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History Book: The blizzard that shut down the coast


WORLD Radio - History Book: The blizzard that shut down the coast

Plus: a change in U.S. policy toward asylum-seekers, and a milestone for the Westminster Confession of Faith

Military equipment flown into Boston clears snow from the southbound lane of Route 128 between Highland Avenue and Great Plain Avenue in Needham, MA following the "Blizzard of 78" on Feb. 9, 1978 Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, February 6th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up: the WORLD History Book. Today we remember a blizzard that shut down the east coast, and a change in U.S. policy toward asylum-seekers. But first, a milestone for the Westminster Confession of Faith. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER: We begin today on February 7th, 1649. The Scottish Parliament ratifies the Westminster Confession of Faith—a reformed doctrinal treatise on the Word of God.

JOHN GERSTNER: This is one of the most important creeds of protestantism and especially the reformed tradition.

Pastor and Presbyterian theologian John Gerstner:

GERSTNER: It was written for the purposes of uniting England, Scotland and Ireland in a single creed. It didn't actually succeed in that purpose, but it did succeed in being the definitive statement of reformed theology in the British Isles and largely in America as well.

The Protestant church council is referred to as the Westminster Assembly—as it gathers in the Westminster abbey. The assembly includes 30 laymen from the House of Commons and House of Lords, plus 121 English clergymen, and a delegation of Scottish Presbyterians. They meet off and on for a decade—beginning in 1643 during the English civil war. The confession is completed in 1646.

GERSTNER: The Westminster confession theologically speaking is that it is a determined attempt to remain faithful to the Bible and to explain in brief compass what the 66 books of Holy Scripture actually do reveal.

The Westminster Confession of Faith is described as a “subordinate standard” of doctrine—meaning Scripture itself must be the ultimate authority…the very topic of the first chapter of the confession.

GERSTNER: This has no value whatsoever except as the labored, studied prayerful deliberations of a body of scholarly devoted theologians who tried to the best of their ability to present to the world what they thought the word of God and its systematic abbreviated form actually taught.

Since its adoption in the 17th century the document has been amended a handful of times. The lengthy creed remains a key document within Presbyterianism. Congregationalists adhere to an almost identical confession, with many other nonconformist denominations choosing to catechise their children with some form of the 375 year old statement of faith and practice.

Next, the Great Blizzard of 1978 hits the Northeast. Audio here of NBC Today host Tom Brokaw:

TOM BROKAW:  We have a genuine snow emergency reaching all the way from Washington, DC to north of Boston this morning.

The midwest had suffered a major blizzard of its own the week before. That storm moved into Canada—missing most of New England.

But now in early February an extratropical cyclone forms off the coast of South Carolina. Meteorologists along the eastern seaboard warn of potentially heavy snowfall for Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. For the most part forecasters misjudge just how much snow is coming.

15 years ago, NBC 10 weatherman John Ghiorse reflected back on his own forecast of the time:

JOHN GHIORSE:   The forecasts were in the range of 12 to 24 that perhaps, uh, lent to the, you know, the image that the, the forecast was wrong. And it was because we get two to four feet of snow in general, and we were forecasting one to two.

The blizzard features sustained hurricane-force winds with gusts up to 111 miles per hour. Steady snow falls across the region for 33 hours—sometimes at a rate approaching 4 inches an hour.

Drivers caught in the storm abandon their cars on the highway—snowdrifts then encase thousands of cars and trucks—making snow removal nearly impossible. The storm kills about 100 people and injures over 4,000—causing more than $520 million dollars in damage.

And finally today, the Biden administration keeps a campaign promise to overturn President Trump’s asylum cooperative agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

NED PRICE: When it comes to the termination of the asylum cooperative agreements…

U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price.

NED PRICE: …It is a broader element of the President's commitment to a regional migration plan.

Asylum cooperative agreements—or A-C-As—allow the United States to send asylum-seekers back to countries the migrants traveled through before getting to the U.S. border. The agreements are an attempt to prevent migrant caravans.

The 2019 ACAs with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras were also used by the Trump administration as “safe third country agreements.” Meaning even if an asylum seeker didn’t travel through one of those countries, the US could send immigrants to them to seek asylum there—as long as they had access to a fair procedure for determining their asylum claims.

Critics of the program asserted that wasn’t happening—calling the practice inhumane and uncompassionate. On the campaign trail Joe Biden promised to do something about it. On February 6th, 2021, the U.S. State Department releases a weekend statement immediately suspending the ACAs—while declaring the change doesn’t mean the border is open.

During the February 8th press briefing, the Biden administration promises to address the root causes leading to the incredible numbers of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. Again, spokesman Ned Price.

PRICE: Our strategy is predicated on the idea that we can give opportunity to those in the region and remove some of the inducements…

In the two years since the change, those root causes seem to be getting worse—not better. The number of southern border encounters have more than doubled since February 2021. And while just last week U.S. authorities announced a 97% decline in illegal border crossings by migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela—officials estimate that over the last four months alone as many as 300,000 immigrants have evaded the border agents.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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