The World and Everything in It - July 20, 2022
On Washington Wednesday, an analysis of President Biden’s recent visit to the Middle East; on World Tour, the plight of the Sri Lankans; and one Australian man’s mission to help animal doctors help all of God’s creatures. Plus: commentary from Steve West, and the Wednesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
President Biden’s trip to the Middle East aimed to enhance security and increase oil production. Did he succeed?
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.
Also today, World Tour.
Plus one man’s mission to help Australia’s wounded critters.
And WORLD commentator Steve West on the perspective of a thousand years.
REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, July 20th. 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 has the day’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Putin in Iran » Cameras flashed furiously in Tehran as Iranian leaders welcomed Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
The Russian president is deepening ties with Iran as the West presses sanctions against both nations. The leaders say the talks are focused on ending years of conflict in Syria.
But the White House believes Putin is also asking for drones and other weapons as he wages war on Ukraine.
PUTIN: [Speaking in Russian]
Putin also took part in trilateral meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan …
PUTIN: [Speaking in Russian]
He thanked Erdogan for mediating talks on the export of grain from Ukraine and said they are making progress in those talks.
Ukraine’s first lady at White House » Meantime in Washington, first lady Jill Biden welcomed Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, at the White House.
Jill Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine back in May, and on Tuesday she told Zelenska …
J.BIDEN: When I came back, one of the things that I said was you cannot go into a war zone and come back and not feel the sorrow and the pain of the people.
Biden said they’re working on mental health initiatives for Ukrainians amid the war.
More Russian missiles struck cities and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine Tuesday, hitting homes, a school and a community center.
Today, Zelenska is scheduled to address members of Congress at the Capitol.
COVID-19 again on the rise » COVID-19 is on the rise once again, thanks to the new BA.5 strain of the omicron variant. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: According to a rolling 7-day average, about 130,000 Americans are testing positive each day. The rise thus far has been much slower and steadier than the severe omicron spike seen over the winter.
Still, infections are now at their highest level since February.
The CDC says hospital stays are also up to just under 6,000 per day. That number has quadrupled in three month’s time.
But daily COVID-related deaths are largely unchanged, hovering below 400 since April.
The BA.5 omicron subvariant is skilled at dodging our immune systems—whether the immunity is from vaccines or prior infections.
But federal health agencies say vaccines can still help protect against severe cases.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Congress marriage vote » Lawmakers in the House passed a bill Tuesday to codify same-sex marriage in federal law.
AUDIO: The yeas are 267 and the nays are 157.
Democratic leaders say after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, they fear the high court might strike down a prior ruling establishing a right to same-sex marriage and return that matter to the states, as well.
But Republican Congressman Mike Johnson said the Supreme Court made clear that its ruling pertained only to life and abortion. Here he is reading from the court’s decision:
JOHNSON: And to ensure that our decision is not misunderstood or mischaracterized, we emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to an abortion and no other right.
The legislation, backed by the White House, would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
No Democrat opposed the bill and 46 Republicans supported it.
Europe heatwave » A record-breaking heatwave has baked much of Europe this week. London hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday—Paris, 105.
Petteri Taalas is chief of the UN’s weather agency. He said dry, scorching weather has been bearing down on much of the continent.
TAALAS: We have seen forest fires already in in southwestern part of Europe and in Portugal, for example, they are also having severe forest fires.
In France, firefighters battling out-of-control blazes. Authorities have had to evacuate nearly 15,000 people.
And the governments of Spain and Portugal have reported more than 700 heat-related deaths in recent weeks.
Some parts of Europe will get relief today with temperatures dropping into the 80s, but Madrid, Spain, is among the cities expecting triple digits into next week.
Abortion laws in LA, IN, WV » Legal battles continue over pro-life laws in several states. WORLD’S Mary Muncy has more.
MARY MUNCY, REPORTER: In West Virginia, a circuit court judge blocked a pro-life law that had been dormant since the Roe v. Wade decision nearly 50 years ago.
The law would make performing or obtaining an abortion a crime, but it makes an exception if the mother’s life is at risk.
Meanwhile, in Indiana, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered lower courts to reexamine a law that requires minors to tell their parents before they get an abortion.
And in Louisiana, a law that would protect babies in every case—except to save the life of the mother—is still on hold.
A district judge there blocked the law and Louisiana’s attorney general said the case will likely land before the state Supreme Court.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Mary Muncy.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: The impact of the president’s first official trip to the Middle East.
Plus, an Australian man on a mission to help wounded animals.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 20th of July, 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. It’s Washington Wednesday.
Today, President Biden’s first trip to the Middle East as president.
Biden arrived in Washington over the weekend after a trip that took him through Israel and somewhat controversially, Saudi Arabia.
That stop was particularly noteworthy because when Biden was running for president, he said he’d make the country a global pariah—specifically, because of human rights abuses and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
EICHER: So what exactly were the president’s goals for his first official trip to the region and did he achieve them?
Joining us now to help answer those questions is Jonathan Schanzer. He is a Middle East scholar who previously worked at the Treasury Department—where he would analyze the ways terrorists finance their operations.
Schanzer testifies often before Congress, and is the author of several books.
REICHARD: Jonathan, welcome.
JONATHAN SCHANZER, GUEST: Thank you.
REICHARD: The top headline out of the president’s visit to Israel was the very clear split between Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid on how to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Biden said diplomacy is the key. But Lapid said words won’t stop Tehran—only the credible threat of military force will deter them. Jonathan, your reaction to that?
SCHANZER: Well, my reaction is that this is nothing new, that this is the same debate we’ve been watching between at least the last two Democratic administrations and the Israeli government. We had a reprieve when Trump was in power. I think he understood essentially what the Israelis were arguing. Democrats see this as a legacy issue. It dates back to Obama's time. The first agreement was signed back in 2015 and they've been laboring to get back into it. But I think that the Israelis essentially have it right. After all, it is their own neighborhood. They know the actors that surround them. And really the only time that we've seen Iran slow its nuclear progress almost to a halt was when the Iranians felt as if they were potentially threatened by the United States. It's our military that they fear most, not the Israelis’—as good as they are, they're not as strong or as large as the U.S. military. So, I think Lapid had it right. Biden, you know, I think continues to stick to his guns. I think it's a mistake. And I think, you know, he got an earful when he was in the region, despite the fact that his visit to both countries went pretty well.
REICHARD: President Biden said wouldn’t rule out the use of force as a last resort, and he said his patience with Iran is running thin. Is there any reason to think that Iran believes that? That there is a potential military threat if they don’t pay ball with him here?
SCHANZER: I think the Iranians need to understand that the longer they drag this whole thing out, where they keep going back to the negotiating table, and they continue to make new demands, and their demands that the United States can't really acquiesce, that they are wearing everyone's patience down. The Israelis already have a fairly itchy trigger finger. I think that the Iranians also should know that there's likely going to be a change in power in Congress in November and you're going to see more hawkish members of Congress from the Republican party come in. And they may be looking for a different strategy from the President. So I think the Iranians had been skating on thin ice for quite some time. They would have been smart to sign this deal. It was going to give them billions and billions of dollars and essentially guarantee a pathway to a nuclear weapon. It's why the Israelis have been so opposed to this deal. Why they haven't accepted it is not clear to me, but certainly that patience wearing thin, that rings true to me as well.
REICHARD: The president also met with Palestinian leaders and again voiced support for a two-state solution. Is there any sign whatsoever that this could actually happen in our lifetimes? And should it happen?
SCHANZER: Yeah, not right now. And I think the president made that fairly clear to the Palestinians that he didn't have a whole lot to offer them. But that he simply continued to back this two state paradigm. The thing that's really interesting that Biden didn't get into when he was there is that you have a president of the Palestinian Authority, his name is Mahmoud Abbas. And he's been in power now for 14 years. And that is 10 years past his four year term. So this is a guy that is a complete and total autocrat. He's not going anywhere anytime soon, and he doesn't have the faith or confidence of either the Israelis or the American negotiators. So it's not likely that we're going to see any of this jar loose anytime soon. I think, if anything, this was really about optics for the president. He wanted to go there and to show his his left-leaning base—the progressives primarily in the Democratic Party—I think he wanted to show them that he still was thinking about the Palestinian issue, that he was still committed to the two-state solution. But as I said he had really nothing to offer while he was there.
REICHARD: Let’s talk about his Saudi Arabia trip now. Two objectives, in that many believed the president wanted to achieve: The first was to get the Saudis to commit to pumping more oil. Didn’t happen. They did not make that commitment. Why do you think they’re not cooperating in that?
SCHANZER: Well, the Saudis are watching the global economy. And if we're about to head into some sort of a severe economic slowdown or recession, then the price of oil is going to plummet. And you have to remember, this is the key source of their income. So right now, we have obviously very high gas prices, but if it's determined that we're going into severe economic retraction, it's going to drop like a lead balloon. So I think they're just trying to watch. They made it clear upfront that they were making no promises, that they wanted to hear out the president. Look, I think the President on this score did everything that he should have done, which is, A) he ended this long rift that he's had with the Saudis. This has been going on for four years. And it came in at some peril, right? I mean, the Saudis are the government sitting atop the world's largest proven oil resources in the world. So it made no sense to spurn this government. Despite some of the differences that we have, they're still strategically important to the United States. So I think what Biden has done is he's at least tried to reset relations and made it clear that he would like to be able to work more closely with the Saudis, perhaps in the next oil crisis, or if this current crisis persists. And I think the Saudis have at least left that door open. So in that sense: mission accomplished.
REICHARD: Another reported objective was to get the Saudis to agree to a regional security alliance that would include Israel. Did the president make any progress there?
SCHANZER: Yeah, there is no direct progress here. In fact, we even saw the Emiratis begin to waffle a little bit on whether such a thing could be created. They seem to have gotten cold feet, just as the president arrived in Saudi Arabia. But I think what needs to be understood here is that the Israelis are already making significant progress in normalizing with a number of countries in the region. That includes intelligence sharing, it includes military cooperation, at least in defensive areas. And, by the way, the Israelis also joined CENTCOM—Central Command of the U.S. Military. They're part of now this constellation of Arab and Middle East states where they're combining their collective defense capabilities. So I believe, actually, that this is already beginning to happen. It's just not likely going to happen formally anytime soon. No one's going to say, hey, we're now Middle East NATO. I think they're just going to be quietly cooperating under the leadership of the United States out of primarily a fear of Iran.
REICHARD: President Biden justified his Saudi actions by framing that as part of a foreign policy investment in the Middle East. He said he won’t leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, and Iran. What is your reaction to that?
SCHANZER: I think that's exactly what he's doing. I mean, you have to remember that the Chinese in particular, but the Russians maybe to somewhat lesser extent, certainly are looking right now at America's continued—I mean, we've had this repeated message that we want to pivot out of the Middle East and we want to pivot to Asia. But you know, that's all fine and good, except you need to remember that China and again, to a lesser extent, Russia, they're eyeing the rest of the world for domination, right? We're heading into what we've been broadly describing as great power competition, a sort of a return to the Cold War paradigm, if you will, where it's the United States against some of its larger challengers. So, we cannot afford to leave the Middle East entirely. And I think it was the right thing for the president to do to make sure that the Chinese and the Russians and, in fact, the rest of the world saw these two important countries—Saudi Arabia and Israel—as being part of the American led system, the American led alliance. That was an important message. I hope it continues to resonate. We can't afford to spurn allies any longer. We need to be thinking about building a broader system that can be sustained.
REICHARD: Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Jonathan, appreciate your time here. Thank you.
SCHANZER: My pleasure.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with our reporter in Africa, Onize Ohikere.
AUDIO: [Streets, traffic]
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Ranjan Weththasinghe is the program director of the Save the Children aid group in Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo.
His team is responding to the country’s record economic crisis while battling the challenges on their own each day.
WETHTHASINGHE: Most of the time, for any purpose that we want to actually go to the office, or go for any personal need, we have to walk now. A lot of us also don't have personal vehicles. Even if we have personal vehicles, we can't get fuel. And some of us use public transport and public transport is very difficult to come by.
That means walking about three miles some days. His team has found ways to work remotely, but they still have to cope with power cuts.
Sri Lanka once had an expanding middle class. Now, schools are closed, and drivers stay on fuel queues for hours. Scarce foreign currency reserves have also led to a shortage of food, medicine, and other essential imports.
Save the Children surveyed more than 2,300 families in a report this month and found more than 85 percent lost income since the crisis began. More than a third are reducing their children’s food intake.
WETHTHASINGHE: So we also know when the things are going bad with their household income and an ability to meet the essential need, what's going to happen is that's going to increase levels of child labor, child marriage and other forms of violence and exploitation.
The government has said the pandemic affected tourism. But protesters blame years of economic mismanagement and bad policies. In 2021, for instance, the government tried to limit foreign currency shortages by banning chemical fertilizer imports, but it led to widespread crop failure and food shortages. Authorities scrapped the policy seven months later.
AUDIO: [Protesters chanting]
The frustration escalated last week as protesters took over the official residences of the president and prime minister. Inside the presidential palace, they swam in the pool, used the gym, and laid across the beds. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and appointed the prime minister to serve as acting leader.
The acting president declared a state of emergency on Monday as protests continued. Parliament will elect a new leader on Wednesday.
Protesters like Nilu, a 26-year-old teacher, are ready for political change.
NILU: This is a very beautiful country. So, we want a president who can protect our country and the people, who can do better, that kind of person is what we need right now.
But a new political leadership would not bring immediate relief. Save the Children’s emergency intervention includes cash assistance and agricultural support.
Weththasinghe said the aid group has also created plans for multiple scenarios so it can continue to offer support, however the political situation turns out.
WETHTHASINGHE: The uncertainty is impacting everyone, because we all feel the tension. And we feel the frustration of the general public, and that's, that's what we see on the street, how they express it.
That’s this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Well it’s hot in the UK. Triple digits. It’s hotter than the highest high recorded back in 2019 in Cambridge at 102. Almost 102 fahrenheit. The Brits, of course, use celsius, so the record went in the books at 38.7.
Well this week, temperatures topped 40 celsius! Very unusual in the UK.
So much so, a movie theater chain is offering free tickets for redheads for relief from the sun. The reasoning is redheads are particularly susceptible to the sun’s rays. Showcase Cinemas, calling it SPF—sun protecting flicks!
Mixed reaction on social media, like this one. “A cynical marketing ploy that plays to the deeply rooted anti-celtic prejudice … which I will of course be making FULL USE OF. See you in the morning!”
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 20th. 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. Necessity is the mother of invention, the saying goes.
And for wild animals in need of medical help, necessity is everywhere. Veterinarians often have to resort to ill-fitting tools intended for humans or domestic animals. They make do, but the work is more difficult because of the lack of suitable instruments.
REICHARD: Well, it’s the mission of a man in Australia to help animal doctors help all of God’s creatures.
WORLD reporter Amy Lewis has our story.
AUDIO: [Sander, clanks, thumps, metallic]
REPORTER, AMY LEWIS: Girius Antanaitis works in his parents’ converted garage. It’s more inspiring than a big box store tool department. This is where work gets done. Handcrafted hooks line the walls. Shelves display precision tools in descending sizes. A powerful microscope sits atop carefully labeled drawers. Its presence seems out of place among the metalworking and power tools.
This is where Antanaitis created a fin-coring tool to attach tracking devices to dolphins. It's where he designed and manufactured a three-foot long needle strong enough to reach the heart of a beached whale to euthanize it when it can't be saved. And it’s where he has at least a dozen projects in the works.
ANTANAITIS: One of the projects I'm working on now is an external fixation for broken turtle shells. There are various methods that are used: glues, screws…so I'm trying to make something that is fairly lightweight, adjustable, reuseable, and as stiff as possible, that can be used for small to medium sized turtles to help fix cracked shells.
Screwing a plate onto the two cracked shell pieces can preserve the turtle's life. But a turtle's organs lie just underneath the surface of its shell. Antanaitis devised a way to guarantee screws will go deep enough into the shell to hold but won't pierce through the shell. He also made the tools and the screws for the operation.
He began his career by making surgical devices for humans. But he’s always been interested in the bush and wildlife.
ANTANAITIS: Even my name, Girius, which comes from the Lithuanian "giria" I guess which means "forest." So it's always been part of me.
Six years ago, Antanaitis sent an email to Zoos Victoria to ask how he could help with wildlife. The marine unit made the first request: the 3-foot long intracardiac needle for whales.
He visited wildlife hospitals and spent hours watching surgeries and dental procedures. He noticed veterinarians struggling to use tools designed for humans and domestic animals. That experience prepared him to make surgical implements for mid-sized Australian mammals like wombats, kangaroos, and koalas.
He managed a collection of surgical kits to attach tracking devices to endangered gray nurse sharks.
ANTANAITIS: And that requires a sewing kit, a suture kit, to enclose everything. The problem with sharks are that their skin is very, very tough.
And once he made a pelvic implant for a rescued sun bear in Borneo. The surgical vets verified the placement of the implant by x-ray during the surgery.
One of his current projects centers on mending broken bird wings with specially designed Kirschner wires. These are the same kind of wires or pins used in human surgeries, only much smaller—about the thickness of a 1 millimeter mechanical pencil lead. He rolls screw threads onto them.
ANTANAITIS: I'm talking, you know, 1-2 millimeters, sometimes smaller, depending on where the fracture is.
And that’s where the microscope comes in.
ANTANAITIS: When I'm working on something that's half a millimeter in diameter and the threads have a pitch, or the distance between the threads, which is .15 of a millimeter, I need to see that I’m precise and those threads are shaped correctly…
If the threads are too small, they’ll be too weak to enter the bird’s bone to stabilize it. Too big and pieces can break off and lodge inside his tools and ruin a whole batch of pins. Each pin takes more than a dozen steps to complete. Not counting the microscopic quality checks between each step.
ANTANAITIS: The pin sits in there. And then you basically grind once, twist it, grind again, twist it, grind again, and then, and then fourth time to get the burr off. So that gives you the three angles that you need. And each one of those steps requires calibration of tooling, and machinery. And that calibration can sometimes take an hour…
He has to use ultra-precise tools and measurements. Or else.
ANTANAITIS: So if you’re a little bit off from the very first step, all these little things just compound until you’ve got a mess at the end.
A Kirshner wire—or k-wire—inserted into a bird’s bone needs specialized tools to bend it at the right angle, so he made those too. In May, Antanaitis mailed his first wire-bender prototypes to Bonorong Wildlife Hospital in Tasmania. Within two weeks, they were being put to the test.
ABC: …Now police say it’s about a hundred birds, many of them with broken wings. The Bonorong Wildlife Rescue says that the deaths were caused by colliding with motor vehicles with a number of the surviving birds still receiving veterinarian treatment at the moment…
Antanaitis specializes in the design and development of surgical instruments and apparatus for the health care of wildlife. He's just one man working in a converted garage. He sees satisfying results. Helping people who care for vulnerable creatures Down Under is worthwhile work.
ANTANAITIS: I can't say I've ever had a bad experience with any of the wildlife vets or hospitals. The people are really, really down to earth, and really, really good people. And I love that. So that really helps drive my motivation to continue specializing in this field. And again, helping as much as I, you know, physically and financially can.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Amy Lewis in Melbourne, Australia.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 20th. 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. Some of our ancestors in the Bible lived almost a thousand years. Living that long might just change your perspective on some things. Here’s WORLD commentator Steve West.
STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: Our oldest recorded ancestor, Methuselah, lived 969 years. That's a lot of clocks to punch, meals to prepare, grass to cut. Even Adam lived 930 years—likely feeling deep regret over his tragic mistake.
If we lived as long as these ancestors, I wonder how our perspectives would change. When you live nearly a thousand years, you might begin to have some sense of how eternity might feel. Things that seem urgent would become less time-sensitive. Fix the leaky faucet? Not now, I’d say. I’ll get to it, next year, maybe.
Of course, because of sin, a long life not lived unto God could just be centuries to do evil—to cheat, and lie, and steal. At the very least, it could be a long and tiresome existence–living out seemingly endless mundane moments. No wonder God limited our days to 120 years.
Ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos, from which we get our word chronology, and kairos, for a moment when time seems to stand still. We’re all very familiar with chronos time. Calendars and clocks are ever-present reminders. Yet we know kairos as well. We don’t know how we will experience time in heaven, but I suspect eternity may be more kairos time: more time to reflect on God's purposes in the world, to remember what matters, to listen for God's voice. More timeless moments.
On one family vacation I recall when my wife and I and our then young children were all laughing and enjoying each other. In that precious moment, time seemed to stand still, and I thought, this must be what Heaven is like. But eventually someone said something and someone else responded harshly, and just like that, the spell was broken. Back to chronos time. Pack it up. It’s time to go.
There's a short story by Wendell Berry called "Making It Home.” A young soldier, Art Rowanberry, is returning from the Great War to his home in the hills of Kentucky. As he walks, he is pondering all he has experienced as well as what he might find at home. Coming over the last hill before home, he sees his father and young brother plowing the field, and they finally see him too. After a few hand shakes and repeated "well now"s from his father, Berry ends with this:
“And then he heard his father's voice riding up in his throat as he had never heard it, and he saw that his father had turned to the boy and was speaking to him: ‘Honey, run yonder to the house. Tell your granny to set on another plate. For we have our own that was gone and has come again.’”
Time stopped right then for that father, seeing his son he thought was dead. No clock was ticking. Time was irrelevant. His son was home.
So it may one day be for us all.
I’m Steve West.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: Retirees are going back to work, and it’s not just because of the high cost of living. We’ll talk about it.
And, biking across one of the poorest countries in the world for a cause. One of our journalism interns has the story.
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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The Bible says: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18 ESV)
Go now in grace and peace.
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