tv PBS News Hour PBS January 14, 2013 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: in the final news conference of his first term, president obama said he will not negotiate with congressional republicans on raising the nation's debt ceiling. good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, we'll examine what the president said about tackling the government deficit and reducing gun violence.
>> brown: then, we turn to the west african nation of mali, where french troops have launched air strikes on islamic militants. three jihaddist groups now deemed a clear and present danger to the capital and beyond, a threat to africa and europe. >> woodruff: margaret warner has the story of the suicide of a young internet wizard who was facing federal charges for hacking and distributing online data he thought should be made public. >> brown: ray suarez updates the changes in cuba, where travel restrictions were eased today for citizens hoping to come and go. >> it is still one of the most repressive places in terms of its human rights record but we welcome any liberalization. we hope that will turn out to be one such. >> woodruff: and with rehearsals already under way for next week's inaugural ceremonies, we examine the new rules for raising money for the festivities. >> brown: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> 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... >> thisrogram wasade possie byhe corporaon f public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
thank you. >> brown: battle lines were drawn at either end of pennsylvania avenue today over the national debt and government spending. the opening shots came from president obama at his white house news conference. >> i thought it might make sense to take some questions this week as my first term comes to an end. >> brown: the questions were domited by the looming debt ceiling fight. the president sternly warned republicans not to balk at raising the nation's borrowing limit. >> they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the american economy. the financial well being of the american people is not leverage to be used. the full faith and credit of the united states of america is not a bargaining chip. and they better choose quickly because time is running short. >> brown: congress has until march to raise the debt ceiling
and prevent a government default. most republicans have insisted that with the government facing another trillion dollar deficit this year, any increase in borrowing authority must be tied to cuts in spending. the president flatly disagreed. >> i want to be clear about this. the debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. so while i'm willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, america cannot afford another debate with this congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they've already racked up. >> brown: the 2011 stand-off between the president and republicans over the debt ceiling led the nation to the bryning of national default. standard and poors even lowered its rating on u.s. government bonds. today, president obama said any repeat performance would be, quote, irresponsible. >> if the goal is to make sure that we are being responsible
about our debt and our deficit, if that's the conversation we're having, i'm happy to have that conversation. what i will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the american people. >> brown: at the same time, the president rejected urgings by some democrats that he raised the debt ceiling on his own authority. republicans were quick to answer the chief executive's criticism. senate minority leader mitch mcconnell said in a statement the president and his allies need to get serious about spending and the debt limit debate is the perfect time for it. and speaker of the house john boehner said the consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved. the spending and debt issues took most of the president's attention today, but he also turned to the issue of gun violence. after the shootings at an elementary school in newtown connecticut, he appointed vice
president biden to come up with recommendations for action. the vice president met with lawmakers today and with groups on both sides of the issue last week. plans to submit proposals by tomorrow. president obama would not discuss specifics today. instead he said this. >> i'm confident that there are some steps that we can take that don't require legislation and that are within my authority as president. and where you get a step that has the opportunity to reduce the possibility of gun violence, then i want to go ahead and take it. >> brown: he conceded that a fight in congress is likely but he hopes that some compromise is is possible. >> the issue here is not whether or not we believe in the second amendment. the issue is are there some sensible steps that we can take to make sure that somebody like the individual in newtown can't walk into a school and gun down
a bunch of children? in a shockingly rapid fashion. and surely we can do something about that. >> brown: also today the president took the opportunity to defend his efforts to work with congress on a host of issues, saying in essence it's a two-way street. >> most people who kow me know i'm a pretty friendly guy. and i like a good party. when i'm over here at the congressional picnic and folks are coming up and taking pictures with their family, i promise you michelle and i are very nice to them. we have a wonderful time. but it doesn't prevent them from going under the floor of the house and, you know, blasting me for being a big-spending socialist. >> brown: the president said he'll look for more common ground with the new congress. he's just getting down to work this week.
>> woodruff: this afternoon, treasury secretary tim geithner released a letter he sent to speaker boehner warning the u.s. will run out of its borrowing authority between mid-february and early march. more now on what's behind this brewing battle and the latest threats from both sides. carol lee covers the white house for the "wall street journal." and jake sherman reports about congress for "politico." welcome to you both. carol lee, to you first. the president basically was repeating today what we've heard him say many times before, that he is not going to negotiate on this debt ceiling, that he's prepared to talk about spending but if he does, it's not going to be around this. so why have the news conference? >> well, what happened was in recent days the discussion around the debt limit had really intensified basically on two fronts. you had what really concerned the white house was that the republicans were increasingly beating on this drum that they were going to use the debt limit fight to extract spending cuts. they were going to use it as
leverage in some of these upcoming budget debates. on the flip sidef that, tre were some republicans who were just talking in a way that was very casual about what would happen if the u.s. decided not to raise the debt limit and defaulted so some of its obligations. that raised alarm here at the white house. then on the other side you had democrats who were pressuring the president to find a way to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling through executive power. what the president tried to do today was squash all of that and say there's only one solution to this. i will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. congress has to do its job. >> woodruff: when it mes to the republicans jake sherman, you've been talking to some of the folks on the hill. they were digging in their heels just as much as the president was. what was their reaction? >> i think they have... they see this situation as three big issues: the government funding issue. that runs dry at the end of march. the debt ceiling. and these automatic spending cuts that take hold at the beginning of march. they want to use these
opportunities. they don't think it's so bad to shut down the government or to default on the debt. they are even skeptical of the administration's estimates of when that will happen. so they see themselves really having very little leverage besides doing something which a lot of americans would consider extreme which is defaulting on the debt or shutting down the government. now i think it's virtually impossible that speaker john boehner will raise the debt ceiling without commensurate spending cuts. he's way too far out on a limb on that prospect. so it's going to be one of these huge battles its going to be something where one side has to blink first or the issues have to kind of meld together in a way that speaker boehner or president obama has a fig leaf in order to get this done. >> woodruff: jakewhat about the president's argument today? he said this several times. he said this is not about we're doing the debt ceiling in order to authorize more spending. he said it is about congress paying off the bills that it's already incurred. >> that argument is the same one that white house used in 2011.
it didn't sit well with house republicans then. they've been saying for years whatever the reality is at the white house and whatever the president tries to say they've been saying for years that the nation has a spending problem not a taxation problem. it's very difficult for them reverse that. they see tis as the popular option. one of their internal polls showed that 74% of americans believe in speaker boehner's approach and not the president's. so they're really not moving out of their corner. they're as far out as they can be on this. >> woodruff: carol lee, what is the white house preparing to do if republicans do what jake says they're going to do which is just say no? >> right now they're saying that there isn't a plan-b on those terms. the treasury has created a plan that basically could do certain things if congress didn't raise the debt ceiling it would prioritize some of its payments or sell off some u.s. assets or things. the white house never signed off on that. frankly it wouldn't be in the president's interest to come up
with a plan-b right now because that would just weaken his hand in these discussions. jake is right when he says that we're going to see a battle over the debt limit whether if white house wants this or not. it's likely to be a little bit uglier than what we saw in 2011 just because the republicans are coming off a bruising election. they're coming off a fiscal debate at the end of the year where they fee like they didn't get anything out of itecause they didn't get the spending cuts they want. they have these two things coming up in terms of the budget negotiations. and you have these automatic spending cuts that are set to go into effect at the end of february. they feel like the debt ceiling is going to be... is their leverage. they managed to usity fek tively in 2011 although if you're an economist you would say it wasn't effective and it ended up hurting the economy. politically they felt a little like they had gained some of the things that they want even though ultimately it did have a negative effect on the party. this whole battle is just going to rlly heat up in the next few weeks.
>> woodruff: speaking of the politics of this, jake, the president did say today if this happens he thinks both parties would be blamed but in fact in the polls are showing that it appears most people would blame republicans if this happened. is that... how much is that even a factor among... in the thinking of republicans? >> in the wake of this press conference today i spoke to senior republican aides who made a simple point. they haven't defaulted. they haven't shut down the government. they haven't done all these hugely catacsmic things. their numbers are still in toilet. congress is at a 9% approval rating. their point, some of these folks who want to default and want to do something dramatic, their point is, listen, we've tried the other options and our numbers are bad. maybe this is the way to turn things around. that's the way they see it. you're right. president obama or the treasury department decides they can't send out social security checks, they can't pay the troops, things like that, that would be a huge loser for congress because congress seeps to get
the blame whenit battles prident obama. >> woodruff: quickly, jake, the point the president made, he's prepared to negotiate around other spending, whether it's a so-called sequester, this automatic spending cuts that are due about the same time that the debt ceiling comes up or about the budget overall. that's not picking up any response from the republicans? >> it is. i mean, i don't think republicans have settled on a legislative centrality gee yet. which is part of their problem at this point. they haven't settled how they'll deal with these issues either in one pot which would seemingly make it easier for president obma to negotiate or whether theyl separatehem out and deal with them individually over the next couple months. they're heading to a retreat in williams burg, virginia, this week. where they'll take the's of their membership and figure that out. >> woodruff: very quickly, carol, at the end we know that the president commented on his governing style. the fact he doesn't do a lot of reaching out to republicans. the white house doesn't have a sense that this is a liability in anyway?
>> clearly not. like he said, he's a nice guy. he hangs out with these members of congress when he can. it's just not his style. frankly in s view he said he played golf wi jo boehner in 2011. it didn't get him anywhere anyway. he's sort of like why bother. >> woodruff: okay. we did hear the president address that today. carol lee, we thank you. joining us from the white house. brad sherman, we thank you. >> thanks. you. >> brown: you can watch the president's press conference in full online on our web site. still to come on the newshour, france fights islamist rebels in mali; an internet hero's tragic end; cuba eases travel restrictions; and big money behind the inauguration. but first, the other newsf the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: suicides in the ranks of the u.s. military hit a record 349 last year. the associated press reported the figure was nearly 50 more than the previous year. it's also more than the 295 u.s. combat deaths in afghanistan in 2012.
defense secretary leon panetta has called the problem of military suicide an epidemic. afghan president hamid karzai called today for a loya jirga-- or grand assembly-- to decide whether u.s. troops should be immune from afghalaws. the u.s. has said it needs sole legal jurisdiction over any troops who stay, after combat forces leave at the end of 2014. in a kabul speech, karzai said it would take about eight or nine months to come to a decision. it is a decision of the people of afghanistan. the national assembly of elders of the people of afghanistan should decide whether to give the i am unity or not. if they give it, under which conditions they should do so. but the americans told us that if you do not give us the i am unity, we have to leave afghanistan for good. and won't have any relationship with you. >> sreenivasan: karzai said the u.s. has agreed to his demands to respect afghan sovereignty. he discussed the issues with president obama in washington on friday. mass protests were held in
islamabad, pakistan, today demanding new election reforms. thousands of supporters of an outspoken muslim cleric gathered in the capital amid heavy security. they called for an end to government inefficiency and corruption. to the south, there were funerals for many of the 86 shiites killed in last week's bombings in quetta. thousands of shiites had refused to bury the dead until the provincial government was dismissed. syrian women now cite rape as a primary reason for fleeing their r-tn cotry. that's according to a new report by the international rescue committee. it says women report being sexually assaulted and raped, often in public and in front of family members. the i.r.c. gathered the data by interviewing more than 240 women in refugee camps in jordan and lebanon. the u.n. has registered more than 600,000 syrian refugees. in china, the people of beijing suffered through another day of severe smog, and for the first time government officials openly acknowledged the problem. the pollution was at its worst over the weekend, keeping beijing's skyscrapers enveloped in a gray haze. residents young and old wore masks to shield themselves from the pollutants.
the smog is expected to linger through tomorrow. leading cabinet ministers in france insisted today they will go ahead with a bill to legalize same sex marriage despite a mass weekend protest. hundreds of thousands of people rallied yesterday at the eiffel tower in paris. they urged president francois hollande to withdraw the legislation, and called instead for a national debate. current plans call for the french parliament to take up the gay marriage measure later this month, and approve it by june. former president george h.w. bush has left a houston hospital, two months after being admitted with a heavy cough. mr. bush is 88, and the nation's oldest living former president. he was hospitalized the day after thanksgiving, after suffering bronchitis. later he was transferred to intensive care when a fever developed. the hospital said today mr. bush will continue physical therapy to rebuild his strength. on wall street today, stocks ended the day with very little movement as investors waited for a slew of earnings reports later this week. the dow jones industrial average gained nearly 19 points to close at 13,507. the nasdaq fell eight points to
close above 3117. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jeff. >> brown: and we turn to the west african nation of mali, where a war between radical islamists and government forces has been waged for nearly nine months. the militants gained control of the north-- some two-thirds of the country-- last summer and imposed sharia law. the united states and other western countries have largely stayed out of the conflict despite worries of a wider threat to the region. that all changed friday when the french government launched air attacks after the fighters took over a village in government- controlled territory. we begin with this report narrated by jonathan miller of independent news. >> reporter: three jihaddists groups now deemed to pose a clear and present danger to the capital and beyond, a threat to africa and europe. >> the military units i command will not stay which will be our military base but will go further north and combat the terrorist groups there in addition to the air strikes that
we have undertaken in the past two days. snrlt the operation already proving heavily dependent on those french air strikes. aimed at destroying capability, disabling, dislodging, and denying sanctuary to the jihaddist groups who now occupy an area the size of france. the islam i haves are firing on-line counterpropaganda salv salvos. they're targeting muslims again they say. we will destroy them in their dens. the leader of al qaeda in the islamist magreb posting this message addressed to the president of france and african leaders who support french intervention. >> i direct my message to those who insist on this owe prosive war. if you want peace and security, we welcome that. if you want war, we will fulfill your desire. the great sahara desert will be a graveyard for your soldiers. >> reporter: but francois
hollande, the president of france has taken a carefully calculated gamble that failure to stop the advancing jihaddist forces in their tracks poses an even greater risk: the creation of yet another haven for islamist insurgents, this time not so far from europe. this is a prop gapped a video filmed by one of the three main jihady groups. a french presidential aide has admitted they're well trained, well armed with some physician ticked weapons looted from libya by rebels who have been fighting with khadaffi. >> as far as the direct implication of france's concerns, it's a matter of weeks. after we provide support, we have no intention of staying long-term. >> reporter: the islamists' destruction of the shrines in timbuktu and their administering sharia punish manies have scared secular maliians. they now want urgent help to kick the jihadis out. even the fighters who started
the rebellion only to be overrun by the islamist themselves say they support french intervention. now that help has arrived. >> brown: despite the aerial bombardments, islamist insurgents took more territory today, including a strategic military camp, according to french and malian military officials. fense secretary leon panetta sa the u. is supporting the french effort with intelligence gathering assistance. and he didn't rule out american aircraft landing in mali to provide airlift and logistical support. for more, we're joined by j. peter pham of the africa center at the atlantic council in washington, d.c. and emeera woods, co-director of foreign policy in focus at the institute for policy studies. let's start with you. before we get to the french intervention, i want you to help people understand the context here a bit. what makes mali important and what has made it so volatile? >> well, ma'amy is a country on the wt coast of africa that is
really at the epicenter. it is on the sahara, the brink of the sahara and sub saharan africa. it is a country rich in resources from gold to uranium, vital minerals in mali. there are also explorations of oil, particularly in northern mali. so it is a country that is rich in resources, that has actually been really the center of a democratic process for quite some time. we have to remember it is mallian women and students that back in the 1990s let out a dictator and ushered in a democratic process that has helped since the 1990s. we have to also recognize the history of mali. remember timbuktu the ancient center of learning for islam. the oldest universities in timbuktu, older than oxford or harvard or cambridge. they're there in mali. mali has been pivotal place not
only for africa but for much of the world and it is unfortunate to see the devepmens happening there now. >> brown: let me ask peter pham to bring us up to date to talk about the various insurgency groups. how organized. .. what do we know about them? how organized are they? what are their potential ties or actual ties to al qaeda and other worldwide groups? >> one of the insurgency groups al qaeda and the islamic ma greb was the first al qaeda franchise outside of south asia in afghanistan, pakistan and al qaeda in iraq. it's connected to al qaeda and verywell resourced because the last decade they've been make making a lot of money kidnapping for ransom. earlier this year, last year, excuse me, they obtained close to $10 million in ransom for several european hostages. they've also made a lot of money assisting drug traffickers. it's the preferred route through the areas they control for cocaine smugglers to europe. they've got money. with that money they purchase
arms that have been looted from libyan arsenals after the fall of the khadaffi regime. you have arms, money and fighters. >> brown: and you have a malian government that isclearly very weak at this point. >> very weak especially after the overthrow of the elected government. mali is a great 20-year tradition of democracy. unfortunately in recent years that democracy was being eaten up at the roots with corruption. some of the leadership was involved in drug smuggling and other criminal activities. so there was an overthrow of the regime not to justify the overthrow but that added to the confusion this is why the state really... can be said to have failed in mali. >> brown: the french connection here clearly goes back to colonial ties. what caused the french to step in, do you think? what are they hoping to do? how limited an action do you think this might be? >> well, the french are the colonial powers. they are formally the colonial powers there in west africa and in mali in particular. so they have an historic tie.
i think you also have more recent ties with french oil companies interested and in part of the exploration of oil in mali as well. so there's some economic ties as well that we shouldn't underestimate but clearly what france has done is a unilateral action. i think alarm bells have to go off when a nation-state like france, a former colonial power, goes in and launches unilateral military action. the concern is that, you know, we have a united nations, an international body, that should bring forward the collective will of the international community when there are crises like this. but france really stepped forward and came... has come to the u.n. today, days after launching the aerial bombardment in mali. i think the concerns that there cannot be really a military solution to this crisis in mali. the crisis has its roots in
political and also economic processes. people in the northern part of the country feeling completely marginalized from the rest of the country. so clearly what had you had was an opportunity because of the intervention, the nato intervention in libya unleashing weapons both from khadaffi's cofers as well as from the international community, weapons flowing from libya across borders of algeria into mali to be able to create a crisis and further destabilize northern mali. so i think what you have is a situation where unilateral intervention could create complications down the road both for civilians that could be targeted in these air strikes as well as for further complicating a political crises that may not be resolved militarily. >> brown: peter pham, as we reported secretary panetta said the u.s. is already providing some intelligence-gathering
assistance. what is the u.s.'s stake here or potential involvement just to take it even further than what the french are doing now? who are the other players including the u.s.? >> i think the united states and the rest of the international community does or do have an interest in preventing northern mali from becoming the next afghanistan, the next in-gathering place for all these extremist groups. however, at the same time the u.s. policy for... since the beginning o malian crisis has bn to pursue a comprehensive package, a resolution that includes political, economic as well as security dimensions. i will agree with my friend emeera. the adoption of a unilateral effort on the part of the french has more or less cleared the table. now we're putting all the eggs in the basket of the security dimension. it doesn't address the political and economic marginalization and the issues that need to be addressed if you're really going to roll back and contain this
threat. >> brown: let me ask you briefly. the french clearly were worried about blow-back to france and to europe. we heard islamists in that piece threaten that. is there the potential for that kind of... do they have that kind of ability, do we know? >> they certainly have that potential ability and the ironically the intervention will galvanize perhaps more radicals, but the problem is france may be able to achieve with the intervention of the small force that's put in there a short-term victory. but the long-term sustainable and credible solutionequires a great dealore effort. when you hear the french foreign minister talk about getting out in a few weeks, what he'll leave will be a far greater challenge. >> brown: still very much unfolding. peter pham and emeera woods, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: now, the death of
an internet activist and hacker and the reaction it's triggered about his work and philosophy. margaret warner has the story. warner: aaron swartz, found dead friday of an apparent suicide at the age of 26, was a prodigy of the digital age. at 14, the programmer helped develop r.s.s., a popular system to subscribe to breaking content on the web. he went on to help develop the social news sharing sight reddit. and he crusaded to make data stored in databases more available to the public. that cause led to his arrest in 2011 for hacking into a scholarly database known as j-store through the m.i.t. network. j.-store or kiefdz and distributes academic articles to subscribers. swartz surreptitiously downloaded nearly 5 million of them. he was to be tried this spring on 13 federal felony accounts which carried hefty fines and prison time. swartz who had battled depression hanged himself.
for more about him and the reaction to his death we turn to kevin paulson the senior editor at wired magazine charged with hacking himself some 25 years ago, he knew swartz personally. thank you for being with us. tell us first about swartz. the impact he ha on the web and on people who used the web. >> well, it was enormous. if he had done nothing but coinvent r.s.s. when he was a teenager, that alone would be an achievement to assure his place in history. he went on to do one thing after another. the thing about him, the thing that sets him apart from so many other people with his kind of talent is that he devoted seemingly exclusively tomaki the world a better place, to political causes and social causes while other people were looking to get rich with their
skills. he seemed to think nothing or next to nothing about that. it was all about what he could do for other people. >> warner: he helped found a lobbying organization to lobby for certain causes like greater openness on the internet. >> right. demand progress. this is something that last year played a crucial role in defeating a piece of ledge lyings that would have added a censorship layer, a censorship regime to the internet. in the name of protecting copyrights. if i can... the first time i met aaron, it was right after reddit was acquired by wired's parent company. the whole reddit team moved into the corner of wired's office. aaron came up to me. i was an editor at wired. he asked me if he could write something about an obscure argument in a copyright appeals case challenging the 1976 law that restricted public domain material. something very few peop even knew aut i said yes. he spent the day watching oral
arguments in this courtroom and then filing 600, 700 words, very well written summarizing both sides of the case and what the issues were. this was right after his company was acquired for presumably a lot of money. that's how he chose to spend his time instead of going out and buying sports car. >> warner: tell us about the incident that got him arrested in 2011. how did he hack into j-store, this database and why? >> it's not accurate to say he hacked into it. this was a database available on m.i.t.'s campus for free to any students there. because m.i.t. paid the subscription cost. so what he did is he went on on the campus. he used their net work there their public network initially, to automatically assess the database the same way you could do manually legally and download one article right after another in rapid succession. that led to a cat-and-mouse where they tried to lock him now, not knowing who he was.
he multly went into a networking closet and wired up a ptop in there and thid it under a box and left it running. that's how he got caught and subsequently prosecuted. it wasn't hacking in the usual sense of the word. he didn't circumvent any passwords. he didn't break into any computer systems. >> warner: tell us about... he planned to post those pages on the internet. is that right? >> so it appears, yeah. it looked like he planned on posting them anonymously. >> warner: tell us about the reaction his death has touched off starting with his family. >> his mily,while acknowledging the chronic depression that he suffered, they also blame the prosecutors who made a federal case out of this incident and pursued him with a lot of vigor. they blamed m.i.t.j-store, the database that he had accessed, not supporting the prosecution but m.i.t. never made a clear statement to that effect
themselves. since then m.i.t. has come out with a statement and the president of m.i.t. has ordered an investigation into the full chronology and whatm.i.t.'s position had been and at what times. >> warner: i'm sorry. it also added fuel to this long-run debate. and there are a couple sides to it about how much information stored in private or government or academic databases should be freely available to the public. >> aaron took on a lot of causes and he had a lot of things he was involved in. this was probably the signature issue. he helped develop things like open card catalogue system that ultimately would chronicle every book in existence. things li this. hiwas somethg that he was definitely passionate about. one of the ways people began honoring his memory yesterday was academics were posting their papers to the internet and posting them on twitter with a
special hash tag referencing aaron. so that's one of the reactions we've seen already. >> warner: kevin paulson of wired magazine, thank you very much. >> thanks for having me. >> brown: an historic moment in cuba today, as the country opens up to allow many of its citizens to travel abroad. ray suarez has the story. suarez: cubans lined up at travel agencies and passport offices in havana this morning wasting no time in taking advantage of a new law easing restrictions on travel abroad. >> i think it's beneficial for me and for everyone. you can go wherever you want and come back to your country and not lose your cuban nationality. >> suarez: today marks the end of more than a half century of an extremely unpopular cuban government policy put in place
shortly after castro took power in 1959 to stem a post revolution exodus. for decades cubans who wanted to travel overseas needed exit permits and letters of invitation from destination countries, leaving hundreds of thousands to flee the island nation on boats and rafts for nearby miami and the florida keys. once overseas even legally cubans faced the prospect of losing their citizenship and property if they remained outside the country too long. >> there has been a great deal of separation of families, something that is very tragic. >> suarez: now under the new law cubans will need only a passport and national i.d. card to leave. >> i think it's great because they've changed a lot of things and given us the freedom for all cubans to travel. >> suarez: for the first time they'll be able to bring their young children along. >> the situation for children is the best situation possible because now i can take the child but the child doesn't have to leave for good.
he'll keep his cuban citizenship. >> suarez: those traveling abroad will be allowed to stay up to two years, up from 11 months, without risking their citizenship. and while the cuban government's long been concerned about centers emigrating to other nations, last week they were told they'd be allowed to travel too. there are signs even cuban dissidents will be eligible. yet for all the praise, some see a cynical motive in the reform, to purge the opposition voices including doctor and outspoken government critic. >> it is a decree that doesn't give the cuban people freedom to travel but rather promotes an exodus in order to reduce the tensions that exist in this country because of the profound economic crisis. >> suarez: state department spokeswoman victoria newland said today the administration is reserving judgment until the new policy has been implemented. >> it is still one of the most repressive places in terms of
its human rights record, in terms of its restrictions on its citizens, in terms of speech, assembly, political rights, et cetera. but we welcome any liberalization. we hope that this will turn out to be one such. >> suarez: for now there's no change to a u.s. law that cuba adjustment act that allows cubans who arrive on american soil to remain. for more on this, i'm joined now by maria de los angeles torres, director of latin american and latino studies at the university of illinois in chicago. and julia sweig, director for latin america studies at the council on foreign relations. professor torres, le me stt th yo what do you think the government in ha vab a did this? >> i think there are several reasons, ray. there's clearly a lot of pressure from below to make changes. as the economic crisis and the inability of the government to actually meet the needs of people, there will be symbolic changes in policies that are very unpopular. i think the idea of having to
ask permission to travel abroad is something that has deep negative connotations for cubans since it was at the very beginning of the revolution something that caused divisions of families. so symbolically i think the government is responding to those below. it is also, i think, shows that there is a great deal of struggle in that bureaucracy. people on the one hand have been, if you will, a little bit more pragmatic about the kind of changes they would like to make. the ministry of the interior has the power of regulating who goes in and out. so the ministry of the interior that has never responded to castro is actually losing power in this move. castro takes care of pressure from below and at the same time puts limits on those parts of the bureaucracies that he hasn't been able to control. >> suarez: at whom is this aimed? in a country where most people
are too poor to travel abroad, who benefits? >> professor torres made the point that this has political symbolism but it has economic benefits in the short but also the medium- and the long-term. cuban-americans living in this country, for example, will also start traveling even more so. cubans cominghere will be able to travel, stay, work and then go back. i think this is an economic benefit to cubans, to the cuban population living in both countries. it has a political benefit to the government to show itself as being responsive to very longstanding demand that an unpopular policy change. >> suarez: before when it was very difficult to get off the island if you did leave, you stayed away for good. could this be opening up a new kind of life for a lot of cubans who are mobile that instead of leaving once and for all, they'll go back and forth sojourning? >> i think this is a way of
addressing what has been discussed as brain drain which is to acknowledge that in a global economy and where-conditions are so difficult in cuba with cuban professionals having skills, if you will, to sell abroad, even not super duper professionals but people with some kind of skill set to be able to come and go and earn money and bring income and not lose their status at home, be able to go back. what that does is it creates far more fluidity. it brings cuba toward a much more, if you will, normal status in line with other developing countries with a certain middle class and professional class that does want to be able to partake of what the world has to offer it. >> suarez: is that way you see it, professor? >> i think she's absolutely right. i think one of the things last happened in the last few years is that people have been able to obtain passports from other countries. for instance, if you have a grandmother in spain or somebody in venezuela who is a close relative like the irish do here in the united states, you obtain
that passport and that has allowed cubans to be able to travel abroad. through these flows of people also come flows of goods and services. so, for instance, people are bringing in clothes from spain, from the dominican republic, et cetera, so it does help the economy. i would say at multiple levels. i think the one thing that we can't forget is there's still. the control is you need a cuban passport to lead as you need a visa. if that country that you're treling to requires that. it's not a total opening in a certain sense. it is a certain adjustment that i think carries a symbolic value to it. it shows that there's more possibilities. like everything in cuba, this is following in a certain sense what people have already been doing informally. it just wants the... once the envelope is pushed, people will push a little bit more.
>> suarez: in the united states, julia sweig, the cuban adjustment act was drafted to create or carve out a place in law for people escaping the oppression of a communist nation. if things change in this relationship and people move back and forth more freely, is the united states going to have to revis it that? people become more economic migrants, more like people from other countries coming to the united states? >> well, cubans visiting the united states have for a couple of decades arguably been more economic than political migrants. in the 1960s especially there were waves of political refugees. that's where the adjust, the cuban adjustment act was created to be able to adjust their status here. but as economic migrants now primarily the cuban adjustment act creates a special carve-out for cubans in a time when we are in the middle of perhaps passing a major immigration reform act.
cuban citizens i think are the only in the world that have this kind of special ability. i think the united states may well take a look at the options for regularizing this flow back and forth and putting cuba more in line with other countries and their flow back and forth for their citizens here. >> suarez: professor, in the minute we have left, what's your forecast for how this new cuban law might change the way the united states looks at immigrants from cuba? >> well, i think that there is a... it is good to regularize but instead of treating cubans as poorly as the united states treats many immigrants hopefully we can learn that the cuban adjustment act has actually been a good policy that allows people to legalize quickly and incorporate into an economy and to a political system. so i would hope that new immigration reforms looks at that as a way of perhaps treating other immigrants.
>> suarez: make other immigrants more like cubans rather than cubans more like other immigrants? >> absolutely. suarez: professor torres, julia sweig, good to see you both. >> thanks for having us. you, ray. woodruff: there's one week left until washington plays host to president obama's second-term inauguration. the preparations on the west front of the capitol building are well under way, getting set for the president, hundreds of distinguished guests, and a huge crowd. celebrities will star at a series of special events, despite the fact that fewer than half the 1.8 million visitors who showed up for the historic first inaugural four years ago are expected. still, the president's private fundraising goal for the festivities is abo the same as 2009. then, he raised $53 million from individual donations alone that were capped at $50,000 each.
this year, the presidential inaugural committee plans to accept unlimited contributions from both individuals and corporations. the committee aims to raise $50 million. in comparison, the second inauguration of george w. bush raised over $42 million and took corporate donations of up to $250,000. late dollars we asked about criticism of how this event is being paid for this year. >> we are funding this event the same way as many civic events all around the country are funded which is with individual and institutional disowners who want to participate and make sure that event goes off well because they believe in this country and they believe in what the event represents. the way we're planning this inaugural, the focus we keep which is on giving them as much access to it as possible really is the most important thing to us. we sort of let all the other white noise go by the boards.
>> woodruff: for more behind the scenes of the inauguration, we turn to two reporters, matea gold of the "los angeles times" and nedra pickler of the associated press. welcome to you both. >> thank you. good to be here. woodruff: let me start with you. why did the president decide to allow unlimited individual corporate donations this year when the last time no corporate and there were strict limits on the individual. >> $50,000 individuals were capped. it was a very pragmatic decision at its heart. committee needs to raise $50 million in a pretty short amount of time. the donor base is rally bur out and exhausted after the campaigning which obama raised a record $1.1 billion. i think they knew it would be a tough slog to raise this much quickly. there's no question this really has disheartened advocates of campaign finance reform who had hoped that obama would use his second term to push for a lot more measures restricting the role of big money in politics. measures he did not push for in his first term.
>> woodruff: first of all how is is the fund raising going? >> right now it looks like they still have a gap of less than $8 milon to go. i thk they probably have a little bit of a buffer that they can produce the event with less than $50 million. but they will likely hit that with a lot of hard work in the next few days. >> woodruff: who are some of the people who are giving money from the corporations? >> they're keeping an updated list on the website but there's very little information. we don't know who these people are, where they're from or even where they work. they're only a list of names not the amounts that they're giving. there are some fun examples like there's a samuel jackson listed. is that the actor? sam jackson in akron ohio? we don't know. but there are some familiar names on there. some of the president's top bundlers from his campaign who raised the most money for him are on there. some people who have come into the white house for meetings we've run at the a.p. that list of names that have dough nays against the lists of names of people who have been allowed to
come into the white house to lobby. there are some repeats. there are a handful of corporations. not all of them have gotten exactly what they wanted out of the president. for instance, at&t has donated. they were turned away by this administration from their merger with t-mobile. there are a lot of... but there are a lot of donors. it's growing all the time. >> woodruff: we said it's unlimitedded but there is a million dollar limit. is that right or not? >> there's no limit to what anyone can donate. they're accepting any amount but they are sending out solicitations asking for donations of up two a million dollars. that would be unprecedented. there's never been anyone who donated $1 million to an inaugural committee before. >> woodruff: matea, what are folks getting in turn for the money? is there a package put together. >> sure. there are packages. they're graded accordingly to how much you give. tickets to the inaugural balls are pretty much the hottest commodity. only two official inaugural
balls that the president and the first lady will be attending as opposed to ten four years ago. reserve bleacher seats for the parade. there will be a whole host of events inauguration weekend. a children's concert. special receptions for top donors. so there i definitely going to e access for big donors. that's the criticism frommed advocates of campaign finance reform. the corporations are giving big money because they want preferential treatment down the line in return. >> woodruff: ned ra as you're saying they haven't necessarily gotten it in the past. is this saying they're hoping to get it in the future. >> who knows? they might want to make better friends with president obama. one thing i should note too is we will know the full information on these donors 90 days after the inauguration. the inaugural committee is going above what's required by the law and putting these names out at all but it would be nice to have a little bit more information. >> woodruff: what do we know about how the money is spent? if this inauguration is only
drawing 800,000 people, half of the number who came the last time, why are they needing to raise almost as much money? what do we know about that? >> they're putting a production on on the mall for 800,000 people. still no small feat. there is a big jumbotron screen and the parade which is a big logistical production. these two inaugural balls and a neaddition is the national day f service in which they're holding events all over the country as part of the spirit of what they're trying to make this inauguration about. >> woodruff: asking people to do volunteer work in their communities. >> they're greatly expanding this from four years ago. they have staff on the ground in every state to coordinate this. it's a vehicle to take their extensive campaign staff and put them towards this effort. they have about 550 people that are working on this inaugural week general. and the balls themselves he cut the number of balls down from 10
to 2 but these are extraordinary productions these balls. one of them is expected to draw 35,000 to 40,000 across the entire exhibit space of the washington convention center. that was a space that four years ago had six balls in it. >> woodruff: not just any old party. >> this is a big party. woodruff: matea, what about, you know, we just heard from steve saying it's all about access. we're not really paying attention to the criticism. but are they troubled abou by te fact that this was the president who came into office saying he would do things differently. >> you have to judge them on what they do. it's clear from our reporting that campaign finance reform is not going to be an immediate part of the president's agenda right now. if this was something that was really troubling them i think they probably would be taking action on that front. i think they knew they were going to get criticized for the reversal specifically on corporate donations. but in a lot of ways this president has had to compromise when it comes to money and politics. on several different occasions,
he endorsed a super pac that advocated on his behalf in the election after criticizing such groups. i think this is another example like that. >> woodruff: last question. for anybody who is watch ing who is trying to decide whether they should come to the inaugural or not, are there still tickets available? is participation possible if somebody hasn't planned by now? >> absolutely. this is actually a gray opportunity for someone who was scared away by the big crowds last time. they're expecting a million less people to turn out that day not to mention that the weather forecast is for about 20 degrees warmer than it was four years ago. there's open space on the mall. anything past third street down the national mall you can come without a ticket. >> woodruff: those of us who live here, we love the traffic, don't we? thank you both. >> our pleasure. thank you. brown: you can follow inauguration day on ou >> brown: you can follow inauguration day on our web site. we'll live-stream all the main events, plus host a live blog filled with the sights and sounds from the capital.
again, the major developments of the day. at his final news conference of his first term, president obama insisted he won't negotiate with congressional republicans on raising the nation's debt limit. he also called for tougher measures to curb gun violence. the associated ess reported suicides in the u.s. military hit a record 349 last year, nearly 50 more than the previous year. and french troops expanded their bombing campaign against islamic militants in the west african nation of mali. in today's online science roundup, the planet hunters at nasa have some exciting news. hari sreenivasan tells us more. >> sreenivasan: scientists presented a tally of how many earth-sized planets have been found in the milky way-- a step toward determining whether life exists elsewhere in our galaxy. read all about it in lunch in the lab. larry kotlikoff continues to answer your social security questions, including how benefits are affected by waiting to collect. that's on making sense. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: and that's the newshour for tonight.
on tuesday, we'll talk with the national rifle association president, david keene. i'm jeffrey brown. >> 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: >> bnsf railway. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions