It’s a waiting game. The meeting, barely imaginable before Kim Jong Un’s Jan. 1 message, will focus on North Korea’s potential inclusion in next month’s Winter Olympics. As a peaceful gesture, South Korea’s postponed joint military exercises with the U.S. scheduled to take place during the games, while President Donald Trump responded on Twitter to take credit for North Korea’s willingness to come to the table. Though the Hermit Kingdom only has two qualified athletes who could participate, both figure skaters, it could also send officials to round out a delegation.
The Presidential Daily Brief
There’s some new offshore accounting. The Trump administration announced a plan to open nearly all of America’s coastal waters for oil and gas drilling, including more than 1 billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard. But governors in a number of coastal states oppose the move — a rollback of an Obama-era ban — including Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he would speak with state leaders before the change is finalized, which experts predict could take as long as 18 months.
Nothing comes free. After President Trump tweeted about Pakistan’s failure to fight terrorism this week, Pakistani officials derided what they saw as Trump placing blame on other nations for U.S. weakness in Afghanistan. Now the U.S. State Department says security aid will be suspended, except on a case-by-case basis, depriving Pakistan of at least $900 million in 2017 funds. Civilian aid won’t be affected. The White House says it will wait and see if Pakistan takes “concrete steps” to confront the Afghan Taliban and other terrorist networks in the region.
It’s a bull market, but there are red flags. The longest-running positive upswing for the American market since the turn of the century hasn’t kept investors excited: Surveys indicate that stock ownership has declined precipitously, with older Americans fearing for their retirement funds and younger ones raised during the financial crisis distrusting the system or too poor to get into the game. Meanwhile, analysts say the protracted bull market is certain to make a correction — and those not betting on a sharp drop could lose their shirts.
Know This: Apple says all its devices are affected by newly discovered chip flaw Spectre, though some are protected against Meltdown, which only affects Intel chips. Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open. And it’s raining iguanas in Florida as an unusual cold snap shuts down the cold-blooded creatures, who perch in trees, and sends them tumbling until warmer temperatures can reanimate them.
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There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Though President Trump’s lawyers said yesterday they’d try to stop publication of Fire and Fury, a tell-all from journalist Michael Wolff, publisher Henry Holt moved up the release date to today. Crowds lined up at midnight at one Washington, D.C., bookstore, and the book — based on hundreds of hours of interviews and generally painting the White House as incompetent and disorganized — sold out there in minutes. Though some claim Wolff reported them inaccurately, the journalist says he has tapes to back it up.
Go figure. The new largest known prime number, discovered using a computer running prime-seeking software, was found by multiplying 2 by itself 77,232,917 times and then subtracting 1. Written in shorthand as M77232917, it’s almost 1 million digits longer than the last confirmed prime. It took the computer six days to find and 291 hours to verify, but landed Jonathan Pace, an electrical engineer in Tennessee, $3,000 (and everlasting glory) for the discovery. Experts estimate it may take 15 years to hit the 100 million-digit milestone.
Don’t read the comments. Each year the Vienna Hospital Association announces the city’s first birth: In 2018, it was Baby Asel, born at 12:47 a.m. Jan. 1. But the photo of Asel and her beaming parents, including her mother in a headscarf, received a tirade of racist abuse online. Austria’s seen a shift toward the far right, with the radical Freedom Party nearly winning a recent presidential election. But the abuse also prompted an outpouring of support as Austrians noted that targeting a newborn is “a completely new dimension of online hate.”
He’ll face the Fox. Thiel, an early supporter of both Facebook and President Trump, reportedly wants to launch a new conservative network, backed by Republican media luminaries and cash from hedge fund mogul Robert Mercer — who recently announced he’s selling his stake in Breitbart News. Thiel financed the lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker Media, reportedly as part of a personal vendetta, and has since bid on the defunct site’s archives. He was reportedly working on his network plans with deposed Fox chairman Roger Ailes until his death last year.
He’s out in the cold. Pita Taufatofua, who competed in taekwondo during the 2016 Summer Olympics, made an impression when he walked out shirtless and well-oiled bearing the Tongan flag during opening ceremonies. Now Taufatofua is one race away from qualifying as a cross-country skier — a sport he picked up only a year ago — for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. While Taufatofua’s been able to do many qualifying races on roller skis, his last race will be on snow in Poland this weekend.