Skip to main content

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  April 28, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

7:00 pm
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. crews in the gulf of mexico readied to set fire to the massive oil slick. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the "newshour" tonight, the plan is to contain the spill before it gets any closer to the louisiana shoreline. we get the latest on the challenges involved in stopping further damage. >> woodruff: then, a second environmental story on wind energy as the administration approves plans to build the nation's first offshore wind farm. >> ifill: paul solman goes back to a missouri manufacturer that has proven itself small enough
7:01 pm
to succeed, in this era of "too big to fail." >> it's very, very hard to get passion in the organization over 250, over 400 people. you lose the touch that you really need in terms of building the teamwork that you want. >> woodruff: ray suarez gets a supreme court update from marcia coyle of "the national law journal" on today's arguments over the right of privacy and a decision allowing a cross to stand in the mojave national preserve. >> ifill: and, jeffrey brown talks with author tim o'brien. 20 years after he penned "the things they carried." soldiers' stories from the vietnam war. >> for me, the way to approach a subject, such as vietnam, is through storytelling. my goal is to try to, so much as i can, capture the heart, the stomach, and the back of the throat of readers who can lie in bed at night and participate in the story. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs
7:02 pm
newshour has been provided by: >> what the world needs now is energy. the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change. what if that energy came from an energy company? everyday, chevron invests $62 million in people, in ideas-- seeking, teaching, building. fueling growth around the world to move us all ahead. this is the power of human energy. chevron. >> will your savings be enough to fund your retirement? what will happen if your spouse outlives you by many years? what will happen if you outlive your savings? pacific life knows that tomorrow's questions require planning today. with financial solutions and strength, pacific life can help you and your financial professional develop a plan. pacific life-- the power to help you succeed.
7:03 pm
>> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
7:04 pm
>> woodruff: the u.s. gulf coast watched and waited today, hoping much of an oil slick can be burned off at sea. it was all a race against time, before the oil reaches shore. the coast guard ignited the first of a series of small, controlled fires this afternoon >> this burn will occur in a very small area within 500 feet of fire-resistant boom. puting this in perspective, the controlled burns will not be the same size or scale of what we observed on the deep water horizon as it was on fire. >> work boats were set to corral several hundred gallons at a time. the oil would be towed farther out, then set afire. satellite images showed the oil now spreading over an area 100
7:05 pm
miles long and 45 miles across at its widest point, or roughly the size of west virginia. the slick was just 20 miles east of the mouth of the mississippi river, teeming with wildlife, and close to rich oyster grounds. if not contained, the oil could reach land by friday. >> if the results are good and we're happy with the results, then the effort will be to get more and more teams out there duplicating that same result to provide benefit. you know, we'll learn more today at the end of the day once we find out how the initial burn went. >> woodruff: the burn is the latest effort to stop the oil spewing from an offshore rig-- the "deepwater horizon"-- that exploded and sank last week. 11 men were presumed killed. when the rig went down, the pipe that carried the oil from the well-head on the ocean floor bent and cracked. roughly 42,000 gallons of oil have spilled every day since then. earlier this week, crews launched submersible robots, tried and failed to turn a shutoff valve at the well-head, a mile deep.
7:06 pm
now, b.p., the rig's operator, is sending in a second rig. its job is to drill a relief well, lower pressure at the blow out site and stop the leak, an operation that could take months. in the meantime, officials are hoping the "controlled burns" will do the trick. but along the gulf coast, fishermen and others were preparing for the worst. >> we hope it doesn't come this way. >> woodruff: and state officials in louisiana and elsewhere raced to try to keep as much of the oil out as possible. >> robert barham, the louisiana secretary of wildlife and fisheries, has requested that the delta wildlife management area be boomed off as a precaution in the event the oil does make it to the shoreline. >> woodruff: and in boston today, u.s. interior secretary ken salazar promised the federal government will spare no effort to prevent an environmental disaster. >> what's going on in the gulf of mexico today is something which we are watching and
7:07 pm
monitoring on... not on an hourly basis but every single minute and everything is being done to deal with that situation. >> woodruff: for now, the financial costs are already mounting. b.p. says containment operations are costing $6 million a day. and the ultimate cost to fisheries, tourism and the environment could be staggering. for more now on the spill and the difficulties in stopping it, we talk to two people who are tracking this. doug helton, the incident operations coordinator for noaa, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. and nancy kinner, an environmental engineer and co-director of the coastal response research center at the university of new hampshire. thank you both for being with us. doug helton with n.o.a.a., i'm going to start with you. i think michelle wie got a sense looking at a diagram which you might not have been able to see of what happened under the water
7:08 pm
but just so we're clear, why has it been so difficult to get to the site of these leaks? >> well, this-- this release is over a mile deep, and in a tangle of steel pipe, that's the remarpd of drill riser that was severed when the rig sank, so it's a very complicated situation on the sea floor. >> woodruff: and, difficulty with visibility and what else? >> it's visibility in terms of depth, in terms of the ability of these underwater vehicles to manipulate devices that they need to. it's a very challenging place to be working. it's very much like you're working on the moon or something. >> woodruff: and, just to try to simplify what they're doing, to make it easyer for people to understand, they're working efforts on the surface of the water to get at the spill that's already there, and then under the water at the source.
7:09 pm
but let's talk about the surface right now. let me first ask you about this burn technique that they're using, doug helton. it sound like they're only going to be able to do a small amount at a time. they haven't even started idea. >> right. the burning technology was used before, and the idea is we want to get as much of this oil off the water as we before it get get ashore. one of the ways to do that is to burn it. there are vessels out there and fired proof boon collecting oilt but i understand the burn hasn't yet been initiated. >> woodruff: nancy kinner, i'm going to bring you in here. they've also been doing other things, i guess by airplane. they've been dropping chemical disperseents on the surface. >> what they do is fly a plane over surface of the water, and they spray out a material that's very similar to detergent that you would use in your laundry machine. one part of the molecule has a head on it that actually
7:10 pm
dissolves into the oil, and the other part has a tail that dissolves into the water, and so if there's agitation from waives what will happen is that little tail will vigle the oil droplet and dissolve it into the water below, so the whole idea here is that you get rid of the slick, and dissolve that oil into the water column, mix it in and dilute it out. >> woodruff: they're still talking about, though, as we said, a pretty sizable slick. do we know how effective the disburseent has been? >> the disburseent has worked, but the problem is the longer the spill dpz othe release goes without being contained, when you have the wind and the waves that come up and push that00 oil slick toward the shoreline, it becomes difficult to keep it from the shoreline because it's just releasing all of the time. so you can imagine
7:11 pm
with something like that, to keep hit it with burning or disburseents, it's difficult, especially if the weather doesn't cooperate, and that's the big key. >> woodruff: capitol hill hel, back to you. take us back down underwater where they've been trying, i guess, to get a dome-like device together, get it under the water to cover up where the leaks are? >> yeah, there's a couple of different approaches. i think that the command is still trying to activate the blowout and then there is construction of the underwater dome--. >> woodruff: just to stop you, the blow-out preventer is a valve that would supposedly cut off the flow of oil, but it hasn't happen. >> right. that's a large valve on the sea floor designed to trigger when there's a release from the sea floor, and engineers are still trying to figure out why it didn't trigener this case. so while they work on that problem, they're trig to control the leaking oil by putting in this dome structure, and then
7:12 pm
they're also planning to drill relief wells. and all three efforts are ongoing as we talk. >> woodruff: and what's the earliest any one of those could work? >> well, the hope is that the blowout preventer is successful, but they've been trying that for nearly a week now and running ow of out of options for triggering that. the dome option,y understand, will take several weeks and the drilling is the last resort and that would take tw to three months to become effective. >> woodruff: meanwhile, nancy kinner, 42,000 gal opposite of oil spilling out of those leaks every day, onshore, what is the worry? we're now told it's just a few days away from reaching the mouth of the mississippi river. >> well, that whole area and much of the coast in that area has very sensitive salt mashes
7:13 pm
which have a lot of bird life and shrimp , crabs-- et cetera. it's an area teeming with life, and those marshes have been under siege from things like the hurricane, coastal erosion, some naturally occur subsideants, and therefore, they're already stressed and having this oil come into that area presents an extra stressor to those organisms. >> woodruff: so what can be done? we've heard them talk about putting the boom material along the shoreline. can they do that along the entire shoreline? how does that work? >> well, there's a limit to how much boon you can deploy. there are other options if the oil does get on the shorelines in the marshes, they could try a controlled burn there. those kind of things are options. obviously, none of the options
7:14 pm
are desirable in that-- remember the whole situation is a tradeoff. once the oil is released, you are just trying to minimize the impact so that the boon is one impact prevention device. but boons are-- oftentimes don't work well if you have high waves or high currents, those kind of things. the oil can get over the top of them. it's all a tradeoff to figure out best way to do this but as i said to several people, we have the best system in the u.s. of the world how to deal with this. but all the options, really, are just trying to minimize the impact. it will be very difficult, as doug has said fthis goes for a long time, to keep all the damage from happening. >> woodruff: doug helton, from n.o.a.a.'s standpoint what, are the main worries at this point? >> well, we're concerned about a
7:15 pm
number of resources that are offshore in the gulf of mexico. those include fisheries resources, marine mammals, turtles , fisheries resources in the gulf. and then as you get closer to shore, those concerns increase dramatically. you start getting into much more sensitive and productive estuary habitats. you start get immigrant areas where there's very active commercial fishing for shrimp and oysters . and in all these marshes, you have very intense bird use and other kind of wildlife in those mashs. the goal is to keep as much as we can off shore but i agree with nancy that we're trying to make the best tradeoffs we can and we're not going to be able to prevent injury from happening. >> woodruff: it sounds daunting. doug helton with n.o.a.a., and nancy kinner, we thank you both. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: still to come on the "newshour": harvesting the wind off cape cod; a company staying
7:16 pm
small enough to succeed; today's arguments and a decision at the supreme court and a vietnam war story. but first, with the other news of the day, here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: the european debt crisis escalated today. the standard and poor's credit rating agency downgraded spain's debt-- a day after it cut ratings for portugal and greece. in berlin, german chancellor angela merkel discussed the crisis with leaders of the international monetary fund and european central bank. merkel said germany hopes to finalize its portion of an international bailout for greece, in the coming days. >> ( translated ): it's absolutely clear that the negotiations between the greek government and the european commission and the i.m.f. have to be accelerated now. we hope that they will be completed in the next days. based on this, germany will make its decision. >> sreenivasan: in washington, a white house spokesman said president obama and top economic advisers are watching the european situation closely. wall street rebounded from yesterday's big losses, despite
7:17 pm
the uncertainty in europe. the dow jones industrial average gained 53 points to close at 11,045. the nasdaq rose a fraction of a point to close above 2,471. the federal reserve will leave short-term interest rates unchanged for a while longer. fed policy makers agreed today to keep rates at record lows, where they've been since december of 2008. in a statement, the central bank said the job market is "beginning to improve" and consumer spending has "picked up." senate republicans signaled today they may be ready to let financial reform move forward. senator richard shelby of alabama said democrats agreed to address concerns that the bill might lead to more bank bailouts in the future. the two sides remained at odds over a democratic proposal to create a consumer financial protection bureau. but in quincy, illinois, late today, president obama welcomed the apparent signs of progress. >> it appears an agreement may be in hand to allow this debate to move forward on the senate
7:18 pm
floor. ( cheers and applause ) i'm very pleased by it. and i'll work with anyone, republican or democrat, who wants to pursue these reforms in good faith. >> sreenivasan: earlier, republicans blocked action on the bill for the third time in as many days. for a time, angry democrats threatened to hold an overnight session, with votes in the wee hours. toyota has added 50,000 sport utility vehicles to its list of recalls. the sequoias were sold in the u.s. during the early part of 2003. the automaker said the electronic stability control system could prevent the vehicle from accelerating at slow speeds. for the record, toyota is an underwriter of the "newshour." in thailand today, a standoff between security forces and protesters known as "red shirts" erupted into new violence, on the outskirts of bangkok. we have a report from nick paton walsh of "independent television news." >> reporter: when the red shirts said they'd take their seven week old protest from bangkok's
7:19 pm
center, to across the town, it was pretty obvious they'd soon run into an army, here in number to contain them. and if they were looking for trouble, they soon found it. ( gunfire ) amid the traffic and the sticky heat of a highway, they took pot shots at each other. it's become a new way of talking in a long conflict that many worry could drift into civil war. the police pelted with anything from rocks to bottles. and protestors targeted with rubber bullets and baton charges. ( gunfire ) the busy fly-overs of south east the protestors-- mostly the rural poor angry at the urban elite's hold on society-- at first just wanted new elections. now they've been duking it out in the streets so long, they seem to want a new society altogether. today's violence was brief, if crazed, injuring 18 people and killing one soldier through
7:20 pm
friendly fire. but it exposed a thailand now so divided, it wasn't a political deal that put today's clashes out. it was the rain. a lot of it. >> reporter: still, back in the lucrative central shopping district, the barricades remain, cutting off a huge swathe bangkok's economy. an opposition of differing motives and deepening anger. it's leadership erratic but facing a stubborn government, and demanding both change and peace. >> our side is running everything in order to create peace, but the government is trying to push the war. and you know if they push the war, it means the civil war will be coming. >> reporter: the longer this standoff drags on, the more each side has to lose, and the more often they threaten each other with violence. >> sreenivasan: more than two dozen people have been killed since mid-march, when demonstrators began occupying parts of bangkok.
7:21 pm
british prime minister gordon brown had to apologize today for an election gaffe. he referred to a supporter of his labour party as a bigot. at a campaign stop, brown met with 66-year-old gillian duffy-- a grandmother who complained about the influx of eastern european immigrants. the prime minister's microphone was still on as he drove away and he complained about the encounter and what reporters would make of it. >> that was a disaster... >> what did she say? >> well, just... should never have put me with that woman. whose idea was that? it's sue, i think. it's just ridiculous... >> they're... pictures. i'm not sure they'll go with that one. >> they will go with it. >> what did she say? >> oh, everything. she's just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be labour, i mean, it's just >> sreenivasan: later, brown met with duffy a second time to apologize. he said he was "mortified" and had misunderstood what she was saying. the gaffe came one day before the third and final televised debate of the candidates for
7:22 pm
prime minister. the vote is may 6. those are some of the day's main stories. i'll be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you'll find tonight on the newshour's web site. but for now, back to gwen. >> ifill: now, a second major energy story. as the government and industry struggled to contain the oil spill in the gulf of mexico, the government and industry also took a major step in another direction, opening the door to an entirely different alternative. the nation's first wind farm will be built here, five miles off the coast of massachusetts' nantucket island, in a shallow area of the sound known as horseshoe shoal. after nine years of debate and appeal, interior secretary ken salazar and bay state governor deval patrick announced the decision today in boston. >> cape wind will be the united states' first offshore wind farm, supplying clean power the homes and businesses in massachusetts while creating good jobs in america.
7:23 pm
this will be the first of many projects up and down the atlantic coast which i expect >> ifill: patrick and governors of five other east coast states lobbied salazar to approve the project. >> on behalf of the hundreds of men and women who will build this project, the thousands of massachusetts rate payers who will benefit from stable electric rates, and the millions of americans whose security and prosperity depend on energy efficiency, thank you for this decision. thank you. >> ifill: once built, the farm would look something like this one off the coast of denmark. it would cover 24 square miles-- roughly the size of manhattan-- and have 130 wind turbines, each taller than the statue of liberty. that's 40 fewer than the 170 the developer originally requested. plans call for the site to produce 420-megawatts of electricity-- enough to provide three-quarters of the power
7:24 pm
needed by cape cod and the islands. >> to be sure, the path to approval for the first offshore windfarm has not been easy one. >> ifill: opponents who've tried to kill project said they would still sue to block it. fishermen, american indian tribes, local residents, the late senator ted kennedy and his successor scott brown have all raised concerns about the plan's environmental impact. the tribes contend it would interfere with sacred rituals and desecrate tribal burial sites. cliff carroll, who leads windstop.org, spoke to the newshour's tom bearden in 2005. >> there's going to be a ten- story 40,000-gallon oil-filled transformer station in the middle of this wind farm. we're very concerned that transformers which are prone to overheating could possibly have a massive malfunction, spilling the 40,000 gallons of oil into our fishing beds, our clam flats, and our fishing grounds. >> ifill: still others argue that the plan will not be the
7:25 pm
environmental boon it promises. robert bryce of "energy tribune" magazine. conventional power plants by 700,000 tons annually-- the >> ifill: but president obama has embraced wind energy. just yesterday, he toured the iowa factory that will make the turbines for the cape wind project. >> when you got orders, naturally... >> you've got to expand! >> you've got to expand, got to bring in more people in the facility. >> ifill: and today, in macon, missouri, he said increasing wind power could help the economy as well. >> we began early last year by making the largest investment in clean energy in our nation's
7:26 pm
history. it's an investment we expect will create or save 700,000 jobs by the end of 2012. >> ifill: salazar said he's confident the decision will withstand legal challenges. >> there are those who will say our energy challenges are too large, and too complex for one wind farm to make a significant difference. to them, i would say this: we are all part of a much bigger change that is sweeping america. >> ifill: once begun, the cape wind project will take two years to complete. >> woodruff: next, as the senate debates whether some banks and other financial institutions are too big to fail, "newshour" economics correspondent paul solman takes a second look at a company that has some interesting lessons about being small enough to succeed. it's part of his ongoing reporting on "making sense of
7:27 pm
financial news." >> reporter: when we first visited s.r.c., the springfield remanufacturing company, back in 1990, it was thriving, refurbishing old truck engines. >> we tear them down and then we rebuild them. >> reporter: s.r.c. was an unlikely rust belt success story, given that japan was supposedly number one in those days; the u.s., dead in the water when it came to manufacturing. the company, in springfield, missouri, attributed its success to what it called "the great game of business": everyone was on the same team, was taught to read the financials and thus, how to keep score. >> they want us to know exactly what were putting out every what we're putting out every month. >> reporter: finally, the company was owned lock stock and crankshaft by its workers so everyone had a stake in the game's outcome. c.e.o. jack stack, who founded s.r.c. >> i feel they're motivated for one reason. they've got an income statement,
7:28 pm
they all know it, that's their motivation. it's a unifying factor. it's their report card. >> reporter: so, 20 years later and, with china now ascendant, renewing concerns that america may again be consigned to the dustheap of manufacturing history, we wanted to know: how's the company doing? today's s.r.c.-- it turns out-- is s.r.c. holdings with investments in almost 60 related companies employing some 1,200 people. many still re-manufacturing cars, tractors, boats. but there's also a home furnishings firm; a warehousing operation; a business that teaches folks how to do business the s.r.c. way. in an era of "too big to fail," s.r.c.'s motto would seem to be "small enough to succeed." >> most of us came from very, very large factories. >> reporter: jack stack is still c.e.o. >> it's very, very hard to get passion in the organization over
7:29 pm
250, over 400 people. you lose the touch that you really need in terms of building the teamwork that you want. >> reporter: so every time s.r.c. got near that size, another division was hived off as its own firm. most in springfield, some beyond. from s.r.c. came s.r.c. electrical. it makes starters and alternators. a new offshoot from it will soon make electronics. now this "small-is-beautiful" strategy may not be for everyone but stack says it preserves solidarity, flexibility, entrepreneurship. and it has created more opportunities for advancement. >> once we taught people business and how to understand it and how to be able to run a business we really prepped them and so we saw the opportunity of being able to move them into their own businesses to make room for other people to be able to come up to the organization because it was not only about jobs, it was about opportunities.
7:30 pm
>> reporter: stacks son tim runs s.r.c. logistics. >> there's a lot of opportunities that we have under this 400,000 square foot building. it's just where do we start? >> reporter: this is the so- called "skunk works," an incubator for new s.r.c. businesses. it collects old parts and devises new uses for them. s.r.c. hopes to turn ideas ginned up here into new companies. what's that, a truck engine? >> yeah, it could be used in trucks. they could put it in power units to power houses, they can be put in airboat, we've seen wood chippers. >> reporter: of course, not every recycling idea pans out. auto floor mats, for example. what exactly were you thinking when you bought thousands of these it looks like? >> we were thinking we could make some good money on this! otherwise, we wouldn't have done it! but in reality, they turned out to still be here. we've been talking to companies about chopping these up into little pieces and using them for playgrounds or turf where people put fields, artificial turf. >> reporter: s.r.c. has come to believe that only by keeping its
7:31 pm
units small and managers empowered can it foster this sort of innovation, which actually saved some of its key companies during the recent crisis in its key industry-- automotive. >> automotive got murdered. and our client was general motors, so we have 200 and some people that are just virtually out of work. >> reporter: but this spinoff was small enough to remanufacture itself. >> this is our 5.7 liter general motors engine that we converted for natural gas application. >> reporter: natural gas engines became backup electricity units for irrigation, oil drilling. the old engines found new customers, like the u.s. postal service. result: no layoffs during the crisis. and now, workers are doing 50 hour weeks; the company, hiring again, by following the familiar formula, learn the financials, share the proceeds; stay small. and that's what it teaches to
7:32 pm
others like juliet mee, who owns this massage training center in springfield. >> i had no idea about how important the numbers were in my business. >> reporter: once a math-phobic masseuse, the newly confident mee has since stabilized the school, even spun off companies to clean linens, manage benefits for her staff and those at other small firms. >> we'll start with some simple compressions on your back. >> reporter: uh huh. >> reporter: the school took a pounding during the downturn, but the fact that the staff was aware of the failing financials, she says, made survival possible. >> at the end of last year, our employees knew there were some bills that had to be paid that the cash was not there for and they loaned me personally enough money so that i could put that money into the company and pay those bills. >> reporter: so they gave you this bridge loan when they themselves must have been under financial stress, because they wanted to keep the company going to keep their jobs going and
7:33 pm
they trust you? >> they knew the need was real and they knew that the cash was not going to come from any other source. >> reporter: not easy for folks who only make about $30,000. with business now in better shape, the topic of a recent staff huddle: whether to take a bonus for the first time in 18 months. >> our income needs to be at $500,000. >> reporter: turns out they missed that target by $500 bucks, so it went to a staff vote. >> no bonus, no bonus, no bonus, no bonus, no bonus, no bonus. >> reporter: they voted 14-6 against giving themselves bonuses. >> we're in this thing together. my employees have kicked it in because they know i'm telling them the truth. >> reporter: meghan chambers was a reluctant open book convert. in 2004 she opened the springfield clothing boutique, staxx.
7:34 pm
although the store had great p.r. and soaring sales, three years after opening, she ran out of cash. >> it was because all my money was tied in my inventory. it was a difficult time. i was not sleeping and i was not eating. this was going to go down and it was such a good thing and why was it going to go down? i didn't understand it. >> my daughter has style. okay? if you went to her store, she's got an incredible style but she hates numbers. >> reporter: before she married, meghan chambers was meghan stack, the only one of jack's children not playing the game of open book management. the family's dirty little secret, since her parents had bankrolled the store. >> i bleed open-book management! i believe that you have to have style but you have to have that financial acumen and be able to put the two together. >> finally, i went to a meeting with him like with tears-- just like-- "all right, i'm ready! like, "what do you i have to do?" >> reporter: the father would continue to support the store with a $50,000 loan if the daughter opened up her books. >> she had to sign a commitment
7:35 pm
with her investor that she would teach everybody financials and her investor would then audit whether or not everybody understood the numbers! >> with the variance of our margin and the expenses being a little bit higher than expected. >> reporter: the staxx staff started talking stats at their monthly meetings. results? a focus on higher margins and turning inventory faster. >> we were successful at it as soon as those books were opened. it was growth from that moment. from that month i implemented it we started to grow. >> reporter: just as our interview was wrapping up, an unexpected visitor. you're not here to terrorize your daughter by making her even more self conscious? >> she does not listen to me. >> it is very true in that i definitely could market it and i could sell it and i could do everything else but when it came to running it and the numbers, it was something i just shied away from. >> reporter: not anymore.
7:36 pm
now the proprietor envisions a staxx spinoff or two, and maybe even some day passing s.r.c.'s open book management onto the next generation: her new baby daughter. who with the right help is also arguably-- "small enough to succeed." >> ifill: now, today's actions at the supreme court. ray suarez has our look. >> suarez: the u.s. supreme court today heard arguments over privacy rights for political who cyb political petitions. the case surrounds a controversial domestic partnership law in washington state, and in a split decision the high court ruled 5-4 to allow a cross built on government mand in the mojave desert to stay where it is. today marked the final day of oral arguments for the term.
7:37 pm
it was also the last time retiring justice john paul stephens would hear arguments with his fellow justices after 34 years on the high court. coil coil of the "national law journal" was there and she joins us now. marcia, what was at issue in the case of doe versus reid? >> the key question here, ray, is how much protection does the first amendment00 offer to your privacy when you sign a petition for-- to get a ballot question-- to get a question on a ballot, a petition for a referendum? >> suarez: and in washington state, this involved a group seeking to repeal a law; is that correct? >> that's right. in 2009, there was a petition drive that tried to repeal washington's law which extends all the rights and duties of marriage, except marriage itself to domestic partnership. the petition drive ultimately did get the issue on the ballot,
7:38 pm
but the law-- voters did not repeal the law. they supported the law. when the petition s were filed with the secretary of state , groups that opposed the law went into federal court to try to block any relief of the identifying information of the signers of the petitions. they felt that if the information was released to the public, and there was a concern that it one posted on the internet because it was available under washington's public records law, they were concerned that the signers would be subjected to harassment and threats of violence. >> suarez: so, the petitioners were in court today . how did that argument, that a petition signature, should be able to be rendered private, in effect, go down with the justices? >> there was-- there were many skeptical questions. james bob represented protect marriage washington, which wants to keep the signatures private. and he argued that signing a
7:39 pm
petition is really a political statement and is at the heart of first amendment protection. the state of washington has to have a compelling reason for making them public. he immediately encountered justice scalia. he told mr. bob in the first 100 years of our existence, even voting was public. the fact is, he said, running a democracy takes a certain amount of significant courage, and the first amendment doesn't protect people who engage in civic discourse, doesn't protect them from nasty phone calls. he said mr. bob was asking for the court to create a whole new right, in essence, for petition signers. >> suarez: the state of washington was seeking to preserve its existing public records law. >> correct. >> suarez: what did they say on their own behalf and did they get a ruff reception? >> they did get some skeptical questioning, primarily from
7:40 pm
chief justice roberts and from justice alito. washington attorney general robert mckenna argued that the state did not have a limited interest here plaz bob claimed, but his interest was in combating fraud and also in correcting errors. he pointed to 2006 in massachusetts where a similar petition drive, the signature identification information was made public under their public record raw -- law, and 2,000 voters found their names on petitions they claimed they had never signed. so it is a very effect itch way, they said, to check for fraud and basic errors. >> suarez: and he insisted, in effect, the that it was a public document any petition attempt to get a question on a ballot was a public petition. >> yes, justice alito, said, isn't there some way you can do this without having the information posted on the internet?
7:41 pm
and mr. mckenna again countered that the state doesn't put the information on the internet. it's available under the public roars law, and if you get it, you can put it on the internet. and it still is a valuable , very valuable check on fraud and error. >> suarez: depending on how the justices rule, will is change the way states do this part of their business? >> it could. in this sense-- 24 states, you believe, now have petition referendum in their election laws. and if the court find that the first amendment 's toughest protection is here, then they're going to have to take a look at their public records explau whether this information can still be made available. >> suarez: well, a ruling came down today , and a big feature of jurps in the last-- jurisprudence in the last two decades has been public displays of religious speech on public land. this case involved a cross, a veterans' memorial in the mojave desert. did the justifies rule in a way that will make big law?
7:42 pm
>> it's actually a narrow ruling. the court found that the lower court here, which said congress had enacted an end run around that court's decision that the cross violated the first amendment 's establishment clause bah because it was a religious symbol on public land, that congress did the end run by passing a law that transferred the land to the vfw nexchange for other private land within the mojave desert preserve. the majournalist here, which was the conservative side of the court, said take another look because circumstances change, and government accommodateidation of religious symbols does not in all cases envelope endorsement of religion. >> suarez: so if you wanted a rule, can you put a religious symbol in a park or not, this was not your case. >> exactly. reading between the lines , i think everyone has a
quote
7:43 pm
strong feeling that this particular cross is going to stay in the mojave desert. >> suarez: marcia coyle, good to see you. >> my pleasure. >> woodruff: finally tonight, it was 35 years ago this week that the vietnam war came to an end. jeffrey brown talks to author tim o'brien about a book on the war that has stood the test of time. >> brown: what makes a war story ring true and what makes one last? "the things they carried," a fork of fiction about the experience of a group of soldiers in the vietnam warp was published in 1990. it sold more than two million copies and appears on numerous high school and college reading lists. one of the rare works of recent literature that helped define vietnam and the experience of war. marking the an vary rs author tim o'brien is talking to students and others, including this webcast conversation shot at a washington, d.c. high school. o'brien himself served in vietnam and has written a memoir
7:44 pm
of that time, as well as six other novels. welcome to you. >> thanks for having me on. >> brown: what doucette out to do? i saw you talking to the students, and you talked about using fiction as a way of getting at the truth of war. >> for me, the way to approach a subject such as vietnam is through storytelling. it's one thing to watch a newscast or read a newspaper or a magazine articles, things that that are fairly abstract-- in fact the word "war" itself has a glazing abstraction to it that conjures up bombs and bullets and so on. my goal is to try to, so much as i can, capture the heart and stomach and back of the throat of readers who can lie in bed at night and participate in the story. when i have a book i enjoy, i'm partly in the book. i'm not just observing it sgloub excuse me, it's interesting in this case because it's almost like-- you wrote it in the form of a memoir in some sense.
7:45 pm
>> i did. >> brown: there's a character named tim o'brien who is serving and is later a writer. >> yes, that was mart of , i suppose, my strategy. i wanted to twrit a work of fiction that it would feel to the readers that this had occur odor was occurring as a read it. i use every strategy i can think of-- invention, dialogue, using my own name, dedicating the book to the characters, as a way of giving a reader a sense of witnessed experience. i was a soldier in vietnam. the storys in the book are for the most part launched out of a world i once knew. >> brown: you wrote awe memoir of your experience. >> i did. >> brown: "going after cacciato," another beautiful prize-winning novel. that one i think was eight, or nine years after you left vietnam. this one is some 20 years after the experience. >> yes.
7:46 pm
>> brown: so is it that these things stayed with you? did it take a long time to percolate? how does that work? >> i think a certain objective and distance was necessary, at least in my case, to twrit's book that would last in some way. when you're so close to the material, it would be if you'd come out of a bad marriage, you'd be so close to it, that you'd be paying attention to detail that may not mean a whole lot for the reader. for me, at least, i needed to distance myself to allow my imagination to reorganize and to reininterpret the material that had been so close to me that it was thoord separate what would be important for the story and what wouldn't, what the reader would need and the reader would not. in the end, story s have to be about squeezing the human heart, and chafs my objection with "the things they carried". >> brown: in light of movies and books now of current wars and we talked about that in this
7:47 pm
program, what rez nats and what doesn't, and. how time it takes. the "hurt lock are" just won best picture. lot a lot of people went to see it. your sense is that for the author it tabs time. what about for the audiences? >> i think that's a great point. it may take time. i really want to put my free time into that experience, when i'm so inundated with the news and coming out of iraq or afghanistan, in my off hours i don't want to confront it. there is pain in it , and it's not happy hour. and literature, ordinarily, is not happy hour time. it has to do with plumbing the depths of suffering and sorrow of all sorts, not just of suffering that may come from a war. >> brown: are you surprised at the book's continued popularity? >> i am. >> brown: what explanation it, do you think? >> well, i am surprised. i had set out to write a book
7:48 pm
for, you know, people who were over 25, say, and certainly wasn't aiming at a high school or collegiate audience. something about the title may explain part of it. can the car is really meant to go beyond the war and to write a become about all the things you carried in your life, or the life of a mortician or housewife or a stockbroker. >> brown: and just to explain to people who haven't read it, it begins with literally the thing they are carrying in their pocks on their backs. >> quite literally. >> brown: and somehow those things are more than just the themselves, the stuff. >> the thing we carry, the objects we carry , certain say things. about the sorts of people we are. the book starts with physical stuff we carry through a war, not just military stuff but the rabbits feet and pictures of your girlfriend back home , and all you don't have. and then the book tries to move into
7:49 pm
the emotional and spiritual burdens that you're going to carry, not just through the war but dwrour grave. >> brown: you know, you said that you thought of an audience of 25, perhaps. yet i watched you with those high school students today. and you said at the end that these were the people that you really wanted tocracy. >> they are. >> brown: 20 years later, what is it that you hoped they and others take from the book? >> to move beyond platitude. to move beyond the mythology we carry about ourselvess and our country. to move beyond the -- sort of notification, i suppose, that through physical violence, we're going-- we can always accomplish what we want. sometimes -- sometimes things like wars can do precisely the reverse of what you want with a policy. you can manufacture enemies-- i was telling the class. a bullet can kill the enemy but
7:50 pm
the bullet can also produce an enemy depending on who the bullet strikes. if the bullet strikes a three-year-old you have a very angry mom and a very angry dad and a bunch of neighbors who are angry. that isn't to say i'm arguing against all war. but it is to say young people, in particular, need to understand the complications and ambiguities of these things and to hear it from someone who was not only gone to a war but devoted a lifetime to suffering from it. >> brown: all right, "the things they carried," tim o'brien, thanks for talking with us. >> thanks. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: the u.s. gulf coast waited for word that crews had set fire to an oil slick before it can reach shore this weekend. the interior department approved the first offshore wind farm in the u.s. to be situated off cape cod, massachusetts.
7:51 pm
and senate republicans signaled they let financial reform move forward. the "newshour" is always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's there. hari? >> sreenivasan: there's more of jeff's interview with tim o'brien on "art beat." plus listen to a conversation with actor sir patrick stewart, who appears in "hamlet" on "great performances" tonight on most pbs stations. on paul solman's "making sense page," find more from businessman jack stack. he explains why manufacturing is not just about efficiency, but innovation too. and we launch a brand new feature on "the rundown" called "newshour connect." we'll check in regularly with our pbs colleagues on issues in the headlines. first up: immigration reform. we turned to reporters from kpbs in san diego and arizona public media. here's an excerpt: >> the update now actually is lawsuits. the mayor of phoenix had hoped that the city council would join him in a lawsuit to try to get the law overturned.
7:52 pm
five of those city council members have said they are not interested in that. >> it's caused a lot of concern, immigration rights groups, human rights groups, civil rights groups are kind of circling the wagons with the sense that they need to give all their support to their counterparts in arizona to help them but also as a safeguard so that this kind of legislation doesn't inspire laws in other places like in california. >> sreenivasan: that's "newshour connect." you can find it, and much more, on our website: newshour.pbs.org. judy?
7:53 pm
>> woodruff: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you on-line and again
7:54 pm
here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
7:55 pm
monsanto. producing more. conserving more. improving farmers' lives. that's sustainable agriculture. more at producemoreconservemore.com. 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.
7:56 pm
thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
7:57 pm
7:58 pm
7:59 pm

1,350 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on