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

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    bodycam

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the aftermath of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of a man in New York City, civil rights groups and even the president have called for an increase in the use of body cameras by police departments.

    Hari Sreenivasan takes us to one town where they recently began using them.

    DANIELLE TORRES, Evesham Township Police Department: It’s green. I’m ready to go out on a shift. I pick it up. I put it on. I flick it so that it’s like that. Once it turns green, then it’s ready for me to start recording.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For the last five months, police officer Danielle Torres has been wearing a small body camera when she’s out policing the streets of Evesham, New Jersey, a commuter town just 20 miles southeast of Philadelphia.

    DANIELLE TORRES: The body camera sees everything from me out, almost as if it’s my eyes, whereas in-car cameras only see a stationary view of what’s in front of my patrol car.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Her department is one of dozens across the country that have adopted this surveillance equipment.

    And Chief Christopher Chew, who himself wears one, says his officers have all embraced the new policing tool.

    CHRISTOPHER CHEW, Evesham Township Police Department: They see the benefits, not only short term, but long term, because it’s there to protect them. It’s there not only to protect against the frivolous lawsuits or complaints, but also it’s capturing what they’re doing, because they’re doing great work each and every day.

    And now they have the ability to capture it, go to court and show that they were doing the right thing. Our officers, they want everything recorded and audio to protect them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The equipment is expensive. Cameras can cost up to $1,000 a piece, with data storage costs far exceeding that.

    Earlier this month, President Obama asked that $75 million be spent to purchase such cameras for departments all across the country.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m going to be proposing some new community policing initiatives that will significantly expand funding and training for local law enforcement, including up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement agencies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The move comes in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, an incident that wasn’t captured on video.

    DAVID HARRIS, Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law: As soon as that event happened, the immediate reaction was, where’s the video? How come they don’t have video?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David Harris is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School. He predicts body cameras will soon be widely used by departments everywhere.

    DAVID HARRIS: Police need to take this on, on their own terms, to have their own ways of looking at this. They have to put these on police officers. The public will be served because there can be greater accountability, there can be a much better, more nuanced record.

    And the police, I think, have begun to realize, just like they did years ago with dash-cams, that their interests will be served as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Still, even Harris concedes that body cameras don’t necessarily mean police will be held more accountable.

    ERIC GARNER: I was minding by business, officer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier this month, a New York City grand jury decided not to indict an officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, in spite of the fact that the incident was videotaped by bystanders.

    DAVID HARRIS: We know that, even if you see it on camera, there can still be biases. You don’t have more than one camera angle, or the particular one you have only shows one part of the action, or you have situations in which there has been editing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, agrees the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these cameras. His organization has given qualified support of their use if strict, consistent privacy policies are adopted.

    JAY STANLEY, American Civil Liberties Union: There need to be very good policies to ensure that video footage that police take — and a large proportion of calls are domestic violence. Police are entering people’s homes. They’re seeing people at the worst moments of their lives — is not going to end up on YouTube or be passed around among police officers for laughs or what have you.

    So there need to be very, very tight controls over the video data that is collected, who has access to it, how long it is retained, what it is used for.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And Stanley says officers cannot be allowed to alter the footage.

    JAY STANLEY: The crucial thing is that police officers not be able to edit on the fly by turning the cameras off and on at will, or if they get involved in a dubious incident, finding a way to make sure that the footage disappear, all of which we have seen happen around the country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Although body cam rules vary widely from city to city, the Evesham Police Department says it has taken precautions against those abuses. The cameras are recording all the time, although footage is only saved starting 30 seconds prior to an officer hitting the button. That footage is then automatically uploaded to the cloud at the end of every shift. And a digital record is kept of anyone who tries to access it.

    DANIELLE TORRES: After a shift, you take the camera off, turn it off, and put it right in one of these ports as you see the other ones. And it will go through the process of downloading all the videos on the cloud.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, that means you can’t edit the video, you can’t delete the video?

    DANIELLE TORRES: Not at all.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Advocates of the cameras say widespread use could lead to better behavior by everyone involved. They point to several studies.

    The Rialto, California, Police Department found there was a 59 percent reduction in the use of force by officers and an 88 percent reduction in complaints after body cameras were used.

    And in a controlled study in Mesa, Arizona, where only half the force was given cameras, there were three times more complaints lodged against officers without cameras than officers who wore them.

    So, how do you expect body cameras to change how an officer behaves?

    CHRISTOPHER CHEW: Well, the officer now knows that everything they do when they have a contact with a citizen is now audio- and video-recorded. It puts them on another level. They now know that we have the ability as an organization to go back with checks and balances to ensure that they’re following proper protocols.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Does it change the behavior of citizens once they know they’re on camera by the police?

    CHRISTOPHER CHEW: I would say, naturally, it would.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If authorized by Congress, the federal money for new body cameras would nearly double the number of cameras that are currently in use.

    The post Making body cameras part of a police officer’s uniform appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Twenty-five films will be archived as the most culturally, historically or aesthetically significant works in cinema and join the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

    Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the list of films Wednesday, highlighting a diverse range of art.

    “The National Film Registry showcases the extraordinary diversity of America’s film heritage and the disparate strands making it so vibrant,” said Billington. “By preserving these films, we protect a crucial element of American creativity, culture and history.”

    The films range from short animations to full-length films and date from 1913 to 2004. To be considered, a film must be at least 10 years old.

    Here is a complete list of this year’s inductees:

    • The Big Lebowski (1998)
    • Down Argentine Way (1940)
    • The Dragon Painter (1919)
    • Felicia (1965)
    • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
    • The Gang’s All Here (1943)
    • House of Wax (1953)
    • Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
    • Little Big Man (1970)
    • Luxo Jr. (1986)
    • Moon Breath Beat (1980)
    • Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
    • The Power and the Glory (1933)
    • Rio Bravo (1959)
    • Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
    • Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
    • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    • Shoes (1916)
    • State Fair (1933)
    • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
    • Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
    • Unmasked (1917)
    • V-E + 1 (1945)
    • The Way of Peace (1947)
    • 13 Lakes (2004)

    The post Watch clips from the 25 films inducted into the National Registry of Film appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HACKED SONY PICTURES  MONITOR

    Updated at 6:25 p.m. EST

    According to the New York Times, American intelligence officials have confirmed that North Korea is connected to the Sony Pictures’ hack. Until now, North Korea’s involvement has only been speculation.


    Sony Pictures canceled their planned Dec. 25 release of the film “The Interview” Wednesday, after four major theaters — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — pulled scheduled screenings following threats of attacks on movie-goers and theaters that showed the film.

    Initially, Sony refused to delay the movie’s debut, but said it would not penalize theaters who chose to cancel screenings.

    In a statement released today, Sony said:

    We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

    Threats to movie-goers and theaters showing the “The Interview” were issued Monday, alongside another set of hacked emails. Homeland Security responded, saying there is no evidence of a legitimate threat. “We are still analyzing the credibility of these statements,” an official said, “but at this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.”

    Some have voiced disappointment in Sony’s decision, including actor Rob Lowe, who appears in the film and its trailer.

    The PBS NewsHour examined the Sony Pictures Entertainment email hack on December 7.

    The post Sony Pictures pulls the plug on release of ‘The Interview’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    terrorinsurance

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Since 9/11, American businesses have been able to buy insurance policies covering a terrorist attack through a public/private partnership known as the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

    But, for the first time, Congress left this week without funding it because of objections by one senator. It could have an effect on businesses coast to coast, as they wonder what happens in case of the worst.

    Joining us now is Leigh Ann Pusey. She’s president and CEO of the American Insurance Association.

    And we welcome you to the program.

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY, American Insurance Association: Thanks for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, why is this terrorism risk insurance so important? Why do businesses need it?

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY: Well, terrorism is a very unique risk for insurance.

    It’s very hard to conceive of the kinds of losses that can be associated with a terrorist attack. They’re well beyond the capacity of the insurance market right now to provide that. So, what we learned after 9/11 was that insurance had been basically a natural part of coverage, but, after 9/11, the market retreated because, all of a sudden, it realized that this was a huge potential risk.

    And it took a TRIA-like partnership to really entice the private market back into providing this coverage, which is, in essence, an economic security matched up with the government’s national security efforts, because it really helps us have an orderly recover after an innocent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what would trigger insurance like this? What would have to happen for this trigger — for this to happen, where the U.S. government would have to come in and, frankly, back up what the insurance companies are saying?

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY: Well, right now, the TRIA program anticipates a fairly substantial participation by the private market. So, you would have to see an event probably the size of 9/11 before the government would have to be tabbed to backstop insurers.

    Insurers are sitting on 20 percent deductibles of their premiums. What that really translates to is, for some companies, as much as $1 billion, $2 billion of insured losses they would pay before they tapped that backstop. And they’re paying a percentage of that backstop even after they have met the deductible.

    They are going to pay 15, 20 percent as envisioned under the new law going up. There’s a lot of skin in the game by the industry. It’s grown over the years since 9/11. So, it would have to be a catastrophic-level event for the private — for the government to have to step in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me read you what one — one comment that Senator Tom Coburn, the senator from Oklahoma, the one who is responsible for holding this up, this week said.

    He said, “This program has made the insurance industry $40 billion in the last 12 years.”  He said, “American taxpayers take all the risk, except for 35 percent, and the insurance industry takes the money.”

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY: Well, what the insurance industry is doing is stepping in and providing for an orderly economic recovery that otherwise the taxpayer would be on the hook for the first dollar of.

    So, have we charged a premium for that risk? Sure. That’s a market force I would think Senator Coburn and other Republicans and pro-market voices would like to see happen. And the more we get can comfortable with this risk over time, the more we can learn about it, we can take on more of it. It will never be a risk that can be totally borne by the private market. And it shouldn’t be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why not? Why can’t it be borne by the private…

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY: Well, because it associated — it’s national security. Terrorism is a national security issue. It’s the responsibility of the federal government, who has the data, the knowledge, the know-how.

    You just ran a piece about them confirming what they may or may not know about these threats related to Sony. Well, that — they have that knowledge. Nobody insuring Sony has that knowledge. They have that knowledge. We don’t want that knowledge, by the way, but what it means is that insurers are limited in how much they can try to underwrite this and how much exposure they can take on.

    This current TRIA program covers — provides $100 billion. There’s not $100 billion of private market capacity. If you want to provide economic stability and economic growth, then you need a partnership.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does it mean, Leigh Ann Pusey, that this insurance was not extended, that this doesn’t exist right now?

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY: Well, it means that, after December 31, there is no TRIA backstop, and insurance companies and CEOs — I spoke to one as I was driving over here this evening — are employing their contingency events.

    They’re having to put their contingency plans into place. They’re going to look at their exposures. And I believe over the coming weeks we are going to see more and more market reaction to this. What that might mean is capacity will shrink over time, and the price of this might go up in certain markets. This isn’t just about tall buildings in New York. It’s about properties and businesses all around the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re saying they won’t get built?

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY: They won’t get — some projects could be delayed. Loans require this sort of financing to be backstopped by insurance coverage and protection on this.

    Think about the small business dry cleaner who is in the shadow of a trophy property in New York. They’re going to have a hard time finding capacity just by sheer virtue of where they’re located.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Leigh Ann Pusey, who is the president and CEO of the American Insurance Association, we thank you.

    LEIGH ANN PUSEY: Thank you.

    The post What a lapse in terrorism insurance by Congress means for businesses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Premiere Of Columbia Pictures' "The Interview" - Arrivals

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: not showing at a theater near you. That’s the latest fallout from one of the biggest and most public corporate hackings in history.

    Just a short time ago, Sony Pictures announced it’s canceling the Christmas Day release of a movie that’s been at the center of all of this, and the subject of security worries.

    Jeffrey Brown tell us more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It began as a comedy, a Hollywood comedy called “The Interview,” though one with a rather twisted premise.

    SETH ROGEN, Actor: You want us to kill the leader of North Korea?

    ACTRESS:  Yes.

    JAMES FRANCO, Actor: What?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now the film, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, has sparked a much darker tale of cyber-crime, artistic license, film industry intrigue, geopolitics, and even threats of terrorism.

    Sony Pictures, the studio that made the film, has been the target of a large-scale hack of its computer data, with a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace claiming responsibility for near-daily leaks of internal documents, e-mails, and other information.

    One question, who done it? From the outset, suspicions have fallen on North Korea, which early on made clear its anger that a film that portrays a plot to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong-un, calling it — quote — “an act of war.”

    Earlier this month, North Korean state-run TV said the studio got what it deserved.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): This hack attack towards the U.S. film producer Sony Pictures is clearly the righteous act of our sympathizers and supporters who came forward following our appeal. Thus, the misfortune that Sony Pictures experienced can only be seen as a just punishment for its evil doings and unjustified actions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Former U.S. Envoy to North Korea Jack Pritchard told us the totalitarian regime has both the means and determination to carry this out.

    JACK PRITCHARD, Former U.S. Special Envoy for Negotiations with North Korea: I have been to Kim Il-Sung University. I have seen some of their computer labs. They have got the equipment and they clearly have got the focus and the intention of doing this.

    The North Koreans are capable of holding on to a grudge and playing it out. In this particular case, there’s no smoking gun, so they can continue to do what they want.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Still, uncertainty remains. There’s also been conjecture about disgruntled employees, past or present.

    In the meantime, the flood of leaked corporate documents has continued.

    Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Fritz:

    BEN FRITZ, The Wall Street Journal: These e-mails are an amazing insight into how a major film studio works, because you just have someone’s pure inbox, and sent mailbox, I should say, with tens of thousands of messages. It’s damaging in all sorts of ways, from the embarrassing, all the way up to the actually proprietary information that now their competitors have on the way they do business.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Among the sensitive material released, private correspondences among Sony executives, including discussions on whether and how to alter the film’s content, inside information on salaries, some showing wide disparities in the pay of men and women, scripts and even high-quality copies of movies yet to be released, and old-fashioned gossip, replete with disparaging remarks about stars such as Angelina Jolie and racially tinged comments about President Obama’s taste in movies.

    All in all, says Ben Fritz, it’s badly shaken the company and the industry as a whole.

    BEN FRITZ: Well, for Sony Pictures, this has been really damaging. It’s made it difficult for the company just to engage in its day-to-day work. All the other studios in Hollywood are frightened that they could be next. They’re trying to beef up their security and be more careful about the information that they share in e-mails and in documents on their computers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yesterday, the company got hit with a lawsuit from two former employees for not protecting Social Security numbers, salary details and other personal records.

    Sony has fought back in one way, hiring high-profile lawyer David Boies, who, in a letter on Sunday, warned news organizations not to publish details from the leaked files, as they contain — quote — “stolen information.”

    In a Sunday New York Times op-ed, prominent screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose movies and name came up in the documents, also criticized the media, writing, “Every news outlet that did the bidding of the Guardians of Peace is morally treasonous and spectacularly dishonorable.”

    But the last 48 hours have taken on a new urgency, and even a darker threat for movie theaters this holiday season, as the Guardians of Peace issued a new message, saying people who plan to see the movie — quote — “seek fun in terror, and should be doomed to a bitter fate.”  The message also included a reference to September 11.

    The Department of Homeland Security said it had not yet seen credible intelligence of an active plot, but is investigating the threat.

    Last night, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck had this to say:

    CHARLIE BECK, Los Angeles, California, Police Chief: Well, we take those threats very seriously. And we will take extra precautions during the holidays at theaters. We’re very aware of the controversy surrounding Sony studios, so we will take that into account.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Moviegoers in Los Angeles had mixed responses.

    REM SCOVELL: I don’t even know why they made it. Like, it just seems like a bunch of comedians trying to be creative. And I definitely won’t go see it, though. Now that they say there’s some sort of danger involved, I’m definitely not seeing it.

    TARIQ COLLINS: The way homeland security is set up, it’s virtually impossible. And, no, I’m not scared. Why would I be scared?

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, today, events spiraled ever further, and late this afternoon, Sony announced it was canceling the release of the film, which had been scheduled for Christmas Day.

    That came after the nation’s largest theater chains had said they wouldn’t play the movie pending results of law enforcement investigations. As late as Monday, Seth Rogen, who also co-directed “The Interview,” was defending his film like this on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

    SETH ROGEN: We just wanted to make a really funny, entertaining movie. And the movie itself is very silly, and it wasn’t meant to be controversial in any way. It was really just meant to be entertaining.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A silly movie, perhaps, but one that has brought an unprecedented firestorm to Hollywood and beyond.

    I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And late-breaking news tonight:  There are reports that the U.S. government is confirming that North Korea is indeed behind the hacking at Sony.

    The post Sony cancels release of movie at the center of security worries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cuba Releases Alan Gross, Held In Prison For 5 Years

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, today’s momentous developments toward Cuba touches deep emotional cores, especially within the Cuban-American community, which includes some two million people. It’s the third largest Hispanic group in the U.S.

    Joining us now to discuss these issues, Ana Carbonell. She’s a Cuban-American political strategist and activist. She joins us from Miami. And Maria de los Angeles Torres, she’s a Cuban-born American and a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She’s also executive director of its program on Latino research.

    We welcome both of you.

    To Maria de los Angeles Torres first.

    What do you think this change is going to mean for the American people, especially for the Cuban-American community in this country?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES, University of Illinois at Chicago: Well, I think that there is — first of all, I think that this is a step in the right direction.

    I think that it will mean that there is a glimmer of hope that a transition in Cuba can be peaceful. I think for many Cuban-Americans, we’re really in tune with what is going on in Cuba. It is a very precarious situation. It is economically precarious and politically precarious.

    And because of the world economic situation, it is worse. That doesn’t necessarily translate into peaceful transitions. What it translates into is a potential for repression. I think that this policy recognizes that it is a situation that can be very dangerous.

    And, so from my perspective, I think many Cuban-Americans understand that and see that there is a need to make some kind of move that at least provides a glimmer of hope.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ana Carbonell, a glimmer of hope here?

    ANA CARBONELL, Cuban-American Activist: Look, what the Cuban-American community understands and, more importantly, the Cubans on the island, is that the president today equated the Cuban people with the regime.

    And that’s most unfortunate, because it’s a profound divorce from a history of bipartisan support with the Cuban people’s aspiration to be free. And it’s critical that, at this moment in Cuba’s history, when we see countless pro-democracy leaders on the island, they’re risking their lives daily for freedom and democracy, for the U.S. government, especially for the White House, to stand with the Cuban people.

    And, today, by the president’s actions, unilateral concessions with that regime, he basically told the international community that the United States is willing to recognize the legitimacy of a regime that has oppressed the Cuban people for over 50 years. And that is profoundly sad, because we’re at a critical moment in Cuba’s transition for democracy, and legitimizing that regime undermines the efforts of those who are fighting for change on the island.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask both of you about what this means for families, Cuban-American families in this country, families that have been divided over what’s happened between the U.S. and Cuba.

    Maria Torres, how do you see that from your own perspective?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: I think that people are tired of the family divisions. People travel. They vote with their feet. They actually travel. They send money to their relatives.

    I think that this policy says it’s important to engage family to family. So I think that it does recognize that, despite the rhetoric of many of the elected officials, what is actually happening on the ground here is people are helping their families. They are building small businesses. Those small businesses will be part of the support, if you will, for transition in Cuba.

    And, by the way, most dissidents in Cuba want this to happen, because they understand that as long as the United States is — can be used as the excuse for the Cuban government to stay in power, that is — that can be very dangerous. And so they actually support the lifting of an embargo. They support diplomatic relations because it puts the ball in their court.

    ANA CARBONELL: That is that is completely not correct, and I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    I could rattle off a list of countless pro-democracy leaders on the island, from the Ladies in White, to Jose Daniel Ferrer, to  Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez, who have told this administration, have told Congress now is not the time, because we need to remind the international community that Cuba is not a democracy.

    And no one here is arguing as to divisions of Cuban families. Cubans in exile and Cubans on the island are united. The only division in Cuba is the Castro regime that uses oppression and violence and harassment to maintain control. And that’s what’s at stake here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me…

    ANA CARBONELL: The Castro brothers are not going to be a permanent fixture in Cuba’s reality. And U.S. policy reminds the world that Cuba needs to transition towards democracy. And, today, the president’s measures undermines that effort.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me — I do want to try to get to this family question with each of you, if I could.

    If I could just ask each one of you, starting with you, Maria Torres, in your own family’s case, what has this meant to your family, the division that’s been taking place over the last more than 50 years?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: Well, I’m a product of a policy from this end, by the way, that brought children over and divided families.

    I was also a product from the other end of a government that didn’t allow us to reunite with our families. We have had families spread out through both sides of the Florida Straits, and we still have families. And it has been at times very difficult to help them. It has gotten easier in the last few years. Their lives are better.

    It has not made them pro-regime. It has made them more pro-U.S., and it has been able — it has allowed for families to actually come together. The animosity that used to exist before the Carter administration is an animosity — animosity that’s gone. It’s gone. I mean, people realize that they need to work together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ana Carbonell, what about in your case, in your own family? How is it dealt with, the division? Did your — did your — tell me about your parents and your grandparents.

    ANA CARBONELL: My parents came in the 1960s. My father was part of the Bay of Pigs. I have had political prisoners in my family. I have seen the repression on the island until today. I maintain contact with those that are advocating peacefully for pro-democracy.

    And what’s sad about this is the effort to try to propagate this misnomer about divisions among Cubans. The reality is that there is a total consensus. And no measure of American tourism or investment on the part of American businesses is — will encourage or convince the Cuban people that the regime is bad.

    The Cuban people are the victims of that regime. They have seen firsthand. They don’t need anyone telling them, because they have lived it through the 55 years of this totalitarian system. What’s at stake here is, what do we want for the future of Cuba? Do we want a China model that perpetuates the slavery of the Cuban people, or do we want to leverage U.S. foreign policy, leverage the strength of American solidarity to insist that the future of Cuba deserves to be in a multiparty system, where the Cuban people on the island are free to self — to have the right to self-determination?

    Why do they not deserve that?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it may be a newly announced policy, but it clearly has not slowed down the debate at all.

    We want to thank both of you for talking to us, Ana Carbonell, Maria de los Angeles Torres, we thank you.

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: Thank you.

    ANA CARBONELL: Thank you.

    The post How does diplomatic reconciliation affect Cuban-Americans? – Part 3 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cuba Marks The 59th Anniversary of Fidel Castro"s Attack At Moncada Barracks

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to the historic shift in U.S.-Cuban relations in two parts.

    First, we look at if it’s a good idea to reestablish diplomatic relations with the island nation.

    We begin with a member of the Democratic House leadership, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who traveled today from Cuba with Alan Gross. Gross lives in his district.

    Congressman Van Hollen, welcome back to the “NewsHour.”

    First of all, tell us, why is it in the interest of the United States to have diplomatic relations with the communist neighbor?

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D) Maryland: Well, it’s in the interest of the United States to create conditions that create more freedom and opportunity for the Cuban people.

    And what’s very clear is that our policy of the last 54 years, which was designed to isolate and punish Cuba, has been a total failure, by its own measure. We have not helped open up the island. We have not created more democracy. In fact, it has sustained the Castro brothers for these 54 years. They have survived eight U.S. presidents.

    So, when a policy is clearly failing, try something else. And engaging the Cuban people with greater travel, greater communication, with greater trade will help create the conditions and create pressure, I believe, ultimately, on the regime.

    So it’s time to try a strategy that works for the Cuban people. This is not in any way a reward for the regime. In fact, the regime has been empowered by the failed policy of the last 54 years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, House Speaker John Boehner is saying this is appeasing, in his words, a brutal dictator. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and others are saying this should never have even been thought about as long as the people of Cuba are not free.

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Yes, but here’s the question, Judy.

    So I think the burden is on the critics to say how another five years, another 10 years of the current policy changes that condition, because what those critics are describing is the condition that exists under the old policy, the policy before today.

    So, if that’s not working, if that’s actually empowering the regime to stay where they are, engagement is the alternative, because what the engagement will do is allow more interaction between the American people and the Cuban people, more trade, more marketplace exchanges, more communications equipment into Cuba to attach.

    So, by creating the conditions for more openness, you will create, over time, more opportunities for an open Cuba.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But where is the guarantee that the Cuban leadership is going to open up, is going to create these freedoms that they haven’t granted for the last 50-plus years?

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, there’s no absolute guarantee, but this is not something that is for the regime. This is no gift to the regime.

    In fact, the people who should be most scared about the president’s policies are the people who want to limit freedom in Cuba, because what we know is that the current policy has been the one that has denied freedom to the Cuban people. And this is an alternative that will help open things up.

    So people are trying to create this false premise that somehow this does a favor to the Castro brothers. It doesn’t do any favors. I think, over time, you’re going to find the Cuban regime is the one that is put most at risk by this greater exchange of ideas and goods.

    That has been the case in many other countries around the world, and I think it will be the case in Cuba. So no one’s expecting in the next 24 hours or the next year for the regime somehow to change. But what will change is the interaction between the American people and Cuba, between Cuba and the outside world, and that will help create the conditions for change.

    Clearly, the current policy has been a miserable failure on its own terms. And you have just mentioned it. The critics keep saying, look at Cuba, what a terrible place it is. That is partly the consequence of our failed 54-year policy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Representative Chris Van Hollen, we thank you.

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, for a different perspective, we turn to former Ambassador Roger Noriega, who served as assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere during the George W. Bush administration. He’s now a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and he has his own consulting firm.

    Ambassador Noriega, welcome to the program.

    You just heard Congressman Van Hollen. You know President Obama today called the current policy a failure. Why isn’t this the right move now?

    ROGER NORIEGA, Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State: Well, the president’s taken an extraordinarily dangerous bet.

    He has made unilateral concessions to the Castro dictatorship, a dictatorship that’s drawing its last breaths. And by normalizing political relationships, diplomatic relationships, he confers a legitimacy on that regime that it doesn’t deserve.

    If he’s wrong in that bet — and I note that he didn’t even ask for any changes from the Cuban dictatorship — if he’s wrong in that bet, the people that will pay for it are the 11 million Cubans.

    Alan Gross was one hostage. There are 11 million hostages left behind. And it’s extraordinarily important that the president understands that he can’t just make a speech and walk away from this. He owns this now. And he needs to take vigorous steps to engage the Latin American and Caribbean countries in particular to press the regime to respect the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people that are neglected, that are denied them systematically by the regime in Havana.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the argument, though, we just heard that opening up U.S.-Cuba relations with trade, with travel, with communications is going to put pressure on the Castro regime to change?

    ROGER NORIEGA: Well, this is not the new Obama policy. This is the old Canadian policy. They tried it starting 15 years ago, and it was a miserable failure.

    The reason that you haven’t seen meaningful change in Cuba is because you have an implacable regime that understands that opening up in the slightest way, they will eventually lose power in a catastrophic way for them. So they will not open up.

    It’s — and, unfortunately, the president is betting on some sort of goodwill from that self-same implacable regime. It’s really an unwise policy to resuscitate the people on the island who are the single biggest obstacle to political and economic change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But if the current condition — we just heard Congressman Van Hollen say this — if the current policy isn’t working, why will another four years, five years, another 50 years make a difference of this policy?

    ROGER NORIEGA: Well, I understand that argument.

    The issue for us today is not whether we are going to break relationships with Havana. It’s whether — how you go about reestablishing those things. And the policy of the United States is predicated on the principle that we will normalize relations as a regime there demonstrates its will to change in a meaningful way.

    And we use it as leverage to make sure that those political and economic changes are profound, deep, and irreversible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about — just finally, the United States has diplomatic relations with other commentator nations where people are not free, China, Vietnam. Why not with Cuba?

    ROGER NORIEGA: Well, because, at this point, as I said, we have predicated our policy on expecting a transitional government there to make meaningful change.

    The Castro regime will not do so. And we have tried new things. We have tried to reach out to the Cuban people. We sent a man like Alan Gross to reach out to the Cuban people, to give them access to the Internet, something as simple as that, and he went to jail for two years by the same regime that we’re betting is somehow now going to change its stripes. And, unfortunately, the Cuban people will pay the price for this unwise move.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Roger Noriega, we thank you.

    ROGER NORIEGA: Thank you.

    The post Is it in America’s interest to have closer Cuban connection? – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hours before the Cuba news broke, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that he’s stepping down. Rajiv Shah oversaw the agency’s involvement in secret programs in Cuba, creating a Twitter-like service, and infiltrating the island’s hip-hop community. Shah gave no reason for his departure.

    Dozens of Pakistani families buried their loved ones today, as the death toll rose in Tuesday’s Taliban attack on a school. Funerals were held in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Nearly all of those killed were students at the school.

    We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: She was a much-loved head teacher buried today by her grieving husband and son. Tahira Kazi was just one of 148 killed yesterday in an atrocity which has shocked Pakistan into three days of national mourning, and the army vowing revenge for every drop of spilt blood.

    WOMAN (through translator): I’m proud of my mother. She had the chance to get out, but she stayed at her post. She didn’t leave the children alone. She gave her life for them.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Inside her school, the roll call of honor still stands amid walls pockmarked with bullet holes and hatred, a bloodied exercise book, an abandoned shoe, students trapped in their seats by gunmen who shot at close range. And the Pakistan emerging from this massacre seems determined to be tougher.

    The prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, said he was reintroducing the death penalty. Sitting alongside him at this political summit, his rival, Imran Khan, who has postponed protests intended to force the prime minister from office. The heads of the army and intelligence flew to Afghanistan, demanding cooperation, the army claiming yesterday’s attack was planned from Afghan soil.

    Pakistan’s most wanted is Mullah Fazlullah, though even if this Taliban commander is found and handed over, Pakistanis protesting all over the country today are demanding action first and foremost at home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Taliban says the attack was retaliation for an ongoing offensive by the Pakistani military.

    In Eastern Syria, more than 230 bodies have been found in a mass grave near the border with Iraq. A Syrian human rights group says the victims appear to be from a tribe that fought against the Islamic State group. The militants now control most of the province where the mass grave is located. Other members of the tribe found it when they were allowed to return home.

    In Yemen, Shiite rebels who already control key parts of the country have made another big move. They closed a strategic Red Sea port today. The rebels seized the site back in October, a month after sweeping through the capital city, Sanaa.

    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott today promised a thorough investigation into Monday’s siege in Sydney that left two hostages and the gunman dead. Abbott confirmed that the shooter, Man Haron Monis, had been dropped from a government watch list for reasons that are not clear.

    TONY ABBOTT, Prime Minister, Australia: We particularly need to know how someone with such a long record of violence, such a long record of mental instability was out on bail after his involvement in a particularly horrific crime. And we do need to know why he seems to have fallen off our security agencies’ watch list.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Monis was convicted and sentenced last year to community service for sending abusive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

    The U.S. Justice Department today announced its largest criminal case ever involving contaminated medicine. Fourteen suspects were charged in a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people. It was traced to tainted injections from a now-defunct pharmaceutical company in Massachusetts.

    In Boston, U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz said the medicine was made in filthy conditions.

    CARMEN ORTIZ, U.S. Attorney, District of Massachusetts: They knew that the drugs that eventually killed 64 people and injured hundreds more could not be and shouldn’t have been injected into patients. And yet they continued to make and sell those drugs, labeled them as injectable, which meant that they were sterile, and dispensed them throughout the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The charges range from corruption and racketeering to second-degree murder.

    A South Carolina judge has thrown out the conviction of a black teenager who was executed in 1944. Fourteen-year-old George Stinney was charged with the murder of two young white girls. An all-white jury convicted him after a one-day trial, and he died in the state’s electric chair just three months later. The judge ruled today that Stinney was the victim of a great injustice.

    The Federal Reserve Bank signaled today that it’s getting closer to raising interest rates. At the same time, the Central Bank said that it will be patient in deciding just when to act. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said policy-makers will be guided by the strength of economic data and the level of inflation.

    JANET YELLEN, Federal Reserve Chair: A number of committee participants have indicated that, in their view, conditions could be appropriate by the middle of next year, but there is no preset time and there are a range of views as to when the appropriate conditions will likely fall in place. So that’s something we will be watching closely as the year unfolds.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, stocks shot higher on the news that the Fed has no immediate plans to raise rates. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 288 points to close near 17,357. The Nasdaq rose 96 points to close at 4,644. And the S&P 500 added 40 to finish just under 2,013. The gains were also fueled by a small increase in the price of oil.

    Russia’s Finance Ministry resorted to selling some of its foreign exchange reserves today, in another bid to shore up the ruble. The currency had lost 15 percent of its value just this week, but the ministry’s move triggered a moderate rally today.

    The state of New York will soon ban the gas-drilling technique known as fracking. That announcement today followed a long-awaited state review that cited unresolved health risks. Fracking involves injecting chemically treated water at high pressure deep into shale deposits. New York has banned shale gas development since 2008. Now the environmental commissioner plans to make the ban permanent.

    And the 2014 midterm elections are now finally over. Republican Martha McSally was declared the winner today of a U.S. House race in Arizona. She edged out Democratic incumbent Ron Barber in a recount by 167 votes. That’s for the seat once held by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011. Republicans will have 247 House seats in the new Congress, the most since Herbert Hoover was president.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama calls it the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than half-a-century. In a stunning move today, he laid out plans for a diplomatic rapprochement with Havana.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president appeared in the Cabinet Room of the White House to make his momentous announcement. By executive action, he is reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba. He also means to open an embassy in Havana, expand economic ties with the communist island, and ease the ban on travel for family, government business and educational purposes.

    BARACK OBAMA: I do not expect the changes I’m announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight, but I am convinced that, through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama finalized the deal after speaking at length with Cuban President Raul Castro yesterday. It was the first significant discussion between presidents of the U.S. and Cuba since 1961.

    Today, in his own televised address, Castro welcomed the thaw, while cautioning there is much still to be resolved.

    PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO, Cuba (through interpreter): In recognizing that we have profound differences in the areas of national sovereignty, democracy, human rights, and foreign policy, I reaffirm our willingness to discuss all of these matters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The renewal of relations followed a year of secret talks between U.S. and Cuban officials in Canada and at the Vatican. The first concrete step was a prisoner swap that took place this morning. The U.S. released three Cuban agents convicted in 2001 of spying on military installations.

    Cuba freed an unnamed American agent, and Alan Gross, a civilian contractor jailed since 2009 for setting up Internet access that bypassed Cuban censors. Gross was flown, with his wife, to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and spoke to reporters in Washington.

    ALAN GROSS, Released American: To all those who tried to visit me, but were unable to, thank you for trying. I’m at your service as soon as I get some new teeth, and I hope that they will be strong and sharp enough to make a difference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of this marks a break with decades of hostility between the U.S. and Cuba. It began in 1959, when Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro nationalized U.S.-owned companies and allied his communist regime with the Soviet Union.

    President Dwight Eisenhower responded by cutting all ties with Cuba in 1961 and imposing the embargo. A few months later came the Bay of Pigs, the failed CIA attempt to overthrow Castro, and then the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, when the discovery of nuclear missiles in Cuba almost plunged the U.S. and the Soviet Union into nuclear war. And in 1980, in the Mariel boatlift, Castro freed thousands of prisoners, and put them on boats to Florida.

    Looking back today, President Obama said the policy of isolating Cuba has not worked, and he singled out the longstanding U.S. economic embargo.

    BARACK OBAMA: And though this policy has been rooted in best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions. And it has had little effect, beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lifting the embargo is subject to action by Congress, and the White House said it hopes lawmakers will agree to go along. Most Democrats praised the president’s moves, but most Republicans decried them, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents fled Castro’s rule. He spoke to ABC News.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) Florida: What I’m interested in is freedom and democracy. The Cubans haven’t agreed to any of that. There won’t be elections in Cuba. There won’t be political parties. There won’t be freedom of the press, freedom to organize. None of these things are happening. And they won’t happen just because people can buy Coca-Cola.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And prospective GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, said he, too, opposes the move to normalize relations with Cuba.

    We will talk to supporters and opponents of the president’s new policy right after the news summary.

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    Photo by Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images

    The next wave of U.S. military will start to move into Iraq in a couple of weeks. Photo by Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images

    UPDATED 5:04 p.m. EST | WASHINGTON — Two senior Islamic State group leaders were killed in U.S. and coalition airstrikes in northern Iraq over the last week, U.S. officials said Thursday, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved new orders for several hundred troops to deploy to Iraq to train Iraqi forces.

    According to one of the U.S. officials, airstrikes killed a key deputy of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State militants, and one of al-Baghdadi’s military chiefs. A third militant, described as a mid-level leader, was also killed.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the identification details publicly.

    Words of the deaths came after Hagel signed orders Wednesday for the first group of U.S. troops to go to Iraq as part of the administration’s recent decision to deploy 1,500 more American forces to the country. The troops are to advise and train Iraqi forces.

    The top U.S. commander for the mission in Iraq and Syria said Thursday the next wave of American troops will begin moving into Iraq in a couple of weeks, and cautioned that it will take at least three years to build the capabilities of the Iraqi military.

    Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, who is leading the U.S. campaign to defeat Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, said the challenge is to get Iraqi units trained and back into the fight so they can plan operations to regain contested areas such as Mosul.

    He said that while there has been progress in halting the militants’ charge across Iraq, “I think what we must do, especially inside of Iraq, is continue to build those (Iraqi) capabilities. I think you’re at least talking a minimum of three years.”

    The Iraqi army wants to launch a counteroffensive to retake Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, and the U.S. likely would help. While there have been some concerns that Iraq’s military may not be ready yet for such an ambitious operation, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week that the U.S. is working with senior Iraqi leaders on preparations.

    “Part of the planning has to be how you generate force to do operations,” Terry told reporters during a briefing in the Pentagon. The question, he said, is “how do you get into a place where you can generate some capability, pull some units back so that you can make them better, and then now start to put those against operations down the road.”

    He declined to reveal when a Mosul operation might be launched. There have been fewer details and more limited media access to U.S. military operations in Iraq this time than during the eight years of war that ended in 2011. U.S. officials say it’s because the military is there only to advise and assist the sovereign Iraqi government.

    There are currently about 1,700 U.S. troops in Iraq, and President Barack Obama has authorized up to 3,000. More than 1,000 U.S. troops are expected to be deployed in the coming weeks to increase the effort to advise and assist Iraq units at the higher headquarters levels and also to conduct training at several sites around the country.

    Terry also offered an optimistic view of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government’s progress in working more with the Sunni tribes.

    The deep sectarian divide fueled the advances of the Islamic State militants across Iraq earlier this year as grievances led some align with the extremists. U.S. officials have stressed that ongoing coalition assistance hinges in part on whether the Iraqi government becomes more inclusive.

    The U.S. and Iraqi governments have proposed creating a national guard program that would arm and pay tribesmen to fight. Terry said Thursday that as the Iraqis conduct more combat operations in Sunni strongholds such as Anbar, there will be more opportunities to bring tribal members into the fight.

    He said the national guard effort is starting and that he is optimistic the Iraqi government will approve legislation needed for the program to move forward.

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    Moviegoers hoping to catch a screening of “Team America: World Police” in lieu of the canceled “The Interview” are out of luck.

    Paramount, the studio that owns distribution rights to the 2004 satirical film by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, has decided not to offer the movie to theaters. The Richardson, Texas location of the Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain originally planned to show the film in the place of “The Interview” when the latter film was canceled. The screening was promoted as free, including giveaways of free American flags and patriotic items to viewers.

    “We’re just trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation,” said James Wallace, the creative manager and programmer for the Dallas-area Alamo Drafthouse location.

    The location, as well as Cleveland’s Capitol theater — which had also scheduled a screening of the movie — were forced to cancel their showings.

    The planned Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” which features a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, was canceled by Sony Pictures Entertainment Wednesday after threats were issued against theaters and moviegoers screening and viewing the movie respectively. “Team America,” a movie filmed using marionettes, features a caricature of Kim’s father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

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    The panel also suggested replacing the 7 ½-foot fence around the 18-acre White House complex, although they declined "to say precisely what the optimal new fence should look like."

    The panel also suggested replacing the 7 ½-foot fence around the 18-acre White House complex, although they declined “to say precisely what the optimal new fence should look like.”


    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service is an “insular” agency that needs a new director hired from the outside, according to former government officials tasked with examining the embattled agency after a man with a knife stormed the White House.

    An executive summary of the review released Thursday by the Homeland Security Department also concluded that the Secret Service needs more uniformed officers and plain clothes agents, better fencing at the White House and more training for officers.

    “The next director will have to make difficult choices, identifying clear priorities for the organization and holding management accountable for any failure to achieve those priorities,” the group wrote after interviewing 50 Secret Service employees. “Only a director from outside the (Secret) Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require.”

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that the recommendations are “astute, thorough and fair.”

    Many of the proposed changes have been recommended before, including some that date to the Warren Commission Report, which detailed the government investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Johnson said Thursday the recommendations can’t fall by the wayside this time.

    The panelists were former Obama administration Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli; former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, who served during Bush’s term; Danielle Gray, a former assistant to the president for President Barack Obama; and Joe Hagin, deputy chief of staff for operations during the Bush administration.

    This was the second critical report of the agency and its operations in as many months following the Sept. 19 incident, in which a Texas Army veteran armed with a small knife was able to climb over a White House fence and run deep into the executive mansion before being subdued. In November, an internal review concluded that training, poor staffing and a series of missteps contributed to the breach.

    Among the mistakes made were that officers had believed that thick shrubbery would stop the intruder from making into the building.

    Julia Pierson was forced to resign as director a day after testifying about the White House breach. Retired Secret Service Agent Joseph Clancy has been acting director since shortly after Pierson’s ouster.

    The independent panel also concluded that training and lack of staffing was also a serious problem for presidential security. The panel recommended hiring at least 85 agents and 200 uniformed officers. They also recommended that uniformed officers should spend at least 10 percent of their time training. Current staffing levels only allowed for about 25 minutes of training in 2013, the panel said.

    The panel also suggested replacing the 7 ½-foot fence around the 18-acre White House complex, although they declined “to say precisely what the optimal new fence should look like.”

    The panel made more than 19 recommendations, though many of those directly related to security were deemed classified and not included in the summary.

    The post Panel suggests major changes at the Secret Service appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight, there’s a finally tonight coming from late-night comic Stephen Colbert.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at his run and what’s ahead.

    STEPHEN COLBERT, “The Colbert Report”: Truthiness.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: He gave the late night world something called truthiness.

    STEPHEN COLBERT: Now, I’m sure some of the word police, the wordinistas over at Webster’s are going to say, hey, that’s not a word.

    JEFFREY BROWN: An approximation of fact that somehow captured the moment in American journalism and culture. He presented “The Word,” a circular monologue that began in one place, meandered through puns and sight gags, and ended back where it started.

    Night after night for nine years on “The Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert did it all in character, a character named Stephen Colbert, an excitable, hyperactive, brash, but also reasonable voice of conservative bluster, clearly modeled on the cable TV and radio styles of Bill O’Reilly and others, all played for laughs and lessons.

    NPR TV critic ERIC DEGGANS:

    ERIC DEGGANS, NPR TV Critic: I think we hit a media moment where people wanted major media to acknowledge the absurdities and some of the hypocrisies that we see in cable news coverage especially, particularly from pundits.

    And so it felt very new and fresh for someone to come along and embody that in a character that he didn’t quite admit was a character. We weren’t quite used to seeing someone doing this high-wire act.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Colbert grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, the youngest of 11 children, and was later part of Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe.

    He joined “The Daily Show” on the Comedy Central network in 1997, and became a prominent member of Jon Stewart’s school of faux news.

    JON STEWART, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”: Our own Stephen Colbert is down in Murphy, North Carolina, covering this story for us. We’re going to take you out to him now live.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The two, with other members of the team, clearly tapped a nerve and gained a large following. Stewart and Colbert drew some 200,000 people to the comically dubbed Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Washington Mall in 2010.

    ERIC DEGGANS: In general, these guys are able to step aside from the news flow and comment on the absurdities and the hypocrisies of both government, politicians and the news business and celebrities in ways that traditional journalists can’t do.

    But these guys have that free rein. And then you add the fact that Colbert in particular understood media, understands media so well. He’s able to get to the heart of what we find so odd and so hypocritical about so much of what the news media feeds us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On his own show, Colbert’s brand of humor served to prod and poke a wide range of guests in a way that was unlike other late-night TV.

    Colbert stayed in character off the screen as well at a White House Correspondents Dinner and with a fake, or was it real, run for the presidency in 2008. But he also broke character and showed some other sides of himself over the years.

    At a congressional hearing, he advocated for migrant workers’ rights.

    STEPHEN COLBERT: I like talking about people who don’t have any power. And this seemed like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And he campaigned for his sister this past fall as she ran unsuccessfully for a South Carolina congressional seat.

    He’s now set to present another side altogether, perhaps the real Stephen Colbert, when he takes over for longtime late-night host David Letterman in the spring.

    Eric Deggans thinks he’s been preparing himself and viewers.

    ERIC DEGGANS: I do believe that he has slowly been dialing up his own personality on “The Colbert Report” show. And I believe that there are times when you can watch the show and you can see him flip between playing the character that he originated the show with and being himself.

    He would ask a question that was a joke, and then he would follow it up with a serious question that would allow the artist to actually provide an answer that made sense. And so I think people are going to be surprised by how much of the real Colbert they have already seen.

    And it will just be up to him to decide what that new framework is going to be on the CBS “Late Show.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Last night, there were the usual references to the day’s big story, in this case Cuba.

    STEPHEN COLBERT: Bad nation.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: But Colbert also began to wrap up his show, selling off what he called nine years of collective crap and putting the rest out on the curb.

    I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And another note from the late-night airwaves. Comedian Craig Ferguson, host of CBS’ “The Late Late Show,” is also signing off tonight, after nearly 10 very funny years.

    The post Stephen Colbert leaves the pundit behind to play himself appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We’re getting to that time of the holiday season when people are scrambling a bit to lock down that special gift, often wondering what would make a good choice.

    But what if behavioral economics and behavioral science could actually help determine more useful choices?

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has been looking into that very question, part of his ongoing reporting on Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Demoing a favorite gadget coming out of Santa’s workshop in recent years, an ideal gift for the hard-to-rouse, a behavioral economics alarm clock.

    Clocky is among numerous products based on insights from one of the newest and fastest growing branches of economics.

    Harvard’s Sendhil Mullainathan is a pioneer.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN, Harvard University: We’re used to biological science or semiconductors leading to new inventions. But now we’re starting to see how behavioral science, just not new technologies, but new understandings of the human mind, are leading to new inventions

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, we asked Mullainathan and his team here at ideas42, a New York-based behavioral economics consultancy, to suggest some holiday gifts already on the market.

    The first is a simple new take on an old invention, for the overeaters among us, a smaller plate.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: This plate is actually the size of plates from the 1960s. So it’s not just our waistlines that have gotten bigger. It’s our plates that have gotten bigger.

    And research shows that when you eat with plates like this, you just eat a lot more. And so you want to eat less, just go to your kitchen cupboard, replace this with this.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And when you let restaurants pick the portions of hamburgers, pizza, and the like, today’s dwarf those of just 20 years ago.

    But my problem is going to be that I might load up the smaller plate with more food a second, third time even.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: Yes. You need portion control.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: So, let’s move to a more intensive intervention.

    So this is a product that basically measures out and tells you, this is how much vegetables and fruit, this is how much starch, this is your proteins. And so what you do is, you put this on your plate. The starches go in here. We put our vegetables into here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Brussels sprouts, very big now.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: This is the Brooklyn vegetable, so you are going to get a lot of hipster demand for this one.

    And then once we have got it all loaded up, voila. Now, that’s portion control.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But for those of us who really can’t resist seconds, fourths, there’s the kitchen safe.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: You have your Hershey’s Kiss.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: You enjoyed it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Excellent. I’m looking for it to already.

    (LAUGHTER)

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: Now what do you want? Another one.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: So you go back, you reopen it.

    And so there’s a problem with the way we design lids. Lids can be opened all the time.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: This is a nice product where, you see what’s on here? There’s a timer.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: You set it. This is set for 11 minutes. I have had my one Hershey’s Kiss.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right. That’s all we should have.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: And then you hear the lock, and now you can’t get anymore.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Just so that the immediate temptation is removed in time.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: That’s exactly right.

    The person before getting the chocolate wanted one chocolate. The person two minutes afterwards wanted only one chocolate. The guy in the middle is the problem. This prevents the guy in the middle from acting.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Me and almonds, this would be life-changing.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: Yes. Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: My wife hides the almonds from me, and then I go around looking for where she hid them, I swear. It’s insane.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now the folks here at ideas42 aren’t simply thinking about gifts that improve your life.

    Allie Rosenbloom says they’re always trying to improve the world, one behavioral nudge at a time.

    ALLIE ROSENBLOOM, ideas42: Everything from international development to consumer finance.

    NARRATOR: We have launched the $5 million Robin Hood College Success Prize.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Helping the Robin Hood Foundation with its prize for anyone who can double the disturbingly low graduation rates at community colleges.

    But since our project is a behavioral holiday gift guide, let’s go back and explain Clocky.

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: Think about when you set your alarm clock. You set it for 7:00. What time do you get up? 8:00? What came in between? The evil snooze bar, because evening self was like, 7:00, that sounds really good; 7:00 a.m. self was like, I don’t want to get up.

    The snooze bar is like an evil invention.

    (LAUGHTER)

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: It puts all of the balance of power on 7:00 a.m. self. Why should 7:00 a.m. self have all of the power?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Clocky tips the balance. It rolls away so you have to get up to turn it off.

    No doubt, runaway alarm clocks would pry anyone from the arms of even the most muscular Morpheus. But they might also drive anyone nuts.

    Stop. Quiet. Quiet. They don’t look like they’re that ease to actually destroy.

    Some of you may already use behavioral health gizmos, like Fitbit, or Jawbone, tracking your movements, your eating, your sleep. Now there’s Lumo Lift, the posture prod.

    Jamie Kimmel modeled one for us.

    JAMIE KIMMEL, ideas42: It’s a wearable device. You put it under a shirt and attach the magnet.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Sit up proudly straight, shoulders back, head forward, all quiet on the pectoral front. But should you slump…

    JAMIE KIMMEL: You see that it will buzz every few seconds. And that means that I’m slouching.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

    JAMIE KIMMEL: I’m in a bad position. And what it’s doing is, it’s giving me active feedback on my posture.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And nudging Kimmel’s overall commitment to health back into his consciousness.

    JAMIE KIMMEL: It’s a really good product to kind of help us realize, like, our intentions.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that’s the point of behavioral products, sums up Sendhil Mullainathan, not assuming, like traditional economics does, that buying something means you actually want it, because what if there is more than one you?

    SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN: You have seen these cartoons where the character has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other shoulder. A lot of life is like that. I mean, the angel tells you, wouldn’t it be nice to be a little thinner? Wouldn’t it be nice to get up on time? The devil says, oh, let’s just sleep a little more. Let’s just have the extra cookie.

    I think of these as sort of angel technologies, that they’re kind of arming up the angel in the conflict between these two.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And our angel self so often loses the daily struggle between naughty and nice.

    Paul Solman from the “PBS NewsHour” reporting from one pole of modern economics, Sendhil’s workshop.

    The post This holiday season, behavioral economics could be a gift that keeps giving appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WALL STREET RULES monitor

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Next, let’s turn to a story about Wall Street and banks that’s angered many.

    As one of its final acts last week, Congress passed a spending bill for 2015. Tucked into it was a provision to loosen banking regulations on hedges or bets known as derivatives or swaps. These are financial instruments that essentially allow banks to hedge bets on things that rise and fall in value, such as mortgages, currencies and interest rates.

    After the financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Act required big banks like J.P. Morgan to move some of those derivatives, or bets, to other banking units that don’t have a federal backstop or guarantee from the government.

    The idea: No federal guarantee means no bailout. But the provision passed last week essentially cancels it and says banks don’t have to move those swaps around anymore.

    Liberals were outraged. The most outspoken voice ahead of the Senate vote, Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) Massachusetts: Who do you work for, Wall Street or the American people? This fight isn’t about conservatives or liberals; it’s not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about money, and it’s about power right here in Washington.

    This legal change could trigger more taxpayer bailouts and could ultimately threaten our entire economy. But it will also make a lot of money for Wall Street banks.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But others, including Republicans and some Democrats, said that fear was overstated.

    Senator Barbara Mikulski is a Democrat from Maryland.

    SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI, (D) Maryland: So, what did we do? We actually worked on a bipartisan basis. It took a little shove from some of us Democrats, but there both sides of the aisle want to look out for the little guy.

    So, guess what? This legislation that has been so scrutinized needs to also take a look at the fact that it includes $1.5 billion so that the Security Exchange Commission can actually do its job.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For a closer look at the rollback and what it might mean for banks going forward, we get two views.

    Dennis Kelleher is the president and CEO of Better Markets, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in financial markets. And Mark Calabria is director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. He’s a former Republican staff member from the Senate.

    So, Dennis Kelleher, let me start with you.

    What does this allow the banks to do that they can’t do now?

    DENNIS KELLEHER, Better Markets: Well, basically, what the banks do within their federally insured subsidiaries, which are backed not just by the government, by taxpayers, is they conduct their derivatives within that banking, that protected organization.

    And what this law did is, it said, look it, if you want to gamble in the highest-risk type of derivatives, you have got to push them out of the banking-backed subsidiary and put them in a different subsidiary. You can gamble all you want, but you’re going to gamble with your own money and you’re going to get downside if you’re going to get the upside.

    You’re not going to be able to stick the taxpayers with the bill. What happened in the budget bill is, it was a provision in an otherwise pretty good budget deal that said, no, no, no, the banks don’t have to do that anymore.

    And keep in mind there are almost 7,000 banks in the United States. This provision benefits about five, the biggest banks on Wall Street. Four of those banks do 93 percent of all the derivatives trading in the United States. So this wasn’t a bank-friendly provision and it wasn’t a provision that was friendly to taxpayers.

    This was a gift to the biggest banks on Wall Street.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark Calabria?

    MARK CALABRIA, Cato Institute: So, let me first say why I very deeply share Dennis’ concern about bailouts, and I don’t think we have ended too big to fail.

    I think we do need to parse out some of the details. And, again, so let’s think about — banks have an insured subsidiary, an insured part of the bank. And there’s a bank that’s uninsured explicitly.

    It’s important to keep in mind that what Dodd-Frank does say, however, is this uninsured part still has access to Federal Reserve support through its so-called 13(3) authorities. So, even if were these other part of the bank to get into trouble, they could still potentially be on the line for the taxpayer.

    But, more importantly, let’s keep in mind, Dodd-Frank already exempted the vast majority; 90-plus percent of derivatives are already allowed within the deposit part of the bank to begin with. So, with this change was said, we’re going to treat all derivatives basically the same. You know, the credit default swaps, which are a credit event, are going to be treated like interest rates, will all be within the bank.

    So, to me, I think the extent of this, both before the proponents and the opponents, have been a bit exaggerated, because the — again, I said 90-plus percent of derivatives were already exempted from this to begin with. And even those outside would have been potentially backed by the taxpayer.

    And so let me close that with using the example the way AIG was set up, and AIG had a bank subsidiary. AIG had all of its credit default swap business outside of its insured depository. Yet we still bailed out AIG.

    So, I’m left wondering what this change would have stopped in that case.

    DENNIS KELLEHER: Well, sometimes facts obscure, rather than clarify.

    So, Mark’s right that this provision applied to less than 10 percent of the derivatives tradings of these four biggest banks. But what that doesn’t address is, what is the most high-risk? So the 90 percent are interest rates, currency-type swaps, which are relatively low risk.

    And, therefore, the likelihood of those types of derivatives causing the bank to fail and causing another crisis is pretty low. So the provision that was in the law was actually pretty narrowly targeted, focused on the highest-risk type of derivatives. That’s what we wanted to push out of the banks, so taxpayers didn’t get stuck with it.

    And let’s remember for a quite minute, Hari, in 2008, that was the worst financial crash since 1929. It caused the worst economy since the Great Depression. It’s going to cost the United States alone between $15 trillion and $30 trillion, with a T., for the economic wreckage and the bailouts.

    And what this provision, along with the rest of financial reform, is trying to do is to reduce the high-risk activities of this handful of too-big-to-fail banks on Wall Street, reduce those activities, or push them away, push them out, so that the taxpayer doesn’t get the bill after the bankers get the bonuses.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, why did some Democrats, as the one we heard, along with the president, go along with it?

    DENNIS KELLEHER: Well, look, this was a $1.1 trillion-plus funding bill for the entire government.

    And I think Senator Mikulski, the president, and many others on the Hill did a very good job of putting together a very good funding package. The problem, is like all bills — and I worked in the Senate for a long time — all bills are compromises. There are some things in there that you don’t want and some things that you do.

    And the president made the decision at the end of the day that there was more good than bad. As he said, and as Secretary Lew, the secretary of the Treasury, at an FSOC meeting today said, they didn’t want the push-out provision in there, but they were stuck with it.

    The important lesson there is, Wall — it’s a light on how Wall Street gets its way in Washington. It doesn’t have a bill that comes out with Democrats — Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate have to raise their hand in the light of day to vote for Wall Street. They put them in these big bills, so that nobody has to vote for them, and they can get their special provisions. And the public’s deceived and there’s no accountability.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark, what about the central argument that he’s making, is that we’re essentially walking back down that road of banks that are too big to fail, that we’re essentially going to protect these big four or five banks?

    MARK CALABRIA: We are. And Dodd-Frank didn’t end that. So, I mean, I’m not actually for piecemeal reform of Dodd-Frank. I would repeal the whole thing and start from the beginning, because I do think it didn’t address the problems in the crisis.

    Now, where — Dennis was quite correct in saying it’s got to be the risk you’re looking at. Where I would disagree is, to me, what happened is, we had a huge housing boom and bust that caused a recession. We lost two million jobs before September 2008.

    We were in a recession by the time of the financial crisis. And so whenever I hear somebody say, oh, well, we don’t want banks gambling with derivatives, I don’t want banks gambling with shoddy mortgages, and we’re going down that road again, low down payment, subprime mortgages. That’s riskier than a derivative.

    Banks lost billions on their Fannie-Freddie holdings of preferred shares. We didn’t make them push that out. So, again, to me, I’m concerned that rather than say let’s shrink the safety net, we get in these political arguments over, well, this constituency, that’s bad because Wall Street likes it, but because the realtors and home builders like this, then that’s OK.

    And that’s the debate we’re in today, whereas, to me, we need to end all the bailouts.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. All right.

    Mark Calabria, Dennis Kelleher, thanks so much.

    DENNIS KELLEHER: Thank you

    The post Is the 2015 spending bill a gift to big banks? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Getting through the holidays can be emotionally draining, especially when you're the caretaker for a loved one. Taking the time acknowledge what you're grateful for can help you focus on the positives of the season. Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Getting through the holidays can be emotionally draining, especially when you’re the caretaker for a loved one. Taking the time acknowledge what you’re grateful for can help you focus on the positives of the season. Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    The other day I was talking with Mark, a brain tumor survivor and former archaeologist. Once a world traveler and recognized expert in his field, he now lives with debilitating seizures, and with anxiety-producing word-finding difficulties. He told me, with a sigh, that his doctor said he should feel grateful to be alive. His wife of 15 years joined our conversation. She was grateful to have her husband by her side, but she was also anxious to leave for a three-day holiday trip — a fun getaway with her sister, and a much needed break from caregiving. We were at a local residential respite center (a service not available in all states but fortunately a quality program available in this town), where her husband’s medication, personal care and safety would be taken care of in her absence. Mark eventually shared with me that his holiday gift to his wife was to agree to the respite center stay. A gift of gratitude for the love and care she provides him.

    Navigating through a jolly holiday season and wishes for a wonderful new year when living with a chronic, debilitating health condition or caring for someone might have you thinking, “this is no holiday!” But researchers are documenting how expressing thanks can lead to a healthier, happier and less-stressed life. Noted expert Robert Emmons defines gratitude in part as, “… an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.”

    Family caregivers are often portrayed as the epitome of goodness, and rightly so. Time and again spouses, adult children, other relatives and friends who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, stroke, cancer and other health conditions, dig deep to put the needs of another before their own needs. They move personal life priorities to the back burner — work, family, travel, their own health — to ensure the safety and well-being of another person. But no well is bottomless and no caregiver can give in a limitless manner, always being kind, helpful, supportive, compassionate, honest and more, without doing harm to themselves. In this season of giving, acknowledgement of the giving that goes on all year long can get overlooked.

    As a caregiver, there are ways to cultivate a greater sense of satisfaction coupled with a culture of gratitude this holiday season, both for the person receiving care and for yourself. To get a start, try these exercises to help focus your actions:

    Connect with people: Holiday time is both about spending time with people we truly enjoy, but also with those to whom we feel obligated. Here’s a very specific exercise to help identify who receives your precious time during this season. Write down the names of family and friends with whom you’re likely to spend significant time this holiday season. Put a (*) by the names with whom you have a relatively simple, uncomplicated, mutually beneficial relationship. Mark an (x) by those people who make you feel uncomfortable (tense, inferior, frustrated, guilty, etc.). Ideally, would you like to spend (1) more, (2) less, or (3) about the same amount of time with each person on your list? Put a 1, 2 or 3 after each name.

    Embrace the season’s activities: We often enter into the holidays wanting to be inclusive and accommodating. Every year family and friends gather to share meals and exchange gifts. Why should this year be any different? Write down all of the activities you look forward to or anticipate doing as part of the holidays. Here are a few to help you get started: Buy gifts, decorate, make travel plans, plan and shop for holiday meals, cook, bake, clean, host guests, host grandchildren, volunteer for charitable causes, participate in spiritual or religious activities, participate in special family traditions (gather at the family cabin, make tamales, sing at the local nursing home) and more. The list may sound both endless and compelling. Now revisit your list. Put a (*) by the activities that make you smile and feel content. Mark an (x) by the activities that you do not have time to fully enjoy, or that seem to have lost their meaning or become a burden for you, the person you care for or your extended family.

    Cultivate a sense of goodwill towards yourself and others: At this time of year there is more pressure to appear happy and joyful. Feeling and expressing your true feelings, especially if these truths appear negative to others, can be discouraged and seen, at the least, as not acting in the spirit of the season. Here are some of the feelings that family caregivers have expressed to us, as well as some from those on the care receiving end of the relationship. See if any of these fit for you: Ambivalence, anxiety, anger, boredom, disgust, embarrassment, exhaustion, frustration, happy, grateful, grief, guilt, impatience, irritability, jealousy, loving, lack of appreciation, loneliness, loss, an opportunity to give back, peaceful, resentment, sadness, satisfaction, scared, thankful, tired, worried, hopeful. List any other feeling you know to be true for you. Now put a (1) by the feelings that get in the way or disrupt your life, a (2) by the feelings that just are there but don’t really get in the way, and a (3) by the feelings that you want to cultivate to feel more often.

    What is doable and what reflects wishful thinking? To complete this exercise, draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left side of the page note your 1’s from the first exercise, now write down the (*)’s from the second exercise, and add the 3’s from the third exercise. List the remaining items on the right side of the page. When you have finished scan your lists. What steps can you take to include more of the people, activities and feelings from the left side of the page into this holiday season or the near future? What items reflect wishful thinking but more realistically represent something to hope for some time in the future?

    Here are few examples of actions to take this season:

    The gift of listening: Putting everything else aside to focus your full attention on a loved one. Listen to them tell you about their life; ask questions about the origin of family stories and rituals, share a chuckle over past adventures.

    Communicate gently but honestly: Tell the person you care for or the person who cares for you, sensitively but honestly, what you need and how you would like to meet that need. It’s better than speaking angrily or resentfully when the other person doesn’t know why. Sometimes you might just need some time away from the care situation. Try these suggestions for communication with someone living with brain impairment.

    Revisit expectations: If you are caring for a family member living with moderate to severe dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, making heroic efforts to include your relative in a holiday gatherings can be tense and exhausting. Sometimes it can work wonderfully when family members and friends pitch in so that you can take a break to enjoy yourself. But, too often caregiving tasks and anxiety about actions by the person with dementia can drain any enjoyment from your time at the event. Encourage family and friends to spend time with your family member with dementia by visiting the person where they live, rather than at loud, busy family gatherings. A smaller gathering in more familiar surroundings gives visitors and hosts a much greater chance for meaningful time together. Here are more tips for navigating dementia care during the holidays.

    Cultivate gratitude in your life: What would it feel like to focus more of your thoughts on what is good in life? If you have time, consider keeping a gratitude journal, writing down a few items each day. You’ll find a link to more about this project in the resource guide below. Reading just a few sentences from your journal before you go to bed and when you wake up can help you to focus on the good in your life. As a way to communicate within the family, some people create a “gratitude bowl” where everyone in the household jots down things they are grateful for on a slip of paper and places them in the container. Read a few of the slips out loud each day when you’re together at meal time or post a note on the refrigerator.

    Navigating the holidays on top of all of the other daily activities of life for those living with chronic illness can be fraught with frustration and a sense of disappointment. Giving thought to what is truly important for you and your family, while taking steps to communicate your interests to others can open up opportunities for you to have a less stressful and more satisfying season.

    We wish you Happy Holidays!

    Information and resources:

    Family Caregiver Alliance
    415-434-3388
    800-445-8106
    Email: info@caregiver.org

    Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers an extensive online library of free education materials for caregivers. The publications, webinars, and videos offer families the kind of straightforward, practical help they need as they care for relatives with chronic or disabling health conditions.

    Family Care Navigator is FCA’s online directory of resources for caregivers in all 50 states. It includes information on government health and disability programs, legal resources, disease specific organizations and more.

    Helpful FCA Publications

    Leah Eskenazi, MSW, is Director of Operations at Family Caregiver Alliance.

    The post The secret ingredient for getting through holiday stress? Gratitude appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    theinterviewmovie

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining us now to look more closely at the impact of Sony’s decision to pull the movie “The Interview,” we are joined by David Rothkopf, the editor of “Foreign Policy” magazine, and, in Los Angeles, Sharon Waxman, the editor in chief of The Wrap, a news Web site about the entertainment industry.

    Sharon, I want to start with you.

    Sony seemed to have the sympathy of creative types, entertainers, directors, but now that’s changed. What happened in the last 24 hours?

    SHARON WAXMAN, TheWrap.Com: Yes.

    Apparently, at the premiere in Los Angeles, there was a standing ovation after Seth Rogen publicly thanked Amy Pascal, the co-chairman of Sony, for putting out the movie. I think he probably feels very differently today.

    I just think the creative community feels that they had the rug pulled out from under them. They were sure that the studio was going to go ahead, despite the threats, and put the movie out. On the other hand, the studio really had to take those threats seriously, as did the theaters that had booked that film.

    If there were to be any kind of violence or anything untoward that happened, I mean, would it really be worth it for putting out a movie?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David, what about this precedent?

    DAVID ROTHKOPF, “Foreign Policy”: Well, I think it’s a terrible precedent. I think the idea that Kim Jong-un can start censoring movies in the United States of America merely by reaching out a cyber-hand and touching a company is a terrible one.

    And I think it raises a lot of questions for the White House and for Washington. This is a world in which these things are just starting. More and more countries are gaining this capability. More and more terrorist organizations are gaining this capability. Are we going to let them impinge on our style of life here, or are we going to come up with firm, clear responses that deter them from doing it?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, David, staying with you for a second, what about Sharon’s point? If Sony had released this, and if, God forbid, something did happen at one of these theaters, they would be held to task for saying that this is irresponsible, you knew this was coming, the hackers warned you of some sort of terror threat.

    DAVID ROTHKOPF: Well, first of all, I think Sony could have gone gotten together with the theaters, gotten together with police, gotten together with industry associations, gotten together with the government, and done everything that they could to ensure security within these theaters.

    Secondly, foreign countries that attack the United States soil do so at the risk of a response, and we have seen what happens when people do attack us here. And so it’s much clearer that when you take physical action against us, we know what we are doing.

    Finally, movies sometimes do open that produce violence in the theaters, and the movie companies have been less reluctant in past cases than they have in this case. I think we live in an atmosphere of fear right now in the United States, where there’s a lot of paranoia about this kind of thing.

    And what we’re letting ourselves be — happen to us is that outsiders who are not afraid of breaking the rules are starting to dictate our way of life in a way that’s very, very destructive, and it needs to stop.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Sharon, what about the idea that people are now second-guessing Sony’s decisions from the get-go? Why even green-light a film, especially even when the CEO of your company says don’t do this, and then the executives throughout this thing say don’t do this?

    Right now, we couldn’t necessarily make a film in America that threatened the life of the American president. That would have the Secret Service all over us.

    SHARON WAXMAN: Yes, I think that that’s a very valid point.

    It’s not — the hack started on November 24, but the concerns over the potential repercussions of making this movie, which, again, is a light Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy, and it’s a very silly movie, from what I hear from people who have seen it.

    Nonetheless, it touches a sensitive aspect for an enemy of this country, or for somebody who is a crazy dictator in a faraway place. And, most particularly, it depicts his assassination. It doesn’t just poke fun at him, like “Team America” did. It actually depicts his assassination.

    And that’s something very different about that. And I don’t know if that would have been considered acceptable for a country — for another country that we have dealings with or don’t have dealings with, say, Iran, or something like that.

    So I think that the question is, what was the thinking at the top of Sony when you have the CEO of Tokyo — because these e-mails have now been leaked. And it’s clear that there was conversations going back and forth, particularly about the assassination scene. Can have his face melting a little bit less? Can we obscure that with the fire? I think we are OK now.

    And then you have also leaked e-mails between Amy Pascal, the Sony chairman, and Seth Rogen saying, look, this is the first time in 25 years Tokyo has ever tried to interfere in our involvement in a movie, please understand, and Seth saying, really, well, I’m not going to — I don’t want to be dictated to by the suits, which is, of course, what the artist will always say.

    But, nonetheless, the decision was made to move forward as the writers of the film wanted to, depicting a real-life assassination. And I think that there is some questioning of the judgment behind that call.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David, I see you shaking your head there.

    DAVID ROTHKOPF: Well, I think — I think, well, you know, it’s appalling that, you know, artists are being interfered with.

    There have been plenty of movies in which foreign governments, foreign leaders have been depicted badly. And where does it stop? Do we allow the potential threat of a cyber-attack influence the way a magazine covers something? Do we allow it to influence the way a play…

    SHARON WAXMAN: It does already. It does already.

    DAVID ROTHKOPF: Well, it — no, it doesn’t.

    I don’t believe that it does. It certainly wouldn’t — it certainly wouldn’t affect the way we cover something at our magazine. And I don’t think it would affect the way The New York Times or The Washington Post covers things.

    SHARON WAXMAN: I think we know perfectly well that the responses to some of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in Europe and other places has, indeed, had violent response and has, tragically, had a chilling effect on free speech.

    I’m not saying I’m in favor of it, believe me. I’m saying that that is the reality of the world we live in.

    DAVID ROTHKOPF: The threats are a reality. How we respond to the threats are the challenge of this time. And I think…

    SHARON WAXMAN: Agreed.

    DAVID ROTHKOPF: … we — there’s a challenge that the film community has to respond to. There’s a challenge that the rest of the business community that will be more vulnerable to these threats have to respond to.

    And there’s a real challenge for the U.S. government to come up with responses to this kind of thing that actually deter people from taking this kind of action.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Rothkopf from “Foreign Policy,” Sharon Waxman from The Wrap, thanks so much for joining us.

    SHARON WAXMAN: Thank you.

    The post Does Sony’s kibosh on ‘The Interview’ set a bad precedent? – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    whitehouseresponse

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For weeks, Sony Pictures was reluctant to pull its movie “The Interview” from theaters. But, yesterday, it did so after new threats. A day later, that decision is taking heavy criticism on multiple fronts.

    Here’s Jeffrey Brown with more.

    SETH ROGEN, Actor: You want us to kill the leader of North Korea?

    ACTRESS: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For now at least, and maybe forever, the trailer is all that Americans will see of “The Interview.”

    The comedy depicts a CIA plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It had been set to open nationwide on Christmas Day. Now Sony Pictures has pulled the release after a group that hacked the company’s computers threatened theaters, and they, in turn, began canceling plans to screen it.

    In a statement, Sony said it was — quote — “deeply saddened” by the effort to suppress the movie’s distribution. Would-be moviegoers had mixed feelings on the decision today.

    MAN: I just think that right now people really don’t want controversy. It’s not good for business, and so they pulled it.

    MAN: I think they should have went forward with it. I mean, people shouldn’t get too sensitive. It’s entertainment.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In Hollywood, the Sony move sparked a drumbeat of angry tweets from celebrities Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Mia Farrow, and Rob Lowe.

    Suspicions about the origin of the hack on Sony continue to center on North Korea. But, today, White House spokesman Josh Earnest stopped short of a public confirmation by U.S. intelligence.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: This is something that’s being treated as a serious national security matter. There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Earnest said U.S. officials are considering a proportionate response.

    Republicans weighed in with their own criticism, as Senator John McCain charged the administration has failed to address the use of cyber-weapons by America’s enemies. North Korea has denied taking part in the hacking, but has said it was a — quote — “just punishment” for Sony.

    One postscript: After “The Interview” was pulled, some theaters planned to play another North Korean-related comedy, Paramount’s 2004 film “Team America,” in its place. But, today, the studio canceled that, too.

     

    The post White House, Hollywood respond to ‘Interview’ controversy – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US CUBA FLAGS monitor

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Many U.S. businesses have long wanted to extend their reach inside of the communist island nation.

    Joining me now to talk about which industries would be most affected if there was an embargo lift is Wall Street Journal deputy business editor Marcelo Prince.

    Thanks for joining me.

    So, well, who is in line? Who is waiting in the wings?

    MARCELO PRINCE, The Wall Street Journal: Well, there’s plenty of U.S. businesses looking to get in, from the airlines to Caterpillar, which wants to open up a dealership on the country.

    But there are some limitations. This is a market that has been off-limits to American businesses, but it’s still a centrally run, state-run economy, which is strapped for cash, and plays by its own rules, which currently foreign businesses in the country have to work with joint venture partners with Cuban firms, which limits who they can hire and how they can operate.

    And it’s also worth remembering that Cuba is a relatively poor country by international standards. Most of the citizens still work for the government. There isn’t much in the way of spending power there. And, thirdly, it’s untapped — it’s not an untapped market. There’s plenty of foreign companies. There is a Spanish hotel chain called Melia that has resorts around the country.

    There’s a Canadian mining company called Sherritt that’s been there for 20 years. There’s a British tobacco company that already has a deal to distribute Cuban tobacco around the world. So, while there’s an opportunity for American businesses, it is not an untapped business.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. If this is not that virgin territory, if this not a green field, if there is international competition already there, what is the business opportunity for hotel chains or casinos to be so excited about?

    MARCELO PRINCE: Well, I think that they see tourism, which is now Cuba’s biggest economy, part of the economy now, as one area that they could tap into.

    If you go on a Carnival Cruise today, it just sails around the island, then goes to Jamaica or Mexico. There are Canadian cruises that stop on the island. The airlines — like, American Airlines flies chartered flights to the country, but they see an opportunity to resume the kind of travel that existed before the Castro regime took over.

    There is opportunity, also, for agriculture companies. An interesting fact is that Cubans consume about 110 pounds of rice a year, which is five times what Americans eat, despite rationing in that country. And so rice farmers and others see an opportunity. Even with the small restrictions that were lifted, the agriculture industry could benefit, because they buyers may not have to — buyers may not have to prepay them, for example, for them to ship goods to the country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you mentioned spending power earlier. Let’s kind of unpack that a little bit. I mean, even with the 11 million people that are there, who can actually afford the Caterpillar bulldozer or even Coke and Pepsi, which aren’t there right now?

    MARCELO PRINCE: That’s right.

    I mean, Coke, you bring up, is a great example. Coke exists — sells its product in every country on this planet except two. One is North Korea. The other one is Cuba. And the Cubans need — I’m sure they would enjoy to drink Coca-Cola, but what they really need are bricks to build their houses and tiles to put on roofs and asphalt to repave the roads.

    So, really, the opportunity is more of an infrastructure play. I mean, the best business you probably could open in Cuba if there was no embargo is a Home Depot, because that — there’s plenty of labor and there’s a great need. If you go outside of like the tourist areas, the infrastructure, the buildings are crumbling. There’s no street lamps really.

    Telecommunications is another area that’s been underfunded. There’s a state-run telecom company, but Cuba basically lags much of the world in broadband penetration. There’s fewer Internet connections than in places like Sudan or even a tiny island like Fiji.

    That’s because the government has control of Internet access. There’s basically one fiberoptic cable connecting Cuba to the world through Venezuela. But there’s no 3G or 4G. So, companies like Verizon or AT&T see an opportunity there. They don’t even have roaming agreements.

    If you travel to Cuba, whether you’re a Cuban or a tourist, it’s actually prohibitively expensive to make cell phone calls.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    So, what sort of businesses can open without much infrastructure being laid? Credit cards, for example?

    MARCELO PRINCE: Sure. Yes, that’s right.

    The one measure the government has taken is it will allow U.S.-issued credit cards to be used in the country. Previously, if you were traveling there, you either had to travel with a large amount of cash or you had to use a non-U.S. bank card. So that’s one concrete step the White House has taken.

    They also say they’re going to allow imports of residential goods, as well as services that are for small businesses, like for restaurants or barbershops, that sort of thing. So there is an opening there for that sort of service industry business.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    Marcelo Prince of The Wall Street Journal joining us from New York, thanks so much.

    MARCELO PRINCE: Sure. Thanks for having me.

    The post American businesses eye Cuban opportunities – Part 3 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An American vintage car drives in front of the Capitolio, shortly after a live broadcast a speech by Cuban President Raul Castro about the re-establishment of official diplomatic relations with the U.S., on December 17, 2014, in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Getty Images

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now back to the United States’ plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    For more on what it means in practical terms and efforts to lift the economic embargo, which is still in place, I’m joined by our foreign — chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, and NewsHour political director Domenico Montanaro.

    So, Margaret, let me start with you.

    What can the president do on his own, without needing Congress?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, first of all, as you said, he can normalize relations with Cuba, just as, for example, Nixon normalized relations with China, with whom we were still at odds. So that’s the first thing he can do.

    Secondly, I learned just this afternoon that the — establishing a U.S. Embassy, which members of Congress have vowed to not fund, it turns out the U.S. Interests Section in the old U.S. Embassy. It has 360 people working there, including 67 Americans.

    And so one senior official said to me, right now, we’re not even sure we need additional personnel. The building is a little shabby, but they can go right ahead. Two, he can take Cuba off the state-sponsor of terrorism list after a six-month review by the secretary of state, and notifying Congress, but they do not have to approve it.

    And, three, he can use his licensing authority to ease all these travel and investment restrictions, so people will be able to use American credit cards there, more people will be able to travel, transfer more money there.

    What an official said to me today, though, is, it is not open for business, that it is not open, that the economic embargo still holds, if you’re talking about big American hotel chains going down there. That is not the case. And so there will be a limit on that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    Domenico, we heard from people on the streets of Havana and the streets of Miami, but where is public opinion in the United States about lifting this embargo?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, it’s really shifted over the last quarter-century. It’s been one of the more fascinating things to watch.

    Florida International University does this big poll where they look at Cuban Americans who live in Miami-Dade County, where the huge majority of Cuban Americans are. And in 1991, if you looked back at the polling, 87 percent of Cuban Americans supported the embargo continuing.

    But if you move that forward to 2014, this year, now that is completely reversed, and you see 52 percent of Cuban Americans oppose the embargo, 48 percent supporting it. That’s a huge shift. And where the — if you look inside the numbers, the shift really comes generationally.

    And when you look at young voters, 18-29, Cuban Americans, the kids of those people who came over here, you know, a generation ago, 62 percent of them, 62 percent of their kids are completely fine with getting rid of this embargo; 55 percent, a strong majority, of those 30-64 are also in favor of getting rid of it. The only group, the only holdouts are those who are 65 and older, who remember the Castro regime, who may have escaped the Castro regime, may have been imprisoned, dealt with a lot of their freedoms being taken away from them.

    And they’re the ones who are still the vociferous holdouts. And it’s why you have seen a lot of people like Marco Rubio and other people within that community really speaking out about it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Margaret, in practical terms, what does that mean, to open up diplomatic relations?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, first of all, the administration is counting on some of these very same numbers, and they’re counting on the fact that, for instance, if Congress were to cut off money, for example, all the visa processing that goes on now, that some of their own constituents would be very upset about that.

    So reopening diplomatic relations really means that the U.S. thinks it will be able to cooperate now with Cuba on things like counterterrorism, identifying bad actors in the neighborhood who may be trying to transit through Cuba, just as they already do on human trafficking and smuggling, once they got this migration agreement.

    They hope to establish reciprocity so that, for instance, American diplomats will be able to leave Havana, which they can’t, and Cuban diplomats can’t leave New York or Washington. What they aren’t sure of that, within the Cuban bureaucracy, you have a lot of old-timers, too, Cuban old-timers, for whom the U.S. has been the boogeyman all along.

    Normalization wasn’t even on the list of what Cuba wanted when these negotiations started, because what do — who do they blame? So, it will be very interesting to see how those negotiations with Cuba go. Congress isn’t the only actor here.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, I will tell you whose list it was. It was on President Obama’s list.

    MARGARET WARNER: Undoubtedly.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: A big part of his checklist of things that he’s wanted to get done and, he’s free from any kind of electoral politics.

    And he feels like Democrats, 2016 or otherwise, can really lean into this policy, because they look at those numbers. And it’s not the third rail that it used to be when it came to Florida politics. And it is going to set up a huge fight in 2016 potentially, because Jeb Bush, who’s the first person who said that he might be in for 2016, is against this policy, and Hillary Clinton, though, says she supports it.

    So, if it comes down to it, we have two opposing sides there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Domenico Montanaro, Margaret Warner, thanks so much.

    MARGARET WARNER: Our pleasure.

    The post How Obama can change U.S.-Cuba relations without Congress – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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