Hello, neighbor. North and South Korean officials reached a breakthrough today in their first direct diplomatic contact since 2015, with Pyongyang agreeing to send a group of athletes and officials to the Pyeongchang Olympics next month. The talks are being held in the demilitarized zone “truce village” of Panmunjom, where Seoul proposed discussing the North’s nuclear program and the future of international sanctions against Pyongyang. South Korea is also pushing for family reunifications of those on either side of the DMZ during the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s going all the way to the top. Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly told White House lawyers he’ll likely seek an interview with President Donald Trump as part of his ongoing investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump’s legal team has repeatedly said the president has nothing to hide, but they’re expected to try to negotiate certain ground rules — for example, having Trump respond to written questions instead of a face-to-face interview. If Trump refuses an interview, he could be subpoenaed.
They’ll have to yearn to breathe free somewhere else. After two devastating earthquakes hit El Salvador in 2001, Salvadoran immigrants were given temporary protected status in the U.S. — and that status has been extended incrementally ever since. But now the Trump administration, as part of its immigration crackdown, has decreed an end to that protection in September 2019. That means some 200,000 Salvadorans, many of whom have built businesses and families over nearly two decades in the U.S., will have to either leave or apply for legal residency.
“If anybody could bring us together, it’s her.” So said South Carolina state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, one of many Democrats whose curiosity about Oprah Winfrey’s potential candidacy was piqued after her fiery speech at the Golden Globes Sunday night. There are no signs that Winfrey, a self-made billionaire with no political background, has begun an exploratory campaign for 2020. But political operatives on both sides say she’d be a powerful, popular opponent to President Trump’s expected 2020 campaign — though many are wary of empty celebrity candidacies.
Know This: James Damore, the fired Google engineer who wrote the infamous memo alleging that women are less biologically fit to work in tech than men, has filed suit against the company for discriminating against conservative white men. The prime minister of Thailand has set up a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself and told reporters to direct questions to it. And women in China are speaking out about sexual harassment under the hashtag #WoYeShi.
Read This: Inspired by a cat who could mysteriously predict which patients were going to die, some scientists are working on an algorithm that can sense impending doom.
Talk to Us: Tell us how you really feel. Our electrifying TV show, Third Rail With OZY, is shelving the PC and whipping up debates. Each week we’re posting a provocative question, and we want you to weigh in. This week: Should we make prisoners work for free? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts, and we might feature your answer next week.
There’s no going back to black. Officials in Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, have been impounding black cars for weeks without warning owners — a campaign apparently rooted in President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s preference for white cars, which he believes bring better fortune. It’s bad luck for drivers in the impoverished Central Asian nation, though, where the average worker earns just $300 a month and repainting a car could cost a year’s salary. The move is part of a long history of often bizarre policies in Turkmenistan that cater to leaders’ dictatorial whims.
Read it and weep. New York’s Department of Corrections has enacted a policy in three prisons that only lets inmates’ friends and family send items from six approved vendors. Between them, those vendors offer just 77 books, including 24 coloring books, five romance novels and no other fiction. The directive, which also prohibits fresh produce and gifts for inmates, could be expanded to other prisons. Meanwhile, New Jersey lifted a ban on prisoners reading The New Jim Crow, a bestseller on race and incarceration, after the ACLU complained about censorship.
Mind the gap. A new study shows the U.S. infant mortality rate from 2001 to 2010 was 76 percent higher than the combined rate across 19 other rich countries. While some of that’s explained by different reporting standards for severely premature births, researchers mostly blamed America’s weak social safety net and complex, expensive health care system. Mortality rates for children and adolescents aged 1-19 were also 57 percent higher, primarily due to gun deaths. With no policy changes in sight, the gap is expected to widen further.
Are they virtual or reality? A new crop of digital personalities blur that distinction, curating widely followed social media accounts and even standing in as members of real-life pop groups. While artificial intelligence and cybernetics have been helping doctors and other professionals solve real-world problems, avatars could also serve as pioneers in the entertainment world. But unlike Hollywood science fiction, these digital creatures often turn out more introspective — more human — than expected. And the technology comes with the risk of digitally hijacking real peoples’ voices and images.
Roll tide! Alabama won its fifth title in nine years under Nick Saban with a victory over the Georgia Bulldogs last night in Atlanta to claim the College Football Playoff National Championship. President Trump was met with a mix of cheers and boos as he took the field for the national anthem. He left before halftime with Georgia dominating, hopes high for its first championship since 1980. But the tide turned when Bama switched to freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who led his team to a 26-23 win in overtime.