MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
More than 60 million Americans voted early this year. That’s already surpassed all early voting in 2016. And we still have a week to go. We’ll talk about what’s behind the surge.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Also threats against a Chinese American pastor in Texas now has him in a protected location. We’ll talk to Mindy Belz about that.
Plus, today, WORLD reporter Jenny Rough talks with a homeschooling family of six who is attempting to walk across the country—and not just once.
And WORLD commentator Kim Henderson on the joys of shared faith.
REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, October 27th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Time for news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Barrett confirmed, sworn in as Supreme Court justice » Judge Amy Coney Barret is now Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Justice Clarence Thomas swore her in at a White House ceremony last night.
BARRETT: That I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office I am about to enter—so help me God—so help me God.
Barrett took the oath just hours after the U.S. Senate voted largely down party lines to confirm her.
AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 52. The nays are 48. The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett of Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed!
As expected, one GOP senator broke with Republicans. That was Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Democrats were lockstep in opposition.
The 48-year-old Barrett fills the seat vacated by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Her confirmation likely gives conservatives on the high court a 5-to-3 advantage over the court’s liberal wing with Chief Justice John Roberts serving as a swing vote on many issues.
U.S. COVID-19 deaths again on the rise » The number of Americans dying each day from COVID-19 is on the rise once again.
The seven-day moving average of daily deaths had been slowly dropping for more than a month until the past week or so.
On October 17, the average number of COVID-19 deaths stood at 704. That was the lowest number since early July. But that number is now back up over 800.
And the numbers of new cases are climbing in nearly every state. That includes New Mexico where Dr. Jason Mitchell is chief medical officer at Presbyterian Health Systems in Albuquerque.
MITCHELL: You can get a lot of spread and all of a sudden see a spike in very vulnerable populations and a lot of sickness very, very quickly, and so that’s my biggest concern.
He said officials are keeping a watchful eye on hospital capacity.
Confirmed daily infections are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.
Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm says the rise is due to multiple factors, including colder weather and “pandemic fatigue.” People who are weary of hunkering down and are venturing out more.
AstraZeneca reports positive response to coronavirus vaccine » But there is some good news in the fight against the virus, fueling hopes of developing a proven vaccine by the end of the year. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: British drugmaker AstraZeneca is working together with Oxford University on a possible vaccine and on Monday, the company reported encouraging results.
AstraZeneca said both younger and older test subjects are showing an immune response. A company spokesman told CNBC, “It is encouraging to see” a similar response “between older and younger adults.” And he said the level of adverse reactions to the vaccine were actually lower in older adults who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The FDA paused testing of the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as a Johnson & Johnson vaccine after participants in both studies became ill.
But on Friday, the FDA gave both companies the green light to resume testing.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Wildfire forces 60,000 to evacuate in Calif. » A fast-moving wildfire forced 60,000 people to evacuate in Southern California on Monday. That as powerful winds prompted officials to cut off power to roughly a million California residents. The move was a precaution to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.
Kevin Rice with the LA County Fire Department told reporters…
RICE: We have a strike team coming here to Santa Clarita. That’s five fire engines. We have other strike teams going to Malibu and the foothill areas. We’ve got 10 or 20 patrols throughout the county.
The blaze broke out shortly after dawn south of LA and within a few hours it exploded in size to nearly 2,000 acres.
Officials aren’t yet sure what caused the fire.
Making matters worse, forecasters warned Monday of what could be the strongest winds in California this year.
Already, north of San Francisco, a Mount St. Helena weather station recorded a hurricane-force gust of 89 mph late Sunday. And Some Sierra Nevada peaks registered gusts well over 100 mph.
Gas prices continue to fall as pandemic dampens demand » Gas prices continue to drop with no end in sight. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded fell 3 cents over the past two weeks to $2.22.
Prices have fallen for six weeks in a row. That’s normal coming out of the summer months, but the pandemic is suppressing demand even further. And industry analyst Trilby Lundberg says we may not see the normal holiday spike.
LUNDBERG: Thanksgiving will not be what it normally is because there’s no money in the case of many, many families for discretionary trips.
San Francisco has the highest average price for regular unleaded—$3.35 per gallon. Houston has the lowest at $1.77 per gallon.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: get out the vote efforts.
Plus, Kim Henderson on celebrating a pivotal point in history.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD: It’s Tuesday the 27th of October, 2020.
We’re so glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: voter turnout.
Americans get to vote in more elections than anyone in the world, but they’ve also got a low participation track record: the second lowest voter turnout of any democratic country. Only Switzerland is lower.
REICHARD: But this year, election workers are reporting record high numbers of early voting. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg explains what’s behind the uptick.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Iowa is a battleground state both for the presidential election and the U.S. Senate. Incumbent Republican Senator Joni Ernst is in a tight race against Democrat Theresa Greenfield.
For Iowa voters, the pleas for support from both campaigns are incessant. Bailey Van Roekel is a young, stay-at-home mom living in Des Moines.
VAN ROEKEL: We get a lot of mail at our home from both candidates running. I do get a lot of calls from numbers that I don’t recognize, so it makes me wonder if those could be people campaigning.
And she’s not just hearing from candidates. Van Roekel’s social media feeds are also full of calls from celebrities, athletes, bloggers—even the platforms themselves!—to get out and vote.
VAN ROEKEL: I have noticed more hashtags on Instagram, hashtagging #vote. A lot of Instagram influencers talking about politics and the importance of voting. Facebook and Instagram at the top of your newsfeed, they make sure that you know how to get registered to vote.
This year, campaigns and Super PACs have spent a record amount on elections: $11 billion dollars. The 2016 elections cost just $7 billion. And voting activist organizations are teaming up with social media influencers to get people to the polls.
AUDIO: [Social media influencer telling people to vote]
Voters appear to be on track to set their own record: 60 million people have already cast their ballots. Surpassing all of the early voting ballots cast four years ago… and there’s still a week to go.
Based on early voting trends, election analysts project more than two-thirds of eligible voters could end up voting. That may not sound all that impressive, but it could be the highest voter participation in 60 years.
So is all that campaign spending and social media chatter what’s getting more people to the polls this year?
Not necessarily, says Donald Green. He’s a political science professor at Columbia University and the co-author of Get Out the Vote.
Green says money doesn’t always equal an effective campaign. Studies have proven time and again that the most expensive campaign strategies like TV ads aren’t always the best.
GREEN: So even though the academic research literature really calls into question whether the enormous amounts of money that are spent on TV actually pay dividends, still that is the focus of about 80% of the funding of these highflying campaigns.
Phone calls and door-to-door canvassing actually yield some of the highest voter returns on top of being some of the least expensive strategies.
GREEN: The most effective tactics tend to be the ones that involve authentic, heartfelt personal communication between people.
So then is social media generating more voter turnout?
Yes and no. Paul Bentz is a political consultant in Arizona who has run numerous state and local campaigns. He says most of the electorate still isn’t on social media. So for now, it doesn’t draw the number of eyes necessary to win an election.
BENTZ: More than half of the Arizona electorate will be over the age of 55. You’re lucky they’re on Facebook.
And for those who are engaged online, digital and social media ads don’t prompt as much voter action as other tactics like mailings and emails.
But social media platforms do help facilitate something that does work: human-to -human contact and conversations. Here’s Donald Green at Columbia University.
GREEN: The notion that you’re going to mobilize people by putting things in their newsfeed is an exaggerated hope. On the other hand, if we’re friends on a kind of a site then we’re kind of credible messengers to encourage each other to vote and to buck up enthusiasm about the election.
Consultant Paul Bentz says that enthusiasm is really at the heart of what could be the highest voter turnout in decades. And President Trump tends to generate a lot of enthusiastic conversations between people—for and against him.
BENTZ: There is no turnout mechanism as effective as the president.
And there’s another reason so many more Americans are ahead of a typical voting schedule.
Omar Parbhoo studies voter engagement at a civic think tank called ideas42. He says due to coronavirus fears and hiccups, states have opened up mail-in and in-person voting earlier than normal. They want to make sure all ballots can get counted in time. Voters are worried about that as well.
PARBHOO: It also has to do with a lot of the discourse around whether voting is safe and secure, which it is, or discussions around the post office and whether it can deliver ballots and if you send it in early enough, it can. Those are bringing a lot of attention to voting in a way we haven’t seen before.
So then if record spending, a motivational president, and more time to vote still only gets two-thirds of Americans to participate, will the country ever near 100 percent?
Omar Parbhoo says that will take a revival of civic engagement between elections.
PARBHOO: If we can figure out a way to make sure that people look at their their engagement in their community as a long term, ongoing process. Hopefully, people won’t look at voting as a one off thing every few years, but rather a part of a continuum where they are getting their voices heard.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
NICK EICHER: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: weapons of mass distraction.
Disinformation. Propaganda. Conspiracy theories. Fake news. These are tools of citizen control once seen only in totalitarian regimes. But now Americans must contend with them on a daily basis, thanks in large part to the prevalence of social media.
MARY REICHARD: We saw these weapons deployed during the 2016 election. Intelligence officials warn they’re active this year as well. But disinformation campaigns don’t just target well-known political figures. They can also be used against those fighting for human rights and freedom around the world. Even activists who work within the relative safety of this country aren’t immune, as an outspoken pastor now living in Texas recently discovered.
Joining us now to talk about this disturbing case is Mindy Belz. She is WORLD’s senior editor and chief international reporter. Good morning, Mindy!
MINDY BELZ, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary.
REICHARD: Remind us who Bob Fu is and why he’s so unpopular with the Chinese Communist Party.
BELZ: Bob Fu was one of the students who protested at Tiananmen Square. He survived because he left three days before the violent crackdown that many of us remember. So Fu is, you could say, a foe of communists.
REICHARD: What happened to him after Tiananmen Square?
BELZ: Later he became a Christian and started an underground church. For that, authorities jailed him along with his wife in 1996. They were released. They escaped to Hong Kong and then to the United States. In this country he went to seminary and founded a human rights group called ChinaAid. That group supports house churches and pastors in China, but it’s also one of the top groups documenting and publicizing the CCP’s crackdown on all religious believers—that’s the Communist Party of China. Fu is recognized as an expert on this topic; he’s testified 13 times before Congress.
REICHARD: Tell us about the campaign against him and the man behind it.
BELZ: Starting in late September, a Chinese billionaire living in the US began pumping out YouTube videos and tweets targeting Bob Fu. Fu tells me he’s never met or had dealings with the man, whose name is Guo Wengui. Guo has a checkered past, both in China and the United States, including targeting people who land on his enemies list. Now he says Bob Fu is a Chinese spy and a traitor at the top of a list that he’s calling “evil cheaters.” And he says, “they all deserve to die.” That’s a pretty dangerous statement.
What makes it all more intriguing is that Guo also has high-level connections in this country. Those include Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon and his presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani. So people pay attention to him, even though he sounds like a crank. Giuliani appeared with Guo online, smoking cigars, as this campaign against Bob Fu rolled out.
REICHARD: What happened after Guo started his disinformation campaign?
BELZ: Well, a few weekends ago four busloads of protesters showed up at Fu’s house in Midland, Texas. And they’ve been coming ever since, staying all day, holding signs with Fu’s photo, calling him a traitor and a spy, and streaming it live online. That includes a media platform owned by Guo.
They also have tried to distribute fliers about Fu to neighbors, and several have been arrested for trespassing for that. But we’re now in week three of the protests. Early on—federal, state, and local law enforcement became involved. They told Fu his life was in fact in danger. They took him, his wife, and two of his three children into protective custody. As Fu told me, “The threats are real.”
REICHARD: So if Guo Wengui is also, supposedly, a foe of the Chinese Communist Party, why is he going after Bob Fu and others who have fled China and now shine light on Beijing’s abuses?
BELZ: That’s the million-dollar question.
This kind of campaign seems bent on intimidating Fu—he’s now in hiding! And he cannot do the work he’s been doing. His offices for ChinaAid are closed, too. It also seems designed to cast doubt on Fu, despite his long public record. There’s the saying, “a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.” Most of the targeting of Fu is happening online in Chinese—indicating that Guo is keen on discrediting Fu among Chinese speakers, that is Chinese-Americans because I’m told that his output, this campaign is blocked on social media inside China.
REICHARD: What should we make of all this, Mindy?
BELZ: It all seems to suggest that it’s Fu’s record as a democracy activist and religious freedom advocate that’s actually what’s being targeted. There’s no evidence he’s supported Chinese communist causes. I say that based on what I know of his 20-plus years in the U. S. and what others who know him have told me.
But Guo does in fact have Communist Party ties. In China he had a close relationship with a key party official who was ousted by President Xi Jinping. After that happened, Guo left China. That could all suggest that Guo continues to curry favors and do business with the CCP or with factions inside of it.
We should emphasize: I’ve talked to China experts on this, I’ve talked to people who have actually been briefed by the FBI on the case, and none of them fully understand what’s going on here, and I think that’s the essence of a disinformation campaign. It is meant to confuse.
REICHARD: Mindy Belz is WORLD’s senior editor and international reporter. You can read more of her reporting on the attacks against Bob Fu at WNG.org. Thanks so much for joining us today.
BELZ: It’s my pleasure, Mary!
NICK EICHER: A man in Nashville Tennessee needed some inspiration for Halloween decor and he found it this year.
James Worsham is a sculptor and interior designer. He usually doesn’t decorate his home in October, but this year was different.
He spoke with TV station WSMV:
WORSHAM: All my projects were canceled. All of my commissions. Look, it’s an awful year. It’s been hard on everyone. Nobody’s enjoying this. So what can I do to make people smile?
Good question, especially coming from someone who could use someone to make him smile. On top of everything for him this year, he also lost his studio to a tornado.
WORSHAM: All of the stuff that I’d been working for for months was just trashed. It’s just heartbreaking.
But James Worsham is resourceful, so he took some spare plywood and carved out four giant numbers: two-zero-two-zero.
WORSHAM: 2020? It was the scariest thing I could think of. (laughs) Literally, the scariest thing.
Yet, he remains upbeat.
WORSHAM: (laughing) 2021 has got to be better. It can’t go down. It’s only going to go up from here.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Tuesday, October 27th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Election Day is just one week away! And as it’s likely to be a tumultuous week, we’re planning some special programming.
EICHER: That’s right. In place of our usual commentaries, we will be featuring prayers for our nation.
No matter what happens at the ballot box, we can all agree on the need to seek God’s divine mercy and grace.
And we’d like you to join us—literally!
REICHARD: Yeah, and here’s now you can do that. Use the voice memo app on your smartphone. Just record yourself praying or reading a passage of Scripture. Then send the file to us at [email protected]. We’ll put those recordings together on at least one of next week’s programs. Maybe more, if we get enough! Again, our email address is [email protected].
EICHER: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: lessons learned “on the trail.” And I don’t mean the campaign trail.
The year 2020 has been challenging for many people. WORLD reporter Jenny Rough caught up with a homeschooling family of six who’ve learned a thing or two about challenges—and have some insights to share.
JENNY ROUGH, REPORTER: October 17th. The desert of New Mexico. Sunny and windy. A family of six—mom, dad, four kids—walks a dirt path. It cuts through York Ranch, a cattle farm that sits right on the Continental Divide. In three miles, they’ll reach Pie Town, New Mexico. Population: 93.
The Strawbridge family has walked here—from Montana. They make it to Pie Town around noon.
AUDIO: [Arriving in Pie Town]
They drop their packs on the deck of a hostel for hikers. The kids are wild. Not the temper tantrum, lashing out, misbehaving kind. The good kind of wild. They run free. Play in the dirt. Explore the world. June picks cones from a pinon tree, digging for pine nuts hidden inside…
AUDIO: [Aiden knocking dirt out of a water filter]
…Aiden knocks the dirt out of her water filter.
Monica Strawbridge has always loved long walks. The feel of the weather. The colors. The therapeutic benefits. Her husband, Vince…not so much. But after some ethical challenges at his construction business, Vince decided it was time to “jump the tracks” and make a radical change for him and his family.
Vince proposed that their entire family hike the Pacific Crest Trail—his wife’s life-long dream. And they did—in 2018. At the time, their oldest daughter, Aiden, was 17. June was 14, Henry 13, and Georgie only 11.
The hike was supposed to be a one and done experience. The adventure of a lifetime. But at the end of the trail, things felt unfinished. Vince explains over lunch at a local restaurant.
VINCE: And so I think there are some things we are working through together that are not insignificant in terms of where people are with their relationship with God, I think where people are with their relationship with each other…
So they decided to keep walking.
This year: the Continental Divide Trail, heading SOBO—that’s hiker talk for Southbound. The CDT follows the boundary that separates America’s river systems. Next year, they plan to hike the Appalachian Trail. If they finish all three, they will be the largest family to ever complete what is known as the Triple Crown of hiking. But setting a record isn’t their main motivation.
VINCE: It does expose them to God’s creation and we know that’s one of the ways that He speaks. Like Paul says it, Jesus say it, the psalmist says it, The rocks, the stones will cry out, the trees, you know, heavens declare the glory, all that stuff puts you in the context of hearing God in ways that are very tangible and clean in terms of his general revelation and expression of Himself.
To hike the Triple Crown, Vince took a step away from his business building high-end custom homes. Now, the family sleeps outside and walks past fancy houses.
MONICA: It sounds funny, but it’s so luxurious out there under the stars!
VINCE: That’s exactly right.
AIDEN: It’s amazing.
MONICA: It’s really is.
AIDEN: We see the Milky Way every night where the moon is not overpowering the rest of the stars.
Not that there aren’t tense moments. At Arapaho Pass, a crazy snowstorm hit. Henry began to get hypothermia. And June refused to climb the mountain at first. They did reach the other side—eventually.
VINCE: It’s like anything in life. You stand at the bottom, you look at the top, and you think, I’ll never make it. This is awful. I want to die rather than do this thing. And I’ve heard those words from several of the family members along the way. But then you get down the other side and all the sudden, the music is playing, it’s glorious and the wind’s not blowing on the other side like it is on this side. And it’s sunny down in the valley.
Vince says the practical life lessons are invaluable.
VINCE: There is a tangible connection between effort and failure or risk and reward.
Each Strawbridge kid has picked a ministry to support. Here’s June:
JUNE: I’m raising money for a horse program at a camp in California, a summer camp that I went to last year.
And each picked a unique homeschool assignment. Henry’s involves a conservation project, gathering information for a nonprofit:
HENRY: If I catch fish they gave me this app where I can mark down what fish it is, what type of species, what temperature the water.
Georgie’s is photography:
GEORGIE: I really like art. And I really like looking at the beauty. So I think it’s helped me look at things differently. [ROUGH: okay] I look at light differently. I look at the cliffs differently.
On the trail, Vince and Monica can’t hide in the comforts of home or behind screens. They are in the moment with their kids.
VINCE: I’m going to be cold with you. I’m going to be nervous with you. I’m going to be in pain with you. I’m going to do all those things with you and have to not only overcome it for me but also coach you through that experience.
Back at the hostel, the kids attack the hiker box like a pack of hungry wolves. The hiker box is a pile of discarded items that other thru-hikers have abandoned or donated. A “bad” hiker box might include a pair of old shoes and moldy bread. This is a “good” hiker box.
AIDEN: Oreo Thins!
GEORGIE: Oreo Thins!
AIDEN: Are you kidding?
JUNE: Dad, look! A bottle of jelly. Look! Dad!
In addition to the hiker box, the Strawbriges pick up packages of supplies they mailed to themselves weeks ago. Breakfast bars, tuna and tortillas, peanut butter, toilet paper, wipes. They divvy up the goods. Tomorrow, as they continue to head south, their packs will be weighted down. But their hearts, minds, and souls are light.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Rough from the Continental Divide Trail.
MARY REICHARD: Today is Tuesday, October 27th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD Commentator Kim Henderson now on a unique fall celebration.
KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Over there under a mulberry tree that will soon be losing its leaves, they’re tuning up dulcimers, a mandolin, and a very fine violin. But I guess since we’re at a farm, I should probably call it a fiddle.
A young woman adjusting a music stand tells us their group plays at functions like this one if promised food in return. Giving the dessert table a once-over, I determine the almond pound cake alone might be worth the trip.
So while fall displays its glories and babies are happily passed from one lap to another, I have the privilege of listening to their rendition of “Farther Along.” I am surprised by soft strains coming from a gentleman in a fancy reclining lawn chair. Who knew he had a harmonica in his pocket? And since when did lawn chairs become La-Z-Boys?
It is a unique gathering, this event described on the invitation as a Reformation Day party. And for a family like ours that’s been skipping the Halloween aisle at Walmart for years, it couldn’t come at a better time.
October 31st is actually a noteworthy day for reasons beside (or in spite of) jack-o-lanterns and haunted houses. In fact, many of the kids going door-to-door will list October 31, 1517, on a world history test at some point in their education, and it will have nothing to do with trick or treating. That’s because Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses to a church door in Germany on that historic date, lighting the match that sparked the Protestant Reformation.
History books tell us the young monk became so disillusioned with the excesses and outrages of the medieval church that he put his complaints into writing and posted them publicly. The fact that today we have Protestant churches – and even the United States – is due in part to what Luther risked so much to accomplish.
Like all of us, Luther was a flawed man with feet of clay. History books tell us that, too. But he did prove a single person can do much to effect change. It’s a church history lesson that’s especially relevant today—a strong encouragement to put our beliefs and practices up next to God’s Word, then cull and correct as necessary.
Still, why Reformation Day? Perhaps the question should be, why not? We celebrate all sorts of lesser things. Why not celebrate this pivotal point in history?
But back to our party and, better yet, homemade buns, stacked high with smoked turkey. Our fun hosts have led us in a scavenger hunt with questions like, “How did Luther respond to attempts to force him to recant?” (The answer: “Here I stand: I cannot do otherwise, so help me God!”)
We’ve also sung “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” written by guess who? And we had a good laugh over a Luther head piece crafted from a Justin Beiber wig.
Mostly though, we’re just enjoying our shared faith under the shade of a mulberry tree.
I’m Kim Henderson.
NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: Washington Wednesday—last one before Election Day.
Also: We’ll also meet some young farmers who are using new media to grow more than food.
Plus, we announce our Hope Award winner.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
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.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
I’ll take this chance to say Happy 30th anniversary to my husband, Joe!
Go now in grace and peace.