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Interview with "The Rescue" co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin; Interview with Chris Cassidy. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 07, 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): A double shot of hope. Pfizer seeks authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for young children one day after the WHO approves
the first ever malaria vaccine. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about both potential breakthroughs, as well as his new book, "World War C."
Then: Ethiopians are pushed to the brink of starvation, as new accusations are leveled against the government. I asked Republican Congressman Michael
McCaul what the United States is prepared to do to stop the conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody say yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES: Yeah!
GOLODRYGA: Twelve young boys trapped deep in a cave in Thailand, yet live to tell the tale. Hari Sreenivasan talks to Academy Award-winning directors
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin about their new film, "The Rescue."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liftoff. We have liftoff.
GOLODRYGA: What it's really like to go to outer space. Astronaut Chris Cassidy takes us inside his final mission among the stars.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
As the COVID pandemic rages on, some welcome news in the fight against another deadly infectious disease, malaria. The World Health Organization
approved the first ever malaria vaccine for use among children, a potential game-changing achievement, as the mosquito-borne disease kills more than
260,000 African children under the age of 5 every year.
Here's the WHO secretary-general:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We still have a very long road to travel. But this is a long stride down
that road. This vaccine is a gift to the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Meanwhile, here in the United States, Pfizer is formally asking the FDA for emergency use authorization for its COVID vaccine for children
under -- for the ages of 5 to 11, this as two real-world studies confirm immune protection from Pfizer's adult vaccine begins to wane after two
months, though the protection against severe disease remains strong.
Here to discuss all of this is our very own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who's out with a new book. I don't know where he finds the time. But this book is
called "World War C: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One."
Dr. Gupta joins me now from New York.
Sanjay, always great to see you...
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You too, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: ... especially when there is some good news with this news that Pfizer is seeking this emergency use authorization for children ages 5 to
How soon can we realistically see this vaccine administered?
GUPTA: Well, they're submitting the data, which means they feel pretty comfortable that the data is going to look good.
And we know that the FDA in the United States has already scheduled a meeting on October 26. So this is an advisory committee, Bianna. They --
it's an open committee meeting. People -- anybody can watch it. And at the end of that, they make a recommendation to the FDA.
If it follows a similar pattern as it has with the previous authorizations of the vaccines, then the FDA could authorize the next day, and the CDC
could recommend a couple of days after that. So, potentially, by Halloween in the United States, that vaccine could be authorized.
Now, obviously, we got to see how this plays out. I mean, we're just hearing from the company so far, but it looks promising. And do keep in
mind, I know you have a -- you have family. Your family's directly impacted by this.
After the authorization, one shot, and then, three weeks later, a second shot, and then it's two weeks after that before someone would actually be
considered vaccinated. So there is a little bit of a time even after an authorization happens.
But, again, it looks promising for the next couple of months to be able to have many people in that age group vaccinated.
GOLODRYGA: And they are advising one-third of the dose use for adults, correct?
GUPTA: Yes. Yes, and good point.
So, typically, it's 30 micrograms. This would be 10 micrograms. They found that that smaller dose still created enough of those neutralizing
antibodies in children aged 5 to 11. So I think it'll also lead to fewer side effects probably as well, the sore arm and things like that that
Well, listen, as you mentioned, my kids, I am ready to line them up and get those shots as soon as possible. And, fortunately, this has not been a
virus that has targeted young children, though, because of the Delta variant, one in four children have been infected as of last month. So this
really is going to impact kids ages 5 to 11.
Of course, the question is, will all parents agree to vaccinate their children? And one alarming survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation said
that roughly a third of parents of children between the ages of 5 and 11 say they want to wait and see before allowing their children to be
GOLODRYGA: One can understand, of course, that a parent wants to be utmost prepared and that their children will be safe, but does that alarm you at
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, this is a -- it's been a concern all along.
I feel like, for the last year, the hesitancy around the vaccines has been a big issue. I think, with young children in particular, first of all, I
think, if the FDA does authorize that, you will see the numbers change a bit. We always do. I think people will have see that as a bit of an
I think the other thing is that it's got to be a reminder, as you say, that a lot of parents say, look, my kid is not really at risk for this. So why
am I doing this? And I think you have to make the case that the risk is much smaller. It's not zero.
It's a safe vaccine. And there's a larger component to this, which is, we're getting really close to potentially being able to look at this
pandemic in the rearview mirror, not ending it, but really controlling it. And one way to get there is to have more people vaccinated.
So it is -- the appeal, I think, from pediatricians to parents and to young kids is going to be the collective, as much as the individual.
GOLODRYGA: Look, anyway, we get back to some sense of normal, right, sense of normalcy, where they don't have to wear masks at schools, and they can
have those playdates once again, and big birthday parties.
GUPTA: Yes. Right.
GOLODRYGA: But let's talk about the trajectory that we have been seeing over the past few weeks, because it is a good one.
The infection rate has been dropping. The hospitalization rate has been dropping. But many are warning that it's too soon to declare victory as
we're approaching the winter months. And, once again, we're at flu season.
GUPTA: Yes, I think we have to be humble. There's no question. I mean, I have learned more humility over the last couple of years, I think, than
But you -- when you -- the reason people, I think, are optimistic is because of the trends that you're describing, Bianna. But, also, if you
look around the world at countries that are -- would be considered slightly ahead of us in their own trajectories, you do see numbers coming down and
We are going into a cooler season, cooler and drier. That's when pathogens like to spread. So that's the balance. That's the concern. But let me show
you -- I also looked back, historically, back in 2009, and even 1918. I don't know if we have those graphics.
But, basically, what you saw in 2009 was the most significant surge was right around this time. The numbers started to drop and they stayed low. In
1918, sort of a similar thing. There was a smaller surge sort of in February of the following year, but pretty much after this October surge,
the numbers stayed down through the winner.
Now, why is that? Part of it, I think, is because you do have the vaccines, obviously been higher percentages in some countries vs. others. But because
of this Delta variant, as you mentioned, Bianna, it's so contagious. So many people have been exposed that you have to add the natural immunity
into that as well.
So, between the two, I think going into the winter, you have a lot more immunity. How long it lasts, that's going to be a big question. But I think
it kind of gets us through this particularly concerning season potentially.
GOLODRYGA: Let me quickly ask you about boosters, because in the intro to you, I noted that Pfizer has reported that the efficiency, the efficacy
rate of the vaccine declines, begins to decline after two months, though it is still very strong and effective to avoid hospitalization, which is the
key point there.
GOLODRYGA: But I read a headline today from "The Wall Street Journal" that the White House is also concerned about long COVID.
Now, this isn't something that you're seeing very prevalent throughout the country, but it does exist and we do hear of cases. And they are pretty
detailed and chronic. And that is something obviously we want to avoid. Does that make more of an argument for a booster shot now and for those
that are younger than the age of 65 in particular?
GUPTA: Well, it's a really good question. And it came up quite a bit during these FDA meetings. And, ultimately, you know where they landed,
which was to recommend boosters for people over the age of 65 and people who have chronic medical conditions that put them at risk, which is a large
percentage of people in this country.
If you do the math, Bianna, you're talking maybe close to 170, 200 million people who have some of these preexisting conditions. The interesting thing
about giving a vaccine even to someone who has previously had COVID is exactly what you said, which is that it may decrease the likelihood of them
developing long COVID.
There's been some early data to suggest that, that somehow the vaccine, the creation of these proteins, these antibodies may be decreasing the
likelihood of long COVID or shortening its duration.
And I will tell you, it's not an insignificant concern. I mean, some studies, Bianna, say a third of people will have symptoms that linger
months. And, sometimes, it's young people just taking these super long naps every day. They just -- they're so tired all the time. It can be other
people with headaches and chronic fatigue or loss of smell, things like that, that we have heard.
So some of these symptoms can last a long time. And that extra dose could help.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, they are very frightening, what we're hearing, some of these chronic issues and symptoms that people are reporting now.
So let's move on to this headline, because, if we weren't in the middle of a pandemic, this would have led the show. And this is this new vaccine that
the World Health Organization has announced against malaria, the first of its kind.
The efficacy rate is at 50 percent, so obviously much lower than then the Pfizer vaccine that we were just talking about, and Moderna as well.
Nonetheless, how big of a game-changer is this?
GUPTA: I think, scientifically, this is a really big deal. I mean, people think of vaccines all the same, but vaccines against a virus vs. a vaccine
against a parasite, which is what causes malaria, that's a big deal. It's never been done before.
I mean, it's since I was in medical school, people have been talking about this, and 100 years that there's been development work on this. So, just
for what it is, it's a big deal.
As you point out, the efficacy is low and -- lower than we we're used to hearing for COVID, for example, and it drops off as well. So the way this
vaccine works is, you get three shots between the ages of 5 and 17 months, and then another shot 18 months later. So, it kind of gets children through
that acute childhood period.
But then the effectiveness does wear off. I think the issue is you got 500,000 people who die of malaria every year, mostly in the developing
world. And about half, less than half are children under the age of 5. So it could be significant for them.
I will tell you, having just reported on this area a lot, scientifically, this is a big deal. They are going to make the case to the global vaccine
alliance that it's worth the cost, because they got a lot of priorities. And they say, well, look, is this worth 30 percent efficacy? That will save
how many lives over what period of time? And with COVID and all the other sort of priorities they have.
So, WHO recommends it. Now we got to see if Gavi and other organizations buy it.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, WHO director calling it a gift.
GOLODRYGA: And let's talk about what you have written and what you have brought us every single day over nearly two years, because you are our
gift, Sanjay Gupta.
GUPTA: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: I talked to you before we were on air. And I asked how you found the time to write a book now. And you said it was basically just
putting to paper everything that you have been observing and covering throughout this pandemic.
And just from a larger picture perspective, I think the first question still must be asked is how the U.S., which had been ranked number one in
pandemic preparedness, would have stumbled so far and so fast.
GUPTA: Yes, it's a really remarkable story.
I mean, that's the thing, is that we don't have the context for this, right? The last time we had a pandemic this bad was in 1918. So, when Johns
Hopkins put together that preparedness index, the United States was ranked one, as you say.
But I don't know how you can take into account exactly how things play out, how seriously people would take something like this in the beginning, human
behavior overall. It's very hard to model those things, Bianna, I think, which is one of the things that really struck me.
I have been talking to so many scientists, but also psychologists and behavioral experts, about this issue for the book, I mean, just how you
even evaluate risk. If you live in a country like the United States, plenty of resources. This isn't something that's going to affect us as much as
it'll affect other places, if that's the mentality, and you hear something is 0.5 percent lethal, there's a group of people who will say, 0.5 percent
lethal, that means one in 200 people will die, we need to be careful, we need to protect ourselves.
But for a lot of people, they will say, well, that means I'm 99.5 percent good, right? What's the big deal? And it leads to all these behavioral sort
of manifestations individually, but also at a societal level, that I think really put us in tough shape.
I will also say, like, if you take a look at South Korea -- I don't know if we have this graphic of South Korea and the United States. I show this
because a patient was diagnosed on the same day in both these places. South Korea is about a sixth the size of the United States. We had 45 million
confirmed cases in the United States. They had 300,000.
There was no magic therapeutic. They obviously didn't have a vaccine ahead of us. It was just basic public health practices. So, if you don't lean
into those things early on, it makes a huge difference, bad difference later on.
And I will just say one more thing, Bianna. And this is a larger issue, I think, for wealthy countries. This pandemic seem to have affected wealthy
countries more so than developing countries. We don't think of things that way. Malaria, as we were just talking about, that's a developing infectious
disease, a developing world infectious disease.
Diseases of affluence, like obesity, diabetes, things like that, really made Americans and people, frankly, living in wealthier countries more at
risk with regard to this particular pandemic.
GUPTA: And that's -- I think that's going to be a real lesson going forward.
And you also mentioned that a lot of these countries, particularly Asian countries, really stepped up to protect their elderly communities, perhaps
in ways that we didn't even do in the United States as well.
GOLODRYGA: Sanjay Gupta, can't wait to read this book. Once again, congratulations. Thank you for all of your time, and thank your family for
it as well.
GUPTA: Thank you, Bianna. Any time.
GOLODRYGA: And now we turn to Ethiopia.
The Biden administration is warning that the U.S. is prepared to sanction those responsible for ferrying weaponry during Ethiopia's war effort in
Tigray, this a response to the stunning CNN investigation which revealed that Ethiopia's government use Ethiopian Airlines, the country's flagship
commercial carrier, to shuttle weapons to and from neighboring Eritrea during the first weeks of the Tigray conflict.
Here to discuss this and other pressing matters, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul.
Congressman, welcome to the program from Austin, Texas, one of my favorite cities. Went to school there.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Great.
GOLODRYGA: So let's delve into...
MCCAUL: You too.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, exactly. Hook 'em.
Let's delve into this conflict and this exclusive CNN reporting, CNN reporting the use of their government airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, to
shuttle in weaponry from neighboring Eritrea, which is against international law, to fight in the Tigray region.
The U.S. has actually issued a statement, the NSC, in response to that, saying that: "The U.S. government is considering the full range of tools at
our disposal to address the worsening crisis in Northern Ethiopia, including the use of targeted economic sanctions, while mitigating
unintended effects on the people of Ethiopia and the wider region."
Is that an appropriate response, in your opinion? And, if not, what should be?
MCCAUL: No, I think it's very appropriate.
There was an executive order issued by the president, President Biden, dealing with the threat of sanctions against those responsible. The
chairman -- and I'm the ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee. We have issued a statement calling upon the Biden administration to issue the
sanctions moving forward.
I think the latest reporting by CNN, actually well done, by the way, to uncover the fact that the Ethiopian government's using their airline to
transport military weapons to Eritrea, which is a neighboring country, and becoming an ally of the government of Ethiopia against Tigrayan population,
I think to put all this in context, Bianna, it's important to note this could be one of the worst famines to take place in the 21st century.
The Ethiopian government has basically blocked off 90 percent of supply trucks going into Tigray. It's also they have harassed aid workers, and
they have expelled seven United Nations workers. So this thing is increasing. And it's a crisis level, not decreasing since the cease-fire,
and I think it calls for action with the administration.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Ethiopia, as you know, is on the receiving end of millions of dollars worth of trade benefits from the United States.
The U.S. trade representative said that she would be willing to look at that deal now and act upon it, given these allegations and what we have
even just reported, these gruesome videos that we have been covering for years, thanks to -- for months, thanks to Nima's reporting
Do you think that, in fact, we should be reevaluating our trade agreements?
MCCAUL: I do. I do.
And I think there's a lot of blame to go around. The Tigrayans initially starting to fight back against the government. I think, interestingly, the
prime minister got the Nobel Peace Prize, of all things, in his cease-fire with the neighboring country of Eritrea.
And now he's one of the grossest violations of potentially war crimes in what he's doing today. And so this latest reporting is very valuable to
policy-makers in terms of what's happening on the ground. And I think what is unfolding, again, I hearken back to the days when I was growing up as a
younger high school student when we saw the famine in Ethiopia.
I think this could be far worse.
MCCAUL: And it could involve millions of people facing death by starvation.
GOLODRYGA: Right, right.
And I want to ask you. From a business perspective, Boeing supplies many of these planes for the Ethiopian Airlines. Should they now be factoring in
all of these atrocities?
MCCAUL: Well, I think there's a corporate responsibility aspect to human rights violations and the violation of the human rights of the Tigrayan
population, when they are being blockaded 90 percent.
Everything's blocked off from coming in the country since July, causing millions to die from starvation. This is -- I'm really glad that CNN
International is reporting this. This is really an unreported story of a famine that's taking place right now in the world that most people are just
not aware of.
And I think the awareness piece is huge. And I call upon in a bipartisan way President Biden and the administration to go forward with their
announcement, go forward with the authorities we have given them under current law to issue these sanctions against those responsible for this
human rights and humanitarian crisis.
So we need to look at also whether these are war crimes against humanity and possible genocide as well.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Yes.
And you talk about the responsibility from the business community. Let me ask you about Facebook, because we heard testimony this week in Washington
from the whistle-blower that used to work at Facebook, Frances Haugen, who testified that Facebook is literally fanning ethnic violence in places like
Myanmar and Ethiopia.
Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCES HAUGEN, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: My fear is that, without action, divisive and extremist behaviors we see today are only the
What we saw in Myanmar and are now seeing in Ethiopia are only the opening chapters of a story so terrifying, no one wants to read the end of it.
Congress can change the rules that Facebook plays by and stop the many harms it is now causing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Congressman, do you view Facebook as a national security threat?
MCCAUL: I think social media, in this case, when you look at what's happening in Ethiopia, social media in -- whether it's in Cuba under the
Castro regime, whether it's in Iran, or the Chinese Communist Party -- I know we will be talking about that in a minute -- or in Russia, where
people are oppressed, social media is really a -- the best weapon we have against human rights violations, against oppression and tyranny against
freedom and democracy.
And so any time we can use social media -- and Voice of America, we use them quite a bit in these countries that are oppressed. But I think to
expose the truth, and, particularly in this case, what's happening in Ethiopia, is very powerful.
GOLODRYGA: Well, it's a few area -- one of the few areas that you see any sort of bipartisanship in Washington, because I'm going to move to the
other one, where we definitely don't see that.
GOLODRYGA: And it looks like we just averted for a few weeks one crisis that would be a self-inflicted crisis, and leaders announced a deal to
raise the debt limit just through December.
Of course, December 3 is also the deadline for keeping the government open. Congressman, what is going on? And why would anyone want to play chicken
with the U.S. national debt?
MCCAUL: I have seen this. This is my ninth term, Bianna. And I have seen this drama, the edge of the cliff, played out many times in the past.
I think all members recognize that the full faith and credit of the United States is important, particularly in our ability to compete with countries
like China throughout the world. I do believe it will happen. I have in the past voted for it.
I think the concern right now is just the enormous amount of debt that we're going into, and now looking at another $3.5 trillion, possibly more
than that, maybe $5 trillion, added to our spending. We have to get control like you would with your credit card at home before you call your credit
card company and ask for more, an extension of more debt, yes.
GOLODRYGA: Right, but you and I both know that this -- you and I both know that this is based on past accrued debt, right?
And this is an issue that, as you mentioned, is being watched from our adversaries and our friends. And let me just read to you what six former
defense secretaries, both Republican and Democrat, wrote in warning against just this.
They said: "If we default on the full faith and credit of the United States, it will send a signal to our friends and our adversaries that
America does not keep its word to our military forces."
We have heard this time and time again over the last few years from the Trump administration, and now even into the Biden administration, as to
whether our allies can trust us and whether our enemies will view any sort of weakness here at home as an opportunity for them.
MCCAUL: I agree it's dangerous. I think it's political theater. I do think -- and I agree, when you're talking about jeopardizing particularly the
United States military in our -- in a very dangerous world that we live in right now, is disturbing.
But, again, I think Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, has given the other side of the aisle a way out on this to do it through
reconciliation. And I think, at the end of the day, Bianna, that's most likely the path that will take place.
But, at the end of the day, I don't see it not being raised. The full faith and credit the United States is too important.
GOLODRYGA: It just seems like unnecessary stress.
But let's get into our adversaries. And...
MCCAUL: There's a lot of that in Washington.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, exactly.
Let's get into some of the hot spots now in the world, in particular vis-a- vis China. This month, as you know, nearly 150 flights have approached the Taiwan defensive zone. Now, China obviously is celebrating their own
national day, and this may have been done for more of a domestic audience.
Nonetheless, you have officials from Taiwan saying that they expect the China could invade within just a couple of years, 2025.
What should the U.S. be doing right now?
MCCAUL: Well, this is the -- really the unfinished business.
They are celebrating their national day, when the Chinese Communist Party took over mainland China. Chiang Kai-shek went to Taiwan. The unfinished
business is taking back Taiwan. And that's been very clear. And they're very straightforward about it.
They -- Hong Kong was part of it too. And they went in and took back Hong Kong without a shot fired. Taiwan is definitely...
GOLODRYGA: Faster than anyone would have imagined. Faster than anyone would have imagined.
MCCAUL: Faster than anybody -- and the human rights violations there, I can tell you, are very disturbing as well.
I think, in the case of Taiwan, deterrence is key. And if we don't have deterrence, China will go in and take over Taiwan. If China thinks they can
go in and take back Taiwan without any fallout, without any resistance from the United States and our allies, they will certainly do that.
We need to send a strong message that we will defend freedom and democracy and human rights in Taiwan, and that we are -- they are our ally and our
partner. Any sign of weakness will invite aggression. That's an old-age foreign policy doctrine.
What I'm worried about, Bianna, is, with Afghanistan and the failure of the evacuation has been seen worldwide as a sign of weakness, projecting
weakness, and our allies are not trusting us as well, and our enemy -- adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party and Russia.
If you live in Taiwan, you're very nervous now that President Xi believes that this president's not going to respond in kind when it comes to Taiwan.
That's why I think the sale of the nuclear submarines that I got briefed by the administration on was so important, that our alliance with the Great
Britain and Australia on these nuclear submarines to protect the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits very important.
We -- I had the Taiwan Assurances Act, which is now -- we have about a couple of dozen special operators now in Taiwan. And I think, if we don't -
- again, deterrence is a key. If we don't have a strong showing of deterrence, it is in their long-term strategy.
And China's patient.
MCCAUL: They're willing to wait this out, but it's in their long-term game plan. And we have to keep that deterrence up.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and big concern, obviously, of any sort of miscalculation.
We know that President Biden and Xi will hold a virtual summit to sort of defuse the tensions later on this year as well.
Congressman, it's always great to have you on. Thank you so much.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, next to the depths of Northern Thailand, where, back in 2018, the world was gripped by the life-and-death story of 12 schoolboys
and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave.
A new documentary delves into this story with never-before-seen footage. "The Rescue" by Academy Award-winning directors and husband and wife
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveals the peril of the daring mission.
And here they are telling Hari Sreenivasan new details about the miraculous rescue.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks.
Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, thank you both for joining us.
First, I want to ask, the topic itself, it seems like the entire world watched this unfold in near real time day after day. We had so many news
reports about this. And I wonder what motivated both of you to try to take on this topic that you would think everybody kind of knew about?
Chai, let me start with you.
ELIZABETH CHAI VASARHELYI, CO-DIRECTOR, "THE RESCUE": Well, I think like many people around the world, we were, I mean, fascinated by the story as
it transpired, I mean, just living through the downs, the ups.
I think, if you think back to 2018, it was a pretty, I don't know, complicated moment in the world. And here was a story that reminded us that
people can come together and make the impossible happen, right?
And, also, as parents, we were very moved by the story. So, I think it is one of the great stories of the past 10 years. And the characters are
exactly the type of, like, unique characters that we like, and that there was so much that wasn't actually known about what actually happened.
And we thought it was an important story to try to tell.
JIMMY CHIN, CO-DIRECTOR, "THE RESCUE": Like Chai, we were both really moved by the story and a hopeful story, a story about our common humanity,
given the divisive times that we're living through, that here was a story where people from different countries and cultures and religious
backgrounds set aside their differences to do something because they felt the moral imperative to do it.
SREENIVASAN: I want to play the clip of the sort of initial moment that the divers made contact with these children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE RESCUE")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we took our equipment off on the other side of the passage, made the over (INAUDIBLE). I mean, clearly, John has a son and
then, I haven't got children. I've structured my life to avoid children as much as possible. But John, he's (INAUDIBLE) master. So, he's used to
dealing with groups of children. He got them to do a motivational exercise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody say, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent. Say, hello, Americans.
CROWD: Hello, Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Thai navy.
CROWD: Hello, Thai navy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say, hello, Australians.
CROWD: Hello, Australians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Chinese.
CROWD: Hello, Chinese.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And thank you, everybody else.
CROWD: And thank you everybody else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We see you soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we left, pretty much all of them came and hugged us individually. I made them a promise that I would come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are happy too. OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, where you come home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: England. U.K.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we went around the corner, and kitted (ph) up, total silence between me and John, just a look into each other's faces thinking,
we may be the only ones that ever see them. That was a distant possibility.
The whole journey back, all I was thinking was, what on earth are we going to do now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: When you see that footage, what goes through your head?
VASARHELYI: I get really emotional. I mean, because that -- the clip you just played was actually the -- what I call the holy grail of the clips.
Because John insisted, he's like I remember filming this. I know I filmed it. And yet, he had never seen the images. So, he was even beginning to
question his own memory. And it's just really emotional for me because of how much work went into trying getting the material and also, just how it
was the right thing to do, and that this is a story about what connects us.
And being able -- this footage allows audiences the experience of what it felt like to actually be in the cave and be in that moment. I mean, that --
what we just watch is actually the moment where they found the children, and that's -- I don't know. It's -- I always get a little choked up about
SREENIVASAN: Yes. Jimmy, when you're watching that and you realize this is days and days and days, the parents of these children have literally been
praying and they have been in different stages of grief and acceptance and tension, right? And the fact that those children were in there and alive.
You can see in their faces. They've lost weight because they haven't been eating and it's just so remarkable that they exist. But that moment at the
very end of that clip where the diver says, we might be the only ones to ever see them alive. That is so sort of real and dark.
CHIN: Yes. In that moment, there's so much complexity with the emotions that, you know, I feel and hopefully, audiences feel because there's hope
but there's also this moment that, you know, you realize even if we found the kids, there's just no way we're going to be able to get them out. And
then, on top of that, you see these kids -- they have been sitting in the dark for 10 days with no food and there's no complaining or crying or
whimpering, how they are staying so composed in that moment. You know, so, there's just a lot in that moment that it hit -- I feel like hits a lot of
different notes for me emotionally.
SREENIVASAN: Most people, I think, when they start watching the film are - - they're not going to realize that it was a volunteer group that did this, right? That somehow it was this band of people that knew each other, called
each other, said, you know, if I could build the best team, here's what it would require. I mean, it's just one of those tiny details that might get
kind of forgotten overtime, but it's the sort of central part of this story.
CHIN: We all followed it, thought we knew what happened. And really, I mean, most people, I think, that don't really understand what happened and
who these characters were. I think at the upper echelon of, you know, this like very fringe esoteric sport of cave diving it's very similar in high
altitude climbing or Alpine climbing. It's a very small community. Everybody kind of knows each other.
And then, realizing, oh, they are electricians, I.T. consultants, a meteorologist, I mean, you know, every day guys that are coming in and they
are not even getting paid and they do this remarkable task when basically they have everything to lose if things go wrong and they still go ahead and
do it because of their, you know, moral imperative.
SREENIVASAN: I want to play a clip of a little bit of an introduction to some of these divers as well. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Caving is clearly about the exploration side of it. Some of the dives we do, you could be hours in, totally reliant on an
artificial light, artificial heating. It's like being in space. Probably the purest adventure you could have. It takes a peculiar type of person to
be a cave diver and explorer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What makes someone want to be an explorer, I think it's two parts ego, one part curiosity, one part lack of confidence in yourself
and the need to prove yourself.
You know, maybe I no good in footie and cricket but at least I can, you know, caved quite well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's fair to say all of us were not team players. None of us are very good with ball skills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a loser.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm terrible at team sports. I think doesn't play well with others is the phrase that you're looking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: When the divers go in, the first people that they find were not the children, but what happened there and what was that rescue like?
CHIN: Well, when John and Rick (ph) first went in to chamber three, they discovered, you know, four water workers who had basically been asleep and
missed the evacuation. So, they were now trapped in the cave, the submerged cave, but they were on slightly higher ground. And, you know, Rick (ph) and
John weren't sure if, you know, the cave was going to flood further. So, they had to make a split-second decision saying, OK, we have to dive these
guys out as soon as possible.
You know, I think John and Rick (ph) describe it as -- it turned into an underwater wrestling match. I mean, just human instinct to survive, they
started to, you know, basically wrestle with the divers because they thought they were -- well, because they were submerged. The significance of
that moment though is that they were only underwater for 30 to 40 seconds trying to get through this one submerged section. And they were adults and
they completely panicked. And what John and Rick (ph) immediately realized is, we can't get an adult to stay calm for 30 seconds underwater much less,
you know, when they later discovered, we're going to swim these kids out for two or three hours.
SREENIVASAN: The entire idea that ends up becoming the way that these kids get out, the idea to dose children with anesthesia and somehow get them
kind in a sleeping position to drag them out for two hours underwater, I mean, just -- you know, from an initial text of the idea, you're thinking,
well, clearly, they must have come up with something else. Like, we're going to move on from this part of the film. But when you start watching it
and you're like, what, they really -- this is it? This is how it happened?
VASARHELYI: As Dr. Harris' wife, Fiona, says, it's ludicrous. Like it's just so outrageous even the idea, but it was their only choice. And when
they rescued those four water workers initially, that was a real like reality check for them and that those are four adults who were underwater
for 30 to 40 seconds and they panicked. So, there was no other choice. And the courage it takes to actually accept that and proceed, I find
SREENIVASAN: There are moments where they realize that if anything goes wrong, they might be blamed for this, that there is kind of -- you know,
there's the great upside if you get the children out safely, but if you find them dead, if you have to recover their bodies, if you're not able to
recover their bodies, I mean, there's so many different ways that could have turned out differently where these divers would not be considered the
heroes that we're seeing them as today.
VASARHELYI: To be very clear, they really believed that saving one child would be a success. And that's what's so astonishing kind of about this
idea of how they made the decisions and how selfless it was. I mean, as Jimmy said, like they had everything to lose. Like Dr. Harris would forever
be known as the anesthesiologist who killed 13 people. Half of them are fathers. They know the psychic -- kind of psychological price they would
pay, and it was still more important for them to be able try to save these children than -- you couldn't live with like other possibility. And that's
where like the absolute morality of it really is interesting because they were their best selves.
And if we all could be our best selves and act with acts of generosity, like we'd be in a very different place right now as a society.
SREENIVASAN: Chai, we should mention there was a fatality in this. A former member of the Thai navy died during this rescue operation. And you
were able to sit down with his widow and it was just really compelling and moving interview. I mean, here's a guy who looked in otherwise amazing
shape, right? I mean, not just from his years of training but even afterwards. He had volunteered to do this and bring wet suits down there to
these kids. What was it like kind of discovering things about his life and what he was like?
VASARHELYI: I mean, it's heartbreaking the more you learn about Saman. And it's also Saman Gunan's, you know, kind of selfless act of like
volunteering to come back and help the Thai navy seals. I mean, he'd been retired for 18 years or something. He last served in 2003. It's so
emblematic of the story itself and that it's an act of generosity.
And no one really had ever confirmed how Saman had died. And it's part of our efforts of speaking to everybody involved, including that admiral of
Thai navy seals, like we were finally able to confirm that he was taking in these wet suits. And I mean, that would be a very, very difficult task
because of the buoyancy of the wet suits. So, he had already delivered them and he's on his way when he ran out of air.
And I had the chance, you know, to sit with his widow and also -- I mean, really after I met her, she gave us his phone. So, all that footage is
actually footage from his phone. And that was also was like a strange way of like looking into somebody's life where you feel like it's so intimate.
But we never had the chance to actually meet him.
SREENIVASAN: Watching the film, you realized all of the other things that were kind of at stake here beyond just the kid's life, if that wasn't
important enough, you had kind of this geopolitical layer. You had this spiritual layer. You had just the grief of the parents. I mean, just --
there were so many things kind of swirling around that site.
VASARHELYI: It's a very complicated story. And who is to say the prayers didn't save the children, right? And so, that was part of our intention,
always, was to try to honor the complexity of the story and honor the east/west situation, honor the miscommunications because it really just
demonstrates how, again, against all odds, these people came together to save the children.
I actually walked the cave. And I walked the back of the cave and until I saw it for myself, I didn't -- you can't understand just the sheer scale.
And when you see it, you understand why you needed thousands of people supporting these 10 divers.
SREENIVASAN: Jimmy, were you surprised by how close it all came? I mean, the end, you know, there's this moment where, as an audience, thank
goodness, they got the kids. Then all of a sudden, people are rushing out of the cave because, guess what, like if we waited another day, maybe this
whole thing would have been a much more tragic story.
CHIN: Yes. In many ways, it was a miracle upon miracle that it happened. I think -- I truly believe, and I know that the divers believe this too, at
any given moment over those days during the rescue, something could have gone horribly wrong, catastrophically wrong, like any moment around any
turn. And they had to be perfect too. You know, just one bump on their face masks, there's no redundancy in the system. It's like -- you know, if that
thing leaks and fills with water, it's over. And, you know, they are moving them for two to three hours through these caves. It's just incredible.
SREENIVASAN: Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the film is called "The Rescue," thank you both for joining us.
VASARHELYI: Thank you for having us.
CHIN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Wow. All those details makes that rescue all the more incredible. And "The Rescue" is out in theaters tomorrow.
Well, now, from the caves to the stars, imagine going into outer space just as a pandemic started only to return months later to a whole new earthly
reality. Well, that was the case for Chris Cassidy, the NASA astronaut took his final space mission last April to the International Space Station in a
quest to help find the origins of the universe. It's all captured in a new Disney docuseries called "Among the Stars." Here's the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Station, the hatch is closed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We copy. You guys have a good time out there, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot, Karen. Nice work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Karen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready. Let's go do a spacewalk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Wow. And Chris Cassidy joins me now from Arlington, Texas.
Christ, welcome to the program.
What a career and a life. I want to hear about your next chapter now that you've retired as an astronaut. But we should tell our viewers that before
being an astronaut, you were, you know, a Navy SEAL, just your typical Navy SEAL. You deployed four times. Two times in Afghanistan, twice in the
Mediterranean. But let's talk about your career as an astronaut. You were an astronaut for 18 years. What was it like to finally see that come to an
CHRIS CASSIDY, FEATURED IN "AMONG THE STARS": Well, first of all, great to be with you and excited for our viewers to see behind the scenes of what it
takes as a team effort to get crews to space. And it's an international effort with folks all around the globe. And that's the highlight, really,
of my 18 years as an astronaut. I have individual personal experiences, but I feel like those are shared with the whole NASA workforce and
international partners. In those 18 years, three trips to space. Once in a shuttle, two times launching on a Russian Soyuz. And the most recent one,
you said at the beginning during COVID, which was a great place to be off the planet during the pandemic.
GOLODRYGA: So, how did this series come about? I mean, you -- we should note, you were the fifth hundred person in space. I really like that, that
round number there. But this was your final mission. How did you come about having it documented?
CASSIDY: Well, it wasn't about me. There's an experiment that was on the International Space Station, in on the International Space Station, which
is featured in the program called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Very expensive, very high-end science, cutting-edge science, really, that's
looking deep into the universe for its origins. And that machine was failing. It needed repair. A serious complex repair.
And so, the initial idea was to capture this effort. How do we do this repair? How do we conduct th space watch? When will it be done? And that
was the onset of the program. But with anything, it's about the people, right? And once you -- the documentary crew got involved and realized the
amazing stories that weave together, it sort of evolved into what it is now, a six-part series.
GOLODRYGA: What's so important about this is that it really highlights what takes place in the International Space Station and all of the
scientific work and research that not only you, but as you say, so many others collaborate on and in this time, where there's so much tension in
the world. One could always look to NASA and the astronauts and the International Space Station as a place where you have people come together
from around the world.
Let's just show a brief clip of what you describe you were working on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The International Space Station is an orbital laboratory. It really is about two things, making life on earth better and
enabling us to go beyond lower earth (ph) orbit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. This is the veggie experiment, growing plants in space. The great thing about this payload, this experiment is that when
we're all done, we get to eat this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we were there six years ago, we were not running nearly the number of experiments that are happening now. Now, it's like
nonstop. So, that's exciting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: What was the most exciting experiment that you worked on?
CASSIDY: Oh, my goodness. There's so many. But I think anything that has to do with things growing, whether it's -- or alive things. You know, a
plant, lettuce, different types of animals. You have spiders. I've even seen fish in space. And it's really, really fascinating to see what you're
used to seeing with your earth viewpoint how that same life grows and adapts and feels with the absence of gravity and the environment in space,
it's quite fascinating.
So, all the things related to growing and living things were my favorite.
GOLODRYGA: How is the food up there?
CASSIDY: You know, it's pretty good. People often think that we're squirting like goo out of a tube and, you know, get --
GOLODRYGA: Baby food, right.
CASSIDY: No, it's not like that. There's -- the food is made in the food lab in Houston, actually, in multiple labs around the world from the
different partner nations and it's quite good. I mean, I love to eat. And think about there's a wall food that you can just grab, add some water to
it and five minutes later, you're eating pretty much anything you want. You know, it's tasty.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Well, that is interesting because it doesn't look as tasty as you say it is. I'm glad that you have broken that down for us.
As we mentioned, you went on this last journey just as we were really falling into the depths of the pandemic here at home. And just from your
perspective, literally, out of this world, what was that like for you just following any headlines that you could to see what was transpiring back
here on earth?
CASSIDY: Well, it was interesting. My wife and flew from Houston to Moscow at the end of February. And if you remember, that was still sort of normal
airport travel at that time. A week or two later is when everything started to shut down. And that's when I realize there would be no launch guests
coming Kazakhstan to watch the launch. No NASA support.
In fact, my wife had -- we had to make a hard decision. She flew back early before the launch at the risk of being stuck in Kazakhstan after I launched
with no way to get back to the United States. And then, the ironic part is, there's a robust system of support, emotional and psychological support,
for astronauts in space put on by NASA, and it comes in lots of forms. But I felt like this mission, I was actually the emotional support for my
friends and family as I would call them, e-mail them, ask, you know, we can watch TV, recorded TV that's sent up to us. So, we were well aware of the
news and the situation. But it was really fascinating to talk to my friends and family and loved ones about their feelings during it.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Every day was Groundhog Day here and we were all shut down and it must have been a completely different experience for you as you
were, yes, in tight quarters, but you were actually working on some of these very important experiments.
On the issue of space tourism, I mean, we keep hearing not only about billionaires going up into space, but them expanding this and that one day
having an opportunity for average, everyday Americans or people from around the world and tourists to be able to go to space. We just saw a headline
that William Shatner confirmed he will be joining Blue Origin. He'd be the oldest person to go into space at 90. How do you feel about this? As we
noted, you were the 500th person. So, to go from that to this becoming perhaps something much more common.
CASSIDY: Well, that's a great question. I'm asked about this very often. But if you think about it, and whatever, maybe the 1950s, it was not common
for families to get on an airplane and go on vacation. We drove everywhere. Now, that's what you do. You buy your family tickets and you shop around
for the best market rate and off you go to Hawaii or Florida or wherever you choose for your destination.
And I don't know if it's going to be in that same, whatever 70-year timeframe, but it could where the family now is like, hey, you guys want to
go to Hawaii for Christmas or would you like to space for the weekend? I believe that will happen.
Right now, it's only accessible to high-net-worth folks and the tickets are really expensive. But it will come down and it would be more affordable and
everybody can enjoy it. And I really believe that the world could be better off if each and every one of us has five minutes to look out that window
and see earth for all its beauty.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. That would be quite something. This is a question I have yet to ask, but what does one do after they retire from being a Navy SEAL
and an astronaut? What's next for you?
CASSIDY: Well, that's a great question. I spent a lot of time thinking about it. And the job that I'm currently in kind of was that answer and
everything. I'm now the president and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, which we're building a museum in Arlington, Texas for
our nation's highest medal for valor, which will include a leadership institute to carry on the characteristics and values that the recipients
have. And a monument on the mall in Washington, D.C. So, it's -- to me, it's like continuing to serve the nation just outside of uniform and it's a
really great home for me.
GOLODRYGA: Well, listen, growing up in Houston, I always loved the field trips going to the Johnson Space Center. And here, I get to talk to
somebody who actually was an astronaut. Thank you so much for, as you mentioned, all the service that you've offered to us. We appreciate it.
CASSIDY: My pleasure.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
CASSIDY: My pleasure. (INAUDIBLE) to be with you.
GOLODRYGA: "Among the Stars" is available to stream on Disney Plus.
And finally, we turn to one of literatures most prestigious honors, the Nobel Prize. This year's, it was a Tanzanian novelist, Abdulrazak Gurnah,
who won the award. The academy praised him for his "uncompromising and compassionate" take on the effects of colonization -- colonialism. The
writer famously tackled issues like displacement and asylum, which inspired the committee given the year's long migrant crisis in Europe.
Gurnah is actually the first African writer to win the prize in almost 20 years. Well deserved. Congratulations to him.
Well, that is it for now. You can catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from New