tv PBS News Hour PBS December 24, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: on the newshour tonight: a fight for afghanistan's largest province. afghan forces with the help of u.s. airstrikes are pushing back as taliban fighters make gains in helmand province. >> ifill: then, this christmas eve, time to talk about how some gifts can be life-changing. >> woodruff: and, the power, appeal, and craftsmanship of the holiday classic song, "white christmas." >> now every christmas there's a new recording of new christmas songs, but the whole idea of secular christmas songs really didn't exist before berlin. no one was actually dreaming of white christmases before him. >> ifill: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour.
>> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and individuals.
>> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: the christmas holiday turned into christmas horror overnight, as killer storms blasted parts of the south. today, communities were left to count their dead and damages, including at least 11 killed and scores hurt. one after another, tornadoes touched down across five states wednesday evening. >> ifill: the worst was in northern mississippi, where more than a dozen twisters spun down. a state of emergency stretched across seven counties, from the arkansas border in the west, to tennessee in the north, and near alabama in the east. governor phil bryant visited the region today.
>> it is difficult particularly this time of year to see such damage and know that heartbreaks go along with that damage. that families have lost loved ones. seven mississippians have been lost in this storm. funerals will be planned. this should be a joyous holiday season. and it will not be for many. >> ifill: a string of mississippi towns fell victim, starting with clarksdale, where a twister flipped small airplanes at the local airport. 60 miles to the northeast, the volunteer fire department in three forks was wiped out. >> it's gone devastated. i mean we don't have any, we run e.m.s. and fire both. we don't have anything. >> ifill: 18-wheelers were toppled in the town of sardis, while in holly springs, a seven- year old boy was among those killed, as a twister tossed cars and blew homes off their foundations.
it left some people feeling lucky to be alive. >> uproot trees, cut trees in half. and i don't know why i'm still standing here talking to you. >> ifill: in the aftermath, mississippi police and first responders went door to door, checking for survivors. >> it's our number one priority if we do have someone that is stranded or someone that is trapped, is trying to clear each tree, each county road, each highway, going door-to-door, to make sure that we can eliminate all the possibilities there's still someone that needs help. >> ifill: meanwhile in central tennessee, emergency crews worked overnight to clear roads. and farther north, strong winds ripped roofs from homes in noblesville, indiana. a twister was even reported in canton, michigan, just west of detroit. the chance of tornadoes diminished today as the storm system pushed east. but it still brought the prospect of heavy rain and flooding, and, almost freakishly warm weather for christmas eve.
in new york city, residents and tourists alike donned t-shirts and shorts in record-breaking, 70-degree temperatures. >> what else can you say? it's perfect. we're doing some sights and walking around the city. it's beautiful. >> this is my first time in new york and i was expecting snow and freezing cold temperatures, but i'm still enjoying it, still enjoying it. >> ifill: forecasters say it's mostly due to the current el nino effect-- a warming of the pacific ocean that's driving warmer air east and pushing back the colder, arctic air. the same effect that's helping generate warm weather and severe storms in the south and east has also brought heavy rain and snow to the rockies and pacific northwest. >> woodruff: elsewhere, this day, christmas eve festivities unfolded around the world. in bethlehem, christian pilgrims and tourists alike flocked to manger square, the traditional birthplace of jesus. other celebrations were canceled
as four more palestinians died in clashes with israeli forces. meanwhile, at the vatican, thousands of worshippers packed into st. peter's basilica, where pope francis presided over midnight mass. >> ( translated ): we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice to discern and to do god's will. in a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our lifestyle should be a lifestyle of devotion filled with empathy, compassion, and mercy. >> woodruff: the holiday period also means a record travel season across the united states. a.a.a. estimates 100 million americans will venture out between christmas and new year's. more than 90% will drive, taking advantage of the lowest gas prices in years. >> ifill: there's been another migrant tragedy this christmas eve.
19 people, including six children, drowned today when their boat capsized in the aegean sea off the coast of turkey. the turkish coast guard delivered the bodies to shore, and the coffins were later taken to a morgue in the city of izmir. it was the third such incident in as many days. rescuers were able to save at least 21 passengers. >> woodruff: back in this country, there's word the obama administration plans raids, and mass deportations, next year of hundreds of families who arrived in the country illegally within the past two years. "the washington post" reports the campaign could start in january and target people who've already been ordered to leave the country. the plan still needs final approval. >> ifill: oscar-nominated actor robert downey junior won a pardon today for a drug conviction going back nearly 20 years. the office of california governor jerry brown said downey
has "lived an honest and upright life" since he spent a year in prison. the actor is best known for his roles in the "iron man" and "avengers" movie franchises. >> woodruff: and, wall street closed early for christmas, on a day of light trading. the dow jones industrial average lost 50 points to finish at 17,552. the nasdaq rose two points, but the s&p 500 was down three. >> ifill: still to come on the newshour: losing ground to the taliban in afghanistan. payments to the hostages held captive in iran more than 30 years ago. education in post-communist romania. and much more. >> woodruff: now, afghanistan, where government forces are trying to blunt a taliban drive in a key southern region. afghan troops had been losing
ground, but officials say reinforcements and american air power repelled the onslaught overnight, killing a taliban commander and 50 fighters. afghan army convoys rolled north toward sangin district, as police searched cars and people on a main road. the strategically important section of helmand province has been under siege by taliban insurgents. fighting spiked this week, but today, the provincial governor rejected taliban claims that they'd routed the defenders. >> ( translated ): the district is completely under the control of the government security forces, the enemy never took control of sangin district. our security forces as well as our special force have arrived there by air and by ground, the military operation is ongoing now. >> woodruff: they were helped by u.s. air strikes overnight, hours after afghanistan's defense minister warned his forces aren't getting air support. >> when the u.s, the british
forces were there, how many enablers they had, how many jets they had, how many helicopters they had and how many we have today? the way we are fighting today i think you cannot compare with any of those forces who were fighting at that time. >> woodruff: the fighting in helmand is one part of a taliban offensive across much of afghanistan that's testing u.s. strategy. president obama came into office calling for a troop surge in 2009 to defeat the taliban. and then... >> we're starting this drawdown from a position of strength. >> woodruff: in 2011, the president announced a plan for phased withdrawals of combat units. in may 2014, he said virtually all american forces would be out of afghanistan by the end of 2016. but in october, faced with taliban gains, mr. obama reversed course and ordered some 5,500 troops to stay into 2017. to explore why the security
environment has deteriorated so much over the past year in afghanistan, we turn to two people who've been intimately involved in formulating u.s. policy toward that country during the obama administration. david sedney was deputy assistant secretary of defense for afghanistan, pakistan and central asia from 2009 to 2013. he's currently a senior associate at the center for strategic and international studies. and barnett rubin was a senior adviser at the u.s. state department from 2009 to 2013. he's now a senior fellow at new york university's center on international cooperation. >> and we welcome you both. let me start with you barnett. why has the situation in afghanistan, security situation, deteriorated so much in the past year? >> i think that a more realistic question would be why hasn't it deteriorated more.
there are -- a couple of years ago, david, correct me if i'm wrong, a hundred thousand u.s. and maybe 30 or 40,000 other nato troops in afghanistan and those are the best military forces in the world, with defense minister was saying, the most up to date equipment and so on and now they're down to 8,000 u.s. and about 4,000 european and each of those soldiers cost a million dollars a year so we were spending over a hundred billion dollars a year. so if you withdraw them from the battlefield of course there's going to be a change in the security situation but the fact is that despite the withdrawal of that huge force, the afghan government and the afghan military for all that they have, have held on extremely well and have not lost any major population centers. >> so david, is it largely due to the draw do you have any u.s. forces? >> partly due to the draw down. i agree with barney on that.
the afghan forces have done very well but we built a large afghan army and the numbers are there and the afghans are willing to fight. but we didn't put in the enablers that they were talking about. they support helicopters and intelligence and we had i said those out of afghanistan before the forces were ready to operate on their own and we're now paying the price. but the causes go beyond that. the taliban have mounted in the last two years since we stopped fighting and stopped using combat forces, their largest offensive ever. more afghans are dying today than at any time before 2001. >> at the hands of the taliban? >> at the hands of the taliban. this offensive is enabled by sanctuaries in pack sedan and also has been enabled by a struggle among different taliban factions and in afghanistan with the islamic state which is seeking end roads there as well and it adds up to much more
violence and many more deaths. are the factors that the u.s. should have anticipated or did they just pop on the scene to everyone's surprise, particularly the pakistan and isis presence? >> well, bit u.s. that would be david and me, and our bosses. and i think that we did anticipate it. and the fact is, we didn't -- you know the president decided that the national interest of the united states was not served by having a military with all of those resources in afghanistan for more than 15 years. we understood that that would mean a deterioration of the military situation and that means that it's more important than ever for us to move ahead with the diplomatic and political solution and also with the investment and regional infrastructure just getting off the ground now. there are some in our government who thought you could postpone
those until the military option was successful but of course that was never realistic. we're paying the price for that partly now but in fact we are still moving in that direction. and despite the serious deterioration, the increase in violence that david talked about, again bear in mind, possibly taking the sangin district which you called strategic and i'm not sure why, in the province, is a long way from taking kabul or any major center. >> because of the size and the location of it? >> yes. if they took over the district in helmond, it's mostly empty. >> what about the other argument we sometimes here, that prolonging the presence of large numbers of u.s. forces in that part of the world, basically, it makes the other side, whether it's the taliban or isis want to
fight the u.s. even more. >> the last two years proved that wrong. in fact as we have withdrawn, we had over 140,000 and other forces there two years ago and barely 10,000 there now. as the forces reduced, the taliban offensive has increased, the taliban use of violence has increased ass forces have decreased so it's not question of fallen forces but a question of control and power. the taliban have made clear they want to rule afghanistan, and the taliban have taken territory this year and they have. they have killed civil society people and persecuted piment, they have gone back to exactly the same kind of things they were doing before 2001 that made afghanistan such a hellish place to live for most afghans. that being the case, what account u.s. and the afghan government do to counter that? >> well, first of all, again, to come back to david's most important point, this is not
just a conflict between the taliban and the afghan government. it's a regional conflict and particularly the basic source of it is the conflict between afghanistan and the state of pakistan. the taliban would not be able to mount all of these defenses and so on though they would exist and have to be dealt with politically if they did not have undisturbed sanctuaries in pakistan and the reason for that other than pakistan being terrorist supporting, pakistan has certain interests in the region and without trying to address those diplomatically it's difficulty and we have to have enough forces on the ground in afghanistan so that the situation remains relatively stable to give us the space to do that tipmatic work and we're getting much more support in china and i think that the focus that the media have on the back and forth of the controlling 10d meters somewhere else n. remote parts of the country is mission the point. the main weakness on the
afghanistan began side is not whether the forces take the taliban but it's the political divisions within the afghan government which sometimes under mine the forces and on the other side, the main issue is that the taliban's sanctuary in pakistan not how strong they are. >> what do you say that the u.s. and others have to do to turn this around. >> i agree that the eventual aim is piece and that would be peace talks with the taliban but in the meantime the defensive has to be stop. the german defensive minister when she was in afghanistan acknowledged that the u.s. withdrawal was too hasty and pledged germany would increase troops in afghanistan. today, meeting with the president pledged that turkey would keep their military presence and work through peace through strength. we need to reverse the mistakes of the past and gift afghans the help that they asked for earlier
in the program. otherwise, people will die well before peace talks have a chance to start. >> so 5500 troops in 2017 is not 234u6, then what is the right number. >> there's no right number. we don't need combat troops there. we need the enablers that the defense minister asked for. they need air support, logistics support and well trained advisors. a few years ago we disbanded the group that the army, the u.s. army had created to train people on how to build other country's armies and we're second advicers to afghanistan that unfortunately don't know what they're doing. we need to give the afghans the help they need. we don't need combat troops but they do need our help. >> and we appreciate your perspective both of you at the end of the year, david sedney and barnett rubin, thank you.
>> ifill: the iran hostage crisis was one of the defining moments of the 1970s, and it fractured a relationship between two nations that has never healed. now, 36 years after it began, the former hostages are finally getting compensation. it was november 4, 1979. the u.s. embassy in tehran was overrun by militant iranian students, and 53 american hostages, many of them diplomats, were taken. some were paraded around, others or exposed to mock firing squads and beatings. they were held 444 days as the nation watched and waited. one major rescue attempt failed. 52 were released on january 20, 1981, just as ronald reagan was being sworn in as president. one other hostage was released earlier because of illness. their families celebrated.
but the crisis helped end jimmy carter's presidency, and led to a three-decade-plus rupture between iran and the united states. and for the former captives, the ordeal left a long-lasting toll for many, including depression. but until now, they have received no compensation for the ordeal they endured. the massive spending legislation passed by congress last week changes that, awarding each hostage $10,000 for each day of captivity. the settlement also provides the potential for compensation for victims of other incidents, including the 1998 u.s. embassy bombings in east africa and the 9/11 attacks. david herzenhorn of the "new york times" has been combing through this settlement and speaking with former hostages. he joins me now. >> david, how much money in total are we talking about here? >> well, we don't know yet because some of the money depends on court cases that
ongoing and judgments already handed down in the courts where there may be awards that haven't paid yet. the supreme court will soon next month be hearing a case about this but we're starting with a pot of roughly $4 billion, a big chunk of which goes to 911 victims, $1 billion of which guess to the iran hostages. >> the you mentioned the supreme court. hasn't been gone has far as the supreme court and they said there will be no compensation? >> what we have now is a congressional judgment. the iran hostages were denied at every turn, in large part because the agreement that secured their release barred them from seeking any compensation. so the courts repeatedly rejected any claims, citing this treaty affectly in 19 nawn. what congress has done is stepped in with legislative relief and congress is giving them the equivalent of a court judgment and with the bigger
group of victims they each have their claim, what they were awarded by congress and a special master will dole out the money that exists and it starts with a big chunk of settlement, a landmark fine paid by the bank penalty that violate the sanctions against exproin cuba. >> so the -- even though this to is in had a budget bill it's not coming from the budget. >> that's right. this is one of the political tools in crafting this settlement and making this possible. that there was a ready and available pot of money that didn't have to dom right out of taxpayers' pockets so to speak. >> and not the iranian government pocket's either. >> that's been a disappointment because some felt iran should pay for what happened directly. >> so sanctions had a role. did the nuclear negotiations that we watched have a role. >> no question. as the nuclear accord was being
developed, congress certainly got much more involved, was paying much more attention to the idea of the relationship between the united states and iran was going to fall and there are many people, hostages included that said, wait a minute, we're not comfortable with that relationship and we haven't addressed the reason we want to say it ruptured in the first place or a big part of the reason and he the defining moment in the 1970s where the eminteas overrun. >> why did this include victims of other attacks, why not just keep it specifically to iran. >> well that's a political question and also one of fairness and equity in the minds of some of the lawmakers, iran has been accused of sponsoring terror in many location on many occasions, victims and family members of the victims of the two bombings in beirut, and the truck bombs that killed marines and others and there have been difficulty, even for the victims
that have been able to pursue the change in court, a judgment has been possible for a number of victims but getting paid has not been possible. iran is not coming up with money. there's one rare instance where libya was looking to get back in the good graces of the rest of the world and willing to pay compensation so here they is had to come up with a solution where some of these folks would see some pay back after, you know, losing loved ones or having been injured themselves because the court decision was just that, a number on paper but there was no money behind it. >> you talked to some of the surviving hostages in the course of writing the story about the settlement, how they reacted. it's been a long time. >> they are exhausted is one word. certainly there's s there's a big mix of emotions. some are satisfied, relieved and grateful to congress for not forgetting them. many felt forgotten until the movie came out. >> with ben affleck.
>> they felt that that gave it attention but until then they really had a sense that young people -- it's not something in their memory and something that was really forgotten and they were outraged by benghazi where yet again diplomatic personnel working for the united states government in dangerous places were put at risk so there's a sense of closure for some of them. many say it was too soon to see how they feel about it but barry rosen, a press at tap a,a, said they had been through enough and that's a sentiment they all can agree on. they have been through enough. >> it probably feels like more than enough. david, of the "the new york tim" thank you for this. >> you're welcome. >> woodruff: stay with us, coming up on the newshour: gifts to cure bad habits.
the subtleties that make the song "white christmas" a classic. and, a christmas poem from our troops overseas. but first, we continue our coverage of the global education crisis with a look at our new york public station wnet's documentary series, "time for school." for 12 years, pbs has followed six children from around the world who are simply trying to get a basic education. tonight, we meet raluca from post-communist romania, whose parents have been working long hours to give her every opportunity in the country's new free market economy. >> this is my bed where i sleep. and this is sylvester, the cat that i sleep with. this is the drawer where i keep a lot of books. and this is a book that shows you everything about nature:
the earth, animals, people. this book shows you everything. you should buy it. and this is from my mom and dad's wedding. they're really wonderful people for me. >> reporter: raluca iframescu is eight years old and lives in bucharest, romania, with her parents, christi and mirela. >> ( translated ): what counts is for the child not to lack anything. we struggle for it. >> reporter: though raluca's family seems to enjoy a comfortable life, economic security is not something they take for granted. romania is a work in progress. when communism ended in 1989, the country began a transition to capitalism. raluca's parents are trying to give her every opportunity to succeed in the new free market economy, and they know the best possible education is essential. her family can't afford a
babysitter, so raluca commutes 45 minutes to school on her own every day to attend a public school considered one of the finest in bucharest. >> ( translated ): she knows she's not supposed to talk to strangers. when she was in kindergarten, she once told a lady "i'm not allowed to talk to you because when red riding hood talked to the wolf, he ate her." >> reporter: elementary school is free in romania, but even in first grade, christi and mirela find that the little extras add up. >> ( translated ): by the end of the month, we have no money left. we wonder how the others who make less money than us can manage? how do they survive? >> reporter: christi works as a technician at a printing press
and mirela is an accountant. >> ( translated ): it's a great thing that we both have a job. it matters a lot. we hope, since we consider ourselves still young, that things will change. and we hope for a better life. >> ( translated ): on "manga anime," i have 2,145 posts. i also moderate some websites and i'm the administrator of others and that practically takes up all my time! >> she's ambitious. and she wants to do something with her life. we didn't think of that when we were kids, because you could only reach a certain level and then you had to stop. it wasn't important if you were smart or not. it was important who you knew.
if you knew someone who had an important position in the communist party. >> now, you have to be very good to succeed. >> reporter: raluca's middle school is a pressure cooker with intense competition for high marks. >> ( translated ): calculate the median line for a trapezoid with a base of 10. >> ( translated ): i felt from the first day that there was a huge difference between them and me, but i caught up and now i'm one of the good students. >> ( translated ): yes, eight. very good. >> i want to be one of the best and have only tens. >> reporter: it's the night before a big exam, and raluca is having a meltdown. >> ( translated ): based on this mark, i could end up in a good high school or a bad one. my future depends on it. >> reporter: only those who test at the very top will be admitted
to the most competitive high schools. >> ( translated ): please try to relax! >> ( translated ): i hope the test will be easy and i hope i won't panic because i tend to panic whether i know the answers or not. god gives me confidence. >> reporter: raluca did manage to test into a good high school. and five years later, everyone's hard work has paid off. >> ( translated ): this is the building where i spent my four years of high school. they were the most important years of my life, because i've learned so much. >> reporter: she graduated from bucharest's economics high school with a near-perfect score
and was named valedictorian. >> ( translated ): my guidance counselor had told me i would graduate first in the class. my cumulative average grade was 9.9 out of 10. so she told me to expect something big. it was a beautiful moment because i hadn't really expected it. was that really me? i was so emotional, i'm surprised i didn't trip over something! >> memories. i love these guys. i will always remember each person and what they were like. i'll miss them. yeah. >> reporter: raluca will be leaving romania in a month to pursue an international business degree at the university of warwick in the u.k., something her parents could never have done. living under communism, they weren't allowed to leave the country. >> ( translated ): i hope she will become somebody important, as quickly as possible.
i also hope her dreams will come true. we live vicariously through her dreams. >> reporter: raluca's chances for success may be better abroad. despite progress, romania is still one of the poorest countries in the e.u., and one in four twenty-somethings are out of a job. so christi and mirela are preparing to let go of their only child. >> ( translated ): can we buy an apartment on campus while you're in college? >> no! i don't think so! >> i will probably be happy on the first month because i'll be like 'ioh i am free now, i can o anything i want!' and my mother will not come at 11 or 12 o'clock to say 'iturn off the computer you are making so much noise!.' but after the first month, i will miss them and probably i will cry a lot. but i know that i'm going to
have fun and those years will be one of the amazing things that will happen to me ever. >> woodruff: you can watch the entire "time for school" series on wnet's website, thirteen.org. >> ifill: now, for a little holiday spirit, we start with a look at a few gifts, apps and tech toys that can nudge you toward better living, and others as well. economics correspondent, paul solman, has the story as part of his weekly take: "making sense", which airs every thursday on the newshour. >> reporter: demo-ing a favorite gadget coming out of santa's workshop in recent years, an ideal gift for the hard-to- rouse, a behavioral economics alarm clock.
"clocky" is among numerous products based on insights from one of the newest and fastest growing branches of economics. harvard's sendhil mullainathan is a pioneer. >> we're used to biological science or semiconductors leading to new inventions. but now we're starting to see how behavioral science, just not new technologies, but new understandings of the human mind, are leading to new inventions. >> reporter: so last holiday season, we asked mullainathan and his team at ideas42, a new york-based behavioral economics consultancy, to suggest some holiday gifts already on the market. the first was a simple new take on an old invention: for the overeaters among us, a smaller plate. >> this plate is actually the size of plates from the 1960s. so it's not just our waistlines that have gotten bigger. it's our plates that have gotten bigger. >> reporter: so, smaller plates. and more helpful ones. >> this is a product that tells you, this is how much vegetables
and fruit, this is how much starch, this is your proteins. once we've got it all loaded up, voila, that's portion control. >> reporter: but for those of us who really can't resist seconds, fourths, ninths, there was the kitchen safe. >> you see what's on here? there's a timer. >> reporter: yes. >> you set it. this is set for 11 minutes. i have had my one hershey's kiss. >> reporter: right. that's all we should have. >> and then you hear the lock, and now you can't get anymore. >> reporter: me and almonds, this would be life-changing. it's now a year later and i can offer a verbal affidavit: the kitchen safe works. my almond consumption has gone from promiscuous to measured. so we returned to ideas 42 to see what's new. this year's interlocutor: ideas 42 scientific director eldar shafir, who took me first to the bathroom. >> this is sort of a cute device. the water pebble. >> reporter: the water pebble. >> the water pebble. it almost looks like a pebble. it's intended to help you save
water and energy. >> reporter: though the water pebble is meant for the shower, modesty required we make do with a sink to demo the device, which trains you to take shorter showers. the green light giving way to yellow, meaning time to wrap it up, and then red, meaning turn off the spigot. >> one of the big issues in behavioral research is that we have a lot of intentions, and then the problem is acting on them. so you got the red light, you stopped, you leave the shower, you did something good and you feel good about it. >> reporter: having done your part to reduce some of the 1.2 trillion gallons of water americans use, and often waste, at home each year. and speaking of going down the drain, how about all the time and energy we waste looking for lost stuff? turns out there's a new product, and an app, for that. tile is a bluetooth tracking device that you pair with your phone.
then you name it for -- and attach it to -- whatever it is you tend to lose track of. like my computer bag. >> so you lost your bag? >> reporter: so you go to "bag", hit "find". >> correct. >> reporter: alright. >> oh, i hear something! >> reporter: wait! >> do you hear that? ahhh! in the closet! fabulous. fabulous. >> reporter: fantastic! but wait, there's more. >> it used to be the case that you needed your phone to find the tile, and it was a problem, because sometimes you couldn't find your phone. now you can use the tile, the one that was in your bag, to find the phone, so it goes both ways. >> reporter: alright i'm going to test that, we haven't set that up i don't think, but you have a phone booth, i see. >> an old phone booth. >> reporter: alright, so i'll put my phone in the old fashioned phone booth. now, hmm, where did i put that phone? >> simply double press tile to ring your phone. even if it's on silent
>> reporter: so the tile has found my phone, like my phone found the tile, no, this is amazing. this is the best gift i'm ever going to steal from a shoot, well, i guess i've earned it or something. but behavioral scientist shafir was not as happy as its new "owner" with the behavioral economics of tile. >> it's a nice product in the sense that it recognizes behavioral failure, namely, forgetfulness and helps you deal with it. it's not behaviorally sophisticated in the sense that it doesn't induce better behavior. it doesn't help you remember things better, it just allows you to forget them, maybe even more than before, but to quickly recover! >> reporter: now the folks here at ideas42 aren't simply thinking about gifts that improve your life. hannah spring says they're always trying to improve the world, one behavioral nudge at a time. >> we're working on over 50
projects in more than 20 countries. we're working in mexico to get more people to save for retirement. we're also working with low- income americans who are currently not in the formal banking system, helping them to get access to that. >> reporter: and helping students manage their debt, for example, with a simple aid to filling out the student loan form. but since our project is a behavioral economics holiday gift guide, let's get back to it with a couple of watch-like devices. the vivofit2, an activity monitor that reminds you -- with audible alerts and a red bar -- to get up and move around after an hour of inactivity. though in the short time allotted, my ping pong game, however vigorous couldn't get rid of the red line. so the red line is still here. >> in theory you should be getting a calorie count in addition to the red line disappearing. >> reporter: and then there's the tikker, billed as "the happiness watch."
>> i would like to talk to you about the day you're going to die. >> reporter: ... with one of the most depressing promotional videos ever. >> tikker, the death watch that counts down your life just so you can make every second count. >> reporter: in my case... >> 18 years, one month, 13 days, nine hours, 14 minutes and 12, 11, 10 seconds. life expectancy. >> reporter: so, i can wear this as 'oh my god, the sands of time running out in the hourglass of my life!' or, 'what a lucky son of a gun i am, that i have -- >> this fantastic gift! >> reporter: -- that much time left.' time for carpe diem, or an 18- year funk. but for behavioral economic effect, shafir thinks tikker should be tinkered with. >> so you could imagine actually being motivated to alter small behaviors that would actually increase the expectancy you have counting on this, on this gadget, on this tikker as opposed to being stable.
>> reporter: but perhaps the way to maximize tikker is with headspace. >> think of it like a gym membership for the mind. >> reporter: a guided meditation app that i now use every day. >> and with the next out breath, just gently closing the eyelids. and again, just feeling the weight of the body. >> reporter: and it can be given as a gift. monthly, yearly, forever. which in my case seems to be about 18 years, one month and a week from today. but in the end, my favorite new gift was the behaviorally incorrect one, tile, one of which i put in an item i'm forever misplacing. it's in my hat. done. paul solman, economics correspondent for the pbs newshour, reporting from ideas42 in new york.
>> woodruff: next for this holiday season, a new way to look at a classic song-- bing crosby's "white christmas." it's the best-selling single of all time with more than 50 million copies sold. jeffrey brown recently sat down with composer and pianist rob kapilow who deconstructs music for the newshour from time to time. they met up in arlington, virginia at the signature theater for our latest installment. >> brown: rob kapilow, welcome back. >> so nice to be here. >> brown: so "white christmas," a touching, beautiful, nostalgic song. but started life very differently, as a kind of parody. >> yeah, you know we now think of it as this perfect, sentimental depiction of christmases past. but in fact, it originally
started with a verse the no one sings anymore, and that berlin actually eliminated from the song, that sets the song in beverly hills, l.a. it actually started "the sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway." and it's actually sung by somebody in beverly hills around a pool, dreaming of christmas up north. so originally, it was a send-up of the very song that it's become. >> brown: set in beverly hills, but of course came to be known and came to touch so many people because of the historical moment, 1942, american military personnel far away for the first time. >> it's true. you know, berlin says that songs make history, and history makes songs. and this is a song that was completely made by its history. when he wrote it, it was just for the movie "holiday inn," and it was just going to be a lovely christmas song. but then all of a sudden, december 7th, 1941, we have pearl harbor, we get into the war, and the song and the movie come out just when the americans are spending their first winter away from home. and suddenly, that nostalgic tug of christmases past, of that mythic american past, for all the americans overseas, as well
as their families at home missing them, suddenly made the song immensely popular in a way that berlin never anticipated. >> ♪ i'm dreaming of a white christmas...♪ ♪ just like the ones i used to know ♪ >> also the idea much christmas -- >> it's sort of an invented christmas. >> >> now every christmas there's a new recording. and it's the idea of secular christmas songs didn't exist before berlin. no one was dreaming of white christmas before then. no one was actually dreaming of white christmases before him. composers and publishers thought why write a christmas song, they'll only play it once a year. and all of a sudden, we invented
an american christmas based on a mythic golden past that never existed in this rural new england, that came purely out of his imagination. >> brown: alright, and done through a simple or we like, seemingly simple music and lyrics, right. show us the music here and how he did it. >> sometimes, the words themselves aren't nearly as meaningful and as powerful as the- sometimes the words themselves aren't nearly as beautiful or as meaningful as the notes behind them. so he starts off, even a simple chord, anyone else would have begun like this, for "i'm"- a very straightforward chord. but he adds one extra note, and that's what gives it all the warmth and all the yearning. not this, but this- so even the first chord already has a different warmth. "i'm" now anyone else would have written "dreaming of a"- but each chord has one different chord that makes it so emotion- filled. "dreaming" and then listen to this wonderful dissonant one. it's almost like fog on the window as you're looking out at the snowflakes. and it has, that's just two measures of music. the words are just "i'm dreaming," but the music is what tells us what that dreaming feels like. great composers don't set words to music.
they set the emotion behind the words. so now dreaming of this white christmas. anyone else would have written this for "white christmas," that would have been fine. but instead he writes all that yearning. now, we've started with long note, fast notes. long note- fast notes- anyone else would have long note. "just like the ones i know." but instead he pushes higher to the highest note of the entire song. >> brown: all this yearning. >> absolutely, that's what it's meant to do. now, when the treetops glisten. who knows what that feels like, but listen to the music underneath. he could have easily written this. "where the treetops glisten" would have been fine. but listen to the emotion in "treetops" and now listen to this. that's what made this song so famous. the beautiful harmony on "glisten." then we do it lower. he could have easily written "children listen," but listen to
the beautiful left hand. "children" and now listen to this minor color. ♪ to hear sleigh bells in the snow ♪ i mean, that's what this yearning is all about. there's almost a melancholy behind this song that you wouldn't think from the words themselves. now that's basically the whole song. everything repeats, everything repeats, and then we come to the magic moment that really makes it spectacular. everything's an exact copy. we come back to the same music "may your days be merry" the first time we went down to this note- but now we go- the same note but an octave higher. and if that's not beautiful enough, then there's this minor color. >> brown: takes us back down. >> takes us back. i mean it's such a complex mix. it seems like it's a seemingly simple song, but there's all the
melancholy, the disappointment of what christmas is about, as well as the brightness of christmas. and then we end beautifully- again, could have written- the same chord twice, not him. and again, not a simple ending- but each one is a different chord, a different emotion. ♪ and may all your christmases be white ♪ >> makes me hear the song a different way. >> i'm never going to listen to it the same. >> sing it for us when we go off the air. >> maybe not. >>
>> ifill: during the holidays, our thoughts turn to the music we remember best, and also to those farthest away from us, not least of which, the military men and women serving their country around the world. this year, we asked the folks at the pentagon to reach out to some of them on our behalf, to bring you a special video greeting. so this christmas eve, we present clement clarke moore's 19th century classic "a visit from st. nicholas." you may know it as "the night before christmas." >> not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. >> the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. >> in hopes that saints nick would soon be there. >> the children were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of sugarplumbs danced in their heads. >> we had just settled our brains for a long winner winters nap.
>> gave the luster the midday to objects below. but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, with a little old driver, so lively and quick, i knew in a moment it must be st. nick. more rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name; "now, dasher! now, dancer! now, prancer and vixen! on, comet! on, cupid! on, donner and blitzen! to the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! now dash away! dash away! dash away all!" as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; so up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of toys, and st. nicholas too. and then, in a twinkling, i heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. as i drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney st. nicholas came with a bound.
he was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; a bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. his eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! his cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! his droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; the stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; he had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly. he was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and i laughed when i saw him, in spite of myself; a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know i had nothing to dread; he spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, and laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney
he rose; he sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle, but i heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "happy christmas to all, and to all a good-night." >> woodruff: continuing our christmas theme, on the newshour online right now, you can view our photo essay on santa claus around the world. from paddling the venice canals to racing down the streets of madrid, we explore how different countries recognize old saint nick. find that and more on our web site, pbs.org/newshour. >> ifill: and that's the newshour for tonight. on christmas day, a look at celebrations around the world i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again here tomorrow evening, with mark shields and michael gerson. from all of us at the pbs
newshour, we wish you a very, merry christmas. thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> lincoln financial-- committed to helping you take charge of your life and become you're own chief life officer. >> the lemelson foundation. committed to improving lives
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this is nightly business report. >> growth versus value. it is great investment debate heading into the new year. where should you put your money for 2016. >> turning point as more people shop online what does the future hold for all of those malls and all of that real estate. >> white christmas, no way, not on the east coast at least and not on the slopes and that's creating headaches for businesses that rely on snow all that and more on nightly business report for thursday, december 24th, christmas eve. >> good evening, everyone. merry christmas eve. >> welcome one and all. well, there was not, however, a lot of holiday cheer on wall street today. the grinch, yes, the grinch was out andbo