tv PBS News Hour PBS May 6, 2010 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: good evening. i'm jeffrey brown. stocks plunged on wall street. we look at why-- fears that greece's financial troubles will spread, and a possible technical glitch. susie gharib of "nightly business report" on the floor of the new york stock exchange explains. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, in athens, police used tear gas to control tens of thousands of protesters. we get a live report from john psaropoulos. then, we assess the impact of the debt crisis here in the u.s. and in europe.
>> brown: we update the investigation into the failed car bombing in new york. attorney general holder said today the suspect has continued to talk. >> woodruff: the polls have closed in britain's general election; the votes are being counted. we get the latest from ned temko of britain's "observer" newspaper in london. >> brown: on the gulf coast, engineers lowered a massive containment box over the blown-out oil well. tom bearden reports on what scientists are learning about the impact of the spill. >> we put oysters out and we're going to track to see how well they survive, see what their growth rates are and then obviously be able to look at contaminate levels. >> woodruff: and we take you to broadway, where a play about the collapse of enron meets its own demise. >> i find this a very uniquely american story in a way. the greed, the headlong drive towards success. the once you get success with blinders that come on. >> brown: that's all ahead on
station from viewers like you. thank you. >> brown: the u.s. stock market went into free-fall for a time today on one of its wildest days ever. the dow jones industrial average was down nearly 1,000 points before pulling back. it finished with a loss of more than 349 points to close at 10,520. the nasdaq fell more than 82 points to close at 2,319. some of the shock waves hitting the market rippled outward from the streets of athens, greece. it was the second day of street violence in athens aimed at drastic spending cuts and tax hikes. some 5,000 protesters confronted riot police outside the greek parliament. the crowd threw stones, and the police fired tear gas to disperse them. no major injuries were reported, in contrast to wednesday's violence that saw a bank firebombed and three people killed.
today's demonstrations had begun hours earlier, as greek lawmakers gathered to consider the austerity measures in a bid to secure an international bailout. the plan will slash pensions and civil servants' pay. >> ( translated ): we must protest and continue the struggle until we take back what they are trying to take away from us. >> ( translated ): the measures aren't fair for workers, because they did not cause the crisis, and they want money from the loan to pay the banks. >> brown: but greek prime minister george papandreou told parliament the bailout was essential to save the country from plummeting into bankruptcy. >> ( translated ): at this moment that the country is at this difficult position, at this moment that the foreign parliaments are voting, no matter which political party they are coming from, for the loan of our country, the national interest ordains the broad consensus in the greek parliament. >> brown: ultimately, the lawmakers approved the cost- cutting measures in a vote of
172 to 121. that will pave the way for a $145 billion package of loans from 15 euro-zone countries and the international monetary fund. but back on wall street, growing doubts about the bailout, and apparent trading glitches, sparked a stampede to the bottom. the dow's thousand-point drop came in a period of less than 30 minutes before it began to recover. >> woodruff: for more on today's events, both in greece and on the financial markets, we turn now to guests in new york and athens. in a few minutes, i'll talk to john psaropoulos of thenewathenian.com. he also reports for national public radio. but first to susie gharib, anchor of the "nightly business report" here on pbs. she joins us from the new york stock exchange. susie gharib, first of all, it's being reported there may have been human error involved in that plunge today. what have you learned about it? >> well, it may have been human
error, judy, and that may have been compounded by some electronic trading. here's what we know so far. there were two events and we don't know which came first and if they were connected. one thing was that around 2:30 today, mysteriously, shares of procter & gamble and 3m suddenly plunged. and that triggered some electronic trading. also today, a trader accidentally placed an order for $16 billion instead of $16 million of what's called e-minis these contracts traded on the chicago mercantile exchange. we don't know which came first and if they're connected. our sources are telling us the trader was working for citi. citigroup has not confirmed that yet. but that was part of what was going on. you know, i want to say you just did your greece report. before this freefall, the markets were already pretty nervous and the dow was down something like 250 points. and then all of this stuff happened.
but within 20 minutes after the freefall, the dow was... regained about 600 points. >> woodruff: is it possible that a combination of events like what you just described could account for the biggest drop ever in one day? >> there are still a lot of questions that are unanswered and it's probably going to take a couple days to figure it all out. right now from what we're hearing it's a combination of human error and also some of this electronic trading. this evening, officials from the new york stock exchange as well as the nasdaq and the chicago mercantile exchange are getting together to decide and figure out what happened and to decide whether some of those erroneous trades should be canceled. >> woodruff: susie, in the last few days, the markets have been dropping, but haven't there also been some positive reports about the u.s. economy overall? >> yes, there have been. i mean, we've been seeing over the last couple of weeks that the consumer is spending more from retail sales, retailers are reporting good numbers.
we're seeing housing numbers are improving. factories are busier, and that's a good thing. and tomorrow, of course, is going to be very important, critical day for the markets because we're going to be getting the april employment report. and the expectations are for a strong number. we're hoping to see that american businesses have hired and added to their payrolls of something like 200,000 people. and that will be the strongest number that we've seen since this financial crisis began. so, yes, there are some good fundamentals. a lot of the economists that i talked to say that the u.s. recovery is on track. but we have to remember that this situation in greece may not be confined to greece alone. it may be spreading to other european countries. and there are worries that it could develop into a global credit crisis which, if that does happen, there will be a spillover affect into the u.s. >> woodruff: meanwhile, susie, is there a sense that what happened today says something about the fragility, even the
emotionality of these markets? >> absolutely. i mean, everything in the markets, as they always say, it depends on certainty. and when there's uncertainty, investors get nervous. and the big uncertain question right now is is this problem in greece going to spread to other countries? is this financial bailout for greece going to be enough? and if the europeans are having problems with this, and you're seeing those violent protests in greece, then what happens to the bigger economies in europe that are in trouble like portugal and italy and spain? will europe be able to contain that and handle those financial problems? will there be a recession in... throughout the euro zone? and will that recession impact american companies that sell goods and products to the europeans and what will that mean for jobs and the economy here in the states? so, yes, there are a lot of questions out there and that uncertainty is making investors very nervous. >> woodruff: susie gharib anchor of "nightly business report" on pbs. thanks very much.
and now to reporter john psarapolous in athens. john, we also talked to you yesterday. you were there today watching what has happened throughout the city. how much different from the deadly riots of yesterday? >> >> well, it was in short an anti-climax. the peaceful part of the ral that took place was only a couple thousand people strong in my estimation. this throng came around parliament at the time when the austerity measures were being voted. their banners were up and their flags were flying but there wasn't the usual drum beating and the usual amplified music and slogan shouting that attends these rallies. it was low-key, sober, chastened after the death yesterday of three people, one of hmm was four months pregnant. people here are counting it as four deaths. the violence in terms of what happens what took place later on
separately in streets around the parliament square were vastly reduced in scale and in intensity from yesterday. so, again, while there is a hard core afternoonar kis group bent on wreaking destruction with every given opportunity, with every rally that takes place, the scale is still reduced. >> woodruff: was there a display of remorse in any way today, john ? >> i think very much so. every major national newspaper had the death on the front page. it was the only story on the front page. people in a state of shock. people went to work with some sort of daze. all threw through the morning people i talked to were telling me they couldn't believe something could have got out of hand so badly. it's been very negatively commented on in all the media. evenen anarchist i was talking
to outside parliament, when i asked him what he thoughts of the results of anarchists' actions said it was a tragedy, he was very sorry that he, too, mourned for the victims but at the end of the day they were the victims of a social war that has now irrevocably been waged and that will not subside because he and people who think like him feel that greece is the flash point for a spontaneous global uprising of anarchy at the moment. so the people who actually torched the bank are not going to see the human cost as comparable to the political state. the people who are the vast majority, who were peacefully marching, are the ones who are most troubled by it and they feel that it adds to their frustrations. i'm talking about middle-class employees, private and public sector workers, union members, members of the communist party. those who make up the vast
majority of these strikes and marches. >> woodruff: meantime, john, we know greek parliament today went along with the prime minister's request to approve drastic cuts in spend ing and so forth. how did that debate go? >> well, the debate was acrimonious. at one point the prime minister even lashed out because he was accused of having pooh greek which is a standard mockery of our prime minister because he is by upbringing american. and perhaps his grasp of colloquial greek isn't as good as that of some other politicians. but the parliament did not go along with the government's austerity package. the government voted that through because it has the majority of parliamentary seats by the conservative opposition says "we will not oppose but not support." the communist party and the left position, which is a breakaway communist party, are simply at
war with the government and they are determined to prevent political and social consensus . therefore the government is completely isolated on its reform process and its austerity process. and this is the third package they've put through parliament on their own. so i don't see this as holding out great hope for further political consensus down the road because as far as politicians and people on the street are concerned, we are going to see more austerity requests from the government in the months to come, therefore the risk is going to grow wider. >> woodruff: john psarapolous reporting for us from athens, thank you very much. >> brown: a short time ago, after the markets closed, we got a broader look at some of the connections between the troubles in europe and the market's reaction in recent days. joining me is paul krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at princeton university and a columnist in for the "new york
times" and robert barbera is chief economist at the investment technology group, a research and market analysis firm. paul krugman, some of what's happened today seems to stem from a trading or human error but i'd like to focus on the turmoil in greece. why is it do you think that it is rattling our markets so much? >> well, in a way, there's nothing we didn't know, which is that this is a terrible, terrible situation for greece and that the euro zone has got big, big problems structurally. they really have a problem, we don't actually know how this is going to resolve. but i think it's finally coming to people, it's coming to a head. these things tend to drift on. people are suddenly looking at it and saying "how is this going to end? how is this going to work out?" this is big. greece is not big but the euro zone is one of the world's two great economies and it's in deep trouble. >> brown: robert barbera, how do you see the connection? >> yeah. i think greece obviously as a nation we really don't much care about the g.d.p. effects, but the fear is that greece is playing the role of lehman brothers and that you could have a
domino-like affect where other there's a run on greece and then a run on the other weaker sisters and then ultimately a problem for sovereign debt. i think that's the angst that's driving the financial markets over the last couple of weeks. >> brown: well, let's start with greece itself and then broaden it out, mr. barbera. the immediate thing under demonstration and debate in greece is the austerity program. now, is that the right measure for greece? what are the pros and cons that have markets wondering about? >> i think the problem is that most of us know that there's no way that there's enough austerity that could be squeezed out of greece for them to make good on the debt. so we all believe that ultimate there will have to be some restructuring. and so you've got riots in the streets about a certain amount of austerity and the reality that you just couldn't squeeze it enough to make good on the debt. and i think that's a real stumbling block. >> brown: paul krugman, what do
you think about that? >> yeah, i think, in fact, if anything that's too optimistic. the point is even with the restructuring of the debt greece needs to do some enormous austerity. no one really knows how this works. even if you don't count interest payments, greece was running a deficit last year of almost 9% to g.d.p. which is saying even if it completely stopped paying its debt it would have to make an enormous adjustment which looks like it's not politically possible. how is this going to work out? it's very hard to tell. i find it very hard to tell a story that doesn't end with greece dropping out of the euro, with something that... they need something to give their economy a boost. something that makes their exports more competitive. something that gives them some alternative to just... to doing nothing but slashing spending and raising taxes in the face of high unemployment. that's not on the table. it can't be on the table until it becomes inevitable but i think the point is that it's not as if somebody could say okay, let's be a nice guy unless the european union is prepared to come through with massive aid, not just a debt restructuring
but massive aid. and they're not ready to do that so we're really up against a wall here. >> brown: so mr. barbera, does that, then, call into question the entire... well, the entire question, the future of the so-called euro zone and euro? where are we there? >> i think professor krugman makes a good point about greshgs i don't disagree with that. what they're trying to buy is time. because i think you can make the case that greece is a uniquely bad situation. true, portugal has a difficult situation, so does spain, italy, ireland, but they're trying to buy time so if you get some further down the road you could actually contemplate both big restructuring of the death in the midst of all these very difficult adjustments, perhaps them leaving the euro without it costing the chain reaction. hence the effort to say the i.m.f. and the euro zone will write some checks
and backstop some bonds to get some distance from this moment. the thought is if you had an expansion that works out for a couple of years, you could then have greece in the midst of this turmoil and have it less be potentially contagious. >> brown: but paul krugman, you're worried more about the contagion or the potential to spread to other parts of europe. >> i think if greece doesn't resolve this-- and events are moving pretty fast-- people are going to say okay, greece is the extreme case, nobody else has the combination of debt and overvaluation that they do. but other countries are in that direction. so portugal doesn't quite look like greece but there's a resemblance. spain has been fiscally responsible but they're in trouble because their costs and prices are out of line. so it starts to call the whole structure into question. i don't think it's a sovereign debt issue by the way generally. if you look at what happened to bond markets today, u.s. interest rates drops. british interest rates dropped.
this is a euro zone problem but unfortunately the euro zone is a big player in the world economy. >> brown: but bring it back to us, then, and start with you robert barbera. how does that affect... some people talk about if you want to continue the snowballing effect it calls into question our own potential long-term debt. is that what we're worried about? >> no. i hear a lot of that and i just find it... it's fanciful that you can get from the greek situation to our bond market and worry about our fiscal situation. i also have one of the more optimistic outlooks on the u.s. economy and i've been very happy with the numbers that have come out year to date. the data have looked good and at the margins if you think about the histrionics of the last couple weeks, the two big things that have happened in the u.s. is r that mart gaj rates have come down substantially and oil prices have come down rather substantially. in fact, even in the corporate bond market yields have been coming down.
so if we don't get the domino-like affect and have a big crisis for europe overall, i just can't make the case that this knocks off off our pins. >> brown: and the volatility we see in the markets and mostly in the downward direction of the last few days you're not worried that will continue? >> you're absolutely right. the market has been down and painful over the last couple days but over the last 14 months it's been an impressive recovery and it's unfortunately... i think the tough part about the market today, independent of the trading glitches that may have occurred, the tough part about the market today is it reminds you that the public did take a big step towards corporate bonds junk bonds, and the bond markets right now have recovered and have a great deal of underpinning. but the public has not come back to the equity market. >> could i weigh in here? the main substantive thing for the u.s. economy i think is that
we're seeing the euro drop. and that means u.s. exports become less competitive. we are counting on exports as being one of the drivers of recover so this is not a good thing. we are seeing some... it's fairly pro sake. this is not a lehman type while the markets come crashing down. but one of our biggest trading partners has suddenly because of its own problems become more competitive and we've become less competitive. that that's not good news for the economy. it's not a thousand points on the dow bad news but it's not good news. >> in addition, the fix rate mortgage is down a lot and so is the price of oil. if you added the three up right now and... you know, on a metric basis right now the last two weeks is a push. >> brown: okay. day to day we'll keep watching, robert barbera and paul krugman, thanks very much. >> thanks a lot. >> thank you. >> woodruff: still to come on the newshour: investigating the botched car bombing; casting ballots in britain; protecting oysters and fisherman on the gulf coast; and playing enron on broadway.
but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: democrats in the u.s. senate rejected a key amendment to the financial reform bill today. republicans said a proposed consumer financial protection agency would have too much power over banking. instead, they proposed reining in that power and making new rules subject to review. democrats and president obama said that would have "gutted" consumer protections. the amendment lost, 61 to 38. nigeria's acting head of government officially became president today of africa's most populous nation. goodluck jonathan was sworn into office, a day after his predecessor, umaru yar'adua died from a lengthy illness. jonathan promised to work for peace and electoral reform. one challenge will be stabilizing the niger delta. militants there have repeatedly disrupted oil production. russian special forces today freed an oil tanker hijacked by somali pirates in the indian ocean. the vessel named "moscow university" had been seized on wednesday, along with 23 russian crew members.
it carried a cargo worth $52 million. russian forces killed one of the pirates in the rescue operatio ten more were captured. in india, the only surviving gunman from the attacks on mumbai in 2008 was sentenced to be hanged. mohammed ajmal kasab is the pakistani man caught on camera storming a train station during the mumbai assault. 166 people died in the three-day siege. luxury hotels, a train station, and a jewish center were the targets. kasab can still appeal his sentence and apply for clemency. those are some of the day's main stories. i'll be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you'll find tonight on the newshour's web site. but for now, back to judy. >> woodruff: new details emerged today about events leading up to the attempted attack in times square last saturday. investigators also stepped up efforts to run down any connections to militants in pakistan. newshour correspondent kwame holman has our report. >> holman: federal officials reported today they're still
getting information from faisal shahzad, the prime suspect in the bombing probe. attorney general eric holder discussed the interrogation at a senate hearing this morning in washington. >> during ongoing questioning by federal agents, shahzad provided useful information, and we will continue to pursue a number of leads as we gather intelligence relating to this attempted attack. although this car bomb failed to properly detonate, this plot was yet another reminder that terrorists are still plotting to kill americans. >> holman: shahzad was arrested late monday, and has not been seen publicly since. investigators say he began talking almost immediately and waived his right to a speedy arraignment. he was accused of leaving this 1993 nissan pathfinder, loaded with fireworks, gasoline and propane, parked on a busy street in times square, but the bomb failed to go off. today, the associated press reported investigators now believe shahzad made a dry run
with the s.u.v. into times square last wednesday to choose the best place to leave the vehicle. he allegedly returned friday to drop off a black isuzu eight blocks from the bomb site as a getaway car. then, investigators said, as he fled the scene saturday night, shahzad accidentally left his car keys in the nissan, and had to take public transit back home. they said he came back sunday with a second set of keys to pick up the isuzu. shahzad has confessed to authorities that he trained at a terrorist camp in pakistan, but acted alone. still, house republican leader john boehner today accused the obama administration of issuing "bland reassurances" that this was just a "lone wolf." >> we've been lucky that we've been able to thwart these attempted attacks. but, frankly, most of us believe that the strategy ought to be preventing such attacks, not counting on our luck to catch these at the last moment. if this bomb and this vehicle in times square would have worked
the way they had wanted, thousands of people would have been killed before we ever found the individual responsible. >> holman: but house speaker nancy pelosi argued the law enforcement system has worked. >> the harder we work, the luckier we get-- i think that's probably the point. i don't think anybody accused them of being lucky when the millennium plot was foiled ten years ago. it's about a large number of elements that come together, and one of them which is very important is the vigilance of the american people. >> holman: the pakistan connection also came under increasing scrutiny today. published reports said u.s. officials now believe the pakistani taliban may have played a role in the plot, as the militant group has claimed. in the meantime, there was a new alert today at john. f. kennedy international airport in new york. an emirates airlines flight briefly was called back to the gate when officials incorrectly matched a passenger to the no- fly list of terror suspects. shahzad had been arrested on an emirates flight at jfk, despite being put on the no-fly list. >> brown: now, to britain's cliffhanger election.
newshour correspondent simon marks begins our voting day coverage. >> reporter: the polls opened at dawn all over britain, the start of what may prove to be the most exciting election day the country has seen in a generation. prime minister gordon brown, battling to keep his labour party in power, greeted reporters as he arrived to vote near his home in scotland. >> good to see you all. have a good day. >> reporter: david cameron, leader of the opposition conservatives, voted near his home in oxfordshire, buoyed by the campaign's final opinion poll. it showed his party enjoying an eight-point lead. >> were you making omelets this morning? >> yes, and i did break some eggs. >> i don't think my vote is a secret. >> reporter: and nick clegg, leader of the liberal democrats, whose strong performance in the country's televised election debates turned the campaign on its head, posed for photos after casting his ballot in sheffield, in northern england. turnout was high across the
country, but among voters casting their ballots in central london this afternoon, public opinion was still very divided. >> the reason i like lib dems is that i think it's time we change how parliament is run, and they're the only ones that seem very keen to do that. >> i decided to go blue, conservative-- new change. and i think some of the things that they've got going in terms of policies for rejuvenation, they sound a lot better than the labour. >> i was a bit tempted by perhaps a new party being in power, a liberal. but in the end, i still followed my instinct, and i prefer labour to liberal. >> reporter: british voters don't choose a national leader; they vote for local members of parliament. the party that wins the largest number of seats in parliament then forms the government. but in a closely-run election like this one, all sorts of outcomes are possible, including
an era in which no single party enjoys a clear majority, something the country hasn't seen since 1974. >> whoever is the largest party, labour or conservative, it's very likely that they will not have an overall majority, in which case, of course, the liberal democrats will be in a very powerful position. because in order to have a majority, a working majority in the house of commons, whoever is the larger party will need liberal democratic support. >> reporter: the election campaign was dominated by domestic issues-- the economy, the state of public services, immigration, and political reform. foreign policy took a backseat, despite growing public concerns about britain's role supporting u.s.-led efforts in afghanistan. in the televised campaign debates, the candidates sparred over the uk's status as a close u.s. ally. gordon brown and david cameron portray themselves as supporters
of the traditional atlantic alliance, and took issue with nick clegg's more europe- centered stance. >> we need america on our side. your anti-americanism will not help us. >> i have a simple attitude it is an immensely important, special relationship, but it shouldn't be a one-way street. we shouldn't always automatically do what our american friends tell us to do. >> if i was your prime minister, i would want to think very carefully what's in the national interest, what will make us safer here in the united kingdom. do we have a political strategy for how we are going to get out of that country once we have tried to make it safe with our allies? >> it's still too close to call... our exit poll says the conservatives will win 307 seats labour 256 and the liberal democrats 59.
remember, you need 326 to cross that winning line. >> reporter: as the polls closed tonight, british broadcasters unveiled the results of their exit polls, which have not always proved reliable in the past. ballot counting is now underway in earnest all over the country, with millions of people burning the midnight oil as they wait to see whether the result will be clear enough to allow anyone to occupy the prime minister's office, number ten downing street. >> brown: margaret warner has more. >> warner: and for latest on today's elections we turn to ned temko, a writer for the "observer," the sunday edition of "the guardian" newspaper in london. he's writing a book about british politics. ned temko, welcome. what do you think we can tell based on the exit polls and the very, very sketchy actual count that's in? >> not a lot. i mean, if these exit polls are correct, it will be an extraordinary election. it will be the first time in 36
years that none of the major parties has had a working majority in the commons. if that indeed happens we're in for a lot of horse trading and a lot of kind of political brinks manship because both of the major parties-- labour and the conservatives-- will want first crack at forming a government. but the one very important caveat is, as you say, very few votes have actually been counted. i think two of the 650 constituencys have so far reported. so it's a long night. and they will change the exit poll in the next few hours. they've already mended it a tiny bit so that i think the latest conservative projection is now 305 seats instead of 307, but the fact is we're pointed towards what's called a hung parliament with no overall majority for either party. >> warner: so right now at 6:30
eastern time, it's 11:30 in london, how soon will at least enough of the vote be in from the actual constituencies to have a pretty good idea about whether the exit polls are on the right track? >> well, the closer an election like this is, the longer it takes. i think the expectation is that some time in the next two or three hours we'll have a much better idea. the reality is there's 650 seats in the house of commons. a good 400 or so of those-- more 450, probably-- are safe seats. that is to say labour or the conservatives or the liberal democrats have held them comfortably enough for long enough to that you can sort of pencil them in as winners again for this election. the outcome of the election will be decided on 100, 150 marginal constituencies, and that's what we're waiting for. when we get a significant number of those, we'll know what the swing is. i think generally the exit poll is correct in the following sense.
the conservative s will probably be the largest party, they'll have the most seats. labor will be second. the liberal democrats will be third. but the arithmetic is crucial because that will determine who's prime minister and what kind of deals get made. >> warner: this is also complicated by an anomaly because there will be a disparity between the percentage of the total popular vote that actual party gets. explain if you can simply to american audience why that is? >> i mean, for lots of reasons, but the main one is the way the districts... the borders of these electoral districts are drawn is not perfectly equal. so therefore, for instance, some labor seat s will be let's say
80,000 or 90,000 voters in each constituency. some of the tory seats will be 30,000 or 40,000 so you can't extrapolate from the popular vote to how many seats. be new calculating this exit poll, i think they've made some of that calculation. the real question mark is because it is so close whether the tories in these 150 seats, these marginal seats, i'm talking about, will do better than the national average, for which case the exit poll will change or whether they'll do a little worse. and it really depends on who you talk to. the tories are quite upbeat, the conservatives that is. labour is putting a brave face on it. the real puzzle here is the liberal democrats who are supposed to have made this huge break through and unless the exit poll is wrong-- which it may be-- they seem to have done more disappointingly than they'd hoped. >> warner: so explain what are the best scenarios, the most likely scenarios.
i'm not asking you to predict, but possible scenarios, then, for tomorrow. >> well, the two main ones, if the conservatives get an absolute majority, unlike in the states, a changeover of power here is almost instantaneous. david cameron would be in number 10 downing street some time early tomorrow afternoon. gordon brown, the prime minister would call in a a moving van. that's the simplest outcome. if there is not an absolute majority but the tories, the conservatives, have the largest single number of votes, it will be fascinating because basically there will be a lot of pressure-- particularly from the conservatives-- to say that because the conservatives have the largest vote number and seat number they should get the first attempt to form a government. the rules in britain, the constitutional convention, is quite the opposite. the prime minister remains prime minister until he resigns and you could see gordon brown and labour, as indeed they've
indicated they will do, holding on and trying to form a coalition themselves until they're absolutely sure they can't do that. and if that happens we could be in for three, four days, even a week, ten days of quite delicate negotiations. >> warner: just to be clear here gordon brown could say "i don't care what the popular vote is, i'm the prime minister, i'm not leaving this chair, i'm going to try to make some deals." >> and basically that's what the rules say. there's been a lot of criticism of the rules but in a country where all of this is done on precedent-- because there's not a written constitution-- civil servants in downing street and elsewhere have drawn up this kind of rule book and, indeed, in 1974-- the last time there was a hung parliament-- there was a conservative prime minister who did much less well than labour had done in the polls but held on for a few days tried to make a deal and finally had to give up. and labour at that point-- which was opposition-- formed a minority government.
that's what the conservatives are hoping will happen this year. but it really depends on exactly how many seats each of them have. >> warner: ned temko, thank you so much for leading us at least through the beginning of this labyrinth. thanks so much. >> woodruff: now, the latest from the gulf coast and the oil spill. ken salazar said this evening that the companies involved may made "very major mistakes" and he said the government would not issue any new permits for offshore drilling for three three weeks while an investigation is completed. today, crews launched a major project to slow its spread, while researchers worked to limit damage to crucial fishing areas. newshour correspondent tom bearden reports from the scene. tonight, he's in alabama.
>> reporter: as the sun rose over the gulf, viscous oil lapped against the boat that carried the 100-ton containment box to the site of the spill. the plan called for the four- story concrete and steel tower to cover the leaking pipe from the sunken oil rig. >> it's never been done at 5,000 feet below the sea, but that's the option they're working on. >> reporter: by monday, the containment box could be temporarily channeling the hemorrhaging crude oil and piping it to the surface. b.p. operated the sunken rig and hopes to capture 85% of the oil that's gushing from the sea bed. if it works, a second box could be placed over the wellhead itself. still, u.s. officials are assuming a worst-case scenario. the u.s. secretary of homeland security janet napolitano spoke today in biloxi, mississippi. >> i hope it works. it has not been used at that depth before, but we're still proceeding as if it won't.
>> reporter: in the meantime, at b.p.'s darkened operations center in houston, texas, engineers continue trying to guide deep-sea robots to shut off the flow of oil at the wellhead. so far, they've managed to close just one small leak. on the surface, calm seas have allowed for more controlled burns, skimming, and chemical dispersal efforts. yesterday, 18 flights dropped 150,000 gallons of those chemicals. >> with time, this dispersant breaks it up and it will take care of itself. that's where nature kicks in and takes care of it. >> reporter: frantic efforts also continue to keep oil from reaching the louisiana coastline, home to nearly 40% of the country's wetlands. but the associated press reported today seeing pinkish oily residue along the shore at new harbor island. the uninhabited barrier island is part of the chandeleur islands, a national wildlife refuge.
here in south alabama, booms are still being deployed in mobile bay. governor bob riley has approved a plan to string booms across the entrances to the entire bay. two "swinging doors" operated by tugboats would allow ship traffic to pass. that's more than five miles of booms. the offshore fishing grounds remain closed, and some area fisherman have found work stringing and managing booms. >> this is part of the long line of containment booms that stretch along the mississippi, alabama, and louisiana gulf coast. these are designed to keep oil from coming onshore, but as we saw just over there, it is difficult to keep them from drifting into shore. there have to be maintenance boats out there to keep pulling them away and reestablish the barrier. but some of the people working on the booms are operating swamp boats that were brought in from louisiana, and some local people who are not working are pretty angry about that. >> we commercial fishermen, we don't even own a boat like that. >> reporter: inside the bay being protected by that boom,
auburn university scientists are working on a project that might help the oyster business recover if the oil does severe damage. >> this is a test project to see if oysters can be cultivated in shoreline farms. there are 170,000 oysters in these submerged enclosures. bill walton is a university biologist. >> with the oil spill coming, we decided we would put out oysters just before the oil hits like canaries in the coal mine. we have ten sites along the coast. we will put oysters out and see how well they survive, see what their growth rates are, and obviously be able to look at their contaminant levels. >> reporter: ladon swann is the director of the auburn marine research center. do you think that barricade is adequate to keep oil out of this area? >> it can't hurt. i think if you look at the data, the best it has ever been done, in terms of recovery-- 10%. if it helps achieve a 10% or greater recovery rate, then that is great.
mother nature will do what it does. >> reporter: swann says if the oyster beds are devastated, the project might be able to help fishermen and restore the natural oyster reefs more quickly. >> we can help produce a product for the market. we can help the reefs. we can spawn those in a hatchery on dauphin island, and then we can plant those in the reefs. >> reporter: walton says the entire regional economy is teetering on a precipice. >> i think you look at a lot of we have guys already put out of work because of those closures, in effect. that has this cascading effect. you drive through bayou labatre, and you see trucks in parking lots who are not delivering seafood. the guys are not selling ice, the restaurants are selling seafood but... it is going to affect a lot of people who trying to make ends meet. it is going to be pretty devastating effect.
>> reporter: today, the obama administration announced a low interest loan program for businesses affected by the spill. >> brown: and finally tonight, a play about a financial collapse meets its own unexpected end. >> brown: take one massive financial scandal... >> i don't mind taking losses. i just can't report the losses right now. >> brown: ... add a bit of song and dance. ♪ >> brown: ... and a few debt- eating dinosaurs, and you have "enron: the play," which came to broadway after a hugely successful london run, and attempted to go where theater rarely ventures-- into the dark heart of high finance and
corporate corruption, the 2001 collapse of houston-based energy-turned-trading giant, enron. >> the more i read about that, the more i thought, "well, why don't i fully understand this?" and i tend to get fascinated by things i don't fully understand, because i want to kind of work out how it works. >> brown: british playwright lucy prebble, now 29, was just finishing college when enron hit the headlines. when we talked just before the show opened, she told me she'd once thought of a career in business herself, but found success in writing for tv and theater. >> when you start looking to things like whether it's derivatives or credit default swaps, those things we've been dealing with the last couple years, but particularly enron financial instruments generally, you think, well, actually, what you are dealing with is a sort of metaphor, particularly with derivatives, or even, i'll go so far as to say, the world of illusion. now, if you look at the world of illusion, you are actually quite well-placed to represent that on
stage because people come into a theater expecting to be sold something that isn't real. and that's not a million miles away from how commodities and stocks operate. >> brown: yet you still have to explain to people "mark to market." >> ( laughs ) yes, accounting explanations! >> brown: creative, and then illegal accounting, of course, was at the heart of what was then the biggest bankruptcy in u.s. history, with company executives in handcuffs and thousands of employees losing their jobs and their life savings. "enron: the play" revels in its own razzle-dazzle, but the focus is on the real-life characters who became synonymous with greed and corruption-- most of all, ceo jeffrey skilling, a man with, at first, at least, an honest dream. >> we hire the smartest people and set them free to look at whatever they want. less routine, less structure. let people's minds work free from the old assumptions of what this company is.
>> brown: actor norbert leo butz plays skilling, whose 24 year sentence on a variety of charges is even now being appealed. gregory itzin, familiar for his role as the president in the tv hit "24", plays a different sort of leader here-- ken lay, the head of the company who was found guilty of securities fraud, but died of heart failure in 2006 before being sentenced. >> i find this a very uniquely american story in a way. the greed, the headlong drive towards success, the 'once you get success, the blinders come on'. and it's also interesting. well, you're playing a guy who's still alive, i'm playing a man who has "passed on," supposedly, at least. if you go online, he's still "somewhere" hiding. >> brown: oh, really? >> yeah, yeah. >> along with elvis somewhere. ken lay and elvis are hanging out at a bar somewhere. >> brown: well, what's it like playing these characters that
are so alive in people's... for some people, they're really vivid characters, they were deeply affected personally. >> i had no preconceived notions of jeff skilling. i did not and i do not see him as a villain, simply by virtue that the playwright is not presenting him as such. >> everything i've ever done in my life worth anything was done in a bubble, in a state of extreme hope and trust and stupidity! the thing we talked about early in rehearsals, and it's very important to remember, is yes, he was a bully. yes, he was an intellectual bully. yes, he was crude. yes, he was manipulative. yes, he lied. however, he also explained in very valid... in a very valid argument, that all he was doing was taking free markets to their logical extreme. >> brown: maybe so, but now it
turns out that broadway's free and fiercely competitive market has taken down "enron: the play". the $4 million production received only tepid reviews here, unlike in london where it continues to thrive, and u.s. audiences seem to have decided it's not for them. peter marks, who reviewed the show for "the washington post," says something happened when the play crossed the atlantic. >> we're two different political cultures. the way we look at the world actually turns out to be very different. and there's an inherent criticism of american culture. i think we feel somehow that they are judging our system. and we can do our own judging, i think we feel. >> brown: plus, says marks, there's the inherent difficulty of presenting "the news" onstage. >> and i think, in this case, enron is something we did hear over and over again. we're pretty sophisticated about the topic itself. and you've got to tell us something new. you can't just rehash it for us. >> brown: one other possibility-
- maybe the enron scandal seems quaint after what's happened in the last two years. whatever the case, the show will close on sunday after just 15 performances, making it one of broadway's more expensive flops in a number of years. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: wall street had a wild day as apparent trading errors compounded worries over the greek debt crisis. the dow jones industrial average plunged nearly 1,000 points before finishing with a loss of 348 points. white house spokesman robert gibbs said the president was closely monitoring the situation in greece. attorney general eric holder said the suspect in the times square bomb plot is still talking and investigators are pursuing new leads. and crews in the gulf of mexico began an operation to contain a deep-sea oil leak. the newshour is always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's there.
hari. >> sreenivasan: find out how many gallons of oil are gushing into the gulf of mexico. use our interactive leak meter to see different estimates of the current flow rate. paul solman blogs about thursday's wild market ride and the protests in greece on his making sense page. on newshour connect, we talk to reporters from pbs stations in virginia, idaho and missouri about the tea party movement in their communities. plus on art beat, a new exhibit about edward moi-bridge, a pioneer in photography. he was the first to capture motion and paved the way for the invention of cinema. curator philip brookman describes moi-bridge's technique. >> he's british by birth, he was born in 1830. he began his career in san francisco in 1867 photographing the landscape. and yet he's really best known for work he did years later in the 1870s and 1880s about motion and time. his great realization was his
understanding that a sequence of images would allow a real thorough analysis of the motion of a horse. we see that photography was both a scientific accomplishment, a technical accomplishment, and also an artistic accomplishment. >> brown: and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: i'm judy >> woodruff: i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you on-line... and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks, among others. thank you and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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