tv PBS News Hour PBS December 15, 2009 6:00pm-7:00pm EST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> lehrer: good evening. i'm jim lehrer. president obama shoved senate democrats toward a final vote for health care reform. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, a deal would set the stage for congressional passage by christmas. >> lehrer: we'll talk to two journalists who are on the deal- making story. >> brown: then, terror suspects from guantanamo bay in cuba will be moved to a prison in rural illinois. margaret warner reports. >> lehrer: a showdown in copenhagen between china and the u.s. on fighting global warming.
ray suarez is at the climate talks. >> brown: plus, a very unusual look at climate change, seen from inside one of mount everest's glaciers. >> lehrer: and paul solman talks to economist and statesman george schultz, who believes no financial institution should ever be considered "too big to fail." >> there's an underlying principle here that has got lost sight of, and that's the importance of skin in the game. when you have some of your own money involved, you pay a lot more attention. >> lehrer: that's all ahead on tonight's "pbs newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour is provided by: >> what the world needs now is energy. the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change. what if that energy came from an energy company?
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and monsanto. and the national science foundation. supporting education and research across all fields of science and engineering. 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. >> lehrer: senate democrats moved closer today to final agreement on health care reform. that came amid talk of another major compromise, casting aside a proposal to expand medicare. newshour health correspondent betty ann bowser begins our report. >> reporter: emerging from an hour-long white house meeting with senate democrats, president obama said they were
on the precipice of passing a health care overhaul. >> there are still some differences that have to be worked on. this was not a roll call. this was a broad-based discussion about how we move forward. >> reporter: the president had summoned members of the entire democratic caucus to work out their differences and pass legislation before christmas. >> now let's be clear. the final bill won't include everything that everybody wants. no bill can do that. but what i told my former colleagues today is that we simply cannot allow differences over individual elements of this plan to prevent us from meeting our responsibility to solve a longstanding and urgent problem for the american people. >> reporter: the meeting followed reports that democratic leaders may drop a proposal letting uninsured americans as young as 55 buy into medicare. that provision was supposed to replace a government-run public insurance option.
connecticut independent joe lieberman threatened to bolt over the medicare buy-in leaving democrats one vote short of the 60 they need. today he said he would relent if the provision was indeed dropped. >> if as appears to happening the so-called public option government-run insurance program is out and the medicare buy-in, which i thought would jeopardize medicare, cost tax payers billions of dollars over the long haul and increase our deficit, is out and there's no other attempts to bring things like that in, then i'm going to be in a position where i can say... i'm going to the position where i can say what i wanted to say all along and i'm ready to vote for health care reform. >> reporter: liberal senators favor the medicare buy-in. although none would confirm what was agreed to, west virginia senator jay
rockefeller described the feeling in the white house meeting. >> there was the frustration and angst. everybody has things they want. they didn't all get what they want. that includes me big time. >> reporter: even with senator lieberman's opposition seemingly out of the way, sticking points remain. one is what language should be in the bill about abortion coverage. the other is is whether the legislation should completely close the so-called donut hole : the medicare prescription coverage gap. throughout it all, democratic leaders have had to focus on keeping all of their members on board. republicans said today none of the changes to the legislation would sway them back. minority leader mitch mcconnell. >> what we know for sure, no matter what kind of deals are struck behind closed doors, what we know for sure is that this bill will include a half trillion dollars in medicare cuts, $400 billion in new taxes, and higher insurance premiums for everyone else.
that isn't going to change. that is the problem that the american people are fully aware of. the polls are overwhelming. every single poll that's been taken, every public poll that i've seen for weeks has shown opposition to it. >> reporter: and just outside the capital building today, conservative activists rallied against the health care bill again. >> lehrer: for more on the story now from >> lehrer: and for more on the story now from naftali bendavid, congressional correspondent for the "wall street journal," and amy walter, editor-in-chief of the hotline, the "national journal's" political daily. o not correct to say there is a deal, right? >> there's not a deal quite yet but there's no question that they're getting closer. certainly dropping the medicare buy-in provision was huge in terms of attracting people like joe lieberman and possibly olympia snow. certainly democratic leaders are pushing for this. they feel they're on the verge of getting it done. >> lehrer: verge, close, amy? >> they have to get something done. the thought that this can drag
out much longer, i think, for so many of these democrats in the senate and quite frankly in the house as well is more problematic to them than having to give up certain provisions in order to get that so-called 60th vote. >> lehrer: we'll get back to lieberman and the moderates in a moment. but the liberal democrats, what are they giving up and how unhappy are they about having to do so? >> well, joe lieberman is definitely part of the story. they're very upset at him for various reasons. look, when you saw jay rockefeller in that set-up piece, here's somebody who said what i would really want to see is something like a medicare buy-in. what we really wanted to see was something like a public option. liberals recognize this and they have recognized this for some time that getting a bill requires 60 votes. it requires moderates who are not fans of a public option. so i think the question is, how many other things can they get from this to feel good about it? the other piece of this, too, is that fundamentally these
senators have been waiting and members of congress for a long time to be able to vote and pass something. that they can call health care reform. they know that this would be historic. they know that in terms of setting policy for the next how many more years, they're the ones sitting at the table doing this. i think that is... that desire is stronger than the frustration about losing some of those key elements. >> lehrer: you've been covering the lieberman story heavily the last several... the last couple of days or so. what was going on here? why was he... how did he become so important or was he as important as it's been portrayed. >> certainly he's made himself important. i mean there are a number of senators, of course, that can be seen as the 60th vote. 60 of them could be seen that way. he's had a way of making provocative statements of announcing his opposition to certain things at key times that seem to undermine what senator reed is trying to do just at the moment when he most needs his support. the liberals hate the guy.
>> lehrer: they don't like him. >> they see him as an absolute villain. they've been uncomfortable with him for years. they see this as the final straw. the attacks have been fairly virulent. people are trying to get his wife thrown off of a breast cancer group she's involved with. it's personal. it's fierce. it's angry. >> lehrer: what finally... if they dislike him so much, why did they finally say, okay, you want that, joe, we'll give it to you. >> they have no choice. they need 60 votes. you need 60 votes in the senate to do anything. liberals feel like what they really wanted was a single-payor system. they didn't get that so they compromised. they were going to take a public om. they didn't get that. now they're told you're not getting the medicare buy-in. they're very frustrated and unhappy. they faced the choice of having health reform something they've wanted for decades or not having it. if you it, you have to give that up. >> it's more likely than not as we're seeing a lot of these polls coming out for senate
races coming up in 2010 that democrats aren't going to have 60 votes in 2011. this could be the only time. if it doesn't get done now it won't happen. >> lehrer: what about the other moderates besides lieberman? ben nelson, blanch lincoln. are they okay now because of this, quote, deal? >> that's what we're all waiting to see. it is funny to sort of watch the spotlight move from one whoever the 60th vote is at that moment to the next. it was olympia snow. then it was ben nelson for a long time. blanch lincoln has been in that spotlight. she sort of takes herself out of it. she's not as high profile as some of the others. what we're looking for is blanch lincoln from arkansas, ben nelson from nebraska still two of the big names that everybody is waiting to see. the one who has popped up recently has been jim web from virginia simply because he's been vote ing with the republicans on a lot of these amendments. there's some concern that maybe he's not as strong as we thought he could be.
he could be the 60th vote. >> lehrer: when the president said, as we had in a clip after the meeting with the democrats, he said there are still differences. what's he talking about? >> well, the biggest difference i think by far has to do with abortion language and how tough the restrictions should be on abortion. senator ben nelson of nebraska who we've been talking about, that is a very big issue for him. with the removal of this public option, it may be the big iruwe for him. it's unclear how that will be resolved. if they can solve that, they'll really be pretty much there. there are other issues that have to do with how this is all paid for. there are controversial taxes and levys that would be involved. the two big issues were the public option and abortion. they've now taken the public option off the table in the senate but the question remains how they're going to deal with the abortion issue. >> lehrer: what do you hear about that, amy? what kind of deal could be structured on the abortion issue? >> ben nelson.... >> lehrer: lay out what the issue is. >> the issue is in the start we heard about this originally in the house.
it is about the ability for a government program and how it would pay for or not pay for in this case abortions. do women have the choice of being able to essentially pay for their own abortions if they're getting federal... any kind of federal funding. the reality of it doesn't seem as much of the issue as the politics of this. right? which is that what you've seen is big pro-choice groups like naral and planned parenthood taking very strong positions on this, asking their peb members, those who support them in congress to take strong positions and the right to life community taking strong positions on this. it seems to be happening at least with nelson and i think we've been see inning in the last few days is he seems to think i might not get exactly what i want. there is already a vote on that amendment. it was voted down. he had not said that's the deal-killer for me. he still open to finding some way to do this.
i don't know how they do this. >> lehrer: what would you add to that? >> this whole thing is a gigantic cube in many ways. if they lose nelson maybe they can get snow. >> lehrer: she is pro-choice and would have no problem. she goes on the other issue. >> right. although she has said she would support a public option as long as it was something triggered only under certain circumstances. there's myriad issues. there's 60 senators they have to put together. some people want something but not other things. it's harry reid 's job, incredibly difficult task of assembling this puzzle that is going to manage to get 60 people to vote yes on the floor in the next couple weeks. it's very hard. inch by inch i think they're getting there. >> lehrer: amy, is it a given that the only potential for a republican vote is is, in fact, olympia snow. >> it sure seems that way. it was interesting that senator susan collins was standing with joe lieberman in that senate piece. she doesn't sound to be very interested in supporting this. she sounds very reluctant. you heard senator mcconnell saying we have 40 votes
against this bill. it's not happening. >> reporter: is it possible or even constructive at this point to look at the possibility of when there could be a final vote? >> yeah. i think, you know, they clearly have a plan. they have a schedule. whether they stick to that schedule is an open question. they really feel like they want to have this thing signed by the president by the state of the union address which is in late january. to do that certain things have to happen at certain times. at the need to pass it through the senate by the end of the year. of course there will be an agreement between the house and the senate. they need to pull that off. then the two houses have to vote again in january. so that's the schedule. it's a very important to them to stick to that. they want the president to be able to get up at his state of the union and say we promised change. i've delivered it. i've done something that no president has done for a century. they want to start talking about jobs and the economy. as long as they're talking about health care they're talking a lot less by jobs. after january they feel like they need to turn to jobs as soon as they can. the schedule is very important to them. that's why they're pushing so hard right now.
>> exactly right. >> lehrer: you agree? >> absolutely. >> lehrer: thank you both very much. >> thanks. >> lehrer: now for the other >> brown: now, for some of the day's other stories, over to hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. hari? >> sreenivasan: it was a deadly day in both pakistan and afghanistan, as suicide car bombings rocked both countries. in central pakistan, an explosion ripped apart a market. the blast killed at least 33 people and wounded 60 more. and in kabul, afghanistan, a car bomber blew himself up outside the home of a former vice president. at least eight people died there. they did not specify the money be spent on rape kit testing. the law was named for debbie smith, a rape victim who waited years until her attacker was found. >> each box holds within it vital evidence that is crucial to the safety of women everywhere.
statistics prove that the average rapist will rape 8 to 12 times before he is caught. how many of these rapes could be prevented? i merely existed for six-and-a-half years waiting for my rapist to be identified, trying my best to devin the sound of his voice in my ear. >> sreenivasan: new legislation would require the federal government to collect testing on untested rape kits. some 800,000 doses of swine flu vaccine for young children have been recalled. the food and drug administration said the potency of the shots had dropped since they were shipped out but fda officials said children who received the shots are still protected. that means they won't have to be vaccinated again. more than 50 million roman-style window shades and roll-up blinds are also being recalled. the consumer product safety commission said today they might strangle young children who get entangled in the cords. eight such deaths have been reported since 2001. the window coverings were sold
at major retailers including walmart, pottery barn, and j.c. penney. the washington, d.c., city council voted overwhelmingly today to legalize gay marriage, starting in march. the bill now goes to mayor adrian fenty, who's expected to sign it. from there, the measure goes to congress, which has the final say over the district's laws. television evangelist oral roberts died today at a hospital in newport beach, california. he suffered complications from pneumonia. starting in the 1950s, roberts created a multimillion-dollar faith healing ministry. he also founded a private christian university bearing his name in tulsa, oklahoma. oral roberts was 91 years old. in economic news, the labor department announced wholesale prices rose nearly 2% last month, much more than expected. that raised fears of inflation on wall street. the dow jones industrial average lost 49 points to close at 10,452. the nasdaq fell 11 points to close at 2201. 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 jeff. >> brown: and still to come on the newshour, the struggle for a global climate deal in copenhagen; everest's melting glaciers; and why one former treasury secretary says big banks shouldn't be bailed out. that follows our coverage of a new plan to move some inmates currently held at guantanamo bay to a facility in the midwest. margaret warner has our report. >> warner: president obama moved closer today to making good on his promise to close the prison at guantanamo bay, cuba. he ordered the federal government to acquire an underused state prison in rural thompson, illinois. the plan is to transfer up to 100 guantanamo terror suspects to the thompson correctional center 150 miles west of chicago along the mississippi river. illinois was officially notified in a letter from the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security plus the
attorney general and director of national intelligence. after a briefing at the white house, governor pat quinn and senator dick durbin told reporters why they enthusiastically back the move. >> this is a great opportunity. our state unemployment numbers, the most recent ones, were 11%. in some parts of the state like northwestern illinois, even higher. people are desperate for good jobs. this jobs we're talking about here are some of the best . over 3,000 new employees in this area, half of them from local people. >> warner: but the senate's top republican mitch mcconnell said the plan would make illinois a target for terrorists. >> gitmo-north is something the american people are clearly opposed to. it is outrageous to suggest that this is a good sort of federal government jobs program. >> warner: he also noted that current law bars bringing to u.s. shores any long-term prisoners earmarked for indefinite detention. activist groups who have urged
guantanamo's closure applauded the decision to move some detainees but they expressed reservations about the fate of those prisoners who aren't slated for civilian or military trials. devin chafee is with human rights first, an advocacy group in washington. >> we are mainly concerned that detainees brought to the thompson correction center may be continued to be detained indefinitely without trial. to do so would really fail to accomplish the objectives of closing the guantanamo bay facility. >> warner: the 1600-bed thompson prison was built eight years ago at a cost of $145 million. but it currently houses only 200 inmates. the prospect of filling it appeals to thompson village's president when federal officials toured the site last month. >> from what i've heard so far thompson would be even more secure. that's what would make me sleep better tonight. >> warner: today some townspeople said it's time to put the prison to good use.
>> i think it's a good thing. it will bring jobs to the area. the economy will be boosted. >> warner: but others in the area were more skeptical. >> as far as the residents are concerned in the town, sure, i'm sure it will be great for them. i don't know. my comment about it relates to the idea of him being... any of them being here in the first place. i don't think they belong here. >> warner: whatever it does for thompson, the transfer plan, if carried out, would sharply reduce the inmate population at guantanamo to roughly 100 detainees. but administration officials have acknowledged they won't meet the president's initial deadline for closing it by january. now, more on today's announcement. we get that from lynn sweet, washington bureau chief and columnist for the "chicago sun- times." lynn, welcome back to the program. there were several states sort of in the running for this. how did the administration decide on this facility in illinois? >> well, talk about having a home state advantage. that would be it. the objections in some of the other states, michigan, kansas
earlier in the running. when the administration got serious about this in november , late october, the path for illinois was just cleared for them. senator durbin, the senior senator from illinois, number two man in the senate, a democratic governor were champions of the project. so were the people from thompson which you just showed. there was just an easy glide path for acquisition of this little used prison. >> warner: when administration officials say this is going to be super secure, how secure? i mean, what extra measures are they taking? >> they're going to build another security wall around the prison. the prison already was built as a maximum-security prison. they have a whole list of upgrades that they're going to do to put even more security and more construction around the complex than what they have now. >> warner: and the defense department will actually run that part of the prison, i understand. >> right.
this is something that the administration has said from the beginning that about 75% of the building will just be a regular federal prison run by the bureau of prisons. that will be the entity that will actually buy the prison. 25% of the complex or so will be leased to the defense department. they'll run the back part of the building that's used to house the detainees. >> warner: explain which prisoners are at least intended by the administration to be transferred because they're roughly about half of the 210 currently remain at get mow. >> what's interesting is that the white house refuses to actually say how many people are potentially ... we're talking about. senator durbin and members of the illinois congressional delegation have gotten briefings on this. for some reason the white house doesn't even want to say. senator durbin has said 100. the illinois delegation when they got a briefing recently we're told between 50-100. this is the category of people
that... of the 200 or so in guantanamo now, some will be deported. five we know are going to new york. those accused in the 9/11 attacks. some will be tried in other federal courts. this remaining group, the ones that will need for the time being neither be tried nor deport reasonable doubt the ones we're talking about. >> warner: i gather the one slated for military commissions. they're going to hold those military commissions at the facility. >> right. but that is a group that could be determined once they're there. the determinations won't all necessarily be done. and the commissions will be held at the facility. >> warner: now, what about this flap that seems to have develop or seems to be there about this category of prisoners that the president once said there would be some who would be untry-able because either the evidence against them is tainted or would compromise intelligence methods. senator mcconnell is saying you can't transfer that group
here to the united states under the current law. is that right? if so, then what kind of a fight can they expect on capitol hill to get that changed? >> well, the administration told me when i checked on this tonight that congress needs to lift that restriction that is now in place on bringing the untry-able, so-called untry-able detainees. that is one point of a battle that congress may engage in. you saw the mcconnell statements. certainly the republicans have lined up, many of them against this proposal. there also has to be an appropriation to purchase the prison which will be at least $145 million. you also have to have the money to staff it up. i think congress has a few entry points into this project. >> warner: now, senator durbin and the governor quinn said today outside the white house there's great unity behind this back in illinois or certainly from the area. yet the republicans had a press conference where they had a number of members from illinois saying this is a terrible idea.
how controversial is this in the state of illinois? >> well, it depends on what region you're talking about. to have all the press conference you're talking about up on the hill where a string of republican members who banded together to protest this. you also have a few potential in the democratic party line of support on this. there's a big governor and senate race there. i would say it's broken down into some partisan divides but if you look at the northwest part of the state where there are people who will get jobs who need them, there is no controversy over this. this is... this has not become a hot button issue in the state so far. there are a lot of concerns about safety. i think that is the job of the, you know, of the white house and supporters. what people probably do not realize until today when the white house said that they do now intend to have these military tribunals held at
thompson it remains to be seen what the reaction is to that development. >> warner: lynn sweet, chicago sun times. thank you so much. >> thank you. >> brown: and we move on to copenhagen, where ray suarez is covering the climate summit this week. only a few days remain, and there are still very big divides between richer and poorer countries; and between china, the largest greenhouse gas polluter, and the u.s., which was the biggest until recently. ray begins with this report. >> suarez: a chinese special representative to the climate talks committed china to greenhouse gas reduction but rejects any efforts like those demanded by the united states to check china's compliance. and he warned against using trade as a weapon, suggested by congress's climate change bill passed in september.
>> we oppose the actions of any country that sets up new trade barriers under the excuse of protecting the planet. >> suarez: and yu said he's keenly aware, as are the other negotiators that time is running out for an agreement. but he said the industrialized countries, long-term, heavy users of fossil fuels, aren't even facing up to their responsibilities now. he switched to english to make his point. >> with no regrets they didn't even come up with something like, "sorry, i failed." it's a fact of life you better live setback. >> suarez: yu said he remains optimistic a worthwhile deal can be reached before more than 100 heads of state arrive later this week along with the continued tensions between china and the u.s., another primary pillar of these talks is the confrontation between rich and poor or, as citizens of less developed countries would have it, between the
countries that created the problem and the countries suffering climate changes worst effects. today testimony from a peru viian who watched the glaciers melt. and a pacific islanders who may become the first countries to disappear from world maps, a bangladeshy driven from her land by rising salt water. and a ugandan farmer who has tried to feed a large family as too little and then too much rainfalls. >> mostly 2007 that's when we changed from no more rain to drastic rain, from no more rain to flood, from no more sunshine to drought . there has been a lot of changes in climate . >> suarez: and speaking to a packed meeting room at the copenhagen conference, this woman told her audience that fairness demands that the world's poor receive support
from the industrialized world to deal with a life-and-death challenge she did nothing to create. >> the reason why we need this money is because it is increasing day and night because of the climate changes. and of which the climate changes they're the ones making us to suffer. the effects of climate change. >> suarez: former irish president mary robinson and retired south african archbishop desmond tutu were on hands to add their own calls for the wealthy industrialized countrys to make changes now, from self-interest ever bit as much as from charity. >> if we don't get an agreement here, we have posed an enormous threat to our one world. and i have four grandchildren who will be in their 40s in 2015. i do not no an irish grandmother who doesn't want them to have a safe world. american grandmothers do not know that their grandchildren
will have a safe world. >> suarez: not so fast says bjorn, the danish teacher and writer on environmental issues is a climate change skeptic but not in the way that's usual. maybe he should be called a climate change conference skeptic. >> maybe it would be a good thing for climate if this meeting was to fail because fundamentally it seems to me we're just doing the same failed strategy for the last 18 years. we're promising to make grand carbon cuts and then we won't do them. >> suarez: he said large-scale aid to the world's poorest is no longer popular so the world's advocates for the poor are just redrafting their demands using climate change instead. he said if you really want to help this woman and her village in uganda, fight poverty. >> clearly we need to deal with her problem but also clearly the majority of her problems are not caused by climate change. they're caused by simple poverty. every time we can save one
person from dying from malnutrition through climate change policies the same amount of money spent on malnutrition policies could save 5,000 people. >> suarez: while you're fighting poverty, he says, work on research and development that will make new energy sources fully competitive with fossil fuels. once they are you won't need a conference and treaties to force countries to be cleaner. speaking to the conference this evening, nobel peace laureate kenyan environmental activist said the industrialized world doesn't just feel the effects of climate change the same way the world's poorest countries do and may then be reluctant to sign binding agreements. >> therefore, it is up to the developing world to convince them that the threat is real. despite their perceived inability at the moment. >> suarez: like every
prominent speaker in copeen hagen has said publicly an agreement by friday is still possible. >> brown: is a short time ago i talked to ray in copenhagen. ray, fairly blunt talk there from the chinese representative. the chinese have said they've set a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions so now the issue is how to make sure they're following through? >> suarez: well, the united states would like to put in verification architecture so that people could check whether all countries not just china are living up to the commitments they made on the internet international stage. china says in response, hey, look we set very ambitious targets. we're investing a lot in alternative fuels and other alternative energy sources. it's really for them a matter of national pride and really autonomy and sovereignty that says, no, we've set the targets and we're going to keep them. >> brown: they also said in your interview that they were at least questioning at the same time whether the u.s. was
living up to its commitments. >> suarez: not just the u.s. but the whole industrialized worlds. a lot of countries made assurances at the kyoto round in 1997 that they simply didn't follow through on in the earlier years of this century. so almost with a little impatience and a little testyness, the chinese negotiator pointed that out and said, hey, look, you, your countries, did not live up to what you told the world you were going to do. and now you want to put a verification regime on us?" he was really annoyed that in effect the western and industrialized world negotiator said, well, the fact that we didn't live up to those past assurances, the past is past. let's start from square one with newly set baselines, not the baselines we were using in 1997. >> brown: there's also that key continuing issue between the, well, how much the richer nations will help out the poorer nations to implement any changes.
what's going on there? >> suarez: everybody on all sides of this argument concede that even if all emissions were ended today, global warming, because of the built-up sources in the system, would continue on for years to come. even if there was no further co-2. so the poorer countries are saying, look, we're the ones with so little resources that we're unable to adapt insued our economies, adapt our agriculture and living places to this newer, hotter, dryer and wetter planet. so there should be transfers from those countries that are causing the warming to those that are suffering the most from it. so far, there's been no... there have been some tentative stabs at it by the industrial countries. there have been some assurances know money would be forth coming but no specific dates, no specific amounts, no specific duration for a program that would begin now. >> brown: i gather that today
a draft circulated there that left out specific emission targets and financing amounts and mechanisms. >> suarez: all this stuff sounds very technical but really it boils down to this. how much of what gases where and most importantly what year are you going to use as your baseline? are you going to use 1990 and say increases would be measured from what we were already emitting in 1990? are you going to use 2000 or even this year and say that reductions have to be based on what you're emitting this year? the chinese, for all their complaining about the west's failure to meet its targets, are trying to use 1990, a time when china was a very different country. much less industrialized , as its baseline for computing future allowances for emissions into the atmosphere. >> brown: so slow progress at best so far there. now we both have been to international conferences before. usually
a lot of stuff is pre-cooked, right? there's a lot that has already been settled on or agreed to especially when you have a lot of world leaders about to show up. what's your sense of what's going on in this case? >> suarez: well, today the executive director of the copenhagen talks and the head of the u.n. climate change agency held a news conference together where they assured the world's press that the negotiations were continuing, were on track. progress was being made. even though drafts were being circulated with just brackets around where the numbers should be, there was a sense that those two very important offices tried to give the rest of us the things would take on a faster pace once the heads of state started to arrive in their numbers starting tomorrow evening. >> brown: what did people tell you privately though? are they as hopeful? >> well, privately people are saying they just can't believe that everything can be wrapped up by friday. and the talk now is shifting
to what an acceptable posture would be for the world's leaders to leave this place with something rather than nothing. what the something would be and how preferable that would be to, in effect, shrugging your shoulders, admitting failure and going home. there has been so much talk coming out of copenhagen this week about the dire situation of the world's atmosphere, the world's waters, and what's coming down the road, that to in effect leave her empty handed would be almost politically unacceptable. certainly in many countries that are both commit to reducing their emissions and are also now sort of wrapping their heads around the fact that they're right in the cross hairs of what's coming if the climate scientists' projections are right. >> brown: nice to talk to you. we'll stay in touch this week. >> suarez: thanks a lot, jeff. >> lehrer: and to another climate story.
this one comes from the himalayas, where some scientists argue glaciers are now melting at an alarming rate. james mates of independent television news reports. >> reporter: mount everest is is as high, as bleak and as cold a region as you will find anywhere on earth. it seems impossible that here of all places the ice frozen on to the slopes of these giants could be melting. but this is the biggest glacier in nepal in the shadow of everest. its surface is scarred with lakes and melt water. and this is the himalayan winter. pictures like these show why people in china and india worry about where in future their fresh water will come from. >> by the middle of this century i think there could be a big leak here. no more ice left. >> reporter: glacierologist has been studying this glacier for more than a decade. we walked across a rocky more an that covers the ice. pools of standing water to an ice cave. the surest sign that this
glacier is in big trouble. a healthy glacier flows like a slow-moving river of ice. the fact that we can work our way through this frozen catacomb is a sign it is stationary and roting from the inside. >> take a little care. >> reporter: the startling beauty of the ice passage inside is deceptive. these have been carved by melt water from the ponds and lakes we saw on the surface working its way deep down into the glacier itself. >> the blocks that we're standing on here, they've fallen from the walls. these were all in the ceiling once. these have collapsed from the
ceiling. in these caves.... >> reporter: we're seeing here a close-up view of the death of a glacier. >> exactly. it is just collapsing in on itself. >> reporter: as we head deeper into the cave we are forced on to our hands and knees. the further we go the more convinced he and his team become that without a substantial fall in temperatures here at least 10 to 15 kilometers this enormous glacier is finished. >> it is quite clear what is happening here. what isn't yet clear is how serious it is. there are some scientists who are very worried about what will happen when all this fresh water locked up in ice in these glaciers is is no longer available to feed the rivers of asia. others believe that that is alarmist. doug ben is one who shys away from extravagant claims. >> one can say if these glaciers disappear then there's a problem. but we need much more detailed work to be done today. exactly what the impact will be in a particular area.
>> reporter: is is it important that work is is done? >> absolutely. vitally important that that work is done. many many spectacular claims many alarmist claims are made about the possible impact of climate change. these of course are possibilities but they need to be backed up with hard scientific evidence. >> reporter: that's something that the government in copenhagen ought to be thinking about. >> absolutely right. we need to be sure. scare stories won't do anybody any good. >> lehrer: we'll have more on the story all week. the copenhagen story all week, both on-air and online. ray will be back with another report tomorrow night. >> brown: finally tonight, how big is too big? at the white house yesterday, president obama pushed bank c.e.o.s on lending practices and bonuses. but as banks have merged and consolidated during the last year of financial crisis, the worry that some may be "too big to fail" has only grown. here's our economics correspondent, paul solman, as he continues his reporting on "making sense of financial news."
>> here are a lot of memories. >> reporter: george shultz in a stanford university conference room awash in memorabilia. >> a picture of us meeting with president obama in the oval office. >> reporter: elder statesmen, classically trained economist. >> this is an early edition of adam smith's wealth of nations. >> reporter: the conservative shultz doesn't go back that far but he served republican presidents from the '50s to the '80s. >> president reagan was my favorite. the thing about president reagan was he was comfortable with himself. >> reporter: now 89 shultz is a distinguished fellow at hoover institution where of late he's been pondering the problem of banks deemed too big to fail. a recent quote, if they're too big to fail, make them smaller he said. we wanted to know more. what's the basic problem, as you see it, with financial institutions at this point in time? >> in the first place, if
somebody is known they will be bailed out, well, they do excessive risk. because they're doing it on the tax payers' dollar. the whole system is badly damaged when bailouts occur. it takes all of the accountability out of the system. and the market system depends on accountability. so we have to design a system so anybody in it can fail. >> reporter: did you run into this in your... some of your past lives? or is this a new phenomenon? >> oh, no. this is something that you see in aate lot of settings. i've run into the same problem before. long about august or so of 1968 , a strike of the long shoremen sharts on the eastern gulf coast. president johnson thinks that will create a national emergency. he enjoins the strike. that decision is appealed to the supreme court. fast track. the supreme court agrees with
the president. so the strike is stopped. it starts in again somewhere around january 16 or something of 1969. >> reporter: less than a week later shultz was sworn in as president nixon's secretary of labor. >> so i went to the president. i said to him, mr. president, your predecessor was wrong. and the supreme court was wrong. this strike will create a lot of mumbling around, but it will not be a nationality emergency. if you stay out of it, you teach people a big lesson. that they have to take responsibility for themselves. he hung in. we did get it semgtsed. >> reporter: the following year as the first director of the office of management and budget, shultz faced an even bigger crisis. the failure of the pen central railroad. >> they deserved to fail. they mismanaged their affairs. arthur burns was chairman of the federal reserve board.
he was very upset that if they failed it would have a bad effect on the financial system. so bad that he had somehow arranged -- i never could understand how-- a bailout , massive amount of money for those days to bail them out. >> reporter: bailout the pen central. >> bail out the penn central. so i think this is a lousy idea. i'm arguing with arthur burns and half of me is saying to myself, what am i doing arguing with arthur burns about the financial system? he knows more about it than i do. and in an odd moment a man walked in and said, mr. president, the penn central in its infinite wisdom has just hired your old law firm to represent them in this matter. under the circumstances, you can't touch this with a ten-foot pole." so no bailout. penn australiaed
... central failed. no dominos fell. >> reporter: did they think they might have been bailed out by the government? >> i'm sure they did. >> reporter: so we have the long shoreman's strike, penn central. plenty of examples. bring us to the present. why did everyone then presume that financial institutions were going to be bailed out when this current crisis started to happen? >> well, you have to ask the people who were participants questions like that. for me sitting back it didn't seem to me that any sense of a strategy of what they were doing. thereby letting people know in financial markets how they were going to be behave and how they were going to react to things. >> reporter: but once they're confronted with the terror of a frozen, locked market where nobody will lend to anybody else and my credit card might not work going down to the store, well, they're afraid that that will happen throughout the economy.
they felt they had to do something, no? >> i think if you look at the kinds of indicators that people try to judge panic by, it spreads and things like that, what you see is that it was after the secretary of treasury and chairman of the fed went before the congress and said the sky is falling, we need $700 billion , and we're not too clear on just what we're going to use it for. here the guys in charge, they think the sky is falling. i don't think it's a good idea to say things like that. it's a good idea to keep the sky from falling in the first place. >> reporter: do you think that large financial institutions that are now deemed to be too big to fail should be, if nothing else can be done, broken up? >> no. i think you should ask yourself, what is it about their bigness that causes the problem? how can we improve matters.
>> reporter: so how can we? >> number one, study what you mean by the risk you find. 2, figure out how you're going to do something about that risk if it materializes. 3, take a lesson from people who make christmas tree lights. it used to be that the lights you string on a christmas tree were of such a nature that if one went out they all went out. and the longer the string, the harder it was to identify the bulb that went out. so harder it was to fix it. so if you have all of these fancy financial instruments securityizing mortgages, derivatives of all kinds, you put all this in the pot, you are in effect making the christmas tree light longer and longer and longer. so why can't we do what the christmas tree light manufacturers do? that is, disaggregate these things. delink them.
maybe i have a business and i have a lot of parts of it but they all don't have to be arranged in such a way that i'm liable for everything. >> reporter: serial wiring i think it was called. >> so i can have a subsidiary that has a limited resource to me or no recourse to me. >> reporter: you mean it can't draw on your money if it gets into trouble. >> exactly. i advertise that. here's this unit that is going to do credit default swaps and yes i'm running it. but it's a stand-alone operation. everybody who takes part should know that. >> reporter: if a.i.g.has the financial products division, that has no claim on the insurance company a.i.g.. >> you got it. i think you have to say to yourself, why do organizations get big? because they get advantages out of that. but there's also more social risk for that bigness.
so we're going to impose capital requirements and leverage requirements on your operations that are more severe than for a small guy. >> reporter: the more money you're going to have to set aside in case something bad happens, capital requirements. >> exactly. >> reporter: leverage requirements you can't borrow too much multiple of what you've got. >> there's an underlying principle here. it's gotten lost sight of. that's the importance of skin in the game. when you have some of your own money involved, you pay a lot more attention. >> reporter: george shultz, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> brown: again, the major developments of the day. senate democrats moved closer to final agreement on health care reform. it was widely reported a
proposal to expand medicare will be dropped. and president obama ordered the government to buy an underused state prison in illinois. up 100 detainees from guantanamo bay, cuba, may be transferred there. the newshour continues always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's on our web site. hari? >> sreenivasan: on our web site tonight, watch our interview with secretary of education arne duncan about new ways to improve children's financial literacy. duncan also gives a progress report on the "race to the top program" where states are competing for stimulus dollars. find local reaction to today's announcement about moving some guantanamo detainees to an illinois prison. on paul solman's "making sense" page, our series on the economic year ahead continues. tonight, what will be most surprising in 2010? and there's an update on the drug war in mexico from a reporter who was embedded with the mexican military. that's part of our collaboration with global post, an international news web site. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: and that's the
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