SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week, Wall Street showed signs of life - four straight days of gains. President Obama signed the $410 billion omnibus spending bill and overturned a ban on embryonic stem cell research. And of course, Bernard Madoff confessed to running what could possibly be the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.
DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott. And congratulations on your Studs Terkel Media Award.
SIMON: Thank you. You know, Studs, bless him, was, I think, 96 when he left us last year. So you're not really old enough to remember him, are you?
SCHORR: Yes, I do.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Let's get to the stock market - four days of gains, as we said. If it's too early to break out the champagne, what about, at least, the Ripple?
SCHORR: You can. I, myself, think that you don't get a very reliable forecast of what's going to happen from the stock market, I think. I mean, when it goes down, it looks terrible and it looks worse, maybe, than it is. It doesn't - it's not a very good indicator. I'll be ready for the champagne when I see the employment figures go up.
SIMON: Meanwhile, 20 nations gathered in England to talk about the global economic crisis. The U.S. is asking other countries to increase their spending.
SIMON: As we've done in this country, to help jump-start the economy.
SIMON: Many European nations aren't buying that.
SCHORR: They aren't buying - a clear split there. If you talk to Europeans, they will say, what's really needed is more regulation. Of course, the United States is usually not very interested in more regulation. But they really are split on that. And not only that, but the European countries sort of tend to blame the United States for having started this crisis.
SIMON: President Obama signed the $410 billion catch-all spending bill...
SIMON: ...which essentially is what omnibus means. It came with roughly 8,000 earmarks.
SIMON: Now, when Senator Obama was on the campaign trail, he was very critical of earmarks.
SIMON: Has he changed?
SCHORR: Well, he says that this all really started on the other watch and it's the last one, and by God, we're really going to reform next time, and all the rest of it. I don't think he's changed. He's showing his pragmatic side. There are a lot of people with investments, on top of which it was really necessary to get the spending bill. Otherwise, the government might have to shut down. And so he did the pragmatic thing. He said, okay, this time, but no more.
SIMON: He did make another particular change this week. He reversed President Bush's policy on funding embryonic stem cell research. What do you think - at least the short term - effect of this will be?
SCHORR: Well, the short-term effect, of course, first of all, is to -people who really are bringing out champagne now are scientists. There was a book a few years ago written by Chris Mooney called The Republican War on Science." And there had been a little bit of that, maybe exaggerated. And if there was the Republican war on science, for the moment, science has won.
SIMON: The administration says it's expecting to announce a new strategy for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan as early as next week.
SIMON: Is this as simple as more troops?
SCHORR: Not as simple as more troops. It will undoubtedly include more troops. But there's a piece of paper that's still classified, so we don't know very much about it. But there is a great deal of emphasis being put, first of all, on the military solution isn't quite enough. This is not a question, like Iraq, of a surge, send in enough troops and you clean the thing up. That doesn't quite work for Afghanistan. Where they need more than - or as much as they need military help, they need something for the hearts and minds, you might call it, to bring in ways and help people of Afghanistan to stand on their feet, and so they won't be following the Taliban.
The second big thing is that the problem of Afghanistan is more than anything else a problem of Pakistan. That's where they have sanctuary, that's where they go in and out of. And so I think this paper will make a big deal about a regional solution, in which things have to happen in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.
SIMON: Bernard Madoff's in jail this weekend. He's awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Mr. Madoff told the court he did it all alone. Do you believe him?
SCHORR: Well, it's not whether I believe him. The prosecutors tend not to believe him. They are quizzing - very busy quizzing members of his family, associates, people (unintelligible) he had to work day and night robbing to rob that much money or - and really needed a lot of papers to go with it, which other people had to write. No, I think that it was a family thing at very least, and maybe more widespread than that. But we'll find out.
SIMON: This is perhaps the one week, since all this time we've been working together, where I know I can't close the week without talking to you about sports.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SCHORR: So one time is okay.
SIMON: The Dutch national baseball team...
SCHORR: Ah, yes.
SIMON: ...shocked the world by defeating the Dominican Republic team. Now, this is, of course, a baseball powerhouse, this is a line-up replete with millionaire athletes who play in the U.S. big leagues. They defeated them in the World Baseball Classic Tournament, not just once but twice. And as it turns out, you, Dan Schorr, are an old Dutch baseball reporter.
SCHORR: Well, when I was stringer for the New York Times in Holland back in 1948, I found that the Dutch had been playing baseball even during the German occupation as a sign of support for the Allies and for the United States. And so I did a big piece for the sports page of the New York Times, for which I was a stringer, the only time in my whole life when I've had a byline on a sports page, but never mind about that. And there, I talked about baseball in Holland, and talked about the Dutch claimed that they had invented baseball, calling it something called honkball. Well, that may be true or may not be true, but I was very happy to attend the Amsterdam-Rotterdam first baseball game.
SIMON: So this wasn't a surprise to you, that they beat the Dominicans this week?
SCHORR: I would have expected nothing less.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.
SCHORR: Sure thing.
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