The World and Everything in It - October 12, 2021
WORLD Radio - The World and Everything in It - October 12, 2021
Why negotiations over the police reform fell apart; possible regulation in light of the Facebook whistleblower’s revelations; and a visit to a unique south Texas attraction. Plus: commentary from Steve West, and the Tuesday morning news.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Federal lawmakers are at a stalemate over police reform. Partisan politics played a role. But so did objections from local law enforcement agencies.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Also regulating Big Tech. We’ll find out what effect the Facebook whistleblower’s revelations might have on that effort.
Plus a visit to the “American Venice.”
And a mundane chore uncovers a fountain of love.
BROWN: It’s Tuesday, October 12th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
BUTLER: And I’m Paul Butler. Good morning!
BROWN: Up next, Kristen Flavin has today’s news.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, NEWS ANCHOR: U.S. officials hold talks with the Taliban » U.S. officials met with Taliban representatives over the weekend in Doha, Qatar. A State Department spokesman called the discussions “candid and professional.”
Taliban officials said the United States agreed to provide humanitarian aid to the new government in Afghanistan. But U.S. officials have yet to confirm that.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Afghan economy is on the verge of collapse. He urged the international community to inject liquidity into the country.
GUTERRES: Right now, with assets frozen and development aid paused, the economy is breaking down. Banks are closing and essential services, such as health care, have been suspended in many places. We need to find ways to make the economy breathe again, and this can be done without violating international laws or compromising principles.
The State Department said the weekend talks focused on humanitarian concerns, especially involving women, and on safe passage for foreign nationals. Representatives also discussed concerns over security and terrorism.
A Taliban spokesman claimed the group was committed to keeping extremists out of the country. But on Saturday, it ruled out cooperating with Washington to contain an increasingly active Islamic State offshoot.
On Friday, the militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the northern city of Kunduz that killed 46 minority Shiite Muslims.
Merck asks regulators to approve COVID treatment » Drugmaker Merck has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve its antiviral treatment for COVID-19. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has that story.
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: If approved, Merck’s treatment would be the first authorized by the FDA in pill form. All other authorized treatments currently require injections or IV infusions.
Earlier this month the company reported promising clinical trial results. The treatment, called molnupiravir, cut hospitalizations and deaths by half among patients with early symptoms. The two other commonly prescribed treatments are usually given to patients with more severe illness.
The Biden administration has already committed to buying enough of the drug to treat 1.7 million patients. Each treatment costs $700, about half the price of current treatments.
Merck hopes to produce 10 million courses of the treatment by the end of 2021. It has also agreed to license it to several generic drugmakers based in India. They would supply the drug to low- and middle-income countries.
The FDA could issue its decision within the next few weeks.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
Ongoing flight disruptions follow weekend cancellations » Passengers flying on Southwest Airlines continued to face travel disruptions on Monday. That after weekend cancellations left thousands of travelers stranded.
Dana Lisson told Boston’s WCVB TV this was not the first time trouble at Southwest interrupted her plans.
LISSON: Lots of flights got canceled. And this is probably the fourth time this has happened to me, like, within the last few months.
The airline canceled nearly 2,000 flights on Saturday and Sunday. It blamed bad weather and unspecified “operational challenges” for the problems. But in an unusual move, the FAA disputed that explanation. It noted Southwest was the only airline having problems.
The widespread disruptions came shortly after the Southwest pilots’ union asked a federal court to block the company’s vaccine mandate. That prompted speculation a pilot “sickout” might have caused the cancellations. But the union denied that. It said it had not authorized and would not condone any job action.
Three U.S. economists win Nobel prize » Three U.S. researchers will share this year’s Nobel prize for economics.
David Card teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. He won half the prize for his research on how the minimum wage, immigration, and education affect the labor market.
CARD: In the minimum wage study, I think the main thing that's really come out of that, contrary to what everyone thinks, is not that we should raise the minimum wage necessarily, but it's rather a focus on a different way of thinking about how wages are set.
Two other economists split the other half of the prize: Joshua Angrist of MIT and Guido Imbens of Stanford University. The Nobel committee recognized them for creating a framework for studying issues that can't rely on traditional scientific methods.
The economics Nobel is the last of the prizes announced each year. On Friday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded this year’s Peace Prize to two journalists. Maria Ressa, co-founded Rappler, a news website focused on the drug war in the Philippines. Dmitry Muratov helped start an independent Russian newspaper critical of the government.
I’m Kristen Flavin. Straight ahead: police reform legislation hits a roadblock.
Plus, finding love in mundane chores.
This is The World and Everything in It.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 12th of October, 2021.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up: police reform.
George Floyd died under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide calls for police reform.
Cities and states across the country cut police budgets and changed policing policies. Reformers also called on Congress to pass federal legislation that would standardize policies across the country.
BUTLER: In March, the Democrat-controlled House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. But last month, the legislation fell apart in the Senate. What happened and where will federal police reform efforts go from here?
WORLD special correspondent Sarah Schweinsberg reports.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: May marked one year since George Floyd’s death. And at that time, Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said a bipartisan agreement on police reform was near.
BOOKER: I am very hopeful. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress from where we left off in the last Congress where talks failed. We still have a ways to go but I’m hoping it’s a matter of weeks and not months.
Democrats needed to win 10 Republican votes to get to the necessary 60 votes to pass a bill. Booker’s Republican negotiating partner, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, agreed the two sides were close to having the votes.
SCOTT: I think we are on the verge of wrapping this up in the next week or two depending on how quickly they respond to our suggestions.
Scott and Booker agreed on several points, including eliminating chokeholds and limiting the transfer of military equipment to local departments. Both parties also agreed that departments should report police misconduct to a nationwide database.
But despite those commonalities, over the next four months talks went backwards. Finally, on September 22nd, Booker called Scott and officially ended the negotiations.
Booker told CBS’s Face the Nation the talks failed because Republicans wouldn't budge on funding questions.
BOOKER: It was a compromise bill that frankly would have made transformative change and I’m very disappointed that in the end, we couldn’t get the Republicans to come along with us.
But Tim Scott, also talking to Face the Nation, said he was willing to keep looking for a way forward. He blamed Democrats for pushing something Republicans simply couldn’t support: defunding the police.
SCOTT: Many provisions in this bill that he wanted me to agree to limited or reduced funding for police. That’s a lose-lose proposition.
Scott said Democrats wanted to tie federal funding for police departments to meeting federal standards. Scott said the proposal gave the federal government too much power to cut funding to departments and placed too many burdens on departments already stretched thin.
SCOTT: We have about a billion dollars in grant money that goes to police. When you start saying in order to receive those dollars you must do A, B, and C. When you tell local law enforcement agencies that you are ineligible for money, that’s defunding the police.
Another sticking point all along the way was qualified immunity. That’s a legal doctrine that says an officer can only be held liable for an action if a court has already declared a similar behavior to be unconstitutional.
Supporters say it protects public officials from getting sued all the time, while critics say it lets officers off the hook for bad behavior.
Scott and Booker agreed to take any changes to qualified immunity off the table in the final days of the negotiations. But ultimately, disagreements over funding proved too much.
Mark Caleb Smith is a political scientist at Cedarville University. He says besides policy differences, both sides also ran out of political will. President Biden pushed Congress to focus on COVID-19 spending packages and other issues.
SMITH: I think if the president had maybe gotten on board and decided to push it hard from his direction, and maybe that could have broken some of the logjam there, but the partisan split in the Senate really made it, I think, extremely difficult.
So could the legislation get revived in the next three years? Smith isn’t optimistic.
SMITH: Once President Biden decided not to make it a significant priority. I think it was dead at that point. And so to me, unless either President Biden decides to change his approach or another event happens, I'm not sure this issue moves forward.
But not all criminal justice experts see that as a bad thing.
Thaddeus Johnson is a former police officer and a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University. He says it was going to be very difficult for a federal bill to come up with a set of standards that the country’s 18,000 police departments could all live up to—especially the provision requiring data entry.
JOHNSON: Because you can't hold a police department in a small town in Mississippi to the same standard you hold Atlanta PD, Memphis PD, LAPD, right, so that’s gonna be hard.
Johnson also believes the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act still doesn’t get at the real issues with policing in America.
JOHNSON: When we're looking at police reform, we try to focus on this low hanging fruit that really didn't have any long term change, like no knock warrants, qualified immunity, banning choke holds. These are some things that require visiting, but these are not the, the hinge or the linchpin for for real lasting reform.
Johnson says federal bills and federal spending need to reward departments partnering with their communities and fundamentally changing the way they police and that’s more complicated than a one-time bill.
Rafael Mangual is a policing researcher at the Manhattan Institute. He says reform is already taking place all over the country at the local level, where it belongs. It’s better to wait and see what works and what doesn’t.
MANGUAL: I think if we have a kind of blanket mandate across the country, and you put all your eggs in one federal basket, the risk is that if that reform goes bad, then everyone suffers. Whereas, you know, if you allow states and localities to do this, on their own, you can get a sense of what works and what doesn't, and perhaps mitigate the harm.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the fallout from a whistleblower’s testimony.
Last week, a former product manager at Facebook testified before a Senate panel calling for Congress to step in and hold the tech giant accountable.
HAUGEN: I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy. The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.
Frances Haugen said the company develops algorithms that feed hateful or inflammatory content. She said it’s all in an effort to hook users because the more time they spend on social media, the more advertising the company can sell.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: She also said the company is endangering children and that Facebook will only clean up its act if Congress steps in.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are indeed voicing concern about the power big tech companies have over news and information today.
Facebook responded, saying Haugen's accusations don’t make sense and that she did not directly work on the issues she raised.
Joining us now with more insight is Lora Ries. She is the Director of the Center for Technology Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Lora, good morning!
LORA RIES, GUEST: Good morning, thanks for having me on.
BROWN: Lora, I do want to ask you about where all of this is heading in terms of content censorship, but let me start with this: Is Ms. Haugen alleging that Facebook may have violated the law in its business and content practices?
RIES: Well, Facebook and the owner Mark Zuckerberg has testified before Congress many times. If he had said anything false before Congress as to representing what his company does and does not do and their customer base, that's one aspect to explore. There are related issues with Facebook and potential anti-competitive tactics. Those need to be investigated as well by the Federal Trade Commission. But we've all worried as parents about social media and the effects on teenagers and basically addiction to these platforms and to their phones. And at the hearing that Francis Haugen testified at, Senator Blumenthal said it's an addictive or an addict's narrative, which is very troublesome. And the parents certainly need more tools to help teach their teens some self-control, some self-moderation and use of these platforms.
BROWN: Now Lora, you’ve pointed to one big concern you had about Haugen’s testimony itself with regard to censorship and policing—quote, unquote—“misinformation.” Talk about that, if you would.
RIES: Yes, the big caution I want to raise regarding this hearing with Francis Haugen is the censorship that she's calling for in the guise of misinformation. She was the lead product manager for civic misinformation at Facebook and this had to do with elections. And over the past year and a half, we have seen many social media companies label what they claim to be misinformation and taking content down—whether it's about COVID, such as the Wuhan lab being the source of the source of the virus or masks are bad, then masks are good, and also elections. And we recall the Hunter Biden laptop was originally taken down as misinformation. Later on, they admit that, no, it was indeed his laptop. And so misinformation is a catchall for whatever the left doesn't like or what contradicts their narrative. And so no one should be calling for or implementing more content removal based on “misinformation.”
BROWN: And this is where we see the partisan divide, right? Most Democrats want stricter policing of content. Republicans largely believe these platforms should not selectively censor or edit user-generated content.
And that speaks to legal protections these companies have under Section 230. Would you explain that please?
RIES: Sure. So in 1996, Congress passed section 230. And the idea was—again, starting with children—that parents needed tools from these companies so that they wouldn't be viewing pornography, explicit sexual activity, violence, cyberbullying, things like that. Now there is a catchall phrase in Section 230 that reads “otherwise objectionable.” And these companies are using that very broad, vague language to moderate content, label it, edit it, take it down completely, based on “otherwise objectionable” when they've gone far afield from the original intent of that liability protection. And so Congress needs to reform that section to return to the original intent and to allow these companies to be sued when they are acting as publishers by labeling or taking content down that has nothing to do with the original intent of the protection.
BROWN: Do you think there’s enough agreement on some issues that we’ll see regulation in the coming months, or years. And if so, what elements of the social media platform do you think lawmakers will target?
RIES: So, I think there's agreement that some of these big tech companies like Facebook or Amazon or Google need to be investigated for any potential anti-competitive behavior and based on current laws and regulations with the Federal Trade Commission or others, investigate those and punish if there are violations. Where there is not agreement is around this misinformation and, as you stated before, you know, generally the left wants more content taken down or labeled as misinformation. And conservatives feel and are seeing what seemed to be a very slanted, very biased content moderation against conservative thought under the guise of misinformation. And so the two parties in Congress want Section 230 reform but for very different reasons. And so it's unlikely that we're going to see Congress successfully get a bill through both houses for that reason. And so we also need to look to other avenues, such as what are the states doing to protect users and consumers? What alternative companies are emerging, such as Rumble as an alternative to YouTube and others to offer public squares where conservatives don't have to fear that their content is going to be taken down.
BROWN: Okay, Lora Ries with the Heritage Foundation has been our guest. Lora, thanks so much!
RIES: Thanks for having me.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Maybe you are a bonafide Fab Four expert, able to rattle off John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s full catalog by heart. And maybe you want to make it official.
Well, you “Can’t Buy Me Love,” but you can buy yourself an education at the University of Liverpool. The school is inviting Beatles aficionados to “Come Together” and earn a master’s degree in The Beatles.
The course started last month, and a spokesman for the university says they are specifically hoping to attract people “currently working, or considering pursuing a career in, the music and creative industries.” So, maybe a “Paperback Writer”?
Course designers say they hope the Beatles Master of Arts will promote Britain’s culture and tourism.
Not sure how you would monetize that degree, but there’s something to be said for self-enrichment, I guess. One thing is for sure though: Whatever your post-grad career plans, you will surely be visited by… The “Taxman.”
It’s The World and Everything In It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Tuesday, October 12th, 2021. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: We head south to one of the oldest cities west of the Mississippi—San Antonio, Texas.
With everything from the Alamo to SeaWorld, it’s a top pick for tourists, bringing in some 30 million visitors a year.
BROWN: Concluding our summer Destinations series, WORLD Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson recently visited the “River City” and brings us this story.
AUDIO: [CITY TRAFFIC]
KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It’s a little after nine in the morning when a truck stops along West Market Street in downtown San Antonio. A worker lifts a special water hose up high beside a light pole. A thirsty mass of pink impatiens is happy to see her.
This property management group keeps a thousand similar hanging baskets and flowerpots in the area hydrated. The plants beautify streets surrounding a bigger water source—the San Antonio River Walk.
AUDIO: [LIVE MEXICAN MUSIC]
Dubbed the number one attraction in all of Texas, the River Walk is actually a park located a level down from the city streets. Walking paths line 15 serene miles of the San Antonio River. It’s been called the “American Venice.”
AUDIO: [DUCKS AND WATER]
Ducks are a big part of the scene. They hang out in the water near the restaurants. Visitors can take their pick of menus, but Tex-Mex cuisine is plentiful. So are the shops—from souvenir joints to fancy jewelry stores.
Strands of festive lights and a near-constant breeze add to the happy atmosphere. Couples walk hand in hand. Retirees amble along.
GIRL: We’re from Mexico. It’s a beautiful place. It’s really beautiful.
That’s a teenager. Another family is in line for a boat ride.
WOMAN: We’re actually traveling to South Padre tomorrow, so we’re just stopping here. We live in Dallas. It’s cool. We’ve been down here before.
The boat tours are one of the most important businesses along the River Walk.
AUDIO: [BOAT DRIVER SINGS]
In some spots the river is as low as two feet. In others it’s 12 times that.
Talkative guides decked out in straw hats point to historical sites along the way. Sometimes they sing.
The River Walk exists because of a disaster that happened 100 years ago last month. A flood in 1921 left 50 dead and caused millions of dollars in damage in San Antonio. City planners decided to build a dam to prevent future tragedies. Plans also included a bypass channel through downtown.
A smart architect named Robert Hugman proposed putting businesses along the channel instead of paving over the water way. He probably never imagined they’d draw these kinds of crowds.
Commercial development on the river walk took off in 1946. That’s when the WPA constructed a network of stone paths and bridges. Workers then also planted the bald cypress whose branches now stretch 10 stories tall.
BOAT DRIVER: This isCasa Rio. They’ve been here since ‘46. They know what they’re doing . . .
As a tour boat glides by, the guide points out the Casa Rio, a landmark River Walk restaurant. It was the first restaurant in the area in 1946, opening next door to Architect Hugman’s office.
Today, it’s the site of a birthday celebration.
The family has paid a traveling band to serenade them at their table. The musicians are decked out in traditional Mexican garb—black vests and embroidered pants, a charro bow tie at their necks.
WOMAN: We are celebrating his birthday, and we came from Ft. Worth, Texas.
MAN: The River Walk is very nice, and it’s very good for coming with families.
The couple’s 6-month-old baby is sleeping in a stroller. The grandmother has come for the celebration, too.
WOMAN: We requested [Spanish song titles . . . ], the Happy Birthday Song. That’s it, I think.
Another family, the Cumberlands, is in San Antonio for the first time. Even though San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the United States, they say it doesn't feel like it. Instead, it’s a nice change of pace from the busyness of Houston.
MICHAEL: What a humble, quiet little town. I mean it feels really homey and everybody here has been super welcoming. Food is cool. Real good Christian vibes in this town.
FAMILY: Say “Crockett.” [Crockett.] . . . Say “Alamo.” [Alamo.]
Their 2-year-old is wearing a coonskin cap, maybe in honor of Davy Crockett and the Alamo, or maybe it’s just part of his usual wardrobe. He’s a true Texan, right down to his name—Brazos.
TAYLOR: We named him Brazos after the Brazos River here in Texas. We wanted a Texas name, and Travis and Austin are super overused, so we wanted Brazos.
Their state is in the spotlight after its abortion ban went into effect September 1st. Opponents of the law say endorsing such policies will have negative economic consequences for Texas.
They point to the relocation of NCAA events following the passage of North Carolina's "bathroom bill" and Major League Baseball's relocation of the 2021 All Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in response to Georgia’s voting laws.
But Michael Cumberland has a different take.
MICHAEL: I do think that Texas is going to be positively affected for standing up for God's word. I think that God's word stands longer than any of the words we make. So that if we stand together and say that that's not okay, I think Texas will feel God's blessing from that. Absolutely. I think we'll be affected.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in San Antonio, Texas.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Tuesday, October 12th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler.
Commentator Steve West now on how a weekend chore can stir up love and fond memories.
AUDIO: [Water gurgling] Hey, you want to help me clean my copper fountain?
Sure, why not.
STEVE WEST, COMMENTATOR: I love cleaning the fountain, I told my wife, which if not precisely true, is not false. I do it for her.
The fountain has three copper pieces: a bowl that’s circular yet fashioned in waves; a centerpiece of four cattails surrounded by leafy fronds; and a motor covered by a hand-sized cup. Oxidation has blued the copper, giving color. Water presses upward and drops to the pool below, a bit of spare music for the afternoon.
She is directing me, and I am trying to keep my mind on what I am doing, which is no small thing, as the sound of the water is dream-inducing. First, she says, you lift the centerpiece with cattails and fronds directly up out of the water, taking care to lift by two fronds so as not to bend the piece. And stay upright, she cautions, and take care, as one of the fronds might put your eye out. I lift it, eyes averted from its nakedness, and place it flatly on the walk, lifeless and inanimate.
She hands me a brush. She demonstrates how to brush the sides and bottom of the bowl carefully, removing the slime. I take over. She sits on the steps at our door, coaching. I like the rhythm of the brushing, the ease of the cleaning, the new clarity of the copper beneath. But then my mind wanders, as it is wont to, while she watches.
AUDIO: [Sounds of wind, birds, walking]
In my mind, we are wandering the dusty streets of Tubac, in southern Arizona, walking by the many artisans, just above the often-dry Santa Cruz River. The fountain was born in Tubac, fashioned by a metalworker named Lee Blackwell, we later recall, the copper mined in the mountains nearby. Sometimes, rather than shop the artisans, I give her space to shop at ease, without the company of my impatience, and I walk the nearly six miles of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which is a mighty name for a dirt walk beside a river that mostly hides beneath the desert.
When you finish that, she says, we’ll rinse it. I finished. I rinsed.
I walk the trail from Tubac, just below the Presidio, the site of the original Spanish garrison, winding through the cottonwoods, willows, and mesquite, watching for rattlesnakes that love the heat of the day. Once, she came too. I took her hand and helped her over downed trees and between the slats of a fence. Sometimes, I just took her hand.
Once we rinsed the bowl, we moved to the centerpiece, pulling pine straw and debris from its innards, taking care, of course, for our eyes.
She cleaned the motor. She is nothing if not thorough. She instructed. I listened and nodded, imagining the calls of the birds along the Santa Cruz, the crunch of the compacted desert sand underfoot, the solitude of the walk. I cross the river, which trickles in the Spring, and make my way to the mission at Tumacacori where the Holy stills ghosts its ruins, where she will drive and pick me up.
AUDIO: [Sounds of the fountain]
Now we fill it, she says, and we sit down side by side on the few steps that lead to our door. We are quiet. I feed the hose around the handrails of our steps, and we listen to its filling, so full together.
I’m Steve West.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Tomorrow: the spending fight on Capitol Hill. We’ll get the latest on the negotiations over President Biden’s two big legislative priorities.
And, isolation in Japan. We’ll talk to a missionary about how the country’s strict pandemic lockdowns have affected the church.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
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