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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 20, 2013 6:00pm-7:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: president obama looked back at a bruising 2013 today, fending off questions about health care, government surveillance and other issues during a year-end news conference. good evening, i'm judy woodruff. also ahead, video games for the aging brain. can mental workouts keep people sharp as they grow older? >> the proof will be in the pudding. it's not going to happen to me now while i'm in my 50s, but if i'm still able to do stuff like this in my 80s, i'll be thrilled. >> woodruff: and it's friday. mark shields and david brooks react to president obama's remarks today, and the rest of the week's news. those are just some of the
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stories we're covering on tonight's "pbs newshour." >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> my customers can shop around; see who does good work and compare costs. it can also work that way with healthcare. with united healthcare, i get information on quality ratings of doctors, treatment options and estimates for how much i'll pay. that helps me and my guys make informed decisions. i don't like guesses with my business and definitely not with our health. that's health in numbers. united healthcare. >> support also comes from carnegie corporation of new york, a foundation created to do what andrew carnegie called "real and permanent good." celebrating 100 years of philanthropy at
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>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... and friends of the newshour. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: the white house briefing room was the scene this afternoon, as president obama sized up his fifth year in the oval office. he conceded his administration has been buffeted by high- profile problems, but he voiced hope for the year to come. jeffrey brown has our report. >> brown: the president faced the white house press corps after a difficult year that's seen his approval ratings sinking. but he insisted he's not downcast. >> that's not how i think about
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it. i have now been in office five years, close to five years, was running for president for two years before that, and for those who've covered me during that time, we have had ups and we have had downs. what i've been focused on each and every day is, are we moving the ball in helping the american people, families, have more opportunity, have a little more security, to feel as if... if they work hard, they can get ahead. >> brown: the beleaguered rollout of the health care law has contributed heavily to the president's slump in the polls-- from's many problems to the cancellation of millions of policies. >> since i'm in charge, obviously, we screwed it up. and i'm going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year and we've gotten through the initial surge of people who have been signing up. but, you know, having said all
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that, the bottom line also is that we've got-- several million people are going to have health care that works. and it's not that i don't engage in a lot of self-reflection here. i promise you, i probably beat myself up, you know, even worse than you or ed henry does... ( laughter )-- on any given day. but i've also got to wake up in the morning and make sure that i do better the next day and that we keep moving forward. >> brown: there were several questions about revelations that have continued to grab headlines throughout the year: the national security agency's sweeping surveillance of phone calls and e-mails from ordinary americans and foreign leaders alike. >> i have confidence in the fact that the n.s.a. is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around but i also recognize that as technologies change and people can start running algorithms and programs
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that map out all the information that we're downloading on a daily basis into our telephones and our computers that we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence. and i'm going to be working very hard on doing that. and we've got to provide more confidence to the international community. >> brown: on an upbeat note, mr. obama suggested 2014 can be a breakthrough year for the economic recovery. >> the economy is stronger than it has been in a very long time. our next challenge then is to make sure that everybody benefits from that and not just a few folks. >> brown: and on iran, he again defended his decision to negotiate with iran on ending its nuclear program. >> i've been very clear from the start, i mean what i say. it is my goal to prevent iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. but i sure would rather to it diplomatically. i'm keeping all options on the table, but if i can do it
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diplomatically, that's how we should do it, and i would think and we lose nothing during this negotiation period, precisely because there are verification provisions in place. we will have more insight into iran's nuclear program over the next six months than we have previously. >> brown: president obama and his family leave for their christmas break in hawaii tonight. >> woodruff: we'll return to the health care issue and developments of the last 24 hours right after the news summary. president obama also announced today that he's nominating senator max baucus to be ambassador to china. the montana democrat has served in the senate since 1978, but he's said he won't seek re- election next year. in a statement, the president said baucus is perfectly suited to build on economic agreements between the u.s. and china. a new defense spending bill-- costing nearly $633 billion-- now awaits a presidential signature.
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the senate passed it last night. it includes a provision to curb sexual assaults by stripping commanders of the power to overturn court martial convictions. today, the president ordered the military to report in one year, on what's been done to deal the problem. the economy grew more than first estimated in the third quarter, at an annual rate topping 4%. the commerce department reported today it's the strongest growth since late 2011. and on wall street, the dow jones industrial average gained 42 points to close at 16,221. the nasdaq rose more than 46 points to close above 4,104. for the week, the dow gained 3%. the nasdaq rose more than 2.5%. the one-time tycoon mikhail khodorkovsky walked out of a russian prison today after serving ten years on corruption charges. president vladimir putin pardoned his political foe this
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morning, as he'd promised yesterday. in moscow, khodorkovsky's daughter welcomed news of his release. >> of course i understand that i will be able to believe this completely only when i see my dad, and am able to give him a huck and say something. but for now i have a deep feeling of persuasion that this is really happening >> woodruff: from russia, khodorkvosky flew to berlin, where he plans to be reunited with his family. it was unclear if he plans to return to russia, or engage in any political activity. new clashes erupted in the central african republic today. christian mobs attacked muslim neighborhoods across the capital city of bangui. at least 30 people were killed. sectarian violence has raged since muslim rebels overthrew the government of the mostly christian country, earlier this year. now, french and african troops have intervened to try to restore order. an investigation into the secret service has found no evidence of
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widespread misconduct. that's based on a survey of the agency's staff and some 200 personal interviews. the department of homeland security opened the probe after 13 agents and officers were accused in a prostitution scandal linked to a presidential visit to colombia. the senate today confirmed a business turnaround specialist to head the internal revenue service for the next five years. john koskinen takes over as the i.r.s. plans to play a major role in implementing the health care law. it's also recovering from a scandal over singling out conservative groups for audits. senate majority leader harry reid was hospitalized early this morning. his press office says the nevada democrat was feeling ill but tests found everything was normal. he was released late this afternoon. reid is 74 years old. he suffered a mild stroke in 2005.
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still to come on the "newshour": new adjustments to the health care law; the deepening turmoil in south sudan; can video games keep aging minds sharp?... mark shields and david brooks on the week's news. and author ari shavit, on israel's past and present. let's focus on an issue the president was asked about at length today-- the health care law. mr. obama acknowledged the rollout of it was probably his biggest mistake of the year. but he defended the law overall, and pointed to a big increase in enrollment in the exchanges this month as evidence of his efforts to turn things around. his remarks came after the administration responded last night to the problem of cancelled insurance policies with a special exception: those affected can buy cheaper, bare-bones catastrophic coverage if new plans are more expensive. mary agnes carey is watching all
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this for kaiser health news, an independent news organization. welcome back to the program. >> thank you. >> woodruff: so what exactly did the administration announce last night? >> what they said is for these folks in the individual market who may have had their policies cancelled, we're not sure exactly how many have had that, the estimates are maybe 3 to 4 million f they have to the been able to find a policy that they think is affordable, they can qualify for something called the hardship exemption in the health law. typically this is for some sort of event like your homeless or you've been evicted in the last six months that sort of hardship. but they're saying that by qualifying for the hardship exemption, there are two things. number one, they won't face the individual mandate penalty in 2014, and they would be allowed to buy something called a catastrophic health care policy which is usually just open to people under the age of 30. >> so they made some significant changes. why did they do this? >> they received a letter from a handful of lawmakers, senators that were-- the letter was written by mark warner and signed by some
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other senators, he's a democrat of virginia. they were saying that in their states some of the people that had had their policies cancelled were having a hard time finding coverage that was affordable to them and they looked at this catastrophic issue and they looked at the hardship exemption and said perhaps that could help their con city went. they wrote to kathleen sebelius head of the health and human service, and she wrote become and a growed with them. >> woodruff: how many people, mary agnes, are affected by this? ness. >> the individual marke market-- market overall, people that buy their own insurance, 5%, about 15 million people, the estimates are that between 3 to 4 million had their policies canceled. now many of those people have purchased other coverage on the market. so the question is how many people apply, how many people does this particular announcement cover. the administration has said it's about 500,000 people, that they estimate, haven't been able to find affordable coverage and that's who they are thinking about in this particular action. >> woodruff: so is that a number everyone generally accepts then? >> no, it is not. and it's unclear, as we saw
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throughout the implementation of health care, there are all sorts of sets of numbers, this is an estimate, others have questioned it, wonder what the true number is i don't think we really know. >> woodruff: now the insurance company, this was a surprise to them, right? >> it was a surprise to them. >> woodruff: how do they respond. >> they think it's going to add further problems to the health insurance market, because in their words it could cause significant instability in the marketplace, and lead to further disruption-- disruptions confusions, you have to remember that the insurance companies price their products for 2014 they assume the people in the individual market would go into the marketplace, they would buy a range of plans. that's what we call the risk pool. and so this may have some impact there and they've been generally up set with some of these last minute announcements from the administration's implementation of the law. >> woodruff: so do they just accept this, or do they change their policies? what happens? i mean do they just automatically go along with what the administration says? >> well, the administration has said that people can qualify for the catastrophic
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plans. but people could still decide they might look at a catastrophic plan and decide this isn't really the coverage i want. and they might decide to try to qualify for a subsidy. they may or may not qualify for the medicaid expansion. so there are other options for individuals. and it is unclear exactly what they're going to do. >> mary agnes, if you step back and look at the whole health care, the structure of health-care reform, does this affect that? does it-- do the marketplaces work, do the economics of it work when you take this change and all the other changes the administration has made. >> also's talk about this change, if, in fact, it is a group of people, around 500,000, how much of an impact would that make when the expectation is that 7 million people will get coverage in 9 exchanges, and another separate group, i think around 7 million get coverage in medicaid? so it's sort of unclear exactly to know how this particular change will affect them. but the employer mandate, for example this requirement, that most employers have 50 or more workers provide
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coverage for their workers, that was delayed a year it there are other delays that have changed. so we have to watch and see how it shapes the market. >> and what about what insurance companies do in terms of pricing policy, can they still rates their price os to get more if they think they're to the going to make as much? >> they've made bid current leigh for the year of 2014, but the question how does this affect coverage in 2015. who signs up for coverage, what is the mix. how many healthy people, how many sick people what are the other demographics, and those will all affect pricing for 2015. >> woodruff: all right, another bigger picture question, the president was repeatedly asked today about health care, the problems, he acknowledged big problems with the rollout, he said in essence he acknowledged the biggest mistake of the past yearment but he kept coming back to what he said was the fact that many people are being helped. i think he said most people are going to be better off as a result of health-care reform. is there a way to measure that? >> i think that people will ultimately measure it for themselves. for example, let's say
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you're not part of the individual market. he talked about the 85% of us that get our health insurance through work. we have preventive services, no out of pocket costs. seniors are getting help with prescription drugs and medicare, cost of prescription drugs. >> mentioned that. >> adult children up to 26 being covered by their parent's plan until they turn 26. how do you judge that individually as the consumer? does it matter to you, for example? i think that people have to have an experience with this health law to make their own decision. >> because the squawking is clearly coming from the people who lost their policies, people who are, don't like the idea of having to pay a penalty. some of these other so-called benefits that the president was citing maybe thinks people an even aware of. >> that's the other thing, there are people who say this is great that you are adding all of these mandatory services to be covered but i don't want them and i don't want to pay for them. and it's not affordable to me. i like my old plan, i want to keep it, you in fact said, president, that i could keep it, as we know the president has apologized for that. and again, the experiences
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will vary for people. >> woodruff: all right, mary agnes carey, joining us once again, thank you. >> sure, thank you. >> woodruff: for much of the last three years, south sudan has been embroiled in conflict with it's northern neighbor. new violence erupted this week inside it's borders, this time spurred by internal ethnic and political tensions. killing hundreds and sparking new fears of further unrest. jeffrey brown has our report. >> brown: the political crisis in the world's youngest nation deepened this week, raising fears of all-out civil war. foreign nationals began evacuating. and the united nations sought to bolster its force there, after two indian peacekeepers were killed yesterday. on wednesday, president obama
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ordered 45 american troops to reinforce u.s. embassy security in juba, the capital. south sudan broke off from sudan in mid-2011. this conflict began as a power struggle between the country's president, salva kiir and his former vice president, riek machar, whom he fired earlier this year. they represent rival ethnic groups-- kiir is dinka, machar is nuer and some say that's fueling the violence. >> they are targeting nuer particularly. i don't know the reason why this specific tribe is being targeted by the government forces. >> brown: kiir-- who led the sudan people's liberation army-- or s.p.l.a.-- in a long insurgency against sudan, urged calm earlier this week. but violence has continued. at least 500 people are reported dead, and 30,000 have been displaced. late today, word came after a u.n. security council emergency session that kiir and his former vice president will hold
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unconditional talks in an effort to defuse the crisis. with me now is lesley anne warner, an africa analyst at c.n.a., a not-for-profit research organization that provides analysis for the u.s. government and military. welcome to you. >> thank you. >> brown: first we have to remind people, this is a very new and clearly very volatile country. >> yes, that's true. so south sudan received its independence from sudan in july of 2011. and this came after 23 years of civil war. and there has been a previous civil war from '56 to '72. but there had been great optimism when south sudan eventually received its independence. although it was essentially starting as a very undeveloped state. >> brown: so what is the dynamic at work now? does it seem more like political rivalries or how much does it feel like ethnic divisions at work? this current unrest started as a political dispute. and it has rapidly started it to take on elements of
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ethnic conflict but it's not there yet. but the issue is once you cross the ethnic conflict line it will be difficult to walk that back. so what started off as a dispute between president salva kiir and his former vice president riek machar who he fired along with the rest of the cabinet in the summer in july, it started off with clashes in the capitol city of juba on sunday and has devolved into clashes in the rest of-- in other parts of the country. >> brown: and are you saying it would be hard to walk it back if it becomes-- how strong are the ethnic divisions or how much of a factor is that in this new country? >> it's a bit of a factor. but it's important not to reduce the conflict, this political conflict to dinka versus nuer. dinka are the majority ethnic group, the second largest there are several other ethnic groups, the reason the ethnic issue is
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important is that these groups were on posing sides of the civil war in south sudan. and riek machar himself was-- he was responsible for some of the worst ethnic violence. he was responsible for initiating some of the worst ethnic violence in south sudan. >> brown: this is also an oil-producing country, right? how much is that a factor in what is happening or what could happen? >> it's-- the issue of oil is not a factor at this particular moment but there is a potential it could be an issue. because in areas where some of the clashes have broken out outside of juba there are reports of the military dividing along ethnic lines in the capitol of unity state which is along the board we are sudan, a very heavy oil producing area, an area that suffered a lot of voy lens as a result of being in an oil producing area during the civil war. there is also violence
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in-- another state where some oil is produced as well. and there is the potential that these armed movements may decide to capture the oil fields to be able to fund their continued rebellion. >> brown: this is also within a very volatile region, right? so is the fear not only what happens within south sudan but whether it spreads? >> i don't think that there is necessarily a fear that 2 will spread too much to the south had. there is a fear that it could destabilize sudan, actually, just because as you mentioned oil is a variable in this-- oil is a potential future variable in this conflict. and you've already seen in sudan when the oil was cut off between sudan and south sudan because the oil is-- most of the oil is in south sudan and the pipeline goes out through sudan, that there were anti-government protests that came very close to toppling the national congress party in sudan. and you saw protests earlier this year as well. and so sudan may also
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destabilize its oil. >> now we saw various steps being taken at the u.n., or at least discussion and in africa, what kind of leverage does the outside world, including the u.s. have if any? >> the outside world especially the u.n., the african union, the intergovernmental authority which is an east african regional skument,-- community t this he have a bit of leverage because of the role, the instrumental role they played in brokering the peace agreement between sudan and south sudan signed in 2005. however at the same time while they have diplomatic leverage, it is important to note they don't necessarily have the military leverage to back that up, which is, it is potentially problematic. >> and briefly does the u.s. have any particular interest at this point? >> the u.s. has an interest because of the role that it play add long with other members of the international community in brokering this peace. but it's important to keep in mind that the u.s. has other priorities at play not only globally but also in africa. >> all right, lesley anne
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warner, thanks so much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: this weekend, the crossword puzzle marks it's hundredth birthday, first published in a new york newspaper. it's become a daily ritual for many and even been rumored to help stave off dementia. but there isn't much evidence to back up that claim. on the other hand, special correspondent jake schoneker reports on new research using video games to sharpen an aging mind. >> reporter: 57-year-old ashley wolff has been a self-employed children's author and illustrator for 25 years, working out of her small home studio in san francisco. she says she loves being her own boss, but that working from home can be a challenge. >> working from home allows me really just let my attention deficit problem-- fly. >> reporter: like many people her age, she's recently found herself forgetting things more often, and getting easily distracted from work.
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she was worried about these problems getting worse as she got older, especially because her mother, at age 85, was beginning to exhibit signs of alzheimer's disease. >> my sister and i are watching our mother kind of lose her memory. and we thought, "gee, wow, she always did the 'new york times' crossword puzzle, and always seemed so sharp, and here she is, none of that helped her." and we thought, "we should try something." >> reporter: so she decided so try cognitive training, a new breed of video game designed to exercise the brain. she now gets a daily reminder to log on to her laptop for a 15 minute mental workout. >> she wants a b.l.t. and coffee, he wants a garden salad. >> reporter: in this game, called "familiar faces", wolff is a waitress at a cafe. she has to remember the names of people who come in, as well as what they order. >> cheeseburger, milk, cheeseburger, bagel. >> reporter: familiar faces is one of many games designed by
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lumosity, a san francisco based startup that launched in 2007. the company markets itself as a kind of gym for the brain, complete with monthly membership fees. the service creates a personalized training program for users based on their needs-- that includes exercises for attention, speed, and memory. on most days wolff will play five different games selected for her by the program. even though her memory isn't what it used to be. >> oh, what is this guy's name? >> reporter: she says she's noticed a modest improvement since she started training. increasing evidence from the field of neuroscience suggests it's never too late for the brain to change. companies like lumosity have built a billion-dollar business out of a very simple premise: that no matter your age, you can improve your brain's performance through cognitive training. joe hardy, the head of the science team at lumosity, says the idea of being able to improve and train the brain as we get older is relatively new. >> previous to maybe 30 years ago, neuroscientists believed that the brain was effectively
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fixed in it's ability to process information, pay attention, plan, remember. we now know that the brain is constantly changing the way that it operates in response to the challenges and activities it's engaged in. >> reporter: the concept is called neuroplasticity, meaning the brain continues to adapt, change, and perhaps be trained even as we age. it's the underlying foundation for the many start up companies that are developing brain fitness programs and bringing them to market. but are the claims of these companies supported by the science? >> the claims being made by most of these companies that are selling products to improve your brain are exaggerated. >> reporter: laura carstensen is director of the stanford university center on longevity, an expert and author on the aging brain. >> when marketers tell you that you can increase your i.q. by 20 points or that you can with 15
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minutes a day of training, improve your cognitive control and executive functioning, and that this will make you smarter in every day life. those kinds of claims are just clearly unsupportable by scientific evidence. >> reporter: she says brain games have potential, but more research is needed to understand if, and how, the brain benefits from training. at the university of california san francisco, adam gazzaley is one of many neuroscientists working to answer those questions. >> i think very frequently there's a mismatch between being based on science and being validated by the scientific method. i think that's what the real goal is that they're more than based on science, they're validated by scientific methodology. >> reporter: so gazzaley and his research team set out to design a game that started with the science. they chose a brain function known to decline with age-- multitasking-- and tried to find a way to slow that decline through training.
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the game they came up with, called "neuroracer," challenges subjects to drive a virtual car down a winding road while simultaneously recognizing and responding to road signs. >> i'm dangerous here, this is-- i'm a menace to society here! >> reporter: like commercial games, this game gets progressively harder as the player improves, creating a challenging virtual environment for the brain to adapt to. as subjects trained in neuroracer, they improved dramatically at multitasking. study participants in their 70s and 80s who trained for one month performed better than 20- year-olds playing for the first time. but perhaps the most interesting part of the study was that those older players improved in other areas as well, like working memory and sustained attention. that's a big deal because there's evidence that training in one task can lead to benefits throughout the brain. >> this is a measure of what we call functional connectivity, which is a reflection of how your brain functions as a network.
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so that different parts of the brain are not acting in isolation, but acting as a network. and that's what we see that it improves as well. >> reporter: gazzaley's study made a splash on the scientific community, making the cover of the science journal "nature". gazzaley is now working to build a better, more interactive version of neuroracer that the f.d.a. could approve as a therapy for a.d.h.d. but that pathway could take years or decades to complete and until then, gazzaley says he can't make any strong recommendations for the use of cognitive training. >> we do need better, more carefully controlled studies in order to make really strong prescriptive advice. that being said, in general i think if you find these games fun, at least there's no clear evidence that they have detrimental effects so i usually don't disrecommend them. ( cash register ) >> i think the proof will be in the pudding. it's not going to happen to me now while i'm in my 50s, but if i'm still able to do stuff like
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this in my 80s i'll be thrilled. >> reporter: by then, in thirty years, who knows what science will tell us about how middle- aged people like wolff can keep their minds sharp. but with five million americans suffering from alzheimer's disease today, and with that number due to rise sharply in the coming decades, those solutions can't come soon enough. >> good brain training for the day! >> woodruff: and to the analysis of shields and brooks. that's syndicated columnist mark shields and "new york times" columnist david brooks. welcome, gentlemen, we're going to do our own version of brain training. talk about today's news conference by the president, david, it's been a rough year for the president. he was asked a lot of questions about what went wrong, especially when it came to health care. he acknowledged some problems but he kept saying i did the right thing.
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>> and health care, it's going to be political, it's going to be the politics and the messy implementation. what happened last night is they announced this delay or this delay in some of the really wiping away some of the internal, the individual mandates for people who have hardship exemptions. and that came about as a bit because of political pressure from democrats. and the thing to look forward to in really the months and years ahead or especially the months ahead, is are more democrats pressing the president to sort of weaken the individual mandate further, further, further. and if it becomes politically unsustainable for a lot of senate democrats in particular, then the individual mandate begins to look weaker, possibly goes away, an if that goes away, then the health care law goes away. so they don't have a long time to implement the health care because the political pressure may interrupt their effect to really implement the change and reform to make the thing work. >> woodruff: mark, how much leeway does the president really have to change impressions about health care right now? and how much does his legacy
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hinge on all this? >> it's beyond packaging, and it's beyond speeches, judy. it's now performance. this going to be judged by how in the next year people's lives are either improved and they feel more secure and better and the family members and friends and neighbors are better off because of this law. or they're not. and i think that's what can we make another speech, can we do an event to really performance. >> woodruff: so they just stand back-- go ahead. >> it's sort of hard to know where it's going to wind up. it's either tv pain in which case we'll get through and it will work or it's a dissolution of the whole thing. at this point none of us can really know if it is true. what strikes me, in an era of high distrust, cynicism about washington, the losers seem to be a lot more louder and more powerful than the winners. so you could have a situation where you have more winners but they're passive, less political po western, the vocal minority
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of losers has much more political sway. >> woodruff: and that's one of the things i was talking about with mary agnes carey of kaiser shall saying there are a lot of people that may be having a good experience but we're not hearing from them. >> s this's got to be it i'm not worried as david about the dissolution. i am still hopeful and believe it will work. but this is the whole ball game. this is the whole presidency. everything else, judy, you can-- you know, you can talk about state of the union address, you can talk about legislate of initiatives, and we will. but this is what the obama presidency will hinge on. and history's judgement of it. >> the other big question he was asked about was the nsa government surveillance. and it was interesting, his answer was framed the same way. he acknowledged there have been some problems. but you know, we're just trying to do the right thing for the american people and we're prepared to make some tweaks, some adjustments as we go along and clearly they are going to announce some adjustments in swrn. >> as they should. i'm a pretty big national security guy. but if you look at the nsa
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has acted in the foreign surveillance, domestic, media, all of this stuff, it's hard not to be a little alarmed and hard not to feel there is some lack of self-restraint. and so the tide of public opinion has turned to more restraint and i think there will be product majority support from the right and left as long as it is done responsibleably so what this council-- . >> woodruff: broad support? >> for restrange the nsa the. putting in the safeguards that the leon decision essentially sort of endorsed but this group of advisors certainly endorsed. there's going to be i think broad support of that and the president clearly is sympathetically aligned toward it. >> the very fact that the recommendations, the panel were made public tells you, i think, the degree of concern and confession, and admission on the part of the administration, there is an alarm. there has always been this question about why americans weren't concerned about privacy. but it's almost become cum latif now. it's both private and public. anybody who signs on and
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looks up shoe lace when you're going to be bombarded with shoe lace ads for the next generation, in the sense that they know where you are, and who we are, i think there is a merger here almost on the private and public. the nsa was unable to come up with a single example of a plot that has been thwarted by all of this data, that just this accumulation of it. and not that the phone companies, i think, are any more trustworthy. that is sort of-- when the phone companies are in a default position, it tells you how much confidence has been lost in the nsa. >> i sort of personally am less worried when the private company than the government who has power over life-and-death over us has it's on us. that seems more problematic to me. >> woodruff: just about the only institution, i guess out there, that has got worse approval ratings than the president these days is the congress, mark and david. david, now they have left town.
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we think they're all out of town. they finished the budget. but what is the legacy of this congress? what are we going to remember the congress of this session for? >> a really great accomplishment. government shutdown is one. i would say the change in the filibuster rules was a disaster and the failure to pass immigration reform which really has majority support. so i think that is three pretty big strikes. i think they have earned whatever their approval rating is 1.2 or whatever it is at this point. i think it's been a pretty lamental continental and that is partly because of congress, partly because of the country, frankly, and partly because the president has not gathered a governing majority at any point in his presidency, some 60 vote majority that he can count on time and time again. >> judy, the -- the reality of the congress, and give the president credit, he did accentuate the positive of the improved economic news at the beginning of the press conference today but the legacy of this congress, in spite of the great summit,
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that pat's murray and paul ryan, a come dpation and conciliation, we're going to end up as david rogers, of "politico" budget reporter pointed out, 's going to end up, and all of us know about economic inequality, and the need for research, the need for education, the need for all sorts of scientific, on the infrastructure efforts. we're going to end up with an average, spending $486 billion on all discretionary domestic discretionary spending, that is, not that this goes to social security and medicare. and george w. bush's administration we average 509 billion. that's $23 billion less a year. so we're cutting back at the very same time that benn bernanke tells us in his-- that we should be spending more. and so, the idea-- . >> woodruff: that's what republicans want. >> but i mean the idea that it's happening that the democrats have accepted this, and this is going to be
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going forward, i really think it's-- this alarm has to the been sounded. it takes a reporter to make the case rather than a leader. >> it's to the because we're spending less money overall, because it is going to entitlements. it is the entitlement piece that is swalt loying up the decision connectionary, social security, medicare, medicaid. >> but the figuring i was talking to david before the broadcast about this, there were 1967 million americans in 1963-- 196 million americans in 19-- an at that time there were 2,7-- 2,721,000 working for the federal government, today with 316 million americans, there are 2,000 more, i mean we have cut the number of federal employees. i mean it is to the-- it is not some behemoth. rand paul, for example, when he found this out was just rather amazed. i mean because he had bought into the idea that this was-- they were hiring and hiring and hiring and spending and spending. i mean that i think has to be a concern going forward
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about whether we're going to have money for research or for education. and for -- >> do you think the american people understand that, and frankly are focused on it and care about it? >> well, i think that's-- no, the american people have an awful lot on their minds and what they are trying to deal with. but i think it is the responsibility of leadership to make that case. and i don't think that case has been made. >> well, milton friedman began to say the government has becoming a check writing machine, social security, medicare, medicaid, money comes in, checks go out. so when those programs begin to expand, everything else shrinks. so it is a question of getting those two, and freedman used to say this is a libertarian paradise, when the be titlements take up 100% of the federal government, there is no money for anything else. that is pretty much where we are headed. >> woodruff: it almost christmas, whether you enjoy it or not, it is the time of year you think about giving gifts, so think about what gifts would you like to give
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to some prominent americans. so mark, let's start with president obama. what would you give him. >> president obama needs a whirlpool. he's got a lot of bruises and bumps. he needs some personal time. >> woodruff: you done mean a washer and dryer set. >> no, a hot tub that he can sit in an get, you know, get feeling better. maybe a couple he elf band-aids. >> it is funny we went in the same direction. i wanted to give him one of those massage chairs, the vibrating things. he was going to do that in the press conference, sort of shaking around. >> he's got more taste than that. >> those are pretty nice. >> woodruff: what about speaker boehner. >> speaker boehner needs to get rid of jack kingston, a congressman from georgia who is running from the senate who said this week, judy, that a major breakthrough of great conservative thinking that children, that their moral fine certificate undermined by receiving free school lunches therefore they should fire the janitors in poor schools and let the children who are getting school lunches work as janitorial people.
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you know, john boehner doesn't need those people. and he needs to get in touch with his feelings again like de last week. >> woodruff: i remember when the republican presidential candidates talking about that too. >> i'm giving a pick tufer-- picture of done mar-- dean martin, same voice, same skins, jerry lewis off on its side. >> woodruff: a couple of republicans with who may run for president next time around wa, about governor chris christie of new jersey. >> governor christie needs to receive and to listen to the cd of feliz navidad because his position on immigration is a little sketchy. and i think it's time for him to work it out and be inspired. >> i was going to give him a book on humility. he could use that. >> woodruff: okay. this is a good place to sell your book, ted cruz, junior senator from texas, what about him. >> i think a cameo outfit so he can join the folks at
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duck dynasty and feel very comfortable with his core constituents. >> woodruff: speaking of duck dynasty, i will ask you about that in a minute, what about ted cruz. >> can taked cameo but i would give him an hour with pope francis. >> you're going-- . >> woodruff: all right, somebody else who said i guess in an interview in the last few days that she's go fog decide this year whether she is running for president in 2016, hillary clinton what would you give. >> i am going cds this year, done stop thinking about tomorrow, it worked for bill, you ought to just hum it. >> woodruff: you want her to run. >> do i want her to run? >> woodruff: you're not going to go on the record. >> i have absolutely no interest in whether she does or doesn't. i mean that is solely up to her. anybody who runs for president, it is a personal decision. and i would not-- presume -- >> i would give her grand theft auto, something to play on the bus. >> woodruff: all right, finally what would the two of you to give to the american people to the country, mark? >> just some sense of
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optimism and confidence about the future which is -- our supply of which has been sadly depleted. >> getting sentimental. i was going to give us a break from ourselves. but you know-- . >> woodruff: you done mean the three of us. >> no, all of us, all 320 million of us. >> a break-in each other. >> from ourselves. no, if you want to feel good about the country just go back to 1830,-- comes here, finding american value, hard work, industry, moral materialism, they're all still here, and so i would give them democracy in america and remind thaws we still essentially have what we have always had. >> woodruff: this is a good note toned on. mark shield, david brook, merry christmas, happy holidays. >> merry christmas, judy, thank you very much, thank you. >> woodruff: finally tonight, this year secretary of state john kerry embarked on the task of trying to settle the
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unresolved conflict between israelis and palestinians. chief foreign affairs correspondent margaret warner talks with israeli author ari shavit about his acclaimed new book, exploring that conflict and the contradictions he sees in his nation's history. >> 65 years ago the state of israel was created from the ashes of the holocaust. its birth also uprooted by u.n. estimates some 750,000 palestinians who inhabited the land. the decades since have brought wars, violent palestinian uprising and israeli crackdowns. and many attempts to negotiate peace. yet today the land remains divided, with the majority of the palestinians living in the occupied west bank and unoccupied but hemmed in gaza strip. a family story of writer ari shavit spans israel's founding and history. from the days of his great grandfather a british
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solicitor in art and scientist. shavit a one-time paratrooper now a columnist tackles this complex history in his new book, my promised land, the triumph and tragedy of israel. we spoke recently at washington's historic 6th and i street synagogue. >> warner: thank you for joining us. >> pleasure to be with you. >> warner: the subtitle of your book is the triumph and tragedy of israel. you're a fourth generation israeli. have you always felt that way, that there was a duality to the whole nature of this country? >> absolutely. one of the basic things about that country that i love so much is that it is so complex, it usually the conversation about it is too simplistic this way or another. and if you don't wrestle with the complexity, you don't get it you don't get israel, you don't get the israeli-palestinian conflict, you don't get middle east. the kbook is a personal journey of real soul-searching. on the one hand israel is an amazing triumph because it
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did build a home for homeless people. so israel is remarkable success of the people that have saved themselves and have chosen life and are celebrating life. the tragedy is that the conflict and what my claim is, is that the conflict is not only about occupation and settlement, it is a deep conflict that has religious, historical elements. begins from the very beginning because there was an tragic floor, if you wish, in this great success story of zyonism, and that created the conflict, that created a kind of 100 year war which is still with us. >> warner: why do you think the jews who have been an oppressed people, persecuted people, could not or did not empathize with the palestinians that they were in turn uprooting as you so visibly describe in this book? >> i think that what hapened is that they need to have a jewish national
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home was so deep, this was such a deep existential need that the first jews who went there, the founders of zionism were blind to the existence of others. and in a sense this blindness created this conflict from both sides. we were blind to the fact that there is a palestinian people. the palestinians were blind to the fact that we are a jewish people that have a right on that land. my hope is that we will get over this blindness and that will be the key to a real peace, not just a political peace. >> warner: now you tell the story dramatically by focusing in on one village or town of palestinians called lida, 50 to 70,000, that really on one or two days in july of 1948 they were evicted, some of them murdered. are you the first to really peel back the layers of the onion on that story? and was it a painful experience for you?
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>> writing the lida chapter was very painful. i thought it was my duty, and i still think it is my duty as an israeli being honest about the history of my nation to acknowledge the darker side of our history. but on the other hand i think it's very important not to take that out of context. one must remember that the 1940s were not 2013 or 2014. 1940s were brutal throughout europe, throughout the middle eastment one has to remember that the palestinians, they victed all the jews and in many case massacred. in order to be honest with our palestinian neighbors, what i say to them, i must acknowledge leader, this is my moral duty but it's your duty to overcome lida, because one cannot be addicted to the pain of the past. >> warner: how much soul-searching is going on in israel, not just among
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intellectuals and journalists but in the population at large about this? >> i think it's very difficult for many israelies to go through deep soul-searching because they feel endangered. on the one hand we are an occupying nation. like no other democracy. and we may have to deal with occupation. but on the other hand, we are an intimidated nation like other-- . >> warner: intimidated. >> intimidated so occupation and intimidation are the two pillars of the israeli condition. and usually people on the left in this country and elsewhere, and in israel focus on occupation and ignore intimidation. people on the right focus on infill days-- intimidation and ignore occupation. we all musts we are well both. >> warner: do you think though that the israeli political leadership could do more to help solve some of those exfernl-- external conflicts? >> i think there is a need for all leaders in the area to try to achieve what i call emotional breakthrough. if an israeli leader will go
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to amala and speak directly to the palestinian people, recognize their tragedy and their pain and offer them a future, i think things might change a bit. it will not solve-- but the same applies to the palestinians. i want to see the palestinian-- there is no doubt that had the palestinians had a nelson mandela, israelis would have totally changed. there is deep wish on both sides of people to move on, to rebuild a life for themselves and try to put a lot of the anger an old ideas behind. but one of the greatest troubles of both people right now, and i'm not talking about this specifically one or the other, generally for a long time we've not seen worthy leadership either in israel or in palestine. >> warner: can the current state of affairs, 65 year, really, after the birth of israel, can it continue indefinitely? >> absolutely not. i mean the occupation,
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occupation sun acceptable for moral reasons, for demographic reasons and for political reasons. we have to try to end occupation with peace, with secretary kerry is trying right now. but if that doesn't work, we have to prepare a kind of plan b in which we israelis launch a nation-saving process of ending occupation gradually, cautiously, with wisdom and creativity, where the palestinians launch a nation building process in palestine, building a constructive life-loving and hopefully democratic palestine. >> warner: ari shavit, thank you. >> t. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: president obama sized up a sometimes-bruising fifth year in office in a year-end news conference. he conceded taking hits on the health care rollout and surveillance. and the economy grew more than first estimated in the third
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quarter at an annual rate topping 4%. on the "newshour" online right now-- before you hit the road this weekend, print your copy of mark and david's guide to holiday civility for dealing with insufferable relatives from both sides of the political spectrum. find that on our homepage. and mikhail baryshnikov channels chekhov in his latest performance. the dance legend brings his body language to a new avante-guarde stage production, now on tour. here's an excerpt of his conversation with jeff. >> does it feel connected to your past work, your continuing work as a dancer or is this something very different? >> i see it, it's much more heart and mind related process. there is no-- changing who you are. but you're trying to put yourself in the skin of a
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character. and it affects your delivery of the text, your voice, your body language. and this is extremely private an there is a vulnerability on stage when you actually hear your voice. you have to have a bit of a hutzpah. >> brown: but you get back out there. >> out there because it really very inviting >> woodruff: we invite you to watch that full conversation on art beat. all that and more is on our website and a reminder about some upcoming programs from our pbs colleagues. gwen ifill is preparing for "washington week," which airs later this evening. here's a preview: >> the president is on his way to hawaii for the holidays but our upon sell
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standing by to bring you the story behind the stories from today's year-end news conference. that is tonight on washington week. judy? >> woodruff: tomorrow's edition of "pbs newshour weekend" looks at an effort in france to curb the so-called hyper- sexualization of children by banning kids beauty pageants. and we'll be back, right here, on monday with two members of the independent panel calling on the president to change the rules for government surveillance. that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. have a nice weekend. thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
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>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh
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this is "nightly business report" with tyler mathisen and susie gharib brought to you in part by. >> up to the minute stock market news and in depth analysis. our quant rating service provides objective independent ratings daily on over 4300 stocks. learn more at the >> firing on all cylinders, from a crawl to a gallup growing at the fastest pace in years thanks to a ramp up in consumer spending. the hoe mmomentum continues and does it mean for your money? >> president obama says half a million people signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange in the first three weeks of december but still many challenges.


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