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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  September 20, 2011 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT

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good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight, margaret warner gets the latest on the assassination from patrick quinn of the associated press in kabul. >> woodruff: then we look at shifting arguments for and against the death penalty, as a parole board in georgia rejects clemency for a man slated to be executed tomorrow. >> ifill: we talk to two now openly gay members of the military on the day the pentagon officially ends "don't ask, don't tell." >> woodruff: spencer michels tells the story of an opera that recounts the life and death of a man who saved others in vietnam and again at ground zero. >> he had no choice. duty came before anything else. duty to one's fellow man takes precedence over all other values. >> ifill: and hari sreenivasan has a follow-up to yesterday's conversation about big money in college athletics, this time with n.c.a.a. historian joseph
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crowley. >> woodruff: that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: somebody has got to get serious. >> i think... >> we need renewable energy. >> ...renewable energy is vital to our planet. >> you hear about alternatives, right? wind, solar, algae. >> i think it's got to work on a big scale. and i think it's got to be affordable. >> so, where are they? >> it has to work in the real world. at chevron, we're investing millions in solar and biofuel technology to make it work. >> we've got to get on this now. >> right now.
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>> moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. the william and flora hewlett foundation, working to solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: in afghanistan, the top official trying to make peace with the taliban was the victim of an assassination in kabul today. margaret warner has the story. >> warner: a former afghan president for the past year has been leader of the so-called high peace council. a 68-member group trying to
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negotiate a reconciliation with the taliban. afghan officials say the man was killed at his kabul home by a suicide bomber. three other people were wounded. there are conflicting accounts of how the murderer gained access to rabani. meeting at the united nations at midday, afghan president hamid karzai and president obama expressd determination that the afghan-led peace process would go on. karzai is flying home early from the u.n. to deal with the fallout. for more we turn to patrick quinn, news editor for afghanistan and pakistan at the associated press in kabul. and patrick, welcome. tell me what the latest on what exactly happened. >> well, what afghan officials and nato are saying is that the suicide bomber carried out the attack with a bomb inside his turban. he apparently gained access to mr. rabani's home, pretending to be an emissary for the taliban. he was actually escorted into
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the house by a former taliban leader and former fighter who fought along with rabani against the russians. so he gained access pretty much by saying that he was there to discuss peace. he entered the home, shook mr. rabani's hand, apparently bowed over in a sign of respect and then blew up the turban. the explosion killed mr. rabani. it also seriously injured a senior advisor to president karzai on issues of reconciliation and reintegration. so this suicide bomber essentially managed to damage the two people who were leading the peace process here in afghanistan. >> warner: what are u.s. and afghan officials saying to you about how big a blow this is for the u.s.-backed effort, led by the afghan government,
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to negotiate an end to this war? >> well, everybody here is trying to sort ofate not downplay the event but they're basically saying the peace process will continue. however, this is is a very clear sign that the taliban are not interested in talking peace. they've just killed the top negotiator who was responsible for bringing peace or trying to bring the taliban into this government or find some negotiated settlement to a war that has no military solution. so by killing,, the top negotiator and trying to kill the number-two person in the reconciliation process, minister, i think they have given a very clear signal that they're not really interested in talking. >> warner: what kind of progress had rabani and his high peace council made in the last 11 months since they've been doing this? >> well, most of the discussions have been kept pretty hush-hush and pretty secret. we know they've been talking
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to the taliban. we're not quite sure which part of the taliban they've been talking to. but some spro gres had been made. we have to there have essentially been two tracks on this. there is a u.s.-led effort to open talks to the taliban. this occurred in meetings in germany and doha. however, everybody has insisted that this is an afghan-led, an afghan-owned peace process. so some progress is made not very visible but whatever it was it's gone now. >> warner: this comes just a week after the taliban mounted this, what, 20-hour siege of the u.s. embassy and the international forces headquarters in kabul. what does it say about the strength of the taliban in the heart of kabul? >> well, it's not so much about the strength of the taliban in the heart of kabul. it's about the strength of the afghan police and their ability to stop the taliban. let us not forget that as part
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of the transition process from nato/u.s. control to afghan control, we'll be handing over responsibility for security to the afghan forces by 2014. so it makes somebody wonder how prepared they will be to assume that responsibility. this isn't... this is the third attack inside of kabul in three months. actually the fourth attack. it wasn't just the u.s. embassy. they attackd the british consul at the end of last month. they attacked a large western hotel here. there had been many deaths. this basically is a sign, perhaps its perception, that the taliban are trying to tell people, well, we can strike anywhere we want any time we want. >> warner: patrick quinn of the associated press, thank you so much. >> thank you, margaret.
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>> ifill: still to come on the newshour, a death penalty debate; an end to the ban on gays serving openly in the military; an opera about a 9-11 hero; and big money in college sports. but first, with the other news of the day, here's kwame holman. >> holman: gunmen in pakistan attacked a bus and killed 26 shiite muslims today. the victims were pilgrims on their way to iran. local tv showed rcue workers retrieving the bodies, and ambulances taking the wounded to hospitals. a militant sunni group claimed responsibility for the attack. separately, today pakistan and the u.s. agreed to limit the number of american troops in the country. the associated press said the total would drop to between 100 and 150 from nearly 300 now. a tense calm has returned to yemen's capital city, with a cease-fire now in effect. the country's vice president and several western ambassadors negotiated the truce between supporters of president al abdullah saleh and opponents of his regime. hours earlier, at least nine people died in street battles. clashes also broke out again in
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the southern city of taiz. at least 60 people have died in the violence since sunday. moammar qaddafi issued new words of defiance today, insisting nato attacks will not end his regime in libya. the embattled qaddafi spoke in an audio message broadcast on syrian-based television. he said, "the political system in libya is a system based on the power of the people, and it is impossible that this system be removed." but speaking at the united nations meeting in new york, president obama said nato will not be swayed. >> so long as the libyan people are being threatened the nato-led mission to protect them will continue. those still holding out must understand, the old regime is over. it is time to lay down your arms and join the new libya. >> holman: mr. obama also met with leaders of the libyan opposition council, now recognized as the new government. he said the world will support the post-qaddafi regime as it tries to build democratic institutions. u.s. policy in the middle east
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drew fire today from two top republican presidential candidates. texas governor rick perry charged president obama has conducted a policy of appeasement toward the palestinians at the expense of israel. perry said it only encouraged the palestinian authority to try to win u.n. recognition as a state. >> simply put, we would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the obama policy in the middle east wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous. >> holman: former massachusetts governor mitt romney also weighed in. he said what's happening at the u.n. this week is "an unmitigated diplomatic disaster." >> holman: the government of greece reported progress today in a bid to avoid defaulting on its debt. the greek finance minister held more talks with the european
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commission, international monetary fund and the european central bank. meanwhile, civil servants demonstrated in droves in athens against possible cuts in pay and pensions. some also could lose their jobs as the government grapples with how to meet strict budget targets. wall street rallied for most of the day, then gave up its gains by the close. the dow jones industrial average finished just seven points ahead, to close at 11,408. the nasdaq fell 22 points to close at 2590. more than a million people in central japan were urged to evacuate today, ahead of a powerful typhoon. the number included some 80,000 in nagoya, where heavy rain flooded streets and swelled rivers. the storm was expected to reach the tokyo area tomorrow. another typhoon in japan several weeks ago left 90 people dead or missing. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen. >> ifill: uproar over the case of a georgia man convicted of murder two decades ago has revived questions about how the death penalty is applied there and across the nation.
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human rights groups lined the streets of atlanta today to protest tomorrow's scheduled execution of convicted murderer troy davis. >> this is a case that has fallen apart without the benefit of physical evidence. it relies on witness testimony that has become completely unraveled. >> ifill: davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for killing an off-duty police officer. seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him have since recanted or contradicted their testimony. that has brought davis the support of prominent political figures ranging from former president jimmy carter to ronald reagan's appointed f.b.i. director william sessions to the european union's top diplomat. today's parole board decision to deny his request for clemency was davis's likely last chance. the lengthy legal battle has included two stays of execution and an intervention from the u.s. supreme court in 2008. the five-person state panel defended its decision saying board members, quote, consider
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the totality of the information presented in this case and thoroughly deliberated on it. the debate surrounding capital punishment resurfaced as a political issue earlier this month in a republican presidential debate. governor rick perry was asked about his record in texas where he has presided over the execution of 234 death-row inmates. that's more than any other governor. >> in the state of texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of texas. and that is you will be executed. ( applause ) >> ifill: the u.s. supreme court delayed an execution in governor perry's home state just last friday pending review of the defendant's appeal. duane buck is on death row for murdering two people in 1995. his guilt is not in doubt.
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at issue is whether the jury was unfairly influenced by a psychologist's testimony that african-americans are more likely to commit violent acts. a gallup poll taken last october showed 58% of americans believe the death penalty is applied fairly. 36% disagree. georgia's governor has no power to grant stays of execution and davis is now scheduled to die by lethal injection wednesday night. late today the high court delayed the execution of a second texas inmate on death row, less than three hours before he was scheduled to die. for more, we're joined by charles stimson, senior legal fellow at the heritage foundation, and a former prosecutor, defense attorney and military judge. and vincent southerland, assistant counsel in the naacp legal defense fund's criminal justice practice, and a former public defender. has the debate, ben southerland, has the debate changed about the death penalty given theseases and
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given the political climate? >> i think the debate has changed about the death penalty given these recent cases. it's changed in terms of now we look at the death penalty as one of fundamental fairness, an issue that we all can agree, i think, is critical in the imposition of any punishment particularly the ultimate punishment, the ultimate sanction of the death penalty. i think what mr. davis's case and mr. buck's case and countless other cases have demonstrated is that the death penalty is not applied, is not issued, is not rigorously looked at in a fair and even- handed way. and the barriers to that fairness, prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, abuse of discretion by prosecutors and judges and racial discrimination as well as discrimination in terms of poverty and resources have really undermined the fundamental fairness i think
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we can all demand from our criminal justice system snarls charles simpson, he mentioned fairness. does that change the nature of this debate or is this the debate we've been having for a while? >> we've been having this debate, gwen, and polling this issue since 1936. support for the death penalty has been universally high. recently 64% of americans in the latest gallup poll support the use of the death penalty. i agree with my friend vince in the sense that when a state-- and 4 states have the death penalty-- decides to offer the ultimate penalty for the ultimate crime that it should be applied fairly. you know, 76% of the victims of these crimes have been white, and 56% of those executed were white. so i understand the racial bias angle. i think that's probably one of the reasons the texas case, the buck case has been put on hold because what this defense expert said. but americans take this issue
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seriously. although i don't think it's bubbled to the surface at least in terms of the 2012 race yet. >> ifill: let me ask you about this because i wonder whether we're having this debate at all because there are people who believe that it should never be applied or is this because of how it's apply? >> well, i think as i stated the polls are very clear. americans support the death penalty in appropriate cases. 70% of the states offer the death penalty for capital crimes or other heinous crimes. you know, a case like the case out of georgia, mr. davis's case, there's a lot of protest today, et cetera, about mr. davis's case. but a federal judge after his case has gone up to the state supreme court several times, the u.s. supreme court several times said that his new evidence, quote, is largely smoke and mirrors. that judge in a detaild ruling eviscerated this recantation evidence and found it not to be credible.
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so we have a very robust system in the various states. they're not perfect. people understand that. but we have a system that works. we need to support or amend it when it doesn't work. >> ifill: mr. southerland, do we have a system that works? and in the case... what is it about the troy davis case which raises questions for the people who do not believe it works? >> our system actually does not work. the overwhelmingly number of cases, there have been about 138 exonerations of individuals on death row since 1973. those cases exonerations range because of racial bias of the jurors, of the prosecutors involved in the case, of police misconduct and corruption in the system generally. mr. davis's case is emblematic of many of those problems as are many of the cases in the system today. as reports from mr. davis's case have shown, seven of the nine witnesses who testified at trial said mr. davis was guilty of this offense, have
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recanted and changed their stories. questions like that really raise serious questions and doubts in people's minds about the fundamental fairness in the process that people are going through. you want to have a system that.... >> ifill: pardon me. in a broader sense, are we talking about race when we have these questions or are we talking in general about the overall application of the death penalty? >> race is certainly a part and parcel of the conversation when we're talking about these cases because the death penalty, the criminal justice system and race are inextricably bound in american history. there was a clear link between lynchings and the death penalty of today as a means of suppression, as a means of social control. race in particular and in a case in 1987, the university of iowa professor david baldis found that you're 11 times more likely to receive the death penalty in georgia if you have a white victim. that type of racial disparity, that type of racial impact is
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somhing that clearly shows that race racism tainted our criminal justice system and the capital punishment system in particular. >> ifill: what do you say to that, mr. simpson? how does that square with the public opinion you were talking about? >> to the extent i agree with vince. it's in this narrow point. that is, any improper use of race, either in jury selection or in the ultimate punishment is wrong. our criminal justice system especially our pell pell courts look very carefully at thanot ly at the state court level but at the federal court level. that's when i say the system works that's what i'm talking about. there are these checks along the way. i think what the american people aren't willing to tolerate is unlimited appeals. and the federal courts have been now limited by the congress and the state courts are limited by state legislatures on these unlimited appeals after appeal after appeal. with mr. davis's cas the only thing extraordinary about his case is he's the poster child for the anti-death penalty
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crowd. mr. davis's case when you read judge moore's opinion, judge moore says that the... four of the six recantations are quote either not credible or not true recantations. then the judge pointed out that mr. davis himself wouldn't even allow those witnesses who recanted to be cross-examineded in the hearing, the post trial hearing. i don't think mr. davis's case is necessarily the best poster child for those who understandably.... >> ifill: what about these other cases the supreme urt has intervened in? >> well, let's talk about the buck case. i think that's an excellent example from texas. the supreme court stayed that case. a defense expert testifieded at the penalty phase of the trial on cross-examination said the fact that he was an african-american made it more likely that he would reoffend. i think that that kind of testimony not only bothered senator cornyn at the time who was the attorney general texas in texas but me and others.
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no doubt that's played a part in the supreme court and i suspect the case will be sent back for resentencing. >> ifill: the troy davis case in particular is a bad example of something and just an excuse for the anti-death penalty crowd to rally around this issue. what do you think about that? >> mr. davis's case presents many of the problems we see with the criminal justice system in general and the death penalty in particular. the witness recantations, the fact that the police coerced individuals to change their testimony, prosecutorial misconduct. all these things were... are factors in many death penalty cases across the country and happen in criminal courts everyday. i see it in my experience as a public defender where individuals are going through the system, being shoved through a system basically without proper representatn, without proper resources and with many forces of the state brought to bear against them in a position where the most vulnerable individuals in society. i think mr. davis's case is more than an excuse. it's something that many courts and the supreme court should ultimately take a look
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at. if you're going to take a person's life with that type of certainty of punishment to end their life altogether, processes and procedures have... you have to go beyond processes and procedures and look at the substance of what is happening in a particular case and understand whether or not that person deserves the particular punishment. my sense is that the criminal justice system is a flawed system because it's built by human beings who are naturally flawed and therefore the death penalty system in much the same vein can also be flawed and have mistakes. we should demand perfection if we're going to be taking lives from people. >> ifill: is this something briefly that the administration should be weighing in on? >> i would... i hope the administration would weigh in on something like this. at the very least demand the best possible justice system in the world. there isan absolute necessity for that type of review and that type of scrutiny when you're going to be talking about people's lives.
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>> ifill: i would think this is not the kind of case the administration would weigh in on especially. >> ifill: in general. >> in general. >> in general i think the attorney general holder has talked about the need for bettering the criminal justice system. that's a very common and normal thing for an attorney general to say. that's a good goal. >> ifill: thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> woodruff: next, the u.s. military closes the books on "don't ask, don't tell." gary ross and his partner celebrate the end of don't ask don't tell with a vermont wedding just after midnight when repeal officially took effect. >> it's an unscribe describeable feeling when you think finally we can be just like everybody else. >> woodruff: at the u.s. capitol three other service members joined a group of senators in welcoming the end
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of the ban on homosexuals serving openly. >> i'm 31 years old. i'm a woman. i'm a united states marine. and i'm a lesbian. pardon me. prior to today if i had said that, i could expect to be discharged from the military. i love the marine corps which is why i haven't been able to completely leave it even though don't ask don't tell made my life pretty miserable. >> woodruff: there was a less than fair at today's pentagon news conference with defense secretary leon panetta. >> we're committed to removing all of the barriers that would prevent americans from serving their country and from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capables warrant. these are men and women who
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put their lives on the line in the defense of this country. and that's what should matter the most. >> woodruff: joint chiefs chairman admiral mike mullen had been one of the leading advocates of lifting the ban. >> i testified in early 2010 that it was time to end this law and this policy. i believe then and i still believe that it was first and foremost a matter of integrity. it was fundamentally against everything we stand for as an institution to force people to lie about who they are just to wear a uniform. we are better than that. we should be better than that. >> woodruff: the 199 law barred the military from asking those in uniform if they were gay. but any who openly declared their status were subject to being discharged. over the last 18 years some 14,000 service members did lose their jobs as a result. now investigations have ended. and service members who were
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dismissed because of the ban will be allowed to reenlist. the repeal drive gathered momentum in 2008 when then candidate barack obama pledged to lift the ban. as president he called for action in his 2010 state of the union address. >> i will work with congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. >> woodruff: last december the lame duck congress passed repeal. implementation was delayed. pending new training for the troops. pentagon officials say 97% of those in uniform have now received that training. and for more on the end of "don't ask, don't tell" in the lives of two military men, we turn to david hall, an air force staff sergeant training to become an officer, when he was outed and then discharged.
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he now hopes to reenlist. and lieutenant commander zac matthews, an active duty coast guard helicopter pilot. we want to thank both of you for being with us this evening. thank you. commander zach matthews let me start with you. you are in the military now. what does this day mean to you? >> it's a big day, judy. first and foremost to me, it means two things. i'm part of a family now, more so than i wasyesterday. i can be honest and open with my co-workers but more importantly today means that i still show up at work and i still do my job because first and foremost i'm a member of the military serving in the coast guard. >> woodruff: was it emotional for you? >> it's getting there. it's been a very busy day. i think as the day wears on, it is becoming more and more emotional for me, yes. >> woodruff: former sergeant david hall, what does the day mean to you? you left the military, went nine years ago? >> it is an exciting day. i mean now i have the opportunity to go back in to the military, you know, if i want to and if they want me back. but also, you know, i have a lot of friends in the military and i have a lot of friends that were discharged under
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don't ask don't tell so it's an exciting day to know that all my friends, you know, aren't going to lose their job like i did. the ones that did lose their job we all have the chance to fix that. >> woodruff: commander matthews, what has it been like for you? how long have you been in the service at the coast guard. >> over 11 years now. >> woodruff: what's it been like for you? >> challenging. good days and bad days. a lot of the times my partner and i have had to make up excuses for what we did over the weekend, often showing up, myself showing up at events by myself. it's been challenging but the important thing now is that we can finally both participate and be much more... build much stronger camaraderie with the troops. >> woodruff: have the guards men and women you've been serving with, have the people you worked known? >> i think so. there's a few individuals, trusted individuals with whom i've been able to be open with. but i think it will probably be a surprise to some.
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i'm looking forward to the future as it comes down. >> woodruff: and what do you expect that to feel like, to be like? how different do you think things will be? >> i don't think it will be very different at all. i will still show up at work and do my job. the important thing is as leaders in the military we have an opportunity now to be good role models. gay and lesbian service members to stand up, to provide a solid role to those coming up behind us and to dispel any negative stereotypes that might be the as well. >> woodruff: david hall again a former staff sergeant until you had to leave the military, tell us a little bit about your story what happened. >> i went into the military following in the footsteps of my dad and step dad who both served 20 years in the air force. i was enlisted for five years. at the five year mark the air force let me go out to go an air force rotc for two years. there was a female cadet who knew i was gay and my boyfriend at the time was also a cadet.
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she went to a commander and said they're both gay in a relationship. when the jag came in, the investigators for the air force i told them i had no comment. a few months later they called me in and said we're discharging you due to homosexual conduct based on what this one person said. i was ranked number one in my class. >> woodruff: you were ranked number one in your class. >> i should be flying planes now instead. >> woodruff: and at the time what did that mean in your life when you had to leave the military? >> growing up in military, i planned on staying in 20 years. i was looking forward to a career as an officer, as a pilot. it was devastating. i had to figure out what am i going to do now? the military is no longer part of my life. i just had to do a lot of thinking, what do i want to do? unfortunately i had been able to, you know, i've been able to pick up my feet and move on. >> woodruff: commander matthews, how do you expect
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others you work with, how do you expect the atmosphere may change? do you expect to be welcomed? how different do you think it may or may not be? >> well that's a good question. i think, i hope that it will remain status quo, as it is. that's the way it should be because when we join the coast guard or whatever service we choose, we join as a team. we work as a team. we all work together to get the mission done so first and foremost, the duty or the mission is what's most important. so just because i happen to be a gay man serving in the coast guard is is secondary to me coming to work everyday and flying a helicopter, saving lives and doing the mission. >> woodruff: david hall, you've said you do want to reenlist. what do you expect that process to be like? how far along are you right now? >> i talked to my recruit era couple weeks ago. he told me he would call me back on the 20th when the military told him he could talk to people who had been discharged under don't ask don't tell. he called me this afternoon and we chattid.
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i'll be going to his office on thursday where we'll look over my paperwork and see, you know, what my opportunities are. hopefully, you know, within the next few weeks or months, i'll be back in. >> woodruff: what are you hearing from others who are about to try to reenlist? >> we're hearing aate lot. same things where a lot of them that are trying to get back in get to. you know, we also realize that the military right now is not needing people. i say most of us are looking at reserves rather than active duty because it is much easier to go back into the reserves. >> woodruff: but expect it to be a smooth process. >> i do expect it to be a smooth process. the only issue i had was with my sexual orientation. that is no longer an issue. >> woodruff: commander matthews, what about in the longer term going ahead? what do you think the issues may be for individuals who are gay or lesbian? >> well, this is a brave new world form everyone. for both gays, lesbians and straights so there's a lot of
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situations where partners showing up at social events on one extreme and then on the other extreme you have very important issues like benefits for spouses and support for partners who are at home while the other person is deployed. so there's a very large spectrum of issues that will need to be addressed. but today is a very important historic first step that many before us have braved the way for. >> woodruff: do you think you carry any bitterness about what you've been through? >> i don't. i don't. it's been a long battle. there's been a lot of challenges but i think for myself it's been worth it. like i said there have been many mentors and many role models i've had who have gone before. some are no longer in the military. that is a tragedy. i hope that at some point they can be at peace with themselves with how they feel with that. but i think the important focus now is we need to move forward and work together as a team.
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>> woodruff: what about you, david hall? a feeling of bitterness? i mean this has been nine years when you said you would have rather been in the military rather than on the outside looking in. >> i feel zero bitterness. i love the military. i realize that this is a law that was passed by congress in 1993. the mail taer follows the law. that's what we do. you know, it's a new day. we move forward. i'm just looking forward to the chance to go back in. >> woodruff: long-term expectations? >> i plan on... i wanted to go in and stay for 20 years. that's what i plan on doing. >> woodruff: well, we so appreciate both of you coming to be with us this evening. former staff sergeant david hall with the air force and current lieutenant commander in the coast guard zach matthews. we thank you both. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: next, a tale of heroism and love amid the tragedy of 9/11. it comes in the form of a new opera based on one person's true story.
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newshour correspondent spencer michels has this look. >> reporter: from the orchestra pit at the san francisco opera, the strains of new music to tell the story of a 9/11 hero waft through the hall during a rehearsal. the opera is heart of the soldier. it tells of the life and death of rick, an amazing soldier who saved thousands of lives in vietnam four decades ago and in new york back in 2001. the idea for the opera came from the director of the new work. >> when we look back at the works of beethoven and mozart and verdi and wagner so many themes in their works were about heroism and bravery and valor and courage. that what was at the core of this story. i was inspired by that. >> reporter: the story and the opera end with attack on the world trade center.
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where the hero was in charge of security for morgan stanley. when the first tower was attacked he calmed 2700 employees, kept them orderly and let them down more than 50 flights of stairs to safety. singing as he went. but he wanted to be sure no one was left behind. so he went back into the building just before the second plane hit the south tower. he was never heard from again. james stewart wrote about those events first for the new yorker and then in a book heart of a soldier which inspired the opera. stewart sees the hero's decision to reenter the building as almost inevitable. >> it's amazing to me that in that moment you see like the culmination of everything that he had lived for, experienced and believed in. he could have emerged a hero. he would have been hailed from one end of the country to the other. he didn't do that. he went back up and put himself in danger. given the code that he lived by, the heart of a soldier which was his title for the
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book that he never wrote, he had no choice. duty came before anything else. and duty to one's fellow man takes precedence over all other values. >> reporter: susan is rick's widow. she was home in new jersey while he was at his world trade center office when she learned of the attack on the first tower. she tried to get him on the phone but could only reach an assistant. >> shortly after i hung up with her that morning, rick called on his cell phone. he was a man of very calm... very calming man. he was... if he was saying them in a profound way, you know, you were going to listen very carefully to what he was saying. he was saying stop crying. i have to get everyone out. and if something should happen to me i want you to know that you made my life. you know, i said, well, you made my life. and then he hung up. that was the last phone call.
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i think to myself over these years, isn't it wonderful that he said those words to me, that i took with me on this journey. ♪ >> reporter: opera was the perfect medium to tell the story. >> i think opera sun west... opera is one of the best ways to talk about these big, emotional stories. opera does that best, i think. focus on the individual to tell the big issues, to use the private to tell the public ♪ listen to the radio ♪ do you know what's happening ♪ > stewart's tale and the opera are only partly about that day ten years ago. mostly they detail the man's life of adventure, beginning as a youth in cornwall, england, surrounded by american troops preparing to invade france in world war ii.
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and then as a hard-drinking young man he fought in rhodesia now zimbabwe with the british military police. and gloried in his killing a lion that was threatening native villages. after rhodesia, he moved to america, became a citizen and joined the u.s. army so he could fight in vietnam. his record there was astounding, says stewart. >> war became not so much about killing the enemy but about protecting your fellow man. that is a theme that became more and more innse throughout rick's life. i think it helps explain his final actions on september 11. >> reporter: he actually rescued a lot of people in vietnam that he didn't have to rescue. >> no, he didn't. in fact, you know, one of the more amazing and exciting sequences of the story he commandeered some helicopters to fly in and rescue the best friend who was pinneded down by fire. >> reporter: on his return, stewart says, the man settled
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into a more conventionate not so heroic life. got a job at the world trade center. got divorced. on a jog one day he met susan greer. long story short they very quickly fell in love. the kind of love operas are written about. >> i think the fact that love binds the story together is what allows us to encompass so many events. what i think is so powerful is rick's ability to fall in love with susan. susan greer who becomes susan riscola. they meet in their 50s. they have an incredibly powerful love story. isn't it in great in music to have ts beautiful second chance romance? >> reporter: susan has had no reservations about having her love story and her husband's deep friendships told in print and now in an opera. >> there's a love story of a man who gave up, sacrificed his life to save others. he was the kind of soldier where no one was left behind.
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you don't leave a man behind. i can just imagine what it was like in that building with the smoke and everything else. i don't think that that was on his mind, that i'm going to perish in this. i think he just needed to do what he had to do. >> reporter: putting such emotion on stage and into music was a challenge for the composer, the american christopher theofhinits. >> the difficulty is to trying a way because it spans so much time from world war ii to vietnam, the '70s and the '80s and up to september 11 how to sint they size those musical idioms into my own kind of language which is a romantic, dramatic tonal language. so what you hear throughout is there ar inferences of style from those different periods that come out. >> reporter: he and another person had to deal with an issue many artists have grappled with when it comes to the tragedy of 9/11: how do you portray an event people
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remember clearly and tell the story without overwhelming the audience with grief? >> the problem with september 11 is a story for the stage is that everybody has their own very direct connection with that event. you know, the way we decided to deal with that is that basically tried to personalize the opera through what we knew and what we remembered and what we thought was real. >> reporter: but in some ways the fact that the audience knows the story and the characters is a plus for heart of the soldier says the opera's director. and that makes it not so different from classic operas from other eras. >> when mozart wrote the marriage of figaro, his audience knew those characters. they were his character hes. when beethoven wrote another, the same way that now that the writers of this opera we know these characters. we know 9/11. it's part of our world. >> reporter: the opera runs in
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san francisco through september 30 and its creators are hoping that because of its universal theme, it will have a life beyond the 10th anniversary of 9/11. >> woodruff: finally tonight, the debate overig-time college sports and whether students should get paid. hari sreenivasan picks up where he left off last night. >> sreenivasan: we heard tough criticism of both universities and of the n.c.a.a. in the wake of recent scandals involving players from several schools. it came from historian taylor branch, who wrote a 15,000-word essay in the latest issue of the atlantic called "the shame of college sports." here's a bit of what he told us. >> the essential problem is that we pretend that these adults are not entitled to a portion of the value that they earn. and we pretend that the problem
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with all of these scandals is that dirty athletes are getting money under the table. the problem is that we're not honest about it. nowhere else in america do we forbid adults from seeking a portion of the highly valued services that they provide. and nowhere else would we think of saying, "don't pay these people until i'm satisfied that it won't mess something up." >> sreenivasan: we asked the n.c.a.a. for an on-air response. they made available to us joe crowley. he's a former president of the university of nevada at reno. he served on key n.c.a.a. committees for more than two decades, and he's the author of a history of college sports called "in the arena: the n.c.a.a.'s first century." thanks for being with us. >> a pleasure to be here. >> sreenivasan: first of all, whyñi you don't think students should be paid for playing big- time college sports. >> well, the ncaa is based fundamentally on the principle of amateurism which mr. branch feels is a principle sadly out
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of date and indeed no principle at all and perhaps a hoax. because it isn't what it was 100 years ago. that is true. the world has turned upsidedown a couple of times since then and many other changes. no concept, i think, in its pure state can last that long. nevertheless we believe, the ncaa believes, higher educational institutions believe that paying a student a grant in aid, a scholarship is not a violation of that amateurism principle. so if we paid athletes to play for us, clearly they would not be or could not be amateurs. and we will stay as long at least as it is possible by adhering to the principle of amateurism, no pay for players.
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>> sreenivasan: in his piece taylor branch makes the point that these are the players on the field, they wear the logos, they help pack the stands. it's their likeness that's in the video games. why shouldn't they be able to profit from some of that? >> well again if they profit, they're workers. they're not amateurs. and there is a further huge problem. it's just a practical problem. there is no way, short of huge additional outlays, to hire athletes to pay them for what they do. that means not just the stars of division 1-a but the third string half back in football or the 13th bench player in basketball. and athletes in divisions the
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2 and 3. division 3 is a non-scholarship division, the biggest division in the ncaa. and it would come as a surprise to that division and the institutions within it that we're now going to pay your players to whom we wouldn't give and shouldn't give that's the principle of division 3 scholarships. in addition there is title 9. surely if we bestowed dollars on players who make a difference more than other players, we would have a tremendous tussle with the meaning of title 9 which is equality for women and to put this at the institutions of higher education at a time when across the country budgets for higher educational institutions, public and private, are being reduced in double digit numbers it's just
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impractical. >> sreenivasan: the notion of student athlete that the ncaa has referred to the critics say this is legal wrangling so you can get around the work you do on the field. you give them the pads, the tools to do the job on the football field but if they get injured there they don't get workers' compensation. >> well that's wrong on two counts. i mean it is the case, as mr. branch points out, that in its origins that was the intention. that was more than 50 years ago. however, it has developed into a center piece of athletics in higher education. if we are going to have... if we are going to have students playing sports, we're simply not able to pay them. that's the bottom line. that's the difference. the student athlete is a
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student fleet these days. the evidence is overwhelming on that score. if you look at academic reforms in the ncaa that have occurred over the last 20, 30, 40 years, if you look at the impact of those reforms, if you look at graduation rates of student athletes including those in the top subdivision, you find them remarkable. in the case of my own institution, the university of nevada at reno, ou grad... our graduation rate is at 78%. here and in most if not all other institutions in the ncaa, those rates are higher than the rates of the general student population. >> sreenivasan: which brings me to the topic of academics. the ncaa says the academic performance is first and foremost. secondary to athletic performance. a lot of the athletes point to a discrepancy. they say most of the contracts
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or the agreements or scholarships are one year at a time. if i get injured on the field i am now unable to finish that grade education that i got access to. >> i should point out as well that injuries are covered. they are insured. students student athletes do not have to pay to get better to have surgery. the ncaa also has a multi-million dollar catastrophic injury policy which takes care of those really really severe injuries, but the one year at a time really is no different from the way scholarships are generally given by institutions. many scholarships are one year, freshman year typically. there are others that are four- year scholarships but you retain them only if you perform merit or usely so you have to continue to be academically solid if you're
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going to continue to receive that non-athletic scholarship. the same applies in sports. if you're not performing meritor usely the institution would have a right not to renew your scholarship although i believe that selldom happens. >> sreenivasan: joe crowley, thanks so much for joining us. >> my pleasure. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day. a former afghan president leading negotiations with the taliban was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a peace envoy. gunmen in pakistan attacked a bus and killed at least 26 shiite pilgrims on their way to iran. and the ban on gays in the u.s. military, "don't ask-don't tell," officially ended after 18 years. there's more about tonight's stories on our web site. kwame holman has a preview. kwame?
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>> holman: spencer posted a blog about rick rescorla's life story and the opera. on "don't ask, don't tell," a special online report profiles openly gay current and former service members, and looks at what's next for them. plus watch our slideshow of some recipients of the macarthur genius grants. among those honored today were a silversmith, a jazz musician, a poet, and a cellist. that's on our art beat blog. all that and more is on our web site, judy? >> woodruff: and again, to our honor roll of american service personnel killed in the iraq and afghanistan conflicts. we add them as their deaths are made official and photographs become available. here, in silence, are eight more.
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>> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. on wednesday, we'll look at president obama's speech to the u.n. general assembly, and actor denzel washington's crusade to keep at-risk kids from dropping out of school.
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i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: chevron. we may have more in common than you think. and by bnsf railway. and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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>> charlie: welcome to our program. we begin this evening with a conversation with tony blair, the man who is at the center of negotiations


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