MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Australia requires social media companies to pay for news content. That’s prompting a debate in the United States.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Also the largest evangelical Christian adoption agency abandons long-held Biblical principles.
Plus cotton pickin’ in Mississippi.
And commentator Cal Thomas says a nation without borders doesn’t survive for long.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, March 11th. 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: Time now for the news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: House passes $1.9 trillion relief bill » House Democrats have approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill.
AUDIO: On this vote, the yeas are 220, the nays are 211. The motion is adopted.
The bill heads to the president’s desk, and Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters…
PSAKI: He will sign the bill at the White House on Friday afternoon.
The soon-to-be law will, among other things, send money to state and local governments, provide funds for schools, child tax credits, and another round of direct stimulus payments.
Democrats say it will help the country defeat COVID-19 and nurse the economy back to health. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
PELOSI: This is a momentous day in the history of our country because we have passed historic, consequential and transformative legislation.
The Biden administration is planning an aggressive campaign to sell the public on the merits of the bill, dubbed the “American Rescue Plan.”
But Republicans say they also intend to better educate the public about the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell…
MCCONNELL: The American people need to learn more and more about it, and we’re going to see that they do that in the coming months as we talk repeatedly about the provisions in the bill that the Democrats do not want to discuss.
He called it one of the worst pieces of legislation he has seen in his time in the Senate. Republicans say the bill is little more than a titanic liberal spending spree.
Biden announces order of 100 million additional doses of J&J vaccine » President Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. government is stepping up its investment in the newest coronavirus vaccine.
BIDEN: I’m directing Jeff and my HHS team to produce another 100 million doses and purchase another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The “Jeff” the president referred to is White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.
The heads of Johnson & Johnson and Merck joined President Biden at the White House for Wednesday’s announcement.
A new partnership between the rival companies should enable faster production of the J&J vaccine. Merck CEO Ken Frazier…
FRAZIER: In these extraordinary times, we are colleagues, not competitors.
President Biden reaffirmed his recent timeline. He believes all Americans will have access to coronavirus vaccines by the end of May.
Senate confirms Garland as attorney general » The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Merrick Garland as U.S. attorney general. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: On a vote of 70 to 30, the veteran federal appeals court judge was confirmed and will take the reins at the Justice Department.
During his confirmation hearing, Garland said his first priority will be the prosecution of those who participated in the Jan. 6th siege on the U.S. Capitol.
Some Republican senators backed his confirmation, including GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who cited what he called Garland’s long reputation as a straight shooter. But Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton was among the Republicans voting “no.” He said he believes Garland will be too soft on crime.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
Senate confirms HUD, EPA nominees » The Senate also confirmed two other Biden nominees on Wednesday.
Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge will head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
AUDIO: 66 yeas, 34 nays. The nomination is confirmed.
That puts Fudge in charge of the agency just as Congress passed new benefits for renters and homeowners amid the pandemic.
Fudge is a former mayor in suburban Cleveland. She’s served in Congress since 2008.
Lawmakers also signed off President Biden’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. On a vote of 66 to 34, the Senate confirmed North Carolina regulator Michael Regan as EPA administrator.
China, Russia working together to build lunar research station » China and Russia will work together to build a lunar research station, possibly on the surface of the moon. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has details.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: China’s National Space Administration announced the joint project on Wednesday. It said the International Lunar Research Station will be built either on the moon’s surface or in lunar orbit and it will be open to use by other countries.
It gave no timeline for its construction.
In its early years, the Chinese space program relied heavily on cooperation with Russia, but it has since charted its own course.
It has already launched two smaller experimental space stations and placed a rover on the far side of the moon. It also expects to land a rover on the surface of Mars in the coming months. If it succeeds, China would become only the second country after the United States to do so.
China is also planning four crewed missions this year to work on its first permanent orbiting space station.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: Australia’s fight with Facebook.
Plus, Cal Thomas on immigration and America’s future.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 11th day of March, 2021.
Glad to have you along 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, unfriending Australia.
Last month, Facebook faced off with the Australian government over new legislation targeting its bottom line. Lawmakers there said if Facebook wants to allow users to post links to news reports, it needs to pay the publishers. To show its displeasure, the social media giant blocked all posts by Australian news outlets. Newspapers and television stations couldn’t share links to their stories. Neither could readers and viewers.
REICHARD: After a week-long news blackout, lawmakers agreed to a compromise. But the dustup is far from over and could soon pop up on U.S. news feeds.
WORLD’s Leigh Jones reports now on what’s driving the dispute.
FRYDENBERG: Facebook was wrong. Facebook’s actions were unnecessary. They were heavy handed and they will damage its reputation here in Australia.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: That’s Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at a news conference that people who only get their news on Facebook never saw.
Earlier that day, Facebook blocked content from all Australian news providers in response to a proposed law requiring it to pay for that content. Unfortunately for Facebook, the algorithm that triggered the news blackout inadvertently blocked posts from government websites, including state health departments and emergency services.
That unleashed a torrent of anger about the amount of control Facebook has over just about everything.
FRYDENBERG: What today’s events do confirm for all Australians is the immense market power of these media digital giants.
So what prompted this very public dispute?
Bronwyn Howell studies telecommunications and regulation at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.
HOWELL: The justification that they gave for introducing the legislation was that they needed to prop up the markets for the creation of public good news content.
Australian newspapers have complained for years about losing advertising revenue to digital media companies. Revenue they relied on to pay reporters. That loss was especially painful because at least some of the content that attracts users to social media comes from newspapers.
So Australian lawmakers proposed a solution: Google and Facebook would have to pay traditional media outlets any time their content appeared on the digital platforms. Google quickly inked deals with major media groups, including Rupert Murdochs’ News Corp. But Facebook balked and opted to pull all Australian media content from its platform.
Bronwyn Howell says we should be concerned over the shrinking number of independent journalists able to speak truth to power.
HOWELL: But the question is, what is the appropriate business model to address this, and is taxing the people who have taken ad revenue because they have market power in that market the appropriate way of dealing with this particular problem?
Although angry over Facebook’s blackout power play, Australian lawmakers agreed to amend the bill. The final version adopted February 25th does not set specific payment amounts. Instead, it gives the company time to make its own deals with publishers. Government regulators will only step in if the companies can’t reach an agreement on how much news content is worth.
But Facebook and Google are still required to pay for the news they’d previously distributed for free.
And other countries are taking notice. Jason Thacker is chair of research in technology ethics at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
THACKER: It wouldn’t surprise me if countries around the world see this as a moment to kind of increase the way that they’re thinking about these technology companies and their influence, in many ways to even check some of the power that these companies have accrued over a number of years without being under the public scrutiny.
And Thacker says those debates are crucial for the future, especially for Christians.
THACKER: And so that’s where I think we need a new vision and thoughtful engagement coming from the Christian community to step into these questions. Let’s have the public debate and the public discourse of them, because they’re very important to our society and kind of the future of the way that we connect with one another.
But what about U.S. journalists? Do they want government assistance?
LONGINOW: I think a lot of journalists would say, thank you, but no. We do not need your help.
Michael Longinow is a journalism professor at Biola University in southern California. He believes U.S. media outlets value their freedom too much to seek government intervention.
LONGINOW: Because when you do that, it means you got your hand in our pocket. And, you know, we’re vulnerable. So. So that’s where it’s gonna come down to is, what does the First Amendment mean, in the context of an economy that requires profitability? It’s just a really interesting tension.
American newspapers have lost as much ad revenue to digital platforms as their counterparts in Australia. And many smaller newspapers have gone out of business, leaving swaths of the country without local coverage. But Longinow says that doesn’t mean journalism is dead.
LONGINOW: What I find interesting is how even in those news deserts, people are finding out ways to inform each other about why my street’s not paved, or why the trash wasn’t picked up, or what was that gunshot I heard in my neighborhood last night. And so people are finding ways of informing themselves.
Most of Longinow’s students do get their news through social media platforms. But they’re also dissatisfied with them.
LONGINOW: I think this generation that’s coming out of our schools in these next few years, are looking at big tech and they’re saying, I don’t like the way this is operating. I think I can find a better way of doing this. And it’s going to be some 18 year olds gonna come up with this new way of doing what big tech is doing. And it’s gonna blow it all up. And I just love that.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: adoption.
Most Christian agencies have a longstanding policy of only working with traditional families—one mom, one dad. After the Supreme Court changed the definition of marriage to include people of the same sex, these agencies faced pressure to conform to this new definition of family.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Many have gone to court to defend their religious freedom. But earlier this month, one of the largest Christian adoption agencies in the country decided to abandon that fight.
Joining us now to talk about it is WORLD’s national editor, Jamie Dean.
REICHARD: Well, Jamie, let’s just start with a reminder about Bethany Christian Services. Who are they and what do they do?
DEAN: Bethany is the largest Protestant adoption and foster care agency in the U.S. They’ve been around for more than 75 years, and they’ve been well known in evangelical circles for a long time. They’ve often worked with churches to find Christian families willing to foster or adopt vulnerable children, including those coming from unplanned pregnancies.
REICHARD: So what’s changed about their policies?
DEAN: On March 1, Bethany’s president, Chris Palusky, sent an email to around 1,500 employees saying that Bethany plans to follow “consistent inclusive practices” and quote—“offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today.” End quote.
What that means is that after a practice of declining to place children in same-sex homes in states that didn’t require it, Bethany will now allow same-sex couples to apply to foster and adopt in all of its locations—whether local laws require it or not.
REICHARD: Well, Jamie, had they not been doing that before in some cases?
DEAN: In the past, they’ve had a practice of referring same-sex couples to other agencies that could work with them. Catholic groups have done something similar, citing their religious conviction that the Bible teaches marriage is a union of a man and a woman.
That started becoming more difficult as states and cities began requiring some agencies to allow same-sex couples to apply. In 2018, when a Bethany staffer in Philadelphia referred a lesbian couple to another agency, the city suspended its foster care contract with Bethany and with a Catholic organization that had a similar policy.
The city gave an ultimatum: If you want to continue facilitating foster care, you have to allow same-sex couples to apply. The Catholic agency refused. Bethany complied. A year later, the same thing happened in Michigan. The Catholics joined lawsuits in both Michigan and Philadelphia to try to hang onto conscience protections, but Bethany did not join the legal action.
REICHARD: Why not?
DEAN: At the time, they said they were disappointed with the situation in Michigan, but they didn’t want to stop placing children in homes. And they considered the probabilities of winning lengthy court battles, then balanced that with a desire to continue serving children in foster care. Now the policy appears to be that Bethany will allow same-sex couples to apply, whether local laws require it or not.
REICHARD: Well, Jamie, you noted there’s another big change to Bethany’s policy as well. What’s that?
DEAN: Yes, and this is also quite a big change.
In the letter that Bethany’s president sent to employees, he also said that Bethany, quote, “will not take positions on the many doctrinal issues for which Christians disagree.” End quote.
What that means is that after years of affirming the Bible’s teaching on marriage as a union between a man and a woman, Bethany is abandoning its position on this foundational, Scriptural issue.
Since at least 2007, Bethany had a position statement saying: “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.”
In 2019, I asked a Bethany official whether this was still the case, and she confirmed it was. She said: “Bethany believes that God has a perfect design for family and that perfect design is a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage.”
She said that it’s not always possible to reach that ideal, but quote, “it doesn’t mean that we don’t believe firmly in God’s ideal and God’s ideal plan.”
So, late last week I asked another Bethany official if they still believe in this ideal. A spokesperson responded in a written reply: “As an organization, Bethany is no longer taking an official position on this issue.”
REICHARD: Well, that’s quite a break from the earlier statement, isn’t it?
DEAN: It is. And Bethany does subscribe to a statement of faith that says they affirm the authority of the Scriptures in their entirety as the only written Word of God, without error in all that it affirms.
So the question is: What does the Bible affirm?
For millennia, historic Christian teaching has held that the Bible affirms marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s not simply a secondary issue on which Christians can agree to disagree. We’ve seen denominations split apart over this doctrine. We’ve seen Christians say, no, we can’t take multiple positions on this.
And I think this points to something bigger than Bethany: Every Christian organization has to grapple with where they stand and how they will clearly articulate it. The pressures will continue to come, whether they’re legal or cultural. But ultimately, I think we have to say, this is a spiritual issue on which the Bible is clear.
REICHARD: Well, you mentioned the legal battle Catholics are still pursuing on this and that’s the case pending at the Supreme Court right now called Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. How are things going on that front?
DEAN: Better than you might expect. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the arguments in the Philadelphia case, and it’s likely they’ll issue a ruling in June. It’s impossible to predict the outcome, but it’s a decision that could protect, and even strengthen, conscience protections for religious organizations—and it could show the legal struggle is worth the battle.
And that’s good news for children. There are some 400,000 children in the foster care system. There’s an urgent need for more families to help. Christians can pursue that process today. And it would be good news for Christian agencies to gain the legal protection to help connect children to families, while staying true to their biblical convictions.
REICHARD: Jamie Dean is WORLD’s national editor. Jamie, as always, thanks so much.
DEAN: You’re welcome, Mary.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: We’ve all heard the warnings about the dangers of being overweight.
It’s the same in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Except officials there are warning about seagulls weighing too much, and it’s the fault of humans.
Ahmed al-Kooheji is a municipal council president:
AL-KOOHEJI: There are fines. I mean if you leave waste or throw waste outside your house. We really highlighted this issue to everybody and to the officials that we would like this to be stopped as quickly as possible.
As quickly as possible for humans to stop leaving food out that the seabirds love to gorge themselves on. Especially Bahrain’s national dish called machboos that’s rich in carbs.
BASHAM: Yeah! Pick up after yourself, as moms everywhere say!
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 11th.
You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so happy to have you along today! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Cotton.
It’s called the fabric of our lives for good reason. Cotton’s used to make everything from sheets to socks to rope to American dollar bills, to cooking oil.
Cotton is grown in more than 80 countries. Today we return to a tiny town in Mississippi for another visit with Farmer Lonnie Fortner. You may remember he was harvesting peanuts in September, but he also grows cotton.
REICHARD: Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson takes us back to Fortner’s fields, back when they were white and waiting for harvest. Here’s the story.
KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: While the North gets the real kind of icy precipitation, cotton country has its own snow. Each fall, wisps of it litter roadsides on the way to the gin.
FORTNER: [Beeping] Alright, now we’re picking…
Lonnie Fortner is a second-generation farmer who’s been driving tractors most of his life. But today he’s riding in an enclosed, air-conditioned cab in a state-of-the-art harvesting machine — a 2020 John Deere.
FORTNER: It drives itself, which that makes it nice. I can keep my eyes on other things going on.
It’s an interesting contrast. Him riding the high-tech cotton picker while bringing in a crop as old as Egypt.
FORTNER: This is modern cotton picking here. It’s a whole lot funner than the old way. Just costs a lot more.
So how much is his piece of rolling technology worth? It’s a massive machine, requiring a steel ladder for access. It can comb through six rows of cotton at a time, doing in days what used to take weeks. Would you guess equipment like this comes at a cost of two hundred thousand dollars? A half-million?
FORTNER: They, they seem to go up every year, but right now it’s about 900,000. Yup. You got to pick a lot of cotton with them…
Fortner says he couldn’t afford it without an arrangement he has with a fellow farmer whose harvest season runs a few weeks behind his.
FORTNER: We go in together with him for the picker, and we pick my crop first and it goes to Mobile, and he picks his crop.
Inside the picker’s cab, a bay of windows surrounds the driver on three sides. Fortner must deal with all sorts of buttons, levers, and a control panel that tells him things like the thickness of the bale being formed.
FORTNER: We’re at 63.4 inches. And so it’s going to build to 90, to 90 inches…
When the indicator reaches the magic number, a camera lets him watch as the round bale gets a plastic wrapping.
FORTNER: I want to see that wrap show up in that camera. If not, I got problems and there it is right there.
After that, the machine lets Fortner know it’s time to eject the bale.
FORTNER: I choose when to eject it because you’d hate for it to eject on its own, going onto a power line…
But even with all the technological advances, farming still bears the effects of the Fall. It’s done by the sweat of the brow, and wild animals cause problems.
In Mississippi, wild hogs cause more than $60 million of damage each year. Deer are contenders, too.
FORTNER: We spend a lot of money and effort, uh, keeping trying to keep the animals out of the field. We’ve got about 2,500 acres of our farm behind electric fence.
Fortner employs one man nearly full time just to maintain the fences, especially in the spring.
FORTNER: When we first start planting, we start putting the fences up, getting them hot, and he maintains the fences until the crop gets big enough that they can sort of stay ahead of the deer…
They even have surprise visits from black bears.
FORTNER: I was on one pass, and he was right out from me, but I had my head down. I never saw him there. He said the bear stood up and looked at the cotton picker.
Today, one bale of cleaned cotton lint can make more than 200 pairs of jeans or 1,200 T-shirts. That means farmers like Fortner are important. But with or without all the advances in the industry, he says he couldn’t do it without his wife’s support.
FORTNER: The day I told her that I wanted to quit and start back farming, if she would’ve said no, we wouldn’t be here. But she said yes. And 25 years later, here we are.
They both call cotton fields beautiful and sometimes ride the picker together. But even a $900,000 piece of equipment isn’t infallible.
FORTNER: …on both fronts — whew! [Sound of equipment failure]
He climbs down from the cab and removes something from underneath. Manually. Then he’s back to the picker and a bale that’s wrapped and ready.
FORTNER: When we get ready to drop it, we’ll set it down. There it is. Next step for him is Bolton, to the cotton gin.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Carlisle, Mississippi.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next, a preview of Listening In.
This week, host Warren Smith talks to the president of Crown Financial Ministries about threats to our financial future. One of those threats is the rise of democratic socialism.
In this excerpt of their conversation, Warren presents Chuck Bentley with a possible reason why some young people are drawn to this economic theory these days.
WARREN SMITH: My argument would be look at what you free market capitalists have done with things. I mean, we’ve got folks like Donald Trump, we’ve got folks like Gordon Gekko from the movies. We’ve got the sort of the libertarian philosophy of Ayn Rand, who advocates for sort of a radical, free market approach. And my Christian beliefs won’t let me embrace these guys, either. So how do you answer those young people, kind of without a tribe right now, where where should they go? What should they think?
CHUCK BENTLEY: Well, Warren, I love the fact that you paint a picture of the whole spectrum, because that’s the way it’s looked upon today, as it’s an either or sort of a binary choice where we have to embrace capitalism, and accept greed and all of the nasty things that we see where it’s being abused.
My view is this, that what’s really necessary is that we help people understand God’s economy, and God’s economy says that we’re not to covet, that’s the 10th commandment. And so to those who are trying to embrace it, Biblically, I’d say to me, you can’t do it because socialism is legalizing coveting. It’s basically saying, we’re going to take from the people who have and give it to those who don’t have, when that’s contrary to the scripture all the way.
The other thing that the scriptures say that we should not do is to be hoarding, to be selfish, to be greedy, and to be filled with just selfish ambition and lack of generosity. And so we’ve got our work to do if we’re going to keep capitalism functioning, we’ve got to have a grassroots solution where people see themselves as God’s stewards, not as owners. Because if you’re an owner, then you’re going to measure your success with finances by how much you acquire. If you’re a steward. You measure success by faithfulness, if you honored God with how you manage what he entrusted to you.
And look, it’s a steep hill to climb Warren, but that’s the hill that I’m trying to climb and is the hill that I believe God called me to climb, but that’s the balance between those two extremes.
BASHAM: That’s Chuck Bentley talking to Warren Smith. To hear their complete conversation, look for Listening In tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 11th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Commentator Cal Thomas now on the importance of controlling our borders.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: I recently had to cancel a long-planned trip to South America. The countries I wanted to visit are either closed or require up to a two-week quarantine in a hotel. It doesn’t matter that I have been vaccinated and have repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19.
Several countries in Europe I would like to visit are also closed. Ireland imposes a 2,000 euro fine for anyone leaving the country.
All of this while the United States faces a flood of people crossing the southern border, including unaccompanied minors. They are overwhelming Border Patrol agents who are releasing many of them into the country with little chance they will show up for court dates. Or they’re temporarily detaining them in “rapid-processing hubs,” with a goal, writes the Washington Post, “of releasing them into the United States within 72 hours.”
Politicians have flipped positions on illegal immigration but are never held accountable.
Here are three from 2014. First, Barack Obama, who said, quote— “Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”
Hillary Clinton said, quote— “We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. … So, we don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”
And finally, Joe Biden, who said, quote— “Those who are pondering risking their lives to reach the United States should be aware of what awaits them. It will not be open arms. It will not be come on — it will be, we’re going to hold hearings with our judges consistent with international law and American law, and we’re going to send the vast majority of you back.”
No nation can survive if it fails to control its borders. Our nation is unique in the world. We are a nation of laws. We are a nation with a rich history. If we abandon what our forebears fought to preserve, what will be left but a shell of a once-great country?
Too many schools remain closed, but the border is increasingly open. Does this make sense?
We had better decide what kind of country we want to be, or we will become a country others want us to be. That was clearly not the vision of our Founders, of the many presidents who succeeded them, or even recent Democratic presidents and presidential candidates.
I’m Cal Thomas.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Tomorrow: John Stonestreet is back for Culture Friday. We’ll talk about the Evangelicals for Biden who feel betrayed that Biden fulfilled his promises to pro-choice advocates.
And, I’ll review the latest movie starring Anthony Hopkins. It’s making him a frontrunner for a Best Actor Oscar.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
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