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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 31, 2010 5:30pm-6:30pm PST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. on this new year's eve, revelers gathered around the world to ring in 2011. >> suarez: and i'm ray suarez. on the "newshour" tonight, we look at the preparations and the celebrations as severe weather battered parts of the u.s. and elsewhere. >> brown: then, we re-visit one of the year's biggest stories: the gulf oil spill with an update from national oceanic and atmospheric administration chief jane lubchenko. >> suarez: plus tom bearden returns to the gulf where scientists are searching for lessons learned from damage done to fish. >> it's possible that what we could do is be able to give some
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information back to the people who are deciding about the way to deal with oil spills as to what the best approach might be. >> brown: we wrap up a week of encore reports on the foreclosure crisis from paul solman with a look at winners and losers when mortgages are modified. >> suarez: e.j. dionne and michael gerson offer their end of the year analysis filling in for mark shields and david brooks. >> brown: from minnesota, fred de sam lazaro tells the story of one monastery's mission to preserve sacred religious texts. >> if you believe that we can learn from the past, the past of our lives, the past of our families and our own nation or culture, the only way the past has come down to us is in the form of these writings. >> suarez: plus, we profile idaho-based poet karena youtz. >> brown: that's all ahead. on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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>> auto companies make huge profits. >> last year, chevron made a lot of money. >> where does it go? >> every penny and more went into bringing energy to the world. >> the economy is tough right now, everywhere. >> we pumped $21 million into local economies, into small businesses, communities, equipment, materials. >> that money could make a big difference to a lot of people. >> this was me-- best ribs in nelson county. but i wasn't winning any ribbons managing my diabetes. it was so complicated. there was a lot of information out there, but it was frustrating trying to get the answers i needed. then, my company partnered with united healthcare. they provided on-site screenings, healthy cooking tips. that's a recipe i'm keeping. >> turning complex data into easy tools. we're 78,000 people looking out for 70 million americans. that's health in numbers. united healthcare.
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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: around the world today the celebration to welcome 2011 has begun. from moscow, where fireworks went off despite a curtain of thick snow. to tokyo, where revelers released silver balloons. among the first to celebrate-- new zealand... >> three, two one, happy new year! >> brown: and australia, where fireworks lit the midnight sky over sydney harbor for a crowd
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of 1.5 million-- one of the largest in the world. but there was little cause for celebration 800 miles up the pacific coast of australia. thousands of homes across queensland state are inundated with water, after days of pounding rain caused swollen rivers to overflow. >> i think it's horrendous. i think there's too much of it and it's quite frightening as to where it's going to go. >> brown: nearly 200,000 residents have been evacuated, and an estimated 300,000 square miles have been affected by the flooding. it was a stormy end to 2010 for much of the united states as well. a huge weather system-- more than 1,500 miles from top to bottom-- has pushed its way across the country in recent days. in southern california, residents spent new year's eve digging out from mudslides. >> i don't even know where to go from here. it's just one thing after another right now. >> brown: the northern part of the state suffered wind gusts up to 100 miles an hour and 20
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inches of fresh snow. in arizona, a rare blizzard dumped a foot of snow 80 miles from the grand canyon. >> i thought i was in arizona. i thought this was going to be the desert today. >> brown: in north dakota, blinding snow led to a massive pile-up of 100 cars west of fargo. the storm also fueled deadly tornadoes in arkansas and missouri. meanwhile, in new york's times square, crews labored to clear the last of the snow ahead of tonight's traditional ball drop. >> suarez: still to come on the "newshour": the gulf waters after the oil spill; questions of fairness when mortgages are modified; e.j. dionne and michael gerson; protecting ancient manuscripts and a poet from boise, idaho. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: two more nato troops were killed in afghanistan today. that brings the year's toll for foreign troops to 711-- the highest since the war began. american deaths were also the highest at 498.
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but afghan and coalition officials cited progress against the taliban announcing the death of a shadow governor of a northern province. a top ally of ivory coast's internationally recognized leader today declared the country in a civil war situation. incumbent president laurent gbagbo has refused to relinquish power after losing to alassane ouattara more than a month ago. britian's foreign secretary william hague offered to support the u.n. if force is needed to oust gbagbo, and if west african nations ask for help. leaders of a 15 nation bloc of african countries have prepared plans to forcefully take over power if talks fail. a bomb exploded at a nigerian army barracks today, killing at least 30 people. nigerian state television reported it happened in the capital city, abuja in a beer garden as people gathered to celebrate the new year. today's bombing follows a series of christmas eve explosions in central nigeria that killed more than 30 people. officials in new orleans ordered residents of the last remaining fema trailers to move out or
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face steep fines. only 221 of the trailers are left out of the more than 23,000 that were put in place as temporary homes for hurricane katrina victims. city administrators described the existing trailers as blight, and want them removed by march. a ground beef recall is in effect for possible contamination from e-coli. more than 34,000 pounds of potentially tainted organic ground beef products were distributed in new york, new jersey, north carolina, wisconsin, california and washington state. the company first class foods of hawthorne, california has not yet received any reports of illnesses. freezing temperatures in florida this month cost farmers and citrus growers $273 million. crops of green beans, sweet corn, and eggplant were among the hardest hit by the cold snap. and the florida department of agriculture statistics do not account for the last ten days of the month. the crop losses have driven up the price of produce in stores across the u.s., and led to increased imports from overseas.
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on wall street, stocks were mixed on the last day of a strong year for the market. the dow jones industrial average gained more than seven points to close at 11,577. the nasdaq fell ten points to close above 2,652. for the year, the dow gained nearly 11%. the nasdaq rose 17%. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to ray. >> suarez: as the year comes to a close, we get the latest on one of the year's major stories- - the massive oil spill along the gulf coast. it began with a blast. b.p.'s deepwater horizon rig about 41 miles off louisiana's coast, exploded april 20th, killing eleven and injuring seventeen. at first, b.p. and u.s. government officials said they didn't know the extent of the spill-and were slow to raise alarms about it. but within weeks, estimates of its size climbed from 42,000 gallons to as much as 2.4 million gallons gushing daily into the water.
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the spill fouled wetlands, and coated wildlife, affecting shorelines from louisiana to florida. chemical dispersants were used to break up the oil, creating cloud-like plumes beneath the surface. local residents' anger and distrust mounted, as fisherman and others feared for their livelihoods. >> i'm concerned what happens to this industry! i'm concerned he goes and gets clean shrimp, he goes and gets dirty shrimp. how do you know what the hell is going to happen? >> let me make another point. >> you don't know, matt! we don't know! >> suarez: there was also criticism of the president's tone, and the government's reponse-- something mr. obama himself echoed at a may press conference. >> every day, i see this leak continue i am angry and frustrated as well. >> suarez: then-b.p. chairman tony hayward pledged early on to seal the well and cor the costs of the spill. but as multiple efforts to stem the flow failed, public opinion of hayward plummeted. his performance came under fire at a congressional hearing in june.
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>> are you trying to tell me you have not reached a conclusion that b.p. really cut corners here? >> i think it's too early to reach conclusions with respect, mr. chairman. the investigations are ongoing. >> suarez: just a day later, hayward was pushed aside. his replacement-- gulf coast native bob dudley-- told the "newshour" he'd take full responsibility. >> we're there for the long term. >> suarez: the largest oil spill in u.s. history released more than 205 million gallons of oil. the well was capped july 15th and finally declared dead by september. under pressure from the obama administration, b.p. set-up a $20 billion fund to compensate victims, this month, the department of justice announced it was joining civil lawsuits against b.p. and the other companies and will investigate possible criminal charges. even after much of the oil has dissipated, questions remain about the lasting environmental effects of the spill and the dispersants used. and for more about those
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questions, we turn to one of the administration's leading voices on the environmental impact. jane lubchenco, the head of the national oceanic and atmospheric association or n.o.a.a. welcome back to the program. >> thank you, ray. >> suarez: when the well was finally capped the two big unknowns were where is the oil and what is it going to do now that it's just sitting there out in the gulf of mexico. these months on, doe know, have a better answer to those questions? >> we have a lot better idea but not all the answers that we would want. we do know that of the nearly five million barrels of oil that was spilled, about a quarter of it was removed by the federal effort, burned, skimmed or captured directly. another quarter of it evaporated. the remaining half of that which is actually equivalent to about nynex on valdez-- oil
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spills to put it in context, about half of that total of 5 million barrels was in early august, either in the water column as dispersed oil or on beaches or as tar mats or floating on the surface. of that, much of that is now gone. there remains oil that is on beaches and isolated patches, and buried beneath the sediments along the shoreline. and the cleanup efforts for that continue. there remains to be residue of oil especially right around the well head, the sampling that we have done suggests that within two miles of the well head there is a fair amount of oil that has still seeped into the sediments which is not surprising. but both the natural process of biodegradation and the cleanup efforts are ongoing, and will continue until all that oil is completely gone.
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>> suarez: when you are talking about close to the broken well itself, the bottom of the gulf is cold and whatever is down there is under tremendous amounts of pressure. will it just sit there inert for some time to come, that oil? >> oil is very complex substance. it's composed of a lot of different types of hydrocarbons. some of them volatilize easily, some of that break down are easily biodegraded quickly. others biodegrade only very, very slowly. so in that environment that you describe deep in the ocean, it's quite likely that some of that res i due will remain fo- residue will remain for years if not decades. >> suarez: is the gulf of mexico different from the open ocean in that there is not as much water exchange, not as much flushing out that goes on because it's in some parts closed? >> the gulf is a huge area. and the area in which the oil was spilled is just a
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very large volume. there is circulation in to and out of the gulf. but it is fairly self-contained. we did not have any major hurricanes that came into the gulf and the loop current which can act to transport water and potentially oil away from the gulf within a form where it didn't do that. so much of the oil that was spilled, if it wasn't collected and recaptured, it did remain in the gulf and is in the process of being degraded or the cleanup effort has got it. >> suarez: a lot of attention was paid to the disbursement ant, the chemicals that were dropped into the water to break up that oil. this time on, do we have any common wisdom about whether too much, not enough was used, whether it was the right approach chemically, whether it can be safely used in a body of water from
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which we also eat millions of pounds of food a year? >> we know, ray, that the use of the dispersants was intended to do two things. one to keep the oil off beaches andes wears where we knew it would do damage and two to break up the oil into smaller and smaller pieces so it could naturally biodegrade much faster. it was successful in doing both of those. we also know that the dispersants break down relatively rapidly between four and six days. it breaks down and is gone. and so there is no threat to seafood safety, for example. and whether on balance the use of dispersants was appropriate is part of the ongoing questions that will be asked. it certainly did what we expected it to do, what it was intended to do. but this is a question of environmental trade-off. and you know, you're faced
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with things that are bad on both sides. and the choice that was made i think was the right choice. >> suarez: early on did the united states government misunderstand or misstate the magazine future-- magnitude of what was going on at the bottom of the gulf of mexico. and had there been a greater understanding earlier, would we as a people have done anything differently? >> i think early on it was hard to tell exactly how serious the situation was. for that very reason the president ordered all of the agencies to mount a very aggressive response and to assume the worst possible scenario. that, in fact, characterized the federal effort. i think it's important to recognize that the magnitude of the spill was unprecedented in u.s. history. five million barrels, that's 18 exxon valdez oil spills and it just kept coming and
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coming and coming. early on, there was no way to know how long it would take to cap the well and to stop the flow. and so this very aggressive response, in fact, i believe was as much as we could have done and in fact, did accomplish a phenomenal amount. the sheer magnitude of the spill was one that has resulted in a lot of the damage that has been done and we will it be to discover as time goes on. >> suarez: dr. lubchenco, thanks for joining us. >> thank you, ray. >> brown: as we heard, scientists are still assessing the long-term damage to the gulf. "newshour" correspondent tom bearden recently caught up with researchers doing just that off the coast of alabama. >> reporter: on a bitingly cold december day, biology assistant professor anthony overton braved the wind and the waves miles off the coast of alabama, collecting microscopic baby fish.
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again and again, overton and his crew heaved a finely-meshed double net array over the side of a 27-foot aluminum boat. this is one of eight excursions to catch menhadden larvae-- the next generation of a species that is a prime source of fish oil for humans and food for predators. what happens to menhaden effects the entire food chain. overton and his colleagues are trying to find out if the b.p. oil spill and the dispersant chemicals that were used to break up the slick have done biological damage to this cornerstone species. overton says this particular fish is abundant in the gulf. >> the adults have been exposed much of the oil throughout the spill region, and if there's any oil still left around in the surface waters, then most likely their eggs and larvae, which are spawning right now, would be exposed, so it spans such a large coverage area. if we were to see any effects on a particular species, we'd most likely see it with that species. >> reporter: they allowed the
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nets to sink down about 90 feet, then winched them back up at two-minute intervals. overton then sluiced what the net had trapped into plastic sample jars. they did it six times in six different, carefully recorded locations. >> we want to make sure that we sample the entire water column so that we capture larvae throughout the water column. so that's why it's designed so that we sort of pull the net up through the water. >> reporter: they're particularly focused on how the tiny fish's genetic structure might have been affected. >> genes are responsible for everything, in terms of protein production, development. they're responsible for every process that occurs in the body. so any major changes or particularly potential changes in gene expression could cause major impact in terms of the development and possibly the survivability of a fish. >> reporter: back on shore, overton prepared the day's catch for shipment back to east carolina university in greenville, north carolina.
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over the next several months, faculty and students will carefully sort, classify, and examine the mehnaden larvae, cataloging any damage they might find. back at e.c.u., the project has actually been underway since october, when assistant professor ed stellwag started what amounts to a small fish farm. the research team needed another species of fish larvae that could be exposed to controlled amounts of oil and dispersants in the laboratory to compare with the fish taken from the gulf. stellwag set up an array of fish tanks to spawn zebrafish-- a small, well-studied species that produces new larvae every day. >> one of the reasons it was the larvae fall to the bottom of the tanks, where marbles prevent the adults from eating them. stellwag retrieves them with a simple siphon. >> we're getting about 800 to 1,000 embryos, and then we culture them, and of course we're going to continue to grow those until we build up a large enough stock. and then we can each day look at them and monitor their progress. >> reporter: so are you kind of
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a midwife for zebra fish? >> yes. at this point, my students and i, yeah. these were spawned on sunday, and what i'm going to show you here is how some of them have died, they naturally do. >> what killed some of these? >> they're just naturally developmentally defective. nothing in particular. what happens, though, is that when they die they become very susceptible to mold, and fungus. if the fungus starts to spread it can wipe out a lot of them. the eyes are prominent at this stage, and they'll continue to be that for awhile. >> reporter: stellwag hopes the investigation will provide useful information on how best to deal with the next oil spill. >> it's possible that what we could do is be able to give some information back to the people who are deciding about the way to deal with oil spills as to what the best approach might be. should we use dispersants, what effect is that going to have?
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>> reporter: could it also help understand the effects on humans who live in that environment? >> well, certainly. we're animal species and we're part of that ecosystem. and we're going to consume products from that ecosystem even after the acute effects have diminished. there are tarballs which are going to be present that are going to leach out these products. so i think we certainly can see these effects over the long term. >> reporter: the project hopes to publish its first results next summer. >> suarez: next, the last in this year's series of reports on the foreclosure crisis. we have an encore look at newshour economics correspondent paul solman's story on the tough questions raised when mortgages are modified. it's part of his reporting on "making sense of financial news."
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>> when we said we need principal reductions people said, "you guys are crazy!" >> reporter: boston anti- foreclosure activist melonie griffiths. >> when we said we want to stay in the homes after foreclosure to keep our communities together people said you are crazy. those are the things we're getting done right now with people power. >> reporter: power enhanced by revelations of fishy, even fraudulent foreclosure documents, which has government now stepping up its pressure on banks to modify more mortgages. hud secretary shaun donovan on our air. >> there are servicers who have not been, we believe, doing what they are required to do, what they should be doing to keep people in their homes. >> reporter: iowa attorney general tom miller is leading a 50-state initiative. >> a lot more modifications should be made that aren't being made. >> reporter: modifications, reducing interest rates, even principal, to reflect lower home values that could give millions of distressed homeowners more affordable monthly payments.
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that's what antoinette coffi- ahibo was seeking when we interviewed her last year. she'd bought her house in jamaica, new york, in 2007 for $679,000. >> they told me the mortgage was going to cost me $4,000 every month-- that i'm going to pay that for only one year. after a year, i can refinance so i can get a lower mortgage. >> reporter: coffi-ahibo was born in the ivory coast, is now a lenscrafters optician. >> afterwards i find out i have two mortgages. one was 6% and the other was 11%. >> reporter: but you didn't know that at the time? >> no, i didn't know that at the time. >> reporter: but did you read the paperwork? >> no, it was so many paperwork. it was a bunch of paper we had to go through and they said just sign. >> reporter: coffi-ahibo may have been intimidated by the task, and conned by the loan broker, who's now being sued left and right.
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but can the economy afford to bail her out? as it to some extent did, we learned, when we revisited her >> i got very good news, maybe not that good but i was able to get a loan modification on my mortgage. >> reporter: actually, she got two mortgages modified. the second mortgage was for $130,000 at 11%. >> and i settled it for $11,000. >> reporter: $130,000 and you just paid them $11,000 and that was the end of it? >> yeah. >> reporter: a $119,000 loss that someone's taking. the primary mortgage was an adjustable rate loan for $543,000, originally at 6%, but scheduled to jump to 14%. >> reporter: and what happened to that one? >> he new terms of the mortgage is they gave me an interest of 4% and they want me to pay that over 40 years. >> reporter: raising her principle to $556,000 on a house now worth about $450,000, but
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lowering her total payment from $4,000 to $2,600 per month. >> now, i can afford to pay my mortgage. i am paying my mortgage every two weeks to be able to, be able to have a good credit. >> reporter: what about people who would say, "look, she got a better deal than i'm ever going to get. i also bought when things were too high. i paid a high interest rate. i can't get refinanced because my house is worth so much less now. they'd say you got away with murder." >> i am a victim. so i don't think i got away with murder. i think the people who sold me the house got away with murder and i hope everybody realize that doing the loan modification to those homeowners struggling is a good thing. >> reporter: look, says lionel ouellette of the new york community group changer, who helped seal the deal, principal
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reduction would have been even better, but at least this modification will keep coffi- ahibo in her house. >> which goes to show you how much room there is within the economy for financial institutions to modify and cut deals. >> reporter: but here's a question that's been raised often; answered, rarely: is the coffi-ahibo deal fair? >> this is america. how many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills, raise your hands. boo! president obama, are you listening? >> reporter: many credit this rant in february 2009 by cnbc's rick santelli, a former financial trader, for needling a national nerve, helping trigger the tea party movement. >> we're thinking of having a chicago tea party in july. >> reporter: and, we discovered, the anger is alive and well, as when we recently profiled loan modification recipient jeanette ford, whose original mortgage
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was $80,000. yet when the house went into foreclosure, she owed $240,000. so you took a lot of money out of the house in the formf home equity loans, i trust, when the house had risen in value. >> yes, over the years, i'd taken different equity loans. >> reporter: interviewees like ford prompted emails like this one: "where is the economic justice when she benefits from loans on the property and then effectively defaults on the property?" so we asked karl case, one of the country's top housing economists and a long-time teacher of economics, to address the question. >> all of this gets to the real nub of what economics is about. if you can show that the total benefit when you carve it all up exceeds the benefit when you let it sit, you should do it. there's no question about that. >> reporter: case cites the italian economist vilfredo pareto, who brought economics around to a common definition of he good. >> pareto said that if you can make some people better off
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without making others worse off, even potentially, that's an efficient change. that brought the whole profession together. >> reporter: and that's all economics can ask for here, is that what you're saying, that at least everybody is somewhat better off? >> that's exactly right. the worst thing that can happen is the foreclosure because then you stay in the house as long as you can, you don't make any payments on it, you let it deteriorate, when you move out the truck comes in and takes the copper out of it. the banks should like these alternatives to foreclosure because foreclosure has these extra costs. >> reporter: and in fact, some banks do seem to picking up the pace on modifying mortgages. bank of america, reports that it completed nearly 25,000 modifications in october, up 50% from the previous month. but th some two million homeowners now in foreclosure, six trillion dollars worth of mortgages at stake, why aren't even more being modified? >> there's an incentive built into the system that's making it
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not work. right now, the incentive is the banks find it cheaper and quicker to go the foreclosure route than they do putting together a complicated deal. the other thing though that's blocking it is no one is considering the social cost. and so the neighborhood itself can go down as a result of the collective behavior of people. somebody has to put that social cost on the table. >> reporter: but then why not force banks to offer homeowners like coffi-ahibo deals they can surely afford: a reduction of principle to the current market value, say? >> i love my house. i want to be here. so i'm not going to default. but i'm still going to fight the bank for them to give me the true value of my house. >> reporter: but just as her second mortgage lender accepted a loss, coffi-ahibo may have to be satisfied with a modification that leaves her underwater. >> to make everybody whole and take all the damage that's been done away from everybody is beyond the reach othe economy. i mean, we can't go and absorb a $6 trillion loss completely.
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>> hi, i'm jeanette forde. >> reporter: so everyone gives up something. but as long as they're better off than if they didn't make a deal, then justice, in economic terms, has arguably been achieved. >> they called me and they want to sell the house back. >> suarez: an update: earlier this month jeannette forde learned j.p. morgan chase was no longer willing to sell her house back at market value. the deal would have given her a more affordable mortgage. for the record, another lender, bank of america was a "newshour" underwriter when that story was produced. paul's reporting continues online, where he's following up on others featured in this week's series. >> brown: and to the analysis of dionne and gerson. that's "washington post" columnists e.j. dionne and michael gerson. mark shields and david brooks are off tonight. welcome to you gentlemen. >> thank you. >> brown: and happy new year. >> happy new year.
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>> brown: so it is the end of the year, so we're a hawed to think big. not just the week. what defines, what defines this year in politics? >> i don't know, i think it was a year of impatience. the american public -- >> impatience? >> yes, the american public was impatient with the democratic congress that seemed to be, you know, be on every issue except the ones they were concerned about. impatient with a president that didn't seem either as inspiring or effective as he seemed two years ago. impatient with an economy that didn't kick into gear, you know. and i think it was evidenced in the election cycle but americans want results. and that's really a warning to republicans and to democrats. kind of moving forward into the next year. >> were they right to be impatient? >> i think so. you know, i think that they were, it was not just a-- an undifferentiated impatience with the political class. it was really directed at democrat that didn't seem to be focused on job creation and the economy in the way that independence and
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con-- independents and conservatives wanted them to be. >> i think the great political scientist bono explained the last three elections. they still haven't found what they're looking for. and i think-- but you know, i think, we are so divided as a country that i think everybody defines the year differently. for democrats it was the year of great achievement. when you look back, i think when we look back the passage of health-care reform and the slew of other reforms, financial reforms, student loan reform, the fact the economy was stopped from going off the cliff, is great achievements and democrats will look back on it that way. i think republicans see the year as the year of the tea party, the year of conservative comeback, the year of this election victory which was, indeed, based on impatience. i think the rest of us and maybe this is much of a hope as a piece of analysis, hope this is a year with where we kind of pulled back and said we can't go on with politics like this any more. i mean we're at the point
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where if michelle obama says obesity is bad, some conservatives feel no, obesity is good. go out and get two big macs and triple fries, right. crazy. we got too get out of that i hope this is -- >> it does seem to be too petty for the problems we face. and maybe that's a call for maturity in this next year. >> brown: but you say what defines the year is that we can't even agree on -- >> indeed those two things are true. it was a great year of progressive achievements and it was a great year for conservative politics. >> maybe the two are linked. >> you wrote about that in your column yesterday. what about that notion. democrats had a lot of victories but you said they don't even seem to want to accept it. >> i think that you know there has been this dysfunctional relationship between the president and if you are the left, or whatever. we don't have a big left in america but the progressive side. you know, where the
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president gets really impatient with them where. as outside groups job is to push the president to test the limits of the possible. and then the left looks at the president, doesn't look at well gee, ensure -- 2 million people t if that's not a big social reform, i don't know what it, they tend to say why wasn't there a public option. why isn't this better. this is a dysfunctional relationship that doesn't have to exist. presidents and their supporters have actually worked in tandem-- tandem before. fdr and sydney hillman in the or martin luther king and lynn done johnson. they have to figure out how to do it better. >> brown: and on the republican side the question would be do they understand what they just accomplished? >> i agree with that we've seen the cycle of overreach and backlash. it was a matter of principal to the president but regarded by many americans as an overreach in a time when we teed to confront deficits but republicans could face the same dynamic. they are driven by a deeply ideaological movement that is intolerant of
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incrementalism. and they could well overreach in this cycle as well. republicans really do need to be reformers not revolution areas. they need to be competent, not scary. and that is i think the challenge for republicans moving forward. >> brown: i said we would think big but i want a couple of small things this week. we didn't hear much from the president, he's in hawaii, right. but we did hear this week that he made a call to the owner of the philadelphia eagles to praise him for giving michael vick, the quarterback, a second chance. that got a lot of attention, didn't it? >> it did, partly because until the last game michael vick has had an extraordinary season. i thought it was a good thing. and i thought it was a good thing because we're a yes that has half a million people or more coming out of prison over the next several years. if you don't give people in prison a second chance, then what you are doinging is saying we want to you go back and live a marginal life and probably get involved in crime again.
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sure it is not a perfect-- perfect example. michael vick has certain skills it that the rest of course only dream of having. nonetheless, i thought this is a good thing. and i'm glad he did it. >> of course maybe it goes to the earlier point that some people then said what's the president doing, you know, worrying about sports. >> well, there was some reaction that the president was being too reactive to popular culture and you don't want it to appear that the president is watching entertainment tonight every night, reacting to, you know, the entertainment news of the day. but i agree, i think that this was important. i mean you know, we do have hundreds of thousands of people every year, actually, that come back from prison into communities. if they don't get a second chance our society is in trouble. this applies to michael vick, and to everyone else in this circumstances. when the president sayings that, that is a hopeful and important statement. >> brown: the other story of the week was the weather. this is the oldest story in the book with politics, how
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does the mayor respond, right. and so this week it sort of hit some mayors that had pretty good records. bloomberg in new york. >> you know, we were in new york for christmas and we were driving in brooklyn and there was an access road to the bell parkway that looked like an unplowed country lane in vermont it was a mess. and bloomberg has a reputation as a good manager. in many ways he has earned that reputation but this just didn't work. and when you compare god bless his soul to john v lindsey legendary mayor who got into huge trouble in 1969 for not clearing the out other boroughs that is bad news. and then you had governor christie who was on vacation in disney world making it much easier for christy's first bad pre of his life. >> right. >> the progressive group that has a whereas-- where's web site. but it was good for two politicians. the senate president in new jersey was the acting governor. he did pretty well and because de pretty well, he didn't have that much
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interest in criticizing christy and korea booker who was practically clearing individual cars out of the snow in newark and then tweeting about it. so everybody knows how much he was up to. >> you follow the politics of snow? >> well, at this do think bloomberg was also heard from an initially dismissive attitude. he urged people to go to broadway plays to wait out the snowstorm. and you know, he backed off of that. 's poll gized eventually for the reaction. but i think people, you know, punish him for a perception at least of being dismissive about a major crisis. and he does have this reputation as not just a manager, but a kind of nonpartisan or post partisan supermanager. and that was clearly undermined by a management problem. >> i like the college robinson, two rules for mayors, be there, do something. i think that sort of covers it. >> now next week, next month new politics, right when everybody comes back. do you expect republicans,
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especially house republicans, do they come and hit the road running, all kinds of-- do we expect to see a lot of action or do people come back and think about, okay, test the waters. how much can we get done. what does the public want. >> i think the new house leadership is actually afraid of its right. that if they don't act -- >> me too. >> exactly. but if they don't act swiftly enough, boldly enough that you could have real tea party revolt, you know, the tea party movement. there are 82 some new members in the house of representatives, many of them tea party members. they don't really trust boehner, for example. they don't view him as a natural ally. >> brown: testing him. >> i think that a problem for the republican leadership as they approach things like the debt ceiling increase which the government needs to do but the tea party may not support. so i think there are tensions within that coalition that would be very interesting the way they play out. >> brown: what do you see. >> a deal maker with a bunch
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of guys behind him and women with guns saying don't you dare make those deals. i think it's going to be fascinating to see how he deals with what. the republicans seem to want, in the house and again they can pass a lot of stuff and it will never go anywhere. so they are in a position of passing a lot of bills with the full knowledge they will be killed in the senate or vetoed by obama. but they will be sending a signal about who rep crans are, and what they are really for. they are going to try to repeal the health-care bill, health care law right off the top. now in some ways that could be significant as a sign that they are serious about doing it. it could also be significant that they just want to get this out of the way. they know it won't go anywhere. >> and make the statement. and then they'll try to undermine it in small ways because i think if you afford this health-- are for this health care law there would be nothing better than to have a full scale debate over it because you could remind people of the things in the law that they are for, the protections if you have a preexisting condition, for example, a lot of other
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specifics in the law that poll much better than the idea of the health care law as a whole. >> last minute, dow want to make new year's resolutions for american politics, you can go first. >> i do think this will be a year of austerity, the first of a few years of austerity. i think it will be important for americans to be mature about that. we're not going to be able to do these kinds of cuts just with easy cuts. things like the education department or whatever. this is going to involve entitlements. and americans are goinging to have to be adult about that. it's going to be difficult. >> for democrats make the moral case for what you are doing, realize and this is especially true of the president, that you have to explain, you have to persuade, inspire. republicans remember that you have to govern. and the government is not a bad word. government could actually solve problems and promote fairness and fairness should shouldn't be a bad word either. for the rest of us, let us at least base our arguments on fact. no more death panel.
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>> e.j. dionne michael gerson, nice to talk with you, and happy new year. >> thank you. >> nice to be with you. >> suarez: next, a project to protect early christian texts from age, insects and war. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro reports. >> who would have thought that a monastery in central minnesota is the world's largest collection of photographs and manuscripts? >> reporter: for 50 years, this underground library at st. johns abbey has collected and catalogued historic christian manuscripts. fr. columba stewart says it's part of a monastic tradition that dates back to the 6th century. >> i'm a benedictine monk. there's an impulse in benedictines to exercise this role of cultural guardianship, and that's an impulse that continues even in the modern age. >> reporter: many of the texts were handwritten long before printing presses.
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some, like this koran, were created soon after. this one commissioned for study by some of the first protestant scholars. >> it's the first printed copy of the koran. it was published in 1543 with a preface by martin luther. >> reporter: fr. columba says these ancient texts echo with relevance to our time. christians were dealing with islam and there was a real desire to understand it better. so the result was they wanted a translation of the koran into latin. so that christians could read it and of course it wasn't for the sake of religious understanding, it was for the sake of refutation. this whole question of how western, predominantly christian countries dialog with or relate to a majority of muslim countries is something we've been talking about since 9/11. but what we forget is there are centuries of experience of christians and muslims and in many of these areas significant jewish communities as well, living together.
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and it wasn't always easy. and these manuscripts tell the story of legal prescriptions which were made either to protect or to oppress a particular community. >> reporter: preserving that history is a matter of utmost importance to religious scholars like fr. columba. >> if you believe that we can learn from the past, the past of our lives, the past of our families and our own nation or culture. the only way the past has come down to us is in the form of these writings. >> reporter: impressive as the physical manuscripts are, this library's much larger collection consists of digital copies of sacred texts. most of the originals remain in churches a world away from here. >> over 100,000 manuscripts from europe, the middle east, from ethiopia, from india. well over 30, 40 million pages,
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we've lost count long ago. >> reporter: the texts are recorded, catalogued and stored in underground vaults >> and our pledge is that those will be safe, forever. >> reporter: the library's effort began in the 1960s in europe, a time when microfilm first became available, also a time when there was fear of a nuclear war. next the librarians went to ethiopia, anticipating correctly, that many of that country's orthodox manuscripts could be destroyed in the political turmoil of the '70s and '80s. in recent years, the focus has been on the middle east. >> our goal since 2003 was to do as many eastern christian manuscripts in the middle east as possible. because we all know that these manuscripts are endangered from a variety of causes. the one people think of most is violence because they associate this region, whether its lebanon or a place like jerusalem certainly a place like iraq with immediate physical danger to manuscripts.
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>> reporter: we followed father columba to jerusalem-- a city fought over for centuries among muslims, jews and christians also among christians. these pilgrims were on their way to the church of the holy sepulchre where they believe christ was buried. >> i'm going to show you a diagram of the holy sepulchre church. all that remains is just this area. >> reporter: the building was destroyed by muslim rulers and rebuilt in the 13th century by the crusaders. it is one of christianity's holiest sites, also a symbol of its divided family, something that complicates the task of tracking down and digitizing their sacred books. >> the greeks have the central piece, the armenians have quite a bit of the chapel surrounding the center, the latins have the far side, the syrians have a small chapel in the back, the copts have a small chapel
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inside, so it's a little microcosm of all the traditions we have here in the middle east. and unfortunately relations are not always easy, because when you have all these different groups living in what is a fairly small building, they're fiercely protective of their rights. >> reporter: many regions where these traditions evolved-modern day turkey and iraq, armenia and russia to the north, as far south as india have seen war and upheaval through the ages. and just last october a syriac orthodox church was bombed in iraq all this increases the urgency to record the texts that have survived, says fr. columba. he is particularly interested in digitizing the syriac churchs collection in jerusalem. it will take dogged diplomacy. >> these eastern christian communities, many have been persecuted, massacres are within living memory, this stuff is really in their gut so you have
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to build a relationship where they understand that the motives that we bring to these projects is one of deep reverence. >> reporter: the minnesota library also brings all the money needed for such projects-- several hundred thousand dollars each year raised from various private donors. local church staff are trained in the tasks. and while copies go to minnesota, the local church retains copyright >> so if you have a monk or a layperson who you think could do this work? >> our monks always, they will be with them. >> this is a very old manuscript, perhaps 7th, 8th century? >> it doesn't say, but it isn't less than 1800, 8tcentury. >> reporter: in years ahead, fr. columba expects to return repeatedly to the middle east- until, as it were, the word is made safe. >> suarez: fred's reporting is a partnership with the project for
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under-told stories. starting in january, the project will be based at st. mary's university in minnesota. >> brown: finally tonight, another in our series of poets from around the country and the world. tonight, karena youtz of boise, idaho. her husband is lead singer for the rock band built to spill. her most recent collection of verse is titled "the shape is space." which name is karena youtz, i'm a poet. i'm a moth err. i write lyrics for my husband's rock band. ♪ she couldn't offer you anything ♪ ♪. >> he writes the majority of his work so when i'm called in its's because he's frustrated and then by that time i'm working with well specific requirements like this has to be a six syllable line that ends in a long a. and i don't do that to myself when i write poetry
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ever ♪ know by now ♪ it's a small sound ♪ . >> to me the poem exists, it just needs to be written down. so my job is to try to be as accurate as possible in bringing a poem on to a piece of paper. living in idaho has helped me write poetry immensely because i live in a place that does not have a poetry scene or a poetry school. here, we live in the desert. so our world is basically made up by us. a lot of poetry readings i go to, people say well, this is what you need to know about this poem. and that drives me nuts. if you need to know something about my poem, it's in the poem, every time. it's not on the outside. public fruit. the purpose of this life is to see directly, not
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literally but current. public love only prophecy sounds libertine. i blushed when i watched the blossom cherish the branch but who could love anyone more than the tree loves the plumb. i had given a close friend of mine my book. and he was standing at my door thanking me for it and he said, oh, it's really neat, you know, that you keep this up, you know, because poetry is basically a dead art. to me, of course, it's not. so i wrote a poem called a note on relevance. >> a friend not unkindly said poetry is a dead art. yeah, lots of poets share futility like how dead people are useless and living always turns out sometimes incredibly lonely, laying on the floor of the
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hole. no human activity, no toil, no act dead or vital hasever striveen more. by living art, does one mean included in economic transactions, making what cannot be avoided. does my friend mean poetry has no audience? don't worry, he will not read this. i am not performing, drawing lines toward secret shapings in their stocks. listening exists. upon the ear poetry acts and hearinging is the last sense lost >> suarez: again, the major developments of the day: on this new year's eve revelers gathered around the world to ring in 2011 but severe weather in australia and the u.s. hampered some of the celebrations. and, two nato troops were killed in afghanistan, bringing the year's toll for foreign troops
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to 711-- the highest since the war began. and to hari sreenivasan for what's on the "newshour" online. hari? >> sreenivasan: find our picks for the biggest stories of the year in politics and around the world complete with photos and videos. amid a year of tough economic stories, wlist some news items you may have missed in the headlines plus, you can vote on what you think was the most significant political event of 2010. and gwen ifill looks back at the perils of prognostication in her review of unexpected stories this year. all that and more is on our web site: ray? >> suarez: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on monday, we'll look at the race for chairman of the republican national committee. i'm ray suarez. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. a program note before we go: especially for our viewers in los angeles and the surrounding area. as you may know, pbs programs are moving to a different station in los angeles next week. starting monday, the "newshour" will have a new home on channel
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50, that's koce tv. same time: 6:00 p.m. pacific. and you can learn more about the changes at "washington week" can be seen later this evening on most pbs stations. we'll see you on-line and again here monday evening. from all of us at the "newshour": we wish you a very happy new year. thank you. good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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>> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy productive life. 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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no. well, it's just past there. first house in the right after the cottage on the l don't panic. brazen it out. me? - no. - right. here goes. yippee!
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