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Interview with James Baker; Interview with Dr. Ronald DePinho

Aired December 9, 2012 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We have a very important show for you today. First up, with Washington at an impasse, an exclusive conversation with one of America's greatest deal-makers, James Baker, the former Secretary of State, former Secretary of the Treasury, former White House Chief of Staff, on how to stay off the fiscal cliff and on what his party should learn from the last election.

Next, when the U.S. aimed high in the 1960s, we sent a man to the moon. With a similar effort, we can now cure cancer. That's what the head of the largest cancer center in the world, Houston's MD Anderson, says. You'll want to hear why we are close to success and yet so far.

And America has lost its number one standing in lots of areas from competitiveness to education. The new number one, in most cases, a Scandinavian country. What is the secret sauce? We'll dig into it.

But, first, here's my take. As we debate whether the two parties can ever come together and get things done, here is something President Obama could do, probably by himself, that would be a signal accomplishment of his presidency: End the war on terror.

For the first time since 9/11, an administration official has sketched a possible endpoint. Jeh Johnson, the outgoing general counsel for the Pentagon, said in a speech to the Oxford Union last week that, "As the battle against al-Qaeda continues, there will come a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al- Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, such that al- Qaeda as we know it, has been effectively destroyed."

At that point, he said, "our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict." You might not realize it, but we're still living in a state of war. This is the longest period that the United States has lived in such a situation, longer than the Civil War, World War I, World War II.

It grants the president and the federal government extraordinary authorities effectively suspends civil liberties for anyone the government deems an enemy and it also keeps us at a permanent war footing in all kinds of ways. Ending this situation should be something that would appeal to both left and right.

James Madison, the author of the Constitution, was clear on this topic. "Of all the enemies to public liberty," he wrote, "war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies. From there proceed debts and taxes. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

If you want to know why we're in such a deep budgetary hole, keep in mind that we have spent about $2 trillion on foreign wars in the last decade. In addition, we have had the largest expansion of the federal government since World War II.

Dana Priest and William Arkin have documented that the U.S. government has built 33 new building complexes for the intelligence bureaucracies alone occupying 17 million square feet, the equivalent of 22 U.S. capitols or three Pentagons. The Department of Homeland Security itself employs almost one-quarter of a million people.

Of course there are real threats out there, including from new branches of al-Qaeda and other such groups. And of course they will have to be battled, and those terrorists should be captured or killed.

But we have done this before, and we can do it again in the future under more normal, legal circumstances. It will mean that the administration will have to be more careful and perhaps have more congressional involvement for certain actions, like drone strikes.

It might mean it will have to charge some of the people in Guantanamo and try them in military or civilian courts. But is all this bad? So have we reached the point where we might consider shifting from emergency wartime powers?

Well, a new report is out this week, a new Global Terrorism Index. It goes from 2002 to 2011. It shows that terrorism went up from '02 to '07, largely because of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, but has been declining ever since.

And surveying the situation by region, the report finds that the part of the world with the fewest incidents of terrorism has been North America.

For more on this, read my column in the Washington Post. There's a link to it on the website, Let's get started.

He was centrally involved in historic, bipartisan deals to reform our tax system, our immigration system, Social Security. James Baker was Ronald Reagan's most important lieutenant. So who better to tell us how to get a deal done in Washington today?

I spoke to him at the Baker Center at Rice University in Houston.


ZAKARIA: Mr. Secretary, glad to have you on.

JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, CHIEF OF STAFF, SECRETARY OF TREASURY: Thank you so much, pleasure to be with you. ZAKARIA: So you've been Chief of Staff, Secretary of Treasury, you know this moment. The president is negotiating with Congress over a budget. What would you do?

If you were to put yourself in the place that Tim Geithner is or John Boehner is, how would you play this?

BAKER: Well, I think it's very important that the top levels of both parties are involved in the negotiation and that they get together as soon as possible because what we really need is a grand bargain to deal with the terrible state of our economy.

We're fiscally bankrupt. If we didn't have the dollar, we might be Greece. We've got to deal with our debt bomb. We've got to face the fiscal cliff that's coming in a couple of weeks.

ZAKARIA: So you know what both sides are saying. The president is saying there's no way to make the math work without raising the rates for the top income earners and that the Republicans should give in on this. Do you think he's right?

BAKER: Well, I understand that position. That was the position he took during campaign. But what has to happen, in my view, you've got to have everything on the table. You have to have revenue increases.

Now, how you get to those revenue increases was an item of discussion during the campaign. It will be an item of discussion during the negotiation.

I, for one, think you could get there in a way that would promote economic growth by eliminating -- by broadening the tax base by eliminating loopholes and deductions.

The truth of the matter, Fareed, is we're not under taxed as Americans, we over spend. I think everybody would agree we over spend. That's why we have this debt to GDP of 100 percent as far now as the eye can see absent policy changes.

So whatever you do, you first have to agree what the level of debt to GDP ought to be and there'll be a debate about that, but that'll be a part of the negotiation.

One thing Republicans are going to need in this negotiation, it seems to me, is assurance that if they raise taxes and once they've raised taxes that they will, in fact, get the spending cuts because, in past years, they've agreed to tax increases and the spending cuts never come.

ZAKARIA: Did that happen to Reagan?

BAKER: It happened in the first term -- in Reagan's first term. We agreed to some spending cuts that we didn't get. It happened under George H. W. Bush's presidency. So it's really important, in order to engender confidence in trust, particularly on the part of the Republicans, that they know if they agree to tax increases, which they're going to have do -- revenue increases which they're going to have to do, that they'll get the spending cuts.

Now, how do you get there? Well, you get there by agreeing on what the proper level of debt to GDP -- spending to GDP should be and say once it goes over that, then you'll have some sequesters or across the board spending cuts, which is the only way you're going to get Congress to moderate its appetite for more and more spending because that produces votes.

That's one way. The other ways is if you raise taxes as a part of a grand bargain, you could provide that those taxes would be rescinded automatically and would sunset in the event you exceeded that cap of spending to GDP, whatever it is, 20, 21 percent, wherever it is, 22 percent.

ZAKARIA: On the spending side, even if you were to do the kind of sequestration you're talking about, if you look at the medium-term or even -- and certainly the long-term ...


ZAKARIA: All the increases in spending are essentially around health care. It's Medicare and Medicaid ...

BAKER: Yes, you've got to ...

ZAKARIA: That are out of control. What would you do about that?

BAKER: Well, you've got to fix it. You got to fix -- you got to -- you got to have entitlements on the table because entitlements are the biggest part of our spending problem.

Defense has to be on the table. Everything has to be on the table. You have to begin this negotiation by agreeing that there are not going to be any preconditions, everything's going to be on the table. You ought to also have an agreement that nothing will be decided until everything is decided.

You ought to also have an agreement that it'll be done in confidence and behind closed doors because it makes it extraordinarily difficult when you try to do it in the public domain.

It looks like the campaign is just continuing. That's where we are today. We did Social Security totally privately behind closed doors.

ZAKARIA: So you think the way it's being done right now by the White House and the Republicans is wrong?

BAKER: I think they're just -- I don't think they'll ever get there doing it this way. They're just jousting with each other. And each side is repeating its campaign talking points. You need to have a serious, confidential, substantial negotiation by the top levels of both parties.

ZAKARIA: You are a political animal. Looking at this -- this situation, what is your gut? Who's going to win?

BAKER: Well, I don't know. What we ought to be talking about is not who's going to win, but how the country can win. Look, in the short-term, if we go over the cliff, it's conceivable that people will say oh, well, that's the Republicans fault and the president won.

The fact of the matter is if we don't get this problem solved and it's going to take leadership by the top leader in the country, and that's the President of the United States -- if we don't get it solved, in the medium to long-term, he's going to bear the burden because if the economy doesn't recover, people are going to hold the party in power responsible.


ZAKARIA: We're going to be right back with James Baker, former Secretary of State, former Secretary of Treasury, former White House Chief of Staff.

I'm going to ask him what his lesson from the last election is, what he took from it and, also, some thoughts on foreign policy when we come back.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with James Baker, former Secretary of State, former Secretary of Treasury, former White House Chief of Staff talking about, well, everything.

You watched this last election, I know, very closely because we talked. You ran two presidential campaigns. What did you make of it?

BAKER: Well, I thought the election, frankly, was going to be closer than it ended up being. I thought just looking at it from the outside that the Republicans had a decent chance of winning.

I think the two most important things that happened that defeated that were the very divisive primary we had to endure before with 22 debates and a period -- an interregnum there between the end of the primary season and the beginning of the general election where the Democrats were able to paint Governor Romney as something that he really isn't, in my view.

And the Republicans side of the screen was silent because they had to wait until they got their general election money. And, then, the ground game, I think the Democratic campaign had probably a far superior ground game to the Republican campaign.

But there's some things that this election, I think, tells us need to be done for my party, for us as a party. I think it's really important that we be seen to be the party of hope, optimism and opportunity, that's what Ronald Reagan taught us, instead of the party of the doom and gloom.

We need to be positive and not negative. We need to appeal to those voter groups that we had trouble with. We need to appeal to all minority voters and, particularly, Hispanic and Asian voters.

We need to have a credible and comprehensive immigration plan that we can put forth out there. We need to talk about urban issues and face the fact that we don't -- we didn't get the votes we needed from urban areas. We didn't get the votes and don't get the votes we need from women.

Therefore, we need to focus on our economic conservatism more than our social conservatism because a lot of those issues cut against us in the general election. We ought to also be seen to be the party of strong national security, yes, but not the party of war.

ZAKARIA: Talk about that. What did you think of the primaries where, you know, even Governor Romney with the China bashing or on Iran, where do you think the Republicans went wrong?

BAKER: Well, I don't think they're wrong on Iran because I happen to believe we cannot allow Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. We can talk about that later.

I don't think it was substantively right to talk about designating China as a currency manipulator on the first day in office. That's not going to cure the problem.

And, furthermore, since 2006, the Chinese currency's risen about 26 percent against the dollar and that's not going to cure out trade deficit with China. We need to save more in this country and we need to get a handle on this great big debt problem we got out there if we want to solve that problem.

But I think it's -- I think it's -- you know Ronald Reagan didn't get us into any wars, OK? We had a police action in Grenada. Eight years, that was it.

And, yes, you got to be strong, you got to maintain a strong national defense, fight against defense budget cuts and so forth, but unless there's a very large national interest involved, it is sometimes very counterproductive to engage in some of these activities overseas.

Right now, for instance, there's a lot of pressure on President Obama to intervene militarily in Syria. Well, that would be the worst thing in the world we could do, in my opinion.

We should support the Syrian opposition politically, diplomatically, economically, but not militarily because that's a slippery slope once you get into it.

ZAKARIA: Not even a no-fly zone? BAKER: I wouldn't know -- well, I wouldn't know. You start a no-fly zone, you got to take out the antiaircraft batteries, you put your pilots at risk and all the rest. No.

Bashar Assad is going to fall. His government is going to fall. So I think the policy that the administration is following on Syria is absolutely the right policy to follow.

And I think the American people are going to demand more and more that there be a significant national interest involved before we engage militarily around the world.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about last week's news about Israel deciding that in response to the Palestinian declaration ...

BAKER: Yes, I think that's ...

ZAKARIA: They're going to build settlements which would essentially make a contiguous Palestinian State almost impossible.

BAKER: I think that's extraordinarily regrettable and regrettable for Israel because Israel cannot continue to be both a democratic and a Jewish state if it stays in occupation of all those Arab lands.

They're demographics are such that that can't happen. So they're risking their status as both a democratic and Jewish state. Now, what are they going to choose? Are they going to choose to be a Jewish state or are they going to choose to be a democratic state if this keeps on?

And the two-state solution, it would be really extraordinarily sad if settlement activity got so rampant and so extensive that it totally foreclosed the possibility of a two-state solution.

ZAKARIA: You're the last administration that really applied pressure on this issue with Prime Minister Shamir. Do you think the Obama administration should be doing more to try to press Israel to restrain?

BAKER: Well, I think what the Obama administration needs to do if they -- you know the Middle East is in chaos right now and Israel is going to be affected by that and it's going to be affected, in my view, adversely by that.

So what I think the Obama administration needs to do is become more hands-on in trying to promote Arab-Israeli peace, peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That involves a whole lot more things than just settlements.

And I think it was a mistake, for instance, for President Obama, in his first term, to come out and make the fight on settlements. Yes, every administration in the United States has opposed settlements because they create facts on the ground that foreclose opportunities for peace. But it was a mistake for him to go out and say, no more settlements, no more expansion of settlements, no more this. Secretary of State did the same thing and the minute there was push- back, they caved.

If you're going to take that position, you don't cave. But I think what's needed is a hands-on approach to the peace process, Arab- Israeli peace, involving everything, not just settlements, but everything else.

Get the parties back to the table talking peace. It is an axiom in the Middle East that if there are not peace talks going on, there will be violence on the ground.

ZAKARIA: Finally, Iran. Do you think the Obama administration's policy, which is pressure, sanctions, tightening the screws, as well as, of course, the cyber-attacks, is that -- are they doing enough? Would you do something differently?

BAKER: They're doing everything I think they can do and I think the policy is absolutely the right policy. They're doing things covertly as well, as you know, so you got cyber, you got coverts, you got sanctions.

And the sanctions are beginning to show some evidence of biting. At the end of the day, if none of that works, if they start enriching beyond 20 percent.

If they kick out -- Iran now, if they kick out the IAEA inspectors and go back to the weaponization program that they suspended back in, whenever it was, 2006, if any of those things happen, then I think we just have to do what we have to do because we cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon.

Not because of the threat so much to Israel or to the United States or to our moderate Arab allies in the region, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, but because of proliferation that that will cause.

Everybody, then, will have to have a weapon. They've got the capability financially of acquiring it and scientifically and so we just can't let it happen.

ZAKARIA: James Baker, pleasure to have you on, sir.

BAKER: Thank you.


ZAKARIA: That was James Baker the former Secretary of State, former Secretary of Treasury.

Up next, What in the World. If you look at any global rankings of the best countries to live in, Scandinavia always comes out on top. Why and what can we learn from them?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: Now, for our What in the World segment. Here at GPS, we often report on how the United States has fallen behind in a number of global rankings.

For example, The Economist has just published what it calls the "Where to Born Index," a list of countries which provide the best opportunities and the highest quality of life.

In 1988, America was a number one. Now, it is a joint 16th. Three of the top five countries today are in Scandinavia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Or look at the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index. The United States has fallen to 7 in the latest rankings. Finland and Sweden are in the top five.

Or look at corruption. The United States ranks 19th in the Transparency International's new index, Denmark and Finland are rated the cleanest countries.

Now, you can spot two trends. On the one hand, America has been losing its edge, but I'm also struck by the rise of Scandinavia, a region that includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and if you broaden that definition, Finland and Iceland.

Each of these countries seem to dominate global ranking lists. Why? What is their secret sauce? Well, Scandinavia is actually much more free market-oriented than most people realize.

Capital is allocated by the market. The government doesn't own companies. Regulation is usually light. Corruption is nonexistent. Companies can hire and fire easily. Labor moves around.

But these countries do tax a lot and spend a lot on education, child care, health and other things. Now, a recent MIT paper suggests that there are limits to this model.

It's called, "Can't we all be more like Scandinavians?" We have linked to the paper on

In brief, it points out how the Scandinavian welfare system provides a number of benefits, more vacations, better health care, more equality, but when it comes to innovation, the U.S. still wins. For example, if you look at patents filed per million residents, the study shows that U.S. has moved far ahead of Scandinavian countries. Here's why this is important. Unlike, say, a health care system which only benefits people of one particular country, innovation has global impacts. New American inventions spread around the world. According to the paper's authors, Scandinavian countries free ride on U.S. research and development, but if the U.S. became Scandinavian, it would spend less on innovation, which might reduce global growth rates and thus discredit the Scandinavian model. The paper has been criticized for using patents as the marker for innovation, but even so, this is an important discussion, and it ties into many of the questions our leaders are grappling with. Does the state need to make societies more equal? Does that come at a cost? There is much to admire about Scandinavia. On education, on health care, on energy, but that doesn't mean we need to become Scandinavian. We are more individualistic, free-willing, ready to take risks. Americans don't need to stop being American, but why not look at how these countries in Scandinavia make investments in health care, in early education, and all of these things to create greater equality of opportunity. That's after all, what helps people succeed no matter where they come from or how poor they are. The truth is Scandinavian countries are fulfilling a huge part of the American dream better than America these days. Thankfully, we're still an innovation powerhouse and we need to spend more on research and development rather than cutting those budgets and perhaps we need to target some of our innovative thinking toward restoring the American dream of equal opportunity. That would be a truly American solution to an American problem.

We'll be right back. Up next, a perfect example of American innovation. Have we found a cure to cancer?


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is suffering a recurrence of his cancer. He says he will undergo surgery in Cuba in the coming days. During a televised address last night Chavez said his vice president should replace him if his health worsens.

An American doctor has been rescued by NATO forces In Afghanistan. Dr. Dilip Joseph was kidnapped near Kabul last Wednesday. Joseph was one of the three members of a non-profit group "Morning Star Development" who were taken at gunpoint. Dr. Joseph is expected to be reunited with his family soon.

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has canceled the decree granting him sweeping new powers, but he says any decisions made after he imposed the edict, will stand. The Egyptian leader's power grab late last month triggered violent protests. Critics call Morsi's latest move a farce, a referendum on Egypt's new constitution is scheduled for next week.

President Obama is taking his message of middle class tax cuts back on the road. He heads to Michigan tomorrow where he'll tour Detroit diesel engine plant. The plant is a UAW shop and the president's visit is expected to pull him into the debate over Michigan's new Right to Work legislation that limits unions ability to organize workers. Those are your top stories. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour, but now back to Fareed Zakaria GPS.

ZAKARIA: One out of two men will develop cancer in their lifetime. Women are a little luckier. Just one out of three will get it. Regardless of your sex, those are terrifying numbers. But all of that could change because the cure for cancer in in sight. That's what my next guest believes, and he should know. Dr. Ronald DePinho is the president of the world's largest cancer center, MD Anderson in Houston, Texas.


ZAKARIA: Do you believe that we are at a point where we could actually finally cure cancer?

DR. RONALD DEPINHO, PRESIDENT, MD ANDERSON CANCER CENTER: I think we're at a major turning point in the history of cancer medicine where we have a very deep understanding of how it comes about and if it is established, how to deal with it. And we have game-changing technological advances that allow us to do much better care, accurate care of cancer patients.

ZAKARIA: What is the game-changing technology? What's happened - and you say this has happened really in the last five years.

DEPINHO: Well, there have been major events. And what's unusual about this period in science history is that it's occurred in a narrow window and across a very broad front. So, it's not one technology. It's the fact that we can sequence genomes, the entire genome, the entire tumor profile in a few hours for a few hundred dollars, which took billions of dollars and the decade. We have the ability to analyze those data through very sophisticated computational structures and artificial intelligence.

ZAKARIA: So if I look at it - just to understand that advance in computing, you showed me a machine that now sequences DNA is the size of a large refrigerator. That is now more powerful than -- much more powerful than a machine just five years ago?

DEPINHO: Well, that machine in nine days, a 24/7 run, one machine could exceed the data generation of all of the machines in the United States in the year 2007.

ZAKARIA: You also talked about how computing has become not just faster, but much more sophisticated.

DEPINHO: Well, the most exciting breakthrough is in the area of artificial intelligence. We're now third generation artificial intelligence where computers can think. They can actually think in a contextual way, which allows us to use computers to help us make decisions based on vast amounts of information, game-changing.

ZAKARIA: Now I think we all understand -- at least I think we understand as laymen, lay people, that cancer is not one thing. So you've actually identified the ten most important cancers that you believe can be overcome in the way you just described - through early detection, aggressive treatment, so that they will not be life- threatening. Give me an example of a cancer that you believe can be essentially cured.

DEPINHO: Well, I'll give you just one project and one major cancer. The 800-pound gorilla has lung cancer. We have 170,000 deaths in this country, in the United States, each and every year. If we have the ability to detect those cancers earlier now through noninvasive imaging. So if we screen all heavy smokers, we can -- we know that we can reduce mortality by 20 percent by just catching the cancer earlier. That is 30,000 lives per year. It's a significant number. So in order to have that occur and occur in a practical way, one needs to identify amongst the 94 million former and current smokers who should we screen. We can't screen everyone. It's not economically feasible. But if we had a risk model to say these are the few million that are knocking at cancer's door, then those individuals can be enlisted into imaging.

ZAKARIA: And we can do that now.

DEPINHO: We can do that now. In imaging, we have advances now where we want to develop a test for at-risk assessment. In addition, imaging also has another problem in that. There's a 96 percent false positive rate.

ZAKARIA: Just so people understand, a false positive is when the test shows that you test positive for lung cancer, but actually you don't have it and as a result you go through perhaps unnecessary surgery, unnecessary additional tests.

DEPINHO: Exactly. Exactly. So we need another test beyond imaging. So it's the fact that you have this goal. The goal was we want to develop a strategy for early detection of lung cancer. If we achieve that, we get dramatic results with respect to reductions in cancer mortality, but it took a multidisciplinary effort to think in a goal-oriented way, just like the Moon shots.

ZAKARIA: The holy grail for cancer would be to trigger the body's own immune system to fight off the cancer so that you somehow stimulate the anti-bodies in a way that that happens. Are we close to that?

DEPINHO: Well, I'd say that that ship has already arrived. So I'd say the most exciting advance to my thinking of the last decade has been our ability to harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer. Cancer is essentially foreign, because it's different from what we were born with. So it has a different genetics. It should be recognized as different, yet it's stealth from the immune system and an investigator here, at MD Anderson who's chair of immunology, Jim Allison, discovered how that occurs. The cancer puts the brakes on the immune system. So we developed a drug against that brake. A monkey wrench for that brake, and unleashed the power of the immune system, and 24 percent of patients with advanced melanoma, a very lethal skin cancer, appear to be cured now.

ZAKARIA: We're going to be right back with the director of MD Anderson, the largest cancer research center in the world. When we come back, we're going to figure out what will it take to actually win the war on cancer and some parts on our health care system in general. When we come back.

Are you getting the kind of federal investment in basic research that you think we need at this point?

DEPINHO: The answer is absolutely not.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with the director of MD Anderson, the largest cancer research facility in the world. We're going to talk about what you need to win this war on cancer, but also get some other thoughts as well.

First, talk about what you need. You - in the last segment, you explained how close we are to being able to actually achieve this moonshot as you call it, curing cancer for all effective purposes or at least curing the eight most lethal cancers. What do you need to make it happen?

DEPINHO: Well, to this point our major limitations were conceptual. We didn't understand cancer enough. There are also technological limitations in our ability (ph) to profile tumors and so on. I believe that one of the major barriers to this point are organizational. Academia is great at discovering. It's a cauldron of activity that is led to know the prizes and gamechanging technological advances, and the private sector biotechnology and pharma have been very good at executing. I believe what we need to do is to really have the two be better integrated. To have academia be in a position to also execute, so in our cancer moonshots program what we've developed are professional platforms that if a discovery is made, we can systematically convert that discovery into an end point, a new law, new educational material or a new drug or a new device or a diagnostic.

ZAKARIA: You're looking at the possibility of actually curing cancer. You have the knowledge, you have new technologies, computing power, artificial intelligence. What you need is money, federal investment. Are you getting the kind of federal investment in basic research that you think we need at this point?

DEPINHO: The answer is absolutely not. I mean we have a humanitarian crisis, we have the ability to act on this, but we're extremely resourced - resource-deplete as a community. So there's been a 19 percent decline in NIH funding over the last ten years in real dollars. This is significant, precisely at a time when we have an increased incident of major diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes. And so you're on a sinking ship. And what you're doing, is you're trying to slow the rate of sinking through efficiencies and managing the system.

ZAKARIA: Explain the scale of the problem, because of demographics. How many people are getting old and what does that mean in terms of these diseases you're talking about?

DEPINHO: Well, for the first time in history for who we are as a species, over the last 70 years, the life expectancy worldwide has increased from about 42 to 74. By the year 2025, we will have 1.2 billion people over the age of 60. The significance of 60 is that after 60 the incidence of the great four diseases that today cost the United States alone a trillion dollars in direct and indirect expenditures will dramatically increase, double every five years.

ZAKARIA: So once you're 60, you're just - you're likely ... DEPINHO: You start to escalate. And so, by the time you're 85, you have a 45 percent chance of having Alzheimer's. If you're a man, a one in two lifetime risk of having cancer, so we're on a collision course.

ZAKARIA: And only science can solve this because what science does is it makes it so that you don't actually have to treat the disease because you've detected it early or you've prevented it.

DEPINHO: Right. Think about vaccination, how we've eradicated diseases on that basis and the cost of vaccination versus the advanced care that's needed to deal with the sequelae, the side effects of that particular condition. So in cancer alone, 50 percent of cancers are preventable, just from prevention strategies of dealing with proper nutrition, not smoking, sun protection, and a variety of other strategies.

ZAKARIA: Can private money, can private - the private sector fund these kinds of advances that you're describing?

DEPINHO: There's no question. I mean on several levels. Individuals giving gifts and contributions, very important. But also having synergistic interactions with a commercial entity. For example, if we develop a drug that actually has an impact on a disease, we can license that drug to a pharmaceutical company and we get a return on the investment that we plow back into our mission.

ZAKARIA: So in this atmosphere of budget cutting and, you know, concerns about our debt, what would be your message to President Obama?

DEPINHO: It is very important for us to focus on the ultimate solution, that we've got to make the critical investments in this nation, and also Congress needs to understand that it's critically important that we go into an era of solutions and not simply stop gap measures. It's very important that we manage our health care system, no question, but efficiencies are not going to get us there. We need science to drive, knowledge to a point of delivering on strategies for public health, early detection of disease, and if disease does occur, to render them eliminated as a result of effective and less expensive drugs.

ZAKARIA: Ron, pleasure to have you on.

DEPINHO: My pleasure.

ZAKARIA: And we will be right back.


ZAKARIA: Oscar Niemeyer, the famous architect of Brazilia died this week. Brazilia, of course, hasn't always been Brazil's capital. It used to be Rio. And that brings me to my question of the week. In what decade did Brazil move its capital to Brazilia? Is it, A, the 1940s, B, the 1950s, C, the 1960s, or D, the 1970s. Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for more of the "GPS Challenge" and follow us on Twitter on Facebook. Also, remember, if you miss a show, go to You can get the audio podcast for free or you can buy the video version, either the show or our specials. This week's book of the week is David Wessell's "Red Ink." If you want to talk about the federal budget as we all seem to be doing these days, please read this short book, so you actually know the facts about spending and taxes. Wessel's single accomplishment is that it is a book about the budget and it's not boring.

And now for the last look. You may have read John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Surely, you have heard Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."


I bet you haven't heard this ode, though. Introducing the ode to a well worn rather unattractive jacket. This radio essay on a North Korean station entitled "Parka of Kim Jong Il during his field guidance," was a tribute to the old gray coat that the dear leader sported for over a decade. The narrator vexes poetic about how the parka "tells a tearful emotion-charged story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The parka, a symbol of Kim Jong Il's patriotism will be remembered forever by the Korean people.


ZAKARIA: She also admits the jacket was thread-bare and discolored, yes, it certainly was. But not allowing those facts to get in the way, she continues that the jacket is a witness to history, telling forever about the great devotion, efforts, and exploits of the peerless patriot Kim Jong Il. Wow.

Better check your closet. What does your jacket say about you?

The correct answer to our GPS "Challenge" question was C, Brazilia was officially inaugurated as Brazil's capital in April, 1960 after being envisioned and futuristically designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Niemeyer also designed that most international of buildings, the U.N. Headquarters in New York City.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week, I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."