×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
November 30, 2016
Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Authorities in Tennessee confirmed Wednesday that at least seven people have been killed in the wildfires that have swept through Sevier County.

More than 700 homes and businesses have been destroyed, and the fire has likely burned at least 15,000 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains, The Tennessean reports. Investigators believe the fire was caused by embers from a wildfire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park blowing into Gatlinburg on Monday night. High winds have helped fan the flames, and heavy rains have created "new challenges," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said. "There's no longer that foliage holding everything together, so we're experiencing small rockslides and mudslides as we have to go back into areas we previously thought were accessible." Catherine Garcia

8:08 a.m. ET
Pyeongyang Press Corps/Getty Images

After returning to Seoul from North Korea on Thursday evening, South Korean President Moon Jae-in gave some new details about his three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and said he will personally deliver a private message from Kim to President Trump next week in New York and also discuss a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War. Kim wants U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to visit Pyongyang for nuclear talks and a second summit with Trump as soon as possible, Moon said. He added that Kim had agreed to allow international experts to watch North Korea's "permanent" dismantling of a missile engine test site and launch pad and, if the U.S. reciprocated with undisclosed actions, the "permanent" dismantling of his main Yongbyon nuclear facility.

"Experts say the destruction of the missile engine test site and launch pad wouldn't represent a material step in denuclearization of North Korea," The Associated Press notes. And "even if North Korea were to shut down Yongbyon, officials and experts believe it has other secret nuclear facilities," Reuters adds.

Pompeo welcomed the announcement and said he had invited North Korea's foreign minister to meet in New York next week to further a goal to complete denuclearization of North Korea by January 2021. Trump called the results of the summit "very good news," adding of Kim, "He's calm, I'm calm — so we'll see what happens." China welcomed the resumption of nuclear diplomacy.

"There is nothing the North has offered so far that would constitute irreversible movement toward denuclearization, however you define that, by January 2021 or any other time, or even a reduction of the military threat it poses to the South and the region," a U.S. intelligence official tells Reuters. "Everything that's out there now is conditional on U.S. actions that would reduce the pressure on the North to cooperate or (is) filled with loopholes and exit ramps." Peter Weber

8:03 a.m. ET
Gary Gershoff /Getty Images

After some behind-the-scenes drama, the next James Bond movie is back on track with a new director at the helm.

Director Danny Boyle departed the forthcoming Bond film in August due to creative differences, but now, Cary Fukunaga has been brought in to replace him, per The Hollywood Reporter. Fukunaga directed every episode of True Detective's first season, as well as the film Beasts of No Nation and the Netflix miniseries Maniac, which premieres Friday.

Production for the film is now set to begin in March 2019, and a release date of Feb. 14, 2020 has been set. The movie was previously set to open in November 2019. This new Valentine's Day opening bucks a longstanding trend: Every James Bond film has been released in the fall since 1995's Goldeneye.

Boyle reportedly left the project following a disagreement over who to cast as the film's villain, The Telegraph reported, although one wild rumor suggested that it was because he did not want to kill off Bond, as the producers demanded. This is expected to be Daniel Craig's final performance as the character. He said in 2015 he would rather "slash [his] wrists" than play Bond one more time. Brendan Morrow

6:56 a.m. ET
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Publicly, Republicans and the White House are increasingly confident they can win confirmation for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, despite the allegations from Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school. "But privately, discussions about the political fallout gripped the party, with Republican lawmakers and strategists unnerved by the charged, gender-infused debates that have upended this campaign season," Robert Costa reports at The Washington Post.

At the same time, The Wall Street Journal reports, "it wasn't clear how committed Mr. Trump is to the nomination. A person close to Mr. Trump said the president views Judge Kavanaugh as the pick of outgoing White House Counsel Don McGahn and 'won't lose any sleep if he has to choose someone else.'" One reason "Trump hasn't gone to the mat for Kavanaugh is that he's said to be suspicious of Kavanaugh's establishment pedigree," and "one source says Ivanka Trump has told her father to 'cut bait' and drop Kavanaugh," Gabriel Sherman reports at Vanity Fair, adding:

"'He's a Bush guy, why would I put myself out there defending him?'" Trump told people. ... "Trump wants this guy on the court, but Trump knows there are five other people he could put on the court if this falls apart," a former official said. [Vanity Fair]

Senate Republicans want to seat Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 for the beginning of the Supreme Court's term, and also to hedge against losing the Senate. But "the real Brett Kavanaugh question facing Senate Republicans is this: Do they really need this nominee, given that he hasn't fired up their base for the midterms?" asks David Weigel at The Washington Post. "Social conservatives wanted an antiabortion female nominee," Amy Coney Barrett, not Kavanaugh, and "the most realistic way to turn this into a motivating Republican issue, ironically, would come if Kavanaugh dropped out and yet another court seat hung on the results of an election." Peter Weber

5:27 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert interviewed Willie Nelson on Nelson's tour bus for Wednesday's Late Show, and after talking about why Willie doesn't like barber shops and other niceties, Colbert brought up politics. "You've been an activist for years, but you're doing your first free public concert for a candidate, and it's for Beto O'Rourke," the Democratic challenger to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Colbert said. Nelson corrected him, saying he's done free concerts for candidates for decades, naming Dennis Kucinich, Ross Perot, and singing cowboy Tex Ritter. "So you always back the winners," Colbert deadpanned.

Poor track record notwithstanding, not everyone is happy about Nelson's Beto concert, Colbert pointed out. "Some Texans were saying, Let's boycott Willie. A, I don't think that's real, I think that's just people talking. And B, I really like your response to those people." Nelson laughed at the photo of him flipping the bird in a Beto shirt, then said it doesn't really bother him when people threaten to boycott his music. "It's their prerogative," he said. "I may not like their music either, you know, so I don't hold any grudges against people."

Colbert brought up Nelson's new album, My Way, and asked why he wanted to do a Frank Sinatra album. "He's my favorite singer, and I read somewhere a couple of years ago that I was his favorite singer," Nelson said. Colbert had a clip from a commercial Nelson and Sinatra did in 1980, then he showed Nelson some photos of famous people and asked if he'd like to smoke weed with each of them. (The answer was yes.)

Nelson performed the Sinatra favorite "Summer Wind" on The Late Show, and you can watch that below. Peter Weber

4:32 a.m. ET

"Since I started hosting this show, I've had to cover some unfortunate topics — for example, everything, all the time," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. But "yesterday, the news hacked up a truly memorable hairball. So I have to warn you, the following story is unsuitable for viewers under the age of dead." He was talking, of course, about President Trump's genitals, as described in "mind-searing" and "harrowing detail" by Stormy Daniels in her new book, Full Disclosure. If you don't know them, Colbert had the specifics.

If Colbert seemed less than thrilled to spend a few minutes on Trump's sexual organs, Mario Kart's Toad was devastated — at least in this darkly comic Late Show cold open.

To lighten the mood, Colbert rolled his eyes at Trump's statement that Hurricane Florence is "one of the wettest we've ever seen, from the standpoint of water" — "That statement right there is one of the dumbest we've ever heard, from the standpoint of stupid," he deadpanned — and also the new controversy over Bert and Ernie's relationship.

"So, are Bert and Ernie a gay couple or are they simply two adult asexual men with no outside relationships living together to dull the pain of their loveless existence?" Colbert asked. "In any case, it's 2018 and this whole argument feels a little dated. The question we should be asking is: Are the Ninja Turtles a pansexual polyamorous quartet?" Watch below. Peter Weber

3:43 a.m. ET

The Republican Party in Fort Bend County, Texas, is apologizing for an ad it ran in an Indian-American newspaper during the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating the birth of the elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesaha. "Would you worship a donkey or an elephant?" the ad asked. "The choice is yours." The suburban Houston county is home to a competitive congressional race between incumbent GOP Rep. Pete Olson and Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni; about a fifth of the 22nd Congressional District is, like Kulkarni, Asian American.

"While we appreciate the Fort Bend County GOP's attempt to reach out to Hindus on an important Hindu festival, its ad — equating Hindus' veneration of the Lord Ganesha with choosing a political party based on its animal symbol — is problematic and offensive," said Rishi Bhutada at the Hindu American Foundation. The foundation asked that the Fort Bend Republican Party "apologize for the offensive and inaccurate reference" and "not run the ad again."

"Pete agrees" that the ad "should have been more respectful," said Olson campaign manager Craig Lewellyn. "The ad was not meant to disparage Hindu customs or traditions in any way," the Fort Bend GOP said in a statement. "This ad was created with input from those of Hindu faith so that we could properly pay respect to the sacred festival. ... We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone that was offended by the ad. Obviously, that was not the intent." Peter Weber

2:49 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump and Senate Republicans are insisting that an FBI investigation of Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in the 1980s would be impractical and unnecessary. If Ford doesn't agree by Friday to testify on Monday, Republicans say, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote to confirm Kavanaugh next week anyway. Ford wants the FBI or other independent, nonpartisan investigators to gather facts and testimony in the case before she testifies. FBI involvement would require White House consent.

"It would seem that the FBI really doesn't do that," Trump said Wednesday, a day after saying the FBI doesn't "want to be involved" and "this is not really their thing." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who was also on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, when the FBI investigated Anita Hill's claimed of sexual misconduct against Clarence Thomas, said: "The FBI does not do investigations like this. The responsibility falls to us."

"But several officials who have had direct roles in the nomination and background check process said it's common, as part of the FBI's vetting of presidential nominees for judicial posts and executive branch jobs, to investigate matters that do not qualify as federal crimes," Politico reports. When the FBI investigated Hill's allegations against Thomas in 1991, it took only three days.

"What happened here is actually not unusual," said John Yoo, a senior Justice Department official under former President George W. Bush. "The Judiciary Committee will often say to the Justice Department: 'Can you send the agents back out and find out if this is true, find out what happened with this?' ... You could have this done in a day or two." Having the FBI investigate "is a quick process, I don't think it needs to take more than a couple of days," agreed former Obama White House lawyer Sarah Baker. "The only reason you don't ask is if you don't want the answer." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads