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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview With Former Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel; What Can Be Learned From Hospitals On Lifting Lockdowns; President Donald Trump: The World Was Hit By The Plague From China; Sonia Shah: We Are Changing Patterns Of How Human Interact With Wild Animals; The World's Pandemic Problem: What We Can Learn From The West Nile Virus; Will The World Change Post-COVID? Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 17, 2020 - 10:00   ET



TAPPER: To the family of the legendary Phyllis George. A former Miss America who went on to break barriers as a pioneering female sports broadcaster. She was a beautiful soul, a wonderful woman and a beloved mother to our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown and her brother Lincoln. May her memory be a blessing. What a horrible loss.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us. Fareed Zakaria starts right now.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.

Today on the show, you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. That is what Rahm Emanuel famously said. I will ask the former White House chief of staff and former Chicago mayor his thoughts on how we should use this crisis. Also --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China's been taking advantage of the United States for many, many years.


ZAKARIA: The Trump administration seems headed toward a cold war with China. Richard Haass, a Republican and adviser to three presidents, explains why this is a dangerous strategy.

And how to live life after the lockdown. Doctor, author and "New Yorker" staff writer, Atul Gawande, gives us his prescriptions, ones that have been tested and work.

Finally the French have come a long way from the long-favored line "let them eat cake." So what are they being encouraged to use now? Stay tuned and find out.

But first, here's my take. If anyone thought a global pandemic that has so far killed more than 85,000 Americans would override the country's partisan divide, think again. It turns out that Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to believe that the pandemic is serious and to follow CDC guidelines.

Preliminary studies using cell phone data show that people in more Republican areas of the country have been moving around more than in Democratic areas. This has led many to wonder why partisanship has become so strong in the U.S. that people will not listen to experts even at the risk of their own health.

But there's a broader distrust that we need to understand. I recognized it while reading a book that is not about COVID-19 at all but shed strong light on the situation, explaining why so many people across the west, really, have rejected the establishment.

Michael Lind writes in "The New Class War," "The issue is not the issue. The issue is power. Social power exists in three realms, government, the economy, and the culture. Each of these three realms of social power is the site of class conflict."

Lind argues that the best way to understand America today is through this lens of class conflict which has been sharpened by the rise of an overclass that dominates the three spheres he mentions. In all three, leaders tend to be urban, college educated professionals often with a post-graduate degree, and that makes them quite distinct from much of the rest of the country.

Only 36 percent of Americans have a bachelor's degree. Only 13 percent have a masters or more. And yet the top ranks everywhere are filled with this credentialed overclass. For many non-college educated people especially those living in rural areas there is a deep alienation from this new elite.

They see the overclass as enacting policies that are presented as good for the whole country but really mostly benefit people from the ruling class, whose lives have gotten better over the past few decades while the rest are left behind.

In this view, trade and immigration, for example, help college educated professionals who work for multinational companies but hurt blue-collar workers. So when they hear from the experts about the inevitability of globalization and technological change, and the need to accept it, they resist. It does not resonate with their lived experience.

So let's look at the COVID-19 crisis through this prism. Imagine you're an American who works with his hands, a truck driver, a construction worker, an oil rig mechanic, and you've just lost your job because of the lockdowns, as have over 36 million people. You turn on the television, and you hear medical experts, academics, technocrats, journalists explain that we must keep the economy closed. In other words, we must keep you unemployed because public health is important.

Now, all these people making the case on TV have jobs, have maintained their standards of living, and in fact are now in greater demand. They feel they're doing important work. You, on the other hand, have lost your job. You feel a sense of worthlessness, and you are terrified about your family's day-to-day survival.


Is it so hard to understand why people like this might be skeptical of the experts?

The COVID-19 divide is a class divide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report last year on the job flexibilities of U.S. employees. Of the top 25 percent of income earners, more than 60 percent can stay home and still do their jobs.

Of the bottom 25 percent of income earners, fewer than 10 percent can work from home. In the early days of the crisis, only 13 percent of people in households making over $100,000 were laid off or furloughed, compared to 39 percent in households making less than $40,000.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that he understands that maintaining these social distancing guidelines is inconvenient for many people. They're not just inconvenient, they are life shattering. No one in America or elsewhere has all the knowledge to formulate the perfect formula to open up and move ahead. Even Dr. Fauci acknowledged that during congressional testimony this week when he was asked whether schools should open.

"I don't have an easy answer to that. I just don't," he said. "Situations regarding school will be very different in one region versus another." Regarding the economy he noted --


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't give advice about economic things. I don't give advice about anything other than public health.


ZAKARIA: So let's all recognize that we need to hear many voices as we make these difficult decisions, and that those making the decisions need to have empathy for all Americans. Those whose lives are at risk, but also those whose lives have been turned upside down in other ways by this horrible disease.

To read and comment on my "Washington Post" column, go to And let's get started.

"The people want to get on with their lives." That is what President Trump tweeted on Thursday in response to a Wisconsin court decision that effectively ended the governor's lockdown there. The president wants to open quickly in opposition to some state and local politicians around the country.

My first guest, Rahm Emanuel, has worked everywhere from the White House to city hall. He's been a congressman from Illinois, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, President Obama's chief of staff, and most recently mayor of Chicago.

Welcome back to the show, Rahm.


ZAKARIA: So how should we think about this debate? Is it time to open up? How should we open up?

EMANUEL: You know, Fareed, I actually think that's a slightly off kilter a little. The debate is not really about reopening, which is somewhat -- that's where the president is and other people, governors and others, are coming across as reluctant or resistant.

I actually think Democrats and the country should be having a debate, you want to reopen? I want to rebuild America. I want to actually invest in America.

You have 35 million Americans unemployed. What if we said to the Americans in the retail sector, we're going to train you not only -- we're not only going to give you an employment, your job, we're going to train you to become a computer coder and use this period of time or somebody in cybersecurity and use this time?

You're not going to school? We're going to rebuild our schools. You're not driving and there's not commuters on mass transit and roads? We're going to rebuild all those because when they're not used, we can get the work done and cheaper and more and quicker.

We should have a -- the president wants to be in the point of reopening. I want the Democrats speaking large to rebuilding America. America never lost a challenge when it invested either in America or Americans. And when we do that, that should be the message. Right now, I think it's wrong for us --

ZAKARIA: But, Rahm, how do you --


EMANUEL: Go ahead.

ZAKARIA: How do you rebuild the roads, the infrastructure, the schools if everything is closed? I mean, the point is -- and of course there are going to be millions of Americans who can't --

EMANUEL: Well, no. No. Well, first --

ZAKARIA: You know, a 50-year-old truck driver cannot become a coder.

EMANUEL: Fareed, constructions -- no, well, wait a second. Go ask the JCPenney employee right now. Go ask the person that used to work at the desk at Neiman Marcus. Those jobs -- there's a lot of jobs not coming back. And rather than say they're not coming back, which has been -- what our tone has been for 40 years, I would say look, there's going to be a transition, and we're going to invest in you so you can succeed in that transition.

Take this -- I was listening to what you were saying earlier. I don't buy into this category, you're essential, you're not essential. We don't have a person to waste in America in the 21st century. Everybody is essential. And our goal is to invest in your essentialness to the future.

ZAKARIA: But, Rahm, if I can be honest --

EMANUEL: To the future of this country --

ZAKARIA: You're eliding the question of should these states start reopening? That's really the question. I mean --

EMANUEL: Well, here's --


ZAKARIA: You know, or are you saying keep them locked down and keep having the government print more money, borrow more money and pay them?

EMANUEL: First of all -- first of all, we're going to, as the Fed chair said, we've got to continue to have monetary and fiscal stimulus. So we're going to make this. My question is, do we give you an unemployment check or do we give you an unemployment check to hold on but also retrain you so as the economy comes back, you are able to succeed in that economy. That's the question.

I actually disagree. It's -- that's a false choice, reopening or not. And the fact is the way you do it is you do it with a plan that integrates health care, life and livelihood. Those are our two goals, not in opposition but collaboratively. And I think it's a false choice. The president wants you to say it's reopened or not. And that's not the way to look at it. And, you know, national crises require national leadership. And there hasn't been any of that.

And so we basically sent a bunch of mayors and governors out and said, go figure it out on your own without a national plan. We've never met a national crisis without a national plan or succeeded without one. And I do think when kids aren't in schools, modernize the schools.

When commuters aren't using the roads, go out and build those roads and mass transit. In fact it's more cost effective to do that and constructions going on on high rises, you can't tell me you can't go out and build a school and go build a community college and go build roads and mass transit system.

Construction is happening all across the country. The problem is states can't access the resources because gas taxes are down and the federal government can in fact take the resources and do a real rebuilding of America. And that to me is what this missed opportunity is. As somebody once said never allow a good crisis to go to waste. How many times have we talked about investing in people's skills to scale up an economy?

How many times have talked about having 21st century transportation system for a 21st century economy? This is the opportunity to rebuild America, not just reopen it to where there are no retail jobs coming back. ZAKARIA: All right.

EMANUEL: A good portion of the people unemployed -- I'd also say we need more nurses. Let's invest in that. Don't just give people an unemployment check. Give them an education and a skill in six months that allows them to succeed in the new future. That's what we should be doing.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, and since I have you, about the politics of all this. The president is making the case very explicitly --


EMANUEL: Let's get to something I want to talk about.

ZAKARIA: Yes. The president is making the case very explicitly that Joe Biden is out of it. And, you know, if you look at polls, there are a large number of people -- I think I saw one that said 35 percent believe that Biden will be replaced.

What is going on? What should the Biden campaign do to allay any fears people have that the candidate may be slipping in some way?

EMANUEL: Look, I've talked to Joe Biden multiple times over the last two months. I've had the same conversation with Joe Biden today as I did when I was chief of staff and he'd come in and tell me what I needed to do up in Congress to get something done and seek his advice on things.

So I see him there. He's fully conscious. We talk about a whole host of subjects on the economy, on the politics of this moment, on the vice presidential selection. And that's all I'll leave it at because I respect the privacy of those conversations. But I heard the same person on the phone that used to be in my office when I was chief of staff right next door to the vice president's office.

And the fact is, this is a whole distraction like everything else, attacking Obama, from the fact is that the president of the United States failed in those first costly eight weeks. And this is also a culture of corruption that exists in President Trump's administration. Every attack on Joe Biden is a mirror held up to what Donald Trump has done. And he projects that failure on to somebody else to try to neutralize what is his vulnerability.

The attack on Joe Biden about China is really about the fact that President Trump was on bended knee to China. The attack on Joe Biden's skill set is about the fact that we have a president whose President, you know, Clorox and Vice President Lysol.

Give me a break. And I'll take Joe Biden, and I've seen him energetic, I've seen him working -- my phone calls are late into the night with him. So if he's anything, he's got too much energy. I'm the one that's saying, Joe, I've got to go. Time up. So I'm very confident in the capacity of the vice president. I knew him when he was a senator, when I worked for President Clinton. I knew him as a colleague when I was in Congress, chief of staff, mayor, and I know him now. And he's the same person I have seen before. He is, obviously, you

know, where he is in his life, but the fact is he has the capacities to address the challenges that this country has and will bring a vitality and a sense of also ownership of this rather than say I'm not responsible.

ZAKARIA: All right. We've got to go.

Rahm Emanuel, always a pleasure.

EMANUEL: Thanks, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, a doctor, best-selling author gives his prescription on how America should open up.



ZAKARIA: Everybody has an opinion these days about when to reopen the economy and how to do it. And as I've said we ought to listen to many voices. A compelling set of ideas came out in a "New Yorker" article this week titled "Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, A Regimen for Reentry."

It was written by a past GPS guest, Atul Gawande. He plays many roles. He's a staff writer at that magazine, he's a best-selling author. He's also a surgeon at Brigham Women's Hospital in Boston.

Welcome, Atul.


DR. ATUL GAWANDE, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

ZAKARIA: So, you point out in the article that what you guys have been able to do at your hospital, which is a very large hospital, lots of people, and of course lots of people in close proximity of the virus, you have been able to put in place a regimen that really works and has resulted in very minimal infections. So tell us the regimen.

GAWANDE: Yes. So basically, you know, we're a hospital system of 75,000 people, which is more than 75 percent of counties in the United States populations. And like many hospitals, we've managed to avoid becoming sites of transmission. The key to that has been, you know, steps that everybody has heard about, but it's recognizing each of them are flawed and when you put them together, sort of like a drug cocktail, it's a combination therapy, it can be very effective.

The four elements, hygiene, in addition to social distancing, that's number two. Number three is symptom screening. Every time I go into work I am asked -- I go to a Web site on my phone. I fill out a form that says, do I have any of the symptoms of COVID-19? It can be as simple as do I have a sore throat? Do I have a runny nose? Not just a fever. Fever is present less than 40 percent of the time when symptoms start. So, you know, if I even have a runny nose, if I've had a symptom, then

I should be staying home. And that's critical. So I go on and I say no symptoms, I get a green pass to go in. But if I indicate that I have that runny nose, then I stay home, and I get set up for testing. And, you know, 90 percent of us will end up screening out that hey, it was just a cold or whatever. It's not coronavirus.

But out of 50,000 people that were at the workplace in the last month, 11,000 of us had those symptoms, 1400, over 10 percent, turned out to have coronavirus. And we avoided going in and infecting people. So that's -- that is a critical element. And we have to take that very seriously. And then there's masks. And masks deal with the fact that there are people -- you know, about half or more of the spread is from people who don't have symptoms.

And those people who don't have symptoms, they were wearing a mask and that prevents them from spreading to others. A term we know that we know now that respiratory droplets can spread, not just when you sneeze or cough. Sneezing is the most likely to spread. But even just talking. Loud talking spreads more droplets that can contain virus than soft talking. And wearing a mask ends up blocking those droplets.

ZAKARIA: So, when you talk about this, you also mentioned that you're really being rigorous, the hand washing, the mask wearing, the social distancing, the six feet. You pointed out, for example, that we should really be washing our hands maybe five times a day. You say that even 10 times a day is actually almost ideal.

GAWANDE: Yes. Each of these have elements that, you know, we don't talk enough about. We talk about we should reopen, reopen. Let's talk about what it takes to be really good at entering without infecting one another. And one example is hand washing more than 10 times a day cuts the likelihood that you will get infected by half. And at least that's what turned out in the SARS epidemic and it seems likely to apply here.

So what does that mean? Any time you go into a group space, before you enter that environment, you wash your hands. When you leave, you wash your hands or you get a hand sanitizer, and while you're in that space among people, every two to three hours you should be washing hands again. Right? It's making it a significant habit.

That won't solve the problem just by itself. Social distancing then is the same thing. Six feet, you've got to understand it's not like a viral law. There's no stop sign that the virus won't pass six feet. Most of the cases can be avoided that way. But, you know, people sneeze and they can propel virus if they're at the peak of infectivity up to 15, 20 feet away. So it's not the only answer. It's putting each of these steps together.

The mask is very interesting because what is hard about it, and people struggle with this, is that it's about I'm protecting you, you protect me. There is some protection from the mask possibly because of filtration. A lot because you don't touch your mouth and nose.

But the biggest value is you don't spread the virus. If 60 percent of us wear a mask that's 60 percent effective and a double layer cotton mask is at least that effective if it's well-fitting, we can shut down the virus. You put these together, and you have those steps become a solution.

ZAKARIA: How hard is it to change culture? I mean, this may be -- you might have to put on your writer's hat more than your doctor's hat on this one. But is it -- I mean, can we -- will we do it?


GAWANDE: So, I think the answer is yes. But it is the hardest part of this journey. Our culture right now is debating -- we all are saying, we want safety and we want freedom. Keep me safe, leave me alone. The culture that works in the hospital that is making this successful is the culture that says I never want to be the one to infect somebody and kill them.

I said there are hundreds of thousands of people right now who have the virus, and they do not know it. We all have to act as if I have the virus, and that I care enough about my neighbors, I care enough about my community, I care enough about my family that I think I never want to be the one to infect somebody. So I'm going to put on a mask. I'm going to keep my social distance. I'm going to wash my hands regularly because I never want to be that one.

And understand there are going to be people who are not going to follow the rules. It's just going to be the case. But, you know, the nice thing about what we're learning is we stick together, and we all don't have to be perfect. If we get to over 60 percent of us using a mask with over 60 percent effectiveness and following these basic steps, we will clamp down on this. And, you know, we don't want to take those steps of leaving our lockdown until the levels are dropping.

You know, moving out now with those hundreds of thousands of people unlocking down will guarantee to spread that wide. But I think in the next two weeks we will see the country doing better and better. And we've got to be talking about how we come out. Not whether we come out. It's how we do it.

ZAKARIA: Atul Gawande, always a pleasure.

GAWANDE: Great to see you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, the anti-China rhetoric from the White House heated up again this week. I will talk to Richard Haass about the prospects of a new cold war between Washington and Beijing.



ZAKARIA: On Thursday the President told Fox Business he wasn't interested in speaking to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. In fact, Trump said America could cut off its whole relationship with China. Is that even possible in this interconnected age? Richard Haass is the President of the Council on foreign relations and the author of a terrific new book titled "The World: A brief introduction." We'll get to that in a second. But I want to first ask you, Richard, we almost have an almost bipartisan consensus that we have to get very tough on China.

Trump is saying what he's saying. Biden's attacks on Trump are not that this is a bad idea but he was there first, and that Trump has been cozying up to China. You heard Rahm Emanuel say that a bit earlier. Where does this go and is it a wise strategy for America?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Fareed, it's one of those times where I actually begin to question the desirability and wisdom of bipartisanship. I think this anti-China push underestimates china's limits and weaknesses.

I think it probably exaggerates its ambitions, most important it seems to me to place China at the center of American foreign policy is misplaced. We can and should push back against China, that's not going to make us competitive. That's all about our schools, our infrastructure, our research and development funding.

And overseas we can push back against China, that's not going to make us safe against the next pandemic or against terrorism or against climate change. We need a 21st century foreign policy, and pushing back against china is only one part of it.

ZAKARIA: And what do you think is behind this sort of - the Republican's push Mike Pompeo, Peter Navarro to investigate the origins of the virus? Because even they seem to acknowledge, even Fox News reports that they think this was essentially accidental. They might have accidentally gotten out of the lab or accidentally gotten out into the wet market.

I'm trying to understand what difference does that make? Why is this push about, you know, are they culpable in some way even if they are admittedly - you know, it happened by incompetence or accident.

HAASS: Look, we could learn something and then it could help us deal with the next pandemic or even prevent it. But let's just call a spade, a spade. It's deflection, its politics, and China - China should be roundly criticized, Fareed, I think you would agree with that, with how it handled the outbreak of this pandemic, these markets should have never been opened.

They silenced the public health people. They misrepresented, they didn't cooperate with the world. Even if China had behaved well, if they were a textbook citizen, that doesn't let us off the hook. Here we are four, five months later we still can't test anything like the scale we need to.

It doesn't explain our lack of stockpiled equipment. I think it's right to look at China. It's right to ask for a full investigation, we might learn something. But let's not kid ourselves, position heal thyself. We should take lessons on where we got it wrong. ZAKARIA: I want to look at one of these issues through the prism of your book. You talk about in the book that globalization is a reality, how we deal with it is a choice. Very well put. When I look at the W.H.O., I sort of think about it in that context, which is that everybody is attacking it, but the truth is we have these global problems, these pandemics, these viruses that spill over borders.

And then the question is can you have some kind of global response and the truth is the W.H.O. is very small, pretty - modest funding, and most importantly it's not allowed to push back against other countries.

Yes, it didn't push back against China, absolutely clear. It also doesn't push back against the United States.


ZAKARIA: That's - we've designed these international institutions not to deal with the global problems, and it strikes me as a perfect example of the point, you make in your book that the problems are getting global, but the solutions are remaining local and national.

HAASS: Exactly right. There is enormous gap between global challenges and responses. One of the most common phrases in our businesses international community, and the deep dark secret there's not much of one.

In everyone of the area whether it's climate change or global health, we need to narrow the gap. And if it's turns out as impossible to improve the W.H.O. because China and other sovereign governments won't allow it, let's form a club.

Let's form an arrangement where ourselves and other like-minded countries set the rules, build the capacities to help the world. It's not W.H.O. or nothing, that's the best approach and principle, but if it is not in practice, let's works around it.

ZAKARIA: We also seem to be seceding a certain amount of leadership. President Trump has now said you know may be we'll cut back our contributions by 90 percent. Wouldn't the Chinese then say we'll expand?

That's what they've done in the U.N. every time we stepped back, the Chinese say great, this gives us more opportunities for global leadership. I don't get how we'll dominate the international system by constantly abdicating.

HAASS: The reason you don't get it is because we won't. We're creating all sorts of space and opportunity for China, even though China is essentially in many cases pushing a really flawed agenda, if there's no push back they're going to prevail.

So we need to be more involved. One lesson of the pandemic is that we ignored globalization and ignore the world at our peril. The other has got to be not only is isolationism deeply flawed, but unilateralism is. We have to get on the field. We have to play. You can't win the game unless you play. All too often this administration has taken itself off the field.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you finally, Richard, about American soft power. This is a concept that a friend of ours, Joe Nyer wrote about a lot. When you think the world looks at the way everybody seems to have screwed up in the United States, not just Trump, the CDC got the wrong tests out, the Department of - HHS has not been able to put a testing regimen in place.

Do you think that affects the way that people look at American empowerment? You spent so much time as an American diplomat, do you think the fact that the United States is clearly not the world leader in the response to this COVID; will it affect our ability to persuade pressure, encourage things around the world?

HAASS: The short answer Fareed is yes. Foreign policy is not just what military people or diplomats say and do. It's also about who and what we are. The example we set. If we had been incompetent in dealing with this virus, that would have sent the message.

If American politics were functional rather than dysfunctional that would send a powerful message. When we had something like the financial crisis in 2008 that sent a powerful message but the wrong kind of message so everything we are as a society, as an economy, as a political entity, that says something to the world.

People around the world get up in the morning and they say do we want to be more or less like the United States? Do we want to emulate them, depend on them? Are they impressive? Are they reliable? So a big part of our policy is not foreign. A big part of foreign policy is what we are.

ZAKARIA: As always, Richard, huge pleasure to have you on. Thank you.

HAAS: Thanks.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS" if you're expecting massive change for the better or worse post-pandemic, think again. That's what my next guest says and she wrote the book on pandemics.



ZAKARIA: Four years ago Sonia Shah a science reporter came on GPS to talk about the outbreak we were worried about back then, the ZIKA virus. At the end of the conversation I asked her what we need to do to combat the next global health crises.


SONIA SHAH, AUTHOR, "PANDEMIC": You know we need veterinarians, social scientists, political scientists as well as our biomedical experts to really come together to start a much more collaborative approach to solving these health crises.


ZAKARIA: Just like the warnings from Bill Gates were barely heeded, Sonia Shah's suggestions fell on mostly deaf ears. And now here we are amidst a global crisis like we have never seen before. Sonia is the author of the 2016 book, "Pandemic: Tracking contagions from Cholera to Ebola and beyond." Welcome, Sonia.

SHAH: Nice to be here.

ZAKARIA: We've had these pathogens around. We've seen them and we've seen them increasing, SARS, MERS, Avian Flu, H1N1, ZIKA. What is it that is making our world so much more conducive so these outbreaks?

SHAH: Well, we know that most of these pathogens that are re-emerging and emerging today originate in the bodies of animals mostly wild animals. And the reason that's happening is because we are changing patterns of how our bodies interact with the bodies of animals? That's because we're destroying so much wildlife habitat.

We have covered over half of the landscape of the planet with our homes, towns, mines, farms, et cetera. That leaves very little habitat for wildlife species, that's partly why we have this bio diversity crisis where we're losing 150 species a day.

ZAKARIA: So given that you have an example of how the West Nile virus was always around, but how the loss of bio diversity made it lethal?


SHAH: Yes. There are a lot of examples of this. With West Nile virus, for example, we - it's a virus of might migratory birds from Africa, those birds have been landing in North America on their migration patterns for many years, probably hundreds of thousands of years.

We didn't have West Nile virus outbreaks here in the United States until 1999. And one reason that might be is because up until recently we had a diversity of bird species in our domestic bird flocks.

We had birds like Woodpeckers and rails these diverse bird species were actually really good at repelling West Nile virus. What happened over the past 50 years or so, we lost a lot of that avian bio diversity. So Woodpeckers and Rails are pretty rare now but in a lot of places instead we have a lot of Robbins and crows.

These are bird species that can live in any kind of disturbed environment, which is what we left for them. It turns out that while Woodpeckers and Rails are really good at repelling West Nile virus, Robbins and Crows are actually carriers for West Nile virus.

So the fewer Woodpeckers and Rails you have around, the more Robbins and Crows you have around, the more West Nile virus you have round. So it just becomes more and more likely that a mosquito will bite an infected bird and your domestic birds flock and then bite a human being. And that's what's happened in 1999, and that was the trigger for the

first outbreak of West Nile virus in North America. Since then it has spread across the country.

ZAKARIA: Do you think that we will change in some fundamental ways the kind of things you were talking about, our interaction with nature or even more generally change our behavior in ways that will be meaningful, people wonder whether the handshake is dead, whether the office is dead, what do you think, having looked at some of this in the past, what's your prediction?

SHAH: I think a lot is going to depend on the stories we tell about where this thing came from and why it sort of caused all the death and destruction it has caused? I think as long as we think of it as something outside of ourselves and we're the victims of, I don't have much hope that we'll fundamentally change our relationships with others.

If you look at the history of other infectious diseases, the thing that's so frustrating because I've been writing about these for many years now is that we don't change. We got rid of Malaria, for example in the United States after having it for hundreds of years, even after we knew how to prevent it, even after we had good cures for it, we had it until the 1940s.

The reason we finally got rid of it is not because we did anything to change the epidemiology of Malaria on purpose but because we decided to electrify the rural south and that kind of ended the Malaria's way of life.

There's a similar story for Cholera and a lot of other pathogens that we've conquered. We've done it basically by mistake through sort of other means of social development or economic need or commerce and things like that.

And so we don't purposely go after infectious diseases as much as we might think that we do. So, I think the idea that we're going to have this hugely changed world after this pandemic is maybe exaggerated.

I think what I've seen in history of looking at these pathogens over time is that we usually go right back to business as usual, as soon as the thing ends, as soon as we have a drug or vaccine, as soon as we can kind of - these diseases into marginalized populations, we don't do the fundamental social change that we could do.

So I think we can hope that we have a bigger change that would push us in the right direction. I think it depends on how we understand this moment we're in?

ZAKARIA: Sonia Shah, pleasure to have you on. Yours is a very important voice in all of this. Thank you.

SHAH: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," what would France be without baguettes, croissant, frog's leg and from mage? Well, France is now being asked to do their patriotic duty and eat more of one of those food stocks. Find out which one when we come back.



ZAKARIA: Two and a quarter centuries ago, French Queen Marie Antoinette met her end under the revolutionary guillotine. A famous legend one that is almost certainly false says that when she was told the peasants had no bread to eat during a famine, the Queen carelessly responded let them eat cake.

Well, to quote something Mark Twine almost certainly didn't say history doesn't repeat itself but if often rhymes. All of this brings me to my question of the week. What food stuff are French people being urged to consume now? Croissants, frog's legs, cheese or baguettes, stay tuned and we'll bring you the correct answer.

I have two great new books for you this week. Richard Haass "The World: A brief introduction" and "The New Class War" by Michael Lindh. You've already heard plenty about them both earlier in the show. They're well worth your time.

The answer to my question this week is "C" the French dairy industry is facing a glut of spoiled product as consumption of the nation's formidable catalog of for mage declined 60 percent in three weeks after Paris enacted a nationwide lockdown on March 17th.

The "Guardian" reports French consumers have stocked up on essential foods instead and since most varieties of French cheese go bad in eight weeks or less. - as I speak. A little to the south in the East Italian Cheese makers according to Fortune Italia have attempted to wait out the oversupply by switching from making Mozzarella to concocting - a variety that requires months to age.


ZAKARIA: Customers can even buy so called - paying up front now for guaranteed delivery when the cheese matures. But the French industry is taking a different tact. With Michelle Lacoste France's version of the dairy board telling CNN he expects consumers to feast on fromage in order to "Maintain the French culture", "The French Tradition", "The French Heritage" that we all share.

Well we at "GPS" are always happy to help out our friends in France, so feel free to send us any extra brie and if you want to throw in a few bottles of burgundy to wash it all down while you add it we will except. Thank you for being a part of my program this week. I'll see you next week.