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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: Bitter cold persisted and spread across much of the country today. Conditions were better suited to penguins than people and gave new meaning to the term blue states.

    WOMAN: I'm wearing long underwear. I feel like I'm going skiing, but I'm not. I'm going to work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Millions of Americans spent another long day in the icy grip of the polar vortex, from Washington, D.C., where readings started the day in the single digits...

    WOMAN: As soon as I got out of work, I'm going to make sure I bundle up inside and stay there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... to most of the Midwest and the Northeast and New England.

    MAN: Twenty-eight below, 30 below, 40 below, of course, when you get that much farther, it doesn't make a lot of difference.

    MAN: You bundle up in layers, whatever we have to use to stay warm.

    MAN: Bundle in layers.

    (CROSSTALK)

    MAN: I'm using a towel as a scarf.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MAN: I'm using my wife's scarf because I couldn't find mine. So, that's why I'm wearing a pink scarf.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the Deep South joined the misery, as frigid air pushed all the way into the region. This is ice on the roads in Atlanta and snow in rural north Georgia. And this completely frozen fountain is in Greensboro, N.C.

    Further South, vegetable and citrus crops in Florida are at risk. Farmers worked today to protect fields of potatoes and cabbage from the falling mercury.

    MAN: It depends on how cold it gets and how deep it freezes. It could affect the top layer of potatoes. The cabbage crop, actually, in low 20s, it can be affected, so it can burn the top leaves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even places accustomed to cold winters had a shock. Chicago hit a record low for Monday's date at minus 16 degrees, not counting the windchill. This is what it looked like when a man opened his window and let freezing winds pour inside.

    In Indiana, about 30,000 people lost power overnight and with it their heat. They turned to generators, blankets or shelters to stay warm. Many schools in the Midwest stayed closed for a second day today.

    Michigan Governor Rick Snyder:

    GOV. RICK SNYDER, R-Mich.: This isn't the day to have the kids go out and build a snowman or an igloo. The conditions are such where it's not safe to be out in this cold for very long.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Black ice and slick patches on the roads were another danger, with the number of spinouts and rollovers growing by the hour. And more than 500 Amtrak passengers got off trains they had spent the night on and climbed into buses to their destination, Chicago.

    Blowing, drifting snow had been stuck on the tracks since Central Illinois since yesterday afternoon.

    WOMAN: We did have power, we did have blankets, and we're truly happy about that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But one part of the country escaped the deep freeze, sunny Southern California, with temperatures in the 70s.

    WOMAN: The fact that it is the beginning of January and I'm eating a cup of ice cream is awesome.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Starting tomorrow, those still suffering through the cold can expect somewhat warmer weather, at least near or above freezing.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have heard the term polar vortex quite a bit during this deep freeze.

    And here to help us understand the science behind it, I'm joined by Andrew Freedman. He's senior science writer at Climate Central, a news and research organization.

    Andrew Freedman, thank you for being with us.

    So, tell us, what is the polar vortex?

    ANDREW FREEDMAN, Climate Central: So, the polar vortex actually is not really a new meteorological phenomenon.

    It's just the national attention has been focused on it in the past couple of days. It's -- you can think of it as this mass of very cold air that usually resides near the North Pole, that usually resides in the Arctic, and is surrounded by fast upper-level winds.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so -- so it usually sits there, but what happened? What caused it to move?

    ANDREW FREEDMAN: Yes, so that's what is especially interesting.

    So, usually these fast-moving upper-level winds kind of trap that air up there and keep it there, and that's relatively good for people down in the continental U.S. because it spares us from some of the brutal cold. But, occasionally, what can happen, those winds weaken, and it's sort of like when you have a spinning top. When it's spinning very quickly, it's pretty stable.

    When it starts to slow down, it meanders and wobbles. And what we had was a wobble in the polar vortex that kind of pinched off this large chunk of it and slid it south with the aid of other weather systems and the jet stream that we're more familiar with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So at the risk of getting really in the weeds here, what caused it to slow down, to start this wobble?

    ANDREW FREEDMAN: Well, some of it is dynamics that are going on in the very high atmosphere, in the stratosphere. There's often waves that kind of go through the atmosphere from low to high and from high to low and that can help cause some of these wobbles.

    There's also, you know, areas of high pressure called blocking highs that sort of act like stop signs in the atmosphere, preventing storms from kind of going through them. And we had a series of blocking highs over the past week or so over the North Pacific especially. They kind of rerouted the traffic in the atmosphere.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, and is that what caused it to come so far south this time?

    ANDREW FREEDMAN: Yes, that's pretty much an explanation of why the polar vortex, why such a big chunk of it came this far south.

    But keep in mind, we haven't seen anything like this in a long time, in 20 to 30 years. A lot of the records are being broken from those periods. But we have seen this before. This is not an all-time cold event. We have had many -- many worse outbreaks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Any way to predict how often we're going to it happen in the future, when we're going to see the next one come?

    ANDREW FREEDMAN: Well, we can predict it in advance in terms of a week or two perhaps.

    But, you know, what we're sort of guaranteed is that we're going to continue to have cold outbreaks throughout the winter, but long-term climate change means that a lot of the cold outbreaks that we experience may not be quite as cold as they used to be. We're seeing less frequent extremely cold temperatures in many cold places.

    Minneapolis has had much fewer days below about minus-10 degrees Fahrenheit, fewer nighttime lows that low, in the past decade vs. the 1970s, for example. So the long-term trend is up, but we have got these natural variations in weather patterns that we try to keep close track of.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it sure does catch everybody's attention.

    Andrew Freedman of Climate Central, we thank you.

    ANDREW FREEDMAN: Thank you.

     

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: J.P. Morgan Chase agreed today to pay more than $2.5 billion dollars to settle criminal charges in the Bernie Madoff fraud. Federal authorities charged, the bank ignored warning signs that Madoff was running a huge Ponzi scheme. We will get full details right after the news summary.

    On Wall Street today, stocks finally had the first up day of the new year. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 105 points to close at almost 16,531. The Nasdaq rose 39 points to close at 4,153.

    A bill to restore long-term unemployment benefits took its first step forward in the Senate today. Half-a-dozen Republicans joined Democrats to begin formal debate. Republicans also called for spending cuts to pay for the bill. We will have a full report on today's action later in the program.

    In Iraq, the government claimed it struck a key blow at al-Qaida militants holding two cities. The military said this video showed an airstrike on an operations center just outside Ramadi. It said 25 fighters died in the attack. The militants seized Ramadi and Fallujah last week when government troops pulled back. Today, Sunni lawmakers warned that the Shiite-led government should keep out.

    MAN (through translator): The Iraqi troops were pulled out of Anbar because they were defeated. They faced tribes and so many armed men. The troops' participation in civilian issues, which are in fact the responsibilities of local police, has created chaos in Anbar and the situation is out of control.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama administration has pledged to help the Iraqi government by providing surveillance drones.

    The first chemical weapons materials have left Syria. The U.N. announced today that poison gas ingredients were loaded aboard a Danish ship. The vessel took on the cargo in the port of Latakia, then put to sea until the next shipment arrives. Eventually, the chemicals will be destroyed on a U.S. Navy ship.

    A corruption scandal in Turkey took a new turn overnight, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed or reassigned 350 police officers. It was his latest effort to contain an investigation that he says is politically motivated. The corruption probe has grown steadily, to include cabinet ministers and businessmen close to the government.

    The Los Angeles County sheriff announced today he will retire from running the nation's largest county jail system in the face of a scandal. Last month, 18 current and former deputies were indicted on charges ranging from beating inmates to obstructing investigators.

    Today, Sheriff Lee Baca said he decided not to seek a fifth term, to prevent further damage to the department.

    LEE BACA, Los Angeles County Sheriff: The reasons for doing so are so many. Some are most personal and private. But the prevailing one is the negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought to the exemplary service provided by the men and women of the sheriff's department.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Baca is 71 years old. He said he will step down at the end of month.

    More than 100 former New York City police officers, firefighters and prison guards were charged today with faking mental problems to get federal disability benefits. Some falsely said they suffered ailments after 9/11. Prosecutors say four ringleaders coached officers on how to describe symptoms of depression and other problems. They received payouts as high as $500,000, and the ringleaders allegedly got kickbacks.

    In Chicago, a ban on handgun sales is now in limbo. A federal judge ruled Monday that ordinances barring such sales are unconstitutional. But he agreed to delay his ruling from taking effect to give the city time to appeal. Last year, Chicago led all other American cities in homicides


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to the J.P. Morgan story and the historic penalty it will pay for the bank's connection with the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The settlement and fine were announced five years after Bernie Madoff's scheme collapsed around him and investors worldwide.

    Jeffrey Brown picks up the details about those connections.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At the time that Madoff's crimes were unveiled, J.P. Morgan's name wasn't publicly connected with the case in a significant way, but federal prosecutors said today the bank knew something was wrong well before the Ponzi scheme collapsed.

    U.S. attorney Preet Bharara spelled out some of that history at a press conference this afternoon.

    PREET BHARARA, U.S. Attorney: Today's charges have been filed because, in this regard, J.P. Morgan as an institution failed, and failed miserably. In part because of that failure, for decades, Bernie Madoff was able to launder billions of dollars in Ponzi proceeds, essentially through a single set of accounts at J.P. Morgan.

    As far back as 1998, a bank fund manager concluded that the Madoff's returns were -- quote -- "possibly too good to be true" -- close quote -- and that there were too many red flags.

    Patricia Hurtado has been covering this for Bloomberg News and was at the prosecutor's press conference today. She joins me now.

    Well, Patricia, thanks for joining us.

    Let's fill in the picture little bit. What exactly is J.P. Morgan admitting that it did?

     PATRICIA HURTADO, Bloomberg News: Well, they're basically accused of being the private banker for Bernie Madoff and enabling his Ponzi scheme to continue, merely for the mere fact that even though they were concerned and they got their own personal investments out of Madoff and thought they were suspicious, something was wrong, they allowed other people to continue to be victimized.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, we heard this phrase just now too good to be true, that that's how it looked at least at the time. But the problem is, nobody said anything?

    PATRICIA HURTADO: Yes, the government basically alleges that for years, dating back to 1986, Madoff had an account at J.P. Morgan Chase and its predecessor entities, and allowed hundreds of billions of dollars to go through, and allowed very unusual, suspicious transactions to go through, and yet the bank never raised any red flags and never raised any concerns and -- but that the bank was savvy enough to get its own money out when it became concerned, just before the fraud was uncovered in December 2008.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, no individuals are cited, I see.

    So, the company says -- am I right, the company still says it doesn't believe employees knowingly assisted Madoff's scheme?

    PATRICIA HURTADO: Yes.

    Basically, the U.S. attorney's office conceded today they're not charging an individual, that this is an constitutional failure. Many, many people, this is a big, a huge bank -- different parts of the bank didn't communicate well with each other and didn't share their concerns, so it sort of isolated or fragmented -- the concerns are fragmented.

    So not one individual was aware of the Ponzi scheme and allowed it to continue.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, Patricia, give us some examples of the kind of red flags that were ignored.

    PATRICIA HURTADO: Well, the government, in a very unusual statement of facts, basically, it's an admission of responsibility, a mea culpa, if you will, of what the bank employees were talking and saying to each other privately about Madoff, which are kind of incriminating.

    For example, there's one point in June 2007 where one employee speculated that -- quote -- "Madoff and his returns are speculated to be part of a Ponzi scheme." And in December '98, one of the J.P. Morgan fund managers said that his returns are -- quote -- "possibly too good to be true" and that there were -- quote -- "too many red flags" -- end quote.

    And that -- and the last, most significant thing was in four months before Madoff basically admits that he has conducted a Ponzi scheme that has gone on for decades in December 2008, J.P. Morgan in October 2008 was really concerned and redeemed $275 million of its own money from its investing with Madoff.

    And at one point, one of the traders said on October 16, 2008, weeks before Madoff's fraud was uncovered in December, "There are many elements in this story that could make us nervous." And later when Madoff was arrested on December 11, 2008, one Madoff employee remarked to another one: "Can't say I'm surprised. Can you?" And the other guy said, "No."

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, this is referred to as a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney. What -- what exactly does that mean? Is there still potential for prosecution?

    PATRICIA HURTADO: No.

    If the bank continues -- basically agrees to behave itself. It's like kind of like what you -- we might remember as triple secret probation. They're told they have to behave. They're under the government's thumb for two years.

    They have to report to the U.S. attorney's office, to prosecutors, to federal regulators, to banking officials, as well as the FBI. And they have to alert the government as soon as they're aware of anybody is misbehaving and not complying with the banking regulations. Then they are on notice to notify the government ASAP. Otherwise, they will be prosecuted.

    So it's deferred for two years until they are off probation, basically.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, explain to us something about the money involved here. How much and where is it going to? Much of it is -- much or all of it going to victims?

    PATRICIA HURTADO: Yes, basically, Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said today that, with the addition of the $1.7 billion that they're getting from -- extracting from J.P. Morgan today, on top of hundreds of millions of dollars and billions -- $4 billion basically collected through another Madoff case, forfeiture case, there's going to be $4 billion that are going to be basically gotten into the pockets of all of the Madoff victims.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So some of this is going through the -- it's a little confusing. There's $1.7 billion going through the -- on the criminal side and then more gathered separately paying hundreds of millions to settle private claims?

    PATRICIA HURTADO: Yes.

    Basically, all of the money from this case is basically the government's agreement with the bank. So this is $1.7 billion that is going to be disbursed to Madoff accounts -- Madoff victims. Then there's $350 million that is going to be disbursed in a separate payment that the bank is making to the Office of Currency and Comptroller, and then $543 million is being collected by the trustee that is overseeing the bankruptcy of Madoff.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the other part of this, you say, is that the bank agrees to some kind of monitoring or something, various steps to make sure it doesn't happen again?

    PATRICIA HURTADO: Yes.

    It also -- in addition, it has to acknowledge responsibility, which went on for pages, of years and years and years of systemic failures to pay attention to these basic red flags that Madoff wasn't totally kosher.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So how unusual is all of this? How big of a deal did the U.S. attorney see it?

    PATRICIA HURTADO: It is very rare. And it is pretty significant.

    It's the second largest forfeiture that the government has ever been able to extract and the Department of Justice has been able to get from a banking institution. Only, the larger one was -- involved HSBC. So it's significant and it's quite at a big dent. It's a cold day outside in New York and it was kind of a cold day for J.P. Morgan today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Patricia Hurtado of Bloomberg, thanks so much.

     

     

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Senate took action to extend emergency unemployment insurance today.

    But as NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports, many challenges still remain before benefits are restored.

    MAN: On this vote, the yeas are 60, the nays are 37.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The drive to restore benefits to the long-term unemployed cleared its first hurdle this morning, as the Senate voted to proceed with debate.

    Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid argued millions of people need the help, and so does the economy.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: Americans use their unemployment benefits to buy food and fuel at gas stations, to pay the landlord or to purchase a child a coat. That's why every dollar we spend on unemployment benefits, I repeat, the economy grows by $1.50.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Six Republicans sided with the Democrats in voting to limit debate on the bill. It provides up to 47 weeks of federal unemployment benefits after state offerings are exhausted. The payments had averaged $300 a week when the program expired Dec. 28.

    This bill would restore benefits to 1.3 million Americans for three months while a longer-term deal is worked on. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he still wants to see the $6.4 billion cost offset. One way, he suggested, is to eliminate new health care subsidies for the poor by delaying the requirement they get coverage.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: I would like to propose that we be allowed, that my side be allowed to offer an amendment to pay for these benefits by lifting the burden of Obamacare's individual mandate for one year and take care of our veterans who were harmed by the recently agreed-to budget deal.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Reid was quick to knock down McConnell's proposal, while leaving the door open to spending cuts elsewhere.

    HARRY REID: He wants to pay for them by whacking Obamacare. That's a nonstarter. So if they come with something that's serious, I will talk to them. But, right now, everyone should understand, the low-hanging fruit is gone.

    KWAME HOLMAN: All of that as President Obama met with people who've lost their jobless benefits. He welcomed the Senate vote, but said it's just a first step.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: All they have agreed to so far is that we're actually going to be able to have a vote on it. They haven't actually passed it. So we have got to get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay. And we need the House of Representatives to be able to vote for it as well. And it's -- that's the bottom line.

    (APPLAUSE)

    KWAME HOLMAN: That may not be easy. In a statement, Republican House Speaker John Boehner warned, even if it passes, the Senate bill has little chance of reaching the House floor.

    He said: "Another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for, but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the president has offered no such plan."

    Nonetheless, Senate Democrats pushed forward for a second key procedural vote some time this week.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The high rate of unemployment is one of many challenges that the new chair of the Federal Reserve will face when she takes over next month.

    Janet Yellen, the first woman to head the Central Bank, was confirmed by the Senate last night. She has already made it clear that joblessness is one of her main concerns.

    We take a closer look at how she may change things as she tries to navigate some tricky terrain.

    Michael Hirsh has written about the Yellen agenda for National Journal, and Gillian Tett writes on these matters for The Financial Times.

    And welcome to you both.

    So, Michael Hirsh, to you first. As we just said, Janet Yellen has made it clear she worries a lot about unemployment. What more do you expect -- do we expect her to do as chairman of the Fed about that?

    MICHAEL HIRSH, National Journal: Well, I think that the main thing is this has been the grand passion of her life and her career as an economist, if you look at what she has written.

    She comes out of a very activist tradition, the Keynesian tradition of economic thinking that is quite distinctive, I think, from the previous two Fed chairmen, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, both of whom were conservative economists.

    And I think that, based on her writings and some of the things she said in her speeches going back more than a decade, we can expect to see her focus on the employment issue in a way that I don't think we have seen a Federal Reserve chairman do for a while.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And she's in a position to make a difference?

    MICHAEL HIRSH: The important thing about Federal Reserve chairpeople -- I guess we have to use that term now -- is they have an influence that goes way beyond the specific mandate of the Fed monetary policy.

    Their economic thinking is enormously influential, not just in Washington, but around the world. This is the most important economic job in the world and it's said to be the second most important job in Washington, after the president. So I think her four-year term, during that time, we're going to see a lot of testimony, a lot of discussions with Congress that are going to shape perhaps some new thinking on unemployment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Gillian Tett, at the same time she has expressed a lot of worry about joblessness, she is also under pressure to wind down the stimulus program that the Federal Reserve has been engaged in, the bond asset buying, so-called quantitative easing.

    How much tension is there between those two goals?

    GILLIAN TETT, The Financial Times: Well, the reality is, there's rising tension right now.

    And you can see that in terms of the people sitting around the table with her on the Federal Reserve Committee, because opinions are increasingly divided about just how quickly the Fed should change course or not.

    But the key thing to understand about Janet Yellen, as Michael said, is that she's not just the first woman to hold this post, which is remarkable, but she's one of the first Keynesians to actually hold that post. She is someone who really cares a lot about the human face of economics. And as she herself has said many times, for her, unemployment is not just had a bunch of statistics. It's also very much about human lives.

    So, for that reason alone, we certainly can expect her to see -- to take a much softer policy line than some of her predecessors.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Gillian Tett, staying with you, what does that mean we could look for her to do?

    GILLIAN TETT: Well, I think the important thing is what she is not going to do. And I think what she is not going to do is withdraw the stimulus the Fed has put into the economy in the last couple of years in a very rapid manner.

    She is someone who is really looking for a gentle exit strategy that ensures that, although the Fed doesn't fuel the bubble anymore that we have seen in bond prices, that at least it tries to maintain the stimulus and keep the economic machine going.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Michael Hirsh, in connection with all of this, you wrote recently -- and this picks up what you -- what you said -- on what you said a few minutes ago -- that she, for a long time, has advocated a higher minimum wage. Is she in a position to do something about that?

    MICHAEL HIRSH: Not specifically.

    In other words, she -- again, the Fed's mandate doesn't allow her to shape legislation specifically, and she's going to be a little bit wary of getting into Congress' business, because there's been some backlash against some of these Fed policies, one of the reasons that her confirmation vote was as close as it was.

    But I do think that she will have a lot of influence in terms of the kinds of things she says in her biannual -- or semi-annual, rather, congressional testimony, in the kinds of things that she says in speeches, in the same way that Alan Greenspan, over his 18 years at the Fed, and Ben Bernanke, during his two terms, really influenced economic thinking about the response to the crisis and the period before the crisis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Gillian Tett, this is something I know you have written about, about how the -- about how important the communication skills of the Federal Reserve chair can be. How do you see that in connection with Janet Yellen?

    GILLIAN TETT: Well, Janet Yellen is somebody who even two years ago was pointing out that the Fed has already engaged in such extreme monetary policy measures that, frankly, there's not a lot more they can do in terms of actually putting money into the economy.

    Instead, they're increasingly trying to shape how the economy works and how we all expect the economy to work by talking about the future and by trying to persuade people that they're going to take a very easy start for a long time.

    Now, that's incredibly controversial. Some people think this policy, which is called forward guidance, really is just a bunch of voodoo. But, certainly, it means that people are going to be watching what Janet Yellen says very, very carefully indeed, because she is not just describing what is happening. She is also describing how she hopes to see the economy going forward in the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that something that you expect her to do? What do you see?

    MICHAEL HIRSH: Very much so.

    I think the most distinctive thing about Janet Yellen, other than the fact that she is the first woman to lead the Fed, is the breadth of her economic thinking. Bernanke's focus as a scholar was on the Great Depression. Alan Greenspan was very famously a financial economist.

    She is someone who has studied the whole economy and again in a very Keynesian way. She comes out of this activist school at Yale. She studied under James Tobin, who was renowned for his belief in government intervention.

    So, I think you are going to see that reflected in every policy decision she makes. And, as Gillian says, first things first. She is going to have to decide on when to sort of taper back the Fed intervention, which is she is going to inclined to do that less than more.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I was going to say, I think you have also written you expect her to be tougher in terms of regulating -- regulating Wall Street.

    MICHAEL HIRSH: Yes, that's another -- already, she has gotten into turf battles with Dan Tarullo, the Fed governor there, who Bernanke sort of left it to do this.

    She sees that as her agenda, something that she wants to take on personally as Fed chairwoman. So, I think you are going to see her taking a much more prominent role, perhaps even getting into a fight or two with the Treasury Department.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that, Gillian?

    And I do want to ask about the fact that she is the first woman and how that could affect, if in any way, what she does.

    GILLIAN TETT: Well, before I get on the women issue, I just want to point one thing out, which is that she has broad experience.

    The one bit of experience she has not got is direct market experience, and her focus is rather different from her predecessors. She's actually not that focused on the way that market behaves. She cares far more about the real economy, the human face of the economy. And that could bring quite a different tone to the kind of policy debate from what we have seen before.

    Does that have any tie-in with the fact she is a woman? Well, it's very hard to say. I think, however, she does take a much more holistic view about how economic processes work. And perhaps one of the most interesting things of all is that being the first woman to hold this position, suddenly an entire generation of young female economists can look up and think, wow, maybe that's possible.

    And that helps to reshape expectations in many ways. It helps, if you like, carve a whole new face, a new stamp on what economics is about. And actually it may help to encourage more women into the field as well going forward.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why have there been so few women, do you think?

    I'm asking Michael this, but I want to get Gillian's...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, because do you think this can make a difference?

    (CROSSTALK)

    MICHAEL HIRSH: Oh, absolutely.

    I also would note, and I don't think it's just a coincidence, that going back to Brooksley Born, who was the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the late 1990s, tried to take on the issue of over-the-counter derivatives way before the crisis happened, and was slapped down by the men in charge, we have seen women -- Sheila Bair of the FDIC -- come along and really take on Wall Street in a way that frankly not that many men have.

    Gary Gensler is one of the few exceptions. So, it's interesting to see her at the tail end of this. And she represents also what someone described to me as someone who is truly not captured by Wall Street. She has not worked in there. And in some ways, that's a strength.

    And in that way, like Brooksley Born, like some of these other women who have not been part of the Wall Street mind-set, she can stand back and look at it in a very different way than we have seen by some of those inside the power structure in Washington who have previously worked for Wall Street.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Gillian, in just a few seconds, what do you look for?

    GILLIAN TETT: Well, I'm looking for her to certainly provide a new face of economics.

    And there's a great study by Stanford University which shows that when you have a female economic professor in the department, you get a lot more women doing Ph.D.s in economics. So, the fact she is there could certainly help to change the course of economics in the next generation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And those women can go on to become policy-makers.

    GILLIAN TETT: Well, let's see. At the moment, there's only 10 percent of the world central bank governors are women, so there's a lot of ground to catch up. But, certainly, it's a very interesting appointment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Gillian Tett, Michael Hirsh, we thank you both.

    GILLIAN TETT: Thank you.

    MICHAEL HIRSH: Thank you.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Terrorist groups are secretive by nature, using violent attacks to make public statements.

    Tonight, we get a rare look inside a training camp for al-Shabab. That is al-Qaida-linked organization based in Somalia.

    It comes from Jamal Osman of Independent Television News.

    JAMAL OSMAN: In a secret location deep in the Somali bush, I meet al-Shabab, one of the most feared al-Qaida-affiliated organizations.

    This is the jihadist group behind the attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya that left 67 people dead. This is the face they want the world to see. This is the al-Shabab class of 2013.

    Around 300 newly trained fighters have completed a six-month course, the same military training as the Westgate attackers. Today, they are rewarded with a visit from al-Shabab's spokesman, Sheik Ali Dhere. He's the public face of the group and the only one willing to show his face on camera.

    SHEIK ALI DHERE, al-Shabab (through interpreter): To free ourselves, we have to follow our religion. And that means preparing for jihad.

    JAMAL OSMAN: Some Western analysts believe al-Shabab is in decline, but the groups say the Westgate attack proves how strong they remain.

    That's why al-Shabab viewed the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, as a P.R. victory. These terrifying images from the attack show al-Shabab fighters casually walking through the mall as they shoot civilians.

    MAN (through interpreter): They were innocent shoppers going about their daily life. Why target civilians rather than the military?

    MAN (through interpreter): Kenya attacked us. We have said many times, stay away from us. Leave our land, our people. Stop fighting us. We warned them again and again, but they ignored us. So, we had to send a message. Their women aren't better than ours. Their sons aren't better than ours. Their children aren't better than ours. When they kill our people, we kill theirs.

    JAMAL OSMAN: For al-Shabab, the attack has been used to inspire new soldiers.

    MAN (through interpreter): Look at what the Kenyans are facing today. Boys who were like you, had the same training as you. They sacrificed their lives for God and brought huge victory for Muslims.

    JAMAL OSMAN: Highly organized, these latest additions will soon decide which unit within al-Shabab to join.

    Some show off their gymnastic skills to impress Sheik Ali Dhere. The recruits might remain regular fighters, become bomb-makers or work for the Amniyat, al-Shabab's elite intelligence network. But the most popular unit is the suicide brigade, and, believe it or not, there is a long waiting list. Only the best recruits will be accepted.

    MAN (through interpreter): When we fight and are martyred, we hope to be with God in paradise. We are hoping for beautiful women. What are the infidels hoping for? Nothing.

    JAMAL OSMAN: al-Shabab has been designated as a terrorist organization by several Western nations. After losing control of four major cities, the Islamists were thought to have been defeated.

    But they still control large parts of the country and see themselves as an alternative government. This is Bulo Burte, a key strategic crossing point on the Shabelle River. It's an al-Shabab stronghold. It also happens to be the town where one of the Westgate attackers came from.

    The number and identities of the attackers still remain a mystery. Kenyans claim there were only four, but locals here suggest there were more, and some are even believed to have returned to Somalia.

    MAN (through interpreter): Are you going to release the identity of the attackers?

    MAN (through interpreter): We will do that when we choose to. It happened at the heart of their country and the attack lasted days, and they still don't know if our men have escaped or not. How many were there? That shows how weak they are.

    MAN (through interpreter): So, are you enjoying that?

    MAN (through interpreter): We are very happy to see their weakness.

    JAMAL OSMAN: Unlike other parts of Southern and Central Somalia, there is peace here, but it's under al-Shabab's strict Sharia law, although women do go to a school and are allowed to run their own businesses.

    The locals might not agree with al-Shabab's military campaign, but they told me they appreciate them for bringing law and order. I asked local elder Muhammed Bedel what life is like now under the self-appointed al-Shabab rule.

    MAN (through interpreter): It's very good day and night. It's a safe place. We're not afraid. You don't hear gunshots.

    JAMAL OSMAN: I followed the Hizbat, the al-Shabab police, on their beat. None of them would let me film their faces. The first stop was this restaurant, telling the female owner to remove the rubbish from outside.

    Then they make their way to the local hospital, where they check the pharmacy for out-of-date medicine

    MAN (through interpreter): Has your medicine been checked?

    MAN (through interpreter): Yes, it's been checked and passed.

    JAMAL OSMAN: And also the cleanliness of the facilities. They seem satisfied.

    Our final stop is a mini-supermarket where they check product expiring dates. But as soon as they hear the call to prayer, everything stops. People head to the mosque for midday prayer, whether they like it or not. Passing vehicles are pulled over.

    MAN (through interpreter): It's prayer time. Park your car.

    JAMAL OSMAN: The al-Shabab police make sure everyone goes to the mosque.

    MAN (through interpreter): Stand up. You can come back to work later.

    MAN (through interpreter): What are you doing?

    MAN (through interpreter): I'm on my way.

    MAN (through interpreter): Stand up. Let's go.

    JAMAL OSMAN: This butcher is reluctant, but no is not an option. The mosque quickly fills up, with some having to pray outside in the heat.

    It's a good opportunity for al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Ali Dhere, this time in civilian clothes, to drum up more support.

    SHEIK ALI DHERE (through interpreter): It's your duty to deal with the infidels. It's you who should defend Islam. Victory is close, God willing. The infidels have little time left. They are in their 11th hour.

    JAMAL OSMAN: It's an ominous message from a group that says it's been revived and is strengthened by the Kenya attack. They say they will strike again. The question is, where and when?

     

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, we turn our attention to hunger.

    There are 870 million undernourished people around the world, most of them in developing countries. That's according to the United Nations. And at least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages.

    Jeff sat down recently with the woman in charge of combating this chronic problem.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  The World Food Programme is the U.N.'s front-line agency for fighting global hunger, and right now it has its hand especially full, with four major food emergencies, in Syria, with millions displaced and in refugee camps, in the Central African Republic, another conflict area, where the U.N. has warned of potential famine, in neighboring South Sudan in the news recently with an outbreak of tribal violence, and in the Philippines, still reeling from Typhoon Haiyan.

    The World Food Programme is based in Rome. Its executive director is Ertharin Cousin, an American with many years of experience in food issues in the nonprofit, corporate, and government sectors. And she joins us now.

    And welcome to you.

    ERTHARIN COUSIN, World Food Programme: Thank you very much.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  First, the sheer number of emergency situations, how unusual and what kind of challenge is it to deal with them all at once?

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Well, needless to say, it is highly unusual.

    When we created this category of level three emergencies, which the U.N. and the nonprofit community work together globally to ensure that we meet the needs of those who are impacted by the most serious emergencies, we all said, what would we do if we had three of them? And now we have four.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  It's notable that three of the four are conflict areas, civil war, a lot of violence.

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  What kind of challenges does that pose, in particular?

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Well, needless to say, in civil -- in conflict areas, the challenge is that you have war, and you have the inability to access those who are in what we call besieged areas or areas where fighting is ongoing, because it's very difficult for humanitarians to access those -- access those areas to assist the victims of the conflict.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  So take an example of the Central African Republic, one that doesn't get that much attention. What are you doing? What are you able to do? What are you not able to do?

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: In the Central African Republic, we are -- we have said over 300,000 people in -- in Bangui itself, as well as in Bossangoa and the areas -- and in the rural areas of the Central African Republic.

    But the challenge is, there are a lot more people who are in need of assistance that we can't get access to. And a good example of that is that there are 100,000 people in and around the airport itself in Bangui. When we began a feeding program in that area, our humanitarian workers were attacked. And so we had to stop the feeding program.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  So, food is there, but you just can't get it to...

    (CROSSTALK)

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: You can't get to it people because of the ongoing violence in the area.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right.

    You know, we talk about these crises, but in the meantime there's so much more, I know. And I was just reading today about the continuing problem that you are dealing with in Kenya, in refugee camps. And I saw where you wrote, "The world's gaze has turned elsewhere."

    This must happen constantly for you, right?

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Yes, it does. And it's tragic, because you feel as if you're prioritizing one hungry child over another.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  You do -- you feel that personally?

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: I feel that personally, because in Kenya, in Dadaab, where you have Somalia refugees, there are still over 500,000 people in the Dadaab refugee camps.

    And we had to cut rations there, first 10 percent in December and another 10 in January. That means that there are children there that are not going to get the nutritious food that they need.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  You have been at this in many different ways for a long time.

    When does the world pay attention, and when does it not? And when do you get frustrated and when do you not?

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Unfortunately, the world pays attention when the media shines a light on those in need, which is why it's so important that we maintain the global public will that is necessary to meet the needs of those we serve.

    We require investments. The WFP is 100 percent voluntarily funded. And we depend upon the generosity of governments from around the world like the United States, where we receive significant support for our work. But we recognize that there's only so many dollars to go around.

    And what it forces us to do is, when I get frustrated is when I see a situation where we know we can make a difference, but we don't have the resources to support those in need.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And that happens?

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Too often.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Too often.

    Setting aside the immediate crises that we're talking about, if you can for a moment, when you think about the longer-term issues of food security around the world, because I know this is another area for you, is just how do people feed themselves, how does the world feed itself, crises aside?

    What do you think -- what do we need to know or what is not happening that you would like to see happen? 

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Well, the solutions are available to us.

    We recognize that the majority of people who are food-insecure or hungry in the world live in rural areas. And most of them are small holder subsistence farmers. By increasing the development of the agricultural chain, agricultural marketing chain in countries where we serve, we can provide the economic support necessary to those small holders, so that they can feed their families in a sustainable, endurable manner.

    So we know what is required. The challenge is, it's not a one-year solution. It's going to require multiyear implementation of the work that is necessary to support the small holder farmers, so that they can ultimately feed themselves and feed their children and their -- our support is no longer necessary.

    And we know it works, because China is a great example; 50 years ago, when WFP was started, China was our largest country program. We worked to support small holder farmers in China and began to make a difference there. And we know where China is today.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Ertharin Cousin is executive director of the World Food Programme.

    Thanks so much.

    ERTHARIN COUSIN: Thank you for having me.

     

     


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    President Obama shakes hands with a group of people affected by the expiration of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless after speaking in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. Photo by: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    In a surprise move, the Senate voted Tuesday to move forward with debate on extending unemployment insurance benefits, but the legislation is unlikely to advance further unless lawmakers find a way to bridge their differences over offsetting the cost of the legislation.

    The vote was 60 to 37, with six Republicans joining 54 members of the Democratic caucus to advance the bill. But many in the GOP, including some who voted in favor of taking up the measure, are demanding that the $6.5 billion price tag for a three-month extension of benefits be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.

    The Morning Line

    Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he voted to proceed "with the hope that during the debate the Senate will agree to pay for the extension and work to improve the unemployment insurance program so it works better to connect those unemployed with available jobs." He added: "Not paying for the extension adds to the nation's historic debt, causing more uncertainty for the economy and making it harder to create jobs."

    Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said even though he opposes the bill in its current form, he voted to advance the bill because he believes "the Senate should have the opportunity to debate and improve this important legislation." But he warned he would oppose final passage "if Majority Leader [Harry] Reid once again obstructs senators from offering amendments."

    Reid told reporters Tuesday that he would be willing to consider proposals on how to pay for the extension. "If they come with something that's serious, I will talk to them. But, right now, everyone should understand, the low-hanging fruit is gone."

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier raised the idea of paying for the unemployment benefits by delaying the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act for one year, but Reid quickly dismissed the offer. "He wants to pay for them by whacking Obamacare. That's a nonstarter."

    President Barack Obama looked to ratchet up the pressure on lawmakers to pass an extension, hosting an event at the White House shortly after the Senate vote with out-of-work Americans who have lost their unemployment benefits. "The long-term unemployed are not lazy. They're not lacking in motivation. They're coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations," Mr. Obama said.

    He said Congress must finish the job when it comes to restoring benefits to some 1.3 million Americans. "They haven't actually passed it. So we've got to get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay, and we need the House of Representatives to be able to vote for it as well. That's the bottom line."

    Even as the president issued that public call to action, he also continued to work the phones behind the scenes, hoping to win over Republicans on Capitol Hill. The Washington Post's Paul Kane and Robert Costa detail the ongoing outreach by Mr. Obama:

    Obama called at least three key Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) -- in the run-up to the vote, signaling that he is willing to discuss other spending cuts.

    "When he called, the president did not eliminate the possibility of paying for an extension, but he did not get into how exactly he would do that," Collins said Tuesday.

    White House advisers said that Obama is willing to discuss spending offsets only for a ­longer-term extension of unemployment benefits, not the three-month bill under consideration.

    That sets up a delicate negotiation. Of the six Republican senators who voted yes Tuesday -- Collins, Portman, Heller, Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dan Coats (Ind.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) -- five said they were unlikely to support the legislation as it is currently drafted.

    If the president and Senate Democrats are able to reach a deal with Republicans in the chamber, the agreement could still face long odds in the House, where Speaker John Boehner has said that any extension must not only be paid for, but also include GOP job creation measures, such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

    "One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the president has offered no such plan," Boehner said in a statement Tuesday. "If he does, I'll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America's unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job."

    With many states still experiencing high unemployment rates, Republicans leaders are also cautioning their members to show compassion when talking about Americans who've lost their jobs. The Post's Costa obtained a memo sent to House Republicans stating that unemployment is a "personal crisis" for people and that the chamber will give an extension of benefits "proper consideration" if Democrats put forward a plan that is "fiscally responsible."

    The document highlights the delicate balance Republicans face as Democrats continue to push the issue of income inequality heading into the 2014 midterm elections. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last month found that Democrats lead Republicans by a 45 percent to 17 percent margin when it comes to which party shows more compassion and concern for people.

    By focusing the debate on the cost of extending unemployment benefits and whether it should be offset, Republicans stand a better chance of avoiding charges they lack empathy for Americans who continue to struggle as the economy attempts to rebound from the recession.

    The NewsHour aired an overview of the Senate vote on Tuesday night's program.

    GATES ON THE ATTACK

    Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has written a memoir in which he levels sharp criticism of Mr. Obama's leadership, according to a story about the book by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and one by Thom Shanker of the New York Times.

    Among the revelations detailed in the book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War," is the judgment by Gates that the president didn't "believe in his own strategy" when it came to the war in Afghanistan. Gates also recounts what he describes as a "remarkable" exchange between Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which both conceded that their opposition to the 2007 troops surge in Iraq was based upon political considerations for their presidential bids.

    He also describes Vice President Joe Biden, who had helped bolster Mr. Obama's foreign policy credentials when he was added to the presidential ticket in 2008, as "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

    The White House responded to this charge with a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden:

    "The President disagrees with Secretary Gates' assessment -- from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America's leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day."

    Hayden's statement added that the president appreciates Gates' years of service and embraces differences of opinion among his advisers.

    Gates rails against a number of situations in the book, including Congress broadly. Gates writes, from an excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal:

    All too often during my 4½ years as secretary of defense, when I found myself sitting yet again at that witness table at yet another congressional hearing, I was tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot. The exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else. It was, I am confident, a fantasy widely shared throughout the executive branch.

    The Wall Street Journal has rounded up the revelations in this list.

    Aside from promoting his book, Gates is set to become president of the Boy Scouts of America.

    LINE ITEMS

    Politico's David Rogers reports on the progress with negotiations on an omnibus spending bill that would keep the government funded through September. "I'm very encouraged. I think we've made a lot of progress," Senate Appropriations chair Barbara Mikulski told Rogers. "We're within striking distance. I think we're going to get it."

    A slim majority of 51 percent of Americans are looking forward to the mid-term congressional elections this year, the Pew Research Center found in a new poll. Compare that to the 58 percent looking forward to the Sochi, Russia, winter olympics, and the 55 percent excited for the Super Bowl. The Academy Awards and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil don't get nearly as good numbers as the election, with 24 percent and 22 percent, respectively, interested in those events.

    The National Security Agency may no longer want to hold cell-phone data and instead could ask phone companies to analyze information, the Washington Post reported.

    Bitcoin, the controversial Internet currency, has a growing lobbying presence behind it in the political world. Bloomberg News reports Ron Paul's libertarian supporters have gotten behind it, and the Federal Elections Commission has seen Super Pacs emerge that are dedicated to it. At least one member of Congress accepts campaign donations in Bitcoin.

    Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

    Landrieu raises $1.4 mil, has $6.37 mil cash on hand going into '14. $2.25 mil more than this time in 2008. #LAsen

    — Emily Cahn (@CahnEmily) January 8, 2014

    Question: "Any new news on the beard?" Carney: "Incremental growth."

    — Justin Sink (@JTSTheHill) January 7, 2014

    It is so cold in DC, Senators are telling each other Torricelli/Lautenberg stories to stay warm.

    — Mark Halperin (@MarkHalperin) January 7, 2014

    Wow it's cold in the Midwest today pic.twitter.com/TmLLnBz2Pc

    — Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) January 7, 2014

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    — Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) January 7, 2014

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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    By Simone Pathe

    The official poverty rate is 15 percent, but that excludes many Americans. Photo courtesy of Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

    Homeless people without shelter from this week's frigid temperatures. Medicaid patients living out their days in a nursing home. Orphaned kids raised in foster homes. Or Dasani, the "invisible child" profiled in the New York Times five-day spread. Who among them counts as poor?

    Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson announced a legislative agenda to wage "unconditional war on poverty in America." But how do we know what poverty is in America?

    Dip below the so-called "poverty line," and you're in poverty. Sit at or above it, and you're not. Also known as the "poverty threshold," this is the official cutoff the Census Bureau establishes for statistical tabulations of who is poor.

    MORE FROM THE BUSINESS DESK: What's the State of Economic Inequality in America?

    For example, a family with two adults and two children under 18 whose total income is $22,811 is not poor. If the same family makes $22,810, everyone in the household is poor (based on 2011 threshold data).

    Today, 15 percent -- or 46.5 million Americans -- are officially poor.

    Debate over the War on Poverty's success hinges on interpretations of the poverty rate. Liberals argue that the poverty rate would be much higher if it weren't for the government benefits enshrined in Johnson's agenda. Conservatives point out that a 4 percentage point drop from 19 percent poverty 50 years is pretty paltry, while the rate has actually increased from 1973 when it was 11 percent.

    Politics aside, it's almost universally recognized that the official poverty measure (OPM) doesn't paint a complete picture of poverty in America.

    For starters, the OPM is dated. The calculation on which the poverty level is based is the brainchild of one woman, but she never set out to develop a general poverty measure. In 1963, Social Security Administration statistician Mollie Orshansky was calculating a subsistence budget for poor families that grew out of her interest in determining the incidence of childhood poverty, an experience with which she was personally familiar.

    Orshansky's subsistence level was set at three times the 1963 U.S. Department of Agriculture's economy food budget (based on the assumption that families spent one-third of their income on food). That figure was tailored to the size and composition of different families.

    Meanwhile, the Johnson administration had been hunting for a good poverty metric. In 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity, the lead agency of the War on Poverty, adopted Orshanksy's lower threshold to set eligibility standards for federal programs, and adjusted for inflation, that's the same metric we use today as the poverty cutoff.

    The poverty measurement leaves out many people. Unrelated kids under 15 living together (like in a foster home) don't count as poor. Nor do people who live in institutional group quarters (college dorms, nursing homes or military barracks). And in perhaps the cruelest irony, people without "conventional housing (and who are not in shelters)" (i.e., the homeless) aren't part of the official poor.

    But those groups aside, poor is poor, right? You either make enough money or you don't. Actually, the incomes of officially poor people are much more fluid than the "poverty line" would have us believe. OPM counts pre-tax income only. It excludes non-cash benefits and government transfers, like food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which increase the resources poor people have at their disposal.

    The Census Bureau recognizes that the poverty thresholds are not intended to be "a complete description of what people and families need to live." And as we know from our own coverage of what constitutes a living wage across the country, the bare minimum it takes to survive -- or the Self Sufficiency Standard -- varies geographically. The official poverty measurement doesn't account for the difference between stretching $28,000 in Seattle and New York City.

    It's in New York City that an alternative poverty measurement -- one that accounts for the city's high cost of living and quantifies the cost of housing, medical and child care, has gained the most traction. Pioneered by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's poverty researcher Mark Levitan, the measurement includes non-cash benefits of the sort the official poverty measurement excludes in the income thresholds.

    At the national level, the inadequacies of the current measurement have been on Congress' radar since at least 1990, when it appropriated money for a National Academy of Sciences study to assess what was needed for a better measure.

    MORE FROM THE BUSINESS DESK: How Much Do You Need to Survive: An Interactive Guide to the Living Wage

    The result is the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) -- or as The Atlantic's Jordan Weissman dubs it, "the statistic you should really be paying attention to."

    Like Levitan's alternative, the SPM includes a higher income threshold for poverty and it counts non-cash benefits like food stamps, housing subsidies and the EITC as income. But it also accounts for higher expenses extracted from that income. And it adjusts those expenses for geography. The net effect is a 16 percent poverty rate (or 50 million poor Americans).

    But that's only a percentage point higher than the official poverty rate of 15 percent.

    Since the Census Bureau only started releasing the SPM in 2010, it's been difficult to put this supplemental measure in historical context. Until now. Using Census Bureau data, Columbia University researchers created SPM estimates stretching back to the 1960s to show that if poverty were measured the way the SPM is today, the poverty rate would have actually declined since the 1960s more than the official figure suggests.

    Stepping back to Johnson's era, in 1967, the OPM puts the poverty rate at 14 percent. Again, hardly a far cry from today's 15 percent. The SPM for 1967, however, puts the poverty rate at 26 percent. The 10 percentage point drop in the supplemental poverty rate from the '60s to today is a much more significant improvement, defenders of anti-poverty programs argue, underscoring the effect of government benefits.

    With all its inadequacies, the OPM -- exclusive of after-tax and government income and unadjusted for today's consumption patterns -- is still the metric of record.

    As this winter's debate over extending unemployment benefits reminds us, shaking up who gets what in this country is a touchy subject. "There's lots of political concern," said David Grusky, director of Stanford's Center on Poverty and Inequality, "that a change in measurement might precipitate a change in delivery of benefits and allocations." In other words, the threat of that kind of political logjam has been enough to sustain the status quo.

    (On the right, critics of the Census Bureau's new measure think it's flawed because it relativizes deprivation in relation to the living standards of the average American.)

    So the supplemental measure exists as a helpful statistic, but it cannot be used to determine eligibility for government programs or to set policy. The reason the SPM was acceptable in the political sphere, Grusky added, was because it's "a descriptive tool" only.

    Columbia University's Jane Waldfogel, who helped create the historical record for the supplemental measurement, predicts more states will adopt the alternative measure as a supplement. But she cautions that using the SPM to determine eligibility may prove more complex than using today's more universal thresholds. There's simply more data, and more geographic variance, in the SPM. Still, she added, "we'll get there. We'll get there eventually with a measure like this."

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


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    Norman Mailer was a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, a journalist and a political candidate. He was a celebrity with a macho reputation and quite a public persona. But, according to his long-time friend and literary executor J. Michael Lennon, at the heart of Mailer was a highly ambitious man with something to say about America.

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    "We are going to see what the circumstances allow, but certainly we are exhorting the Syrian government to intensify its efforts so that we can conclude this critical part of this mission absolutely as fast as the conditions allow."

    Michael Luhan, spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, speaking Wednesday in the Hague to news that the first shipment of weapons precursors left Syria yesterday.

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    This week, a new study from the University of Washington shows that despite widespread knowledge of the negative health effects of smoking, the number of smokers worldwide has increased by hundreds of millions in the last 30 years.

    Fifty years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General released a landmark report on tobacco use and its effect on health. Today, that report is credited with educating the public about the dangers of inhaling tobacco smoke, and along with other anti-smoking measures, helping to save 8 million lives.

    But as smoking has decreased in developed nations, it has expanded dramatically in the developing world.

    A new study on global tobacco use, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed the prevalence of daily smoking by age, sex and the number of cigarettes each person smoked per day in 187 countries from 1980 to 2012. While the percentage of the world population who smokes has declined, the total number of smokers increased, from 721 million in 1980 to 967 million in 2012.

    The report shows that the average smoker consumes about 18 cigarettes per day--a number that has stayed consistent since 1980. But the number of cigarettes smoked globally has gone from 4.96 trillion in 1980 to 6.25 trillion in 2012.

    While the report found that the number of women who smoke has decreased over the last 30 years, the rate at which men smoke has increased since 2010. In some countries, including Armenia, Russia and Timor-Leste, more than 50 percent of men smoke.

    Smoking in the U.S. has been cut in half. Only 16 percent of all Americans smoked in 2012, down from about 30 percent in 1980.

    The most pressing health risks, the study warns, are in countries that have high prevalence and high consumption. These include China, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Korea, the Philippines, and several countries in Eastern Europe. The study calls for intensified tobacco control policies to counter the increasing number of smokers in these countries. More regulation may be on the way. China's health ministry is reportedly planning a public smoking ban to go into effect by the end of this year.

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    Thanks for the good luck call @VP@JoeBiden. Join me next time? pic.twitter.com/XmcZvDkYZC

    — Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) January 8, 2014

    Former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords made a literal jump in her recovery to mark three years since the shooting in which she was seriously wounded.

    A jump out of a plane.

    Followed by a crew from the TODAY show Wednesday, Giffords went skydiving -- a pasttime she used to enjoy before her injury -- claiming it as the latest step in what has been a long road to recuperation.

    "It's been step by step since I was shot three years ago," Giffords wrote on Facebook. "I've overcome a lot. Progress has come from working hard. Today, I grieve, I remember, and I take another step. I'm stronger now. I'm winning back movement in my right arm. So I have the opportunity to do something I love: skydiving with my friend, former Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch. Southern Arizona will look beautiful, peaceful from the top of the sky."

    Giffords was shot alongside 18 other victims in a January 8, 2011 shooting during a meeting in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed in the attack. Giffords resigned from Congress in January 2012 to focus on her recovery.

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    If you've been trapped inside these past few days while the polar vortex swooped through North America, you've probably burned through your bookmarked YouTube clips and binge-watched "Breaking Bad" on Netflix. We don't blame you.

    But next time you're holed up and have a laptop or smartphone handy, let us be your guide. Here, we have compiled some of the best science YouTube channels:

    MinutePhysics

    MinutePhysics was Henry Reich's solution to teaching physics to tired undergraduates. While earning his masters in physics, Reich found it was easier for him to explain concepts to his students if he drew them. And the time-lapse, hand-drawn stick figures of MInutePhysics was born, answering viewers' burning science questions and teaching YouTube about what happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force, why the full moon is brighter in the winter and why there is no pink light.

    AsapSCIENCE

    Canadian biologists Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown started their channel in 2012. Both studied biology at the University of Guelph. Brown started teaching science, while Moffit went on to work in labs. They wanted to make science accessible for people who didn't get to learn the "really awesome things" about science in school, as Moffit put it. They started with a list of questions that they found interesting or that their friends had asked them.

    For example, if you want to find out whether the chicken or the egg came first or why silent farts are deadlier, this is your channel.

    The Big Scoop

    Emily Graslie will show you the coolest and the grossest things inside the Chicago Field Museum. Her vlog dissects specimens in the museum's collection. Whether it's opening the stomach of a wolf or explaining how animals with four legs walk, she gets into the fascinating species and scientific knowledge in the museum. Now the "Chief Curiosity Correspondent" at the Field Museum, she got her big break by appearing in a VlogBrothers video while she was a curatorial volunteer at the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum in Montana.

    Fair warning: they can get a little gross. Viewer discretion advised.

    Veritasium

    Derek Muller does physics on a jetpack. He has a Ph.D. in physics and is the Canadian host of the Australian show Catalyst. His vlog focuses on physics, including what makes up a flame and how a transistor works.

    Quirkology

    This channel is all psychological mind tricks. Professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain shows you how your eyes and brains deceive you, and teaches bets that you will win every time.

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    Traffic moves over the Hudson River and across the George Washington Bridge between New York City, right, and Fort Lee, New Jersey. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    Update 5:01 p.m. EST

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie released a statement responding to the report:

    "What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions."

    Emails obtained by media outlets Wednesday showed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's office was tied to lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in September, causing a week-long traffic nightmare.

    The emails "provide the strongest indication yet that it was a part of a politically motivated vendetta -- a notion that Christie has publicly denied," according to the New Jersey newspaper The Record.

    E-mails linking Christie aide to George Washington Bridge lane closures by The Washington Post

    For four days starting on Sept. 9, 2013, two of the three access lanes connecting the New Jersey town of Fort Lee to New York via the double-decked George Washington Bridge were unexpectedly closed, hindering emergency response crews and delaying school buses on the first day of school. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, did not endorse Christie, a Republican, in the gubernatorial race, which fueled speculation that the lane closures were a form of political retribution.

    Sokolich told The Wall Street Journal he was being punished for something he didn't do. "This is the behavior of a bully in a schoolyard," he said. "It is the greatest example of political payback."

    The emails show that Bridget Kelly, a Christie deputy chief of staff, encouraged the Port Authority to cause gridlock for the town. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," she wrote to David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority. He promptly responded, "Got it." Wildstein resigned in December ahead of the legislative hearing that investigated the lane closures.

    Another New Jersey mayor also accused Christie's administration of political retaliation this week. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop claimed several meetings with state officials and Cabinet members were canceled the day he said he would not endorse Christie's re-election.

    Christie, who has presidential ambitions, has repeatedly denied the lane closures were a form of retribution. "[Sokolich] was not somebody that was on my radar screen in any way, politically, professionally, or in any other way until these stories came out in the aftermath of the closing," Christie said in a December press conference. His administration has said the lane closures were part of a Port Authority traffic study.

    H/T Bridget Bowman


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    GWEN IFILL: Today, much of the U.S. began easing out of the deep freeze that's claimed 21 lives since Sunday. Temperatures in the Midwest and east pushed into double digits, but still stayed well below freezing. That kept many school districts, including Indianapolis and Detroit, closed for a third day.

    In Western New York, residents were under a state of emergency after 36 inches of lake effect snow fell overnight. The blizzard closed parts of two interstates and led to a travel ban.

    The state of Utah will not recognize same-sex marriages performed since Dec. 20, at least not for now. Governor Gary Herbert announced the decision today. It affects roughly 1,400 couples who married after a federal judge struck down Utah's ban on gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court has put the judge's ruling on hold while the state appeals.

    The White House today rejected criticism by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In a new memoir, he says the president wasn't committed to the Afghan war and that Vice President Biden was wrong on nearly every key issue. In an apparent show of support for the vice president, officials invited news photographers into the leaders' usually private weekly luncheon. And spokesman Jay Carney followed up.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and he has been an excellent counselor and adviser to the president for the past five years. He's played a key role in every major national security and foreign policy debate and policy discussion in this administration, in this White House.

    GWEN IFILL: Carney also dismissed the Afghan war criticism. He said the president believes thoroughly in the mission. We will talk to a Washington Post reporter who's read an advance copy of the Gates memoir right after this news summary.

    The number of countries with the ingredients for nuclear bombs has dropped by almost a quarter in the last two years to 25. The Nuclear Threat Initiative reported today that seven more countries have given up all or most of their weapons-grade material since 2012.

    The advocacy group also found the U.S. ranks number 11 of the 25 nations on nuclear security.

    In Iraq today, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed to eradicate al-Qaida in his country, as the army prepared to assault militants holding the city of Fallujah. In a national broadcast, Maliki also hinted at the possibility of amnesty for any gunmen who surrender.

    PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI, Iraq (through interpreter): I call upon all those who are involved or who have been lured to take part in the terrorism machine led by al-Qaida to return to reason, and we will open a new chapter to settle their cases.

    GWEN IFILL: Tribal leaders in Fallujah also urged the al-Qaida fighters to leave, and a special U.N. envoy warned food and fuel supplies in the city are running out.

    The same al-Qaida group came under new attack today in Syria by rival rebel groups. Activists reported a coalition of other fighters captured the main al-Qaida base in the northern city of Aleppo. The infighting could pose even greater security problems for teams rounding up Syria's chemical weapons. We will talk to the special coordinator of that effort later in the program.

    New York State moved today to legalize medical marijuana on a limited basis, the 21st state to do so. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order to let 20 hospitals dispense the drug for victims of cancer and several other diseases. Cuomo previously opposed legalization, but came under political pressure to reconsider.

    Last-minute business helped boost holiday sales 2.7 percent from a year earlier, not counting online business. The data firm ShopperTrak reported today it was slightly better than expected, in part because of heavy discounts. The number of shoppers who actually visited stores fell more than 14 percent.

    And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 68 points to close at 16,462. The Nasdaq rose 12 points to close at 4,165.

     

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As secretary of defense for both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, Robert Gates oversaw critical moments in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He would emotionally address the troops in the field, but back home showed a stoic public face.

    Gates opens up about his frustration with the presidents he served and the Congress he had to testify before in a new book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War."

    He writes of one meeting in 2011 with Mr. Obama and General David Petraeus, who then commanded military forces in Afghanistan:

    Quote: "As I sat there, I thought the president doesn't trust his commander, can't stand Karzai, doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his. For him, it's all about getting out" -- end quote.

    When it came to Congress, he writes -- quote -- "I would listen with growing outrage, as hypocritical and obtuse American senators made all of these demands of Iraqi legislators and yet themselves could not even pass budgets" -- end quote.

    We expect to interview the former defense secretary next Tuesday.

    But, for now, we turn to Washington Post staff writer Greg Jaffe, who covered Robert Gates and has read an advance copy of the book.

    Greg Jaffe, it's good to have you with us. Thank you.

    GREG JAFFE, The Washington Post: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you did get the book early. And you covered him for his entire five years under both presidents. What mainly stands out in this book?

    GREG JAFFE: Well, the thing that stood out to me most was just the emotional toll that the wars took on him and that the casualties took on him.

    You really get an unvarnished sense of that. And we could see it in glimpses covering him. I wrote in the review of the book that I did about one of those kind of glimpses. But to really see it and hear it in his own voice kind of page after page is striking. And it is a burden that you could tell he still carries with him today and seems to be sorting through in this book.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, you -- I think you said in your review the book reads in a way like an extended therapy session for him.

    GREG JAFFE: Yes, I kind of felt that way, yes, in the sense that it can be a little bit self-contradictory. It kind of doubles back on itself.

    On the one hand, you think, hey, if he had given himself a little bit more time and a little bit more distance, it would have been a more rational book, maybe a better argued book. But there is a power and an emotion to writing it when he did. You know, it's really -- it does read like a therapy session at times.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you write not only the contradiction in himself, the contradictory views of other people. On the one hand, he praises President Obama for being decisive, for being...

    GREG JAFFE: Courageous.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: ... courageous, bold to make the decision on Osama bin Laden, but then on the other hand, as we just heard, really being hard on him for his handling of Afghanistan.

    GREG JAFFE: Yes.

    And that's -- I thought that that was an example of an argument that he doesn't quite deliver as well as he should on. You know, he criticizes the president for not believing in the strategy, but also concedes that it was a courageous move to back the surge and that it was a politically unpopular move.

    So it's not completely rational to me. If the president doesn't believe in it, why did he do it? And part of what I kind of wondered was, I mean, it seemed at times that Gates felt like the president -- his frustration with the president is that the president doesn't feel the same passion, the same sort of sense of obligation, the all sort of consuming guilt at times, and that therefore he must be missing something.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Gates, of course, had spent a lot of time or time when he could with the troops themselves, when he would go over there.

    GREG JAFFE: Certainly, yes, and certainly spent almost every night of his tenure as secretary of defense writing condolence letters, which he -- a task he took with great seriousness.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You also write at one point in your view, you said you can't imagine between President Obama and President George W. Bush two more different men. What does he say about President Bush?

    GREG JAFFE: You know, he's very complimentary of President Bush, at least as my recollection of it.

    He does concede that when he joins the Bush administration, President Bush has been president for six years, and that that is, you know, a different mind-set. But he is very -- he's very quick to praise President Bush's decisiveness and his passion, particularly with regard to the Iraqi surge.

    He describes him as sort of having no second thoughts on that surge, nor any second thoughts on the Iraq war overall. And that's something that I think Gates finds commendable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congress, he is very tough on. Is that just from having to go testify as often as he did?

    GREG JAFFE: I think so, and just sort of the divisive political nature of Congress today. You know, I think he longs for a day of greater bipartisanship.

    But I think part of it is just his own personal frustration that he is so engaged in these wars. And I think he is just frustrated with Congress that they don't feel the same. Again, they don't feel the same passion, the same commitment that he does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And his really tough comment about Vice President Biden, that he has been wrong on every foreign policy.

    GREG JAFFE: For four decades.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For four decades.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GREG JAFFE: Yes, it's interesting on that, though.

    This is where I -- the therapy session stuff comes in, that he's very critical of Biden on that. He's very critical of Biden for suggesting that he sowed discord between the president and the uniformed military by sort of subjecting the president to Chinese water torture, as he calls it, that you can't trust your generals.

    But then, at the end of the book, he also kind of comes around and says, well, on Iraq, there really wasn't that much of a difference between my position and Biden's position, you know, maybe 10,000 troops, and that I should have done more to build bridges, rather than be as defensive as I was.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Greg Jaffe, how does he judge himself?

    GREG JAFFE: You know, that's a good question.

    I think he sort of -- that's why I thought he is kind of wrestling through it. I mean, he is critical of himself in the book. And it's written in his voice. He didn't use a ghostwriter. And it's clear. And I mean that in a good way, in a sense that it sounds like him and it feels like him.

    And I think he is still wrestling through with that. I think he's very proud of the Iraq surge, but I think he does feel a certain amount of guilt at the suffering that the war has caused.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Greg Jaffe with The Washington Post.

    And, as we mentioned, we will be talking with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates next Tuesday.

    Thank you.

    GREG JAFFE: Yes, thank you.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Chemical weapons are finally being shipped out of Syria. But getting the stockpile of raw materials for poison gas and nerve agents destroyed has proven to be a uniquely complicated challenge.

    Even as chemical weapons leave Syria, the deadly conventional war continues. Outside Damascus today, men rushed to rescue children trapped in rubble after an airstrike blasted a house. More explosions in Latakia province, where military helicopters buzzed overhead, dropping possible barrel bombs. Miles away, in the port city of the same name, chemical weapon ingredients are arriving from across the country, brought by Russian armored vehicles.

    But fighting has slowed the shipments, which were supposed to begin last month. A Danish ship finally departed yesterday with the first batch, nine containers believed to hold about 700 metric tons of precursors for creating mustard and sarin gas.

    MICHAEL LUHAN, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons: We're happy to see that there is finally movement.

    GWEN IFILL: Today, the group overseeing the effort, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, noting the delay, urged the Syrian regime to pick up the pace.

    MICHAEL LUHAN: Certainly, we are exhorting the Syrian government to intensify its efforts, so that we can conclude this critical part of this mission absolutely as fast as the conditions allow.

    GWEN IFILL: Under a U.N. plan, naval vessels from a number of countries will escort the chemical agents to an undisclosed port in Italy. There, they will be transferred to a U.S. Navy ship, the Cape Ray. It's been outfitted with a special chamber that heats chemical agents and renders them inert.

    The U.N. has given Syria until the end of June to destroy its chemical arsenal and everything associated with it.

     


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    GWEN IFILL: Joining us now to assess the challenges that remain is Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator for ridding Syria of its chemical weapons.

    Sigrid Kaag, thank you for joining us.

    It seems to me the challenges are military, they are diplomatic, they are logistical. Let's start with the military challenge. How are you manning to get these chemical weapons out of Syria when the country is still at war with itself?

    SIGRID KAAG, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons: No, absolutely.

    I mean, the security challenge is the way I would describe it, of course, is twofold, is the conditions in country overall that hinder access for us as joint mission staff for verification and inspection, but also pose an imminent threat to the safety and security of any convoy.

    Yesterday was the first such convoy of containers from two different sites to Latakia for onward transportation, as you just described in the program. However, the situation remains very volatile. And the security is the overall responsibility of the for Syria Arab Republic. It can be a hindrance and it can pose an ongoing tremendous risk, both for the operation, as well as for ourselves as staff.

    GWEN IFILL: Would a cease-fire be helpful or even possible?

    SIGRID KAAG: Obviously, a cease-fire is ultimately very desirable, I think also from a human perspective to have access.

    What has often happened is that, on a practical, by-arrangement basis, it is feasible that -- that armed opposition groups may be advertised that a joint mission staff need to be in the area, and if obviously there could be a temporary cessation of hostilities.

    The government, on the other hand, of course, needs to do its utmost to secure both the sites at all times to avoid any of the chemical agents falling in the wrong hands, and at the same time also secure the safety and security of joint mission personnel, who come from both and the OPCW and the U.N., hence the name the joint mission.

    GWEN IFILL: How many countries are we talking about involved in this?

    SIGRID KAAG: Oh, it's quite a huge and unique international effort.

    If you look at just the sheer donation side, in terms of logistics or other physical items that are needed for packing, loading containers, a lot of European countries, United States, Russian Federation, People's Republic of China, Denmark and Norway in terms of the vessels, but a lot of other countries have donated financing as well. And, of course, when we're looking at the destruction side that takes place, both of the U.S. vessel the Cape Ray, but also the commercial destruction of the chemical effluents, many more countries are involved.

    So, it is unique. It is also unprecedented. And, as you just highlighted, it is not without challenge.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned a moment ago about the cooperation or the needed cooperation of the Syrian government itself. And earlier today, you described it as constructive. Can you elaborate on that?

    SIGRID KAAG: Yes, constructive is a term we have used from the beginning.

    The secretary-general has often referenced that as well. And it's basically a reflection of how the corporation has been going from the day the joint mission was established and the mandate was given also by the Security Council. At all levels, we work at a technical level, at a more political level, my level, looking at problems, advancing solutions, but always making sure that we from a joint mission perspective keep our eye on the ball, which is the very timely, safe and secure elimination of the chemical weapons program.

    It requires a lot of investments by the Syrian authorities, staff time. They need to secure the roots, they need to make sure the convoys do take off, packaging, and obviously readiness for onward transportation. Yesterday, in Latakia, for instance, we know -- my team was there, of course. We saw that the whole area had to be secured.

    The port authorities are involved. Many, many other national staff members in Syria are also engaged in this effort. So cooperation is measured in many different ways. It's very practical, very tangible.

    GWEN IFILL: When you talk about removing these weapons, first of all, what kinds of chemical weapons, what kind of munitions are we talking about, and how do you then destroy them?

    SIGRID KAAG: Actually, the types of weapons, I'm not privy to discuss, because actually we are bound by a confidentiality agreement.

    Syria has declared its chemical weapons program, including its arsenal, to the OPCW. And all this is governed by a confidentiality agreement. So I will speak on the generics.

    We all know from media reports that there are the worst kind, and then there are those products that if combined can do terrible and inflict horrible harm on human beings. There are, however, sort of the separate types of products. The destruction takes place in two ways. The worst possible kind of chemical agents will be taken to the U.S. vessel. It will be destroyed.

    The reactive mass that remains after destruction will be taken off the ship again and will be transported to different companies who have tendered for commercial destruction. And the second category of chemical agents which will also be transported out of country can actually head straight towards different companies who have successfully obtained the tender to basically destroy them by normal commercial route.

    And that happens a lot of the time across the world. We just don't know about it.

    GWEN IFILL: We know that this is supposed to be completed, at least that was the deal, by June. Is that going to happen?

    SIGRID KAAG: That's the intent.

    And I think it's certainly our ambition level. And also in my briefing today with the Security Council, it was very clear that the council expressed a collective desire and wish to see this program completed in a safe and secure manner and in a timely manner.

    And all things being equal, security conditions in country, of course, being the big unknown at any given point in time, I think we have all reason to believe that the program can be continued -- can be completed as planned.

    GWEN IFILL: Sigrid Kaag at the U.N., thank you so much.

    SIGRID KAAG: Thank you.

     


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