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Middle East Conflict Escalates. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 17, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel has responded forcefully to these attacks, and we will continue to respond forcefully.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Deaths mount, as the Israel-Hamas conflict rages on. How to end the cycle of violence. I ask Dennis Ross, special envoy to
the Middle East under President Clinton, and Khaled Elgindy, former adviser to the PLO.
Then: a media building destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. I get an on-the- ground reporter from journalist Safwat Kahlout, who was forced to flee for his life.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We are not saying that everyone has to take off their mask if they're vaccinated.
GOLODRYGA: Making sense of the new mask guidance. Infectious disease doctor Celine Gounder gives her assessment of the current state of the
ANNA SALE, AUTHOR, "LET'S TALK ABOUT HARD THINGS": I think what makes challenging, hard things in our lives feel so painful is that they can feel
really isolating and alienating.
GOLODRYGA: "Let's Talk About Hard Things" author and podcast host Anna Sale tells Hari Sreenivasan why it's so difficult to discuss death, sex and
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
The Israeli military is continuing to pound new targets in Gaza, on Monday, one day after the conflict recorded its deadliest day so far. The Hamas-run
Gaza Ministry of Health says more than 200 people are dead. And Israel says its death toll now stands at 10.
Israel's acting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed his country and the world on Sunday, vowing to continue the operation until its military
objectives are complete.
Civilians are, of course, caught in the conflict on both sides. But scenes are particularly harrowing in Gaza, where whole buildings have been
flattened, as Israel takes aim at Hamas' underground tunnel network.
This, of course, is a cycle of violence we have, sadly, seen so many times before. So what, if anything, can finally put a stop to it?
Dennis Ross was special envoy to the Middle East under President Clinton. And Khaled Elgindy, who has taken part in previous attempts at
negotiations, is a former adviser to the PLO.
Welcome to the program, both of you.
Dennis, let's start with you.
We are now in week two of this escalating violence, no end in sight. Just a few hours ago, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted that, a
short time ago today, he had spoken with his Israeli counterpart and with the government of Egypt, and that -- quote -- "The U.S. is engaged in
quiet, intensive diplomacy, and our efforts will continue."
White House pro spokesperson Jen Psaki reiterated this quiet diplomacy. That term and this approach seems to be what this administration is moving
ahead with. As someone who has participated in past negotiations during past violent flare-ups and battles between these two sides, where do you
see this going? And how will it end?
DENNIS ROSS, FORMER U.S. ENVOY TO MIDDLE EAST: Well, look, the key challenge right now is, from an Israeli standpoint, to satisfy themselves
that they have reestablished deterrence. And that means degrading the military capabilities of Hamas to a certain point and reminding Hamas that
the cost of what they're incurring right now are the result of having started launching rockets to begin with.
Obviously, from a Hamas standpoint, they want to prove a point. They want to show they can inflict pain on the Israelis. The reality, I think, at
this point is, both sides are probably not that far from where they want to be. The question is, how do you get them at this point to agree to what
will be a cease-fire?
I think what the administration is doing is probably quietly saying to the Israelis, OK, we understand what your objectives are. Can you define them?
What will convince you that you're there? And bear in mind that the longer this goes on, and the more Palestinians are getting killed in Gaza, the
more your case looks less compelling before the world.
With the Egyptians, we should be talking and emphasizing the value of their mediation. Egypt has a very strong interest in proving to the Biden
administration that it does things that are of value to the United States.
So, I think they have a pretty high stake and trying to show that they can help broker this, and they do have leverage on Hamas. They control one of
the borders for Hamas. So, I do see us at a point where a cease-fire may not be that far away, provided we don't see something unexpected take
But I think the real issue then is what comes next, because if we just go back to the status quo ante, we're going to repeat this cycle again in the
GOLODRYGA: And I want to get to what comes next in a minute.
But I guess the first step is having a cease-fire and having the current violence sort of quell.
And I want to ask you, Khaled, because there is no love lost between El- Sisi in Egypt and Hamas. Nevertheless, you have Egypt and now Qatari mediators now trying to bring in a cease-fire.
And CNN is reporting that there are two main points of conflict here that's disrupting this potential cease-fire. Hamas is demanding that Israel
withdraw its troops from Al-Aqsa Mosque and that they also bring an end to the settlement at the Sheikh Jarrah settlement and bring an end to that
eviction concern and the confrontation there, even though we are expecting to see a court hearing from the Supreme Court in Israel that was delayed.
On the flip side, Israel is saying that they would like for Hamas to initiate this cease-fire. So, neither side is budging yet. What will it
KHALED ELGINDY, FORMER ADVISER TO PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY LEADERSHIP: Yes, I mean, basically, what these rallies have asked Hamas is, you stop firing,
and then we will stop firing at some point later on.
But they're -- the Israeli side is rejecting the idea of a simultaneous or mutual cease-fire at this moment. What it will take, really, is a much more
robust involvement of the Biden administration.
So far, the administration has been very lackadaisical in its -- in its calls for a cease-fire or what they term de-escalation. They have, on three
separate occasions, blocked the Security Council from demanding an immediate cease-fire.
So, this is not -- this is not a passive approach by the Biden administration. There is a strong deference to the Israeli side. Basically,
what the administration is signaling is, you go ahead. We will run interference in the diplomatic arena. You go ahead and do what you need to
do to finish this out.
So, that's not really what we ought to be seeing from the United States. The United States should be calling for an immediate cease-fire, rather
than essentially green-lighting this whole process, which, as we saw in the introduction, there's an enormous asymmetry here in terms of the death and
destruction that is happening on the Palestinian side vs. the Israeli side.
There's an asymmetry in power. There's an asymmetry in the reality on the ground. And so I agree wholeheartedly with Ambassador Ross when he says
that we can't simply go back to the status quo ante, because the status quo ante for Palestinians was 54 years of occupation, home expulsions, a
grinding blockade in the Gaza Strip that has devastated life there.
So, there is no normal to go back to on the Palestinian side. And so, if we're not going to begin to address all of those issues, then, as
Ambassador Ross said, we're just going to be queuing up the very next explosion.
GOLODRYGA: And just as you said that, just moments ago, the U.S. for the third time this week has blocked the publication of a U.N. Security Council
statement, just to reiterate the point that you made.
But, Dennis, going back to the status quo, that would be in March, right, before everything sort of started bubbling up and things got heated in the
month of April. Is there any sense that the Israelis or even Hamas is willing to move beyond just the month of April and sort of go back to where
things were in March?
Are they really ready to approach a renewed Middle East peace deal?
ROSS: Well, I think look, the politics on both sides, the politics in Israel and the politics among Palestinians, obviously, given the division
between Hamas and Fatah, between Gaza and the West Bank, neither one of those things lends themselves very well to some kind of an initiative that
is high-profile to try to resolve the conflict.
So the question isn't, can you resolve the conflict right now? The question is, can you ameliorate it and can you remove some of the conditions that
produce what we just saw?
Look, there are two different realities here. Obviously, Palestinians look at the reality through the lens of what continues to be an occupation that
is grinding and imposes a price on them. The Israelis look at a reality where, at least in the case of Hamas in particular, they care very little
about doing much for their own people.
You look at they have tens of thousands of rockets. Each of those rockets has -- plus the tunnels -- have electric wiring, steel, cement, everything
that could be used for reconstruction. But it's not used for that purpose.
So, we have to deal with the reality of Hamas rockets. We have to deal with the reality of Israel, in a sense, approaching Palestinians as if the
reality of today can always be.
I would like to see us use some creative approaches once we're beyond this. I'd like to see us use the whole issue of normalization, the process of
normalization, in which outreach towards Israel can then at the same time produce steps from Israel towards the Palestinians.
The one new dynamic in the region pre this blowup was the normalization process. And that meant the Arab outreach to Israel could be used to
produce something towards the Palestinians. What the UAE did, when they normalized, was say, will normalize, but no annexation.
You could use a similar process, say, with the Saudis, where maybe they don't fully normalize, but maybe they open a commercial office and, in
return, Israel stuffs building outside of -- or to the east of the security barrier.
The point is, what can you do to change the realities as we know them? Slogans aren't going to do it. A practical approach is going to be
required. And it can't be a practical approach that's based on the idea we're going to solve everything right now. We don't have the means to solve
everything right now. But we have got to change the reality where we are, so what isn't possible today can become possible over time.
GOLODRYGA: And, Khaled, would you say that some of these other nations, that the Bahrain UAE, Saudi, these other nations that are now new
signatories to the Abraham Accords, is there an appetite for them to do more than just put out sort of a generic statement, as they have?
ELGINDY: Well, I think the reality is that this new round of violence has actually made it much more difficult for these normalizing countries, like
the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Morocco and Sudan, to justify those positions to their domestic constituency.
They are under pressure, I think. The -- it's true that the Palestinian issue has been deprioritized in the Arab world. There are so many other
sources of turmoil and internal problems. But the Palestinian issue still resonates, I think, with the broader Arab public, particularly when it
comes to issues like Jerusalem.
And so the sight of Israeli soldiers or border guards firing tear gas and shooting sponge-tipped bullets into the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy
month of Ramadan is something that really a lot of folks in the Arab and Muslim world will find disturbing.
And so this latest round, I think, makes it much harder for those states to move toward normalization. But, more importantly, we need to start thinking
about not just positive inducements to the Israelis. There are many, many, many of those. And the philosophy in Washington has been that we have to
hug Israel in order to make them feel comfortable enough to take these risks for peace.
That logic simply hasn't panned out. We have had 30 years of a peace process of providing endless positive inducements to the Israelis, running
interference in the international arena, blocking action at the Security Council or the International Criminal Court or even Palestinian membership
in the United Nations, in addition to the massive amounts of aid and other kinds of support that the United States offers.
But if we're going to be serious about moving this process forward, American officials have to start looking at how they have enabled this
situation. And there is no way that Israel could have maintained its 54 years of occupation and 700,000 Israeli settlers in the occupied
territories without American backing, without America's strategic, political, diplomatic, military backing.
And so we are part and parcel of the problem. And, right now, offering Israel more positive inducements, instead of really putting pressure on
Israel, as the far greater power here, then we are simply not going to achieve anything.
GOLODRYGA: And Dennis, we don't know what's happening with these quiet behind-the-scenes conversations between the White House and the Israeli
But from what we're seeing publicly, we don't see this approach yet from President Biden. And what's different this time is, you're seeing more
pressure from within the Democratic Party, not only some of the progressives, but also traditional supporters of Israel, Senator Menendez,
who was criticizing Israel for demolishing that building in Gaza that housed international media.
Is there more pressure on this president, President Biden, who would like, obviously, to be -- have Israel engaged in any deal with Iran as well? Is
there pressure on him now to perhaps offer more sticks, instead of quiet conversations and public carrots?
ROSS: I think that there may well be some more pressure from at least parts of Democratic Party.
But I think what he also feels is, when Israel has been hit by 3,000 rockets from next door by Hamas, by a group that has not the slightest
interest in peace, that is -- that this is hardly the time or the place to then suddenly be saying, we have to be putting a lot of pressure on Israel.
You want to be able to move Israel in circumstances where you have a chance to do so, when the body politic in Israel is taking these kinds of rockets,
based upon -- coming from a territory where the Israelis withdrew from, which, by the way, when Israel withdrew in 2005, it did not put an embargo
on Gaza. It didn't put the embargo on Gaza until after the Hamas coup in 2007, even though Hamas, operating under the P.A. at that time, was still
carrying out attacks.
So, when you withdraw from a country -- or you withdraw from a place and what you get for that are rockets, and you're reminded of that, given
what's going on right now, this is not necessarily a time to say, OK, now we have to put pressure on Israel, because -- even though it's taking
I think the idea of coming up with an approach that recognizes the needs of both sides obviously is critical. I come back to what I said before. And I
agree with what Khaled said. It's not easy to build on the normalization process right now because you have what's going on.
But he also is right. It was more the symbolism of Jerusalem that helped to trigger all this. I think one of the things we have to do is, A,
reestablish calm, B, talk to the Israelis, which the administration, to its credit, did, I think, about Sheikh Jarrah and certainly postponing any
decisions there, I think obviously being very careful when it comes to anything touching the Haram esh-Sharif, or the Temple Mount, but getting
beyond where we are, ending the fighting right now, and then looking what - - at what can be done, both more generally in the region, but also even within Gaza.
I would love to see us launch a major initiative for reconstruction, massive reconstruction in Gaza, but it would have to be conditioned on
Hamas giving up the rockets.
No one's going to invest big time in Gaza if Hamas can repeat this all over again, and then it's going to produce Israeli responses that destroys
everything that's been invested in.
So, yes, this is obviously complicated. But there are approaches that should be pursued.
GOLODRYGA: As you mentioned, over 3,000 rockets lobbed from Gaza, hundreds reported killed in the Palestinian territory there in Gaza.
And I was just struck by what former Israeli politician Alon Pinkas said, is that Israel is just playing a tactical game, as it has been for years,
and there's no long-term strategy. And that seems to be the missing link right now for both sides, because we're seeing bloodshed continue.
Gentlemen, we will have to leave it there. I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
Well, it was an explosion that literally rocked the media world. The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and media advocacy groups are demanding
answers after an Israeli airstrike destroyed a building with offices belonging to news outlets in Gaza on Saturday.
A senior official with the IDF today defended the decision, again claiming that the building contained Hamas targets inside. U.S. Secretary of State
Antony Blinken expressed his concern about the incident today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States remains greatly concerned by -- by the violence, by the escalating violence, hundreds of
people killed or injured, including children being pulled from the rubble.
We're also alarmed by how journalists and medical personnel have been put at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Journalist Safwat Kahlout worked in the building and fled on Saturday after a warning went out that it would be hit soon.
And he joins me now from Gaza.
I appreciate you joining us. And thank you so much for taking the time.
If you can't hear me -- I know that there is loud noise in the background there, as we're in the middle of this conflict -- but can you take us back
to that day on Saturday? You have been working in that building for years.
Had you ever experienced a warning like this before?
SAFWAT AL-KAHLOUT, AL-JAZEERA ENGLISH CORRESPONDENT: Well, 11 years working in the same, we -- you could recognize everyone.
As we say, we know what the neighbors cook, because it's 11 years. So -- and I have never seen anything suspicious or abnormal. In our building.,
it's divided -- it consists of two parts, one residential and one commercial.
The commercial one is for lawyers. Most of them is lawyers building, they call it, or royal -- lawyer department. Anyway, in the building where we
are, we have -- where we were, it's most residential than commercial.
So we know most of the people there, and they know us, 11 years. Those who were born when I was -- when I started to work in Al-Jazeera and
frequenting at that office, today, they are 11 years and so on, those who are 11 years. Now they have children.
So, we know we know each other. We have never seen any suspicious thing, anything abnormal. So that was really shocking, when the Israelis said that
they know about military activities in this building.
And this building is one of the most famous buildings in the Gaza Strip, because they have Al-Jazeera and they have the Associated Press. So it's
well-known. It's a title for many, many people. So, if you want to tell somebody where to go, you tell him, you know this building, you go from
this and that.
So it is a title. This is an address, an important place for many Gazans. So it was shocking when we heard about the Israeli excuse and justification
for bombarding 12-floor building in one hit.
GOLODRYGA: Can you describe what that evacuation was like? Israel is said to have called the owner of your building, saying that you have an hour to
evacuate the building.
Thankfully, no one was killed, and I don't believe anyone was injured, but that's still jarring to hear that you have just minutes to flee a building.
What was that hour like?
AL-KAHLOUT: It's everyday -- it's everyday daily affairs. You start the day preparing for the coverage, preparing for reporting, the equipment, the
cameras, editing machines, all the equipment that you need for daily life reporting, especially -- especially on heavy circumstances and the last
So, it's -- the last thing that you are waiting for is somebody knock your door and say, guys, you have one hour to evacuate, because I received a
warning from the Israelis. So, there isn't that much to think of, except how to flee and save your life and the life of your colleagues.
So, everybody started immediately to collect the essential things needed for the coverage. That was really the strange thing, and our colleagues,
that they didn't just drop everything and fled, and they didn't care about anything or everything behind.
No, everybody started to check, talking to each other, preparing to carry camera, editing machine, audio machine. So they started to carry and get
with them the things that they will need for the immediate reporting after they evacuate the building.
So, one hour was enough to leave safe, let's say, to save your life.
AL-KAHLOUT: Yes, yes, but it wasn't enough to take -- to carry the machines, the equipment. This is a fully equipped office with all the
advanced machines needed for the coverage.
And because of the escalation, also, we have extra, rented extra machines, extra cameras, et cetera. So, on the way out, of course, lots of -- tens of
families living in the same building, they were also panicking, lots of children, women trying to carry, like, some clothes, some maybe necessary
So, they could bring limited things with them on their way out. And then once we were settled out outside the building, it's like (INAUDIBLE). You
have -- you are waiting for the next Israeli step, which is bombarding your years of memories, years of experience, years of ceremonies and
celebrations with your colleagues, with your friends.
The office was our second house.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And it was--
AL-KAHLOUT: So, you stay -- as we say, we stay in the office more--
GOLODRYGA: I was just going to say, I'm assuming it's where you--
AL-KAHLOUT: We say the office is your second house.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And it's where you feel safe, and it's where you can do your work.
The Israeli government said that they had shared intelligence with the U.S. about Hamas operatives that they believed were there. We have yet to hear
that. Tony Blinken said that he had not been aware of that.
But you really play a critical role, because you are the eyes and ears of what is transpiring there in Gaza. In this past week, as there's been
bombing and attacks on both sides, you are in such a confined space. And on top of that, you're in the middle of a pandemic.
Can you tell us what this week has been like for civilians there?
AL-KAHLOUT: Could you say that again, please?
GOLODRYGA: Can you tell us what this past week has been like for civilians?
There was so much outrage about the bombing, because people like you are the eyes and ears for the world about what is taking place there in Gaza
during this increased fighting and violence.
AL-KAHLOUT: I hope I understood the question.
But, anyway, I heard you talking about the people and how would they -- what have -- what have they been doing, especially because of the pandemic?
GOLODRYGA: Yes, this past week.
AL-KAHLOUT: Yes, in the last week.
Look, I am now at U.N.-run school, by the way. And 41,000 Palestinian had to evacuate their buildings and their homes in many places all over the
Gaza Strip. Now they are crowded in classrooms, using used mattresses, used cushions, used furniture.
And they are overcrowded in the same -- in the same school. So, no pandemics, no rules, nothing, no prevention, no protection. It's emergency.
It's war. So, I really don't know how would the Ministry of Health deal with this new crisis, since the people all over the world have been
implementing or applying special pandemic or special COVID-19 procedures and protection, while people here are struggling to survive, struggling to
find a place where to sleep, where their children -- no matter what if there were corona, COVID-19 or not, if there is infection, or they could be
On the other hand, the Israelis destroyed many buildings, either tower -- residential towers, residential buildings. Also, many families, they have
to leave and evacuate and look for alternatives, either to stay with relatives or with friends, or to rent a new apartment, which will also
increase -- add more humanitarian and health crisis on the already ongoing health crisis.
Gaza health sector have been suffering for -- now for -- from 15 years of Israeli blockade.
AL-KAHLOUT: And it had to deal with now four wars in less than -- or in 10 years or 11 years.
Adding to that, the last year of COVID-19 was also an overload for the Ministry of Health because of the siege. And they have to deal with
everything and as the humanitarian aid from international organizations.
So, the health system is almost about to collapse. And this war or this escalation will add more -- more catastrophes on the shoulders of the
AL-KAHLOUT: Today, for example, Egypt opened -- I mean, in the last couple of days, Egypt decided to open, exceptionally, its borders for Gaza because
of the waves of injured people resulted from the latest escalation.
So, and they know that the Ministry of Health cannot deal with them and treat them. So, now they are -- almost now three days, they are carrying
injured people from Gaza to treat them in the Sinai and in El Arish.
AL-KAHLOUT: This is the case in Gaza--
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And--
AL-KAHLOUT: -- either with the casualties and/or with the pandemic as well.
GOLODRYGA: Safwat, the humanitarian crisis grows by the days.
Of course, Israel is saying that Hamas is hiding amongst civilians there. As you mentioned, behind you, there's a school where children are not in
school. Their families are being cramped together. Israeli schools are closed as well, a failure of government and leadership, to say the least.
We are just so thankful that you are safe and you were able to get out. And keep up the great work in giving us the latest on the ground there in Gaza.
We appreciate it.
And now the U.K. is taking a step back into normalcy, as many pubs, cafes and restaurants are now open indoors today. Here in -- the U.S. is moving
forward on mask guidance, telling vaccinated Americans that, for the first part, the first -- most of the time, for the first time, they are no longer
necessary inside, people can remove their masks.
While many cheered the new guidance, others were puzzled by it.
Here now to discuss the bright spots ahead, plus areas of COVID concern, is infectious disease doctor Celine Gounder.
Dr. Gounder, great to see you again. Welcome to the program.
So, first, let's start with a bit of good news. It states, well, side here that many Americans, most who have been vaccinated, can take their masks
off both outdoors and indoors. You can understand how this is daunting for millions of Americans over the past 16 months have been told to wear their
masks. So, is this a messaging failure on the part of the CDC or is this sort of a behavioral issue that we are just going to have to work our way
CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST, HOST, EPIDEMIC PODCAST: Bianna, I think the CDC got the science, the medical
science, the epidemiological science right. And there are some key data points that really pave the way for that announcement. First of all, that
if you have been vaccinated, your risk of infection, not just severe disease, hospitalization and death, but your risk of infection is
In the case of Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines, that risk of infection is decreased by about 90 percent. With Johnson & Johnson, a one-dose vaccine,
by about 70 percent. And secondly, that if you are one of those people that gets a breakthrough infection, despite having been vaccinated, somebody
like Bill Maher, for example, or some of the Yankees, as has been reported recently, if you're one of those people, your risk of transmitting onward
to other people is exceedingly low.
And so, that science, which really has just transpired is what allowed for this announcement. What I'd question is not the medical and epidemiological
science but rather the communications, the collaboration with other agencies, coordination with the private sector. And really, the behavioral
science to back up these recommendations.
GOLODRYGA: So, should this have been in hindsight rolled out differently or perhaps slower? This seems to have taken the White House by surprise.
The president was beaming from ear to ear to take his mask off, but we know that there were consequences. That many businesses were concerned about
their employees. CDC director, Walensky, said, basically, that if you're vaccinated, you're safe and we should be on an honor system. Is it really
as simple as that?
GOUNDER: I think, unfortunately, nothing about that pandemic has been simple and I think it might have been more cautious to take a stepwise
approach of saying, OK, here's what the recent science says. This paves the way for a change in our masking guidance.
Let's get other agencies, for example, OSHA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which is in charge of overseeing safety in
workplaces. Let's get them involved. Let's get unions, the private sector, everyone from Walmart to the airlines involved. Let's get schools. You
know, I think this needs to be tailored for the type of situation that you're in.
And also, for local epidemiology. There are parts of the country where vaccination coverage is still low, where transmission is still high, and
you have certain vulnerable sub-groups, for example, communities of color, where vaccination rates are not as high. And it's not that they don't want
to be vaccinated. We see, for example, among Latinx communities, there is very much a demand.
They want to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and yet vaccination services are not in Spanish. They may not be able to afford to take a time
off work, not just for the day of vaccination but, let's say, they have side effects, that could mean one, two, three days off work where they're
not getting paid. So, those are very real barriers.
And I think those populations should have been really taken more into consideration in making changes to guidance.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Look, it's a huge country and there are different pockets of where COVID is still continuing to be a big problem and areas where it's
gotten much better. And vaccines are going up. That is great news. But we have less than 40 percent of Americans who have been fully vaccinated.
Nowhere near herd immunity.
Quickly, before we move overseas, I do want to ask you about the child component. I've been working on education and COVID throughout this year
and a big question for millions of families is what the summer is going to look like, now that 12 to 15-year-olds can be vaccinated. The guidelines
from the CDC still recommend masking children, especially those that haven't been vaccinated. Do you think that's going to change at all?
GOUNDER: I do think we're going to see an update for camps, for schools, as more and more kids get vaccinated. And that the guidance will really --
especially for that 12 and up group, that is eligible for vaccination now, that we will see a shift in guidance based on that.
GOLODRYGA: Let's move to the U.K. Some hopeful news there, as people who have been quarantined and stuck inside are finally able to go out doors and
congregate a bit more. Two households can meet indoors now. This is something that Prime Minister Johnson has been touting, but of course there
is another variant from India that is percolating. And though there is a high vaccination rate in the country, do you think that lifting some of
these implementations is too soon, given that we have this new variant?
GOLODRYGA: So, what's concerning about this new Indian variant, the B1617.2 variant is like the U.K. variant, the B177 variant, it is more
infectious. And we don't know, frankly, which one of those will win out in sort of a race, one against the other, as the more infectious one.
But when you have a more infectious virus, your threshold for herd immunity, for really reducing transmission in the population, even if
you're below the level of herd immunity, you need that many more people vaccinated to have the same impact on the population with a more infectious
And so, you know, I think where maybe having 40 percent of the population, you know, 50 percent of the population vaccinated with a less-infectious
virus is enough to start relaxing on some of these measures with a more infectious variant, that may not be enough.
GOLODRYGA: And just since we've been on-air, we've seen news that the U.S. is going to be sharing 20 million more doses, vaccine doses around the
world. This is something that many countries have been asking for, especially since COVAX has announced a shortfall of 105 million doses to be
delivered to developing countries. We continue to see the huge outbreaks there. In India and in surrounding countries, 4,000 new cases reported a
day in India. I know you have a personal connection. You have family in India there. It is traumatizing to see what's playing out.
Give us your take on this new news coming out of the White House and will that make a dent?
GOUNDER: Look, 20 million doses, depending on if that's a one-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson or a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer and
Moderna, that's less than 1 percent of the Indian population. This is a tiny, tiny, tiny drop in the ocean of what's needed. And even COVAX has
really not been ambitious enough. We need 11 million doses -- excuse me, 11 billion doses of vaccine, at least, to get the world vaccinated.
And so, when you're talking about millions of doses, that's just paltry. And we need to be much more ambitious and be thinking about really getting
everybody vaccinated. Not just token, you know, minor contributions to the overall effort.
GOLODRYGA: Dr. Gounder, you have been in this since the get-go and we appreciate your contributions here in the U.S., this is a battle that is
not over and obviously, other countries around the world in particular, India, our thoughts are with you and your family there. Thank you for all
that you've done. I'm a big fan of your podcast, as I've told you earlier. Thank you so much for joining us.
GOUNDER: My pleasure.
GOLODRYGA: Well, now, during the pandemic, many of us have had to wrestle with big emotions like grief and issues surrounding finances and
relationships. Well, our next guest, Anna Sale, explores these difficult topics on her interview podcast, "Death, Sex, and Money." Her new book,
"Let's Talk About Hard Things" is based on what she's learned from these conversations. And here she is sharing those lessons from our Hari
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bianna. Anna Sale, thanks for joining us.
As we're all coming out of this horrible year and a half, and we've got almost 600,000 Americans dead, death is a topic that is in households, in
families today. While it's universal, why is it so difficult for us to talk about it?
ANNA SALE, AUTHOR, LET'S TALKS ABOUT HARD THINGS": Oh, I think because we want to be able to fix it with words. We want to be able to -- if we're
talking to someone who is in deep grief, we want to be able to offer words that will lift the sting of loss and we can't. We can't undo that loss.
So, what I really urge people to do in the book is to think about, what are the ways you can offer care and comfort by just joining them where they are
and validating wherever they are, however they're feeling about a loss, you can feel a lot of things when you're feeling grief, not just sadness, but
also anger, you know, helplessness, and just saying, I'm so sorry this happened, and showing that person that you will be with them while they
move through that grief.
SREENIVASAN: You recall a painful story of a friend who lost a baby that died late in the pregnancy. And what do you do when there's no right thing
you can say? I mean, who prepares us for comforting someone in that kind of situation?
SALE: I think there have been institutions and conventions and sort of ways of being that have prepared us through generations. And part of what I
explore in the book is how a lot of that has fallen away or become less pronounced in American society.
So, actually, if you feel more of a burden on your own shoulders, as an individual to figure out how to have these conversations, you're not making
it up, you know. And if you felt it before COVID, certainly you feel it more now, where we couldn't even gather and hug and comfort physically in
the same way. We had to use words.
But I remember that feeling of helplessness, when my friend called me and said, my pregnancy -- my baby has died. I had to deliver this baby that
isn't alive. And all I feel is sadness and so wanting to lift that pain from her and knowing that I couldn't.
And so, what I tried to do instead is to listen, to see what she needed to share and then to stay in touch with her and to be a person where she knew
she could talk about it, because it didn't go away. It hasn't gone away. This was years ago and she still celebrates her baby's birthday, which was
also his death day, every year.
And she decided that she was going to be quite open about this loss, because she needed to be. And she's found that a lot of other families have
sought her out when they go through that kind of private loss. You know, it can be hard to figure out where to go, because we don't gather for funerals
in the same kind of way with pregnancy loss. And she's accompanied other families through those layers of grief.
SREENIVASAN: What made you want to write a book? I mean, you also added family and identity along with sex, money, and death, but why now?
SALE: I kind of felt like -- you know, I've been doing interviews with people about personal topics for a long time. And part of what happens on
my show that's really special is people share things that they haven't before. And people would ask me, like, what is it about the way that you
talk about these things that makes people open up? And I hadn't really paused to figure out what was happening in those conversations.
What is the quality of an exchange that feels safe or open or curious that allows people to be vulnerable with me, a stranger, as an interviewer? And
then I also wanted to think about, how do I do this so well at work, and not so well, you know, in conversations with my spouse or family members or
friends when there's conflict or hard things? You know, I also have that impulse to want to fix and just sort of paper over what feels tough.
So, I wanted to spend some time with creating a book that both gave you a sense of, here's where to start, here's some very simple tips about --
thinking about how you listen and signal that you want to have a different kind of conversation with someone in your life.
And then I also wanted to have a series of stories, not just from my life, but also from other people that I include so that you could be comforted by
all the ways that these hard things have shown up in other people's lives, because I think what makes challenging hard things in our lives feel so
painful is that they can feel really isolating and alienating, and you can feel like you're the only one and don't know how to reach out for help.
SREENIVASAN: In the chapter on sex, you've talked to a sex worker and he says, every type of sex is a transaction. So, you have to be clear in terms
each time. And he has a relatively simple question. What are you into? That is almost like a philosophy lesson that comes from that.
SALE: Yes. I really actually love this deep life lesson came to me from a gay sex worker who has all kinds of interactions with people. And when he
described sex as a transaction, I was like, oh, that sounds very cold and not romantic and, you know, the kind of connection that can happen.
But I think what he is saying there is like, when two people are deciding to be together, physically and to share that with each other, one -- you
are giving something to the other person. And sometimes, you know, you may be after the same thing. You know, you might want to be after a long-term
relationship and marriage and family and a very -- that sort of image together.
And sometimes, you know, you might want -- one of you might be just out of a breakup and looking for a distraction. And the other of you might just,
you know, be someone who enjoys being single and meeting new people. And when we don't talk about what we're looking for each -- from the other,
that's where a lot of miscommunication, pain, can happen.
So, with that question, what are you into, you know, it's a prompt to first get clear for yourself, like, hmm, what do I need and want right now in a
romantic encounter? Like, what am I after? And also, to remind yourself that you need to ask the person that you are doing this with, like, what
are you up for, what are you into? Like to see if it matches up.
SREENIVASAN: In the chapters about money, there's a line in there that says, money is like oxygen, it surrounds us, flowing in and out of our
lives, and when you're short of it, nothing else matters.
And during this past year, I think, collectively, we have engaged in more conversations about money because of large-scale unemployment that happened
or realizing what's an essential worker and what are they worth and the type of work that they're doing and how they're being rewarded versus, I'm
a white-collar worker and I could stay at home and I can still function, right? But what is it about money that is so off-putting to have
SALE: Oh, well, I think it's, for one, when we say we're talking about money, we're talking about all of these things, all at once, you know?
We're talking about our individual choices about spending and saving, you know, either your personal choices around money. That's one thing.
You're also talking about whatever cultural values you have around money and about interdependence versus being strong on your own and independence.
You're also talking about, you know, how you feel like you stack up next to your neighbors. If you feel like you have more than you've earned or not
enough, compared to the people around you.
So, there's a lot of, you know, for as much as we talk about inequality and difference when it comes to money in America, we also like to -- you know,
you can look at polls and you can see, even as the share of the middle class has gotten smaller, people's -- like, they still identify as middle
class in high numbers. We still want to feel like we're part of some collective middle. So, acknowledging difference can feel quite awkward.
SREENIVASAN: You also spoke to -- in this, for this chapter, one of the cofounders of Facebook, Chris Hughes, who is wealthy by all of our
imaginations. Why was that conversation important?
SALE: Well, I was really curious because he's someone who admits that like he has a lot more money in his bank account than he has earned with effort.
You know, he happened to be one of the cofounders of Facebook, which meant when that took off, he won big.
So, he talks a lot about this winner-take-all economy is what he calls it. And he's used some of his wealth to create a critique of how that's working
in our economy. And looked at things like universal basic income, for example, as a way to look at addressing some inequality in our country.
And as he's doing that, he's having to admit, what I have is the result of a system that I think we ought to change. So, I wanted to know, how do you
sit with that? You know, how do you sit with knowing this incredible wealth and fortune that you have is the result of a system that you think should
be tweaked? And what is it like when you try to talk about that openly, you know?
And so, there's a political piece to what he talks about. I'm talking about this, because if I don't talk about it, we're not being honest about how
our system is actually working. But he also talked about the personal aspect that makes it icky and weird.
Like, it's -- he walks into a room and he's aware that most everyone knows that he's the richest guy in the room and he still wants to feel belonging,
you know, social belonging. So, how do you, at once, acknowledge that you are, yes, the wealthiest guy in the room, and here's why, and still have
functional social interactions.
So, I wanted to talk with him about that. And it's not something that's simple. It's not something he can explain away and say the right thing and
all of a sudden everybody's going to just treat him like one of the guys, you know, because money is consequential. These differences exist. But I
just want to applaud him for trying, for saying, I'm not just going to like pretend like that this wealth that I have -- I'm not going to not
acknowledge it, because it is hugely consequential.
SREENIVASAN: You have a chapter on family and there's a couple of characters that you speak with, Pam and George who are probably like so
many other people in the United States right now who find themselves at absolute political odds, but what was it between them that we can model?
SALE: Yes. I loved their story, because George is an older gentleman, he's a retired tool and dime maker in Michigan who supported Trump and his
stepdaughter lives in San Francisco and identifies as a political liberal and absolutely did not support Trump.
And in 2016, they found themselves all of a sudden spending a lot more time together because Pam's mother, George's wife, developed dementia. And so,
they were both wanting to be with her and now, spending a lot more time together. And what was critical there was they knew that this was a powder
keg. You know, this could have gone really wrong and destroyed their relationship if they had talked about politics without thinking about how
it happened. And they both made an effort.
You know, George, when Pam first cape to his house, Pam noticed, he used to always have Fox News on in the house all the time and she noticed that he
would turn it off when she was in the house, which just felt like an accommodation that was welcoming, you know. And Pam joked, they just
watched a lot of "Family Feud."
And finally, they started -- they were watching a debate together, this was during the 2016 election and Pam described them sitting on the couch
together. And finally, they looked together and laughed about 30 minutes in because they realized both of them had been so nervous, neither had made a
sound, you know, for first 30 minutes. And when they laughed, George said to Pam, he said, you know, I just want you to know, our relationship is
more important to me than politics. And Pam said, I agree.
And what that sentence indicated was, I'm going to take care of how I talk to you, I want to make sure we have a connection, and I'm not going to
start railing about politics in a way that I know is going to make you feel, you know, angry, rejected or want to debate me and be destructive.
And once they established that, what was interesting was they started to be able to talk about politics. And they would talk about it, but with a
spirit of curiosity more than trying to win a debate.
SREENIVASAN: Political identity seems so important, but you have a whole section that just looks at all the different ways that we're comprised of
so many multiple identities, whether it's linguistic or cultural or racial or like gender or geography, right? I mean, and we have this instinctive
defensiveness when any of those feels attacked, which makes a hard conversation just kind of shut down from the get go.
SALE: Yes. I wanted to lift up that how you are oriented in a conversation about identity really is something to pay attention to. For example, if
you're talking to someone who is different than you, who might have a really different experience of feeling belonging in certain spaces. Like,
as an example, you know, I'm a white woman. In most of the newsrooms where I've worked, I've been surrounded by mostly white people. And what is it
like when I'm talking to a colleague who is a colleague of color?
You know, I was sort of taught growing up that the way to be good in talking about identity was to kind of immediately try to empathize and
express our common, what we share in common, to kind of try to say like, yes, you know, I see you, you're just like me, and I actually think that's
the wrong impulse.
You know, part of what makes identity conversations tricky is that it's about lingering in that difference and allowing someone else's experience
on this earth, walking through our society, if it sounds very unfamiliar to you to say, oh, that's different than me, but I want to hear more about
that. I can hear you without feeling like you're attacking my own identity.
But what I wanted to underline there is there's a difference then in the imperative of listening. Like, both parties, in a conversation around
difference around identity ought to listen to one another. But for someone for whom it's with more power, who feels more belonging, you know, more in
their daily lives, the imperative is to do more listening.
To really understand, because they're describing an experience that is unfamiliar to you, unfamiliar to me, for example. And I need to sit with
that idea that I can't intuit what it is like for them to move through American society. I need to hear and listen and incorporate that into the
complicated way I understand our society working.
SREENIVASAN: Anna Sale, host of the podcast "Death, Sex, and Money" and also author of "Let's Talk About Hard Things," thanks so much.
SALE: Thank you, Hari.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Such important advice for having those hard conversations.
And finally, tremendous ways to combat climate change. The U.K. has announced that it will triple the rate it plants trees over the next three
years. It's all part of its global goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The royal family are also branching out. They're encouraging
communities to plant a tree for the jubilee to celebrate the queen's 70- year reign. As Prince Charles says, planting a tree is a statement of hope and faith in the future.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from