRY BLUESTONE:  Without that unemployment benefit dollar coming into those families, they can't spend money.  And if they can't spend money, the economy continues to slowly move ahead, and that keeps our unemployment rate for everybody up at 7 percent or above. 

    So, pouring more money into the economy through extended unemployment benefits, particularly for families who are going to spend every last dollar, creating tremendous consumption, putting people back to work, is about the best policy we could do. 

    PAUL SOLMAN:  James Sherk, a labor analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, disagrees.  Not extending benefits, he argues, would nudge people to accept jobs they might have rejected, and that in itself would lower the overall jobless rate. 

    JAMES SHERK, Heritage Foundation:  Workers, understandably, look for the job that's very close to what they had before.  People don't want to have to move.  They don't want to have to look for a job in a new industry, and they sure don't want to have to take a pay cut.  When those benefits drop down, they become willing to broaden their search to jobs that they might be more likely to land, even if they're jobs that are not as close to their ideal. 

    PAUL SOLMAN:  For its part, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending emergency benefits would cost $25 billion, but would create 200,000 jobs next year.  

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  As bad as circumstances are for people who can't find a job, there is a different, but tangible challenge for Americans who have work, but earn barely enough to get by. 

    For them, as "NewsHour" correspondent Kwame Holman reports, there is a battle playing out across the country to win a guarantee of higher pay. 


    KWAME HOLMAN:  McDonald's employees gathered in the nation's capital on Thursday, including workers from the franchise inside the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, who struck a seasonal note as they proclaimed they're tired of having to scrape by. 

    SHEMETHIA BUTLER, Protester:  You know, I don't want to have to do that.  I don't want the government all in my business.  You know, they shouldn't -- you shouldn't have to resort to the government assistance to live and take care of your children if you're eligible and able to work.  You should be able to get paid for what you do.

    MELISSA ROSEBORO, Protester:  My grandkids, no, I can't never say, well, when they ask me, nana, can we go to the store or to the park or any place like that, I -- you know, I can take them to the park.  But, as far as like having money to spend, I don't have it.  I don't have it.  I got paid yesterday and I'm broke already. 

    KWAME HOLMAN:  Over the past year, a small, but growing chorus of fast-food workers have pushed to raise their wages from an average of about $9 an hour to what's called a living wage, $15 an hour. 

    Yesterday's strikes, planned for 100 cities, were organized by the Service Employees International Union and a New York group pushing for higher wages, Fast Food Forward.  Fast Food Forward also funded a recent study by the University of California at Berkeley.  It found 52 percent of fast-food workers depend on public programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, to get by, at a cost of nearly $7 billion a year to taxpayers. 

    That compares to 25 percent of the overall work force who depend on such programs.  As workers from Wendy's to Wal-Mart call for a living wage... 

    PROTESTERS:  Hold the burgers.  Hold the fries.  We can't survive on $7.25. 

    KWAME HOLMAN:  ... others are calling on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, now $7.25 an hour and last raised in 2009. 

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  If you work hard, you should make a decent living. 

    KWAME HOLMAN:  That includes President Obama, who spoke Wednesday about inequality at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. 

    PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We all know the arguments that have been used against a higher minimum wage.  Some say it actually hurts low-wage workers; business will be less likely to hire them.  There's no solid evidence that a higher minimum wage costs jobs, and research shows it raises incomes for low-wage workers and boosts short-term economic growth.  


    KWAME HOLMAN:  Not everyone buys those arguments.  In downtown Washington's Freedom Plaza, where skateboarders took advantage of unseasonal warmth this week, the head of the Conservative American Action Forum and former Congressional Budget Office chair, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, took issue. 

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, President, American Action Forum:  I think the president's argument is incomplete at best.  Certainly, the person who has the job, their wages are higher, they're better off.  But there is evidence that it's harming the pace of economic recovery.  Hiring gets slowed down.  In the end, everyone might find a job, but you're getting rid of the jobs that low-skilled workers use, and that's a problem. 

    KWAME HOLMAN:  A new analysis from the conservative Employment Policies Institute makes a similar case against the living wage.  It finds that a $15-an-hour wage would lead to more automation and cost nearly half-a-million low-wage jobs in the end.  Some businesses also have said increased costs from higher wages would be passed on to consumers. 

    Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO, says the evidence doesn't back that up. 

    THEA LEE, Deputy Chief of Staff, AFL-CIO:  There's actually been a lot of great new economic research that looks not at the theory of raising the minimum wage, but at the facts.  And a lot of what it's done is taken two states that are side by side, one of which has raised the minimum wage, the other which hasn't, and they have not found any negative employment effect. 

    KWAME HOLMAN:  Even before the latest calls to raise the national wage, there was action in a number of states and localities.  This week, Washington, D.C.'s City Council unanimously approved an $11.50 minimum wage, which would be one of the highest in the nation.  It joins two neighboring counties in Maryland and five other states acting this year.  Four more states take up wage bills next year. 

    THEA LEE:  At some point, people are working full-time, they're working harder than ever, and they're sick of it.  They want to be able to work hard and get the American dream and be able to feed their families.  And that's a reasonable thing in a wealthy country like the United States. 

    KWAME HOLMAN:  Conservative economist Holtz-Eakin sees that frustration, but says the solution is more education and an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, not burdening companies. 

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN:  The dividing lines between poverty are nonpoverty are work.  If you're not -- if you're working, you're less likely to be in poverty.  And the dividing line between low-wage work and high-wage work is skills and education.  That's the number one thing they can do. 

    KWAME HOLMAN:  Both Holtz-Eakin and Lee point out that today's low-wage work force is both older and better educated than it was a few decades ago, a fact they attribute to the poor job market.  

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now, on the day after his death, what Nelson Mandela meant to the people of South Africa. 

    Jeffrey Brown has that. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And, tonight, we hear from three South Africans currently teaching in this country.

    Penelope Andrews is president and dean of the Albany Law School.  Mzamo Mangaliso is a management professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Charles Villa-Vicencio was the national research director in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  He's a visiting professor at Georgetown University. 

    Penny Andrews, I want to start with you. 

    And if I could, frame it personally first.  Tell us what Nelson Mandela meant to you growing up in South Africa.  How did you see him? 

    PENELOPE ANDREWS, Albany Law School:  Well, for me growing up in South Africa, certainly, Nelson Mandela was a -- in many ways a mythical figure. 

    But he also became a symbol of what South Africa was to become.  And Mandela has always represented for me, as a lawyer, a profound commitment to the rule of law, to constitutionalism and the possibilities of law to change people's lives. 

    And I think he means that to me, as a lawyer, but also to the vast, large number of people who have looked at South Africa's transition and seen what the constitution has been able to do, despite the limitations because of poverty and economic inequality that still persists in the country. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Mzamo Mangaliso, let me ask you the same question, a kind of mythical figure, but also a man, a fighter, a politician. 

    MZAMO MANGALISO, University of Massachusetts, Amherst:  Yes.

    In fact, growing up in South Africa, I'm a product of miners and grew up in the townships of South Africa.  In a time when things were really dire, Mandela was a symbol of hope for us, even though we hardly ever saw him, because his images were banned from the country.  And when people spoke about him, they spoke in whispers when we grew up. 

    But, you know, through all the dark period that we're going through, we knew that there is a hope because there's this man who stands for equity, justice, who speaks for South Africa as belonging to all who live in it.  And so that gave us the inspiration to keep, you know, toiling along, knowing that, at the end, we might be rewarded. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Charles Villa-Vicencio, the politician, the leader, as we sit here now, where did he succeed?  Where didn't he achieve all that people hoped for? 

    CHARLES VILLA-VICENCIO, Georgetown University:  So many tributes have been paid to Mr. Mandela as a great leader, and that, he was. 

    What is a great leader?  In my bock, a leader is someone who is always a step ahead of these people in order to lead, but all -- never more than one step, if you like, always close enough, in order to understand his people and for his people to understand and feel him. 

    And I think that is where Mr. Mandela must be analyzed.  He has led in an unbelievably remarkable way.  He is the father of our democracy.  We haven't always followed as well as we should have. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, that's what I was wondering next, in your role on Truth and Reconciliation.  This has been a long process for your country. 

    CHARLES VILLA-VICENCIO:  Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.   

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Where has it picked up from him, and where has -- where has it not? 

    CHARLES VILLA-VICENCIO:  Look, I think the Truth and Reconciliation Commission appointed by Mr. Mandela made a huge contribution to the beginning of the process of us as South Africans learning to live together. 

    And Mr. Mandela's presidency epitomized where we were reaching for.  There were limitations.  There are limitations.  There were all sorts of recommendations made by the Truth Commission concerning socioeconomic rights, bridging of the gap between the rich and the poor. 

    We have not followed up on that.  We got lazy.  We have fallen behind, as Mr. Mandela went ahead. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Penny Andrews, pick up on some of that.  We heard it at the top of the program as well, just thinking about the country as it is today with continuing problems. 

    PENELOPE ANDREWS:  I think that, unless the country addresses the question of poverty, all the benefits that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made possible, I think, is likely to fail. 

    So I think that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was very important because it allowed the country to harness bitterness and revenge, and instead center issues of forgiveness and reconciliation.  And I think that Nelson Mandela, the person of Nelson Mandela, his humility and his commitment to a really democratic South Africa, is -- that will be lost if we don't address that fundamental question about poverty. 

    But I also want to say that Nelson Mandela, as a leader, his humility has been such an example.  And his ability to tolerate the viewpoints that are different from his, his ability to reach across the aisle, his ability to forgive others, I think, is such an important lesson for us. 

    And I think South Africa really needs to take on board now the fact that he has died, but the values that he stood for shouldn't die with him. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Mzamo Mangaliso, same question to you, in terms of his -- the leadership that he had and where South Africa is today. 

    MZAMO MANGALISO:  Yes, I think that South Africa is fortunate, in having had a person of Nelson Mandela set the example of leadership. 

    He left us with a template of leadership, what a leader should be, as Penny has just said, someone who combines humility on one hand, and a resolve, a very strong determination to follow through in some of the objectives and aims that he set himself for, such as restoring equity and justice in a South Africa that has been torn by racial prejudice all these years without a leader that unites people under one umbrella, so that each and every one of the citizens, whether they be colored, Indian, African, or white, can identify with this leader. 

    And Mandela was that kind of person.  And what he we're left with now is leadership that should now jump forward and imitate.  Even if they were just half as good as Mandela, they would be good enough, because he stood head and shoulders above any of the leaders we know. 

    But, going back to South Africa, the question of poverty and disparity between the rich and the poor, that is something that needs to be addressed a little bit more squarely.  It's homework that Mandela has left for subsequent leaders to follow up on.  And that's the challenge that still remains, a vexing challenge to many of the South African leadership that we see today. 

    And when we look around in the townships, we are seeing a lot of squalor still.  The housing shortage that was the backlog during the days of apartheid, that was promised to be delivered at the onset of democracy, that program has fallen far behind of the target. 

    And it's something that the leadership has to be aware of, because, without addressing that, there are really going to be problems in the South Africa of tomorrow.  But, luckily, the fact that we have that template in the person of Nelson Mandela, a lot of people are encouraged to look to each other and embrace each other and look at the humility displayed and look at the honesty and at the integrity that he was able to carry himself. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Let me ask you -- well, Charles Villa-Vicencio, you smiled when he referred to the -- if the leaders of today are half as good as Nelson Mandela. 

    The question, I guess, is whether what he started will be fulfilled.  And is it an open question at the moment? 

    CHARLES VILLA-VICENCIO:  That is an open question. 

    If we do not address the issue that we have all raised here this evening concerning poverty, it may be a case of a revolution delayed.  We have got to address that.  Unfortunately, the kind of leadership we have at the moment in government is not as strong as it should be. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Do you have any question...

    CHARLES VILLA-VICENCIO:  And that's what we're looking for. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Do you have any question, though, that, across the board, the way he has...

    PENELOPE ANDREWS:  And I think that...

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Excuse me -- the way he's seen will continue to be as the father of...


    CHARLES VILLA-VICENCIO:  I think that will continue to be held up as the template, as the icon of who we ought to be. 

    But it's a huge ask, a huge ask, which we have got to respond to.  Otherwise...


    PENELOPE ANDREWS:  But I think that... 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  OK, very briefly, Penny Andrews. 


    I wanted to say that, sadly, that Nelson Mandela's death now allows us to go back to that place in 1994 when South Africans committed themselves to democracy and justice and equality.  And so maybe his death really will -- the leaders of South Africa have lagged behind and there are huge numbers of problems.  But maybe now we can go back to that place and go back to the idealism that was generated by the Mandela presidency right from the start. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Penny Andrews, Mzamo Mangaliso, Charles Villa-Vicencio, thank you, three, very much. 

    CHARLES VILLA-VICENCIO:  Thank you very much.  

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    When astronauts in the International Space Station get sick of freeze-dried meals, they order gourmet take-out. Photo courtesy of NASA

    NASA has commissioned a Michelin-starred chef to send haute cuisine to the International Space Station, the Guardian reports.

    Alain Ducasse, a celebrated gallic gastronomer, has been sending foods like duck breasts, lobsters and organic quinoa into space since 2006. The European Space Agency has commissioned his hi-tech food laboratory to create meals for a future Mars mission.

    He's teaming up with Brittany family firm Hénaff, which makes tinned meats and pates, to ensure the food retains flavor on its journey to the ISS.

    The first set of meals will take off June of 2014.

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

    Welcome, gentlemen. 

    So, the world is, as we know, mourning Nelson Mandela since we learned of his death.

    David, what do you think about when you reflect on his life?

    DAVID BROOKS:  You know, I was foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal then.  I was mostly covering the Soviet Union in those days, but I took a couple trips to South Africa at the time when he came out, and then later during the -- when he was inaugurated. 

    And if you had asked me to compare the two societies, I would have said that South Africa's social fabric was worse.  The crime was much worse than in the Soviet Union as Russia emerged.  The sense of ethnic menace -- there has been a lot of talk about the white and black violence.  There was a tremendous violence between the ANC and Inkatha rival movement, real sense of menace, a lack of social trust. 

    So you could have drawn a very negative scenario for South Africa.  And, in fact, I erroneously did so in some of my reporting down there, because I just felt bad social fabric.  And it's very hard for leaders to counteract that. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Even after he was released. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  But -- right.  And this is -- I was involved in riots of people getting killed. 

    It was ugly.  And yet I think, by force of moral example, this was one of those rare cases when somebody at the top of society really has a cultural effect and leads to -- really averts what could have been quite a disaster.  And the country did much, much better in the ensuing years, because -- I think because of the sheer moral example. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mark, what about you?  What do you think of when you think of him? 

    MARK SHIELDS:  Well, some leaders are respected.  A few leaders are loved. 

    And Nelson Mandela is that almost unique figure who is both loved and respected virtually around the globe.  It's a remarkable achievement.  And what I think of is, he described resentment as the poison we drink hoping it will hurt others or punish our enemies or kill our enemies. 

    And, I mean, the example of magnanimity, of largeness of spirit and perspective -- Peter Hart -- I never met him.  David did meet Nelson Mandela.  But Peter Hart, the pollster, has that little question he asks of Washington people when he runs into them, just conversational icebreaker -- the prospect of meeting what individual in the world would make your palms turn sweaty?

    And, you know, this is a place where we meet, you know, celebrities and senators and all the rest of it, and get a little blase.  And Peter said, overwhelmingly, the answer was Nelson Mandela, I mean, even if -- it was just universal. 

    It is a singular achievement.  He made his nation, and he gave us all an example of moral leadership. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Singular achievement, David, but how many -- there are so many other places in the world that are still having problems, leaders in the continent of Africa who don't want to give up power as he did.  Was he just a one-time example of shining goodness? 


    DAVID BROOKS:  Well, he was that.  I don't know how the imprisonment affected him. 

    It doesn't always affect you in a good way.  Aging doesn't always affect you in a good way.  My favorite definition of humility is self-understanding in the context of other-centeredness, meaning your life is devoted to something else. 

    And through -- in that context of life devoted to a movement or to faith, you achieve self-understanding.  And he exuded that.  And so I think that was the center around which he ruled.  It was also the case, that in that time, there were a whole series of world historical figures that came on the scene at the same time. So Deng Xiaoping, I think Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, probably Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Mandela, some would say Gorbachev.

    But these were world historical figures, had gigantic effects, big leaders.  They all came on the scene at the same time, I would say fortuitously.  And so we had a reasonably not bad decade, because there were some really great leaders.  China was transformed.  South Africa improved.  Economies in the U.S. and U.K. improved.  And those were, you know, big leaders. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  But maybe it wasn't meant to last. 


    MARK SHIELDS:  Maybe it wasn't meant to last.

    But just -- just one political, historical note -- the United States, under Ronald Reagan's leadership, was of no help, no help.  Ronald Reagan had a blind spot.  He saw the world through the narrow tunnel prism of anti-communism.  And when the United States, just outraged by apartheid, and, finally, the Congress, with a majority Republican Senate, passed sanctions, Ronald Reagan vetoed them against the apartheid regime. 

    And his veto was overridden in the Senate and in the House overwhelmingly, with, I mean, people like John Warner of Virginia, Dan Quayle, the senator from Indiana, John Stennis, the longtime Democratic segregationist from Mississippi, all voting to overturn. 

    And it was really a point -- a time of moral obtuseness on the part of the leadership. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Yes.  Mark's right, absolutely right about that.  And it was a blind -- it's a black mark on the Reagan administration. 

    When I was in South Africa, I used to ask people, how much do the sanctions really hurt?  And the common answer, not universal, common answer was, the sports sanctions really hurt.  Their teams get -- it's a sports-crazy country.  And their teams couldn't play abroad.  And that was like a moral insult that, ‘We're not worthy to play abroad. ‘

    The second thing I just want to say about Africa today, it has become a good news story.  The governance in Africa across many countries in the region is good news.  And you're seeing I think five out of six fastest-growing economies are in Africa. 

    So I don't know if it's -- you can ascribe it to Mandela, but there are a lot of countries where we are seeing unprecedentedly decent governance, and, as a result, economies and societies improving. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And we tend to focus on the bad things.

    Well, you brought up the economy.  Let's bring it back home. Jobs numbers out today, good jobs numbers, 200,000 -- over 200,000 jobs, Mark, created, but, as Paul Solman reported, the number of people who have given up looking for a job still really, really high, 4 million and up.  And then the president goes and gives a speech this week and says economic inequality is going to be the main focus of his administration. 

    How do you read what he's saying about that?

    MARK SHIELDS:  I thought it was the best speech, certainly on the economy, I have heard President Obama give. 

    I thought it was a strong and persuasive case.  I think the facts are there.  There can be no doubt about it over -- between 1979 and 2007, 13.5 percent of this nation's total income was transferred to the top 1 percent.  That's $1.1 trillion for the top 1 percent of families, I mean, just in that period of time. 

    And it's not just an accident.  I mean, yes, globalization has contributed to it, but we have trade policies, we have economic policies, we have tax policies, all of which have contributed to -- and workers policies, union policies, labor policies -- all of which have been directed to, channeled toward helping those at the very top.  And there's no question about it.  It's worked. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well...


    MARK SHIELDS:  Go ahead. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And we're going to pick up on that in just a minute.

    MARK SHIELDS:  OK.  Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  But we are going to take a short break right now.  We're going to pick up on this and let David have a chance to weigh in. 

    But, right now, we are going to take a short break to allow your public television station to ask for your support.  And that support helps keep programs like ours on the air.


    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And we are back now with Mark Shields and David Brooks. 

    All right, where were we? 


    JUDY WOODRUFF:  We were talking about -- seriously, David, we were talking about income inequality.  Mark was -- I asked both of you about the president saying this week he's -- he wants to devote the rest of his time in office to trying to do something about income inequality in this country. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Well, it's one of the big major issues, so that's a good idea. 

    And I agree with Mark.  I thought it was an excellent speech.  It was a little lacking in agenda items, realistically, because there's not that much that is going to be passed.  But there was an interesting elision in it, which elided really two sides of a debate.  And he used it -- and they must have been very conscious of this because of the way they structured the speech. 

    They used the phrase income inequality and social mobility constantly together.  And, of course, they are related problems, but sometimes they point in different policy response directions.  And so, if your main problem is income inequality, then you're going to want to focus on -- maybe on the top 1 percent or the top 5 percent, and you're going want to have tax policies, health care policies that are about redistribution. 

    If you are focusing on social mobility, you are probably going to see it as a human capital problem, and you're going to focus on early childhood education, which the president does, college loans, maybe some family structure issues. 

    And so you don't have to choose totally A. and B., but you probably have to pick a priority.  And so it would be -- there is a very interesting debate about which path is the more appropriate path to take.  I personally take the social mobility path, lifting more up from the bottom, not worrying as much about redistribution.  But the president sort of fuzzed over those choices. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, do you think the president -- that they have -- the White House hasn't decide which way they're going to go, Mark?  I mean, how do you -- do you share that analysis?


    MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I think David makes a good point. 

    I just don't think the two are mutually inconsistent or incompatible.  And I -- we have had a policy which has been upward income redistribution.  I mean, we privatized profits for the corporations and companies, and we socialized losses. 

    I mean, the public picked up when we had failure.  I mean, when $173 billion went to AIG, American Insurance Group, and they then turned around and gave $165 million in bonuses, and the idea that somehow helping people at the bottom or redirecting part of that national wealth to help those most needing social mobility -- and David's right -- it does require an expenditure, and it requires a commitment.

    The president did the first thing that's important in this, and that is to introduce the debate.  You're not going to get to any decision until you put something on the national agenda.  And I think this was very important to get it.

    And, quite honestly, the Republicans, in all due respect, it's exactly the way they are in medical care.  They -- the repeal, but there is no replace.  And I think Paul Ryan and Rand Paul are aware of this, and 2016 candidates potentially, are addressing the subject of poverty, and recognizing that their party's idea bin is pretty barren right now. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, I guess my question is, is this just a speech, or do we see some sign that there's going to be an attempt to do something?

    And, by the way, Republicans are saying this is just an attempt to distract attention from the problems of Obamacare. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Well, it is a long-term interest of his. 

    It is somewhat just a speech.  The one cavil I would have would be that to put an idea on the agenda is usually what a president does in the eighth year of his presidency, not in, what are we, the sixth or something. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Fifth. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Fifth. 


    DAVID BROOKS:  And so he should still be focusing on things about which he has actual action items, rather than just putting something on the agenda.  Do that later in the term, but because of the stagnation in Washington and in Congress, I think he's decided to just be a more rhetorical president. 

    Just on the one point about the income inequality, if are you talking about the top 1 percent, I agree with Mark.  There has been this ridiculous increase in wages, ridiculous compensation schemes on Wall Street, a lot of the socialization of profit -- privatization of profits, socialization of risk. 

    But if you are talking about the top 20 percent or the top 30 percent, there, I think you have a structural problem that educated people have become really good at marrying other educated people and passing down their advantages to children.

    And I don't think you can do much about that.  The real thing is to give people without those family backgrounds the leg up. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  Yes. 

    No, social mobility is -- that is why I think it's two wings of the same bird.  I mean, but the social mobility is crucial.  Right now, the social mobility, that chance in the United States of somebody being born at the bottom, the Al -- I was going to say Alger Hiss -- Horatio Alger story...


    MARK SHIELDS:  ... of somebody coming from nowhere and achieving is less and less likely, and it's less and less likely than it is in other advanced countries and that has been historically. 

    And that's where you have to expend that kind of effort and capital and attention as a people to give them that... 


    DAVID BROOKS:  I don't think there is so much two wings of the same bird, but the one point is that both wings are in the Democratic Party.  The Republican Party doesn't have a wing. 


    DAVID BROOKS:  And so they need a policy... 


    JUDY WOODRUFF:  I'm trying to visualize this bird right now. 


    MARK SHIELDS:  That's right.  It's a beautiful bird.  It's an American eagle. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The two of you fly beautifully, can I just say?


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

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: living and playing the blues, then and now.

    They're from two generations, two different backgrounds and parts of the country. But 69-year-old Charlie Musselwhite and 43-year-old Ben Harper have a lot in common, most of all, a love of the blues.

    Their recent album "Get Up!" and their ongoing tour show off different shades of the blues, including country acoustical and Chicago electric, and make a case for the music as a living, renewable tradition. On a tour stop in Washington recently, Musselwhite, who was born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, told us his connection to the blues started early.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: The environment I grew up in, there was all kinds of music, hillbilly music and rockabilly, great gospel radio. Memphis has probably the best Gospel radio and blues.

    And I liked it all, any music that was from the heart, that had feeling. But blues sounded like how I felt.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what's that mean? How did you feel?

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: Well, I was a lonely kid. I didn't have any brothers and sisters. My dad had left and my mom worked. So, I was alone a lot. And blues was my comforter.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Ben Harper, music was in the blood. His grandparents and parents all played and performed, and the family has owned a music store in Claremont, California, since 1958.

    BEN HARPER: My roots were always in the home. And my mom used to play in bands. She's a musician, great singer, picker. And my dad was a percussionist. And so they would have people over every night making music. And they'd put us to bed around 8:00.

    And then I would wait until they were really cooking, and then, you know, where they wouldn't be watching for me to sneak out, and when -- I would sneak out of my room and sit under the -- hide under the piano bench.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Harper has gone on to become a leading singer, songwriter and guitarist, with a string of albums and two Grammy Awards.

    Charlie Musselwhite's musical education -- and what an education it was -- came in the 1960s in Chicago, where he went as a young man to look for a factory job. He wasn't even thinking of a career as a musician, just enjoying the local blues scene with the likes of Muddy Waters and Elmore James. He did know how to play the harmonica, though, and was ready when he got the chance to use it.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: Sitting in wasn't unusual.

    I mean, these clubs were open to 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, and that's a lot of time to kill. So, a guy like Muddy would have people sitting in all the time. A lot of musicians hung out there. They would sit in, or even, like, a housewife from down the street would get up and sing a song, or the bartender might get up and play guitar or something.

    It was real casual.


    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: But it was strictly adults. There was nobody my age in these clubs, and there was nobody white in these clubs.

    So, a young whippersnapper like me getting up on the stage to play was real unusual.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Accepted by Muddy Waters, Musselwhite started to get invitations to play and record with others, one of a handful of white musicians in such exalted blues company.

    Ben Harper heard these recordings as a child and says he admired the music and later the man.

    BEN HARPER: Charlie transcends race in a way that I have never witnessed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    BEN HARPER: Yes.

    And I have been a -- I have been -- being of a mixed race, I have had a heightened racial awareness, had to. And I have never seen anybody who just breaks down those barriers in the way Charlie does.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what explains that?

    BEN HARPER: If I could explain it, I would market it, because it is so special.

    BEN HARPER: He renders a room culturally neutral. He just makes everybody at ease with who they are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Of course, it's what Musselwhite does with his harmonica that most attracted Ben Harper and so many others over the years who've asked the master to collaborate.

    I think people look at a harmonica and say, that's a little instrument.


    JEFFREY BROWN: It's a toy in a sense for some people. How do you think of it?

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: I try not to think about it as an instrument. I just think about the feeling and the sound I hear inside and how to get that out. I'm not thinking about, well, it's got 10 holes and these reeds go this way and all these limitations.

    I just try to take what I feel inside and push it through there and give it to you.

    BEN HARPER: OK, now I have got to jump in, because, you know, I'm a music store brat. I mean, I grew up taking violins apart and putting them back together and re-hairing violin bows and such.

    I wish we had an open harmonica here, because you take off the faceplate of a harmonica, there is a lot going on in there, man. I mean, they are so complex.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Today, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite say they have been talking about recording and playing together for more than a decade. One thing or another always got in the way, until now.

    BEN HARPER: Every once in a while, if you time it right, you can grab that thing without -- you know, you have got to reach out, push, push. And this was like a moment to grasp.

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: Playing with Ben is just fun.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Fun, huh?

    CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE: It makes me feel good. And this is what the blues is supposed to do, make you feel good. It's your comforter when you're down and it's your buddy when you're up. It's all-purpose music.

    BEN HARPER: All-purpose music.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All-purpose music.

    BEN HARPER: That might be the next record title. That's good, all-purpose blues.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Musselwhite-Harper tour continues this summer and into the fall.

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    President Barack Obama was heckled while giving a speech on immigration in San Francisco in November. Ju Hong begins heckling the president at the 24-minute, 17-second mark.

    The University of California-Berkeley graduate who heckled President Obama during an immigration speech last month "has gone on a media blitz," according to POLITICO.

    Ju Hong, an activist and undocumented immigrant from South Korea, stood behind Obama at his Nov. 25 speech in California.

    "Mr. President, please, use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 undocumented immigrants in this country right now," he yelled. Obama ordered his Secret Service agents to let Hong stay before explaining the need for legislative action to change immigration policy.

    POLITICO reports that Hong has since appeared on outlets ranging from the BBC to Bay Area news stations to Korean radio. He's also written a column for the Huffington Post.

    H/T Sam Lane

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    The passing of Nelson Mandela leaves a waning number of global figures representing freedom and resilience against oppression -- and a changing world that makes it harder for anyone to approach Mandela's iconic power.

    There are a few whose trials have made them symbols of freedom, including the former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, the Dalai Lama and, more recently, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl turned women's rights activist.

    But Mandela, the black revolutionary who emerged from 27 years in prison to embrace his white oppressors and lead a new South Africa, may be one of the last of a breed for all sorts of reasons -- including the circumstances of his heroism, his extraordinary success and the onset of an age when heroes' foibles are often exposed.

    "He lived and worked in a context and historical period where his extraordinary individual qualities could help make change in his country and ripple throughout the world," said Daniel Calengaret, executive vice president of the Freedom House, a watchdog group working to expand freedom around the world.

    "It's hard to think of someone who was both an iconic dissident figure and was actually central to building a new system," Calengaret said.

    Nelson Mandela and South African President Frederik de Klerk displaying their Nobel Prizes in 1993. Credit: GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

    Mandela is often mentioned in the same breath as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., who also changed nations through nonviolence. Yet Gandhi and King were killed before their dreams were realized.

    Suu Kyi, the Myanmar pro-democracy leader, was imprisoned by the military regime for 15 years before she was released and won a parliamentary seat. Yet she battles in a political arena lacking the stark racism of South African apartheid, which deprived the black majority of equal rights.

    "She stands for the end of a dictatorship, not the end of a racial system," said Dores Cruz, a University of Denver anthropology professor.

    Cruz said that the dismantling of communism by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is comparable to Mandela ending apartheid. But Gorbachev did not suffer personal persecution to do it.

    She noted that Mandela's image was carefully constructed for political purposes in pre-Internet South Africa, then burnished over the years by international media, musicians and Hollywood.

    "The impact that has had on the historical imagination, you probably won't find that in anybody," Cruz said. "No one has the same iconic image or same historical status."

    The Dalai Lama, a Buddhist figure seeking the nonviolent restoration of Tibet's independence from China, has lived in exile for more than 60 years. And there is an ethnic or racial aspect to the Tibetan struggle, as China seeks to wipe out its traditional culture and replace it with that of the Han Chinese.

    "Like Mandela, the Dalai Lama represents the decades-long suffering of his people. And he articulates a peaceful possibility in response to violence and aggression," said William Edelglass, a Marlboro College philosophy professor.

    "Like Mandela, he inspires us to the better angels of our nature," Edelglass said. "He reminds us of how we really want to be."

    But at age 78, with China firmly in control, the Dalai Lama is unlikely to see a free Tibet. And his Buddhist religion sets him apart from Mandela, who enjoyed a type of secular sainthood that transcended religious divides.

    Malala, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl, achieved global prominence last year when the Taliban tried to kill her for advocating the equality and education of women. After Mandela's death, she called him "my leader."

    In the past, other politicians suffered to reform oppressive regimes -- Lech Walesa in Poland or Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia. But the peak of their careers came at the moment when the old regime crumbled, Calingaret observed.

    "In a sense Mandela's greatest achievements were as president," he said. "He was on top, he could do anything he wanted, and he chose to push for reconciliation and inclusiveness."

    Mandela's rise might have been complicated had it happened during the Internet age. Mandela had his share of flaws, including infidelity and a past embrace of violence, but they were overlooked. The volume and speed of the information traveling around the world today makes it impossible for a leader to climb without his or her every weakness being magnified.

    "One of the things about Mandela that makes him unique, all those years in prison, he couldn't be really doing bad things during that time. And he lived prior to universal access," said Edelglass.

    He sees the potential for another Mandela in the fight for democracy in China, "but we would know everything about that person, everything they had ever done wrong."

    "I wouldn't want to say there are no more (figures like Mandela) coming. I hope there are more coming," Edelglass said. "But it's a much more complicated world."

    Roger Levine, who grew up in South Africa and now teaches courses on it as a history professor at the Sewanee: The University of the South, said Mandela became such a potent symbol because he experienced all the tribulations of South Africa itself. But the world no longer builds up politicians as the very embodiments of their nations' struggles, he said.

    Mandela was a product of a Cold War world: good vs. evil, us vs. them, black vs. white. "Now," Levine said, "it's a whole lot harder to say who is the us and who is the them."

    "No one is going to suggest that there aren't instances around the world where we have conflict between good and evil," Levine said. "But there are fewer opportunities to say you're on the right side, because it's a little bit less obvious what the right side of something might be."

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