The World and Everything in It: September 21, 2023
World leaders at the UN General Assembly discuss climate change, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes wins its case against a hostile school district, and getting inside the mind of a high school debate judge. Plus, commentary from Cal Thomas and the Thursday morning news
PREROLL: The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like us. My name is Bill Mech, and I live in Des Moines Iowa with my wife of 48 years, Diane. She is a retired accountant, and I am a retired actuary. Now who says actuaries and accountants can't get along? We love to listen to The World and Everything In It, and we hope you enjoy today's program.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning! Climate change is an urgent topic at the United Nations General Assembly this week, but are rising temperatures really the biggest concern?
AUDIO: China also controls over 90% of the mining and refining of the lithium and cobalt and other special minerals that are crucial to the wind and solar industries.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Also, a Christian student group wins its case versus a hostile California school district.
Plus, high school debate judges are tasked with choosing winners, but what role should personal convictions play?
AUDIO: I think there's a limited, limited space where I think the judge should be able to say, I won't vote for this regardless.
And Commentator Cal Thomas says London isn’t ready for cars to go electric by 2030…despite what lawmakers promise.
BROWN: It’s Thursday, September 21st. 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 with today’s news.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, NEWS ANCHOR: Garland » Attorney General Merrick Garland says the Justice Department does not allow political bias to influence investigations.
Garland defended his department and his decisions yesterday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
GARLAND: Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else about who or what we criminally investigate.
House Republicans claimed that Garland weaponized the justice department and gave President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, special treatment.
Committee Chair Jim Jordan:
JORDAN: Americans believe that today in our country, there is unequal application of the law. They believe that because there is.
Garland is overseeing the case against Hunter Biden and two cases against former President Donald Trump.
His testimony comes about a week after Speaker Kevin McCarthy opened an impeachment inquiry into President Biden over his family’s business dealings.
Government Funding » Members of the House and Senate are struggling to agree on a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month.
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst:
ERNST: We are hoping that we can continue to fund the government what we don't want to see at the end of September is a government shutdown because it benefits no one. So we will have to consider whatever legislation is passed over by the House, we will do that very carefully.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says there’s still time to work out a deal.
Biden/Netanyahu Meeting » President Joe Biden reiterated the United States’ commitment to Israel on Wednesday even as he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain the country’s democratic institutions.
The two met in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
BIDEN: Today we're going to discuss some of the hard issues. And that is upholding democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership, including checks and balances in our systems.
Biden has previously criticized Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the Israeli judicial system. The plan sparked 37 straight weeks of protests.
Netanyahu defended the reforms:
NETENAYHU: I want to reassert here before you, Mr. President, that one thing is certain and one thing will never change, and that is Israel's commitment to democracy.
The leaders affirmed their joint commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Federal Reserve » The Federal Reserve is holding interest rates steady at roughly five and a half percent.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell:
POWELL: We see the current stance of monetary policy as restrictive, putting downward pressure on economic activity, hiring and inflation. In addition, the economy is facing headwinds from tighter credit conditions for households and businesses.
The Fed has raised interest rates 11 times since March of last year, but Central bank officials project that the Fed will only increase rates once more this year.
Annual inflation dropped from more than 9 percent last June to under 4 percent as of last month.
Canada Sikh » Tensions in India and Canada have been rising over the death of a Sikh activist earlier this year. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has more.
JOSH SCHUMACHER: Hardeep Singh Nijjar had lived in Canada for 20 years and had Canadian citizenship.
He was also a leader in the movement for an independent Sikh state in India.
Nijjar was gunned down this June in Canada.
On Monday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that there was credible evidence that the Indian government was involved with the killing.
Both Canada and India have expelled each others top diplomats.
For WORLD I’m Josh Schumacher
Azerbaijan » Talks are taking place today between officials from Azerbaijani and Armenian separatist leaders in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
ILHAM: [Speaking Azerbaijani]
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev saying yesterday his country has, quote, restored its sovereignty.
This week it began an offensive on the largely ethnic Armenian region. The attack killed dozens of people with drones, jets and artillery.
The mountainous region is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is home to 120,000 ethnic Armenians.
NIKOL: [Speaking Armenian]
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says reports of military activity in the region have decreased since the announcement of a cease-fire.
I'm Kristen Flavin.
Straight ahead: Climate change at the United Nations. Plus, getting inside the mind of a debate judge.
This is The World and Everything in It.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: It’s Thursday the 21st day of September, 2023.
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 on The World and Everything in It, the climate catastrophe.
MYRNA BROWN: This week in New York, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for UN members to increase action against climate change.
GUTERRES: Humanity has opened the gates of hell. Horrendous heat is having horrendous effects.
BROWN: His comments at the Climate Ambition Summit follow protests in Manhattan earlier in the week where demonstrators called for the end of fossil fuels.
PROTESTERS: What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!
BUTLER: Leaders from some member nations are promising to take action. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken says the United States is committed to helping the UN achieve its SDGs or sustainable development goals, and that includes combating climate change.
BLINKEN: The United States remains unwavering in our commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030. We have invested more than $100 billion in development around the world over the last two years, more than any other country.
BROWN: But others are signaling they might back off commitments.
In the UK, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated his government is going to take a bit of a different approach regarding climate change.
And yesterday morning, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman had this to say:
BRAVERMAN: We also need to adopt an approach of pragmatism and proportionality. And fundamentally, we're not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people.
BUTLER: It’s notable that Braverman is using the words “pragmatism” and “bankrupt” in her explanation of why they won’t be trying to increase their so-called climate commitments.
So what would a pragmatic sense of climate responsibility look like?
For starters, Calvin Beisner, the President of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, says that reducing fossil fuels really isn’t all that pragmatic.
BEISNER: Fossil fuels are extremely energy dense compared with wind, solar, biofuels and the like. And that means that it's much less expensive to refine them to usable energy form, which has to be extremely dense.
BROWN: Not only that fossil fuels can be mined with less environmental damage than the earth-moving required to extract minerals to build solar panels and batteries.
Beisner explains that our global economy is now about 85 percent dependent on fossil fuels… and it’s been that way for at least 40 years.
And so for decades, business leaders in the oil and gas industry have argued that switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy alternatives would burden the U.S. and international economies.
BUTLER: But there is another reason switching from fossil fuels to so-called clean energy might not be pragmatic. Namely, China.
BEISNER: China is building an average of one new coal fired power plant every week. It is the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. And it is getting bigger and bigger.
BUTLER: China’s emissions would easily circumvent any cuts made by other nations. But it doesn’t end there. Beisner also says China will profit off of other nations’ switch to clean energy.
BEISNER: China also controls over 90% of the mining and refining of the lithium and cobalt and other special minerals that are crucial to the wind and solar industries. And they are building most of the batteries, high percentage of the batteries that back these things up.
BUTLER: And that means these minerals are also mined under the rules of Chinese business practices.
BEISNER: Much of the mining and refining of these minerals is done by slave labor. And particularly for cobalt, a great deal of the mining is done by child labor.
BROWN: The moral costs of doing business with China are increasingly clear…and disturbing. But the environmentalist lobby in Europe, Canada and the United States is making the case that the climate situation is urgent enough to justify just about any cost. Even so, Beisner says that the catastrophe narrative the UN relies on may not be wholeheartedly supported.
BEISNER: In the larger scientific community, there are many scientists, climate scientists, who recognize that the catastrophe narrative is extremely exaggerated. But the only way they're going to get published in leading scientific journals, is to shape their research papers so that they are at least consistent with, if not actually promoting of, the catastrophist narrative.
BUTLER: Beisner points to a recent article by Patrick Brown, a climate researcher at Johns Hopkins University. The piece has a long title: “The Not-so-Secret Formula for Publishing a High-Profile Climate Change Research Paper.”
In it, Brown argues that in order to get published, he had to leave out key information that would have pushed back against the theory that the climate is barrelling toward catastrophe.
BROWN: For example, when examining the effects of climate change on wildfires, Brown and his team didn’t address human factors, such as poor forest management, that contributed to an increased number of blazes.
But it isn’t just researchers like Brown whose framing of climate science skews the narrative towards the extreme. Beisner argues that the U-N’s own scientific assessments contradict the catastrophe narrative.
BEISNER: The actual scientific assessment reports, as opposed to the summaries for policymakers, and the public statements of UN spokesmen, the actual assessment reports call for global warming of a very moderate degree. And none of them see it as a great catastrophe.
BUTLER: WORLD breaking news reporter Josh Schumacher contributed to this report.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Religious liberty on campus.
Many who become Christians in high school or college do so through the ministry of student groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In recent years, however, school districts and campuses have enacted increasingly broad anti-discrimination policies that classify aspects of Christian beliefs unacceptable on campus.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: But a recent appeals court ruling on the West Coast stands to help Christian student groups by defending their right to require their student leaders to abide by religious principles.
Last Wednesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a California school district mistreated students in a high school club affiliated with the Fellowship of Christian athletes.
BROWN: What’s the story behind this case, and how will its outcome help Christian student groups in other parts of the country?
Joining us now is WORLD legal reporter Steve West. Good morning!
STEVE WEST, REPORTER: Good morning, Myrna.
BROWN: Well let’s start with some context. What did Pioneer High School in San Jose, California, do to wind up in court with FCA?
WEST: Bottom line is that administrators were openly hostile to the religious beliefs of FCA.
Like a lot of other high schools across the country, Pioneer’s FCA “Huddle” had been operating on campus as an officially recognized student group for some time–in this case, for nearly two decades. It had no problems—until 2019. Like all FCA student groups, the club welcomes all students, regardless of their beliefs, but requires leaders to subscribe to the group’s sexual purity statement and statement of faith. Among other Biblical beliefs, the statements include an affirmation that marriage is only between one man and one woman and that it is the only appropriate place for sexual expression.
That didn’t sit well with one teacher, Peter Glasser. He wanted the group de-recognized—meaning it would lose the privileges to book meeting space, advertise, and take advantage of perks other student groups had. He took it to the principal and a school committee. As a result, in April 2019 the school stripped the club of its official recognition.
BROWN: But it didn’t end there, did it?
WEST: No, it didn’t. Glasser pressed for exclusion of the club from campus. Some other teachers piled on, one urging students to “rally … against the issue”—and some did.
Ultimately, the school denied recognition of FCA for the 2019-20 school year, but these students kept meeting even in the face of teacher-encouraged student protests. Students protested outside FCA meetings and even entered meetings, taking photographs and heckling members. And that went on until pandemic restrictions closed school in March 2020.
In April 2020, two FCA student leaders at Pioneer, Charlotte Klarke and Elizabeth Sinclair, and FCA National filed suit against the school district and several school officials.
BROWN: So the case went to trial at the district court level back in June 2022 and the court ruled in the school district’s favor. What case did FCA’s lawyers make, and how did the school defend its decision?
WEST: There are several arguments that FCA’s lawyers made, but the linchpin is free exercise of religion. The school cited its anti-discrimination policy, saying it was content-neutral and applied to everyone the same. FCA pointed to the impact on the club’s religious beliefs—including that the policy was applied in a way that was discriminatory.
BROWN: What arguments did the judges of the 9th Circuit make in their ruling?
WEST: In the 2-1 panel decision in August of last year—which judges expedited in light of the coming school year—the majority focused not on discriminatory intent, on outright hostility, but on different treatment of FCA. For example, the Senior Women’s club was limited to women. They could discriminate. FCA could not.
When the full court of 11 judges set aside that ruling, there was obviously concern that the full court might undo the ruling. Far from that, a 9-2 majority last week extended the ruling, also focusing on the school’s outright hostility to FCA’s beliefs—finding that it was worse even than that faced from Colorado authorities by Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips. Judges also noted the importance of a 1984 federal law, the Equal Access Act, which says that if a school opens its campus to extracurricular groups, it has to offer religious groups the same privileges as non-religious groups.
BROWN: How does this ruling help Christian school groups in other parts of the country who are facing similar pressure to conform or lose official status?
WEST: The ruling is the law in the largely western states and territories that make up the 9th Circuit. So school districts in those states–which accounts for approximately 20% of the nation’s student population, are bound by this ruling and may not discriminate against student extracurricular clubs based on their religious views. Yet because of the size of the 9th Circuit and the fact that this was a lopsided ruling by the full court, it will have a powerful impact on other courts—second only to the Supreme Court. It’s too early to know if the school district will appeal to the Supreme Court, but they likely know that this Supreme Court is unlikely to change the result here.
BROWN: Well, Steve West is a legal reporter for WORLD. You can learn more about cases like this every week by signing up for his religious liberty newsletter…we’ve included a link in today’s show notes: https://wng.org/liberties-signup.
Steve, thanks for joining us!
WEST: My pleasure, Myrna.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Well, it was a routine Tuesday morning donut delivery at a military base near Anchorage Alaska. The Krispy Kreme driver left the van door open while rolling a cart of donuts into the commissary. Aaaand you can probably guess where this is going. Audio here from KTUU (NBC News).
SHELLY DEANO: I said he's in the van and then the little cub followed and went inside the van and then they just started eating the doughnuts.
Store manager Shelly Deano made it outside in time to snap some pictures of the two bears gorging themselves.
DEANO: We were trying to beat on the van but they just, they just kept eating all the donuts. They ate 20 packages of the donut holes and then I believe six packages of the three packed chocolate donuts.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Sounds like they’re bulking up for Fat Bear Week in October.
BROWN: Hmm. Or maybe just binge-eating before hibernation?
It’s The World and Everything in It
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is September 21st. 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: good ol’ fashioned debate.
These days, most people only see political debates. And those are usually all about candidates performing well for an audience. But in the world of competitive debate, things look very different. There’s no shouting down your opponent. Everything is timed and structured. And there’s only one person you need to convince: The judge.
BROWN: In high school leagues, just about anybody can judge a debate round. After hearing all the arguments, the judge decides who won or lost. Theoretically, they decide based on the logic and evidence presented in the round. But that’s not always how it goes down. Here’s WORLD Reporter Anna Johansen Brown.
SOUND: HARPER COLLEGE HALLWAY
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Classes are in full swing at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. If you head down to room A138 on a Tuesday night, that’s where you’ll find the debate team practicing how to argue well.
Olimpio Messer joined last December.
OLIMPIO MESSER: I know that many of them exclude very jargon-type arguments, when things call them critiques cues. They hate spreading.
He’s talking about judging preferences, strategies a judge does or does not want to see in a round. Judges can write up their preferences, or paradigms, and post them online.
MESSER: At the big ones like nationals, we could look up our judge in on the Nationals website and see their own personal judging philosophies.
Sometimes, Messer will also look at where the judge is from. Because that usually affects how they approach a round.
MESSER: That applies to my argumentation when I'm going into the debate, and it's a part of the game, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on who you ask.
Judging paradigms are meant to foster effective communication. The debaters know how experienced the judge is, what their preferences are on delivery style, that kind of thing. Then they can argue their position effectively to that specific judge.
But some judges take their paradigms a step further. They list not just style preferences, but content preferences.
Some judges have posted paradigms that explicitly say, I will not listen to or vote for any arguments that are pro-capitalism, or pro-Israel, or pro-US police.
How should a debater respond to that kind of a paradigm?
MEINERDING: All right. Everyone, follow me? What are these called, again? Stock issues. Yes, these are your stock issues.
Eric Meinerding is a debate coach for a private Christian club called Lasting Impact. He’s here at a debate camp in Prospect Heights, teaching Debate 101 to about twenty high schoolers, all seated in rows at long, skinny tables.
MEINERDING: If there's too many cons, we don't do it. More pros than cons, What do we do? We do it.
Meinerding got his undergrad at Liberty University…a very conservative school in a very liberal debate league. He says he didn’t often see judges explicitly oppose conservative arguments. But even still…
MEINERDING: It was implied a lot of the time too, and the way that they would write their paradigms, or you just knew the judge from the community, you knew you couldn't get away with certain arguments in front of them.
Meinerding says he quickly learned to just stop running those arguments.
MEINERDING: Even if I think they're strong, or they would win the round, or I personally agree with them. And you make that decision enough times, and then suddenly, you just removed the whole strategic option over the course of a year.
Griffith Vertigan is another instructor here at the camp. He’s a former debater and an attorney in California.
VERTIGAN: Ideally, a good judge, you know, goes to the Latin phrase tabula rasa, that means they are a blank slate, who's willing to listen to arguments from both sides, they won't come in with such preconceived biases, that they're unwilling to even consider the other side.
Eric Meinerding agrees almost completely.
MEINERDING: I think the only exception would be if it's some, like, universally agreed upon evil. I think there's a limited limited space where I think the judge should be able to say, I won't vote for this regardless.
But he says even that exception shouldn’t technically exist.
Debate is an exercise, an educational tool. The purpose is to learn argumentation skills, not decide actual policy or express personal convictions. Here’s Vertigan.
VERTIGAN: I've been on the other side of it, where I had on, I was judging a round, where the gal was promoting the expansion of international abortion, something that I'm adamantly against, right.
Vertigan felt his job was to judge the round based on who argued their position best.
VERTIGAN: And I ended up voting for the gal that that was promoting abortion internationally, even though I vehemently disagreed with her. I wrote out the arguments on her ballot, that the negative side could have brought up; the negative side kind of broke my heart that they didn't have anything good.
When he’s training judges, Vertigan tells them they can write their beliefs on the ballot…but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in the round.
VERTIGAN: What we're losing, though, is the loss of objectivity, the willingness to even consider the other side. And when we get that, I mean, I think we're antithetical to the whole idea of the free marketplace of ideas and the purpose of debate.
Back at Harper College, Olimpio Messer says debate judges will never be able to truly get rid of their biases. Even if they could, he’s not sure they should. Because debate is supposed to prepare students for the real world. And in the real world, people are biased.
MESSER: So learning how to adapt to our audience's biases and learning the cues. Applying our arguments to them. These things are good skills in argumentation.
Eric Meinerding says he’s really grateful for the chance to debate liberal ideas instead of just conservative ones.
MEINERDING: It helped me a lot understand a side of the world that I had no understanding of coming out of a Christian high school background.
So, how can debaters overcome judge bias? For one thing, showing that they understand the judge’s point of view can help. It allows the judge to stop feeling like they have to be the advocate for their point of view.
Another tactic: Speaking with extra courtesy. And that’s a tip not just for debate rounds.
MEINERDING: You teach people to speak with an increased level of civility, like you don't know who you're talking to. So even if you're going to be critical, say such things with grace.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown in Prospect Heights, Illinois.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Thursday September 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Up next, Cal Thomas on a heated debate in the United Kingdom over electric cars. Despite conservative pushback, Britain’s leaders say it may be too late to unplug.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak has decided not to extend the deadline requiring all new car sales in the UK to be electric by 2030. Many conservative Tories say the goal is impossible to meet. But according to The London Times, government ministers are sticking by tough interim targets. They have embraced the “climate change” faith and are supported by virtually all UK media, which refuse to interview scientists who take a different view.
Charging stations remain a problem, along with battery life. One cabbie said he is afraid to turn on the air conditioner during summer for fear he will run out of electricity before his workday is done. Another told me he has a good deal at a car park that includes a charging station which he uses for an overnight top-off. But what about lengthy road trips or emergencies when the car battery is depleted? A London Times editorial gets it right: “Britain’s infrastructure is far from ready for [this] abrupt transition…”
British public opinion is mostly opposed to the rapid transition from gas to electricity. A poll taken last May of readers of the Daily Express newspaper found a whopping 88 percent would not switch to an electric vehicle. More recently that attitude seems to be changing and why wouldn’t it, given the daily media drumbeat that the climate is getting worse and it is the fault of humans.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, “one in every 32 cars now comes with a plug, with 1.1 million electric cars now in use” on UK roads. While small compared to the total number of gas-based vehicles on the road, the figure is up by more than 50 percent over the past year.
There are other problems, including paying China and other bad actors for raw materials needed to build electric car batteries. For instance, Republican Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey claims forced child labor is being used to mine cobalt in Congo, the world's largest producer of the mineral. Should we be morally comfortable with this?
Then there’s the cost. What happens when British and Americans – and who knows how many other nations – force their people to buy electric cars and make other lifestyle changes because of climate change? Bloomberg calculates lowering global temperatures will cost $200 trillion. Three years ago, Morgan Stanley said the cost to stop global warming would be $50 trillion.
This is all about politics, more government control of our lives, and the loss of individual freedom. What happens when Britain and America have gone electric and the results are not as predicted? Who will take responsibility? Certainly not those now promoting this fiction. If you’re in government and pushing something that doesn’t pan out, you never have to admit error.
I’m Cal Thomas.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Tomorrow: issues of life and sexuality on Culture Friday with Katie McCoy. Plus, your Listener Feedback.
And a journey to Middle Earth. Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Return of the King turns 20 this year, and we’ll have a review. That and more tomorrow.
I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
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 Bible says, "Then Pilate said to him, So you are a king? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world - to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." —John chapter 18 verse 37.
Go now in grace and peace.
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