The World and Everything in It - February 24, 2022
Ukrainian Christians prepare for a possible Russian invasion; the military moves Vladimir Putin might make; and a special athletic event in Australia for people with disabilities. Plus: commentary from Cal Thomas, and the Thursday morning news.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Ukrainians are preparing for a Russian invasion. We’ll hear from Christians who are seizing the opportunity to share the gospel in a time of fear and uncertainty.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And we’ll talk military strategy. What is Vladimir Putin’s next move?
Plus encouraging people with disabilities.
And the blessing of friendship that crosses the political aisle.
BROWN: It’s Thursday, February 24th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
BUTLER: And I’m Paul Butler. Good morning!
BROWN: Time for news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Ukraine declares state of emergency » Ukraine is under attack. Siren’s heard there in the capital city of Kiev … where witnesses downtown described hearing explosions in the distance. Witnesses in multiple other cities reported the same.
Some reports state that the explosions they heard … were Russian missile strikes on airfields and military targets.
And CNN reports that Russian ground troops were seen entering the country from Belarus on Ukraine’s northern border.
Just minutes before explosions began shaking the ground …
PUTIN: (in Russian)
Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the airwaves announcing military action in Ukraine.
He justified it by spinning tales of neo-nazis in control of Ukraine. He also claimed that Russia needed to come to the aid of Russian speaking residents who are being persecuted in the country … though there is zero evidence of that.
A short time later, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council …
GREENFIELD: Russia’s attack on Ukraine is tantamount to an attack on the UN and every member state in the chamber tonight. The Security Council is charged with adjudicating threats to peace and security.
Putin in his television address also threatened any country that might try to interfere with his invasion of Ukraine … even making reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
Ukraine in response has declared martial law. Outbound lanes of highways heading out of Kiev were jammed this morning … while inbound lanes were nearly empty.
White House vows to battle rising energy costs amid Ukraine crisis » The United States and its allies are expected to roll out heavier sanctions on Russia in the hours ahead.
But the entire world could pay a price for Moscow’s actions in the form of higher energy costs.
Russia is a major producer of both oil and natural gas. And Russia’s attack has already sent oil prices higher.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden will do all he can.
PSAKI: And that means engaging closely with partners around the world. It means considering a range of options that are all on the table to reduce the impact on the oil markets.
But GOP Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson charged that the president’s energy policies have made America more vulnerable to global shifts in supply.
JOHNSON: Biden administration, Democrat policies; they are what’s costing Americans and American consumers dearly.
Many Republicans say Biden’s policies have weakened domestic energy output. And they say Biden played a role in making Europe more dependent on Russian energy by waiving sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project last year.
The United States and Germany halted that project this week in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Protest convoys flock to D.C. » Truck drivers and other demonstrators are en route to Washington for what they’re calling “The People’s Convoy.” Inspired by recent demonstrations in Canada, protesters are trekking to the capital to speak out against mask and vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.
About two-dozen trucks hit the road for the first leg of the convoy from California on Wednesday. An estimated 1,000 trucks reportedly planned to join them along the way from different parts of the country.
Larry Loshiavo is part of a convoy out of Pennsylvania.
LOSHIAVO: Enough is enough. We have to take our rights back. We’ve got to maintain our freedom.
Some protesters have already arrived in Washington. Others aim to get there in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
The Pentagon approved deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to help with traffic control during demonstrations. Officials say The troops will not take part in law enforcement or domestic surveillance.
U.S. vaccination drive is bottoming out as omicron subsides » The COVID-19 vaccination drive in the United States is grinding to a halt as demand all but collapses in parts of the country. The average number of Americans getting their first shot is down to about 90,000 a day. That is the lowest number since the first few days of the U.S. vaccination campaign in December 2020.
About 76 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one shot and less than 65 percent are fully vaccinated.
Dr. Scott Harris with the Alabama Department of Public Health said many health officials thought that number would be higher by now.
HARRIS: We thought that by the middle of 2021, everyone would be vaccinated. We did not at all anticipate the degree to which people were resistant to being vaccinated.
More Americans began losing interest in COVID-19 vaccines when it became clear that the omicron variant caused less severe illness in most people than prior strains.
And demand is falling faster now that the omicron wave is subsiding.
A rolling 3-day average has new U.S. cases at their lowest level since July, now about 54,000 per day.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Christians in Ukraine prepare for a possible invasion.
Plus, loving our ideological enemies.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Thursday the 24th of February, 2022.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. First up: preparing for war.
For weeks, we’ve heard warnings that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. In preparation, Western leaders have moved troops to nearby NATO countries and made contingencies for energy supply interruptions.
BROWN: But how are Ukrainians managing the situation? WORLD’s European correspondent, Jenny Lind Schmitt, talked to Christian leaders in Ukraine to find out.
PUTIN: [SPEECH IN RUSSIAN]
JENNY LIND SCHMITT, CORRESPONDENT: Monday night Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a long, rambling televised speech, likely intended to shore up Russian support for an invasion of Ukraine. Putin claims the two nations are inextricably joined by culture and history.
Zschech: The Ukrainians are saying yes, but you annihilated our people on multiple times. You keep invading us. We have different values from you.
Wayne Zschech leads Operation Mobilization Ukraine. It’s an evangelization and church planting ministry. He’s based in a town an hour south of Kyiv.
Zschech says Russia’s invasions in 2014 caused a shift in the country, and ironically helped strengthen a Ukrainian identity that is anti-Putin and anti-Russian.
Zschech: So here we have been in this constant simmering for eight years. And so we get every year there's pressure put on us. They either turn the gas off, they threaten to turn the gas off. They put their military there on the borders. Well, Ukraine has been prepared through this crucible of constant pressure that it's much stronger than people think.
Putin’s recognition of the separatist regions ups the ante of pressure, but it’s only more of what Ukrainians have been dealing with the past eight years.
While the West wrings its hands over a possible invasion, Zschech says life in Ukraine continues as usual. Restaurants are open, shops are stocked, and he sees no evidence of panic buying. Still, some people are making cautious preparations. His ministry has sent short term missionaries home, and bought extra fuel and food for refugees coming from the east. His church has experience: It took care of internal refugees displaced in 2014 by the fighting in Crimea and the Donbas.
Zschech doesn’t think his own family is in danger, but he knows it’s always a possibility.
Zschech: We have multiple contingency plans, so the goal is to stay with the people as long as we can. But if it means that we ourselves become refugees, then it means that we should not not be here. If we are not helping in the equation, then then it's not the place for us to be.
Andre Barkov is director of Hope International for Ukraine, a Christian economic ministry with headquarters in Kyiv. He is also more concerned about his staff and clients in the eastern part of the country. They haven’t begun evacuating yet, but plans are in place. And he’s purchased satellite phones to keep in touch with co-workers closer to the fighting line.
Barkov: So that's why we have prepared a pretty robust evacuation plan for our folks in the East, including their family members and pretty much everybody.
Like Zschech, Barkov seems concerned about the current conflict, but remarkably unphased. He says that’s because Ukraine has lived under Vladimir Putin’s shadow for the past eight years.
Barkov: We got used to living next door to a pyscho, you see. So our minds are set on crisis management.
Both Barkov and Zschech have contingency plans for their ministries that include sending people to Lviv, a western city an hour from the Polish border. That’s where the U.S. State Department recently relocated the American embassy.
Yaroslav Pyzh is president of the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary in Lviv. It trains pastors from all over Ukraine and surrounding countries. Normally, students spend one week in in-person classes, and the next five weeks back in their home churches. But now, some of those seminary students’ homes are in danger zones.
Pyzh: We have two students that are living one mile away from a separation line. They're planting churches there. They called us and talked to us about moving their wives and children away from there because things are really bad. They sent a couple of videos of shelling and all that stuff.
The seminary is actively planning to help those students and others if they become refugees. It has set up an emergency fund with donors and purchased 5 tons of fuel, food, and first aid supplies for six months. With arrangements with local hostels, the seminary can house 80 people, and more in seminary classrooms if that becomes necessary.
Pyzh: We can turn all our classrooms into sleeping quarters and stuff like that. It's not going to be comfortable, but you know, it's going to be roof on the head and warm in the room.
Pyzh said the seminary is first called to help its own students and graduates, but because of its alumni network, it’s setting up a system to connect people in need with churches and families that can house them throughout western Ukraine and Poland.
He says Christians elsewhere should reach out to their friends in Ukraine to help them know they’re not alone. He also asks believers to pray for spiritual strength for their Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The weight of living with the constant specter of war is taking a toll. A friend was told this week to send his daughter to daycare wearing a badge with her name, phone number, and blood type.
Pyzh: And so the parents, when they received that note from daycare, they were scared to death. You know, name and phone numbers, OK, but blood type, it's like, okay, we're talking about something really, really serious here.
Barkov says it’s important Westerners understand that this conflict is not just about Ukraine, but for the future of the rest of Europe. Putin wants to return Russia’s influence to that of Soviet Union days. If Ukraine falls, he’ll threaten to invade the Baltic countries next. And wherever Russia has power, it’s likely to severely restrict Christian churches and ministries.
Barkov: They are in fact an extremely anti Christian culture. And so if Russia had under control, you know that Eastern Europe, we could see that, you know, Christianity will be in a dire strait.
In spite of the bleak situation, all three leaders say this time offers a remarkable opportunity for the church. Zschech says the conflict that began in 2014 helped start the Christian chaplaincy movement that has been serving the army in the east. All along the 450 km front line, believers have planted churches.
Zschech: We have this amazing privilege right now that the Christians are accepted and are as active, like, we get the chance to be as active as absolutely possible and we get to see God work doing the miracles when miracles need to happen. Read your Bible. It's when a miracle needs to happen. Ok, we're pretty well at that place. Ok, so God, what is it? You're calling me to do to minister to these people so that you can, through our weakness, show yourself to be strong and bring the truth of that gospel.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Lind Schmitt.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: examining the Ukraine crisis from a military perspective.
What might a full-scale Russian invasion look like? And how much can the Ukrainian military, with Western support, really do to stand up to Russia?
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Here to help us answer those questions and others is retired Army Special Forces officer, Col. Steve Bucci. He is a former top Pentagon official and now a visiting fellow with the Heritage Foundation. Colonel, good morning!
STEVE BUCCI, GUEST: Good morning. Thank you for having me.
BROWN: Thank you. Let’s say Russian forces start rolling into the capital city of Kyiv, what would that look like exactly? Describe that for us. Put us on the ground there and tell us what people on the streets of Kyiv might see if and when the Russian military moves in.
BUCCI: Well, the first thing is that the Russian doctrine, they don't like to fight in urban areas. They tend to bypass urban areas and sort of surround them. And then as we refer to it – reduce them either by just keeping supplies out and getting them to give up or as the Russians did in Chechnya, where they surrounded the capital city of Grozny there, and they've literally leveled the city. They just bombed it, shot artillery at it, shot rockets at it until the the entire city was a gigantic rubble pile. Nobody wants to see him do that to Kyiv. It's an enormous modern city. And that kind of barbaric methodology, we just hope that that's not on Putin's menu right now. So they're probably going to try and surround it and squeeze them and get them to comply, to give up, and admit that they can be a part of Russia. The taste for that is not high in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people have shown a great explosion of nationalist fervor in the face of this Russian aggression. So I don't think they're going to give up. The Russians will have the option of going into the city to try and ferret out any resistance there or go to this other methodology where they just start bombing everybody. It remains to be seen, but if you get stuck in Kyiv after the Russian surround it, it's not going to be a very positive environment.
BROWN: If you were advising Ukrainian military commanders right now, what would you tell them to do?
BUCCI: Well, looking at what they've already set up, I would say, yes, go for that really hard punch in the nose initial defense. Try and convey to the Russians that this is a bad idea by really making them pay a price for this attack. Try and use the terrain as much as you can to cause the Russians to stay on the roads and out of the fields, which are still kind of soft, in an effort to make them more vulnerable to the anti-tank rockets that they have. But be ready at a quick turn to go from that kind of defense to fading into the countryside as guerrillas to, again, if you can't stop the big mechanized formations, if you switch over to that guerrilla methodology, which Ukraine has done during World War II and other times, you can, again, up the cost to the Russian military in ways that hopefully will deter Putin and his ruling group from continuing this this unwise adventure. So two steps: defend hard and fast, but then be ready to switch over to guerrilla warfare. If you cannot stop the mechanized units moving forward, then basically fall on their back, jump on their supply lines, their command and control nodes that are behind the frontline troops, and really make them pay dearly for being inside Ukraine.
BROWN: Let’s talk now about involvement from the West. What kinds of equipment and supplies has the West provided?
BUCCI: Well, if you recall, back in 2014, President Obama refused to send any lethal aid to Ukraine. They sent a lot of non lethal aid, MREs, blankets, that kind of stuff, even some helmets, but nothing that went bang. That has changed. President Trump sent them a bunch of lethal aid and fortunately, President Biden has now continued that policy. We've sent them javelin missiles, which are shoulder-fired anti-tank missile. One rocket can destroy a tank, even the best Russian tanks that they have. We've also arranged for them to get Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, another shoulder-fired weapon that can take down an aircraft, either a helicopter or an airplane. And other NATO members have also provided similar weapons systems to them.
So, they're still not a match, you know, tank for tank, artillery piece for artillery piece to the Russians, but they're much more capable than they were in 2014. And so they're gonna cause the Russians to bleed when they do this. Will it be enough? Probably not all by themselves to stop them. The Ukrainians do not have much air power. If they really get into this kind of pitched fight, somebody on the West is going to have to provide them some close air support. I think we'll also be providing them a lot of intelligence and other logistical support, ammunition, refitting, that sort of thing. But it's tough because you're talking about big heavy pieces of equipment. For us to get that kind of stuff to them in the midst of an attack is almost a bridge too far. It takes time to move big heavy pieces of equipment, definitely from America to Ukraine, but even from other parts of Europe to Ukraine. That's a tough lift—literally and figuratively—to do.
BROWN: Okay, Steve Bucci has been our guest today. Colonel, thank you so much!
BUCCI: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: The man of steel can withstand just about anything thrown at him, but what about his suit?
Well a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a material that is superhero worthy. It’s twice as strong as steel and one-sixth as bulky!
It can conduct electricity and block gas.
It also takes a lot less energy to produce than steel. The process is actually very similar to the process of making plastic. And that’s because it is plastic.
But it’s not just any plastic. Researchers are calling the two dimensional polymer 2DPA-1. MIT chemical engineering professor Michael Strano said it’s the chemical cousin of Kevlar, the substance used in bulletproof vests.
Researchers say it could eventually be used to make most anything stronger—from the buildings we live and work in, to our electronic devices, so protecting the world and everything in it.
MYRNA BROWN: Now that is super.
BUTLER: It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: overcoming challenges.
The World Health Organization estimates there are at least 400-million people in the world living with severe physical disabilities—making some of the most basic daily activities difficult. Many have never enjoyed some of the most common leisure activities like riding a bike or playing team sports.
BROWN: WORLD correspondent Amy Lewis lives in Australia with her family. She recently spent an afternoon with a group of volunteers there who are working to bring sports and exercise to those limited by disability.
AUDIO: [SOCCER SOUND]
AMY LEWIS, REPORTER: The basketball court at Barwon Valley Activity Centre has been converted into an indoor soccer field. A goal sits on the floor at one end of the court. Folding chairs for spectators line a short wall topped with a mesh curtain. This isn’t your typical indoor soccer game. The blow-up soccer ball is three times bigger than a usual soccer ball. And all the soccer players are in wheelchairs. Across the gym an inflatable archery range provides a constant hum.
CAROLINE MATHIESON: You have to wheel your arms forwards and then pass the ball to your teammate and try to get it down to the goal…
Caroline Mathieson is one of about two dozen people attending a sports day for people with disabilities. She doesn’t usually use a wheelchair. She can walk and run. So can many of the people playing wheelchair soccer.
AUDIO: [INSTRUCTIONS FOR OPERATING A WHEELCHAIR]
So why are they all in wheelchairs? The athletes here today all live with mental or physical challenges. This game provides an opportunity to excel for the ones who are always in a wheelchair. The usually mobile ones still have to figure out how to make the chair go.
AUDIO: [SOCCER SOUND]
The sports day organizers from Solve Disability Solutions hope everyone finds an activity they enjoy doing. Catalina Gonzalez is the Zumba instructor:
GONZALEZ: The important part is to be having fun, sharing with other people, and also just moving. Any kind of moving is better than no moving.
A woman with Down syndrome rides a red three-wheeled bike near the soccer court. Her bike is one of a dozen people can try out today.
SHARPE: My favorite thing is definitely the instant happiness or joy that you see from someone…
Whitney Sharpe oversees the bike booth. She is an occupational therapist. Her team of volunteers includes former engineers and bike mechanics. Together they modify bike pedals, wheels, handlebars, brakes—whatever’s necessary to make bike riding a reality for everyone.
SHARPE: Like a lot of people who don’t really think that they can ride, and you make a couple of little adjustments, and by the end their confidence has just risen so much, and by the end they’re just flying around…
The volunteers customize a whole lot more than bicycles to help people succeed.
SHARPE: We did a chin-mounted paintbrush for someone so that she could use her head to paint.
Besides modified bikes and soccer and wheelchair rugby, badminton is popular today. Regular badminton. The plastic birdie moves slow enough that even someone in a wheelchair can get into position in time to return it.
Organizers encourage everyone here, regardless of ability, to try a new activity.
CARER: We’re gonna go dance in a few minutes. Do you want to play doubles? Doubles? Yeah.
Zumba music competes with the whine of the archery range’s air blower. The constant air keeps four balls hovering over cones—until a speeding foam-tipped arrow knocks them off.
Sam Nolan has already taken one turn. The arrows slide through a guide in the bow. It’s easier to operate and easier to hit the colorful balls.
SAM NOLAN: I’ve had a go at archery. Yeah. You have to hit the archery, hit the archery, and then you have to hit the balls off. (Were you successful?) Yes. (How many did you hit?) Six…
Which is an exaggeration. His helper corrects him.
NOLAN: ...Two, two, two.
He’s tried archery before at an amusement park with limited success.
NOLAN: Point arrows like Robin Hood, yeah, boys.
Seventy-two year-old Dennis Richmond also tries archery. Richmond is one of the few here who wasn’t born with his disability.
RICHMOND: I was thrown out of a vehicle chasing a fox.
The resulting blood clot on his spinal cord developed into an abscess and rendered him an incomplete paraplegic at age 17. In spite of his weakened legs and back, Richmond spent five decades raising sheep and classing wool in the sheep sheds. That meant standing for up to 10 hours a day.
RICHMOND: I always used to try to do more than normal people to prove to myself and to them. ‘Cause I would work for other people sometimes, and they probably thought when they saw me come in the gate that this guy’s going to be a liability. But I would finish up doing more than the so-called normal people.
In the last 10 years, Richmond has had more back surgery. His body is wearing out. He spends most of his days in a wheelchair now.
RICHMOND: It is frustrating sometimes. So you can’t just get out of the car, walk to the shop, get what you want. You have to think, will I bother or will I get someone else to do it, you know…
That doesn’t stop him from challenging himself. It’s why he’s here trying archery and other sports.
Caroline Mathieson tells what she likes best so far.
CAROLINE MATHIESON: I like the wheelchair rugby. (Why?) It was hard! Definitely hard on the arms…Yeah, it was a challenge. (What did you like about a challenge?) Learning something new.
Not too much later, she was on the court again, practicing her newfound skill of maneuvering a wheelchair and a giant soccer ball.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Amy Lewis in Geelong, Australia.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 24th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Democratic political analyst Bob Beckel died Monday. He was 73 years old. Commentator Cal Thomas worked with Beckel for years and has this remembrance.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Usually my commentaries have to do with politics and worldly events. Not today. I have lost my best friend. Bob Beckel was an original co-host of “The Five” on Fox News and my writing partner for 10 years for the Common Ground column in USA Today.
Bob had a difficult, but productive life. His parents were alcoholics and he says his father regularly beat him. His ironically titled memoir I Should Be Dead is a highly readable work about overcoming addiction and his own alcoholism and finding Christ as his savior.
In 2004, Bob was among the speakers at the media dinner I have hosted for many years in Washington. It was the first time he spoke of the emptiness that had been in his life and how Jesus Christ—yes he named Him—had filled that hole, forgiven his sins, and saved him.
Bob and I traveled the country doing our Common Ground program. It was quite a contrast to the bitterness and failure that characterizes Washington. When you get to know someone of another political persuasion and listen to their life experiences, you understand them better and they understand you better. Instead, too many of us are in our ideological bunkers launching rhetorical mortars at each other.
Politics has always been rough and tumble. It should be more about winning the battle of ideas rather than demeaning and diminishing one’s political opponent, which unfortunately is the dominant theme today.
When I posted on social media about our relationship and Bob’s conversion, someone wrote that Democrats don’t go to heaven. That was just one person, but I suspect there are others who feel that way. All that matters—and what Bob believed—is that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Bob Beckel was more than a brother to me. We shall meet again in glory and perfection.
I’m Cal Thomas.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Tomorrow: Culture Friday. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new religious freedom case from Colorado—what’s different about this one? We’ll talk about it with John Stonestreet.
And, we’ll review a new film about Anne Frank.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
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