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Breakthrough: Koreas Hold First Official Talks in 2 Years

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 07:46 AM PST

As The Diplomat has been closely following, both Koreas have been moving fast toward an unexpected rapprochement since North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un offered a rare olive branch in his New Year’s speech.

On January 9, the two Koreas made a substantial breakthrough by holding the first face-to-face official talks in more than two years.

According to the South Korean joint press corps, both sides sent a five-member delegation to the meeting in Panmunjom village in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Before the meeting started, North Korea’s chief delegate Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said in front of the cameras, “I came here with hopes that the two Koreas hold talks with a sincere and faithful attitude to give precious results to the Korean people who harbor high expectations for this meeting, as the first new year present.”

Ri’s counterpart, Cho Myoung-gyon, the head of the South’s Unification Ministry, replied, “Well begun is half done. I hope that [the two sides] could hold the talks with determination and persistence.”

During the meeting, the North offered to send a delegation to the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics including high-ranking officials, athletes, cheering and performing art squads, taekwondo demonstration teams. and journalists. The South proposed that both sides march together during the opening and closing ceremonies and that the North dispatch a cheering squad for the event, the South’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told the reporters later after the meeting.

As The Diplomat noted earlier, at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, the 2002 Busan Asian Games, and the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, athletes from North and South Korea all marched together in the opening ceremony under the Unification Flag of Korea. The symbolic unification during these sports games had marked previous high points in inter-Korea relations.  

Besides discussion on the PyeongChang Olympics, both sides also negotiated multiple ways to improve ties.

Chun revealed later that the South also offered to hold a Red Cross meeting to discuss family reunions and military talks to prevent accidental conflict along the border.

“We also raised the need to end acts that can escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to resume dialogue to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, such as [North Korea’s] denuclearization,” Chun said.

Notably, ahead of the talks between the two Koreas, both China and Japan had sent top envoys on the North Korean issue to Seoul.

On January 5, China’s Special Representative of the Chinese Government for Korean Peninsula Affairs Kong Xuanyou met respectively with South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and chief representative for Six-Party Talks Lee Do-hoon, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

On January 8, Kenji Kanasugi, Japan’s chief negotiator for the Six-Party Talks also arrived in Seoul and met with his counterpart. Both sides discussed measures to bring North Korea to the negotiation table.

A Serious Setback for Cleaning Up Big Oil

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:42 AM PST

In September 2011, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would be implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global effort to clean up the oil, gas, and mining sectors. The goal was to bring transparency and accountability to industries in which mismanagement and corruption too often undermine development, increase poverty, and fuel conflict. Until the U.S. announcement, only developing countries (and Norway) had actually adopted the EITI transparency standard, even though it had been launched by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and was largely financed and overseen by developed countries. Global transparency advocates hailed the United States for taking the lead. And soon after, other developed countries, such as Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and the United Kingdom joined the United States in announcing their implementation of EITI. In doing so, they made a clear statement: it was important for all countries to participate in the effort to increase transparency in these industries.

Now, the Trump administration is threatening to upend all the progress that has been made to date. It announced on November 2 of last year that the United States would halt its domestic implementation of EITI (known as USEITI). Although the United States will continue its role in setting the global EITI rules, it has refused to adopt the same standards it encourages others to maintain. This means that it is not only undermining its global leadership on this issue, but also depriving Americans of an important transparency tool, one that enables them to hold their government accountable for collecting revenues related to the development of the nation’s resources.

GOOD FOR THE WORLD, GOOD FOR AMERICAN TAXPAYERS

In committing to USEITI, the Obama administration made clear that it was doing so not simply because it might be good for the rest of the world, but also because it was good for the American people. As it noted in a 2011 report, honoring USEITI would “ensure that taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for extraction of our natural resources.” Over the past decade, the U.S. Department of the Interior has collected on average about $10 billion in revenues per year from oil, gas, and mineral extraction on federal lands and water, making this sector one of the largest sources of non-tax federal government revenue. And this is in addition to what the Department of the Treasury collects in federal corporate income taxes on the companies developing these resources and to what state governments collect from the development of the resources on their lands.

Accordingly, one of USEITI’s central objectives was revenue transparency: enabling the government to account for and confirm the funds that it was owed. Announced only months after the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which exposed deep mismanagement at the Department of the Interior, the commitment to implement USEITI signaled that the administration took seriously the need to reestablish public trust in the U.S. government’s management of national resources. Even extractive industry representatives participating in EITI noted, in November 2013, that they wanted to see greater clarity and responsibility over revenue collection.

However, although the Obama administration had begun implementing USEITI, progress was stalled by companies that refused to disclose their tax payments, as required under EITI.. Had USEITI been fully implemented, however, it could have played an important role in helping citizens understand certain implications of the major U.S. tax overhaul late last year. Limited public information about tax payments by U.S. companies in the extractives sector, including reporting through USEITI, suggests that the industry is paying a rate far lower than the typical corporate rate of 35 percent. It has been reported that the new Republican tax law will deliver even more favorable treatment to the upstream oil and gas sector by allowing them to deduct certain expenses. It’s thus important to raise the question: would that outcome have been different if members of Congress and their constituents had had access to better information about what companies were (or weren’t) already paying in federal taxes?

Granted, EITI and related transparency initiatives have their shortcomings and critics. EITI has been criticized for being too narrowly focused on revenue transparency without offering the necessary contextual information to make the data useful, such as production levels or contractual terms. (This is a charge that the EITI Board has worked to address in recent versions of the EITI Standard.) It has also been criticized for failing to clearly show that its fairly burdensome set of requirements for governments and companies actually results in a reduction in corruption and mismanagement.

In addition, U.S. companies continue to object to Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which complements USEITI by requiring oil, gas, and mining companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to report payments they make to both the U.S. federal and foreign governments for the development of these resources. Specifically, U.S. companies have voiced concerns about the possible disclosure of sensitive information to commercial competitors and other governments and about losing bids in certain countries to companies that are not required by their home jurisdictions to make such disclosures.

To date, these concerns have not matched the experience of businesses in other countries implementing similar disclosure rules. Moreover, more than 50 countries have now implemented EITI, including the majority of resource-rich developing countries, having calculated that the benefits of EITI outweigh its challenges.

MITIGATING THE COSTS OF WITHDRAWAL

Although it’s unlikely that the United States will rejoin EITI anytime soon, there are some steps that federal agencies, Congress, and even state and tribal governments can take to mitigate the costs of withdrawal.

The Department of the Interior should maintain and continue to update its groundbreaking data portal, which was developed as part of the USEITI process and is now used as a model for other countries implementing EITI. It provides a wealth of useful public information about the U.S. oil, gas, and mining industries, including an interactive state resources map and detailed overviews of revenues collected from each type of mineral. But the risk of having this portal removed is real: for example, the Trump administration has taken down crucial information before, including climate change material from the EPA website. Fortunately, Interior has indicated that it plans to maintain the portal at this time. 

At the same time, the DOI should continue holding multi-stakeholder discussions about how the U.S. government manages its natural resources. One of the underappreciated benefits of USEITI was the opportunity to build direct dialogue between U.S. domestic NGOs working on natural resource issues and extractives sector companies-groups that are typically accustomed to meeting in more contentious settings. The USEITI Multi-Stakeholder Group, a mandatory component of EITI, was formed as one of more than 1,000 current Federal Advisory Committees whose purpose is to allow the government to hear from citizens and experts on a wide variety of issues. Continuing this committee in some form would be a welcome sign that the administration intends to maintain its engagement with all stakeholders on natural resource management.

There is much that the State Department can do, too, to demonstrate its continued commitment to transparency and accountability in this sector and dispel any perception that Secretary Rex Tillerson’s old loyalties to longtime employer ExxonMobil-which participated in USEITI but refused to disclose its taxes as required-precipitated the Trump administration’s pull back from EITI.

To fight this notion, the State Department should devote the necessary human and financial resources toward the implementation of EITI and accountable resource management globally. Like most bureaus at State, the Bureau of Energy Resources, which oversees U.S. engagement in EITI, currently has yet to fill the important role of Assistant Secretary. It recently downgraded U.S. participation on the international EITI Board and its proposed budget cuts threaten initiatives that support good governance of extractive industries in developing countries.

Congress, meanwhile, must protect Dodd-Frank Section 1504. In February 2017, Congress controversially repealed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rule implementing Section 1504, and there are now efforts underway to repeal the law entirely, along with its companion rule on conflict minerals, known as Dodd-Frank Section 1502. Although Section 1504 is no substitute for EITI, its implementation would bring welcome transparency around oil, gas, and mining company payments not only to foreign countries but also to the United States. Given that Canada and the European Union have already adopted equivalent legislation, the repeal of section 1504 would not only walk back years of progress on this issue, but also put the United States behind the curve once again. 

Additionally, Congress should mandate disclosures of all beneficial owners of U.S. companies, so they cannot be used to avoid or evade taxes. The obscuring of beneficial ownership contributes to corruption by allowing public officials to use such companies to direct payments and contracts, such as oil, gas and mineral leases, to entities that they in effect own or control. The United States is one of the easiest places in the world to set up shell companies, but there is now bipartisan legislation before Congress to make this more difficult. Several countries, including the United Kingdom, have already mandated this disclosure. It’s time for the United States to join them.

State and tribal governments can also lend their support to EITI by adopting its principles. A substantial portion of government revenue from the extractive industries within the United States is collected by state and tribal governments because of the resources located on their lands. Four major resource-producing states-Alaska, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming-had voluntarily opted to participate in some aspects of the EITI process. A number of tribal representatives also chose to sit in on the multi-stakeholder meetings while they considered implementing the initiative in their jurisdictions. Although there is no mechanism for subnational governments to formally join the international EITI initiative, subnational governments can now join the global Open Government Partnership, and this multi-stakeholder dialogue could continue at the state and tribal levels. 

Above all, Americans must resist the argument that EITI and other natural resource transparency initiatives help only poor people in poor countries run by corrupt governments. These are powerful tools that hold the U.S. government and companies accountable and ensure that U.S. citizens receive what is owed them from their nation’s resource bounty.

This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.

NBC, State Farm Strike ‘This Is Us’ Ad Deal

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:30 AM PST

NBC and State Farm are using the network’s popular drama “This Is Us” to team up.

The Midwestern insurer will for three weeks, starting Tuesday evening, run commercials designed by the network that make use of the popular drama’s flashbacks and flash-forwards, in the hope that using a popular element from the program will keep viewers from tuning away or getting out of their seats during commercial breaks. Voice-overs for the ads will be delivered by a member of the series’ cast.

“You don’t have this for every show. We can play our regular ads in any of the entertainment programs across the 200 to 500 different platforms consumers have,” said Ed Gold, director of advertising for State Farm, in an interview. “You do make this kind of effort for the right opportunity.”

State Farm’s efforts mirror those of other advertisers who are identifying particular programs and events and working harder to devise commercials that are specific to those pieces of entertainment. The theory is that, just as commercials aired during the Super Bowl are designed with that extravaganza in mind, ads tailored for individual viewing opportunities will draw greater attention.

“The more we can align an emotional connection with the right show and the right message, the better it does for a brand,” said Mark Marshall, executive vice president of entertainment ad sales for NBCUniversal. “I think we will have more and more people doing that.” NBC has in recent months offered to give some advertisers a chance to run commercials tied in to “Saturday Night Live.”

State Farm clearly has had its eye on “This Is Us.” In 2016, the company spent $310,000 on advertising aligned with the show, according to data from Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. But in the first nine months of 2017, it spent $880,000.

The series, said Gold, “is one of the few – probably the only show that grows its ratings on a weekly basis across live viewing and video on demand, let alone playback as well. We haven’t seen a show like this since ‘Empire” came out on Fox.” The average cost of a 30-second spot in “This Is Us” has soared more than 65% since its debut last season, according to Variety’s annual survey of primetime ad costs. A 30-second ad this season had been going for $394,314, compared with $237,910 last season.

The 30-second ads, which will show a family members in different stages of their lives, will each run in the first slot of a designated commercial break during “This Is Us,” and then be followed by more traditional State Farm advertising.

In addition to running in “This Is Us,” the content will receive additional distribution through social medi and run on a custom page on NBC.com. NBC and State Farm will ask fans of the show to submit photos of special value to their families using a special hashtag. The ads will also run on NBCUniversal-owned TV stations, while BuzzFeed, owned in part by NBCU, will run the custom ads and create special posts about State Farm products. Vox Media, also part owned by NBCU, will create a branded article that combines elements from both “This Is Us” and State Farm ad messages.

NBC’s Marshall said he has been trying for months to devise an ad package that would link State Farm to the drama. “At its core, the show is about family,” he said, and, he believed, would pair up well with a message about insurance.

Eric Fellner Talks ‘Darkest Hour’ Awards Buzz, What’s Next for Working Title

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:30 AM PST

Winston Churchill movie “Darkest Hour” was one of the standout performers at the BAFTA Awards nominations Tuesday, garnering nine nominations, including for best film. Its lead actor, Gary Oldman, is widely considered the favorite for the Oscar, having picked up the Golden Globe on Sunday.

For “Darkest Hour‘s” producer, London-based Working Title, there was more good news as its “Victoria & Abdul” and “Baby Driver” also landed one and two BAFTA nominations, respectively. Variety spoke to Working Title co-chair Eric Fellner about the awards buzz and where his company is headed.

“Darkest Hour” amassed nine nominations. Was that at the upper end of what you could have hoped for?

I’m English and we never expect anything….So I’m always very happy when anything good happens to any of our movies.

Some people were surprised director Joe Wright didn’t get a nod.

We’re particularly proud of the film and our relationship with Joe Wright going over the last 14 to 15 years and five or six movies. For us it’s a shame he isn’t there, but I think his name is on every single one of the nominations.

“Darkest Hour” is coming out at a moment when Britain’s relationship with Europe and the world is under the microscope and nationalism is on the rise. Has that timeliness increased the picture’s appeal?

Sometimes as filmmakers we benefit from zeitgeist, but however hard you try to create that, it is just something that happens. I look back two years to when we made the decision about this movie, and the reason we wanted to make the film was it was just a brilliant story, fantastically told, very engaging, and fascinating for people like myself who did not know an awful lot about that period of history….

Cut forward two years and I like to think we made that film, but on top of that, Brexit has happened, Trump has happened, and all sorts of events in Europe and around the rest of the world mean you suddenly have a film that also resonates in a very different way to which it was intended. I think we got lucky with the timing.

“Brexit has happened, Trump has happened, and all sorts of events in Europe and around the rest of the world mean you suddenly have a film that also resonates in a very different way to which it was intended”

What commercial impact will nine nominations have for “Darkest Hour”?

A lot of specialty movies’ release schedule is planned around the nomination period, so it’s not a surprise the [international] release of “Darkest Hour” is this Friday. It’s a high-stakes strategy because if all you have is the ability to maybe get nominations, and you plan for that and are the film that doesn’t get nominations, you lose out big time. We felt with this film we had enough in it – Gary Oldman, the name of Winston, the fact the movie works – that we were more than happy to take that risk.

The BAFTAs are now a bellwether for the Oscars. You must be excited about the prospects for “Darkest Hour.”

If it comes, fantastic. But today we’re focused on rolling “Darkest Hour” out internationally. It goes into 17 markets on Friday, and [we’re] trying to make sure we continue what we did in America, where it has done fantastic business. I know the numbers are small compared to “Jumanji” and “Star Wars,” but our budget was also tiny by comparison. We’re focused on getting the film to a big worldwide gross and get as many people to see it as possible.

Has it become harder to get the type of movies you make made, or has the advent of the streaming platforms offset some of the challenges?

I jokingly say, in our current incarnation, maybe we are the last of the dinosaurs in that we are still making those films that are the hardest to make and the hardest to persuade people to go and see in the cinema. However, change is coming, and Working Title will be changing and adapting over the next few years as the marketplace changes. But ultimately, Tim [Bevan] and I, and everyone who works at Working Title, are drawn to narrative structure, character, and story.

I think the types of content we make, the stories we tell, will remain very similar. It might just be the way in which our films get distributed, and the platforms on which you see them, and the order in which you see them on those platforms, that will change.

What’s coming up in 2018?

We’re shooting Joe Cornish’s new movie at the moment, “The Kid Who Would Be King,” and probably the highest-profile of our films for next year are another very funny Rowan Atkinson “Johnny English” movie, and Josie Rourke’s first film, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, “Mary, Queen of Scots.”

The Myth of the Limited Strike on North Korea

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:27 AM PST

Faced with the rapid advance of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities, Americans have begun to debate the possibility of a limited, preventive U.S. strike against North Korea-one that could deter the regime from further testing while avoiding a full-blown war. One possibility is a so-called bloody nose strike, which would involve destroying a North Korean missile launch site (bloodying the regime’s nose, as it were) in order to demonstrate the United States’ resolve. Some have gone even further, calling for “air and missile strike[s] against all known DPRK nuclear test facilities and missile launching and support facilities” in the event of a North Korean atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean.

The goal of a limited strike would be fairly straightforward: demonstrate to Pyongyang that it cannot continue conducting tests without risking a U.S. response. Crucially, proponents of such a strike assume that the United States’ own massive conventional and nuclear capabilities could deter North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un from retaliating, as such an escalation would risk his own destruction. Advocates for a limited strike also tend to argue that, by assuring Pyongyang that the United States does not seek regime change but will never accept a nuclear North Korea, Washington can convince Kim that negotiations are the only viable way forward.

It is unlikely, however, that a strike would work as planned. It would have no guarantee of successfully destroying North Korean capabilities, and Kim may well feel compelled to respond to even a limited attack. Any strike would thus risk igniting a full-blown war on the Korean Peninsula that would endanger millions of lives and ultimately diminish U.S. power and influence in the Asia-Pacific.

RISKY BUSINESS

A successful preventive strike would likely require surprise. If Pyongyang became convinced that a U.S. strike was imminent, it might see itself in a “use or lose” situation and attack before the United States has a chance to take out its weapons-in effect preempting the prevention.

Yet achieving surprise will be difficult. Washington would likely seek to work with Seoul and Tokyo to prepare their militaries for a potential North Korean response, which would involve moving troops and other resources into the region. South Korea and Japan would also want to ready their citizens to give them a better chance at survival in the event of a war. Finally, the United States might wish to evacuate the dependents of U.S. military personnel (of whom there are over 10,000) out of South Korea prior to a strike. These are very large operations that would be all but impossible for North Korea to miss.

Washington could forgo these preparations in order to preserve the element of surprise. Yet considering that there are between 100,000 and 500,000 U.S. citizens in South Korea (and several hundred thousand more in Japan) at any given time, this would put a very large number of American lives in danger. Moreover, conducting a surprise attack without providing South Korea and Japan adequate time to prepare could be deeply damaging to these critical U.S. alliances.

Another key aspect of any limited strike strategy would be to limit North Korean retaliation. Washington would have to convince Kim that, despite attacking his nuclear and missile infrastructure, it does not seek regime change. Yet North Korea is unlikely to take the United States at its word. For decades, a core element of North Korean state ideology has been that the United States is determined to invade and that nuclear weapons are necessary to prevent it. In fact, Kim said as much during his 2018 New Year’s address: “Even though the United States is wielding the nuclear stick and going wild for another war, it will not dare to invade us because we currently have a powerful nuclear deterrent.”

To avoiding retaliation, Washington would have to convince Pyongyang that U.S. objectives are limited and that it does not seek regime change or intend to invade. This despite the fact that, in the event of a preventive strike, the United States would have just killed hundreds if not thousands of North Koreans in an attempt to remove what Pyongyang sees as its only guarantee against an invasion. Consider, too, how closely the nuclear program is tied to the legitimacy of Kim and his regime. Nuclear weapons are not only strategically important but fundamental to how the regime justifies its rule. From Pyongyang’s perspective, attacking North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles but sparing its leadership may be a distinction without a difference.

Even if Pyongyang accepts U.S. assurances, it may choose to retaliate anyway. Kim may believe that retaliation would be necessary to preserve deterrence in the future, out of fear that failing to respond to a major strike would tell Washington that it can attack North Korea at will. In fact, research suggests that weaker states often feel the need to attack stronger states in order to demonstrate strength and resolve and to deter possible future attacks.

HIGH COSTS, UNCERTAIN SUCCESS

Even if the United States was able to carry out the strikes and prevent a massive North Korean response, however, it might not be able to successfully destroy all of Kim’s nuclear weapons and missiles. Indeed, the Pentagon recently told Congress that eliminating all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons would require a ground invasion, probably owing to Pyongyang’s penchant for building military facilities underground, limiting the effectiveness of airstrikes. If the United States decides to attack North Korea without attempting to eliminate its ballistic missile and WMD capabilities, it would leave itself and its allies at Kim’s mercy. If, on the other hand, the United States is determined to keep going until North Korea has been completely denuclearized, it must consider the potential consequences of a full-scale invasion.

A general war with North Korea would be devastating. A recent report by the Congressional Research Service estimated that between 30,000 and 300,000 people could die in the first days of fighting, even if Pyongyang refrained from using any weapons of mass destruction-an unlikely scenario. According to recently declassified U.S. government documents, moreover, in 1994 the Pentagon estimated that a war on the Korean Peninsula would kill or injure 52,000 American servicepeople and over 490,000 South Korean troops in just three months of fighting. Those numbers have almost certainly gotten far worse in the intervening 24 years, given North Korea’s tremendous progress in developing weapons of mass destruction. Today, millions of lives could be threatened.

To provide some perspective, over 6,900 U.S. military personnel have been killed and over 52,000 have been injured in Iraq and the surrounding area since 2003. Although no one knows how many civilians have been killed in that war, academics estimated that 461,000 people died in Iraq as a result of war-related causes between 2003 and 2011, and thousands more have died in the years since. And according to research conducted at Brown University, as of 2015, at least 970,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have some degree of officially recognized disability as a result of the wars; when considering the costs of war, these count as well. A war with North Korea would likely be more devastating than any conflict the United States has experienced since World War II, if ever.

Beyond the human cost, a war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic for the global economy. China, Japan, and South Korea are some of the largest economies of the world, representing 20 percent of global GDP. They are the first-, fourth-, and sixth- largest trade partners of the United States, representing over $880 billion in trade in 2016 alone. A war would decimate trade and investment in the region and would be an economic disaster for the United States.

DIMINISHED AMERICAN POWER

A war would not only risk lives and treasure-it would risk U.S. power, too. If the United States starts a conflict with North Korea or fails to achieve its objectives in a limited strike, it is likely to witness a significant diminution of its geopolitical power across the Asia-Pacific.

The United States’ key allies in the region, South Korea and Japan, are unlikely to support a preventive U.S. strike on North Korea. In fact, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has already claimed the right to veto any U.S. military action on the peninsula. This is unsurprising, as a conflict would put the lives of millions of Japanese and South Korean civilians at risk. Although both countries support pressuring North Korea and fully expect the Washington to come to their defense if attacked, neither has voiced any support for the United States precipitating a conflict. In fact, scholars and officials privately express the opposite: fear that the United States will start a war and they will pay the price.

If Washington initiates a conflict and Pyongyang escalates, Seoul and Tokyo may consider significantly curtailing (or even ending) their alliances with the United States, ejecting U.S. armed forces from their territory, and developing their own nuclear weapons. This would effectively end U.S. geopolitical dominance in the Asia-Pacific, creating a region riven with division and instability, with diminished U.S. power and influence and China poised to fill the void.

MAKE THE CASE

As the Hoover Institution’s Kori Schake has noted, much of the rhetoric on North Korea coming out of the Trump administration mirrors that of the George W. Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Yet one important difference remains: the Trump administration, unlike the Bush administration, has yet to make the case for war to the American people or the international community. If the United States and North Korea are indeed coming closer to war every day, U.S. leaders have yet to explain whya war may be necessary, howmilitary action will achieve U.S. goals, howthey plan to limit casualties, why such incredible risks and sacrifices are necessary, and howthey envision the conflict to end.

U.S. service members, allies, and the American people deserve more. Considering the tremendous uncertainty and potentially devastating effects of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, the American, Japanese, and South Korean people deserve a debate on the merits of this decision. Before it sends American service members to potentially be killed and injured by the thousands, the Trump administration should have the confidence to make a public case for war, its risks, and its consequences.

This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.

Altice to Split its European and U.S. Business Units Amid Financial Storm

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:26 AM PST

Altice is set to separate its European and American business entities, Altice USA Inc., which is listed at the New York stock exchange, and the Netherlands-based Altice NV.

While Altice USA, which represents about 40% of Altice’s global revenues and regroups Cablevision and Suddenlink, performed well during the third quarter of 2017, Altice NV (renamed Altice Europe) has been impacted by the declining revenue of its French telco group SFR. The unveiling of the third quarter financial results sparked a drop in the company’s stock value by more than 40% in November.

Altice’s total debt had reached 49.6 billion euros – more than 5.3 times its core operating profit — as of November.

The split of the two units will “enable each business to focus more on the distinct opportunities for value creation in their respective markets and ensure greater transparency for investors,” said Altice.

The two companies will be led by separate management teams, Dennis Okhuijsen in Europe, and Dexter Goei in the U.S. Meanwhile, Patrick Drahi, Altice’s founder, will retain control of both companies. Drahi will also serve as president of the Board of Altice Europe and chairman of the Board of Altice USA.

“The separation will allow both Altice Europe and Altice USA to focus on their respective operations and execute against their strategies, deliver value for shareholders, and realize their full potential,” said Drahi. “Both operations will have the fundamental Altice Model at their heart through my close personal involvement as well as that of the historic founding team.”

Drahi said Altice’s strategy to get its European business back in the black was to initiate the operational and financial turnaround in France and Portugal, as well as continuing to improve customer service and monetize infrastructure and content.

Under the deal, which is expected to be greenlit by the end of the second quarter 2018 following regulatory and Altice NV shareholder approvals, Altice N.V. would distribute its 67.2% stake in Altice USA to shareholders.

The Board of Directors of Altice USA has also approved in principle the payment of a $1.5 billion cash dividend to all shareholders immediately.

Gayle King: Oprah Winfrey Not Considering 2020 Bid, but Is ‘Intrigued’ by Idea

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:23 AM PST

WASHINGTON — “CBS This Morning” host Gayle King said she does not think that her best friend Oprah Winfrey has changed her mind about running for president. Publicly, she has dismissed the idea.

King said she talked to Winfrey on Monday, after a day of speculation about her intentions following her speech at the Golden Globes Awards. The response was so great, it generated talk in traditional and social media throughout the day on the possibility of her running in 2020.

“I absolutely don’t think her position has changed,” King said on “CBS This Morning.” “I was up talking to her late last night. I do think she was intrigued by the idea. I do think that. I also know that after years of watching the ‘Oprah show,’ you always have the right to change your mind. I don’t think at this point she is actually considering it.”
King also tried to explain what Winfrey’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, meant when he told the Los Angeles Times that “it’s up to the people. She would absolutely do it.”
King said Graham thought the reporter was asking, “would she make a good president?”
“And he said, ‘Absolutely, she would,'” King said. “That is how he interpreted the question. Because here’s the thing: Stedman would never so cavalierly say, ‘Absolutely she would do it. It’s up to the people.’ He would never just throw it out there like that.”
King added, “She loves this country and would like to be in service in some way, but I don’t think she is actively considering it.”
Winfrey campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and while much of the media focus on Monday was on the possibility of her entering the race and her strengths and weaknesses, it also came with a dose of skepticism that she would actually take the plunge.
When asked about a political bid in October, Winfrey told “CBS This Morning,” “There will be no running for office of any kind for me.”

Pickup Trucks: VW Files for U.S. Trademark for Amarok Name

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:02 AM PST

Volkswagen has taken the first step in protecting the name of its global pickup truck, the Amarok, for the U.S. marketplace by filing a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, presumably because it is preparing to eventually sell the mid-size pickup truck in the states.

According to Motrolix.com, the registration process started Nov. 22, 2017. No doubt VW is protecting itself here, making sure that no other company — automotive or otherwise — can claim the Amarok name before VW enters the potentially lucrative U.S. mid-size pickup market.

The mid-size pickup truck class has steadily grown during the last several years. Next to join the mix will be the 2019 Ford Ranger, set to debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week. Additionally, although not officially announced, we expect a new Nissan Frontier in the near future and possibly a U.S. Mercedes Benz X-Class, which will share a platform with the new Nissan.

How soon a VW Amarok will be sold in the U.S. is anyone’s guess, but VW has proven itself quite capable in producing solid three-row SUVs: Both the Tiguan and Atlas won their respective Cars.com Challenges in 2017.

Although VW did not make an official announcement about the trademark application, it would need to get many issues in order before it could jump into the U.S. mid-size pickup market. Among them: It will need to produce the Amarok somewhere in North America in order to price it competitively, but that takes a huge investment, which may not be justifiable given the size of the mid-size market and the average transaction price for existing competitors. However, if those factors fall into place, the trademark puts VW in the perfect position for having a dramatic impact.

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Jenny Wall, Former Hulu and Netflix Exec, Joins Gimlet Media as CMO

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 06:00 AM PST

Entertainment-marketing vet Jenny Wall is jumping into the burgeoning world of podcasting.

Wall, a former Hulu and Netflix marketing executive, has joined Gimlet Media as the Brooklyn-based podcast network’s first chief marketing officer.

In the newly created role, Wall will oversee all marketing and audience-development efforts for Gimlet. Most recently, she was Hulu’s SVP and head of marketing before exiting in May 2017. Before that she was VP of marketing at Netflix, overseeing brand campaigns for original series.

Gimlet, founded in 2014, has produced several popular podcast shows including “Reply All,” “StartUp,” “Homecoming” and “The Nod.” The startup has inked pacts to adapt several of its shows for TV and film, including a two-season order from Amazon Studios for espionage thriller “Homecoming” starring Julia Roberts in her first TV series.

Wall will be based at Gimlet’s Brooklyn headquarters, after relocating from L.A. (where she’s lived for 15 years) sometime this spring. She reports to president Matt Lieber, who co-founded Gimlet Media with Alex Blumberg. Wall officially started at Gimlet on Jan. 3.

“Jenny brings over two decades of entertainment marketing experience, with a proven track record for sparking cultural moments through stories that matter, from ‘House of Cards’ to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,'” Lieber said in announcing her hire. “She has worked to elevate the most significant new platforms in entertainment — HBO, Netflix, Hulu — and I can’t wait to see how her innovative, risk-taking approach will advance our growth in this new world of audio.”

At Hulu, Wall oversaw the launches of the streaming-video company’s original programming date, including the Emmy-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Mindy Project,” “Difficult People,” and “Casual.” She also led the marketing launch of Hulu’s ad-free SVOD service and the Hulu with Live TV over-the-top bundle.

After leaving Hulu, Wall said, “I wanted to make sure the next move I made was very aligned with what I’m passionate with… I talked to some amazing people, but I felt really at home here in regards to where storytelling is going and the narratives they’re doing.”

She added, “With people being barraged by more video all the time, I think audio, at least to me, is almost like getting back to reading a good book.”

Wall also said she was attracted by Gimlet Media’s Hollywood deals, and she’ll be involved in efforts to take the company’s intellectual property to other formats. In addition to Amazon’s “Homecoming” show, directed and executive produced by “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail, Gimlet has deals for an ABC adaptation of “StartUp” with Zach Braff and with Annapurna Pictures to turn an episode of “Reply All” into a feature film directed by Richard Linklater and starring Robert Downey Jr.

Gimlet has raised about $27 million in funding from investors including WPP, Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, Stripes Group, Graham Holdings, Cross Culture Ventures and Betaworks.

Wall joined Netflix in 2012, and during her year-and-a-half stint there she spearheaded brand and launch campaigns for the company’s early original series including “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Arrested Development.”

Prior to Netflix, Wall spent three years as CMO of entertainment agency BLT Communications, creating marketing campaigns for TV, films and brands. She started her career in entertainment at HBO in 1995 in New York where she was part of the team that created the landmark “It’s not TV. It’s HBO” campaign. Wall currently serves on the board of marketing association PromaxBDA.

Abe Vows to Achieve Major Improvement in Sino-Japan Relations in 2018

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 05:54 AM PST

As 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of China and Japan signing their Peace and Friendship Treaty, both countries seem intent on taking advantage of the anniversary to pursue a rapprochement.

On January 5, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his strong will to improve relations with China.

At a New Year celebration event organized by Jiji Press in Tokyo, Abe said, “I want to make this year one when people in both countries are able to recognize a major improvement in Sino-Japanese relations,” according to Nikkei.

Nikkei also noted that Abe has signaled his “willingness to cooperate on China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and seeks to initiate mutual state visits this year by him and Chinese President Xi Jinping.”

As The Diplomat has been following, Abe has repeatedly invited Xi to Japan over the several months. Abe made his first public invitation to Xi on September 28, 2017 during a surprise appearance at an event marking China’s National Day at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo. It was the first time in 15 years that a Japanese prime minister had attended the event.

On December 28, 2017, on behalf of Abe, Toshihiro Nikai — secretary general of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) —  invited Xi to visit Tokyo again during a meeting together with a Japanese delegation in Beijing.

On December 29, 2017, during an exclusive interview with Nikkei, Yoshihide Suga, Japanese chief cabinet secretary and Abe’s “right-hand man,” also expressed Japan’s goal to improve Sino-Japan relations in 2018. He said:

The new year is expected to provide an excellent opportunity to further improve relations, after recent strides toward better ties. If a trilateral Japan-China-South Korea leaders’ summit is held by spring, Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe visits China and Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Japan, the Sino-Japanese relationship will be on a stable course. We hope to deepen mutual trust through strengthened economic ties and people exchanges.

Meanwhile, China has taken note of the “positive remarks” made by Japanese leaders.

At the regular press briefing on January 8, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said that Beijing hopes that “Japan could work with China” and “seize the opportunity presented by the 40th anniversary” to improve mutual relations.

In mid-December, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had made clear Beijing’s stance on Sino-Japan relations during a speech at the Symposium on International Developments and China’s Diplomacy in Beijing. He said:

We value the recent steps Japan has taken to improve ties with China and welcome Japan’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. We hope Japan will not hesitate, backpedal or relapse, and we hope Japan will do more to increase understanding, dispel mistrust and facilitate sound interactions. We will see light at the end of the tunnel as long as we keep moving forward. We are ready to work with Japan to bring the bilateral relations back to normal at an early date and make friendship prevail again in our engagement.

It appears that both Chinese and Japanese leaders are on the same page when it comes to shifting their bilateral relations in a positive direction.