MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
Hong Kong is feeling the full weight of Beijing’s heavy-handed rule. We’ll tell you how the city’s residents are facing their loss of freedom.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also coronavirus has changed how people buy and read books. What will that mean for writers and publishers going forward?
Plus, the Olasky Interview. A conversation with journalist and author Amity Shlaes.
And commentator Cal Thomas on how President Trump can improve his flagging poll numbers.
BASHAM: It’s Thursday, July 9th. 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: Supreme Court upholds contraceptive exemption » The Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling on Wednesday in a major religious liberty case. The justices ruled in favor of the Catholic nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor who sued over the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has more.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: The high court ruled 7-2 to uphold a regulation issued by Health and Human Services. It carves out exemptions to Obamacare’s so-called contraceptive mandate. The controversial mandate forced private employers to include coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in their health insurance plans.
The carveout exempts employers who have religious objections to paying for those drugs.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ had ruled that HHS did not have the authority to create exemptions to Obamacare. But the high court disagreed.
With Wednesday’s decision and the high court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby ruling, almost any employer with religious convictions can now opt out of the Obamacare mandate.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
Religious schools keep the right to hire for beliefs » And in another 7-to-2 ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the government shouldn’t second guess who fills religiously significant roles in faith-based organizations.
The justices ruled in favor of two Catholic schools that fired teachers.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said both teachers fell under the “ministerial exception,” which protects religious groups from lawsuits for firing people in religious roles.
He added that the government should stay out of “matters of church government, as well as those of faith and doctrine.”
FBI director issues dire warning about Chinese espionage, theft » FBI Director Christopher Wray this week said China’s espionage, cyberattacks, and theft from the United States have amounted to “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.”
WRAY: China is engaged in a whole of state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary.
Speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington, Wray said economic espionage cases with links to China have increased 1,300 percent over the past decade.
He added that “The stakes could not be higher, and the potential economic harm to American businesses” and the economy “almost defies calculation.”
WRAY: And at this very moment, China is working to compromise American healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions conducting essential COVID-19 research.
Wray said confronting the Chinese threat doesn’t mean we have to cut all business ties to China. But he said “It does mean that when China violates our criminal laws and international norms, we are not going to tolerate, much less enable.”
The FBI director’s comments came just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. government is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps over national security concerns. That would include the popular smartphone app TikTok.
Trump administration continues push to reopen schools in fall » The Trump administration on Wednesday continued a full court press on reopening schools in the fall.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the nation’s governors on Wednesday that virtual classes won’t cut it.
DEVOS: It’s clear our nation’s schools must fully reopen and fully operate the school year. Anything short of that robs students, not to mention taxpayers, of their futures.
DeVos heard there in a conference call with governors.
The White House insists students must return to classrooms for the sake of their mental and physical health as well.
President Trump on Wednesday threatened to withhold federal funding if America’s schools don’t reopen, though he did not say what funding he would pull.
Some local school districts have considered offering a mix of in-person and virtual classes in the fall due to the coronavirus.
And Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that in certain situations, that may be acceptable.
PENCE: There may be some states and local communities that given cases or positivity in that community may adjust to either a certain set of days or certain limitations and we’ll be very respectful of that.
Pence said the CDC is revising its guidelines for schools after President Trump complained the agency’s guidance was too expensive and impractical.
According to a report from two national groups of educators, it could cost the average school district about $1.8 million per year to outfit buildings for safety during the pandemic.
New rules bar online-only international college students from staying in U.S. » Meantime, international college students in the United States will have to leave the county or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall. That according to new federal immigration guidelines announced this week. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Colleges received the guidance just as some schools, including Harvard, announced that all fall instruction will be held online.
Under the updated rules, international students must take at least some of their classes in person. The government will not issue new visas to students at schools or programs that are entirely online.
The rules state that those attending schools that are staying online must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction.”
The changes drew fire from the American Council on Education, which represents university presidents. It called the guidelines “horrifying” and said they will result in confusion as schools look for ways to reopen safely.
The council’s senior vice president, Terry Hartle said he’s especially concerned that students won’t be exempt from the rules, even if an outbreak forces their schools online during the fall term. He said it’s unclear what would happen if a student ended up in that scenario but faced travel restrictions from their home country.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Hong Kong’s new national security law.
Plus, Cal Thomas on how President Trump can improve his poll numbers.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Thursday the 9th of July, 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: eroding freedom in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong spent more than 100 years under the crown. But in 1997, the United Kingdom returned the city to China.
BASHAM: The Sino-British Joint Declaration promised the city could keep its separate economic and political systems for 50 years. But Beijing has slowly chipped away at Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status.
On June 30th it made its most significant move yet to bring the territory under its control.
Joining us now to talk about Hong Kong’s new national security law is WORLD’s East Asia correspondent, June Cheng. Good morning, and thanks for joining us.
JUNE CHENG, REPORTER: Good morning, Megan.
BASHAM: What are the most concerning parts of the national security law?
CHENG: There’s a few aspects about this law that are really unprecedented in Hong Kong. The first is the way that it was implemented. So, after last year when we were seeing huge protests out on the streets of Hong Kong over another bill which was about extraditing people to China, Beijing became very afraid. I think that they were fed up with Hong Kong and so they decided to just kind of implement it and impose this law on Hong Kong without any input from Hong Kong people, the lawmakers, and actually nobody in Hong Kong actually knew what the law said until it was already in place.
And another really concerning aspect is that it calls for the setting up of Chinese security forces, mainland security forces within Hong Kong. So, they are kind of in charge of investigating people who they believe have committed crimes under the law. They can prosecute them and, in the end, they can judge them and they can send them to prison for up to life.
And it’s also concerning because of how broad the definitions are for terms like terrorism, subversion, secession, and foreign influence. That can really cover anything from vandalizing a metro station, that can include holding a flag that says “Hong Kong independence,” or even a phrase that was very, very common in the protests, which is “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.” And this law is—I can’t stress how much it really destroys the freedom of Hong Kong.
BASHAM: It’s been a week since Beijing implemented the law. What has happened since then?
CHENG: So, even before the law came out, before people knew exactly what’s inside, what it was going to say, a lot of democracy groups decided to break up, including Demosisto, which was created by the activist Joshua Wong, who is a Christian. As I mentioned before, the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” is now illegal and you are starting to see people in Hong Kong try to intimate that phrase without fully saying it because it’s now illegal. And so some of them just are holding up white pieces of paper and so even though those words aren’t being said, they’re still trying to symbolize that sentiment.
And then you’re seeing libraries taking down books that have been written by pro-democracy authors because they’re not sure if this breaks any laws. And then on Monday, police actually have been given even more power so they can search private property without a warrant. They can freeze assets of suspects. They can intercept communications and really concerning is they can also force internet firms to hand over and decrypt information. And so much of these protests have utilized apps such as Telegram, WhatsApp to communicate. So, this is really concerning for young people in Hong Kong and just their freedom of expression.
BASHAM: You brought up the internet forums. How is the law changing Hong Kong’s free internet?
CHENG: So, one of the things that has always been great about Hong Kong is that unlike China, none of the sites have been censored in the past and for right now as well. But that’s changing. And so on Monday when police were told that they could force internet companies to hand over user data, some of those companies have now said that they will suspend requests from the Hong Kong government as they review the law. And so that includes really big tech firms like Facebook, Telegram, Google, Twitter, Zoom, and LinkedIn. And even Tik Tok, which is kind of the popular short form video app that is owned by China, has said that it was leaving Hong Kong because of the law.
BASHAM: You mentioned the white pieces of paper and other ways that Hong Kong citizens are symbolizing their messages. How else are they reacting to all this?
CHENG: Yesterday I talked to one Hong Kong theology student who is in the U.S. and she said, “I feel like I no longer have a home.” And she kind of described this sense of loss that she has for Hong Kong, even though physically it’s still there, it’s no longer the place where she grew up, the place where she has all these fond memories. And there is definitely a sense of loss and of people feeling that they are now wandering without a home.
I think there’s a lot of people who are afraid and we can even see that with church leaders, too. And so in the past when some of these protests were happening, there would be a lot of open letters from different denominations. And they would maybe criticize the law or they would say how they feel about it. But this time around there’s been much less of that. And so you’re seeing definitely a lot of silence, self-censorship, silencing.
But at the same time, you’re also seeing a lot of courage. The law went into effect, I mentioned, on June 30th at 11pm and then because the next day was July 1st, which is the 23rd anniversary of the handover, and that’s typically a day where a lot of people will go out for these huge democracy protests and this year the protest was banned. But thousands of people still showed up on the streets. They still decided that this was their home and it was still worth fighting for. And even that theology student I mentioned earlier, she plans to return to Hong Kong in a few weeks because she wants to help with this kind of resistance, which I believe will continue. But it will definitely look different than what it looked like in the past.
BASHAM: June Cheng is WORLD’s East Asia correspondent. Thanks so much for joining us today.
CHENG: You’re welcome.
MEGAN BASHAM: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: books!
NICK EICHER: Even before COVID-19, there were changes brewing in the publishing world. But prolonged stay-at-home orders accelerated those trends. Industry analysts now say buying and reading books will probably never be the same. WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports.
MCLEAN: When the COVID crisis emerged, reading completely upended itself.
ANNA JOHANSEN: Kristen McLean analyzes the book market for a research company called NPD. She says at the start of 2020, lots of people were buying self-help books and novels. But once the virus hit, all those sales dropped away.
Booksellers saw a 200 percent spike in education-related books for students. And for adults…
MCLEAN: It was very much like what do I need to take into my house to make sure I know how to take care of my family. So we saw things like first aid, DIY home repair, certain types of books on canning, and container gardening.
As people moved through varying levels of stay-at-home restrictions, reading patterns changed. People moved away from the basics of survival and turned to more leisure activities—like bread baking.
MCLEAN: I have never seen so compressed a cycle where you could look at what people were buying in a particular week, and understand exactly what was going on in their head. So it was almost like a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs playing out in the data on a weekly basis.
Nancy Hanger owns StarCat Books. It’s a quirky little bookshop in a tiny village in Vermont. She says she definitely saw the trend away from survival resources and toward creative topics.
HANGER: Oh, craft books. Yes, people were constantly asking me for craft books. They wanted to pick up knitting or crocheting or things that they had never learned or done before.
StarCat Books is the kind of place you go in and browse just for the experience. You wander around for an hour, you sit down and read a few chapters, you have a cup of coffee, and then you buy the book.
Even before COVID-19, bookstores like that were fighting to keep up with Amazon. StarCat Books was doing okay financially. But during lockdown, it had to close for about three months and Hanger still had bills to pay.
HANGER: So I needed to hustle.
She started a GoFundMe campaign to keep up with rent. The store got donations from the American Booksellers Association. Then a company called Bookshop.org called her up and said, Hey, you should join us.
HANGER: What we’re doing is creating something online for you independent stores to fight against Amazon.
So Hanger added an affiliate link to her website. It takes shoppers to Bookshop’s website…and then StarCat Books gets 40 percent of anything they buy there.
During the pandemic, hundreds of independent bookstores partnered with Bookshop.org. And the model paid off. Amazon was prioritizing items it designated as essential, and books were on the low end of the totem pole. That meant a lot of people were turning back to independent bookstores.
Kristen McLean says shoppers also started buying from retailers like Target and Walmart … because those were the stores that were still open.
MCLEAN: What we really saw was the behavior rearrange itself across many, many different types of retailers. The consumers were super creative during this time period about getting what they needed.
The pandemic jumpstarted another trend: E-books. More Americans still prefer print books. But sales of digital books jumped nearly 11 percent in April, the first full month of lockdown, compared to the same month in 2019.
Peter Goodman runs a publishing company called Stonebridge Press.
GOODMAN: There was a lot of resistance to ebooks, people feeling, real true book lovers, people liked the whole the physical object in their hands and admire the binding and the paper, etc. I think that has been forced to change because that’s how you can get your books quickly these days.
That’s been a boon for self-published authors, who rely heavily on ebooks. And as digital formats gain wider acceptance, writers will need to rely even less on the traditional publishing industry.
That industry is already pretty shaken up. As a publisher, Goodman is having to rethink how his company will release new books in today’s environment.
GOODMAN: We had a guidebook for Tokyo, Japan, all set to be released…But we postponed the book until next year because travel to Japan, like travel to most other places, just completely evaporated. No one’s getting on airplanes. Why bother?
Authors want to get their books released in the fall, before Christmas, but there’s already a backlog from all the books that were postponed this spring.
Publishing a book requires a carefully choreographed mix of tours, signings, author meet and greets. That’s tough to do these days—at least in person. And Goodman says that’s bad news for indie bookstores.
GOODMAN: One of the things that they’ve discovered as a key to their success is being a real, involved, and enthusiastic participant in their community.
As more events shift online, these little stores will have to fight to survive. But Nancy Hanger says it’s important that they do because of the service they provide for their communities.
HANGER: We’re not an algorithm. We’re real people. We know your tastes, we’ll be able to take a book and put it in your hands. You can also take the book and hold it and actually look through it, sit down, read a little bit of it, see if you really want it.
As soon as StarCat Books reopened in mid-June, she says customers shifted away from buying books online and came back to browse.
HANGER: Even if they don’t buy anything, they come in to say hello, to catch up on the local gossip, and just be in a building that’s full of books.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.
NICK EICHER: Talk to any police officer. They’ve heard ’em all—every excuse real or, well, not real.
This one was real.
AUDIO: You found a snake in your car? Well, it’s in the tray, mate.
Yes, in the back. And not just any snake, either. This was a Brown snake, a venomous Brown snake. One of the deadliest in the world.
That would explain the erratic driving on a highway in Queensland, Australia, back in June.
AUDIO: Just confirming. You say you’re off with a vehicle. The driver’s been bitten by a brown snake. Is that correct? Yeah, that’s right.
Not exactly, thankfully, it didn’t bite him.
But he wasn’t exactly thinking about his speed, which couldn’t have been as fast as his heartbeat.
AUDIO: I’m driving along at about a hundred and I just started to brake and the more I moved my legs, the more … coz it’s pretty big (yea, yeah) … it started to wrap around me. And then its head just started striking at the chair … like that. (Yeh.)
For the record, he was going 123 kilometers per hour, so he was doing 77, speeding to the hospital, assuming he did have a snakebite—judging by the adrenaline surge he was feeling.
He said he’d never been so glad to be pulled over. Instead of a ticket, the officer summoned EMTs to treat the driver for shock.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Thursday, July 9th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. By the way, Megan, as you know, I’m working with your good husband, Brian, and we put up some video of this snake episode on this morning’s WORLD Watch News in 3. It’s quite a thing to see.
BASHAM: Cannot stand snakes. I’d have driven the car into a tree in a panic! That’s a WORLD Watch I’m not sure I want to watch, Brian or no Brian.
EICHER: Well, it’s a great morning news show for teens and you can check it out at worldwatch.news. And we’ll put a link in the transcript.
Coming up next: The Olasky Interview. Today, a conversation with journalist and author Amity Shlaes, talking a bit about her new book, which I’m about two-thirds of the way through, a candid history of the War on Poverty.
BASHAM: Right, it’s called Great Society: A New History. Amity Shlaes is author of five books, and as you say this latest one tackles President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and President Richard Nixon’s attempts to expand it.
In this excerpt of their conversation, Shlaes describes how one specific bureaucratic program illustrates what happens when big government tries to solve local challenges.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF. Housing projects. Now, you know, from suite level I suppose it made sense, well from each according to his ability to pay. So if you earn more money the rent goes up. Did anyone think what this actually did to incentives to work more and raise your pay when you’re actually going to have to then turn over a lot of that to the government?
AMITY SHLAES: The government made housing projects. The federal government and the towns paid for them. Federal government being important there in the paying, in the beginning and then they were supposed to be run by housing authorities and the housing authorities were supposed to run them as businesses. That is, break even. And there were terrible, terrible incentives at work. One was that state welfare offices for example at Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis which I profile in this, Missouri state rules, or maybe St. Louis rules as well, basically incentivised families to break up.
So if the dad left the state the mom got the money and got to stay in Pruitt-Igoe. Or if the dad didn’t leave and he was hiding in the closet, and this actually happened, the mom taught her kids to lie and deny the father was present which is also incredibly perverse. That happened both before the ‘60s and to some extent though the problem was recognized in both the Johnson and the Kennedy Administrations, through and after, that the public housing encouraged dependence.
In addition though, for example in the case of heavily unionized St. Louis, something else was missing. Which is the economic growth that would have made the arithmetic of the housing project work. So, had Pruitt-Igoe been packed to the gills with families, it might have broken even and then it might have been able to pay for the repair of its elevators and then the poor people would not get stuck in the elevators and be mugged by children there. Or had St. Louis produced enough jobs then more dads might have stayed in St. Louis and the boys would have been less likely to join gangs. So growth was an important missing factor.
OLASKY: Right but why, why did folks in the war on poverty think that people who lived in poor homes, shabby homes but their own homes, why did they think that they’d be better off in government apartments?
SHLAES: Well what they were in before, say in St. Louis or in Detroit, was a rental, what might be called often a tenement, maybe without a toilet. So when they built Pruitt-Igoe there were toilets, there was an oven, there was beautiful running water, there was a gorgeous view.
They thought that they had penthouses in the sky. In the beginning it was a lovely modern complex relative to where they were before, but it too quickly fell apart. And that was because the arithmetic didn’t work because there weren’t enough tenants. Because the tenets were unhappy and behaved poorly because gangs took over because, I mean it was just so sad.
So, it would make sense you move from a rental and many of the people who moved into big housing projects were moving from rental to rental didn’t seem like a step down. What did turn out to be a step down and you can see this in Washington too, Washington D.C., was that in order to build the new urban renewal complexes, such as Pruitt-Igoe, the government and the towns colluded and bulldozed down whole parts of cities. Including all those tenements, but also shops owned by the people who lived in the tenements, shops that employed people who lived in the tenements, churches they attended, and so on.
So a lot of property rights were abused through eminent domain in urban renewal which commenced well before the Great Society but we saw the results of it during the Great Society and after. And that was a terrible thing. But also the quazi involuntarily thing, you’re going to be moved from one place to another.
So, black families were displaced when they were brought to the United States as slaves. Black families were displaced voluntarily but roughly sometimes when they came north for jobs. They were displaced when they moved from their tenements or even okay homes and were moved by cities through eminent domain and projects into the projects. That’s a lot of displacement.
OLASKY: So last question then. What are the main lessons from Great Society?
SHLAES: Oh, listen, the main lesson is listen to the locals, they know a lot, and let them build it themselves. One of the heroes, the hero of the book for me is Jane Jacobs. She saw that a neighborhood can, that is called the slum, can un-slum. She used that verb, un-slum, if it’s left to its own devices and has enough opportunity and has enough traffic. That is, there’s no limit to what a community can do for itself if left alone and not disturbed with wrong incentives of perverse incentives imposed from far away.
The other is property rights. And you see that, for example, in these housing projects where everything is ruined including the precious community space by the kids. Cause nobody owns it, nobody cares enough. So I believe in property rights. I believe they help the economy grow and I believe they help Americans feel they’re going somewhere, and go somewhere and they take away envy and provide a satisfaction and illumination.
EICHER: That’s Amity Shlaes talking to Marvin Olasky.
If you want to read more of the interview, we’ve got a link in the transcript at worldandeverything.org.
NICK EICHER: Today is Thursday, July 9th. 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. Commentator Cal Thomas on how President Trump can improve his poll numbers.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: It’s a fact that you can’t reproduce experiences, such as a sporting event. Even if you could bring back the same fans and put them in the same seats you cannot replicate the emotions or the dramatic action of previous games.
The same goes for politics. President Trump can’t replicate the environment that led to his narrow victory in 2016. The political climate is vastly different in 2020.
Whether you believe polls or not, Trump seems behind in several categories that matter—such as suburban white women without a college degree and white men. It seems there’s even been a small decline in the most ardent and forgiving part of his base: evangelical Christians.
I know, the polls were wrong in 2016. In that year a lot of people did not take Trump seriously. This year Trump’s opponents are taking him seriously, to the point of visceral hatred. The mainstream media report on virtually nothing good the administration has done and ascribe the basest of motives to him.
The president’s mostly patriotic July 4th speech in South Dakota is only the latest example. He reminded us of what used to be widely accepted as traditional American principles.
A Wall Street Journal editorial summarized the predictable media reaction. The president was accused of “stok(ing) a culture war” (by the Los Angeles Times) delivering a “divisive culture war message” (The New York Times), “push(ing) racial division” (Associated Press), and delivering a “dark speech” (The Washington Post).
Notice the culture war and social division are never the fault of the left. Trump is not responsible for rioting, looting, and the destruction of monuments. Why aren’t the anarchists guilty of launching a culture war and dividing Americans? Because it is part of a unified tactic to harm the president’s re-election and restore the Establishment to power.
Meantime, Joe Biden gets a free pass from the media. His constant gaffes and inarticulate sentences have caused aides to tightly control his availability to the press and public.
Trump can’t do anything about that, but he can do something about those poll numbers. First, he could display some empathy for the families who have lost loved ones in wrongful killings or from COVID-19. Second, acknowledge the virus is spreading and urge people to return to the practices that resulted in declining numbers of cases. Third, stop the personal attacks and ignore most (if not all) the attacks directed at him.
Fourth, he must contrast his policies with Joe Biden’s and explain the dire consequences of socialism, since Biden has become a prisoner of the hard left.
The public wants to know if their president is with them, not above them. He should wear a mask. If he can’t visit sick people in hospitals, then visit people who have recovered. Show some kindness.
2016 won’t happen again, but President Trump still has a chance to chart a new course.
I’m Cal Thomas.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: A group of major writers and intellectuals all across the political spectrum signed a letter in defense of free speech. It’s created quite the firestorm and we’ll talk about it on Culture Friday.
And, we’ll tell you about the new movie starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound.
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.
The Bible says: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
I hope you’ll have a great rest of the day. We’ll talk to you tomorrow!