The World and Everything in It - February 17, 2022
The new Department of Justice task force targeting domestic terrorism; what’s next for the pandemic; and an Oxford-educated Christian rapper. Plus: commentary from Cal Thomas, and the Thursday morning news.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
The Justice Department launched a domestic terror task force. What will that mean for you?
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Also the pandemic seems to have turned a corner. What might we expect next?
Plus a profile of an Oxford educated rapper!
And commentator Cal Thomas on the journalists’ duty to tell the whole truth.
BROWN: It’s Thursday, February 17th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Good morning!
BROWN: It’s time now for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Western allies: No evidence of Russian troop drawdown » The United States and NATO allies say there’s no sign that Russia is pulling troops away from Ukraine’s border. U.S. State Dept. spokesman Ned Price said despite Moscow’s claims of a drawdown…
PRICE: We have seen the opposite in recent weeks and even in recent days. More Russian forces, not fewer, are at the border. And they are moving, concerningly, into fighting positions. This is cause for profound concern.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also said that he welcomes further diplomacy, but he sees no evidence that Russia is taking steps to de-escalate the crisis.
STOLTENBERG: Moscow has made it clear that it is prepared to contest the fundamental principles that have underpinned our security for decade...
ZELENSKY: [Speaking in Ukrainian]
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at a military base, said his nation is not afraid and will defend itself.
Ukrainians defied pressure from Moscow with flag-waving demonstrations celebrating a ‘national unity day’ on Wednesday.
Biden to release Trump White House visitor logs to Congress » President Biden is rejecting former President Trump’s executive privilege claim and is ordering the release of Trump White House visitor logs. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The House panel investigating last year’s Capitol riot wants access to a trove of data from the National Archives.
That includes visitor logs showing appointment information for people allowed to enter the White House on the day of the Capitol siege. Donald Trump said Congress has no right to those records, citing executive privilege.
But the Biden White House rejects that claim.
By law, presidential records must be preserved in the National Archives, and an outgoing president must turn over those records when leaving office. Trump tried but failed to withhold White House documents from the House committee. But the Supreme Court ultimately said no to that.
President Biden has also waived executive privilege for much of the other information the committee has requested.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
White House: U.S. moving closer to post-crisis phase of pandemic » Top U.S. health officials say with COVID-19 cases falling, we’re moving closer to a nationwide return to normalcy. That as cities and businesses continue to lift restrictions.
During a White House briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday…
WALENSKY: Omicron cases are declining, and we are all cautiously optimistic about the trajectory we are on.
But for now she said we must remain vigilant. That means no changes to the CDC’s mask guidance yet. But she said the government is looking at changing that guidance in the coming weeks.
New cases have plummeted to about 100,000 a day, down from more than 800,000 just one month ago.
White House virus response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters…
ZIENTS: We’re moving toward a time when COVID isn’t a crisis, but is something we can protect against and treat.
Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando just lifted their mask mandates.
Pro sports teams, including the Utah Jazz and the Washington Wizards and Capitols have stopped requiring proof of vaccination from fans.
And Philadelphia is among the cities easing some restrictions.
Retail sales surge in January despite omicron and inflation » Americans sharply ramped up their spending at retail stories last month despite the omicron wave and surging inflation.
Pay raises, solid hiring, and enhanced savings, helped retail sales jump 3.8 percent from December to January.
That according to the Commerce Department on Wednesday.
That was a much bigger increase than expected. Though inflation helped boost that figure, most of January’s gain reflected more purchases, not higher prices.
Last month’s increase was the largest in nearly a year. Robust spending is good news for the economy, but analysts caution it could also further accelerate inflation.
Investigation: Zinke misused position as Interior secretary » Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is facing abuse of power allegations after an investigation by the Interior Department's inspector general. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: The inspector general’s report found that Zinke, upon taking office, wrongly continued working with a foundation on a commercial project in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana.
It also said Zinke directed his staff to assist him with the project in a misuse of his position and that he lied to an agency ethics official about his involvement.
Zinke helped establish The Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation in 2007. He and his wife were reportedly negotiating with private developers for the use of foundation land for a commercial project that included a microbrewery.
Zinke is a candidate in the June Republican primary for a U.S. House seat in Montana—a position he held prior to joining Trump’s cabinet.
Investigators referred the matter to the Justice Department for potential prosecution but it declined to pursue a criminal case.
Zinke’s campaign dismissed the report as “a political hit job.”
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: combatting domestic terrorism.
Plus, scandals in journalism and politics.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 17th 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.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up: threats from within.
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced the creation of a new unit to combat domestic terrorism. It’s part of a larger push to target extremist groups.
WORLD’s Josh Schumacher reports.
BASH: We are also treating this as a domestic terrorist case. There is a statutory definition of domestic terrorism—18 USC 2331—this meets it…
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: That’s U.S. Attorney John Bash discussing the prosecution of the mass shooting that took place in El Paso, Texas in 2019. Domestic terrorism investigations by the FBI have nearly doubled in the last two years. Instances of domestic terrorism like the one in El Paso have taken place elsewhere—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Alexandria, Virginia; and Charleston, South Carolina.
Matthew Olsen is an assistant U.S. attorney general. He heads the Justice Department’s National Security Division. During a hearing last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Olsen said the threat of domestic terrorism is continuing to grow.
OLSEN: Based on the assessment of the intelligence community, we face an elevated threat from domestic violent extremists.
To combat that threat, Olsen announced the creation of a new unit tasked with fighting domestic terrorism. Olsen believes this task force can help prevent further mass shootings and riots like the one that took place in Washington on January 6th, 2021.
Olsen defined a domestic terrorist as any one seeking to commit violent criminal acts to further a social or political goal. And he said the attorneys that make up the new DOJ unit will coordinate investigations across the country and ensure cases are handled properly.
OLSEN: similar to our efforts to combat international terrorism, the department uses all the tools in our arsenal to prevent, disrupt, and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism.
The White House also has a strategy for countering domestic terrorism. It seeks to coordinate efforts between law enforcement agencies on both the state and federal levels. It also aims to prevent domestic terrorist groups from recruiting and becoming violent and disrupt and confront domestic terrorism efforts.
Lawmakers are also working on their own measures. A bill known as the “Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act” is currently making its way through Congress. It seeks to provide federal law enforcement agencies with more resources and more authority to investigate possible threats of domestic terrorism.
Critics say all these law enforcement efforts could create some serious problems.
First, and foremost: it’s hard to predict who might become a “domestic violent extremist.”
Patrick Eddington is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
EDDINGTON: You know, at the FBI, we know that at least as late as 2012, they had done a study looking at terrorism cases, essentially up to that particular point in time. And they could find no pattern, you know, to help them predict who would necessarily, you know, go over the edge and become violent…
Not everyone who spews heated rhetoric online will go on to commit acts of violence. But they could still get caught up in a sweeping surveillance net. And that would violate their First Amendment rights.
And these initiatives, once they’re created, have the potential to turn into political weapons. Patrick Eddington says the groups lawmakers are aiming at currently are largely right-wing extremist groups. But with a change of administration, the list of targeted groups could change.
EDDINGTON: And, and the other thing that I would say, you know, to my friends on the left side of the spectrum is if Biden creates these structures, and they become permanent, essentially, they can be turned around, ultimately, and used against groups like Black Lives Matter.
And Eddington warns the additional surveillance won’t end when our current political climate cools down.
EDDINGTON: The other thing about these structures that I think is really important to understand is that once these things get created, they almost never go away. Right? That's the problem. You almost never hear about a government agency or element of an agency that was involved in violating somebody's rights, that actually gets disestablished, or or defunded.
Lora Ries is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation. She argues that another problem with this new push to combat domestic terrorism is that it takes the focus off what she considers a more dangerous threat: foreign terrorism.
RIES: Whether it's al Qaeda or ISIS or other foreign terrorist groups, it's not as if their desire to kill Americans and destroy America stops. And given the fall of Afghanistan this past fall, the reemergence of al Qaeda and ISIS, We have very real threats from foreign terrorist groups.
The FBI and the Department of Justice both have the ability to investigate domestic terrorism already. And the DOJ has numerous attorneys with expertise in investigating and prosecuting both international and domestic terrorism. But the new unit Olsen announced last month will redirect some of those attorneys to focus exclusively on domestic terrorism.
Patrick Eddington says this renewed push to ferret out potential threats is something all Americans need to be worried about.
EDDINGTON: A lot of people think, Well, I'm not doing anything. So the government, you know, doesn't doesn't, if the government is snooping on me, or if they're intercepting my phone calls, I don't have anything to hide. And the point, and I just can't emphasize this strongly enough, it doesn't matter whether you, the person with a cell phone thinks that you have nothing to hide. All it matters is whether some FBI agent decides that you've done something, or that you may do something, and then seeks to have you prosecuted. That's what we have to worry about.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: bringing back the old normal.
COVID cases have plummeted in recent weeks, following a surge in the prior two months.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Four weeks ago, U.S. health officials recorded about 800,000 cases a day. On Monday, that number was just over 150,000. Hospitalizations have fallen as well, by nearly half from the peak one month ago.
Things are looking so good that health officials—even in states with the strictest pandemic measures—are slowly moving toward a return to normal.
REICHARD: Joining us now to talk about what could be next is Zachary Jenkins. He’s a pharmacist who specializes in infectious diseases. He’s also a professor at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. Good morning, Zach!
ZACH JENKINS, GUEST: Good morning.
REICHARD: One upside of the highly infectious omicron variant was that so many people got it and recovered. Does that mean we now have what amounts to herd immunity? And what does that mean for our collective immune response to future variants?
JENKINS: So there are a few things to consider. One great thing about Omicron is it's almost the great equalizer when you compare it to the previous variants in that it spreads so fast, so rapidly, so profusely, that it's exposed a lot of individuals. Now, the nice thing about it is it's actually caused less severe disease for at least most people. So much so that it's been referred to as the omi-cold by some individuals. So with that, I think what we're seeing is people acquire immunity through natural exposure, which is something that would normally happen in the setting of an infection. And some studies that have been done so far have demonstrated that that immunity will last probably somewhere around four months, maybe a little bit longer as far as just preventing getting infected again. Now, as our cases are dropping down, one thing to kind of consider is we're moving out of the seasonal era of being kind of locked inside because of the coldness, because of the weather. So you will probably see cases go down as a result of that. By this fall, though, what we're expecting is more than likely, this is probably going to look a little bit more like a seasonal cold virus that we would typically have. Like other coronaviruses. The thing we can't say is whether or not this immunity is going to last for an extended period of time. The antibodies, we know, will decrease. There'll be some that's leftover for you know, up to a couple years most likely. But long term immunity and severe disease is what we really care about and this far we can say it's persisting, whether you've acquired immunity through vaccination or through exposure past, you know, our prior couple of years here of data, we don't really have enough to say how long that will last.
REICHARD: Well you know with every new variant that came along, it was less virulent. Do you think that’s a pattern we’ll continue to see or might we get another more severe variant like Delta was?
JENKINS: So, Delta was, for sure, more infectious as far as being more transmissible and the same is true for Omicron. Delta also tended to cause more severe disease. Now, Omicron, the big difference here is it's a lot more similar to a cold virus. If we're lucky, what we'll see is more variants that are similar to this in the future, where you'll have these characteristics of the ancestor being passed on and on and on, to the point where this actually lessens in severity. Now, the nice thing on top of that is we hope people will have some exposure and some baseline protection against that. So you should see less severe disease, hopefully, from the virus mutating and then also through previous exposure.
REICHARD: Let’s talk about testing now. Mask mandates and other pandemic-era restrictions are going away. So do you think we’re near a time when people won’t need to get tested for COVID every time they have symptoms, because it’s going to be more like the flu and not as big of a deal?
JENKINS: It's a little hard to say. I think, you know, our experience in the United States is we were hit hard, we were hit fast, and then the other thing to consider is that we've had a lot of testing capabilities and things on our side, but there are other parts of the world that have not necessarily had that. So until a large portion of the world is exposed, what we're going to see are more of these variants that spin out. So the thing we have to consider is we could see something more serious in the long run. Can’t predict that. Again, I think the trajectory right now is aiming towards less severe. But if we happen to have something that is more significant in our future, you may see some of those things pop back in place. With that said, at the current rate things are going, it looks like we'll be moving away from at least doing this routinely in all settings.
REICHARD: Hm, well that’s good news. I want to move on to the shots now: The current protocol for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines calls for two doses and a booster. Might these shots turn into an annual routine, like the flu shot?
JENKINS: That's a great question. And so there's a lot of variables here and there's a lot of nuance based on the evidence that we have. And that's not necessarily reflected in policy right now. To give you an example of what I mean, if someone's been previously infected, or maybe were infected after they had a shot, they seem to actually have some of the best, most robust immunity out of everyone—whether you had someone that was compared to just naturally exposed and infected, or some of those vaccinated. So what does that mean as far as future shots? That's something we don't know. We also know spacing shots apart farther than what these things were initially approved for, seems to result in less potential for adverse effects, and also seems to have a better immune response that it generates. So what would that mean, as we kind of look forward? The CEO of Maderna, as an example, has been on record stating that he doesn't expect there to be more “boosters” that are necessarily required. And Israeli data tends to reflect that they tried extra boosters, didn't seem to have much of an effect. But as this thing tends to remain with us—and it seems like it's going to for some time—people's immunity will wane, we're going to see more infection again, hopefully, we'll see less severe disease, I think that's probably what we're going to see. But they're looking at combining this with the flu shot. So it's a single shot that you would typically already get if you're in an at risk population. So it's less of a burden. So I think there's going to be that trend towards an annual shot. But some of the debate right now is whether it needs to be annual, biannual, every five years, there's a lot of arguments going on in the scientific space on that subject.
REICHARD: A lot of unknowns still. Zach Jenkins is a pharmacist and pharmacology professor at Cedarville University, a Christian college in Cedarville, Ohio. Zach, thanks so much for joining us today!
JENKINS: Alright, thank you.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: You remember that old saying, “idle hands make for mischief?” Well, that may apply to this story out of a Russian art gallery.
Back in December, a security guard seemingly got a bit bored standing around the artwork in the Boris Yeltsin Center, including the 1930s Soviet-era painting by Anna Leporskaya.
The painting is of three torsos and heads with hair but without facial features. It’s titled “Three Figures.”
He says children asked him to fill in some missing parts. So he picked up an ink pen and drew in some eyeballs.
Visitors alerted staff.
The guard has since been fired and he admitted to not understanding the reality of the situation, thinking it was a child’s drawing.
The good news is the million-dollar painting is being restored and will soon be back on display. Once again without the eyeballs.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. So Mary, let me ask you something. When you hear about rap music, what comes to mind?
REICHARD: Street cred, maybe? Raw, angry emotions.
BROWN: Well, I suppose a lot of people think that. But I know a rapper who doesn’t fit that at all. In fact, he doesn’t really place himself in any particular category or under any labels. And he is decidedly not worried about being politically correct!
ZUBY: I am a black, British, Nigerian, male, uh rapper. I’m not the only person who shares those labels.
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: But unlike Zuby, few 35-year-olds can say they’ve visited nearly 40 countries without ever feeling like a fish out of water.
ZUBY: Whether I’m in the UK, USA or the Middle East or Nigeria or Eastern Europe. I feel like I fit in everywhere. I’ve been to places like Poland and Serbia and Estonia and certainly I’m not seeing a lot of people who visually look like me, but because I’ve grown up surrounded by all types of people, I feel comfortable wherever.
Born Nzube Udezue—Zuby for short—he spent the first year of his life in England. In the late 80’s his father, a doctor, and his mother, a journalist, relocated to Saudi Arabia for work.
ZUBY: Where I grew up it was primarily an expat community. So a lot of people from the USA, Canada, UK, other Arab countries, Europe, Asia all over the world.
The youngest of five, Zuby says his Nigerian-born parents were Christians in the predominantly Islamic country.
ZUBY: Going to church there was a little bit different because there are no church buildings per se, but there was a church community. We used to do church in the local theater or some time in the school gymnasium. So yeah, we were raised in the faith.. Raised… I was going to say in Sunday school but it’s actually Friday school because the weekend there is Thursday and Friday, not Saturday and Sunday.
When Zuby turned 11 years old, he was sent to an international boarding school back in England. The transition was difficult.
ZUBY: When I was in Saudi, I was primarily learning American history and then I go to the UK and suddenly it’s about kings and queens, the Battle of Hastings and the Battle of Waterloo and all this stuff, so that was quite a shift.
And the change wasn’t just academics. As a young athlete, Zuby went from playing baseball and soccer to learning the game of Rugby. He says he never liked Cricket. But the biggest challenge was what he calls mindless conformity.
ZUBY: There were quite a lot of rules. For example, the first five minutes and the last five minutes of every meal had to be in silence. I can’t tell you why, just because that’s the rule. I have no problem with rules that make sense. If you have a rule and I ask you why the rule exists and you say it’s because it’s the rule. It’s a stupid rule.
At the age of 16 the opinionated and bright Zuby was accepted into Oxford University to study computer science.
ZUBY: And to get into Oxford I did you need three A’s. And I got four A’s so I aced everything. And then my first exam I ever did in Oxford, I got 14 percent. So uh… yeah, that was quite sobering. (laughter) Yo, I did my best - it was just hard. It was just really, really hard. But also, I knew that, within six months I knew this was not what I was going to spend my life doing. I’m going to get this degree, I’m not gonna quit, I’m not gonna drop out. I’m gonna get this degree, I’m gonna to get it done, but my future is not being a computer programmer or a software engineer.
While at university Zuby developed a love for hip-hop music. Before he graduated, the 20-year-old accepted a job at a management consulting firm in London. But he didn’t start work right away.
ZUBY: I released my second album, which was called The Unknown Celebrity. I did some performances around the UK. I was traveling and selling my CDs and promoting my music.
While still making beats, he began his consulting job in 2008. He juggled both for the next three years.
ZUBY: Then in November 2011 I took the plunge. I took the leap. I left my job. I resigned and I’ve been self-employed since November 2011 - over 10 years now.
Known as “the rapper with a difference,” Zuby’s lyrics are clean, positive and inspirational.
But the bald, bearded and buff Zuby rejects categories because he says it limits his reach.
ZUBY: If you market yourself as a Christian rapper or Christian musician, you can often end up preaching to the choir. Because someone who is not a Christian, whether they’re of a different faith, or they’re atheist, or they’re agnostic or anything else, they’ll just see the label and say oh, that’s not for me. I run a black-owned business. Right? (laughter) But I’ve never marketed myself that way because my stuff is for everybody. Everyone can see what I look like. And I’m happy to talk about who I am and everything.
Traveling solo internationally since he was a pre-teen, Zuby says there are two ways someone with his background can look at the world.
ZUBY: Number one is that I don’t really fit in anywhere or I fit in everywhere.
He says he wants to help others find that space.
ZUBY: My kind of north star goal is to have a significant, positive impact on over ten million people. I know God has given me a unique set of talents and a unique background and abilities. I'm very aware that not everyone has these opportunities. Given that I do, that’s also why I had to leave my job. I don’t want to die anytime soon, but when I do I want people to say, man that guy made a really positive impact. So that’s my goal.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Here’s commentator Cal Thomas on what might be the biggest scandal in American political history.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: The term “dirty tricks” was used to describe the tactics operatives within the Nixon administration used to smear the reputations of opponents and undermine the appeal of certain politicians. Fifty years ago, these dirty tricks included a false allegation that Democratic Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson had fathered an illegitimate child with a 17-year-old girl. They also included the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., when Nixon aides and operatives attempted to find information to use against his perceived “enemies.”
Dirty tricks are not to be confused with negative campaigning. That at least has some component of truth. But a filing by special counsel John Durham that alleges Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign paid a technology company to “infiltrate” Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and later his presidential office, goes beyond dirty tricks. I’d call it illegal.
In last week’s court filing, Durham alleges the purpose behind Russian “collusion” allegations was to establish a “narrative” between Trump and Russia. Trump denied it at the time and many times since, including during an interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes. Stahl said there was “no evidence” for Trump’s claim that he was being set up. Trump said there was and that her job was to investigate and find it. Now that there is at least a credible allegation, will Stahl deliver a correction? Not likely. And neither is it likely other major media, which flogged the Russian collusion story, will acknowledge error. These include The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, as well as numerous liberal websites. They seem to have their own narrative based on a visceral hatred of Donald Trump.
Consider this: Donald Trump was being effectively slandered as a Russian agent, or minimally a Russian asset.
The Times and Washington Post won Pulitzer Prizes for basically repeating Democrat talking points. The prizes should be returned and the newspapers penalized by not allowing them to apply for another one for at least 10 years.
Congressman Adam Schiff did not cover himself in glory when he chaired a House panel investigation into all things Trump and repeatedly accused Trump of violating laws. Don’t expect an apology from him, either. And then there were the four FISA warrants obtained because of allegations by then-FBI Director James Comey and others that proved to be untrue. The Justice Department later admitted that two of the warrants lacked probable cause and said information from all four warrants would not be used.
Durham has only scraped the surface of what could, if proven, be the biggest scandal in American political history. That’s saying something, given past political behavior by members of both parties.
I’m Cal Thomas.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Tomorrow John Stonestreet joins us once again for Culture Friday.
And, the new action-adventure film, Uncharted.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
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