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Week In News: Debt Ceiling, Strauss-Kahn Case, Google

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Week In News: Debt Ceiling, Strauss-Kahn Case, Google

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Week In News: Debt Ceiling, Strauss-Kahn Case, Google

Week In News: Debt Ceiling, Strauss-Kahn Case, Google

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/137579314/137579313" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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President Obama spent the week hammering away at Republicans in Congress for the stalemates over the budget and the debt ceiling. Host Guy Raz speaks with James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, about that story, the saga of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Google's attempt at a Facebook killer.

GUY RAZ, host: We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

President BARACK OBAMA: If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, or for hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners, or for oil and gas companies pulling in huge profits without our help, then we'll have to make even deeper cuts somewhere else.

RAZ: President Obama speaking about closing the budget gap in his regular Saturday video address.

James Fallows of The Atlantic joins us, as he does most Saturdays, for a deeper look at the news from the Aspen Ideas Festival this week. Jim, great to have you on.

JAMES FALLOWS: Guy, nice to talk to you.

RAZ: And I didn't get to say to you, but happy anniversary, 40 years of marriage that you recently celebrated.

FALLOWS: Yes, indeed. Thank you very much. I think they say the first 40 are the hardest, but we're sure looking forward to the next.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: All right. Let's start with the debt ceiling talks, Jim. It was never supposed to be so contentious, right? And in a sense, I wonder whether it represents something bigger about, you know, where Washington politics is headed, how compromise seems to have become this toxic notion.

FALLOWS: Yes. I think this is an awkward moment for our democracy in that following sense that a lot of elections over the last decade, perhaps the last two decades, have been sort of frustration or anger-type elections, where one side or the other has been trying to show its displeasure with the direction of events.

And so, very clearly in the 2010 midterms, which brought in the House Republican majority, there was a sense of things are going the wrong way and we're going to hold this line. And the Tea Party momentum is against compromise of any sort, especially in increasing government revenues.

The difficulty is that doing business in government throughout the history of the United States is almost never a matter of pure extremity of view. There are complicated interests to be balanced and nobody is going to get everything of what he or she wants.

So if you have a political system that maximizes people who won't compromise, it becomes very, very difficult to address the big problems that inevitably involve compromise solutions.

RAZ: Let me move on to another story, Jim. This is the case of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The case obviously seems to be falling apart. And in France, there is growing irritation not just with the U.S. justice system but with the way the arrest was handled initially.

FALLOWS: I think this may be the case where we don't often say this in the American media, but perhaps the French do have a point here, that the media habit of the so-called perp walk, which has a surprisingly long history but has become quite common in recent years, is really at odds with our presumption of innocence.

You know, the perp walk goes back to the 1920s and 1930s when bank robbers were taken that way. But over the last 20 years, we've become accustomed to scenes of people who have not been convicted of anything showing up in sort of assumed criminal pose, sometimes wearing these jumpsuits often in handcuffs.

The French pointed out earlier this is not the way they did things. In fact, it's illegal in France to show somebody that way before he's been convicted. So, they may be right, and there may be some reflection due on our side.

RAZ: Finally, Jim, I want to ask you about a possibly blockbuster rival to Facebook, Google Plus. It's only available, I guess, to a few select folks. You are one of those lucky few folks. You have had a chance to test it out. Is this the Facebook killer?

FALLOWS: Who knows? We've learned with social technology, it takes a long time to see what's going to catch on or not. The challenge with Facebook for me is there's one big blob of people I'm connected with that ranges from my sister to people I've never met or even heard of.

And here in the Google Plus application, you can have different groups, workmates, friends, acquaintances, enemies, people you know from different professional groups. So I think that is the potential, and we'll see how far it goes.

RAZ: That's James Fallows. He's the national correspondent for The Atlantic. You can read his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Jim, thank you so much.

FALLOWS: Thank you, Guy.

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