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Understanding the Taliban; Afghanistan in Crisis; Interview with Ian Fritz; Interview with Richard Thaler. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 23, 2021 - 13:00:00 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.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Thousands still wait for evacuation amid growing danger in Kabul. I will talk with two Afghans about their country losing
its best and brightest, plus U.S. Air Force veteran Ian Fritz on his time eavesdropping on the Taliban.
CAPT. ERIN BRYMER, U.S. ARMY: When I evaluated the patient, we were past the point of no return.
GOLODRYGA: Expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. We get one nurse's story of delivering a baby on board a U.S. evacuation plane.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I think, for people who have been waiting for this, the -- I think -- and that's a small number of people,
but I think still significant -- I think this may tip them over toward getting vaccinated.
GOLODRYGA: With the FDA granting full approval for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, will more people be nudged to get a jab? Rock star behavioral
economist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler joins me to discuss how people can be persuaded to make better decisions for themselves and the
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
Thousands are still desperately trying to evacuate Kabul one week after the Taliban's takeover, this as the U.S. ramps up evacuation flights in a race
to meet the self-imposed August 31 deadline; 16,000 people managed to leave the country between Sunday and Monday morning, the largest number in a 24-
hour period to date.
But President Joe Biden is facing increasing pressure from allies to extend his deadline to get more people out. The Taliban is resolute, saying an
extension for foreign troops is a red line.
Now, this comes ahead of Tuesday's emergency G7 meeting on the Afghanistan crisis. Afghanistan now faces a brain drain, with fears over the Taliban
targeting Afghan intellectuals and activists.
With me to dig into this is Sara Wahedi in New York. She is the 26-year-old founder of Ehtesab, an app that tracks violence across Kabul. Also joining
me is Afghan journalist Sami Mahdi, who just made it out of the country.
Welcome, both of you, Sara and Sami.
Let me begin by just asking you, from a personal perspective, what has this experience been like, watching what's happening in your native country from
Sara, let me begin with you.
SARA WAHEDI, FOUNDER & CEO, EHTESAB: Thank you, Bianna.
It feels like a nightmare, to be honest. I can only imagine yesterday just going out with my friends, visiting with my team, planning our nationwide
launch for our app. And watching it just collapse within days, it really truly felt like a nightmare.
And the fact that our city has now become disconnected from the world in so many ways is unbelievable to me.
GOLODRYGA: And, Sami, I mean, from a professional and personal standpoint, your job as a journalist is to tell the stories to the outside world. Now
that that window is closing rapidly, what has this been like for you?
SAMI MAHDI, AFGHAN JOURNALIST: Well, I echo Sara's words that it's like a nightmare, unfortunately.
And the other day, I was talking to a friend and asking about the atmosphere in Kabul. He was saying it feels dark even during the day. So,
it means that the fear, the terror and the hopelessness about the future with the Taliban regime has come back, come back to the city.
But it has been particularly difficult for journalists and civil society activists who want to react to the Taliban. And the space has been
shrinking, unfortunately, for the journalists, as we hear family member of journalists in Herat in the Western Afghanistan was killed by the Taliban,
and also female anchors and journalists of the state TV were asked not to come -- not to come to work anymore.
GOLODRYGA: And these are just the first of many stories like this, unfortunately, I believe, that we will be hearing.
And, Sara, we have spent many days now the past week, and, of course, we will continue to cover the exodus and the escape of not only Americans
there, but obviously Afghans who feel that their life is at risk because of the assistance that they have provided for the U.S. government.
But we also today I wanted to give a perspective of what life has been like for young Afghans in the country over the past 20 years. And that is why we
are talking to you, because you were there as an entrepreneur, as somebody who incorporated the reality of even terror on the ground, sometimes on a
daily basis, with what could be, the promise of what could be, with the use of education, technology and women.
Talk to us about your app in particular. What is it? What did it do?
WAHEDI: It's called Ehtesab.
And it came to me in 2018 May. I was walking home, and there was a suicide explosion about 100 meters away from me. I had heard someone screaming that
he has a vest, and everyone, this giant a mob of people started running. And the entire experience has just changed my life.
The next morning, I woke up. Our streets were closed. We had no access to information. And I wanted to understand, where can I get information about
what's going on in my city, in my area?
And we did some research, and it showed that even when you call the equivalent of 911 in Afghanistan, people are taking down your reports on
Post-it notes, that there was such a disconnection between the people and those that they are serving, not just because of the fact that -- the
situation at hand, but just because the money that was allocated for a lot of projects, especially state building, just wasn't allocated properly.
So, with the ability of having a startup, you don't have to work within the parameters of an NGO or a project funded by an international organization.
So, with the startup, the fact that we have no limits, we created this app, which is essentially a crisis alert app. It provides you real-time and
verified notifications, push notifications to your phone. In our second phase, we would like to do it with geofencing. That means that, while
you're going around, your location is tracked.
So if you're 500 meters away from an attack, we would send you a push notification, and it would be much more specific to the user to ensure the
safety that we can provide for them. Right now, it's sending everything that happens.
So, whatever we verified in the city, it sends information about traffic stops, it sends information about security, about electricity, gas prices,
So, right now, we're just trying to alleviate the anxiety of Afghans to say that we are a non-governmental, non-politically affiliated group of youth
all under 25 who just want to alleviate the stress and anxiety that we have been oppressed upon at this point.
GOLODRYGA: And Ehtesab translates, I believe, in Dari and Pashto to accountability.
And that is what you are trying to send to your users, that you are accountable for what is going around in their environment there.
Just a basic question. I know you do have employees on the ground, some of them women. And, of course, we want to make sure that they are safe right
now. How is this app functioning today, given all the chaos that we have seen and the Taliban taking over?
I mean, I have the most wonderful team. These are our young Afghans who will not have fall to the situation at hand. And that's what I love, the
beauty of technologies, that we are protesting in our own way. We have put in the parameters to keep them confidential.
All of our information of our team has been completely wiped. We have put in parameters for their I.P.s, for other computers, and they want to work.
And when the Taliban were coming into Kabul, we were all crying. And we were wondering, should we shut everything down right at this point, when
people really could -- need this information.
And all of them made a collective decision that, no, we're going to keep doing our work. And even this brain drain, my team are much more talented
than I am in so many ways, and they are unable to leave, because those who are able to leave have those connections with the U.S. government or a
foreign government, who have been working on a project.
But there are so many best and brightest of Afghanistan who will not -- will never be able to leave, because it is literally a lottery at this
point. Whoever gets in, they have done everything they can to get the connections to do what they can, who stand -- who stood there in line at
the airport for 10 hours, 20 hours, days.
And there are so many youths, more than anyone, that are stuck there and will be stuck there because of this very unrealistic timeline. And I urge
all those to rethink this, because Afghanistan's best and brightest will be stuck there. And we do have a collective responsibility to see to their
response, to their safety.
GOLODRYGA: Sami, let me ask you about that, because there seems to be a debate and confusion over what even President Biden has justified as his
rationale for having such a hasty exodus.
And that is that the former leadership, the Afghan leadership, when President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah came to visit him in the White House
in June, had apparently urged him not to start withdrawing Afghans there because they did not want to look as if the situation was turning into a
And here we are today.
I want to play for you sound that -- from Abdullah Abdullah.I interviewed him during his trip here. It seems like ages ago. It was just two months
ago. Take a listen to what he said about this potential for a brain drain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, CHAIRMAN, AFGHAN HIGH COUNCIL FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION: Under difficult conditions and circumstances, to leave the
country would not be a solution.
We need those people to help us in dealing with the challenges that we are faced with. But, meanwhile, I cannot talk for every single individual and
its concerns, its worries for his family and so on and so forth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, Sami, in theory, for a country to succeed, you do not want a brain drain. You would like for the youth to continue their innovation in
the country, their education there, contribution to the economy.
But when their safety can't be guaranteed, when women in particular don't know if they can return to work, is there any reality and what he had said
MAHDI: Well, the same thing has been saved by President Ashraf Ghani in 2015 when he was asked a similar question.
But the reality is that he was one of those Afghans who left the country during the Soviets' returned to the country after maybe three decades. So
there is a difference always between the rhetoric and the reality on the ground.
But at the same time, brain drain is something very dangerous for any country, especially for Afghanistan, who has produced so many youngsters
and academics and skilled workers in the past two decades, with the help of international community.
Now we are witnessing losing this generation of our people, unfortunately. But I think, with the evacuation operation that the United States is
leading now in Afghanistan, we can not save the country .It's not just about few thousand people.
It's about 30 million people in Afghanistan, more than 30 million people in Afghanistan, who want to have a chance to live and to live their dreams.
Unfortunately, their dreams will be taken away by a regime imposed by the Taliban, if the international community shows any kind of readiness to
recognize internationally such a regime.
And Taliban are so much eager to get that kind of recognition, which they didn't have it in -- I mean, in 1990s.
GOLODRYGA: And so, Sami, is there any leverage at this point that the West still holds over the Taliban? I know, obviously, financially, that that
could very well be the case.
Specifically in terms of women and their contributions to the economy and to society, I mean, I know just, for example, you produce a program about
domestic abuse of Afghan women. It's called "The Mask."
Will concepts like these continue under Taliban rule? And would there be a way to maybe have some leverage from the West over this?
MAHDI: Well, I -- unfortunately, I don't think that concepts such as niqab or, "The Mask," which I was producing like 10 years ago will continue in
Afghanistan under a Taliban regime, because the relationship between the Taliban and freedom of expression has been something brutal and full of
black, colored with black, unfortunately.
But, yes, international community, it still has a leverage over Taliban, because Taliban are seeking international recognition. And, also, any
future Afghan governments will be dependent on international humanitarian assistance.
The international community can still use this leverage to push the Taliban to recognize human rights, freedom of expression, women rights, and other
basic rights, including minorities' rights.
I hope that international community does not give up on Afghanistan and does not rush into recognizing the Taliban. I mean something similar to
what he did in Doha agreement.
GOLODRYGA: Sara, for those that don't know your story, you were born in Afghanistan as a child. You left. I believe you spent a good number of
years in Canada. And then you returned.
And then that is where you started this app and this company. Obviously, given the circumstances, you have now left.
What do you think the future holds for you and your colleagues back there? And what is your message to our viewers around the world about investing in
that very young and educated and bright community and in all of those women and girls in particular?
WAHEDI: You know, Afghans are incredibly resilient people.
It feels like -- I have said this before -- Groundhog Day, because we continue to relive this nightmare. The fact that we were seeing images of
the Taliban in stadiums with women in burqa holding a rifle to their head or stoning them, the fact that that was portrayed at a time when the world
was not as connected as it is now, and now we have the travesty of repeating that nightmare is something that we all must hang our heads in
But that Afghan youth, if they are forced to leave or whether they are in the country, there will be two groups who will be working relentlessly to
find a solution.
And my grandfather, before he passed, I wasn't able to bury him because I had to leave to come to school in the states. He told me that this
generation will die off, that this generation of fear, of people who want to push this narrative on you, they will be gone, but that does not mean
that you must wait for that day. You have to prepare for that day. You have to prepare to take the lead.
And I will be fighting every single moment. And I have since we have had guilt had to deal with the situation of finding whatever way to prepare for
the future. And my next project will be regarding education, because we made a big mistake not properly investing in Afghan education in 2000.
Can you imagine the population and the -- even more so the educated Afghans now, even though, with the limitations they have, we have such talented
Afghans. But I will be fighting. I know that we know Afghans within the country who will have to be stuck there because of this unrealistic
timeline, they will be doing what they can.
But we must work together. We cannot do this alone. And we do need the support of international community work with those who they believe in, and
because, without that, we will be leaving Afghanistan left home to dry by itself.
GOLODRYGA: Education and journalism, two fields so important to fight for, which I know that you both are doing and you will continue to do.
We wish you and your colleagues, especially those who are still in Afghanistan, all the best. Sara and Sami, thank you so much for your time
and your dedication to your country.
Well, coming up after the break: The Taliban claimed to have changed, but can they be trusted? Our next guest knows them inside out.
We are joined by U.S. Air Force vet Ian Fritz, a bird's-eye perspective on the Taliban coming up.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back.
More on our top story now, the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, a decision that could impact around 4,000 people. The Pentagon says that
locally employed embassy staff who are eligible for Special Immigrant Visas to the U.S. will -- are still being processed at Kabul Airport.
Earlier reports had said that the U.S. was asking people with SIVs to stay away, so that the exit of American citizens and green card holders could be
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says the crucial thing now is that the U.S. keeps in clear communication with the Taliban as it works to improve access
to the airport.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We are very interested in making sure that access to the airport remains as fluid as possible, particularly
for American citizens trying to get in, as well as our Special Immigrant Visa applicants.
And there's a lot of factors that go into making sure that access remains secure and that we can facilitate it. And what this -- what the president
was referring to was, was efforts to improve that access from a geographical space out beyond just the perimeter of the airfield.
And I won't speak to the details of how we're -- how we're managing that. But you can imagine thus far and going forward, it does require constant
coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, with Afghanistan in a desperately precarious state right now, what do we actually know for certain about the group now in control of
Air Force veteran Ian Fritz is uniquely placed to answer that question. His new piece in "The Atlantic" has gone viral. It's called "What I Learned
While Eavesdropping on the Taliban." And it details the hundreds of hours he spent observing them from the sky.
And he joins me now from Portland, Maine.
Welcome to the program.
So, talk to us about what exactly your job entailed. From what I understand, only 20 people in the world were trained to do what you did.
IAN FRITZ, U.S. AIR FORCE VETERAN: Yes, so my job title was that of an airborne cryptologic linguist.
And what that meant, my position was that I provided what's known as threat warning to the aircraft and to military forces on the ground.
GOLODRYGA: And you were formally trained in Dari and Pashto. You flew 99 missions for a total of 600 hours, but only 20 of those flights and 100 of
those hours actually involved firefights.
So you had the opportunity to listen to the Taliban for hours, for the fighters, and understand what their conversations were like. And not all of
it had to do with fighting.
Can you give us a sense of what their relationships were like with each other and some of the most memorable instances that you picked up on?
Their relationships were strong, I would say. There was this incredible sense of camaraderie and of brotherhood that I think was incredibly
important for their ability to keep fighting.
I wrote about in the piece one of the funniest things I have ever heard in my life was this story of two guys talking about going, and one guy wants
the other guy to place an IED down somewhere. And the second guy says, I don't really want to do it. I don't want to do it. And they keep arguing,
and they're going back and forth.
And, finally, the first guy really kind of commands him. He says, you have to go do it. You have to go do this job. And the second guy says, it's too
cold to jihad.
GOLODRYGA: And you write: "When it was too cold to jihad, that IED still got planted."
That gives you a sense of their dedication to the mission at hand. And I think that speaks to the larger conversation now as to whether we should --
the United States should be leaving after 20 years. Should the United States stay for a few more years?
What was your sense from listening to these conversations about how they weren't committed to their task at hand and to fighting until the end?
FRITZ: I felt that their commitment was sort of incontrovertible.
There was -- they were never going to stop, no matter what we did. I think we were trying to win hearts and minds. This is the phrase we have all
heard many a time. The Taliban didn't necessarily care about winning them. They just took them by any means necessary. And that was what they were
going to do eventually to the rest of the country.
GOLODRYGA: And while you were able to obviously find the commonality between the Taliban and U.S. forces, and we're all human, and they told
jokes just like Americans tell jokes and military officers tell jokes, and they cursed as well.
But they had something that you say was surprising. And that is, even if they had losses, they still considered it a win if America suffered as
And that is a thing to this day that I still try and understand. I have missions where Americans were lost, and I don't really remember us ever
thinking of any mission where a single American died as any sort of victory or success.
But the Taliban could have a mission where 100 of them died, And no matter what, just the act of fighting was the reward in and of itself, it seemed.
GOLODRYGA: And a pivotal moment for you was when you realized that they knew you were there, too, and that you weren't just eavesdropping on them.
At times, you felt that they specifically wanted you to hear what they had to say.
What made you come to that conclusion? It is a bit chilling.
FRITZ: I think that, in any war, both sides can understand the technology of their enemy.
And you will use that to your advantage. I mean, we know that the Taliban uses Twitter for propaganda, right? What's the difference between using
communications that they can be relatively certain are monitored for that same sort of propaganda if maybe -- maybe it was a front, right, maybe that
they're just pretending.
But I think, given how often and how just usually the same it was, how often they repeated the same sort of just, we're going to do it, we're
going to do it, it is very disheartening after a point.
GOLODRYGA: What were they fighting for? What was it that kept them so resilient and dedicated to this mission at hand? Was it to hurt Westerners
and Americans in particular? Or was it to fight for their own country? What did you think about that?
FRITZ: That's a tough question.
I think trying to speak to anything that such a diverse entity as the Taliban wants is difficult. But I will say, I think they were fighting for
what they truly, completely believed was theirs, which is to say, the country, the land, the idea of Afghanistan.
They firmly felt that it was theirs to take and theirs to have.
GOLODRYGA: So, with that in mind, if you were to have an audience with the president or his top advisers, what would you say about the idea of leaving
the country, as is currently taking place now, vs. other suggestions that a U.S. presence should remain there for the foreseeable future?
FRITZ: I would say this is very complicated, and I can't claim to understand how you're going to make any of these decisions.
But I would say we were there for 20 years, and it didn't necessarily seem that we were that much closer to accomplishing some -- the idea of building
up of a nation.
Now, that said, I would say, the way things are unfolding now, the way our withdrawal has come about now do not seem -- they are not ideal. They're
not good. What is happening Afghanistan right now is not a good thing.
And I do wish that somehow this could have been carried out slightly differently.
GOLODRYGA: I'm just curious, were you able to listen to my previous segment with Sami and Sara?
FRITZ: I only caught the tail end of it, unfortunately.
GOLODRYGA: Obviously, Sara, an entrepreneur who came back to Afghanistan and started an app there, Sami, a journalist on the ground who had to leave
for safety reasons, they are still determined to fight for their brethren and the next generation who had accomplished so much in these 20 years.
And I'm just curious, from your perspective, of what you have heard from the Taliban and what you have garnered from observing them, is there is
there a fighting chance for this next generation to continue making all of the inroads that we have seen?
FRITZ: I think there will always be a fighting chance.
I think that, just demographically, the number of Taliban vs. the number of non-Taliban Afghans is, you know, incredibly small. I think it will be an
incredibly difficult battle.
And I -- I just can't imagine how brave these people are who are willing to fight that battle. But I do think that eventually, they stand a good
GOLODRYGA: And why do you say that? Just the sheer numbers?
FRITZ: Numbers help. I didn't just join the Air Force and two days later, wind up in Afghanistan. I spent three years learning how to do something.
And I spent a lot of that time learning from Afghans who had left Afghanistan and teach at the language school that I went to. And just as,
you know, the Afghans who are part of the Taliban have this indomitable will, I think many, many non-Taliban Afghans that I met have that same
will, and that they will try and figure out a way to use their will power to fight back.
GOLODRYGA: Some hopeful words that many hopes prove to be true. Thank you so much for your perspective. I think it was really eye-opening for many
readers to get a sense of the Taliban is like and how they communicate with each other on a daily basis.
Ian Fritz, thank you, we appreciate it.
FRITZ: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And still to come tonight, the birth of a new life, as Afghans leave their old ones behind. Hear from a nurse who delivered a baby aboard
a U.S. C-17.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. We want to bring you a positive update on the vaccine rollout in the United States. Pfizer has become the first COVID-19
vaccine to gain full FDA approval. Previously, it was only given an emergency use authorization. CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth
Cohen, joins me now from New York to discuss the significance of this step.
And, Elizabeth, many had been awaiting this moment, explain why it is so important, and what this means for the country at large, specifically those
who have been skeptical about getting vaccinated?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Bianna, let's talk about what the hope is. I don't know that anyone is convinced that full
approval is going to make a big difference quickly. It is going to have hopefully good effects. So, let's take a look at what the hope is.
The hope is, is that some people, about nearly a third of Americans who haven't been vaccinated, will say oh, now, it has full approval, now, I'll
get vaccinated. But you know what, so many people in the United States have such crazy misinformation about the vaccine, that even full approval might
not do the trick. It does allow Pfizer to advertise legally, they can only advertise once they have full approval.
Pharmaceutical companies, they know how to make convincing ads. Let's hope they're able to do it in this case. This last one is probably the most
important one, that full approval will encourage more employers, restaurants, concert venues, et cetera, to require the vaccine. So, it's
one thing to say, oh, I read on Facebook that getting the vaccine makes your, you know, right arm fall off, I'm not going to get it, it is another
thing when your boss tells you, you have to get it, you might start realizing that you have been fed misinformation and you might roll up your
sleeve. So, that is the hope.
Well, let's take a look at the number of Americans who have not gotten vaccinated because that's who we're hoping this will convince. So, about 84
million Americans have not -- about 82, sorry, 82 million Americans who are eligible have not gotten vaccinated. That is 29 percent of the eligible
population of folks 12 and up. That's exactly who people are hoping this approval, hoping that it will affect them, most likely, according to
everyone I've talked to, it is going to be by mandates and requirements, the full approval may convince some, probably not a whole lot.
GOLODRYGA: Elizabeth, can you explain the difference and what goes into a full FDA approval versus an emergency use authorization?
COHEN: Right. It's interesting, because this is all based on the same data. Pfizer did a clinical trial with about 44,000 people. And so, what
they found is that when they did this trial, with 44,000 people, in November -- or in December, rather, the FDA said, OK, we're going to look
at this data that you have so far, and it is 95 percent effective.
But it's interesting, months later, they looked at it and found that it was only 91 percent effective. So, months later, when they started to look at
it, and it wasn't because of Delta, just because time had passed, because Delta hadn't happened yet, they looked at it, let's say, in the spring,
early summer and they said it is only 91 percent effective.
So, that doesn't quite answer your question. But now, I'll answer your question, Bianna, which is that with the full approval, they just have more
data to go on. They just look at more data. And they do a longer-term analysis. And they're very careful. As you can see, the efficacy went down,
they weren't afraid to say it, it went from 95 to 91 percent. Still, an incredible vaccine with incredible efficacy. Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Good news when we are desperate for some right now. What does this mean for other vaccines like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson? Could
we be expecting the same from the FDA in the coming days, weeks, and months?
COHEN: Yes. Eventually, you know, Moderna will get full approval and it could actually be a relatively short period of time. I don't know how much
of a difference that will make. You know, most Americans have Pfizer available to them. They can get to it. This first full approval is the most
important one. This will hopefully say to employers and to restaurants, and et cetera, et cetera, all right, now you can feel comfortable mandating it
or requiring it. This first one is the most important one.
GOLODRYGA: That is true. And on that note, we will be hearing from the president any time now, to talk about this news that the FDA has fully
approved the Pfizer vaccine.
As always, Elizabeth, thank you, for your expertise and breaking this down for us.
GOLODRYGA: We appreciate it.
Well, for days we have witnessed the desperate scramble by thousands of people trying to make it out of Kabul Airport. Many have been waiting for
days on end in the searing summer heat with extremely limited bathroom facilities and nowhere to sleep but the floor. So, imagine going through
that trauma while heavily pregnant, and then going into labor on board an evacuation aircraft. Atika Shubert has the extraordinary story of one
Afghan woman who experienced just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): An image of hope amid the chaos. A baby girl born in the cargo bay of the U.S. Air Force C-17,
carrying Afghan evacuees. As the plane landed at the Ramstein Air Base, the 86th Medical Group rushed in to safely deliver her.
ERIN BRYMER, NURSE AND U.S. ARMY CAPTAIN: So, when I evaluated the patient, we were passed the point of no return, that baby was going to be
delivered before we could possibly transfer her to another facility. So, we were just opening the emergency equipment.
SHUBERT (voiceover): What was the moment when you realized we're going to be OK?
BRYMER: When the baby came out screaming and we were able to put her directly on mom's chest and get her breast feeding right away, I was like,
OK, we're good here.
SHUBERT (voiceover): Ramstein Air Base in Germany has become the latest hub for evacuation flights out of Afghanistan. CNN filmed some of the first
flights arrived. More than 6,000 have been evacuated here, with 17 flights landing in 24 hours, air base officials say, and more to come.
Here, there is safety, basic shelter, food and water. But it is only a temporary measure. Many here do not know where they will go next or how.
But for the moment, there is relief. And reason to celebrate new life.
Atika Shubert for CNN at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: What a story and hats off to the nurse and the flight crew for their quick thinking.
Well, when we come back, we're joined by Nobel prize winning economist, Richard Thaler, do discuss a fresh perspective on the climate crisis and
how humanity can be nudged into saving the planet.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Well, we turn now to a nudge in the right direction in combatting the climate emergency. Our next guest was once
called the Mick Jagger of economists. That's quite something. He also had a cameo in Oscar-winning film "The Big Short" and a Nobel prize under his
Richard Thaler is out with a new edition of his best seller with Cass Sunstein called "Nudge." The simple ways to push people into making
decisions in their interest have been adopted by governments and organizations around the world. In this updated version, it includes ways
to address the climate crisis.
Richard Thaler is joining me now from Chicago.
Welcome to the program.
This conversation, specifically this new chapter on the climate crisis couldn't have come sooner. We are covering natural disasters it seems one
day after another. And alarming reports out of the U.N. And yet, this issue continues to be a highly politicized one. You offer some suggestions and
maybe how to alleviate the politics with some nudging. Can you talk about that?
RICHARD THALER, CO-AUTHOR, "NUDGE: THE FINAL EDITION": Sure, Bianna. Nice to be with you.
You know, the climate crisis is one that we think cannot be solved just with nudging. And one of the reasons why we undertook this ridiculous
project of completely rewriting a perfectly fine book is to address some of the limits of nudging. And we think like virtually every economist in the
world, that the first step needs to be to get prices right, which means either a carbon tax or cap and trade or something like that, especially in
the United States, gas taxes are much too low.
And since much of the changes have to be made at the business sector, we need to get the prices right. That's not to say that nudges can't help.
GOLODRYGA: Right, right.
THALER: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: And you and Cass have been promoting as with many others, a carbon tax, I think you lose half of the public though, as soon as they
hear that, despite some having to sit in floods to get to work, and concerned about whether they can get their cars filled with gasoline. So,
talk about these two nudges that at least could help. One of them is encouraging people to go green by being automatically green and disclosing
major greenhouse gas emitters.
THALER: Yes. So, the first is, there have been experiments that show that first, if you give people the option of getting their energy in a green
way, say with wind or solar, people are open to it, even if it costs a little bit more. And importantly, if you automatically enroll people into
those, with the choice of an easy opt-out, with one click, that works very well, as it has in many other situations such as retirement plans. So.
that's something that we endorsed and it has lots of empirical evidence to support it.
GOLODRYGA: And yet --
THALER: The second is -- go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: Go ahead. No, no. I'm sorry.
THALER: The second is there's lots of evidence that simply publicizing the emissions of large companies, can push consumers to reward companies who
are green and punish those that are dirty. And this has worked in other domains and we think that it offers promise in this domain.
GOLODRYGA: I guess the tricky thing about climate change, even though we are experiencing it, most scientists would say, at an alarmingly fast rate,
faster than they had even anticipated, is that people for the most part people stick to things that they can see rewards of, whether it is a few
months or even a year down the road. And in this situation, you know, you are probably preventing catastrophe for generations later. How do you
incentivize people with nudges, right, as well as policy, which is a given, if they may not necessarily see the rewards in their life time?
THALER: Well, one thing you can do is make the rewards more salient. And, you know, I think we've been thinking about climate change as some off-
into-the-distant future. And alarmingly, it is very much in the present. So, I spend part of my time in Northern California and everybody there has
become startlingly aware of the risks of forest fires and smoke and power failures, this is something very much in the here and now.
THALER: And we simply can't think about this as something that our children are going to have to, even somebody my age realizes that I'm going
to see the effects of climate change right now.
GOLODRYGA: Well, something also in the here and now is living in a pandemic. And the announcement today that the FDA has fully authorized the
Pfizer vaccine, has many, at least, hoping that a fraction of those who have yet to be vaccinated, because they are still not convinced that the
vaccine is safe, may now change their mind.
How much do you believe that this maybe a turning point, if the FDA is now officially authorizing this vaccine?
THALER: I don't think that it's going to change that many individual minds. I heard a bit of your previous piece, and I agree with the sentiment
there. Here's the hope, I think, there are some unions and other groups that are very strongly resisting any kind of mandate and I think will give
them one less reason that they can justify that.
I had a piece in "The New York Times" recently where I said that nudges -- we've passed the time where nudging people to get vaccinated is going to
help. Although, if we need boosters, I think we'll come back to that. And my university is requiring students and faculty to be vaccinated with, of
course, some exceptions before classes start.
We're seeing that in lots of we're seeing that in lots of domains, employers, universities, restaurants, concerts are requiring people to be
vaccinated. That may be the carrot that we need to get some of the people who are waiting to say, all right, if I want to keep my job, if I want to
go back to school, I'm going to have to be vaccinated, which protects them, and protects the people they interact with.
GOLODRYGA: And that's something that's much easier to enact in an authoritarian state, right, than say a western and a democracy, but we're
seeing that take place in France as well. One thing that you don't seem to think is an effective carrot is giving money and paying people to be
vaccinated. Explain why? And it has to do with what that right price would be.
THALER: Yes. It's very hard -- you know, if you put a price tag on it, say $100, that is not going to convince somebody who is diametrically opposed
to it or has full of misinformation. And if you raise the price, what I worry about is if we do need boosters, are people now going to start
waiting around until they're going to get paid for it?
We go through these stages. And in the initial stage, everybody was anxious to get their vaccine, and the big problem was who's going to go first. And
when we get to the rounding up stage, I don't want reward procrastination. So, make it easy, give people appointments, make it the default that they
show up, there are a lot of things that we can do that will encourage people to get their boosters quickly, and when it comes to the strongly-
resistant, I think we're going to have to have more incentives and those could include things like the ability to go out and keep your job.
GOLODRYGA: I'm just curious, as an economist, and as someone who has observed human behavior for a living, has the reaction to COVID and
vaccines surprised you? Has the push-back to the sort of you can't take away my liberties, has that sort of been a shocker for you or not?
THALER: It has been -- you know, it's hard to be shocked in this day and age. I think that maybe the thing I find the most shocking is the single
best explanatory variable for the percentage of the people in a county that have been vaccinated is the percentage of the people who voted for Donald
Trump. Why this has become a political issue is beyond me. No party should be in favor of people risking their lives and the lives of others. And yet,
that's where we are.
So, I think it's time for Republicans to stand up and encourage their followers to do the right thing and get vaccinated. And the person who
could do that most effectively is Former President Trump.
GOLODRYGA: And yet, I don't know if you saw him over the weekend, I believe it was in Alabama, where he was speaking before a crowd of
supporters, and he, in his own way, was encouraging folks to get a vaccine, and said that he had been vaccinated as well, and he -- boos were what he
heard in response. He was actually booed by the crowd. I mean, do you think it's maybe too late at this point, even from someone like Donald Trump?
THALER: Well, maybe so, but I think lots of people who are influencers need to be influencing in whatever ways they can. And that's going to be
from all of the communities that are holding back. And they're not just Republicans, there are many African-Americans who, for various reasons, are
untrusting of the medical profession, some of which are justified. But now is the time for the people in those communities, and others, that are
risking their own lives and the lives of their loved ones to get the vaccine.
It doesn't hurt. It doesn't really make you sick. And prevents. It's been amazingly effective. I think we sometimes forget what a miracle it is that
we have these vaccines that were developed very rapidly, and are amazingly effective. If you compare it, say, to the flu vaccine, which is about 50
percent effective, having one that's 90 percent is nothing short of a miracle. A scientific miracle.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And at this point, it's patriotic to get one as well. And as you said, it's painless, it only takes a moment of your time. I don't
understand the controversy. But let me, while we have just a few final seconds with you, ask you what is the new word you talk about and the new
concept, and that is sludge. You go from nudge to sludge.
THALER: Yes, sludge, is -- I always sign the book, nudge for good, which is meant as a plea. We have lots of sludge in the government. We could file
our taxes by text message, if we could file our taxes by text message, 90 percent of Americans could do that. There's a law preventing the IRS from
sending you a pre-filled tax return, that's crazy.
In the private sector, one of the things that I complain about is you can subscribe with one click, and to unsubscribe, you often have to call and
spend a long time talking to somebody trying to convince you not to unsubscribe or to offer you a better deal. Come on, companies. Earn
people's trust by trusting them and giving them the right to unsubscribe costless.
GOLODRYGA: I think you've just described my experience with a certain cable provider many years ago.
Richard Thaler, great to have you on. Congratulations on this updated book. We appreciate it.
THALER: Thanks, Bianna. Nice to talk to you.
GOLODRYGA: You too.
And finally, superstar spy and civil rights icon, Josephine Baker, is to be inducted into France's Pantheon. President Emmanuel Macron announcing this
weekend that she will be moved to the burial price for French heroes, one of France's highest honors, only 80 people have been buried there. And
until now, just five of them were women. Josephine Baker makes history as the first black woman.
Born in St. Louis in 1906, Baker left the United States to become the queen of the Paris stage in the '20s and '30s. But when the Second World War
began, she used her star power to smuggle secrets for the French resistance, transporting intel across the world with invisible notes
written on her music sheets. In later life, she became a fervent campaigner for racial equality, going on to speak at the 1963 March on Washington. She
will be laid to final rest in the Pantheon in November.
And we will toss now to President Biden who is speaking on the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The fight against COVID. The Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, announced it has fully concluded, it's now -- it's
a thorough independent scientific review. After a strict process, the FDA has reaffirmed its findings that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe and
effective, and the FDA has given its full and final approval.
So, let me say this loudly and clearly. If you have -- if you're one of the millions of Americans who said that they will not get the shot when it's,
until it has full and final approval of the FDA, it has now happened. The moment you have been waiting for is here. It's time for you to go get your
vaccination. Get it today. Today.
It's an important moment in our fight against the pandemic. And I want to thank the acting commissioner, Janet Woodcock, and the entire team at the
FDA for their hard work. Dr. Woodcock is a true professional, she's a career scientist who has served under Republican presidents and Democratic
presidents. She's ensured that the team followed the science above all.
They've looked at the mountains of clinical data, the clinical trial data, and the safety and efficiency data. And concluded without question the
vaccine was safe and effective for emergency use in December, that same thing we've got those shots in arms at the time, 350 million in the United
States, and billions across the world, that kept pouring over this data. The FDA approval is the gold standard.
And as I just said, now it has been granted. Those who have been waiting for full approval should go get your shot now. The vaccination is free.
It's easy. It's safe. And it's effective. And it's convenient. For 90 percent of Americans, there's a vaccination site less than five miles from
your home. And you can get the shot without an appointment. So, please, get your shot today, there is no time to waste.
The Delta variant is dangerous and spreading. Causing the pandemic of the unvaccinated. That's the pandemic of the unvaccinated. And while we're
starting to see initial signs that cases may be declining in a few places, nationwide cases are still rising, especially among the unvaccinated.