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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: Can a year's worth of failed negotiations on immigration reform yield clues to its prospects for 2014?

    Judy Woodruff has that story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States undocumented, 2013 was supposed to be their year. The president called passing comprehensive reform a top priority. And Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came together in June to pass a bill, only to watch it die in the House.

    Meanwhile, the president is facing pressure from his own party to stop deportation. Though that number could be down slightly this year, all told 1.9 million people have been deported since Mr. Obama took office. That is almost as high as President George W. Bush's eight-year total.

    We look at the big picture now with Mark Hugo Lopez. He's director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center. Tamar Jacoby, the head of ImmigrationWorks USA, a federation of small business owners. Angela Maria Kelley, vice president of immigration policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. And Jessica Vaughan, she's director of policy studies for the right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies.

    And welcome to you all to the NewsHour.

    Angela Kelley, let me start with you.

    What was 2013 like for undocumented immigrants in this country?

    ANGELA KELLEY, Center for American Progress: So the Senate advanced the ball considerably down the field by passing this bill with such a resounding yes, given that you had so much Republican and Democratic support.

    The valley, I would say, though, for the undocumented are the number of deportations, which are intense, and the separation of families and the ongoing fear that communities live with. And the undocumented don't live in one apartment building all by themselves. We're talking about this affecting 16 million Americans who live with someone who is undocumented.

    So it is an issue that is an important one and I think will be resolved in the next year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about that.

    Jessica Vaughan, how would you describe 2013 for undocumented immigrants in this country?

    JESSICA VAUGHAN, Center for Immigration Studies: Well, I think they were filled with a lot of expectations that there could be legislation passing that would allow them to be legalized in this country.

    But, ultimately, since that legislation really overreached tremendously, it hit a roadblock in the House of Representatives, which is looking for a way to reform immigration policy that's going to meet the needs of Americans here in terms of making sure that they have enough economic opportunity, that their wages are not suppressed, and that the laws that are in place and that Congress is thinking about passing are actually going to be enforced, because the message that's been sent by The Obama administration to people who are living here illegally is that They're home-free once they get in, because through executive action, the administration has basically said that 90 percent of them are going to be immune from enforcement.

    So that's a very powerful intend difficult for people to stay and for more people to try to come, and that in fact is what we're seeing and hearing from the border.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, given all that, Tamar, remind us what was in that Senate legislation that passed. Where does -- where does it -- where does it stand right now?

    TAMAR JACOBY, ImmigrationWorks USA: It's what's been in every reform bill that's been talked about for the past five years. There are three main pillars.

    One is an answer for the 11 million. The Senate would give them a path to citizenship. You would have to pay your back taxes and work and go through a security check and you could get in line to be a citizen. You would get to it in about year 13 for most people.

    There is tougher enforcement on the border, much tougher, tougher enforcement in the workplace. Every worker in America would have to -- every person trying to get a job would have to go through the E-Verify system. And then there would be programs for high-skilled and low-skilled immigrants to come legally in the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, given that picture of where things stand right now, Mark Lopez, you at Pew have done -- you're doing -- you're studying opinion on immigration all the time. But you have just done a new study which has some really interesting results in terms of what all Americans think and what the undocumented think.

    Tell us about you what found.

    MARK HUGO LOPEZ, Pew Research Center: So we just conducted two surveys, one of Hispanics and one of Asian Americans, the two largest immigrant groups in the country.

    What we found is we found that when we asked what is most important for undocumented immigrants, about half of Latinos, 55 percent, and about 49 percent of Asian Americans say relief from deportation, rather than a pathway to citizenship, is most important for that population, the undocumented immigrant population.

    I think it's important to note, however, that on specific policy proposals that have been proposed in Congress, there is broad support among Hispanics and among Asian Americans and also the general public for things like a pathway to citizenship, for example.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Kelley -- let me come -- sorry -- Angela Kelley.

    ANGELA KELLEY: I answer to both.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me come back to you. Given this picture of where the immigrants themselves stand, what they are thinking right now, what do you see that needs to happen in the House of Representatives?

    ANGELA KELLEY: Yes. Yes. Sure.

    I mean, look, the House is clearly circling around the issue and trying to figure out, the Republican leadership, what to do. The committees, the Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security Committee, have passed a number of small bills. There's a lot of talk about other bills that they want to introduce, including one that would help undocumented youth, like the DREAM Act that you have seen talked about in the past.

    So, I think they're trying to hone in on how big, how small, do they move an immigration bill, that will happen Republican support, and have to have some Democratic support? And that's -- you know, the secret recipe for that I don't think they have landed on yet, but it's not a matter of a lack of will. I'm convinced that the Republican leadership and I think a majority of Republicans would support a legalization program.

    MARK HUGO LOPEZ: I agree.

    ANGELA KELLEY: They may not all support a pathway to citizenship, but I think, look, we're really closing in as far as I'm concerned on some of the last plays that will get us to -- in the end zone.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me turn to Jessica Vaughan.

    How do you see the state of play in the House of Representatives right now?

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: Well, it's going to be very, very tough, because you have on the one hand the -- Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saying things like just because someone is here illegally shouldn't be reason for deportation, and the Republicans on the other side very concerned about the executive actions that the Obama administration has taken to suppress enforcement, and concerned about the number of new immigrants that would be allowed under the gang of eight plan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a particular plan that was put forward.

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: Right, that's the Senate bill that passed, and concern about what can be done to deter people from trying to come in the first place and to shrink the size of the illegal population now living in the country.

    So those are going to be really hard concerns to reconcile into -- certainly one big piece of legislation. They would like to move slowly and make sure that enforcement measures are in place and working before moving on to some of these other questions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamar Jacoby, given -- I mean, Angela is saying the ground is ready for movement. We hear Jessica saying, no, there are going to be problems. How do you see this getting resolved/

    TAMAR JACOBY: I side more with Angie.

    I work closely with Republicans in the House, and I see more and more willingness and more and more readiness to do this, among leadership, which is obviously key, but also among the rank and file. Ordinary members who have been hesitant to go near it in the past, more and more of them understand we need to be part of the solution on this. We need to get it behind us for the good of the country and good of the party.

    And I hear them talking about what Angie referred to, which is a path to not just citizenship, they are hesitant to go that far, but a path to what we just heard Mark say, immigrant support, which is a path to legal status.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, and Jessica Vaughan, if that's what they are working on, how are the Republicans right now who are opposed to a path to citizenship going to respond?

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: Well, I have to disagree.

    I don't think the sticking point is really this question of whether or not to give citizenship to people who are legalized. The question for Republicans is, how can we do better at enforcement so that we are not going to be facing this same problem before? How can we avoid the mistakes of the past which did legalization first followed by promises of enforcement?

    They want to see that the laws that we have are being seriously enforced, and not just at the border, as the Obama administration is doing, but also in the interior of the country. And they want to examine our economic needs for things like guess-worker programmers, whether or not we need to tinker with the legal immigration flow, without disadvantaging Americans who are affected by this kind of legislation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mark, you're hearing what our different guests are saying could happen in the House.

    MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Very interesting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What would the reaction be in the community of those who are undocumented, their family members and supporters, and among the broader American public if any one of these scenarios take place?

    I mean, if there is an agreement that falls short, for example, of comprehensive reform, what kind of reaction are we looking at?

    MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Well, among the general public, we found that there is broad support among both Republicans and Democrats for some form of legalization.

    In other words, the undocumented should be allowed it to live in the U.S. legally. Those numbers are about like, for example, 70 percent or higher for Republicans and even higher for Democrats. Where there are some differences, though, is in what Jessica was just referring to, and that is a need for among Republicans, saying, the need for border enforcement first before legalization for the undocumented, while Democrats are more willing to say, yes, we can work on improving border enforcement, but at the same time we can grant legal status to those who are here illegally.

    So there is broad support for legalization. The path to getting there, though, is somewhat different.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see, Angela Kelley, this getting -- you started out sounding optimistic.

    ANGELA KELLEY: I am still there.


     JUDY WOODRUFF: But we're also hearing what some of the complications are. Given that, how do you see this circle being squared or square being circled?


    Look, I think the genius is frankly in the Senate bill that passed, which includes a lot of border enforcement, As Tamara so correctly characterized, a tough interior enforcement program of E-Verify all employers would have to follow and everybody would have to prove that they are here legal to work.

    And it also deals sensibly with the 11 million. You know, look, it's not -- it's a long road that people get put on, but they have to keep their nose clean, follow the rules, and eventually they can naturalize and become citizens and swear their allegiance to this country.

    I think that is a good thing. But, look, I think there is a sweet spot to be found. And it's long overdue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, very, very quickly, Jessica Vaughan, in just a word, if something comes out of this that looks like that, what do you think happens in the House of Representatives?

    JESSICA VAUGHAN: I think people need to get their expectations down, because anything that does pass is going to be very much smaller in scale.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

    TAMAR JACOBY: The House is not going to pass the Senate bill. The House is not going to pass a path to citizenship. The House is going to pass, if they pass something, a path to legal status.

    And will be -- it is not going to be easy to pass. And Jessica is right. It will have to have tough border security up front. And House members are worried about having to go to a conference with a Senate bill and what comes back looks a lot more like the Senate bill than what they passed, and then they have to vote up or down. But I still think, with all the difficulty, I'm with Angie on optimism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear you, all four.

    Thank you, Tamar Jacoby, Angela Maria, Kelley, Jessica Vaughan, and Mark Hugo Lopez. Thank you.

    MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Thank you. 


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    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Carol Thompson of Edina, Minn., was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. For part of the year, she paid more than $400 a month out-of-pocket for her brand-name drug because of her insurance plan’s high deductible.  A couple years later, after the drug, called Letrozole, went generic, the price dropped dramatically:  to around $10 at her local Costco.  Always looking for an even better deal, she decided to ask another big chain about its retail price.

    CAROL THOMPSON:  The gentleman looked it up and he came back to me with a price of around $400. And I said to him, "Oh can't be.  You must be looking at the brand name drug.  It can't be that expensive." 

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  But there was no mistake: one store quoted a price forty times more than the other. How could that be?  Especially when generic drugs are commonly thought to be so inexpensive.

    CAROL THOMPSON:  I was shocked. I was confused. I thought, "What am I missing?  You know, this doesn't compute." 

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Thompson, who’d never been a consumer activist, said she felt compelled to try to figure this out.

    CAROL THOMPSON: I started just on my own to phone some other pharmacies  in the Twin Cities here.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Last June, she made another round of calls like she did more than a year prior.  And what she found was that nothing had changed: wildly varying prices for her generic breast cancer drug.

    CAROL THOMPSON:  Hi.  I'd like to find out-- what the retail price is for a 30-day supply of a generic drug called Letrozole?





    Oh, I didn't realize it was that much.  It's-- $435.


    CAROL THOMPSON:  It didn't seem fair. And it seemed to me especially egregious when it was a life-saving when it involved a life-saving cancer drug. It just upset me.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Her discovery wasn’t just alarming for her; it was also very personal for me. Because Carol Thompson is my mom. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  We used her story because what we thought might just be a fluke turned out to be part of a much larger problem that few are aware of. Wildly different retail prices not just for my mom’s cancer drug, but many other generics, too.

    LISA GILL:  What we found was absolutely shocking.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Lisa Gill is the editor for prescription drug coverage at Consumer Reports.  Last spring she led a survey of more than 200 pharmacies around the country asking the retail prices of five blockbuster drugs that had recently gone generic.  

    The study found the cost of a month’s supply of generic Plavix, a blood thinner, ranged from $15 at Costco and $12 at an online store …all the way up to 10 to 15 times more at Target and CVS.  It was similar for generic Lipitor, used to control cholesterol.  Prices ranged from 15 to 17 dollars, up to around 9 times higher at other national chains.

    LISA GILL:  It was unprecedented for us. We had never found this kind of variation in a drug pricing study before.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Gill says while many stores offer older, more common generic drugs for just a few dollars… it’s the prices for some newer generics that vary so much.  And, Gill says, they discovered something else in their survey that surprised them.

    LISA GILL:  You actually can’t get the lowest price until you ask. 

    CAROL THOMPSON: Can you do any better on the price?

    PHARMACIST:  We certainly do price matches.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  indeed, after my mom tried that strategy, Target, which had one of the highest prices - $455 - said it would match the price at other pharmacies.

    PHARMACIST: We would just need the other pharmacy's information so we can contact them to verify the price.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  And remember, others quoted the drug for as little as $11.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  So, you’re saying that customers essentially have to walk into a pharmacy and bargain with their pharmacist.

    LISA GILL:  Right. It’s worse than buying a car. Because at least when you’re buying a car there’s a sticker on the window where you know there’s a price that you’re going to work- try to work down from. In this case, you don’t have anything. You really are the- unarmed with information and- and it’s- it’s really a shame.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Gill says it’s rare for someone to even think of calling around like my mom did, since most consumers have no idea prices can vary so much. And that could lead to the uninsured or people with inadequate drug coverage overpaying by hundreds of dollars. Or skipping medications altogether.

    LISA DUNCAN: And she told me the price.  I was like, "I can't get it.  You know, put it back on the shelf."

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  In 2008, Lisa Duncan moved from Indiana home to Minnesota to be near her aging father. But she had no job, and no insurance to pay for the prescriptions to treat her bipolar disorder. She'd attempted suicide twice before her doctors in Indiana had found the right mix of medications to stabilize her. 

    She had paid a low insurance copay for one of her generics, called Lamotrigine. But now she says her local big-name chain in Minnesota quoted her an out-of-pocket price of more than $100 for a month’s supply of the drug. A price this single mother of four could not afford.

    LISA DUNCAN:  It was very scary. I thought I don't want to back to the way it was. But I can't afford it. I don't have the money, you know?

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  A pharmacist at a community clinic for low-income patients in Minneapolis suggested Duncan try Costco. She said it quoted her a price of around $15 for the month’s supply, compared to the 100 dollar charge at the other store.

    LISA DUNCAN:  And I said, "are you looking at the right medication," because that's just sounded off the wall. And she said, "oh, yeah,” you know.

    JESSE LANE: We get phone calls for pricing, and the same person will call back within minutes, thinking that there's been an error in the pricing because they've been quoted such high prices elsewhere. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Jesse Lane is a pharmacist at Costco. It turns out; the low-cost chain allows non-members to use its pharmacies, which consistently had some of the lowest prices on generic drugs. He says unlike some other chains, Costco prices its drugs by adding a small mark-up to the wholesale price it pays, just like every other product on its shelves. Lane has worked at other chains, which he says take a different approach.

    JESSE LANE: A lot of times, what other chains will do-- they'll take price for the brand medication and they'll just decrease that by a certain percentage and give that as their price for the generic. 

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Costco wouldn’t tell us the wholesale price it paid for my mom’s cancer drug, but another pharmacist told us what he paid.  Tom Sengupta owns Schneider Drug. It’s one of just a few small, independently-owned pharmacies left in the Twin Cities. Those smaller independents all quoted my mom some of the lowest prices for her breast cancer generic, something that surprised her.

    CAROL THOMPSON: It's not intuitive, really, that a corner drugstore, an independent-- small, independent retailer would also have some of the best prices.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  At many large chains, prices are set at the corporate level, according to representatives we spoke to. But Sengupta decides on his own what to charge - $14 for my mom’s drug.  He just adds a small mark-up to the wholesale price he can buy it for – anywhere from around 7 dollars to 28.

    TOM SENGUPTA: And also, my pricing is based on the person I'm talking to.  You know, because if they need something, this is my responsibility to provide that to them.  I’m not losing any money.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Sengupta guesses that big chains, which buy in larger volume, can probably get even better wholesale prices than he can. And he bristles when he hears some quoted my mom a price of more than $400 when he’s charging just $14.

    TOM SENGUPTA:  How could you justify that?  You know?  If you had any morality – we don’t need to make money like that.  We have to ask, what’s happening?  Where is their moral compass?

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  We asked the National Association of Chain Drug Stores for an interview, but the group declined, saying it couldn’t comment on the pricing practices of its members.  But in a statement emailed to the NewsHour, the group said instances of customers paying the full, retail price for a drug using no insurance… “… account for only 8.5 percent of prescriptions dispensed by pharmacies nationwide… “

    And, there are many factors involved in product pricing. Costs at the exact time when the drugs were purchased from the supplier, the law of supply and demand, decisions related to business models and other factors are some of the components that determine drug prices. 

    We also asked target why it would charge $455 for my mom’s cancer drug, if it would apparently be willing to match the much lower price of $11.  In an emailed statement, target didn’t answer the question directly, only saying factors that impact prices include “a guest’s insurance plan, price changes from manufacturers… and the guest’s deductible.”

    And in response to the Consumer Reports survey last spring, CVS, which had some of the highest prices, said in a statement:  “a random price check of only five drugs is too small to draw meaningful conclusions about which pharmacies offer the best overall value for customers.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  So in the face of all this, how can consumers find the best prices on generic drugs? No federal agency keeps track of all these prices, and state resources are limited. 

    So, others have stepped in. New web sites to help consumers compare drug prices have launched, including Good Rx, co-founded by Doug Hirsch. A former employee at Facebook and Yahoo, he came up with his own idea for a start-up after he spent time uninsured and found wildly different prices for his generic drug.

    DOUG HIRSCH: And I thought, “this is really inefficient.” You know. I use Orbitz these days for looking at my airline, I was like why is it so difficult for someone to know the cost of their prescription drug.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Good Rx aggregates billions of drug prices from pharmacies across the United States and matches them with discounts, coupons, clubs and other plans, that Hirsch says many consumers don’t know about. 

    DOUG HIRSCH: There are all sorts of different discounts. This is an online pharmacy, this is a coupon price at Kmart.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:  Good Rx launched last year and the information is in demand: Hirsch says the web site now gets almost a million visits a month. It’s the type of information my mom, who today has Medicare and a low deductible for prescriptions, hopes people will pay attention to.

    CAROL THOMPSON: I would say let the buyer beware.  Shop around.  Be thorough.  Do your homework.

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    Santa is one busy guy. By 9 a.m. EST Tuesday he had already delivered more than 850,000,000 gifts.

    He was last seen flying over Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

    Irony! #Santa just left Christmas Island! #NORAD

    — NORAD Santa (@NoradSanta) December 24, 2013

    Wondering where Santa is going next before he makes it to your house? The Official NORAD Santa Tracker is tracking the jolly to the last chimney. Find out when he'll arrive in your area, where's he is right now and how many presents he's delivered.

    H/T Bridget Shirvell

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    Monarch butterflies are known to flit and float around North America, but they live on other continents as well. Take a look at these regal creatures from around the world in our slideshow.

    First, it was disappearing bees. Now, it appears that monarch butterflies are suffering a decline.

    When the chill of winter comes, monarch butterflies with their fragile stained glass-patterned wings travel up to 3,000 miles from the continental United States to their favorite spots to hibernate: the dense tree cover of central Mexico's Oyamel firs and the warmth of southern California.

    But researchers have noticed the number of monarch butterflies flocking to central Mexico in winter has been creeping downward over the past 20 years. Logging of Oyamel trees, colder and wetter winters, and the destruction of milkweed -- which feed larvae -- in the United States are some of the reasons cited.

    A family in Westmont, Ill., raises Monarch butterflies in their backyard. Photo by Ryan Rayburn/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

    Some people have taken matters into their own hands to try to aid the irresistible creatures and planted milkweed and fragrant nectar-producing flowers in their yards and widow boxes. Learn how to grow a butterfly garden.

    We'll have a report on the monarch butterfly and its decreasing numbers in Mexico on an upcoming PBS NewsHour.

    Related resources

    In Oregon, rare 'snowstorm' of pine butterflies takes toll on forests

    NOVA's Journey of the Butterflies tracks the butterflies' path to Mexico.

    See a map of the monarchs' migration -- from the Flight of the Butterflies in 3D website.

    View all of our World coverage.

    Follow @NewsHourWorld

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    Edward Snowden posterIt's been quite a year for former government contractor Edward Snowden. Since the June publication of NSA secrets that he divulged, he has caused uproar in the U.S., where some have applauded his efforts, and abroad.

    WASHINGTON -- National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden said his "mission's already accomplished" after revealing NSA secrets that have caused a reassessment of U.S. surveillance policies.

    Snowden told The Washington Post in an interview published online Monday night that he was satisfied because journalists have been able to tell the story of the government's collection of bulk Internet and phone records, an activity that has grown dramatically in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    "For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished," he said. "I already won."

    "As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated," Snowden told the Post. "Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

    President Barack Obama hinted Friday that he would consider some changes to NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records to address the public's concern about privacy. His comments came in a week in which a federal judge declared the NSA's collection program probably was unconstitutional. A presidential advisory panel has suggested 46 changes to NSA operations.

    Snowden was interviewed in Moscow over two days by Post reporter Barton Gellman, who has received numerous leaks from Snowden. The interview was conducted six months after Snowden's revelations first appeared in the Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper.

    Gellman is scheduled to appear on the PBS NewsHour Tuesday to discuss his conversations with Snowden. We will update this post with more information before the 6 p.m. EST air time.

    In the article, Gellman described Snowden as relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.

    In June, the Justice Department unsealed a criminal complaint charging Snowden, a former NSA contractor, with espionage and felony theft of government property. Russia granted him temporary asylum five months ago.

    The effects of Snowden's revelations have been evident in the courts, Congress, Silicon Valley and capitals around the world, where even U.S. allies have reacted angrily to reports of U.S. monitoring of their leaders' cellphone calls. Brazil and members of the European Union are considering ways to better protect their data and U.S. technology companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are looking at ways to block the collection of data by the government.

    Snowden, now 30, said he is not being disloyal to the U.S. or to his former employer.

    "I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA," he said. "I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don't realize it."

    Asked about the Snowden interview, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "Mr. Snowden faces felony charges here in the United States and should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be afforded due process and all the protections of our criminal justice system."

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    oystersChefs in the Chesapeake Bay region are welcoming local oysters back on their menus. Photo by Flickr user Jules Morgan

    If you live near the Chesapeake Bay and there are oysters are on your holiday party menu you may be in for a surprise. Your oysters may actually be local for the first time in a long while.

    For years, finding Chesapeake Bay Oysters has been a challenge. Over-harvesting, disease and pollution hurt oyster beds in the bay and their population dwindled. In 1993, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a public-private effort began working to bring the oysters back to the Chesapeake and local chefs are slowly seeing a difference in the oysters.

    "They're very sweet," Brian Stickel, corporate chef for Clyde's Restaurant Group told NPR of the Chesapeake Bay oysters. "They're creamy. It's just very different than a northern oyster, which tends to have a higher salinity."

    Stickel told NPR he finds more and people asking for local oysters and Tim Sughrue, vice president of Congressional Seafood Co. Inc, said there are more than enough Chesapeake Bay oysters for area chefs to be able to put them on the menu.

    So if you're a home chef and want those sweet southern oysters on your holiday menu, the hardest part after you find them may be shucking them.

    Follow these instructions to properly shuck an oyster.

    The first trick is to pick the right oyster. Fresh oysters have a tightly closed hard shell that is teardrop shaped. If you pick your own oysters, look for oysters with a tiny hole near where the top and bottom shell meet. Then open the oyster using an oyster knife by placing the tip of the knife in the hinge that connects the oyster shell, gently wiggle, and then twist the knife until you hear a pop.

    Then, enjoy.

    H/T Bridget Shirvell

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    Gift-giving may be economically inefficient, but it's not a waste; it's a form of social training to help us learn to trust others, says Avner Ben-Ner.

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    Monarch butterflies are known to flit and float across North America, but they live on other continents as well. Take a look at this regal butterfly from around the world in our slideshow.

    Blanket of orange

    Monarch butterflies are known to flit and float across North America, but they live on other continents as well. Take a look at this regal butterfly from around the world.

    Monarch butterflies smother a tree branch in at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in central Mexico. Each year hundreds of millions Monarch butterflies migrate from the U.S. and Canada to Oyamel fir forests in the highlands of central Mexico.

    Read more about this mass butterfly migration on our Rundown blog. Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty Images


    Caterpillars, which transform into monarch butterflies, sport yellow, black and cream bands. This one feeds on a leaf in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

    Beach butterfly

    After the larvae stage, caterpillars create a cocoon from which they emerge as monarch butterflies, looking like this one in Assateague Island, Md. Photo: Joel Achenbach/Washington Post/Getty Images

    Canadian home

    A monarch butterfly alights on a flower at Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, Canada. Monarch butterflies live in other places besides North America, including Indonesia, the Canary Islands and Australia. Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images


    A Lesser Wanderer butterfly (or Danaus petilia) is photographed at Buffalo Beach in western Australia. Photo: Auscape/UIG via Getty Images

    Costa Rica

    A monarch butterfly lands on a flower in a field near Earth University in Limon province, Costa Rica, where students from around the world come to study sustainable agricultural sciences. Photo: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

    Butterfly as balm

    The residents of Christchurch, New Zealand, released 185 monarch butterflies at a ceremony remembering the 185 people who lost their lives in a 2011 earthquake. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

    Southern bound

    Efforts began in the 1930s to track the monarchs' migration routes. In the 1970s, researchers found 12 forested spots in Mexico where the butterflies liked to flock in winter. The Mexican government labeled five of the sites as protected biosphere areas in 1986, but privately owned plots continue to be logged, which reduces the monarchs' habitat. Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty Images

    Generations of monarchs

    Monarch butterflies can have up to four generations of offspring in one year. The first three generations live for about two to six weeks. The fourth generation, which can live up to nine months, are the butterflies who travel south for the winter, to either California or Mexico, according to Defenders of Wildlife. Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

    Declining numbers

    Some researchers have seen a steady decline in the numbers of monarchs that travel to the Oyamel forests in Mexico. They think the decline might be due to the loss of forest from logging, the occurrence of droughts in the United States and the eradication of milkweed, which larvae feast upon before becoming a caterpillar. Photo: Mario Vazquez/AFP/Getty Images

    At rest

    After winter, monarch butterflies travel back north with the warmer weather. This one takes a break, sipping nectar from a flower in Minneapolis. Photo: MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images

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    According to Dick Davis, a medieval Persian literature scholar and author of "Faces of Love," Hafez is the poetry world's version of Bach. "People say that Bach sort of gathered together everything that had gone before him in music and brought it into a new kind of stage. Hafez did the same with the conventions of lyric poetry."

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    GWEN IFILL: Christmas Eve was marked by festivities and preparations around the world today. The faithful prepared for midnight services in places both traditional and unusual.

    Central African Republic. Some of 2013's first Christmas Eve celebrations occurred in China, where guards and volunteers held back hundreds crowding into a Beijing cathedral for holiday services.

    MAN (through interpreter): I say, Christmas will be merry. Why is it merry? Because our savior, Jesus Christ, has come. When he comes close to our hearts, we will be happy.

    GWEN IFILL: In the Philippines, survivors of last month's catastrophic typhoon erected giant Christmas lanterns across the devastation in Tacloban. People in other towns sang and danced to holiday songs as they remembered lost loved ones.

    MAN (through interpreter): We will still celebrate Christmas, despite this tragedy that came to us. Christmas will go on.

    GWEN IFILL: And in Bethlehem, parades filled the streets, as Christian pilgrims and tourists from around the world poured into Manger Square, considered the birthplace of Jesus.

    Decorations and holiday lights adorned the West Bank for the evening's celebrations.


    GWEN IFILL: And at the Vatican, worshipers filled Saint Peter's Basilica for Pope Francis's first Christmas midnight mass as pontiff. Thousands more gathered outside in St. Peter's Square.

    U.S. troops in Kabul marked the 13th Christmas Eve for American forces in Afghanistan with candles and hymns.


    GWEN IFILL: But, as always, they were missing loved ones.

    MAN: It is difficult, but they -- they love me, and they understand that I'm here serving our country. And so it's -- it's really not very easy, but -- you know, it is not easy being away from my family.

    GWEN IFILL: And far above the planet, astronauts on the International Space Station performed a rare Christmas Eve space walk, only the second in NASA's history, the goal, to replace a faulty cooling system that failed December 11, all this as American shoppers raced against time to find last- minute gifts.

    MAN: This is ideal. I mean, you're in. You're out, get great deals, get the wife's last minute Christmas gift, and you're good.

    GWEN IFILL: But even a surge of buyers in the closing hours may not be enough for merchants. The industry data firm ShopperTrak reports sales at U.S. stores have fallen each of the last three weeks, compared to a year ago.

    The housing market is ending the year on a down note. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported today that mortgage applications have fallen 60 percent since May, as interest rates rose. And new home sales fell in November. On Wall Street, the market had a shortened trading day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 63 points to close at 16357. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 4155.

    The U.N. Security Council moved today to beef up its peacekeeping force in South Sudan to more than 12,000 troops. It's a bid to quell growing violence between rival ethnic factions. We will ask Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., about South Sudan and the neighboring Central African Republic right after the news summary.

    In Syria, a new round of air raids killed at least 15 people in the northern city of Aleppo. The opposition said government planes and helicopters blasted apartment buildings, homes and cars. The aerial assault began on December 15. Activists say more than 360 people have been killed since then.

    At least 13 people were killed in Egypt today when a powerful bomb ripped through a police headquarters. More than 100 others were hurt. The blast brought down an entire section of the five-story building in the city of Mansoura. It was the deadliest attack since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July.

    The interim prime minister vowed to respond.

    INTERIM PRIME MINISTER HAZEM EL-BEBLAWI, Egypt (through interpreter): We're at the forefront of a confrontation with one of the worst faces of terrorism, and we will not stay silent. We will confront it. And whoever committed this attack, whether an individual or a group, is a terrorist.

    GWEN IFILL: Mohammed Morsi's organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, denied any role in today's bombing.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Postal Service won a temporary rate increase today, after losing $5 billion in the last fiscal year. The Postal Regulatory Commission raised the price of a first-class stamp by 3 cents to 49 cents as of January 26. Rates for bulk mail, magazines and packages will rise 6 percent. The increases will last for two years.

    Grammy-winning musician and composer Yusef Lateef died last night at his home in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. The renowned tenor saxophonist and flutist was one of the first to incorporate world music into jazz. And, in 2010, he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor. Yusef Lateef was 93 years old.


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    GWEN IFILL: We take a look at two bordering African nations consumed by conflict, beginning with South Sudan, where fighting continued today, as fears of civil war prompted the United Nations to send more help to the world's youngest nation.

    The Security Council voted to nearly double the size of the peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, hoping additional troops will protect civilians from the worsening violence.

    Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned all sides in the conflict that the world is watching.

    BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General: Attacks on civilians and the U.N. peacekeepers must cease immediately. The United Nations will investigate reports of these incidents and of grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity. Those responsible will be held personally accountable.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, the country's president, Salva Kiir, said his troops have retaken the city of Bor from rebels. But there were also reports that dozens of bodies of government soldiers were found in a mass grave in Bentiu.

    In all, U.N. officials report more than 1,000 people have been killed in South Sudan and more than 100,000 turned into refugees since fighting broke out only a week ago. Many are seeking shelter at U.N. bases in the capital of Juba and elsewhere.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): The two factions should be reconciled by the international community, so that the problem is solved once and for all, so that everyone can go back where they came from. We can't live like this.

    GWEN IFILL: The conflict erupted after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused former Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of plotting a coup.

    Heavy fighting in Bor over the weekend prompted the U.N. to evacuate nonessential staff and wounded civilians from its mission there.

    TOBY LANZER, United Nations: There was a lot of looting, a lot of gunshots, a lot of dead bodies, and very, very out-of-control youth heavily armed. And that needs to be brought under control.

    GWEN IFILL: Rebels in Bor also fired on three U.S. Osprey aircraft Saturday, wounding four American troops as they attempted to evacuate U.S. civilians. Civilian helicopters ended up bringing out the Americans.

    On Sunday, President Obama alerted Congress that the 46 troops already sent to South Sudan may not be enough. He wrote: "I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our embassy in South Sudan."

    U.S. defense officials said Monday that more than 100 Marines, plus aircraft, are being moved to the Horn of Africa in case they're needed.

    Next door, in the Central African Republic, an unrelated sectarian conflict threatens that country's stability. In March, Muslim rebels overthrew the government in the majority Christian nation. Since then, 700,000 people, almost 20 percent of the population, have fled their homes. Nine people were killed in religious violence in the country's capital yesterday.

    France has now deployed 1,600 troops to its former colony to help African Union forces trying to disarm both sides.

    MAN (through interpreter): We are waiting for all the French people do their work and finish with the militias and then we will go home. But if it carries on, we will stay here, even six months if necessary.

    GWEN IFILL: Last week, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, visited Bangui to appeal for peace.


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    GWEN IFILL: I spoke with Samantha Power this afternoon just before Security Council voted.

    Ambassador Power, thank you for joining us.

    It's only been a week since everything fell apart in South Sudan. How did it happen so fast?

    SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Well, as you know, there have been deep political divisions that have been playing themselves out for some time.

    But when president Kiir responded to maneuverings within his own government by making arrests, then a full-on rebellion was declared, and, as they say, the rest is history. We have been living with the consequences of that.

    So, you now have SPLA, the Sudanese government -- South Sudanese government army, up against a rebellion that's pretty widespread and very volatile.

    GWEN IFILL: We know that there are some American forces on the ground in neighboring countries poised to act. Do we know how much U.S. military action might be involved?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, we have been focused on securing the fate and security of U.S. citizens.

    And we have performed and the U.S. military has help perform, along with the United Nations, evacuations of personnel, U.S. citizens who wanted to get out. There was also a departure of embassy staff and so forth. We just have a small presence remaining to try to help with the diplomacy. So, that is our emphasis.

    Our parallel emphasis is helping the U.N. secretary-general beef up the U.N. forces that are on the ground. As you know, yesterday, the secretary-general came to the Security Council and asked for permission to move about 5,500 troops and police from other missions, principally in Africa, but also elsewhere in the world, to South Sudan so that the relatively small U.N. force there could get support.

    And so we're focused on doing what we can to support the secretary-general, do that as quickly as possible, because time is of the essence.

    GWEN IFILL: When the president said in his letter to Congress that he may take further action to support the security of Americans on the ground, how far would further action go?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I'm not going to speculate on what is going to happen on the ground. We have so many contingencies, so many things that we're working through right now.

    Again, our focus is working the political track, the diplomacy. Don Booth, our special enjoy, is in Juba today, just as he was yesterday. He will be there again tomorrow. He's shuttling between the parties, reinforcing the efforts also by African foreign ministers to try to get President Kiir and Riek Machar, the person who is leading the rebellion on the other side, to start negotiating and to have a political dialogue, because this armed approach that both sides are taking is going to be extremely perilous for the country.

    GWEN IFILL: Are those talks imminent?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I think we're pushing. It's very hard to say, and I don't want to get in to the details.

    But the contacts between U.S. officials and senior officials on the ground in South Sudan have been extensive, even relentless, you might say. And we are determined to do everything we can and leverage the very strong relationship we have had with South Sudan and with the South Sudanese people for so long to try to help calmer and cooler heads prevail here.

    But the African Union and a number of African foreign ministers are also active in this regard. So, it's safe to say that President Kiir and Riek Machar are hearing from a lot of people this Christmas Eve.

    GWEN IFILL: You're just back from a trip to the Central African Republic, where things also seem to be veering out of control. How did that happen?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, again, similar, in the sense that there's a rebellion that took hold in part of the country and swept through the country, run by a group that call themselves Seleka, which just means alliance. It was a principally Muslim group.

    There had been, as I learned on the trip again, great religious harmony between and among Muslims and Christians on the ground in the Central African Republic for many years. But the looting and the killings that accompanied this sweep through the Central African Republic have led to Christians on the other side forming these self-defense militia known as anti-Balaka, or anti-machete, militia.

    So, now what you have is a dynamic where you have ex-Seleka forces who are seen as Muslim forces and anti-Balaka forces seen as Christian forces targeting people sometimes just on religious grounds, in fact, increasingly often just on religious grounds.

    The good news, such as it is, is that the African Union has been very responsive to the circumstances on the ground and themselves have increased the troop ceiling, just as we're doing in South Sudan, to try to deploy more Africans into the Central African Republic.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned the dependence on African Union peacekeepers, not only in CAR, but also in Sudan. Are they being stretched a little thin, and does the U.N. need to beef up its peacekeeping presence?

    SAMANTHA POWER: I will take -- let me take each question in turn.

    Are they being stretched a little thin? I think the answer is yes. The demands on African peacekeepers are higher than they have been in a very long time. Let's recall also the Somalia mission, which has made a lot of headway against Al-Shabab, the mission in Mali, which contested the presence of al-Qaida-affiliated forces, and is doing a very important job not only maintaining peace and security for the people of Mali, but also fending off the presence of extremists who could present problems across the broader region and beyond.

    So, if you combine those very large missions with these two that we have discussed, yes, the demands are very high. And so it is true that U.N. peacekeeping as a whole right now is at one of its high watermarks in the history of the U.N. peacekeeping. And so one of the things that we're seeking to do is to try to get more countries interested in deploying their forces and wearing blue helmets, because the needs are feeling very great right now.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned Somalia.

    Around the world, there are a couple of different lessons to be taken from that. One is to stay out. And the other is that you can't allow big states to fail. Which lesson can you apply in this case?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I think that what we all know now is that, particularly when you have a failed state or an undergoverned or ungoverned space -- and that is the Central African Republic -- that's how I would describe it, having visited it, just so little electricity across the country, so few roads that are even impassable.

    When you see then state failure, where a government collapses as occurred in the Central African Republic over the last year, nothing good comes of that. And the people who take advantage of environments like that are extremists of all kinds, whether it's Boko Haram or Al-Shabab or al-Qaida-affiliated forces or just extremists of the kind who are now lynching Muslims or lynching Christians in the Central African Republic.

    So, there's both the imperative of the international community and the regional players coming together to try to help the people of the Central African Republic, because they matter intrinsically. And then there's the additional collateral reality that we have encountered, as you suggest, in Somalia and Mali and elsewhere, which is that these borders are huge among these countries, not very well-patrolled, and the kinds of unsavory elements that gravitate toward situations like this are ones that cross borders and cause havoc for our core interests as well.

    GWEN IFILL: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, thank you so much for joining us.

    SAMANTHA POWER: Thanks for having me, Gwen.


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    GWEN IFILL: Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked a trove of documents about that secret agency's operations, is once again in the news.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: "The mission's already accomplished. I already won" -- the words of Edward Snowden from an extended interview conducted in Moscow.

    It comes six months after Snowden's revelations first appeared in newspapers.

    Barton Gellman of The Washington Post wrote some of those key early stories, and it was he who's just interviewed Snowden. He's also a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

    Gellman joins us now.

    So, welcome to you.

    Clearly, Edward Snowden feels he's succeeded, but how does he define his mission and what he set out to do?

    BARTON GELLMAN, The Washington Post: That's exactly the important question.

    He is not saying he succeeded in remaking the world or changing any particular policy. What he wanted to do was take big important decisions out of a small secret world and give it to the people on whose behalf the policies were undertaken. He thought that something big and dangerous was growing in terms of a big surveillance apparatus.

    He wanted the American people to decide for themselves what the limits should be.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that question aimed at him, often angrily, who elected to you decide what should be public, he has no regrets about what he did.

    BARTON GELLMAN: He is very comfortable with his choice.

    He, I think, feels vindicated by the fact that there has been six months of very intensive attention to things that he thought were worthy of attention. And, indeed, just after we spoke, I come back from Russia, and a federal judge says that the program that Snowden thinks is illegal is almost certainly unconstitutional, and the leaders of the U.S. technology industry tell the president that the NSA's work is damaging the American information economy.

    The president's own task force tells him that NSA programs that Snowden brought to attention ought to be cut back.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In your interview, Snowden claims to have raised his concerns internally with superiors, but the NSA denies having any evidence that he talked to anyone about this before going to reporters. Right?

    BARTON GELLMAN: The NSA's denial was careful, as many NSA denials are.

    They said they have no record of any conversation of the kind that Snowden described. They also say that they haven't asked anybody to respond to Snowden's account. All the interviews they did with his co-workers took place before I asked the question.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And tell us about Snowden himself. He's living in Moscow. He's a man who captured the world's attention, but he's a wanted man. How did he strike you?

    BARTON GELLMAN: He's a wanted man. He's also under asylum under international law.

    Nevertheless, he's quite cautious and is not looking to expose himself to outsiders who may be looking for him. He is calm. He's serene. He's -- he's a man who knew what he was getting himself in to, as much as anyone can know that. And he is satisfied that he did it for the right reasons, and he's prepared to -- he was prepared for the consequences, which already are considerable, given the fact that he's been taken away from his family and so on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how does he live now? How much could you tell?

    BARTON GELLMAN: He allowed a few glimpses. He's a private guy.

    He says he has no obligation to open his private life to others. His ideas, he knows, are going to be scrutinized. But he doesn't think he has to tell everybody everything about himself personally. And he's got security reasons not to.

    But it's quite interesting. He is living a life -- he describes himself as indoor cat. And that predates his time in Moscow. Even in Hawaii, which we associate with these big open spaces and surf and so on, he -- he described himself as a guy who spent a lot of time in front of the screen, whose world is virtual, whose world is one of ideas, treating the Internet as a big library and as a source of news.

    He's following all the developments in the cause that he cares about. He's communicating with journalists and lawyers and whoever else he likes, and subsisting on sort of ramen noodles and chips. He also used the word ascetic to describe himself. He said, I just don't have a lot of needs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the striking things he told you is that rather than trying to destroy the NSA, he says he's trying to make it better. He says he believes, in that sense -- quote -- "I am still working for the NSA right now."

    BARTON GELLMAN: He has not given a lot of time to critics, and he hasn't wanted the story to be about him personally.

    But he did make some early -- he did make some -- some responses for the first time. He affirmed quite clearly that his loyalty is to the United States, to the U.S. Constitution. He is not against the NSA. He's not against intelligence-gathering.

    What he's against, very specifically, is bulk, mass surveillance, the idea of sweeping up enormous amounts of data about whole populations in order to look for clues you don't even know exist. He believes that the NSA's historic mission, and, in fact, the only thing it ever had the capability of doing for most of its existence, was to target individuals and institutions for foreign intelligence purposes.

    There's nothing stopping it from doing that. He supports that and he thinks that's the right thing to do. He believes in the mission of intelligence-gathering. What he can't accept is that the lives of hundreds of millions of people who are suspected of nothing wrong are being stuffed into these gigantic data systems.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, finally, what about more releases and more revelations? Has Snowden given out all that he has or is he still releasing material?

    BARTON GELLMAN: He has had nothing to do with the pace or content of stories. He handed me and two other journalists quantities of material some six months ago. He has not tried in any way to tell us what to publish when, what not to publish, what the stories should say.

    So that continues to be the case. I intend to keep on working on the story. I am sure that my fellow journalists who have the material are going to continue to do that. But that's completely out of his hands.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

    BARTON GELLMAN: Thank you.


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    GWEN IFILL: The Monarch butterflies that spend their winters in the forests of Mexico before returning north each year are appearing in fewer numbers.

    Independent video journalist Ross Velton filed this report for us on why their numbers are dwindling.

    ROSS VELTON: Tradition says they're the souls of the dead returning to earth. That's why Monarch butterflies arrive in Mexico around the start of November, when lost loved ones are being remembered on a holiday called the Day of the Dead.

    The Monarchs sometimes fly over 2,000 miles from the U.S. and Canada to spend winter in these mountain forests in Central Mexico.

    EDUARDO RENDON-SALINAS, World Wildlife Fund (through interpreter): More than a decade ago, practically two decades, the butterfly colony here in El Rosario occupied up to three hectares.

    ROSS VELTON: That's nearly 7.5 acres in the part of the Monarch butterfly biosphere reserve where the most butterflies are often seen. But the forest has been missing some souls.

    EDUARDO RENDON-SALINAS (through interpreter): During 2012 to 2013, which was the period we monitored last year, we determined that the butterflies only occupied 1.9 hectares.

    ROSS VELTON: Or just over 4.5 acres. That's the lowest number of Monarchs in the past 20 years, and a nearly 60 percent drop on the year before.

    And this winter could be worse. The Monarchs as a species aren't in danger, but their migration might be. The World Wildlife Fund tracks the number of butterflies arriving in Mexico on one of nature's great journeys.

    EDUARDO RENDON-SALINAS (through interpreter): The Monarch butterflies which hibernate in Mexico are those butterflies which live, which as adults in Southern Canada and the north and center of the U.S. During September and part of October, they fly south. And the greater proportion of butterflies in this big region come to hibernate in Mexico.

    ROSS VELTON: But something's happening at the start of this journey, so that fewer butterflies are coming down to Mexico. Herbicides to protect crops like corn and soybeans from are also killing the butterflies' food source, a plant called milkweed.

    CRAIG WILSON, U.S. Department of Agriculture: The female butterfly will deposit one egg on the underside of a leaf. And when the caterpillar emerges, it starts to eat the leaf.

    ROSS VELTON: That's something Craig Wilson tells children when he visits schools as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Future Scientists project. And he's got more to say about the benefit of milkweed to monarchs

    CRAIG WILSON: It has a poisonous sap. I don't know if you can see it bleeding there when I pull a leaf off. And that latex sap protects the caterpillars.

    ROSS VELTON: Because it gives them a nasty taste, which puts off predators.

    Molly Keck, an insect expert at Texas A&M University, says milkweed isn't just under threat from herbicides.

    MOLLY KECK, Texas A&M University: We're developing, and so these natural areas, there are buildings in neighborhoods that are popping up, so there's less places where milkweed has the potential to grow.

    ROSS VELTON: Few animals like changes to their surroundings. But the loss of milkweed isn't the Monarchs' only problem. The adult butterflies get energy from nectar as they fly down to Mexico.

    MOLLY KECK:  When we have extreme droughts like we have been experiencing in the United States, there are less nectar-producing plants and we see less butterflies, we see less bees, we see less of all the pollinating insects.

    ROSS VELTON: The falling numbers add a sense of urgency to research into Monarch behavior. Here in College Station, Texas, for example, researchers are trying to find out how genetics and the butterflies' body clock affect the migration. The Monarchs' problems have also fired up citizen scientists.

    The children at this school in Texas have planted a milkweed garden to try and attract Monarch butterflies. It's an example of one of the many projects all over the country to try and protect the migration.

    ROSS VELTON: Mike Quinn took part in another one. It involves looking for milkweed and signs of Monarchs.

    MIKE QUINN, citizen scientist: Monarch Larva Monitoring Project is a way for citizen scientists across U.S. and Canada to collect quantifiable data that can be compared scientifically with other sites and at the same site over time. And this gives us a bigger, more accurate picture of the Monarch population levels.

    ROSS VELTON: The Monarch population flying south to Mexico hasn't always had a great welcome. The type of fir trees in the reserve where the butterflies like to spend winter have suffered from several decades of illegal logging. Now thousands of new trees are being planted back into the reserve.

    This is a tree nursery supported by the World Wildlife Fund. The idea is to give those working there an income, and therefore a reason to reforest. And this nearby forest has been grown to provide wood for sale, meaning less pressure on the reserve.

    MAN (through interpreter): The Monarch butterfly is a marvel. But to get a marvel, like a flower in a garden, you must take care of the garden. And this is the garden of butterflies.

    ROSS VELTON: EDUARDO RENDON-SALINAS says there's been a growing bond between the people and the butterflies.

    Old men from El Rosario have formed groups to protect them. Their job includes making sure tourists don't get too close. Rendon-Salinas says illegal logging on a big scale has stopped in the heart of the reserve. But he knows things take time to heal.

    EDUARDO RENDON-SALINAS (through interpreter): This butterfly is a female. It's in perfect physical condition. There are no signs of it having been attacked. It looks complete. However, it's dead. Very likely, it dropped to the ground during the night. And, in places such as this, where there are gaps in the tree canopy, the temperature falls during the night, and the butterflies die.

    ROSS VELTON: The butterflies that survive Mexico might one day be seen back at the school in Texas, because the same Monarchs that migrate do a round-trip. So the kids tag them.

    Alina Garcia has just done her first one.

    STUDENT: They just have to travel so far. I mean, I couldn't really handle that pressure. And I don't know how they can handle it.

    ROSS VELTON: They get help handling it from friends on both sides of the border. When he comes to the reserve, Rendon-Salinas breathes warm air on butterflies that can't fly because of the cold, so they will fly again.


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    GWEN IFILL: Next, another in our series of year-end retrospectives on issues in the news. This one is a look at the big battles playing out over the future of public education.

    Jeff taped this conversation yesterday.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the more significant stories of the past year is the growing adoption of new academic standards for math and reading known as the Common Core. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have moved toward implementing them, but there is still plenty of pushback as well, ranging from anger over the role of the federal government to worries about our tests set to begin more widely next year.

    The battles come amid larger tensions over testing and teaching, accountability, and how American students are faring overall.

    We look where things stand with three people covering education, Claudio Sanchez of NPR, writer Amanda Ripley, author of "The Smartest Kids in the Worlds," and the NewsHour special correspondent John Merrow.

    And welcome to all of you.

    Claudio, I want to start with because you just, I understand, came back from a reporting trip looking at Common Core. What is the most important thing you're finding now about it?

    CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, NPR: Well, first of all, it was a yearlong effort to gauge how the public feels about the Common Core. And, not surprisingly, most people don't know what it is.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They just don't know what it is?

    CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: The polling shows that 60 to 70 percent of Americans, certainly parents, are kind of in the dark about it.

    During these visits, though, I also found that it's educators and administrators who are also the most anxious about it, because they don't know what the implications for them are going to be, all in the name of raising academic standards in this country so that we can compare them internationally.

    JEFFREY BROWN: John Merrow, what -- how does that jibe with what you have been seeing in terms of understanding, acceptance, and some of the pushback?

    JOHN MERROW: Well, think Claudio is right. Most people don't know about the Common Core. There's a huge education effort required.

    I mean, after all, this is a national experiment. It's like testing the depth of the water with both feet. And I think the pushback is -- the concern is about the tests. There will be -- we already test a lot. Are these going to be more tests, and what will they be like?

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Amanda, you have of course looked at this through the international comparisons, so what do you see happening?

    AMANDA RIPLEY,“The Smartest Kids in the World": It's hard to find a top-performing country in the world that doesn't have something like the Common Core, where at some point everyone got together and said, let's make a list of what kids should know at each grade level. Let's make it more rigorous and more coherent than what we had before.

    But there are a lot of really poorly performing countries that have something like the Common Core, too. So, it's kind of like a prerequisite. And they are more aligned. Certainly, the vast majority of states, it is closer to what -- particularly in math -- closer to what the -- really the smartest countries in the world are doing.

    So, that is on paper a really good idea. In the execution, as the other gentlemen have pointed out, that's where you run into trouble.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so execution, what have you seen so far, Claudio, in terms of where it's already sort of settled in a little bit?

    CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Well, of course, the Common Core was adopted pretty much in 2009, when the National Governors Association and chief state school officers said, this is what we need.

    Since then, though, we have an enormous amount of disarray. We have now five states that are not participating at all. We have eight states that have pulled out of the testing consortia that were created, in part with federal aid, to make sure that we have tests that are comparable.

    So, there is this dissension, and certainly a lot of political opposition to centralizing -- that's what the term that often critics use -- to centralize the decisions about what kids should know and be able to do. And so the implementation is really at risk, because by the 2014-'15 school year, this is supposed to be in place.

    And what is not guaranteed is that you're going to have the kind of cooperation from states. States have dropped out of the testing consortia. And that means that they're going to come up with their own tests.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, John Merrow, where -- well, pick up on that. I mean, where are we then? Are we still moving ahead, or is this -- all this a question mark again?

    JOHN MERROW: It's a question mark, and money is a big issue.

    We test more than anybody, but we use cheap tests, Jeff. A state will spend somewhere between $9 and $25 per kid on tests. These Common Core tests are going to cost $30 or more. They're better, more complicated tests. But states are saying, well, we don't want these. Kansas just dropped out. And they said, well, we will develop our own tests at the University of Kansas.

    Well, that will allow Kansas to compare kids in Topeka and Wichita, but, as Amanda said, it's not going to be much use making international or even comparisons across states. It's going to be very chaotic.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do that -- Amanda, do the -- we talked about your book recently on the show. And then I also talked to Andreas Schleicher recently about the PISA evaluations.

    Do those have much of an impact on this debate that we're talking about in this country?

    AMANDA RIPLEY: I think it was those kinds of comparisons that helped really motivate some of the governors and local school officials to try to make more rigorous standards, because we saw year after year, despite all the fights we have and all the money we pour in to education, that at least at age 15 on the PISA test, which is a fairly sophisticated test of critical thinking, you see the kids just flatlining.

    So, we're right in the middle of the pack and slightly below average in math for the developed world. So, that's a point of some anxiety, because these -- these PISA scores in particularly are pretty predictive of college completion and other things, especially again in math, where we have a clear weakness at every socioeconomic level.

    CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Jeff, I think it's worth saying that -- that teachers, especially classroom teachers, don't dispute the need to raise the rigor of these standards and what kids are learning.

    I think that what often gets mixed up in this is how the test scores are going to be used. That's a huge issue. And that means ranking schools, rating states, certainly making decisions about whether a kid should be advanced another year or not. And most -- the most controversial use is, of course, whether these tests are going to be used to decide how much a teacher is -- should be paid...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Teacher accountability.


    CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: ... or whether that teacher should keep his or her job.

    And I think that it's that really that has poisoned the well for many educators.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Go ahead, John, yes.

    JOHN MERROW: Yes, if I could weigh in, that a fundamental distinction between the United States and most other countries is, we -- we test teachers. Now, the kids take the tests, but we're testing teachers.

    Most countries are assessing kids to figure it out. I was looking at a PISA sample test and an Oregon high school math test. The high school math question was, a certain valley has six snakes. They double in number every year. In how many years will there be 96 snakes? Well, that's just counting on your fingers.

    A PISA test, by a comparison, says, a hike up to the top of Mount Fuji is 18 kilometers. You can -- a boy can -- a man can go 1.5 kilometers an hour on the way up, three kilometers an hour on the way down. The down -- the park closes at 8:00. At what hour in the morning does he have to leave to be back before the park closes?

    Now, it's not multiple choice. There's a whole lot of mathematics. The Oregon test was a multiple-guess question. We simply don't ask enough of our kids. That's a huge part of the problem...


    JEFFREY BROWN: But, John, let me ask you, because -- because all these things we're talking about, you have reported on the program for many years. I mean, the Common Core questions are things that go to whole school reform generally, teacher accountability, evaluations, all kinds of things.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Where do you think we are, more generally speaking, now with the school reform movement? Is it -- is it still going ahead? Is it stymied? Is it -- where are we?

    JOHN MERROW: You know, that's a great question.

    I -- it's possible that in 2014 we might see a fraying of the coalition between the test accountability people, which is Republicans and right-leaning Democrats, and the civil rights groups. They have supported test-based accountability because they recognize that, when you disaggregate data, you saw how poorly black kids and brown kids were doing.

    But now we have had -- since No Child Left Behind, we have had 12 years of this test stuff, and although there have been some gains, there really hasn't been much significant process -- progress. So, it's very possible we may see a fraying of that coalition, which would lead to more pushback against testing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Amanda, where do you think we are in this larger picture of school reform?

    AMANDA RIPLEY: I think the testing fatigue is so intense, among kids especially.

    I hear a lot about this from kids. They feel like their time is being wasted because they spend so many days taking dumb tests in so many states, and parents as well are -- and, so, I fear that the Common Core, which is a very legitimate effort to try to raise the standards so kids -- so the work is more interesting and more relevant to their lives, that that's being conflated with the larger sort of fatigue with testing.

    And I understand why that's happening. But it is -- it's like everything is kind of -- kind of coming together. And it may not be the same thing. So the idea of behind the Common Core was to try to have smarter tests that are more like the Mount Kilimanjaro question, and less like the dumb multiple-choice questions. We don't have those yet. They're coming out next year.

    So, there's -- in the void here is a lot of anxiety, a lot of distrusts, which is built upon years of fighting.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And does that mean that the larger -- the whole school reform movement, politically speaking, as well as culturally speaking, has slowed in some way?

    AMANDA RIPLEY: I think, in some places, it certainly has, if you look at New York City, for example.

    I think it's going to take a very savvy politician to continue on some of these tracks, but adjust, adapts them. Instead of having more tests, have fewer, smarter tests to try to get some buy-in from people who are understandably just leery of all of this and to try to get the trust back in the system.

    One encouraging thing I do see that is happening that we haven't talked about is more focus finally -- and you can tell me if you agree or not -- but finally more focus in the United States on really starting from the beginning, and trying to make teacher training colleges, education colleges more selective and more rigorous, which makes it then possible to maybe pay teachers more, give them more autonomy and expect them to teach higher-order skills.

    That's something we have never done. No state is -- has really, really seriously raised the bar like that. And if you look around the world, the top-performing countries have done that at some point, and they get big returns on that in many, many ways.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Claudio?

    CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: That's a reminder, I think, of something very clear, which is, a lot of pieces have to come together.

    And as big as Common Core and testing pieces are, Amanda is perfectly correct. There is a huge issue about how we prepare teachers in this country. And that conversation is barely getting started. And it's already having its own fireworks.

    One thing to point out, though, in our pieces about the Common Core, we asked experts who have advised the consortia who know about testing, have spent years on this, what they would predict would happen in 2014.

    And Robert Brennan of the University of Iowa, who has been consulting with some of these consortia, was saying, look, you can still have an enormous amount of dissension, maybe even a lot more states pulling out of all of this, as John McCain just said, the fraying of these coalitions, but he says, one thing that's not going to happen, we're not going to go back in this country, no matter what states do, to the weak and mediocre testing, as well as standards, that we have had in place for a long time, because the message is clear. We need to do something.

    Whether it's going to be part of Common Core or not is not the issue. The issue is, this nation is now recognizing that it has to do a lot more to get our kids up to speed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, a lot to watch for in the next year.

    Claudio Sanchez, Amanda Ripley, and John Merrow, thank you, all, very much.

    CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Good to be here.

    JOHN MERROW: Thank you.

    AMANDA RIPLEY: Thanks.


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    When an attempt to restore the holiday spirit with a forlorn little Christmas tree fails, Charlie Brown needs Linus' help to learn the real meaning of Christmas in 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

    It's the Holidays, and you know what that means, a non-stop cavalcade of consumerism. And also family, cookies, togetherness and, of course, holiday movies. But before you hunker down on the couch to watch "Love, Actually" for the twelfth time, ask yourself, how well do you really know your holiday films? Can you tell the difference between your Grinch and your Buddy the Elf? Match the correct quote with the movie displayed below.

    (Hint: If you need a cheat sheet or you want to make this an open book quiz, check out the videos below to find the right answer.)

    var _polldaddy = [] || _polldaddy; _polldaddy.push( { type: "iframe", auto: "1", domain: "dcvanessa.polldaddy.com/s/", id: "holiday-movie-quiz", placeholder: "pd_1387926249" } ); (function(d,c,j){if(!document.getElementById(j)){var pd=d.createElement(c),s;pd.id=j;pd.src=('https:'==document.location.protocol)?'https://polldaddy.com/survey.js':'http://i0.poll.fm/survey.js';s=document.getElementsByTagName(c)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(pd,s);}}(document,'script','pd-embed'));

    It's a Wonderful Life

    Love, Actually

    A Charlie Brown Christmas

    Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer


    Miracle on 34th Street

    How The Grinch Stole Christmas

    A Christmas Story

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    MONA ISKANDER: Every year, thousands of young people around the country celebrate this important rite of passage: college graduation. For generations it’s been the traditional route to adulthood and success.

    So how did 21-year-old Sebastian Stant, a college dropout, end up here working side by side with the president of a multi-million dollar tech start-up?

    SEBASTIAN STANT: I feel like the sky's the limit right now, and when I was at college, the limit was 4.0. And, like, here it's, like, if I work hard enough, like, I can  pretty much, like, accomplish, like, what I’m trying to do.

    MONA ISKANDER: He got this job through a non-profit organization called Enstitute – it’s a two year apprenticeship program for young would-be tech entrepreneurs that aims to be an alternative to higher education.

    Sebastian works with Daniel Klaus, the president of Airtime, a video communications company.

    DANIEL KLAUS:  Sebastian in particular has done a great job of sort of, like, grabbing onto a task, learning about it, asking for input, having -- you know, receiving input as we go, and learning along the way. So it's actually been really productive for us.

    MONA ISKANDER: More and more young people like Sebastian Stant are looking for alternatives to a college education partly because while college grads earn much more over the course of their lifetimes than those with only a high school degree, recent college graduates have struggled. In 2011, estimates are that half were either jobless or working in a job that didn’t require a four year degree.

    These kinds of numbers are what prompted Kane Sarhan and Shaila Ittycheria to act.

    KANE SARHAN: We believe that you need to learn. That you don't just graduate high school ready to run a company or -- ready to work anywhere. But we think you just need to be able to learn different ways.  And it doesn't all have to be in a classroom.

    MONA ISKANDER:  Sarhan and Ittycheria are the brains behind Enstitute. Both are big believers that learning on the job provides far more value than learning in the classroom. For Ittycheria, that comes from personal experience.

    SHAILA ITTYCHERIA: When I joined the startup community, saying I was a Harvard MBA was the biggest thing to shut doors in my face before anything else. I actually stopped mentioning that I was an MBA because people have many interpretations of what that word means. And they actually don't really know how good you are.  So instead, I started working at another startup for free where I proved my competency and my value.

    MONA ISKANDER: Soon after, when she got a job in charge of hiring new talent for a tech start up, her belief was reinforced that experience is more important than a fancy degree.

    SHAILA ITTYCHERIA: Time and time again, regardless of what school these young adults came from the best Ivies to small unheard of community colleges, they couldn't critically think through anything.  And it didn't inspire any confidence in me. If I give you a task can you actually get this done.

    MONA ISKANDER: So in November 2011, she and Sarhan, who also worked for the same tech start up, quit their jobs and created Enstitute.  They raised $90,000 by liquidating their personal savings. … and another $300,000 from private investors, including Microsoft. When they solicited applications… nearly 500 young people applied and 11 were chosen. 

    KANE SARHAN: You know, we get hundreds and hundreds of applications  saying, "You know, college isn't working for me.  I can't afford it.  It's not the right program for me.  This is what I’ve been looking for." 

    MONA ISKANDER: Take Sebastian Stant. He left Virginia Tech after a year and a half.

    MONA ISKANDER: In college there are classes you take that won't necessarily be part of your career but make you a whole person.  I mean, do-- you miss those kinds of classes?

    SEBASTIAN STANT:  No. I remember my freshman year sitting in my-- astronomy class. And it was a 90-minute course and I remember just sitting in the class thinking that some other aspiring, young tech entrepreneur was using that 90 minutes to, like, further his career.

    MONA ISKANDER: Sebastian and the others in the Enstitute program still spend 6-8 hours a week on academic pursuits… everything from art history to engineering. 

    But they spend at least 40 hours a week working for tech companies that provide two year apprenticeships through Enstitute. The companies pay Enstitute a small fee to access applications and a recruiting fee if they end up hiring the fellow full time.  Companies include, bit.ly, thrillst and flavorpill.

    For the last year, each fellow lived for free in this Manhattan apartment, sharing cooking and cleaning duties, and living on their earnings of $800-$1,000 a month.

    MONA ISKANDER: So an outsider looking at your program might say, it's two years very little pay."  no guarantee that-- that any of these young people will get jobs in those industries.  I mean, it's a big risk.

    KANE SARHAN: I think when you come and sit down with our students and you ask them if they feel like they're not going to get a job, they would 100 percent disagree with you. Right?  They see firsthand the networks they're being exposed to, the people they get to work with, the-- on the job training and education that they're getting. 

    MONA ISKANDER: Once or twice a week they invite tech entrepreneurs to network with the fellows.  

    JEFF SELINGO:  The technology industry as a whole has been very used to this idea of students not going to college and getting certified.  I'm not quite sure that the rest of the economy's quite ready for that. 

    MONA ISKANDER: Jeff Selingo is an editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education, a weekly news service that covers academic affairs. He says that higher education is in a state of crisis. For public universities alone, instate tuition rose 66 percent between 2002 and 2013 – making it unaffordable for many Americans. And that’s even harder for parents of college age students to swallow, given the difficulty many kids have getting a job once they graduate. 

    JEFFREY SELINGO: Right now, we have this one-size-fits-all system that treats most students alike. Students want a more flexible experience.  They want to have a chance to work.  They want to have a chance to study abroad. They want to have a chance to learn online, as well as face-to-face. This is where I think that higher education really needs to take-- a cue from-- a place like Enstitute and say, "how do we build into the curriculum, that kind of experiential learning?”

    MONA ISKANDER: I mean, they really see themselves as an alternative to college.  Do you agree with that?

    JEFFREY SELINGO: I see them as an alternative to college-- at 18.  But having a college degree, at some point in your life, is still the best insurance against unemployment and getting higher salaries over the course of your lifetime. 

    MONA ISKANDER: Even so, more and more alternatives to colleges are popping up for a small number of students with an entrepreneurial bent.  Pay-pal founder Peter Thiel started a fellowship giving $100,000 to young adults to skip college and focus on entrepreneurship full time. Uncollege Gap Year is a program in which young people design their own education paths by pursuing creative projects around the world.

    And the Mycelium School is a 9-month residential education program for young people interested in social entrepreneurship.

    Selingo says that these types of options, including apprenticeships for skilled trade jobs like electricians and carpenters should be encouraged.

    JEFF SELINGO:  It used to be in the United States that apprenticeships were very big.  And the idea that not everybody necessarily went to college and that you kind of learned on the job.  And this still is true in other parts of the world.  In Germany, for example, a lot of students end up going to apprenticeships instead of college.

    MONA ISKANDER: As for Enstitute, new companies have already signed up as it plans to expand to 100 fellows and open offices in Washington DC and St. Louis this January.   

    And for Sebastian Stant, he’s been offered a full time job with the company where he’s doing his apprenticeship.  But he has ambitions to one day start his own business creating technical innovations in the political campaign field.

    MONA ISKANDER: What happens if your dreams of building a company aren't realized and you need to go into the job market? 

    SEBASTIAN STANT: So, and I think this kind of, like-- relieved my mom a little bit.  Is the idea of, like, college is always going to be there, and they’re always going to want my tuition, and there's always going to have, like, space for me.  And so if worse comes to worse, like, I guess I can go back to college. 

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    It's Christmas, a season for giving, and so today we reflect on the gifts that science gave us this year. From a rock 'n' roll astronaut to a tweeting robot, and a furry new mammal to a Martian discovery, we didn't lack for stories to share in 2013. So let's reflect back on the year, and thank science for the gifts it has given us.

    A meth-cooking science teacher to fall in love with

    Chemistry gave television audiences a real boon with the AMC series "Breaking Bad." As the juggernaut story of a chemistry teacher-gone-meth-cook came to a close this year, Miles O'Brien found out that there was real science behind the plot lines of "Breaking Bad" -- even if some of it was a little exaggerated.

    The sound of interstellar space

    Voyager 1made a milestone in history this year, becoming the first man-made object to reach interstellar space. (That accomplishment alone took some long-term planning we can all learn from.) As it crossed the threshold, it sent back the sound of interstellar space, which NASA explains in the video above. It was music to scientists' ears.

    "We're well beyond the planets, but not all the comets," said Ed Stone, the chief scientist on the Voyager Mission. "We're outside the boundary of the sun. Not only is this an important goal in science, we are exploring where no one has gone before."

    Justice for Guatemala

    In the 1980s, Guatemalans lived in fear as native Ixil Mayans were raped and murdered. Under the regime of Efrain Rios Montt, 15 massacres targeting Ixil Mayans left over 1,700 dead, and displaced 29,000. As a member of congressional office, Rios Montt was given immunity from charges and evaded trial for years.

    This year, forensic science proved that thousands of innocent Ixil Mayans were murdered. Initially, the evidence brought a guilty verdict for Rios Montt on May 14, convicting him of genocide. But the courts overturned the verdict days later, throwing the case into turmoil.

    Hope for silence

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    2 bombs in Christian areas of Iraq's capital Baghdad kill 35 people, say officials http://t.co/H1rmNdPqKxpic.twitter.com/TJTetyh0tH

    — BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) December 25, 2013

    A car bomb exploded in southern Baghdad this morning, outside St. John's Roman Catholic Church killing at least 26. Many of the victims were parishioners of the church, caught in the blast as they left a Christmas morning prayer service.

    Two other Christmas day bombs went off in other parts of Iraq targeting police and Shi'ite pilgrims, bringing the days death toll to at least 35.

    Shortly after the St. John's bombing, the U.S. embassy in Iraq issued a statement condemning the attack.

    U.S. Condemns Attacks Targeting Iraqi Christians Celebrating Christmas

    The United States Embassy condemns in the strongest terms today's attacks in the Dora area of Baghdad that targeted Christians celebrating Christmas. We extend condolences to the victims and their families and wish a rapid recovery for those who were injured.

    The Christian community in Iraq has suffered deliberate and senseless targeting by terrorists for many years, as have many other innocent Iraqis. The United States abhors all such attacks and is committed to its partnership with the Government of Iraq to combat the scourge of terrorism.

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