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Interview With Author Kazuo Ishiguro; Cuba's Vaccine Diplomacy; Interview with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 02, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are accessible to every American.
That is our focus.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): With the U.S. focus in home, cash-strapped Cuba defies the odds to produce its own vaccine and ship it abroad. The soft
power of vaccine diplomacy.
KAZUO ISHIGURO, AUTHOR, "KLARA AND THE SUN": When I'm writing a novel, I wanted to have an emotional connection with people. That's one of my great
Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro talks about his new novel, "Klara and the Sun," and how his own wife and daughter his toughest critics.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): The average person, average family has really fallen behind. And this is our attempt to plug them back into the game.
AMANPOUR: Go big or go home. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan tells all Michel Martin why President Biden's massive COVID relief package meets
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Call it another shot in the arm for hope. New data here in the U.K. shows that a single dose of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine
cut the risk of COVID hospitalization by more than 80 percent.
Now, while the U.K. and Israel lead the pack in vaccine rollout, big powerful blocs like the E.U. and the United States are still struggling
with theirs. Meantime, other countries, like Russia, China, India, are all engaged in a type of vaccine diplomacy, whereby they are producing and
exporting doses to poorer countries that are being left behind.
Even the small island nation of Cuba is looking to help others. It may be wracked by shortages of bread and even pain medication, but Cuba is on the
cusp of a scientific breakthrough, with its own Sovereign 2 COVID vaccine.
As correspondent Patrick Oppmann reports, Cuba has been a biomedical pioneer for years.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cuba hopes this is what the payoff looks like to a big gamble. When many other developing countries
have competed with richer nations to import vaccines against the coronavirus, Cuba has been making its own vaccine.
In March, two out of four potential vaccine candidates made in Cuba will begin their third and final trials. If the trials are successful, Cuba will
be the first vaccines developed in Latin America.
DAGMAR GARCIA RIVERA, CUBAN SCIENTIST: The main objective of this clinical trial is to show the clinical efficacy of our vaccine candidate. After
that, we could be in condition for start a massive immunization in Cuba or in another some countries of the world.
OPPMANN (on camera): You believe that everybody in Cuba, the 11 million people who live here, could be vaccinated by the end of this year?
OPPMANN (voice-over): While Cuba is only now just beginning to vaccinate people on a large scale as part of the third trial, Cuban scientists tell
CNN they have already produced more than 300,000 doses of Sovereign 2, one of their vaccine candidates, and could eventually make millions more doses
(on camera): The pandemic has all but destroyed Cuba's economy. Beaches that usually would be full of tourists are now empty. The vaccine, though,
could help change Cuba's fortunes, as researchers here say they can produce enough to sell overseas and even market vaccination vacations, offering the
vaccine to tourists as a way to restart the Cuban tourism industry.
(voice-over): It may seem unbelievable that a poor island, where there are shortages of food and basic medicines like painkillers and antibiotics, can
create a cutting-edge vaccine. But Cuba has produced its own vaccines going back decades.
Cuban scientists say the same U.S. sanctions that isolated the island forced Cuba becomes a biomedical pioneer. Cuba has been following
established protocols and providing updates on their vaccine development, international observers say.
"This is very good news, and we are following these results carefully," he said, "first because the Cuban population will directly benefit from their
vaccine candidates. And this at some point could control the transmission in the country."
Cuban scientists say the island likely could not afford to import vaccines from abroad and pursued multiple vaccine candidates in case some did not
pass the trials. If Cuba ends up with more than one working vaccine, it could allow doctors a greater arsenal to wipe out the coronavirus here.
TANIA CROMBET, CUBAN SCIENTIST: I also think that, at the end, we might be able to implement what we call prime and boost, which is using some
vaccines for the first doses, and then bolstering or re-immunizing with a second vaccine candidate in order to enhance the previous immune response.
OPPMANN: Iran is carrying out large-scale trials with Cuban vaccines. And Mexico is expected to begin trials. As the world struggles with vaccine
shortages, other countries may be calling soon.
AMANPOUR: Patrick Oppmann reporting from Havana there.
And later in the program, we will talk to an expert about the Cuban progress in the biotech world.
Now we're going to take a trip into the future with celebrated author Kazuo Ishiguro, famed for his period drama "The Remains of the Day," which won
the Booker Prize back in 1989, and his bestselling dystopian novel "Never Let Me Go."
Ishiguro's new book, "Klara and the Sun," is his first since winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017. It is told through the eyes of a
robotic artificial friend called Klara. She or it provides companionship to a girl called Josie, who's struggling with a mysterious illness after being
gene-edited or lifted.
In our wide-ranging conversation, we spoke about what it is to be human, and how his wife and daughter are tough, but valued critics, who made him
rework parts of his latest novel.
Here's my conversation earlier with Kazuo Ishiguro.
AMANPOUR: So, Kazuo Ishiguro, welcome to the program.
ISHIGURO: Very nice to be here.
AMANPOUR: So eagerly awaited, like every one of your books, "Klara and the Sun," which is a beautiful -- beautifully bound book, is your latest. It
sort of continues some of your dystopian investigations into the human condition, and, in this case, into the A.I. condition.
Tell me -- tell me what you were going for when you conceived this book.
ISHIGURO: It wasn't really intended to be a book about A.I., or indeed about gene editing. I mean, both of those things are in the kind of
slightly dystopian backdrop. I wouldn't even call it dystopian. It's kind of on the turn. It could go that way.
It was really an investigation from the point of view of an A.I. into very specific things about the human heart and human relationships. And so --
and, in a way, the main character, Klara, she has more in common with these characters you get in small children's books, like a teddy bear or a dull
or an animal.
She's an outsider, and she's looking at human life from a very specific angle. Because she's been created to keep teenagers from becoming too
lonely, at the beginning anyway, she sees humanity through the lens of loneliness, which -- she's always asking people out there in the street,
are they lonely? Are they behaving like that to avoid loneliness?
So, that's how we start. And it's a kind of an investigation into human relationships and some particular questions here.
AMANPOUR: Just to be clear, Klara is the robot, and she is hired, acquired, bought by Josie's mother, as you say, to look after Josie, this
And you talk about gene editing. Obviously, the whole CRISPR revolution is -- you write about it. There are two different groups of human beings in
your future here who are going to be lifted or unlifted.
Tell me, which is better?
ISHIGURO: Well, I mean, I don't know, which is better, but, I mean, it's going to be very tough for people who aren't lifted.
Now, I'm not necessarily saying that this is what's going to happen. But you mentioned CRISPR just now. I think it's a very exciting gene editing
tool. I think it'll bring us enormous benefits. I think a lot of the diseases, illnesses that we fear right now, we won't fear nearly as much
because of gene editing.
However, I mean, it does open the way for using it for enhancement, just as we can use it to cure or make us immune from various kinds of disorders.
In this book, the fear that is being expressed is of some sort of savage meritocracy, that we will not be able to control between children who have
been enhanced and children who haven't.
AMANPOUR: So, let me read, because you talked a moment ago about, what does it mean to have a heart? And, frankly, it is right on the back jacket
You said: "Do you believe in the human heart? I don't mean simply the organ, obviously. I'm speaking in the poetic sense, the human heart. Do you
think there is such a thing, something that makes each of us special and individual?"
What is the conclusion?
ISHIGURO: I don't prevent -- I don't president an actual clean conclusion.
But I raise that question. In a world in which algorithms and data seem to be offering a kind of a solution to the human heart, of solving it, of
actually mapping it out completely, when we live in this kind of world, will we actually start to regard ourselves differently to the way we have
done for centuries?
And it allows me to ask some of these older questions, like, do we have a soul inside these kind of bodies, by virtue of which it makes sense to say
that I love this particular individual, but I don't -- I don't really like that one very much?
Is there a uniqueness that we each possess that actually means something? Or is that -- is that -- is a sense of our individual soul, is that
dissolving in the face of many of the things that are becoming normal with new technology, new science?
So, that -- so, I'm looking at what's happening to a particularly human family under those kinds of pressures.
AMANPOUR: So, let me talk about your human family, because this book -- and again I will read -- is "in memory of my mother," Shizuko Ishiguro, who
she died in 2019. She was 92 years old, I think.
And she was the first person that you called when you were told that you won the Nobel Prize. And she was very important in your life, in terms of
leading you to books and literature. Talk to me about that, because your early years, I think, were in Japan, right?
ISHIGURO: Yes, I came from Japan to Britain at the age of 5, no intention on the part of the family to settle permanently.
We were always preparing to go back. So, I remained quite Japanese within the home, but became rapidly British outside of it. And like a lot of boys
in my -- when I was in my -- when I was a teenager, I didn't do very much reading. I was very keen on listening to music and playing music.
And -- but my mother was a natural storyteller. She wasn't a literary person, but she was a very natural storyteller. And when -- she would very
spontaneously go into telling stories, either about her own experiences in Japan or her growing up.
Or, indeed, she would act out scenes from books or Shakespeare plays. And she introduced me -- she was the person who introduced me to Dostoyevsky
for the first time when I was about 16 or 17. I didn't really want to read a gloomy looking book about Russians.
ISHIGURO: But she persuaded me that it was actually about the student who was going out of his mind. And I thought that sounded much sexier and much
ISHIGURO: And Dostoyevsky has remained probably the -- my favorite author.
And she's introduced me to many people. So I'd say she's very important. But she probably inhabits "Klara and the Sun" in another kind of way. I
think there is something about many mothers, many parents of both sexes that reminds me of kind of like a programmed her robot when it comes to
We have a very, very strong desire to fulfill this goal, to do the best for our child, protect our child come what may. And my mother was very much
like this. And like many people of her generation, she gave up her profession to start a family. And everything she did, I had the impression,
she had that least at least the back of her mind -- the back of her mind, will this bring her closer to the goal of doing something good for her
ISHIGURO: And so Klara is a bit like that. She literally has it programmed into her.
AMANPOUR: I also want to pick up on something that you have said about both Naomi, your daughter, and Lorna, your wife, about what fierce and
constructive critics of your work they are.
And I was fascinated to read how important they are to you, especially in the wake of winning the Nobel and winning the Booker and having so many
awards, and so many people, I mean, revere your work.
And why is it important for them to have such a good critical eye on what you produce?
ISHIGURO: Well, the obvious thing is that, the more my reputation rises, the less people are willing to give me frank comments about my writing.
So, it becomes more and more important that I have Lorna and now Naomi as fairly savage critics. When I say savage, they're not savage for the sake
of it, but you have to understand about my wife, I mean, she was my girlfriend back in 1979 when I first started to write. I mean, when we
first met, I was not a writer, yes.
And so she saw the first attempts. In her in her eyes, I'm still that person, I think, this person who -- I'm not a famous writer. I'm just this
person who reckons he can write.
ISHIGURO: And so she hasn't changed in the way that she looks at anything I produce.
AMANPOUR: And didn't she famously throw out copious numbers of pages of one of your first drafts, basically saying, no, no, no, this just doesn't
cut it yet?
ISHIGURO: Yes, she did that with the last one, and, actually, with "Klara and the Sun" as well. I mean, I did months of extra work after I thought I
had finished it after she told me I had to work on this, this and this.
And then, of course, my writer daughter got hold of it and gave me a huge pile of notes. So, I thought I'd finished this novel in April 2019. I
didn't hand it in until December 2019, because of these very tough people in my family that I have to get past.
But I think that's OK. I mean, I think many, many people in all kinds of areas of artistic endeavor, I think, often have people like this who are
part of the team. As a kind of a front thing, I just have my name, but, I mean, Kazuo Ishiguro is the name of this kind of little team.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because there's the imaginary world, the historical world. Then there's the emotional world and the existential
And the committee said about you: "He in novels of great emotional force has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusionary sense of connection with
Do you struggle with connection with the world, your place in the world? I mean, I have heard a lot of artists say that the concept of aloneness, the
concept of death, the existential struggle is what fuels them and fuels their art.
ISHIGURO: Yes, I mean, I really love that citation. I like particularly the stuff about emotional force, because that is so important to me.
When I'm writing a novel, I want it to have an emotional connection with people. That's one of my great priorities. And it's also a priority of mine
that it stays on the mind for a long time afterwards.
The second part of that citation, I have been trying to unpack ever since they came out with it.
ISHIGURO: I'm not entirely sure what it means, but I like it.
ISHIGURO: I'm trying to aspire to it.
Maybe it's something like what you say, I mean, that we have a kind of illusion of being connected to each other and to society to a greater
extent than we really are. And that's possible.
And I think I do touch on that in "Klara," and I supposed in other books, that there is something fundamentally lonely about human beings, not just
the everyday loneliness of not having your friends around you, stuff like that. But even when you're surrounded day by day by family and loved ones,
there is something about our very nature that makes us actually lonely, and something to do with the actual -- the very complexity of our individual
AMANPOUR: Obviously, for the last year, that's all anybody's been talking about. Everybody's in lockdown. Nobody quite has the same kind of
connection that they had before.
Your books could be said, certainly "Remains of the Day" and several others, including this one, "Klara and the Sun," to be about an element of
And I just wonder how you survived lockdown emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.
ISHIGURO: I mean, for me, it's relatively easy. I have a very privileged, luxurious life, where I'm not -- I'm not made to go outside and risk myself
if I don't want to. I'm very comfortable.
There are many, many people out there who aren't in that position. I feel almost guilty about the way -- how comfortable lockdown has been for me.
But I have to say about the whole pandemic thing, I mean, I think the overwhelming thing that it has -- we have to recognize is the number of
people who've died.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes, for sure.
ISHIGURO: I think a staggering, staggering number of people have died.
There are millions of people right now bereaved, shocked, mourning somebody they have lost. And I think that comes before everything else, before we
start discussing what it tells us about how society is moving on or what how -- it's speeded up technology or how it's changing the high street.
I think the huge, huge thing that we have got to face up to is just this staggering amount of death. We usually only get this kind of death when we
have major wars. In Britain, we -- I think we are double the death figure, civilian death figure of the Second World War now.
And I think this is what's really going to hit us, the huge emotional impact. And I'm just staggered by the amount of sorrow and misery that it's
caused and it's causing.
AMANPOUR: And rightly so, rightly so.
So, I want to ask you a final question on a slightly different topic. You are known to have guitars. And you are known to, I think, write some lyrics
for certain musicians. And you're also known to admire and like Bob Dylan.
So, first I want to ask you about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for literature. What did you think about that?
ISHIGURO: I was delighted. He won it the year before me.
And I was delighted to go in his footsteps. Now, the big question about this, his Nobel Prize, some people have said he deserved it because his
lyrics are like poetry. In other words, you ignore everything else about what he does, put those lyrics down on the piece of paper, they're as good
as Keats or whatever. That's one argument.
Now, I don't actually go for that. I like to think that the Nobel Prize was a recognition not just of Dylan, but of the art that he helped actually
bring to a very high level in the 1960s and 1970s, which is the art of the singer/songwriter.
Now, the literature prize actually includes -- it recognizes drama, poetry, fiction, usually. But I think I'm hoping that it's started to recognize
this very important art form, which is a mixture of performance, literature, music, storytelling, which is the art of the singer/songwriter,
as exemplified by Dylan.
I don't think you can separate things like just his lyrics.
AMANPOUR: So, how disappointed were you when you were both going to be awarded honorary degrees, I think, at St. Andrews University, and he didn't
turn up at the last minute?
ISHIGURO: Yes, that was a disappointment. That was back in 2003.
I was told that only two people were going to receive this thing together, and it was going to be me and Bob Dylan. So, off I went up to up to
Scotland, very eager. The idea of kind of being robed in some kind of strange costume in some backroom with Bob Dylan and waiting to go on to
take part in some kind of academic ceremony, I thought, was pretty enticing.
But he did actually go the following year. He canceled the last moment. But I was delighted, because I went -- I found myself with
Betty Boothroyd, the former speaker of the House of Commons. And she was wonderful. And I was really honored to receive a degree with her.
AMANPOUR: The first female speaker, right?
ISHIGURO: Yes, I believe so, yes.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes.
ISHIGURO: And -- yes.
And I -- and, so, yes, I thought it was odd that we had a narrow miss from Stockholm as well. I mean, he was there one year, and then I got it the
AMANPOUR: Yes. Hey, yes, yes.
I'm going to think about that.
Thank you so much for being with us, Kazuo Ishiguro. And the novel "Klara and the Sun" is out, and it's bound to be a huge success, like your other
ISHIGURO: Thank you very much, Christiane. Very nice to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Our conversation just ahead of publication of "Klara and the Sun," which is today.
Now, more now on our story about vaccine diplomacy, Cuban-style. The small island nation just 93 miles off the coast of the United States developed
its own COVID shot. It's called Sovereign 2, and it's set to share it with other countries.
Cuba's remarkable achievement is now leading many to wonder what other medical advances it could offer the world.
Candace Johnson is president and CEO of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York. She worked closely with Cuban scientists to bring their
lung cancer vaccine to the U.S. for trials. And she is joining me now.
Welcome to the program, Candace Johnson.
CANDACE JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ROSWELL PARK COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you first.
Everybody knows Cuba and the United States at loggerheads. Diplomacy has been disrupted. There are sanctions. It can barely pay for its daily bread.
And yet, over the decades, it's been really standout on the biomedical front.
Why is that, do you think?
JOHNSON: So, Cuba has really distinguished itself in some of the most preeminent immunologists. These individuals are some of the brightest and
most innovative scientists that I have had the pleasure to work with.
And they were -- Cuba was sort of forced into this because they were -- they didn't have access to the drugs that you might get in Western
countries. And so they developed the technologies to vaccinate their own people against a whole variety of things.
We were obviously interested in their development of a lung cancer vaccine, but it is no surprise to me that they're on the forefront of a COVID
vaccine. They are -- they're truly remarkable people.
AMANPOUR: So, tell me. I mean, it sounds -- everybody's going to be picking up their ears at the sound of a lung -- a cancer, a lung cancer
AMANPOUR: What exactly is it? Is it preventative? Is it therapeutic? And how have they been able to do it and how have you been able to get it?
JOHNSON: Yes, well, that's the genius of the Cuban scientists.
So, lung cancer, as we all know, it's -- there some new and novel approaches out that can increase someone's survival, even in light stage
disease. But lung cancer -- most of the therapies, at least a number of years ago, were focused around this one growth factor receptor.
And they didn't have access to any of those drugs. And so they hypothesized, hmm, I wonder if we could immunize people against this
particular growth factor. And this growth factor, the cancer cells, the lung cancer cells are addicted to this growth factor.
And so, when the growth factor is present, the tumor grows. If you could prevent the president of that growth factor in the patient, perhaps the
tumor would stop. And so this -- the real genius of this is immunizing someone against a protein that's natural to their body is no easy task. \
And that's why -- I'm sure that that's why their COVID vaccine was so successful, because they developed a technology to take that growth factor
and conjugate it to a very unique protein, and then immunize people against this growth factor.
And, lo and behold, they demonstrated that patients had a very strong immune response, and developed -- and actually depleted the levels of this
growth factor in these lung cancer patients. No growth factor, the tumors don't grow. It was genius.
And they did studies in Cuba. They have done studies in South America. They actually have gone through phase three studies. These results were
published actually in an American journal. Their rigor was just as rigorous as and in the States. Many of the scientists presented these results at
We wanted to bring this vaccine to the United States. And so, back in 2015, we started the procedure to do exactly that. And, today -- it took a while
that for us to do that. And, today, we have clinical trials open here at Roswell Park and also at a number of other institutions in New York state,
and hope to open them in some other institutions around the country.
And we have already validated some of the initial concepts about this drug.
AMANPOUR: And, again, I think it's really extraordinary to hear you talk about that.
When you talk about the immune factor, the growth, protein, et cetera...
JOHNSON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: ... are you talking about immunotherapy, which we hear a lot about in trying to treat cancer these days?
This is a form of immunotherapy. Anything that you use to stimulate the immune system is immunotherapy. And so this is just a different kind of
immunotherapy. And the one promise that we think CIMAvax, which is the name of this drug, may have is actually in prevention.
So say you have lung cancer, it's very isolated, early stage disease. You can actually cut it out with surgery and remove it. But we know that those
patients are at very high risk for recurrence. So, you reduce the tumor burden, if you will, in the individual, you immunize them with CIMAvax.
They have these circulating antibodies against this growth factor, and, therefore, they get no recurrence. And we actually think that this has
great promise. And we're about to initiate a new trial to look at this in our patients. Very exciting.
AMANPOUR: And just to be clear, just to be clear, Candace Johnson...
AMANPOUR: ... is this the only source of this CIMAvax lung cancer therapy vaccine? Is it only from Cuba?
JOHNSON: Only from Cuba, yes, indeed.
JOHNSON: And -- yes. No, I know.
And the thing that is so remarkable is that Cuba is -- does not have -- the Cuban scientists, who are, in my mind, innovative, brilliant, they're
always thinking out of the box. They're always trying to think very innovatively, how can they solve a problem?
They don't have the advantages that maybe we have in this country of fancy equipment, all these very expensive reagents. They actually have to use
their head and figure out how to attack these problems.
And they have been very successful at this. And so we're very excited to have this collaboration.
As you could well imagine, during COVID, things have sort of been put on hold, but we're anxious to see COVID come to an end, so we can continue our
collaborations with these wonderful folks.
AMANPOUR: And their COVID vaccine, the Sovereign 2, is, as we discussed, in -- I think it's about to head into its final phase of trials.
And then, as we said, they have said that they want to export it, as well as immunizing their own people, clearly...
AMANPOUR: ... and offering it as sort of tourist vaccine package holidays to Cuba as a way to reboost their shattered economy.
You have been there a lot.
AMANPOUR: I know you -- well, you have been to Cuba. You have spoken to the scientists.
You have looked through your, you know, professional lens at what they're doing.
Talk to me a little bit about their soft power in terms of vaccine diplomacy and medical diplomacy. Over the decades, they have exported this
thing that they do so well.
JOHNSON: Yes. They have -- you know, the science and especially applied science. So, these immunologists very much are developing preventive
measures for their citizens, they're always thinking about -- and, you know, it's purely for the good of their mankind. You know, their -- they --
obviously, they want to export this knowledge and help other folks around the world, but their motives are really to help their citizens in the
development of these vaccines.
And so, it was really -- when you go to Cuba and you can see the dedication of these scientists and you see how, really, innovative they are and what
they do with much less than we do, even in my own institution, it really is -- it is awe-inspiring and we treasure those relationships that we have.
And it's not -- CIMAvax is a very interesting lung cancer vaccine, but there are other things that they have that we could avail ourselves here in
this country. And we're going to hopefully be a conduit for some of those things as we go forward.
AMANPOUR: Like? Give me one sneak peek of a major breakthrough vaccine that they might give you?
JOHNSON: Well, they have another vaccine involving the use of the immune system that may have application in a wider variety of tumors than just
lung cancer. And so, we're going to explore that as well. They have a lot of innovative drugs that they are working on.
AMANPOUR: You know, everybody knows, and I'm going to do the cliche, I'm going to play the pictures of the old cars that they have been repairing
and keeping on the road for decades.
AMANPOUR: Many of them obviously old American cars.
JOHNSON: They have. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And I'm going to read you what the director of the Cuban Neurosciences have said. Cubans have not only been able to make old cars
work still work, they can manage to make old equipment work, too.
So, as you have said, they've had to work with subpar, I guess, equipment, but nonetheless, raising their game scientifically. And they've also been
sending doctors, and we've got imagines of that too, during the COVID pandemic to places like Italy, we've got pictures of them disembarking in
Italy in the spring of this year when the pandemic was so bad.
Can you just sort of wax philosophical, if you like, on --
AMANPOUR: -- you know, their role and Russia's role and China's role and India's role in trying to get this vital medicine to the countries that
can't afford it? And we know from the figures that the rich countries have bought up billions of doses of COVID vaccine and the poorer countries in
the developing world just don't have that access.
JOHNSON: They do not. I mean, you know, if you look -- if you would look at the Ebola outbreaks in Africa, who were the physicians that there on the
front lines? It was the Cuban physicians. So, they are always there in those instances and they did play a very important role in Italy. And I
think they see their place, you know, we're all people and we're all here for the betterment of mankind, and I think Cubans take it perhaps to an
extra step, because they are truly dedicated to try to help people, especially people that are suffering from devastating diseases.
AMANPOUR: I mean, this is a political question, but do you regret that they are targeted by your country, that, you know, the Obama administration
did restore the diplomatic ties, the Trump administration did not? I don't want you to talk politically, I just want to talk sort of scientifically
and medically about could you perhaps get more if it was a different political situation or is it because they are under such pressure, as we've
kind of discussed that they actually are so ingenious with -- in this field?
JOHNSON: Well, it's a very interesting question. And actually, throughout -- you know, we started this, as you say, in the Obama administration and
went through different presidents. But all of the way through, regardless of who was sitting in the White House, we still managed to visit each
other, we still managed to continue our collaborations, we had to be a little bit more inventive about how we did it, but we still managed to
achieve and to be successful.
And I think that it probably does go a little bit to the heart and soul of the Cuban scientists and it makes them maybe a little bit more thinking
outside the box because they have to because of the situation. But we try to just focus on developing these drugs to help Americans and potentially,
we have things here in this country that could really benefit the Cuban people that they just have no access to. So, we're hopeful through these
collaborations we can be there for each other. We are all people here.
AMANPOUR: It is really an amazing medical success story and really an example, really, of humanitarian and medical diplomacy and bridge building.
Candace Johnson, thank you so much for joining us. A really fascinating story.
Now, the American rescue plan, which is the $1.9 trillion stimulus package to help those hit hardest by the pandemic, has passed the House of
Representatives. The economic recovery package has President Biden's top priority since he entered office. Democratic Congressman, Tim Ryan, voted
for plan. He also ran for president in 2020 and he's now eyeing a Senate run in 2022.
Here he is talking with our Michel Martin about his role in investigating the capitol riot and the challenges ahead in the Senate for the COVID
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Christiane.
Congressman Ryan, thank you so much for joining us.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: Two months ago, your workplace was invaded by an armed mob. You went through impeachment and, you know, now, your workplaces is still
surrounded by a barbed wire and fencing. And I'm just wondering what the vibe was like. I mean, you still have certain number who are either
minimizing what the experience was like or saying it wasn't that big of a deal or still in denial about who was actually responsible and I just
wonder what -- how that affects the working relationships.
RYAN: Yes. I mean, look, it's not good. There's no real way to sugarcoat it. It's not good. There's not a good relationship because you either have
members, I think, on the Republican side who, in many ways, were complicit, continued to try to incite what happened on January 6th, came right back to
the capitol after the insurrection and business as usual. And then you have people that looked the other way, which, you know, is aiding and abetting
just, you know, through their inaction, through acts of omission, instead of acts of commission.
And that is frustrating, because it gets hard to try have a working relationship with those people. And, you know, there is a lot of denial in
the Republican Party right now, and that makes it difficult to work with them.
MARTIN: I wanted to point out that you are heading one of the committees that's actually investigating the riot because you're the chair of the
subcommittee that has authorization over the Capitol Police. So, you're looking into that part of it and I just wanted to -- you know, you just had
a hearing a couple of days ago, have you learned anything?
RYAN: Well, we learned that the threats are ongoing, that there is still a lot of chatter about, you know, taking over the capitol and assassinating
politicians and those kinds of things, which is obviously deeply troubling for members of Congress, their families, their friends, their staff, our
staff. So, that's, you know, been difficult. But we're also moving forward with what we are going to do to protect the capitol and to protect members
So, we are gathering that information. We're working very closely with the General Honore who is putting the strategy together for us on how we move
forward. So, you know, we're just trying to piece it altogether right now.
MARTIN: There was evidence presented at the hearing that the Capitol Police leadership did try to get additional help and, you know, whether
they asked soon enough, whether they took it seriously enough that's all part of what you're trying to sort out. But there is evidence that they
called for additional help and they were denied in part because the Pentagon, political appointees there did not want that to go forward. The
point of view of the Capitol Police to testify was it they didn't want the optics of sending the National Guard in to confront people they perceive as
their supporters. But those people are gone now. And if that's the case, what do you do about that?
RYAN: Well, I think you try to figure out what is a better chain of command. And again, look, we were dealing with leadership from executive
branch that we have never seen before in the history of this country. So, it was a very unique situation, where the president incited these folks to
go down to the capitol, said he was going to go join them, and all of the things that you all have reported on and everybody knows had been going on
through December and January to lead to this.
So, I think, from the information flow standpoint, command and control standpoint, there may be some other ways we need to look at this. But,
look, in my estimation, this rests at the sergeant at arms who kept denying the requests from the Capitol Police. And then I think the Capitol Police
is to blame as well, the leadership, because they didn't push hard enough.
I mean, if you kept asking for more National Guard, we need another -- you know, not hundreds but probably thousands of troops, and they were not
giving them to you, you needed to raise holy hell about it, because we were relying on you. And I had a call with the chief of police and the sergeant
at arms the night before and it was a bunch of happy talk, that we're covered, everything is fine.
Now, they should have come to me as chair of the committee, they should have come to other members of Congress who overseed this stuff, and say,
look, we have a real problem. The sergeant at arms, they didn't even bring this request to the Capitol Police Board for an official vote. The chief of
police should have pushed for that, said, at least give me a vote so I'm off the hook here and we get the board to approve or disapprove of it.
So, there's a lot of mistakes all in the leadership. The rank and file did everything that they were asked for and they were really exposed to a lot
of danger because of the lack of preparation. So, within the reforms, we've got to make sure that the chain of command, the Capitol Police Board, and
if there is any approval needed from the Department of Defense, that's very transparent and teed up and ready to go as well.
MARTIN: So, let's turn around and turn our attention to the COVID relief bill that was passed by the House over the weekend. It's a big bill, you
know, $1.9 trillion, wide-ranging. There's money for employment benefits, there's money for improving school infrastructure, for COVID testing,
providing PPE, there are provisions for, you know, child care. You know, it's just way too comprehensive for us to go into all of the details here.
So, I just want to ask you, what do you think are the most important elements of the bill?
RYAN: Well, taking care of the economic situation in the country. So, the extension of unemployment until September is really going to give a lot of
breathing room to millions of Americans who just can't find work. The jobs aren't available. The help for rent and utilities so people don't lose
their home. The $1,400 payment to help people kind of weather the storm a little bit here. Those are really the critical pieces of this entire thing
because it takes care and making sure that the people don't go bankrupt, make sure they don't destroy their credit.
Because if you're a working-class person, you destroy your credit, it could take you 10 or 15 years to climb out of that. And so, we want to prevent
that from happening because if we're going to have a robust recovery, then it's going to mean people are economically secure, they're able to go back
to work and they got a few bucks in their pocket to go out to spend at those restaurants who have been crippled.
You know, we're going to need people to go back out to dinner and out to the bars and out to venues and keep those places going. And then the
schools and the local governments are also going to get a good shot in the arm with this thing. And these communities need to get rebuilt. So, we're
going to come out of this thing, I think, potentially a lot stronger than we went in, because these communities are going to have some money, and
hopefully we can get a little wind at our back with the economy.
MARTIN: Is another -- I mean, you're already hearing, you know, not just initial Republicans saying, those numbers are too big, but they're even
some Democrats in the Senate that are saying the numbers are just too big. Where are you on that?
RYAN: I think it is just fine. I think that $1.9 trillion is a good number. It is a solid number. You know, I am old enough and got enough gray
hair, I was around in 2009 when we did a stimulus bill. And at the time I was saying that it wasn't big enough. It is not big enough. And the economy
dragged on, slow recovery around wages, around workforce and unemployment just dragged on because we didn't make that initial investment robust
We are not going to make that same mistake here. And I think this is a good number that is going to be a good shot in the arm for the economy and it is
going to allow us to have the kind of recovery that the American people expect us to have.
MARTIN: So, the two Schools of Thought seem to be, as I understand it, that, look, if you -- let's say you had a flood, and your -- all your
kitchen was damaged or all your appliances were damaged and two Schools of Thought seem to be on the one hand fix what was broken, right. The
appliances or what's damaged, what's damaged is that focus on that. The other School of Thought seems to be, why don't you fix what you didn't like
to begin with? So, how do you argue that point?
RYAN: Well, the idea here is to help the economy for everybody. And this is an opportunity, it's about public health for sure, it's about
vaccination and testing and all of those things, but it is also about an economic recovery that everyone can share in that recovery. And those that
are the investments that are included in here.
And I think that they're in hand and glove. I mean, I just don't see those as separate because the idea really is how do we have an economy that can
thrive post pandemic and communities that can thrive post pandemic? And yes, the pandemic did some damage but there was a heck of a lot of damage
before the pandemic ever hit. And this is an opportunity for us to plug these communities in, clean these communities up and allow them to
participate in the growth that is going to come.
So, the bigger strategy is, if you take a step back, is hopefully after this, we have a robust infrastructure bill where we really start rebuilding
the country. I mean, our country needs rebuild, water lines, sewer lines, roads, bridges, schools, infrastructure, ports, on and on and on. So, this
is a first step into that by getting money to the local communities. I think it's a first step in a broader package to rebuild the United States
of America, which is what Joe Biden promised he would do. And the COVID bill here is a down payment to make sure that every community can
participate in that.
And that -- this has been 30 years. I mean, I just get a kick out of these, you know, folks who are saying like this -- you know, this has nothing to
do with the pandemic, it's like, OK, we've got communities that have been completely left behind by globalization, by automation, you know, by
inequality, by terrible trade and tax policies that left people behind, and the government had absolutely no response to help them. Now, we are trying
to take steps to repair that. And this COVID bill is an opportunity to take that first step.
MARTIN: And the $15 minimum wage, what is going to happen there?
RYAN: Well, the parliamentarian in the Senate has ruled that it is not germane to the reconciliation process. So, we will come back and, I think,
at some point have a vote on the $15 minimum wage that we scale up. I do think we have to be sensitive to what small businesses are going through in
the middle of the pandemic. So, we've got to do this over time.
But if the minimum wage was indexed for inflation, since 1968, it would be at $22 an hour. You know, so, people -- this -- we have -- the average
person -- average family has really fallen behind and this is our attempt to plug them back into the game.
MARTIN: The bill was scaling it up. So, the question, I think, for some people is, where's the spine of the Democrats, you know, when the
Republicans didn't like the ruling of the Senate parliamentarian, they use their authority to replace the parliamentarian. The other alternative is
the vice president could use her vote to ignore that ruling. And some people look at that and say that's just an excuse not to do it. What do you
say? Is that true? Is it an excuse not to do it?
RYAN: Well, you're asking me to understand the Senate trickeries that happen over there, and I just don't -- I don't. I agree, we need to push as
hard as we can for this. I would hope that even if it is not germane to this particular procedure that we should be immediately bring it back and
have a vote. It's supported by 60 percent of the American people. I think if you do it in the appropriate way that allows for businesses to roll in,
I think even small businesses will begin to absorb it.
Because here's the thing, if Walmart starts paying $15 and hour, the mom- and-pop shop up the street who may have a handful of employees that they now have to pay $15 an hour, there's going to be a hell of a lot more
consumers that have a lot more money in their pocket that can go to the mom-and-pop shop. So, this is basic demand side economics that I think
would be good for smaller businesses in the long run.
MARTIN: Well, but the other side of it, of course, is that the argument is that this advantage is employed at the expense of the unemployed. And that
people -- it doesn't do anything for the job creation per se that it puts more money into the crimes of people who are employed, but it doesn't do
anything, as, you know, you pointed out with small businesses who may have only a handful of employees to begin with, it doesn't give them any way or
any room to sort of add more people. And if that's the bigger crisis right now when you got, at least, 10 million people unemployed, people say that's
probably actually more than that, how does that help them?
RYAN: Well, I think if more people have more money in their pocket, the people who are unemployed -- or the people who are employed who now are
making more money, they now have more money to spend, people who are making $15 an hour pretty much spend everything they have. There's not a whole lot
of savings there. But they're going to go from $10 or $11 an hour to $13, $14 or $15 overtime, that's more money that they have to go out and spend
in the economy which will increase demand, which will increase employment overtime. An I think that's the appropriate thing for us to do.
But again, you know, this is not -- our -- I don't think that the Democratic economic policy come down to where we're just for an increase in
the minimum wage. We need to have robust investments into infrastructure, we need to make sure that we are going hard for building electric vehicles,
building batteries, building charging stations, really dominating the new economy, that's where the significant jobs are going to be created.
And we've got to have a focus on that, because those jobs pay $20, $25, $30 an hour, and that is where we need to be. We are talking about the minimum
wage. And I think with Joe Biden and his team want to do is rebuild that middle-class around those industries of the future that can really pay, and
that's in addition to the increase in the minimum wage.
MARTIN: But for some people I think that the minimum wage is more sort of a metaphor for the Democrats' willingness to just really fight for things
that they believe in or that they say they believe in. And you could disagree with the Republicans in what they believe in, but with the
argument goes, at least they are willing to fight for it to the mat, they're willing to take it to the mat. I mean -- and do you think that
that's true? I mean, some people say that that's the problem here. Do you think that's true?
RYAN: Well, again, I don't understand the inner workings of the United States Senate. But if we're going to hold up the COVID relief bill, which
has unemployment and all those other things that we talked about, and that's going to held up while people, in the coming days, are going to lose
their unemployment benefits, you know, what is fair, you know?
So, I mean, we've got to get this package out the door. And -- because it is going to help millions of people who are unemployed and may miss their
rent payment and may destroy their credit and on and on. So, we've got to get this out the door.
I mean, it's frustrating in Washington, because you've got all of these issues coming at you at same time. And while I am an advocate for $15
minimum wage, let's bring it back up. You know, there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to pass the increase in the minimum wage. And if we've
got to get the COVID package out of the door and come back to do it, we control the House, we control the Senate, we have the White House, there
should be no excuse for us to bring that back. And so, let's help everybody. But the most timely thing right now is to help these people who
MARTIN: So, you have said several times that you don't understand the inner workings of the Senate. Would you like to understand those --
RYAN: I'm interested in the inner workings of the Senate and learning more about it. Yes, there's an open seat in Ohio and we're looking very, very
closely at it. It's, you know, I think that another working-class voice in the United States Senate is needed.
You mentioned the minimum wage, with the middleclass, health care. You know, there's a lot of communities that have been forgotten in this country
and a lot of people that have been forgotten. The country hasn't been great to them. And I really take a lot of pride of giving some voice to those
people. And so, we are looking closely to, you know, potentially doing that on the floor of the United States Senate. I think that voice is missing.
So, we're going to look real closely at it.
MARTIN: Congressman Ryan, thank you so much for talking to us today.
RYAN: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: Sounded like a yes. And finally, we spoke earlier about the success of the COVID-19 vaccines. I got one today and I feel great. And I
hope all of you will soon well. And also, take up the offer when it is made. It is safe, as we reported earlier. It cuts the risk of
hospitalization by more than 80 percent.
And now, comes news that the same breakthrough technology could unlock new treatments for a range of deadly diseases like malaria, which is a leading
killer including of children around the world. Reports say that researchers may have cracked the code on a malaria vaccine using RNA-based approach
similar to the Pfizer and the Moderna COVID-19 models.
And scientists are working on more RNA-based cures for diseases ranging from cancer to sickle cell to HIV. Which means, the pandemic may ultimately
help save more lives than it ever took. And wouldn't that be the silver lining to all of this suffering.
That's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.