The World and Everything in It — August 5, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

Today on Washington Wednesday: the state department announces new sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria. We’ll talk about it with WORLD senior editor Mindy Belz.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Also today, World Tour. 

Plus, a day in the life of a sculptor.

And WORLD founder Joel Belz on the late J.I. Packer.

REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, August 5th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Good morning!

REICHARD: Up next, Kent Covington has today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Deadly explosions rock Beirut » AUDIO: [Explosion]

Multiple explosions rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, killing at least 63 people and injuring thousands. 

As residents of Lebanon’s capital city looked on at the first explosion from what they thought was a safe distance—a more powerful blast occurred, shooting a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. 

AUDIO: [Explosion]

The blast overturned cars and blew out windows for miles. The death toll is likely to rise as officials sift through the rubble. 

AUDIO: [Sirens]

Hours later, ambulances still carried away the wounded as army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.

The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus  and an economic crisis. Beirut hospitals quickly filled beyond capacity, pleading for blood supplies and generators to keep their lights on.

Early reports blamed the explosions on a fire at a warehouse for fireworks, but other reports refuted that claim. Officials are still investigating the cause.

Isaias kills at least four people » Tropical Storm Isaias killed at least four people on Tuesday as it spawned tornadoes and dumped heavy rain along the East Coast.

Isaias made landfall in North Carolina, where Governor Roy Cooper told reporters…

COOPER: The storm ripped ashore with 85-mile-per-hour winds and storm surge of 3 to 5 feet, leaving behind a trail of damage. 

Two people died when a tornado rampaged through a North Carolina mobile home park. Authorities said two others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland and New York City.

The National Hurricane Center also warned Tuesday of flash flood threats in New York’s Hudson River Valley and moderate river flooding elsewhere in the region. 

Republicans and Democrats continue combative coronavirus relief talks » Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday struck a slightly more optimistic tone about ongoing talks for a new coronavirus relief bill. 

SCHUMER: We came closer together on several issues. However, we remain far apart on a number of issues. But we’re finally moving in the right direction. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the closer we get to the November election, the harder it is to get both sides together, but no one’s giving up. 

MCCONNELL: It’s not going to produce a Kumbaya moment like we had in March or April where everybody voted aye, but the American people in the end need help. 

Republican Senator Pat Roberts Tuesday said he’d back a food stamp benefit increase and said agreement on that point could help lead to compromise with Democrats. 

Trump signs Great American Outdoors Act » While lawmakers still can’t agree on a new stimulus package, many of them did agree on the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. The legislation allocates nearly $3 billion a year for conservation projects, outdoor recreation, and maintenance of national parks and other public lands. 

President Trump signed the bill into law on Tuesday. 

TRUMP: This is a very big deal. And from an environmental standpoint and from just a beauty of our country standpoint, there hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect. 

The law requires full, mandatory funding of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund and addresses the maintenance backlog facing America’s national parks and public lands. 

The House and Senate both cleared the bill by overwhelming margins earlier this year.  

DOJ awards $35 million in grants to provide housing to human trafficking victims » Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday announced $35 million of grants to groups that help victims of human trafficking. 

BARR: These grants, the first ever federal program dedicated exclusively to providing housing for survivors of human trafficking, are part of approximately $100 million dollars that the department anticipates awarding this year to combat human trafficking.

Barr heard there during an event at the White House, alongside presidential adviser Ivanka Trump and members of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. 

Tonya Gould is one of those council members and a trafficking survivor. 

GOULD: Immediately following our trafficking experience, we need a safe place where no one needs anything from us because so much has been taken. 

Seventy-three organizations will share the grants to provide up to two years of housing assistance to survivors. That will include funds to pay rent, utilities, or related expenses. 

The money can also be used to provide counseling and help victims find permanent housing and a job.

Statue of Rev. Bill Graham to stand in Capitol’s Statuary Hall » A statue of the late Rev. Billy Graham will soon join the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol. 

More than 100 statues are scattered throughout the Capitol—two notable people from each state. Graham’s likeness will replace that of former North Carolina Governor Charles Aycock, who was a white supremacist. Both the state and the federal government want to remove it. 

A sculptor is now working on a life-size statue of Graham. It will be installed sometime next year.

I’m Kent Covington. 

Straight ahead: the unintended consequences of sanctions against Syria.

Plus, Joel Belz on his lost interview with J.I. Packer.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MYRNA BROWN: It’s Wednesday, the 5th of August, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: Washington Wednesday.

The Syrian civil war is now in its 10th year. The country is still led by embattled President Bashar al-Assad. His military forces have clawed back areas of the country previously claimed by rebel factions. Assad now controls about 70 percent of the country. 

And he’s used brutal tactics to do it. U.S. policy under both Presidents Obama and Trump has called for Assad’s removal. Last week the State Department announced a new round of sanctions.

BROWN: In a statement Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said—quote—“The Assad regime’s military has become a symbol of brutality, repression, and corruption. They have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, detained and tortured peaceful protesters,  and destroyed schools, hospitals, and markets without regard to human life. ”

Here now to discuss this latest action with us is Mindy Belz. She is WORLD’s senior editor and author of the 2016 book They Say We Are Infidels: On the run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Mindy, good morning.

MINDY BELZ, SENIOR EDITOR: Good morning, Myrna.

BROWN: Mindy, before we dive into Syria, what’s your reaction to the deadly explosion in neighboring Lebanon yesterday? 

BELZ: Well, it’s devastating. Besides the harbor issue where the explosion took place, the bomb blast destroyed neighborhoods, and really, I’m hearing, every house and building in the city Beirut is suffering damage. That includes a neighborhood that’s very close to the port that includes some of the largest evangelical churches in Beirut. Most of them have been damaged to some extent. Some may have been destroyed. 

But the good news out of that is that we’ve heard that there, at this point, has been no reported loss of life or injury from those churches. The attack happened in the evening when people had gone home and that is something of a blessing in this horrible situation. 

BROWN: OK, on to Syria, the subject of your recent reporting. And I’d like to start with a quick refresher: Remind us why this country is strategically important to the United States. 

BELZ: Sure. Syria has been fighting a nine-year civil war that has come to encompass the entire Middle East that has given us the rise of ISIS, which has killed Americans, which has threatened our security, and resulted in the growing threat of terrorism. That threat has diminished since the last remnant of ISIS was “defeated” early in 2019. But we know that ISIS is still there and some of the ideology that’s driving it are still there. 

And so it continues to be an area that the United States has a lot of concern for. Half the country’s been emptied. That means 6 million people have been left homeless. They are either displaced inside Syria or they are refugees outside of Syria. And that’s a huge concern for the church and a huge opportunity as well. 

BROWN: Now, the State Department announced new Syria sanctions in June and again last week, but these were authorized by Congress. What were lawmakers trying to accomplish with these?  

BELZ: This was the latest round of sanctions. The United States has sanctioned the regime of President Bashar al-Assad multiple times. But these were different. They were more targeted, I would say, in that they allowed the U.S. government to restrict the economic activity of members of Bashar al-Assad’s family, which has already happened, and to sanction businesses that are doing business with the Assad regime in Syria. 

And those things we’ve seen take effect—one set of sanctions in June and another in July. They also can target the central bank in Syria if they can prove that it is involved in money laundering. These are the kinds of things that have fueled the illicit activity of the Assad regime for decades and these are new tools, you might say, for trying to put a stop to that. 

BROWN: Do the sanctions seem to be working? 

BELZ: Well, that’s a hard question because, as I mentioned, it’s been a nine-year war and Assad is still in power. And, in fact, he has gone from being somewhat beaten down at a halfway point in the war to fighting back to reacquiring areas that have been taken from the government. The Assad regime now controls 70 percent of the country again and I must say, from traveling there, that those are some of the more stable parts of the country. And so you might say that the pendulum has swung back in Assad’s direction. 

Another thing that makes this difficult is that the Christians in Syria who have been so beaten down by these militant groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda groups that are all fighting the Assad regime—they have forced Christians out of the areas that they control. And so the Christians live under the Assad regime for the most part and so that makes this a really difficult issue to solve. The sanctions that we want to hurt the Assad regime will also hurt the Christian minority in Syria. 

BROWN: I know so far Syria has reported very low coronavirus numbers, but with half of the country’s hospitals destroyed, testing is sparse. What did you learn about how the pandemic is affecting the country? 

BELZ: That’s right, Myrna, the country has a decimated healthcare system and what I’ve been hearing, I’ve been interviewing doctors, aid groups that are running medical clinics in all parts of Syria for many weeks now, they’ve all been reporting seeing hundreds of patients exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19 and that’s been for a long time. 

And on the one hand it’s significant that in a country that’s at war and that is as devastated as Syria is, that they’re actually reporting any numbers at all. But on the other hand, the numbers they’re reporting are so far below what everyone believes is accurate that they’re not really helpful. And that makes planning and it makes delivering supplies, delivering test kits, delivering medicine to treat these patients very, very difficult in the absence of adequate information. 

BROWN: What are the U.S. policy options from here? 

BELZ: Well, I think that going back to the sanctions—the sanctions have exemptions for humanitarian aid. And so if aid groups can be sort of walked through the paces of how they can help in Syria without running afoul of U.S. sanctions, they can still do a lot of good there. There’s so much need that any amount of aid is going to be helpful. 

And I’m really impressed in the conversations I’ve been having and the pictures that I’m seeing as people are sending me pictures of their clinics and their quarantine centers, the things that are happening really from some really key church-based NGOs that it’s possible to do a lot of good in this situation. This terrible place that we find ourselves in 2020 with a pandemic, with war, with bombs and explosions is also a wonderful opportunity for service, a wonderful place for people with means to step in and help and heal. 

BROWN: Mindy Belz is WORLD’s senior editor. Look for her story on Syria in the next issue of our sister publication WORLD Magazine. 

Mindy, thank you for your reporting on this. 

BELZ: Thanks, Myrna.

MYRNA BROWN: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa reporter Onize Ohikere.

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Zimbabwe protesters arrested—We start today here in Africa.

Police cracked down on anti-government protests in Zimbabwe and arrested dozens of people last week. Demonstrators had gathered to protest alleged government corruption and call for a new ruling party.

Police also arrested a prominent politician and a well-known author involved in the protests.

ZIMBABWE POLITICIAN: It does confer the right to demonstrate and to petition peacefully but it seems to be very difficult to do that practically because you run the risk of being arrested if you do.

The two were charged with “unlawful gathering,” as well as “incitement to commit violence,” but were later released.

Zimbabwe’s president described the protests as “an insurrection to overthrow our democratically elected government.” But human rights groups have said the government is stifling dissent by arresting and beating protesters.

ISIS attack in Afghanistan—Next, we go to the Middle East.

AUDIO: [Afghan gunshots]

Islamic State fighters stormed a prison in Afghanistan on Sunday. The attack started when a suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives at the prison’s main gate. Then ISIS fighters moved in through the breach, firing on prison guards.

The attackers freed almost 1,500 prisoners. Most were ISIS and Taliban fighters. The daylong battle left at least 29 people dead and 50 wounded. Even after Afghan troops retook the prison on Monday, fighting continued in the streets nearby. Afghan troops eventually secured the area. They recaptured about 1,000 prisoners, but many others remain at large.

The attack came a day after Afghan special forces announced they had killed a senior ISIS commander in the area.

India flooding—Next, we go to Asia.

AUDIO: [India flooding]

Monsoon rains have slammed India for the past two months, triggering severe flooding. The deluge has inundated thousands of villages and killed at least 85 people. Tens of thousands have fled.

AUDIO: [Sound from Kaziranga National Park]

The floodwaters have also swamped a well-known reserve. The Kaziranga National Park is home to many animals like tigers, elephants, and water buffalo. More than 80 percent of the park is underwater. Over 100 rare wild animals have died, including a dozen rhinos.

Hong Kong elections postponed—Next, we go to Hong Kong.

Leader Carrie Lam announced Friday that the government will postpone elections until next year. The new date is September 5, 2021. Lam said the move was due to worsening coronavirus cases.

CARRIE LAM: This decision to postpone the 2020 election has nothing to do with politics.

Opposition lawmakers disagreed. They accused the government of using the outbreak as an excuse to delay the vote.

The postponement is a setback for the pro-democracy movement. Many people are dissatisfied with the current Hong Kong government, and opposition leaders were hoping to use that momentum to gain a majority in the legislature.

London’s Natural History Museum reopening—And finally, we end today in Europe.

AUDIO: [Sound of reopening]

London’s Natural History Museum is preparing to welcome visitors after a long coronavirus break. Museum staff dusted off exhibits, specimens, and fossils. They also started deep-cleaning Hope…the giant blue whale skeleton that soars above the central hall.

The museum usually sees around 15,000 visitors a day, but will open with a limit of 2,800.

That’s this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.

MARY REICHARD: Consider this a public service announcement. 

Please do not launder or cook your money. 

Someone in South Korea learned that the hard way. This person feared COVID19 contamination, so he or she put a whole lot of cash in the washing machine. 

Not a good idea. Only some of the clean—but now damaged—money could be exchanged for new bills. That out of about $20,000 total! 

And someone else tried to disinfect his cash in the microwave. You can probably guess that result. 

Consider yourself warned!

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD: Today is Wednesday, August 5th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: bringing clay to life.

For centuries, sculptures have inspired humanity. You’re likely familiar with some of the most famous works: Michelangelo’s David, The Thinker by Auguste Rodin, and The Terracotta Army in China.

REICHARD: Here now is our latest installment in our occasional series, What Do People Do All Day.  WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg met up with a modern-day sculptor to find out what goes into creating these works of art.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Benjamin Victor is hard at work in his Boise, Idaho, studio. He’s sculpting a famous American icon. A life size and life-like cowboy. 

VICTOR: I gave him a little bit heavier eyelids and I’m gonna give him some more crow’s feet by his eyes. He’s looking out into the sunset, maybe sunrise. 

The cowboy sits on a tall quarter horse. One hand holds the reins and the other rests on his hip. 

VICTOR: I’m about two months in the cowboy on the horse…

The clay sculpture is nearing completion, but it started as a skeleton of metal bars, wires, and wooden dowels. These create the object’s basic shape. 

VICTOR: And then I’ll go over it with clay.

An oven keeps the yellowish clay Victor uses warm. That makes it moldable.

VICTOR: Feel that—so it works very easily. But then if you feel right here, that’s it room. So it hardens. Yeah, the colder it gets the harder the clay is. 

As he adds clay, he fills out the body shapes. Victor is classically trained. That means he tries to create sculptures that imitate real life as closely as possible. To do that he consults real objects. He has a skeleton in the corner. 

VICTOR: I’m always looking at the anatomy…I’ve got lots of little tools for reference. 

By his workstation, Victor has taped pictures to a cork board of cowboys on horses. The cowboys wear different styles of chaps, bandanas, and hats. 

VICTOR: I’m looking at the pictures and I might want to add like a blanket over the back or the lasso on the side… 

Victor says if he doesn’t constantly reference anatomy or objects, his statues won’t end up looking like they could come to life. And that’s important.

VICTOR: The actual structure, the construction of the figure matters.

Right now, he’s working on creating the cowboy’s denim jeans. He takes pieces of clay and rolls them into long tubes. He places the tubes around the cowboys hips, knees and boots. He uses his fingers and tools to bend and massage the clay. 

VICTOR: I’ve got all kinds of different tools. These two I made. The homemade ones you can feel right there, there’s teeth on it…and then I’ve got like, all kinds of these rubber tip tools. And these helped me get into little areas. 

Slowly, he turns the clay tubes into jean wrinkles. Then he backs up. 

VICTOR: I walk back and forth, 20 feet back Back, over and over again because you can’t get a perspective on it, right when you’re making it, you know?

Victor’s commitment to creating objects that imitate real life has paid off. Last year, he became the only living artist with three statues on display in the U.S. Capitol. 

Nevada chose to display his monument of a Native American educator.

VICTOR: I did Sarah Winnemucca.

Then in 2014, Iowa selected his depiction of Norman Borlaug.

VICTOR: Norman Borlaug was the father of the Green Revolution. 

And last year, Nebraska sent his 9-foot-tall creation of a Native American chief to Washington D.C.

VICTOR: Chief Standing Bear, Ponca Chief Standing Bear.

He got his start sculpting in college. When he was 23, he completed his first life-size carving of Sampson. 

VICTOR: I sculpted him with the jaw bone in his right hand. At the moment when he’s killed 1,000 Philistines. I just felt like that moment was a good moment because he hadn’t finished his life.

The artwork caught the attention of art critics. Since then orders have rolled in. 

VICTOR: It started out a professional career that’s just snowballed into this crazy career where I’ve been busy ever since.

Cities want monuments dedicated to soldiers. Families want likenesses of loved ones. Businesses and universities want to commemorate founders. This cowboy is for a town in North Dakota. 

Sometimes filling all of those orders on schedule is difficult. 

VICTOR: My pieces notoriously take a really, really long time.

When he isn’t doing commissioned statues, Victor creates his own works. He’s drawn to shaping Biblical characters because they are what he calls “heroes with warts.” 

VICTOR: They’re real people that weren’t perfect. But they accomplished a purpose. I’ve seen that in my life. And I think when I read those stories, that it’s something that resonates with other people too.

Besides Sampson, he’s imagined Bathsheba, Delilah, and Joseph.

Some Christians take issue with Victor’s depictions of the human form that leave little to the imagination. 

Victor says, like the Greeks and Romans, he thinks human anatomy should be celebrated in sculpture. And he notes the Bible gives graphic descriptions of some characters and situations. 

VICTOR: Bathsheba started as a figure. David’s looking down…and he’s looking on her beauty… and she’s looking up at him. So there’s, you know, there’s some thought there and it puts you in the story. 

This cowboy will probably be a less controversial piece. 

Once he’s finished the clay carving, it will be time to cast it in bronze. That’s a complicated process. He’ll create molds of each part of the sculpture and then fill the molds with a molten wax that hardens. The hardened wax will be dipped in a ceramic shell… 

VICTOR: And then the shell is passed through a high temperature oven, which melts the wax out. And then that cavity where the wax was, is refilled with molten bronze. And then you have a bronze that’s identical to your wax section and those sections are welded back together.

And oolah, a statue is made. What does Benjamin Victor want people to think of when they look at this cowboy and his steed? He says that’s one of the best and scariest parts of his work. He creates. You decide. 

VICTOR: I don’t consider my work over the top controversial, but it’s funny because I don’t as the artist control the viewer.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg in Boise, Idaho.

MYRNA BROWN: Today is Wednesday, August 5th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Here’s WORLD founder Joel Belz now on something lost and found.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: In the 34 years since we published the first issue of WORLD Magazine, only a half-dozen names stand out as truly notable one-on-one interviews I was privileged to conduct. And of those, none ranks higher than theologian J.I. Packer, who died July 17.

He’d mostly given up interviews at that point, but because a mutual friend had suggested an interview to both of us, he was kind to say yes. In fact, he gave me two hours. Afterward, I slipped the cassette tape recording into my briefcase and headed home. Things had gone well.

But the next morning the cassette tape was nowhere to be found. Not in all my luggage, my laundry, or the airport lost-and-found. Nowhere.

You might be able to paraphrase some interviews from memory, but J.I. Packer isn’t one of them. Not the J.I. Packer who had given the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy a good name. Not the J.I. Packer whose use of words, in the hundreds of books and articles he wrote over 50 years, was so precise and correct. No way would I pretend my words were his.

But some of his comments I will never forget. Here they are:

First, the utter simplicity of his description of his own conversion. Quoting now: “I had been brought up an Anglican church attendee. But… I was never taught anything… I had been evading the Lord Jesus and his call. Once that had become clear, my defenses fell quite rapidly… At the end of that service, we sang ‘Just As I Am,’ and by the end of the hymn, I was a believer. Out of the church I went, but back with the InterVarsity people from then on to catch up with the nurture I had been missing all through these years.” End quote. 

And I couldn’t forget how Packer repeated the profound three-word summary of the Biblical gospel for which he had become famous: “God saves sinners.”

Second, Packer’s refusal to play games with the issue of Biblical inerrancy. Quote: “What I brought to the [early relationship to other believers] was Christi­anity according to C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity—under the nurture of the InterVarsity people, with a touch of God too! I had added to Lewis a strong belief in the inerrancy and the authority of Scripture. Lewis didn’t believe in inerrancy. He didn’t go around denying it. But he didn’t affirm it, either.” End quote.

“Now wait a minute,” I can hear some of you saying in protest. “You told us you lost the tape.” What I didn’t tell you is that five years after the interview, an unusual package arrived at my office—with no hint of a return address. But, yes, there was a tape recording inside. You can read a transcript of that 2008 interview. We’ll put a link to it in today’s transcript at

I’m Joel Belz.

MYRNA BROWN: Tomorrow: Many of America’s biggest cities have suffered an uptick in violent crime. We’ll tell you how that’s affecting parts of Chicago.

And, we’ll talk to doctors and patients about the pros and cons of telemedicine.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Myrna Brown

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

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 fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Go now in grace and peace.

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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