The World and Everything in It - January 11, 2022
The latest boom in vinyl record sales; China’s new tools for mind control; and a nationwide search for the platypus in Australia. Plus: commentary from Steve West, and the Tuesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Those old vinyl records you used to love so much? Well, they’re selling like crazy.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also, China uses technology to control its population. But now military use of it has some in the intelligence community concerned.
Plus, the search for one of the strangest creatures on earth: a mammal that lays eggs.
And playing Yahtzee at the diner.
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, January 11th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: U.S.-Russia talks end without progress » American diplomats flew out of Geneva empty-handed on Monday after almost eight hours of talks with Russian leaders.
Both sides said the aim of the talks was to ease tensions between Moscow and the West. But the meeting ended without progress.
For its part, Russia downplayed its threat to Ukraine. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov…
RYABKOV: We have no intention to invade Ukraine.
But the White House said Russia should back up its words with action. Press Secretary Jen Psaki…
PSAKI: There are 100,000 troops at the border now. Obviously returning those troops to the barracks—returning troops to the barracks—conveying to us their intention of doing that would be easy ways to show de-escalation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the NATO defense alliance. And he says he wants the NATO issue solved this month. Western leaders are worried that Putin set the deadline as a pretext to launch an invasion into Ukraine if his demands are not met.
Russia will hold talks with NATO leaders in Brussels tomorrow.
Putin declares victory in helping quell Kazakhstan protests » Also on Monday, Putin declared a victory in Kazakhstan. He said Russian forces helped to quell a terrorist uprising. That’s how he described a week of protests in Kazakhstan, some of which turned violent. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: In the country’s biggest city, Almaty, the streets were nearly clear of protesters on Monday for the first time in a week.
Russia deployed what it called a “peace-keeping” force to Kazakhstan last Thursday to restore order.
Police in Kazakhstan detained nearly 8,000 people in the worst unrest the ex-Soviet nation has seen in three decades.
Some protesters set fire to government buildings and attacked police. But government forces also stand accused of opening fire on peaceful protesters. The country’s health ministry said 164 people died in the violence.
Demonstrators were angry about a lot of things, but sharply rising energy prices triggered the uprising.
In a concession, the government announced a 180-day price cap on vehicle fuel and a freeze on utility rate increases. As the unrest mounted, the ministerial cabinet resigned and other high ranking officials were replaced.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Omicron causes massive sick-out with job market already understaffed » The explosion of omicron infections is interrupting services across the country as more and more workers call in sick.
Employee shortages have caused subway delays in New York City. In Los Angeles, firefighters have had to transport patients to hospitals with ambulance companies understaffed. And airport officials recently shut down security checkpoints at a terminal in Phoenix. Airlines have been cancelling flights en masse for weeks.
Dr. Peter Hotez with the Baylor College of Medicine told CNN…
HOTEZ: Much of our hospital workforce is getting knocked out at home with symptomatic COVID.
He added that there aren’t enough COVID-19 tests to keep up with all the new infections.
HOTEZ: When you add up all of that together, we’ve got a very serious situation facing our nation this month.
Andrew Hunter, senior economist with Capital Economics, calculated that as many as 5 million workers stayed home last week. And that’s with employers already shorthanded across the country.
Safety doors failed in NYC high-rise fire that killed 17 » New York City officials are revising the death toll from a fire at a high-rise apartment building. Mayor Eric Adams told reporters…
ADAMS: We have 17 lost. Nine are adults and eight are children.
Officials originally reported that 19 people died.
Karen Dejesus lived on the 3rd floor of the building. She said false fire alarms were so frequent there that nobody paid attention to them.
DJESUS: So many of us were used to hearing that fire alarm go off so it was like second nature to us. Okay, not until I actually seen smoke coming under the door, I realized it was a real fire and heard people yelling help, help, help.
A malfunctioning electric space heater apparently started the fire Sunday. But officials say the fire itself wasn’t all that deadly. It was the smoke.
Smoke inhalation caused most of the deaths. And investigators are trying to determine why safety doors failed to close when the fire broke out. That failure allowed thick smoke to rise through the tower.
Myanmar’s ousted leader receives additional sentence » Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing more time behind bars. A court in Myanmar, now controlled by the country's military after a coup last year, just handed down an additional sentence. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has that story.
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: This time, the government says Suu Kyi is guilty of violating coronavirus restrictions and illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies.
The military-ruled courts already hit her with a similar four-year sentence last month for supposedly inciting dissent and breaching COVID-19 restrictions. But the military junta later reduced the sentence by half.
The court has lined up a range of additional charges that the U.S. government says are trumped up. Suu Kyi could still face a lifetime prison sentence if convicted on additional charges.
The military arrested Suu Kyi before the coup in February of last year.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: a surprising musical trend.
Plus, the search for an elusive animal.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 11th of January, 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: records.
My favorite DJ. Records truly was his middle name. Or so he said.
REICHARD: Now, that brings back some memories!
EICHER: Right? What were some of your favorite records back in the day?
REICHARD: Every Beatles record ever made. Also, the first album I bought with my own money. I was 9. Tapestry by Carole King. You’ve Got a Friend, It’s Too Late—great tunes. How about you?
EICHER: Fleetwood Mac! Rumours. I won that from a radio station.
REICHARD: Good for you! I haven’t played a record since the needle wore out on my stereo.
EICHER: Well maybe you need to get a new one! Believe it or not, vinyls are making a comeback. WORLD’s Caleb “Records” Bailey reports.
MAN 1: I like the whole process of putting the record on the record table, and you know, having the music come out of the grooves.
MAN 2: It feels warmer.
CALEB BAILEY, REPORTER: Music lovers at Harvest Records in Asheville, North Carolina, are leafing through rows of vinyl records. Sure, streaming the latest hits on their phones might be more convenient. But these shoppers say it’s just not the same.
MAN 3: Taking the time out to pull it out of the sleeve and to brush it off. It’s just a personal time.
And that love for vinyl is creating a music revolution. According to the Recording Industry of America, more people bought records than CDs last year. That’s the first time that’s happened since 1986.
And it’s not baby boomers who are suddenly trying to grow their music collections. Younger generations are the driving force behind the latest boom in vinyl.
Jim Henderson co-owns Amoeba Records in Los Angeles, California.
JIM HENDERSON: And so you see a lot more people that are kind of interested in stepping away from what they've known and experienced through this one touch listening world. And that's, I think a lot to do with this is that there's a youth movement driving the vinyl resurgence.
Vinyl’s popularity began to wane when cassette tapes peaked in the late 1980s. Around the same time, CDs hit the market. They began to dominate in the 90s and early 2000s. And they quickly eclipsed both records and tapes as a revolutionary way to play music.
HENDERSON: And they're just attractive and smaller, and, you know, spoke to kind of where things were at that time in our, in our lives, everything's getting streamlined and, and slick. And technology was kind of, you know, bustling.
But stores like Amoeba kept the turntables spinning. Henderson continued to stock shelves with whatever LPs he could get his hands on, even though the audience was a niche group.
HENDERSON: We still devoted, you know, massive amounts of our floor space all the way through the 90s when people weren't even really producing new LPs on a massive scale. Because it is such a great product and because people do have a relationship with the product that they don't have with CDs or mp3 or you know, any other formats.
So what makes vinyl so special? And what’s driving such a vibrant comeback for an outdated and cumbersome style of playing music?
Jeff Askew is a professor of guitar and commercial music at Biola University in La Mirada, California.
JEFF ASKEW: I think for just the average consumer, it's just something tangible, you know, you can actually hang on to it, and you really appreciate it.
Digital music doesn’t create the same sense of possession.
ASKEW: I think the biggest difference is that it's not tangible, it's just in the ether. And I think it's great to have all of that accessible, but really, fans of music don't connect that way.
Whether it’s the jackets that the records come in with the album art and details about the musicians, or the sound of the needle hitting the grooves, Askew says true music lovers can’t find a better experience.
ASKEW: As soon as I hear vinyl, it's the crackle of the needle itself that's actually an experience. It feels like oh, wow, I'm experiencing this right now. And I'm in control of it. And I get to tactically hear how this mechanical thing is working.
Even the experience of going into a shop like Amoeba proves to be a selling point for vinyls.
ASKEW: Yeah, I mean, you go to Amoeba and all of a sudden you've got a plethora of music. And there's just tons of stuff available. But it's really cool. And you kind of just can zone and you can look at it, you can see what artists there may be related to the record store. It's, I think it's nice, I actually really miss going to those stores and just like shopping.
Vinyl records still face fierce competition from streaming platforms. Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music have 487 million subscribers combined, with a revenue of more than $13 billion dollars. Revenue from vinyl records topped just $626 million last year.
But Askew says vinyl record releases are a plus for musicians.
ASKEW: So if you look at the historical record contracts, they were getting paid by the unit. And by just sales, physical sales, and they were getting a large chunk of that. That was the main way they were going to make their income.
But with streaming, only a small percentage of the proceeds goes to the artist.
ASKEW: So you have to have over a million streams in order to make minimum wage. And that's not realistic for most musicians. And you know, why would you want to go into it?
Thanks to the popularity of vinyl, artists are now planning album releases around vinyl availability. And that growing demand has led to shortages of the raw material … and back orders. Some artists, including big names like Taylor Swift, are pushing back album release dates until the vinyl is available.
Jeff Askew says that’s good news for the entire music industry.
ASKEW: I love the fact that there's a way that they can monetize because I want great artists, and I want great music out there. And I think this is the method to get it.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Caleb Bailey in Asheville, North Carolina.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Up next: frightening technology in China.
The Chinese Communist government is using technology in unsettling ways, largely to surveil and control its people. But its apparent military development of unconventional technology has some in the intelligence community concerned.
NICK EICHER, HOST: The Commerce Department recently blacklisted China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and nearly a dozen research institutes. The U.S. government accuses them of using technology “to support Chinese military end uses” including—quote—“purported brain-control weaponry.”
Here to help us understand what that means is Craig Singleton. He spent more than a decade serving in sensitive national security roles with the U.S. government. He briefed federal law enforcement, the U.S. military, Congress, and the White House on a wide range of issues.
REICHARD: Today he is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies where he analyzes competition with China. Craig, good morning!
CRAIG SINGLETON, GUEST: Morning. Thanks for having me.
REICHARD: Craig, what is “brain-control weaponry”? What kind of weapons might these be and what would they do?
SINGLETON: So, brain control weaponry is a term that's been used by the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences to describe equipment that interferes with and controls human consciousness during combat operations. So, this field of research is also closely related to China's development of other bio technologies with future military applications, including things like gene editing, human performance enhancement, and brain machine interfaces.
REICHARD: The Washington Times recently reported that it obtained three Chinese military reports. One report had this sentence, quoting: “War has started to shift from the pursuit of destroying bodies to paralyzing and controlling the opponent.” What does that mean?
SINGLETON: Well, just like the U.S. military, you know, Chinese military planners routinely publish different white papers, not all of the ideas put forward are eventually operationalized, but more often than not, I would say they reflect, you know, internal deliberations occurring in the Chinese military apparatus. And although China has been steadily improving its military capabilities for about the last decade, there's a sense in Beijing that a head-to-head conflict with a near peer competitor, like the United States, could be devastating for Chinese forces. Remember, the Chinese military doesn't actually have combat experience, unlike the U.S. military. So China is looking for natural ways to sort of asymmetrically level the playing field with the United States, which is why ideas like these are top of mind for Chinese military planners.
REICHARD: How close is this technology from being put to use on the battlefield so to speak?
SINGLETON: Well, it's a new and emerging field for sure. So in many respects, the sky is the limit in terms of how this new technology could be reasonably operationalized during war. But yes, there is some concern that things like brain implants could allow for tactical operations to be conducted without necessarily pulling a trigger. Could you launch a missile via brain waves? Could an operator launch say a swarm of drones with a single thought or beam images from one brain to another?
I mean, it is sort of the stuff of science fiction and so the idea that you could potentially surgically implant pieces of technical gear into the brains of a soldier or an operator from a foreign country or even here in the United States we have sophisticated programming going on here in America to sort of figure out what is this new and emerging field? Can it be operationalized? Is it safe? A lot of those same scientific guardrails don't exist in China. And so there just are concerns about how China could potentially use this type of technology, especially as we've seen an increasingly more belligerent and aggressive Chinese posture throughout the Indo-Pacific.
REICHARD: Craig, what must the United States and the West as a whole do to defend against developing threats like the ones we’re talking about?
SINGLETON: I would say by and large there's broad consensus in the policy community that more must be done to blunt China's ability to weaponize U.S. technology and know-how to advance its military modernization. Some of those efforts are defensive, such as cutting off China's pathways to obtaining foundational information about these new and emerging fields. Other measures are more offensive in nature. I would say key to both strategies, though, is a very clear-eyed assessment that China—like Russia—is working to challenge the rules-based international order that was put into place after World War II. That global infrastructure is under enormous strain right now, and it's far from perfect. But ultimately, I would say we have to embrace an approach that leverages partners and allies. So, in other words, we can't do this alone. And as it relates to new and emerging tech, that means partnering with Europe, Japan, India, Australia, and other countries to ensure that global tech standards reflect Western interests and values. In effect, doing what we can to prevent countries like China from further weaponizing new technologies for use against its own people and, increasingly, foreigners.
REICHARD: This is all pretty alarming to hear about. Is there anything the average person needs to know that we haven’t covered?
SINGLETON: I would say that immediately our minds go to the darkest corners when we hear things like brain control weaponry, and there is a reason for concern and alarm. The good news, though, is that the government, the U.S. government, in particular, and increasingly foreign countries, are paying attention to this issue and are willing to take steps to cut off China's pathways to obtain this sort of information and this technology. And that was not always the case. A lot of these developments are new or feel new right now. But China has been modernizing its military for over a decade. And we're starting to finally see consensus between both sides of Democrats or Republicans—both sides of the aisle—that no longer can sort of these things not be addressed, and it's vitally important that this might be one of the few areas in foreign policy where both Democrats and Republicans see eye to eye.
REICHARD: Craig Singleton has been our guest this morning. Craig, thanks so much!
NICK EICHER, HOST: Numerous companies have COVID-19 tests on the market, but the most accurate test was created by our Creator.
So here’s the story:
Captain Paul Douglas serves on the K-9 team with the Bristol County, Massachusetts Sheriff’s department. He told television station WBZ:
DOUGLAS: Whether it’s the Omicron, whether it’s the Delta, our dogs will hit on it.
And these 1-year-old Labs are sniffing out the virus at multiple schools in the county. The canines are not responsible for finding the virus in humans. Dogs can do that with some diseases, but these K-9 cops are busting the virus on surfaces—everything from desks to door knobs. If there’s a surface that needs to be sanitized, these pups will find it!
DOUGLAS: We’ll go right in the classroom if there’s students in there, and our dogs actually work right through it. They just walk through. They’ll go over the backpacks, they’ll go around the teachers.
Florida International University launched the canine COVID detection program. They say the dogs detect the virus with 99 percent accuracy. That’s the best test available by far! These dogs are wicked smart.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 11th.
You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re glad to have you along today.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: looking for the platypus.
Last year, and for the first time, the Australian state of Victoria listed the platypus as a vulnerable species. Hundreds of volunteers jumped in to find out where platypus … platypii … um … Nick, what’s the plural of platypus?
EICHER: It’s platypuses.
REICHARD: You would know that.
EICHER: Just the age of my kids. Perry the Platypus was a favorite!
REICHARD: Ah. That explains it! To catalog where platypuses live to help them survive, WORLD correspondent Amy Lewis joined a search and brings us this story.
GRIFFITHS: I mean, they’re a semi-aquatic, duck-billed, egg-laying venomous mammal.
AMY LEWIS, REPORTER: Josh Griffiths is a wildlife ecologist with EnviroDNA in Victoria. He’s describing one of God’s most intriguing creations.
GRIFFITHS: I think the more that I’ve done with platypuses, the more you realize how little is actually known about them. So, a lot’s known about their biology and their behavior and so forth, but just understanding how populations are going. So, for me I guess that’s what’s interesting. It’s almost every time we do a survey or, you know, I catch a platypus, I learn something new.
Griffiths samples thousands of water sites for various reasons.
GRIFFITHS: I think I’ve seen platypus on maybe half a dozen occasions. It’s why we don’t have much information on them, because if you don’t see one, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. It just means you haven’t seen them on that particular time. And this is why other techniques like eDNA are incredibly important.
EDNA—that stands for environmental DNA. That’s when someone collects DNA that animals shed in waterways to obtain a wide range of information.
GRIFFITHS: And it’s enabled us to do projects on this kind of scale that have never been possible before.
Last year I signed up our family for the Great Australian Platypus Search or GAPS. The massive 2,000-site data collection effort fills the gaps by showing where platypuses live.
Searching for platypuses in the 21st century is less romantic than it sounds. There are no night-vision goggles, no special platypus-stalking boots. Volunteers called citizen scientists visit waterways during platypus mating season. They use big plastic syringes to push water through special DNA-collecting filters. A lab then analyzes the filtered eDNA to identify any vertebrates in the water.
LEES: The idea being we need to push through as much water as we can until it’s just not physically possible to do it anymore. Your filter’s completely full of DNA…
Before our family trip, I visit a group sample event in Ballarat. Kristen Lees of the Corangamite Catchment organizes citizen scientists for all kinds of ecology projects. Today she demonstrates how to test for platypuses.
LEES: I could only do that and I can’t push any more…
SOUND: KOOKABURRAS LAUGHING
I team up with volunteer Bernadette Cheesman. We filter water from the Yarrowee River. Kookaburras laugh at our progress.
SOUND: STUDENTS, RUSTLING
At man-made Lake Wendouree, we observe school students, black swans and their cygnets ambling along the shore, but no platypuses.
The next week, when our family’s testing kits arrive in the mail, my son Xavier reads from the instructions.
SOUND: OPENING PACKAGE
XAVIER: …From all of us at the Great Australian Platypus Search, we want to thank you for your active participation as citizen scientists…
The boys and I pack the car for our trip. Forecasters are warning of a massive rainstorm. We drive west…
…past miles of dry-stacked volcanic rock walls and windbreaks of eucalyptus and cypress. Expansive fields of grazing cows, sheep, and a mob of emu are dwarfed by the gleaming white turbines of a new wind farm.
At the first site, we drop our bucket over the bridge railing to the roar of passing lorries. Bees swarm high in a tree. A colorful itsy-bitsy spider jumps on our bucket.
KIDS: We found a peacock spider!
But we see no platypuses.
SOUND: APP ASSESSMENTS
We enter our filter quantities on the GAPS app. It also asks us to assess the area’s habitat, like burrowing possibilities and vegetation. Livestock access means a muddy river and eroded banks. Humans can complicate platypus habitats by building stuff where platypuses live or diverting their water.
At the next location, I park as close to the water as I can. It’s in the middle of a road construction site. Two workers greet us.
LEWIS: (Yeah, probably not a good place to stop here, though, mate.) OK. (Yeah, because you’re in between the traffic lights.) So, how far… (Well, you’re best to go the other side of the lights and turn right up in here.) OK. (where our stacks are and then have a walk down there, yeah.) Got it. (No worries.) Thanks…
The water is relatively clear despite the construction. No obvious signs of platypus here either.
We finally reach our last intended waterway. The long red dirt road leads to a one-lane bridge nearly enveloped by rolling green hills. It feels like we’re in another country. There is nothing around…
…except hundreds of sheep. They beat a noisy retreat. Within minutes they look like grains of rice on the hills. Thunder claps as we finish our last samples.
Then the rain begins to fall.
Sampling mission accomplished, but no platypus sightings. What we have is DNA from five creeks in Victoria. Five of 2,000 sites. It sounds like a disappointing drop in the bucket. My youngest son reflects:
XAVIER: Everyone’s gonna make a difference. They’re gonna know at that exact spot what type of animals were there or what type of animals were not there. So actually everyone’s making a difference.
We mail our difference-making samples to Josh Griffiths, the expert. It will take discernment and wise stewardship to move forward and protect the vulnerable platypus.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Amy Lewis in Geelong, Australia.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 11th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Here’s WORLD commentator Steve West on calculating probabilities in dice and marriage.
STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: My wife is a gamer. I mean that in a very limited way. She doesn't binge in front of the Xbox, playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, though I expect she would do quite well. No, when we go out to lunch or dinner and wait for our meal, the backdrop of our conversation is often a game of Yahtzee played on my smartphone. Pass and play. She's competitive and yet gracious, whether winning or losing. I'm not … competitive that is. I lose too much. I do try to be gracious.
“Hey, you're almost winning,” I say, as we wait on pizza.
“What do you mean? We're tied.”
“Well, you’re almost winning. One more point and you will win. I'm almost winning too.”
She smiled. The man and woman in the next booth stare at us. They are sitting on the same side of the booth, unusual, and they are not smiling. I look back at the game.
On the hundreds of occasions we have played this game, the words “permutations” and “combinations” always come to mind. A door opens on my 10th grade algebra class in which I studied these concepts. My eyes sweep the class and go right to the large and open windows that look out on a flagpole. It’s rope snaps in the wind, and the ring that holds it clangs against the pole. I have only the vaguest notion of what the words mean. I think the sound of the phrase, permutations and combinations, was what I enjoyed, its assonance.
“Your turn,” my wife says.
I roll a six, five, three, two, and six. I'm thinking … what are the odds I will roll another six to give me three of a kind? But I have two rolls. If I save the two sixes and roll again, what are the chances that one of my three rolling die will be a six? What are the chances that all will be sixes? Should I save the two sixes or roll all five of them again? My head hurts.
“Are you going to roll?” she asks.
I'm thinking this has something to do with permutations and combinations, but I have no idea. I roll all five die. Hmmm. No sixes at all. What are the odds?
Soundly defeated, I vow to look up permutations and combinations when I get home. Turns out, Yatzee has nothing to do with permutations, where sequence matters. But it has everything to do with combinations, and probability. For example, the odds of rolling all of one number on the first roll of five dice (you yell “Yahtzee” here) is 1/1296. That’s discouraging, of course, and utterly useless.
Mr. Wizard is not playing Yahtzee. Besides, the pizza is here. A few mouthfuls later, she won. Again.
“You almost won,” she generously said. “Essentially, we tied.”
I smile. She won by two points. I think that unwillingness to trumpet victory is called parity of hearts or, maybe, oneness. What are the odds of that?
I’m Steve West.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: redistricting. We’ll find out how the new Congressional maps could affect this year’s midterm elections.
And, how a ransom payment for kidnapped missionaries might affect gospel work going forward.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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