MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
The Russian war in Ukraine has brought to a halt the adoption of orphans from that country. We’ll hear of the massive effort to get those children out of harm’s way.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also military air support for Ukraine. What’s the strategy?
Plus one family’s story of conjoined twins:
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, March 15th. 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: Now the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: White House warns Chinese official against support for Russia » U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with a top Chinese official in Rome on Monday.
The top item on the agenda: China’s backing of Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Sullivan clearly conveyed this message:
PRICE: Any country that would seek to attempt to bail Russia out of this economic, financial morass will be met with consequences. We will ensure that no country is able to get away with such a thing.
Sullivan met with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi. He warned that there—quote—“absolutely will be consequences” if China helps Russia “backfill” its losses from the sanctions.
The meeting came amid reports that Russia has asked China for military equipment to use in its invasion of Ukraine.
The Russians have seen significant losses of tanks, helicopters, and other equipment since the start of the war more than two weeks ago. Ukraine, while overmatched by Russian forces, is well-equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
Russia’s assault continues in Ukraine as refugees top 2.8 million » Despite those losses, the Russian assault continues.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya told members of the UN Security Council on Monday that Russia is committing war crimes in his country.
KYSLYTSA: Cities and villages destroyed to the ground, mass graves, terror against civilians in the occupied territories, abduction and killing of representatives of local authorities, activists and journalists.
More than 2.8 million Ukrainians are now refugees, fleeing their homes as Russian forces continue shelling residential areas. The exodus is the biggest movement of a population in Europe since WWII.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will virtually address members of the U.S. Congress about the crisis tomorrow.
Peace talks continued on Monday. Russian officials say they’re making headway in those discussions. But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said actions speak louder than words.
PSAKI: Diplomacy requires engaging in good faith to de-escalate, and what we’re really looking for is evidence of that. And we’re not seeing any evidence at this point that President Putin is doing anything to stop the onslaught.
Another American company is halting operations in Russia.
McDonald’s arrival was a symbol of change in what was still the Soviet Union at the time. But 32 years later, the company is closing nearly 900 locations, at least for now, joining a growing boycott amid the invasion of Ukraine.
White House exploring ‘range of steps’ to lower gas prices » Psaki also addressed record high gas prices. She said President Biden will leave no stone unturned as the administration looks to bring those prices down.
PSAKI: The president will continue to look at a range of steps that he can take, whether it is engaging though his team or even himself personally with big global producers, or it is looking at a range of domestic options.
According to AAA, the national average for regular unleaded held steady Monday at $4.33 per gallon.
The lowest average price right now is found in Kansas, $3.81 per gallon. The highest price, once again, California at $5.74 per gallon.
EU condemns 'barbaric' invasion, announces new sanctions against Russia » The European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday confirmed a fourth sanctions package against the Kremlin.
He condemned Russia’s—quote—"barbaric aggression" in what he called “Putin’s war.”
BORRELL: The Russian armed forces continue to carry out air missile and artillery strikes, targeting civilians, peaceful neighbors, hospitals, and schools.
And Borrell said EU members will sanction Russia's trade, market access, and membership in international financial institutions. They’ll also sanction Russia’s export of luxury goods and will target its steel, coal, and energy sectors.
EU states will also reportedly slap additional sanctions on some Russian oil companies, but it will not stop buying oil from them.
For now, Europe remains partially dependent on Russian oil.
Pfizer CEO recommends fourth vaccine dose » Pfizer is recommending a fourth dose of its COVID-19 vaccine to boost immunity.
CEO Albert Bourla told CBS News that in the short term, getting three shots is sufficient.
BOURLA: The protection that you’re getting from the third, it is good enough, actually quite good for hospitalizations and deaths.
But he conceded that that protection against milder cases of the omicron variant isn’t all that strong and immunity wanes over time.
He said his company is crafting a vaccine that is effective against all variants for at least a year. For now, he recommends people get a fourth dose of the vaccine, but the USDA will have to sign off on the additional shot.
Bourla said he’ll be submitting that request along with the data behind his recommendation to regulators very soon.
Currently, anyone ages 12 and older can get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine five months after a second.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: evacuating orphans from Ukraine. Plus, the bridge that carries us home.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 15th of March, 2022.
Thank you for joining us 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, saving the children.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a massive wave of refugees and internally displaced people. Many of them children—an estimated 100,000 living in orphanages, some of them were only weeks away from being adopted by American families when the war broke out.
REICHARD: WORLD’s Jill Nelson reports on the abrupt halt to Ukrainian adoptions and the massive effort to get Ukraine’s most vulnerable out of harm’s way.
JILL NELSON, REPORTER: Jennifer Ruff and her husband spent the first two weeks of February in Ukraine, completing the first round of their adoption process. They expected to have their son home by mid-March.
But in the middle of the night on February 24th, Jennifer Ruff got a panicked video call from 16-year-old Sasha.
RUFF: He kept saying, Mama five, Mama five. And he was showing me out the window because he was trying to tell me that there had been five shellings, explosions.
Sasha’s town was one of the first hit during the Russian invasion, and Ruff says the attacks terrified him.
RUFF: I started getting texts from him that were like the kind of text you would send if those were the last things you would write to someone. And I'm going to try not to cry, but they were things, you know, Mama, I love you. You mean so much to me. You know, I want you to know how much I love you. Like, it's just stuff that you, a 16 year old boy doesn't just come out of nowhere and write, you know?
Shasha spent 10 weeks with the family last summer through a hosting program as they rushed to finish their home study and the adoption documents required by Ukraine. When COVID-19 slowed down their process, Sasha returned to the family for four weeks over Christmas.
But now the Ruffs’ adoption process is on hold, and so are dozens of other cases. Americans adopt between 200 and 300 kids each year from Ukraine. Ruff and many other adoptive families are heartbroken.
RUFF: There’s pictures of him all over the house. It’s just really tough. We were so close and we were just there. He was so close to getting home.
Now, many organizations connected to adoption and orphan care are turning their efforts toward a massive evacuation campaign. Ambassadors of Father’s House operates a Christian and family-based orphanage in the village of Petrivske, 30 miles southwest of Kyiv. Its staff successfully evacuated 150 orphans all the way to Germany, despite many obstacles.
RUIZ: We've seen, like, miracle after miracle, so we're super thankful for that.
Luis Ruiz is the organization's director of operations. He says it was difficult to find buses, and a nighttime curfew threatened to derail their departure. But God provided a security detail that offered to escort their convoy. And after loading up 48 orphans plus staff, Ruiz says founder Roman Korniyko realized they had room for more.
RUIZ: So they have these two large coach buses. So he did what any orphanage owner would do. He would pick up more kids. And so that's what he did.
Korniyko stopped at orphanages along the way and picked up an additional 100 children. Ruiz called the timing providential.
RUIZ: One of the orphanages that they stopped by and picked up kids hours later was taken over by Russian troops. And so it's just amazing to know it was the perfect timing in the middle of the night when they weren't supposed to be traveling, that they were able to get out and also take other kids with them.
After four days of travel, the children arrived in Freiburg, Germany and are now living in four different refugee camps. Ruiz is looking into other options for the children.
Other organizations report similar triumphs: nearly 200 orphans from Kyiv made it to Hungary; 76 children made an 800-mile journey to western Ukraine; and more than 700 orphans from Odessa made it to Poland.
But some are still trapped in the war zone. Phil and Kristie Graves had nearly finished the adoption process for their 6-year-old daughter Bridget when the invasion began.
GRAVES: I'm afraid that if Russia is successful in taking the whole country or just their region, whatever, that we won’t be allowed to adopt her.
Bridget lives in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia and has cerebral palsy, club feet, and some vision problems. Her orphanage has not been able to evacuate, and Russian forces took over the city’s nuclear power station on March 3rd.
But even for the children who do make it to safety, the trauma of war can have lasting effects. That’s especially true for those who’ve already experienced the trauma of losing parents.
PROUGH: And then a lot of my kids just, you see in their eyes just total fear and shock, and that's really, you see the trauma on everyone’s faces.
Rosa Prough has lived in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, for 16 years. She supports Christian foster parents by tutoring the kids, taking them on outings, and helping them heal from past trauma. The couple she lives with already moved twice before when Russian forces took over eastern Ukraine in 2014. They have 12 foster kids.
One of the older boys Prough works with will be 18 in June and eligible to be drafted into the war.
PROUGH: He was saying that he couldn't believe this was happening. He had so many dreams for his future, and now he doesn't know what's going to happen. And he just started talking about questions like, “What's pizza like in Italy? I always wanted to try American pizza. I heard it’s good too.”
Most of the moms and kids she supports have evacuated, but Prough and many of the foster dads and older boys have stayed behind. Prough is both caring for women whose husbands have gone off to war and bringing supplies to their village defense group. But she continues to keep in close contact with the 49 foster kids she has worked with and grown to love.
PROUGH: This is a wound that is going to affect the whole generation of Ukrainians. And we're just praying that God is going to heal them and heal their land. So we're trusting in Him.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jill Nelson.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Next up: the battle for the skies over Ukraine.
NICK EICHER, HOST: The Biden administration recently nixed a Polish proposal to provide dozens of MiG fighter jets to Ukraine. But Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said intelligence officials feared that Russia may view the move as escalatory.
The West has also refused Ukraine’s calls to enforce a no-fly zone over the country.
The United States and its allies are continuing to send defensive weapons like anti-aircraft batteries and anti-tank missiles. But will that be enough?
REICHARD: Joining us now is retired U.S. Air Force Col. JV Venable. He is a 25-year military veteran who served in three combat operations. Colonel, good morning!
JV VENABLE, GUEST: Good morning, Mary. It’s great to be with you.
REICHARD: Well, let’s start with the MiG fighter jets we’ve been hearing so much about. If NATO reversed course here and sent those MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, how much difference would that make and why?
VENABLE: Well, it's a really good question. First, this deal would have gone through if it had been kept dark, meaning nothing was revealed in the press. No large announcements were made, and the likes. And that goes into several different foreign ministries and our own State Department is letting that cat out of the bag. But assuming that it did go through or eventually goes through, this airplane is a potent offensive weapon in the sense that it can actually take the fight to the enemy. Now, let me tell you that we've done some really good work in providing them arms—with the javelin and the stinger. The Javelin is the anti-tank missile you've heard so much about. And the stinger missile has shot down more than 150 aircraft. That's fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. While the MiG 29 will not be as effective as those two weapons, it's really an important morale boost to actually see your own aircraft—as a Ukrainian ground soldier—going up and engaging either airplanes, fighters, or rotary aircraft, or actually making ground attack assaults in support of your efforts is a huge morale boost. And so it's a very important tool in their arsenal is what I'll leave you with.
REICHARD: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly pleaded with the West to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Explain what that means and why the West is resistant to that idea.
VENABLE: Well, America—and the West—is very used to the idea of dominating skies. So we did it collectively over Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya. We've done that over the last 30 years because we are so dominant, one. And the second side is we were fighting Third World threats. When we actually tried to establish the no fly zone over Libya, because of the logistics, how far we had to move aircraft, and what the the suppression of enemy air defenses—meaning knocking down their surface to air threat to our aircraft—that all caused quite a bit of turmoil and it took a little bit of time. The fight over Ukraine would be markedly different. Our aircraft flying over Ukraine would be seen as an act of war by Putin. At the very least, he would start trying to shoot down our aircraft as we were trying to shoot down his. And they have the most potent, arguably the best surface to air missile system in the world with the S400. And no matter how many airplanes we put over the top of the theater, and no matter how well we thought we were suppressing those defensive systems, they're mobile. They can shut them off, move them, and then they pop up right in time to take out one of our aircraft. So the opportunity for us to lose platforms, lose airmen, and lose very valuable fighters in this process is no small risk. It is a large risk.
The second thing I would add to that Mary is the number of aircraft that would be required for us to do that. Ukraine is 700 miles wide and over 200 miles north to south. The number of squadrons it would take in order for us to put air to air fighters over the top of that airspace would be inordinately high. On the order of seven stealth squadrons, which would tap us out with all of our resources. It's a very big challenge. It's high risk, and it would likely be the domino that tumbled over, that got us into a force on force global type of war with two peer competitors.
REICHARD: Colonel, what do you think has to happen for Ukraine’s military to ultimately succeed in beating back the Russians? Talk about Ukraine’s strategy and Western involvement.
VENABLE: Well, Ukraine has put up some really great defensive lines around their major cities and up around their border where the Russians have come across. And what they're doing is inflicting an inordinately high number of casualties on this invading force. Several numbers have been thrown out there, but you have to understand, when Putin is going to our enemies out there—Syria, Iran and other countries—to try to bring in volunteers, you know the situation is significant. Their job is to do exactly what they're doing right now. It’s to make the attempt to take on Ukraine so painful that it stalls and their forces lose morale and then Putin is forced to go into a negotiation position. Putin understands only one thing and that's strength. The United States has lost sight of that with this administration. And we've given away as much of our weight and might as we can and most of the negotiation tools that we had in our portfolio. But Zelenskyy understands completely that they have to bring Russia to the table on a position of strength. And when they do, they may actually get the concessions they need to hold their borders, at least to some measure.
REICHARD: Retired Air Force Col. JV Venable is a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation. Colonel, thanks so much!
VENABLE: It’s been my pleasure, Mary. Thank you.
NICK EICHER, GUEST: An adventurer from Seattle was recently awarded a Guinness World Record for hosting a big tea party in Nepal.
Andrew Hughes didn’t host the world’s biggest tea party, but he did host the world’s highest-elevated.
Hughes and his team sat down for tea and snacks 21,000 feet above sea level, high atop Mt. Everest.
Hughes said he was gearing up to climb the world’s tallest mountain when the Covid shutdowns blew up his plans. He said the isolation he felt during that time taught him the value of community, even more important than reaching summits. And that’s where the idea for a tea party came to mind.
Oh, and I mentioned they enjoyed a few snacks? His team unofficially also set the record for most Girl Scout cookies consumed on Mt. Everest.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 15th. 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: Conjoined twins.
They’re a rare occurrence—about 1 in 50,000 births. But for an Alabama pastor and his wife, the rare became reality last year.
It’s been a bumpy road, yet they’ve made it through a challenging time with the support of their church. Here’s WORLD Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson with their story.
KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It’s a sweet scene inside the Castle Family’s rented house in New Jersey.
DWIGHT: Judah, are you so excited that you finally get to see and hold your sister? [Judah: Yeah.] You've been waiting for a long, long, long time. [Judah: Yeah, but how many days until Elizabeth’s coming home?] Buddy, that is a great question.
And that’s what everybody’s wondering. When will baby Elizabeth get to come home? And when can they return to Alabama? Dad Dwight doesn’t make predictions.
DWIGHT: It will be a new normal. [Emmet: And I miss Birmingham.] Oh, you miss Birmingham?
It was November 2020 when Stephanie Castle found out she was expecting conjoined twins. The babies were facing each other and joined in their midsection.
STEPHANIE: We felt like we were just constantly waiting. You know, we would think that the next appointment would tell us whether or not their hearts were joined. And then we'd get to that appointment and they're like, “Well, we think that they're not, but we're still not sure.”
Stephanie delivered the girls in April at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a facility known for premier care of conjoined twins.
STEPHANIE: So we actually have a picture somewhere, and you can see Susannah’s leg with a little red string around it.
That meant she was the first of the twins to be born. That was nearly a year ago. The babies couldn’t leave the hospital, so the whole Castle Clan has been living up North ever since.
DWIGHT: It was very clear to us, we wanted our family together, that we had to be together . . .
Together, they’ve faced five moves between temporary dwellings. A new school. Setbacks and surgeries for the twins. Lots of time apart.
Dwight says he and Stephanie have to divide their time between their two sets of children.
DWIGHT: We're seeing the effects either kind of developmentally with the girls and they're not attaching to us and knowing who their parents are, or the kids that we've drug around that we just aren't spending time with. And they ask why we have to go to the hospital every day.
But the outpouring of support has been great. An October video of the beautiful and happy Castle twins posted on Facebook got more than 5 million views.
Doctors determined the girls were good candidates for separation surgery and set the date for December 10. Dwight says emotions were running high.
DWIGHT: They just so happened to be joined, you know, but they were really, like, thriving babies who had their own personalities. Susannah could say ‘dada” right before that.
The surgery was successful, and the long term prognosis is good, but both girls still have hurdles in front of them. Susannah came home in February. But this morning, they’re back in Philadelphia at the hospital.
DWIGHT: Yeah, this is Susannah. She is about nine and a half months old now. Smiley this morning . . .
They come every day to the hospital to spend time with Elizabeth. But they had some problems last night at home with Susannah.
STEPHANIE: We had a rough night. Yeah, she was spitting up, throwing up—I don't know what you want to call it—all night. So yeah, we'll see how she's doing, I guess.
The Castles say they’re managing by the grace of God. And by the support of others. From Grandmas who have tag teamed care of the kids for months to a loaned van to Redeemer Community Church back in Birmingham. They’ve allowed Dwight great flexibility in his role as missions pastor.
DWIGHT: What's been cool is to see people use their particular giftings or skill sets or resources. Someone who had a private plane flying us up here, a baker sending us some baked goods. graphic designers designing thank you cards for us. There's someone right now preparing the nursery for the girls . . .
STEPHANIE: Doing our laundry for the two months when we were here and the kids were there.
DWIGHT: We'd literally put our laundry on the front porch and someone would come and pick it up and do our laundry and bring it back.
People have sent cards, texts, and checks. They raked their yard, cut their hair, offered photo sessions. A Christian school extended fall registration. Dwight’s sister kept their freezer filled with home-cooked meals.
The Philadelphia Eagles even treated 8-year-old Mac to a game.
MAC: I liked it. It was fun, even though we lost.
One of their biggest blessings was their last house. It became available just an hour before they were to reluctantly sign a year’s lease on a more expensive one.
It’s good they didn’t sign that year's lease. Since our interview, the Castles packed up for Alabama. They’re home.
DWIGHT: I want to testify to the Lord's faithfulness in the normal hard things of life that give people hope when they experience the really normal hard things of life, too. Life is hard a lot, but God has always been with us.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
EICHER: To learn more about the Castle twins, you can find Kim’s story in the current issue of WORLD Magazine.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 15th. 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. Time now for commentary. Here’s WORLD’s Steve West.
STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: Bridges, like other parts of the urban landscape, go largely unnoticed. Even iconic spans, like the Golden Gate Bridge, may become just a blur in the background for commuters who traverse them every day. Awe accommodates itself to repetition, like floaters in the eye, largely unnoticed after a time.
"Bridges," says Bruce Jackson, "are perhaps the most invisible form of public architecture." What is common and ordinary disappears. Familiarity breeds contempt.
The first bridge I recall was one from my early childhood. My bonneted grandmother, hands on her hips, let us wade and play in the stream that pooled beneath the trestled bridge of the Southern Railway tracks. As the train passed overhead, the conductor waved and the trestles seemed to shake.
Later, friends and I waded through the stream flowing through the twin tunnels of a bridge over the creek that flowed through our neighborhood. We caught tadpoles, skipped rocks across the water's surface, and let our voices reverberate off the tunnel walls.
Great and even tragic stories are built into some bridges, like the Brooklyn Bridge or Golden Gate, where many lost their lives in their construction. On the historic Charles Bridge, in Prague, statues of saints look down on walkers.
Other bridges carry tiny stories largely unrecounted and forgotten. Most embodied very pedestrian hopes, like better traffic flow or safer passage. Maybe the bridge was nothing more than just a way to get home or even, for a homeless person, a shelter from the storm. And some, like the one over the stream in my neighborhood, started as a squiggly line on a developer's subdivision plan and then, for many a parent, became a place to pause with a stroller and let a child hear the gurgling water and dream of all the places to which that water may travel.
And then, there's another kind of bridge altogether, like the one that one of my friends heard about in his college years. While ambling through a mountain music festival in the early 70s, a bearded man said to him in passing, "Jesus is the bridge, man." After dropping that metaphor, the bridge-tender walked on. But the promise of that one bridge reverberated in my friend's mind the rest of the day and on into the early hours of the morning, when, full of hope and in trust, he walked across it into another country.
“A traveler comes to a bridge," muses essayist Don Waldie. "As the traveler starts to cross, one foot is still earthbound. Empty space is beneath the other. The next step requires trust.” You could even say it takes faith.
I try not to take any bridge for granted. It holds me up. It gives me a perspective on the flow below. It carries me to where I need to go. It absorbs my weight, carries my burdens, and reminds me to look forward to that final bridge that takes me Home.
I’m Steve West.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: aid to Ukraine. We’ll talk about new funding Congress just approved.
And, the Christian walk—both spiritual and physical.
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.
The Psalmist writes: Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Psalm 24:5 ESV)
Go now in grace and peace.
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