The World and Everything in It - October 14, 2021
WORLD Radio - The World and Everything in It - October 14, 2021
The renewed push to legalize marijuana at the federal level; the investigation into abuse in Southern Baptist churches; and Star Trek legend William Shatner’s long-awaited, real life trip to space. Plus: commentary from Cal Thomas, and the Thursday morning news.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Marijuana is now legal in some form in more than half the states in the U.S. Activists are using that momentum to push for change at the federal level.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Also abuse in the church. We’ll get an update on the latest developments in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Plus, actor William Shatner took a short trip to space yesterday, we’ll hear what he thought about it.
And pursuing excellence in education.
BROWN: It’s Thursday, October 14th. 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: Time now for news. Here’s Kristen Flavin.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, NEWS ANCHOR: White House holds supply chain meeting » The Port of Los Angeles, one of the busiest in the nation, will begin ramping up its operations to help ease supply chain bottlenecks.
President Biden announced the agreement Wednesday afternoon.
BIDEN: By staying open seven days a week, through the night and on the weekends, the Port of Los Angeles will open over 60 extra hours a week.
According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, 62 ships are currently birthed at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Another 81 are waiting to dock and unload.
Together the ports account for 40 percent of all shipping containers entering the United States. Long Beach moved to 24/7 operations three weeks ago.
President Biden held a virtual meeting Wednesday with the heads of several companies that play an integral role in the U.S. supply chain. They included Walmart, FedEx Logistics, UPS, and Target. Representatives from the Teamsters Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also participated.
Afterward, the president said the changes they discussed would have long-lasting effects.
BIDEN: Our goal is to not only get through this immediate bottleneck but to address the longstanding weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic has exposed.
To help ease port backups, Walmart, FedEx, and UPS agreed to unload during off-peak hours, clearing the way for other cargo to move during the day.
Social security payments get a boost amid inflation worries » Meanwhile, the White House is downplaying concerns about inflation linked to supply chain shortages.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday higher prices will not last forever.
PSAKI: We know that what the Federal Reserve and Wall Street economists and others are projecting is that the rate of inflation will come down next year.
But until then, consumers are struggling to absorb higher costs on everything from food to gasoline. To help ease the pain for retirees, the Social Security Administration announced the biggest cost-of-living adjustment in nearly 40 years.
Monthly benefit checks will grow by 5.9 percent. That will raise the typical monthly payments by about $92 dollars. The change applies to roughly 70 million recipients, including disabled veterans and federal workers.
Nearly half of U.S. senior citizens live in households that depend on monthly Social Security benefits for half their income.
U.S. reopens land borders to vaccinated travelers » Travelers will once again be able to cross U.S. land borders starting next month. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has that story.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: Pandemic-related restrictions cut off nearly all vehicle, rail, and ferry travel between the United States and its northern and southern neighbors for the last 19 months.
But under new rules announced Wednesday, the Biden administration will ease restrictions for nonessential travel. Not everyone’s welcome though. Foreign travelers must be fully vaccinated to enter the country.
Vaccine mandates will also apply to essential travelers, like truck drivers, starting in mid January.
The new travel policy takes effect in November, when restrictions on air travel are also easing.
But the rules only apply to legal entry. Anyone crossing the border illegally will still be subject to removal under the pandemic policy put in place by the Trump administration and continued under President Biden.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
California wildfire grows » AUDIO: [Crackling fire and firefighter’s radio]
Hundreds of firefighters converged on Santa Barbara County, California, this week to fight the area’s latest wildfire.
The Alisal Fire erupted Monday and high winds are fueling its spread. Daniel Bertucelli is with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
BERTUCELLI: With 40-50 mile per hour winds, extensive drought and steep topography, it's just a perfect storm of a fire that's going to be very challenging to contain, and to control.
The fire prompted officials to shut down Highway 101, the famed coastal roadway. They also issued evacuation orders for the lightly populated area.
On Wednesday, the blaze was just a few miles from the ranch once owned by former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy. The president hosted several world leaders at the property then known as the Western White House.
FDA approves e-cigarettes » The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first e-cigarette to help smokers cut back on traditional forms of tobacco.
The agency’s decision only applies to the Vuse Solo e-cigarette and tobacco-flavored nicotine cartridges sold by R.J. Reynolds. Regulators said data from the company showed the device helped smokers reduce their exposure to the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes.
The FDA is still reviewing applications by the most popular e-cigarette maker, Juul, and others. In September, the agency said it rejected applications for more than a million products due to their potential appeal to underage users.
E-cigarettes have been sold in the U.S. for more than a decade with minimal government oversight. But companies must now prove their products benefit public health.
I’m Kristen Flavin. Straight ahead: the push to decriminalize marijuana.
Plus, excellence in education.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Thursday the 14th of October, 2021.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. First up: making marijuana legal.
Since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, marijuana has been illegal at the federal level. But in the last 10 years, states have started to drop penalties for its use, both medicinally and recreationally.
BROWN: That has led to renewed efforts to take it off Washington’s list of banned substances. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher reports.
JOSH SCHUMACHER, REPORTER: In mid-July, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his intention to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
SCHUMER: So today is a big day in the Senate. For the first time, I, as majority leader, Senator Wyden as the chairman of the Finance Committee, and Senator Booker, one of the foremost champions for justice and equity here in the Senate, we are all joining together to release draft legislation to end the federal prohibition on cannabis.
Schumer unveiled his draft legislation amid a renewed cultural and political push to make smoking pot legal.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors supports the move. So does Amazon. The online retail company announced in June it would no longer screen many employees for marijuana use. Drivers and those operating heavy machines are still subject to drug tests. But company leaders urged lawmakers to end bans on the drug.
Paul Larkin is a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He says this push for legalization isn’t new.
LARKIN: There has been a considerable controversy ever since the 1960s over how society should treat the regulation of cannabis. And there is a large number of people who are in favor of decriminalizing it. And they have been pushing this argument for quite some time. They now have reached a point where they have got probably most of America in favor of that result.
And Larkin says that momentum has grown as more and more states adopt their own legalization measures.
LARKIN: We have started to reach a critical mass in the country, because we have a very large number of states who now have approved medical or recreational marijuana programs. And given the large number of states with those sorts of programs, it's not surprising that Congress is finally getting around to deciding the issue.
According to Quinnipiac University, about 70 percent of Americans support legalization. Nearly 30 states have decriminalized marijuana in some capacity. Many cities and local jurisdictions have also removed penalties for having small amounts of the substance.
Justin Strekal is the political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He ties the recent legalization efforts to America’s increased focus on eradicating uneven racial outcomes in criminal prosecutions.
Strekal says black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested on a marijuana charge than white Americans, despite similar rates of use. And Strekal says arrest rates are quite high.
STREKAL: Today, in just the short time that we've had this conversation, just the last 15 minutes, on average, 11 Americans have been put into handcuffs for a marijuana related charge, 91 percent of which is for possession alone.
Strekal notes those arrests can have life-long consequences.
STREKAL: You know, with that Scarlet Letter of a marijuana charge on your record, it makes it harder to gain access to gainful employment, which makes it harder to gain access to suitable housing, to get access to health care, to you can lose your driver's license. How can we expect Americans to be productive members of their community, if we're holding them back for for a substance that three of the last four presidents have acknowledged consuming.
Schumer’s draft legislation also emphasizes so-called “restorative justice,” both for those arrested and imprisoned for mairjuana-related offenses, and for communities significantly affected by long-term law enforcement initiatives related to marijuana.
But making the drug legal will also have negative consequences. Heritage’s Paul Larkin says decriminalizing marijuana—even if it’s just for medical purposes—does lead to an increase in people using the substance.
LARKIN: The number of people in Colorado who all of a sudden developed adverse medical conditions with a need for marijuana after the medical marijuana law was passed there skyrocketed enormously. So Colorado went from being one of the healthiest states in the nation to one of the sickest. The same result has happened elsewhere.
Larkin says increased use of marijuana can also lead to increased misuse of marijuana—especially where vehicles are involved.
LARKIN: You're gonna have an increase in the number of people who use it, are one toke over the line, and get behind the wheel of a car. Legalizing cannabis is going to increase the number of people who are impaired by cannabis when they drive. Why do I know this? Colorado has seen a dramatic increase in the number of crashes and fatalities in which a driver had THC in his system. That doesn't necessarily mean the person was impaired at the time. But some of them surely were.
The CDC says more research is needed, but marijuana also has long-term negative consequences for some users. Teenagers may compromise learning and memory functions. Pregnant mothers could jeopardize their babies’ cognitive development.
Despite increased support for federal legalization efforts, don’t expect Schumer’s bill to get a floor vote any time soon. The draft legislation has yet to be proposed as an actual bill. And lawmakers are too busy battling over government spending bills to take up another likely contentious issue.
Even if they did, the White House says President Biden probably wouldn't sign it into law.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: abuse in the church.
For the last two years, the Southern Baptist Convention has faced accusations that it mishandled decades of abuse allegations against pastors. Victims say denomination leaders ignored their pleas. In some cases, victims say the people they went to for help urged them to keep quiet. And that, critics say, contributed to a system that allowed abusers to move from church to church—with little to no accountability for their criminal actions.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: SBC leaders are now trying to address concerns and figure out a way to prevent similar problems going forward. But division over how to proceed is threatening to rip the country’s largest Protestant denomination apart.
Joining us now to talk about the latest developments is Mary Jackson. She is a reporter for WORLD Digital who has been following the SBC abuse story for most of this year. Good morning, Mary!
MARY JACKSON, REPORTER: Good morning, Myrna.
BROWN: Before we get into what happened last week, we need to explain for listeners how the Southern Baptist Convention operates. What is the executive committee and what does it do?
JACKSON: The Executive Committee is made up of 86 men and women who are elected from different states and regions to represent the convention. The convention has about 47,000 churches. The committee makes decisions for the denomination in between its annual meetings in relation to its budget and other Southern Baptist business.
BROWN: OK, now tell us about the investigation. When did it start, who’s doing it, and what are they looking for?
JACKSON: So, the investigation is now underway as of last week, and the law firm Guidepost Solutions has been hired to carry it out. They will be looking at the way that the Executive Committee members and staff have handled sexual abuse cases over the past two decades. Specifically, Guidepost is investigating the actions and decisions of the Executive Committee members and staff—decisions they've made relating to allegations of abuse, mishandling of abuse, any patterns of intimidating victims or advocates or resisting sexual abuse reform initiatives.
BROWN: In June, convention delegates voted to give oversight of the investigation to an independent task force. Why was that significant?
JACKSON: Yeah, this is a critical factor. Local church delegates—called Messengers in the SBC—were pretty clear about the terms of the investigation. The motion they overwhelmingly passed last summer at their annual meeting called for a task force to oversee the investigation, mainly because they wanted to ensure the Executive Committee was accountable to someone other than itself for what it does with the results. The Messengers also wanted to ensure full transparency and specifically stated that the executive committee would waive privilege. That means that Guidepost would have access to all communication between Executive Committee members, staffers, and lawyers about the committee's handling of sexual abuse cases.
BROWN: Ok, so what happened last week?
JACKSON: So, last week after several meetings and delays and a lot of contentious debate over the issue of waiving privilege, the Executive Committee voted to give Guidepost access to its private communications and basically to honor the requests of sexual abuse survivors and the will of the Messengers. Many of the committee members who oppose this raise concerns over their fiduciary duties to protect the conventions and its entities from financial risks, such as loss of insurance or potential lawsuits. After the vote, 10 committee members resigned and a couple days ago, the convention’s law firm which has represented them for 56 years, resigned over the committee's decision to waive privilege.
BROWN: What are the next steps?
JACKSON: So, Guidepost will publish a public report 30 days before the annual meeting next June in Anaheim. As many sexual abuse survivors have noted, it's a long road ahead, but many believe it's an important step in rebuilding trust within the denomination.
BROWN: Mary Jackson is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She writes the Relations newsletter. To get her weekly reports in your inbox, sign up at wng.org/newsletters. Mary, thanks so much for joining us today!
JACKSON: Thanks for having me on the show.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: A piece of literary history just sold at auction. And wait till you hear the price!
The item in question: a broken down old wooden bridge.
It has gone by a couple of names but the one that stuck was Poohsticks Bridge.
If that doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps this excerpt narrated by John Cleese might help.
CLEESE: One day Pooh gathered with his friends, Rabbit, Piglet, and Roo, on the old wooden bridge to race their Poohsticks in the river below.
This is the bridge on which author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin invented the game “Poohsticks” roughly a century ago.
The bridge stood south of London until authorities determined it was too weatherworn and no longer safe to cross. Officials replaced the bridge in the 1990s, but kept the original bridge in storage.
For this piece of Winnie the Pooh history, the winning bid was nearly $180,000.
The news probably will surprise residents of the hundred acre wood. And no one more than Eeyore, who I’m sure is confused that any one would want it after seeing it from beneath.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, October 14th. 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.
AUDIO: [SOUND OF ROCKET LAUNCH: COUNTDOWN AND ENGINE ROAR]
After a 24-hour delay, Blue Origin launched four more people into space yesterday, including 90-year old actor William Shatner—best known for his role as Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek series:
STAR TREK THEME: Space, the final frontier...
BROWN: Yesterday’s 10-minute flight made Shatner the oldest person to fly in space. In an interview with CNN before the flight, Shatner hinted that he’s uncomfortable with the title of astronaut, but says that if he has to be one, make sure it’s with a small “a.”
AUDIO: [LANDING OF THE CAPSULE]
BUTLER: After the capsule touched down in the Texas desert Wednesday morning, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stuck his head in the open hatch and congratulated the four newest astronauts. Shatner appeared a little wobbly as he disembarked a minute or so later.
While the others celebrated with family and friends, Shatner pulled Bezos aside and tried to explain exactly what the experience meant to him. Audio here from the Blue Origin launch webcast.
SHATNER: I can’t tell you what you have done...everybody in the world needs to see, um…(chokes up)...it’s unbelievable...
BROWN: At first, Bezos appeared kind of trapped. Behind him, the rest of the crew and the support staff popped champagne bottles, and whooped it up. In front of him, a beloved celebrity unable to contain his emotions. But to Bezos’s credit, he soon relaxed and just let Shatner talk.
BUTLER: In the days leading up to the launch, the man who played the fictional space captain appeared cool and collected, but admitted he was nervous. Turns out the most nerve wracking part of the flight was sitting on the launch pad.
SHATNER: One delay after another delay, we're lying there thinking, you know, I’m a little jittery here...Oh, there's something in the engine they say, there’s an anomaly in the engine. “They found an anomaly in the engine?” (LAUGHTER) “We're gonna hold a little longer” “oh you're gonna hold a little longer?” And I feel this, you know, the stomach, and I'm thinking okay, I'm thinking I'm a little nervous here. Another delay I'm a little more nervous, and then the thing starts...
BROWN: As Shatner reflected on the short flight, he was overwhelmed with the enormity of space and the smallness of the earth.
SHATNER: You have done something. I mean, whatever those other guys are doing, I don't know about them. But what you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just, it's extraordinary, extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don't want to lose it.
It's so...so much larger than me, than life and hasn't got anything to do with the little green planet, or the blue orb, it has to do with the enormity and the weakness and the suddenness of life and death.
I don't know I can't even begin to express...what I would love to do is communicate as much as possible the jeopardy...the moment you see the vulnerability of everything. It's so small, this air which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin. It's a sliver. It's immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe. It's negligible, this air. Mars doesn't have it. And when you think about the way carbon dioxide changes to oxygen. What is it? 20 percent or something of that level. It sustains our life. It's so thin.
BEZOS: And, as you were saying, you shoot through it so fast.
SHATNER: So quickly. 50 miles…
BEZOS: And you're just in blackness.
BEZOS: This is life…
SHATNER: This is life and that’s death. And in an instant, that’s death. That’s what I saw.
BEZOS: It's amazing.
SHATNER: This experience is something unbelievable.
While William Shatner may struggle for words, the Psalmist says it well in Psalm 8: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
MUSIC: [GOD OF WONDERS, THIRD DAY]
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, October 14th. 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 Cal Thomas now on the value of excellence and choice in education.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: What is the greatest threat to educating children today? Is it COVID-19, or ignorance? I'm going for the latter. And growing evidence backs me up.
Take, for example, this recent news out of New York. Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the city’s school district to eliminate its gifted and talented program. You can probably guess the reason. Critics of the program claim it’s racist because it overwhelmingly includes white and Asian students. In an effort to fix that problem, the school system will create a program that offers accelerated learning opportunities in elementary schools. Who will qualify for that? And who gets to say? What if it has the same racial and ethnic imbalance as the current program?
De Blasio ludicrously claimed, “I bet you a lot of parents are going to look at this plan and say this is a reason to stay in public schools.” Quite the opposite. Enrollment in the city’s public schools has fallen below 890,000 students. That’s down from more than a million kids a decade ago, according to internal Department of Education records viewed by The New York Post. COVID-19 is only part of the reason. Homeschooling and people moving out of New York are likely bigger contributors to the exodus. Over the past five years, New York City public schools shed at least 10 percent of their students, according to DOE figures.
The decline in American education is not a new trend. But it has accelerated in recent years as certain politicians allow their ideology and politics to replace outcomes.
That’s all the more reason to support alternative options, like the Children’s Scholarship Fund.
Since its founding, CSF has provided $885 million dollars in scholarships for 185,000 children. In the past school year, CSF and local partners distributed nearly $50 million scholarship awards. More children could enjoy expanded opportunities if more politicians embraced true school choice.
And CSF has a record of success, which ought to be the primary goal. According to its website, “In New York City, 99.4 percent of CSF alumni responding to our alumni survey graduated high school on time in 2018, compared to the most recent average NYC public school graduation rate of 77.3 percent. Of the CSF alumni who graduated, 87 percent indicated they planned to enroll in college.” The same gap between CSF students and public school students exists in other cities where the organization operates.
Especially encouraging are the testimonies from mostly minority students who have been rescued from their failing public schools and given a chance at a real education, not to mention a moral framework for how to live a good life.
Cutting a gifted and talented program flunks the test of what education is supposed to mean. Even worse, it limits students' job and career opportunities. That is a form of child abuse.
I’m Cal Thomas.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Tomorrow: parents are getting more involved in their childrens’ education. John Stonestreet joins us to talk about it on Culture Friday.
Plus, a new movie about devastating loss and the healing found in forgiveness.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
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