MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
Health officials say masks are an important part of slowing coronavirus spread. But not all masks are created equal. We’ll talk to researchers who developed a way to test which ones work and which ones don’t.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Also tensions between the United States and China are the highest they’ve been in decades. We’ll tell you why the recent tit-for-tat over consulates could make things worse in the long run.
Plus a conversation with a Princeton professor critical of The New York Times’ special project on slavery.
And Cal Thomas on a historic bit of diplomacy in the Middle East.
BASHAM: It’s Thursday, August 20th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!
BASHAM: News is next. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Harris, Obama headlined speakers on day three of DNC » Former President Barack Obama headlined a slate of prominent Democrats who looked to rally voters last night on day three of the virtual Democratic National Convention.
OBAMA: For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. He made me a better president, and he’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country.
The former president pulled no punches in his assessment of the current president. He said President Trump has shown no interest in taking the job seriously.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also spoke last night. She charged that since taking office, Trump has shown a pattern of disrespect toward women—both in his behavior and in his policies.
PELOSI: And so we are unleashing the power of women to take our rightful place in our national life by defending a woman’s right to choose and defending Roe v Wade.
Other prominent speakers last night included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
But the star of the evening was Joe Biden’s running mate, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
HARRIS: Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons. Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.
This evening’s speakers will include New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Governor Gavin Newsom. But the night will belong to Joe Biden, who will deliver his nomination acceptance speech just after 10 p.m. Eastern Time.
Democrats revise party platform draft to include “religion” in civil rights protections » A brief update now about yesterday’s report regarding the Democratic Party’s platform.
Democrats gave final approval to their 2020 platform Tuesday nightafter we recorded a conversation discussing the draft version of the platform.
On Wednesday, we noted the draft version had dropped the word “religion” from a section on protecting civil rights.
But the party ultimately decided to include it. The section now reads—quote…
“Democrats are committed to ending discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, language, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status.”
The other parts of the draft platform we reported on yesterday remained in the final version, including language saying, “We will reject the Trump administration’s use of broad religious exemptions to allow businesses, medical providers, social service agencies, and others to discriminate.”
Colleges close classrooms over coronavirus concerns » Notre Dame and Michigan State universities are now among the latest colleges to move classes online due to the pandemic. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has more.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: Notre Dame has canceled in-person undergraduate classes for at least two weeks. University President Rev. John Jenkins announced the decision in an address to students and staff.
That after 150 students tested positive for COVID-19.
Jenkins said he decided against sending students home after consulting with healthcare experts. Instead, the university is imposing restrictions on student activity.
And Michigan State, which planned to start in-person classes in two weeks—announced that it will switch to online instruction. University President Samuel Stanley said “despite our best efforts … it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-19 between students.”
Those announcements came after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill switched to remote learning starting yesterday.
Many other schools are now reconsidering plans to hold in-person classes.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
Wildfires rage in California » AUDIO: [SOUND OF FIRE]
Wind and flames whipped through California wine country on Wednesday.
State officials ordered thousands of people to evacuate regions surrounding the Bay Area as smoke blanketed San Francisco.
CalFire spokesman Will Powers…
POWERS: The biggest challenge is terrain, accessibility, getting crews into those areas to fight that fire—really steep, rugged terrain, a lot of thick brush. Fire, with this warm weather, has been consuming a lot of that thick vegetation in there.
Police and firefighters went door-to-door before dawn Wednesday in a frantic scramble to warn residents as flames advanced on Vacaville. That’s a city of about 100,000 in between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Nearly 40 wildfires are blazing across the state amid a blistering heat wave.
To the south in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, officials ordered about 22,000 people to evacuate because of a fire burning in dense wooded parkland.
Several fires are also burning in northern coastline areas and in Southern California.
Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday…
NEWSOM: This weather has included thousands, quite literally, thousands of dry lightning strikes that have sparked fires throughout the state of California. We’ve seen wind gusts in the Santa Cruz mountains north of 74 miles per hour and record temperatures.
Newsom has ordered a statewide state of emergency.
Mali president resigns amid coup » The president of Mali has resigned amid a military coup. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has that story.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced late Tuesday that he was stepping down, effective immediately and that he would dissolve his government and the National Assembly.
For months, protesters have called for his ouster after disputed elections. And many criticized his handling of a violent Islamic insurgency that began in 2012.
On Tuesday, armed soldiers detained their senior officers and marched to the capital city of Bamako, capturing Keïta and the country’s prime minister.
Many countries around the globe, including the United States, have condemned the coup. The UN Security Council met Wednesday to discuss a coordinated response.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: America’s battle with China over consulates.
Plus, Cal Thomas on the new diplomatic friendship between two former enemies in the Middle East.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Thursday the 20th of August, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. First up: consulate wars.
Tension between the United States and China is rising at an alarming rate. We seem to be jumping from crisis to crisis, and some analysts warn we’re at a dangerous juncture. In July, Washington closed the Chinese Consulate in Houston, and Beijing responded by shutting down an American consulate in China.
BASHAM: More recently, the United States Treasury Department issued sanctions against Hong Kong’s chief executive and 10 other officials for stifling freedoms in the city. Beijing struck back by sanctioning 11 American NGO leaders and lawmakers, including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. All have spoken out against China’s brutal repression of Hong Kong.
BROWN: The growing list of tit for tats has dominated headlines since March when Beijing expelled journalists working for three American news outlets. But the conflict goes far deeper than those headlines. WORLD correspondent Jill Nelson explains.
JILL NELSON. REPORTER: Five months ago, Ian Johnson found out he was no longer welcome in China.
JOHNSON: I was one of about a dozen people, who were expelled from China as part of a tit for tat. So it started when the Trump administration expelled about 60, 59 I think, Chinese journalists arguing that they weren’t real journalists, that they were just agents of the Chinese state.
Johnson is an author and scholar who writes primarily about religion and society. He lived in China for more than two decades, but writing freelance for The New York Times was enough to earn him a spot on the list of banned journalists.
JOHNSON: For me, I sort of based my career on interpreting China for the outside world, especially for Americans. And now, obviously, I never thought I’d spend my whole life in China, but I thought I’d spend more of my professional career there. And I think this is something a lot of people are finding.
Including those working at the American Consulate in Chengdu.
In July, Washington closed the Chinese Consulate in Houston, citing accusations of espionage. Ian Johnson understands the reason for the closure. But he isn’t sure it was worth the cost of losing a U.S. site in retaliation.
Getting information on the United States is easy, but it’s different in China.
JOHNSON: It’s hard. That consulate in Chengdu for example, that was a vital, window on western China, including Tibet. And the people who worked in that consulate, some of them went on to do really interesting work. They helped independent underground writers in China get published, you know, all kinds of stuff like that.
The Hudson Institute’s Arthur Herman disagrees and says we benefit more by closing a consulate he calls a “nest of spies.” But he says these tit for tats are minor in the long run compared to the bigger threats posed by China.
HERMAN: It’s the substantive stuff in the area of economies and technologies and of military force postures. That’s where the real action is.
He says Beijing has two primary goals: To rise as a dominant superpower and to undermine its chief competitor, the United States. Herman analyzes defense and technology issues and lists three ways to counter China’s growing ambitions.
AUDIO: [Audio of TikTok]
The first relates directly to the popular video-sharing app TikTok, something Washington also has its eye on.
TRUMP: We’re looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok.
President Trump is concerned that China could gain access to massive amounts of American data through TikTok, Zoom, and other platforms with Chinese parent companies. Herman says we need to counter this threat.
HERMAN: The more data you control in our world the more you are able to know about what others are doing. Data is the new strategic commodity. It’ll be the decisive resource in military and intelligence conflicts and economic conflicts probably for the next century.
Herman lists the ability to track GPS locations, browsing histories, how often photos are shared, and who they were shared with. Advances in artificial intelligence will only increase the ways data can be used.
HERMAN: It’s patterns that artificial intelligence is magnificent at identifying and finding and that’s the new strategic resource that every country, including China and including ourselves, is going to be devoting their energies to because it gives them a decisive advantage in their competition. Now I think we’re going to see data as even more important in dominating the world today.
Second, Herman says we should promote international participation in U.S. military exercises in the South China Sea. In July, Washington formally rejected China’s claims to sovereignty in the contested waters and sent two aircraft carriers and four warships to the region.
China constructed seven artificial islands in the region between 2013 and 2015 and has beefed up its military presence there. It’s also stirring up trouble in the East China Sea, crossing territorial waters into the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.
Finally, Herman says we need to be on top of the quest to lead in the high-tech sector.
HERMAN: China is looking beyond just the military confrontations and is looking for ways in which to dominate the high-tech future, whether you’re talking about 5G Wireless technology, the roll a company like Huawei is engaged in now.
But Ian Johnson says if we want to dominate in these areas, we’ll need to think more strategically about our limited access to information about China.
JOHNSON: The Chinese have hundreds of journalists in the United States. But the U.S. has so few. Relatively speaking, just a few dozen journalists. If you lose a dozen, it’s losing a lot. So I feel like it’s one thing to say we need to have a strong policy towards China and when China is doing things we need to stand up and take a position. I agree with all that. I think just do you do it in a way that ends up cutting off your nose to spite your face?
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jill Nelson.
MEGAN BASHAM: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: testing masks.
MYRNA BROWN: Most states require people to wear masks in public. But they also allow a wide range of personal choice when it comes to what kind of mask you wear.
BASHAM: Masks come in all shapes and sizes. But are all masks the same? And how can we tell which ones work and which ones don’t? WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports now on some new research that might help answer those questions.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: It’s a bright summer day in Asheville, North Carolina, just after noon. A lot of people are out shopping, getting lunch, or strolling the tree-lined streets. Everyone I’ve seen so far is wearing a mask.
DEREK BRITAIN HARRISON: It’s two layer polyester like material, washable, with elastics that just go behind the ears.
MADELINE: I think I choose the paper one just because it’s kind of a hassle to keep washing your cloth one every time you use it.
WILL: Me personally, I like the cloth one because it’s fun and has more character to it.
CAROL: I think as long as it covers your nose and fits around your chin… any mask would do.
But is that actually true? To help answer that question, a group of researchers at Duke University put together a fairly simple test.
It started when a local group wanted to distribute masks to people in the area. Organizers wanted to make sure the masks they sent out were actually effective. Here’s David Grass, a research associate from Duke.
GRASS: And so they approached us and then we basically came up with a simple experiment to compare different masks.
Martin Fischer was one of the lead researchers.
FISCHER: So the setup is very simple.
The researchers used a black box, a laser beam, and a cell phone. The laser beam highlights respiratory droplets…those invisible particles we exhale when we breathe or speak. Then somebody spoke into the box to create those droplets.
FISCHER: And when you speak and you emit droplets, and as soon as they go through the light sheet, they scatter light so you see a little flash of light that gets recorded by the video camera.
David Grass describes it this way.
GRASS: It’s a little bit like if you point a laser pointer in a dusty room sometimes you see dust particles falling through the laser pointer and it’s the same principle.
The researchers took video of the experiment. Fischer puts on a mask, then positions his face in the hole in the black box.
AUDIO: Laser coming on. Okay.
The laser flicks on in a flash of green light.
AUDIO: Day five, surgical mask, trial one. Stay healthy people. Stay healthy people.
The researchers tested 14 different kinds of masks. With each mask, the speaker said the same phrase five times. Then, the researchers counted the number of respiratory droplets each mask let escape—either through the mask, or around the edges. David Grass says the results weren’t too surprising.
GRASS: So the best performance so to say, at least in our study for this one person, was a fitted N95 mask. And then the, you know, it goes on with surgical masks are very good and most multi layer cotton masks are also really good.
There was one that stood out: The neck fleece, a simple loop of fabric worn around the neck and then pulled up over the nose. Martin Fischer made note of the number of particles that escaped during the neck fleece test.
FISCHE: What’s noticeable here is that you see lots of particles and lots of little particles.
Fischer attributes that to the neck fleece itself, breaking up droplets into smaller particles. It appeared to create more droplets than no mask at all.
FISCHER: So this is actually counterproductive because the little particles that get generated from big particles, they tend to hang around longer in the air, they can get carried away easier in the air. So it’s it’s not the case that any mask is better than nothing.
David Grass says to take that conclusion with a grain of salt. The test didn’t determine that all neck fleeces are bad all the time.
GRASS: Again, this was a single fleece tested with a single person. So this result itself is not too meaningful or strong enough to now say those are not good.
The study itself was never meant to conclusively declare which masks were best.
GRASS: It’s not supposed to be a serious mask ranking because we didn’t take enough data. We didn’t test enough masks.
The researchers didn’t test enough masks of each type to make that conclusion. And they didn’t test the masks on dozens of different people. Masks fit different people in different ways…so what works for one person might not work for another. Grass says the purpose of the Duke study was a little different.
GRASS: So the primary result of the study is actually the platform itself. So basically, our intent was to show, look, this is an easy way you can set up this experiment and then you can test masks yourself.
You’d have to be careful with the laser, but other than that…
GRASS: A skilled high school student or undergrad could perform this experiment, yes.
Fischer says the goal was to raise awareness.
FISCHER: So we certainly encourage everyone to wear masks. But you want to make sure that when you wear a mask and you go to the trouble of making a mask, you make one and wear one that actually helps.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen in Asheville, North Carolina.
MYRNA BROWN: A Minnesota woman is now a Guinness World Record holder for her ability to spell very, very quickly.
Pal Onnen said she wanted to put her town of Hastings on the map with her world record attempt. And she succeeded—spelling 56 words aloud in 1 minute.
Now, that’s pretty fast, but that’s not the half of it. Onnen spelled all 56 words backwards.
All of the words were randomized so she couldn’t simply memorize a specific list.
The video you just heard showing off her world record feat revealed another talent.
Or maybe I should say tnelat.
BROWN: That’s talent backwards. Onnen is also quite adept at pronouncing words in reverse!
BASHAM: Quite the linguistically talented lady!
BROWN: Yes, she is! It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN: Today is Thursday, August 20th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Evaluating the 1619 Project.
One year ago The New York Times released a special magazine issue and podcast series on the history of slavery in America. The project has gained awards and is even set to be taught in thousands of school classrooms this fall.
BROWN: But some scholars have sounded alarms about the accuracy of this telling of historical events. Princeton University Professor Allen Guelzo is one of them. WORLD Radio’s J.C. Derrick recently interviewed Guelzo about his concerns—and where to find better history resources.
J.C. DERRICK, REPORTER: The 1619 Project has received a lot of recent attention, including a Pulitzer Prize, but you’ve called it a “grand conspiracy theory.” Let’s unpack that.
ALLEN GUELZO, GUEST: The 1619 Project was a special 100-page issue of The New York Times Magazine in August of 2019. And its expressed aim was to “re-center” American history around the experience of slavery. And that was meant not just chronologically, it was meant comprehensively. Everything in American life is a product of the oppressive experience of slavery. Everything from the food we eat to the laws that we pass.
As a historian, one thing that I have learned to be very suspicious about are simple one-purpose answers. The 1619 Project is a quick answer, because the 1619 Project says, ah, I have a single answer for everything in American history, and here’s what it is: It’s all about anti-black racism based on slavery. And what I have always found is that single-purpose answers—one trait they all share together is they’re wrong. And at their worst what they degenerate into are conspiracy theories.
DERRICK: Let’s talk about the specific errors in 1619.
GUELZO: Oh, the 1619 Project teems with historical howlers. The very first one, ironically, is in the title. That 1619 is the beginning of American history because 1619 is when African slaves were first brought to North America at Jamestown. Well, no, actually that’s not right. The first African slaves brought to North America were brought to Georgia by the Spanish in 1529.
But that’s comparatively minor, alright? What’s more important is it tries to build this story by squeezing everything in American history into this paradigm of anti-black racism based on slavery so that it argues that one of the primary reasons that the American Revolution took place was because the American colonists were getting very anxious that Britain was turning in anti-slavery directions. And so to protect slavery, they staged this revolution from British rule. That story has not a shred of historical evidence to support it.
DERRICK: What case do they make?
GUELZO: The reasoning is supposed to be that in 1772 the British courts, in this case, the court of Lord High Chief Justice Mansfield hands down a ruling in the case of James Somerset, which declares that slavery cannot operate in the British Isles, ergo James Somerset is a free person. And the argument of the 1619 Project is that all the American slave owners looked at the Somerset case and said, ‘Oh, let’s freak out. Let’s have a revolution because the British are going to apply this to America.” Surveys that have been done of American opinion in the 1770s showed that hardly anyone in America noticed the Somerset decision, much less freaking out over it.
What’s more, if the American Revolution had been staged to defend slavery, there were parts of the British colonial empire which had much, much, much deeper investments in slavery. Think, the British West Indies, Jamaica, Barbados.
If anybody was inclined to stage a revolution to defend slavery, it would have been the sugar islands of the West Indies. And yet, when the American revolutionaries make overtures to these other British colonies to join them in revolution, the West Indian colonies routinely refuse. If what the Revolution was about was a revolution to protect slavery, the West Indie sugar islands should have joined with us right away. But they didn’t. They refused to.
DERRICK: And The New York Times can’t claim ignorance on that.
GUELZO: Well, no, they can’t because one historian who was consulted by the 1619 Project—Lesley Harris of Northwestern University—advised the lead essay writer for the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, advised her, no, you can’t say that. That’s not true. Hannah Jones went ahead anyway.
DERRICK: What do you think this happened?
GUELZO: The historian in me is tempted to say, well, this is because it was written by a lot of journalists. These were not people who really had a lot of depth and experience in what they were writing about and it shows in place after place in the 1619 Project.
And, yet, as you say, it helps to garner a Pulitzer Prize for Nikole Hannah-Jones. Curiously I have to put an exception in here, that Pulitzer was not awarded to the 1619 Project. There was, as I understand from some of the back chat that I’m privy to, there was some real hesitation on the part of the Pulitzer Prize board about what to do about this because The New York Times was pressing very hard for a Pulitzer. And their response was to do the Solomonic thing and that is they awarded a Pulitzer Prize to Nikole Hannah Jones, not to the 1619 Project, but to Nikole Hannah-Jones for editorial journalism, not for history.
So, you look at that very carefully and you see that even with the Pulitzer board, there was a real sense of discomfort about what they were being pressed to give credibility to.
DERRICK: Well, let’s talk about some better places to go for history. I’ve been listening to your book titled Fateful Lightning. It’s about the Civil War and all the events surrounding it. What do you hope readers will glean from a book like that?
GUELZO: I hope that they will read two things in Fateful Lightning. One, they will read the human stories, the complexities, the troubles, the pain, the suffering that took place in this time of Civil War. The other thing that I want people to read in the book is the what if. Not so much of what if this general had done that or that general had done the other. More the case of what if the United States, in fact, had fractured in the Civil War? What would have been the consequences for world history? And when you sit down and push it to its conclusion, it really makes the hair stand on end. We don’t even want to think about it.
DERRICK: What other history resources do you recommend?
GUELZO: I would like to point people to Wilford McClay’s Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, which was just published last year. It’s a wonderful book. I also like to encourage people to look at important moments in American history, to look at the Revolution, to look at the Constitutional Convention. The best history that I can recommend for people on the Constitutional Convention is the late Richard Beaman’s Plain, Honest Men.
BASHAM: That was Professor Allen Guelzo talking to WORLD Radio managing editor J.C. Derrick. You can read more of their conversation in the August 29th edition of WORLD Magazine.
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Thursday, August 20th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Commentator Cal Thomas now on the recent big news out of the Middle East.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Everyone should applaud any action that reduces tensions in the Middle East and contributes to Israel’s security. The agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to establish diplomatic relations does just that. It is a tremendous policy achievement, even though UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was less enthusiastic in his description of the deal.
It’s been decades since we’ve seen such a positive development in the Middle East. Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan in 1994 was the last one, and before that it was the spectacular deal between Israel and Egypt, brokered by President Jimmy Carter. Credit goes to Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump, along with Jared Kushner, and U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, for their roles.
Former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger thinks fear of Iran is the UAE’s primary motivating factor. In his newsletter he writes—quote—”The UAE considers strategic cooperation with Israel, in general, and the peace accord, in particular, a critical added-value to its line of defense (second only to the U.S.) against lethal threats such as Iran’s conventional and terror offensive, persistent Muslim Brotherhood terrorism, ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorism, Turkey’s operational and logistic support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s military base in the pro-Iran Qatar. The UAE, as well as all other pro-U.S. Arab regimes, recognize Israel as the most effective and reliable ‘life insurance agent’ in the region.” End quote.
Other Middle East countries, especially Saudi Arabia, also fear Iran and the growing possibility that Tehran will soon possess nuclear weapons. The ever-cautious Saudis appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude before deciding whether to follow the UAE, something that could then shift the pressure to Israel to solve the intractable Palestinian problem.
Of course, there remains the question of religion. Can such agreements hold up as long as many Arab schools continue to indoctrinate children with hatred for Israel and Jews and advocate for eliminating the Jewish state?
There is also the question of what to do about terrorist organizations. Will they, possibly in coordination with Iran, launch attacks inside the UAE and against Israel to undermine the accord?
The key word in this diplomatic deal is “suspend.” That’s what Israel committed to do with its plans to annex the West Bank, which Israel refers to as Judea and Samaria. If the deal leads to other nations in the region following suit—since Iran threatens them all—this will be good for everybody, and the Trump administration will have achieved something no one thought possible. If not, Israel will likely pursue annexation.
I am willing to suspend my skepticism about the possibility of genuine peace in the region to see where this agreement leads, but the religious component is key. Until that is resolved I remain neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but cautiously skeptical.
I’m Cal Thomas.
MYRNA BROWN: Tomorrow: John Stonestreet joins us for Culture Friday.
And, George Grant will perform another witty dissection of the English language.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Myrna Brown.
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.
Romans promises that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I hope you’ll have a great rest of the day. We’ll talk to you tomorrow!