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Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 3, 2018

Harold Maass
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1.

North Korea reopens border hotline with South Korea as Trump mocks Kim Jong Un

North Korea reopened a border hotline with South Korea on Wednesday, a day after South Korea proposed high-level talks next week to ease tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapon and missile programs. The offer followed a New Year's Day speech in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for dialogue and said he had a nuclear button on his desk but would only use it if threatened. He also said he would consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. President Trump on Tuesday mocked Kim, whom he previously has called "Little Rocket Man." Trump tweeted that he, too, has a nuclear button, but it is "much bigger and more powerful" than Kim's. [Reuters]

2.

Hatch announces retirement, clearing path for Romney Senate bid

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced Tuesday that he would retire at the end of 2018 instead of running for re-election to an eighth term. Hatch, 83, is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, and his departure will clear the way for Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential candidate, to run for the seat. Romney has been an outspoken critic of President Trump, who had pressured Hatch to seek re-election, which would have kept Romney out of the picture. "When the president visited Utah last month, he said I was a fighter," said Hatch. "But every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching." [The New York Times]

3.

Trump threatens to cut off aid to Palestinians

President Trump on Tuesday said the U.S. might stop sending money to the Palestinians. "We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect," Trump tweeted. "They don't even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel." The remarks came a day after Trump accused Pakistan of giving the United States "nothing but lies and deceit" despite receiving billions in aid. Trump last month made the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and Palestinian leaders responded by saying they no longer considered the U.S. a neutral peace broker. "With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace," Trump tweeted, "why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?" [Haaretz, Donald J. Trump]

4.

Massive winter storm expected to bring snow as far south as Florida

A powerful winter storm is expected to slam the East Coast from Florida to New England over the next two days. The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings on Tuesday for northern Florida and the panhandle, as well as southeastern Georgia and the eastern Carolinas, ahead of ice and snow expected to hit by early Wednesday. The storm is expected to move north through Thursday, threatening blizzard conditions in coastal New England and eastern Long Island. The storm is forecast to gain power quickly off the New England coast and could become the most powerful non-hurricane storm to hit the Northeast in decades. [The Weather Channel, USA Today]

5.

Pakistan calls Trump terrorism allegation 'incomprehensible'

Pakistan on Tuesday called President Trump's accusation that it harbors terrorists "completely incomprehensible." The government summoned the U.S. ambassador in protest but stopped short of expelling him, as Islamic groups demanded. Trump tweeted on New Year's Day that the U.S. has "foolishly" sent Pakistan $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years but gotten nothing in return. He accused Pakistan's leaders of giving "safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan." Pakistan denies supporting Islamist militants. The country's prime minister and powerful army chief of staff said Trump was scapegoating Pakistan for U.S. failure to establish peace in Afghanistan after 16 years of war. [The Associated Press]

6.

Freed Taliban hostage Joshua Boyle faces charges in Canada

Ottawa authorities have charged former Taliban captive Joshua Boyle with 15 criminal offenses, including sexual assault, that allegedly occurred after he and his family returned home in October. The 34-year-old Canadian man and his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, were captured while backpacking in the Afghan province of Wardak in 2012, and spent five years as hostages. Coleman, who was pregnant when they went to Afghanistan, gave birth to three children before they were freed. A court order prevents publication of any information that could identify alleged victims. Boyle reportedly made his first court appearance on Monday, and will remain in custody at least until a Wednesday hearing. [The Washington Post, CBC]

7.

Trump suggests Clinton aide Huma Abedin should face prison time

President Trump on Tuesday urged the Justice Department to look into prosecuting former FBI Director James Comey and Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton. In a tweet, Trump said Abedin had been "accused of disregarding basic security protocols" by letting classified material get onto the laptop of her estranged husband, disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner. "Jail!" Trump tweeted. "Deep State Justice Dept must finally act?" In a tweet, Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general Trump fired in January for refusing to defend his travel ban, said Trump was slandering career Justice Department professionals. "Beyond abnormal," she said. "Dangerous." [The Washington Post]

8.

Trump doubles down on support for Iranian protestors

President Trump repeated his expression of support for Iranian anti-government protesters, warning Iran's government that "the U.S. is watching." Trump also blamed former President Barack Obama for fueling corruption in the Iranian leadership with the nuclear deal that exchanged restrictions on Tehran's nuclear program for the lifting of punishing international sanctions. "The people of Iran are finally acting against a brutal and corrupt Iranian regime," Trump said. "All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets.'" Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the protests as something being stirred up by Iran's "enemies." [The New York Times, CNN]

9.

Peru bus crash kills at least 48

A bus plunged off a cliff in Peru on Tuesday, killing at least 48 people. The bus was carrying 57 passengers en route to Lima, Peru's capital, when it was struck by a tractor-trailer truck, sending it tumbling about 100 yards down the cliff onto a rocky beach, where it landed upside down. The accident occurred on a stretch of road known as Curva del Diablo, Spanish for the devil's curve, because it is narrow, often shrouded in mist, and punctuated by dangerous curves. Many survivors were injured, and authorities said the death toll could rise. [The Associated Press, Fox News]

10.

Mormon church leader Thomas Monson dies at 90

Thomas S. Monson, 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Tuesday night at his home in Salt Lake City, at age 90. Monson was president, "prophet, seer, and revelator" of the Mormon church for nearly a decade, but he had been one of the church's 12 apostles since 1963. He was part of the Mormon church's top ranks during a period of large expansion and significant change, including the decision to allow black Mormons to become full members of the church. Monson's presidency also covered tumult in the Mormon church, including a push against same-sex marriage and severance of the LDS relationship with the Boy Scouts. He will be succeeded by Russell M. Nelson, 93. [The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News]