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At This Hour

China Warns Biden About Playing With Fire on Taiwan; Soon, Biden to Travel to New Hampshire to Promote Infrastructure Law; Study Shows Some Anti-Depressants May Lower Risk of Death From COVID. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 11:30   ET



GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, THE GREAT U.S.-CHINA TECH WAR: Well, U.S. policy in Taiwan has worked, it's one of the strategic ambiguity, but it worked in a benign period. And now, we are not in such a period. And I think that President Biden needs to do what he actually said on October 21st at the CNN town hall, and that is make a clear declaration that we will defend Taiwan, because if we do that, the Chinese will not invade.

The Chinese have actually been very clear about what they want to do. It's committing an act of aggression. And also we have heard about plans on the part of the People's Liberation Army to actually start seizing some of Taiwan's outlying islands.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Yes. And after the CNN town hall, the White House took pains to clarify and kind of walk back a little bit of what the president was saying there on Taiwan.

You mentioned the guardrails, as we heard President Biden talking about. I was also struck, Gordon, by a readout from a senior Biden administration official to CNN after the summit saying this. I don't think the purpose was particularly to ease tensions or that was the result. We want to make sure that competition is responsibly managed, that we have ways to do that.

And I'm curious, what could be the distinction here when China is more than a competitor? It is an adversary.

CHANG: Yes. And also Beijing has gone beyond that, because in May 2019, People's Daily, which is official, it's the most authoritative publication in China, actually declared a, quote/unquote, people's war on America. So, this is more than just competition.

But we're the far stronger society, Kate, so we can deter China, but we can only deter China if we understand the nature of this existential struggle that we are in.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to world leaders, a lot of these meetings -- it's really about personal relationships. And Joe Biden ran on his personal relationships that he has with many world leaders, which is why I found it very interesting that Xi said, I think, at the top of his remarks, I'm very happy to see my old friend, because the White House kind of took the -- took pains pushing back on that term, the press secretary saying even before the summit that Biden does not consider President Xi an old friend. What is going on here, Gordon, with this?

CHANG: Well, I think that the Chinese leader thinks that Americans will be swayed by this notion that personal relations can sway China's calculation of its interest, and President Biden correctly has said, no, it's not. And Biden is correct on this because the Chinese are ruthlessly pragmatic, and even gestures of friendship, words of friendship, are taken as signs of weakness and they press the advantage. We have seen this consistently throughout these three decades.

So, I'm glad that the president said, no, no, I'm not buying into this line of narrative.

BOLDUAN: I almost wondered if President Xi was like trolling him a little bit by throwing it out there at the top. That's for the next summit. It's good to see you, Gordon. Thank you very much.

CHANG: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Biden is heading out on the road to try and promote the newly signed infrastructure law and sell that to the American people. I'm going to talk with a member of Congress who was there for that signing, next.



BOLDUAN: Any minute now, President Biden will be heading out boarding Air Force One and on to New Hampshire where he will be promoting the new $1.2 trillion infrastructure law. Biden signed it yesterday in a big ceremony, as you can see in the video, surrounded by both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan show of force.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results. We can do this. We can deliver real results for real people.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin from Michigan. Congresswoman, thank you for being here.

This infrastructure now law is something that you have been pushing for for months. It is supposed to be the first step of two. And I've just been wondering if this law alone, without the bigger social spending bill, is this enough for your district? Is it enough to prove to people in your district that Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, can get things done?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Well, listen, I think, I mean, no one living has seen the amount of money invested in infrastructure that we just saw signed into law yesterday. Obviously, it's got to get down to states and get down to the local level, but I think it's going to be transformative. And in a place like Michigan, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, it's a huge deal. I had the mayors of my two biggest cities there, one Democrat, one Republican. Everyone likes infrastructure dollars because we need generational investment.

I don't think the average person thinks about what that money is going to do for any one president. I think that they know that their bridges aren't going to crumble and I think that's what they're focused on. But for me, it did feel like one of those rare moments in government sitting on the White House lawn with Democrats and Republicans together, like this is how it's supposed to work. And I think that's important for people to see right now.

BOLDUAN: The unanswerable question is how do you extend that beyond something like roads, bridges, like hard infrastructure that everyone needs, right?


Because as you noted, your district is a picture of America right now. You're a Democrat. Trump has won in your district twice. And as you mentioned, you're taking pictures with the Republican and Democratic mayors of the two biggest cities in your school district while at the White House. That is not how most politics look today. What is your message in that? Is there something that you can -- can this be more than just one time?

SLOTKIN: Yes. And I think actually the message is, like that's how most Americans want their government to work. You know, we hear from the extremes on both sides most often in the media, but the average person just wants their government to function and allow them to do well and their kids to do better. It's not rocket science.

And I think what you need to do is take the good faith that came out of the negotiations on the infrastructure bill and now take it to the next set of issues. And there's a bunch of them. There's a bunch of issues where we have overlap. But you have to have faith in the other side that they're negotiating in good faith. I think we have some money in the bank now from the infrastructure bill, and we have got to take it to other issues.

BOLDUAN: The trust deficit, I think, is a real thing because it's something that we talk about even just on the Democratic side. So, when you're working across the aisle, it's real as well.

You mentioned rocket science. Leaning on your intelligence background, I do want to ask you about this. It was wild news to me about Russia's missile test in space yesterday, hitting one of their own satellites, but creating this debris field that endangered the International Space Station and crews on board. How big of a problem is this?

SLOTKIN: Well, obviously, it's deeply irresponsible. You had astronauts and cosmonauts, by the way, who had to like take cover and take emergency procedures because of space junk flying at them or potentially flying at them.

But, look, it's not difficult to understand. Russia wanted to demonstrate on an international basis that they are a player, that they can compete in space, that the next frontier of, you know, militarization, they're in that game. And I think that's dangerous.

And, obviously, they put lives at risk by having that amount of, you know, activity up in space, but, in general, it's not a great thing they feel they need to demonstrate their capability like that in a way that threatens people.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. You know, something that you're also passionate about is the Afghan refugees. The Pentagon just yesterday -- said yesterday, 46,000 Afghan refugees remain at U.S. military bases in the U.S. right now. You recently returned from Albania, where you were traveling there. We can show some pictures. You met with some Afghan refugees but you also to thank officials for helping your team get Afghan refugees resettled there.

This entire effort with the American withdrawal, getting refugees out, there is success, but it has also been a failure. I mean, how do -- how does the administration get it right now?

SLOTKIN: Well, I think, first and foremost, they have to live up to the commitments that they made to many of these Afghans who risked their lives to help us. You know, one of the ways that I think a lot of veterans, a lot of people who care about what went on in Afghanistan have been putting their passion to work is by trying to help people who helped us, who worked for military, who worked for State Department and who risked their lives and the lives of their families. And we need to make good on that commitment.

They need to be thoroughly vetted. That's what's happening at the bases right now. And if they pass that vetting, then they need to be given an opportunity to come to the United States, to live in the United States and become productive American citizens.

I think that's first and foremost how we mitigate the withdrawal. No one was happy with how that looked. No one was happy with how that went. And I think that, you know, the other thing that's going to be critically important is we can't allow that place again to become a hotbed of international terrorism.

BOLDUAN: I was just going to ask about that, because let's just focus in on women and girls who are still in Afghanistan as well, the commitment that the United States made 20 years ago in going in, that they were going to improve the lives of women and girls. Do you trust the administration can hold the Taliban accountable at this point? That's not even talking about it becoming a home for terrorism again.

SLOTKIN: Yes. It was really interesting. When I was in Albania, I was there with a Republican senator, and she was saying, you know -- she was noting that every single female senator, Democrat and Republican, had written to the White House saying, you need a plan, an action plan, to protect women and girls in Afghanistan. I think, you know, the way that you help protect people and make sure human rights aren't completely violated every single day is you have a really sophisticated diplomatic plan that holds them accountable. If the Taliban want to go shopping in Dubai, if the Taliban want to come to the U.N., if the Taliban want to be treated like a real government, they have to act like one and respect the rights of all of their citizens.


BOLDUAN: Do you see that now?

SLOTKIN: So, I think that's harder because we don't have an embassy there, right, so it's harder to carry that out. But I do see those negotiations going on. And I just -- we have to hope and keep the administration accountable that they play that out.

Women and girls are one thing, but international terrorism is the one that's the strategic threat, and that's where we've done a lot more work on the House Armed Services Committee.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's great to see you, Congresswoman. Thank you very much.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, could some widely available and used drugs be a new weapon in the fight against COVID? A new study says antidepressants are showing big promise. That's next.


BOLDUAN: Now let's turn to the pandemic where a new study finds commonly prescribed anti-depressants may actually lower the risk of dying from coronavirus. Researchers report that patients taking the drug often sold under the brand named Prozac were 28 percent less likely to die from COVID. And patients taking another related drug sold under the brand name Luvox used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder were 26 percent less likely to die from coronavirus. Fascinating, and raising many questions.

Joining me now is one of the authors of this study, Dr. Marina Sirota. She's an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. Doctor, thank you for being here.

Can you talk me through what you found here?

DR. MARINA SIROTA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO: Of course, hi. Thank you for having me. So, we carried out a retrospective study of electronic medical records or clinical data. The center (ph) group has aggregated clinical data across 87 centers, and they identified it for research purposes, and all of this data covers about 500,000 patients with COVID-19, which provides an amazing opportunity to ask about new hypotheses.

We queried this database to ask what patients were taking SSRIs or serotonin inhibitors might be at a lower risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19, and we looked at mortality as an outcome. We found oatients taking Prozac, as you said, are 28 percent or almost a third less likely to die from COVID-19.

BOLDUAN: What's promising here is that these drugs are readily available and relatively cheap. That's wonderful to think about. But the people that you were looking at, they weren't taking these drugs as a treatment once they get COVID, of course. They were already on the anti-depressants, as I understand it. What do you think that means?

SIROTA: Exactly. So, this means that these drugs probably have some off-targeted effect that might have an effect on -- impact on treating COVID-19. We don't know what their mechanisms are. There are some hypotheses out there, but a lot more work needs to be done to investigate this further. What we can see from the data retrospectively is an association. We can generate a hypothesis and use data to test it, and that's what we have done here.

BOLDUAN: So, as you mentioned, what's your best sense? You need more research, of course, but what do you think it could be about anti- depressants that's having this good impact as it relates to COVID?

SIROTA: So, serotonin is a hormone that we know stabilizes our mood and feelings of well-being, happiness. We know that there might be or the hypothesis, there might be a link between the serotonin and the immune system.

Prozac has been shown to potentially decrease levels of certain cytokines, such as IL-6, that might be involved in disease activity. It might be modulating another receptor called Sigma-1. So, basically, the idea that there is probably some link between inflammatory in the immune system and serotonin, and maybe these drugs are having -- that's why these drugs might be having an effect. But, of course, a lot more work needs to be done.

BOLDUAN: A lot more work. Honestly, I saw this and I said, you know what, we should take positive news where we can get it when it comes to the fight against COVID and such readily available drugs that have been vetted for over so many years, it's a great thing to see some promise and some potential in it and such a huge amount of research and data that you guys have put together. Doctor, thank you for your time, looking forward to seeing much more research being done here.

SIROTA: Great. Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

There's also some more encouraging news as it relates to the pandemic. The big crowds, they will be back in Times Square this New Year's Eve. New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio, he just announced that revelers will be able to watch the famous ball drop in person but only if they show proof of vaccination and photo I.D. That was from the announcement this morning.

Last year, the pandemic, of course, forced the city to close the area to the public, another sign of getting back to normal. They have never made those things sound any better.

In other health news, scientists have identified a woman whose own immune system appears to have cured her of HIV, the virus that's caused AIDS. This is only the second documented case of this happening. The woman is from Argentina, 30 years old and was diagnosed with the virus eight years ago. She no longer shows signs of active infection and has no sign of an intact virus in her body.


Last year, she gave birth to a healthy HIV-negative child. And some 38 million people are living with HIV around the world right now, just amazing.

All right, President Biden is now -- right now, we're going to show you some pictures. President Biden -- just listening into the questions. President Biden leaving the White House, departing -- leaving the White House and heading to Joint Base Andrews for New Hampshire.

Inside Politics with John King will begin right after this break. Thanks for joining me, everybody.