The World and Everything in It — December 14, 2020


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

The Supreme Court considers whether Holocaust survivors can sue other countries in American courts. Some justices had their doubts.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket.

Also the Monday Moneybeat: Success on the Covid vaccine—a little parable on the beauty of our system of free enterprise.

Plus the WORLD History Book. Today the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the atomic age.

REICHARD: It’s Monday, December 14th. 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 now for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.


KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Americans could receive first coronavirus vaccine shots today » AUDIO: [Sound of forklift]

That could be the sound of lives being saved. Forklifts loading pallets full of coronavirus vaccine supplies into FedEx and UPS tracks in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The FDA gave the thumbs up for emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday. 

And healthcare workers and nursing home residents could begin receiving the shots today

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that’s great news for the most vulnerable Americans. 

AZAR: We could have every nursing home patient in the United States vaccinated by Christmas. It’s really a remarkable, remarkable prospect for all of us who have loved ones in nursing homes that we may approach Christmas with that level of comfort that our loved ones have gotten some initial protection already. 

When tractor trailers loaded with vaccine doses hit the highways, it marked the start of the biggest vaccination effort in U.S. history. 

Director of the National Institutes for Health Dr. Francis Collins says this is a historic moment. 

COLLINS: It is indeed astounding that in just the space of 11 months we have gone from a recognition of a new pathogen to a vaccine that we know is safe and effective. 

About 3 million initial doses are shipping out. 

The FDA could also green light the Moderna vaccine by the end of this week. 

Manchin: Bipartisan group will produce relief bill today » Senator Joe Manchin  of West Virginia told Fox News Sunday that a bipartisan group of lawmakers will produce a new coronavirus relief bill today. 

Lawmakers recently introduced the framework of the measure—$908 billion. It will include funds to help those who are unemployed. But Manchin said President Trump’s proposal to send a $600 stimulus check to most Americans is a “bad idea.” 

MANCHIN: You’re sending it to people who still have a paycheck and still have a job. If you send a check to an unemployed person, you’re sending it to a person who has no lifeline. It’s done at the end of this month. They’ve got nothing. We’re going with $300 extended for 16 weeks. I think that’s much more reasonable, practical, and much needed. 

Manchin noted that millions of Americans are poised to lose COVID unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. 

The blue dog Democrat disputed reports that bipartisan talks on a new relief bill were falling apart. He said “the plan is alive and well.” 

Electoral College meets today to officially elect president » President-elect Joe Biden is set to officially collect the votes he needs to become president today. 

While voters cast their ballots more than a month ago, constitutionally, it is the electors representing each state who cast the deciding votes. And that’s exactly what they’ll do today as the Electoral College meets. 

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said there’s nothing unprecedented about President Trump legally challenging the election results. But he feels today should mark the end of that effort. 

ALEXANDER: Al Gore took 37 days, I believe, to contest before he finally conceded. And then he made the best speech of his life respecting the result, which is what I hope the president will do when the electors vote for Joe Biden on Monday, which it is apparent they will. 

A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the White House. Biden is expected to secure 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

UK, EU continue talks amid dimming hopes of trade deal » Trade negotiators from the U.K. and the European Union are not walking away from the table just yet. 

They’re both clinging to fading hopes of striking a new post-Brexit trade deal. Their current arrangement ends on January 1st, and that could prove very costly for both sides. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters…

LEYEN: We both think that it is responsible at this point in time to go the extra mile. We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks, and to see whether an agreement can be reached, even at this late stage. 

The U.K. exited the EU in January but its trade arrangement with the bloc remained unchanged during the transition period through the end of this year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the two sides are still very far apart on key issues, but—his words, “where there’s life, there is hope.” 

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Sunday…

RAAB: We want to be treated like any other independent self-respecting democracy. If the EU can accept that at a political level then there is every reason to be confident, but there is still, I think, a long way to go. 

Hundreds of thousands of jobs could hang in the balance along with tens of billions of trade dollars. 

If they can’t reach a last-minute deal, the U.K. and EU would trade on World Trade Organization terms, which would mean new tariffs and barriers.

Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Pride dies » MUSIC: [Kiss An Angel Good Morning]

Charley Pride, the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died over the weekend due to complications from COVID-19. He was 86 years old. 

Pride sold millions of records with hits like “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” 

MUSIC: [Kiss An Angel Good Morning]

Pride sold more than 25 million records while scoring more than 30 No. 1 hits.

Report: Cleveland Indians changing team name » Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians are reportedly changing their name after 105 years.

The New York Times reported the decision on Sunday citing several unnamed sources. The Times said team officials have been discussing a potential name change for months, as some consider the “Indians” moniker to be racially offensive. 

The move follows a similar decision earlier this year by the NFL’s Washington Football Team, which was previously known as the Redskins.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: Two Supreme Court cases with roots in the Holocaust.

Plus, scientific breakthroughs on earth and in space.

This is The World and Everything in It.


NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Monday morning and a brand new work week for The World and Everything in It. Today is the 14th of December, 2020.

Good morning to you, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. 

Well, the big news on Friday from the Supreme Court was that 7 justices said no to the lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overturn results of the presidential election in four states. 

The majority found Texas lacked standing to contest the manner in which another state conducts its elections. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas thought the court was required to hear the case, although they expressed no position on the merits of it.

The lawsuit alleged Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin ignored state law about absentee and mail-in voting. In turn, it’s alleged that those unlawful acts tainted the integrity of the entire election and made it impossible to know who legitimately won.

EICHER: The Supreme Court handed down four decisions last week in argued disputes, all unanimous 8-0. Cases argued before Justice Amy Coney Barrett took her seat.

First, a win for religious liberty in a case called Tanzin v Tanvir. It says when a person makes a claim that a government official violates his First Amendment rights, that person can sue the official in his personal capacity and seek money damages.

Here, three Muslim men who are U.S. citizens or possess green cards challenged the FBI’s decision to put their names on the No Fly List. That registry keeps named persons from flying to or from the United States. The men argued this was retaliation because they refused to inform on fellow Muslims. 

The opinion says that the phrase “appropriate relief” in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act includes personal liability.

REICHARD: Alright, second opinion: the court upheld the rape convictions of three men in the military. In United States v Briggs, the court reversed the military’s top court that had dismissed the cases as filed too late.

EICHER: Third decision: The justices said no to a lawyer in Delaware who said he wanted to be a judge on a state court. James Adams objected to the state requirement that limits seats on its top courts to Republicans or Democrats. Adams says he’s a Bernie Sanders Independent. So he sued, claiming that violates his First Amendment right to freedom of association. Adams lost, but narrowly. See, he hadn’t actually applied. His claim was the discouragement to apply. But the court said, in the absence of the application, he suffered no legal injury and so he lacked standing to sue.

REICHARD: The final ruling is in a case I haven’t yet covered here on Legal Docket. I’ll explain briefly: Some disputes are repetitive and so I try to bundle them together to cover more cases in less time. My strategy backfired on me this time and the justices issued a ruling before I got around to covering the argument. Sorry about that.

Anyway, this case arises from Arkansas where rural pharmacies are shutting down in part because of the way employer health plans pay them. Oftentimes, pharmacists receive payment to fill prescriptions that’s not enough to cover the cost of filling them. That’s because of the middlemen who handle these transactions between insurers and pharmacies. (These are “pharmacy benefit managers.”) The idea is to drive down drug prices, but economic reality resulted in pharmacy deserts in rural areas.

EICHER: So Arkansas put a stop to it, and an industry association sued. But the justices ruled Arkansas can continue to regulate these middlemen and it doesn’t conflict with federal law to do so. 

Alright, now on to two oral arguments with roots in the Holocaust. 

One case is called Republic of Hungary v Simon et al. The Simon is Rosalie Simon. She’s originally from Hungary, where the government marched a half million Jews to railway stations, stripped them of personal possessions, forced them onto trains, and took them to concentration camps where the Nazis killed 9 of every 10.

Simon is one of the survivors and she’s an American citizen now. Along with 13 other Holocaust survivors, she seeks compensation from Hungary and the railways for property they took.

REICHARD: Instead of suing in Hungarian courts, though, Simon and the others sued in U.S. courts under a law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. I’ll need to refer to it a lot, so I’ll use the shorthand initialism FSIA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Generally, FSIA limits when plaintiffs can sue foreign governments in American courts. Suits can proceed, for example, around acts of terrorism or for taking property in violation of international law. 

Simon argues her situation falls under that “taking” language: that provides American jurisdiction over some claims like this one. Hungary’s lawyer, of course, disagreed. This is Gregory Silbert:

SILBERT: In this case, plaintiffs allege that Hungary took property from Hungarians in Hungary during World War II. The United States long ago settled its claims against Hungary for wartime property confiscations, yet plaintiffs ask an American court to apply American law and impose economy-crushing liability on another sovereign nation for conduct in the sovereign’s own territory that harmed its own nationals more than 75 years ago.

Besides, Silbert argued, FSIA takes a back seat to treaties that predate it.

Sarah Harrington is lawyer for the survivors. She cited this country’s longstanding interest in helping Holocaust victims seek justice. That’s what the FSIA was intended to do, and the Supreme Court ought to let the FSIA do its work.

HARRINGTON: This Court has held over and over that our Constitution assigns responsibility for foreign policy to the elected branches, not to courts. And over the last 70 years, those branches have repeatedly taken steps to make it easier for plaintiffs to pursue Holocaust-era claims like these in U.S. courts.

Justice Elena Kagan picked up on an earlier threat about the potential damages in a case like this that could literally bankrupt a country.

KAGAN: That seems as though it’s screaming severe international friction. Why shouldn’t we be able to acknowledge something like that?

HARRINGTON: Well, Justice Kagan, you know, I think any sort of speculation…

And that was Harrington’s basic point, that “potential damages” are exactly that—speculative.

In this case, the United States government takes Hungary’s legal position. Assistant to the Solicitor General Benjamin Snyder brought the argument, but carefully declined to take a position on the facts of this case. 

And that irritated Chief Justice John Roberts. Listen to this exchange between the Chief and Snyder who, it happens, is a former law clerk of Roberts.

ROBERTS: Why hasn’t the government told the courts what the foreign relations impact on the United States is?

SNYDER: Well, Your Honor, the United States doesn’t feel that it has sufficient information about how the proceedings would unfold in Hungary to take —

ROBERTS: How long has the case been going on that you haven’t gotten that information yet?

For a while, Snyder answered, pointing out that the State Department has the same information in the records as does the court. I’ll just say, that didn’t cut the tension.

ROBERTS: Well, I’m sure that’s true, but you also have other resources, like our embassies, other communications between the two countries at the executive level.

SNYDER: That’s true, Your Honor. The State Department simply doesn’t feel that it has sufficient information to provide the Court with a recommendation.

ROBERTS: Mr. Snyder, surely they have as much information as they –they need to make a decision. They just don’t want to make a decision.

Awkward. And then Justice Elena Kagan added insult to injury:

KAGAN: I mean, some might say that what’s going on here is that the State Department is expecting the courts to do the difficult and sensitive and some might say dirty work for you.

Needless to say Snyder and his client the executive branch of the US government was having a hard go of it.

He’d argued for a more piecemeal approach to deciding whether a particular dispute might hurt foreign relations before proceeding with the case. Justice Alito:

ALITO: I mean, there are almost 700 district judges. You want every one of them to assess whether a particular lawsuit raises foreign relations concerns?

SNYDER: Your Honor, we think that it makes sense for the courts to be able to do that.

The legal question comes down to this: does the crime that happened to Rosalie Simon and the others on the way to the death camps amount to a “taking” under FSIA?

Lawyer Silbert for Hungary acknowledged the unspeakable, undeniable horrors of the Holocaust. But he warned the court about the precedent it could set by allowing these cases to proceed in American courts:

SILBERT: We can all agree that the remedies for the worst injustices committed by the United States in the United States should not be decided by a Hungarian judge applying Hungarian law from a courtroom in Budapest.

This next Holocaust related case arises from Germany. It involves a $225 million collection of art, known as the Guelph Treasure. 

Here, the question is whether that artwork currently in a museum ought to be returned to the heirs of four Jewish art dealers. It’s alleged that Nazi Hermann Goering forced the art dealers to sell the art for far less than it was worth. 

The heirs of these art dealers went through the process in Germany to retrieve the art, but a review panel found the sale was not actually forced. That’s why the heirs look to American courts now.

Nicholas O’Donnell is their lawyer.

O’DONNELL: The Nazi government set out explicitly to destroy the German Jewish people by taking their property. And Congress has specifically identified the Nazi’s looting of art from the Jewish people as genocidal. This is not a new kind of human rights case. It’s a property rights case.

Therefore, O’Donnell continued,  the same law as in the Hungarian case, FSIA, gives American courts jurisdiction. 

But Justice Stephen Breyer brought it around to that earlier concern of reciprocity and that no nation is without blemish:

BREYER: And if we can bring these kinds of actions here, well, so can these other countries do the same and accuse us. I mean, what about Japanese internment, which involved 30,000 people in World War II who were not American citizens but were of Japanese origin? And the first time we’d sue China for the Rohingyas or whatever, you know, what do you think they’re going to say about the railroad workers who came in in the 19th century? I mean, that seems in no way to limit it according to a principle that would say we should have the actions here that are universalizable and won’t hurt, through chaos, if they’re brought everywhere.

Lawyer Jonathan Freiman for Germany agreed with the lawyer for the heirs that FSIA is about property rights; but the law doesn’t apply to a situation where Germany took property from its own people within its own borders.

Other laws and treaties deal with that. 

The court below got it wrong, Freiman argued, by finding the sale of the art was itself an act of genocide and therefore a taking in violation of international law. That’s the hook by which the other side wants to use FSIA. 

But it’s not what Congress intended.

FREIMAN: And as several members of the Court have noted today, slavery, systematic racial discrimination, and other norms, like crimes against humanity or the laws of war, can all involve takings. Almost 700 judges, as several of you have noted, would sit as new world courts, judging the nations of the world for alleged violations of international human rights and the law of war. Much more should be required from the text to reach this result.

However the court decides, it’s possible the parties can work out a compromise. There’s precedent for this: in 2014 for example, the US State Department got France to put $60 million into a compensation fund for French Jews deported by French state railways to Nazi death camps. 

The victims of the Holocaust may not succeed in these cases because of interpretations and technicalities; but other avenues still exist. And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.


REICHARD: We’re close to the halfway mark on our December Giving Drive.

It’s such a crucial time for us. The success of the —or the lack of it—does set the tone for our decision making in the new year.

For me, I can tell you it was success last year around this time that gave us the confidence to launch the Legal Docket podcast. It was an enormous undertaking and we needed the resources to do it, which you were kind to supply.

And when you did, we moved ahead.

EICHER: Right, and we’re planning for season two—just had a meeting on Friday for our what-worked, what-didn’t, and how-do-we-repeat-the-former-while-fixing-the-latter conference call. 

But reflecting on that, it attracted 600,000 downloads. Now, we’ll have around 13 million downloads of The World and Everything in It. But that’s apples and oranges, so I compare each edition of the Legal Docket podcast to the typical daily edition of this program and the Legal Docket podcast downloads tell me we did expand the audience and that’s very good news.

It was fun to see the Legal Docket podcast in its category in the Apple Podcast store always within the top 10, usually within the top 5, and even for a few days numero uno. I love to see excellent work with a Christian worldview competing in the broader marketplace. Very encouraging. It’s still in the top 100, and we haven’t released an episode in two and a half months.

But I digress. The point is, when you support WORLD, you’re supporting efforts like this. We’re about to roll out another season of Effective Compassion

We’ll have a fresh new season of The Olasky Interview and Listening In. Your giving supports everything we do at WORLD, the magazine, daily news reporting in The Sift and our outstanding weekly reports on life, family, education, the arts, and, crucially, religious liberty.

REICHARD: This work is so crucial and so I’d encourage you to head over to wng.org/donate and support our December Giving Drive today. If you’re listening on an Apple device, look into the episode notes for this program and there’s a link that’ll take you right to our secure donate page and you can do it right on your phone. Alternatively, you can text the word give to the number 218-300-2121. all those roads lead to the December Giving Drive. Wng.org/donate. Thank you!


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: The Monday Moneybeat.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Rough week on jobs. The latest figures a reversal of a months-long trend of declining new applications for jobless benefits and declining numbers on continuing unemployment. Those numbers—no surprise—given the new round of economic lockdown around the country, the jobs numbers reflecting precisely that: new applications for unemployment benefits spiked close to 20 percent week on week, continuing claims up for the first time since September—a 4 percent rise.

We’re talking now with financial analyst and adviser David Bahnsen. David, good morning.

DAVID BAHNSEN, GUEST: Good morning!

EICHER: We’ve emphasized this. These latest numbers, you’re convinced, do not point to an underlying economic problem, not a systemic issue, what we see in those jobs numbers. This is more a pandemic problem than an economic problem.

BAHNSEN: Yeah, in case you can’t tell, I’ve really taken a posture today and in recent weeks to even point out I think it’s one step further than that. You’re right it is not an economic problem, but I don’t even think it’s a pandemic problem. I think it’s a pandemic policy response problem.

EICHER: Let’s talk about vaccine news, though. Nine months from identifying this coronavirus and we’ve got vaccines. Can you talk a little about that, how that worked? It feels like I imagine V-J Day would feel, an imminent end to the hostilities. But it also feels like a vindication of the power of private enterprise, free enterprise. It’s amazing.

BAHNSEN: Well, it’s an amazing thing from start to finish and there’s more amazement in some of the details of it. I certainly think people should understand where Big Pharma and biotech deserve credit. They did not wake up in March and say, wow, February produced this coronavirus, let’s get to work. They had mRNA technology in the pipeline—and what I mean by that is messenger RNA, which is creating the protein spike to go create the immune response against COVID. That’s about as basic level science on this as I can do. But this messenger RNA, which both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines utilize has been in the works for years. 

Moderna’s was on the shelf. It’s just that it was never intended to be used for something they didn’t know existed, but then they were able to immediately accelerate some incredible clinical trials.

I think Operation Warp Speed produced something that is so important for people to understand about risk in economics: There’s always a certain amount of money that a business or an entrepreneur will spend to generate a future profit, not knowing if it’s going to work out. 

But there’s a limit to that. They have to do risk-reward calculations and there’s some point at which they say I can’t spend more than this to get this

Once you know you have purchases lined up, which is what Warp Speed did. Once they came in and pre-committed, it altered the risk-reward calculation so that pharma could say, “OK, we could really go forward and spend gobbles of money” that would never have been spent otherwise, knowing that they had a backstop on production and on distribution. 

So, Operation Warp Speed is proving to be incredibly successful. The years and years of R&D is proving to be incredibly successful. And if anything comes out of all of this, I truly hope it will be a diminishment of the demonization of Big Pharma and biotech in our country, who their multi-year investment into R&D and innovation and intellectual capital has produced something that’s going to save hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives.

EICHER: You mentioned Operation Warp Speed. How much credit do you give President Trump and his administration?

BAHNSEN: Well, I always think that presidents get way too much credit and way too much blame for almost everything. 

Operation Warp Speed is certainly a very successful integration of multiple things: the logistical skills of the military and defense department, the fact that there are a lot of serious A-team players in government that are former veterans of the healthcare industry. I think we have great leadership at HHS. There’s things that I’m impressed with at FDA throughout this. 

There’s things I’m very down on, including the last three weeks. A couple days ago on Friday night they did finally give the clearance, but I believe that’s clearance that could have come two weeks sooner. Two weeks and four days sooner. I don’t think it needed the three weeks from the time we had the finality of the late-stage clinical trials. So, I still want to see FDA get a little quicker. 

But, you’re right. When you’re talking about nine months from point A to point Z, we probably don’t need to be complaining too much. And yet the government can always be quicker and more efficient. In this case, it’s one of the better examples of private sector performance integrating with government getting out of the way. And then where they were involved, doing things well to create a very favorable outcome.

EICHER: I’m already seeing some good reporting in the financial press on good decision-making, strong leadership in the c-suites: crazy deadlines, pushy CEOs. That’s what you need, bold leadership, investments in research and development as you noted and the profit motive.

BAHNSEN: Yeah, I mean, I think that the story of COVID and a lot of this activity in the c-suite of the companies to drive successful outcomes is a really wonderful reflection of the best part of corporate America. Leadership from the top, top-down accountability and setting a structure that demanded results and having to coordinate across an awful lot of departments and an awful lot of people. 

So, to me, the performance of these things—as we continue to study the results from various companies—is really fantastic. And yet it’s not just fantastic in the context of getting a vaccination cure for the coronavirus. It’s fascinating for us to understand better how efficient business can and should operate. 

It’s a reflection of the very best parts of the human spirit and the beauties of free enterprise. So I’m really, quite frankly, encouraged and I hope a lot of Americans will better understand out of this how we were able to perform and put what will very soon be an end to COVID-19.

EICHER: David Bahnsen, financial analyst and advisor. Thank you, David.

BAHNSEN: Thanks for having me, Nick.


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, December 14th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Thanks to all of you who have sent us readings for our special Christmas week Advent series. We still need a few more Scriptures recorded. So, if you’d like to participate, go to worldandeverything.org/christmas. You’ll find all the instructions there!

EICHER: Next up: the WORLD History Book. This week, a notable wedding, radioactive research, and a celebrated splashdown. Here’s WORLD senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.

MUSIC: [SATISFIED, ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST OF “HAMILTON”]

KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It’s been 240 years since Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler said “I do” at Schuyler Mansion in upstate New York. Hamilton, of course, is remembered as a Federalist, secretary of the Treasury, and proponent of a federal central bank. But before his place in history was secure, he was a young man smitten with “Eliza,” a young woman from a prominent New York family. Lin Manuel Miranda reimagined their first meeting in his runaway Broadway hit, Hamilton

MIRANDA AND PHILIPPA SOO: Elizabeth Schuyler. It’s a pleasure to meet you./ Schuyler?/ My sister/ Thank you for all your service./ If it takes fighting a war for us to meet, it will have been worth it…

They began courting in Morristown, New Jersey, while Hamilton was General Washington’s aide de camp. 

They married in a typical Dutch wedding in the front parlor of the family home in Albany. But marriage was full of heartache and pain for the Hamiltons. God blessed them with a large family, but their oldest son died in a duel, defending Alexander’s honor. And Hamilton’s pride and temper repeatedly caused professional setbacks. Despite public revelations of Hamilton’s adultery, Eliza remained steadfast, preserving his letters—and his legacy—long after his death. 

MUSIC: [WHO LIVES, WHO DIES, WHO TELLS YOUR STORY, ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST OF “HAMILTON”]

She never remarried. 

Now, a milestone for the science lovers among us… 

CLIP: The atomic age was born…

…The advent of nuclear science, which began in earnest in the 1940s. A group of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, achieved a bombshell of a breakthrough 80 years ago, on December 14, 1940. That’s the day they first produced and isolated plutonium. This 1953 educational film explains the process. 

CLIP: It will capture neutrons from U-235 fission and start a process which converts the U-238, first to neptunium, then to plutonium…

Uranium and neptunium both had planetary names and preceded the new element on the periodic table. So researchers named their discovery after Pluto. Scientist Glen Seaborg was on the research team that discovered the element. Of course, World War II was in full swing at the time of the discovery, and anything nuclear had to be kept under wraps. Seaborg responded to a question about the devastation produced by plutonium—namely, nuclear weaponry. 

SEABORG: It was produced in order to save our country. We were in a race with Hitler’s Germany. And so all of the scientists were working night and day. They all wanted to beat Hitler to the atomic bomb. 

Because of wartime security concerns, U.C. Berkley’s team wasn’t able to publish its discovery until eight years later. Today, Room 405 of the George Herbert Jones Laboratory, where the first isolation of plutonium took place, is a National Historic Landmark.

MUSIC: [WEIRD SCIENCE, OINGO BOINGO]

Now let’s move from a scientific breakthrough on earth to one in space. 

NEWSREEL: Project Gemini: Two Weeks in Space. Today, the final act: Recovery of Gemini 7 astronauts Borman and Lovell… 

American astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell splashed down in the Atlantic after the two-week Gemini 7 mission on December 18, 1965—55 years ago Friday. 

NEWSREEL: The splashdown this morning came at 9:06 Eastern Standard Time, when the spacecraft landed at six and six-tenths miles away from its exact predicted impact point, one of the closest so far for the Gemini program.

NASA launched Gemini 7 as a long duration flight. In preparation for an expedition to the moon, scientists wanted to investigate the medical effects of two weeks in space on the human body. 

After 14 days, Borman and Lovell had doubled the length of time anyone had been in space, holding that record for five years. NBC News that day reported surprise that the men walked directly off the helicopter that retrieved their landing module. And they remarked on the men’s physical appearance. 

NEWSREEL: Frank Borman, the command pilot with less of a beard than his colleague James Lovell Jr., happy, smiling, their space suits somewhat grimy, but nevertheless a magnificent sight as they walk unassisted, absolutely unassisted, the American flags on the sleeves of their space suits still glistening… 

And here’s a fun fact for you: Today, Borman is the oldest living former American astronaut, followed closely by Lovell, who is just 11 days Borman’s junior.

That’s this week’s History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.


NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: Christian college accreditation is under attack by those opposed to Christian doctrine. 

And, the Trump administration for the first time designates Nigeria as a country of concern for violating religious freedom.  

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

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.

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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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