The World and Everything in It — March 18, 2020

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!

The epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic is now in Europe. We’ll talk to WORLD’s Mindy Belz about how other countries are trying to stop its spread.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.

Also World Tour.

Plus ideas for keeping the kids entertained while everyone’s stuck at home.

And Janie B. Cheaney on why math equations must now factor in Western oppression.

BASHAM: It’s Wednesday, March 18th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

BASHAM: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Elections » Former Vice President Joe Biden widened his lead over Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday. 

BIDEN: Our campaign has had a very good night. We moved closer to securing the Democratic party’s nomination for president. 

Three states voted last night, and it was a clean sweep for Biden. He won Arizona, took Illinois by double digits and secured a blowout victory in Florida, beating Sanders by nearly 40 points.  

But despite another big night for the Biden campaign, the response was muted. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there were no victory laps or cheering crowds at campaign headquarters. Instead, Biden offered a simple message of encouragement. 

BIDEN: I know we as a people are up to this challenge. We always have been. I know that we’ll answer this moment of crisis with the best we find in all of us, because that’s what Americans have always done and what we do. That’s who we are.

Also on Tuesday, one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in the House lost his his reelection bid. Incumbent Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski narrowly lost to challenger Marie Newman in last night’s 3rd District primary.

White House, Congress float massive economic stimulus plan » President Trump is asking Congress to unleash a torrent of emergency economic aid—amid the pandemic.

At the White House Tuesday, the president told reporters… 

TRUMP: We’re going big. And that’s where Mitch McConnell, that’s the way he wants to go. That’s the way I want to go. I think we want to get it done. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expounded on a proposed economic rescue package that could cost nearly $1 trillion. 

MNUCHIN: We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. And what we’ve heard from hard working Americans, many companies have now shut down, whether it’s bars or restaurants. Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now, and I mean now in the next two weeks. 

President Trump also announced that most individuals and businesses will be allowed to delay paying their 2019 tax bills for 90 days past the usual April 15th deadline. 

Meantime, on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber will likely start by approving an aid bill that the House just passed… 

MCCONNELL: Then Senate Republicans, in conjunction with the administration, are going to write a next bill. The Senate being the Senate, we will then discuss with the Democrats what we can agree to pass, which will of course take 60 votes. 

The House’s $100 billion package of sick pay, emergency food and free testing is on track for President Trump’s signature. 

Wall Street welcomed the stimulus proposals and actions. Stocks closed up 6 percent Tuesday—recouping almost half of the losses from the day before.

Retailers, theaters shut down amid pandemic » Many more businesses are shutting down nationwide amid the pandemic. 

The list of brick and mortar retailers temporarily closing now includes Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and all Apple stores in the United States. And almost all of the country’s 40,000-plus movie screens are going dark in an unprecedented shutdown. WORLD’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: AMC Theaters is the nation’s largest chain. And on Tuesday it became the latest to announce it’s shutting down. AMC said the latest guidelines made movie theater operations “essentially impossible.” It will close for at least six to 12 weeks. And Regal, the second largest chain, said it’s closing “until further notice.” 

With most of Hollywood’s March and April releases already postponed, Disney on Tuesday also cleared out its May releases, including Marvel’s “Black Widow.”

With movie theaters locked down, some studios took the extraordinary step of funneling new films onto home viewing platforms. Universal Pictures will make its current and upcoming films available for on-demand rental. It will be the first major studio to break the traditional theatrical window of 90 days.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.

COVINGTON: China to expel U.S. reporters from 3 major news outlets » China has announced that it will revoke media credentials for American journalists at three major U.S. news organizations. The move in effect expels all New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post reporters from the country. 

China described its steps as “necessary and reciprocal countermeasures.” They came after the Trump administration designated five Chinese media outlets as foreign missions and restricted the number of Chinese nationals who could work for them.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there’s no comparison between the U.S. and Chinese actions. He said—quote—“The individuals that we identified a few weeks back were not media that were acting here freely,” he said. “They were part of Chinese propaganda outlets.” 

POMPEO: This information campaign that they are waging is designed to shift responsibility. Now is not the time for recrimination. Now is the time to solve this global pandemic and work to take down risks to Americans and people all across the world. 

The Trump administration announced earlier this month that five state-controlled Chinese media outlets would be restricted to 100 visas. It cited increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment, and intimidation of American journalists working in China.

Brady leaving Patriots » The unimaginable has happened to Patriots fans: Tom Brady is moving on.

Brady said Tuesday, “I don’t know what my football future holds, but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and my career.” 

Nothing’s official, but Fox Sports reports the 42-year-old is expected to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Some Pats fans are lamenting the news, while others are taking in stride. 

AUDIO: Move on, get another young quarterback out there. Maybe he’ll squash Tom someday. Maybe he’ll be the new Tom Brady. Maybe he’ll be the new goat. 

Wherever he lands, Brady will bring with him six Super Bowl rings, four Super Bowl MVP trophies and three regular-season MVP awards.

MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Wednesday, the 18th of March, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up today: the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

BASHAM: The outbreak of COVID-19 that started in Wuhan, China, has now spread almost completely around the world. 

And more cases of the disease are now being reported outside China than inside, meaning the epicenter has shifted. 

Europe is on the frontlines of this health crisis, and the United States is not far behind.

EICHER: Joining us now to talk about it is WORLD senior editor Mindy Belz. Good morning, Mindy.

MINDY BELZ, REPORTER: Good morning, Nick.

EICHER: Let’s start with Europe because those countries seem to be just a few steps ahead of us in terms of COVID-19’s spread. What’s the situation like in Europe and what are you hearing from sources on the ground there?

BELZ: I think that Europe might be maybe a week to 10 days ahead of us, so there’s a lot we can learn by seeing what’s happening there. And then I spoke to Gaetano Sottile, he’s the president of Italy for Christ and has been at the center of many crises—earthquake recovery and that sort of thing—for more than three decades. He  described this one as “a fireball.” You have a country on lockdown with medical shortages—I’m talking severe medical shortages. He described for me doctors working 48-hour shifts in Italy to care for more than 31,000 cases.

EICHER: You did not misspeak there. You said 48-hour shifts. Two days. 

BELZ: Exactly. That’s what he said. Round the clock. He described for me the situation with ventilators and other equipment. The kinds of things that we’re just starting to hear about in the United States as potential problems are real problems in Italy right now. 

EICHER: OK, talking about Italy, why has the coronavirus hit so hard there? Why in particular Italy? 

BELZ: I think this is instructive, too. There was a pharmaceutical executive who traveled from visiting a factory in China to Frankfurt and then went on to Milan and apparently infected a man who subsequently traveled to Spain, the United Kingdom, and to France. This is how we have Covid-19 in Europe and it came from these two people from Europe who had gone back and forth to this factory in China. So, it’s easy to see how we get these ballooning, alarming rates of cases and death rates. Italy now has more than 2,500 people who have died from this. That’s a very high death rate. And Italians for 10 days now been under somewhat of a lockdown and I think this is instructive. They have gone to authorities there are fining people if they are caught out in the streets, if they are caught violating the quarantine, and not only are they fined between $250 and $1,000, but this is something that goes on their permanent criminal record. And I was told by several people that’s really keeping people off the streets. So we had this very surreal picture of an empty St. Peter’s Square, an empty Colosseum, Rome—a city we’re used to seeing teaming with people and tourists and things like that—absolutely deserted and we had the pope this week take a walk through the streets of Rome utterly alone.

EICHER: I was reading your email newsletter Globe Trot and noticed a Spanish official you quoted in one of your stories saying that in his view his country had “sinned through too much confidence” in the country’s ability to handle this pandemic. And you went on to point out, Spain isn’t the only sinner. What’s behind that attitude?

BELZ: He highlighted something that I think is important for all of us to consider. There’s this general assumption in the West that China and other areas first experiencing the outbreak were backward or somehow had inferior medical care or because it is a very oppressive government they weren’t taking proper steps to combat it. And actually it’s not true that Asia has inferior medical care. China, Japan, Korea, some of those early countries were able to mobilize, actually, pretty quickly. And in many ways they have newer infrastructure and better hospitals than many parts of Europe and even the United States. And, also, there’s this attitude that it can’t touch us. We, in America, have this attitude that we simply don’t get sick the way the rest of the world does. And so we’ve been a little slow. And slowness with the Covid-19 pandemic can be deadly. 

EICHER: What are you hearing from your sources in the Middle East? Iran was hit hard. What about places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen? Are their fragile healthcare systems prepared in any way for this?

BELZ: Not only are their healthcare systems fragile or, in some areas, non-existent due to war. But there are 12 million refugees across this region that you’re describing. Iraq quickly closed its doors to Iran when the outbreak began there. It closed schools, it took some really harsh measures, but it still has a growing outbreak. And countries in the Middle East are averaging in the hundreds of cases each. Syria is a particular problem. Syria is reporting zero cases and it just defies logic that that could be the case. I’m seeing estimates that there may be at least 2,000 cases in Syria. And what we really worry about there is you have a completely displaced population. Half of the Syrian population is not able to live in their own homes. They’re not able to do even the most basic things that we’re telling each other to do—handwashing in a tent camp that doesn’t have actual running water. Or access to medicine or reporting symptoms to a doctor. These things aren’t possible in these kinds of situations. So, aid groups and medical workers are very concerned that this virus could just get a hold there and then we see it once again spread out to other areas as a result. I also want to mention a unique problem in Israel. Israel actually this week has had a spike in cases—more than 300 cases currently. Primarily due to its Orthodox Jewish community. They have refused to close schools or they have refused to obey limits on crowd sizes unless they are specifically given by an Orthodox rabbi under some very kind of strict religious protocols there—and as a result the government in Israel is nearing a situation where they’re going to impose a total shutdown.

EICHER: Let’s turn now to the U.S. response. Of course the Trump administration has faced a lot of criticism from Democrats and the mainstream media. Is that fair?

BELZ: I guess the better question I would ask at this point is should we care? Yes, we’ve seen some slow responses. Yes, we’ve seen the president communicate things that weren’t actually what the government was trying to order. And a lot of confusion that way. But here we are, if we look at what’s happening in Italy. If we look at what’s happening in other places, I think we should listen to them describing this as a fireball, describing this in terms of combat, of war. And we should be somewhat on war footing. A couple of Italians I’ve talked to say you don’t understand. We have more parties in Italy and they hate each other more than Democrats and Republicans do, yet we’ve stopped the blame game because we have to turn our darkest hour into our finest hour. That’s what I’m hearing. And I think that we should take encouragement from that and do likewise. Another great story that I’m just hearing about is one of the Italian senators—Lucio Malan—who stepped in, intervened with the Ministry of Health to allow Samaritan’s Purse U.S. aid group bring in a mobile hospital. It was just on its way over there this week. It will provide 60 additional beds in the Milan area which is incredibly stressed medically right now. But they had to cut through even more red tape, cross even more political bureaucratic boundaries to get 60 American doctors and nurses in to assist setting up that hospital. This happened in about three days time and it shows you the kind of thing—and keep in mind we’re talking all these party hurdles, we’re talking protestants and Catholics who are often at each other’s throat. We’re talking evangelicals involved in this equation that are not looked upon favorably in political circles sometimes. But they all came together so that they could make a hospital possible. I think that’s what we ought to be doing right now. 

EICHER: Mindy Belz is WORLD’s senior editor and chief international reporter. Thanks so much for joining us today.

BELZ: Thank you, Nick.

NICK EICHER: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour.

Africa correspondent Onize Ohikere is returning home today from a reporting trip, so we will bring you this week’s top international stories not related to coronavirus.

We start today in Africa.

AUDIO: [Workers in the Lagos rubble]

What you’re hearing there is the sound of rescue workers sifting rubble. Early Sunday morning, an explosion rocked Lagos, Nigeria. 

The blast killed at least 15 people and destroyed more than 50 buildings, one of which was a school for girls.

AUDIO: We don’t know how many number of students are still in the building or not.

A truck hit a stack of gas cylinders at a processing plant nearby, and that triggered the blast. It could’ve been even worse had the explosion also damaged a nearby oil pipeline.

AUDIO: We have pipelines running through this area in spite of the fact that people live here, which is wrong.

Rescuers pulled at least 25 people from collapsed buildings, but others remain missing.

BASHAM: Next, Ethiopia, which remains locked in a dispute with Egypt over a major dam on the Nile River.

Ethiopia has been working to build that dam on the Nile for almost a decade. But Egypt regards the project as a threat to its water supply. 

The United States is acting as mediator, and last week issued a statement urging Ethiopia and Egypt to come to terms. But earlier this month, Ethiopia’s minister of foreign affairs accused the United States of bias.

AUDIO: [Man speaking Amharic]

The dam is about 70 percent built. If and when it’s complete, the project would double Ethiopia’s electricity generation. It would also provide energy exports to countries like Sudan, Kenya, and possibly Egypt.

EICHER: Next we go to New Zealand.

AUDIO: [Sound of prayers]

The prayers Friday of more than a thousand people gathered to commemorate the anniversary of last year’s mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

AUDIO: I came here to support my Muslim brothers and sisters here, to share with them the sorrow and the hardship that they’ve been through.

The prime minister donned a headscarf and participated in the Islamic prayers.

Authorities kept the commemoration small, and canceled a much-larger memorial because of concerns over coronavirus.

BASHAM: And we end today in Washington.

AUDIO: Free Tibet! China out! Free Tibet! China out! China out of Tibet now!

Tibetans gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Washington. They marked the 61st anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule. Some protesters painted on their faces the words “free Tibet.” Others wore or waved Tibetan flags. 

Protests also took place outside Chinese embassies in India, Canada, and Australia.

More than 70 years ago, China invaded and annexed Tibet. A decade after that came a failed uprising in which thousands died. Today, China occupies the Himalayan region, and Tibetans hope international support and pressure will lead Beijing to permit some freedoms.

And that’s this week’s World Tour.

MEGAN BASHAM: Well, not everyone is lamenting the coronavirus lock-down.

The closure of Shedd Aquarium in Chicago did give the penguins there a chance to spread their wings. Well, spread their flippers.

The exhibit floors of course are vacant, and so  aquarium staff decided to let a group of penguins out. Give them the run of the place. The waddle of the place.

And that’s exactly what they did. It’s funny to watch if you haven’t seen the video online: they’re waddling past the exhibits, looking around curiously just like any of the thousands of human guests typically do.

One video shows a rockhopper penguin by the name of Wellington, who was especially interested in the tropical fish display. But he seemed a little put out that he couldn’t get to them. 

What Wellington should’ve been instead was thankful! Because the glass that protected them protected him. After all, one of the species Wellington had his eyes on was the red-bellied piranha! 

Goes to show you, social distancing even applies to penguins.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Wednesday, March 18th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we are really glad you are. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: family time during the coronavirus quarantine.

More than 30 states have extended spring break or cancelled school this week to figure out how to finish out the academic year in light of state and federal health guidelines. This means kids are home and looking for things to do.

EICHER: So we asked for suggestions on how to do more than just survive the next few weeks as a family, but to do in a way that’s meaningful.

Here’s WORLD correspondent Emily Whitten.

EMILY WHITTEN: Nearly 30 million kids in America will be staying home from school this week…and for weeks to come. Of course we love our kids—but let’s face it, for many parents, that’s a scary thought. 

I’ve been a homeschool mom for the last nine years, and I can assure you, America, we will get through this. How, you ask? With earplugs and sedatives, of course. I’m just kidding. No sedatives. And actually, if you aren’t doing the good work of tending the sick, I hope this time at home can be an opportunity. To have fun. To serve one another. And to do and learn things you wouldn’t otherwise. 

For instance, could you commit to read a short passage of the Bible each day with your kids? It’s admittedly hard to do with so many distractions of normal life. But even if you’re working from home, just 5 minutes a day doing that together could be really special. Maybe start by reading the Easter story in Luke or John. As you read, pause and ask your kids what they think. When you’re done, pray together. 

Another simple thing. If your kids aren’t so old they roll their eyes when you suggest it, share some music together. Cheerful jazz or classical music can be a great way to set the mood for the day. A few of our family favorites over the years—Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, Handel’s Messiah, Fiddler on the Roof, Sam Cooke, and Ella Fitzgerald. 

When my kids were younger, we used music to learn Bible verses, hymns, and catechisms. Again, 5 or 10 minutes of memorization each day can have life-long results. And it doesn’t have to be terribly painful. I really enjoy Sara Groves’ folksy versions of hymns like Abide with Me. Or here’s a clip from the Slugs and Bugs version of Philippians 2:14-15 on Youtube:

LYRIC: “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…”

You can further enrich your time at home, even while you do chores like cooking and cleaning, by listening to audiobooks or radio dramas. Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey combines high-quality storytelling with great Christian values, and you can buy a subscription to their archives for a pretty fair price. Our family recently listened to a free audiobook version at of J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. Here’s a short sample:

LORD OF THE RINGS: I cannot read the fiery letters, said Frodo in a quavering voice. No, but I can. 

If you’re new to radio drama and audiobooks, don’t feel like you have to sit with rapt attention for hours on end. If you don’t have any chores to do, offer kids a snack or paper to draw or color. Giving kids something to do with their hands can actually help them listen more closely.

One common challenge at home is not getting enough exercise. For that, I recommend getting outside when you can. Nature walks can be fun, especially as spring flowers begin to bud and bloom. Maybe start a nature diary and record the new flowers and bugs you see each day. Another idea, you can go to and learn how to build a birdhouse. Or Google how to build an obstacle course or parkour course in your yard. 

We once made a Star Wars themed course and shot Nerf guns at each other, which was tons of fun. On days when you can’t get outside, something like the Keep Trainer app can help you plan a daily workout at home.

When you use your TV or tablet, keep an eye out for more “nutritional” options. For younger kids, try Magic School Bus or the old Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Older kids might like Castles in the Sky, Hidden Figures and Ken Burns’ Documentaries. I especially love to find shows that spark excitement and adventure in the real world. For instance, after my oldest daughter watched The Great British Baking Show—The Beginnings, she got really jazzed about learning to bake. Here’s how she describes that: 

REBECCA: Actually, that’s what got me into baking. One day I just went into the kitchen. I said, I’m gonna make some bread. Because I’ve never baked bread before. So, I got a recipe and I made some bread and it was great. And then I made a cake, and then I made French desserts, and cupcakes and cakes and tarts and eclairs. It was a great introduction to the world of baking. It showed me how much I could do.

In like manner, WORLD book reviewer Mary Jackson recently told me about her son’s love for the new Lego TV show: Lego Masters. Not only does he watch it, but he hosts building competitions with his friends modeled after the show. They pick a theme, set a time limit, and then create their own Lego build. When they’re done, a parent picks a winner. If you can’t get together physically, kids could compete with other homebound friends using apps like Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or even through email.

One final benefit of homeschooling I’ll mention—the ability to serve. Is anyone sick in your neighborhood? Might an older couple need someone to buy groceries or cut their grass for them? Look for ways your kids could help. Kids might not be able to visit with elderly family members for a while. Could you give them a phone call instead? Or spend a few hours making them a photo book of happy times you spent together? 

With 30 million kids at home, we face uncharted territory as a nation. But what Satan means for evil, God means for good. And if we commit ourselves to Him and His purposes, I hope families will find manifold blessings. No earplugs or sedatives needed.


Reporting for WORLD, I’m Emily Whitten.

NICK EICHER: Today is Wednesday, March 18th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. One public school district is thinking of infusing revisionist history into math instruction. Here’s WORLD’s Janie B. Cheaney.  

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: The Seattle school board is considering new guidelines for what might be called “social justice math.” The reason for the proposed changes, as reported by Education Week, is, quote, “to infuse all K-through-12 math classes with ethnic studies questions that encourage students to explore how math has been ‘appropriated’ by Western culture and used in systems of power and oppression.”

Math felt like a tool of oppression to me in junior high, but that’s not the point. The point is, yes, to teach math functions—but also teach how two plus two has been used to figure the profits of slavery and the cost/benefit ratio of colonizing armies.

The proposed guidelines meet the approval of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. A task-force report from the council, called “The Purpose of Catalyzing Change” lays out several appropriate goals for quantitative learning. But it also attempts to make math a wrap-around subject for psychological reflection. Students should be encouraged to develop a positive “mathematical identity” and “mathematical agency.” 

Agency is a good thing if it means giving a high school senior the confidence to start a lawn-care business or build a robot. But if it means learning just enough about appropriation to browbeat the oppressors, it’s pretty much limited to the faculty lounge.

“Rehumanizing” is another key word, as if math had somehow been stripped of its natural warmth and sympathy. Rehumanizing means that teachers, quote, “understand the roles of power, privilege, and oppression in the history of mathematics education.” 

Not everyone is a fan. Education Week interviewed one math professional who had misgivings: “You don’t need to talk about liberation and oppression and how Western mathematics has somehow taken over. It just turns people off and makes the goal of being inclusive that much tougher.” That view makes perfect sense, but does the fact that this person preferred to remain anonymous indicate that oppression is now coming from other quarters?

Frances Schaeffer, among others, saw that the “fact/value” split (that is, separating objective information from a philosophical worldview) would leave us with no reliable means of distinguishing fact from value.

And since there is no such thing as “neutral” education, the fact part of the equation is going to migrate up to the value, and vice versa.

That seems to be happening in education. For 50 years or more, we tried to keep subjective principles in the theoretical upper story, while objective facts occupied the classroom below. But the new indisputable “fact” of history is how all Western religions, philosophies, and rational structures are merely power grabs. This is actually a value judgment, but it has become the bedrock of educational theory. What began in university education schools is spreading to elementary arithmetic, and how much math—or anything else—are the kids going to learn if they start with the premise that it was all a big cheat?

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: we’ll hear how coronavirus has prompted Christian colleges and universities to come up with new virtual teaching methods.

And, we’ll visit southern Arizona for an update on border wall construction.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

Peter reminds us that we’ve all received a gift, so use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 

Thanks for listening today, and please join us again tomorrow.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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