Let 2018’s games begin. In his New Year’s address, North Korea’s leader called for urgent peace talks with South Korea in advance of next month’s Winter Olympics, which his nation might join. South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed the invitation to what would be the first such negotiations in a decade. Kim continued to needle President Donald Trump, maintaining that his ICBMs can strike U.S. soil — a capability that’s a “reality, not a threat.” Trump responded, “We’ll see,” and experts warn that Moon’s eagerness could risk souring the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The message got lost. President Hassan Rouhani spoke yesterday about protests roiling Iran, saying people have the right to dissent, though not violently. But last night 10 people were reported killed in clashes in several cities, raising the unrest’s toll to 12. Iran’s biggest protests since 2009 have persisted since Thursday, starting with economic complaints but escalating to criticism of the Islamic Republic’s theocratic leaders. With opposition figures largely silenced, demonstrators have no obvious leaders and have been hindered by Iran’s reported blocking of social networks they’ve used to organize.
There were no survivors. A plane crash in the mountains of Costa Rica on New Year’s Eve killed everyone on board, including 10 American tourists and two local pilots. Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said her cousin was on board the small single-engine plane and local media reported that five victims were from the same family. Footage showed the burning plane in a forested area where it crashed shortly after taking off from the popular resort area of Punta Islita. Investigators are working to determine a cause.
Ring up the new year. Republicans in Congress recently passed tax cuts, largely benefiting corporations and the wealthy, expected to add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. But with a fight over the federal budget looming, many are arguing that education and public health programs may overextend the nation’s finances. Meanwhile, the tax code overhaul takes effect today, and though tax returns filed in April 2018 will be the last under the old system, the IRS is still expected to have to scramble to clarify murkier parts of the legislation.
Know This: Chief Justice John Roberts has called on the federal court system to do more to protect its own employees from harassment. Five Colorado police officers were wounded, one fatally, in a confrontation with a man who fired more than 100 rounds at authorities. And Belgium and the Netherlands have shifted their borders, slightly increasing Dutch land area — prompted by the discovery of a headless body on the transferred land.
Remember This Number: 40 percent. That’s how much Venezuela’s opted to raise its minimum wage, a move that’s expected to worsen already soaring inflation.
Productivity Playlist 2018: Start the new year off on a positive note with classic songs that will inspire you to get up and get moving — at least until the Super Bowl. Happy holidays from Sony and OZY.
The planet’s going to make its mark. Five of the world’s 10 most populous countries — that’s over 800 million people — will head to the polls for national elections in 2018. And more people than ever before in human history, a third of the world’s population, will vote for their leaders between March, when Russia is widely expected to re-elect Vladimir Putin, and polls 12 months later in India and Indonesia. Populist politicians tested representative government in 2016 and 2017, but the next 15 months could be democracy’s final exam.
A price must be paid. Ben Wallace, Britain’s security minister, suggested taxing Facebook and Google if they remain “less than cooperative” when it comes to fighting extremist content. “We should stop pretending that because they sit on beanbags in T-shirts they are not ruthless profiteers,” said Wallace, pointing out that the UK government spends millions countering messages spread via social media. Meanwhile, a new law’s come into effect in Germany that fines social media companies up to $60 million if they don’t remove illegal posts — including hate speech.
This won’t hurt a bit. Scientists will begin collecting information — from blood samples to fitness data — from one million American volunteers in a pilot project aimed at uncovering clues about human health. The All of Us initiative will gather data spanning at least a decade and store it in electronic databases that could eventually hold medical information from 34 million people across the country. While supporters say it’s a great way to monitor and combat diseases, critics argue that spending research money on sick people would be more effective.
Jai no. Normally successful Bollywood films, relying on big stars and huge dance numbers, had a tough 2017. And industry insiders say it wasn’t simply an off-year: Big-budget flicks are increasingly competing with smaller, critically acclaimed offerings or regional-language fare as people’s tastes change in India and abroad. American films are also making inroads, with blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok filling Indian theaters. And to keep up, the business is starting to rely on less ostentatious films, to focus on streaming and favor content over the bottom line.
Better luck this year. The Cleveland Browns became the second NFL team ever to lose an entire 16-game season after their 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on New Year’s Eve. Only the 2008 Detroit Lions have equaled that level of imperfection. Coach Hue Jackson, who has a 1-31 record with the team, will return next season, promising, “We’re going to get this thing fixed.” At least his team will be rewarded with the first draft pick — for the second season in a row.