The World and Everything in It - April 19, 2022
The effort to resettle Afghan and Ukrainian refugees; the push to reform the U.S. Bureau of Prisons; and the finished human genome map. Plus: commentary from Steve West, and the Tuesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The Biden administration wants to bring into the United States 100,000 refugees from Ukraine. Can it be done?
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also new efforts to reform the U.S. Prison system are underway. We’ll talk about that.
Plus the human DNA road map. Scientists now have a more complete picture of our bodies’ most fundamental building blocks.
And planting for the future.
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, April 19th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Up next, Kristen Flavin has the news.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, NEWS ANCHOR: Zelenskky: Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun » Russia has launched its long-feared, full-scale offensive to take control of eastern Ukraine.
AUDIO: [SOUND FROM UKRAINE]
Shelling heard there in the eastern city of Rubizhne.
ZELENSKYY: [SPEAKING UKRAINIAN]
In a video address Monday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said—quote—“We can already state that the Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas.” He added that a "significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive.”
Former British army chief Richard Dannatt explained…
DANNATT: Having achieved that land corridor from Crimea to Donbass, we are then going to see this meticulously prepared, I think this time, attack by the Russians into the Donbass region to secure those two provinces, and then threaten to move farther west.
But Zelenskyy declared, “No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight.”
That came as Russia bombarded the western city of Lviv and numerous other targets across Ukraine. Missile strikes on Lviv killed at least seven people.
Also on Monday, Zelenskyy submitted a filled-out questionnaire in the first step toward obtaining membership in the European Union—a desire that has been a source of tension with Moscow for years.
Biden to require U.S.-made steel, iron for infrastructure » The Biden administration has issued a new rule designed to support U.S. manufacturing. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has more.
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: Under new guidance issued Monday, all construction material purchased for projects funded by the $1 trillion infrastructure package must come from the United States.
It does allow for waivers if domestic producers can’t keep up with demand, or if their materials would increase a project's cost by more than 25 percent. But it sets a goal of issuing fewer waivers over time as U.S. manufacturing capacity increases.
President Biden says the new requirement will create more American jobs, ease supply chain bottlenecks, and reduce dependence on China and other nations. The administration also hopes an increase in domestic production will help bring down soaring inflation.
The federal government expects to spend about $350 billion on construction projects this year. But it could not say what percentage of material for those projects is American-made.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
Judge strikes down transportation mask mandate » A federal judge in Florida struck down the federal mask mandate for public transportation on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled the mandate covering airplanes, trains, and buses exceeded the authority of U.S. health officials.
The mandate was set to expire Monday, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently extended it to May 3rd. Officials said they needed more time to study the effect of the new BA.2 omicron subvariant.
But in her ruling, Mizelle said the CDC failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking.
The lawsuit dates back to July 2021. But calls to drop the mask mandate have grown in recent months as states have eased their pandemic restrictions.
Airlines in particular lobbied to end the unpopular mask rule, arguing advanced filtration systems make virus spread on an airplane unlikely.
Philly bringing back mask mandates » But in at least one U.S. city, masks are still required. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask rule on Monday. Officials made the decision after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections due to the new omicron subvariant.
Several businesses and residents have filed suit in state court to block the mandate. The city has been mask-free for just over six weeks, after the last indoor mask rule ended on March 2nd.
Most states and cities dropped their masking requirements in February and early March after the CDC said hospital capacity mattered more than overall case counts.
COVID cases are rising again after two months of declines. But daily counts are nowhere near what they were during the winter surge.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
Boston marathon makes its post-pandemic return » Thousands of the world’s top long-distance runners gathered in Boston on Monday for the city’s annual marathon.
Kendra Butters is with the Boston Athletic Association.
BUTTERS: The City of Boston is certainly buzzing. There’s a lot of activity. We have everyone back for a full field size for the first time in three years on Patriot’s Day. Thirty thousand runners to take off from Hopkinton. Beautiful forecast. Just a lot of excitement.
Two Kenyan runners took the top spots in the men’s and women’s races. Evans Chebet finished in 2 hours, 6 minutes and 51 seconds, beating Gabriel Geay of Tanzania by 30 seconds.
But the women’s race had the most exciting finish. Peres Jepchirchir traded places with Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh eight times in the final mile before pulling ahead for the win. Jepchirchir finished in 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 1 second.
American Daniel Romanchuk won the men’s wheelchair title, and Switzerland’s Manuela Schar won the women’s wheelchair title.
I’m Kristen Flavin. Straight ahead: ramping up refugee resettlement.
Plus, plotting the resurrection.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 19th of April, 2022.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: refugee resettlement.
In March, President Biden announced a commitment to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Resettlement agencies and nonprofits applaud the effort. But some warn that it won’t happen easily, if it happens at all. WORLD’s Lauren Dunn reports.
LAUREN DUNN, REPORTER: Josh Benton is the vice president of North American ministry at Send Relief, part of the Southern Baptist Convention. In late February, he was preparing to co-lead a workshop on helping Afghan refugees. While he was on his way to Raleigh, North Carolina, a news alert pinged on his phone: Russia had attacked Ukraine.
BENTON: We still talked about Afghanistan, and the agenda was focused on Afghanistan resettlement, but in a short amount of time, we knew that there was going to be a significant refugee crisis in Eastern Europe, in particular.
Every year, the president works with Congress to set a national cap for refugees allowed to enter the country. Between 1980 and 2016, the annual cap ranged anywhere from 67,000 to just over 231,000. Before leaving office, President Obama set the 2017 refugee cap at 110,000, but President Trump later cut it to 50,000. And it kept shrinking. In 2020, President Trump set an all-time low of 18,000. Fewer than 12,000 actually came to the country that year. It was the lowest number of admitted refugees since the system was created in 1980. In 2021, the number fell slightly lower.
When refugees arrive in the United States, state department officials coordinate with nine resettlement agencies to help them get settled. These agencies help refugees find housing and employment and show them where to buy food or other necessities. But as the number of refugees dwindled, so did resettlement agencies’ staff.
Matthew Soerens is the U.S. director of church mobilization and advocacy at World Relief. It’s one of the nine resettlement agencies approved to work with the government. Sorens says that since 2017, World Relief has closed eight offices and laid off more than one-third of its U.S. employees.
SOERENS: It was a very dramatic reduction. And what that meant was, I mean, we had, you know, staff appropriate to resettle our share. Usually World Relief ends up being responsible for about 10 percent of the refugees that are settled in a given year, and we were staffed up for that level, we had volunteers trained and equipped for that level of people, church partners. And suddenly, we had almost no one arriving.
This year, President Biden increased the refugee cap to 125,000. In the wake of the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, agencies and organizations tried to rebound to work with the higher number of anticipated refugees.
SOERENS: We tried to warn our governmental partners at the time, the refugee resettlement program, which had been built over literally decades of, of public/private partnership between the U.S. government and lots of faith-based organizations and other nonprofit organizations. It's not a switch you can turn off and on. And we were concerned precisely about what we're now experiencing.
Housing issues are especially challenging. It’s hard to find a lease for someone with no job or credit history. Especially in the current housing market.
Soerens says several people in one North Carolina church purchased houses to rent to newly arrived refugee families. In the Chicago area, another church converted its parsonage into temporary housing. World Relief also recently opened several new offices. But even with the funds in place, Soerens says hiring more staff members doesn’t happen overnight.
SOERENS: We're not at the same level as we were. And frankly, it's, again, as an organization, we have to make, you know, prudent decisions about when and where to reopen, mindful of the reality that, you know, policies can change again.
And even if policies don’t change, the reality on the ground may not match expectations.
David Bier is a research fellow in immigration studies at the Cato Institute.
BIER: I do not believe that the administration has the capacity to process 100,000 Ukrainians for the foreseeable future. I mean, if you look at the refugee program itself, we're on pace for about 16,000-17,000 for the entire world. And so, last month, that program resettled just 12 Ukrainian refugees, that's out of a population of 4 million that have left Ukraine. And all of those 12 were in the pipeline for multiple years before receiving refugee status through that process.
Bier says much of the immigration system still relies on a paper-based, labor-intensive process. He calls it “mind-numbing inefficiency.”
BIER: Every single step in the process, you know, the multiple interviews, the medical screenings by government selected physicians, the, the multistage vetting and security review for every single person who goes through the pipeline. It basically means that we'll never use the refugee program to rapidly respond to a crisis.
Delays in the immigration process could be one reason thousands of Ukrainians are entering the country at the southern border.
In early March, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to focus on improving the refugee resettlement program. Brent Leatherwood is the ERLC’s acting president.
LEATHERWOOD: For the last several years, that program has not received the funding or the support that it needs to be able to function at a high level. So I'm actually hopeful that a situation like this with the Ukrainians might help folks to kind of turn their attention back to that program to say, okay, what are some ways we can help make this function at a bit higher level?
Josh Benton with Send Relief says about 4,000 churches have partnered with the organization since the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan. He hopes that trend continues amid concern for Ukrainian refugees.
BENTON: My hope is that compassion would drive us to serve and to care. And whether those individuals that are from Ukraine or anywhere else that are coming here are already Christians, or they don't know who Christ is, that we're willing to show the love of Christ to them so that we can share the love of Christ with them.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lauren Dunn.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: prison reform.
Nearly four years ago, President Trump signed into law the First Step Act, approved with a bipartisan majority in Congress. The law reduced some mandatory minimum sentences and required that prisoners have access to programs aimed at reducing recidivism.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: As its name suggests, that first step in the law was just the start of changes that reformers seek to make in the U.S. prison system.
A new group in Congress now prepares to take those next steps. WORLD’s Leigh Jones reports.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: The Bureau of Prisons has had a rough year.
In June, federal prosecutors broke up a sex abuse ring at a women’s prison in California. Five prison employees, including the former warden and a chaplain, have been charged with raping inmates.
Several months later, three inmates died at different prisons after getting into fights. And in January, the entire federal prison system went into lockdown after a clash between two gangs at a Texas prison left two inmates dead and sparked fears of retaliation at other facilities.
That led to calls for Director Michael Carvajal’s resignation. Here’s Sen. Dick Durbin.
DURBIN: This morning, I publicly called on the attorney general, Merrick Garland, to replace Mr. Carvajal with a reform-minded director who’s not a product of that bureau’s bureaucracy.
Carvajal announced plans to retire in January. But some critics say it’s not entirely his fault.
PYE: Part of this is a failure of Congress.
Jason Pye directs rule of law initiatives at the Due Process Institute.
PYE: Both the Judiciary Committee and the oversight committees in the House and Senate have a responsibility to make sure there is accountability and investigation into our prison system. I mean, look, 25 percent of the entire Justice Department budget goes to the Bureau of Prisons. We're talking about $9 billion.
Right now, Pye and others say that’s not money well spent. And a growing number of lawmakers agree.
In February, Democratic Sen. John Ossoff of Georgia and Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana teamed up to form the Prison Policy Working Group. It’s tasked with investigating problems in the Bureau of Prisons and suggesting reforms.
Pye says its top priority should be prisoners.
PYE: Something that guides all of our work on criminal justice, whether you're a conservative or progressive or libertarian, or someone who's nonpartisan, 95 percent of these people who leave prison are going to return back into society. And the question you have to ask yourself is what condition do you want them to come out of prison?
Pye has a list of things he hopes the working group will consider. At the top? Programs to reduce recidivism.
PYE: Out of the one and a half to nearly 2 million people who are in prison across the country, the BOP only houses about 160,000 of them. Some of those individuals are low level, nonviolent offenders who I think would love the opportunity to, to put their past behind them and find a good job. And one thing I'd like to say as someone who comes from more of a conservative libertarian background is the best recidivism reduction program is a job.
Recidivism reduction was the main goal of the First Step Act, signed into law in December 2018. But the bureau has failed to properly implement one of its most important components: earned time credits. That system allows inmates to shave time off their sentences by participating in programs designed to help with rehabilitation.
Those types of programs are a big part of many state prison systems, where wardens rely on outside groups to offer courses. But the federal system takes a different approach.
Heather Rice-Minus is senior vice president for advocacy and church mobilization with Prison Fellowship.
RICE-MINUS: What is unique in terms of the Bureau of Prisons is, I would say, not as much openness to partnering with external program providers.
Prison Fellowship is active in federal prisons through its Angel Tree program. That allows inmates to sign their children up to receive gifts at Christmas. But it’s had much less success getting its flagship Prison Fellowship Academy program behind federal bars.
RICE-MINUS: When it comes to deeper programming, so the academy sites where we have this year long, you know, transformational opportunity for men or in a women's prison, we've got curriculum and staff going in, zero academies in the federal system. And that has been, definitely, a long, ongoing conversation with the Bureau of Prisons.
Rice-Minus says the federal agency seems to be hesitant to work with any outside groups because it wants to maintain complete control over the programs. But it’s especially suspicious of faith groups. And those make up the bulk of the organizations investing in the lives of inmates.
Rice-Minus says she hopes that’s one of the issues the new congressional group can help fix.
RICE-MINUS: We would definitely love to work with the working group related to making sure that there is robust programming offerings, and that there is a transparent process, particularly for external providers and faith-based providers like Prison Fellowship, because we know what incredible outcomes we see from those who are participating in our state-based Prison Fellowship Academy. And we would absolutely love the opportunity to provide that at the federal level, at no cost to the federal system.
Both Heather Rice-Minus and Jason Pye are hopeful the working group will make progress because it brings together members from both parties.
Sarah Anderson agrees. She’s the program manager for criminal justice and civil liberties at the R Street Institute.
Anderson credits the First Step Act, and President Trump’s support for it, with persuading many Republicans they could get on board with prison reform initiatives.
ANDERSON: And so I think, the momentum that was built by the First Step Act around, hey, this really is just a bread and butter, limited government issue. And saying, hey, if Republicans, conservatives, limited government folks, however you want to frame it, value the effective use of government, and the limited capacity that government should have, again, there's really no place where that's at bigger odds with life than incarceration.
Like other reform advocates, Anderson wants to see the Bureau of Prisons be more transparent about everything that happens behind bars, something she says all lawmakers should be concerned about.
ANDERSON: I think this prison policy working group is kind of a classic example of, hey, there is bipartisan support for this. And this is a government program that, you know, folks on the right of center should scrutinize just as much as they, you know, want to scrutinize the IRS or the EPA or the Department of Health and Human Services or what have you. It is a government agency that deserves the same scrutiny, and probably even more so because they're directly in charge of American lives.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s really crucial to manage screen time, just ask 16-year-old Amare.
Display screens mesmerized him so much, he was so zoned out to the world around him, that it didn’t even faze him when his neighbors would physically attack.
Just kept watching the screens.
By now, you must realize I’m talking about a gorilla in the Lincoln Park zoo in Chicago.
Visitors to the zoo would show Amare their cellphone screens and he couldn’t take his eyes off them. So the zookeeper put up a barrier to stop visitors from tempting him and cutting back on his screen time.
And reports are that he is much, much happier—a much more social creature!
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 19th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the human genome.
Way back in the year 2000, June 27th, President Bill Clinton announced an exciting breakthrough:
CLINTON: We are here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome. Without a doubt, this is the most important—the most wondrous—map ever produced by humankind.
At that time, researchers had discovered about 90 percent of the human genome. Few expected then that it would take more than 20 years to fill in the rest of the human DNA map.
REICHARD: A few weeks ago, an international team finally unveiled what they’re calling a “full human genetic blueprint.” Here’s WORLD’s Paul Butler with more on this amazing accomplishment.
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Imagine buying a used 100-piece puzzle at a garage sale. It’s not in a box. Just pieces in a bag. As you dump them out and start putting it together—you realize you only have about 90 pieces. By this point, you can see most of the picture, but there’s still a lot of missing detail where those final pieces are supposed to go.
That’s what the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium faced in 2000. Only instead of a 100-piece puzzle, it was a 3.1 billion piece puzzle...
CLINTON: Today’s historic achievement is only a starting point. There’s much hard work yet to be done.
By 2004, researchers had done much of that hard work and successfully sequenced about 92 percent of the genome. Meaning that there were still 250 million missing pieces of information. Many from difficult to read genes with very long segments of repeating DNA.
TOMKINS: The past few years, the DNA sequencing technology has changed…
Jeffrey Tomkins has seen that technology change first-hand.
TOMKINS: …and they can actually now get through these very difficult or repetitive regions, and essentially close the gaps that they weren't able to get through before.
Tomkins earned a PhD in Genetics from Clemson University in the 1990s. He served as the director of the Institute there from 2002 to 2006. And today, he’s the director of research at the Institute for Creation Research.
TOMKINS: Well, as it turns out, when the human genome began to be sequenced, they realized there were many regions of the genome that they couldn't figure out essentially what it did.
Many scientists referred to these unintelligible fragments as “left overs” from the supposed evolutionary process—often referring to them as “junk DNA.”
Tony Jelsma leads the Biology Department at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa.
JELSMA: The term junk DNA is actually pretty controversial in the scientific literature...
In 2018 a team of scientists dissatisfied with the 92 percent benchmark of the previous genome project decided to start from scratch. Advances in technology meant it was finally possible to sequence the entire DNA roadmap. And not only did they begin to decode the missing pieces, they also found—and corrected—errors in the previous process.
A few weeks ago, on March 31st, the group announced that it had successfully sequenced an entire human genome. Professor Jelsma believes it’s a step forward, but it’s only the first of many:
JELSMA: I have to say that there is no such thing as the human genome because everyone's genome is different. And so the sequence they have came from that one particular specimen. It is helpful, but it's only a first step in understanding our biology but I think there's a lot more to understanding our biology than just knowing a gene sequence. The more we understand the human body, the more we realize how little we do understand.
Jelsma says that for the Christian, the scientific method is an opportunity to better understand our Creator.
JELSMA: What excites me a lot about science the most about science is not what I do know, is what I don't know. And I'm constantly learning new things, and to see how beautifully our bodies are put together, because that all reflects the power and wisdom of God and creation, and not just in our bodies, but elsewhere as well.
ICR’s Jeffrey Tomkins agrees. And he says the more we learn about DNA and the building blocks of life, the more we see the fingerprints of God—and that, he says, is a puzzle worth exploring:
TOMKINS: Every time they claim something is useless, and just evolutionary junk—once they actually get the real data in their hands, they change their minds and say, “Hey, this is really valuable.” And so to me, it just vindicates the fact that our genomes are created by a Creator who engineered them from end to end to be functional…you know, the more discoveries we see being reported by the genetics and the biomedical community, the more we see that that truth being realized.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Paul Butler.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICAHRD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote the famous line in his book Walden: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s WORLD commentator Steve West.
STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and countless columns for The New Yorker, once reflected on his wife Katherine’s annual late-October planting of bulbs in her garden in what was, at this point, perhaps her last such planting.
“As the years went by and age overtook her, there was something comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance on this awesome occasion,” White wrote, observing “the small, hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in the dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection.”
I love that phrase, “plotting the resurrection,” as it suggests the posture believers are encouraged to have in life: faithful, continued perseverance in our usual work, unto God, with hope for its ultimate meaning.
Until a few years ago, I worked each day in a nondescript 1960s-era office building. Every day for 34 years I walked up two flights to my office on the third floor. I switched on the light. I hung up my coat. I sat down and signed into my computer. I listened to messages. I read emails. I made phone calls. I answered emails. I wrote. I read. I moved paper and files from one box to another. I discussed matters. Sometimes, I disagreed with others. I waited. I made more phone calls, answered more e-mails. Then at 5:30, I logged out of my computer, rose, put on my coat, turned off the light, closed the door, walked down the two flights of steps, and waved at the guard as I walked out the door.
The next day, I got up and did it again. Conservatively speaking, I repeated that procedure 4,250 times over the course of 34 years.
This is the quotidian, the everyday and ordinary. Viewed apart from the resurrection, the drudgery of it, the ceaseless repetition, would have weighed heavily on me. A sense of uselessness and meaninglessness could have welled up, creating cynicism, a lackadaisical attitude, even despair.
And yet for the Christian, the most mundane of work is offered up to God and will be taken up by Him and transformed in some as yet unknown way. A continuity exists between the work we do here and the work we do in Heaven. What we do now really means something, tainted though it may be by sin, weighed down by the travail of Creation.
In 1 Corinthians 3:13 Paul looks ahead to Heaven and sees that on that Day “each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it.” The Colossians are told "[w]hatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Work, no matter how mundane, is what we do, what we are made to do, and God uniquely equips us for certain work or works that we do. And, ultimately, he will sanctify that work, carrying forward all that is good in it to a recreated heavens and earth, to a New Creation.
That's why an old lady plants bulbs in the cold soil of October, just like she always has, year after year, believing that there will be a Spring of new life. That's why I engaged in a 34-year routine of faithfulness to a work that will go on in all that is good. I'm not just plotting my resurrection—God is, and I’m counting on it.
I’m Steve West.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: changes coming to a campaign near you! We’ll find out how both Republicans and Democrats plan to shake up the next presidential election.
And, unsung heroes. We’ll introduce you to a man who risked his life to go undercover for the FBI.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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Go now in grace and peace.
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