The World and Everything in It — December 30, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

Georgia’s runoff is next Tuesday. Control of the Senate is at stake.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.

Also, World Tour.

Plus how pared-back spending during the pandemic has had a positive effect for some.

And commentator Les Sillars on Christians and propaganda.

REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, December 30th. 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: Up next, Kristen Flavin has today’s news.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: McConnell blocks Senate vote on stimulus payments » Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an attempt by Democrats on Tuesday to force a vote on increased stimulus spending. 

The bill passed by the House on Monday would boost the already approved COVID-19 relief checks from $600 to $2,000. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a majority of Americans supported the measure and requested an immediate vote. 

SCHUMER: There’s one question left today: Do Senate Republicans join with the rest of America in supporting $2,000 dollar checks?

McConnell refused but said the Senate would, quote—“begin a process” to address the issue.

But Democrats aren’t the only ones calling for the vote. Some Republicans, including Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida, also want the chance to vote on the measure proposed by President Trump. Senator David Perdue of Georgia called it the right thing to do.

PERDUE: I’m delighted to support the president in this $2,000—it’s really a $1,400 increment over what we’ve already done. And I think with the vaccine coming, I think this is absolutely appropriate. So I fully support what the president is doing right now.

Until they can vote on the stimulus checks, Democrats are refusing to reconsider the defense spending bill President Trump vetoed last week. The House overturned the veto Monday, and the Senate is expected to do the same, possibly as soon as today.

Coronavirus variant found in Colorado » The first case of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus has been found in the United States. WORLD’s Leigh Jones has that story.

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced the discovery on Tuesday.

The patient—a man in his 20s—has no recent travel history. Health officials are trying to figure out where he may have gotten it.

Doctors first discovered the new strain in the U.K. That prompted several countries to close their borders in an attempt to keep it out. 

But it has already spread to parts of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Canada.

Although it’s more contagious than the original strain, researchers do not believe the variant is more deadly or resistant to the new vaccines.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.

Cases surge in California, Alabama » News of the new strain came just hours after President-elect Joe Biden warned Americans to prepare for more coronavirus cases in January.

BIDEN: Things are going to get worse before they get better. In September, we passed a grim milestone: 200,000 deaths. At that time, in this very room, many of you remember I warned that we’d hit 400,000 before the end of the Trump administration in January. 

The U.S. death toll topped 333,000 earlier this week.

Biden vowed to increase the speed of vaccine distribution and impose mask mandates once he takes office.

BIDEN: Our administration is going to require mask-wearing where I have the power to do so.

That includes federal employees and federal facilities, as well as interstate travel on trains and airplanes.

Meanwhile, in California, Governor Gavin Newsom extended stay-at-home orders for parts of his state on Tuesday as intensive care units ran out of beds. 

The state’s top health official said Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley still have what is considered no ICU capacity. Hospitals in Alabama and Tennessee are also nearing capacity amid a post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases.

Nationwide, ICUs are about three-quarters full.

Strong earthquake hits Croatia » AUDIO: [SHOVELING, DIGGING THROUGH RUBBLE]

Search teams are digging through rubble in Croatia, looking for survivors of a strong earthquake that shook the country on Tuesday. The magnitude 6.3 quake killed at least seven people and destroyed several villages.

After visiting the area, the country’s prime minister said most of the buildings in the hardest hit town remained too unstable to use. The army made space to house 500 people in nearby barracks and hotels.

Croatia sits along the Adriatic Sea and is prone to earthquakes. But most are not strong. The last destructive earthquake hit the country in the 1990s.

Fashion icon Pierre Cardin dies » French fashion designer Pierre Cardin has died.

Cardin was known for futuristic designs and space-age aesthetics. In 1959 he moved out of the high fashion world by releasing a mass-produced collection with a French department store. That kicked off a long line of licensing deals that made Pierre Cardin’s brand a household name.

CARDIN: [Man speaking French]

Cardin worked well into his 90s and called work his, quote “reason for living and existing.”

Pierre Cardin was 98 years old.

I’m Kristen Flavin.

Straight ahead: Georgia’s Senate runoff races.

Plus, Les Sillars on the lure of propaganda.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday, the 30th of December, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It.

Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up, the battle for Senate control. It all comes down to Georgia!

EICHER: Yes, it does. On January 5th, Georgia voters will go to the polls to cast ballots in two Senate runoff races. The outcome of those races will determine who has the upper hand in the upper chamber. But the party that comes out on top will hold power by the slimmest of margins. And that will influence what happens in Washington—for good, or not so good—in the next four years.

REICHARD: Well, it is Washington Wednesday, and joining us now to talk about next week’s runoff is Jamie Dean. She’s WORLD’s national editor and main political reporter. Good morning, Jamie!


MARY REICHARD: Remind us how we got here, Jamie. Why are we having a contest two months after Election Day to decide who controls the Senate?

DEAN: Well, it comes down to a quirk in Georgia state law. The law says in a Senate or House race, a candidate must grab more than 50 percent of the vote to win. If no candidate reaches that mark, the top two vote-getters in each race head to run-offs.

REICHARD: And that’s what happened in Georgia?

DEAN: That’s right. All of the Senate candidates in Georgia fell short of an outright majority, so the state’s two Republican senators will face two Democratic opponents on January 5th. 

Going into these run-offs, Republicans hold 50 seats in the U.S. Senate. Democrats hold 48. That means Democrats would need to pick up both seats in Georgia to bring the balance to a 50-50 tie. In that scenario, a Vice President Kamala Harris would break the tie, giving Democrats a slim majority.

REICHARD: How much of an advantage is a slim majority?

DEAN: It’s certainly an advantage. It would give President-elect Biden the ability to lock in cabinet officials and judicial appointments—including nominations to the Supreme Court. So that’s obviously a big advantage.

But a slim majority is also a disadvantage. Democrats wouldn’t have the 60-vote threshold to break a Republican filibuster on major legislation. And it would only take one Democratic defector to sink the party’s majority on some votes. 

Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, has already said he will not vote to end the Senate filibuster or to add justices to the Supreme Court. So at least some big changes appear to be off the table for now, either way. 

REICHARD: Alright, let’s get to the candidates. Tell us about these races.

DEAN: OK, well, I’ll start with Republican Senator David Perdue. He is squaring off against an investigative journalist named Jon Ossoff. This isn’t the first time Ossoff has run for office. He narrowly lost a congressional race in 2018, but he’s now running in a tight race with Perdue. The latest polls show Perdue leading by .2 percent. So that certainly seems to be a toss-up. 

In the other race, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler is facing an Atlanta minister named Raphael Warnock. This is an interesting race because Loeffler should have an advantage here. She finished behind Warnock in November, but there was another Republican on the ticket alongside her. So without Republican Doug Collins in the race, most pundits expected Loeffler to pick up his supporters and pretty handily outpace Warnock in the run-off. But at this point, polls are showing that race as a tie.

REICHARD: Why do you think these races are so close?

DEAN: Well, it’s important to remember the presidential race was very close in Georgia. Biden did flip Georgia, but it was a thin margin. So it’s somewhat expected that the Senate races would turn out to be close too.

But there’s another dynamic going on here: President Trump is still contesting the outcome of the presidential election, and that puts Republican candidates in a tight spot: Do they support Trump in his protests, or do they focus on galvanizing Georgia Republicans to unite in an effort to defeat Biden?

They’ve done a little of both on the campaign trail, but they’re walking a very fine line. They’re probably wondering what will motivate Republican voters more—supporting Trump or holding onto to the Senate under a Biden presidency?

There’s also the matter of what’s going on in the Senate. Trump vetoed a defense spending bill that Loeffler and Perdue voted to pass. Now the senators have to decide whether they will vote to override the veto.

REICHARD: What about the Democratic candidates?

DEAN: Well, if money talks, it’s telling us that Ossoff and Warnock are in a pretty good position: They’ve raised $100 million each in the last two months. And I think that shows how much national attention this race is getting.

Even as the candidates spar against each other, they often talk about the bigger issues that drove the presidential election. The Republicans say that the Democratic candidates will push the Senate toward socialism. The Democratic candidates call the Republicans corrupt.

And outside groups are pouring lots of money into these races. The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List said it would spend at least $4 million in the races. And they’re also on the ground, going door to door talking to voters. Planned Parenthood planned to spend big too, but it’s also worth remembering that money alone doesn’t win elections. Planned Parenthood spent $800,000 on Ossoff’s first congressional race and he lost that contest. 

REICHARD: You mentioned that Warnock is an Atlanta minister. Is Planned Parenthood backing him?

DEAN: They are backing him. The organization endorsed him back in May, and Warnock does support legalized abortion. In December, he tweeted, quote, “I am a pro-choice pastor”—end quote. 

That raises another interesting dynamic in this race. Warnock is pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church—that’s the church once led by Martin Luther King, Jr. One of King’s nieces, Alveda King, also lives in Atlanta, and she’s been vocal about her opposition to Warnock. She recently wrote: “Please don’t confuse the Warnock abortion agenda with the King family legacy!” So there are lots of layers going on in the races on both a local level and a national level.

REICHARD: What about ground game? You mentioned the Susan B Anthony list would be sending field organizers to knock on doors. Are other groups or candidates doing this?

DEAN: Yeah, it’s been an interesting shift for Democrats in these run-off races. Though Democrats won the White House, they saw they didn’t win as many congressional races as they hoped, and some attributed that to a lack of ground game during the campaign. Republicans knocked on a lot of doors all summer long. 

Democrat Jim Clyburn, a longtime congressman from South Carolina, said we’ve got to start knocking on doors in Georgia. He also said Democrats were not going to win the Georgia run-offs if they ran them the way they ran the Biden campaign.

Ground game is tricky during a pandemic, when some folks might not be excited about strangers knocking on their doors. But I think Republican field workers showed there were ways to do it safely, and that these kind of boots on the ground still matter. 

It will be interesting to see how much that plays into whoever wins these contests.

REICHARD: What is the key to winning as it comes down to the wire?

DEAN: I think it’s all about turnout. Turnout almost always drops in run-off contests, and it’s a real battle to get voters to tromp back out to the polls a couple of weeks after Christmas, or even to go through the process of mail-in balloting on a deadline. 

So I think it’s going to come down to who has motivated voters the most. 

Republicans are going to play what they hope is their trump card the night before the elections by having the president come down to Dalton, Georgia, and see if he can motivate voters in less urban areas to turn out in big numbers for the GOP. So we’ll be watching to see what Trump emphasizes at the end of a long campaign season, and whether it helps or hurts.

REICHARD: Jamie Dean is World’s national editor who writes about politics, among other topics! Thanks again, Jamie.

DEAN: You’re welcome!

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa reporter Onize Ohikere.

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Election in Central African Republic—We start today here in Africa.

Voters in Central African Republic went to the polls on Sunday for presidential and legislative elections. It was the first election in CAR since the government signed a peace deal with 14 rebel groups in February 2019.

AUDIO: [Man speaking French]

This man says voters turned out on a massive scale to safeguard democracy. He described the turnout as “a relief.”

CAR is Africa’s most troubled state and continues to suffer fallout from a civil war that began in 2013. Armed groups control about two-thirds of the country, raising questions about the legitimacy of ballots cast outside the capital, Bangui.

Analysts project the current president to win a second term, although final results aren’t expected before January 18th.

Pro-democracy activists go on trial in China—Next we go to Hong Kong.

A group of pro-democracy activists who tried to escape the city earlier this year went on trial Monday in China. Police arrested them on a speedboat headed for Taiwan.

AUDIO: [Woman speaking Mandarin]

Family members of the 12 activists called on Beijing to broadcast the trial publicly. But as with many court cases in China, the trial is closed to observers, including foreign journalists and diplomats. 

The activists face lengthy prison sentences. The youngest is just 16 years old.

Iran issues warning to Israel —Next we go to the Middle East.

AUDIO: [Man speaking Farsi]

Iran warned the United States and Israel on Monday not to cross any so-called “red lines” in the final days of the Trump administration. That after both countries deployed submarines to the Persian Gulf.

Tension between the three countries has soared in recent months. Tehran accuses Israel of orchestrating several attacks inside Iran, including the assassination of a nuclear scientist in November. U.S. officials blame Tehran for a rocket attack last week near its embassy in Baghdad.

Fast-food “shack” uncovered in Pompeii—And finally, we end today in Europe.

AUDIO: [Man speaking Italian] 

Researchers in the ancient Italian city of Pompeii have discovered the remains of a 2,000-year-old fast-food stall. The team found duck bone fragments as well as the remains of pigs, goats, fish, and snails in earthenware pots.

Street corner food stands were popular in ancient Rome. Pompeii had at least 80. But this is the first one excavated in its entirety.

Pompeii was buried in a sea of boiling lava when the volcano on nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

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

NICK EICHER, HOST: We all know that McDonald’s is an international brand. And so it sometimes changes its menu in different parts of the world to appeal to local tastes.

So bear that in mind as I tell you about McDonald’s planned Lunchmeat Burger for China.

The primary ingredient is Spam—and I’m not talking about junk email. I’m talking about the canned pork product we Americans came up with during the Depression. 

So here we go: You’ll have a layer of Spam topped with crushed Oreo cookies, topped with mayonnaise between two sesame seed buns.


I’m sorry. This has got to violate some law somewhere. Spam secretes enough gunk as it is, what’s the point of the mayo? Isn’t this unconstitutional? Mary, help me.

REICHARD: Yes! 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment! 

It’s limited time offering. McDonald’s intends to sell no more than 400,000 of the Lunchmeat Burgers. 

REICHARD: One is too many!

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, December 30th, 2020. So glad you’ve joined us today for The World and Everything in It! 

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. The pandemic and the lockdowns have changed lots of things: the way people work, socialize, and even parent. 

Today, WORLD correspondent Jenny Rough tells us how COVID is causing some Christians to rethink financial decisions.

JENNY ROUGH, REPORTER: After the stay-at-home orders came down last spring, Tony Willett opened his credit card bill. Normally, several thousand dollars a month. This bill: A few hundred dollars. Willet wasn’t only working from home—he was doing everything from home. And it turned out to be a lot cheaper.

TONY WILLET: Pre-COVID, our shopping was all about garnishing our lifestyle. Now, that’s done.

The pandemic opened Willet’s eyes to how much he and his wife frittered away on discretionary preferences. 

TONY WILLET: Our Saturday trips to Starbucks now take place at the kitchen table where indeed the buck has stopped here. Starbucks grande is about $4.50 and my wife makes it at home for 79 cents. 

Even before COVID, Willet began making better financial choices. The process started a few years back, when his doctor delivered bad news: 

TONY WILLET: I had cancer. 

Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma. The doctor told him to get his affairs in order.

TONY WILLET: At the time my list of things that were important … immediately went to three or four items. God, family, friends. Job wasn’t on that list. Things weren’t on that list. 

Willet began to purge stuff from the house. Today, he is cancer and clutter free. 

TONY WILLET: God calls us to be good stewards with the money that He gives us. And if we start from the standpoint that it’s all His, it helps us gain the perspective that he didn’t give all of it to us for us to bury in the field. This is not the five talents that are meant to be hidden for ourselves.

Lydia Boreman is the stewardship director at Grace Crossing Church in Beavercreek, Ohio. During the pandemic, she’s witnessed church members giving to those in financial need even though — for many — their own income has been cut. 

LYDIA BOREMAN: If you see finances, and all of the resources that you have in your life as a gift from God, and you don’t feel that possession over it, then you don’t have the fear of losing it, because it helps build the perspective that God will provide. 

Not hoarding is one side of the coin. God also calls us to be prudent, and ready for difficult times. Boreman says it doesn’t take much to go wrong before debt can snowball to a place that can take decades to recover from. 

BOREMAN: I’ve seen time and time again where people are in situations, decisions that they’ve made that they now regret and are trying to be obedient in fixing where God’s just really creatively met them. But the stress level when you’re in that position, the stress it puts on a marriage and a family. It’s, it’s pretty harsh. And I don’t think God desires that for us.

An emergency fund is a good place to start. Building one from scratch can be intimidating. Start small.

BOREMAN: I think if people look at it, and you say, well, you should have three to six months in an emergency fund. That’s great. And that’s right. But that may seem impossible to someone who’s drowning in credit card debt and aren’t sure how they’re going to pay for everything next month.

Saving is half the battle. 

BOREMAN: And you could save a lot. But if you don’t have a handle on the spending side of things is not ultimately going to help you.

In many marriages, one spouse tends to feel more comfortable spending while the other wants a padding. Boreman encourages spouses to talk openly—and extend one another a lot of grace. She says a financial conversation is an emotional conversation.

Van Smith helps people with those emotional conversations every day. Smith is an estate planning attorney in Richmond, Virginia. Since the pandemic, his business has doubled. 

VAN SMITH: Confronted with the brutal reality of their own mortality each night on the news — It’s nothing like a sick and death tally every day to remind people that perhaps maybe an estate plan is a good idea.

The highly politicized and traumatic year adds another layer. 

VAN SMITH: We not only see the pandemic and the brutal reality it’s delivering, but we also feel not only physical detachment from one another, but we feel a spiritual detachment from our fellow citizens. 

Having a will is another way to be a good steward. Without one, an estate will default to the state-imposed plan: high taxes, maximum fees, and a long timetable. Smith says everyone needs certain legal documents in place, such as a will, a power of attorney, medical directive. Many estate lawyers offer free workshops to cover the basics—these days, over Zoom. 

One trend Smith has seen is clients making ethical wills. 

SMITH: They’re not only trying to transfer the value of their estate, but they’re also trying to communicate and transfer the values that went into building the value of their estate.

Bestow blessings. Share personal beliefs. Ultimate truths. Parents could even direct their adult children to donate a portion of the inheritance to a charity of the adult child’s choice. 

SMITH: So that you’re sort of instilling in them a giving philosophy. That’s why we call estate planning happy law. Because it should be a happy occasion to think back and plan and then joyfully distribute. It’s happy law.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jenny Rough.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, December 30th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

AUDIO: [Fanfare]

In World War Two Frank Capra produced a series of movies for the U.S. Army. He called the series Why We Fight.

AUDIO: Why are we Americans on the march?

They were intended to motivate new recruits by showing how the Allied cause was just and the Axis powers were not.

AUDIO: What are these two worlds of which Mr. Wallace spoke, the free, and the slave?

REICHARD: WORLD commentator Les Sillars says the films themselves are interesting. But as a journalism professor, he says the important thing is the research that later came out about propaganda.

LES SILLARS, COMMENTATOR: When the U.S. government commissioned Capra, people believed propaganda was very powerful. Patriot newspapers supposedly turned loyal British colonists into radical American revolutionaries. World War One had the first large-scale use of propaganda posters and films. So in World War II…

AUDIO: But before striking, a preliminary step was necessary. From Berlin, from Rome, from Tokyo, the campaign started. Propaganda, to confuse, divide, soften their intended victim.

But very few researchers had examined whether propaganda actually works. So in a famous set of experiments, social scientist Carl Hovland showed the movies to thousands of recruits. His team discovered that the movies had little effect on soldiers’ attitudes.

Hovland was  among the first to conclude that the effects of mass media messages are small and depend on many factors. The perceived power of propaganda plummeted almost overnight, at least among social scientists.

Over the next several decades, researchers realized that mass media messages do influence people in significant ways. But it’s complex and the effects aren’t universal.

I provide my students this history of mass media effects research as a bit of perspective. Journalists can’t just tell people what to think, I say. The social scientists assure us it doesn’t work like that.

Then again, we’ve all heard of people who have been radicalized in our polarized political climate. They’ve been stuck at home during the pandemic watching hours of Fox or CNN or Facebook videos. Now a casual comment about presidential politics or masks or racism is like challenging them to a duel.

Perhaps propaganda is more pervasive and more influential than we realize. French sociologist Jacques Ellul, a Christian, argued in his 1962 book Propaganda that most people are easy prey for propagandists.

People want to adjust themselves to fit the patterns of their societies. Through technology they absorb huge amounts of incoherent, secondhand, and unverifiable information. Then, disconnected from key social groups like churches and families, they look for someone to explain how it all fits together. So, as Ellul explained, the propagandist offers them a reason to exist, participation in important events, and a sense of righteousness. They drink it in and ask for more.

Ellul described this in 1962, when Americans had four channels on TV. Today he’d say we’ve all been propagandized. We’re all online. We all try to fit ourselves to the patterns of our friend groups, our churches’ expectations, or our culture. We’re all looking for someone to help us make sense of a chaotic world.

But Christians are not supposed to be of the world. Just in it. Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world, as the Apostle Paul commanded. Don’t let yourself be propagandized. Rather, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

I’m Les Sillars.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow, New Year’s Eve, the final day of 2020 and we’ll spend some time talking about the biggest news stories of the year that was.

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.

Thanks so much for putting us over the top in our December Giving Drive. We hit our goal and then some and we are grateful! Let’s see just how far we can go, every dollar helps strengthen our journalistic work here. and, again, thank you so much.

Proverbs instructs us how much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!

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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