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

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    A Father Christmas walks in a street in Madagascar pic.twitter.com/ooHfP3KSTc

    — Agence France-Presse (@AFP) December 25, 2013

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    U.S. Capitol; Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty ImagesWASHINGTON -- A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome.

    Curved rows of scaffolds will encircle the dome like Saturn's rings starting this spring. They will allow contractors to strip paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken cast iron pieces.

    The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding.

    Repairs to water damage inside will require a partial covering of the huge frescoed ceiling in the Capitol's Rotunda.

    Cracks in the 150-year-old dome have allowed water to penetrate for years. The last major renovation was in 1960.

    The project is starting just as the nearby Washington Monument sheds scaffolding that was used to repair damage from a 2011 earthquake.

    The current dome is actually the second to sit atop the capitol. The first was deemed too small for the building and was replaced in 1862. The current dome celebrated its 150th birthday in early December.

    At this hour 150 years ago, the @uscapitol Dome was completed. pic.twitter.com/u2fOjxtqZw

    — Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) December 2, 2013

    By Associated Press and PBS NewsHour

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    In "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Charlie needs a little help from Linus to learn the real meaning of Christmas. ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

    Christmas is winding down. The weeks have been filled with cookie baking, gift wrapping and 25 days of your favorite holiday films. From old favorites like "Its a Wonderful Life" to modern classics like "Elf" -- it's a good evening to sit back with a holiday classic. But how well do you know your Christmas movies?

    Take our quiz to test your holiday movie knowledge.

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    GWEN IFILL: This Christmas Day brought new calls for a better world, but also new violence. Some spent the day just trying to stay warm, while others reveled in the cold. It was all part of Christmas 2013.

    More than 70,000 people crowded St. Peter's Square on Christmas morning to hear Pope Francis call for peace that is more than just a lovely facade. He singled out the troubled corners of the earth.

    POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): Let us continue to ask the lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid.

    Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.

    GWEN IFILL: The pontiff also prayed that Christians be protected from persecution.

    As if to underscore the point, car bombings in Iraq killed at least 37 people in Christian areas of Baghdad today. But for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, it was a relatively peaceful day, with holiday food and celebrations. Volunteers in Athens served Christmas meals to the growing numbers of homeless driven to the streets during Greece's long years of economic crisis.

    MAN (through interpreter): Yes, the situation is getting worse. To give you an example, we used to give 1,200 meals a day. Now we're giving 1,400.

    GWEN IFILL: In their Christmas message, President and Mrs. Obama recognized Americans who help those in need.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what he taught us: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to feed the hungry and look after the sick, to be our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper.

    GWEN IFILL: And, in Britain, Queen Elizabeth's traditional Christmas message urged her people to get the balance right in their daily lives.

    QUEEN ELIZABETH II: With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock. Be it through contemplation, prayer or even keeping a diary, many have found the practice of quiet personal reflection surprisingly rewarding.

    GWEN IFILL: The national security leaker, Edward Snowden, put out his own two-minute recording calling for reflection on how much surveillance is too much.

    EDWARD SNOWDEN: A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They will never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

    GWEN IFILL: For thousands of others, though, Christmas Day came down to a struggle with the elements. Powerful storms battered Britain and France in recent days, and torrential rains and hurricane-force winds left hundreds of homes and businesses flooded and without power.

    Thousands more from the Great Lakes region to eastern Canada faced a bitterly cold Christmas in the dark, after weekend ice storms knocked out power.

    WOMAN: We actually put the turkey out on the -- out on the front porch because it was colder than the refrigerator.

    GWEN IFILL: Some hearty souls reveled in the cold. As they do every year, 20 members of the Berlin Seals Club took their traditional Christmas dip in a near-freezing German lake.

    In Russia today, prosecutors dropped charges of hooliganism against 29 crew members of a Greenpeace ship. They'd been seized in September outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic. The criminal case was set aside under an amnesty passed by the Russian Parliament. Charges against the 30th and final crew member may be dropped tomorrow.

    The president of South Sudan is calling for an end to ethnic killings, after 10 days of growing violence. His appeal appeared today on a government Twitter account. As he spoke, government troops and rebel forces battled for control of the capital city in oil-rich Upper Nile State. Meanwhile, a South Sudan official said the prime minister of Ethiopia and the president of Kenya will arrive tomorrow to try to mediate the conflict.

    The military -- the military-backed government in Egypt formally declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization today. It culminated a crackdown on the group that began when Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July.

    The announcement was delivered on state television by the deputy prime minister.

    DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER HOSSAM EISSA, Egypt (through interpreter): The government reiterates that there will be no return to the past under any circumstances. And Egypt, the state and the people, will never succumb to the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose crimes have gone beyond far all moral, religious and human limits.

    GWEN IFILL: The minister said the decision was a direct response to a deadly bombing in the Nile Delta yesterday that killed 16 people and wounded more than 100. The Muslim Brotherhood denied any role in the attack.

    A corruption investigation in Turkey triggered a government shakeup today. Prime Minister Erdogan replaced 10 cabinet ministers, including three who resigned earlier in the day. Two of them have sons who were arrested this week on bribery charges. Erdogan has charged the investigation is aimed at discrediting his government.

    China's ruling Communist Party has officially released a five-year plan to tackle corruption. The plan targets wrongdoing that triggers protests or leads to industrial accidents. It gives relatively few details, but does include heavier punishment for bribes. Chinese President Xi Jinping has made cracking down on corruption a priority.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Now we continue our series of conversations about the major news developments of the year, tonight's topic, the Obama administration's foreign policy challenges.

    Judy Woodruff recorded this discussion before she left for her Christmas holiday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It's been a busy year diplomatically for the Obama administration. Among the most notable developments was the interim agreement signed with Iran limiting the country's nuclear development program in exchange for lifting some economic sanctions. The civil war in Syria intensified, and after chemical weapons there were used against scores of civilians, the U.S. and Russia brokered a deal in which Syria agreed to give up its chemical stockpile.

    SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments. And, as I said at the outset of these negotiations, there can be no games, no room for avoidance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Asia, tensions mounted, as China declared territory to be in its air defense zone that Japan also claimed.

    So to put those events and others in perspective, we get four views.

    John Negroponte held several major Alabamans positions, including United Nations. He was also the first director of national intelligence during the George W. Bush administration. He's now with an international consulting firm. Anne-Marie Slaughter directed the State Department's Policy Planning Department during the first term of the Obama administration. She's now the president of the New America foundation. David Ignatius is a foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post. And Trudy Rubin is a foreign affairs columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    We welcome you, all four.

    And I'm going to start with you, Anne-Marie Slaughter.

    Overall, when you consider U.S. foreign policy over the last year, how does it look to you? Was there an overarching theme you saw?

    ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, New America Foundation: I think the overarching theme is leading through diplomacy or putting diplomacy very much first.

    This is -- 2014 will be the year that we pull our troops out of Afghanistan. The president will able to say he ended two wars and he put diplomacy front and center. And on Iran, I think he really succeeded. That framework agreement is the best news we have had in a long time on Iran.

    I think behind-the-scenes diplomacy in China -- with China and Japan and other countries in East and South Asia very effective. On Syria, on the other hand, yes, good diplomacy to get chemical weapons out, but where I think they have really fallen down is no successful diplomacy with respect to the underlying conflict in Syria, which just gets worse and worse, and, at this point, no credible threat of force, which means I think it's hard for there -- for -- to make diplomacy work in that case.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will pick up on some of these individual countries.

    But, Trudy Rubin, as you look around the world, what do you see? I mean, do you see a theme? How do you think the administration has done?

    TRUDY RUBIN, The Philadelphia Inquirer: I think the administration is trying to put diplomacy first, but I think they have made a big mistake in underestimating how well you can do with diplomacy when people don't think that there's force to back it up, and when people think you need them more than they need you.

    I think that has become clear in Syria, which I will mention because I think it affects almost everything else. The president's decision to go for a chemical weapons treaty and to back off a pledge that he had made and commitments he had made to allies to strike the Syrians in response for their violating his red line has had repercussions all over the globe, I think, as far as to China and certainly with Iran, because the president, by blinking, and making it clear that domestic considerations and his reluctance to use force were more important than keeping commitments and being consistent, has convinced a lot of countries, I believe, including Iran, possibly China, that he will not put muscle behind his diplomacy.

    Certainly, it has convinced Russia. And that affects the kind of diplomacy you can do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Ignatius, pick up on that. What do you see as you look around the world and what the administration has done?

    DAVID IGNATIUS, The Washington Post: This is the year of diplomacy, without doubt. But, unfortunately, it has perceived as a year of weakness and reactive policy by President Obama.

    I just have come back from traveling overseas, and I have never heard more complaining, criticism, unhappiness, and in some cases bordering on contempt for the United States. It's an unusual and worrying situation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For the same reasons that Trudy Rubin was citing?

    DAVID IGNATIUS: I think U.S. policy -- this is a year in which President Obama really tried hard through diplomacy to reposition the United States after these very difficult wars.

    But we saw how hard it is to reposition a superpower. You have existing commitments, allies, a whole network of people who are going to be upset by changes in the status quo. And I would fault the administration for all the things I think are commendable, this diplomatic effort, for lack of communication to friends and allies both, for lack of consistent follow-through.

    A lot of these are process issues. It's hard to criticize an effort to see if you can get a deal to reverse Iran's nuclear policy short of war. But what is essential when you're doing something big like that is that you communicate, communicate, communicate, and I don't see enough of that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we put a lot on the table here, John Negroponte.

    What do you -- as you look around, do you see some of the same things? What do you see?

    JOHN NEGROPONTE, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence: Well, first of all, I would say that diplomacy and the use of force are not mutually exclusive.

    This is a spectrum. It's Clausewitzian, right? War is the continuation of politics by other means. So, as Trudy was saying, sometimes you have to have the credible threat of force available in order to achieve your peaceful diplomatic objectives.

    And I think we saw an example of that in one of the areas which I would highlight as a success of the administration, which was the chemical weapons agreement through the Security Council with respect to Syria. And I think that is clearly a considerable success.

    One thing we haven't mentioned, which I think is important to talk about, is the economic revitalization in the United States, the fact that we just passed a modest budget bill the other day, the fact that the United States' economy is on the mend, that our dependency -- our dependency on foreign imported oil and the shale revolution here in this country is taking place, I think, have put us in a much better position when you look back five, six years ago, where people thought we were sort of on our backs economically.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you're saying -- and you're saying that has an effect internationally on foreign policy?

    JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, I think it helps improves the environment within which or through which we carry out our foreign policy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's just -- let's just pick up.

    Go ahead, Anne-Marie Slaughter, because, you know, what I would like to zero in on here, are there places where the administration needs to change, places where they -- or approaches that can stay the same, can stay where they essentially are now?

    ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: So I think you hear a lot of agreement among all of us on the fact that the administration is not at this point looking credible with respect to the threat of force.

    So the minute that we really were credible and it was clear we were going to strike Syria, suddenly, the diplomatic game changed and you got the chemical weapons agreement. But since then, and as with that turnaround, what we're seeing is a country that is saying, you know, we want to negotiate a deal, but we're not actually willing to use force or economic coercion if we don't get it.

    And certainly for Syria -- and Syria is so awful, that many of us just want to, you know, not think about it, because tens of thousands, over 150,000 people have died. The humanitarian conditions are awful. Al-Qaida-linked groups are growing in strength daily. Syria itself is coming apart.

    We all, effectively, don't have a solution, but I think that's not good enough. I think this administration has to actively put together a coalition, make it a priority, and make clear that we are willing to use force in some ways to stop the killing. So, that's the main thing I would say.

    TRUDY RUBIN: Can I...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Trudy, yes.

    TRUDY RUBIN: Yes.

    I just want to follow up on that. I just came back from the Turkish-Syrian border. And it was, actually, I would say almost tragic.

    Watching and listening as Secretary Kerry said, we're ready to talk with Islamists, there is a new Islamist coalition now that is the powerhouse on the ground inside Syria, but that is a trap of our own making. And, actually, by failing to act, we have allowed an al-Qaida belt to flourish often both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border.

    I bring this up because, as we go to Geneva, I think these Geneva talks, the Syria talks, are going to be the prelude to what we can or can't achieve with Iran. The Iranians are watching. And, frankly, we are in a position where we are totally dependent on Russia and on Iran to deliver anything from Hafez al-Assad.

    I think we have to be willing to walk away from those Syria talks, unless the Russians and the Iranians in the background actually deliver a humanitarian opening which allows food and vaccines to be delivered to territory controlled by the opposition. There is a polio epidemic spreading, et cetera.

    Bashar will not allow the vaccines in. So, this is the test case. If Geneva two doesn't work on Syria, then I don't think the Iranian talks are going to work either.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and, David Ignatius, I want to -- again, what I want to come -- try to get at here are, are there specific changes the administration can make to get some of these, whether it's Syria, whether it's Afghanistan, which we haven't really addressed, is not completely clear yet, to get these back on track and -- and, frankly, change some of these impressions we're hearing that are settling in about the United States?

    DAVID IGNATIUS: What I would say is that the administration needs to emphatically, systematically apply the policies that it has.

    The U.S. has a program now to train and assist the Syrian opposition. It has been a disaster. The first disaster is that it got started so late. Anne-Marie Slaughter was somebody who was early in advocating assistance to the Syrian opposition. Her boss, Secretary of State Clinton, aggressively argued for it, supported by General Petraeus, then the head of the CIA.

    The president just didn't want to do it. And when he finally got around to doing it, he did it in a somewhat half-hearted way. That's a program that, even today, if you got started seriously, would make a difference in building the structure of a future Syria.

    And we're heading into the most important negotiation maybe of my lifetime with Iran. And it's crucial that the United States in every aspect of its policy be tough, systematic, coherent. This is a deal that you can't get wrong. And I know the White House is worried about it, but they -- again, they need to be communicating, thinking with their allies, credible to adversaries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how important is it, John Negroponte, that the administration get -- for example, get on a better track or a more successful track in Syria in order to get the outcome that it wants in some of these other countries?

    JOHN NEGROPONTE: I'm not too sure about that.

    But one thing I would add to -- you mentioned Afghanistan. I think it's very important. It's a more modest issue, but it's very important that the administration is successful in negotiating arrangements for a residual United States and allied force, coalition force to be able to stay in Afghanistan after we complete our withdrawal of combat troops...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: After the commitment...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JOHN NEGROPONTE: ... in 2014.

    We failed to do that in Iraq. And that was -- I wouldn't fault this administration. Both administrations kind of set that situation up. But I think it would be very important to get it in Afghanistan. I think it would be an earnest of our commitment to that part of the world and a good example of the correlation between our diplomacy and military issues.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Several of you have talked about the standing of the administration, of the United States in the world.

    Anne-Marie Slaughter, does it -- how much does it matter whether the U.S. is respected or not? If the U.S. is pursuing a course that it believes is right, how much does it matter whether the Saudis agree, for example, with the Iran policy?

    ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: Well, a great deal. I mean, it's actually highly ironic that President Obama came in at a time when our standing in the world was as low as it had been in 50 years, after -- as the George W. Bush administration went out, and President Obama immediately raised that standing and Secretary Clinton, too.

    But there are all sorts of smaller issues and problems and crises that our diplomats work, try to work out. Somebody has to take the initiative. And the United States has traditionally felt that it was our job not to solve every problem, but to put together coalitions and, you know, the willingness to get the process of solving the problems started.

    And if we're not playing that role and we're not even looked to, to play that role, that leads to much more chaos, much more kind of small problems becoming big problems. And the last thing I would say here, because we haven't raised it, is the whole spying with the NSA and what that has done to our stature, because that's another major, major problem for us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Trudy Rubin, just pick up on that as we conclude this, in terms of what the administration needs to do differently in 2014.

    TRUDY RUBIN: I agree with David that communication is key.

    Even if our allies disagree with us, and especially when they do, if we leave them flat-footed, as we did, for example, with France on the strike which we had pledged to do in Syria, and France had gone out on a limb, President Hollande, and suddenly President Obama backs off after communicating with his domestic staff and doesn't even inform Hollande in advance -- the same thing has happened repeatedly with the Saudis.

    Then they begin to distrust us. Soft power, we have a problem. It's not entirely the president's doing. Congress's machinations on freezing the government have made us look weak. But what the president can do is at least have a coherent policy where he sends out emissaries and informs allies in advance of critical decisions. Otherwise, they don't trust us and they will go out on their own.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just final word from David Ignatius and John Negroponte.

    How much of what we're talking about, though, is due to administration policy, and how much of it is just the problems are harder than they have ever been, David?

    DAVID IGNATIUS: These are nightmarish problems. We saw in Iraq and Afghanistan the limits on the efficacy of U.S. power. We cannot compel solutions to most problems.

    If you look at our Iran diplomacy, I give the president really high marks for opening the door to Iran after 34 years of no talking, and then putting together a coalition and sanctions that pushed Iran through that door. He opened it and then compelled them really to think about changing. That's -- that was a good diplomacy effort.

    The issue for this administration is follow-through. It's closing. It's getting the deal done. And that's what we're all going to be watching this year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Negroponte?

    JOHN NEGROPONTE: So, I think they have got to work hard on stabilizing the Middle East.

    That includes the Syria problem. It includes support for Egypt. It's has got to continue. It includes working on the Iran situation. I think trade -- I mentioned economic factors earlier. I think we got two major trade agreements, an Atlantic agreement and a Transpacific agreement that are on the table for next year.

    And it's important that we pursue those, because the American people pursue -- perceive foreign economic relations as very beneficial to our economy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's not sexy to talk about trade.

    JOHN NEGROPONTE: It may not be, but I think the American people see a benefit in it.

    And, lastly, there are these thunderbolts that come at us every now and then, like the Snowden revelations that Anne-Marie mentioned, which has been very prejudicial. And I think the president, under the circumstances, is managing that very difficult issue as best he possibly can. And that certainly has hurt us in our relations with countries like Brazil, for example, and others.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to leave it there, a big subject, and we have got a whole -- a whole other year to look forward to.

    Thank you very much, John Negroponte, David Ignatius, Trudy Rubin, Anne-Marie Slaughter. Thank you. 


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    Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden recorded a Christmas video message for Britian's public television station, Channel 4. In his message, Snowden warns of a future where there will be no privacy due to intrusive surveillance. "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy, at all," he explains. Snowden asks viewers to join him in pressuring governments to end mass surveillance.

    Snowden was in the news earlier this week, when he told the Washington Post he felt his mission of educating the public about surveillance was accomplished.

    On Tuesday, Jeffrey Brown spoke with the Washington Post's Barton Gellman, who interviewed Snowden in Moscow.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, mining technology to solve the world's problems.

    NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman recently traveled to California and filed this report on some innovative thinkers. It's part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: On the back lot at 20th Century Fox, the world of make-believe, and a typical make-believe vision of the future, courtesy of FOX CEO Jim Gianopulos.

    JIM GIANOPULOS, CEO, 20th Century Fox: Here's a little peek at what's in store for us.

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: At Weyland Industries, it has long been our goal to create artificial intelligence almost indistinguishable from mankind itself.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The sci-fi pipe dream of moving pictures for as long as they have existed, but no dream to those assembled here.

    This wasn't a film industry gathering, but a conference put together by Singularity University, a futuristic Silicon Valley think tank which fosters and showcases high-tech inventions. The goal is to make the world a better place as fast as possible.

    Co-founder Peter Diamandis.

    PETER DIAMANDIS, chairman, Singularity University: These tools that are now in your hands allow us to really take on any challenge. It's about the most efficient use of capital and tools that have ever existed.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Singularity's mission is to solve humanity's most pressing problems by spurring new technologies in food, water, energy, supposedly scarce, but, with the tinkerings of technology, says Diamandis, potentially abundant.

    PETER DIAMANDIS: We have the potential during our lifetime, in the next 10 to 30 years, to slay water, energy shortage, hunger, health care, educational issues, where we can create a world of abundance, where we can meet the basic needs of every man, woman and child on this planet.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The key, says Diamandis, is that tech growth is not linear, one, two, three, four, five, but exponential, one, two, four, eight, 16, or even faster than that.

    PETER DIAMANDIS: The rate of innovation is a function of the total number of people connected and exchanging ideas. It has gone up as population has gone up. It's gone up as people have concentrated in cities.

    You know, the coffee shop is the location where people exchange and share ideas. Now the global coffee shop is the Internet, and the more people are connected, the more innovation we have.

    Think about the fact that a Masai warrior in the middle of Africa today on one of these cell phones has better mobile com than President Reagan did 25 years ago. And if they're on Google on a smartphone, they've got better access to knowledge than President Clinton did 15 years ago. It's extraordinary.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, says high-tech entrepreneur Carl Bass, we haven't seen anything yet.

    CARL BASS, CEO, Autodesk: Within five to 10 years, we will be printing biological structures with actual function.

    PAUL SOLMAN: 3-D printing is already a reality, copying machines that literally copy in three dimensions toys, product prototypes, and now living things as well.

    CARL BASS: There's some fantastic work going on at Wake Forest, where they're using that same technology of 3-D printing, and they have already printed a human kidney. It's not ready for transplant, but I suspect, within five to 10 years, it will be.

    PAUL SOLMAN: This conference was filled with sci-fi-like eye-openers. The self-driving car has now been OKed in Nevada.

    DOCTOR: So we can put your hands right here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dr. Dan Kraft gave me an EKG -- and with a stent installed, I've had a lot of them -- with his cell phone.

    DOCTOR: It's just a two-lead EKG, pretty basic. But I can see the basic things, that your heart is beating regularly, that your Q.R. complex looks normal, that you're not having an S.T. elevation, which would be associated with chest pain or acute attack.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Former astronaut Dan Barry said the day was soon coming when robots would provide all sorts of services, from the workaday to the intimate.

    DAN BARRY, Singularity University: Robot sex is going to be big. It really is.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAN BARRY: This is funny, right? But it's not funny if you're 75 years old and you just lost your partner and you are lonely and you're by yourself, you still have sexual drive, and you have no outlet for that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Among the best-known inventors at the conference was Dean Kamen, whose innovations include this prosthetic arm. It freed double amputee Chuck Hildreth from total dependence, freed his wife from feeding him.

    DEAN KAMEN, Founder, DEKA Research & Development Corporation: His wife is standing behind me at the time and starts to cry because she says he hasn't fed himself. And now here he is. And she says to me, "Dean, you have got a choice. We keep the arm or you keep Chuck."

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, Kamen and his cutting-edge contraptions may be familiar, in that we have introduced many here on the NewsHour over the years, from his medical marvels to transportation aids for overworked NewsHour correspondents. Kamen invented the Segway.

    But for the past decade, Kamen's most ambitious project may be the Slingshot, a device to make drinkable the world's dirty water.

    DEAN KAMEN: It is poison. It is toxic waste. Take water that's got fecal matter, cryptosporidium, giardia, every other kind of organic toxin or inorganic. We said, let's make a box that's small and portable that you can plop down anywhere.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A box the size of a dorm room fridge that almost instantaneously boils and then condenses water, 250 gallons a day.

    DEAN KAMEN: Water that's so pure, it's equivalent to rainwater. It's distilled water. And we believe that, if we can build these machines to scale at a cost that is, we think, highly realistic, we will be able to put these things all over the world where people that today have to make a choice between drinking something that will make them sick or possibly kill them and their children, or not drinking at all, which will surely kill them, that's not a choice people should have to make, not in the 21st century.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Kamen has cajoled Coca-Cola into distributing these devices, first venue, rural Ghana, where they're now being installed. Eventually, Slingshots could be everywhere.

    To Peter Diamandis, Kamen's project exemplifies the mission of Singularity University.

    PETER DIAMANDIS: Converting that which was scarce to that which is abundant.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Abundance is the title of Diamandis' new book, and describes his vision of the future: transformations in water, food, energy.

    PETER DIAMANDIS: What people don't realize is that we're living on a planet that's bathed with energy; 5,000 times more energy hits the Earth's surface than we consume as a species in a year. It's just not accessible yet. But there's good news in this area. There are breakthroughs constantly in solar energy production.

    Last year, in 2011, the cost of solar in the world dropped by almost 50 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Admittedly, solar now provides less than 1 percent of U.S. energy needs. But Singularity University's other co-founder, Ray Kurzweil, whom we interviewed by something called Teleportec, says the public is pointlessly pessimistic.

    RAY KURZWEIL, Chancellor, Singularity University: And I think the major reason that people are pessimistic is they don't realize that these technologies are growing exponentially.

    For example, solar energy is doubling every two years. It's now only seven doublings from meeting 100 percent of the world's energy needs, and we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to do that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: One last high-tech frontier: meat. At the moment, livestock production takes up a third of the world's ice-free land, generates nearly a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases, via organic exhaust, front and rear.

    And eating just one serving of red meat a day, says a new Harvard study, correlates with a 12 percent increased risk of death.

    Enter in vitro meat, not to be confused with pink slime.

    PETER DIAMANDIS: We have the technology now, it's being done in a number of labs, to actually grow meat products in the laboratory, in the test tube, so to speak. And people say, that's disgusting. Have you ever seen how Chicken McNuggets are made?

    PAUL SOLMAN: But an in vitro hamburger doesn't sound like it would be good for you.

    PETER DIAMANDIS: Well, actually, these kinds of new food products will be far better for you, because they will have the best proteins, the best fats, the nutrients built in.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It will taste like a hamburger?

    PETER DIAMANDIS: It will taste better than a hamburger.

    PAUL SOLMAN: By this time, we were sufficiently wowed, if not downright overwhelmed.

    But, keeping our journalistic wits about us, we posed the skeptic's question to Vint Cerf, known as the father of the Internet. Did he think this conference might just be over-hyping the future?

    VINT CERF, chief Internet evangelist, Google: I have been surprised repeatedly by the things that we've been able to do that would have been thought to be science fiction in the past. What Craig Venter talked about this morning about creating synthetic life would have been science fiction -- in fact, it was science fiction -- and he's pushed the boundaries of what's real.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But what about Craig Venter himself? The man who cracked the human genome in record time a decade ago is now hard at work creating new life forms for fuels, food and vaccines. He surprised us by issuing a warning of sorts. Singularity's brand-new world, he said, is not just around the corner.

    CRAIG VENTER, CEO, Synthetic Genomics: Most of what you've heard here so far today is fantasy or bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

    PAUL SOLMAN: Venter was venting for effect, perhaps, since he too is creating the future. But think of the world's growing problems, he says.

    CRAIG VENTER: If all these dreams come true -- and I hope these people are right -- then we will solve everything. Nobody has the solutions in hand right now.

    We have potential solutions. We don't have ways to provide the fuel, we don't have ways to provide the food, clean water, medicine for seven billion people now. How are we going to do it for eight, nine, 10 billion people in the coming decades?

    PAUL SOLMAN: How, indeed? But here in the make-believe world of the future, you can be sure someone has started working on the question.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now to South Asia and the man behind efforts to restart a once-surging economic powerhouse.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It's been a tough year for one of the world's largest economies, India, a member of the advancing BRIC countries, along with Brazil, Russia and China, is struggling to keep its reputation a growing economic power. But growth has slowed to less than 5 percent a year since 2011.

    The rupee has lost more than 11 percent of its value this year, and inflation surged above 11 percent in November, with sharply higher prices for vegetables and other foods, making life especially hard on the poor.

    MAN (through interpreter): Today, it is impossible to spend a day on just five rupees. It was perhaps possible 50 years back. Today, five rupees don't fetch anything.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The faltering economy shapes up as an issue in next year's national elections. In the meantime, the Reserve Bank of India, the country's central bank, is trying to cope.

    Raghuram Rajan became governor of the Reserve Bank in September and has boosted borrowing costs twice since then.

    BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve Chairman: The committee decided started next month...

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Then, last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it will begin to wind down its economic stimulus program. Expectations of the movement already helped drive the rupee lower.

    But Rajan his country is better prepared to cope now than it was a year ago.

    I spoke with him this week in Mumbai to get his take on what lies ahead for the Indian economy.

    Help a U.S. audience member understand how our two economies are connected. When the Fed chairman this summer announced that we would begin tapering, it contributed to the rupee declining in value against the dollar to new record lows. So how does what happens in the Fed affect the Indian economy?

    RAGHURAM RAJAN, Reserve Bank of India: Well, we have had a number of years of very low interest rates in the United States.

    What happens is then money looks for new places to invest in. And a lot of money has come looking for returns to places like India. Fortunately for us, a lot of money that has come in from overseas has been into equity markets, rather than into debt markets. But we also got some money into Indian debt.

    So, when the Fed says it's going to raise interest rates, what happens is, people say, aha, now the interest rate differential is not so attractive. Maybe I will bring my money back and put it in U.S. debt, which didn't pay high interest rates so far.

    And so we get a reversal of flows. That reversal of flows mean that they sell rupees by dollars, and the rupee exchange rate plummets, but, basically, it was a wakeup call to us to not be as dependent on foreign money as we were.

    Put differently, we can't, you know, buy as much foreign goods as we were, produce more locally.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A few years ago, there was this notion that the developing countries were going to be this new engine. And now you see the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China kind of slowing down a bit. India is growing at half the rate it was a couple of years ago. Are we waiting for larger economies to become the power, sort of the steam engine again, or can India rebound on its own?

    RAGHURAM RAJAN: Well, I think everyone is looking for a new model of growth.

    And I think India is going to discover that model over time. And -- and that model requires doing things a little differently, more investment, less consumption, more effective implementation of large products. I have no doubt that Indian growth will pick up from 5 percent, where it is now, is not bad. It's bad relative to the 10 percent it was growing at in some years in the past.

    But going back to higher rates of growth, I think once it figures out how to do things more cleanly and better, I think it will resume that level of growth.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, a few months ago, there was this meme in the Indian press about the price of onions and how they had doubled and in some places tripled. Now the price of vegetables in markets have come down for several reasons, but, really, the bigger question is about inflation.

    Consumer inflation in India is 11 percent and almost 11.25 percent this month. How does the central bank address that, especially when the poor feel inflation on food and fuel prices disproportionately hard?

    RAGHURAM RAJAN: Absolutely.

    I think it's a important challenge. I think, as you said, vegetable prices have come down. There's a spike. They have come down substantially since then. So, we should see some of that inflation fall off. But whether it's 9 or whether it's 11, it's still too high. We need to bring it down.

    Some of it has to be done by addressing the supply constraints in the economy. That will happen over time. But we have to also ensure that, from the central bank's perspective, we send a clear signal that higher rates of inflation will not be tolerated.

    I think you have to bring both sides together to get inflation down to healthy levels.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Help us understand the balance between growth and inflation. Right? On the -- there are estimates that about a million new Indians will enter the work force -- or, I should say, be of working age every month for the next 10 years.

    So how does the central bank create an environment where you can actually create jobs for all those people without contributing to inflation?

    RAGHURAM RAJAN: Well, the first thing is, we don't directly have an effect on growth, other than through maintaining inflation relatively low.

    Over the long term, these tradeoffs are -- basically disappear. And, essentially, the best way we can keep growth going is by maintaining a low level of inflation. However, as a developing country central bank, we have additional tools to the ones that developed countries have. We can develop the system. We can ensure, for example, payments reach every part of India.

    Remittances can be sent by a migrant laborer to his village back at very lost cost. That helps the village flourish, helps more reallocation of labor to places where they can be employed. That can help growth.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While you -- you have said that you don't pay attention to the election calendar, a lot of people around the world are looking at India and saying, there's a very important election coming up.

    How do you outcomes affect the Indian economy?

    RAGHURAM RAJAN: Well, I think they're important for the Indian economy.

    I think there is a consensus behind reforms which will take us forward regardless of which political party comes into power. But I think, if -- what we need is a stable coalition post-elections, because stable coalitions can make decisions more easily.

    The -- there's a small possibility that the coalition that comes into power doesn't contain one of the big political parties, in which case there may be a little more sort of difficulty in getting together on policies.

    But we must remember that, you know, some of the best budgets in Indian history, from the perspective of growth, were presented at times of very fractured coalitions.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, if the existing party doesn't remain in power, does that mean that you tender your resignation?

    RAGHURAM RAJAN: No.

    Mine is a technocratic position. I'm not a political -- I don't owe allegiance to any political party. And, therefore, I don't have to. I can -- I think I can be removed, but I don't have to tender my resignation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Raghuram Rajan, thanks so much for your time.

    RAGHURAM RAJAN: Thank you.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Finally, on this Christmas Day, a different take on the story of Jesus.

    Jeffrey Brown has our book conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Who was Jesus? How have his words and deeds resonated from his time to ours? A new book examines such questions not from the perspective off a religious scholar but of a writer, poet and teacher of literature. "Jesus: The Human Face of God" is the first in a new series titled "Icons" of short biographies on figures who changed history.

    Author Jay Parini is professor of English and creative writing at Middlebury College. Among his previous works are the novel "The Last Station" and a biography of Robert Frost.

    And welcome to you.

    JAY PARINI, "Jesus: The Human Face of God": Good to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I want to use that starting point, that you are not a religious scholar.

    JAY PARINI: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You're approaching this as a writer. So, what did you think that you wanted to or could bring this life of Jesus?

    JAY PARINI: Well, I was hoping, as a poet and novelist, I could bring some energy to the narrative.

    This is a great story. And I use the word all through the work mythos, the Greek word for myth. And I say that a myth is a story which has particular energy, mythic resonance. I always say that a myth is a tear in the fabric of reality, through which all of this spiritual energy pours.

    And I'm trying in this book to trace the outline of that tear and say, OK, Jesus, who was this guy?

    JEFFREY BROWN: When you say myth, you mean not in the common message -- the common parlance right?

    JAY PARINI: People usually say, oh, you think Jesus is a myth.

    Not true. But, actually, a myth is a story that is not just not true, but it's a story that is especially true. And I think the myth of Jesus is especially true.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, you tell us out the outset that Jesus was a -- quote -- "a religious genius." That's what you say.

    JAY PARINI: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What does that mean?

    (CROSSTALK)

    JAY PARINI: Well, what I mean by -- and I'm glad you brought that up.

    I say Jesus was a religious genius. But here is a Mediterranean peasant, obviously, I think, an incredible mind. He is born in a very interesting place, right on the Silk Road, which goes from Hellenistic Greece, tracks along to Persia, China, and India.

    And so Jesus is able to -- it's a very lively time, too, 1st century A.D. So, Jesus is able to pull in ideas of the body and the soul from Plato, ideas of karma from Buddhism and the East. And he's able to synthesize all of this and create a world religion, even though I do say in the book he wasn't trying to start a religion. That wasn't his purpose.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When you say synthesize -- so, give me an example of the synthesis that you -- would have come from West and East.

    JAY PARINI: Well, for instance, I just think the idea of body and soul as being how we're put together is very much a Hellenistic idea, Plato.

    But the idea of karma -- and it's a complicated idea, but the main thing is that blessed -- say, blessed are the merciful, for God will show them mercy. And I think in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew's 5, 6 and 7, Jesus is really laying forward a beautiful, a perfect system of ethics.

    And, you know, blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy. And then those six antitheses, things like, in the old days they said, if you hurt somebody, hurt them back, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But Jesus says, no, wait a minute. I say, if somebody slaps you, turn the other cheek.

    Then he says, I will even go further. If somebody -- I want you to love your enemies. Do good to those that -- them that hate you. He says, if somebody asks for your shirt, wants your tie, say, I want your tie, Jeff, you have to say, Jay, have my whole jacket.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JAY PARINI: That's Christianity. And it's a -- Christianity is not a set of -- it's not a set of boxes that you intellectually give assent to, I believe X, Y and Z. No. That's not it. It's a way of being in the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You -- you said earlier that you -- you didn't see Jesus as someone who imagined or wanted -- set out to start a new religion.

    You also don't see him -- and I mention this because of the book this year that got a lot of attention, "Zealot" by Reza Aslan, that portrayed him more as a political firebrand.

    You don't see that Jesus?

    JAY PARINI: That Jesus doesn't exist.

    Jesus said, those who live by the sword die by the sword. He was teaching peacefulness. Jesus wasn't founding a religion or a political movement. He believed in -- I keep using the phrase and kind of was happy when I stumbled on it, the gradually realizing kingdom of God. And when one of the...

    JEFFREY BROWN: Which means what?

    JAY PARINI: Well, someone says to him, where is this kingdom? Is it here? Is it there? And Jesus says, the kingdom of God is within you.

    And I think that one of the words I stress in this book is that word that Jesus, the character of Jesus in the Gospel uses 22 times, the Greek word metanoia, meta as in metaphysics, to go beyond physics, noia -- you're a Greek scholar -- the mind.

    And so what Jesus is saying here, metanoia, if you allow yourself to go beyond this physical mind and enter into the larger spirit of God, you will experience salvation, or the word salvation in Greek, soteria, it's such a beautiful word, but it really means enlightenment, peace, reconciliation.

    And this is the kingdom of God. It's the gradually realizing kingdom of eternity. And eternity is here and now and always.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This idea that you said about the myth, bringing the myth. You -- in fact, you say that you're writing in opposition to many tendencies in contrary scholarship and practice, you -- to de-mythologize Jesus. You want re-mythologize Jesus.

    JAY PARINI: Yes, as -- this is a biography, yes, but it's not historical, in the sense we don't -- we're not really working with the kind of usual data we would have for writing a life of, say, George Washington or a life of JFK.

    This is a mythical story. And what we're going on is the experience of God that people have through Jesus Christ. And so I'm -- it's, you know, a book about this marvelous experience of this teaching and experience of how, through understanding this story, we have a way that we can follow.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But I was -- I mean, I was curious how that also -- what that means for our reading and understanding of the miracles of the supernatural aspect as well, because it, in a sense...

    JAY PARINI: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: ... happened.

    JAY PARINI: Well, yes.

    I mean, I believe in the supernatural here. And someone asked me, well, how do you deal with the resurrection? You're an intelligent man. You're a professor at Middlebury College. You're a rational person. And I talk about the resurrection by saying, look, this is not the great resuscitation. This is a transformation that goes way beyond anything that the human mind can understand.

    And it strikes me as important that, when Jesus comes back in the stories from the dead, nobody recognizes him. He is walking -- Mary Magdalene is in the -- with -- goes into the tomb to -- she is so sad because her best friend, Jesus, has been crucified.

    Someone talks to her. She thinks it's the gardener. And he says, Mary? She looks and she says rabboni in -- in his native Aramaic. Even when Jesus goes to visits Nathaniel and the others, and Andrew and John, who are -- have taken to fishing again after the crucifixion, they're out there casting for fish, not getting any. Jesus says, try the other side of the boat.

    And they do. And they catch all these fish. They come to shore. They still don't recognize him. It's Peter who goes, wait a minute, you're Jesus, aren't you?

    So, I think the point here is made over and over again that the resurrection is way beyond human understanding, that life and death are very complicated matters. I think the membrane -- I say that the membrane between life and death is perilously thin. And I do think the story of Jesus, this great mythical story, can have transforming value in our lives.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we will continue this discussion online.

    But, for now, "Jesus: The Human Face of God" -- Jay Parini, thanks so much.

    JAY PARINI: Thank you, Jeff.

     

     


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  • 12/26/13--04:57: What we're watching Thursday
  • Good morning. These are some of the stories we're watching today at the post-holiday tryptophan wears off.

    HELLFIRE TO IRAQ The U.S. is "quietly" sending dozens of Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq, in hopes the government can quell an al-Qaeda insurgency.

    AMERICAN HOSTAGE Warren Weinstein, a 72-year-old development expert from Rockville, Md. who has been been held by al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan since he was kidnapped in 2011, has recorded a video message pleading for help from the Obama administration, saying he feels "totally abandoned and forgotten."

    48-HOUR TRUCE Free Syrian Army leaders and Syrian government officials have agreed to a 48-hour truce in fighting, which may result in food being allowed in for besieged residents threatened with starvation. The government has been trying to win back the opposition-held Damascus suburb Mouadamiya since 2012 by effectively choking off food, medicine and fuel. Reuters reports that thousands face starvation and children have died from malnutrition. Some have resorted to eating leaves to survive.

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    Psychologist Dan Ariely reports on his most surprising findings of the year: maybe higher tax rates don't discourage working harder.

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    President Barack Obama and members of Congress aren't the only government leaders hitting pause on Washington during the holidays. The Supreme Court takes a break from work, too, for almost a full month until mid-January. But as Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal explains, the justices stay busy preparing for a cluster of marquee cases in early 2014. The PBS NewsHour checked in with Coyle for a midterm Q&A about the court.

    It's midterm at the U.S. Supreme Court. How is the term shaping up and what are the justices doing right now?

    MARCIA COYLE: The justices have just begun a month-long recess. Arguments in 34 cases, beginning in October, ended on Dec. 11. The justices will hear cases again beginning on Jan. 13. The recess is partly because of the holidays, but it is also a time for catching up on the writing of decisions and the preparations for new cases to be argued in the new year.

    Have there been any big decisions issued thus far?

    MARCIA COYLE: Not really. Of the 34 argued cases, the justices have ruled in just six with signed decisions and two with what we call "per curiam," or unsigned, decisions. Seven of the eight decisions have been unanimous.

    The justices divided only in one of the per curiam rulings, a closely-watched labor case that asked them whether neutrality agreements between an employer and a labor union seeking to organize employees violated the Labor Management Relations Act. The justices did not answer the question and instead dismissed the case. The court didn't say why it dismissed the case, but three dissenting justices suggested there were technical problems that -- they at least believed -- could have been overcome by asking the parties to file new briefs.

    Is it surprising to see so much unanimity in those rulings?

    MARCIA COYLE: The early decisions traditionally reflect a lot of unanimity because they often raise easier issues to resolve. There are plenty of potentially divisive issues ahead in the term.

    Are there any big cases still undecided from the first half of the term?

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, indeed. In the very first month of the term, the justices heard arguments in two cases that could have significant implications for elections and for diversity in universities.

    The court will decide whether the First Amendment is violated by federal limits on the total amount of contributions that individuals can make to candidates, parties and political action committees in a two-year election cycle. Historically, the court has approved limits on contributions because they raise a serious risk of quid pro quo corruption.

    In the education case, Michigan is defending a voter-approved constitutional amendment that prohibits race and gender preferences in education.

    The court also heard arguments in November in a case about whether predominantly Christian prayers at the opening of a local government meeting violate the First Amendment's ban on the establishment of religion.

    What are you watching in the new year at the Court?

    MARCIA COYLE: The very first case argued when the justices return from their December break is a major political case involving the Constitution's separation of powers as well as a very practical case for the operation of our government. The justices will examine the meaning of the recess appointments clause to determine whether President Obama violated the Constitution when he made three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

    Republican opposition has often frustrated the president's efforts to get his nominees confirmed by the Senate. Although a recent rule change about filibusters in the Senate should make it easier, the case in the Supreme Court is a major one. Other rules could change, as could the political party that controls the Senate.

    I also am watching the return of the new federal health care law to the Supreme Court. The justices have agreed to decide two cases in which the owners of for-profit businesses say that providing health insurance that includes contraception coverage violates their religious beliefs.

    And this is a very important term for our environment. The court is considering challenges to efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to alleviate cross-state air pollution and to regulate greenhouse gas emissions not just from vehicles, but also from stationary sources.

    There are other cases that may have large or small effects on our lives, and sometimes even the cases that we in the media designate as the biggest ones are resolved in narrow ways. The impact depends on how the justices write the decision.

    Do you anticipate any retirements in 2014?

    MARCIA COYLE: No, I do not. There have been suggestions again by some court observers that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer should retire soon in order to ensure that a Democratic president names their successors. Justice Ginsburg has made it very clear that she wants to continue to work as long as she can do the job, and Justice Breyer has shown no inclination that he is ready to leave the court. All of the justices appear to be physically and mentally healthy.

    And speaking of health, I hope 2014 brings good health and happiness to everyone at the NewsHour and to all of our viewers. Hope to see everyone again on Jan. 13.

    Have more questions about the court for Marcia Coyle? She explained how America's highest judicial body works in our Q&A video series:

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    It's 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 look back on the year, and remember some of the best science stories the PBS NewsHour aired throughout the year.

    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 1 made 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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    Photo by Flickr user Professor Bop

    As we quickly approach 2014, we can't help but reflect on our year at Art Beat. Over the next few days, we'll be looking back at some of our best stories of 2013, starting with all things music.

    From singer and actress Audra McDonald to Trey Anastasio of Phish, we covered a lot of ground. We share few highlights from Art Beat's music coverage from the last year that we think are a worth a second view -- or listen.

    Arlo Guthrie Celebrates His Father's LegacyRachel Wellford Arlo Guthrie, the son of folk legend Woody Guthrie, played his first gig at the age of 13. Since then, he has performed all over the world and created his own record label, Rising Son Records. But while the younger Guthrie found his own sound and subject matter separate from his father's, he has never forgotten his roots or forsaken that legacy as a great source for lessons in music and life. Art Beat talked to the renowned folksinger/songwriter during his "Here Comes the Kid." Charles Bradley Bears His Screaming Soul If you go to a Charles Bradley concert, prepare to get hugged by the man himself. He does it every time. After the show -- after the screaming and the sweat -- he steps down from the stage, arms outstretched, and embraces the audience one by one. Bradley was in his 50s when the co-founder of Daptone Records "discovered" him in a Brooklyn nightclub performing as a James Brown act called Black Velvet. By age 62, Daptone released his first album, "No Time for Dreaming," to critical acclaim. It made Rolling Stones' 50 Best Albums of 2011, ranking him alongside smash hit artists like Adele and Frank Ocean. Art Beat caught up with him during the tour of his second album, "Victim of Love." Conversation: Jazz Saxophonist Charles LloydCharles Lloyd; photo by mpix46 via Flickr Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, celebrating his 75th year with grand concert celebrations, continues to tour and record, including a new duet album with pianist Jason Moran titled "Hagar's Song." Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown talked to Lloyd at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., just before he left on a European tour.

    For Sarah Brightman, 'Dreamchaser' Preludes Upcoming Space JourneySarah Brightman's 'Dreamchaser'

    Sarah Brightman's voice has been often described as heavenly, which more than ever seems appropriate, as the soprano has recently turned her sights to the skies. Her latest album, "Dreamchaser," is inspired by her life-long fascination with space. And in two years Brightman's childhood dream is set to become reality, when she boards a rocket and travels to the International Space Station. Art Beat caught up with her to talk about her album and space travel plans. Billy Bragg, the Sherpa of Heartbreak

    For a guy from England, musician Billy Bragg keeps a close and informed eye on America. He follows its politics, its music. Former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez sat on the bus with Bragg during the musician's U.S. and Canada tour and talked about his latest recording, "Tooth & Nail," heavily influenced by the Americana country sound: "We Brits have always had a huge appreciation for American roots music."

    Audra McDonald Feels at Home in Whirlwind of New ChallengesAudra McDonald Five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald has just released her first solo album in seven years. She discusses her career, her upbringing and her aptly named record, "Go Back Home." Phish's Trey Anastasio on Community, Commitment and Classical Music The symphony is not where you expect to see the guitarist of the world's leading jam band. Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown talked to Phish's Trey Anastasio about his 30-year career sneaking "harmonic elegance into rock 'n' roll," being addicted to practicing, having a tight community of fans and his recent performances for classical music audiences. Mandolin Master Chris Thile Plays Bluegrass and Bach Outside the Box Modern master of the mandolin Chris Thile hates being boxed in by genres, and has made his reputation by going beyond traditional tunes. With a new album of works by Bach, the virtuoso easily moves from Americana to classical. Thile talks about his career and the musician he calls the greatest who ever lived. Harper and Musselwhite Show Off 'Different Shades of Blues' in New Collaboration Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper have a generation between them, but their love of blues brought them together. With Musselwhite on the harmonica and Harper on guitar and vocals, the two musicians have collaborated on an album, "Get Up!" Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown sat down with the artists for a taste of their "all purpose blues." A Candid Conversation With Stephen SondheimStephen Sondheim In its 106 years, the MacDowell arts colony in New Hampshire has honored the likes of Aaron Copland, Philip Roth and Edward Albee, but never before an artist from musical theater. Celebrated composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim offers some candid conversation at the prestigious institution, where he received an award.

    Graham Nash Talks 'Wild Tales' and Musical Friends

    A member of the 1960s British rock group the Hollies and one-fourth of the super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Graham Nash has just come out with a new memoir of his life called "Wild Tales." The musician discussed some of his famous musical partners while on a solo tour stop at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va. Bilingual Rock Star Julieta Venegas Reflects on 'Los Momentos'

    Julieta Venegas attributes her distinct sound to her upbringing in Mexican border town Tijuana. Fluent in Spanish and English, Venegas said that living on the border gave her access to different artists and genres of music before the internet age of music sharing. Art Beat met up with the bilingual rock star on her "Los Momentos" tour.

    Pianist Jeremy Denk Looks at the 'Weirdnesses of Great Music' To explain the relationship between aria and variation in J.S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations," classical pianist Jeremy Denk likens the work to jazz. He describes the Variations as "the largest, most complex jazz riff in the history of music, maybe ... where you take the harmonies underneath a tune and then you improvise over them." Denk released his recording of the "Goldberg Variations" in September, the same month he received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Classical pianist Jeremy Denk spoke to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown before a recital for the Washington Performing Arts Society at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in October. Country Music Legend Dolly Parton's New Role: 'Book Lady'Dolly Parton; photo by Mike Melia/PBS NewsHour Country music legend Dolly Parton has delivered nearly 50 million free books to children's homes. Called Imagination Library, the program started in 1996 in one one rural Tennessee county and has spread to 1,400 communities across the United States, England and Canada. Special correspondent for education John Merrow spoke to Parton about her title of "book lady." Carlos Santana on the Conviction and Charisma That Inspired His Rock Career Carlos Santana came to the U.S. as a teenager and decades later is regarded as one of rock's greatest guitarists. He discusses the "screaming charisma" that first inspired him to play guitar just before being honored for lifetime achievement at the Kennedy Center.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: American retailers opened their after-Christmas offensives today, hoping to salvage the season. Pre-Christmas sales have been down from a year ago.

    Meanwhile, UPS and Federal Express faced angry complaints after thousands of gifts failed to arrive for Christmas. The companies blamed bad weather and too many last-minute orders.

    Wall Street got its post-Christmas period off to a big start. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 122 points to close near 16,480. The Nasdaq rose more than 11 points to close at 4,167.

    The United States has begun sending new weapons to Iraq to battle renewed violence by al-Qaida militants. Reports today said that the weapons include surveillance drones and Hellfire missiles. We will get more details on the U.S. assistance and what it means right after the news summary.

    An American kidnapped in Pakistan two years ago pleaded today for President Obama to negotiate his release. Seventy-two-year-old Warren Weinstein was taken from his home in Lahore in August of 2011. His al-Qaida captors released a video message from today, the first in more than a year.

    WARREN WEINSTEIN, American held captive by al-Qaida: Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government. And I did so at a time when most Americans wouldn't come here. And now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Al-Qaida has demanded the U.S. halt airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and release al-Qaida suspects around the world. The White House has insisted it will not negotiate.

    African leaders arrived in South Sudan today, trying to broker an end to nearly two weeks of fighting. The president of Kenya and the prime minister of Ethiopia flew into Juba, the South Sudanese capital. Later, they met with the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir. Meanwhile, a U.N. envoy said additional peacekeepers should arrive within 48 hours.

    Next door to South Sudan, six African Union peacekeepers have died in the Central African Republic. The soldiers were from Chad. The A.U. says the group was attacked on Christmas Day by a Christian militia in the capital city of Bangui. The country's majority Christians accuse the Chadian troops of supporting fellow Muslims who seized power nine months ago.

    In Thailand, the government rejected calls to delay elections now set for February after street battles erupted in Bangkok. A police officer was killed and hundreds injured as anti-government protesters fought with police. The demonstrators threw rocks and bricks at police, who fired back with tear gas and rubber bullets.

    Protests in Ukraine gained new intensity today after an opposition journalist was brutally beaten. Tetyana Chornovil was chased down in her car late last night and attacked by several assailants. Today, thousands of people surrounded the Interior Ministry in Kiev, holding pictures of Chornovil and demanding justice.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I have been expecting for a long time that they will do something that will wake everybody up and make people understand that they cannot live like this anymore. We do not deserve such treatment. They don't have any right to beat people up. They don't have any right to ignore us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The protests began after the government rejected closer ties with the European Union, turning instead to Russia.

    A truce was in effect today in a rebel suburb of Damascus, Syria, to allow in supplies of food and medicine. The Syrian military agreed to the halt in fighting after the rebels agreed to hand over heavy weapons and raise the Syrian flag. Locals say that they had been shelled and starved for nearly a year.  A Pennsylvania appeals court has overturned the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn for mishandling a sex abuse scandal. He was the first Roman Catholic Church official convicted of moving predator priests from one parish to another, but the court ruled he cannot be held legally responsible. For now, Lynn remains in prison. Prosecutors promise to appeal today's ruling.

    The alleged gunman in the shootings at Los Angeles International Airport pleaded not guilty today. Paul Anthony Ciancia is charged with the murder of a security screener and other felonies. Authorities say he had a grudge against the Transportation Security Administration. His federal trial is set for February 11.

    President Obama signed the bipartisan budget deal today while on vacation in Hawaii. The bill restores some of the automatic cuts in defense and domestic programs. The president also signed a defense bill that includes a military pay raise and new rules governing sexual assault cases.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two years after U.S. troops left Iraq, its government is battling Sunni Muslim extremists, and now the Pentagon is sending over firepower to help in the fight.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Scenes of carnage have become all too common for the people of Iraq this year. All told, the United Nations estimates, more than 8,000 Iraqis have died in a surge of violence not seen since at least 2008.

    The latest came Christmas Day, when at least 37 people died in car bombings that targeted Christian areas of Baghdad. Now The New York Times reports the U.S. is rushing to bolster Iraq's ability to battle al-Qaida insurgents behind many of the attacks. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed for the help when he met with President Obama in Washington two months ago.

    During that same visit, he detailed his nation's dilemma.

    PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI, Iraq (through interpreter): Terrorists came back to Iraq when the conflict started in Syria. Groups like al-Qaida and the Nusra Front found there's another chance to benefit from the political conflict and create terror in Iraq. So, the terrorists found a second chance.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. assistance being sent to Baghdad includes Hellfire missiles to supplement the Iraqi government's nearly exhausted supply and ScanEagle reconnaissance drones to help map and track the militant network. They will be concentrated in Iraq's western desert, near the Syrian border region.

    And I'm joined now by Michael Gordon, who reported this story for The New York Times.

    So, first, how bad do the Iraqis needs these weapons?

    MICHAEL GORDON, The New York Times: Well, they do need the weapons.

    What they need is the capability, because Iraq has a substantial ground force and police force. But what they really lack is the capability -- capability to go after mobile terrorist targets. And what's happening in western and northern Iraq is al-Qaida of Iraq has reconstituted itself under another banner and it's moving around in caravans.

    It's taking over towns and cities, intimidating the population, and it even has training camps and staging areas in western Iraq. And without an air-to-ground capability, which they have a very limited one, they can't really take on this threat too well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is what we're giving them enough?

    MICHAEL GORDON: There's a good question about that.

    I think what we're giving them is probably not enough. It's probably what each political system allows. You know, if you really wanted to go after this threat in a serious way, if American forces were still in Iraq, for example, with air and ground forces, what you would do is, you would go after them with airstrikes, attack helicopters.

    You would use armed drones, as we have used in other parts of the world. It's a perfect target for that. It's an al-Qaida franchise, after all. But we're not giving them armed drones, even though the Iraqi foreign minister has floated the idea of requesting them, because a formal request for the drones hasn't come from Iraqi prime minister. And also I think the White House is reluctant to take that step, so we're giving them kind of a work-around capability.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So this is what we're willing to give. And it seems that they're also buying from the Russians and others.

    MICHAEL GORDON: It's what we're willing to give and it's what they're willing to ask for at this point in time. I mean, asking for an American airstrike in western Iraq is a big step for the Iraqi prime minister.

    So what they're asking for is -- they're actually buying them. We're not giving them. They're buying 75 Hellfire missiles, and they're attached to sort of a Cessna plane. It's almost like a Rube Goldberg contraption...

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

    MICHAEL GORDON: ... which flies in on a target, which basically they will be told about mainly through American intelligence. But then they will have some tactical drones to refine their targeting. And the intent is to give them the capability to go after a lot of these al-Qaida camps in western and northern Iraq.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how much of this is a military-only solution? And the analysts and the U.S. government when you are speaking to them, how much of it is a political solution on the prime minister working out a situation or a solution between the Sunnis and the Shias in Iraq?

    MICHAEL GORDON: Well, that's a good question.

    I mean, a substantial portion of this problem is military. I mean, with the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, al-Qaida of Iraq or, as it is known, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant now, was able to reconstitute itself. It had been largely defeated through the surge.

    And they moved into Syria, and then they established a base in Syria and in Iraq. And from Syria, they're launching suicide -- sending suicide bombers into Iraq, 30 to 40 a month, which are being directed at Shia and Sunni targets. So a substantial part of this problem is military.

    If they had more military capability and if the Americans were directly involved, this threat would be much reduced. But there is a political dimension to it, which is that al-Qaida is taking advantage of detention the tensions between the Sunni population and Shia-dominated government and the reluctance of the Iraqi prime minister to share power with the Sunnis.

    And that's created grievances on the part of the Sunnis, which al-Qaida has been able to take advantage to a certain extent to recruit volunteers.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So this is the same faction of al-Qaida that is operating in Syria that both Bashar Assad, as well as the Free Syrian Army, are fighting there, and they're also having operations against the U.S. in Iraq?

    MICHAEL GORDON: Yes, what they seem to have done is they have carved out an area of Syria and Iraq which is their caliphate, so to speak, or their zone of control and influence.

    And they have actually controlled territory now. It's basically, basically the same -- the same group. They don't respect the borders or boundaries. And they go, you know, back and forth.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Michael Gordon of The New York Times, thanks so much.

    MICHAEL GORDON: All right. Thank you.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: to a very different fight back here in the U.S.

    There is a contentious battle over how to protect the iconic blue waters of Lake Tahoe, which sits on the California-Nevada border. The agency that overseas development in the area has proposed a new set of rules for construction. The Sierra Club and other groups have challenged the plan in court, arguing it favors economic growth over environmental protection.

    Gabriela Quiros of KQED San Francisco reports.

    WOMAN: OK. We will go around the island. We will look at the waterfall. We will look at some osprey nests, and then we will go fast.

    GABRIELA QUIROS, KQED: Lake Tahoe's famous waters are the clearest of any large lake in the United States. They attract 3,000,000 visitors to California and Nevada each year.

    GEOFF SCHLADOW, Tahoe Environmental Research Center: The blueness comes in large part from just the incredible cleanliness of it. What's pretty wonderful is that you're really living in an environment that does have all the hallmarks of a national park, but anybody can come here, anybody can live here. And the trick is, how do we keep that quality and keep using it?

    GABRIELA QUIROS: That question has guided scientists like Geoff Schladow and hounded policy-makers ever since the 1960s, when researchers at the University of California at Davis first documented a decline in the lake's clarity.

    The university's Brant Allen takes measurements every 10 days.

    BRANT ALLEN, Tahoe Environmental Research Center: When we try and translate lake clarity to the public, what they want to know is how deep into the lake can they see? And so I will be lowering the Secchi disc down into the lake until it disappears, getting our clarity reading for the day.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: Allen lets a Frisbee-looking device called a Secchi disc sink until it disappears.

    BRANT ALLEN: Eighteen meters, or right around 60 feet, and that's pretty typical for a summertime reading. The Secchi does vary seasonally.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: Since 1968, the lake has lost 20 feet of clarity, mainly due to uncontrolled urbanization in the 1950s and 1960s.  

    The 1960 Winter Olympics raised the lake's profile and encouraged development, as did Frank Sinatra, who hosted celebrities at his Cal Neva Casino. Sierra Club volunteer Laurel Ames witnessed the development boom firsthand as a young woman growing up on the lake.

    LAUREL AMES, Sierra Club: When I was in college, I came home one weekend, and my parents said, oh, you should go down and look at what they're doing to the swamp.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: What some residents considered a swamp at the south end of the lake was actually a large wetland. Replaced in the 1960s by a maze of houses and canals called the Tahoe Keys, the wetlands was no longer available to filter dirt and pollutants out before they flowed into the lake.

    When plans for development threatened a pristine corner of the lake, citizens organized. They pressured California, Nevada and the federal government to enter into an agreement, or compact, that would regulate development around the lake.

    LAUREL AMES: They agreed that Tahoe was threatened, and that Tahoe need to be protected by a planning agency, a regional planning agency.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: Starting in the 1980s, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency restricted all new construction. Scientists had discovered that dirt eroding and washing in from urban areas contributed more than any other pollutants to clouding the lake.

    GEOFF SCHLADOW: It's due in large part to very fine particles, things like dust that's coming from the roads, and also steep dirt surfaces prone to erosion.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: Hard surfaces like roads and parking lots can keep transporting dirt years after they're built. So even though development slowed down, the lake continued to lose clarity.

    GEOFF SCHLADOW: The ultimate goal is to restore clarity to what it was back in the -- in the 1960s. That's a Secchi depths reading of about 97 feet. Right now, we're at about 70 feet, so that's a -- that's a large change.

    If we can cut off things like pollutant flows into the surface, then we would estimate that in something like 20 to 30 years, the lake's clarity could be restored, if all the right things were done.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: But doing the right thing comes with a hefty price tag; $1.6 billion in federal, state and local funds have been spent over the last 15 years on wetlands restoration and other improvements. And the Tahoe Planning Agency requires visitors and locals to follow strict, and often expensive, rules.

    Private contractors like Rob Basile make a living helping homeowners comply.

    ROB BASILE, private contractor: Everyone needs to pave their driveway, so when it rains, it doesn't wash sediment off your compacted dirt driveway into the creek. And then you need to capture and treat the storm water runoff from your roof and from your driveway, so that it doesn't leave your property.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: The new channel in his driveway is costing Brad Kohler $2,000.

    BRAD KOHLER, homeowner: I personally don't mind at all doing it, and not only am I willing to do it. I think it's really important to put in these filtration systems.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: But even though this rule has been on the books for 20 years, only one-third of residential and commercial property owners have complied. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency wants to change this, says public information officer Jeff Cowen.

    JEFF COWEN, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency: Meeting property owners at the door with a list of, you're going to have to do this, and you're going to have to do this, and you're going to have to do this has resulted in very little progress in environmental restoration on the private sector. So -- so, we are trying something new.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: In the first comprehensive overhaul of its rules in the last 25 years, the agency has loosened some of its building restrictions, hoping to entice property owners to put in filtration systems.

    The planning agency holds up the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, in Stateline, Nevada, as an example of what it would like to achieve.

    PATRICK RHAMEY, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course: Most of the new hotel project will be located on the ninth fairway.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: In exchange for permission to build a 200-room hotel on one of their fairways, the golf course owners agreed to remove a parking lot and two buildings that had been built on wetlands.

    Edgewood executive vice president Patrick Rhamey explains.

    PATRICK RHAMEY: So the investment in the hotel allows us to invest back into the land and do better for the lake, and have the financial flexibility to add more wetlands and storm water controls.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: But the Sierra Club and several Lake Tahoe environmental groups filed a lawsuit in February to stop the new rules, which they argue will add more dirt to the lake.

    LAUREL AMES: When you increase density, you increase people. When you increase people, you increase cars. And when you increase cars, you have to add parking. So you add asphalt.

    JEFF COWEN: There isn't going to be an explosion of growth in Lake Tahoe from this plan. There isn't going to be a sudden explosion in land coverage, and certainly nowhere near the lake.

    PATRICK RHAMEY: Preserving lake clarity is the lifeblood of any business that's here at Lake Tahoe. Its about the lake. That's the reason why people come here.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: The battle will play out in court over the next year. So far, scientists believe that efforts to keep dirt out of the lake are paying off, at least during the wet winter months.

    GEOFF SCHLADOW: In winter, there actually has been an improvement because of many of these storm water projects that have gone in.

    GABRIELA QUIROS: Still, nearly every summer, the lake continues to get cloudier. Scientists now suspect that warmer summer waters, brought on by climate change, are making the lake more prone to algae, a problem that could prove even more intractable than dirt.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Much of 2013's headlines were dominated by Edward Snowden's revelations about the surveillance programs of the U.S. National Security Agency.

    Given the dizzying amount of coverage, it's hard for many of us to keep track of what we learned about the secretive agency and its activities.

    Tonight, we take a look back at the major disclosures of the spying programs, the fallout, and what might be changing as a result.

    The NSA was once so secret, even its existence wasn't officially acknowledged. No more. In June, the U.S. agency was thrust into the international spotlight by Edward Snowden.

    EDWARD SNOWDEN, former NSA contractor: Because, even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The former-NSA-contract-employee-turned-fugitive unleashed a flood of leaked material, documenting surveillance of everything from phone calls to Web searches to e-mail.

    EDWARD SNOWDEN: It's getting to the point you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The first of many reports based on Snowden's information came in the British newspaper The Guardian. On June 5 this year, it reported on a program known as PRISM. It collects so-called metadata, or data about data, from U.S. phone companies on millions of calls by foreigners and American citizens.

    Early on, President Obama said the effort didn't target U.S. citizens, and initially he defended the NSA's actions.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: By sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Public and congressional sentiment supported that stance at first, but the leaks kept coming. On October 14, the public learned the NSA collects hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mails, and, 10 days later, that the U.S. has monitored phone calls of allied leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, defended the need to learn foreign intentions, even if it means spying on allies.

    LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, retired National Intelligence Director: It's one of the first things we learned in intel school in 1963, that this is the fundamental given in the intelligence business.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The very next day, it came out the NSA has collected information from hundreds of millions of user accounts by tapping Google and Yahoo! data centers. That was followed this month by disclosures that the agency also gathers nearly five billion records a day, tracking the whereabouts of cell phones around the world.

    In response, eight major U.S. tech companies demanded tighter controls on surveillance. And one week later, a U.S. federal judge ruled the collection of domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional. Two days after that, a presidential review panel recommended a list of curbs on surveillance.

    Last Friday, the president addressed the issue again. But, this time, he suggested changes may be coming.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: We need this intelligence. We can't unilaterally disarm. There are ways we can do it potentially that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances, that there is sufficient oversight, sufficient transparency.

    The environment has changed in ways that I think require us to take that into account.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The man who started it all, Edward Snowden, resurfaced this week from his asylum in Russia, telling The Washington Post, "I already won."

    EDWARD SNOWDEN: Hi, and merry Christmas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, yesterday, he issued a two-minute video message, warning that today's children will never know what privacy is.

    EDWARD SNOWDEN: We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Director Clapper and other intelligence officials argue the disclosures let loose by Snowden have done great damage to national security.

    But, at year's end, public pressure is growing on Congress to investigate the surveillance programs and possibly rein them in. For his part, the president says he will make what he calls a pretty definitive statement about all of this in January.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: To help make sense of the scope of government surveillance, we get three views. General Michael Hayden was the director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005, when many of the programs revealed by Snowden were first launched. He is now with a consulting company. James Bamford is an author and journalist. He has written extensively about the NSA. And Dmitri Alperovitch is co-founder and chief technology officer at CrowdStrike. It's a cyber-security company.

    And welcome, all three of you, to the NewsHour again. Thank you.

    Let me start with you, James Bamford.

    What is the main concern you have about what we have learned that the NSA is doing?

    JAMES BAMFORD, "The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America": Well, I think the main concern was the fact that so much of this stuff was being done in absolute secrecy.

    And once you start showing -- putting a little light on it, like from this Judge Leon who took a look at it, the White House panel who took a look at if, you start seeing that all this becomes what they're calling unconstitutional or illegal. And I think that's the big problem.

    One of the things that I discovered in looking at some of the documents was the fact that the NSA was beginning to look at the question of visiting porn sites, who was visiting which porn sites, and then using that against the people to destroy their reputation. And that was done...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Against which people?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Against people who they considered radical. They weren't even people who were considered terrorists.

    And that was done in the 1960s by J. Edgar Hoover against a radical at the time, who was Martin Luther King. So I think, without any kind of proper oversight, you start moving along those lines, and going back to where we were back in the '60s and '70s.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you are saying it is much more targeted at what individuals are doing than what the NSA...

    JAMES BAMFORD: That is what they were proposing.

    And that was -- that's again going sort of back to what we were doing in the '60s, which, again, were terrible things that we did back then. And without proper oversight, we start moving again back into those bad habits.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But are you saying that is happening now?

    JAMES BAMFORD: That was one of the documents. I was in Brazil. I was with Glenn Greenwald. And I saw one of the documents. And that was the document that indicated that they were starting to follow who's going to what porn sites, and then talking about using that to discredit radicals in the future, not currently, but in the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: General Hayden, what about the overall complaint about what is going on, including the specific point that he just made?

    GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, former CIA Director: Well, Jim said this is being done in absolute secrecy. I think absolute is too big a word.

    I will accept secrecy, because espionage is usually done in secret. All right? But absolute? Not so. I mean, this program, the things that have been revealed were fully known by both Oversight Committees in the House and in the Senate. They were authorized by two presidents, two actually incredibly different presidents. And...  

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bush and Obama.

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Right.

    And for a big chunk of the activity that has been revealed, we have also had oversight by the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act court.

    I would suggest to you that that is kind of the Madisonian trifecta when it comes to not being overly secret. Look, the great compromise in the 1970s after some of the abuses at that time was that intelligence couldn't be done publicly, but it needed oversight. And what we created at that time were these two Oversight Committees in the Congress and the FISA court. They knew all about this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, James Bamford, you hear what the general is saying, that, yes, there is spying -- that is what surveillance agencies do -- but it's being done with oversight.

    JAMES BAMFORD: Well, actually, it's funny General Hayden brought up James Madison, because Judge Leon mentioned James Madison in his opinion. And he said James Madison...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the federal district judge who just ruled.

    JAMES BAMFORD: Exactly.

    And he said James Madison would be aghast at government encroachments on privacy like he was discovering. So I don't think this would be approved by the founding fathers, and I don't think it's approved by the American public now that they are finding about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even with the oversight he's describing?

    JAMES BAMFORD: The oversight -- the problem with the oversight, it's absolutely secret oversight.

    And is the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, has come out numerous times saying in secret that the NSA wasn't obeying what it was directed to do, and that it was collecting more information than it was allowed to collect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: General...

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... how do you respond?

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yes. I mean, these are complex tasks. And the commission report that I'm sure we will talk about before we're done here pointed out there were no abuses in any of these programs.

    Now, it is difficult to do what NSA is doing. And when NSA discovered, self-discovered, I might add, what it was they were doing might be beyond what had been authorized by the court, they self-reported to the court and corrected whatever was wrong.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And when did that happen?

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: It happened routinely.

    There were several instances when, because of the complexity of the task, whether it had to do with metadata, or the PRISM program that had to do with content, when different selectors were put in, perhaps they hadn't narrowed the search appropriately.

    In one case -- let me give you an example. In one case -- and this was reported publicly in the press -- with much fanfare, I might add -- that NSA violated privacy 3,000 times in the course of a year. When you go over the details of that report, let me give you one example. They said that there were overly broad search terms used by NSA going after the data it had already lawfully collected, and that during a quarter that had happened 160 times. That is 160 over 63 million inquiries that had taken place during that quarter.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to bring Mr. Alperovitch in just a moment.

    But just quickly, James Bamford, do you -- what is your response to that?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Well, again, in terms of oversight, we were just talking about the FISA court. Let's take a look at Congress. That's the only other oversight...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, that there were so few instances out of all the data collected?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Well, the point is they have got enormous amounts of data. There was one report here they had 35,000 instances of -- of abuse that came out.

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: No, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I don't mean to interrupt. Abuse is one thing. Making an error in a complex task is quite another.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, I want to bring -- I want to bring Dmitri Alperovitch in, because you have looked very closely. You have talked to these tech companies, whether it's Google or the others. What is it that you have found has taken place in the relationship between these companies that are in the middle of all this and the U.S. government, the NSA?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CrowdStrike: I think, Judy, one of the most tragic things out of this entire situation is the impact that we have had on cyber-security, which has been really damaging.

    If you look at the last 12 months, we started the year with so much hope. President Obama mentioned cyber-security for the first time ever in the State of the Union. We started to realign our entire policy on how to confront the Chinese on the cyber-espionage that they're conducting against U.S. companies, which has damaged us significantly economically.

    And if you will recall, from a timing perspective, President Obama was meeting with the president of China that weekend in June, and cyber-security was at the top of the agenda. The leaks come out, and the entire agenda is now in shambles, and we can no longer have any moral high ground to confront the Chinese on these topics.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, go ahead and finish your point.

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Yes.

    And from the impact on the private sector, there is great concern amongst the private sectors, companies like Google, Apple and others, that are saying, you know what? You no longer can trust the government and work closely with the government, as we have in the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: General Hayden?

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yes.

    There are three -- three bodies of folks out there who are worried about this program. One are foreign governments. And I really don't have a great deal of concern about that. The other are privacy advocates. And although they're very serious, I actually think the commission report points out there have been no abuses. And, therefore, I'm quite willing to have that discussion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: No abuses?

    (CROSSTALK)

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: No, no.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean in terms of the dealings with the tech companies?

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: No, no, just in general with regard to privacy.

    But Dmitri points out a very important and very sad fact. And I do agree with Dmitri. The ones who have suffered the most because of these revelations, the ones who have the greatest amount of grievance with regard to that is American industry, because these revelations are being used to, I think very unfairly, expose American industry to criticism abroad and hurt their competitiveness, when American industry does for the American government the very same things that other national industries do for their governments.

    But the fact that the American intelligence enterprise has been made public punishes American industry.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, given that, Dmitri Alperovitch, what needs to change? And we know the president is going to come back supposedly with some recommendations in January.

    What needs to change in terms of the NSA's relationship with these tech companies?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, I think a lot has already changed where a lot of these companies no longer want to have a relationship with the NSA.

    And that's -- certainly can be impactful to our national security. If the next time -- if you recall, Google approached the U.S. government when they got hacked by the Chinese in 2010 for help. I'm not sure they would do that again. And that would hurt both the private sector and the government because we wouldn't be able to collaborate and share information, as we have in the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does that affect national security, General Hayden, if the companies don't work with the government?

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Oh, look, I'm an Air Force officer, almost 40 years in the Air Force.

    The American Air Force is the military expression of the American aviation industry, right? The American signals intelligence enterprise, American cyber-security are the espionage and military expressions of the American telecommunications and computer industry.

    I mean, these two things are wed. And if for one reason or another these are separated, American security is harmed and American commerce is equally harmed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But do you think that could happen?

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That sounds like...

    (CROSSTALK)

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Oh, absolutely.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, James Bamford to you. What needs to change? I mean, you came with a long list of abuses that you believe need to be fixed. What are the main ones -- main ways it needs to change?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Well, what I think has to happen is -- we did this in 1975. We had the Church Committee that took a very comprehensive look at the entire intelligence community and looking at the abuses that took place back then.

    We haven't had such a comprehensive look at the intelligence community since then. And, in that time, we have had allegations of torture, allegations of eavesdropping on so many communications and so forth, picking up all this telephone data.

    I just think there needs to be one maybe yearlong comprehensive look that is equivalent to the 9/11 Commission report. That's really the only way we can get to the bottom of it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what is a -- what's a -- what's one of the main changes that you think, though, should be made?

    JAMES BAMFORD: Well, the panel that -- the White House panel came out with a -- I think, what, 45 of them, I think, that were very useful.

    The main changes, I think, you have got to have far more transparency. I mean, the information is out now that the NSA does this kind of activity. And I think you have to have more transparency. And I think you have to have far better oversight than we have had in the past in terms of the FISA court and Congress.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: General Hayden, what if that happens? What if there is a lot more transparency about what...

    (CROSSTALK)

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Yes.

    Well, first of all, there need be more transparency to give the American people confidence in their espionage services, that they are acting consistent with the values of the American people. Now, look, let's not kid anyone. That will shave points off of operational effectiveness. There is no way to give the American people deeper knowledge without giving our adversaries deeper knowledge too.

    But I think that line has moved, and we will have to become more transparent. Now, I should add, though, all right, that Jim has just mentioned the Church Commission and what it suggested. And it put in place oversight. The oversight the Church Commission put in place is the oversight that has been watching the NSA these past several years, the FISA court, and the two Intelligence...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying that's already in place?

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: .. and the two Intelligence Committees, that's correct.

    JAMES BAMFORD: But they weakened -- the problem was, the FISA court was weakened a few years ago in the FISA Amendments Act. They took a lot of the powers away from the FISA court.

    And we see from the FISA court's reports that they were chastising the NSA constantly about abusing their authority.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly, Dmitri Alperovitch, back to you.

    General Hayden, we just heard him say that if these changes take place, if the relationship between the tech companies and the government is frayed, U.S. security is hurt. What do the companies feel about that? How do they -- what do they think about that?

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, it's very problematic, because for a long time we have been sort of waiting for the government to step in, in this field of cyber-security and protect us against really sophisticated nation state threats.

    You would never expect in the physical world for companies to defend themselves against threats from PLA, threats from the FSB in Russia or what have you. But, in cyber-space, that's the situation. And today I think the reality is that the legislation on the Hill that has been considered for the last number of years is that -- the idea of information sharing between the government and the private sector is no longer acceptable to the American people.

    So, as a result, I think we will all be less safe, and the private sector is realizing they're on their own.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we're in -- we're in a new world, when all this is taken together.

    Well, we thank you all for pulling it together. General Michael Hayden, James Bamford, Dmitri Alperovitch, thank you.

    JAMES BAMFORD: Thank you.

    MICHAEL HAYDEN: Thanks, Judy.

    DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Thank you.

     

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even as the U.S. economy continued its recovery, 2013 was yet another year that raised sobering questions about inequality and the nation's ability to tackle some of its biggest problems.

    Some of those issues, and an unusual perspective on four decades of history, are at the center of one of the year's most notable books.

    Jeffrey Brown has our conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A North Carolina entrepreneur, a Rust-Belt-factory-worked-turned-community-organizer, a disenchanted Washington lobbyist, just some of the Americans profiled, along with well-known figures like Oprah, Colin Powell, and Sam Walton from this year's National Book Award Winner for Nonfiction, "The Unwinding," a story of American institutions and people coming undone amid large-scale economic and social changes.

    Author George Packer is a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, joins us now.

    And welcome and congratulations.

    GEORGE PACKER, "The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America": Thank you so much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: "The Unwinding," in broad terms, it's a breakdown of institutions, right, things that used to work, but no longer do?

    GEORGE PACKER: And a social contract that sort of underwrote all of them, a contract that said if you work hard, if you essentially are a good citizen, there will be a place for you, not only an economic place, you will have a secure life, your kids will have a chance to have a better life, but you will sort of be recognized as part of the national fabric.

    And over the generation of my adult life, going back to the late 70s, that fabric has come unraveled, and the contract has essentially been torn up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how? What happened?

    GEORGE PACKER: It's complicated.

    Some of it was these giant blind forces like technological change and globalization. Some of it was decisions made in centers of power like Washington and Wall Street, where the idea that you couldn't afford to have an underpaid work force or a work force that felt imperiled because you needed to have them at the table with you, that began to disappear.

    And, instead, workers became disposable. Their wages flattened out. And the benefits of our free enterprise system went more and more to the top. And so we have more of a society of winners and losers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, large-scale changes, but you, being a reporter, your way is through individuals.

    GEORGE PACKER: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you profiled many average Americans, I guess we would call them, little-known people. You mentioned factory workers. For example, Tammy Thomas, is one of them, right?

    GEORGE PACKER: Yes. She's a black woman in Youngstown, Ohio, who -- all the characters in the book are of essentially the same generation.

    They are in midlife. They have lived through these changes over the last generation. She was born in the mid-60s. Her mother was a heroin addict. She was raised by her great-grandmother, who instilled a sense of responsibility and a work ethic in her.

    And she somehow, in spite of the problems of being a teenage mother and of Youngstown disintegrating around her with the collapse of the steel industry in the late '70s, she nonetheless, by getting one of the last good blue-collar jobs in an auto parts factory, she raised three kids by herself and shielded them from the winds that were just buffeting the Rust Belt.

    And as she -- as she said to me over and over, she did what she was supposed to do, which means she was able to provide a decent life for her children.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Until she couldn't.

    GEORGE PACKER: And then the auto parts manufacturer did what so many manufacturers have done, and began outsourcing the jobs to Mexico, declared a kind of strategic bankruptcy in order to get out of its labor contracts.

    And then she found herself in midlife without a job, without a direction. And she remade herself.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, in many ways, it's a familiar story. It's one we look at a lot on this program of what has happened to Rust Belt areas.

    One of the things you're doing, though, is, I guess making the connections of -- well, you're -- you're showing the disconnections. Right?

    GEORGE PACKER: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I mean, one thing that interests me is, you say there is more freedom in a sense in America today, but that freedom is a negative. It's disconnected.

     GEORGE PACKER: Yes, I mean, we have more freedom. We have more choices. We're overwhelmed with choices. We have more inclusiveness. We are a more tolerant society. More Americans have the theoretical chance of being sort of admitted into the world of opportunity.

    But we're also more stratified, so social equality, growing economic inequality at the same time. And to understand it, I wanted to find stories from very different parts of the country, the Rust Belt from the rural South, from Washington and government, and from Silicon Valley, because it really is a kind of division into those who are making it very well and those who, in spite of working hard and in spite of their own inventiveness, find themselves really struggling.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And one of those -- one of the things that connects all of those places and the institutions is a -- well, it is a breakdown of institutions, but it's also money that connects a lot of them, but money without the kind of, what, social contract or ethic that you are saying once was there.

    GEORGE PACKER: Yes.

    I mean, the gains, the potential gains are so huge. We no longer blink at the notion of a brand-new startup being sold to a company for a billion dollars, without any profits, with hardly even revenues. And on the other end, there is a family in Tampa that I wrote about, the Hartsells, where the entire mainstay of that family is a part-time job stocking produce at Wal-Mart for $8.25 or $8.50 an hour, which -- for 25 hours a week. You cannot live on that.

    So we -- and there's a sense in which the Hartsell family is totally alone. The institutions that might have once taken care of them or help them, public schools, civic associations and neighborhood organizations, local government, a corporation that might have provided a secure job, those are all gone. And they're on their own.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I know your work from "The New Yorker," and you have written other nonfiction works. I didn't know you had written fiction, plays.

    This book is kind ever a mosaic of styles in some sense, right, the profiles of people, some famous people. You include headlines, song lyrics to sort of characterize or portray a moment. What -- how do you think about approaching this as a writer?

    GEORGE PACKER: That's -- that was the hardest thing, because a lot of good books have been written about the fraying of the social contract, about inequality in the middle class.

    I didn't want to add to that. I really didn't have anything to add to it. I don't have a new theory. I don't have a lot of new data. What I thought I could do is get the reader into the nervous system of Americans over the last generation. And to do that, it meant not just finding these ordinary people in forgotten places, but also conveying what it's like to be a celebrity, what it's like to be at the top of our society.

    So Oprah is a character in my book. Newt Gingrich is a character in my book. And to write about them, I didn't go and try to interview them, because there's just too many layers of P.R. between me and them. And I wouldn't have gotten much out of it.

    Instead, I used their words, their writings, their interviews, and wrote in sort of a style that you might call free and direct discourse, which is a technical term for it, which kind of mimics their way of talking about themselves. It uses their language, their rhythms in order to show what they're doing to the language and how, for example, Newt Gingrich invented a vocabulary of political polarization in order to help candidates get elected.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: It tells us something about this moment.

    GEORGE PACKER: It becomes a cultural indicator.

    And I have these mash-ups of headlines and songs, as you said, to get at what was the collective mind-set like at a particular moment? And I owe something to the novels of John Dos Passos for these ideas, because I had all this material and all these different American stories. And to figure out a structure was the hardest part of all.

    And I finally decided, why not something really kind of innovative, something that doesn't -- you don't find in traditional nonfiction writing? And I turned to a fictional source for inspiration.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, you know what? We will continue this conversation online.

    For now, the new book is "The Unwinding." George Packer is the winner of the National Book Award.

    Congratulations. Thanks for talking to us.

    GEORGE PACKER: Thank you.

     


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