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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: Next: New information has come to light over a secret CIA prison in Poland.

    The Washington Post reported today that, as part of this country's war on terrorists in 2003, a clandestine so-called black operations site was established with the help of Poland's intelligence service. It was used to house interrogations of high-value detainees. One of them was reportedly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-declared mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

    Adam Goldman of The Washington Post joins me now.

    Welcome back to the program.

    So, why was this a significant place?

    ADAM GOLDMAN, The Washington Post: Well, this was the black site, the first of a trio that was opened in Europe. The other two were in Lithuania and Romania, but this was the first one that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, was taken and interrogated.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And tell us a little bit about the story of how it came to be.

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, the CIA was look for a place to put detainees.

    Before Poland, they had found a site outside of Bangkok, an hour, hour-and-a-half outside of Bangkok, where they had two detainees, individual named al-Nashiri, and another one named Zubaydah, but it was really not built for the long term.

    So they're looking -- they started to put the foundation out for other places where they could put their detainees. The CIA reached out to its liaison service in Poland. And they said, yes, hey, we're happy -- we're happy to take them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And they had to go to a place, obviously, where the government was OK with this, was accepting the idea.

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Right, right.

    And the Poles initially asked them, look, could you help us pay for some security cameras around the base? It is a very large base. And it was about $280,000, nearly $300,000 that the CIA initially gave them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, so, Adam, what is known about what took place at this location?

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, a fair amount is known, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded there 180 times by two CIA contractors.

    What hasn't been known and what we reported today was how the deal was made and the money that traded hands and some of the other details about KSM's interactions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And explain some of that.

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, I think people -- we never knew the story of how the prison came to be and what, in fact, the Poles got in exchange for it.

    And, as I reported today in great detail, we gave the Poles $15 million in early 2003, which really wasn't a lot of money. I say later in the story we gave the Moroccans $20 million for a prison that they were building for us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And why -- why did it have to work that way? I mean, why was it so -- remind us again, why was it so important that these alleged terrorists, people who were being interrogated, had to be put in places so remote and kept -- and the places kept secret?

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, the CIA wanted to keep them outside of the U.S. legal system, right, where they wouldn't have a right to an attorney or habeas.


    And they found that if they could put them, stash them away in these black sites in Europe and other places, they could question them for years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in this case, this place, as I read your story today, was only in existence, what, a little more than a year. Is that right?

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Yes, maybe a little less, I think for about 10 months. It actually opened December 5, 2002, and it closed in late September of 2003.

    You know, talking to people who were involved in the program, the sites were never meant to be opened more than a year, maybe 18 months. And they figured they were always going to be on the run, because whether it was going to be the journalists or human rights activists, they were going to be chasing this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the CIA folks who were involved in setting this up and who were behind some of the interrogations ended up leaving the program, and in a couple of instances left the CIA.

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Yes, that's true, that's true.

    And now, in fact, as part of the Polish investigation as we reported that had not been reported before, they had issued arrest warrants for some these CIA officers who actually visited that Poland black site.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is the status now? So, the Polish government, this has become a big issue for them.

    ADAM GOLDMAN: This is a huge issue for them. It has gone to the European Court for Human Rights.

    The Open Institute has petitioned the court on behalf of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri, these two detainees that were held there. And they want to try to make the European Union hold Poland liable for its activities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is the U.S. posture in all of that?

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Silence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: They're not saying anything about it?

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Nothing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not even confirming that this happened.

    So, as you have looked back on this, what is the -- what is the significance of the fact that this has taken so long to come out?

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, A., that the CIA is pretty good at keeping secrets, but the other significance is, here we are more than 10 years, a decade, after this prison closed, and we're still reporting on it. We're still talking about it.

    It is dogging this country. And it dogs the CIA. And, you know, it's become a real part of this country's legacy. And we can't get -- we can't seem to get beyond it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, just quickly, is there a sense that there is still more so-called black sites out there that have not yet been disclosed?

    ADAM GOLDMAN: No, because, in 2009, President Bush took away the CIA's authority to detain terrorism suspects, anybody.

    So, you know, if there are sites out there, they're not being run by the U.S. We would be working in conjunction with, you know, a foreign government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Adam Goldman with The Washington Post, thank you.

    ADAM GOLDMAN: Thank you.

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a different take on some very big questions surrounding privacy focused on private companies and the technology you buy.

    Jeffrey Brown has our conversation, starting with some background.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Computers, smartphones, accessories, tech products are more and more pervasive in our lives and more and more raising concerns about the ability of companies to gather, store and track personal information.

    Examples abound.

    MAN: Introducing Xbox One.


    JEFFREY BROWN: That Kinect camera on the new Xbox One gaming system? It's always on, though Microsoft insists personal data is not transmitted in any form without permission.

    Automaker Ford caused a stir at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month. A top marketing executive was discussing new tracking technology, when he said this:

    JIM FARLEY, Ford Motor Company: By the way, we know everyone who breaks the law, we know exactly when you do it, because we have a GPS sensor in your car, we know where you are, and we know how fast you're driving. But, seriously, the -- we don't supply that data to other people either.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Later, Ford insisted it doesn't track or transmit data from vehicles without a customer's consent.

    And new alarms went off last week when Google announced it is buying Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. Nest makes smart thermostats and other appliances that collect data in the home and connect to phones. In a post on the company's Web site, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers said: "Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest's products and services."

    The company says that means it will not share the data with its new owner, Google. 

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    JEFFREY BROWN: So how do we weigh the appeal of these devices against their potential to intrude into our lives?

    We're joined by Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank that promotes responsible data practices, and Adam Thierer, senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Mr. Polonetsky, let me start with you.

    In a car, on a person, in your home, do you think people understand how much of our lives are being collected? What else do we not know?

    JULES POLONETSKY, Future of Privacy Forum: Clearly, most of us are excited about the latest feature.

    We're excited about the idea that cars could be safer if they're aware of other cars on the road. We like the idea of having more power over our home environment and being able to automatically save money. But, clearly, every one of these new devices is powered by data. And it's fair for us to scrutinize and hold the companies to a real strict standard.

    As you collect our data to try to serve us better, how do we make sure that what you're doing is for us and not something that is going to leave us discriminated against or narrowed in?

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Adam Thierer, how do you think about all this information? Because, clearly, it has benefits for the people who perceive the benefits, but ...

    ADAM THIERER, George Mason University: Well, big data is the fuel that powers the information economy.

    All of the wonderful sites and services and content that we enjoy today, much of it free of charge, is powered by data that's collected, often to better advertise, but sometimes just to better tailor services to it.

    The classic example would be Amazon's ability to tailor what we might like based on past searches, or our wireless technologies in our phones, which enable various types of mapping services or traffic services to better give us a feel for what's happening out there in the world. These are services or conveniences that we now take for granted, but that are only possible because data is collected.

    Of course, it could be true that some of that data can be misused and that some consumers might not be aware of how it used, and we need to do a better job of educating them about this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so where do they go too far? What worries you in the night?

    JULES POLONETSKY: I'm worried about the security of some of these things, when you have got everything connected -- your refrigerator. We heard about a refrigerator that was spamming people the other day. I now need an antivirus program for my refrigerator?

    I think, when we do connect everything to the Internet and to other devices, we need to make sure that we do the work to lock these things down so that these devices talk to us or to each other, and not to strangers.

    But, in addition to security, I think it's fair to say, great, you're helping us live a better life. In the U.K. right now, there is a huge debate, almost as big as the NSA debate here, as to whether or not the entire country's health database can be used by researchers to try to come up with new cures and new diseases.

    So, on one hand, that is exciting. Who knows what great breakthroughs...

    JEFFREY BROWN: On the other hand...

    JULES POLONETSKY: An entire country's health information is sitting in one database. What kind of risk is that?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

    So how much are companies aware of their -- I mean, are there differences among companies and -- or among gadgets in terms of their awareness of the responsibility and what they do with the information?

    ADAM THIERER: I think, right now, there are differences.

    I mean, bigger companies are starting to realize because of the public pressure and also pressure from regulators that they have to better -- be better stewards of the data that they collect. The Federal Trade Commission here in the United States has already slapped a number of large digital companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and others with various types of fines and other types of requirements about better taking care of their data.

    So there are reputational effects associated with misuse of data. And we do need to do a better job of making sure that companies live up to the promises they make consumers. But, at the end of the day, we should make clear that we don't want to have a sort of regulatory approach that stops these technologies and slows the sort of ability to innovate with data that powers our digital economy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right. Well, that leads to -- would you like to see more regulation? Is there more that could be done by regulators?

    JULES POLONETSKY: You know, I don't want to see congressmen editing algorithms or privacy subject to the next budget sequester.

    But I do think that government and advocates and media can give some real scrutiny and try to make sure that companies are putting the smart thinking that needs to happen in place. So it might be a little too early to think about laws that could restrict data innovation. But it is fair to ask companies as they go about the Internet of things to not be creepy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Internet of things is referring to this -- all these gadgets.

    JULES POLONETSKY: Everything being connected.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But to ask them to not be creepy, what does -- I mean, what does that mean?

    JULES POLONETSKY: Well, the president on Friday after he announced his NSA changes said, you know what, we need to look at big data, and we need to look at the private sector.

    And so, over the next 90 days, the White House is going to be leading an effort to really provide some challenges. What are the benefits, what are the risks, how do we decide what risks we want to take for what benefits? I'm optimistic that shining a light on this, some real transparency is at the end of the day going to show us and make us face some hard decisions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And on the other side, what are you afraid of in terms of regulation? What would be lost if we start looking more closely at these -- at this data collection and transfer?

    ADAM THIERER: If we spend all our time living in fear of hypothetical worst-case scenarios and basing public policy upon them, then best-case scenarios will never come about.

    We have to understand that there's going to be a certain need for a certain amount of social adaptation and changing privacy expectations about these new devices in our lives, because all these devices will be interconnected, have sensors, cameras, and will be part of our lives from a very young age.

    We do need to talk to people and to developers both about understanding good data practices, good data hygiene, if you will, and proper and improper uses of these technologies. And that is a conversation we are going to need to continue to have.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How much do you sense -- I will ask both of you, but start with you, Jules -- the consumer awareness or even a backlash now, fueled in part by some of the NSA revelations we heard at the beginning of the program? How much do you sense that there is a backlash of concern over privacy?

    JULES POLONETSKY: Well, certainly, Target's sales were down over the holiday because of the big public awareness over their data breach.

    Clearly, people have some sense of unease sometimes when they are on the Internet. Should they clear cookies? Who is tracking them? We don't want that unease when it comes to driving a car, when it comes to your house. I think we need to do better in the Internet of things at making sure people feel empowered by the way that data is being used, that they are sure that it is being used for them, as opposed to companies doing things to them.

    So, I don't think we have seen a backlash yet. I think the NSA revelations have forced a lot of people to think a little bit harder. We have seen the increase in the number of people who use privacy tools or private search engines. But I think the big questions are still in front of us. And if companies are going to want to be intimate with us, they are going to need to be transparent with us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Adam Thierer?

    ADAM THIERER: Well, we need to understand that privacy is a very subjective value, and that some people will be very sensitive about it, others not so much.

    What we need to do is, we need to provide diverse tools to a diverse citizenry. We need to make sure that people who are highly privacy-sensitive have tools at their disposal, and they have many today that can block certain types of tracking technologies or location awareness technologies or whatever else, and that other people are willing, if they are willing to, can trade off their privacy in exchange for more convenience, better services, cheaper goods, whatever it may be.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Some of that is going to put more on the consumer though, right?

    ADAM THIERER: It will, but it also needs to be developers who need to be thinking about this. And we need to talk to them about the ethics in this regard.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, continuing discussion.

    Adam Thierer, Jules Polonetsky, thank you both very much.

    ADAM THIERER: Thank you.

    JULES POLONETSKY: Thanks for having us.

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    Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden held a live chat on Thursday.

    Edward Snowden discussed the NSA, President Obama's recent comments about surveillance, whistleblower protection reform and other topics in a live question-and-answer session held Thursday afternoon on a website run by an organization that supports Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked classified documents.

    Snowden expressed interest in returning to the U.S., calling it "the best resolution for the government, the public, and (him)self," but said that current whistleblower protection laws mean that "there's no chance to have a fair trial."

    Asked about the "appropriate extent" of national security policies, Snowden asserted that not all forms of spying are necessarily bad, clarifying that "indiscriminate mass surveillance" is the primary issue facing society.

    "When we're sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to ... there's no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri," he wrote.

    In addition, he called a Reuters report that he had persuaded his former colleagues to give up their passwords and login credentials "simply wrong."

    The rest of Snowden's answers can be read at freesnowden.is. For more, Jeffrey Brown interviewed Barton Gellman of The Washington Post last month about Snowden's feeling of vindication in the wake of his revelations.

    H/T Zachary Treu

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    Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has been tapped to deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday.

    McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, and currently chairs the House Republican conference -- the party's No. 4 leadership post. McMorris Rodgers is now in her fifth term representing a district in eastern Washington state.

    The congresswoman is also the mother of three small children and often speaks out on issues affecting American families.

    Tremendously honored to speak with you and share our Republican vision for America after the #SOTU on Tuesday! http://t.co/fAbKeoWgeD

    — CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) January 23, 2014

    House Speaker John Boehner hailed the announcement.

    "Cathy will share our vision for a better America built on a thriving middle class, guided by a fierce belief in life and liberty, and grounded in greater trust between citizens and their government."- Rep. John Boehner, Speaker of the House

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also welcomed her selection.

    "Her experience, hard work and commitment to family provide an example that Americans outside the halls of Congress understand. A strong advocate of empowering citizens rather than just the federal government, Cathy is the right choice to deliver this important address."- Sen. Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader

    It's been more than a decade since a female Republican lawmaker has delivered the party's State of the Union response. The last time was back in 2000 when Sen. Susan Collins of Maine spoke with then-Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee following President Bill Clinton's speech.

    You can watch the president's State of the Union and the GOP response on your local PBS station and on the PBS NewsHour's website.

    H/T Alexis Cox

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    Some years ago I was fortunate enough to land a reporting job at The Washington Post, which pretty much put me in a state of constant awe. Bob Woodward would dish up ice cream sundaes for anyone stuck working on the weekend. Ben Bradlee would stroll through the newsroom, as likely to peer over your shoulder at the lead sentence you were writing as to scold a reporter for a messy desk.

    But often the best part of the day came late in the afternoon. That's when an old guy in a sweater would shuffle out of a cluttered office in the back of the room holding a sheaf of papers. If you were lucky, he would stop at your desk and show them to you.

    This was Herbert Block, known globally by the nom de plume mashup "Herblock." With pen and ink and a sure world view, he terrorized presidents for decades, and even helped get one kicked out of office.

    If you did not know Herb, you could be excused for ignoring the avuncular gentleman who came into the newsroom to ask reporters what they thought of his cartoon drafts.

    But if you did know Herb -- and I was very lucky to -- you recognized that his pen was a rapier. Plus, he liked to laugh a lot.

    I was reminded of all of this recently while screening the bracing new documentary "Herblock: The Black and the White," which airs Jan. 27 on HBO.

    It was actually the second time I'd seen the film, which was produced and directed by father and son impresarios George and Michael Stevens. I was fortunate enough to be invited, along with a raft of other journalists, cartoonists, comedians, historians, writers and analysts, to sort through Herb's life and work.

    The first time I saw the film, I remember coming away thinking it was a nice enough story about a nice enough man. But the second time, the film hit me with a special force.

    I'd known that Herblock had taken on Adolph Hitler, Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon during his storied career -- each and every time ahead of the curve and ahead of history as it would come to be written.

    I'd paid less attention to his despair over modern politics, in particular his unhappiness with the influence of money in politics. Greed, he called it. And he denounced it at every turn.

    The night I re-watched the film was the day that former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, not too long ago a rising star in Republican politics, was indicted for all manner of alleged shakedown. According to the federal charges, he and his wife solicited and pocketed thousands of dollars worth of remuneration from a single campaign donor -- from cold hard cash to an inscribed Rolex watch to money to pay for another daughter's wedding. There was even a borrowed Ferrari and designer clothing purchased on a New York shopping spree.

    And just up I-95, feds were investigating another governor, Chris Christie in New Jersey -- looking into charges that he abused his power.

    Herb died in 2001, at the age of 91, after 55 years of prescient analysis at The Washington Post. Christie has not been indicted for anything, and McDonnell claims he did nothing illegal, but I long to know what Herb's cartoons -- which were always, always ahead of the curve -- would have captured today.

    I get the sense it would have been as close as any of us can get to the truth.

    Editor's note: An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that the politician Boss Tweed was one of the famous personalities that Herblock had taken on during his career as a cartoonist. Boss Tweed died in 1878, before Herblock's time.

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    In snowy Dumfries, Scotland, people gather around a statue of the national poet, Robert Burns, on Jan 25, 2013, the anniversary of his birth. Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/ Getty Images

    The most widely recognized portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, part of the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.

    Walk around the market town of Dumfries, Scotland, and at first glance you'll see what looks like a kind of graffiti in the windowpanes -- faint etchings in some, and in others verses written boldly in thick black pen. A few are the surviving work of Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, etched into the glass centuries ago when he stayed at the Globe Inn. Others are the work of contemporary poets, writing to pay him tribute.

    January 25th marks the 255th anniversary of Burns' birth, and around the world, Scots and devotees of the poet alike will gather to commemorate the event with Burns Suppers -- eating haggis, raising a wee dram of whisky (whiskey to us Americans), and most importantly, reading his poetry aloud. Burns was only 37 years old when he died, but was a prolific writer, giving the world "Auld Lang Syne," "A Red, Red Rose" and "To a Mouse," among others. Listen to Scotsman and English professor Jonathan Sharp recite Burn's "Address to a Haggis," read at Burns Suppers as the haggis is cut open. (Full disclosure: Sharp is my cousin.)

    In Dumfries, in addition to the Burns Night celebrations, the town has put on a display of new poems in the windowpanes of several of Burns' old stomping grounds -- The Globe Inn, The Coach and Horses Inn and the Robert Burns House Museum.

    From left to right: poems displayed in a window, the Robert Burns House Museum and The Coach and Horses Inn. Photos by Hugh Bryden/Burns Windows Project

    An etching about "lovely Polly Stewart" by Robert Burns in the window of the Globe Inn, Dumfries, Scotland. Photo by Peter Hughes/Dalry Burns Club.

    The Burns Windows Project started three years ago, and in that time has garnered submissions by poets from Scotland, England, Ireland, Scandinavia, Europe and the United States. The curators, artist Hugh Bryden and Glasgow University English literature lecturer David Borthwick, were inspired by Burns' own window musings. Using a diamond stylus or possibly even a diamond ring, Burns would engrave his poetry or sometimes just his name in the windows of the places he stayed.

    Bryden says they wondered what modern-day poets would write in the windows of a pub if given the chance. So in the first year they mailed out transparency sheets and permanent pens to poets near and far asking them to emulate Burns' example but with a modern twist.

    Fifty-six poems, like those displayed above, were submitted this year, written on transparency sheets, and displayed in Dumfries windows. Photo by Hugh Bryden/Burns Windows Project

    The subject matter of the poetry they get back each year is varied -- from dogs to trees to the tennis great Roger Federer. Bryden says, "We only accepted poems which were the poets own work, written in their own handwriting and signed." Now, because of rising postage costs, poets are asked to mail their work in or submit it electronically. Bryden says it's the individual handwriting that helps makes the project so special. This year's poems will remain on display around Dumfries until mid-February.

    In 2009, Art Beat celebrated Robert Burn's 250th birthday with Scottish writer Andrew O'Hagan

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    PBS NewsHour wants to hear from you. Tell us how you think the president addressed your biggest concerns in his annual address to the nation. Video by PBS NewsHour

    President Barack Obama will address the nation on Tuesday for his fifth State of the Union address. After a tumultuous year that featured the choppy rollout of HealthCare.gov, the disclosure of secret documents by a former NSA contractor and a partial government shutdown, the president is expected to call on Congress to pursue bipartisan solutions for 2014.

    What issue do you want the president to address? After his speech concludes, the PBS NewsHour will collect video reaction from viewers across the country and abroad. Just like the Republicans will issue a response to Mr. Obama's address, we want yours.

    function openForm() { window.open("http://www.pbs.org/newshour/multimedia/sotu-responses/form.html","","width=565,height=950"); }

    Click for submission

    Submit your response by uploading a short video to YouTube and sharing the link with us in our submission form, accessible above. In your video, please answer this question: What subject did you want the president to address and how well did he address it? Please be clear and concise -- no more than two minutes -- and speak from the heart. The best responses will be considered for air on our broadcast the next night. The deadline for entry is 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, Jan. 29.

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    Seventeen million of the 50 million people in the U.S. living in food insecure households are children. These are the top 10 counties and metropolitan areas where food insecurity is most rampant for those under the age of 18.

    Today in the U.S., an estimated 50 million people don't always have access to the food they need to lead healthy lives. Seventeen million of them are children. And new research suggests that the consequences can last a lifetime.

    Data by Feeding America

    No. 10 Orange County, Calif.

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 153,490

    Child food insecurity rate: 20.8 percent
    Photo: PBS NewsHour

    No. 9 San Bernadino, Calif.

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 156,230

    Child food insecurity rate: 26.1 percent
    Photo: Hayden Yates/Flickr

    No. 8 Riverside, Calif.

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 157,800

    Child food insecurity rate: 25.6 percent
    Photo: Daniel Orth/Flickr

    No. 7 San Diego

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 162,320

    Child food insecurity rate: 22.5 percent
    Photo: Flickr user purpletwinkie

    No.6 Dallas

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 172,610

    Child food insecurity rate: 26.6 percent
    Photo: Brandon Watts/Flickr

    No. 5 Phoenix

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 247,430

    Child food insecurity rate: 24.5 percent
    Photo: Flickr user dobieluvrs

    No. 4 Chicago

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 262,240

    Child food insecurity rate: 21.2 percent
    Photo: Chris Smith/Flickr

    No.3 Houston

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 292,100

    Child food insecurity rate: 25.8 percent
    Photo: Adam Baker/Flickr

    No. 2 New York City

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 416,250

    Child food insecurity rate: 23.8 percent
    Photo: Chris Isherwood/Flickr

    No. 1 Los Angeles

    Number of children living in food insecure households: 650,480

    Child food insecurity rate: 26.8 percent
    Photo: Floyd B. Bariscale/Flickr

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    A six-year-old boy waits in line with his mother for a free box of food in Costa Mesa, Calif. More than 150,000 children in Orange County don't always have access to the food they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Photo by Jason Lelchuk/PBS NewsHour

    ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. -- The symptoms were generic enough to fly under the radar in Dr. Eric Handler's office. Children with abdominal pain. Anemia. Trouble focusing in school. Even obesity.

    But symptoms like those can have many causes. In more than 30 years as a pediatrician, Handler never once asked a family whether they might be caused by hunger.

    "When you have somebody come to your clinic, you're looking for clinical causes, diagnosis of disease," said Handler, who is now the public health officer for Orange County, Calif. "Very rarely do we even consider hunger as being an issue causing a problem. And yet there are multiple health concerns one can have when you're hungry."

    In fact, a growing body of research from the National Institutes of Health suggests there are few things that could warp a child's health more than "food insecurity," which is the term used by the U.S. government to classify families that don't know where their next meal is coming from.

    Studies suggest that hunger -- even if it's only experienced for brief periods during childhood and adolescence -- can lead to outcomes that last a lifetime, including early-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stunted intellectual growth and obesity. Other findings point to even more surprising effects, like tooth decay and early menstruation in girls.

    Nearly 50 million Americans don't always have access to the food they need to lead healthy and productive lives -- 17 million of them children, according to the anti-hunger group Feeding America. Even more startling: About half of the kids in the U.S. rely on food stamps at some point during childhood.

    View Slide Show

    Click the image above to see the top 10 places in the United States for childhood hunger.

    Many of the nation's hungry children live in big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Chicago, according to Feeding America. But among the top places for childhood "food insecurity" are a few surprises, including Orange County.

    Despite its reputation for extreme wealth and privilege -- one made famous by show like "The OC" and "The Real Housewives" -- the county is also home to more than 150,000 children who don't always have the food they need to grow properly. That's 1 in 5 children in the county.

    It's not because there's an absence of food, according to Mark Lowry, the director of the Orange County Food Bank. It's largely tied to the county's high cost of living -- which is so steep that low-income workers often struggle to pay for basic needs, including food.

    "So the 'real' housewives of Orange County are the people that we serve each month," Lowry said. "There are a few who enjoy a very rich lifestyle here, but there are many more who are seniors on fixed incomes, disabled, unemployed or among the working poor."

    And while the Orange County Food Bank helps about 165,000 people with emergency food each month, there are about 235,000 more in desperate need of assistance.

    So Lowry has teamed up with Dr. Handler and a coalition of other major players from the county to form the "Waste Not OC" coalition. The goal: to collect the un-served perishable food being thrown away at the end of the day by restaurants, hotels, sports centers and theme parks in the county, and then redirect it safely to those in need.

    Lowry admits that the logistical challenges of collecting, packaging and re-distributing large volumes of perishable food remains massive. But he also said that a coalition of this kind -- especially one driven by the local health care agency -- "absolutely" has the potential to end hunger. "Considering that we discard 40 percent of our food, if we're able to capture some substantial percentage of that food, it's going to address people's nutritional needs," he said.

    On the consumer end, the "Waste Not OC" coalition has developed an interactive map to point hungry families toward food banks and other resources where they can collect some of this newly redirected food. The eventual goal is for doctors to incorporate questions about food access into primary care visits and then use the map to refer their patients to those who can help.

    Letitia Clark George, the executive director of the Orange County chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says it's a move in the right direction from the days when doctors felt like their hands were tied even if they did recognize the symptoms of malnutrition. "A lot of the times," she said, "doctors are hesitant about diagnosing a problem if they don't have the resources to follow up with it. So this going to empower a lot of our pediatricians."

    Tune in to Friday's PBS NewsHour broadcast for the full report on Orange County's hunger problems -- and its "Waste Not" ambitions.

    In the meantime, a closer look at the ties between hunger, obesity and stress -- three things that go hand-in-hand for many low-income families. For that, we turn to Barbara Laraia, associate professor at University of California, Berkeley, who has been studying the effects of hunger for about 20 years.

    The first thing to remember, she said, is that effects aren't the same for everyone. "It is an interaction between the exposure, the intensity of exposure, and at what developmental period," Laraia said. "But generally, food insecurity and poverty absolutely have a role in developing chronic disease."

    Here's why.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: Barbara Laraia, thank you so much for joining us. Let's start with the diet. Are there certain foods that are more prevalent in low-income households today?

    LARAIA: When you look at dietary indicators, and what households are eating, we find that those who are food insecure are more likely to eat high calorie, dense foods -- your chips, potatoes, processed meats -- and much less fruits and vegetables. And it's not hard to realize that it comes down to finances. Lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables are much more costly and perishable. It's easier to stretch your food dollars much further if you have the inexpensive, high-calorie, dense foods.

    I also want to provide a little caveat, and say that all Americans right now are eating very poorly. Across the board, less than 20 percent of Americans meet the dietary guideline of having two fruits or three vegetables a day. Then we find that low-income families are much less likely to have fruits and vegetables and lean meat.

    NEWSHOUR: And what are the health consequences -- especially for children who may be experiencing hunger while growing?

    LARAIA: We think that it's really an interaction between when food insecurity is happening in the household and at what critical developmental period.

    The animal studies are really suggestive of this. There's a really interesting study with macaque monkeys, for example, where they stressed out the mom. So what they did was they set up a system, where sometimes the mom had food in her environment where she could find it, and sometimes they restricted the food -- they put it in a foraging cart and hid it somewhere in the environment. And then there was a third paradigm, where, for two weeks, they would have enough food, followed by two weeks without enough food.

    And so what happened was the moms that had this uncertainty really were stressed out, and they were more aggressive with the other female macaque monkeys. They were also less attentive to their offspring. And even though the baby macaques had enough food -- because they eventually found the food in the environment -- they had a spike in their stress response during this 16-week protocol. And that was associated with developing obesity in adolescence.

    So at least one study, if not a couple studies, are showing that early life exposure to food insecurity and stress is associated with later weight gain. Not for everyone. It's going to be a really stressful environment with food insecurity and compromised diet. That seems to be a recipe for that weight gain later on.

    NEWSHOUR: Something else you believe may contribute to weight gain is the idea of the 'food stamp cycle.' Explain what that means.

    LARAIA: Food stamps are provided once a month. So it's possible that at the beginning of the month, when families have enough money -- whether through their jobs or through food stamps -- they purchase food for the month. And they might buy in bulk and try to stretch their food dollars as far as they can. They probably have more access to the fresh fruits and vegetables at that time. And then, over the month, as resources dwindle, there's less of a variety of the diet. So whether calories are severely restricted or variety's restricted, by the end of the month, families feel deprived. They're psychologically deprived of food, they possibly are physiologically deprived of enough calories. Either way, that creates a stress response. And that might lead subsequently to overeating at the beginning of the month.

    That's considered the "food stamp cycle" -- this cycle of having enough food or the perception of enough food at the beginning, followed by less food. There's some direct evidence, and some anecdotal evidence, that there's this kind of cyclical exposure to severe food insecurity, and that, possibly, can wreak havoc with one's metabolism.

    NEWSHOUR: So stress is a major factor. Why does that lead to weight gain?

    LARAIA: We have this hormone called cortisol that tells the body when it needs to start to distribute glucose throughout the day and throughout the week. If the body needs more energy -- and the body needs energy to do anything -- cortisol is making sure that sugar and glucose levels are maintained. Under stress conditions, cortisol will spike and say, "OK, we need more glucose because we might need to run. We might need to activate something."

    Under those conditions, people will reach for that high-fat food -- that cookie or the snack food, because we have found that high-fat, high-sugar food not only is ready energy, but it also dampens that stress response. It's a reward food. It's not the same as reaching for the apple.

    So we have these stressful situations where the body's saying, "I need some energy. Reach for the cookie." And at this point in time in the United States, cookies and snack foods are everywhere. They're at every corner store. They're in Jo-Ann Fabrics and Best Buy, places that they were very unlikely to be 20, 30 years ago. So since we have those daily stressors -- and food insecure families are susceptible to that same phenomenon, even more so -- that stress response really leads to selecting those highly palatable, energy-dense foods. Not only is the income restriction leading to purchasing energy-dense foods, but it's the stress, as well.

    Additionally, we know that stress will really wreak havoc with the pre-frontal cortex, so the pre-frontal cortex -- the front of your brain -- is really the decision making process machine, and it really helps with reasoning. So the limbic system kicks into gear, and that is a system that's more emotional; it's going to reach for the highly palatable food. So stress and food insecurity play this really direct role in how food choices are made, and then, as we already spoke, the other system is really how it's metabolized.

    Evolutionarily, it just makes sense that you would reach for that ready energy and over-consume.

    NEWSHOUR: And under those conditions, fat also may be metabolized differently, correct?

    LARAIA: There was an elegant study in Minnesota, where mice who were stressed out by having to swim in lukewarm water and then introduced to junk food. They ended up eating a little bit more and accumulating a little bit of visceral fat. But mice subjected to swimming in cold water for an hour or being put in a cage with an alpha mouse, this was a very stressful condition, and it's a stress that is a threat. The mouse accumulated an abundant amount of visceral fat. There was fat all throughout the organs.

    What they found is that -- for the mice who perceived a threat -- energy was metabolized and turned into visceral fat. And that visceral fat is the more toxic fat, because it's metabolically active and it's sitting right around the organs. Evolutionarily, maybe this was really important to have active fat so that if you needed to run, you had fat stores that could be mobilized. But in today's environment, this fat has become very toxic. We're no longer being chased by the tiger and really need to access that fat. So eating in the presence of stress causes fat to be stored right around our midsections -- and that's been associated with obesity, diabetes and all kinds of chronic conditions.

    NEWSHOUR: So all of these things combined mean that people can be both malnourished and obese at once, right? It's a concept that can be hard to reconcile.

    LARAIA: Right. You can imagine if someone is overeating highly processed foods that might not have enough iron and micronutrients, it can lead to gaining weight and not having enough of those important micronutrients -- your vitamin A that comes from orange vegetables, vitamin C and iron are really important. And we definitely find when we look at food insecurity that it's consistently associated with anemia in children, for example.

    So I think being subjected to food insecurity, especially severe cases of food insecurity, where the family is going without food, skipping meals, having a limited variety of foods, and eating under those stressful conditions -- that absolutely leads to the perfect storm of gaining weight possibly, developing chronic disease and it might be associated with later chronic disease for children.

    NEWSHOUR: Are there particular moments in childhood when hunger is most dangerous?

    LARAIA: There have been a few studies that show that by age 5, children are more likely to be overweight if they had the early life exposure to food insecurity. Pre-puberty is also an important time, especially for reproduction. If the person is perceiving that they're food insecure, if they're calorie-restricted or nutrient-restricted, and the body's getting ready to be reproductive, then it makes sense that the body would accumulate fat to make sure that there's enough energy stores for that process later on.

    NEWSHOUR: Barbara Laraia, thank you so much for joining us.

    LARAIA: Thank you.

    This package was produced with support from The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, a program of USC's Annenberg School of Journalism, and the Dennis Hunt Fund for Health Journalism.

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    By Paul Oyer

    Paul Oyer is an Ivy League-educated economist, but everything he ever needed to learn about economics he learned from online dating. Photo by Flickr user Tim McFarlane.

    When Paul Oyer's new book crossed our desk, it was hard not to take notice. "Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Economics I Learned from Online Dating" is a compelling read about Oyer's re-entrance into the dating market after more than 20 years. But it's also an instructive text about economics. We asked Oyer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Labor Economics, to treat us to a sampling of what he learned. He obliged with this adaptation of his chapter on statistical discrimination.

    Paul Oyer: As a middle-aged white male, I have it pretty easy. But I recently entered a group that, much to my surprise, made me a target of discrimination. It all started when I hit the dating scene. The first time I posted a profile on Match.com, I was divorced in every way except the legal one. So, on my profile, I listed myself as "separated," and I wrote a simple, honest and incredibly naive description of myself.

    What I didn't think about is that most men who are recently separated fall into one of the following three categories:

    Type 1: Enthusiastic returnees to the world of dating looking to have fun with, and be incredibly nice to, interesting women they've never met before.

    Type 2: Men who might go back to their wives (or, worse yet, haven't even left them).

    Type 3: Devastated wrecks who are angry and bitter about their failed marriage.

    I was a Type 1 (trust me), but there was absolutely no way for women poring over Match.com profiles to distinguish me from the large group of men out there who were Type 2 or Type 3. The response to my initial profile was not overwhelming -- even by middle-aged, balding economist standards. The vast majority of the emails I sent to women were ignored. Several women wrote back noting that, while they appreciated my honesty (this, for the record, provided zero consolation), they did not date separated men because they had found that they were often not ready for a new relationship.

    Now, this is certainly not the saddest story you have ever heard and, as victims of discrimination go, I realize I should not be looking for sympathy. But, as an economist, I think of this anti-separated mentality as a wonderful illustration of an important concept that has much bigger ramifications: statistical discrimination. This is the economics term for what most people would simply refer to as women acting on a stereotype based on my separated status. This is a much less nefarious use of the term discrimination than you are used to. It is not like Jim Crow laws or male-only clubs where the whites or men simply do not want to associate with a group.

    What makes this a classic case of statistical discrimination (rather than taste-based discrimination) is that women do not hold ill will towards separated men. After all, these same women will date divorced men, all of whom were separated at some point. But they discriminate against separated men because of the association between being separated and being a Type 2 or Type 3. Rather than being based on tastes, it's based on statistical correlations -- people act in a manner that hurts members of a certain group though they have no negative feelings toward that group.

    Racial slurs and other taste-based discrimination stem from the fact that some white people do not want to associate with black people simply because they are black. But nobody has any animus towards separated men (except maybe their estranged wives), and I wasn't a victim of taste-based discrimination -- I was a victim of a lack of information.

    Stereotypes and statistical discrimination can work in people's favor, of course. For example, I have a friend who returned to the dating scene a few years ahead of me after a somewhat longer hiatus. As a widower after a 30-plus year marriage, he benefited from statistical discrimination that worked in his favor. This friend is an extremely interesting and fun person.

    But he's had a few health issues and he's not exactly in the best physical shape. Nonetheless, his profile made him seem like a very, very likely Type 1. His emails to women on dating sites were generally returned, and he received many unsolicited messages because the assumptions women made about him were positive.

    The statistical discrimination against my separated status led to some mild inconvenience for me and limited the pool of women I could choose from. But statistical discrimination can be much more damaging in other contexts. While the United States population has gotten a lot more tolerant over time, and overt discrimination has become less of a problem (though I don't mean to suggest it's not still a problem for a lot of people), statistical discrimination remains a fact of everyday life.

    Let's consider common examples of statistical discrimination that impose real costs on the equivalents of the Type 1s who cannot easily distinguish themselves from the Type 2 and Type 3 people who, because of the lack of specific information, they are pooled with.

    Example 1: When people drive through low-income neighborhoods, they often lock their car doors despite having driven long distances in other areas with the doors unlocked. This is because they see poor people and, though they are not prejudiced against poor people per se, they associate people who are poor with those who are more likely to commit crime.

    Example 2: When hiring for a job where many of the candidates are in their 20s or 30s, firms often prefer male candidates to female candidates because women of that age are more likely to leave their jobs or take extended leaves of absence to have children. This is a perfectly rational belief on the part of the employers, given that the average time a woman of that age holds a job is less than a similar man's. However, it is extremely frustrating for all women, especially those that have no plans to bear children. Women who do not plan to have children are pooled with women who do plan to have children and, as a result, deemed less desirable by employers.

    Example 3: Men are sometimes discriminated against in hiring because, as a group, they are much more likely to commit crimes than women are. Also, given that young, uneducated men are much less attached to the workforce than they used to be, employers sometimes make negative assumptions about the work ethic of lower-skilled men. In a related (though non-labor market) example, Trayvon Martin's death was the tragic result of statistical discrimination because George Zimmerman made assumptions about young African-American men who wear hooded sweatshirts.

    Example 4: Twenty-year-old men typically pay higher car insurance premiums than 20-year-old women or 40-year-old men with equivalent driving records. There are many 20-year-old men who drive extremely cautiously, but insurance companies do not watch them driving and so, lacking information on their specific driving habits, cannot judge them by their own record. Because, on average, 20-year-old men drive faster and more erratically than 20-year-old women, these men are statistically discriminated against, even though the insurance company has no animus towards men.

    Example 5: "Racial profiling" is essentially statistical discrimination. The highway patrol is accused of pulling over more minority drivers, and Arab airline passengers often get extra attention when going through airport security. Some of this scrutiny is likely the result of taste-based discrimination, in that the police may be hostile to minorities and use their power to harass drivers from these groups. But there are surely many cases of police officers who are not hostile to minorities and airport security workers who are not hostile to Arabs, yet they believe (with at least some empirical justification) that race is positively correlated with the things they have been empowered to control.

    All of these are examples of rational statistical discrimination, or "true" stereotypes. Individuals in each of these groups will be different, but the assumptions people make about each group are based on actual statistical relationships. As these examples make clear, statistical discrimination is going on all around us every day and, while the word discrimination conjures up images of unfairness and blameworthy behavior, a lot of statistical discrimination is tolerated. Why does the world think it is okay for women to snub separated men while there is outrage about racial profiling at airports and on highways? Why do customers tolerate gender-based insurance rates while statistically discriminating against women in hiring is a violation of civil rights law?

    There are two answers to explain this distinction, I think. The first isn't very economics-oriented. Simply, there are some forms of statistical discrimination that seem fair and some that don't. Few people can conjure up a great deal of sympathy for separated men who have a somewhat smaller selection of potential dates and who, after waiting a little while, will move into the "divorced" category. But when statistical discrimination is against a group (women, minorities, Arabs) whose members have no control over their status, it strikes most people as unfair. One could argue that men should qualify for sympathy on their car insurance rates since they do not choose their gender. But, either because people believe men have enough advantages in life to compensate for the car insurance expense or because men grow out of the extra insurance cost as they age, gender-based insurance pricing has generated relatively little opposition.

    The second distinction between acceptable and unacceptable statistical discrimination relates to economic efficiency -- that is, the degree to which statistical discrimination makes society as a whole worse off rather than only making some people worse off to the benefit of some others.

    One way this could happen is if statistical discrimination leads women to underinvest in their education. Think about a firm choosing among several job candidates in their 20s, where some candidates are men and some are women. What happens if the firm chooses a man for the job because the hiring manager thinks that the man is more likely to stay on the job for a longer time than a similar woman? The direct effects on the parties involved just make the man who gets the job a little better off and the woman that would otherwise have gotten it a little worse off.

    But now think about that woman a few years earlier, when she was in college. If she understood that her career prospects would be limited because employers could make gender-based assumptions about her qualifications for a job, she might work less hard or stay in school for fewer years. That is, anticipating a lower return on her investment in college, she would reduce that investment. This decision might keep her from getting an education that would have paid off if she were able to credibly convince potential employers that she would remain active in the labor force. The woman is hurt, but so is the economy in general; she did not make an investment that would have paid off for her and for society as a whole.

    In addition to having a large effect on labor markets, statistical discrimination also has big ramifications for product markets. There have been a number of very interesting recent studies of discrimination in product markets. One great example of this was a study done in Israel by Asaf Zussman, an economist at Hebrew University. He analyzed the discrimination of Jewish Israelis (who make up a majority in the country) against the Arab minority.

    He sent a pair of messages to each of 8,000 Jewish people who had listed cars for sale on Israel's largest classified ads website (the Israeli equivalent of Craigslist.) Each pair of messages was basically identical, except that one was signed "Moshe" (a distinctly Jewish name) and one was signed "Muhammad" (a distinctly Arab one). The emails offered a price for the car that was a discount relative to the price listed in the advertisement. Zussman found substantial evidence of discrimination, as the response rate to Jewish buyer emails was much higher than the response rate to Arab buyers; an Arab buyer who offered to pay the price listed in the advertisement and a Jewish buyer who offered a 5 to 10 percent discount were equally likely to hear back from the seller.

    Zussman then called each of the car sellers and administered an apparently unrelated survey that asked numerous questions about their feelings about Arabs and Arab-Jewish relations. The car sellers had no idea (or, at least they were not informed) that there was a connection between their car sale and the phone survey. Zussman then matched the individuals' survey responses to their responses to emails from prospective buyers. The respondents in the survey revealed negative views of Arabs along several dimensions, with many indicating that they thought Arabs were of lower natural intelligence than Jews and should be forced to use segregated recreational facilities.

    However, the degree to which individuals showed discrimination against Arabs in the car negotiations was correlated with only one question on the survey -- the degree to which they agreed with the statement, "The Arabs in Israel are more likely to cheat than the Jews." So, while Jews express negative feelings about Arabs in Israel, they are able to put these feelings aside when transacting sales with Arabs as long as they do not expect to get cheated. That is, Zussman's study indicates that Jews discriminate against Arabs when transacting business because they think more Arabs are cheaters, not because they do not like Arabs.

    All these examples, from the U.S. and elsewhere, are quite sobering. My own recent (and short-lived) experience as a member of a group that is discriminated against has heightened my awareness of the fact that the benefits of being a middle-aged white male are widespread. And it's been a useful reminder that, while overt discrimination is not nearly as bad as it used to be here in the United States, the detrimental effects of stereotyping are pervasive and substantial.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Wall Street suffered a second day of big losses.  It was part of a global sell-off, driven by lackluster corporate profits, slower growth in China, and concerns about emerging markets.  The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 318 points to close at 15879, its worst loss since June.  The Nasdaq fell 90 points to close at 4128.  For the week, the Dow lost 3.5 percent; the Nasdaq fell more than 1.5 percent.  

    The man who runs JPMorgan Chase got a 74 percent raise last year.  The bank said today that chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon made $20 million dollars.  It cited, in part, his role in approving a $13 billion settlement for misleading investors before the 2008 meltdown.  Company profits fell 16 percent in 2013, while its stock rose 33 percent.  

    Direct talks between the Syrian government and the Western-backed opposition were scrubbed today, but they're set for tomorrow instead.  U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said late today that the new plan is for the two delegations to sit down with him in the same room on Saturday.  We will get a full report on the day's events right after the news summary.  

    In Egypt, a wave of bombings hit Cairo, killing at least six people.  It was the most serious attack in the capital city since the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.  
    Jane Deith of Independent Television News narrates this report.  

    JANE DEITH:  Dawn in Cairo, and on the left of the picture, a white pickup truck stops next to the Egyptian police headquarters.  These pictures aired on local television appear to show a black car pulling up alongside and picking someone up before driving off -- two-and-half minutes later, an explosion, this was one of four bombs around Cairo timed to sound a warning on the eve of the anniversary of the revolution.  

    The Egyptian police were the target.  The bomb at the police headquarters killed four men.  

    MOHAMMED IBRAHIM, Egyptian Interior Minister (through translator):  A pickup truck had two passengers inside.  It stopped outside the police headquarters and the suicide bomber detonated himself.  

    JANE DEITH:  Eyewitnesses said there were gunmen too.  

    MAN (through translator):  A red Suzuki vehicle approached the police headquarters and two gunmen sprayed the guards with bullets.  

    JANE DEITH:  Crowds in the army-led government immediately blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, but it's an al-Qaida linked group which has claimed responsibility for today's attacks.  

    Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, based in the Sinai Peninsula, has killed more than 100 policemen and soldiers, who it says have been killing Islamists.

    Guns and tensions on the streets of Southern Cairo this afternoon, people apparently surrounding a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.  After today's bloodshed, there are fears tomorrow's anniversary of the revolution will bring more violence.  Three years on, time has not healed the divisions in Egypt.  It's deepened them.  

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  In Iraq, there's word of a mass exodus amid heavy fighting in Anbar province.  A U.N. official says more than 140,000 people have fled their homes since al-Qaida fighters took over parts of Ramadi and Fallujah in late December.  The Iraqi army has been trying to dislodge the militants with heavy shelling.  Many civilians are caught in the crossfire and don't have any supplies.  

    Secretary of State John Kerry fired back today at critics who charge the Obama administration has disengaged in the Middle East.  

    Speaking in Switzerland, Kerry insisted the U.S. has enduring interests in the region and has no plans to retreat.  

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  My response to that suggestion is simple:  You cannot find another country, not one country, that is as proactively engaged, that is partnering with so many Middle Eastern countries as constructively as we are on so many high-stake fronts.  

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The administration has taken fire from Saudi Arabia and Israel over its response to the Syrian civil war, the upheaval in Egypt, and the Iranian nuclear program. 

    From China today, a warning that its military has begun warning and intercepting foreign military planes in a disputed air defense zone.  Beijing declared the zone over the East China Sea in November, but it's been denounced by Japan, the U.S. and others.  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted today his country will not tolerate territorial changes that are made by force.  

    Road crews in Northwestern Indiana cleaned up Interstate 94 today, after a massive pileup that left three people dead and 20 injured.  It happened yesterday near Michigan City, about 60 miles east of Chicago, in near whiteout conditions.  First-responders said today the crush of 46 trucks and cars looked like a war zone. 

    MICK PAWLIK, Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Chief:  It was such a devastating scene.  You don't know where to start.  But when people are stuck in their cars, they look at you like, we're Moses.  Part the water.  Save us.  We can't show no fear or panic out there, so we just start doing it.  

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The tangled wreck touched off a traffic backup that left hundreds of people stuck for hours in 10-degree weather.  

    Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, pleaded not guilty today to trading influence for thousands of dollars of gifts and loans.  The couple had their court appearance at the federal district court in Richmond.  They were arraigned on 14 counts of corruption.  Then they were released without bond.  The trial is slated to begin in July.

    Republican Party leaders have voted overwhelmingly to shorten their presidential nominating calendar for 2016.  Party Chairman Reince Priebus said today the goal is to cut down the time that GOP candidates spend attacking each other.  Primaries and caucuses will begin in February and conclude in mid-May.  The national convention will take place by early July, which is two months earlier than usual.  

    Some three million Americans are now enrolled in private health insurance plans under the president's health care law.  Medicare/Medicaid chief Marilyn Tavenner posted the total today, based on numbers from federal and state exchanges.  The administration's goal is to sign up seven million people by the end of March.


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    To remember the Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who died Jan. 14 at the age of 83, writer and professor of Latin American culture Ilan Stavans read his translation of Gelman's poem "End."

    Juan Gelman was a major literary figure throughout Latin America and Spain. A poet born in Argentina, Gelman is known for fighting against the military junta that ruled Argentina in the 1970s and '80s. He died early this week at his home in Mexico City at the age of 83.

    Argentinian poet Juan Gelman as seen Oct 26, 2005 in Madrid. Photo by Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

    "The moment he died in Argentina, the entire country came to a halt. It understood that part of its soul had left," Ilan Stavans told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown. Stevens is a writer and a professor of Latin American culture at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

    Gelman was part of the Latin American literary tradition that Stavans said is best represented by Pablo Neruda. He would look at common, everyday experiences.

    "He wanted to connect us with the environment. He wanted to connect us with the emotions that we feel and he wanted to use poetry to explain what the DNA of an entire civilization was about. The beauty of his poetry was that he found a style that connected the entire Argentine people with the continent of Latin America and the world," Stavans said.

    During Argentina's "Dirty War," Gelman felt his poetry needed to reflect that world as well.

    "He understood that the role of poetry was to speak truth to power ... he took [that] very seriously as a poet, he needed to bear witness to the situation that the country was going through and to allow his poetry to last beyond the daily massacres."

    According to Stavans, that made Gelman influential.

    "He knew that ultimately a poem is more powerful than a gun or a hand grenade and that a poem can change people's minds and that is what his poetry ended up doing."

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The United Nations' lead envoy on Syria struggled today to hold talks together aimed at ending that country's civil war. 

    As Hari Sreenivasan reports, they may have reached a breakthrough.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Demonstrators from both sides of the Syrian conflict highlighted the diplomatic divisions, as the Assad regime and the opposition failed to meet face-to-face today. 

    Then came this:

    LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, U.N. Envoy to Syria:  Tomorrow, we expect, we have agreed that we will meet in same room. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi made the announcement after hours of meeting separately with the delegations. 

    LAKHDAR BRAHIMI:  The discussions I have had with the two parties were encouraging.  And we are looking forward to our meetings tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon.  As you know, the whole process is based on the Geneva communique of the 30th of June, 2012.  And I think the two sides understand that very well and accept it. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  That communique calls for a transitional government, and Brahimi acknowledged there are different interpretations of its provisions. 

    Earlier, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition insisted President Bashar al-Assad accept those terms before any direct talks. 

    Secretary-General Badr Jamous:

    BADR JAMOUS, Secretary-General, Syrian National Council (through translator):  The negotiations will be indirect until the regime signs Geneva I.  We came to implement the agreement.  And if the regime will not abide by it, then direct contact will not be beneficial. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  But the Syrian delegation gave no ground publicly.  Instead, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said his delegation would leave tomorrow if serious talks didn't begin. 

    Meanwhile, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to ridding Syria of Assad. 

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  Absent a political solution, we know where this leads, more refugees, more terrorists, more extremism, more brutality from the regime, more suffering from the Syrian people. 

    And we do not believe that we or anyone should tolerate one man's brutal effort to cling to power. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  As the day ended, expectations for tomorrow's talks in Geneva remained low, but, as one Western diplomat put it, "Every day that they talk is a little step forward."

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Joining me now is chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner from Geneva. 

    So, Margaret, bring us up to speed on what happened today.  There were threats of a walkout.  There were no-shows.  Then there's Brahimi trying to press the reset button and saying, we will do it tomorrow?

    MARGARET WARNER:  Well, pressing the reset button is one way of looking at it, Hari, but I think what you had today was a lot of posturing by both delegations, but particularly the government, but on behalf of the audience back home and just to score political points.

    But when Brahimi came into the briefing room at 6:00 and said they're all going to meet together tomorrow with me as -- it's the structure I laid out last night, it became clear that in fact he's managed to get them to agree not only to have this sort of three-way kind of meeting, at least in part, but to stay through the end of next week. 

    So they are moving forward.  But I think what we did see is that what happened over the night was the opposition realized they just weren't ready, they weren't ready for that 11:00 a.m. meeting today, and they didn't let Brahimi know until the morning. 

    And so Brahimi then had to say, all right, I will meet with the government at 11:00, and I will meet with the opposition at 4:00.  And, in that time, they had to sort of figure out, OK, who's going to do what?  These opposition members, remember, are very new to this game.  They just formed together and agreed to come like five days ago.

    And they realized they didn't have people to handle all the different issues that are going to be discussed.  And they really needed to work through some of that. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, speaking of all those different issues, what is realistically on the table tomorrow? 

    MARGARET WARNER:  Well, Hari, tomorrow, I was just told, they are first going to go for what one Western diplomat called a quick win.  And that is to spend a couple of days arranging for humanitarian access into parts of Homs, which, as you know, has been heavily besieged.  People are really desperate there. 

    And the opposition had said to its American and British advisers, look, if we're going to come to this conference and we're going to be criticized by the more extreme elements both in our own coalition and people inside, we have got to show we can produce something quickly on the ground. 

    And so the Americans and the Russians have been working heavily on this already for a week to 10 days.  So they're hopeful they can get that.  Then they will move on to setting up the transitional government authority and also at the same time talking about these other measures like releasing political prisoners, localized cease-fires, and this list that we're familiar with. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  You said yesterday that the opposition had a little bit of momentum coming into these talks.  Is that sustained now? 

    MARGARET WARNER:  Well, Hari, I think they're still feeling good about how well they did at Montreux, but today showed they're not really ready for negotiating prime-time. 

    There's just a huge experience gap here.  Walid Moallem, former -- the Syrian foreign minister, former ambassador to Washington, he knows how to negotiate.  And the government gets to speak with one voice.  And this opposition is a fractious coalition that doesn't represent but maybe 25 percent of the opposition anyway, and they're all exiles. 

    So they have got a huge experience gap.  And, as one adviser said to me, you know, this is not like the Russians and Soviets sitting down to discuss arms control.  The opposition has to learn it on the fly. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So what are the pitfalls for the U.S.-backed opposition if this talks or these talks go as Brahimi is predicting? 

    MARGARET WARNER:  The biggest pitfall for the Western-backed opposition, Hari, I think, is that the talks become an end in itself, that the process grinds on and on, and in the meantime, the regime keeps pounding civilians from the air, and the rebel forces, the sort of more moderate and even moderate Islamist ones, are squeezed between the Syrian forces and these al-Qaida linked fighters, jihadi fighters, and so that over time, it becomes an excuse for the regime to say, hey, we're talking, we're part of this process. 

    The American government, the administration can say, of course we have a policy.  We have negotiations under way.  But, in the meantime, the rebel opposition and the civilians basically get crushed on the ground, until there is very little left to talk about.  That, I think, is the biggest pitfall. 

    And, apparently, the opposition has told the Western advisers, we do not want this to be another Middle East peace process. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  All right, chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner joining us from Geneva, thanks so much. 

    MARGARET WARNER:  Thank you, Hari. 

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now we look at another country divided. 

    The political unrest in Ukraine continues, as riots spread from the capital to nearly half the nation. Despite President Viktor Yanukovych's pledge to reshuffle his government today, the protesters declared they won't stop until he is out of office. 

    Matt Frei of Independent Television News has this report from Kiev. 

    MATT FREI:  Most of the city is soldiering on with normality, but look closer and you notice the new normal concentrated in less than a square mile of trouble. 

    Here, revolutionary fervor is measured in tires.  They can't bring them fast enough to strengthen the barricades, just in case. (INAUDIBLE) street on the way to Parliament the scene of this week's battle, and it doesn't look like as if will have any traffic issues any time soon. 

    There are now three rows of barricades here built through overnight and the place is abuzz with the industry of insurrection.

    None of this was here yesterday. The real estate of the revolution seems to be becoming permanent, especially at this crucial barricade close to parliament.  It is impossible to imagine that these tires, these walls and these people will disappear without the government making significant concessions. 

    News that the president wants to amend the hated anti-protest laws leave them unimpressed. They still want him and the rest of the government to go. 

    If this street is the key to the revolution, then Independence Square around the corner is its heart. This is where it all started. This is now a heavily fortified state within a state, whose very existence is an affront to the authorities. 

    The government claims it is a hotbed of extremists and radicals.  So where better to put this to the test than in the shopping mall that lurks right underneath? 

    Do you feel safe down here?

    WOMAN:  Yes, completely. 

    MATT FREI:  Are you in favor of what is happening up there?  Are you in favor of the...


    WOMAN:  Yes, I am in favor, and I am have just bought some medicines, food, and socks. 

    MATT FREI:  All right, so you are bringing supplies?

    WOMAN:  Yes, for sure. 

    MATT FREI:  Kiev is a city disfigured by politics.  If there is to be a peaceful solution through negotiations, there needs to be trust. 

    But, when even the priests are tooling up, trust is in short supply, and both sides remain poised just in case.    

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now a pair of stories tied to concerns over economic inequality and mobility in the U.S.  The president is expected to speak at length about these topics in his State of the Union address next week.

    First, a health story.  There are about 50 million people in the United States who don't have access to the food they need to lead healthy and productive lives; 17 million of them are children.  Many live in big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Houston, and Chicago.  That's according to the latest report from the hunger relief group Feeding America. 

    But there are areas where the problem is much more pronounced than you might expect.  And one of them is in Southern California. 

    Hari is back with our report. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  It's known as one of the most exclusive places on earth, the home of the rich and spectacularly rich. 

    Orange County, Calif.'s, reputation only grew when the TV crews started rolling in several years ago.  But "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and the teens of "Laguna Beach" failed to mention a major piece of the O.C. drama.  The county is also among the top 10 in the U.S. for childhood food insecurity. 

    The term means that, along with the yacht clubs and average home prices of nearly $2 million in some spots, Orange County also has more than 150,000 children who don't know where their next meal is coming from. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Paul Leon is the president of the Illumination Foundation, a group that helps struggling families find housing and stability. 

    PAUL LEON, Illumination Foundation:  Orange County is basically the tale of two cities.  We have the area that we're standing in right now, which is Newport Beach, is the richest think in the nation.  And then 17 miles away, we have one of the most densely populated and poorest cities in the nation. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Among the poor are thousands of low-income workers who support the county's luxury economy.  Before Leon's foundation intervened, kids in the Tina Pacific neighborhood of Anaheim often skipped meals. 

    Michele Cummings, who volunteers for the foundation and lives in Tina Pacific, was one of the first to recognize how hungry her neighbors were. 

    MICHELE CUMMINGS:  One night, we had pizza delivered, and a kid came over like a half-an-hour later, and he was like, do you have any leftovers?  I'm really hungry.  And I was like, are you serious?  And he was like, yes, I'm like -- I'm hungry.  And I went, well, come on.  Here.  Take it, the rest of it. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Cummings made some calls an helped organize a program called Kids Cafe.  Now each day after school, she passes out fresh food dropped off by a local food bank. 

    MICHELE CUMMINGS:  OK, go sit at your tables. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  The kids call Cummings the lunch lady, a point of great pride for her, because not long ago, she and her 9-year-old daughter, Sofia, didn't always have enough nutritious food either. 

    MICHELE CUMMINGS:  No problem. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  When Cummings lost her job, her life spiraled out of control.  Stable housing can be hard to come by in a place where average rents top $1,200 for a one-bedroom. 

    They found themselves in line at the armory's homeless shelter, then living in a low-rent motel where it was difficult to prepare little more than cheap processed food. 

    MICHELE CUMMINGS:  Like, at first, we were just doing microwave meals every -- every night.  And it was -- just, like, it was horrible.  The salt in them was horrible.  So before I got, like, cooking stuff, you know, we were living off microwave meals, definitely. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  For Cummings' health, it was a recipe for disaster.  Within months, she gained close to 40 pounds.  That worried her.  But even more so, she worried about Sofia, and for good reason. 

    Recent studies by the National Institutes of Health suggest that a lack of nutritious food, especially during childhood, can have long-lasting physical consequences that linger for years, if not decades, among them, anemia, early onset diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, stunted intellectual growth, and obesity. 

    It's that last point that many find hard to reconcile, the presence of malnutrition and obesity at the same time.  But most processed foods, while high in calories, simply don't contain the nutrients that are so crucial for good health and productivity. 

    There's also evidence that the body stores fat differently in times of stress, and that alternating between eating more when cash and food are plentiful and less when they're not triggers the body's feast-or-famine reflexes.  The result?  Weight gain. 

    Barbara Laraia of the University of California at Berkeley has been studying the long-term impacts of hunger for two decades and says it all means the nutritional odds are stacked against low-income families. 

    BARBARA LARAIA, University of California, Berkeley:  So we have the stressful situations where, you know, the body is saying I need some energy, reach for the cookie, and at this point in time in the United States, cookies and snack foods are everywhere. 

    So not only is the income restriction leading to purchasing energy-dense foods, but it's the stress as well that absolutely leads to the perfect storm of gaining weight, possibly developing chronic disease.  And it might be associated with later chronic disease for children. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  That's why, with one in five children sometimes going without meals in the community surrounding Disneyland, Orange County has begun approaching the issue like a public health crisis. 

    It started when O.C. public health officer Dr. Eric Handler ran into the director of the Orange County Food Bank recently and had two basic questions. 

    DR. ERIC HANDLER, Orange County Health Care Agency:  One, is there enough food in your food bank?  And he said no.  And I said it, if we were able to capture food that is wasted and direct it to people in need, could we end hunger in Orange County?  And he said yes.  And that was the start of this campaign. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  About 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted, too often ending up in local landfills and buried.  With that in mind, Handler started pushing the idea that businesses can easily change their habits and have an impact. 

    So for the past few months, Handler and his team have been hitting the road in Anaheim. 

    DR. ERIC HANDLER:  We are very hopeful that there will be significant increases in number of establishments donating food. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Hoping to target first the largest food producers, places like Disneyland, Angel Stadium, the Anaheim Convention Center, and the Honda Center. 

    DR. ERIC HANDLER:  Our goal is to find out which establishments are currently donating food and which are not, and those who are not donating food, to educate them to the fact that they are not held liable if food is not correctly prepared. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  One of the companies working with the Waste Not O.C. Coalition has already shown the concept can work.  The Cheesecake Factory near Disneyland donates 200 to 300 pounds of food each week that has been fully prepared, but left unserved. 

    In the last five-and-a-half years, the chain has stored, packaged and handed off more than two-and-a-half million pounds nationwide.  Members of the local food banks pick up the food, which is often healthier than the packaged variety donated in food drives. 

    DR. PHYLLIS AGRAN, Pediatrician:  Hi.  How are you today?

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  On the consumer end, the Waste Not Coalition is also working to convince Orange County health care providers to ask questions about hunger during routine primary care visits. 

    DR. PHYLLIS AGRAN:  Is there any time in the last couple of months that you have had difficulty financially purchasing adequate food, fresh fruits and vegetables for him or your family?

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  The idea is that people like Dr. Phyllis Agran stand the best shot at breaking through the stigma and getting people the help they need.  Agran agrees and has been willing to give it a try.  But she also says local projects of this kind are just a piece of the solution. 

    DR. PHYLLIS AGRAN:  More importantly, I think, as pediatricians, we have a responsibility to children to advocate at the local, the state and the federal level for policies that will eliminate food insecurity in this country. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Back in the neighborhood of Tina Pacific, things are looking up for Michele Cummings.  She recently landed a job as a caretaker for the elderly, which means that she and her daughter have enough food and a better mix of it.  Now that she has a kitchen, Cummings can buy in bulk, cook from scratch, and make her food stamp dollars last. 

    MICHELE CUMMINGS:  Like, I wouldn't say I can buy whatever I want, you know?  I don't barbecue steak every night, that's for sure.  But I make it stretch. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  On the menu this night, reheated soup laced with fresh vegetables, not the most elaborate meal in Orange County, but at least it's healthy, she says, and enough.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Online, we have more about the ties between hunger, stress and weight gain, and a slide show of the other top counties in the U.S. for childhood hunger.  That's on our Health page.  

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Our next segment examines new research that's drawing attention for its findings about economic opportunity in America. 

    Jeffrey Brown picks it up from here. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Is it still possible to climb to the top in America?  In a paper released this week, a group of economists found the prospects for upward mobility, the theme of the American dream, haven't changed in the last several decades. 

    The ability to move up the income ladder hasn't worsened, but it also hasn't improved. 

    Raj Chetty, one of the authors of the study, is professor of economics at Harvard University, and he joins me now. 

    Well, thanks for joining us. 

    It might be helpful first to define what you mean by upward mobility.

    RAJ CHETTY, Harvard University:  Sure. 

    What we mean by upward mobility in this study is a child's chances of moving up in the income distribution.  One way to measure that is the chance that a child, say, from the bottom fifth of the income distribution reaches the top fifth of the income distribution. 

    You could also measure it in other ways.  What is the average outcome of children from low-income families or what are their odds of reaching the middle class?  No matter which way we define upward mobility, the main finding of our most recent study is that your odds of climbing up the income ladder haven't changed significantly over the past three decades or so. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  So were you surprised by that finding?

    RAJ CHETTY:  Yes, we were quite surprised, because I think many Americans have the perception, and certainly the public conversation has been that prospects for upward mobility are declining in the U.S.

    And, to the contrary, what we found is that your odds of climbing up the income ladder haven't actually changed significantly, even while the amount of inequality, as has been widely discussed, has increased substantially over this period. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, so let's go to that. 

    I mean, first of all, is it a glass half-full or half-empty situation?  How do you look at the problem that we have today? 

    RAJ CHETTY:  Well, I think you shouldn't interpret the lack of a decline in upward mobility as good news, in the sense that intergenerational mobility in the U.S., social mobility, is lower than virtually any other developed country for which we currently have data. 

    And so the way to think about this is that upward mobility is quite low, unfortunately, on average in the U.S., and it has remained -- it's been persistently low for the past few decades.  And so, in that sense, I think it's still an important and urgent policy priority to focus on identifying ways of improving upward mobility. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, in thinking about that, about possible policy prescriptions, how much do we know about why this has happened, why it has stayed the same or stagnated? 

    RAJ CHETTY:  Yes, that's a challenging question. 

    One of the trends that we have seen, as I just mentioned, is that inequality has increased.  And conventional wisdom is that greater inequality might make upward mobility more difficult.  One way to picture that is think of the income distribution as a ladder, and the rungs of the ladder or the percentiles of the income distribution, while inequality has been increasing, that means the rungs of the ladder have grown further apart. 

    And so you might have thought, intuitively, that's going to make it harder for kids to climb up that ladder if they are starting from a low position.  That turns out not to have happened.  And so perhaps one hypothesis that other things have changed at the same time.  Over the past several decades, we have had significant improvements in civil rights, expanded access to higher education, and a number of other anti-poverty efforts that might have offset that detrimental effects of other forces in the economy. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  But, as you said, inequality certainly has increased.  So, what -- make the connection here for us.  I saw a quote where you said, "Now it matters more who your parents are today than it did in the past."

    So you're saying that the consequences of inequality have increased, somehow impacting mobility, upward mobility?

    RAJ CHETTY:  That's exactly right, Jeff.

    So, the way to think about that is because the rungs of the ladder are further apart, to go back to the analogy I was just using, who your parents are, if you happen to be by chance born to parents at the bottom of that ladder vs. the top of the ladder, that is more consequential today than it was in the past, precisely because the ladder is now expanded. 

    So if you are born to parents who happen to be at the 20th percentile, instead of the 80th percentile, that is a much bigger gap today than it was 30 or 40 years ago.  And so the consequences of the fact that we have relatively low levels of mobility in the U.S. are much more serious today than they were in the past.  And so we should be more concerned about the fact that mobility is quite low today. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  I want to come back to one other thing you mentioned, which is the comparison to other countries. 

    You said because the U.S. remains behind many other countries now when it comes to upward mobility.  Do we know why?  Do we know what other countries are doing that make it easier for mobility? 

    RAJ CHETTY: Well, it's difficult to draw lessons from cross-country comparisons, because there are lots of other differences across areas. 

    But in another study we have done, which we actually discussed on the NewsHour a few months ago...

    JEFFREY BROWN:  I remember, yes. 

    RAJ CHETTY:  ... we look at the geography of mobility within the United States, and show that there is a lot of variation in upward mobility across areas within the U.S.

    So, to give you one example, the odds of a child from the bottom 20 percent reaching the top 20 percent are four out of 100 in Atlanta, but 13 out of 100 in San Jose, nearly three times as large.  And so the question that we ask is, what is driving that difference in upward mobility within the U.S.?

    And we identify a set of factors, a set of correlated factors, such as segregation, income inequality, the quality of schools in an area, family structure and measures of social cohesiveness, all of which are related to higher levels of upward mobility. 

    Now, we don't know exactly what the causal determinants are, what the recipe is that makes San Jose have higher upward mobility than Atlanta.  But that's exactly what we would like to figure out and identify policies to improve upward mobility going forward. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, and do you and your colleagues look at other kind of policy areas, I'm thinking about -- where -- that could make a difference, I mean, in upward mobility?  I am thinking about education, for example, whether it's public K through 12 or higher education. 

    RAJ CHETTY:  Absolutely.

    I think education could play a key role here.  And we have done other work showing that the quality of teaching, in particular in elementary schools, has very significant impacts on kids' outcomes in the long run.  And I think another important factor to keep in mind is a lot of these differences in upward mobility that we're seeing across areas emerge at relatively early ages. 

    By the time kids are 18, you're seeing a lot of these differences in teenage pregnancy rates and college attendance rates.  And so that suggests to me that we need to be intervening relatively early on, consistent actually with the earlier segment, on food insecurity, where researchers have found in a variety of contexts that it's those early formative years, as well as around age 10, age 15, that is the point at which differences really can emerge and where intervention, I think, is important. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Raj Chetty -- Raj, OK, let me ask you one more question. 

    You mentioned that, you know, upward mobility is cited regularly by politicians nowadays.  Are they -- have they just missed something? 

    RAJ CHETTY:  Well, I think people's perceptions about trends in mobility may not quite have been accurate, but I think the increased focus on income mobility as a key policy priority is absolutely right on. 

    And I think our study reinforces that message that there are significantly lower levels of upward mobility than you might like in many parts of the U.S.  Even though that hasn't changed significantly over time, we should be concerned that there is a persistent problem in many parts of America, like Atlanta, like Charlotte, like Indianapolis, and many other cities, where kids from disadvantaged backgrounds really don't have great odds of succeeding.

    And I think it's critical to identify policies that can change that situation. 

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And where is your study going from here?  Because we did have that conversation last year, when you were looking at geography.  And now you come up looking at upward mobility.  Where do you go from here? 

    RAJ CHETTY:  Yes, that's right.

    So all this work is part of what we're calling the Equality of Opportunity Project.  And the goal of this project is to use scientific methods and big data to try to identify what the determinants of upward mobility are and how we can improve kids' outcomes from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

    One of the things we are going to study next is look at people who move across areas.  Take a person who moves from Atlanta to San Jose or Atlanta to Salt Lake City.  How do their kids' outcomes change, and what can we learn about what the exact causal factors are by looking at people who move across different areas?

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Raj Chetty, thanks so much. 

    RAJ CHETTY:  Thank you.  My pleasure.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. 

    Welcome, gentlemen. 

    So, we live in this rich country, Mark and David, but we have just heard kind of a remarkable report that Hari did from Orange County, California, about hunger.  And then we just heard Raj Chetty, the economist, in this fascinating conversation with Jeff, Mark, talk about how the mobility, the ability of people to move up if they are the lowest level of the income ladder really hasn't changed.  And, in fact, it's gotten worse in some ways. 

    What are we to make of all this? 

    MARK SHIELDS:  I wish I had an answer for it. 

    I think there is no question we're talking about this being an issue and theme that is going to dominate certainly the president's presentation coming up.  And it's -- Judy, the reality that he talked about, the income inequality, the economic inequality in the country, in a little over a generation, we have gone from the top 1 percent having 11 percent of the national income to 25 percent, and the bottom 90 percent -- that is 90 percent of the people -- instead of sharing 67 percent, down to less than 50. 

    So that widening income and economic inequality is real.  And it has consequences that are social, that are political, and they're generational.  And I was just blown away by the interview with Jeff.  I mean, it just -- to me, it was so riveting, what he says and how he says it. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  David, how does this -- what effect does this have or should have it on our public debate? 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Well, I'm frankly a little concerned about the way it is going to affect our public debate. 

    Inequality is certainly widening.  Mobility is something we have to think about as Americans.  It is the American dream.  But as a frame, it is a very broad frame.  What Mark talked about, the concentration of wealth at the top, is caused by one set of problems, middle-class wage stagnation caused by another set of problems, what is happening in the lower 20 or 40 percent caused by a different set of problems.

    So you have got a whole bunch of problems all intermingled.  And my viewing, the political system I don't think can deal with all these different problems all layered on top.  If I were President Obama doing the State of the Union address next week, I would say, where is the greatest injustice?  Where is the greatest harm?

    And I would say that's at the bottom 20 percent or the bottom 40 percent.  You take kids, what do they have to do to have a pretty -- chance of a decent life?  Graduate from high school at age 19 with maybe a 2.5 GPA, not get convicted of anything, not get pregnant.  Only 37 percent of kids at the bottom 20 percent income scale are doing that, only 37 percent.

    So that is where the greatest harm is.  That is already a phenomenally difficult problem.  And I would focus on that, with early childhood education, nurse-family partnerships, school programs.  I would really focus energy on that, rather than this vast society-wide issue called inequality. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So -- but do we think that he may do some of that, Mark? 

    MARK SHIELDS:  I think he will. 

    I think -- and David makes a very, very, very good point and a real point.  But, Judy, when we just talk about family, and we talk about -- which I think has become sort of the dividing line, one side saying it's values that we have to do, the other side saying that there is economic war here, and I think that is something that is real. 

    And there are defined economic interests.  And there is one side that has won and one side that has lost.  And when we talk about children born to unmarried mothers, the country with the highest economic mobility in the world is Denmark with 55 percent of babies are born to unmarried mothers, you know?


    DAVID BROOKS:  Danish unmarried mothers are not like ours.  They are living with guys and they're living decade after decade.  They're just not having a marriage. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  OK.  But, I mean, you could say that marriage then as an institution in Western Europe has suffered. 

    But, I mean, just to simply say that this is the answer, I think it is -- it's Globalization.  It's the decline of all these jobs that are in the industrial base of the country.  It is a weakening of unions.  There are a dozen factors that have contributed to it.  But I think the fact that it's being addressed is important and urgent. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  That is what makes it so hard as a political issue, because Mark is right.  It is economic.  It's the decline of low-skill jobs.  It's de-industrialization.  That leads to there are a lot of especially men who are not worth marrying, because they don't have incomes, they don't have wages. 

    And so they're just not going to get married.  And so there is a clear economic cause there.  There is also a cultural shift, as more people decide it's OK to have children before getting married.  And these two interplay in an incredibly complicated way that is very hard to understand and probably differs person to person. 

    So my view is, it is already a phenomenally thick and thorny problem.  And so by making it more thick, by putting all these society-wide things, I understand there is inequality, I understand the mobility problem.  I just think when we're thinking about policy, it is really important to focus. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  But, sometimes, we feel the two political parties are stuck in an argument, that one makes one argument, the other one makes another.  Does this change what those arguments should be? 

    MARK SHIELDS:  Well, I think it -- the question becomes, does the economy serve the people or do the people serve the economy? 

    And I think that to me is the cleavage here.  I mean, I'm sorry.  People -- the economy exist, the economy is thriving, the economy is working for very powerful and influential people.  We see it.  We see it in the scandals every day in our American politics.  People with the affluence have influence. 

    And it comes down to, I think, a fundamental question about what kind of a society you are, is, does the economy exist for people?  And I just think we have got to figure out a way to let people participate and enable them do participate in this economy and to live a life of dignity and respect. 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Yes, another -- just another cleavage which I do not know the answer to, is the economy properly rewarding workers?

    Democrats tend to say, these are productive workers and the economy is not rewarding them because there are fewer unions and things like that.  Republicans tend to gravitate toward the issue, these are just not that productive workers and the economy is fairly rewarding them, and, therefore, the response is to increase their human capital through education and other things, so to make them more productive. 

    And that is sort of basic question.  Is the capitalist economy right now working, or is it not?

    And when -- as we said tonight, we reported the chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase making $20 million last year at a company that did have, what, 33 percent increase in profits, but also negotiated...

    MARK SHIELDS:  And paid $18 billion in fines.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Right. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  If you are arrested as an axe murderer, you want Jamie Dimon to be bargaining for you. 


    MARK SHIELDS: He has kept the company out of jail and profitable, and, I guess, so they double his salary. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, we mentioned you -- one of you -- both of you -- I think Mark mentioned politicians in trouble. 

    The former governor of Virginia indicted today for -- along with his wife -- for taking money, gifts, loans from a businessman in Virginia.  And the question is whether he did anything in return.  And we don't know whether he did, David.  But some -- you hear the argument made that, well, this is the kind of thing all politicians do. 

    Is this the kind of thing all politicians do?

    DAVID BROOKS:  No, not really.  Most politicians are not actually that into money.  That is why they went into politics.  They're into power, they're into prestige, they want to be the center of attention. 

    What is mystifying about this couple is the fascination with Rolexes and Ferraris.  I have like a $80 watch or something like that.  Why do you need a $6,500 watch?  What are you getting out of it?  He needs status.  I guess he wants a Rolex.  But he's governor.  He has a security detail.  That's status. 

    So what's the psychology that was driving them is a bit of a mystery to me.  And then I think it's partly because -- and this is true of politicians -- they spend their time hanging around rich people, constantly around rich people.  You look around the table, it's Rolex, Rolex, Rolex, and suddenly they don't fit in.  And that does have a corrupting effect on politicians in a variety of ways, actually. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  And that's universal. 

    The point, the last point David made is absolutely universal.  We have a system that is excessively deferential to people with money.  Politicians spend too much of their time seeking the approbation and the support of people with money.  And a little resentment develops.  I'm not in any way justifying Bob McDonnell.

    Bob McDonnell was a very appealing political figure.  He was a real possibility to be on the ticket. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  For president.

    MARK SHIELDS:  He won as a conservative in a swing state, a battleground state. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Vice president.

    MARK SHIELDS:  The vice president.

    In Virginia, he governed as a moderate.  He was a successful governor.  But -- and this is not Teapot Dome.  This is not somebody selling the mineral rights of a country.  This is not Rod Blagojevich selling a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder.  But it is grubby entitlement. 

    And the Rolex gene, which is exclusively male, is a real disorder.  


    MARK SHIELDS:  It truly is.  I have no idea. 

    I mean, Bernie Madoff had 17 Rolexes.  Jesse Jackson Jr...

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Is that right?

    MARK SHIELDS:  He had 17.  And Jesse Jackson Jr., the same thing, he had a Rolex.

    I have no idea what it is.  I talked to one of the smartest woman I know this week, and she said, it's man's real impulse to wear diamond necklaces, and Rolex is the closest thing to it that's tolerable. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  I'm not going to ask... 


    JUDY WOODRUFF:  ... necklace...


    DAVID BROOKS:  Yes, I have got diamonds, but I don't...


    JUDY WOODRUFF:  All right, just one last quick question, speaking of politicians and money. 

    Hillary Clinton, we haven't talked a lot about her in a while.  But she's going around the country making speeches.  And I guess one of the most successful political action committees, super PACs, announced this week that it is going to be backing her. 

    So, again, it's what -- it's what you both are talking about.  It's money, it's politics.  What does this say that, here we are, January 2014, and we're already talking about how much money... 

    DAVID BROOKS:  Yes, well, they're trying to scare people out of the race.  But, to me, it's not going to work. 

    It's the sound of doom.  No, I don't think it's the sound of doom, but I do not think she is going to be coronated out of this.  And the fact that some high-flying Washington establishment PAC is helping her is not going to necessarily help her.  There is a great outsider hunger here. 

    And I'm looking for an outsider.  Governor Jerry Brown of California, mark my words, he's going to run. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Thirty seconds.  Thirty seconds. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  The election of 2016 will not be about continuity.  It will be about change. 

    And the idea that you're talking about inevitability as a campaign strategy, that you better buy your ticket right now and get on the train because it's pulling out of the station, American voters today, we are participating in this. 

    And I just really think that it's a total disservice, quite frankly, to President Obama.  It makes him look more and more like a lame-duck, when his own party can't wait to get him out of town.  It would be one thing if there was a Republican sitting it in the White House.  There is a Democrat, and he's got basically 1,000 days left in his term. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  I just want to see what kind of watch you both are wearing. 

    MARK SHIELDS:  L.L. Bean. 


    DAVID BROOKS:  Very cheap.  Very cheap. 


    MARK SHIELDS:  L.L. Bean, and it's overpriced at $89. 


    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.  

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: remembering a poet who challenged his country's military dictators.  
    Jeff is back with that.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Juan Gelman was an Argentine poet who became a major literary figure throughout Latin America and in Spain.  He was also known for his fight against the military junta that ruled Argentina in the 1970s and '80s, and for the personal tragedy that came from that.  

    His daughter was kidnapped and tortured.  His son and daughter-in-law were killed.  And their child, Gelman's granddaughter, was taken and given away for adoption.  Gelman finally located her in 2000.  

    Juan Gelman died at age 83 at his home in Mexico City this week.  

    Here to tell us more is Ilan Stavans, a writer and professor of Latin American culture at Amherst College.  He's editor of "The FSG Book of Twentieth Century Latin-American Poetry."

    First, tell us a little bit about Juan Gelman the poet.  What accounted for his prominence in the Spanish-speaking world?  What was his poetry like?  

    ILAN STAVANS, Professor of Latin American Culture, Amherst College:  Juan Gelman belonged to a tradition in Latin American poetry that connected the people with the word, the spoken word, the written word, the tradition best represented by Pablo Neruda.

    In his case, Juan Gelman's case, he understood that the role of poetry was to speak truth to power.  And throughout the Dirty War, the Guerra Sucia, in Argentina, he took very seriously the role that, as a poet, he needed to bear witness to the situation that the country was going through and to allow his poetry to last beyond the daily massacres, the disappearances that were taking place. 

    He was very shrewd.  He knew that a poem is more powerful, ultimately, than a gun or a hand grenade, in that a poem can change people's minds.  And that is what his poetry ended up doing.  

    JEFFREY BROWN:  And the themes that he addressed went to that?  Or -- I saw in one -- the end of one poem that you translated called "End": "Poetry is a way of living.  Look at the people at your side.  Do they eat, suffer, sing, cry?"

    He was really looking at common people.  

    ILAN STAVANS:  He was looking at common people.  Jeff, he was looking at common things.  He was looking at our environment, at nature in general, and trying to give those objects that surround us the place that they have, recognizing them, birds, the ocean, a city, a car.  

    They are part of our daily life, and we barely notice them.  And through his poetry, he wanted to connect us with the environment.  He wanted to connect us with the emotions that we feel.  And he wanted to use poetry as a way to explain what the DNA of an entire civilization was about.  The beauty of his poetry is that he found a style that connected the entire Argentine people with the continent of Latin America and the world entire by allowing him to speak about the very daily, very mundane, very common happenings that make a life, and that as a poet he wanted to bear witness to them.  

    He understood that poetry and politics go hand in hand.  And the moment he died in Argentina, the entire country came to a halt.  It understood that a part of its soul had left.  And yet the poetry that Juan Gelman left us with in a beautiful style, a style that often breaks the sentences, that uses or doesn't use punctuation depending on the circumstance, also often inventing new words, lasts -- will last him and will squarely integrate him into a tradition that I think will be read for generations to come.  

    JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, let me ask you to finish then with one of his poems.  And you chose a short one called "Epitaph."

    I will ask you to read in the English translation for us.  

    ILAN STAVANS:  My pleasure.  

    "A bird lived in me.  A flower traveled in my blood.  My heart was a violin.  I loved and didn't love.  But sometimes I was loved.  I also was happy: about the spring, the hands together, what is happy.  I say man has to be!  Herein lies a bird, a flower, a violin."

    JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, Ilan Stavans on the life and work of Juan Gelman, thank you so much.  

    ILAN STAVANS:  My pleasure.  Thank you for giving poetry a space. 


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