He’s had a good run. After more than 40 years in the U.S. Senate, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah has announced he won’t seek re-election this year. That leaves former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney — a prominent Trump critic who’s reportedly considering a Senate bid — free to run for the 83-year-old’s seat. Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator, currently chairs the Senate Finance Committee, and is also president pro tempore of the body. “I may be leaving the Senate,” he said, “but the next chapter in my public service is just beginning.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
Can they stick the landing? On Monday, Kim Jong Un unexpectedly declared that he was ready to negotiate the North’s participation in the South Korean-hosted Winter Olympics. Now Seoul’s reunification minister’s proposing meeting in the historic truce village between the two nations. It’s seen as a groundbreaking chance to ease tensions over the North’s nuclear weapons testing and threats, which South Korean President Moon Jae-in insists be included in any discussions. But experts say that topic, plus Kim’s demand that Seoul cancel spring military exercises with the U.S., are likely dealbreakers.
The unrest is history, they say. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has blamed his country’s biggest protests in eight years on presumably foreign “enemies,” while officials say 450 people have been arrested in Tehran over five days. Of 20 known deaths, nine perished in overnight clashes, most of them during an attack on a police station. Now Tehran’s Revolutionary Court says punishments for protesters — who’ve been calling for the removal of corrupt officials and frustrated by economic hardship — will be harsher going forward.
He must have made a resolution. In President Donald Trump’s first tweet of the new year, he accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit,” claiming the nation harbors terrorists. Trump said the U.S. was foolish to have provided Pakistan with more than $33 billion in aid, and reports last week indicate the U.S. may withhold a planned $255 million payment to the country. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif dismissed Trump’s outburst as frustration over “the U.S. defeat” in Afghanistan, while U.S. ambassador David Hale was reportedly summoned to meet with Pakistani authorities over the tweet.
The brakes are off. Though the Trump administration has rolled back a relatively small number of regulations, some business leaders say the optimism engendered by knowing further restrictions are unlikely during Trump’s term has boosted the economy. While regulatory rollbacks haven’t been shown to boost growth by themselves, some analysts say knowing they won’t have to cope with more costs from avoiding environmental impacts or deceptive marketing practices, for instance, may give business decision makers confidence. That could boost hiring — and even potentially raise long-stagnant wages.
Know This: The ballet master of the New York City Ballet is retiring after several dancers came forward to accuse him of physical abuse and sexual harassment. American YouTube star Logan Paul has apologized after apparently filming the body of a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. And former Fox News anchor and 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson has been named chair of the pageant organization after several leaders were forced out over an email scandal.
Dodge This: China’s first space station, the Tiangong-1, will fall to Earth this spring after several years in space. Experts estimate the chances of getting hit by space debris as astronomically low: It’s only happened to one known person, and she wasn’t seriously injured.
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.
What did they expect? A new study shows local development, in addition to climate change, helped magnify the devastation of Southern California’s recent spate of wildfires. Researchers point to homebuilding in highly flammable areas as contributing to the record-setting Thomas Fire’s destruction of thousands of homes and other buildings across more than 280,000 acres. Determining better placement of homes is the most straightforward solution, although experts also say this approach needs to be tailored to local communities — and should include contingency plans for managing post-fire landscapes wisely.
Ready, aim, campfire. The high-octane world of venture capitalism can be stressful and uncertain, so a growing number of getaways for tech titans are aimed not just at developing leadership skills, but often at helping tightly wound participants to chill. These supercharged meet ’n’ greets, sometimes called “adult summer camps,” can cost $10,000 per person. They give new meaning to the “Work hard, play hard” ethos by providing a chance to party, network and examine mistakes — though some note that the gatherings are often overwhelmingly white and male.
It was the elephant in the room. Last year, China agreed to ban the domestic sale and processing of ivory, and this week those measures went into force, officially shutting down one of the world’s two largest ivory markets. The other, the U.S., implemented a similar ban in 2016. Now it’s up to enforcers’ diligence to make sure demand for ivory products continues to drop. But the new ban alone won’t stop elephant poaching, cautioned conservationists, as China’s neighbors now need to follow suit to control cross-border trafficking.
“Dear Sisters…” That’s how the “Time’s Up” campaign began its pledge — backed by over 300 women in entertainment, including stars Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera and Shonda Rhimes — to combat sexual misconduct and inequality in all industries. The project’s created a legal defense fund, headed by high-profile attorneys, to help those without deep pockets fight abuse. Nearly 3,000 donors contributed $13.7 million of a $15 million goal on Go Fund Me, with the aim of helping victims ranging from Hollywood hopefuls to undocumented field hands.
Time to fill the beer hats. Georgia and Alabama will face each other in the college football championship after winning their respective bowls yesterday. In Pasadena, the Georgia Bulldogs outlasted the Oklahoma Sooners 54-48 in the first-ever (double) overtime Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide avenged last year’s title-game loss and quieted talk of their decline, crushing the No. 1-ranked Clemson Tigers 24-6 in New Orleans’ Sugar Bowl. Now tickets for Atlanta’s Jan. 8 national championship game have become an investment — selling for a minimum $3,000.