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

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    GWEN IFILL: As Syria's civil war grinds toward its fourth year, the refugee crisis it's spawned grows larger by the day.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner looks at the effects the flight of Syria's Kurds on the prosperous Kurdish region of Iraq.

    In late summer, a new wave of refugees poured out of Syria, some 50,000 in a matter of days. They were Kurds fleeing their homes in northeast Syria for the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. It wasn't Bashar al-Assad's forces that drove them out. Kurdish militias were in control in their home areas. The threat came from a different quarter instead, the ranks of anti-Assad jihadi rebel fighters linked to al-Qaida.

    MAN (through interpreter): The area was besieged by Al-Nusra Front.

    MARGARET WARNER: This man left his Syrian town when it came under assault by Islamist rebels.

    MAN (through interpreter): An edict was issued permitting the shedding of Kurdish blood. They called from the mosque loudspeakers that it is permitted. And from that day forward, we didn't dare venture out. I left in search for a place where I can find speech.

    OMAR HOSSINO, SyriaDeeply.org: The Kurdish areas in Syria were seen as stable because the regime never really bombarded them, like they did with other rebel-controlled regions.

    MARGARET WARNER: Omar Hossino, writer for the website SyriaDeeply.org, says Assad didn't want to tangle with the Syrian Kurds. But that aroused suspicions among the jihadi rebels.

    OMAR HOSSINO: As the conflict went on in the summer of 2013, the rebel groups associated with the Syrian opposition, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida, saw these Kurdish militias really as being complicit with the regime and really started attacking these areas very hard.

    This fighting scared the Kurds and really sent so many of them in such a very short period of time into Iraqi Kurdistan.

    MARGARET WARNER: Numbering some 30 million, the Kurds are considered the word's largest stateless ethnic group, concentrated in a zone from Southeastern Turkey through Syria and Northern Iraq into Iran.

    Most are Sunni Muslims, but they're not Arabs, and they're hardly homogeneous, fractured by competing parties and rivalries throughout the region.

    Now they too have joined the well-documented diaspora of nearly 2.5 million Syrians who over the past 2.5 years have crossed into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and now in this latest wave some 200,000 of them into Iraq.

    The majority of them are Kurds, who settled in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north. At the outset, they were welcomed with open arms. The Kurdish regional government provided them with land for their camps, electricity, transport, and even work permits. And that welcome was on display among many locals, too, when video journalist Ted Nieters traveled to the region for the NewsHour.

    Twenty-year-old Mohammad Salah Yunis sells homewares in his father's store in a bazaar in Dahuk. Even though some refugees have stolen from his shop, he said they are welcome.

    MOHAMMAD SALAH YUNIS, supporter: It is better to take good care of them. Of course, entry and exit from the camps have to be limited. But we do not mind if they have a good life. We want them to have the best. They are our brothers.

    JEFF CRISP, Refugees International: There's a great deal of ethnic solidarity, great feeling of sympathy and solidarity with these kinfolks who are living across the border.

    MARGARET WARNER: Jeff Crisp, senior director of Refugees International, just returned from a trip to Northern Iraq. He says the sympathy is more than ethnic.

    JEFF CRISP: A very large proportion of the Northern Iraq population became refugees themselves in the 1990s when the region was attacked by the forces of Saddam.

    And so, having been refugees themselves more than 20 years ago, these people have a kind of instinctive sympathy with people who find themselves in the same kind of situation.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yet, life for Kurdish refugees in Iraq is as tough as for refugees everywhere.

    Twenty-five-year-old HAMREEN HASSAN ABDO arrived in late July with her children.

    HAMREEN HASSAN ABDO, refugee (through interpreter): This medical center doesn't have enough medications. My daughter is 2 and still does not walk. They tried to give me a pill. How can she take a pill? And there is no school for them.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yet, despite the difficulties, Abdo expects to stay.

    HAMREEN HASSAN ABDO (through interpreter): I swear I'm never going back to Syria. I will work and buy a house here. We have nothing good in Syria.

    MARGARET WARNER: The protracted Syria conflict has led many to the same conclusion, says Crisp.

    JEFF CRISP: What you see amongst the refugees is really them beginning to think a little bit more about the future and what their life is going to be like living in exile.

    When I was there six months ago, people were essentially living in canvas tents. Quite a big change has taken place during that time. You now see people building with blocks and with bricks, people living in more permanent structures and setting themselves up for the future.

    MARGARET WARNER: That's what Abdulrahman Rashid did. He fled Qamishli in Northern Syria last March. After a few months, he and his family pooled money to build a cinder block home in the camp.

    ABDULRAHMAN RASHID, refugee (through interpreter): We used to have a tent and got a lot of promises that things would get better, but nothing happened. So we built this to shelter ourselves. I think it will be 10 years before we can go home. If there were a better place, we would go.

    MARGARET WARNER: And Rashid is already sensing that the local sentiment towards the refugees is changing.

    ABDULRAHMAN RASHID (through interpreter): When we first came, we had everything, food, supplies. But with time, it's gotten worse. And there's less for people. Syrian Kurds' dream was to come here and live in Kurdistan, but they now humiliate us. They don't consider us human.

    MARGARET WARNER: We heard such negative sentiments in some quarters of the Dahuk marketplace. Thirty-year-old Suleiman Taib sells women's and girls clothing.

    SULEIMAN TAIB, shop owner (through interpreter): They have a huge impact, not only in Dahuk, but on the whole of Iraq. They impact labor because they work for low wages. Also, prices are going up.

    MARGARET WARNER: And he fears the introduction of terrorism into once peaceful Kurdish northern Iraq.

    SULEIMAN TAIB (through interpreter): Before the Syrians came here, we had no problems. But now we have bombings.

    MARGARET WARNER: He was referring to multiple explosions one day in September in the Kurdish capital of Erbil. The bombings were claimed by al-Qaida-linked ISIS militia in retaliation for the Kurdish government's backing for moderate Arab rebels in Syria, where ISIS is also active.

    Two more attacks rocked the disputed Arab-Kurdish Iraqi city of Kirkuk in recent days. Last week, ISIS staged a complex assault on an intelligence headquarters and a shopping mall. Suicide bombers were followed by snipers and squads of gunmen. Ten people were killed and more than a hundred wounded in the 12-hour attack.

    Then, Sunday, a series of car bombs around the city killed another 10 people. Adding the Syrian Kurds to this mix could make Iraq even more volatile, says Omar Hossino, pitting Syrian Kurds against Iraqi Kurds and exacerbating Kurdish-Arab tensions in Iraq, as has happened in next-door Syria.

    OMAR HOSSINO: The radicalization is going to increase and the different fronts within the Syrian war are going to increase. And the Kurdish-Arab complex within Syria is going to increase. That's going to have major effects.

    MARGARET WARNER: What does the United States have at stake in all of this?

    OMAR HOSSINO: Its allies in the region are really suffering tremendous consequences with the Syrian state failing on the borders of Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. The longer that this conflict goes on, the greater this problem gets.

    MARGARET WARNER: Putting at further risk the stability of Iraq, which costs the United States thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to secure. 


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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, on this day when the life and work of Nelson Mandela were honored in South Africa, we bring you some personal memories from scholar, author and educator Johnnetta Cole. She is director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, which is where she sat down with Jeff Brown.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When were you first aware of Nelson Mandela?

     JOHNNETTA COLE, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art: Further back than I probably count.

    But I do remember being very much a part of the anti-apartheid movement of the late '60s, the '70s and into the '80s. Specifically, I was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and very much a part of that movement calling for the university to divest.

    And whenever we were talking about divestment, we were really thinking about the leader of the anti-apartheid movement, of Nelson Mandela.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what did he mean to people of your generation at that time?

    JOHNNETTA COLE: To people of my generation, Nelson Mandela stood as the leader of a movement which we could so profoundly associate with.

    I grew up in the South. I grew up in the days of legalized segregation. And, so, whether you called it legal racial segregation or you called it apartheid, it was the same injustice.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you watched, as we all did, his long walk to freedom. What did that -- what did that mean to you when all of that took place?

    JOHNNETTA COLE: The long walk meant for me and for my generation, but I think, more broadly, for anyone who stands in opposition to what is wrong, it meant that we had no possibility to give up.

    Here was a man who was making sacrifices that many of us cannot imagine. And so, his determination, his tenacity just meant, how dare you? How dare you even think of giving up?

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, we talk about him as the fighter, as the leader, as the statesman. We're in an art museum. You also had the man himself was an artist.

    JOHNNETTA COLE: He was.

    And I think that says so much about who this enormous individual was. You can't just say he was the president or he was the leader of the anti-apartheid movement. He was an artist. He was a father, a grandfather, a husband. He was a comrade. Madiba was so many of who we are. That's poorly worded, but I hope you hear what I'm saying, that when we think about all that we as humans are capable of being and of doing, it seems that he expressed it all.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Can you give a personal anecdote about the man?

    JOHNNETTA COLE: Oh, I can, and I will never tire of telling it.

    In July of 1990, I was given the task of finding a way that 41 institutions in the United Negro College Fund, the historically black colleges and universities in the United States, a way that we would literally present President Mandela with 41 honorary degrees.

    Now, I ask you...

    (LAUGHTER)

    JOHNNETTA COLE: ... is President -- and then not then president.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    JOHNNETTA COLE: But is he going to stand there while 41 hoods are put upon him?

    JEFFREY BROWN: For 41...

    (LAUGHTER)

    JOHNNETTA COLE: Not hardly.

    We came up with a very special way of doing this. We took the emblem from each school, and we made a quilt. Now, for me, at that time, the president of Spelman College, a historically black college for women, that was incredibly significant.

    Quilts are, in so many ways, the -- the most moving expression of women's art of a given era. And it continues. So, we made a quilt. And I had the almost unbelievable privilege of presenting that quilt to President Mandela. Winnie Mandela was with him. This was in Atlanta.

    And when this great ceremony filled with tears and with joy and with celebration was over, I said, "Mr. Mandela, we will be so happy to send this quilt to you."

    He said: "No, you will not. We will carry this quilt back to South Africa."

    Can you imagine how I felt when I went into a space, President Mandela's home, now like a small museum, and I saw that quilt? And, so, what is the lesson there for all of us? It's a lesson of connectedness. It says that across waters, and, yes, across time, across race and ethnicity and sexuality, it says across all of these really insignificant, ultimately, attributes that we have, we can connect.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Dr. Johnnetta Cole on the life of Nelson Mandela, thanks so much.

    JOHNNETTA COLE: Thank you.

     


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    Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray walk to their joint news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan and Washington State Democrat Patty Murray hailed the budget deal they unveiled Tuesday night as a "step in the right direction," averting another potential government shutdown in the new year and breaking through the partisan gridlock that has plagued Congress in recent years.

    The lead negotiators acknowledged the bipartisan agreement, which rolls back some of the sequester spending cuts while achieving $22 billion in additional deficit savings, involved compromise from both sides.

    The Morning Line

    "In divided government, you don't always get what you want," Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee, told reporters at a Tuesday evening news conference at the Capitol.

    "Because of this deal, the budget process can now stop lurching from crisis to crisis," added Murray, who chairs the Senate Budget panel.

    CQ Roll Call's Adriel Bettelheim outlines the top line numbers in the plan:

    The pact would swell the cap on spending this year to $1.012 trillion, up from the sequester level of $967 billion that was set in the Budget Control Act (PL 112-25). That would also amount to a $26 billion increase over the current $986 billion level of spending in the stopgap funding bill (PL 113-46) that expires Jan. 15.

    Ryan sought to head off concerns from conservatives about raising the spending cap by noting the agreement reduces the deficit and does not violate the party's core principle of opposing tax hikes.

    The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery breaks down how lawmakers plan to offset the $63 billion in sequester relief included in the proposal:

    That cost would be covered through a mix of policies to be implemented over the next decade. They include $12.6 billion in higher security fees for airline passengers, $8 billion in higher premiums for federal insurance for private pensions, $6 billion in reduced payments to student-loan debt collectors and $3 billion saved by not completely refilling the nation's strategic petroleum reserves.

    Another large chunk of savings -- $12 billion over the next decade -- would come from reduced contributions to federal pensions, split evenly between military retirees and new civilian workers who start after Dec. 31.

    For those in the military, the reduction would take the form of lower cost-of-living increases for retirees between the ages of 40 and 62, many of whom take other jobs while collecting their military pensions. New civilian workers, meanwhile, would be required to contribute an additional 1.3 percent to their retirements.

    From President Barack Obama on down, politicians are cautiously embracing the deal even while saying the proposal isn't how they would have crafted it.

    "This agreement doesn't include everything I'd like - and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That's the nature of compromise," Mr. Obama said. "But it's a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done."

    House Speaker John Boehner backed the deal right after the announcement. He called it "modest in scale" but a good step forward for spending cuts and reducing the deficit without raising taxes.

    Because the cuts don't go far enough for Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican was among the first lawmakers to oppose the plan out of the gate, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely to vote no as well.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said "compromise" should not be a bad word, and applauded the deal done outside of "hostage-taking or crisis-making."

    "We didn't get what we wanted, they didn't get what they wanted," he said. "But that's what legislation is all about, working together."

    But outside conservative groups have already started lobbying against that compromise.

    Al Cardenas of the American Conservative Union asked members of the conference committee tasked with crafting the plan but mostly shut out of the process to "get back to work," and called the cost-cutting in the measure "gimmicks."

    "Conservatives prefer a wiser approach to cost-cutting than the sequester but appreciate the beginning of a more disciplined approach to spending," he said. "The solution is not to walk away from progress and add over $60 billion in spending over the next two years."

    "Congressman Ryan claims that the plan doesn't raise taxes," FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe said in a statement. "But whether the government collects more revenue by fees, taxes, tariffs, excises, or penalties, the government is still taking more of your money to pay for its spending addiction. Our federal government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem."

    "This budget compromise is not just bad policy, it is bad politics," said Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips. "The American people remember hard-won bipartisan spending limits set by the sequester, and are not pleased to see their conservative representatives so easily go back on their word to rein in government over-spending."

    What remains unclear is how that criticism might translate to votes -- or a lack of votes -- on Capitol Hill. A group of at least 33 House Republicans penned a letter to Boehner before the deal was announced asking the speaker to put forward a continuing resolution that keeps the sequester fully in place.

    On CNN's Crossfire Tuesday, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a leader among conservatives who have revolted against Boehner on this and other matters, said the proposal "doesn't get to the heart of the problem."

    "I think we've always settled for less than we can get with this leadership," the Kansas Republican said.

    House GOP leaders will brief members Wednesday morning. The mood after that meeting will give a big indication of whether Congress will meet its Friday deadline or push things into the holidays.

    LINE ITEMS

    A new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that just over 364,000 people have selected a plan and enrolled during the first two months of the Affordable Care Act's federally run insurance marketplace. NewsHour National Affairs Editor Murrey Jacobson has the details here.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify about the numbers and HealthCare.gov on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

    Another round of national polls show lackluster news for the president. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found Mr. Obama with a 43 percent approval rating. A USA Today poll finds Mr. Obama remaining in the second-term doldrums. And a Bloomberg National Poll found the president's job approval has plummeted to a new low of 42 percent.

    The Senate confirmed Patricia Millett, the first of three presidential nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, on a 56 to 38 vote Tuesday. Rep. Mel Watt was confirmed as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency on a 57 to 41 vote. Both nominations had been stalled but were moved through quickly thanks to a change Senate Democrats made to their rules.

    Watt's confirmation kicks off a crowded special election.

    Katherine Clark won the special House election in Massachusetts to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Ed Markey's victory earlier this year.

    Politico's David Rogers writes that farm bill negotiators won't finish their work before the end-of-year recess, but may be close to a deal that would mean an early January vote.

    A White House aide says newly returning Obama adviser John Podesta will recuse himself from matters dealing with the Keystone XL Pipeline, which he opposes.

    Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is looking for a new running mate after his choice for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Eric Kearney, left the race Tuesday following weeks of questions about his finances.

    Mr. Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt posed for a selfie at Nelson Mandela's memorial service. First Lady Michelle Obama did not seem amused.

    Democrats gave Sen. Ted Cruz an "earful" on the way to South Africa for the Mandela service, Talking Points Memo reports. And Cruz walked out of the venue when Raul Castro spoke.

    Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., still seems to be in a tossup campaign for re-election.

    Another day, another Edward Snowden leak. The Washington Post reports that the National Security Agency is using Google "cookies," the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, and location data "to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance."

    Slate's David Weigel sees the media buying into a "fake" battle between the Democratic group Third Way and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

    GOP officials this week are mourning prominent Illinois Republican Rich Williamson, who lost to Carol Moseley Braun in 1992. He died Sunday at the age of 64.

    Three female lawmakers honor three of their colleagues for Politico's "Women Rule" series. GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand calls Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California her mentor, and Rep. Barbara Lee honors her fellow California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer for her work on climate change.

    Farewell, Russell Senate Building Post Office!

    The Washington Press Club Foundation announced that Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., will be the featured speakers at the Feb. 5 annual congressional dinner. Disclosure: Christina is co-chairwoman of the foundation's dinner committee.

    Which member of Congress is "Home Alone?" Roll Call's Abby Livingston is back with holiday movie comparisons for Heard on the Hill.

    NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

    The NewsHour devoted a hefty portion of Tuesday's program to the Mandela memorial service, and Gwen Ifill spoke with Charlayne Hunter-Gault from Johannesburg. Watch here. You can also see Mr. Obama's remarks here or below.

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    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Watch the hearing live on PBS NewsHour's Ustream channel.

    Playing catch-up with a long way to go, President Barack Obama's new health insurance markets last month picked up the dismal pace of signups, the administration reported Wednesday.

    Enrollment statistics from the Health and Human Services Department showed that 364,682 people have signed up for private coverage as of Nov. 30 under the federal health law. Although that's more than three times the October total, it's less than one-third of the 1.2 million people officials had originally projected would enroll nationwide by the end of November.

    Crunch time is now for Obama's health care law, as consumers face a Dec. 23 enrollment deadline if they want to have coverage on Jan. 1. Yet HealthCare.gov, the revamped federal website serving 36 states, continues to have issues. Just Tuesday there was an extended maintenance outage. And some states running their own websites are also having problems.

    That's created stress and uncertainty not only for the uninsured but also for consumers seeking to avoid an interruption in coverage in January. Those trying to preserve coverage include some or many of the more than 4 million people whose individual plans were canceled because they didn't measure up under the law, as well as hundreds of thousands in federal and state programs for people with serious health problems, from cancer to heart disease to AIDS.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a blog post early Wednesday that she is asking the department's inspector general to investigate the contracting process, management, performance and payment issues that may have contributed to the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov.

    The administration report found a total of 137,204 people enrolled in the states served by the federal website by the end of November, up from 26,794 in October.

    The 14 states running their own websites enrolled 227,478 people, up from 79,391 in October.

    California, which is running its own program, led the nation, with more than 107,000 signups. Oregon, also running its own market, had the lowest total, with just 44 people enrolled. Florida was the leader among states with federally run markets, with nearly 18,000 signups.

    Nationally, an additional 803,077 people have been determined to be eligible for Medicaid, the safety-net program shaping up as the health overhaul's early success story. That's about double the number for October. Nonetheless, state Medicaid directors are reporting accuracy problems with information on prospective enrollees that the federal government is sending them.

    The administration report comes as Sebelius returns to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday morning for another grilling from Republicans committed to repealing the law, not to mention Democrats angry over a rollout Sebelius herself called a debacle.

    Lawmakers have questions about how and why HealthCare.gov did not work as advertised, whether the federal website meets government security standards and how much all the repairs are costing.

    Although Republicans have called for Sebelius to resign, and some Democrats have urged Obama to fire those responsible, the White House has given no indication that a house-cleaning is coming. The secretary's unusual pre-dawn announcement of an inspector general probe indicates that she realizes she has some explaining to do.

    "I believe strongly in the need for accountability, and in the importance of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars," Sebelius said in her announcement. The website has cost taxpayers more than $600 million so far, according to the congressional Government Accountability Office.

    In addition to the inspector general review, Sebelius said she has ordered the hiring of a new "chief risk officer" at the Medicare agency, which also oversees the new programs created to expand health insurance coverage under Obama's law. That official will focus on making sure technology programs work as advertised.

    Sebelius also said she's ordered a retraining of her department on best practices for outside contracting.

    The site went live on Oct. 1 and immediately turned into an impenetrable maze for most consumers. A two-month program of fixes directed by White House troubleshooter Jeffrey Zients stabilized the site and made it more workable, resolving hundreds of software glitches and adding more hardware to handle high demand from consumers.

    Zients also found that the technical problems were compounded by inadequate oversight and coordination among teams working for the government and its contractors. That raises questions about how Sebelius and her subordinates have managed the complex program. Through the summer and into the fall, the secretary had repeatedly assured Congress and the public that the insurance markets would open for business on schedule Oct. 1.

    With his poll ratings in a dive, Obama not only accepted the blame for website woes, but personally apologized for the canceled individual insurance policies. The cancellations issue is highly sensitive politically because it contradicts Obama's promise that if you like your coverage you would be able to keep it.

    The president sought to calm the backlash by allowing states and insurers to extend existing plans for another year. Thirty-eight have done so, according to analysis by the consulting firm Avalere Health. But it's unclear to what extent insurers have taken advantage of the leeway granted by state regulators.

    The administration had set a goal of signing up 7 million people by the end of open enrollment season March 31. HHS health reform director Mike Hash says they're still "on track" to meet it. Uninsured people who procrastinate beyond that date will face tax penalties when they file their returns for the 2014 tax year.

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    PBS NewsHour holds live Twitter chats from 1 to 2 p.m. EST each Thursday. Join us on Twitter @NewsHour using the hash tag #NewsHourChatsPhoto by Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    Air travel isn't exactly pleasant as it is. The lines keep getting longer at security while the seats keep getting smaller on board. But the one positive you could count on was a break from cell phone noise. Now that may change. This month the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected to consider lifting a ban on in-flight cell phone calls.

    This week's #NewsHourChats focuses on that possibility. Should cell phone use be allowed on planes? What sort of restrictions should be in place? Would you pay more to be on a plane that doesn't allow cell phone use, a sort of "quiet plane"?

    Join us on Twitter from 1 to 2 p.m. EST, Dec. 5, by following @NewsHour and using the hash tag #NewsHourChats or watch the conversation below.

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    "Detroit Art City: The Detroit Institute of Arts Story," a documentary by Detroit Public Television, tells of the story of the one of America's most significant art collections and how it's fate came to rest in a legal battle over the Motor City's future.

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    By Dan Ariely

    Is college too expensive and are free online courses the answer to the rising cost of full-time college? Dan Ariely's not so sure. Photo courtesy of Flickr user DG Jones.

    MOOCs. Massive Open Online Courses. By now, the acronym's notoriety is increasing. But the success of these courses may not be. The New York Times reports Wednesday on research from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education showing that course participation and completion rates for MOOCs are far lower than hoped for.

    Of a million MOOC users, the study found that only an average of half of those registered for a course ever viewed an online lecture for that course. And only 4 percent ever completed the course.

    A survey from the University of Pennsylvania of those using the school's MOOCs suggests that MOOCs' intended beneficiaries -- students who think they can't afford full-time college or students in poor countries without access to higher education -- aren't the main users. Instead, people who already hold degrees make up 80 percent of the users.

    Interviewing behavioral psychologist and good friend of Making Sense Dan Ariely for our upcoming story on the economic waste of giving Christmas gifts, we got to talking about college costs. Our cameraman mentioned that comprehensive tuition (including room and board) for his son at Cornell is $61,000 a year. So we asked Ariely whether MOOCs -- like the one he taught this year -- are the answer to the high cost of college. But before updating us on the unexpected costs of teaching an online course, he took issue with our premise that traditional college is expensive.

    Paul Solman: College costs are not insupportable? We sat down and the cameraman was complaining about the cost of Cornell, and you said to him...

    Dan Ariely: It's too cheap. Look, the reality is that it's a real question about how we think about education. Colleges are expensive because they provide a lot. So if you take an average student and you say, let's take all the property on campus and divide it by the number of students on campus, each student basically has a huge house -- it's true. It's divided between the dorm and dining rooms, labs, and classrooms, and so on, but the amount of facilities is really incredible. And then you talk about the people at their disposal -- the faculty, assistants, administrators and people in healthcare. It's basically a tremendous amount of people that are serving the students, and a tremendous amount of infrastructure.

    MORE FROM DAN ARIELY: The Plusses and Pitfalls of Teaching Online

    The four-year college experience, by the way, is amazing. I studied in Israel, which doesn't have the same 24-hour-a-day college experience, and I still regret that I did not get to experience this. But this is just an expensive endeavor. Imagine you're going on vacation for four years. How much would that cost? Right, if you compare that to college, you would say college really is quite cheap. Now, it's an educated vacation; you get lots of things, but the amount of stuff that you're getting is really quite incredible, so the experience is amazing. I don't think it's expensive for what you're getting.

    The problem is that in absolute terms, it's expensive. And then the question is, what other versions can we have? And this is where community colleges come in; these are cases where people don't sleep over on campus; they have only part of the day, and this is where you start having technology as part of it, when people can study from home. So we have watered down versions of that experience. It is going to be more affordable, but I think that when you think about college, the amazing thing is how much you're getting, not how much it's costing.

    Paul Solman: But you are part of the technology, right? You've got this Massive Open Online Course or MOOC. Were you watering down the college experience for those people?

    Dan Ariely: There's no question that this was a very different experience than what I could provide on campus. So we taped about 30 hours of me lecturing, and then we spent about another 3,000 or 4,000 hours editing that, adding slides and shooting outside, and basically trying to make this not just a watered down class experience, but a different experience. We added guest lectures; we did all kinds of other things to the class, and then we distributed it on Coursera, which is one of the platforms for MOOCs.

    And what's interesting about MOOCs is, you know, for many years, there's been online video courses. Even the Open University 30 years ago, you could get VHS tapes and watch it.

    Paul Solman: Well, Sunrise Semester -- maybe that was from a commercial station -- but you could tune in early in the morning and watch your course on your television.

    Dan Ariely: And what's the interesting thing about the MOOC: you release the videos at the same time for everybody. So what happens is that everybody is watching it in the same week, so you have a coordination between all the students. ... And then on top of that, they have discussion groups. If you have a concentrated amount of students, they can sometimes solve each other's problems, and they can basically vote on which problems they're really having and which ones they are not.

    And then the professor, or whoever teaches the class, can decide to pick up the top question and resolve it for many people. So we spend a tremendous amount of time, and energy and effort. We distributed this class for free to about 140,000 students. It was a wonderful experience. We had students from over 180 countries. Huge variations of ages and religions and people created songs and all kinds of media presentations. It really felt like an amazing community at that point. But it's not the same experience as being able to have coffee with me. ... If you think about this idea of an education being one directional, and then discussions among the students, that fulfills some of it. But it doesn't allow the students to have really in depth discussion about something.

    MORE ABOUT MOOCS: How Free Online Courses Are Changing Traditional Liberal Arts Education

    Paul Solman: Or feel much sense of human connection.

    Dan Ariely: We try to have some. Every week, students would pose some questions and I would go online and try to answer some of those, but it's not the same. And what is particularly [lacking from online courses] is the students don't have the capacity to work with us on research. One of the amazing things about a full-time college is that students are not just taking classes; they're actually participating in the research process. I have a lot of students working in my lab. They run experiments; they think about things; they basically learn by doing. And that's something that can only happen face-to-face, when they are actually sitting in the lab.

    I would say one other thing about the MOOC. The MOOC sounds like a great idea, and it is a great idea, but it also has a tremendous cost that people don't understand. When I went into it, I thought, okay, we'll tape; we'll edit. I completely didn't understand how long it takes to edit. ... The truth is, it's actually very time consuming because when you have a big group of people like this, even if only 1 percent of the 140,00 people has a problem, it's a lot of people.

    So, for example, there was a mother who called her daughter for dinner. The daughter was 12, and she took the class. Her mother turned off the computer in the middle of the exam, really upsetting the daughter. Now, this mother went to every possible length to find out my phone number, and to call me up multiple times until I went back and opened a class in the exam just for her daughter.

    Of course, I had to do it, but it is just one case. I had lots of those; every day something like this would happen. So the reality is that this one-to-many approach is really working well, as long as it's flawless, but it can never be flawless.

    Paul Solman: And you hadn't anticipated that.

    Dan Ariely: I did not anticipate that. For each person, different things go wrong at different times. But I have lots of funny stories. Here's a slightly odd one.

    We allowed people to take the quiz multiple times, and we gave them different versions of the quiz. If they don't get a good score, they can take it again, take a different version of the quiz, because I really want them to learn. Somebody decided that this was an experiment that I was conducting on them. He submitted an official complaint to the committee at Duke that regulates our research. Now, the moment he submitted the complaint to them, they had to investigate, as they should, but, you know, a day of my life is gone at that moment.

    All these things -- technology, people, complaints -- make the class incredibly time consuming. I really want to do it again, but I really need to be sure I have the time to do it again, even though I have such sum costs.

    Paul Solman: You mean, to do it again might be too expensive, in terms of your time?

    Dan Ariely: That's right. Because more new things will happen; 1 percent will have trouble again with all kinds of things...

    Paul Solman: And next time, it could be a million people, not 140,000.

    Dan Ariely: What's the expression? May you be unlucky to be successful.

    Let me tell you one more thing. I spend a lot of time creating these classes online, and then I try to use two of them in my regular face-to-face class. And I did what is called "reverse classroom," so I asked the students to watch the video at home and then come to class to discuss it. It was incredibly successful. I think the students enjoyed the videos and then they enjoyed the discussion. The other thing I tried to do, again with my face-to-face class, was to get them to watch the videos and to have all the discussion about it online. And that one was not as useful.

    So the students in my regular class basically had three versions: they had me in person; they had watched the video and come in to have just the discussion; and they watched the video and had the discussion online. And they basically rated them in that order. They said it was the most useful to have me in class. Not too far from that is to watch the video of the material and then have the discussion in class. Much less appealing was to have the video and then have an online discussion on that.

    That's part of the story -- that you are losing something as you become more detached from the students and have less face-to-face time, but you have to figure a version of how this could work out because of the cost of the full-time colleges and universities.

    Paul Solman: Aren't they going down? Some friend of mine just told me about a highly selective school that within the last few weeks is telling all its department heads to cut 25 percent from their budgets, and I was wondering if it wasn't the harbinger of the contraction, if not the death, of the small private liberal arts university, given the onslaught of technology and the costs of going to one of those.

    Dan Ariely: I suspect that colleges that people go to, and travel to and move for -- Harvard, Duke, Princeton -- are not going to suffer from this technology. In fact, I remember when I was still teaching at MIT, the president at the time, Chuck Vest, when he proposed the first online version of MIT, "open course work," he said, "This is basically because coming to MIT is very different than just being in classes." And I think there is going to be a category of universities that basically are saying, coming here is not the same as taking the classes.

    But I think that as you move to universities that are more about just coming to classes -- community colleges, large lecture halls -- those don't get the same amount of benefit from the interaction with the faculty and therefore the tradeoffs between them and online could become much closer and people might opt more for online.

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


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    An MRI of a patient's brain 19 hours after a fall shows bleeding and damage to the meninges, the lining between the skull and the brain. Photo by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

    Concussions and traumatic brain injuries have been receiving national attention lately. Former football players reached a $765 million settlement against the NFL stemming from a lawsuit where they claimed to have memory loss, depression, headaches and dizziness after multiple head injuries during their careers. It's not just athletes; the U.S. Department of Defense estimates that 22 percent of all combat injuries are traumatic brain injuries.

    But what happens to the brain right after a concussion? Researchers at the National Institute of Health peered into the brains of mice and watched how a traumatic brain injury progresses over a day. Their findings, published in the journal Nature this week, showed that a single concussion can cause cell death in the brain in a matter of hours.

    On Sunday, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker reportedly received a concussion after a hit during a play against the Tennessee Titans. Though Welker will sit out for the Bronco's next game, doctors can do little to treat concussions. Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    Concussions are difficult to diagnose, said Larry LaTour, a researcher who has been studying traumatic brain injuries at the National Institute of Health. The symptoms -- headaches, dizziness -- are vague, he said. Patients report different symptoms, often at different times after their accident. CAT scans and MRIs can show bleeding and swelling, but previously no one was sure how severe the damage following a bump to the head could be.

    So researchers at NIH found a way to watch what happens to the brain when it collides with the skull. (If you're squeamish, you might want to jump ahead.)

    Scientists already developed a technique to thin a mouse skull until it is see-through under the light from a two-photon microscope, which scientists use to observe the mouse's brain while it is under anesthesia. Thinning a skull takes a lot of skill and at least three months of practice, said Dorian McGavern, senior investigator at NIH and lead author on the study. He noticed that while trainees in his lab were learning how to do this, they often injured the mouse's brain by pressing on the thinned bone. That's when he realized this would make a good model to study traumatic brain injuries and see how the brain reacts.

    To induce brain injury, McGavern's lab shaved the mice's skulls down with a special drill -- much like a dentist's drill -- then they scraped it further using a surgical scalpel until it was 30 microns thick. That's as thin as a human hair, he explained. They turned the scalpel over and using its round end gently pushed down, making contact with the brain. His group then filmed the injury response using light microscopy.

    On camera, the minutes and hours after injury revealed how the damage spread and how the brain defends itself. Within minutes, blood vessels were obstructed and some leaked into the meninges, the lining between the skull and the brain. After 30 minutes, McGavern saw cell death in the meninges. That's to be expected, he said. MRIs of patients admitted to emergency rooms immediately after a head injury showed similar damage to the meningeal blood vessels.

    It's important that the border between the meninges and the brain stays intact, McGavern added. Leaking blood and fluids into the brain tissue kills neurons, the cells in your brain which send information. After injury, the brain sends in its first responders to start patching the holes. Microglia, which McGavern calls the brain's "garbage men," arrive at the scene to keep the barrier between the meninges and the brain intact. They swell to fill the gaps, making jellyfish-like shapes, creating inflammation to keep the fluids from flowing freely into the brain.

    Dorian McGavern explains his study and the impact of a mild concussion on the brain. Courtesy National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

    But after 10 hours, all of the mice had lesions in their brains -- big red spots on the images -- which indicated cell death, McGavern said. After 12 hours, those lesions could be as large as one cubic millimeter, about 1/500 of the mouse's brain, and they could get larger as time goes on, he said.

    "Typically when you have something happen in your brain, regardless of the insult, you don't want the cells to die. You don't want the neurons to die," McGavern said. "As a consequence of this injury, brain tissue is not being preserved."

    This damage was the result of a single injury, similar to what LaTour had observed in patients coming to the emergency room after car accidents or falling 6 feet from a ladder. The injury isn't fatal, but the concussion leaves a scar on your brain. Our bodies don't replace dead neurons, McGavern said. Your brain can compensate for it, and work around it, but it will never be the same.

    And initially that inflammation is natural, and a good thing, LaTour said. A little initial inflammation can help protect the brain tissue from greater damage.

    But if the microglia don't get turned off, then they "go haywire" and the inflammation continues, something seen in chronic encephalopathy, said Joseph Maroon, vice-chair of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. That's when the damage from concussions and multiple traumatic brain injuries becomes more serious, he said. As the inflammation rages and neurons die, the brain can't compensate for the lost tissue and patients experience a range of symptoms, from mood changes to vision distortion.

    Microglia swarm to fix damage to the lining of the brain. Courtesy National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

    Right now, doctors can do little to treat concussions, Maroon said. They urge patients to rest as much as possible after a concussion to prevent further trauma, and they treat the symptoms -- pain, depression, vision problems -- as well as they can, he said.

    "You get drugs to treat all of the symptoms ... without addressing the underlying problem of ongoing inflammation," he said.

    But if the inflammation can be soothed, then the brain tissue and the neurons can be spared, something scientists like Maroon and McGavern are both investigating. McGavern looked at transcranial options for delivering glutathione, an antioxidant that our cells produce naturally which reduces inflammation. They created a solution containing glutathione and applied it directly to the skull, where it seeped through to reach the tissue below.

    When administered 30 minutes after injury, it saved 67 percent of the cell tissue. And when applied three hours later, it prevented 50 percent of the brain tissue from dying.

    While that method worked, it's not a practical application yet for humans, Maroon said. No patient admitted to the emergency room with a concussion in the near future will have their scalp opened to apply an antioxidant to their surgically-thinned skull. But McGavern is hopeful that with further study this may lead to a new treatment for concussions, with medications that can pass directly through the skin and the skull bone to the heal the injured brain.

    The most important lesson from this experiment, McGavern said, is that when it comes to dealing with a traumatic brain injury, every minute counts.

    "The holy grail is finding compounds that can treat (traumatic brain injuries)," he said. "The key to dealing with TBI is speed. You have to get on this lightning fast."

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    Creative Commons photo via flickr user srharris

    The local library is considered a vital asset even though you might not use it as much as you might have in the past, according to findings from a new Pew Survey released Wednesday.

    Just under 50 percent of us say they have visited a public library in the past 12 months. About the same percent of folks said they don't need a public library as much as they used to because they can find a lot of information on their own, rather than say research through the library's stack of books.

    Even though personal visits to libraries have gone down, the survey found strong support for them in general: 94 percent said that having a library improves the quality of life in their community.

    "As a community center, or ... as a representative of freedom of speech or freedom of information, I think that's a huge reason why those numbers are so high," Library consultant Gary Price told "Library Journal," explaining that as an abstract concept most people are going to agree that libraries are a positive influence on a community.

    However, only 47 percent said they were familiar with their library's services and programs.

    "If people were aware of what libraries have to offer, across the board, I think things would be a lot different," Price said. "You can't really value or appreciate what you don't know about."

    The survey found that library services such as youth programs (70 percent of adults with children under 18 say their child has visited a public library or bookmobile in the last 12 months) or help in finding and applying for a job were considered very important by African Americans, Hispanics, women, and those with low income or educational attainment.

    "[I]t is reassuring to know that Americans still have a warm and fuzzy feeling about their public library, but information about how they are actually using libraries is limited. Or, even more critically, what they want from libraries in the future," Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains New York Public Library told "Publishers Weekly."

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    India celebrates its second annual gay pride parade in Bangalore. Creative commons image via flickr sser nickjohnson

    India's Supreme Court has banned gay sex by reversing a 2009 Delhi High Court order that decriminalized gay sex, the BBC reports. The ruling reinstates the country's 153-year-old law stating that a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail sentence.

    Since the 2009 ruling, various special interest groups have been lobbying the Supreme Court to reinstate this ban.

    According to the courts, it's parliament's job to legislate on the issue.

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  • 12/11/13--12:19: NASA counts down
  • Counting down until midnight when @NASA_Orion test capsule to leave on cross-country trip. Share pix #SpotOrionpic.twitter.com/hLJMiEEdo3

    — NASA_Langley (@NASA_Langley) December 11, 2013

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    Watch NewsHour's feature on "flipped" classroom instruction. The segment will also air on the show Wednesday.

    PBS NewsHour's American Graduate team recently visited Clintondale High School in suburban Detroit for a story on the concept of "flipped" classrooms. That's where students watch class lecture videos at home and do their "homework" the next day in the classroom with their teachers.

    The story generated a lot of comments on PBS' and NewsHour's Facebook pages. We heard from parents, educators and students.

    The conversation on Facebook reveals both positive and negative reactions, with fans chiming in on the the pros and cons at the heart of today's education practices.

    SIGN UP FOR AN ALERT TO JOIN THE CONVERSATION

    Join us for a live Twitter chat with Clintondale principal Greg Green, Justin Reich from HarvardX and Stacey Roshan, a math teacher who uses the flipped method. The time and date have yet to be determined, but you can sign up for an alert in the box above.

    Alexis Mast-Sullivan doesn't believe the teaching style would work for her classroom. "Most (of) my kids don't even have computers in their homes," she wrote.

    Others also commented on the digital divide among American students, whereby some may have better access to computers than others.

    But could this non-traditional model be exactly what today's students need?

    Scott Ritchie says yes. "Children don't need to adapt to a system that was designed to teach their parents and grandparents. The system needs to adapt the way it teaches to meet the needs of Today's students!"

    Deborah Sabo thinks this method could work. "This makes a lot of sense for the way most people learn, and it's more interactive with the teacher as mentor."

    You can also add to the discussion. Join us for a live Twitter chat with Clintondale principal Greg Green, Justin Reich from HarvardX and Stacey Roshan, a math teacher who uses the teaching method. The time and date have yet to be determined, but you can sign up for an alert.

    Read more:

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

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

    This story is part of American Graduate: Let's Make it Happen, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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    GWEN IFILL: Here's an idea for improving the learning environment in a low-performing urban school: Stand the traditional classroom model on its head. That's the experiment under way in a suburban Detroit school.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story as part of our American Graduate project, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    MAN: So, you see how they are in the same family.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What if you took the traditional school day and flipped it on its head, not literally, of course, but having lessons offered at night at home and homework done by day in the classroom?

    That's the experiment under way at Clintondale High School just outside Detroit, an area still reeling from the economic and social ills of the nearby city. The school serves many low-income families and faces tight budgets and declining enrollment.

    MAN: So what's the number part that I'm going to need for all three?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just three years ago, almost half of Clintondale's ninth graders were failing math, science and English, and overall school performance was ranked in the lowest 5 percent in Michigan.

    Principal Greg Green decided to take a risk.

    GREG GREEN, Clintondale High School: Frankly, we weren't doing very well. And so, you know, we had to make a change. I mean, we were -- we were desperate for change.

    JEFFREY BROWN: His aha moment came while coaching his 11-year-old son's baseball team. Having learned to record and post instructional videos for his players to watch outside of practice, he was struck by how much time was then left to focus on individual players on the field.

    He saw the educational record starting with the power of videos.

    GREG GREEN:  Kids can go back and watch them as many times as they want. And then me, as an instructor or expert, I don't have to redo that all the time. And I can spend my time with the students in class, in actually assisting them. And so if I could do that with 11-year-olds, imagine what we could do with 15- or 16-year-olds doing math.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Green went all in, flipping the entire school, urging his staff to rethink the use of technology and how it complements traditional teaching and getting local businesses to help fund the effort.

    MAN: The legislative branch makes the laws.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now lectures are recorded and posted online.

    MAN: The American Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Or teachers can assign outside videos from the popular Khan Academy and TED Talks. Students watch these videos as homework outside of class.

    MAN: Why do you say plutonium?

    JEFFREY BROWN: In class, students now do what was once considered homework, assignments designed to test learning comprehension. Clintondale teachers say this allows more time for one-on-one help and often encourages students to collaborate in problem-solving.

    But English teacher Rob Dameron said it took some convincing.

    ROB DAMERON, Clintondale High School: When we first did this, it was funny to look around at staff meeting and look at a lot of staff members, especially the ones that have been here 25, 30 years, and saying, what are you talking about? What's a blog? You know, what's a Google Group?

    Apostrophe makes a noun show ownership or possession.

    ROB DAMERON: For teaching for 20 years, I know what lessons kids are going to have a problem with. But I think, with doing this flipped approach, there's problems I didn't even know existed. So you really can't hide back there in the corner and say, yes, I got it, you know, and then the teacher sees later on, well, no, you really didn't get it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One problem the school faced head on, students who can't afford or don't have access to technology outside of class. They're given extra time in the school's media lab.

    STUDENT: Segregation before 1954.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Taking the technology-driven approach further, some lesson plans are now tailored to have students use the latest trends in social media.

    STUDENT: Thanks to the 19th Amendment, us women have the right to vote.

    STUDENTS: We deserve the vote. We deserve the vote.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Like this project that required constitutional amendments to be summed up in six seconds for the popular Web site Vine. Green says that, taken all together after three years, the flip is paying off.

    GREG GREEN:  Our ACT gains have shown -- doubling the national average as far as ACT gains. State testing, we have had some mixed results on that. And we have also seen an increase in graduation rates to almost 90 percent, and college acceptance rates at 80 percent.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Senior Daryl Wallace Jr. is one example. His grades have risen from a 2.5 GPA as a freshman to 3.5 as a senior. And he says the flip has played a big role. He now watches videos on his cell phone while taking the bus home into a rough section of Detroit, where he lives with his mother and four sisters.

    DARYL WALLACE JR., student: I really looked at the videos more because I know I might not have as much time at home, because my sisters are in college and they need the computer so much. I can do it on my phone. And the bus ride is like 30 minutes, so I probably can get like half of my assignment done.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Daryl's mother, Sabrina Young, also likes the flipped model, saying there is only so much she can do to help with traditional homework.

    SABRINA YOUNG, mother of Daryl Wallace Jr.: I see algebra, so him doing at school is a plus for him, yes, as well as me, because I just didn't remember the majority of it.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: The popularity of online learning has surged in recent years, and flipped classrooms have started popping up everywhere, from elementary schools to some of the nation's top universities.

    Clintondale is the first U.S. high school to do a total flip.

    Harvard's Justin Reich has been studying the trend and says he is cautiously optimistic.

    JUSTIN REICH, Harvard University: What is exciting to me about the flipped classroom is that it gets teachers asking two really important fundamental questions. What are the best ways for me to use my time, especially the very precious time I have in classrooms with my students, and then, what are the kinds of direct instruction that I could provide that could be digitized so people could watch it again?

    MAN: You will notice that the last set of notes I gave you were for week five.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But Reich says that flipping alone isn't enough. As with any lesson plan, it all depends on exactly what's being offered.

    JUSTIN REICH: If what we see from the flipped classroom is that we take bad lectures and uninteresting worksheet problems that characterize a lot of the experience that students have in schools, and we simply flip the order of those two things, the odds that we see significant improvement in our schools is pretty low.

    WOMAN: And so now we're going to be taking derivatives with respect to T.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, some individual teachers are experimenting with a flipped classroom on their own. Three years ago, Stacey Roshan flipped her upper-level math classroom at the private Bullis High School outside of Washington, D.C., where students pay up to $35,000 a year in tuition. She says it's been working for her, but that it might not be for everyone.

    STACEY ROSHAN, The Bullis School: I think what is the most important thing is that you really think through what your problem is. I wouldn't say that because everybody is doing the flipped classroom, it's cool, you should do the flipped classroom too. My problem was really time, anxiety and perhaps, if I went to another school, I would do things completely differently.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One added surprise for Roshan in structuring her class this way is what she learned about the reach of her online lessons.

    STACEY ROSHAN: I get thank you letters from students all the time, not even just from the U.S., but overseas too. And that part always amazes me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Back at Clintondale, Principal Greg Green's big experiment is getting a lot of attention. More than 200 educators from around the world have visited the school, trying to draw lessons from the flipped classrooms.

     

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It may not be the legislative equivalent of peace in our time, but the budget deal announced last night provides, at the very least, a time-out for lawmakers battling over fiscal matters.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman sums up the agreement.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis.: By having a budget agreement that doesn't raise taxes, that does reduce the deficit and produces some certainty and prevents government shutdowns, we think is a good agreement.

    KWAME HOLMAN: After weeks of negotiating with Democrats, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan had to sell the agreement to members of his own party this morning.

    PAUL RYAN: We know that this budget agreement doesn't come close to achieving what we want to achieve on our ultimate fiscal goals. But, again, if we can get a step in the right direction, we're going to take that step. And that's why we're doing this.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Ryan and Democrat Patty Murray, chair of the Senate budget panel, announced the agreement late yesterday. Their proposal includes $85 billion in spending cuts and increased revenues. Those include higher fees for airline passengers and greater pension contributions from newly hired federal workers.

    It would also roll back $63 billion in automatic spending reductions that hit defense and domestic programs.

    Some House Republicans said they'd support it, including Pennsylvania's Charlie Dent.

    REP. CHARLIE DENT, R-Penn.: I think it's a good agreement. It certainly provides for savings. It certainly protects defense, but, most important of all, provides a level of predictability, stability and certainty about how we go about governing in this place.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The plan avoids provisions that sharply divide the two parties, such as tax increases or cuts to Medicare beneficiaries. Still, there are signs of dissent from both sides of the aisle. And they were on display today here at the Capitol.

    Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp and other Tea Party conservatives complained deficits actually will be higher for the next three years before the savings kick in.

    REP. TIM HUELSKAMP, R-Kan.: It's going to increase the deficits. It's going to raise taxes and fees, and it's not going to address the long-term overspending problem in Washington, which is we need to reform entitlements.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Some Senate Republicans, including Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Tom Coburn, also rejected the deal.

    And criticism came from outside conservative groups, but was promptly dismissed by House Speaker John Boehner.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous. Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Among Democrats, there was disappointment the budget deal doesn't extend long-term unemployment benefits.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: We would have preferred something quite different. But we do recognize the value of coming to a decision, so that we can go forward with some clarity on other legislation that we want to see.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The Senate's Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, said he'd push for an extension of jobless benefits next year. But he called the overall compromise a breath of fresh air.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: In this new agreement, neither side got everything it wanted. But that's how it used to work around here, Mr. President. That's how it worked.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The agreement could come to a vote in the House as soon as tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have three different perspectives on the deal.

    They come from Steven Rattner, who was an economic adviser known as the car czar in the Obama administration. He's a contributing writer for The New York Times and he's chairman of Willett Investors -- Advisors. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, he served on the Council of Economic Advisers under George -- President George W. Bush and as adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign. He's now president of the American Action Forum, a policy think tank. And Romina Boccia she is a Heritage Foundation fellow on federal budgetary affairs.

    Welcome to you all.

    So, stipulating that none of you thinks this is a perfect deal, let's talk first about whether Congress should approve it.

    And Doug Holtz-Eakin, I'm going to start with you. You are a Republican who thinks that, on balance, this is something Congress should approve. Why?

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, American Action Forum: Yes.

    The value of this agreement is above and beyond what's in the agreement. It's addition by subtraction. You don't close the government. And there is political value to that and there's governance value. You don't shake the confidence of people when you shut the government and you don't harm the economy.

    And there's some policy value. You don't cut $19 billion from defense and then turn around and put it back over the next two years. Why do a U-turn for no apparent purpose? So, this is not an ideal agreement from either side's perspective. But taking those kinds of bad events off the table is a value that the agreement brings, and I think people should pass it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Steve Rattner, you're a Democrat who, as we said, doesn't think it's purpose, but you think on balance Congress should support it, but for different reasons than what we heard from Doug Holtz-Eakin. Why?

    STEVEN RATTNER, Willett Investors: Actually, my reasons aren't that different. I think Doug and I agree on this.

    Well, I would put it maybe slightly differently. I think the advantage of this agreement is that in the short run, it does increase spending by a bit, which is what we need, both because of the weak economy and because it would increase spend on a number of important domestic problems, as well as defense. It sort of provides some deficit reduction in the out-years, but, frankly, I think that is very minimal.

    And it does all the other things Doug said about certainty, avoiding shutdowns, crises. My problem with it -- and I think that's probably his problem with it -- is that it doesn't go nearly far enough. And it does take the foot off the gas a bit, I believe, with Congress in terms of ever producing the so-called grand bargain that I think many of us believe we truly need.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we do want to come back to that.

    But, first, Romina Boccia of the Heritage Foundation, you think this is a mistake. Why?

    ROMINA BOCCIA, Heritage Foundation: Yes. I think it sets a bad precedent.

    They're busting through the spending caps that were agreed upon in a bipartisan fashion in 2011. And, in turn, they're promising more savings down the road. But half of the deficit reduction included in this deal wouldn't occur until after 2022. But the higher deficits happen immediately. So will we ever see the deficit reduction?

    Plus, the deal is full of gimmicks. There aren't any real reforms that help address our debt. I think that Congress needs to go back to the drawing board and do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Doug Holtz-Eakin, how do you respond to that? You have looked at this carefully. She's basically saying, these aren't real cuts.

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN: It's far from ideal. I don't think anyone should say, oh, this is great, I will vote for it. I think they have to ask the question, is it good enough to vote for?

    And they are going to be people who decide it's not. But if you look inside this agreement, not everything is about budget dollars. Sometimes, it's policy that matters. So we are going to ask new federal employees to make higher contributions for their pensions. That's a sensible thing to ask them to do. It's not a dramatic increase. But those savings will grow over time.

    Those are permanent policy changes. I will take good policy over near-term budget dollars every time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Romina?

    ROMINA BOCCIA: Do we need to trade good policy for higher spending immediately, when they could have saved taxpayer dollars? Those good policies could go towards deficit reduction. We are looking at about a $7 trillion increase in the deficit over the next 10 years. And we have a very high debt that is growing.

    So, more deficit reduction is good, but not in exchange for higher spending. That's a wash.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Rattner, I'm going to bring you in at this point.

    You -- you're familiar with all this. You have looked at this. Why is her argument wrong?

    STEVEN RATTNER: I don't think her argument is totally wrong. I just disagree with it

    I think that -- I think we actually do need more spending at the moment, for the two reasons I said before, both because the economy is weak and because the stuff that's being cut is stuff we shouldn't be cutting. So that's just a fundamental policy disagreement between us as to what should happen over the next couple of years.

    In the out-years, I think all three of us probably agree that there needs to be more fundamental budget reform. There needs to be -- we need to address the issue of spending on Medicare and Social Security beyond what the revenues are likely to be. We need to address the fact that you can't hold down domestic spending forever. There are important things like bridges and roads and R&D and education that need to be paid for.

    I'm sure we would disagree about actually what you do about that. But I think we agree that something needs to be done in the long run for the deficit. But, right now, I think this is the right policy for the next couple of years for the reasons I have said.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what gives you -- go ahead.

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN: So, I think there are two places where I disagree with that.

    I understand the reasoning completely, but the first is on just sort of policy grounds. Not all dollars are created equal. I think it makes no sense to adhere to the budget gaps just because they are there, take $19 billion out of defense, put it right back in. You end up where you started. What did you accomplish? You hurt -- you harmed readiness and capabilities. So the policy does matter underneath that.

    And the second is, what -- we were never going to get a grand bargain. But what they did do was something I thought was very vital. They figured out what they could agree on. They did not take their eye off the ball. They stuck to trying to get an agreement done. And you got a small agreement. But that, in and of itself, has value.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Romina Boccia, what about that point that you never were in -- I mean, just about everybody would argue, you never were going to get a grand bargain, so why not take something small as a first step, a first installment?

    ROMINA BOCCIA: Well, what we get now is higher spending. So our immediate fiscal situation becomes worse. The deficit goes up immediately for promises of future spending cuts.

    The sequester, in and of itself, was a promise of a future spending cut that came about as a tradeoff for a $2 trillion increase in the debt limit. So now we're just pushing those savings off even further into the future. And then, if you look at the actual cuts, the biggest cut is a Medicare provider cut. There are already very many of those in the Affordable Care Act. And they are unsustainable as they are. We need real reforms.

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN: Those are -- these out-years you're talking about, I guess I find it difficult to understand why a bipartisan agreement that to sequester caps has great virtue, but a bipartisan agreement, as this would be, to have different sequester caps is a sin.

    I mean, this is the same strategy. It says, we want to set targets for the things which are annual discretionary, but, for other things, we want to change the policy, whether it's our policy toward the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and make people pay fees, our policy to retirees, whatever it might be.

    Policy changes matter. They accumulate over the long term. They are the kinds of things we have to start doing more of. This is a tiny baby step in the right direction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you are saying it is worth it because you get those policy changes.

    Steve Rattner, I want to bring you back in on a question we're hearing from a number of Democrats today who are complaining that this is not -- this deal doesn't cover expanding long-term unemployment benefits. What about that? You -- you are saying Congress should vote for it. You have also told us that you think those are benefits that should be extended.

    How do you square that?

    STEVEN RATTNER: Because you have to deal a little bit in the art of the possible.

    This is, as Doug has said, I think the best deal we're going to get at this moment. I don't want to be too defeatist about the grand bargain. We have to have a grand bargain at some point. And, yes, I would have liked to have seen extending unemployment insurance in here. We still have a high unemployment rate. The biggest problem we have with unemployment are the long-term unemployed. Taking away their unemployment insurance is not going to make them go back to work. It's simply going it to make them poorer.

    And I do think we have an obligation to them. But I think the judgment the Democrats reached was that they were not going to be the ones that were going to shut down the government over that issue. They would live to fight that another day. And this is all the art of the possible, the art of compromise.

    And the Republicans simply weren't going to do it. I think it's unfortunate. I am on the other side of that. But I think, as we -- and Doug and I have both been saying, this is better than nothing, better then another crisis, better than another shutdown.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you feel the same way about the tradeoff and the fact that this is not a deal that includes new investments in education and research, other things that Democrats feel strongly about?

    STEVEN RATTNER: Well, it does include in the short run $65 billion of additional spending divided between domestic programs like the ones you mentioned and defense. And I think that is a good thing.

    I don't think it's enough. I think that that category of spending should be increased, not simply cut by less. But, again, this is the best deal you're going to do at this moment, given that we have divided government, and the alternative of shutdowns and crises and all that is worse.

    My biggest concern about this is that it is a two-year deal, which I think takes the pressure off of Congress for the next two years to do anything substantive. Other people may disagree with that. I hope I'm wrong, but that's -- that's the way I perceive this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do the two of you feel about that, that this may be taking pressure off of Congress to do something bigger and more significant in the coming years?

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN: Well, the leadership has to come from the White House on these large issues.

    And there's no pressure on the White House already. The debt and the deficit were stabilized until 2016. The president is out of office. I saw no effort to make a big grand bargain out of the White House anyway, so nothing has changed on that front.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you...

    (CROSSTALK)

    ROMINA BOCCIA: The problem that we do have, though, is by taking the pressure off and, in fact, setting a bad precedent that you can get around the spending agreement you agreed to and increase spending now for promises of spending cuts later on.

    Will they do that same thing again in 2016, when they are not happy with the sequestration spending caps? Meanwhile, our deficit and debt problem keeps growing. And those very programs that are causing it are not being addressed. And that just means that the changes that we will have to make eventually if we wait too long will just have to be much bigger and more painful for Americans. And that's unnecessary pain.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we hear you, all three.

    Romina Boccia, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Steve Rattner, thank you.

    DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN: Thank you.

    ROMINA BOCCIA: Thank you

    STEVEN RATTNER: Thank you.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a conversation with one of the winners of this year's Nobel Prize for Economics.

    The prizes were handed out yesterday in Stockholm. Yale University Professor Robert Shiller was one of three Americans honored for research on how financial markets work and how assets, like stocks, are priced.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, recently talked with Professor Shiller about the award.

    It's part of Paul's ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How surprised were you at getting the Nobel Prize?

    (LAUGHTER)

    ROBERT SHILLER, Yale University: Well, there were people telling me I would get it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really?

    ROBERT SHILLER: But they're my friends, right?

    In fact, I asked other professors, do you have friends telling you that you're going get the Nobel Prize? And they said, yes.

    So I thought every professor has friends telling them that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Can you say in a sentence or two what you got the Nobel Prize for?

    (LAUGHTER)

    ROBERT SHILLER: I don't know.

    There is a long scientific background paper on the Nobel Web site and it talks about the three of us, Gene Fama, Lars Hansen, and me, as contributors to the same body of literature, which seems a little hard, because Gene Fama especially. It takes a different summary view of it all.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Exactly the opposite in some sense, right?

    ROBERT SHILLER: Right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: He says the market at any given time reveals what the underlying stocks are really worth.

    ROBERT SHILLER: The whole idea that the stock market reflects fundamentals, I think, is wrong. It really reflects psychology. The aggregate stock market, it reflects psychology more than fundamentals.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Are we experiencing, to use your phrase from 1996, I think, irrational exuberance in the stock market again?

    ROBERT SHILLER: Well, some people are.

    It has bubble elements to it, because people see the market going up, and they're regretting the fact that they didn't buy in several years ago. And they're tempted back into it. But it isn't the really strong bubble that we saw before, because there are so many clouds and there are so many issues on people's minds that it doesn't look like the chance of a lifetime now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I know you don't like to make predictions and think they're foolish in some sense.

    ROBERT SHILLER: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But I'm not doing my job if I don't ask the Shiller of Case-Shiller...

    ROBERT SHILLER: Yes. Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: ... what about the housing market at the moment?

    ROBERT SHILLER: It's a very interesting phenomenon, to me, that there are bubbles in so many different countries around the world, like Brazil.

    I was just down there a few months ago. And they're going through a huge boom in housing. They have adopted kind of the mentality that we had eight years ago. It's uncanny. When I was in Brazil and talking to people, I felt like I was in the United States of 2005.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, did you start to warn them, the way you warned us then?

    ROBERT SHILLER: Well, I did, although the Brazilian home price boom is interpreted by most Brazilians as a sign of the country emerging.

    Brazil is joining the advanced countries of the world. And, of course, if you want to buy a condo in Sao Paulo, you have to expect to pay New York prices. That's where it's going, right? And if I say no, then it just feels bad to say that.

    And I can do it because I'm leaving Brazil. In an hour, in a couple of hours, so I am out of here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, I mean, you're a Nobel laureate who won the prize based in large measure on your skepticism about irrational markets, right?

    ROBERT SHILLER: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I mean, so you would think the Brazilians would go, oh, my goodness, Bob Shiller is calling a housing bubble?

    ROBERT SHILLER: Yes, some of them -- some of them did. But I'm sure it stays as a fringe opinion. It's just the forces to -- the patriotic forces. It just doesn't feel good, this alternative view.

    And, by the way, we have professional economists who could defend any viewpoint with statistics. And they -- they do that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Everywhere in the world.

    ROBERT SHILLER: Everywhere in the world.

    Economics is not an exact science. I wanted to be a scientist when I was a child.

    And I am lamenting ever since that I go into a field where I just can't be exact. And I don't think anybody can. What is the economy going to do next? We just went through the biggest housing bubble in U.S. history. It's off the charts. And now it is starting to go up again. What to make of that? Are we going back into another bubble economy? I don't know. And I don't see how anybody knows that.


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    The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-130 crew member on space shuttle Endeavour on Feb. 19, 2010.

    The NewsHour has confirmed that of the two cooling loops on the International Space Station, one has shut down. According to Brandi Dean, NASA spokesperson at the Johnson Space Center, the issue is probably related to a a control valve, but they are currently unsure if this is a tech or software problem. Dean confirmed this does not pose danger to the crew or to the experiments, and that all critical functions are fine.

    NASA has said a formal statement is coming shortly -- we will update as more information becomes available.

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    GWEN IFILL: In less than a year, Pope Francis has shaken up some of the images and public perception of the Catholic Church. TIME magazine selected him today as its person of the year.

    His remarks and actions have captivated Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, whether washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday or, when asked about the status of gays and lesbians in the church, telling reporters, "Who am I to judge?" or decrying the problems of economic inequality.

    The ripple effect has been remarkable. We assess his impact with Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity University -- Trinity Washington University, and Robert Royal, president of the Faith and Reason Institute.

    Welcome to you both.

    Let's start off with that, "Who am I to judge?" comment, because that struck me, because some people could have said, if not the pope, who? Is that what caught your attention?

    PATRICIA MCGUIRE, Trinity Washington University: That absolutely caught my attention. It caught the attention of Catholics everywhere and I think the people of the world.

    And it parallels what he said in his "America" interview when he was asked, "Who are you?" and he said, "I am a sinner," was the first way he described himself. He's very humble. He doesn't assume to have the power of an office that makes him better than everyone else. He is a real human being. And I think that's what people like about him.

    GWEN IFILL: But, Robert Royal, what doors did he open or at least appear to open in terms of interpretation by saying things like that, which might be in conflict with doctrine?

    ROBERT ROYAL, Faith and Reason Institute: Well, I think that it's not in contrast with doctrine, that it was read to be that way.

    But he said over and over again, "I am a man of the church," and he is clearly not going to be changing dogma in matter of faith and morals. What he meant by that, though, is something that every Christian ought to understand. And that is, we don't judge other people. So he's just restating a classic Catholic truth when he says that.

    I think the difference here -- and it is important to understand exactly what he said on that flight back from South America. He said, if somebody has a same-sex attraction and is trying to struggle with it, and is trying to move toward God, who am I to judge that person, in that respect?

    So the teaching hasn't changed. But the way he reaches out to human beings, the way he respects human beings of orientation, whatever sexual orientation they may be, that is the thing that I think has most struck people.

    GWEN IFILL: So, it's not just about that issue. It is about so many issues. Is he -- is it a matter of emphasis? Is the pope now talking more about what the church can give, rather than what it ought to forbid?

    PATRICIA MCGUIRE: I think, absolutely, he is talking more about how we should be of service to the world. It's less about rules in terms of what he has been saying so far. If you read his most recent statement, his apostolic exhortation, it is about finding joy in the Gospel message by serving others.

    And in serving others, we find our salvation. And, of course, the rules are there. He will not change the rules. The expectation that he will is I think a little naive. But we should live a life of spirituality and justice with joy and with hope. And that's a breath of fresh air.

    GWEN IFILL: But when he talks about social justice and inequality and those kinds of issues, as he did in this most recent statement, does that cause concern for more doctrinaire, traditional Catholics that he is straying into politics?

    ROBERT ROYAL: Well, I think that popes always tend to emphasize the fact that we ought to care for the poor.

    And if you look at that apostolic exhortation, there are many different pieces of the way he approaches that question. Now, obviously, he is trying to urge people to be more aware of the fact that there are many, many poor people still in the world, in spite of the fact that the world grows richer and richer in a variety of ways.

    So it is not so much that I think it is liberal or conservative. In fact, it may even be a little bit misleading to try and fit him into an American context of, is he more in favor of state intervention or is he more in favor of capitalism? What he is doing is putting the spiritual and the human focus on the fact that people are poor and are hurting and that all Christians and all human beings have a responsibility to take care of the people who are most hurting among us.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let's talk about what the pope has not said. He has not said that women should be ordained or even considered as priests. He has not said that priestly celibacy shouldn't be observed, even though he's -- someone -- people around him may have suggested that. He has not said that non-Catholics or that Catholics who violate the tenets of the church should be denied communion.

    There are so many things which he has not said, yet he is getting credit for being so much more open.

    PATRICIA MCGUIRE: Well, what he has said is the teaching of the church, though, so let's not say what he has not said. He is reinforcing the Gospel teachings of the church, the social justice tenets.

    And in being a champion for the poor, he is being a champion for human life. So, in fact, he is not departing from church teachings at all. The checklist you just enumerated is a very easy, populist, sort of secular checklist. Is the pope going to say it's OK that I can do what I want to do?

    Well, no, the pope is not going to do that. He may say "Who am I to judge?" because he wants me to judge myself. And he wants me to knows what's right and wrong. And he wants me to be of service to others. He wants me to be less preoccupied with me and more preoccupied with you. And I think that's a really important stylistic change.

    GWEN IFILL: So, cafeteria Catholics, as they're known, who say I will take this from column A and this from column B, who are now -- find him very appealing, they shouldn't necessarily be taking any kind of comfort in these statements?

    ROBERT ROYAL: No, I don't think that there is any way that you can look at him that way.

    The Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old tradition. And, in fact, you could even argue that it goes back into Judaism and back into the myths of prehistory. So we have got an established set of teachings about a variety of things.

    The way I like to describe what I think he's doing is this. He's a bit like a doctor who comes in to a sick person. And he has actually used this metaphor. The world is like a battlefield. And we have to go out and help the people that are wounded.

    But if a doctor comes and he's got a good bedside manner and he's a nice person, that's great, but he's not a good doctor unless he knows medical science. And so behind that beautiful charism that he has reaching out to people is a very strong, deep understanding of how these things all fit together.

    And I think that one of the most interesting things over and above the way he's obviously just energized people to pay attention to the church again is that they will begin to look deeper. And I think that is his ultimate -- his ultimate goal. He says that those moral questions, those hot-button cultural questions are secondary, but not secondary in importance, secondary in time. They come after an encounter with the person who loves you, who cares about you, who is God.

    GWEN IFILL: So, transformation is not the ultimate goal? As we all know, we have probably sat at this very table and talked about the problems plaguing the church over the last decade, especially pedophilia and issues like that. Is he trying to just change the subject or is he actually transforming the church as we know it?

    PATRICIA MCGUIRE: No, absolutely not.

    And I think he has to deal with the pedophilia issue. And he appointed a commission this week. And I think he will probably have many stronger things to say as time goes on. Even in the statements he's made so far, you can read his messages to his brother bishops and to priests.

    But I think he wants to create the sense of excitement to get Catholics back into the Catholic thing and to get Christians working together across all religious denominations to be of service to people who need us most, which is the poor.

    GWEN IFILL: When you see him on the cover of TIME magazine, do you think that this is a brilliant P.R. pope or someone who has actually done anything in this less than a year that he has been pope to change anything?

    ROBERT ROYAL: Well, he's got a way of conveying this spirit that is his.

    As you may recall, when he was -- right after he was elected, he went back to the religious house that he was staying in. And he carried his own bag down and he wanted to pay the bill. And they were shocked that a person who had just been elected pope was going to pay his own bill. And the joke in the Italian newspapers -- I was in Rome at the time -- oh, yes, I checked in under a different name.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ROBERT ROYAL: Look, he's just got this ability to energize people.

    And you see that from the very first instant with this man. Some of the American cardinals who elected him told me afterwards that, in those early preparatory conferences that they had together, several of them just had, that's the man that God wants to be the next pope, because he spoke right from his heart.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, we will see whether he actually effects real change or -- or -- or...

    PATRICIA MCGUIRE: I think he's already effecting change.

    GWEN IFILL: You think he already has.

    PATRICIA MCGUIRE: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, thank you very much, Patricia McGuire of Trinity Washington College, and Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute. Thank you.

    ROBERT ROYAL: Thank you.

    PATRICIA MCGUIRE: Thank you.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: What's happened to the people who invested their life's savings with disgraced financier Bernie Madoff?

    Today is the fifth anniversary of his arrest for fraudulently operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

    Five years ago, the world's media followed disgraced Wall Street financier Bernie Madoff wherever he went in New York, from the courthouse to his Park Avenue apartment. Madoff's fall from financial grace came hard and fast.

    In 2009, he pleaded guilty to running an elaborate global Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors of $64 billion in paper wealth and $17 billion in actual cash. The victims numbered in the thousands and many were left with nothing.

    MICHAEL DE VITA, Bernie Madoff Investor: This is a man who stole $65 billion. Nobody else has ever come close to $65 billion in theft. He has absolutely no remorse. You take a look at the people who have committed suicide as a result of this. Well, there's physical suicide, and there's emotional suicide. None of us will ever be made whole, ever.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: About $9 billion has been recouped so far by Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee charged with recovering the lost assets. He's suing a number of defendants, including J.P. Morgan Chase, claiming they should have known about the fraud.

    For decades, Madoff lived a lavish lifestyle and worked to deceive investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as heard in this 2005 phone call released later by investigators.

    BERNIE MADOFF: Obviously, first of all, this conversation never took place, OK? Look, you never know what they're going to ask, because these guys, it's a fishing expedition. That's what they do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Madoff has claimed he acted alone, but a separate fraud trial began this fall in New York for five former employees. They include his secretary, investment operations director and computer programmers.

    Madoff himself is serving a 150-year sentence at a medium-security prison in North Carolina, which he recently said was very laid-back and kind of like camp.

     


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