The Washington Post

Quick, name a major public policy issue on which overwhelming numbers of Americans are united. Stumped? (Granted, it’s a short list.) Here’s one answer: allowing "dreamers" — young undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children — to remain in the United States if they pass background checks, go to school and fulfill other basic requirements. In a dozen polls this fall, including one released Tuesday, respondents who favor permitting dreamers to stay in the United States generally outnumber those who would deport them by at least 3-to-1, and often by 4-to-1 or 5-to-1.

The support for dreamers is bipartisan, and it shows up clearly and almost identically in surveys conducted by Fox News and CNN, among other media outlets, including The Post. Despite that, an array of bills that would protect dreamers from deportation, either by granting them a form of legal status or by putting them on short- or long-term pathways to citizenship, remain stalled in Congress.

The legislative inertia is all the more stupefying given the fact that a clear majority of lawmakers in both chambers on Capitol Hill would vote today to grant dreamers legal status or a route to citizenship. Last week, 34 Republicans in the House of Representatives wrote to Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) endorsing a "permanent legislative solution" for the nearly 700,000 immigrants whose protection from deportation, granted by the Obama administration under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, will lapse starting in March owing to a decision by President Trump. That’s more than enough GOP votes to ensure passage of a House bill to address the problem, given overwhelming Democratic support for such a move.

So far, though, Mr. Ryan seems to prefer a strategy of delay, deferral and dithering. He says he wants Congress to address the issue next year, free from the entanglements of other pressing year-end legislative business, including a spending package whose defeat would mean a government shutdown. But to many in Congress, his prescription sounds like a recipe for inaction — and, potentially, the deportation of thousands of dreamers as their DACA permits expire. In the Senate, that has led some Democrats to consider demanding a DACA fix as the price for their support on the spending bill — and avoiding a shutdown.

Why should it come to that? In the House, a bill introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and with 34 Republican co-sponsors would set dreamers on a 10-year pathway to citizenship. In the Senate, a measure with three Republican backers would set a 15-year timetable. Why not take a vote — now?

One answer is Mr. Trump, whose ever-shifting stance on extending protections for the dreamers has had a self-neutering effect. In January, citing his "big heart," he said they "shouldn’t be very worried," and in September he urged Congress to act to protect them. More recently, under the influence of anti-immigration hard-liners such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House aide Stephen Miller, he has switched to demanding an array of border-security measures, including construction of a wall on the frontier with Mexico, that are deal-killers for Democrats.

The dreamers, it seems, should in fact be very worried by what is happening in Washington. Under the deadline set by Mr. Trump, nearly 1,000 dreamers will lose their protection from deportation each day beginning March 5. At that point, a cohort of youngsters raised in this country will stop being bargaining chips; they will become part of an unfolding American tragedy. Congress should act now to forestall that completely avoidable, and inexcusable, outcome.



The New York Times

The big news in the art world the other day — and it was big — was the disclosure that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young Saudi heir who’s detained dozens of cousins and tycoons in an anti-corruption drive, was the mysterious buyer who paid a fortune for a distinctly non-Islamic Leonardo at an auction at Christie’s in New York City last month. The man who placed the bid on the crown prince’s behalf was a little-known cousin with a lot less money but a much longer name, Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud. There were companion reports that the painting would ultimately wind up in a museum in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ capital and the new challenger for culture bragging rights on the Persian Gulf.

All this was sourced to American intelligence officials and other unnamed persons who know a lot about the art world. It seemed consistent with the crown prince’s pattern of working through friends to make big purchases.

But hold on! Doubts have now arisen as to whether the crown prince was the true buyer, the man who actually shelled out $450.3 million for the painting, and for whom Prince Bader was a mere gofer. The Saudi Embassy in Washington said in a statement that the true buyer was the Ministry of Culture in Abu Dhabi, where the painting will hang in a newly opened branch of the Louvre, and that Prince Bader was, in fact, the ministry’s agent.

So what really do we know? One, the buyer at auction was Prince Bader, a close friend and associate of the crown prince. No one disputes that. Two, the museum in Abu Dhabi is definitely expecting to hang the painting on its walls. The unanswered question is this: For whom or what entity was Prince Bader acting? Another question: Why would the Saudis move so quickly to say the crown prince was not the moneyman?

One possible answer is the optics — the anomaly of the crown prince doling out $450.3 million for a painting, no matter how rare or wonderful, when he has so publicly and dramatically dedicated the first six months of his heir-apparency to imposing austerity measures and rooting out corruption.

Then there’s the fact that the painting’s subject, Salvator Mundi — Jesus Christ as the savior of the world — would seem certain to antagonize religious authorities in a stern Muslim kingdom like Saudi Arabia. Jesus is recognized as a prophet in Islam, not as God, but Islam bars making images of prophets. Prince Mohammed has been trying to loosen the imposition of strict Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, but it is hard to imagine that this would be the way to go about it. Then, finally, is the curiosity of a Saudi heir doling out close to a half-billion dollars on a painting for a museum in a neighboring emirate.

The architecturally striking Louvre Abu Dhabi opened last month to great fanfare (it leased the name from the Paris Louvre for 30 years), hoping to challenge the longstanding pre-eminence on the gulf art scene of Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. A bona fide Leonardo would be an indisputable prize — especially when it easily beat the record Doha had held for the most ever paid for a painting, roughly $300 million for a Gauguin. (It may be worth noting that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are currently locked in a vicious feud in which the United Arab Emirates supports the Saudis.)

So if one mystery has been solved — the identity of Prince Bader, agent extraordinaire — more have been raised. Was this a game of gulf one-upmanship, with more to follow? Can the royal wunderkind of Saudi Arabia square his spending with his reforms?



The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina

Justice was not swift, but it has been served.

On Dec. 8, U.S. District Judge David Norton sentenced former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager to 20 years in prison for the shooting death of Walter Scott, bringing to an end a painful chapter in the city’s history.

Mr. Norton’s decision came on the third day of testimony in a sentencing hearing after Mr. Slager pled guilty in May to federal civil rights charges. Mr. Slager shot Mr. Scott in the back five times in April 2015 as Mr. Scott was running away from police following a routine traffic stop.

Judge Norton had a wide range of sentencing options: Mr. Slager could have received a life sentence or he could have been set free.

It is frustrating that the case could not have been resolved in a state trial, which ended with a hung jury in December. Consequently, Mr. Slager, who is white, was sentenced under a federal civil rights violation of using excessive force to deprive Mr. Scott, a black man, of his rights under the law.

The underlying charge was second-degree murder, according to Judge Norton. The federal prison system does not have parole, meaning that Mr. Slager will have to serve his entire term, barring a successful appeal.

Mr. Slager’s guilty plea and his sentence mark milestones in the ongoing effort to bring greater accountability to police departments and address racial disparities in policing both here in the Lowcountry and nationwide.

It is a particularly critical moment for North Charleston.

The city still struggles with violence — this year has been its deadliest on record — and a strong and effective police department is as important as ever. But the work of keeping North Charleston residents safe will rightly proceed with supportive oversight from citizens who have stepped up to serve on a police review board.

Ever since cellphone video evidence surfaced revealing that Mr. Slager shot Mr. Scott in the back as he was fleeing, the North Charleston Police Department and city officials, including Mayor Keith Summey, acted commendably in condemning Mr. Slager’s actions and working to improve the city’s law enforcement.

The city’s swift and decisive action helped prevent the kind of unrest that has harmed other communities like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore. North Charleston set an example that other cities dealing with officer-involved shootings would be wise to follow.

But most importantly, Mr. Slager’s sentencing offers a chance for the Scott family and the North Charleston community as a whole to finally find closure after more than two years of heartbreak and waiting.

"He will never see me play high school football, never see me graduate," said Miles Scott, Mr. Scott’s youngest son, during the hearing. "My heart is destroyed because the way my father went was wrong."

Mr. Scott’s mother, Judy, also recounted her painful final conversation with Mr. Scott over the phone at the beginning of his encounter with the police. She forgave Mr. Slager. So did Mr. Scott’s brother, Anthony.

Moving on after the loss of a loved one and neighbor is not easy, particularly under such tragic circumstances. And Mr. Slager’s years in prison will not undo the pain he has caused.

But Mr. Scott’s family and friends, along with the rest of the Charleston area, can go forward in recognition that, finally, justice has been served.



China Daily

Having faced a lot of flak recently, US President Donald Trump may have found some relief in the widespread support he received for the new space policy directive he signed recently.

Promising to "restore American leadership in space", he called on Americans to imagine the possibilities of "daring to dream big" when he announced that his administration is planning to send astronauts to the moon once again.

It’s a smaller dream than his predecessor’s, for whom the moon was always a case of been there, done that. But then it is the more pragmatic way to get to Mars.

For without sufficient funding or help from nations such as China, NASA will not be capable of making the next giant leap for mankind, as a report by the National Research Council bluntly pointed out.

All Trump’s predecessors, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, dreamed of ambitious space missions to boldly go where no man had gone before, only for each of them to see their grandiose visions fall by the wayside, mainly because of the mammoth costs involved and budget constraints.

Trump’s business acumen may come in handy this time, as a White House statement said he will "create incentives" for private industry and cooperation with other nations is on the cards. There has already been talk of the United States and Russia collaborating on a lunar space station.

And it would certainly be a giant leap forward if the US could abandon its policy that bans NASA from engaging in bilateral agreements and coordination with China regarding space.

Although a latecomer to space, China has made tremendous progress. It is now on track to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 and build a space station around 2022.

While harking back to the times when the U.S. considered itself great having won the space race, Trump should bear in mind that times have changed. Investment in the space program will no doubt lead to increased job creation, innovation and military applications as the administration claims, but the U.S. should commit to the peaceful use of space and look to forge increased cooperation with other spacefaring countries.

For a future inspired by journeys of exploration and discovery among the stars has been a shared dream of humans since we first wondered about the heavens.