Skip to main content

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 2, 2013 6:00pm-7:01pm PST

6:00 pm
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: the obama administration says consumers will have an easier time using now that it's fixed the major glitches. but insurers warn problems still exist when confirming coverage. good evening, i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. also ahead this monday, the uproar in ukraine, protesters who want closer ties with europe now control a public square in the heart of the capital, as they call for the heads of government to resign. >> ifill: and spencer michels profiles david hockney, the prolific artist who continues to innovate using technology to advance his work. >> hockney, at 76, shows no signs of slowing down, and in fact, he admits he is working as
6:01 pm
he can on a wide variety of projects. >> ifill: those are just some of the stories we're covering 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. >> 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.
6:02 pm
>> woodruff: this was touted as the biggest day of the year for online shopping, as hundreds of retailers tried to lure millions of holiday shoppers on cyber monday. early numbers suggested a sharp increase over last year, after a four-day holiday weekend that turned out to be disappointing. in a few minutes, we'll take a deeper look at the numbers and retailers' prospects. the u.s. supreme court declined today to decide whether big online retailers have to collect state sales taxes. the justices turned away appeals from amazon and after they lost a case in new york state. in the absence of a national ruling, more states may try to tax sales on the internet. a new york commuter train was doing 82 miles an hour when it hit a sharp curve and derailed sunday, killing four people. the speed limit there is 30 miles an hour.
6:03 pm
investigators from the national transportation safety board announced the findings today from the train's two data recorders. they said it's clear what the train was doing, but not why. >> the locomotive had an event recorder, the cab car had an at in point in time it is preliminary but we can say here's what happened. we know speeds and positions, power settings and brake application. we don't know whether the brakes -- went to zero pressure because of a valve change or because of the train breakup. >> woodruff: the wreckage on the track meant some 26,000 commuters had to find alternative routes today. the government's health care website is hitting on more cylinders. white house officials say it handled 375,000 customers by midday. that's after weeks of work to fix the site's disastrous rollout two months ago. we'll get the details on that
6:04 pm
effort and what lies ahead right after the news summary. a medical technician faces 39 years in prison, in new hampshire, for infecting at least 46 people with hepatitis "c". david kwiatkowski was sentenced today. he admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with syringes of saline, tainted with his own, infected blood. his victims were spread across four states. in thailand, the embattled prime minister pledged to do anything it takes to end days of violent protests, except give up power. but thousands of demonstrators demanded just that. jonathan sparks of "independent television news" has this report. >> reporter: it was supposed to be peaceful. a non-violent campaign against the thai government. but it's turned into a bare- knuckle battle for power. parts of bangkok streaked with teargas and rubble bullets today as protesters tried to seize government ministries from the police.
6:05 pm
many here are driven by hatred for the country's prime minister yingluck shinawatra and those seen to support her. a man who looks like he's a we watched as protesters crept up to the barricades around the prime minister's office with an assortment of homemade weaponry. but several rounds of teargas saw them off. the protesters can't take it. the protest leader-- a fiery politician called suthep thaugsuban-- told euphoric supporters that the government would soon fall. the prime minister yingluck shinawatra also offering to hold talks. but mr. suthep refuses to negotiate. it's a problem i put to her foreign minister today. he said he's not negotiating? >> i don't know. that's the way suthep is thinking. maybe he's thinking right now he's a god. he can do anything.
6:06 pm
>> reporter: as evening approached, police lines were rammed with a rubbish truck. they responded with a scorching mix of water and pepper spray. the police won themselves a few minutes. but the protesters returned. they'll be there tomorrow as well. >> woodruff: protests also raged for another day in ukraine's capital city. thousands of demonstrators stormed government buildings in kiev to demand integration with the european union. in turn, the country's president asked to renew talks with the e.u. and he appealed for calm. we'll have a full report from kiev and analysis from a former u.s. ambassador later in the program. china launched its first robotic mission to the moon early this morning. the jade rabbit rover aboard a landing craft blasted off atop an unmanned rocket at 1:30 a.m. the rover is expected to land on the lunar surface in mid- december. if successful, china will become the third country to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon. wall street retreated today after retailers got off to a
6:07 pm
disappointing start for the holiday season. the dow jones industrial average lost 77 points to close at 16,008. the nasdaq fell 14 points to close at 4,045. >> woodruff: still to come on the "newshour": fixing the glitches plaguing will the holiday season bring cheer to retailers? david hockney on painting with an ipad; thousands of protesters take to the streets of kiev and this year's winner of the national book award for fiction. >> ifill: this week marks the beginning of an important enrollment period for the healthcare law and its battle-scarred federal website. but, for now, the obama administration says it has good news. although performance can still be spotty, things are better than they were.
6:08 pm
the white house and the nation's top health agency say users shopping for insurance on are having far more success today than a month ago. the troubled site, officials said, is working nearly 90 percent of the time for consumers, and that today, there were 375,000 people visits by noon. >> we believe we made the important progress that we set out to make by november 30 but as we said in november, and as i said just now, the work continues to make improvements that still need to be made to the website. >> ifill: officials say the site can handle 50,000 users at one time, and up to 800,000 each day. the health and human services department also said the site's so-called "back end," which delivers information to insurers, had been largely repaired. but problems remain. insurance companies remain unhappy. and increased volume could
6:09 pm
provide new tests as a december 23 deadline for enrollment nears. tennessee republican senator bob corker said sunday even if the site gets fixed, the law that spawned it remains deeply flawed. >> the fundamentals of this, to me, were done in a way, a chaotic way much like we're seeing the rollout. it was done in a way that really -- there wasn't a vision at the end, it was just an amalgamation of legislation that didn't have a central focus. >> ifill: meanwhile, the cost of fixing has reached $600 million and counting. we get more information on all this from two people watching the rollout from behind the scenes. mary agnes carey of kaiser health news, an independent news organization. john engates, the chief technology officer at rackgates, a server and software company. he's been inside the government website's command center.
6:10 pm
welcome to you both. mary agnes carey. 750now, well on its way to the 800,000 number national white house was talking about today, by 5:30 p.m. eastern. how is that different from what we saw a month ago? >> they say that it's more than double the usual traffic for a monday. and of course there has been a lot of news coverage of the changes they made on the web site. so maybe they are getting some people back who had some problems before. >> ifill: but there are still problems. i want you to explain what people mean when they say the front end and back end. >> the front end is the consumer experience. consumers logging on to, and back end is information that goes to the health insurers, how many people are enrolled, do they have a subsidy, how much and so on. >> ifill: so the back end is the remaining problem right now, even though we assume that the patches that are made today will hold at the front end, 9 back end is where the insurers are not so happy. >> they are' very unhappy. they say they are not getting accurate enrollment information. they don't know if someone
6:11 pm
qualifies for a subsidy, how much of a subsidy. consumers are calling health insurers asking if they are enrolled. insurers are saying they don't have any record of this. and even with the fixes announced today the insurance industry was telling me tonight that they still see significant enrollment challenges the way they're getting data right now. >> ifill: and yesterday today-- and yet today on this call, that the health and human services officials gave they say 80% of that back-end insurer's problem had been improved but they didn't say over what. >> exactly right. they're not giving the error rate, reporters kept asking repeatedly how many of these forms sent to the insurers had bad information. they're not answering that question. and insurers are saying tonight even the fix that was proposed today hasn't been tested. they don't know whether it's going to work on not. >> ifill: what was it fixing? what is the source of the problem. >> 80% of the problem dealt with a snafu that on social security number, entering that into the form and that created part of the problem. >> ifill: and are the fixes you're talking about whether on the front end or back end, are they permanent fixes they are putting in place or are these just band-aids to
6:12 pm
get us over this deadline. >> the assumption is that they are perm innocent fixes but they made it very clear as jay carney said they need to do more and monitor and do more work as they need to going along. >> ifill: john engates, you are from-- i want to start by asking you what you saw when you went backstage, tas were, at the command center? >> sure, so we got a peek behind the curtain last monday, invited up to washington d.c. to go to the exchange operation center where these fixes are being orchestrated. and they have a team of people up there that sit in a command center. everybody's got computers on their desk. everybody has got a phone. and there is sort of this air of sort of a, you know, kind of like a control room you would think of at nasa or some sort of launch center. much smaller, certainly. but they are monitoring the site very carefully. they have screens on the wall with, you know, data about how the web site is performing. they have people in the front of the room that are sort of bringing together all of the different vendors
6:13 pm
and contractors to make sure that they're on the same page when they institute these fixes and upgrades. >> ifill: is the problem, as you see it, about scale, the volume of people who are trying to get on the site or is it about the performance of the site itself? >> well, i mean, those are two sides of the same coin. if the site is designed to perform at a certain level, and you have too many users, the site falls over. i mean basically has a real problem performing. on the flip side of that, if the site was designed for an extraordinarily large number of visitors, then the traffic that we're seeing today or previously wouldn't be a problem. >> ifill: is what you saw in washington that part of the tech surge that we heard about right after the first problems were discovered? >> we did. we saw the people that were part of that surge. and the surge was basically an addition of more contractors to do sort of these fixes. but it was also an infusion of outside expertise. and so they brought in a gentleman that is on leave from google.
6:14 pm
he's now leading-- he is leading the way when i was there that day last week. he was in the front of the room sort of running the conference call in the morning. they have a twice daily conference call to sort of decides what's going right, what's going wrong, what they need to do for that day. and so some of the surge is basically enhancing the level of expertise, bringing in outsiders. but also just ramping up the number of people that are on board from the contractors. >> ifill: is that getting too technical? are the problems that you have seen hardware problems or software problems? >> it's actually been both. i mean we did talk about some of the things that they had done. they did upgrade hardware. they added more hardware. they made settings, changes to the settings on certain pieces of hardware that were potentially misconfigured. then they also made software upgrades to help streamline the system. there are elements of this web site that, you know, prior to the surge, prior to the fixes, they were doing
6:15 pm
some complex database lookups that would take an extraordinarily long period of time on a peruser basis. some of the changes they made will allow for some of that data to be stored locally, cashed, if you will, and make the lookups a lot faster and make the streamline-- essentially streamlining the process that a user goes through as they're looking at the site. >> ifill: finally i want to you ask you this and then i will ask mary agnes. what is the next big problem that they need to solve? assuming that the problems that they have already fixed hold. >> right. so you eluded to this in the beginning of the chat here. the front end is what they've been focused on. the front end is what the user experiences when they're browsing the site or filling out information on the site. the back end is soft of the completion of that transaction to take the sign-up process to completion and sort of feed that data over to the insurance carriers. i think that part of it is sort of remains to be seen whether they fixed that, whether it's working well.
6:16 pm
there's another aspect of this that seems to come up from time to time on conversations that i've heard, is the security aspect. it sort of again remains to be seen whether thats with a big element of the focus. or whether that got sort of pushed aside as they were working on the performance. >> ifill: mary agnes, they say they put in a shopping winnow feature. all these little bells an whistles. is that the problem that they are facing in the next month or so. >> they have to make sure they can handle the demand. they say they will decide to handle 800,000 people in one day. people need to have a good experience, especially people who have stayed away, are now coming back to be able to process their application, there was mixed experience today on twitter, some had a good experience, some did not. they also have to fix this problem with health insurers. coverage starts january 1st. people have until december 23rd to enroll. if insurers don't know that you're in the system, imagine what's going happen when you go to the doctor or month and they have no record of your insurance coverage. >> ifill: a big challenge still ahead, mary agnes
6:17 pm
carey, kaiser health news, and john engates, thank you so much. >> thank you >> woodruff: now, cash registers are ringing and merchants are singing online and in the mall, but how's the economy really doing this holiday season? jeffrey brown explores that question. >> brown: 131 million americans- - more than a third of the country-- are expected to shop online before this day is out. that's according to the national retail federation. and brad wilson at the coupon site, says a lot is riding on that prediction. >> this day is the single largest e-commerce day all year round. it's so important for the retailers to be competitive. >> brown: in fact, holiday cyber shopping is already well under way. the analytic firm com-score says online sales for thanksgiving
6:18 pm
weekend were up 17% from last year, helped by greater use of mobile devices. at the same time, the retail federation estimates that total spending over the weekend, including brick-and-mortar stores, was actually down nearly 3% from last year. a record 141 million people went shopping, but the average shopper spent nearly 4% less than a year ago, partly due to deep discounts. some big retailers-- wal-mart and macy's, for example-- say they're not expecting any growth this holiday season, with six fewer days between thanksgiving and christmas. some perspective on these early reports and what it says about the economic health of the american consumer. jerry storch has his own advisory firm. he's a veteran of the retail industry, including a former chief executive of toys-r-us. welcome to you. so even as we await for firmer numbers, what are you
6:19 pm
seeing so far in terms of just how tough a season this will be? >> well, there's no doubt that it started off slow. whether it is up a few points or down a few points, itological wasn't as good over the weekend as people had hoped. we'll get final numbers later. but there's no doubt the bricks and mortar retailers did not see the growth in footsteps and traffic that we had all hoped to seement meanwhile the big winners as usual were on-line with a large growth in smart phone and tablet shopping. overall it's moving on-line rapidly. >> well, tell us first, go back a step to the big box stores that you're talking about. they're offering steep discounts. what are they doing to lure people in? >> they're doing everything in the book. we used to have just black friday. then we added green monday opening earlier, including thursday, sorry, opening on thanksgiving day. they're using the wol box of crayola crayons, every day will its own color with different sales, different
6:20 pm
promotion. every week then they say it's just like black friday, if every saturday is like black friday ef-- every day is highly promotion. with the six fewer shopping days between thanksgiving and christmas we know it is going to have to go rapidly on each day to even make up that shortfall. six days fewer is a drop of 18% in the number of shopping days. so each day has to be 18% higher to make up for that gap. that's a lot of growth for each day. we haven't seen it yet. >> brown: what's the strategy, though, in trying to lure people in with deep discounts they're expecting-- they're accepting a lower profit margin? >> well, for a long time the consumer has said i want to see big sales or tremendous value at the off price type of stores, so they're looking at discounts that are 40 or 50% off or nobody's even shoppingment now no retailer wants to plan for weak growth margins
6:21 pm
but given the consideration of the season, given the state of the season right now, retailers know if they want to drive the top line they'll offer real bargains, not just fake ones but real bargains. and retailer after retailer has made an announcement that they expect weak gross margin rates for this holiday season. and as everyone knows from history, you don't want to lose that top line. the last thing the retailer wants to do is give the customer to someone else. a competitive environment this year is a very fierce and consumers will be the big winners. >> and you mentioned the continuing move on-line. so where are we now in this continuum of on-line versus brick and mortar shopping. where is the line now. >> well, most of the shopping still takes place on-line. but i'm sorry, still takes place in the stores. at least will 5, 90% of the shopping is in the stores for almost every category. a lesser product can be digitize like books or prerecorded music where the internet has a natural huge advantage. for everything else, 85 to
6:22 pm
90% is still in the stores. but the stores are struggling just to stay flat while the internet is growing at 15 to 20% year after year, season after season. you heard some of those numbers on your preamble to this discussion. so the internet is growing. it's all the growth. meanwhile the stores are flat or declining and that shift is taking place gradually but certainly in the balance of power. >> brown: i know a lot of this battle is to you being fought over delivery, right, who can deliver most quickly, most efficiently. >> well, that's true. and one of the things to remember is that we say that the bat sell moving on-line that doesn't mean it's moving to on-line only retailers. a lot of the growth we're seeing on-line is from the on-line outlets of the bricks and mortar retailers, so,, toys "r",, macy' that is where a lot of the growth is too in addition to because the stores over time
6:23 pm
have an advantage in that fight. because they are physical locations. you can choose to pick the product up in the store. you can order it from the store and have it sent to your home. over time the term omni channel retailing is a winning model. certainly can hold up very well against the on-line only model. >> all right, jerry storch, thank you very much. >> thank you >> ifill: a new show in san francisco features the work of a prolific contemporary artist. special correspondent spencer michels has our story. >> reporter: it's a huge exhibition, and it features 398 pieces of art by the british artist david hockney-- the largest show in the history of san francisco's deyoung museum. hockney has painted or produced most of this art in the last decade using 14 different media including charcoal, oil,
6:24 pm
watercolor, cameras and ipads-- digital art that is a major feature of this show. among the most dramatic work here is the massacre and the problems of depiction-- a grizzly and intriguing watercolor that harks back to goya and picasso with the added twist of a hooded photographer apparently figuring out how to depict what he's seeing. that's been one of hockney's major preoccupations throughout his long career. in this show some work repeats techniques and themes he has used before. he has continued painting portraits, often of his friends and family-- long a favorite subject for him. he even did a series of uniformed museum security guards, which he whipped out a decade ago. but he has always been innovative in subject matter and technique. in the '60s he moved from england to los angeles, and began a series of vivid acrylic paintings of swimming pools and
6:25 pm
unclothed friends in them or getting out of them-- pictures that he became famous for. some critics classified his work as pop art, a term he doesn't embrace. well, i never thought that, but other people did. i didn't. somebody said i was more related to alexander pope than pop. i'm just an artist who's done my work, i've done it now for 50, 60 years and i'll do it until i fall over, actually. hockney, who has had a stroke and is hard of hearing, recently turned 76, placing him in the ranks of older artists. but many critics consider him young, because of his use of technology especially the use of the ipad and multiple digital cameras. he used 18 purposely slightly- out-of-synch cameras to record
6:26 pm
the jugglers, in 2012 in what he regards as a cubist movie. he has blown up to gigantic size images he created on an ipad photo-- nature scenes from his childhood home in east yorkshire and pictures of yosemite in california-- works that tower they are part of his stated mission to get people look at their surroundings. >> well, i've always been very excited visually. i have. and i think i see a bit more than other people do. i mean, i have pointed out, you know, most people don't really look very hard. they scan the ground in front of them so they can walk. >> reporter: so yosemite, behind us here, you're seeing things that i might not see, perhaps? >> well, actually that day was a remarkable day in yosemite because the clouds were below us
6:27 pm
and that's quite rare. i know yosemite and i drew it quite quickly actually, and i >> reporter: you think speed is important? you mentioned it several times. >> well, any draftsman knows about speed. i mean rembrandt drawings, you can see speed in them. i am interested in speed. i think most painters paint faster than they tell you. >> reporter: hockney doesn't slow down, except for frequent cigarette breaks; he's adamant on that subject. he is a celebrity among art lovers, and has been in the public eye for decades, according to the museum director, colin bailey, he defies the traditional view of an aging artist. in a celebrated essay about aging, the art historian kenneth clark talked about transcendental pessimism and raging against the night and that is an idea, a sort of cliche almost, that we have. we certainly don't see it in late hockney. this is a man who is very active, very energetic, but we
6:28 pm
are in a period where every day counts, and i sense that with this desire to work all the time. however the idea of old age and old age style is something that when you look at hockney's recent work, youre sort of dumbfounded, because these look like the work of a very young man: energetic, exuberant, vital, optimistic. >> reporter: hockney's fascination with new development in digital images goes beyond a simple camera, which he says provides only a split second snapshot in time. he sketches directly on the ipad using an app called brushes. you can see him here, making pictures in these recordings on display at the museum. somebody your age, my age, all that technology, it must be tough? >> it's not that tough for me. i'm only interested in the technology of picture making, anything that makes pictures, so
6:29 pm
cameras i was always interested in, the ipad is terrific, new media, much better than drawing on photoshop and things, because you can pick up a color and in fact you can be very, very fast on an ipad, faster than watercolor. >> reporter: but hockney's reputation comes not from his digital images, but, according to richard benefield, the museums deputy director from his skills as a draftsman. he's been recognized as one of >> i think the draftsmanship is at the core of everything that he does, whether it's making the photo collages that he did in the '80s, making prints, even the way he puts together the screens or the video cameras. >> reporter: in this grouping, hockney has taken four video views of the same woods in
6:30 pm
woldgate in different seasons using nine cameras. the images surround the visitor and provide a dramatic yet peaceful experience. like the seasons depicted here, hockney's work changes constantly, which is part of his allure. but so too is his continuing fascination with nature. the bigger exposition contains a raft of new charcoal drawings of the wooded english countryside. and full-color landscapes are prominent in the hockney show, despite what benefield says is a trend in the art world against them. there have been people who have said who's painting landscapes anymore? landscapes are dead. but david has said it's nature and it's always changing, so how can you not want to paint it? and you know with his landscapes spring is always coming at some point, no matter where you are. so i think in some ways the landscape is a really life affirming choice for him.
6:31 pm
>> reporter: life affirming is really what hockney is about. and he executes his work with a twinkle in his well-trained eye. the hockney exhibit runs only in san francisco through january 20, 2014. >> woodruff: hundreds of thousands of protesters have stormed the streets of the ukrainian capital in recent days, upset that the country's president vyktor yanukovych walked away from a deal with the european union after warnings from russia. we begin our coverage with a report from kiev by matt frei of "independent television news." >> reporter: ukraine's winter of discontent has only just begun. today protesters were back on the streets of kiev. their intention: to paralyze government by blockading it.
6:32 pm
thousands of demonstrators marched on the seats of executive power at the cabinet of ministers' headquarters. "we have to block entire streets -- the streets behind us also -- to make sure that not even one official will get to their office," this protester shouted. so far it seems to have worked. the ukrainian government is paralyzed between protesters calling for revolution and president putin of russia threatening at least economic revenge if ukraine rekindles its flirtation with the e.u. it's not the first time that ukraine-- a nation of 45 million souls-- finds itself in this tug of war between eastern and western europe. nine years ago, the orange revolution led to a rerun of suspect elections and mr. yanukovych's ouster from office. he seems determined not to repeat that experience. the question is whether he has overplayed his hand by giving into russian demands. the new generation of protesters
6:33 pm
empowered by the memories and failed promises of the orange revolution and the organizational tool of the internet, are equally determined not to give in. for them, this battle is about the soul of their nation. they were outraged by the government's 11th hour u-turn against an agreement with the e.u. which would have been an essential milestone towards full e.u. membership. the toxic situation here was further enflamed by the heavy and brutal hand of the police. the riot police used teargas, baton charges and stun grenades. the protesters responded with rocks. the result: dozens of injured on both sides and a foretaste of things to come in a crisis with no elegant or obvious solution. >> woodruff: for more on the protests and what it all means, i'm joined by former u.s. ambassador to the ukraine steven pifer, now a director and senior fellow at the brookings institution. welcome to the newshour, so tell us more about why these
6:34 pm
protests have been happening. they started what, a week ago sunday. >> ten days ago presidentian you can-- yannock very much said it would sus pen an agreement that would have brought to closer to the european union. we saw it a week ago yesterday, sunday, 100,000 people on the streets protesting that. the turnout yesterday was bolstered by the fact that there is huge outrage in the ukraine over the use of force on saturday morning. more blood was shed on ukraine on saturday and sunday than three weeks of the armed revolution and there was a visceral reaction on the parts of the ukrainians about that. >> woodruff: why do they feel so strongly with the deal falling part. >> europe is a lot of attraction for ukraines. poll shows more than 50% of the population would like to get closer to europe. it's because of the living standards but also because of rule of law. for a country where there is corruption, where politics, they would like a normal democratic system that is the attraction of europe.
6:35 pm
>> woodruff: but the leader mr. yannock very much has been under a lot of pressure from russia, from vladimir putin, why de give in to that pressure. >> i think there are a coup will of things. first it wasn't clear that they were suspending their work. it wasn't clear they met all the european union conditions, because the, u said in order to do that, there had to be certain criteria in the democracy area. the other consideration was the pressure from russia and concern that at least in the short term, the association agreement which would have brought ukraine to a free trade arrangement with europe would have had some dislocation costs for the ukraine industry. although the payoffs in the long-term would have been huge. >> woodruff: and so for yan yanlock very much was he seriously considering the e circumstances arrangement. >> i think mr. yannock very much wanted to sign the agreement and there were reports that if you sign this agreement rments you could campaign for re-election in 2015 as the man who brought ukraine into europe. i'm not sure he understood what all of the
6:36 pm
implementation would require but thats with a longer term consideration and he tends to think short term. >> woodruff: why are the russias, why is putin, in particular, so determined that ukraine is going to remain within its orbit and closer to russia? >> well, there are a couple of reasons. first of all the long historical connections between russia and ukraine. but also you've seen, i think, over the last several years vladimir putin, an effort to really reestablish russian influence in the post space. he doesn't want to rebuild the soviet union but he wants his neighbors especially ukraine to pay attention to russia on big questions. from the russian point of view a ukraine that signs an association agreement and implements it is going to be well out of moscow's geo political orbit. >> woodruff: as you look at the terms of what they were talking about with the european union, short term would have been difficult for the country economically but long-term they stood to gain a lot in terms of commerce. >> exactly. >> woodruff: in trade. why was that not-- why was that not enticement
6:37 pm
overriding the russians? >> well, again, i think the attraction certainly was there. that when mr. yanukovych looks at t again i think he locks in the short term, he saw problems in some dislocation simply from joining a market with more competitive yet european industries, but he also saw the threat which the russians have demonstrated the last four months of perhaps economic sanctions and cutting off russian or the russian market to ukraine. so again, his short-term consideration lead him to make a decision in terms of suspending the agreement that i think denied his country huge long-term benefits. >> woodruff: now he has huge protest on his hands. how much-- how much of the pop laingts-- population do these threats represent, i think you said over 50%. is it possible to know how much of the population one thing or the other? >> that say difficult question. i mean most of the polls in the last several months have shown -- one even had 58% of
6:38 pm
the ukraine say they wanted to see the country move toward the european union and favoured the association agreement. the numbers are always, it's hard to tell exactly how many people are on the streets but there is no doubt that what we saw yesterday and a week ago these were the largest demonstrations since the armed revolution nine years ago. so there really has-- there is a code on the public part that has been touched and they are pushing hard. >> so what are the options at this point? they continue protesting, what can yanukovych do. >> i think his option is to become more narrow. there is no way, and i think he was inclined to turn back towards russia, his decision was to pause on the way to europe, not reverse course. but perhaps the best course now is can find a way, is there a political dialogue with the opposition and basically the street. and try to find some kind of accommodation. the longer this demonstration goes though and the longer the numbers, it will be harder for him to
6:39 pm
do that. >> woodruff: does he have the connection, the communication and the ability to have that kind of communication in negotiation to find a way out of this? >> i'm not sure he has the political disposition to get into that kind of dialogue. because it's going to require a real sense of compromise. and it's going to have to reach out to political opponents in order to find some kind of settlement. so it's pretty tricky ground he's on. >> but you are saying he really has no choice. that he has to go in the direction of the russian offer at this point. >> i think at this point he's limited. turning back towards russia is going to cause even more disquiet on the part of the ukraine public and ukraine-- and also on the part of ukrainian business, soes's limited on that point. and also, i mean i think he's now seen he can't use force. one of the reasons why we have such a large number of people on the treats is because of the use of force on saturday. so again his options are becoming narrower and narrower.
6:40 pm
>> steven pifer, former ambassador to the ukraine, thank you very much. >> thank you for having me. >> ifill: we'll be back shortly with james mcbride, author of "the good lord bird," which won this year's national book award for fiction. the judges declared his voice as comic and original as any we have heard since mark twain. but first, this is pledge week on p.b.s.. this break allows your public television station to ask for your support. and that sueactions from state
6:41 pm
6:42 pm
6:43 pm
6:44 pm
6:45 pm
6:46 pm
6:47 pm
education officials. >> woodruff: finally tonight: this year's national book award for fiction went to a novel that re-tells a very familiar story from american history with a thoroughly new twist. jeff is back with that. >> brown: "i was born a colored man and don't you forget it. but i lived as a colored woman for 17 years." the words of kansas-born slave henry or henrietta schackleford who in the novel "the good lord bird" becomes one of the rag-tag followers of the abolitionist john brown and survives to tell of the raid on harper's ferry. this is the third novel by james mcbride. he's also author of the bestselling memoir, "the color of water: a black man's tribute to his white mother." first, congratulations to you. >> thank you very much. >> so the story has been written and written about in nonfiction and fiction. you, what, felt you had something more to tell? >> well, i wanted to tell it in a funny way and i wanted
6:48 pm
people to, you know, know about them. and i wanted-- i tried to come up with a way to tell his story that was compelling and funny, i suppose. >> you use that word funny this say very funny book. about a very serious subject. i mean why did you want to put human near it,. >> well, slavery is such a drol subject. and it's depressing. i didn't want to write a book that was depression. i don't want to read a book that's depressing. so i just thought that shall did -- and john browne was so funny. i mean he wasn't funny, he actually had no sense of humor at all which made him perfect, the perfect person to make fun of. >> all those pictures of him and you know, so strict and -- >> yeah. >> so stern looking and he was very religious. it just made him a perfect characteric ture item. >> well, and in your telling he's often going on and on, mangling passages from the bible, right? >> well, he actually-- he mangled the bible pretty
6:49 pm
badly in my book but in real life he was a little more, he was more cog any sent of the old testament than most people you come across. >> you use the word caricature, was the intention at the beginning. was that a way into a more-- well, what is it a way into. >> historical novels are hard to do for the general public. for commercial writers like myself. so i had to create something that would allow people room to laugh at things they can't really talk about easily. and that's really, that was really the point of it. to give people space to laugh at everyone so they can see some of the truths inside the historical facts. >> and the way in is this wonderful character henrietta whose nick named by john browne, onion, right? >> yeah. >> of a vernacular voice, a black voice telling this story. >> well, i love that old country, that old country talk, you know am we still
6:50 pm
have a lot of americans who talk like that black and white that sort of direct black vernacular. i was born by the river and you know, the kind of hee haw chitchatment a lot of the old men in my family talk like that. and i always wanted to find a way to put that in a narrative. and this was just the perfect place. >> brown: so you just had fun with it? how did you do it? >> i just had fun with it. once the character onion became real to me, i just tell into-- fell into his voice. i mean in real life i was going through a lot of personal trauma. divorce, my mother died, my niece passed away. and thises with a chance for me to just have fun with some, to dip into a world with a character who had deep problems but just managed to laugh them off and kind of keep moving. >> brown: along the way you're messing with some big icons. john browne, of course, frederick douglas comes in for a cameo here. and it's not the most
6:51 pm
reverent view of frederick douglas i invester read, that's for sure. >> i got scorched a little bit by that frederick douglas depiction but it is funny. and frederick douglas in real life was married to a black woman and had a white mistress and lived in the same house together. i mean that, you know, you condition do that in brooklyn now. i don't know where you can do it. maybe there are places you can do it. but my point is that it's just ripe for making-- for cracking a joke about it. >> so did you-- i mean the inevitable question is how much did you stick, feel you had to stick to facts? did you do research and then throw it all aside or check your facts along the way? because you also -- >> you know, i make sure that people understand that this is a novel. i would say about 70 to 80% of it is true. the basic facts are quite true. i mean they couldn't be truer. i had to have, i took some liberties with john browne's
6:52 pm
praying, you know, and some his language. but the facts are john browne did do the things he did. he was againstvery. he fought in the wars in kansas and then he attacked harper's ferry. frederick douglas, de ask frederick douglas to join him an frederick douglas said no, are you crazy? this is a suicide mission. and john browne did fumble through life. he was a failed businessman. he failed a lot of things. and he always managed to do things but he never did them on time. they kind of never, the train just kind of rumbled forward but never arrived on time. with the passages that should have been there. >> and just briefly how did you come to see john browne in the end? >> i loved him. i mean i grew up in the church. and he was very religious and that was one of the things that really attracted me to him. and the power of religion that made him so-- that made him such a force is something that still exists in my own life. so i really admire him. i admire him now more, now
6:53 pm
than i did when i first learned of him. >> all right, we're going to continue this conversation on-line but for now, the brook is the good lord, national book award winner, thank you very much. congratulations. >> thank you very much. delighted. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: online shopping traffic surged on this cyber monday after retailers had a disappointing thanksgiving weekend. white house officials reported the website functioned far better today, handling 755,000 users by midday. and mass protests continued in ukraine and thailand, demanding the ouster of the ruling prime ministers. >> ifill: on the "newshour" online right now, advances in fertility technology require advances in the way we think about men and women. read a guest column from a yale sociologist who studies the differences between egg and sperm donation.
6:54 pm
that's on "making sense." you can find all that and more on our website >> woodruff: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. we had hoped to bring you an interview with wendy sherman, the lead u.s. negotiator for upcoming international talks on iran and syria, but that conversation has been delayed. on tuesday, we'll look at the ruling in the detroit bankruptcy case. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us here at the "pbs newshour," 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
6:55 pm
us. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at >> 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
6:56 pm
6:57 pm
6:58 pm
6:59 pm
7:00 pm
this is nightly business report with tyler mathisen and susie gharib, brought to you in part by., up to the minute news and indepth analysis, we provide objective, independent ratings daily on over 4300 stocks, learn more at the december downer, stocks start the new month with a loss. and one prominent voice says he is concerned about the market's lofty level, is he right, and can you still find value? >> cyber cash after a holiday weekend that was not so jolly, retailers hope that shoppers splurge. and the government


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on