The World and Everything in It - February 16, 2022
On Washington Wednesday, efforts to change the Electoral Count Act; on World Tour, the latest international news; and a school in Dallas where students get a second chance at education. Plus: commentary from Kim Henderson, and the Wednesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Changes to the way elections are certified may be underway. The idea is to try to avoid the chaos we saw last time.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.
Also today, WORLD Tour.
Plus a school of second chances.
And the real cure for what ails all of us.
REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, February 16th. 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: The news is next. Here’s Kristen Flavin.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, NEWS ANCHOR: Latest from Ukrainian border » Russia claims it is pulling back some of its troops from the Ukrainian border.
PUTIN: [speaking Russian] Do we want this or not? Of course not. That is exactly why we put forward proposals for a process of negotiations.
Speaking to members of the media after talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he does not want war.
On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry released images of military equipment rolling onto railway platforms and across snowy fields. But it did not say where the images were taken or where the vehicles were headed.
SCHOLZ: [speaking German] For us Germans, and for all Europeans, it is clear that lasting security cannot be achieved against Russia, but only with Russia.
Chancellor Scholz said lasting security could not be achieved against Russia, only with it. He said he refused to describe the current situation as hopeless.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he is cautiously optimistic about Russia’s more conciliatory tone.
STOLTENBERG: But so far, we have not seen any sign of deescalation on the ground.
Despite weeks of talks, Russia and Western nations remain divided over key issues, including security measures in Eastern Europe and Ukraine’s interest in joining NATO.
Mask mandates end in California, and Washington, D.C. » Mask mandates are continuing to fall across the country. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: As of today, vaccinated Californians no longer need to wear masks indoors unless they are in LA County. Officials there are keeping mask mandates in place for at least a few more weeks.
The new rules do not apply to teachers and students. They must continue to wear masks in California classrooms, at least until the end of the month.
In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser ended proof of vaccination requirements for indoor venues starting Tuesday. Mask mandates in the nation’s capital will end on March 1st.
And major employers are also dropping mask requirements. Workers at Amazon and Walmart, two of the largest private employers in the country, no longer need to mask up on the job.
About half of the states that still had mask mandates have ended them in the last three weeks.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
Sandy Hook families settle with gunmaker Remington » Families of nine victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School have agreed to settle a lawsuit against gunmaker Remington.
Insurers for the company will pay the families $73 million and allow them to release documents obtained during the lawsuit. Those include filings that show how the company marketed the Bushmaster rifle—the weapon used to kill 20 first graders and six staffers at the Connecticut elementary school.
Josh Koskoff is an attorney for the families.
KOSKOFF: It’s not a firearm. It’s not a modern sporting rifle. It’s not a family Swiss Army knife. It’s a combat weapon.
The families’ civil suit focused on the company’s marketing tactics, claiming it intentionally appealed to young, at-risk men. The company had argued there was no evidence to show its marketing had anything to do with the shooting.
Remington filed for bankruptcy a second time in 2020 and its assets were later sold off to several other companies.
Jury rejects Palin libel lawsuit » A New York jury has rejected former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s libel claim against The New York Times.
The jury reached its verdict on Tuesday, one day after the judge in the case said he intended to dismiss it anyway.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff told the lawyers on Monday he did not think Palin had proven The Times acted maliciously.
Ken Turkel is one of Palin’s lawyers.
TURKEL: We’re going to evaluate all our options for appeal, all of our options for any further practice in court, at the trial level, and take it from there.
The case stemmed from a 2017 editorial about gun violence. It tied Palin’s political action committee to a 2011 shooting in Arizona that left six dead and former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords severely wounded.
The editor who worked on the piece admitted he made a mistake but said he meant no harm.
Despite the judge’s decision to dismiss the case, he called it “an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of The Times.”
I’m Kristen Flavin. Straight ahead: efforts to change the election certification process.
Plus, the need for a great awakening in traffic court.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 16th 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: certifying election results.
Senate Democrats as well as a bipartisan group are considering updating the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to change the way we certify elections. This, in the wake of the 2020 election when then President Trump wanted then Vice President Mike Pence to throw out results from states Trump still claims he lost by fraud.
The effort to reform the law is ostensibly to prevent future squabbles.
REICHARD: Joining us now to talk about all this is John Fortier. He’s a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he focuses on Congress and all things elections, including the Electoral College. Good morning!
JOHN FORTIER, GUEST: Good morning to you.
REICHARD: Let’s start with a refresher on what the Constitution says about the election certification process.
FORTIER: Well, there's a lot that goes on after the November election. And I think that's what we're trying to reform. The people vote in November. And then of course, the states have to resolve their elections if they have recounts or counts and, and ultimately, they appoint people who are the presidential electors. Those people vote in December, and they're in their state capitals. And then ultimately, the results of those votes, not the people's votes, but the electors' votes, are presented to a joint session of Congress on January 6th, where the vice president sits, presiding over a session with both the House and the Senate. And those votes are counted. And usually it's very uncontroversial. And you have a majority of electors and you elect the President of the United States at that point who takes office on January 20.
REICHARD: So Congress adopted the Electoral Count Act in 1887 as we say. What does it say, specifically related to what caused the dispute over the last certification process?
FORTIER: Well, first, I think it's helpful to think about why it passed that particular law in the first place. There had been other laws like it in previous times, but our worst election ever and certainly much worse than our last election was the 1876 election. And that was an election where essentially, a number of states—this is after the Civil War, states are coming back in—had dueling results. The States essentially almost had two different claimants to state governments. And one side said no, we're appointing these electors. The Republican electors were going to vote for Rutherford B. Hayes, and another institution said, no, no, we're appointing these other electors who voted for Samuel Tilden. With a divide in Congress, Republicans controlling one house and Democrats controlling the other, when they got to the point of counting those votes, they couldn't agree. And they went all the way up almost to Inauguration Day, which back in those days was in March, without really having a result. They didn't agree on who had been elected the president of the United States. Ultimately, just a day or two before they, after a number of mechanisms, agreed to Rutherford B. Hayes becoming the president. But after that, they said we want to see if we can improve that process. It took them over 10 years to actually pass a law to improve it, because it's a difficult, complicated set of actors out there. But this law does provide for when the electors are meeting. It has some rules about Congress and what it's supposed to do when counting electors, but it's a little confusing.
There certainly was a lot of talk in this last election about the role of the Vice President, which I think is really pretty minimal. But the act, at least describes some of the things the Vice President does. So this act is in the background, but nobody thinks it was very well written. So it could use some updating, and we're starting that process of doing it.
MR: Two groups of lawmakers are proposing these changes. One proposal is coming from Democrats. The other from a bipartisan group. We’ll talk about the pros and cons in a moment, but I’m wondering where do the proposals overlap and how do they differ?
FORTIER: Well, I think there there is one area where I think there's broad agreement both in those those laws and generally and that is, on January 6, as we saw last election, but also, in some prior ones in the 2000s and 2016, it's very easy for Congress to raise objections to a set of electors. And really, I mean, 1876 was a crazy time where there were two sets of electors. We don't have that in today's world. We've really had just one slate of electors right before the Congress. And, and still people objecting to it. And it's so easy that really one House member and one Senator can agree to an objection and then the House and Senate have to split into their own bodies, they have to consider the objection. Now, they didn't agree to the objection. But I think that's one area where everybody thinks there's no reason why it should be so easy. If a large fraction of Congress, maybe even a majority of Congress, but a third is in some of the bills, would agree to an objection, then maybe there's a serious objection we should hear. But I think one of the big things that's common is that we should basically be very suspect of objections, unless lots of Congress wants to object and hear these objections, then we shouldn't make it easy on them. And I think that's the biggest thing that's similar in the approaches, what we've seen so far.
REICHARD: Ok. So let’s talk now about those pros and cons. Do these proposals fix a real problem or will they potentially create new problems?
FORTIER: Well, I do think there's one direction that the Democrats bill, again, draft form, takes that is a very particular avenue that they're going down. And that is that they're really involving the courts much more at an early stage. I think it is true that we should not have a lot of different claimants to who's the who's the elector. We shouldn't have controversy after all the recounts are done after those electors are appointed. But that bill really brings the courts to a very early stage. And I think one of the things that's in the Constitution that's a little hard to get around and was hard when we passed that original law is, the Constitution gives a lot of leeway to the states themselves and to the state legislatures, as to how to run elections and to determine them. And I think this this ability to give the courts, uh, both state and then federal court as well, a real strong role in determining how a state outcome of the election is, I think is going to be controversial for both sides, and I think will also be for the Republican side, and I think will also be somewhat questionable, constitutionally, whether they can limit the states as much as this this law says.
REICHARD: John, you’ve thought about the electoral college more than the average person has. So I wanted to ask you: If you were going to draft changes to the Electoral Count Act, how would you do it?
FORTIER: Well, I do think there's some changes we should make. But I guess I'm more of a minimalist, and I think we shouldn't try to fix all of the problems. I think the provision that makes it much harder for Congress to raise an objection makes sense. If a majority of each body or some large fraction of each party wants to consider an objection, fine. But just one member of each, that doesn't that doesn't make a lot of sense. I think it's also helpful to remind people that the Vice President's role is not very strong. That was obviously a controversy last time. And you know, I don't think that's unclear now, in the current law. It doesn't, the Vice President just presides over the Congress. He doesn't or she doesn't decide for the Congress. And I think that's a role that Congress is going to be more important than the vice president over it. But I think, restating that make some sense. I do think we should also just be clear that we should resolve those elections in December. We had some concern that later on a set of electors might be brought in at a later date and say, no, these were the real electors. We've learned some new information. There's a very firm date when those electors meet in December it's in the law now it can be changed a little bit. But once those electors meet it, you know, what happened in the state and the votes of the state doesn't matter. We have six weeks or so to resolve the votes that were taking place in the state. Have recounts, have legal challenges. But to say that there's a finite end to that and say, at that point, we really have to say, the states have decided. The election is over there. And we've appointed electors. And then Congress's role is really a little bit more about, was there some problem with those electors? Not was there a problem back in the counting of the votes of the state. I think those are the types of things that would help. But they wouldn't deal with every situation. There can be some very complicated situations, which I think it is very hard for us in a law to say this is the answer. And that actors would all take that seriously at the end. So minimal, several points would help a lot. But we don't have to fix everything.
REICHARD: Guiding principles is what we’re after. Now for the biggest question: What are the chances any of these proposals can get through Congress?
FORTIER: Well, I do think there's been a lot of goodwill talk on both sides that despite all the differences over some of the larger election reform matters that were put before Congress, that these types of things do need to get done. Now, we do have some difference of opinion already on what to do. And I think that's going to make it more difficult in the details. It's not easy to imagine that this is going to be fixed in a week or two weeks. But I do think we're at the beginning of a process where both sides and both the House and the Senate have the will to do something about this. Again, I think a somewhat more minimalist approach and getting something improved would be a good thing. And maybe that's how it's going to end up. But I do think that there is the possibility of goodwill on both sides for getting something in this area done, which would at least improve that process, if not completely fix it.
REICHARD: John Fortier is an elections expert at the American Enterprise Institute. John, thank you.
FORTIER: Great, thank you.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with our reporter in Africa. Here’s Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Protests against coup in Sudan—We start today in northeast Africa.
AUDIO: [Sound of protester chanting, marching]
Thousands of people protesting the military takeover of Sudan took to the streets of Khartoum on Monday. They are demanding the release of several political figures and pro-democracy activists recently arrested by the government.
Security forces fired tear gas at crowds who rallied near the presidential palace.
Mass protests have become a regular part of life in Sudan since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan took over the government. The coup derailed a power-sharing agreement between the army and civilians negotiated after the military deposed longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
On Monday, the Sudanese Professionals Association said more than 100 people have been detained without charges.
Navalny trial begins in Russia—Next we go to Russia.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny goes on trial this week. He’s facing fraud charges that could keep him behind bars for another 10 years.
AUDIO: [Man speaking Russian, camera shutters]
Russian officials are holding the trial at the maximum security prison where Navalny has been jailed for the last year. Reporters are not allowed to attend but can watch a live feed of the proceedings.
Navalny is serving a two and a half year sentence for breaking the conditions of his parole when he traveled to Germany for medical treatment after a near-fatal poisoning.
Investigators now accuse Navalny of stealing more than $4.7 million dollars in donations to his political organizations. Navalny’s supporters and international human rights groups call the trial a sham orchestrated to keep him behind bars.
Israeli PM makes first visit to Bahrain—Next to the Middle East.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett traveled to Bahrain on Monday. It was the first-ever official visit by an Israeli head of government to the Gulf state.
BENNETT: I think especially in these tumultuous times, it’s important that from this region we send a message of goodwill, of cooperation, of standing together against common challenges and of building bridges to the future.
Bahrain and its close ally the United Arab Emirates became only the third and fourth majority Arab states to establish ties with Israel. They signed what became known as the Abraham Accords during the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited the country earlier this month to sign an agreement covering intelligence sharing, procurement, and joint training.
Bennett and Bahrain’s ruling family likely also discussed Iran, a common adversary.
Child mummies found in Peru—And finally, we end today in South America.
Archeologists excavating an ancient city in Peru have discovered the bodies of six children killed and mummified more than a thousand years ago.
AUDIO: [Man speaking Spanish]
The discovery provides the earliest evidence of mass child sacrifice associated with the burial of a nobleman.
Researchers believe the children were killed to accompany the dead adult into the afterlife. They could have been close family members.
The city, known as Cajamarquilla, was built out of mud about 200 B.C., in the pre-Inca period. It remained occupied until about 1500 A.D. and could have been home to as many as 20,000 people.
That’s this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Game show contestants can win a lot of really nice things. Cruises, exotic trips. One contestant on “The Price is Right” had already won a firepit and a loveseat when she had another chance for a big win.
AUDIO: (ding ding ding) Yes! Congratulations! (cheering)
And what did Catherine Graham win?!
Well, five nights in a nice hotel, some spending money, and round-trip airfare from LA.
GRAHAM: Drew goes oh that’s great congratulations! New Hampshire’s beautiful! And I go, true. I live in Boston. I’ve been there a million times. I just wish it was Tahiti or someplace.
So just to be completely clear—to enjoy her grand prize—she has to get herself from Boston to Los Angeles, so she can use the round-trip ticket to New Hampshire, which is a little more than an hours’ drive from her home.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 16th. 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: a school for second chances.
In 2006 a Dallas couple saw a real education problem: high-school students were falling through the cracks after serving time in juvenile detention. So they decided to do something about it—and started their own school.
REICHARD: Now sixteen years later, a handful of teachers and staff are carrying on that vision. WORLD’s Whitney Williams paid a visit to the school.
WHITNEY WILLIAMS, CORRESPONDENT: Directions to Cornerstone Crossroads Academy in Dallas often go something like this: When you turn off of MLK Blvd onto Ervay St., look for the small red brick church with the white steeple. See it? OK. You’re close, but that’s not it. The school’s in the back…in a large metal shed.
AUDIO: [SCHOOL ROOM]
Inside the shed today, nearly 20 students—ages 16-25—mingle in between testing. On the walls hang posters showing the school’s 146 graduates.
Jamal Robeson is one of those. He’s 30 now—a husband, father, and Christ follower. No white picket fence, but he owns his own home and a business. He has stability. A decade ago though, things looked much different. Drugs and violence marked his teen years. When he went to jail on a drug charge at 19, he decided he was done playing games.
ROBESON: I just thought about all the stuff that I was doing and calling my buddies and telling them, Hey, I'm gonna give my life to God, you know, and it was like, oh, man, what you on? Did you smoke something or whatever? And I was like, No, when I went to jail, I told God I was going to give him my life.
Cornerstone helped him learn what that meant.
ROBESON: So coming here really kind of helped mature me, and show me the different character traits of who the Lord is, you know, through his people. And I actually got my first job at Weirs furniture, just from sharing my testimony here.
That job was about 30 minutes from Robeson’s house and he didn’t have a car. Cornerstone staffers saw the need and stepped in …
ROBESON: They ended up surprising me with a brand new car, you know, it wasn't brand new, it's brand new to me, though, you know. So it was a blessing.
It’s a vivid example of how the school offers struggling students so much more than a second chance at a high school diploma.
Principal Wayne Sims compares the school to an intensive care unit for the educational system:
SIMS: When you have individuals who are who are sick, or who have more needs, they need a space where they can get more intensive care, they can get wraparound services, they can get hope that they may not be able to get when you're just a number in such a big machine. We get to show through the love of Christ, through hard work, you can overcome these things and there is hope on the other side of it for you.
Hope on the other side. But that doesn’t mean things will be easy. Robeson’s been learning that since graduation.
ROBESON: It's not all fun and happy, but the Lord is calling us to be strong and acknowledge it's not about us. And that's when we will truly prosper not in a material or worldly aspect. But as true followers of Christ, you know...
Executive Director Kristi Lichtenberg learned that lesson through Cornerstone, as well.
LICHTENBERG: I think when I first got here, I probably fell into some of the thinking about, you know, things you see in the movies, where some white female school teacher comes to the hood and saves the kids. And just that whole narrative is just a wrong story that we tell ourselves…
When Lichtenberg was school principal, she received permission from probation officers and judges to take her students across state lines to a Christian camp in Missouri. She prayed for salvations, changed hearts. But it felt like a longshot. Maybe even a mistake. These students were non-compliant, disrespectful of authority …
LICHTENBERG: I just thought, oh, man, they're not going to make it, this camp is so strict. But when I saw how they responded to male leadership, that our male students responded to males, and especially African American males …
Lichtenberg had an epiphany. She realized that what the school needed was strong male leadership at the top. The male students, especially, needed a principal they could look up to and identify with. For eight years she prayed for God to provide her replacement. In the waiting, she often felt inadequate for the work at hand. But God used that time to show her that in her weakness, he was mighty. When God finally provided Wayne Sims, Lichtenberg was ready to open her hands and submit to his leadership. She now takes joy in helping him succeed.
She explains more on the way to grab lunch:
LICHTENBERG: A lot of times our best work is from the sidelines, not from the stage.
Back in Lichtenberg’s office, Principal Sims welcomes current student Nate Geary with a proud-dad smile and a fist-bump. Geary’s smiling as well.
Prior to Cornerstone, his future looked grim. He hung out with the wrong crowd. Never passed a test. Thought he was too cool for school. But then he realized he wasn’t doing anything with his life. He saw his brothers locked up and knew if he didn’t make a change, he’d find himself behind bars, as well.
GEARY: I told Mr. Simms I'm coming from all the way from the bottom. I don’t know if y’all can help me. And he said, No problem. We'll get you in everything. And God gave me a path to go right back up. And I took that path and look where I'm at right now. I made it through school and I’m finally getting out of school. And I'm really happy. I feel like I'm the smartest kid in the nation right now.
Geary beams as he shares his story. Sims beams right back.
GEARY: I'm not proud of myself. I’m proud of everybody, because I couldn’t do this without Mr. Sims, without my teachers. Without them, I wouldn’t be in this chair right now.
Geary dreams of working on airplanes or computers as an engineer. He knows the path won’t always be easy, but still, he’s grateful for a God and a school of second chances …
GEARY: I will walk up with my head up and I'll walk down with my head up still, I will see tears and they’ll be joyful tears because I did it.
These days, Cornerstone isn't just rehabilitating students. It’s also working to renovate a hundred year old school building that Dallas ISD shuttered in 2012. In the next few years, Kristi Lichtenberg says Cornerstone will be able to reach out to even more students who need a second chance.
LICHTENBERG: We're just excited about watching the physical transformation and permanently having this as a reminder of how God can restore our lives as well when they feel just as abandoned and torn up and hopeless.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Whitney Williams in Dallas, Texas.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 16th. 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. The American legal system is a marvel, but sometimes in the pursuit of truth fancy lawyering just gets in the way. Here’s WORLD commentator Kim Henderson.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: A few years into our marriage my husband, a praying man, decided he wanted to make a difference. That meant changing jobs, and the main difference I grew concerned about was his impending 70 percent salary decrease. But after he went through all the hoops to become a state trooper, we sold the house, packed our 2.5 kids in a borrowed truck, and headed toward a county line I’d never crossed before.
My husband soon realized his “making a difference” ability was removing impaired drivers from highways. Seeing him at the head table at Mothers Against Drunk Driving banquets? Well, that was almost enough to make me stop saying I married a marketing major and hadn’t signed up for this.
In time, though, I watched some of his zeal evaporate. This usually happened on Thursday afternoons between two and four, when justice court convened. My husband’s hardest day on the stand came after a deacon in our church decided to represent a certain client—an alderman’s son charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Even though DUIs weren’t this attorney’s specialty, his cunning impressed. He managed to turn a case involving an underaged driver and a certified Intoxilyzer reading into a battle of adverbs.
“Were you immediately to the rear of the vehicle?”
Thus, the young partier went back behind the wheel, and the lawyer/deacon/adverb specialist went on to become a chancery court judge. That same year, 352 caskets descended into our local cemeteries because of drunk driving.
Not long ago I decided to sit in on a justice court session in a different community, in a different millennium to see if things had changed. The short answer: Not much. DUI attorneys still scored proficient at finding uncrossed or undotted letters of the law. On this day it was an unchecked box that let an accused, grinning like the cat who ate the canary, walk out scot-free. Here’s what that poor soul didn’t know. The officer who pulled him over that night had just hours earlier pulled a mangled body from under a Dodge’s dashboard. An alcohol-related collision.
I don’t think I heard the word dead (or its adverb form deadly) the whole three hours I sat in court. Men threw around words like suspended, as in jail time, and lowered, as in fines, but they didn’t whisper a single syllable about the lethal recklessness of impaired driving.
Still, the afternoon did hold a surprise, a good one involving a lanky 19-year-old wearing Wranglers and a credible look of remorse. His DUI lawyer encouraged him to plead guilty, but that wasn’t the real showstopper. The young man walked over to his arresting officer and shook his hand. Hard.
Later, I asked that officer to help me make sense of all the denying. The finagling. The pandering. He loosened his tie and spoke where only I could hear.
“Mom, the only thing that’s really going to make a difference is a great awakening. Pray for one.”
I’m Kim Henderson.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: domestic terrorism. We’ll tell you about new initiatives to try to win that fight.
That and much 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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