Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

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This week, Haiti struggled to cope with destruction and staggering loss of life. President Obama proposed fees for big banks, and he also made a deal with labor unions on the health care overhaul. Host Scott Simon reviews the week in the news with NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.

This week Haiti struggles for survival after a devastating earthquake. President Obama proposes fees for big banks and the president makes a deal with labor unions on health care overhaul. NPRs senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott, welcome home.

SIMON: Thank you very much. Overwhelming event obviously of the week is the devastating earthquake and loss of life in Haiti. There has been a awful lot of coverage this week and will be more as the situation may grow even more urgent. What points would you like to add?

SCHORR: Yeah, well, the coverage has been quite remarkable. I have not seen American television networks move into a story as they are moving into this one and doing some great work.

SIMON: May I offer you another viewpoint?

SCHORR: You may.

SIMON: It comes from a good friend who happens to be my wife, who said while watching the coverage there is a very slender pipeline, as we know, through which all food, medicine, rescue equipment have to pass. Planes have to circle for hours. They had to close the airport for about five hours. She wonders if its responsible for U.S. and other news organizations to clot up that pipeline so their chartered planes with celebrity anchors can get in.

SCHORR: Oh, right, thats an interesting point, which I will take under consideration. What I really wanted to say about the great tragedy in Haiti right now is that part of their problem is indeed - you talked about planes coming in and going out, and that there is no one actually in charge. That makes things very difficult to deploy the aid which is coming in, if you dont know whom to apply to and whom to ask for help on this. I think sooner rather than later what is needed is that somebody, somebodies, be named in order to be the center of authority because the authority of the Haitian government doesnt go very far these days.

What I would like to see based on ancient, ancient memories is something like the old League of Nations mandates in which you had countries which entrust to United Nations, which then appointed one government in order to carry out that trust. I think the United States will be very important in this but I think equally important is to settle in the United Nations on an international effort represented by a UN mandate.

SIMON: While the world was focused on Haiti and will be for a while, financial news from Washington, D.C., where President Obama says he wants to put a tax on big banks to help pay back the bailout money. Prospect for that passing?

SCHORR: Well, its hard to say. Normally speaking, if you ask for something which is called a tax you will find the Republicans saying no we dont want any taxes. But this is rather special. The big banks right now are in great trouble with the American public. And apparently somebody has decided that you cant go wrong politically in attacking the banks. So therefore I think whats happening is that we will have the Democrats ready to vote for this. Republicans I think will have to consider whether they really want to stand there representing the banks at a time when Americans dont like banks.

SIMON: And let me ask you about Google in China. The company has threatened to leave the Chinese market after hackers attacked its infrastructure. There is some suggestion in Google that the Chinese used that infrastructure to track down dissidents who were using Gmail accounts. U.S. State Department says its going to lodge a formal complaint against China. What are the implications of Google leaving China if it happens?

SCHORR: Well, the implications are that China will not have access to what the world has access to. Clearly China wants to have Google or something very much like Google as a kind of a search engine. Clearly also, Google is now on the spot. They already had agreed earlier to accept some restrictions, which I think they are beginning now to regret, and they are beginning to threaten to pull out altogether. We have here this fascinating way in which ideology comes up against technology. You're never quite sure who is going to win.

SIMON: Also this week President Obama struck a deal with labor unions on - to levy a tax on what are called Cadillac health insurance plans. Why was this deal so important?

SCHORR: Well, the deal is important because the administration needs labor support to get this through. They're coming down to the wire now and it looks as though it's very, very close and to not have the labor unions supporting you I think would be very damaging to the chances of this being sold. They gave them a little bit, not all - typical compromise. That is, yes, we will have these taxing of these plans, but no, not right away, done in a few years from now. And they eliminated one little hurdle.

SIMON: The prospect for that health care bill to pass might be affected by the outcome of next weeks Senate race in Massachusetts, where you have a Democrat and Republican, according to many polls, all tied up. Now, how could a Democrat, Martha Coakley, running to succeed Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, be tied with a Republican, Scott Brown, who says he'd vote against health care.

SCHORR: Yeah, well, it's quite amazing. It's really quite amazing. It was only two months ago that Coakley had a 30 point lead in this race, and thats been steadily eroded; it's quite amazing. It would be disaster not only for the candidate but for the Democratic Party, a thing so symbolic as Ted Kennedys seat.

SIMON: Finally this week, Miep Gies died at the age of 100.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: One of the people who helped hide Anne Frank in the secret annex.

SCHORR: Yes, one of the very important ones, you can imagine. Her husband worked for Otto Frank, Anne Franks father, and they were hid away in the garret up there on the (Dutch spoken) in Amsterdam. It was Miep Gies who night after night came and brought food for them and told them what was happening in the outside world. She probably would have been executed if the Nazis had found her there, and I met her after the war on a trip that she made here.

SIMON: Dan, wont you see you for a few weeks. I am going away for spinal surgery. I expect to be back in February, better than ever, and will be glad to see you.

SCHORR: I look forward to seeing you and all the best.

SIMON: Thanks very much. Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Thank you.

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