The World and Everything in It - March 10, 2022
A visit to the Polish border with Ukraine to talk to refugees fleeing war; the increasing use of facial recognition technology; and a festival for lovers of radio drama. Plus: commentary from Cal Thomas, and the Thursday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Women and children are struggling to survive as they escape Ukraine’s bombardment by Russia.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: We have on the ground reporting from the border with Poland.
Also facial recognition technology. What’re the upsides and downsides?
Plus a return to the golden days of radio.
And commentator Cal Thomas on strength and resolve.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, March 10th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now the news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Russian strike destroys children’s/maternity hospital in Mariupol » A Russian strike hit a children’s and maternity hospital in southern Ukraine on Wednesday.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared a video on social media of the blown-out facility in Mariupol. The sound you hear is that of footsteps on broken glass.
AUDIO: [Sound from hospital]
Officials still haven’t determined exactly how many people were killed or wounded. The attack left many, including children, buried under piles of concrete and steel. Rescuers were still digging through rubble late last night.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters …
PSAKI: As a mother, I know a number of you are mothers yourself, it is horrifying to see the type of barbaric military force to go after civilians in a sovereign country.
Authorities announced new cease-fire agreements on Wednesday for civilians to escape Mariupol, Kyiv, and Sumy. But the Russian military has shelled previous evacuation corridors.
Pentagon rejects NATO nations providing jets to Ukraine » The Pentagon on Wednesday slammed the door on any plans to provide MiG fighter jets to Ukraine, even through a second country.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the intelligence community has assessed that sending the fighters to Ukraine …
KIRBY: Could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO. Therefore, we also assess the transfer of the MiG-29s to Ukraine to be high risk.
He also said analysts believe sending the 28 Soviet-era fighters to Ukraine would not make a big difference against Russia’s much larger and more modern, high-tech fleet.
With all of that in mind, the Pentagon says the move just isn’t worth the risk.
Kirby said the United States is pursuing other options that would provide more critical military needs to Ukraine, such as air defense and anti-armor weapons systems.
House passes $1.5T spending bill with nearly $14 in Ukraine aid » The House passed a massive 1.5 trillion dollar spending package last night to fund the government for the rest of the year. It passed in multiple parts.
AUDIO: The ayes are 361. The nays are 69. The first portion of the divided question is adopted.
That was the vote on the defense portion of the spending package. The domestic spending portion passed 260 to 171. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has more.
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: The Senate is expected to take up the spending package by the end of the week.
Lawmakers face a Friday deadline to send government funding to President Biden’s desk or face an election-year federal shutdown.
Adding to the urgency is a measure that will set aside nearly $14 billion to help Ukraine and European allies.
The omnibus package is also stocked with big spending on top priorities of both parties.
For Democrats, it provides $730 billion for domestic programs, almost 7 percent more than last year. And Republicans got nearly $800 billion for defense, an almost 6 percent rise over last year.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
Republicans ramp up pressure on White House increase oil output » Republicans are ramping up pressure on the White House to increase domestic production of oil as gas prices continue to surge.
The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded hit $4.25 per gallon on Wednesday, another record high.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that’s due to circumstances outside President Biden’s control.
PSAKI: As we’ve seen over the past year, global events like the pandemic or Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine can lead to disruptions in global supply chains that lead to higher prices for American consumers.
President Biden this week announced a ban on Russian oil imports, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support that move.
But Republicans say the president is wrong to ask other oil producing countries to increase output without doing the same at home. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio:
RUBIO: We are producing 1.2 million barrels of oil less a day than we were in 2019. If we just got half of that back, it more than makes up for whatever we were getting from Russia, and it would help lower prices and it would have an immediate impact, by the way, on oil prices.
The Biden administration has shown a willingness to engage with Saudi Arabia and even Venezuela and Iran to help compensate for the loss of Russian oil.
Top administration officials traveled to Venezuela over the weekend for talks.
But Republicans say Biden must take steps to increase oil output here in the United States. And some are calling on the White House to extend the Russian import ban to oil from Venezuela and Iran as well.
Biden signs order on cryptocurrency as its use explodes » President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday directing the government to take a very close look at cryptocurrency. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The White House said the order outlines the first major government effort aimed at—quote—“addressing the risks and harnessing the potential benefits” of cryptocurrency.
The order directs the Treasury Department and other agencies to study the impact the digital assets have on financial stability and national security.
Biden is also ordering the Federal Reserve to explore whether the central bank should jump in and create its own digital currency.
The action comes amid growing concern that Russia may be using cryptocurrency to avoid some of the impact of sanctions imposed by the West.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
U.S. man who got 1st pig heart transplant dies after 2 months » The first person to receive a heart transplant from a pig has died. Fifty-seven-year-old David Bennett passed away two months after a last-resort experimental surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Doctors didn’t give an exact cause of death, saying only that his condition had begun deteriorating several days earlier.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: refugees flee war in Ukraine.
Plus, the consequences of ignoring evil.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Thursday the 10th of March, 2022.
You’re listening to The World and Everything in It and we are so glad you are! Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: war in Europe.
More than 2 million people have fled the war in Ukraine. That, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.
They’re mostly seeking safety in Poland, but also Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova.
Men between 18 and 60 years old are no longer allowed to leave Ukraine because they may be conscripted to defend the country. That means refugees are overwhelmingly mothers traveling with their children.
BROWN: WORLD’s European Correspondent, Jenny Lind Schmitt, visited the Poland-Ukraine border to see the situation first hand. Here is her report.
ANASTASIA: I live in a high building like 15th floor, and it's a little bit scary when you heard a bomb and airplanes and you are living so high.
JENNY LIND SCHMITT, REPORTER: That’s Anastasia. She didn’t want to give her last name, for safety reasons.
On February 24th, a Thursday, she was at home in a city north of Kyiv. Like most Ukrainians, she feared conflict with Russia, which had amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders. But she thought her home would be safe. Still, just in case, she had made a contingency plan with a friend.
ANASTASIA: And she's she has a private house near my city and we decided before that happened that if it really started, I will take my child and go to her.
So when the Russian invasion began, she followed the plan and drove to her friend’s house in the country. But on Friday, another friend called and told her Russian troops and tanks were headed to that area.
ANASTASIA: [speaks Ukrainian] In 10 minutes, we were sitting in her car with our stuff, which we can get. We forget almost all our meals and our goal was leaving the city as quick as we can and as far as we can.
It’s a story repeated again and again as refugees continue to flee the war in Ukraine. One week after the invasion, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees reported that 1 million people had left the country. A week later, that number has ballooned to 2 million, with more on the way.
When Anastasia and her friend ran out of gas, and the gas stations were empty, a kind stranger got them more. They drove on only to find themselves in a region where there was no more food in the stores. Finally, Anastasia realized she and her 3-year-old daughter, Diana, would have to leave the country completely in order to be safe.
ANASTASIA: We get my friends to take us to a railway station in Ivankiv. Then it was train to Lviv, and then I have another friend who get a car for us to the border.
Eight days after they began their journey, and two and a half hours after they arrived at the border crossing, Anastasia and Diana walked into Poland. I met them in Medyka, walking along the main highway heading away from Ukraine and into Europe.
Polish police officers also stopped to talk to her. They wanted to make sure she was safe, because weary, vulnerable Ukrainian refugees have become targets for human traffickers.
Craig Rucin has lived in Poland for 20 years as a missionary.
CRAIG RUCIN: It’s just people are just staring in like, what has happened next? Where do we go now? Yeah. And so that's trying to help them figure that out is going to be the next big step.
Rucin’s church, Rzeszow Baptist Church, is about an hour from the border at Medyka. As soon as Russia invaded, he started getting calls from fellow missionaries evacuating their staff in Ukraine.
CRAIG RUCIN: We got a call from another colleague who said, We are in trouble. We've got five people. Actually, it was supposed to be seven people who are supposed to be at the border in an hour, and none of our people can pick them up. So they said, could you please go out and get them?
He brought them home to spend the night at his house. Then every day he got more. Craig’s wife Carol Lynn says the requests for help come thick and fast.
CAROL LYNN RUCIN: Can you go unload this truck and put the blood and medical supplies on this truck to send into Ukraine? We need diapers and medical supplies. Can you go buy some and so that we can take it into Ukraine?
The afternoon we talked, Craig had been up all night waiting at the border for a former colleague.
JLS: Hi, Ludmila. I’m Jenny, I'm so glad that you’re OK.
Craig Rucin: She's she she has been traveling for quite a long time, and she doesn't want to touch anybody because she's dirty.
JLS: So I'm so glad you're safe.
Ludmila: I'm glad too. I'm glad.
She’d made it onto a bus to Poland, after traveling from eastern Ukraine.
CRAIG RUCIN: We were going to wait for Ludmila and I knew she was in line at the border. In fact, she finally was able to say, OK, there's five buses in front of me now there's four buses in front of us. And it was averaging about half an hour to 45 minutes a bus. So you figure when you have a line of 50 buses, you're going to be there for a long time.
After refugees cross the border, they are welcomed at centers set up by the Polish government. After registering, the first thing they get is a SIM card that makes it possible to use their cell phones in Poland. That way they can keep in touch with family back in Ukraine. Then they’re offered warm water, food, and a place to rest until they’re ready to move on.
CRAIG RUCIN: So they just basically rerouted everyone to where this large storefront is that they converted into a refugee center. And inside that refugee center, there's about a thousand beds and every single one of them is full. Every single one of them is full.
From the refugee center, buses depart for destinations all over the country. European Union nations have opened their borders and are offering free train and bus travel to Ukrainian citizens. Rucin says the first wave of refugees knew where they wanted to go: A brother working in Poland, a sister married to a German. The wave coming now are people like Anastasia, who left because they weren’t safe.
CRAIG RUCIN: So they're leaving without an idea of where they're going. And so they get across the border and then it's like, Now what? My whole life, I have no idea what I'm going to do next. And where do I go? Do I ever get to go back home? Probably not.
His small church is doing what it can. It rents its meeting space, but the landlord has agreed to let the congregation set up a small refugee center.
CRAIG RUCIN: In fact, what you see here in my room in this house is about the same size as our entire church. So if we do set up a refugee center, it will be 10 people at the most that could stay there.
With an estimated 5 million people expected to flee, that’s a drop in the bucket. But every effort counts. The first week of the crisis, most refugees went to private homes in Poland. Now the huge number of refugees means they’ll have to travel farther into Central and Western Europe to find sanctuary. Already churches and communities in France, Germany, and Switzerland are preparing to welcome war-weary Ukrainians.
Rucin’s friend Ludmila is planning to go to her son, who lives in Israel.
From Medyka, my driver and I gave Anastasia a ride to the McDonald’s in the neighboring town of Przemysl. A friend was driving from Krakow to pick her up. She wants to reunite with her family. Her mother was visiting relatives in Russia and her brother was vacationing in Spain when war broke out. Anastasia is an IT recruiter and says she can work remotely, if she has a safe place with good wifi.
She says in the past she would sometimes dream with friends about moving to another country, to find a better future for their children. But it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Lind Schmitt in Medyka, Poland.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: data security and privacy.
Every year, more than 1 million American’s identities are stolen. And if it’s even happened to you, you know the repercussions and the importance of keeping your personal information safe.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: New technology is making that easier. But it’s also creating new concerns over privacy. WORLD’s Caleb Bailey reports.
CALEB BAILEY, REPORTER: The Internal Revenue Service announced in November that it would use facial recognition technology to authenticate taxpayers using its online services. With tax season fast approaching, the agency hoped to cut down on fraud.
The $86 million dollar deal with a company called ID.me required taxpayers to give up biometric data to access their financial information. But the next few months brought a chorus of complaints. Concerns over privacy issues and the company’s business practices. Glitchy software. And the inconvenience … as if paying taxes wasn’t difficult enough already.
Caitlyn Seeley George is the campaign director at Fight for the Future. It’s a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes causes related to online privacy and censorship.
GEORGE: There are a number of companies that sell facial recognition technology, ID.me is one that the government contracts with, but definitely not the only one. It is the one that seems to have gotten pretty quick contracts with a number of government agencies.
In early February, the IRS finally announced it would abandon the technology for now. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have to use facial recognition somewhere else.
From your smartphone to your shopping habits, facial recognition is quickly becoming a ubiquitous part of life.
So how does it work? Caitlyn Seeley George says the technology verifies a user’s identity with facial features, primarily using two methods.
GEORGE: So in this case, ID.me required people to upload their driver's license photo or a government ID, and then a current selfie. And they would compare those two images to see if they match to assess if you were who you say you are.
That’s known as one-to-one verification. The other method is called one-to-many verification.
GEORGE: This is where they take an image of you and compare it to a database of photos to try and identify if this photo of you appears in that dataset. Both types are very problematic.
Critics like Caitlyn Seeley George say building a database like this is dangerous. She’s concerned about the ramifications of giving the government or private industry the ability to monitor our every move, as facial recognition technology becomes more widely used.
GEORGE: Facial verification is being used by banks, by realtors, other financial institutions. It is a tool that has been used and is expanding in education to identify people entering schools. It's also something that's being used by retailers a lot more in a handful of different ways, but can be used to scan people for specific targeting for marketing. But it's also being expanded as a tool for payments, kind of similar to how, you know, we have payment tools on our phones. Pretty soon, people might be seeing face payment options as well.
Paul Poteete is an associate professor of computer science and cybersecurity at Geneva College. While some people worry the IRS rollout of facial recognition was part of a bigger government scheme, Poteete doesn’t believe the agency had any malicious intent.
POTEETE: I don't think it was part of a big grand conspiracy, maybe it is, I think it was just poorly thought out. And it was just, you know, got passed through the paperwork, because it's just such a big bureaucracy, bad ideas rise to the top.
But small steps like this one could lead to bigger governmental moves, like monitoring public activity. That’s how China’s Communist Party uses the technology.
POTEETE: They have a social credit system that uses face ID. It recognizes your face and it gives you your credit rating, which is your social credit score. It's you know how nice you are inside the society and how much you support the Communist Party.
And that social credit score is used to keep Chinese citizens in line. If the government labels someone untrustworthy, consequences vary from slowed internet speeds all the way to flight bans. China also uses facial recognition to monitor members of groups it targets for persecution, including Christians and Uyghur Muslims.
POTEETE: Why do they want to monitor you know, your thoughts and your opinions and your activities? Is this some kind of, we're gonna watch you to see if we think that you're going to do something wrong in the future? And then we're going to monitor every behavior that you exhibit, and if it disagrees with our opinion, or our philosophy or ideology, we're going to send you (to) a reeducation camp? Well, that's what happens in other countries and it’s what's happening in China right now. So is it out of the question? No, it's not. And it's something that we do need to fight or, or certainly have conversations about with the powers that be.
Facial recognition does have some security benefits. It’s more convenient than entering a password and harder to hack. But Poteete encourages Americans to think about both the pros and the cons. Like all technology, it’s a tool that in the wrong hands, could be extremely destructive.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Caleb Bailey.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 10th. Thank you for joining us here at WORLD Radio.
Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: bringing radio drama to the stage. And Myrna, what’s this I hear you landed a part in a radio drama?
BROWN: I did! I’ve always wanted to do radio drama, and I was chosen to be Mamie in Gunsmoke!
BROWN: No joke. My first line is “Howdy, Stranger! Welcome to the Longhorn. I’m Mamie.”
BROWN: Here’s the rest of the story!
From the bravado of a 1950’s announcer…
ANNOUNCER: Around Dodge City there’s just one way to handle the killers and that’s with a U.S. Marshall and the smell of Gunsmoke! (theme music)
… to the folly of an 18th century English adventurer…
SIR PERCEY: Anything. Just let me be the first behind the curtain to glimpse the mystery man..
Robert W. Gardner has never heard a voice he couldn’t mimic.
ROBERT: I remember dad bought a big reel to reel recorder and my brothers and I, we would take his albums and we would take old Mad Magazine cartoons and we would make our own shows that we would put on his reel to reel recorder and do all the voices and the accents. From the German dialect to the Frenchman and of course, the British, like the Scarlet Pimpernel…..
And on this evening, it’s his directing voice bouncing off the walls of the South Baldwin County Community Theater.
ROBERT: Alright, let’s go to sound cue 23…light cue 22…
The former radio deejay is leading a cast of men and women, affectionately known as snowbirds. Northerners from various walks of life who spend their winter months in beach towns like Gulf Shores, Alabama. Tom Metter is from Indiana…
TOM METTER: I was a professional photographer for 35 years.
VEST: I was a CEO of a large medical practice.
81-year-old Theodore Pitsiois was born in Greece
THEODORE: I sailed for a number of years as a merchant marine.
And Tom Pence is from Michigan…
TOM PENCE: I used to operate a nuclear power plant. So I like to see people glow.
ROBERT: We’re going to start with light cue 100…
Pence means it! He’s been Robert Gardner’s lighting director since 2018. That’s when the small coastal town began hosting the Annual Radio Theater Festival, a three-day return to the Golden Age of Radio.
ROBERT: We’re talking about the 1930s, '40’s, and '50s specifically. I remember my mother telling me about how they had a radio in the home and as the radio shows were on, grandpa would say, get out from in front of the radio. I’m listening. Everybody would stare at the radio as it was playing in the living room.
It’s the third night of rehearsals. In addition to their various backgrounds, Gardner’s team is made up of both professional and untrained actors. He says sometimes variety produces challenges.
ROBERT GARDNER: A community theater has to include the whole community. And in theater you have people from every walk of life and every ideology and all of that we leave outside. We don’t bring drama to the stage.
Gardner is also a licensed preacher and associate pastor. He says that training keeps him grounded.
ROBERT: You’re wanting to present a message. You’re wanting to not just uplift but also to instruct.
As they prepare to transform the 126-seat auditorium into a community parlor, each script gets a thorough reading. The Bickersons is a classic sketch comedy series from the 1940’s, about a husband and wife who spend nearly all their time together in relentless verbal war.
BLANCHE AND JOHN: John come back here… oh hello…
Then, there’s the beloved western, Gunsmoke...
FESTER: Good Morning Mr. Dillion.. Oh how you Festus…
The second act features The Scarlet Pimpernel, about a mysterious Englishman during the French Revolution.
SIR PERCY BLAKENEY: You’ve packed my things? Yes, Sir Percy.
Traditional stage productions rely on elaborate sets and costumes that catch the eye. Radio drama however, is theater of the mind, using sound and words to inspire imagination.
GUNSMOKE SCENE MATT DILLION DIGGIN: I found something here… if I could only get it loose…
You hear that digging? Cynthia Mayo is creating that sound effect from the far left corner of the stage. Using a garden-size shovel she rehearses moving pieces of gravel across a bucket. Mayo and 14-year-old Daniel Dumas are Gardner’s Foley crew. They produce sound effects live on stage.
ROBERT: Foley effects are called that - they’re named after a fellow whose last name was Foley who back in the old days of radio created the sound effects that you would hear...
After four days of rehearsals, it’s opening night.
ROBERT: (OPENING MUSIC) Well good evening folks and welcome to the Radio Theater festival. This is our fourth time doing this….
Beams of bright light strategically highlight six black music stands lining the dark stage. The cast and crew are waiting in the green room for one last word from their director.
ROBERT: Hey folks I can’t thank you all enough for coming to be part of this once again. Almighty Father, we thank you for this opportunity to be a blessing…
Gardner says before the pandemic it was easier to determine if a performance was well received.
ROBERT: We used to do what we would call the 'grip and grin'. The cast would head out the lobby so that as people exited the auditorium they would come by, and tell you how good it was.
Now, he says there’s another way to measure success.
ROBERT: It’s a small town, Gulf Shores. They’ll see you out and about and they’ll say I saw you in that and then they will tell you their story.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Here’s commentator Cal Thomas.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Oh, for the good old days of the Soviet Union. America's foreign policy and goals were clear then: containment and opposition to communist expansion. Nuclear weapons were a deterrent, but neither side believed the other would use them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed the game by threatening to use nukes should the United States directly confront his forces in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the whole world is watching them commit war crimes in real time thanks to ubiquitous mobile phones, brave reporters, and camera crews.
President Biden and top members of his administration say we can't directly intervene to stop Russia because of Putin's threat. Is that America's new foreign policy? If we can do little beyond sanctions against nations that have nuclear weapons, this will signal to those who have them—and those planning to acquire them—that they have little to fear from America. That includes potential attacks from China on Taiwan and Iran on Israel.
Suppose Putin is emboldened by at least temporary success in Ukraine. What if he proceeds to invade other countries once in the Soviet orbit but now sovereign states? In some cases, those countries are members of NATO. Estonia and Latvia are two of them. Finland has a border with Russia that is more than 800 miles long. Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty says an attack on one member country will be considered an attack on all. That treaty was written in 1949. Does it remain relevant today? Will someone in this administration please tell us how far we would be prepared to go to help NATO allies? Would the excuse that Russia has nuclear weapons be used to keep America from directly engaging Russian forces should they invade one or more NATO countries? It would be nice to know and soon.
The increasingly secular West has difficulty understanding evil, except in general terms. That’s why what appears to be a pending nuclear deal between the United States and Iran is fraught with danger. If reports are accurate, Iran would have to ship its uranium to another country. Would that country be Russia? And as part of the deal, would the United States then buy Iranian oil in hopes of reducing gas prices ahead of the fall election? That would surely be a deal with the Devil.
And it’s not likely to bring peace. Iran’s leaders have said they believe Allah wants them to develop nuclear weapons. And they make no secret of their targets—Israel and the United States.
Evil can never be accommodated. It must be opposed, even defeated. That was Ronald Reagan's goal with the Soviet Union. Now Putin thinks he can reincarnate the USSR, starting with Ukraine.
He signaled for years what he planned to do. The West didn’t listen. Knowing something bad is coming and refusing to confront it ensures that when it does come we have fewer options to defeat it.
I’m Cal Thomas.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Tomorrow: Culture Friday.
And, we’ll review a new movie about time travel and growing up.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Mary Reichard.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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Go now in grace and peace.
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