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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 21, 2009 6:00pm-7:00pm EST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions want a key test vote on health care reform today. >> ifill: i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight, the stage is set for a critical christmas eve vote. >> brown: we'll talk to senators sherrod brown and lindsey graham about the bill's components, compromises and politics. >> ifill: then thousands of iranians turn a funeral for a
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dissident cleric into a full- scale street protest. margaret warner looks at what's next for the opposition in iran and their supporters here. >> brown: what happened in copenhagen and what now. >> now it's up to people to come together because we need a deal that is real. >> brown: ray suarez just back from the climate summit explains. >> ifill: and we'll take a second look at john merrow's reports on an attempt to overhaul a major urban school system, whatever it takes. >> compassion . i think that when you're doing the kind of work that i'm doing in public education where the lives and the futures of children hang in the balance, you cannot ... you can't play with that. >> brown: that's all ahead on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour major funding for the pbs newshour is provided by:
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>> what the world needs now is energy. the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change. what if that energy came from an energy company? everyday, chevron invests $62 million in people, in ideas-- seeking, teaching, building. fueling growth around the world to move us all ahead. this is the power of human energy. chevron. >> trial 11. >> let's do it again. we are intel. sponsors of tomorrow.
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>> and bank of america. and the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. 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. >> brown: senate democrats cleared the way today to approve their health care reform bill. they did it with a middle of the night party-line vote to force an end to debate. newshour health correspondent betty anne bowser begins our coverage. >> the clerk will call the
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roll. >> mr. .... >> reporter: the vote came shortly after 1:00 this morning. 60-40 to shut down a republican filibuster. democrats like tom harkin of iowa celebrated. >> we'll get this passed before christmas. and it will be one of the best christmas presents this congress has ever given the american people. >> reporter: hours later at the white house president obama praised what he called an historic vote. and he touted the weekend analysis from the congressional budget office saying the senate measure would reduce the deficit. >> for all those who are continually carping about how this is somehow a big-spending government bill, this cuts our deficit by $132 billion the first ten years and by over a trillion in the second. that argument that opponents are making against this bill does not hold water. >> reporter: according to cbo estimates the senate bill
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would cost $781 billion over ten years. it would also cover 31 million uninsured americans. mandate that individuals buy insurance or pay a fine. provide tax credits to low- income americans to help them afford coverage, and create an insurance exchange where those who don't get coverage through their employers can shop for a plan. the bill does not include a government-run public insurance option. and it does not allow people as young as 55 to buy in early to medicare, a proposal floated in recent weeks. instead, it envisions nearly half a trillion dollars in medicare spending cuts to help fund the new coverage. republicans like john mccain of arizona warned today it all means years of pain before any benefits. >> it's one of the great bernie madoff gimmicks that i've ever seen, that anybody has ever seen. if the bill were signed by the president on the first of january, the taxes would kick
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in and the medicare cuts and other cuts would kick in and it wouldn't be four years later that any of the benefits begin to accrue. what is that? that's nuty stuff. and by the way, it's unacceptable. >> reporter: while the drama of majority leader harry reid scouring the democratic ranks for the one final vote he needed was unfolding inside, outside the capitol was brought to its knees by a blinding snowstorm. reed finally got that 60th vote from nebraska's ben nelson. nelson made his support known saturday morning. >> while each of my colleagues may differ on how to fix the system , i know of no members who are suggesting that the current system is satisfactory. i know of no member who doesn't think that we need to change our health care system. where we differ-- and i say so with great respect to all of my colleagues on both sides of
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the aisle-- is in the way we fix our health care system. >> reporter: to get nelson on board, reed had to include stricter language on abortion coverage in his final amendments. as a result, the bill allows states to opt out of plans that cover abortion in the new insurance exchanges and those who enroll in plans that cover the procedure would have to pay for it separately. nelson also won a commitment from the federal government to cover the entire cost of nebraska's medicare expansion under the bill in perpetuity. senate minority leader mitch mcconnell blasted the deal- making at a sunday afternoon news conference. >> let me just say that the tax payers of kentucky are not excited, not at all excited, about having to underwrite the special deals that were apparently made for nebraska, vermont, and we now learn maybe massachusetts. so i'm going to remind the tax payers of our state that
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they're subsidizing these other three states because their senators apparently extracted a price for passing this bill. >> reporter: even with the deal, nelson and independent democrat joseph lieberman warned that the senate legislation must not be altered substantially when it's merged with the more liberal house bill. the american medical association joined today in supporting the senate version after refusing to back the house bill. meanwhile, reed said talk about a conference was premature. >> we have to pass this bill in the senate first. that is our direction. that is our guiding light. we'll worry about next steps at a later time. >> reporter: the next step in the path to passing a bill comes tomorrow morning when the senate will take another procedural vote. >> ifill: we have our own debate on the mer is of the senate bill and what it might take to get a final bill to the president's desk. sherrod brown is a democrat from ohio and is a member of
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the senate's health committee and lindsey graham is a republican from south carolina. he's a member of the senate's budget committee. gentlemen, we just heard ben nelson, the famously sought-off senator from nebraska, say this weekend that this is not about whether the health care system gets fixed but the way you fix the health care system. so was this, as harry reid put it today, the grand compromise of the senate or was it just back room dealing at its worst? senator brown? >> it was a good compromise. i don't like some of the deals that were made. i don't like the deal that was made on abortion. i think that that compromises a woman's right to choose. i think that i don't like that the public option is no longer in or the medicare buy-in. i don't like some of the other things. but overall this bill makes a big difference. it strengthens medicare. it provides tax incentives to small business so they can begin to cover their employees. most small businesses want to do that. i think this legislation is important when you look at the insurance reform. immediately going into effect
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next year when the president signs it is no longer allowing a child to be... a child with a pre-existing condition to lose the insurance for the family. i mean we're going to prohibit that. no more discrimination between where women pay more for the same policy as a man has. no more lifetime limits where someone gets sick and their health care costs are so high that the insurance company cuts them off. and in terms of medicare we're going to be giving annual check-ups, close the donut hole so seniors won't pay so much out of pocket for prescription drugs and this for the first time unlike the 2003 drug company insurance company bill that president bush pushed through, this bill actually lengthens the life expectancy of medicare. the deals notwithstanding this bill is good for the country in so many ways. >> ifill: senator graham, let's pick up on that. is this bill good for the country or our objections to this are what's in it or the way it was done? >> i think it's both. this whole idea that we're
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going to do business differently resonate s with the american people. i think we kind of let them down here. we're going to be transparent negotiations on health care. they were even going to be on c-span according to president obama. at the end of the day what happened was they got the 60th vote behind closed doors. there was no republicans in the room. no democrats really. this is the old way of doing business on steroids. the nebraska deal is not going to go well with the american people. i'm going to have a hard time going back to south carolina and say that our medicare rolls are going to expand by 500,000 people. 30% of my state is african- american. a lot of low-income people. a lot of particularly low-income african-americans. my state is at 12% unemployment. the matching portion for south carolina is going to increase by a billion dollars but if you live in nebraska, the new enrollees in medicaid there will be paid for by the federal government in perpetuity. i don't think most americans feel like that's a change that we can believe in. but that's just one problem. the assumption in this bill to get it to reducing the deficit
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is not going to happen. we're not going to cut medicare by $470 billion. four years ago we tried to reduce it by $10 billion and couldn't get the votes. that's an illusion. there's $247 billion of doctors' cuts to come over the next ten years. that wasn't factored in. >> ifill: there are a lot of americans who look at this and say this is what happens all the time on capitol hill. deals are cut. people benefit. what's unusual about this one? >> what's unusual about this is the american public is tired of doing that way of doing business. they elected to president obama to change that. what happened to the change you can believe in? the one reason i think he won more than all others is he presented a fresh face, a new way of doing business. at the end of the day we've let the public down. we're going to pass a bill that changes one-sixth of the economy on partisan lines. when medicare passed there were 21 no votes, 79 yes votes. when social security passed there were only 6 no votes. americans with disabilities
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act 8 no votes. i think what the american people are going to look at the congress and say, this is not change. >> ifill: senator brown, ohio benefited from some of these special provisions in this bill. were the ends worth the means? >> the ends are... the issue is what this bill means to people in ohio. my state 390 people every single day from toledo to cincinatti to dayton to youngstown, 390 every single day lose their insurance across the country 1,000 people are dying every week because they don't have insurance. if you're a woman with breast cancer, 40% more likely to die. if she doesn't have insurance. than if they does. that's why we need to move now, why the delay tactics from some of our colleagues i think are simply don't serve the public interest in this legislation ultimately 31 million people are going to get insurance under this legislation. i go to the floor every night, almost every day and read letters from ohioans most of
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whom were pretty satisfied with their insurance a year ago and then either they had a child with a pre-existing condition or they lost their job or they had an expensive illness that caused the insurance company to , they call it rescission, to rescind their insurance. and now they're hurting. we have an opportunity to fix this. this bill does this. it's not perfect by a long shot. it would do better with the public option. it would do better with the medicare buy-in. we could do better on the prescription drug issues to get drug prices down a whole lot better there. we weren't able to accomplish all that. >> ifill: may i ask you to respond to something that senator gram just said about cost. the president said this is going to bring the deficit down. the whole goal was to bend the cost curve so that the actual cost of staying insured when you are insured would go down. is the senate bill as written, would it do that? >> i think it makes major steps towards doing that. unlike the 2003 medicare privatization bill that was written by the drug and insurance companies there was no... i give senator gram credit. he voted against that.
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not many republicans did. that bill, that bill was not even paid for, not even attempted to be paid for. this one is. in the congressional budget office which plays it straight. i mean the people on the losing team always complain about the referees but the congressional budget office says this will bill will produce in the first ten years a surplus of $130 million, excuse me billion dollars and in the second ten will produce a surplus of about 800 billion. it clearly goes in the right direction. there are other things we could do. i think it does a lot of good pilot projects and cost savings because this can't be cost savings imposed from washington. it has to be best practices coming from physicians and hospitals and other health care providers that really know how to do this. >> ifill: is this heading in the right direction in your opinion? >> no. medicare is going to go in bankruptcy in 2017. we've taken $470 billion out of the system, not to save medicare from bankruptcy but to create new government programs that are going to
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explode in cost down the road like the class act. i'll talk about that in a second. so it's hard to find a medicare doctor now. hospitals and doctors are having a hard time making the reimbursement levels that exist today. if you take $470 billion out of the system, you're going to compromise health care for seniors. at the end of the day we need to reform medicare for medicare's sake not take money out of that system to create new government programs. we're not going to cut medicare by $470 billion in my view. this will not be paid for. the assumptions in this bill will never become reality. the $247 billion doctor fix, the cuts to come for doctors, 21% next year. we're not going to let that happen. at the end of the day, the class act, a new federal government entitlement program where the federal government will sell you long-term health care insurance collects premiums for five years, $72 billion worth and starts paying out been anys and the cbo says it will create a costly explosion to the deficit.
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senator conrad calls it a class act which is in this bill a ponzi scheme of the first order that bernie madoff would be proud of. that's one program in the bill that's just going to blow a hole in the deficit. >> ifill: do you think that's one of the most overlooked areas of the bill. >> yes. i would say that's the most overlooked bill. the idea that we will do what we say we're going to do with medicare there's no history in the congress of reducing medicare by a little bit much less $470 billion. at the end of the day sherrod and i agree on a lot of things. pre-existing illnesses. seven republicans, seven demate karats mandating coverage. that's hard for a republican that you will have to be covered, buy private health care, by health care in the private sector and if you don't have money we'll subsidize. that's the way i want to go. this bill doesn't do that. >> ifill: yet there's no public option in the bill that passed in the senate but does exist in the house. there are restrictions on what people can spend on abortion. that is tough er in the house bill.
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do you imagine that the senate bill will stand as it is? can you imagine that when there's differences? >> i think there will be significant changes. there will be some changes, whether they're significant. where they may be significant is the tax on so-called cadillac health care plans. i don't really call them that but that's way the media report them. where people that have high quality health care plans have to pay taxes on them. the president promised in his campaign actually criticized john mccain for that. so i think that is part of the senate bill. i hope it's not coming out of conference committee because those are people that have negotiated union plans but not just union plans but negotiated good health insurance, given up wages to do it. they shouldn't pay taxes on it. i would also say that i hear all this about medicare. i appreciate lindsey's comments but the a.a.r.p. and the a.m.a.wouldn't be supporting this bill if it didn't have... if it were not doing the right things for medicare and not doing the right things for attracting physicians and to treating medicare patients.
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so i think this is the right way to go in medicare. it gives medicare beneficiaries as i said it gives them physical, they'll have the annual physicals and colonoscopys and mammograms will be available. and again it lengthens medicare life expectancy by ten years something that no one has really focused on doing in this body for many many years. >> ifill: senator graham, looking back on this now, was bipartisanship ever possible for this bill? was it always going to come down to 60-40? was it always going to come down to every single republican being against it and every single democrat being for it? >> olympia snowe voted for the finance committee bill. she voted for the bill out of committee. it just fell apart. i can't explain it really quite frankly. i'm on a bill. seven democrats and seven republicans that would mandate coverage where everybody would have to be covered and you allow the tax code to be used to make those purchases. i don't know what happened. i can't explain it. i don't know how we went to the point that all the
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negotiations broke down and ben nelson was dragged off in a room somewhere in the capitol and they come up with the cockamamy deal for nebraska to get the last vote. $518 billion in taxes to pay for this bill. you'll never convince me that that's not going to be passed on to the consumer. there has to be a better way than raising $518 billion of taxes and cutting medicare. if you're selling supplemental insurance policies for medicare patients, your business just got a lot better because the services available to seniors are going to go down and if you're the a.a.r.p. you're going to have a lot more customers than you did before. only one in five doctors work for the a.m.a.or support the a.m.a.. >> ifill: senator lindsey graham, senator sherrod brown you all have some more votes ahead of you. we'll be talking to you. >> brown: still to come on the newshour, anti-government protests back on the streets of iran. after copenhagen, what happened and what's next? and the start of a week long series recounting the challenges facing the washington d.c. schools. that follows the other news of
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the day from hari sreenivasan in our news room. >> sreenivasan: good evening. much of the east coast struggled back to life today after a weekend blizzard paralyzed state after state with record snow. thousands of students and teachers stayed home from school and the storm was blamed for seven deaths. newshour correspondent kwame holman has our report. >> reporter: millions of people from the mid atlantic to new england spent this first official day of winter struggling to dig out. the onslaught began friday night and continued in some places for 24 hours non-stop. the washington d.c. region was buried under nearly two feet of snow, forcing federal agencies to close today. and everywhere commuters had to brave icy roads and slick sidewalks this morning. those who opted for public transportation ran into delays in bus, commuter rail and subway service in several major cities. early holiday travelers were
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left struggling to salvage flight plans after thousands of flights were delayed or canceled. >> on a flight from boston yesterday at 3:00 and got here at 5:00 p.m. and have been here since trying to get to pittsburgh. right over there behind the christmas tree. >> we called up the airline last night. everything was totally fine. we arrived this morning. the flight was canceled. a lot of people confused not knowing what's going on. >> reporter: as the day went on, runways began to reopen and flight schedules slowly began returning to normal. >> brown: the blizzard also left shopping malls snow bound with merchants scrambling to recoup a critical weekend of lost business. airline passengers in the u.s. will not have to sit on the tarmac for more than three hours. the transportation department ordered today that passengers be allowed to deplane if a delay lasts that long. otherwise, airlines could risk
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fines of $27,000 per passenger. transportation officials say an average of 1500 flights a year are delayed more than three hours. thousands of rail travelers in britain, france and belgium were stranded for a third day after snow halted high-speed rail service. in london and paris, would-be passengers waited in long lines for information on how they'll get home for the christmas holiday. operators of the euro star train said limited service would resume tomorrow. ford moaters will offer buyouts and early retirement to 1,000 fact other workers. it is an attempt to reduce costs by 2011. union workers have until late january to accept the offers with payments of up to $70,000. ford offered buyouts earlier this year but only 1,000 employees accepted the offer. on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average gained 85 points to close at 10414. the nasdaq rose nearly 26
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points to close at 2237. mexico city legalized gay marriage today. the first place in latin america to do so. the mexican capital's legislature voted to redefine marriage as, quote, the free uniting of two people. the city's mayor is expected to sign it into law. polish police have recovered the sign stolen from the main gate of the auschwitz concentration camp. officials said today they arrested five men described as common criminals looking to make a profit. the thieves allegedly cut the sign into three pieces to make it easier to transport. the men could face up to ten years in prison for theft of an object of special cultural value. the ash wits sign has become one of the defining symbols of the holocaust. i'll be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you'll find tonight on the newshour's website. for now back to gwen. >> ifill: and we move on to iran and the protests that won't go away. margaret warner reports. >> warner: the streets of
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iran's holy city and the center of its religious life filled with tens of thousands of mourners today. they came both to honor a founding father of modern iran, grand ayatollah, and to protest the government he had come to oppose. foreign journalists were kept away but unconfirmed reports from reformist and conservative websites reported clashes between mourners and pro government supporters. he died sunday at age 87 was a patriarch of the islamic revolution that swept iran 30 years ago. at one point he was designated the successor to revolution's founder ayatollah khomeini but he was pushed aside when he split with government hard- liners in the late 1980s. he called for expanding civil liberties and women's rights and emerged as the senior dissident cleric in iraq. recently he even apologized for the 1979 storming of the u.s. embassy in tehran, and
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the 444-day hostage crisis that followed. his legacy of defiance helped inspire and embolden the opposition movement that gained momentum after last june's disputed presidential election. after president mahmoud ahmadinejad was proclaimed the winner amid widespread allegations of fraud, month zairey's pen stinging broadside denouncing the ahmadinejad government for its handling of the post election protest. those rebukes found a wide audience in iran and amid the opposition supporters around the world. like this person in north virginia. >> i want to say here.... >> warner: every evening he descends to his basement and speaks to tech savvy reformed minded citizens back in his native iran. his ten-minute videos counseling tactics of resistance are posted on you- tube, facebook and google mail. his audience?
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the thousands of young people and others who six months after the election are still taking to the streets of tehran and elsewhere in protest as they did today. this man is a somewhat unlikely mentor for them, an aide to ayatollah khomeini in the earliest days of the revolution he went on to help found the revolutionary guard which is now the regime's main instrument for maintaining control. he says his aim is nothing less than bringing down what he calls the coups regime of ahmadinejad and the supreme litre khammenei. >> the aim of the movement is overthrowing the true government and because the leader is with the coups government the leader as well. he should be trialed. >> warner: you were one of the early adherents of this revolution. you helped found the revolutionary guard. why did you turn against it? >> because this revolutionary guard is not that
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revolutionary guard that i was one of its founders. we wanted to have a people army to defend the country, not an organization which is involved in politics . one of the pillars of islamic revolution was to free them. what people shouted on the streets in 1979, but now we have no freedom. >> warner: anti-government protests hit their peak in the days and weeks immediately after the election. the revolutionary guard and its militia responded by beating protestors and throwing many in jail. after show trials for some and death sentences for others, the crowds did diminish. iranian born stanford scholar. >> i think it's intimidating to the people who were sitting on the fence. they came out in the days
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after the election. now that the price of participation has gone up a bit they are back on the fence. but i don't think this is comforting news to the regime because they have now realized that they are sitting on a potential volcano. >> warner: resistance is continuing with protests organized through text messages and twitter. the regime is fighting back on the p.r. front. it's been organizing its own pro government rallies. it's also vilifying the op igs opposition with accusations like this new one running on state tv allegationing opposition demonstrators desecrated a photo of the revered ayatollah khomeini and most recently government-linked newspapers and political figures have been calling for the arrest of senior opposition leaders including the reform politician who claims to have actually won the election. >> if at any time the regime
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thought that they could get away with arresting him, i think they would. i think the only thing that is barring them is that they know that they are sitting on this volcano. they don't want to take the risk. they don't want to do something that they don't know the results of. this is one of the biggest risks, i think, that they would have to take. >> warner: all this takes place against the back drop of mounting tensions with the united states and the west. over iran's nuclear program. it's repeated missile tests and the fate of three american hikers who strayed across the border and are now facing trial for espionage. yet stability at home remains the regime's top priority. in a recent meeting with cleric, supreme leader ayatollah khammenei said the government will remain stable and the opposition will be destroyed before your days. but another man insists there are significant splits in the clergy and even in the revolution guard.
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do you think this opposition movement which you're helping to inspire as well, can real he'll bring down this regime? >> yes. i think so. while we are going ahead, we can see that many gaps in this society , generation gap, minorities gap, social class gap and the gap between knowledge and ignorance of the regime, knowledge of a nation and ignorance of a regime , they are big motivation for a nation to uprise for her rights. >> warner: opposition leaders say they plan to show their muscle again next sunday on the major shiite religious holiday. it will coincide with the 7th day of mourning, adding to the expected outpouring in the streets. what isn't at all clear is how long the regime will tolerate this kind of public dissent.
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with two such determined foes, it would appear that this drama in iran has many chapters to play out. >> brown: now the high-level high-stakes talks in copenhagen. ray suarez looks back at what happened and ahead at what's next. >> suarez: the recriminations have been building almost from the moment the talks ended in copenhagen saturday. in india today, mourners chanted in a solemn funeral procession. they said the dear departed was no cherished community leader but planet earth. >> the world leaders have fill the planet. now it's up to people to come together because we need a deal that is real. >> suarez: that deal, of course, is the 12-paragraph non-binding copenhagen accord announced after two weeks of grueling negotiations
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and last- minute dealings. 193 participant nations formally called for billions in aid to help poor nations cope with climate change but set no firm targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. the u.n.'s climate chief:. >> an impressive accord but not an accord that is legally binding. not an accord that at this moment pins down industrialized countries to individual targets. >> suarez: at heart, the accord represented just how far president obama and the leaders of china, brazil, india and south africa were willing to go at a snowed-in white house saturday after his return, the president had a more upbeat assessment. >> for the first time in history all of the major... the world's major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change. after extremely difficult and
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complex negotiations, this important breakthrough lays the foundation for international action in the years to come. >> suarez: european leaders were notably absent from president obama's last-minute meetings. today british prime minister gordon brown demanded the entire process be reformed. he said never again should we let a global deal be held to ransom by only a handful of countries. on a different note, the british climate change secretary, ed millband singled out developing nations. >> there was pointblank refusal from many of those countries to have legally binding targets. i think it shows in a sense how far we do have to go to tackle the problem collectively. >> suarez: china came under criticism for refusing to agree to legally binding and verifiable actions. the world's largest developing economy and the biggest carbon emiter held its ground today. a government spokesman said future negotiations will have to acknowledge china's right
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to develop. still nations most threatened by a warmer planet said they hope copenhagen paves the way for a broader agreement. >> this document allows us to continue negotiations and have a proper document or a proper legally binding agreement within the course of 2010. >> suarez: next stop on that effort will be berlin in the spring and then mexico city late in 2010. >> brown: ray is back from the cold of copenhagen to the snows of washington. welcome back. >> suarez: good to be here. >> brown: was there at the end a sense of biting off too much? >> suarez: i think the preparations that went on after the meetings went on with the assumption that there would be enough work done before everyone assembled in copenhagen so that you would just have to get that last little bit to an agreement in those final two weeks in the
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danish capital. but once they saw where the parties were, how they were dug in , those gaps seemed to be just too broad to cover. >> brown: all week long you talked about the various rifts. there was the rich versus the poor, u.s.-china. there were the three big issues, right? the emissions standard... targets, funding and verification. in the end you couldn't unravel... you couldn't pull apart any individual one? is that what happened? they were all sort of tied together. >> at one point the conference was looking for one victory that it could seize on and say at least we got this done but everything was so, as you suggest, tightly inter-woven that there was no one thing that you could agree on while other things were still left to the carried out in the future. so the money. well, yes, japan offered $15 billion right away. the united states offered an undetermined sum and promised to help raise $100 billion by
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2020, but everything else was left undefine and unresolved. yes, the west agreed. the wealthy industrial nations agreed to targets but they couldn't talk about near-term targets, only ones that are very far away like 2050. what you got the sense of was that people were thinking of co-2 like it was a national asset, not asset but something possessed nationally like china's co-2 would stay above china instead of being the world's co-2 that once it's bell muched out into the atmosphere it kind of belongs to everybody and it's everybody's problem. >> brown: speaking of politics and, i guess it's geo-politics. we went into this talking about climate change and a lot of people came out talking about geo-political change and how that showed up in copenhagen. >> suarez: it was the g-2 raising its head again. there was speculation after
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the last g-8 meeting that the world was now really run essentially by two countries: the united states and china. but china hadn't yet even woken up to the fact that it runs the world with the united states. it still wants to count itself as a developing nation in the way that some of the poorest countries in the world do. it wants to slide in under their rules. rather than be part of the solution, part of the building the mechanism that gets the world out of the fix it perceives itself to be in. you know, we spent two weeks with leaders from all over the world saying we've got to do something. we're running out of time. this is our last great chance. and then very little came out of it. >> brown: where did that leave everybody else besides those g- 2? i mean you cited in your piece that european leaders, for example, weren't even there in the final negotiations. >> suarez: the europeans were scratching their heads when it was all over because they're among the largest emiters
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still. europe wanted some credit and some recognition for having taken very serious steps toward limiting their emissions just in the recent past. creating an architecture for bringing down the release of greenhouse gases into the air but you saw that picture at the end. who was it? jacob zuma, the president of south africa, and the leader of the brazilians. and the premiere of china. it was the new kids on the block in effect. the ones that will be the biggest global emiters in 2020 and 2030 that were sitting around that table with president obama. >> brown: looking ahead there are clearly some cause for changing the process, right? we saw that from gordon brown. what does that mean actually? what are people calling for to look ahead toward some of these next meetings? >> suarez: everybody is pointing to the fact that there were 192 states gathered
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there, and everyone spoke as if the smallest countries with very few emissions were the same. as the biggest country s with the biggest emissions. not when it came to responsibility or who would pay what but having a voice in the proceedings. there's some speculation about how to do the work in advance of the conference so that the smallest countries in the world-- those, in fact, who have very little industries to cut back emissions from-- don't get to gum up the works by being able to intrude on the councils of the biggest countries that have to actually do the hardest work to get anything done. >> brown: to the point where there may be some questions about whether these kind of grand meetings are even useful, something like this? >> suarez: some columnists over the weekend pointed out that this may be the model that proves that the model doesn't work, that copenhagen may be the example that people point to years from now and say, look, when you've got a problem as vast as this one,
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as complicated as this one, getting 192 voices into the room maybe isn't as useful as getting 20, 25 or even 40 when you need to do something quickly and you need to do something comprehensively. >> brown: raw suarez, thanks again. thanks for the whole week and welcome back. >> suarez: good to be home. >> ifill: now the struggle to improve education in washington d.c. a story with national implications. a federal report card of 11 school systems this month showed math scores in d.c. schools are improving. only washington recorded improvement among fourth and 8th graders in 2007 and 2009 but those scores are still well below the national average. many of the system's larger problems remain. john merrow, the newshour special correspondent for education, has been following d.c. schools chancellor michelle rhee's efforts to turn the schools around for three years. we revisit
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these schools from rhee's first month on the job. >> reporter: in washington d.c. the new leader of the public schools is putting her house in order. >> the bottom line is i don't believe that you are going to be the leader who is going to take the schools in the direction that we need to go in and have the highest expectations for the kids. >> reporter: michelle rhee spent the first weeks of the school year meeting one on one with all 156 principals under her charge? >> in any other sector employees are expected to to meet certain outcomes or deliverables. everybody knows that if you don't meet those numbers, you go. that's what we're creating. i'm terminating your principalship now. >> reporter: any compassion? >> compassion? i think that when you're doing the kind of work that i'm doing in public education where the lives and futures of children hang in the balance, you cannot... you can't play
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with that. >> the wheels are in motion for action. and the time for dramatic change begins today. >> reporter: rhee's campaign for reform began six months ago with full support from washington's new mayor aide ran. >> there will be people along the way who don't agree with things that we're doing. but as long as we're confident that it is what's best for opportunities of young people in our system and for their education, that will trump everything else. >> good morning. >> good to see you. >> reporter: michelle rhee spent the last ten years working to improve teacher quality in low-performing schools but she's never been a principal let alone manage a school system. less than a year ago she had just over 100 employees. today she's in charge of over 11,000 employees in what may be the worst public school district in the country. >> we have in some circumstances 70 percentage points
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difference between our white kids and our black kids. that makes me so angry. this is nothing but the result of the adults in this system not doing their jobs. what about your achievement gap in the school? >> achievement gaps are getting a little bit better. >> reporter: in her meetings this fall with the principals rhee discovered what she believes is a key problem. >> nobody had ever said to them , this is my expectation. this is what success will look like at the end of the year. if you meet this or exceed this, we will be great. and if you don't meet this, then we're going to have a serious conversation about whether or not you can continue on in that role. >> reporter: rhee asked heech principal to set a goal for improving student achievement. >> you have to run but put pep to your step. let's go. >> reporter: lynn gober is the principal at anacostia high school.
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>> it's a tough school with tough issues. i promised her that i'm up for the challenge. >> reporter: test scores here rank at the bottom of the district. last year only 7% of students scored proficient in math. in reading only 6% were proficient. the goal this year is to double those scores. >> there are more than one way to upset student progress. >> reporter: gloria balton is an might have with the job of helping teachers raise performance. >> there are sixth grade teachers students reading on third grade level. i don't have any third grade in this building to give to them. >> reporter: the problems go far beyond books. >> no, no. >> okay. >> we're going to get in trouble. >> settle down. >> there are a lot of neighborhood issues that children are facing. several of the children take care of themselves. they take care of their brothers and sisters. some of the students have to
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work in order to survive. and to help their parents. or to help the parent that they live with. >> you need more psychologists in the school. you need more counselors in the school. because when you can address the needs of the soul, then you can get them to perform. >> you can address the needs of the souls of these kids in the classrooms through the power that we have as educators. you can't teach in a vacuum. you have to meet them where they are. you have to take that interest into account. you can never ever ever let that be an excuse for the kids not achieving at the highest levels. >> reporter: the double test scores at the end of the year, the principal is focusing on school spirit, parent involvement and test preparation. >> very good. write that down. >> what are you doing? >> you didn't write anything. >> we can do whatever anyone
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else can do. they have the heart. they just need the opportunities. we're not a perfect school but we're striving to be. >> the principal, she's struggling. i think she's in an incredibly difficult situation. she wants to do well. she's working hard. she's trying. but i can't confuse that at all with producing results. >> reporter: success for d.c.'s principals depends in part on support from the district's central office. that agency recently came under fire when thousands of books and supplies it had ordered were found in a warehouse while students went without. >> that office, if you take something there, it's going to get lost. so don't take it there. >> reporter: re-hired thelma
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to head the human resources department. >> you won't get any help. the phones are... not that the phones are busy but the mailboxes are always full. >> reporter: under the current contract terminating a central office employee can take months. >> every effective organization out there has the ability to hold employees accountable. >> reporter: to bring the same bottom-line accountability to the central office that she's already put in place for principals, rhee asked the city council in october for power to fire central office employees at will. >> i need this authority for the long term, to make sure that any time there's any employee who is not producing results and who is not doing the right thing for kids, that we're able to move them out of the system. >> she has some view s that may present some problems with teachers in terms of trust. >> reporter: teachers' union president george parker is watching rhee closely. >> we have to move the discussion away from hiring
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and firing of any number of employees and begin to move the discussion to what kinds of supports are we going to put in place in our district to support teachers a and children. >> reporter: while rhee was seeking greater control over her central office, the contract with the teachers expired. >> chancellor rhee, can you tell us are you seeking similar type of authority to allow you to fire teachers in the future? >> absolutely. we have to ensure in whatever contract that we have that we are able to remove ineffective teachers from their positions. >> reporter: rhee will have to negotiate a new contract with the teachers' union in the coming months. many ex-sperkt her to focus on hiring and firing. >> the chancellor already has more than enough authority to remove from the system any teachers that are deemed ineffective or incompetent. i cannot at this point imagine
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what any... what additional authority the chancellor would need in order to remove ineffective teachers. >> i think we make often an assumption assumption in a very naive way that when you enter a broken school system that the people are broken who work there. >> reporter: rhee's critics include arlene ackerman, former head of the d.c. schools. >> i would say take a look at the systems that are in place. make sure you've done everything to fix those. it's easier to focus on people than to actually fix a broken school system. >> for me this is not about firing people and that's going to solve the problem. what's going to solve the problem is creating a culture of accountability in the central office first and then eventually everyone in the school district. >> reporter: does this legislation have any national significance? >> i hope so. i hope so. i hope that everything that we
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do in some ways will have reverberations across the country. >> reporter: pushback against rhee's plan has begun. at a recent ten-hour public hearing some of the strongest criticism came from the teachers' union. >> we feel that this legislation removes due process for workers. we are not of the mind set that removing due process for workers is in any way going to improve student achievement. >> reporter: among rhee's sporters was parent mary sidell. >> we are shackled by the bureaucracy of the central administration of i am amazed at the amount of money that gets sucked out of our schools by the central administration. >> i believe that the public is behind me in an unbelievable way. i mean to the level that, you know, on the weekends i'm in the grocery store. i am like in my flip flops and people come up to me and they
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say, thank goodness you're doing this. you can't do it quick enough. don't give up. >> reporter: for now michelle rhee's plans are on hold. the city council expects to vote soon on her request for greater control. next up? negotiations with the teachers' union. >> ifill: that was back in 2007. since then, the city council did in fact give michelle rhee more power over the school system but rhee and the teachers' union have still not reached a deal on a new contract. and the chancellor decided to remove the principal of anacostia high school one of several dozen she eventually replaced. in john's next installment he looks at rhee's plans to close some schools and early resistance to that. >> brown: the major developments of the day. senate democrats won a key procedural vote to clear the way for approving their health care reform bill by christmas. much of the east coast struggled back to life after a weekend blizzard paralyzed state after state with record
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snow. the newshour is always online . hari sreenivasan in our news room previews what's their. >> sreenivasan: on our website tonight more from ray on the outcome of the climate summit and what happens next. extended excerpts of margaret warner's interview with the former iranian revolutionary guard member. a behind the scenes blog post from newshour education correspondent john merrow about changes afoot in u.s. schools and a special feature about how health care reform could affect people with different jobs and different kinds of insurance. all that and more is on our website, newshour dot pbs dot org. >> brown: that's the newshour for tonight. i'm geoffrey brown. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour is provided by:
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