tv PBS News Hour PBS December 1, 2010 5:30pm-6:30pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: good evening. i'm gwen ifill. the lame duck congress jockeys for middle ground on taxes, the budget, national security, gays in the military and extending jobless benefits. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight: we talk to senators dick durbin and john barrasso about the deal- making ahead in the closing weeks of the session. >> ifill: then, debt commission co-chairs alan simpson and erskine bowles explain how they plan to win support for cutting the federal deficit.
>> woodruff: two takes on the mexican drug wars-- tom bearden reports on the reach of the cartels 1,000 miles north of the border. >> the drug dealers are sent from mexico to run these cell organizations in small town america and their goal is to sell as much drugs and make as much money as they can. >> ifill: and margaret warner gets an update on the violence, and the crackdown, on drug kingpins from nicholas casey of the "wall street journal" in mexico city. >> woodruff: plus, we have a second look at spencer michels' story behind the story of a surprising bestseller. >> mark twain decreed that his autobiography couldn't be published until 100 years after his death. that's this year. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> i do a lot of different exercises, but, basically, i'm a
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>> 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. >> ifill: capitol hill lawmakers spent today behind various closed doors working to avoid or guarantee a coming legislative logjam. for now, democrats and republicans are holding fast to
their positions on nearly every issue. the skies over the capitol were cloudy today, and so were prospects for compromise on several key issues. all 42 republican senators drew their line in the sand in a letter to democratic leader harry reid. "tax and spending cuts," they wrote, "must take priority over anything on the democrats' wish list, including allowing gays to serve in the military, ratifying a nuclear treaty and extending jobless benefits. while there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the senate's attention," the lawmakers wrote, "we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike." senator reid said the republican approach is a cynical one. >> with this letter, they have simply put in writing the political strategy the republicans have pursued this entire congress: mainly,
obstruct and delay, obstruct delay action on critical matters, and then blame the democrats for not addressing the needs of the american people. >> ifill: but minority leader mitch mcconnell laid the blame on democrats. >> they've ignored us. the voters repudiated their agenda at the polls. they've ignored them. time is running out. they're ignoring that. the election was a month ago. it's time to get serious. it's time to focus on priorities. >> ifill: but while that rhetorical standoff was playing out on the senate floor, treasury secretary tim geithner and budget director jack lew were elsewhere on capitol hill, launching negotiations on the tax cut issue. >> we had a very civil constructive discussion, very much in the spirit of the meeting at the white house yesterday. no surprises. >> ifill: on the house side, democrats are scheduled to vote tomorrow on extending the tax cuts, but just for the middle class. republicans have insisted on
continuing the cuts for everyone, including the wealthy. other key measures also remain in limbo, including the president's push to have the senate ratify a new start treaty aimed at reducing u.s. and russian nuclear weapons. at the white house today, president obama enlisted former secretary of state colin powell to press his case. >> i appreciate the fact he supports an effort that all of us should support in order to make america more safe. >> i fully support this treaty, and i hope that the senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible. >> ifill: also on the docket: democrats' attempts to repeal the ban on openly gay members of the military. and extending benefits for the long-term unemployed which began expiring today for two million americans. republicans, like congressman david dreier of california, said it's a matter of where to find the money.
>> we feel very strongly about ensuring that the american people who are struggling are able to have their needs met. we also feel strongly that it must be paid for. >> ifill: but the outgoing house speaker, democrat nancy pelosi of california, accused republicans of a double standard. >> $700 billion in tax cuts for the top 2% in our country. and our republican colleagues say, we should do that, and we should not pay for it. we should add that $700 billion but when it comes to unemployment insurance, and just the renewal we want to have costs $18 billion. $700 billion, $18 billion, they're saying that has to be paid for. >> ifill: the two sides have also yet to agree on funding to keep the government running for another two weeks. house democrats today voted yes, while all but two house republicans voted no. joining us from capitol hill to discuss what congress can and cannot get done in the next few
weeks, are senate majority whip dick durbin, democrat of illinois. and, john barrasso of wyoming, the vice chairman of the senate republican conference. welcome to you gentlemen. i want to ask you both to prioritize the list i have for you, starting with you, senator durbin. the start treaty, the budget resolution, don't ask, don't tell, jobless benefits, tax cuts. what order would you put them in for your priority? >> i would tell you, i think the top three are going to be the tax cuts which expire at the end of the year, the funding of our government which has to be done so that it doesn't shut down over the next 10 months and the start treaty. there are other items. don't ask, don't tell is one i feel very strongly about but i would say that would be the fourth on the list. we can do all of them. the point which we're trying to make to our republican colleagues is the senate chamber is virtually empty. we're doing nothing. we should be able to have negotiations about taxes, about
paying for our government and at the same time be working on critical legislation on the floor. we should be engaged in the negotiations -- pardon me, the debate on the start treaty. we should be talking about don't ask, don't tell. we can do those things. but the letter we received today from the republicans basic's said, no, there will be no business, we're shutting down, we're on strike until we do these two issues -- one, extending tax cuts to the wealthiest people among us and figuring out how to extend the government's funding for next year. >> ifill: senator barrasso, your priority list among those five or six items i listed for you. >> i agree, gwen, with the top three. we need to focus on taxes and not raise taxes on anyone in this country in the middle of these economic times, and we need to make sure that we fund the government. and then if senator reid wishes to bring the start treaty to the senate floor, he can sure do that. he can do that today. but the bottom line is the president said, the day after the election, "we owe is it to
the american people to focus on things that are important to them and that's jobs, and we have been in this session now a month since the election. we only have one more month until the new senate and house is sworn in and the democrats have ignored jobs, the economy, the debt and the spending, and that's what the american people care about. >> ifill: explain to me what the reasoning was behind this letter which says nothing will get done unless exactly your priorities are the first ones? >> with9.6% unemployment in this country, businesses need certainty. individuals need certainty. and the best way to give that certainty, so they can out and start hiring again -- the job-creating sector is to say we're not raising taxes on anyone during these economic times and it's not just me. we have a growing chorus of democrats who agree with that. five before the elections and now the two most recently sworn-in democrats, senator coons from delaware, senator manchin from west virginia both said during the campaign we
should not raise taxes on anyone in this country during these economic teams. >> ifill: senator durbin, senator -- economic times. >> ifill: senator durbin, we're hearing today that the jobless benefits have expired for a couple million americans. how did that happen? >> it happened because we tried to extend the unemployment benefits today. we went on the floor of the united states senate after receiving this letter and said if you really want to create jobs and help the people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, extend unemployment benefits. we know that's a good stimulus for the economy and it helps these people and the republicans objected. why did they object? because of this letter. this ultimatum. which said we'll do nothing. we won't even consider helping the unemployed in this country putting money in the economy to help the unemployed until we provide tax cuts for the wealthiest people. that doesn't make sense. if we truly care about jobs, let's focus on those who are jobless who need a helping hand. >> ifill: let me ask senator barrasso to respond to your
point. >> scott brown, senator from massachusetts, brought a proposal last night to allow the extension of unemployment benefits. there are a couple of things you can do for people that are looking for work, and one is you can extend those benefits. right now, we have benefits for people who have been out of work up to 99 weeks, so this goes beyond that, and senator brown's proposal is one that i support. the other thing you can do is help stimulate the economy, and the best way to do that is to give some certainty, and the way to provide that certainty is to make sure we don't raise taxes on anyone in this country during these economic times, gwen. >> ifill: senator durbin, we have heard, for some weeks now, that there is some movement by democrats, and by the white house, to extend all of these tax cuts, but for a limited period of time. where does that stand tonight? >> it's in negotiation at this very moment. the position of the president, and of the democrats is that working families, middle-income families -- all those who have $250,000 income or less are
going to get a tax break. that means that a millionaire will get a tax break on the first $250,000, but we don't want to add to the deficit, we don't want to create a situation where we're providing this tax cut for the wealthiest among us if, franc frankly, that doesn't spur the -- frankly, is that doesn't spur the economy. >> ifill: you say, senator durbin, that this is being negotiated as we speak but it doesn't sound, from what you just said, that anything has changed in terms of the democrats' decision about people who make $250,000 or more. >> that's our position and that is what we went into negotiations with and those negotiations started today, so here we have this meeting yesterday in the white house. it turns out that while we're having the meeting, the republicans are circulating this letter saying "we're not going to cooperate, we're not going to be part of this conversation" and now we have negotiations under way, we're trying to get a few more things done on the floor of the senate. i really wish that the message of this last election which asked us to be more reasonable and more constructive and more
bipartisan was reflected on what we are doing on the senate floor but sadly because of this letter it is not. >> ifill: senator, let's ask you about start. i know that you voted against ratifying start when this came up in september. has there been any movement in your mind on whether this should be ratified between now and the time congress leaves town? >> i have an article that i have written in one of the local papers today opposing the start treaty. i have great concerns -- not so much with russia but with our own ability as a nation to defend ourselves with our own missile defense, and the preamble of the start treaty says that we are limited in our missile defense, and i'm a lot more concerned about north korea, where with we've seen increased activity of late with their bombing in south korea. i am worried about iran and their potential nuclear capabilities. we've just had a scientist back at los alamos, from north korea, who was astonished at the level of the sophistication of what
they're doing with nuclear wean capability in north korea, and i think as a nation, to be able to defend ourselves, we need to make sure we don't give anything away in the treaty with russia that would limit our ability to defend ourselves against others. >> ifill: so what you are saying is not so different from what you were saying a couple months ago as far -- are you speaking for your party and saying there is no chance no matter what colin powell has to say or james baker or henry kissinger has to say or madeleine albright? is there any chance this is going to happen while this congress is in session? >> the american people deserve a full daebtd on the senate floor of the start treaty. if senator reid chooses to bring that treaty to the floor -- and he could have done that over the last many months. he's chosen not to do that. if he brings that to the senate floor and we have a full opportunity to debate it, then there will be a vote, and if they get their 67 votes, then it will be ratified. >> ifill: senator durbin, there is some talk here in washington -- i heard senator kerry say it last night -- there are just a few pieces to be put in place
now to get movement on start. can you tell us what those are and is there any movement? >> yes, there is and there is a positive development, i left a republican senator on the stairway and he said give us some time to debate on it, we can get up to 75 votes or more, maybe much more. that is an encouraging thing and it's something we need to do to keep this country safe but we've got to accept the obvious. this is critically important for the defense of america, our national security and the strength of our president. the russians have helped us in many ways dealing with the iran nuclear threat, they have been a key and integral part. they attended the nato meeting just last week, or two weeks ago, where we talked about missile defense which i share with john is an important issue. we now ha a breakthrough where the nato forces and countries will support us on this defense and the russians have said we will sit the table with you. this is unprecedented. we've never seen it before. let's not miss this historic opportunity. the senate could roll up its sleeves and go to work today to
make sure that we ratify this treaty. general colin powell is right. for the safety of america, we need to ratify the start treaty. >> ifill: senator richard durbin, senator john barrasso, thank you very much. >> thank you very much. >> ifill: still to come on "the newshour." >> woodruff: still to come on the "newshour": deficit commission chairs simpson and bowles; the mexican drug wars-- north and south of the border; plus, the autobiography of mark twain. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: the obama administration will not pursue offshore drilling off the east coast and in the eastern gulf of mexico, after all. the interior department announced the policy today, reversing a drilling plan laid out last march, before the b.p. oil spill in the gulf. the updated plan means no new drilling proposals off the east coast for at least seven years. wall street had a big day, after some encouraging economic news. the dow jones industrial average gained more than 249 points-- he most in three months-- to close above 11,255. the nasdaq rose 51 points to close at 2,549. the rally came as new reports showed employment at small
companies jumped in november, by the most in three years. and, ford, chrysler and general motors reported double-digit sales increases for the month. a deep freeze swept across europe today, snarling air and road traffic and killing at least eight people. heavy snow shut down airports in geneva, switzerland and several in france. in britain, it was the earliest, coldest weather in 17 years. and snow and ice socked in hundreds of flights at gatwick airport outside london and edinburgh in scotland. we have a report from damon green of "independent television news." >> the cold weather comes and everything stops. snow in december and great britain grinds to a halt. while some were struggling in to work this morning, there were some still struggling to get home on a journey that began at 10:00 last night. platform five, albingdon, trains going nowhere for five hours. trains have been very hard hit by the snowfall especially near
sheffield. passengers when had to sleep on train ended up by their own admission stir-crazy. >> my season ticket is 3,500 pound a year and this is how we're treated. >> the airport at edinburgh is shut and the same at gatwick. heavy snow is on the runway, poor visibility in the air, no guarantee that things will be any better tomorrow. >> sreenivasan: a severe weather system in the u.s. caused widespread damage today, as it moved from the south up the east coast. it spawned a host of suspected tornados starting in louisiana and georgia, and tornado watches as far north as virginia and washington d.c. high winds and heavy rain also knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses in the mid-atlantic area and new york. the british government faced new questions on iraq after the "wikileaks" mass release of u.s. diplomatic documents. in u.s. embassy cables from 2009, a british official promised to would limit an inquiry into the iraq war to protect american interests. meanwhile, in china, the government blocked access to the
wikileaks website, after disclosures of chinese unhappiness with north korea. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: ever since the co-chairs of the president's deficit commission released their plan earlier this month, it's been a struggle to find enough support. cut $3.8 trillion from annual deficits between now and 2020. but doing so would require some big changes including: caps on discretionary spending and a near-freeze on the pentagon budget; cuts in medicare payments and raising the social security retirement age to 68 by 2050. simplifying tax rates, but also raising other taxes and limiting the scope of tax breaks such the mortgage interest deduction and employer-provided health insurance. during a meeting of the commission today, the plan was backed by the chairman and senior republican on the senate
budget committee. but several members said they could not support it. we talk to the co-chairs about this now. that's former senator alan simpson, a republican from wyoming. and erskine bowles, who was president clinton's chief of staff. gentlemen, it's good to have you both back with us. >> thank you, judy. >> thank you. >> ifill: let me -- >> woodruff: let me start with you, senator simpson. do you think you are going to get the 14 votes you need on this commission to get this report conveyed to congress? >> we really don't know. tomorrow we'll be riding the trap line, as we say, and see where we are, but i think erskine and i are very pleased that we had not just the people you expressed and addressed but we have democrats and republicans alike, and an independent. only one person voted against it, and that's fine -- that person, jan shakowski has added to the debate. i've never been a numberses guy.
this will never go away. it's an indigestible lump. >> woodruff: if you don't get the 14 votes will this have been an exercise? >> the path we're on is unsustainable. i think this is the moment of truth. the american people get it. when alan and i go through airports we get nothing but thumbs up. when i'm at home in north carolina people say don't weak out on this, stay tough, we've got to get this budget down. the american people are way ahead of the politicians. >> ifill: even if you can't get it enacted into law? >> paul ryan, head of the budget committee in the house has already said 85% of what we recommend will be in this budget and as you said, the head of the senate budget committee and the ranking member voted for it today. i think we've made enormous process. i think the era of deficit denial is over. >> woodruff: senator simpson, how do you address the criticism of somebody like paul ryan, a budget expert in the house, a
fellow republican of yours -- he says this doesn't address health care. that it's too embracing of the obama health care plan. >> i think he feels strongly about that, and he also feels that when you get rid of the tax exclusion for employers who pay their employees' health insurance that the employer is going to look around and say "where do i go now? i don't get this deduction." and they're going to go to obama care. and that disturbs paul. but i'm not worried about that at all. paul is going to take 85% of this product we did today and work it into the u.s. house of representatives budget. how can you beat a deal like that? doesn't matter whether he votes for it or not. >> woodruff: likewise, you mentioned congresswoman jan shakowski. erskine bowles, she's a fellow democrat, saying the cuts in programs especially for senior citizens are too much. >> jan today is the only democrat who said they're going to vote against it and i'm fine
with that she has her own proposal -- at least she recognizes clearly that we can't continue to build you up these deficits we have. i think you will see a lot more democrats vote for it. we had seven votes today. three democrats, three republicans and an independent all voted for it. i'm pleased where we are. we've got more work to do but i guarantee you we're taking a step in the right direction. >> woodruff: senator simpson, coming back to the question of tax cuts, your party, the republican party, for them, tax cuts, which is the opposite of whaer talking about in this plan are the holy grail. we saw that today with what senator mitch mcconnell was saying on the floor of the senate with regard to the extending the bush era tax cuts. what you are asking for is much more than that. what makes you think you are going to turn that attitude around? >> i don't understand that logic. what we do is get rid of one trillion, 100 billion tax expenditures which we call
earmarks. yeefr that's that's what it is. the ma-- every year that's what it is. 400 people, the wealthiest in the united states pay only 16% income tax. all we're saying is we're going to get rid of that and guess what, we're going to give you a tax rate of 8% up to 70 grand and 13% -- 14% up to 2 twen,000 and anything over -- 210,000 and if a guy can't figure that as being -- if that's a tax increase, i'm on the moon and not in the rotunda. >> we take the corporate rate down to 26% and put in a territorial system which makes america one of the best places to start and grow a business. i think if you did a dynamic scoring, you would see that this is going to create jobs and it's going to create more revenue than anybody can imagine but we're bringing rates down. what we're doing is reforming the tax code, not talking about taking taxes up or down.
>> woodruff: by dynamic scoring you're talking about a different way of -- different way of accounting. why don't we see more republicans embracing it? >> i think you will see a lot of republicans embrace it. i think what they like is that we do take rates down and we take the $1.1 trillion, we use a trillion of it to reduce tax rates. we do take $100 billion a year and use it to reduce the deficit. maybe some of them don't like that, but nobody argues the fact that we're really taking rates down. >> woodruff: senator simpson, what do you say to others? we are now hearing voices on the outside saying, "wait a minute, yes, there is a deficit, yes, there is a debt problem but it's being hyped -- that in a few years, once the economy comes back strong, we're not going to have the deficit we face now. >> i'll tell them to kind of sober up, and the fact that the tectonic plate has shifted in america. lots of things have happened in the last two years.
you've got people sitting at their dining room table with their head in their hands looking around, lost their jobs, got foreclosed and they're saying that one group that hasn't chipped in on this anguish and it's the federal government. time for them to cough up. let me tell you. if people are going to sit around and believe that this doesn't happen, they know we're grease-- they may not know about it, grease, spain, ireland, portugal, italy -- greece, spain, ireland, italy, with that you can go off the cliff in days, not weeks, not a slippery slope. >> we could have double-digit growth for the next couple of decades and not grow our way out of this problem. the only way we get out of this problem is is make some really tough choices. that's what we recommended. >> woodruff: erskine bowles, we have been talking about the republicans but what about president oba in he appointed the two of you. he put this commission together. what's his responsibility going forward? how much does this depend on his leadership, his selling this?
because he hasn't done that yet. >> it depends a lot on him but you have to give him credit he's the one that appointed us, he knew he was appointed two deficit hawks to head this commission, he will also see that we got five out of the six members that he appointed -- they voted for this report already. he's been great. he stayed out of it, which he should have done but he did say when somebody started attacking us from the democratic party, he said let's don't do that, let's give this a chance to come out because i think these guys are going to make a serious proposal. i don't like everything, alan doesn't like everything, if tom coburn votes for it he won't like everything but he will find we're on the right path and this is the path you've got to get on if you're going to reduce this debt. >> woodruff: senator simpson, final word, are you seeing the leadership from president that is needed in your view? >> i have been are accused of being a republican toadie
covering the president's fannie so he can save the president's -- i don't know where the president will go with this but i will tell you one thing. the only people that will get us out of this black pit are legislators, members of the house and senate, and nobody else. >> woodruff: on that note, we will thank you both. senator alap simpson, erskine bowles, gentlemen -- senator alan simpson, erskine bowles, gentlemen, thank you. >> thank you, judy. >> ifill: now, two takes on the mexican drug war. first, a report on how the drug trade is spreading far north of the u.s. border. "newshour" correspondent tom bearden reports from colorado springs. ( siren ) >> reporter: the violence of the mexican drug wars may seem far away. but the drugs and the dealers that fuel them are close to home. colorado springs is best known as the home of the air force academy and the army's fort carson. but this quiet, mostly
conservative city of 400,000 is also a major distribution point for mexican cartels. matthew barden is the agent in charge of the federal drug enforcement administration office in colorado springs. >> this house was the focal point of one of our recent investigations into a large methamphetamine organization. >> reporter: he says mexican drug cartels began exporting large amounts of methamphetamine after law enforcement began cracking down on production in the u.s. five years ago. huge quantities of heroin and cocaine are also funneled through here. >> the drug dealers are sent from mexico to run these cell organizations in small town america and their goal is to sell as much drugs and make as much money as they can. >> reporter: their business is fueled by drug consumption. the united states has one of the highest rates of illegal drug use of any country in the world. drug use in colorado springs is on par with the rest of the nation. but what worries district
attorney dan may is the fact that members of the mexican cartels live and work in his city. >> we have had drugs flowing into our high school. unfortunately the last few years we've seen heroin usage in particular in a couple of our high schools increasing. there's no question that it goes back to the mexican cartels. we've actually made arrests of, of mexican cartel members directly supplying it to high school kids. >> reporter: agent barden says they reach into unsuspecting residential neighborhoods, too. do you see drug trafficking in a place like this? >> absolutely. they can be sitting on loads and loads of methamphetamine and cocaine and nobody would ever know. and they don't do the drug deals at these locations. they take it from their stash house to the deal location at which time they will do their drug deal. so in many neighborhoods, not only in colorado springs but all over the u.s., drug traffickers
>> reporter: the drugs and their impact go way beyond this city at the foot of pike's peak. colorado springs was the starting point for a two year federal investigation into a web of trafficking that spanned 15 states. it ended last june with a total of 2,200 people arrested, and nearly 70 tons of marijuana, two-and-a-half tons of cocaine, 1,400 pounds of heroin, and $154 million in cash seized. the operation also led to the extradition and conviction of the leader of a major mexican drug cartel. but why colorado springs, 1,000 miles from the mexican border? law enforcement officials say it's the interstate highway system-- stretching north out of juarez into colorado and then branching off to points east and west. kevin merrill runs the d.e.a.'s regional headquarters. >> when the focus of law enforcement along the border is
high, that makes the traffickers seek out less hot areas and so colorado springs, being right off the i-25 corridor literally only you know about ten hours from the border by vehicle, it is a good place to be because it's a prime location for them to, to set up shop. >> reporter: el paso county sheriff terry maketa, whose jurisdiction surrounds colorado springs, says the mexican cartels operate quite differently than the columbian cartels that dominated the business in the '80s and '90s. >> it's a lot more sophisticated when, when it's run as a business. i mean they have the head of an organization, they have business plans, they have networks set up. in some of the cases we've been involved in there have been very, very structured organizations with built in safety and protection and when you're talking about that kind of organizational skill, that many people involved, it makes it very difficult. they have redundant systems. they're not counting on just one truckload. if one gets pulled off, they consider that a loss of business and they have three mo coming through. >> reporter: but despite the
known presence of mexican drug cells here, there's one aspect of the mexican scene that local officials are not worried about. people in mexico are getting gunned down in the streets because of the drug trade. what's the likelihood of that happening here? >> i think it's very unlikely. the possibility of that is not very high. >> reporter: sheriff maketa agrees. >> they don't want to bring a lot of attention to their business. they don't want to send reckless individuals to be their front people in communities that are going to draw a lot of attention because that goes against what they're here to do and that is make money. if they bring a lot of attention to themselves, if they bring violence, not only is it going to affect the people they're hoping to sell to. it's also going to capture the attention of law enforcement and bring the heat on. and they know that. >> reporter: but district attorney may says there's another looming concern-- state budget cutbacks may lead to more drug users on the street.
>> one of the ways they can save money is to have less people in prison. so they've been cutting drug sentences. it would be nice if at the same time they would give us rehabilitation facilities for some of the people who are using drugs. because if we can rehabilitate more people, if we can get them off of drugs, that will also cut the demand. when they take away my tools to incarcerate people, i have great concerns that we're going to see an increase in our drug use, certainly in this community and across the state. >> reporter: and any increase in drug use means a corresponding increase in drug trafficking. >> woodruff: in mexico, the drug war continues non-stop. nearly 30,000 people have been killed since the federal government took on the cartels four years ago. and it goes on, even as more kingpins have been killed or captured.
margaret warner has that story. >> warner: for that, i'm joined by nicholas casey, a correspondent for the "wall street journal" in mexico. nicholas, welcome back. when secretary of state clinton was in mexico, last year, she publicly admitted that america's, she said, insatiable demand for drugs is fueling the mexican drug wars. does the mexican government feel that the u.s. government is doing enough to restrain demand on our side? >> well, i think the mexican government's big wish is that the u.s. was able to lower that insatiable demand, as hillary clinton put it. right now, the main effort of the u.s. is to support mexico as it tries to battle drugs on its own side of the border whether it's blackhawk helicopters or
money. underlying all of that is the problem that the u.s. wants more and more drugs and these groups are being funded on the order of billions of dollars by that u.s. demand that's still there and hasn't gotten any less. >> reporter: you're saying, though, that the u.s. assistance, then, is mostly of a military and law enforcement nature on the mexican side of the border. >> that's what the focus has been on -- it's been on helping the mexicans -- whether it's the mexican military or other institutions in mexico try to root out the crime organizations that are a part of the problem and certainly a big part of it. they don't have anything to do with demand but they're certainly supplying the demand and they're causing violence on the mexican side of the border. >> reporter: how is -- i know this is hard to tell, but how is this four-year war on the drug cartels going in mexico? i notice there have been a number of high profile either arrests, killings, captures of some major drug figures. >> there have been. one big one happened in the town
of matamoros, which is just across the border from brownsville, texas, tony armenta, the leader of one of the powerful cartels was killed in a big shootout. that's good news for mexico, but one of the problems is that as a lot of these major figures are killed, that leads to violence as other groups are trying to get in and take the territory, sensing some sort of weakness. the death toll right now in mexico is 31,000 people -- more than that, at this point -- and that's a really high -- high mark right now in mexico, and it's really taken a lot -- its own toll on sort of public morale in terms of trying to support this war going on in their country. >> reporter: do authorities see any evidence that when a big figure like one of these gang leaders is killed or captured that it puts a crimp in the ability of that cartel to do business? or are they pretty quickly replaced? >> well, they are replaced but one thing to keep in mind is that when you get rid of someone that has all the connections and
maybe was even one of the founders of a cartel, you can't just swap in someone else and expect the business to work as well so yes, the theory is that by eliminating these top people they are fundamentally irreplaceable but someone will try to take that position. the problem is it doesn't mean that violence is going to go down. in fact, it might mean that violence goes up because there starts to be a power play for had who is going to take control of the cartel. >> reporter: as you mentioned there have been 31,000 deaths. where is public opinion in mexico? do they support this effort? >> throughout almost all of felipe calderon's reign in mexico, he has had a lot of support in doing this. they recognized that this problem had gone unaddressed for years. there was a recent poll, though, that happened that showed that about 49% of mexico think the drug war is a failure although calderon's ratings are up, that's pretty bad news because
mexico to fight this really needs the support of the people because there are a lot of deaths involved in this, and i think that just the amount of casualties that happened in recent years have really eroded to a degree what was strong public support in the beginning of this when the fight began. >> reporter: does president calderon speak out publicly on the fight and how well it's going? do they tout, for instance, these recent arrests or killings of major leaders? >> they certainly do, and part of a struggle like this involves the government spending a lot of time trying to explain what it's doing to the people. because its this is taking place not outside of mexico but right in the borders of mexico so certainly they spend a lot of time trying to explain why these captures are important and you know, how these casualties are fitting in with the long-term goals that mexico has ofhat we n
decide to wait to go to college i'll still have a good job. >> woodruff: the first class of students graduate from austin polytech in the spring. >> ifill: finally tonight, yesterday was the 175th anniversary of mark twain's birth. we take a second look at the story behind the very long wait for his autobiography. "newshour" correspondent spencer michels explains. >> reporter: behind a decorative gate and a security checkpoint in berkeley, california and through an unmarked, locked door in the bancroft library lies a remarkable and valuable collection of letters, documents and writings that describe the life and passions of mark twain perhaps america's greatest and funniest writer. this rare and damaged film of twain late in his life is part of the archive as are early
copies of huckleberry finn and tom sawyer, regarded as monumental american novels. overseeing the vault-- as the room is sometimes called-- is robert hirst, general editor of the mark twain project, which this year 2010 is finally publishing along with the university of california press twain's uncensored autobiography. finally, because twain decreed that this document not be published in its entirety until 100 years after his death, which took place in 1910, when he was 75. most people don't have the nerve to speak exactly what they believe while they're alive because of the repercussions. people will shun them. he says, "i'm only human. i don't want to be shunned. i don't want to be thought ill of, and therefore i'm willing to write this down and put it on
paper and leave it behind." working with numerous copies and corrections, the editors at first thought the autobiography was unfinished and random. but after six years, they figured out twain's had produced a complete, provocative document. >> even for us who have had access to it without restriction seeing the way he wants to arrange it, seeing the way he wants to put the parts together is... is brand new to us. and i... i can't help feeling that it will be brand new and interesting to the world. >> reporter: samuel clemens, twain's real name, grew up in missouri, on the banks of the mississippi: stomping grounds for the fictional tom sawyer and huck finn. he left school for good at 11 and later became a pilot on river boats also material for later works. out west, during the gold and silver rushes, he worked at newspapers in nevada and california, and started his literary career. he was a traveling man and wrote about trips to europe and the
holy land and to the sandwich islands, now hawaii. he wrote voluminously, continuously. but for his autobiography, composed during the last three years of his life, rather than write it, he dictated it to a stenographer. she's not only accurate as clemens says, she's a good audience. very important to mark twain, to have someone there reacting to what he says, laughing i presume at what he says or at least... at least extolling it in some way. since twain's death, four different editors have taken a stab at publishing portions of his biography, despite twain's wishes to wait 100 years. but the project at berkeley-- a team of editors working from the original manuscript-- will mark the first time the entire document is published, including controversial parts. harriet elinor smith is the official editor of the autobiography; she's been working here for more than 30 years. she says that among the writings he wanted to suppress was his
somewhat shocking view of christianity. >> there is one notable thing about our christianity. it is bad, bloody, merciless, money grabbing and predatory. the fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilled." that would have been considered very shocking in the day. >> reporter: the autobiography does include social and political material twain thought too hot for the times like these remarks about president theodore roosevelt's role in the massacre of fililpino guerillas after the spanish american war. >> "he knew perfectly well that to pen 600 hopeless and weaponless savages in a hole like rats in a trap and massacre them in detail during a stretch of a day and a half from a safe position on the heights above was no really feat of arms. he knew perfectly well that our uniformed assassins had not upheld the honor of the american flag."
>> reporter: while he could rant on social issues like imperialism, letters he wrote indicated that he still pulled his punches on what he would reveal, even a century hence. >> he struggled very much with the idea of self-revelation. his own self-accusations, the guilt that he felt. part of him wanted to reveal all and part of him was really never able to speak the truth as he called it. >> reporter: for shelly fishkin, the release of mark twain's autobiography should cast new light on twains role and on his life and thoughts. >> ifill: the first of three large volumes was released last month and has been on bestseller lists ever since. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: congressional democrats and republicans held fast to their public positions on tax cuts and other issues as negotiators worked behind closed doors. and wall street had a big day.
the dow jones industrials gained nearly 250 points. and to hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, for what's on the "newshour" online. hari? >> sreenivasan: there's more on the lame duck congress. judy filed a post about gridlock versus consensus after the midterm elections. we look at the collision of art and science in an artist's mural of a large particle detector in geneva. that's on our new science page. plus on "art beat," watch a preview of an upcoming book conversation about rap as a form of poetry. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. gwen? >> ifill: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll have a report on senate action to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military. i'm gwen ifill. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. 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: >> this is the engine that
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