The World and Everything in It - February 15, 2022
Robotic pets help care for the elderly; the government’s list of religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine; and a Notable Speech from Martin Luther King Jr. Plus: commentary from Whitney Williams, and the Tuesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Animals comfort us. For people living with dementia, they can make a real difference.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also several federal agencies plan to keep a list of people with religious objections to Covid shots. We’ll talk about it.
Plus our occasional series: Notable Speeches Past and Present. Today, Martin Luther King Jr. on loving your enemies.
And that season of life for young moms who just can’t seem to get a moment to themselves.
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, February 15th. 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: Now the news with Kristen Flavin.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, NEWS ANCHOR: Russia signals willingness to continue talks » Russia signaled a willingness on Monday to continue diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in Ukraine.
PUTIN: [Speaking Russia]
During a meeting orchestrated for the media, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, if he had any hope of reaching an agreement with the West on key issues.
Lavrov responded, “Our possibilities are far from being exhausted.” He added that while negotiations should not drag on indefinitely, he would suggest “continuing and ramping them up.”
Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, continue to warn of dire consequences should Russia invade Ukraine.
JOHNSON: We’ve got to realize that this is a very, very dangerous, pivotal situation. We are on the edge of a precipice. But there is still time for President Putin to step back and what we are urging is for everybody to engage in dialog, for a conversation to take place.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Kyiv on Monday before traveling to Moscow for talks with Putin. He said no one should doubt the determination and preparedness of the EU and NATO in the event of a military offensive.
After urging Americans to leave the country over the weekend, U.S. officials closed the embassy in Kyiv and moved the remaining staff to the western city of Lviv. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he ordered the move due to a dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces on the country’s border.
Durham report on Clinton campaign spying » The special counsel investigating the origins of the Russia probe has revealed new information about a tip made against the Trump campaign. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has more.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: In 2016, attorney Michael Sussman told the FBI he had evidence Donald Trump’s campaign was communicating with a Russian bank that had ties to the Kremlin.
But Sussman did not disclose that he was working for the Clinton campaign.
In court documents filed Friday, special counsel John Durham said an unidentified tech executive provided Sussman data about web traffic to and from servers for Trump Tower, Trump’s New York City apartment building, and eventually the White House.
According to the filing, the data Sussman passed on to the FBI showed a minimal amount of Russia-related internet traffic compared to the rest of the country as a whole.
Sussman was indicted in September for lying to the FBI—charges he denies.
The former president said Durham’s latest revelations constitute a “scandal far greater in scope and magnitude than Watergate.”
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
Trudeau invokes emergency powers » Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked emergency powers in an effort to quell protests in the nation’s capital.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Trudeau said the scope of the measures would be targeted, reasonable, and proportate to the threats they are meant to address.
TRUDEAU: We’ll always defend the rights of Canadians to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression, but these blockades are illegal. And if you’re still participating, the time to go home is now.
The protest in Ottawa over vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions is entering its third week. Officials have repeatedly called it an “illegal occupation” but have made limited efforts to force protesters to leave.
Now, the government says it is prepared to tow vehicles, suspend insurance coverage, and even freeze truckers’ personal and corporate bank accounts.
Meanwhile, the province that includes Ottawa is lifting most of its pandemic restrictions.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made that announcement earlier on Monday.
FORD: Effective March 1st, we intend to eliminate capacity limits in all indoor public settings. At the same time, we will lift proof of vaccination requirements for all settings.
Ford said the change in pandemic policy had nothing to do with the protest in Ottawa. He said he was acting on the advice of health officials.
The province’s mask requirement will remain in place, at least for now.
U.S. halts avocado imports from Mexico » Mexico’s president is blaming political and economic conspiracies for a recent export disruption. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has that story.
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: U.S. regulators halted imports of Mexican avocados over the weekend. That after a U.S. plant safety inspector received a threat on his government-issued cell phone.
U.S officials had warned they would block imports if Mexico could not get a handle on drug-related violence in Michoacan. Drug cartels target the avocado industry for extortion, while growers are often caught in turf battles.
But Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador dismissed safety concerns on Monday. He blamed the dispute on an effort by U.S. growers to keep out competition from Mexico.
Nearly half the avocados consumed in the United States come from Michoacan. It is the only state in Mexico authorized to export avocados to the United States.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
I’m Kristen Flavin. Straight ahead: a new frontier in pet therapy for the elderly.
Plus, the trouble with little boys.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 15th day of February, 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: pets and dementia.
Right now, 55 million people around the world suffer from some form of dementia. An Alzheimers’ group estimates that every three seconds, someone somewhere will develop dementia and that puts the number on track to double globally 20 years from now.
For decades, animal-assisted therapy has been one way of reducing anxiety for those who suffer.
Well now, that method is beginning to change.
REICHARD: We’ll call it pet therapy meets artificial intelligence. WORLD Correspondent Bonnie Pritchett reports.
AUDIO: [DUNCAN HOLMES PLAYING KEYBOARD]
BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER: Duncan Holmes lives alone in a retirement community in Fredericksburg, Texas. Sharon, his wife of 43 years, died two years ago. Gone, too, are the pets they doted on.
Holmes has been adjusting to the new normal. Playing piano at home and at his church helps. So does his new pet.
Nestled in Holmes lap is Ginger, a long-haired, orange and white tabby… cat.
HOLMES: And I'm going to turn her on right now. And let's this is I've got this three-position switch. [CAT MEOWS] There she is. And she does purr, meow and moves her face as you'll see…
Ginger is an animatronic cat, or robotic pet, made by the company Joy for All. Holmes, who is blind, knows he’s not petting and speaking to a real animal. But he finds comfort in the familiar motions anyway.
HOLMES: I think petting an animal, or something like it, supposedly calms, you know if you're high anxiety, lowers that lowers the threshold…
Holmes’ experience with Ginger is not an outlier.
Tammy Cordes can attest to that.
Cordes is special projects coordinator for Michigan’s Long-term Care Ombudsman program, a division of the Elder Justice Initiative.
She saw the devastating toll the pandemic lock-downs took on nursing home residents.
So, when given the opportunity last year to provide some relief, her organization partnered with the state’s Department of Public Health on the Companion Pet Adoption Project. The program distributed almost 3,000 animatronic cats and dogs to residents in 162 nursing homes.
CORDES: And we were very specific in the selection of residents focusing on those living with dementia or those who had some cognitive decline who could typically not benefit from window or telephone or excuse me, telephone visits. So other residents who qualified for the project, included those who are feel, as I mentioned, who were feeling especially lonely and or isolated…
She instructed nursing home staff on how to incorporate the pets into residents’ routine care and asked for feedback. What she heard was encouraging.
CORDES: This is one of my favorites. One resident who has expressive aphasia, which is a communication disorder which makes it difficult to produce speech, received her companion cat and she immediately began speaking clearly to her new pet. The staff member reported that she continues to verbally interact with her pet on a regular basis…
KURT RIEDEL: So, we have three different neighborhoods. So, our high functioning…
Kurt Riedel is a registered nurse and director of Freedom House, a memory care residence for people with cognitive decline in San Antonio, Texas. His staff use something called a PARO robot as one means of engaging with residents.
AUDIO: [PARO COOING]
The 6-pound animatronic baby Harp seal does more than wiggle and mimic animal sounds. Its 180 sensors and artificial intelligence programming enable it to learn from its interaction with humans. It’s soft fur and cooing sounds can sooth some dementia patients.
Riedel explains why.
KURT RIEDEL: Their senses are declining in that they communicate more with by touch by sound. They can't necessarily speak but they can You know, they can understand your vocal tone. So, the seal, I mean really has everything you know, it makes sound that's comforting, they can, you know, stroke the fur which feels nice to the fingers. It kind of covers all those tactile tactile senses that the lower functioning of dementia really thrives on...
The possibility of using robotic pets, particularly the PARO, in treating dementia-related symptoms without medications prompted Dr. Sandra Petersen to commission a study in 2015.
PETERSEN: Because on average, these individuals in senior care settings, nursing home, assisted living, those places, where congregate settings are on an average of 14 to 28 meds a day. And that it's too much for anybody, let alone someone who's in their 80s…
Petersen directs the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Texas at Tyler.
Her PARO, named Oscar, joined the conversation about its ability to learn.
PETERSEN: So, he knows which ones like to cuddle, which ones like to put him on the table and play and he'll get real active and do his flippers flippers. He doesn't like to be held up like that. So, he'll kind of holler.
Petersen’s research corroborated similar studies: Engaging with the PARO, especially in group settings, produces positive responses that reduce anxiety in dementia patients.
PETERSEN: So that said to us, you know, hey, the PARO is decreasing the symptoms. And so, in the in the treatment group, there was about a third decrease in the use of those PRN or as needed medications for control of behavior. So that was huge…
The study also showed a decrease in the use of as-needed anti-psychotic medications and even sleep and pain medications.
PETERSEN: We found a decrease in the use of those too because the neurotransmitters that have to do with our emotional responses are closely tied to and are the same neural pathways that convey pain signals to us…
Back in Fredericksburg, Duncan Holmes says Ginger is just the right prescription.
HOLMES: And I'd like to say that she is helping somewhat. Now I’m not using this as a substitute for getting into God's Word or for anything else. This is simply another way to reduce any anxiety or anything like that.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett in Fredericksburg and San Antonio, Texas.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: tracking religious objectors to the Covid-19 vaccine shot.
The way in which several federal agencies plan to share and retain the personal information of those who request religious exemptions is raising concerns.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Joining us now with the details is Steve West. He’s an attorney and former federal prosecutor and he writes about religious liberty issues for WORLD Digital. Good morning to you, Steve!
STEVE WEST, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary.
REICHARD: Steve, tell us what is going on here.
WEST: As you alluded to, Mary, this began quietly, with the District of Columbia’s Pretrial Services Agency. That’s a small agency which provides federal courts with pre-sentencing information in criminal cases. It published a proposed rule in the Federal Register laying out what it would do. Since then, the rule making has spread to upwards of 55 federal agencies. What these rules indicate agencies will collect includes a lot of personal information—things like religious affiliation, the reasons and support given for religious accommodation requests, names, contact information, date of birth, aliases, home address, and more.
REICHARD: Why would agencies be collecting this kind of information?
WEST: Under federal law, an employee can seek a reasonable accommodation if a workplace requirement would impose a burden on the employee’s sincerely held religious belief, provided it doesn’t impose an undue hardship on the employer. So, think of someone whose religious beliefs don’t allow them to work on a Sunday or even Saturday sabbath. Or someone whose beliefs require them to wear a certain article of clothing, or prohibit them from doing so. So, this is nothing new for the government. Government agencies have been dealing with these requests for decades, but they have always been able to gather what they needed in the request process but not retain it.
REICHARD: So why now? Why move to collect the data now?
WEST: I think it’s pretty clear that this has been stimulated by the many who have religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccines. There has been a lot of litigation over the mandates and federal employees have faced a lot of pressure to get vaccinated. More information is being requested from religious objectors to the vaccines, and they are being scrutinized more carefully. We need only look to the military to see how religious objectors are being treated. They have granted few requests for accommodation, meaning objectors could be dishonorably discharged if they refuse the vaccine.
REICHARD: What has the government said about why it is collecting the data?
WEST: Nothing. When these data collection rules are published, as with any rule, a justification is provided, but here the reasoning is circuitous—something like “we are collecting this data so that we will have the data.” That’s no justification.
And there’s no reason why government agencies considering religious accommodation requests need to retain this information longer than the time it takes to make a decision or to consider an appeal of an unfavorable decision. Some think it’s a way of bringing pressure to bear on religious employees. Or that the agency may use the information against the employee in some future employment matter. But one thing is certain: no good justification has been provided yet.
REICHARD: I’m assuming this is no longer under the radar?
WEST: That’s right. Not any more. A couple weeks after the story broke, South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman introduced The Religious Freedom Over Mandates Act. It would prohibit federal funds from being used “to establish, operate, maintain, or support any system of records” for individuals who seek a religious exemption from the federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement. At about the same time, Virginia Congressman Ben Cline sent a letter signed by 10 Republican members of Congress to President Joe Biden taking issue with the administration’s employee tracking. The letter said Biden’s administration has offered no valid justification for these intrusive databases and that they’ll only be used to target Americans with religious convictions. He asked for a response no later than last Friday, but no word yet.
At least one organization has already hit one or more agencies with a Freedom of Information Act request—that’s a means under federal law of making the government provide certain kinds of information. I would not be surprised to see that followed by a legal challenge at some point.
REICHARD: Steve West writes about religious liberties for WORLD Digital. You can read his work at WNG.org. You can also subscribe to his free weekly newsletter on First Amendment issues, called Liberties. Steve, always good to have you on. Thank you!
WEST: Thanks Mary!
NICK EICHER, HOST: Here’s a story that’ll give new meaning to “bachelor pad.”
Has to do with an old Russian weather station—way up north—long abandoned by humans and recently discovered by, shall we say, by creatures more habituated to the climate.
Nature photographer Dmitry Kokh traveled more than 12,000 miles to reach it. He talked to Fox News:
KOKH: Polar bears are very curious animals. They trying to get inside every building, inside every open door, or open window.
That’s right, polar bears! They made themselves at home inside these Soviet-era buildings.
To photograph them, Kohk uses a drone with low noise output so he doesn’t disturb them.
The images are really something, especially when you consider they are a threatened species and difficult to find.
KOKH: Very huge, very smart and beautiful animal. It’s so cool to photograph this animal.
Kohk and crew saw 30 bears, mostly male, hanging out in their man cave.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 15th. 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: Notable Speeches Past and Present.
Martin Luther King Jr. became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1954. A year later he organized a bus boycott to fight racial segregation in his city. It catapulted him to national prominence.
Less than a year after the boycott ended, King preached on Matthew chapter 5. He began his sermon by admitting he’d preached it before—hinting he’d continue to do so annually as it was so important. The message is titled: “Loving Your Enemies” from November 17th, 1957.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.
It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate.
Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.
Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”
And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words. History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves…unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.
Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that…But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way.
And all around the world this morning, we can hear the glad echo of heaven ring: “Jesus shall reign wherever sun does his successive journeys run. His kingdom spreads from shore to shore, till moon shall wane and wax no more.”
We can hear another chorus singing: “All hail the power of Jesus name.”
We can hear another chorus singing: “Hallelujah, hallelujah! He’s King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah, hallelujah!”
We can hear another choir singing: “In Christ there is no East or West. In Him no North or South, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide world.” This is the only way.
EICHER: That’s Martin Luther King Jr from November 17th, 1957 on loving our enemies. We’ve included a link to the complete message in today’s transcript.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 15th. 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.
What busy mom of young boys can’t relate to this? Just when you think you have a moment for yourself, you don’t. WORLD commentator Whitney Williams knows all about it.
WHITNEY WILLIAMS, COMMENTATOR: There’s never a good time for me to whiten my teeth, it seems. I can almost bet that right when I paint my chompers and put in the at-home tray, my kids will demand an explanation of the incarnation or ask me a question that simply can’t be answered with a head-shake: “Does God have legs?” “Why do we have belly buttons?” or the latest: “Why did God plan for Jesus to be on the earth for only a short short time instead of a long, long time?”
I thought this day would be different.
AUDIO: [Sound of bike bells, boys riding]
The boys were riding their new Christmas bikes out on the driveway. Now was my chance! I scurried to the bathroom, pulled my lips away from my teeth, brushed on the magic formula, plugged the tray’s power cord into the bottom of my phone, and then shoved the glowing blue apparatus into my mouth.
Not two minutes into my 30-minute teeth whitening session, my youngest walks into the house, wailing, with a pop knot on his head big enough to hitch a horse to—Roy D. Mercer anyone? Blood covered his face and streamed down onto his new winter coat.
I sucked the saliva off of my whitening device and set it on the kitchen counter. My boy needed more than an empathetic mime.
“It’s gonna be OK, baby.” I tell him, as I pull him close. And I’m fairly certain it will be. When it comes to head wounds, I’ve learned “better out than in” and “it’s a good sign if they cry right away,” so I remain calm and run him a warm bath. As his wails slowly turn to whimpers, I follow the blood trail to the scene of the incident and question the two witnesses. Apparently, my son’s bicycle decided to ditch its front wheel mid-ride.
AUDIO: [Sounds from Walmart]
Within the hour, the four of us are on the helmet aisle at Walmart—my twins choose black helmets with neon green light up mohawks.
As we make our way to the checkout line, my injured son sits in the buggy, dipping his head each time we pass a fellow shopper. By this time it looks like he has a golf ball lodged in his forehead.
“I don’t want people to see how awful I look,” he told me, and I felt it along with him, imagining the accusations: “Nice timing on the helmet, Super mom.” “You let your kids out in the driveway without supervision?” I was half tempted in that moment to just lay it all out, right there in the Walmart: “Yeah! And my kids get screen time every day, too!” But I refrained.
“We all get bumps and bruises, baby,” I told him, as I passed him a bag of frozen fish sticks for the swelling.
Those people with blindingly white teeth that I see on social media must not have little boys.
AUDIO: [Bike bell]
I’m Whitney Williams.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: certifying elections. We’ll talk about a new effort to change how electoral votes are certified.
And, a visit to a school in Dallas that is giving students a second chance at education.
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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