The World and Everything in It — December 10, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

Vacation resorts are taking a big financial hit this year. Yet hardship can spark new ways of doing things.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Also virtual education is going mainstream. We’ll talk about that. 

Plus we’ll hear how people are changing up Christmas traditions this year.

And commentator Cal Thomas on the late economist, Walter Williams.

REICHARD: It’s Thursday, December 10th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Good morning!

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

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: FDA meets today to decide on Pfizer vaccine approval » Today could be the day that the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the first coronavirus vaccine in the United States.

An FDA panel will meet this morning to decide whether to approve the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. 

On Wednesday, regulators in Canada gave it the green light.

The country’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Supriya Sharma told reporters…

SHARMA: It’s an exceptional day for Canada, and it is one step along the road. It’s one tool in terms of our fight against COVID-19. I think in a year where we haven’t had a lot of good news, this is a bit of good news. 

That approval came despite a pair of adverse reactions to the vaccine in the U.K. 

Sharma said she wasn’t at all worried about the incidents. She noted that two people out of thousands vaccinated had allergic reactions, received treatment and are recovering well. 

Giuliani out of hospital, recovering well from COVID-19 » President Trump’s personal attorney Rudi Giuliani is also recovering well. 

The former New York City mayor slept in his own bed last night after checking out of a hospital on Wednesday. 

Doctors admitted him three days earlier after he tested positive for COVID-19. But Giuliani said he’s feeling much better.

GIULIANI: I’m doing fine. Pretty much all of the symptoms are gone. I have no fever. I have very little cough. I’ve been walking around.

He said he received the same combination of therapeutic drugs that the president got after he tested positive in October. 

AP-NORC poll: Only half in US want shots as vaccine nears » A rolling 7-day average of coronavirus deaths remains at an all-time high—now more than 2,300 per day and rising. 

Still, a new survey finds that only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine shot. 

The Associated Press with the Center for Public Affairs Research surveyed more than 1,100 adults. 

Roughly a quarter of respondents said they’re not sure if they want to get the shots. And another quarter said they won’t do it. 

The survey suggests officials have a lot of work to do in the coming months … to sell the public on the new vaccines. 

Assistant HHS Secretary, Admiral Brett Giroir said he’s personally reviewed all published data on the Pfizer vaccine. 

GIROIR: And the data are really outstanding across all age groups, mid 90 percent efficacy, just tremendous; side effect profile [is] very mild, you know, soreness in the arm, that sort of thing. 

Experts say at least 70 percent of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity. That’s the point at which enough people are protected to largely stop the virus from spreading. 

17 states back Texas lawsuit challenging elections results » Seventeen states are backing a lawsuit by the state of Texas challenging election results in four states. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

The lawsuit asserts that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin mishandled presidential elections in their states. 

PAXTON: If there are fraudulent activities or things that affect an election and state law is not followed as is required by the Constitution, it affects our state. It affects every state.

The Supreme Court wants the states targeted by the lawsuit to respond no later than today. 

President Trump tweeted—quote—“We will be INTERVENING in the Texas” case. But he did not explain what that means. He called it “the case that everyone has been waiting for.”

U.S. govt, states bring antitrust action against Facebook » Uncle Sam is suing Facebook, seeking to break up the social media giant. 

The Federal Trade Commission announced the antitrust lawsuit Wednesday along with New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

JAMES: For nearly a decade Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out smaller competition, all at the expense of everyday users. 

Forty-eight states and districts are also suing the company in a separate lawsuit. 

The FTC wants a court to force Facebook to sell off Instagram and its WhatsApp messaging service.

The commission says Facebook gobbles up smaller competitors like Instagram before they can grow into formidable rivals. 

Last year, the FTC imposed new oversight and restrictions on Facebook and slapped it with a $5 billion fine for privacy violations. That was the largest fine ever levied on a tech company.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: COVID’s Christmas disruption.

Plus, Cal Thomas on the wisdom of Walter Williams.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 10th of December, 2020.

We’re so happy you’ve joined us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. First up: a COVID Christmas.

It’s no surprise that celebrations and traditions will look different this year. Many family gatherings, church services, and Nutcracker performances just may not happen. Yet some traditions are adapting—even booming!

Here is WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown with some strategies for Christmas this year.


ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Church of the Resurrection usually fields a choir of about 50 singers. Rez is an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, with a lot of musicians and singers and generally artistic people in its congregation. So this year’s restrictions on singing have been rough.

LYDIA VERMEESCH: This year, we are putting together a COVID choir for lessons and carols and for our Christmas celebrations. 

Lydia Vermeesch is the worship manager at Rez. This year, she’s in charge of the Lessons and Carols service. It’s an old English tradition. It started because church leaders wanted to keep people out of the pubs on Christmas Eve, so they would hold a long evening church service.

VERMEESCH: So they would alternate readings from Scripture that would tell the story of salvation through the story of Christmas, alternating those readings with singing Christmas carols and performances from a choir.

That tradition spread through a lot of Anglican and Catholic churches. Rez holds a Lessons and Carols service every year, usually with a full choir and orchestra. This year, they’re cutting back to four singers and a string quartet. 

The singers rehearse wearing masks, spaced about 10 feet apart.


VERMEESCH: We’re really adjusting our musical expectations this year. So I tried for the most part to select music that is appropriate for smaller groups. 


This piece, “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” was probably performed, originally, by a small group of Madrigal singers. But other songs were really intended for larger choirs.


“O Magnum Mysterium” was written for 24 singers. It has eight individual vocal parts. Vermeesch got permission to have eight singers pre-record the piece together, then play it at the service. But even with eight singers, it’s a bit of a struggle.

VERMEESCH: O Magnum is written for a large, slow choir and I’m actually starting to wonder if I should have picked something different. But it is such a beautiful, emotional Christmas classic for a lot of choral singers. 

Singers aren’t the only ones having to adapt. 


For a lot of families, taking pictures with Santa is a tradition graven in stone—a must-do every year. But this is not the year to have hundreds of kids sit in Santa’s lap every day. So instead, they can sit 6 feet in front of Santa while Santa wears a plastic face shield and sits behind a plexiglass wall. 

Or, parents can book an online video call with the Jolly Old Elf.

ZOOM CALL WITH SANTA: Oh, you guys have been growing for one year. I’m 5 now. Yeah, that’s great!

A crowd of online Santas has cropped up over the past few months. Most charge about $50 for a five minute personalized video call. 

WILLIAM EVELSIZER: I think it really has to do with being a kid. And this idea of endless imagination, and wonder and excitement. 

William Evelsizer is the founder of Santa’s Club, a company that sets up video calls with Santa for kids all over the world.

EVELSIZER: We’re finding that they’re kind of turning Santas into psychologists and leaving notes like, my child’s mom got cancer. Last year, our child had a transplant. We just moved into a new home and our child is scared. Can Santa please tell our child there’s absolutely nothing to be scared of.

While some Christmas traditions are canceled and some are taking on new forms, others are flourishing in a COVID world. Top of the list? Live Christmas trees.

HANN: It’s been huge, we’ve had a huge demand. 

Greg Hann runs Hann’s Christmas Farm in southern Wisconsin. 

HANN: It’ll be a strong 20 to 25 percent increase this year in sales.

Some Wisconsin tree farms have already sold out and are closed for the year, even though, usually, they’d be open until Christmas Eve.

Hann says he’s had a record number of first-time customers, people who have always had an artificial tree—until this year. 

HANN: I’ve had customers just come here and say, I need a live tree this year, I just need to have a live tree. And I don’t think it’s specifically the live tree. It’s everything that comes with it. You know, you can gather the family up you can go and and look for a tree together maybe even argue or disagree a little bit…And then bringing it home and you know, setting it up…

You also have to keep the tree watered, which Hann says is a nice hobby when you’re stuck at home. 

A lot of people are looking for things to fill in the gaps—activities or traditions to replace the things they’ve lost, like traveling or visiting family in person.


Lydia Vermeesch at Church of the Resurrection says she’s had to focus on the essentials: What makes a choir a choir? What makes a Lessons and Carols service a Lessons and Carols service?

VERMEESCH: It’s a celebration of Christmas, there’s joy, there’s congregational singing, and there’s a celebration of the Incarnation in word and in music.

She doesn’t want people to be discouraged by what we can’t do this Christmas season. Instead, focus on what we have.

VERMEESCH: When we do enter in fully and just soak in the experience that we do have, the Lord does work.

And even though she can’t do Lessons and Carols the way it’s always been done, she’s praying that this small group of singers and musicians will be a blessing anyway.

VERMEESCH: We’re trusting that with this meager offering this year that God will do something great.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen in Wheaton, Illinois.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: virtual learning.

Some schools are closing classrooms and going back to virtual lessons as COVID cases rise again. Of course this is a disappointment for many parents and students. But it’s not really a surprise—educators did warn about a return to online classes at the start of the semester. This time around though, the transition was a bit smoother, yet still disruptive to everyone involved.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Some parents decided early on to avoid the back and forth from physical to virtual schooling. They enrolled their children in virtual schools for the whole year. These are schools devoted to only online education.  

Joining us now to talk about this trend is Esther Eaton. She covers education for WORLD Digital. Good morning, Esther!


REICHARD: Tell us about these virtual schools. How do they operate, and how long have they been around?

EATON: Well, some operate a lot like your average brick and mortar classroom. So, they have live class periods and homework and students get to know their teachers and their classmates. And some are a little more self-paced. So, maybe students go through videos and lessons on their own. But they’ve been around awhile. The oldest one in the U.S. for K-12 students is Laurel Springs School and they were actually founded in 1991.

REICHARD: Did they see a big spike in enrollment this year?

EATON: Yes, they did. They did. One I talked to in Pennsylvania called Bridgeway Academy had 1,700 students last year and then they added 1,000 students this year. So, they actually had to shut down enrollment for a few weeks in September because they couldn’t keep up. And one of the biggest schools in this sector called K-12 Inc. reported that they had 57 percent growth over last year.

REICHARD: A lot of parents and educators say online classes are no substitute for in-person learning. Do these virtual schools have some of the same drawbacks as regular schools that temporarily go digital?

EATON: Well, there’s a key difference which is that these virtual schools have been doing this for awhile, so they know what they’re doing. They’re not making up as they go. So, for instance, one teacher at Bridgeway Academy said that if her internet goes bad—which still happens—and she gets kicked out of class, all her students already know that they can just sit tight and wait and that a replacement teacher will be in soon. And so you lose a lot less of the regularity that’s important for learning because they have these established systems.

REICHARD: What are the advantages of this option?

EATON: Some parents feel like it’s the best of homeschooling and regular school in one. So, one parent in Texas that I talked to said she’s loving having extra time with her kids this year while they’re online, but her kids still have dedicated teachers who are keeping them on track for her.

REICHARD: You’ve written previously about the increase in homeschooling during the pandemic and the speculation that that trend will continue as parents and students discover they like it. Do virtual school advocates think they have the same potential?

EATON: They definitely hope so. Bridgeway did an informal survey that found that about half and half of their new families thought that they would stay. So, that would still be huge growth for them. And they also think they’re going to have more growth next semester as schools go online and parents say, you know what, I’m out. So, they’re not sure. It’s hard to say, yet. But there’s definitely potential for growth.

REICHARD: Esther Eaton covers education for WORLD Digital. You can read more of her work at Thanks so much for joining us today!

EATON: Thanks for having me.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Well, it looked like a robbery in progress at a men’s clothing store in Florida. 

Two men marched in with guns, demanded money. All the markings of a crime right up front that prompted a good witness called 911. Police soon secured the area and swarmed the store. 

Inside, armed assailants were indeed carrying out what looked very much like a movie scene. 

Set against the clothing racks were lights and cameras. 

It turns out the suspects were actually actors carrying  fake rifles and filming a music video. 

The owners of the store were in on the escapade, but nobody notified police. Expert work uncovered the truth quickly and all is well.

But Pembroke Pines, Florida officials said if you’re going to film a pretend crime with fake guns, it’s a good idea to get the proper permits so you don’t wind up in real handcuffs.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, December 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. 

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: COVID in winter wonderland.

Colorado is the leading ski state in North America, with a snow-sports economy that generates nearly $5 billion a year.

Just before the 2020 ski season opened, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued new restrictions for several counties. The new “severe risk” designation means no indoor dining for resort towns, but on-mountain activities can continue.

REICHARD: WORLD Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson traveled to the Centennial State last week and brings us this report.

KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: In downtown Breckenridge, icicles hang above store windows. It’s 14 degrees, cloudless and sunny. Skiers call it a “bluebird day.” 


At the Rocky Mountain Chocolate shop, hot chocolate is a hot commodity. And across the street, bargain hunters have found a two-for-one T-shirt deal at a shop called Simply Breck.

CASHIER: All right. Ticket’s in the bag. Have a good one…

The cashier says business has been steady in spite of COVID restrictions.

CASHIER: I was expecting not a lot of people to come up here, but, I guess, you know…

The Golson family flew in from Miami for a first-time ski experience. When mom Trina began reserving their trip in August, she knew their plans could be upended.

TRINA: I’ve been monitoring online. Like, what would be open, what would be closed, and you know, things like that. 

But the Golsons haven’t felt like they’ve missed much. Calvin says it was easy to stay socially distanced on the gondola and the slopes.  

CALVIN: Reservations, only reservations. They would have people standing around saying, “Please put your mask back on.” So it was, it was pretty good. 

TRINA: The tubing is closed right now. Not until January. And then the snowmobile got canceled at the last minute, but we figured some things would be canceled at the last minute. So it didn’t really, it didn’t ruin our trip.

And even though COVID meant no annual tree-lighting ceremony, the sight of a Colorado Christmas thrilled the Golsons’ 19-year-old daughter, Aryana. 

ARYANA: When I first walked up, seeing all the trees lit up, it really looks like a Hallmark movie. I love it. 

It was a much different scene last March. Annette Kubek of the Breckenridge Recreation Department remembers when all the ski resorts closed and people went home.

KUBEK: We were waiting it out, hoping that we’d get at least the end of the winter, but nothing opened back up. So we kind of lost the big half of last season, including spring break, you know, Easter, our big spring business.

Kubek and others at the rec department wondered what the coming ski season would look like. How could they attract visitors? Then someone had an idea. 

KUBEK: So this is called the Runway Sledding Hill. It just opened, uh, let’s see, Friday. So yesterday.   

AUDIO: Three, two, one… 

And what a hill it is. Tall. Slick. Sledder slang might deem it “epic” or “gnarly.” 

At the bottom, a trio of cousins slide to a stop and grab their plastic two-man rides. They describe the moves that got them there.

KID 1: So actually I went backwards and I thought that, “What if I go backwards and I go straight?” (KIM: Did it work out?) Yes.

KID 2: Sometimes I stand up and do it on my knees.

They’re from Dallas, where Christmas can mean shorts and 60 degrees. They’re loving the white stuff.

KID 3: In Texas, there’s no snow. KID 1: So we thought it could be fun to have snow here. Hopefully we’ll have the best day of our lives.

In Breckenridge, the cost of a ski pass and equipment rental can top $200 a day. That makes the new free sledding hill a real attraction for families, visitors and locals alike. 

LOCAL WOMAN: We actually live in the Blue 52 Neighborhood, so right down from this. It’s so cool to have this. It’s just necessary to get out this winter and to be able to get outside with your kids. 

Kubek explains how it all came about for the rec department.

KUBEK: We have some housing construction going on out here on Airport Road. So we had this gigantic pile of dirt, and part of that planning committee decided, “Hey, we could make that into a sledding hill.” Our parks department got it all laid out and got the fencing and the parking and all that good stuff and the signage.


Runway Sledding Hill isn’t staffed, but it almost seems to bring out the best in visitors. Turn taking. Parent-child interaction. Group response to the occasional crash. 

And then there’s the wooden box at the entrance. A sign identifies it as “The Sled Shed.” Visitors can borrow plastic toboggans, single saucers, and inner tubes, then put them back when they’re finished.


A grandmother watching the action on the hill says she’s glad on-mountain activities have been allowed to continue. Her bunch, the Murphys of Colorado Springs, are wearing smiles behind their masks.

MRS. MURPHY: I say you live life, and you’re cautious at the same time. That’s what I say.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Breckenridge, Colorado.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next, a preview of Listening In. This week, a conversation with  author and literature professor Carolyn Weber. As a student at Oxford, Weber unexpectedly found God. Critics have compared her 2014 spiritual memoir to C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine. In this excerpt of her conversation with host Warren Smith, she describes how she stumbled into Christianity.

WARREN SMITH: You mentioned CS Lewis, who famously said that he was the most reluctant convert, and all of England. I got the idea that maybe you weren’t quite as reluctant as CS Lewis. But you were, nonetheless, kind of surprised by it. And especially given the trajectory that you were on as a top flight student and heading towards a career in academia, can you say more about that time in your life?

CAROLYN WEBER: One, I had made my own way. And I was only going to depend on myself and I had chosen a life in academia, and particularly with feminism, I did not know the Bible. I’m a perfect example of someone who could go through 20 years of the public school system and never crack open a Bible. I was studying 18th and 19th century literature, and I knew bits and pieces here and there. But it really wasn’t until I was starting my graduate studies where I thought, you know, what, I better actually read the Bible cover to cover because it’s formed just intellectually and historically, so much of Western civilization. 

But secondly, because I thought, well, you know, these Christians are really getting under my skin. And I think I better just read what they believe and see if I can poke holes in it. And so I actually start reading the Bible really quite cynically at first and just as fodder and as a trained reader, entirely expecting it—especially as a woman—to be off putting, you know, with this male Savior and these male disciples in this whole patriarchy, patriarchal history, and I couldn’t believe how amazing it was. 

I remember reading Genesis and thinking, wow, the fallen world makes sense. And wow, this moves from Genesis through Revelation through all the prophecy, everything else, you couldn’t make up this stuff if you tried. It was so incredibly intricate, and symbolic in so many ways that you could never get to the bottom of it and I was floored. I didn’t expect that.

BASHAM: That’s Carolyn Weber talking to Warren Smith. To hear the complete conversation, look for Listening In tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, December 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Here’s commentator Cal Thomas now on one man’s wisdom.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: Wisdom is not the same as information, or knowledge. There is more information available to everyone than ever thanks to the internet, but also perhaps at least in part because of the internet we have less wisdom.

The late Walter Williams was full of wisdom. That’s one reason his economic and social philosophies were so widely ignored by elite economists and the major media. They traffic only in information. Much of it arguably debatable, even untrue.

Williams, who died last week at age 84, was an economist, a political conservative, and an African-American. He likely would have preferred to be spoken of in that order. 

He taught economic theory at George Mason University in Virginia for 40 years. He based his teachings on historical experience and wisdom. 

And he shared that wisdom outside the classroom. In his book All it Takes is Guts: A Minority View, he wrote: “Let me tell you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you—and why?” At first this can sound selfish, even cruel, but his point was to encourage work, not welfare, and achievement, not failure.

How’s this for a distinction: “Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.” 

That one has special relevance given the rioters and looters who upended several cities this year and exposed their political leaders as weak and indecisive. Politicians are increasingly stealing the sovereignty of the individual in the era of COVID-19. Their top-down edicts increasingly threaten our liberties.

Williams also made no apology for his devotion to capitalism. He wrote: “Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.”

The incoming Biden administration seems intent on raising taxes on people who earn the money and spending it on projects with questionable outcomes. In what might be considered a warning to the new government, Williams wrote: “No matter how worthy the cause, it is robbery, theft, and injustice to confiscate the property of one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong.”

It was professor and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov who said about wisdom: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” 

Walter Williams might have agreed. May he rest in peace, secure in the knowledge that his wisdom will remain for all who pursue a depth greater than knowledge.

I’m Cal Thomas.

One more word, if I may. In a fresh way, all this has put me in mind of the credibility crisis that has overtaken the American news media, once known as journalism and now something quite different.

I’ve been in this business a long time and it saddens me to see a once-great profession lose the trust of the reading, listening, and viewing public. 

But it has. And deservedly so.

It’s well past time to consider serious alternatives—like WORLD. 

I’ve been doing commentary for this program nearly from the start and I’m delighted to have been a small part of its success. But it’s going to take the ongoing support of listeners like you for that to continue.

This is WORLD’s December Giving Drive. If you’ve had it with the bias of the so-called mainstream media, there’s something you can do about it: Make a gift to support WORLD today. 

Just visit, cast your vote for sound journalism, grounded in God’s word. Thanks!

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Tomorrow: Culture Friday with John Stonestreet.

And, I’ll review a Netflix movie that re-evaluates Hollywood through the eyes of a famous screenwriter. That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: 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.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.

I hope you’ll have a great rest of the day. We’ll talk to you tomorrow!

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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