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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS

All-Star Panel Discusses World Economy; Interview With Abdulbaset Sieda; Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Aired July 15, 2012 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We'll start today's terrific show with the economy. America, Europe and now even China are struggling. Will it get worse before it gets better? Will the euro finally collapse? Is there still a danger of an oil shock? We have a great panel.

Later in the show, is Russia to blame for Syria's suffering? That is what my guest, Abdulbaset Sieda, says. He is the head of the main Syrian opposition group and he's just back from Moscow. We'll ask him whether he was able to get the Russians to help out in ousting Assad.

And what the heck is a Higgs boson and why should you care that scientists have found it? America's favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson will explain it all.

But, first, here's my take. America has had one more bad month for jobs, only 80,000 jobs were created last month. This seems a depression piece of a pattern. Over the past two decades, U.S. economic recoveries have tended to be slow and jobless.

In every recession from 1948 to 1990, jobs came back to prerecession levels six months after the economy returned to its prerecession level. But after the recession of the early 1990s, jobs came back 15 months later.

After the slowdown of the early 2000s, jobs took 39 months to come back. And this time, it may take about 60 months, five years, for employment to return to prerecession levels, according to an analysis by McKinsey.

What happened? Well, over the past quarter-century, two large forces have swept the world: globalization and the information revolution. They've lifted tens of millions of people out of poverty, helped make American businesses more productive, given us amazing consumer goods and services cheap prices.

But these forces make it much easier to produce economic growth by using machines and technology or workers in lower-wage countries. Hiring high-wage workers that is, workers in Western countries becomes a last resort. Now while one can't disagree with the data, there is furious disagreement over everything else. On one side are those, mostly liberals, who say the economy is suffering from insufficient demand. That is, people and businesses are not buying things. The only cure is for the government to step in, spend money and create demand.

On the other side, conservatives argue that the problem is not weak demand, but obstacles on the supply side. Businesses and people would spend, this argument goes, if they were in an environment that encouraged them to do so. That means lowering taxes and reducing regulation.

No, in general, I accept the notion that a country needs to have a structure of taxes and incentives that reward growth, but beyond this rhetoric, what, specifically, would help right now? One of America's best businessmen has an answer.

Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express, argues that the key to job growth is stimulating private spending on capital goods and services. "There is only one statistic that is almost 100 percent correlated with job creation," he says, "and it is private investment in equipment and software."

But what makes companies spend on equipment and software? Is it more orders from customers or a better climate for business investment? Smith argues the latter.

He argues that businesses could be given many more incentives to invest and create products. He wants to lower U.S. corporate tax rates, which are the second highest in the industrialized world, and the corporate tax brings in only 8 percent of federal tax revenues anyway, he points out.

He supports more incentives for businesses to spend on equipment and software. These are all good ideas. The Obama Administration has acted on many of them already. But if the investment produces jobs, why not also increase government investment?

Government investment in infrastructure is currently half of what it was a generation ago. President Obama should announce a growth agenda that combines incentives for businesses to spend with policies that also get the government back in the business of investing in bridges, highways, airports and other aspects of the U.S.'s aging infrastructure.

We need more investment in science, research and technology to create the industries of the future. If the goal is growth and jobs, it can't hurt to try all the best ideas, no matter where they come from.

For more on this, you can read my column in this week's "Time Magazine" and on time.com.

Let's get started. Let's get right to money matters with our all-star panel. Larry Kudlow is the founder and CEO of Kudlow & Company and the host of CNBC's the Kudlow's Report.

Zanny Minton Bedoes is the economics editor of "The Economist." Chrystia Freeland is the editor of Thomson Reuters Digital and Zachary Karabell is the president of River Twice Research.

So Zanny, cover of "The Economist" is about the resurgence of the American economy and talks about all this -- you know, the shale gas, the return of manufacturing, all good stuff, but is it going to happen in time to help Obama?

MINTON BEDOES: No. Our cover story is about the profound secular changes and improvements that are happening, the rebalancing of the U.S. economy, which is real and is very important. But it's not a story about the next three months or even the next six months.

And the cyclical recovery has weakened and it's looking pretty weak right now and unemployment is hovering above 8 percent. None of this looks very good in the short-term. And we're not projecting (inaudible) in America in the next few months, but what we are saying, which is, you know, the cyclical outlook isn't great.

It's a very slow, deleveraging recovery, but a lot of that deleveraging is occurring and underneath it there's some profound changes to a more export-oriented and open economy, one that is -- you know, used to be based on consumer spending and housing, people buying houses with too much debt.

Now, this is changing to an economy that's much more focused on exporting to the rest of the world. But this is a secular change. It's not that we see it as enormous short-term improvement.

ZAKARIA: Larry, this is what Obama talked about in the State of the Union, an economy built to last, changing it away from consumption and housing towards exports. Is Obama economics working?

KUDLOW: The trouble is that he doesn't share Zanny's vision about the energy sector, which I think is a very important point. I mean I think the whole shale revolution is nothing short of phenomenal and is redoing whole junks of the American ...

ZAKARIA: But what do you mean he doesn't share? It's happening on his watch, giving all the permits that are making it happen.

KUDLOW: He's giving none of the permits. He's just -- this is happening on private lands. In fact, public lands, federal lands and off-shore lands are down as much as 10, 15 percent from a couple of years ago.

So, no, he doesn't share that. He's a clean energy guy. He's a Solyndra guy and he completely missed the boat on all that stuff. But, I think the cyclical ...

ZAKARIA: What about the cyclical recovery? KUDLOW: I think the cyclical recovery -- I think I agree with you, too, except I'm getting more worried about that. These numbers are coming in on a downward scale almost across the board.

And we're not seeing the kind of investment -- I interviewed Alan Greenspan yesterday who was particularly pessimistic about the longer run investment prospects.

He said because of the burgeoning budget deficit, Obamacare, Medicare, all of our entitlements problems that put us near to bankruptcy, he said people are now unwilling to make long-term commitments into durable assets like business investment or homes.

They just won't do that and unless you have that kind of longer term investment attitude, you're not going to create the jobs and incomes to keep the economy going.

ZAKARIA: Chrystia?

FREELAND: Well, I would like to start by agreeing with Larry on the shale gas point and I think that this is actually a big issue for American progressives, for the Democrats, that they haven't dealt with yet.

You know I think American Democrats are still very much in this end of fossil fuel era and there was this notion that the world was running out of fossil fuel, that America was running out of fossil fuel and you could make a case for renewable energy ...

KUDLOW: And they were glad ...

FREELAND: They weren't unhappy about that.

KUDLOW: In that narrative, which proved to be so wrong, they were thrilled.

FREELAND: They weren't unhappy about it.

KUDLOW: Is that fair?

FREELAND: Yes.

KUDLOW: Right.

FREELAND: They weren't unhappy about it and you could make a case for renewable energy that dove-tailed also with national security. That era is over. It turns out there's a huge amount of fossil fuel in the United States and in the North American continent if you want to talk about the Canadian oil sands.

That is the new reality and I don't think the Democratic Party overall and, in particular, environmentalists have dealt with it. Fossil fuel is here to stay and I think that if you see real opposition from environmentalists to any sort of fossil fuel, as you saw with the pipeline from Canada, that was purely about saying you know what, we just don't want more oil. It's not going to play because people will say, you know what, actually oil and natural gas are pretty great sources of energy and if we have them here, they're a lot cheaper than the other stuff.

MINTON BEDOES: I think the bigger, more interesting question for the U.S., vis-a-vis the rest of the world, is that you put the energy thing together with the focus on exports more broadly to the emerging economies, together with the fact that the U.S., unlike every other big, developed country, has gone far further to undo the excesses of before.

You know the housing market has hit bottom. I think we could all probably agree now that that recovery is for real. House prices are extremely cheap here compared to what they used to be. Those -- household debt is coming down. Those imbalances are being unwound.

So the U.S. is doing what the U.S. traditionally was good yet which is reinventing itself, getting rid of the imbalances. It takes a long time. We kind of learned that.

KUDLOW: We still have some very serious ...

MINTON BEDOES: We have very ...

KUDLOW: financial policies issues and ...

MINTON BEDOES: We have very big problems I would say in the public sector.

KUDLOW: And I ...

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW: And I that's exactly right. And I think the direction of solving those problems is going to be key to the entrepreneurial growth of the USA. The mix of tax rates and spending and entitlement reform ...

ZAKARIA: Right. And this is what I want to get Zach in on. The piece we've left on the table is the whole uncertainty and taxes and regulation. You know the supply side argument that that's what inhibiting the cyclical recovery, businesses aren't investing.

KARABELL: I'm sorry. I was enjoying the debate way too much as a spectator.

One factor in all of this that gets missed is that right now Americans and our debate is incredibly obsessed with government policy. So if you're a Republican, you're obsessed with government policy because you said that the Democrats have messed everything up and the government is a terrible factor holding back the recovery.

If you're a Democrat, you're trying to talk about the constructive effect of government as an investor, hence the Solyndra. You know we should invest in infrastructure, that was infrastructure. I think in a lot of ways people are missing the degree to which 70+ percent of the American economic system is still the private sector, which is quite large by global standards, as I'm sure you pointed out.

And that the relentless focus, especially in an election year, on government as either the purveyor of common good that's going to get us moving forward or as a destructor of the common good really misses the point that there's not a lot preventing businesses from investing.

You know I don't buy the uncertainty argument. Oh, if government would just specify its policy, we would put ...

KUDLOW: But there are tax and regulatory threats (inaudible) very important.

KARABELL: Yes, but I think reality is that Americans certainly suffered both a crisis of confidence in 2008 and haven't really adjusted to the world as it is. It's very convenient to blame government, but this remains an incredibly mobile capital system.

And, if anything, the issue is as much a myriad of cultural decisions about are we going to deploy capital or not, are we going to spend or not because of the shift in the U.S. economy not because of the deleterious effects of the U.S. government.

FREELAND: Yes and come on, aren't we forgetting also the whole rest of the world. I mean there are very good reasons for business to be uncertain about investment right now that have nothing to do with anything happening in the United States.

And, you know, a lot of those reasons are about Europe. It's still really unclear what's going to happen in Europe and if Europe blows up, then that is going to explode a lot of business plans of a lot of companies. It's not a bad idea to keep money on your balance sheet.

ZAKARIA: Chrystia, this is brilliant because we have to take a break and when we come back, we will discuss whether Europe will blow up, whether there will be another oil hike. Stay tuned. We actually have ...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: And we are back with Zanny Minton Bedoes of "The Economist," Zachary Karabell, Chrystia Freeland and Larry Kudlow.

Zanny, the thing about Europe that surprises me is everybody says it's going to blow up and somehow it doesn't. I mean things are a mess and bond yields go up and it's harder for them to borrow and there has to be some emergency.

But, at the end of the day ...

MINTON BEDOES: Every one of those 19 summits that has been there ... ZAKARIA: Right.

MINTON BODOES: to kind of pull us back from the precipice has, indeed, pulled us back from the precipice. You're right and it's true that, over time, you know, maybe you get a sense of oh, well, you know, it's another summit, it's another kind of crisis. We're going to go to the edge and we'll pull it off.

But the situation has been getting kind of unremittingly worse. The European economies, many of them in free-fall, the recession is deepening, the policy mix, in my view, is completely mad. And the sense of -- the lack of confidence in the future of the euro zone is deepening.

And there's a complete investor strike of people who are no longer willing to invest in Italy or Spain or peripheral economies because they have no sense of whether the euro will hold together and how it will hold together.

So I agree with you that it hasn't blow up, if you will, we haven't had the kind of Lehman moment yet, we haven't had the cataclysm, although I think it's still a possibility. I think the odds are that the Europeans will keep pulling back from the precipice.

And they just had another summit two weeks ago and I call it the "favor summer holiday" summit. They've just about ...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAKARIA: To get us to August.

FREELAND: (inaudible) danger strategy.

KUDLOW: I basically am sympathetic to the view that it's not going to blow up and I'm dying to take this contrary position. I can't quite take it yet, but I'm watching Spain.

Now, I thought this business about raising the Spanish VAT from 18 to 21 percent is the typical austerity mistake that the Europeans always make. I can't imagine anything dumber than that.

ZAKARIA: Explain. This is a national sales tax ...

KUDLOW: Raising the national -- I mean these people are having so much unemployment right now and we're cutting into their income by jacking up the sales tax which applies to everybody and, by the way, it's a regressive tax and they ought to have a flat tax anyway like the Eastern Europeans.

But, having said that, I am interested to see if they're going to let these little Spanish savings and loan banks, I call them, if they're going to just let them blow up, just let them blow up, let the preferred shareholders get slammed, let the common equity shareholders get slammed, just let it happen.

Because if that bubble can get finally burst, I think you got the beginning of some kind of comeback here. So I think ...

(CROSSTALK)

FREELAND: I'm going to be more pessimistic especially ...

KUDLOW: Just blow up the Spanish savings and loans, Chrystia. That's what I'm asking for.

FREELAND: I'm worried about the Spanish household and actually this ties in with our conversation about the U.S. and how the U.S. has been pretty good at working its way through the overleverage and the bubble.

And what's really interesting about Europe and I think insufficiently noted is people can't walk away from their mortgages. So especially in the countries where you had a housing bubble, like Spain, you have all of these people who don't have their house anymore, but still had to pay their mortgage. And that ...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAKARIA: I just got to pick up on that for a second because when the housing bubble burst in America, one of the things that lots of people said the terrible thing about the American system was that people could walk away from their mortgages.

FREELAND: Right.

ZAKARIA: It was called the nonrecourse loan and this is what caused people to make foolish bets ...

FREELAND: Exactly and the Europeans ...

ZAKARIA: What you're saying is strangely that's what has allowed American housing to recover.

FREELAND: Right. Well, it allows the system to clear.

KUDLOW: And, by the way, not all that much happened. I mean the system did clear, the markets did clear and most people did not walk away from their mortgages.

FREELAND: No, but it has -- I think it has a tremendous impact at the margins and one of the things that I think in some ways the scenario for Europe that worries we must of all -- obviously, a Lehman scenario would be terrible for all of us, but I think you have this kind of deep freeze scenario where the European middle classes essentially never recover.

Their kids never get jobs. The parents are going to spend the next 30 years paying off these mortgages and, you know, that's really ...

KARABELL: Never is an exceedingly long time. It's clear that European policy, while it may be a mess, has decided that the savings and loan collapse is not in the cards and policy makers are going to do everything they can for there to be an acceptable level of constant pain for a long time rather than a unacceptable level of really sharp pain in a short time.

FREELAND: I ...

KUDLOW: They're not going to save these little piggy banks. It's not worth it.

FREELAND: No ...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAKARIA: Isn't there a simple solution, Zanny, which is if the European Central Bank behaved like the Federal Reserve? Basically, the short-term crisis gets solved.

MINTON BEDOES: Yes, absolutely.

ZAKARIA: Why will the European Central Bank not do that?

MINTON BEDOES: You can trace what happened in Europe and what happened in the U.S. since, you know, 2006, 2007 and, at the beginning, there's actually sort of reasonable parallels. You know, the banks provide lots of liquidity, there's talk of fiscal stimulus.

There is fiscal stimulus in 2008 as things together. And, then, the Europeans go in the direction of saying we're going to have a lot of fiscal austerity. We're going to loads of really stupid things which would mean that people lose confidence in the future of the euro.

And we're not going to deal with our banking problem. We're not doing any of that stuff. Here in the U.S., you recapitalized the banks. You actually do have quite a lot of (inaudible). You don't have as much as you could of done, but you have a lot more than you've had in Europe.

And you have, as we were saying earlier, you have the kind of beginnings of these imbalances being worked off whereas in Europe they're not.

(CROSSTALK)

MINTON BEDOES: But the reason is -- just very briefly, the real reason is that I think that this whole crisis in Europe has been characterized, largely thanks to the Germany, as a crisis of government profligacy because it started in Greece, where it was a crisis of government profligacy, and that's what they thought has happened everywhere else. And that is absolutely not what's happened.

KARABELL: And the reason why you can't have central banks printing is because there's a culturally-engrained belief that if you do so, you're going to create inflation and they're going to recreate the 1930s.

FREELAND: But it's not just cultural ... (CROSSTALK)

KARABELL: And I agree that that ...

FREELAND: It's about the political structure. You can't have a central bank if you don't have a country and the Germans aren't wrong.

KUDLOW: The ECB has printed money like crazy. The ECB is ...

KARABELL: Quietly and ...

KUDLOW: one of the great money printers of all time.

ZAKARIA: And do you approve or disapprove?

KUDLOW: By the way, I happen to approve. And I also approve of something the ECB did that ...

ZAKARIA: You're against austerity programs? You're for the central banks printing money? You don't sound like a conservative these days.

FREELAND: He's a European socialist, Larry Kudlow reveals ...

KUDLOW: At this point in time, the ECB has made a nice monetary safety net. What they've also done is they've taken the 25 basis point deposit rate off. So a lot of the liquidity they're going to have now will be put to work inside Europe and banks won't keep it on deposit and the Federal Reserve should do the same thing.

But the second point I want to make is Northern Europe has shown the way with labor market reforms that are very important. You can hire because you can fire. Now, what's left is real growth policies. This is my supply side angle.

Europe has got to have growth policies on tax reform. They cannot simply live with these high pensions and financing by raising the value-added tax. They've got to change that and Europe has got to privatize everything.

Everything that is owned -- every government asset that is owned should be privatized. That's something that Margaret Thatcher showed us 35 years ago and it is a model for all of Europe. By the way, I saw Spain is talking about it. I don't know whether they'll do it or not. Greenspan ...

(CROSSTALK)

KUDLOW: Privatize everything.

ZAKARIA: Glad to see that we've, on this show, managed to get Larry Kudlow to come out against austerity in favor of a central bank printing money.

KUDLOW: I'm a grown ...

ZAKARIA: And in praise of Northern Europe ...

KUDLOW: Free markets are winning in Northern Europe and that's the best thing I've ever seen.

ZAKARIA: Larry Kudlow, Chrystia Freeland, Zach Karabell, Zanny Minton Bedoes, thank you all.

Up next, "What in the World." After 16 months of conflict in Syria, are we finally at a tipping point?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Over the past sixteen months of bloody conflict in Syria, observers have been waiting for one key development: top-level defections from within President Assad's inner circle.

Suddenly, it seems a pressure valve has gone off. Pilots, ambassadors, and even one general have defected. What does it mean? The general is Manaf Tlas, a childhood friend of Assad, and an officer in the elite Republican Guard.

Tlas's father was chief of staff and then minister of defense, for 30 years, under Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad. This is as close to the top of the Syrian regime as you might get. That's why Hillary Clinton took special note of Tlas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Because if people like him, and like the generals and colonels and others who have recently defected to Turkey are any indication, regime insiders and the military establishment are starting to vote with their feet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA: But there are some crucial caveats. Tlas had not been a member of Assad's inner circle for a while. He had actually been under house arrest for more than a year. Also, he was high ranking, but he was not an Alawite.

While Alawites make up only 12 percent of Syria's population, they hold more than 80 percent of the positions in the powerful Republican Guard. They are the inner circle. According to some reports, when Sunnis are put on guard duty, there's always an Alawite soldier assigned to monitor the Sunni soldiers.

But if the increasing number of top-level defections is a signal that the Sunni elite, which is comprised of generals, businessmen, and bureaucrats that have so far stuck with al-Assad, is now moving away from him, that's a huge shift and one that will ultimately bring down the regime.

There is mounting evidence that the Sunnis are weakening in their support for the Assad regime. We've spoken with a former U.S. Marine Austin Tice. He's now a law student and spending the summer reporting from Syria.

On a recent embed with a rebel group, he said he found that the government's helicopters flew so high that they couldn't really aim their missiles. He saw first-hand how hostile fire from al-Assad's tanks and troops were poorly aimed and random. "The suspicion among many rebels at the time," Tice says, "was that the predominantly Sunni pilots and soldiers were deliberately missing their targets."

Another telling indicator of dissent is the number of silent objectors in the army. According to the "New York Times," a growing number of Syrian soldiers, many of whom lack the means to flee, are staying home. But to ensure their continued silence and neutrality, these officers continue to draw salaries and pensions. Money is the main reason to believe that Assad's regime cannot last. Inflation is said to be as high as 30 percent, according to some reports. Assad and his cronies are freely printing money. The Syrian pound has depreciated against the dollar by more than half on the black market. Meanwhile, the regime is running out of cash. 90 percent of Syria's oil used to go to the European Union. But sanctions have put a stop to that. Tourism and trade have, of course, plummeted, and monetary support from Iran cannot be counted on indefinitely. Tehran itself is buckling under unprecedented sanctions. And there was a report last week that Iran might be weakening in its support for Assad. An Iranian ambassador gave an interview in a Tehran paper criticizing his government's support for the Syrian regime and saying that Assad's days were obviously numbered.

There's one more piece to the puzzle. The growing strength of Syria's opposition. The Free Syria Army is getting stronger. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now openly arming the rebels, channeling them through routes from Turkey, Lebanon, and now even Iraq. Rebel attacks have become more focused, running deeper into two main cities, Damascus and Aleppo. The various opposition groups are coming together to plan for a post-Assad Syria.

What would such a Syria look like? Up next, I'll speak with the man who is making the plans, the head of Syria's opposition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: Thursday was the deadliest day in Syria since the uprising started there 16 month ago. Nearly 300 civilians were killed that day. The death toll simply underscores the need for finding some resolution in Syria. One of the main blockades to that has been Russia. My next guest, Abdulbaset Sieda, is the head of the Syrian National Council, a crucial and powerful group of opposition leaders, in some ways Syria's main opposition group. He met with Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov this week in Moscow. Sieda joins me now from Istanbul.

Welcome to the show, Mr. Sieda. Tell us what your meetings in Russia were like. What did you feel that -- when you asked the Russians to support the opposition in Syria, you got the response you were looking for?

ABDULBASET SIEDA, SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): I'd like to start by saying a prayer for the souls of the more than 250 victims of Tremseh and many more have been injured. Of course, we went to Moscow based on an invitation from the foreign ministry of Russia. However, during the negotiations which lasted for more than three hours, we found that the Russian point of view is still the same. But they listened to what we said. We hope they change their position because things cannot continue as they are right now in Syria.

ZAKARIA: You say that they didn't change their stance. Does that mean you regard them as being a supporter of the Assad regime? Do you think they are sending the Assad regime arms and money?

SIEDA: Of course, we told them that. And we told them that you're supporting this regime by using their veto power in the U.N. Security Council. We also told them that the Syrians are being killed by Russian weapons, especially heavy artillery tanks, cannons, rocket launchers, and helicopters. Their answer was that they had stopped shipments of arms.

ZAKARIA: But let me ask you, when I was in Russia just a month ago, the Russian officials said to me, we don't have as much influence with Damascus as you think we do. Do you believe that that is the case?

SIEDA: Russia is supporting this regime politically and militarily. And our meeting with the Russian officials, we said that we wanted a relationship of friendship between the two peoples. The Syrian people and the Russian people. We know that Russia is the superpower who has its own interests. We respect all this, and we understand it. But we cannot accept that these interests come at the expense of the blood of Syrians.

ZAKARIA: Let us talk about the events of just the last few days. What do you know about this massacre that took place? Why did it take place? Do you have any understanding of what is going on there?

SIEDA: The massacre started Thursday morning when the Syrian forces started to surround this village of 10,000 inhabitants. It was surrounded from all areas with all kinds of weapons including tanks. It was randomly bombed. After that, the security forces and the regime thugs entered the village, killed innocent citizens. Some citizens tried to flee, but they were followed by the thugs and then killed using primitive weapons. The objective behind this massacre is to send a message of terror to the citizens and push the country toward a civil war between factions. Syrians will hate to see this happen.

ZAKARIA: Finally, Mr. Sieda, what would you like to see the West do? You realize very well that the Russians have blocked any action through the Security Council as have the Chinese. Would you want western military intervention even if there is no possibility of a U.N. resolution, no possibility of U.N. legitimacy in that sense? Would you still want to see American-led military intervention in Syria?

SIEDA: We want from the west and from the friends of Syria and from all the people who fight for the dignity of human beings, we want to tell them that what is happening in Syria is a mark of shame in the history of mankind. This regime is a black page in the history of humans. This regime does not belong to this time period, nor does it belong to the values of this time period. This regime, if it continues like this, it will lead to the explosion of everything in the Middle East. It will threaten the security and the peace of the region and even the world. For this reason, everybody must move before it is too late. Before the situation heads to the unknown.

ZAKARIA: What would you like to see happen? Would you like an American-led military intervention even if you cannot get U.N. resolutions because the Russians and Chinese will block them? Would you like to see an American-led military intervention in Syria now?

SIEDA: We want for America and the Western countries to carry out their responsibilities through the Security Council and work to adopt a resolution under Article 7 to force this regime to stop killing Syrians. And respect the hopes and aspirations of Syrians. With regard to America specifically, we would like to say to President Obama that waiting for election day to make the right decision on Syria is unacceptable for Syrians. We cannot understand that a superpower ignores the killing of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians because of an election campaign that a president may win or lose. That's why we are saying there is work that must take place at the Security Council. However, if this is not possible, America and other countries that represent the friends of Syria can move outside of the scope of the Security Council. Every day more than 100 people get killed in Syria. And we talk about them as numbers. We are dealing with numbers, and we forget that these people are human beings who have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends. They have dreams, memories. They love music, and they love to live a good life.

ZAKARIA: Abdulbaset Sieda, thank you very much. And we wish you all the best in this very important heroic struggle you are up against.

SIEDA: Thank you very much, brother Fareed. My salutations to you and to your dear viewers.

ZAKARIA: Next up, the Higgs Boson, what in the world is it and why is it great news for science but bad news for America? When we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. "Fareed Zakaria GPS" will be back in 90 seconds. But first, a check of the top stories.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Egypt where she's met with the country's new president, Mohamed Morsi. Clinton urged Morsi to assert the full authority of his presidency. Clinton also met with the head of Egypt's military and stressed that the United States supports a full transition to civilian rule.

Also in Egypt, authorities are intensifying their efforts to get two kidnapped Americans and their tour guide released. One of the victims has been identified as the Reverend Michel Louis, he is the pastor of a church in Boston. His family says he was on a missionary trip.

Florida election officials are getting access to a federal database on immigrants as part of an effort to purge non-U.S. citizens from the state's voter rolls. Critics of the purge say it disenfranchises poor and minority voters. Florida authorities say so far about 100 people who are not citizens but registered to vote have been identified.

Those are your top stories. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour. But now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

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ZAKARIA: When I heard the news recently that scientists in Europe had confirmed the existence of the Higgs Boson also called the God particle, my first thought was isn't that fantastic? My second thought was, what in the world does that mean? So, to help me and you understand it all, I've asked Neil deGrasse Tyson to join me. He is a brilliant astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium here in New York, and the author of many books. His latest is "Space Chronicles." Welcome back, Neil.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, DIRECTOR, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM: Thanks, thanks, my second time on the show. Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: So what is the Higgs boson? And why is it called a boson?

TYSON: Well, so there is actually an Indian physicist named Bose who had early discussions on a class of particle that might mediate forces. The photon of light that we're all familiar with, many people are familiar with. It's just light. That's a boson. And a proposal was put forth by someone named Higgs that there would be a kind of boson out there that, if it existed, it could be responsible for granting mass to the fundamental particles in nature. And by the way, it was so elusive to ...

ZAKARIA: Because it's a subatomic particle?

TYSON: Yes, and it only exists at very high energies for very short amounts of time.

ZAKARIA: Explain how short.

TYSON: Oh, oh. Billionth of a billionth of a second. Yeah.

ZAKARIA: That's it -- it exists for a billionth of a billionth of a second? TYSON: Yeah, or even less -- it's ten to the minus 23 seconds. So, it's billion -- yeah, I mean, so it's one -- so, yeah, it's -- so in order to then discover it and know that it's there, it requires many, many repeated experiments. And in fact, this CERN announcement represents 1,000 of these particles discovered over the long period of time that the experiment had been run.

ZAKARIA: So when the British government started funding this project, the minister of science then, William Waldegrave, said, announced that he was going to have a competition to -- to reward somebody, to explain what the hell it was the British government was funding. And the best answer they came up was this -- this was during Margaret Thatcher's prime ministership. They said, imagine a conservative party meeting. Imagine Margaret Thatcher walks in the door. Imagine how everybody starts clustering around her as she walks from one end of the room to the other, and it keeps slowing her down because she can't get to the other door. That's the Higgs particle. Does that make sense?

TYSON: Yes. OK. I would think of it, I would broaden -- it makes perfect sense. But I think of it more in terms of an L.A. party, a party in Los Angeles where if you're unknown and you enter a party, no one stops you, no one cares about you. You can walk right on through, stop and go, no one cares. As your popularity grows, more and more people accrete to you, and it's harder for you to get into motion. It's harder for you to stop. And these are the exact properties that we call mass.

ZAKARIA: So Higgs -- the Higgs particle is Tom Cruise at the L.A. party?

TYSON: Yes, exactly. No, the Higgs particle grants the -- Tom Cruise would be a high mass particle that the Higgs field gives him.

ZAKARIA: I see.

TYSON: OK, so Tom Cruise would have a high (ph) party mass.

ZAKARIA: So, the Higgs field confers upon -- on a certain person, a certain particle, Tom Cruise-like status?

TYSON: Precisely. And it's the properties of that particle interacting with that field that we would then measure as mass. And not all particles have the same mass. And so -- nor do all people accrete as many as would happen at an L.A. party. I have to specify L.A., because in New York, you might be intrigued by someone who you haven't met yet. Actually, give them some attention. But never seen that happen in L.A.

ZAKARIA: New York chauvinist. On the day this was announced, July Fourth you tweeted ...

TYSON: Ooh ...

ZAKARIA: That this was a good day for science but a bad day for America in a sense. TYSON: In a sense. Yeah. I used more colorful language than that, but yes. Yes.

ZAKARIA: But let's talk about the fact that this particle could have been discovered in America by American scientists. We had the earliest version of the Large Hadron Collider, it was being built in Texas. We spent $12 billion on it. And then after the end of the Cold War we decided we don't need to compete with the Soviets anymore. And at the cost of $600 million, we decommissioned that whole thing.

TYSON: Yeah. This is Congress. And your next question? Are you surprised by this? Yeah. It was quite frustrating. In the 1980s, there was the build-up of the excitement that we -- superconducting materials were coming of age. And when you make very powerful magnets that bend the path of these particles into the circle, you can increase the power of the magnets by using super- conducting material. So, material science was finally coming of age. And -- plus, you need a huge range -- you can't do that in Rhode Island. You need a state big enough to put it in. And so in Waxahachie, Texas, that we started digging a hole to put the super- conducting supercollider. It was scheduled to be three times the energy of what they've got now over in CERN -- three times the energy. Budgets were allocated. Holes were dug, engineering plans were drawn up. And the construction had already begun. Early '90s comes, there's some -- some -- the budget flinches, and Congress says, no, we choose to no longer pay for this. And if you part the curtains, what you'll find is, of course, what happened in 1989 -- peace broke out in Europe. And the Cold War ended. The physicist was the darling of the Cold War right back to the Second World War itself because atomic energy was the foundations of -- first the winning of the Second World War. But it was the -- it was responsible for so much of the politics of the Cold War.

ZAKARIA: Yeah.

TYSON: And so the government understood the role of physicist -- of the physicist as who -- as not only you could how many missiles on your silo, how many physicists are there with you in the silo. And I think they judged that the physicist wasn't as useful to national security in the post-Cold War era as before. You won't read that in the report. That's my -- that's my interpretation of that sequence of events. Because no other particle accelerator had been cut, that had been proposed and built for the entire 20th century.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe that if we had continued along the path of funding these kinds of big scientific projects it does make a difference because the knowledge accumulates here, the people accumulate in the United States, and there's a kind of spillover effect?

TYSON: Oh, it's yes. It's more than a spillover. In fact, I call it a flywheel. When you take on projects of such magnitude -- by the way, in the big picture, that budget is small compared to the -- the ...

ZAKARIA: Agricultural subsidies ... TYSON: Exactly. OK. It's small. So that's just -- it's balance our understanding of this. So when you do this, every step that you make in the engineering, in the physics is on the frontier. And when you're on the frontier, you discover things. You invent things. You -- patents are granted. It attracts other talents because that's where the action is. And so right now, there are 1,000 American physicists who are working on projects, on these -- on these particle physics projects in Europe, not here in America. So their brains are over there in the coffee lounges, sharing great ideas about what the next discovery will be. And you start nucleating places where great ideas get formulated. And those places, at least in particle physics, are no longer here in America. And so, you know, as a scientist, I -- I'll take the discovery wherever it comes. But you know, I'm an American. So I -- and you could taste the Higgs boson in the 1990s. We would have had this thing cut and dried by the mid 1990s and we'd be on to the next frontier in particle physics.

ZAKARIA: Neil deGrasse Tyson, always a pleasure.

TYSON: Thanks.

ZAKARIA: And we'll be back.

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ZAKARIA: Afghan President Hamid Karzai surprised many this week when he encouraged the Taliban leader Mullah Omar to run for president in Afghanistan's 2014 elections. That brings me to my question of the week -- what does the word Taliban mean. Is it A, soldiers? B, students? C, victory? Or D, paradise? Stay tuned, and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to cnn.com/fareed for more of the "GPS Challenge." Also, if you miss a show or a special, you can buy our shows on iTunes. Go to iTunes.com/fareed.

This week's book of the week is a bit of a departure. The book is V.S. Ramachandran's "The Tell-Tale Brain." It's a tour of the mysteries of that most important of human organs, the brain. Ramachandran takes us on a series of adventures through neuroscience to shed light on these mysteries. He ranges widely, the stories are fascinating. He writes well. And you feel you're in the hands of brilliant guide.

And now for the "Last Look." What's more American than apple pie and baseball?

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How about Mickey Mouse?

Frank Sinatra?

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ZAKARIA: And Rocky Balboa.

(music) ZAKARIA: I was amazed to see all three represented on stage in the most unlikely of places.

North Korea. Now Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jim Il was famously a big fan of Hollywood movies, but he did his thing in private.

Is this public love fest the sign of some kind of coming detente? Who knows? The North Korean tea leaves are impossible to read, but we will be watching.

The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was B. The word Taliban is Arabic for students. The group's name is said to refer to the fact that many of its original members were students of madrasahs, those religious schools that in many parts of the Muslim world have bred radicalism. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."