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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
The Iowa Outcomes, Granite State Expectations; A Proposition for Carbon Tax; Interview with Kareem Abdul Jabbar; The Brave New World of Health. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 7, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:22] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
We'll start today's show with the great American political circus. Iowa's over, New Hampshire's up next. What do these early votes tell us? Has Trump beat? Is Rubio the establishment's last hope? Is Clinton now inevitable?
Arianna Huffington, David Frum, and others weigh in. Also --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't be bystanders to bigotry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: The president was at a mosque this week to talk about Islam and America. I'll continue that conversation with one of America's most prominent Muslims, basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
And what can Texas learn from Alberta, Canada? What can we all learn from California? An idea whose time has come. I'll explain.
Then, doctors and big data. The brave new world of medicine and how it will help you live to 100. Dr. David Agus joins me.
Finally, how would you like to go from L.A. to San Francisco in about 30 minutes without ever taking off? That dream was brought one step closer to reality this week. I will tell you about it.
But first, here's my take. One of Donald Trump's stock campaign lines is that the Iran nuclear agreement was terrible. I'm beginning to wonder if that's true, but in a sense opposite than what he means. Iran has ended up with a much worse deal than it expected. Remember, Tehran entered the negotiations in the heady days of sky-high oil prices. As the Iranians are discovering, it's a whole new world out there.
Put yourself in Iran's shoes. The Islamic Republic got serious about negotiating and eventually signed an interim agreement in 2013. That year, oil was hovering around $100 a barrel. Iran's great rival, Saudi Arabia, was thriving with an economy that had grown about 6 percent in 2012, spending lavishly at home and abroad, its 2013 budget had swelled up 19 percent. Iran meanwhile was isolated with a shrinking economy.
The real for Tehran was not the return of its funds frozen in banks in Asia and Europe because of international sanctions, totaling about $100 billion. It was to finally get back into the markets as the second largest oil producer in the Middle East and reap the riches of the boom. In 2010, Iranian officials were predicting in state-run media that by 2015 Iran's oil and gas revenues could reach $250 billion annually. That's what they were banking on when making their concessions at the nuclear table.
Last month, Iran's oil began flowing into the marketplace with prices under $30 a barrel. Bloomberg News calculates that the country is making $2.35 billion a month on its oil sales. That is not quite the price that the Islamic Republic was expecting for giving up its nuclear program.
Still, Iran will probably be able to handle the oil bust better than many other petrol states. Its economy has diversified to some degree, and thanks to sanctions, there is great resilience in both the economy and society as Moody's points out. This is not the case in many other large countries that are reeling under the hammer blow of falling oil prices.
Look at neighboring Iraq. "The New York Times'" Tim Arango paints a picture of a country in the midst of an expensive war against the Islamic State that is now facing economic calamity brought on by the collapse in the price of oil which accounts for more than 90 percent of the Iraqi government's revenue. He notes that almost eight million Iraqis depend on government salaries which cost about $4 billion a month. Now total oil revenues are less than $3 billion a month these days. A senior Iraqi politician told me that Iraq might not survive as a nation if oil prices stay low for long.
Across the globe in Venezuela, long mismanaged by Hugo Chavez and his successor, the country is on the verge of default and worse.
[10:05:04] The economy shrank 10 percent last year. It is expected to shrink an additional 8 percent this year. Inflation now runs at a Weimar Republic-like 720 percent according to the International Monetary Fund. As the "Washington Post's" Matt O'Brien writes, "The only question now is whether Venezuela's government or economy will completely collapse first."
There are other oil states not quite as challenged as these, but most of them with problems. The answer, economists say, is to embrace structural reforms. Wean economies away from natural resources and invest in other industries in human capital. That's hard to do any time, but especially hard when your country is in free fall.
In any event, oil-producing nations everywhere have governments that desperately need cash simply to pay salaries and meet basic obligations. That means they will pump out as much oil as they can which further adds to supply and keeps prices low. Welcome to the new world of cheap oil and perilous politics.
For more, go to CNN.com/freed, and read my "Washington Post" column this week, and let's get started.
So what to make of Iowa and what to think about who will win on Tuesday in New Hampshire? What does it all mean?
Let's get right to presidential politics with a terrific panel. David Frum has gotten a lot of attention for a recent cover story on the Republicans in "The Atlantic" where he is a senior editor. He's also chairman of Policy Exchange, a U.K.-based conservative think tank.
Arianna Huffington is, of course, Arianna Huffington, the president and editor-in-chief of the "Huffington Post" media group. Until two months ago, her Web site reported on Trump's campaign in the entertainment section, not the politics section.
Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, he is the author of the book I recommended recently called simply "Ronald Reagan."
Katrina Vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of "The Nation." Her magazine has already made an endorsement for the presidential race, Bernie Sanders.
Arianna, how surprised were you by Iowa?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, PRESIDENT/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP: Well, I wasn't really surprised. I think what was surprising is the way all the polls had gotten it wrong and the way everybody in the media kept touting these polls by saying, you know, the "Des Moines Register" poll has only been wrong once, this is outside the margin of error. So there's this incredible expectation that trump would win based on nothing more than the way polling results dominate political coverage. In the sense that the media are covering the polls, they are not really covering the campaigns.
ZAKARIA: David, you've been writing that you think Rubio has a rough road ahead. Would you agree, though, that it does seem to be separating into three groups, the hard right sort of economic conservatives and -- plus evangelicals for Cruz, the establishment mainstream, whatever you call it, for Rubio, and then the strange third group of populous nativists for Trump. Are those the three categories?
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: That sounds right. And Rubio is certainly -- he is leading in the group it is most lucrative to be leading in. That you would certainly like to be his finance chairman in the week after Iowa. But here -- a lot of things have to go right for him. There's a tendency to report as if OK, it's now all over because he has come -- he is now leading in the most lucrative lane. He has to dominate that lane very quickly. He has to persuade the other people in that late to exit soon and graciously.
He has to persuade George -- sorry, Jeb Bush not to use his $50 million remaining of super PAC money to destroy Rubio in a way that they have been doing until now. And he has to find some ways to get Donald Trump to exit the stage without smashing all the scenery on the way off the set.
ZAKARIA: What do you think of Rubio? When you look at him from your perspective, does he seem more moderate?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR/PUBLISHER, THE NATION: You know, just a short six years ago, the "New York Times" called him the first Tea Party senator. Now he's the moderate, establishment figure. I see in Rubio a dangerous vessel vehicle for the neo-conforces which have damaged our country, reassembling around him. And I think his youthful exuberance masks regressive and old policies. Great bellicosity. Someone wrote it's very ironic and tragic almost to see two children of immigrant parents betraying that heritage. So I think Rubio is in many ways untested and we'll see what his financial background brings.
If I could just pick up on what Arianna said, the one thing that strikes me about the deflation of Donald Trump, which is certainly a lesson out of Iowa, it's the polling. But it's the media malpractice that we have witnessed over this last year. Certainly Donald Trump in this these last months warranted coverage. Entertainment or not he's a walking reality show.
[10:10:03] But the lavish attention devoted to Donald Trump certainly last summer in all the rallies, whether it's about rating and clicks from media companies, but I think we're going to look back and it's a grave disservice to this country certainly in comparison to coverage of Bernie Sanders' rallies which we'll come to, that got almost no coverage last summer. So I think we saw the right outcome in Iowa. Donald Trump deflated.
ZAKARIA: What do you think? Rubio does strike me as the one candidate who is still talking about Ronald Reagan. The interesting thing about this race compared with the last three Republican cycles, usually those the kind of veneration of Reagan to a point of deification. Not so much talk this time around.
JACOB WEISBERG, CHAIRMAN/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE SLATE GROUP: Well, Reagan has been constantly in the debates. In one of the Reagan library they invoked Reagan 42 times, they only invoked God 16 times, just to give you a sense on the relative hierarchy in the party. But you know, I think there are two sides to it, one is the style of Reagan. And in a way Rubio is the one candidate that seems to have a little bit of that. He's optimistic, he's positive. The other -- most of the other candidates are so inherently negative and pessimistic in a really corrosive way.
But also at the level of ideas, Rubio was probably privately a little closer to Reagan's view of the world. You know, Reagan had a view of American identity and of Republican politics that was inclusive. He came up with the term amnesty. He signed the biggest amnesty we've ever had. He believed that American identity was about immigration and assimilation and opportunity. And Trump is running on the opposite of that. Cruz believes the opposite of that. Rubio I suspect slightly does believe what Reagan believed about it but can't really say it.
HUFFINGTON: I think to Katrina's point about media malpractice, I think the worst media practice has been around the lack of coverage about two things about Donald Trump. One is, the fact that he has called for banning 1.6 billion people in this world, all Muslims from this country. This is sort of astounding proposal, unprecedented, not just by anybody else in this race but in any race.
And he was interviewed on the most serious Sunday political shows except yours without anybody asking him that question. The Sunday before Iowa, that is true malpractice. And the fact that he's the only candidate who is still a birther, who still denies the legitimacy of the sitting president because he doubts whether he was born in this country.
VANDEN HEUVEL: But the Donald Trump danger, I think, the real danger, and David's written a little bit about this, we're witnessing a GOP crack-up. And I think Donald Trump is fusing the kind of old nativism, xenophobia, fear-mongering with speaking to an alienated white working class, which is a feature, major feature of this election. We can't lose sight of it, even though the rising American majority is African-Americans, Latinos, young women, young people. And I think Donald Trump, you know, spoke about corporate inversions, unpatriotic companies leaving. He's called --
FRUM: And maintaining the universal health care guarantee.
VANDEN HEUVEL: So it's unusual --
FRUM: The one person who said that that should not be withdrawn.
VANDEN HEUVEL: It's unusual to see a right-wing populism rising at the same time as you see, I would call it, a Democratic progressive populism.
WEISBERG: This challenge to the establishment, I mean, what Trump has done is he violated a kind of gentleman's agreement, and it really was a gentleman's agreement in the Republican Party, that nativism is not OK. Paranoia as indicated by the birther obsession is not OK. We've had a little bit of flashes of that, maybe Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign. But for the most part the Republicans have turfed that out since the Nixon years. And there has been a kind of establishment, you know, typified by, say, William F. Buckley and the old "National Review" that said you can't do that here. And now you can do that here. And even if -- when Trump's over, that opportunity is going to exist.
ZAKARIA: All right. We've got to go. Move on to the Democrats when we come back.
[10:18:26] ZAKARIA: And we are back with David Frum, Arianna Huffington, Jacob Weisberg, and Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
The Democrats, I think you're in love, "The Nation" magazine. VANDEN HEUVEL: There is no love. There's no -- we for a long time
have never believed political figures are messiahs. We don't fall in love with politicians. However, we've been covering Bernie Sanders for close on to 30 years. And I do think in this unprecedented moment about a decade out from financial crash which is so ravaged thousands of people's lives and there still hasn't been that reckoning, the real reckoning, I think Bernie Sanders has laid out a bold economic populist message, he's challenging the big grip of money, one of the big money operations in our country's history.
He's electrifying young people, whose lives have essentially been shaped if you think by this last decade, and building a new coalition. The road is steep, but I think this election is changing the parameters of what has been considered feasible. He's opening space for more powerful progressive movement and I think he's building independence into it. The white working class, but speaking also to race and that weaving together of class and race.
ZAKARIA: And you say he doesn't have a chance. Iowa was his chance and he blew it?
FRUM: If the Democratic Party can't rally to him in Iowa, the great home of Democratic (INAUDIBLE), he may win in New Hampshire but after that you run into the rest of the Democratic Party, a party that has a heavy minority vote, that has -- people who are not college-educated professionals, who are the people who like him best. And he gets into trouble.
I mean, it's a strange populist message because his populist message is quite an up-market populist message, whereas in the Republican Party the populist message is a down-market message.
[10:20:02] VANDEN HEUVEL: No, but, I mean, the most powerful moment our of Iowa was I thought a small rally where Bernie Sanders spoke with people living near the poverty level. And this woman spoke about the shame she lives with as she tries to care of her family.
He is assembling an interesting coalition. He needs to introduce himself to the minority constituencies, to the rising American majority. But, you know, there's a lot of enthusiasm, there's a lot of the need for turnout in the Democratic base. But the road is steep. The road is steep.
HUFFINGTON: The most fascinating thing about him to me is the fact that in Iowa, 74 percent of young -- 84 percent. 84 percent voted for a 74-year-old man and it's almost like a kind of a road trip movie, you know, where you go on with the 74-year-old man who is teaching you about socialism, and you love it. But it also has to do with the fact that millennials demand authenticity. They demand authenticity from the products they buy and they demand authenticity from the candidates they vote for.
Now in New Hampshire we have one-third of the electorate being millennials and so far in the latest survey, almost 90 percent of them are out for Bernie Sanders. And the other thing that we haven't seen yet is the impact of women. You know, they still have excitement -- (CROSSTALK)
ZAKARIA: Why is that? Why is there no -- I mean, first woman to ever win the Iowa caucuses?
HUFFINGTON: I think it's still dormant. But my daughters -- I mean, the reason they haven't picked between Hillary and Bernie is because they're so excited about the idea of the first woman president. So I think this debate is still going to play out. The campaign hasn't found their way yet to speak to women in a way that's convincing.
WEISBERG: It's happened so late. I mean, it's happening -- it's happened all over the world including in countries in Pakistan where you think what woman wouldn't be viable. And in a way, it's sort of too little too late, although I do think at some point there'll be a sense if it becomes imminent that we're going to have the first woman president and women will get excited and some men will get excited about that.
VANDEN HEUVEL: And I think it's exciting. And there are people, women at "The Nation," who are supporting Hillary Clinton. But you know, I wanted to say one thing we haven't talked about. It's so striking to me at this time, Fareed, of just perilous, complex international crises that we haven't heard enough, it seems to me, in the debates and in the town hall forums, about the candidates' views of the world.
I mean I think there's a foreign policy bumper sticker we're getting. But I'd like to hear from Senator Sanders more on his differences with Hillary Clinton. I think Hillary Clinton is more hawkish. I think experience is not judgment. Some wrong lessons have been drawn from her time. But it just part of this -- we seem provincial in some of these debates.
WEISBERG: Don't you think it's been a weak campaign in relation to policy generally? I mean, I've been struck even on domestic policy, you know, Sanders' health care plan -- the expert who created it said it doesn't have real numbers behind it, they didn't really work it out in any detail. It used to be a serious set of policy positions on basic issues were the price of admission for running for president. And now really no candidate and other party has them.
ZAKARIA: And Trump doesn't even bother to put them out.
FRUM: He doesn't bother.
ZAKARIA: His proposal, you know, the one -- the banning of Muslims, he says it's a ban until the nation's politicians can figure the hell out what's going. That's a proposal? How would you determine when that's --
(CROSSTALK) HUFFINGTON: Again it's back to the media that he's not being challenged and neither are most of them because the media is so fascinated by either manufactured controversies like the latest being Trump claiming that Cruz stole the election in Iowa and that he's going to sue him, or this whole kind of reality show around polling.
FRUM: But we do see -- we do see clues and indications, I mean, inside the Republican Party. Ground troops in Syria or more ground troops in Syria than we have now, yes or no. That's a divide.
VANDEN HEUVEL: It's a bumper sticker, though, too.
FRUM: But it's a clue. I mean, it's an important values choice. And in some way, these policy papers are kind of -- Bill Clinton wrote a bunch of them in '92. Did any of them become law because he faced a hostile congressional environment?
WEISBERG: But they matter. They matter. He ran on a real program.
FRUM: They tell people where --
WEISBERG: And people voted for the program. Not just person.
FRUM: They tell people where you're going. And I think with Hillary Clinton you have an idea where she's going. With Bernie Sanders, you do. With Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. With Donald Trump, anybody's guess.
ZAKARIA: All right. We have to close. Fascinating conversation. We'll have you all back later.
Next on GPS, there is widespread agreement that the main driver of climate change is emissions of carbon dioxide. The good news is there is a very easy way to reduce those emissions. The bad news, there is widespread sentiment against that simple method. I will try to explain to the naysayers why they are wrong when we come back.
[10:28:24] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment.
Last year's agreement in Paris to lower greenhouse gas emissions could mark a turning point in the fight against climate change if countries enact the one sure way to actually reduce emissions. They need to make people pay extra for the privilege of spewing out carbon dioxide in everything from cars to coal-fired power plants.
Many conservatives think such a carbon tax would destroy the economy. But we need to realize we are now out of the realm of theory and can actually look at results. All over the world, tens of millions of people are already living in places where so-called carbon pricing policies are in place, and that includes Americans. Almost 40 countries and over 20 states, provinces, and cities are pricing carbon, according to the World Bank. Carbon emissions in those places represent almost a quarter of the world's emissions. So are all of these carbon tax economies suffering great hardships?
In a word, no. Sweden, one of the first nations to adopt a tax on carbon in 1991, has seen its GDP increase almost 60 percent since that time while its emissions have dropped 23 percent, according to government figures. Denmark has been taxing carbon since 1992 and its economy has also done very well with emissions falling.
Carbon pricing has also been successfully experimented with here in the United States, and the sky didn't fall.
[10:30:00] California started a cap-and-trade program in 2013, which is a more complicated way to tax carbon emissions. U.S. states in the Northeast have a regional cap-and-trade system. Even Alberta, which is the Texas of Canada, its largest oil producer, taxes carbon, and it does well.
Carbon pricing isn't painless, of course. It adds dollars to your heating bill, your electric bill, and at the pump. But economists generally like a carbon tax as a solution for climate change. That's why the arch-conservative, George Schulz, former secretary of state and Treasury, former dean of the Chicago Business School, argues forcefully for one.
A carbon tax is simple and doesn't require complicated, expensive regulations like the ones the United States now has, one economist points out. It allows customers a lot of choice in how they live with it. Some might buy a more fuel-efficient car; others might use more public transportation. And with oil prices at historic lows, introducing one now would be relatively painless.
But how would a carbon tax ever work politically in the United States? The answer may come from the Canadian province of British Columbia. Back in 2008, a right-of-center government there ushered in a carbon tax where the money taken in by the government was all given back to the people by lowering other taxes. Since the tax went into effect, British Columbia's emissions have decreased significantly while its economy was on par with its neighbors, with the lowest personal income tax rate in the nation, according to The Economist.
No wonder this carbon tax has been championed by other conservatives like Greg Mankiw, one of President George W. Bush's chief economic advisers.
Of course, it might be a better idea to reinvest carbon tax revenues to encourage innovation in renewable energy so that the United States dominates that crucial sector in the future.
This coming week, President Obama will propose a version of this, a $10-per-barrel fee on crude oil, and the revenues would go toward developing clean energy technologies and upgrading the nation's infrastructure. Republicans in Congress have already been critical of the proposal. Let's hope we can finally get some bipartisan movement so that America can become an energy superpower in the next generation.
Next on GPS, in a day and age when many Americans view Muslims with a sense of wariness, I will talk to an American Muslim who is probably a hero to some of those very same Americans. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be with me when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recently we've heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: That was President Obama on Wednesday, on his first visit to a mosque in the United States. His speech came less than two months after Donald Trump, the man who would like to take Obama's job, put forth a proposal to ban all of the world's 1.6 billion Muslim from entering the United States temporarily.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, CHAIRMAN, TRUMP ORGANIZATION, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: A recent Pew poll finds 59 percent of Americans think Muslims here face a lot of discrimination, and 76 percent say that discrimination is on the rise. Meanwhile, only a little over 50 percent of Americans say they actually know a Muslim.
So let me reintroduce you to one. Kareem Abdul Jabbar was born Lew Alcindor. In high school, college, and then the pros, the 7'2" center burned up the basketball court, winning awards and setting records. But then, before his third NBA season, he did something relatively unheard of. He converted to Islam and took the name we now all know him by. Although Kareem Abdul Jabbar retired from basketball 27 years ago, he remains the highest scorer to ever play the game, with more than 38,000 points. He also remains one of America's most prominent Muslims.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar, pleasure to have you on.
KAREEM ABDUL JABBAR, FORMER NBA PLAYER: It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So when you heard Donald Trump talk about banning all Muslims, you put your hand up and -- and said, "I'm a Muslim."
Why did you do that? You're usually very private about these things.
JABBAR: I thought that what he had to say was outrageous. It certainly contradicts our Constitution, something that the president of the United States is obliged to uphold and defend. And religious discrimination is not part of what America's supposed to be about. And here he is saying that it's OK to discriminate and have Muslims on watch lists, and we're going to shut down some masjids, and a lot of things that are illegal and immoral. And, you know, I had to say something.
ZAKARIA: When you came out, as it were, Donald Trump sent you a note...
ZAKARIA: ... in which he said, "You don't understand how to make America great."
What was your reaction to that note?
JABBAR: My reaction to that note was encouraging religious discrimination definitely will not make America great. So, you know, what is he talking about?
And some of the things that he's advocated and proposed are completely ridiculous and will not work. It's impossible. He's talking about carpet bombing and -- that's genocide, you know, just indiscriminate bombing of -- of a human population. You know, we do things differently here in America. And I hope that he doesn't get the opportunity to change the way that we do things.
ZAKARIA: You weren't born Muslim.
ZAKARIA: You -- you had a journey. Tell us a little bit about -- how did you -- what made you decide become Muslim?
JABBAR: I started to investigate Islam after I read the autobiography of Malcolm X while I was a freshman at UCLA. I read his autobiography and I really was taken by what he had to say about Islam, and I started to investigate it.
ZAKARIA: So when you hear people say, you know, Islam is a religion of violence, or talk about how it has within it things that -- that encourage a certain kind of exclusion or hatred, what do you say?
JABBAR: I would say that those references really are to historical issues that were happening during the time of the Prophet. And, unless you understand that, you can misinterpret those verses in the Koran. But, you know, the Koran tells us to -- to seek peace and to encounter people, giving them the benefit of the doubt and trying to do it in a -- in a peaceful -- in a peaceful way that inspires mutual respect. That is what we're supposed to try to -- to seek. So, you know, it all made sense to me.
ZAKARIA: You -- this is -- you're a private person. You've -- you've been very reluctant to talk about these kind of issues. Do you feel like, you know, you've said your peace and now you want to go back to the -- you know, because you've been involved in a lot of charities; you've been involved in doing a lot of good work. But this is -- you don't want to be battling Donald Trump, I take it, for the -- for the next few years? JABBAR: Oh, no, I'm not interested in getting into the middle of the political melee that's going on right now. I -- it's interesting, though. I hope that America wakes up and -- and sees how -- how dangerous it can be to indulge in -- in these types of thoughts. Doing things the right way involves a lot of hard work, and sometimes that puts people off. And they're looking for simple solutions to problems that are not simple and that require a lot of hard work and require some patience. And that seems to be in short supply right now.
ZAKARIA: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, pleasure to have you on, sir.
JABBAR: Oh, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Up next, what is going to keep you living until your 80s, your 90s, your century mark?
My next guest says the fountain of youth, or at least the future of medicine, is all in big data. Dr. David Agus will tell us all about it when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Big data has changed much of what we do, how we work, how we shop, how we travel, and so much more. But we are on the brink of a big-data revolution in medicine that will change the way we live. That's what my next guest says.
David Agus is a professor at USC's medical school, a New York Times best-selling author, and one of the world's best-known doctors. His new book is "The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in a Brave New World of Health."
DAVID AGUS, USC MEDICAL SCHOOL * AUTHOR: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: So people have been saying for a while now, "Oh, there's a revolution taking place in medicine, the human genome, and all this stuff." And, you know, I just look at it as a consumer of health care -- it hasn't changed very much. Why is this going to be different now?
AGUS: We're at that inflection point. Literally, things are changing. So President Obama, in his first term, said every doctor, to their kicking and screaming and lament, has to do an electronic health record. So, all of a sudden, we have data going from illegible handwriting into data bases. And we're learning from this big data.
At the same time, technology, whether they be genome or proteome other -omes, and other technologies have come together to really create a tipping point.
So what has happened in the last several years is transformative, from making cancer more of a chronic disease to learning from big data to manage all diseases, including, you know, cognitive decline of the brain. It is wild. We're really at a special time.
ZAKARIA: So give me an example of how all this -- having all this data is going to in some way produce a better treatment or cure?
AGUS: So there was a great case that just happened. Women with ovarian cancer, a deadly disease when it spreads -- they started to look at large numbers of them. And if you happened to be on a blood pressure medicine called a beta-blocker, you live about a year and a half longer. So no one would have ever picked this up by biology. But now we are starting to do the real studies to make sure it's real. But, certainly, the data look very encouraging that going on a very inexpensive, non-toxic medicine can add an extra year of life.
At the same time, we've done studies, for example, in Europe. And this is a wild one. If you do circles around an airport, the closer you live in, the higher the rate of neurocognitive decline, meaning that the brain needs quiet time every night. And we got that from a big- data study. And so, you know, I have a 150-pound dog that snores. So I put those orange earplugs in my ear every night because I can't kick her out of the bedroom. And I get my quiet time and hopefully slow my cognitive decline.
ZAKARIA: So when you -- when you look at something like cancer, the head of MD Anderson, one of the largest, best cancer hospitals in the world, says there is a revolution taking place, and he believes that cancer will become manageable. Is -- why is that?
AGUS: Well, there are two major phenomena happening. One is -- they call it "the Jimmy Carter effect," right? A 90-plus-year-old individual has melanoma metastatic to the brain, which, several years ago, was a death sentence. He went on a treatment that blocks the "don't eat me" signal all cancers have on the surface. You know, they block the immune system from attacking it by having this "don't eat me" signal.
ZAKARIA: So -- wait, explain this. So the cancer cell has a signal that says "don't eat me" to the...
ZAKARIA: ... to the body's antibodies that might otherwise eat it.
AGUS: Right. And so these cells, called T-cells, will come in and eat 'em up, but they're blocked. And so this drug blocks that "don't eat me" signal. And what do you know? He's disease-free now, months later.
And this is -- time and time again, kidney cancer, melanoma, some types of lung cancer, that works.
The other phenomena that's happening now is what we call precision or personalized medicine, which are basically the same thing, which means that, covered by insurance, I can have a patient's cancer sequenced and then I can identify targets which are "on" switches. And there are dozens of drugs now that block each of these "on" switches.
So in the old days, we categorized cancer by body part, breast cancer, lung cancer -- well, that came from the 1800s in Europe. Well, now we're categorizing it by what are the "on" switches? What are the pathways that are actually signaling the cell, "Hey, you should go and grow," and we can block them with oral pills. And I've seen it. I can now walk into a patient's room -- and I couldn't do this two years ago -- and with honesty say, "There is hope to treat your cancer and make it a chronic disease."
ZAKARIA: You claim that we're even going to be able to start reversing aging. What does that mean even?
AGUS: It's the wildest experiment. I mean, have a -- hold on to your chair. So in the 1950s, this woman named Wanda Lunsford did what was her only experiment in science, and she was actually pushed out. She took an old rat and a young rat and she tied their skin together. And the blood supplies joined after a day. And then, three weeks later, she looked, and the brain of the old rat had new neurons growing. The muscles were stronger, the heartbeat better. She claimed she reversed aging.
Well, they called her "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" and actually pushed her out of science. Well, earlier this year, at three separate labs, one at Harvard, one at University of California at San Francisco, one at Stanford, repeated the experiment, and it worked.
And what they showed is, is that, when you and I turn 25, our stem cells go to sleep. And there are proteins that wake up those stem cells and allow them to refunction and make tissue again. And so the future -- there are clinical trials now in elderly who have a fracture to accelerate healing by giving these proteins.
It's doing the same thing in people with severe cognitive dementia. I mean, we're doing it in cancer. Cancer in kids is up to 90 percent curable. Those same cancers, when you turn 25, they're incurable.
So if I can convince the body it's young, maybe we can have a bigger impact on cancer.
And so there's hope. And what's amazing is the way to reverse aging and to actually make us live better is within us already. It's just asleep. So we're not going to live to 130, but when we live into our eighth, ninth, or 10th decade, hopefully we can do it with real quality years with technologies like this.
ZAKARIA: And all of this comes -- or much of it comes out of this ability now to analyze massive quantities of data, both, you know, at the biological level and also health records?
AGUS: And the (inaudible) technologies. So you put all those together, it's powerful. But it is an issue, right?
I mean, we saw Blue Cross's database got broken into and hundreds of millions of records accessed. So that's an area that we have to pay attention to, and it's scary. But, at the same time, we all have to say, "Listen, my medical records, even when I de-anonymize and take my identifiers on 'em, I want to give them to the public good because I want to be part of a solution, not the problem." So you have both of those things happening parallely.
ZAKARIA: Pleasure to have you on, terrific book. AGUS: Thank you, Fareed. I truly appreciate it.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, do you hate flying? Are you sick of traffic? Do you still need to travel long distances?
Well, the answer to your problems may be coming soon. Inside the Hyperloop, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: For our loyal viewers, this week's question is a follow-up to last week's. Last week we told you that the United States has more immigrants than any other country, according to the U.N.
But which of the following countries has a higher percentage of foreign-born residents than the United States? Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg, or Switzerland? Stay tuned, and we'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book of the week is Peter Bergen's "United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists." Bergen's reporting on the cases of home-grown jihadis is just excellent. His research is insightful, and his conclusions are balanced. We have less to fear about these lone wolves than the hype surrounding them suggests.
And now for the last look. Two and a half years ago, after sitting in L.A. bumper-to-bumper traffic, Elon Musk came up with a concept he called the Hyperloop, and he challenged engineers to build it.
The idea was for a transportation tube where people could travel long distances on a cushion of air at record speeds, from L.A. to San Francisco in just 30 minutes, for example.
Well, last weekend, students gathered at Texas A&M University for a Hyperloop pod design competition run by Musk's company, SpaceX. The winning team for best overall design came from MIT. The students designed a pod that would travel through such a tube, essentially levitating on magnetic skis. MIT and 30 other teams will test their designs this summer on a one-mile track SpaceX is building near its California headquarters. Several private companies are working on the challenge as well.
Maybe one day we'll sit back, relax, and float along at over 700 miles per hour. For now, we are at least one step closer to a brave new world of travel.
The correct answer to the GPS question is actually a trick. It is all of the above. According to the U.N.'s 2015 data, 14.5 percent of the U.S. population is born outside the country, while those numbers are roughly 16 percent for Ireland, 22 percent for Canada, 29 percent for Switzerland, and a whopping 44 percent for Luxembourg. If that seems high, there are places with much higher percentages. Eighty-eight percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates is born in another country, and 100 percent of the Vatican's population is foreign-born. Even the chief resident of the Vatican is a migrant, of course, born in Argentina 80 years ago this December.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.