Articles on this Page
- 12/26/13--13:47: _Returning dignity i...
- 12/27/13--07:07: _So You Think You Ca...
- 12/27/13--07:19: _Federal judge rules...
- 12/27/13--07:30: _Unemployment benefi...
- 12/27/13--07:56: _Reports of sexual a...
- 12/27/13--09:10: _Target 'confident' ...
- 12/27/13--09:55: _White House release...
- 12/27/13--10:02: _The movies and tele...
- 12/27/13--11:28: _Singer-songwriter R...
- 12/27/13--12:07: _South Sudan agrees ...
- 12/27/13--12:41: _What's the State of...
- 12/27/13--13:02: _News Wrap: Target s...
- 12/27/13--13:07: _Deadly Beirut bombi...
- 12/27/13--13:10: _How the conflict in...
- 12/27/13--13:15: _Protests erupt in T...
- 12/27/13--13:18: _What's behind the g...
- 12/27/13--13:25: _What's at stake for...
- 12/27/13--13:34: _Shields and Gerson ...
- 12/27/13--13:46: _Mali's Rokia Traoré...
- 12/28/13--05:51: _What we're watching...
- 12/27/13--07:07: So You Think You Can Do Better Than the Fed?
- 12/27/13--07:30: Unemployment benefits run out for 1.3 million Americans on Saturday
- 12/27/13--07:56: Reports of sexual assault in the military jumped 50 percent in 2013
- 12/27/13--09:10: Target 'confident' stolen PIN data is safe
- 12/27/13--09:55: White House releases favorite GIFs of 2013
- 12/27/13--10:02: The movies and television we watched in 2013
- 12/27/13--12:07: South Sudan agrees to ceasefire
- 12/27/13--12:41: What's the State of Economic Inequality in America?
- 12/27/13--13:18: What's behind the government corruption scandal in Turkey
- 12/27/13--13:34: Shields and Gerson on the political lessons of 2013
- 12/28/13--05:51: What we're watching Saturday
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: The holidays are a time when families gather to celebrate and often remember loved ones no longer with us.
Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on one group trying to revive the legacy of relatives forgotten at a mental hospital in Minnesota after living at the margins of society.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One solitary cross is all that suggests that this is a cemetery, and perhaps that's fitting. The several hundred people buried here spent most of their lives invisible to the outside world.
There are no headstones in this burial ground of a former Minnesota mental institution. The graves are marked not with names, just numbers. The relatives of Albertine Poitras had to go through historical archives to find her number.
WOMAN: That's Albertine.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A few years ago, a disability rights group began working to change this. Their project is called Remembering With Dignity.
WOMAN: We are here today to remember and honor Albertine -- and I got to make sure I say her name right -- Poitras.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Recently, on a chilly Minnesota fall morning, they gathered at the cemetery to honor the long departed great-aunt Blair Poitras. He only learned that she existed a few years ago while doing a genealogy search.
Then he confirmed it with his 89-year-old aunt, who is Albertine's niece.
BLAIR POITRAS, relative: You go through different emotions. You go, well, how come your family members didn't tell you about this person? And just to be buried as a number...
OLIVE POITRAS KEELY, relative: I remember her. She lived with us out on the farm.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That memory is all this family has. There are no photographs of Albertine Poitras, born in 1898 with mental retardation. In 1932, as families struggled to survive the Depression, Albertine became a burden neither her aging parents nor her siblings could endure.
OLIVE POITRAS KEELY: We had hired men, too, and my mother always thought the hired men would take advantage of my aunt because she was feeble-minded.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: At 34, Albertine Poitras was committed to the School for the Feeble Minded in Faribault, Minn.. She became a ward of the state.
The name of the Faribault facility has changed over the years, reflecting society's evolving views of people with mental illness and retardation. In the late 1800s, this officially was the School for Deaf, dumb, blind, idiots and imbeciles. Feeble Minded came into use in the early 1900s, and, by the '50, this was simply Faribault State Hospital.
Today, it's a minimum security prison. Faribault was considered an innovation when it was founded, an attempt to educate the mentally disabled. But, in time, Remembering With Dignity's Mary Kay Kennedy says that early mission was forgotten.
MARY KAY KENNEDY, Remembering With Dignity: The peak of the population at this site was in the 1950s, and it housed 3,355 people, which was about 45 percent over capacity, so there was no education. So it really turned into a facility that was taking care of the physical -- basic physical needs of the people who lived here.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For people who died here, funerals were basic, businesslike affairs. Blair Poitras says notice of Albertine's death was sent not to the family first, but to the welfare department supervisor.
BLAIR POITRAS: "Dear Mr. Kaliher, this is to notify you that Albertine Poitras died at 8:25 p.m. on February 4, 1958, in the institutional hospital. Cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage 10 hours, arteriosclerosis 20 years, mentally deficient, idiot. Cause: undiagnosed"
MAN: They didn't treat us people very nice. They didn't treat us people with no kindness, no respect, or nothing in those days.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: At the cemetery, former residents reflected on their time in Faribault. Larry Lubbers spent 10 years here. He was moved to a group home as mental health care shifted away from large institutions. Dorothy Anderson was committed as an infant.
DOROTHY ANDERSON, relative: I didn't know my mother or if she was married, or my grandma. And I didn't have no pictures to remember them by.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: This group successfully lobbied Minnesota's legislature, which in 2010 officially apologized for the past treatment of state hospital patients.
MARY KAY KENNEDY: The apology extends to family. Professionals advised people to break ties with the family, and there were no other services, so if you had a child or someone with a severe disability it wasn't like today, where you could get services in the community.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Others have a more nuanced view of how the treatment of mentally disabled people has shifted over the years. Jean Hockman's sister Barbara Blaylock (ph) died here in 1958 at the age of five.
JEAN HOCKMAN, relative: I think when you look at the state of Minnesota and some of the needs of the homeless who are mentally ill, institutions might be a good thing for them. I don't think everybody belongs in an institution. I think there's a happy medium, and I don't think society has found it yet.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There's very little disagreement about adding names and gravestones to the numbers here.
HALLE O'FALVEY, Minnesota resident: The Jewish saying is that you die twice. You die once, when you do die, but the second time you die is when your name isn't spoken anymore.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So far, the group has installed almost 7,000 personalized gravestones on the 13,000 numbered graves they've discovered across the state until now, with funding from Minnesota's legislature.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A version of Fred's story aired on the PBS program "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly."
His reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary's University in Minnesota.
Fed chair Ben Bernanke steps down at the end of January. The Fed may not be perfect, Paul Solman explains in response to a reader, but is there another way to run a modern market-driven economy? Photo courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images.
Paul Solman answers questions from the NewsHour audience on business and economic news on his Making Sen$e page. Friday's questions are about the Fed.
Earlier this month, Making Sense previewed the Fed's decision to taper its monetary stimulus program, and we revisited our simulation of how the Fed's Open Market Committee reaches those policy decisions. As part of that week-long look at the Fed, which just celebrated its centennial, we asked new Nobel laureate Bob Shiller what he would do if he were chair of the Fed and asked former Fed economist Catherine Mann to weigh in on how the Fed's low interest rates send dollars abroad.
But here's what readers still want to know about the Fed and its quantitative easing policy and Paul's responses to those queries.
Lionel Ruberg -- Newtown, Pa.: How much of the QE3 monthly purchases is offset by maturities of notes and amortizations of mortgages each month?
Paul Solman: None. QE or "quantitative easing" refers to net Fed purchases, not the rolling over of old Treasury securities or mortgage-backed securities when they mature.
Eric Greenfeldt -- Princeton, N.J.: Who owns the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that the Fed is buying?
Paul Solman: Elvis and Bella Narwhal of Piscataway, New Jersey.MORE ABOUT THE FED: What Happened to the Fed's Trillions? They're Back on Deposit...at the Fed!
No, not really. The Fed says it mainly buys new MBS: loans taken out on batches of mortgages that have been bundled together. The interest on the MBS loans is supposed to be paid off by the mortgage payments coming into the bundle. Ever since the crash, most of those bundles have been created by agencies of the U.S. government: Fannie Mae (FNMA -- the Federal National Mortgage Association), Ginnie Mae (GNMA -- the Government National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (FHLMC -- the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation).
So, much as when the Fed creates money to buy Treasury loans and pays it to the government, when the Fed creates money to buy MBS, it pays the government as well. The big difference is that in the case of Treasury bonds, the collateral is nothing more than the "full faith and credit" of the United Stats. With MBS, there is first the collateral of the houses against which the bundled mortgages were taken, backstopped by a government guarantee.
Don Pearson -- Lakewood, Wash.: Why don't you do an extended piece on the Fed Reserve? Its origin -- not as a real federal agency -- its oversight, what happens to its large billions in profits not turned over to the government, the source of the pool of nominated governors, etc.? I think most believe it is a formal part of the U.S. government and do not know of its origin or its relationship to the banking industry.
Paul Solman: Oh dear, why do I fear that this "question" is yet another attempt to delegitimize the Fed?
Look, how about you tell me a better way to run a modern, market-driven economy than to have a somewhat (barely) independent central bank? And when you do, don't forget to provide an example of one, okay?
The Fed reminds me of Churchill's old saying about democracy: the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.
Pam Bishop -- Miami, Fla.: I have thought, from the beginning of "quantitative easing," that overly-low interest rates were counter-productive to banks' willingness to lend, especially to moderately-sized domestic businesses.
Aside from low profits, the banks, even though inveterate foes of financial deregulation, could have taken a lesson from the situation when deregulation and the abrogation of Glass-Steagall destroyed the stability of our local banks: it pulled the rug out from under the S&L's who were caught with long-term moderate-interest mortgage loans in a time of financial swashbuckling and rising rates.
Paul Solman: Whoa, there. You've got your chronology wrong, Pam -- in an instructive way.
The abrogation of the Glass-Steagall provisions of the U.S. Banking Act of 1933, prohibiting commercial banks from risky investment banking, didn't happen until 1999, more than a decade after the savings and loan fiasco.
Yes, it was deregulation of the S&Ls that led to their mass demise, but that's because they were finally allowed to offer higher interest rates on their deposits, which is just what you seem to be suggesting now. In order to offer higher interest rates -- in large part to compete with newly created money market funds, which paid higher rates to would-be depositors and yet seemed equally safe -- the S&Ls made riskier loans. You can guess what happened next.
You could be right about the knock-on effects of the Fed's low interest rates: banks' reluctance to lend. Or it could instead be the case that non-risky borrowers aren't out there as they so abundantly were, pre-Crash. Or maybe banks are just scared and, now that they're under scrutiny, are overdoing the caution instead of the derring-do. (Once burned, twice shy.)
Or maybe there's another explanation entirely: so much saved wealth sloshing around the world these days in places like China and the Middle East -- the so-called "capital glut" -- that interest rates would be low regardless of what the Fed did. Or maybe banks would be happy to lend if the Fed didn't pay them .25 percent to redeposit their depositors' money back at the Fed.
My guess is that all these factors are playing a role, the Fed's efforts to keep interest rates low among them. But hey, if you were the Fed and official unemployment was still running at 7 percent, our own "U-7" reckoning far higher, would you raise rates on the bet that bank lending would thereby revive?
Paul Adler -- Ann Arbor, Mich.: What the Fed does affects people in retirement. Many people in retirement have about 50 percent of their money in bond mutual funds. As interest rates increase, the net asset value (NAV) of these bond funds goes down, resulting in a loss of principal. My question: stay the course with bond funds or do something else?
Paul Solman: A year ago, I wrote about getting out of inflation-protected bonds, which I had long promoted on this page. Unfortunately for me, I didn't manage to act on my own advice until several weeks later, by which time bonds had begun their price descent.
Now that their yield has gone up, I have less of a sense of urgency. But with the yield on U.S. Treasuries still well below their historical average, I remain leery.
On the other hand, it means nothing, practically speaking, to fear an asset class like bonds without believing in, as you put it, "something else." And damned if I know what that "something else" might be these days, given that stocks are also selling at well above their historical average, as measured by their earnings, as new Nobel laureate Bob Shiller explained here recently and investment adviser Andrew Smithers only a little while earlier.
As I explained in my swan song to bonds last year, I switched most of our family savings to an account with TIAA-CREF that guarantees 3 percent a year at a minimum. Unfortunately, it's closed to new investors.
My only hard recommendations are that, no matter what kind of fund you invest in, do it at the lowest possible cost. (It's for that reason that I've used Vanguard funds for years.) And if you want to get specific and a little exotic, there is at least one U.S., FDIC-insured bank account denominated in Chinese Renminbi. I had it at EverBank in St. Louis and it appreciated with the rising value of the RMB.
Breaking News: Judge Rules N.S.A. Phone Surveillance Is Lawful http://t.co/eqDfdEsmLj— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 27, 2013
Calling the secret NSA program "the government's counter-punch" to al-Qaeda, U.S. District Judge William Pauley ruled Friday that the government's phone data surveillance and collection system -- first made public by documents released by Edward Snowden to an onslaught of criticism over privacy rights -- was legal.
The decision runs counter to an earlier ruling by a federal judge that the program is likely unconstitutional.
Last night, the PBS NewsHour hosted a discussion on how revelations about widespread snooping have changed the landscape for public and private spying policy.
WASHINGTON -- More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend.
The development entails potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy and sets up a tense battle when Congress reconvenes in the new year.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government's "emergency unemployment compensation" will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.
Jobless rates could drop.
But analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the "emergency" program expire as part of a budget deal, it's unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.
By Bradley Klapper, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- The number of reported sexual assaults across the military shot up by more than 50 percent this year, an increase that defense officials say may suggest that victims are becoming more willing to come forward after a tumultuous year of scandals that shined a spotlight on the crimes and put pressure on the military to take aggressive action.
A string of high-profile assaults and arrests triggered outrage in Congress and set off months of debate over how to change the military justice system, while military leaders launched a series of new programs intended to beef up accountability and encourage victims to come forward.
According to early data obtained by The Associated Press, there were more than 5,000 reports of sexual assault filed during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared to the 3,374 in 2012. Of those 2013 reports, about 10 percent involved incidents that occurred before the victim got into the military, up from just 4 percent only a year ago. That increase, officials said, suggests that confidence in the system is growing and that victims are more willing to come forward.
Asked about the preliminary data, defense officials were cautious in their conclusions. But they said surveys, focus groups and repeated meetings with service members throughout the year suggest that the number of actual incidents -- from unwanted sexual contact and harassment to violent assaults -- has remained largely steady.
"Given the multiple data points, we assess that this is more reporting," said Col. Alan R. Metzler, deputy director of the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention and response office. He also noted that more victims are agreeing to make official complaints, rather than simply seeking medical care without filing formal accusations.
The military has long struggled to get victims to report sexual harassment and assault in a stern military culture that emphasizes rank, loyalty and toughness. Too often, victims have complained that they were afraid to report assaults to ranking officers, or that their initial complaints were rebuffed or ignored.
As a result, the crime has been vastly underreported --- a fact that became evident when officials announced earlier this year that an anonymous survey had revealed that about 26,000 service members reported some type of unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault.
According to the latest numbers, the increase in reports across the services ranges from a low of about 45 percent for the Air Force to a high of 86 percent for the Marines, the smallest service. The Navy had an increase of 46 percent and the Army, by far the largest military service, had a 50 percent jump.
Jill Loftus, director of the Navy's sexual assault program, which also includes the Marine Corps, said the increase in reporting also suggests that more service members are starting to understand what types of behavior constitute harassment or assault.
She said that based on Navy surveys, "we are not seeing a perception that the number of incidents are going up."
"More likely, we have people who understand what sexual assault is," she said. And, she said, officials are hearing that more people are comfortable coming forward.
Meanwhile, a myriad of sexual assault arrests and scandals, including an Air Force commander's decision to dismiss sex assault charges against another officer who had been convicted of multiple offenses, got the attention of Congress. And it all led to a series of often emotional public hearings in which victims described their experiences.
As Congress debated changes in the military's justice system, the Pentagon and the services instituted new training programs that targeted rank-and-file service members as well as top commanders and officers.
Several of the new programs were aimed at encouraging service members to be more vigilant, and to look out for each other and intercede if they saw a bad situation developing. There also were moves to restrict alcohol sales, since drinking has long been associated with sexual assault and harassment.
By year's end, after lengthy negotiations between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon, lawmakers passed legislation that beefs up legal rights for victims and strips military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions. It also requires a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and requires that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal.
Defense officials beat back efforts to more drastically revamp the military justice system that would take authority away from commanders and allow victims of rape and sexual assault to go outside the chain of command for prosecutions.
Still, military leaders acknowledge a lot of work remains to be done.
Metzler said the goal for this year is to continue efforts to increase reporting while also working more directly to reduce the survey number of 26,000 sexual harassment and assault victims.
Already, the military services are exchanging information on prevention programs that seem to be working.
Air Force officials, for example, visited a Navy pilot program at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois that worked with local hotels and bars to try to crack down on drinking by sailors from the naval station there. In the program, sailors are being taught to intervene when they see mates in trouble or engaging in bad behavior.
Loftus said the goal this year will be to improve the training so that sailors will actually have to act out scenarios in order to help them figure out when it's best to intervene and to ensure they have some type of plan before jumping into a situation.
Other programs that are being used more broadly include moves to cut hours of alcohol sales and the use of roving patrols of service members looking out for troops in trouble. She also said that some commanders are making their courts martial more public, publicizing the punishments for crimes, including sexual assault, and even holding cases on their parade fields, where all can watch.
"We're still not where we want things to be," said Metzler. "But we think all of this is having an effect."
By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press
Retail giant Target confirmed Friday that the credit and debit card information stolen in the massive breach earlier this month included PIN data, along with customers' names and card numbers.
However, Target said it believes the PIN numbers are safe because the data was strongly encrypted, reports the Associated Press. The retailer explained that the PIN information can only be decrypted by its own external, independent payment processor.
In a statement to the media, Target said:
While we previously shared that encrypted data was obtained, this morning through additional forensics work we were able to confirm that strongly encrypted PIN data was removed. We remain confident that PIN numbers are safe and secure. The PIN information was fully encrypted at the keypad, remained encrypted within our system, and remained encrypted when it was removed from our systems.
The data breach, which occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, compromised the accounts of about 40 million credit and debit cards used in Target stores. Security experts are calling it the second largest theft of card accounts in U.S. history. The Minneapolis-based retailer has been working with the Secret Service and the Department of Justice to investigate the incident.
Here are some best practices for credit card users, compiled by the PBS NewsHour:When you're the target of credit card theft, arm yourself with these tips
President Obama's address ahead of the government shutdown earlier this year was just one of the White House's favorite GIFs of 2013.
From Sesame Street making a stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to an animated compilation of First Lady Michelle Obama's #ThrowbackThursday posts, the White House tumblr released Friday their favorite GIFs of the year. The list isn't just all fun and games, though. President Barack Obama's statement ahead of the government shutdown and a chart illustrating job growth were also noted among the top choices.
Photo by Flickr user "when i was a bird"
With the New Year approaching fast, we here at Art Beat are reflecting on this past year. On Thursday, we rediscovered all the great musicians we listened to in 2013 and today, it's all about movies and TV.
From political satire to heart-wrenching documentaries, here are a few highlights from Art Beat's coverage in 2013 that we think are worth revisiting.
The 2013 Oscar Documentaries, Part 1: 'How to Survive a Plague' In "How to Survive a Plague," filmmaker David France re-examines the in-your-face brand of AIDS activism that forced the nation to pay attention in the early days of the epidemic and eventually convinced the federal government to speed the approval of life-saving drugs. Former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez spoke with France about why a film primarily composed of archival, handheld video footage from the 1980s and '90s remains so relevant to today's fight. The Oscar Documentaries, Part 2: 'Searching for Sugar Man' In 1970, a singer-songwriter going by the name Rodriguez released an album called "Cold Fact." It got some good reviews but sold next to nothing, and within a few years Rodriguez had returned to life as a laborer in Detroit. But in a kind of strange celestial fluke, his music was heard and caught on big in South Africa, where he became a major star -- as famous as the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. But his South African fans knew little or nothing about the man and he had no clue about them (or his status in their country) either. Jeffrey Brown spoke to the director of "Searching for Sugar Man," which eventually won the Oscar, about his first film and the unassuming star at the center of it. Documentary 'Invisible War' Reveals Culture of Sexual Assault in the Military The soaring rate of sexual assault within the ranks of the U.S. military has been the subject of studies and congressional hearing. Academy Award-nominated director Kirby Dick explores the crisis with devastating personal accounts in his documentary "The Invisible War."The Oscar Documentaries, Part 4: 'The Gatekeepers'
"The Gatekeepers" is a film predominantly comprised of interviews with just six men. But they happen to be the six former heads of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet. Largely or completely unknown to the public, these are men who have been running an organization that has been deeply involved in counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering in the West Bank and Gaza since the 1967 war. "They wanted to speak. Like everything else in life, it's about timing. I think they felt that the timing for them to speak, to open their mouths and speak, was perfect." The film was nominated for the Academy Award for best documentary. Its director, Dror Moreh, spoke to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown on the phone from his home in Israel. The Oscar Documentaries, Part 5: '5 Broken Cameras'
In 2005, a Palestinian farmer named Emad Burnat acquired a video camera to document the birth and early life of his son. But he also captured what was going on around his family: the building of a security wall in the West Bank by Israelis, demonstrations by villagers against what they saw as an encroachment on their lands and an increasingly tense situation that in some cases led to imprisonment, violence and death. Along the way, one camera after another -- five in all -- were destroyed. Each camera became a chapter in his story. Burnat and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi turned this footage into "5 Broken Cameras," which was nominated for an Academy Award. Jeffrey Brown spoke with Burnat and Davidi both by phone.
'Fruitvale Station' Recalls Real Life Drama of Oakland Man's Final Hours "Fruitvale Station," a film written and directed by Ryan Coogler, tells the story of Oscar Grant: a young, black Oakland man who was shot and killed on a train platform by a Bay Area Regional Transit police officer. NewsHour's Gwen Ifill spoke with Coogler about his motivation for making the film and a resonant coincidence in the timing of its release.
Storytellers Find Fertile Material in Fictionalizing Washington Dysfunction Real-life drama in Washington isn't popular in the polls, but it does provide plenty of fodder for modern storytellers. Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke with a few who have found inspiration: Beau Willimon, co-creator of the series "House of Cards," Jay Roach, director of the comedy "The Campaign," and novelist and critic Thomas Mallon.'No Place on Earth' Brings to Light Story of Holocaust Survivors Who Hid in Caves
The film "No Place on Earth" tells the incredible story of a small group of Jews who went into caves to escape the horrors of the Holocaust. The story began in 1942 in Ukraine, but only came out much later when a cave explorer from New York City happened upon the scene. Now it's told in a documentary that mixes the first-person accounts of survivors with re-enactments of events from the past. Jeffrey Brown recently spoke to the filmmaker, Janet Tobias, who is a veteran of network news and PBS, and Sonia Dodyk, one of the film's subjects who tells of her experiences as a young girl in the caves. Rita Moreno Reflects on Life as an Entertainer, Stereotype Roles in Hollywood
Rita Moreno is one of only a few entertainers to win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and an Oscar -- and the only Latino American to hold that honor. Born in small-town Puerto Rico in the midst of the Great Depression, Moreno headed to work as an entertainer at 13 and was on Broadway and in Hollywood before she was 20. In a new self-titled memoir, Moreno describes finding her place in show business. She sits down with former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez to discuss the continuing struggle for minorities to land significant roles.
'12 Years a Slave' Restores Historic Firsthand Account to Cultural Consciousness In depicting American slavery, Hollywood has long left some of the most brutal realities largely unseen. But the filmmakers behind "12 Years a Slave" tried not to flinch in showing the full system of human subjugation. Jeffrey Brown talks to screenwriter John Ridley about the challenge of humanizing a dehumanizing institution. Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau Pokes Fun of American Politics in a New Medium The web series "Alpha House" puts a comedic spin on politics in the era of tea party conservatism with a story about four Republican lawmakers who work and live together on Capitol Hill. Jeffrey Brown talks to "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau, the creator behind Amazon's first original streaming series.
Malian Rokia Traoré has traveled the world, picking up pieces of herself along the way and her music reflects that mix of origins. Traoré was living in her home country during the recent troubles, including the Islamic insurgency that, among other things, banned music in the north. But it didn't stop her from making music.
The government of South Sudan agreed to an immediate ceasefire Friday, almost two weeks after deadly violence broke out in the world's youngest nation.
Mawien Makol Arik, a South Sudan foreign ministry spokesman, told Voice of America that the leader of the rebellion, Riek Machar, has three days to respond to the ceasefire. Machar had previously said he was willing to open negotiations with President Salva Kiir on the condition that Kiir first released key political allies detained by the government in the early days of the conflict.
Since December 15, fighting in the country has killed at least 1,000 people and has drawn an increasing United Nations peacekeeping effort to protect over 100,000 civilians who have become refugees.
By Simone Pathe
With emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed expiring Saturday, what does economic inequality look like in America and how is it tied to unemployment and mobility? The NewsHour explores that topic with former labor secretary Robert Reich and the Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship on Friday. Economics correspondent Paul Solman has filed a series of ongoing reports on inequality, which you can watch above. And read more from our recent inequality coverage below.
Emergency unemployment benefits expire Saturday, cutting off assistance to 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers.
Yes, last month's jobs report was largely positive -- the economy added 200,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent. But, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there are 2.9 unemployed people for every job opening. And for months now, 4 million people have been out of work for 26 weeks and longer.
So how is unemployment assistance going to change come Saturday? Since 1935, when unemployment insurance began, states and the federal government have funded up to 26 weeks of unemployment (with the amount coming from the feds depending on the state). But in 2008, Congress expanded the federal government's authority to administer "extended benefits" (after states ran out of money), and it's this emergency funding that the Congress has declined to renew this year. (Senate Democrats say they'll raise the issue as soon as they return from recess.)
Effectively, this means that those states that have offered benefits for anywhere from under 26 to 73 weeks will now be limited to offering 26 weeks or less. (See what that looks like in these helpful maps from the Washington Post.)
At the very least, a temporary suspension of emergency unemployment assistance will delay benefit checks for these 1.3 million Americans, reducing their purchasing power -- not to mention their standard of living. As Northeastern University economist Barry Bluestone points out below, when poorer people can't spend money, the economy wallows and unemployment for everyone remains higher.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The giant retailer Target confirmed today that hackers stole encrypted pin numbers during a major data breach that began at Thanksgiving. Some 40 million accounts are potentially affected.
Target said it believes the encryption will keep the personal identification numbers safe.
We get more now from Jim Finkle of the Reuters news service in Boston.
Jim Finkle, welcome. First of all, what is the risk with the theft of these pin numbers? How is that different from losing other credit information?
JIM FINKLE, Reuters: You know, Judy, there may actually be no additional risk, because, as you mentioned, the numbers are encrypted.
The encryption algorithms that they use are so sophisticated that nobody can break them. The issue here, I think, that this highlights is a couple of things. Target originally gave us the impression that pins were not taken, encrypted or not. So that suggests that either they didn't have a handle as to what happened or they weren't being completely forthright.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And why would that be?
JIM FINKLE: I can think that -- well, there's a couple of reasons.
First of all, it is very difficult to figure out what happened in a breach of this size. But in terms of not being forthright, you know, it was the Christmas holiday season. And I think they wanted to keep their -- they didn't want to alarm customers. They worried about potential litigation. And they are also worried about regulatory and congressional investigations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And there's still other information, though, that was stolen, in addition to these pin numbers that is out there.
JIM FINKLE: Yes, sure.
All the information on the magnetic stripe on the back of your credit card was stolen. And that can be used to create fake credit cards. Now, it's possible that some people's credit -- not credit card -- bank accounts have been drained, and we're still trying to figure out how that happened.
It may be that they got the pin numbers another way. With a pin number, you can access somebody's bank account. So, you know, what I was talking about at the beginning about them not having all the information, about them not being forthright, we still have to find out what's going on with that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, just quickly, what should Target customers be doing right now?
JIM FINKLE: If you have gotten notification that your bank account or credit card was compromised, I would ask the bank to replace it.
Some of them are saying that's necessary, but I have been told by everybody who is knowledgeable that that is what you should do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Finkle with Reuters, we thank you.
JIM FINKLE: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. National Security Agency has won a round in the fight over surveillance. A federal district judge in New York ruled today that bulk collection of phone records is legal in the fight against terrorism.
In a written opinion, Judge William Pauley said, "This blunt tool only works because it collects everything."
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the surveillance is probably unconstitutional.
A powerful car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon, killed six people today, and wounded more than 70. The dead included Mohamad Chatah, a former ambassador to the United States and the target of the bombing. We will have an on-the-ground report from Beirut right after the news summary.
In Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber killed three international troops in Kabul. The target was a military convoy about half-a-mile from a NATO base. So far this year, 151 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan, most of them Americans.
There was talk today of ending the fighting in South Sudan. The government agreed to a truce after a summit of East African leaders in Nairobi, Kenya. Back in Juba, the U.S. envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, said the country's president confirmed it to him.
DONALD BOOTH, U.S. Special Envoy to South Sudan: He is moving forward to arrange a cessation of hostilities throughout the country in conjunction with increasing the ability to move humanitarian relief to the people of South Sudan who have been trapped by the fighting.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, though, the rebel leader said conditions for a truce were not in place. He wasn't invited to the Nairobi meeting. In the meantime, the United Nations estimated more than 120,000 people have been displaced in South Sudan since ethnic fighting broke out nearly two weeks ago.
Two more African Union peacekeepers have been killed in the Central African Republic. The soldiers from the Republic of Congo were shot dead overnight. Six peacekeepers from Chad were killed a day earlier. The violence in the Central African Republic has been building since a coup last March.
The head of Thailand's army urged restraint today by both sides in the country's political crisis. And he issued a warning. The commander spoke a day after police and protesters battled in the streets of Bangkok. Two people were killed and more than 140 others were injured. The army commander deplored the violence, and he left open the possibility of a military coup.
GEN. PRAYUTH CHAN-OCHA, Thai Army (through interpreter): The door is neither open nor closed. Anything can happen. It all depends on the situation. The people should support the army because we're trying to do the right thing. We're trying to avoid using force. We're trying to use peaceful ways such as negotiations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Protesters have appealed to the army to intervene in their two-month battle to oust the government.
Reports of sexual assaults in the U.S. military increased more than 50 percent in the latest fiscal year. The Associated Press obtained initial data that there were more than 5,000 such reports for the 12 months ending in September. Pentagon officials say the spotlight put on the problem this year has made victims more willing to come forward.
On Wall Street today, it was a quiet close to Christmas week. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped a point to close at 16,478. The Nasdaq fell 10 points to close at 4,156. For the week, the Dow gained 1.6 percent; the Nasdaq rose 1.3 percent.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to Lebanon, where a prominent politician and others were killed in a bomb attack today.
Hari Sreenivasan reports.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The powerful blast shook buildings in central Beirut this morning and left what looked like the aftermath of a battle. A Lebanese TV channel captured the eerie silence in the streets moments after the explosion hit. Plumes of smoke rose from flaming cars, as shaken residents tried to make sense of what had happened.
MAN (through interpreter): As you can see, all the shops here are damaged. I consider all this terrorism. All this is terrorism, damaging the country and the people. What more can we say? God help us. God help this country.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The attack wounded scores and killed six people, including the main target, Mohamad Chatah, a prominent Sunni politician and former ambassador to the U.S. He was an outspoken critic of the Assad regime in neighboring Syria and the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah that is fighting for Assad.
Less than an hour before the attack, Chatah tweeted his latest criticism of the militants, saying, "Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security and foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 years."
Hezbollah denounced the assassination, but allies of Chatah took up his refrain in the hours after today's attack.
MARWAN HAMADEH, Lebanese Minister of Communications: The target is Lebanon, its institution, its president, the whole image of this country, the convivial country, the country of democracy.
HARI SREENIVASAN: From Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry also condemned the killing. He called Chatah's death a terrible loss and said -- quote -- "His presence will be missed, but his vision for a united Lebanon free from sectarian violence and destabilizing interference will continue to guide our efforts."
But that goal seems far off, as the civil war in Syria has already split Lebanon into opposing political camps, with a weak caretaker government since April. And there's been a tit-for-tat increase in bombings and other attacks in recent months. Last month, two suicide bombings rocked the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing 25 people. Iran is a backer of Hezbollah.
Today's attack was the first major strike at Beirut's upscale renovated city center in years.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Anne Barnard is the Beirut bureau chief for The New York Times. I spoke to her a short time ago.
So, Anne, what is the latest information that we have about the bombing?
ANNE BARNARD, The New York Times: Well, no one has claimed responsibility, which is not unusual.
There have been a series of assassinations in Lebanon dating back to 2004, none of which have been solved, and almost in none of them has anyone claimed responsibility. There were quick accusations from Mohamad Chatah's political party that -- implying that either Hezbollah or the Syrian government could have been behind the assassination. They denied it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How important was Mohamad Chatah to Lebanese politics?
ANNE BARNARD: He is an important figure. He is somewhat behind the scenes. He was one of the main advisers to Saad Hariri, the former prime minister.
And he was seen even by his political opponents as a consensus builder, someone who was able to reach across political and sectarian lines even at moments of extreme tension. So, in that sense, his presence would be sorely missed at a time like this.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How much of a grip does the violence that's happening in Syria have on what is happening in Beirut or what has been happening in Beirut in recent months?
ANNE BARNARD: Well, of course, there are existing conditions in Lebanon that predate the Syrian war, as is in the string of assassinations that I mentioned before.
But since the Syrian war has accelerated, there have been a number of violent attacks in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon which are seen as being part of the spillover from the Syrian war, which has become a regional power struggle. There have been several bombings of areas in Southern Beirut where Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has many supporters.
Those have been widely blamed on jihadists fighting with the Syrian rebels or on their Lebanese sympathizers. There was also the bombing of the Iranian Embassy. Iran is also a supporter of Assad. And there have been fears that there could be revenge attacks for those or other jihadi attacks, as well as all kinds of other parties that could take advantage of the situation to spread divisions in Lebanon and try to spill over the Syrian conflict.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How surprising was it that this bombing happened in this particular part of the city?
ANNE BARNARD: Well, that was a big blow to Beirut. This is a neighborhood which is a contested space.
It's the center of downtown Beirut, which was largely destroyed during the war, during the Lebanon civil war, which ended in 1990. It was rebuilt by the Hariri family. And their supporters see it as a symbol of Lebanon's persistence and rebirth, whereas their critics see it as a space that has become a playground for the wealthy.
So it's a place that has a very strong symbolism. But, especially in the holiday season, it can be a very busy place, sparkling with Christmas decorations. And people were shocked to have a bombing right in the center of the city. There had been, you know, fighting in the northern city of Tripoli. There had been shelling in the Bekaa Valley related to the Syrian conflict. But to have it really hit home in the center of Beirut was shocking to a lot of people.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How much of this is sort of a proxy fight of what's happening in Syria now moving into Lebanon?
ANNE BARNARD: Well, this is something that the Lebanese have been worried about from the early days of the Syrian war.
And whereas the powerful parties here, Hezbollah and the rival Future Movement have spoken of trying to keep things calm inside Lebanon, both -- both of them are supporting opposite sides in the Syrian war. And both are accused of sending their militants in to Syria to fight on opposite sides.
You also -- so you have a situation where the existing divisions in Lebanon are now magnified by those in Syria.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Anne Barnard of The New York Times in Beirut, Lebanon, thanks so much.
ANNE BARNARD: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to nearby Turkey, once a model of stability in the Middle East, where an exploding corruption scandal threatens the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner explains.
MARGARET WARNER: Tensions erupted in the streets of Istanbul this evening, as police blasted protesters with water cannon, tear gas and plastic bullets.
The crowd threw rocks and shouted "Catch the thief," a cry aimed squarely at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the eye of a widening corruption probe. But, earlier today, the prime minister defiantly rejected the calls for his removal.
PRIME MINISTER RECEP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): Let me be clear. If our nation tells us to leave, we will go. There's no hesitation there, because that's the office we respect. But when the people are telling us to stay, we won't listen to someone who is telling us to go.
MARGARET WARNER: The controversy exploded 10 days ago, when police detained two dozen people, many with Erdogan party ties, in a 14-month-long corruption and bribery investigation.
Officers raided the home of the CEO a major state-owned bank, discovering boxes of Turkish liras. The video got wide play on Turkish TV. It was a sudden blow to Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party, the AKP, who have ruled for 11 years.
Erdogan lashed back, charging that political foes, led by followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, and foreign powers were plotting to bring down the government.
RECEP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Those who are receiving the support of financial circles and media cannot change the direction of this country.
MARGARET WARNER: But, eight days later, on Christmas Day, three cabinet ministers resigned after their sons were implicated in the investigation. Later that day, Erdogan replaced 10 ministers, but again denounced the investigation as conspiracy.
RECEP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): We are facing an attack against the Turkish people and the Turkish republic which is presented as a corruption probe.
MARGARET WARNER: His government also tried to head off the probe with a new decree forcing prosecutors to clear their efforts with their superiors. And last night, the prosecutor leading the probe charged interference and was removed hours later.
But, today, a Turkish court annulled the decree requiring high-level approval for all investigations. The new controversy comes on the heels of gigantic summertime protests against the government's plans to raze Istanbul's popular Gezi Park to make room for development. Both have taken an economic toll. Foreign investors are dumping Turkish bonds, and the Turkish lira has dropped dramatically.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Margaret joins me now.
Margaret, a lot of different strands to this story. Tell us more about what is behind all this.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Judy, the Western narrative about Turkey for over a decade has been that it is a battle between the secular, the old secular forces backed by the military and the Islamists, the religiously conservative parties.
Well, the Islamists won. And now what you have is really a battle within that victorious coalition in which Erdogan, who had taken the AKP out of the shadows, made it the dominant party in this country, a booming economy, a reputation for clean governance, turned Turkey into this model Muslim democratic state, is suddenly facing these corruption allegations that go right at the heart of not only people close to him, but, according to the Turkish press, potentially his son.
And he is fighting back, as we just saw.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And how so? How is he doing that?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, he's basically doing what he did during the Gezi protests this summer, which is, instead of taking the substance of the charges or criticisms or complaints seriously, he's going on the attack.
So not only has he tried to meddle in the sort of prosecutor ranks and so on by reassigning police chiefs and prosecutors, but he is blaming it on outside forces, the U.S., by implication, Israel, and now this homegrown force, the Gulen movement, another Islamist movement.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so the Gulen movement, give us -- give us a sense what that is?
MARGARET WARNER: That is a very mysterious organization, Judy.
First of all, curiously, it's headed by a man we just saw in the tape named Fethullah Gulen, who lives here in Pennsylvania because he was hounded by the Turkish...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lives in the United States?
MARGARET WARNER: For 15 years. And even though he's been cleared of any charges, he hasn't gone back.
Ideologically, it is basically a brand of Sufi Islam that has been described to me as wanting to marry sort of Islam in modernity. But, in practice, it's also a network of businessmen, people in the bureaucracy, people in civil society, big education component.
And they all kind of work together. It is also secret. You don't register as a Gulenist. And so they are -- they for a long time were Erdogan's allies against the military. But in the last year or two, they have come to feel that Erdogan has become an authoritarian democrat, is one term they use, and is running kind of roughshod over -- sort of let power go to his head.
And so they -- are there Gulenists in the ranks of the prosecutors and the police? Probably so. But that video didn't lie. This money was discovered. And the public -- I talked to people from Gulenists to secularists. And they all found these allegations, you know, disturbing and persuasive.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We know that corruption allegations have been around for a long time in Turkey. So what's different about -- why is this happening right now?
MARGARET WARNER: That's a really good question, because you're right. Even under the old secularists, the thought was that the wealthy families, there was a lot of self-dealing there.
In the last 10 years, as the economy has just boomed, a lot of new people have also gotten very wealthy. And you have all these high-rises. You go to Istanbul -- you were just there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I was just there.
MARGARET WARNER: It is just unbelievable the development that's going on.
And it's tapping into resentment, just as the Gezi Park demonstrations did, that there is some chicanery going on, so that officials look the other way in return for money, and they overlook zoning regulations. There's also other charges involving money laundering and Iranians and Russians.
And so I talked to one person who said he thought this was a good sign that the public now dares to take on the leader of this democracy and say, you know, no, you aren't Hugo Chavez. You can't just continue ripping down neighborhoods and building what your cronies want to build without consulting the citizenry.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you mentioned Erdogan blaming outsiders, including the United States. That has been part of what he's been talking...
MARGARET WARNER: And that was pretty shocking to many people.
He caused Frank Ricciardone, who is the ambassador, one of the most respected ambassadors in the Foreign Service, of being behind this corruption probe. Now, it is true that Treasury has been looking at this particular bank and suspecting it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Treasury.
MARGARET WARNER: Yes, U.S. Treasury Department, and suspected it of being involved in sort of elicit trading with Iran.
But the idea -- nobody I talk to thinks there is any substance to this. And yet Erdogan threatened through the Turkish media to have him declared persona non grata and kick him out. That has sort of gone away. Secretary Kerry talked to the foreign minister.
But it is a surprising development. At the beginning of this administration, Erdogan and President Obama were on the phone all the time. The U.S. saw them as the stable ally in a volatile neighborhood. And now there have already been splits on some issues, but it makes it harder to partner on Syria or Iran or Israeli-Palestinian issues.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So some of these people have been arrested. The investigations continue. What happens next?
MARGARET WARNER: Well, the real question that people are asking is, is Erdogan in danger here?
Nobody I spoke with thinks any -- there is any party that is a rival to the AKP. There are elections next year. It is still the most popular party. It has huge support in the rural areas.
But people who know say, watch two things. One, do crowds of protesters get out and stay in the streets for weeks and weeks and weeks and put pressure on? And, two, what happens within Erdogan's ruling party? Do you start to see figures defect and put pressure on him to step aside in favor of someone like President Gul?
Erdogan has done nothing to defuse the situation. And right now those two prospects look unlikely. But if he does nothing to defuse the situation, but it continues to sort of stonewall and go on the sort of aggressive...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is what he has been doing.
MARGARET WARNER: Then, you know, anything could happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner, watching yet another country in turmoil in that part of the world, thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's turn our attention now to economic issues and a pressing deadline: the expiration of unemployment benefits for some Americans this weekend. It comes in a year when there have been mounting concerns over inequality and lack of opportunity.
Hari is back with that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: More than four years after the recession hit, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 7 percent. But after Saturday, unemployment benefits will end for an estimated 1.3 million individuals who have been out of work for more than six months.
Typically, states and the federal government provide unemployment insurance for up to 26 weeks. In the wake of the recession, emergency aid was provided for a longer period, up to 99 weeks total at one point, and the program was repeatedly renewed.
But when Congress went home this month, it didn't extend the benefits again after Democrats like Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois urged his colleagues to do so.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, D-Ill.: If we really care about working families and those who are on their way back to work, we have got to extend these unemployment benefits.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Some Republicans argue extending benefits is the wrong prescription as the recovery takes a more firm hold.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky made that case on FOX News.
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you're causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy. And it really -- while it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you're trying to help.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The battle is the latest this year over broader concerns about inequality and a growing divide, issues that first caught fire during the Occupy movement.
PROTESTERS: Hold the burgers. Hold the fries. We can't survive on $7.25.
HARI SREENIVASAN: This year, fast food workers and other low-wage employees held strikes around the country, calling for a living wage of $15 an hour. Five states raised their minimum wage, as did several counties and cities, like Washington, D.C.
Anxiety over inequality and mobility, the ability to move up the economic ladder, were a critical part of the debate. New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio won after campaigning on a tale of two cities. And in a speech earlier this month, President Obama called the issues the defining challenge of our time.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But some conservative economists say the trends are not that clear-cut, and there's no political consensus yet on how to address it.
Late this afternoon, the president said Congress -- he would ask -- press Congress to pass a three-month extension of unemployment benefits when members return from the holiday.
Some perspective on all this and an assessment of the scope of these bigger problems.
Robert Reich is a former labor secretary during the Clinton administration and now a professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley. His documentary "Inequality For All" explores the topic. And Scott Winship is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute whose work includes economic mobility and inequality.
Robert Reich, I want to start with you on the news of the day here. Your thoughts on the expiration of the long-term unemployment benefits?
ROBERT REICH, former U.S. Labor Secretary: Well, Hari, those are just not just bad for those families, but also bad for the economy overall, because, remember, those unemployment benefits going to the unemployed will be or have been turned around by the unemployed in terms of their purchases of goods and services.
If they're not getting that money any longer, they will not be able to turn around and buy goods and services. And that means that the economy will be that much less robust.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Scott Winship, should they be extended?
SCOTT WINSHIP, Manhattan Institute: You know, I don't think it is a terrible idea.
I do think that we're talking about a pretty small fraction of the labor force, probably about 3 percent of next year's workers. So it's easy to overstate, I think, the cost and the benefits of extending them. But the unemployment rate remains high, and I don't think it's a bad idea to extend them for a bit longer.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
Robert Reich, let's talk a little bit about economic inequality. Is it increasing for most of us, or is the inequality just increasing between the top 1 percent and the rest of us?
ROBERT REICH: Most of the inequality we are seeing and we have experienced in this country for the last 25 to 30 years has been between the very top, that is , the top one-tenth of 1 percent or 1 percent, or maybe 3 percent to 5 percent, depending upon how you measure it, and everybody else.
The median household income continues to stagnate, by some measures actually dropping, adjusted for inflation, while the people at the very top, they have got 95 percent of all of the economic gains since the recovery began.
And so there's no question that inequality is widening. But it's widening primarily between the top and everybody else.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Scott Winship, should we be concerned about this?
SCOTT WINSHIP: I don't think there's much reason to be concerned about it.
When you look at the literature, the claims about how inequality's rise has hurt the middle class and poor have been really overstated. The middle class has not stagnated. The Congressional Budget Office puts out income figures every year. And they show that, since 1979, the middle class is something like 40 to 50 percent better off than they were, and the poor actually are quite a bit better off than they were as well.
So I think there's even a little bit of question about whether the extent to which the top has pulled away from everyone else that hinges on how you measure the income that folks at the top get from their investment income, but, at any rate, the dots have yet to be connected, I think, pointing to where this increase has hurt other folks.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Robert Reich, one of those dots that people like to connect is the income inequality along with economic mobility. Is there a strong connection between the two?
ROBERT REICH: There is a strong connection between the two, Hari, for the simple reason that, as the income ladder lengthens, because people at the top are that much further away from the middle people at the middle, and the people at the middle are far away from people at the bottom, as that ladder elongates, it's harder and harder to get anywhere on the ladder if you start climbing.
Even if you climb that ladder at the same rate of upward mobility that we had in this country 30 or 40 years ago, which we don't have, it would still be harder to get anywhere. Plus, we have a lot of middle rungs of that ladder now disappearing, because all those manufacturing jobs that used to be unionized and paid pretty good wages, even though a lot of education wasn't needed, those rungs of the ladder are now gone.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Scott Winship, is there enough data to support that, or how about the idea of economic opportunity? Someone who is born in a poor family or poor household today, do they have the same shot of climbing out of that poverty?
SCOTT WINSHIP: Well, again, I think you can be concerned about whether there is enough equality of opportunity and whether folks at the bottom have enough of a chance to get ahead.
But for folks who study the topic, the research couldn't be clearer that there is no consensus that mobility has actually declined in the United States. Most of the studies out there actually show there has been very little change since the mid-20th century.
So you can believe that we're not -- we don't have enough opportunity, which I do. But the idea that it has declined, there is very little to support that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Robert Reich, your response?
ROBERT REICH: Well, we must be looking at different studies.
With due respect, everything I have seen, the Pew studies, other studies show that actually it is harder for a poor kid to make his way or her way up, not only because geographic poverty is more concentrated, but also because those -- that geographic poverty also correlates with poorer schools, with poorer public health, fewer public parks, often environments that simply are unsafe or are not conducive to upward mobility, fewer models of people who are actually making it around you.
If I can also go back to something else your other guest offered before, that was that it is not a problem for the economy that we have widening inequality, let me just suggest that one of the reasons we are seeing such a slow, anemic recovery is because the vast middle class doesn't have the purchasing power to keep the economy going.
With so much money, over 20 percent of total income, going to the top 1 percent, the vast middle class and the poor just -- they're -- they don't have enough money to buy enough to keep the economy -- and to get the economy back on track.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Scott Winship, what about that idea that the economic -- the trickle-down effect isn't happening? If the 1 percent are getting wealthier, they're not spending it and creating the same type of demand that the middle class would?
SCOTT WINSHIP: It is a theory that makes intuitive sense, I think, but, again, when you look at the literature on whether rising inequality, whether more inequality results in slower growth, a number of studies, as many as show that it hurts growth, actually show that more inequality increases growth.
Now, I don't think that that means we ought to be rooting for more inequality in the United States. But if you are really looking for a smoking gun that more inequality has hurt economic growth of the middle class or the poor, it's just not there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Robert Reich, what about the consequences of whatever rate of inequality that two of you might ever agree on, but what are some of those consequences?
ROBERT REICH: Well, besides slower economic growth -- and I do think the studies predominantly do show that -- and, intuitively, it's obvious -- beyond that, you have a kind of corruption and eroding of our democracy.
When more and more money accumulates at the very top, so does, inevitably, political power. As the great American jurist Louis Brandeis once said, we can have a great deal of money in the hands of a few people, or we can have a democracy, but we can't have both, because money inevitably of that degree, as in the late 19th century, now, does corrupt and undermine with lobbying and campaign contributions our democracy.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Scott Winship, quick last word?
SCOTT WINSHIP: Well, you know, we have a Democratic president who just won a second term. We had a huge expansion of entitlements in the Affordable Care Act.
We're talking about raising the minimum wage. I just think the evidence isn't there that somehow inequality has produced politics that has been less kind to the middle class and poor.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Scott Winship, Robert Reich, thanks so much for your time.
ROBERT REICH: Thanks, Hari.
SCOTT WINSHIP: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks -- or Michael Gerson. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is off tonight.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we have just heard this conversation, Mark, about inequality. We have talked about it before at this table. How big a problem is it in this country as we close out this year?
MARK SHIELDS: I think it's a growing problem. I think it's a real problem, Judy.
And the president has obviously -- has called it the defining issue of our time, and pointed out that, over the past 35 years, we have seen a widening of the difference in income and wealth between the middle class and between the top 1 percent. The top 1 percent in the past 30 years, since Ronald Reagan was president, have seen their incomes go up by 279 percent.
Just last year, 10 percent, the top 10 percent got more than 50 percent of the country's income. That's the first time that has ever happened in U.S. history. And sort of the irony of this is that, as his critics have branded him a socialist, if anything, capitalists have done exceedingly well during Barack Obama's presidency.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If that's the case, Michael, where is the outrage, or should be there any outrage about this?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, there should be. I think there should.
I mean, I think you are seeing stickiness at the lower ends of the ladder and an ability for the upper class to perpetuate privilege. Often, affluent and educated people are marrying affluent and educated people. The problem here, the bad news is, it's a very complex social problem. It's not just a difference in income. It's a difference in skills and education and social capital.
And those are what really make the difference in the long term. And that's going to require institutions to change fundamentally to be able to transfer those skills and education and values.
The good news, from my perspective, is that both left and right have part of the answer here. You know, part of the problem is the decline of families and values-shaping institutions, and part of the problem is the decline of blue-collar jobs at decent wages.
You know, both left and right should have something to contribute here. Robert Putnam, who is an expert on these issues at Harvard, calls it a perfectly purple problem, meaning the left has insights into the problem. The right has insights in the problem. They should come together and have some ideas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, is there any sign or reason to think they will come together and do something about it?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think it is.
I think, Judy, that it's, I think, become increasingly evident that income inequality is just not bad ethics or bad morally. It's bad economics. I mean, as Robert Reich was pointing out, when people don't have disposable income, they can't buy goods and services. They can't -- and spur the greater economy.
And I think the pope has contributed to this discussion. I think he's given a moral dimension that -- making the point that, while globalization has made us all neighbors, it certainly hasn't made us all brothers, and that that is really a sense of responsibility that we have.
When mobility is lost in this country -- because that has been sort of the dream, the ideal of the United States -- I mean, when one out of 20 children born in the bottom fifth quintile ever makes it the top fifth, and when Michael made the point two out of three who are born in the top fifth remain there, I mean, they are there -- I mean, so there isn't that sense of going back and forth and high risk.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the conversation right now, as we just heard, Michael, is about extending unemployment benefits.
But there is a larger -- a larger question here that we're talking about. Is there real, tangible evidence anywhere that the two sides that -- you talked about the two sides have put forward ideas about this.
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, it's a good thing they're talking about it.
President Obama has made some eloquent speeches about it. Paul Ryan has announced this is going to be a focus of what he wants to contribute to the Republican Party over the next year. Be interesting it to see what ideas he comes up with.
I agree with President Obama on this. I think it is a central issue to the definition of the country. Americans are willing to accept inequality when there's mobility. But, in the absence of mobility, inequality is just a caste system in which birth equals destiny.
That's not consistent with the American ideal. There's too much of that in America.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But I guess what I'm saying, Mark, as I'm looking, where is it on the agenda?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think...
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the city?
MARK SHIELDS: We do things in this city by baby steps.
I think, if we do minimum wage, if we extend unemployment insurance, I think those...
JUDY WOODRUFF: You think minimum wage could get...
MARK SHIELDS: I think -- yes, I think there is -- I think there is no question that minimum wage -- now, it's being done seriatim, state by state, but I think there is a real chance that we can get...
JUDY WOODRUFF: That the president...
MARK SHIELDS: ... get some momentum going, get in that direction.
And the key is, Judy, those public institutions, whether they're schools or whether they're colleges or whether they're training centers, that -- where people do acquire the skills that they can rise, I mean, we can't underfund those. We can't understaff those. And I think that becomes a part of the debate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If those kinds of things get done, Michael, does that make any difference?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think it should.
But I just wouldn't underestimate how difficult this is. I mean, we have talked about education reform for a couple of decades in America. It's hard to do. It's hard to implement, but it's a key to all of this, graduation from high school and then graduation from college. These are keys to social mobility. And we don't really know how to get there right now, but we need to come up with some ideas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, if Democrats pushed a minimum wage increase, would Republican goes along with it, if it were a federal move?
MICHAEL GERSON: I don't know. I think there would be significant resistance on the part of significant portions of the Republican coalition on minimum wage, for economic arguments back and forth on how this affects entry-level jobs and other things.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, very quick question about Edward Snowden.
He came out, I guess, the day before, the day of Christmas to say, mission accomplished. He, of course, is the former National Security Agency contractor who put out hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, Mark.
Mission accomplished? What should we be thinking about Edward Snowden right now?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, I think there are certain facts that are irrefutable. He took an oath. He broke the oath. He's -- he violated the law.
At the same time, he started a national debate that we had not had in this country before. He's revealed -- he has certainly complicated America's relations with foreign countries, both friendly and maybe neutral, by revealing that we had been eavesdropping on their leaders' phones.
He led to the director of national intelligence lying to the Senate of the United States when asked if they collect data on Americans, thousands of Americans, millions of Americans. He said no. And it turns out we -- every phone call, its number and its length are in fact recorded.
So I think it started a debate. I have been, frankly, surprised, Judy that there hadn't been a more intense debate about privacy. But I can see it now gaining some traction in this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What is his -- what are we left with at the end of this year because of the Snowden disclosures?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think that he demonstrates how technology is defusing and decentralizing power in America.
Some contractor, obscure contractor, because of the way information technology works, can expose the government and have tremendous, disproportionate influence. It also makes harder for the government to keep secrets, which are sometimes necessary for national security. I mean, we're showing the upside of technology, the it decentralizes power, but it complicates the work of government, sometimes essential roles of government. And that's the flip side.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, this is our last Friday show before the end of the year. So I get to ask a few questions looking back.
Mark, here's one. What should the president have learned in 2013?
MARK SHIELDS: The president should have learned, Judy, that reality counts, that how -- where the rubber hits the road, where people live.
I mean, the rollout of the health care, the crowning glory of his administration, the signature issues, has been little short of a public catastrophe and a political disaster. And it's raised serious questions about -- among the president's own supporters about his competence and about the competence of, the quality of the people that he has chosen to staff his administration.
So I don't think there is any question that it's been a -- it should have been an incredibly sobering experience for the president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What would you say has been the biggest lesson for -- or should have been the biggest lesson for the president?
MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think both sides had lessons here.
I mean, this is a year in which the left in some ways showed its worst face in Obamacare, overconfident, technologically incompetent. But, at the same time, the right showed its worst face, angry populism, uninterested in governing.
The spectacle was extraordinary this fall of both parties essentially self-destructing at the same time, unable to take advantage of one another's mistakes, blaming one another, but really being at fault themselves. It's bad for American politics when that happens.
And now we're left to ask, well, what emerges from the ruins? Will reasonable elements of both parties be able to emerge and do things like emphasize opportunity in immigration and reforms of health care which are going to be necessary going forward or not in this? But we -- it was a bad year for our political class.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think lessons were learned?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think the Republicans -- I think the Republicans learned, should have learned the fundamental truth that is politics is not a seesaw.
Just because the other guy is down doesn't mean you're up. They're down even further. And there's -- as Peter Hart has pointed out, they're at the lowest point in the history of the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll of any political party.
I mean, it isn't the people who are -- the supporters of the president who have been disappointed or in some cases disaffected -- by an 11-1 margin find the Republicans negative. And they have -- they are a party without ideas. I mean, Michael has spoken about Paul Ryan's plans, and they're ambitious plans.
MICHAEL GERSON: We will see.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes.
But there isn't a Republican health care plan. There hasn't been. They -- all they -- basically, what the Republicans have learned is this, Judy, something that the beer industry learned a long time ago. And that is, one beer company doesn't accuse the other beer company of causing hangovers, bad breath and big stomachs, because, in the long run, it starts to hurt beer and beer sales.
And they have really hurt politics and hurt politicians, I think, by the constant, relentless negativism. And they haven't been alone in that respect. But I think that has been the continuing line from the Republicans. And they have got to come up with a sense of governing and how they would govern.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there's lessons here for all of us.
It's the end of our time at the end of this year. And we wish you both a happy new year.
Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thank you.
MICHAEL GERSON: Happy new year.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And to you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: a different kind of a look at Africa, through song.
Jeffrey Brown talks with one of the continent's biggest stars.
JEFFREY BROWN: Born in the West African nation of Mali, daughter of a diplomat posted around the world, Rokia Traore and her music are a mix of African and Western influences and languages. Her musical career took off in the 1990s. And she later moved back permanently to Bamako, Mali's capital, where she's lived through the troubled recent times for her country, including an Islamist insurgency that for a time lead to the burning of precious manuscripts and books and banning of music in parts of the north.
Traore's new album addresses the problems of Mali and the continent, but also, as its title, "Beautiful Africa" suggests, much more.
We talked recently in Washington, and I asked her first how she describes her music.
ROKIA TRAORE, musician: I would describe my music as Malian contemporary music, a mix of a profound Malian culture in which my music and, yes, my personality is rooted, and also opened to all my influences I had during my travels when I was a child.
JEFFREY BROWN: So a mix of traditional Malian music and all that you have experienced since?
ROKIA TRAORE: A mix, and a mix, but a natural mix, because I don't try to mix things because I want to make a mix, but I am the mix.
JEFFREY BROWN: You are the mix.
JEFFREY BROWN: This is you, who you are.
ROKIA TRAORE: And I simply have to do things the most natural -- and, yes, very naturally. And it gives what my music is.
And anything I do in my everyday life is also this mix. And I feel good with this mix. I feel good having different cultures around me. My band is made from people coming from Italy who stay in U.K. and Malians and French people. And I like that. We speak several languages, and we go from one language to another one.
And my life is -- my life is like that, and I like that.
JEFFREY BROWN: In this new album, you seem very concerned to sing about Africa, its problems and its beauty. Why do you -- why do you want to sing of that?
ROKIA TRAORE: Singing about Africa is like singing about myself.
JEFFREY BROWN: It's like singing about yourself?
ROKIA TRAORE: Absolutely.
It's like singing about my story in terms of how my -- I am related to this country, even more than what people can think around me, because, eventually, the way I grew up, I am always considered like someone I am not where I am, in Africa, too much European, and, in Europe, still African.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, you always felt yourself sort of an outsider?
ROKIA TRAORE: Not just a feeling, but it is something real.
Yes, this album definitely, for me, it's a way to talk about my relationship with Mali, with Africa, so to talk about myself.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you know, on a news program like ours, we're always -- when we look at Africa, it's usually reporting on the bad things, right, the wars and the poverty.
You acknowledge that in your songs, but you want us to know there's something more.
ROKIA TRAORE: Some things people see more through media which give them a very negative image of Africa is -- are things we live there every day, but also there are some other things which are more positive and, I don't know how to say, just a normal life and joyful things and just glad to be an African and living there.
And it's not -- when you see through -- Africa through developed countries' medias, it is like a continent where everybody want to go out and nobody want to stay there, Africans. I'm telling about Africans.
JEFFREY BROWN: You don't recognize that Africa.
ROKIA TRAORE: No, because it's not my case.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, I want to ask you about one particular song.
It's "Sarama," because it is a tribute to women in Africa. And you say -- you say, "Anything good I can do, I want it to be a tribute to you," speaking of women in Mali.
ROKIA TRAORE: I'm amazed by the way they are and the way they face their everyday life.
They don't see themselves as victims. An African woman or a Malian woman or in my village will never tell me -- complain, let's say, will never complain about her everyday life. She states it and she smiles with that. And for her, it is just her life.
And I admire this fact. And I -- it's a source of inspiration for me, really.
JEFFREY BROWN: How do you look at what's going on in your country?
ROKIA TRAORE: The most complicated and the very important question we were wondering about was when we will be able to manage the situation in the country in general.
And I knew that, as soon as everything will become normal, music will start again. And now I think there are more songs about what happened in Mali than there could be if the situation didn't happen.
JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, really? So, all of that has led to more music?
ROKIA TRAORE: More music, of course. Music is like what you think and what you feel in your deep inside.
You don't find the right words to say, but you can play it, and you can express it, express it in an artistical way. You cannot stop that in a whole country and in a country like Mali.
JEFFREY BROWN: OK.
Your new album is "Beautiful Africa."
Rokia Traore, thank you so much.
ROKIA TRAORE: Thank you for having me.
Good morning. Here's some of the news we're watching this morning.
Jobless benefits end
Extended unemployment benefits expire for some 1.3 million Americans after Congress fails to extend a recession-era program that steps in after state benefit limits are reached.
Syrian air strikesAn air strike reportedly kills at least 20 at crowded market in Aleppo. The aerial assault is now nearly two weeks old.
Egyptian unrestCNN reports that at least three were killed and more than 265 arrested on Friday in clashes as the Muslim Brotherhood defies new penalties for protest. One student was killed when police broke up a protest at Islamic university in Cairo.
Big policy changes in ChinaThe National People's Congress formally votes to abolish reeducation labor camps, formalizing Communist Party decision of last month. China officially eases the decades-old one-child policy. Now parents may have two children if at least parent is an only child. The war on graft intensifies as more than 500 lawmakers in Hengyang city (Hunan province) resign in a bribery scandal.