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Quest Means Business
China Prepares For Olympics Amid Geopolitical Tensions; Moroccan Agribusiness Company Goes Public In SPAC Deal; "The New York Times" Buys Word Game Wordle; AT&T To Spin Off WarnerMedia; Tom Brady Retires; Quest's World Of Wonder: Thailand. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired February 01, 2022 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST (voice-over): There's an hour before the closing bell. Remember, what a good session it was yesterday, strong
gains at 4 percent. Now look at the markets today. Well, all over the place.
This is the volatility after a strong rally but it does look like we could end up up for the day. The markets and the reasons why. Investors are
looking forward to Alphabet's earnings after the bell -- those.
Beijing's warnings of Olympic participants from the general public to prevent the spread of COVID, I'll speak to the executive director of the
games as we count down to the opening ceremony.
President Putin accuses the West of ignoring Russia's key concerns about NATO.
And today's Wordle might well be profit. "The New York Times" pays seven figures for the popular online game.
Live in New York, Tuesday, 1st of February.
Where did January go?
Anyway, I'm Richard Quest, I mean business.
QUEST: Good evening. We begin tonight in China and the Olympic COVID bubble that's being put to the test. Cases are mounting, only days before the
Olympic torch will be lit in Beijing.
You can see there on the screen, people in the city are celebrating the start of the Lunar New Year. So the Olympic bubble has been well and truly
sealed off. It's the world's most ambitious quarantine effort.
China has set up this so-called closed loop system. It stretches more than 100 kilometers and it connects Olympic venues to hotels; it keeps them
separate from the general population. There's special transportation to get from one to the other and the two shall not mix, the general population and
those involved in the Olympic community.
Beijing residents have been told not to breach the bubble, even if they were to see one of the Olympic vehicle crashes. Athletes and journalists
receive an 83 page rulebook on the bubble and, of course, had to isolate 14 days and take daily temperature readings before departing for Beijing.
In a moment, I'll be speaking to the man in charge of making it happen, the IOC executive director, Christophe Dubi, who tells us how it's all
happening in reality. David Culver is in Beijing.
David, now David, you are outside the bubble, which means that you can go hither and thither and you are free to roam, as it were.
But I mean, is there a feeling in Beijing that there's them over there, with the Olympics and there's you, locked outside the bubble?
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, a tale of two cities for sure, Richard. Yes, free to roam, though, I'll put that in
quotation marks, the definition perhaps taking a different form in recent months here because of the incredibly strict travel restrictions put in
You mentioned the Lunar New Year, that is normally the largest annual migration of humanity. This year in China, heavy restrictions on folks
going from work cities back to home provinces. It's another year where they are unable to, in many cases, reunite with families.
So it's been challenge for them but, as you point out, residents of Beijing, myself included, living outside the bubble, who have been here now
over two years straight, we are kept quite apart from those who have come in, including the athletes, including the personnel and the media,
including our colleagues from CNN.
But we are uniquely positioned in that we have teams both outside us and those on the inside, including my colleague Selina Wang. And we are able to
give you a view from both sides of the barrier.
CULVER (voice-over): The motto of Beijing's Winter Games is "Together for a shared future." It's a nice sentiment but daily life in the Chinese capital
is far apart from the Olympic enclave within it and absolutely nothing is shared between the people that inhabit the two worlds.
Too great is the risk of Omicron for China as it tries to maintain its zero COVID-19 policy. In the week leading to January 30th, 237 symptomatic
infections were reported in the country of 1.4 billion people.
CULVER (voice-over): Meanwhile, arrivals testing in the daily screening of games participants has already registered about 200 positive results.
CULVER: The closed loop system means those Olympic personnel who are visiting from other countries won't be able to freely wander and check out
some the iconic tourist sites, like this one, the Forbidden City. For them, it is truly forbidden.
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Instead, for athletes, organizers and us journalists inside the closed loop, Beijing has become a series of bubbles,
our hotels, the sporting venues and places like this media center are as much as the city has to offer.
WANG (voice-over): There are even literal walls, security, blocking us from freely moving about. We're COVID tested every day outside the hotel.
WANG: Technology takes the place of many lost interactions. Here at the media center, a robot serves our food.
WANG (voice-over): And there's a robot bartender mixing and serving our drinks. Only a limited number of Beijingers have joined our closed loop to
look after and transport all the people connected to the games.
And they, too, will need to stay separate from family and friends for weeks, quite a sacrifice, as the Lunar New Year holiday overlaps with the
But as COVID has disconnected Beijing from the international event it's hosting, it has also disconnected the people here from the rest of their
CULVER: And normally, during the Lunar New Year holiday, major cities like Beijing are empty; all the folks who live here are going back to their home
But this year, because of the outbreaks happening all over China, they are asking folks to stay put. So you have crowds like this gathering at some of
the more popular spots.
CULVER (voice-over): Crowds that won't get to be there as the medals are contested and won. No sporting tickets are on sale. Instead, the government
will issue some to a lucky few.
CULVER: Beijing 2022 is a tale of two cities, the hosts --
WANG: -- and their guests, so close but so far. For CNN, I'm Selina Wang, inside the Olympic closed loop.
CULVER: And I'm David Culver on the outside, Beijing, China.
CULVER: Still, on the outside, Richard. That was kind of surreal because I haven't seen any of our colleagues, as I mentioned, since I covered the
initial outbreak in Wuhan ore than two years ago now and Selina and I had talked about, maybe when you get in town, we can get a cup of coffee, we
can grab lunch.
We can still probably do that, though we'll have about 40 feet in between us, in which we'll have to yell back and forth. But that was as close as we
could get right there. And the reality for, as we pointed out in the piece, many of the folks who are working within that bubble, the residents of
Beijing, who have, in some cases volunteered or taken on jobs, like that mom you saw there, they have to keep apart from their loved ones not just
for the duration of the Olympics, Richard, but then they've got to reenter Chinese society where we are.
And that is another 21 days of quarantine. So for that mom, she said it would be about 100 days since she'll reunite with her kids.
QUEST: We'll talk later in the week, because I really want to get this view of how realistic is it when it reopens, when the whole issue of the
infection arriving as it normally will. Good to see you sir, I appreciate, stay out -- I would say stay clever but you're in the bubble. Oh, you're
out the bubble.
It's going to be very difficult to remember who's in and out. But I have no doubt the Chinese authorities will remind you at the first opportunity.
Thank you, sir.
CULVER: They will, that's for sure.
QUEST: Staying up late, 4:00 in the morning, much appreciated.
Christophe Dubi is the IOC executive director, the man responsible for the whole thing. He sat down for exclusive interview. He's now organized two
Olympic Games during the pandemic. He explained to me what was different this second time.
CHRISTOPHE DUBI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: It's probably less difficult than the first time we did it, which was Tokyo. So
in retrospect we gained a lot of experience and expertise in Tokyo.
Nevertheless, we are in a different environment here indeed, where you have the authorities, which have a policy of zero COVID-19. And then you're
bringing a number of participants from around the globe, in which, obviously, COVID is very prevalent.
So we have to design a system that is very sophisticated. It's called the closed loop and the idea is to keep everybody safe inside the closed loop
and, obviously, also, the citizen outside the closed loop.
And can I say, I've been here a month and it is safe. It feels very safe.
QUEST: Has it killed the fun of the thing?
I mean all, outside of the country, we're just reading of the most draconian measures and it's killing the atmosphere of the Olympics.
DUBI: Listen, when I read what comes out of the main actors -- and these are the athletes and they have gathered now in more than a thousand now,
which have arrived.
DUBI: And I read what they post on social media, that gives me the real confidence that what we've seen in Tokyo, that, despite the fact that we
couldn't have spectators, despite the fact that, yes, we had a number of measures that were taken, the athletes themselves are reporting that they
have never seen venues of this quality.
They feel incredibly welcome and they feel safe. So that's very, very pleasing.
Are these the most difficult games that you can recall, in the sense that not only have you got COVID but you have the issues of Peng Shuai and then
you have the issues of the diplomatic boycott. You seem to have a harsher tone on external issues.
DUBI: There are a number of diplomatic boycotts and these are political decisions. And we respect these decisions. We have to respect these
decisions. But what was very reassuring from the very beginning, is that the situation that really affected the athletes back in 1980 and 1984 would
not be repeated here.
And decisions were made by the same governments that the athletes would be supported. And preserving the dream of those people that do invest from the
very young age to come here for this dream, the once in a lifetime, was very reassuring.
So yes, certainly, there are a number of challenge. But at the very same time, when we can ensure that they will be on the field of play and this is
only three days to go and people will tune in and find the inspiration, this is quite a feat.
QUEST: And on the question of Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis player, meetings have been held -- or about to be held -- with the IOC.
What can you tell me about the satisfaction level that officials now have, that she is not being held some prisoner or she can speak out or she could
DUBI: Well, she made it clear in, it was a video communication with our IOC president, Thomas Bach. And she made it clear at that point in time that it
was a pleasure to meet, she had described her conditions as being, of course, under pressure, because of the media attention.
But for the rest of it, they agreed that they would meet at the time of the games. She would be inside of our loop. And we most definitely look forward
to meeting with her. Now it will take place at some point next week probably, once the games have started. So we can't wait, actually, to meet
QUEST: As best as you can in your difficult position, do you believe -- what do you believe of the situation here?
DUBI: I think, as much as we can provide information regarding those meeting we have with her, the interactions we will have with her, I think
we have to be transparent and simply describe what we do in our interactions.
Then, how it is then perceived is a different story. But at least as we have done, we have to be open and be clear that, yes, we've had and we will
have meetings with her and report on these interactions.
QUEST: I realize that everything changes within two or three days when the games start and these other issues, to some extent, can be, if not put to
one side, at least we can focus on the sport.
Is this the most difficult that you faced.
DUBI: First, if you want to get an easier job, this is certainly not the best position to be in, because this comes with challenge. Wherever you go,
it comes with challenge. There, I've got to be very clear.
And, you know, the postpone of Tokyo, and I responded to this question already and I said, well, yes, it was the most complicated. Now as I have
said, we learned a lot from Tokyo. There are a number of things here different than Tokyo but no challenge that cannot be overcome.
QUEST: And in 27 days, 25 days, 26 days, when it's all over, what are you going to do?
DUBI: What I'm going to do is focus on the next one.
DUBI: It is so fascinating. You're going to look at the next one, no, and start thinking about what have you learned here, what can you do better,
what can you improve?
It's going to be so -- and I must say that what is fascinating is that the games, at any point in time, reflect society at large. And, you know, it's
a moment in time where we all gather together, right?
Humanity together, under the same roof, the Olympic Village, all race, all religion, all cultures.
DUBI: But then, society evolves as well. And you will have many developments that will come between now and Paris. So we have to use this
as a stepping stone toward the next one.
QUEST: That was the director of the IOC talking to me earlier.
Wars, droughts, floods and they all drive Africa's hunger crisis and the food shortage. One Moroccan agribusiness is intent on solving the problem
and doing so through capitalism in the market. Going public on the U.S. stock exchange can help.
After the break, you'll hear.
QUEST: The U.N. is warning that food insecurity is soaring across Africa, numerous reasons driving this hunger, such as severe drought across the
Sahel that affects crops and livestock.
And then you have prolonged wars in places such as Ethiopia and South Sudan. For many people of the world, food program helps are actually
abandoning their homes and jobs to save their lives and get away from conflict.
Saad Bendidi is the chair of Forafric, an African agribusiness firm, working to bring more food security to the continent, that has just
launched itself onto the U.S. exchanges.
Good to see you, sir. The issue of why, I mean first of all you're the first Moroccan company as such to have done this in this way.
Why does launching on the U.S. stock exchange help the production of food, in a sense, rather than just the profits for those who run the company?
SAAD BENDIDI, FORAFRIC: Briefly, Forafric is a Moroccan based company that have expanded into southern in some West African entries and also in
Angola. Our aim is to strengthen what we have built over the last past years.
And for this, we have an expansion and growth plan. So we were facing the situation how to finance our expansion. As far as we were in the -- in the
global business, because global, having the raw material grade and exporting to more than 45 countries.
BENDIDI: We say, maybe, the best avenue for us would be to consider listing in international markets.
QUEST: So what does -- well, let me jump, if I may.
What does the food production of Africa, which has such tremendous potential without, you know, if we get rid of the war and you get rid of
the corruption and get rid of all the inefficiencies in the market, it could be exceptionally productive.
So what needs to happen?
BENDIDI: It's a long-term job, a long-term assignment, I would say there are several conditions. Yes, there is the potential but how to enhance this
potential in order to obtain tangible results requires to work on long- term, to work with communities, with the administrations and try to develop more, let's say, efficient ways for production.
With that efficient production that you talk about, are you finding sufficient investment?
You've got the SPAC, you're on the market and now there's a question of further capital for expansion, venture capital and the likes.
Do investors want to invest in agribusiness in Africa?
BENDIDI: Yes, they are willing to -- and we have shown them our track record. But also what we aim to do. So basically we are an agribusiness
deeply involved from the upstream to the downstream, having the global view on it and how to mitigate the risks and how to succeed to supply foods,
You know, we are producing flour, pasta, couscous, semolina and such a product that are incorporated in the basic diets in all our region. So
maintaining the supply in good quantities, in good quality and affordable price is key.
And despite the fact that we have, from time to time, drought, some political turbulence that are affecting the supply chain, we contribute to
secure all of that by having access to international markets.
QUEST: And that, really, is the key to it, isn't it?
I mean, what could be an extremely depressing environment becomes optimistic when there is sufficient investment, as you say, isn't it?
BENDIDI: Yes, true. For example our last move, last year, in 2021, after 18 months of, you know, the usual process for M&A, we have invested in West
Africa, in three countries, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
You can say this is foolish but we are here, investing in long-term and we are contributing, despite the fact that all the news that you might have
negative aspects, we are there, we are resilient. We are feeding people every day. And this is our task and we maintain it and we strongly believe
QUEST: And we're glad you joined us today to talk about it, sir, thank you, I appreciate your time on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
More this week, we are exploring the ways people, communities and businesses and industries in Japan are innovating and preparing for a world
beyond the pandemic. Today, on a pivot, to remote working is creating opportunities for different living solutions in the Japanese countryside.
Here is CNN's Blake Essig.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This morning, we're popping in on Yuki Nishide, who's actually in a meeting with a colleague.
His job: working in HR for a Tokyo-based IT company.
Except we're not in Tokyo. We're sitting riverside in snowy Hakuba Village near the city of Nagano. Since early 2020, the 31 year-old has lived a
nomadic lifestyle, traveling prefecture to prefecture, exploring Japan all while working a full-time job.
ESSIG: Do you find yourself more productive when sitting on the bank of a river working as opposed to being in an office space?
YUKI NISHIDE, HR COMMUNITY MANAGER (through translator): I think productivity increases. I think it is easier to come up with better ideas
when you work in a relaxed state, listening to the sound of the river flowing and feeling the breeze.
ESSIG (voice-over): Just before the pandemic, Nishide signed up for a co- living service called ADDress. For around $350 a month, the subscription lets him stay at any of the 220 homes listed on its platform across Japan.
ESSIG: Hakuba Valley is just his latest stop. Now things do get pretty quiet here in the off season but services like ADDress are hoping to
attract more young people to the area.
TAWKASHI SABETTO, CEO, ADDRESS (through translator): Our members include doctors, nurses, cooks, monks and many other professionals. They are
creative and young, in their 20s to their 40s, and can provide their skills and work together to help promote and help these local areas.
Tawkashi Sabetto says his subscribers have risen more than six times since the pandemic started. He believes that this means that a rising number of
people in Japan are looking for more diverse living options.
In fact, in the last two years, people have been leaving Tokyo in record numbers. According to Japan's ministry of internal affairs and
communication, more than 410,000 residents moved out of Tokyo in 2021, the largest ever outflow of people from the capital since data became available
nearly a decade ago.
SUSANNE KLIEN, HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY: Now with the pandemic, this has actually enforced changes that are really ongoing for a life of choosing a
life in the countryside over city life. (INAUDIBLE) it makes much more sense to go for the country side. And now, with more telework options on
the rise, this has really taken on a new dimension.
ESSIG (voice-over): Evolving attitudes and the pursuit of new ideas are helping to create innovative living solutions out of the pandemic. While
cities still play a central role in shaping Japan's culture and economy, rural areas are emerging bright spots, with new opportunities and room for
growth in every sense.
QUEST: Blake Essig reporting.
M-O-N-E-Y, that, of course, spells money. It's the Wordle of the day, the free word game is cashing in on its soaring popularity. "The New York
Times" has bought it for a seven-digit sum and says the app will stay free for now.
QUEST: You start with five letters and you end up with seven figures; in other words, Wordle is being sold off. The game is simple. I've got six
guesses to find the word of the day.
You'll be familiar with this, the letters turn green if they're correct; orange if they're in the word, just in the wrong place. So off we go.
Viral: the game has dominated social media in recent weeks, players are sharing their results via emoji. There's nothing viral in the final word.
Let's try trend. Well, Wordle is another unlikely break-up from the pandemic, Tiger Kingdom, baking sourdough bread. But it tells us we know E
and N are in the final word and "newsy," as you see, also tells us because "The New York Times" is buying Wordle that N and E are there but in the
wrong place, Y is in the right place.
"The New York Times" is going to add it to the selection of games. We're getting ever closer.
Next one, "enjoy," "The Times" says users will enjoy the game for free.
How long will that last?
We now know there is an O. Come on, it's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, the answer must be money. A reportedly 7-figure payday for the creator, Josh Wardle.
On CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning, "The New York Times" general manager for games wouldn't commit to keeping Wordle free forever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KNIGHT, GENERAL MANAGER FOR GAMES, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, it's just hard for me to talk about anything five years in the future, 10 years
in the future. So all I can say is that the game will remain free when it comes to "The New York Times."
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So the hostile part of the interview can be over now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Well, I don't know. I want to ask one more question about, though, which is, Jonathan, I mean isn't that part of
what's so wonderful about Wordle, is that it's free for the masses, anyone can play it?
KNIGHT: It is. It is absolutely and that is not something that we would want to change and it's definitely one of the big reasons why it's so
successful. And we're just excited to have this audience be introduced to "The New York Times," to introduce "The New York Times" to this game and
there's so much value we'll get from that. So we're not thinking now about limiting the game in any way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Sara Fischer is with me, media reporter at Axios. She's in Washington.
You know, anytime you talk about crosswords and puzzles, particularly with newspapers, you really get the rampant out, you get the rabid, the
dedicated, the messianic. The mere thought of Wordle going behind a paywall will have people frothing at the mouth.
SARA FISCHER, MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, I think they're going to bounce it out. So, one, they value added it or they're gaining subscription
obviously. So eventually they'll have to figure out, maybe they put some parts behind a paywall and keep some parts free and ad-supported.
Right now they said they won't put any ads on the experience, which I think will make the die-hard users really happy. But eventually, come on, they'll
have to monetize this thing.
Why buy it if you're not going to actually make something about it?
QUEST: But it can be monetized in all sorts of ways, just getting people to buy more subscriptions rather than charging for specific access to Wordle.
The former sounds more likely than the latter.
FISCHER: I think that's right. But in order to give someone access to the subscription, if that's the one game they really love, you won't be able to
give it to them for free forever. But sure, this could be an on-ramp to potentially buy the gaming app, with things like the spelling be, the
crossword and mini crossword.
But I think it will become eventually a part of the subscription product.
QUEST: Sara, AT&T, parent company of this network, has announced doing its spin-off. It's not going to be a split and exchange; it's not going to keep
it. It's going to be 2.4 and the dividend kept to account for all of this. It's huge, the number of shares involved here is vast.
FISCHER: It's absolutely huge and I'm glad you mentioned the dividend cut, because all of last year, AT&T stock was lagging after it announced it
would be spinning out WarnerMedia because I think investors wanted to know what that dividend cut would look out.
Now they have an idea. But to the spinoff versus other options, what that does is ensures some stability in the market. I think they were hearing
from retail investors, remember AT&T is roughly 50 percent retail investors.
FISCHER: But they wouldn't have been as happy if they had to trade their shares in. So I think that's why they went the spinoff route, it keeps them
from having volatility at the close of that deal.
QUEST: And the -- also, John Steinke, the CEO, says the dividend is also being cut because they will retain more free cash to invest. Now this is a
sort of reference to the fact that AT&T has been slower building out its national 5G network in the U.S.
FISCHER: AT&T has been so saddled with debt after a lot of botched acquisitions, DirecTV, Zander and WarnerMedia, that they need to be
offloading, need to be getting some free cash flow, to your point, invest in spectrum.
I wouldn't say they're totally lagging behind. But right now Sprint and T- mobile are definitely ahead and Verizon and AT&T are going to have to show up with some investment if they want to be competitive.
QUEST: We'll talk more about it as the deal gets closer and the closing gets ever closer. Thank you, Sara Fischer, joining us.
The Super Bowl less than two weeks away and Tom Brady isn't playing this year but he's making news regardless. The seven time Super Bowl champ
announced his retirement after 22 years in the NFL. He was the last active player to have been drafted in 2000, picked 199th after scouts dismissed
his talent. He won his first Super Bowl 20 years ago.
The Dow, by the way, was at 10,000 in those days.
Brady would play in the championship game nine more times, winning it last year at the age of 43. He's led the league in licensed merchandise sales
four times, earned nearly $300 million in salary and bonuses and estimated to have pledged $150 million in endorsement deals on top.
That is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for the moment. At the top of the hour together, we will make a dash for the closing bell. It's WORLD OF WONDER.
I'm in Bangkok and so are you -- after the break.
QUEST (voice-over): As the time zone changes, it never seems to stop. Luckily, life is good. I can't complain. My body might think differently.
I think I'm stuck.
Tight muscles everywhere.
Let me just stretch my lower back.
Thailand is famous for its massages.
QUEST (voice-over): It's all part of this holistic view, mind, spirit in body working in harmony.
Here in Thailand, when you get a proper Thai massage, there's no sniggering about happy endings and the like. They're much more concerned with getting
on with getting the muscle in the arm moving. It's not a bit of dodgy business.
The Wat Pho Traditional Medical and Massage School knows all about a real massage.
I thought Thai massage was supposed to be gentle.
You know, the problem with this is you realize just what a mess your body is in.
The massage school started inside the grounds of Bangkok's famous Buddhist temple, Wat Pho. Here, there are golden shrines and ornate pagodas aplenty.
There are about 300 monks at Wat Pho. The venerable Junkun Tiaba (ph) is the deputy abbot of the temple. He's hosted President Obama, the pope and
European royalty. How privileged I am to be shown Wat Pho's famous reclining Buddha in such company.
Oh, my goodness. Look at his face.
PHRA DEBVAJRACARYA THIAB MALAI, DEPUTY ABBOT, WAT PHO TEMPLE: You see the beauty.
QUEST: Serene, peacefulness.
PHRA (from captions): When the beauty attract your mind, it mean your mind become peaceful.
Buddhism influence all the way of life, that is the metta. Metta mean kindness. You go anywhere in Thailand, if you look at the Thai people,
their face, they are very friendly. They always smile. That mean that they have the kindness.
QUEST: How do we reach a level of calmness?
PHRA (from captions): According to the Buddhists, we call the phawna in body language, phawna means mental development, mental conscious. And in
English term, we use meditation, meditation in a sense that thoughts purify your mind.
QUEST (voice-over): There you have it, the M word, meditation, the nirvana of a quiet mind. And it is a language as foreign to me as Thai itself.
QUEST: I have tried meditation many times. My mind won't stop. Help me.
PHRA (from captions): Close your eyes. You have to send your mind or focus your mind, only on breathing in and breathing out. And then your mind will
be peaceful. Everyday you take a bath to clean your physical body. You can purify your mind by practicing the meditation.
QUEST (voice-over): The abbot makes me realize there's no such thing as a bad meditation.
QUEST: What you have told me is the first time I've heard it expressed so beautifully and so practically. You wash your body; meditation is washing
PHRA (from captions): Yes. That's very important.
QUEST (voice-over): I've been in Thailand a matter of days. Already I've improved my diet, my body and my spirit. Thailand has hidden powers.
Who knows what will be next?
QUEST (voice-over): It is Friday night at the House of Heals (ph). There's a good, happy crowd at Bangkok's (INAUDIBLE) adventure (ph). This is Benzay
Hello, Zappy (ph).
And our host, Pangina.
In mufti, he's just playing Pan, a celebrity, who's known to cut like a razor but with a heart of gold. Getting from Pan to Pangina takes time,
effort and love and care.
PAN PAN NAKPRASERT, DRAG QUEEN: Essentially, drag is the art of transformation and everyone can do this art, whether you're female, you're
a transgender, you're cis-man. As long as you feel some sort of transformation within the character or the make-up I feel like that's drag.
QUEST: So let's be clear, how would you describe yourself?
NAKPRASERT: I would consider myself a drag queen. I would consider myself a national treasure.
QUEST: You're too young.
QUEST (voice-over): Thailand is well known for its so-called lady boys and the cabaret shows in which they perform. What Pangina and the House of
Heals does is art as much as entertainment and it draws heavily on the country's long history of gender fluidity.
QUEST: The transformation.
QUEST: I don't know how it feels for you inside. But outside, the externals, extraordinary.
NAKPRASERT: Thank you.
QUEST: How do you feel?
NAKPRASERT: I feel graceful, I feel beautiful. But I do feel more feminine than I feel, with the hair hitting my face, I do feel the illusion.
QUEST: I'll say the words lady boy because that is what the rest of the world describes. And it's not a pejorative as such but it can be.
How would you describe --
QUEST: -- because there's a Thai word, isn't there?
NAKPRASERT: The third gender or LGBTQ community. I think that's what most people refer to kathoey. But with kathoey, there's a kind of connotation,
in English, with the feminine.
Different people think of what a kathoey is differently. I, because the Thai word, kathoey, is a big umbrella, people would think of someone who is
gay and feminine, someone who is a transsexual, someone who is even cross- dressing.
So at the end of the day, who really cares what you call me, as long as you call me?
QUEST: But in Thailand, you'd agree, there is a greater openness.
NAKPRASERT: Yes, of course.
QUEST: Than elsewhere, certainly in the region.
QUEST: If I tell you that I have never worn heels in my life, you're going to tell me that I'm foolish for even wanting to try it tonight, to wear
NAKPRASERT: I would not deny the pleasure of seeing you be in heels, let's just say that. Good luck.
QUEST (voice-over): I'll need a little encouragement. Gloria Gaynor is perfect.
NAKPRASERT: To the right and the left.
Is this how you normally walk in life?
QUEST: Don't let go. Don't let go.
NAKPRASERT: I'm with you. I will never let go.
QUEST: How do you do it?
The balance is dreadful.
NAKPRASERT: Straighten your leg, please. There we go.
QUEST: You have to be joking.
NAKPRASERT: There we go.
QUEST: Oh, hang on, my calf has suddenly cramped up.
NAKPRASERT: Feet, feet, feet --
QUEST: Whoa, whoa, whoa --
NAKPRASERT: Yes, walk. Yes, stride. Straight legs. You're stunning, you're gorgeous.
QUEST (voice-over): Gosh. I swayed, I tottered. Elegant it was not. I barely stayed upright. I still have no wish to do drag. But for a moment, I
proudly wore heels.
NAKPRASERT: I'll take these off of you.
QUEST (voice-over): Oh, and didn't break an ankle.
I've embraced Bangkok with all its charm and character and it has embraced me.
QUEST: Obviously, Bangkok still has some way to go with reopening to being back to where it was. But that mustn't obscure the fact that there is
something in the spirit and the soul here that transcends adversity. I think it's the word that best describes Thailand, it is kind.
The people and the place seem to have been infused with kindness. And you'll want to come here and experience this kindness for yourself.
Bangkok, definitely part of our World of Wonder.
QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. Together, let's have a dash to the closing bell, it's 90 seconds away. The number of U.S. job openings came out this
morning, 11 million available jobs available in December, up slightly. Economists were expecting a marginal decrease.
The Dow has gained steam over the afternoon. You might say that again, look at it. We're heading toward session highs, we are at session highs to be
honest. The AGP report is out in the morning.
All the major averages are in the green, strong gains across the board, as you can see. February is starting in a good way after the substantial
losses last month. And the Dow 30 components -- have a look and see where we stand. Boeing doing the best, still on the back of orders.
It is United Health Care the worst but the losses are much less, strong gains, Boeing on the back of its Qatar Airlines order. That's the way the
markets are looking. We have the best of the day across them, the dash to the bell.
I'm Richard Quest. That's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS this evening. Now, whatever you're up to in the hours ahead. I hope it's profitable. The closing bell
is ringing on Wall Street. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" is next.