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Interview With The New Yorker Staff Writer Amy Davidson Sorkin; Interview With GiveDirectly President Rory Stewart; Interview With NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour" Co-Host Stephen Thompson; Interview With NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour" Co-Host Aisha Harris. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 20, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), U.S. HOUSE JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE MEMBER: Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail and the
masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: A historic criminal referral for a former U.S. president, as the scrutiny for Donald Trump continues today over his tax returns. The impact
of what it all means, and as what a Republican controlled house means for the work of the committee next year.
Then, global aid in trouble. I speak to former U.K. Secretary of State for International Development, Rory Stewart, about his efforts to send money
directly to the world's poorest. Plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR SWIFT, SINGER: It's me, hi. I'm the problem, it's me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: A year-end review in the pop universe. We look at what has made us all go wow in 2022.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Sara Sidner in Los Angeles sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
It is a meeting that has been years in the making and highly anticipated, and one more headache for former President Donald Trump. As the House
Congressional Committee debates making his tax returns public at last. This only, a day after a dramatic and historic decision by another committee
looking into the January 6th insurrection, referring the former president to the Department of Justice on four criminal charges.
Trump, the only declared Republican contender so far for the 2024 presidential election, offered a defiant response saying, these folks don't
get it that when they come after me, the people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger, he
So, how did the committee reach its decision and what are the consequences for the former president? Correspondent Paula Reid walks us through this
unprecedented moment in American politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS) AND CHAIRMAN, U.S. HOUSE JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE: We are prepared to share our final findings with you.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): In a historic hearing, lawmakers on the January 6th Committee laid out why they
believe that Justice Department should pursue at least four criminal charges against former President Trump.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA), U.S. HOUSE JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE MEMBER: President Trump lit the flame. He poured gasoline on the fire and sat by in
the White House dining room for hours watching the fire burn. And today, he still continues to flan -- fan those flames.
REID (voiceover): Lawmakers concluded there is evidence of obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, false
statements to the federal government, and inciting or assisting an insurrection.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), U.S. HOUSE JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE MEMBER: The president's actions could certainly trigger other criminal violations.
REID (voiceover): The Committee also released a summary of its final report, Monday, describing an extensive detail how Trump tried to pressure
anyone who wasn't willing to help him overturn his election defeat, while knowing that many of his claims were not true. The Committee played
previously unseen clips from interviews with top White House aides like Hope Hicks, who shared what happened when she challenged Trump on his
HOPE HICKS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging -- we were damaging his legacy. He said something along
the lines of, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So, that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.
REID (voiceover): The committee vice chairwoman believes these legal recommendations should also have political consequences.
LIZ CHENEY, VICE CHAIR, U.S. HOUSE JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE: No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any
position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.
REID (voiceover): In addition to Trump, lawmakers recommended his election attorney, John Eastman, on two counts, impeding in official proceeding and
conspiring to defraud the United States. He was the author of a two-page memo outlining what he said was a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence
to block the certification of a presidential electoral count.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Eastman admitted in advance of the 2020 election that Mike Pence could not lawfully refuse to count official electoral
votes. But he, nevertheless, devised a meritless proposal.
REID (voiceover): In a statement, Eastman's lawyer dismissed the referral as the product of an absurdly partisan process. The committee also made
ethics referrals against four GOP lawmakers who refused to comply with subpoenas for this investigation.
RASKIN: We are now referring for members of Congress for appropriate sanction by the House Ethics Committee for failure to comply with lawful
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: That was Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin ending that report for Paula Reid. Now, nearly two years on, this action by the Committee
marks a significant move forward, but with several members leaving Congress, and the Republicans regaining control of the House, what happens
now? Our next guest, staff writer for The New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin joins Michel Martin to tackle these very questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Sara. Amy Davidson Sorkin, thanks so much for joining us.
AMY DAVIDSON SORKIN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: You've been watching the work of the Congressional Committee to investigate the January 6th Insurrection very closely. Perhaps as closely
as anybody. The Committee had its last meeting yesterday. What stood out to you?
SORKIN: Well, one thing that stood out was the tone. You know, the Committee was meeting in a very solemn way to say our work is done. But
that -- there's some element of tragedy to it. The reason their work is done is, for one thing they've finished the report, but it's also done
because the Committee is being disbanded at the end of this congressional session because the Democrats lost control of the House. So, it's work is
done in that way.
It was also interesting looking up at the role of nine Committee members and thinking about the fact that only five of them are even coming back to
Congress. The vice chair, Liz Cheney, has been more or less driven out of her Party.
SORKIN: The other Republican on the committee, Adam Kinzinger, is retiring. Elaine Luria, a Democrat, lost her race in a swing district in
Virginia. And Stephanie Murphy is retiring as well. So, you've got that sense of loss as well as a sense of accomplishment. And that, I think,
leaves one wondering what comes next.
At the same time, they gave a fair idea of what might come next later this. We're going to get a very in-depth report. They previewed the report and
some of its more dramatic elements. And a lot is going on. In a way, they were handing off the ball. They were saying, you know, we're working --
they ended by voting on criminal referrals to the Justice Department.
MARTIN: Let's talk about -- you say, the headlines from the meeting itself. I mean, obviously, you're saying that the Committee is referring --
is suggesting to the Justice Department, that they investigate the former president, also the former president's lawyer. But they also recommended
that a House Ethics Committee take up the matter of the four sitting members, including the Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, who just refused
to accept the subpoenas or refused to appear before the Committee, refuse to testify.
SORKIN: Well, we'll see. It's a tricky, tricky question, the, you know, subpoenaing of members of Congress. On a separate issue, there's a whole
train of litigation where Lindsey Graham was trying to use, what is called, the speech and debate clause of the constitution to avoid testifying in
related proceedings in Georgia about the efforts of the president and his team to put pressure on state legislators there -- state officials there to
help him in his efforts to overturn the election. So, it's complicated with congressman.
And that's why I think the ethics part of it is interesting. Keep in mind though that this -- with this group of Republicans, it's possible what we
will get is, sort of, a torrent of retaliatory ethics committee referrals. And it's hard to know where that is going to lead.
What's interesting is that the Committee was -- did take its own subpoenas quite seriously. They made a referral that led to the prosecution of Steve
Bannon, the president's former advisor for criminal contempt of Congress. And he, in fact, sentenced to a few months in jail, though he hasn't served
-- there's -- pending an appeal.
And indeed, I think that some of the most productive work that the Committee did had to do with its litigation of its subpoenas. That --
MARTIN: Why do you say that?
SORKIN: You know, they managed to get through a lot of the evidentiary hurdles that up held some of the other investigations. For example, you
mentioned, the president's lawyer, John Eastman, who was also the subject of some of these criminal referrals. He had fought the subpoena of his --
some of his e-mails at his -- separate e-mail address that he had.
They litigated that and it was that litigation that not only gain them a lot of important and quite incriminating materials, but let some of the
questions about what happened be aired in a court. And the judge who adjudicated that claim is through -- Judge Carter, he probably heard a
quote from him, from his findings in that a lot. He was the who said that, what he saw going on in the conversations between Trump and his people with
law degrees was really a coup in search of a legal theory. It allowed some discussion of that.
There is also a litigation involving the Committee and the National Archives in which, you know, Trump and his allies have made all sorts of
quite spurious privileged claims. You know, executive privileges as if Trump is still and always would be president and could just tell anybody
not to speak. And those have actually had an airing in court, and Trump has lost, or the Trump side -- the Trump team has lost.
And that's important because it means that the Committee's work and the evidence that they can put before the public and other investigators, that
allowed the Committee. It also, again, shows that it's worth going to court sometimes.
MARTIN: Were there particular moments in these hearings that you think stand out, either for the impression that they left or for the argument
that they made, or the impact that it may have had on the public? Are there a couple of moments that you think are particularly consequential?
SORKIN: It's interesting to see how much the Committee had aimed its arguments at people who might actually have doubts about whether Joe Biden
won the election. You know, who might approach it thinking Donald Trump, in good faith, thought something had gone on. And you know, that's what was
(INAUDIBLE) very periodically a few things. First that so many people around Trump kept telling him he'd lost. And they kept telling him that his
plans for holding on to office were illegal and unconstitutional. It's particularly striking, I think, for a lot of people with the -- how they
documented the pressure that was put on Mike Pence, his vice president. How -- and how many people said this is not right. There is no way to watch the
hearings and hear the witnesses and feel that somebody made a good faith mistake about this.
Now, I hasten to say that, you know, when we talk about the hearings, it was mentioned yesterday that, in what was released yesterday, which is just
the executive summary of the report, the rest of the report comes later this week. That we saw either in person or in video clips maybe 70
witnesses, but the Committee interviewed about 1,000 people. So, there's so much material that we haven't seen yet, and that it's still hard for us to
MARTIN: Who is the audience for these hearings?
SORKIN: You know, it's a great question. Obviously, there are multiple audiences. I do think that they are trying to reach somebody who might not
be sure but what exactly happened. And if -- maybe it was just all, you know, Trump on the one hand being a little rash, a mob on the other hand,
how it all fit together, and may think -- people who think -- might think that it did not fit together.
There are other audiences also though. I think in a way, the Committee would say that it's most important audience is that amorphous thing known
is history, that it's establishing a record, making a statement.
And there was something historical about what we were watching in a number of ways. It's both historical in the sense of trying to say, what exactly
happened on this dangerous day for our democracy? But it's also historical in saying how do we then respond, move forward, what lessons do we draw
from this, in a way that is protective of our democracy.
The other audience, of course, is the Attorney General Merrick Garland and his team, and Jack Smith, the special counsel who has been appointed to
look into January -- Trump's relation to January 6th and other issues.
MARTIN: Obviously, the Justice Department, you know, to use a cliche, an overworked cliche, the ball is now in their court. OK. But from the
standpoint of the public, do you have a sense of whether the Committee succeeded in its goal of persuading people that this was serious? That, as
you just put it, that this was precarious.
SORKIN: It's a great question is what I would say. Did the January 6th Committee make a difference in the midterms being less bad for Democrats
than a lot of people expected? Maybe. You know, that -- some of that argument does seem possibly to have gotten through in key races. It didn't
solve anything, but it might, in a funny way, give Democrats the courage to keep making that argument. To not say, you know, this is never going to
reach anybody, because it seems to have reached some people and that's a proof of concept, if nothing else, that it can reach more people. That you
can talk this through with people, you can get people to least be in the conversation about what it meant, that they haven't completely written it
Now, I would also say, you know, about the ball being in the Justice Department's court, I think that the people in the Justice Department would
say, it's been in our courts for a while, and it's going to stay in our court. You know, there have been about 900 criminal charges scaled already.
They have been at it.
It's interesting, there's a moment in the executive summary where there is a comment that, usually when Congress makes a referral to the Department of
Justice, that it's about something that Congress has just come up with or has found in the course of its work. And they recognize that this isn't in
that category. It's not news to the Department of Justice that this happened, and that a lot of crimes may have been -- were committed on
There is some divergence in how they are approached, and of course, there is a question of Donald Trump. You know, the Justice Department has gotten
a lot of flak for -- are they being too slow. They have been very methodical. And, you know, it's easier really, as a committee, to, you
know, say, we're going to refer Donald Trump to the Department of Justice, then you actually have to make a case.
MARTIN: So, I want to go back to something you kind of raised at the beginning and that something that you've kind of thought about in your
writing is that, is there any gray area here in terms of the ability of the Justice Department to actually prosecute a former president? I mean, is
there any gray area there? Is there any sort of separation of powers issue here, or any other sort of deep constitutional question that actual, you
know, we should -- that we need to think about?
SORKIN: The deepest constitutional question -- because Donald Trump is no longer president right now, but the deepest constitutional question has to
do with the consequences. That is not to say that there aren't other constitutional issues, but where I think there's a lot of dispute -- now,
you could bring charges against Donald Trump. You can convict Donald Trump. What may surprise people is that there's a lot of -- that doesn't mean that
Donald Trump can't run for president in 2024. The idea of barring Trump from office, there are a million legal and judicial complications. So, it
would probably end up, almost most certainly, end up the Supreme Court. And then, then you have to ask whether this Supreme Court would bar Trump from
running for office. Also, really whether it should.
The only post-civil war use of the -- barring somebody from running for office again because of taking part in an insurrection clause was only a
disreputable one. It was used in 1919 to ban a socialist pacifist congressman from taking his seat because he had spoken against the U.S.'s
involvement in World War I. I mean, I'm talking about the autocracy being behind the war. And so, you see how those ways could -- how you can get to
a place that it's not great from a civil liberties perspective going forward.
MARTIN: Is there a particular moment that stands out for you, that sort of encapsulates what it is that this committee was trying to achieve or what
is it that you remember from?
SORKIN: I think that the recounting of the ways that people who held positions of authority in the government, in the administration, in the
military, when it came down to it, most of them took their jobs really seriously. And we had people who stopped and said, what is the constitution
want me to do? And they attack (ph) on that.
You saw that in the videos that the Committee obtained of people, of the Members of Congress who were told, you know, it going to take -- it takes
quite a while to clear out the cap on this. And they said, no actually, we have to get back in there right now.
The Committee sees itself as part of that process, of part of that stop and question and ask, where do our constitutional values lead us? And part of
that is, as you said, saying, well, you know, there have been a lot of criminal charges against people who are in the mob. What else were they
part of, and what are the different ways that our justice system can approach that at the highest level as well as at the lowest level?
That moment of taking responsibility, I think, stands out. I think the Committee has tried to do that and -- but it's -- you know, I think it's
important to remember that the Committee is not standing alone in this. There is so many investigations going on and it's not going to end with the
Committee being disbanded. This report, it's going to get us further, but it's not going to be the final word yet.
I mean, maybe we'll hear -- you know, it's not inconceivable that we will have a moment when Donald Trump is actually questioned in a court of law
about his role in this. And if we get to that point, that might -- you know, that's part of the work that we are seeing now from the Committee.
But in the end though, I think that what stands out is that people are going to -- in future years, go to the polls with a clearer picture of the
consequences of different kinds of folks and about the choices that they make too.
MARTIN: Amy Davidson Sorkin, thank you so much for talking with us today.
SORKIN: Thank you so much for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Coups, disease, outbreaks and extreme weather, it's been a painful year for many African nations. Problems created thousands of miles away,
from unfettered Co2 emissions to the war in Ukraine, came home to hurt livelihoods and fragile gains made over recent years for millions on the
The United Kingdom has traditionally been a major aid donor globally, something my next guest knows a lot about. Rory Stewart is a British former
secretary of state for international development. He's now the president of the charity GiveDirectly, and he is joining me now from Vermont. Welcome to
RORY STEWART, PRESIDENT, GIVEDIRECTLY: Thank you very much, Sara.
SIDNER: Now, I do want to talk to you first about some of the things that are really having an impact on all of the world, but particularly on the
continent of Africa. We are talking about climate change. We are talking about the war in Ukraine. The IMF, one third of the world droughts, they
say occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa, but there's also been flooding in some of the African nations. And of course, the rising food prices have really
hit the African continent hard, partly due to the war in Ukraine.
So, in your opinion, has 2022 really been a more difficult year than we have seen in a very long time for the African nations?
STEWART: Yes, it's terrifying. We often talk about the three Cs, which was COVID, then climate change, and conflict, it had a devastating impact on
Africa. And as you say, 60 percent of the wheat in Sub-Saharan Africa comes from Russia and Ukraine. And we can see what is happening there. Inflation
in many African countries has gotten completely out of control. Many countries are now facing a debt crisis. So, they have borrowed a lot of
money, often from China, over the last few years, and are struggling to repay it on flexible interest rates.
But the fundamental problem is that Africa remains one of the very poorest regions in the world. And in fact, it's been a great failure of the world.
There were 167 million people living in poverty in Africa in 1980. And today, there are 470 million people. And this is something that we should
be taking a long hard look at. We should be feeling very, very ashamed of the failure of the International Community to help Africa.
SIDNER: You know, you wish the shame would work, but unfortunately, as you said, a number of those who are hungry and dealing with poverty have gone
up since the days of -- I don't know if this is aging myself, we are the world, when there was a real push to try and change things, correct?
STEWART: So, Sara, you're absolutely right. It's extraordinary. And you remember, there were these great campaigns to make poverty history. The
sustainable development goals of the United Nations, goal number one was meant to be to end extreme poverty by 2030. And the world has completely
lost focus on this, and it's a tragedy because, in fact, it would not take a great deal of effort to make a huge difference. Something like 0.1 or 0.2
percent of global GDP would be all that it would take to fill that poverty gap in Africa and lift people out of extreme poverty. And yet, we are not
SIDNER: So, what does the world -- what are nations that have money, what are wealthy nations and developed nations doing wrong here?
STEWART: I think one of the fundamental things -- and it sounds very strange and it sounds radical to people, but one of the fundamental things
is that we are not having the confidence of giving cash to people. Most African communities know much better than a foreign government does what
their real needs are.
If you imagine yourself in a very poor community, every house has a different need. One person might need to get their kids back into school.
Their neighbor might need to fix the roof. Somebody else might need to put some food on the table. And giving cash to people is the most efficient and
effective way of delivering support. And it gives some dignity. It gives them choice. It lets them be in charge of the decisions in their own lives.
But one of the things that is holding us back is that are immense psychological blocks to giving cash. So, a huge amount of money is wasted
with the United Kingdom, European donors, the U.S., refusing to give cash, and often giving things in kind, which communities don't want, don't need,
and have to sell for cash to get what they actually do need.
SIDNER: That's a really fascinating insight. I want to talk a little bit about the politics of the world, and particularly here in America.
President Joe Biden held a summit last week to sort of renew America's standing in Africa, which says a lot. If you have to renew something, it
means you've sort of ignored that relationship to some degree. But he did promise to visit Africa, though he did not say when. He made a commitment
to give $55 billion in U.S. spending in Africa over the next three years. Let's listen to a little bit of what President Biden said in the commitment
he made to Africa last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The United States is all in on Africa and all in with Africa. African voices, African leadership, African innovation, all
are critical to address the most pressing global challenges, and realizing the vision that we all share, a world that is free, a world that is open,
prosperous and secure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So, from your vantage point, and from your context, do Africans and their leaders believe what they are hearing, the promises that are
STEWART: Not, I think, until it's delivered. The sad truth is that the U.S. has had less presence in Africa over the last few years than it's had
historically. So, George W. Bush focused a great deal on Africa, and the U.S. was leading the drive on HIV AIDS very, very successfully, saved 20
million lives, and that is something that people in Africa remember. President Barack Obama did an enormous amount in Africa, particularly in
the energy sector.
But under President Trump and the early years of President Biden, there's been much less U.S. involvement, and that's particularly been because of a
shift towards the focus on China, partly been about disentangling from places like Afghanistan, and, of course, most recently, the Ukraine war.
And while the U.S. has moved to the side, many other countries have come in. China most famously, China has let hundreds of billions of dollars to
Africa. But also, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Russia, which now has increasing numbers of mercenary troops on the ground in Africa, and all of
that has marginalized the traditional partnerships that existed between the U.S., its allies, and Africa.
SIDNER: I do want to ask you about China, because one of the things that people have noticed, countries have noticed, is that China is actually
filling a huge gap, and is really deeply involved in Africa, much of it has to do with the resources that Africa have, the natural resources. Do you
think that one of the reasons that the United States is paying so much attention now is because of the influence of China and Africa and trying to
STEWART: 100 percent. But it's sad that it's taken the U.S. so long to focus on this. Because often in thinking about how to balance China, or it
felt as though U.S. administrations recently thought the only place to balance China was around Taiwan and the Pacific. But of course, if you
really want to balance Chinese influence you have to think about the whole world.
As you've have pointed out, places like that Democratic Republic of the Congo produce enormous number of the rarest metals which are vital to
things like mobile telephones, to semiconductor chips. And Africa is also the big growing story in terms of population. One in 10 children born in
the world will be born in Nigeria alone by 2050. It is the place where migration will come from, pandemics will often come from there, there are
global security threats, but it's also a great place of opportunity.
And what the U.S. needs is to be innovative. It's not going to be able to spend this much money as China, but the reason we are trying to encourage
the U.S. to think about being imaginative and using things like cash, is that by doing so they can help everyday people living in extreme poverty in
Africa and have a different American attitude. Instead of the Chinese who tend to focus on working with the elites, doing big infrastructure, the
U.S. should be leading the way in ending extreme poverty.
And the key question is, what is going to happen to this $50 billion? Is it just going to be business as usual or is the U.S. going to change its
SIDNER: You know, how much responsibility though do African leaders have? There do -- there are many countries that do have a great deal of natural
resources, never mind the resources of human beings, how much of this lies on the backs of the leaders of several different African nations?
STEWART: There's definitely a huge shared responsibility. We shouldn't minimize that many of the problems in Africa come from what we politely
call governance, but these issues including problems of corruption. There are also, of course, great legacies, desperately sad legacies going back to
colonialism and slavery, which have affected Africa.
But it is true that difference can be made, that progress can be made. And so, it is a shared responsibility between African communities, African
leaders, and the International Community. And I think we could, if we wanted, end extreme poverty in Africa in our lifetime, something well
within our grasp, and it would be wonderful to see the U.S. leading that charge.
SIDNER: You know, we are in very tense times, economically, across the world, partly from COVID, the war in Ukraine. But I do want to ask you
about the fact that the United States is promising to give more aid while the U.K., which has historically been very involved in giving aid to
Africa, is now cutting its aid. I think their annual budget used to be 0.7 percent of gross national income, and now it's at point five this year.
What are your thoughts on this shift?
STEWART: Well, it's shameful. It's shameful what the U.K. is doing. When I was the secretary of state, which was not very long ago in 2019, I had an
annual budget of $20 billion a year. We were a significant player, and it's very embarrassing.
It started under Boris Johnson, who in a sort of minor replication of stuff we've seen all over the world. He was a populist. He was an isolationist.
He did not believe in international development. And that's now got worse. Now, the U.K. is in an economic crisis and recession, and it makes me very
ashamed for my country.
And with all that I've been saying, encouraging the U.S. to do more, I think we should also pay tribute to the U.S. because the U.S. is now
bearing an enormous amount of the burden, particularly in humanitarian response, and these droughts in the Horn of Africa, places like Yemen. The
U.S. is really stepping up when my own country, and many other European countries, are not.
So, I think there is a shared responsibility here, and I would like to see Britain return to that point seven percent commitment.
SIDNER: There's certainly a huge human cost, mostly to the very young children, in particular. I do want to lastly ask you about GiveDirectly,
now, that says it all in the name, but how do you go about doing this? Because it's not an easy task, is it?
STEWART: No, it's -- so, we've been helped by a revolution in technology and Africa, which is mobile money. And many, many Africans now are able to
receive money directly on their phones. And if someone doesn't have a phone, we will issue them with a telephone. That allows us to transfer cash
directly from someone in the United States or Europe right into the hands of the most extreme poor.
And the results are revolutionary. It is extraordinary how what would be a small amount of money for you or I, can be life transforming in a poor
community in Africa. You see the most wonderful things on education, on housing, on people getting livestock. Amazing improvements in nutrition, in
education enrollment, all coming from cash.
And I would encourage people to look at it seriously, not necessarily, only at GiveDirectly, but at other people who are doing it because it is the
great undocumented revolution in international development. And I think it will all be a very important part of how we address extreme poverty. And
anybody who'd like to contribute, please do.
SIDNER: Technology is a game-changer, is what you are saying. Rory, I can feel your passion coming through the television. I do want to ask you about
politics, and I apologize, but I have to go there since we have you. British newspapers, you know, the U.K. is calling it, the winter of
discontent. There have been huge strikes, creating chaos in places like hospitals and standstills at transit hubs.
Can you remember anything of this scale that we are seeing now? We are seeing walkouts by firefighters, baggage handlers, paramedics. I mean,
these are the essential workers that help people live their best lives in the U.K. What are you most worried about here, and have we ever seen
anything like this?
STEWART: Well, in the U.K., the answer is not since the 1970s. And this is a very depressing moment, because during the time of Margaret Thatcher and
John Major, and Tony Blair, the British economy began growing quickly. And it was superior to -- for 20 years or more where GDP per capita in Britain
was growing faster than the United States or any comparable country. And that came to a grinding halt into doesn't it with the financial crisis.
Since then, incomes have stagnated, inflation has taken off, our borrowing is now out of control. And as you say, we now find ourselves in a situation
where everyday people are hurting. They are finding that things are costing them 10 percent more and their wages are not keeping up. So, they've gone
But of course, Britain, unlike the United States, is a place where many more people rely on trains and cars. So, train strikes affect them. Where
we have a National Health Service, so when nurses go on strike that affects every clinic, every hospital in the country. And we are stuck between a
rock and a hard place. The government feels like it can't increase all of these public sector salaries because it would cost them many, many tens of
billions of pounds at a time when they can't afford to borrow more. And one they're worried, they'll cost more inflation. But at the same time,
ordinary people are struggling to heat their homes.
SIDNER: Rory Stewart, I thank you for your time and your expertise and insight, and care for the African continent as a whole. I appreciate you
coming on the program.
STEWART: Thank you so much.
SIDNER: Now, to something a bit lighter. What will you remember from the world of pop culture in 2022? That infamous slap by Will Smith at the
Academy Awards? Kanye West's antisemitic remarks and dramatic fall from grace, or a music queen's glorious return to the charts? My next guests are
all over these standout stories.
We have with us Aisha Harris and Stephen Thompson, they are the co-host of NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour", a podcast where getting obsessed is the
rule. And they are joining me now. We welcome you both to the show.
STEPHEN THOMPSON, CO-HOST, NPR'S "POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR": Great to be here.
AISHA HARRIS, CO-HOST, NPR'S "POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR": Yes, thanks for having me.
SIDNER: It's nice to end on a light note. An unbelievable year in culture. So, let's talk about some of the moments. We are going to start with this.
Stephen, you had talked about, "Everything, Everywhere All at Once". I did not even know it was called that, but I have been watching it, and like
it's a mind-bending situation. We are going to look at the clip from that film just now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, you may only see a pile of receipts, but I see a story. I can see where the story is going. It does not look good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's happening?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: What is happening here? I had no idea what this was when I was watching it. I never look at reviews. I only just go. I like being
surprised, so I just watch something, right? Why is this your favorite pop culture moment?
THOMPSON: Oh, my gosh, this movie. I mean, trying to sum up in 10 or 15 seconds what "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is all about is a fools'
errand. But basically, it -- in a nutshell it's about the multiverse. About how every decision you make creates a new set of alternate universes. And
the central character, Michelle Yeoh, kind of discovers or finds the ability to move across different universes. And in the process, she sees
all the different ways her life could have turned out.
And as a whole, you know, it's extremely surprising and creative and inventive. And it -- there are images in this movie you will never forget
having seen, but at the same time there's an enormous amount of heart and warmth and kindness in this movie.
This movie is ultimately about the resilience and incredible potential of humanity, and how we are shaped by the choices that we make. And this movie
really clearly comes from a place of belief in humanity's ability to adapt and improve. And I just found that message so deeply affecting this year.
SIDNER: I don't know if you remember these books. But remember the books when you're a kid where you could choose the ending? I used to read all the
endings, right. So, that's why the movie appeals to me to be fair.
Aisha, I want to ask you about your favorite. I hear that it is from the television side of things, "Abbott Elementary". Let's watch a little clip
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a great year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is, isn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is exactly what I want for myself this year. I'm 100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I guess someone has got it together this year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm happy they are noticing. It is very zen actually.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got to see what's in the cafeteria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: It is so cute. What is it about "Abbott Elementary" that really sparked your interest and made you love it?
HARRIS: Well, it's from Quinta Brunson, who, I think, has such a brilliant mind. It's drawing from her experiences working in the office. And it's
drawing from all of these familiar properties, whether it's something like the show, "The Office", "Parks and Rec", it's set a Philadelphia public
school with mostly minority black and brown kids.
And it's about these teachers who are all trying to do their best with what little they have. It's in a way a critique of the public school system, and
its many failings, and how it doesn't serve a lot of communities well. But at the same time there's just so much heart. And I guess this is a theme
across both me and Stephen. This show has so much heart and so much appreciation for the profession of teaching.
And it has some really great crafted characters and funny dialogue. I think, you know, Sheryl Lee Ralph, who won the Emmy this year, for her role
as one of the teachers is just such a delight. It's great to see her finally get her do in a way that she's deserved for many, many decades. And
overall, it's just really funny. It's a fun show. And I'm glad a lot of viewers have really dug into the show.
SIDNER: Yes, it brings some levity. I have a lot of teachers in my family and friends who really, really love it because it shows -- another one that
shows the humanity of the teachers and students all at once. I do want to talk about some things that are a little more serious.
Apologies to you two, I know we are trying to have on here, but we did see something that can only be referred to as the slap. And that was the moment
where Will Smith got very upset with the person who was running the Oscars, Chris Rock, and he goes up and, there's the picture, of the moment of
impact. Can you give me a sense of what this did to Hollywood, or was it something that just hit these two people who are very well-known, or did it
tell us something more about Hollywood? I will start with you, Stephen.
THOMPSON: Yes, I mean it's hard to necessarily find too much to say about this incident that hasn't already been said. I do think it ties into a
larger theme for 2022, which is very rich, very famous, very powerful people acting foolish. And that behavior has had repercussions all across
I mean, it certainly shaped our discussions of the Academy Awards in 2022. And kind of what is and is not acceptable to say in these things, jokes
that are acceptable or not acceptable to tell, you know. It certainly drove a lot of the pop cultured -- pop cultural dialogue in 2022. But when you
fan out and look at kind of themes across the year, you really can just tick off extremely wealthy and powerful people who found different ways to
self-immolate in 2022.
Whether you're talking about Will Smith and the, kind of, huge public relations hit that he took from slapping Chris Rock, to Kanye West kind of
having this complete career of self-immolation. You know, Sam Bankman-Fried helping to wreck the crypto and NFT industry does have reverberations
across pop culture and entertainment. A gentleman acquired Twitter this year for $44 billion, I cannot remember his name, but that has affected the
way that we all talk to each other.
And so, if you start to look at kind of this bigger picture, you get a sense of one of the biggest themes of the year being rich, famous, powerful
people having feet of clay.
SIDNER: You might be tweeted about by -- like, Elon Musk.
THOMPSON: I'm sorry. I don't (INAUDIBLE).
SIDNER: I wasn't going to go there. But, yes, they have had a huge impact, as you said on what we talk about. I do want to ask you, Aisha, there is
another scenario here that really shocked us all, and it happened just this month. Dancer "tWitch", who has been a happy person to the public. Who have
only seen him just as effervescent. He's always giving joy. He's always providing happiness along with his dancing, which is incredible and
And suddenly, the world finds out that he is gone. But he is not just gone, he's gone at his own hand. And I think that that moment gave us all a gut
punch because all we have seen from him is happiness. Has his death sparked new conversation around mental illness in this country and mental health in
this country, do you think?
HARRIS: I would like to say, yes, but I feel as though we've had these conversations every time something tragic like this happens. There is, you
know, the -- you don't know what people are going through social kindness, that sort of sentiment that is often shared in the wake of these tragic
instances. But then, you go online and you see people talking about other people in the same way.
I feel like, while it wasn't by suicide, when I think of Chadwick Boseman and his shocking death and how, before he died, there were a lot of people
who were commenting on how thin and frail he looked. And were being really, really mean. And then, you know, once we found out after the fact that it
was because he was ill, people said the same thing.
I think there's just a cycle here, and I would love to see some change in how we talk about these things, but it's really hard. Our collective memory
is so short. But I do think there is a larger theme about mental health and keeping -- maintaining your mental health and taking care of it. That's
happening within celeb culture, whether it's the sports world, Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams. All of these athletes and entertainers are talking about
it more openly. And I think that is good to see.
SIDNER: I want to move on to music now because there's a lot of upcoming concerts that folks are going wild for. You've got these huge names like
Taylor Swift, which basically broke the internet and started the conversation about tickets. I'm curious what you make of some of these
great combination towards though, like Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks, Pat Benatar and Pink. Why are we seeing this?
THOMPSON: Well, I think that we're seeing it because it sells. And, you know, there's been this larger conversation around concert tickets and
touring in the wake of the COVID pandemic. And, you know, a lot of the story I think of 2023, if you want to anticipate big pop culture stories in
2023, I think we're going to be talking a lot about these big spectacle tours, not only Taylor Swift, but also Beyonce.
If, you know, Rihanna, those combination tours that you talk about, where they're bringing together these artists that have enormous, enormous fan
bases who are excited to see them. I think we're going to have a larger reckoning than we've even had in 2022 about how much those tickets cost, to
whom those tickets are available, the process by which people obtain those tickets. I think there's going to be a lot more of a reckoning, and I hope
there's more of a reckoning in a conversation about that.
But you know, it is part of a larger trend in entertainment in the last few years where people are able to, kind of, go back out into the world and
really appreciate and embrace these spectacles.
Not only in touring, but in the movies that they go to see, you know, just anything that feels big and escapist, I think has a real pull for people in
2022, and I think going forward.
SIDNER: Yes, that's a really good point. The cost of things and the way in which people get tickets really sparked a conversation when the Taylor
Swift thing happened where people could not get the tickets, literally, they couldn't get them through Ticketmaster.
I do want to ask you, Aisha, just going forward, was there anyone in 2022 that was like a breakout star that we all now know the name of the person,
or that you really think is going to be the next big thing in Hollywood?
HARRIS: Well, I think the biggest cultural breakthrough for me, at least, and for a lot of people I think Keke Palmer. I kind of predicted it ahead
of time. I kind of felt like it was going to happen in part because she has just done such a great job of cultivating this online presence, this very
game for anything, can do impressions, can make you laugh, can be real with you, in a way that feels authentic and unlike a lot of other celebrities
are able to do.
And so, to see her really shine in Jordan Peele's "Nope", in this really big, sort of, breakout role in a mainstream Hollywood movie, and then also
see her hosting "SNL" and revealing her pregnancy, Beyonce in a way, and really shining and that platform. I think being able to see her come from
this child star, she's been in the business for, you know, 10, 15 years. And she's really -- she's always had that talent. And it's great to see her
really thriving, and I can't wait to see more of what she does in 2023.
SIDNER: As we like to say, she can do all the things really well.
SIDNER: Stephen, what about you? Any real surprises for you?
THOMPSON: Well, I think one thing that really stood out for me about 2023, there's -- or 2022, there are certainly were big breakout stars, but it was
also just a very, very big year for the overdog. This was a big year for a lot of returning sensations, whether we are talking about Beyonce or Harry
Styles, or Taylor Swift.
You know, a lot of the biggest names in entertainment kind of came back and had blockbuster success. I mean, talking about Tom Cruise in "Top Gun:
Maverick" being the biggest, you know, biggest performing movie of the year. So, you know, it might -- it felt a little bit like it was harder for
new voices to come through and really breakthrough.
For me, maybe my favorite in music is a band called Muna, that put out a self-titled record that I just absolutely loved in 2022. Just these songs
of liberation and joy and, you know, just -- and love. And so, I -- I'm always kind of trying to push people, like, you know, check this out. Like,
you already know about Taylor Swift and all these people and I think those records are really, really good, but be sure that you don't lose sight of
new discoveries as well.
SIDNER: OK. I have to say one thing. You mentioned Harry Styles. And he came to concert in my neighborhood and I knew he was there not because the
sign said this is "Harry's House", which I discovered later. But there were feathers, literally, all over the streets and sidewalks. It is pretty
incredible how much influence all of these different people, but particularly people like Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, have had on our
culture. Is that something that spans all ages, you think? These younger stars?
THOMPSON: Well, I certainly think these stars have reached people of all ages. And, you know, way too often people assume that certain entertainers
are just for certain slices of the demographic pie. And I think these artists have brought a reach. And I think, one thing that I appreciate
about the success of Harry Styles or Taylor Swift or Beyonce is that, you know, we often lament in the -- in internet culture that we are -- that the
culture is really shrapenalized (ph). That everybody is into these, kind of -- like, really finely cut slices of the pie.
And we're not necessarily conversing with each other. It's kind of the decline of what we call the monoculture. And it's been interesting to see
these really, really huge cross platform stars like Harry Styles who is also in movies this year. Bad Bunny who is also in movies this year. Taylor
Swift who is directing a movie. These huge juggernaut stars reaching out, kind of, across as many different media as possible, and really being known
to everybody in ways that, whether you like those stars or not, it's nice that we have a little bit of monoculture true that everyone can talk to
each other about instead of living --
SIDNER: Some commonality. Yes, some commonality.
SIDNER: I hear what you are saying. Aisha and Stephen, thank you so much. This has been so much fun. I did try to get Bad Bunny tickets for the
record, couldn't get them. They went too fast. Thank you for being here.
And finally, speaking of fun, we look at the celebrations capping an astounding year in sports.
These were the scenes in Buenos Aires today as the world champions, the Argentinian football team, returned home from the FIFA World Cup in Doha.
You can see some 100,000 fans taking over the city as the team marked their victory with a massive parade. Congratulations. Finally, Messi got what he
That is it for now for us. Goodbye to you from Los Angeles.