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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Why France's Election is So Important; Trump Says Mideast Peace Not Difficult; Interview with Ben Bernanke; Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 7, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:03] 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'll start today's show with the French election. Will populism win or will the center hold?
Also, Trump's quest for Middle East peace. Will it work? All that and much more with a terrific panel.
Also, from a major bust to a sustained but slow boom. The U.S. economy, former Fed chair Ben Bernanke gives me his take on where things stand and what the Trump effect really will be.
Then, Donald Trump wants to make America great again. But Neil deGrasse Tyson is on a quest to make America smart again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: Innovation in science and technology in this century are the engines of tomorrow's economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: America's favorite scientist will reveal just the secrets of the universe to all of you.
But first here's my take. There has been much focus on Donald Trump's erratic foreign policy. The outlandish positions, the many flip- flops, the outright mistakes. But far more damaging in the long run might be what some have termed the Trump effect. The impact of Donald Trump on the domestic politics of other countries. That effect appears to be powerful, negative, and enduring. It could undermine decades of American foreign policy successes.
Look at Mexico. For generations this was a country defined by fiery anti-Americanism. Founded by a radical revolutionary movement, fuelled by anger against American imperialism and highhandedness, Mexico would rarely cooperate with Washington. Since the 1990s, that landscape has been almost reversed.
Thanks to intelligent leadership in Mexico City and consistent bipartisan engagement by Washington, the U.S. and Mexico have become friendly neighbors, active trading partners and allies in national security.
Mexico buys more U.S. goods than does China. And is, in fact, the second largest destination for U.S. exports after Canada. Sales to Mexico are up 455 percent since the passage of NAFTA. The country cooperates with the U.S. on border security, helping to interdict drug shipments and deporting tens of thousands of Central American migrants who aim to enter the U.S. illegally through Mexico.
All of this could change easily. Over the last year as candidate Trump and now President Trump has attacked and demeaned Mexico and its people, the political landscape there has shifted. President Enrique Pena Nieto's already declining approval ratings have plummeted after he was seen as too conciliatory to Trump.
It is now quite possible, in fact likely, that the next president of Mexico will be an anti-American socialist populist, similar to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was polling around 10 percent at the start of 2015. He is now over 30 percent. The frontrunner among the presidential candidates for next year's election.
A victory for Lopez Obrador would be a disaster for Mexico but also for the United States. It would likely take Mexico back to its days of corrupt socialism and dysfunctional economics, all sustained by populism and nationalism.
Now consider South Korea. Trump's demand that Seoul pay for the THAAD missile defense system threatening to overturn the existing agreement with Washington has fuelled the forces in South Korea that opposed that system in the first place, along with any aggressive military measures taken against North Korea.
Trump has casually delivered a number of slights to one of America's closest allies. Accepting wholesale China's claim that Korea once belonged to it, and threatening to tear up the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement. South Korea is facing a snap election for its presidency. And the candidate who is benefiting most from Trump's antics is the left-wing Moon Jae-in. Anti-American has returned to South Korea in force, though not quite as strongly as in Mexico where Donald Trump's favorability has been recorded at 3 percent.
In foreign policy great statesmen always keep in mind one crucial reality. Every country has its own domestic politics. Crude rhetoric, outlandish demands, poorly thought through policies, cheap shots, all place foreign leaders in a box. They cannot be perceived as surrendering to America. And certainly not to an America led by someone who is determined to show that for America to win others must lose.
That's one big difference among many between doing a real estate deal and managing foreign policy.
[10:05:05] For more go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week and let's get started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don't have to run for office again but the French election is very important to the future of France, and the values that we care so much about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: A rested looking Barack Obama there in a video released Thursday. This weekend, of course, the French go to the polls for the final round of voting in their presidential election. Obama went on the video to endorse centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron. Macron's only opponent, Marine Le Pen, is a member of the populist right-wing National Front Party. She has had photo-ops with Putin, demonizes Islam, and wants France to leave the European Union.
There's lots of other news to talk about, as well, but let us start with the French election. Joining us in Paris is Natalie Nougayrede, the former managing editor of France's "Le Monde." She's now a columnist and a foreign affairs commentator for "The Guardian."
Here in New York, Bret Stephens, joins us. He has a new job as op-ed columnist at the "New York Times." Congratulations, Bret.
And Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of a terrific and timely new book, "A World in Disarray."
Natalie, tell me what does it say that you have Marine Le Pen's party, the National Front, which is polling in the 30s, it might actually end up even in the high 30s, this is a party with roots in fascism, with roots in anti-Semitism. Isn't that -- even if she doesn't win how disturbed should we be?
NATALIE NOUGAYREDE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR, THE GUARDIAN: Yes, it is very worrying. But the fact that she's reached this very level of politics she's managed to establish her party as an important player in today's France, and she's managed to spread its ideas way beyond the initial core circles that were, you know, at its base. She's basically turned it into a fairly mainstream party and she's tried to detoxify her party by moving it away from overtly or extremist racist statements towards statements that talk about globalization, the negative impact of globalization. The talk about the defense of lower and middle classes. And even the talk about the sense of secularism as she sees it in France. And that's a message that, of course, the way she reads it, targets Muslim minorities.
ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, when you listen to this, do you think that if Macron wins it is a -- it is the end of the kind of populist wave? Or is it a check on it? Because there's going to be elections in Germany and it does seem as though Emmanuel Macron will win or even a more pro-European social democrat will win?
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It's not the end of the populist wave. It might mean it's cresting for now. What it really does is give governments in places like France and Germany an opportunity to get it right. And by get it right I mean such things as modernize the European Union. Maybe rebalance the relationship between Brussels and national capitals. It might not -- it might mean not having a one-size-fits-all European Union. But something with a little bit of tailoring. And then they've obviously got to get their domestic economy going, and particularly France. So it's an opportunity. It's almost a breathing space.
But if after several years President Macron cannot deliver, and the French economy is drifting and millions of people are unemployed and you have continuing violence then I don't think we've seen the end of populism or nationalism in France. It's just that, it's a respite but I really hope that the French take advantage of it.
BRET STEPHENS, OP-ED COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: But I think we should also point out that assuming Macron wins, and my fingers are -- all my fingers are crossed there, that's also a revolution. France is going to elect or should elect an investment banker. This is --
ZAKARIA: He worked for the Rothschilds.
STEPHENS: Worked for the Rothschilds and who's speaking about the need to cut corporate tax rates, to reform the social pension system, to cut the size of government, something like 57 percent of French GDP last I checked goes to -- is government spending by far the most in the OECD. And so the fact that France is actually prepared to go for this kind of -- if not facts right then blare right treatment of the economy, shows some real maturity on the part of the French.
ZAKARIA: Natalie, let me ask you what this says about the very strange but very warm relationship between Le Pen and Putin. Because that -- how did that play? Do the French like the idea that pally with Vladimir Putin?
[10:10:09] NOUGAYREDE: I don't think so. Putin is not a popular figure in France. His regime does not have a positive image at all in France. I think what Le Pen was trying to play on was the kind of image of a strongman -- try to benefit herself from that image of a strong leader. And to show that she did have some kind of international dimension to her. Not that many foreign leaders wanted to appear publicly with her during this campaign. She went to one African country and she went to Moscow. But remember, when she went to Trump Tower she did not get a meeting with Donald Trump during that campaign.
ZAKARIA: When we come back, much to talk about, Trump's foreign policy, but also, the dust-up Bret Stephens caused with his first column for the "Times" on climate change.
[10:15:19] ZAKARIA: And we are back with Natalie Nougayrede, Bret Stephens and Richard Haass.
On to other news, Richard, Donald Trump says he met with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and he said he's going to do Middle East peace and it's not very hard. You've been trying to do it for 30 years. HAASS: Clearly. Not just me but people like Henry Kissinger and Jim
Baker and a few others. Look, two things surprise me. One is the sense that it's not that hard. The seduction of the Middle East peace process seems to have lost very little of its allure. And the other is the prominence, the Trump administration's giving it. I mean, I say two things. One is I think they're extremely unlikely to make progress. You don't have leadership on either side that's willing and able to make the sort of necessary compromises you need.
But imagine I'm wrong. Imagine they could make significant progress, it wouldn't affect what's going on in Syria. In Libya. In Yemen. What's so interesting is how the Israeli-Palestinian issue has evolved into something of a local dispute. Obviously of great importance to Israelis and Palestinians. But the old phrase, Fareed, the Middle East peace process. It is not the Middle East peace process. It is the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
And again, I simply don't think it's ripe. I simply don't think it's poised to make real progress. I actually think they'll be lucky if we avoid back tracking. Avoiding say a major piece of violence around the holy places of Jerusalem. Indeed it's going to be a big issue for Mr. Trump whether he goes ahead with his campaign pledge of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because that could risk being a spark that could actually make a bad situation worse.
STEPHENS: And there's a lesson here for several of my friends on the pro-Israel right who supported Trump during the election and who imagined that he would be the best thing that ever happened to Israel with promises to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and take a radically different approach from the Obama administration. So far what we've been hearing from this administration isn't so different from its predecessors, at least in this respect.
ZAKARIA: The other thing Trump has done, Richard, has been -- he's been palling around and inviting and cozying up to lots of real dictators. I mean, he's invited Duterte. He said it would be an honor to meet Kim Jong-un. Do you think this is kind of -- kind of, you know, as Tom Friedman put it, is he crazy like a fox or just crazy?
HAASS: Personally it's a little disorienting. I used to think I was the realist in the room and now we have hyperrealism. You have him doing these invitations to Erdogan and Duterte.
HAASS: Sisi and so forth, and then you have the secretary of State essentially giving remarks to the State Department employees saying that we're going to de-emphasize issues of American values, we're no longer going to put that at the forefront of American foreign policy. The real question is, yes, I understand we need to have priorities and with China we need to say work with them on North Korea rather than on human rights. I get that, Fareed.
But the question is, if you take this off the table what kind of a message does that send? Are we not encouraging, particularly our so- called friends, to follow policies that will actually polarize the situation like in Egypt which actually could make Egypt less stable. In a funny sort of way by not pushing at all we may be permitting them or encouraging them to follow policies that will actually work against their own self-interests and as a result ours.
ZAKARIA: Natalie, how does this debate sound to you? Do you think in Paris you expect the United States to stand up for certain values and not just have a kind of real politic foreign policy?
NOUGAYREDE: I mean, Trump's election was, you know, very, very bad news for anybody in Europe, or anywhere in the world who cares about defending human rights and, you know, and fundamental values. I do think that one of the outcomes of this French election, if Macron wins, is that there will be a stronger, I believe, stronger a European voice -- focused essentially on the Franco-German couple, a stronger European voice on some of the international crises that do affect Europe.
ZAKARIA: All right. We have to go but, Bret, I've got to ask you.
Your column on climate change caused a -- you know, a Twitter storm, maybe a real storm. So, you know, basically saying we shouldn't be so overconfident and act as though there is absolutely no debate to be had on climate change. Liberals should be willing to imagine that they could be wrong.
And what a scientist said to me in response was, look, that would be like saying, you know, when you turn a light switch on maybe the light will go on, maybe it won't, it's still up in the air.
[10:20:02] That there is so much overwhelming science in this direction. So that's the pushback I heard from one very intelligent, liberal scientist.
STEPHENS: Well, I don't deny global warming or climate change. And I don't deny that we need to address it seriously. The point of the article was to say that there is a risk in any predictive science of hubris. There was an IPPC at global U.N. report at one point that said that the Himalayan glaciers were going to melt within our lifetime. This turned out not to be true. The skeptics, or the genuine deniers, obviously, pounced on this detail.
So the column was an attempt to be was a warning against intellectual hubris. Not an effort to deny facts about climate that have been agreed by the scientific community. And I think that's a distinction that I'm afraid was lost in some of the more intemperate criticism. But people who read the column carefully can see that I said nothing outrageous or beyond the pale of normal discussion.
ZAKARIA: And it's always struck me that the best answer to these kind of things is not to try to silence people or drum them out but to answer them. To have a vigorous response and a vigorous debate which is what you provoked I think in that. So I was very grateful for it.
Next on GPS, why in the world are so many paying passengers getting kicked off planes in America? It is all about the fine print, the economics, and laws. I'll explain when we come back.
[10:26:03] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSCAR MUNOZ, UNITED AIRLINES CEO: I'd like to again apologize to Dr. Dao, to his family, to every person on that, Flight 3411, and of course, to all our customers and employees worldwide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: That was United CEO Oscar Munoz this week testifying before Congress and publicly apologizing for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Oh, my god --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: It was the economy class scream heard around the world. Last month, Chicago police forcibly removed David Dao from a United flight after he refused to give up his seat to accommodate a United employee.
How is it possible that after purchasing a ticket, someone can still get pulled off a plane? When you buy a hotel room you don't get ejected from it minutes after checking in.
As Robert Samuelson points out in his "Washington Post" column airlines routinely overbook their flights, anticipating no-shows, and then paying $800 or $1,000 to a volunteer to give up his seat. Fair enough. We all signed those waivers that no one reads. The problem really is that airlines seem to hold all the power. They can charge for luggage, food, tiny seats, and then throw you out of them when they want.
How did we get to this point? Several big consolidations in the American airline industry have meant that the United States has gone from having 10 large airlines back in 2000 to just four today. And those four mega airlines now dominate more than 80 percent of the U.S. market. It in essence an oligopoly where less competition has meant more expensive airfares and fewer choices and fewer rights for American flyers.
Let me show you something from a recent article in "The Economist" which is eye-opening. These are the world's top airlines. The ones that get the highest marks in customer satisfaction from Sky Trace, a leading reviewer of airlines. The only American carrier on this top 30 list is Virgin America. The airline that merged at the end of last year with Alaska Air. Delta is 35. United, 68. And American Airlines is 77th. One notch below Ethiopian Airlines.
Meanwhile, Asian carriers account for 13 of the world's top 30 airlines. And European-based carriers place in nine of the world's top 30 airline slots. One reason for this, as "The Economist" points out, is that European regulators have tried to keep their air industry more fragmented and more competitive. Remember, in the U.S., four airlines control more than 80 percent of the market. But in Europe, the top 10 airlines control less than 70 percent of that market. That's meant cheaper airfares in Europe, but also less profitability than American carriers.
North American carriers boast a net profit margin of about $20 per passenger while European carriers make only a profit of about $5.65 per passenger. Yet the Europeans like the Americans have been making money for the last seven years and are expected to earn $5.6 billion of profit in 2017.
So what lessons can Americans learn from Europeans? The biggest may be that airline consolidation in the United States isn't working for the customer. In their quest to squeeze ever more profits from every passenger, the airlines have made their products almost unbearable.
Is it any surprise that there's violence in the aisles?
So for the good of passengers across America, I have a modest proposal. Airlines should stop overbooking. United has said they'll offer as much as $10,000 to a passenger who gets bumped. It's a good start. Airlines should pay much more for inconveniencing customers who have already bought their product.
But maybe it's also time to think about breaking up the biggest airlines. As Europe has shown us more competition between more airlines would be a good thing for the customer.
Next on "GPS," he's been called "the man who saved the economy" by his fans and "the man who will wreck the world" by his foes. Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, a Republican, will join me to talk about what the Trump presidency will do to the American economy and to your financial future.
ZAKARIA: For eight years my next guest had what some call "the second most powerful job in the world." Ben Bernanke was chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2006 to 2014. That means, of course, that he helped steer the U.S. economy through one of the worst financial crises ever. The book he wrote about it, "The Courage to Act," is now out in paperback. Ben Bernanke is able to talk much more freely than when he was in office, and he joins me now to talk about the current state of the U.S. economy, and much more.
BEN BERNANKE, FMR FED CHAIRMAN: Hi.
ZAKARIA: So, when you look at the economy now, the growth numbers came in very weak, under a percent, .7 percent. Does it tell you that the economy -- and it's been a long though somewhat modest recovery -- is it petering out? What's going on? BERNANKE: No, the first quarter numbers are probably just an
aberration. We know that, in the winter, the GDP numbers have been a little bit lower than they should be. Generally speaking, the recovery has been really good, in the sense that we're down to 4.5 percent unemployment, 16 million jobs created since 2009. Inflation is low and stable; gas prices are low; stock market's up. A lot of things are very positive.
Growth could be faster. That would be great. But underlying this growth pattern is slow growth in the labor force, population changes, and pretty slow productivity gains. But we are seeing improvements in wages. The latest employment cost index showed a stronger number.
So, in terms of the recovery from the crisis, things look pretty good, generally speaking. And I'd have to say, if you told me three, four years ago that we'd be where we are today, I would have been pretty happy to hear it.
ZAKARIA: So what do you make of, then, Donald Trump's recipe for the situation we're in, which seems to me to be a pretty massive tax cut?
There is some reform, but the largest piece of it seems to be a very large tax cut designed to stimulate the economy. How do you react to it?
BERNANKE: Well, I think that, you know, it is important, as I mentioned, even though the recovery is proceeding, the underlying growth path is not very strong. Productivity gains have not been very strong. And there are also other issues which probably help explain why Mr. Trump was elected, including inequality, lack of social mobility, lower participation rates among prime-age workers and so on.
So what we want to do is try to improve the supply side of the economy, make it grow faster, have greater potential. And I think that probably, to do that, I would think that, on the fiscal side, that infrastructure spending that improves our roads, our bridges, our schools, and tax reform, not necessarily tax cuts, but reform that makes the system simpler, more efficient -- those would probably be the highest-return fiscal actions in terms of getting higher growth.
ZAKARIA: From the numbers you can see of the current bill, is the impact on the debt index so large that it worries you?
I mean, there are estimates that say it would add somewhere between $5 trillion and $7 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years.
BERNANKE: Well, yeah, it's a big issue. And I think we do have to -- we don't have to balance the budget every year, by any means, but we do have to worry about fiscal stability over the longer term. And even the most conservative Republican-oriented tax policy centers, for example, have suggested that the tax cut along those lines would add a lot to the deficit. And again, if you're going to add to the deficit, you want to think about your priorities. Where do you want to put that -- put that money?
ZAKARIA: You'd rather spend it on infrastructure? BERNANKE: If I have to do that; if I have to increase the deficit, I
think I'd rather do it on infrastructure and maybe tax reform.
ZAKARIA: Do you think Janet Yellen is doing the right thing in -- in gradually raising rates?
BERNANKE: Yeah, I think, you know, while I don't want to be second- guessing her, because, you know, after all, she's the one in the chair. I think she's taken a cautious approach, but she's recognizing that the U.S. economy is now pretty close to full employment -- we don't know exactly, but pretty close. Inflation seems to be gradually rising towards the Fed's target of 2 percent a year. So, clearly, it's appropriate to begin that process, and again, very cautiously, but I think so far that she has done a fine job and is helping to navigate the economy through some tricky times.
ZAKARIA: In your book one of the central questions you're, sort of, trying to answer is could we have prevented this crisis?
And one of the things you say is, well, you know, probably, if the Fed had raised rates, you might have been able to have some effect on it. But I want to ask you a broader question. It does seem as though the hardest thing in a democracy is to inflict pain when it doesn't seem like there's a crisis.
And for the last 20, 25 years, it seems like, whatever our problem has been, the answer seems to be that, at least as offered by the political classes, cut taxes or, you know, ease up on money. Is it -- do you worry that, you know, what we need to do sometimes is administer a certain amount of bitter medicine, certainly for the short run, and that's very hard to do in today's -- in today's political context?
BERNANKE: Well, certainly, to some extent. I mean, it's hard to make tough choices, but it's also been hard to be subtle, in the sense that there's a lot of people who are left out of the recovery. There's a lot of reduction in mobility. People are not able to move up the ladder the way they could some decades ago. Inequality is increasing.
I think there's a lot of things we could do about that, ranging from pre-K interventions to apprenticeship programs to programs to help disadvantaged youth, to infrastructure, a whole variety of things we could do. But they're complicated. They require a lot of bipartisan work, and unfortunately our system doesn't seem to be able, at this point, to put together a comprehensive program to address these problems.
ZAKARIA: So you -- but you're not hopeful that politics is going to get fixed any time soon?
BERNANKE: Well, maybe over time. Maybe over time the political winds would shift. But in the last few years -- and I experienced this myself when I was -- when I was chairman and I had to testify before Congress and so on -- that the partisanship is extraordinarily strong. And a lot of it isn't really based on differences in economic interests. You know, for example, there's not that strong a correlation between
people's income and who they voted for in the last election. A lot of it seems to be, kind of, voting for your team, you know, in the same way you root for your college football team or whatever it might be. And that has a place, but it's going to make it harder for Democrats and Republicans to come together and agree on policies which are effective and which will really help the economy.
ZAKARIA: Ben Bernanke, pleasure to have you on.
BERNANKE: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Ben Bernanke's book is out in paperback. Up next, Donald Trump wants to make America great again. Well, Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to make America smart again. How is he going to do that? Find out when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Do you ever look up at the myriad stars on a clear night and wonder how they got here? Ever wonder how big the universe really is or how it all began?
Well, wonder no more. My next guest is probably the world's most famous and favorite scientist. Neil deGrasse Tyson has a new book out called "Astrophysics For People in a Hurry." This is great for us because television is always in a hurry.
Neil, welcome back to the show.
TYSON: Thanks, Fareed, always good to be on your show.
ZAKARIA: So you begin with the Big Bang. You actually begin before the Big Bang.
TYSON: Yeah, the name of the first chapter is "In the Beginning," so...
... when else would you begin such a story? That's right. The Big Bang is the first sentence. It just takes you there.
ZAKARIA: What I'm struck by is that the Big Bang really also is the beginning of physics, chemistry and biology, in the way you explain it. So...
ZAKARIA: ... first what happens is you have this tiny, tiny dot, as it were, and it explodes.
ZAKARIA: Right? And out of that, explain what happens? TYSON: Yeah, so, there's still some unknown elements of this chapter, very earliest chapter in the history of the universe. But what's intriguing is the -- how, as the universe expands, certain laws of physics take shape and other laws of physics begin to manifest. And so some of the great challenges of early-universe cosmologists is untangling what happened when.
And so -- and this allows you to imagine other universes -- this is where the concept of a multi-verse comes in -- other universes where the laws of physics took a slightly different turn earlier in the universe and you get a whole other kind of bubble, some other kind of -- somebody else's Big Bang that may have laws of physics that might not be favorable to life itself.
ZAKARIA: So you also talk about, in the Big Bang, how it, sort of, is the beginning of chemistry in a way. Because these particles start to interact with one another. And I've always thought that you make a very good case for people to understand how interesting chemistry is. Chemistry is often the place where you lose people in science, right? It's organic chemistry that just seems too hard. So...
TYSON: I love me some chemistry. And so you get chemistry when you have atoms. Because atoms come together to make, of course, molecules. But before you have an atom, you have to make the particles that make the atom. So you've got to back up to get those particles, the quarks, then the protons, neutrons, electrons. You've got to make those first. Then they come together and you make your base ingredients, hydrogen and helium. Then stars pick up the mantle.
And so I give -- I give a whole chapter in there to the periodic table of elements, something I think should be one of the greatest icons of our culture. Because, think about it, when I think of a kitchen, and you want to bake a cake, you need the ingredients, the flour, the sugar, the -- you want to bake the universe, or stuff in the universe, start with your ingredients. The periodic table has the 92 elements, hydrogen through uranium, out of which everything is made.
ZAKARIA: Out of the Big Bang, the next stage, as you say, comes biology, because those chemical interactions somehow produce something that we now call life?
TYSON: Exactly. So biology is the most complex form of chemistry we know. And it's there, but here's the catch. In a separate chapter, titled "On Earth As It Is In the Heavens," the chemistry and physics on earth repeats everywhere in the universe. These elements are on the moon, on the sun, on other galaxies. And so we're not made of special ingredients. We're made of the same ingredients. To some people that's depressing, but to me that's enlightening. You're the same as the universe.
ZAKARIA: And do you think there's life outside of Earth?
TYSON: Once you look at the numbers, and the carbon -- we're carbon- based life, because you can make tremendously complex molecules stringing together carbon atoms, such as our DNA -- carbon is everywhere in the universe. And you look at the latest planet tally, we're rising through 3,000 planets nearby relative to the size of the galaxy. The universe has been around for 13 billion years.
Once you look at these numbers, there's no excuse thinking that we're the only life on Earth. That would be some ego talking, if that's how you said it. It's -- anyone who's studied the problem recognizes the very high likelihood it would be somewhere -- though we haven't found it yet, but we've got the top people working on it.
ZAKARIA: Why do you think we don't -- we don't teach science well enough to hold people's attention?
TYSON: You know, that's a great question. I think science, as well as many other subjects in school, K-12, let's take, is -- I think we've been -- we're thinking that children are empty vessels and you unzip the head, pour in the knowledge, zip it back up, slap a diploma on them and send them off, and then they're declared to be educated. And somewhere we're missing, as a minimum, a course not on chemistry, biology, physics or geology but a course on what science is as an enterprise and how and why it works and how it drives curiosity and inquiry. Have that as a minimum, but on top of that teach things like analysis and interpretation and how to -- to coalesce bits and pieces of information into new coherent ideas.
Then, when you come out and you're declared a graduate and some new information rises up, you don't say, "Oh, I didn't know that was true." You would say, "Let me find out whether or not that is true." And then you become a life-long learner.
ZAKARIA: So when we look at something like global warming, how should we think about it? There are people who say, "Look, of course it's just a theory. All of science is a theory. These are hypotheses, and, you know, we should be looking at evidence (ph)." There are the scientists who say "No, no, no; it is at this point a fact."
TYSON: If anyone utters the words, "It's just a theory," it means they're missing a piece of their education where they do not fully understand what science is and how and why it works. So I try not to beat folks over the head, in power, because they're duly elected by a population that wants their leadership to serve them. And I recognize that. That's the system we've all bought into.
So as an educator I look at the electorate and I say, "If you're going to make an informed decision, not only about the country's future but especially about your own future, it would be greatly enhanced by just learning how knowledge is acquired and how it is affirmed in the scientific arena."
And today you have people who -- who will just accept what anyone tells them, or think that they can deny an objectively established scientific truth and then -- I don't mind that, in a free country; think what you want. But if you now rise to power and have -- and have jurisdiction over legislation and you pivot that on what you don't know about how the world works, that's a recipe for disaster. I would say it's the beginning of the unraveling of an informed democracy.
ZAKARIA: We are always lucky to have you on.
TYSON: Fareed, always good to be here.
ZAKARIA: "Astrophysics For People in a Hurry," Neil deGrasse Tyson.
TYSON: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: A pleasure.
Next on "GPS," you are looking at what one senior diplomat called "a gigantic failure of international diplomacy." What is it and where? We'll tell you when we come back.
ZAKARIA: On Tuesday, Apple, the world's most valuable company, announced in its latest earnings call that use of the company's mobile payment system, Apple Pay, had grown by 450 percent over the past year. While such growth may seem impressive, the service has yet to launch in markets where mobile payments were already very popular years before Apple Pay was even unveiled.
It brings me to my question. According to the World Bank, which of the following countries had the greatest number of mobile money transactions per capita in 2014, the latest year for which data is available: Tanzania, Qatar, Norway or Kenya? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book of the week is Christopher de Bellaigue's "The Islamic Enlightenment." This is one of the most important books on Islam that I have read. Can Islam reform? The book answers the question by looking back over the last century and a half, and it describes the struggle that the religion has had to modernize, the forces that are helping liberalize the faith and those that hold it back -- a rich, complex, well-wrought account of this crucially important subject.
And now for the last look, which I should warn our viewers contains some graphic imagery. "A gigantic failure of international diplomacy" -- that was the scathing indictment from Norwegian diplomat Jan Egeland after visiting Yemen this week, devastated by the Saudi-led campaign that is killing the country.
But he wasn't just talking about the fighting itself. He was talking about catastrophic hunger in a country where 90 percent of the food is imported. It is a crisis, he stressed, that is "man-made from A to Z." The World Food Programme says damage from fighting, import restrictions by warring parties and funding issues have made the food crisis worse in a place where 17 million people need food aid.
UNICEF says a child under five years old dies in Yemen from preventable causes every 10 minutes. Much of the aid and most of the food imports that do come into the country come through just one port city. And that crucial city may be incapacitated. The World Food Programme tells us the closure of this port, already slowed by conflict, would tip the country into full-blown famine.
One key point: The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration might shift American policy to more strongly supporting the Saudi-led coalition, which would, of course, worsen the civil war. Perhaps President Trump should take a look at these often overlooked images of this man-made disaster. He might find them as moving as he did the images of the victims of the chemical attack in Syria.
The answer to my "GPS" challenge question this week is A. According to the latest data from the World Bank, the average Tanzanian carried out 44 mobile transactions over the course of 2014. That's nearly one transaction every week. Kenya was second in the rankings with 35 transactions per capita. Millions of people in East Africa have been using cell phones, not just for talk and text but for all manner of transactions, for almost a decade.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.