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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: A federal judge ruled today that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records is likely unconstitutional.

    Judge Richard Leon said the massive roundup of calls was an unreasonable search and violated Americans' reasonable expectation of privacy. But he put his decision on hold pending a likely government appeal. We will have more on today's ruling right after the news summary.

    The U.N. made a record $6.5 billion appeal today for aid to tackle Syria's refugee crisis. More than nine million Syrians have fled in the past three years as a civil war rages. Two million of them have escaped to nearby countries, including many who are now enduring unusually cold weather in tented camps.

    The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees said the money would go chiefly to countries who've taken in the largest number of fleeing Syrians.

    ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees: We are addressing the needs of a potential number of 4.1 million refugees at the end of 2014, projecting the present trends until then, but also of 2.7 million vulnerable people in the host communities.

    There is a tragedy in the plight of Syrian refugees. But let's not forget that they would have no place to go without the generosity of the neighboring countries.

    GWEN IFILL: We will take a closer look at the Syrian refugee crisis as it's affecting one of those host countries, Bulgaria, later in the program.

    Meanwhile, the war inside Syria rages on, with the death toll from yesterday's government air raids on opposition targets in Aleppo reaching 76. The victims included dozens of children.

    A new wave of violence swept across Iraq today, from Mosul to Baghdad, leaving at least 65 people dead. Suicide bombers and gunmen mostly targeted Shiite Muslims in their attacks, some of them on a pilgrimage. In one, a parked car bomb left mangled metal in the street outside an outdoor market. No claims of responsibility have been made in any of the attacks, but they bore the mark of al-Qaida militants.

    The Pentagon announced today two detainees at Guantanamo have been transferred to their native Saudi Arabia. The men had been held at the Cuban facility since 2002. No charges were ever filed against them. U.S. military documents allege one of the detainees was an al-Qaida courier and both fought in Afghanistan. President Obama has pledged to shut down Guantanamo, but has faced strong resistance from Congress.

    The U.S. is boosting maritime aid to Southeast Asian countries as tensions grow with China. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged more than $32 million to help protect territorial waters in the South China Sea. Four countries have competing claims with China. During meetings with officials in Vietnam, Kerry did take the opportunity to criticize Chinese moves in the East China Sea, where they're setting up an air defense zone.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The United States doesn't recognize that zone and doesn't accept it. China's announcement will not change how the United States conducts military operations in the region. This is a concern about which we have been very, very candid, and we have been very direct with the Chinese. The zone shouldn't be implemented.

    GWEN IFILL: Tensions over that airspace led to a close call between U.S. and Chinese warships. China's Global Times, an official government newspaper, today blamed the near-miss on the U.S., saying the American Navy was harassing the Chinese squadron in international waters.

    The federal government is putting antibacterial soaps under the microscope to see if they actually prevent infection. Recent research suggests chemicals in the soaps can interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. The Food and Drug Administration is proposing that soap-makers prove their products are more effective than regular soap and water. We will hear more about that proposal later in the program.

    An Ohio man was sentenced today to 28 years in prison for orchestrating a $100 million Navy veterans charity scam. John Donald Cody, who also goes by Bobby Thompson, defrauded donors in 41 states under the guise of his bogus charity: the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. Cody was also fined $6 million. His lawyers plan to appeal the verdict.

    Stocks on Wall Street surged today, as they bounced back from last week's worst showing since the summer. The jump comes ahead of a two-day Federal Reserve meeting on the stimulus. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 129 points to close at 15,884. The Nasdaq rose 28 points to close at 4,029.

    The Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine has died at her home in California of natural causes. Fontaine became a major film star in the 1940s. She starred in two of Alfred Hitchcock's films, including his adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's gothic novel "Rebecca." Fontaine was 96 years old.

    And Peter O'Toole, known best for his role in "Lawrence of Arabia," also died this weekend after a long illness. He was 81.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the first legal setback for the National Security Agency since the disclosures by Edward Snowden, a federal judge ruled today that its phone metadata collection program is likely unconstitutional.

    U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appeared to breach the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures and that the Justice Department failed to show that the mass collection helped stop terrorist attacks.

    In a statement provided to reporter Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden reacted to the ruling, saying -- quote -- "Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many" -- end quote.

    Well, joining me now to discuss the ruling, the lawsuit that prompted it, and what it means for the NSA's program is reporter Josh Gerstein of Politico.

    Welcome back to the program, Josh.

    Tell us about what was behind this lawsuit, who is behind it and so forth.

    JOSH GERSTEIN, Politico: Well, it's really one of at least four lawsuits that have been filed in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures earlier this year about this metadata program that sweeps up information on billions, maybe trillions of phone calls that have been made over the last five years to, from and within the U.S.

    This particular lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C., by a conservative legal activist many people may remember from the Clinton years by the name of Larry Klayman. And he's just the one without happened to get a ruling on his lawsuit first, before some of these other suits brought by perhaps better-known organizations like the ACLU made it to get some initial rulings.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the judge wrote along, what is described as a blistering opinion. What essentially is he saying is unconstitutional here?

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Well, first he says that this is a search, what the NSA is doing does get into the private information of Americans.

    The government's position has been that it doesn't get into really private information, that you disclose this kind of information when you make a phone call, the phone company knows what numbers you're calling, how long the call is, and for decades, the government, supported by a Supreme Court decision from the 1970s, has said that once you reveal that information to a third party, it's not protected and the government doesn't even need a warrant to look at it.

    And the judge here is essentially departing from that decision and saying what the NSA is doing in terms of its scope and also in terms of the way people communicate these days, it's just a different situation. And to compare it to picking up on a landline in the 1970s, it's just not similar.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is he saying that is different, though, about what previous courts have ruled? What is different about this data collection?

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Well, he says the scope of it, for one thing; to collect information on every American's telephone calls and all the calls that they make is different than going after one or two suspected criminals on a specific phone line.

    We're talking here about the fact that 99.99 percent of the information the government collects in this program is not connected to any crime. They're just ordinary phone calls. But the government says they need all that information so that if they determine later there might be a tie to terrorism, they can go back and look at it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he also is saying that there's no -- that the government hasn't provided any proof that this collection has stopped any terrorist attacks.


    He does say that it appears to him that it's ineffective, that maybe in some instances it does get the government information sooner on -- perhaps on some types of terrorist investigations. But they have never shown to him anyway a case where this was the decisive factor that led them to wrap up a terrorist plot they wouldn't have found out about anyway. And, frankly, that's also something the government's had trouble articulating up on top of Capitol Hill, just how many times has this program been critical.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, now, this is not the Supreme Court. It's not an appellate court. It is a federal district judge. So what is the significance? What will this mean?

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Well, in terms of legal significance and immediate significance, I don't think it's very important from a legal perspective, because, as you say, the appeals courts will eventually weigh in. And there's three or four other lawsuits. There are also criminal cases where this is coming up.

    So, one or more of those will eventually work their way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court will have to deal with this issue. But right now, we have decisions being made at the White House and on Capitol Hill about what kinds of reforms should be implemented on this program. And I do think that the judge coming out and saying that he thinks it's unconstitutional and perhaps, more problematic, saying that it's ineffective will influence that debate and might push forward some reforms that might not have made it across the finish line otherwise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is -- you have talked to a lot of people around this. What is the administration saying? I saw the NSA put out a statement saying, we continue to believe what we're doing is constitutional.

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Yes, look, they believe it's legal. And they point to the fact that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is made up of judges of the same rank as Judge Leon, 15 of those judges have authorized or reauthorized this program and found it to be constitutional.

    What the critics will say is, look, that wasn't an open court proceeding, as we saw in the statement from Mr. Snowden via Glenn Greenwald. Those were secret proceedings, where nobody was arguing against the legality of the program. And now we're really having the first debate or battle where it's really joined between two sides arguing the legal merits.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, continue to watch.

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Definitely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Josh Gerstein, thank you.

    JOSH GERSTEIN: Thank you, Judy.


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    GWEN IFILL: Federal Reserve officials are facing a delicate dilemma once again this week: When is the right time to take a smaller role in an economic recovery that's clearly under way, but one that still has left many Americans behind?

    NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman has the story. It's part of his ongoing coverage Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A candle, also known as a taper, a candle shrinking, also known as tapering, and thus we introduce the decision once again facing the Federal Reserve and its much-anticipated Open Market Committee meeting this week.

    To taper or not to taper, that is the burning question for bond investors, for stock investors, for the economy as a whole. Since the crash of '08, the Fed has created several trillion dollars of new money to buy Treasury and mortgage-backed bonds. Will that buying finally taper off?

    We spoke with former Fed economist Catherine Mann.

    CATHERINE MANN, Brandeis University International Business School: Paper means reduce the amount, the pace, so going from $45 billion to, say, $35 billion a month.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Billions of dollars that, ever since the crash, the Fed's trading desk in New York has periodically injected into the economy by a process known as quantitative easing, creating great quantities of money to buy bonds, thus easing interest rates to boost the economy.

    So what does Professor Mann think the Fed will do this week?

    CATHERINE MANN: I don't think the Fed's going to do anything. This is Christmas season. This is not where you want to have coal in the stocking, so they are just going to not do anything. In fact, I don't think they're really going to do anything until later in the second quarter of 2014.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what are they going to do then?

    CATHERINE MANN: I think there's this nuance in the paper discussion that I think is important, tapering U.S. Treasury purchases, but perhaps not tapering or delaying the paper of mortgage-backed securities.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, the Fed has been buying these two very different kinds of bonds for two very different reasons.

    The Treasury bond purchases were mainly meant to keep overall interest rates low, so people in businesses would borrow to spend, and thus grow the economy. The mortgage bond buying, however, was to revive the housing market. So how has it been going?

    CATHERINE MANN: The banks have not done much in the way of lending.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because the economy hasn't really recovered yet, says Mann.

    CATHERINE MANN: So, if you are a bank and you make a loan today at a lower interest rate to a borrower, you know that that loan is not going to be worth it in a couple of years, when the interest rates in general are higher, even if you give that business a floating rate loan.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Like a variable-rate loan.


    So, as interest rates go up kind of generally, they will go up to that borrower too. Well, that borrower is now in a riskier situation then they were when you lent them at very low interest rates.

    PAUL SOLMAN: They might not be able to pay you back.

    CATHERINE MANN: Might not be able to pay you back.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The Treasury purchases have, however, fueled a more controversial sort of growth, in the value of assets like stocks, says economist Robert Shiller, who just won a Nobel Prize for his work on markets.

    ROBERT SHILLER, Yale University: That's because investors don't see the alternatives in the dead market as attractive. So they pile into the stock market and bid it up.

    CATHERINE MANN: Stock equity markets, commodity prices and trading on foreign exchange, for example, those are collateral consequences of very cheap money that are starting to become more of a concern. So there's been this question about whether or not the quantitative easing strategy has disproportionately benefited the upper end of the distribution, wealth distribution, who own stocks.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So with a possible bubble in markets like stocks, and no real speed-up in business investment or consumer spending, the Fed may soon decide the Treasury bond purchases are doing more harm than good. Continuing to buy mortgage-backed securities, however, might still make sense.

    CATHERINE MANN: For the middle class, the bulk of the their wealth is in their house. Those purchases aid the housing market. That really helps the middle class.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that's because, if the Fed is buying mortgage-backed securities, it's keeping housing interest rates low, makes it easier to buy a house, easier to build a house, more work for the construction industry.

    CATHERINE MANN: And the third element, of course, is, it supports the housing market overall, which means everybody who currently has a house and has a mortgage, their house price goes up. And so they have wealth in their house, home equity.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And then they might spend some of that wealth.

    CATHERINE MANN: And they might spend some of that wealth.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so you mean that the Fed will be tapering off its buying of Treasury securities, but maybe not tapering off its buying of mortgage-backed securities, because it wants to continue to prop up the housing market?

    CATHERINE MANN: I think that's a definite possibility.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what would Robert Shiller do were he to have been named the new Fed chair , instead of Janet Yellen, married to one of his closest friends and collaborators, fellow Nobel laureate George Akerlof?

    ROBERT SHILLER: I would have to think of some economic indicator that suggests that -- that the economy is repairing itself. And the Fed has given a suggestion that they will keep interest rates near zero until the unemployment rate falls below 6.5 percent. And, see, that -- that sounds like a rule of thumb. That sounds plausible.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But with unemployment still at 7 percent and holiday spending yet to seriously heat up, few expect the Fed to taper or put out it's not-so-brief candle as it struts and frets its hours upon the stage this week.

    GWEN IFILL: The Fed's decision will be announced Wednesday. That's also when outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold what could be his last news conference on the matter.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now to a debate that never seems to end. Every time a shooter goes on the rampage in a public place, the discussion turns to guns, mental health and even to violent video games.

    The FBI today said it helped disrupt or prevent nearly 150 shootings and other violent attacks in the past year, in part by directing potential attackers to mental health services. So there has been some progress, but there always seem to be new headlines.

    Friday's shooting at a suburban Denver high school was the latest violent jolt. Well-wishers left flowers today at a growing tribute to student Claire Davis. She was shot at point-blank range by a fellow student, 18-year-old Karl Pierson. Davis remains in a coma in critical, but stable condition at a local hospital.

    The latest shooting came as the nation was marking the first anniversary of the shocking attack in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 schoolchildren and six educators. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School revived the long-running debate over the causes and solutions for a mass shootings like it.

    It also prompted President Obama to say he would push for gun control legislation that wasn't a top priority during his first term.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We can't put this off any longer.

    GWEN IFILL: That appeal for congressional action came just after the new year. The plan called for overhauling the nation's gun laws while providing more treatment for the mentally ill.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun. So I'm putting forward a specific set of proposals. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality.

    GWEN IFILL: Among other things, the president pushed Congress to bar the sale of ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds, mandate background checks for all gun purchases, including online and gun show sales, and provide new funding for mental health counselors at schools and in communities.

    But most of that went nowhere. The gun control legislation in particular met stiff resistance in Congress. The National Rifle Association said the measures would do little to stem gun violence.

    The NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre:

    WAYNE LAPIERRE, National Rifle Association: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation, and to do it now, to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January.

    GWEN IFILL: Just four months after the shooting, any political support once again collapsed.

    President Obama expressed his frustration in a Rose Garden appearance.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil. But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand, if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future, while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.

    GWEN IFILL: Gun control activists shifted their effort to the state level, winning a high-profile fight in Colorado, where voters agreed to require background checks for private gun transfers and to ban magazines that could hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition.

    But they lost battles too. According to The New York Times, more than 1,500 gun bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country since the Newtown shooting. Only 109 became law. Of those, 39 tightened gun restrictions. And, of those, 15 focused on helping the mentally ill. The other 70 laws actually loosened regulations on firearms.

    Last week, the White House marked the Newtown anniversary by pledging $100 million for improved mental health services and facilities.

    So, are we making any progress?

    For that, we turn to Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association and chair of Columbia University's Department of Psychiatry, and Paul Barrett the author of "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun" and a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek.

    Welcome to you both.

    Dr. Lieberman, since Newtown, since Aurora, since Virginia Tech, since the Navy Yard shooting, in each of those cases, mental illness was traced on behalf of the part of the shooter. Is there anything that's changed in that time?

    DR. JEFFREY LIEBERMAN, American Psychiatric Association: Well, you're right, Gwen. It has been like a tragic deja vu all over again, with the serial mass violence incidents occurring, and unfortunately involving disproportionately people with mental illness.

    But I do think there's reason to think this time may be different, because in the wake of these series of mass violent episodes, there has been a greater attention, a greater debate and more legislative action to try and address the root cause of the problem, which is the inadequacy and lack of quality comprehensive mental health care services.

    This is really the best way to stem many of the problems associated with the historic health care disparity in not providing good care to people with mental illness.

    GWEN IFILL: Paul Barrett, is that the root cause?

    PAUL BARRETT, "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun": Well, there are multiple causes to these issues. And we're really talking about multiple issues. The random mass shooter, the suicidal young man who wants to take out a lot of people as he goes down is one issue. Violent crime on the streets is another issue.

    But I certainly would agree wholeheartedly with what the doctor just said, that we should certainly hope that the Newtown massacre causes people to realize that, for years, we have actually been going in the wrong direction on mental health. The states have been cutting billions of dollars out of mental health budgets.

    And so the relatively modest increases we have seen in the last year are only beginning to make up for that fact. We have 90 percent fewer in-patient psychiatric beds today than we had in the 1950s. So there is a long distance to go even to get back to even.

    GWEN IFILL: So let me ask you both this...


    GWEN IFILL: Go ahead, Dr. Lieberman.

    JEFFREY LIEBERMAN: I was going to say, this is absolutely true.

    What we have taken are only baby steps in terms of trying to remedy this problem. If you look at all violence in the United States, the mentally ill contribute a very small proportion, only 4 percent, but if you look at these civilian massacres, these mass violent incidents which seemingly have no rhyme or reason, mentally ill persons are disproportionately affected.

    And if you look at all of these individuals, virtually all of them, they have been individuals who have not received treatment or who have dropped out of treatment. And that's because we have a fragmented and an inadequate mental health care system and policy in this country.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Paul Barrett, has time been wasted on gun control, something which seems to freeze up in Washington, or -- and have people been focused on the wrong solutions?

    PAUL BARRETT: Well, I don't know about whether time has been wasted.

    But I certainly think that gun control proponents have tended to go back to the same solutions, perhaps not terribly productively. For example, the relentless focus on particular weapons -- you know, many -- often, we have been focusing on so-called assault weapons -- I think has proved to be very unfruitful over time.

    And focusing on things like access to weapons, narrowly focusing on that issue, whether it's through improving the background check system or it's improving the identification of potentially violent mentally ill people and then making sure they get into treatment, those are access issues.

    And I think if we focus more on the access to guns, you might be able to defuse the Second Amendment complaint that someone in Washington wants to come around and collect everyone's guns.

    GWEN IFILL: But, Dr. Lieberman, does this raise the -- I don't know, is there a stigma attached to the mentally ill that they are more likely to be violent than someone else?

    JEFFREY LIEBERMAN: Well, there definitely is a stigma, because violence committed by people with mental illness frequently doesn't conform to our understanding of passion crimes or robbing for money or even a disgruntled employee who comes back to shoot up his supervisor in the office.

    With mental illness, it's totally irrational, unpredictable. How do you explain a young man like Adam Lanza walking into an elementary school and killing little children who he had no relationship with? It makes no sense. And this is what scares the public. But this problem has been a long time in coming.

    It really stems back to Present John F. Kennedy's Community Mental Health Act, which attempted to provide a more civilized and humane level of care to people in the community, as opposed to keeping them in the silence. Now, that vision was never realized, because our policies and commitments to making it real was never fulfilled.

    And what we see in these violent crimes is the tip of the iceberg of that. But the other elements of the iceberg are the 40 percent of the homeless who are mentally ill, the 30 percent of prison inmates who have mental illness and have been laundered through the criminal justice system.

    And the violent crime is simply the extreme consequence of this failed policy.

    GWEN IFILL: Paul Barrett, where should this be addressed, at the state level, at the local level? Is it prevention that needs to be addressed first?

    PAUL BARRETT: I think it's all of the above.

    I think prevention is certainly a big part of this issue. I think trying to separate out the radioactive Second Amendment-related debate from the potentially more specific and not necessarily specifically gun-related issues of mental health that we're talking about here this evening would be a huge step forward.

    I think that's an area where a lot of consensus could be found. And I think it has to be addressed at all levels. It has to be addressed at federal level with funding. State and local agencies are the ones that will ultimately carry it out, and even nonprofit and private organizations that are part of the picture as well.

    GWEN IFILL: Dr. Lieberman, help me with something. I read today that mass shootings are up, the rate of mass shootings has increased, but the rate of gun homicides is actually down.

    How do those two things coexist? How can that be?

    JEFFREY LIEBERMAN: Well, I think law and order has been a great success in many of our cities. Crime in New York, where I live, is at historic lows.

    And this has been a great success of our police force and our system of law enforcement. On the other hand, though, our treatment of mental illness has not gotten any better. And over half of the mass killings that have occurred in the last five years have been from untreated people with mental illness.

    But I think there has been some forward movement. The president and the administration are to be applauded for their focus on mental health care. Vice President Biden has become very much engaged. Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania introduced historic legislation this week on the anniversary of the Newton tragedy to try and reform how mental health care services are delivered.

    We need to have comprehensive and proactive mental health care services, and with a particular focus on youth, because youth is really the breeding ground for mental illness.

    GWEN IFILL: Paul Barrett, what do you see about the distinction between mass homicide -- I mean, gun homicides and mass shootings?

    PAUL BARRETT: Well, I think this is a crucial point.

    I think a lot of people who are mystified by why gun control proposals at the national level have not fared well over the last dozen to 15 years ought to look at our overall crime rates. Let's set to one side the aberrational school shootings just for a moment. That horrific phenomenon set to one side, this is a much safer country today than it was 20 years ago.

    Violent crime rates are down by 50 percent since 1993. That is very, very significant. And that has destabilized the traditional liberal argument that more guns just equals more crime in a very simplistic relationship. It's more difficult to say that today, because compared to the early '90s, for example, we have more guns, but overall less crime.

    So we need to think about this in new ways. We need to look at places like New York City, where crime rates are down drastically, ask what has happened in those communities, and how can we replicate those anti-crime programs, while simultaneously going after the mental health issues we have been talking about this evening.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, as I said at the beginning, this is a conversation that is never going to end.

    Paul Barrett, the author of "Glock," and Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman of the American Psychiatric Association, thank you both so much.

    PAUL BARRETT: Thank you.




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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As the cold and flu season approaches, one of the more common pieces of advice you hear is about the importance of washing your hands. Increasingly, consumers have bought antibacterial soaps to help boost their protection.

    But, today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that those soaps may not be any more effective, and they may pose some health risks of their own over the long haul.

    Elizabeth Weise covered this for USA Today.

    Elizabeth, thank you for joining us. People have been using these soaps for years. What is it now that the FDA is worried about?

    ELIZABETH WEISE, USA Today: Well, the FDA has two concerns.

    The first is, do these actually work? Do they actually help people get fewer illnesses? And, secondly, are they safe for long-term, frequent use? And although you might imagine that FDA knows the answer to both those questions, it turns out they actually don't. And now they Have decided they want to know that answer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So -- and so now -- and so they're saying they are going to do more testing. And what is it about The substances, the chemicals in this soap that has them concerned?

    ELIZABETH WEISE: Well, the FDA is not going to do the testing. They are telling the industry to do the testing. They basically said to the manufacturers of these hand soaps and body washes, you need to prove to us that these are safe and effective.

    And the concern is, there's a chemical called triclosan, which is -- it's actually -- it was used as a surgical scrub starting in the '70s. And we began to put it in pretty much all the soaps that you can find when you go to the grocery store. And FDA is concerned because there have been studies -- and they have all been in animals -- but there have been studies that have shown that this specific chemical could cause endocrine disruptions.

    Most of these studies are in rats and frogs, where they see that the female animals have earlier puberty and the male animals have lower sperm count. And there's also some concern that they might affect thyroid function. And then the other concern FDA has is -- is this broad use of an antibacterial in -- that the public is using, is that making -- giving us a higher percentage of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world as a whole?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why weren't these tests requested before?

    ELIZABETH WEISE: Well, these are over-the-counter preparations, so FDA -- they were -- the FDA calls these things generally considered safe, generally recognized as safe.

    And they have been considered, grasped for as long they have been around. And now FDA is coming back and saying, you know what? We are starting to see studies that are concerning us. We don't know. And we want you, the manufacturers, to do the studies now and tell us, prove to us that these are safe and effective. And, if they are, great. And if they're not, FDA is saying, we need to you take them off the market or you need to change your packaging and stop saying that they are protective against illness.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in the meantime, what should consumers do? Should they continue to buy these soaps, these products?

    ELIZABETH WEISE: Well, you know, the thing is, when you talk to people at the Centers for Disease Control, there's ample evidence that plain soap and water is pretty much the best thing you can use to protect yourself.

    And one of the things that the FDA said on the press call today that was interesting is a lot of advertising you see around this is all about people with colds and they're blowing their nose and their eyes are running. Well, those are colds. Those are viruses. Antibacterials do absolutely nothing for viruses.

    And that's the most common illness in the United States. So even if you are using antibacterials, it is not going to protect you against a cold. So you might as well just use soap and water and save some money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Common sense, good advice.

    Elizabeth Weise, USA Today, thank you.

    ELIZABETH WEISE: Thanks so much.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Driven from their homes by civil war, Syrian refugees are fleeing,flooding across borders in numbers that have received a considerable amount of international attention. Many of them, thousands, have fled to Europe's poorest country, Bulgaria, only to find that it is ill-equipped to handle the influx and sometimes hostile to their very presence.

    Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News traveled there recently and filed this report.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: In a small town in Bulgaria, a refugee camp like no other in Europe. Over 1,000 Syrians are crammed into housing meant for just 400. Many of them have been living without electricity or hot water for weeks. And because there aren't enough prefab huts, some are facing winter in Bulgarian army tents.

    Whatever the horrors of war they left behind, nothing prepared these Syrians for a European welcome as warm as this.

    Jadia Al-Daim was a teacher, now finding herself sharing a tent with three Syrian families many miles from home.

    WOMAN: I have family back there, so I have -- I'm thinking about them all the time. It's not easy. I didn't say goodbye to my family. And they came here. I thought it would be much better. But I was wrong.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Would you ever go back?

    WOMAN: Yes, I will go back today, before tomorrow.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: But there is no turning back. These families, mostly Kurds from Northern Syria, have already paid smugglers 300 euros each to cross into Europe from Turkey. It can take up to a month to be registered as a refugee here.

    And then the Bulgarians give them just one euro a day each with which to feed themselves. Menau told me she and her children had fled from jihadist groups and that their home was bombed. Rashid was once a tour guide in Damascus. His own tour of Europe has not started well.

    RASHID JAMIL, refugee: And coming here, it's different, not what we think or what we have dreamed or something like that. That's a big problem for us, but what we can do? We are in here now.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: You're trapped.


    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Rashid walked for 10 hours to reach Bulgaria, one of a steady stream of Syrians caught here on heat-sensitive cameras by Bulgarian police.

    Here, the border guards are waiting to ambush new arrivals. When they do, the refugees can be seen cowering as they are rounded up in the early hours of the morning. We joined a Bulgarian border patrol. The guards say this route into Europe has become popular since the Greeks built a fence last year. Now the Bulgarians have begun building a fence of their own.

    They are catching 10 times the numbers they did a year ago, rounding them up in this processing center which is full to overflowing. The U.N. has repeatedly described conditions for refugees here as unsafe and dire. But we weren't allowed to meet these brand-new arrivals.

    The camps in Turkey are already overloaded, and the Bulgarians say they too are in danger of being overwhelmed. Turkey, which is just on my right here, has taken in about half-a-million Syrian refugees, Bulgaria, by comparison, about 5,000, but this is fortress Europe at a time of austerity. And the presence of some 5,000 Syrian refugees has become one of the biggest political issues of the day here.

    In the capital, Sofia, crowds have been protesting that the poorest country in Europe can't take any more foreigners and that the border should be sealed shut.

    MAN (through interpreter): We have warned that the increase in legal immigrants will increase the criminal situation. It will start clashes and increase tensions, leading to social, religious and social unrest in Bulgaria.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Syrians now live with the constant threat of racial violence. In a hospital, we found the brothers and sisters of 17-year-old Ali from Aleppo comforting him after he was punched and stabbed. His mother showed me the wound inflicted by an attacker on the outskirts of the refugee camp in the capital.

    MAN (through interpreter): When I started screaming, he escaped.

    And then I went to the police at the checkpoint. I told them that I had been stabbed, so they called the ambulance and took me to the hospital.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Ali was attacked outside this derelict school, which is home to some 800 Syrian refugees. Fifteen members of his extended family now live and sleep in this one room. They say their home was hit by Syrian jets, so they crossed into Turkey, and carried this old woman for much of their six-hour trek to Europe.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): We had four rooms downstairs and four rooms upstairs. Our home was a two-story building. At least the children can sleep here, because they cannot hear the sound of bombing and warplanes.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Her children are too frightened to play with those outside, even though the camp is guarded by Bulgarian police. So they play in the schools' corridors, which double up as dormitories.

    This used to be a classroom. Now 10 Syrian families live in each one. There is no laundry and no kitchen either, not even a sink to wash the dishes. "Bulgarians are poor," this woman said. "They can't be expected to help us. Other nations should."

    An avenue of homes screened off with the help of tree branches, even though E.U. law demands a dignified standard of living for refugees. There is a barber, though, who says he has no regrets coming here, escaping the shadow of Syria's civil war. But the camp's Bulgarian commandant complains that there are no doctors, with ambulances several times a day ferrying off the sick.

    MAN (through interpreter): The capacity of the camp is full. But when a family with five to 10 children arrive at midnight and they don't have anywhere to sleep, I force myself to do the impossible and accommodate them.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Yet, none of this reflects well on Bulgaria, accused of keeping conditions deliberately awful to deter more Syrians from coming.

    You have got a situation leer where you have Syrian refugees who are living with no heating, no electricity, no running water, no doctors in the camp. Isn't that a disgrace for a European country?

    VASIL MARINOV, Bulgarian Deputy Interior Minister (through interpreter): At the moment, we are working on the water and the electricity. But, actually, we rely on solidarity of the European Union and the possible relocation of some of these refugees. You should know that Bulgaria is one of the countries with the lowest gross domestic product per capita.

    ILIANA SAVOVA, State Agency for Refugees: For me as a Bulgarian, I'm really ashamed of the conditions that we put these people to, because these are people who came from war.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: But this is a poor country. That is what a lot of Bulgarians would say.

    ILIANA SAVOVA: I mean, come on. It is a poor country, that's right. But, I mean, we should be able to provide at least basic standards to these people, at least some hospitality and some basic things, like, you know, feeding them, keeping them warm, and giving them the medical, you know, attention they need.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Europe was a dream for these refugees. Now seeking sanctuary here seems like a desperate gamble. And faced with conditions like these, their journey west in search of a brighter future will surely begin again.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: the Man in Black. It's been 10 years since the legendary singer songwriter died at age 71.

    Last week, his estate announced a new album would be released in March. The never-before-heard songs were recorded in 1986. The audiotapes of the original recording sessions recently were discovered in the family archives.

    We get a look now at Johnny Cash the man.

    Jeffrey Brown has our book conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From the Sun recording studios in Memphis to California's Folsom Prison, to the famous last video he recorded before he died, Johnny Cash crossed musical boundaries and influenced and moved several generations of singers, songwriters and fans, even while he struggled with his own addictions and pains.

    All of this can be found in "Johnny Cash: The Life," a new biography by Robert Hilburn, who served as chief music critic for The Los Angeles Times for more than 30 years.

    Welcome to you.

    ROBERT HILBURN, "Johnny Cash: The Life": Great, Jeff. Thank you. Nice to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The man himself wrote memoirs. There is the famous hit movie, right, "Walk the Line." There's been other biographies.

    Why did you feel it was necessary? What has been missed that you wanted to capture?

    ROBERT HILBURN: Well, I had known Cash from the Folsom Prison days through a week before he did the "Hurt" video. And I didn't think about writing a biography until after his death.

    I thought he was an amazingly important artist, someone who is going to be remembered 50 years ago, but I wasn't going to write a biography. Then I saw the movie, I read the books about him, and I didn't think they told his story. I thought they didn't explain the artistry of him or the struggle in his private life.

    And I thought he deserved to have his story told.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Did he have an early sense of mission or struggle? Was that apparent from the very beginning?

    ROBERT HILBURN: Yes, yes, absolutely.

    He was -- came from a -- well, one of the things I was fascinated by him, of all the people I interviewed, Dylan, Springsteen, everybody you can imagine that was important in pop music, he was the most mysterious to me.

    Where did his artistry come from? He comes from a cotton patch in Arkansas. He enters a field of country music in the '50s that had no more ambition. No one else had any more ambition than a hit on the jukebox. But he had a mission. He wanted to lift people's spirits, almost like a minister in a way.

    He -- he -- no matter how much problems you have, no matter how much suffering you have gone through, no matter how much you sinned, don't lose faith. There's better times ahead.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But that is part reflecting his own life, right, because, I mean, the running theme here, the addictive personality, hurting himself, hurting other people, his career and even his life in danger several times along the way.

     ROBERT HILBURN: Well, that's -- that's the kind of bonus.

    I mean, I didn't realize -- I thought I knew Johnny Cash before I started the book. I wasn't within a hundred miles of knowing Johnny Cash. The first thing you find out is, he gets his sense of artistry on the cotton patch. He and his family in the hot sun would sing Gospel music, and that would comfort him.

    He would go to church. Everybody in -- all these destitute farmers in this little tiny town would sing Gospel music. They would lift their spirits. So his mission was to lift people's spirits the way his spirits had been lifted as a child.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You write a lot about the myth-making aspect to it, right, the stories that he told about himself. And yet there's also this incredibly authentic Johnny Cash, the reason I think people connect with him.


    JEFFREY BROWN: How do you put these two together, myth-making and the authenticity?


    ROBERT HILBURN: The best thing I have heard, Kris Kristofferson wrote a great song about Cash. He is a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.

    Now, that's exactly true. I took 700 pages to write what Kris wrote in those four lines.


     ROBERT HILBURN: And part of it was, he's an artist. He's a storyteller. Rather than tell you, I went to the market yesterday, he will make a more dramatic way of saying it.

    That is part of the storytelling. Never let the facts interfere with a good story. Now, on the other hand, he was this idealistic person who was constantly battling these demons. So he was -- he felt the guilt of leaving, abandoning his family. His father never gave him the love he wanted. His brother dies young.

    All these things are troubling him. He starts taking pills to try to ease that pain. And, unfortunately, he's an addict. Other people in country music used to take two or three pills a day to give them energy. He would take 10 and 20 and 30 pills a day. He was spiraling out of control.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You talk about that famous moment in 1968 at Folsom Prison. You were the only rock critic/journalist there covering it. That was a moment where he took many pills.

    ROBERT HILBURN: Yes, yes, he did.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But describe that. Why -- why was that moment so important for him?

    ROBERT HILBURN: Well, he had -- see, the great thing, even maybe -- he was a very smart man, first of all. He had a 160 I.Q.

    But maybe more than his talent as a songwriter, he had an empathy for the underdog. He was always trying to lift people's spirits. He had played prisons before and he saw the reaction of these prisoners, because these prisoners, they knew they had had been in jail. They had heard Folsom Prison. They knew he had been in handcuffs on the front pages of a newspaper. His mother had seen that.

    So, there was this tremendous rapport. He wanted to do that concert because he wanted to have the best possible audience -- audience reaction on radio. The record company didn't want him particularly to do that. In fact, they didn't -- the only reason I was the only music there, Jeff, was they didn't want to invite anybody because they were afraid he was going to be stoned and have to cancel the concert.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They didn't want to publicize it at all.

    ROBERT HILBURN: No, of course not. Of course not.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And it turned out to be legendary.

    ROBERT HILBURN: Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic.



    It was his thing. His record career was kind of stuttering. He knew, if I could only show, only capture on record the rapport, the feeling I have in that concert -- and that did make him a superstar, that and the San Quentin album and the ABC television show.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In talking about his artistry, you really focus a lot on his works.


    JEFFREY BROWN: He wrote these songs.

    ROBERT HILBURN: Yes. Yes. He was...

    JEFFREY BROWN: And he had -- somehow, words were important to him?

    ROBERT HILBURN: Yes, he was always a good writer. In school, he used to do other people's assignments and homework and stuff. And they would pay him 50 cents.

    But he had the sense of poetry and songwriter. And he was always best if he was writing about his own life, "Five Feet High and Rising," "Hey Porter." "Sunday Morning Coming Down," Kristofferson wrote it, but he empathize with that song, or "The Man in Black."

    When he hold his story -- when he tried to write a hit for the jukebox, he wasn't nearly as good at it. He was much better when he was authentic writing about himself. And that is what he always prized, authenticity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Have you figured out -- this is my last question here for now, before we do the rest online, but you covered a lot of -- you have talked a lot of famous musicians, right? Have you figured out why a Johnny Cash is who he is, and so many others aren't? What is it that separates the special ones?

    ROBERT HILBURN: He had -- he had a mission, and he had a charisma, and he -- and the subject matter he chose to write about, values of American life, the underdog, every -- we're all underdogs in some way.

    We all respond to that. We always -- we all felt that he was talking to us. Whether it was a prison, a Native American reservation, everyone felt he was one of them. And so he -- he was speaking to the heart of America, somehow, and it came through.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will continue online. I want to ask you especially about June Carter and their relationship.

    But, for now, "Johnny Cash: The Life."

    Robert Hilburn, thanks so much.

    ROBERT HILBURN: Thanks, Jeff. Thank you.


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    By Nick Corcodilos

    An online personality test for a job could soon turn into an in-person, proctored test, so don't assume you'll be able to fool employers by having someone else take the online test for you. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nina J. G.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees -- just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: A friend of mine has an important job interview coming up. It's for a pretty high level job. Before she goes to the interview, they want her to do a personality type of test, and she's very worried because she doesn't test well. Her idea is to have someone else do the online test for her because no one would know. I think that's cheating, but I understand her concern -- she could miss out on a really good job over a test that won't mean anything once she starts the job. Is there any way they could find out it's not really her taking the test?

    Nick Corcodilos: That's a scary question.

    We live under an employment system where people think they can buy resumes, interview answers, keywords and clever methods to beat the filters employers set up when they're recruiting. It's no wonder your friend thinks it's okay to cheat on a test.

    There are several issues of integrity in your question, but all I'll say about this is don't lie, don't cheat, don't fake who you are. Even if you survive the guilt and even if you beat the risks, there's a good chance that the payoff might be that you'll win a job that's not right for you because you misrepresented yourself. Doesn't your friend understand that this is a big part of employment testing? It can be to her benefit as well as to the employer's to do the test honestly.

    My second point: I don't like employment tests. I wish employers didn't use them. If they're going to truly assess a job applicant, they should do it directly, by spending time with the applicant and observing them in real-life work situations, not indirectly through tests. (See "Kick The Candidate Out of Your Office.") So there's my personal bias.

    MORE FROM NICK CORCODILOS: Ask The Headhunter: Two Job Hunting Resources I Don't Hate

    Now let's put all this aside and deal with the very real problem of getting busted -- because cheating on employment tests isn't an option.

    Your question is the perfect example of how ignorance about employment tests could needlessly cost you a great job -- or even get you into bigger trouble. (Yes, bigger trouble. I'll tell you about that shortly.) It's not a matter of whether you'll have to take one of these tests (and there are many kinds) but of when. I'm turning to an expert to answer your question: Dr. Erica Klein, author of "Employment Tests: Get The Edge... when you compete for a job." (Klein's PDF book is available in the Ask The Headhunter Bookstore). Industrial psychologists like Klein normally conduct and interpret research only for the benefit of employers. Here's her advice for the job seeker.

    Reprinted with the author's permission from "Employment Tests: Get The Edge... when you compete for a job" by Erica Klein (pp. 9-10):

    What about cheating?

    High quality pre-employment testing benefits both employers and job applicants by matching them to help ensure mutual success. One way to think about cheating is that, if you cheat, you can hurt yourself by getting shoe-horned into a job that is not a good fit for you.

    What is considered cheating? Usually the rules for taking the test are laid out for you before you start the test. Rules for test taking vary but usually require doing your own work, answering factual questions honestly, not accepting help from anyone else and not accessing other sources of information while taking the test. The rules for different tests will vary. For example, some tests allow you to use a calculator and some will specifically instruct you not to use a calculator.

    Some tests are set up to catch certain kinds of cheating. One increasingly common practice is to provide two versions of the same test. The first test you take is "unproctored" -- you take it from your own computer and nobody is watching you. If you are in the top group of applicants, you might be invited to take the test again, but in a proctored environment where you are watched while you take the test and your identity is verified. If your score on the second, proctored test is significantly lower than the score on the unproctored test, then the employer assumes you probably cheated and excludes you from further consideration.

    [Get it? There's nothing to stop an employer from insisting that your friend take the test a second time, with someone watching. -- Nick]

    Applicants sometimes try to get a better score on personality or integrity tests by choosing answers that reflect what they believe would be a perfect person's answers. Test manufacturers are aware of this strategy and they have built in "lie detector" scales that catch applicants who portray themselves as perfect people with no flaws. This is sometimes called "claiming uncommon virtues" or "faking good." If you score high on a built-in lie scale, you may be excluded from consideration for the position. One example of a question that could be part of an uncommon virtue/lie scale is "Have you ever told a lie no matter how small?" It is a rare individual who has never told even a small lie in his or her entire life.

    I mentioned that ignorance about testing can lead to bigger trouble. Klein highlights this warning in her book:

    If you get caught cheating on pre-employment tests, you might ruin your chances for employment not only in the job you applied for, but also with that employer, and even possibly with other clients of the test vendor.

    That's right: Cheat on one test, and you could get blown out of many jobs because the test vendor can keep track of your results from one employer to the next.

    Your friend is not required to take any test, but the employer will probably dismiss her as a candidate if she doesn't participate. If she wants a chance at this job, tell your friend to take the test herself, and to answer honestly.

    Readers: Have you ever been surprised by an employment test? How did it turn out?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters...and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?", "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps" and "Fearless Job Hunting."

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown -- NewsHour's blog of news and insight. Follow @PaulSolman

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    The Image Bank

    Photo by John McBride & Company Inc.

    Are you being productive at work today?

    Chances are, yes, you are. That's according to a survey, performed by temporary-staffing firm Accountemps, that reports around 39% of human resource managers say that Tuesday is the most productive day of the week for employees.

    "Many workers spend Monday catching up from the previous week and planning the one ahead," Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, told the Los Angeles Times. "On Tuesday, employees may begin to have time to focus on individual tasks and become more productive.

    The survey also says that employees tend to be far more productive in the morning than the afternoon, with Tuesday hours between 10 a.m. and noon being the most productive of the week.

    So, enjoy the rest of a productive Tuesday. (We hope reading The Rundown counts!)

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    A new study shows why children raised in households with dogs have a lower risk of asthma and allergies. Photo by Flickr user Junayed Sadat

    Dog owners already know their four-legged friend is good for their health, but they have more proof thanks to a recent study from scientists at the University of California San Francisco and University of Michigan.

    A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a child's risk of developing asthma and allergies is reduced if the child is exposed to a dog in a household during infancy.

    While the results of the study come from mice, researchers believe the results explain the reduced allergy risk of children who were raised in homes with dogs from birth. Researchers found microbes that live in the gut of mice changed when exposed to dogs and that those microbes diminished the immune systems response to common allergens.

    "The results of our study indicate that this is likely to be one mechanism through which the environment influences immune responses in early life, and it is something we are currently examining using human samples in a large multi-institutional collaborative study funded by the NIAID," said Susan Lynch, PhD, associate professor with the Division of Gastroenterology at UC San Francisco.

    "Gut microbiome manipulation represents a promising new therapeutic strategy to protect individuals against both pulmonary infection and allergic airway disease."

    So, if you were raised in a household with a dog, how are your allergies?

    H/T Bridget Shirvell

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    Photo by Flickr user MicrosoftPDC

    Former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene will take the lead on HealthCare.gov's revamp. Photo by Flickr user MicrosoftPDC.

    The Obama administration has announced that a former Microsoft executive will be taking over the revamp of the health care law's website.

    Kurt DelBene will take the lead on HealthCare.gov, replacing White House adviser Jeffrey Zients, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to overhaul the insurance portal after numerous problems plagued the site post-launch. The announcement, from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said DelBene would provide "management expertise, operations oversight, and critical advice on additional enrollment channels, field operations, marketing and communications."

    DelBene starts his new responsibilities Wednesday and will stay with the project, the release says, for "at least the first half of next year."

    Today, I am pleased to announce Kurt DelBene as my Senior Advisor and successor to Jeff Zients: http://t.co/dwGWlmQUkq

    — Kathleen Sebelius (@Sebelius) December 17, 2013

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    Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

    On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took flight for 12 seconds in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

    Learn how they controlled their aircraft with NOVA's Wright brothers interactive.

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  • 12/17/13--06:40: Lost in interpretation
  • Barbie Parker is a rock star sign language interpreter. When a guitarist starts a riff, Parker plays air guitar. When the drummer starts pounding, she claps to the beat. Her body moves to the rhythm of the songs as she signs lyrics with the same attitude as the musicians, from Bob Dylan to Lady Gaga.

    When Parker’s audience -- those who are deaf and hard of hearing -- see her interpretations for the first time, they often say “Now I understand why people like music.” As an interpreter, Parker gives the deaf community an opportunity to appreciate an experience that for so long was only accessible to those who could hear.

    Quality interpreting enables a deaf audience to experience and participate in public events usually only accessible for hearing individuals. But poor interpreting can alienate viewers, and create even bigger gaps in communication.

    [ View Content ]

    When deaf viewers watched Nelson Mandela’s memorial last week and realized the sign language interpreter was making gestures that were little more than gibberish, they were outraged. Word of the botched event spread throughout the deaf community over social media networks. Thamsanqa Jantjie, the infamous “fake interpreter” had stolen a moment in history from those who could not hear.

    "The fact that there is someone willing to pose as an interpreter is horrendous," Melanie Metzger, an interpreter practitioner, said in a phone interview with PBS NewsHour. "The international deaf community is losing out the opportunity to participate in this historic event."

    In a joint statement released Thursday, the World Federation of the Deaf and the World Association for Sign Language Interpreters did not sugar-coat. They said that Jantjie “did not know (South African Sign Language) or any sign language at all."

    The task of interpreting the numerous speakers at Mandela’s memorial service would have been a challenge for even the most skilled sign language interpreter.

    Sign languages vary from country to country, with more than 200 used worldwide. While most use the hands, face and space around the body for grammatical purposes, the vocabulary, grammar and syntax will depend upon how deaf people in a specific region have historically communicated. The historical roots for spoken languages are not necessarily the same for a country's sign language. For example, Metzger said that American Sign Language has more in common with French Sign Language than with British Sign Language, even though British and American English, when spoken, are more or less the same.

    But the ability to sign is only one of the many skills needed to be considered a competent interpreter. Metzger, a professor and chair of the interpretation department at Gallaudet University, said the challenge of interpretation lies in learning how the mind takes in one language, reformulates it, and simultaneously expresses the meaning into another language. Within seconds, a qualified interpreter conveys both what is said and how a speaker says it.

    "It is very cognitively tasking," Metzger said.

    A sign language interpreter must be aware of how his or her surroundings can affect their interpretation. The space around their body can be critical to express the meaning of a  speech. Sign language interpreters even have to be careful about how they dress. Metzger said that interpreters  should wear solid-color clothing that contrasts with their skin color, so that their hands can be easily seen.

    And the style of interpretation can radically change based on the event and audience. Parker signed in a completely different manner for President Obama’s inaugural address at the National Mall in Washington compared to how she performed at a Jack White concert at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago.

    “The dress is different, the affect, the way we will sign is different,” Parker said as she described how she and her team at LotuSIGN approach public ceremonies, such as the 57th Inauguration in January. “It may seem more animated, but it will also be more reserved because of the nature of the event ... We stand tall. The gestures are larger, more crisp, almost more majestic and impactful.”

    Before an interpretation, Parker will prepare as much as possible, by reviewing any texts provided, watching YouTube videos of the speaker to study their rhetoric and style of delivery and to understand their perspective on issues. Being a good sign language interpreter heavily depends on being equally literate in a spoken language as a sign language. And not any interpreter can provide services for every signer. Parker, for instance, specializes in interpreting American English into American Sign Language.

    The job of an interpreter is to be a cultural mediator, to preserve the spirit and content of the hearing speaker’s words.“It is never about the interpreter,” Parker said, “it is always about the speaker and the client.”

    [ View Content ]

    Unlike Parker, who has been praised for the effectiveness of her interpretations, Jantjie has stood out for his inability to communicate to deaf audiences. The Deaf Federation of South Africa had already filed complaints with the governing African National Congress Party about Jantjie’s incorrect interpretations at other events, including ones where President Jacob Zuma had spoken, The Associated Press reported. Bruno Druchen, the federation’s national director, said that the ANC never responded to their formal complaint, which recommended that Jantjie complete a five-year course in interpretation.

    Parker was adamant that interpreters should only take on jobs that they know they can interpret with proper knowledge of the content and the event and can maintain complete neutrality. “Certification can document competence,” Parker said, “but the most important thing for interpretation is commitment to the deaf culture and to only interpret where you think you are qualified.”

    When the affect, the gestures or the style of movement don’t match that of a speaker, deaf people can tell. Larry Gray, who is deaf and an assistant professor of American Sign Language & Interpretation at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md., explained that humor, or lack thereof, is often an early sign that a deaf community is lost in interpretation. He wrote in an email to PBS NewsHour, “Oftentimes, if Deaf people notice that hearing people in the audience are laughing because the speaker makes a joke or says something funny, and we're not laughing, then we know that something is wrong.”

    While neither Parker, Metzger or Gray have first-hand knowledge of the situation involving Jantjie, the event brought up serious issues that many deaf communities face in the U.S. and around the world. For Parker, the lack of equal access to knowledge for deaf people is still a consistent problem and cause for concern. “People who don’t have a voice are oppressed by people in power.”

    Gray did not want to minimize the oppressive experiences of deaf people, but similar to almost all professions, there are interpreters, he noted, who become complacent or do not proactively try to improve their interpreting skills. Then, there are those who he says are “grossly incompetent.”

    “In the case of the Mandela's memorial service, because the imposter accepted an assignment he was not qualified nor competent to fulfill,” Gray wrote, “in this extreme situation, I would classify (this as) oppression.”

    Parker said that the unfortunate circumstances that led to the misinterpretation at the Mandela memorial could have been easily avoided if members of the deaf community had been included in the vetting process for an interpreter.

    “Deaf people should have been involved especially for events of this magnitude,” Gray wrote, in agreement with Parker. “In addition, there are additional resources such as Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and World Federation of the Deaf.”

    I believe that education and collaboration are necessary. For example, those who hire interpreters,  but do not know or understand the process and impact, would generally say, ‘Do you know sign language?’ and hire upon confirmation. It is more than knowing sign language.”

    The South African government has yet to say who was responsible for hiring Jantjie, but Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile formally apologized to the deaf community on Friday for any offense suffered as a result of Jantjie’s flawed interpretations.

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    Rebecca Eaton grew up an Anglophile, reading British novels and "pretending to be the heroines." That passion helped groom her for her decades-long tenure as the executive producer of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. "Making Masterpiece: 25 years behind the scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! On PBS" is her story.

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    People displaced following recent fighting in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, used elevated stairways as cover from the sun inside a U.N. compound on Tuesday. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

    The State Department urged U.S. citizens in South Sudan to "depart immediately" and suspended embassy operations until further notice because of increasingly violent activity in the capital Juba and elsewhere.

    The action followed what South Sudan's President Salva Kiir called an attempted coup on Sunday. He said unidentified soldiers, who supported his former vice president-turned-political opponent Riek Machar, opened fire at a meeting of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement political party on Sunday.

    Kiir appeared on state television Monday night to say the government was in control of the capital after an overnight curfew and the arrest of five political leaders thought to be allied with the opposition. Machar is believed to be in hiding.

    But gunfights continued in and around Juba, causing about 13,000 people to seek refuge at U.N. facilities, the United Nations said.

    At least 26 people -- mostly soldiers -- have died in the gun battles, according to the Ministry of Health, reported the Associated Press. Other estimates said more than 100 people were killed.

    "It's sad that this new country, born with so much hope, seems to be turning on itself." -- Jon Temin, U.S. Institute of Peace

    The conflict is not only political but reflects deep-rooted ethnic tensions in the new country, said Jon Temin, director of the U.S. Institute of Peace's Horn of Africa program. Kiir is Dinka and Machar belongs to the Nuer ethnic group, and both have their staunch supporters. So while the reports of violence were troubling, they were not particularly surprising, he said.

    The suspension of U.S. Embassy operations, however, was the first such action taken since South Sudan voted to secede from northern Sudan in January 2011, said Temin. "This is the most significant violence in Juba since the creation of South Sudan. It's sad that this new country, born with so much hope, seems to be turning on itself. The hope is this can be walked back, but that has to happen quickly."

    Read more:

    South Sudan celebrates becoming world's newest nation

    South Sudan's independence gets a 'rocky start'

    What's at the crux of Sudan and South Sudan's oil dispute?

    View all of our World coverage.

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    NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports on the science behind tinnitus and the search for a cure.

    Fifty million Americans experience chronic ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus. But new research from the University of Michigan Medical School may soon provide solace to those suffering.

    The discovery helps to explain what is going on inside the brains of those with tinnitus and may provide a new approach to treat the nagging noise. The research team already has a patent pending and device in development.

    The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, explain that a process called stimulus-timing dependent multisensory plasticity is altered in animals with tinnitus and the results have revealed the relationship between tinnitus, hearing loss and sensory input.

    Dr. Susan Shore, senior author of the paper notes that any treatment likely will have to be customized to each patient and delivered on a regular basis. Some patients may be more likely to benefit than others.


    What does tinnitus sound like?

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    By Catherine Mann

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: An agreement on how much and what the federal government should spend money on took a giant step toward final approval in Congress today.The Senate voted to limit debate on the measure that's already passed the House of Representatives.

    SEN. CORY BOOKER, D-N.J.:On this vote, the yeas are 67, and the nays are 33.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: With that critical procedural hurdle cleared, the only question left for the budget deal is when, not if, it will pass.A dozen Republicans joined all 55 members of the Democratic Caucus to move forward with the bill.

    The chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Democrat Patty Murray, helped craft the measure.

    SEN. PATTY MURRAY, D-Wash.:Mr. President, this deal is a compromise;.It doesn't tackle every one of the challenges we face as a nation, but that was never our goal.This bipartisan bill takes the first steps towards rebuilding our broken budget process and hopefully towards rebuilding our broken Congress.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss agreed with that assessment.

    SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-Ga.:The legislation we have before us today is the embodiment of compromise, something that has unfortunately been absent in Washington as of late.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The agreement would roll back $63 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts, the so-called sequester.They would be replaced by $85 billion in targeted cuts and increased revenues over the next decade.

    That total includes $6 billion in reduced cost-of-living adjustments for younger military retirees.

    Several Republicans voiced opposition to that provision, among them, Mississippi's Roger Wicker.

    SEN. ROGER WICKER, R-Miss.:We can find $6 billion elsewhere without breaking a promise to people who, during a time of the global war on terror, have stood forward, donned the uniform of the United States of America, and volunteered time and time again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Final passage on the budget measure is expected no later than Wednesday.

    In Afghanistan, six American soldiers died in a helicopter crash today.It was the worst single incident to hit NATO forces there in months.The troops were aboard a Black Hawk that went down in the Southern province of Zabul.There was only one survivor.The cause is under investigation by NATO.There was no enemy fighting reported nearby.

    The U.S. is moving to beef up security forces in the Philippines amid growing tensions with China.Secretary of State John Kerry pledged more than $40 million in aid today.He met with his Philippine counterpart and maintained the aid is not directly aimed at countering China.But he again criticized Beijing for imposing an air defense zone over disputed waters.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The United States doesn't recognize that goal and doesn't accept it.The zone should not be implemented, and China should refrain from taking similar unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just yesterday, Kerry announced $32 million in security aid for Vietnam.

    Meanwhile, Japan has its own plan to answer China's military expansion.The ruling cabinet in Tokyo voted today to increase defense spending by 5 percent over the next five years.The money will pay for new surveillance drones, jet fighters and naval destroyers.

    North Korea's political and military elite made a show of loyalty to leader Kim Jong-un today on the second anniversary of his father's death.State television showed Kim front and center at a memorial event for Kim Jong Il, as top officials pledged support.The pageantry came days after the leader's powerful uncle was executed as a traitor.

    Federal prosecutors have their first guilty plea in a bribery and fraud scandal.A Navy criminal investigator appeared in federal court in San Diego this afternoon.Prosecutors say he relayed ship movements to an Asian defense contractor in exchange for luxury trips and prostitution services.Six Navy officials have been implicated in the scandal.

    The Washington, D.C., City Council voted today to raise the local minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, one of the highest in the nation.It takes effect in 2016.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nine points to close at 15,875.The Nasdaq fell five points to close at 4,023.


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    GWEN IFILL: We turn to the latest developments over the reach of the government's surveillance program. Tech executives from 15 leading companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple, met with the president at the White House today.

    The companies came with a list of concerns about government surveillance on the day after a federal judge questioned its constitutionality.

    Margaret Talev covers the White House for Bloomberg News.

    Welcome. And thank you for joining us tonight.

    So, what was on the executives' agendas who showed up at the White House today, Margaret?

    MARGARET TALEV, Bloomberg News: So much of this, Gwen, is about, in the final weeks, as the administration and the president are making their decisions about how to rein in this program, about making clear what their concerns are, which is that their business is being impacted by fears in other countries that information and data is not private and that they're working on behalf the NSA.

    GWEN IFILL: What was the White House agenda at this meeting?

    MARGARET TALEV: So much of the White House agenda is similarly about perception. It's about both sending a signal to Americans that they care about privacy and sending a signal to American business that the president who has the sort of bad rap about does he understand really the concerns of business does and that he is listening.

    GWEN IFILL: There were 15 tech titans invited to this meeting. How many of them have been affected by, for instance, these efforts on the government's part to make them turn over records of their users?

    MARGARET TALEV: Well, virtually all of them either have been directly affected or are concerned that in some way they are going to be affected from a financial perspective.

    But, for example, these companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, AT&T, and Comcast, the telecommunications companies have obviously been directly affected. Some of the other Internet companies, to the extent that they use sort of cloud services, this is a major concern, both in terms of their existing business and their ability to grow business in both Europe and developing countries.

    GWEN IFILL: I know this was a private meeting and people were pretty cheery with the comments afterwards, but did your reporting turn up anything on what kind of conversation happened at that table?

    MARGARET TALEV: Yes, I mean, we know a couple of things.

    One is that Eric Schmidt of Google sort of opened up by saying, look, these are sort of some five broad principles that all of us agree on. To the extent that we can tell you what we share in terms of recommendations, this is it.

    And they had to do largely on two fronts, one in terms of sort of dialing back the collection of information and, two, in terms of increasing the transparency, so that these companies can at least tell their clients, tell their customers or individuals, this is how many requests the government has made last year, so that people can get a handle on how big it is.

    The other thing that we know is that Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! expressed a really specific concern about sort of balkanization of policies from country to country in order to deal with that and how that could be problematic for American business.

    GWEN IFILL: Do we know -- the president asked for a review panel to look into these measures a short time ago. Do we know whether he and the executives agree at all on what reform should look like?


    Well, so, what we know about the review panel is essentially through leaks, because the panel's recommendation are classified until they're declassified. And we won't see them in the form that they were submitted.

    We will see some version of that some time in January. But what we know who is that that panel recommended that the government continue its metadata collection program. Or at least that's based on the reports from administration officials so far. And so sort of, ironically, right, is yesterday's move by the federal -- by the district court judge to say just the opposite, to say, I think that this metadata collection in its current format is probably unconstitutional.

    So you have this panel saying go forward with some modifications and this court saying, I don't think so, we want to hear from an appeals court, but that this judge would be inclined to say it goes too far.

    GWEN IFILL: Was it a coincidence that today was the day the White House announced that they had hired someone from Microsoft to take over healthcare.gov?


    Well, it's an interesting point. And what the White House has been telling us is that this meeting was planned days ago. Now, they may have always planned to roll out the Microsoft executive at this meeting. The White House originally wanted to talk about health care and what they're doing to fix the bugs in the health care rollout.

    And the tech executives said, hey, guess what, we're not coming unless you will guarantee us that the NSA tops the agenda at this meeting.

    GWEN IFILL: And who he is?

    MARGARET TALEV: Well, Mr. DelBene, he is -- will succeed Jeffrey Zients in terms of running this program and overseeing -- making sure that if everything goes as planned that the health care Web site and enrollment process goes forward and the Americans are going to be able to sign up without the sort of glitches that have plagued the initial weeks of the rollout.

    GWEN IFILL: Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News, thanks so much.

    MARGARET TALEV: Thank you.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now drugs, doctors and the relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

    Those connections have long been the subject of ethical and business concerns, particularly when it comes to the financial ties between doctors and the drug companies. Yesterday, one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline, announced changes to some of its practices. It will no longer pay doctors to promote its drugs, and it will stop compensating sales representatives based on the number of prescriptions doctors write.

    The moves come following other problems for the company, including a bribery scandal in China involving payments to allegedly boost sales, and a settlement with the U.S. government last year on marketing drugs for improper uses.

    We look at these changes. And both our guests are professors at Harvard Medical School and affiliated with Brigham and Women's Hospital, but they have different views, Dr. Jerry Avorn and Dr. Thomas Stossel.

    Welcome to you both.

    Dr. Avorn, let me start with you. What is it -- explain to us a little bit more about what is it that many doctors are doing and how many are doing it? How widespread is this?

    DR. JERRY AVORN, Harvard Medical School: Well, Judy, it's quite common for drug companies to hire doctors to be on what they call speakers bureaus, in which the doctor will travel around and give lectures about a drug.

    And, in many cases, the slides and the content and script are actually prepared by the drug company, and the doctor presents this information as the latest information about diabetes or blood pressure or whatever. And it's not always clear to the audience that this is material that was really scripted completely by the drug company that was paying the doctor to give the talk.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how long has this kind of thing been going on, Dr. Avorn?

    JERRY AVORN: Oh, this has been going on for decades, and it's probably not the best way for doctors to learn about drugs in a fair and balanced matter.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Stossel, what would you add to that in terms of what doctors are doing now, or many are them are doing, for the drug companies?

    DR. THOMAS STOSSEL, Harvard Medical School: Well, I agree with Dr. Avorn that it's -- it was very common practice for a majority of doctors, have some relationship, whether in the marketing side or research, with drug companies.

    And that has been in parallel with improved longevity and life quality, so the idea that it somehow is problematic is just not clear. But it is extremely common.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Extremely common, meaning most doctors do something like this, or is it just really impossible to say?

    THOMAS STOSSEL: Well, there have surveys that have shown that up to three-quarters of doctors and that ilk have some kind of financial relationship with the company, not necessarily speaking. That's just one of many, many forms of collaboration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Dr. Avorn, what is it that you find -- you made a comment a moment ago. What is it that you find objectionable about this? What is the problem with it? And what is the change that you see Glaxo making?

    JERRY AVORN: Well if I as a doctor want to learn about a drug, I think it's much better for me to learn about it from somebody who is an expert in the field, but who is not being paid to teach me by the company that is making the product that he is teaching about.

    I think it's much better to have impartial, noncommercial, unbiased sources giving us our information, because that way it's much more likely to tell us what we need to do to take better care of patients, not to be part of a marketing apparatus to increase sales of a given drug.

    And that's the activity that Glaxo is winding down, and I think that's a healthy thing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Dr. Stossel, what about this idea that for someone to be paid to explain a drug is -- that that in essence is presenting a conflict of interests?


    Well, first of all, I think Dr. Avorn and I would agree that it's very hard for doctors to keep up with information. New information is coming in all the time. And so it's vital that doctors have exposure to as much information as possible.

    Now, with respect to the Glaxo move, we don't really know the details of why they made that decision. I hope they made that decision because they feel they have alternate ways of getting information about their products to doctors.

    If they don't, the shareholders ought to be very concerned and patients ought to be concerned. Now, as far as being paid, well, I think that the institution that Dr. Avorn and I work at pays us, and we and our colleagues go out and encourage patients to come to our institution, but at the same time, we think we give outstanding, objective care.

    Now, being paid is an important part of our economy, and the onus shouldn't be on who pays whom, but on, what is the quality of the service?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Dr. Avorn, what about it when you look at it from that perspective?

    JERRY AVORN: Well, it is one thing when a doctor is paid to do clinical services for a patient. Everybody knows kind of what you're doing and what you're getting and why you're getting paid.

    But to do teaching about a drug, I think it is simply much more messy and distorted than it needs to be to have that education paid for by the company that makes the drug. I'm much more in favor of programs in which doctors can be educated about medications by people who have no commercial axe to grind.

    And we have been doing some work along those lines on a nonprofit basis for years. And doctors really appreciate hearing about a drug from a colleague who is not getting paid to read a script, but is just evaluating the evidence as it's there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Stossel, why wouldn't that -- a system like that work?

    THOMAS STOSSEL: Well, I should first of all say doctors appreciate hearing from other doctors who are paid by companies, because they voted with their feet, because these so-called peer-to-peer speaking activities have been extremely popular. It allows doctors to learn from other doctors who, whether or not they're scripted, know a lot about the product in question.

    Now, I have no objection to the type of education that Dr. Avorn does. I think should we have all types of education. But we need to understand that, even though it's nonprofit, he has an agenda to support it. So I return to what I said before. It's the quality of the information, not the judgments about the motives of the people providing it, that is important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Avorn, do you think what GlaxoSmithKline doing is now going to be copied, emulated by other pharmaceutical companies?

    JERRY AVORN: I do think they're setting a good example.

    And I wonder whether some of the other companies are going to hang back and see what is this doing to their sales, because you can probably sell more drugs when you can totally control the flow of information than if you just pay a hospital or a medical school to do whatever kind of education it wants.

    And it will be very interesting to see whether this is going to cause their sales to take a hit or whether this will be a model that other companies are willing to follow. And we will learn about that in the coming years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Dr. Stossel, do you expect other companies to do the same thing, and do you think there will be an effect on patients?

    THOMAS STOSSEL: Well, I hope not.

    I think that it needs to be looked at. It's very important to point out that all -- this problem is approached as if it were monolithic, as if one size fits all. But there are all kinds of companies with different product lines. And it's much more important, for example, in an orphan disease or a cutting-edge area such as cancer that new information about rapidly emerging technologies get to doctors, so they can help patients.

    It may be that the Glaxo product profile is not so -- it's not so necessary for them to engage in those activities. So I think -- or I hope that, for that health of the industry, that they will react strategically, react to what is in their -- the best interest of keeping their research and development programs profitable, so they can take as many shots on goal as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you both.


    JERRY AVORN: I was just going to say, as far as the effect on patients, it could be a better thing if patients are hearing not just about the most expensive, costliest products, but also about good old-fashioned generics that may work perfectly well, but no drug company is going to be paying somebody to go out and teach about that.

    So it could make drugs more affordable, which would be a good thing for patients.

    THOMAS STOSSEL: Can I respond to that?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we do...

    THOMAS STOSSEL: I mean, the -- it's the urban legend that all new products are more expensive, which, that is true, and that if doctors don't hear about them, they won't prescribe them. That is true.

     But the idea that old generics are as good as new products is sometimes true, but it is not always true, and that it needs to be viewed on a case-by-case basis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we're going to leave it there. We hear you both.

    Dr. Thomas Stossel, Dr. Jerry Avorn, thank you.



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