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Tragedy in Houston; Trajectory of COVID?; Belarus Exploiting Migrants?; Interview with The Washington Post Pop Music Critic Chris Richards; Interview with "Dopesick" Actors Actors Peter Sarsgaard and John Hookenakker. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 09, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Poland accuses Belarus of exploiting migrants as thousands flocked to the contrary. We look at the situation on the ground
and tense language on both sides.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was great because I was glad to get COVID vaccinated.
GOLODRYGA: As vaccination for kids in the U.S. ramps up, Europe once again becomes the epicenter of the pandemic, Dr. Paul Offit, on the trajectory of
the virus and his new book, "You Bet Your Life."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want everyone to know that people who lost their lives shouldn't have lost their lives in this festival.
GOLODRYGA: A desperate search for answers in the wake of the Astroworld Festival tragedy. We look at how it happened, who was responsible and how
to prevent it ever happening again.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: OxyContin.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Purdue Pharma, they have been marketing the drug as something that's not addictive, when it clearly is.
GOLODRYGA: "Dopesick," the new series examining the worst drug epidemic in American history and the lives it destroyed. Hari Sreenivasan speaks to
actors Peter Sarsgaard and John Hoogenakker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back tomorrow.
Using people as pawns, a deliberate escalation of tensions, instrumentalizing migrants, strong words from European leaders as Poland
accuses Belarus of urging a -- quote -- "mass entry" of migrants across their shared borders. With thousands gathering at the frontier, tensions
are escalating fast.
Poland says thousands of additional military personnel have been deployed. The E.U. believes Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko is seeking revenge for
sanctions. He denies manufacturing the crisis and is warning Poland against acting inhumanely towards the migrants.
At the center of this war of words, thousands of desperate people in search of a better life.
Joining me now, journalist Matthew Luxmoore. He spent several days near the Poland-Belarus border.
Matthew, thank you so much for joining us.
We have been covering that this heartbreaking story as it's developed and, as obviously, the winter months have come closer on the ground there. but
can you give us a picture of what life is like for these migrants just basically trying to stay alive at this point?
MATTHEW LUXMOORE, JOURNALIST: Yes, it's really a heartbreaking situation.
I mean, temperatures are plummeting in this part of Poland in the east of the country. It's around minus-2 degrees Celsius at night at the moment.
And these people, many of these people who have managed to cross the border with help from Belarusian border guards, they're essentially enduring this
weather and a serious lack of food and clothing.
And sometimes they're helped by Polish activists who come into the forest and leave supplies that they later find. But a lot of people are really in
dire straits. Some of them have been there for a very long time, evading Polish army and police patrols, because they fear that they will be then
pushed back into Belarus and have to start the whole journey all over again.
GOLODRYGA: You profiled a Syrian family in your latest piece for Radio Free Europe, and I urge all of our viewers to read it. It's a really
heartbreaking and gripping piece. But it gives us a sense of what just one family is going through.
Their story, by the way, is a hopeful story at the end. Not all are experiencing that, unfortunately, but you profile a Syrian refugee, Raqi
Srour, who gained asylum in Germany five years ago and was trying to get his family, including his father, his wife, his sister, his uncle, his
cousins, into the country. And they're stuck at the border.
Can you talk about what he experienced and what his family members experienced?
LUXMOORE: I met Raqi after he had been staying at a hotel in Hajnowka, a town near the border, for around six days already.
He had tried so many different things to try and get his family out, trying to talk to Polish activists, trying to somehow maybe take them to a safe
house in the town. And, really, when I met him, he was very close to breaking point. He was very concerned. Temperatures were dropping rapidly.
And, in fact, the night I met him, we had had very heavy rainfall the previous day. So it was -- felt particularly cold that night. And he was
just thinking of his family sitting -- while he was sitting in a hotel, really kind of unable to do anything, because if he tired to lead them out
of the forest, they could easily be caught by one of these Polish army patrols.
I went into the woods with him, into the forest to try and find his family. And we had to be very careful in avoiding Polish army patrols as well. This
was actually a part of the border area that was legal to enter. Other parts are not. And journalists are also not allowed to enter an area that's
around three kilometers away from the border zone on each side.
And I saw him see his wife suffer for the first time in five days. And she was -- I will never forget the look on her face. She was really in despair.
And he whispered things to her ear. He decided not to share that with me, but I can't imagine what he said to her in that conversation.
And the following day, I was witness to conversations about some perhaps efforts to -- for them to make it out. And I only learned after I left the
border zone that they had made it out. And now they're safely in Germany.
And this is the case for many migrants who have made this route. They don't see Poland as a final destination. They mainly see Germany as a place that
they want to head to, because they see Germany as a much more welcoming country and a country that's much more likely to grant them asylum.
GOLODRYGA: You talk about his father, who's 70 years old, and his brother, who had been mauled by dogs. I mean, just the inhumanity here is
heartbreaking and devastating.
It's lovely to see the pictures that you posted there and that we have of them during happier times, fortunately.
For those who don't understand the backstory, can you give us a sense of why we are here right now, how these migrants from Middle Eastern,
countries experiencing unrest, are finding themselves in Eastern Europe, in Belarus, of all places?
Well, only in the past few weeks has Belarus kind of emerged, I guess more like -- more accurately, a couple of months, has Belarus really emerged as
kind of the main route for many, many migrants to Europe.
And I guess the story is fairly simple. Lukashenko. Alexander Lukashenko, the authoritarian leader of Belarus, he won elections. He claimed a
landslide win in elections last August. That sparked enormous protests in Belarus.
And since then, there's really been kind of a standoff with the European Union and the U.S., which have slapped sanctions on his regime. And many
see this as kind of his retaliation to those sanctions. He has essentially opened up borders to arrivals from many countries, including Yemen,
Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, who have paid in some cases thousands of dollars to Belarusian tour companies that are allegedly tied to the state to fly to
Minsk, from where they have a prearranged transfer to the border with Belarus.
And then Belarusian border guards, according to numerous accounts of migrants that I have spoken to, but also many I have seen shared by other
journalists, Belarusian border guards cut the concertina wire and let select groups of migrants through into Poland. And then they're essentially
on their own trying to make it into the forest, where they kind of look -- wait for a smuggler's signal.
But this is definitely seen very much as a kind of geopolitical standoff, a way for Lukashenko to put major pressure on the European Union by
essentially, I guess, weaponizing these people to try and destabilize Poland and perhaps force Polish border guards to react with force that then
maybe can be exploited for propaganda, or it's hard to say what his exact aim is in this situation.
And we should note that Belarus obviously is a landlocked country, and there are other countries experiencing these same issues at their borders,
being Latvia and Lithuania in particular. But it's Poland that's on the receiving end of a lot of ridicule, because they are defying international
law by pushing these migrants back into Belarus, and dispatching military troops along the border there, something that you don't see in Lithuania
Now, Poland is saying that it may be against international law, but not against their own domestic laws.
I want to play sound from you from the Polish foreign minister on his thoughts about who is at fault here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCIN PRZYDACZ, POLISH DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: The migrants are not only from Afghanistan. They're mostly from Iraq. They are people encouraged by
the Belarusian regime to come to Minsk. They have got the visa. They get accommodated in a state-owned hotels, accommodation.
They have got the transportation towards the border with the E.U. And they got the promise to do it illegally. And what's even worse, they paid a lot
of money for that to the Belarusian regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: We should note that that is the deputy foreign minister of Poland.
Is he making a credible argument here? And is there too much ire being directed at Poland? Because this is coming at a time when they are
experiencing their own tensions with the E.U. over their increase in nationalism with their latest elected government.
LUXMOORE: My sense is, the Polish government is definitely pandering to public sentiment.
Poland is a very divided country ever since the right-wing Law and Justice Party was elected into government in 2015. And the Polish government has
taken a very hard line on this migrant issue.
It's portraying its use of troops on the border and its lockdown in the border area and indeed its very kind of real intransigence in terms of
stopping these migrants or trying to stop these migrants from entering Poland as a kind of way of defending Poland from what senior officials have
described as men with terrorist inclinations and even kind of lewd sexual inclinations.
There's been a lot of disinformation by the Polish government. But Poland has definitely kind of chosen to push this very hard line that we are
defending the country from dangerous individuals, whereas liberals in Poland have staged protests against this narrative. And there are many
activists who are working in the east of the country, some of whom have moved from European Union countries specifically to help migrants on the
And I think they're very much motivated, based on my conversations with them, with a sense that their government is not doing right by these people
who are -- many of whom are trying to trying to definitely seek a better life in Europe.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, there are some inspiring stories of just average citizens there in Poland trying to be a good citizen and help these migrants any way
In terms of what happens next, we know that Lukashenko has spoken with his benefactor, and that is Russian President Vladimir Putin, on this issue. Is
there any sense, in your opinion, that this is going to take Russia's involvement to get some sort of resolution?
Because you keep seeing this volleying back and forth, threats of more sanctions. And Lukashenko isn't really changing his actions at this point.
LUXMOORE: That's a very good question. And, obviously, these things are very hard to predict.
But we did see last August, after Lukashenko's reelection as president, which the European Union and most Western countries have not accepted, we
saw that Russia took a kind of backwards stance. It didn't make any major statements initially. It kind of waited, I think, the Kremlin, to see how
things will unfold.
And I think we're kind of seeing a repeat of that at the moment. And I think Putin, as we know, based on his 21 or more years in power, he
definitely likes to play this role of an international mediator in major crises. And so I think perhaps the Kremlin will definitely see this as an
opportunity for Putin to play his role as international statesman.
Obviously, they very ardently back the Lukashenko regime in Belarus, so this might be a good opportunity for them to play this role of the arbiters
in this conflict, which has definitely been of Belarus' making in large part, I think.
GOLODRYGA: I guess I want to end by asking you, just personally, what this experience has been like and your takeaway from meeting families and
individuals like Raqi.
Is your sense of this crisis on the ground there, has it changed at all, just having a taste of what these families are going through?
LUXMOORE: I tried to take this story of this family, because there was a lot of reporting on the kind of geopolitical dimension of this conflict,
the countries involved and the senior officials and the statements they're making.
And this particular story, I was very lucky, I think, to meet Raqi and kind of have this -- be with him during this experience. And it definitely made
me realize that perhaps, I guess, there isn't enough coverage of the fact that these are individuals, each of which has a very, very different story
and very different reasons for making this very dangerous trek to Europe.
And so I guess I'm not sure how directly I'm answering your question. But I definitely felt that this story kind of gave that particular angle on the
situation. And perhaps there should be kind of more understanding of the fact that there are very many different people in this group of hundreds of
migrants who are heading to the border.
LUXMOORE: And they will be in far more difficult conditions once temperatures drop in coming weeks.
GOLODRYGA: Well, unfortunately, not many reporters get access the way you did. And it is so important that you tell these stories. And we are
fortunate to have you join us to tell them as well
Matthew, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
LUXMOORE: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Europe is currently battling another crisis, a spike in COVID cases, a surge that once again puts it at the epicenter of the
That's according to the WHO. It's particularly bad in some Eastern European countries where vaccine take-up is lower.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the first lady Jill Biden, has kicked off a campaign to get kids vaccinated.
My next guest is following all of these developments very closely. Dr. Paul Offit also has a new book out.
I don't know when you have the time.
It is called "You Bet Your Life." And it traces the history of risk in medicine. He's also the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Dr. Offit, thank you for joining us. And I mean it when I say I don't know when you have the time, but -- because between your important work and your
important work coming on air with us to talk about COVID over these past few months, it is really impressive that you have been able to write an
As a pediatrician, let me begin with you. We are just a few days into kids ages 5 to 11, mine included, by the way -- they got vaccinated on Friday --
being eligible to receive the vaccine. How do you view, how would you assess the rollout thus far?
DR. PAUL OFFIT, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, I think we're getting there.
The 5-to-11-year-old accounts for about 28 million people in the United States. That's a little less than 10 percent of the population. Certainly,
if all could be vaccinated, that would definitely help not only those children, but help decrease the spread of this virus in this country, on
the way to herd immunity.
So I think it's a really important step. We need to protect our children, especially now. You're heading into the winter. You have got a fully
susceptible group that are 5 to 11 years of age. Certainly, in communities where spread is still occurring, they need to be protected and masks only
do so much. This is the best way to protect our children.
And, look, anecdotally speaking -- and I'm sure you hear the same. There are still many parents themselves who are vaccinated. They are not in this
anti-vax movement. They follow the data, but they just as parents are having some reservations about their kids being vaccinated so early in.
What is your message to them? And perhaps some of them are your patients as well.
So, the question is never, one, do you know everything. You never know everything. The question is, when do you know enough? Do you know enough to
move forward on vaccines for children? So what do you know? You know that, for the 5-to-11-year-old, there's been about two million cases in that age
You know that there's been about 8, 300 hospitalizations, a third of which end up in the intensive care unit. And a third of those children had no
predisposing risk factors that would have put them at high risk of serious disease. And you know more than 100 children have died.
You know that a study was done about 2, 400 children, showing the vaccine was 91 percent effective. And you know that, as far as what everybody is
most concerned about, this fear of myocarditis, the heart muscle inflammation, that it was less of a problem in the 12-to-15-year-old and
that this group, the 5-to-11-year-old, is even getting a smaller dose.
So is that enough? I mean, I can tell you, the 18 people that voted on that for the FDA vaccine advisory committee, pretty much everybody voted yes. It
was 17 to no -- nothing, to one abstention. And those 17 people would have never voted yes unless they would be willing to give that vaccine to their
own children, .
I can tell you, were my children 5 to 11 years of age now, I would give them that vaccine in a second, because there are no risk-free choices.
There's just choices to take a different risk. And doing nothing is doing something. It's a choice to take that different risk.
GOLODRYGA: And risk-taking is part of the thesis of your book. And we will get to that in just a moment.
But I know it's difficult for you, because it is for journalists as well, sort of juggling the legitimate questions and concerns that many have with
just the plain and simple misinformation that's out there.
And the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, I want to read this to you, asked participants about several false statements in regards to COVID-19; 78
percent of adults that they believe at least one of those statements to be true.
How do you account for that? And how do you -- how do you combat that successfully?
OFFIT: Well, the only thing you have on your side is science, reason and data. And so, if people, for example, think that the vaccine is dangerous
in pregnancy or they think that it causes infertility, or they think that it alters your DNA, you can argue that with science and reason and logic.
But for people who don't -- who reached their conclusion without using reason or logic, reason or logic isn't going to talk them out of it. I
would say most people who have these concerns can be reassured. But there are certain groups who just are -- they're just not going to be convinced.
They don't trust the government. They don't trust the industry. They don't trust the medical community. And they're just not going to be convinced.
GOLODRYGA: And we have seen some good signs, right? The COVID cases have plateaued. They have gone down in the country, but I was a bit baffled by a
new Axios poll that's out, Axios/Ipsos poll, and suggests Americans feel that COVID is much less of a risk.
In fact, 55 percent of those polled said that they believe that the tide has turned, the corner has turned, and they think returning to a pre-COVID
lifestyle poses little or no risk.
I would imagine you would say it's too early to say that, but is it worrisome to hear this?
OFFIT: Well, we have said it before. I mean, there's been times in the past as we moved from sort of February to March, April of this past year,
where the numbers were coming down and everybody felt great as we headed into the into the summer months.
This is, at its heart, a winter virus. And I think that, as we head into winter, and you know that there are still certainly pockets in this country
that are undervaccinated and groups like children less than 12 years of age who are unvaccinated or undervaccinated, even the 12-to-15-year-old is
relatively unvaccinated -- only about 45 percent of those children have gotten a vaccine.
I think it is too early to declare victory. I mean, if you could tell me for certain that, a month from now, these numbers are going to continue to
go down, I would feel better. But I think nobody knows that. And I think you would be falsely reassured heading into winter.
If we were heading into June, July now, I would feel differently. But that's not it. We're heading into November, December, January, February,
and I think that we will likely see a bump in cases. That's the most likely scenario.
GOLODRYGA: Look, it's understandable that there's a lot of COVID fatigue in the nation. I feel it too at times. But, as you said, we're only getting
into colder weather months, right? And people are moving indoors, as opposed to being outside.
In terms of risks that people are willing to take, that's sort of the focus of your book, "You Bet Your Life." And you talk about, throughout history,
the medical advancements in science and technology that we have seen to help keep people alive do come with a lot of risks. And, in fact, there's
nothing that's risk-free.
It's a fascinating topic and an important one. But I'm wondering, just given what has been going on over the past nearly two years since we have
been covering COVID, all of the misinformation, everything on social media, did you have any reservations about writing this book that basically
suggests that nothing is completely a safe bet?
OFFIT: Not at all. Quite the opposite.
I think what I'm trying to do in this book is to get people to understand that we learn as we go, that there's always a learning curve. And people
will say well, let's just wait until the learning curve is over, and then I will try this medical innovation.
The learning curve is never open -- over. I think that, for me, sort of the emotional part of this book was would be that, when we, as the FDA vaccine
advisory committee, were asked, for example, to approve the vaccine for the 12-to-15-year-old, that was based on a study of about 2, 300 children.
There were 18 cases of COVID, all in the placebo group. And I got a lot of e-mails from parents, some of them more angry than others, that all said
pretty much the same thing; 2, 300 children, really, that's all you want to test?
Here you had Pfizer had done a trial of more than 40,000 adults. And now we're asked to vaccinate the 12-to-15-year-old with only a study of 2, 400
children, where there were 18 cases of COVID, to which my response is, OK, we could do 24,000 children, in which case there wouldn't be 18 cases of
COVID, there would be 180 cases of COVID.
And what that reminded me of was the polio vaccine back in the mid-1950s. When Jonas Salk made his polio vaccine, took polio, grew it up, purified
it, gave it to about 700 children in the Pittsburgh area, it was safe, induced great immune response. And he said to his wife, Donna, eureka, I
have got it.
And then we proceeded to do a trial he didn't want to do. It broke his heart. So what happened between 1954 and 1955 is that we gave the vaccine
to 420,000 children, gave a placebo to 200,000 children. He couldn't conscience giving a placebo vaccine to children knowing there was going to
be polio in this country.
So, what -- so when we declared that vaccine safe, potent and effective, how did we know it was effective? We knew it was effective because 16
children died of polio in that study, all in the placebo group. We knew it was effective because 36 children were paralyzed in that study, 34 in the
I mean, I was a first- and second-grader in the 1950s. These children could have lived a long and fulfilling life but for the flip of a coin. I think
part of this book is about, what human price are we willing to pay for knowledge? And when do we know enough?
GOLODRYGA: You were one of the co-inventors of the rotavirus vaccine. So this is a personal experience for you as well that you're reliving once
again dealing now with COVID-19.
And I guess the question to you is, when do you ever stop worrying, given your past experience about, look, a successful phase three trial, right?
But that's maybe 70,000, not 70 million, as I have read you say in an interview. So do you ever have that moment where you're finally saying, I
don't have to stress about this? Or is it always inside of you?
OFFIT: Always inside of me.
I mean, when we did 70,000-person baby trial, right -- it's a vaccine given by mouth two babies at 2, 4 and 6 months of age -- 35,000 got vaccine,
35,000 got placebo, and the vaccine was safe and it worked.
But you're right; 70,000 isn't 70 million or 700 million. I mean, this vaccine is now out in the world. And when do you stop worrying? You never
stop worrying, because you know, historically, the learning curve pretty much never ends and that there's always surprises.
And that's why, if you learn anything in this business about medical innovation, it is humility, because you have to always keep your eyes open.
Nobody would have ever imagined that mRNA vaccines would have caused myocarditis, this heart muscle inflammation.
And nobody would have ever imagined that the vectored virus vaccines, like the J&J vaccine or the AstraZeneca vaccine, would cause a severe class
problem, rare, but real.
But history teaches us that that's invariably true, that there is a human price for knowledge. And that's always the case.
GOLODRYGA: And the human price, even if it initially begins in failure, is to always continue to learn and improve, because, ultimately, as you
explain in this book, millions of lives are changed and saved.
Dr. Paul Offit, thank you so much for joining us. Great to see you.
OFFIT: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, next: an unbearable tragedy. Eight families are searching for answers after their loved ones were killed in a crowd surge at the
Astroworld music festival in Houston, victims aged between 14 and 27.
Dozens were injured. Three remain in hospital. Rapper Travis Scott, who was performing at the time, along with the organizers, Live Nation, are under
intense scrutiny over how this tragedy played out. On social media, Scott said he was devastated by what took place, while his partner, Kylie Jenner,
said they were not aware of any fatalities until after the show.
At least 18 lawsuits have been filed. Fans caught up in the crush have described their own panic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone around me was screaming "Medic" and trying to get them through. But it was so compact, there was not any room for
anyone to get through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was so hard to move your arms. And, like, it was so hard to breathe that I was like -- I was pushing everyone in front of me
just like to get a -- breathe, just to breathe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right before I passed out, I tried to turn my head to tell my boyfriend -- I couldn't turn my head, but I tried to tell him to --
I really was going to have him tell my son that I loved him, because I honestly did not think I was going to make it out of there. I'm not trying
to be dramatic. I straight up thought I was going to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Joining me now is Chris Richards, a pop music critic for "The Washington Post."
Chris, thank you so much for joining us. And I have to say, a few days into this tragedy, and it's still shocking to hear the reports from those who
were there, some 50,000 people. Now, this is an event that had been put off for a couple of years because of COVID. So you can imagine just the
enthusiasm and excitement that perhaps led to the devastation that unfolded.
But can you really set the scene for what took place and how this possibly could have happened?
CHRIS RICHARDS, POP MUSIC CRITIC, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it's very difficult to do that, having not been there, and also having spent my life
in crowds of this size and never having experienced something like this.
Music festivals of this nature and the size, this magnitude take place all over the planet all the time. And very rarely do they tip over past this
tipping point that we saw on Friday night. And, for me, it's just been a lot of sort of mysterious searching of like what happens in a crowd when
suddenly a collective expression of joy turns deadly.
People become so excited and so euphoric that they're no longer paying attention to one another and one another's safety. And digging into the
reasons behind why that could have happened, it's going to take a long time.
GOLODRYGA: Well, this was not an impromptu event. And it was at a well- established scene, right, that has housed events like this before. And what we seem to be hearing now is a lot of finger-pointing in defense of what --
whether it was the organizer itself, whether it was the Houston police.
We do know that the police chief said he spoke with Travis Scott before the concert. But from everything that you have heard, I know you say you
weren't there, does something stand out to you as unusual?
RICHARDS: I mean, the one X-factor, of course, is what you mentioned before, the idea that all of these young people are coming out of the
tedium of 19 months of quarantine, and they're excited to be together.
I have never been at a festival like that. I have been to other festivals of this size all across the country, different age groups, different styles
of music. The one commonality I think you will see at a large music festival like this is maybe what you might call a lack of hospitality on
behalf of the promoters.
A lot of the waiting areas at these festivals can feel like holding pens. Bottles of water can cost more than $5. The restroom facilities can be
filthy. And I think a lot of people, young people walk into these festivals, they don't feel that they're at all respected by the space.
So there's no suggestion that they should respect one another or respect the space itself. So I think, just at a baseline, the first thing that the
concert promotion industry needs to do, especially Live Nation, who is the largest promoter of concerts on this planet, they need to begin to improve
the infrastructure at these festivals to put a little more care into it, to let people know what's responsible of them and what people owe each other
when they get together in these massive, massive groups.
GOLODRYGA: Well, again, Live Nation is a well-known promoter. And from what I have read, there are many that they don't want to go on the record
in assessing what went wrong because of the stature of this company and Live Nation.
They have issued a statement saying that they are assisting in the investigation into what happened. Here's what they said via Twitter:
"Heartbroken for those lost and impacted at Astroworld last night. We will continue working to provide as much information and assistance as possible
to the local authorities as they investigate this situation."
As we said earlier, Travis Scott issues a statement and a video on Instagram acknowledging that seeing the crowd, the ambulance in the crowd,
he just -- may have just been distracted and confused of what was going on.
We do have some video of concert goers that were desperate to try to stop the show. A man and woman were pleading with the cameraman to do something,
saying that people were dying. I want to play that video for us right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is someone dead. There is someone dead. There is someone -- dead in there. There is someone dying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop the show. Stop the show. Stop the show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: OK. So, I understand it's dark, there's a lot of lights on the stage, there's thousands of people there and one could understand maybe to
Travis' argument that he was confused and he didn't know what was going on. But given sort of the circumstances leading up to big events like this,
aren't there certain protocols? Is there no one that could talk to him in his ear piece the way my producers do in my earpiece to let them know that
the show needs to be stopped, that there's an emergency out in the audience?
RICHARDS: I would hope that would happen. And obviously, there's a lot of debate over whether, you know, is the security to blame for this? Does the
artist have a responsibility in it? I will say, when you are in the noisy darkness of performance up on stage, and also, as a rapper whose job is to
be able to recite thousands upon thousands of words over music, you know, you're focused on your performance. And I don't think it's fair for people
to say that this one pair of eyeballs should have had his sort of watch over 50,000 people.
Of course, there were hundreds and hundreds of security personnel on site whose job it is to be monitoring the safety of the situation. Should they
be able to relay the information to the stage and get the concert to somehow slow down, calm down? That's what I'm sure we'll going to be
parsing for weeks ahead.
I mean, people have said that -- there was some reports saying that promotors feared stopping the concert in fears the audience would then riot
and create more problems, more violence. So, there's a lot to -- a lot of work to be done. And, again, I think it does go back to companies like Live
Nation, especially Live Nation who promotes more than 100 festivals like this around the planet a year. They have the resources to begin to improve
the situations at these kinds of events and it's going to be on them to do it.
GOLODRYGA: I believe, Chris, one of the reasons there's so much attention on Travis Scott himself and his behavior is because there's a past history
with his behavior and sort of instigating some of this crowd rushing to various concerts that he's performed in the past. Can you tell us a bit
more about that?
RICHARDS: Sure. He does have a well recorded history of riling up the crowd, being an exciting performer. A lot of other artists also have this
kind of history. Apparently, some of these incidents have gotten the law involved though. Travis Scott concert, one attendee fell off of a balcony
at one of his shows and proceeded (ph) actions against him. I believe that he was arrested after speaking out against the security guards, maybe, at
the Lollapalooza Festival a few years ago.
So, of course, he has this track record. But, again, I will say that music's job and the music he makes, the job is to get the crowd excited and
to feel togetherness and to feel a sense of release, if you will. And I'm not -- personally, I'm not the kind of person who is ready to, you know,
point the finger at the artist immediately and say it's -- they're responsible for it.
A lot of people shared videos this weekend of Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters, you know, in the past sort of calling out bad behavior in the audience. And
I think it's important for us to remember, Dave Grohl was just was playing to just a few thousand people indoors in those settings. It's a lot easier
for him to see what's going on and to try and call it out. This festival was immense. We're talking about 50,000 people. It's very, very hard for
one artist to kind of be keeping track of that entire crowd.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Of course. And, look, we're not here to point fingers. We're here to sort of, you know, dig into why this tragedy happened,
especially when you look at -- you know, any death is a tragedy, but when you look at these ages, you know, a nine-year-old boy is now in a medically
induced coma. This is not something that you would expect at a festival.
And unfortunately, this isn't the first type of event, a music event. We've seen this happen at sports events in the past as well. And 1989, nearly 100
people died in a human crush at the Hillsborough Soccer Stadium. And in 1979, 11 people died at the Who Concert in Cincinnati, Ohio. What
provisions can be taken and should be taken going into such a huge event, like 50,000 people turning out to see one person?
RICHARDS: That's really hard for me to say. I do think the infrastructure at these events can be improved to just thinking of themselves as more
hospitable and offering hospitality to the attendees. That's one step. Another step comes from people realizing -- young people realizing, when
they join a crowd, they are joining a communal event and they have a responsibility to one another in a sense. I think that's a conversation
that we can have, facilitate in journalism, we can facilitate it between artists and their fans, it can be facilitated on social media.
But when we go to a concert, we're not there to just be consumers, we're not there to just fork over our money and take in music. We're there to be
together, to be with one another and to watch out for one another. And again, I'm not blaming these young people who were caught in this
incredibly, you know, difficult situation on Friday night for their behavior. It was a mass event where euphoria got out of control and I don't
know, you know, where that -- again, that tipping point is.
But I do think some kind of public discussion about what we owe one another when we go into an event together in public is warranted and will take
place now the more you talk about it.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And you alluded to that when you write mass gathering are intrinsically fragile but relatively stable things. To join one requires a
collective step toward the edge of control without stepping over it. Collective step being the important highlighter there.
Chris Richards, thank you so much for coming in the program.
RICHARDS: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: We appreciate it.
RICHARDS: I appreciate it.
GOLODRYGA: Well, turning now to one of the worst drug epidemics in American history. Hulu's new scripted drama, "Dopesick," explored how
Purdue Pharma's highly addicted painkiller, OxyContin, led to a tragic ripple effect on communities throughout the country.
Actors Peter Sarsgaard and John Hoogenakker join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss their roles in the project and the urgency of the opioid crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Bianna, thanks. Peter Sarsgaard, John Hoogenakker, thanks for joining us.
First, I want to ask both of you, when you were looking through the script, when you were preparing for this, what surprised you?
Peter, let me start with you.
PETER SARSGAARD, HULU'S "DOPESICK," ACTOR: You know, I think it was this campaign by Purdue Pharma to really make the people who become addicted
seem like the problem, that they were kind of a small percentage of people who were prescribed the drug, that they were prone to it, that they were
addicts, that they were less them. And I think that's also what got me angry.
JOHN HOOGENAKKER, HULU'S "DOPESICK," ACTOR: I would agree that all of that was concerted and that was it by design and that the idea at the end of the
day was just to push opium on the masses, to try to find a way to beef that market up. And I was also disheartened that, you know, we like to put our
faith in these governmental entities that are there to protect us. I was disheartened at the breakdown that happened at the governmental level. The
FDA that allowed this to make it to market and informed that it made it to market.
SREENIVASAN: We're going to roll on a clip of a young salesman talking to Michael Keaton's character for the first time, talking about the phrase
less than 1 percent addictive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL KEATON, HULU'S "DOPESICK," ACTOR: I've got another patient coming in here in a few minutes. So --
WILL POULTER, HULU'S "DOPESICK," ACTOR: : Of course. I won't take too much of your time. You're probably already familiar with our drug, MS
Contin. Used to treat severe pain in many patients with cancer.
KEATON: MS Contin is a very good drug.
POULTER: So, what Purdue did is they took the same system, the Contin system, and they produced the opioid for chronic and moderate pain.
KEATON: I would never prescribe a narcotic for moderate pain. There's a pretty long history down here, pill abuse.
POULTER: Less than 1 percent of people get addicted to OxyContin.
KEATON: That's not possible.
POULTER: But it is. The FDA actually created a special label to say that it's less addictive than other opioids, right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your most effective talking point is the FDA label. These are your new magic words. Delayed absorption as provided by OxyContin
POULTER: Delayed absorption as provided by OxyContin tablets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It believed to reduce --
POULTER: -- the abused liability of a drug.
KEATON: I've never seen a label like this on a class 2 narcotic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Peter, as you're reading through the script and you see the ways that the sales people were, you know, working their doctors, trying to
improve the reach of the drug. It almost reads like fiction. Like you couldn't make this up. This is what was happening on a daily basis.
SARSGAARD: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the incentives put before them were ridiculous and obvious. And I think one of things that I really came out of
this thinking was that, you know, this really comes down to a fault in our health care system when you have so few people that have a primary care
physician or a healer or whatever it is in your circle that is someone they can rely on and trust that the doctor, you know, is getting his ear pulled
more by the salesperson and the government is protecting, you know, big pharma more than it is the individual.
And I think consumer level, if the person who is in need, if the person who is in pain, you know, they're just being left out completely. So, to me, it
really comes down to restoring that relationship between the physician and the patient. And finding a place for it in our health care system.
HOOGENAKKER: Totally agree. And we're kind of in a perfect storm scenario too where doctors, I think, you know, generally are good people, principled
people doing who doing the best they can for all of their patients, but we're in a situation right now where your average doctor gets like, what,
12 or 13 minutes with you when you come in for a check-up. It's not enough time for them, and I think most health care professionals would echo that.
And then, you know, they're approached by these drug reps who hand them labels that have been approved by the FDA and they have to take it at face
value. They have to believe the tests that were submitted by Purdue Pharma through the FDA for the approval process. And again, that gets back to some
of the things that just blew us away.
I mean, as you read into this and find terms like pseudo addiction, when a patient who is dealing with actual addiction, they come up with the term
that turns it into something a little bit warmer and fluffier. It can be dealt with more of the drug.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. You know, what's fascinating to me is that we were in this climate where there was this national rethinking of pain and it wasn't
really until this series and a little bit of the other research that I am realizing, that wasn't by coincidence that this whole thing was by design,
that we were part of a campaign that we didn't realize we were part of that was actually serving an end goal.
SARSGAARD: Actually, you think about -- you know, I think about this recently as last year going into a hospital and seeing a pain chart, that
pain chart that we all know with the faces and 1 through 10. Well, in a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma is responsible for making that pain chart to
start the conversation, right, to make the conversation about pain.
Well, pain is obviously something that none of us likes to deal with but the primary conversation should be about what the illness is, what the
problem is and ways going about fixing with it. And dealing with pain is obviously a discussion you need to have, but it's not the first one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been living with pain for so long, but then almost overnight, I got my life back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As shown in Exhibit 1A that it got my life back promotional video, Purdue manipulated basic facts of the drug, claiming it
is essentially non-addictive when it clearly was and these participants involved were deceived into participating, being told it was a PSA for pain
relief instead of an advertisement for OxyContin. And many of them are now addicted or dead from drug use.
So, we request access to all internal marketing materials, research and testing data to determine if there are other deceptions as flagrant as the
exhibit currently for the court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your honor, statements made by council in no way even resemble the facts. My client is aware there have been addiction issues in
this part of the world. But blaming Purdue Pharma for this is like blaming Budweiser for a drunk driver. It is the fault of the drug abuser and not of
the manufacturer. The scope of the subpoena is overly broad and the information contained in their request is privileged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, if there is no liability then --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What these local lawyers don't seem to understand is that there is a national pain movement that is far bigger than my client
and its drugs. Renowned pain organizations have not only endorsed my clients' medication but the general use of increased opioid treatment, my
client should be given a Nobel prize but not a subpoena for materials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: What's interesting in this clip and so many others is how completely outgunned the government resources are in this situation. I
mean, you literally see almost a phalanx of lawyers lining up for the pharma company and, you know, and John's character seems like, you know,
boy scouts and Mr. Smith goes to Washington compared to what's happening.
SARSGAARD: Well, there's that. There's the, you know, enormous wealth of the Sackler Family and Purdue Pharma. There's also the fact that the amount
of lobbying that they had done in Washington, D.C. So, they've essentially, they've got lawmakers behind them, you know.
It really is a David and Goliath story. And, you know, I didn't actually talk to Rick Mountcastle until after we did the film. But it really is
incredible what they did and incredible that they believed that they could do it. You know, I mean, it's really a spectacular story. It's one of the
things that really drew me to it. I rarely get the opportunity to play someone that I'm so enthralled of.
HOOGENAKKER: Yes. It was audacious, even the attempt and then, given the Sackler's records of fending off prior attempts I think --
SARSGAARD: 60 suits prior, something like that. Yes.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, the -- also, a bit revelatory, you know, watching this show is the sort of critical eye placed on the FDA. And on the one
hand, you can say how absolutely under resourced they are. And then, on the other hand, you also look at the system structurally, it seems aligned so
that the very companies that they are regulating have different hands in creating the rules that are regulating them.
HOOGENAKKER: Yes. I completely agree. And I want to echo something that you just intimated, which is, I believe that the FDA is made up of good,
well-intentioned principled individuals. But then when you get an organism that is -- that can be this ungangly (ph), it is possible for it to be
misused. And we as individuals, I mean, it harkens back to the sort of lobbying paradigm that we have in Congress, that you can come in, you can
make a lot of friends, a lot of connections, you can serve one term and then, you can still make a really good income for yourself for the rest of
your working days.
And the same can be true of the FDA. If you leave and you know how the approval process works, you can shepherd companies that just want to bring
drugs to market through that process, which has --
SARSGAARD: And that happened with Purdue. I mean, literally --
HOOGENAKKER: And in fact -- yes, and in fact, it was even perhaps a little more questionable than that. If it happened the way that it looks like it
happened, an FDA person who worked at the FDA huddled with people from Purdue, and I don't want to give away too much in the story for people who
haven't seen it. But yes, it is -- there is a lot of kind of backroom dealing that can happen.
SREENIVASAN: I want to take a look at another clip here because the real tragedy is the ripple effects that it has on any community that is impacted
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going after a publicly traded companies are pretty steep hill to climb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not publicly traded. It's privately owned by a single family, the Sackler Family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sacklers. Big philanthropists, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. Yes. They give lots of money to museums and schools. Rich person stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very rich.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what do you guys got no other U.S. attorney in the country is on to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, about four months ago, I was reviewing our case load when I noticed an unusual pattern, almost every case over the last
three years, I was related to OxyContin, nearly everyone, the legal drug sales, theft, armed robbery, child abandonment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it has transformed the entire district. Jails are suddenly full, violent crime is running rampant. You know, for the last
200 years, folks around here didn't even lock their doors. Didn't even think about it. Now, starting three years ago --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never lock their doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Single highest source of crime in the entire region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: You know, what was interesting to me is that when you look at the statistics of what happened to the United States because of the
overdoses, half a million people have died and in any other reality, that number you would think would move us toward action. You know, have you been
following what's been happening in the case and what's -- how this has been progressing?
SARSGAARD: Well, yes. I mean, there has been some progress in the case with Purdue. You know, there was a settlement for, John, correct me if I'm
wrong, $4.5 billion. Something like that.
HOOGENAKKER: That's right. Paid over nine years.
SARSGAARD: You know, I have someone very close to me who became addicted. And so, I did this documentary in 2016 where I went to Dayton, Ohio, and
Shonda Rhimes and Norman Lear produced it. And just I had like a real need to tell the true story. The kind of ripple effect of death and poverty and
sadness caused by this drug is absolutely massive.
I saw a jail cell filled. Because in Dayton, they had this policy of taking someone, you know, who is in possession and putting them in a jail cell, I
believe it was for 30 days. Kind of enough time for them to just barely dry out. And I saw a jail cell for young women and it was filled with probably
-- just on a random day, I went there, I think with about 70 young girls. And that is the thing that I really want people to take away is, yes, this
is about the Sacklers, this is about, you know, lobbyists and government and -- but this is really about the individual and the families and the
children that have been affected by this drug. Not just the deaths.
SREENIVASAN: What do you both think it will take for America to pay attention to this? I mean, we've had this slow rolling tragedy for a few
years now and there have been books about this, there are have been documentaries, there's this series that you're both part of. You know, what
do you think keeps Americans from paying the necessary amount of attention? Is it where it's happening? It is who it's happening to? I mean --
HOOGENAKKER: I've been talking to my son who's 12 years old about how this drug and opioids in general can rewire the brain. There's a character in
the show who falls prey to addiction and then she looks like she's getting clean and then other things happen and he doesn't after how gotten clean,
it could happen again. And I think that what we're really, really going for is to put a little bit more empathy into the conversation around addiction
that people deal with in this country.
We have to start to see people who are dealing with addiction in a more empathetic way. You know, the greater conversation about pain being part of
the healing process, that's a really huge mountain to climb and I have no idea how we get there, but I think that's part of it too.
SREENIVASAN: Peter, I wonder, also, you had mentioned that this had personally affect you and I want to know whether that guided how you played
this character or dedicated yourself to this role.
SARSGAARD: It's the reason I am interested in telling it. You know, I mean, the turmoil that it causes within a family, and I -- you know, I --
coming from a family where myself and a few others of us have the means to, you know, help someone through this because if you want to try to get
through it, it's a very expensive proposition and your insurance isn't really going to cover it if you have insurance.
So, that personal connection to it is the drive for me. It makes it possible to play a character, who like in every scene, I am single minded
about my purpose. You know, to the detriment of probably my own family at certain points.
But like this is a man on a mission and, you know, there are lots of causes, there's lots of things to worry about and talk about in this world
but this one is so -- to me, it is to preventable, just because if the government got on the side of the individual instead of the corporation,
instead of the pharmaceutical company and pass the Sackler Act, then when they actually put individuals, executives in jail, instead of just fining
them, because these are just parking ticket. They sound like big numbers to us, but these are parking tickets. That, I think, will start to put a dent
into it. But it's a matter of the government protecting us, you know.
SREENIVASAN: You know, John, I wonder -- this is a spoiler alert for the audience, but when you figured out that the person at the FDA who helped
write the rules for how OxyContin could be distributed went to work for Purdue Pharma afterward, what went through your mind?
HOOGENAKKER: We have to -- as best as we can, we have to keep stories like this alive. Not just instances like the one you mentioned, Hari, but
stories like how the opioid crisis came to be in this country. We have to demonstrate that it's important to us and we have to push lawmakers to pass
things like the Sackler Act.
I looked it up this morning and it's stuck -- it's bouncing around in subcommittees, it's currently in the anti-trust commercial and
administrative loss committee They're just passing it around. I think it looks good, but I don't know. Why don't you have a look at it? No, I think
it looks, but I don't know. Why don't you? And then, you know, another election happens. The country moves in a different direction and maybe
nothing happens. And this is how it goes on and on and on. But we cannot become complacent. It's very important that when we're given the
opportunity to vote, that we get out and make it happen.
SREENIVASAN: The series is on Hulu, it's called "Dopesick." Peter Sarsgaard, John Hoogenakker, thank you both for joining us.
SARSGAARD: Thank you for having us.
HOOGENAKKER: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And just to note, last November, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three felony offenses. The Sackler Family does not currently face any
criminal charges and no member of the family have been convicted of a crime for actions related to Purdue Pharma nor do they admit wrongdoing.
In August, during bankruptcy proceedings, former company president, Richard Sackler, said he believes his family and the OxyContin manufacturer bear no
responsibility for the opioid crisis.
And finally, forget fry-ups and Bloody Marys. Could this amethyst ring cure a hangover? Well, archeologists say it may have been worn all the way back
in the seventh century to try to do just that. The jewel has been discovered after the excavation of this huge ancient wine factory in
Israel. It was found lying just 500 feet away from a warehouse holding ancient jars used to store wine. It makes sense.
Well, archeologists say amethyst was believed to have had many virtues thousands of years ago. The prevention of the side effect of drinking being
just one of them. It's fascinating.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from