MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
More children in Texas are being wrongfully removed from their homes. It’s an example of good intentions gone awry.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also social media companies took heat for the way they handled political ads in 2016. Some are changing their ways. We’ll talk about how.
Plus one woman remembers the Romanian revolution, 30 years ago this month.
LIGIA: The churches were filled. There was such an unusual hunger and thirst.
And Christmas can be painful for those who’ve lost loved ones. WORLD commentator Cal Thomas has an idea to help.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, December 19th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now here’s the news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: House of Representatives impeaches President Trump » The House of Representatives voted last night, as expected, to impeach President Trump.
Members first voted on the charge that the president abused his power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the tally.
PELOSI: On this vote, the yeas are 230. The nays are 197. Present is 1. Article One is adopted. … The question is on adoption of Article Two.
And the answer to that question was much the same, 229 to 198. That article accused the president of obstructing Congress.
Two Democrats voted “no” on both articles. They were Minnesota’s Collin Peterson and New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, who will likely soon switch parties.
Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, voted present on both articles. No Republican members backed impeachment.
The votes came after hours of floor debate on Wednesday with members of both parties insisting history is on their side. Democratic House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff…
SCHIFF: Our oath of office requires us to impeach a president that abuses his power whether he gets away with it or he gets caught. And in this case, he got caught.
But Republicans said Democrats are abusing their power. Michigan Congressman Paul Mitchell…
MITCHELL: One of our founders, Alexander Hamilton, warned of impeachment becoming a solely partisan act in the Federalist Papers. This impeachment inquiry and these articles clearly do not heed that warning. These proceedings are weaponizing impeachment, making it another election tool.
The matter now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate where the president will likely be acquitted on both articles. With members leaving Washington for the Christmas holiday, a Senate trial won’t start until after the first of the year.
Federal appeals court strikes down Obamacare individual mandate » A federal court on Wednesday tossed out Obamacare’s individual mandate.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued the 2-to-1 decision. It ruled that the law’s insurance requirement is invalid, but it did not strike down the entire law.
The panel agreed with U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s 2018 finding. He ruled that Congress rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional when it got rid of the tax penalty for not having health insurance.
The 5th Circuit sent the case back to Judge O’Connor to determine how much of the law can survive without the insurance mandate.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading state efforts to defend the law, promised a quick appeal to the Supreme Court.
FISA surveillance court judge rebukes FBI » The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court issued a rare public statement this week, criticizing the FBI for the tactics it used to get a warrant to eavesdrop on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The court’s chief judge issued a four-page report harshly rebuking the FBI. Judge Rosemary Collyer said it misled the court when it applied for that FISA warrant.
She said agents frequently represented the circumstances of the case … in ways that turned out to be “unsupported”or that “contradicted the information” the bureau had in hand. And she said the FBI also withheld information that would have been detrimental to its case.
Collyer added that “calls into question” whether the court can trust other FISA applications the FBI makes.
She directed the bureau to report by January 10th on what steps it’s taking to fix the problems.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.
Justice Dept. watchdog testifies before Senate panel FBI handling of Russia probe » Meantime, Michael Horowitz, the top internal watchdog at the Justice Department, was back on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The inspector general answered more questions about his report on the FBI’s handling of the Russia probe—this time from members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Horowitz again denounced the FBI for its “failures” during the first phase of the probe.
HOROWITZ: We found that investigators failed to meet their basic obligation that the FISA applications be scrupulously accurate. We identified significant inaccuracies and omissions in each of the four applications.
The Inspector General’s report said the FBI launched the Russia probe for an “authorized purpose.” But he said it was authorized due to the—quote—“low threshold established” by FBI policies.
GOP Kentucky Senator Rand Paul again pressed Horowitz on the question of political bias at the FBI.
PAUL: You did find evidence of biased individuals who were involved with the investigation?
HOROWITZ: That’s correct.
The inspector general’s report did not conclude that political bias motivated the investigation. But Horowitz has testified that he simply could not conclude whether the wrongdoing was “gross negligence” or “intentionality.”
Complaint reveals $100 billion in Mormon assets » The Mormon church is defending itself against an accusation that it misused member donations. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: A former Latter-day Saints employee David A. Nielsen filed a complaint with the IRS in November. He worked at a nonprofit group that operates under the umbrella of the Mormon church.
Nielsen claimed Mormon leaders used money intended for charity to build a $100 billion investment portfolio. He said the fund may violate IRS rules that say tax-exempt organizations must operate only for religious, educational, or charitable purposes. He also requested the IRS reward him a cut of the billions of dollars potentially due in taxes.
Mormon leaders say they have followed all tax laws.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.
COVINGTON: I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Texas lawmakers consider new rules for taking children from parents.
Plus, a Romanian woman remembers the revolution that gave her family freedom.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: It’s Thursday, the 19th of December, 2019. You’re listening to The World and Everything in It. And we’re glad you are! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up, protecting children and families.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has released a report that shows more children are leaving foster care and being adopted into permanent homes.
That agency oversees Child Protective Services—CPS—and CPS reports additionally that fewer children are being removed from their homes and placed into state care in the first place.
REICHARD: Despite that good news, CPS is facing a backlash in Texas because of an increase in removals later deemed unnecessary. WORLD Radio correspondent Katie Gaultney brings us this report from Dallas.
KATIE GAULTNEY, REPORTER: It was past dinner time when a CPS caseworker showed up at Dillon and Melissa Bright’s home to remove their two young children.
MELISSA BRIGHT: What kind of mother would I be if I allowed you to put my children in further harm’s way? Calm down. No, it’s my children! I can’t calm down!
A couple of months before the surprise visit in September 20-18, 5-month-old Mason Bright had fallen off a chair in the driveway. At the hospital, doctors flagged his skull injury as suspicious. CPS opened an investigation.
The Brights got a second opinion. A radiologist and hematologist they consulted said Mason’s injuries were consistent with the driveway fall. They also discovered Mason had a previously unknown blood-clotting disorder.
But at the request of CPS, family court held an emergency hearing without involving the Brights or allowing them to present that second opinion. The court ordered the children removed.
Melissa was forced to say a tearful goodbye to her 2-year-old daughter and infant son that night.
BRIGHT: Mommy! It’s okay, I just want a hug. Mommy! I’m happy, Mommy! I’m happy. It’s okay, you’re okay.
The anguished parents had to jump through bureaucratic hoops for three weeks before a judge ruled the children’s removal illegal. He fined CPS $127,000—an unusually high penalty.
Trevor Woodruff is with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. He testified before a Texas legislative committee last month that his agency tries to avoid taking children out of their homes in non-emergency situations.
WOODRUFF: The agency takes no joy in removing kids. I’ve never seen a caseworker enjoy it. I’ve seen caseworkers in tears over it.
But the Brights’ case isn’t an outlier. It’s one of many questionable, medically related removals that have come to light during the past year. The outcry from parents and pro-family groups has gotten so bad state lawmakers are considering a legislative fix.
Family advocacy groups say the agency’s intent is good. No one wants to see children harmed, or worse, killed. But in some cases, the system goes too far.
Andrew Brown is with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
BROWN: I think what we have failed to do in swinging the pendulum so far in one direction… is we failed to recognize the consequences of pulling in innocent families and innocent kids into a system that they don’t need to be pulled into.
That’s always been a concern. But in 2009, a new medical subspecialty emerged, child abuse pediatrics. These are doctors who have earned special certifications that allow them to work closely with CPS. And they’re embedded at nearly every major children’s hospital in the nation.
Texas awards $5 million dollars in grants each year to support the specialty. Half of that money goes to CPS to compensate the doctors for consulting directly with the agency. Critics say that funding—plus their close work with CPS teams—may ally the doctors with the agency. That could cloud their judgment, leading to false removals of children from safe homes.
BROWN: And some of the more egregious examples of doctors assuming that something was abused and sticking to that diagnosis in the face of overwhelming medical evidence that there was something else going on…
State Representative James Frank led the recent hearing into CPS’ documented oversteps. He said he understands why CPS officials say these doctors’ recommendations are taken so seriously.
But in Mason Bright’s case—and in the ongoing case of another family—the courts deemed CPS removals of children illegal. Caseworkers grossly overstepped their bounds. Frank said it’s a delicate balance.
FRANK: We don’t want to remove the ability of somebody to remove a child in danger, but we do want to force discipline in the process.
So, what kind of measures will ensure at-risk kids are protected, while children in safe homes remain with their families? Brown said it comes down to evidentiary standards.
BROWN: Right now, the standard is, is there enough evidence to satisfy a person of ordinary prudence and caution? Now, that’s a very complicated way of saying you don’t need much evidence at all.
Appeals court Judge Darlene Byrne is often called on to decide whether to place kids in CPS care. She says these removals need a lower standard than you’d see in trial court because time is of the essence.
BYRNE: When I’m dealing with whether or not that kid can sleep in that house tonight and they can’t call 9-1-1 if I’ve got a monster in that house… I want to know right now that that baby sleeping in that bed is not at risk of being beat to a bloody pulp.
But unwarranted removals also take a heavy toll on families. Tim Timmerman’s 4-month-old son was removed from his home after a child abuse pediatrician wrongly suspected the parents of shaking their baby.
TIMMERMAN: Put yourself in my shoes and think about how you would feel if your child or grandchild were taken out of your arms, with no standard of proof other than the opinion of a single individual. Is that enough proof to interfere with the sacred bond of a parent and a child?
The Texas legislature does not meet again until 2021. That gives Representative Frank a year to propose legislative changes. One option under consideration: Giving parents the chance to seek a second opinion.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Katie Gaultney, reporting from Dallas, Texas.
NICK EICHER: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: political advertising.
Social media companies faced a lot of criticism after the 2016 election for how they handled political ads. Facebook and Twitter and other platforms were accused of spreading fake news and allowing foreign influence in the political debate.
MARY REICHARD: Heading into the 2020 election, social media companies say they are trying to stay above the political fray. And they’re taking very different approaches.
Joining us now to talk about it is Jason Thacker. He’s an associate research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Let’s start with the different approaches taken by those two social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter. How is each company planning to handle political ads?
JASON THACKER, GUEST: Yeah, back in September, Nick Clegg—one of the vice presidents of Facebook—announced publicly that Facebook was going to cease fact-checking political ads. And that sent shockwaves through the technology community, but also the media in general because of the rise of fake news and misinformation and knowing how the social media ads have been able to influence public opinion and also our elections.
Then Twitter followed up in November with CEO Jack Dorsey tweeting that Twitter would actually cease to allow all political ads, including issue-based and campaign ads, on their platform completely. That was substantially walked back, actually, later on where they said they would allow issue-based ads.
So these two kind of divergent paths and there were cheerleaders on both sides. This is a really complicated issue for Christians especially to think through.
REICHARD: Well, right, and at the root of this how we define certain words. How do these companies define “political” in the first place? Most of us probably think political means campaigns and candidates. But it’s not that clear-cut, is it?
THACKER: It’s not at all. I mean, political comes from the word polis. It’s a Greek word that means city. And so political often means the affairs of the city, but even that’s harder to define because when you think of the affairs of the city, well, cities are made up of people, so it’s how we live in community with one another.
So this isn’t just government. It’s not limited to government type of issues. It’s the type of issues that we think through, whether it’s abortion or free speech or sexuality issues. And so if you take a broader definition of what political means, it gets really, really complicated for these companies when they’re having their policy teams and their content moderation teams who are doing really good work trying to decipher, is this OK? Is this in line with our policy or not?
It’s just a very complicated issue. And there really hasn’t been a good clear-cut answer from either of the platforms on how they seek to deal with these issues.
REICHARD: Let’s talk about free speech. We’re talking about private companies here—Facebook and Twitter and the others. They can do what they want in that regard. But their influence is so pervasive, unprecedented really, that some people think the government should step in to regulate them. What do you think?
THACKER: Yeah, and I think that’s a really good point to bring out is that these are private companies. But when it comes to the influence, the outsized influence that social media has not only on our election but even on our pocketbooks and how we live our lives daily, the news we’re seeing and how that influences public opinion—you have a lot of private groups but also government agencies are thinking how do we step in and how do we promote human flourishing and the common good in our society? And that’s a really complicated issue.
And so I do think that Facebook is taking a better approach. I don’t think it’s perfect because I do think coming in to say, look, we’re not wanting to step in as arbiters of truth. We don’t want to say what’s right and what’s wrong. The problem with that is that you can allow misinformation or fake news to promulgate and to go forth and to influence public opinion.
So what I think as Christians, as we step into this, we need to be thinking clearly about issues of human dignity. We need to be thinking about issues of freedom of speech. We need to be educating ourselves about what is true and not just reacting to whatever we see online or whatever meme or news story, but really seeking truth in everything we do.
REICHARD: Jason Thacker is an associate research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
THACKER: Yeah, thank you for having me.
NICK EICHER: Well, we all know that cigarettes are hazardous to your health: you smoke, you increase your risk of disease.
And a man in England learned another way cigarettes are dangerous.
He was driving down a busy street in the town of Halifax when his car burst into flames.
The blast blew out all of the car windows and bent the roof of his sedan. The shockwave even cracked windows of nearby businesses.
Amazingly, the driver was able to climb out of his vehicle largely unharmed.
As to what caused the explosion? Fire officials believe he sprayed a little too much aerosol air freshener in the car just before he lit up.
Here’s hoping that’s all the motivation he’ll need to kick the habit!
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Thursday, December 19th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: revolution.
Thirty years ago when the Berlin Wall came down, a domino-effect of change quickly followed in all of Europe’s former communist countries.
Most of the transitions were peaceful. But for one country it was not. WORLD correspondent Jenny Lind Schmitt brings us the story of one woman who lived through those turbulent days.
JENNY LIND SCHMITT, CORRESPONDENT: Ligia Iorga was 18 at the time of the Romanian Revolution. She grew up in a large Christian family that suffered under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. They felt the regime’s hardships firsthand. In his obsession to pay off foreign debt, Ceausescu deprived his own people and sold their resources abroad.
LIGIA: We were always obligated to give every calf that was born from our cow…We had to turn that into the government.
Food was strictly rationed. Each person] was allowed to buy half a loaf of bread per week. Once a year, the government allowed Iorga’s family to butcher a pig.
More difficult was harassment for their faith.
LIGIA: They called us “The Repentant Ones.” [word in Romanian] When you were called that it was a like a mark on your forehead so to speak. It humiliated us.
Iorga’s parents grew up in Christian homes themselves and raised their children in the faith. They had the Bible but few other Christian resources.
LIGIA: I shared a room with my grandmother…and she read to me everyday…
They also had fellowship in their church. As long as things were non-political, the government left them mostly alone.
LIGIA: As long as the government knew the times we met, they were fine with that…You could never do anything on top of those times.
In 1989 Iorga was preparing for university. She dreamed of being a teacher. But her father discouraged it, knowing how Christian teachers were persecuted for their faith. So she planned on economics instead. She got the political science textbook for the entrance exams and studied during the December break.
LIGIA: The news anchor was mentioning that some minority groups were disturbing the peace in Timisoara…The Secret Police would always take care of these things. … even if it took violence.
Protestant pastor Laszlo Tokes was speaking out against government oppression of ethnic and religious minorities. On December 15, he was forcibly evicted and congregants feared for his life.
Tokes was ready to go with police. But friends gathered outside to protect him. Other religious minorities in the city joined them and surrounded the church. Police ordered people to disperse. Instead thousands more came. The next day the square was filled with protesters.
AUDIO: [Sound of screaming/gunfire in Timisoara]
Ceausescu ordered a crackdown. Soldiers fired into the crowd. Radio Free Europe got an audio recording smuggled out of Timisoara and broadcast it to the rest of Romania.
LIGIA: Life was going on just normal. We were just about to butcher our pig,…one of the neighbors came by and said, Have you heard what’s going on? Have you listened to the radio?
December 21, Ceausescu staged a huge rally in Bucharest to reassert his authority. It did not go as planned.
The army joined in the revolt. But the secret police fought street battles with protestors through the night.
AUDIO: [Sound of helicopter]
Ceausescu and his wife Elena escaped by helicopter the next day but were caught. They were hastily tried, and shot on Christmas Day. The nation celebrated.
AUDIO: [Sound of crowd singing “Ole Ole”]
LIGIA: Ole Ole [Romanian] Ceausescu is no more.” … it was very moving emotionally.
For the first time in decades, Romanians celebrated Christmas openly. The first thing many did was sing carols that had been banned.
LIGIA: As sad as the circumstances were, because there were many killed, and yet people found the strength to sing Christmas carols out in the open.
For a time, upheaval brought spiritual revival. Some people thought it was the end of the world.
LIGIA: It was a time when people did get close to God. People were praying…. The churches were filled. There was such an unusual hunger and thirst.
Not everything was easy to accept. Iorga’s church discovered one of its elders had been a government informant. The congregation had to work through reconciliation.
By the time Iorga took her entrance exams in June 1990, the university had thrown out the communist political science textbook. Iorga never had to take the test.
Her dream of teaching came true when she homeschooled her four children after moving to the United States. Iorga wants her children to know and exercise their freedoms.
LIGIA: In this country we have that privilege that I didn’t grow up with. I have encouraged my children to know very well what they believe and why they believe it and stand up for it.
Today the University of Bucharest holds Christmas carol concerts. And Iorga teaches some of the same carols to her children.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Jenny Lind Schmitt, reporting Redmond, Washington.
MARY REICHARD: Next up on The World and Everything in It: An exciting program announcement.
NICK EICHER: You know that we are in our December Giving Drive.
We need to raise funds to support our operation, but also to invest in new ideas. I want to tell you about an idea that your past giving has made possible for us, and that’s the launch of a new podcast called “Effective Compassion.”
WORLD’s Paul Butler is host and producer of that program. Paul, tell us about it.
PAUL BUTLER: “Effective Compassion” is a stand alone podcast that explores the history of American poverty fighting—by the church, non-profits, and government agencies. But it’s not a dry look at the past. We just finished one episode where Marvin enters a homeless shelter to see what it’s like. We also spend a lot of time wrestling with very contemporary problems. I think it’s compelling storytelling.
REICHARD: Paul, I think this is some of the best audio content we’ve ever produced here. Lots of vivid storytelling, historic audio, great original reporting, and really excellent writing.
BUTLER: Thanks. Our episodes are based on Marvin Olasky’s book: The Tragedy of American Compassion. More than a year ago, Marvin and Susan began writing this series, and they’ve done an amazing job making that material come alive in a dynamic way.
And anyone who’s listened to The World and Everything in It is also familiar with Anna Johnasen. Throughout the season, she brings us to the streets and finds wonderful stories to illustrate what works, and what doesn’t work.
EICHER: Now, we’re going to place the trailer for Effective Compassion into your podcast feed for The World and Everything in It later on this afternoon, so that you can hear it for yourself. Even the trailer is fun to listen to.
Also on Saturday, we don’t release The World and Everything in It on the weekends, but we will use Saturday to release a sneak preview for you of the first episode of Effective Compassion. Runs about 20 minutes. That’ll be your chance to hear the great programming you’ll enjoy in Season 1.
We’ll release the program in its own feed in January, once Apple has approved the new feed, episodes 1 and 2, and each week for 10 weeks, we’ll release a new episode of Effective Compassion.
That’s just an example of what your giving to WORLD makes possible. You’re making it possible for us to continue doing the work you’ve come to count on us for, but also launch important new projects like this.
REICHARD: Oh, I can’t wait. And while we’re on the subject, we’re about 30 percent of the way toward our goal, and we hope you’ll consider giving to our December Giving Drive. Safe, secure, easy to donate online right now at wng.org/donate.
EICHER: Wng.org/donate. Paul, thank you, and congratulations to you and your team on a job very well done.
BUTLER: Thank you so much.
MARY REICHARD: Today is Thursday, December 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Christmas preparations are underway, and commentator Cal Thomas says this is a good time to remember those who may be feeling a little blue.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.
There’s a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.”
That’s Marius, from the musical “Les Miserables.”
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” Andy Williams reminds us over tinny speakers in crowded shopping malls. It may be wonderful for the majority, but for those whose fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers or children have died in Iraq and Afghanistan there is a void this Christmas—and every Christmas—that can never be filled.
On Monday, I drove past Arlington National Cemetery near the Pentagon. It is fitting that the building where war is made would be in such close proximity to the graves of those who died fighting them. Veterans cemeteries ought to remind civilians and generals alike that war should never be entered into lightly, but always as a last resort.
Every Christmas, volunteers place wreaths on each of the headstones in Arlington. The tableau could be a Christmas card, except such a card would express sorrow, not joy.
The grave markers at Arlington and at veteran cemeteries around the nation are the true cost of freedom, which has always been paid not with cash, but with blood.
Freedom is not the natural state of humanity, otherwise more of us would be free. Oppression, discrimination, religious fanaticism, censorship of the press, denial of women’s rights — these seem to be the norm. To be free means to rail against such injustice.
As Christians, we believe Jesus came to set us free from sin. Those who died in our wars did it so we might have our many freedoms, including the religious freedom to hear and accept or reject His message.
Passing Arlington, I recall a line from one of our wonderful patriotic songs, “America, the Beautiful.” It says of our war dead, “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”
As ads and emails suggest last-minute gift ideas, here’s an idea that will outlast any purchase for yourself or your family: Find someone who has lost a loved one to war and take them a present.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Tell them, “I wanted to bring you a gift in recognition of the gift your loved one gave our country.” If you don’t know anyone, search online for organizations that assist families whose loved ones paid the ultimate price for our country.
If you do that, I suspect this Christmas will be unforgettable for the person on the receiving end of your compassion. It could also make this Christmas a transforming event in your own life.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow on Culture Friday: the Hallmark holiday movie dust up.
And, Megan Basham reviews the last installment in the epic story from a galaxy far, far away…
We’ll also share listener feedback. If you have a message for us, call the listener feedback line at 202-709-9595. And you may hear yourself on Friday!
We’re also collecting Christmas memories too, to share on the program next week. If you have a story, we’d love to hear it. Again, you can leave those messages on our listener feedback line. That’s 202-709-9595.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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Thanks for listening today, and please meet us back here tomorrow.