Trump names State spokeswoman Nauert for UN ambassador
By CATHERINE LUCEY, MATTHEW LEE and ZEKE MILLER
Friday, December 7
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Friday he’s nominating State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“She’s very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she’s going to be respected by all,” Trump said Friday before departing the White House for an event in Kansas City, Missouri.
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Nauert, a former Fox News Channel reporter who had little foreign policy experience before becoming State Department spokeswoman, will replace Nikki Haley. Haley, a former South Carolina governor, announced in October that she would step down at the end of this year. Nauert would be a leading administration voice on Trump’s foreign policy.
Trump told reporters last month that Nauert was “excellent,” adding, “She’s been a supporter for a long time.”
Plucked from Fox by the White House to serve as State Department spokeswoman, Nauert catapulted into the upper echelons of the agency’s hierarchy when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired in March and replaced with Mike Pompeo. Nauert was then appointed acting undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and was for a time the highest-ranking woman and fourth highest-ranking official in the building.
Nauert, who did not have a good relationship with Tillerson and had considered leaving the department, told associates at the time she was taken aback by the promotion offer and recommended a colleague for the job. But when White House officials told her they wanted her, she accepted.
That role gave her responsibilities far beyond the news conferences she held in the State Department briefing room. She oversaw public diplomacy in Washington and all of the roughly 275 overseas U.S. embassies, consulates and other posts. She was in charge of the Global Engagement Center that fights extremist messaging from the Islamic State group and others, and she has a seat on the U.S. Agency for Global Media that oversees government broadcast networks such as Voice of America.
Just 18 months ago, she wasn’t even in government.
Nauert was a breaking news anchor on Trump’s favorite television show, “Fox & Friends,” when she was tapped to be the face and voice of the administration’s foreign policy. With a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she had moved to Fox from ABC News, where she was a general assignment reporter. She hadn’t specialized in foreign policy or international relations.
Shut out from the top by Tillerson and his inner circle, Nauert developed relationships with career diplomats. Barred from traveling with Tillerson, she embarked on her own overseas trips, visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar last year to see the plight of Rohingya Muslims, and then Israel after a planned stop in Syria was scrapped. All the while, she stayed in the good graces of the White House, even as Tillerson was increasingly on the outs.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Nauert in March as “a team player” and “a strong asset for the administration.”
John Chau may have been influenced by past evangelical missions and their belief in power of faith
December 7, 2018
Professor of History, Saint Mary’s College
William Svelmoe does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The recent killing of a 26-year-old U.S. missionary, John Allen Chau, on a remote island in India has raised many questions about global evangelical Protestant missions.
Chau was on a personal mission to convert the Sentinelese, a protected tribe who have avoided contact with the rest of the world. Indian ships monitor the waters to stop outsiders from approaching them. Chau, however, is reported to have asked fishermen to take him illegally to the island where the Sentinelese live. The Sentinelese are reported to have shot and killed him with arrows.
As my research on missionaries shows, this often unwise haste to evangelize the world was the founding characteristic of evangelical missions in the late 19th century.
From the beginning of the 19th century, Protestants sent missionaries abroad under mission boards that required seminary education and full funding for prospective recruits. By the end of the 19th century, however, some mission leaders believed that the established missions were evangelizing the world at much too slow a pace.
Evangelicals believe in a hell where the souls of those who don’t convert to Christianity will burn forever.
Missionaries are motivated by Christ’s words in the “Great Commission” to “make disciples of all nations.” In these biblical verses, the risen Christ commands his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel. This command has motivated the missionary enterprise for centuries.
These leaders founded what became known as “faith” missions to greatly expand the missionary force. As I write in my book, the new missions began sending out highly committed but lightly educated and ill-prepared missionaries. Many had not even finished high school. Just a bit of Bible training was considered enough.
There were dozens of such missions by the early 20th century, each founded to Christianize a specific section of the globe, such as the China Inland Mission, the Sudan Interior Mission and the Central American Mission.
Hundreds of young men and women, often with families, were sent overseas with little to no training in anything beyond the Bible and no promise of funding.
While doing archival research for my book, I also found evidence of the conversations between the missionary leaders and their young recruits. The first question, for example, R. D. Smith, a leader of the Central American Mission, posed to new recruits:
“Do you understand that you are to trust the Lord for the supply of all your needs and not rely upon the Central American Mission or any other human agency?”
He did not want new recruits to even have one year’s funding in place. “I am not exercising faith,” Smith groused, “if I have a year’s supply in hand.”
In digging into records in the Townsend archives in Waxhaw, North Carolina, I also found that recruits were told simply to pray, and God would provide the necessary funds: hence the name “faith missions.”
These records show that mission leaders believed such a plan would result in a more “spiritual” missionary force, as missionaries were forced to rely only on God for their needs. Cameron Townsend, a Central American Mission recruit, wrote in 1927: “We want entire dependence on God, and not on anyone’s bank account.”
Hundreds of untrained, unfunded, largely unsupervised young people got on boats to Africa or Asia knowing little about where they were going and with no language training other than what they might pick up from the missionary in the cabin next door.
That tragedy often resulted should come as no surprise. A. T. Pierson, an early promoter of faith missions, argued to the leaders of the Africa Inland Mission in the late 1890s, after all of the initial 16 recruits the mission sent to Africa either died or quit,
“The hallmark of God on any work is death. God has given us that hallmark. Now is the time to go forward.”
While no official estimates are available, the death of missionaries was accepted as a common occurrence. The board of directors of an evangelical mission, the Nazarene Missions International, once sent a letter to two of its sick missionaries saying “we presume you will already be dead,” to explain why no funds were sent for the month – perhaps referring to funds that came through family or friends.
In this case, the missionaries recovered. But how long they survived afterwards is not clear.
By the 1930s some mission leaders were recognizing that such a plan was untenable.
The Wycliffe Bible Translators, the largest and most influential faith mission in the 20th century, founded by Cameron Townsend, who had earlier advocated for dependence on God, began providing its recruits with much more thorough training and support. This included linguistic training through its Summer Institute of Linguistics.
The goal was to teach missionaries how to, first, learn languages that had never been written down and second, create a written language. The ultimate goal was to translate the Bible into every language in the world. By midcentury these linguistic training institutes were recognized on secular university campuses as ranking with the best in the world. My own parents spent 30 years with Wycliffe translating the Bible into the Mansaka language in the jungles of the Philippines, where I grew up.
At the same time, many of the Bible institutes, which had sent many graduates to the faith missions, were becoming Bible colleges and universities, and missionary training was becoming more thorough and academic.
The discipline of anthropology made inroads into evangelical colleges by the 1960s and dramatically changed missionary education.
Most evangelical missionaries today are at least college-educated, and many have graduate degrees in anthropology or linguistics. John Allen Chau was a college graduate who had briefly attended a Canadian linguistic institute affiliated with Wycliffe’s Summer Institute of Linguistics, but he was not trained to be a missionary. He had majored in sports medicine.
And while evangelicals continue to send missionaries as educators or business people to places where proselytizing is not welcome, such as China, few established missions today would sponsor Chau’s amateurish and obviously illegal approach.
Today’s missions understand that passionate faith like Chau’s is not enough.
Ecuador: Enough UK guarantees for Assange to leave embassy
By GONZALO SOLANO and JOSHUA GOODMAN
Friday, December 7
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador’s president has ramped up pressure on Julian Assange to leave his country’s embassy in London, saying that Britain had provided sufficient guarantees that the WikiLeaks founder won’t be extradited to face the death penalty abroad.
Lenin Moreno’s comments in a radio interview Thursday suggest that months of quiet diplomacy between the U.K. and Ecuador to resolve Assange’s situation is bearing fruit at a time when questions are swirling about the former Australian hacker’s legal fate in the U.S.
“The road is clear for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave,” Moreno said, referring to written assurances he said he had received from Britain.
Moreno didn’t say he would force Assange out, but said the activist’s legal team is considering its next steps.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, when he was granted asylum while facing allegations of sex crimes in Sweden that he said were a guise to extradite him to the U.S.
But his relations with his hosts have soured to the point that Moreno earlier this year cut off his access to the internet, purportedly for violating the terms of his asylum by speaking out on political matters.
Assange in turn sued, saying his rights as an Ecuadorian — he was granted citizenship last year as part of an apparent attempt to name him a diplomat and ferry him to Russia — were being violated.
The mounting tensions has drawn Moreno closer to the position of Britain, which for years has said it is barred by law from extraditing suspects to any jurisdiction where they would face capital punishment.
But nothing is preventing it from extraditing him to the U.S. if prosecutors there were to pledge not to seek the death penalty.
Assange has long maintained the he faces charges under seal in the U.S for revealing highly sensitive government information on his website.
Those fears were heightened when U.S prosecutors last month mistakenly referenced criminal charges against him in an unrelated case.
The Associated Press and other outlets have reported that Assange is indeed facing unspecified charges under seal, but prosecutors have so far provided no official confirmation.
Goodman reported from Bogota, Colombia. AP Writer Raphael Satter contributed to this report from London
Fight for federal right to education takes a new turn
December 7, 2018
Derek W. Black
Professor of Law, University of South Carolina
Derek W. Black does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of South Carolina provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
A new fight to secure a federal constitutional right to education is spreading across the country. This fight has been a long time coming and is now suddenly at full steam.
In 1973, plaintiffs in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez argued that school funding inequities violated the right to education. The Supreme Court rejected education as a fundamental right under the federal Constitution, leaving funding inequalities in Texas and elsewhere completely untouched. For more than 40 years, no one even dared to directly challenge Rodriguez’s conclusion in court. Now, in just two years, four different legal teams and plaintiff groups have done just that. But this time, they are shifting their arguments away from just claims about money. They are focusing on educational quality, literacy and learning outcomes.
The boldest claim was filed on Nov. 29 in Rhode Island, arguing for an education that prepares students for citizenship – an argument that draws directly on my own legal research and expertise as a scholar of education law.
When plaintiffs filed the first two cases in Detroit and Connecticut in 2016, the Supreme Court was set to shift significantly to the left. Hillary Clinton was a strong favorite to win the presidency and fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. What looked like perfect timing for plaintiffs in mid-2016 turned awful a few months later when Clinton lost. The questions now are why plaintiffs, including new ones, continue to press forward and whether they have any chance of winning. The answers lie in a strange and tangled confluence of events that include school funding shifts, new legal theories and evolving cultural challenges.
Steep declines in school funding
Schools’ real-world problems are first and foremost driving the litigation. Detroit’s schools, for instance, are among the most segregated, lowest performing and most financially strapped in the country. The net result, plaintiffs allege, are schools where “illiteracy is the norm.” Detroit’s problems, while severe, are not entirely unique. Public schools nationwide are suffering from increasing segregation and a decade of steep funding cuts.
State tax revenues have been up since 2012, but most states continue to fund education at a lower level than they did before the 2008 recession.
While many state supreme courts allow students to challenge educational inequality and inadequacy, about 20 do not. The courts that bar such challenges say that educational opportunity involves issues beyond their authority to tackle. So children’s right to challenge educational deprivations sadly depends on where they live. Michigan, Mississippi and Rhode Island are three of the states where kids have no recourse in state court. This explains why three of the four new lawsuits are in these states.
A novel approach
Whether these cases succeed, however, depends far more on the legal theories behind them than egregious facts. The Rodriguez ruling rejected the fundamental right to “equal” education. Plaintiffs in Michigan and Connecticut assert a fundamental right to “adequate” education, not equal education. More specifically, the plaintiffs call it minimally adequate education in Connecticut and literacy in Michigan. Earlier this year, the lower courts in those cases rejected the notion that this nuance was significant and held that kids do not have a federal right to those things either.
The case just filed in Rhode Island seeks to avoid that trap by doing something completely new. It focuses on the civics knowledge and skills that our democratic form of government demands of citizens – a topic with deep historical roots. My recent research demonstrated that our founders intended public education to be a core aspect of the “republican form of government” that our federal Constitution demands.
Our republican form of government began as an experiment in the idea that everyday citizens could govern themselves. But our founders – people like George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – emphasized that public education was necessary for those governments to work. In legislation that would dictate how the western territory would be divided up and later become states, Congress in the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 mandated that each township reserve a central lot for public schools and that the states use their public resources to “forever encourage” those schools.
The most explicit evidence of education’s necessity comes from Southern states’ readmission to the Union following the Civil War. Congress forced all the Southern states to provide for education in their state constitutions and explicitly conditioned the readmission of the last three states’ on those states never depriving students of the education rights they had just extended to citizens.
Congress was not acting arbitrarily. The Constitution requires Congress to “guarantee” a republican form of government in the states. The South’s criminalization of literacy among blacks, refusal to create school systems for middle-class whites, and general failure to operate a government that looked anything like democracy only reinforced the wisdom of the nation’s founding ideas. Following the war, Congress took decisive steps to correct the South’s failures in education and give full meaning to the constitutional idea of a republican form of government.
Prospects for federal right to education
Whether this history will serve as the key to unlock the right to education for today’s generation is uncertain. Regardless of the merits of these cases, Donald Trump’s nominations have made the Supreme Court more conservative. Yet, recent political cycles have also exposed weaknesses in America’s democracy and the need for a better-informed electorate, as everyday citizens struggle to make sense of highly polarized political debates, fake news and conflicting media accounts.
Public education cannot solve democracy’s challenges by itself, much less do so in a short period of time. The challenges are far too large. But if the nation is to secure a meaningful long-term solution, it will be through the same strategy as the founders.
They long ago warned in letters, presidential addresses to Congress and other official acts that the strength of our democracy would depend on public education cultivating the skills of citizenship. Public education was to be the fuel that makes democracy work and the only sure guarantee that those controlling government will preserve rights and liberties, rather than trample on them. Put that way, the federal right to education may be a moonshot, but it is one the plaintiffs in these cases cannot afford to miss.
Trump plan to reclassify nuke waste alarms environmentalists
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
Monday, December 10
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The Trump administration wants to reclassify some radioactive waste left from the production of nuclear weapons to lower its threat level and make disposal cheaper and easier.
The proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy would lower the status of some high-level radioactive waste in several places around the nation, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — the most contaminated nuclear site in the country.
Reclassifying the material to low-level could save the agency billions of dollars and decades of work by essentially leaving the material in the ground, critics say.
The proposal joins a long list of Trump administration efforts to loosen environmental protections. Just last week, the Environmental Protection Agency acted to ease rules on the sagging U.S. coal industry.
Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge, a nuclear watchdog group, said it wants a thorough cleanup of the Washington state nuclear site, which is half the size of Rhode Island. That includes building a national repository somewhere else to bury the waste once it has been stabilized.
“The cleanup of the site is really at stake,” Carpenter said about the proposed change.
He noted that Hanford is located in an environmentally sensitive site adjacent to the Columbia River and susceptible to earthquakes, volcanoes and flooding.
Hanford was established by the Manhattan Project in World War II to make plutonium, a key ingredient in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The plant went on to produce most of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
As a result, the site also contains the nation’s largest collection of nuclear waste. The most dangerous is stored in 177 aging underground tanks, some of which have leaked. The tanks hold some 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical wastes waiting to be treated for permanent disposal.
Cleanup efforts at Hanford have been underway since the late 1980s and cost about $2 billion a year.
Current law defines high-level radioactive waste as resulting from processing irradiated nuclear fuel that is highly radioactive. The Energy Department wants to reclassify some of the waste that meets highly technical conditions.
The agency says the change could save the federal government $40 billion in cleanup costs across the nation’s entire nuclear weapons complex, which includes the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina and Idaho National Laboratory.
Environmental groups and the state of Washington, which has a legal commitment with the Energy Department to oversee the Hanford cleanup, said the proposal is a concern.
“They see it as a way to get cleanup done faster and less expensively,’” said Alex Smith of the Washington state Department of Ecology.
Carpenter said there “is not much point in doing much else if they don’t clean up the high-level waste.”
At the request of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, the agency extended the public comment period on the proposal to Jan. 9. The agency can make the change without the approval of Congress.
“No one disputes the difficulty of retrieving and treating high-level waste from Hanford’s aging storage tanks,” Wyden wrote to the DOE. “However, lowering the bar for level of protection of future generations and the environment by changing the definition of what has always been considered high-level waste requiring permanent disposal is a significant change.”