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PBS NewsHour For December 3, 2012 - Part 1

Tue, 12/04/2012 - 10:36am
The Associated Press

xfdiw PBS-NEWSHOUR-00

<Show: PBS NEWSHOUR>

<Date: December 3, 2012>

<Time: 18:00:00>

<Tran: 120300cb.112>

<Type: SHOW>

<Head: PBS NewsHour For December 3, 2012 - Part 1>

<Sect: News; International>

<Byline: Elizabeth Brackett, Jeffrey Brown, Gwen Ifill, Ray Suarez, Hari

Sreenivasan>

<Guest: Mark Fainaru-Wada, Ann McKee, Coral Davenport, Erskine Bowles>

<High: House Republican leaders offer their own proposal to avert the

prospect of a year-end tax hike. Democrat Erskine Bowles discusses the

fiscal cliff negotiations. New evidence ties repeated blows to the head in

sports to long-term damage. Ray Suarez looks at the firestorm over

Israel`s announcement it will expand settlements in the West Bank.

Elizabeth Brackett looks at how one Chicago school is dealing with the

transition to new statewide standards. As global carbon dioxide levels hit

record highs, combating climate change grows more difficult.>

<Spec: Budget; Taxes; Economy; Policies; Barack Obama; Erskine Bowles;

Health and Medicine; Sports; Israel; Palestinians; West Bank; Chicago;

Education; Youth; Environment; Science>

GWEN IFILL: House Republican leaders offered their own proposal today to avert the prospect of a year-end tax hike.

Good evening. I`m Gwen Ifill.

JEFFREY BROWN: And I`m Jeffrey Brown.

On the "NewsHour" tonight, we get perspective on the partisan tug of war in Washington from one half of the team that produced the deficit- cutting plan the Republicans say is their inspiration, Democrat Erskine Bowles.

ERSKINE BOWLES, Co-Chairman, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility And Reform: There are over $7 trillion worth of economic events that are going to hit America in the gut. I think the impact would be really strong. Anybody who thinks this is going to be a slope better wake up.

GWEN IFILL: The link between brain injury and sports -- new evidence ties repeated blows to the head to long-term damage. We take a look.

JEFFREY BROWN: Ray Suarez examines the firestorm over Israel`s announcement it will expand settlements in the West Bank.

GWEN IFILL: Elizabeth Brackett reports on how one Chicago school is dealing with the transition to new statewide standards.

LESLIE ROACH, Teacher, Armour Elementary School: I really did find that the kids do understand more, and they learn more, and they`re more interested in what they`re learning.

JEFFREY BROWN: Plus, as global carbon dioxide levels hit record highs, we analyze the increasing difficulty of combating climate change with Coral Davenport of "The National Journal."

GWEN IFILL: That`s all ahead on tonight`s "NewsHour."

(BREAK)

GWEN IFILL: House Republicans today offered their counteroffer to the president`s plan for a deal both sides say is needed to avoid year-end tax increases.

The move was the latest volley in an increasingly tense face-off between the two branches of government.

With 28 days left to come to a deal on the nation`s fiscal cliff, the White House is holding firm on its proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Spokesman Jay Carney:

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: The obstacle remains at this point the refusal to acknowledge by Republican leaders that there is no deal that achieves the kind of balance that is necessary without raising rates on the top 2 percent wealthiest Americans. The math simply doesn`t add up.

GWEN IFILL: The White House proposes raising $1.6 trillion in taxes over 10 years, imposing higher rates on those making more than $250,000 a year.

In a letter sent to the White House today, Speaker of the House John Boehner rejected the president`s approach, writing that Republicans "cannot in good conscience agree to this approach, which is neither balanced nor realistic."

His counteroffer, save $2.2 trillion by among other things raising $800 billion in new revenues. The plan would also raise the future eligibility age for Medicare and alter Medicaid to save another $600 billion. The Republican plan wouldn`t increase tax rates for the wealthy.

The president is campaigning for his plan, taking questions on Twitter today and releasing this new Web video.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Under my plan, first of all, 98 percent of folks who make less than $250,000, you wouldn`t see your income taxes go up a single dime. All right?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BARACK OBAMA: Because you`re the ones who need relief.

GWEN IFILL: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with congressional leaders last week and pressed the administration`s case in a series of talk show appearances this weekend.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. Treasury Secretary: Rates are going to go up, have to go up on the wealthiest Americans. Those rates are going to have to go up. That`s an essential part.

There`s no possibility that we`re going to find a way to get our fiscal house in order without those tax rates going back up. There`s no path to an agreement that doesn`t involve Republicans acknowledging that rates have to go up for the wealthiest Americans.

GWEN IFILL: But Boehner, also on a Sunday talk show appearance, pushed back.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), Speaker of the House: I was just flabbergasted. I looked at him and said, you can`t be serious.

CHRIS WALLACE, Host, "FOX News Sunday": Where are we now?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Right now, I would say we`re nowhere, period. We`re nowhere. We have put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved, but the White House has responded with virtually nothing. They have actually asked for more revenue than they have been asking for the whole entire time.

GWEN IFILL: The White House also proposed ending congressional control over the nation`s debt limit. Boehner called that silliness. Mr. Boehner and other congressional leaders will head to the White House tonight for a holiday party, but there are no formal negotiations scheduled for the rest of this week. The president makes his case to state leaders tomorrow when several governors visit the White House.

Late this afternoon, the White House rejected today`s Republican counteroffer, saying it doesn`t meet the test of balance.

One man who has been searching for that balance is Erskine Bowles, who, with Alan Simpson, is co-author of a deficit reduction plan that neither side has previously embraced. I spoke with him a short time ago.

Erskine Bowles, thank you so much for joining us.

Late this afternoon, John Boehner, the House speaker, sent a letter to the White House in which he said he needed to find different middle ground on this fiscal cliff issue. And he particularly cited your report, which he described as providing imperfect, but fair middle ground as a way of breaking this political stalemate.

He`s saying, if only the president would adopt your approach, that maybe this stalemate could be broken. What do you think about that?

(LAUGHTER)

ERSKINE BOWLES, Co-Chairman, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility And Reform: Well, I haven`t seen the letter, as I think you know.

But it`s nice that the speaker would give me some credit for trying to do that. But what he is referring to is, when I testified before the super committee, I tried to show these guys that if they truly wanted to get together, that they could get together at that time.

And, basically, as an example, on discretionary spending, they were talking about cuts between $200 billion and $400 billion. I said, well, look, you could get together on $300 billion. On health care, we`re supposedly between $500 billion and $700 billion. There was $600 billion.

Another mandatory that got that -- the number that came out is $300 billion. Both were talking about changing to superlative CPI, so you could get $200 billion there. And you would have about $400 billion that would come out of interest. That would be $1.8 trillion of new cuts that you would have. That, on top of the $1.3 trillion, would give you $3.1 trillion.

And at that time, the speaker and the president were supposedly talking about having $800 billion in cuts. That would give you $3.9 trillion. And I said, that would be a good start.

GWEN IFILL: But let me ask you...

ERSKINE BOWLES: And you still need to reform the tax code. You still need to do something to make Social Security sustainably solvent.

GWEN IFILL: Right. But one of the things -- there were several sticking points to your approach. And one of them was raising the retirement age to 69. If that was back on the table, can you imagine that breaking through the current political stasis we`re watching?

ERSKINE BOWLES: I think basically now, Gwen, there are three sticking points. One is the amount of revenue and the sources of revenue. The second is the amount of spending cuts and how much of that will come from the entitlement programs, particularly health. And the last sticking point is going to be, what are we going to do about this debt limit that we come up against all the time that puts our sovereign credit in danger?

GWEN IFILL: The president has said the debt limit should be, at least in his opening gambit, that the debt limit debate should be set aside and that nothing can be done unless the taxes are cut -- are raised for the wealthy.

Is that part of a solution that you can see working for what it is everybody is trying to get to here?

ERSKINE BOWLES: Look, Gwen, I`m not a bit worried that it appears on the surface that Secretary Geithner and the speaker didn`t make any progress last week. That`s just a Kabuki theater you go through at each one of these.

Geithner made his first offer. The Republicans rejected it. No surprise. I`m sure that this offer that the speaker has made today, the Democrats will reject. They`re going to have to get together at some point in time when the time is right in a conference room and go through these three big items.

I am positive that to get a deal done, you`re going to have to have higher tax rates on the top 2 percent. I`m equally sure that $350 billion worth of cuts that the president put on the table for health care entitlements is not going to be sufficient to get the deal done. There`s going to have to be some compromise.

But you can rest assured that there are going to be tax increases, tax rate increases for the top 2 percent. And you`re probably going to see more in the form of health care entitlement cuts.

GWEN IFILL: Let me get this right. You`re thinking, however, that whatever compromise they come up with will be some distance from what you proposed more than a year ago?

ERSKINE BOWLES: Actually, it was more than a year ago. It was like more than two years ago. And times change. And elections happen. And there are consequences to those elections.

So, yes, I think you will see a different product come out. But I think the key is you`re going to see a balanced approach with both revenue and spending cuts. You`re going to see at least $4 trillion because that is the minimum amount you have to reduce the deficits in order to stabilize the debt and get it on a downward path as a percent of GDP.

GWEN IFILL: You said a moment ago that this is Kabuki theater, that these are both like opening bids that either side is going to reject. How do we get past that? Or how do they get past that if, in fact, the catastrophe everyone keeps warning us about is going to be avoided?

ERSKINE BOWLES: You know, Gwen, if they got to agreement the way Washington is, too quickly, their own side would just kill them because they wouldn`t think they had negotiated hard enough.

You know, they have got to go through this exchange. This is no different than when, you know, you list your house, you know, you put up one price, somebody comes in with a lower price, you kind of reach a middle ground. The thing I`m sure of is that we got to end up with at least $4 trillion of deficit reduction. Some of that`s got to come from revenue.

I can guarantee you the White House isn`t going to do a deal unless it has an increase in tax rates for part of that revenue. And I`m assuming that the Republicans are going to insist that there be more cuts on the health care entitlements than what`s been put on the table to date.

GWEN IFILL: Here`s the difference between what we`re seeing now and what happens when I put my house on the market. At the end of this year, there will be consequences. And it`s unclear -- in the past, when these consequences or these deadlines have arisen, they have just put them off. And that`s how we got to where we are today.

Are you confident that -- as confident that they will actually come up with a permanent solution before this deadline or that they will just kick it down the road?

ERSKINE BOWLES: Yes, Gwen. No, we can`t kick it down the road. That would be disaster.

Look, this is the magic moment. We have a second-term Democrat president who has put entitlements on the table with specificity. We have a Republican speaker who gets it, who understands the need for us to do something, to do it now, who has put revenue on the table.

We have at least half of the members of the Senate in both parties who are for a balanced approach. And we have this fiscal cliff which says we have to go ahead and do something or the economic consequences on America will be disastrous. So, I think something will happen.

GWEN IFILL: I do want to ask you about this fiscal cliff idea. I have heard people on the left and right say that that is kind of hyperbole, that it`s more of a fiscal slope or it`s a gradual -- there will be a gradual effect. There`s not a steep cliff right after December 31.

ERSKINE BOWLES: Gwen, what I can tell you is, there are over $7 trillion worth of economic events that are going to hit America in the gut on December 31; $500 billion of those take place in 2013.

Most economists will tell you that the negative impact of this will be as much as slowing the rate of growth by 4 percent. If you`re only growing at less than 2 percent, by definition, you`re back into recession. Over two million people are going to lose their jobs. Unemployment is going to go to 9 percent. Businesses will tell you that through attrition, they`re already downsizing their work forces because they`re so concerned about this. They`re going to start laying people off after the 1st of the year if we go over the cliff.

They`re already slowing down their investments and their capital expenditures. You will see the credit agencies reduce the credit rating of our sovereign debt. You will see the market absolutely surprised because they don`t believe -- the markets don`t believe we could be stupid enough to reach this cliff.

So, I think the impact could be really strong. And anybody who thinks this is going to be a slope better wake up.

GWEN IFILL: Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the president`s debt commission with Alan Simpson, thank you so much.

ERSKINE BOWLES: Thanks so much.

GWEN IFILL: We will continue our series of conversations on this subject tomorrow with economist Paul Krugman.

JEFFREY BROWN: And still to come on the "NewsHour" tonight: brain trauma and athletes; the showdown over proposed Israeli settlements; Chicago schools and a Common Core of standards; and the difficulties in combating climate change.

But, first, the other news of the day. Here`s Hari Sreenivasan.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street`s week got off to a wobbly start. Stocks slid on news that manufacturing in November was the weakest in more than three years. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 60 points to close at 12965. The Nasdaq fell eight points to close at 3002.

A number of automakers posted strong U.S. sales in November, among them, Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota. Chrysler and Toyota reported sales increases in the double digits over a year ago. Ford sales rose more than 6 percent, but GM reported only a 3 percent increase. Volkswagen had its best November since 1973.

In Syria, the U.N. announced it is pulling out nonessential international staff for their own safety. Those who remain will be restricted to the capital city, Damascus. Separately, the U.S. voiced mounting concern about activity at Syrian government sites storing chemical weapons.

This afternoon, President Obama warned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad not to cross that line.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Today, I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command the world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences. And you will be held accountable.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In response, Syria`s government released a statement saying it would never use chemical weapons on its own people. The regime has never confirmed it has such weapons.

There were warnings about greater curbs on the Internet, as the world`s nations gathered today for a summit on telecommunications. The 11- day conference in Dubai is the first such review since 1988, well before the Web was fully formed. The U.S. has raised concerns that China, Russia, and others will seek new limits on Internet access. The head of the U.N. regulatory agency insisted such claims are completely untrue.

Concerns about flooding eased in Northern California today, despite heavy downpours over the weekend. The region has had three powerful storms in the last week. As much as an inch of rain an hour fell in some communities yesterday. Rivers swelled, but the storm moved faster than expected, so flooding wasn`t as bad as it could have been. Still, strong winds, downed trees leaving some 57,000 people without power.

Some 20,000 public school students in five states will spend more time in the classroom next year. They`re part of a pilot program announced today in Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Tennessee. A total of 40 schools will add at least 300 hours to the standard school calendar. The goal is to see whether more time will make American students more competitive on a global level.

Britain welcomed news today that Prince William and his wife, Catherine, are expecting their first child. The announcement said the 30- year-old mother is in the early weeks of pregnancy. She`s hospitalized in London with a severe form of morning sickness, and she`s expected to remain there for several days. The baby will be third in line to the British throne. Prince Charles is first, followed by William.

Those are some of the day`s major stories -- now back to Jeff.

JEFFREY BROWN: How tough is too tough when it comes to sports and brain injuries? It`s an issue we have followed over a number of years. Today, there was new data to chew on.

Week after week, the big hits keep attracting big TV audiences to professional and college football. But concerns over head injuries in football and other sports have also continued about a connection between repeated blows and a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The latest evidence comes from a new report from Boston University that`s been published in the scientific journal "Brain." The four-year study examined brain autopsies of 85 male donors ranging from age 17 to 98. It included football players at various levels, boxers, hockey players and a group of veterans.

They have found evidence of CTE in 68 cases, almost all of them athletes. The football players included linemen, running backs and tight ends who had received repeated hits throughout their careers. One was the late John Mackey, profiled with his wife, Sylvia, in 2009 by Ray Suarez.

RAY SUAREZ: In the good days, how is it different from what we`re seeing now for Mr. Mackey?

SYLVIA MACKEY, Wife of John Mackey: He will get up and walk up and down. He can -- he will throw and catch the ball. Actually, today would be a good day if it weren`t for the myoclonic twitching, they call it, or myoclonic jerks.

RAY SUAREZ: And speech?

SYLVIA MACKEY: He doesn`t talk anymore, very rarely.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mackey passed away in July of last year.

Others in the study who show signs of CTE were Derek Boogaard, a former hockey enforcer who died of an accidental overdose in May of last year, and former NFL safety Dave Duerson, who took his own life in February of 2011 after complaining of headaches and a deteriorating memory.

The NFL faces a class-action lawsuit filed last July by thousands of former NFL players and their families, citing lack of disclosure about potential dangers.

For more, we`re joined by one of the lead researchers, Dr. Ann McKee, a neurologist and co-director of the center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, and Mark Fainaru-Wada, an investigative reporter with ESPN who is working on a documentary about this subject for "Frontline."

Well, Ann McKee, let me start with you.

What do you see as the key finding from this study that perhaps we didn`t know before?

DR. ANN MCKEE, Boston University: Well, this study, this disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, has been around since the 1920s.

But there have really only been a smattering of reports. In this paper, we more than doubled the world`s experience with this disorder and take it from the very beginning, where it first affects the nervous system, where it affects the nervous system, and then we see it expand progressively in older and older individuals, until it really is a destructive disease that affects most of the brain.

JEFFREY BROWN: And just to be clear here, the focus is less on the -- I guess, the major hits or major concussions, and more on sort of repetition over time?

DR. ANN MCKEE: Right.

This is exposure to what we call mild traumatic brain injury usually considered almost insignificant hits, not -- they don`t even have to rise to the level of concussion. They can be subconcussion. But when you`re exposed to these hits over a very long period of time, usually many years, you can set yourself up for some long-term consequences.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Mark Fainaru-Wada, you have been reporting on some of the -- well, there was pushback from some of the experts to these findings.

Tell us what you have been hearing from them and from the NFL, for example.

MARK FAINARU-WADA, ESPN/"Frontline": Right.

Well, my brother and colleague Steve Fainaru and I have been reporting on this for a while for a book and a documentary and for ESPN. And, as Dr. McKee stated, the findings on this are substantial in terms of the numbers. They`re the largest number ever reported.

And what we did find, though, was there`s a lot of pushback in the scientific community. Dr. McKee told us about her recent experience at a conference in Zurich where there were various folks who criticized the work. We talked to some of those people, including some of NFL doctors who were there.

One NFL member of their brain committee said, you know, relating these cases, creating a causal link based on these case studies to football is akin to saying basically all the ankle injuries suffered by football players wearing Nike shoes were because of the shoes.

The argument there is that -- and, as Dr. McKee has acknowledged -- the data set they`re working from is skewed because it`s based on a series of brains from athletes and players who were showing signs before death in large cases of having mental issues. And so the question that everybody is trying to figure out is, what is the actual incidence of this disease in looking at brains that were healthy vs. players who actually were exposed to football?

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me ask you, Dr. McKee, to comment on that. How definitive is this? What else do you need to look at to know especially things like how to treat people?

DR. ANN MCKEE: Well, this study is definitive in describing and defining what the disease is and how it affects the nervous system.

But a key question remains, what`s the incidence and prevalence? How common is this disorder? And that, we will never establish from an autopsy study. For that, we really need to be able to identify this disease in living individuals. And that`s a huge focus of our more recent research. How can we identify this in people that are living?

And that might be through MRI scans or PET scans and especially the ones that might peg the TAL protein that develops. It might be seen through blood tests or tests of your urine or CSF. But we are really going to need those tests to be able to determine if a living person has this disease and then be able to measure that person`s exposure to head trauma. And that will be the defining moment. And that will probably take a longitudinal prospective study involving probably thousands of subjects.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Mark Fainaru-Wada, how are professional leagues, people who work with students, student athletes, how are they taking this? How should parents take this in terms of the stakes here, the implications for when people should be in contact sports?

MARK FAINARU-WADA: Well, I think the numbers what are strike most people.

And I think those are the questions that raise issues for some of the leagues and how they deal with it and how significant this is. The study talks about, out of 34 NFL players studied, 33 of them ended up having CTE. And so I think that obviously creates questions. Some people have suggested that the numbers raise more alarming questions than are real.

But the league for its part, the NFL, which faces the most scrutiny on this issue, with, as your piece noted, 4,000 former players suing the league right now, the league has looked at the changed rules to address the issue of these sort of larger hits that we have seen, these sort of defining hits.

I think the larger question, though, as Dr. McKee touched on earlier, is the subconcussive blows, there`s increasing research around that; 40 percent of the cases of CTE they identified in NFL players were lineman. And so that raises questions about, is just the definitive -- the nature of repetitive hits in the game something that exposes a player?

And I think that`s what the leagues and parents are trying to figure out as they try to find out how significant an issue is this and what the risk is for their kids.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Dr. McKee, how far would you go at this point in terms of what you say to parents or athletic directors or professional teams about taking the findings and using them somehow?

DR. ANN MCKEE: Well, I think the major caution I would have is that all parents, coaches should take every head injury seriously and try to eliminate the minor hits or the hits to the head as much as possible in any sport.

We have already seen in the last four or five years a tremendous focus on concussions. It used to be considered a fairly trivial injury that no one needed to sit out for. And now we`re taking it seriously and we`re resting those athletes and making sure they`re completely asymptomatic until they return to play.

And I think this has been a tremendous development. And it will probably go a long way in terms of preventing the development of these long-term consequences in these individuals. At this point, we don`t have any evidence, there`s no available evidence that a single isolated or a few isolated concussions that are well-managed -- that means well-rested, the individual is asymptomatic before he goes back to play -- there`s no evidence that those injuries lead to this disease.

The injuries that seem to lead to this disease are years and years of exposure to many hits. And those hits may be relatively mild.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, Mark, let me just ask you very briefly. You mentioned that lawsuit. Just tell us briefly where do things stand? That goes on, right?

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