BRIAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
The federal government recommended states not lift stay-at-home orders until they had a two-week decline in new COVID-19 cases. But defining what a decline actually means has proven surprisingly difficult.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.
Also World Tour.
Plus remembering apologist, author, and broadcaster Ravi Zacharias.
And Joel Belz on the importance of telling stories that bring glory to God.
BASHAM: It’s Wednesday, May 20th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Brian Basham.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BASHAM: Up next, Kent Covington has today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Trump to WHO: Shape up or lose U.S. funding » President Trump said Tuesday that he’s sending a letter to the World Health Organization with a clear ultimatum…
TRUMP: Basically they have to clean up their act. They have to do a better job. They have to be much more fair to other countries, including the United States, or we’re not going to be involved with them anymore.
The letter gives the WHO 30 days to make substantial changes or the United States will permanently cut off funding. Washington sent nearly a half-billion dollars to the UN health agency last year. The White House froze funding last month pending an investigation.
As the outbreak spread, the WHO largely deferred to China and heaped praise on Chinese leader Xi Jinping even as many experts now say China was concealing the extent of the outbreak.
Many other WHO member states share Trump’s concerns, but say now is not the time to address them. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said a probe is warranted…
LEYEN: But let us for now focus on our most immediate challenge.
Member states met virtually Tuesday for day two of the organization’s annual assembly. And many shared their concerns, including the agency caving to Chinese pressure to exclude Taiwan from the WHO.
But members ultimately approved a resolution that backs cooperation to find tools to address COVID-19.
White House defends Trump’s use of Hydroxychloroquine » The White House is pushing back against criticism after President Trump’s announcement Monday that he has been taking Hydroxychloroquine. That’s an anti-malaria drug that some health experts believe could help with the coronavirus.
He said he’s been taking it as a preventive measure.
TRUMP: I think it gives you an additional level of safety. But you can ask, many doctors are in favor of it. Many frontline workers won’t go there unless they have the hydroxy. And so again, this is an individual decision to make.
The FDA warned health professionals last month that the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of hospital or research settings.
It has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and studies of its effectiveness against COVID-19 have produced mixed results. And critics say Trump’s example could lead many people to misuse the drug.
But the White House noted that the drug is only available by prescription and has been widely used for other purposes for decades.
Powell, Mnuchin testify before the Senate » Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified Tuesday about what it will take to pull the U.S. economy out of its coronavirus nosedive. Both men spoke to members of the Senate Banking Committee.
Mnuchin stressed the urgency of getting American businesses back up and running. And he said he believes that can and is being done responsibly.
MNUCHIN: I couldn’t be more proud of the medical advice that we’re getting and the way that the economy is opening up in a safe way.
But he warned that prolonged business shutdowns would pose long-term threats to the economy, adding—quote—“There is risk of permanent damage.”
Powell said the Fed’s lending programs for medium-sized businesses and state and local governments will launch very soon.
POWELL: We expect all of them to be stood up and ready to go by end of this month. I don’t say that it won’t be a day or two into June, but that’s our expectation and the funds should be flowing directly after that.
While the Fed can loan money, only Congress can approve stimulus payments and forgivable loans like those in the Paycheck Protection Program.
And Powell once again stressed the need for Congress to consider approving more financial aid soon to avoid a deeper recession.
Oregon Supreme Court halts judge’s ruling, keeps stay-at-home orders in place » The Oregon Supreme Court halted a judge’s order which had tossed out the governor’s coronavirus lockdown orders. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff ruled on Monday that Governor Kate Brown overstepped her authority by extending stay-at-home orders past a 28-day limit. The judge said the governor needed the approval of the legislature to extend the orders.
But hours later, the state’s Supreme Court stayed that ruling pending review by all the high court justices.
In a statement, Brown praised the court’s action. Her words, “There are no shortcuts for us to return to life as it was before this pandemic. Moving too quickly could return Oregon to the early days of this crisis, when we braced ourselves for hospitals to be overfilled.”
The lower court judge had issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by 10 churches arguing the directives were unconstitutional.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.
Disney Springs in Orlando partially reopens this week » Walt Disney World is preparing to let some third-party shops and restaurants reopen at its entertainment complex Disney Springs this week with new safety measures.
All workers and visitors over age 2 will be required to wear face masks. And everyone will get temperature checks. The number of guests will be limited, and extra hand sanitizer and hand washing stations have been added.
Last week, Universal Orlando allowed a half-dozen restaurants and two retail shops to reopen at its Citywalk entertainment complex.
Neither Disney World nor Universal officials have said when they plan to reopen theme parks and hotels at their resorts.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: redefining the guidelines states use to reopen.
Plus, Joel Belz on the spheres of WORLD’s mission.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: It’s Wednesday the 20th of May, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
BRIAN BASHAM: And I’m Brian Basham. First up: recommendations for reopening.
EICHER: In mid April, the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended states have a 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases before easing stay-at-home restrictions. Few have actually met that benchmark. But by Memorial Day—less than a week from now—every state will have started lifting limits on businesses and public gatherings.
BASHAM: With tens of millions predictably unemployed, the pressure to get people back to work is driving the push to reopen. Some governors say they know they’re taking a risk but one they say is both calculated and necessary.
But there’s also been some confusion about how to define a 14-day decline. Does an isolated outbreak of cases, say at a nursing home, mean states need to reset their count? And how should officials factor in increasing test capacity, which leads of course to more positive cases?
EICHER: Scott Ganz is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an assistant professor of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He ran the numbers to make his own recommendation for how states should interpret the data. And he joins us now to talk about it. Good morning, professor!
SCOTT GANZ, GUEST: Hey, thanks so much for having me.
GANZ: So, I think that when the White House Coronavirus Taskforce came out with this idea that we should be looking for 14 days of reductions in cases, people thought that seems pretty intuitive. We look at a line and if that line goes down for 14 days, then we’re all good. But then you realize when you’re actually looking at a line in real time and asking is that line really actually going down for two straight weeks, it’s not as easy as that. So, for example, if there’s just some normal randomness in the data, right, we might see a little blip upwards in the middle of a week. And then you need to ask yourself, well, do we now not have 14 days of declining cases? Or, if you want to think about it sort of in a different way, imagine all we’re looking at is is the data today less than the number was 14 days ago? We face the same problems where if it just happened to be the case that 14 days ago the data was a little bit higher or a little bit lower, you’re going to get very different answers. Luckily, thinking about this from the perspective of statistics, we’re pretty comfortable taking into account that kind of random variability in data and that’s what I was trying to do.
EICHER: How do you propose—I mean, look, I looked at your paper and it reminded me of some economics textbooks of many, many moons ago, but we’re explaining this as simply as possible. Without going into the full equation, how do you propose it? What’s your thumbnail rule?
GANZ: So, the way that I think about it‚—and I think this is consistent with the way that others who are looking at the data are talking about what we mean when we’re talking about 14 days of consistent decline is the data that we’re looking at should be well-modeled, sort of roughly approximated by a downward sloping—what I’m going to call a stair-step function, which I call in the paper a monotonically decreasing function. What that means is we should be able to draw a line through the data where that line, as time goes along, it moves down. It doesn’t need to move down at a constant rate—it can be going down at a slow rate, a fast rate, it could be going down slow at the beginning and then a little bit faster and a little bit slower. But sort of over the course of the 14 days, we want that line trending downward. And for me, I think that’s what I look for in the data and that’s actually what I think that most people look for when they think about “What are we talking about when we mean 14 days of consistent decline?”
EICHER: Now, the model that you created, you applied it to some of the data that was publicly available. Can you just talk briefly about what you found and how states are applying the data we have?
GANZ: Yeah, for sure. So, I applied this criterion—what I’m going to call a monotonically decreasing criterion—to eight different states. And I chose those eight states just purely because I thought the data was good for those states. You could apply it to more states if you wanted to. And I asked the question: Do positive test rates—so think about that as the ratio of the total number of positive cases divided by the total number of positive tests—does that have this consistent decline? Is it well characterized by a downward sloping stair-step function? And the answer I found was that in New York it appeared to be the case and in the other seven states that I analyzed, the data didn’t seem to say that. The data was sort of better characterized by a different shape.
EICHER: Well, now, as I mentioned, more or less, every state is going to be opening or at least beginning to reopen by Memorial Day. So, are you saying that there are some states that are acting in rash ways? Are you concerned about all of that? And, maybe the better question is, how does this guide policymakers?
GANZ: So, I would say to start, I’m more concerned actually with the state of the data. So, if we think about all of the different variables or the different sort of indicators that we might want to look at when it comes to deciding when should I reopen my state? We could think about how many cases are there. We could think about what is the overall rate of infection in the population. We could think about conditional on getting infected, what is the probability of having a serious negative reaction or even dying? And between different states, they’re also sort of on the nature of the whole, I just don’t think we have a really good grasp of what those numbers are saying.
And so as a result, we’re sort of asking policymakers to make a decision with their gut when we would hope that instead they would be able to make decisions based on objective analysis.
EICHER: And speaking of which, isn’t it a little bit arbitrary even to say, well, we’re going to draw these lines and we call these state lines? Wouldn’t it be better, really, county by county, or city by city, area by area because, I mean, outstate Missouri is not the same as St. Louis, Missouri, for example.
GANZ: So, that’s absolutely right. Right, so the way that the policy response has been organized in the U.S. is on a state-by-state level and so as a result you’re seeing some states treating some counties different than others, so in Virginia for example they’re opening up the areas of Virginia outside of the D.C. suburbs earlier than the areas in the D.C. suburbs precisely because those two regions are very, very different in terms of both the intensity to which they’ve been affected by COVID-19, but also in terms of sort of simple things like the density of the population. But, nevertheless, the question of whether the state is the right unit to be managing the response is a really good one and one that my understanding is the U.S. is quite unique in terms of managing the crisis sort of in this individual way.
EICHER: That kind of vindicates the idea of federalism, I mean, just sort of saying we’re not going to have a top-down solution. Local policymakers need to do the best they can because there is a lot of gut going on here, right?
GANZ: So, that’s definitely the approach that we’re taking, right? And it has some benefits and it has some costs, right? One of the benefits is that you do at least have the opportunity to have solutions which are tailored to the local environment, but there are huge costs, right? If we think about the fact that people, for example, can easily travel across state lines, that means that we have a public health response that’s being managed on a state level, but the pandemic is global but definitely national.
EICHER: Scott Ganz is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He’s also an assistant professor of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Thanks for joining us today!
GANZ: Hey, this was great. Thanks so much for having me.
BRIAN BASHAM: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour. We had some technical trouble connecting with Africa reporter Onize Ohikere today, so we’ll be taking you on today’s tour of international news.
NICK EICHER: Iran oil tankers head to Venezuela—We start today in the Middle East.
Five Iranian oil tankers are on their way to Venezuela. The ships likely carry at least $45 million worth of gasoline products. Iran is under heavy sanctions from the United States. The tankers are a way to bring money in around those sanctions.
Venezuela is also under U.S. sanctions and starved for usable energy. The socialist country has little to lose by accepting the shipments.
But the strategy also could trigger renewed conflict between Iran and the United States. On Thursday, Washington issued an advisory notice to the maritime industry. It said to watch out for illegal shipping and tactics used to dodge sanctions.
AUDIO: [MAN SPEAKING]
Iran’s Foreign Ministry replied that “if the U.S. does not like this trade, that is their problem.” The spokesman warned that Iran will retaliate if the United States intervenes and called any potential U.S. action “piracy.”
BASHAM: Rwandan genocide arrest—Next we go to Europe.
AUDIO: [MAN SPEAKING]
One of the last key leaders of the Rwandan genocide was arrested in France on Saturday. Felicien Kabuga was living under a false identity in a Paris suburb.
The 84-year-old used to be one of Rwanda’s richest men. He is accused of bankrolling the ethnic extremists who killed 800,000 people in 1994. Kabuga also imported hundreds of thousands of machetes and helped create a radio station that encouraged the slaughter.
In 1997, he was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity. Kabuga will stand trial before a UN criminal tribunal. Officials said his arrest is a reminder that “those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes.”
EICHER: Albanians protest theater demolition—Next, to Albania.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in the nation’s capital on Sunday to protest the demolition of a historical theater. They waved red and black Albanian flags and chanted “Down with the dictatorship.”
The National Theater was built by Italians when they occupied Albania during World War II. In 2018, the government decided to demolish it and build a new theater. That sparked heated political debates between the ruling party and the opposition.
Heavy machinery toppled the building early Sunday morning, but the protests continued.
Albania’s Prime Minister called the protests “hysteria.” He said the people who oppose the plan for a new theater “don’t love development.”
Venetian gondolas back in service—And finally, we end today in Italy.
AUDIO: [BELLS RINGING]
Gondolas are back on the canals of Venice. After months of coronavirus shutdowns, Italy took another step towards reopening on Monday. Most businesses are now open. And gondoliers are once again transporting passengers. The boatmen wear masks and gloves, and the gondolas are marked with tape to keep passengers 6 feet apart. There aren’t many customers yet, but the gondoliers hope that will change soon. Italy plans to open its borders to European tourists on June 3rd.
And that’s this week’s World Tour.
NICK EICHER: Most art lovers will never set eyes on a Picasso painting without standing behind a velvet rope.
But Christie’s Paris auction house is giving the average Joe a chance to hang an original Picasso in his living room.
Rather than actioning the artwork to wealthy art aficionados, Christie’s has been selling raffle tickets at a little more than $100 a piece.
The painting is a 1921 oil on canvas work called Nature Morte. It’s valued at more than a million dollars.
One art lover acknowledged the long statistical odds of winning, she’s excited for the opportunity.
AUDIO: Everywhere where you go in the world, you go to the Far East to the West Coast, anywhere you go, everyone knows who is Picasso. Even if you don’t know the work of Picasso and the details, you know who is Picasso. You’ve heard about Picasso.
Raffle organizers said they’ve raised about $5.5 million. That money will go to charity: to provide access to clean water to communities in Africa.
Christie’s will draw a winner today.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
BRIAN BASHAM: Today is Wednesday, May 20th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Brian Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: remembering Ravi Zacharias.
ZACHARIAS: May I please close in prayer? One day we will all stand before you, and Lord, I have absolutely no doubt—we will be silent. Because everything about you will transcend anything we could say.
That’s Zacharias speaking at the Passion Conference in Atlanta earlier this year. The well-known Christian apologist, author, and broadcaster died Tuesday morning at his home in Atlanta. He was 74.
BASHAM: His family announced earlier this month that Zacharias would be suspending treatment of the cancer first discovered in March.
News of his imminent death brought tributes from all around the globe. WORLD correspondent Katie Gaultney has this remembrance.
KATIE GAULTNEY, REPORTER: Well-wishers included Christian musician Matt Redman and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Tolerance for the United Arab Emirates, among many others. Well-known Christian athlete Tim Tebow reflected on Zacharias’ impact in an emotional video posted to Twitter.
TEBOW: He is an absolute inspiration, a hero of the faith. He will absolutely be in the hall of faith…
Zacharias was born in Chennai, in southeastern India, but around age 4, he moved with his family to Delhi, where he grew up. He was often physically and verbally abused. That led him to develop a sense of worthlessness. His parents considered their family Christian, but Zacharias said he was “without any spiritual instruction.” The only evidence of Christianity in his home was in the food they ate and the holidays they celebrated.
When he was a teenager, he attended a local Youth for Christ—or YFC—rally with his siblings. The promise of refreshments lured him to the meeting, but when Sam Wolgemuth of YFC gave an altar call, Zacharias was the only person who responded. Drawn by Wolgemuth’s gentle demeanor, Zacharias recalled desiring a change in his life.
ZACHARIAS: So here I was as a young teen, just finding a hero, and saying “Whatever it is he has, I want to have it.”
But a few months after responding to that calling, Zacharias found himself spiraling under his father’s scrutiny. He attempted suicide by poison at age 17. A YFC minister named Fred David visited him in the hospital and gave him a Bible. After hearing John 14:19, where Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live,” Zacharias committed his life to Christ.
ZACHARIAS: I just cried out, it was a prayer of desperation. I said, “Jesus if you are who you claim to be, take me out of here. I will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of truth.”
He said he walked out of the hospital five days later “a changed man.” He began sharing the gospel publicly at age 19, even winning a preaching contest.
A year later, the family moved to Canada. Instead of going into business, as his father hoped, he earned theological degrees from Ontario Bible College—now Tyndale University College and Seminary—and Trinity International University.
After graduating, Zacharias joined the Christian and Missionary Alliance. That allowed him to travel the world preaching. In South Vietnam, Cambodia, Europe, and India, he was struck by the lack of Christian apologetics ministries. That void led him to begin Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, or RZIM, in 1984. It was his calling.
ZACHARIAS: A job is something you choose, a calling is something for which you are chosen. God has placed you where he has placed you by design.
Today, RZIM includes about 75 Christian apologists who defend the faith and train Christian leaders around the world. Zacharias’ “Let My People Think” broadcast aired on more than 2,000 stations in 32 countries. He was also a prolific author. His 28 books have sold millions of copies worldwide and been translated into over a dozen languages.
Zacharias was at his best when answering skeptics and atheists at forums he hosted around the world. He used his vast knowledge of world philosophies and religions to keenly break down why Christianity is the only faith that stands up to intellectual scrutiny.
ZACHARIAS: I think Christianity, when the tests of truth are put, is the only system that coherently brings the answers to the four fundamental questions of life—origin, meaning, morality, and destiny—and correspondingly in each case will measure up to the truth.
Like many prominent Christian leaders, though, Zacharias was not immune to controversy. He faced criticism for occasionally going by “Dr.” Zacharias because his many doctorates were honorary. He was also caught up in a scandal that involved inappropriate texts sent by a Canadian woman he met at a conference. Zacharias said the explicit photos she sent him were unsolicited and unwelcome. He even filed a lawsuit against the woman and her husband, since they attempted to extort Zacharias over the photos. He apologized publicly for not drawing stricter boundaries that would have protected him from the appearance of impropriety.
But Zacharias will be remembered for his many decades of ministry and discipleship. One notable RZIM speaker and Zacharias acolyte was Nabeel Qureshi, a convert from Islam, whose book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus became a New York Times bestseller. Qureshi died in 2017 of stomach cancer. Speaking at Qureshi’s funeral, Zacharias reflected on having a heavenly perspective.
ZACHARIAS: For the first time in his life, he is seeing reality as God wanted him to see it. He looked through a keyhole all along, and now he’s seeing the whole panorama…
He concluded his remarks by reciting lyrics from a favorite hymn, “The Lost Chord.”
ZACHARIAS: It may be that death’s bright angel/ Will speak in that chord again/ It may be that only in Heav’n/ I shall hear that grand Amen.
His wife of 48 years, Margie, three children, and several grandchildren survive him. Today, the many believers who have grown through the work and ministry of Ravi Zacharias grieve with hope and cling to the certainty that Ravi has now heard that great amen.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Katie Gaultney.
NICK EICHER: Today is Wednesday, May 20th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
BRIAN BASHAM: And I’m Brian Basham. Up next, WORLD founder Joel Belz muses about a question you may have wondered yourself.
JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: When you pick up your latest issue of WORLD, do you think of it more as a business enterprise—or as a ministry? Do you think first of Truett Cathy or of Billy Graham?
From my point of view as founder, I hope you think of WORLD in both categories.
WORLD is part ministry because it helps you develop your Biblical understanding of all that is going on from a God-centered perspective. But WORLD is also part business because you expect to get your money’s worth with your annual membership, and because you expect us to conduct our affairs in an orderly manner.
That blend always carries with it a certain tension. On one side we have a healthy desire to see God’s kingdom expanded. On the other, we take clear note of the tools we employ to bring that expansion about.
So it’s right, isn’t it, to hope for and to plan on growth in the circulation of WORLD’s paper-and-ink edition? And for more subscribers to our podcasts? We all want to see the fruit of our work extended.
But at what cost? What if we discover we could increase our monthly downloads from the current 1 million to 5 million—but that it would cost $1 million dollars to do it? Is that a business or ministry decision?
If at this point my reasoning strikes you as a bit muddled, you’re catching on! I freely confess to spending too many years uncertain whether I was engaged in ministry or business.
I vividly remember, some 25 years ago, boldly approaching a highly competent businessman who was already a generous donor. I asked him for a gift of $1 million dollars, which would go entirely to build the print circulation. I stressed how this would extend the “ministry” of WORLD.
“Joel,” he replied in kind but straightforward tone, “you know I have a million dollars. You know that I may well give it to WORLD some day. But not now. If I gave it to you now, a year from now neither one of us would know where it had gone.”
My friend was way ahead of me. He knew the limitations of my mind when it came to “business” theory, analysis, and practice. He helped me learn a few of those things—before I handed the leadership of WORLD and its parent organization to others. Over the last decade, CEO Kevin Martin has displayed great gifts while thoughtfully leading our World News Group team in the work of blending ministry and business in everything we do.
I encourage you to apply the same kind of thinking to all the charitable organizations you support. Do they thoughtfully blend ministry and business?
And don’t worry if WORLD doesn’t easily fit into one category. I hope we continue to wear both hats—and to wear them well.
I’m Joel Belz.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: Voting in person may be too risky this fall. We’ll tell you how some states are preparing for an increase in mail-in ballots.
And, as churches begin meeting together again, worship leaders are facing a tough decision about congregational singing.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
BRIAN BASHAM: And I’m Brian 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.
I hope you’ll have a great rest of the day. We’ll talk to you tomorrow!