The World and Everything in It — December 30, 2019

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

An international custody dispute before the Supreme Court has the justices grappling with matters of the law and the heart.

GINSBURG: She alleged that she was abused,  if she wants to escape domestic violence, she has to leave her child behind.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Legal Docket. 

Also, the Monday Moneybeat: our economic engine continues humming along, propelled by robust consumer spending, and more record-setting days for Wall Street.

Plus, the WORLD Radio History Book. Today, the anniversary of the handover of the Panama Canal. 

CARTER: An international waterway of great importance to us all.

And WORLD founder Joel Belz on what this journalistic endeavor might look like in 2020.

REICHARD: It’s Monday, December 30th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

REICHARD: Now the news.

MARY REICHARD: Church shooting in Texas » Armed members of a church near Fort Worth, Texas, stopped what might have become a mass shooting Sunday morning.

A live web stream of the service at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement captured the violence as it unfolded. The video shows a gunman wearing a long coat sitting on the left side of the sanctuary. During the sermon he stood up and pulled out a shotgun. He fired twice before church members took action.

White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering called them heroes.

BEVERING: A couple members of the church returned fire, striking the suspect, who died at the scene. Tragically, the person shot by the suspect died at a local hospital. And a second parishioner has life-threatening injuries.

A spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Department called it a tragic day.

DRIVDAHL: Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families that were affected by this incident. We will continue to pray for them and continue to do everything we can for them. As far as the shooter, the motive and everything like that, we don’t have that at this time.

A church elder who spoke to The New York Times said he did not recognize the gunman and that the shooting appeared random.

NICK EICHER: Stabbing at Hanukkah celebration in New York » Meanwhile in New York, prosecutors have charged a 37-year-old man with five counts of attempted murder after he barged into a rabbi’s home and began stabbing people. The machete attack happened on Saturday—the seventh night of Hanukkah.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in the state since December 8th.

CUOMO: This is violence spurred by hate. It is mass violence. And I consider this an act of domestic terrorism.

Police say they do not know what motivated the attack or why the man targeted that particular house in the Orthodox Jewish community of Monsey. A witness who saw the attacker flee wrote down his car’s license plate number. Police quickly tracked him down in Manhattan and arrested him.

REICHARD: Truck bomb kills 79 in Somalia » AUDIO: [Sound of Somalian siren]

At least 79 people are dead in Somalia after a Saturday morning bombing at a busy intersection in Mogadishu. A truck filled with explosives detonated at a busy checkpoint during rush-hour.

At least 125 people suffered injuries. A military transport plane flew some of the most severely wounded to Turkey for treatment.

Many of those killed were students returning to class after the holiday break. Government officials quickly blamed Islamic terror group al-Shabaab—though it has not claimed responsibility. Al-Shabaab was also blamed for a similar attack in 2017. It killed more than 500.

KHAIRE: [Speaking Somali]

In a video address to the nation, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire pledged assistance to those affected. He added that terrorists will not undermine civilian morale.

EICHER: Taliban agrees to a cease-fire in Afghanistan » The Taliban’s ruling council has agreed to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan. That could pave the way for a peace deal to end America’s longest-running military conflict.

U.S. officials had demanded a cease-fire before any peace deal could be signed. An agreement seemed close in September, but an increase in Taliban attacks put an end to negotiations. Talks resumed in late November after President Trump made a surprise visit to the country.

Once a peace deal is in place, Afghans on both sides of the long-running conflict will have to figure out how to structure a new government. But first, they’ll have to reach a deal to end the fighting between Taliban and government forces.

REICHARD: New Russian weapon can travel 27 times the speed of sound » AUDIO: [Sound of Russian missile launching] Russia has a new weapon system the government claims will render existing missile defenses “useless.” As of Friday, the hypersonic missile system is now in service. 

The intercontinental weapon can fly 27 times the speed of sound and make sharp maneuvers en route to its target. It greatly increases the country’s nuclear strike capability. 

PUTIN: [Speaking Russian]

President Vladimir Putin recently compared the hypersonic missile program to the 1957 launch of Sputnik. He said Russia is not only “catching up” but surpassing all other nations. No one else has hypersonic capabilities—though China and the United States are working on it. 

The Pentagon announced this fall that it’s still a few years away from a working weapon.

EICHER: Chinese court puts Early Rain pastor on trial » A well-known Chinese pastor spent the day after Christmas in court.

The Chinese government confirmed over the weekend that Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church was tried in Chengdu on Thursday. 

None of his family or church members were invited to the proceeding. According to one witness, plainclothes police officers surrounded the court, and only government appointed lawyers were allowed in the trial. The verdict has not been made public.

Authorities arrested the pastor a little over a year ago on a charge of “inciting subversion.” He faced a charge this summer of “illegal business activity.” Wang is a former legal scholar and outspoken critic of China’s persecution of Christians. Before Wang’s arrest, Early Rain was one of China’s most influential house churches.

Straight ahead on Legal Docket: three cases at the Supreme Court, including one on international child custody.

Plus, another week of record highs on Wall Street.

This is The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: It’s Monday morning and we’re back to a regular schedule for The World and Everything in It. Today is the 30th of December, 2019. Good morning to you, I’m Nick Eicher. 

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. It’s good to be back into the routine of things! Did you enjoy your Christmas break for the day or two you had? Eating your “re-jitas” as I heard you tell Megan on Friday?

EICHER: Yeah, we had plenty of food …

REICHARD: Excellent. So did I. Lots of family time, lots of food. And now for the newly necessary New Year’s Resolutions! Lose weight. Well, lose physical weight. I want to gain spiritual weight.

EICHER: I like it! I’ll aspire to the same.

Well, time to get back to work. The Supreme Court returns for oral arguments in two weeks.  So we’ll use that time to catch up as much as possible.

REICHARD: We will. Today, three cases. 

And this first one asks a question at the core of a heartrending situation: Where should a child born to an estranged international couple be raised?

Here are the facts. 

The father, Domenico Taglieri, is an Italian citizen who was studying in Chicago when he met American Michelle Monasky. They married in the United States in 2011 and moved to Milan two years later. 

Their relationship deteriorated. Monasky became pregnant in 2014. She says Taglieri abused her. She wanted a divorce. After living in a domestic-abuse safe house in Italy for a time, Monasky returned to the United States with their two-month old baby.

EICHER: But Taglieri wanted the baby back with him in Italy. An Italian court terminated the mother’s parental rights. Then Taglieri sued in United States federal court under part of the Hague Convention. 

That treaty says a child wrongfully removed from the child’s country of habitual residence must be returned to that country. 

Pay attention to the phrase “habitual residence.” 

The lower courts found that evidenced by several facts: the parents looked for an au pair in Italy. They established their child with a doctor in Italy. They found jobs in Italy.

REICHARD: Based on that reasoning, the courts handed victory to the father. Monasky complied and took their daughter back. By that point, the girl was two years old. 

Monasky then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In court documents, the child is known by her initials, “A.M.T.” 

Her lawyer, Amir Tayrani, agreed with the Hague Convention’s purpose: that of protecting children from the harmful effects of wrongful removal from a country.

TAYRANI: In this case, however, the Convention was applied to separate two-year-old A.M.T. from her mother, the only caregiver A.M.T. had ever known, and to return the child to Italy, a country where A.M.T. had spent only the first eight weeks of her life.

Tayrani is essentially saying an infant can have no habitual residence. And Chief Justice John Roberts agreed, finding the whole concept meaningless in this context:

ROBERTS: Well, that’s kind of a meaningless concept, where the child usually lives, if you’re talking about somebody who’s eight-weeks-old…. I mean, it’s not as if they’d laid down roots….Eight-year-old — eight-week-old infants don’t have habits, well, other than one or two, but — (Laughter.) — but it doesn’t seem to me that that’s the notion that the Convention drafters were looking at.

Still, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reminded the court that the whole idea of the Hague Convention was to discourage a parent from unilaterally taking a child out of the country. If you don’t include infants, you cut out much of the treaty’s protection.

But Tayrani had a distinction to make:

TAYRANI: First of all, we’re talking in this case only about infants. Older children are evaluated under a different standard and in all likelihood based on their connections their acclimatization to the country in which they reside they would have a country of habitual residence.

But the father’s lawyer, Andrew Pincus, argued what that matters is where the child lived with both of her parents. And that’s Italy, her “habitual residence” at the time her mother tried to take her away. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could see another dark side in this exchange with Pincus, again lawyer for the father:

GINSBURG: — In this case — and it’s a troublesome case because she alleged that she was abused, so you’re putting that mother in the position of, if she wants to escape domestic violence, she has to leave her child behind.

PINCUS: Well, she…can escape domestic violence by separating from her husband and staying in the country…before she left, she spent two weeks …in safe houses under the protection of the mechanisms that Italy has for that purpose. So I don’t think that…the test requires that she stay with the husband.

Most justices seemed reluctant to take on the role of lower courts. Listen to Justice Stephen Breyer suggest the nine people on the high court step aside in this:

BREYER: This is family law. You know, families differ. They’re vast differences. Don’t treat these words ‘habitual residence’ as if it’s like a black-letter tax code. They’re more like a factual matter. And let the judge who’s closest to it, … let them hear all the evidence and decide it. And that’s it … . And as soon as nine people who know—I, speaking for myself, know very little about this, start laying down black-letter standards, all we’re going to do is maybe help people in some cases and just cause chaos and hardship in others.

The child is now nearly five years old, having spent the last three years in Italy. So “habitual residence” may depend on where you put your finger on the timeline of her life. 

Either way, a very hard case.

This next dispute asks the question: Who owns a tax refund? A really big tax refund: $4 million. 

Here, a bank and its subsidiaries file joint tax returns. The bank got that big tax refund check. But a subsidiary says it is the rightful owner of the money because the tax refund was based on its operating losses.

The bank and subsidiaries signed a contract allocating taxes among themselves, but they don’t agree on what it means. And these banks are in bankruptcy proceedings, making matters even more complicated.

So who does own the $4 million tax refund? The subsidiary’s lawyer, Michael Huston, laid it out in plain language:

HUSTON: Think about an example where my coworkers appoint me as their agent to go to the deli and pick up lunch. They say, Michael, you will be our agent. The order at the deli will  be placed in your name. Bring us back the sandwiches and bring us back the change, too. When I’m on my way back to the office, if I suddenly declare bankruptcy, everyone understands that the sandwiches and the change are the property of my coworkers. They don’t become part of my bankruptcy estate.

Lawyer Huston making the point that the subsidiary is like those co-workers; they still own the money. Just like the subsidiary still owns the tax refund.

It seemed to me that the justices are likely to kick this case back to lower court, because the parties wound up agreeing with one another on a key point. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch put it this way:

GORSUCH: Who cares about the refund in this case? All right. I know you guys care terribly about it. I know your colleagues on the other side care terribly about it.  But the Supreme Court of the United States is here to resolve circuit splits on questions of law.

And now for our final case today. This one involves IBM employees who invested their 401(k)s in company stock. 

They say fund managers failed to do their jobs. This, after company stock dropped big time once it came out that IBM’s microchip-making division was overvalued. Fund managers didn’t disclosed that overvaluation.  They hadn’t prevented participants from buying the stock. And that, employees say, is a breach of fiduciary duty to protect retirement savings from fraud, according to ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

So, they sued the fund managers. 

But the fund managers say ERISA doesn’t require them to disclose insider corporate information. That would violate other laws.

Fund manager lawyer Paul Clement seemed to have the upper hand. ERISA law isn’t the solution to this problem, he argued. Securities law is. 

And in typical Clement fashion, he pounded on that in his close:

CLEMENT: One thing I want to be emphatic that I disagree with my friend on the other side is he says that the reason that we want these insiders to serve as fiduciaries is so they can be sort of canaries in the coal mine. They can take early action based on their unique access to inside information. That is absolutely wrong.  All these funds are set up to make sure that doesn’t happen. Because if that did happen, these would all be latent security violations.

This area of the law is a mess. That’s why it comes up so often at the high court. Just this term, the justices will hear three ERISA disputes. 

And that’s this week’s Legal Docket!

MARY REICHARD: Coming next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.

NICK EICHER: Let’s talk about consumer spending. This is the big driver of gross domestic product. 

In macroeconomic analysis, this crucial consumer-spending number is personal consumption expenditures, PCEs. For the month of November, PCEs grew at the fastest annual rate since July. If you compare consumer spending to last year, it’s 4 percent higher.

This number accounts for about 70 percent of GDP, and you may remember consumer spending actually dipped last December and that put a damper on an otherwise solid year in 2018. This year’s been not great, but good, and the indications so far are that consumer spending has continued to expand in December, and that’ll show up when all the data are counted later next month.

Personal income rose half a percentage point after another big surge in jobs. And the Atlanta branch of the Federal Reserve reported that pay for the bottom quarter of workers rose at a higher rate than for the top 25 percent. The lowest-wage workers saw pay go up 4-1/2 percent year on year versus the highest-wage workers, just shy of 3 percent. That’s consistent with the tight labor market, where employers are having to compete for workers by offering fatter paychecks.

REICHARD: More records set on Wall Street, nine in total last week, even with the holiday-shortened trading week. 

The major stock indexes set records three of the four trading days. It was the fifth straight winning week for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the 11th over the last 12 weeks, and the 35th time it set a new record high this year. 

The S&P 500 is within striking distance today and tomorrow to post a 30 percent increase on the year. It needs to pick up just 7/10s to pull that off.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq is the runaway best performer of all the major indexes. It’s picked up more than 35 percent in value this year already, crossing the 7,000, then the 8,000, and last week the 9,000 mark.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up a solid 23 percent on the year and ended the week on an all-time high.

EICHER: The housing market continues its recovery. Sales of newly built homes went up in November 1.3 percent over the previous month. So far this year, new-home sales are up almost 10 percent. 

Again, it’s a function of the solid jobs market and rising wages, but also a function of lower mortgage interest. The Federal Reserve has cut the federal funds rate this year three-quarters of a percent, and that’s had a ripple effect at the consumer level. 

As a result, loans to finance home purchases are cheaper. The average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage is now under three and three quarters percent, versus more than four and a half a year ago. Bottom line, the difference in principal plus interest on the median home price is close to a $150-a-month in savings.

And that is today’s Monday Moneybeat.

NICK EICHER: It may not have occurred to you that snowball fights could be criminal acts, but in Wausau, Wisconsin just they might be. 

A city ordinance says, “no person shall throw or shoot any object, arrow, stone, snowball or other missile or projectile, by hand or by any other means, at any other person or at, in or into any building, street, sidewalk, alley, highway, park, playground or other public place within the city.”

Well, then!

But apparently the ordinance, which seems pretty straightforward, is misunderstood.

MIELKE: Hello, I’m Robert Mielke, mayor of the great city of Wausau. Recently, a national magazine or media source had mentioned that Wausau is not a fun city. That can’t be true!

To prove it, he staged a snowball fight with Wausau police officers on public property in gross violation, seemingly, of this misunderstood city ordinance.

But the city says the ordinance wasn’t meant to restrict a reasonable person’s fun. It’s only been enforced for snowballs a few times when people threw them at passing cars.

So, let the fun begin.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Monday, December 30th, 2019. You’re listening to The World and Everything in It, and we are glad you are! Good morning to you!  I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book. Today, just two stories. 

Twenty years ago, the United States handover of control of the Panama Canal. But first, we head to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the wedding of a couple who eventually become the President and First Lady. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today on December 30th, 1852. Lucy Ware Webb marries lawyer Rutherford B. Hayes. The small ceremony occurs in her parent’s Cincinnati home. 

The couple met seven years earlier at Ohio Wesleyan University when Lucy was just 14. Hayes found her attractive, but too young to court. They crossed paths again five years later at the wedding of a mutual friend. Rutherford was so taken with her, that when he found the gold ring in his piece of wedding cake, he gave it to her. At their engagement two years later, she returned the ring to him and he wore it the rest of his life.   

During the Civil War, Lucy was a regular visitor to her husbands unit. She cared for the wounded and comforted the dying. The men of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry nicknamed her “Mother Lucy.” Though today she’s more widely known by another nickname she earned as first lady. She was called: “Lemonade Lucy.” As committed Methodists, the Hayes prohibited alcohol in the Executive Mansion. 

Here’s historian Richard Norton Smith from a 2014 presentation at the Dole Institute of Politics. 

SMITH: Well, you know, it’s interesting. She’s much more than “Lemonade Lucy.” She’s more than the first lady who started the Easter Egg Roll. All of that is part of her historical resume. She was, at the time, saluted as the “New Woman” She is the first first lady to graduate from college. So there was a sense that she was breaking down educational barriers. Barriers to opportunity. She was a great temperance advocate, indeed the president was as well. She was also a modernizer. 

Lucy Hayes is one of the first presidential spouses to be widely referred to as the “first lady.” She is credited for influencing her husband’s views on many social and religious matters. During their time in Washington D.C., they started each day in prayer together. They also organized Sunday evening worship services at their residence. 

They moved back to Ohio at the end of his term, and they lived there the rest of their lives. Rutherford and Lucy Hayes were married for 36 years. She died in 1889, and he died three years later. They are buried together, along with their family dog and two favorite horses buried nearby. 

And finally, 20 years ago, at the Panama Canal.

After 85 years of U.S. control of the man-made waterway connecting the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, many world dignitaries gather for a December 14th hand-over ceremony. Former President Jimmy Carter attends the event on behalf of the United States.


Carter says: “It’s a great honor…to be here on this significant occasion. We are witnessing an event which shows the new relationship between your country and mine and is so important for the whole of Latin America.”

The process began more than two decades earlier when Carter served as president. It started as a series of treaties between the United States and Panama. Here’s Jimmy Carter speaking in 1977:

CLIP: We are here to participate in the signing of treaties which will assure a peaceful, prosperous, and secure future for an international waterway of great importance to us all. 

The first treaty guaranteed neutrality of the canal and the perpetual right of the United States to “defend it from any threat that might interfere with its service to all nations.” The second treaty set a December 31st, 1999, date for autonomous Panamanian control of the canal. America ratified both treaties in 1978. 

AUDIO: [Sound of vessel going through the canal]

Today, about 14,000 ships travel the canal each year. The crossing takes more than 11 hours as vessels navigate through 12 locks. In 2016, Panama finished a major overhaul to allow even larger ships—and more of them—to make the trip. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers ranked the Panama Canal as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

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

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. As you no doubt have heard, this is our December Giving Drive. We are in the neighborhood of 90 percent of our goal, but we’re down to the final two days, today and tomorrow, to reach that goal—and so we turn now to our founder Joel Belz, to make the case.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: If I’ve heard the question once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: “Joel, of all the projects you’ve got going at WORLD, which one most deserves my financial help?” It’s almost like hearing: “Of your five daughters, which has given you your favorite grandchildren?”

The truth is that—just as I delight in all my grandchildren—all three of our divisions are undertaking major projects that will need member-support. If it weren’t for your support along the way, we couldn’t even consider these projects, let alone start them. 

Now, we need you to help us get them completed. 

God’s World News, our news division for students, has helped millions of elementary and secondary students relate the truth of the Bible to world news. But today, young people are exposed and accustomed to so much more media than ever before.

That’s why in the new year we are launching WORLDWatch(2020), a daily 10-minute video newscast designed expressly for middle-and-high-schoolers in traditional Christian schools and home schools. Students are more than ever soaking up life-shaping information through video. WORLD­Watch aims to use that powerful medium to foster the same skills and habits of discernment and Biblical critical thinking that have always applied to reading.

WORLDWatch is scheduled to go into full production at the beginning of the next school year in August, and we’ve got a lot of work to do before then.

Our WORLD division publishes the paper and ink magazine you probably already know about. WORLD also publishes daily news for your digital consumption, and produces The World and Everything in ItThe Olasky Interview, a seasonal program of interviews conducted by Marvin Olasky; and Listening In, a weekly interview program.

We plan to launch a new 12-episode season of an all-new podcast, Effective Compassion, that will tell the stories of organizations fighting poverty in a way that is challenging, personal, and spiritual. Later in the year we hope to roll out an additional podcast or two—stay tuned to see what shape those take.

You should also be looking for a newly redesigned WORLD Magazine hitting your mailbox next year. I’ve heard that it will be bigger (in terms of pages), brighter, and more readable. Sounds great!

Finally, there’s World Journalism Institute, which offers intensive training for aspiring journalists, for work at WORLD, and, importantly, at mainstream news organizations, where our alumni are often the only Christian presence in their newsrooms.

We’ve been able to train domestically, we have just completed our second year of training journalists in China, thanks to your support. This small-scale effort barely scratches the surface of the need there, but it’s a start.              

Perhaps you’ll have one of these specific projects in mind as you consider giving to WORLD this year. Perhaps you will say, “Just do more of what you’re doing.” 

May I strongly urge you to make a gift in support of our work? Gifts of $25, $50, and $100 will help lay a solid foundation. And, as I do every year, I’m also looking for a handful of folks who will commit to $5,000 each year for the next three years. WORLD’s mission is that important! I hope you’ll share our urgency.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: The Olasky Interview—a conversation with a former inspector general in the U.S. government. Brian Miller is now senior associate counsel to President Trump, and you’ll hear from him, and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: 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.

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Go now in grace and peace.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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