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Fareed Zakaria GPS

The World's Most Important Relationship; The Reality Behind "Rosewater"; Russia Signed Deal with China; Changing in Business of Education

Aired November 16, 2014 - 10:00   ET



Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We'll start with the two presidents, Obama and Xi, side by side announcing major matters they agreed on from climate change to trade, military cooperation to Iranian nukes.

Is this the big breakthrough in relations between the world's number one and two economic powers?

I'm not so sure.

Then Jon Stewart and Iranian born journalist Maziar Bahari on the Iranian regime, the ayatollah, the nation's nuclear ambitions, the Arab spring and their new movie "Rosewater."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you're making a big mistake. I am a journalist. Nothing more.


ZAKARIA: And college applications are due son. But should teens just tear them up or hit the delete key? Are colleges as we know them simply too expensive and outdated? Is there a better way in higher education?

My guests say there is.

Finally, Europe landed on a comet this week. India has a probe orbiting Mars, and Russia remains the not-so-trusty taxi to outer space.

What's America up to up there and whose spending on space is the highest?

But first here is my take. As Moscow continues to send its forces into Ukraine, it seems clear that Putin's Russia presents America and the West with a frontal challenge. But in the longer run, it is not Russia's overt military assault, but China's patient and steady nonmilitary moves that might prove the greater challenge. Russia is a great power in decline. Its economy amounts to just 3.4

percent of global GDP. China's is nearly 16 percent and rising. Now almost four times the size of Japan's and five times that of Germany's according to the World Bank.

Presidents Obama and Xi deserve the accolades they are receiving for their historic agreement on climate change and it seems to suggest that America and China are moving toward a new, productive relationship. Except that even while signing these accords, Xi Jinping's government has been taking steps that suggests it is developing a very different approach to its foreign policy, one that seeks to replace the American-built post-1945 international system with its own.

If it continues down this path, it would constitute the most significant and dangerous shift in international politics since the end of the Cold War. It's been widely reported that Xi has presided over a rise in nationalist rhetoric in recent years, much of it anti- American. While nationalism has been circulating in China for a while, the quantity seems to have risen sharply.

One count done by the "Christian Science Monitor, found that the number of anti-western polemics in the official "People's Daily" in 2014 so far has tripled compared with the same period last year.

Perhaps more important, however, is that China has begun a low-key but persistent campaign to propose alternatives to the existing structure of international arrangements in Asia and beyond. It's moved from being anti-American to post-American.

This summer Beijing spearheaded an agreement with the other BRICS countries to create a financial fund that would challenge the IMF. In October Beijing launched a $50 billion Asian infrastructure bank explicitly as an alternative to the World Bank. And last year President Xi declared that China would spend $40 billion to revive the old silk road to promote trade and development in that region.

For China to fit into an international system rubs against its deepest historical traditions. In his recent book Henry Kissinger notes that China has never been comfortable with the idea of a global system of equal states. Historically China considered itself in a sense the sole sovereign government of the whole world.

Diplomacy was a series of carefully contrived ceremonies in which foreign societies were given the opportunity to affirm their assigned place in the global hierarchy. One in which China sat on top. These are worrying signs not because Beijing's efforts will surely succeed. They may not. Many of its efforts have run into opposition, but if China continues down this path using its growing clout to ask countries to choose between the existing set of arrangements or new ones, it might create conditions for a new kind of cold war in Asia.

It will certainly help to undermine and perhaps eventually destroy the current international order, one that was created by the United States after 1945 and which has been a platform on which peace and prosperity have flourished in Asia for seven decades. For more, go to and read my "Washington Post" column

this week. Let's get started.

OK. You've heard my thoughts on the most important relationship in the world today. Now let me bring in two real experts, two great China watchers to get their thoughts.

Elizabeth Economy is the senior fellow and director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and David Lampton is the director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Liz, you had a great piece in "Foreign Affairs" called "China's Imperial Presence." And what I was struck by is, you know, after Mao every Chinese leader has been less powerful than Mao. Mao -- you know, Dang was less powerful than Mao and so on, until we get to Xi Jinping who is now, some people believe, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao.

ELIZABETH ECONOMY, DIRECTOR FOR ASIA STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Right. I mean, I think if you look at what the Chinese -- people were saying, Chinese scholars, they were beginning to talk about the era of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, the previous Chinese leaders, as the lost decade. Right? A time when China had failed to capitalize on the fact that it was now the second largest economy in the world, had failed to really exert itself as a global power.

And I think China was ready for a leader like Xi Jinping, who does want to project Chinese power. The time was right really for a Chinese leader like Xi Jinping to take center stage.

ZAKARIA: Why did he do this deal?

DAVID LAMPTON, DIRECTOR OF CHINA STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I think, first of all, he has crushing internal problems, and would soften a bit the idea that he's the greatest leader since Mao. That may prove to be true but it's going to take 10 years before we know it's true. Right now he's two years into a 10-year period. He's got crushing domestic problems, demographics are working against him.

I think he had to consolidate and sort of pacify the external environment so he can pay attention internally, so this agreement reflects his domestic political problems as much as it does a desire to move into the world.

ZAKARIA: Which are, Liz, pollution, which is the one thing -- when I was in China about nine months ago, the thing you heard from local party officials more than anything else was pollution and the second was corruption. That they were trying -- I suppose that's the complaint they get from ordinary Chinese people that the air and water are really dirty.

ECONOMY: Right. I mean, people can't breathe. You have now people saying 670,000 premature deaths in China because of the air quality. We're not even talking about the challenges that arise from, you know, water pollution and soil contamination. So that is clearly one of the major issues.

But as Mike alluded to, there are many others. There's the demographic challenge, there's rising, you know, inequality within China. There are ethnic tensions certainly in Xinjang. You know, you have the recent protests in Hong Kong.

Xi Jinping really is facing an enormous number and range of domestic challenges but that is precisely why I think he has amassed so much power, and it may take eight more years to see whether he is successful in addressing all of these challenges but I don't think it takes eight more years to see, you know, whether or not he is sitting, you know, in a very powerful place within the Chinese leadership.

ZAKARIA: What do you make, Mike, of the -- there's no question there's been a rise in sort of nationalist rhetoric, and as I point out, you know, all these attempts to really subvert the old international order, alternatives to the Asian Development Bank, to the IMF, to the World Bank, to various security frameworks.

Do you think this is Xi or is this a long-term Chinese strategy?

LAMPTON: What we're seeing is China, not just Xi. We're seeing a China that sees itself in great historic terms, and this isn't so much as a new status for China, it's a sort of restoration of national greatness, and I think we're going to face a China that on one hand is cooperative, increasingly cooperative on some economic and global issues like climate change, but on the other hand, I just was speaking with military people in China last week, and they are clearly going to continue to push China's sovereignty and he's not going to give on that set of issues.

So he's walking a fine line by trying to seem a good global citizen on the one hand but assuage this nationalistic drive on the other.

ZAKARIA: What about the nationalism?

ECONOMY: No. I agree. I guess I see the nationalism, though, in sort of two different respects. You know, one is, as Mike was a alluding to, sort of the nationalism that emanates from strength. Right? China is the second, you know, largest economy in the world, wants to expand its influence, right? Sort of be at the center of the Asia Pacific and beyond.

But at the same time I think there's a much more insidious form of nationalism and that's the nationalism that doesn't tolerate a diversity of opinion and that's where we see Xi Jinping clamping down on the artists and the intellectuals and talking about, you know, colluding with foreigners within the Chinese academy of social scientists and really putting a chill I think on the kind of creativity and innovation that he actually wants to support.

And so when I look at these two forms of nationalism, I think to myself, actually this second insidious form really undermines, you know, his efforts to put China out in front as a global leader with a shared vision for the Asia Pacific. So I think he faces that kind of challenge as well. ZAKARIA: Thank you both very much. That was absolutely wonderful.

Next on GPS, Jon Stewart and the Iranian-born reporter on Maziar Bahari on Bahari's four months in the Evin Prison, in Iran, perhaps Iran's most notorious prison, and what inspired Jon Stewart to make a movie about Bahari's experience?

All about Iran when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Tehran, June 21st, 2009. The city is in tumult following the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Green Revolution that followed. On that day Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian reporter from "Newsweek," was taken from his mother's house, arrested, and thrown in Iran's notorious Evin Prison. He would be held there for 118 days in solitary confinement.

He wrote a terrific book about the ordeal. That book has now been turned into a movie called "Rosewater." The title comes from the perfume that Bahari's interrogator used.

This was a story I was intimately familiar with because I was at the time the editor of "Newsweek International" and got deeply involved in the campaign to free Bahari. I read the book and still the movie was able to shock me, move me, as a powerful intelligent film.

Joining me now are Maziar Bahari and this other guy, the writer and director on the project, an unknown first time filmmaker by the name of Jon Stewart.

JON STEWART, "ROSEWATER": Nice to see you.


ZAKARIA: When you look at now, what do you think of the Green Revolution? Did it fail? Did it succeed?

BAHARI: Well, I think if we think of it as a revolution, it failed, but it was never a revolution. It was a green movement. It was a movement of millions of Iranians to gain their rights as citizens of the country. They did not want to be the subjects of the master, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. So the movement continues. You may not see the manifestations of the involvement on the street, but the people's demand to be considered as citizens of the country continues.

And the fact that Rouhani was elected last year was a direct result of the demonstrations into 2009. Without those --


ZAKARIA: You don't think he's -- you don't think he's a great liberal?

BAHARI: I don't think he's a great liberal, no, no, no. I mean, when Rouhani was elected, people said that you shouldn't judge him -- you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but you should always judge a book by its grammatical errors, you know, lack of flaws, and, you know, mistakes, and I think he's done many mistakes now, and I don't think he's a liberal, but he's better than Ahmadinejad, which is a great step forward.

I mean, Iranians, they look at any kind of sudden change with repudiation now. They do not want a repeat of 1979 revolution. When they are looking around the neighborhood, when they see what the Syrians are doing, for example, or what happens in Iraq or Afghanistan, they don't want a repeat of that. That's why the pace of reform, pace of change in Iran is very slow. Excruciatingly slow, but that means that it's sustainable, if the outsiders don't interfere, of course.

If there is an attack, if there's any kind of bombing, that will interrupt that pace of change, but if they just let the change to take its path, it's going to be a sustainable change and sustainable reform.

ZAKARIA: So you filmed this mainly in Jordan around Amman.

STEWART: That's right. That's right.

ZAKARIA: So you spent six weeks in the Arab world, as it were --

STEWART: About 10 weeks.

ZAKARIA: And this was at a pretty interesting time in terms of what was going on in the Arab world.


ZAKARIA: Again you're --


STEWART: Is there ever not an interesting time when things are going on in the Arab world?

ZAKARIA: You're a close student of this kind of stuff.


ZAKARIA: What's your impression? Ten -- you know, 10 weeks in the Arab world, did it change the way you think about the Middle East?

STEWART: I think, you know, there are -- there are moments whenever you immerse yourself with the people in a culture, and this is in no way to suggest that filming a movie in a city is in any way akin to living there or being a part of it because there's a very self- selecting group of people that you end up interacting with at all times.

That being said, you can get a feel for the flavor and character of a place, and there are moments of great hope within it. You sense the humanity of the people there, the great hospitality of the people there, but you also see the obstacles and the barricades that are up that prevent that sort of detente that we're hoping for.

So there were moments of great hope followed by just feelings of, like, this is going to take -- this is going to be a long cultural shift. You know, this is a part of the world that has been trapped between authoritarianism and extremism, and it's very difficult for the majority of the people who live there who are just looking to carve out a little space for themselves and to live their lives, to get that space and create those civic institutions when you are constantly trapped between those two poles.

ZAKARIA: You are not hopeful on an Iranian deal? I just --

BAHARI: I don't think so. I don't think that there will be a deal on the 24th of November because I don't think that there is a real will either in Iran or the United States to have a deal on the 24th, and there are also radical interest groups in both countries. In Iran the Revolutionary Guards are making a lot of money because of the sanctions and because there is no relationship between Iran and the United States.

And in this country, as you know, there are many lobbies for making a lot of money by supporting the sanctions and not having a --

STEWART: Not a lot of incentives on either side.

ZAKARIA: And fair to say that whatever deal Obama were to bring, it would be pilloried --

STEWART: Hugely popular. Whatever he does, my feeling is it will be hugely popular and hailed throughout our political system. That's -- my favorite is the new climate deal. So all they talk about in Congress is we can't -- we're not going to do a climate deal because if you don't get China on board it's meaningless, it's utterly meaningless.

OK. We got China on board. No deal. China, no, it's something else.

ZAKARIA: That's a foreign country.

STEWART: Why would we allow the United Nations and China to decide our economy? So you realize the system right now is incentivized for status quo, for stagnation, you don't raise money on bipartisanship, on cooperation, and good governance. You raise money on demonization and that's where we sit.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I will tell you about the role that this show GPS played in Maziar's story and thus the movie. It was sort of pivotal. When we come back with Maziar Bahari and Jon Stewart.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Maziar Bahari, the writer of the book "Rosewater," and Jon Stewart, the writer-director of the film "Rosewater." About six week after you were thrown into prison, Maziar, I

interviewed then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Kenya, of all places. I asked her about you. Let's watch the clip.


ZAKARIA: I have to ask you a question that is of personal interest. A "Newsweek" reporter, Maziar Bahari.


ZAKARIA: Has been arrested and is now going through what can only be called a kind of Stalinist show trial. What is your reaction to that?

CLINTON: Well, I am just appalled at the treatment that Mr. Bahari and others are receiving. It is a show trial. There's no doubt about it.


ZAKARIA: In the movie the way you present it and to a certain extent in the book is that this was a sort of pivotal moment for you personally because you suddenly realized, hey, I'm not alone. There are people who actually care about me.

BAHARI: It was the best day of my imprisonment. I mean, I cannot say best day maybe because there were not other good days, that it was the best one. It was the only good day of my imprisonment because when they put you in solitary confinement, they deprive you of all your senses. You become delusional and you become suicidal, but because you don't think that you don't know what's going on outside, and your only way to communicate with the rest of the world is through your interrogator, but when my -- one of the prison guards by mistake called me Mr. Hillary Clinton, there and then I realized that there is a campaign for me.

So that was the best moment. For a prisoner, the worst thing is to think that he or she is alone, and that was a moment that I realized that I was not alone.

ZAKARIA: The certainty of the truth -- I mean, what you portray a lot as these guys who they think they know the truth, but you're always wondering when watching the movie, are these interrogators really -- they seem at some level very insecure. It's a deft way of portraying it. They seem -- there's a lot of bravado but they're very insecure.

STEWART: Right. Well, you also have to portray it, you know, they're human beings. People that are interrogators or torturers, this is a job. You know, these are not -- it's not something that we might see in sort of a more sensationalized cinematic version of it, of, you know, the Bruce Willis over the guy tell me where the bombs are. This guy has got to come in every day. Has got to be there by 8:00. It's a bureaucracy. He has to work within that.

The Green Movement to these interrogators was in many ways just a chance to get some overtime. You know, the prisons are so filled with people, I think that the gentleman who was responsible for Maziar's torment in some ways probably wouldn't have had an opportunity to deal with someone, you know, a VIP prisoner, more educated, more Western, if it had not been for the overwhelming amount of people that they were trying to filter through this prison at the time.

ZAKARIA: So do you think of it as like -- you know, Eichmann in Jerusalem, the banality of evil?

STEWART: I think, you know, to compare them to Eichmann and the Nazi regime I think is also a mistake in the same as comparing them to ISIS. You know, they are not, you know -- ISIS is not a state actor and they do true depravity. I think this is different and I think there is a rationality behind it, and to view it in that way means it can be manipulated, and it means that you can fight back against it.

And so there is a banality to it. There is -- I would consider it more the bureaucracy of evil and the stupidity of evil but evil is a relatively rare --

BAHARI: Yes, there's a -- there's a rationale behind their irrationality.


BAHARI: And as you know, the Iranian diplomats and Iranian politicians, you have interviewed them several times, they are very logical people. They're very pragmatical people, but they are working for a system that thrives in security, it thrives in being insecure and making people insecure. So their irrationality is inherent part of the system. They may not think that they're doing it, they're not doing it intentionally, but that is an inherent part of their character.

ZAKARIA: And you capture also the mixture of reality to some of their complaints as this moment where the guy had -- the rosewater has -- the Maziar character has admitted, yes, the CIA was involved in the coup against (INAUDIBLE).


ZAKARIA: And so, wait, you're saying they were involved then but they're not involved now? It was a very -- you know, it's always struck me that that's what regimes like this do, they take a few facts which are uncontestable and extrapolate.

STEWART: Sure. Sure.

BAHARI: They always -- all the paranoia they have, all the conspiracy theories that they have, they are based on some truth, and then they put one and one together and they conclude it's 11, not two. So they always blow it out of proportion.

ZAKARIA: I want to get one last admission from you.

STEWART: Please.

ZAKARIA: When you -- when world historical things like the Green Movement are happening, the Arab spring are happening.

STEWART: Yes. Yes.


STEWART: Where do I get my news? You wonder where do I get my news?

ZAKARIA: You tune into CNN to watch these brave correspondents, risking their lives.


STEWART: Here's what I do. I put a set of Google alert for Blitzer. And then -- and then I just wait.

ZAKARIA: Say honestly --

STEWART: We have a CNN exclusive tonight, the Empire State building is blue.

ZAKARIA: During the green revolution, you watched CNN and appreciated the brave reporting that reporters --

STEWART: Let me tell you something. The reason why I make fun of certain aspects of CNN is to be inspired by the brave reporting, is to want more.

ZAKARIA: Good. That's all I want.

STEWART: And so - That's all it is.

ZAKARIA: You want more CNN.

STEWART: I want more of good CNN. CNN is very similar to the doll Chucky. Sometimes it's good Chucky. But you really got to watch out for bad Chucky.

ZAKARIA: But we're all inspired by the good stuff.

STEWART: No question.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS" many accused President Putin this week of putting the moves on China's first lady, but it's not really a sign that he's insolent, but rather, he's insolvent. I'll explain when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Everyone was talking about that moment at this week's APEC summit in Beijing when President Putin draped a shawl over the shoulders of China's first lady. Many claimed he was flirting. Who knows if he was, but there's no question that Putin is trying to woo the Chinese. Last Sunday Moscow and Beijing signed an accord to develop a second gas route to supply China with Russian gas. And just six months ago the two nations struck another energy deal. This one a 30-year blockbuster worth $400 billion. The Russians reportedly hope that soon China will become their biggest gas consumer.

Are we seeing the consolidation of a Russia/China axis? Well, not quite. For China the mega gas deals would help officials diversify away from coal, which would lower pollution levels which have caused significant public concern in the country. For Russia, the situation seems more desperate. Remember, oil and gas not only accounted for 70 percent of Russia's exports in 2012, but also for more than half of its federal budget income. According to the U.S. Energy Department which cites PFC energy research. And thanks in part, but only in part, to falling oil and gas prices, Russia's economic outlook is bleak. Western sanctions have crippled the ruble which so far this year has tumbled by about 30 percent against the dollar, according to fact-set data.

Russia's inflation rate reached 8.3 percent in October. The Central Bank has had to raise interest rates to 9.5 percent and still not much capital is flowing into the country. Don't forget, European nations are Russia's biggest crude oil and gas importers, and many of them have, of course, been looking for ways to curb their dependence on Russian energy in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

So Russia is right now contending with falling gas prices and the potential winnowing away of its main market for that gas. To me the proposed deal with China seems to speak more to Russia's desperation than to Putin's powers of persuasion. He needed a deal and fast, and it seems in his haste he left some things on the table. "The Moscow Times" reported that China has gotten the upper hand in the gas deal. The paper quoted a Moscow think tank director who says that for Russia the profit margin for the Chinese contracts would be close to zero. Beijing got a great economic deal because it's saving the Kremlin from its increasing isolation.

After all, this is a very unequal partnership. Russia imports more goods from China than anywhere else in the world, but look at this list of China's top import markets. Russia ranks tenth on that list according to MIT's Observatory of Economic Complexity. And as I mentioned earlier in the show, remember that the Chinese economy today is almost five times the size of Russia's, and that gap is likely to grow over time.

There's no doubt that for now the deal helps Russia enormously and China likes having a partner that is large, global, influential, and like Beijing wants to distance itself from the U.S. and its influence. But over time don't be surprised if this marriage turns out to be a troubled affair, one of convenience, more than true love.

Next on "GPS," it's dreaded application season for high school seniors, but should they even be applying to colleges at all? Should they instead be sitting at home staring at their computer screens? That is what many are advocating. I'll explain when I come back.


ZAKARIA: Many teenagers in the United States and around the world are breathing a huge sigh of relief today. Saturday was deadline day for early applications at many colleges in America, but my next segment might make some of those kids question their decision to go to a regular college at all. I've been intrigued for years by so-called MOOCs, massive open online courses where you can take college classes without going to college. And I wanted to know if they are a real viable alternative.

So, joining me are Stuart Butler, a Brookings scholar who's written extensively on this topic, and says MOOCS are throwing bricks and mortar schools for a loop. Especially those that haven't gotten into the game. And Anant Agarwal who runs EdX, a MOOC outfit founded by two bricks and mortar institutions you might have heard of: Harvard and MIT.

So, Stuart, explain first the kind of crisis and what you've called the business model for higher education.

STUART BUTLER, SENIOR FELLOW, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, it certainly is a crisis that they're facing. First of all, of course, the costs of traditional education has been going up and the indebtedness associated with it. Now, student tuition debt in the United States exceeds credit card debt.

ZAKARIA: And which - and it's $1 trillion.

BUTLER: Yes, exactly. Secondly you're seeing different kinds of information coming forward so that people can actually evaluate the success of going to one college or another. Whether it actually pays off. And then the third thing which you referred to is you're seeing new kinds of technologies that, first of all, appeal to students who were not part of the regular market, but now that technology is being developed such as through EdX and through others such that it is really beginning to break open the existing traditional markets. So there's an existential threat to the very business model that quite honestly has been lasting for almost 2,000 years.

ZAKARIA: And, you know, you point out the numbers are pretty staggering. You now have among private nonprofit college graduates 65 percent in debt. The average indebtedness is $20,000. Cost is obviously now at $200,000, $300,000 to go to college at least and it's not clear that they get that much out of it.

BUTLER: That's right. And that's the driving force. Once you combine information about whether you're getting good value for money and then you combine that with new technologies that give you different ways of actually getting to the same result, that's what makes open a market.

ZAKARIA: But, of course, a lot of people say, OK, that's fine, but you can't just sit in front of a computer and watch some professor and that's not education. What do you say to that as somebody running an outfit that does sort of that?

ANANT AGARWAL, EDX: Today's online education is not our grandfather's online education. It is completely transformed. We are doing short videos, interactive gaming technology where professors are using game- like technologies, discussions, the segments such as yours where various people get together, experts in the field get together to discuss a topic. It's not just a video of a professor standing at the end of a classroom. So, the technology has advanced tremendously. We bring discussion forums and the social into the classroom, into the online experience, and so this can be a very rich and very high quality experience.

ZAKARIA: And the numbers prove that it's catching on, right? I mean at this point online enrollment is moving faster. There are more people enrolling into online MOOCs than into actual colleges?

BUTLER: That's right. Yes.

ZAKARIA: And to you - does that suggest that people are saying, look, I can get the same product or something close to the same product at a very different price?

BUTLER: But you're certainly seeing that certain parts of the product are being now made available at a much lower price, almost free in many cases. Therefore, the traditional universities have got to rethink fundamentally what they do, how much they do, how long an education should be, whether it should be all at one place. That's the kind of thing that's happening.

ZAKARIA: So basically what you're saying is the Internet is the -- the one thing it does is it unbundles, and it's unbundling the college experience and saying why do you have to do all this four years, one place, $300,000?

AGARWAL: Absolutely. Yeah. I wrote a blog post called "Unbundled" for "The Huffington Post" about a year ago. But I said university's traditionally bundle time, function, and content. Why four years? Should be anything the four year program? Why at the age of 18? When I went to my undergraduate school, IIT Madras, it was a five-year program, and I remember the whole institution and professors were up in arms when the discussion was let's make it four years. Guess what? It's four years today. We went from five to four.

So, it can be - we think - bundling of time. Why should we spend four years together? Maybe come into the university having done the first year of courses as a MOOC, and these are free courses, you spent two years on campus to get the magic of campus and the campus experience and then you spend one year in the world, maybe even the subscription back to a university where you take online courses for the rest of your life as you need them.

ZAKARIA: Now, the real challenge it seems to me to me to the traditional university, if somebody goes to Anant's outfit which is free, unlike Coursera, which is the largest of this, but is a for profit, and what if somebody goes to Google and says, look, I haven't gone to any college but I have taken 35 courses at EdX and here is my certificate saying I have done them and I did it because I can't afford a regular college. And these courses are from Harvard and MIT, but they cost me nothing. And I did well in all of them. Would you hire me? If an employer starts recognizing this, all of a sudden people will say why am I paying $300,000 when this guy gets the job just as easily? BUTLER: I think that's exactly the next stage that you are going to see. I think it's taken a while for business to wake up to what's going on, quite honestly, in higher education, and I think in addition you are going to see a change in the notion of what is a college. I think then very soon you are going to see colleges or universities as really being the equivalent of assembly companies.

You think of it that way. What they are really doing, what you're paying for is for somebody to put together a package for you, maybe a period at a recognized university, at a traditional university. Maybe an online section, maybe a year abroad somewhere, so that what you're doing is getting a customization for a student, and what you're paying for is really something to put together a marketable product of that nature. That changes the whole notion of what is a college.

ZAKARIA: Thank you both very much. Fascinating stuff. For much more on the high cost of education and the future of colleges and universities in America, don't miss CNN films newest release "Ivory Tower" debuting this Thursday at 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Next on "GPS" a different look at immigration, one that President Obama and Speaker Boehner would do well to consider.


ZAKARIA: Ten years ago on March 2nd, 2004, a spacecraft named Rosetta was launched from French Guiana. On Wednesday cheers went up at the European Space Agency as the Rosetta's probe touched down on comet 67- P, 310 million miles away from Earth. The hope is that the comet will hold vital clues about the origins of the solar system and our planet Earth. Overall, ESA, an intergovernmental organization has spent almost $1.75 billion on this mission. It brings me to my question. According to a recent study, by the OECD, which of the following countries spent the largest percentage of its GDP on space last year? A, the United States. B, China. C, Russia. Or D, India. Stay tuned and we will tell you the correct answer.

This week's "Book of the Week" is Bret Stephens, "America in Retreat." It's an exceptionally intelligent, well written book filled with interesting data and analysis that's well worth reading and I don't even agree with most of it. Stephens has been on our show often. He's fast becoming the most influential conservative writer on foreign policy. So read it to your delight, or to hone your best arguments against it. As President Obama gets ready to take executive action on immigration for our "Last Look" let's take an interesting new look at an old place where many of our ancestors journeys in this country began, not mine, but others.

This week marked the 60th anniversary of the closing of Ellis Island. From the day that it opened in 1892, Ellis Island processed over 12 million immigrants, and the U.S. government estimates that 40 percent of Americans can trace their ancestry to immigrants who passed through this isle in New York Harbor. A new art exhibit on the island caught my eye this anniversary week. As part of his unframed project, the artist J.R. has placed life-size

historical photos of immigrants around the deteriorating buildings. The black and white pictures fit cleverly into the walls and the space and according to the artist's website, the project is about bringing the memory of the island to life. And perhaps the memory that America is a country of immigrants who came from around the world, often poor and illiterate and speaking little English, but from that rough material has come the vitality, diversity and energy that has made it the most powerful country in the history of the world.

Just a memory that Congress should keep in mind when thinking about immigration reform. And now a quick geography lesson for us all. Last week in our "What in the World" segment, we told you about Macedonia's high unemployment rate. We were talking about the Republic of Macedonia. Unfortunately, while we were talking about that sovereign nation, we showed you images of the Macedonia region of Greece, its neighbor to the south. Our apologies.

The correct answer to the "GPS" challenge question is "C." According to the report, the United States outspends Russia, China, and India combined in war dollars, but Russia spends slightly more than the U.S. as a percentage of GDP. In fact, Russia's space spending has increased almost 150 percent between 2008 and 2013. It's up to a quarter of a percentage point of the country's GDP. It underscores just how much the Kremlin values its space program. Spending the highest share of GDP while its economy stagnates and growth slows. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week and I will see you next week.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erin McPike and we are closely tracking all of the developments in a big story breaking overnight. ISIS claims to have beheaded American hostage Peter Kassig in a video posted online today. The 26-year-old Kassig, a former U.S. Army ranger and Iraq war veteran, traveled to the Middle East in 2012 to serve as an aid worker in Syria and that's where he was captured more than a year ago. He converted to Islam during his captivity adapting the name Abdul-Rahman Kassig. CNN has not confirmed the authenticity of the ISIS video. It shows the aftermath of a beheading, but the victim is not clearly recognizable. CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is in Turkey and she's known Peter Kassig for years. Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I first met Peter back in the summer of 2012, and he was up in a hospital in Tripoli, Lebanon, and there he was, this scrawny, pale, tattooed kid who is speaking broken Arabic but despite the language barrier, he was able to treat wounded Syrians there with such compassion and he would speak about how he felt that at that period in time of his life he really needed to do something, and he was the kind of individual who didn't just believe in speaking about doing things but in actually going out and making that reality. He had such drive and compassion. It was really inspirational, almost infectious when you listened to him talking about what it was that he wanted to accomplish.

It was just a few months after we met him, and I remember being surprised when he was telling me about this, that he had already begun helping Syrians out in the refugee camps in Turkey, but also going inside the country itself delivering medical assistance but also because he had training as a medic himself, as an EMT, he was giving lessons to Syrians in critical first aid because in so many cases the people that are on the scene initially are those who don't really know how to handle the extent of the injuries that they're being confronted with.

MCPIKE: Arwa Damon, thank you so much. "RELIABLE SOURCES" starts right now.