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Interview with Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; Interview with Journalist and Author Christine Ockrent; Interview with Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; Interview with "Trippy: The Peril and Promise of Medical Psychedelics" Author and The New York Times National Correspondent Ernesto Londono. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired June 10, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Amanpour. Here's what's coming up.




AMANPOUR: But the far-right is surging. In France, Macron makes a surprise election gamble. We have analysis on this European turning point. Then --


BENNY GANTZ, MEMBER OF THE ISRAELI KNESSET (through translator): Regrettably, Netanyahu is preventing us from advancing toward true victory,

which is the justification for the ongoing and painful cost of war. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today.


AMANPOUR: Political turmoil explodes in Israel as more details emerge about its raid to free four hostages, with hundreds of Palestinians killed.

Plus --



almost like I had a burst of oxygen that gave me a window of opportunity to think more clearly and strategically about how I became so depressed.


AMANPOUR: -- "Trippy, The Peril and Promise of Medical Psychedelics." Are they safe to use for mental health therapy? The New York Times Ernesto

Londono tells Walter Isaacson about his own experience.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. In this record year for elections, one of the biggest exercises in democracy

is filling 720 seats from 27 nations in European Parliamentary elections. And, as results continue to come in, a split screen image is emerging.

Establishment parties did well in many countries and E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's centrist European People's Party will

remain the largest group. But she also acknowledged the far-right across the continent had strong showings.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: The center is holding. But it is also true. That the extremes on the left and on the

right have gained support. And this is why the result comes with great responsibility for the parties in the center.


AMANPOUR: In France, Marine Le Pen and her far-right allies won twice as many seats as centrist President Emmanuel Macron's party.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): This is a situation that I cannot come to terms with. The rise of nationalists, of

demagogues, is a danger for our nation, but also for our Europe, for France's place in Europe and in the world.


AMANPOUR: And so, he called a snap election, a massive political gamble, saying that it is a time for "much needed clarification."

Now, on D-Day last Thursday, on the beaches and in the cemeteries of Normandy, world leaders and military veterans celebrated 80 years since

defeating fascism in Europe, and launching the liberal democratic post- World War order. So, do these European election results signal a long- lasting shift?

Joining me now is Italy's former prime minister, Matteo Renzi. His center left party failed to win any seats, and journalist Christine Ockrent. She

joins me from Paris. Welcome to both of you.

So, Matteo Renzi, first I want to ask you, are you surprised center left party won no seats and that Ursula von der Leyen says the center is still


MATTEO RENZI, FORMER ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The problem in Europe is the chaos in the organization of elections. Why? Because there is not a direct

election. And Ursula today could say, I won. Also, if there is not the sure message about that result.

So, the first message for our people who listen the program, watch the program is European institution is very complicated. 27 countries, a lot of

different European models. I think, I'm not surprised for the result. I think the most important effect is the decision of the French president of

republic to call for early election for the new legislative election. That is the most important effect of this European election about the future.


I think there is the same majority, will be the same majority of the last five years. And of course, Ursula could be the new president exactly as in


AMANPOUR: OK. So, before I turn to Christine Ockrent about Macron, are you saying it's -- you agree with Macron's decision?

RENZI: I totally agree. I think it's a very intelligent decision. Why? Because President Macron yesterday had a very terrible failure. A terrible

defeat the far-right party achieved a result of 34 percent, the double of the party of Macron. With calling early election, this is my view, Emmanuel

Macron could use the particular French system and for that, could became, I think, could win the legislative election because there is not only one

votation as in the European election, but there is two different votation in the next three weeks.

So, it's a very tactical -- it's a very Machiavelli system, but I come from Florence and I love Machiavelli. So, it's a good idea.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask Christine Ockrent then. I mean, do you think, because what we heard, that at Macron's party headquarters last night, when

he made that really surprise announcement on French television, everybody was saying, oh, no, they held their heads in disbelief. But then, others

have said it is an important gamble to make at this time. Christine, do you agree with Prime Minister Renzi's analysis?

CHRISTINE OCKRENT, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, Machiavelli is not quite as popular here in France as, obviously, he is in Florence. But it is true

that, in a sense, the French president had very little choice.

Had he conducted, you know, and said, oh, it's just the European election. Let's do business as usual. The French voters would have been let down and

very much despised. So, it is a huge gamble for Macron. As far as he's concerned, of course, he stays at the Elysee for another three years. But

the idea is probably to try and split whatever is left of the traditional conservatives and to split also whatever is left on the left side, between

the extremist and the sort of center left, with the idea that his own party could resuscitate, so to speak, with his legislative elections.

Of course, the issue is that it's a very short campaign. The second round will be on July 7th. That is to say three weeks before the Olympics here in

Paris with, of course, the threat of strikes by the straight unions. And so, it's a very sort of goalist gamble.

You remember, Christiane, the goal who would say, it's me or chaos? Well, it could well be that Emmanuel Macron in a very goalist gesture has the

same prophecy.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you this then, because, you know, if he doesn't - - if this gamble does not pay off, it is likely that the former National Front, now called the National Rally their 28-year-old leader, Jordan

Bardella, who led the MEP slate, he might become -- you know, he might become a prime minister in a sort of a cohabitation.

Now, "The New York Times" has called him a clean cut, strong jawed, TikTok star known for his love of candy. Is that a little normalizing the far-

right? How do you -- would you write that about him, Christine?

OCKRENT: Well, I might even say something worse. That he hasn't done a stroke of work when he was elected at the European Parliament in the former

European legislature. And he knows very little about the working of any -- of the government.

But the -- it's obvious, Christiane, that, you know, in these days, it's not competence that matters so much, and indeed, Donald Trump is a living

proof that, you know, voters do not really care all that much for competence. And in this country, in France, I think you can sum it up, you

know, the three I's. Inflation, immigration, irritation.


Irritation at Macron and his rather intellectual, verbose style of talking down to people. And I think it is a moment of collective anger. And we'll

see how this very short campaign and these two rounds of elections whether indeed Macron's gamble will pay off. But he's actually gambled, obviously,

with the country.

AMANPOUR: Well, yes. And, Matteo Renzi, Christine talked about immigration, and that does seem to be, even in your country, a major

center, a tent pole, around which the far-right gather. Now, Barella, in France, said, our civilization can die. It can die because it'll be

submerged in migrants who will have changed our customs, culture, and way of life irreversibly.

Is that what they think in Italy, Matteo Renzi, and why Maloni and her party did well? Very well.

RENZI: Really, really, the reality is totally different from the electoral campaign. Look this number. When I was prime minister in 2015, the current

prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the opposition, attacked me and she told me, Matteo, you open the doors to an invasion. The numbers of

migrants from Africa to Italy was, in 2015, more or less 150,000.

OK. Last year, when Giorgia Meloni became prime minister, the number of migrants who arrived in Italy was exactly the same of my year, but she

considered the number a normal number, a regular number. What means that? There is in the far-right an approach very ideological against migration.

And there is not a concrete attention about the numbers, the reality is as an instrument of propaganda.

And I think the same will be in France until they will go to the government. I hope that will not very soon. But that is the very -- the

message will come from Italy. When Giorgia Meloni, she was a leader of opposition, the same numbers today, present in Italy. Eight years ago was a

disaster, was an invasion. Now, is a regularity. It's normality.


RENZI: And that is the business -- normal business.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Business as usual. So -- but I want to ask you, because people like Giorgia Meloni are described as showing how, you know, right-

wing Europe will go, that she is, you know, very close to her E.U. allies on foreign policy, and she speaks a completely different language at home,

like immigration, so-called family values against LGBTQ and all of that kind of stuff.

Why is it, do you think, Matteo Renzi, that, according to "Politico," younger voters are backing anti-immigration and antiestablishment parties

in numbers equal to and even exceeding older voters now? Why is that?

RENZI: I think we have to understand the situation in Italy and in the rest of the Europe. First, there are two different Giorgia Meloni, the

Giorgia Meloni in the opposition and the Giorgia Meloni in the government. About -- and a totally different person, thinking about Russia, thinking

about USA, thinking about Europe, thinking about also migration. She changed every type of position.

About the young people and the vote, I think that there are today -- there is today an European Union very fragmented and I think the risk for

European Union is -- became irrelevant in the panorama around the world. There is not a role of Europe between USA and China, between Africa and

Middle East, about Russia and Ukraine.

So, the real frustration of the young people a lot of times went to the vote for the far-right. But if you look about the numbers, the numbers are

similar to the traditional numbers. Also, five years ago, the numbers are the same. The problem, in my view, is in the next some months in Germany.


We spoke about France, but the next problem will be in Germany because the result of the chancellor is very negative.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, Christine Ockrent, we're talking about the two biggest, most powerful European nations, and they are France and Germany. Sorry,

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but France and Germany are the powerhouses in Europe.

And yes, Chancellor Scholz got a shellacking as well, and AFD did very well, et cetera. So, I want you to weigh that, Christine, with what some of

the other countries, like Orban, didn't do very -- as well as he expected. In other countries, you know, the center left did, you know, well enough,

and the center right, it wasn't extremist.

What do you make of both France and Germany having this massive tilt towards the far-right?

OCKRENT: Well, obviously, the political systems are extremely different between France and Germany. As far as France is concerned, it used to be

that people were not that interested in European elections. And indeed, former governments, you know, five years ago, 10 years ago, would be sort

of turned down by voters, but not as huge a margin as indeed happened yesterday.

And what is particularly striking is that Emmanuel Macron, whatever mistakes he may have committed on the internal -- on the internal front,

he's a staunch European. And indeed, his mark on the way the European Union has developed, his policies towards Ukraine, with a very heavy European

calendar in the coming weeks, next Thursday, there's a G7 summit in Italy. Then you have next weekend in Switzerland, a peace conference about

Ukraine. Then you have, in July, NATO Summit.

And so, having such a, a huge internal crisis, which is really undermining Macron's ability to influence the European process as he's been trying to

do so for the past seven years now, it's really another huge obstacle to his own reputation and to his own leadership.


OCKRENT: And so, we'll see how, whether his gamble will pay off and whether he can resuscitate and find new legitimacy, not only vis-a-vis the

French people, but also vis-a-vis his European partners.

AMANPOUR: And on that note, Matteo Renzi, do you think that these results will affect the way Europe, let's just say, helps Ukraine? Will it affect

Europe, you know, in how it's trying to help Ukraine in this battle? Did you hear me?

RENZI: Yes, I think that -- I think European position is very fragmented because there is the position of the President Macron and also the

Chancellor Scholz. But I believe the real question is, we need an European army as European institution. This is my personal view. It's good to have

an answer about Ukraine, an answer about Middle East, but the real problem from 1954, from the decision of General de Gaulle, we need an European

common instrument of defense, and that have to be the European army

Usually, it was France who decided to refuse that approach. I hope in the next years we can arrive to an European army Also, because that is the

first step to go in direction of the United States of Europe and that is my dream. But I'm dreamer. I know.

AMANPOUR: Well, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Christine Ockrent, thank you both very much for joining us.

Next, a sense of urgency, the words of the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he described the prospect of a hostage deal and ceasefire in

Gaza, as laid out by President Biden, which right now appears to be receding. With the resignation from the war cabinet of opposition leader

Benny Gantz and his party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely be ever more reliant on his far-right extremist coalition partners.


Also, more details are now emerging about the Israeli raid that rescued four of the October 7th hostages, at the same time killing hundreds of

Palestinians, figures Israel disputes. Here are correspondents Oren Liebermann and Paula Hancocks reporting two sides of this story, the

heartwarming jubilation and the horror that is difficult to see.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a hospital in Central Israel, they hugged as if there was no tomorrow, because for so long they

feared there wouldn't be. Four Israeli hostages were rescued from Gaza in Israeli operation on Saturday after eight months of captivity.

Among the rescued, one of the most well-known hostages, Noa Argamani, reunited with her father here. Video from October 7th showed her pleading

for help, as kidnappers drove her into Gaza. Her father thanked the Israeli military for the rescue.

But, reunions like this remain all too rare. This is only the third successful Israeli rescue operation since the war began. Orit Meir reunited

with her son Almog one day before her birthday.

ORIT MEIR, MOTHER OF ALMOG MEIR JAN: There are 120 hostages in Gaza, and we want a deal now.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The daring daytime operation in the Nuseirat refugee camp in Central Gaza lifted the spirits of a nation. But unity was

fleeting as anti-government protests demanded a deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages and a ceasefire.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For those on the ground, it was the deadliest day in six months, according to Gaza officials,

capturing the moment of impact of Israeli airstrikes. Sustained gunfire followed, the IDF says there were fierce gun battles with Hamas's fighters

throughout the operation, but did not provide evidence of this claim. Then a constant stream of dead and injured arrive at two nearby hospitals.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital overwhelmed by the sheer number of trauma cases. The breakdown of fighters versus civilians is unknown. But women and

children are seen in every corner of this hospital. Gaza officials and hospital directors, say more than 270 were killed, hundreds more injured,

sparking cries of a massacre from some countries, including the EU's top diplomat.

Israel claims less than 100 died blaming Hamas for the shockingly high death toll. CNN cannot independently verify either side's, figures.

As residents deal with the devastation left behind in Nuseirat, survivors struggle to understand what happened.

I am 60 years old, this man says, and have never experienced anything like this. A barrage of heavy gunfire, artillery, missiles, rockets. It was

something unimaginable to the human mind.


AMANPOUR: Both Paula and Oren reporting from Tel Aviv. For more on this and the political situation inside Israel, I'm joined by Tzipi Livni, the

former foreign minister. And she's joining me now. Welcome to the program. Thank you for being with us. I know we have --


AMANPOUR: Hello. So, let me ask you Tzipi Livni.

LIVNI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: I Just want to know your reaction. You're obviously very happy, like everybody in Israel, that these four hostages were released. So, tell

me what you think of the cost, the cost of the Palestinian deaths? Now, the Israeli government says less than 100 Palestinians were killed, but on that

side, they say nearly 300.

LIVNI: Christiane, you know, I was in tears from happiness, and it was so touching to see these young people coming back home to their families. And

yet, we have 120 hostages, they're being in the hands of Hamas, and their families are waiting for them to come back.

But let's speak about the cost. It's not like we are looking for civilians to kill. Hamas put these hostages in these highly populated centers. We

only wanted -- the Israeli army just wanted to take them out. And they were targeted. You know that while doing this operation, Hamas tried to stop it.

So, they insecure these people that are living in these places.


So, when your neighbor is cooperating with Hamas, taking a young woman or others to their homes, these are the costs. So, with all due respect, this

is an example how Israel is doing what is needed. These people were -- these young people were taken, their freedom were taken while they were

just in a party. And now, you know, should we now think about what happens when we are trying to release them and Hamas is targeting our forces while

they are trying just to bring these civilians back home? Excuse me, this is not the right example to speak about two sides. Not this time. I'm sorry,


AMANPOUR: Tzipi said released. Of course. I meant rescued. They were rescued. You probably know, you know, much better than I do that seven

hostages have been rescued. Three have been killed by your own forces and a hundred plus were released during negotiations.

So, in a rational way, I just want to ask you whether you believe that you're likely to get more out through negotiations. And I ask you

specifically because in that report, one of the mothers, in fact, Noa's mother, I believe it was Noa's mother who was released, she said, we want a

deal now. No more of these kinds of operations. That's what she said.

LIVNI: Of course.


LIVNI: And therefore -- but you know that this is not -- I do not suggest that this is the only way to release the hostages, so to rescue them. There

is a deal on the table that Israel offered, that Secretary Blinken said that this is a deal that Hamas should accept. And this is what other

countries in the region are saying publicly or to Hamas. So, I'm not suggesting that this is the only way to do so.

We are also in favor of a deal. But until now, Hamas doesn't give an answer or gives -- or refuse to make this deal. And as was said before, this is a

deal that is being supported by the United States. So, I'm not suggesting that this is only one way, but any hostage that is being free, it's a joy,

this way or the other.

AMANPOUR: Of course, it is. For the families and for everybody, of course it is. And I was -- again, I misspoke, it's not Noa's mother, it was

Almog's mother who said that.

But here's the thing. You know the famous columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday that this operation doesn't solve a single one

of the problems that Israel has been facing ever since October 7th. It doesn't solve the problem in the north, it doesn't solve the problem in

Gaza, and it doesn't solve the slew of other problems that threaten Israel in the international arena.

You must have some views on that, because, you know --

LIVNI: Of course. I more --

AMANPOUR: Yes. But -- yes. So, what is your view? Do you agree with that?

LIVNI: Yes, yes. I think yes. Yes. Thank you for this question, because this is the really important issue that we are facing. I mean, we all

support the goals of the war, the release of the hostages, and the eradication of Hamas capabilities to act in terror and replacing Hamas. And

it was supported by the entire International Community.

But we cannot escape from the real, real, real important issue, and that's, OK. What's next? Who's going to replace Hamas? How can we change the

situation in the region? And we can turn this horrific situation into an opportunity. And there's a deal, a broader deal, that is not just connected

to the hostages that is on the table that reflects the day after Hamas in Gaza.

Hopefully, also normalization with Saudis that can change the security structure in the region. The possibility for Israel to act against terror

with cooperation of -- with another -- a new, different Palestinian regime.

But here's the problem, because this is where Israel is at a crossroad, and the fact that Gantz left the government makes it very clear, because for

some parts in Israel, of course they are against Hamas, but they are not suggesting any solution to who's going to replace them, taking into

consideration that Israel is not an option. We don't want to reoccupy Gaza. We don't want to control the Palestinian life. We just want to take care of

Israel's security. So, this is unacceptable.


Unfortunately, Netanyahu, for his own political reason, is not dealing with the only solution that -- or the only regime that can replace Hamas, and

this is a reformed Palestinian Authority. And I believe that this is now the role of the U.S. to put together all the different parts of this really

complicated jigsaw. But this is the master key for the day after. You cannot speak about toppling a regime without speaking about who's replacing


And it doesn't need also for a time because it's going to be in stages. And the more we postpone this issue without dealing with it, then we can face a

situation, a dreadful situation, where after all this war, Hamas is still controls Gaza. And therefore, this is crucial. It can turn into a regional

opportunity. It is not being dealt within the Israeli cabinet until now. And now, when we have more extremists within the cabinet, it will be it

very difficult to make this decision.

And I truly hope that the U.S. will continue in pushing for the right broader deal that does not deal only with -- only, well it's very

important, most important, the hostages, but also about the next day.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you --

LIVNI: And I do believe that what the American administration is trying to do -- yes.

AMANPOUR: No, no, no. Go ahead. Because I wanted to follow up about the American administration. Because, you know, you have made that. But let me

ask you this because --


AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you, it does not appear that anybody is listening to the Biden administration in your government right now, to the

point that NBC has reported that Biden administration has discussed potentially negotiating a unilateral deal with Hamas to secure the release

of five Americans being held hostage if the current ceasefire talks involving Israel, fine.

I mean, how -- you're a former foreign minister. The fact that is -- the fact that America apparently has to go on its own and talk to Hamas,

because apparently Israel is not playing ball on this particular, as you've cited, because of various different political --

LIVNI: I'm not sure that this --

AMANPOUR: Go ahead.

LIVNI: I'm not sure that this is the right example because I'm not sure that this is connected to Israel as -- if I'm not mistaken, also, Netanyahu

said that any release -- or release of any hostage is something that will be supported because they are all were kidnapped, the Israelis, and we all

support it.

But I'm trying to say, I -- I'm trying to look at the broader situation. And I know that the American administration put on the table a deal that --

the release of the hostages is part one, and then we should enter into negotiations also with the Saudis putting the P.A. -- or open the door to

the P.A. to enter Gaza Strip.

They are not perfect. I mean, I have a list of things that they need to do in order to take this responsibility. But we should start with something.

Who's going to replace or who's going to be on Rafah Crossing, between Gaza Strip and Egypt? Who's going to supervise the crossing? Who will take care

of the millions of Palestinians living in Gaza? Everything should be agreed upon between Israel and the U.S.

And unfortunately, it's clear that the current Israeli government will not agree on something which doesn't go in line with the ideology of the

extreme parts of this government. But I do believe that this is the Israeli interest, to change the trend, to change what we are facing now. Hamas

cannot stay. And in order to replace them, we need to agree about the next regime.

AMANPOUR: Well -- so since there isn't an agreement and the prime minister is staying away from a day after plan, other than the maximalist vision of

his right-wing far-right coalition, what is it going to take then from your part -- from your country's side to do the day after that you outline and

the Americans outline too, and most of its -- most of Israel's allies?


LIVNI: Well, as you know, we have a very short in time, this window of opportunity will not remain open forever when the Saudis are connected to

it. And therefore, I believe that it's crucial. What I am doing is speaking up for this, in representing what I believe is the interest of Israel.

I hope that Israelis would understand that just -- we all -- they all support the goals of the war. They don't want to see Hamas, and rightly so.

They don't trust the Palestinians now. So, it's not about trust. If the U.S. comes and say, this is about Israel's security, we'll support also the

legitimacy of the Israeli army to act against terror also afterwards, as we are doing in other parts, in the West Bank as well.

So, as I said before, it should be in stages. It's very complicated, but it's needed, because otherwise, at the end of this war, without agreeing on

this, this can turn into just another round.


LIVNI: And unfortunately, I think that it will be a huge missed opportunity.

AMANPOUR: Tzipi Livni, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Now, after eight months of war and doors closed to international journalists, Palestinian reporters continue to be the eyes and ears for the

world from Gaza. Bisan Owd, a young journalist, has been documenting the plight of civilians since October 7th there. Explaining the horrors

unfolding to over 4 million social media followers. And she's just been awarded a prestigious Peabody Award in the United States, citing her

bravery and commitment to journalism despite life threatening danger.

We turn now to the U.S. and advancements in drug therapies. Last week, a federal advisory committee voted against using MDMA, or ecstasy, to treat

post-traumatic stress disorder. It marks the first time FDA advisers have even considered a psychedelic drug for medical use.

This is something our next guest is passionate about. Ernesto Londono's new book, "Trippy: The Peril and Promise of Medicinal Psychedelics," draws on

his own experience in the Amazon trying to ease his depression. And he's joining Walter Isaacson now to discuss the growing intersection between

mental health and drug use for therapy.


WALTER ISAACSON, CO-HOST, AMANPOUR AND CO.: Thank you, Christiane. And Ernesto Londono, welcome to the show.


having me.

ISAACSON: Your great book, "Trippy," just came out, and it's about the peril and promise of medicinal psychedelics. In other words, psychedelic

drugs that can help us. And it's a very balanced book. I loved reading it last night because you're not one of these people that goes all in, saying

we got to do it or one of these people who's -- you grew up in Colombia. So, you know the war on drugs. It's not a call for the war on drugs. It's a

very balanced treatment.

But let's start with the news that there was a panel of experts that told the Food and Drug Administration not to approve MDMA, one of the

psychedelics, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other things. What does that mean? What happened? And how's that going to affect


LONDONO: Yes, well, this is the quest years or decades in the making. And if and when the FDA approves MDMA as a treatment for PTSD, that would mark

a watershed moment in this effort to bring psychedelic compounds into the mainstream of medicine. But what we saw was that an advisory committee that

tells the FDA what it thinks about emerging treatments felt that this protocol, you know, combining MDMA, the drug otherwise known as ecstasy,

with psychotherapy was not quite ready for prime time.

They felt that there were too many unknowns, and they also had questions about the research. I think there's been a concern that the people behind

the research, the people funding and conducting the research are true believers and felt so strongly that the war on drugs was morally wrong and

strategically wrong that they may have cut corners in the pursuit of getting MDMA approved.

ISAACSON: Wait, wait, let me stop you there. Is there some truth to that?

LONDONO: You know, I think there's been definitely some significant problems in the study. There was one patient in the study for MDMAs, the

treatment for PTSD, who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of therapists. And I think that illustrated the extent to which this

particular approach therapy.

When you have a mind-altering drug that is administered by a therapist and renders somebody really vulnerable, really lends itself to boundary

transgressions that can be very problematic and traumatizing for somebody who's already vulnerable.

The other main problem with this field of study is that it's really hard to do sort of the gold standard of clinical trials, where you have one group

being administered a new compound and another group that receives a placebo. For obvious reasons, if you're taking a mind-altering drug, it's

pretty clear to see whether or not you were in the control group or in the group that got the active compound.


ISAACSON: Well, you're somebody who actually went through it. This is partly a memoir, this book. And I think in 2018, you were deeply depressed

and you decided to experiment with some of these treatments. Tell me about that.

LONDONO: Yes, I think I'm among the people -- many people, who, at one point in their life, you know, felt that they were suffering, that they

were at a loss, and that they didn't have much faith in what the mainstream mental health care system had to offer.

So, I think I was among those who took a leap of faith and saw in this retreat model, in this psychedelic retreat model that has been unfolding in

Latin American countries for many years, an opportunity to pivot out of sort of a downward spiral of depression.

And in my case, you know, I was pretty successful. I experienced a pretty dramatic turnaround, you know, from feeling that I was in the grip of

depression for months, that was making it almost impossible for me to focus on my work, to sleep at night, and to socialize, to all of a sudden get a

really immediate respite. It was almost like I had a burst of oxygen that gave me a window of opportunity to think more clearly and strategically

about how I became so depressed and what was within my power to start digging myself out of that hole.

ISAACSON: It was an ayahuasca ceremony, that treatment that you did. Somewhat spiritual. I think you did it in Brazil. Tell me what ayahuasca


LONDONO: Yes, ayahuasca is a brew that has been consumed by indigenous tribes in the Amazon for centuries. It's got a really rich and complicated

history. And for the people who first used this, this is, you know, first and foremost, I think a sacrament. Indigenous people view this as a portal

to the realm of spirits.

And once they access that spirit, they say they can find healing. And also, sometimes they can find strategic advantage. So, in sort of the very early

iterations of this, this was not solely used as a tool to heal people who were suffering, it was also used, for instance, to go to war with a

neighboring tribe and gain strategic advantage.

What's happened over the years, though, is that as more non-indigenous people have had access to these rituals, have been invited to participate

in these rituals, there's been a long and interesting succession of characters who have found ways to reimagine and commodify these rituals,

and to really start speaking about them in a language that is accessible to westerners, particularly as it relates to mental health.

ISAACSON: Well, these ayahuasca ceremonies or spiritual retreats, they're done in California. I know a lot of people in Texas actually doing them.

First of all, are they legal? And is this a good idea?

LONDONO: The legality of this is really fascinating. Ayahuasca contains DMT, which is a schedule one compound under the DEA's classification of

illegal drugs. So, from a strict standpoint, it's not legal, for instance, to import ayahuasca from Latin America to or to sell it or administer it to


You know, however, on the other hand, the way this is unfolding now oftentimes happens in spiritual communities. And the people who are

organizing retreats and that are holding these rituals and are inviting people to come and take part in this reach and these rituals, they're

increasingly asserting that their use of these compounds is sacramental. And that because religious freedom laws in this country have become so

expansive and have created such a high bar for the government to tell people what is and is not a legitimate spiritual practice, that they are

operating above board.

So, right now, we're having, you know, some really interesting cases before the courts, testing the legality of these rituals and these therapies. We

have dozens of psychedelic churches that are operating openly or advertising their services. They have websites. You oftentimes can pay for

their services with a credit card. And a small number of them are proactively suing the government and saying, we want outright permission to

continue operating openly as we are. We think we're doing important work, and we're healing people who are suffering.

ISAACSON: You know, you're an objective reporter. You come from a journalistic background, but tell me what you think. What's the best way to

weave through this issue of who should be allowed to use psychedelic drugs for therapies?


LONDONO: Sure. So, you know, I think it's very clear that these compounds can induce really fast and lasting changes in mood and behavior. So, we're

in a moment where psychiatry hasn't really had a major development, something new and very useful in the toolkit. So, I think, understandably,

there's a huge amount of excitement and hope for what these compounds can do if and when we're able to integrate them into medicine.

You know, however, I think as this field continues to grow, you know, really unwieldy and the underground, in the church setting in the spiritual

setting, we're bound to be -- we're bound to see some cases that are going to be really disturbing.

And I think the question is whether within this window of opportunity where we can sort of go back to the drawing board and reimagine what makes sense

in terms of policy and regulation for this class of drugs, are we going to be able to accelerate the research that will answer some of the important

questions about the limitations and the promise of these therapies in a way that will be quick enough to sort of open more access points in places and

settings that will be safe and ethical, or if this will continue to unfold largely in the underground, where I think the margin of error is


So, I think it's incumbent upon health care regulators and policymakers, I think, to grapple with the question of whether these drugs were properly

classified to begin with, whether they should be rescheduled within the government's system and how do we integrate them into mainstream medicine

to fulfill the demand we're seeing from patients.

ISAACSON: You talk about ketamine, MDMA, ayahuasca, various forms of psychedelics. Tell me what are the range, what -- are they like LSD? What

are they like and what do they do?

LONDONO: You know, these drugs there are very different. You know, there's some that are very short acting. So, for instance, there's a drug called 5-

MeO-DMT, which is derived from the secretions of the Sonoran Desert toad that induces a really fast and intense journey. So, this can be sort of

done in a matter of 20 to 40 minutes.

If you're undergoing therapy with psilocybin, otherwise known as magic mushrooms, these are lengthier trips. You know, you're going to be under

the spell of this for, you know, six to eight hours. If you're trying something like ibogaine, which is derived from an African plant and it's

being used oftentimes for people with severe addiction problems, you know, these can be really, really long journeys, 20 hours or so.

I think the common denominator is that these experiences appear to induce a state of neuroplasticity, meaning the brain becomes more malleable, you

start seeing sort of patterns of thinking and brain activity that are different from sort of our everyday moments. And for people who have been

stuck in a rut of depression or trauma, which oftentimes includes this really obsessive thinking, these sort of ruts of, you know, fear inducing

and pain inducing thoughts that you just can't get away from, all of a sudden, in the wake of these experiences, when the brain has sort of

undergone, for lack of a better word, a hard reset, you're able to sort of pivot away from that and start seeing and thinking about the reasons you

became traumatized or depressed more clearly.

And once you're able to do that, sometimes it's easier to start feeling better. And also, to start kind of understanding the kind of behaviors that

would be required for you to feel more stable and to be more resilient.

ISAACSON: This happened to you. You decided to pursue this, you were in depression, and it unlocked certain key memories and it allowed you to deal

with things in the past. Instead of describing it in the abstract, tell me about it happening to you.

LONDONO: Yes, I mean, I think in my case, what I found was that there were a lot of chapters of my life, you know, periods from childhood, from

adolescence that I had never really grappled with, that I had never really critically examined.

And in the context of these intense rituals, I was drawn to revisit these memories, to sit with some of my more painful moments from my childhood in

Colombia, from the divorce of my parents, you know, from coming out of the closet as a gay man, and how destabilizing and scary that felt in the

moment, memories of being a war correspondent, working in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it became clear to me that there was sort of this mosaic

of really difficult, informative experiences that I hadn't really had ever made the time to sit with and properly analyze.


And I think what happened in my case and what I heard repeatedly from people I interviewed for this book is when you have the ability to go back

into these memories in an environment that is safe, oftentimes you kind of walk away feeling real compassion for this early version of yourself. And

in doing so, oftentimes you're able to reframe these memories in a way that makes them easier to carry.

So, I think the common denominator for me as I think of the work I've done over the years, aided by these intense experiences, I was able to show

myself compassion that was really hard for me to show in real-time. And for me, that's been, you know, kind of a big thread of why I've found these

experiences cathartic, healing, but also just clarifying. I think they gave me a better sense of sort of the narrative arc of my life and a better

understanding of the choices I've made over the years in response to some of these difficult moments.

ISAACSON: You begin the book with the story of Robert Fitzgerald, a veteran, a Republican who walks into a center. Tell me about his experience

and how these ties into the role of veterans in this issue.

LONDONO: Yes, Robert was a really fascinating character I stumbled into. He had signed up for a retreat in Austin at a church run by a woman who

used to be a crack addict and a stripper. And one of the first things I learned about Robert was that just two weeks earlier, he had put a pistol

in his mouth and came very close to killing himself.

I chose to start and end the book with veteran stories because veterans have played an outsized role in advocating for more research and for

expanded access into these therapies. And I think that's one of the things that makes this era of the so-called psychedelic renaissance really

interesting. It is that because veterans have become such champions of these therapies, and some -- you know, they believe so firmly that this is

urgently needed for many of their comrades, that they built a significant amount of bipartisan support.

So, you have some of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress right now, you know, fiercely advocating for expanded access for these therapies, not

just for veterans, but in some instances, for people who are on active duty in the military. And you have this sort of underground community where, you

know, by word of mouth, veterans take other veterans to people where they have -- to places where they have found healing.

So, the role of veterans has been really paramount. And I think will continue to be so. We continue to see, you know, a V.A. struggling with the

suicide rate in the veteran community and with PTSD rates that are still very, very high and lead many people to be disabled early in their lives

and careers.

ISAACSON: On the other side of this, you have a DEA agent who's a consultant to some of the industry, and I think he says, there's going to

be a disaster down the road. Tell me about the downsides there.

LONDONO: Yes, I think there's concern that a lot of the people who are building franchises, especially in the church setting, are playing fast and

loose, are not adequately screening applicants. There was a case in a church in Florida in 2018 where a young man died during ceremony and the

people organizing the ceremony were reluctant to call the police. There was a lawsuit. And a jury in Florida recently. you know, found that the

operator of the retreat was at fault in the death.

So, I think there's good reason to think that, you know, as more people are drawn to these experiences many people will be healed, but a fair number of

people will get hurt, and that may give the whole movement a bad name, a bad reputation, and it could lead to the kind of backlash we saw back in

the '60s and '70s, where I think a lot of people just felt that this was out of control.

ISAACSON: Yes, throughout the book, you talk about things that are harmful, things that are healing. What do you really want people to take

out of this book? At the end of the book, you talk about drugs that harm and drugs that heal, and having a mindset that will allow us to approach

this. What are you trying to get people to do when they read this book?

LONDONO: I mean, I hope people walk away with hope, that there is, you know, real potential in these compounds, but also that there's a window of

opportunity to get this right, that there's a window of opportunity for regulators and policymakers to think through these complicated questions

and to create settings and protocols that are going to be safer. I think there's going to be room both for a clinical lane and for more of sort of a

spiritual and ritualistic lane.

But I think across the board, we need people who are acting ethically. We need people who have experience and we have people -- and we need people

who understand the limitations and the risks of these therapies and to really think through what kind of guardrails are ideal to make these

experiences as safe as possible.

ISAACSON: Ernesto Londono, thank you so much for being on the show.

LONDONO: It's been a pleasure. Thank you for having me.



AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, a wheelchair that runs on brainwaves. That's what this team of female Tunisian engineers have created. An

invention that's earned them a place in the final of the prestigious European Young Inventors Prize.

It allows users to move the smart wheelchair with their thoughts, facial gestures, and voice commands. It's shortlisted from over 500 applicants.

And the all-female team will battle it out against the other finalists next month in Malta. And we'll bring you those results.

That is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.