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December 23, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump decided Friday to let the world read his Christmas letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The note, sent on Dec. 15 and addressed to "his excellency," included some warm holiday wishes from the Kremlin and a glimpse into Putin's hopes for a "new level" of "collaboration" between the U.S. and Russia:

Trump made his response to Putin's letter public, too. In a statement attached to the letter — which Trump called "very nice" — the president-elect said Putin's "thoughts are so correct." "I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path," Trump said in the statement.

Their holiday exchange follows assessments from the U.S. intelligence community that concluded Russia interfered in the U.S. political election to help Trump, a claim both Trump and Putin have denied. Becca Stanek

10:42 a.m. ET

When Solo: A Star Wars Story severely underperformed at the box office this summer, fans everywhere debated what went wrong. Now, the CEO of Disney himself is taking the fall.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he made a "mistake" by scheduling so many Star Wars movies back-to-back, adding that he "made the timing decision." "I take the blame," he said. "[It] was a little too much, too fast." Going forward, Iger said Disney will be "a little bit more careful about volume and timing." Iger did not cite specific box office figures or even mention Solo by name, but he was responding directly to a question about whether Disney should "pump the breaks and not put out a Star Wars movie each year."

Solo only made $213 million domestically this past summer, per Box Office Mojo. Its predecessor, The Last Jedi, made $620 million. The film before that, Rogue One, made $532 million. Adjusting for inflation, Solo was the worst-performing Star Wars movie of all time. It was also the first movie in the long-running series to be released less than one year after the previous one, hitting theaters in May 2018, just five months after The Last Jedi.

Box office analysts have speculated this scheduling hurt Solo's chances of financial success, as moviegoers needed more time before wanting to see another Star Wars adventure in theaters. There has been a new installment of the iconic franchise every year since 2015.

It appears the man at the top agrees, if his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter is any indication. Fans can "expect some slowdown" in the Star Wars series going forward, Iger said. Read his full interview at The Hollywood Reporter. Brendan Morrow

9:57 a.m. ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

You know how when you scarf down your brunch a little too quickly, you get the hiccups? That's sort of what it's like when you're a Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual assault, one Republican senator said Wednesday.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), one of the GOP's most vulnerable senators in this fall's midterm cycle, held a "'VIP' conference call" Wednesday in which he described California professor Christine Ford's allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the 1980s as a "little hiccup" on the road to confirmation, The Nevada Independent reported Wednesday. "We'll get through this, and we'll get off to the races," Heller reportedly said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have indicated that they will forge ahead with Kavanaugh's embattled nomination, while President Trump has also signaled continuing support for his second Supreme Court nominee. Ford and Kavanaugh were set to testify publicly to the Senate on the matter Monday, but it's unclear whether Ford will actually agree to appear before lawmakers. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) gave Ford until Friday morning to decide whether she'll testify. Kavanaugh has steadfastly denied Ford's allegations.

Heller is facing Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) in a tight race this fall, with Real Clear Politics showing the two in a virtual tie in its latest polling average. He has supported Kavanaugh's nomination since Trump tapped the D.C. judge in July and has remained confident that Kavanaugh will be confirmed — "little hiccup" and all. Kimberly Alters

9:38 a.m. ET
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In a move right out of President Trump's playbook, researchers want to solve the world's problems by building a wall.

Some scientists say that building underwater walls could help prevent glaciers from melting away too quickly and contributing to rising sea levels, The Guardian reported Thursday. The Band-Aid solution would help slow the effects of climate change and buy some time to keep warmer water from reaching the glaciers and causing even faster melting.

"We are imagining very simple structures, simply piles of gravel or sand on the ocean floor," geoscience researcher Michael Wolovick told The Guardian. Wolovick and other researchers at Princeton University found that creating a structure near the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica would have a 30 percent chance of preventing a collapse of the surrounding ice sheet. A 980-foot structure could be made of already-excavated material, turning it into columns or mounds. A more solid underwater wall could have a 70 percent chance of blocking warm water from the Antarctic ice sheet.

Wolovick notes that the solution would merely be a temporary fix, and that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the way to actually keep glaciers from melting. Disintegrating ice is sending fresh water into the world's oceans, which means rising sea levels and therefore even more glacier melt. But until then, he said, underwater walls are "within the order of magnitude of plausible human achievements." Read more at The Guardian. Summer Meza

9:27 a.m. ET
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British audiences have been going nuts over the drama series Bodyguard — and now, the rest of the world will see what all the fuss is about.

Netflix has picked up the distribution rights to Bodyguard, a massively popular six-part BBC miniseries starring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes, per Deadline. The show will air its finale Sunday before coming to Netflix on Oct. 24; the streaming service bought the rights to showcase the series outside of the U.K. and Ireland.

Created by Jed Mercurio, Bodyguard is a thriller revolving around a war veteran who is assigned to protect an important government official, with whom he soon begins a relationship. It has been a huge hit in the U.K., with the first episode scoring an audience of 10.4 million viewers — the best debut for any new drama in the U.K. since 2006, per BBC. Deadline reports that Netflix has been involved with Bodyguard since the writing phase.

This is the latest example of Netflix releasing a British series to audiences outside of the U.K., having previously distributed shows like The End of the F***ing World, Wanderlust, and Black Mirror. With Black Mirror, Netflix fully took over the show from Channel 4 rather than just release episodes that were produced in Britain, and The Telegraph reports that there may be a fight between BBC and Netflix over the rights to a possible second season of Bodyguard should one go into production. Brendan Morrow

8:50 a.m. ET
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One of the red-state Democrats thought to have been a potential "yes" vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has come out against his nomination, though it's not because of the recent sexual assault allegation made against him.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a news release Wednesday that although the "recent allegations against [Kavanaugh] are troubling," she's voting "no" because of his positions on a few important issues, namely campaign finance. McCaskill expressed her disagreement with what she called Kavanaugh's "bias against limits on campaign donations," saying she thinks he'll "give free reign to anonymous donors and foreign governments" to influence elections.

While specifying that Christine Blasey Ford's recent allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school is not the reason she's voting no, the senator did say this claim should receive a "fair examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee." Kavanaugh has denied the allegation.

McCaskill's opposition to Kavanaugh is noteworthy because she's up for re-election this November in a state that President Trump won in 2016, so there was some speculation she would vote to confirm the president's pick, as Talking Points Memo points out. Still, Republicans have a 51-seat majority in the Senate, so if all of them stick together, Kavanaugh will still be confirmed without needing any Democratic support. Brendan Morrow

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
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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

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