The World and Everything in It - January 12, 2022
On Washington Wednesday, redistricting and this year’s midterm elections; on World Tour, international news; and how ransom payments could endanger foreign missionaries. Plus: commentary from Janie B. Cheaney, and the Wednesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
New political district maps are being drawn up that’ll affect state representation in the U.S. House. We’ll talk process and progress.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.
Also today, WORLD Tour.
Plus: paying ransom to free kidnapped missionaries. We’ll talk about the risks to ongoing missionary work.
And what happens when kids come last on the list of adult priorities.
REICHARD: It’s Wednesday January 12th. 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: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: WHO 7M new omicron cases in Europe last week » Europe recorded 7 million new cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the first week of January with cases more than doubling in just two weeks.
Hans Henri Kluge is the WHO’s regional director for Europe. He said the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now forecasts…
KLUGE: That more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next 6 to 8 weeks.
Kluge said the deluge of omicron cases could overwhelm health systems in Europe. And he said the “window of opportunity” to prevent that is closing.
He urged European nations and citizens to rededicate themselves to COVID safety measures and get vaccinated or boosted.
In Denmark, he noted the hospitalization rate was six times higher in people who were not vaccinated compared to those who were immunized.
Chicago teachers union, city agree on deal to resume in-person learning » Public school students in Chicago are expected to be back at their desks this morning after the teacher’s union and the city struck a deal on COVID-19 safety measures.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday…
LIGHTFOOT: I’m sure many students will be excited to get back into the classroom with their teachers and peers, and their parents and guardians can now breathe a much deserved sigh of relief.
Teachers voted last Wednesday to leave classrooms. They called for a shift to online learning until next week on top of other changes to combat the spread of the virus.
The mayor called it an “illegal” walkout and said schools were already perfectly safe.
But this week, the city agreed to at least some of the union’s demands, provided teachers return to in-person classes. But neither side announced the terms of the deal.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey told reporters …
SHARKEY: It does include some important things, which are going to help to safeguard ourselves and our schools.
Sharkey said the deal still requires approval from the union’s roughly 25,000 members. But union leaders agreed to return to in-person learning, even as voting continues today.
Fed's Powell: High inflation poses a threat to job market » Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday. He faced questions on a range of issues amid his confirmation hearing for a second term as Fed chair. But the one word on everyone’s mind: inflation.
POWELL: We know that high inflation exacts a toll, particularly for those less able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing, and transportation.
He told members of the Senate Banking Committee inflation is a threat to continued economic and job growth. Powell said the Fed will raise interest rates faster if it needs to do so to curb surging prices.
He rebuffed suggestions from some Democratic senators that rate increases would weaken hiring and potentially leave many lower-income Americans without jobs.
The committee is expected to approve Powell’s nomination in the coming weeks, with bipartisan confirmation on the Senate floor shortly thereafter.
Biden administration offers $308 million in additional aid for Afghans » The Biden administration is offering more than $300 million dollars in additional humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The administration offered another $308 million in assistance on Tuesday. That would bring total American aid to the country to more than $780 million since the Taliban took over in August.
Aid money will not go to the Taliban, but will instead be sent to humanitarian organizations for health services, food and shelter. But aid workers have struggled to operate freely in the country.
The UN reports more than half the country’s population faces hunger and malnutrition, including millions of children. State employees have not been paid in months, and banks have restricted money withdrawals. Some Afghans have sold organs or even children to make ends meet.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Man receives transplant of pig heart » A 57-year-old Maryland handyman is recovering well and breathing on his own just a few days after doctors implanted a pig’s heart into his chest.
David Bennett opted for the surgery as a last resort. He had heart failure and was not eligible for a human heart transplant or a heart pump.
His son, David Bennett Jr. said doctors told the family that without surgery he had less than six months to live.
BENNETT: This was very experimental. He could not live, or he could last a day or he could last a couple of days, I mean, we’re in the unknown at this point.
He could live far longer than he would have otherwise. Doctors say there’s no way to predict.
Dr. Bartley Griffith with the University of Maryland School of Medicine is one of the surgeons who performed the transplant.
GRIFFITH: I wish we knew more, but we’re learning a lot every day with this gentleman. And so far, we’re happy with our decision to have moved forward, and he is as well.
In one notable prior attempt of an animal-to-human heart transplant, in 1983, a child lived for 21 days with a baboon heart. But this time, scientists gene-edited the pig heart to remove a sugar in its cells that normally causes rapid organ rejection.
Doctors say the next few weeks are critical as they monitor how Bennett’s new heart is faring.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: redrawing congressional districts.
Plus, putting kids’ needs last.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 12th of January, 2022.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: Reshaping the House.
Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a headcount of every U.S. resident. One of the key purposes of that count is to determine how many representatives each state will send to the U.S. House of Representatives.
EICHER: And then there’s the job of drawing congressional boundaries to carve up the various districts or redrawing as necessary. Obviously, that can get politically charged—and seemingly as often as not—the process ends in a lawsuit.
Following the 2020 Census, the Virginia Supreme Court picked two outside experts to help redraw the district lines in that state. And one of those two people was Sean Trende.
REICHARD: Right, and he’s a senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is also the author of The Lost Majority: Why the Future of Government Is Up for Grabs and Who Will Take It. And he joins us now. Good morning!
SEAN TRENDE, GUEST: Good morning.
REICHARD: Sean, remind us how the census played out. Which states gained and lost seats?
TRENDE: Well, the census this year was kind of a mess because of COVID. I think the census takers had a more difficult time than usual getting people to respond, getting themselves out because, of course, you know, the census is conducted in the early portion of 2020. So it was at the height of the COVID pandemic that they were doing their jobs. So, nevertheless they did an admirable job collecting—almost heroic—getting it done in the midst of a global pandemic. But the data were late being published—by about six months—so that kind of put everyone into a scramble getting things done. But to answer the direct question, we had Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas, a perennial winner, gaining seats. And the losers were West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and then surprisingly, California, which lost seats for the first time in that state's history.
REICHARD: So it looks like Republicans may have gotten a little bit of a boost from the latest census. How many seats might the GOP gain as a result of these changes?
TRENDE: You know, that's a more complicated question than you might imagine. Because part of what the GOP did in the census in the states where it controlled redistricting was rather than try to maximize the number of seats it got, it shored up its incumbents. So in a state like Texas, the Republicans drew themselves two additional seats, but then there were two marginal Democratic seats that had been picked up in 2018. And rather than trying to make those seats more Republican, they just made them overwhelmingly Democratic to shore up the Republicans in the neighboring districts. So it actually looks—and Democrats have been much more aggressive with their line drawing this time around in states like Illinois, and presumably New York. So it looks like overall redistricting this cycle—to the surprise of many—is going to be a wash.
REICHARD: Let’s do Civics 101. Walk us through how the redistricting process works. How do you go about redrawing the lines?
TRENDE: You know, it varies from state to state. The exact particulars of it in some states, it's the legislature; in some states, it's an independent redistricting commission. But the main thing that has to be done, at least at the congressional level, is you take the state's population under the census, and you divide it by the number of congressional districts that the apportionment entitles it to, and that gives you your target population. And if you're a purist, like we were in Virginia, you try to draw as close to that number as you possibly can plus or minus one person. But the Supreme Court does allow, if you can justify it, does allow for slightly larger deviations than that.
REICHARD: And where the controversy often comes in is with something called gerrymandering—redrawing lines very creatively for political advantage. Elaborate if you would?
TRENDE: This is something that's as old as the Republic itself. Actually, James Madison was drawn out of his congressional district back in the 1790s by Virginia map drawers who didn't like him. So this has been going on for a long time, although people have gotten more sophisticated with it over the years. But basically, you know, if you can find out where Republicans and Democrats live, you can either try to put as many Democrats as possible into one district so that Republicans are kind of spread out over the remaining ones, or you can try to spread the Democrats out over as many districts as you can so they can't quite win. That's the basic intuition underlying gerrymandering. And oftentimes it involves, you know, drawing quite convoluted lines to try to pick out a Republican voter here, or a Democratic voter there to get the outcome that the map drawer is hoping for.
REICHARD: Well as we mentioned, you were tasked with helping to draw the lines in Virginia. There’s a state law aimed at making the redistricting process less political. It created a bipartisan redistricting commission. But I guess Republicans and Democrats on that panel were deadlocked and that’s when the court stepped in. How has this played out in Virginia?
TRENDE: Obviously, I'm biased. I think it's played out pretty well - once you got past the wrangling that kind of hung up the Commission. The court asked the two political parties to each nominate a special master and each party came up with a list of nominees and the court selected one from the Republican list and one from the Democratic list. But I think what really made it work well is the first order we received from the court was that we were no longer the Republican or the Democratic appointees. We were appointees of the Supreme Court of Virginia. And ultimately our loyalties in this process did not lie with our parties, but rather, you know, lay with the court that we were serving as special masters for. And I think both Bernie Grofman and I took that command very seriously.
REICHARD: How has the process fared in other states? Will all of the new districts be set in time for the primaries, or are some of them likely to be delayed?
TRENDE: You know, we've gotten a surprising number of states done. The trick is that now all the litigation is coming at the same time, and I imagine some of these maps drawn in other states will end up being struck down under state laws, political gerrymanders, is not complying with the Voting Rights Act. But for the most part, it does look like these maps are going to be in place in time for the primaries to be held.
REICHARD: Last question: If you could wave a magic wand and change this process to fit your wildest dreams, what would you change?
TRENDE: I am a fan of commission drawn maps or, you know, expert drawn maps—provided that they're done under, you know, good criteria that limit the discretion and the ability to engage in shenanigans. So, I do find gerrymandering distasteful. And I think it ultimately is something that we would want to take out of the hands of politicians and put in the hands of, you know, to the extent possible, nonpartisan map drawers.
REICHARD: Sean Trende is an election analyst, author, attorney, journalist and researcher with the American Enterprise Institute. Sean, thanks so much!
TRENDE: Thank you.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour. Here’s our reporter in Africa, Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Bandits kill more than 200 in Nigeria—We start today in Northwest Nigeria.
AUDIO: [Sound of crowds at military checkpoint]
Thousands of villagers fled their homes on Monday. That after armed bandits killed more than 200 people in attacks over the last week.
AUDIO: [Man speaking Hausa]
This man said no one is left in his village. The gunman reportedly shot at people randomly as they traveled from village to village, setting fire to homes as they left.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to increase security efforts in the area. But the violent gangs have proved difficult to contain.
Security analysts said last week’s attacks could have been retaliation for military ground and air raids on one of the gang’s forest camps. But locals suggested the raids were a response to an attack on the gang by vigilantes.
West Africa cuts ties with Mali—Next we go to Mali.
West African nations are cutting ties with the country after its military regime announced plans to delay elections until 2026.
Jean-Claude Brou is president of the Economic Community of West African States.
BROU: The Authority finds the proposed chronogram for a transition totally unacceptable. This chronogram simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage during the next five years.
The West African leaders voted Sunday to recall all member state ambassadors from Mali. They also agreed to close all land and air borders and suspend commercial and financial transactions.
Military leaders topped Mali’s elected president in August 2020. They promised to hold elections this year but canceled those plans after removing the interim civilian government last May.
Uganda reopens schools after world’s longest COVID shutdown—Next to Uganda.
AUDIO: [Sound of bus idling, horns honking]
School children headed back to class Monday … ending the world’s longest COVID-related school closure.
Officials say some students will have a hard time catching up.
AUDIO: In schools that are within the city or within the towns, some of them had the opportunity maybe to get some study materials and they did something for sometime, but when it is not well supervised, then you’ll find that they might have studied but not to the best of their ability.
The country’s 10 million primary and secondary students will resume their studies one grade level higher than where they left off.
This 10-year-old student said she was glad to go back to school.
AUDIO: I am happy, because I was missing my teachers and my study.
Snowstorm kills 22 in Pakistan—Next, we go to South Asia.
AUDIO: [Sound of snowplows]
Rescue crews in Pakistan cleared roads leading to a popular mountainside resort on Monday.
Nearly 100,000 visitors clogged the roads leading to the town, about 45 miles northeast of Islamabad, when a blizzard hit on Friday. It dumped four feet of snow, trapping people in their cars.
This woman said visitors to the scenic town had no warning of the coming storm.
AUDIO: As a tourist we didn't get any type of alert from society, from the government, from Google, from the news, from the weather.
Twenty-two people stuck in their cars overnight died from the cold or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Novak Djokovic prepares to play in Australia—And finally, we end today in Australia.
AUDIO: [Sound of tennis practice]
Tennis star Novak Djokovic is once again preparing to play in next week’s Australian Open. But the Australian government says he’s not welcome in the country.
Djokovic has not had the COVID-19 vaccine, a requirement for all visitors. Health officials gave him a medical exemption because he tested positive for the virus in December. But immigration officials say a previous infection doesn’t qualify for the exemption.
A court overturned that decision on Monday, clearing the way for Djokovic to play. But it’s not clear whether the government will again try to revoke his visa.
That’s it for this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Residents in Texarkana, Texas, recently experienced a rare and bizarre phenomenon.
When a heavy rain set in the week before last, it dropped more than just water on the Texas town.
It also rained fish.
That’s right. Fish fell from the sky around the Texas-Arkansas border.
It’s a phenomenon known as “animal rain.” It is typically triggered by a waterspout. That’s a tornado that forms over water.
The waterspout sucks up the fish in its vortex, and hurls them into the clouds. And what goes up must come down.
As one man told TV station KSLA, some people saw it as a gift!
AUDIO: I didn’t know what to think. I just — I thought it was pretty cool. I started getting me a bucket and started picking them up to use them for fishing bait.
Yeah, that’s probably the thing to do. I’m sure they don’t hit the ground in eating condition.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, January 12th. We’re so glad you turned to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: mission work and ransom money.
You may remember the story of the missionaries kidnapped late last year in Haiti. The kidnappers are known as the 400 Mawozo gang. Back in October, they abducted 17 missionaries from the ministry Christian Aid. The kidnappers released two of their captives before Thanksgiving, and three more a few weeks later.
By mid-December, the remaining 12 missionaries were able to escape.
REICHARD: Last week, a family member told a local television station that an unknown individual paid a ransom for the five the kidnappers did release. Audio here from M-Live news:
NOECKER: There had been a ransom agreement reached with the hostage takers. And that, to my understanding, that ransom was actually delivered the Sunday night that my wife and son and the other lady were released. The ransom agreement was for the entire group. But there was some division within the gang and so they were not able to release all of them at that time.
That’s Ray Noecker, husband of one of the captives. Noecker insists he doesn’t know who paid the ransom, or in what amount.
EICHER: Mission organizations and nonprofits typically refuse to pay ransom demands. WORLD’s Paul Butler recently spoke with an expert in missionary risk management to find out the reason why.
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: At the December 20th press conference, David Troyer, General Director of Christian Aid Ministries, acknowledged that mission work often includes risk.
TROYER: Another question:, “Didn't our people know it is dangerous in Haiti?” Yes, they did know that. But we go to dangerous places in many parts of the world. If we'd only go where it's safe, we'd stay at home in our own communities.
Troyer went on to say that the organization—and the missionaries that it sends—do take precautions. But the kidnapping in Haiti was something new for the ministry:
TROYER: And this event has given us an increased awareness of the need to strengthen our safety protocols and better instruct our people about the dangers involved.
When I called Christian Aid Ministries this week, they confirmed each missionary goes through an orientation before heading to the field—but for security reasons, they declined to explain the nature or extent of that training.
So I contacted someone who specializes in preparing missionaries for another sending agency. I’ll call him Jay.
JAY: There's no sin in preparing.
Due to the sensitive nature of his work, we will not be using his real name or that of his ministry. He has a military background, and he advises missionaries on safety.
JAY: The prudent man sees danger and hides himself. That's a proverb. It's found twice in the book of Proverbs. So those are wise words to live by.
Jay is part of a growing movement in world missions. He’s a security expert. He scours the news each day, government reports, and social media for up-to-the minute status updates of some of the world’s hottest trouble spots. Not so missionaries will avoid those places, but so they’ll know what they’re walking into as they enter them.
JAY: Well, it's understanding the risks that are actually present and a missionary goes into these situations, knowing that their service for the kingdom is worth the risk that they know that they're taking.
When news broke last week that someone paid the 400 Mawozo gang a ransom to release the hostages, that intelligence spread quickly through the network of risk managers. Knowledge of a negotiated ransom is a key piece of information for anyone else working in similar locations or circumstances.
JAY: Well, if you think about it. If a ransom is paid, then the market value for other missionaries in that area—you now have a market value established in the minds of hostage takers, or you would at least presume that.
In other words, a successful kidnapping and paid ransom, can lead to additional kidnappings by others wanting to raise similar funds.
JAY: And so that is the risk that a paid ransom really carries with it.
Situations like this latest one in Haiti is a reminder that mission agencies need not only train their missionaries but also their friends and family members back home. Particularly those who might be tempted to meet a hostage demand if it arises.
Jay mentions another potential pitfall for families. Sometimes as negotiations take place, things don’t move very fast. Friends may begin to look for other ways to pressure the hostage takers. By taking out billboards. By getting local or federal officials involved. Jay says that leads to greater exposure but can also have unintended consequences.
JAY: You know, for instance, once you raise the value of the hostage by giving the hostage takers the kind of publicity where, you know, the political pressure to resolve this is greater now. So now, as the hostage taker, I may have more of an advantage—that type of thing.
So in many circumstances, the best thing friends and family can do is to allow negotiators the space needed to do their work without the additional spotlight.
That’s easier said than done. So Jay has all the missionaries he works with write out something before they head to the field. He calls it a “theology of suffering” statement.
JAY: So that if anyone comes to ask why someone was willing to go into those dangerous situations, I can at least use their words to convey the deep passion they have for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in a very difficult situation, in a very difficult place, a dangerous place.
One of the Haiti missionaries told me this week that news of the ransom has led some to publicly question the veracity of the testimony of their escape. Based on his own experience, Jay says the ransom may have indeed changed the situation, but it doesn’t mean the escape was any less miraculous—nor does it downplay God’s care for the missionaries:
JAY: In any case, they had two months inside captivity, where anything could have happened, and they certainly could have suffered death or, or injury or really anything like that. So it was certainly God's providential will to bring them back home safely to their families…
Jay understands why someone would pay a ransom. And he’s unwilling to criticize anyone else’s decision to do so. But now that one has been paid, he acknowledges missionaries in Haiti and around the world may need to be better prepared.
Jay draws inspiration from Acts 21, when the Apostle Paul is warned by a prophet that in Jerusalem he would be bound and delivered to the Romans. It doesn’t change Paul’s mind:
JAY: Paul's response was that he was ready, not only to be imprisoned, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesn't say that he wanted that. But he said he was ready for it. And I think those are two very different things. And so a missionary who is ready to suffer for it is going to be in the best position to actually suffer well.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Paul Butler.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, January 12th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. When adults put their convenience ahead of other principles, it’s often the children who suffer. Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney.
JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: The protocols of pandemic America are “No way to grow up.” That’s what David Leonhart of The New York Times concludes, after sifting the growing body of data that our children may suffer more from the indirect effects of Covid than grownups have suffered from the disease itself. Let him count the ways:
More children fell behind in school during the lockdown and remain behind even after returning to the classroom.
An alarming percentage of teens and preteens are struggling with mental health issues, including suicide ideation.
Gun violence among children has increased.
Many of the largest school districts have not fully reopened—in fact, Omicron’s appearance has sparked a new wave of virtual instruction. These serve no practical purpose and sentence thousands of kids to aimlessness and social isolation.
In schools that stay open, disruptive behaviors like fighting, vandalism, and disrespect for teachers are on the rise.
All these negatives fall hardest on the poor. Lower-income kids need the order and routine of a classroom more than children from families who can afford private schools or one stay-at-home parent.
Leonhardt wonders if we’ve overlooked the long-term effects of Covid mandates in favor of short-term mitigations. Have we, quote, “accepted more harm to children in exchange for less harm to adults”?
Short answer: yeah. But what else is new?
Sixty years after no-fault divorce laws made it easy to destabilize children in the place where they most need stability—that is, home—adults are still putting their needs first. Almost 50 years since Roe v. Wade made it acceptable to destroy children in the womb, adults are still putting their convenience first. And about 40 years since federal spending shot out of control, swelling a massive debt to be borne by future generations, adults are still putting their short-term fixes first. It’s kind of a pattern.
To be fair, putting oneself first is only human nature. Grownups have the power, and they’ve used their power to exploit and neglect children throughout history. Not necessarily their own—but yes, sometimes even their own. Children are, shall we say, problematic: They upset the household, rearrange the clock, alter the calendar. They are individuals, but it’s too easy to see them as personal extensions: as trophies, or pets, or proof of our parenting skills. Or, as obstacles or social experiments. They are unpredictable and unprogrammable and keep us continually off balance. Legal abortion may be the purest, most horrific, manifestation of the conflict between children’s needs and adult needs, but it’s not the only one.
Why did Jesus bless the little ones and tell grownups to follow their example of trusting dependence? Not because children are easy and compliant, but because they’re not. They stretch us as we shape them, but if adults refuse to be stretched, we’re shaping a bitter, resentful, and possibly destructive future.
I’m Janie B. Cheaney.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: China’s growing influence. We’ll tell you how Beijing is moving to fill a vacuum in the Middle East.
And, Effective Compassion. We’ll preview season three of our podcast about Christians bringing help to the hurting.
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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Jesus said: …in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Go now in grace and peace.
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