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

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    In 2013, renowned performer Rita Morena spoke with former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez about her life in show business and self-titled memoir.

    Rita Moreno is the only Latino American to win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and an Oscar. And on Saturday, the 82-year-old actress will receive a new award: the Screen Actor Guild (SAG) Life Achievement Award.

    Moreno was born Rosita Dolores Alverio in small-town Puerto Rico during the Great Depression. She headed to work as an entertainer at 13 and was on Broadway and Hollywood before she was 20. Still working today, Moreno is best known her roles in "The King & I," "Gypsy" and as Anita in "West Side Story." It was that final film role that earned her the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

    In October, Moreno sat down with former NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez to talk about her recently published memoir and what like and work in Hollywood was like as a Hispanic actress.

    "I have played Polynesian. I have played an Arabian girl. I played an East Indian girl. And what was so confusing about that, which I mention in my book, is that I assumed I had to have an accent," said Moreno.

    "Nobody said anything, so I made up what I call the universal ethnic accent, and they all sounded alike. It didn't matter who I was playing."

    Times have changed in Hollywood, with more roles for more diverse actors. "The door is certainly more open than it was for [Latino Americans]," said Moreno, but she thinks the film industrry could stand to change even more.

    "I'm still waiting to see an actor or actress of Hispanic descent being offered a role that is worthy perhaps of an Oscar nomination ... our people, our actors have yet gotten something that's really very, very strong and meaningful."

    Rita Moreno also spoke with NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels in September 2011 about "Life Without Makeup," her then-new solo show about her life on stage.


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    Young smokers. Photo by Valentin Ottone. The Surgeon General's office issued a report Friday stating that if current trends continue, 5.6 million of today's children and teens will go on to die prematurely because of smoking. Photo by Photo by Valentin Ottone

    The Surgeon General's office has significantly expanded the already long list of diseases caused by smoking cigarettes to now include diabetes, arthritis, liver and colorectal cancers, birth defects such as cleft palate and cleft lip, and more.

    In a 980-page report issued Friday, acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak and his staff outlined the latest research, which for the first time draws a direct correlation between cigarette smoke and the development of said diseases. The research does not suggest that all cases of these illnesses are the result of cigarette smoke, but it does say that smoking increases the risk of developing them.

    The announcement came at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1967 Surgeon General's report which first declared smoking a human health hazard. At the event, Lushniak noted the efforts to reign in the use of cigarettes -- only 18 percent of adults smoke compared to 42% in 1964.

    But he also reminded the public of the toll cigarettes have taken over the last 50 years: "Since the first surgeons general report in 1964 over 20 million premature deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking. Today the annual death toll from smoking is approaching 500,000 per year," he said. "Enough is enough."

    The report also cautions that the government may not meet its goal of reducing its rate of adult smokers to 12 percent by 2020. According to the report, nearly half a million people will die from smoking-related diseases this year. And if current trends continue, 5.6 million of today's children and teens will go on to die prematurely because of smoking.

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    BREAKING: Police say two students have been shot at a Philadelphia high school: http://t.co/SU3LR1nUQO

    — The Associated Press (@AP) January 17, 2014

    The Associated Press reports a boy and a girl were both shot in the arm at Delaware Valley Charter School, located north of Philadelphia. The two shooting victims were transported to a nearby hospital and both are in stable condition.

    The shooter is suspected to be another student at the school and has not been apprehended.

    UPDATE: 4:51 p.m. ET

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the school is in lockdown and most of the students have been evacuated. There are reports that the suspected shooter was seen running off of the school grounds. The Inquirer reports that it is unclear if the shooter had any affiliation with the school.

    UPDATE: 5:13 p.m. ET Philadelphia police report they have apprehended the suspected shooter at his home.

    UPDATE: Police say they've captured a boy who shot two students at a Philadelphia high school gym: http://t.co/XLdxNQmQGw

    — The Associated Press (@AP) January 17, 2014

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    Sergei Filins, the Bolshoi ballet's chief, wears sunglasses and a cap as he attends a press conference at the University Hospital of Aachen on March 15, 2013 in Aachen, Germany, where he was being treated after an acid attack, one year ago. Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/AFP/Getty Images

    The year 2013 did not begin well for Sergei Filin, artistic director of the Moscow-based Bolshoi Ballet. Last January Filin suffered a viscous acid attack, masterminded by a jealous Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko. The acid caused third-degree burns and severely burned his eyes, almost completely eliminating his vision. Dmitrichenko was sentenced in December to six years in prison.

    PBS NewsHour explored different theories on the motivation for the acid attack on Sergei Filin. Watch Gwen Ifill's conversation with The New York Times' Michael Schwirtz. (This segment originally aired on March 6, 2013.)

    For Filin, who has returned to the Bolshoi, and his dancers, 2014 will hopefully be focused on their performances instead of drama offstage. The Bolshoi plans to tour Washington and New York this year. It will perform "Giselle" at the Kennedy Center May 20-25 and then will perform several ballets, including "Swan Lake," "Don Quixote" and "Spartacus" at the Lincoln Center Festival in July 12-27.

    Wonder what makes the Bolshoi such an iconic ballet company? Watch NewsHour's profile of American dancer David Hallberg, who joined the Bolshoi as a principal dancer in 2011 and learn more about the legacy of the company.

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    A 2009 photo shows an execution room at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Photo by Getty Images

    An Ohio man on death row took more than 25 minutes to die in an execution on Thursday morning. Prison officials reportedly used a drug combination previously untested in the United States to kill Dennis McGuire, a convicted murderer and rapist.

    The episode at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville has sparked debate over the use of lethal injections in the United States. Some say the botched procedure on Thursday amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The group Ohioans to Stop Executions released a statement calling for an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in the state in light of the incident.

    According to a report from The Columbus Dispatch, McGuire gasped, struggled and choked for about 10 minutes before silencing and eventually succumbing.

    Records show the execution was the longest in the state since Ohio resumed capital punishment 15 years ago. The next longest execution took 22 minutes. Most inmates took 15 minutes or less to die.

    McGuire was put to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of Joy Stewart, who was 30 weeks pregnant at the time of her murder. At 22, Stewart was a newlywed.

    Some of Stewart's family members were present to watch the execution. Responding to the ire surrounding the incident, they released a statement saying McGuire suffered far less than Stewart had the night of her death: "There has been a lot of controversy regarding the drugs that are to be used in his execution, concern that he might feel terror, that he might suffer. As I recall the events preceding her death, forcing her from the car, attempting to rape her vaginally, sodomizing her, choking her, stabbing her, I know she suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her."

    McGuire's lawyers attempted to block his execution last week, warning that the untried drug cocktail could lead to a medical problem called "air hunger," making the victim unable to absorb oxygen.

    Many states are developing new lethal injection cocktails after European drug manufacturers stopped selling drugs for use in executions.

    The injection formula had been approved for use by a federal court.

    H/T Sarah Sheffer

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: After months of leaks and growing criticism, President Obama laid out surveillance reforms today. He said the National Security Agency must no longer be the storehouse for phone metadata that it collects. And he promised an end to spying on allied leaders. We will hear some of what the president said, and have reaction, right after the news summary.

    Later in the day, the president signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that puts an end to the budget wars for now. He held the ceremony before employees of the Office of Management and Budget. The bill funds government operations through the rest of the federal fiscal year.

    A Mississippi man accused of sending poisoned letters to the president is pleading guilty after all. James Everett Dutschke changed his plea today at a federal court hearing in Oxford, Mississippi. He was charged with mailing letters tainted with ricin, a highly toxic substance, to the president, a U.S. senator and a judge.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency, amid the state's worst dry spell in 100 years of record-keeping. Reservoirs are drying up and snowpack in the mountains has dropped to 20 percent of normal.

    Speaking in San Francisco today, Brown appealed for voluntary water conservation and he left open the possibility of making it mandatory.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN, D-Calif.: We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation, and people should pause and reflect on how dependent we are on the rain, on nature, and one another. And I'm calling for a collaborative effort to restrain our water use. I'm also setting in motion easier water transfers.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The parched conditions are also fueling wildfires. One blaze burned today in the foothill suburbs northeast of Los Angeles, keeping thousands of people away from their homes. The fire was 30 percent contained.

    Scores of bushfires raged out of control in Southern Australia today, fueled by high winds and a searing heat wave. The combination fanned the flames, forcing hundreds of people to flee. At least one person was killed there. Police officials say at least a dozen of the fires were intentionally set.

    The Syrian government has floated an offer to negotiate a partial cease-fire and prisoner swap with rebels. Syria's foreign minister presented the offer today as he met with the Russian foreign minister in Moscow. It came just before scheduled peace talks in Geneva next week.

    In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry warned, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must agree to give up power.

    JOHN KERRY, U.S. Secretary of State: There is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he's going to be part of that future. It's not going to happen. The people who are the opponents of this regime will never, ever stop. It will be a low-grade insurgency at least, at worst, potentially even a civil war, if it continues, because they will not stop.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, the main Western-backed opposition group met today on whether to attend the Geneva conference. Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, will have more on all of this later in the program.

    Pennsylvania's attempt to impose a photo I.D. requirement for voters has run into a legal roadblock. A state judge struck down the 2012 law today. He ruled the statute -- quote -- "doesn't further the goal of free and fair elections," as Republicans had argued. The ruling likely will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

    Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma will retire at year's end, with two years left in his second term. In a statement, Coburn said he's shifting his focus elsewhere. He said a recurrence of prostate cancer didn't affect his decision. Coburn is 65 years old. He's been a fierce advocate of cutting federal spending. His announcement is the latest in a spate of congressional retirements in recent days.

    The Surgeon General's Office has significantly expanded the already long list of diseases caused by smoking. Today's announcement follows the 50th anniversary of the 1964 report that formally declared smoking a human health hazard.

    Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak said cigarettes are still killing people.

    DR. BORIS LUSHNIAK, acting U.S. Surgeon General: Since the first surgeon general'S report in 1964, over 20 million premature deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking. Today, the annual death toll from smoking is approaching 500,000 per year.

    The science has revealed, in stark clarity, that common disease such as diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and colon and rectal cancer are also caused by smoking. Enough is enough.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lushniak called for more aggressive action to make the next generation of Americans smoke-free.

    The company involved in the West Virginia water crisis filed today for federal bankruptcy protection. Freedom Industries owns the plant that leaked a chemical into the Elk River last week. The contamination cut off water to some 300,000 people in Charleston and nine counties. Officials began restoring water service in stages on Monday.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 41 points today to close at 16,458. The Nasdaq fell 21 points to close at 4,197. For the week, the Dow gained a .01 percent; the Nasdaq rose half-a-percent.

    The last Japanese soldier to surrender after World War II has died at a Tokyo hospital. Hiroo Onoda hid out in a Philippines jungle for 29 years after the war ended in 1945. He finally emerged in March of 1974 and returned home to Japan and a hero's welcome. Later, he became a rancher and even ran a children's nature school. Hiroo Onoda was 91 years old.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now we look in-depth at the president's surveillance speech today at the Justice Department.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As a president who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can't help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The president presented a measured defense of U.S. surveillance, and he largely left the operations intact, citing a presidential advisory panel.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale, not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.

    KWAME HOLMAN: At the same time, Mr. Obama sought to reassure the public by calling for several changes.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Chief among those reforms, the National Security Agency would continue it's sweeping collection of phone call information, or metadata, but it would no longer store the data.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.

    KWAME HOLMAN: A review panel has recommended the NSA shift control of the phone data to phone companies or to a third party, but the companies are resisting.

    The president said he's giving Attorney General Eric Holder and the intelligence community 60 days to study the options. He further said he wants to inject new perspectives into the workings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the body that oversees terrorism investigations.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

    KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama's speech was intended first and foremost to address Americans' concerns about surveillance and individual privacy. But it also was directed at global audiences, who have joined in the debate and criticism on the scope and targeting of U.S. surveillance.

    In October, the world learned the U.S. has monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone calls and those of other allied leaders.

    Today, the president banned such eavesdropping.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue, I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.

    KWAME HOLMAN: He also noted, however, that leaders some of the countries who've criticized American intelligence-gathering are relying on the data themselves to protect their own people. And he didn't hide his disapproval of Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor whose leaks exposed U.S. surveillance efforts to the world.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: The sensational way in which these disclosures had come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in way that we may not fully understand for years to come.

    KWAME HOLMAN: After the speech, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman the Judiciary Committee, voiced support.

    He said in a statement: "I commend the president for taking important steps to maintain our national security, while protecting privacy rights and civil liberties, both here and abroad."

    Some civil liberties advocates said the reforms don't go nearly far enough. But, in his own statement, Republican House Speaker John Boehner warned the opposite may be true.

    He said: "When considering any reforms, however, keeping Americans safe must remain our top priority. When lives are at stake, the president must now allow politics to cloud his judgment."

    That sets the stage for congressional debate and action already on tap for this year.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So did the president rein in the NSA enough, too much, or perhaps is it too early to tell?

    We got two views.

    John McLaughlin was the CIA deputy director and then acting director during the George W. Bush administration. He now teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. And Kate Martin is the director of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties advocacy group.

    So, Mr. McLaughlin, I want to start with you first. First, your reactions on today's speech.

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, former acting CIA director: Well, I think the president did a very good job of talking about the NSA in the context of American intelligence and explaining to the American people why what they do is important.

    I think he also made an important statement that needed to be made by a senior official in telling the American public directly from the president that the NSA doesn't read all of your e-mail, the NSA doesn't listen to all of your phone calls, because that -- that perception is alive out there.

    So I think he did a good job on those scores. Where I would comment, though, is that, as I listened the speech, I think the phrase or two that kept coming to my mind is the devil is very much in the details here. And we will have to wait and see whether the major changes that he proposed on the metadata collection program and particularly also on the insertion of privacy advocates into the judicial process, whether these ultimately help, hurt or make no difference whatsoever in the effectiveness of our intelligence collection.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Kate Martin, your initial thoughts?

    KATE MARTIN, Center for National Security Studies: Well, I thought that he made two very significant improvements to the current system, which I think in the long run will help our intelligence, as well as our civil liberties.

    And that was to recognize the serious risks involved in government collection of bulk data on Americans and announce that, at least on the 215 program, that that would be ended, and, secondly, to recognize the importance of having a judicial order before the NSA asks for information on Americans.

    And the government, you know, for the last 25 years has taken the position that the government doesn't need a judicial order to get third-party records like these telephone records. And now this president has recognized that the technological changes of the last 20 years have increased both the intelligence capabilities but the risks of government intelligence activities, and moved to address both of those.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. McLaughlin, will this change to Section 215, the cell phone collection data or phone record collection data that everybody is so concerned about, will it make a difference?

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Well, again, it depends a little bit on the details.

    If you want to move this information, as he proposes, into some hands other than the NSA, the first question you have to ask is, is that the safer alternative than leaving it with the NSA? And I challenge the basic premise that there is a danger or a threat to Americans' privacy by the NSA holding this material.

    All of the investigations so far have uncovered no abuse. They have uncovered no illegality. And part of the NSA's mission and its expertise is actually protecting information. I don't find that private entities, whether it's my phone company or Internet services I deal with, are all that good at protecting my private information.

    The NSA is. I don't feel threatened at all and I don't think Americans should feel threatened by having this information held by the NSA, despite this perception. So I think how that's done is -- there may be a way to do it that gives everyone the assurance the information is safe, secure and protecting their privacy. But we will have to see the details of that, because I don't think it's really challenging their privacy to you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ms. Martin?

    KATE MARTIN: I think the president's review group outlined the real risks that our history has shown us when the government has access to information about Americans, that the government is tempted and an administration can be tempted to use that information for improper purposes to skew the democratic process.

    And the fact that the NSA hasn't done that in the last seven years is no, you know, assurance that it won't happen in the future, especially if you go back just as early as 2001 and 2002. You have the clear example of the -- a White House going to the NSA and saying, collect on Americans, never mind the legal restrictions. That just happened.

    And we have, in my lifetime, in your lifetime, the example of the government, the NSA and the other intelligence agencies collecting on the civil rights movement, et cetera, in order to discredit those movements. And so the review group said to the president, that's the risk of the government creating enormous databases of information on Americans.

    And you can accomplish the intelligence that you need to get without creating such government databases. And I think the president correctly recognized that that is what he needs to do and is going to do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. McLaughlin, what about these steps that he has tried to outline about increasing transparency, at home and abroad, saying that I'm not going to be spying on other world leaders and I'm also really going to be starting to extend protections for citizens around the world similar to protection that citizens have here in the U.S.? Does that increase our risk?

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I don't think it increases our risk, necessarily.

    And, as usual, the president's speech was a very lawyerly one. I think, if you look at the language carefully, as the chief executive, he always has the option of making an exception if he finds that it is in the national interests to take a look at some foreign country that he's taken off the list here.

    One thing I would suggest is that we ask foreign countries for reciprocity, because we will be the only country in the world that is that careful in monitoring the activities and intentions of other countries, although he was quite clear to say we will continue to collect on the foreign policy and other intentions of countries.

    But I don't have any problem with him taking our close partners off of that list, and providing he knows -- and I'm sure he does -- that he can always make an exception. If one of our partners, for example, is debating policy on something like Iran sanctions, and it's not possible to get a straight answer from them by just asking, it may be quite likely that the president will want to know, well, what are they really thinking?

    But if he -- as a matter of principle, I think he's not done anything harmful here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about those -- those efforts to increase transparency, including asking privacy advocates to really the table, say, well, is this policy going forward, how do you help to define it and decide it?

    KATE MARTIN: Well, I think one of the things the president rightly acknowledged was that the 215 program had been adopted and implemented in secret, without any, as he said, vigorous public debate.

    And I hope that he sticks to his promise that we need to have a public debate on what the extent of government surveillance should be, and what safeguards are adequate, and that this is the beginning of that. And you can see Congress is already engaged in it.

    The changes that the president has ordered today are only the beginning of what needs to happen, in our view. And he -- and we do need more information about the large number of bulk collection programs that the NSA and other parts of the government are currently engaged in on Americans' personal information.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Kate Martin, John McLaughlin, thanks so much for your time.

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Thank you.

    KATE MARTIN: Thank you.

     


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Obama administration announced earlier this week that enrollment in the insurance exchanges picked up last month after a troubled rollout. More than 2.2 million Americans picked an insurance plan by the end of December.

    But, even as many are watching how that effort is faring, the American health system is just starting to grapple with the difficult questions of costs and quality.

    Judy Woodruff has a conversation on that issue taped earlier this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: No matter how you feel about the health care law known as the Affordable Care Act, many experts agree we are entering a critical time that will test ideas about what may or may not work when it comes to changing the health care system.

    While much of the debate surrounding Obamacare centers on coverage and penalties, parts of the law are designed to see if costs can be reduced and spending slowed down further.

    One large insurer, Kaiser Permanente, has already incorporated into its model some of these ideas, including an emphasis on prevention, a greater use of electronic records, and changing how doctors are paid, including coordinating how patients are treated through team care. Kaiser employs 17,000 doctors, owns more than 35 hospitals and has annual revenues of $50 billion.

    Its record has been the subject of both praise and criticism.

    And its just-departed CEO, George Halvorson, has had a distinct voice in all of these issues. He is out with a new book titled "Don't Let Health Care Bankrupt America." And he joins me now.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    GEORGE HALVORSON, former CEO of Kaiser Permanente: Thank you for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, this new health care law has rolled out. And you have a unique perspective on it. Unlike most Americans, you have been involved in health care management your entire career. You just, as we said, stepped down from running the nation's biggest nonprofit health care and hospital system.

    What does it look like to you?

    GEORGE HALVORSON: Well, we are the only industrialized country that hasn't covered everyone. Everything else has universal insurance.

    And we are way overdue. This is the right thing for us to do. We need to cover everyone. We are now in the process of rolling out an attempt to do that, and there have been a few challenges in the process. It hasn't been entirely supported and it hasn't been done perfectly, but it is directionally very correct. This is the right thing to do.

    We do need to cover everyone. And we need to get this right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you have said that you think, eventually, it will be better for Americans. But you have also said not enough has been done to address the costs on it.

    GEORGE HALVORSON: Well...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean by that?

    GEORGE HALVORSON: If we cover everyone, and it's still unaffordable, then that's still going to be a major problem for the country.

    So we need to bring down the cost of care. We need to make care more affordable. We need to make care better. We need to have better care outcomes. We need to have the health care business system focus on improving care. And right now, the way the system is set up, it basically rewards bad outcomes. It rewards infections.

    The system is set up in a very perverse way. And, as a result of that, we spend way too much money on care, and we don't get the outcomes we deserve.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is an example that people could identify what you just said, that too much is spent on the wrong thing?

    GEORGE HALVORSON: Well, we -- right now, 1.7 million Americans go to the hospital every year and get an infection that they did not have the day they went to the hospital.

    That shouldn't happen. And those infections are very profitable for most of the care delivery system. Right now, patients get pressure ulcers in hospitals. Those pressure ulcers shouldn't happen. If we are focusing on the best care for the patients and doing it in a systematic way, we can cut pressure ulcers down to almost zero. But we don't do it because there is no reward in the system for doing that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I think you yourself have acknowledged some of the steps that have been taken with regard to prevention haven't always ended up in bringing the cost down as much as -- as much as you had expected it would.

    GEORGE HALVORSON: Sometimes, the prevention doesn't bring the costs down, but what it does do is it prevents an illness. And that is all by itself a good thing.

    If we can cut the number of diabetics in half, that's a huge benefit to everyone who isn't diabetic. And if we do the right things, we can cut the number of diabetics in half and we can bring down the cost of care. So, we need to focus on doing systematic things to identify people at high risk, and then we need to support those people in minimizing their risk.

    And that can be done, but, right now, what we do is, we reward the opposite. When someone has a congestive heart failure, we pay a lot of money to the care system for that. But if that same organization prevents the failure by intervening with the patient, helping the patient, making sure they get the right medication, they don't get paid for it.

    And so we have a very perverse set of incentives, and we need to change the incentives around. And when we change the incentives, care delivery will follow the incentives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The coordinated -- the kind of coordinated care that Kaiser Permanente has in many ways pioneered in this country has been praised, as we said, by many.

    It's also -- you also hear from patients, well, I don't want to be having to work within just a specific network of doctors and hospitals. I want to be able to choose whoever I go to.

    How do you deal with that?

    GEORGE HALVORSON: Well, a couple of things.

    One is, the patient satisfaction levels at Kaiser Permanente are very high. K.P. wins all of the Medicare standards, all the ratings on care quality and also satisfaction. J.D. Power rated K.P. as the highest satisfaction level.

    So, part -- one way you deal with it is by making sure that if you have a limited number of caregivers, that they are doing a really good job meeting patient needs. But patients do want choice. And it's fine for patients to have choice. That's a good thing, as long as the caregivers they choose have information and have data and have best practice.

    And if the caregivers they choose have all of that, then you're going to have a better outcome. Right now, the death rate for cancer can be three or four times higher if you go to wrong care system, and patients don't know that. We need that information to be available to the patients.

    And that is what the book says. The book says, we need data for the patients to make meaningful choices. And if we put the data out there, the caregivers get better as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, a question about what the country has been through in terms of watching the rollout of this new health care law.

    Concern -- do you have concern that people are, many people are now so soured on this whole experience that it's going to be very hard for them to accept the idea of any more substantive changes in our health care system?

    GEORGE HALVORSON: Well, we need to get this one right. We need to finish the job, and we need to get the exchanges working.

    And we need to get this particular set of reform working. And I think then, when that happens, people will regain confidence. But you're right. Right now, there have been so many errors, that the people -- confidence is confidence is shaken. And the only way to restore that is by getting it right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we're going to continue this conversation online.

    For now, George Halvorson, thank you very much.

    GEORGE HALVORSON: Thank you.

     


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: It's been three years since a case of polio has been reported in India, a milestone that means the country can be officially declared polio-free.

    NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro updates a report he filed on how this was accomplished.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In India, the battle against polio is being fought one mouthful at a time. Vaccinators have fanned out with coolers containing vials of the oral vaccine on a scale befitting a nation of 1.2 billion, says Lieven Desomer, a campaign strategist for the U.N.

    LIEVEN DESOMER, UNICEF: One national round, we reach almost 75 million children, 150,000 supervisors, 1.2 million vaccinated.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They look for families especially at bus and train stations in the populous northern states, where polio is most endemic.

    They look for young children, making sure first to check their pinkie fingers, where an indelible ink is placed once a child is immunized. Thousands of times, with little fuss, each vaccinator has administered the two-drop dose of vaccine. As a result, India, one of four countries where polio is still endemic, may soon become free of it.

    It's easier to see how India can be a breeding ground for polio. Hundreds of millions of people lack proper sanitation, conditions that allow the virus to spread, usually attacking children, causing paralysis in some victims and in a few cases death.

    In addition, it's difficult for public health workers to track the movements of India's huge nomadic and migrant populations. On any given day, 19 million people are on a train somewhere in India. That's why experts say the huge drop in polio cases -- they were up to 150,000 a year in the '80s -- is remarkable.

    LIEVEN DESOMER: I have to pinch myself once in a while to really realize that we actually -- we're almost there. And, for me, it's amazing being here, because it's part of history. We are making history here.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Desomer is with UNICEF, with, along the World Health Organizations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Rotary International, partnered with the Indian government in the multi-year $2 billion-plus campaign.

    He says a few years ago, many impoverished communities resisted the vaccine.

    LIEVEN DESOMER: These were communities which have not benefited from all the progress in India. And they have no roads, no clean sanitation. And they would usually campaign to say, you can reach us with a drop of vaccine. Why can't you reach us with education and health and good water and sanitation? So, that is one thing.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So they were suspicious?

    LIEVEN DESOMER: They were quite suspicious.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Suspicion that the vaccine wasn't what was claimed was particularly high among India's Muslim minority.

    Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, imam of the Fatehpuri Mosque in substantially Muslim Old Delhi, says memories are still vivid of coercive attempts by the government in the '70s to sterilize people here.

    MUFTI MUKARRAM AHMED, Imam (through interpreter): People thought that in the polio vaccine, they placed some medicine to sterilize people. They think that just like in the time of Sanjay Gandhi, when sterilization operations were going on, they think now, instead of doing operations, they can just give this medicine to the Muslim community and our men and women will not be able to have children.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He was among many religious leaders who were approached by doctors and the U.N. agencies, reassured of their intentions, and brought on board to endorse the polio campaign.

    Also coaxed in were Bollywood megastars like Amitabh Bachchan. In this TV spot, he angrily tell parents to put aside excuses like the fear of caste or religious discrimination and immunize their children.

    AMITABH BACHCHAN, actor (through interpreter): Have you lost your mind?

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: His co-star in the ad, Shahrukh Khan, is Muslim.

    SHAHRUKH KHAN, actor (through interpreter): His anger is justified. What's the connection between caste or religion and polio? Any child can get this disease. That's why I too have vaccinated my kids against polio. Now you please go and do the same.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Perhaps the most significant buy-in that helped the polio campaign came from the government at all levels, according to this Dr. Hamid Jafari with the World Health Organization.

    DR. HAMID JAFARI, World Health Organization: The government of India has funded the largest chunk of this program, you know, up to $250 million each year, which is unprecedented compared to other countries.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The government declared that any polio virus citing must be treated as a public health emergency. Jafari says that allowed for vigorous surveillance and response. Old reports of paralysis in children were investigated.

    HAMID JAFARI: In 2011, nearly 60,000 cases of acute flaccid paralysis were reported and investigated. And only one of those cases, the one that had onset on January 13, we were able to isolate polio viruses -- virus. The other cases were due to non-polio causes of acute flaccid paralysis. So that tells you how sensitive the civilian system is.

    And there are international standards. And those standards are now being exceeded.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says the big lesson from India for Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, three other countries where the virus is endemic, is that polio here became a huge, widely publicized national cause, much more than a public health campaign.

    HAMID JAFARI: You're talking about community leaders, religious leaders, academic leaders, opinion leaders, so just getting -- really turning it into sort of a national movement, so that everybody feels that they are part of this movement.

    It's not only just the health department that has to deliver on this. And I think that's the kind of tipping point for Nigeria and Pakistan. I mean, these two countries have done a lot of good work and have made a lot of progress. It's what it is going to take to bring them to the tipping point where India is now.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Government officials say they next want to use the polio system and teams to tackle other relatively neglected diseases, like measles. Longer-term, the challenge is to build basic sanitation and education systems, things that can prevent disease in the first place.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Fred's reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary's University in Minnesota.

     


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: As the United States and others prepare for next week's so-called Geneva II talks aimed at bringing a political resolution to the conflict in Syria, it's still uncertain whether the country's main opposition group will be attending. The Western-backed umbrella Syrian National Coalition is currently meeting in Istanbul to vote on whether it will go.

    Joining me now to tell us more about the state of play and how the group's decision will affect peace prospects is chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner. She will be in Switzerland covering the talks for us next week.

    So, is it going to be a full house or is half at the party at the negotiating -- negotiation table not showing up?

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes, or if -- if the talks take place.

    I just talked to somebody at this meeting. And, as you said, Hari, they were supposed to meet, the Syrian Opposition Council, or National Council, to decide today in Istanbul whether to go. They didn't even start meeting until 10:00 p.m. And that's a sign of the divisions inside.

    So I just talked about 45 minutes to a member who stepped out to take the call, who said, we are in total disarray.

    They are having an argument right now for the last three hours about what constitutes a quorum. I said, what?

    And he said, well, a third of our members have walked out, the ones that represent the sort of local governing boards on the ground. He said, and another big chunk, which is a different group, which I won't -- I will spare you the acronym -- has said, if the vote is to go, then we're walking out, because we're opposed to going. So, he said, we'd be down to only half our members.

    Now, the group that walked out initially has promised to consider returning at 11:00 tomorrow. But he said, we're going to have to debate. We would be down half our members. Do we have to waive the quorum requirement or redefine it?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what is the argument against going or attending these talks at all?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, the argument for going, first of all, is: Our main patrons, the U.S. and Europeans, want us to go, and this is the way forward they sketched out.

    The arguments against it are: One, by sitting down with the Syrian regime, they say we would legitimize the Syrian regime, which we have insisted they need to -- Assad needs to go.

    Two, as far as the Syrian opposition has been told, and the U.S. has said over and over, Secretary Kerry said it again today, the whole idea of this is this is based on this first Geneva I convention they had a year-and-a-half ago, is to create -- begin creating a transitional governing body that would be without Assad, to pave the way for a new kind of government.

    Well, the Syrian foreign minister put out a letter -- or it was leaked actually this week -- in which he didn't -- he accepted coming, but he didn't accept that at all as the basis for it. He said it was to discuss fighting terrorism in Syria, which, of course, by which, he means all the rebel groups.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    MARGARET WARNER: Finally, the opposition fears that they will essentially go and be sold down the river, because you have got Russia really backing Assad. And, meanwhile, they see the U.S., in their view, as being almost too neutral, and that they're just saying, oh, why don't these parties sit down and have a conversation, and that the U.S. will be satisfied with smaller gestures, like a partial cease-fire or humanitarian access.

    So, there is a lot of resistance within the opposition that they may be walking into a trap.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, speaking of that cease-fire, we're starting to report Syria is making an offer.

    Why would Syria make an offer of a cease-fire or a prisoner swap now?

    MARGARET WARNER: I think it -- sum it up to Russian pressure.

    Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Lavrov met in Paris this week. They have ongoing conversations all the time. And, essentially, Secretary Kerry urged Lavrov to lean on the Syrians to do this. And the Russians are playing the long game.

    That is, it's sort of akin to when the Russians persuaded Assad or told Assad it was time to give up his chemical weapons after that horrible attack last August. It -- the Russians understand that the world is looking on at starving -- we ran an incredible tape last night, these starving children, the aerial bombardment, these so-called barrel bombs, and that, in a way, by agreeing to a partial cease-fire, to let some humanitarian aid in, that it is a way of taking a little of the heat off.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And would the rebels on the ground accept a cease-fire?

    MARGARET WARNER: That's a really good question, because, first of all, let's say this non-fighting group that is meeting in Istanbul goes, and they at the same time urge the rebels to accept this.

    It's -- there's no guarantee the rebels on the ground will actually carry it out. I did talk to someone here who is pretty close to one of the fighting forces -- you know there are many, many fighting forces -- who said they don't trust the way the Syrian government uses cease-fires, that, in the past, what they have done is make a big declaration, but then they have all kinds of conditions about where they allow the cease-fire, which aid gets through and which aid doesn't.

    Do the people in the area that aid gets through to have to surrender whatever autonomy they have? So they don't trust it. That said, this one person said to me, if Assad agrees, we can hardly say no, because then we will look to the world like we're the obstructionists and we're the ones letting our own people starve or be killed from overhead.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, considering there's all these different factions on the ground, who represents them at the table, and if there is not that quorum, does the U.S. go anyway?

    MARGARET WARNER: Great questions.

    One, even if this opposition group goes, they don't actually represent the fighting forces on the ground, and a lot of the fighting forces have said they don't want a bunch of civilian exiles up there in Geneva making a deal, all right?

    So, one, they don't really represent the fighting forces. And, two, right now, publicly and to anyone I talk to privately, the U.S. refuses to even accept the proposition that the opposition may not come. So, Secretary Kerry has hinted, even in public, that, you know, if the opposition coalition doesn't come, the U.S. may or the Europeans may wash their hands of them. He hasn't said it in so many ways.

    But they are their main patrons. And the U.S. has asked the Saudis to use their pressure on this group. But I think we all have to hope that the administration does have a plan B just in case that happens.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Margaret Warner, thanks so much.

     


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight: the analysis of Brooks and Marcus.

    But, tonight, we have a surprise host.

    GWEN IFILL: That's right.

    Judy's off, so I thought I would sneak in for a little pre-"Washington Week" news analysis from Brooks and Marcus. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is off tonight.

    So, we get to play in their absence.

    So, David, today, we -- a very newsy week. Today, we saw the president's speech on privacy and surveillance and the NSA. Did he go far enough?

    DAVID BROOKS: He went not very far.

    You know, he had -- he sort of said, I feel your pain, you people who are worried about NSA surveillance, you people who are worried about the invasion of privacy. I get it. I sort of see the argument.

    But, ultimately, the president represents an institution. And he gets a daily intelligence brief. He represents the intelligence community. And you could tell today that he basically is grateful to that community, basically has a great deal of faith in that community.

    And so he more or less sides with them on most issues, not on all issues, but on most issues. And I think they until have a fair...

    GWEN IFILL: Did he feel -- or did he succeed in making the case that they are essential, Ruth?

    RUTH MARCUS: I'm going to actually disagree with David here...

    GWEN IFILL: Ah.

    RUTH MARCUS: ... and say that I think the president went significantly further than you're either giving him credit for or acknowledging.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: And I think there are a lot of people in the intelligence community who are not happy with this outcome.

    It's -- he is -- he always does these things in a very measured way: I see this argument. I see that argument.

    But, in this case, he did a few things that are really important. First of all, he -- from my point of view, the most important is that he brought the FISA court into the process of this metadata review. I'm a big proponent of judicial review. I think that is a very big change.

    I think another, we don't know exactly how it's going to happen yet -- another change, I'm less convinced that it's essential and I'm also not convinced that it's doable, is the thought of taking this metadata and taking it out of government hands, putting it back into private hands.

    GWEN IFILL: The third-party idea.

    RUTH MARCUS: I'm a little queasy about that, given that Target apparently can't keep my credit card data. I'm not sure if I -- look, there is a risk in the government having all this data. And, to some extent, the NSA is apparently very unhappy with this idea.

    They kind of only have themselves to blame, because they weren't clear enough about this program, transparent enough about what they were doing, willing to discuss it before Edward Snowden thrust it out into the open.

    But I do think that, while the president certainly didn't do all the things that the civil liberties and privacy community wanted him to do, there are some pretty big steps here, and I haven't even listed them all.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: Well, one of the things is he certainly was able to say, we're not going to spy on our friends anymore.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right. And that, I think, is -- there are two issues here. One is, do we accord people who are not U.S. citizens constitutional protections? And that, I am little queasy about. But simply on the prudential matter of spying on our allies, that was just...

    RUTH MARCUS: On foreign leaders.

    DAVID BROOKS: On foreign leaders, right.

    RUTH MARCUS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: That was just stupid. And so whether we are extending rights or not, I don't care about.

    It was as a prudential matter for our own good. It is just insulting to them. And so there, I thought the gesture was absolutely right. More broadly, it depends how we are grading how much he moved. So, if we are grading by the advisory panel that issued these recommendations a couple weeks ago, he didn't go there. He want some way there, but he didn't go there.

    And I would say one thing is going to happen. Fearless prediction. As the snooping technology gets better and better and better, people are going to get more and more nervous. The president -- successive presidents are to the going to move as much, because the intelligence community, they are beholden to them.

    GWEN IFILL: But, before that...

    DAVID BROOKS: And we will have a clash.

    GWEN IFILL: But, before that happens, doesn't Congress have to play along with some of his ideas? And have we seen that happening a lot?

    RUTH MARCUS: No.

    (LAUGHTER)

     RUTH MARCUS: And this is a really complicated question.

    There are certain things that the president can do by executive order or fiat and just order. There are other things, like bringing these privacy advocates into the FISA court to a certain extent -- not as much as the panel recommended -- that he is going to need congressional help on.

    And let's just think about how hard it is to get Congress to agree on, say, a spending bill. We got one this week. That is going to be a very raucous debate. And it's going to be hard to do anything legislatively.

    David brings up another really interesting point about the president's suggesting that he was going to treat non-U.S. citizens in some senses equivalently or at least level the playing field with the protections that U.S. citizens get. He wasn't very clear about how he is going to do that. And there is in all of these speeches a little bit of a "I haven't quite completely baked the cake and we're going to figure it out down the road" quality.

    So, I think it is really important for all of to us keep our eye on the ball as it really emerges and develops.

    DAVID BROOKS: There is a lot of Gitmo -- Gitmo here, where...

    RUTH MARCUS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: ... we're going to close it, but we haven't figured out how to do it.

    RUTH MARCUS: So, I'm appointing a panel to look at it. Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. So, we should put the NSA hearings, put them in Gitmo.

    GWEN IFILL: And in the end, Congress may decide that they don't really want to go along with your plan proposing on where the prisoners should go, which is what we saw again this week. I want to move on to Benghazi. The headline was Benghazi, the uprising, the killing, the sad assault that took the lives of Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, was preventable. So, after looking at the report and seeing what all sides have had to say about it, was it?

    RUTH MARCUS: Yes. You read the report, and you want really to cry, because there is warning after warning after warning.

    You see the security situation in Libya deteriorating. You see General Ham of the African Command offering repeatedly to Chris Stevens, do you want me to leave these forces with you to protect you? And, simultaneously, the embassy is asking for -- Stevens is saying no to that, but simultaneously asking for additional help from State. It is not forthcoming.

    It's just a tragic moment of -- not just because the committee concluded that it was preventable, but some of the ways in which it was preventable, we knew after the embassy attacks back in the '90s.

    GWEN IFILL: So, if it could have been prevented, whose fault it that it wasn't, David?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Not Hillary Clinton's, to be fair. The political bottom line of this...

    GWEN IFILL: She was secretary of state, State Department.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    No, but this is an operational matter. You are not expecting the secretary -- in my view, to be fair, the secretary of state is not in charge of something this, frankly, low-level, this operational. She's in charge of the larger policy agenda. So I do not think -- if you want the political bottom line, it will be a talking point in the campaign, I'm sure.

    Whether it will be an effective one, I'm extremely dubious of that.

    GWEN IFILL: This wasn't the end of this discussion?

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it was closer to the end than the beginning. I think we're getting toward the end of the whole Benghazi...

    (CROSSTALK)

    RUTH MARCUS: I think we're getting to the end of endlessly debating the talking points and word changes in the talking points.

    I don't think, for the obvious reasons, that we're getting to the end of the Hillary -- "Was Hillary Clinton responsible?" debate, though I agree with everything that David said about what the role of a secretary of state is. It's not to figure out what the security posture of an outpost is.

    GWEN IFILL: But how much of the keeping this alive, just politically, is about keeping a weapon to wield against Hillary Clinton?

    We saw TIME magazine this week had her on the cover, or at least a leg that looked like her on the cover, and the title was, "Can Anyone Stop Hillary?" Obviously, Benghazi is one of reasons -- things they want to use to stop her.

    DAVID BROOKS: Have we ever met a voter who is going to vote on Benghazi? No, I really don't think so.

    I mean, it is an issue. It is a thing. If she's going to be stopped in the primaries, it's going to be because there is a challenge from the left, which I think is a very plausible 20 percent possibility. And if she is going to be stopped in the general election, it is just because of health care.

    So, you know, it's always important when you think about elections, just picture on -- the two or three big issues. And this ain't one of them.

    RUTH MARCUS: And the people who are going to rail about Hillary Clinton and dereliction of duty in Benghazi, they're not her voters anyway.

    GWEN IFILL: And not only that, but we remember President Giuliani may have been on the cover of a couple of these magazines a couple of years ago.

    DAVID BROOKS: Also in high heels.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: I looked at the TIME cover and I thought, what took you so long? It's already January 2014, guys.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: Two more years to go.

    OK, let me talk to you a little bit about what happened both in Iran -- or with the Iran negotiations. In fact, it seems like Congress is digging its heels in on this idea of sanctions. And there may be enough votes to stop John Kerry and his plan to come up with a deal. How serious is that?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    Well, if you think the Kerry deal is the end-all and be-all of the greatest ago of diplomacy since, I don't know, Metternich, then you are in mourning, because it is under some threat. I thought it was -- what Kerry is doing is worth trying, but always had a very low probability of success.

    And I think that is a view shared by a lot of people who are actually doing the deal. And so I don't think it's a great threat. And the Iranians are not doing it because we have made them feel good. They are doing it because the sanctions are actually working.

    And I sort of do buy the argument that a lot on Capitol Hill are making, that to have an extra layer of sanctions, an extra threat of sanctions, a little nastiness from the U.S., actually does further the possibility, which is remote, that Iran will not get nuclear weapons.

    RUTH MARCUS: I think that the notion that sanctions are in the air, additional sanctions are in the air, that Iran has come to the table, if it leaves the table without having concluded a meal -- I am going to torture this metaphor -- that it's going to end up worse off than it was previously is very healthy.

    So it's kind of good that there's this Sturm und Drang. It wouldn't be healthy, I don't think -- and I think some of the momentum for this is dissipating, especially in the Senate -- it wouldn't be healthy to have a new sanctions bill pass, even if it were one that would take effect only if everything blows up six months from now.

    GWEN IFILL: There was some talk that this week, when Senate Democrats went to the White House, that the president had a martini with an olive and he was talking to them, obviously trying to get them to back away from this idea.

    Is there anything he can do or say to Senate Democrats, members of his own party, to make them not do this?

    RUTH MARCUS: Please?

    GWEN IFILL: Please? Maybe.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: What -- he doesn't -- he doesn't scare them. They're mad at him for the health care debacle.

     

    He can make an argument. And I think, look, this is a serious issue of foreign policy. This isn't sort of building a bridge and doing some pork spending. So, I think he can make the argument. And I think he did have some impact there, but not so much sort of, do it for me, guys.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Chuck Schumer is in leadership, and he's not doing it. He's got his position, which is against the administration.

    GWEN IFILL: This is not about loyalty, you don't think?

    DAVID BROOKS: No. No.

    GWEN IFILL: Before we go, I want to talk -- we have seen what feels like a rash of retirements happening on Capitol Hill, at least three members of the House. And, today, we hear Sen.Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, because of health reasons, is stepping aside two years early. Is it a rash? Is it an exodus that we're seeing, or is this just typical? And does it matter?

    RUTH MARCUS: I think it's pretty typical.

    I think it doesn't matter, in the sense of none of these retirements that we have seen in the last week or so are apt to tip the balance of power in either the House or the Senate. I think it matters in the sense of, we are having -- ending up with an extraordinarily inexperienced Congress, people who haven't had a lot of time in office, don't know how the place works, don't know each other.

    Forty-six percent of House Republicans have been there for three years or less, 43 new senators since 2008. This is one of the newest, newbiest Congresses.

    GWEN IFILL: Newbiest?

    (LAUGHTER)

    RUTH MARCUS: I don't know.

    GWEN IFILL: That was good.

    RUTH MARCUS: Thank you.

    Save me from that, David. Take it away.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, OK.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: So, let's talk about the oldsters what are leaving.

    Now, one of the ones I admire is this guy George Miller, a House liberal, very liberal Democrat.

    GWEN IFILL: Nancy Pelosi's right hand.

    DAVID BROOKS: But most important is maybe the only member of the House who really understands education policy, and so a lot of human capital there, and sometimes taking votes on education policy very independent of what you would think of as the liberal party line on that issue.

    And so what you are losing is people like that for a bunch of Ruth's newbies.

    GWEN IFILL: But Tom Coburn...

    RUTH MARCUS: They're not my newbies. They're your newbies.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: Dr. No, you don't think that is a loss?

    DAVID BROOKS: No, I -- just because I mentioned...

    GWEN IFILL: Well, I'm trying to...

    DAVID BROOKS: No, so, Coburn is -- again, he has expertise on spending. He's got expertise on health care.

    So you are losing -- if you want term limits, you Are sort of getting it de facto. And if you don't want term limits, which is the intelligent position, you are in a bit of mourning.

    GWEN IFILL: OK.

    Well, thank you both very much. I think you just got me warmed up.

    I'm headed over to Washington Week, where we will tell you what really happened behind the scenes on all those topics and more...

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: ... on air and online.

    That's later tonight right here on your PBS station.

     


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  • 01/18/14--06:37: What we're watching Saturday
  • U.N. staff, IMF official killed in Kabul suicide attack

    A Taliban suicide bomber and gunmen killed 21 people at a restaurant in Kabul on Friday evening. The International Monetary Fund's top representative in Afghanistan and three U.N. staff members were killed in the attack.

    According to police, thirteen foreigners, including two U.S. citizens, died in the attack. The Americans killed were American University of Afghanistan employees.

    Egyptian referendum results to be released Saturday

    Egypt is expected to release results on Saturday from a referendum vote for its rewritten constitution.

    Unofficial polling results show a majority voted to back the constitution, but activists and monitoring groups have expressed concerns about the tenuous atmosphere surrounding the vote.

    International inspectors arrive in Tehran to visit nuclear sites

    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors arrived in Tehran on Saturday. The inspectors will visit two different nuclear facilities and will begin reporting to the IAEA on Monday.

    Iran is opening up its nuclear program in accordance with the agreement reached last week between the Islamic Republic and six world powers.

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    The South Sudanese government said it regained control of the town of Bor from rebel forces on Saturday.

    South Sudan's military spokesman, Philip Agur, said 15,000 rebel forces were defeated in retaking the city. The Ugandan army is taking credit for the operation.

    Bor has been caught in the middle of the power struggle between government and rebel forces during the month-long conflict transpiring in the world's newest country.

    As the news in Bor develops, negotiations between the government and the rebels continue in Ethiopia. Leaders from both sides said they were close to signing a cease-fire agreement.

    Rebel negotiator, Mabior de Garang, said he hoped to see an agreement signed Saturday night. However, Presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, said he believed an agreement would be signed on Sunday or Monday.

    The United Nations has called the month-long conflict a "horrifying human rights disaster." According to the U.N., thousands have died since violence broke out on Dec. 15.

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    Syria's main, western-backed opposition group has agreed to attend a peace conference next week in Switzerland. The Syrian National Coalition voted in favor of attending the U.N.-sponsored talks, which will focus on ending the country's ongoing civil war.

    The Syrian government had already announced its plans to participate in the conference, making this the first time both parties will meet face-to-face since the conflict began in March of 2011.

    Previous attempts by the U.S. and Russia to get the groups to meet were held up by demands from both sides. The opposition dropped its demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down before the talks.

    The main goal of the conference will be for both sides to agree on a roadmap for the country. The roadmap will be based on a plan already adopted by the U.S., Russia and other world powers. Stipulations will include creating a transitional government and planning for eventual elections.

    Although Syrian officials have agreed to attend the conference, there is some dispute over the focus on setting up a transitional authority.

    According to Reuters, the Syrian government said its priority is "to continue to fight terrorism."

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    On NewsHour Weekend Saturday, Hari Sreenivasan reports from Bangalore on India's Mars Orbiter Mission, a great point of national pride.

    India space program costs

    The global "space race" may have ended with the Cold War, but competition remains among a variety of nations over reaching the outer limits.

    In the map below you'll see which countries have had successful orbital launches (in red) and spacecraft manufacturing trends (in teal), from 2002 to 2011.

    The United States has had 191 successful launches and manufactured some 36 percent of all spacecrafts during the nine-year period.

    For more on which countries remain competitive in the modern-day space race, consult Futron's 2012 Space Competitiveness Index.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: You might have heard yesterday about changes to America’s intelligence gathering procedures. Tonight we want to examine how that announcement is playing overseas. particularly among American allies. As you’ll recall, some of them, including German Chancellor Angela Merkle, were targeted by American spy operations. For more we’re joined now from Washington with Geoff Dyer, Foreign Policy correspondent of the Financial Times. Thanks for joining us. So, I guess the initial reaction to President Obama’s speech, what are you hearing?

    GEOFF DYER: Well, it seems to be a cautious welcome. It’s a welcome because this is actually the first time the president has really raised, addressed some of the concerns that people in Europe and Latin America had by the way the NSA was collecting data on ordinary citizens. There’s been almost this slightly bizarre, parallel conversation going on throughout this whole debate. In the U.S., politicians have been focused on the question of whether or not Americans rights have been violated or not. And that’s absolutely appropriate, that’s what they should be focused on, that’s their constitutional responsibility. But that did give the impression to lots of people around the world, there was almost a free for all on non-Americans. Their emails and their text messages were just fair game. So by addressing some of those concerns in the speech, that was really the first time the president had done that. But it’s a cautious welcome because there was very little real detail or substance in there. A lot of that’s gonna be fleshed out in the weeks and months ahead, and so I think people who are focused on this issue are going to be watching very closely to see the actual specifics of what the White House outlines for them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now what are the feelings in Germany? I mean they sort of seemed to take it much worse because their prime minister was, or their chancellor, was bugged or tapped. I mean, do they see the relationship between the United States and Germany affected adversely because of this?

    GEOFF DYER: Certainly that was the country in Europe that this issue got the most attention, where tempers were raised the most. I think those were the two different levels to it. There’s the political level -- this is now the basis for the U.S. to have a much deeper conversation with the German government, with the German Chancellor Merkel to discuss what it is the NSA does and how it’s going to change going forward. And this will give the U.S. a chance to start to try and calm things down and repair some of the damage to the relationship. But then there’s also the popular level as well. There’s a lot of people, a lot of public opinion has been outraged by this. I think some people in countries like Germany listen to this speech will be pleased by it, they will think you know that that’s a good start, but there is gonna be a whole section of the population who’s basically offended by the basic idea of this mass collection and will not be persuaded just because the president’s putting a few more safe guards here and there on what actually happens to the data. they will think that it’s the common core underlying collection of the data that is the issue and those sorts of people will not really be persuaded by the speech.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about President Obama’s standing? What’s happened to his popularity or favorability ratings in Europe?

    GEOFF DYER: Well, more broadly his popularity has fallen quite a bit in the last few years. I mean he obviously got a hero’s welcome when he first became president, even before he became president in lots of bits of Europe. But even before the NSA scandal he’d seen that dip off. Some of these things, like drones, are very controversial in parts of Europe. And so that’s one of the underlying difficulties he has, because there was one of the core bits of this speech was essentially a claim by President Obama to say ‘trust me, I understand this is an issue, I’m going to get it under control.’ That sort of pitch about trust me, might have worked in Europe three, four years ago, but has much less resonance now given that he has much less popularity and less influence than he did.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And finally, one of the things that President Obama was stressing yesterday is, you know, so much for the criticism, a lot of these countries actually use our intel to keep their own people safe.

    GEOFF DYER: Oh, absolutely. And you know we have to be aware there is very much a double game going on here. I mean there is genuine outrage, but some of these governments are also playing an angle too. I mean they want, in some ways they want the U.S. to spy personally on them less, but to give them more information, to give them more heads up about things the NSA is finding out about people in their country or threats to their country. So there is absolutely they are playing an angle here, but it’s not completely hypocrisy, there’s genuine popular anger at some of these issues as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right Geoff Dyer from the Financial Times, thanks so much.

    GEOFF DYER: My Pleasure.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In early November, India launched a 320 ton rocket - on a mission to Mars.

    If all goes according to plan, the Indian spacecraft will travel 485 million miles over more than 10 months, and go into the orbit around Mars in September. The U.S., former Soviet Union, and the European Space Agency are the only ones to have accomplished the feat.

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: It is a challenging task, a complex task.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Dr. K. Radhakrishnan is the director of the Indian Space Research Organization. He was one of the engineers looking on when the Mangalyaan - or Mars craft in Hindi – launched. The probe will be studying the atmosphere of Mars and looking for traces of methane, which could be a sign of previous life.

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: A lot of things are known about Mars, but there are several issues which are yet to be understood, understood precisely.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The mission to Mars is a source of immense national pride in India. But it might also signal a new Asian space race, and it’s already triggered a debate about the benefits of exploring another planet when so many Indians struggle for basic necessities.

    Though it has been in existence for nearly 50 years, the very fact that India has a space program is unknown in much of the world. But since its inception, India has not only launched a mission to Mars, but has sent a probe to the moon, and has built and launched 70 satellites that do everything from measuring water resources to enabling mobile communications in rural India.

    Radhakrishnan says that at its heart India’s space program is meant to improve life for India’s 1.2 billion people.

    One critical mission: to predict where and when storms will hit land, so people in the storm’s path can be taken to safety.

    In 1999 when a massive storm hit India’s east coast, more than 10,000 people died. But a few months ago when another powerful storm hit the same area only 21 people died. Nearly 1 million had been evacuated after early warning data from Indian satellites.

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: Part of the use of these Earth observation satellites is to provide services to the fisherman, to the farmer, to the decision maker at the grass-root level.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how does understanding the atmosphere of Mars, or whether there was methane help the farmer or the fisherman in India?

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: It is not directly. Understanding of the atmosphere of Mars is not going to help him immediately, directly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But he says technology from the Mars mission will help improve the satellites India has yet to launch, which will directly benefit ordinary Indian citizens.

    But beyond the tangible scientific benefits, the feat of sending a rocket to Mars has been a huge point of pride for India.

    As the Mars spacecraft left Earth’s orbit, Indians took to Twitter to express their excitement…A point echoed by Dr. Radhakrishnan, who says the mission has inspired the nation.

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: People are keeping awake in the night to see how the Mars orbiter operations are progressing. So if you can transform so many young minds. And they say yes, we need to take up a career in science, it is a big transformation for the country, for the future.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And working for the agency is prestigious. Hundreds of thousands of engineers have applied for just hundreds of slots at the space agency.

    The pride is also in part for how little India spends to explore space. The Mars mission costs 4.5 billion rupees or just over $70 million dollars. Compare that to the MAVEN mission - a similar NASA probe that is also currently en route to Mars - that cost nearly ten times as much.

    The savings are achieved in part because engineering labor is cheaper, the program recycles and adapts components like launch vehicles, and builds far fewer models, relying heavily on computer testing.

    But spending any money on space exploration here is controversial. India is still a developing country where nearly a third of the population - about 400 million people - live on less than a dollar twenty-five a day.

    Brinda Adige runs an NGO called Global Concerns India focused on women and children here in a slum in Bangalore less than 10 miles from the headquarters of the Indian space agency. She says she was sad when she first heard about the Mars mission.

    BRINDA ADIGE:  At one end of the spectrum so much of money that is being spent to send a rocket out into outer space, when we know that here on Earth, in my country there are children, dying every day because they have no food to eat. So many of them, spending their days and nights without electricity. No roads, no education no protection for women and the girl child anywhere in this country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Do you think that if they didn’t spend the money on the satellite then they would spend the money on women and girl’s issues?

    BRINDA ADIGE: No, they would not. They would not. The priorities are certainly not looking at children, woman, human beings who are need of basic necessities, just to live.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So you’re not against the science, just the priorities…

    India street scene

    BRINDA ADIGE: Yes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Adige gathered a group of women from this slum who echoed some of the same concerns.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  I asked the group that given the millions being spent on the mission to mars, what kind of impact additional money could have in this neighborhood.

    They described a litany of issues, including bad roads, lack of access to medical care, the high costs of education, and complaints about sanitation issues like sewage runoff after the rains and a lack of safe drinking water.

    One of these women, Manoja, who works as a cook in a nicer part of town took us to her mother-in-law's house and showed us the contaminated water that comes out of her pipes.

    MANOJA: All of this water in the house smells terrible.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  It smelled rancid

    This is the municipal water the family pays for from the city. They have to spend extra on trucked in clean drinking water.

    But Dr. Radhakrishnan defends the Indian space program budget - in total about $1 billion dollars this year.

    US and India mission costs

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So on a global level, India’s program is incredibly inexpensive. On a local level it is still very hard for people to comprehend on the streets of Bangalore, spending so much money going to different planet?

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN. The question is in absolute terms when you talk about the $1 billion dollars that we spend annually is it providing the benefits to the people? Space is touching the lives of every man and woman in this country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Radhakrishnan points out that the entire Indian space program accounts for one third of one percent of the nation’s budget.

    Those numbers may make it easier to justify what may be a larger goal, competing with another superpower.

    Just last month china became the third country behind the U.S. and the former Soviet Union to land a rover on the moon and China has successfully completed manned spaceflights, a feat several years away for India.

    But in going to Mars, India could best its neighbor. The competition is a fuel India is reluctant to admit.

    In November 2011, a joint Chinese-Russian mars mission failed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there political pressure to keep up with the next door neighbor, China?

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: Each country has their own priorities, their own vision for the space program. India has its vision, China has its vision, we are pursuing our vision.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It doesn’t matter when China does what it does?

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: It does its program, we do our program.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But it was right after China’s failure that the Prime Minister here said here’s our priority, we are going to Mars.

    DR. RADHAKRISHNAN: See, November 2013 is an opportune time for a mission to Mars. And such opportune times occurs only once every 26 months.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  While the Indian launch date did capitalize on when the distance between mars and the earth is shorter, to critics like Brinda Adige, this is simply a space race.

    BRINDA ADIGE: ‘You’ve gone to Mars, now I also have to go to Mars.’ You’ve reached moon? I must also go and see whether there’s water on moon or not? Whether my people down here in this country have drinking water or not is secondary. The question arises… to what end?

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  To administrators like Dr. Radhakrishan, success with the Mars mission is another step in helping the world see the red planet and India in a new way.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Another story that we wanted to follow up on tonight is the state of credit card security, or lack of it. This following discourse is about major security breaches at big retailers, including Target and Neiman Marcus. Now new details are emerging about who was behind it, and how it was accomplished. For more we are joined now, from Washington, by Mike Riley with Bloomberg News. So, there was a big report out - it started to layout the details. How do these hackers get all the credit card numbers?

    MIKE RILEY: So, they have a pretty sophisticated piece of malware that goes on the point of sales system itself, so that is the terminal that sits in front the the cash register that we all swipe our cards on. So, the malware goes there and it takes advantage of a quirk, where within that machine, all that information that is taken off that card is sent from one memory chip to another. It is not encrypted in that process, and they grab it right there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so, who is writing this malware?

    MIKE RILEY: It looks like it is Eastern European or Russian criminal gangs. Some of the most sophisticated hackers in the world are Russian or Eastern European. What they have done is they have gotten really good systems. It is like a supply chain that you can buy pieces of malware. If you are good enough, as in this case - they have bought a specific piece of malware, called Black POS. It is a pretty good piece of malware to begin with, but then they customized it. They made it better. They made it harder to find, and then they figured out a scheme to get into Target's computers, and stuck it on the point of sales system. It is also pretty clear that the same gang, or a group of different hackers using the same malware, are targeting other retailers. We have not seen the end of this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ok, so what are they doing with all this information once they have it? I mean is it being sold in the black market?

    MIKE RILEY: Yes, there is an incredible sufficient supply stream that goes from the theft to the actual sales, so a lot of these are sold in what is called "carter forums." These are basically websites that you can get on and buy cards in bulk. But, it is a pretty sophisticated system, so you can buy cards based on the country of origin. You can buy cards based on the credit limit you want. In many cases the carter forum will guarantee that the cards have not been canceled when you buy them, and if you find out they are canceled they will give you your money back.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what is the threat to consumers? If the banks are kind of on the hook for this, besides the inconvenience of having to get a new card, what could go wrong?

    MIKE RILEY: Yes, I think this is, from the consumer point of view, it really is, first of all, a convenience issue, especially in the case of the Target hacks and Neiman Marcus. I mean this happened right around the holiday season. One of the responses to this hack, because it was so big and you have forty million credit cards from one merchant that were taken, is the card issuers were taking immediate steps to try and control their loses, which means they were limiting the amount of money you could use to purchase from one POS system. They were, in some cases - your card would get - if they identified that your card has been sold under, and used fraudulently they would cancel it. Then you would have to wait a couple of days to get a new card. You know, normally that is not much of an inconvenience, during the holiday, Christmas shopping season though, that could have been a big deal, especially if you want to buy a television set. You don't have enough space on your card.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Mike Riley from Bloomberg. Thanks so much.

    MIKE RILEY: Sure, you got it.


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    Saturday on NewsHour Weekend, a look at how President Obama's proposed changes to the NSA's controversial surveillance program was received overseas. Plus, in our signature segment, Hari Sreenivasan reports from Bangalore, India on the country's mission to Mars.

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  • 01/19/14--05:50: What we're watching Sunday
  • Demonstrators clash with riot police in Kiev

    Hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police Sunday in Kiev, following an intense rally against anti-protest legislation passed last week.

    Stunning images of violent clashes in #Kiev by outstanding photographer @EvgenyFeldman: http://t.co/kj9LP91O0Gpic.twitter.com/UipPqAhmkj

    — Jim Roberts (@nycjim) January 19, 2014

    Demonstrators threw flares at riot police, attacked them with sticks and set off fire extinguishers and stun grenades, the Associated Press reports.

    The violent clashes began near Kiev's Independence Square after thousands rallied against the law, which was approved by President Viktor Yanukovych.

    The new law will limit civic activism, free speech and citizen rights to protest. It also prohibits protestors from wearing masks at rallies.

    Putin makes new remarks on homosexuality

    During an interview aired on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to assure gay athletes and fans who will be attending the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in February.

    Yet in the same interview, Putin also defended an anti-gay law passed in Russia last year, at one point equating gays with pedophiles.

    Taliban bombing kills 20 at Pakistan military base

    The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack on an army compound in the Pakistani town of Bannu that killed at least 20 troops on Sunday.

    After the attack, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled his upcoming trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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