Talks between North and South Korea begin; U.S. to cancel 200,000 permits for Salvadoreans

  1. Iran says protests suppressed
  2. Sexual misconduct scandal dominates Golden Globes

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Curated top stories

  • North and South Korea began their first high-level talks in two years on Tuesday. They were to focus on improving ties as well as North Korea’s possible participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which are taking place in South Korea next month. The meeting between the two countries, which have had a ceasefire in place since the end of the Korean war in 1953, is taking place at the border village of Panmunjom. South Korea said it was seeking ways to improve inter-Korean relations.
  • The Trump administration announced it will cancel humanitarian permits giving 200,000 Salvadoreans the ability to live and work in the U.S. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) permits were granted after earthquakes hit El Salvador in 2001. Those living in the U.S. under the permits will have to leave the country by September 2019 or face arrest and deportation.
    • TPS was granted by President George W. Bush to 300,000 people and 10 countries after earthquakes struck Central America in 2001 and was reauthorized by presidents Bush and Barack Obama.
  • Ex-presidential strategist Steve Bannon offered “unwavering” support for U.S President Donald J. Trump after facing backlash over his criticism of his former boss in a controversial new book. Bannon also expressed regret for his delay in responding to what he described as “inaccurate reporting” about the president’s son. Bannon praised Donald Trump Jr., as a “patriot and good man” in the statement, first obtained by the news site Axios. Bannon’s original criticism can be found in journalist Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. His statement followed a round of television appearances on Sunday by White House insiders who criticized the book, which offers a scathing portrayal of the president’s first year in office. (See excerpts from the book here.)
  • In his annual “state of the world” speech, Pope Francis called for nations to use dialogue to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula. He also asked for all countries to work toward a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons and a renewed effort to uphold the 2015 Paris accord on reducing carbon emissions. In the speech, Pope Francis also repeated his call for a two-state-solution between Israelis and Palestinians and respect for the “status quo” of Jerusalem following President Donald J. Trump’s decision to recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
  • Belgium’s center-right government is at risk of collapsing after one of its three coalition partners, the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), threatened to drop its support if the minister for asylum and migration is fired, according to The Guardian. Theo Francken, a member of the N-VA, is under investigation over claims that 100 Sudanese migrants came to harm after he allowed three of the country’s officials to inspect their documents before their forced repatriation. The Guardian reports that there are fears that Sudan’s government, led by wanted alleged war criminal Omar al-Bashir, was permitted to “handpick political opponents for repatriation from Europe.” Belgian prime minister Charles Michel appeared on television today saying he would not be intimidated by “blackmail or threats.”
  • The Trump Administration wants to deregulate U.S. weapon sales to foreign governments, reported in a Reuters investigation. The plan, which is part of the administration’s pro-manufacturing “Buy American” initiative, makes it easier for U.S. manufacturers to sell weapons to non-NATO countries. Critics are concerned that relaxed export rules will increase the likelihood of dictators and terrorist groups obtaining U.S.-made weapons.
  • Brandon Lewis has been made the new chairman of the UK Conservative Party, replacing former chairman, Patrick McLoughlin, who resigned today. Lewis is tasked with broadening the party’s appeal after the government saw its majority drop by 13 seats after elections in 2017. His duties will also include increasing the size of party membership, which has generally been dwindling since 2006.
  • Facebook signed an agreement with Sony/ATV Music, the second deal the social media platform made with a major music record label. Facebook struck a similar contract with Universal Music Group in December 2017. The move is designed to encourage more advertising on Facebook and its other products, by giving users complete access to the label’s artists which includes Bob Dylan and Ed Sheeran.


  • car bomb exploded in Syria’s provincial capital of Idlib, starting fires, damaging buildings and killing at least 23 people in a rebel-held city where government forces have been seeking inroads. It was not immediately known who was behind the attack, which followed the Syrian military’s announcement that it had recaptured a strategically important town in eastern Idlib province. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion targeted the headquarters of a minor rebel faction, Reuters reported.
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard says it has suppressed the anti-government protests that sprang up on December 28 and spread across 80 cities and towns over the course of a week. In a statement carried on the Guards’ Sepahnews website, they blamed the U.S., Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Iranian diaspora for stirring up unrest. People across Iran confirmed to Reuters that the unrest appears to have died down. (Read more: The ‘revolution’ will not be Telegrammed)
    • President Rouhani said that the anti-government protests were not just about economic woes, but also the state’s strict stance on social issues. He said that Iranians have the right to criticize any public figure, and that older generations cannot expect younger Iranians to live under the same social norms as they did.
  • Sexual misconduct and broader issues related to gender inequality dominated the Golden Globes. Many attendees wore black as a statement of support for women who have revealed a culture of sexual harassment in Hollywood, and award presenters and winners used the stage as a platform to highlight gender inequality issues. (Take part in WikiTribune’s coverage of this story here).

What we’re reading

  • Abraham Lincoln often wept in public and recited maudlin poetry. He told jokes and stories at odd times – he needed the laughs, he said, for his survival. “As a young man he talked more than once of suicide, and as he grew older he said he saw the world as hard and grim, full of misery, made that way by fate and the forces of God,” writes Atlantic contributor Joshua Wolf Shenk in this 2005 piece. Shenk argues that Lincoln’s condition was a “character issue,” that “gave him the tools to save the nation.” – Charles Anderson
  • The author of the boundary-breaking autobiographical fiction series “My Struggle,” Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, penned an essay on the paradoxes of fame published in the New York Times magazine. Using his worldwide status as a celebrity author and his own distorted view of fame – until recently, wanting to be famous or perceived as special was highly frowned upon in Norway – Knausgaard looks at the close links between fame and childhood, ideology, identity and the idea of the self, all while analyzing his own yearning for public recognition A fascinating read for any Knausgaard fan or those interested in the constructs of fame.  Lydia Morrish
  • French president Emmanuel Macron is currently in China on a three-day state visit meant partly to strengthen ties between the two countries. His philosophy emphasizing the power of the individual seems to be paying off, as this New York Times piece says. Macron’s remodeling of French labor regulations, an entrenched and behemoth system, raised “barely a whimper.” And Macron has been lecturing the media, calling for improved ethics even from the same publications that enabled his ascendancy.  Angela Long
  • Much has been debated about “fake news,” but there hasn’t been a lot of scientific research on the subject until now. A data analysis of so-called “fake news” was published last week, and reported by on The New York Times. The study, carried out by Dartmouth University together with Princeton and the University of Exeter, analyzes the consumption of “fake news” during the U.S. election of 2016. The results show that one in four Americans visited a fake news website between October 7 and November 14, 2016. Although reach was extensive, the New York Times reports “there was no way to determine from the data how much, or whether, people believed what they saw on these sites.”  Ella Navarro

What the WikiTribune community’s up to

  • Mexico City is experiencing political discord that seems more heated than usual, with some resorting to physical violence to sabotage rivals. The latest incident ended with one dead and several people wounded. WikiTribune member Miguel Torres outlines the situation.
  • A group of academics and their institutions across Germany are campaigning for open access to journals under Creative Commons licenses. The organizers of “Projekt Deal” say their model would allow for fair pricing as well as greater access to academic material, as WikiTribune Community member Robbie Morrison reports.

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