The World and Everything in It: February 8, 2024
The United States responds to attacks from Iran-backed militias, a Tennessee court finds six pro-life activists guilty of conspiracy and violating federal law, and a homeschool robotics team. Plus, Cal Thomas on the Senate’s border bill and the Thursday morning news
PREROLL: The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like us. Hey, I'm Steven Huebscher. I live in San Diego, California with my wife and kids. But today I'm recording this pre roll in the Philippines where we've stopped for a couple of days on our deployment in the Western Pacific. Hope you enjoy today's program.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! Militias backed by Iran keep attacking U.S. operations in the Middle East. What’ll it take to deter them?
AUDIO: This is the start of our response, and there will be additional actions taken to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Also, a discouraging jury verdict for pro-life advocates in Tennessee. And, a homeschool robotics team learns more than you might think:
AUDIO: They’re learning life skills that they can apply to the real workplace.
And WORLD commentator Cal Thomas on why the Senate's doomed border security bill encouraged illegal immigration.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, February 8th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!
REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: U.S. airstrike in Iraq » A U.S. drone strike in Baghdad Wednesday took out several members of the Iran-backed militia blamed for the deaths of three US soldiers last month.
SOUND: [Iraq aftermath]
Video footage showed a car engulfed in flames on a city street. Inside were three members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia.
Jonathan Schanzer with Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a former U.S. government terrorism analyst. He told WORLD, the strike was appropriate, and if anything overdue.
SCHANZER: This kind of response will over time, when there are enough of them, deter the Islamic republic from attacking the United States or our allies directly or by proxy.
One of those killed was reportedly identified by a local official as Wissam Mohammed “Abu Bakr” al-Saadi, the commander of the terrorist group’s Syrian operations.
Blinken - Israel » Meantime, in Tel Aviv …
BLINKEN: Good evening.
U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken addressed reporters after Israel soundly rejected a new cease-fire plan.
Negotiators from the US, Qatar and Egypt brought a proposal to Hamas. And Blinken then took the terror group’s response to Israel.
The arrangement would have ultimately allowed Hamas to remain in command of the Gaza Strip, which Israel says is out of the question.
BLINKEN: While there are some clear non-starters in Hamas’ response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached.
He said negotiators will work “relentlessly until they get there.”
Blinken also rebuked Israel over civilian deaths in Gaza amid the war.
BLINKEN: Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on October 7th. The hostages have been dehumanized every day since. But that cannot be a license to dehumanize others.
The secretary spoke of the suffering of innocent people in Gaza.
Israel insists it’s doing all it can to minimize civilian casualties noting that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.
Melei in Israel » Blinken was not the only world leader to visit Israel on Wednesday.
NETANYAHU: Welcome to Jerusalem. Welcome, friend.
MILEI: Gracis – Much gracias.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heard there greeting Argentina’s president, Javier Melei.
His visit comes as Argentina, in a highly symbolic gesture … is relocating its Israeli Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem:
NETANYAHU: We are delighted with your decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Argentina joins a short list of countries with diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, including the United States.
Border bill falls short in Senate » The Senate’s border bill may not be dead on arrival in the House after all but only because it will most likely never arrive in the House.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer brought the bill to the floor, but
AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 49. The nays are 50. The motion is not agreed to.
60 “yes” votes were needed to avoid a filibuster.
Most GOP lawmakers say the bill would not fix the border crisis and might even make it worse.
Democrats accused Republicans of bowing to Donald Trump saying he doesn’t want the problem fixed yet, because it’s a winning political issue for him.
Ukraine funding » The bill’s failure leaves support for Ukraine in limbo as the bill included Ukraine funding.
KIRBY: Battlefield commanders are making some really tough decisions right now.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby made an urgent appeal on Wednesday.
KIRBY: We know that in some units, they are marshaling their ammunition very, very closely because they’re beginning to get worried about running out.
GOP lawmakers had insisted on tackling the border crisis before —or at the same time as— funding more aid to Kyiv. But some now appear open to the idea of a standalone bill to support both Ukraine and Israel.
Pakistan bombings » Families are mourning in Pakistan after a pair of bombings that killed at least 28 people ahead of today’s parliamentary election. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN: ISIS militants claimed responsibility for the deadly bombings in southwestern Pakistan.
The attacks targeted two political offices in the province of Balochistan.
HAMIDULLAH: [Speaking Urdu]
Local leader of the Islam party Molvi Hamidullah says his party will continue its election campaign despite the attack.
Thousands of police and security officers have been deployed across the country to safeguard polling locations.
For WORLD, I'm Kristen Flavin.
I'm Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: How Iran’s proxy groups work. Plus, homeschoolers building robots.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 8th of February, 2024. Thanks for listening to WORLD Radio. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
First up on The World and Everything in It: Iran’s proxy war against America.
As you just heard, yesterday the U.S. targeted the leader of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq. This is the latest in a series of strikes following a militia drone attack that killed three American service members stationed in Jordan.
REICHARD: U.S. forces struck over 80 targets in Syria and Iraq last weekend. Here’s Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder on Monday. You’ll hear him refer to IRGC, the initialism for the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps.
PAT RYDER: This is the start of our response, and there will be additional actions taken to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces.
BROWN: How many strikes will it take to deter Iran and its proxies to stop attacking U.S. forces?
Joining us now is Joe Truzman. He’s a senior research analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and writes for the Long War Journal, focused on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah.
JOE TRUZMAN: Hi, thank you for having me.
REICHARD: So glad you're here. Well, what do we know about the group behind the attack in Jordan?
TRUZMAN: So the group, it's actually groups really, if you look at it, but it's the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. So it's an umbrella organization. This umbrella organization is made up of front groups and established groups that are backed by Iran, specifically established groups that operate in Iraq and in Syria. And these groups are made up of organizations like Hezbollah Brigades, or another group called al-Nujaba. They have been established in Iraq for some time now and receive support from Iran, ok. Now, you could ask yourself, Well, why would they create a front organization, right? Why don't they just come out and say, “Okay, this is us, we did it, we're attacking American troops?” The reason for that is that they want to create plausible deniability. Iran through these proxies wants to distance itself from saying that they are attacking American troops in the region. Okay? So this is why these groups have created this front organization called the Islamic resistance in Iraq, that we've heard so much about in the last few months.
REICHARD: All right. Well, you know, we often hear the phrase “Iran backed militias.” Could you explain what kind of backing Iran gives to these militants?
TRUZMAN: Right, so this is important. There are different types of support. Okay, it depends what group because the thing is, and what a lot of people don't know is that Iran supports a lot of these organizations, or these armed terrorist organizations, whether they're in Iraq or Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, or the West Bank, okay. And that type of funding or support varies. Some of it is through money, right through funds. Some of it's through transfer of weapons, or a combination of both. For instance, the groups in Iraq and Syria that have been attacking U.S. troops, a lot of the assistance that they get from Iran is in the form of arms, all right, whether it's ballistic missiles, or drones that we saw that killed US troops in Jordan recently. So but it just varies on the group, but most of it is either funds, or something very important as well, that I mentioned is military know-how or military training. We see a lot of that, with these Iran-backed groups, and these proxy organizations that become very strong in the region, it's causing them a lot of problems for the United States and Israel.
REICHARD: All right, do you think we're going to come to a point where striking back at proxy forces isn't enough, and the United States will have to initiate direct strikes on Iran?
TRUZMAN: That's the big question, right? That's what we've been hearing a lot. Does hitting the proxy organizations do enough? Well, the problem right now is that these strikes need to be stronger to send a message, and we hear this word a lot is deterrence, right? There's no deterrence right now in the Middle East when it comes to these groups and the United States. So they continue attacking. Even after the U.S. struck areas in Syria and Iraq in the last few days, these groups continue to attack. It didn't faze them, essentially. So it seems that the U.S. didn't do enough, all right? And that's been the case in the last few months. American strikes against these groups have been tepid, they haven't done much, all right? They haven't been strong to send a message. That's the problem here. But also, we have to remember, these groups at the end of the day are controlled by Iran, all right? So I think a stronger message needs to be sent to Iran, which has been lacking this whole time, whether it's through sanctions, or military strikes, one can debate that.
REICHARD: Joe, is there any aspect of this story that you think is being overlooked, that warrants more attention?
TRUZMAN: This isn't about Israel and the United States. It's about Iran and the United States. It's about Iran trying to push the United States out of the region. What Iran, the regime in Iran, the Iranian government, what they're very good at, is seeing an opportunity, right, and leveraging that opportunity to further its agenda. They saw what happened in Israel with the Hamas terrorist attack, so they took the opportunity to try to push the United States out even further from the region by attacking troops in the name of the U.S. supporting Israel, which, again, like I said before, I think that's just a guise, so I think that's important to highlight.
REICHARD: Joe Truzman with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, thanks for joining us.
TRUZMAN: I appreciate you having me. Thank you.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: a surprising verdict.
We recently reported the story of six pro-life advocates facing federal charges for demonstrating outside an abortion facility in Tennessee.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Well, last Tuesday a jury found them all guilty. Sentencing is scheduled for July, where each faces a maximum prison sentence of ten-and-a-half years.
WORLD Reporter Travis Kircher caught up with one of those activists and has an update to that story.
TRAVIS KIRCHER: Paul Vaughn says he almost didn’t take part in the pro-life demonstration outside the abortion facility in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. He had other things on his mind.
VAUGHN: My wife was due with our 11th baby and we were questionable even showing up that day because of some pre-contractions.
But he showed up anyway. Over the years, he’s provided sidewalk counseling to expectant mothers at several demonstrations. He calls it his ministry – and says it’s a natural extension of his conversion to Christ.
VAUGHN: I don’t see where you can be a Christian and have any other option, given the words that Jesus gave us to go rescue the needy – rescue those that are being drug away to slaughter.
So on March 5, 20-21, Vaughn and other pro-lifers gathered in a public hallway of a multi-tenant medical center…just outside the offices of an abortion facility.
As women approached the facility Vaughn says pro-life counselors would meet them.
VAUGHN: And part of the training is you don’t overwhelm someone in that situation. You don’t yell and shout and intimidate them or anything like that. You’re trying to build a rapport and you can’t do that if they’re feeling threatened or anything.
But someone called the police, and when officers arrived, Vaughn says he took it upon himself to negotiate with law enforcement.
VAUGHN: I went to them and I said, ‘Look, I don’t know if you guys have seen this. This is, you know, typical pro-life ministry. You’re gonna have people here that certainly don’t want to be arrested. That want to – you know – want to work with you guys or just – they’re trying to save babies. There are other people that might do a sit-in – that might want to be arrested.
Vaughn had a baby on the way…and so he had no intention of going to jail.
VAUGHN: I in no way sat at a door or risked anything that I thought would be illegal – and had police guidance on that subject.
And he says he went home peacefully that night after receiving a warning.
VAUGHN: I did not get arrested that day at all. I was never charged in the local court or for any crime. Like I said, I had a great relationship with police.
WORLD independently confirmed that there is no court record of officials arresting or charging Vaughn for the protest that day.
But in October of 2022 almost a year-and-a-half later all of that changed on a Friday morning when he heard the FBI pounding on the door of his home.
VAUGHN: I go to the door to look out the curtain to see who’s there and I seen guns drawn and pointed at me. And so I ask who they’re looking for. They say, “We’re looking for you!”
I look out the other window and my children are out there being held at bay by an agent with a long gun drawn in a low, ready-across-his-chest position.
Vaughn was handcuffed, arrested, and slapped with two federal charges: violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances–or FACE Act–a misdemeanor. And conspiracy against rights. That’s a felony.
President Bill Clinton signed the FACE Act into law in 19-94. The statute prohibits threats of force, property damage or obstruction meant to interfere with so-called reproductive health care services. In short, federal prosecutors say the protesters were blocking the entrance to the abortion facility…and intimidating clients.
As for the conspiracy charge the U.S. Justice Department says Vaughn’s interactions with police were part of a delay tactic to keep officers from clearing the scene.
CRAMPTON: It’s unprecedented.
That’s Steve Crampton, an attorney from the Thomas More Society who represents Vaughn. Crampton accuses the Biden administration of weaponizing the U.S. DOJ in an effort to intimidate pro-life demonstrators emboldened by the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
CRAMPTON: I have litigated FACE cases since its enactment in 1994. Never have we seen the number of prosecutions – especially of criminal prosecutions – that we’ve seen since the passage of – or the announcement of – the Dobbs decision in June 2022. The Biden administration far exceeds anything ever undertaken by even two terms of President Obama, of the Clinton White House term, of the Bush term – anything. No one’s ever seen it like this before. And certainly never the kicker of a conspiracy charge.
Crampton also says the Justice Department is singling out pro-life activists and applying stricter standards to them than it would other demonstrators.
CRAMPTON: Only the peaceful, non-violent sit-ins in front of abortion clinics deserve federal prosecution in this administration’s view. It’s just ridiculous what a double-standard we’re experiencing here.
For now Vaughn and the five other pro-lifers await a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 2nd. He admits that the maximum sentence of more than a decade in prison would have a devastating impact on his eleven children. But he trusts that God can use whatever happens for good.
VAUGHN: And if he wants me to have a jail ministry and I get to go share with people that are incarcerated, that have no hope, and I can bring the hope of Christ into the jail systems and minister to them and that’s what He wants, then I’m his obedient servant.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Travis Kircher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: One minute you have it, the next, it’s gone.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Let me guess. Your wallet?
BROWN: Yep. Only this is a story about finding a wallet – 40 years after it went missing!
A man from Detroit was visiting Toronto. He found a dainty little wallet wedged into the ductwork at a mall.
The man did some digging and found the daughter of the woman who’d lost that wallet all those years ago. Vanessa Austin spoke to CBC News in Canada.
VANESSA AUSTIN: My mom’s green card from 1984, a Toronto public library card. Yeah, it’s part of our family history.
Her mother immigrated from El Salvador. And what did Austin do with it?
AUSTIN: The first thing I did when I got the wallet is I smelled it. (laughs)
REICHARD:Glad that man sniffed it out!
BROWN: It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 8th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: robots and education.
A survey of nearly 2,000 people across many fields says American students lack enough early education in subjects that support robotics. Critical thinking skills that encourage young people to go into STEM careers— science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
REICHARD: But there’s more to learn than even that. WORLD’s Lauren Dunn brings us the story of a homeschool robotics team in Wichita, Kansas.
LAUREN DUNN: In early December, about 20 high school students work in several different rooms in a church basement. It’s the last full week of regular meetings and work times before regionals week.
STUDENTS: OK, so actually, we need to, Julia, we need you to get these painted, so can you take those off? Basically, cut the robot and give those to Jenna. OK, so Charlie, I want you to start packing.
The Wichita Homeschool Warriors robotics team took first place at the state competition, but they know they’ll face stiffer competition at regionals.
PENISTON: Basically, if you have a large gear on the motor, which, the motor turns, paired with a smaller gear on the wheel, it’s a long process, but basically that doubles the speed.
That’s Seth Peniston. He’s a high school junior and the team’s robot leader this year.
Wichita Homeschool participates in BEST Robotics. BEST stands for Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology. Nearly 400 teams across most of the United States participate in BEST. The game changes every year with a focus on a real-world field, like lean manufacturing or space exploration. For this competition, it’s robotic surgery.
PENISTON: So there’s like ventricles. And then there’s veins on each side, arteries. So the whole game floor is basically a human body and the inside of it made out of, like, wooden materials.
Students practice presentations and build a booth that explain the team’s process of designing a robot. Some students write the notebook that lays out details of the team’s work throughout the semester. Others work on the robot itself, divided up into sub-teams that focus on sections like the arm, wheels, or chassis.
By the end of the week—just days before regionals—the student leaders have decided to scrap the plans for adding gears to the wheels. It’s too close to competition day for all the drivers to practice with the faster robots. Jeremiah Schlittenhardt is a high school senior and the team’s student president.
SCHLITTENHARDT: If you can have a good robot, and not as consistent drivers, or you can have a not as high quality robot, but more consistent drivers who are more familiar with the robot, I always go with that decision, the second one.
David Alexander and his wife, Beverly, have led the team since 2004.
ALEXANDER: We’ve had students that have come through and gone to careers in music, journalism, marketing, entrepreneurship, engineering, math, science, computer stuff.
They first got involved with the team when their own children participated as students. They stayed involved even after their kids graduated because they saw it as a way to give back what their own family gained through robotics.
ALEXANDER: Our team is a Christian team. And so we open and close with prayer. And we talk about Scripture throughout the time. But at the same time, they’re learning life skills that they can apply into the real workplace. And how do we as Christians operate within a secular world out there? How do we learn how to deal with conflict management?
Other parents also monitor the workshop. Former students come back as mentors, showing students how to do computer-aided design, or CAD, or how to put gears on a wheel.
Jonathan Dirks was a student on the team in high school.
DIRKS: Three years in high school. 2006 through 2008.
Now he’s an engineer who works with CAD. He mentors current students on the team, teaching them CAD skills that they then use toward the notebook or booth.
DIRKS: And then, if there’s ever a problem, if there’s ever an issue that they’re having, I’ll try to figure it out, and then undo everything and then have them re-do it.
Soon it’s time to put that work to the test as the team competes at regionals in Denver, Colo.
ANNOUNCER: In 3-2-1, GO!
After a couple of great rounds, two Warriors students are disqualified in back-to-back rounds for accidentally interfering with opponents’ game pieces while they maneuver the robot. That’s two rounds with zero points.
First-year team member Caden Heidrick was one of those disqualified. He knows he’ll be driving again in the semi-finals.
HEIDRICK: I just hope that I don’t hit the walls. If you’re being humble, then you’re not thinking, let’s do it as good as I can, you’re thinking more, let’s just do what I can, but I won’t try to do as much as I can and go too fast, that I mess up.
The team recovers the losses in other matches and continues to advance.
STUDENT: This is for the trophies! This is what we’ve been working for!
Then, after a full day of competing, the students finally hear the results of their work.
ANNOUNCER: The champion this evening is Wichita Homeschool!
Students congratulate competitors from other teams on their awards and pose for pictures. A few minutes later, Jeremiah gathers the Wichita Homeschool group together.
DIRKS: I know that, yes, there was a lot on the drivers, there was a lot with everyone cheering, participating, and everyone putting in the work, but ultimately, we couldn’t have done it without God’s blessing. And ultimately, it’s because of Him that we won.
AUDIO: Ready? Everyone in? Here we go. Warriors on 3! 1-2-3 WARRIORS!
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lauren Dunn in Wichita, Kan., and Denver, Colo.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 8th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next: the border bill. WORLD commentator Cal Thomas brings us a post-mortem report.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: The satirical news site Babylon Bee mocked the current Senate immigration bill with this headline: “New Senate Anti-Murder Bill Caps Murders At 5,000 Per Day.”
The border bill may be dead now, but the Babylon Bee article points out that even if the bill passes both chambers and is signed by the president, it would still allow some migrants to enter the country against the law. It also begs this question: Since President Biden has not enforced immigration laws that have been on the books for years, why would he enforce a new law when he could flood the country with potentially new Democrat voters and citizens?
Serious arguments are made for and against the Senate bill. A Wall Street Journal editorial effectively said something is better than nothing: “Do Republicans want to better secure the U.S. border, or do they want to keep what has become an open sore festering for another year as an election issue? That’s the choice.”
Against the bill is the conservative Heritage Foundation. In a piece published in The Hill, the writers say: “The reported deal does not stop the border crisis that Biden has created, and which he could end tomorrow with a stroke of his pen. In fact, this deal would make matters worse. tying the hands of future administrations to stop it.” They also claim it would permit “up to 150,000 illegal crossings per month … before a new ‘shutdown’ authority could be invoked.”
Heritage further argues: “If passed, the bill would allow the Biden administration to again fund ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions and NGOs that have been facilitating mass illegal immigration, using federal grants provided by the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Justice, and Health and Human Services. The bill funds and facilitates more mass illegal immigration. It is a disaster for border security.”
Democrats say Republicans want the border open to use as a political weapon against Biden in the November election. The opposite may also be true, that Democrats want the bill to take immigration off the table in November.
60 Minutes reported Sunday that Chinese migrants are the fastest growing group crossing from Mexico into the U.S., “through a 4-foot gap at the end of a border fence 60 miles east of San Diego.” In 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that 37,000 Chinese citizens were apprehended crossing illegally from Mexico into the U.S. Many of the migrants said they were escaping China’s repressive political climate and sluggish economy, but who knows if that is true? Could a spy or two be among them?
Solving the border problem is not complicated, though politicians have made it so, as is usually the case when government is involved. President Biden already has the authority to finish the border wall and restore the Remain in Mexico policy of the Trump administration. But like many politicians, he’s far more interested in political theater than actually solving problems.
I’m Cal Thomas.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Tomorrow: John Stonestreet joins us for Culture Friday. And, a review of the new miniseries The Masters of the Air. That and more tomorrow.
I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio. WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
The Psalmist writes: “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” —Psalm 36:7-9
Go now in grace and peace.
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