The World and Everything in It — February 17, 2021

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

The World Health Organization’s report on China is in about the origins of COVID-19. It leaves more questions than answers. 

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

Also World Tour.

Plus we’ll meet a husband and wife who open their heart and home to children in need.

And editor in chief Marvin Olasky on Christian credibility in these times.

REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, February 17th. 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, Kent Covington has today’s news.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Deadly tornado rips through N.C. amid winter storm » At least three people are dead and 10 more injured after a tornado ripped through a coastal county in North Carolina on Tuesday. Photographs of the wreckage showed mangled cars tossed on top of piles of debris where homes once stood. 

Ed Conrow is the Brunswick County emergency services director.

CONROW: We are working with the American Red Cross to set up a reception center for residents in that area to go—we can help coordinate sheltering, long-term sheltering, feeding, emergency contacts. 

A massive storm that has slammed much of the United States spawned the tornado. 

In total, the winter front is to blame for at least 16 deaths, including car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Chief Samuel Pena with the Houston Fire Department said with widespread power outages, people are trying to heat their homes in dangerous ways. 

PENA: We’re up about 180 percent above our normal call volume. We had 56 fire calls over the last 24 hours, and we’ve responded to over 90 calls for carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Several million Texas homes and businesses have lost power. 

The storm has already roared through the Southern Plains, and brought snow and freezing rain from Texas to New England. And a record-setting freeze continues to bear down on the middle of the country. 

Rep. Bennie Thompson sues Trump over Capitol riot » The Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson is suing former President Trump over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen Brown has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: The lawsuit filed on Tuesday accuses Trump of inciting the deadly siege. 

It also names as defendants Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and several extremist groups that participated in storming the Capitol.

Thompson is suing under a provision of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. That provision prohibits violence or intimidation meant to block Congress from carrying out constitutional duties. 

The court complaint alleges the defendants carried out a coordinated campaign to interfere with the process of certifying Electoral College votes. 

The Senate on Saturday acquitted Trump of the House impeachment charge accusing him of inciting the riot. 

But some, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said they voted to acquit not based on the merit of the charge but over concerns that impeaching a former president would not be constitutional. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown. 

France passes anti-radicalism bill » France’s National Assembly voted on Tuesday to approve an anti-radicalism bill. France’s Senate will take up the measure next month.

It would give the French government more power to keep a close eye on mosques, schools, and other organizations.

It would also ban virginity certificates, crack down on polygamy and forced marriage, and require regular school attendance starting at age 3. 

And the law would require many organizations that receive government funding to sign a contract of respect for French values and follow those values.

Calls for a such a law grew louder after an extremist beheaded a teacher for showing a caricature of Muhammad last October. That very same month, a knife-wielding attacker killed three people in Nice.

Parler rejoins the internet » A conservative-friendly social network that Big Tech tried to shut down a month ago is back online. WORLD’s Paul Butler reports.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Parler is now back online for existing users. Though, the platform’s reboot wasn’t entirely smooth. Parler users could log in again on Tuesday, but many got messages that the network had reached capacity.

The company says it’s ironing out the issues and will open up to new users next week.

After the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, tech giants accused the company of failing to monitor its content for threats and hate speech. Apple and Google removed the Parler app from their digital stores, and Amazon booted it from its web hosting services. 

Parler launched in 2018. It now has more than 20 million users. In a news release the company said it’s new platform is built on—quote—“robust, sustainable, independent technology.” 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Paul Butler.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: China’s coronavirus charade.

Plus, Marvin Olasky on hardships that help the cause of Christ.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 17th of February, 2021. So glad you’re 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: China and the origins of the pandemic. 

A team of researchers from the World Health Organization recently traveled to Wuhan, China.  That’s the original epicenter of Covid-19. The researchers were charged with finding out specifically from where the virus came.

EICHER: But the team left China without many answers and if anything more questions, including whether China will fully cooperate with the probe. 

Here’s White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki…

PSAKI: We’ve expressed our concerns regarding the need for full transparency and access from China and the WHO to all information regarding the earliest days of the pandemic.

EICHER: The WHO is a United Nations agency that is—by its definition “responsible for international public health.”

But some nations charge that the UN body is politicized and even corrupt. That was the Trump administration’s complaint when the United States last year pulled funding from the WHO. President Biden has since restored the money, saying he prefers to try to reform from within.

REICHARD: Joining us now to help us understand all this is Brett Schaefer. He studies international regulatory affairs for the Heritage Foundation. Brett, thanks for joining us.

BRETT SCHAEFER, GUEST: Thanks for having me on. 

REICHARD: Brett, there is some fresh news I want to get to here with regard to China and the WHO. But let me ask you first about President Biden’s decision to restore U.S. funding to it. You’re not a fan of that move. Why not? 

SCHAEFER: Well, I also did not agree with the Trump administration to withdraw last year. I think it’s pretty evident that the organization is very flawed, that it is subject to political pressure, and that the organization acted as a mouthpiece and a microphone for Chinese interests early on in the COVID-19 outbreak. And I think the Trump administration was absolutely justified in pointing this out and there’s a substantial amount of evidence that China was not transparent and was not cooperative in the COVID investigation by that organization or in terms of alerting other people in the international community. 

But I thought that the Trump administration was making some progress in getting support from other member states to reform the World Health Organization and be aggressive in investigating the outbreak itself. When they announced that they withdrew from the World Health Organization, it kind of scuttled those efforts and undermined the support that we had been rallying to our side. And I just thought the decision was premature. 

But the Biden administration’s announcement was a mistake in the opposite direction. The Trump administration had presented them—through its decision to withhold money and to withdraw from the organization—a lot of leverage. And the Biden administration essentially tossed that leverage aside when it decided to rejoin and not make its future engagement and support contingent on those reforms and contingent upon a robust investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

REICHARD: Last week, the WHO research team announced its preliminary findings. And there were several things they said that many in Washington found problematic. Tell us, what did they announce and what was the problem with it? 

SCHAEFER: Well, first of all, they haven’t released their official report, and so what you’re getting is essentially a few comments from a few members of the World Health Organization team that went to Wuhan. The Wall Street Journal actually has an editorial talking about some of the conflicts of interest on some of those expert members of that team, which may have led them to make comments to support their own perspectives. I think I would recommend that your listeners take a moment to read that article to get a full flavor for what some of those conflicts might entail. 

But that being said, the investigation itself was hindered from the start. China has had more than a year to go over this information, to scrub the data, to present it in the light that they wish to present it in. And we know from the beginning that China was not interested in transparency and cooperation. They punished journalists, they punished doctors who actually reported information that China found to be embarrassing. And this is over a year ago.

And so what we’ve seen in this investigation by the World Health Organization is evidence of China’s lack of good faith in this matter. And we are in essence not getting a clear picture or an unvarnished picture of what the situation really was. 

REICHARD: Okay, along those same lines: over the weekend, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration does not believe the Chinese communist government allowed a transparent investigation. 

And the man who led the WHO mission basically confirmed those concerns. Peter Embarek sat down for an interview on Saturday with Science magazine. And let me just read to you what he said here and get your reaction. 

Embarek said “The politics was always in the room with us on the other side of the table. We had anywhere between 30 and 60 Chinese colleagues, and a large number of them were not scientists, not from the public health sector.” 

So Brett, I’m guessing this isn’t a shock to you? 

SCHAEFER: Absolutely not. From the very beginning China has made it very clear that this, from their perspective, is a political matter not a health matter. If they were really interested in being and focusing on the health issues at stake here, they would have been cooperative and transparent from the very beginning. But we know at the time they were not. They were telling the World Health Organization that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission when they knew that there was. And the World Health Organization—to its shame—was echoing these Chinese statements and delaying the ability of the rest of the world to respond to this threat in real time.

And it’s lack of cooperation, lack of transparency hindered the ability of the World Health Organization to accurately assess the threat and it really made other member states around the world—the United States included—but everybody else, obviously, more vulnerable to the spread of the disease particularly in the early stages when they were not yet aware of how truly serious this problem was.  

REICHARD: CNN reported this week that investigators from the WHO “have discovered signs the outbreak was much wider in Wuhan in December 2019 than previously thought.”

And the report said the WHO is “urgently seeking access to hundreds of thousands of blood samples from the city that China has not so far let them examine.” 

Brett, are we starting to see the WHO’s tone toward China shift a little bit? 

SCHAEFER: I think that they, frankly, were embarrassed because China spun the expert team’s initial comments as a vindication of China’s response to it. They had tried to say that the origins of the virus came from outside of China, perhaps transported or imported into the country from frozen food in an attempt to muddy the waters and imply that other countries were the real source of the disease. Most scientists dismissed that out of hand. But the expert team from the World Health Organization said that the potential for the virus to come from the Wuhan Institute for Virology was highly unlikely. But they gave credence to this rather spurious theory that China’s been promoting.

And so with this being spun in the various reports about the investigation in Wuhan, the World Health Organization realized that they had a public relations embarrassment on their hands. And the Director General Tedros of the World Health Organization had to in essence clarify things by saying that no theory’s been dismissed, including the possibility of it originating in the lab in Wuhan. 

REICHARD: What changes does the Biden administration want to see within the WHO? Has that been spelled out? 

SCHAEFER: The administration has not spelled that out in terms of what it wants to see in terms of reforms for the World Health Organization. There has been informal discussions between the United States and other major donors to the organization in terms of reforms. Those are largely conducted under the previous administration. But I think there’s going to be a lot of consistency in terms of where they would like that to go, including reforming the international health regulations to require states to admit these expert teams in when they have evidence of an outbreak, to provide raw data in a more transparent and ready fashion.

And so we need to not just focus on where this disease originated and how it got to have the impact that it did. But also, more importantly, to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

REICHARD: Brett Schaefer studies international regulatory affairs for the Heritage Foundation. Brett, thanks so much for your time!

SCHAEFER: Thank you very much for having me on.

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

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Nigerian woman to head WTO—We start today here in Africa.

The World Trade Organization appointed its first female and first African leader on Monday. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank veteran.

AUDIO: I will say that it is both exciting and daunting at the same time to be here because I take the reigns of the WTO at a time of great uncertainty and challenge.

She will take over an organization mired in multiple crises. Even before COVID-19 battered the global economy, the WTO was weighed down by stalled trade talks and struggled to curb trade tensions between the United States and China.

The previous US administration successfully blocked Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment last year. But the Biden White House reversed course, paving the way for her unanimous selection by the 164 member countries. 

Fighting locusts in Kenya—Next we head to east Africa.

AUDIO: [Sound of helicopter]

Kenya’s Food and Agriculture Organization has launched a massive effort to combat crop-destroying locusts. It has reconfigured tracking software used to hunt poachers and illegal loggers, to find and kill locust swarms.

AUDIO: We’ve been part of the desert locusts surveying and controls side of things from January last year, you know, our approach is completely being changed by good data, by timely data, and by accurate data, and you know with that certainly for Kenya in this way we’ve stopped 80 percent getting back into the bread basket where last year we were dealing with a very different situation.

Helicopter pilots spot the swarms and call in planes loaded with insecticide to spray them.

Swarms of desert locusts first infested the east and Horn of Africa in 20-19. They move up to 90 miles a day, eating their weight in vegetation. A locust can multiply twenty-fold every three months.

Former Argentine president dies—Next we go to South America.

AUDIO: [Sound of clapping, music]

Argentinians gathered in the streets of Buenos Aires Monday for the funeral procession of former President Carlos Menem. He died Sunday at the age of 90.

Menem served two terms as president, from 1989 to 1999. He was a proponent of Peronism, the leftist movement begun by former president Juan Peron.

But he privatized many state-run businesses, a policy in direct opposition to Peron’s legacy. Menem is attributed with spearheading an economic recovery that became known as the “Argentine miracle.” By fixing the exchange rate of the peso to the U.S. dollar, he brought economic stability and an end to hyperinflation.

But the economic crisis of 2001 followed his final term as president. Debt topped $100 billion, the country defaulted on repayment, the currency’s value plunged, and unemployment skyrocketed.

Snow park in Norway—And finally, we end today in Norway.

AUDIO: [Sound of backhoe]

Norweigan authorities are trucking in snow to urban parks in Oslo. Strict coronavirus-related restrictions have kept ski-loving city residents off the slopes. So officials decided to bring the slopes to them.

AUDIO: [Man speaking Norwegian]

This member of the Oslo City Counsel says they want to encourage people to get out of their houses and be active. The snow parks include cross-country skiing trails, sledding runs, and a snow-boarding hill.

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

NICK EICHER, HOST: Parking is such a premium in Chicago… 

REICHARD: How premium is it?

I’m glad you asked. People will do just about anything to hang on to a street parking spot and here’s the latest “just about anything.” Standing up a pair of frozen pants in the street just to try to call dibs on a parking space.

SELZER: I also froze a couple of shirts.

That’s Adam Selzer talking with CBS 2 in Chicago about his creative approach to reserving his parking spot.

You have to understand, in Chicago people have been known to toss traffic cones, even furniture out into their coveted spaces to make sure someone else didn’t nab it. I mean, take the furniture but leave the parking spot.

REICHARD: Don’t I know it. You know this is illegal if not always enforced.

Probably why Selzer came up with this idea. Maybe there’s no law against clothing. It’s pretty simple, he says, just soak a pair of blue jeans, put them outside for 20 minutes, then they’re firm enough to start shaping them. And 20 more minutes later—frozen solid.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 17th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re really glad you are! 

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Our sister podcast, Effective Compassion, is in the middle of Season Two. 

Episode 6 of that second season released yesterday. If you subscribe to the Effective Compassion feed—and I hope you do—you would have that in your queue. If you do not, you’ll receive that current episode this weekend in this feed. 

This week, hosts Anna Johansen Brown and Sarah Schweinsberg highlight the challenge of helping children in need.

Today, on this program we introduce you to a couple involved in that work.

REICHARD: When Mike and Siobhan Dickinson became foster parents, they expected their lives to change. But turns out, it changed more than they ever imagined. 

WORLD Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson brings us their story.

KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: The sun is setting on Windance Country Club. At a nearby house around the corner, a teenager rolls a garbage can to the curb. Inside, his foster brother is making music. 


The toddler striking the ivories is the ninth foster child to live in the Dickinson home. Mike Dickinson remembers when his heart first grew soft toward kids in need.  

MIKE: I just started waking up and couldn’t get it out of my mind. You know, we’ve got this house, we’ve got bedrooms, a steady environment. I was thinking surely we could help one child… 

Siobhan Dickinson had some reservations about fostering, but she and Mike talked it out. Now she’s all in.

SIOBHAN: You can’t let the fear of saying goodbye to a child stop you from fostering. You can overcome that fear more than that child can overcome the scenario that they’re in, in their home…

The Dickinsons’ three children are all in, too. 

YOUNGEST DAUGHTER: I love having foster kids…

SON: I get the chance to have a brother. 

OLDEST DAUGHTER: You can see how their attitudes change when they, like, open up… 

SIOBHAN: This is the room. that It’s had bunk beds at times. It’s had cribs, now has a toddler bed… 

Siobhan came up with a plan to help their foster children feel like the bedroom is special. They call it the art wall. 

SIOBHAN: We give them each, um, a canvas and paints of all colors and let them have at it, and they can make whatever they want.

Down low, there’s a six-month-old’s finger-painting. Nearby, a fourth-grader’s zebra. And at the center, a teen’s depiction of the human eye.  

SIOBHAN: They all sign their names or we write their name and we date it for them . . . 

One of the paintings belongs to a preschooler the Dickinsons fostered for two years, two months, and 11 days. Mike and Siobhan formed a relationship with the child’s parents. They took them to church. They helped them secure housing and a car and make changes necessary for reunification.  

MIKE: It’s obviously heartbreaking. Sorry. [pauses to recompose] Because we will always love him as our own child, But we consider it an unbelievable blessing to be able to help put that family back together. [pauses to recompose] Sorry, hang on a second.

It’s that heart for helping that had Mike, an attorney, feeling like he should do more—something that would have an even greater effect. 


In 2018, he ran for the youth court judge position in his county. Youth courts deal with matters involving abuse and neglect of juveniles, as well as offenses committed by juveniles.   


MIKE: Before I was a foster dad, I had absolutely no idea that the abuse and the neglect that was going on in my county was going on right underneath my nose.

Dealing with that abuse and neglect in court is hard. 

MIKE: There is an internal conflict, because you hear the things that have happened to these children and you think, “How in the world can a parent do that to a child” and then you, I have to stop myself. And I think, “You know what? I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life . . . 

Dickinson says the most emotional hearings are drug court hearings.

MIKE: I take off my robe, I tape up, take off my tie, and I go down and I sit down at the table with these parents, and we just have a conversation. I get involved in their life. I try to find out, you know, what causes them to want to use whatever substance they’re using.

Each family that comes through his court has its own set of challenges. 

MIKE: Some, for instance, don’t have any transportation. So, um, attendance at a regular random drug screening, regular court hearings, regular therapy sessions, it’s tough for them . . . 

Solutions can be hard to find, but the judge says he has a team that thinks outside the box. When they asked a national organization to audit their court and give suggestions, one was to apply for a grant. 

MIKE: We got it. We are going to be able to buy a van and go pick up these parents and transport them…  


Because of his role as a local judge, the Dickinsons will have to go out of the county for future foster placements. Right now, though, they’re focused on something else—adopting 2-year-old Jay, who’s been in their care since he was 3 weeks old. 


Mike says he’s found new purpose through fostering and his role as a judge. 

MIKE: I truly feel that this is the calling on my life . . .

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Gulfport, Mississippi.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 17th. 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. Here’s Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky on how to criticize with credibility.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: Joe Biden began his presidency with talk of “unity.” If by that he meant join us in tribalistic politics and aborting babies, of course we just say no. But Christians should recognize that all of us with contrasting worldviews live in the same country. We should hope to be at peace with each other. As Jeremiah wrote in his famous chapter 29, believers should seek the welfare of the cities in which God has placed us.

Those who want Christians to declare war on the Biden administration might quote Jesus saying, “I do not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Yes, but Jesus also said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). He said, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” He said in the garden of Gethsemane, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (Matt 26:52, John 18:11)

Do those sayings contradict Jesus’s report that with His coming we have conflict? No.

Jesus was summarizing with biblical objectivity the result of his presence: Unbelievers declare war on Him and his followers. But Christians should not be aggressors. God has placed us in the United States during the Biden administration. He placed Daniel in Babylon during the Nebuchadnezzar administration and Christians in Rome under Nero. He placed our brothers and sisters in China under the dictatorship of Xi Jinping.

Let us keep calm and drink the cup.

By my choice of comparisons, you can see I’m pessimistic about what will happen in Washington under President Biden. But Never-Trumpers who declared war on President Trump in January, 2017, left all their further pronouncements lacking in credibility: Of course they would emphasize all the negatives. We hurt our credibility if we are Never-Bideners. When we can be positive, we should be. That will make our frequent protests stronger.

As Biden might say, here’s the deal: Godly people in ancient Israel aspired to theological and governmental unity. Our situation, though, is more like that of Daniel, Esther, and Paul. Our calling at WORLD is to transcend partisanship and be biblically objective reporters. God calls all of us to Christian compassion regardless of who is president. For example, since U.S. abortions peaked in 1990, prolife volunteers have contributed to the number of abortions falling by almost half. That’s happened even though pro-abortion Democrats occupied the White House more than half the time.

Hardship might help the cause of Christ. One more abortion reference: During the Trump era it was easy to cheer White House pro-life pronouncements, even as pro-abortion forces pushed ahead with do-it-yourself chemical abortions. Now, maybe more Christians will volunteer at pregnancy resource centers instead of centering our hopes on government grants. Maybe we’ll remember that compassion—literally, suffering with those in need—is not an option: All who follow the Bible are called to it.

I’m Marvin Olasky.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: Covid vaccines. Israel has vaccinated a majority of its population already. Do they know something we don’t?

And, landing on Mars. We’ll talk with an astronomer.

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.

The Psalmist says: The Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Thanks for listening, and please meet us back here 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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