The World and Everything in It: September 8, 2022
As technology advances, Christians have an opportunity to think through what it means to be human; the UN has released its long-awaited report on human rights abuses in China; and a story of God’s faithfulness during the pandemic. Plus: commentary from Cal Thomas, and the Thursday morning news.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
Computer generated avatars that look like real people—and what they mean for the image-bearers of God.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Also today, The U.N. human rights office released its long-awaited report on human rights in China.
Plus a story of God’s faithfulness during the pandemic.
And Cal Thomas on being winsome in politics.
BROWN: It’s Thursday, September 8th. 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, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Canadian police arrest second stabbing suspect » Canadian police on Wednesday arrested the second suspect in the stabbing deaths of 10 people in Saskatchewan after a three-day manhunt.
Police located 32-year-old Myles Sanderson near the town of Rosthern in Saskatchewan. He reportedly surrendered after police rammed his vehicle.
Meantime, families of the victims are left with grief and unanswered questions.
ARCAND: How did this happen to our family? Why did it happen? We have no answers.
Saskatoon Tribal Council chief Mark Arcand heard there. His sister was among the victims.
Two days earlier, officers found the fugitive’s brother Damien Sanderson dead. Authorities believe the brothers carried out the attacks together.
Myles Sanderson is an ex-con with 59 convictions and a history of violence. He was released on parole in February.
Shelling continues around Zaporizhzhia » Shelling resumed near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Wednesday.
That a day after the U.N. atomic watchdog pressed for a safe zone around the plant. UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi said he’s seen battle damage at the facility with his own eyes.
GROSSI: They are playing with fire and something very, very catastrophic could take place.
Ukraine's Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, on Thursday asked for an international mission involving the EU, the UN and other international groups. He proposed that outside groups demilitarize an 18-mile radius around the plant.
Russia currently controls the nuclear plant, which is the largest in Europe.
Trump FBI » Former Attorney General Bill Barr is criticizing a federal judge’s decision to grant Donald Trump’s request for a special master to review the documents the FBI seized from his home. He said the Justice Dept. should appeal.
He also responded to Trump’s claim that he had previously declassified the documents seized from his Mar-A-Lago estate.
BARR: The classified stuff are government documents. And they go to the government. There is no scenario, legally, under which the president gets to keep the government documents, whether it's classified or unclassified.
The Washington Post reported that among the seized records was “A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.”
But Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the Justice Dept is leaking information to the press, and …
RUBIO: Why would you leak? There’s only one reason to leak this stuff, and that is to create a narrative.
He said that’s further evidence that the Justice Dept. is politicizing the case.
COVID deaths » New COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to fall worldwide.
The World Health Organization reports that new COVID cases went down last week by about 12 percent to 4.2 million.
And Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus says weekly reported deaths have plummeted more than 80% since February.
GHEBREYESUS: This is very encouraging. But there is no guarantee these trends will persist. The most dangerous thing is to assume they will.
He added that the pandemic isn’t over, and that one person still dies with COVID-19 every 44 seconds.
Michigan abortion ruling » A Michigan judge struck down 1931 pro-life law that was set to take effect after the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision, saying it violates the state’s constitution. WORLD’s Mary Muncy has more.
MARY MUNCY, REPORTER: The decision comes months after the same judge temporarily barred authorities from enforcing the pro-life law.
Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said that the law violates the Michigan constitution by denying women a quote—“safe” and “routine” avenue of medical care.
The ruling comes as the Michigan Supreme Court considers whether to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would establish a right to abortion.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Mary Muncy.
Sandy Hook advice for Uvalde » As a new school year begins this week in Uvalde, Texas, survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting are sharing messages of hope.
In 2012, a gunman killed 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut. Almost a decade later, 19 students and two teachers died in the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Jackie Hegarty is a survivor of the Sandy Hook shooting.
HEGARTY: The biggest piece of advice I can say is find comfort in your loved ones, especially classmates because they have that shared trauma. Don’t bottle things up. Talk to your family, your friends.
Some Sandy Hook survivors say it’s normal to struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and survivor’s guilt. But there is hope and healing is possible.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: ABBA and the ethics of AI.
Plus, a story of God’s faithfulness through the pandemic.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Thursday the 8th of September, 2022.
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 on The World and Everything in It. The Swedish superband ABBA broke up in 1982. Until recently, they have resisted getting together. This summer, the four members went back on stage virtually in London as ABBAtars—computer generated images onstage.
BROWN: The late performers Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Freddie Mercury have all appeared on stage using artificial intelligence or AI. The advancing technology raises the question: How should humans—made in God’s image—respond to computer graphics made in our image? WORLD’s Amy Lewis reports.
AMY LEWIS, REPORTER: Australian Anicka Palmer finally realized her childhood dream this summer. She flew to London to see ABBA’s Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid sing together on stage.
MUSIC: [Dancing Queen]
PALMER: I think I probably cried for the first four or five songs in that happy tears, like, I can't believe I'm actually seeing ABBA. And in my head, I was so conscious of “This is a computer program. This isn't real.” But everything else in my body responded in the way that it was real.
ABBA’s former members spent more than a month recording for the concert. They wore “motion capture suits” and more than 160 cameras recorded their moves and expressions. For the London concert, artificial intelligence used 20-something body-doubles to replace their 70-year-old bodies. The virtual ABBA members look and move like they did in 1977.
Palmer flew from Melbourne, Australia, to England to see the concert.
PALMER: They had a few backup singers, and they had a live band. And that kind of also added, I guess, to the sensation that this was a real live concert. And it was so real, you would see like the veins in their hands as they were holding the microphone. It was that thrill of seeing what I thought was the real live people on the stage that that was most incredible, I think, to me.
She saw the virtual ABBA one night and Elton John the next. Was he computer generated?
PALMER: No, he was definitely real, different concert experiences. But, look, I think if the technology is there, we need to embrace it. But we always need to be sensible and responsible in the use of any forms of technology, including holograms. I might be skeptical if it was used in an irresponsible manner with technology being used to recreate people that have passed saying or doing things that perhaps wasn’t consistent with the work that they did when they were alive…
Lois Montgomery is a cybersecurity professional based in Nashville, Tennessee. She says it’s important to understand what is actually happening with artificial intelligence.
LOIS MONTGOMERY: Christians tend to have this dichotomous view of technology that it’s either, you know, it's either very good, or very evil. But all in all, technology doesn't have a soul. It can't commit acts unless people are programming it to. So even when we talk about AI, the intelligence is not that intelligent.
Montgomery’s husband Matthew is a church musician and performer. He says transparency about the use of AI in concerts could become an issue.
MATTHEW MONTGOMERY: I think it's going to get a little bit more grey area in 20 years, or maybe even sooner than that, when it actually is indistinguishable from actually like, is the person there or not? And someone that's doing huge stadium tours decides let's just do a hologram and not tell anybody. I think that it could introduce some ethical questions down the line.
One of the central questions with AI and its ability to depict humans is what makes a human human? Jason Thacker leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Research Institute. He’s the author of The Age of AI and Following Jesus in a Digital Age.
THACKER: I think it all comes down to what does it mean to be made in the image of God? This is the central question that our society is longing for an answer for.
The technology offers Christians opportunities to highlight the difference between what computers can do and who people are. Thacker says the worldview behind the technology often has a different starting point than the Bible.
THACKER: It's a very utilitarian type of mindset in terms of ethics, meaning your value, your worth is based on your usefulness to others, to society. You don't have inherent dignity, you don't have inherent value, and even then, you really don't even have inherent rights, per se.
That’s different from what the Bible says about us. We’re more than just rational beings.
THACKER: We're created in the image of God. That's what, that's what the Bible tells us. That's what it tells us about all of humanity, not just believers, that we’re created in the very image of God and we’re created distinct, and we’re created unique. So we're looking to God to define our value, our worth, our dignity, and our purpose and design.
ABBAtars aren’t human, and they’re not pretending to be. Anicka Palmer knew what she was going to see. But what about some of the other advances?
THACKER: …where you're talking about AI creators and AI art and AI music and what do we do now? And it's like, well, if you step back and kind of cut through some of your presuppositions about what it means to be human, a lot of these things start to open up and are a lot clearer, especially of what a Christian approach is, because we can say, that's not a human being. That's not a person. That's not an image bearer, by any means. There's a distinction there. And these tools can be utilized to glorify God.
MUSIC: [Thank you for the Music]
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Amy Lewis.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: crimes against humanity in China.
The U.N. human rights office last week released its long-awaited report on human rights transgressions in China.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: The report pointed to the government’s detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the western Xinjiang region.
It cited “serious” rights violations and patterns of torture. And it called for an urgent international response to the allegations.
The outgoing U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released the report on her way out the door and faced criticism for not releasing it earlier.
BROWN: Joining us now to discuss these abuses in China and the importance of this report is Rushan Abbas. She is founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs.
She’s worked closely with members of Congress since the 1990s pushing for the rights of Uyghurs and religious minorities. Rushan, good morning, thanks for joining us!
RUSHAN ABBAS, GUEST: Thank you much Myrna for having me.
BROWN: What, if anything, was surprising about the content of the UN Human Rights Office’s Aug. 31 report on the situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang?
ABBAS: We were surprised because Miss Bachelet when she went to our homeland, East Turkestan and China, she basically parroted the Beijing's narratives and the propagandas and legitimize the genocide. So we were glad that the report has released and it has confirmed what we have been saying for years about China's genocidal policies, and the arbitrary detention and the violence in the camps, and the oppression and the discrimination against our people. But we were disappointed that the word genocide and they didn't say the crimes against humanity, didn't say genocide or crimes against humanity despite the facts laid out. Everything they described are actually the description of the United Nations its own description of genocide, but they swayed under Beijing’s pressure.
BROWN: How much weight does this report carry compared to the work of other nongovernmental groups?
ABBAS: Well, the report from the United Nations is very strong because of Beijing's and the Chinese Communist regime’s influences and as well as the manipulation in the United Nations. For a lot of people, it carries a certain amount of credibility, despite the UN’s failing in recent years of the addressing the Uyghur genocide and atrocities. Still, it is a global forum for countries to come together and ideally to stop the atrocities. So this report confirming the facts that the researchers and the victims’ families and the former camp detainees and as well as people like myself, an activist and the sister of a detained person, so it's truly a great confirmation. And the allies such as victims of communism and Dr. Zazz’s heroic work also, although it was watered down, but it also vindicating in many ways that should spur further action in the UN and among the member states.
BROWN: The report was released as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stepped down. Looking ahead now, what can the next High Commissioner do differently to better help the Uyghurs in China?
ABBAS: Well, the next commissioner can be independent and be protective of the UN’s founding principles and do not sway in in Beijing, and can be proactive in addressing the Uyghur genocide. The UN, United Nations adopted the Responsibility to Protect as a mechanism to prevent mass atrocity crimes and genocide. So the next commissioner must launch an investigation into China's genocidal policies and also should ensure that the influence of CCP does not sway future reports and investigations like the last one did.
BROWN: What can other nations do to better help Uyghurs?
ABBAS: Protecting the Uyghur people in diaspora from transnational repression and also making sure that China does not attempt to retaliate against Uyghur advocates for speaking out and also accept political asylum from the Uyghurs and also stop the forced labor. Because every single country, it's against their own constitutions and their own principles to have a slave labor. The companies using Uyghurs slaves basically, turning you, me, the audience, everyone out there to complicit with China's genocide. And my sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, retired medical doctor, could have made that shirt on your back. So, companies using the forced labor are making all of us complicit with this genocide, but also turning all of us into enablers of the genocide and the modern slavery. So we must create a supply chains free of forced labor and slave labor. So the countries can start not to violate their own fundamental, basic principles, and protect the rights of the people and do not kowtow in to Beijing. When you look at some of the world leaders and the famous celebrities, and like Hollywood celebrities, and all these people who are so vocal against any sort of social injustice, rightfully, they're supposed to, but they are voiceless when the perpetrator is China, and the perpetrator has money and the power. So none of them had the guts to condemn China because they are profiting from the genocide and my people's blood and sweat.
BROWN: What role could religious leaders and people of faith play in advocating for freedom for the leaders?
ABBAS: It’s so important to get the religious leaders involved because China is not only waging war against humanity, waging war against freedom and democracy, but China's also waging war against faith, religion, original thought. So religious leaders can give sermons and educate the public on the Uyghur genocide and China's war on faith. And also China's war on women and children. They are forcibly sterilizing the older women, forcibly giving them abortions, and forcing them to marry other people, and the Uyghur children are taken away. So the religious leaders must be working to educate their congregations on the connection between Uyghur suffering and all people. If genocide can happen in China in 21st century in 2022, it can happen anywhere. So it an issue [that] should concern all people and our knowledge can lead [to] action. So we really need religious leaders to educate themselves and educate people around them.
BROWN: China’s oppression in Xinjiang has been going on for years—with little change or end in sight. I’d like to know what keeps you going—keeps you hopeful—as you advocate for the detainees, including your sister?
ABBAS: I am speaking to you today, I am doing my advocacy work today at the cost of my own sister’s freedom. It’s a long and uphill battle for justice. And what keeps me going is the love I have for my sister, the love I have for my people, and the love I have for freedom and democracy. And I am doing this not just for my sister, just for my people, but trying to save the world, the free world that your parents, your grandparents worked so hard to establish. As I mentioned earlier, authoritarian regimes like China should immediately [be held] accountable and if we don't take action now, our children and our grandchildren will face the consequences of an illiberal world.
BROWN: We’ve been talking with Rushan Abbas, founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs.
ABBAS: Thank you, Myrna.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Merriam-Webster has added nearly 400 new words and terms to its dictionary.
Among them “dumbphone,” as in the opposite of a smartphone: That’s a cell phone that does not include advanced software features.
Another addition is “laggy”: having a delayed or slow response.
Webster also added “janky,” meaning of very poor quality.
It also added terms that entered the national lexicon during the pandemic like: Subvariant, false negative, false positive, and booster dose.
And then there’s my favorite addition: MacGyver. You know, like the 1980’s TV show:
AUDIO: Alright MacGyver think. Rope. A smoke alarm. Sheets of plywood. Yeah. It just might work.
MacGyver is now an official slang word meaning to make, form, or repair (something) with what is conveniently on hand.
Hey Myrna, hand me that baling wire, a credit card, and a stick of gum... we have a podcast to finish up.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, September 8th. 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: Doing ministry before, during and after COVID.
In the fall of 2019 we introduced you to a young family using its unique gifts to share the gospel. Myrna, I remember that story—a husband and wife team, right?
BROWN: Yes, Bryan and Karla Drake. Well, I caught up with the traveling evangelists and they gave me quite an update. It’s a story about God’s faithfulness in the sunshine and the storms.
BRYAN DRAKE TEACHING: As we’re looking at the story of creation, what happens next is we’re going to be looking at Genesis chapter 3 today…
MYRNA BROWN CORRESPONDENT: At six foot five, Bryan Drake towers over a group of third graders, quietly seated for afternoon chapel. He’s a gentle giant with a mohawk, telling the story of Adam and Eve.
BRYAN DRAKE TEACHING: Because of their sin, we all have sinned. The problem is we think too often that we are the heroes of our own story…
Still preaching Genesis 3, Drake reaches over and picks up a superhero magazine, strategically left on stage by his wife Karla.
BRYAN DRAKE TEACHING: The problem is in our lives we have this sin issue and we cannot fix it on our own. We’re not the hero. [student asks from audience] What are you doing? What, What?
He’s pouring water on the magazine. Before COVID, that scene was repeated on stages all over the country. Bryan and Karla Drake are Christian illusionists. He’s the frontman and she’s the brains behind the Bryan Drake Show. When the pandemic hit, they were serving at the biggest conference of their ministry.
BRYAN DRAKE: So, it was a student conference, three to four thousand students in Georgia and this is December of 2019 and then our schedule was going to be the busiest it’s ever been in 2020.
KARLA DRAKE: And then in six days our entire calendar went from full to nothing. Nothing. People asked me how did you pay your bills during the early stages of the pandemic. God, God did it.
Still, Bryan admits he questioned God.
BRYAN DRAKE: Constantly reminded of just how good God is through all of this, but there were moments when I would lay my head on my pillow and just doubt almost and wonder, God where are you?
CODY CARNES: Hey friends, it’s Cody and Kari and I know we’re in a crazy time right now. We’re all having to isolate and be in our homes…
Christian singers and musicians adapted to online ministry during the COVID lockdown. But the Drakes struggled with that format.
BRYAN DRAKE: We were the only people in a room of 2000 doing a show for eight people that they were piping in for digital.
KARLA DRAKE: And we said well, we’re not a band. We have to have somebody on stage to interact with.
And if COVID and cancellations weren’t enough, the family faced yet another crisis. After a late night fall at their home, Karla hit her head. No concussion, but an x-ray revealed a spot on her neck. It was thyroid cancer.
KARLA DRAKE: We like to say it was COVID, cancer, cancellations. We call that the three C’s that happened all at one time.
They scheduled surgery right away, but because of the pandemic, Karla, like many others, had to endure it alone.
KARLA DRAKE: But that was the hardest part was being alone and not having your advocate, your person there for you.
Today, Karla is cancer-free. The Drakes have been back on the road since the Fall of 20-20. And wherever they go, they tell their story of God’s faithfulness.
BRYAN DRAKE: If you would have asked me that night she passed out and bleeding from the head is this a good night, no this is the worst night we’ve ever had, had we not had that moment of terror we would not have realized that was actually a blessing. God was showing us there was something wrong inside. Had she never hit her head we would have never gone and gotten a scan.
KARLA DRAKE: So now in our show Brian likes to use the analogy there was something wrong inside of me that I didn’t know was wrong and I needed an answer. There’s something wrong in all of us that we need the solution for and that solution is obviously Jesus.
Back at the chapel service, Bryan pours a cup of water into the corner of that superhero magazine. Then he calmly flips through it, while still teaching.
BRYAN DRAKE TEACHING: And it sure seems like maybe its… maybe it’s really gone. But again at the end of the day we aren’t our hero. It’s Jesus who is the one who’s the real hero…
Next, he turns the magazine upside down…
AUDIO: [WATER POURING]
…and out of it …water flows freely back into the plastic cup.
DRAKE TEACHING: And when your mom and dad asks you, hey how was chapel, what did y’all talk about. You can mention the crazy magazine with the water thing, but I want you to say these three words: God loves me. So that’s our take away… let’s practice that… 1,2,3… God. Loves. Me.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Mobile, Alabama.
BUTLER: If you want to see the Drakes in action, Myrna produced a companion piece on our video news program for students, WORLD Watch. We’ve posted a link to that story in today’s transcript.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Thursday, September 8th. 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, commentator Cal Thomas on his recent discussion with Virginia’s Lt. Governor, Winsome Sears.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: The definition of winsome is “sweetly or innocently charming: winning, engaging.”
The Lt. Governor of Virginia, Winsome Sears, is all of these, but she is also tough and has convictions on issues that matter to her and that she thinks should matter to Virginians and the nation.
As President Biden recently commemorated “Slave Remembrance Day,” Sears told me during an interview in her office, “If you want to live in the past, go ahead, just don’t drag me back with you.”
Sears is a former Marine and Jamaican immigrant. She says her father arrived in America with $1.75 in his pocket. But she is now the second most powerful office holder in the state and the first female Lt. Governor. Sears can charm when necessary, but her boldness in discussing controversial issues reveals a backbone other Republicans should emulate.
I ask Sears why the media seem to ignore or mischaracterize Black conservatives like her. “In order for [Democrats] to continue to win,” she says, “they need to get 80-90 percent of the Black vote. That’s why they are so full of hatred when conservatives like me, or libertarians, don’t think the way they do…We don’t really care. The slaves did not die in the fields to be beholden to the Democrat Party. They wanted their freedom…their families to be reunited…and their children to get a good education.”
Sears says she is mystified over how “the Democrat Party became synonymous with Black people. [Democrats] were the ones who were keeping us from achieving. Then there’s this other thing that is happening with black women not having their babies. And they call me a white supremacist for saying we want more black babies. Democrats have to make up their minds.”
Sears says she believes Donald Trump won more of the black vote than other Republican presidential candidates because he delivered on jobs for minorities and “black entrepreneurship increased to about 400 percent of where it had been.” She also notes Trump’s dedication of funding to Historical Black Colleges and Universities.
I ask her about what some have referred to as “Christian Nationalism.” Sears, who is up-front about her Christian faith, responds: “I think what we have to be careful about as Christians is that no one is on the throne except Christ…We know that God can use anyone. He even used a donkey to speak to Balaam to tell him he was going down the wrong path. So, if He can use a jackass, He can use anybody.”
How would she measure success? “What the world considers success, I don’t. I have come to believe it the way the Lord defines it. Were you obedient?” She recalls the Biblical stories when “they killed the prophets… All He wants to know is did you obey me?”
Yet, she is amazed at her own accomplishments: “Winsome wasn’t born here. It’s not her country, not her culture and yet there she is – second in command in the former capital of the confederacy. The KKK must be turning over in their graves.”
Only in Virginia…and America.
I’m Cal Thomas.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Tomorrow: California’s so-called: “Gender-affirming health care” bill. John Stonestreet returns for our weekly Culture Friday conversation.
And, Leah Savas reviews “Lifemark.” It’s a pro-life Christian drama based on a true story about adoption. She mentioned the documentary earlier in the summer.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
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