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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The Northeastern United States braced for a wallop of winter on this second day of 2014, as the Midwest dug out and faced frigid temperatures.

    Kwame Holman has our weather look.

    KWAME HOLMAN:  The first major snowstorm of the new year began shutting down cities across the Midwest today.  Arctic winds brought thick snow, as much as 12 inches in some places, with more to come in New England.

    Residents there started preparing yesterday for the storm, although the worst isn't expected to hit until later tonight.  More than 22 states and about 100 million Americans are in the storm's path.

    MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, Boston:  We have been here before.

    KWAME HOLMAN:  At a news conference today, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said residents should take precautions.

    THOMAS MENINO:  I'm urging everyone to stay indoors, check on your elderly neighbors.  If you see homeless individuals, call the police or emergency services.

    KWAME HOLMAN:  Schools and state offices across Boston were set to be closed tomorrow.

    And New York City awaited the storm with snowplows on hand, the first storm under new Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Residents in the Midwest already have been hit by the winter weather.  Streets blanketed with snow in Cleveland created tough driving conditions with low visibility.  And in the Windy City, residents who deal with blizzard conditions regularly still found the foot of snow hard to deal with.

    MAN:  You got to improvise.

    MAN:  It's horrible.  This -- this -- I guess it's Chicago weather.

    KWAME HOLMAN:  Along with the snow, frigid temperatures struck several parts of the country.  Earlier today, temperatures fell well below zero, reaching minus-20 in parts of North Dakota and minus-30 in Northern Minnesota.

    The cold extended east to Maine and Vermont, where snowfall is expected to top a foot, even more in Massachusetts.  Holiday travelers heading home were grounded after more than 2,000 flights were canceled.  Officials also are concerned about power outages from heavy snow and winds, and flooding along the eastern coast of Massachusetts, where the waves already are growing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Heavy snow is expected to continue through tonight and into tomorrow across New England.

    Tensions flared in Iraq today, as Sunni militants linked to al-Qaida battled for control of two key cities.  The insurgents have ties to Syria, more evidence the civil war there is crossing borders.  Today's clashes centered around Fallujah and Ramadi.

    Thousands of anti-government fighters stormed government buildings and police stations and freed prisoners from jail.  Elsewhere, a truck bomb north of Baghdad killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens more.

    A blast also went off today in Beirut, Lebanon, killing at least five people.  The bomb targeted a Shiite Hezbollah stronghold in the southern suburbs of the capital.  The force of the explosion tore the front off of nearby buildings and littered the street with the smoldering wreckage of burned cars.  The health minister reported more than 66 people were wounded.

    Secretary of State John Kerry said finding peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not mission impossible.  He arrived in Israel today to press leaders from both sides to make tough choices and acknowledged there are challenges to overcome in the quest for a two-state solution.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  The time is soon arriving where leaders are going to have to make difficult decisions.  We are close to that time, if not at it, and I think we understand the circumstances within which we are working.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  But, today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the actions of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  He said it was an outrage that Abbas glorified recently released Palestinian prisoners by calling them heroes.

    Doctors in Israel reported former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is clinging to life after suffering from a critical malfunction of various organs.  Sharon had a stroke while still in office in 2006 and has been in a coma ever since.  He's never regained full consciousness, but his family says that he occasionally blinks his eyes and moves his fingers.

    Fifty-two passengers aboard a Russian research ship stranded in the Antarctic ice were finally rescued today.  They had been stuck since Christmas Eve.

    We have a report narrated by Sangeeta Kandola of Independent Television News.

    MAN:  The first of the helicopters to take us home!

    MAN:  Thanks, everyone!

     SANGEETA KANDOLA:  After nine days of waiting, this morning, relief and excitement at the prospect of finally going home.

    CHRIS TURNEY, Expedition Leader:  It's 5:30 on 2nd of January and we have just heard that a helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long is heading over to check out our helipad just behind me.  If all goes well, we will be off in about an hour's time.

    SANGEETA KANDOLA:  The mission is almost complete; 52 passengers have been transported from the Russian ship the Academic Shokalskiy, which has been trapped by thick ice sheets since Christmas Eve.

    The crew have remained with the vessel while the team of scientists are now safely on the Australian icebreaker the Aurora.  The task to free them from the frozen ice has been plagued by a number of problems.  Three icebreakers were initially dispatched to try to crack their way through the thick ice surrounding the ship, but all failed.  The rescued group's view has remained the same for days, until now.

    The Australian vessel they have boarded will take them on a scenic route to Tasmania, arriving around mid-January, before they head home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  An undocumented Mexican immigrant can now be licensed to practice law in California.  The state Supreme Court made that unanimous ruling today in favor of Sergio Garcia.  His case was seen as a test of the new California law that authorizes the court to let qualified applicants into the state bar regardless of their immigration status.

    Changes to the GED exam rolled out today, in the first overhaul to the high school equivalency test in more than a decade.  The revamped test now focuses more on the skills needed for college and the workplace, and it will only be offered on the computer.  More than 700,000 people took the GED in 2012.

    The new year of trading on Wall Street got off to a sour start, with technology stocks slumping the most.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost 135 points to close at 16,441.  The Nasdaq fell 33 points to close at 4,143.  Oil also plummeted by nearly $3 a barrel in New York trading, as Libya prepared to reopen a major oil field.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  January 1 marked the first day of coverage for many Americans under the Affordable Care Act.

    Jeffrey Brown updates the health care law's rollout. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Earlier this week the Obama administration released official enrollment figures showing that 1.1 million people had signed up for health insurance using the federal exchange, with more than 975,000 of those coming during the month of December.  Another 900,000 people registered through the individual state exchanges, for a total of 2.1 million, a quick surge, but short of an early administration estimate that 3.3 million people would sign up by the start of 2014. 

    Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News joins me now for an update. 

    And welcome back. 

    JULIE APPLEBY, Kaiser Health News:  Thank you. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  First, after all that's happened, it's probably useful just to remind people what actually happened when this all kicked in?  What were the important changes? 

    JULIE APPLEBY:  Right. 

    This is a key date because it was a milestone in a way.  A lot of the key provisions of the health care law kicked in, so things like insurers can no longer reject people who have medical conditions.  They can no longer charge men -- or women more than men.  They can no longer set annual or lifetime dollar limits on coverage. 

    So a lot of these things went into effect.  The other key thing that went into effect yesterday is that starting this year, Americans who don't have coverage could face a penalty fine if they don't get that coverage by March 31. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And now the overall numbers that I just referred to, we saw this jump in the last month, last weeks, actually.  How is all that being read? 

    JULIE APPLEBY:  The administration had a press conference earlier this week, and they touted the fact that 975,000 people signed up for coverage in December. 

    And that's a big number.  They say that shows that they resolved many of the problems that were plaguing their Web site since it started in October.  But that number is still well short.  You know, even when you add them all together, you have got 2 million people between the federal exchange and state exchanges.  When you add those together, as you mentioned, we're still short of what the administration was estimating they would have by this time. 

    And we're still short of that seven million that they are hoping to get by the end of this year. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  What about the mix of people signing up?  How much can we tell at this point, especially young people, right? 

    JULIE APPLEBY:  Right.  Right.  That's a key thing. 

    We want to know how many young people are signing up because they are presumably going to offset the cost of the older people.  Reporters have asked the administration many, many times for information on the age, the health status of folks signing up, whether they have had insurance before.  And we just don't have that information.  They haven't given it to you us yet. 

    Now, some states have posted this information.  So, in California, for example, in November, they said about 22 percent of the people signing up were younger people, ages 18 to 34.  And that tracks pretty closely with their share of the population in that state.  But that was November.  We don't know what's happened since then. 

    Many health policy experts are telling reporters that it's not simply the age that's important.  They want to get people -- insurers and actuaries want to get people signed up who are healthy.  So, they could be older healthy people as well.  But we will just have to wait, I think, until the end of March to really know a little bit more about the final number. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  What about -- there had been a belief, even a concern that there would be like a surge, a flood of appointments, right, and people going to the doctors right away?  What do you know about that?  What do you know so far, I know it's early, so maybe a lot of this is anecdotal, about things like that, things about surprises people may have found when they tried to use their insurance?

    JULIE APPLEBY:  This is the big concern.  What's going to happen in January, right?  Will people show up at the doctor, or the hospital, or the pharmacy and find out they're not enrolled?  Will they be able to get an appointment?

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Thinking that they were enrolled, but for some reason -- yes. 

    JULIE APPLEBY:  Thinking they were enrolled, and for some reason, they aren't. 

    The White House is very worried about this, because if people don't pay their premium, their first month's premium, they are not officially enrolled.  And many people have until January 10 to pay that premium, but not all cases. 

    So the White House is saying, call your insurer, make sure you are enrolled.  But this is going to be a key thing.  How will this play out in January?  What is going to happen with folks?  This is going to play into the narrative as we go forward this year as to how well this law is working out. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  I saw that there were some pharmacies that are offering extended supplies of prescription drugs to tide people over during this uncertain period; is that it?

    JULIE APPLEBY:  Well, both Walgreens and CVS say that they're going to help some folks who perhaps don't have their permanent I.D. card yet from their insurer or are still caught up in some of the technical difficulties in getting enrolled with some transitional coverage, a 15-to-30-day supply, in certain circumstances.  So those two pharmacies say that they will help some folks. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Now, in the meantime, one provision involving contraception has been -- well, it was put on hold really by the Supreme Court.  Tell us about that. 

    JULIE APPLEBY:  Right, right.

    Under the law, employers are required to cover contraceptive as preventive care, without a co-pay for the enrollees.  This is obviously been very controversial, particularly among some Catholic institutions.  So some religiously affiliated employers were offered a compromise. 

    And this compromise basically says that they don't directly have to pay for this contraceptive coverage.  They can certify that this is opposed to their religious beliefs and the insurer will then cover that for their employees.  A number of religiously affiliated groups, including this group of nuns that brought this case before the Supreme Court, said that that is an inadequate compromise, because, in effect, it still requires them to say that, you know, we are authorizing contraceptive coverage, so they have brought this to the court. 

    The court has said, we're going to temporarily stay this for this group of nuns and a few other groups.  And they have given the Obama administration until tomorrow to respond. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And, very briefly, as you say, we're going to watch -- I mean, this battle continues, right, with every side watching what happens right now through January, certainly. 

    JULIE APPLEBY:  Right. 

    We're going to hear a lot.  So this law is very broad and complex, so there are some people who have gotten coverage, they're paying less.  Some have gotten a subsidy.  Some have gotten coverage who have never had it before because they had a medical condition.  So we're going to hear those stories.

    But it's also true that we're going to hear people who are paying more, whose doctor is not in their networks, who are surprised by the size of the deductible they have to pay, and they are going to be unhappy.  So we're going to hear those stories as well.  This is going to be a battle I think we're going to hear the rest of the year, particularly as we get closer to the November elections.  And -- and we will have to stay tuned. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  A battle of health care stories, huh?

    Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News, thanks so much. 

    JULIE APPLEBY:  OK.  Thank you.  


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The Pentagon announced a significant milestone was reached this week in the long saga to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay.  The last three ethnic Uighurs from China were released and sent to Slovakia.  A total of 22 Uighurs were captured after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. 

    They were found not to be a threat, and a judge ordered them freed in 2008, but the U.S. struggled to find a place to send them.  All told, nine detainees were transferred in the month of December. 

    So, just who has been released and under what conditions?  And what will happen to the remaining 155 prisoners? 

    For that, we turn to the State Department's special envoy for Guantanamo closure, Cliff Sloan. 

    Cliff Sloan, welcome to the NewsHour.

    CLIFF SLOAN, U.S. State Department Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure:  Thank you.  Happy to be here. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So there was a slump in the release of prisoners for a period of about  two years, until you came in this summer.  Just in the last month, as we have said, several released. 

    What's changed since you have been there? 

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Well, Judy, as you know, in May, the president gave a speech at the National Defense University. 

    And he strongly reiterated and renewed his commitment to close Guantanamo.  And he's been very committed to closing it from the beginning.  And in this speech, he said, we were going to move forward on transfers, we were going to move forward on closing the facility. 

    He announced the appointment of special envoys at the State Department and the Defense Department who would be focused and moving forward on closure.  I started the beginning of July.  Paul Lewis, my counterpart at the Defense Department, started in November.  And so we are moving full-speed ahead. 

    And I'm also pleased that we are able to work with Congress in the last few months to change the law in a way that removes some of the obstacles and restrictions that had led to that slump that you referred to.  And I think that's also going to be very helpful to us in moving forward. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, is that what made the difference?  And how did you prioritize who was going to be released first among these prisoners?

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Well, in terms of changing the law -- and the law will be different in 2014 -- I think that is going to help us very much in moving forward with the transfers. 

    In terms of prioritizing the transfers, let's step back for a second and have an overview of the facility; 155 detainees are there right now; 76 now are approved for transfer; 79 are not approved for transfer.  And when I say approved for transfer, there's a very important point that I think people don't realize, which is that the executive branch in 2009 and 2010 undertook a very rigorous review by the national security agencies and departments. 

    And those who are approved for transfer were unanimously determined that they should be transferred, subject to appropriate security arrangements and humane treatment arrangements. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  That they were no longer a threat, or...

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Well, that they should be -- that they should be transferred, subject to appropriate security and humane treatment, assurances and agreements with other countries, that there was no need to continue to hold them. 

    And so those are the priority.  And we have been moving forward as aggressively and quickly as we can on those approved for transfer.  Now, let me just say...

     (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Can I just say, is the hold -- has the holdup then been finding the countries, the places that will take them? 

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Well, it's a -- it's a complicated process, which includes, as I said, there were the congressional restrictions which we think were far more burdensome than necessary and helpful. 

    There's the question of the countries they're going to.  And in some cases, it's to their home countries.  And in some cases, if that's not possible for security or humane treatment reasons, it would be to third countries.  And that takes negotiations.  And it is a -- it is a complicated process. 

    But one thing that I think is very important, Judy, and that I have tried to emphasize and Paul Lewis at the Defense Department has tried to emphasize, we don't want to relitigate the old battles.  We don't be looking backward.  We want to be looking ahead. 

    And we feel very strongly there is a new air of possibility on moving forward on closing the Guantanamo detention facility.  That is what we are focused on.  We don't want to go over what happened in the -- during the last several months and the years when there was that slump.  We feel very good about moving ahead now. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, of the 155 left, you said 70-some are cleared for -- how long is it going to take to get those detainees out of the country to a new location? 

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Well, I can't give you an exact time frame, but what I can tell you is, we are working just as hard as we can.  We are moving forward as aggressively as we can. 

    As you mentioned, nine were transferred in the month of December alone, 11 in the last couple of months.  We are working very hard on all those approved for transfer.  But the other point that I want to make which is also very important is, the 79 who are not approved for transfer, we have also started a new administrative process for them, a new hearing, where they have the opportunity to show that they now should be approved for transfer.  They get a fresh look. 

    And that's important as well in moving forward. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So it's -- so they may not necessarily stay at Guantanamo, because right now it looks as if you have got several dozen of them who are -- who will be there indefinitely?

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Well, they -- as I said, we have 79 who are not approved for transfer.  Eight of those are facing criminal charges.  So, of the remaining 71, they now will have this new administrative hearing. 

    That's already started.  That's going to accelerate on a rolling basis, and that is going to be very important in moving forward. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Do you believe that Guantanamo will close within the foreseeable future, and that all detainees will be taken care of one way or another? 

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Absolutely. 

    We are going to close the Guantanamo detention facility.  I have no doubt about that.  And President Obama is very strongly committed to that. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  By when?

    CLIFF SLOAN:  I'm not going to give you a time frame on it, but I am absolutely convinced that we going to close the Guantanamo facility. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Why are you convinced, if you don't -- if you can't say how long it's going to take? 

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Well, I can't say how long it's going to take because there are variables, and I don't want to give an artificial timeline.  I don't want to just pluck a date out of the air and say it. 

    But those who have been approved for transfer, we will do everything we can to transfer those.  Those who are not approved for transfer will have the new administrative hearing.  Now, there is more work to be done with Congress, because there currently is a ban on bringing any detainees to the United States, including for prosecution in our courts. 

    And we think that is unwise.  And we think that restriction should be lifted.  But we are going...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And do you think you can be successful changing that? 

    (CROSSTALK)

    CLIFF SLOAN:  I think so.  And I think you are seeing a new recognition across the spectrum that it's time to move on, it is time to put this problem before us. 

    When you look at the facts and when you just take a sort of reasoned view of it, there is a much better solution out there than just -- just keeping them at Guantanamo.  And we can and we will close the Guantanamo detention facility. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Cliff Sloan, who is the special envoy for Guantanamo closure, we thank you. 

    CLIFF SLOAN:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  When Congress reached a budget deal last month to fund the federal government, one of the controversial things they agreed to do was to reduce the cost of living adjustments for retired military personnel. 

    This has set off a battle over pensions with some members of Congress who have vowed to repeal this provision. 

    Jeff is back with that. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  The new pension cuts affect military veterans under age 62 who've retired after serving 20 years or more in the armed forces.  They would see their annual pension increases trimmed by 1 percentage point.  Authors of the budget deal say this would save $6 billion over the coming decade. 

    And we take up the matter now with retired Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan, president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, and Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration.  He's now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. 

    And welcome to both of you. 

    Nice to be with you. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Admiral, first, I want to -- this has become almost the most controversial piece of this new budget deal.  Why?  Can you summarize the objection? 

    VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN (RET.), President and CEO, Military Officers Association of America:  Sure.

    It's a very, very big deal to the health, morale and readiness of our all-volunteer force.  This 1 percent cut was made in a backroom by people that I don't think understood the impact that this would have in the all-volunteer force. 

    For the typical retiree, a sergeant 1st class in the Army, an E-7, an noncommissioned officer, this is $83,000 from the time that he or she may retire at 40 until 62; $83,000 is a lot of money.  That's three years of their pay when they retire, $23,000.  So, part of it is financial.  But the other part of it that the families and the currently serving and those that are retired feel very strongly about, Jeff, is, it's breaking faith with the promise that was made to these folks that have waged war for this nation for the last 12 years. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  OK.  Those are the two key areas of this.

    Larry Korb, start with the first one, the impact, because that is the first area of debate. 

    LAWRENCE KORB, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense:  It's not going to have any impact on recruiting and retention. 

    Back when I was there, the retirement thing was getting way out of hand.  And what we did is, we said, if you join after August -- July 31, 1986, you're going to get 40 percent, instead of 50 percent. 

    Those last -- those years where time went up, back when Admiral Ryan was running Navy personal, he said, people are -- I got more people than I need. 

    And what happened basically was that the military lobby, the veterans lobby -- and I happen to be a member of both, so I know exactly what worked.  They said, no, we have got to go back to 50 percent.  OK, so, they want back to 50 percent.  To a lot of people, the people who are going to retire were promised 40 when they came in.  Didn't hurt them.  Now they go up to 50 percent. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  So your sense is that the numbers, it's just not going to affect that many people and that much?

     (CROSSTALK)

    LAWRENCE KORB:  Basically, if a man or woman came in after August of 1986 and then retired in 2006, or they came up until 1999, when they undid this, basically, they're going to make out better than they would have even if you take the 1 percent reduction. 

    For example, if you retire at 38 years old, I mean, you retired at 38, you have been in 18, you're -- 28 -- and you live to be 82, doing all this kind of stuff, you are going to be $200,000 better than you were under this 40 percent, even with this 1 percent reduction. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, do you want to respond to that?  Because there are a lot of numbers thrown around here.  So what is the case for why this has a real impact on people who have may have served for that long, and then gone on and have other jobs as well?

    VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN:  I couldn't have a different version of history than Dr. Korb. 

    His secretary of defense, Secretary Weinberger, wrote a letter to the Congress when they wanted to do this redux, and said, even if you grandfather these people, this is going to have a severe impact on retention and recruiting.  And guess what?  Fifteen years later, the Joint Chiefs of Staff came over to the Congress, not the lobbyists, and said, we need this fixed, we need this repaired. 

    This program that the Congress did in the backroom is even worse than that.  It doesn't grandfather the currently serving to start with, which is a broken promise from the past secretary, Secretary Panetta, and the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who both said you should grandfather any changes to the retirement system. 

    So I couldn't disagree more with Dr. Korb. 

     (CROSSTALK)

    VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN:  I was there as the chief of naval personnel when I would go over and say, we need a new aircraft carrier, and they would say, why?  You can't even man the ones that you have in the last '90s. 

    So retention was heck in a handbasket during that time.  And that's why the chiefs went over and said, we need this thing fixed. 

     (CROSSTALK)

    LAWRENCE KORB:  When you retired, when you retired, the chief of naval operations said that, we have more people than we need.  And you were there from '98 to 2002. 

    And what was happening back when the chiefs went over and said that, we were cutting the force.  We were throwing people out.  You were throwing people out.  So don't give me this stuff 

     (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, but what about, Larry Korb, but what about the promise part?

    LAWRENCE KORB:  OK.

     (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN:  I mean, people that want into the service and they were told here's what is going to happen when you get out?

    LAWRENCE KORB:  OK.  Well, they were told 40 percent.  And then halfway through, they changed it to 50 for no good reason. 

    And let me get to some other things which has happened.  They were told in 1995, you're going to have Tricare.  You know, if you don't want to go to a military base, you retirees...

    JEFFREY BROWN:  This is the health care. 

    LAWRENCE KORB:  Right.  And we're going to have the -- family is going to be $460 a year, and we're going to raise it every year to reflect the cost of medical inflation.  They didn't raise it until 2012. 

    In 2001, they put in another program called Tricare for Life, which means you don't have to buy Medigap insurance when you get old.  When you add all of these things up, you're much better off than the day you joined.  So this idea you're breaking promise -- and, you know, the interesting thing, it wasn't a backroom deal. 

    Paul Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee this man ran, and what he said is, this $6,000 you're saving, I could use basically to buy more flight hours.  I can do, you know, more training. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, this is, Admiral, this is after all part of a much larger debate, right, about military comprehension, salaries, health benefits that's affecting, of course, all sectors. 

     (CROSSTALK)

    VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN:  It is. 

    But this is a false choice.  The heart and core of our military is the all-volunteer force.  And the heart and core of the all-volunteer force is that 17 percent of the noncommissioned officers and officers that stay in, that are midgrade officers that have known nothing but war for the last 10, 12 years, they are wondering, is it worth it if this is the way the country is going to keep their word to me and my family?

    And so when these people leave at 20 years or 25 years, most of the time, it's an up-or-out system, where they are told, OK, you have made it to E-7.  You are allowed to stay this long.  Now it's time for you to leave, or they're exhausted from deployment after deployment, or their family is exhausted.  So they're leaving. 

    They're not expecting to retire.  They get $23,000, that sergeant 1st class, which is a typical person retires.  That with a family of four is the poverty level.  And that's before taxes and that's before the survivor benefit.  So, all of these folks know they need to go back into the work force.  A lot of them need to go through training.  That's extra education.

    So this is a big deal financially.  And it's an even bigger deal because they're not keeping their promises to these... 

     (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN:  We have about 30 seconds.  And I see there are some legislators want to overturn this. 

     (CROSSTALK)

    LAWRENCE KORB:  Basically, again, this is nonsense. 

    Forty percent of the people on active duty today have never deployed, OK?  Only 11 percent have deployed more than once.  The kids who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, the enlisted people, they are not retiring, OK?  Basically, half the officers do; 17 percent of the -- but Marines and Army is less than 10 percent.  So don't give me this, this is these people.

    This is not these people.  It's different people. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Congress is coming back.  They're going to have to look -- take another look at this. 

    VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN:  Hopefully, they're going to fix it when it gets through the Defense Committee.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Vice Admiral...

    VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN:  Seventy-three percent of the people that are retired are noncommissioned officers, so it does impact tremendously on our noncommissioned officers. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan and Lawrence Korb, thank you both very much. 

    LAWRENCE KORB:  You're welcome.

    VICE ADM. NORBERT RYAN:  Thank you, Jeff.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The latest gadgets and electronics are perennially best-selling holiday gifts. 

    Our science correspondent, Miles O'Brien, had a more ambitious wish list, but he didn't yet get what he wanted for Christmas. 

    ACTOR:  Danger, danger.  Force level building to fatal intensity.

    MILES O'BRIEN:  I have always wanted what Will Robinson, George Jetson, and Luke Skywalker have.

    ANTHONY DANIELS:  That's how he came to be in your service, if you take my meaning, sir. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  You know, a robot servant to do my bidding, my dirty work. 

    Seems like that idea is languishing in around-the-corner purgatory, with the flying car, fusion power and the jetpack.  A lot has changed over the years.  Robotic devices are everywhere, assembly lines, disarming bombs, helping the disabled, even sucking up dust bunnies.  They are smarter than ever.

    But, unlike Hollywood's robots, they only excel when the task is very narrow and clearly defined. 

    PIETER ABBEEL, University of California, Berkeley:  A robot is really easy to fix to do a repeated motion.  The science, it's very hard to deal with variation like this when, every time, it is looking at the towel and seeing something different. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  This really hit home for me when I saw this robot in Pieter Abbeel's lab at U.C. Berkeley. 

    I'm going to out-fold this robot, darn it. 

    He has taught the device to fold clothing.  In the world of robots, that's a big deal.  It takes about 20 minutes to fold one measly towel.  Why?  Computers are smart enough to beat the world's greatest chess master.  Why are robots flummoxed by a dirty rag?  Well, it's complicated. 

    MARVIN MINSKY, Cognitive Scientist:  There's still no machine that can solve everyday commonsensical problems. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  Marvin Minsky helped create the field we call artificial intelligence, you know, making computers think like us.  Over the years, he has stumbled on a surprising paradox:  What's hard for us is simple for robots, and vice versa. 

    MARVIN MINSKY:  If somebody is very good at some skill, it's because they know about 20,000 fragments of knowledge or process or whatever. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  But to have common sense, the mundane skills you need to get through the day and fold the clothes, you need a few million fragments of skill, knowledge and insight. 

    MARVIN MINSKY:  So, this advanced mathematics came easily, and then the high school-type mathematics was a little later, and we are still not at the age of the 4- or 5-year-old. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  Humanoid robots are also having a hard time learning to walk. 

    How difficult a problem is it? 

    ROBERT PLAYTER, Boston Dynamics:  It's it's difficult because we don't know what we don't know. 

    MILES O'BRIEN: Rob Playter is with a company called Boston Dynamics.  This is the home of Big Dog.  Big Dog was built at the behest of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  They're seeking a mechanical mule for foot soldiers in the next four years or so. 

    Powered by a two-stroke engine, hydraulic actuators, a gyroscope, and some breakthrough software, this prototype can slog through some pretty rugged terrain.  It has a remarkable sense of balance and the ability and agility to break a fall. 

    So, what do you do?  What is the way to -- how do you -- how do you teach a machine to walk? 

    ROBERT PLAYTER:  Well, you have to -- you have to build them.  You have to experiment with them.  You have to push them.  You have to kick them and see how they respond.  Rather than try to build a response to stepping on a rock or stepping on ice, what we try to build is a fundamental sort of core concept of balance and how to behave in -- in the gravitational field. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  Boston Dynamics is now developing at a two-legged robot called PETMAN for the Army. 

    And, in Florida, at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, they're working on some legs with a keen sense of balance that may one day be connected to Robonaut.  But to get to this point, well, let's just say it's been a long, slow stroll. 

    MARVIN MINSKY:  What most people today are doing is saying, first let's get the robot so that it can do the simple things, and then we will make it do the harder ones.  I think we should just turn it opposite.  

    MILES O'BRIEN:  While others try to solve the ambulation equation, at MIT's Media Lab, Cynthia Breazeal is focused on this question:

    CYNTHIA BREAZEAL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab:  Should it be a human device?  How humanlike should it be?  What do we even mean when we say ‘humanlike’? 

    COMPUTER VOICE:  My name's Nexi.  What's your name? 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  Nexi is just the latest robot in her menagerie that Breazeal has programmed to engender trust by bridging the gap between machine and mankind with expressions, nonverbal communication, body language, if you will. 

    CYNTHIA BREAZEAL:  So things like when I finish speaking and I look at you, that's a very implicit prompt that now I'm expecting you to respond. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  And this is when the kids go wild, right? 

    Breazeal is also fascinated with ways to make robots a better learning tool for children.  The more expressive and empathetic and frankly, cute the face is, the better. 

    Now, here is a face anybody could love.  Looking at Leonardo, it is easy to forget what is behind him. 

    SHERRY TURKLE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology:  Here are my -- all my little robots. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  So these are robots you like? 

    SHERRY TURKLE:  Yes.  Well, you know, I'm obsessed with robots. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  Really? 

    Sherry Turkle is a colleague of Breazeal's at MIT.  Her latest book is "Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other."  She says humanoid robot builders are leading us down a slippery slope. 

    SHERRY TURKLE:  The moment you make a robot in human form, and the moment it can make eye contact, track your motion and gesture toward you, you're kind of toast, because you believe that there is somebody home, in other words, a consciousness, even potentially something with feeling and that is like you. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  But it isn't, of course.  Turkle worries about another paradox:  Machines that act like humans can dehumanize the real thing. 

    SHERRY TURKLE:  And a lot of the fantasies about nanny-bots and elder-care-bots are really about being company, being companions for people who, quite frankly, we think sometimes we don't have time for.  And there, I think we get into a lot of trouble, because, you know, why are we doing this? 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  So, this is love's labor lost? 

    SHERRY TURKLE:  Love's labor lost.  It diminishes us.  It diminishes us as people. 

    CYNTHIA BREAZEAL:  Now, I have faith that people are actually pretty savvy about relationships.  And the relationship I have with various people, whether it's my children or my husband or my parents, these are all of very, very different kinds of relationships. 

    The relationship I have with pets is a very different kind of relationship.  I think people are pretty savvy. 

    MILES O'BRIEN:  So when am I going to get my robot butler?  The makers of Big Dog say all the pieces are finally coming together: intelligence, expressions, dexterity, and mobility. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Since Miles first filed that piece, Google bought Boston Dynamics, the maker of Big Dog, in December.  It was the eighth robotic company the tech giant purchased in the past year.  


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Hari Sreenivasan looks at the promise and perils of Silicon's Valley push into a realm once dominated by government contractors. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  The race for the next big thing is already under way in the private sector.  Companies like Google call them moon shots, from the driverless cars, to computer that you can wear as glasses, to these very advanced robots. 

    Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos fueled the buzz last month when he announced that his company is working on using drones to deliver packages to your door. 

    To help us move beyond the gee whiz of all this and think about some of the changes to society that these projects might usher in, I'm joined now by Jaron Lanier.  He's a pioneer in the field of virtual reality.  And he's a computer scientist.  He is the author of several books, including "Who Owns The Future?" a look at how network technologies affect our culture and economy.  And Andrew McAfee, he's associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management at MIT and co-author of "The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies."

    So, Andrew, I want to start with you. 

    How different is this moment?  Is the pace of change and technological change accelerating? 

    ANDREW MCAFEE, Sloan School of Managment, MIT:  It sure feels that way to me and my co-author, Erik Brynjolfsson.

    And the reason we're calling our book "The Second Machine Age" is it feels to us like we are at an inflection point, the early stages of one where we're starting to see digital gear do stuff that it could never, ever do before.  Hemingway has a great quote about how a man goes broke.  He said it's gradually and then suddenly. 

    And that reminds me of the kinds of progress that we're seeing in robotics and artificial intelligence and augmented reality and a lot of these different fields, where we had really gradual, uninspiring progress for a long time, and now they're becoming everyday reality.  I got a ride in the Google Car last summer.  It was an amazing experience and I walked away without a scratch. 

    (LAUGHTER)

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Jaron Lanier, is technology facilitating change to our humanity faster than it used to? 

    JARON LANIER, Author, "Who Owns the Future?":  You know, it's a little hard to say.  If you look at the early part of the 20th century, the waves of change from, you know, automobiles, and telephones, television, all these things, were really amazingly dramatic.  And they happened, in a way, more rapidly than change comes to us today. 

    So I'm a little hesitant to make these comparisons.  But whatever the comparison might properly be, we can say that there are huge changes going on that could really change how people live and work and could completely change our economic and social roles.  And that's the thing we have to focus on. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Andrew, is the technology primarily about increasing productivity or the economy of consumption? 

    ANDREW MCAFEE:  Sure, yes, I think that is what's going on, but I want to put it in slightly different terms. 

    What we want are society's economic engine to do is turn out more goods and services.  And when you say it that way, it's easy to make it sound trivial, like we're just talking about cheap plastic gear and empty calories.  But that's the wrong way to think about it.  When I say more goods and services, I mean things like more education, better health care, better entertainment options, all of these kinds of things. 

    What we want our economic engine to do is turn out lots of goods and services, more over time, higher quality over time and lower prices all the time.  That's the miracle of the capitalist systems that we have set up. 

    When I look at what the technology-producing sector is doing these days, I think it's doing by far the best job of accelerating that economic engine, and I think it's fundamentally great news. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Jaron? 

    JARON LANIER:  You know, I think there's something kind of tricky going on, which is that we're creating more services and we're lowering the prices of those services, which is wonderful.  But we're doing so in a way that we pretend that a lot of people aren't contributing economically, when they really are. 

    A great example is the automatic translation between languages.  And the truth is that to translate from English to Spanish automatically requires taking as examples a constant influx of real translations done by people.  And yet professional translators are seeing their job prospects decline, just like musicians and journalists. 

    And so there's something funny going on.  We're using human labor in a way that we erase the value of the people.  So, I mean, we want to have a productive economy.  But if it's one that also negates human roles, it's all for naught. 

    I mean, we have to also preserve great roles for people, or the society will suffer. 

    ANDREW MCAFEE:  I'm with Jaron.  There are some really interesting new wrinkles going on in how we create these goods and services, and how we take into account the contributions of different people. 

    I want to return to this concept of an economic engine, and the role of an economic engine is not to insure full employment for everybody.  That would be very easy to do if, for example, we suddenly mandated that you have to plant and harvest all the crops in America by hand. 

    We would immediately have full employment.  A lot of those jobs would be miserable and the prices we pay for food would go up.  So it's really the wrong thing to focus on. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Jaron, you outline some of this in your book about who owns the future.  What are these destabilizing forces that technology brings with it? 

    JARON LANIER:  Well, you know, you can go to two extremes.  You can either say let's make work for everybody, like a Maoist regime.  And I think we all know that that is a road to ruin.  No one advocates that.

    But we're doing something in a way that is stupid in the other direction, where we're pretending that people aren't contributing economically, when they are.  We're pretending that just making things cheaper is enough to create economic viability.  And you can't do that. 

    I mean, you have to -- people have to be valued for what they actually do.  The economy has to be honest.  And so what I am concerned about is that by getting everybody to input all their productivity for free to these Silicon Valley companies, including the one that funds my lab, by the way, so I'm a beneficiary of what I'm criticizing -- but in order to pretend that all this stuff, you know, it comes in for free, and what we give people in exchange is access to services, we're taking them out of the economic cycle. 

    We're putting them into an informal economy, which is an unbalanced way to grow a society.  And that's also a road to ruin.  I'm not asking for artificial make-work projects.  I'm asking for honesty, where we acknowledge when people generate value, and make them first-class economic citizens. 

    And then I think that all of these amazing schemes of automation, the self-driving cars, the 3-D printers, these will lead to a world of happy, meaningful lives, as well as great economic growth.  You know, that's the ticket, is honesty. 

    ANDREW MCAFEE:  Yes, I have some trouble putting those ideas into practice. 

    So, for example, Jaron, would you charge my brother to upload pictures of his daughters to Facebook, or would you charge me to look at my nieces? 

    JARON LANIER:  You know, given what I have been seeing on Facebook lately, I think anything that sort of decreases people's tendency to upload everything might actually be a good thing.  So I think we should economically incentivize less uploading.  So I would say let's charge you both.  How about that?

    ANDREW MCAFEE:  I think that is absolutely a terrible idea.  It takes us in exactly the opposite direction that we want from our economic engine. 

    Facebook is doing this amazing feat where they are delivering a service that is valued by on the order of a billion people around the world.  And they're not charging them hard, cold cash for using that service, and yet they're a very profitable company.  Now, it's not a deep secret how they do that.  It's called advertising. 

    And I don't think many of Facebook's users are unaware of how that works, just like I wasn't unaware when I sat around as a kid and watched network television about what was funding that business model.  So I don't think there's anything either opaque or deeply sinister about what is going on.  These are just some nice economic models whereby these technology companies can put things in front of us that we value, that we use, and charge us no money for them.  I don't see that as bad news. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Jaron Lanier and Andrew McAfee, thanks so much for your time.  


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Finally tonight, we look ahead to the challenges facing President Obama as he approaches the second year of his second term in office. 

    Mr. Obama finished 2013 with his job approval rating near an all-time low, following the botched rollout of the health care law.  What are the prospects for a turnaround in 2014? 

    We consider that question with Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, and Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.

    Welcome to you both. 

    GERALD SEIB, The Wall Street Journal:  Thank you. 

    SUSAN PAGE, USA Today:  Good to be with you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, Susan, just what shape is the president in as he begins this new year?

    SUSAN PAGE:  Well, I think he's in pretty sorry shape and it's bad news for him, because the first year of your second term is really the opportunity you have to get things launched if you are going to get new legislative proposals through. 

    You have just got a little bit of window there before campaign politics starts to take over again.  And much that time is gone.  He still has got a little time left, a little time next year in the early part of the year.  But this year has been quite a disappointing one for the White House and it leaves him with some real vulnerabilities. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, Jerry, given that, what does the White House -- what are they thinking right now they need to do?  Let's start with health care because that what seems to have overwhelmed everything else. 

    GERALD SEIB:  Well, I think we are beyond the does the health care Web site work phase and into will the policy work phase?

    And in a way, that is much more important.  You have to convince people that not only will the Web site work, but the policy will work, that it will get people enrolled, it will draw in young people, it will bring down the cost curve.  That is really important and that hangs over everything. 

    I think beyond that, they have a really interesting strategic choice to make at the White House.  Is the road back to cooperate with congressional Republicans and did the budget deal that was reached at the end of 2013 suggest there's a path forward in cooperation?  Or do they simply confront congressional Republicans and make clear the differences between the two sides going into the midterm elections this year?

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Susan, do you think they have made a decision about that?

    Of course, there are different issues out there that we're talking about, immigration.  There are others.  Is this something they're going to decide on a case-by-case basis?

    SUSAN PAGE:  Well, I think on some things they will try to cooperate.

    And immigration is probably the best example of that, because there perhaps is the possibility of getting some immigration legislation through the House.  You know, a bipartisan bill did get through the Senate last year.  There's some hope of building on that, although it's a tough issue and it's an issue in which the parties are divided. 

    But you go to an issue like climate change or income inequality, which is another issue you have heard President Obama talking about.  Hard to see Republicans especially in the House going along with his proposals on those.  And therefore he needs the policy on those issues maybe more confrontation or trying to use executive orders and other executive powers to bring about change. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, in fact, Jerry Seib, the president has brought in somebody who was a former chief of staff to President Clinton in John Podesta, who was known for working executive action, executive, in other words, taking steps, doing what a president can do without going through Congress. 

    GERALD SEIB:  That's right. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  What does that say? 

    GERALD SEIB:  Well, I think that is an interesting question.  You sort have to be in President Obama's head to know for sure exactly what he thinks that says.

    But as recently as 2010, when Republicans took back control of the House, John Podesta was in fact writing, look, you can do more through executive actions than people think, that that is a way to enact Democratic policy even when Congress is recalcitrant. 

    So we will see.  Judy, we get an early test of the atmosphere on this, which is the debt ceiling, which could be either a crisis or simply something where both sides compromise at the end of February, early March.  Will that be a moment of confrontation or a moment in which both sides decide they're going to approach the question in a civilized way?

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Susan, how much of all this does depend on whether the Republicans are ready to play, so to speak, really want to work with him on a few things?  Clearly, this is a congressional election year.  They're going to have their mind, as are Democrats, on what happens this spring in the primaries and then in the fall. 

    SUSAN PAGE:  So, Republicans need to calculate what is going to serve their interests in the 2014 midterm elections. 

    But the Republicans are divided.  You know, there is a civil war going on in the Republican Party between those Tea Party conservatives who have really had the upper hand since 2010 and more establishment Republicans, more mainstream Republicans, including some of the business interests, some of the big donors, who want to steer a different path. 

    And that may make -- that may create opportunities for President Obama to make deals with that part of the party.  But it also may create problems in trying to deal with a divided enemy. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And with that backdrop, Jerry, we have been talking about domestic issues.  Are there also international issues?  They may not be working their way through the Congress, but the president is going to be dealing on the side with what's -- with Iran, a potential nuclear deal with Iran, with the Middle East, perhaps, John Kerry, the secretary of state. 

    How much do international issues come into play at a time like this? 

    GERALD SEIB:  You know, in every second term, international issues increasingly take over the agenda for the president.  As his power at home is restricted, his ability or his desire to move abroad increases. 

    And that will probably be the story of the next three years.  I think in the next year, the big question on that agenda is the nuclear deal with Iran.  Will it come to -- you know, there is a temporary deal in place.  That will expire in a few months.  Will there be a permanent deal in place to restrict the Iranian nuclear program?  Will it go down well in Congress, where there is a lot of skepticism about it?  Will it go down well with the allies?  Will it go down well with the Israelis?

    I think that is the big international question, and it is a tough one for the president in the first few months. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Susan, do you have a reed on read at this point on lessons learned at the White House?  This has been a really -- 2013, really tough year for them.  What is your sense of that? 

    SUSAN PAGE:  Well, obviously, they learned some lessons. 

    There's been a kind of minor staff shakeup at the White House with some new people being brought in.  But at this point, I'm not sure that I think P.R. strategy or even a big speech like the State of the Union on January 28 is enough to reset things.  It seems to me that what will determine the success of President Obama this year is going to be the reality, the reality of the Iranian deal, the reality of whether the Affordable Care Act ends up working, the reality of do we have a smooth transition out of Afghanistan at the end of the year.

    That is another big issue this year.  I think this is a time when P.R. will only take you so far. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, meanwhile, Jerry, there was yet another poll out today showing the American people have their lowest -- they hold not just Congress and the White House, but government, in the lowest, at the lowest level ever seen. 

    How much does that affect a president's ability to get something done? 

    GERALD SEIB:  You know, I really think it's become the story of this phase of public life in the United States. 

    And somebody has to change that.  Somebody has to convince people they can trust people in Washington and government again.  You know, and there are constraints on both parties because of this.  You know, the president has to worry about, will my Democratic base allow me to compromise?  Republicans have to worry, will the Tea Party wing of our party allow us to compromise?

    And then they have to worry, will people in the middle, who clearly want there to be some compromises in Washington, will they stand for more gridlock?  I mean, this is a really poisonous period in Washington.  I think we have all been here long enough to agree it's way up there on the poisonous scale right now.  And I don't think that's going to change rapidly.  I think it changes only over time. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Surely, you both want to leave us with some uplifting note here. 

     (LAUGHTER)

    SUSAN PAGE:  You do see the states doing more and more.  There is this state of dysfunction in Washington.  We all see that. 

    But you see states moving ahead on issues with experimentation, on health care, on mandatory minimum sentences and on a variety of things.  And that's been one of the interesting things to see as you look at the politics of the country as a whole. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Silver lining?

    GERALD SEIB:  And the economy is doing better. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  That's right, and we didn't even...

    GERALD SEIB:  Let's not forget we spent a lot of time talking about that for the last five years, and it's better. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Affects everybody.

    GERALD SEIB:  Exactly. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Jerry Seib, Susan Page, thank you both. 

    SUSAN PAGE:  Thank you. 

    GERALD SEIB:  Sure.  


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    A new study says that dogs choose the direction they relieve themselves based on our planet's magnetic field. Photo by Flickr user Junayed Sadat

    Dogs use the Earth's magnetic field when they're relieving themselves. Not only that, but canines choose to do so in a north-south axis, a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology says.

    The study suggests that dogs are sensitive to small variations in Earth's magnetic field. After examining 70 dogs -- made up of 37 breeds -- over two years, 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations, researchers found that under "calm magnetic field conditions," dogs preferred to "excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis," avoiding east-west altogether. Dogs were observed in a free-roaming environment, meaning they were not leashed and not influenced by walls or roads that would influence linear movement.

    Why do the dogs prefer the north-south axis and avoid east-west? That was unclear, according to the study:

    It is still enigmatic why the dogs do align at all, whether they do it "consciously" (i.e., whether the magnetic field is sensorial perceived (the dogs "see", "hear" or "smell" the compass direction or perceive it as a haptic stimulus) or whether its reception is controlled on the vegetative level (they "feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable" in a certain direction).

    The scientists write in the report that the findings open "new horizons" for further research in organisms' use of magnetic fields for direction, as well as magnetic fields produced by living organisms.

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    Cheerios swaps out cornstarch for sugar to make Original Cheerios GMO-free. Photo by Flickr user YayBiscuts123

    The next time you head to the supermarket cereal aisle you may find a Cheerios box labeled "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients."

    Cheerios producer General Mills announced Thursday that Original Cheerios made without genetically modified ingredients, GMOs, will start appearing on shelves soon. Other Cheerios flavors, including Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and Multi Grain Cheerios, will still contain GMOs.

    Original Cheerios made in Europe are already GMO-free, AFP reports, but, in the U.S., the breakfast cereal contains cornstarch from GMO corn, which the company will swap for sugar.

    "We were able to do this with original Cheerios because the main ingredients are oats," General Mills company spokesman Mike Siemienas told the AP.

    Non-profit organization Green America started a campaign in 2012 called "GMO Inside," urging companies to make foods GMO-free.

    The campaign included 40,000 posts from consumers on Facebook that asked General Mills to make Cheerios GMO-free.

    "Removing GMOs from original Cheerios is an important victory in getting GMOs out of our food supply and an important first step for General Mills," Green America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen wrote in a statement on the GMO Inside website. "(T)his victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and companies need to meet that demand."

    H/T Bridget Shirvell

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    By Simone Pathe

    Both mothers and fathers took more time off to spend with their new babies when they had the right to paid family leave through the state of California. And for mothers, paid leave increases the chance they'll be working one year after giving birth. Photo courtesy of Flickr user courosa.

    With the start of 2014, new parents in Rhode Island are eligible for paid family leave -- the third state, after California and New Jersey, where such a right has been codified and enforced. At the national level, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees workers 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a newborn or sick relative, but the United States remains the only advanced economy that does not provide paid parental leave.

    German mothers can take up to a year off from work and still receive 67 percent of their pay. And in Canada, mothers get a year or more of maternity leave with 55 percent of their pay.

    That's not to say the issue of paid family leave (more inclusive than the strictly "parental" leave seen in some countries) hasn't been raised at the national level. Women, who have traditionally been the ones to take family leave, now hold more seats in Congress than ever before. Just last month, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act.

    MORE FROM THE BUSINESS DESK: Why Some Women Try to Have It All: New Research on 'Like Mother, Like Daughter'

    But if the nearly 10-year debate over unpaid leave (finally passed in 1993) is any indication, their legislation could have a rough slog through today's Congress.

    As in the fight for unpaid leave, states are taking the lead on paid leave, too. Washington passed a paid family leave law in 2008, although its enactment has been delayed to 2015 because of budget constraints, while New York and Massachusetts have bills pending in their state houses.

    As is often the case with bottom-up movements, the action has begun in politically sympathetic areas. All of the states that have enacted paid family leave are blue, and not coincidentally, paid family leave is typically branded a liberal issue.

    But it shouldn't be cast in such a narrow light, says University of Virginia's Christopher Ruhm. Paid family leave is a family values issue, although he admits the conservative politicians who employ that phrase aren't typically referring to the kind of work-life balance that, in his opinion, paid family leave allows.

    With Charles Baum of Middle Tennessee State University, Ruhm is the author of a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper examining the effects of California's Paid Family Leave (CA-PFL) on labor market outcomes.

    Passed in 2002 and enacted in 2004, California's law allows for six weeks of paid leave financed through a payroll tax. (That money is added to the existing Temporary Disability Insurance program, which already grants new mothers six weeks of paid leave after pregnancy). So when employees take leave to care for a newborn, it's not their employer who pays the portion of their wages they receive during that time. (Employees are paid 55 percent of what they would normally make with a maximum of $1,067 per week in 2013).

    In this sense, paid family leave is similar to Social Security, with the money coming from a pool of employees, many of whom, theoretically, can take advantage of the benefit when they need it. Indeed, under Gillibrand's and DeLauro's proposal, employers and employees would contribute to a national insurance program through the Social Security Administration.

    But Ruhm isn't one of those workers who needs to take advantage of paid family leave. His kids were in diapers long before this was a possibility, and they have long since left the cradle for college. Ruhm's interest, first in unpaid leave, and now, in paid leave, stems from his curiosity about the effects of mandated benefits.

    Unpaid leave, according to most previous research, is associated with positive labor market outcomes, like increased aggregate employment and wage rates. Taking leaves allows for a continuity of human capital. If you're allowed to temporarily leave -- not quit -- your job after having a child, the theory goes, your relation with your employer will be sustained and you can more or less pick up where you left off in terms of salary, at least compared to if you had to search for a new job and start from scratch.

    But would paid leave have the same labor market effects? Not surprisingly, since paid leave has been so sparsely implemented, most of the research on leave focuses on the unpaid variety. Ruhm's and Baum's study shows that paid leave offers some of the same benefits for not too large a cost.

    MORE FROM THE BUSINESS DESK: The Hidden Threat to Air Travel: Unpaid Sick Leave

    They predicted that California's paid leave could expand leave-taking beyond what parents would take under the 1993 unpaid FMLA. Obviously, continuing to receive pay -- even if not a full salary -- would make taking leave more feasible for less well-off parents. And more workers would be covered under a plan like California's. That's because under the federal FMLA, workers who don't have a long enough work history or work for a large enough firm are excluded from rights to unpaid leave.

    California's program isn't completely universal either; public employees are not eligible. One other crucial difference between California's law and the FMLA is worth noting. The federal unpaid leave right comes with job-protection; paid leave from California does not. Although there have been instances of women who didn't apply for paid leave for fear of losing their jobs, it's unlikely many employers would terminate parents seeking the benefit, Ruhm said.

    To test the effects of California's law, Ruhm and Baum compared the leave and work decisions of new California parents whose children were born after CA-PFL was implemented to those whose children were born before. They then held these results up against comparable parents in comparison states.

    What Ruhm and Baum find suggests that paid family leave improves the work-life balance of mothers and fathers. California's paid leave increased leave-taking by 2.4 weeks for the average mother and by just under one week for the average father. Of course, the base of men taking leave is still small, but this increase is significant and gratifying, Ruhm said. The one week boost is nearly double what this small fraction of leave-taking men would take without paid leave.

    Paid leave, while decreasing maternal employment and wages in the short-term, increases both in the long-term. To dig deeper into these labor market effects, Baum and Ruhm zeroed in just on mothers. California's program increases rates of maternal work a year after birth and increases hours of work and weeks of work by 15 to 20 percent within a child's second year of life. A year out from birth, they also found an association with increased hourly wages for new moms who took the leave, but causal evidence for those raises is more tentative, said Ruhm.

    States are different in a lot of ways, Ruhm cautioned, but for now, California offers the best evidence that, at the very least, the right to paid leave will encourage more parents, and more fathers, to take it. And if the program already shows positive effects on labor outcomes for mothers, it's likely, the authors predict, that increasing the wage replacement rate and further publicizing the program will have similar effects.

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


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  • 01/03/14--08:19: 7 tips for successful aging
  • Eva Alegria works out at an AltaMed PACE Center, which helps elderly individuals stay healthy, active and happy for longer into old age. Photo by Dan Caston/ PBS NewsHour

    Eva Alegria has been living independently in the same house for six decades. But a few years ago, her health deteriorated and the 86-year-old was forced to use a wheelchair. She became increasingly depressed and wouldn't leave her house. She says she was ready to die, and had even talked with a friend about what blouse she wanted to be buried in.

    But Alegria's sons weren't ready for their mother to give up just yet. They signed her up to participate in an AltaMed PACE Center in El Monte, Calif. Now, three times a week, a shuttle picks her up, takes her to the center for meals, activities, parties and exercise programs. It has given her a new reason to live and she says, looking toward heaven, "I told that guy, wait a little longer."

    There are 98 PACE -- which stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care -- centers across the country and they are becoming a popular way for people to stay in their own homes, or live with family members, while still receiving comprehensive medical care and socialization. It's particularly appealing for elderly Latinos who have traditionally wanted to age at home with their families.

    And for those who need even more care, nursing homes are becoming an option that often wasn't considered before. In fact, Latino admissions to nursing homes has increased by 58 percent while there's been a 10 percent decrease for whites.

    In the past, some nursing homes didn't make minority residents feel welcome. But now, places like the Country Villa Plaza in Santa Ana, Calif., are going out of their way to provide cultural amenities to residents from Latin America.

    With the overall population of people 65 and older expected to double in the next 15 years -- and the Latino population aged 65 and over expected to quadruple in that time -- there will be a vast need for even more medical, social and cultural services to meet their long-term care needs.

    Tune in to Friday evening's PBS NewsHour for the full report on PACE's approach to long-term care. But first, we bring you some advice on successful aging from Alegria and some of the others interviewed for this story.

    Read their tips below, and then share your own in the comments section below.

    7 Tips for Successful Long-Term Aging

    1. Get involved

    "Get involved with a social group so you get out of the house at least two days a week. It has completely changed my life." -- Eva Alegria, 86

    2. Know your drugs

    "Make sure that all of the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who care for your loved one are all communicating with each other about medications." -- Al Mendez, son and caregiver for his 77-year-old father Jaime

    3. List your daily needs

    "Work with the health care team to evaluate the needs of your loved one's daily living activities (everything from dressing and bathing to transportation and meal preparation). Determine which things they need assistance with, then create a schedule of who can help them with each one. Many times, an elderly patient's decline is related less to the medical conditions themselves than to the basic daily activities needed to maintain a person's functional status." -- Dr. Esiquio Casillas, medical director for AltaMed Health Services

    4. Consider the risks

    "Talk openly and honestly with your health care provider about the true risks and benefits of all medical interventions. Many times, treatments that seem standard for most patients start to have higher risks for elderly people that begin to outweigh the benefits. This is the case for cholesterol therapy, strict control of diabetes and preventative tests for colon or breast cancer." -- Dr. Esiquio Casillas

    5. Keep moving

    "Exercise, exercise, exercise! A sedentary lifestyle in older age is particularly dangerous as it puts you at higher risks for falls and more rapid health decline." -- Dr. Esiquio Casillas

    6. Start the conversation

    "Begin to talk about end of life issues openly and honestly with your family and your doctor." -- Dr. Esiquio Casillas

    7. Stay social

    "If you've determined your loved one needs to go into a nursing home, make sure it offers plenty of social and cultural activities to keep them engaged. Those activities are as least as important as the medical care they receive." -- Rashmi Birla, director of the Country Villa Plaza nursing home in Santa Ana, Calif.

    Whether you're elderly, a caregiver or a family member, let us know what tips you have for successful aging. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below or send them to us at onlinehealth@newshour.org.

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    Same-sex couples urged U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to allow courts to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Utah, despite the appeal process of a federal judge's ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban in December.

    After newly sworn-in Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes requested that the state halt the marriages during Tuesday's appeal, lawyers filed a response on behalf of same-sex couples.

    (Read the official request for a stay on same-sex marriages, filed by Utah's Attorney General's Office with the Supreme Court.)

    The original law banning same-sex unions was passed by Utah voters in 2004. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby found that the law violated same-sex couples' rights to equal protection under the 14th amendment.

    Since the ban was struck down in December, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that more than a thousand same-sex couples have wed in Utah.

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    What will life in America be like in 2050? Turns out 54 percent of participants in a recent survey expect it to go downhill, while only 23 percent think it will improve. Photo illustration by Sonja Dahlgren/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON -- Ask people to imagine American life in 2050, and you'll get some dreary visions.

    Whether they foresee runaway technology or runaway government, rampant poverty or vanishing morality, a majority of Americans predict a future worse than today.

    Whites are particularly gloomy: Only 1 in 6 expects better times over the next four decades. Also notably pessimistic are middle-age and older people, those who earn midlevel incomes and Protestants, a new national poll finds.

    "I really worry about my grandchildren, I do," says 74-year-old Penny Trusty of Rockville, Md., a retired software designer and grandmother of five. "I worry about the lowering of morals and the corruption and the confusion that's just raining down on them."

    Even groups with comparatively sunny outlooks -- racial and ethnic minorities, the young and the nonreligious -- are much more likely to say things will be the same or get worse than to predict a brighter future.

    "Changes will come, and some of them are scary," says Kelly Miller, 22, a freshly minted University of Minnesota sports management grad.

    She looks forward to some wonderful things, like 3D printers creating organs for transplant patients. But Miller envisions Americans in 2050 blindly relying on robots and technology for everything from cooking dinner to managing their money.

    "It's taking away our free choice and human thought," she says. "And there's potential for government to control and regulate what this artificial intelligence thinks."

    Overall, 54 percent of those surveyed expect American life to go downhill, while 23 percent think it will improve, according to a December survey from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

    Only 21 percent predict life will stay about the same. That minority may be onto something, however.

    While no one can say what catastrophes or human triumphs are to come, contentment at a personal level has proven remarkably stable over the past four decades.

    Interviews by the federally funded General Social Survey, one of the nation's longest-running surveys of social trends, show Americans' overall happiness as well as satisfaction with their jobs and marriages barely fluctuating since 1972. Those decades spanned the sexual revolution and the women's rights movement, race riots and civil rights advances, the resignation of one president and impeachment of another, wars from Vietnam through Afghanistan, the birth of the home computer and the smartphone, boom times and hard times.

    Despite the recent shift toward negativity about the state of the nation, the portion of U.S. residents rating themselves very or pretty happy stayed around 9 out of 10.

    "Most people evaluate their lives very stably from year to year," said Tom W. Smith, who has been director since 1980 of the GSS, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. "You don't want massive surges and falls in personal happiness, and the fact that we don't see that is reassuring."

    The GSS, conducted once every two years, will send interviewers back into the field in 2014. The AP-NORC Center survey asked people to rate the change in American life during the period tracked by the GSS, from 1972 to 2012.

    A majority -- 54 percent -- say life in America is worse today than four decades ago. Those old enough to remember the early `70s are especially nostalgic, as are tea party supporters and people who live in the countryside. Those who say U.S. life has declined are more apt to name politics, the economy, moral values or changes in families as the biggest difference.

    The 3 in 10 who think life is better are more likely to point to computers and technology as the big change. Racial and ethnic minorities are apt to cite domestic issues, including civil rights.

    The GSS offers a look at the real-time changes in American opinion, along with things that have stayed the same, and hints for the future:

    Equality

    Some of the opinions voiced in the 1972 survey are rarely uttered today. Back then, nearly 4 in 10 nonblacks agreed with the idea that whites had the right to keep blacks "out of their neighborhoods." A quarter of nonblacks said they wouldn't vote for a black man for president, and 26 percent of all adults wouldn't back a well-qualified woman.

    Now the president of the United States is black and a woman is the most-discussed prospect for 2016. The GSS dropped those three questions in the 1990s as results began to show they were no longer contentious.

    La'Shon Callaway, a 19-year-old political science student at Stockton College in New Jersey, is optimistic that his generation will make the future brighter and that he'll see discrimination fade over his lifetime.

    "People are getting tired of it, and fed up," said Callaway, who is black. "They're realizing even if you're not the same color as me, you're still a person and I'm still a person." As 2050 approaches, one central component of U.S. race relations will change: Non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up the majority of the population, according to Census Bureau projections.

    Love and Family

    In 1972, the sexual revolution was ablaze. That year the Supreme Court ruled that unmarried couples had a right to birth control. "The Joy of Sex" manual was published. And then there's "Maude," the sitcom character who shocked Americans by getting an abortion.

    Still, a third of Americans back then disapproved of a woman working if she had a husband to support her. The GSS no longer bothers asking that one.

    Americans today are more worried about divorce and the increasing number of never-married moms. Nearly 4 out of 10 women who gave birth in 2011 were unmarried, according to the census.

    "It's very sad to me," says Christine Hicks, 57, of Nashville, Tenn., who divorced when her two children were teens. "It's really hard to be a parent when you're alone."

    Despite the social turmoil, 98 percent of married people today say their union is happy, including two-thirds who are "very happy." And marital fidelity remains an ideal endorsed by nearly all Americans.

    The political debate over abortion shows no signs of being resolved, more than 40 years after Roe vs. Wade. Young people today are somewhat more conservative on the issue than middle-aged Americans.

    Gay marriage, on the other hand, appears headed toward future acceptance. Young people are solidly in favor, while opposition is strongest among the oldest Americans.

    God

    Through those decades of moral tumult, the vast majority of Americans held onto belief in God or some higher power. Fewer than 1 in 10 say there's no God or no way to know. Yet ties to organized religion are slipping.

    Since 1972, the number of Americans who name no faith preference has quadrupled to 20 percent.

    "Maybe it just means people are thinking for themselves and not following blindly," says Hicks, a Tennessee state worker and Methodist churchgoer. "But I do think the church gives families a foundation."

    Money

    Recession, a stock market crash, runaway inflation and an oil crisis marred the U.S. economy in the early 1970s. Forty years later, those look like the good times to many.

    Before the Great Recession hit in 2007, most people consistently said their family finances were getting better instead of worse. That's not the case anymore. Americans are more likely to consider themselves "lower class" than ever in GSS history -- 8 percent say that.

    "You read every day about 'no more middle class'," says Bill Hardy, 67, a Westerville, Ohio, investment adviser. "It's the poor versus the rich almost."

    Whites are especially pessimistic about their prospects. Black and Hispanic optimism surged after Barack Obama became the first black president in 2008.

    Overall, about half of Americans still believe their children will have a better standard of living than they do.

    "I just think they're going to have to deal with a lot," Hardy, who is white, said of his grown children and three grandkids. "They'll deal with it. Kids today are very smart."

    Associated Press reporter Connie Cass wrote this report. AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed. Follow Cass on Twitter @Conniecass.

    Read more: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  That blustery winter storm dropped a foot of snow on the Midwest before setting its sights on the Northeast, where today it closed schools and snarled commutes on the ground and in the air.  At least 13 deaths were blamed on the storm, many from car accidents.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Snow plows across the Northeast started working early and often, in an effort to erase the first big storm of the new year.  Though the snow has mostly tapered off now, it's the drop in temperature that's cause for concern.

    MAN:  At subzero temperatures, you worry about frostbite.  You worry about hypothermia.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And in a press conference this afternoon, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said it could have been worse.

    GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, Massachusetts:  Mother Nature is fickle, as you know, and has a mind of her own.  We had a -- from my perspective, a lucky break or two.  One is that the storm came largely in the evening and not in the middle of a workday.  And it followed the forecast.  That hasn't always happened.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour were reported in parts of Massachusetts, and windchills as low as minus-30 degrees.  Boston was hard-hit, with nearly 14 inches of snow blanketing the city's streets, and communities to the west got nearly double that amount.

    Coastal flooding is now the biggest concern.  In Scituate, Massachusetts, many residents have already evacuated their homes.  New York and New Jersey were still under states of emergency.

    MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, New York:  We can safely say we have had our first significant snowfall of this year.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  In New York City, Bill de Blasio faced his first major challenge as the new mayor, asking people to let the street cleaners do their jobs.

    BILL DE BLASIO:  I can tell you already we have a very powdery snow.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Earlier this morning, he took to his own driveway to shovel snow outside his Brooklyn home.

    By midday, the commercial centers of New York City were up and running.  Traffic is slowing well.  The sun is out.  Temperatures here are in the high teens.  But, up north, the far colder temperatures and the windchill factor made things much more difficult.

    In Maine, the subzero temperatures kept residents indoors.  But some tourists still tried to brave the arctic air at a historical military attraction.

    MAN:  Bone-chilling.  Most of me is warm, except for my legs.

     

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And airports across the U.S. remained backed up, with holiday travelers stranded after more than 2,000 flights were canceled today.

    MAN:  The warning has been coming for a couple of days, so we expected it.  We booked a hotel here.  And we're stuck.  We will make the best of it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And although the Midwest was hit with the worst of the storm earlier this week, the arctic air still lingers across the region.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The Obama administration announced two new executive actions affecting background checks for gun buyers today.  Both focus on limiting firearm access for people with mental health issues.  One rule lets hospitals submit additional information about a patient's mental health into the background check system.  President Obama proposed tough gun control measures in Congress last year in the wake of the Newtown school shootings, but they got little support.

    The administration also took steps on the National Security Agency's surveillance program today, amid conflicting court decisions about its legality.  U.S. officials were in the process of asking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the NSA's phone collection program for another 90 days.  And the Department of Justice filed its expected appeal to overturn a judge's federal ruling that the phone records program was likely unconstitutional.

    The Justice Department also took action in a challenge to the new health care law, calling for an end to a block on its birth control mandate.  The law requires some religious organizations to provide health insurance that includes coverage of contraception.  But the Obama administration said those religious nonprofits can exempt themselves from the requirement.  On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor delayed the mandate's implementation hours before it was to go into effect.

    The U.S. Embassy in South Sudan evacuated more of its staff today because of escalating violence.  And, starting tomorrow, consular services for American citizens will be suspended.  In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman said they were working hard to airlift out Americans, and others, amid the ongoing political unrest.

    MARIE HARF, Spokeswoman, State Department:  We have evacuated over 440 U.S. officials and private citizens and more than 750 citizens of at least 27 other countries on eight chartered flights and nine military aircraft.  Who remains?  The ambassador, a few key personnel and, of course, security at our facility there, both ours and DOD.  But I think we're certainly open to doing more evacuations if there's a need, depending on security.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  As many as 75,000 people have fled the violence in the city of Bor.  Most of the displaced families are camping out in the Nile River region of Awerial without sanitation or clean drinking water.  Humanitarian organizations are struggling to quickly deliver aid to that area.

    In Seattle, Washington, 30,000 Boeing machinists voted on a critical labor contract today, with billions of dollars and thousands of jobs on the line.  If workers agree to concessions on pension and health care benefits, Boeing will build its new 777X jetliner and wings in Seattle.  If they reject the contract, Boeing has said it will look to a number of other states interested in hosting a new factory.  A final tally is expected late tonight.  We will have more on what's at stake later in the program.

    In economic news, 2013 turned out to be the best single year for the auto industry in the past six.  Ford led all major automakers with an with an 11 percent jump in sales.  Chrysler and Nissan trailed behind at 9 percent, and General Motors ended up the year up 7 percent.  The month of December didn't see such a brisk sales pace, attributed in part to bad winter weather and a Black Friday shopping surge in November.

    Stocks on Wall Street continued to have a sluggish start on the second day of trading in the new year.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained 28 points to close at nearly 16,470.  The Nasdaq fell 11 points to close above 4,131.  For the week, the Dow lost a fraction of a percent.  The Nasdaq fell more than half a percent.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Two key Iraqi cities have been the scene of intense sectarian fighting for nearly a week. 

    Sunni militants aligned with al-Qaida have escalated a battle against Shiite-led government troops.  It's all taking place in the western province of Anbar, where U.S. troops suffered their greatest losses during the eight-year war.  In Fallujah today, militants blew up several government buildings, including the police headquarters and mayor's office. 

    Violence also picked up in Ramadi.  The al-Qaida-linked fighters are seeking to control both cities.  The militants fight under the same banner as jihadists in Syria, evidence that that country's civil war is spilling beyond its borders. 

    But it is not a clean sectarian split.  Powerful Sunni tribes in Anbar have allied with the government troops to fight al-Qaida, just as they did with U.S. troops in 2007, in a move called the Awakening, which helped turn the tide of the war. 

    To help us understand this latest bloodshed, we turn to former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and to former Marine Captain Bing West, who spent a lot of time in Iraq, particularly in Anbar, and who has written several books about the war. 

    Gentlemen, we -- we thank you both. 

    Bing West, to you first.  What is going on in Anbar province? 

    BING WEST, Author, "The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq": Well, I think, Judy, that al-Qaida has made a big mistake.  They went into the cities, believing the cities would uprise with them, something equivalent to what the Vietcong did in 1968 in the Tet Offensive.

    And the people have no intentions of uprising with them.  And the major tribes led by a sheik by the name of Abu Risha have turned against them.  And so I think al-Qaida actually has overplayed its hand. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Ryan Crocker, do you see it the same way, al-Qaida moving in, trying to get a foothold, overplaying its hand? 

    RYAN CROCKER, Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq:  We have seen this before, Bing and I.

    And, Judy, Bing, I think, is exactly right.  Al-Qaida overplayed its hand in the '05-'06 period that had the population ready to turn to us in the Awakening.  And we're seeing them overplay their hand again.  Raising the black flag of al-Qaida on Iraqi soil does not endear them to the Sunnis. 

    And the advent of foreign fighters is particularly anathema to the tribes.  These tribes will and are fighting to secure their own cities, and we have seen the government finally do something sensible, which is quit antagonizing the Sunnis, give them money, give them arms and fight shoulder to shoulder. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  What is it that al-Qaida wants here, Bing West?  Do they just simply want territory?  What is this about? 

    BING WEST:  No, I think, honestly, Judy, they convinced themselves that the tribes would come over to them and that they could split away Anbar as an entire province, put it together with the western part of -- eastern part of Syria and begin to have their own state. 

    But, as Ambassador Crocker was just indicating, they did it exactly wrong, because these tribes in Anbar hate them.  They really hate al-Qaida because they killed so many of the sheiks in 2004 and 2005.  And I'm flabbergasted that al-Qaida thought that they could go into these cities. 

    Fallujah is a trap.  Fallujah only has five entrances.  That's not a smart idea to go in there.  You have to ask how you're going to get out.  The second city, Khaldiya, it's just a small city.  Ramadi is the key battle.  And it appears that they're losing in the Ramadi to the tribes. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  What is the value of this territory, Ambassador Crocker?  What is the -- what is strategic value for al-Qaida to gain it and for the Sunni tribal leaders to hold onto it? 

    RYAN CROCKER:  Judy, for al-Qaida, the aim has always been to gain and hold a significant amount of Arab territory.  That, for them, is the base from which they would seek to reestablish the seventh century caliphate. 

    So they are trying that in Syria.  They are trying it in Anbar, with limited success.  The setback there is going to be very important, I think, not only in Iraq, but also in Syria.  But that's what they seek.  They seek the same kind of position they had in Afghanistan pre-9/11, except on Arab soil.  And we need to be very, very careful to do everything we can to see that they do not get it. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And as both of you are pointing out, Bing West, what al-Qaida didn't count is these Sunni tribal leaders in effect allying themselves with the Shia-led government.  What is in it for them to keep al-Qaida out? 

    BING WEST:  Well, I have to say that my source for this now is Twitter.  

    (LAUGHTER)

    I have tweets today coming from Ramadi saying that Abu Risha, who is the good guy, believes that Abu Abelrahman, who is the bad al-Qaida, has been killed in the battle.  He has been killed three times.  This may be the fourth time. 

    But it does indicate that the problem here for al-Qaida was that the Sunni tribes that were handled very badly by Prime Minister Maliki have somehow cut some sort of deal with Prime Minister Maliki, probably for money, but definitely for some political power.  And this is Ambassador Crocker's area, but I certainly hope that Prime Minister Maliki has learned a lesson from this. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  What is it -- and on that point, Ambassador Crocker, what -- how does all this affect the ability of the prime minister to have any sort of stability in this country?  We have been watching increased violence.  There have been suicide bombings virtually -- we have been reporting on it every day in Iraq.  How does all this play into his ability to keep his country stable? 

    RYAN CROCKER:  Two key points, Judy. 

    First, outside of Anbar, the suicide bombings were almost exclusively the work of al-Qaida attempting to incite sectarian violence among Iraqis.  They have not succeeded.  It's very important that the prime minister work with leaders around the country to see that they don't.  And in Anbar, where there has been significant sectarian violence that sparked this whole thing off less than a week ago, a disaster for the prime minister is now a golden opportunity. 

    As Bing says, they have forged a temporary alliance at least, facing a common threat, and it's the prime minister's opportunity, working with individuals like Ahmed Abu Risha, to make that alliance much more permanent now that they have seen what al-Qaida will try to do. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Bing West, what is in the U.S. interest here?  What -- what leads to the kind of stability we were just talking about with Ambassador Crocker?

    BING WEST:  Well, as the ambassador indicated, it would be terrific.

    And our -- our equities in this are definitely to help the Sunni tribes in Anbar because they helped us and because they are a stability in that region.  If we can get the tribes and Prime Minister Maliki working together, then we can seal off that border and prevent al-Qaida from expanding its area in eastern -- in eastern Syria.

    We can seal that off if there can be a relationship between the prime minister in Baghdad and the Anbar tribes out in Ramadi. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, we thank you both, both Bing West and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, for helping us understand more about what is going on there.  We thank you. 

    RYAN CROCKER:  Thank you, Judy. 

    BING WEST:  Thank you.  


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  It's a critical vote for a labor union, an aircraft company and possibly an entire region. 

    Jeffrey Brown has the story. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  In November, machinist union workers at Boeing voted down a new contract extension.  Pensions were the most contested issue.  After Boeing offered several revisions, a new vote is taking place today, with results expected tonight. 

    The stakes are high: thousands of jobs and the building of Boeing's new 777X plane.  If the union approves the contract, Boeing says it will go ahead and build the plane in unionized factories in Washington State, the company's historic manufacturing home.  If there's another no-vote, Boeing says it may well go elsewhere.  And 22 other states responded to a solicitation from the company with proposals to build the new jet in their areas. 

    Joining us now: Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in labor issues, and Richard Gritta, a professor of finance at the University of Portland, an expert on the airline industry. 

    Well, Harley Shaiken, and start us off.  Explain the pension and other issues here and the dilemma for the union members voting on this.

    HARLEY SHAIKEN, University of California, Berkeley:  Well, it's a real dilemma.  This was a very tough context for the union, in that, as you mentioned, Boeing could have put this new production in many places. 

    The fact that it may go to Seattle is an important gain long-term, possibly very important for unionized workers and for the machinists union itself.  But to do this, the union had to give certain critical concessions.  The most contentious is the pensions. 

    The Boeing workers are going to be going from a traditional defined benefit pension plan to a 401(k).  It's an older work force.  Almost half are over 50 years old.  They're very worried about the security of that.  Also, the context in which the vote is taking place, I think, has contributed to some of the tensions, the fact that this was a record year for Boeing in terms of profitability, the fact the CEO had a $21 million paycheck, the fact that since the first vote, there had been a $10 billion share buy-back and a 51 percent increase in dividends.

    All have played into the mix. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, and, Richard Gritta, from the company perspective, Boeing clearly feels itself in a highly competitive situation, right?  Tell us about this particular plane and its importance. 

    RICHARD GRITTA, University of Portland:  Well, the 777X is the new generation of the old 777.  And it holds anywhere from three 350 to 400 passengers.

    So they are going the intermediate route to compete against Airbus.  But it's been dog eat dog in this industry for a long time, Airbus taking the lead and kind of acing out Boeing, and then Boeing grabbing it back.  So it's a very competitive industry.  And this pension situation, as mentioned, is critical.  The use of defined contribution plans is what Boeing wants to push with the union. 

    Defined benefit plans are what really bankrupted General Motors.  So they can't afford to risk the cash flow problems with this defined benefit program.  I think that's the key issue, as has been pointed out. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And let me just stay with you, Richard Gritta.  This question about moving to another state, how easy or difficult is something like that to do for Boeing? 

    RICHARD GRITTA:  Well, it's not easy, but it's kind of an applied capital budgeting decision, are, the costs to move, to, say, Alabama or to North Carolina or Utah, which are right-to-work states, has to be weighed against the present value of the benefits, the lower wages that they would pay elsewhere and the fact that in non-union states, they could easily hire people that would be willing to go with a 401 traditional plan. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  So, Harley Shaiken, I gather that this is -- the stakes are so high, the conflict is so difficult here, intense, that this has really split the union in some ways, the local vs. the international -- the national and international. 

    HARLEY SHAIKEN:  Well, I think that's been overplayed in some important ways.  They have different perspectives. 

    The international is looking at the long-term future of the industry, the long-term creation of jobs and a key technology that would go into Seattle with highly paid unionized workers, carbon fiber technology that could define the aircraft industry for decades to come. 

    So the international has that long view.  On the local level, you have got many workers that are simply apprehensive.  They have seen what has happened in other industries.  They want to ensure that they get a fair shake right now. 

    I don't think it's a rift.  I think that's been overstated.  But I think there are differences of perspective that are very important going forward.  The irony here is, at the end of the day long-term, the machinists union and its members in Seattle could be in a stronger position when a defining product, the 777X, which is going to shape the industry for decades to come, a new technology and a very heavy investment, are all in Seattle in a unionized sector, and it puts a premium on both sides, the company and the union, working together to make this a very successful investment. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, Richard Gritta, so what about the stakes for Washington State, for the entire region there, where Boeing does a lot, still does a lot of its manufacturing?  And what about the stakes for the company itself?  I mean, how much is it framing this as important to its future? 

    RICHARD GRITTA:  Well, I think the framing it as highly important, especially because of the pension (INAUDIBLE) system.

    But at stake are anywhere from 8,000 to 8,500 jobs immediately, and then some estimates as high as 20,000 for all the periphery companies that feed into Boeing.  So, this is huge.  Washington State has offered an $8.5 billion dollar tax incentive to keep the company there. 

    They don't want it to go.  But, of course, they're bidding against Alabama, North Carolina, Utah, and some other states for the prize, which is where they're going to build the carbon wings for this aircraft.  And it's -- they're talking about a $1.2 million plant to do this. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And, Harley Shaiken, what about -- just in our last minute, what about the stakes for unions?  And I don't mean just this union, but how do you fit this into kind of larger issues that you look at? 

    HARLEY SHAIKEN:  Well, I think this is critical for unions more generally.  You have got three things coming together here, an iconic, profitable company, a strong union, and all the pressures of the global economy. 

    There's something in Seattle that is critical for Boeing going forward, which is a highly skilled, very capable work force.  You have got $8.7 billion in state incentives.  And you have got a work force that's also very dedicated to the future of this company and this industry.  If both sides can bring this together, I think it will be a model of a high-wage, high-road route to competitiveness in a global economy. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, well, as I said, we're expecting to know more about this tonight.  We will keep watching.

    Harley Shaiken, Richard Gritta, thank you both very much. 

    HARLEY SHAIKEN:  Thank you. 

    RICHARD GRITTA:  You're welcome.  


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  A study published in the journal "Science" this week found that low-income people with Medicaid insurance go to the emergency room about 40 percent more often than their uninsured counterparts do.  The study raised questions about the long-held theory that extending Medicaid coverage to more Americans would cut down on emergency room use. 

    It involved thousands of poor people in the Portland, Oregon, area, and it was part of the Oregon health insurance experiment. 

    Hari Sreenivasan takes the story from there. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Joining me to discuss this now report is Katherine Baicker.  She is the professor of health economics in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health and was one of the authors of the report. 

    So, Ms. Baicker, Judy went over one of the headlines.  Let's dig a little deeper into this.  Forty percent, that seems like a very large spike in E.R. usage.  What does that actually translate to for the people in the study?  How much more did they use it?

    KATHERINE BAICKER, Harvard School of Public Health:  Well, on average people in the control group went to the emergency department about once during the 18 months that we looked at, and people who got Medicaid went 1.4 times. 

    So that's about a 40 percent increase.  It's helpful to think about why people were covered by Medicaid vs. not in our study.  Oregon had a lottery for a limited number of spots in its Medicaid program, and they drew names from a waiting list by chance.  So we were able to compare people who didn't gain access to the program through the lottery to people who did.  And that gave us a really good control group to figure out what happened when people gained access to Medicaid. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So is there a possibility that this is a surge?  Is 18 months long enough to suss out long-term patterns? 

    KATHERINE BAICKER:  It's a good question. 

    Longer-term effects might certainly differ from you what see over an 18-month period, although we didn't see an increase in the beginning that petered out.  It looked fairly steady over the 18 months we examined.  But certainly longer-run effects might differ.  And you also might expect to see something different when insuring many more people at the same time. 

    Our study had about 10,000 newly insured people.  That's a lot of people, but it's small relative to the population of Oregon or even relative to the uninsured population in Oregon. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And speaking of the population in Oregon, how representative is it of the rest of the country?  Some of the critics of the study have said, well, maybe the poor in Oregon won't model the same way that the poor are in the rest of the country. 

    KATHERINE BAICKER:  Of course, one always wants to be careful in generalizing from any one state to others or from any one study to the nation overall. 

    That said, Oregon's Medicaid program looks similar to programs in other states in many ways.  It covers the same types of services, including not just the emergency department, but doctor's office visits, prescription drugs, hospitalizations.  It has no co-pays for enrollees.  The population in Oregon looks similar to that of the U.S., with one important exception, that there are fewer minority residents in Oregon than there are in many other states.

    So Oregon might not be very representative of racial or ethnic differences that would you expect to see elsewhere. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Were there any subgroups in the demographics that were using the emergency room more often, perhaps the elderly or one gender over the other? 

    KATHERINE BAICKER:  Sure. 

    We studied people who were 19 to 64.  That's the group that was eligible for this program, where older people would already be eligible for Medicare.  And we saw increases in lots of different types of utilization.  We saw people going to the emergency department more, for example, for conditions that might most readily be treatable in other settings, in primary care settings, or emergencies that might have been averted by earlier primary care. 

    We also saw a bigger increase for men in the probability of going to the emergency department at all. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So what accounts for that? 

    I mean, if people are going to the emergency room for care that they could have gotten at the doctor's office elsewhere, is it because they don't know the difference?  Or is there a spike in the number of primary care physicians that might be referring people to the emergency room? 

    KATHERINE BAICKER:  There are lots of open questions about the underlying reasons that we see the patterns of care that we do.  But we know a couple of things. 

    First, people also went to the doctor more and they also went to the hospital more and used more prescription drugs.  And all of that is consistent with the idea that insurance makes health care more affordable for patients.  And when health care is more affordable, when the price to them is lower, they use more of a lot of different kinds of services. 

    It's possible that patients sitting at home with a certain set of symptoms, like a sprained ankle that might be broken or pain that's been around for a day or so, but might get better, choose not to go to the emergency department when they worry that they will be faced with a large bill, whereas those who are insured decide to go rather than wait. 

    Similarly, if they call their doctor and their doctor says, I'm not sure about those symptoms, you better go to the emergency department, the uninsured may be reluctant to do so because they fear the large bills that they would incur. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And so you have published two previous sets of findings from this study.  Anything more that is coming out? 

    KATHERINE BAICKER:  We certainly have much more data that we're eager to explore. 

    Our previous studies were able to look at utilization across a range of settings, like the doctor's office visits and hospitalizations I mentioned, but also to assess physical health and mental health.  And we saw a big reduction in depression.  We didn't detect any other changes in physical health measures like high blood pressure or cholesterol.

    That depression result is one that we really want to dig into with more data on modes of care and treatment for that condition.  We also found big improvements in financial security and well-being that seem very important for the well-being of the individuals who are less likely to have a bill sent to collection, and important for the health care system, where those bills sent to collection were never paid to providers. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  All right, Katherine Baicker from the Harvard School of Public Health, thanks so much for joining us. 

    KATHERINE BAICKER:  Thank you for having me.


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    Do you remember when you first experienced snow? The wonderment of that cold fluffy white stuff, the way those falling flakes melted on your tongue. Depending on where you grew up, you may not. But the one thing better than experiencing snow for the first time is watching someone else experience it.

    Bao Bao, the baby panda at the Smithsonian National Zoo, wasn't quite sure what to do with the snow this morning. His keepers let him experience it inside.

    Bao Bao isn't quite ready to go outside, so keepers brought snow to her this morning! #SmithsonianPandapic.twitter.com/ccNzyKe47e

    — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) January 3, 2014

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now a different look at providing care to those in need.  It's part of our occasional series on aging and the challenges of providing long-term care. 

    Tonight, we focus on Latinos, who will comprise 20 percent of the elderly population by the year 2050. 

    The "NewsHour"'s Mary Jo Brooks has our report. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  Seventy-six-year-old Nicolasa Romero still gets teary when she talks about how much her life has changed after suffering a stroke eight years ago.  A legal resident who immigrated from Mexico, she had been living with her daughter in suburban Los Angeles.  But the stroke forced her into a long-term care facility. 

    NICOLASA ROMERO (through interpreter):  Because of my stroke, I can't walk.  I can't move one arm.  My daughter lives on a second floor, and I couldn't go up and down the stairs anymore. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  Romero is part of a trend among Latino senior citizens.  Traditionally, they lived their final years with family members, who served as their caregivers.  But as more and more Latino couples are working outside the home, there's no one left behind to care for elderly parents.  And so they are going into nursing homes. 

    In fact, there's been a 58 percent increase in Latino admissions compared to a 10 percent decrease for whites.  Rashmi Birla, who's been a nursing home administrator for 14 years, has seen firsthand the surge in interest by Latinos, although she knows it remains culturally a tough choice. 

    RASHMI BIRLA, Nursing Home Administrator:  It really is not easy for family members when they're touring the building and they're in tears and they're crying, and just to kind of rub their shoulder and say, it's OK, I understand it's difficult, we will help you through this. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  Birla is now the director of the Country Villa Plaza in Santa Ana, a 144-bed facility where 70 percent of the residents are Hispanic. 

    In the past, many nursing homes haven't welcomed minority residents, but, here, they have gone out of their way to provide cultural amenities, including entertainment, special food, and, of course, competitive games of loteria, a Mexican version of bingo. 

    RASHMI BIRLA:  We get them involved, so it's not that they are just sitting in their rooms.  And that's really what we're trying to aim at, is saying that you can have a homelike environment, but yet still be able to read your newspaper with your coffee in the morning, and have those little comforts.  But then you can have a big fiesta feast and with a mariachi band. 

    And all of that makes a huge difference in how they feel and the happiness that they have and the comfort they have. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  Romero says the people at Country Villa have become her new family and she never wants to leave. 

    NICOLASA ROMERO (through interpreter):  I want to spend the rest of my days here.  I want to die here, because, when you die, you should be in a peaceful place.  And this is a peaceful place. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  But centers like this, which cater to Hispanics and offer high-quality care, are still far too rare. 

    A Brown University study three years ago concluded that minorities, far more than whites, live in facilities that are substandard, suffer from staffing issues and poorer quality of care.  It's one of the reasons Al Mendez says he won't consider the idea of a nursing home.  For more than four years, he has helped care for his 77-year-old father, Jaime, who suffers from Parkinson's.  Jaime lives in a small cottage behind his son's house. 

    AL MENDEZ, Son of Elderly Father:  He's my father.  I want to care of him forever.  And that's the way we were always -- we were raised that way, to take care of each other.  So, he just wants us to -- he wants to -- he's always with us. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  But a year-and-a-half ago, a social worker told Mendez that his father's health might actually improve if he spent a few hours during the day at a senior health facility. 

    Now, three times a week, Jaime rides a shuttle to a PACE center just two miles from his house.  PACE, which stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care, was started in the 1970s in California.  There are now 98 such centers across the country.  This and five others in the Los Angeles area are run by a nonprofit managed care group called AltaMed, which caters to poor and underserved populations.

    The centers accept only patients who have been certified by the state as eligible for a nursing home, but it is a day center only, so patients can continue to live at home with family.  PACE centers are often located in impoverished neighborhoods and they reflect the ethnic background of those residents.

    Here at the El Monte center, the population is 88 percent Latino.  They offer exercise and physical therapy, breakfast and lunch, numerous social activities, and full medical care. 

    JAIME MENDEZ, Attends Daily Care Center (through translator):  I like coming here because I get lots of attention, and that's good.  The staff takes very good care of me. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  On the day we visited, there was an elaborate celebration for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which included a Catholic mass, an outdoor procession and mariachi music. 

    Dr. Esiquio Casillas, medical director for AltaMed Senior Services, says taking part in a broad array of social and cultural activities is key to improving health and well-being. 

    DR. ESIQUIO CASILLAS, Medical Director, AltaMed Senior Services:  The World Health Organization estimates that only 10 percent of a person's well-being is really impacted by medicine and medical care, whereas the social determinants of health, nutrition, where they live, poverty, environmental factors, impact much more of their well-being.

    When they come here, obviously, they get to do the important socialization with other people, and do the cognitive activities to maintain their cognitive functioning and obviously their physical activities as well. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  For 86-year-old Eva Alegria, the PACE program literally saved her life.  She had lived in her own home for 60 years, but was growing more and more depressed as her health failed. 

    EVA ALEGRIA, Attends Daily Care Center:  I was very depressed.  I was ready to go. 

     (LAUGHTER)

    EVA ALEGRIA:  In fact, believe it or not, I asked my friend who does wedding dresses, I told her how I wanted to be buried. 

    MARY JO BROOKS:  But her sons had other plans for her.  They enrolled her in the PACE program, kicking and screaming, she says.  Within weeks, though, she'd had a complete turnaround.  Now she loves coming for the food, the parties, the camaraderie.  She hopes that if she keeps exercising, she may even get out of her wheelchair to dance with the mariachis. 

    EVA ALEGRIA:  I told that guy up there, I said, wait a little while longer. 

     (LAUGHTER)

    MARY JO BROOKS:  Patients at the center must use AltaMed physicians, rather than outside doctors, which discourages some from joining.  The tab for the services is picked up by Medicare or Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid.  Still, it's expensive to start a PACE program, which may explain why there aren't more of them. 

    DR. ESIQUIO CASILLAS:  There is a lot of investment up front to get these programs started.  Many of them take four or five or even more years to start up.  It's a multimillion-dollar investment.  But I think things are changing a little bit.  There's been quite a bit of interest in the past few years.  There's quite a few new programs started in California.

    And I think the health plans and the state are realizing that this is really the ideal program for these very frail patients who are not yet in a nursing home and who can be kept out of a nursing home with the right resources.

    MARY JO BROOKS:  Californians do have other options for adult day facilities, but state funding for those programs was severely cut three areas ago and will be at risk again next year.  It's a situation that could become one of the country's biggest challenges: how to provide quality long-term care for an elderly population that is expected to double in the next 15 years. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  What can you do to keep yourself happy and healthy in old age?  We prepared seven tips for successful aging recommended by the people featured in this segment.  You can read those on our Rundown.  


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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who is in New York tonight. 

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    First program of the new year, and I guess the political event of the week, David, as you're in New York, was the inauguration of their new mayor, who sounds like he's going to make inequality and doing something about it the theme of his leadership. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Yes. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  What did you make of him and his message? 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Well, we have been waiting around for sort of a populist progressive.  I guess we had Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, but here is someone running a city on that agenda. 

    And to me, the question is, is it going to be a national agenda?  And I guess I'm not quite clear sure yet.  I mean, clearly progressive voices are going to blare very loudly in Democratic circles, in liberal circles, in the academy, because inequality is a genuinely significant issue. 

    The question is, can they get a broad -- a broad movement behind that?  New York is not America.  John Podhoretz in the New York Post today pointed out that it has been 117 years since a major New York City official had national office or even big state office, and that was Teddy Roosevelt.  So it's been very hard to export New York politics nationally. 

    And it could be that the distrust of government is so strong that even though people acknowledge that inequality is a big, serious issue, they don't quite trust big government programs to take care of it. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mark, is this a liberal message that has legs outside of New York? 

    MARK SHIELDS:  Yes, it does, Judy. 

    First of all, a corrective item.  Franklin Roosevelt was a governor of New York when he was elected president of the United States in 1932. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Right, not New York City, though. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  Oh, New York City?  OK.  I'm sorry.  I didn't -- that distinction.

    The -- yes, it does, Judy, and I would say this.  Lost in the results in 2012 because of the presidential race was the fact that we saw a populist revolt in California put to the ballot test.  Proposition 30, Jerry Brown, the governor pushed it.  The state was in dire financial straits and funding for education was way down.  Proposition 30 raised taxes on couples earning over $500,000 a year. 

    Millions spent against it, $11 million by one secret group alone spent against it, and it prevailed.  It won; 89 percent of it is going to college colleges, community colleges, and K-12.  Bill de Blasio ran on this issue.  He didn't just pull it out of his hat.  He didn't discover it between winning and his inaugural. 

    And David's right.  Does it have its most intense support on the coasts?  Yes.  Probably in several academic areas.  But the reality is, this is a reality-based movement.  It's everywhere.  Inequality is across the board. 

    Just one figure, OK?  In the last four years, the last four years, since Barack Obama has been president, 95 percent of the wealth in the country that's been created has gone to the top 1 percent, who own 33 percent of the stock. 

    I mean, and I think anybody who accused Barack Obama of being a socialist owes him and us an apology, because it's been -- it's been very, very good.  The stock market had its best year in 17 years.  Coincidentally, that was when another Democrat, Bill Clinton, was in the White House. 

    So, I mean, it's been very good, but it's been very unequal.  And one of the things de Blasio wants to do is universal pre-K.  That is a radical idea.  It's now the state law in Oklahoma and the state law in Georgia. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, David, what do you -- what do you -- I mean, what is the strength of -- of liberalism in this country today? 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Well, I think the problem is real.  Mark is absolutely right about that.  The inequality, the statistics are pretty -- pretty overwhelming. 

    The question is, it seems to me two agendas flow out of that.  One, which I do think is a majority agenda, is that -- the argument that basically our economic system is working, but a lot of people don't have access to it, and therefore you want to invest heavily in human capital, in pre-K, in community colleges, in education.  And you want to give people access. 

    I think that is a majority agenda that is probably a center-left, even some center-right.  You could get an agenda behind that.  The second agenda that grows out of it is the argument the economic system fundamentally is not working, that we have deep structural problems that are leading to this widening inequality.  And you want to address the deep structural problems in the economy with much more redistribution, much higher taxes on the affluent, and therefore redistributing the money down. 

    I do not believe that is a majority agenda, whether it's justified or not.  I just think right now there are -- I think there are seven Democratic senators running for reelection right now in states that Mitt Romney won.  I do not think those seven senators are going to be endorsing any sort of redistributive program or even much big government program this year or any time soon. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mark, what about that?  And connect it to what is president is talking about, because he said he wants to devote the rest of his presidency to inequality.  Is he going -- what is he going to be able to do in that regard? 

    MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I mean, there are steps. 

    And the president is, in fact -- I mean, this is an issue waiting to be galvanized, waiting to be energized.  I think there is no question, Judy.  First of all, minimum wage, very simple, very straightforward.  Three-quarters -- according to the Gallup poll, three-fourths of independents favor raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour. 

    All right?  A majority of Republicans do.  Now, there's a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives who don't.  That's where you come down to political skill, organizing, galvanizing public opinion to push that through.  The extension of unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term unemployed, who are suffering the most in this entire recession, and now all of a sudden...

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  We're waiting to see if... 

     (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS:  Now, all of a sudden, it has become an article of faith on the part of Republicans in Congress that this has to be offset in spending. 

    That wasn't the case when George W. Bush, the last president to propose extension of unemployment insurance benefits, prevailed.  They didn't insist then.  But it a different rule now.  I think that's one where you could show an inconsistency, a contradiction. 

    These are just the first steps.  But David's right that the system, our system produces great wealth.  It is lousy at re -- at distributing it. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  I would say..

    MARK SHIELDS:  And that -- go ahead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  David, go ahead.

    DAVID BROOKS:  I would just say it's important to realize how deep the problem is. 

    The structural problem behind inequality -- well, there are a whole bunch of them -- it is complicated -- but one of them significantly is the education premium has gone up.  The rewards to education has gone up.  Women have gotten the message.  Women have increased their education levels commensurate with that.  And we are seeing some gains among women. 

    The widening inequality of the wage stagnation, it is very significantly a male problem.  Men have not gotten the message.  They have not increased their education levels.  And, therefore, they are the ones primarily suffering.  That is a deep fundamental problem that is very hard to figure out how to address. 

    A second sort of related problem is family structure.  If you have got a majority of kids under age 5 not growing up in two-parent homes, that too has a significant effect on inequality, because their educational outcomes tend statistically on average to be worse.  So, these are really deep things having to do with family structure, males not responding to incentives. 

    And I'm for extending unemployment insurance, but that doesn't get at the really core problems that are affecting not only the U.S., but in Europe and elsewhere. 

     (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Nor does raising the minimum wage. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  No, I'm not saying those are cures.  But are they steps?  Yes. 

    What we have done -- and I think Michael Sandel of Harvard has raised this point -- over the last few years in this country, we have taken the market and made it not an economic factor.  We have made it our system.  I mean, everything now has a price.  If you even think about pollution, Judy, if you want to spend enough money, you can pollute.  That's because the law and the pattern of the land. 

    We have monetized just about everything, including education.  Education -- the genius of this country and its growth from the 19th century forward was universal public education, universal quality public education.  And that is a value to not simply to be esteemed and to be proud of, but is central to this country's resurgence and restoring itself. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  All right, abrupt change of subject. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  What? 

     (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  But there's something else we saw -- both of you, we saw this week, first week of the new year.  Marijuana is now legal, recreational use of marijuana, David, in a couple of states. 

    In Colorado, we saw long lines of people waiting to buy their first legal marijuana.  What does this -- what do you see about the future of this in this country?  Do you see this spreading to more states?  You wrote about it today in your column. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Right.  Well, I think we probably will see it decriminalized.  I'm not sure we will see it legalized.  I am not super in favor of all the arrests that go on for people using marijuana.

    But I -- we will see how Colorado -- Colorado works out.  It is a good future of our system.  It's an experiment.  We will figure out how it works.  I have to say, I'm skeptical of it and I am dubious and I wouldn't have supported it for a couple of reasons. 

    First, when you do get legalization, the price does collapse.  It tends to collapse.  You will get it much cheaper.  If you have got much cheaper marijuana, more people will smoke it.  And then you take away the legal penalties, more people are likely to smoke it.  And so we will have states where more people are using marijuana. 

    Now, I'm not terrifically offended by it, but I do think there are a couple things to be worried about.  One is, more teenagers will likely to spend it -- and the science behind the teenage effect of marijuana use is pretty severe.  It does have cognitive effects.  It does lower I.Q. points over the long term.  The addiction rates are much higher among teenagers than people who start as adults.

    So that is a genuine health concern.  And then the second thing, it's -- most of us age out of marijuana use, because it's not that exciting when you find more serious and more uplifting pleasures.  And so most people give it up as they hit middle age. 

    And I just would make the moral status argument that getting stoned all the time is not the greatest way to spend your time.  And so it's fine when you're young.  You can try it.  And people want to try it periodically. 

    But I think the state through its laws should encourage a culture that discourages the use of marijuana on both moral grounds and health grounds. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Where do you come down on that?

    MARK SHIELDS:  I defer to David on the knowledge of the subject. 

    And in his personal piece today, which I commend to all our viewers, I -- John Denver was a little bit early on "Rocky Mountain High," it appears. 

     (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS:  I mean, this is too late.  The Colorado law is too late to save the iconic American brand Twinkies.  They're -- probably not help Doritos.  You have to think of the collateral these days.

    I am amazed by this.  I will be very frank.  This is something I missed.  By a 6-1 margin, Judy, just 40 years ago, when Gerry Ford was president of the United States, Americans opposed the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana.  Twenty years ago, it was by a 4-1 margin.  And 10 years ago, it was by a 2-1 margin. 

    Now a majority of Americans support it.  In a strange way, it is a little bit like the lottery, state lotteries, which I -- and state gambling.  And that is, it's free tax money.  That's one of the arguments that was made, that raising revenues without raising taxes at the same time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And getting those ballot measures.

    MARK SHIELDS:  Getting the ballot -- getting it done. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Right. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  And I really -- I have not thought it through.  I will be honest with you.  It's not something that I would have spent my time on. 

    I could understand same-sex marriage, because everybody either has a neighbor, a nephew, a relative, a co-worker, a friend who is gay and has been discriminated against.  This is one that kind of throws me. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So...

     (CROSSTALK)

    DAVID BROOKS:  But the tax revenue thing...

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Go ahead, yes.

    DAVID BROOKS:  ... can I just say, that's a bogus issue, because the costs, the social costs raise costs for the government to more than compensate the tax revenue. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  That's a good point. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  All right, well, you both made fabulous points tonight.  Thank you very much. 

    David Brooks, Mark Shields, thank you.  


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