tv PBS News Hour PBS June 14, 2011 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: syrian refugees poured by the thousands into the border region with turkey, fleeing the syrian military's drive to crush anti-government demonstrations. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: i'm gwen ifill. n the newshour tonight, we have the latest on the border situation and on the government's counteroffensive. >> woodruff: then, david chalian walks us through the highlights of last night's debate among republican presidential hopefuls. >> ifill: we explain new effectiveness guidelines for sunscreen products. >> woodruff: spencer michels reports on the booming business of one of the biggest social media companies on the internet.
twitter is growing incredibly fast but that doesn't mean its future is assured. >> ifill: ray suarez talks to puerto rico's governor luis fortuno as president obama makes a rare visit to the commonwealth. >> we've been trying to make sure that every family on the island can find work and make a living and provide for their children. >> woodruff: and jeffrey brown details the ups and downs of spiderman's official broadway debut. that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> okay, listen. somebody has got to get serious. >> i think... >> we need renewable energy. >> ...renewable energy is vital to our planet. >> you hear about alternatives, right? wind, solar, algae. >> i think it's got to work on a big scale. and i think it's got to be affordable. >> so, where are they? >> it has to work in the real world. at chevron, we're investing millions in solar and biofuel technology to make it work.
>> we've got to get on this now. >> right now. the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: syria's president bashar al-assad expanded his crackdown in rebellious northern towns today. the regime's push could snuff out any chance the uprising could gain a base for a wider armed rebellion. margaret warner has the latest. >> warner: syrian refugees continued to stream across the border into turkey today.
the syrian government troops sought to tighten their hold on more northern towns and villages. over the weekend, elite syrian units moved into jiz jiz. syrian state television showed the town of 40,000 nearly deserted. just ten days ago it was the scene of large demonstrations against the syrian president. the refugee described the government's harsh response. >> when we are walking in the streets shouting "we want freedom" and the people want him to fall down, we didn't want assad, the security killed the people. >> warner: today amid empty streets and shuttered store fronts in the town, state television broadcast what it said were captured weapons, explosives and uniforms. syrian forces are also moving on nearby town by is buy
secretaryed by the main road between the capital damascus and aleppo, syria's second largest city. the syrian president seems to have dispenseded with any notion of a political solution. unconfirmed reports from inside syria today that his forces were killing people indiscriminately, slaughtering livestock and reyesing buildings. thousands of syrians have fled the carnage. some are crossing illegally into turey to buy food but are returning at day's end but others are flooding overtaxed refugee camps on the turkish side of the border. more than 8500 syrians are there now. an aide worker said they are the lucky ones. >> on the other side of the border over in syria, we have main about 10,000 people. that's more than who have come across the border. they're still living kind of to the elements. >> warner: in washington state department spokesman mark toner dismissed fears that civil war could follow follow if assad fell. >> to say that assad is somehow the glue that is keeping the country together i think is not taking into full
account the violence and repression that he's using to crush any aspirations of the syrian people. he certainly has lost all credibility as a reformer and he's diminished his government's image around the world. >> warner: but that image seems undimmed in leadership circles in one nation: iran. in a statement today secretary of state clinton accused iran of aiding assad in his crackdown. in tehran, a foreign ministry spokesman responded with a blunt warning to the u.s. >> (translated:) americans are not entitled to have military intervention in any country in the region including syria. we think the syrian issue is an internal matter. >> warner: the iranians are experienced at crushing pro democracy dissent. two years ago this week after a fraud-ridden presidential vote, the green revolution
erupted in iran. the regime responded with brutal force. still to come on the newshour, g.o.p. presidential hopefuls square off. >> ifill: still to come on the newshour: g.o.p. presidential hopefuls square off; the fda ups the ante for sunscreens; the world of twitter and tweets; the governor of puerto rico, luis fortuno; and spidey finally comes to broadway. but first, with the other news of the day, here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: nato bombers stepped up their air campaign over libya today, hitting close to moammar qaddafi's compound. the air strike hit tripoli in the early morning, and a plume of smoke could be seen above the area around qaddafi's home. the u.s. role in the operation was called into question today by house speaker john boehner. he sent a letter to president obama telling him, by sunday, the administration will be in violation of the war powers resolution, which requires congressional consent for military action beyond 90 days. attackers carried out a well- coordinated raid on an iraqi government compound northeast of baghdad today.
a suicide bomber first detonated a car bomb at the entrance to the compound in baqouba. then, gunmen stormed the building's perimeter. nine people, including at least three of the assailants, were killed. also today, the u.s. military announced two american soldiers were killed in operations in southern iraq on monday. the cia is set to begin drone strikes over yemen soon. "the wall street journal" and others reported that today, citing unnamed u.s. officials. the secret program would target al qaeda militants operating in yemen. it marks a major expansion of counter-terrorism efforts there. since 2009, drone strikes have been conducted by the u.s. military, which requires the permission of the yemeni government. ash clouds from two erupting volcanoes on different continents disrupted air travel around the world today. a volcano in chile has been erupting since early june, causing at least 4,000 people to evacuate the area. it also caused air cancellations in both south america and australia. the second volcano is in
eritrea, spreading ash over the horn of africa toward saudi arabia. the chilean ash cloud has grounded fights from uruguay to brazil to argentina. and as the plume has drifted across the pacific ocean, flights between australia and new zealand have been grounded, stranding some 70,000 passengers. more members of congress called for representive anthony weiner to resign today after he admitted sending inappropriate images and messages to several women. house speaker john boehner added his voice to the growing public debate on the scandal, telling reporters the new york democrat should go. boehner's remarks mirrored those of president obama, who earlier told nbc's "today" show, "if it was me, i would resign." many of the congressman's fellow democratic house colleagues also echoed that sentiment. but some stopped short of demanding his resignation. >> i think the president was absolutely right. i think he's going to have to decide in conjunction with his constituents. if it were me, i would resign but that's up to him and his constituents. >> i don't think it's appropriate for me to set
myself up as the judge of others. i'm a voting member of the house i have a responsibility. >> i think we should send a strong message to him that he should resign and let's see what happens. >> sreenivasan: the democratic caucus has yet to consider taking action against representative weiner. the congressman is taking a two- week leave of absence, and so far has refused to step down. the chairman of the federal reserve urged congress to support raising the nation's debt ceiling and find a long-term deficit plan. ben bernanke said republican threats to block the increase could backfire and cause disruptions to financial markets. the u.s. is up against an august 2 deadline to raise the $14.3 trillion borrowing limit. after bernanke's speech, stocks on wall street still managed to hold their gains. the dow jones industrial average gained 123 points to close at 12,076. the nasdaq rose 39 points to close above 2,678. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: the state of new hampshire, which relishes its role as home of the first
primary, played host last night to its first 2012 republican presidential debate. by the time the g.o.p. candidates lineded up to debate at the college in manchester, they numbered seven. but they were not there to debate each other. the candidates instead spent much of the evening criticizing the democrat each hopes to get the chance to defeat: president obama. former massachusetts governor mitt romney blasted the president's handling of the economy. >> what this president has done has slowed the economy. he didn't create the recession. but he made it worse and longer. >> ifill: so did former minnesota governor tim pawlenty. >> this president is a declineist. he views america as one of equals around the world. we're not the same as portugal. we're not the same as argentina. >> ifill: former house speaker newt gingrich also joined the chorus. >> the obama administration is an anti-jobs, anti-business, anti-american energy, destructive force. >> ifill: the candidates said any republican on the stage
would do a better job turning the stumbling economy around than the man now in the white house. >> what's happened in this administration is that they have passed oppressive policies and oppressive regulation after obama care being first and foremost. >> ifill: former godfather's pizza chief executive herman cain. >> this economy is stalled. it's not the train on the tracks with no engine. and the administration has simply been putting all of this money in the qaboos. >> reporter: texas congressman ron paul was asked by cnn moderator john king if the president deserveded credit for anything. >> has he done one thing, has he done one thing right when it comes to the economy in this country? >> well, that's a tough question. no, no. i can't think of anything. >> ifill: and minnesota congresswoman michelle backman drew cheers from the crowd for this prediction. >> make no mistake about it. i want to announce tonight, president obama is a one-term president. ( cheers and applause )
>> ifill: backman also made another announcement last night. she has filed the paperwork and is now an official candidate for president. joining me now to lo more closely at some of the key momentss in last night's encounter is newshour political editor david chalian just off the plane from manchester. david, who accomplished what he or she set out to do last night? >> first of all i think the field accomplished what they set out to do collectively which was exactly as you laid out there, attack president obama. that's where most of the fire went during this debate. they chose not to differentiate themselves from each other too much. but backman set out what she set out to accomplished and that was to sort of dazzle. she made the surprise announcement into the race. that got her some attention and buzz. she instantly separates herself because she's the only woman on that stage. i think she'll continue to be somebody who provides a bit of spark and spunk into the field. romney wanted to be the grown up and the adult in the room. i think he got to do that
mostly because his competitors chose not to attack him. >> ifill: let's talk about that. no one laid a hand on him. tim pawlenty who had gone on the sunday talk show and said he talked about romney's health care plan in massachusetts as oba-romney care which is saying it was rooted in president obama's plan, the other way around, was rooted in his. he wasn't as tough last night. let's listen to what he had to said. >> the question was obama-romney care. >> i'm going to get to that, john. >> you have 30 seconds. >> this is another example of him breaking his promise. he has to be held accountable. in order to prosecute the case against president obama, you have to be able to show that you've got a better plan and a different plan. we took a different approach in minnesota. we didn't use top-down government mandates and individual requirements from government. we created market alternatives and empowered consumers. i think that's the way to fix health care in the united states of america. >> you said you were asked a question but you chose those words.
so one of my questions is why would you choose those in the comfort of a sunday studio and your rival is is standing right there. if it was ob-ney care why is not that stand ing with the governor right there. >> president obama is the person who i quoted in saying he looked to massachusetts for designing his program. he's the one who said it's a blueprint and that he merged the two programs and so using the term obney care was a reflection of the president's comments that he designed obama care on the massachusetts health care plan. >> ifill: at which point john king who had tried three times to get him to repeat what he said on fox news sunday gave up and moved on. why did tim pawlenty not follow through on the harsh critique. >> he set his own trap here and fell into it. by going on fox news sunday and setting that up the day before the debate the strongest critique one candidate has made of another and when you're two leading candidates like that, we all in the press pay attention to that. real strong rebuke on sunday and not to back it up when you're face to face to him at
the debate shows you may not be ready for prime time. tim pawlenty had a problem here. this debate he needed to go out and really establish himself as the alternative to mitt romney. a real contender. he needs to do that to raise money. he needs to do that to raise his profile. instead he chose to back down and de muir. it was not well received. it was a tough night for tim pawlenty. >> ifill: talking about alternatives michelle backman is presenting herself as an al alternative and a representative of the tea party caucus in congress but tea party sentiment around the country. let's listen to what she had to say trying to define what tea partyism is. >> i'm the chairman of the tea party caucus in the house of representatives. what i've seen is unlike how the media has tried to wrongly and grossly portray the tea party, the tea party is really made up of disaffected democrats, independents, people who have never been political a day in their lives, people who are libertarians,
republicans. it's a wide swath of america coming together. that's why the left fears it so much because they're people who simply want to take the country back. they want the country to work again. >> ifill: wide swath reminds me of big tent. it seem like she's trying to broaden what the base is. >> she doesn't want to be relegated to the right wing of her party. that's where most of her energy comes from. it's why we look at iowa as a potential real proving ground for her because the right wing sort of come nays the caucuses there but these looking for that broader appeal to the party. she doesn't to be not seen as a real contender, as you were saying, as the alternative also. but she does represent that tea party wing. that is where the energy is from. that was the energy that fueled so much of the republicans' success in 2010. she won't go so far as to all of a sudden declare that the tea party is is really full of democrats but she does want to broaden her appeal a little bit to the entire swath of the republican nominating electorate. >> ifill: even though most of
the debate was about president obama and the economy and some social issues like gay marriage and abortion, no surprises there, we also saw foreign policy and maybe we could call it a new romney doctrine toward afghanistan. let's listen to what he said. >> i think we've learnd important lessons in our experience in afghanistan. i want those troops to come home based not politics not based upon economics but based upon the conditions in the ground determined by the generals. i also think we've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. only the afghanis can win afghanistan's independence from the taliban. >> ifill: what was romney trying to do here? >> i think he's trying to start leading the way for his party to start talking differently about this ten-year-old war in afghanistan. i think it will be a really fascinating development to watch. we see in mitt romney here not just parroting the george w. bush john mccain language that we saw dominate the iraq debate in the last general
election purely relying on the generals on the ground. you hear him starting to say this is a war-weary nation. we really need to put the burdens on the afghans to take care of their own independence. it's nuanced by a different emphasis. one of his real contender john huntsman former governor of utah said he will get into the race next week.... >> ifill: today he comes out and says a week from today here i could come. but he was not on the stage last night. >> he got off that stage after saying that and also talked about afghanistan, went further saying we're only going to have about 10,000- 15,000. >> ifill: who? >> john huntsman. he's been going even further than romney and others that we've seen on the stage. he says it's not affordable to be in afghanistan anymore. i think you're going to start seeing a real debate about afghanistan policy inside the republican primary here. they want it to be president obama's war and his problem to solve. >> ifill: they're starting to draw distinctions among themselves as well as with the president. >> no doubt. >> ifill: david chalian, thank
you. >> my pleasure. >> woodruff: now, new guidelines for consumers about sunscreen. after more than three decades, the fda announced a series of changes in what consumers will see on all sunscreen labels, beginning next summer. among the changes: makers of sunscreen lotion will have to clarify whether their product protects against what's known as uv-a radiation, as well as uv-b radiation, which was already the case. if it does not protect against both, the manufacturer cannot say it protects against skin cancer or early skin aging. sunscreen lotions will also no longer be able to advertise that they carry an "spf," or sun protection factor, of greater than 50. for a closer look at the changes and what people need to know, we're joined by dr. ali hendi, a dermatologist with the skin cancer foundation. dr. hendi, thank you very much for being with us. >> thanks for havi me, judy.
>> woodruff: so i mentioned a couple of them but in your words what are the main changes that people should look for with these new regulations coming out next summer from what exists now. >> judy, these are welcome changes from the perspective of dermatologists that care for patients with skin cancer. number one is the product has to have uv-a and uv-b protection to be labeled as a broad spectrum. up to now it's mostly been uv-b but uv-a is a critical factor in development of skin cancer and sun damage and aging. a product cannot label itself as being waterproof or a sun block. those do not exist. there's no iningredient that is a total sun block and there's no product that is waterproof. so those are some of the main changes. >> woodruff: but we've seen a number of skin lotions, we just put a couple of them here as an example, you know, that still claim that they are waterproof. >> they do. these provide a false sense of security for consumers. consumers need to know that if
they're outdoors they need to apply sun screen every two hours. if they're swimming or sweating they need to apply after they com out of the pool or the water. and there is no such thing as a sun block. sun screen is only one ingredient that helps you protect yourself from the sun. you should seek shade when you can. you should wear protective clothing, sunglasses, hats, those are all a package that help you protect your skin. >> woodruff: you're saying nothing truly protects skin totally from damaging sun. >> there's no total protection. but you could make smart choices that are minimize the damage. >> woodruff: explain to us, dr. hendi, what's the difference between these uv-a and uv-b rays? there was already protection supposedly against uv-b but what's the difference with those in the ultraviolet a ray? >> so uv-b rays are rays that are blocked by the glass in your car, for example. they don't penetrate very deeply. uv-a rays penetrate deeply. they're known to cause skin
damage. both uv-a and uv-b are responsible for skin cancer. so that's why it's paramount to have protection from both uv-a and uv-b. >> woodruff: what does this mean when the consumer goes to the drugstore and you look at the shelf and there are dozens, hundreds sometimes, of different brands and types of sun screen? what does the consumer look for now? >> you know, it's really challenging for a consumer. i get that question every day from patients. what should i look for? these guidelines would help. but for the time being look for a product that has uv-a and uv-b protection. it specifically says uv-a protection. a product that has spf 30 or higher. make sure you apply that product before you leave the house. if you're outdoors, you reapply it every two hours. >> woodruff: you are, as we mentioned, a dermatologist. you follow this closely. what do you see in your patients in terms of sun damage as it's changed over the years? >> you know, i'm seeing more
and more young patients with skin cancer. it used to be that skin cancer was a disease of the elderly. you had to be over 40 years old to get it. every day and every week i have patients in their late 20s, sometimes even in their late teens or 30's and 40's with skin cancer. the damage we're seeing today is not the damage from last summer or the summer before. this is the damage from 10, 20, 30 years ago that is popping up now. >> woodruff: i was reading today that it often is affecting young women as much as, if not more than, young men. >> there was a study that showed that the rate of skin cancers in young women is increasing more rapidly than in the men. there are a lot of reasons for it. one of the factors is definitely sun exposure and tanning beds. young women are known to use tanning beds more often than men. that could be a factor in young women having a ch higher, rapidly growing rate of skin cancers. >> woodruff: do you urge your patients not to use tanning
beds at all. >> absolutely. >> woodruff: why not? >> because you're damaging your skin. you're paying somebody to damage your skin. tanning beds are the tobacco of 20, 30 years ago. that's the stage we're at now. the world health organization recently claimed or labeled tanning beds or uv radiation as a known carcinogen. if you know something is a known carcinogen andhat's a product that causes cancer, why would you pay to be exposed to it? >> woodruff: just quickly, you do expect these new rules to make a difference. >> i sure do. before patients had to go to a dermatologist to seek recommendations on sun screens. i still recommend seeing a dermatologist for a skin check but consumers will have an easier time picking a product off the shelf once the new regulations go into effect next summer. >> woodruff: dr. ali hendi, thank you very much for being with us. >> thank you, judy.
>> ifill: next, the impact of twitter. politicians, comedians and hollywood figures all seem to be tweeting to famously mixed effect. but at the root of all this micro-blogging activity is the question of whether twitter is ultimately a viable business model. newshour correspondent spencer michels has this report. >> his first tweet was "helicopters hovering above abbottabad at 1 a.m. is a rare event." if osama bin laden had been on twitter, he might have known abut the helicopters in his neighborhood. >> reporter: chris taylor, san francisco bureau chief for a news web site called mashable, followed closely those first tweets that preceded bin laden's death, broadcast on twitter by a tech-savvy pakistani annoyed by the late-night sounds of helicopters. then a few minutes later he tweets, "go away helicopter
before i take out my giant swatter." he had no idea he was saying these things for the ages. >> reporter: twitter, the san francisco-based social media service that started as a way for friends to update one another in 140 character-sized messages, was inadvertently breaking one of the biggest stories ever. >> what happened with the news of osama bin laden and his death was a defining moment for twitter in a lot of ways, and both in the positive and the negative sense. it did reveal some of the limitations of the service, because people were checking their tweets and said, "yes, twitter got the news first." but at the same time a lot of people realized, "hey, i want more formation than ts can supply." >> reporter: twitter hit the headlines again for a very different kind of story when it was revealed that congressman anthony weiner used the service to post embarrassing pictures of himself, aimed at several young women. what he apparently didn't realize, and the abbottabad tweeter did, was that everything
on twitter is public. for all the attention twitter received after breaking the news of osama bin laden's death, the company still faces serious questions about its future and the way it does business at present. there's no denying it's a popular service doing business on many fronts. at the ballpark, fans of the san francisco giants receive continuous tweets from the team's social media director. in the streets of the bay area, twitter and other sites that connect with twitter are the way people find a fleet of food trucks, including five-ten burger. the customers are alerted to the trucks' location by tweets, sent out by the cook and truck owner, roman robles, who uses his phone to say where he is. he has 700 people who get his tweets, or as they say, who "follow" him. >> i'm not even a computer guy. i do it on my phone because i'm not, i don't consider it a computer or anything like that.
i'm always cooking. we usually do bars at night, so we'll say which bar we're going to be at and which day of the week, and what corner we'll be at tomorrow morning. >> reporter: robles may be an exception-- most twitter users and young and tech savvy. >> i like that you can keep in touch with people that you wouldn't normally have access to. like, you know, either celebrities or entertainers that >> reporter: but some analysts have asked whether twitter has a business plan. a private company, it doesn't disclose its revenues, which have been estimated at $50 million a year. it has been growing very fast-- from eight employees five years ago, when it started, to more than 450 today, and 3,000 projected within two years. it is about to renovate a big san francisco building to accommodate the expected employee explosion. and the number of tweets-- messages sent via twitter-- has reached 155 million a day. the 140-character maximum is just below the international limit on text messages for
mobile phones, so they can be used everywhere. twitter is a young, hip company. there are almost no phones in its offices-- the staff uses -- what else? twitter, texts and email. it's co-founder, biz stone, says the future looks bright. we know where we're going you know, in the short to medium term, and we know where we want to get in the long term. and we know we want to be a company, an independent company, for 100 years. we're a very young company in the grand scheme of things. we're just getting started with our monetization efforts. >> reporter: but even at this stage, analysts point to signs that twitter may be in trouble. one industry group says only 8% of americans have ever used twitter, compared to 51% for facebook. actual active twitter users number far fewer than the 200 million members who at one point
signed up. amonghe plic, even the computer-savvy set, twitter gets criticized for broadcasting too much trivial information. >> just one more thing to check, one more distraction from all the other things. i've got email, i've got i.m.; i've got skype. twitter is just one more thing that sort of pops on my screen, and i'd be bothered by it. >> reporter: john battelle writes about high tech at federated media. he tweets often, but when it comes to receiving tweets, he is frustrated by twitter's "signal to noise ratio." >> the amount of value i get out of other people's tweets compared to the deluge of information that is coming at me-- it's just not enough. >> reporter: twitter admits that's a problem, but kevin cheng, a product manager, has solved it his own way. i follow now almost 1,000 different accounts, and i don't expect to read all of them. i think of it more like a stream that i dip my feet into every so
often. >> reporter: still, serious twitter users have another concern-- some independent develors hoping to build applications that work with twitter were told to stop making new programs. that sent shockwaves though the twitter ecosystem, where nearly a million applications already exist. but investors, like venture capitalist kittu kolluri, say twitter needs to encourage other companies to build more apps. for example, a noise filter. he says twitter has made it hard for outsiders to develop such apps. some analysts say twitter fears the outsiders will reap some of the advertising twitter wants for itself. >> twitter is truly not making it as easy as probably a lot of these businesses would like it to be. maybe that stems from the uncertainty around what their business model is, how to become a business when they grow up.
>> there are types of applications that we encourage people to build, and there are types of applications that we encourage people to avoid building, because it's very likely that we will build our own, and then in that case, they'll be in a tough situation. >> reporter: as for "growing up", writer battelle is not sure twitter knows where it is heading. >> i'm sure they have a road map; i'm not sure that that road map extends further than a year or two in terms of, you know, you've got so many employees, and so many engineers, and you can only do so much. >> reporter: manager cheng says twitter is now the fastest way to search for news and trends, and that has opened up revenue possibilities. >> it is a search engine in that it's a real-time way of finding out what's going on, about what you care about, and about a specific topic, too. >> reporter: for example, if there's a conference you can't attend, there's a decent chance
someone is tweeting about it, in addition, users seek out "trends" -- specific popular topics they're interested in -- and find out what other users are saying, and that information can be sold to firms trying to sell something. adam bain is twitter's revenue specialist. >> marketers ultimately see the platform as a huge public opinion or market research vehicle. they're looking for what people are saying about products, services, categories. >> reporter: twitter intends to capitalize on that information. currently, the company has just 600 advertisers. they pay to have their commercials, which look like tweets, displayed-- marked in yellow-- at the top of searches and elsewhere. twitter only gets paid if members click on the ads, or re- tweet them, which they do at a very high rate-- 3% to 5%. >> that's what we think is uque about the platform, this massive engagement rate. consumers actually love the ads or are looking at the ads almost like they're content. >> reporter: but critics say
many advertisers are excluded because twitter technically can't yet accommodate them. biz stone says, just wait. >> we figured out how to make money. it's just that it is pretty hard right now for people to advertise because we're only letting in a certain number of partners. i think once we open it up to a lot more advertisers, we're going to see obviously a lot more money coming in. >> reporter: rumors have swirled that twitter may be up for sale- - perhaps to google, which has shown interest. stone says no way. >> twitter's not for sale. and that's what we've told google and everyone else. i mean, the basic answer is we're flattered, but we're not for sale. >> reporter: as for the criticism and sniping, stone is convinced that, for a high- profile, high-tech startup, it comes with the territory. >> where a company is this exalted, wonderful, revolutionary, new, new... next invention that everyone's got to have, and everyone's praising it. and then inevitably, it gets built up onto this pedestal, only to be knocked down and said the management has no idea what
they're doing. they're never going to make it. and then there's the comeback story like rocky, you know, coming back off the ropes, like maybe they can do it. >> reporter: twitter it doesn't disclose its bottom line, but investors have poured millions into the company, betting that stone may be right. >> woodruff: president obama traveled to the commonwealth of puerto rico today. ray suarez begins our coverage. >> suarez: the president's brief visit-- just a few hours long-- is the first official trip to puerto rico by a sitting president since john f. kennedy's in 1961. mr. obama was keeping a promise he made when he visited the island in 2008 as a candidate. >> when i ran for president, i promised to include puerto rico,
not just on my itinerary, but also in my vision of where country needs to go. i'm proud to say we've kept that promise, too. >> suarez: puerto ricans are u.s. citizens, but pay commonwealth taxes to run their own government. and while they don't pay u.s. federal taxes, residents do serve in high numbers in the military and participate in some federal programs, including food stamps and welfare. those programs have been important in recent years, as the territory was particularly hard hit by the recession with unemployment at nearly 17%. the president has promised help. >> we've been trying to make sure that every family can find work, make a living and provide for their children. that's why our economic plan and our health care reform included help for puerto rico. ( cheers and applause ) >> suarez: while in the capital, san juan, the president is meeting with republican governor luis fortuno, who strongly favors the transition to
statehood for the island's four million residents. >> decisions are being made in washington and we are not sitting at the table. so if we are citizens-- and we are proud of that-- if we serve in greater numbers than other states, why not participate in the decision making process? >> suarez: the president today reaffirmed his support for a referendum on the matter, which would allow island voters to decide for themselves. >> when the people of puerto rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you. ( cheers and applause ) >> suarez: and while the commonwealth residents may soon be addressing that issue at the ballot box, they are not eligible to vote in the upcoming u.s. presidential election. nevertheless, many see mr. obama's visit as an indirect bid for support in 2012 from the almost five million puerto ricans living in the united states. the president's previous stop, florida, is home to nearly one million of them.
they now make up 5% of voters in that battleground state where mr. obama will likely need every vote he can get. for more on the president's visit, we are joined by luis fortuno, the governor of puerto rico. governor, welcome. what did you and the president have to talk about? >> job creation. that's item number one. lowering the cost of energy here. we are 70% dependent on foreign oil. we want to move away from that towards using natural gas. and renewable energy. public safety issues because after the clamping down on the southwestern border some of that illegal drug trafficking has moved and shifted to the caribbean. certainly we must work together, the federal government and state government, to address that as well. that's in addition to the status question of course. >> suarez: you mentioned the status question. it's one of the dominant features of island politics and has been for a long time. what did the president have to say to you on that subject?
>> well, i am trying to forge a consensus among the different political parties so that we can consult the voters on this before december 2012. and with a mandate that hopefully will get one way or the other and then go back to washington and demand that congress and the white house address this according to that mandate. certainly we first need to reach some sort of consensus on the process, take it to the voters and have the voters decide. >> suarez: the president mentioned he would stand with puerto rican voters, whatever they chose on status. of course that's only half the equation. do you have any assurances from either party in congress that they would welcome a puerto rican statehood bid if it camit came? >> well, i certainly since there is no request for either statehood or staying as we are or becoming an independent republic at this moment, it will be very difficult to
understand where will each member of congress and the senate be? certainly we are american citizens. we have been american citizens since 1917. and have fought in every single war since then in greater numbers than most states. i believe we deserve a chance to decide this. >> suarez: you've been recently in conflict with the public employees unions. you've trimmed the public payroll, moved puerto rico away from being a high-tax, high public employment kind of place. does the debate inside puerto rico mirror that that is happening in various american states right now? >> well certainly it does in the sense that when i came in just two years ago, i was facing the worst state budget deficit in the country. it was 44% of revenues. we have been able in two years to close that gap significantly. actually to less than 11%. actually just two years ago our budget deficit proportionally speaking was
dead last among states and territories. that means there are 31 states that are worse off. our credit rating has improved. that means also that we have been able to lower taxes for individuals and corporations as well. and that is actually we're starting to reap the benefits of that. just two years ago the unemployment was above 17%. today it's around 16% and actually in the month of may, i believe we will be below 16%. >> suarez: 16% though would put you the highest among all the american states. has it led to social problems? has it led to real suffering in puerto rico to have an unemployment rate that high? >> well, actually suffering that actually we were going through in the sense that the government didn't have enough money to meet its first payroll. when i was sworn in. we have to take a loan to meet that payroll. we didn't have enough money to pay those actually that we had procured services and goods
from. that we owed rents, power and water for nine months. that was real suffering. actually after actually making those decisions that actually have saved our credit, we are now able to address major issues not just by lowering taxes on everyone especially the middle class but on top of that we've now been able to address needs in our public schools, our roads and other infrastructure needs. >> suarez: as was mentioned earlier puerto ricans can vote in national federal elections in the united states enthusiasm they do in vote primaries. do you think the island with the presidential visit, with the issues you're mentioning will get more attention in the 2012 cycle? is that part of what you're aiming for here? >> i have no doubt that that will happen and actually the fact that even though we have been part of this great nation since 1898 and citizens since 1917, it has been 50 years since the last sitting
president paid an official visit to puerto rico. hopefully after today's visit regardless of whether you're a democrat or republican or none of the above, it will allow us to actually show case us and actually allow us to bring into the public discourse issues pertaining to the american citizens residing in the territory of puerto rico. >> suarez: people who write and comment on immigration debates in the united states often set puerto ricans aside both on the mainland and the island and say it's not really an issue for them but in the united states does compress i have immigration reform, if it does, puerto rico is implicated in the immigration debate. isn't it? >> it is true that we are not directly implicated by it because we are american citizens by birth. having said that, we all have our own opinions on that. i'm sure that the fact that there's inter-marriage with cuns, colombians and others, not just here (no audio).
>> suarez: we seem to have lost the governor unfortunately from san juan. sorry for that technical problem. >> ifill: finally, one of the biggest financial bets or busts in the history of theater is taking form as a musical about the comic book hero spider-man. after months of expense and controversy, it's finally scheduled to open on broadway tonight. jeffrey brown looks at what's at stake. >> brown: the cost so far, about $70 million, twice as much as any other show in broadway history. and officially opening tonight, yes, but after delaying its opening six times. "spider-man: turn off the dark" is, if nothing else, a major spectacle, including acrobatic stunts where actors literally float above the audience. the production originally brought together several very big names, including julie
taymor, the acclaimed director known for "the lion king," and the rock stars bono and the edge from the band u2, making their broadway musical debuts. but much has gone wrong, and much is resting on tonight's performance and how that spectacle is viewed. here's a little sample, featuring one of the show's villains, the green goblin. ♪ if you're looking for a night out on the town ♪ ♪ you just found me ♪ i'm a $65 million circus tragedy ♪ ♪ i'm the new coney island ♪
>> brown: patrick healy has been covering every twist, turn and fall of this story for the "new york times". he joins us now. patrick, if you can, take us back to the original idea and ambition here. what was spiderman supposed to be? >> sure. they wanted to create something that broadway had never seen. they wanted to blend circus, music, flying stunts, sort of create like a circus soleil meets broadway. they wanted to tell a story that they saw as a post 9/11 story about a young boy from queens who was finding something within himself to face a very difficult world. so they were looking for sort
of a small, intimate story but trying to package it around some kind of a spectacle that they thought at the time would cost maybe $25-$30 million. >> brown: then of course the first headlines were about delays and technical glitches in which actors were getting hurt. is there a consensus at this point about what went wrong? >> i think there generally is. i think that unlike most broadway shows which start in their production out of new york and are able to have a run and make a lot of changes and fixes and sort of identify what the problems are, spiderman opened straight on broadway in late november, a show that really was not ready to open. they didn't have an ending for the show. they were still working on the script. some of the stunts and flying hadn't been completely finished. so what you saw in sort of this first early weeks were all of these starts and stops. the show would stop four or
five times so they could fix something. then they would move on. the show didn't have an actual ending for weeks. it just sort of stopped. everybody got up and applauded. i think that they didn't have the time and it seems like the money because they were spending so much on the broadway production to open it out of town and sort of figure out what was working, what wasn't working, make some of those big changes. >> brown: of course what was interesting is critics came in and reviewed it before the official opening which is unusual in itself. and somewhat controversial at the time. but they almost universally panned it. yet crowds kept coming. >> that's right, jeff. i mean, you can't underestimate the interest that a lot of americans and a lot of tourists have in spiderman. spiderman has been around for decades as a character. he is a very appealing character because unlike superman and some others he's not from another planet or from another world. you know, he's sort of this average boy when queens who
gets endowed with these special powers. he's a new york character so that draws a lot of people. but part of what's going on too though is that spiderman has been heavily discounting the price of its tickets. so it's not like some of the tough tickets to get in new york like wicked and the lion king that might cost you $200 to get into. you can pretty much get into spiderman any time you want. they have been bringing in a lot of people who know the brand name who are curious about bono and the edge and curious about what sort of went wrong, what kind of mess this show is or if it's actually better than people say. >> brown: now there's been this overhaul and julie taymor and others were pushed out. there's a new spiderman about to open. what do we know about that? what do you expect now? >> it's a significantly different show, jeff. i mean, what they really tried to do was simplify and clarify the story.
a big problem with the first version of the show was that it sort of invented some characters that people going into spiderman had an expectation of what it was going to be. instead they were getting these other characters that they had never heard of who sort of took over the story and took a lot of the focus away from peter parker, from the flying from mary jane watson. a lot of people understood those. what you're geting in this new version of spiderman is something that's very, very similar to the toby maguire first movie, the story line almost tracks directly with that. you see more of aunt may and uncle ben and a lot of these characters that people like to go to the theater and sort of see what they're expecting. so there's some sort of pleasure in that. the big question though is whether the music has improved, whether the sort of plot line and the love story is that much more interesting or engaging to people. a lot of people found it very
sort of predictable or boring the first time around. you know, we'll also see how the integration is between julie taymor's versin, the first version, and the second version that stripped away a lot of what she brought. it is sort of melding, you know, d.n.a.-1 and d.n.a.-2. do they fit together? does it feel like just sort of a monster. >> brown: what is riding on it... going back to the money here. the $70 million spent and counting. you said crowds come but some of them are paying discounted tickets. have they been making money? what do they need to do to earn that back? what is the hope at this point for how long a show like this has to run to earn its money? >> here's the thing, jeff. only about 20 to 25% of new broadway shows ever turn a profit on broadway. most of those shows that are musicals are about 10 to 15 million dollars. spiderman is a 70 million dollar show. so it's got some odds already against it.
it's going to have to run probably for two, three, four years doing business along the lines of "wicked" or the "lion king" which have been the hottest shows in town for many years. they really do need the reviews to some extent. some people say the show is bullet proof, review proof because it's spiderman and people always want to go to see spiderman. but what they need are people who will want to see spiderman and be willing to pay $250 for a ticket as opposed to $40 for a discount ticket. so they have a tough road to climb. i think part of their business plan though is that it's not all about just making lots and lots of money on broadway. it's about having a las vegas edition of spiderman and a tokyo edition of spiderman. tied spiderman is big in japan they say. bring it there. it's sort of franchising it out around the world is a lot of what broadway is about these days. >> brown: spiderman, the global spectacle. patrick healy of the "new york times," thanks so much.
>> thanks, jeff. >> woodruff: we apologize for the technical difficulties cutting short our interview with the governor of puerto rico. the major developments of the day: tanks and troops pushed into more towns and villages in syria, trying to stop a 12- week popular uprising against the government. nato stepped up its bombing campaign in libya, with one air strike hitting near moammar qaddafi's compound in tripoli. and the fda announced new rules for sunscreen labeling to indicate more accurately if they protect against skin cancer. john boehner and democratic colleagues of representative anthony weaner called on him to resign. weiner is on a leave of absence from the house after admitting to sending inappropriate images and messages to several women.
and to hari sreenivasan for what's on the newshour online. hari. >> sreenivasan: watch more of spencer's interview with twitter co-founder biz stone. and we look at the impact of the drug war north of the border with journalists from the fronteras reporting project. they have been examining how smugglers use american banks to transfer illegal funds, among other stories. plus, which country is your perfect match? paul solman looks at a new online tool that helps determine where you could live your best possible life. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. judy. >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at the nuclear power industry in the wake of the ongoing nuclear crisis in japan. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
chevron. we may have more in common than you think. 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. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org