The World and Everything in It - March 1, 2022
Russia’s invasion strategy and Ukraine’s effort to repel it; the popularity of word games; and True Grit is March’s Classic Book of the Month. Plus: commentary from Kim Henderson, and the Tuesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Today: Military analysis of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I’ll talk with a former Pentagon official.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also what’s up with all these online word games? Reporter Anna Johansen Brown is hooked and she’ll explain why so many others are, too.
Plus WORLD’s Classic Book of the Month for March.
And a meaningful ride with a Lyft driver.
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, March 1st. 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: It’s time for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Zelensky: Russia guilty of war crimes in Ukraine » ZELENSKY: [SPEAKING IN UKRAINIAN]
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow is guilty of war crimes after Russian attacks killed more than a hundred civilians, including at least 16 children.
Russian forces shelled Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Monday, rocking a residential neighborhood.
And a 17-mile convoy of invading tanks and other vehicles closed in around Kyiv. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters…
KIRBY: They continue to want to move on Kyiv, to capture Kyiv, to take Kyiv. And although we don’t know everything about this convoy, it is certainly in keeping with what we believe to be their intent with respect to the capital city.
Ukrainian diplomats met with Russian officials near the Belaursian border on Monday, but the talks went nowhere. Zelensky said the stepped-up shelling was aimed at forcing him into concessions.
For the second day in a row, the Kremlin raised the specter of nuclear war. Moscow announced that its nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and long-range bombers had all been put on high alert.
PUTIN: [SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN]
And Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, stepping up his rhetoric, referring to the U.S. and its allies as an “empire of lies.”
Western powers continue pushback against Russia » Meantime, Ukraine and the West continued to plead their case to the United Nations. Martin Griffiths is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.
GRIFFITHS: As we feared, as we all feared, civilians are already paying the price. The scale of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, even in these very early days, is alarming.
The UN General Assembly is slated to vote this week on a draft resolution that would strongly condemn Russia’s invasion. Such a resolution would have no teeth, but it would send a strong message.
Russia found itself increasingly isolated five days into its invasion.
As far-reaching Western sanctions take hold, the ruble is plummeting. In Moscow, people lined up to withdraw cash as the sanctions threatened to drive up prices and reduce the standard of living for millions of ordinary Russians.
Max Nefyodov is a city council member in Kyiv. He said sanctions are important for multiple reasons.
NEFYODOV: Sanctions are important in the near term. They are going to really harm the Russian military machine, but it’s also very important to show to average people that their life is not going to be the same, and they should actually rise to what is happening.
In another blow to Russia's economy, oil giant Shell said it is pulling out of the country because of the invasion and is pulling the plug on joint business ventures with Russian companies.
Russian airliners are banned from European airspace, Russian media is restricted in some countries, and some high-tech products can no longer be exported to the country. On Monday, in a major blow to a soccer-mad nation, Russian teams were suspended from all international soccer competitions.
Meanwhile, an embattled Ukraine moved to solidify its ties to the West by applying to join the European Union. It was a largely symbolic move for now, as that’s a process that could take years.
Pandemic fears are fading along with omicron: AP-NORC poll » The omicron wave is fading away, and so are Americans' worries about COVID-19. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: New infections are now around 50,000 per day, the lowest level since July. Hospitalizations and deaths are also down sharply. And a new poll suggests public concern about the virus is down to match.
An Associated Press-NORC study surveyed a diverse sample of about 1,300 people. It found that just 24 percent now say they’re “extremely” or “very” worried about themselves or a family member getting COVID-19.
Another 34 percent say they’re somewhat worried.
And about 41 percent say they’re not really worried about it.
Signs the nation is ready to move on from COVID-19 are everywhere. Statewide mask mandates have all but disappeared, and on Friday, the CDC said it's no longer recommending indoor masking for most Americans.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
UN secretary-general calls for urgent action on climate report » A panel of scientists convened by the United Nations just published a report on the impact of climate change on the planet, past, present, and future.
Its findings have prompted strong reaction from officials, some scientists and climate activists ahead of this year's U.N. climate conference, known as COP27.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the report’s findings demand action from global leaders.
GUTERRES: Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone now. Many ecosystems are at the point of no return now. Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction now.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that man-caused global warming must be limited to just another couple tenths of a degree. It said if greater warming is allowed, disasters will worsen, with the effects being “potentially irreversible.”
IPCC scientists said if the temperature increases just over 3 more degrees Fahrenheit, mankind in the year 2,100 will experience five times the floods, storms, drought and heat waves we do now.
But some critics of future climate modeling note that many past projections proved to be way off base.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: the effort to repel the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Plus, an 11-mile joy ride.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 1st day of March, 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, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week we spoke with Steve Bucci. He’s a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer, retired colonel, and former top official at the Pentagon.
He helped us understand how a Russian military invasion of Ukraine might unfold. And just hours after we spoke with him that invasion began.
REICHARD: Col. Bucci has been kind enough to join us once again to give us an updated analysis of this war from a military perspective. Colonel, good morning!
STEVEN BUCCI, GUEST: Good morning. Thank you for having me back on the show.
REICHARD: Well, last week you told us that Russian forces don’t like to march straight into urban areas. They prefer to surround them. That’s exactly what we have seen in Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv. Talk about what you’re seeing there and what may happen next in Kyiv?
BUCCI: Well, as you mentioned, they're following their doctrine. It was actually Soviet doctrine prior to this. The Russians have just kept it in place. They're playing exactly by that playbook. They are surrounding or trying to isolate those urban areas—both the capitol in Kyiv, and also Kharkiv, and some of the other bigger cities. But what they didn't seem to remember, which we kind of knew, is they really don't have a good doctrine for fighting within those cities. Their goal was always to take everything fast and hard. But now with this limited range of just staying within Ukraine, they're running into a problem because now they have to go into the cities. They're not very good at it. And the Ukrainian military, augmented by the mobilized reservists, and in some cases, mobilized civilians are really giving them a hard time. In fact, interestingly, they've now killed more Russian soldiers than the United States lost in Afghanistan in 20 years. So, that's a pretty big hurt that they're putting on the Russian military right now. That's got to kind of surprise Mr. Putin and his main high advisors.
REICHARD: How much longer do you think the Ukrainian military can hold out?
BUCCI: That's one of those imponderables that you really can't figure out by just doing the math. Obviously, they need ammunition. They need more weapons. They need more javelins to kill tanks, and more stingers to kill aircraft. As they use up those stocks, it's going to get tougher and tougher to fight this battle. But they're smart people. They're educated people. There are ways to develop improvised devices to fight against the Russians. They've got the will. They seemingly have the skills. And if we can help them a little bit by getting some more stuff in there, they can hold out a lot longer than I think the Russians are hoping.
And right now they're saying hey, you get us the ammo, we’ll fight the fight. And that’s something. This is not a people who are rolling over on their backs and saying, “Come please help us. You, you guys protect us.” They're saying, “No, just give us the tools. We'll do the work.” Germany, finally, stepping up. Sweden stepping up. Several of the Baltic countries have been sending aid. And interestingly, again, it's all “just give us the weapon system, give us the ammunition, and we'll fight the fight”.
REICHARD: Has anything surprised you so far about the way Russia has executed this invasion?
BUCCI: I don't (want to) sound like smarty pants here, but no, it's not surprising to me. We're learning that the Russian army even though they've got more modernized equipment than when they were in the Soviet Union, they are still not as disciplined as they should be. They're a conscript army. They're not a professional fighting force other than very small elements of their special operators, their Spetsnaz. The rest of them are just draftees. So they're sitting there going, “Hey, we don't even know why we're here, let alone, why do we want to die for this.” And we're seeing some of that, the Ukrainians are going after their logistical capabilities, which, normally, they can drive their trucks. They can load and unload, but they're not fighters. So the Ukrainians are playing this very smartly and they're showing a resilience that I don't think anybody expected of them, especially President Zelensky. I mean, he's turned out to be a tough guy, not a paper tiger at all. So with the weaknesses on the Russian side, the strength on the Ukrainian side, this thing could go on for a while longer than anybody had a right to expect. And if that happens, it suddenly changes the possibilities. And I think that's what the Ukrainians are counting on and that's why they're making this sacrifice.
REICHARD: Final question, Colonel: Based on what you’ve seen so far, where do you think this is going?
BUCCI: I think we’re going to see a lot more Russians die and probably, sadly, a lot more Ukrainians die. I hope that we can convince Putin to stop what he's doing before he goes to some of the other things he could do—things like leveling cities. He's already threatened that through the mobilization of his nuclear forces, sort of implying, “Hey, I could I could turn this nuclear.” I hope he isn't at that point. That's kind of nutty and way out of whack for what's at stake here. So I hope it doesn't get to that. But if the world stands together, I think we can convince him not to do that and to back off, and just be happy with the gigantic country he already owns.
REICHARD: Retired Colonel Steve Bucci, now a visiting fellow with the Heritage Foundation. Colonel, we thank you for your time.
BUCCI: It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me back on the show.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: word games.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Love word games! I’ll give The New York Times its due. I never miss the crossword. And I’ll say something else about the Times, it doesn’t miss an opportunity. The Times just snapped up the newest word game that’s the talk of the internet.
REICHARD: Right, it’s called Wordle and it has a whole bunch of young people hooked. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown takes us behind the trend.
SRIVASTAVA: I go to Rice. I’m a sophomore there.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Anusha Srivastava isn’t a word nerd. She’s not an English major, and she’s not studying literature.
SRIVASTAVA: I’m actually a chemical engineering major.
But the first time Srivastava played Wordle, she was hooked.
SRIVASTAVA: I'm obsessed with it.
Wordle. Deceptively simple but sneakily addictive. After its launch in November, the online word game spread like wildfire, ensnaring devoted fans left and right. The game went from 90 users a day to 3 million in about three months. And it’s mostly Millennials: 26 percent of that generation play Wordle, compared to 18 percent of Gen Zers.
Every day on Wordle, users get a new five-letter word to guess. You have six chances to get it right.
SRIVASTAVA: You put in a five letter guess, into the first row and it will tell you which letters of your word are either completely wrong, or in the wrong place, but the right letter, or they're in the right place in the right letter. And so they have gray, yellow, and green that correspond to those.
If you guess correctly—congratulations! You can share your grid of gray, yellow, and green boxes on social media. If you get it wrong, well, you can try again tomorrow.
MAHAND: There's only one puzzle each day.
Melinda Mahand is a word nerd. A writer and editor and the academic dean at Franklin Classical School in Franklin, Tennessee. She says limited quantity is part of Wordle’s appeal: You can’t just go down a never-ending rabbit hole of Wordles.
MAHAND: So you have a brief amount of challenge. And then pretty quick satisfaction and you're done for the day.
Mahand says that combination of challenge and satisfaction is crucial and part of the addictive nature of any word game. Not just Wordle.
MAHAND: Any time we're looking at someone learning something new. If a task is too easy, completing it does not give satisfaction. And if we don't experience satisfaction, there's not a deep desire to repeat what we just tried. But if a task has enough challenge that we have to learn a little something, and we have to work hard at it but we ultimately achieve that task and succeed in that task, that gives satisfaction. And it is that challenge/satisfaction cycle that people want to repeat and repeat. It feels good.
People like word games. Always have.
MAHAND: Word puzzles have been a part of the human race for as far back as we have any record of. The Old Norse used puns in their literature. The Anglo Saxons used metaphors and kennings, which are a type of word puzzle. And that tradition has come down through the years.
Annis Shaver says word games are part of human nature. Shaver heads up the English lit and modern languages department at Cedarville University.
SHAVER: We like to play with our language. And when we play with our language, in manipulating it, we're creating new words. We're approaching ideas from a different perspective.
Shaver says word games aren’t just fun…they’re useful.
SHAVER: They help us not only with vocabulary, but help us with spelling, and to understand the way that our language works with the combinations of vowels and the combinations of consonants that are possible with our language. It helps us also to understand limits. All languages have limits. There are only certain combinations that work and we learn that and reinforce that the more we work with these games.
Word games are also good for mental exercise and building concentration…and of course, bulking up your vocabulary. Anusha Srivastava says she’s learned quite a few new words.
SRIVASTAVA: I see a lot of words that I've read before, but I don't really know what they mean only in the context of certain sentences. Like two days ago, the word was swill, which I had no idea what that meant.
But overall, Srivastava says Wordle is more like a logic puzzle than a word game.
SRIVASTAVA: A lot of my friends who are really hooked on it actually aren't English majors, either. They're all engineering majors or pre meds who like the idea of putting puzzles together and trying to come come up with the combinations in your mind of what fits into each word and coming up with your new guesses.
Melinda Mahand says there’s also a deeper reason word games hold such an appeal. She references Genesis, God using words to create, and John chapter one—in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
MAHAND: So words are one of the ways that human beings are like the Father, and one of the ways we're able to imitate the Father. The human mind is created by God to solve problems, to figure out strategies, to achieve goals. And words and word puzzles are a very satisfying way to do that.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
One more thing before I go. Back in 2018, I was an English major working about six part time jobs—none of them in journalism. If I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t even like news. But I was looking for direction and I ran across an ad for World Journalism Institute, an intense, two-week journalism course with all the folks here at World. Far be it from me to indulge in sensational prose, but those two weeks literally changed my life.
I learned about writing, interviewing, editing, recording, filming, voicing, producing—all grounded in a solid Biblical framework. I fell in love with radio and its unique writing style and the wide variety of stories it enables us to tell.
If you or someone you know is interested in studying journalism grounded in facts and God’s word, WJI is currently accepting applications for the May course at Dordt University. You can apply online at WJI.world.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 1st. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad to have you along today.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
Reviewer Emily Whitten joins us now with her Classic Book of the Month. She says a 1968 novel by Charles Portis delivers in just about every way. With plenty of action, lots of laughs, and a plot that echoes gospel truth, Christians can share it with teens, grandparents, or the neighbor next door.
REICHARD: Just make sure you get your copy back. Emily says this one’s a keeper.
EMILY WHITTEN, REPORTER: When narrator Mattie Ross begins her tale in the novel True Grit, she’s an older, dyed-in-the-wool Presbyterian woman reminiscing about younger days. Back then, in the 1870s, Mattie was 14, living on her family farm near Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The action kicks off when her father sets out for Fort Smith with hired hand, Tom Chaney. They hope to buy a string of ponies to breed and sell locally. Here’s a clip from the audiobook read by Donna Tartt.
AUDIO BOOK CLIP: Instead of going to Fort Smith by steamboat or train, Papa decided he would go on horseback and walk the ponies back all tied together. Not only would it be cheaper, but it would be a pleasant outing for him, and it would be a good ride. No one liked to prance about on a steed more than Papa.
Soon, though, Mattie gets news that Chaney, in a drunken rage, shot and killed her father. Mattie and a guardian arrive in Fort Smith to retrieve her father’s body and settle his affairs. We quickly see her smart, sharp-edged personality. In one memorable scene, she talks rings around the pony salesman. Here’s the 2010 movie version, with Hailee Steinfeld playing Mattie.
MOVIE CLIP: “I will pay $200 to your father’s estate when I have in my hand a letter from your lawyer absolving me of all liability from the beginning of the world to date.” “I will take $200 for Judy plus 100 for the ponies and $25 for the gray horse that Tom Chaney left. He was easily worth $40. That’s $325.” “The ponies have no part in it. I will not buy them.” “Then the price for Judy is $325…”
Mattie realizes that to get justice for her father, she’ll have to hire a marshall herself. She recruits the meanest law man in town, Rooster Cogburn, and, eventually, she, Rooster, and a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf track down Tom Cheney to bring him dead or alive–preferably dead, as far as Mattie’s concerned.
I recently spoke with a friend of mine, Deanna James, a homeschool mom who lives near Nashville, Tennessee. Here’s her take on Mattie’s motivation.
JAMES: She wants revenge. She wants it done. She doesn't want anybody to come back, saying well, you know, he was too hard to find or I shot him, so she wanted the job done. She wanted it done right.
James didn’t grow up reading classic novels, but she’s catching up now. Over the past few years, she’s loved Jane Eyre, didn’t care for Dickens, but Mattie’s voice immediately drew her in to True Grit.
JAMES: Maybe strong willed is the word. Her mom couldn’t write, hardly read, but yet she's able to read, write, negotiate like nobody's business. Oh, I admired her a ton. I was stupid at 14. But this girl’s got - she had great value in herself.
James also appreciated the other main character, Rooster Cogburn, and the humor of his interactions with Mattie. James isn’t alone. Many critics note Portis’ clever wordplay and inventive humor.
JAMES: It's very entertaining. It's not slow. And that's a great book for people that don't like to read because it's an easy read. It's really funny. Like how she interacts with these men. I know I've said that a lot. But it's really funny how she gets these grown men to do what she says.
Another thing that sets this book apart: Portis masterfully teases out deeper themes. In the midst of shoot-outs, train robberies, and life-and-death situations, Portis uses his characters to ask bigger questions like, what is justice? And when does grit or perseverance, become a negative?
By the end of Mattie’s story, a hanging scene from the beginning gains new meaning. In that early scene, Mattie’s just come to Fort Smith, and she gets a chance to see fallible, human justice up close.
AUDIO BOOK: Two white men and an Indian were standing up there on the platform with their hands tied behind them and the noose hanging beside their heads. They were all wearing new jeans and flannel shirts buttoned at the neck. We pushed up closer. A man with a Bible talked with the men for a minute. I took him for a preacher. He led them in singing Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound. And some people in the crowd joined in.
In that scene and throughout the book, pride often blinds characters to their true situation or guilt. For some, though, suffering focuses the mind and leads them to repentance. Even sacrificial acts of mercy.
That said, Portis serves up more than simple moralism. Characters live complicated lives, and their motives aren’t always good or bad. For James, on the one hand, Mattie does show heroic qualities.
JAMES: She can outpace anybody. I mean, she, you know, said I wanted to cry because I was so cold. And what did she do? She turned over and she went to bed on the, you know, the cold ground. And I just thought she had way more grit than Rooster.
But Mattie also misses the real bottom line as a Christian.
JAMES: I don't think it turned out very well for her in the end. I think her–like just jumping forward, I think her strong willed, I-will-not-give-up is what made her not really an old maid but unmarried woman; it's just not being able to back down…
Charles Portis wrote True Grit in installments for The Saturday Evening Post during 1968–a time of cultural upheaval, racial conflict and war. In that way, it’s very current. Yet Portis also connects readers to an older way of thinking and a Christian-ized culture filled with saints and sinners.
It’s a great trip, and one that can help Christians today rethink what really matters. James summed up her thoughts like this.
JAMES: Our bottom line is to sin, repent, forgive and go on and teach about Christ.
I’m Emily Whitten.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 1st! 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. Anyone paying attention knows that if you hang around a reporter, what you say and do just might wind up in a story. Including me!
Here’s WORLD commentator Kim Henderson.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Back in October, I asked Mary Reichard to meet me in the Asheville airport. “By the baby grand,” I suggested.
She texted a quick response—something about the piano and reconstructing a scene from Casablanca—but I declined. Instead, I told Mary I had a surprise for her. One about 5 foot 4, outlined in suede and anchored by a pair of floral sneakers. Andrée Seu Peterson. The woman herself.
Women in their 50s should probably be past fawning, but too bad, Mary and I blew the curve. While she gushed about a Manila folder filled with two decades worth of Andrée’s columns, I mentioned her unsigned hardbacks I’d hauled across the friendly skies. Andrée just smiled politely. She may have even blushed.
Hey, it’s not every day you get to meet a magazine icon. Especially one who has for 20 years discipled you with the steadiness of a dripping Keurig.
But before I had time to absorb what was happening, a guy named Sonny had us belted into the backseat of his Lyft. It turns out Sonny was once a musician.
Mary and Andrée took a tag team approach, asking him questions. The same gentle winnowing that left our driver wide open left me quiet—quiet as the Proverbs fool shooting for a wise countenance. Wow, what a seat I had. Somehow Andrée got Sonny talking about a young niece. Somehow Mary learned he wrote a song about that niece’s death. Somehow we ended up listening to an instantaneously produced recording of that song.
Finally, my fellow riders decided the moment had come to pivot the conversation. That’s when we learned Sonny was, in his words, “spiritual, though not religious.”
“What does that mean?” Mary probed. She’s a good prober.
Sonny stalled. Well, you know . . . Well, you see . . .
Moments later we arrived outside the hotel lobby, and Sonny landed on an answer. He can be spiritual, he said, without the help of a local church.
Like that would fly with these two.
In addition to his $27.59 fare, Sonny got some advice from Andrée. She slung her words out there in the crisp Asheville air as easily as she slung her carryon over her shoulder.
“Sonny, often it’s through the mundane aspects of organized church that you find Christ. Think about that, will you?”
Sonny nodded and drove away.
The next day, Mary told an audience about Legal Docket’s mission—demystifying the court—but she was uncomfortable doing it. The business suit she planned to wear was back in Missouri. In the dryer.
Andrée had her time behind the mic, too. She wowed the crowd with words she scribbled on paper scraped together from drawers at the Holiday Inn.
Ah, regular people after all. Still, I thought it might be good to give account of our 11-mile joy ride, especially after the hard road WORLD has traveled lately.
And besides all that, how else would you know to pray for Sonny?
I’m Kim Henderson.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: foreign policy. We’ll talk about how Washington is handling the crisis in Ukraine.
And, ministry at Mardi Gras. We’ll meet a pastor in the French Quarter.
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 have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:46 ESV)
Go now in grace and peace.
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