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Should the Keystone Pipeline be Allowed to Be Built?; What Comes After Chavez?; Change of Leadership in China

Aired March 10, 2013 - 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 Zachary.

On today's show, we'll tackle drones, the death of Hugo Chavez, the Keystone pipeline and China's new leaders. We'll start with the Keystone pipeline. I'll tell you why I think it should be built. Then, I'll have one of the pipeline's most determined opponents, head of the Sierra Club, tell me why he disagrees.

Next up, Hugo Chavez is dead. Will his successor continue Chavez's anti-American, anti-Western, anti-capitalist ways or is this beginning of a new Venezuela? We have a terrific panel including Moises Naim.

Also, Rand Paul is worried about America killing Americans on American soil. He's right, but there's another huge problem with drones we need to start worrying about. I'll explain.

But, first, here's my take. Later this year, the Obama administration will have to make a decision on whether to green light the Keystone pipeline; that's the 2,000-mile pipeline that would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

I'm sure you've heard all the dire warnings about it. But another way to think about this is to ask what would happen if the project did not go forward?

The Department of State released an extremely thorough report that tries to answer just this question. It concludes, basically, that the oil derived from Canadian tar sands would be developed at about the same pace whether there was a pipeline or not.

In other words, stopping Keystone might make us feel good, but it really won't do anything about climate change. Why? Well, given the demand for oil in the United States, Canadian producers would still get Alberta's oil to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

There are other pipeline possibilities, but the most likely method is by train. The report estimates that it would take daily runs of 15 trains with about 100 tanker cars each to carry the amount planned by TransCanada, the company.

That's a large increase, but one likely to be met. The increases in oil transported by rail in the United States are already staggering. Carloads of crude oil on trains doubled between 2010 and 2011, then they tripled between 2011 and 2012.

And remember, research shows that moving oil by train produces much higher emissions of carbon dioxide than with the oil to flow through a pipeline.

Canada could also transport the oil to Asia, where demand is booming. Right now that seems a distant and costly prospect, but having visited Alberta recently, I can attest that Canadian businesspeople and officials are planning seriously for Asian markets, especially since they now regard American policy as politicized, hostile and mercurial.

Also, if we don't use oil from Alberta, we need to get it the oil from somewhere else, Venezuela, Mexico, Saudi Arabia or California. Some of these oils are heavy crude, and processing, refining and burning them is believed to be even more harmful to the environment than burning Canadian oil sands.

To the extent that it makes us use more coal for electricity generation, that's a big step backwards for the environment. For many of these reasons, the scientific journal, "Nature," which has long a leader on climate change, argued in an editorial that Obama should approve the Keystone project.

Many environmental groups are taking an approach towards this project that resembles the way the United States government fights the war on drugs. They attack supply rather than demand.

In this case, environmentalists have chosen one particular source of energy, Alberta's tar sands, and are trying to shut it down. But as long as there is demand for oil, there will be supply. The far more effective solution would be to try to moderate demand by putting in place a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.

Ideally, we would use the proceeds from these taxes to fund research on alternative energy, which we badly need to do.

Opponents of Keystone say the facts are less important in this case, it is the symbolism that matters. We have to stop this big project.

Symbolism does matter. If we were to block this project, one that is no worse than many other sources of energy, one that rebuffs our closest trading partner and ally, that spurns easily accessible energy in favor of Venezuelan or Saudi crude, it would be a symbol, a terrible symbol.

It would be a symbol that emotion had taken the place of analysis and that ideology now trumps science on both sides of the environmental debate.

For more on this, go to for a link to my Time column this week. Let's get started. Well, you've heard my views on the Keystone pipeline. Let's hear the other side now. Michael Brune is the executive director of one of America's oldest and biggest grassroots environmental groups, the Sierra Club. He joins us from San Francisco.

Welcome, Michael.

MICHAEL BRUNE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SIERRA CLUB: Hi, Fareed. Thanks for having me on.

ZAKARIA: So tell me why I'm wrong.

BRUNE: Well, look, what you're saying sounds very reasonable, but we need to meet the challenge of climate change with all of the ambition and inspiration that we have to offer.

What we know is that tar sands oil is dirtier than conventional oil. What we also know is that we shouldn't be spending $7 billion on a dirty and dangerous and pipeline when we know that clean energy will do a better job.

ZAKARIA: If you look around the world, is this the worst form of energy we're using? No. It's dirty coal plants for sure. And I know you've done very good work on that and I totally support you and the Sierra Club on it.

But what I'm struck by as why are you singling out this one when, you know, at the end of the day the greenhouse gas emissions profile is not going to be that different given that we continue to consume the stuff.

Why not try to do something about that consumption issue?

BRUNE: Well, I appreciate the point. And, you know, the work that we're doing on coal actually relates very closely to this. Over the last three years, more than 140 U.S. coal plants have been announced for retirement.

A lot of them will be replaced by clean energy and it's enabling the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a point that we were at 20 years ago.

The tar sands -- the overall tar sands development threatens to undermine all of that progress.



ZAKARIA: Wait, wait, I've got to stop here. I've got to stop you.

BRUNE: Sure.

ZAKARIA: First of all, most of those coal fire power plants, the electricity they're generating is being replaced by natural gas. It's being replaced by natural gas that have been gotten through fracking.

So when you look at volumes, you're still -- you know renewable, by which you mean solar and wind, it's under five percent. Most of what we're talking about is -- the replacement of coal is natural gas.

So it seems to me there, maybe I'm wrong, but you're making a sensible trade-off that, look, at the end of the day with all its problems, natural gas is cleaner than coal. Correct?

BRUNE: Sure. We'll get back to Keystone in a second. But what's happening in the electricity market right now is that solar and wind, the costs are dropping extremely fast.

Solar -- the cost of solar has dropped by 80 percent in the last five years. So what you're seeing now is that solar, this is nuts, but it's actually starting to beat out gas in California in cost alone.

Wind is starting to beat out coal in the Great Plains states on cost alone. So the growth ...

ZAKARIA: Because of large subsidies in both cases. The solar -- the California situation ...

BRUNE: There are subsidies for every form of -- there are subsidies for every form of energy, for coal, for gas, for solar, for wind, for nukes.

What we're seeing though, in 2012, for all of the new capacity that came online, more new capacity in solar and wind came online than coal and gas and nuclear power combined.

We joined together to push the Obama administration to enact the car standards announced last fall. Those car standards will save three million barrels of oil every day, which is almost four times the amount of oil that would come through this Keystone XL pipeline.

So, in the context of all of this, when we have the dirties, most carbon-intensive fuel source on the planet in Canada we don't need this oil.

ZAKARIA: Wait ...

BRUNE: We don't need to be bringing it down from Canada.

ZAKARIA: Again, do you dispute that coal is worse for climate change. I mean you keep saying ...


ZAKARIA: It's the dirtiest, but coal is worse and yet we get most of our electricity ...

BRUNE: (inaudible) fuel sources.

ZAKARIA: OK. So but let me ask you about those sands in California -- in Canada because, look, this is Canada's -- these are Canada's oil reserves, 98 percent of Canada's oil reserves are in Alberta. Ninety-nine percent of those oil reserves are in tar sands.

The Canadians are going to produce the stuff. It is going to get market. It is going to get to people who want it. Whether it's in Asia, whether it's in China, whether it's in the Gulf of Mexico, it will be burned.

And, as I say, the market is telling you, by looking at the boom in railroads, by the fact that Warren Buffett is buying the stuff, that State Department report concludes basically that these oil sands will be developed at about the same pace looking at precisely this market data.

So I would argue you're arguing against Warren Buffett, you're arguing against the State Department and you're arguing against the history of capitalism that when there is demand, when there's so much demand for a product supply finds its way.

I mean look at the drug wars, as I said today ...

BRUNE: Sure.

ZAKARIA: All right, you keep trying to stop supply, but when you find insatiable demand, it finds its way.

BRUNE: Sure. Look, I'm very well aware, Fareed, of the large list of people who feel differently about this. But what is also true is that there are a lot of business people who feel that this is a boondoggle and this is a bad investment in America and it's a bad investment when it comes to our climate.

But, at the end of the day, Fareed, what we're saying is that we do know how to build pipelines, we do know how to build refineries and coal plants. We can't continue the same pattern of development over the next century that we've had over the last century.

Last year we had record droughts and record wildfires and record storms. Our temperature increase was a full degree Fahrenheit over the previous record. All of that was in one year with barely more than a degree of warming.

We're about to see almost four degrees of warming. We're about to see that. That's almost locked in. So we have to do something different.

So I realize that trying to stop the tar sands development is hard to do. It's particularly hard to do when you have the U.S. government, the Canadian government and the oil industry all aligned to try to expand development.

But what we're saying is that we can't do it. What we're also proposing is that clean energy, which is cheaper, which will put more people to work, which won't threaten our air and water, won't destabilize our atmosphere, is ready to do the job. It's ready to take up a much larger proportion of our energy demand in the United States. We're ready for a clean energy transition, but that transition will be delayed, it'll be suppressed, the more money we sink into these new, big fossil fuel projects.

ZAKARIA: All right, we will have to leave it at that. Michael Brune, you're very kind to come on and you were very civil in your disagreement. I really appreciate that.

And, as I said, I admire the Sierra Club for many of the things it does. Thanks for joining us.

Up next, the death of Hugo Chavez, what it means for Venezuela and the world. Right back.


ZAKARIA: The death on Tuesday of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was met with tears on the streets of Caracas, but probably with quiet sighs of relief in Washington and other Western capitals.

During his reign over the nation with the world's largest oil reserves, Chavez has been a thorn in their side as he kicked out Western companies and used his nation's oil as a political tool.

So how to think of Chavez's reign and what to expect next, joining me now, Moises Naim is the former minister of trade and industry in Venezuela. He's the author of an important new book, "The End of Power."

Rory Carroll is in Caracas. He is the former Caracas bureau chief of The Guardian. His book on Chavez is called, "Comandante." It's just out, very good timing.

And Nikolas Kozloff is a writer and reporter on Latin American affairs.

Rory, from on the ground there, does it seem as though Maduro, the successor, is likely to be Chavez-lite or is it possible that there could be some new opening and a change of ways?

RORY CARROLL, FORMER CARACAS BUREAU CHIEF, THE GUARDIAN: I think Chavez-lite is not a bad way of putting it and certainly we've seen already a futuristic streak from him this week towards the United States and accusing enemies of Chavez of assassinating him through some form biological warfare.

And that's obviously a sign that he intends to continue a high degree of rhetorical heat against the United States. But I think he's also going to win the election. He certainly is the favorite.

And I think that -- unlike Hugo Chavez who really used his charisma to glue his movement together, I think Nicolas Maduro is a very different character. He doesn't have that charisma and he's more a power broker. And he will be using -- trying to use his ability to negotiate the different factions of Chavismo to keep the revolutionary show on the road.

ZAKARIA: You think these guys are popular, right, Chavez and his movement, his followers?

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF, WRITER, REPORTER: Yes, undeniably. I think what I'd like to see though more from Maduro is a more innovative foreign policy. He was the foreign minister.

And, in my personal view, he pursued a kind of retrograde foreign policy aligned to Bashar al-Assad and Gadhafi and I think that really discredited the left.

I think what I'd like to see is much more innovative domestic and foreign policy ...

ZAKARIA: Are you likely to see that?

KOZLOFF: In the event that Maduro is the next president. I mean, if anything, I think Chavez did not go far enough and, for example, that the economic cooperatives, for example, that he established.

Very few people are aware that Venezuela has the most thriving and flourishing system of economic cooperatives in the world. And I think, particularly now, in light of all the financial difficulties worldwide, in Western Europe and the like, workers and others are looking for alternatives.

But I think, on principle, it's worth looking into these innovative solutions, particularly in light of the world financial crisis.

ZAKARIA: But, Moises, aren't these innovative solutions that Chavez had essentially all bank-rolled by high oil prices and without the oil none of this would be possible?

MOISES NAIM, FORMER VENEZUELAN MINISTER OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY: Yes, the wonderful cooperative movement that Nicolas refers to will be completely bankrupt without the oil money and will eventually disappear. None of those cooperatives is sustainable. And the story here is not about cooperatives.

The story here is about an economy in shambles. During the 14 years of Chavez in power, Venezuela had the lowest growth among the largest economies in Latin America despite the fact that oil was -- oil prices were at an all time high, despite the fact that he multiplied the national debt by ten, despite the fact that he had all sorts of opportunities to do whatever he wanted.

His checks and balances accountability was all limited. He had controls over the oil industry, the central bank, the (inaudible), the national assembly, the judiciary. So he had a lot of money and a lot of power and what we can see now is an economy in shambles that will require very unpopular decisions.

ZAKARIA: Rory, why is it though that Chavez was undeniably popular? Why didn't people blame him for this economic mismanagement?

CARROLL: Because he's a political genius. The man was extraordinary and I really don't think we'll see his like again. He -- to his -- this mystical connection he had with Venezuelans and his extraordinary ability with television to use the medium.

He created a Teflon-coated presidency. And it didn't matter that crime rates exploded. It didn't matter to him politically that Caracas has worse murder rates than Baghdad because he wasn't blamed for it.

And he was able to detach himself from the economic fiasco that we see. And, for example, many of his innovative ideas, for example, these cooperatives simply didn't work.

And, clearly, they were great, but the mismanagement and the lack of accountability and bureaucratic incompetence was so extreme that, unfortunately, most of them, I think about 90 percent, have gone bust.

And, yet, he amazingly is able to avoid blame for that. And I think historians will study him for decades to figure out just how he did that.

ZAKARIA: What we're wondering is is there going to be a different foreign policy. Doesn't he need to start making nice to some of major players in the world?

NAIM: I would like to specify that Venezuela, in the next month and perhaps years, is going to be a different Venezuela after that.

In the next months and perhaps years, they would need to find international external scapegoats and scapegoats at home. Someone will have to explain to the people that are now adoring President Chavez why the situation, their standard of living, has declined so dramatically.

Someone will have to explain why, without Chavez, life is not as good as it used to be. And, therefore, the government, whoever is in government, Maduro, Capriles, whoever is there, will have to explain that well, you know, we have enemies at home and abroad that are creating all these kinds of situations that are hurting you.

It's not the government. It's the foreigners, the United States that tried to kill the president or killed the president, according to Maduro and the internal enemies, our traditional enemies that are trying to destabilize the revolution.

ZAKARIA: Rory, one of things people notice in countries where the government has been fermenting anti-Americanism is that the people sort of resent this forced anti-Americanism and the people tend to be quite sympathetic or interested, attracted to America.

What's the mood on the street because, as you say, Chavez is genuinely popular there?

CARROLL: Yes, he is and I think most Venezuelans are very sympathetic to America in general in terms that they like cheap gasoline prices. They traditionally like American cars. They like shopping malls.

This has always traditionally been one of the most Americanized societies in South America and something I tried to capture in my book that this was never a Cuban scenario.

ZAKARIA: Rory Carroll, Moises Naim, Nikolas Kozloff, thank you. Moises, great new book out, Rory great new book out. You must buy them.

Up next, What in the World. What the debate about drones is missing. We will be right back.


ZAKARIA: Now, for our What in the World segment. Senator Rand Paul decided to drone on this week about drones.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: No American should be killed by a drone on American soil.


ZAKARIA: The senator employed a rare talking filibuster to stall a confirmation vote for John Brennan as the CIA's director. All told, he went on for 12 hours and 52 minutes including when he took questions from his Republican colleagues.

Washington also saw some tough questioning for Eric Holder. The attorney general was forced to admit it would unconstitutional to kill an American citizen with drone strike on U.S. soil unless there was a Pearl Harbor-type eminent threat.

I usually say filibusters are a bizarre, quasi-constitutional mechanism that is basically anti-democratic, but I do think it's I important to have a serious debate about drones, not just on the legality of whether they can be used to kill an American citizen, but a broader debate about them.

If it's not constitutional to kill American citizens in America unless they're actively engaged in terrorism right then, is it constitutional to kill them when they're abroad, when they're not actively engaged in hostilities? And shouldn't there be some process of decision making that involves Congress or courts?

Should the executive branch be able to determine entirely on its won who it deems as an enemy, American or non-American, and then summarily execute that person?

Right now, none of these questions is getting serious attention while the CIA's drone activities have expanded dramatically. By some accounts, more than a third of the U.S. Air Force fleet is now unmanned.

We are training more drone pilots than regular pilots in the Defense Department and there are reports that we are building a drone base in North Africa.

American drones have reportedly killed an upward estimate of 4,700 people in the last decade. These numbers look like they'll keep rising.

Now, there's no doubt that drone strikes have helped us get rid of a number of influential terrorists without the cost of ground assaults, but this an incredibly gray area of counterterrorism.

For one, we are also killing a number of innocent civilians. Second, it is inevitable that other governments will one day justify doing the same thing.

The basic technology behind drones has become mainstream. Log onto and you will find a version for under $300 in choices of blue, green and yellow trim.

It's not hard to imagine that the next step, weaponized drones, could be designed and deployed by groups other than the CIA. In fact, it's already happening.

I was struck by a recent news report that China considered using a drone to kill a drug lord in Myanmar. Today, it's Myanmar. Tomorrow, it could very well be some other place in Asia or beyond.

The International Institute of Strategic Studies identified 50 countries that are actively using unmanned aerial vehicles. If we do it, why can't they? And then you have the question of what happens if and when weaponized drones fall into the wrong hands. What if the Taliban gets one? What if al Qaeda does? Where does it stop? And just imagine a simple point, what if China starts using drones regularly against what it regards as terrorists and defends itself by saying, well, that's what America does. At some stage the decisions we've made in the last few years will come back to haunt us. Instead, let's think through this new situation carefully, put in place legal procedures and limits so that we do not usher in a global free for all with drones.

Up next, China gets ready to formally anoint its new president. What it means for China and the world. I've got a good panel.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with the check of the headlines. Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai says that deadly bombing in Kabul shows the Taliban wants a foreign presence to remain in the country. In a televised speech today, Karzai said the Taliban is in daily talks with U.S., European, and Middle East officials. After his remarks, a planned joint news conference between Karzai and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was canceled. A Pentagon spokesman says the cancellation was due to a change in Hagel's schedule.

The world's Roman catholic cardinals are in Rome preparing to pick the next pope. They fanned out to churches across the city to attend mass. Tuesday, 115 cardinals will begin the process of selecting a new pontiff to succeed Benedict XVI who retired last month. They'll be in seclusion until a new pope is elected.

President Obama has made his choice for the next Labor secretary. Sources tell CNN he has Thomas Perez who currently heads the Justice Department's civil rights division. If confirmed, Perez will replace Hilda Solis who resigned last month.

Another Romney is considering a run for office. Mitt Romney's brother, Scott, may pursue the Michigan Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Senator Carl Levin in 2014. Scott Romney is currently a partner at a Detroit law firm and has never held public office.

Those are your top stories. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour. Now back to Fareed Zachary, GPS.

ZAKARIA: If you thought Xi Jinping was president of China, you would be forgiven, but you would be wrong. Back in November he was inaugurated as the new head of China's Communist Party. But he doesn't take the real reins of national power until this coming week when he will become the president, the chief estate of the world's second largest economy. Now that he's had some time in the public eye, I wanted to read the tea leaves, if you will, to talk about what to expect from China's new leader. Joining me now are my old professor, Roderick MacFarquhar, a Harvard University professor of history and political science and another of his former students, now the Beijing bureau chief for "The New Yorker," Evan Osnos. Rod, in a speech recently, you said that Xi Jinping was a compromise candidate and therefore was unlikely to be a strong reformer. That's not the picture we've been painted. We've been told these guys, the son of this heroic general, he's made his way up and has the potential to be quite bold.

RODERICK MACFARQUHAR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, I don't think compromise is the right word. If I used that, I was wrong. What I did say was that he did not have a mandate. Every leader since Deng Xiaoping has been chosen by Deng Xiaoping, including Jiang Zemin, including Hu Jintao. Xi Jinping is the product of a backstairs deal, therefore, he does not have the solidity, the legitimacy of his predecessors.

ZAKARIA: Evan, when people look at his first moves, they point out that he went to one of the fast growing provinces that's traditionally seen as a kind of sign that you support economic reform. Is that a fair analysis of that?

EVAN OSNOS, BEIJING CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": What he did was he went down to the origins, the birth place of the Chinese boom, and he draped himself in the flag of economic success and he said, I will give you the Chinese dream. His term - this has been his innovation, his rhetorical innovation. It's what he calls the China dream, and it is a lot like the American dream. It's the idea that every child can get an education, you can start a business. What he's saying is a realization. It's a recognition of the fact, the Chinese people are a bit frustrated these days and that after 30 years of economic growth he needs to reinvigorate the idea that if you aspire something in China, that is a level playing field and the system is not stacked against you.

ZAKARIA: Another piece of what he's been doing wrong, has been - he's visited some army units and he has said some things that lead people to say that this is a kind of strange alliance. Because on the one hand, talk of economic reform. And on the other hand, there's real nationalism, real Chinese nationalism.

MACFARQUHAR: I think he knows that the only legitimating factor really left to the Communist Party is that they conquered China and that the People's Liberation Army was the unit that conquered China for the party and that nationalism is what links the people, the party, and the military. And so he is in charge of the affairs that are going on in the east China Sea at the moment, and he is playing quite a dangerous game. I am sure that he does not want any conflict, any hostilities with Japan, but things can go wrong.

ZAKARIA: The hacking, that seems to me another sign of a more assertive China, a more -- a China that is willing to play by the rules in its own way and defy those rules that it wants to.

OSMOS: Yes. For years one of the theories has been that this is a loosely coordinated group of independent, patriotic hackers who are operating under the kind of general leadership of the party. I think that era is over. We now know this is a concerted, serious effort that he's targeting not just political targets I in the United States American agencies, but also an enormous effort at industrial espionage. Going into companies and pulling out as much of blueprints as possible. There's a saying these days in the cyber crowd which is, there's only two kinds of companies, the ones that have been hacked and the ones that don't know they've been hacked.

ZAKARIA: Rod, what does it say about China's attitude towards the United States now? Because the one aspect of Deng Xiaoping's policy that was followed by the next two of his successors was be nice to the Americans. You know, accept American hegemony. The Chinese would generally abstain rather than vote with the U.S. in the Security Council. But the general idea was, we have got to do economic development and we need America for membership in the World Trade Organization, for these kinds of things. Has that fundamental calculus changed?

MACFARQUHAR: I don't think the calculus has changed. But I think that the Chinese are beginning since about '09 and '10, are beginning to feel their strength and to exhibit it, especially vis-a- vis their South East Asian neighbors. They are furious about the pivot to Asia. They seem to be detecting that Kerry will not be pivoting quite so much to Asia, which will be good for them. But I think they realize that America's most open economy in the world that they could sell to. And that it is a place, which they like to hack into, but that they have to preserve relations with it, and I think the next move is actually in President Obama's court. What is he going to do about this hacking?

ZAKARIA: So, do you think we're going down a path of -- you know, the U.S. and China over the Obama administration have never managed to work out a particularly good relationship? Is it likely to even get worse?

OSMOS: I think we're in -- we're on the path towards the rocky period. And I think we're on the path towards the rocky period partly because of domestic Chinese demands. The other slogan that Xi Jinping has adopted is what he calls the great revival. And the great revival to Chinese ears means I will defend our dignity on the world stage. I will return us to the position we've always been in historically, which is a great power. And that means partly countering the American influence in Asia. We've been at exactly as Rod said, we've had a pivot towards Asia over the last few years. China is not comfortable with that. They believe that that's encircling the Chinese power in the region and they're going to do what they can to push back. And the question will be ultimately if the United States is able to come up with an accommodation. But I think we have more trouble before things get better.

ZAKARIA: It sounds like China is going to go through a very interesting next five years. Thank you both. Fascinating conversation.


DAVID AGUS: In this last election you saw tremendous debates on both sides. You never once saw and also in the State of the Union, you never saw somebody mention health. Health and food represent over 30 percent of the U.S economy, yet we're not talking about it.



ZAKARIA: Modern medicine has found a cure to many of the world's deadly diseases, polio, malaria, tetanus, but the human body is still a mystery to most of us. How and why do we get sick? That's a simple question. How can we prevent it? Well, my next guest actually has answers to some of those big questions. David Agus is the author of "The End of Illness." He is one of the world's leading oncologists and a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California. Welcome.


ZAKARIA: You are also Steve Jobs' doctor, so I have to ask you to begin with, one of the questions that buzzed around the Internet right after he died. He got -- he had pancreatic cancer, a rare form that was thought curable. He spent about nine months trying to do it using alternative medicine before he went to the traditional path. Did that diversion in some way hasten or cause his death?

AGUS: Well, I was one of the people on his team. It is impossible to kind of look back and know exactly what was going to happen, but certainly the earlier you catch a cancer like this, the more chance you have to make an impact on its progression. Could you have cured it nine months earlier? Probably not. I don't know definitively clearly, but probably not. This is a cancer that we always think of solid tumors. It's here, and it gets large enough to get into the blood vessel and get out? That's probably wrong. It probably is always that, and the question is, does it have the genes turned on to allow it to live outside the pancreas in his case? And it probably did. So, still, the earlier you catch it, the better the outcome. But I'm not sure we would have saved his life.

ZAKARIA: One of the things that I loved about your book was you have -- much of it has this kind of feeling of being very common sensical. These are obviously things you should be doing. Why aren't we doing them? But the thing that surprised me most, of the things that surprised me, was you say as somebody who really has done the research on cancer backwards and forwards, taking multivitamins is a bad idea. Now, explain why.

AGUS: Listen, we are a complex system. And what we like to think of it is, there's something low, let me fix it. And when you realize, that everything you do changes your whole system. So vitamins, all they is something the body can't synthesize enough of. It doesn't mean more is better. So, look at the data. Over 60 studies randomized a multivitamin and placebo. None have ever shown a benefit. And there have been some studies, like they took men, in a $248 million study, they put them on vitamin needed to prevent prostate cancer. After three years, 17 percent increase in prostate cancer. And it lasted for three years.

ZAKARIA: And explain why, because you said, the cancer cells actually like the vitamins?


AGUS: Well, listen. There are two reasons. I mean two simple reasons as I look at it. One is, is that you make free radicals all the time to get rid of bad damaged cells. What do high dose antioxidants, multivitamins do? They block those natural processes. The second is, vitamins actually probably feed cancer. Cancer is what's growing. You know, an adult, we're not growing, but the cancer is. So, these nutritional things may help it. So, when I look at the data, there's no benefit. I guarantee you you're not going to get scurvy, or beriberi, or rickets. Yet we take these vitamins. I don't get it.

ZAKARIA: The one thing you do say we should take is a drug that's 3,000 years old?

AGUS: Yeah, you know, Hippocrates described in over 2400 years ago, taking the bark of the willow tree, chewing it and getting rid of pain and fever. That pill if you take it every day will reduce not the incidence, but the death rates of cancer by over 30 percent and heart disease by over 20 percent. It's called a baby aspirin. So we all have a right to smoke, to drink, to do whatever we want. But the questions is, what the right thing to do? And when scientific data hit a certain point, probably it shouldn't be optional.

ZAKARIA: And, you know, the reason we don't is we don't understand the data. My doctor once said to me, if aspirins were ten times as expensive, more people would take them.


ZAKARIA: They just think it can't be that. But it's a sort of wonder drug.

AGUS: Oh, it's a staggering drug. It probably works by blocking inflammation. It seems to be (inaudible) heart disease, cancer, et cetera. And it's a hell of a drug. Why we are not all taking it? And why every doctor isn't talking about it to the patient? It just befuddles me. But there are countries now debating whether to make these things mandatory. Again, the mandatory should be the decision of the doctor and discussed with the doctor and the patient. We have to move forward. And the only way we are going to do that is through prevention.

ZAKARIA: You also point out something really interesting, which is we all think that the path to being fit is to go to the gym.

AGUS: Right.

ZAKARIA: And you say if you go to the gym for 45 minutes, an hour a day, that actually doesn't make much of a difference if ...

AGUS: Well, listen, if you sit the rest of the day, sitting for five hours is equivalent to smoking a pack or a pack and a quarter of cigarettes. It's an amazing thing, that we design building based on lead certifications, right? It's going to help the environment, and - everything - they can recycle, et cetera. But we're not doing anything on health. The more important you are, the closer your parking space is to your desk, the more resources you have, the more bathrooms in your house. You don't have to walk place to place. Well, 1953 they looked at a British Transit Authority. There were 26,000 workers. Half were the bus drivers and half the ticket takers that walked up and down those double decker buses. Well, there was more than half the death right of heart disease in the ticket takers and significantly less cancer and they weighed the same.

ZAKARIA: Because everyone was walking around.

AGUS: They smoked the same. Everything the same, it's just moving. Your body was designed to move. That's how your lymphatics work. Yet we've engineered our society to sit. We need to change that.

ZAKARIA: This becomes - this all has become much more important because we are creating, you say, a whole class of people that has never existed before, that is, old people, all right? And these are all problems that afflict people who are old. I mean we shall die in our 70s, now we're all living into our 80s. And so, this becomes particularly important as you age.

AGUS: Listen, we have an aging society. The baby boomers are becoming, you know, late 60s, 70s, etc. Health care is growing year by year. We need to make an impact. The way to do it is not to change health care finance. I'm all for access, but at the same time we need to change health care. In this last election, you saw tremendous debates on both sides, you never saw once saw - and also in the State of the Union you never saw somebody mention health. They talk about health care finance, but they don't talk about health. This is a topic we need to bring into the open. Health and food represent over 30 percent of the U.S. economy, yet we're not talking about it.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure to have you on.

AGUS: Great. Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Up next, a plague of quite literally biblical proportions in the Middle East. I will explain.


ZAKARIA: China's leaders are in the midst of a meeting that forms the high point of the Chinese political calendar. At the meeting, as we discussed earlier, Xi Jinping will officially become president and Li Keqiang will officially become premiere. That brings me to my question of the week from the GPS Challenge, what is China's top annual political meeting called? Is it, A, the Chinese Congressional Convention or the CCC, B, the Communist Party Colloquium, C, the National Chinese Congress, or, D, the National People's Congress. Stay tuned. We'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for more of the "GPS Challenge." And you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Also, remember, if you miss a show, go to iTunes. You can get the audio podcast for free or you can buy the video version. This week's book of the week is David Shambaugh's, "China Goes Global: the Partial Power." One of the world's top China experts talks to Chinese leaders, uses detailed research and demonstrates the nature and extent of China's global power and ambitions, but perhaps most surprisingly, its limitations. If you think China is about to take over the world, you need to read this excellent book.

Now for the last look. Tensions are high enough between Israel and post revolution Egypt but now they threaten to get truly biblical. You see the Sinai, the border between the two nations has always been a point of contention. It's historically been one of Israel's toughest spots to defend against illegal immigrants, against would be terrorists. But now there's a new kind of unwanted guests swarming over the border. Locusts. Now, if you remember your biblical history it was Egypt that was plagued with locusts along with many other things back in the Pharaoh's time. And when the plagues were over and the Israel lights were spared, Passover. Well, guess what, Passover is two weeks from tomorrow. And this time the swarms hit both countries, so maybe those bright Egyptians and Israelis can use this as a way to come together for good against a common enemy, locusts, find a solution, and make these plagues truly a thing of the past. The correct answer to our GPS Challenge question was, D, the National People's Congress will culminate on Thursday with the official anointment of the new leaders. It began this past week with a farewell address from the outgoing premiere, Wen Jiabao, a two-time former guest on GPS. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."