The World and Everything in It - January 18, 2022
What is the metaverse and how could it change the way we experience the internet?; legal challenges to teaching CRT in public schools; and on History Book, significant events from the past. Plus: commentary from Kim Henderson, and the Tuesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The metaverse—it’s touted as the next big thing around the internet— but what is it exactly?
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also the battle over critical race theory continues in public schools. We’ll talk with WORLD’s Steve West.
Plus the WORLD History Book. 120 years ago this week, the birth of an Olympic great.
And training up the next generation for honesty.
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, January 18th. 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: Snow blankets Eastern United States from Mississippi to Maine » Snow blanketed the ground from Mississippi to Maine on Monday.
Lots of fun for the kids! Not so much for those who had drive on the frosty pavement.
A pickup truck heard there, skidding across a North Carolina road.
The winter weather snarled traffic and cancelled thousands of flights once again over the past few days.
More than 50 million people across the eastern United States were under winter weather alerts yesterday.
Many businesses closed their doors, but others soldiered on. Amanda Yarber manages Dolly’s Diner in Princeton, West Virginia.
YARBER: The owner here, he has a 4-wheel-drive and a snow plow and all that, so if anybody ever needs a ride, he’ll come pick us up.
While snow turned into rain and slush by midday, temperatures plummeted in some places last night, making many roads treacherous again this morning.
Virginia State Police responded to nearly 1,000 car crashes and stranded vehicles on Sunday alone. And two drivers died in North Carolina when a car slid off the road and into a tree.
Rabbi describes gunman’s “terrifying” siege of Texas synagogue » The rabbi of a Texas synagogue where a gunman took hostages during a Saturday service is revealing new details about the incident.
WALKER: It was terrifying. It was overwhelming, and we’re still processing.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings” that he let the gunman inside the synagogue in suburban Fort Worth because he appeared to need shelter.
WALKER: When I took him in, I stayed with him. Making tea was an opportunity for me to talk with him, and in that moment, I didn’t hear anything suspicious.
But a short time later, he heard a gun click behind him.
The rabbi said he eventually threw a chair at his captor before escaping with two others after an hours-long standoff.
Authorities identified the hostage-taker as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram. He was killed Saturday night as an FBI SWAT team stormed the building.
During the standoff, Akram repeatedly demanded the release of a federal prisoner convicted for trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.
The investigation stretched to England, where police in Manchester announced that they had arrested two teenagers in connection with the standoff. Authorities are holding them for questioning.
N. Korea fires short-range missiles in 4th launch this month » North Korea’s military fired more ballistic missiles into the sea on Monday, its fourth weapons launch this month. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: North Korea likely fired two short-range ballistic missiles from an area near Pyongyang’s international airport. That according to South Korea’s military.
The missiles launched four minutes apart and reportedly flew more than 200 miles before crashing into the waves off the country’s northern coast.
U.S. military officials say the missiles did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to its allies.
But it does show once again that Pyongyang is opting to flex its military muscles rather than return to the bargaining table to resume nuclear talks.
In response to recent missile tests, the U.S. government last week announced new sanctions against several North Korean officials.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Drone attack in Abu Dhabi claimed by Yemen's rebels kills 3 » A drone attack targeted a key oil facility in Abu Dhabi on Monday, killing three people. The attack caused three petroleum tanker trucks to explode while another fire ignited at an extension of Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility. But Middle East intelligence analyst Torbjorn Soltvedt adds…
SOLTVEDT: It’s a very complicated regional picture at the moment. It’s also likely that suspicion is going to fall on Iraq-based groups, who have recently made threats to carry out attacks against the UAE.
The UAE has supported Yemen throughout a six-year civil war with Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Recently, Houthi troops have suffered major losses as Yemeni troops pushed them back, thwarting their goal of controlling the northern half of Yemen.
Houthi rebels have used drones to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the past.
China birth rate falls for 5th straight year to record low » The number of babies born in China fell again last year. And some analysts say the country is facing a demographic time bomb. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has that story.
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: The Chinese government reported Monday that about 10.6 million babies were born last year, down from about 12 million in 2020. It’s the country’s lowest birth rate on record, and it marked the fifth straight year that the birth rate has fallen.
The Chinese government has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth and conserve resources. But that strategy is now backfiring.
Authorities eased birth limits starting in 2015, but couples are put off by high costs, cramped housing, and job discrimination against mothers.
The economic output per person in China is already below the global average. And many analysts warn that with the fall in population growth, China may be facing a demographic time bomb. The country may eventually have too few workers to support a growing number of elderly people.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: the metaverse.
Plus, a moment of maternal encouragement.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 18th 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, the metaverse.
You’ve probably heard the term, thanks to Facebook. In October, the social media company rebranded itself as Meta. It’s all part of a new push to show its dedication to this new virtual world.
But what exactly is the metaverse? Is it virtual reality? Immersive 360 degree technology? The next version of the internet?! WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown explains.
AUDIO: Imagine your best friend is at a concert somewhere across the world…
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: This is Facebook’s vision of the metaverse. A girl, sitting at home in Japan, scrolling through Instagram.
AUDIO: What if you could be there with her?
She sees a video of a concert happening in LA. Below is a button that says “join concert?” She taps the screen, and then appears as an Avengers-style hologram at the concert.
AUDIO: Yo. You’re here!
She’s physically still at home, experiencing the concert through a pair of futuristic virtual reality glasses. But in the metaverse, she’s jamming out in an immersive VR experience, and the people at the concert can see and interact with her avatar.
If it sounds too sci-fi to be true, that’s because it is. At least right now. But this is what Facebook (now Meta) says is the future of the internet.
So how exactly does the metaverse work? And what is it?
Ethan Zuckerman teaches public policy and communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
ZUCKERMAN: At the heart of the idea of the metaverse is this idea of a shared digital space that is somehow immersive.
He says we’re a long way from life-sized, life-like holograms appearing at real world concerts. Right now, Meta is focusing on creating virtual office spaces with cartoon avatars of workers. Except … the developers haven’t figured out how to put legs on the avatars, so right now, they’re just floating torsos.
Product designers are already chomping at the bit to monetize the metaverse. Because of course, your virtual self needs some spiffy attire…and a slick ride…and, oh, probably an art collection.
Here’s George Landon, a computer science professor at Cedarville University.
LANDON: Companies are developing platforms that allow you to go in and purchase virtual land, virtual property, virtual, well, pretty much anything, right?
Right now, you can spend real dollars in the real world to buy a Louis Vuitton purse for your avatar to carry around in the virtual world.
Creators hope the metaverse will let you go places you might not be able to in the real world, like the top of Machu Picchu in Peru, or the Louvre in Paris.
But, George Landon says, at the end of the day…
LANDON: It's just ones and zeros stored somewhere on a server.
Companies like Meta are banking on the metaverse taking off someday soon. But the technology hasn’t quite caught up yet.
LANDON: We do have the ability to create a synthetic photo-realistic version of a person and, and in a computer screen, render them or draw them and have them walk around and effectively look as as good as if it was actual film. So that exists, but taking that and matching it with this live person walking around in their apartment. That's not there yet.
The metaverse has been pitched as a sort of internet 3.0. With the internet, individual companies have their own websites. You can easily hop from one to the next.
In the metaverse, if a company creates a digital space, users would want to hop from that space to another. But that’s really hard to do. It would be like building something in Minecraft and then having a character from another video game just walk into it. Right now, it’s not possible.
LANDON: If you purchase an asset for a video game character, can I take that asset and apply it to a different video game? That does not work. They don't allow that.
Partly because, obviously, each company would rather you buy the asset from them.
LANDON: But then there's also the compatibility aspect. And just because I have something that represents a vehicle, right, for one of these virtual worlds doesn't mean it's going to work with a system that represents vehicles in another world.
The other option is to have one company in charge. That seems to be a not-so-secret part of Meta’s vision: That it would be the sole platform where all these virtual worlds exist. But that has its own slew of problems. Here’s Ethan Zuckerman.
ZUCKERMAN: The first reason I'm not excited about Facebook's Metaverse is that it's Facebook's, right, and that Facebook has a dismal track record in the practical realm of running shared online social spaces.
Carolina Milanesi is a tech analyst at the consumer research firm Creative Strategies. She’s worried about how the space might be abused.
MILANESI: If you are concerned already about how vicious the world of social media is, think about how that bullying and harassment is going to feel like when you are more physically immersed into an experience, right?
And some Christians are concerned for another reason. Carl Trueman teaches Biblical Studies at Grove City College. He says the metaverse encourages people to detach reality from its physical and geographical restraints.
TRUEMAN: Human beings are embodied creatures. Physical touch is important. Physical proximity is important. It reminds us of our limitations, it reminds us of our dependency upon others.
That’s especially important for Christians.
TRUEMAN: It's significant that Christ becomes incarnate. Christ doesn't save disembodied souls. He takes flesh, he redeems flesh. I think when you detach what it means to be a human being from physical presence, when you make physical presence purely incidental, you're really beginning to change what it means to be a human being.
The metaverse is getting a lot of hype right now, but it’s still years down the road–if it happens at all. Metaverses have failed in the past. Ethan Zuckerman created his own back in the 1990s, but it never went anywhere. In 2003, a virtual world called Second Life was heralded as the next big thing. But it capped out at about a million users and definitely didn’t revolutionize society as we know it.
ZUCKERMAN: Will Facebook do better than that? Almost certainly.But will it be the next generation of the internet? I think that’s very unlikely.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Up next: the battle over Critical Race Theory in Virginia schools.
A new curriculum at some schools in Albemarle County teaches middle school students to identify “white privilege” and support “anti-racism.”
NICK EICHER, HOST: Many parents are concerned about such teaching. And some took their concerns to court.
Since then, Virginia’s new governor, Republican Glenn Youngkin, took office.
He issued an executive order to bring an end to the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools.
But the battle over this kind of education is far from over in Virginia and far from over in many other states.
REICHARD: Joining us now is Steve West. He’s an attorney and former prosecutor who writes about religious liberty for WORLD. Good morning to you, Steve!
STEVE WEST, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary.
REICHARD: I think a lot of our listeners are familiar by now with the controversial teaching of Critical Race Theory. But briefly, in simple terms, give us a synopsis of what the anti-racism curriculum teaches that the parents find objectionable.
WEST: Under Critical Race Theory, everything is viewed through the lens of race, as if that explains everything. It asks white students to consider their white privilege and status as oppressors while teaching black students to identify themselves as victims of white privilege and white supremacy. It’s extremely divisive: it says, if you’re white, you’re a racist, whether you know it or not; if you’re black, you’re a victim. And the only answer is anti-racism, which is really a reverse racism.
REICHARD: Well we’ll discuss the governor’s order in a moment, but this case is still relevant, so let’s start with that. Tell us about the lawsuit that the parents filed and what they’re arguing to the court.
WEST: A multi-ethic group of parents brought this lawsuit against the Albemarle County School Board just before Christmas. This is a largely rural county but one home to a college community, the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, and some progressive-minded educators who are trying to implement this curriculum throughout the schools beginning with eighth graders. Parents argue that it infringes on free speech—as you cannot voice alternative views—as well as religious liberty, and usurps parents’ rights to decide how their children are educated.
REICHARD: Critical Race Theory actually became an issue leading up to the Virginia gubernatorial election a couple of months ago. The Democratic governor at the time, Terry McAuliffe said he didn’t think parents should influence what schools teach. He ultimately lost, though narrowly, to Republican Glenn Youngkin.
As we mentioned, Youngkin just issued an executive order aimed at ending the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools. So where does the legal battle over this curriculum go from here?
WEST: At very least, there’s not going to be any support from the state, a major player in education both in setting standards and in funding. The order is aimed at state agencies, not local governments, as it has to be, yet it does require a review of state-approved curricula and training to remove all racially divisive concepts, and it goes on record as opposed to Critical Race Theory. So I believe it’s at least a pretty strong disincentive for local school boards to go down this route, but what it will do in the long run remains to be seen.
REICHARD: As I understand it, Virginia is not the only state where this battle is raging, correct?
WEST: That’s right. Back in December 2020, a black Nevada mother sued her biracial son’s charter high school after a mandatory “Sociology of Change” course required students to label themselves as either “oppressor” or “oppressed” based on their race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religious faith. The school backed down only after a federal judge ruled its policies unconstitutional.
And last summer, school employees in Missouri and Illinois filed lawsuits challenging mandatory training in a similar “anti-racist” curriculum. They said they were not allowed to express disagreement with its content and were threatened with docked pay if they opted out of the classes. Both cases remain pending, with the Missouri trial set to begin yesterday.
REICHARD: And it’s not just courts, either. Legislators are involved as well, right?
WEST: That’s right. Legislators in at least 25 states have enacted or proposed laws putting the brakes on CRT teaching in schools, but there has been pushback. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in October attacking an Oklahoma law for promoting “chilled and censored speech.” So, it looks like it’ll be a battle on many fronts before it’s over. What gives me hope is that more and more parents are becoming knowledgeable and involved in their local schools, and that’s an unqualified good.
REICHARD: Steve West writes about religious liberties for WORLD Digital. You can read his work at WNG.org. You can also subscribe to his free weekly newsletter on First Amendment issues, called Liberties. Steve, always good to have you on. Thank you!
WEST: Always a pleasure. Thanks, Mary.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Someone with a keen mind for marketing at the Lodge Cast Iron store in Tennessee came up with an idea to draw some attention: a gargantuan cast iron skillet!
It’s 18 feet wide. It weighs more than seven tons! It took a tractor trailer flatbed to haul it and it was the lone piece of cargo.
Last week, drivers along Interstate 59 shot and posted photos online.
Lodge Cast Iron has been making the distinctive cookware in South Pittsburg, Tennessee since 1896. And now a new museum will tell the story of the cast iron, with the giant skillet grabbing attention right out front.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 18th. Thank you for turning 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: the WORLD History Book.
Because of the holiday yesterday honoring Martin Luther King Junior, we bumped the History Book. So today, an eccentric aviator sets a record, an Olympic hero is born, and Roman Catholicism returns to Rome. Here’s senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.
MUSIC: Monastic singing
KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Rome has long been the seat of the papacy. But there was a period of nearly seven decades when the papacy left Italy for France.
Then on January 17th, 1377—645 years ago—Pope Gregory XI returned the papacy to Rome from Avignon. His reasons were partly geopolitical—he initiated the move to protect Italy’s papal territories from counter-forces. But it was the pleas of Catherine of Siena, an Italian and lay member of the Dominican order, that ultimately persuaded him.
Controversy characterized the move from the start. Pope Gregory briefly had to flee Rome, and he died only a couple of months after the move. The relocation led to a nearly 40-year controversy known in church history as the Western Schism, when men in Rome and Avignon claimed to be the “true pope.” Most considered the France-based popes illegitimate.
Today, Vatican City in Rome boasts a population of about 800—all Catholic. The city also welcomes thousands of tourists and workers every day.
Now from geopolitical moves… to record-breaking runs.
MUSIC: “Chariots of Fire”
One hundred twenty-two years ago, on January 16th, 1902, Scottish Olympic athlete and missionary Eric Liddell was born.
The 400-meter race champion’s inspirational life was captured in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.
CLIP: … I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.
Though Scottish by heritage, Liddell was born in China to Christian missionaries. He attended school in England and Scotland, excelling at his studies and at athletics. His reputation as a running standout at university made him a great prospect for the Olympics in 1924.
But during the Paris games, he found he needed to make a stand for his Christian convictions. The heats for the 100-meter sprint were held on Sunday, prompting Liddell to withdraw from his strongest event. Instead, he focused on the 400-meters, earning a gold medal and setting a new Olympic record. He won a bronze medal in the 200-meters.
YouTube personality Simon Whistler quoted Liddell when sharing the Scotsman’s key to victory.
WHISTLER: This performance is usually attributed to the fact that Liddell treated the race as a dead sprint, running all 400 meters as fast as he possibly could. To quote the man himself when asked about his plan for victory, “The secret of my success over the 400m is that I run the first 200 meters as fast as I can. Then, for the second 200 meters, with God’s help I run faster.”
On top of his strong faith that set him apart, onlookers took notice of Liddell’s unorthodox running style. As he neared the finish line, he would fling his head back, mouth agape, as if gasping for breath.
A year after his Olympic success, Liddell returned to northern China to evangelize. There, he married a Canadian missionary and had three daughters.
Conflicts between Japan and China ultimately hastened Liddell’s demise at age 43. Japanese forces put him in an internment camp. But he remained faithful until the end, serving the other internees with games, Bible studies, and school lessons. Another clip from the 1981 movie:
CLIP: And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.
According to a fellow missionary, Liddell’s final words were, “It’s complete surrender.”
And for our final entry of the day, making aviation history.
SOUND: Vintage airplane taking off
Eighty-five years ago, business magnate and aviator Howard Hughes set a new air record, flying from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey. The trip on January 19th, 1937, took seven hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds, beating the previous record by two hours. And, who was that previous record holder? Hughes himself. From a press interview at the time:
NEWSREEL: Well this record betters your previous record by about two hours, is that right?/ … You’re better at arithmetic than I am.
The eccentric billionaire had unique interests, like film directing and production. But, his aerospace and aviation hobbies had the biggest impact on his physical health. Hughes survived four plane crashes, at least one of them near-fatal.
CLIP: Howard, reduce engines to 1000!/ I’m going down! I’m not gonna make it!
That clip from the 2005 Hughes biopic “The Aviator.” He developed chronic pain and hearing loss as a result, and his obsessive-compulsive disorder worsened.
He made Los Angeles his base of flying operations, and learned to pilot an aircraft from some of the earliest aviators.
SONG: “Come, Josephine, In My Flying Machine”
He even started his own aircraft company, developing a landplane known as the Hughes H-1 Racer. It was this plane that would lead him to set several records, including those cross-country milestones. It marked the last time in history that an aircraft built by a private individual set the world airspeed record.
Hughes actually died aboard a private plane—but not in a crash. He was a passenger, headed from Acapulco to Houston in April 1976 for medical treatment, when he died mid-flight of kidney failure at age 70.
That’s this week’s History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 18th. 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. WORLD commentator Kim Henderson recently saw something spectacular at the airport. Have a listen.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: People watching is prime at airports. Try as you might to bury yourself in a book or the abyss of an iPhone screen, you cannot. The loud guy at Atlanta’s Hartsfield. The Georgia Tech track team at Twin Cities. On a recent Monday afternoon it was a scene at Reagan International that had me mesmerized. I’m still thinking about it all these days later.
Somewhere in the masses huddled near Gate 42 I found a seat, a nice window-facing one. I pulled out my phone and started clicking through emails when a mother and son walked past me and plopped down. Right on the floor. Right beside the bank of windows. Right in front of a Boeing 737.
They were plane watching, but I was people watching. Some eavesdropping came into play, too.
I could tell right off she was a good mom because she didn’t pull out her phone. Instead, she pointed out the window. She bent down close to her son’s ear, and they talked jets and runways and pilots and juice. Yes, he wanted some. And yes, the Berry Blast version in the side pocket of her purse would suffice.
“Good choice,” the mom affirmed him, handing the juice over. “It should give you enough energy for all we have to do.”
She’d need some energy, too, I guessed. She had to field all the questions he was shooting her way.
No, we can’t fly to the moon.
Yes, the flight attendant will offer you pretzels.
Yes, planes have windshield wipers.
I don’t know why planes are round.
He was smart. The picture of health. Affectionate toward his mother. Quiet, but appropriately squirmy. A model 5-year-old airport goer.
Then things took a turn. My ears picked up something about what had happened on their trip. Or didn’t happen. Something about lying. She looked him straight in the eyes. Took his face in her hands. “Did you lie?” she asked. He tried to redirect, but she wasn’t having it. This was mothering at its best. Intentional. Determined. Relentless love.
“I’m going to call Grandma,” she told him.
You’re going to call Grandma?
Evidently Grandma had some key evidence. Or testimony. Either way, I missed out on the conclusion.
You know those airport security signs, the ones that tell you to say something if you see something? Well, I was waiting for the right moment to do just that.
I was even practicing what I’d say: “Hey, mom, you’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work.” I mouthed it under my mask. Would she think I was weird? Would she know I’d been eavesdropping? I stalled. They got up to board the plane.
I regretted my missed moment so much that I mentioned it the next day to a group of young moms at my house for a Bible study. I think they were inspired by how their airport comrade doubled down on the lying thing.
“I should have encouraged her,” I admitted.
“Sure should’ve,” they responded.
Next time, I will.
I’m Kim Henderson.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: President Biden’s first year in office. We’ll talk to a Democratic political strategist to get the party’s perspective.
And, making guitars. We’ll meet a family who’s turned an art form into a business.
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.
WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
Jesus said: I tell you there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
Go now in grace and peace.
WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.